Doctor Margaret Vo heard the scream of the alarm. She did not stop running. She did not know what was going on in the lab. She was afraid that one or both of the brilliant men within were dead. Whatever happened, she would not be caught in the blast. A security team went running past with a medical team right behind as Magaret neared the safe room. She slowed, but kept true to her course. The alarm going off in the lab signaled a breach in chamber containment. She knew that everything in that room was about to be vaporized.
The safe room was a model of functional design. Nothing was loose in the room. A month’s worth of supplies and air was tucked into various storage lockers around the room, and those lockers were embedded within the reinforced walls of the room. A half-dozen crash chairs were built into the walls. They were an improvement on the chairs used in commercial spacecraft; a five-point harness across the body with an instant void seal unit sitting above the headrest, would make sure that even if the room were compromised, a person could survive in their seat until they starved to death.
Margaret strapped herself into the chair and waited for the end to come. She counted the seconds. One…two…three…four. She waited and wondered whether she would even realize the end had come. Would she be vaporized? Would the room crack open and send her spilling out into the void? Whatever it was to be, she feared it and longed for it to hurry up.
Time passed slowly in the dark room. Only the warning lights kept her company. Seconds stretched to hours in her mind as she watched the amber lights go from on to off to on again. She feared she may go mad before the explosion ever killed her.
Doctor Vo wanted to smash the warning light, sure that it was the cause of her descent into insanity. She reached for the release on her harness when something caught her eye. A small red light, no larger than a pea, sat in the corner, blinking, not with the steady rhythm of something mechanical, but with an irregular pulse like the heartbeat of a wounded animal. As she watched it, the light grew larger until it became the size of a basketball. The warning lights went out. Margaret prayed for their return. Something in the depths of that red light reminded Margaret of a long forgotten nightmare that plagued her sleep since childhood. She tried to scream, but could not find her voice.
The crimson orb drifted toward Margaret and she was unable to move or even look away. It stopped short of touching her. It hovered before her eyes, , mesmerizing her with words meant for no one but her. She heard the voice in the recesses of her mind. It promised her everything she ever desired. Wealth, power, and eager lovers for her bed were at the top of her list. There was something she wanted more than anything and the sphere offered it to her if she was willing to pay the price. The remaining rational part of her mind told her to say no, to reject the offer, but her lust for the things she had been denied overwhelmed it. She agreed to the terms whispered in the dark corners of her soul.