Just a breath away

I wasn’t feeling very well. Maybe I should go back inside but the fresh air out on the balcony felt strangely therapeutic. Looking out at the beautiful desert beyond the laboratory I was wondering why I wasn’t feeling so good.
It had only been a number of hours since the probe had returned to Earth. The rest of the crew were testing the samples taken by the probe from the asteroid. The asteroid had come perilously close to Earth but it wasn’t on a collision course but SciCorps had determined that we had time to launch an intercept probe to enable us to learn about the asteroid.
Walking back into the lab I encountered astrogeologist Genevieve Bond. She said that she was retiring to her quarters because she wasn’t feeling very well. “You too”, I said. She also said that a couple of the crew had also decided to stand down complaining of being unwell.
It was then that the computerised, security system announced that there had been a system failure in the quarantine lab where the asteroid core samples were being analysed. Why had it only just detected the system failure?
I let Genevieve continue her way to her quarters telling her to rest for a while and headed for the Ops Room. On reaching it I heard one of the medical staff informing the station commander that several of the attached military personnel, who had brought the probe back to the lab, had reported to the sick bay of feeling “unwell”. The station commander immediately ordered the lab closed to anybody outside and air samples to be taken from just outside the lab.
I also reported to the sick bay.
I was ordered to undergo a blood test. As were the others.
A long three hours passed. The air samples from outside of the lab had been analysed and had shown the presence of a strange antigen. And that antigen was turning up in the bloodstreams of all the “unwell” staff of the lab. The numbers reporting in sick had swelled to all but a few of the total personnel.
“What is happening here”, I yelled after slowly getting off the gurney. I was still feeling dizzy and nauseous but stood up anyway. I yelped in horror. “My skin!!”
My skin was becoming scaly. And green. A green, vascular scaliness. I looked around. Everybody else was the same. I collapsed in shock.
It must have come from the asteroid core samples. Our tox suits had obviously failed. And worse . . . it was out in the air and probably being carried by the wind.
It seems as though the invaded were now the invaders.

Just a breath away

Peter Krause

Melbourne, Australia

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Artist's Description

Recollections of writing this sometime ago for a challenge but never submitted it. Thought I would now post it just as a short sci fi story.

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