Mini adventures. Mini Sci-Fi. Mini History. Mini Fantasy. Mini-escapes. That’s what you can expect from the “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story!

TIME: Stardate 2348. PLACE: Star Sector Poluria onboard the Star Freighter “Tiberias”


Kill a rogue E-5 Unit before it takes out the ten crewman trapped on the Hangar deck…Great. Ask me something easy, Security Officer Cash thought as he checked the load in his autogun. Twenty rounds, nitro-tipped. Enough to cut through anything but a ship’s hull. Enough to knock down an E-5. Even a hack-job that had killed two crewmen. If he could catch it napping…

Like all “aware” machinery, the E-5 Loader was docile normally. But somebody had altered this one’s programming. No brainer, probably a competing corporate council. Shut down the interplanetary transports and you shut down the corporation.

Cash shuffled forward, sweat trickling into his eyes. He ran a sleeve across his forehead. Soldiering was not really in his line. He was a security officer—but of the online kind, protecting the ship’s computers. He listened for the E5 as he moved, heard the deck plates thrumming ominously with vibrations from the ion propulsion unit in the engineering deck below. He rounded a corner, autogun poised, checking the corridor outside the hangar first with his intel-cam. Blue halls, exposed aluminum flooring…a body, sprawled across the deck. Victim number three. Cash nudged the man with his boot, checking for signs of life.

“Crewman down by airlock 2B. Talk to me, Bridge, I need intel–”

“Roger, the E5’s in Hangar bay 2-B, turning your direction,” his earpiece crackled back urgently. “Twenty meters and closing–”

So close. He stared pensively at the sign for hangar bay 2B. Paused his finger above its air lock release button. E-5’s weren’t conventionally armed; it had killed using its loading grippers. But if it’s waiting on the other side…

Cash triggered the hatch release button and darted into the hangar. He had a brief glimpse of towering shuttles, piles of machinery, shadows. The door clanged behind. Cash spun involuntarily at the noise, knowing even as he did so that it was a mistake. He felt himself being lifted; was hurled four meters to the deck, losing his autogun.

Cash rolled, grunting in pain as his arm flopped unnaturally beneath him. The  autogun—There! A meter, maybe less. The E-5—

Attacking. Treads spinning, it bore down upon him. Grippers extended. 450 man-killing kilograms of steel, reaching­–

Cash lunged for his weapon, moaning. The E-5’s gripper snapped down on his injured arm. With his left hand he clawed up the autogun, braced it against the deck.

“Trigger, pull, autofire—”

“Now! Now!” Explosions ripped through the hangar. Metal chunks flew from the E-5 in mini starbursts. The machine lurched, its vis-sensors blinking, its “brain” housing disintegrating into fragments. Cash grunted; shrapnel tore his shoulder. He forced the autogun back on target, two rounds tipping the unit. Trigger, trigger, trigger, die, dammit, die! He fired, gritting his teeth, feeding more shots into the thing’s steel underbelly…until, after a second or two, the weapon clicked to empty and flames consumed the Loader.

I got it…got it…

He regarded the loader, remembering how to breathe. A lone vis-sensor stared back from the wreckage, wreathed in smoke. Firelight played off Cash’s fatigues and illuminated the shuttles looming overhead.

“I don’t understand,” said Cash over the crackle of the flames. “Why hack an E-5, one lousy E-5? Why not just hack the entire ship? It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t m—”

He stiffened as, almost in answer, the vibrations from the ion propulsion unit in the engineering deck below ceased. Behind him, the airlock doors slid open. A generator hummed to life. With agonizing slowness, the hangar doors opened. He turned, watching the black slit between widening, yawning…

A diversion. The E-5 was nothing but a diversion to keep me busy.

Cash stared into deep space as air rushed from the ship. He whispered “No…” when the endless night poured in upon him.

The stars beyond were very cold.




(For more information about industrial robots, please check out this excellent link:


Each “Five-Minute Escape short-short story in this blog series will be kept under 1500 words; most will clock in at about 500. The “Five-Minute Escape” short-short story will allow you to log on, take a fast trip, and get back quick to what you should have been doing in the first place…though hopefully the experience will stay with you long after you have moved on to something else. Subscribe to the blog and take a weekly…”Five-Minute Escape!”

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