3-5: Higher Ground

The pounding coming from the far side of the docking bay grew louder and more insistent.

“Let’s get to higher ground,” Laurie said, moving to her left and keeping an eye on the bulging door opposite where they stood.

“Does that hold for a derelict spaceship?”

“This old girl has a few tricks left up her sleeve, Bartender.” She patted the bulkhead affectionately as she climbed the stairs. The reptilian slung the rifle that rested on the counter next to him over his shoulder and followed, a wary glance into the docking bay as he did so.

“I hope you’re right.”

“When have I ever been wrong?” she replied wryly.

There were two sets of stairs which ascended from the mid-deck, where the medical bay was, one on either side of it. There they met the common deck, a rectangular room, with eating arrangements and seating aft and hallway fore, leading to the six sleeping quarters. A ladder lead up to the cockpit.

“What’s the plan?”

She glanced around the room. “Good of place as any to make a stand. I am going to go up to the cockpit and see what systems are online.”

“Do you really think that will help?”

“I know it will, if they are active. You get some cover set up for us.” She ascended the ladder, wincing at the pain in her side, throbbing through the drugs. She slumped into the pilot’s seat, togging the main power switch, yielding no result. She sighed, sliding out of the chair onto the floor and pulling herself under the console. Pulling a knife from her belt, she exposed the wires, splicing them back together from where it had been cut.

While whoever had boarded the ship had certainly disabled it, they didn’t count on her or the Bartender waking up. If they had, the entire console would  be destroyed. As it was, they had cut wires at random and left it at that.

She wound them back together, receiving a sharp shock for her troubles. She swore, and pulled herself back up to the chair, breathing heavily. She flipped a bank of switches, and the main lights came back on.

“We’re in business now,” she said to herself, feeling some measure of confidence for the first time.

A display sprang to life, showing the damage to the ship, a warning flashing that the cargo door was about to be breached.

“Ready down there?” she shouted to the Bartender.

“I suppose I better be,” his raspy voice returned.

She took another painful breath. “Then here we go.” She slid her fingers down the layout of the ship, sealing the two doors down to the cargo bay. The warning alerted her to the breech, and it showed life forms – an ironic term, given the state of the Dead Corps drones – pouring in.

The ship rocked and vibrated as the plated charges exploded from the walls of the cargo bay as she descended back to the common deck. “Think that got them?” the Bartender asked as she crossed to the makeshift barricade he had made.

“Let’s make sure,” she replied, crouching next to him. She held up her hand, the small computer on the inside of her wrist projecting a small hologram of the Venturess. With a gesture, they bay door dropped open, or attempted to, striking the ship attached to it. The rush of air leaving the rest of the ship could be heard through the sealed doors, sucking whatever was in the bay out into space.

“You do have tricks.”

“One or two. But so do they.” She looked to the manway leading to the cockpit, an audible clicking coming from above. There was a screeching, metal being cut by a torch, and the clanging as the coupon fell to the deck.

Laurie slid to the other side of the barricade, raising her pistols and peering over. The Bartender followed, bracing his rifle on the back of the couch they hid behind. She looked over at him, a pleading look in her one good eye.

“I meant what I said.”

“I know you did.”

“Don’t let them take me.”

“They won’t.” He looked back to the cockpit as footfalls could be heard. “Wouldn’t be my first mercy killing,” he said quietly.

A boot came into view on the top rung of the ladder, then another, stepping down slowly. The figure wore a long, black coat. It’s movements were stiff, and unnatural, taking each rung with a sudden jerk. It reached the deck, standing there for a second. Its face was a mangled mess, flesh hanging from the jaw, spots on the face and hands oozed. Laurie watched in terror as it stepped around the ladder, moving closer to her. She crouched, frozen, unable to bring her weapon to bear as it spoke.

“Laurie Mack,” it’s voice was a hollow rasp, as if its vocal cords were sandapaper, “you are guilty of crimes against all living beings. You have been judged, and you shall carry out your sentence.” It was mere feet away now, shambling straight for her. It leaned down, eyes milky white, hollow and glazed. “You will be imprisoned in your mind and your body shall mete out justice to the wicked.”

She could smell the rank decay of flesh, feel the breath, warm and rancid in contrast to the cold and sterile smell of the Venturess. Her jaw trembled in terror and no words could break free. A skeletal hand reached out for her, slimy with half-decayed flesh of the victim of the parasite.

It never reached her. Suddenly, with a sharp barking noise, the head exploded, spraying over the deck to her right. She looked to her left, the Bartender’s rifle smoking above the neck of the corpse as it fell to the ground.

“Took you long enough,” she said as her voice returned to her.

“I thought you had it,” he replied dryly.

“Let’s not talk about that.”

“You’re the captain.”

More footfalls could be heard entering the cockpit above. “Looks like they’re not ready to give up on you,” he said.

A metal cylinder fell through the manway, spraying a gas into the air as it clinked off the decking. Laurie swore and the Bartender charged over the barricade.

“Come back here!” She shouted, but he paid no heed.


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