Unknown System (J103951)
Planet XII – Moon 2
Warm, salty blood oozed from a deep gash on the left side of Trecia’s forehead. Opening her groggy eyes, she gazed into the large pool of blood in front of her face. The light from the emergency illumination reflected in the red liquid. Her body lay prone on the metallic floor near the airlock door. Moving slowly with a low groan, she pushed herself up until she rested against the wall.
In addition to the emergency sirens sounding through the corridors of the small Caldari Control Tower, the computer’s feminine, calm voice was issuing evacuation orders. ”Hull breach imminent. All personnel proceed to escape pods immediately.” The moon station was dying. Images and sounds flooded through Trecia’s mind.
“Who are they?” Commander Nurchin had demanded.
“The computer can’t identify. Ships are of unknown design,” the scan officer had responded. ”Six more have dropped out of warp and are approaching!”
As tactical officer, Trecia had locked the station’s torpedo batteries on the nearest unknowns and prepared to fire on the order of her commander. The order did not come as the enemy vessels simultaneously opened fire. The smug look on the commander’s face disappeared as the beams caused massive energy waves across the surface of the tower’s shield. Emergency warnings sounded as the shield buckled and shattered under the barrage. The shortage of strontium guaranteed no respite.
Explosions and loss of power cast the small crew into darkness and chaos. Trecia ran as the commander ordered the evacuation following five other officers toward the escape pods. Some turned down one corridor, and a couple with Trecia continued on to their designated pod. The station rocked beneath Trecia’s feet, and another explosion sent her flying against the bulk head. Darkness descended into her vision.
Trecia’s head hurt, and the pain was almost unbearable. There were flashes in her memory of the airlock door opening. Someone had stood over her. Something sharp was jabbed into her neck. She winced remembering it. A body was dragged through the airlock door. Then it closed.
Trying to look around, Trecia wiped blood from her left eye before holding her trembling hand against the gash. Cursing in anger, she got to her feet and stumbled over to the escape pod control panel. With quick touches to the screen, an escape pod door slid open with a hiss as the air pressure equalized. Red light slowly brightened inside as the computer’s voice spoke.
“Emergency escape pod system on line. Prepare for debarkation.”
Moving to Lieutenant Stewart, Trecia did her best to drag the other woman into the escape pod. ”Come on!” Trecia grunted in frustration under the weight of the woman. There was another loud explosion and the control tower rumbled and shook. Her other crew member was gone.
“Power core critical,” The computer announced from the hallway. ”Containment field critical. All personnel proceed to…”
Trecia closed the escape pod access port with her elbow as she dragged the lieutenant inside. Dumping her on the floor as gently as possible, she stumbled to the flight seat and fell into it. Wiping her eye again, she proceeded to initiate the launch command breathing heavily. Buckling in as quickly as possible, the pod’s launch system powered up.
“Launch in five, four, three…” The computer counted down. Trecia glanced over her right shoulder toward her prostrate crew member. There was just no time. Bracing in her seat, the pod’s escape engines fired. The sudden acceleration and force slammed Trecia into her seat. The star’s shone in brilliance as the pod entered open space.
Trecia lost track of time and distance when the control tower exploded behind her. The shock wave crashed into the pod in seconds sending it into a dangerous spin. Nausea and dizziness set in immediately as the woman groped for the flight controls. She barely managed to activate the stabilizers when the force of gravity assaulting her caused a loss of consciousness.
* * * * *
Trecia jerked awake disoriented. When she tried to sit up, the pain in her head slapped her back down. A soft moan drifted from between her soft, pink lips. She blinked her eyes in an attempt to clear the blurriness in her vision. Strong, reassuring hands touched her shoulders, gently keeping her from trying to sit up again.
“Take it easy… take it easy,” a man’s voice said in a soft tone. ”Try to relax and not move Lieutenant Arklin.” There was a pause as Trecia was observed. ”Good Lieutenant. Just relax. You were severely injured in the attack on your control tower.”
A bright light illuminated Trecia’s right eye. The pale green iris with its unique web like architecture quickly closed in response. When the light was removed it relaxed. Then the light returned and the iris tightened once more. Then the light was gone. The responses of her left eye were then checked by the man.
“Where am I?” Trecia asked, her voice quivering. Her eyes began to slowly focus on the man standing next to her. Trecia recognized the type of hospital bed beneath her in a medical bay. The thick, dark blue blanket and light blue sheets were drawn up over her chest. Her white medical gown’s right sleeve was pushed up to allow for various medical attachments and tubing for intravenous therapy.
“Technically, you are on board corporate station J103951 Alpha Citadel. But we call it the Keep around here. I’m Doctor Sellindu.” Trecia’s eyes drifted over the man. His brown hair was shorn to the skin, his glasses bent the low, indirect lighting into his blue eyes, and his black, long doctor’s coat covered his black scrubs. His clean-shaven features revealed gentleness as his sharp eyes regarded her as he answered. Sellindu was embroidered in white above the right chest pocket of his coat.
Trecia appeared to relax further as she sighed softly in relief. “I didn’t know if I would survive,” she said blinking her eyes again trying to focus on her surroundings. The room was small with numerous cabinets, drawers, and medical devices in their proper place. A large screen on Trecia’s left showed a real-time scan of her body. She could see her heart beating, blood flowing through her veins, her skeletal structure at another layer, other layers in the background that could be cycled as the medical staff required, and her vitals in real time, strategically placed on the screen.
“Fortunately, a rescue ship arrived within an hour and picked up your life pod. Then you were brought here,” Dr. Sellindu said.
“Is your patient able to answer some questions?” a woman’s voice said from the open door. Trecia noticed several others standing in the hallway.
A female nurse stood blocking their way and raised a hand to chest level, palm out. “You will wait quietly,” she ordered with a protective fire in her brown eyes. Her meticulous, nurse’s uniform with its black cloth was orderly and starched. Her silver name badge reflected the light from the hallway like a mirror, and her blond hair was pulled back and secured with a silver clasp.
The woman who had spoken frowned, looked around the nurse, and her brow knit together. “I don’t have time for this coddling,” she said impatiently. “I have a situation and I need answers!” The woman’s voice was loud and hard.
Dr. Sellindu sighed deeply looking over at the doorway with irritation. “I revived her against my medical judgment due to the situation. You can at least let me do my job my way.”
Trecia felt vulnerable and weak in her current condition, but that did not stop her from speaking. “What situation?” she asked.
Dr. Sellindu looked at Trecia. “Nothing you need to worry about this second, but if you feel up to answering some questions, it would be helpful.”
Trecia nodded her consent. “I want to help,” she said.
“Nurse, let Commander Revit in,” Dr. Sellindu ordered. “Everyone else can continue waiting outside.”
Commander Revit walked into the small medical room, and her strong presence filled it to overflowing. “Thank you, Doctor,” she said.
Her corporate, black security uniform far surpassed even the nurse’s neatness, and the shined buttons and medals drew Trecia’s attention. The woman was tall, her long brown hair was pinned and tucked beneath her military style, dark green beret. Her hands were clasped behind her back, and her chest was lifted as she stood straight and strong. A gun was holstered on her hip connected to her wide, leather utility belt with extra loaded magazines and other gear.
Trecia gazed at the commander a moment. “I would salute, sir, if I were able,” she said.
Commander Revit shook her head once. “No need, Lieutenant Arklin. You’re injured and on medical leave. Tell us…” The commander paused a moment as she softened her voice some. “Please, tell us what happened during the attack on your control tower.”
Trecia nodded, pulling at a strand of dark hair, and relayed what she could remember during the attack. “The attack happened so fast. I can’t believe it.” The woman shook her head a few times, her eyes lost in her memories.
Commander Revit listened quietly to Trecia until she finished speaking. “Someone boarded the station?” she asked.
Trecia nodded, her left hand going to the back of her neck. “Something sharp…” she started to say repeating herself when she stopped. She drew her hand away like it had been burned, crying out in pain.
Dr. Sellindu took her by the shoulders as Trecia tried to sit up. “Don’t touch it,” he said calmly though the tension in his words was thick. “Try to relax,” he ordered.
“What is it?” Trecia said in fear as she struggled. “What’s wrong with me?”
“Calm down!” Dr. Sellindu ordered again in a loud, steady voice. “You have to calm down!”
Trecia panicked and began to fight against the doctor. At first her weak attempts were easily dissuaded, but the more upset she got the stronger she became. Adrenaline released in her system, and she began to fight hard. “Let me up!” she cried hysterical. “Let me up!” Her hands gripped his arms and she thrashed her feet trying to get the blankets off.
“Nurse!” Dr. Sellindu yelled. “I need a sedative, now!”
The nurse left the door and hurried to his side. Within moments she released a sedative into Trecia intravenously. The patient went limp in the bed and relaxed.
Dr. Sellindu sighed heavily and stepped back from the bed rubbing a hand over his bald scalp. “She is getting worse,” he said. Trecia moaned softly, her eyes dulled by the drug and half closed.
“Show me,” Commander Revit ordered looking at the large screen.
Dr. Sellindu nodded and walked to the screen manipulating it by touch. Bringing the skeletal layer forward he focused it on Trecia’s neck. “Here,” he said pointing at the vertebra in her neck.
Commander Revit shook her head looking at the image. “What is it?”
The doctor turned the image slightly. “It is metallic and growing. The nanotechnology that has infested her blood and tissues is drawing the elements in her body like building blocks to this central point. For lack of a better term, they are constructing this device… and killing her in the process. This device is very complex.”
“For what purpose?” Commander Revit asked.
The doctor stared at the image quietly for long moments. “I have no idea,” he answered, “and unlike the other patient, this appears to be the singular point of the nanotech’s activity. This is far more advanced than anything we have currently developed. See these appendages beginning to form and move toward her brain?”
A chill went up Commander Revit’s spine as she nodded. The two officers that were with her crowded the door way, and the nurse was frowning as she glanced from them back to the screen highlighting Trecia’s neck.
“The one thing I don’t get is how fast the infection is spreading in the other patient, while this one is slow in comparison. All the nanotech’s efforts are focused right here on Lieutenant Arklin’s spine, while…” Dr. Sellindu’s analysis was interrupted by a horrific scream from the direction of the door.
Commander Revit turned, her hand going to her side arm. One of her officers was slowly sliding down the opposite wall of the hallway, both hands holding his neck. His fingers were red as blood pumped out of the gaping, open gash that stretched from ear-to-ear. The crimson torrent gushed down over his uniform.
A woman dressed in a white patient’s robe, splattered with the man’s blood, stood over him. She held a bloody scalpel in one hand. Her long, blond disheveled hair hung loose about her face and shoulders. Her free hand clutched the man’s hair, and with one swift movement, she smashed his head into the metal wall with a sickening crunch.
The other officer jerked his gun from its holster, brought the gun up, but the woman launched toward him with inhuman speed. The bloody scalpel sliced down across his inner forearm, the hand holding the gun, laying it open and slicing through arteries and tendons. His grip on the weapon went loose, and the bloody blade slashed across both eyes. The man screamed in terror and trauma as he scrambled away.
The nurse moved to the door controls as Commander Revit yelled at her to get out of the way. The woman in the hallway grabbed her and dragged her screaming through the door. The nurse’s hand managed to press the door control, and the door slid closed cutting off the agonizing sounds of brutality.
Commander Revit breathed heavily, her eyes wide with the turmoil of emotions inside her. “Doctor,” she whispered in a tight voice pointing her gun toward the closed hatch, “lock the door.”
Dr. Sellindu looked frozen and pale.
The man nodded stiff with fear and hurried to the door controls. “Locked!” He quickly backed away and ended up on the opposite side of the bed from the commander.
“Get Lieutenant Arklin unhooked from all the equipment,” Revit ordered, “We’ve got to move.”
* * * * *
The red splattered hallway with three broken bodies was quiet for the moment. The inset lighting in the ceiling cast shadows between doors in the medical bay. The door blocked her path, and she pressed herself up against it in the shadows away from the circle of low light behind her.
Lieutenant Ellie Stewart’s gown was open in the back, simply tied at the base of her neck. The muscular curves of her long legs were visible, the round soft lines of her bottom coming together and drifting up to her tail bone. The muscles of her back trembled as she pressed her ear to the door, quiet and listening. The bloody impression of her bare feet led right up to where she stood. Her hands drifted gently over the surface of the cold metal.
The woman’s soft lips parted, and her warm breath condensed against the cool surface of the hatch, separating her from those within. Her closed eyes slowly opened, a metallic gleam mixed with the bright blue of her irises, almost eclipsing that which had once been. Her face was emotionless and void of human expression.
Moving slowly, she bent toward the controls that refused to obey her and with a long, careful movement, her pink tongue glided gently over the smooth surface. Starting at the bottom it moved upward all the way to the top. Stepping to her right, she crouched down at the edge of the closed portal and became motionless.
* * * * *
The light indicating the door was locked went from red to green. Dr. Sellindu froze in his work freeing Trecia from the sensors, intravenous tubing, needles, catheter, and the leg restraints the nurse put in place before the violence began in the hallway. The air felt icy to him as his skin needled up his spine. “The door,” he whispered staring at the green light.
Commander Revit took a couple of steps back with her gun out in front of her. “Is there any other way out?” she asked in a hushed voice.
“Not really,” the doctor replied, “the door to the next room is in the restroom, but I don’t see how going out that way would make much difference.”
Revit wiped her forehead against her arm as she pressed herself to the back wall. “Great,” she whispered with sarcasm.
“I don’t understand how the other patient is even awake. The powerful sedative I gave her should have kept her out at least another few hours,” Sellindu reasoned with himself. He looked away from the door to the commander then down to his patient. Trecia was looking up at him.
At that moment the door to the room opened, and Trecia elbowed Dr. Sellindu right in the groin. He stepped back and doubled over with a heavy grunt of pain, slamming into a tray of tools that smashed into the wall. The woman rolled to her right off of the table on to the cold metal floor. Jerking up to her feet her eyes came to rest on the commander who had turned her gun on her.
Movement at the door drew Revit’s attention once more, and her finger pulled the trigger of her weapon. Lieutenant Stewart seemed to run on all fours, staying low, twisting and turning, moving at great speed outside the door way. Yet she did not move forward. The muzzle of the gun spewed fire and smoke, and the spent brass shells drifted through the air to clatter along the metallic floor.
Trecia lept across the bed and slammed herself into Commander Revit sending her into the wall. The gun smacked against the metal surface, but Revit did not drop it. Turning the weapon toward Trecia, the commander fired at point blank range. The bullet caught her in the side of the head and sent her flying backward on to and over the bed. She landed with a thud on top of the injured doctor.
Revit fired again toward the door at the woman who was peeking around the corner at her only to have her duck out of sight. The weapon’s slide locked open as she spent the last bullet of her magazine. Stumbling toward the restroom door, Revit made it inside and slammed it closed as she caught site of Lieutenant Stewart staring at her from the doorway.
Slapping another magazine into her hand gun, pausing to take a breath, she quickly opened the opposite door. Revit was about to step through into the darkness, when a heavy fist slammed right into her face. The crunch of her nasal bone echoed in the small, stark restroom. Falling back, she slammed her head into the floor, too stunned to keep her chin tucked.
Lieutenant Stewart hovered over Revit as the commander’s vision stopped spinning. Big tears streamed from the outward corners of the commander’s eyes, forced by the severity of the impact. Blood ran freely from both nostrils and dripped down the back of her throat. Her attacker was on her hands and knees, straddling her hips, her nose almost touching her own.
“Who are you?” Revit tried to whisper, her voice cracking.
Lieutenant Stewart’s face drifted up slightly, her head tilting a bit at the question. Her mouth opened a moment as if to speak and answer the question, but all that came out was a torrent of black liquid that gushed over Revit’s face as she vomited. The black fluid filled Revit’s nostrils, mouth, and eyes. Its warmth spilling over the sides of her head and neck onto the floor.
The commander’s hand sliced upward, having pulled her combat blade from her belt. The serrated knife pierced Lieutenant Stewart under the jaw, driving upward into her mouth, into the soft upper flesh, into her brain, pinning the woman’s mouth closed. Commander Revit jerked her attacker’s head to the left and drove the limp woman’s body into the floor. Following the movement, she rolled over on top of her, pulled the blade free, and waited for any kind of movement.
Lieutenant Stewart’s eyes were frozen in a blank stare looking up at the ceiling of the room. She lay absolutely still like a marionette puppet whose strings are cut. Revit wiped her face, spitting black and red from her mouth. Nauseated she got to her feet and found her way to the toilet. Unable to stomach the foul she could taste, she gagged and retched until all that was left was dry heaves.
* * * * *
Dr. Sellindu came to from having knocked his head against the floor and carefully got to his feet. He tenderly touched his head. The large knot felt painful, but the pain between his legs felt much worse. Groaning, the man crossed to the door and stepped through. A couple of nurses were running toward him having been drawn by the sounds.
The pair stopped short seeing the bodies and splattered red across the floor and walls. The man shook his head with wide eyes. “What happened doctor?” he asked.
Dr. Sellindu took a couple of steps leaning against the wall for support breathing heavily from the pain. “As of this moment, medical quarantine. Highest level. There is some kind of biomechanical pathogen on board the station.” he said. “Containment,” he ordered. The male and female nurse looked at one another and turned to carry out his orders.
Two shots rang out from behind the doctor striking the pair in the back and both fell heavily to the ground. Turning slowly, the doctor looked into the black stained countenance of Commander Revit. She held the head and upper, bloody spine of Trecia in one hand. In the other, her fingers gripped her gun. The dark device attached to Trecia’s vertebra, glimmered in the low light and dripped blood. Revit’s emotionless face stared back at him a moment before the hard metal of the weapon struck him across the temple.
Blackness descended upon the man as he slumped to the ground. Before his eyes closed, he noticed the hand of the first security officer slain by Lieutenant Stewart. The fingers curled and relaxed.
* * * * *
14 hours later…
In the blackness of space among the stars, a light flashed as a ship dropped out of warp. It was drawn to the repeating signal as designed. The craft was sleek, small, and robotic arms activated curling at the central joint. Soft white lights dotted the craft’s surface. The blue white fire of its engines carried it forward.
The craft moved toward a dark structure lacking power. A human observer might show concern the hull was ruptured, but there was no one on board the small ship who felt emotion. The name and inhabitants of the broken citadel did not matter. A bright, white beam shot out as the craft approached scanning the debris, drifting ships, and the countless, lifeless bodies.
Another signal was sent, and moments later numerous flashes of light shown across the solar horizon as more of the craft dropped out of warp. Automated, programmed behavior moved the fleet of craft into perfect harmony as tractor beams reach out and lifted the dead from their frozen graves of silent darkness.