|The Andromeda Project
Author: fromthemindof PM
Intergalactic bounty hunters, space zombies, and artificial intelligence, oh my! Anyways, this is a quick blurb about the cleansing of a ship infected by an synthetic virus. It started out as a role play introduction, but I liked it too much to scrap it. I might add more chapters later. Maybe. I don't know. Enjoy.Rated: Fiction T - English - Sci-Fi/Adventure - Words: 2,652 - Reviews: 1 - Follows: 1 - Published: 06-27-12 - id: 3036544
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A quiet exhale punctured the silence, released in a puff of steam as warm breath met frigid air. It was always so cold aboard infected vessels. Space was a cold place, and the diseased usually destroyed the controls monitoring the heating system. No one could say what purpose such an action served, but many of the hordes' actions were inscrutable. The sub-humans had been known to rip circuitry from the ship's innards, to dismantle any and all technology aboard. They were irrational, feral, sapped of all rationality. Once the nano-virus took hold they became like sewage rats, scurrying from one dark corner to the next, springing viciously at any perceived threat. Their frontal lobes had ceased function, along with all other regions of the brain that did not control basic drives. There was no code of morals among the polluted beings, though somehow they managed to maintain nests. When food was not readily available, however, the entire pack would turn on its weakest member and sacrifice it in an attempt to satiate its growing hunger. It was gut-wrenching to see for the first time.
Luckily this was not Marlene's first time. She was a veteran as far as sanitation was concerned. That was the politically correct term for the cleansing and destroying of an affected ship: sanitation. It made the whole process seem blithely simple, clean, efficient. Any freelancing agent with experience in the field, however, knew that to be a gross embellishment. When one of them – an artificial life form – turned, it was the beginning of a grand debacle. The nanobots circulating through its bloodstream would suddenly become agitated, releasing adrenaline and a slew of other chemicals into its brain. After that… well, the politest way Marlene could think to put it was that the Synthesete, as the beings were called, completely lost its freaking mind. The nanobots would start eating it away from the inside out, opening wounds through which to seep out with the blood. The Synthesete itself would then launch itself at anything within striking distance and attempt to do as much damage as it possibly could, creating gashes in the victim through which the nanobots could enter a new host. Then chaos ensued. It wasn't long before the entire ship became an empty shell filled with snarling beasts. Sometimes the entire process took a week, sometimes a single day. It all depended on the Synesthete. They had all been created for specific purposes, with different DNA, so she supposed it made sense. It mattered very little, though. Once the process began there was no way to stop it. Killing the afflicted Syn didn't seem to help. In fact, it only exacerbated the condition, as the nanobots would flood out of their old host. One of the first actions of the afflicted was to destroy the communication equipment to isolate the ship. The only hope of survival was to eject from the ship or to somehow fend off the attackers until a Sanitation Officer arrived. Chances of success for either were slim.
At least the hordes left the oxygen systems intact. Apparently they had enough sense to know that without airflow into the ship they would suffocate. It allowed Marlene to work without a cumbersome facemask that might obscure her vision. The dark hood of her suit remained draped over her head, however, as it was lit from the inside and allowed her to observe her surroundings. She tried to ignore the sound of her boots as they struck the steel bridge arching over the ship's dark engine room. The quietness was unnerving – the boots weren't that heavy to begin with. The entire suit was light and snug fitting. But provided ample protection as an incredibly smooth metal mesh ran through the fabric. Technology really could work wonders, the Synesthete epidemic aside. She squinted with her one good eye in an attempt to detect movement along the path. The other eye, or rather eye socket, was covered by a sleek black patch, punctuated by five red lenses that formed a cross. The missing eye was hardly her only mark of wear and tear – her entire right side, from face to thigh, was covered in long scars, relics from the past. They didn't usually carry much pain with them, so she really had no cause to mind them.
Just as she thought she could make it to the ship's control room uninterrupted she saw a flash in front of her. It was a person, or a former person, barreling at her with such speed that it blew her smokey hair back. With a movement so deft and precise that it barely required her attention, her hand shot to the gun in her holster, pulled it out, and fired. A brief flash of light splattered eerie shadows on the darkened walls. Energy pistols – they were delightfully efficient. Their short barrels were designed to catch and concentrate energy into a form so dense it could rip through virtually anything, including the sagging flesh of a Synesthete's victim.
All was quiet. It appeared the creature had strayed from its flock. She let the weapon fall back into its place on her belt. With her left foot she nudged the slumped form of her target and it toppled over. They were always a gruesome sight; their hair and nails had fallen out, the bones of their fingers had been pushed through the skin and sharpened to form claws, their flesh had faded to a dirty mix of brown and gray and hung limply from their muscles. As decrepit as they might have seemed, though, they were quick and they were strong. The nanobots helped with that. Marlene gave a disgusted grunt and weaved around the corpse. In her mind she ran through her checklist. She had already swept most of the ship, and now only the cockpit remained. Sometimes she wondered why they bothered infiltrating the ship at all. They were going to blow it up anyway. But the military wanted to sweep for survivors and it wanted to export any information off of the ship before destroying it. It wasn't her job to question procedure; she was getting paid to carry it out.
Another rustle of movement. Four more shots. Two went wide; the other two dropped two more bodies. They landed on either side of her as she pushed open the door to the Control Room. Hopefully there would be no unpleasant surprises. She was fairly certain she had taken out their main hive, which they had situated in the barracks. As long as they infected hadn't separated into two factions only stragglers should remain. True to her expectations, nothing flew out at her through the open doors. Using the light from her hood as a guide she strode inside, breezing past empty chairs and destroyed monitors that spit angry bursts of electricity at her as she past. It took her a moment to differentiate the main control panel from the other mangled surfaces in the room. While one hand snagged another implement from her utility belt – a small, square device resembling a circuit board – the other brushed away severed cords and splayed metal casings until her nimble fingers found a slim rectangular insert. Good, the disk drive was still intact. Sometimes, if the panel was completely obliterated, she would have to spend nearly an hour rummaging through machinery to find the modern version of a little black box. Quickly she jammed her disk into the driver and waited, foot tapping anxiously. She really wanted to get out of dodge.
Then she heard it, a barely audible intake of breath, and she froze. "Dammit all!" She grabbed her pistol once more and stood poised, just waiting for a shot.
Her actions must have caused some surprise in the target, because there was a considerable din, though it was hard to locate its origin. Finally, something moved: a panel popped off the side of one of the stations. She might have fired if it were not for the terrified squeak, "Don't shoot! Please!"
"What the hell?"
Not willing to relinquish her position of power, Marlene kept her gun trained on the spot. From the opening a hunched figure crawled out. As it straightened itself, Marlene's brow furrowed. It was… a girl? A slip of a creature, several inches shorter than the Agent, with a short mess of inky black hair and big, pale eyes. She was quivering, pupils darting nervously around the room.
"Son of a…" Marlene murmured, bemused. Still she kept her shot. "Who are you? What happened?"
"P-please! Don't shoot! I didn't do anything!" The girl replied in a frenzied rush of words. "I.. I.. They were….!" She seemed at a loss for words and her whole body shuddered.
"Christ. Calm down, kid!" Marlene grunted, lowering her weapon slightly. "Tell me what happened, and why you're not out of your head like everyone else on this godforsaken wreck."
Her words, though crass, seemed to comfort young woman. "Well… I… We were stationed here as a research facility. We were going about our data collecting just like always. And then… there was this other ship just kind of drifting towards us and we received an S.O.S… We tried to radio back but it seemed like… like whoever was on the ship had shut down their communication receivers. We couldn't figure out why they would do that. So… so, the Captain sent a recovery pod with a few men in it to see what was going on. When they boarded the ship, though, we lost radio communication. A couple of minutes went by, and then the pod started coming back, but we still couldn't get a response. So we opened the gates and then…" Her body trembled violently again and Marlene almost feared she was having some sort of spasm. "Those things they just came out! There was screaming and running and blood and it was all just a blur. I didn't know what to do! I… One of my duties was to help with engineering on the ship and I suddenly remembered that there was a tiny compartment space in one of the stations that was used for storing logs so… so as they started coming in I just opened it and hid. There was so much noise and… and then nothing but I didn't want to leave." By the time her mouth had stopped moving tears were welling in her eyes. "I thought no one was going to come for me!" With that she broke down into full sobs.
"Well great Jehova." Marlene responded simply. It had been a long time since she had found a survivor. "Just… Just stop crying, okay? I've finished my sweep and I'm going to get you out of here." She reached out her hand to the other girl but, just as their fingers touched she drew back and pressed her pistol into her forehead. She had seen something, just a tiny trace of neon blue running under the ashen skin of her hand. "You're one of them!" She spat accusingly, trigger finger itching. "You're a Synthesete!"
"No!" The girl shrieked, collapsing to her knees. "No! I mean… yes! Yes I am! But they're not in me, I swear! I'm not infected! Please! Please! Please…" Her words faded into a quiet whimper as she rocked back and forth, tears splashing from her eyes onto the cold metal floor.
Marlene was not inclined to believe the creature, but her instructions replayed in the back of her head. "If possible, bring any live subjects back to the base ship for inspection."
Advancing rather menacingly, Marlene jammed her gun into the other woman's forehead again. "You're saying that you didn't cause this. That the infection spread from another ship?"
"YES!" Wept the girl, having lost all control of her emotions. She sat crouched there, arms between her knees keeping her from crumpling to the floor all together.
After a brief suspicious pause, filled with the sniffling of the Synthesete, Marlene retracted her arm. "Alright. Get up. We're leaving." Not willing to wait for her new charge to compose herself, Marlene yanked the smaller girl to her feet. "Walk."
Wiping the sleeve of her suit under her eyes to dry her tears, the girl blathered, "Y-You believe…?"
"Yes. Now hurry up. We've got to hurry before any more of those freaks decide to investigate." Producing yet another object from her belt, a small vial filled with glowing orange liquid. With a swift, forceful motion she dashed it against the corner of a station. A spindly crack formed at the site of the impact and the cylinder's content began to ooze out. "Take this. Don't touch the stuff leaking out, just stick it somewhere with lots of wires, -." She paused, "What's your name? The short version, not the entire serial number.
Rather reluctantly, the girl plucked up the vial between her thumb and forefinger. "Andromeda." She responded shortly before scuttling off to insert the item in a deep gash in the control panel.
"Like the galaxy. Nice." Marlene mused with a lopsided half-smile. As soon as Andromeda returned, however, the expression morphed into a stern one. She seized her by the wrist and hissed, "We're going to want to run. Now!"
To her great relief, Andromeda didn't question the order, merely kicked up her heels in a sprint as Marlene guided them back over the engine room, her free hand seeking out her pistol. Their feet pummeled the metallic paneling as they flew through the ship. If there were any of the grotesque humanoids lurking about them, neither of the women noticed. Andromeda failed to notice much else besides her human heart pumping in her chest cavity as they ran. That pulse and a lick of heat on the back of her neck. Against her better judgment, she swung her head around to look back, only to see the path behind them engulfed in an expanding inferno.
"You're good to go outside without any protection, right?" Marlene's breathless words jarred Andromeda's attention from the horrifying crackle of the flames as they advanced towards them.
"Good!" Shoving her pistol back in its holster to free a hand, Marlene's gloved finger reached up and pressed the center lens on the patch over her eye. A blue screen appeared projected in front of them as they ran, the other four lenses starting to whir as they began rapidly circling the center. "Marlene! Ready for extraction! One guest!" By that time they had reached the gates that separated the ship's interior from the cold void outside. Seemingly of its own volition, Marlene's eye-patch began to squirm, its hems coming loose and its edges expanding over her face until the black mass covered her skin with a shell reminiscent of a gas-mask. She released her companion's hand for a brief moment to pry open the doors before grabbing her once more.
"Hold on, Andy!"
And then she leaped, and they were both suspended in the dark sky. But still too close to evade the explosion. Registering this fact, Andromeda began to panic, to squirm under Marlene's grip. "We're too close!" She screamed, writhing in an attempt to propel herself further from the vessel.
"Stop it." Marlene instructed calmly. The Synthesete reared her head in opposition to this instruction, but before she could continue her escape attempts a great gush of warm air overtook them and their surroundings were bathed in a cool blue light. They were floating upward, being drawn into an elephantine freighter that was stalled above them.