The whisper was the first thing he was aware of. He stirred into conscious very slowly, his thoughts and body sluggish, as if he had been asleep for a very long time and wasn't quite ready to wake up yet. Even when he opened his eyes, there was nothing but darkness. Am I... blind? The thought made him panic. He struggled, turned his head from side to side; the brush of fabric across his face reassured him that his vision was being blocked rather than gone. That was enough to calm him for only a moment, but that fear rekindled immediately upon the discovery that he couldn't move. When he tried, the only reaction was a faint twitch in his fingers; it felt as though his ankles, wrists, torso, and neck were all bound -- and firmly.
He had no memory of where he was, or how he had gotten there. As far as he could remember, he had been working at the colony, exploring with his father and a small group of others. But, blinded and bound as he was, it was obvious that he was no longer there. Even after a few days he had grown accustomed to the smell of the new planet. It was lush, new, unfamiliar but quickly becoming home -- far from the strange metallic scent that surrounded him.
"Is…" he tried to speak, but his mouth and throat were too dry for him to manage anything other than a weak croak. His thick tongue seemed to stick to the top of his sandpapery mouth. He swallowed hard and tried again. "Is anyone there?"
And then – something. He listened hard, trying to hone in on the noise and identify it. It was a low buzz that grew progressively louder, closer to him. Soon it was near painful to his ears, so loud that it felt like it was just beside him. Then the sound changed, turned into something even less identifiable, the same whirring but dulled slightly and accompanied by a wet, cutting noise. A splash of something hit his arm. He automatically tried to flinch away, but still couldn't move at all.
There was silence again.
A hand fell upon his arm then, and slowly made its way upward to his shoulder, fingertips brushing ever so lightly. By instinct alone Chance forced himself to remain still and silent as the ghost of a touch crept upwards. The pressure left his skin, and then the fabric covering his face was jerked away. Unable to help himself, Chance opened his eyes.
He could see again – partially so, at least. There still appeared to be something over his left eye, but through his right he could see some of the dimly lit room. He couldn't quite crane his neck enough to see the face of the person who was standing beside the bed he was strapped to.
"H-Hello?" he asked. "Whoever you are… please, let me go. At least tell me where I am!"
There was no response but a new sound, an almost-scraping cutting noise, as though someone was trying to slice through something difficult. After a few seconds, the binding around his right wrist snapped. He pulled his free arm away from the mysterious stranger automatically, and attempted to pull at the binding on his other wrist. A hand shoved him away roughly and released him from that, as well.
Chance felt something cold pressed into his hand, and when he drew his finger along the tip it pricked him, surprising him. As footsteps pattered off into the distance, he gripped the blade he had been given. He cut through the remaining restraints one by one, with some difficulty. By the time he could move freely, whoever had helped him was long gone.
He sat up on the icy metal bed, one hand rubbing at other wrist, chafed from the bindings. He looked down at the scalpel in his hand and then around the room. Most of the lights seemed to be off, though a few at one end still flickered in a valiant attempt to fulfill their purpose. Still, he could barely see. Very slowly and carefully, and with scalpel still clutched in hand, he slid off of the bed and let his feet find the floor. He took a few steps towards the lights and then suddenly slipped. His free hand shot out to save himself, but grasped an adjacent metal bed for only an instant. His fingernails scraped across it but were unable to keep a grip, and Chance went crashing to the floor in a puddle of something wet and warm.
"Ugh…" he groaned, slipping once more as he tried to sit up. He settled for being on his hands and knees, which was a little difficult seeing as he was still trying to hold on to that scalpel. He used the other hand to grope around in front of him until he found the metal legs of the bed. Holding on tightly, he pulled himself up to a standing position again and used the bed to steady himself. Unknowingly, he grabbed onto what was unmistakably someone's arm.
He jumped slightly and then smiled in relief.
"Thank God I'm not alone!" he exclaimed, but there was no response. "Err… hello?" Was the person bound like him, perhaps unable to talk? His hand found its way up the stranger's arm to the shoulder, which he shook gently in case the person was just asleep. Still nothing; perhaps he was unconscious? Chance continued moving his hand up to the collarbone, to the neck, to… empty air. He paused and moved his hand again, re-adjusting and placing it where the neck was. He was met with nothing but a gooey stub.
It took a brief moment for the shock to register, and then he yanked his hand back with a cry, stumbling away from the bed and the decapitated body upon it.
"Wh-what the hell?" he yelled out, speaking mindlessly in his horror. "What's going on? S-Somebody help me! Help!"
He stumbled blindly through the darkness, vainly trying to reach the last few lights that seemed all too far away. He tripped over and ran into numerous other objects which he was far too horrified to investigate further, and finally made his frantic, clumsy way to the light. He nearly collided with the doorway and then burst into the hallway outside, which was still dim, but better lit than the room he had been in. He skidded as he came to a stop, leaving a red streak on the white floors; the soles of his shoes were still slick with the blood he had stepped in. In fact, he was practically painted in gore. His hands were a mess, and red stained the front of his shirt, his knees, his shoes -- he was covered.
"Oh God, oh God..." he mumbled to himself, frantically trying to wipe his hands off on a clean patch of his pants. His hands shook, breath came in short gasps, legs wavered as if about to give out at any moment. He had to lean against a wall to stop himself from falling, and through his swimming vision tried to identify where he was. The walls were cold, hard metal, the floor linoleum. There were no windows, but the hallway was lined with numerous metal doors. The ceiling above had many fluorescent lighting tubes, but they weren't giving off nearly the amount of light that they were meant to. They produced only a dim glow which flickered occasionally; presumably, they were running on emergency power. Chance had only been on a spaceship once before, on the way over to the new colony, but he immediately recognized that was where he was now.
A sign above the room he had just emerged from read "medical wing" in bold black letters, and signs listing tips for dealing with various communicable diseases were plastered on either side. He tried to focus on their simple cartoons and instructions as he steadied himself, taking in deep gulps of air, his breath still shaking with fear. The hallway was completely empty besides him, and silent as well, but the door at the end promised hope of life. Once his quivering legs seemed ready to support him again, he made his slow, tottering way towards that light. He tried to push thoughts of the nightmare he had just left away; what was important right now was survival. Whoever had done that to the person in the room, whoever had inexplicably cut him free -- that person was still out there, probably close by. He intended to get as far away as possible.
Finally he reached the door. His outstretched hand landed on the smooth metal, leaving a crimson trail as he dragged it down. He shuddered at the sight and then looked around, trying to figure out how to open it; he wasn't by any means used to spaceships or their technology, and the other time he had been on one he was in a group. There was no handle or knob to open it with, nothing but cold metal, and it obviously wasn't touch-activated. His eyes explored the area for a few moments before noting the few-inch-wide rectangle off to the side. Cautiously, he pressed his hand against it; it pushed inward at his touch with a soft click. After a mechanical whirr, the door slowly opened, the metal sliding upwards from the ground until it disappeared, making a soft click once it was fully open.
Chance peered cautiously through the doorway and, once he was convinced that there was no imminent danger, walked through it. But almost immediately after he placed his foot on the other side of the doorway, something cold and hard struck him in the side of the head. Sharp pain exploded in the spot, stars danced in his vision, the world swam -- and then he clunked heavily to the ground. He barely remembered to throw his arms out to save himself, and his arms and knees smacked painfully against the floor. A groan of pain escaped him and he rolled onto his back, holding up both hands in a gesture of surrender. Only after holding them out did he realize it wasn't such a nonthreatening act after all, seeing as he was still splattered with gore.
"Whose blood is that?" a voice demanded gruffly. A boot landed on Chance's chest, pushing down to ensure that he couldn't move from the floor.
"I-I don't know!" Chance said, his voice cracking in fear. He swallowed hard; he couldn't see much of the other man's face due to the angle, lighting, and the fact that he only had vision out of one eye. He could only see his body and a vague silhouette of his face. But it was obvious that he was male, and he had the deep, husky voice and broad shoulders of a man well into his adulthood. As he turned his head to get a better look at the boy at his feet, a splash of light fell across his face, displaying a hardened and gruff countenance. His head was shaved and his square jaw had a light coating of stubble; it was obvious that he was at least in his fifties. In one hand he gripped a cylinder that Chance recognized to be a police baton.
"What do you mean you don't know?"
"Where did you come from?"
Worried that he would just be cut off again if he tried to speak, Chance slowly raised his hand and pointed a shaky finger at the door he had just come through. The man turned his head slightly towards it while still keeping the boy in his vision, glancing from it back to Chance.
"The medical wing?" he asked. Chance nodded. "God, no... was there anyone there?"
"Well..." he started, and then gulped. The man stared at him, not interrupting for once, just waiting for an answer. "No one... alive... that I know of."
The man let out a long string of curse words, and then moved his foot from Chance's chest. He took in a deep breath, relieved to have the pressure off of his lungs, and then was abruptly yanked to his feet by the other man. Holding Chance by the shirt, he pulled him along behind him as he strode confidently through the doorway. Chance tried to dig his feet in as soon as he realized where they were headed, shaking his head frantically.
"N-N-No! Don't take me back there, it's... no, I can't do it!" he protested, babbling in his panic, unable to form coherent sentences or even thoughts. The man didn't turn towards him or appear to hear him at all, and continued onward with no apparent difficulty despite Chance's resistance. After being helplessly dragged for a few feet Chance grudgingly began to stumble forward again, doing his best to stay behind the other man. At least he wasn't alone now, and was with someone who seemed to know what he was doing.
He finally released the front of Chance's shirt as they neared the medical wing, and turned towards him with a glare.
"Stay behind me. Don't try to run," he ordered him. Without waiting for affirmation he turned and went into the room, walking carefully. Chance obediently followed, staying close on the older man's heels and casting skittering, paranoid glances around him.
"Power's out," the man murmured to himself, and turned towards a box near the entrance. He typed a code into the numbered pad next to it and the cover slid open, revealing a screen that displayed the current power levels, currently blinking yellow. "The entire ship's on reserve power... emergency lockdown...?" He frowned and then typed in another command. 'System override. Vesta branch power restored,' flashed across the screen, and then the lights came on. Chance raised a hand to cover his face, the bright lights startling after spending so much time in the dark. Once his vision was adjusted he turned around, lowering his hand.
What he saw was a nightmare.
The medical wing was absolutely destroyed; the hospital beds were overturned and dented up, medical tools scattered on the ground where they had fallen. Then there was the blood --- it was everywhere, splattered across the walls and pooled on the floor, smeared across everything. Dead bodies were strewn around, some still on the beds and others sprawled on the floor, some with parts on both the ground and the beds. Sightless eyes were wide with the fear they had experienced before death -- if their heads were attached to their bodies, that was. They were awful, savage killings, as if they were done for the sake of as much destruction as possible, rather than efficiency. There were limbs sawed off with medical tools, scalpels sticking out of throats or eyes, skulls dented in from brute force.
Chance stumbled backwards, grasping for something to support him and trying to get towards the door. The other man was frozen and silent for a few moments, staring at the massacre, but he snapped out of it when he noticed Chance moving. One strong arm shot out and grabbed onto his shirt again, pulling him back.
"Did you do this?" he shouted, a maddened look in his eyes. Spit flew from his mouth as he spoke, and the hand grasping his shirt was much too tight, and trembling. "You must have! You're the only one! What have you done? Why did--"
Another thought occurred to him and his head whipped towards the wreckage, grip slackening slightly.
"Evelyn..." he paused and then suddenly and roughly shoved Chance away. He flew back, hitting the wall and then falling to the floor again with a whimper. "Stay there. Try to move, and I will find you and kill you."
Chance curled up where he was, pulling his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them so that he was in a tiny ball. All of this was just too much to take; he was on the verge of collapsing in panic.
He watched the burly man walk slowly around the room, looking carefully from body to body and grimacing on occasion. After a bit of searching he bent down, picking up something from the floor. When he turned around Chance could see that it was a limp form, a slim woman. The man walked over to Chance, stepping carefully over puddles of blood and scattered bodies to make sure he didn't trip. He placed the woman down on an empty, unbloodied hospital bed and put his hand on her neck, feeling for a pulse.
His face was tight, stressed, but relaxed as soon as he found what he was looking for.
"You're damn lucky she's alive," he growled at Chance, and then moved his hand to the side of the woman's face, patting her cheek gently. "Miss Waverly? Wake up. Please, wake up."
There was no response. He frowned and took her by the shoulders instead, shaking her a bit more briskly. After a little while her eyes suddenly flew open and her arms went out automatically, desperately attempting to push the man away.
"N-N-No! The patients-"
"Calm down, Miss Waverly," the man said soothingly, taking her wrists gently and holding them. "It's me. It's Oliver. Everything's alright now."
Her frightened eyes finally focused on his face, and she calmed down slightly upon recognizing him.
"O-Oliver. They... the patients... are they okay?" she asked in a hoarse whisper.
Oliver's silence said it all, and her eyes filled up with tears. She tried to leave the bed but Oliver moved to block her way, standing so that her vision was cut off from the carnage of the room.
"Don't look. It's going to be fine, Miss Waverly. Let's get you out of here... just close your eyes."
She obeyed and he picked her up again, carrying her towards the doorway. He stopped there and jerked his head towards the hallway.
"You, too. Come here."
Chance scrambled to his feet and followed, this time staying back a few feet. He hovered anxiously as Oliver set the woman down on the floor.
"Evelyn, did you see who did this?" he asked. She shook her head slightly, lip trembling as she thought about it. She was older than Chance, although still fairly young, probably in her mid-twenties. She was pretty in a simple sort of way, with short, curly brown hair and wide blue eyes.
"I was just there, tending to the patients, when the lights went out... I went out to see what was happening, try to find some help. I couldn't find anyone, and then I heard a lot of noise coming from the medical wing... A-Awful noise, clashing and medical saws and..." She gulped, squeezed her eyes shut.
"We need to know what happened," Oliver urged her. She nodded and then continued, voice shaking even more than before.
"I went back in, it was so dark... There was someone moving around but I couldn't see at all. I went towards it, and something hard hit me. I fell and then... that's it."
Oliver sighed, obviously disappointed at the lack of information. Evelyn finally noticed Chance's presence and jumped slightly, pushing a hand to her chest as if to forcibly calm her heartbeat.
"Who is that?" she asked, obviously nervous. Oliver slowly turned towards Chance with red-rimmed eyes, mouth set in a firm and menacing line.
"That," he said, "is our killer."