Her scope scanned the flickering dark of the corridor ahead. She gestured behind her. The signitature clunk of mag boots slowly move to her side and another rifle joined her line. A gloved hand sent her companion to a warped support strut. He ducked down slowly in the zero gravity.
Not that it would matter. Their guns were almost emotional aids now.
A wave of unearthly energy fizzled through her bones and made the ammo counter on her HUD dance between numbers. Nothing had worked right on the ship for days, even her body. The deck rocked beneath her. A battle outside? Who knew any more.
“Mendez.” The voice crackled in her ear, even the static unable to mask the anxiety. “Do you think they can track us?”
“How the hell should I know?” she replied, more glibly than she’d intended. They’d been on strung out shape even before this mess with one battle after another. Now this. The CIC had fallen to the infestation eighteen hours ago. Since then, she didn’t know what state the ship was in.
“Cap’n... How the hell did they do this?” said the voice.
Carla bit her tongue. “You’ve asked that before.”
“Is it going to help if I say the same crap I said to you last time, Private?”
There was a pause. The deck rocked again. Definitely a battle. “No Sir.”
“Then stop asking stupid questions. We just need to get the hell of this ship before they consider us a threat.”
They advanced one section at a time. It was slow progress. A handful of survivors trailed them through the hellish halls. Five left, on a ship of six hundred.
Their cancer had begun as all cancers began, a creep building in the darkest recesses of a body. Growing unnoticed, subverting and feeding on the very blood supposed to keep the body alive. One emplacement. That was all it had taken.
They’d lost engineering first. It took control of the fusion reactors and main computers within six minutes. Used the control of the subsystems to vent the entire compartment into space and then took control of all secondary power systems meaning internal defenses were worthless. When their anti-boarding team responded, they’d been slaughtered. It had taken less than an hour for the cancer to produce weapons platforms able to slaughter an entire contingent of armed troops with black market weapons.
CIC had rigged a secondary command post and were preparing to detonate a couple of their anti-matter charges on a timer. Twenty minutes later they went radio silent. That was about the time the command structure collapsed. Every ship wide communication system collapsed. Gravity vanished without warning. The cancer hadn’t needed it. They were a zero gravity species.
Carla had grabbed who she could, found an isolated compartment, sealed the doors, isolated them as best as she could from the main life support systems and prepared for a last stand.
Nothing had come. Hours went by and nothing. It had been a lot of time to think and mourn.
The corridors were quiet now, but it was difficult to maintain your sense of up and down without gravity. Carla had done plenty of zero-g, but it was harder when it was the decks of your own ship you were walking through. Corpses floated by in faint clouds of drifting crimson. They had no real use for organic matter, after all.
A faint red light crept over the floor at an intersection up ahead. Mendez snapped up her hand and her entourage froze to the wall. She knelt down and gritted her teeth. The weapon was heavy in her hand, but her aim was sure, for what it mattered.
It passed by, around fifteen metres ahead. An oscillating ellipsoid mass of hellish colour, silently cruising through the drifting dust. Strobes of crimson darkness stroked the walls and where they touched, they left behind mirrors of themselves, coating the wall in a shimmering blackness which morphed and then formed into slowly pulsing conduits of light. The ceiling warped as they did.
It stopped and turned. Mendez held her breath. A distant thunder resonated through the deckplates. Then, without another word, it drifted on, continuing its silent work.
“...hell if I know, Private. We need to keep moving.”
In retrospect, they’d responded as best they could, shutting off decks, trying to hold the tide back long enough to regain control, but it hadn’t mattered. In less than twenty hours, they had entirely reconfigured the ship. Entire sections of the ship had gone missing where they had repurposed the material to better use. Others had warped beyond imagining, stretching to carry ungodly amounts of power to remote sections of the ship. You couldn’t get close to one of those unearthly conduits without feeling as if your skin was to rip from your bones.
Most of the others were mute. They’d all been through the mill and most of them had been low level employees. They’d signed on the dotted line and didn’t have military training. Mendez had fought for the NTF in her youth. That gave her something they didn’t have.
At least, that’s what she had thought. The Shivans had robbed her of that too. If Henderson didn’t stay quiet, she was going to shoot him to preserve her own sanity. The escape pods were still intact. Two hundred metres of dead hallways and a vague hope that whoever was out there was friendly. That’s all they had left.
They moved on.