When Ali awakens she feels so bitterly cold that she can scarcely believe she is alive, but the incredible pounding in her head tells her that she most definitely is. In fact, the pounding is so severe that she could well imagine that her head his split open. She raises her hand slowly to check the source of the pain but finds that she has no open wound. She feels more than a decent amount of relief to find that as she dares now to open her eyes. When she does she finds only the dim murk of the emergency glow that had been present when they had first boarded The Helix. The dim lighting does little to give her any indication of the state of the space around her. Though, she has enough light to work out that dead ahead of her is a sealed pressure door. That explains how she is still alive and unlike Ren, still on the space station.
Ali gulps as the images of Ren being sucked out into the vacuum of space play over and over in her mind. She wishes she could get those images out of her head, but she can’t. However, it makes her wonder if the other members of her crew have been as fortunate as she has. She hopes so. In fact, she hopes more than anything that they have survived. The loss of Ren is nearly too much for her to bare, as she feels for the torch that is mounted to the torso of her overalls.
It takes for a couple minutes of blind fumbling to locate the rocker for the torch, but once she does she presses hard against the resistant switch until it produces an audible click and the cone of yellow light appears. The light illuminates the red pressure door and its yellow warnings. The clear view she now has of the pressure door only helps to add to the devastation she feels at the loss of Ren. She had watched him flail frantically in the moments before she had been pulled headfirst into a gaggle of metal pipes. Her impact with them had rendered her unconscious immediately but how she managed to avoid being hauled out into space before the pressure door sealed she has no clue. Then again her pressure door should have sealed at the same time the one between Ren and Dan did, but it hadn’t. She wonders if that is related to the failings the station suffered. The ones Ren and Dan had mentioned before…
Not wanting to dwell any longer, Ali then fires her radio in hopes of contacting someone, anyone. If they are alive, that is. She has no clue if they are or whether more sections of The Helix have failed as well. Though, it seems Dan is a likely candidate as he had been trying to tell her and Ren something. At the time she hadn’t been able to work it out, but now she assumed he’d been trying to warn them of the depressurisation.
However, all she gets over her radio, which is operating across all frequencies, is static. That means there are no active connections. The revelation leaves her with a sizable pit in her stomach. The Barrett never closes its active connections, which means that it could very well have been destroyed by some debris. That leaves Ali paralysed with fear until she realises that no matter what she can’t stay here. One section has already failed so that means there is no reason that another, the one she is currently occupying, can’t as well.
Ali clambers to her feet. The pain in her head makes her dizzy at first and she hopes that doesn’t mean she has concussion. If she does then there is no one here to treat her and she certainly can’t do it herself. And that is without considering the fact that she has nothing to treat herself with as her pack consists of only a few medicinal items which are common among salvagers. But as she scans around her, using her body to aim the torch, she realises her pack is gone. Ali curses as it dawns on her that it likely got sucked out into space when the corridor decompressed.
“Can this get any worse?” Ali says to the silent air before noting that at least the klaxon is no longer blaring. She takes comfort in that as she rubs at her temples hoping the action will ease the pounding in her skull. However, it seems to do little. That disappoints Ali as she turns and heads back the only way she can, the bridge.
Unfortunately, Ali only manages to traverse five metres before finding herself face-to-face with yet another of the red pressure doors. Ali pounds her fist against the thick cold metal but the action leaves her with more pain than she would have liked it to.
“Can’t I catch a break?” She hears herself saying. She regrets her outburst as soon as she says it. It sounds ungrateful of her to say such a thing when Ren has lost his life, but all she wants is to get off this death-trap of a station.
Ali spins round on the spot. She has no clue what she is looking for but seeing as her routes both forward and back are blocked she sees little other option. Fortunately she soon spots an open hatch about a metre thirty in height. It’s the first time she’s laid eyes on it, but can’t say as to whether it had always been there. She knows that it must have but she hadn’t noticed it being open before now. Not that it matters as it is her only option other than to just stand and wait. Ali has no intention of doing that which is why she quickly stoops low and ducks through the opening into the barely taller than her space beyond the open hatchway.
The walls of the maintenance passage are bare untreated metal which has cable mountings and pipe brackets screwed into it to keep the essential lengths attached to the walls on either side of her. The result of the myriad of cables and pipes is that the space is barely two metres wide. That leaves Ali with a claustrophobic feeling which is only made worse by the three centimetre clearance she has above her head. Still, she can’t argue that it gives her a way forward, even as she carefully creeps down its length before then taking the forced right that ultimately splits into a t-junction several metres later. Ali looks right and then left. There is no indication as to which is the right route to take for her to get back to the bridge.
How Ali intends to get to the bridge is beyond her grasp, but it’s better than sitting and waiting, perhaps for the corridor to decompress and her to die, horrifically like… She doesn’t finish her thought but she doesn’t really need to. She knows exactly what decompression has already done to her and what it what do if it were her that was sucked out in the vacuum of space.
Ultimately, Ali decides to take the right turn which she believes will point her in the direction of the bridge. Though, she can’t be certain in that belief as she begins to worm her way at an idle pace down the winding maintenance passage until suddenly it simply ends. Ali hangs her head in frustration but voices none of her disappointment in the time before she makes a brisk turn on the heels of her armoured brown boots and then begins to retread her way back toward the t-junction. She isn’t quite sure how far the dead end is from the junction but seeing as it takes her a good five minutes to return to the three way split, she concludes that it must have been further than she would have assumed.
Seeing as she has no other option she takes the only other avenue available to her and heads down the branch that she is yet to explore. She prays that this one will not lead her to a dead end. If that happens she really will crash under the inevitable wave of despair which would follow such a discovery.
Several turns, two rights and one left, later Ali finds herself in a larger space. This one has three other avenues to take. This discovery brings her both feelings of both joy and frustration. Though, she would have to admit that she feels more frustration than joy as it sinks in just how long she could spend wandering through these passages until she reaches another pentagonal corridor. A corridor that might not even aid her in getting to her destination and that may instead only lead her further away from it.
But as Ali continues to consider which of the avenues may be the best for her to take a punt on she catches what she thinks is movement at the periphery of her vision. At first she jumps in response to what she thinks she saw. But then quickly finds herself staring in the direction of the avenue she could have sworn it came from. She can see nothing. Not that she can be sure because of the presence of the shadows. That’s why she fires her radio.
“Is anyone there?” Ali asks the ether not expecting a response, which is just as well as after a couple minutes she is still without a response. Ali has no clue what she would have done if there had been an answer to her query, but concludes that it doesn’t matter as no such thing transpired.
However, seeing as the glimpse of something she thought she saw could be an omen trying to guide her she settles on following the passage where she thought she saw it. It’s the first corridor on her left and is the closest branch to where she entered this still somehow claustrophobic feeling space.
Whether the claustrophobia is a cause of the continuously low ceiling above her head or due to the darkness beyond the diffused edges of her torchlight, she can’t say. What she can is that she really feels the need to be out of these passages.
During normal operations for the station these passages would be brightly lit. Why the lights blink out during an emergency lockdown she can’t fathom as she passes another of the strange looking sensors. That marks the seventh she has seen during her twisting and turning journey thus far.
Ali dwells on what their purpose could be. Mainly as a distraction from the tightness she can feel in her chest because of the small space around her. But thus far she cannot comprehend what the modifications could aid, whoever made them, in gathering. It is clear they have been fabricated in a hurry, though each one seems less haphazard than the last. That implies that whoever made the changes to the sensors was refining the procedure with each subsequent unit.
Seeing as they apparently don’t link back to the bridge however, it makes little sense to her. Sure, it had crossed her mind that Von could have been wrong or missed something, but an itch in the back of her mind tells her she would be wrong to dismiss what he said.
Then Ali sees another shifting shadow. This one isn’t at the periphery of her vision but still somehow she doesn’t quite catch it.
“Hello? Is anyone out there?” Ali feels the need to call but as soon as she does she feels a rift of terror rip through her from head to toe.
After what feels like an hour without a response she mutters to herself, “Maybe it’s in my head. Maybe I’m going mad and seeing things.”
However, Ali settles on following the path the shadow, that she is sure she saw and that wasn’t in her head, take.
The passage winds and turns more than a dozen more times until she leaves the cramped confines to step out onto a new pentagonal corridor. This one is pristine, much like the avenue she had originally been in had been before the sudden explosive decompression. The images of Ren being sucked out of the gaping wound in the side of The Helix replaying in her head.
Ali heads down the corridor until she finds much to her surprise that she is back on the bridge. The relief that washes over her almost brings her to tears, but she manages to suppress them as she tries to calm her thundering heart. It dawns on her that she caught no more glimpses of shifting shadows. That brings her to the conclusion that she must have been imagining things. Perhaps her subconscious had somehow been trying to guide her back here; she can’t say for sure one way or the other.
Now she is back on the bridge she begins to search for an option for an external scan of the stations immediate vicinity. All the stations have them to warn for imminent collisions. They are usually set off when ships docking or undocking get to close and trigger the proximity sensors. But the longer she scans the consoles, of which there are almost more than she wishes to comprehend, the more it seems that such an option is absent. It can’t be, she tells herself, but such thoughts do nothing to aid her search until she finds something else. It isn’t what she was looking for and in fact, may serve no purpose at all, but seeing as she is faced with an option to replay the last recording she takes it. Ali doesn’t expect it will tell her much, though her curiosity has gotten the better of her.
In response to her command to the system to initiate playback a wide screen covering two thirds of the front, at least what Ali would consider the front, of the bridge springs into life. Pixels at the edge of the massive display that is some six metres across and four high have failed and remain dark. But the rest of the image shows the face of a man in this very room. For some reason the lens is pulled in tight to his face. His brow and shaved head are soaked with sweat as his panic filled green eyes rapidly flick left and right. It’s like the man is reading but something tells Ali he isn’t. However, it is clear that he is a few years older than she is right now, but that is not what concerns her. What worries Ali is when he begins to speak. His voice is hushed as though he is attempting not to alert someone to his presence as he says, “If anyone finds this you have to get off this station. The Helix isn’t safe…”
Then something flashes across the screen faster than Ali is able to perceive, save for the blur of motion. But the thick red blood that slaps across the lens tells her all she needs to know as she recoils with fright. Her hands shoot up to cover her gaping mouth and suppress the scream she has just screeched out. It’s too late and the high pitched shriek has echoed around the bridge and down the seven corridors that are attached to it.
She can hear the sound of her heart booming in her ears again. Except this time the sound is much louder than before and shakes her from her paralysis in the moments before she frantically locates the cycle procedure and then activates it so the doors to the bridge will slide closed.
It’s a routine which the heavy metal circles complete less than a minute later. Not that Ali feels any less terror.
She takes note that her hand is still covering her open and rapidly drying mouth. Her jaw aches painfully in the time before she consciously forces it to close and then activates the console again to replay the recording. This time however she orders the playback to be at a third of its normal speed.
Ali watches in horror as the sudden flash of whatever cut the man down is still a blur of motion that she can’t make out even at this much reduced speed. Whatever it was Ali can surmise that it moved at incredible speed and ended the man’s life in one fell swoop. She finds that frightening.
Then Ali hears a noise, its guttural and almost gargling in its tone. Still, the direction from which it came is unmistakable, which is why she spins round on her heels. Her eyes go wide with a mixture of emotions as her hazel eyes rest on the form of something. She can’t quite explain what it is but in part it looks as though it could have been human once. Except instead of feet it simply stands on two pointed bone like splints, which are similar to the forearm sections of its arms as they too are devoid of hands and fingers and instead seem to point downward. The elbows are folded in the wrong direction but the appendages are definitely sharp as they come to incredible and sickening points. And all that is without considering the face which is like nothing she has ever seen before. The mouth of the something is at a near vertical angle and right where it’s left cheek should have been, while the things nose is stretched and flattened at the same time and points in the opposite direction. But what horrifies her more than anything, and for a reason she can’t explain, are the hazy cloudy white eyes. It’s like the thing is blind but she can’t say if it is or not.
The something lunges at her. Ali leaps back narrowly avoiding an incredibly speedy slash of one of its blade arm appendages. In that moment she realises that the blistering pace with which the thing has attacked her is identical to the movement that was on the playback of that recording. Immediately she wishes that she were anywhere but here while continuing to back away as the thing relentlessly slashes at her.
Ali’s breath is heavy and audible but she couldn’t care less right now as she has just reached the bulkhead of the bridge. Her back pressing against the cool metal that informs her that she has no way of retreating any further.
Then there are a series of sharp scrapping slams against the locked bridge doors. Ali can’t decide whether the sound is coming from just one or several of the doors. But seeing as she can feel her heart beating so hard that it feels as though it might break through her chest she knows that she has to escape. The something lunges for her again but somehow, and much to Ali’s surprise, she manages to throw herself sideways and out of the path of the incoming blade appendage which clangs noisily against the metal bulkhead before the thing lets out another guttural noise. If Ali didn’t know better she’d assume it was the sound of a predator disappointed that its prey hasn’t already fallen to its superiority. Not that it matters much to Ali, who quickly scrambles on all fours across the room to a bank of consoles which she thinks, or hopes, is the one she had used to cycle the doors of the bridge of The Helix closed. To her relief it is and Ali wastes no time in slamming her fist into the button to re-open the doors. The heavy metal circles at first groan almost as if they are arguing against her request but offer no other defiance to her command as they begin to roll away once more. But as soon as the doors are a third of the way open Ali realises her mistake as several more blade appendages come stabbing through the empty air on the other side of the widening openings. It answers her question as to whether the grating sounds had been coming from one door or not. Sadly she had been wrong as Ali had hoped to dive down one of the other corridors and away from the things. That clearly isn’t an option now as she is trapped on the bridge.
Ali curses as her head snaps left and right searching for something, anything that might give her an option. Her vision is starting to blur because of the speed with which she is throwing her head from side to side. Somehow though, she still manages to catch sight of a maintenance hatch. It’s much smaller than the passage she’d been in before. Now is not the time to protest what miracles she is given, she tells herself. That’s why Ali wastes no time and makes a break for the hatch which is on the far side of the thirteen metre wide bridge.
As she sprints toward the maintenance hatch she finds herself aghast at just how much energy she still seems to have available to her. Moments ago she would have sworn she was on the brink of simply collapsing to the deck with exhaustion. The possibility of impending doom though has given her all the motivation she needs as she wrenches the torch from her overalls.
The fabric of her clothing rips violently in response to her vicious act, but it has the desired effect as the torch is now free of its mounting. Not that she keeps hold of the torch for long. Instead, she launches it toward the release for the hatch, hoping that she has aimed the throw well enough that it will activate the button and cycle the hatch open. The hatches procedure to reach fully open will be much shorter than that of the massive doors which are still continuing to roll aside and allow more of the somethings entrance into the bridge.
Ali takes the chance of peering over her shoulder and finds that the something in the room with her seems unable to catch up. She thanks her lucky stars for that in the moments before she returns her focus to her escape route. Ali is close to it now but sees no reason to take the risk of slowing her pace. If she does there is a chance that the thing could catch her. It’s unlikely, but there’s no way she is going to take that risk. So she drops into a slide that sees her pass through the now open hatch moments before a blade appendage cuts through the air she had just occupied. However, Ali doesn’t have time to react to the near brush with death during which she reclaimed her torch as the vent she has entered suddenly becomes a vertical shaft.
Ali screams and curses as her plummets downward, her momentum building as she falls through the darkness. That is, until Ali suddenly and painfully bursts through the thin meshing that is at the end of the vertical shaft and crashes onto a hard surface below.
The already mammoth pain in her head is somehow a thousand times worse. Somehow Ali manages to stop herself from blacking out. She can’t be sure whether it’s the result of her drive to live or a cause of the terror she can feel filling her every being. Nevertheless she settles on not questioning it as she quickly spins her head round from one side to the other and then back again as fast as she can. Her battered torch, which is still operational, being turned in time to the movements of her head until Ali concludes that this small room of maybe four by four metres is empty, apart from her. The relief she feels to know that is immense but doesn’t stop her from noticing that she isn’t on the floor of the space. Instead, she is above it. Her free hand reaches down to feel at the uneven shifting surface beneath her. Her pulse spikes in response to what her hand she felt. She hopes she is wrong about what she might be on top of in the moments before she slowly shifts the torch down. She isn’t wrong and Ali finds that she really has landed on top of a pile of human skeletal remains.
Ali frantically scrambles off the pile of bones, paying no attention to the noise that she is making as she retreats while some of the bones shift and tumble from their previous positions.
Now on actual solid ground again instead of the pile of remains, Ali listens for sounds. She can well imagine that those things are about to jump her and add her to this macabre collection. But after what seems like years of silence she concludes that she is actually alone. At least for now she is anyway. She has no idea where she is but something tells her she should try her radio again. So she fires its connection back to life only to catch what can only be Dan’s voice asking, “Ali, if you’re alive please respond…”
“Dan, I’m here.” Ali manages to say. It’s the first time in what feels like a lifetime since she last heard her own voice, and she has to admit that it sounds off to her ears. Though, she can’t quite put her finger on why it sounds off. However, it is a distraction from her hyper rapid heartbeat.
“Oh…” Is all Dan manages as sheer relief fills his voice. He hadn’t been willing to give up but it did seem like Ali had perished with Ren. The fact that she didn’t and is still alive is almost too much for him to handle. Though, he manages to fight off the welling up of tears in his eyes.
“Where are you?” Ali asks before Dan has the chance to ask the same thing himself.
“The Barrett. But we were attacked by…something.” Dan says in response to her question. From the hollow note to his tone Ali can guess that it was the same something’s that came for her.
“Is everyone ok?” Ali asks panicked. She isn’t sure if she can handle any more bad news, especially after the euphoria that she feels at having learnt that Dan is still alive.
“I’m coming to get you, where are you?” Dan asks evading her question without any tact.
“I don’t know. Some of those things attacked me on the bridge. I fell through a shaft.” Ali answers. She knows there will be a reason Dan has avoided answering her question, unless he truly doesn’t know. Though, she can’t imagine how that could be possible seeing as the Barrett is not a vast starship. Especially as nearly two thirds of its tube like bulk is reserved for the storage of salvage.
“That means you should be in one of the two main decks of The Helix. You know the spiral shaped sections.” Dan utters sounding pleased to hear that Ali has escaped whatever it was that attacked her. She isn’t so sure herself if she is pleased, considering the pain that is pulsing from different parts of her body.
“Are the lights on?” The large man then quickly asks sounding optimistic.
“No. It’s dark and I can see nothing beyond the limits of my torch.” Ali confirms as she winces because of the pain in her skull. She is sure that if she didn’t have head trauma before she does now, seeing as she fell a good distance down before she slammed into the remains of what she assumes had once been members of the stations crew.
“Shit.” Is Dan’s response for no other reason than he had hoped that perhaps their luck, or in this case Ali’s, might be turning. The truth is that it isn’t really. Though, it doesn’t change what he intends to say next which is, “Ali, you have to leave wherever you are and see which main deck you are on.”
Ali knows he’s right but at this moment she just wants to curl up and sleep. She doesn’t, but that is what she wishes she could do. Instead, she elects to follow Dan’s instructions and head toward the open doorway of the box shaped room to whatever space lies beyond it. Her heart rate is slower now, though, it is still loud enough for her to hear it as she cautiously moves across the room and through the doorway into what feels like a much larger space. She assumes that it is bigger for two reasons. One is the fact that it is markedly cooler in here than it had been in the previous room and the other is because her torch is incapable to finding a wall to shine upon.
“What do you see?” Dan questions with bated breath. He hopes he hasn’t sent Ali into the lion’s den but he saw little other choice. He has to get her off that station. He refuses to leave her behind and allow her to be another victim of whatever those things are.
“Nothing. It’s too dark in here for me to…” Ali starts but never finishes as bright brilliant lights spring to life. Her hands shoot up to shield her eyes from the sudden change in illumination which hurts for a few seconds. But the pain quickly fades and Ali lowers her hands to find the space is fully illuminated now. It’s as though on cue the lights answered an order she had never given and that worries her. Is she being watched? She doesn’t know but she doesn’t get the feeling that is usually said to accompany such a thing.
However, the light has at least answered the question as to where she is on The Helix as a large number two is stencilled in white on a wall near her.
“Lights are on and I’m at bay two.” Ali then answers unsure how long she’s been silent and regretting the silence that has likely made Dan panic unnecessarily.
“Damn. The Barrett can only dock with bay sixteen, at the far end of the deck.”
Ali doesn’t ask why. She sees no reason to as she hears a sound she had hoped would never reach her ears again.
Her heads snaps to her right to find one of the something’s shambling toward her. Unfortunately, its shambling quickly changes into a full on sprint that make Ali’s eyes to go wide in response. She had no idea the things could move that fast but wastes no time in hurriedly breaking into a run of her own. She accelerates as fast and as hard as her legs will allow her to. They argue the sudden demand for explosive power but make no attempt to deny her and she takes comfort in that as she races down the middle of the roughly ten metre wide deck. There are empty banks of seats on one side, a few vending machines and the occasional flatbed trolley, but nothing else.
“Ali, what’s going on? I can hear your breathing.” Dan questions before gulping loud enough for her to hear it in her own ears.
“One of the things is chasing me.” Ali answers. She is being more honest than she would like to be, but seeing as Dan knew something was wrong she couldn’t see any other choice. If the situation had been different she might have been able to come up with another response, but Ali is tired and aches all over. Her head has it the worst of all however, as the very fringes of her vision are blurry. At first the blurs had been temporary and only if she moved her head too fast, but now they’re permanent. That worries her as she takes a moment to glance over her shoulder. The thing is definitely still with her. In fact, it seems to be a hair faster than her and slowly closing the, much smaller than she is comfortable with, gap between them. Her legs pumping furiously as she tries to eke out a little extra speed. The attempt fails as her legs are giving her all they’ve got.
“Shi…” Dan bellows but Ali doesn’t hear him finish as the connection dies in a burst of static. That makes her worry and the worry threatens to make her ease off her on her pace subconsciously which is why she has to force herself not to. If she does she will have her life ended by the thing, which looks identical in its grotesque appearance to the first one she’d laid her eyes on. She doesn’t think that it’s the same one, but there is no way she can be sure of that.
Instead she wonders why the connection between her and Dan died. It had to be at his end seeing as the connection from her end is still active and rumbling quietly with a continuous static fizz. Does that mean he cursed because of her situation or his own. She doesn’t know and that, though beyond her control right now, concerns her deeply. Is that why Dan had refused to comment on Von, Im and Les? She really hopes not but she can’t grasp how it can be anything else.
Then suddenly there is what can only be described as a massive detonation from somewhere, perhaps everywhere. It rocks the entirety of the station and pitches the deck under her feet into a steep angle that slants off toward her right and the bulkhead of the deck. Ali, unable to keep her footing and balance is thrown sideways into the unrelenting bulkhead several metres away. Her hand, which she uses to soften the impact on her already battered body, goes slipping across the surface of the wall. It takes her mind a few moments to consider that her hand should have had no reason to slip on the metal. Then her eyes look toward the wall which has she been thrown into and she realises why her hand slipped. The once silver metal is caked in thick congealing blood that almost causes Ali to projectile vomit. Somehow she manages to suppress the urge, as her eyes take in just how much blood there is as well as the fact that it is spread across the ceiling high above her head and the floor under her feet.
Ali didn’t think she could feel any greater level of horror than she had already had during her time on The Helix, but somehow she does. Then the guttural noise of the something erupts from far closer behind her than she would like. Ali quickly snaps a look over her shoulder to find the thing is lunging at her. She’d forgotten about its presence.
But Ali manages, narrowly, to scramble away after avoiding the slash by ducking under it. The manoeuvre had been a purely instinctive reaction, but one that had undoubtedly saved her life as she slides back into a run. She is slower now.
Her legs are beginning to aggressively resist her commands to carry her forward. Though, that is not the worst part for Ali as she hears another guttural noise. This one however doesn’t erupt from behind her but from ahead of her and comes in the moments before her eyes snap up and find that one of the things is heading straight for her.
Ali wonders if she can assault the still inclined deck to avoid the new something but just as she considers it the whole station violently wrenches back the direction it had come. That throws Ali back the other way while the new something launches itself toward her. Thankfully her own momentum being flung to her left is enough for her to evade most of the slash, but not quite all of it as the tip of the blade appendage slashes across her right shoulder resulting in a scream of agony that erupts from between her open lips.
Still, Ali manages to stay on her feet. She stumbles forward a couple metres across the now once again flat deck and then regains her balance and accelerates away from her attackers.
It is just as well she does as another half dozen of the something’s gutturally roar, announcing their presence as they rush headlong after her.
“For fucks sake!” Ali manages to spit between deep breathes. She wonders what she’s done to deserve this. Have I not earned a break? Ali asks herself, but the answer she gets is the sudden return of the klaxon that seemed to start the entire disastrous series of events off that have occurred since.
Ali has no idea why but at the sudden return of the klaxon she comes to a grinding halt. She knows she shouldn’t as that will allow the things to close on her, but she just can’t stop herself from doing it. Even as a part of her screams in her head all sorts of obscenities about her being stupid, reckless and suicidal. Several seconds later a recorded voice blares over the speakers hidden in recesses along the walls and incredibly high and shadow splattered ceiling. The voice says, “Decompression of Beta deck, bays two to sixteen, imminent.”
The news is as bad as Ali thought it was going to be. However, she never would have dreamed that the warning would be that the deck that she is stood upon is going to decompress, even after the detonation that had violently rocked the station.
Ali has no idea where the detonation had come from exactly but it seems that it must have been much closer than she herself had anticipated. Still, Ali isn’t willing to wait for her death and instead forces her heavy legs forward once more. She gathers speed slower this time while she forces aside the void that has opened up inside her telling her that it is hopeless and that she will die here on The Helix. Ali refuses to accept that. She has come too far and survived too much to simply give up now. All she has to do is reach bay sixteen. That is what Dan said. He said the Barrett would be there waiting for her if she made it. Whether she has time to achieve such a feat she hasn’t a clue. But seeing as she is about to pass bay twelve, evidenced by the number which has been sprayed onto the nearby support, she thinks there may be a chance. Passing bay twelve puts her well over half way.
Then two of the something’s chasing her make lunges for her in unison. It’s not an attack she anticipated but somehow on instinct alone she manages to sidestep while still running and then immediately duck left. The blade appendages miss her and then the things crash to the floor with sickening thuds that seem to echo with the sound of snapping bones. Ali doesn’t stop though. She doesn’t care if the things have broken something. In fact, she hopes beyond anything that they have and that as a result she will have a greater chance at survival. The odds are stacked against her enough as it is without factoring in the something’s which are desperately pursuing her.
Tears begin to stream down her face because of the pain that is spreading through her legs. They aren’t going to last long and she is sure that if she stops again they will fail. She can’t afford for that to happen and has no intention of stopping now. But she can’t do anything about her weakening pace even as she urges and commands her legs to just keep going. Then a screech tears right through the cavernous space of the main deck she is on. The pitch of the sound so high it throws off her balance for a second. Ali panics as she tries to right herself and stumbles but after several steps of nearly falling flat on her face she manages to regain her balance. The accomplishment sends a wave of relief spreading through her body as a male voice declares, “There is no escaping this place. You will die here like all those before you. If you think otherwise…”
Ali doesn’t know who is talking but tunes the droning voice of whoever is speaking out of her consciousness. She knows that it’s taunting her. Trying to break her resolve and force her to accept a fate that she has no intention of accepting. She is not going to die today. Not here. Ali is strong in her resolve as the voice turns from its arrogant proclamations of what her fate will be to an explanation of what the something’s that are still chasing her are. She knows they are still on her but takes a brief second to get a quick glance over her left shoulder. She’s right they are right behind her and gaining. She wills her legs to do more and quicken her pace, but they are so heavy now and are causing her so much pain that it is clear to her that they simply can’t oblige even if they want to. While the voice advises, “They all used to be the crew of this station you know. Well most of them. Some of them are more recent additions, but you get the idea. After all you aren’t the first to foolishly come here in search of fortune and glory. Ha, not at all. But these things are what happens when organic matter is exposed to Terelzine. I don’t know if you are aware of what that is.”
Ali wishes the voice would just shut up. At this moment she doesn’t care what the things had once been or how they were made. Those are things she can contemplate once she is off this station and safe. But still the voice continues the explanation, “Terelzine is the fuel used in starships. It was the lifeblood of this place and in many ways it still is. It is the future. It will spread across the universe under the horror of the things. They will twist and turn every last human into more of their ilk until all of humanity has ceased to exist. And you fools don’t even know it. You believed it to simply be a fuel, but it’s a life form and it wants…supremacy.”
At last, Ali thinks, as the voice stops droning on. If what it has said is true than that is horrifying but how can it be? She doesn’t know and doesn’t care. These are things to mull over later she reminds herself angrily for the second time as she passes bay fourteen. Almost there, Ali thinks to herself when the voice speaks again.
“Your friends are dead. That explosion was your ship, the Barrett. There is no rescue coming for you. You will die here. Hahaha”
The laugh is maniacal but it doesn’t scare Ali. She just wishes she could get her hands on this guy. She’d throttle him until he goes purple and begs for mercy. She wouldn’t give him any. And though she knows she shouldn’t she screams back, “Who the fuck are you? And why are you doing this?
No answer is forthcoming and Ali is met with only the sounds of her rapidly beating heart, her strained breathing and the guttural noises of those things chasing her. It surprises her that she can’t even hear the pounding on her feet against the metal decking below her, but somehow she can’t. She decides not to dwell on the issue as her radio fires.
“Ali, you need to get on the Barrett now!” Dan commands without knowing if she has reached the goal that he set for her. He hopes more than anything that she has but he has no way of knowing.
“I’m almost there Dan. Just give me…oh shit!” Ali exclaims as a number of the something’s leap toward her. They do so in a staggered pattern making it significantly more difficult for her to escape but she attempts to by ducking and weaving while still trying to race toward bay sixteen and her chance at escape.
Unfortunately, the due to the number of bladed appendages coming at her it is impossible for her to evade them all. That’s why several of them come slashing across her flesh, having cut right through the thick overalls covering her from neck to boot. The sting and bite of the slashes across her flesh which they cleave open are worse than anything she has ever experienced before. Ali screams an ear-splitting scream as the pain becomes so unbearable that she trips. On what she has no clue but still she trips and goes stumbling forward. But the stumble saves her life as it meant she dropped low under a second string of slashing appendages. Ali is completely unaware of these but they would have claimed her life if they’d made contact.
What she isn’t unaware of is one of the massive support beams which groans and then snaps with an almighty boom. Ali, who has barely recovered from her previous, throws herself forward and hopes that she will cover enough ground to not be crushed below the beams immense weight. Her hopes pay off as she sails under the beam. It narrowly misses her. The edge of the beam slicing across the soles of her heavy work boots before crushing, with a grotesque crunch, a number of the things.
Ali pays no attention to the victory as she struggles back to her feet and then sprints the remaining seven metres to bay sixteen. It’s empty, which she thanks her lucky stars to discover as she races down the umbilical link between The Helix and the Barrett at the far end. The hatch of the ship, her haven, is open but is beginning to close.
Ali wills her legs to one final time to give her more than she deserves after the mistreatment and demands she has put them through. Much to her surprise they obey. She is given one final explosive burst of speed that carries her down the last fifth of the umbilical link and then permits her to launch herself through the diminishing gap of the closing door and into the Barrett.
The hatch seals behind her and several hard slams hammer against the thick plating of the Barrett’s link hatch. The bangs cause Ali to wince and duck as though she somehow expects the something’s to break through. But they can’t. Ali reminds herself of that and then repeats it over and over in her mind until she feels a little more at ease.
She forces herself to rise back to her full height now that she can feel a presence in the space with her. It has to be Dan she tells herself, or Im, Les or Von. Maybe it’s all of them Ali hopes as she lets her shoulder drop in relief.
The emotions gripping her are almost too much to bare as she lets out a long deep sigh and then turns. As soon as she does she freezes in place, her jaw drops and her eyes go wide.