“You ready?” I ask, cracking a smile at the new kid’s face.
“Yeah, I guess… there aren’t any, you know, dead astronauts in there, right?” Serin responds sheepishly. He’s nervous- after all; this is his first real spacewalk.
“No, this one’s abandoned” I chuckle, resisting the urge to tell him horror stories of ancient, empty eyed cosmonauts and floating blobs of decaying organs. He glances back at the cable that attaches us to the repair ship.
“Don’t worry, it’ll hold. The only way that’s breaking is if someone back on the Junker really hates you.” I wink at him. He’s probably terrified. I motion towards the airlock door.
Our job is simple. Get in the satellite, retrieve anything important looking, plant an up-to-date tracking chip, and get out. No hiccups, no hitch.
The interior of the satellite is fairly dull- filled with standard equipment; random leafs of paper, and a whole lot of eerie silence. I shoo Serin away to look around the cabin while I plant the chip.
“Uh… Amal? Get out of here.” Serin mumbles over the radio. The last part trails off as his voice goes static. I told our manager new kids need more radio training. My brain switches immediately from passive to alert. I can hear the genuine urgency and fear in his voice.
“What’s wrong?” I ignore him and swim my way over to the cabin, hoping the alarm is just Serin’s beginner paranoia.
“Don’t follow me.” Serin curses over the radio, but it’s too late. I round the corner; still convincing myself that the newbie is just spooked.
I am wrong. I am so very wrong. In that moment, I know that we died the minute we drifted into the silent satellite.
Serin looks at me with helpless eyes, gesturing mutely at a dead, rotting, lump of pinkish flesh bobbing innocently in front of us. It’s a jelly. Throughout all my training the same phrase has been repeated over and over again. If you ever see a jelly, you are dead by law. Out of all the beings in the galaxy, jellies are the most evil, disgusting, disease-ridden creatures. They are selfish, greedy and ruthless, but their worst attribute is their unique ability to foster a sentience virus. Sentience viruses are not airborne, or blood-borne, or spread by touch. They are spread by the mere proximity of two minds, and all jellies, living or dead, play host to one. This particular strain of sentience virus inflicts insanity, incredible rage, and overwhelming lack of empathy. It transforms you into an evil, irrational, cruel person- a person who would be better off dead.
I see the sadness in Serin’s violet eyes, and I too feel the drop in my stomach that signals utter hopelessness. We both know our what must be done. I take a deep breath and slide the switch on the radio.
“SRM31… this scout team alpha. There’s a human in here. Cut the cable.”