I, Juancho, was concerned.

Science may explain many things, but not everything, not everything. Even the scientists will tell you so.

I am concerned when science and technology tells me the person addressing me is dead. My sanity may be abridged, or they may be a zombie. I lack the wherewithal to address my sanity. If I am insane, then I am insane. I inhabit a bubble of impressions and thoughts, do I not? Someone must help me from the outside.

I don’t know how to even think about how I can be insane. If this man is here, from the Beagle, but —

But, you see, but, I, Juancho, know that we on the Coronado know that those on the Beagle passed away. All were gone, killed for reasons we don’t know.

So I believe, if, I, Juancho, am sane. Perhaps I’m insane, and the Beagle never exploded and killed all onboard. Conversely, perhaps, I, Juancho, am as sane as I thought I was before this man appeared, and he is a zombie.

I, Juancho, am just a bureaucrat. I have shot weapons with sufficient accuracy to be awarded points and a carry permit, but that’s no matter, as I’m not armed.

The man across from me doesn’t appeared armed, either. He is wearing a standard Beagle utility uniform, the sort worn by engineering corps on the ship. The consistency of my possible insanity impressed me. “We have arrived at a frightening crossroads,” I said.

He watched me with narrowed eyes. “What crossroads?”

“My systems tell me that you’re deceased. If you were onboard the Beagle, then you must be dead.”

He pursed his lips, eyes narrowing more, a suspicious and irritated expression. “I was onboard the Beagle. I don’t see how that would make me dead.” He sounded petulant and childish.

Tread carefully, I, Juancho, told myself. “Do you know what happened to the Beagle?”

He became as still as a person can. I’ve seen such stillness in other aspects of my position when sharing news that surprises other people. He did not know what had happened to the Beagle. But, of course, if he was onboard it, it may have exploded and killed him without warning.

“What happened to the Beagle?” he asked.

“I, Juancho, can show you. We have records. I’ll show you.” I watched him carefully, and vowed that I would keep wary eyes on him. Whether he died onboard the Beagle or not, that was four years ago, if the Coronado’s records were correct. Where has he been in the interim?

Although he didn’t appear the least decayed, he could still be a zombie, which made him a threat to me. I, Juancho, could still be insane. It’s a conundrum. I feel haggard, and wish for a drink. I still have alcohol. The systems can compile it from collected materials, and has been doing so. If he’d arrived later in the day, I would have already been enjoying my afternoon alcoholic buzz.

“Let us go look,” I said. “This way.” I indicated for him to walk.

He eyed me. “You first.”

“No, I insist. You go first.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Nor can I.”

“Then I guess we can’t go.”

“Then we will remain at a troubling, frightening crossroads.”

His obstinance irritated me. “First you won’t tell me your name. Now, you refuse to go see the records which will show to you what happened to the Beagle.”

“Why don’t you just tell me?”

“I do not believe you would believe me.”

He shrugged. “Why should I?”

“Why should lie to you?”

“Because you’re alone on the Coronado.”

“Clarify what you mean.”

“I mean what I said. You’re alone on an exploration vessel that should have a crew of thirty. You’re being evasive and obstinate.”

“I am not being obstinate. You’re being obstinate.”

He smiled. “I don’t see it that way.” Standing, he stretched, flexing impressive muscles. “I’ve had enough of this. I think you’re a troubled individual. I wish I could stay and help you, but I need to get back to the Beagle. I’m going to go find someone who can help me, because you, obviously, can’t – or won’t.” He shrugged. “The difference is immaterial, because the outcome is the same.”

He walked off, a smug, muscular, broad-shouldered blond man in a tight Beagles engineering corps utility uniform.

I did not like him. I decided that despite the hour, I would get a drink. I decided that I would also get a weapon, because he, the prig, would be back, and I, Juancho, wanted to be ready.

The prig could still be a zombie.


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