Chapter 26: Dante
Ethan, Damien, and I watch as the ship slowly touches down. As I take a closer look, I notice it doesn’t have any distinguishable markings. Especially nothing that clearly shows it to be a medical ship. All of the windows are tinted to the point of non-visibility of the inside of it.
Suspicion starts to grow within me. Ethan takes a step forward, prompting me to grab his shoulder. He looks back at me.
“Approach carefully, keep your weapons at the ready. Something doesn’t feel right,” I say, stepping ahead of Ethan and taking point.
They both follow behind me as we approach the ship’s door, stopping a few feet from it, shouldering our weapons. Tension grows as the door clicks and glides upwards, revealing an unviewable interior.
An object is tossed through the black at my feet. My eyes follow it as bounces, rolling to a stop as it touches the tip of my boot. I stare a moment. My eyes widen as I realize what it is.
I jerk my body around “Move! Concussion grenade!” I call out as I start into dive.
The grenade detonates as I’m midair, tossing me sideways. I land on my shoulder with a hard crash. I slide across the floor instead of roll, blacking out shortly after coming to a stop.
“Wakey wakey,” A male voice speaks as something cold and hard taps against my forehead.
My eyes flutter open, taking a moment for my vision to clear. I look up towards the mystery voice. A man stares at me through greasy long locks that hang straight down. There’s a derangement in his eyes that is all together unsettling as he aims the barrel of a pistol directly into my face.
“Aiden, stop playing around and bring him over here,” A much more refined voice speaks from the distance.
The crazy man giggles and takes hold of my collar, beginning to drag me across the docking bay. It’s only now that I realize I’ve been restrained as I attempt to move my arms, which have been locked behind me.
Aiden comes to a stop, yanking me into an upright position and placing me back first against a crate next to Ethan and Damien. I’m at this point finally able to take stock of the full ensemble of characters that have captured us. Five in total.
There’s Aiden, a small, thin, almost frail man who prefers to crouch. His clothes are tattered, eyes a sickly shade of green. He has an unstable smile that likes to come and go, usually accompanied by a giggle or two.
A larger muscular woman stands to his right. She’s not unattractive with her blue eyes and styled hair that requires one side of her head to be shaved.
To the far left is another woman, much smaller than the last and thin. As opposed to the armor preference of the other one, the small one prefers a tank top cut off at the stomach and a pair of overalls, wearing pigtails in her hair.
Next to her is a short, fat man, who’s more akin to that of a wild hog than a man with a face that looks as though it had been smushed against a wall.
In the middle of all them stands who I deign as the leader. A proper looking man wearing a military-like uniform and a ballistic vest, covering that with a black trench coat. His face is clean shaven and defined, his hair is cut in a military style fade, combed and gelled.
He stares at us with the smirk of a man who’s satisfied with a plan coming together. He steps forward, hands clasped behind his back.
“Not gonna lie. I really thought you guys were gonna shoot first, ask questions later,”
“Make no mistake, one of us wanted to,” Damien responds aggressively.
The man smiles as he scoffs “There’s always one of you meatheads when we do this thing, I swear,”
“So, untie me and I’ll take away your frustrations…forever,” Damien barks back, goading a gun butt to be placed into his forehead by the fat man.
Damien shakes off the pain as a small trickle of blood runs down the bridge of his nose.
He starts to laugh “You’re first little piggy. I’m going to make fucking bacon out of you,” Damien threatens.
“Enough, Damien. Jesus,” Ethan scolds “Who the hell are you?” He asks to the leader.
“Now we’re asking the right questions,” He responds, raising a finger.
He kneels in front of us, motioning to himself “Nice to meet you, I’m Thomas Blaze. And this is Sophie, Pudge – I’m sure you can guess why – Tetra, and of course, Aiden our resident psychopath. And we’re here to take your stuff,” He introduces like he’s done this a million times before.
“That’s going to be a problem for you,” I retort.
He looks at me “How do ya figure?”
“Didn’t you hear us? We said we have a biological outbreak on board,”
“That’s fine. We have rebreathers,”
“Not that kind,” Ethan elaborates further.
“This entire station is infested with mutants who are ready to tear you limb from limb at the mere inkling of your presence. And if you manage to make it out alive with a scratch, kiss your ass goodbye bud. Because you’ll be one of them in a matter of minutes,”
Thomas stares at me unamused at my explanation.
He shrugs “I’ve dealt with worse. Sophie, what do we have here?” He says, looking back to her direction.
She walks around a moment, studying the docking bay.
“I’m thinking…old UEDF tech. They’re still running old school panels…goodness its outdated. No wonder the bay door was deadlocked. Looks like…Titan class. Evolution War era…fascinating. So, if everything was on lockdown then that means they were contacting us from…the Security Watch Center,” She deduces with an excited smile.
“That’s my girl. Well I guess that’s where we’ll be heading now, won’t it?” Thomas praises with an insidious smile.
“Look man…this isn’t going to go how you think it is. So, let’s just…calm down and work something out, alright?” I plead, attempting to defuse the situation.
Thomas looks around in an exaggerated fashion, feigning confusion.
“Do…do I not look calm?” He looks back at his companions “Am I not calm? I feel like I’ve been better on this one, don’t you think?” drawing approving nods from them.
He looks back to me, a more serious expression “You guys seem pretty smart. Not at all like the people we usually take advantage of. So, I’m going to lay this out for you as a courtesy. We’re going to that Watch Center. Judging from the fact that the lot of you were holed up there, I’m sure there’s plenty of supplies to be had. We’re going to take all of it,” A realization strikes him “I heard at least one female up there…right?”
I stare into his eyes, my expression hardened.
He points a thumb behind him “In that case I’m sure one of those degenerates will have their way with her,”
“Any of you touches a god damn hair on her head and I’ll gut you like a fish!” Ethan exclaims, a wild look in his eyes.
Thomas look at him, raising an eyebrow. He narrows his eyes at Ethan a moment, studying him, noticing the same irregularities that I am. Thomas gives me another glance before standing back up.
He snaps his fingers and points “Shoot that one,”
Before a reaction can be made, the muscular woman steps forward, aims her gun and fires several rounds into Ethan’s chest. I feel the warm spray of his blood hit my face as I stare on in shock.
Ethan lets out a few gargled coughs, blood flows from his mouth, light fades from his eyes, his head finally slumps into his chest as all life exits his body.
Damien and I look at each other in horror. Where as my reaction is to resign myself and try to comprehend, Damien’s becomes rage.
He struggles furiously at his bonds “I’m going to kill you! I’m going to put every single one of you down like dogs! You trash!” He yells as his body trembles violently, unable to contain the animosity that wants to be let out.
“Put a muzzle on that one,” Thomas says calmly though Damien’s screams.
The fat one steps forward again, this time striking Damien hard enough to make him lose consciousness. I stare at the floor, feeling my mind begin to disassociate.
“Hey…up here,” Thomas’s voice calls.
I slowly look up towards him, the effort to do so being almost too much.
“The feeling you have? That’s the reality setting in that this is going to happen. Look at it this way though…I just did you a favor. I think you and I both noticed your friend there wasn’t quite right. So, I think without further ado, we should go introduce ourselves to the rest of your little party. Grab those two, leave the dead one,” Thomas orders.
Without response, Aiden lifts me from the floor, placing his pistol at my back, pushing it against me as a silent demand for me to walk. Tetra lifts Damien from the floor, hoisting him on to her shoulder, carrying her rifle in her other hand.
“Sophie, status?” Thomas beckons.
The smaller woman jogs closer “All done. Schematics are downloaded and I just transferred them to your device,” She explains.
Thomas takes out a small piece of technology, not unlike what Elena uses and begins to tap on it.
“So, the room you want is…here,” Sophie points.
Thomas smiles “You’re the best,” He says before turning away from her and taking his place at the head of the group, keeping his attention half on his device and half on the pathway ahead.
To my dismay, he’s able to trace the path to the center flawlessly with the schematics. Before long, we’re standing in front of the door.
He presses the button on the door’s panel to be met with three audible buzzing sounds, denying him access.
Thomas audibly sighs “What’s the code?” He asks aloud.
I stay silent. I hear Aiden shift around behind me before I feel a jolt of pain in the back of my head causing me to flinch.
“Code…now,” Aiden repeats.
I look towards the front of the group. Thomas is now looking back at me, awaiting my answer. My eye catches the glimpse of something in the small window of the door. I see Lauren. She gives me a nod, showing me the barrel of a pistol before quickly ducking to the side of the door.
“Three, seven, nine, four,” I respond.
The door opens. Thomas enters first, followed by Sophie, then Tetra, Pudge after her. The bang of a gun goes off.
Pudge’s head jerks to the left side, a small spurt of blood follows through the exit wound. He falls to the floor lifeless instantly. The entire room panics. Tetra drops Damien to the floor with a loud thud, bringing her rifle to her shoulder, aiming at Lauren.
I take my chance.
I elbow Aiden in the face, taking hold of his arm that’s now outstretched, sighting up Lauren. I flip him over my shoulder, grabbing his pistol from him and aiming it between his eyes.
Thomas pulls a concealed firearm from his right thigh – a large revolver that would be almost better suited as a club than a gun – and aims it towards me.
It’s then that I notice Elena coming seemingly from nowhere, without a sound, and aiming a pistol of her own at the base of Thomas’s neck. A few tense moments pass in silence as we all wait for the first person to move.
It’d be a hell of a thing is this is how it all ends. Gunned down in a no win stand off with a bunch of pirates on a mutant infected station where no one will likely ever find us.
Thomas finally lets out a laugh “Well…this is a predicament. I gotta say, you guys are persistent,”
I look down at Aiden, who periodically giggles in a sadistic fashion.
“I told you this wasn’t going to go how you wanted it to, Tom,”
“Good god, don’t call me, Tom. I hate that,”
“For someone with a gun at his spine, you sure seem collected,” Elena says, a different, more cold tone in her voice than I used to hearing.
“Trust me, honey, I’ve been in worse positions than this, with women much uglier than you. This is foreplay for me,”
“Maybe I’ll just pull the trigger then, get right to the climax,” She responds, pushing the barrel into the base of his neck harder.
He winces slightly “Little pain with the pleasure, kinky,”
“Enough. You, Thomas was it? You seem like a business man. I think we can make a deal that satisfies all of us,” Lauren offers.
Thomas scoffs “Okay…I’ll bite. What’s your deal?”
“You aren’t serious?” Tetra blurts out.
“Did I ask you? No? Then shut your mouth,” Thomas snaps back, shutting her down.
He looks back towards Lauren, waiting for her to continue.
“You can have everything in this room,”
“What?!” Elena exclaims.
“If…you take us on your ship and fly us somewhere safe,”
“Is that all? That sounds like a fair trade to me. Done,”
“Lauren, don’t trust these guys,” I caution.
“What else can we do, Dante? It’s either this or we shoot each other,”
“Wait...where’s Ethan?” Elena looks around the room “Dante…where’s Ethan?”
She sees my expression to her question.
“I’m sorry Elena…there was nothing I could do…”
For the briefest of moments, Elena loses focus, the grip on her gun loosening. Thomas seizes the opportunity. He fires at me wildly, causing his bullet to graze my arm before using his revolver to pistol whip Elena, catching her off guard.
She falls to the floor in pain, a gash splitting the bridge of her nose. Tetra follows his example, but not before Lauren reacts, hiding behind a small corner, shooting a few shots of her own.
Lauren’s rounds reach their target. Two of them ricochet off the large woman’s armor, one of them manages to hit her arm, the pain causing her to drop her rifle from a ready position.
I pull the trigger of my commandeered pistol as Aiden starts to roll. This changes my shot from one that kills to one that wounds as it connects with his shoulder. He sweeps my leg, bringing me to the floor and mounts me.
He pulls a knife from his back and thrusts it downwards toward my face. I’m just barely able to guard by grabbing his forearms, stopping the blade inches from my iris.
“That’s enough! I’m done with this shit,” Thomas says, his anger finally boiling over.
“Aiden, let up,” He commands.
Aiden obeys, pulling the blade back, but staying at the ready. I turn my head to see that Thomas is now aiming his gun to Elena’s head, who kneels on the floor next to him, blood dripping from her face.
“New deal. I have the advantage now. So, you’re going to do what I say, when I say. Or I’m going to blow her pretty little face all over the deck. And then I’m going to move to sleeping beauty on the floor there. And you’ll like this pretty boy. For the finale, I’ll let Aiden go to town on the trigger happy one over there while you watch. And then I’ll leave you here to fend for yourself after I’ve taken everything,”
“Okay…okay…you’ve made your point,” Lauren says, the clacking of her shoes signaling the sound of her coming out of her hiding space.
I hear the loud metallic sound of the gun dropping to the floor.
“Good now we’re on the same page. Tetra, put her out,”
I hear Tetra move a few steps, followed by the dull smacking sound of a rifle butt against flesh. I hear Lauren fall to the floor as I watch Thomas mimic the act with Elena.
“Aiden,” Thomas says, eliciting Aiden to draw a fist back, striking me, turning me off like a light.