I don’t know where it came from, but I got a wild hair and wrote something with a science fiction theme this week. I hope you enjoy it.

Science Fiction is a difficult genre for me. I don’t know why, but everything that I do is fantastic in nature. Almost all of my work, horrific or not, falls into a magic realism or urban fantasy theme. I enjoy that, so writing it makes sense. However, I also watch a lot of science fiction. I am happy with robots, aliens, derelict space ships and being beamed up. So, why is it so hard for me to include anything like that in my work? I have made an effort to write SciFi before and the story is usually worse for the inclusion.

Oh well, this one seemed to be a fit. I hope you like it.

L. E. White


The terminal reflected off his glasses, small white letters ghosting across a field of dark grey as one command after another failed to be accepted. Long, bony fingers hovered over keys which had long ago stopped showing what they were; the ink that had displayed the letters of his language had worn off from years of use.

The backup power supply started beeping.

A small green box flashed in invitation, blinking a steady welcome to each attempt to make the ancient beast do something. Blinking, as if laughing, at each failure to communicate with a machine that was not alive, yet still the only surviving part of his routine.

“ls –l /data/files/bin | grep override”

“ls –l /data/files/bin | grep override”

“ls –l /data/files/bin |grep override”

The operator continued to type, ragged, emaciated flesh around the eye sockets flinched as each key stroke replayed the memory of the launch.

Sparkling blue eyes with bright red rims had been swimming in clear, overflowing pools while full, red lips had begged for help on the left hand monitor. The volume had been off, but the words had been clear.

She could see what was going on.

The right hand display showed the flapping panel, a sheet of carbon fiber that had come loose while sitting on the launch pad, waiting for the weather to clear. That panel was above one of the intake valves. When it came loose and got sucked in, the shards of composite would shred anything it came into contact with.

They had to stop the launch.

He had to stop the launch.

Someone slapped the big red button. It clicked into place but the panel popped and sparked. Nobody had ever hit that button before.

The timer continued to count down.

Technicians tried to shut down the engines from the pad. They screamed and yelled into their radios until the flame shot out from under the engines, then everything went silent.

The terminal operator had started sending commands before the big red button was pressed. She had said yes to coffee at break a few months ago. He couldn’t believe it. He had been so nervous, shaking like a leaf as he stuttered over the words. She had smiled, shining light on him like the sun coming over the horizon and against every logical scenario he could imagine, she said yes.

He tried to kill the launch.

She wanted to have dinner.

He tried to reset the process.

She straddled his lap and wrapped her arms around him. Kissing him and stealing his breath along with his heart.

He tried to initiate a general system shutdown.

She screamed as her nails dug into his back, leaving long red lines on his skin. He stared over his shoulder into the mirror for an hour the next morning, smiling and remembering that first night.

He tried to power down.

He had seen love in her eyes last night but now the only thing he could see in them was fear. She closed them when she started sobbing.

He started searching the system for commands. He had just found her, he couldn’t lose her.

The panel came loose and was sucked into the engine. There was a second where everyone rose from their seats and stared at the monitor, hoping and praying that the engine would just stop working. The flash of light from the fireball of fuel and flame bathed the room in blinding white light. When the sound wave from the thunderous explosion rolled over the building the windows shattered in and many of the monitors cracked. Chunks of stone were knocked out of the walls and most of the lights went out.

The operator never stopped typing. The heat for the explosion and the toxic gases of ruptured chemical drums rolled in, causing the ground crew to cough blood and choke as their lungs liquefied.

He continued to type. As a goopy sludge leaked out of his body he thought of her eyes and of how much he loved her.

He couldn’t stop trying to save her.

“ls –l /data/files/bin | grep override”

The last backup buzzed a long, loud tone. As it shut down, the monitor died. The whirr of the processor fan wound down and the planets wind whistled through the open windows. Bodies lay scattered around the room, mummified skin around the brittle bones of explorers who had failed to return home.

The whole place was silent, except for the clicking of a single keyboard.

“ls –l /data/files/bin | grep override”

  1. September 4, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    Creepy… I like!

    • September 4, 2013 at 9:32 AM

      Thank you.

      I think I can do more of this if I just keep trying to up the creep factor. If there is crawling, scrabbling doom around the corner, then the rest will fall into place.

  2. September 6, 2013 at 7:16 PM

    This is creepy, in a hopeless tragic sort of way.

    I also have difficulty writing science fiction.

    • September 6, 2013 at 11:00 PM

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I appreciate it.

      I believe this is only my third or fourth SciFi story. It amazes me how much harder it is to make my story come across and add electronics.

      I look forward to seeing your work. Thanks again.

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