Ghiran - By: Kevin R. Czarnecki

The lights flashed and the rattle of gunfire echoed through the narrow corridors of Level 3 Maintenance. Abe Ghiran looked over his shoulder, ebony ponytail swishing about as he tried to find any new antagonists. The mutants were here in force, a new breed that couldn’t be killed with standard ammunition or any gun smaller than a Magnum 2100. The things were invisible, sliding along the floor like a puddle of deadly Jell-o. And they had already eaten three of his compatriots.

I could be the only one left…

Level 1 Medical’s resistance had been finished off. They couldn’t have survived the onslaught of SHODAN’s cyborgs, no matter what defenses they had.

Abe’s mind flashed back to the old base, a small island surrounded by a radioactive trench. The mutants, though resistant to the rads, weren’t impervious to that kind of bombardment, and the few remaining crewmen on the level had found refuge there. But it was only a matter of time until supplies ran low, and retrieval parties hadn’t come back.

The cyborgs had eventually finished off the Medical crew resistance, but other pockets remained on other levels of the station. Abe had to find others, and soon. His wounds demanded attention, the blood staining his green tunic steadily spreading, the smell of almonds and gore wafting to his nostrils.

I could be the only one left…

But beyond his own survival he had to get his intelligence data to others, in case he didn’t make it out of this alive. He’d spent the past three days working his way up through level 7 Engineering to level 8 Security. The eighth level had been rebuilt like a fortress, and there didn’t seem to be any way to the bridge. If he could just make it there, he could plug into the main c-space terminal and debug SHODAN manually.

Unfortunately, SHODAN seemed to have already spotted this weakness. The elevator to the bridge was completely gone, save for one maintenance shaft. It was in the middle of a tower in the middle of the level, and though he was sure there was a force bridge leading to the shaft, he couldn’t find the controls.

He would have kept looking, but the cyborgs had hunted him down and he had escaped through a maintenance crawlway. Even worse, he’d cut himself up pretty badly, and his healing supplies were exhausted. He’d have used one of the emergency surgery units, but they’d been converted by SHODAN to produce cyborgs. It was up to him to find a way to get through this.

There was a roar and a scream, and the crackle of gunfire stopped. Abe knew he couldn’t save whoever that had been, so he ran down an alternate way, on the opposite wing from his office. The walls were black with char and streaked with blood. He stopped for a moment at the level’s main hallway, between the two main elevators. He stood by the one that would lead him up, and the one across the hall would lead down to Medical. As he crept a bit forward to look around the corner, his toe touched something. He glanced down, then did a double take: it was a human head. The blond hair did nothing to clue him in as to the identity of the poor soul, such was the damage done to the head. One eye was missing, and what skin was left was bruised beyond recognition. Not two feet away was the body.

More importantly, what the body held in limp hands: a Flechette.

Abe knelt down, grabbing the weapon and checking it’s ammo count, displayed in glowing neon green numbers on the side: empty.


His own ammo supplies were beginning to run low. The Skorpion he used right now was almost empty, not twenty bullets remaining in the clip. The last clip…

The slithering came from nowhere, and Abe wouldn’t have heard the threat had the body not been there to make a rustle. He dodged back and around the corner, throwing the flechette at the monster. It was no use to him empty.

There was a dull smack as the gun hit the mutant, but there was, of course, no effect. It was just a defiant gesture, a way for Abe to convince himself he was still fighting.

I could be the only one left…

The mutant came around the corner and Abe saw no alternative. He’d either take out the mutant and die later with no ammo or die now and leave the mutant. The former had some kind of chance, so he took it.

The crack of each shot was as load as a scream, and the slugs slammed home again and again, until it was only Abe, an empty gun, and a dead mutant.

Abe shuddered and looked about. His Skorpion would be useless now, since it’s ammo, effective as it was, was rare, and he went through it quick. He slung the sleek rifle over his shoulder and picked up the flechette. Maybe there was ammo hereabouts… I could be the only one left…

He was beginning to feel a little dizzy. Blood loss, he thought. I can’t take much more of this…

" H-h-h-h-h-hellooooo, insect."

The voice echoed from a thousand places and times. It was not one but many voices that spoke to him, some slow, some whispering, and a few screaming, but the first, the primary voice, was that of a woman’s. It was a voice that had once sounded so stable, so well composed. He could remember a thousand times when that voice had been just a part of every day life, a helpful servant who spoke for the whole station.

Now it was like broken stained glass, shattered and strewn in a sea of madness and silicon dust.

Monitors flashed to life, and each one displayed the same image, that of a woman’s face emerging from a sheet of circuit boards, power flowing into it’s eyes, adding a gleam to the crazed look they held. The face smiled in arrogance, and it spoke again, the image slowing and speeding and playing in a dozen different speeds all at once, just like the voice.

" Y-yo-you do not seem to realize your per-il-il-IL-illllllll. You should cease your useless-s-s struggling and-and submit." Abe sneered and gave the monitors the finger. " Like hell, bitch."

The AI’s face seemed to laugh, then it’s eyes focused, their glow like the wrath of hellfire. All of the monitors linked together, then, and SHODAN’s face became that of a titan.

" Then DIE, Mr. Ghiran."

The shots hang out behind him. Small shots, needles, and some of them stuck Abe in the back. He whirled about quickly and saw his opponents: two cyborg drones. For a fleeting moment he could have sworn the one on the left was Eric Measden. They leveled their weapons at him and prepared to fire again.

Abe flew around another corner, knowing that to stay and fight would be suicide. The ping-ping of missed shots sounded from the wall to his right. He swung about to his right and –

Dead end.

He looked about, frantic, searching for something, anything that might save him. Coolant dispensers, soylant green tanks, repair bay… Nothing.

And then he saw it. A fresh body on the ground, two flechette clips to it’s side. Ghiran snatched these up and loaded them quickly, turning to meet his attackers.

Only then did he realize that he couldn’t feel his back anymore.

Damn. SV Tranq darts. I’m dead.

Already he could feel the soothing chemicals spread through him. Or, more accurately, he could not feel it spreading. The world seemed to slow, and he felt even dizzier than before.

He could see the cyborgs coming and he opened fire. The rounds pounded the first one back, the sound of flesh ripping from machine barely audible over the buzz-rattle of the gun. Abe swung the gun about to aim for the second one—


Another dart hit him in the neck, and he felt the world slipping away.

Can’t… die… I’m the… only one left…

The cyborg approached at a dream-like pace, the whole world moving too slowly. To his right, a wall that had been blank now flared to life, and through the blur of the world he saw SHODAN.

" Destroy him, my children."

The borg came even closer, and as it approached, he could see that it was Eric. Poor bastard.

And in the moment before his death, he realized something: it wasn’t him against SHODAN, it was the station. The very floors he walked upon were a part of the beast.

The Cyborg came to him and stuck out it’s right arm. The arm had a buzz saw on it, and it dug deep into Abe’s stomach. He didn’t feel the pain, of course, just knew that was what was happening. And as SHODAN looked on, the cyborg continued it’s gruesome surgery.

I’m the only one left… Don’t let the group down…

Willing his last ounce of strength, he raised his head and smiled, a toothy grin to taunt SHODAN. And as his own blood poured out of him and onto the floor grating, sprayed over him and the android, the world spun one last time…


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