Excerpt: Code Red

The following excerpt is from the first chapter of Gliese 581: Departure

Code Red

Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done and why. Then do it.” – Robert Heinlein

Date: 01.27.2104
Calypso Colony Ship

Somehow he had to save them.

Daniel’s hair was sticky and wet, the left side of forehead dripping blood from a gash near the top of his head. Each breath was a challenge. It felt as if he were underwater, sharp knives with each gasp in and thick bubbles on the way out. He tried to breathe shallow; it hurt less when he did that. One of his ribs was cracked or broken. He tried to focus as dizziness and pain fought for his attention.

“I never should have left them.” His fingers moved over the damaged keyboard and his vision blurred. The blood dripped into his eyes and a fresh wave of dizziness washed over him.

Oxygen levels must be low.

The emergency lights flashed in the darkness. They were accompanied by the thick, oily smell of melted plastic from the handful of Cryo pods a few rows over.

Daniel was desperate to stop the panic he felt rising inside. Instead, his mind slipped to the memory of Janine’s skin beneath his.

As his fingers danced on the keyboard, he closed his eyes, lost in the memory of Toby’s small hand on his cheek. And finally, his brother Luke and his easy smile hung there beside him, real enough to touch.

The years had passed easier for him – not knowing, realizing the truth until it was years gone. Were they all ash and bone now?

Each pod was equipped with alarms designed to emit a series of escalating warnings. The sounds grew from a simple warning beep to a loud shriek. The shrieks energized each nerve in a Cryo Tech’s body to do something now.

But Daniel wasn’t a Tech. Deeks, Daniel’s best friend on Calypso was. And Deeks was now dead, along with his assistant, Evers. Their lifeless bodies shoved into storage lockers at the far end of the Cryo Deck.

The doors that led to the rest of the ship, where others far more capable than a Comm Tech could ever be, remained shut, the opening mechanism fried. Daniel was trapped and alone.

He could hear them now. His shipmates were working at the doors, doing whatever they could to get through. Their banging only adding to the cacophony provided by shrieking alarms.

The doors which led from this deck to Calypso were thicker than the rest. Constructed of reinforced steel, they contained rods of titanium woven through for extra security.

Space travel was an uncertain thing. Many areas of the ship had double protections to prevent hull breaches. But the blast doors on this deck were something new. They added another layer of protection – one that ensured all occupants in Cryo had the best possible chance of survival.

It was ironic that this added security precaution might be their undoing.

The people in these pods were integral to the mission. Without them, those currently not in Cryo would have a hell of a time and that was just the realistic side of his brain talking. God damn it, Sam was in one of these things.

The screen on the console in front of him scrolled the same message…





Daniel pounded the keyboard in frustration. The man on the floor to the right of his foot shifted and moaned. Like Daniel, he was bloody as well. Daniel gave the man a hard kick.

“You sonofabitch! What the hell were you thinking? Why would you do this? WHY?”

Daniel’s left arm hung at his side. His left foot slipped sideways and he realized there was a sizable puddle of blood on the deck. It must have accumulated as he fought with the damaged keyboard. The wound in his shoulder screamed red hot agony with each movement. The arm itself just hung there, the muscles it needed to move rendered useless by the knife still buried in it. It hurt, bad, and Daniel debated pulling it out.

“Not low oxygen levels, no. It’s got to be from the blood loss, onset of shock.”

He said it out loud, a part of him distanced from what was happening. The words sounded as if spoken by someone else.

“Yeah, blood loss. It affects higher brain function and reasoning skills.”

His voice was quiet, lost to the endless shrieking of the alarms. Had his lips moved? Had he actually spoken out loud? Another wave of dizziness washed over him.

Behind him, the hammering at the doors had taken on a different tone. Sharper, higher grinding sounds, instead of the dull pounding. What was it? Some sort of saw? Daniel felt a flicker of hope. Perhaps they could break through in time, do something he could not.

But did he have time to wait for the others to break through? Should he wait for the captain and the others to get here, so he didn’t screw something up further? He wiped the fresh blood from his brow. Red droplets fell to the view screen below, almost obscuring the countdown. The message continued to scroll…





The door behind him looked untouched, despite the application of the saw or whatever they were using on the other side. It could be hours and from the looks of it, none of the people in the Cryo Pods had hours. How the hell had this madman done it? And why?

Daniel struggled to clear his mind, muddled and confused by the fight, filled with memories of the past. He had to stop this countdown before it was too late.

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