Tariazhiko tiptoed carefully to a wall and put his ear to it. And he
heard out that soft rustle again. It was somewhere too close; just reach
out a hand. He stretched out. His fingers touched something tender and
stirring. The something didn't move for a moment, then soundlessly clasped
round his palm. Tariazhiko's heart sank. He twitched and escaped into the
corridor. At once he stumbled over a damned girder and his head hit the
floor. His heart sank, his breathe sank, his hand grasped at last to press
an emergency light button. Those would poorly help. But it would be not so
Tariazhiko mustered up his courage and picked himself over the floor
and took a look through into the bath compartment. There was a double
towel lying on the floor where he stood before.
He drew breathe easily and lay back.
So went about five minutes until he heard again that hateful rustle
that made his heart sink. Terror pierced his body. He jumped up scalded
and escaped along the corridor. He ran passing doors, sectors, blocks,
emergency lights. He found himself suddenly with a nut key in his hand.
However he hardly would use it as a weapon. He ran passing elevators and
stairs and locks and controls until he found himself nearby the external
He fell down tired on a space-suit box. An unbearably painful lump
stuck in his throat. His sight got distorted by a cover of tears.
"Jesus", he cried soundlessly. "What the thing turned my ship into?
Nobody, nobody can help me. I'm alone. Alone, I am".
The God kept silence looking at a piece of dust, what Tariazhiko's
ship was, with the black bottomless eyes of the Universe.
"Alone", thought Tariazhiko,"And there is the thing walking around my
A sudden whistle made him shudder. He squeezed stronger the nut key
in his palm. But that was just automatics that asked would he go out into
the open space or not.
He realozed there were the products of civilization aruond him and it
made him come to his senses.
"Can it really be true this filth can make me lose my senses", he
thought in terror.
Automatics became silent. Either the energy ended or the thing
reached already the emergency power supply? If so then it was bad at all.
Then between a few hours his ship as well as himself would begin to
freeze. The rest of ship systems would reject step-by-step. And then both
he and she would turn into a dead block drifting slowly accross the Milky
Way. Because of this thought only Tariazhiko felt freezing. It was
necessary to do something, he decided.
He looked out in the corridor. After that he thought for a minute
about the nut key in his hand. He shoved it into the space-suit box and
slipped out from the air lock compartment.
It was silent. There were rustles from time to time. He stopped. His
hands got covered with goose skin. Streaming sweat on his back seemed to
be too close to the point of freezing. He terribly imagined himself turned
into a solid substance with stalactites on his back. The rustles reached
his ears now from afar and now from anear. Tariazhiko grew torpid. After
the rustles got silent he moved himself further. Very slow, too slow.
The ship depot was almost empty. There was only a small hill of boxes
full with spare parts. He took a one - it would be enough, if, of course,
the thing would not begin to again destroy the thin structures of the ship
brain and communications. He carefully held a thin transparent plate. Even
a soft air movement could spoil it. Something would breake, microcurrent
would go erroneously and the end.
Nobody had run a repair of a ship brain in the Space ever before. It
was protected by a whole system of special equipments making it absolutely
invulnerable. Tariazhiko sighed heavily. Absolutely. It was interesting
anyway how could the nasty thing succed to penetrate into there.
Suddenly, he heard a sound of steps. They were power, massive, heavy
steps of something huge and strong. Tariazhiko almost let the box out. He
rushed to the exit and stood silently nearby. The steps were approaching.
No rustle was already heard. Just the steps the inevitable fate. Louder
and louder. Tariazhiko stuck to a wall. He wished with all his heart to
merge the wall, to get soldered with the wall, to dissolve in the wall.
The steps resonanced in his temples with blows of his heart. The
steps scratched his ear membranes. The steps creaked in his stomach. And
that nut key was lying in the air lock compartment. And he had only the
box with spare parts inside, invaluable parts to the ship brain.
The steps unexpectedly subsided. Something stopped near the exit
hiding the dusky emergency lights in the corridor which were so unbearably
sinister besides. The something gave a creak. The creak ran along
Tariazhiko's backbone and kicked his heels. The something moved through
into the depot.
Tariazhiko strongly screwed up his eyes, clenched his teeth not to
cry, delayed his breathing.
That was a ship robot, the single on the ship board. It came in
waddling on its unbendable legs and stopped right in the middle of the
"Jesus", Tariazhiko exclaimed unable to control himself.
"You piece of damned iron", wailed Tariazhiko.
"A rubbish heap weeps for you", raved Tariazhiko.
"Stand here and don't move at all", ordered Tariazhiko.
He slipped down on the floor deafened by his own shouts.
When silence came back and his ear ability did too, he heard a
scarcely discerned rustle. Somewhere too close.
Tariazhiko jumped up and escaped along the corridor. The hateful
rustle. The cursed rustle. He, Tariazhiko, was not able to endure it
anymore. It was necessary to change that block to revive the ship. Only
then he, Tariazhiko, would find a way to kill the thing. Even if the thing
would spoil his ship ten times more. He would repair her again and again
till such blocks would be available in the depot.
He smiled sadly. The cargo of the spare parts was to be delivered to
the Fifth planet of the Rydegite system for its ship service station, as
it was indicated in the accompanied documents. So, he needed now to use
the cargo to save himself. That was right. That happened sometimes in the
space. The vile thing. The thought of it made Tariazhiko shudder. The
fucked thing. Tariazhiko started to irritate himself to charge his fury.
He reached the communication compartment and calmed down and began to
work not paying attention to any damned rustle.
He very carefully took off a seal. Then he punctually opened the
necessary block cover and took it away. After that he put a new plate
therein and placed all together.
He waited for a minute not daring to turn on. Finally, he set a code.
And the ship responded to him. Light appeared to everywhere. All
equipments, systems, controls, units resumed to work.
"Aha!", Tariazhiko exclaimed gladly. He looked now at the control,
now at the lights, now at the communication section. He merrily jumped up
and made several dancing motions.
"Who's afraid of the big, bad wolf?", Tariazhiko asked the corridor.
He hesitated. There was the thing strolling accross the ship, such a
thought like a lightning. Euphoria ended. The sticky fear leaned heavily
stirring his hair. The thing was still alive. The thing crawled along his
ship. Tariazhiko clenched his teeth. His palm two compressed fists. He
tried to calm arisen trembling.
"All, that's all. All be good", Tariazhiko calmed himself. "I'm now
getting ready. I'll find the thing and kill it".
He threw the growing numb down and advanced resolutely to the air
"Maybe it's better to leave my ship, sit down into a shuttle and call
S.O.S. until automatics don't reject again?", thought Tariazhiko pulling
the nut key out of the space-suit box.
"Maybe it is better to call S.O.S. right now?", considered Tariazhiko
hanging a discharger and accumulator on his shoulders.
"No! I must cope with the thing. Myself!", thought Tariazhiko
weighing an improvised lance in his hand.
"Yes, I must! No one else! Just myself!" decided Tariazhiko.
He mobilized all his will, malice and enthusiasm and set off for the
Throughout his ship greeted him. She encourage him with screens
shimmer and with indicators winking and with bright light filling in all
He went around half the ship and found himself besides the depot. He
recalled he had forgotten to return the box with spare parts back.
"Well, I may do it later", Tariazhiko said to himself. "If nothing is
about to happen, of course. However the robot can be useful to me". He
went for -
- and grew numb at the depot door.
There was the silent huge mass of the robot in the middle of the
depot. The thing sat on that mass.
Tariazhiko's stomach jumped up to his heart as though his stomach
wanted to digest his heart. But his fury overpowered all the rest.
Tariazhiko growled and threw the nut key to strike the thing. The
robot clinked softly. The thing jumped down on the floor and ran to
Tariazhiko. He squeaked. The thing stopped for a moment and rushed forward
His hand slowly, as though in a slow motion shot, reached the
discharger. Its barrel slowly aimed at the thing. His finger very, very,
very slowly pressed the discharger button. It sounded a crack.
"Taaake it!", his wail spread throughout the ship.
The thing twitched and turned black being charred in arc and
Tariazhiko went on to press the button furiously for several seconds
more. Then he softly settled on the floor, melting into tears and sweat.
"Just so", he whispered and banged his fist on the floor.
"Just so", he cried and banged again, stronger.
Suddenly, he burst out laughing. Quietly, at the beginning. Then
louder and louder. He fell on the floor spread his hands. His voice came
off. He began to cough. He snatched his throat and lay down on his stomach
and stood up on his hands and knees.
"Just so", he spoke hoarsely and looked at that place where there ran
that nasty thing - a cockroach.