The dim light of our flashlights barely reached the edges of the huge container. It had a smooth surface which reflected the light and cast dim shadows above us. It looked ancient and yet there was no rust or even a dent in it. Whatever could be inside?
So far our trip through the old wreckage of the dreadnought had been disappointing. Usually abandoned dreads held a huge supply of abandoned weapons or at least you could salvage the weapon systems. This one was different. Once build by Akula Vektor it must have been remodeled at one time. Not only were there no weapons left, all airlocks had been removed and it had also been outfitted with a couple of huge cargo bays, all empty except this one.
When we had encountered the wreckage amid some Transhuman ruins on one of Uranus' moons we were hoping for a payday. But so far everything was empty. No crew, no bodies, not even hints that there ever had been a crew. Nothing. But it had been airborne at least once before it crashed here.
We had left with a three men reconnaissance team to investigate. Me, the captain, my second in command Sue Mannings and our tech whiz Hoshi Natawa. And now we stood before our only finding. A container so huge, that there was no chance we were going to get it out of here in one piece. Our ship was an old Jupiter Arms tech cruiser, rebuild for salvaging purposes, but it couldn't move that whole thing.
Hoshi said something in his usual heavy Japanese dialect speaking so fast you could hardly make out what he was saying. “Right”, mumbled Sue “this will be a hard mother to crack!”
“Ok, time to get some coin.” I started to circle the container.
“And how do you suppose we get that thing out of here? Just by pushing?”
Sue's mocking remark stopped me dead in my tracks. She was a mighty fine second in command, fun to have around and tough as nails. But sometimes she needed a little reminder that there was an actual chain of command. “Ok, fine. You two find a way to open this thing, I will contact the ship and tell them to redock at this cargo bay. With the ship near, we can haul in whatever is inside this thing and leave the shell behind.”
Hoshi only groaned and cursed something unintelligibly, while Sue just looked at me one eyebrow raised. “Aye aye, sir.”
I turned around and tried to call the ship but received only static. We had already made contact multiple times during our tour through the dreadnought, so I knew the comm-unit was working. Something was different now.
“I'm getting nothing here. I'll head back a bit to make contact.” I called back over my shoulder tracking back the way we had come.
Hoshi yelled something to me, maybe an insult, maybe a warning, I didn't care much. “Sure Hoshi, I'll keep that in mind.” was my only response.
I headed through a doorway, still wondering why there were no airlocks, and continued on hammering away on the seemingly useless call-button of my comm-unit.
I entered one of the tunnels leading back to the bridge, when the comm started to crackle.
I was just about to call in my orders when there was a sudden impact. It was as if the air was sucked out off the room and then pushed back with a sudden violent impact. I could barely keep myself on my feet.
Forgetting orders, comm and everything else I rushed back the way I had come.
At the entrance to the cargo bay I saw a shadow clinging to the door. It was Sue. I ran to her, sidearm in hand and took aim into the cargo bay.
My heart lost a beat at the sight. The whole room was tinged in a light blue glow which emanated from a crack that ran through the container from the bottom upwards. Right in front of it I could make out the prone silhouette of Hoshi. Vicious blue flashes covered his body as if it was supercharged and just when the flashes seemed to dwindle a new series crackled forward from the container shaking his body. Some others crept across the floor as if they were searching for a target to attach to like leeches looking for blood.
I turned to Sue looking if she was okay. She was pale and shaking slightly but seemed unharmed.
“N-No idea. We found some sort of mechanism and Hoshi started to fidget with it when suddenly the whole thing just cracked open and he was electrocuted.” she gasped, her breathing still shallow and ragged.
Another loud creaking like metal tearing apart made us turn back towards the container. The crack seemed to grow and more flashes sprang forward and a hissing and whispering started to fill the whole bay. The flashes got further away and crackled trough the air, reflecting from any surface they struck.
“Time to go!” I said taking Sue's arm and putting it around my shoulder.
“He's dead, Sue.”
A short flicker of doubt crossed my mind. How could I be sure? How could I leave him behind? But there was no time. I had to make a choice.
Without another comment I dragged Sue with me into the tunnel away from the cargo bay. Before we turned another corner I looked back and saw that the blue glow was intensifying and I thought I heard the crackle of the flashes creeping nearer. We had no time to loose.
I stormed on. Sue was stumbling beside me, leaning heavily on me.
“Come on Sue, we can make it!” I tried to encourage her.
“Some damned Transhuman tech won't stop us, huh?”
“Home...” she just whispered.
“Yeah, we'll get home. No problem. The drinks are already waiting for us.” I was babbling, trying to boost my own morale more than hers.
“Going home...” she repeated.
“Sure, sure, home is where the heart is.” I pushed her through another doorway and looked back.
There was that blue glow growing ever stronger and the flashes crackling at the walls, ceiling and floor. I just wanted to push through the doorway myself when I noticed a shadow. A shadow that was coming through the glow taking away some of its intensity, but the flashes got more vicious and louder. And the whispering started again. A hissing sound emanating from the glow and the flashes.
I moved forward. No payday, no coin, just run and get out alive.
I hooked Sue on who was now in a nearly catatonic state. Her eyes were huge and looking unblinking into the distance.
“Home...” she whispered.
I didn't answer this time just stormed onward, Sue at my side while I tried to reach the ship through my comm. But there was just static.
The dark corridors got more and more tinged into the blue glow of whatever followed us.
Our ship wasn't far anymore.
We rounded the last corner and stood before the airlock to the docking tube.
I tried the comm again. “Open the hatch!” I screamed into the comm while pressing the send button.
“Is everything alright, captain? The scanner readings are kind of... strange.” James, the second mechanic answered.
“I don't care! Open the hatch!” I screamed.
“Home...” whispered Sue.
“Yeah, we're nearly there, Sue.” I answered, eyes locked onto the still not moving hatch.
“Home... we just need to go home...” Sue mumbled. There was something cold and distant in her voice, as if spoken from very far away.
I looked at her. She had her gaze lowered, but her frame seemed more erect, although she held her body in an unusual way, like a puppet that had some strings missing.
“We need to go home.” she pressed sounding nothing like the Sue I knew.
I took a step back from her, my back towards the hatch, my eyes locked on Sue, behind her the blue glow growing stronger, the hissing growing louder. And then there was the shadow accompanied by crackling and hissing blue flashes. It came around the corner.
It was Hoshi. Or it had been Hoshi. The flashes danced across his body like an overcharged electromagnet and his eyes were all white, just a blue glow emanating from them.
Sue looked up. Her eyes too were all white, a blue glow was starting to form in them and a flash danced across her chest.
“Home.” both my former crew mates said in unison with the hissing. It seemed as if they were voicing what the flashes tried to say. “We need to go home.”
Behind me I heard the airlock hiss. I knew I had to reach my sidearm and I also knew it wouldn't help.
No payday. No coin. No escape.