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Hunter Matheson

A Bridge Too Far

A Bridge Too Far

Kal was dying, and he knew it.

You can't mask the smell of death. No matter how hard you try, you can’t ignore it; no matter what you try, you can’t cover it. It seeps into your pores, corrodes your nasal membranes, and gets hard-wired into your brain. The memory is permanent; it never goes away. He reeked of death. His own death, as his body rotted away while he watched.

Posters plastered in every school corridor, on street corners, in public transportation, and just about everywhere lured him into what looked like an exciting, heroic life.

Join Starfleet! See the galaxy! Experience the trip of a lifetime!

Well, it was the trip of a lifetime. His lifetime. What they didn’t say was the kicker. Sign up and your life belongs to us. You’ll probably die far from home, and guess what? They’ll never know where, why, or how it happened. They’ll never find your body, if there’s anything left.

Great, purple pustules grew, split, and oozed down the hand that had been in contact with a strange goo that covered the Scorpiad eggs. He heard them talking. Even from here he could hear them. They were calling it repligoo? Saying something about him touching it before it was programmed? He wasn’t sure. For their sake he had moved away from the group, slumped onto a narrow platform and sat there, trying not to scream and wondering how long he had until this was over. Gees, how he wanted it to be over.

Then there was the rash that was growing and spreading, driving him crazy, and the not being able to scratch. Where the rash wasn’t, his skin was pale and cold. His legs trembled, barely strong enough to keep him on the platform. He wanted to puke, but nothing came up. His casualty care certification told him that whatever it was had probably spread to his vital organs. It was over for him. Did he put his hand even close to his mouth? It really didn’t matter; the damage was done.

Then came the hallucinations, wild psychedelic colors, swirling, scrambling his thoughts, vicious tendrils piercing his brain. Migraine headache had nothing on this. He rocked back and forth in agony, hoping he’d black out soon. Then he’d die. Peacefully. In blackout. Then it’d be over. He wanted it to be over. Please, let it be over soon.

The mission was doomed from the beginning. That top secret garbage he thought he was getting away from by signing on? Hell, you never get away from it, not in this man’s navy. Ever. No one else knew where they were going; hell, they probably didn’t even have a handler. No backup. No ship close enough, even if they did know where they were. Ill prepared, ill equipped, and completely outside their comfort zone.

And he was cold. So cold.

Edited by Hunter Matheson

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