Spears slowed down in the bridge attempting to overhear anything but it was just meaningless murmurs. They headed down the first flight of stairs to where their cabins were. Jesse was standing in the hall waiting for them.
“Come on, Mark is waiting for us, two decks down.” He had his rifle in his hands already. Spears took his rifle off his back, chambering a round. What was on the ship that required rifles? Regardless, he followed Jesse down the passageways and down the flights of stairs where the bulk head suddenly changed. The usual steel bulk head was no longer the same, now a clean, white, smooth bulkhead was all he could see on both bulkheads and the deck and ceiling. At the end of the passageway was a large air tight door where Mark was standing. Above the door was a sign that read ‘Tartarus labs, Restricted Level.’ Spears considered stopping and questioning the entire image, but the tone of urgency overruled it. He had never seen a passageway like this, nor ever heard of a ship with labs or a restricted level. Mark pulled out a small hand held radio and requested that the door be opened. The electric lock lit up and Mark pushed open the door.
Mark and Jesse went in with their rifles up, the lights were on and the bulk head changed again. The ceiling and deck were still the clean, smooth, sterile, white, but the bulkheads were lined with large pipes, on one he read ‘Numina Engine: Steam.’ Spears shouldered his rifle as well and stayed to the right bulkhead. He moved slower than Jesse and Mark did, he didn’t know what was going on and now was not the time to ask. He looked across from him to Emily who also had the same look on her face. An information gap between the four could not have been more obvious. They moved down another ten yards in their staggered column formation until they came to a junction in the passageway. Jesse and Mark looked at each other and then without saying anything they both went left. Spears looked over at Emily.
“Guess we go right?” He said hearing Mark and Jesse already farther down the left side.
“I guess that’s the case.” Emily went forward and aimed down the right passageway. Spears turned the passageway and stayed on the right hand side of the passageway clinging next to the bulkhead. He kept his rifle pointed down the passageway; on the left bulkhead Emily did the same as they moved forward. They came to another turn, they turned left. The pipes ended into the walls, now they only faced the long clean white hall. The overhead lights were sterilized the walls in white light with a copper coated buzz. At the end of the hall some twenty yards from them the lights were broken and they could see one of the crew members sitting down in the hall. He was centered in the light with his back turned. A yellow rain coat with the hood up covered his skin from view. The light glistened on the water specks which remained. Something in Spears screamed to stop moving, to go back, something primeval, an animal instinct was pulling him back. Something his ancestors had developed. But he pushed with his will to take a few steps forward and yell at the man sitting in the hall.
“You, in the coat, turn around!” He thought maybe this man was some sort of thief or saboteur. Environmentalists had been known to do extremely dangerous feats to ships at sea to push their terrorism. Yet the man remained unresponsive. “Now!” Spears yelled out at the top of his lungs. Given any other location or job he’d have shot by now. The man seemed to be rocking back and forth now but remained unresponsive to his shouts. He knew the rules of his job. He looked over at Emily who also had her sights on him. He started to take steps forward towards the man. He remained in his rocking position; Spears and Emily were now only four feet from the man.
“Sir, we won’t ask you again.” Emily began to speak to the man now. She sighed and parted her lips to continue, Spears pressed his cheek in harder on the sights preparing to fire. Then a whistle and clatter, and sudden rattling, the ship came to life with noise around them, burst upon burst and then the defying shriek of human pain. Spears reflexes snapped him to one knee and he turned around. It had to have been Jesse and Mark, but the shooting stopped. He looked at Emily who was looking over her shoulder and Spears turned around realizing no one was watching the man.
As Spears twisted around, the man’s face flashed as he swung about, Spears kicked back falling onto his back. Emily turned in time to miss a large blade which struck the wall next to her forcing her to stumble back. It had all happened so fast Spears hadn’t seen what it was until now.
The torso of the crewman was being lifted up above him to the ceiling, his stomach sucked in, his ribcage showing, his skin darkened to a fine wet wood brown. His arms outstretched to the sides. Eyes sunken to mere pearl beads within the skull, the nose was missing. His ears plastered to his skull with a hard crust. His lower jaw was gone, and in its place was a clutter of tentacles that squirmed and lunged back and forth, fighting to reach out at them. His upper jaw was lipless and revealing the black decay of the gums which held the front teeth of what was once a man and two large dogteeth. The man’s limbs were replaced by long muscular appendages, at the end of each looked like a long serrated, curved blade.
The creature took in a gasp of sickly air and brought its right limb up in a stabbing motion towards Spears. Spears fired a burst from his rifle up into the creature as he began to crawl away by frantically kicking his feet. The rounds tore uselessly into bone and flesh. He finally got his footing and stood up stumbling back before he fell into his firing position. He fired another burst along with Emily who fired more rounds into the creature. It shrieked at them. Lunging forward with its large blades whipping back and forth, they both fired rounds which passed through its flesh and snapped its bones. The creature stumbled and fell forward and continued to try and crawl towards them with its front two blades. Spears and Emily were being forced back by the ever quickening monstrosity crawling towards them. Emily dropped her empty magazine and snapped a new one in as the creature reached her ankle. The blade sliced through the leather boot with ease tripping her. It began to pull her in. Spears rushed forwards and fired the remaining rounds of his magazine into the creature’s skull shattering it across the white floor of the corridor.
Spears breathed with his adrenaline and reloaded. He turned back to Emily who was now leaning up against the wall. Bright red blood encircled around her foot. The rose colored liquid died her boot a dark wine red.
“How bad is it?” Spears asked while watching the corridor where the creature was once sitting.
“Not too bad, my boot took most of it.” She straightened up and stood straight and instantly winced giving away her lie.“We need to find Mark and Jesse.”