Serialized Science Fiction.

The Nanovampire
Tom Haynes

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The two newest crew members didn't fit, they hadn't gone through all of the rigorous NASA training and they weren't part of the tight knit community. They were relative strangers. Still, they did their jobs and each crew member consoled themselves with the fact that it wasn't them being pulled out of the rotation. A freak hunting accident had seen the two MDs waiting rotation instead being eulogized. The attending flight surgeon on the space station Freedom had been also been recalled to help train the replacements. Dr. Bob Atkins had been sent up to look after the crew, he was a civilian, but he also had a Ph.D. in biology - he would be able to help out with the experiments.

If the doctor's credentials were thin, then those of the new pilot were even thinner. He was Navy all the way down to the Annapolis ring. He could tell stories about landing on a carrier deck during a tropical storm at night with one engine shot to hell. But, he'd had no training on either the shuttle or space station systems. A new safety rule had been passed down that a veteran pilot was to be on call at all times. It wasn't clear if the order had been mandated from NASA or one of the service branches. The two rated pilots on board had been quiet about the orders and accepted Logan Fox into their inner circle.

It was suspected that Fox was there because of either his combat experience, he was credited with two kills, or as a juvenile response to the military. In the month since he had been there, he'd been put through the wringer in the most intense on the job training he'd had since his plebe year. But, as far as he was concerned, the EVA training was worth the trip; you suited up, went outside the station, and learned both how to maneuver and service equipment. The old man was damned if he was going to let his greenest recruit sit dumbly at some screen all day when he had an electronics degree and they were already short handed.

Their situations helped hide the most important detail of all, they were not who they claimed to be - their identities were fake. They knew their professions, they might stumble at times, especially Fox, and they knew common professional acquaintances. Fox had clearly been to Annapolis and been an active Navy fighter pilot - faking that level of detail in close confinement and over an extended period of time was next to impossible. But, if anyone had dug deeper into their dossiers, they would have found cookie cutter fake identities.

Their masquerade was made much easier by the fact that they were not expected to flawlessly imitate the real thing. If they slipped in minor faux pas, it was overlooked in the need to train the two to station life. The man know as Logan Fox had even deeper secrets to hide and he suspected that the other did as well. The other man was one of his doctors and knew all about Logan, probably including an identity or two from his past, perhaps even his real name. But he also knew about Logan's ailment, that he had contracted the AIDS-II virus earlier in the year. It was under control and if it weren't for an heroic effort to develop a cure on the station, Logan wouldn't be allowed on it.

The Earth hung above us, I was looking out the porthole as the rest of the crew of the station was on an extended EVA, getting much needed supplies off of the shuttle whose docking computers refused to mate with those of the station. All part of the plan of course, just as the chest strain I was faking was in the script. The doctor had been sent up with me to administer the little bugs and observe the changes. The disease I had contracted in Morocco had shortened my lifespan considerably. I guess you could say I really did volunteer for this last assignment.

My reverie was interrupted, "So Logan, are you ready to inhale my little buddies?" He had started brewing them up yesterday, when the shuttle had launched. They have a shelf life of 48 hours if they aren't administered to a host.

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