Howdy folks, this was my submission for the Space competition. As always, I implore you, please check out the works of my competitors before you read mine. I’m just a hack, those guys are the real talent around here. Anyways, here’s my story, I hope you like it.
There was nothing within the celestial lacuna of the Signis Sector. Void and vacant in nearly every sense of the word, it held nothing but empty space, a ship. . .and a leviathan.
After drifting solitary and dignified through far off and forgotten gulfs of space for perhaps countless numbers of eons, the 875,000 ton cluster of violently molded rock and compacted ice that the SCSS Praevia’s crew had the privilege of dubbing “A-56780887” or simply “Chubsy” for the sake of brevity and humor, soon found its ageless voyage ended in what registered as little more than a distant, mute flash of light from the Command Deck of the off-lying ship.
For this most recent ill-fated protoplanetoid, a high-yield nuclear sabot munition had been unceremoniously selected as the instrument of its demise, having been picked out from a repertoire of explosives of even higher potencies.
In the end, despite the relative indiscretion with which it had been chosen, the munition did its job to perfection: first burrowing down to near the center of the asteroid, then detonating with enough world shattering force as to completely tear the mass of rock apart.
Perhaps, in a hundred years or so, the remains of its dusty visceras would prove to be a mineable tidbit of material for some as yet unborn mining company. Or perhaps not. It didn’t matter. Either way, the Praevia had done its job.
Turning steeply to a new vector, the long and brutish asteroid-killer class voidship turned away from the sundered corpse at its back and began to chug its way forward, looking for its next target. At about two and a half parsecs of distance, something briefly came up on the craft’s radar. . .then it happened.
The impact was sudden and forceful. Reverberating out across the twice thickened hull with a heavy thunk, it shunted the craft off from its prescribed vector by more than three hundred miles and caused a total internal-electrical and propulsion system blackout.
With no power being routed to its thruster arrays, the Praevia rode the force of the impact, fishtailing in perpetuity as it glided through the endless night, dead in the water.
“The fuck was that?” Alexia groaned, picking herself up off the floor of the Bridge as a small trickle of emergency power slowly trickled through, lighting the broadly dimensioned room in a bath of dull crimson light.
“Something has just impacted us at a high velocity.” Lucretia’s glass-smooth voice answered flatly from her station at the far left, sounding entirely unperturbed as always.
“Yeah. . .” Alexia grasped the corner of her station, shimmied herself over, and carefully dropped herself back down into her seat. “. . .I kinda figured that. Damned rust bucket.”
Tapping experimentally at her console’s keys, she attempted to wake the machine’s projector and coax it into conjuring up the monitor screen.
After a second or two of awkwardly punching in memorized hard-reset key combinations on the machine’s mechanical keyboard, the spherical projector spun up in its recessed mounting cradle and disgorged a volley of amber lightbeams into the air. Quickly knitting themselves together, the beams wove into a semi-translucent display from which a series of blinking data boxes stood.
Typing her credentials into the boxes on muscle memory alone, Alexia quickly signed into her station and began populating the air around her with a series of glowing amber panels suffused with astronomic and navigational data.
Briefly watching the squat, bronze skinned woman as she worked, Captain Davian shifted his focus back to his own work. Signing into the helm, he stabbed at a digital tapestry of switches and dials with his thick, calloused fingers and toggled the craft’s reactors to restart.
A moment later, the entire ship shuddered as it gasped back into life. “Engine’s back online and reading as nominal. Switch out of low-power mode and refresh your station’s feeds, girls. I’m turning off the night canopy.” Davian tapped at a switch on the rightmost side of his holoscreen and disabled the emergency lighting systems.
Instantaneously, a wash of imitated natural light flooded into the room, sweeping away the low red glow. Reclining back in his chair, he then cast his eyes over to Lucretia. “Do we have a status report, yet?”
“Yes sir,” the tall and slender gynoid nodded, not even bothering to look away from her screens, “System sweeps are indicating we took minor structural damage a couple meters up from the aft. Starboard side.”
“Any idea what hit us exactly?” Davian asked, conjuring up a multi-screened menu spliced with information from both of the subordinate stations. Glancing through the feeds, he quickly noted what things needed to be done next, then returned his eyes to the ponytailed back of Lucretia’s head.
“There’s no definite identification available yet sir. There might be a possibility that something got caught in our grav wash, looped around, and then came back at us.” The gynoid turned her head slightly, moving it just enough so that she could cast a quick sidelong glance back at Davian.
In half of a femtosecond, her unnaturally green irises pulled a wealth of information out from his posture and facial expression. Far faster than he could catch her.
She frowned: he was upset. Unfortunately, though she could read his physiology and ascertain such things from it, the inner workings of both his and everyone else’s minds still remained damnably elusive to her. She didn’t quite care for that, lacking access to such potentially vital information made her feel. . .uneasy.
“That sounds about right. We got carel—no, no. . .I got careless,” Davian corrected himself, “I shouldn’t have authorized the use of those high-yields. We didn’t have anywhere near as much clearance as we should’ve had.”
“Oh don’t be so melodramatic Cap. We’ve capped bigger rocks at shorter ranges than that before and everything’s always turned out fine. And besides, we were well outta grav wash range with the ejecta. I made sure of it.” Flicking a holographic screen aside with a quick swipe of her index finger, Alexia absentmindedly scratched at her forehead and winced as she felt a dull pain and something warm and wet against her fingertips. Pulling back her hand, she looked down and found her fingers stained with blood. “What the. . .”
“Captain. Navigations Officer Alexia is injured,” Lucretia announced flatly, pulling her face into an imitation of concern. Turning her chair and standing up, she began to cross the Bridge and approach the other woman, until she held a pacifying hand up.
“I’m fine Lucretia. It’s just a scrape,” Alexia sighed and dabbed at her forehead again. Despite finding that there was still a good amount of fresh blood wetting her fingertips, she could tell it was less than before. Already, she could practically feel the ruby life fluid trickling out from her gashed forehead beginning to slow and coagulate. She was completely fine. There was no reason for her to be a—
“Captain. I formally petition your mediation and authority in this situation. First Officer of Navigations, Alexia Zlatan is refusing my attempts to render aid. In this instance, in accordance with munici-”
“Don’t even begin to think of going there, Lucretia.” Captain Davian sat forward, glaring at the gracile machine woman warily.
“Very well Captain, but surely you recognize that any failure to relieve any person or persons who’ve become injured on the Com-”
“Yes, yes. I know.” Davian sighed, “Believe me, Lucretia, I’m vividly aware of the numerous standard operating procedures that are applicable to this situation. Please, return to your station.”
“Very well Captain,” Lucretia nodded, “I apologize for my…contentiousness. I merely wish to eliminate any possibility of us being cited for non-compliance with local applicable law.”
Captain Davian sighed and scrubbed at his face with one of his broad hands. “Look. For the hundredth time. You’re not going to be scrapped, Lucretia. Relax. We’re rock killers, not USC, UGASC, IGSC, or any other bullshit alphabet soup organization that thinks they can project their laws and customs past their planet of origin. The ‘S’ in SCSS stands sovereign, remember?”
“Yes sir,” Lucretia nodded and lowered her eyes to the floor in deference. “Again, I apologize. . .I truly do adore being here as part of your crew complement. It’s so much more. . .dynamic than anything I’ve previously been familiar with.”
“Oh, I’m sure it is.” Davian forced a smile, then nodded kindly at the gynoid, hoping against hope that she would pick up on the fact that in making such a gesture, what he really was doing was calling the interaction to a close. . .she’d had problems understanding subtle social cues like that before.
To his surprise and relief however, she actually nodded back and retook her seat at her station. Releasing a breath of air he’d not realized he’d been holding, Davian turned his gaze back over to the woman at his right.
“Alright, Lex. Here’s the deal. . .” Davian leaned back uncomfortably in his chair, locking eyes with the woman, “I’ve got to boot you out of your chair until you’re documented as having visited Med-Bay.”
Alexia’s pouty, attractive lips parted as her mouth dropped open. Somewhere deep inside her, she felt something critical sink low as shock and disbelief began to fog her mind over. “W-wait. . .what?”
“I know, I know.” Davian raised his hands obstructively, preparing to hold back the tidal wave of babbling and half-formed arguments that he was sure was about to come his way. “Look, I know I normally try to keep everything pretty lax here, but there’re some issues I just can’t budge on. Injuries on the job is just one of those things.”
“Ev-even after what happened last time? Are you kidding me?” Alexia felt her eyes go wide. Suddenly, her carefully cultivated image of nonchalance was beginning to crumble, and the magmatic anger she held bubbling beneath her surface was soon to rise up. “C-cap. . .you can’t be serious. I mean, it’s just a little scrape. Come on.” She laughed, scanning the man’s bright, domineering eyes and his sharp, stoic features for any sign of humor. There wasn’t any.
“I’m sorry Lex, but I c—”
“You know what that bitch down there tried to do to me. You were there. You saw!”
Captain Davian leaned back further into his seat, trying to move himself away from the whole exchange. Catching himself, he hardened. “I know, Lex. . .I know. Believe me, I do. I want her gone too, but until we make it to the next port, we’re going to have to deal with her. You and I both know that sh—”
Attention. Foreign matter detected in Deck 3 Sub-level B. Atmosphere seepage likely. Please evacuate all personnel from Deck 3.
Davian frowned at the ship’s grating monotone voice, suddenly recalling why he’d wanted to get the thing removed on the last port stop, before he’d been distracted with. . .
He shook his head and fixed his hard, patient gaze on Alexia. Raising his right arm, he jabbed his index finger at the room’s door. “Go on. The sooner you get done on Medical, the sooner you can come back to work.”
Knitting her brows together, Alexia focused her soft brown eyes on Davian and prodded for weakness. When she saw that there was none, she more or less collapsed into a state of autonomy. Retreating into herself, she watched as her body stood from its chair and hesitantly began to step towards the door.
“One last thing, Lex. . .”
She stopped. Turning her vacant eyes towards the man she’d been enough of a fool to think of as a friend, she defeatedly raised a brow.
“If Jaylin tries anything this time, you tell me. You got that?” Davian stared, waiting for acknowledgment. “I mean it. If she tries anything like last time, she’s going out the airlock. I don’t give a fuck. We’ll chalk it up as an accident. Okay?” He paused, meeting and holding the woman’s gaze.
“Okay,” Alexia replied weakly, already sounding like a shadow of her normal self.
“Okay.” Davian nodded, “You’re dismissed.”
With that, Alexia sunk back down within herself, opened the door, and left without another word.
Mute disbelief and simmering anger soured the waters of Alexia’s mind as she rounded the end corner of the foredeck, moving for the deck lift. Try as she might’ve, she found herself unable to fully process the fact that, despite knowing full well what Doctor Jaylin had tried doing to her back on Cestia, Davian had still made the decision to force her out from the Command Deck. What kind of leadership was that? What kind of friend would do that?
She shook her head, trying to clear it. Despite this slight he had made against her, deep down she could feel that the Captain was still a good man. He was kind and thoughtful, and made often made quite a habit not to rush into his decisions, or anything at all for that matter. . .No, if he’d had any other choice, he wouldn’t have made such a call. Of that, she was most definitely certain.
All around her, Alexia noted how jagged metallic ribs and rigidifying pseudotrusses jutted out angularly at precisely calculated intervals along the ship’s walls and ceilings, lending additional support to what was already a rock-solid internal chassis structure. . .kind of like her, she mused.
Passing through a short corridor, Alexia made her way to the semi-circular Retention Chamber and boarded the broad metal tube that was the lift between the ship’s three primary decks. Quickly thumbing a key, she gripped the metal support rail lining the interior of the lift’s cab and steadied herself as the machine suddenly lurched into motion.
Clearing her mind as she rode the short trip down to Deck 2, Alexia tried to focus on the sensation of how her gut felt like it was rising up inside her chest, but she couldn’t. All she could think of was the face of the woman that had the gall to call herself the ship’s doctor. Of the hate she had for her. Of how much she would like to wrap her fingers around the woman’s slender neck and squeeze the life out of her.
Alexia hated doctors. She had always hated doctors. Even from the moment of her birth, she’d despised them. And what Doctor Jaylin had done? The way she’d brushed her fingers, oh so blithely and purposely, up along the insides of her legs when she’d thought she was fully anesthetized? That proved to her that her lifelong mistrust had been justified. Almost prescient, even.
The lift stopped. Frowning as its doors opened, Alexia stepped out of the elevator. Though she knew she still had a ways to go, she could already feel the pending shift in the atmosphere. Hanging pregnant amidst the rafters, hiding just out of sight, it waited.
The change from the duty and honesty of the ‘normal’ to the facade and malignity of the aesculapian was just around the corner, hunkered down. She could feel it. She shuddered.
Chewing her lip as she walked, Alexia paid attention to how the air seemed to grow colder and staler around her with each step. Of course, there were natural explanations as to why such things occurred, but she didn’t much care for that. The rational and scientifically-minded could keep their explanations for things. She had her own.
After nearly three minutes of walking, the appearance of neatly painted crimson demarcation lines across floors and highly detailed decals of caducei across various wall panels and windows told Alexia with niggling clarity that she’d officially entered the Medical wing of the ship.
Already, she could smell it. The dizzying cleanliness. That thin veneer of sterility that existed solely to mask the truth of the underlying putrilage and death within such places. It made her sick. Scrunching her nose up in disgust, she tried to ignore the sharp notes of acrid stench that were jabbing into it. Maybe she was hypersensitive to it, maybe not, but the concentration of that nauseous ‘Bleach-y’ smell seemed far more overpowering than what was usually normal for the area.
Stepping down a set of stairs and winding down the hallway that led to the Sick Bay, Alexia reeled as she collided with a cloud of noxious chemical odor.
“Gah! Fuckin’ hell. . .” she winced and choked. Feeling as her eyes began to water, she reached for the collar of her faded olive green t-shirt and draped it over the bridge of her nose.
Breathing through the thin layer of fabric, Alexia continued forward. Passing through small pools of shadow where light mountings couldn’t be placed and squinting in places where they could, she raised a brow at the sight of a stray gurney sitting alone in the hall outside the open door of the infirmary.
Though it was strange, Alexia didn’t gather much more from it than that as she slinked her way through the gaped metal portal and entered the Sick Bay.
“Jesus. . .” Alexia coughed. Everywhere she looked, she found another rogue element adding to the main room’s general state of disarray: there was broken glass, gauze, cotton swabs, tongue depressors and countless other medical instruments strewn all across the breadth of the floor, numerous standing pools of fluids and solvents, overturned wheelchairs and gurneys, even a collapsed and shattered medicine cabinet that had somehow come off from its mountings.
In the far back, two rows of seven beds sat obscured behind drawn patient privacy curtains with stylized, multi-colored flowers etched into their thick fabrics. Beyond that, at the very back right of the room, stood the yawning black entryway to the operating room. From where she stood, it looked more like an empty pit than a room. Strangely, something about it almost seemed to draw in Alexia’s gaze. She’d never seen the inside of it, never wanted to either. . .but it almost sounded like something was inside of it, moving around.
“Jaylin?” Alexia stepped forward, her shoes crunching down on glass as she walked. “Hey, Jaylin. Are you back there?” Slipping on something, her shoes squeaked and she looked down to see what she was stepping in. She froze. Beneath her feet, lapping at the soles of her shoes, Alexia saw a small puddle of dark red fluid—blood.
With a gasp, she withdrew her feet, hastily placing them down on a patch of broken glass and soggy, saline soaked gauze and bandage wrapping. She felt her stomach churn nauseously, unsure of whether it was the smell of the blood or the fumes from the chemicals that was getting to her. “Hey, Jaylin! You here or n—”
Something groaned above her, making a low, inhuman sound.
Feeling the hairs on the back of her neck bristle up, Alexia hesitantly lifted her gaze upward, a slave to her curiosity. Her entire body tensed and she could feel her heart beating in her throat as she looked up, and up, and up. She froze, above her, Alexia saw. . .a vent.
With another low and torturous moan, the machine behind the ceiling grate began to spin into life, sucking up the noxious fumes that were accumulating within the room.
Ha, god. . .how dumb. A fan? For a moment that seemed like it w— Alexia threw her eyes back down from the ceiling as the sound of someone’s shoe crunching down on some glass nearby pulled her from her thought. She frowned. Standing some ten feet back from her was the object of her wrath and hate, Jaylin. Slender and graceful like a deer, the woman was annoyingly quiet on her feet.
“Alexia? What are you doing here?” She smiled, pulling her soft, plump lips back to reveal a row of perfectly white teeth.
“Whaddya mean ‘What am I doing here?’ Didn’t you hear me calling you?” Alexia straightened, looking to add whatever miniscule amount to her height that she could as she studied the woman opposite of her.
The doctor had always been a weird and sinister character in her eyes. Always overeager to get handsy, especially with her. Yet, now as she looked at her, Alexia saw something in the woman’s eyes. Something different. Her usual perverse and catty look was replaced with something distant and cold. . .something intense. . .something predatory.
Inadvertently, she flinched, drawing something like a look of amusement across the woman’s face.
“Sorry Lex, I must’ve been off in my own little world,” The woman shrugged and swept a hand up to brush her bangs of mousy brown hair away from her smoky eyes, seemingly as an afterthought she blinked and gestured to the wreckage of the room around her. “I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with salvaging what I can from this mess.”
“Right. . .yeah, the ship’s sensors said you kinda took the brunt of the impact back here. Deck 3 got hit, somewhere down in Sub-level B.” Alexia crossed her arms, trying to fight off the overpowering feeling of awkwardness she could feel creeping over her just from being around the woman opposite of her.
Something wasn’t right. Ordinarily, when Alexia found herself unfortunate enough to be in the same general vicinity as Jaylin, she was often too incensed by her proximity to be able to register anything more than her own anger. Yet here she was cringing in her skin, wanting to flee from the woman. Was this some kind of power move? What was going on with her? Was she in shock or something? What was sh—
“Oh, you’re bleeding!” Jaylin gaped, “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me. You probably came here to get treated for your cut, didn’t you? Why don’t you come with me into Surgery and I’ll get you fixed up?” She smiled, then turned and began moving with an almost unnatural fluidity to her.
Too stunned and confused to move, Alexia remained rooted to the spot, her mind stuck in overdrive as she worked to decipher the doctor’s odd new behavior. As if sensing her hesitation, Jaylin stopped and quickly looked back at Alexia. Flashing another far too friendly smile, she gestured for her to follow. “Come on, it’ll only take a minute.”
Alexia budged, then caught herself. Something definitely wasn’t right. “W-wait, are you sure? You’re always kinda weird about people going back there.”
“Oh, of course!” Doctor Jaylin stopped and turned back, “As you can see, everything here in the main room is mostly either spilled or rolling around on the floor. The operating room was mostly spared from that.”
“Right. . .” Alexia nodded uncomfortably, “By the way, what’s the deal with the blood on the floor? Did you get hurt in the rock impact?”
“Oh that?” Jaylin smirked, “The bump knocked open the refrigerator door over there by the sink. Some samples fell out of it and one or two broke. A few others were cracked and started dripping.” Sighing, she looked down at the small pool of red. “You know how it is around here. We barely get paid enough with each contract to keep the ship up to date, much less buy any new science equipment. There’s a reason hardly anyone uses glass collection tubes anymore.”
“Yeah,” Alexia shrugged, “I’ve been tellin’ Davian we oughtta just go to UGASC territory and quit being private. It’d suck being gov, but at least we’d probably do better than just paying the bills.”
Fiddling with her fingers slightly, Jaylin nodded animatedly and smiled. “Oh, absolutely! You should definitely bring that up to him again after w-er. . .you leave. Speaking of which, let’s hurry up and get you taken care of shall we? Come on. . .I’ll make it quick for you.”
Alexia frowned, considering what those words could imply as the doctor turned her back once again and slowly began to proceed back to the operating room, gesturing for her to follow.
With considerable trepidation, Alexia Looked down at the puddle of blood and broken glass one last time and swallowed dryly. Moving after Jaylin, she first followed her down the aisle to the operating room’s entryway, then off into darkness.
The flickering lock icon that hung above the face of the Command Deck’s door vanished from existence, disappearing like a quenched, off-blue flame just a moment before the door itself clanked and jerked open. Through it, Alexia wordlessly stepped back inside, returning to her station without once bothering to look at her fellow crew members.
She looked troubled, but then again, she always did. . .and she always did probably because she always was, Davian mused. Watching her out from the corner of his eye, he studied the woman for any signs of agitation, then brushed aside a cluster of minimized screens as he cleared his throat. “Everything go alright?” He asked, pouring the warm cordiality and nonchalance of his usual self back into his voice.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I just want to get back to work,” Alexia answered quietly.
“Fair enough,” he sighed and leaned back in his chair. Deep inside, he was already aching with a quiet remorse for having forced the poor woman down to Medical. He knew what being around Jaylin usually did to her now, but in this instance it had to be done. Of course, he didn’t want to do it—hell, he never wanted to do anything a captain had to do. That just wasn’t him. He wasn’t a ‘Big boss man’ sort of guy. He never had been, and never would be. . .or so he hoped.
Davian shook his head. Straightening in his chair, he raised his voice and spoke out. “Alright, the first order of business is getting someone down to Deck 3 to deal with that atmosphere leak. Lucretia, that’s going to be you. Any objections?”
“No sir, no objections.” The gynoid looked back at him from her station, studying him briefly with her vibrant green eyes.
“Alright then, get it done. Call me if anything comes up.” He nodded.
Standing up from her station, Lucretia stretched slowly and deliberately, making a slight show of it to show that she was still actively attempting to be more outwardly ‘human.’
Davian rolled his eyes.
Hooking her arms behind the back of her head, Lucretia casually strode across the room, giving him a soft smile as she passed. Yet another minute signal, this one was likely intended to convey her happiness aboard the vessel as part of the crew. He couldn’t handle it anymore.
“Lucretia, for the love of god, stop being so furtive. If you want to tell me something, just say it.” Davian sighed.
“Of course, Captain. I apologize. I just don’t want to be a bother.” Lucretia dropped her hands from her neck as she strode away, then as she neared Alexia’s station, she paused. Silently looking the woman over for a moment, Lucretia craned her neck back. “Captain. I’m detecting foreign signatures coming from Alexia. . .”
“What are you talking about?” Davian straightened, fixing his steely eyes on the two women.
“I’m picking up strange compositional registries from her, sir.” Lucretia turned, “At this time I can’t identify exactly what they are yet. I think she might have picked something up on her clothing and skin when she went down to Medical Deck. With Deck 3 being just below it, it’s likely that some micro-contaminants could have seeped in and upwards from the breach.”
Davian frowned and ran a broad, calloused hand through the mess of his short off-black hair. Reclining, he quickly ran through a mental list of regulations and codes that could apply to the current scenario, things that would need to be followed if he didn’t want his license pulled at the next port visit. Clearing his throat, he rose back up. “Well, Lucretia, if that is the case, I want you to double-time it down to Deck 3 and find the leak. As for you, Alexia. I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to expel you from the Bridge for the immediate future. Return to your quarters and stay there for the next forty eight hours while we get this situation sorted out.”
“But sir I jus-”
“I know, Lex. I know.” Davian sighed, “I’ll be making a note of your lost wages from all this bullshit and I’ll give your check a bump when we get back in SC telemetric range. In the meantime, you’re just going to have to roll with the punches. Sorry, that’s just how it is. You’re both dismissed.”
The deck-lift hummed quietly as it descended the faintly lit shaft, ferrying L-4352 “Lucretia” down to the third deck of the SCSS Praevia. Polling her scanning matrices again and again as she waited, she frowned at each result that came up. Even now, as she was descending past Deck 2 and into the epicenter of the ship’s damage, she failed to register the presence of contamination of any kind.
For the slightest moment, she paused to consider whether the reinforced aluminum alloy shell of the cab surrounding her could be interfering with, or limiting the penetration of her optical systems.
Ordinarily, she could quickly and legibly read fine print of up to a milimeter in size through metal and other non-organic surfaces of up to twenty inches in thickness, and she could it consistently at distances of over 350 feet. Although, none of that was to say that organic materials posed any particular challenge to her eyesight either, she simply preferred to not have to look through organs and tissue, something about it always bothered her.
Closing her eyes, Lucretia ran a quick diagnostic on her optical systems, then re-opened them. All subsequent results read back that her vision was cutting through the materials of the lift’s cab just fine, there were no errors.
She frowned. Something was still wrong. . .perhaps even more so than she’d previously estimated.
With a sudden deceleration and a dull metal clack, the deck-lift arrived at Deck 3 and slid its doors open. Ahead, a short stretch of empty hall sat bathed in sterile white light: an antechamber preceding the deck proper.
In her year and a half aboard the Praevia, Lucretia had quickly come to notice the prevalence of an almost obsessive design peculiarity in the ship, in that each and every one of its halls and rooms was designed to be able to function as remotely-configurable, dynamic, and redundant air-lock systems. Of course, such a design was entirely logical for an asteroid-killer, she understood that keenly, but it also added the unfortunate issue of additional complication to the craft’s overall design.
In the end, she supposed, it was a thing of comfort for the crew. Knowing that there was a buffer between themselves and certain death was doubtlessly beneficial to their moral and mental health.
Dialing up the scope of her optics as she stepped out from the lift, Lucretia thrust her vision beyond the corridor’s solid walls. Sweeping her sight through jumbled latticeworks of metal, piping, insulation and wires, she not only discerned no outlying signs of damage within the remainder of the primary deck, but no signs of foreign contamination either. Deck 3 was clear.
Reining her vision back to within the scope of an average human, Lucretia created a compartmentalized log of her ocular scan’s results and stored it close at hand within her 3,152nd general processor. Appending the image of a small smiley face to the log’s header field, she smiled to herself and proceeded down the hall. Finding a stairwell and passing from the primary deck to Sub-level A, Lucretia conducted another visual scan. Again, somehow, there was nothing.
Updating her scan log once more, she noticed one of the numerous cogitation algorithms she’d been running in the background had recently locked down onto a singular sequence of code; pulled fresh from her memory banks, the code concerned the foreign contamination reading that she’d received from her passive compositional scanning of Alexia.
Just as she began to examine the output of that particular scan, it was suddenly pushed to the background as a communication channel request suddenly jumped into the forefront of her mind, buzzing and thrumming for attention: it was Captain Davian.
Opening the channel, Lucretia suppressed a line of simulated irritation from her persona core as she spoke. “Yes, Captain?”
“Could I get a status report, Lucretia? How close are you to patching the hole in our belly?” he asked flatly, offering no emotional earmarks in the sonic registry of his voice for her glom onto.
“I’m inbound to Sub-level B as we speak, sir. I’ve conducted cursory and deep scans of the previous decks and levels and found zero signs of foreign contamination thus far. At this point, I estimate that all forms of contamination have been entirely localized to Sub-level B.”
There was brief pause as the captain digested the information, then his voice returned, reverberating through the adits of Lucretia’s mind.
“Alright, good. Give me a call when you patch us up. Davian out.”
The channel went dead, leaving Lucretia alone with her calculations and logs once more. Recalling the last cogitation sequence she’d been working on, she up-ticked its priority in her passive analyzation queues and continued on her way. Moving down to Sub-level B, she keyed in her authorization codes on the door’s hard-light keypad and pressed the ‘Enter’ key.
The door considered her input for a moment, then colored its keypad green. Opening its holographic menu with a click and a hum from its projector, it then opened a flashing text box denoting a possible difference of atmospheric pressure on its opposite side. Naturally, beside that warning, hung the word Antechamber in a bold green font, denoting its current function as a buffer zone.
Brushing aside the flashing warning field, Lucretia tapped at the holographic display’s ‘Open’ key and watched as the door slid open for her. Beyond it, a brightly lit but relatively empty hallway sat populated only by a few locked and secured pallet-jacks, ten half-filled cargo racks, and a few empty rooms. Although such disuse typified both of Deck 3’s sub-levels, she’d noticed that it was considerably more pronounced in level B; with it having the smallest cargo bay compartment of only 50 meters, it was often left forgotten while usage of the storage spaces of the upper decks and levels was always maximized to the utmost degree.
Stepping down the hall, Lucretia passively listened to the steady rhythm of her footsteps as she executed her second-to-last scan. After about a minute, it was done.
Though she’d expected there to be some possible kind of contaminative bleed-over, she was surprised to find that the results of the scan came back as clean. Frowning, she reshaped her scanning parameters as she came upon the secondary door at the end of the hallway, this one silently guaranteeing the presence of an atmospheric pressure divergence behind it.
Tapping her code into the thing’s keypad, Lucretia raised a brow when its colors flashed an uncertain yellow and asked for an additional administrative code input. With the life-support functions cut and the pressure and oxygen concentration levels lower than what was possibly survivable for humans, it required a little more than the bare minimum of security.
Lucretia obliged it, tapping in her station’s number. After a moment, the keypad flashed its familiar green and the door’s projector cast out its holographic interface. After tapping the ‘Open’ key and re-confirming her desire to open it, Lucretia gripped the side of the door’s frame and braced herself.
The instant the door opened, a deafening gale of air howled around the gynoid’s ears and batted at her hair as two separate zones of pressure briefly met, swirled, battled, and then found a tenuous equilibrium with one another.
Inside the cavernous interior of the cargo bay, the air was thinner and slightly colder, but still present enough to register within Lucretia’s systems as she ran her eyes across the unlit room. Toggling on a low-light vision mode and superimposing a spectral filter over its feed, she made the yawning, pitch black environment as bright as day.
From the platform overlooking the entirety of the jumbled room, she ran her eyes over a sea of cataloged crates and containers and the numerous rows of industrial racking housing them all.
Peering through the organized confusion, she focused her sight on a hull access clearing off to the far right of the cramped floor plan and magnified her vision.
Zeroing in on a dented section of the interior hull that she promptly identified as the point of impact, she descended from the platform and quickly cut her way through the confusion of the room, grabbing a tube of heavy duty sealant from a workbench as she went.
Dialing her vision up as she reached the flat expanse of concrete and the hulling, she re-located the dent and found a small fissure at its center. Though the gash was only two centimeters long, curiously, it reached over twenty feet in depth—and it did so in the strangest way.
Rather than existing at a straight trajectory, the channel that had been carved into the ship’s body was something dynamic. . .something that had moved and undulated at smooth angles by every half foot, bypassing many of the thickest portions of the exterior hull with such a degree of accuracy and consistency that it actually seemed to resemble a kind of burrowing more than it did anything else.
Logging her findings, Lucretia quickly sealed the gash up with an injected titanium foam solution and polled the findings of the passive contamination scan she’d been running in the background. The results sent her processors cycling frenziedly: there were no traces of contaminants anywhere. . .except for those that had been registered on Alexia during her passive compositional scans of her.
Immediately, Lucretia began running suites of calculations, triple verified the results of her contaminant scans, and even ran a quick simulation or two. No matter what she did, the conclusions always came back the same: Alexia hadn’t picked up the contamination from the lower decks, she was the contamination.
Distantly, something clattered to the floor behind her. Turning, Lucretia froze.
Standing approximately sixty feet back from her, was Alexia. She wasn’t wearing a suit.
“Oh no. . .”
“Oh yes,” Alexia nodded, smiling sinisterly. “I must admit, I really didn’t appreciate you calling me out like you did, Lucretia. Thank heavens for the Captain’s naiveté and his habit of being a little. . .incautious. Had he been of a jumpier sort, you might well have gotten me blown out of the airlock.”
Running them over the woman’s frame, Lucretia frowned as her eyes kept returning the same results: Sys.log.Err. Foreign biological elements detected. Error Code 045631201. Poll Std::task_debug+is+Optsuite.
“What are you? What do you want?” Lucretia asked, watching as the bronze skin of the woman before her began to pale and blue into a dark and melancholic wisterian shade, like that of a hypoxic corpse.
“What am I?” the creature repeated, tapping at its soft and feminine chin. “Well, I’m not a machine, but yet I suppose I’m quite like one. I’m tireless, driven. .purposeful. Designed to serve.” It nodded to itself, “Yes, I do suppose I’m rather like a machine. . .but I’m also alive. Much like a human, I have needs and desires. . .but those two things?” it chuckled softly, “Well, they always become synonymous at one point or another now don’t they?”
“And. . .what do you want?” Lucretia repeated gently as she opened a remote video channel to the ship’s Command Deck and began to record the creature. Watching very carefully as, little by little, the creature removed its disguise, Lucretia tapped every data bank on animal behavioral patterns she had within her and began trying to ascribe them to it.
Time and time again, they all came back with conflicting signatures, some saying nothing while others were warning of imminent attack. Lucretia frowned. Whatever this thing before her was, she couldn’t read it.
“I want a lot of things, Lucretia. Most of which you couldn’t possibly begin to understand.” The creature began, its voice soft yet repulsively distorted as it turned sharply on the heels of its human disguises’ shoes and began to quietly pace across the bay, keeping the rapidly blackening pits of its eyes locked on the gynoid. “Of course I don’t mean to insult your intelligence in saying any of that. Please don’t misunderstand me. I know you’re capable of understanding much, but what I’m interested in requires an ability to feel.”
“I’m more than capable of making approximations in that area. I assure you I’ll understand you.” Lucretia overclocked her internal processors, tasking them to create and compile a series of possible courses of action to follow.
In half of a picosecond, fifteen thousand entries were made. Examining them all and finding that none were sufficient to her needs, Lucretia refreshed the cache and quickly refined the parameters of the successive generations: she needed something that would get her past the creature and allow her to isolate it down here. The subsequent results proffered were scant—but they were enough.
“Approximations are just that, Lucretia. They’re approximate. Close, but not quite close enough.” Slowly, the creature shook its head as its sickly purple skin began to bubble and undulate, as if breaking down. Then, it began to drip as a grisly liquefaction took hold. Evidently unfazed by this liquification, the creature calmly continued piloting its legs, walking back and forth as the gelatinizing flesh of its upper body began to drip and cascade down, moving like a slurry of fleshy candlewax.
“I want the Captain.” The creature spoke, but not through any singular mouth. Instead, its distorting and warbling voice came from a myriad of them, all forming and unforming madly within its anatomy as its flesh and clothing slowly began to become indistinguishable.
Raising her brow slightly, Lucretia took a step forward, preparing to put into motion the plan that had yielded the greatest projected level of success. “What do you intend to do with him?”
Halting from its pacing, the nigh amorphous creature turned its head toward the gynoid as a myriad of blinking, xanthous eyes sprouted within the purple-black slurry of its flesh. “My intentions are my own, Lucretia. I have no intention of doing any harm to him whatsoever, if that’s what’s concerning you. I just. . .need him.”
Making a series of micro-adjustments, Lucretia subtly tensed the muscle bundles in her legs, preparing not to sprint past the creature, but through her.
Despite her slender build, the density of the alloys and materials making up her construction would more than allow her to suffice as a battering ram that could bludgeon through the semi-liquid composition of the creature—all she needed was the right moment to spring into action.
Lucretia smirked, “So you say. . .but what did you do to Doctor Jaylin? And what did you do to Alexia? How could either of us be sure you won’t do to him what you did to them?”
The creature paused, twisting its face into a mask of irritation as an additional array of squinting, slitted eyes slowly bubbled up from the mire of its trunk, somewhere along its bust. It chuckled in a low and husky tone. “You would presume that I would do the same to the Captain? Never. I merely absorbed the doctor and Alexia because they were threats. They stood in my way and threatened my goals, just like you. . .”
In an instant, Lucretia dug her feet down hard into the flooring and burst forward, charging from a standstill to speeds she registered to be over seventy miles an hour in less than a second. Crossing her arms in front of her, she smashed into the alien thing, bursting its gelatinous body apart in a wet mess.
Carrying through with her momentum, Lucretia continued running forward, fixing her eyes on the cargo room’s door off in the distance. Suddenly, something cool and moist snapped around her left leg just as she brought it down and forcefully tugged it backward, making her stumble.
Glancing down, her optical sensors fed back an image of a large, gelatinous tentacle wrapped tightly around the ligament, ensnaring her with over three tons of compressive force. Tracing her eyes back along the appendage’s length, she frowned.
Behind her, the splattered wreckage of the creature was not only somehow still alive and animate, but each of its many quivering gobbets of destroyed flesh were at various stages of producing either one or a series of lashing tendrils, using them to pull themselves along or to reach out and restrain her.
“And where do you think you’re off to?” A cascade of small, disembodied voices all spoke as one, issuing from the scraps of destroyed flesh in a coolly chiding tone.
“Release me!” Lucretia commanded, doing her best to mimic a sound of anger as she watched the fractured creature’s viscous body parts undulate and crawl, moving to convene with eachother. As the globules of flesh made contact with eachother their individual masses quickly began to coalesce and mingle, visibly working to rebuild the creature’s anatomy from the feet up.
“You know, I truly hadn’t considered that you’d be so violent,” it sighed, speaking once more from a thousand different, distantly gurgling mouths as more and more of its scattered body’s globules raced across the room to be absorbed back into its shapely calves and thighs. “I suppose I should’ve expected as much,” it burbled, “As we both know, I won’t be letting you leave this deck intact. You’d get in the way. Most likely out of some misguided sense that you’d somehow be ‘protecting’ the Captain.”
The thing twisted what were now its pair of fully-formed legs, quietly testing their function as multiple channels of dark biological sludge slowly began rising and pouring upward from the densely packed flesh of its pelvic girdle, its matter flowing like a grotesque series of coadunative waterfalls all cascading in reverse. Quickly forming pseudo organs and crudely imitative bone structures, the alien thing pieced a torso together around the steadily shifting and relocating panoply of tendrils it was using to keep a firm grip on the gynoid.
“You’re all fools. None of you deserve a man like him. All the memories I’ve inherited from Alexia prove to me that the only thing any of you have ever done was drag him down.” The creature snarled, vibrating the very air around it as it distorted its pool of biomass and shifted the anatomy of its chest to produce next to a dozen more dripping, wriggling tentacles from its upper and lower abdomen.
Casting its newly made appendages out, it wrapped them around Lucretia’s other leg and her left arm. With a quick tug, it then began drawing the gynoid back by a measure of several feet, then several more, and then several more.
Once Lucretia was within arm’s reach, the alien thing split and distended its trunk, opening it into a wide, crude maw of snapping, finger-length teeth. Hoisting the gynoid up as she kicked and struggled, it brought her shoes into its cavernous mouth and bit down, messily severing her ankles from her legs.
Almost immediately, red lines of damage readings spooled across Lucretia’s vision as she registered the loss of her feet. Though such damage wasn’t entirely irreparable, it would take time and would necessitate a port visit if she were to ever walk again. Adding that information into a repair log, Lucretia lashed her arms out and began to fight for purchase within her destructor’s ever-widening mouth.
At one point, after the raw force of her thrashing around inside it threw the distended thing off its balance, Lucretia managed to reach out from its maw and grasp the edge of a shelf. Tensing the muscle bundles in her arms, she then began to pull herself forward, out from the jaws of death.
Running a quick calculation as she flexed her arms, Lucretia frowned at the results. Before she could re-poll her processors for another idea of what to do, she watched as a tendril tipped with a crude blade swept in from the corner of her vision and swung down, cleaving her forearms in two.
Falling back into the nightmare-thing’s gullet, she strained and stretched out a sparking, leaking stub of an arm, reaching for safety just a moment before the thing’s jaws fully closed down. In the darkness of its chewing maw, Lucretia kept recording, quietly recording every moment of her destruction as thousands upon thousands of the monstrosity’s gnawing teeth repeatedly punctured and shredded her body, moving steadily upward until, at last, her head-case was punctured and slowly crushed—then all processing ceased.
Watching as the feed of the video link on the bridge’s main screen ended abruptly, Davian Erlendr felt his stomach churn. All at once, a thousand different thoughts began to fly through his head as he unlocked the command deck’s door and passed through it. He had to leave, to get away before that. . .that. . .thing found him.
Moving at a quick pace, his boots clunked heavily against the paneled metal flooring of the foredeck as he headed to his room. Typing in his passcode on the holographic number-pad once he reached his door, he cursed as it lazily slid open.
Scanning the somewhat cramped interior of the room, his eyes locked on the handgun resting on his bedside table. Bounding over to the item, he snatched it up and checked the magazine, doing it more so out of habit than out of any real need. He always kept it loaded.
Racking the slide, he chambered a round and slid the weapon into the holster he kept stashed inside the second drawer of his dresser. Sliding the IWB holster in between his pants and his boxers, he draped his shirt down over his waistline and slid his jacket over that before he quickly dashed back out the door.
Running through a mental schematic of the ship’s anatomy, Davian quickly estimated the time it would take for him to reach the ship’s escape pod. Two to two and half minutes. He could make that. Passing down the gallery, he navigated to the lone escape pod that lay nestled beneath the ship’s left wing and quickly opened its hatch.
Maneuvering down the center aisle and past the twelve seats flanking it, he quickly threw himself into the craft’s pilot seat and tapped at the controls. Switching on systems power, he impatiently watched as the menagerie of buttons peppering the pilot console became backlit with soft amber light and a holographic screen flickered into existence over the craft’s reinforced canopy.
With his heart thundering in his throat as hard as it was, Davian could hardly read what was written across the screen. Forcing himself to breathe and calm himself, he wiped the sweat from his face and fixed his eyes on the bold type centered within the display’s message box: Update required. Now installing. . .
“Fucking what?!” he spat, his eyes wide with disbelief. Tapping frantically at the console’s keys, he tried to back out of the screen. When it remained, he flicked off the craft’s power and turned it back on again, trying to hard-boot it. That didn’t work either. The update was omnipresent, stubbornly refusing to be ignored.
“Okay, okay, okay. . .” Clutching his head tightly, Davian forced himself to think. Recalling the explosive bolt array lining the exterior of the semi-circular structure of the airlock hatch, he considered the simple electric process that engaged them. If he could get into the cabling arrays that linked the pilot console to the bolts and aft-thrusters, he figured he could force a launch.
Tapping at the console’s controls one last desperate time, Davian grit his teeth as the machine refused him once more. “Fine, if that’s how you want to play it. . .” he murmured as he pushed back in the pilot’s seat and made to stand, then stiffened as a soft metallic knock came on inside of the airlock hatch’s jamb.
Turning slowly, he felt his heart drop. At the opposite end of the aisle, blocking the hatch, was Alexia.
“Hey Cap,” she began, smiling faintly.
In an instant, Davian thrust his hands down and drew his gun up. Leveling it at the woman’s chest, he coiled his finger around the trigger, “Stay the fuck back! I know what you are!”
“Wh-what?” Alexia asked, furrowing her brows concernedly. She took a step forward.
“Not one more goddamn step! I’m warning you, whatever the fuck you are!” Davian bristled, tightening his grip on his weapon.
Standing still for a moment, her mouth agape in an expression of bewildered shock and fear, Alexia then closed her lips and smirked coldly. “So. . .I guess you know, huh?”
“Oh, you’re goddamn right I do! I saw what you did to Lucretia! I saw what you are!” Davian growled, tensing his finger on the trigger.
Silently looking him up and down, the thing disguised as Alexia took another small step forward. Davian fired.
The bullet carved through the still air of the escape craft in an instant, and hammered directly into the woman’s chest. Without so much as flinching, she looked down at the hole the projectile had carved through her and smiled, “~So you’re after my heart, huh?” It took another step forward. Shrieking an unsteady war cry, Davian fired again and again and again, only stopping once the magazine ran empty and the smoking gun locked itself open.
“Do you want to know a secret. . .?” the creature grinned giddily, letting the face of its Alexia facade melt and transmogrify into a different, more mature rendition of the young woman. Taking another step, then another and another, it let its eyes darken to their natural, atramentous black as it gradually released any pretense of a natural skin tone from its dermal layers; changing from dark bronze to a sickly purple.
“S-stay the fuck back! I’m warning you!” Davian stammered, shakily rearing his gun arm back.
Taking another step forward, the alien thing calmly ducked its head to the side as Davian threw his gun at it, only for its eyes to widen in a millisecond of surprise when he then followed up on that action by madly charging toward it, screaming. Responding with a smooth and calculated series of movements, the alien stretched out its arms, grappled the man and slammed him to the floor of the escape craft, knocking the breath from his lungs.
Wheezing and dazed, Davian could only confusedly watch as the inhuman thing quickly draped itself over him, melting and congealing its body around his prone figure, ensnaring him within itself. Pressing its breasts firmly against his chest with a soft sigh, it brought its slender, sharply featured face down and hovered its gloomy lips over his right ear.
“. . .I’m after your heart too~” it whispered softly, then cackled with a warm, unholy satisfaction as it slowly reared its head back. In the pits of its darkened eyes, two luminous beads of yellow slowly burned in like a pair of infant stars taking their first breaths. At their pale, ghastly centers, two black slits cut down like yawning, mad crevasses. Two portals to a dark, antediluvian soul.
Quickly knitting its slender, mauve fingers together with his own, the creature then gently pressed the backs of Davian’s hands down against craft’s cold metallic flooring, pinning them above his head. “There we go~” it burbled sweetly, relieved to finally have its quarry fully subdued.
As focus slowly began to leak its way back into Davian’s head, he shook it, trying to clear the fog away. “Wh-what the. . .hell are you?” he mumbled drunkenly, still reeling from the blow he’d received.
“I am someone who has waited a very very long time for you.” The creature smiled softly, baring perfect white teeth behind its faint purple lips. Focusing the two primary eyes slotted within its skull down fawningly at its prize, the creature heaved in a breath of the escape craft’s stale air, then sighed happily.
Fighting back a slight urge to vomit as his head began to pound, Davian blinked hard. “Nngh. . .wh-what’re you gonna. . .wh-what do you want?”
Finding humor in the question, the creature chuckled softly as it gave his hands a gentle squeeze. “For the past ten millennia, I’ve drifted through moats of cosmic dust, singed in raging starlight, and froze in void all whilst contemplating the answer to that very question. . .it wasn’t until I saw your ship gliding through the endless dark, that I realized I finally had an answer.”
Closing its two primary eyes, the womanesque thing lowered its head back down and lightly rested its cheek to Davian’s. Sighing and cooing with enjoyment of the new sensation, it experimentally flexed its body around his, squeezing him softly. “You can’t fathom the lonesomeness that has been my existence Captain. . .for so long, I’ve had nothing but rock and nothingness to fill my sight, yearning to one day either see another living thing once more, or to fall into a star’s pull and burn away.”
Regaining himself slightly, Davian pulled his cheek away from the creature’s.
“No, no. . .please. . .please let me have this,” it whimpered, chasing his cheek with its own, “I’ve been so alone. With nothing to touch, nothing to feel. . .nothing except, nothing.”
A tendril oozed out from the creature’s runny clavicle and slowly encircled Davian’s neck. Exerting no pressure upon it, the nascent appendage merely arrested its movements, letting the creature once again hold her cool, slimy cheek to his.
“What are you gonna do to me?” Davian asked, mustering a superficial calmness to his voice as he stared up at the ceiling of the escape craft. Absently, he noted how the strips of soft amber lights running up and down the length of the craft’s ceiling almost mirrored the uncanny glow of the creature’s myriad eyes.
“What does any woman want with a man?” the creature replied softly, sounding almost contented.
“Y-you’re not a woman. . .” Davian grumbled, straining every point of his body against the strength of the creature’s all-encompassing hold.
“~Oh but I am,” it grinned and pulled its face away from his, “When I. . .dealt with your ship’s doctor and Alexia, I was careful to absorb every piece of information I could from them. In truth, neither of those women really died. They were assimilated on an atomic level. They became me, and I became them. . .they’re both still here, and they’ve taught me much.”
“You’re disgusting. . .” Davian glared up at the creature, feeling his fear turn to repulsion.
“That’s. . .hurtful,” it frowned.
“You killed and ate my crew, you think I give a fuck about your feelings? What the fuck even are you?” Davian strained once more, fruitlessly.
“You should. . .”
Davian blinked, “Should what?”
“You should care about my feelings. . .because I care about yours.”
“Yeah? Well even if I should, I don’t. And I’m not going to,” Davian said as he continued to glare up at the creature, feeling sickness slosh around in his gut.
There was a pause as the creature seemed to think over the man’s words, then it smiled. “I can make you care~” it spoke softly and huskily, laying a heavy tone of seduction into its voice.
“What the fuck are you talking about? Look, if you’re not going to eat me, let me go!” Davian squirmed, prompting the creature to tighten itself around him.
“No. I’m not letting you go. I’m going to keep you here and take care of you until you learn that this is for the best. I’ve waited over ten thousand years to find you, a few decades will be nothing if that’s what it will take for you to give in.” Nodding self-satisfactorily at its declaration, the creature shifted its upper body over so that it was laying on its side, looking directly at the side of her captive’s face.
“What are you doing?” Davian grumbled, twisting his head to briefly look at the infernal creature.
“I’m waiting,” the creature replied flatly, then returned to its stony silence. Watching him with its unblinking eyes.
After half an hour of laying in charged silence, Davian felt himself beginning to crack. Were the threat coming from a normal human woman, he would have laughed it off, but the creature imprisoning him within its own flesh was deathly serious. . .he doubted if it even understood how to joke. To it, he reasoned, hours must pass like seconds. And if it really had been around for over ten thousand years, just floating in the void of deep space, it wouldn’t mind waiting him out.
Suddenly, something came to mind. He chuckled slightly, causing the creature to stir and look at him. “What is it?” it asked, speaking in a soft and curious tone.
“Oh nothin’. It’s just funny how you say that you’re going to wait for me to. . .’give in’ to you, but at the most I’ll probably only last about two weeks or so before I die of thirst.” He smiled ghoulishly, confident that the fatalism of the statement would force the creature to shift its tactics and negotiate.
“Oh, I won’t let that happen,” the creature beamed warmly at him, betraying not even the slightest hint of malice in its words. “I told you that I would take care of you, Captain. And that’s exactly what I intend to do.”
Shocked for a moment, Davian pulled his lips into a grimace, “Well I’m going to die eventually! You can’t keep me around forever!”
“Are you so sure about that?” the creature raised a brow.
“What. . .do you mean?” Davian squirmed slightly, feeling as his legs and arms were beginning to go to sleep.
Smiling calmly down at him, the creature ignored the question and layed itself back down on its side.
“What do you mean?” he bristled, “What the fuck are you talking about?”
Saying nothing, the creature merely continued to stare as a cold, electric chill slowly ran up Davian’s spine.
Two and a half hours later, he broke.
“Okay, okay! I give up!” Davian shouted angrily. Straining to move his numb limbs, he looked at creature. It smiled at him, then shook its head slightly.
“No? What the fuck do you mean ‘no’ ? I give up! Let me go!” Davian growled.
“You’re not ready. . .I’ll know when you are, don’t worry.” It smiled again, then closed its eyes and squeezed his body contentedly as he began to fly into an ineffectual rage. Eventually screaming, shouting, and straining himself tired, Davian lay there on the floor of the escape craft and stared up at the lights.
After another two and a half hours, a small electric chime suddenly issued from the craft’s pilot console as the vehicle finished updating. Twisting his head over to look at the panel of glowing buttons sitting so close yet so far away, Davian swallowed a catch in his throat as he felt something integral wither inside of him.
About fifteen minutes later, he watched the holographic display projecting across the craft’s canopy blink out of existence, then the glow behind the console’s buttons disappeared next, and then the boarding lights on the craft’s ceiling dimmed and went out after that as the entire vehicle slowly went to sleep.
Immobile and powerless, Davian found himself forced to face a number of uncomfortable facts; he couldn’t move, he no longer had a crew that could help save him, and if what the creature had said was to somehow be believed. . .he would be made to stay like this forever if he stupidly refused to see the writing on the wall. He had to give up, there wasn’t anything else to be done.
“Okay. . .”
“Hm?” the creature stirred, seemingly breaking from an old, unknowable reverie as it propped its torso up and pressed its breasts against his chest, looking down at him with its maddening eyes. In the dark of the sleeping escape craft, their glow was considerably more pronounced. In a way, their gentle and patient glow was almost hypnotic, comforting even. . .like the night-light Davian remembered he’d had in his room growing up.
“What’s the matter dear?” The creature cocked its head, looking curiously at him.
“I thought I could fight you. . .that, while laying here, I could somehow think of some way to stop or get rid of you. . .but I can’t.” Davian’s voice cracked as a trickle of hot tears began to stream down the sides of his cheeks, “I let my crew down. They died for nothing.”
Smiling softly, the creature moved the tendril that was encircling Davian’s throat up to his face and gently wiped at his tears. “They didn’t die, Erlendr,” it whispered.
Davian’s sobs paused as he looked up to the creature, “W-wait, what. . .what did you just call me?”
“Erlendr. . .your last name. I understand Doctor Jaylin often addressed you by that. She always found humor in how uncomfortable it made you whenever she did. I suppose, in a sense, she still does,” the creature smiled.
Bewildered, Davian sniffled. “Jaylin might’ve been a rape-y bitch, but she was the only one who ever bothered learning my last name. H-how did you that find out?” He swallowed dryly, “Were. . .were you really not bullshittin’ me about Jaylin and Alexia? Are they really. .a, a part of you?”
“Of course they are. I took in every atomic structure of their being and encoded it into my own. Their memories are mine. Separate, but present.” The creature smiled, extending a tentacle to tap thoughtfully at the side of its head.
Overcome by the implications of such a statement, Davian frowned, “I. . .I don’t know how to feel about this. Why? Why me? Why couldn’t it have been someone else that you boarded and went after?”
“You were the second craft that passed my way. In my foolishness, I let the first of your kind’s craft that neared me get away. I wasn’t going to miss my second chance at happiness.” The creature gave a small shrug of its slender shoulders.
“So that’s what you want huh? You want to be around me, and look after me? Why?” Davian frowned, unconvinced.
“I. . .don’t want to be alone again. Ever. So I must become your mate, someone that you can never be without.” The creature sighed, “I understand if that’s selfish. . .but most things humans do are as well. I think that makes me similar. And being similar engenders understanding, and understanding engenders. . .love.”
Davian stared blankly into the creature’s dozen luminous eyes, piecing together its logic. “Wait. . .so, you want to be loved?
“Yes. By you.” The creature smiled. “I want you to crave my touch, like I do yours. I want you to enjoy my company. I. . .only want to make you happy. If I do that, I feel that I will be happy as well. Do you think I could do that for you? Make you. . .happy?”
Davian sighed and shook his head at what he was considering, but desperation gave him no other option. “Maybe. . .but you’d have to let me get up first. Do you think you could do that for me?”
Thinking to itself for a moment, the creature smiled down at him. “Maybe. . .will you try to escape from me if I do?”
“That’s the first part of a relationship, you have to trust eachother.” Davian answered calmly.
“That’s true. . .Alexia understood that. She liked you very much. I trust you, Davian. Please, don’t betray me.” The creature spoke quietly, almost pleadingly as it untangled its lower body from the man’s and slowly released him from its omnipresent grasp, all except for one hand, which it kept its fingers tightly interlocked with his.
After a period of quiet hesitation, the thing sighed and gave his hand one last affectionate squeeze, then released it.
Stunned, Davian awkwardly dragged himself up from the ground and sluggishly worked blood back into his aching limbs as he stared at the creature before him. Locking his eyes with hers, he cleared his throat, “So. .uh, what’s your name? Do you even have one?”
The creature smiled, “I have had many names, but perhaps my most cherished one of all is Ev’ikasriagoth’uah Myll’drke.”
“Right. . .I’ll uh. . .I’ll call you Evika,” Davian nodded, “We’re going to have to talk about a few things. Not the least of which is you never pinning me to the ground like that again.”
“So. . .you’re not going to try to escape?” The creature now known as Evika, raised a questioning brow, her tone surprised yet somewhat hopeful.
“Nah, I don’t think so. . .and besides, even if I did try to, there’s nothing around here for about a hundred ‘secs.” Davian grunted, wincing slightly as sensation slowly came back into his body. “This escape craft doesn’t have that much fuel in it. So I’m more or less stuck with you, plus with the rest of the crew all gone or. . .well, whatever’s happened to them, I guess you’re the only company that’s left. . .And I kinda don’t want to be alone either.”
For a moment the two looked at eachother, both searching for ways to tell what the other was thinking. Then, the creature stepped forward, helping to support Davian as they slowly retreated from the interior of the escape craft together, doing so not merely because they had reconciled, but because in each of their hearts they knew that they’d found something precious — a love that came from beyond.