By Joshua McIntyre
The alarm woke her up. It was like being slapped in the face with noise, and with a hangover that was not the best way to wake up. Stumbling to grab some clothes, she hit her bed side table and knocked over a coffee cup, throwing what seemed like ash all over the ground. Confused and still grabbing for some clothes, Stella realized she hadn’t actually undressed from the night before. She had apparently taken one shoe off, and that was all she could manage. Throwing her shoe back on she zipped up her jacket and was thankful that the commander required everyone to wear regulation uniforms whenever on deck. It meant that no one would realize that she had slept in hers. Then, remembering the alarm that was still blaring, she slammed her door open and ran in as straight a line as she could for the elevator.
Walking out of the elevator gave her a new sense of worry, the commander wasn’t and neither was most of the crew. Lt Wolf, one of the pilots shouted out “First Lieutenant, we’ve taken damage but we’re clear of the danger now. I’m not sure where everyone else is but I’ve set a course for the nearest base at Octoro sir.” Stella, still reeling from her previous night said back, “How long to Octoro and what happened? Were we attacked?”
Isabella looking back over her shoulder could see Stella holding her hand to her head and wincing in pain. “It’s going to take us at least four weeks to get to Octoro sir and no sir we got hit by a rogue asteroid. It smashed up the launch bay from what I can tell here but no one else has shown and I’ve just been trying to steer us and check for other potential hazards sir.”
“Great job lieutenant.”
Stella sat in the commanders chair to check on the rest of the ship and get reports from everywhere else. Hoping that Captain Marks would show up soon, Stella sent out requests to all of the divisions for status reports. Then she turned off the alarm to give her head a break. She left the alarm on throughout the personnel cabins and hallways since there seemed to be a large portion of the crew still absent from the bridge. While waiting on the status reports she slumped her head into her hands and closed her eyes. She started to drift to sleep and remember the night before.
Everyone was laughing and having a great time even Commander Marks got up and sang karaoke, everyone was howling with laughter when he sang Oops I did it again by Britney Spears. The sight of her birthday cake and everyone singing happy birthday to her made Stella well up with joy. She couldn’t help but cry and hug Captain Marks and everyone else that would get close to her. Then the liquor flowed freely, she was supposed to have the following day off to recuperate and relax so there was no reason to hold back.
The elevator doors opened and Stella threw her head up from her memories, expecting to see the Captain step out but was disappointed seeing Lt Jamison flanked by Lt Revere.
“Sir, What’s going on?”
“Lt Jamison, do a full scan of the surrounding area for radio signals. We got hit by an asteroid and are on course to Octoro. After checking for any signs of life, I want you to radio ahead to Octoro and tell them we’re headed their way.”
“Lt Revere, I want you to double check Lt Wolf’s course to Octoro, see if you can get us there faster than four weeks, I don’t want to be out of commission and off course for that long.”
The status reports started to come back from the other departments. Lt Wolf was right, the launch bay was going to need some considerable repair according to Engineering. The good news was that the engines seemed to still be operating at full capacity so even if they didn’t have use of their main launch bay they still wouldn’t be limping along. Unfortunately the damage that had been done wasn’t really accessible from inside the ship as the launch bay had been sealed due to loss of pressure. The full extent of the damage wouldn’t be known until they got to Octoro and they could survey the ship properly from the outside.
The medical report came back next. Stella had been on the USS Concord for several years and she had served on other smaller ships for years here and there since she was 16. She had been through other tragedies that resulted from negligence or freak accidents and she had seen medical reports before. She had even helped fill one out before during her brief stint in a medical unit early in her career when she was still trying to figure out what she wanted to specialize in. She knew the layout. There would be three numbers at the top in red before any of the other information that would give you an idea of the situation you were in. The first number would be casualties, Stella had never seen this number in the double digits. The second number would be injuries which could be anything that kept someone from performing their duties for at least one day. The third number was unaccounted-for personnel. This number usually started out the highest and would drop during subsequent reports following an event. Usually unaccounted personnel were just people who had managed to sleep through the alarms or weren’t where they were supposed to be when the initial count was done. On a ship of five hundred people it wasn’t unreasonable to have roughly 30-40 people unaccounted for at any time. There was talk at one time of placing tracking chips into military personnel so that at any time you could know exactly where everyone on the ship was, but a lot of people worried about being spied on at any given time and the drag on morale that it might cause seemed to go against such an idea. Below these top numbers would be further detailed descriptions for each number, such as “three people died as a result of an explosion and several others were hurt”. Usually it would be brief and it would contain only what was known at the time and perhaps an indication if some numbers were likely to change in the next report.
Opening the medical report was difficult to face and Stella was hoping that the Captain would walk in and she would be able give him his chair back and take over her duties of directing the engineering team on what repairs were the most important to start on. The Commander had not shown up and Stella proceeded to open the report The. First number was one hundred and twenty dead, the second number was two hundred and six injured and the last number was one hundred missing, meaning that there was possibly only seventy-four people to run the ship at the moment. Stella was shocked and had to re-read the numbers more than once to be sure. Her head was still pounding from last night and her stomach felt like she needed to vomit at any moment. She tried closing one eye and re-reading the numbers but instead of making them clearer that only proceeded to make them harder to read. She enlarged the report on her screen and was sure that it said 120 people dead. Reading further down indicated that the number was likely to rise and that the asteroid had hit the launch bay but then it shattered and fragments flew through portions of the ship, piercing the hull possibly in hundreds of places.
Then Stella saw the list of names that were confirmed dead by the medical staff. She began to weep and she tried to hold strong but her eyes filled with tears and with anger as she read Commander Marks as the first name on the list. She was crushed but knew that this meant she was in charge now and would need to get the crew safely to Octoro as quickly as possible. The next report came in from engineering detailing out the damage, it said some of the asteroid that hit them was still lodged in the ship. She was trying to focus and move on with her job to read their recommendations on what should be fixed first but she couldn’t focus. The mix of the hangover and the loss of her commander was taking all of her attention. She was frozen, this would go down as one of the worst disasters in recent history and all because of some stupid piece of rock floating by in space. How could someone not see an object that big? Feeling angered at the situation Stella resolved to address the crew.
Pulling up the PA function from her screen she said, “Everyone, this is Acting Commander Stella Franklin, I have some bad news. As everyone already knows, we are under a red alert. We have not been attacked, but we have been hit by a rogue asteroid that has largely destroyed our launch bay. Unfortunately that is not where the bad news stops. I have just been informed that we have suffered heavy casualties as a result of this collision and unfortunately we have lost Commander Marks. I know many of you knew him personally and we all will miss him, but this is not a time for sorrow. The ship needs some work to get us back up and operating properly. We all need to get stuck into our work and keep it up. We are on course to Octoro but it will take us several weeks to get there. So we will have to endure these conditions for now. I know there were heavy losses and when the time is appropriate we will be holding memorial services for them all. However for the time being I am going to ask everybody that is willing and able to help us get through this and to keep this ship operating. Command out.”
“Hey Asgarth. Look out there at that fragment. Tell me what you see.” Asgarth put his touch pad down and looked out the window where Jared pointed. There was a fragment from the asteroid that was a 2 meter long spike, about half a meter wide.
“It looks like it’s waving on the end, like there’s jello at that end.”
“Yea that’s what I thought. How could something not be frozen solid there aren’t any stars near by at all. It should be frozen solid its almost zero kelvin out there.”
“That’s crazy, maybe the commander will let you go out there later and get a sample but let’s just get on with this damage survey for now so we can start repairing the ship.”
“Yea alright, it’s fucking crazy though.”
Down the hall a door opened up in one of the cabins and Jared recognized one of the cooks stumbling out of his cabin holding his arm close to his chest. There was a large dark green and black chunk of rock sticking out of his bicep. He was very confused and was looking around at the destruction in the hallway where lights had fallen and exposed wires were sticking out of panel next to his door. Asgarth and Jared ran to him and helped him stand, he looked like he was about to collapse.
“Hey man c’mon let’s get you to the medical wing. Jared, carry on with the survey, I’ll be back in a minute.”
Asgarth threw his arm around him and started to carry him. He looked at the rock stuck in his arm and knew it had to be part of the asteroid that came in through the hull and hit him. Jared couldn’t help but look at the rock. It was so crazy that this came through the ship and got lodged in his arm. Jared knew about the ballistic protection that was built into the hull that would slow projectiles down and often stop small objects completely. But here was this rock as big as his fist sitting in this mans arm. Jared looked up at the cooks face, he was obviously in pain but he also looked like he was about to vomit.
When Asgarth got to the medical wing he saw bodies and bandages flying. There were nurses running around to everyone and handing out different pieces of paper either red green or yellow. The nurse ran up to Asgarth and said, “Whats wrong?” Before he could get much of a word out she looked at the cook’s arm and looked Asgarth up and down then gave the cook a green card and said, “Hold this, we’ll get to you as soon as we can. You can wait with him over there hun.” She pointed to some chairs where there was a bunch of other people with green cards. They all seemed to have broken bones and some were yelling about getting pain meds. They walked over to an open space on the wall and Asgarth helped him sit down. Then he looked at him and said, “They’ll look after you, but are you gonna be alright? I’ve gotta get back to my job.” The cook looked up and just nodded and then threw his hand over his mouth to try and stop himself vomiting. His eyes bulged and his nostrils flared and then he took a big swallow. He waved Asgarth away as to say I’ll be fine you get out of here.
He walked down the hallway where he had left Jared, to find him in the cook’s room staring at the wall where the asteroid had penetrated the hull. A piece of the asteroid was still stuck inside the wall just above the bed, the hole had been filled in with ballistic polymer.
“That stuff’s incredible isn’t it? I mean look, that chunk of asteroid is enveloped in polymer. Man I wonder how fast that asteroid was going when it hit us for some of it to still be stuck in the wall?”
“Yea it’s good stuff, but come, on you get all of this stuff down already?
“Yea I got it, I was just trying to figure out if I should mark this down or not?”
Jared pointed to a part of the wall below where the black and green rock jutted out. There was some black smears on the wall that looked like it came from the asteroid.
“I’ve been trying to figure out if it’s a burn mark or not? I tried to wipe it away but it feels like raised bumps so I don’t know what it is.”
“Yea just mark it down as asteroid remnants or something, I’m sure it’ll just get removed when this wall gets replaced. Besides we have a lot more of this section to check out before we’re done.”
“OK and yea this is gonna be a long couple of days I’m sure. Hey how was the med wing, is that guy gonna be OK?”
“The med wing is going crazy, there were tons of people in there and all of the nurses and doctors were running around trying to treat everyone. I got out of there pretty quick so I wasn’t in the way. As for the cook, I think he might lose his arm. It didn’t look too bad but I don’t think they’re gonna be able to get to him very quick.”
“Yea right well that sucks. I guess if he was there by himself they’d have him fixed up pretty quick but if it’s busy like you say then, yea, man that sucks.”
“Yea but come on, we can’t do anything about it and remember what Lt Commander Franklin said we have to get the ship up and running again.”
Stella sat in the command chair still feeling uneasy as the engineering and medical reports continued to flow in. The number of dead continued to rise and the damage reports only got worse. It seemed that the few sensors they did have for reporting on the status of the ship were all out. Some part of the asteroid had broken off and slammed directly into one of the control units on the exterior and fried a huge portion of the system, so they had to send out people on foot to look at several areas of the ship and give accounts of what different sections looked like. Luckily the communications array was still up and Lt Jamison had managed to get a message to Octoro informing them of what had happened. They were going to send some help in the form of a medical ship with a large group of mechanics to carry out some repairs in transit. It would take about 10 days to get to them though, so they still had to bear the brunt of what had just happened alone.
“Lt Revere, What’s the status on the route, can you get us there any faster?”
“I’m just waiting for another calculation to come back now sir. I might have figured out how to clip a little bit of time off of our route, it does take us through a small system that might interfere with our communications.”
“How much time can it take off and how could a system interfere with our comms?”
“It’ll drop our travel time from 29 days to about 20 days at our current speed. As for the comms I don’t really have an answer. There seems to be some form of planetary interference, but it is not clear why.”
“OK well we’re in a bit of a shit situation and getting us to Octoro faster would be the best for everyone here. Set the course and then get a full write up of the course. Lt Jamison send it over to Octoro and tell them about our course change so they can find us. Then set up a constant ping for them to pick up so they’ll know when and if we lose communication at some point.”
Both Lt’s said “yes sir” and got to work on their new orders. Lt Wolf got up after putting the autopilot back on to follow the new course. She approached Stella, “Captain I think I should be relieved of duty.”
Stella sat up and said, “Isabella what is wrong with you? you’re the only pilot I’ve got at the moment you can’t leave.”
“I just think I should be punished for not avoiding that asteroid sir. It’s my fault that Commander Marks is dead and that all of the other crew are dead or injured.” Her face started to turn red and as she tried to turn away to hide her tears she continued, “I don’t think someone who is responsible for all of those deaths should remain in her seat and continue to threaten everyone’s lives.”
“Lt Isabella Wolf you get back to your post immediately, you aren’t responsible for those deaths, that damn asteroid is. I just got done reading an engineer’s report and they’re telling me that it appears to have been covered in some sort of gelatinous substance. They think that this might be why it wasn’t detected, they think it absorbed the em frequency of our radar and made it invisible to our equipment. Besides the damn ship should have detected and adjusted course when it was still miles away, but we can’t throw the computer in the brig can we?”
“Good, now get back to your post. I’ll see that you get a long break when we’re out of hot water again but for now I need you to be in control of yourself.”
Stella got up out of the commander’s chair having realized she hadn’t moved since she first stumbled in a few hours ago still half drunk. The drunkenness had largely worn off only to be replaced by a headache which only caused her to lose focus even more. Still she felt steadier on her feet than when she walked in. She went to her old post as first lieutenant and rummaged for some pain meds. She shook lose her small black note book. She read the words she had written across the front cover when she first got it “NOTHING IS TRUE, EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED.” She read the words more than once and repeated them to herself as she had done often. She found some headache meds and after pulling out a couple of pills, she had a sudden realization. The pile of ash on her bedside table last night she knew what it was. Her face froze, the words that Isabella had just said to her ran through her mind. She knew why this had happened and she could feel a pit in her stomach grow. She was leaning over to get into her desk but felt the urge to drop to the ground and hide. Instead she got up and gulped down the pills and headed for the commanders office with her notebook in hand. She had to check to see if it was still there.
From behind the desk she whipped open the notebook and saw all of her usual drawings and of the wish lists she had written time and time again of the goals she wanted to achieve. Then deeper in to the note book she saw the drawings of her cigil how, it started from a few simple words to a complex symbol that she drew on page after page perfecting and practicing it. Drawing it each time with more desire for it to come true and often writing above it “NOTHING IS TRUE, EVERYTHING IS PERMITTED.” She felt more and more sick. She had spent weeks preparing how to best execute the ritual for it to work. She heard someone else enter the office. “Commander are you alright?” It was Isabella sounding worried. Looking up from the desk and hiding the notebook Stella said, “Yes Isabella I’m fine, just had been sitting in that chair for so long and needed to get up and walk around for a minute. Then I remembered I should send a message to command about what’s going on.” Stella tried to get the fear out of her voice but it was hard to cover up. She already knew what she would find in the notebook but was hoping her memory from last night was wrong. “I’ll be back out in a minute Lt, just need a coffee and for these pain meds to kick in.” Isabella hesitated and then said, “we just all saw you rush out of the command deck so quickly and we were worried. You’re the only commander we have at the moment.” Stella smiled to herself a bit and said, “yea I’m fine I just need a second.”
The hustle of the med wing was incredible there were so many wounded people just waiting to be seen. Eventually the flow of people coming into the waiting area slowed and stopped. The nurses who had been handing out cards to everyone begin to bandage some wounds and help get other patients to the surgery teams. The pain in his arm was incredible. He could feel every heartbeat as a fresh flush of agony throughout his shoulder. Sometimes the pain seemed to get so intense his body just went numb and then it would come back if he tried to move even a little bit. At least his vomiting had stopped, although his stomach still felt like he had swallowed a pile of razor blades. The nurses had started to help some of the people next to him and soon one nurse came to him and said, “OK come with me we’ll have to see about getting that out of your arm, While we’re walking do you have any other symptoms?” Feeling the difficulty of standing up and the new rush of pain, he winced and then said, “I’ve got sharp pains in my stomach and I just feel light headed.” The nurse listened and took notes on a touch pad, and then said, “and what is your name again?” Taking a second to remember and stifling down a renewed urge to vomit he said, “My name is Raymond celesta, I’m a cook in the cafeteria.” The nurse looked up with a smile on her face and said, “Oh, I thought you looked familiar, well hopefully this will be quick and we can get you back to making some delicious food.” Raymond smiled nodded nodded through the pain. She brought him to a gurney and had him sit on it so that she could begin looking at the wound a little closer. She gave him a shot of pain medication in the arm.
A doctor walked up and said, “OK so how deep is it in the arm nurse?” Without looking away she said, “It’s not quite to the bone but it look like it might be close to the artery.” The doctor took Raymond’s wrist and checked for a pulse. The med wing had started to settle down and the screams of pain had mostly died away. There were still a few people yelling out about the need for pain meds but the nurses had started to help them out now. The smell was the worst part though, it was a mix of burnt flesh, blood, and rotten meat. The doctor gave a slight tug on the rock in his arm, Raymond could feel it wiggle but it didn’t cause much pain. He pulled out a small device and pointed it at the edge of the wound and pressing a button on it a thin liquid sprayed out of the end and surrounded the rock. Pointing the same device at the top of the fragment, he pressed a different button and a blue light hit the rock which slowly caused the rock to fracture and to fall apart into a pan the nurse held below Raymond’s arm. The foam that had been sprayed at the wound filled in the gaps as the rock fell out. Eventually where the rock once stood there was now only a shiny layer of white plastic. The doctor then handed the device to the nurse who traded him a new tool. He held it up to Raymond’s arm and on the screen he could see past the foam he had sprayed and into the damage inside.
“That rock damaged the muscle pretty good in there but it missed the artery so it’s going to just be a bit painful over the next few days as this stuff does its job repairing…” The doctor said before he was cut off by a sharp crash around the corner. They all looked up to hear a scream ring out.
A patient from around the corner in his hospital gown ran past them looking over his shoulder. Everyone was on edge. Some other patients, nurses and doctors started to venture over to where the patient just ran from. Then someone yelled out, “EVERYONE GET BACK! WE NEED TO QUARANTINE THIS AREA!” One of the nurses ran and pulled what Raymond knew was the quarantine alarm. The threat of foreign disease and foreign life on a spaceship out in deep space was high. He was used to being stuck in dock for an extra day or two after long missions, when there was a chance that the crew might have been exposed to something but he had never even heard of someone pulling an alarm over something. Everyone immediately panicked. What could have been happening over there that could warrant someone pulling the alarm and locking down the whole medical wing with all of these people inside.
The doctor and nurse who had been helping him left to survey the scene and another patient near Raymond said, “Man I thought today couldn’t get much worse, now there’s going to be some aliens too.” Raymond kinda chuckled at the ridiculous thought of there being aliens on board. He had only been a cook but even he knew that no one had found any aliens around except some bacteria on one of those little moons he had heard about, but nothing close to Marvin the Martian. The doctor was probably over-reacting. The sound of gasps made Raymond more nervous though and his musings about a small alien with a roman-style helmet on didn’t soothe his nerves this time.
“Asgarth, you ever seen anything like that?” Jared pointed down the hallway to an area where the lights had dimmed. There was something coming out of the wall.
“It just looks like some more wires and shit hanging out of the wall. Come on man, we can’t keep stop every time you think you see something weird.”
“I’m pretty sure that’s not just some more wires hanging out man, its moving. Look that part in the middle hanging down I think something just came out of it.” The sound of something hitting the floor made both of them stop in their tracks, followed by the sound of a scurrying animal.
“Asgarth, please tell me you heard that?” “Yea I heard something but what the hell was it?” They both flicked on their flash lights to peer into the dimly lit hallway.
“Just a bunch of wires huh? That looks like a god damn flower to me hanging upside down.” Asgarth just stood in shock staring at it. “How did it get there?” Asgarth said walking towards it. “The whole wall around it is black it looks like it just grew out of the wall.”
“Asgarth look, its just like in that cabin back there, I thought they were burn marks.” Jared pointed at the edge of the blackness on the wall and it was covered with small raised black bumps similar to the ones in Raymond’s cabin.
The sound of gnashing teeth came from behind them and they realized they had forgotten about the thud they had heard before. Turning around and shining their flashlights they saw the two small feet poking out from behind a trashcan.
“What the fuck is that man!” Jared was obviously scared.
“Dude its tiny it, can’t be that dangerous, keep your light on it I’m gonna try to move the trashcan.”
“Asgarth you sure that’s safe? Come on man we should just report this and get out of here. These might be actual aliens or something.”
“How are we supposed to report on something if we don’t even know what it looks like. Let me just get an idea of what we’re looking at and then we’ll get out of here.”
Grabbing the sides of the trashcan, Asgarth tried to slowly move it away so as not to startle the creature. Jared kept his flashlight trained on the tiny little green legs.
“I can see its head I think, its ugly, I think it might be dead?”
“Hold on I’m gonna poke it, lets see.”
Asgarth reached down with his flashlight in hand to try and move it. When he got his hand close it sprang up and latched on to the flashlight and ripped it out of his hand. Stepping back both Asgarth and Jared watched as it wrestled with the flashlight. Its whole body was only just longer than the flashlight. It used claws on its feet to rip the bottom of the flashlight off and to destroy the lens. Then it continued to chew and bite on the pieces of the flashlight it had ripped out. Asgarth and Jared backed away to try and reassess what they were going to do next.
“Alright you saw it and it’s not dead now. come on let’s get out of here and tell someone else that there are definitely aliens on this ship.”
“Its not that big I bet we could capture it and then think about it. We’ll go down in history as the two people to first capture an alien.”
“Man this is the part in the horror movie where everyone dies. Come on, this ship is gonna be part of history and you can write book about it later but only if we survive.”
“Its like the size of a large rat, we just need some kind of box to put it in.”
“Fuck this man, let’s just go.”
“I bet I could get it in the trashcan, come on just shine your flash light back on it and I’ll just scoop it up.”
“This is a shit plan, you’re gonna get space herpes from that thing or something.” Jared said letting out a big sigh.
Asgarth wasn’t listening and had already ripped the trash bag out of the trashcan and was grabbing the side of the trashcan waiting for Jared to shine his flashlight on the creature so that he could see it.
“You ready Jared?”
“Yea I’m ready to run when that thing eats you.”
Shaking off Jared’s comment, Asgarth picked up the trashcan and went to scoop up the creature to find it had disappeared along with most of the flashlight.
“Where did it go?” Jared Said while freaking out.
Asgarth looked around trying to see if he saw it anywhere but it had vanished.
Stella was flipping madly back and forth through her notebook. How could she be so careless, how could she have done that last night? Surely she wasn’t remembering right, the ash in her room had to come from something else? Maybe she smoked a cigarette last night or something but the page was missing out of her notebook. She knew what that meant, she knew she had burned the page like she had planned on. She just didn’t know how she got to that point. she was planning on firing off her cigil when she was on leave no where near a ship. She knew the whole situation, the death of her commander and of all the others on the ship was her fault. How could she be so careless. The guilt weighed on her. The deaths of everyone on board and the state they were in. How could she do that to everyone just so she could be in charge of a ship. Now that she was in charge what did it mean to her? She just wanted to hide and for someone else to take back over. She always expected this day to be a great day, when she finally was running her own crew and she had final authority over her own craft but now she is sitting in an office cowering and her head still pounding with pain.
“Commander? Are you still in here?” It was Isabella again looking for her she must have lost track of time. “Yea I’m sorry I’ll come out now. I’ve just been rereading my notes and trying to get myself back together.”
“Are you drawing that ridiculous symbol in here again? I told you, you don’t need stupid rituals to be in charge of a ship, you are destined to be in charge.”
“Yea well I guess I am now anyway.”
“Yea and if you can pull yourself back out of here and get us to Octoro in one piece then maybe they’ll put you in charge for good after that. But you have to get out of this office and come and direct your personnel.”
“I just can’t believe what is happening, I didn’t want any of it to happen. I never wanted any of this. I don’t know what I was thinking last night.”
“What are you talking about, what happened last night?”
“I barely remember it but I finally followed through with it, my ritual that was supposed to propel me to being the commander of my own ship. I did it last night after the party. It’s a little hazy but don’t you see this is all my fault. I made the asteroid hit the ship and I’m the reason that the commander is dead, its all my fault.”
Stella was shaking when she said this. She was on the verge of collapse and Isabella didn’t know what to do. She knew about the stupid rituals that Stella did but always thought they were crazy and nonsensical. Obviously she knew that Stella believed in them but she had no idea that she believed in them enough to shake her to her core. Then an alarm burst out of the screen on the desk Isabella ran further into the room to check the screen. Stella sat frozen as they both read the message coming from the medical wing, “MEDICAL WING QUARANTINED DUE TO POSSIBLE ALIEN LIFE EXPOSURE” Stella started to break down and cry after reading it, moaning about how they were all going to die now.
“Shake yourself out of it, you crazy bitch, burning some piece of paper doesn’t make this your fault anymore than it’s my fault for not seeing an invisible asteroid.”
Stella looked up and at Isabella and tried to wipe the tears away from her eyes but wasn’t able to stem the flow. Stella said, “I don’t know what to do, nothing has trained me for this, no one has ever dealt with aliens except that research station out in Retec.”
Isabella knew she was right but said, “Your ship needs you to command it, that’s going to be one step in the right direction regardless of what you think you might have done.”
Stella stood up and cleared the final tears away from her eyes and left the note book on the desk to walk back on to the command deck. She still felt shaky but Isabella yelling at her gave her a bit of a jolt and she was right after all, the last thing the crew needs now is to lose another commander to lunacy. Sitting back down in the commander’s chair felt better but then she saw the message from the medical wing again. She decided to call them from the command deck so that all of her lieutenants could see what was going on and help her to assess the issue.
A nurse answered the call and they could see the scene of chaos behind her. The wounded were backed in to a corner and several gurneys had been flipped over for protection from something. The nurse was obviously distracted when Stella yelled out “what’s going on in the medical wing, why are you in quarantine?” The nurse started to speak but was cut off by someone yelling “THERE IT IS!” behind her. Then a large four legged animal taller than the gurneys walked into view. It had black projections coming out of its back and long dark green fading to light green legs. Its face was squished against the rest of its body but the sharp teeth projected from its mouth obviously meant it was dangerous. It had red blood smeared around its face. This combined with the sight of men and women cowering in fear from it, made the scene clear. The men were obviously scared and had armed themselves with things from the hospital. Everyone on the command deck watched in silence and the creature walked slowly forward and then stop about a foot from the barricade. One of the men holding a metal crutch jumped up and yelled, trying to scale the beds to attack the creature. He got in a hit across its face which caused it to retreat slightly. There was a brief moment of hope as everyone thought he might be able to fight it off. Then with the second strike it caught the crutch in its mouth and broke it. Others tried to pull him back over the barricade but it ripped into his leg and his screams caused tremors of fear to tear through Stella’s body. His body was caught in a tug of war between the beast and the wounded soldiers and doctors of the medical wing. It was voracious and took what it could, eventually leaving with just a leg. The nurse who had answered had forgotten about the call and everyone on the command deck was at a loss for words.
Asgarth stood still and swept the hallway with his flashlight. The flower on the wall sat there not moving but it had closed its pedals again. Jared was looking everywhere he could, to see if there was any movement at all.
“Asgarth keep your flash light still for one second! I’m trying to see if this thing is still around.”
“Maybe we should just get out of here, if that one disappeared maybe there are more around?”
“Calm down, you haven’t heard anymore have you? No, it’s just the one, besides if there were more on the ship we would have heard something come over the pa about being in quarantine or about the ship having aliens on board. Plus think about, if we just run back and say we saw an alien no one is going to believe us but if we have it with us they’ll have to believe us.”
“Why don’t we just cut this thing off the wall if you want proof so bad and besides it doesn’t have teeth.”
“It was tiny and so were its teeth, calm down you sissy.”
Asgarth stood still, scared, but he wasn’t sure why. Jared was right, it was only a little thing and if they could get it in the trashcan it could maybe be kept alive. Then he remembered why he felt scared. they hadn’t heard anything on their radios for a while. There was usually chatter between other engineers and with the asteroid having hit them there were a lot of people working to assess and fix the damage. Except Asgarth realized that he hadn’t heard anything since just before they saw the flower.
“Hey Jared Have heard anything come over the radio recently?”
“Don’t you think that seems weird, there is heaps of work going on, or there should be, but no one is asking for tools or help with fixing something?”
“Maybe everyone is just working hard and they don’t need anything at the moment. Keep it down I’m trying to listen for the alien.”
“I think we should get back. Let’s just cut this thing down and then they’ll believe us, besides it could have run off anywhere by now.”
Then the PA system kicked on with a slight crackle, “Crew of the USS Concord this is acting commander Franklin. We have been boarded by hostile alien forces, if you see any non-human entities on board be cautious and try your best to avoid them. I am calling for a full scale evacuation. Get to your nearest escape as soon as you can. Our distress beacon has been turned on and the help coming from Octoro has been alerted to the situation. Evacuate the ship immediately!”
Jared and Asgarth looked at each other. The look in Asgarth’s eyes was one of “I told you so” mixed with dread. Jared still felt confident, but knew the commander was serious.
“How can a little thing like that cause us to have to evacuate this whole ship?” when the sound of feet grew louder from around the corner. Asgarth, frozen in his spot, raised the flash light to the corner. The open mouth of an alien appeared, it was holding the limp corpse of the smaller creature Jared had been trying to catch. Both men froze until Jared yelled “RUN!”
The barricade was a failure from the start, but what were they supposed to do? How were they supposed to fight off something that ferocious with sticks. If that damn nurse hadn’t pulled the quarantine alarm some of the men might have been able to make it to the armory. Once that alarm got activated they were locked in until the commander unsealed them. Raymond knew that the Commander had seen the alien only minutes ago but what was taking her so long to open the doors. Couldn’t she see that they were all dead? if the doors stayed locked. He had heard her evacuation order, maybe she left and forgot about everyone stuck in here? That would be typical of the top brass, take care of themselves and ditch everyone else. Raymond’s thoughts went back to the thing that took that man’s leg earlier, he knew it was only a matter of time before it jumped over the barricade and grabbed someone else. Each time it disappeared it came back bigger and meaner. Then everyone went silent because they heard a wail come from where it had been retreating to. Everyone looked at each other and then back to where the screaming had come from. Two people got up and crossed the barricade, taking with them metal poles they had ripped off of some of the hospital beds. They walked cautiously into the X-ray room that it had taken refuge in. Once inside everyone expected to hear screams of horror from them as they fought for their lives. One of them yelled out “It’s dead!” and came running out with a big smile across her face.
Everyone had the same question, how did it die? it was ripping people apart with out effort only moments ago. Raymond got up and ran to see with several others. The alien had backed itself into a corner surrounded by body parts. Someone with a metal pole was prodding it and it didn’t react at all it just laid there. “Hit it hard just for good measure, it could be a trick” some one yelled. The person who had been poking it listened and pounded the rod into the creatures head with enough force to break it open, causing a green and blue viscous liquid to drain out onto the floor. Everyone felt pretty assured that this meant that the animal was dead, but still no one knew how it had died or why.
Then almost at once everyone remembered the commanders evacuation orders and they rushed for the exits to try and pry the doors open. Some went to the communications relay and began trying to connect to the command deck.
The doors were sealed shut and even the air vents and all connections except for comms would have been shut off to prevent possible further contamination. They started to feel hopeless. The people at the communications array weren’t having any luck getting anyone on the command deck. Then a noise came from the X-ray room. No one was sure they heard it but everyone strained their ears to listen if there were any more noises. A thump came like thunder rolling across the medical wing. Then the snarls of creatures could be heard ripping into the bodies of the crew that had been killed already. The snarls grew louder and deeper in tone and soon it became very clear that there was now more than one alien in that room and that they would soon run out of the food that was left for them.
Everyone began beating on the doors again and even the people at the communications array gave up to try and pry the doors open. Every tool that had been gathered to fight off the first monster was now being used and broken in an attempt to force the doors open. The snarls had stopped and someone near the back screamed. Raymond turned from trying to wedge a bar into a door to see three fierce creatures emerge from the X-ray room. They stood surveying the crowd of people trying to escape. One of the creatures stepped forward. Raymond dropped the bar from the door and stepped out of the crowd. Others continued to fight with the controls in an effort to override them or break them, but everyone knew that they were most likely going to die here and now. Raymond stood with his bar held above his shoulder.
The creatures began walking forward spreading out in the space, they each appeared to be eyeing different people. Other people stood forward with Raymond, ready to fight with the feeble weapons they had scrounged. Raymond starting walking towards the creatures while flexing, his arm was still weak but he didn’t want to just lay down and die. His heart was pumping and a fresh dose of adrenaline had entered his veins, the nausea he felt earlier had subsided. The creatures were unfazed by the now wall of people that were walking towards them. The creatures shot into sprint and bounded over the barricade and with only touching the ground once, they shot back into the air aiming for the necks of those facing them. The alien on the right was thwarted by blows from from two people at the same time who then proceeded to hit it as others joined in. It seemed as though they might stop them this time. Then the one in the center latched on to the back of the head of one of the people doing the beating. The third monster got its prey without interruption and quickly had a man, about two meters tall, on the ground and lifeless with blood draining from his neck.
The person who had been taken by the back of the head was soon killed as well under the crushing force of the creatures jaw. The break in the wall of those beating the first creature allowed it to lash out and bite someone’s ankle, dragging them down. Soon the people who had thought they might have the upper hand if they worked together, realized that the animals were going to win all along. The battle line that had formed, broke as everyone retreated to beat at the doors again. Raymond remained to try and fight with only a few others but, the creatures weren’t just dragging the bodies off. This time instead, they dropped the now-dead victims and looked up. Raymond tried to steady himself against the coming onslaught but quickly felt his leg being taken underneath him as one of the creatures bit into it and ran with his leg in its mouth. He fell on to its back and it swung him around into the wall knocking him unconscious before ripping his throat out. The others that had stayed to fight suffered similar fates.
The few people left in the med wing were grouped against the door when it opened a crack small enough to let a small child through if there were any. Some of the smaller staff tried to squeeze but couldn’t make it. Everyone tried to pull on the doors to make them open more but without success, soon there were only corpses left.
Stella shut off the communications with the med wing, she couldn’t bear to see the death in there. Everyone on the command deck looked at her as she stared at her console unsure of what to do. She had given the order to evacuate, but so far only two escape pods had jettisoned. The thought of the whole ship being dead as a result of her greed destroyed her inside. She contemplated ordering everyone off the deck while she stayed behind to live out the fate she brought on herself. There would be a bit of poetry in a death that way, a death caused by her own selfish desire. Also a death would mean that she wouldn’t have to explain what she had been doing. Her superiors would most likely remand her to a psyche ward and never let her out into open space again. She sat thinking, they had only seen aliens in the medical wing so if she left that sealed those people might die but it would save everyone else. If she let them out they might live but she would almost certainly endanger the rest of the ship. Isabella spoke up, “Commander what are your orders for us?” Stella was shaken back awake from her trance of decisions. She looked to Isabella and said, “I want this ship shut down completely. Turn the engines off and set a beacon that calls for help but leaves a warning of alien life. Then I want you to all evacuate with the rest of the crew.” Everyone in the command deck set to work and shut everything down except for basic life support systems.
The command deck began moving to the exit for the escape module. Stella sat staring at her console with her hand on her face quickly wearing a hole where her finger was moving back and forth. Isabella stopped and grabbed Stella’s hand away form her face and said, “It’s time to go now.” Stella looked up at her and ripped her hand back away to look at her monitor and ignore Isabella. Everyone kept moving towards the exit except for Isabella who was transfixed on her First lieutenant. The others noticed the silent tension between them and stopped. Isabella said, “come on, we need to go, you’ve given the evacuation orders and people have begun to evacuate, the ship is shut down. There is nothing else you can do from here.” Without looking up Stella said, “I can still open the doors to the med wing.” Everyone on the command deck knew what this meant. They had seen the animal in there rip that patient apart but they also knew that there were other people in there with no way out. The feeling in the room was grim. Stella said, “I’m going to wait and trigger the doors after you have left. That’ll mean that you’re all safe and then the people in the med wing might have a chance to survive and to get to an escape pod too.” “We’re not going without you” Lt Revere said. Everyone else stood in agreement. “I can’t risk your lives for something I did, now I’m ordering you to evacuate.” They all looked at each other and then Isabella said, “You’re compromised as a commander of this ship and I am taking control as second in charge.” Isabella grabbed at Stella and tried to pull her out of her chair, everyone else on the deck stood confused. Then Isabella called out, “Help me! She isn’t sane we need to get her to help and release the people from the med wing.” Lt Jamison helped Isabella and they pried Stella from her chair. Isabella ordered Lt Revere to open the doors to the med wing and to join them on the escape module. Stella kicked and yelled out about how she had caused everything last night while they buckled her into the escape module. Lt Revere joined them, he confirmed he had opened the doors to the med wing. When they were strapped in he initiated their evacuation.
Asgarth and Jared ran as fast at they could but the first escape module they found had been damaged by the asteroid. They had managed to evade the monster they had seen before by closing doors behind them but they had to constantly keep as quite as they could because there were more around every corner. They came across some that appeared to be in pain while lying next to the bodies of their ship mates. They ran for their lives. Finally they made it to an escape module. They ran inside and strapped in.
Asgarth said, “Should we wait for others?”
Jared looked out the door and said, “Maybe we’ll wait another minute but I don’t feel good about it. There were so many of those things out there, where did they all come from?” The sound of foot steps echoed from down the hall way. Both men looked up to see four aliens standing and snarling at them. They hit the launch button immediately and the door slammed shut followed by the sudden acceleration as they were launched into space. Soon they were coordinating with the few other escape pods to gather together and share resources until they could be rescued. Asgarth went to survey what supplies they had aboard to report to the other ships. He pulled some rations to the side, while counting them he saw a familiar line of raised black dots along the inner hull of the escape pod.