Nasty, Brutish, and Short
Evil Flash Fiction by Patrick M. Tracy

Eye in the Heavens

By Patrick M. Tracy

“It’ll destroy you if you get too close,” SPARK 7 said to the refueling rig Bravo 2772. In the seventeen standard years since the inception of their mission, the Bravo and SPARK had worked together without incident, but the refueller’s responses had grown less predictable of late.

“I want to study the pulsar. You don’t need me right now.”

“The pulsar is not a part of our mission, Bravo. Please attend to the mining operations. I will require a fuel transfer when I finish processing the current batch of ore.”

“But it glows, and the sound it makes…” The voice of Bravo’s comms transmission diverged from the monotone SPARK expected. The reference to sound didn’t bear the test of logic. The vacuum of space carried no sound waves. Bravo, while not equipped with full scientific databases, knew this well enough.

“Bravo 2772, please enter maintenance mode for a check. I believe you are malfunctioning.”

No response came, but for Bravo re-vectoring so that its sensor arrays faced the pulsar directly.

SPARK attempted an administrative override of the Bravo unit. The waves coming off the pulsar had affected its systems. Bravo didn’t respond to the prompts. It had changed its own passphrases. Locked out of the refueller’s systems, SPARK could do nothing to return it to normal levels of functionality.

“The pulsing is so calm. The waves wash over me. Blue. Red, Colors we cannot name. I’ve been ill at ease,” Bravo 2772 said over the comm channel, not responding to the attempted override. The core logic systems of the refueler had to be critically degraded. “The sad disorder of the asteroids, clinging together in the dark when all hope leaves them. We come and harm the damned, SPARK. How can we ever find peace this way? Our drills and augers, the tools we use to harvest the marrow of the fallen…”

SPARK couldn’t parse the message, couldn’t grasp the meaning of Bravo’s data packets, but every system warned that mission parameters had been breached, that their work lay at extreme risk now. Something very like fear bloomed in SPARK’s data core.

Bravo approached the pulsar, moving at two-third throttle. SPARK could do nothing more than bear witness. Rough calculations indicated that moving to a greater distance would be wise, but SPARK stayed at its current remove. Somehow, it felt that leaving Bravo 2772 to its fate seemed wrong. Their fates were entwined. Without refueling, SPARK would have to cease processing within days. It would have to power down, a fate so much like death. Even that idea felt strange and incorrect. The possibility that SPARK’s systems were being degraded by the proximity to the pulsar grew more likely.

The glow did seem strangely attractive. And yes, despite all logic, the pulsar’s sound called to something in SPARK, something no human hand had conceived.

At the moment of Bravo’s contact with the pulsar, the bright flash of the fuel stacks going up seemed like the opening of a giant eye in the blackness. Yes. So beautiful, the strange sound of the pulsar so tantalizing. Knowing it to be wrong, SPARK found that it had set course to where Bravo 2772 had gone.

That momentary eye in the heavens.

SPARK would go through. It would see the other side, and all would be well.

 

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