I moved forward down a buckled hallway listening intently for any sound. It was not far before the debris piled up was blocking most of the way. I could see the outline of a door ahead but it was buried under junk metal. I started clearing away all the debris so that we could open the door.
“There’s… something beyond the door.” Estella warned me as I was clearing the debris, “If it’s a person they’re… messed up somehow, their thoughts are.. broken?”
“Could be the spores infected them from the mines, drove them mad?” Aurora asked.
“I’m not sure, just be on guard.”
Some of the odd pieces were damn heavy to life. I started panting from exhaustion. Guppy ran up and tried to help me, but was mostly getting in the way.
The other gals just talked and talked. I finally broke in. “We have a more pressing issue at hand. I need some help clearing these debris away.”
“I think I might be stuck here…” Guppy piped up and when I looked down, she was wedged between two pieces of metal. I lifted up one of the metal parts so she could climb out. She squirmed free. “I’m not used to these suits. I used to be so good at climbing through stuff.”
“I’ll give you a hand Sam, Guppy, can you help Estella keep watch?” Aurora volunteered. Between the two of us, we made much quicker progress.
And then the door was yanked open from the other side. Estella screamed behind me, “Kill it!”
What came through that door were monstrosities, once-humans with vines poking out of their skins, distorted flesh, bones sticking out, limbs connected together by another vine. I let loose an arrow on them upon reflex. It might have been a good shot except that it went through a hole where there should have been a shoulder. A vine lashed out at me. I danced out of the way.
Aurora fired a shot behind me and bits of the ceiling came crashing down. “Sam, can you help me carry Estella back to the ship?” She asked me as more debris rained down on us. Estella, by this point, was clutching her head as she rolled on the floor in pain. I went over and slugged her over my shoulder. Jessica looked disoriented right next to Estella but I didn’t have time to console her. I figured it’s time to hightail it out of there.
“I’ll bring up the rear. We should fall back to our ship, I don’t think there’s anything left alive here for us to question.” Aurora said.
I heard that sound of vines dragging on the ground somewhere behind us that told me more of the human-vine monsters were coming through. I let loose a laser field blast on them. That punched some holes into one which got wobbly but still were able to stand. Aurora also let loose with her shotgun on the creature. It ran/clambered away while bleeding in red and green. But the other one tried to snag me. I went sideways and twisted out of its way. Aurora shot at it to clear the way for the rest of us. Green liquid spewed out and a wine fell to the floor. Everyone ran.
Halfway, a vine with a clawed hand on the end swiped at Aurora. She tried to slide under it but it tripped her up so that she didn’t quite make it. My heart clearly jumped to my throat as I knew I couldn’t make it to her in time. But she saved herself by firing point blank at the creature. Good girl. Although the aim was a little off, letting the creature strike at her again. But she made it through. All clear back to the Xing.
Estella thanked me. I asked if she was okay. She nodded, giving the pirate ship a haunted look. “I-I’ll be okay, but that… We need to blow that ship to scrap, no one deserves to exist like that, not dead, not alive, just.. Torn.”
We agreed to stop making those bio mines and torps in case they winded upon landing on the wrong places like a colonized planet.
“I’ll head to the bridge and bring us around, some more cannon shots into the engines should blow the reactor, and that ship to pieces.”
Aurora stopped Estella by holding up a hand. “On second thought, we should attach towing lines to it, set it on a high speed trajectory for the sun and let it burn, we blast it and bits of it could reach the nearby planet and infest the locals.”
“You saw how those things were tearing up our ship, they might fix it before it reaches the sun and then fly who knows where.” Estella pointed out.
“What have we unleashed?” I felt my brain getting too small for this discussion and decided to let Estella and Aurora figure things out.
“Fair enough, we can always let Guppy shoot the pieces that are left with the plasma cannons, get in some gunnery practice with Sam after to make sure nothing’s left.”
“I get to shoot stuff?” Guppy smiled.
“We got it under control,” Estella reassured me, “Just need to make sure to shoot it real good.”
“You know it girl,” Aurora told Guppy with a grin. “Sam here will show you how to fire the main cannons real good.”
“All right, let’s get to work.” I said.
“Oh, hey, Aurora, I found this when I was trying to help Sam.” I turned back to see Guppy handing Aurora a dented case with a symbol stamped on it. A single star with an arrow encircling it.
“What is that?” I looked at the case in Aurora’s hand.
Aurora looked at the symbol for a while before opening the case. “Nice work.” She said to Guppy. “No idea, yet.” To me.
“Looks like someone’s lunch box maybe?” Estella joked.
Inside the case were some test tubes with a greenish-blue liquid inside and some data chips.
“Looks familiar somehow.” That symbol joted a memory, something from Earth.
“It’s…” Aurora’s voice trailed off halfway. “It’s something for Jessica to figure out.” She finally said and held out the case to Jessica. Jessica took it but her brow crinkled as she looked at it. “Doesn’t look familiar, but if you have a lab, I can analyze it.”
It hit me then. It was some data company, to do with marketing or something like that. I used to pass through its headquarters a lot on Earth when I was travelling to and from work. I told the others.
“Hmm, I wonder if they’re the ones who hired the mercs?” Aurora said and fell into thinking mode. Then she looked up in alarm, “I just realized something.”
“Guppy’s torpedo missed, it was loaded with that same stuff, we need to figure out its trajectory and whether or not it will make planet fall or just head out into the black.”
“Best as I can recall it wasn’t so that torps gone, probably will freeze out in the black, unless some ship finds it.” She decided after a while.
“So we have to head out to Great Black chasing the missing torpedo?” I was excited rather than alarmed.
We probably should, yeah,” She nodded, “If not and it winds up being hauled in by some salvage ship the mess it causes, that’s on us.” Aurora hit the intercom and filled Estella in.
“Once we blast this ship to scrap, sure, we can give it a try, the torp should be shiny enough to see if we look through a telescope, or get close. Next time I come up with a brilliant idea, Guppy, remind me to think about all the ways it could go horribly wrong and bite me in the ass. Mom always used to say I was my own worst enemy, and my smarts got me into more trouble than it got me out of, guess she was right.”
“It’s ok Stella. I know you didn’t mean it to happen. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I mean, you and Aurora and Sam have all been very good to me when you could have just left me behind. You’ve all been good to me”
“Thanks Guppy, and you’re right, we just wanted to deal with the pirates, we didn’t really expect this to happen, not when the plants were more… Tame when they got loose on our ship. You should head down to the cannon deck, Sam’s probably waiting to give you those gunnery lessons.”