Space Fiction

Critical error

His body was failing. All he could find was a butter knife. It would have to do. He clenched his jaw and pushed the blunt metal into his forearm, then moved the blade around until he hear a click and the skin-covered lid opened up revealing a control mechanism. Red alert diode was flashing and the display read:

‘Critical error: 00754930Y72

Complete system failure in: 381 hours 17 minutes 3 seconds’


‘How long?’ She asked knowing she wouldn’t like the answer.

‘Three months.’ They looked at each other.

‘Can you call the helpline?’

‘I already have.’ He bit his lip. She took his hand and waited until he continued: ‘They suggested a reset.’

‘But how? How are you supposed to reset yourself?’

‘I need your help.’

Sean studied the reset procedure in great detail. The fine print stated that with his condition there was 70% failure rate and the odds were getting worse every minute. Linda looked over his shoulder. The schematics made her shiver. She shook it off, walked around the room talking more to herself than to Sean.

‘I can’t believe it. With all they’re charging for the replacement organs. I thought we were guaranteed to live forever. I certainly don’t know anybody who died. It’s ridiculous. Let’s call the news. People should know. There must be something we can do. We’ll sue the Manufacturer.’

‘Sit the fuck down.’ It made an impact. ‘Focus. If you’re not up for it, I have to know.’



Calling the Helpline was the last resort. By 2150 all human operators were replaced by heartless, therefore cheap, FoneBots.

‘This is operator 596 of the Manufacturer Helpline. The company cannot be held responsible for any…’

‘Yes, yes. I’m sending the legal waiver.’ Sean touched few places on the screen and placed the call on loud speaker.

‘The paperwork is in order. You may now take few minutes to pray.’ The FoneBot read from the updated script which accounted for such sensitivities.

‘We won’t.’ Sean took his shirt off. The illness made his ribs cast a shadow on his stomach. Once he opened his belt, jeans dropped to the floor.

‘Are you sure you don’t want to call your mother?’

‘You know what to do, Linda.’ He sunk into the recharging chair, put his fingers into sockets, and gave her the look.

‘Connect the power adaptor.’ The robotic voice interrupted their kiss. Linda wiped her tears and put the plug into the socket on the back of his neck. She moved to the console, entered his ID and password, copied and pasted code from the Helpline.

Sean mouthed “love you”, but Linda didn’t see that. With her eyes closed she hit Return. That was the easy part. The shut down. The clock was counting down one minute. In her head she repeated the steps: pull the plug out, wait three seconds, put it back in, press the red button, send an electric charge, remember to stand clear, type “start”, press Return. Five, four, three, two, one.

She pulled the plug. ‘One one hundred, two one hundred, three one hundred.’ Hands shaking she attached the wire back in. Big red button. Clear. His body arched in spasm. She typed “starr”, backspace, “stary”, backspace, “start”, Return.

‘Nothing. Nothing’s happening. Operator! Help!’

‘This is operator 596 of the Manufacturer Helpline. How can I be of assistance.

‘Help,’ Linda screamed. ‘He’s not waking up.’

‘I have to check with my supervisor. Let me put you on hold,’ said the metallic voice, not-so-soothing music followed. Linda reached for the phone, then changed her mind, took a vase instead and smashed it on the wall. Dozen of tulips slid down. Water reached the wall socket and few sparks rushed out. Sean’s body was raising and falling rapidly. The power went off.


‘Linda, are you there?’ Sean wasn’t sure his eyes were open. They found each other before the light came back on.

‘Did it work? Sean, honey, what is it?’

In reply he showed her the display in his arm. It was down to 999 hours.



After the funeral Linda put a screwdriver into her forearm. The red diode was flashing.

‘Critical error: 00754930Y72

Complete system failure in: 79352 hours 17 min 3 sec’

She picked up a phone.

‘Manufacturer Helpline. How can I help?’

‘Hello? Operator what does the error number 00754930Y72 mean?’

‘According to the user manual this error number stands for: life.’

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