Chapter 19: Ethan
I zip my duffle-bag closed, symbolizing an end to my time here on this lonely station. An end to security duties. An end to the frivolousness of the day, checking things that don’t need to be checked. Because they’re always exactly where they need to be.
No one and no thing cares about this station. It’s a relic of ages passed and looks just like it on the outside. But if this place has taught me anything, it’s that looks can be deceiving. The things that take place inside these sterile metal walls are devious at best. I’m not sure there’s a word for at worst.
Anderson is gone…that gives me relief. But Lauren still remains. It’s not hard to tell that Dante and the doctor are a thing. And I know what she did meant putting herself at risk. But I can’t help but feel that he’s sleeping with the devil. Anderson may be gone, but all it did was give Lauren Cain free reign to do what ever the hell she wants. Especially since Commander Walker decided to leave the station in her capable hands until he selects a replacement as officer in charge.
The door to mine and Dante’s room slides open. Dante himself is standing in the doorway. He has a duffle-bag slung over his shoulder; his black Naval working uniform replaced by the steel gray flight suit of the Flight Division.
“Guess it’s about that time, huh?” He points out.
I stand up, adjusting the tiger-stripes on shades of gray uniform I have now been able to wear again, completing my transformation back into special forces.
“I guess so,”
Dante steps inside and places a pat on my shoulder “Uniform suits you,” He compliments.
I look at myself, then back at him “Still not as comfortable as those coveralls,” I respond in kind.
Dante and I smile in unison.
“Well you know what they say about Flight Division. Come for the planes, stay for the coveralls,”
I can’t help but laugh “Nobody says that, Dante,”
“They will after they hear a Master Pilot say it” Dante responds grinning wide.
I heave my bag on to my shoulder, the last of many that have already been loaded on to the transport ship. Dante and I walk together to the hangar bay, a somber moment for both of us. Dante spent more time than I did here. He built numerous relationships. That includes a friendship with Elena, and a romantic trust with Doctor Cain.
For myself, the one saving grace to this place besides him, was Elena. Every moment I had the opportunity to spend with her was a moment where I witnessed myself happier. Thinking about her now, I know that I desire to have more from what we had. I feel like she wanted the same thing, regardless of the heat of the moment during our slight incident of being stranded. There’s a sorrow in knowing that I may never have the chance in walking the road that leads to her.
As the door opens to the hangar, I feel my heart sink slightly. I didn’t think I’d be this remorseful of leaving. All I wanted to do was get out of this hell hole before.
But maybe I got used to the simplicity of this place. Maybe it’s that, despite that this place is about nothing but deceit and illusion, it has some genuinely honest people. As much as I hate to admit, even Doctor Cain is one of those people. She lies when she has to protect her work, but she’s always honest with who she is. For that, at least, I respect her.
Dante and I step to the shuttle that’s routed to take us to one of the primary transport hubs. From there we’ll go our separate ways to our ultimate duty stations. The shuttle door slides open. I take a deep breath as I stare at the threshold of the door, hesitating a moment.
As I step inside, the bright blue of the alarm flashes across the surface of the ship, the howling sound follows soon after.
“Code blue, code blue, research wing. All available hands respond,” an automated voice calls out.
I look at Dante, my foot placed halfway in and out of the ship. We stare at each other for a moment, the same quandary sifting through our heads. Dante decides first, signaled by him shaking his head with an incredulous smile as he drops his bag to the floor.
His decision makes mine easier as I step backwards.
“One for the road?” I ask.
Dante grins “Sure, why not,”
I stick my head in the ship’s entrance, informing the driver to hang tight before walking with Dante to the armory counter. The armorer hurriedly hands us two rifles that we load with expediency. We jog down to the research wing, descending upon absolute chaos that is taking place as scientists run for any place they can that removes them from the danger.
I notice that many of their white coats are colored the crimson of blood. My head snaps to Dante as I hear him slam a closed hand on to the silence button, shutting off the alarm and leaving the flashing blue. I step forward and stop the nearest scientist I can grab.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“Hey! Listen to me. Look at me. It’s going to be alright. I need you to calm down and tell me where casualty is,”
The man takes a deep breath, sweat pouring down the side of his face.
“The—there. Lab number three…it’s in there,” He says, pointing a shaking finger in the direction he spoke of.
“Good. We’ll take care of it. What I need you to do is help get everyone out of here in an orderly fashion. Can you do that?”
He nods his head at me nervously before moving towards the crowd of people. I look at Dante and motion my head towards the lab door. We stack up on either side and ready our rifles.
“Ready?” I say placing a hand on the emergency open button next to the door.
Dante gives me a nod, situating his rifle into his shoulder. I hesitate, then depress the button causing the door more violently slide open than usual. I follow behind Dante as we enter into the odd white fog that has developed in the lab.
Dante searches through the fog until he reaches one of the far walls of the room.
“Found a ventilation!” He calls out before I hear a click and the sound of the vents sucking the thick air out of the room.
The slight sound of crunching catches my ear, causing me to snap my rifle into firing position in its general direction. As the fog clears my vision focuses on something unbelievable. I lower my weapon to make sure I’m not going crazy. Dante places himself beside me, his expression equally as dumbfounded.
“Is that…what I think it is?” He asks to no one in particular.
“This is…sick man,” I respond.
“It’s a damn child,” Dante adds.
“What…the fuck…were they doing here?”
“I don’t know…but someone is going to give me some fuckin’ answers,” Dante says through gritted teeth.
“What do we do with her in the mean time?” I ask, hoping Dante will have the answer.
He just simply shakes his head at my question.
Dante takes a step forward.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m going to see if she’ll respond to me,”
“Be careful,” I say nervously.
He gives a quick nod as he quietly steps towards the little girl. I ready my rifle, not wanting to take any chances. Dante outstretches a hand as he draws closer to her position.
“Hey there, little one. Are you okay?” He says with a kindness in his voice.
As he touches her shoulder, the child whips around.
“Jesus!” He exclaims as he falls on to his behind.
He freezes in place as he witnesses the same thing I do. My mouth drops as I stare upon the horror of which I am witnessing.
Is that…is that an arm she’s eating?” I say quietly through my teeth.
“Shoot…her,” Dante orders.
I slowly bring my rifle sight to my eye, switching my safety off. The little girl’s attention finally catches to Dante, causing her to drop her meal and stare at him. My heart pounds in my chest as the situation becomes that much more real.
She starts to move closer to him.
Dante’s face turns to mine “Fucking shoot her!” He screams as his fear overtakes him.
I let loose a volley from the barrel of my gun, the little girl’s figure falling to the ground, moving out of the crosshairs I had her placed between.
I walk closer to Dante and help him up, both of us staring at her lifeless body.
“That’s no kid anymore. I’ll tell you that,” I state factually.
“You ain’t kidding,” Dante’s says between heavy breathes.
“We have to go figure this shit out,” Dante says as he turns to walk away, leaving me to continue studying whatever this unnatural creature is.
Just as I take a step away myself, my heart stops as the child’s eyes snap open. She lets out the shrillest scream my ears have ever had contact with, causing me to shield them with my hands. She jumps to her feet and leaps on top of me, forcing me to fall on to my back.
Seeing the girl’s face up close I finally realize…
“Get the hell off of him!” Dante yells as he plans to shoot her again.
I raise a hand wave it back and forth, signaling Dante to hold his fire.
Dante hesitates “What the hell are you doing?” He asks, frustrated.
I don’t deign to give him an answer as I stare into the child’s black, glossy eyes.
“K…Katie? Is that you?” I ask the creature.
She clicks her head at me like an insect as if she perceives and understands what I’m saying. It’s like she’s studying me as much as I am her.
Her skin is green and rough. Her hair is black, looking as if it is in a state of perpetual moisture as it hangs over her face. Every so often she opens her mouth slightly, revealing rows of pointed teeth.
She bends down, her eyes so close to mine that all I see is black. She then lunges backwards, giving me one last look before losing another scream and tearing at my shoulder with razor sharp claws.
I yelp in pain, clutching my shoulder as she leaps off of my chests, escaping. I hear Dante fire off a few missed shots as I wince and writhe, waiting for the initial agony to subside.
Dante helps me up as the wave of pain subsides. He places a hand on my shoulder, moving the torn fabric to get a better look at my wound.
“Doesn’t look like she went that deep. You’ll be alright,”
“We best get after her,” I respond as I move at a running pace out of the lab.
I hear Dante’s footsteps close behind. Dante points in the direction he saw her go, moving our trajectory to that area. Our run turns to a sprint as the both of us pray and hope we catch up to her before she hurts anyone else.
My eye suddenly catches a figure, forcing me to come to a quick stop before it crashes through one of the glass walls of the lab. They slam into the opposite wall, leaving a splash of red. They squirm around, clutching their torso, shaking uncontrollably. I notice multiple pieces of glass are embedded into their body. The person finally lets out a loud scream, revealing their face to be the same scientist that I spoke to earlier.
Dante and I watch in terror as his face tears open at the cheeks, teeth not unlike the child’s forming through the wound.
“Wh—what the fuck! What the fuck is that, Ethan!” Dante exclaims.
The man bows down so that his back his visible. It looks almost as if his flesh is boiling underneath before it cracks open with a sickening snap, taking me aback as blood splatters on to my uniform and face. I watch as his bones bend and twist, creating new appendages that are like blades attached to extra pairs of arms. The new arms lift the new creature into a standing position, allowing for his legs to crack backwards, reversing the joints in his knees. His new talon-attached feet tear through his shoes.
The monster’s gaze comes to a focus on us as the transformation completes.
“Run…run now,” I say, barely forming the words.
“W…what?” Dante says, fear causing his voice to shake.
I quickly turn to around “Run!” I yell before following my own order, causing Dante to do the same.
The creature roars behind us, its feet stomping into the ground as it gives chase.
We come to a near sliding stop as we reach our desired destination. A quarantine shutter at the end of the hall. I very nearly punch the activation pad, activating a large metal door that slams shut with a metallic thud, separating the section from the rest of the station.
The monster on the other side lets out another roar and slams against the door, leaving several warps in it.
Dante and I take a moment to catch our breath.
“What the hell is going on here?” Dante asks rhetorically.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on. Your girlfriend screwed around with something she shouldn’t have,”
Dante narrows his eyes at me “Let’s go ahead and leave the conversation there,” he idly threatens.
I decide not to pursue the matter any further on account of the current situation. I look around, still catching my breath.
“We need to find Elena and Damien. Who knows how many of those scientists are afflicted by whatever the hell stinky back there was,”
“I agree. We need to find Lauren too. See if she has any idea what the hell is happening,” Dante responds, giving Cain the benefit of the doubt even still.
She knows exactly what’s going on. And despite Dante, I’m going to pry that information out of her. No matter what I have to do to get it.