Broken Messages

Characters: Dr. Kim Matsumoto

Kim squeezed her way back into her quarters for… she wasn’t entirely sure how many times now. Each time she made it no more than a few feet before something or someone summoned her back out, and it was all beginning to merge into a painful blur.

You really pushed too far this time, she told herself as she blinked, wincing away from the too-bright light of an unshaded lamp above. Her head pulsed and boomed like an old drum about to split its skin. If it wasn’t helping in medlab, it was reaching out to pinpoint the lives trapped around the ship by warped doors, debris and jammed airlocks. If it weren’t for the circumstances, and the extraordinary lengths everyone was going to, Dr Trassano would probably have her head for the stress damage she was doing with her mind…. that is, if it didn’t fall off her shoulders first.

She didn’t have any energy for care, simply pushing the debris aside in a path to her bedroom and lifting away the sliding doors that had divided her bedroom from the living area. The only thing that made the going easier after that was the absence of things to throw about. Her clothes trunk had fetched up against the unused Minbari bed, and the lamp lay in a half dozen pieces to one side, but there was nothing to keep her from the futon that lay in a lumpy heap alone in one corner, promising at last, some sleep.

Except…

It took a while for the warbling chime of the computer to get through the percussion inside her skull, but when it did, it wouldn’t go away. Not with a voice, and not with touch… no matter how hard she pounded the abused interface. She certainly tried.

“What else?” she groaned.

The question had been posed to the universe, but like the voice out of a horror vid, distorted to some point beyond humanity and gender, the computer actually spoke. “Two messages wa-a-a-aiting in outgoing box.”

She was being kept from sleep by a couple bits of internal mail that were probably outdated and worth less than the power used in storing them? “So hold them, delete them, I don’t care,” Kim muttered, about to turn away.

“Two-o-o—- messages wa-a-a-aiting in outgoing box.”

“Shut up.”

“”Two-o-eeEE—”

“Nooo….” Kim moaned, throwing herself back down on her bed, then with a sudden burst of inspiration, she said, “Send? Send!”

There was a sound like a pail of spare parts grinding together, then, “Me–sagges sent. One to Minbar, Tu-u—”

“Enough already. Shut up. Go away. End program!”

Her voice only drowned out a few seconds of the relentless stutter as it pressed on to say, “–One to Baby-e-EEEEE-lon 5, recipient Billy Nich-h-h-ols. Report—ing fifty percent data lossssss. Ending pro…gram.”

It was only after ten seconds of blissful silence did the last line get through Kim’s mental fog. “Wait, did you say Billy Nichols?”

Silence.

“Computer?”

There wasn’t even a light on in the interface as Kim stretched on the futon to look around the base of the Minbari bed. The computer had used it’s last “breath” to send out a message to Billy that had more holes than the proverbial Swiss cheese and probably sounded like it came out of the middle of a pyrotechnic’s war– or a really bad attempt at music.

Kim stretched out again and draped an arm over her eyes in defeat.

“Tomorrow…”


Copyright (C) 1998 Alida Saxon. All rights reserved.