Screaming, I really don’t much like screaming—especially if I’m the one doing it. I hear screaming and whatever is doing it just—ain’t—right. My heart is pounding all a sudden. I know Felix is up around the turn in the corridor. I don’t know if he’s killed something and it’s making that noise. He can’t be making that noise… I sure hope not… damn robot gives me the willies enough already.
I hear heavy footsteps behind me. I look back and see Bengal in his loader suit, minus the loader. He’s frowning and comes to stop. “What the hell is that noise?”
Terry has stopped by my shoulder. I can see by the furrow in his brow he don’t like it either. “Only one way to find out.”
Damn, I knew he would say that. I don’t want to find out, but know I need to.
There’s another scream. This time it’s human. Then blaster fire. Then a crack—an all-too-familiar crack—the sound of a bone breaking. That’s followed by a bellow of pain. Felix was definitely in the mix. His hello-how-are-yas for strangers often involved disquieting sounds like bones snapping and grown men whimpering.
I push forward and turn the corner. There’s nothing in the immediate hall. The starboard armory hatch is still a little ways further. I turn the next zig and skid to a stop. Terry and Bengal thumping to a halt behind me. A barrel of deck cleaner is overturned in the passageway, and two more have been rolled out of the stowage locker. Some kind of silver critter, vaguely like an oversized crab is on its back spinning circles in the green goo. There’s two more on the floor twitching near the wall. A man, not one of our crew, but dressed in Sanchez’s crew pull-ups is huddled in the back of the access clutching an obviously broken arm. I can see bone protruding through the skin, blood is pooling on the floor. He’s got burn spots on his smock and what looks like a stab wound in his shoulder. He’s not going to bother anyone immediately.
I look back toward the armory door—it’s part way open—enough for a man to slip through. The heavy metal has been obviously beat on and hit with blasters. The access pad has been torn apart and wires hang out. Felix is no-where in sight. One thing is obvious. The victs managed to get into the armory. Who are these guys?
“Spit,” I murmur. I pick my way across the cleaning goo, trying not to get too much of it on my boots.
“What the frick are those things?” Bengal asks, pointing to the bugs.
Terry is shaking his head. He hops across the puddle, and picks up the corpse of one of the bugs. He grabs the vict by the hair and holds the bug in front of the man’s face. “Did you bring this on board?”
“Leggo man,” the injured vict whines. “Didn’t do nothing. Damn thing tried to shoot be up!” He writhes. “Bastard broke my fraggin arm. God it hurts.”
Terry shakes him. “Where’s the doctor?”
“Don’t know no frellin doctor, argh,” he clutches his arm.
Terry cuffs him on the top of the head. “The woman, the red-head…”
“The babe with the nice cha-chas,” Bengal adds for emphasis, holding his hands out in front and grasping something invisible.
Terry glares at him, then back to the vict.
“Oh, her,” the man moans. “The gun guy got her.”
“I dunno,” he whines. “My arm hurts. He didn’t have to break my arm, man. Just a little joyride, I swear. I need a doctor…”
“This guy has meat for brains,” I say. “Punk.” I finger the wires yanked from the console. “Guy that cracked this lock is an expert.” I draw a breath. “Doesn’t look like they had enough time to do much. Only a couple guns missing. One of the big scoped out rifles is missing though.”
Bengal skips to the far side of the pooled solution and picks up the other of the dead bugs. “What the frag are these things though? It looks alive but it’s some kind of synth critter.”
“Frikkin space cockroach,” the vict mutters through gritted teeth. “Little screaming bastard tried to eat me. You got ‘em crawling all over your damn ship.”
“What?” Terry growls. “Where?”
“Everywhere,” the vict mumbles. “They’re eatin your cables and spit.”
Bengal stares at the bug in his hand. “Thing is armored. Maybe they’re a weapon of some kind.”
“Is that what hatched out of your space egg?” I ask Terry.
He shrugs. “We need to lock these guys up.”
“We need to catch up to Felix. He’s chasing the rest of these psychos.”
“No, I am not,” I hear a cold voice say from down the corridor.
Felix comes around the corner. He’s been cut and hit by something. A few scratches on his face bleed red. He doesn’t look happy. Of course, he always looks that way.
The vict looks up and sees the synth and shuffles backward. “Keep him frellin away from me!”
Felix glances to the injured vict. The corner of his mouth quirks up. “They went through a pressure hatch and locked it from the other side. I was unable to go around in time. They are heading to the upper conning deck.”
“How do you know that?”
“They were trying to get into the engineering hanger. The conning hanger has the shuttle in it.”
“What about these things?” Terry asks, throwing the bug to Felix.
The synth catches the critter and stares at it. “A weapon.”
He drops the bug to the floor with a clunk and kicks it. “Trouble. We must get to the upper conning deck.”
Terry waves Felix on. “You three go. I have to deal with the brain here and the other one you caught in the hall.”
Felix nods and jogs off down the hall.
“You sure?” I ask.
“I’m sure I don’t want this little parasite wandering around,” Terry says cuffing the vict in the back of the head. “You catch those others, then we can find out about these ‘bug’ things.” He nudges the other dead critter with his foot.
“Okay, boss, watch yerself.”
Bengal and I pound off after Felix. As I run I have to shake my head. Space bugs. Nobody ever said the universe had to be sane. Why did it have to go crazy today? With our luck, the next thing we’d be seeing would be killer clowns…