The mining rings hab unit was knee-high in water from a burst recycling pump; Jury sloshes through the mess.
‘You’ve been living like this?’ he said to the miner with powder burns all over his face.
The miner looked as black as Jury; only two circles round his eyes were white. ‘The creature tried to get in through our flight deck. We don’t have any working shuttles left.’
‘You do now,’ said Svelt. ‘We’ll take you off.’
‘In return for something.’
The miner didn’t look that surprised, on the edge of sol space you got used to bartering for everything including your life.
‘What would that be?’ said the miner.
Jury grinned, you help us hunt it.’
Other men had appeared from pods further in the hab modules guts and the smell of cordite filled the air from the guns they’d been using to punch holes in the ship. They went into a huddle and Jury and Svelt watched as they reached some sort of agreement.
‘First of all,’ said their spokesman, ‘Why?’ And what is it?’
‘We don’t know, but we’ve seen where it comes from. It cost me my eyes,’ said Jury. If more like that thing follow it we’re going to be in the sort of trouble we won’t climb out of.’
‘And Earth?’ said the miner.
‘Told ’em, they don’t believe a word of it,’ replied Svelt, ‘just thought I was talking space garbage. When he turned up at our quarantine satellite a while back we thought the same.’
‘Until you saw it.’
Svelt nodded ‘…until we saw it.’
‘Ok, it’s like this, we’ll come with you, but only until we get anywhere near an inhabited rock or any decent sized colony, then you let us go.’
‘Done,’ said Jury with a grin as wide as a shark’s.
(to be continued)
They were getting closer to the ring now; the last of the shovels dropping away behind them as they returned to the surface of the ruined planet to replenish their loads. For a moment the ships proximity sensors went into overdrive then they were through.
‘Where is everything?’ Svelt’s voice sounded low as she took in their surroundings. She sounded like she was talking in a cathedral not the bridge of a barely space worthy shuttle craft.
‘They were designed like this.’
‘Jury couldn’t see but he knew what was out there. He’d done his time in the solar systems outer reaches ferrying questionable items between ports whose locations weren’t on any star charts.
‘Describe it to me.’
‘Vast…’ Svelt was quiet for a moment. She’d seen vid shows of the megaprojects on the edge of inhabited space, but she’d never seen one up close. Even the simulations didn’t do them justice. ‘It’s like one of the old orbitals they installed round earth in the twenty second century except this looks like its been stripped. It’s just one large tube.
Overhead there was what might have been the faint twinkle of power nodes and light sources. But it was hard to be sure; the place was too big for that. ‘…and it looks like they’re dumping what they’ve mined inside,’ she finished.
Hopper after hopper was shuttling through apertures in the structures sides. Most had been too badly damaged to function, but those that still had power were performing their duties. The ship shook as the latest to arrive met the orbital.
‘Any sight of the alien?’ said Jury.
‘Only what it’s left behind.’
Svelt took over the auto pilot and dodged an empty corpse before it shattered across the ships hull.
‘Maybe, its down on the surface…what’s left of it.’
‘I doubt it if its after energy of some description there’s precious little left down there. That planet’s been bled dry.’
They were passing through an airlock now a massive thing like the iris of an eye.
‘What does it want?’
The same thing everything wants I expect; to feed.
Svelt was trying to think through what that meant when there was a rattle of small arms fire off the hull.
‘Survivors,’ said Jury, where?’
‘Up top,’ looks like they’ve got some sort of gun emplacement up there.’
The knocking on the ships hull became more insistent.
‘At this rate they’ll find a way through our armour in minutes.’
The gunfire speeded up and the shuttle vibrated like a kick drum being hit.
‘We need to open up some sort of communication,’ said Jury.
‘Why are they firing on us though? They can’t think we have something to do with what came through that portal can they?’
‘Well under normal circumstances no, I wouldn’t have thought so, but…’ Jury shrugged, ‘If I were them I’d fire at anything that moved.’ They’ve seen that thing haven’t they? And they’re not soldiers, remember?’
There was a dull boom and another red light came on on the decks instrument panel. Svelt crowed with delight.
‘Got em…’ there was a hiss of static and a man’s voice resolved itself. It sounded like he was speaking one of the Urdu/French dialects before the translator segued in.
‘Who is this?’
Svelt made sure to keep her voice calm. If they’d seen what had passed through here earlier they had every right to be spooked. She suppressed a shudder; they’d found similar creatures in the deepest trenches of the Martian oceans she supposed, except much smaller. Back when they’d first started terraforming the place they hadn’t realised what would happen to the few organisms that managed to escape into the wild before a viable earth like atmosphere could be maintained. It turned out there’d been more than one thing hiding in the Martian rock.
‘Power off your engines. This is the crew of Tenth planet DeBeers mining ring.’ said the man on the screen. ‘We have you in our sights. The next salvo will cripple you. I know the vessel you are in; it’s not designed to stand up to a prolonged combat level bombardment.’
‘You’re seen it haven’t you?’ said Jury straight away.
‘If you mean have we seen the thing that tore the guts out of our operation and trashed eighty five per cent of our mining equipment…yeah we’ve seen it. What is it?
Svelt looked at Jury and the empty sockets bleeding down his cheeks, ‘We don’t know.’
‘I guess what I really want to know is it coming back?’
‘How many of you are left? said Svelt.
‘A half dozen or so I expect. The rest were down on what’s left of this worthless lump of rock. There was too much damage to retrieve survivors. They’ll be dead now, no air.’
‘I’m sorry,’ said Svelt as she thought of the pyramid and the rain of corpses that had sprung from it. The miners had been lucky.
She saw Jury give an imperceptible shake of his head, and kept her mouth shut.
‘It’ll want more,’ he said. ‘But it’ll go to somewhere with more life than this. We need to find it.’
‘We?’ said Svelt.
(to be continued)
The bridge had turned a deep red as though blood were hemorrhaging through it and the ships proximity alarms were going berserk. It felt like being underwater. Svelt tore the blindfold from her eyes. Jury was still there curled in a ball with his hands clamped over his face and fluid pooling around his body. She ducked as something like a metal stanchion tens of miles long flew by overhead.
‘Where the hell…’
She wasn’t sure what had just happened. Jury’s mutilation was clear enough, but there’d been a moment…
She checked over her shoulder as a spot in the middle of her back itched. She’d been two places at once, hadn’t she? Although how that was possible was another thing. But she’d needed to find a way through and it had turned out the asteroids gate wasn’t the only one she could feel when she opened her mind.
Jury groaned and stirred on the floor one leg kicking out as she struggled to stand up.
‘You got us out,’ groaned Jury. ‘It was in my head.’
He could still the cold tendrils of white fire in his mind like they’d cut a hole in his head.
‘Jury your eyes; can’t you feel that?’
He brought his hand up to his face. The surgery he’d conducted was as clear as day, there was no way he was going to forget that sort of pain in a hurry. The slick feeling as the knife had punctured his eyes and the freezing agony were like nothing he’d never felt before.
‘Had to do something. Could feel it all slipping away,’ said Jury.
He brought his hands up to his face again half expecting to see them through the spots and wheels shooting across where his eyes had been. But he guessed that was over. What was left below his forehead were empty pits. He was lucky he wasn’t screaming in pain, but whatever it was that had been draining futures off him like it was draining water from a river had cauterized the flesh there and left scars in its wake.
‘Warning collision imminent.’
The ships dry metallic voice echoed through the bridge.
‘I should take over.’
Svelt made a move toward the controls as Jury shrugged. It wasn’t like he could do much now, was it? And besides, he was finding it hard to summon much enthusiasm. If they were going to die through some collision with whatever machinery this was…so what?
Svelt was pointing at a hole that had been torn through one of the arms reaching down to the surface. It looked like whatever the habitat was it encircled the planet below completely. It was also responsible for its destruction like some parasitic lifeform made of steel and shovels that had latched on to a living world and torn it to shreds. Bits of machinery burned off the ships forcefields, vaporizing in tiny explosions of light.
‘Something’s been through here.’
‘How can you tell?’
‘I don’t know I just can; it’s like someone’s removed more than just the metals round here.’
(to be continued)
Svelt screamed as she heard,
Jury hit the deck,
And light try to crawl,
It’s way underneath,
Then she was through,
Slick feel of hormones,
It was like putting her fingers,
In a bowling ball,
Except her mind,
But it didn’t last,
Too much of her,
Was on the other side,
Like an anchor,
Cast into thin air,
Warm wet taste of home space,
Stolen from her again,
Svelt wanted to tear,
The blindfold off,
But if she did,
She knew the owner,
Of that pale freezing light,
Would want what she’d got,
So Svelt became a needle,
Mind bobbing fire fly fast,
And opening futures,
Until the matter that had exploded,
Into non space,
Fell back the right way,
Svelt would never know,
How she did it,
Except it left her,
Jury felt like someone had clapped their hands behind his eyes and then the knife was in his fist; it’s handle slick and damp from sweat as he raised it. There was only one way to end this even if he wasn’t sure he wanted to take it.
‘Get out…get out.’
His body jerked again as his feet left the floor and the sickly pale tendril that had crawled through the viewport pulsed as it began to feed. Every nerve cell in Jury’s body screamed in agony as though they were being laid bare.
He had no choice. His eyes were on fire, a sea of cold flame slopping in their sockets as he felt wrinkles crawl across his skin. Something was happening to his face too and as he reached one hand up he could feel the fissures lengthen in his flesh. When it came back there was something in it that felt like hair.
He screamed again, he had no time, there would never be enough time. The knife was in his fist and then his head. Jury had thought the pain before was bad enough. But as the tendril that had sprung from that frozen ball hanging there in space thrashed this way and that flinging him around the bridge, he dug, feverishly. The knife edge pulling at the roots that were sucking him dry before they went deeper.
He was barely aware he’d said her name only that he needed to finish his work. He never heard her scream or felt her hands on his shoulders as the tendril whiplashed back the way it had come.
How long they had he didn’t know but it would be back. He was certain of that, and this time not for him. Jury tried to clean the mess of his face and still the shudders running through him as he uncurled from his knees. He could barely stand, and he felt like the best of him had left with the things retreat. Svelt’s voice sounded in his ear.
‘Never mind about them.’
Truth be told he could barely feel them anymore. Where there should be howling pain there was only that cold dead feeling as though something precious had been stolen from him, and he didn’t what.
‘Here take this.’
Jury finished ripping the bottom of his jacket into strips. He didn’t know how long they had but he couldn’t risk it.
‘Here tie it around your head,’ he said to Svelt as he groped for her hands.
When Svelt had finished Jury allowed his fingers to walk across her face checking the bandage covering it to see it was firmly in place. They couldn’t take any chances.
‘It feeds through our eyes, be careful. There has to be a way out of here, a way back. Find it Svelt. I don’t know how long I’ve got.’
He let himself lean on her as she half dragged him to the nearest seat, and collapsed. Waves of blackness as deep as the night that had taken place of his sight were lapping at his mind. As he lapsed into unconsciousness he heard her say.
(to be continued)
They were still staring at the frozen ball of white fire so many light years away that it barely registered on most of their sensors when the lights went out.
‘What is that thing?’
‘I don’t know collapsed matter maybe?’ The shape reminded Jury of a galaxy seen from so far out you were beyond any of its stars, but it was too solid for that somehow and there was an itching on the edge of hearing like something was trying to get in.
‘Can you hear that?’ said Svelt.
They were silent for a moment on the darkened bridge.
‘It’s words isn’t it?’
‘Whatever it is it knows we’re here.’
Jury was already trying to find any trace of the gate they’d used to enter whatever part of non-space this was called. But when he used the ship’s camera’s they showed nothing but the same bottomless emptiness behind them as before.
‘There’s no sign of it.’
Jury risked a look…there was something in Svelt’s voice.
‘Doesn’t that look?’
‘…like that thing that came visiting? yeah.’
It was like watching someone drag their fingernails down a piece of glass painted black. As they watched a line of cold white fire spread from the distant shape toward them. It had a way to go, but at the speed it was travelling they didn’t have long.
‘There has to be a way out,’ said Svelt. ‘But I don’t even know where to start. Wait…what’s that?’
She was pointing to the cloud of rubble and half dismembered bodies that had fallen through the gate with them when it was still open. The nearest looked like they were sinking.
It took Svelt a few moments to realise he hadn’t replied. She was too busy trying to pinpoint where the debris was headed to. But clearly a tide had them in its grip and as she watched one of the primates that had been hidden amongst the pyramids bricks cartwheeled by arms and legs spread wide against the stars. When it got closer she gasped. There was nothing but two empty holes punched into its skull where the eyes had been. There was no chance of something moving there.
She turned round at last to see what had happened to her crew mate and found him still with his back to her staring out to space. As she called his name again that bolt of lightning found them and struck the view port square on.
Jury was lifted off his feet in seconds as a line of white fire travelled through the shield like it it didn’t exist and struck him full in the face.
His scream was so loud Svelt clapped both hands over her ears. She didn’t see the knife appear in his hands but she saw his arm move as he brought it up…
(to be continued)
The ship was hammering from side to side now as they reached the spot where the pyramid had been. But it was when the desiccated figure of a man whose head sloped back so severely he seemed mostly made of the eyebrow ridges peering above his suits helmet coupling that Svelt and Jury got a shock. It was cold void outside but as they watched something moved in the creatures sockets.
Jury nodded, ‘It’s alive…Jesus Christ. They’re all….alive. How’s that possible?’
It was spreading too because as they looked at the floating graveyard they could see the animation spread in fits and stutters as if someone had thought space was a pond and flung insects across the stars.
‘They’re headed this way.’
For a moment he thought Svelt was going to grab him, but whatever made her tick it was tougher than that. She was already examining the ships controls sounding off calculations with lips that barely moved as she tried to chart a course out of the debris field.
‘We have to leave,’ said his co-pilot.
‘Look,’ Jury pointed at the nearest figures who were scuttling over the backs of those in front like a wave of locusts he’d once seen decimate a farmers field back on Earth. ‘They want in.’
‘Then don’t let them Jury.’
‘Too late,’ on the panel in front of them, a red warning light had begun to flash. ‘There’s something in one of the intake valves.’
‘Hold on, I’m nearly there.’ A heads-up display had appeared in the air in front of Svelt’s face and she was punching coordinates into the read-out. Jury tried to follow what she was doing.
Svelt nodded, briefly, ‘Close, but the gate’s inactive now. We have to risk it. It’s the only space that’s free of bodies.’
Jury glanced at the twin needles pointing into space. She was right the patch between the obelisks was empty. ‘Then lets do it. We won’t be able to see much longer, let alone move.’
Already the viewport was covered by rustling bodies and more lights had begun to flash along the controls. Jury didn’t weant to think of what was moving up the valves toward them. Nothing solid should be able to survive that sort of journey, but as he watched light after light, came on like water flowing uphill. He flattened the ships accelerator to the floor.
It was one of the worst decisions Jury would ever make.
The space between the stone needles shimmered as if oil had been spilled there and then they were through, leaving only ripples traveling in their wake.
When Jury opened his eyes he wished he hadn’t.
‘Where is everything? It’s… gone.’
Jury was an interstellar pilot, a fighter, and an experienced hand. He’d been through more reaches of space than most in his years, but he’d never seen a stretch of the cosmos as bleak, and empty as the one they’d found themselves in.
‘Do you see that?’
It was Svelt and her voice was close enough he could feel her breath in his ear.
He’d been wrong. It wasn’t empty. At the voids heart was a star so vast and cold it could have been called a sun if it wasn’t pure white.
(to be continued)
The barrage was getting heavier now, the rain of bodies bouncing off the viewport faster than hail. Atomised clouds of human debris burst and flowed in a slipstream around the hull.
Svelt was pointing at the pyramid where it had opened like a bird spreading its wings, their span shedding feathers that looked like they were made of gold.
‘Is that what I think it is?’ said Svelt pointing at what was left of the structure floating between the stars.
‘It is, or what’s left of it. I noticed them before. It must have been a tomb.’
At first, Jury had thought the bodies rising from the asteroids back where alien like the ship had suggested, but now he wasn’t so sure. Whatever they were they were very very old but they still had human characteristics hidden under their hair.
‘For us,’ said Jury.
The gate was dormant now, the lines of piezoelectricity that had crawled across its surface dead and vanished. But Jury remembered what it had looked like at its height the obelisks burning like they were made of something a hell of a lot more combustible than stone.
‘You ever thought what it would take to punch a hole through the fabric of space/time?
‘I can’t say I have really.’
Jury got the feeling Svelt wanted to grin but the sight of what was hitting their craft wasn’t the sort of thing that brought a smile to your lips. ‘Most of the time I have other things to worry about,’ said the woman, ‘like whether or not I’m going to make it through the week. The chief was very keen on early retirements.
‘Think about it, that thing looked like it was made to focus something didn’t it?’
The pyramid had been high enough when it had still been in one piece you could have fit a hundred of their craft inside. Underneath was a pit that exactly matched the slopes of the structure that had stood over it.
‘Yeah so?’ said Svelt.
‘These bodies look drained.’ Another corpse burst into smithereens against the viewport. Jury continued, ‘What if the stuff that was taken from them is what opened the whole to somewhere else? I think that creature that came through the gate was following the scent of whatever it was that was in these corpses. It’s like they were storing them for a later date.’
Svelt’s eyes had gone round and Jury watched constellations wheel across them.
‘It came from somewhere else?’ said the woman, ‘what if there’s more?’
Jury didn’t mention what else was on his mind. The pulsating blob-shaped thing had looked young to him, young and badly formed. But if that was one of the infants, what were the adults like?
(to be continued)
There was a thunk as Jury’s helmet met Svelt’s and he put an arm around her waist. When she didn’t try and break free he felt something shift inside that he stamped on quick. For a moment through the glass Sofia’s face looked back at him and he felt a howl rise inside him long and low until something he barely knew he had crumbled and hid. Jury slammed the release button hard enough to break it and tightened his grip.
Svelt nodded back at him and he heard her voice in his ear, ‘The kid?’
‘Those straps were designed to deal with emergency re-entry.’
Already air was rushing past so fast that their feet were rising from the floor.
‘Five minutes, no more.’ He had to mouth the words. The roar from the depressurizing ship was beginning to sound like a storm. Svelt nodded and they waited as the last of the atmosphere mushroomed into the void.
When it was over they swung free and began to check the displays.
‘Atmosphere vented,’ said Jury. If there’s anything left alive in here it went out that airlock.’
He pointed to the open hatch. You couldn’t even see the stars out there now, just that cold empty darkness sucking at your eyes until they ached.
‘I’m checking Jury, wait.’ Svelt’s hands floated over the controls. In zero-g every movement looked like a ballet, a silent dance punctuated by the hiss of static from their suit comm net. ‘It was a class one viral bio-agent. ‘Probably from the last war.’
‘Where do you think they picked it up?’
‘Dunno, depends where they were fighting.’
‘Fighting? I thought you said this was an exploration vessel?’
Even through her suit Jury could see the look on her face.
‘They tried to wipe it out.’
‘The plague worlds.’
‘But they were inhabited weren’t they?’
‘We’re not supposed to talk about it.’ Static hissed and crackled in Jury’s ear like the waves of a sea. ‘They used genocide bombs first, but it didn’t work. Those critters are tougher than they look. They burrowed too deep for the bombardment to work. In the end they used core nukes. Some suicide squads managed to get off the surface, killed a few ships,’ Svelt shrugged.
‘But, I thought they were peaceful? Non-violent? We had treaties with the new people’s.’
‘Yeah, and then we found out what they were carrying. You realize that just one of them could have wiped out the whole human race? Planetary destruction was the only way.’
Jury watched her for a moment. He knew that look now it was the one that could burn holes through you from twenty paces.
‘Check the scans again. If we’ve got this wrong we’re going to die a very painful death.’
Svelt’s attention returned to the display’s, ‘Nothing.’
‘Ok, what about the kid?’
The youth they’d strapped into one of the crew banks was floating nearly a foot in the air. Jury and Svelt went over to him.
‘Kid, you Ok?’ said Jury.
He tapped the kid’s helmet and tried to see into its depths but it was as black as the void outside. Then with a slam that had him dragging Svelt with him in an effort to get away, the kids face thrust its way into the light.
‘What’s wrong with him?’ said Svelt.
They floated a little further away from the figure on the bunk. The kid had started to twitch now jerking and thrashing like there was more than one figure trapped in the suit.
‘Did you see his eyes?’
Jury new exactly what she meant. There’d been no colour in them nothing at all.
There was a thud from up front and proximity indicators began to flash on the screens.
‘We have multiple collisions imminent.’
‘But we’re still in empty space aren’t we? I programmed the ship to go into orbit round the asteroid. There should be nothing out here but us.’
Another thud juddered through the ship.
‘Well, there’s something here now; a whole lot of somethings,’ said Svelt.
‘If we’re clean, repressurize. We can’t do anything with him like that.’
The kid was floating six inches from the ceiling now like the straps were barely holding him.
‘We are,’ said Svelt.
The airlock slammed shut and Svelt’s hands began to speed up. ‘Repressurising now, estimated time till restoration of atmosphere T-10 minutes.’
Jury eyes the med kit attached to the wall. There were sedatives in that. The kid jerked again and this time Jury thought he saw one of the straps begin to fray. There better be enough time.
‘Impact warning, a new set of lights exploded into life and Jury risked a look out of the viewport.
‘Where the hell…’
The face that slammed into the glass looked like one of the desiccated corpses they still found in tombs back on earth. If there’d been any fluid in it it had been robbed long ago.
‘Jury look,’ he felt Svelt’s hand on his shoulder, ‘…there’s thousands of them.’
(to be continued)
So scientists have developed a type of steak made in the lab. It probably tastes of chicken, most things do that are supposed to taste of something else. But it gets you thinking. if we do away with meat I wonder how much that would change our psychology? Right now most of us probably consider themselves as omnivores. If we all start eating the equivalent of Quorn then the need for killing animals is gone; that’s an evolutionary leap. All those hunter genes would be useless, all those instincts that were designed to help us hunt down deer…obsolete too. Except they wouldn’t have disappeared would they? Maybe instead of making us more peaceful and tolerant of others we’d become more violent and depraved. We’ve got to get our fix from somewhere right?
I think a world where we respect animals is far better than the alternative. The other day I was reading about sheep being transported from Australia to the Middle East in the holds of ships where sometimes the heat reached fifty degrees. The animals were kept below decks in stifling cramped conditions; I find that disgusting. I’m also pretty sure that a society with no respect for the creatures it uses to feed itself will be a far more brutal and callous one.
I still eat meat, although rarely, most of the time I stick to vegetarian stuff these days. It’s not complicated. Being mostly veggie’s better for me, and I spend most of the time sitting on my fat arse writing so it helps if I don’t eat double cheeseburgers all day. Plus my washing up is a piece of piss now. It’s great there’s no grease in my kitchen…really great in fact. But I can’t stand being a goody two shoes always so sometimes…late…at…night….MWHAHAHAHAH. I go and out and dine on dead flesh….mmmmmm.
‘How long will it take?’ Jury pointed at the carnage unrolling on the screen.
‘A day, a week, maybe more. Quarantine’s been getting more and more rundown since the food riots ate most of our resources.’
Jury watched the figures, one of them had the satellite Chief’s head on a stake.
He flicked a switch and engaged the afterburners.
‘We’re are we going? said the woman in the restraining cuffs.
‘What’s it to you?’
Jury wouldn’t have been so tetchy, but she’d managed to land a blow that was still ringing even after they’d boarded the least decrepit looking of the shuttles in the dock.
There was a groan by his feet.
There was a thud as his boot made contact with the kids midriff. Jury made himself calm down. They’d just been doing their job. But now he had a crew on what he’d meant to be a solo op.
‘You sure he sent the message off?’
‘We saw him do it? The woman’s name was Svelt and there was a clank as she lifted the cuffs under his nose. ‘Will you? He needs to be looked at.’
The kid’s face was a mass of blood from a gash over one eye and his eyes were rolled so far back in his head only the whites were visible.
‘Before you say no the kids a first rate data hacker. It cost them millions in governement funding to track him down and repair the damage.’
‘Alright,’ there was a click as the lock snapped free and Svelt massaged her wirsts.
‘You need anything?’
‘Apart from off this ship? You realise they’ll chase you to the far reaches of hab space for this. Even now with the department in the state its in they won’t let an escapee and his murderers go.
‘Yeah, but they’ll have to deal with that first.’ Jury gestured to the rioting on the screen the Chronus bomb had done its work. The satellite was alive with quarantine cases.
‘It’ll only take one high velocity war head,’ Svelt shrugged. ‘There’s no one watching up here. They’ll just say there was technical problems and the evidence will burn up on re-entry.’
Jury nodded the New Zionists were notorious for their heavy handed approach to security. Still with their Empire encompassing all of earth now the wars were over it was hardly surprising.
‘Ok, how’s he doing?’
‘He’ll live, said Svelt adminstering a pain killer. What I’ve just given him should keep him knocked out for a day or two. Now are you going to tell me were we’re going?’
‘We’re going to make sure.’
Jury began to grin although he doubted there was much humour in it.
‘You men you want to go back don’t you?’
Svelt looked like she’d have taken a step back if she could. It was her bad luck there was six inches of solid bulkhead behind her back.
‘You may have seen the Chief send the data cast but that doesn’t mean they’re going to listen. We’re going to make sure they send it up close and personal.
Svelt didn’t need to say anything else the craft Jury had pinched before the satellite sealed itself looked like it would fall apart in a solar wind.
Jury flicked a switch and the bridge came to life.
‘Of course, you never been on a deep space surveyor craft before?’
Jury had been expecting her to be angry, or outraged maybe, but he hadn’t expected her face to drain of colour until it was whiter than a corpse.
‘But that means…’
‘Are you stupid or somethjng? You didn’t notice where you were maybe? Didn’t read the signs?’
Jury shook his head in confusion. He honestly had no idea what the woman meant.
‘This is deep space exploration vessel ‘Marie Celeste’. We’d found her adrift with all the crew dead.’
She waited a moment to see if he got it.
‘That’s right,’ said Svelt, ‘this is a plague vessel.’
Jury felt something twist in his chest. It was his fault there hadn’t been time to think with the alarms blowing so loud he thought his skull would split.
(to be continued)
Jury waited until they were gone as he made a show of rubbing his shoulder where he’d slammed it against the glass.
‘Bye Jury,’ the green eyed woman waved at him and followed the rest.
When the door had closed behind them he opened his mouth as wide as he could. The device was dug it in so far it was anchored in his jaw. There’d been no other way; Chronos devices were too dangerous to have knocked out in a fight and Jury hadn’t always been on the deck of a research vessel. He’d been front line combat ops in his day.
‘Got you,’ the words came out muffled and covered in spit as he peered at the bloody thing clenched between his fingertips.
The Chronus device was tiny no bigger than a nail although it was encased in hardened ceramic. He lined it up so it was pointing at the glass and slammed the heel of his shoe on what he hoped was the right end. Instantly spiderwebs shot through the barrier as the accumulated weight of a generation or two descended on its molecules.
He hit the glass side on like he was on a playing field as he launched himself through the air. Jury had no idea how long they’d rigged the stations alarms to wait before they went off but he doubted he had long. At least he’d been careful to take note of the route glad that they hadn’t used stun guns or other weapons to keep him subdued. Back when he’d arrived they’d still been pretending they were all one big happy spacefaring family. He doubted it would be the same now.
‘Hey…you, please, over here.’
Jury finished rolling to a stop and stood up. The figures in the other containment suites were standing up against the glass. A few of them had begun to hammer on it too. Jury wondered how long it would be before they all joined in, ‘No time, I’m sorry.’
He held his hands up palms outwards then their faces were flashing red as the alarms kicked in.
Jury began to run. The crew had looked shabby enough, all except for the woman. But they were bound to shoot first and ask questions later rather than risk contamination of the whole station with what they thought he was infected with.
When he got to the cargo bay and saw what the quarantine satellites had on offer Jury’s heart plummetted. The ships looked like they should run on steam.
‘Stop right there.’
Jury watched laser sights dance around him.
‘I’m not going anywhere, don’t shoot,’ said Jury.
He turned round slowly, some of those spots of red were dancing about way too erratically for him.
‘Can I kill him now, go on, please?’
It was the kid with the mullet and he was jumping around all over the place.
Don’t be a dick kid.’ The green eyed woman shoved him behind her and aimed her gun at Jury’s head. jury was glad to see she had brains to match her looks. ‘You heard what the Chief said. We’re to stop him getting off here, not kill him. There’s a bounty on his head.’
‘Then its true…about the alien?’ said the kid.
‘How do I know I just work here,’ said the woman brushing an imaginary spot of dirt off her uniform.
‘You let me go, and I’ll let you in on a secret,’ said Jury.
‘Yeah? and what’s that?’ replied the kid cocking his own weapon.
‘In about five seconds a bomb is going to detonate upstirs that will release every quarantine case you’ve got. I hope you have a lot of fun with them.’
Jury decided it had been worth it just to see the look on their faces as the backup device went off and the staellite shook.
(to be continued)