Starburst had a minimal crew to ship the food from the world Crete to the Outer Rim. I was not looking forward to this month’s trip as it pulled me away from my wife and kids. Still, the credits would help with finances at home. I sat in the mess hall eating some tubers and bug meat when Adriel walked in.
“Morning Wendel, how are you doing?”
“Eh, much the same as any launch date. You?”
“I’m looking forward to our trip through the Outer Rim. I heard there are some crazy life forms out there.”
“A couple of Gorgots aren’t so strange.”
The tentacled sentient life forms were rare to catch sight of. Still I bet they weren’t that exciting to meet. The ship’s priority was to get to the Outer Rim without too much interruption. There was a low likelihood for any encounters with aliens. The route we were taking through the asteroid fields was seldom taken except for mining ships. Our ship was capable of the maneuvers necessary to get through the fields just fine. I finished up the grubs on my plate and got up.
“I’m headed to the bridge,” I put my plate in the sani-unit. Adriel saluted me, his mouth full.
The walk to the bridge was a quick one. Marketing advertisements for soda pop were following me as I approached the bridge. I could have dismissed the advertisements but I didn’t feel like spending the credit to keep the walls clear.
The cost of travel was paid for in part by the advertisements. I was not looking forward to being constantly bombarded with advertisements. The bridge was a blessedly quiet space. I walked to the helm and input my key card. The ship registered my identity.
“Welcome Captain Elena Wendel. Please confirm the coordinates for our heading are correct.”
“Excellent, we are estimated to arrive in five cycles.”
Five cycles would be a cheap run. The only catch was we would be traveling through the Outer Rim. Hazardous space was an understatement. Oh who cares what could happen, the credits spoke louder than anything else. I rubbed my wrist where my credit chip was implanted. Soon I’d be making a profit off the delivery.
I took a seat and brought up the ship’s travel log. Everything was above board. The ship entered the asteroid field. We were on a different heading than originally planned to get through relatively unscathed. As we passed through there were other ships along the way. Ships parked on asteroids to gather metal deposits. We ignored the hail from one of the mining ships. It was after we reached the midpoint of the field that ships were no longer a presence.
A distress signal came up on the radar – an incessant chime that I had no choice but to pay attention to. The ship in need of help was adrift not tethered to anything.
“Hello, this is Captain Wendel, are you in need of assistance?”
No answer. I had to decide whether to let the ship remain adrift and press on or try to save the passengers. Tom, the ship’s engineer, broke my thoughts, “I say we dock them and take whatever valuables are left.”
“Tom, that’s not very kind. We can’t just take their resources.”
“Sure we can, they clearly died or something to be adrift and unreachable. I say we scrub it with sanispray and hop on over to collect the goods.” Tom had a point. We could use the extra credit from salvaged parts.
“Alright I’ll dock them.” I maneuvered the ship next to the port.
“Hello this is Captain Wendel, prepare to be boarded. Please note we will use sanispray on your ship. If the crew does not want a scrub done please respond.”
All that came after my words was silence. And so as we warned a sanispray cleaning was issued. Then I suited up and entered the other ship. We found a hull full of goods. The crew took what could be carried and the rest was marked for later pickup. Tom looked proud of himself.
“I told you they had resources we could grab.”
“I admit you were right. Now to find the right customer.”
Our ship’s display flashed red, “Warning, intruder alert.”
“There was no one on that ship, what are you talking about?”
Tom looked at a live ship schematic. A red dot was in the mess hall. I brought up a visual of the mess hall. On the screen there was a pale figure. Her hair came down to her waist. She wasn’t alone, a member of the crew was there. The crew member approached the pale figure. She opened her mouth, and a set of fangs became visible.
“Oh no, get out of there!”
The crew member couldn’t hear me. They didn’t get away. The creature bit their neck. When she was done feeding she dropped the crew member’s corpse and stared straight into the camera. She didn’t need to say, ‘I’m coming for you’ for me to get the message.
I put out an alert for all crew to shut themselves in their quarters until further notice.
“Paging all security personnel, please come to the bridge.”
I waited in silence. Tom was no longer on the bridge. He went into lockdown in his room. The security personnel arrived. I pulled up a live schematic of the ship. The red dot was the intruder. All other people showed up as green dots.
The mess hall just below the bridge had been cleared. Now the intruder was coming up a level to the greenhouse.
“Everyone, I want you to do your best to contain the threat. Capture her alive or, if you have to, kill her.”
We discussed strategies for how to catch the intruder. Then the security personnel left my side. I was the only person on the bridge.
The ship was still docked next to the ship we looted. My best guess was that the creature came from the ship. How come there were no bodies left? Would there be nothing left on this ship too? I shut down that train of thought. I disengaged our ship from the drifter we foolishly plundered. Then put us back on course for the outer rim.
“Captain, we have her surrounded in the garden.”
“Good job, team.”
“Wait-oh gods-no!” Crunch. Squish. Crunch.
“Adriel? Are you there?” I brought up a visual of the garden. The bodies of the security team were in a pile of arms and legs. Blood oozed out from beneath the limbs. A quick look at the ship’s map revealed that the vampire was now traveling through the pool deck.
The pool deck was six levels below the bridge. My hand shook as I put the schematic screen down. The vampire, for what else would I call it, went up in levels inching closer to the bridge. A string of gory bodies were left behind. I was afraid and suddenly regretted ignoring that one ship’s hail. What if they were trying to warn us?
“Captain, please let me in.” Adriel was standing outside the bridge door. I pushed a button to open the door. Adriel was holding a gun.
I leaned back in my chair and looked at the gun,”Do you think that will be enough to stop her?”
“I hope it will slow her down enough that I can escape. Speaking of escape, you should have the passengers use the escape pods to get away.”
“An evacuation of that magnitude would decrease our sales output. The ad campaigns are what fuel this ship and get us food.”
Adriel crossed his arms, “Captain if you fail to protect the people on board there may not be any revenue. It’s time to set aside your obsession with credits.”
I sighed and put on the loudspeaker for a ship wide announcement, “Hello, this is Captain Wendel. Please make your way to the escape pods as we have a hostile on board. Again this is Captain Wendel please evacuate the ship, thank you.”
I set an alarm that rang through the ship. Lights in different colors would lead the passengers to the escape pods. There was a purple glow on my ceiling that made a trail to the door. I wasn’t planning on leaving the ship. Alone I could take the ship to a market and sell the goods thereby making a commission.
Adriel looked me over,”You’re not coming are you?”
“Nope,” I didn’t add that I had a family to take care of.
“Alright, stay safe.” Adriel left. The doors shut behind him. Thoughts of my wife and kids haunted me. The kids begged me not to go on this trip. My wife smiled at me at dinner. Her secret eyes told me a story about what she intended to do once we went to bed. I was barking mad to stay. Still I had the ship’s schematic open. The red dot came ever closer. Almost all the escape pods were gone.
There were hardly any green dots left in the ship’s schematic. With Adriel and Tom gone I was short a security team member and an engineer. I knew Adriel made it off the ship. Tom was still alive in his room. My hands shook as I checked the ship for the remaining passengers. Somehow there was still someone left alive on the pool deck. I paged the passenger, “Hello this is captain Wendel. Do you need assistance?”
“Hello, I repeat, do you need assistance?”
Hm, is this passenger still alive? Why are they showing green?
“Captain it’s me Tom.”
“What happened, I thought you were in lockdown?”
“The vampire was breaking through doors into rooms. I escaped mine before she got to my room.”
“Do you think you can make it to the bridge?”
“Yes captain, I’m on my way.” Tom took a lift to get to the bridge.
I watched the red dot in the ship’s schematic, she made it to the floor just below the bridge. The ship’s cafeteria was empty save for the food. The vampire passed the food and searched the cafeteria. The red dot moved back and forth. I wondered if as she walked advertisements followed her. Inevitably she made her way to the hallway that led to the bridge. Tom’s green dot made it to the door of the bridge. Quickly I opened the door for him. He rushed in and the door shut behind him quickly.
“Do you have a gun?” I asked.
“I have one.”
“What will we do when she gets here?” Tom removed the safety from his gun.
“Hope to the gods the laser blast from our guns kills her.”
Although the door was locked the both of us expected her to break through. A loud bang announced that the vampire had reached the door. I aimed my gun at the door. The vampire punched the door – the banging became visible as a dent appeared in the center of the door. I swallowed hard and took a breath. Bang, bang, bang.
The door began to separate. I removed the safety off the gun. A click sounded as the gun revved up. The door separated and the vampire ran into the room. I shot as quickly as I could and so did Tom, but we both missed. The vampire hissed and approached me. I shot again and the vampire kept coming. Tom jumped in the vampire’s path and shot. The vampire sputtered and hissed. Steam came off her wound. Despite the gaping wound in her stomach she surged forward and grabbed Tom. He screamed before she snapped his neck and drained his blood. I shot her as many times as I could before she approached me. I struggled with her. Her strength outstretched my own as she pushed my arms flush to my sides and bit my neck. Everything went black.