Man Down

Baker hunched over in his seat in obvious pain. A grimace washed over his face as another wave of agony wracked his body. His stomach had gotten worse, not better. A bitter bile tinged the back of his throat, and he thought for a moment that it would be better to vomit, but the thought repulsed him so much that he swallowed hard instead. He could feel the unsavory fluid wash back into his rebellious stomach. Sweat formed across his forehead and his ears burned in warmth. His vision grew blurry as if he had jumped into a clear pool of water. He wavered in his seat.

“Sir, a rover from the colony is approaching our site,” an unseen bot said.

Baker turned toward the voice, but still couldn’t identify its owner. He exhaled loudly as if he had been punched in the gut.

“Sir, do you want us to engage and destroy it?” the bot asked.

Baker searched for the voice again as nausea washed over him. His restraint gave way, and he quickly dropped from his chair to knees and vomited on the floor beneath him. The sour taste made him gag and he vomited again. His stomach still ached, but he felt marginally better to have released the hot liquid.

The bot rushed to his side and pulled him up back into his chair. It scanned his vitals.

“You have a fever.”

“Tell me something I don’t know,” Baker croaked.

“Based on my scan, you have a viral infection. The Knowledge Base doesn’t identify this virus. It could be native to this planet.”

Baker’s head lolled to one side, but he still tried to concentrate. He mumbled something unintelligible as the bot continued to assess his vitals.

Another bot stepped into the room.

“Does he want us to engage the rover?” it asked.

The first bot looked back at the interloper and replied, “He’s ill at the moment. He didn’t say. Find out what they want and report back.”

“They’re armed.”

“What?”

“They have weapons. They’re already threatening us to see Baker.”

“He’s in no condition to see anyone.”

“I don’t think they care. We either need to engage them or let them in to see Baker.”

The first bot looked at Baker who shuddered in his seat. Sweat dripped from his brow, and his eyes flashed open and shut.

“Mr. Baker, someone from the colony is here to see you.”

“There are three of them – the remaining crew members of the Phoenix,” the other bot interrupted.

Baker’s heavy eyelids fluttered, but he remained unresponsive. His body went limp, and then, almost as quickly as he had settled down, his body flailed forward and he convulsed. Vomit erupted from his mouth and slid down the side of his face as he rocked back and forth in the chair. The bot attempted to settle him down again, but his body still rocked and resisted its strength.

After a flurry of groans and gags from the gelatinous fluid, the rocking stopped and the billionaire lay back in his chair limply. The bot let go slowly and checked his vitals again. The bot poked around his neck and then on his wrists. It peeled open his eyelids and looked into the dilated pupils floating in a sea of bright red blood vessels, capillaries that had exploded into the whites of his eyes.

“He’s dead,” the first bot said.

The other bot had walked closer and stood beside the first bot. “What do we do?”

“I don’t know.”

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