Authors: John Scalzi
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fantasy
The Human Division #2:
Walk the Plank
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The Human Division
as a whole is dedicated to:
Yanni Kuznia and Brian Decker, two of my favorite people;
John Harris, for his wonderful cover art for this and other Old Man’s War books.
Additionally, this particular Episode is dedicated to:
Alex Seropian, Tim Harris, Hardy LeBel, Mike Choi
Episode Two: Walk the Plank
CHENZIRA EL-MASRI: —okay, I’m not really interested in who you have in the medical bay, Aurel. Right now I’m focused on finding those damn cargo containers. If we don’t track those down, it’s not going to be a very happy next few months around here.
AUREL SPURLEA: If I didn’t think the two of them were related, I wouldn’t be bothering you, Chen. Are you recording this, Magda?
MAGDA GANAS: Just started the recorder.
SPURLEA: Chen, the guy in the sick bay isn’t from around here.
EL-MASRI: What do you mean, “not from around here”? We’re a wildcat colony. It’s not like there’s anywhere else to be from around here.
SPURLEA: He says he’s from the
EL-MASRI: That doesn’t make any sense. The
isn’t supposed to be landing anyone. It’s supposed to be sending down the containers on autopilot. The whole point of doing it this way is to take humans out of it.
GANAS: We know that, Chen. We were there when the cargo schedules were drawn up, too. That’s why you need to see this guy. No matter what else, he’s not one of us. He’s come from
. And since the
was supposed to deliver two days ago, and he’s here today, it’s not a bad guess that he’s telling the truth when he says he’s from there.
EL-MASRI: So you think he came down on one of the containers.
GANAS: It seems likely.
EL-MASRI: That wouldn’t have been a fun ride.
SPURLEA: Here we are. Chen, a couple of things real quick. One, he’s messed up physically and we have him on pain relievers.
EL-MASRI: I thought I gave orders—
SPURLEA: Before you bitch at me, we’ve watered them down as much as we can and still have them have any effect. But believe me, this guy needs
. Two, he’s got the Rot in his leg.
EL-MASRI: How bad?
SPURLEA: Real bad. I cleaned it out best I can, but it’s a pretty good chance it’s in the bloodstream by now, and you know what that means. But he’s not from around here and
doesn’t know what that means, and I don’t see much point in telling him at this point. My goal is to keep him coherent long enough for you to talk to him and then keep him from too much pain while we figure out what to do with him after that.
EL-MASRI: Christ, Aurel. If he’s got the Rot, I think you know what to do with him.
SPURLEA: I’m still waiting for the blood work to come back. If it’s not set in there, we can take the leg and save him.
EL-MASRI: And then do what with him? Look around, Aurel. It’s not like we can support anyone
here, much less a recovering amputee who can’t do any work.
GANAS: Maybe you should talk to him first before deciding to leave him out for the packs.
EL-MASRI: I’m not unsympathetic to his situation, Magda. But my job is to think about the whole colony.
GANAS: What the whole colony needs right now is for you to hear this guy’s story. Then you’ll have a better idea what to think.
EL-MASRI: What’s this guy’s name?
SPURLEA: Malik Damanis.
EL-MASRI: Malik. Fine.
[Door opening, stops.]
EL-MASRI (quietly): Lovely.
SPURLEA: There’s a reason we call it the Rot.
[Door opens all the way.]
EL-MASRI: Malik…Hey, Malik.
MALIK DAMANIS: Yes. Sorry, I was dozing.
EL-MASRI: That’s fine.
DAMANIS: Is Doctor Spurlea here? I think the pain is coming back.
SPURLEA: I’m here. I’ll give you another shot, Malik, but it’s going to have to wait for a few minutes. I need you to be all here for your conversation with our colony leader.
DAMANIS: That’s you?
EL-MASRI: That’s me. My name is Chenzira El-Masri.
DAMANIS: Malik Damanis. Uh, I guess you knew that.
EL-MASRI: I did. Malik, Aurel and Magda here tell me that you say you’re from the
DAMANIS: I am.
EL-MASRI: What do you do there?
DAMANIS: I’m an ordinary deckhand. I mostly work loading and unloading cargo.
EL-MASRI: You look pretty young. This your first ship?
DAMANIS: I’m nineteen standard, sir. No, I was on another ship before this, the
. I’ve been doing this since I turned twenty in Erie years, which is about sixteen years standard. This is my first tour on the
though. Or was.
EL-MASRI: Was, you say.
DAMANIS: Yes, sir. She’s gone, sir.
EL-MASRI: Gone as in left? She’s gone off to her next destination.
DAMANIS: No. Gone as in gone, sir. She was taken. And I think everyone else who was on her might be dead now.
EL-MASRI: Malik, I think you need to explain this to me a little better. Was the ship all right when you skipped into our system?
DAMANIS: As far as I know. The ship stays on Erie time, and it was the middle of the night when we skipped. Captain Gahzini prefers to do it that way so that when we move cargo, we do it in the morning when we’re fresh. Or that’s what he tells us. Since the cargo we had for you was already packed when it came on board, it didn’t really matter. The captain does what the captain does. So we arrived in the middle of the night for us.
EL-MASRI: Were you working then?
DAMANIS: No, sir, I was asleep in the crew quarters, along with most of the rest of the crew. We had a night’s watch on at the time. The first thing I knew about anything going on was the captain sounding a general alert. It blasted on and everyone fell out of their bunks. We didn’t think anything of it at the time.
EL-MASRI: You didn’t think anything of a general alert? Doesn’t that usually mean you’re in an emergency?
DAMANIS: It does, but Captain Gahzini runs a lot of drills, sir. He says that just because we’re a merchant ship doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have discipline. So every three or four skips he’ll run a drill, and since the captain likes to skip in the middle of the night, that means we get woken up by a lot of general alerts.
EL-MASRI: All right.
DAMANIS: So we fall out of bunks, get dressed and then wait for the announcement about what the drill is this time. Is it a micrometeor puncture, or is a systems failure of some sort, or what is it. Then finally Chief Officer Khosa comes on the public address system and says, “We are being boarded.” And we all look at each other, because this is a new one; we haven’t ever practiced something like this. We have no idea what to do. Doctor, my leg is really hurting.