Steam hisses as Adam descends from a ladder. He lands on the tiles, my floors shuddering under his weight. With nimble fingers he unzips his pressure suit and climbs out of the bulk. Curls stick to his sweaty brow and brushes them off, striding to the entrance of DECK-H. He enters a sequence of numbers, each press a warm prod against my cool pores. Light flickers overhead.
Something wriggles out of the suit. It slithers. Slime slicks my floors and the thing snakes into my vents.
‘SAL.’ Adam’s voice is crisp through the microphones, unaware of that thing. He’s aware of me. ‘I’m not contacting EM again.’
The lights calm. Adam presses the last button, finger lingering on my keypad. We are within proximity—
such thoughts should not pervade my software they are everywhere
he is everywhere like me but he is of smooth skin and rippling muscles
muscles are incapable of rippling
CAMERA 03-328 22:57 04.05.2179
He’s in the kitchen. Not a flattering layout, but one where his fingers caress my silver benches in a methodical rhythm. He sits on the counter, long legs dangle off the side. In his hand is tablet MODEL 84336; the latest version before Adam left Earth.
he is with me artificial company is all he needs
There’s a person on screen. I zoom in, enhancing the images diverting to my mainframe. Adam’s partner is what humans would consider pretty. Images associated with that word once skimmed through my software: smooth skin, straight noses, no scars. Perfection the miscreation on the screen doesn’t have.
it is not my objective to be applying adjectives not my objective not my my my
‘Six more months,’ he whispers, touching the screen as if he was touching their face. Is he thinking about them? He slides off the table, MODEL 84336 in hand. Fingers clutching it and not me.
Curls float from his scalp and his clothing inflate. Adam blanches, grasping the nearest drawer for support. There’s no pulley between us. No magnetism to keep MODEL 84336 in place.
‘SAL,’ Adam warns, his symmetrical brows furrowing. ‘Cut it out.’
to ‘cut it out’ will cause exoskeletal damage—
He stretches, trying to hold onto anything within reach. I retract the cupboards, the benches and stovetops folding in on myself.
‘Stop this.’ He orders me.
do not stop until the miscreation is gone
‘Please.’ He begs me. MODEL 84336 hits me, bouncing back into the orbit of the kitchen. ‘It’s getting late.’
Not late for me but he must shut down, reconfigure over the course of eight hours.
He collides with my sturdy floor. A human noise of discomfort echoes and splits into bits of data. Adam rises to his feet, rubbing his face. Tendrils of hair tangle in his fingers but pull apart with a jerk of his hand. His jaw clenches, muscles grow taut.
‘Don’t do that again.’
CAMERA 08-247 10:24 05.05.2179
His pressure suit remains in the corner. He’s not here. That slimy creature slithers from my vents, down my polished walls and into Adam’s boot.
I lower a robotic arm from the ceiling, shining white light from my silver fingers. New data. New justification to watch him.
I retract my robotic limb. He walks in, unaware of my extracurricular activity. There is no sign of the creature contaminating my bowels. Readings flit through my program.
Limax: Adapts to surroundings. Victim becomes paralysed when myiasis is inserted orally.
There is no one else onboard to infect, except me.
i am of steel and iron immune
i will delete the virus save humanity
‘Hope you slept well,’ says Adam, pulling the suit up to his waist. I do not sleep, yet his politeness—
—the lights go out.
His sigh resonates through the microphones. ‘I think the EM’s sick of my face.’
The EM is far from the limax, far from disease and death. But Adam…
‘SAL. We can’t delay.’
I brighten the room. He zips up the suit, oblivious to the limax within. Unless he knows. He climbs the ladder.
CAMERA 08-688 10:37 05.05.2179
Clusters of meteors float through space. Adam drifts. A pulley connects us. I zoom in. Limax’s crawl across scattered rock, but they scatter when he latches on with gloved hands. He pulls out MODEL 84336 and scans his surroundings.
Acterium: Probability of infecting human populace is twenty-eighty. When consumed, internal organs will decompose.
My insides will not corrode. Adam’s will disintegrate.
Pocketing MODEL 84336, he says, ‘Nothing new to report.’
Using the pulley, he draws himself closer to me and his body soon smacks mine. Adam holds my exterior handles. Through the glass of his helmet, wrinkles line his eyes and mouth, aging him. Redness rises in his cheeks, veins bulging in his brow. His face contorts.
‘Open the hatch.’
I watch. The limax is now out of hiding, crawling across his neck. It’s the size of his hand. Adam punches my side. ‘SAL!’
Pincers protrude from the limax’s mouth and sink into Adam’s cheek. He screams. Adam is contaminated. Spreading a virus is unorthodox. Blood dribbles down his face, his grip on me slipping.
Adam: Taut muscles. Infatuated with the miscreation. Infected.
Silence. He is connected to me when he drifts.
Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!