Thursday, November 18, 2010

Climbing Down to Darkness

The harsh actinic glare of the cutting torch cast sharp-edged shadows in the dim red-lit derelict vessel. Its ferocious heat slowly carved a circular entrance into the ceiling, and when the leading edge reached its point of origins, the now loose slab of tritanium slammed down to the floor, the clang echoing up and down it’s corridors. A black rope fell down from above, and pooled on the scuffed steel floor. Through the emptiness of the void surrounding the craft, a wave of radiation carried a voice, crackling with solar interference and compressive algorithms.

“Salvage Team Alpha to Claw Shrimp Away Command, we have gained ingress to the scuttled transport. Interior is quiet, emergency lighting still on. There appears to be functioning life support, sir. Permission to make entry?”

“Permission Granted, Alpha. Stay frosty, this is a prisoner transport, and we don’t know what happened,” the response came back.

“Roger that, Command. We’ll stay in contact.”

First one figure then another dropped down the rope. They are black-clad, armoured with slightly scratched and dented armour plates, their sensor studded helmets rotating to take in the interior of the craft.

“Command, this is Alpha. We’re in. Looks quiet still form here. By your scans, we should be just aft of the cells.”

One figure patted the other on the shoulder, and the other nodded, then they began to move down the corridor, their heavy boots softly clanking on the floor.

“Command, the cell block is mostly empty; only one slot is loaded. Moving to investigate.”

“Roger that, Alpha. Keep us appraised.”

“Uh, looks like the locks on the cell are disengaged, Command. We’re going in.”

The utter blackness of the room was slowly pushed back into the corners as the door swung silently open, silhouetting the intruder in the soft red glow of the emergency lighting. His head swung from side to side, and then his hand rose to the bulbous insect-like helmet. With a sharp click, seeming overly loud in the dead quiet of the space, a bright spear of light shot from a lamp on the side of the figure’s head, throwing a brilliant circle of light on the opposite wall, and resolving the vague shadows of the chamber into the shapes of a cell, with three additional sprawled forms laid across the floor. The light flicked back and forth once, checking the corners of the room, then leaped to the figures of the floor, illuminating the lifeless forms of three men, dressed in the uniforms of the Minmatar Republic military police. Beneath them was a pool of blood, completely still, but remaining a sharp crimson.

“Uh, Command, this is Alpha. We’re in the cell now, and there are no occupants, but three dead guards.”

“Roger that, Alpha. Keep investigating, but watch your backs. Who knows what kind of loony could be out here?”

“Affirmative, Command.”

The dark figure stepped into the room, until he was beside the first body, lying on its side, facing away. A new figure steps up to the doorway, and walks just inside, turning to keep a watchful eye on the corridor leading to the door. The first investigator kneels down, rolls the corpse over. The circle of his spotlight slides up the lifeless man, revealing him fully. His jacked front is a mess of blood, starting to dry slightly black, all coming from a deep wound right over the man’s heart. The light moves up, and the man’s head flops to the side as the salvager lifts him slightly off the ground, revealing the knife sticking up to the hilt in the man’s head. The man’s black gloves grasp the corpse’s chin, twist his head from side to side. On the side of the knife, the body’s eye is filled with blood, the whites gone almost burgundy.

“Command, this is Alpha. First guy down with two knife wounds, and it’s pretty brutal. I’d hazard one attacker, but a real psycho.” The light glances down to the body’s belt, then the intruder puts him back down. “It happened fast, too, Command. The bastard didn’t even have time to get his gun out.”

“Got it, Alpha. Um, I’m giving you weapons free, from here. If you see someone and he doesn’t immediately get down on the ground when you tell him, you have the go ahead to shoot, repeat, go ahead to shoot.”

“Thanks, Command. Alpha out.” The intruder by the door reaches down and slides a bulky, mean looking rail-pistol from a holster, as the other moves deeper in to the second body, this one lying on the ground face up, lifeless eyes staring at the ceiling.

At first, other than a twisted, wrong-angled elbow, the corpse does not seem visibly hurt, but when the investigator lifts him a little off the ground and shines the light up his body, it reveals fragments of skull and bits of hair in a pool of blood below the body’s head. “Void,” the man whispers, his voice seeming lost in the room. He puts the body back down, and steps to the last one, almost sitting at the back of the cell, but slumped far over. The man squats down in front of him. “Let’s see how he did you, mate,” he mumbles to himself.

The light reveals that the late guard’s shirt is utterly drenched in blood, the spatters rising up above his chin, and also seeming to have poured from his mouth and nose. The man leans in closer, twisting his head around to bring the glare of the spot into the body’s neck. It reveals a mass of stab wounds, black and puckered around the too-white flesh. The investigator stands up, and makes his way back to his partner. He puts a hand on their shoulder, and they reach up and pat his hand.

“Okay, Command. Second man had his head smashed open on the floor, and the last guy was nearly fucking decapitated. This looks really bad, Command.”

“We don’t know, Alpha. But we can tell you that we’ve gotten a hit on our deep penetrative scans. So we know two more things now. First, looks like this thing suffered from catastrophic warp drive malfunction. It all looks normal from the outside, but half the electronics on this bucket are completely scrapped, and another quarter of the rest is simply evaporated into space.”

“Well, shit, Command. We’re not gonna get much for this thing, then. Means it’s basically a block of tritanium vaguely shaped like a spaceship. So, what’s the other thing?”

“We’ve got a faint life-sign reading on the bridge, Alpha. Think you mind checking it out before heading home?”

“Roger that, Command.”

As they usually are in such craft, the bridge was extremely cramped, comprising of several stations, all brushing elbows with each other. The entrance to this particular model was a hatch in the ceiling. The locking mechanism began slowly to rotate, and then the door opened with a well-oiled hydraulic hiss. A beam of light blasted down, filling the smallish room with shadows, sharp where they touched on the main circle of light, but growing fuzzier the further they went. The inside was spattered with blood, all over the consoles, some of it even in an arc across the ceiling. The light disappeared, then a black boot fitted itself to a rung with a clunk. The other follows, and the intruder climbs down the ladder to the floor. The illuminating circle from his helmet swings about the room again, taking in the crimson sprays, then downwards to two figures lying on the ground. One is dressed in the uniform of a Republic military police ship captain, lying on his back, his uniform drenched in blood, his face white as a sheet. The light holds on him, and the vicious cut across his throat is clearly visible. The other figure, curled beside him, is still alive, his chest slowly rising and falling with breath. He is a small man, dark-skinned, not more than six inches taller than five feet, and lean, but wiry and sculpted rather than thin. His hair is shaved off, and he is wearing the costume of a prisoner, black with thick diagonal red stripes.

“Command, Alpha here. Looks like your live one is the prisoner, all curled up beside the body of the Captain.” The unconscious figure twitches slightly as the man speaks, but does not move. He continues. “Want me to continue investigations?”

“Please do, Alpha. Command out.”

The man steps in closer, avoiding the limbs of the dead captain, and kneels down on one knee above the survivor. He puts a hand on the unconscious prisoner’s shoulder, and turns him onto his back. As he does, the prisoner’s eyes fly open, and he lunges up, his hand describing an arc towards the intruder’s throat, but he is too slow, and the bigger man jerks back, allowing the knife to trace a skittering line of sparks across his armoured chest. Then his steel-clad elbow connects with the other man’s temple, and he slumps back to the floor, his eyes flickering close.

“Void! The little fucker just tried to kill me! With a goddamn Knife!”

“Uh, are you in danger, Alpha? Please say again.”

“Sorry Command. He was awake, and when I went to turn him over, he tried to cut my throat. Uh, negative, though. I knocked him out, he should be safe, now.”

“Roger that, Alpha.” A faint laugh comes over the com system, seemingly not belonging to the man addressed as Command, and then there is a faint pause. “Okay, Alpha. We’ve got orders. You are to ship the survivor to us, and do not, I repeat NOT, harm him. From Black Claw’s own mouth, Alpha.”

“Shit, really?” The figure clicks his mic off, and sighs, muttering a more potent curse, then turns it back on. “Affirmative, Command. We’re on our way back.”


  1. Oh, man. That was good, really good. I just love your style - period.


  2. "The intruder by the door reaches down and slides a bulky, mean looking rail-pistol from a holster,"

    I now want you to imagine a miniaturized Rokh with a pistol grip.

    Every time a character says "Roger that" in this I imagine you mimicking that eastern European guy in VETO. So it's "Rohjar daht"