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For All Mankind

Posted on Thu Nov 28th, 2019 @ 12:57am by Client Soto Nabaal & Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Pilot Allegra Jennings & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: The Forgotten Arm
Location: Eros Station Port Authority
Timeline: Eros Incident T-plus 1 hours 15 minutes

The camera feed's from the shelter's had gone dark half an hour earlier.

But they had not gone dark before the first gamma-ray emitter went online, turning one shelter after another into a hectic club scene of strobing lights. The radiation detectors attached to the camera had all pegged out 10 kilorad's, a fatal dose at only a moments exposure. But the camera's had shown the emitters firing off again, and again. The people in the shelters had looked confused at the shining lights, and in the dim emergency chem lights of the shelter no one could see the reddening of the skin caused by the sleeting gamma rays. But then even the cameras had begun to die, the emitters cooking them off as well. The last few had shown the collared crowds of civilians beginning to sit down and rest, the camera's angle giving their faces a sickly sweat-stained look.

Dr Tekkaden had taken a seat by a console closest to the screens and watched with rapt attention as she continued her muttered conversation with herself. Complex organic replicators and efficient energy transfer mechanisms were the words spoken into her private little world.

Now all of the feeds from the shelters were dead, with black screens with glowing white LOS messages scrolling on them.

Sully had spent most of the time in the locked control room going around the perimeter with his terminal held up high. He looked like a lost prophet, seeking a message from the great beyond. Alas, his faith had no bars. He muttered and cursed, occasionally directing some of that malice towards Kol, but only when he forgot where he might be had he not been here. Then he shot at glance at Mickey and Soto.

"You know, you shot the CPM Security guys pretty quick," he said, slipping the terminal back into his pants pocket. Mickey shook his head, not ready to have this conversation again. "That's a really good defence to have in court ya know, a roll of the shoulders, little bob of the head. You sell it well enough maybe the judge will go 'oh shucks' and let you off with a fine?"

"They were going to shoot first, I beat them to it," Mickey said simply.

"Said every thug with a quicker draw than the other guy," Sully said sardonically.

"They had a way about them, a stance. They were there to shoot first and be told what to do later. I've seen the odd death squad, you learn the look or you end up in a mass grave somewhere. Or out an airlock," Mickey said, affecting that little shrug of his.

"So they looked shifty eh? Great justification that," Sully muttered as he wandered back over to Wulf. "Hey, thought you said you could pop this door open any time you liked?"

“Remind me, next time we’re needin’ a distraction to use mister jolly there.” Her gaze was intent on triple checking her gun as she spoke, “Though, I do rather like his shirt.” Normally the friendly sort, Allegra was finding it easy to stray away from such given the circumstances. And the situation. Their situation. Had they really blown up a ship? Locked them in? What they needed was to get the fuck off Eros. And fast.

Ken had silently retreated to a corner after seeing all that death. Knowing he had some time to spair he knelt down, struck a silent cross and folded his hands in prayer. Quietly he asked for the guidance of the souls into the afterlife, and may they find peace wherever they may go.

She settled the weapon back into the sling before leaned back against the console, jumping back slightly as it suddenly sprang to life, lighting up. Green eyes darted from the screen to the others and back to the screen as she focused on what she was seeing. It was the Eros Station Mass Transit System, as stated in tiny white lettering at the top of the screen. Weird.

Allerga blinked as it switched to a few images of trams. Suddenly moving trams. “Heyyyy, guys?” Her statement to get the other’s attention sounding more like a question, “We got some tram movement.”

"That's not what I said," murmured Wulf, as he maintained his low profile and his vigil at the console. He let the others talk, ignoring the conversation about death and justice as much as possible, his focus on the code and the high end encryption. He'd listen to music and block them all out if he could, but that didn't seem like a great idea.

Imagery of people dying haunted his brain every time the tech dropped that deep concentration, and Wulf didn't want to face that right now. He was getting them all out of here, and then Mickey, Ken and Allegra would get them home. Back to the Albatross. That's what he kept telling himself, over and over. Home safe.

With Sully standing next to him, Wulf scowled darkly downwards. And then Allegra's words drew his attention. He looked up to the screen and visibly winced. What the....?

"Ready when you are, boss," Wulf chimed a little less happily than he might normally be at such an accomplishment. He looked to Soto and Mickey. "Door'll open when you hit the button." Wulf's head dropped back down to study the decoding program and checked into the tram system for any deeper info. Internal cameras, access to sound and motor function...

Each submenu option that would have shown the little pinhole security camera feed's each car was fitted with either showed the black and white LOS image, or it showed nothing. Or something. Mickey took a glance at one of the security cam feeds from the trams, and was reminded of a bad fungus outbreak he'd seen on Luna. Condensation and grime had gotten everywhere, and into everything. Even the wall screens that simulated windows out onto the grey soil of the moon had gotten an inner layer of grime and fungal growth.

What else would you expect from a cut-rate station like Eros? And yet there was that feeling, the lurch in his gut like he was about to fall off something.

"Ken, Allegra, eyes on the door," he looked over his shoulder at the rest of them as he depressed the button Wulf had indicated. "Head's up people, time to get out of here."

Ken rose and stepped up next to Allegra. His eyes were now a flat brown, humour lost in them.

With the high-pressure whine of pistons the heavy clamshell pressure doors yawned open again. Outside was the scene of their entrance, the opposite bulkhead to the door littered with shrapnel scars and bullet holes. The one CPM goon who'd gotten in the way of the sentry gun still sat against that fall, his shoulders sagging down due to the fact his torso and head had been cored out by a close proximity airburst. The second of the two CPM thugs left outside, one of the bleeders who'd seemed to be dead, had crawled along the corridors in the direction a sign helpfully pointed out as Control Plaza Therminal.

He'd collapsed in the effort halfway between the turn towards the tram station and where the group stood, his laboured breathing sounding plaintive and animalistic.

Around the far corner and out of sight, a pleasant automated voice commented on the arrival of a tram car. "Thank you for using the ESMT System. Please mind the gap, and ensure all belongings are taken with you...Gracias por usar el sistema ESMT. Tenga en cuenta la brecha y asegúrese de llevar todas sus pertenencias."

Mickey walked up to the downed thug, kneeling to check his pulse. Thready, and given he'd been thigh shot for an hour he had the constitution of a dozen horses. Good fortune or bad luck in missing the big arteries in his leg depending on how you looked at it.

"You gonna finish him off?" Sully asked.

"Does the righteous thing get tired? Or did you get the lifetime subscription plan?" Mickey replied lightly, wiping the blood he'd picked up on his fingers on the floor.

"Aid kit is for crew and friends only," Kai said, frankly.

Ken stepped next to Sully and Mickey, looking at the hawaiian-clad man. "You talk too much for someone who isn't guaranteed any way off this rock, you know."

"Fast Pass, you ass hole," Sully said and held up his UNIB badge. "Right now half the UN NAvy is on the burn for Eros Station. And this badge add's weight to whatever I tell the Marines when they show up. Your boss shot a man in cold blood, and you and the Mickey gunslinger back there didn't so much as bat an eyelash. You really want to piss off the guy who can say Han there shot second?"

"Threaten my crew or insult my friend again, and you won't be alive to tell anyone anything." Ken replied calmly, "Don't matter much what badge you're holding."

“The same goes Visa Versa, mate” Kol stated calmly. Sully might have been aggravating on the best of days but he was still his partner and as much as the senior agent would care to deny it he was his only friend for AUs. “Despite what you seem to have convinced yourself you and your crew aren’t above the la-“ before he could finish he heard approaching approaching footsteps. Given what they’d been privy too it made the agent stop in his tracks and face the source.

She staggered from around the corner, gasping for air like she'd run a marathon. The first thought to come to mind when looking at her was she was a waitress for one of the low priced high spin casinos. The cheaply printed uniform that did little more than be brightly coloured and cover up the bare minimum of modesty. She was the distraction, the tool used by the casino to keep you entranced whilst more of your credit balance was syphoned into another round of 'better luck'. Anywhere else it would have been tacky. On Eros, it was middle of the road.

The second look, the one at the back of your mind when you looked at her, was that she was sick. Her skin was pallid, almost translucent in places were dark spider web veins stood out on her fair skin. Her black hair clung to her scalp and shoulders like the vines and tendrils of a dead ivy plant. She took another ragged gasp of air, and with effort pushed off from the wall she'd been leaning on, her course ballistic for the opposite wall like a slow-moving pinball moving towards them. One arm stretched out, pointing at them, pleading for aid as she collided with the opposite wall.

When she hit something made a wet crunching sound, and the gasping turned to a gagging cough. She vomited a thick brown sludge that clung to the wall and spread out on the floor. Instantly the smell of it came to them...but it was wrong. Scents of acetone, chemical effluent, and the sort of electric tinge of ozone leftover from a arc welder.

She looked down in horror at the puddle of goo on the floor, and then looked towards Mickey and the others. Her eyes shining with an unearthly blue radiance.

"Pl...plase..." she pushed off from the wall, aiming for a spot closer to them on the other side, just ahead of the downed CPM goon. Her words came out thick and sludgy like her tongue was swollen like her jaw was malformed and ill fixed."...hal...halp me."

"What the fuck?" Kai exclaimed as she looked on to the woman pleading for help. "That's not normal... We need to get away from her," she said, her gut telling her that whatever she was coughing up was bad for all of them. Kai trusted nothing on this station except the group of people she'd been with since life seemed relatively normal. She hefted the shotgun she'd picked up from one of the CPM guys and kept it on the vomiter.

"That just doesn't look right." Ken agreed dryly.

The waitress with the glowing eyes lurched forward and tripped over the fallen and bleeding CPM thug. She again landed with a wet crunch, mewling as she coughed up more of the brown sludge. Prone on the floor, her nearly bare back exposed, there were ridges and swirls of glowing blue filament pulsing under the skin. Neon nautilus shell designs lined in creeping black spider webs. For a moment she lay over the riot cop, looking at her hands mixed in his blood and the sludges she was hacking up. Her look of puzzlement shifted like a landslide into a panic, her hands scrabbling over the riot arm and his bloody leg with a hysterical mewling.

And then she looked up, seeing them for what seemed like the first time as a sickly glowing hope appeared on her face. She reached out her hands, blood and ooze mingling on her fingertips.

"Plas...Plas hal-"

Her head rocked back, a meaty spatter of something coating the corridor floor behind her as she keeled over backwards. Mickey lowered his revolver. He muttered something to himself, and then let out a curse as she began to curl back up. The plastic bullet had shattered on a cheekbone, skipping along the jaw instead of burrowing through. It had taken one side of her jaw off, leaving the other to jaw with gore. Black tendrils hung from the wound, and blood oozed thicky where it should have streamed.

And still she reached out her hands, her ruined jaw making a cooing sound.

And then behind her, around the bend in the corridor towards the tram station, the sounds of lurching pained footsteps, Plaintive voices. And a sound, a wail and a moan and all the madness in the world.

"It's beautiful," Dr Takkaden said from behind Kai. "If you don't lose your mind to it."

Three more rounds landed in the woman's skull, turning most of her brain into liquid. "You know what's happening Doc?' Ken asked.

Last to leave the control room, Wulf held position just outside the pressure doors. He'd stolen a few more seconds of time on the console, caught up in the decryption study a little longer out of determination and curiosity. He’d stopped, back to the door collar and stared, horrified, at the scene of human destruction. He listened to the others trade unpleasant pleasantries and threaten each other, but Wulf's gaze remained locked on the waitress' progress.

He’d opened his mouth to say they should help her, but held those words in silence and recoiled in revulsion as she fell, as she puked. Bad, bad stuff. He could smell it even from way back here.

It only went downhill from there, and Wulf stayed where he was, gaze rapt in the signs of blue webs as she fell over the dead dude. It was gut-wrenchingly awful to watch her, to hear her voice, to know instinctively that she was utterly fucked.

And then Mickey ended it. The suffering. The life.

Or didn't?

Wulf closed his eyes as what had once been waitress looked up, ruined face different - alien - in appearance now. The sound she made chilled him to the bone, his pulse raced, but he still couldn't move.The tram. There were footsteps coming from the tram. A lot of footsteps.

He heard the three shots and opened one eye, then the tech quickly closed them both again as he said, in a wavering voice. "They did this on purpose." Wulf stated, realising the sheer magnitude of why that arsehole on the screen had left them here. He looked outwards to the others. "They released something... a virus? And that tram, it's... full of more of these infected people.” A pause.

“Tunnels?" Wulf asked, dark eyes not hiding the scared.

"Tunnels," Soto said, his voice ringing with the steely core of command. Around the corner, the next wave of vomit zombies appeared. Like the waitress they were a staggering ill-kempt mess but from a cross-section of Eros's social strata. Businessmen in Earth cotton suits, spacers in jumpsuits and high visibility jackets, random civilians in clothing ranging from the ordinary to pyjamas. All of it stained with the brown fever sweat of the sickness, every tone of skin turned an ashy colour.

And the eyes, dancing with little flecks of burning blue fire.

Mickey steadied his aim and took a careful pair of shots into the approaching mob. The dull rack of the report echoing with the thud of a body hitting the deck. No lucky shot this time. Not that they'd have time to set up a firing line and take marksmen lessons. Whilst Mickey covered the retreat, Soto lead the way back along the corridor the way they had come earlier.

"The rate of infection is incredible when you considered at its core the agent is an anaerobic silicon-based life form. The waitress, you heard her right? Even after getting shot, grievously injured, she still sought to find someone to help her. To spread the infection. I always wondered if it went for the body first, or went for the nervous system," Tekkaden said, having to be tugged along as she kept stopping to look over her shoulder. "Not that the end result isn't the same, but the mental impairment might be a first stage sign. The Protomolecule hijacking neural function to further its goals. It's why they chose Eros you know. More complex organic replicators with high processing neural architecture than anywhere else in the Outer Planets, not linked directly to the functioning of Inner Planet society."

"That's fascinating!" Mickey snapped in time with his revolver, opening the chamber and loading in another set of plastic bullets. "Everyone into the tunnels now!"

No one needed to tell Wulf twice. He followed Soto and didn't look back. While the tech trusted the others to cover their retreat, he did at least retain the presence of mind to grab the crazy doc's sleeve and pull her along behind him. He hadn't failed to notice the shotgun in the medic's hand either, though that didn't worry Wulf any. One more weapon on their side was definitely a Good Thing in the tech's opinion. He'd never expected to see the inside of someone's brain pan when he'd signed up with this crew, and one was definitely enough for the time being.

As soon as Soto reached the tunnel entry point, Wulf opened the hatch and wasted no time in negotiating the ladder halfway down into the darkness. Once in position, he helped pull and coax Takkeden down after him to the new ground level, then Wulf waited, a little ahead and to the side, for the others to drop down and filter past. One hand gripped Tekkaden's jacket, the other held a torch that wobbled a strong beam of red light down into the tunnel's mouth in the direction of the ship. Wulf could swear that his heartbeat was audible to everyone, but he kept his voice steady as he asked Ken his question. "You need me to guide you back to the Tross?"

"Not a bad idea." Ken agreed as he stepped deeper into the tunnel, his rifle light reflecting of a little drone scurrying away. "Let's go."

"Glad we got that past committee!" Mickey grunted, as one of his shots went into the shoulder of one of them, well, Vomit Zombies. It was an adept name, they were vomiting that brown sludge everywhere, and they really didn't seem to mind being shot as long as it wasn't the head. Who knew a bad horror movie would teach you so much. "I'm right behind you!"

 

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