Charlie stumbled away shrieking for his life. The tentacle swept at his feet, then the gunfire rained down on him.
Rain. If he were ever so lucky as to see rain again, he’d tilt his head back and cry.
Green blood and rubbery flesh al over the floor. Limbs from the junkers the beast and gunfire had torn to shreds. People he’d known for months, their insides just dashed across the ground.
He’d been holding back vomit ever since the infirmary. This time his insides rumbled, and he let it go.
The silence was deafening once the gunfire stopped. They all looked around at each other, eyes wide and mouths hanging open, as if asking if what had just happened had actually happened.
Ameka and Bernhardt walked back in from around the corner, guns hanging by their sides.
“Where’s Jamal,” one of the others asked, and for a moment Charlie had forgotten about Jamal altogether.
Bernhardt breathed long and deep. “Don’t know. He was right behind us and now he’s gone.”
“Dead?” the person asked.
Ameka shrugged but didn’t say a word.
“Then what do we do?” someone else said. There were fifteen or eighteen junkers left, and every one of them looked terrified, even the ones who Charlie didn’t think knew how to show fear.
“We keep going,” Ameka said. “We were on a mission to get to deck five. Nothing has changed.”
“Except the mission was voluntary,” Rose said from some distance away. She was covered in red blood and green goo. “We can turn around whenever we want. We should turn around.”
“And just leave Jamal?” Ameka said.
“He knew what he was getting himself into,” Rose said. “We all did.”
Ameka pointed toward the elevator with the barrel of her gun. “You’re welcome to go back to the ship. The rest of us are looking for him.”
Rose looked around, nodded, and then turned to leave. Charlie admired her bravery; the only place worse than down here was upstairs where you’d be all alone. His stomach heaved when he thought of walking back to the ship. Or maybe at the thought of continuing on.
“We’ve all got weapons and we know how to use them,” Bernhardt said. “We find Jamal, we find a payload, and we get the hell out.”
A stern quiet over the junkers. Charlie sighed and looked at his wound and noticed that his blood starting to seep through the bandage. The muscles in his hand and up to his shoulder were twitching, one long string of nervous spasm every few seconds. If he focused on that, his nausea ebbed. If he focused on the nausea, the spasms relaxed. Unfortunately, there was no comfortable middle.
They continued down the corridor, with Ameka and Bernhardt taking the lead. The group moved quiet and in sync, now with the full understanding of just how bad what they were going up against could be. Or, maybe not with the full understanding, Charlie realized, since they’d only seen one tentacle and the rabbit had had eight or ten.
Ameka took the left and Bernhardt the right, their faces glued to the sights of their guns and a line of junkers at their rear. They’d duck in and out of rooms to clear them, always looking back across the hall at the other to confirm everything was fine on their flanks. Every so often, Charlie, who was near the back of Ameka’s line, would look over his shoulder to make sure nothing was coming from behind. The goo, pools of blood, and scared eyes of those with him were all that he’d see, and it was a small comfort to know that for how cavalier those like Ameka and Bernhardt were there were still some like him who wanted to be just about anywhere else in the galaxy than that haunted hull of a derelict ship.
When the group reached the next stairwell there was a palpable sense of relief on the air, until those around Charlie realized they’d need to go deeper, and things would only get worse from there.
The walk down the stairs was tense, with nothing but the sounds of boots and metallic clinking of guns on the air. Bernhardt and Ameka paused for a long moment at the door to deck four before slowly pushing it open and shuffling inside.
If deck three had looked almost normal, if abandoned, deck four looked anything but. It appeared to be one large laboratory, with tools and the remnants of experiments strewn about the floor and benches, like they’d been interrupted right in the middle and then left to fester wherever they’d landed. In fact, Charlie guessed, that was probably exactly what had happened.
However, and eerily so, there were still no bodies, at least none they could see from the stairwell, and as they crept out into the room he didn’t see anything. No blood or limbs or anything other than work left undone on benches and on the floors. He fought off a shiver and looked over his shoulder to make sure nothing was sneaking up behind them.
Charlie’s eye caught the woman beside him as he turned back forward. He thought for a moment, but then realized he didn’t recognize her. She had long black hair and had streaks of blood on her face. Then again, he’d only been on the crew for a few months and hadn’t exactly made an impression on everyone.
She saw his gaze linger and slowly turned to him. The spasm in his shoulder ran down his side and into his leg. The whites of her eyes were tinged green, and when she brought her finger to her mouth to shush him, a drop of ooze ran down her cheek.
Subscribe for more content like this!