Captain Arnold was in a tight spot. An infection was spreading like fire aboard the Copernicus—his ship. Crazed passengers brutally attacked others, spreading the mysterious infection almost instantly. Taking charge of the situation, he gathered all the uninfected passengers he could find in hopes of arriving at a solution.
Turning to his crewman who had a weapon, Captain Arnold barked out an order, “Sergeant Miller! Shoot anything that comes down that hall.”
The sergeant nodded and positioned himself in the hallway. Much too quickly he faced his first test. Running wildly down the hall toward the sergeant was his buddy. Just an hour ago the two had been eating a meal together and swapping funny stories.
The captain watched the sergeant’s trigger-finger; it wasn’t moving—the sergeant couldn’t do it. “Fire, Sergeant! Fire!”
Reluctantly the trigger was pulled and flames leapt out of the sergeant’s weapon. An inhuman yell filled the hallway as fire engulfed the crazed crewman who fell lifelessly at the sergeant’s feet.
Everyone was silent as Sergeant Miller looked down at his friend. A loud—but strangely calm—computer voice continually repeated the words, “Abandon Ship.”
Captain Arnold came over and inspected the charred body. “Make sure it’s burned good, Sergeant! I don’t want that thing getting up again.”
With a shaky voice, Sergeant Miller answered, “Yes, sir,” his eyes still glued on his fallen comrade.
“Next time, Sergeant,” the captain pointed a finger in the sergeant’s face, “don’t wait to find out if you know the person. Flame them the instant you see em’. You know what would happen if one of those things attacked us.”
The captain returned his focus to the group, weighing his options—none were good.
“We need a way out of here, people,” the captain bellowed to those around him. “I’m open to suggestions.”
Corporal Jackson, the one remaining assistant engineer, said, “Make it to the launch bay, put on environmental suits, then vent the whole ship.”
The ship’s doctor took a more pessimistic view. “That’s not enough Jackson! We need to detonate now! This is too dangerous. We need to blow all our nukes and vaporize everything—even us. We’re all most likely contaminated already … We just don’t know it yet.”
The captain didn’t like these options either; he needed something better. Just then, a shot rang out, interrupting his thoughts. It was an odd sound in this day and age, but one the captain knew well. The sound of a 20th century pistol firing.
The captain swung around to see Sergeant Miller’s stunned face as the sergeant lifted his hand to feel the entry wound from a bullet. The sergeant wobbled, then he and the flamer he was holding fell to the ground.
At the end of the hall was the man holding an antique pistol—a man the captain recognized: Joseph Malone, his friend of 30 years. Time seemed to slow down in the captain’s mind as the two locked eyes.
Captain Arnold knew what he must do.
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