Chapter 13: One way Forward
Slowly I blinked blankly failing to understand; how I got past the broken door. Slower and slower till the dust specs in the light also seemed to slow themselves to a gradual waltz down to the ground before being picked back up to continue their dance with gravity in the air ventilation system before breaking free back into a random hallway on the ship.
Slower than a mechanised turtle I dragged myself up from the floor dragging my back up the wall as I climbed from my seat on the cold steely floor. I readjusted choosing to get past the fact that I had ended up somewhere not on the ship and back to where I couldn’t get to earlier.
Slowly the gears turned in head and prompted me to forget about the white mist that clung to me warmly like a psychotic mother doting on her child much to it’s detriment.
I clung onto my gun remembering the task I had at hand, that I must not fail, that I had to kill that bitch on an atomic level so that not even her atoms would remain to hurt my friends on even a molecular level.
Breathing deep and my fingers surely pressing themselves white against the cold and hard figure of the gun; I pressed on, towards Valentine. No towards it, the thing that was our Valentine.
The cool corridor only heightened my anxiety on the fight to come, the air conditioning blowing tiny amounts of dust into my face and probably into my lungs. Only to be exhaled back out with a conventional amount of carbon dioxide to flow back into the filtration system cycle to be pulled through the carbon scrubbers and the hazardous particle scrubber to be pushed back out somewhere else in the ship.
Clunk, clunk, clunk. The magnetic metals of my boots clicked along the metal corridor up to the door. Gripping my gun close to my side and pointed towards the door I used my free hand to press the cool button.
It slid open swiftly and almost silently, my stomach had it not been emptied earlier would have been in my throat with nervousness, anger and fear. Each step into the room lurched my twisting stomach unwillingly forward. Each nerve in my body wanted to pull themselves away from the course that I had set. The lights in the room offended my eyes as the veins pulsed through my head as I scanned the room looking for it.
The room was pristine empty, a part of me loosened and sighed relief. But I…I screamed at the blank walls, and the walls screamed back, the symphony of despair filled the room, filled my ears, filled my throat, my entire being in the moment for that moment was an eternity and the symphony of screaming despair was my entire being. The tide of despair surged back to the sea of me, the ripples of anger calmly lapped the shore of my mind; turning back to the task I had been ordained, I resolved myself again. I would find her, and I would kill it.
My ears twinged, half from the screaming that just took place and part from the rough sound of screws coming loose from a vent above me. I zeroed in on the sound pivoting my body and gun towards the source; without even waiting a moment to be sure of the sound I squeezed the trigger, the deep blue glow of the shot replaced the harsh lighting of the room. The vent smoldered and smoked as the plasma burned the metal of the vent, it deformed and reshaped itself with the harsh heat, the screws holding the vent up melting and falling to the grate below. With the last screws fallen from the vent it came loose and smashed onto the ground with a heavy thud. Out of the hot, deformed smoking metal it came, slowly and deliberately as if it was a victim of a crash and was confused at what had happened.
The charred, smoking black and pink flesh pulled itself out of the crash, the alarms in my head flashing red and orange. I fired again, engulfing the refugee of the vents in fiery plasma once again, the sensation of boring flesh and smoking metal slapped the back of my throat like an overly eager lover. The thing didn’t scream, it just continued to free itself from the wreck it’s skin bubbling with blisters and hot plasma sticking to its hide like napalm. The jutting white of bone unveiled itself from the sticky skin it had been wearing, the muscles and eyes burned away. The hair fried and slipped from the scalp keeping it in place. Gaunt eyes peered forth from the burning white skull, smoking with an intensity colder than the harshest winter. The jaw opened and closed making a sound that was between laughter and a shrill death cry. It reached its hand out and pushed itself to it’s feet, the skin bubbling away from it pooling at its feet. I fired again and again and again. Engulfing the thing in more and more superheated plasma, burning all the skin, muscle and organs away till only the plasmatic fleshy soup and the bones remained.
Chapter 14: Nuclear Family
When it was over, and the smoke had been dealt with by the air purification system venting all the smoke to be filtered, the bleached bones stood atop a slickly pink and black gel. The bones had been fused together keeping the last moments of the thing called Valentine in place, burned ‘alive’ standing upright facing the source of the flames. Her jaw agape, the last sounds that escaped her lungs will probably haunt my nightmares, a laugh, her laugh will remind me that I didn’t just kill that thing, I killed a person, a friend, a part of the crew and a part of my family.
Alexia chirped “Quarantine ended; hazardous lifeform no longer present on deck, have a nice day”.
The weight of the announcement pressed down on my shoulders as I made my way back to Evana and Ewan. I no longer gripped my gun at some point I had released my grip and the gun was swinging in-front of me on it’s sling bashing into me occasionally. My boots felt like the magnets had been engaged but I knew that they were off since I couldn’t hear the low hum of the magnets nor did I have to pull too much to free my feet from the floor like I had gum for soles. No the boots were off only my guilt stuck my feet to the floor, only my conscience pressed down on me, only my shaking hands had released the gun from my grasp as much as I wanted to hold something tightly as soon as I let it go it dangled from its harness, swinging as I walked hitting off me every so often.
The walk back did’t take very long as I was walking all I could think was the purification system working in the background pumping air throughout the ship. In a way wherever I was on this ship and wherever this ship docked would have a little bit of my guilt pumping through it filtration system as atomic portions of the thing fluttered through the steel forest like a discarded nut falling to the floor only to sustain the boar bellow foraging for food just as we humans had to forage and ration breathable air. The chance that I was breathing her just now was a cold through, it pressed down on my shoulders like a firm massage from an uncaring masseuse, at the end of a long shift, in a country where no one was like them and the only thing keeping them was being paid more than what they would ever have gotten back home.
The door that was broken and didn’t open before opened with ease not fully open but open enough that I could climb through without it closing on me or cutting me to ribbons. I presume Alexia had something to do with the new found stability of the previously beaten door.
As I lamented the very air that I was breathing will forever remind me of what I had to do I reached the door back to Ewan and Evana. I slowly raised my hand to the button and pressed down slowly but firmly. The door opened before I had even fully pressed down let alone taken my finger off the button.
The soft lighting hit my retina like a caress lulling me to slumber, the recycled air brushed past me stroking my checks as they raced down the corridor. I urged my leaden legs to lead me into the room where I could curl down and rest my weary eyes.
My lids flickered over my cornea darkening my world as my lashes grew in my vision like a thick pine forest racing to reach the sun first while darkening the ground at their roots. I stumbled forward, carried, no gently pushed into the room by the weight I had been carrying on my shoulders.
The trees covered me in darkness. The rabbit below the trees would rest in its burrow down by the roots and slumber till the light came back and the night was through.
Chapter 15: Even Rabbits go to Bed
It was warm down here, down where?
I stretched my arms out to feel where I was, the ground was soft. Not soft like my bed or a pillow, but soft. Slightly wet and granular. Not at all as hard and cold as the steel I was used to.
Slowly I opened my eyes, it was dark, not dark like night but dark like a room with the doors closed. Slowly very slowly my eyes adjusted to the small crack of light tunnelling down to where I was.
The room wasn’t a room, it was a burrow. My hands were not hands, but rather they were the paws of a rabbit. Panicked I jumped to my feet, my head hitting off the earthen ceiling but before my head made contact I became aware of the large ears all rabbits have making first contact.
I sat still, thinking, evaluating. What was going on? Where am I? What am I?
Maybe I was dreaming? I’m in a dream where I am a rabbit in a burrow? Cautious of answers I readied myself on all fours, it took longer than I expected, the sensation of two powerful back legs and two front legs all needing to be used in order to stand was strange and entirely new but not uncomfortable.
Once I was ready I slowly tried to paw forward towards the faint light flowing into the burrow. The tunnel to what I could only assume was the surface was narrow and well worn, I had no choice but to crawl my way up to the surface. The tunnel was damper and colder than the the ‘room’ I had found myself.
As I poked my head out of the burrow all I could see was trees, as far as I could see in this darkness, trees. I listened, aware of my ears rising above my head announcing my birth to the forest like a tall fluffy beacon. Hearing nothing but the creak and groan of trees communicating like the elderly in a church during mass. I kicked my little legs hopping out of the hole, my soft pads touched the ground to find it was covered in discarded pine needles, no moss, no grass not even really dirt but discarded pines littered the base of this dark forest.
As I made my way through the forest the wind whispered to the branches and the trees groaned with indifference. Further and further I went, the trees becoming denser and the pines littering the floor became denser giving more way as older pines were more decomposed than the fresher ones at the top.
The light became dimmer as the trees got taller, the whisper of the wind died down only to leave the moaning of the elders elders. The thought occurred to me, why was I pushing through the trees, what was I going towards, was I looking for something or running from something.
These thoughts echoed in my head for a while till without realising I hoped into a clearing. A perfect circular clearing in the dense forest and at its centre was a humble oak trees.
I wasn’t even half the height of the giant pines, its trunk was solid but not huge, the roots were thick but not dense and spread out evenly around the oak. I stared at the oak and then I looked up.
For the first time I seen the moon smiling its pale light down and the blinking stars blanketing the dark canvas of the sky.
As I paced towards the tree at the centre the moonlight got brighter and brighter. Looking up I could see that as I got closer to the centre the moon rushed down towards me also. I ran towards the oak its solid frame looking to shelter me from the moon coming towards me.
The wind roared as the rock got even closer the pine trees gave way bending away from the source of massive pressure off the falling moon. The sky pressed down on the forest and as the ground began to rip up from itself and into the sky I was so close to the oak my little heart beating in my small rabbit chest, my legs springing with all the refined might of a scared rabbit running from an owl on a brightly lit night.
It was dark and cold.