Chapter 7 : Intensive Care
The walk to the bridge didn’t take long, I wish it took longer; it wasn’t long before the door to the bridge was in front of me. The door opened slowly and silently, sounds of the computers and instruments blinking away found their way out to me in the doorway.
Ewan pushed in past me making his way into the room towards a chair near where Hayden had her back turned looking over a navigational chart of the system we were headed to, upon noticing us entering turned off the chart and gave us her attention, “so, are we fucked?” Ewan chortled to himself wiping a tear from his face, “no, far from it captain, the ship is in tip top shape no sign of damage to the hull or instruments, unless you found anything Clarke?” “eh…no, nothing, I mean my helmet kinda broke I guess, started playing static into my ears, but that’s it,” I stuttered as I clasped my hands together while moving my feet and knees together. “Okay, well, that’s good, see ya two at the diner table,” Hayden dismissed us with a small wave of her hand gesturing towards the door.
I grant wishes.
Those three words stuck with me on the walk down to the social area, what could I wish for? Was there a price to pay, surely wishes weren’t free and I’d have to give up something in order to get what I wanted?
Ewan looked at the pool table, “know how to play pool Clarke?” “Yea, I think so, you try to get your colour of balls in the holes without getting other colours in right,” I replied sure of my answer yet unsure of if I was thinking of the right game. “Cool, lets play a game or two while we actually have some spare time.”
We played fist, peace, five to see who would go first. I lost, obviously, Ewan always won when it came to that game. So we set up the balls then rubbed the tips of our cues with that weird pink chalk that was kept near the table as some kind of ritual, I don’t actually know what the purpose of the chalk was for just that everyone did it.
We potted ball after ball, the score stayed pretty even with us only managing to get in three at most in before missing and giving the other a turn, it came down to the black which had ended up at the most awkward place in respect of where we could hit it. It was Ewan’s turn so obviously instead of let me win he moved to ball to an even worse shot and played it off as though he was bummed by his ‘bad’ shot.
I lined the cue up to the ball using my index finger to aim and resting the cue on the space between my thumb and my index finger, once I lined up the two balls I pushed the cue towards the target. The world slowed as the long stick rushed towards the white orb making short but controlled impact providing the white ball with both speed and direction. The ship rocked from side to side, the lights blinked; once, twice, thrice. The ship stabilised, the lights hummed regularly. “What the hell kinda piloting is going on up there! Forget the game Clarke we’d better head up to the bridge and see what joker is drunk flying.”
With that we left the common room hurriedly via the stairway, looking back as I turned the corner I could’ve sworn that my ball had disappeared and Ewan’s was exactly where it was before.
The jog to the bridge was oddly silent, the sounds of our footsteps rang out down the corridor, we were both focused on making it there and seeing what was going on and stayed quiet. As we approached the bridge Ewan slowed to a fast walk before sorting his non existent hair with a quick swipe of his left hand while pressing the door button with his right. It opened swiftly to reveal everyone looking over and operating various instruments while Hayden barked orders. We were nearing the planet of Vicarious Ellie, it was located in the Dead Langford system, this system was renowned for being home to fighting between sects of various cults.
“What the sweet hell are we doing in zealot controlled space Hayden?!?” Ewan shouted while turning to face the captain. “We’ve taken blows to the rear of the Alexia; Jenny, Jerome get down to the cargo bay, check for intruders with extreme prejudice.” Jenny and Jerome turned and made their way out of the bridge powering up their sidearms. “Are you just going to ignore me?!?” Ewan shouted at Hayden the veins in his neck starting to budge with anger. A second passed without Ewan moving a muscle poised to charge the captain at any given second. Then she spun towards us giving Ewan the attention he wanted, “we’re here because we have a job to do, the details are above your pay grade, go back to the engineering deck and I’ll call the two of you up if the situation changes, make yourselves ready to fix the ship up fast when we land though.” With that she turned back to just Unit_L3.w15 and the Alexia.Ai as both Doc Evana and Valentine stood looking out the front of the bridge with anticipation of the closing planet.
Ewan grumbled something incomprehensible in Chinese under his breath as he headed out of the bridge and waved me to follow after him. The long walk back to the engineering deck was filled with Ewan grumbling about what zealots were capable of and how we were way too ‘out-gunned’ to even be in this system let alone be headed to Ellie. The planet was estranged, zealots had been fighting over the planet ever since relics had been discovered buried under its surface. He was furious, scared and furious; after a few too many evasive manoeuvres Ewan pulled out various tools, frames, power sources and circuits. I knew what he was doing, he was making a weapon of his own design, he’d probably settle on a simple design of ionised plasma projectile with a rotary cuff attached to a small handheld frame. He’d made something similar to cut through various substances and even cut up a big ham when the knives were all being washed.
The point of it was we were engineers going onto a notoriously dangerous planet Jenny and Jerome were only two people against a horde of mad zealots wielding relics beyond their understanding or control; safety was going to be an issue and just being part of the engineers union wouldn’t save you from dismemberment. I pull up a chair and started to work on a few things I could use to help myself if things got preachy.
Chapter 8 : Special Delivery
The lights dimmed, flickered on and off, cabinets rattled, we were landing. Hard. Alerts pinged on our consoles, the hull was burning up, this was not the optimal angle of entry. Darkness, then a red glow, “BraCe f0R iMpacT, AfteR lAndiNg sEek M3diCal aId if NecessaRy,” the Alexia broadcast throughout the entire ship. Our monitor flicked to a countdown, ten seconds. Fuck. We scrambled into our safety pods where the suits were put away and fastened ourselves in faster than a professional track racer.
The lights turned off, the Alexia was racked with the impact of the planet, things flew from the drawers and shelves in the room we were just a part of, the darkness and shaking went on and on, it felt like we’d spent more time skidding over the surface of the planet than we had burning up in its atmosphere. I couldn’t hear Ewan, but when I turned my head to see into his safe space I couldn’t help but grin and laugh as he was blatantly swearing his head off thinking he was going to die, at one point it looked like he was apologising for installing a camera in a bathroom or something; I’m not good at lip reading.
Touch down. I freed myself from the confines I put myself in for safety, opened the door of the pod and fell to my knees. My chest ached with the intense vibrations of the crash coupled with the tight restraints, I traced my hands over my chest checking to see if my ribs were still all in the same place; they were, I gasped a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to go see Doc Valentine to fix me up. Catching my breath I looked around, all the instruments that were on the table were well not on the table.
I turned around legs rather sprawled out on the floor just in time to witness the grace that was not Ewan freeing himself and lumbering out of his pod. It was like a bear that was wearing sneakers too tight for his big paws flailing around with the laces, it was fun to watch till you realise it is watching you expectantly for help while you sit on your derrière. Reluctantly I got up, my legs felt like jelly and my arms might as well have been jelly. I opened up his pod and got to work cutting him lose from his restraints with the tiny flip knife that I kept on my person in case something needed cut or opened.
Once free he hugged me, stopped looked at me, “Are we fuckin’ dead or what.” He then gestured to the state of the room, everything was everywhere; we both broke down laughing as the lights started to flicker back to life. After the power levels seemed to be stable, he walked over to a control panel, “Looks like we’re gonna be fuckin’ busy, the underside of the hull is burnt and cut up all over, the bridge seems to have taken a good toasting too, hopefully it burnt Unit_L3.w15’s fucking circuits up piece of shit always creeps up on me and plays weird music at me.” While Ewan was ranting about how sneaking up on someone and playing shitty instruments at someone does not correlate with either intelligence or humour I looked around for the things I had made before the ship made a hasty landing.
The intercom bust into life suddenly, static at first I could almost swear I could make out, “I grant wishes.” No sooner had the static began, an explosion rocked the ship; a holographic image of the ship appeared in the centre of the room, everything was green. Everything, green, except the med bay, a sickly crimson orb radiated from the med bay and my stomach sank, my gut was telling me that the worst possible thing had happened, that I couldn’t do anything about, that someone was just gone from my life. I looked at Ewan my worries leaking out visibly while he looked into the hologram, his face stern not giving away the internal mechanics of it’s owner. Without looking at me he grabbed his makeshift weapon and went for the door, only stopping at the door to simply say, “hurry up, grab your stuff, lets go.” I scurried around my emotions levelling out from the descent into despair I had just endured.
We didn’t run to the med bay as much as I wanted to get there as fast as possible, we both understood that the ship, clearly wasn’t stable or was being hit as evidenced by the explosion earlier. We walked, briskly but carefully, each corner closer to the med bay was familiar yet filled with dread at what could lie ahead.
Chapter 9 : Genome Therapy
The sterile door to the med bay slid open as quickly as usual, I stumbled backwards the smell was horrible, the sight was hellish. Nothing imprinted itself onto the back of my eyes like what I saw. In that moment I died, nothing could have prepared me for that sight or smell. Flesh and wall, flesh and floor, flesh and ceiling; it was an insight into the crimson pool of hell, all this viscera fused into the room connected together with only patches free of the hellish visage on the glass looking into the bright white of the room where I was earlier restrained.
Ewan reached down and pulled me back up to my feet, “come on, let’s not jump to conclusions yet.” I must’ve given him the most distant thousand yard stare that he’d ever seen as he patted me on the shoulder and moved towards the portal to hell. I followed after him, slowly waking up from the stupor the grim scene had imprinted unto me.
Nervously, we entered the room; the floor went from reassuringly hard and metallic to unnervingly naturally and squishy, the floor was slimy and I did not want to slip here and end up face first in guts and insides. The door slid shut behind us, with the closing of the door the white light from the corridor was replaced with the bloody red of the lights on the ceiling that were enveloped in natural substances. I looked at Ewan and he gestured towards the viewing room.
Edging towards the small room I could see that the insides of that room had escaped whatever had happened in this room. Gingerly I reached my hand towards the bloody button to open the door into the other room. It was sticky, slimy and made the contents of my stomach lurch back towards my mouth, gaging with watering eyes I managed to hold onto the contents of my stomach. Squish, the door opened.
Inside lay Valentine; her body violently contorted, arms sprawled out towards the door in search of assistance each bending more than twice, her long legs wrapped around medical bed the bones broken and almost wrapping around the central leg of the bed but not breaking through her skin. Her face was hidden under a veil of long static red hair, even through this I could feel her eyes wide with fear and pain watching me. I held my hand cupped over my mouth and proceeded to double over, my last meal ripping up through my throat, burning up my oesophagus, my ribs feeling like they’d bend inwards and crush me as my meal clawed up into my mouth like a mole crawling out of a flooding tunnel to the surface and then sprayed through my cupped hand onto the floor, the smell of vomit, blood and death mixing naturally not the floor of this hellscape of a med bay.
Ewan rubbed my back and pressed the squishy button closing the door. I coughed and coughed and coughed, my eyes welling up and overflowing out to meet the pool of vomit, I couldn’t breath, my chest felt like it’d burst, it was all too much, a dream, a nightmare, a coma from hitting my head during the landing, a hallucination. Anything but this.
Reality slowed and brightened as the glass into the room with Valentine shattered out into the main room. The visage of flesh moving, the sound of Valentine’s battered and broken body standing and almost throwing itself through the empty glass wall, her pale skin littered with cuts from the glass, her arms still broken, standing on legs that were shattered a minute ago, the hair in front of her face had moved aside revealing a cruel grimace. Eyes missing from their sockets tears of blood lowing down her soft cheeks towards the tip of her chin. Her white lab coat cut to ribbons and stained with patches of red flowing out behind her.
Before Ewan or I even raised a hand to defend ourselves a syringe flew out from the corner of the room and embedded itself squarely in the centre of her forehead. What was Valentine slumped back over as quickly as it had risen and slid across the congealing floor till she hit soundly off of a lab desk. “Fucking run you idiots!” screamed the voice of Doc Evana. We listened and fucking ran for the open exit avoiding it and slipping on the gruesome floor. Tumbling out the door Evana closed it behind us and put the room into a state of quarantine.
“I’ll tell you what I know along with everyone else, for now let’s get to the fucking bridge,” with that she turned away from the med lab and headed for the bridge; exchanging a quick set of glances from Evana to Ewan to the door and back to Ewan, with worried expressions we followed hastily after the good Doctor.
“I know you’d explain on the bridge but while we’re walking how bout filling us in on what the hell happened during and after the crash?” Ewan questioned Evana abrasively. With a sigh, Evana stopped and pressed her back to a wall and faced us, “if I’m being honest I don’t have all the details all I know is that not long after we crashed the med bay was hit by something, whatever this was, it must’ve hit the bodies we recovered and were examining.” Glancing at her hands she continued to recall the events she could decipher as if in a trance, “those bodies erupted when the ship got hit and they were what coated everything in the room as you saw, I had a haz suit on to examine them before we crashed…I got covered in, them I guess.” Evana’s eyes welled up with each recollection, “Valentine was not wearing her suit, she wasn’t examining them, she made direct airborne contact with the substance, I could barely see in the suit covered in all that blood, but I saw Valentine lock herself in the other room, she was covered in the stuff too at the time, I blacked out, you two walked in opened the door and I crawled out my haz suit while you broke quarantine, the rest you two are aware of.” Looking disgruntled with that answer he stared at Evana, “why did Valentine attack us, what was that?” “I don’t know!” she screamed back at him unable to keep the tears from bursting down her face; her fists curling up tight, her nails digging into her skin letting blood flow from the palm of her hands as she gradually lessened her grip, “I don’t know dammit, I just lost my best friend to whatever that was.” A moment of sober silence followed broken only by Evana’s disjointed sobs as we all looked at each other and the floor before her sobs ended, she turned and walked off again in the direction of the bridge.
Giving Ewan a look that simply told him to apologise he sighed and we followed after the silently crying Doctor.