Buttons by Pete Warner

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SUMMARY: Revised entry for the April flash fiction contest, theme "forbidden"

Sabado first noticed The Button on his very first visit to the bridge. It was not red, unlike the Captain's face. Nor did it make any noise, unlike the Captain who was shouting at Sabado loudly. All of the crew present on the bridge ignored the shouting, as they ignored the button. They seemed interested only in buttons that were red and noisy, like the Captain. Ones that were illuminated, or blinked on and off. Big buttons. Important buttons.

The Captain stopped making noise but continued growing redder. Some of the crew looked up from their unfathomable activities. Sabado thought the Captain had probably asked him a question. He thought he probably should say something.

"Yes Captain."

It seemed to be the right thing to say. The Captain nodded. A droplet of sweat fell from her nose and splashed on her boot as she turned away. A man stepped forward - a security officer with a name badge that said Feltz. - grabbed Sabado by the arm and led him to the Umbilicus door. Inside the pod there were more buttons. Feltz pressed one and the pod shot through kilometer after kilometer of Umbilicus, toward the main body of the ship. After about five seconds, unable to help himself, Sabado pressed one too.

When the repair pod arrived and its crew finally prised the doors open an hour later, they also had to prise Sabado from the headlock Feltz had him in. They took Sabado to sick bay to get his bleeding nose staunched, depositing him into the care of Cartwright, his local sector doctor.

"Ah, Sabado. Back again I see."

Sabado tried to look abashed, but had never really learned how.

Cartwright continued. "What was it this time?"

"Just now it was the pod and Feltz. I had to go see the Captain about the vending machines. "

"I heard. Every last machine in the mess hall. The engineers can't get their Snap-bar fix. I'd give them a wide berth if I were you. And what was it last week?"

"Last week was the Sleepers on Green Deck."

"Oh that's right. You switched the waste tubes from suck to blow. Dozen of ‘em had to be cleaned up. Crap coming out of every orifice ‘cept the one it's meant to come out of."

"I didn't mean for that to happen. There was this lever, sticking out..."

"Lad, the Captain's asked for one of medi-crew to give you an appraisal and since you're here again looks like it falls to me. And I'm not talking about your bloodied nose. Got to probe a bit deeper than that." Cartwright pointed to his own skull, tapped on it. "Comprenday?"

"Oh." Sabado had been appraised before, on previous ships. They'd made him look at pictures and solve math puzzles. They asked strange things, like if he heard voices, and whether he liked being touched.

"I don't hear voices, Doctor Cartwright, unless people are talking. But if they shout I can't hear them," he added, thinking of the Captain "And I don't mind people touching me except when they touch me too hard like Officer Feltz."

"Sabado, your file says you grew up on Grussock Seven, is that right?"

"Not really. I didn't grow up there. I was lab spawned, and they allocated me a tribe and even parents.

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