Redshirts

Redshirts by John Scalzi Read Free Book Online

Book: Redshirts by John Scalzi Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Scalzi
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction
figuring it out, too.
    The second away team, with Finn, Hanson and Duvall on it.
    “What sort of assholes encode a message about killer machines ?” Hester screamed. He had brought up the rear of his away team’s running column. The distant vibrating thuds suggested one of the machines—a big one—was not too far behind them at the moment.
    “Quiet,” Dahl said. They knew the machines could see them; it was a good bet the machines could hear them too. Dahl, Hester and the other two remaining crew members on the team hunkered down and waited for Kerensky to tell them where to go next.
    Kerensky consulted his phone. “Dahl,” he said, motioning him forward. Dahl sneaked up to his lieutenant, who showed him the phone with a map on it. “We’re here,” he said, pointing to one corridor. “The shuttle bay is here. I see two routes to it, one through the station’s engineering core and the other through its mess hall area.”
    Less talk, more decision making, please, Dahl thought, and nodded.
    “I think we stand a better chance if we split up,” Kerensky said. “That way if the machines get one group, the other group might still get to the shuttles. Are you rated to fly one?”
    “Hester is,” Dahl heard himself say, and then wondered how he knew that. He didn’t remember knowing that bit of information before.
    Kerensky nodded. “Then you take him and Crewman McGregor and cut through the mess hall. I’ll take Williams and go through Engineering. We’ll meet at the shuttle, wait for Lieutenant Fischer’s away team if we can, and then get the hell out of here.”
    “Yes, sir,” Dahl said.
    “Good luck,” Kerensky said, and motioned to Williams to follow him.
    He hardly looks liquefied at all, Dahl thought again, and then went back to Hester and McGregor. “He wants to split up and have the three of us go through the mess hall to the shuttle bay,” he said to the two of them, as Kerensky and Williams skulked off down the corridor toward Engineering.
    “What?” McGregor said, visibly upset. “Bullshit. I don’t want to go with you. I want to go with Kerensky.”
    “We have our orders,” Dahl said.
    “Screw them,” McGregor said. “You don’t get it, do you? Kerensky’s untouchable. You’re not. You’re just some ensign. We’re in a space station filled with fucking killer robots. Do you really think you’re going to make it out of here alive?”
    “Calm down, McGregor,” Dahl said, holding out his hands. Beneath his feet, the corridor floor vibrated. “We’re wasting time here.”
    “No!” McGregor said. “You don’t get it ! Lopez already died in front of Kerensky! She was the sacrifice! Now anyone with Kerensky is safe!” He leaped up to chase after Kerensky, stepping into the corridor just as the killing machine that had been following them turned the corner. McGregor saw the machine and had time to make a surprised “O” with his mouth before the harpoon the machine launched pushed into him, spearing him through the liver.
    There was an infinitesimal pause, in which everything was set in a tableau: Dahl and Hester crouched on the side of the corridor, killing machine at the corner, the harpooned McGregor in the middle, dripping.
    McGregor turned his head toward the horrified Dahl. “See?” he said, through a mouthful of blood. Then there was a yank, and McGregor flew toward the killer machine, which had already spun up its slicing blades.
    Dahl screamed McGregor’s name, stood and unholstered his pulse gun, and fired into the center of the pulpy red haze where he knew the killer machine to be. The pulse beam glanced harmlessly off the machine’s surface. Hester yelled and pushed Dahl down the corridor, away from the machine, which was already resetting its harpoon. They turned a corner and raced away into another corridor, which led to the mess hall. They burst through the doors and closed them behind them.
    “These doors aren’t going to keep that thing out,” Hester

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