"When the mind is exhausted of images, it invents it's own."
Red was running.
The sounds of his boots made echoes down the metal corridor, irritating.
He was following his training; advance under cover, quiet recon pattern – but those tactics were made for the deserts of his homeland, not this big ringing can of a ship.
Got to adapt Red, or join the rest of the ghosts.
Ahead of him he heard a barrage of gunfire from the doorway leading into the next chamber – machine guns, none of his companions brought machine guns on this op. That didn't bode well.
He came to a halt looking into the muzzle of a custom terran corp rifle, held by an Earther in combat gear. They stared at each other for half a second, before Liam repositioned and gave a clear to John and Jac. Just a couple of years back he would probably have fired, but things were different then.
He ignored the accusations of the past and focused on the carnage in the corridor: Jac was rubbing his head while he emerged from a nearby room, while John was scanning their surroundings with his Ranger gear.
Those would have been helpful during the blitz on Kashmir, too bad the damn Belters weren't sharing back then … still not that big on it when you think about it.
Although John was ok for a Belter, creepy and weird, but ok. He'd proved himself on Mars.
In front of two belted 'Bots with machine guns a pile of barely recognizable human flesh was cooling and leaking out on the hallway.
What the hell is going on here then?
Great, they're coming out of the vents.
These things were barely human anymore, split jaws with rows of teeth, elongated hands and talons, great loping strides and animal, monsterous howls and shrieks.
But they don't have guns, so fuck them.
Liam was lighting them up, gladly.
They had made a 'Kill Box' with the two Turret 'Bots that 'Doc' had repurposed, John on the left with Red, and Liam on the right. These things didn't stand a chance.
Might not be so optimal next time though.
The thunder of guns shook the hallway and made his teeth rattle as they all unloaded on the approaching monstrosities, and then it was over. Silence and smoke spread out. Liam spared a glance at John as he was reloading, the belter was doing the same.
All business that one, we're not so different you and I.
But that didn't change the fact that they both knew that John most likely had killed some of Liam's friends during the skirmishes of the last age. Water under the bridge, they both avoided the subject whenever they socialized. Better that way.
'Doc' was cursing and making a ruckus over by the sealed door.
I'm no Mechanic, but I'm pretty sure kicking at the thing seldom proves to be effective.
Who was this guy anyway? He'd joined up with them after their last mechanic had suffered an … accident. They've referred to him as 'Steve' the first month before bothering learning his name – Now John was calling him 'Doc' like they were old pals and bringing him into discussions like he was their equal.
But he wasn't there when it went bad, he hasn't bled for us like we bled for each other back on …
Liam brough his shit under control, no time for that. The Belter had proven his worth with machines, John was giving him a chance, might as well do the same. Liam went about sifting through the corpses, partly looking for clues, partly taking medical notes on the mutations in these … things.
The Martian was shouting from the corner he'd been leaning against "Hey guys, I found another door!" he stepped back as a part of the wall slid away, revealing a stairway.
Good, maybe our luck is changing.
The bridge was slippery with remains, John didn't know of whom or what, he only focused on his footing. Under the metal bridge he could hear the water moving, the light from their torches reflected on the walls in a kaleidoscope of patterns.
I wonder if this is how the sea sounds.
John had never been on Terra, he had never breathed fresh air or walked without a dome over him. He was from one of the Firstcomer Families, to the Martians or Terran the term meant nothing. But to Belters it was something to live up to. His ancestors were one of the first to settle in space, and they had stayed there across generations. It had begun to shape them into something slightly different than human.
He looked at where Red was walking in front of him, the Martian was scanning the edges of the bridge with his rifle.
Your kind chained themselves to a rock the first chance they got, when they had all the stars to choose from. Fucking Dustwalkers, all the same.
Something caught his attention, a vague movement in the darkness to his left.
Suddenly Red made a shout from his right, twisting back to him he could see something slimy and long was gripping his friend, it's shape continuing from the bridge down into the pool below them. He had to help him.
Wait, the movement to the left.
John turned back just in time to see the spikeed appendage of the tentacle embed itself in his chest, it's icy toxins pumping into him as he screamed in pain and outrage.
Shit! No! Should have paid more attention to my sector!
He ripped the appendage away from his torso and almost fell over convulsing as he dragged himself back to safety. He could see Liam opening his medic kit, Jac was running towards him. Sounds were gone, his vision was tunneling as he staggered away from the bridge.
Didn't even get to swim, typical Belter luck.
"What I'm saying is that we need access to the mainframe somehow, all we've got so far is local controls, and that won't cut it." Jac highlighted his point by making a chopping motion with his hand.
"You saw what happened to Reznikov and John, that thing was big and it was fast, it's suicide!" Liam sounded tired, after carrying his squadmates back to the Angeliqa, stitching them up, and making sure they were stable, he had sat down to rest his head for a moment. That's when the discussion with 'Doc' had started.
He was seconds away fom punching the Belter Mechanic, just for being a tool, and for not shutting up.
"Then we go around somehow, we still haven't explored all of the aft, somewhere in the back there has to be a different access." The engineer was relentless.
Liam studied the dried blood on his suit and gloves as the irritation bubbled in him "Listen, STEVE – I'm tired, I'm covered in blood, I don't CARE how good you are with a tablet or welding torch, we are NOT going back in there JUST the two of us."
"Three. " The voice was raw and ragged.
Standing in the doorway leading to the improvised medbay, John looked paler than ever before, his eyes were ringed and his chest was covered with the silvery spiderweb-like material Liam had sprayed on him some hours past.
"The three of us are going back in there." He repeated, his voice had a tinge of madness or anger in it.
He looks like Death himself.
"Ok John" Liam edged, staring at the pale half dead giant of a man " But we're not going in now, I'm tired, you're barely standing – you lost a lot of blood, remember. And we don't have a plan"
He continued quickly, to avoid the annoying mechanic from interrupting him "We rest, we heal, we eat, and THEN we decide whether we're staying here or cutting our losses and leaving. So far all we've lost is some ammo – But we almost lost you AND Red , man!"
John looked like he was about to fall over, he gripped the top of the doorway to steady himself. "Ok, ok, we will rest, you're right Liam." He leaned closer, his slender bulk towering over Liam and Jac. "But. We. Are. Not. Leaving."
"Sure thing John, now get some rest"
I know that look, this is going to get ugly.
"Right, I'll get some rest as well" Jac added smugly. Liam gave him a look of death.
I'm going to punch that dude one day, it's a certainty.
"There" Jac added finally and kicked the lever for good measure, the gears loosened and started spinning slowly, the door slid away with a grinding slow sound.
Kicking things always help.
The corridor ahead was narrow, enough room for one man to stride.
"Right" John was tapping at the control on his arm, unlike the others helmets the visor of his Ranger helm showed no trace of his face, just a tinted dome of glass and metal tapering to an end at the back of his head, all sinister curves and sleek design. "No signs of movement, but hrmm .."
"Humm-what, Icarus?" Jace asked, his tone curious and annoyed at the same time.
The visor angled in his direction, the tall angular body betraying tension … or mirth? It was hard to tell with this guy. "Whoever built this ship did not have a problem with mineral rationing or economics – so the bulkheads and doors are thicker and stronger than what my sensors are used to." He looked back to the hallway, readying his autoshotgun. "So I'm not sure I trust the scans as much as I usually would."
"Send one of the 'Bots ahead, we follow in a line, me, Liam, then you. Keep two metres between each other-to avoid getting tangled if we're jumped. Let's go."
Jac looked over at Liam, the Earther just shrugged and lined up behind the large Void Ranger.
Creepy fucker at times, I'm glad he's on our side though.
They walked into the gloom, the clicks of boots and the whirr of belts preceding them. As the corridor widened out into a room Liam and John turned to each their side, scanning over the corners. "Clear." "Clear" They've obviously done this together before.
The left side had lockers, the right had … what Jace though were old batteries or generators, much weaker than what they had in their ship.
The door slid up and the mutated crewmen launched themselves into the hallway, climbing over the turret robot in their eagerness to get to flesh. The small corridor flashed with the gunfire from Liam and Johns automated weapons, throwing dramaticly distorted shadows around them.
One of them was running at John, it's crew uniform torn into rags and it's eyes blodshot and unfocused. He removed it's left leg with the first shot.
Aaaaand, Stay Down!
He filled the sprawled creature with shots until it stopped moving, then added two more for good measure. He quickly scanned the others, all hostiles down – that was good. He could have sworn I saw the mechanic actually using that SMG he was holding.
The man is an ok shot – make a note of that, John.
They advanced into the room, near it's center a large ugly anglular box was standing, surrounded by blinking lights and screens. A mainframe terminal.
"Jackpot." 'Doc' hissed.
Two other doors led from the room, one to a storage room with grilles separating the layers above and below. John did not like the look of those.
Too easy to get outflanked if we forget about those.
The other door was sealed, behind it sounds of … animals? could be heard moving about, grunting and roaring at each other. They hadn't noticed the group yet.
Most likely more of those shark-mouthed beasts we mowed down in the hallway, don't want to fight THEM in close quarters.
Now, what next?