Frontier 3: How Temples Die
The suffocating darkness engulfed the corridors of the Frontier. It swallowed the walls and the titanium habitat into a void. The black was absolute it flooded away everything. The sting of the frigid air and the sound of screams echoing through the metallic confines were the only things that reminded Anton he was still alive. He clutched the cable that connected him to his brother Curzon. It was the only thing that gave him any sense of security as they felt their way along the walls.
Even though the tether assured, Anton and his brother would never be more than four feet apart it was impossible to see him in the impenetrable dark.
They moved carefully. They felt along the walls and floor the way a mole navigates its tunnels in the dirt. Sometimes they would bump into other people moving along the walls. They stumbled over corpses and into the grip of unseen hands groping in the darkness. The mad chatter of people thousands permeated everywhere in the dark.
The claustrophobia of their deaths quickly rendered them insane. They wondered in the nothingness their pleas went unheard by the deaf walls of the station. It was the sound of thousands realizing they had been buried alive.
“This is where we cut.” Curzonwhisperd.
Anton stayed silent. Curzon turned on his flashlight. Dust fluttered through the length of the beam. Everywhere the light touched revealed the fragments of the monumental scene of slaughter that surrounded them.
The limited radius the light illumined stood out in steep contrast to the surrounding darkness. They looked down and saw their clothes smeared with blood. Some it fresh enough to slowly drip onto the floor.
Holy shit!” Anton gasped. He started franticly tearing at his clothes.
“wait wait” repeated blank as he took hold of Anton and held him still.
“Let me make sure it's safe,” He whispered.
Anton nodded. Blank scanned the room. The area was empty. Anton was right you could always find a lonely corner of the frontier if you looked hard enough.
“we can cut here?” said blank
Anton couldn't answer. His throat felt like it was closing, and he could feel his body trembling with shock. He only nodded his head to indicate he understood.
Blank's frozen breath passed through the light thick as smoke, his flesh was a fiery red, but his lips were pale.
“I guess we better put on our suits,” he said trying to keep his teeth from chattering.
"Curzon, do you think this blood infected?" Anton asked looking down, and the darkened crimson smeared across his clothes.
"Does it matter?" Replied Curzon.
The frontier was humanities first step into the stars. The titanic structure circling in the soft light of the earth had taken on a life of its own. Armies of engineers and technicians once buzzed around the mammoth frame of the ship reshaping and building its body into new dimensions.
Its glow was strong enough to penetrate the dense darkness of Earth's now acrid atmosphere, but the light was dimming. The flow of ships passing back and forth between the mile long cargo bays ceased, construction stopped, and the Frontier began to slowly wither away.
At its peak, the population inside the station had grown to over 75,000. Well beyond the 50,000 it had been built to sustain, but now the people who worked and lived within the catacombs were beginning to reflect the decay of their life giving surrogate.
Th people inside called it the beast.Once aboard you were at its mercy and the bigger it got, the more people it swallowed up. Some never escaped from the colossal jaws of the beast.
The microbes of Earth followed humanity into space and turned the Frontier into a Petri dish that spawned horrific new plagues. Unseen monstrosities that spread rapidly through the densely populated space station.
One Sector of the station, designated block 71 on the blueprints was invaded by a particularly deadly and virulent strain that began to quickly decimate the population. 7,000 people were quarantined. The trickle of supplies flowing to the isolated population slowed to a trickle until it ceased entirely. Starvation set in and soon famine and proved to be simply the forerunners to the other harbingers of apocalypse.
As the piles of the abandoned dead continued to grow so to did the hysteria. There were rumors circulating that the Frontier was no longer being supplied and block 71 was being sacrificed to stretch the supply of food for other parts of that station.
There is no day and night in space. The corridors of the Frontier were kept illuminated by the sterile white glow of UV lights. When those lights flickered out no one knew exactly why, and when the constant hum of the electrical lifeblood that ran through the station powering all its life support systems ceased. The absence of that white noise left a silence that rendered those trapped in block 71 insane.
The people of block 71 never met anyone who was in charge of the frontier. They interacted with the structure itself through it's artificial intelligence systems. Their lives conformed to its programming. When the doors sealed the station no longer communicated with them. They were forsaken by their invisible overlords just the same as the now abandoned space hub.
Block 71 was being severed from the Frontier like a gangrenous limb. Cutting off the atomic power that coursed through the cables that were threaded through the mammoth alloy frame of the station was a death sentence. The cold would kill them all long before the plague or even hunger would. Those who hoped to escape were running a deadly race against time.
Anton was in his 4th year as a structural engineer aboard the frontier. His brother Curzon was well into his 12th. Neither had ever seen the entirety of the station, but they knew how it was structured. It was a metallic hive.
They just had to tunnel through to another part there was no getting through the exits. They had to move through the walls like rats. They had gear that would protect them from the deadly temperature drop as well as supply up to 14 hours of oxygen.
The solar blue glow of the plasma powered flame glowed in the insect-like eyes of their space construction suits. The burning metal sent sparks showering across the floor, and the flickering light casts a long shadow along the walls.
Every so often the sound of footsteps would come a little too close, and the brothers would quickly turn off their torches and wait quietly for whoever it was to pass.
Thier pressurized construction gear was the only way anyone could survive when the oxygen no longer being filtered would be replaced by high concentrations of carbon monoxide being vented by the panicked masses. It was also the only way to keep from freezing when Block 71 go to be as cold as the space outside.
Anton and Curzon could only hope to escape if they escaped alone. They didn't know how long they would have to cut through the walls before they arrived somewhere where the power was still on. Even if they made it, they didn't know if they would be allowed to stay, but none of that would matter if they didn't have enough oxygen. Every breath they exhaled through their respirators was one closer to the last.
“Hello?” A woman said with a shaky voice
Anton moved to turn off his cutter.
“there's not enough time keep cutting.” Curzon hissed
Anton quickly turned his cutter back on.
His hands trembled, and the molten red line of his cut zig zagged. She came close enough for the industrial glow of the cutters to illuminate her face. Beads of sweat ran down her pale blue flesh. The veins in her eyes swelled red in her bulging white eyes that twinkled with tears.
“Please help me.” pleaded the woman slowly approaching them.
“We don't have anything for you.” Curzon snapped not even looking back at her.
“P, p, please...I have children.” She stuttered.
"I'm sorry I can't help you," muttered Anton turning his attention back to his cutter
"Please, sir." She pleaded again. She reached out and gripped Anton's shoulder
“My kids need help,” she choked
“Step the fuck back!” Curzon shouted spinning around brandishing his glowing plasma cutter. She jumped back, and a man leaped from the darkness and tackled Curzon to the ground.
Anton was paralyzed by fear.
He snapped his head when the woman shrieked and darted at him swinging a metal rod. Anton stepped back and raised his arm to protect his head. The impact on his arm made Anton drop his cutter. The flame fell to the floor sparks flared between him and his attacker. She lunged again with clenched teeth nearly throwing herself onto the plasma fueled flame Anton saw her grip the handle.
He had a reflexive reaction; his foot snapped out, and his boot hit the woman in the temple.She let out a scream and fell to her side. There was a second scream that closely followed.
Anton snapped his head around. Curzon had his attacker pinned and was using his cutter to burn through the man's chest. He was flailing around as his blackened flesh burned away like paper and his blood boiled around the incision.
When he stopped moving Curzon jumped to his feet and descended upon the woman who was rolling on the ground holding her head. Anton saw the fire coming down on her, and he quickly looked away.
Her scream tied Anton's stomach into knots and made it start clawing up his throat. Anton clenched his eyes shut until the silence settled again.
“Anton,” Curzon said while trying to catch his breath.
Anton turned to look at him. Curzon used his cutter to shine a light on his left arm.
“there's a hole in my suit,” Blank said flatly.
Anton's lungs froze, and his heart stopped. Panic seized his chest, and he let out a gasp. Blank's cutter shut off, and he disappeared in the dark. The last thing Anton heard was Curzon charging at him from the deep black.
No one ever made it out of block 71. They died with the beast. The leviathan space station was once the a symbol for the ascendency of man into the heavens now it was a testament to a lost age. As the now hollowed planet, Earth became a dead host so to did the titanic vessel orbiting at the it's softly glowing edges. The Frontier died the death of irrelevancy just as al the past monuments that came before it. It became a derelict relic doomed to float in eternal silence.