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As Simon glanced at the dormant vessel, he felt as if he should turn back, but he would never abandon his mission. Scientia, the research and experimental company Simon works for, had ordered him and his team of soldiers to investigate one of their space vessels used to perform government experiments that they had lost contact with three days ago. Even if it was just a communication problem, something didn’t feel right. . ..
“Is there a problem Unit01?” Simon jumped at the metallic voice of his team’s AI, CAM. “Your heartbeat indicates your thoughts toward the mission are uncertain.”
“I’m fine,” Simon said sternly. “What about the others?” There was a pause.
“Greg, Logan, and Ron are normal. However Gerick has the same uncertainty as you.”
Gerick was Simon’s younger brother. It was strange that they were feeling the same about the mission. And it wasn’t all just a feeling; the ship was just sitting there with no lights on as if the power had been cut. That aside, they still had a mission.
Simon flew their own ship around to the hangar area and landed it in one of the docking cells. He was the first to get off, floating over to the far wall, followed by the rest of the team. They all clicked their magnetic boots to the steel floor and started down the hallway when suddenly they heard a voice in their helmets.
“ALERT! The ship’s emergency protocol is causing it to draw power from the ship we arrived on to use for its own necessities.” CAM said with no genuine distress.
They had barely listened to the message before Simon started calling out orders. “Greg, go see what you can do to stop the ship from using our power. Ron, go do anything you can to help. Logan, look for anything that can be used for power. And Gerick, follow me, we’re going to find the crew and see what the problem is.” Everybody did as they were commanded. Gerick followed Simon down the long hallway for several minutes until they reached a locked door that blocked their path.
“Hmm. We should get back to the others. We still have a job to do here,” Simon told Gerick. After getting back, Simon checked on everyone’s progress. Logan hadn’t found anything that still had power, and to their dismay Greg wasn’t able to stop the ship from leaving them completely out of power. They all stood there for a moment, taking in the reality of the situation.
“Uh Simon,” Greg said with a shaky voice, “b-before the ship took all of our p-power, um, I was able to, uh, download the map of the ship into my suit. There’s a terminal at the end of the hallway where we could probably be able to, uh, find the ship’s AI unit.”
“Can’t do that, there’s a locked door down there and the powers out.” Simon sounded even more disappointed now.
“Actually, the doors operate on their own closed circuit. If we’re able to figure out how to open it, it’s a straight forward shot to the terminal,” Greg said, this time with more confidence.
“Well, a lot of good that AI does us, the power’s out. And once we find this AI, how’s it supposed to help us with the power issue?”
“The AI has its own power source so that if the ship loses power, it can save all of the data. And once we find it, it should be able to tell us where the ship stores its emergency power. It might take me a while but I should be able to reroute the power back into our ship. Were you able to find any of the crew?”
“No. We were only able to get as far as the door. But other than that, this place looks like no one has been here in months. But if you think we can do this.” Simon threw a glance in Greg’s direction. He nodded, shaking as he did so. “Then let’s do this.”
When they got to the end of the hallway they were faced with the problem of getting the door open. “Great, now what are we supposed to do?” said Ron, “you got a key or something?”
“I got our key right here!” Logan said as he brought the hilt of his knife down on the door hinges, breaking them off.
“Well that solves that problem. Push on.” Simon ordered. In the next room there were old computer desks with papers strewn across the entire floor. As they surveyed the area they found that there was a faint red light at the top of the room along with several broken ceiling tiles. The papers were odd too, they had rips and holes in them, but the strangest thing was that they all looked like they were dragged toward the next door.
“CAM, what do you make of this? What do you think happened to the crew?” Simon said, wanting some answers.
“I do not have the information required to answer these ques-“
CAM was cut off by a blood curdling shriek, followed by rustling in the wall. Immediately the entire team whipped out their weapons and looked around. Greg pulled a small device off of his belt and stared at it.
“Greg, what do you see?” Simon asked hurriedly but steadily.
“The noise came from. . .” Greg turned slowly, “over there.” He lifted his arm and pointed at the next room where the papers led.
“After me, step lightly, and don’t make a sound.” They obeyed and began to move toward the door.
Simon slowly moved his head through the door and looked around. There was the same red light in this room but it was even fainter than the previous one. Most of the light came for electrical cords that hung from the ceiling giving off brief sparks of light illuminating the scene below. There were large glass tubes that had been shattered, oozing their contents onto the floor beneath them. The emergency lock doors were half closed as if something had stopped them before they closed. But the thing they were all staring at was at was the slimy creature laying motionless under a piece of fallen machinery. It was as big as a Rottweiler but had eight legs tipped with sharp talons. A long jaw lined with scissor-like teeth protruded from a rather short body with a pointed end.
“ALERT! After a thorough search of the Scientia’s files of the ship, I have found that this ship was used for conducting biological experiments. The creature you see is most likely a byproduct of these experiments. However this creature has been defunct for over forty-eight hours now, and you have just heard a distinct noise followed by movement. Therefore logic suggests that there are more of these creatures onboard.”
The rustling came again, but this time it sounded closer. Everybody tensed, waiting for something to happen, but when nothing did, they kept moving. But before they reached the door, they heard the rustling again but from the other side of the room. Simon looked at the others and gave a signal to surround the area. Logan and Ron went around one side of the room while Simon, Greg, and Gerick went around the other. Logan and Simon met eyes, nodded, and then swiftly turned the corner, weapons at the ready. But all they saw was a few scattered papers and some more tube goo.
They lowered their weapons when all of a sudden they heard the shriek from above. Logan looked up only to have a creature tackle him to the floor. Logan was on his back with the creature on his chest snapping at his head. He grasped its neck and struggled to push it off, but it was too strong. Ron started whack the creature’s head with his gun, desperately trying to get it off of his fellow soldier. He was able to distract the creature’s head long enough for Logan to bring his foot up under it and push it off. The creature fell on its side and attempted to get up and flee, but Logan wasn’t finished yet.
He picked it up by the neck and threw it against the wall. It slid down the wall and once again attempted to flee, but Logan was quick to the draw and shot it in the side before it got away. It gave of another shriek, but it was different, more low toned and louder.
“What do we do now?” Ron asked, seeming to have already forgotten what he had just seen.
Simon opened his mouth to speak, but stopped and raised his palm. The others fell silent and listened. At first they heard nothing, but then they heard faint noises as if they were far away. They kept listening as the noises grew louder and louder until they were distinct shrieks.
“Greg, how far is the terminal?” Simon asked quickly.
“About two hundred yards. It has a basic wheel hatch that will be easy to open.” Greg answered.
“Then move!” Simon said, already moving toward the door. They had only just left the room when more creatures started to pour in from the ceiling.
“According to the map, it’s just down this corridor. No turns, doors, or nothing. Just don’t stop running!” Greg yelled above all of the confusion.
Simon looked back at the door they had just used and saw the creatures were already following them. They were still at least a hundred yards away. Simon panicked; he needed a way to buy them some time. He looked around the corridor, nothing. He looked at his gun and stopped running to let his team pass.
“What are you doing!?!” someone yelled. But Simon just waited until they had passed to start running again. Again he looked back; the creatures were even more horrifying up close. He tried not to look at them and fired his gun. It didn’t seem to do anything except tire him out.
Simon was exhausted. Ten more yards, 5 more yards, three, two. Greg, now in front, swung the door open and jumped into the terminal followed by the rest of the team. As soon as Simon dove in, Logan and Ron slammed the door shut, catching some of the creatures in it. The two kept slamming it until the creatures withdrew. They spun the lock and sank to their knees in relief.
“Finally safe,” Ron huffed.
“For now,” an unknown voice said. They all spun around to see large computer monitor with the letters T-O-M on the screen. “Hello I am the Technology Onboard Monitor. You may call me TOM. I am the assigned AI for this ship, how may I be of assistance?”
“For starters, what are those things?” said Greg, reading everyone’s mind.
“The crew has many names for them, but the most common is Crawler. I suppose it fits, they’re aggressive and dangerous. The scientists were experimenting with the Crawlers’ mobility when it first escaped. The scientist figured it would turn up eventually but they underestimated its intelligence. The escaped Crawler went on to free its fellow captives. They were able to reproduce faster than the scientists anticipated, quickly overrunning the ship.”
They pondered TOM’s words for a moment before Greg spoke up again, “where can we find the ship’s emergency power?”
“The closest power room would be mine. It is located through the door to your left.”
“Then what are we waiting for,” Simon said, “let’s go.”
“Wait.” TOM said, “Be warned, the Crawlers prefer light and warmth. It’s only reasonable that my power room is where many of them have amassed.”
“Noted.” Simon said. “Move out.”
Behind the door was a short hallway. At the end of the hallway there was another door, this one was a thick metal door with a wheel hatch like the one to TOM’s terminal. Logan opened it so that each of them could see inside.
The door opened up to a small room with a computer and a chair. The room had windows facing an even bigger room with a bright machine in the middle surrounded by hundreds of Crawlers. The computer was running, showing graphs, charts, and tables that made no sense to anybody except for Greg, who sat down at the chair and started punching in commands.
They heard the horrible shriek of a Crawler echo through the room. “Hurry it up Greg!” Gerick pressured.
“I need a minute!” Greg answered.
Logan had already broken out one of the windows and started shooting at the Crawlers. Simon and Ron began to do the same. Gerick stood at the door waiting for any Crawlers that tried to get through.
“Okay let’s go!” Greg screamed as he jumped out of his chair.
They all abandoned their posts and ran for the door, Crawlers already following them. They ran through TOM’s room, spun the wheel on the door, threw it open and started to run down the corridor, shoving the surprised Crawlers out of the way. Half way to the next room the hallway was starting to overflow with Crawlers. Simon pulled out his knife and started cutting a tube that was lining the wall.
“Keep going, I’ll be fine.” he said as he cut another part of the tube. He ran further and did it again. Meanwhile the Crawlers were only a hundred yards away.
“What are you doing!?!” Gerick Screamed. “C’mon!”
“Just go get in the ship. Logan, drag him if you have to. Just get out of here!” Simon ordered. He ran to the end of the corridor and watched them run down to the ship. He made one final cut then looked at the Crawlers.
“Yuh know,” Simon breathed, reaching for the matches on his belt. “I really hate you, you little freaks.” And with that he struck a match and tossed it onto the gasoline that had leaked out of the tube, then turned to run. He could already see the light from the fire when he looked over his shoulder to see the flame spread to the Crawlers and engulf them in a large flaming cloud. Simon slowed to a stop then leaned over to put his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath.
Greg, Ron, Logan, and Gerick bounced into their ship, huffing from the mad dash they had just made.
“Hurry up and get us outa here!” Ron almost screamed at Greg, who had just sat down at the front, trying to start the ship.
“Okay okay. It’s starting but it’s going to take a few minutes.” Greg replied shakily.
“But we don’t have a few minutes! And where’s Simon? He should’ve gotten here by now.”
“It’s not just Simon,” Logan said, “Where’s Gerick?” He leaned back and stuck his head into the hallway to see Gerick running back the way they had just come. “Darn.”
Simon looked up to see Gerick running toward him with a smile of relief on his face. He stood straight, getting ready to scold Gerick for disobeying an order when he saw his expression alter to one of fear. Simon had only just noticed this when he felt something collide with his right side, knocking him onto his stomach.
Simon raised his head to see a Crawler slowly moving toward him, its jaw snapping. He struggled to his knees, trying to get away, only to have the Crawler push him down again. This time he lay on his back, his body aching unbearably, only able to watch the Crawler advance toward him. It moved along his body until it was next to his head. Simon tried to move but it pinned his chest down with one of its sharp talons.
Simon knew this was it; he couldn’t find the will to move anymore. He tilted his head back and closed his eyes as the Crawler opened its mouth wider and rose up, ready to strike.
“Oh no you don’t!” Gerick yelled when he sprinted over and punted the Crawler off of his brother. Gerick helped him to his feet and started out the door.
“Go,” Simon said in a pained voice.
“No, you’re going to make it.” and with that Gerick helped Simon down the hallway. They were almost to the ship when they heard the Crawlers’ shrieks again.
“GO!” Simon screamed, pushing Gerick toward the ship’s entrance. “I’ll be there in a second.” Reluctantly, Gerick stepped into the ship.
Simon looked back at the horde of Crawlers at the end of the hallway and started to limp hastily over to his ship. He took one step in and sighed, then reached over to press a button to close the doors. He was stopped by the loud chink of metal and a low growl. His eyes widened. He knew what was happening.
Simon felt the uneven yanking of a Crawler as he was dragged to the door, hands flailing wildly trying to find something, anything to hold onto. Finally, his hand found grip, and this grip had a grip too. Simon looked up to see Gerick struggling to keep him in the ship. Their eyes met, Gerick’s were blinking back tears, and Simon’s filled with dread.
They stared at each other for a long moment before Simon averted his eyes; he now looked at the door lock, listening to the Crawlers’ shrieks. With a mighty roar he slammed the button and allowed his hand slip through Gerick’s fingers. Gerick stumbled forward and watched his brother being dragged into the hallway through the door until it sealed shut.
“We’re outa here!” Greg called out, and the ship lurched forward.
Gerick stared at the dormant vessel and his brother, long after it had faded into the darkness of space, thinking. He thought until tears flooded his vision and peaked his eyelids, sending them down his face, and off to the floor.