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Prologue Chapter

Shaking Off The Dust

An injured security officer slumped into a chair on screen with a slight wince. He looked into the camera lens, desperate. His uniform was tattered and bloodstained, and his right arm was separated from below the elbow. The right of his face was covered in blood.

“This is –” the man shifted and let out a pained groan “– Kazuhira Paxtun, now Commander of Aegis VII P-Sec, and this is a warning to all ships coming to the Ishimura’s aid. Do not approach.

“At first, it was just people seeing or hearing things constantly, which turned –” Static interrupted the recording “—and when the bodies piled up, they became –” Static again for another few seconds “—and, since we were unprepared, we were utterly slaughtered.

“Any of us not completely insane and dead tried to escape to the Ishimura for respite. We had survived long enough to get on a shuttle to the starship. More of us went insane, and a good few of us were killed in transit to the ship. Even now, thinking on it, I might have killed someone in a fit of madness…”

Paxtun turned behind him, to an unknown mass of figures in the background, and he sighed heavily. He turned back to the camera, closed his right eye, and took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t know what EarthGov is telling you, but the – must be – because if this gets to Earth, it’ll be –”

The recording ended with lots of static. Redding rose from his seat and looked at the screen again. Rewinding a few seconds and pausing, the officer’s face was frozen there. He was obviously weary and bearing jagged scars on the left. His left eye was damaged shut; it was hard to tell how from the recording. Part of his face was soaked with blood.

“When was that recorded?” Redding asked. “Was that onboard the Ishimura?”

“I think so,” Vance answered. “I don’t think he’s still alive, since it was a few weeks ago, and the ship looked intact.”

“Do you know what happened there, Captain?” Redding asked Fritz. “What were those things behind him?”

“We’ve got orders from EarthGov, Sergeant Redding,” Fritz told him. “We’re just to clean up the ship a bit and bring it back to Titan Station for the rest of the cleaning and the retrofit, not to save lives. We’re all getting paid the same amount – which is a lot – for the ship. It’s as simple as that.”

“Alright,” Redding nodded, slipping back into his seat. “I’m just getting a bad vibe from this guy, Skipper.”

Chapter 1

Hell Breaks Loose

Kazuhira awoke suddenly, his form jerking upward as if pulled by a puppeteer’s string. He gasped, trying to get his breathing regulated. He toyed with his Marker pendant and whispered a prayer for his safe keeping. He wiped the sweat from his forehead and sighed.

“It was just a dream,” Kaz told himself in the darkness of his room. “It had been a dream…right?”

Kazuhira rose from his bed and stretched his limbs, waking up his body. He got dressed and slid his RIG over his clothing. He waited for the distinctive whirr from the machine as it loaded his heath. A health bar appeared in the lower right of his field of view, signifying that his RIG was now synced with both his vital signs and his ocular implants.

Kaz then walked out of his room, heading down the hall. He had been having a lot of nightmares recently, and he wasn’t one to have this kind of thing happen to him. It had all began happening when Marker 3A arrived on the colony, even though it was on the Ishimura now. He refused to establish a connection between the two, though; the Markers were divine artifacts that make death just the beginning.

“Good morning.”           Kaz turned to his side, and he found that Frigato, a scientist, was walking with him. “Hey,” Kaz blurted, tired. “Any idea what’s causing the nightmares?”

“There’s nothing conclusive yet, Kaz,” Frigato stated with a slight pause between his words, “but I am all but certain that the Marker’s presence has something to do with it --”

“That’s not true, though,” Kaz interjected stubbornly. “The Marker can’t be the reason, Frigato.”

“If you had listened,” Frigato said, sighing, “you would’ve heard that it’s nothing conclusive; just an assumption on my part. Anyway, shouldn’t you be at P-Sec right about now? We’ve got a long day today, and we’ll need all the security we can get if we’re hoping to get the riots under control.”

“I was headed toward the armory, Frigato,” Kaz chided with a sigh. “Just keep your panties from getting twisted while I’m gone, ‘kay?” Kaz gave Frigato a playful nudge and continued toward the armory.

Kaz entered the gigantic room and looked for his locker. It was emblazoned ‘PAXTUN’ with big white letters, so it wasn’t hard to miss. He walked to his locker and opened it, equipping his armor and holstering his pistol.

Detective Cooper trudged over to Kaz’s locker somewhat slowly. “Another sleepless night, eh, Kaz? Same here for me. You look awful.”

“I feel about as bad as I must look,” Kaz admitted, shutting his locker. “Those damned nightmares keep getting to me.”

“I feel ya, man. Ever since the riots began, I’ve been having nightmares, too. Working double shifts isn’t helping either. And how many officers have been sent to the psych ward? Like, what, 50?”

“Something like that.”

The alarm went off suddenly. Both Kaz and Cooper were startled awake by the sudden noise.

“All hands, all hands, we have a riot in progress in Union Square. Requesting all available units.”

Kaz sighed. “It’s going to be a long day.”

Kaz and Cooper arrived at Union Square, grouping up with a few more officers who had arrived with bigger guns. People were attacking others in a fit of maniacal rage, ripping them to shreds with various weapons. It made both officers sick to their stomachs. The makeshift team of officers began firing warning shots above the crowd of people killing each other to try and get their attention.

“P-Sec!” Operative Luxon shouted with bite in his voice. “Stand down, now!”

They did get their attention; not the way they wanted it to, though.

A portion remaining crazed people charged at the officers, armed with laser picks and plasma cutters. They began to attack the team, with one man cutting down Luxon without hesitation or mercy.

Kaz pulled his Divet pistol out and fired, shooting the miner through the head with deadly accuracy. The shot left the miner’s helmet in shards and the man’s head with a huge hole where the side of his face used to be. That was the signal that the other officers had no other choice but to kill the rest. When they all began firing, the crazed colonists just ignored their wounds and kept approaching.

“What does it take to kill these guys?!” Cooper cried frantically. “Damn it! Just go down already!”

“We need more firepower!” Kaz shouted. “We need pulse rifles!”

“What do we do with Luxon?” asked a female officer. “He’s not dead; he needs medical attention.”

“Pick him up and carry him!” Cooper ordered. “Bring him to a doctor!”

Kaz saw it coming. A miner approached, somehow getting past the gunfire and dead bodies. He was carrying a live hand grenade in his right hand, which he raised above his head before grabbing Cooper by the neck.

“Make us whole!”

The grenade went off. Everyone went flying. Kaz was probably unscathed by the grenade itself, but his uniform and armor was covered with Cooper and the miner’s blood. Kaz hit his head off the metal floor, causing a lot of pain and an eventual blackout.

Chapter 2

Expiration Is The Beginning

When the officer came to, the crowd was gone. In fact, the only things around him were the bodies of those who had died before, along with a few more who had died presumably after he had been rendered unconscious.

“Damn, my head…” Kaz rose from the ground and stumbled over the bodies. They were all people he knew in some form. Most of the bodies were miners or civilians, but the bodies of Luxon, Deidrick, Williams, and what was left of Cooper were in the pile as well. Kaz knelt by each of the officers’ bodies and closed their eyes out of respect. They had died bravely, Kaz told himself as he toyed with his Marker pendant.

Kaz walked back into the halls leading to the P-Sec station. The lights were flickering and blood was spattered everywhere: on the walls, on the floors, even on the ceiling somehow. Yet there were no bodies…

Kaz crashed head-first into another person. The two stared at each other for a good long second before they recognized each other.

“Thank God!” Yuki exclaimed, relieved. “You’re alive!”

Kaz hugged Yuki lovingly, trying not to get blood on her. “It’s good you’re alive, too, sis.” Kaz let go of her quickly. “Come with me; I’m gonna see if I can get into contact with the rest of P-Sec and get us off the colony.”

“Wait, you’re going to P-Sec HQ?” Yuki asked. “Don’t do it! That whole place is overrun with those…things!”

“What things? Yuki, what happened?”

Yuki suddenly whimpered and broke into tears. Kaz hugged his sister and patted her on the back. “It’s alright; everything’s going to be alright. I promise.”

Yuki snuffled, separating her form from Kaz’s. She turned behind her, exposing her RIG unintentionally. It was blank.

“Yuki, what happened?” Kaz asked her. “Your RIG’s completely black. Are you injured?”

The lights flickered on. Yuki’s lower half was stripped down to the bare muscle and bone. Her civvies were in tatters, and her RIG itself was melded into her flesh. When she turned, he found that her lower jaw was missing. At the end of her arms, two blades had sprouted from her hands. She looked at Kaz with her cold, dead eyes.

Kaz’s eyes widened and his jaw dropped. “My God…Yuki…”

The monster jumped. Kaz managed to get away from it, and he ran down the hall toward P-Sec HQ. He had no other choice, really. It was either stay with that abomination or go and get a rifle to fight with. His Divet pistol was damaged by the explosion. His wrist also hurt too badly for him to use it accurately had it survived. He was ambidextrous, but he was trained to use handguns with his right hand. As for rifles, he could use either hand.

Kaz ran into the HQ, finding it with the same flickering lights problem as the rest of the colony. He ran directly to the armory, and he forced the door open. Looking around the room, he tried to find something that he could work with. He picked up a pulse rifle and some ammo for it. He loaded it quickly and turned on the flashlight mounted to the front. The end of the armory had a mural of sorts. It was some writing painted in blood:

CUT OFF THEIR LIMBS

SALVATION HAS BEGUN

The symbols threw Kaz off, but he approached the mural nevertheless. A table had been placed haphazardly in front of the writing. A body that had been cut apart brutally was strewn across it, and a plasma cutter rested on a makeshift pedestal made of a few Unitology books. Kaz gave a thought to taking the books, but ultimately decided against it.

Kaz grabbed the plasma cutter, finding ammo for it underneath. He loaded it quickly and replaced his damaged Divet with it. He put the spare ammo in his vest and turned to leave. He walked to the door and nearly died.

The undead Yuki was walking by, looking for Kaz, likely to kill him. Kaz peeked out of cover and took aim at the beast’s head. “Sorry, sis,” Kaz apologized as he squeezed the trigger.

He fired thirty rounds into it, decapitating the monster quickly and riddling the body with holes. However, it wasn’t enough. The monster turned to him and began slashing furiously at the air. Kaz, terrified, ran back into a wall and fired the rest of the rounds at it. The arms were cut off by the bullets. It made another try to lunge at him, but it fell to the ground, twitched a bit, and ceased movement.

Kaz walked to the corpse and took a better look at it. It was definitely one of the most mutated things he’d ever seen. The flesh was now smooth and oddly moist, and there were strange tentacle-like appendages where the arms and head used to be, squirming around fruitlessly. Kaz stomped on the corpse with a loud grunt, hoping that that would kill it for good.

Suddenly, the vents in the armory broke open. More of the monsters, with varying uniforms, crawled out. Kaz tried to reload his rifle, but he dropped it as his hands were shaking. The beasts were closing in, their jawless mouths emitting low groans and roars.

Kaz closed his eyes and grabbed his Marker pendant. He took a deep breath, and said “Holy creatures, transform me into your servant. Show me the path of enlightenment as you alter my flesh and free my soul.”

The first creature lunged and grabbed Kaz with its spike arms. Its teeth sank into the left side of Kaz’s face, inflicting serious injury on the officer and damaging his eye badly. The officer screamed in pain and grabbed the plasma cutter from its holster. He placed it to the thing’s neck and fired, decapitating it. He took the creature’s head off of his and ran in the opposite direction of the armory.

A plethora of lights shone upon Kaz’s form. “Get down!”

Kaz dived behind a box as a hailstorm of bullets, plasma, flames, and circular saw blades rained upon the creatures. A patchwork squad of colonists, doctors, and P-Sec marched forward, heavily armed with practically everything: Divets, pulse rifles, plasma cutters, Disc Rippers, flamethrowers, et cetera. Kaz rose from the ground and rested himself against the wall, crying.

Chapter 3

Insanity Comes

Pain shot through his head. He could feel where the monster’s teeth had made its mark, and he couldn’t see out of his right eye anymore. He covered his bleeding face with his hand in an attempt to stop the bleeding.

“Hey, he’s over here!” said a familiar voice. “I’ll help him.”

“F…Frigato?” Kaz stammered. “Is that you?”

Frigato’s form entered Kaz’s field of view. The doctor examined the officer’s body. “Hold out your right hand,” Frigato ordered. “You broke your wrist. I’ve got a splint I can put that in.”

Reluctantly, Kaz gave the man his arm. Frigato pulled out a small mechanical device and attached it to the officer’s arm. It quickly encased half the forearm and hand up to the fingers, preventing movement. Morphine must have been administered by the splint, as the pain in his arm slowed to a dull pulse.

Frigato then looked at Kaz’s face. He took out a roll of gauze bandages and wrapped them around the man’s wounds. “There,” he said as he snipped the gauze roll from the ones on Kaz’s face. “You should be alright. Come on.”

Frigato helped Kaz onto his feet, and the good doctor returned Kaz’s pulse rifle to him. It was now scorched on one side and heavily scratched on the other, but it didn’t look to be damaged internally. To Kaz, it gave the weapon a bit of character. That, or he just wanted a reason to stand out.

Kaz and Frigato walked over to the rest of the people. They spent a few seconds looking at Kaz before their leader, a P-Sec officer, stepped forward.

“Can we trust you, rock worshipper?” asked the officer rudely.

“About as much as you can trust anyone else in your group,” Kaz stated in reply. “Besides, why did you save my ass if you were just going to kill me?”

“We didn’t come here to save you; we were trying to get what we could out of the armory.” The officer held out his hand. “I’m Sergeant Stephan Deidrick.”

Kaz didn’t shake the man’s hand. “Detective Kazuhira Paxtun. I don’t think rank matters much anymore, though.”

“Just do as I say, when I say, and we won’t have problems, Detective. Is that understood?”

“I’ll do what I want, Sergeant. If you couldn’t tell, we’re all on the same boat here.”

Stephan looked at Kaz warily before turning to the group. “Search the armory. Figure out if anything in there is useful.”

“Stephan,” said a woman, a Class 3 engineer. “We have a problem.”

“What, Alexis?”

Alexis pointed at the vents. “There’s more necromorphs on the way. I can hear them.”

“Keep looking for weapons!” Stephan growled at his men. “Ammo as well! We’ve got more of them coming.”

Kaz was shocked by Stephan’s reluctance to get his men out. “Are you kidding me, Sergeant?” Kaz turned to the people and cupped his hands around his mouth as best he could. “Get out of there, guys! You’ll be trapped!”

“Don’t tell my men what to do, Paxtun. That’s an order.”

“Stephan, you’ll get them all killed!” Frigato told the officer, siding with Kaz.

“Oh, so now you’re with him, Frigato?”

“I’m on the side of the one who’s still making sense! Firepower is nothing compared to manpower! Damn it, Stephan, you’ll lose everyone you sent in there!”

“I’m the leader!” Stephan exploded in fury. “I give the orders! Not you, Frigato; not you, Paxtun! Neither of you can –”

“Oh, fuck this.” Kaz turned the safety off on his pulse rifle and aimed the weapon at Stephan. “Stand down, Sergeant.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, Kaz,” Frigato stammered. “Put the gun down.”           “You’re going to shoot me?!” Stephan screamed at Kaz. “How dare you?!”           “Damn it, Stephan!” Kaz cocked the rifle, loading the first shot. “If you don’t get them out of there, they’ll be trapped with those things when they come. GET THEM OUT OF THERE!”

“NO!”

“I don’t want to shoot you, Sergeant,” Kaz told him, “but I will if I have to.”

Stephan lunged at Kaz, grabbing the detective by the throat. Kaz dropped the rifle by accident, and the two were on the ground. Frigato and Alexis tried to pull them apart, but Stephan did not relent.

“Die, you bastard!” Stephan screamed at the man pinned underneath him. “Die, god damn it, die!”

Kaz panicked. He grabbed the man’s hands and pulled them off with some difficulty. Kaz pushed Stephan off of him, and the crazed officer flew back into a desk, laughing maniacally. Kaz pulled out his plasma cutter and aimed it at Stephan.

Kaz looked at the man and dropped his hand to his side. “You’re not worth the ammo,” the officer told Stephan. “You get to waste away here.”

Stephan suddenly stopped laughing. “Only you can make us whole,” he said as he rose. “Make us whole again!” Stephan charged at Kaz very quickly.

A shot rang out. Stephan fell onto Kaz, a bullet hole through his chest. The wounded officer tried to grab Kaz’s neck, but Kaz pushed him off. Stephan staggered, still trying to hold onto life. Another shot rang out, and there was a hole in Stephan’s neck. The man collapsed to the floor, dead.

Kaz turned to the person who had fired. It was the engineer, Alexis, who was holding a Divet pistol.

Chapter 4

Solutions Come At A Price

After barely avoiding their gruesome fate in P-Sec HQ, the group of survivors continued working their way toward the shuttle bay. Stephan had made this their goal before they had found Kaz, and Alexis had made it apparent that he was going to continue with the plan regardless of Stephan’s death.

Kaz and Alexis had gotten closer than they thought they would over the last two hours. Alexis reminded Kaz of his sister, and Kaz reminded Alexis of her boyfriend Jakub. They never told each other about that, but it was a somewhat unspoken understanding between the two. Kaz was starting to hold feelings for her, though he tried to hide it.

“Alright,” Alexis said suddenly, halting the group. “We’ve got to make it to the shuttles and ride our way up to the Ishimura. Frigato, Paxtun, Hanson and I will check Shuttle Bay 1. Eriksen, Vickers, Chen, and Yuma, you three check Shuttle Bay 2. Bay 1 is down the right; Bay 2 is to the left. Got it?”

The engineer heard no objections from his crew. She smirked, then they all split up.

“Hey, Frigato,” Kaz said, looking to the good doctor. “Are you okay? You look shaken. On the brink.”

Frigato hesitated. “I’m fine, Kaz. Just keep thinking I’m seeing my wife…”

“What’s the problem with that?” Kaz asked Frigato with a look of concern.

“She’s been dead for a few years now. That’s what’s getting to me.”

Kaz kept a tab on that, deciding to watch Frigato carefully.

Come to think of it, everybody seemed on edge. Kaz kept hearing things, just incoherent whispers in his ears. He kept a firm grip on his rifle and his Marker pendant, making sure that it was around him at all times. Alexis was looking behind her every now and then, and Hanson was just watching everyone carefully.

The four reached Shuttle Bay 1’s airlock. It was sealed shut, but Alexis managed to hack it open. The large bulkhead slid open, exposing them all to the Aegis VII air.

The necromorph horde attacked. The four opened up on them with everything they got. They soaked up the pulse rounds and the flames, but they didn’t take plasma bolts too well. It was only when Alexis accidentally lopped off one’s leg and killed it that Kaz came up with a theory.

“Try cutting the damned things’ limbs off!” Kaz suggested. “See if that kills ‘em quicker.”

It happened to work. Everybody was cutting through the necromorphs with ease after that. There were a few shuttles left, which made the entire group hopeful.

Kaz turned at the last second and managed to dodge a fat necromorph’s blade. He fired upon it wildly, splitting its midsection apart and killing it by dumb luck. However, small bits of reanimated flesh jumped on him, jabbing him with small proboscis, puncturing the officer’s suit, and getting at his flesh.

“Aah! Get off!” He grabbed several of them and threw them to the ground, but it was useless as they wouldn’t come off. He shook violently and plucked a few off, and the rest just jumped off without much of a fight. Kaz ran over to a safe distance with the group and shot at the tiny things.

“We’d better get on a shuttle and fast!” Kaz shouted at the group.

“What about the others, Paxtun?” Alexis retorted. “We can’t just leave them behind!”

“We’ll pick them up on the way!” Kaz used the grenade launcher on his rifle to blow apart the necromorphs a few feet away. “Damn it, we don’t have time to debate this; we’ve got to get the hell –”

“Hey, guys!” Eriksen’s voice piped up on all of their RIGs. “It’s a bloody mess over here. Bodies everywhere, metal everywhere, but we found a ship! We’re heading over to you now!” A shuttle rose up into the air. “Keep yourselves alive until then!” There was a brief pause. “Wait…shit! Vickers! Put the gun down! Put the gun down –”

A shot rang out, and the shuttle buckled dangerously. It dipped down and speeded suddenly into Shuttle Bay 1, smashing one ship and leaving both in a flaming heap of metal. The remaining survivors were nearly deafened by the explosion.

“No!” Alexis screamed, collapsing to her knees. “No! This can’t be happening…this isn’t happening!”

“Come on, Alexis,” Hanson told the woman as he helped her off the ground. “We’ve got to get the hell out of here. Pull it together and let’s go.”

The four fought through a few more necromorphs and got onboard the mostly intact shuttle. Blood was spattered everywhere, but they were forced to ignore it if they were to get out alive. Kaz sealed the loading door, locking the monsters out.

Kaz dropped his form into the copilot’s seat and relaxed, letting out a heavy sigh. “We made it…we did it…”

“We’re not off the planet yet, Paxtun,” Hanson said as he sat down in the pilot’s seat. “We’ve got to get this sexy machine flyin’.” Hanson powered up the shuttle. “Come on, you beaut; let’s get going, baby!”

The shuttle shot up and lurched for a second, but it continued upward after some expert maneuvering to keep the thing up in the air. Hanson laughed as the port boosters fired up, shooting them at top speed from the colony. “Yeah, baby!” the man told the shuttle. “That’s the ticket!”

Kaz chuckled half-heartedly. “Okay, Hanson, I know you feel in power, but I should probably fly this thing. You go get some rest; you don’t look sharp.”

Hanson nodded glumly and set the computer to autopilot. He rose from the seat, and the next moment his body was sprawled against the console, his left arm gone from the shoulder down.

“Oh, hell! Hanson!”

Frigato was laughing maniacally, holding a Line Gun with one hand. Kaz rose from his seat with his pulse rifle in hand. When she tried to restrain him, Frigato pushed Alexis against the wall, dazing the engineer.

“Frigato!” Kaz shouted at the doctor. “What the hell are you doing, you maniac?!”

“The Marker!” Frigato laughed. “It’s going to get us eventually. Resurrect us. It’s going to turn us all into those monsters we saw on the surface.” He shot the Line Gun at Hanson’s form again, this time splitting him apart from the waist down.

“Shit! Hanson!” Kaz turned back to Frigato. “You crazy bastard!”

Frigato suddenly became serious. He aimed the Line Gun at Kaz. “It will make us whole again!”

Kaz didn’t waste a second. He aimed at the doctor and fired several shots into his unarmored chest. He then shot the doctor’s arm off and allowed the crazed man to drop to the floor. Kaz then shot the man a few more times in the back, neutralizing him for good.

The officer then dropped his rifle and ran over to Hanson, who was somehow still alive. The legless man reached out to Alexis, who came over to comfort him.

“My God…he’s not going to make it…”

“I know that, Lexi,” Hanson coughed, his mouth bleeding. “I just wanted you to do something for me…destroy my head.”

“What?!” Alexis gasped, shocked.

“Listen to me, Lexi. They have creatures that release the infection through a stinger through the head…destroy my head and save yourself the emotional pain of doing it later.”

“I…I can’t…”

“Then, Paxtun, you do it. Use the…Divet…argh!”

Kaz nodded; he fully understood. He pulled the Divet from Hanson’s holster on his legs and checked it. It had one in the chamber, and two in the clip. That was all he needed. He put the gun to Hanson’s head, his hands shaking terribly. Kaz flicked the switch to the secondary firing mode – a three-round shot to create a bigger hole.

Hanson nodded slightly and closed his eyes. Kaz tightened his grip on the gun and squeezed the trigger.

Chapter 5

Losing Stability

Kaz violently tossed his Marker pendant into the floor, shattering it. He collapsed against the wall and began to cry uncontrollably. Alexis went over to comfort him, wrapping her arm around the officer.

“It’s alright, Kaz,” Alexis consoled the saddened man, for the first time using his first name. “It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not alright!” Kaz said from under his hands. “Everything I was taught by the Unitologists is only just the truth. The Marker…it doesn’t give life; it alters it, mutates it, and turns it against us to make more.”

“Wait, you’re a Uni?” Alexis’s voice was more interested than angered.

“Not anymore.” Kaz wiped his tears away and got up. He took a few deep breaths. “Alright…alright. We’ve got to get aboard the Ishimura for some help.”

“Okay.”

Kaz slid into the pilot’s seat, seeing the vessel just outside the viewport. He smiled and clicked the comm on. “USG Ishimura, this is Shuttle 4 from the Aegis VII colony, requesting –”

“This is the Ishimura,” said a voice on the radio. “Request denied, Shuttle 4. Nobody from the colony is allowed to land by the Captain’s order. Return to the surface.”

“No, no, no, no,” Kaz said into the comm. “You don’t understand what we just went through to get here. For Christ’s sake, let us on!”

“If you continue your approach, you’ll be shot down without hesitation.”

Kaz exhaled with anger. He gripped the microphone hard and held it close to his mouth. “Fuck you, Ishimura! Landing, crashing, or shot down – pick one! But there’s no way in hell we’re going back! Open the fucking gate!”

The comm went silent. One of the Ishimura’s cannons turned slowly to them, getting charged up to fire. Kaz fired up the port boosters and left the chair.

“Get an EVA suit on, Alexis! We’re going down!”

Both Kaz and Alexis got into airtight suits, and the shuttle was shot in the port booster. The front end rammed right underneath the cannon, nearly destroying the entire ship.

Kaz and Alexis were thrown here and there, causing a few bruises and maybe a scrape under their suits, but it was nothing much worse than that. They were floating for several seconds before managing to get onto their feet. Their weapons, besides Kaz’s plasma cutter, were gone. Kaz caught a glimpse of Frigato’s body moving slightly before jumping down from the shuttle onto the hull of the Ishimura, and helping Alexis climb down.

“Okay,” Kaz said finally. “We’ve got some oxygen to spare, but not enough to dawdle. We’d better make it to safety. That door on the other side to enter the cannon deck.”

“Got it,” Alexis replied. “Lead the way, Kaz.”

The two walked past the floating metal and headed toward the door. Only Kaz was armed, and that was with his plasma cutter alone. That, however, was under the EVA suit, so they were practically unarmed until they could take the suits off.

They were about half way there before a strange bat-like necromorph attacked Alexis, forcing her to the ground. A long proboscis protruded from its maw. It managed to stab Alexis in the neck before Kaz ripped the creature away and stomped it into the ground several times.

“Kaz…Kaz, we’ve got a problem…”

The officer turned to Alexis, whose suit neck was punctured and losing oxygen. She was going to suffocate. Kaz lifted the woman up, cradled her, and took off in a sprint toward the door. He could hear necromorphs behind him, but he didn’t look back. He was going to get both himself and Alexis to safety. He had to.

Alexis suddenly broke out of Kaz’s grasp as they neared the door. She was beginning to suffocate for real now, as evidenced by her shortness of breath.

“Come on, Alexis!”

He grabbed Alexis with his right arm and hurried to the door. He shot the lock mechanism, undoing the seal. He opened the door and pulled her inside the hallway in a hurry. He slammed on the keypad and made the door shut as a necromorph lunged at them. Its head was sliced off and left on their side.

Air recirculated in the hallway, but Alexis still had short, heavy breaths.

“Asthma,” she explained. “I have an inhaler on my normal suit.”

She tore off her EVA suit, and Kaz took off his to get at his plasma cutter. Alexis took a few quick whiff of her inhaler and began breathing normally again. The two continued onward to the next door. Alexis hacked the doorpad and forced it to open for them. When they were about to go through, a team of PCSI Sec officers with Divet pistols and plasma saws burst through and trained their guns at them.

“Ah, hell,” Kaz said to himself.

“Hell is right, eyepatch,” said a snarky, blonde haired officer whose nametag read ‘Jenks’. “We’re taking you in to quarantine.”

Jenks pushed his Divet against Kaz’s chest threateningly. The officer simply scoffed and grabbed the gun from the kid’s hand. He field stripped it in a few quick motions and gave the pieces back to Jenks with a slight chuckle. “Learn to handle a gun, and learn to take the freaking safety off.”

“Cuff ‘em!” ordered a short, robust woman with short brown hair.

The lights went dark. Kaz was able to see the officers’ RIGs as they all turned around.

“Who turned out the lights?” said a female officer in the dark.

“I dunno, Boeddeker,” said another voice in reply. “Why are you asking? There’ve been problems like this before.”

The room went quiet. There was a lot of rumbling above them. The officers turned on their flashlights and started scanning the room. Kaz and Alexis got down to the floor, huddling close to each other to keep safe and warm as the room suddenly went cold.

“What’d you two do?” Boeddeker accused them from the darkness. “I swear, when I get my hands on you –“

The talking soon turned to screaming as the necromorphs entered the room. They roared with fury and killed quickly in the pitch black nothing of the room. Shots fired out, and several times the two caught a glimpse of the necromorphs in the cone of the flashlights.

“Cut off the limbs!” Kaz cried. “The limbs! Go for the joints!”

All of the flashlights turned off suddenly, and there was no more noise to be heard besides a body dropping to the floor. The necromorphs groaned and were heard scrambling back up into the vents. The last one left and the lights returned. All of the officers were dead, slaughtered by the monsters. Their blood was everywhere. Only one officer remained – Boeddeker, who lay in the corner of a room with her gun trained at Kaz and Alexis. She was soaked in blood.

“Get the hell away from me!” Boeddeker screamed at Kaz, obviously spooked. “Get away!”

Kaz grabbed a plasma saw from an officer’s hand and gave it to Alexis. Kaz then approached Boeddeker and offered to help her up. The officer dropped the gun from her shaking hands and began sobbing uncontrollably. Kaz kneeled down next to the woman, grabbing her shoulder.

“Keep it together, officer,” Kaz said harshly and firmly, getting Boeddeker’s attention. “Hey, look at me. Do you have a boyfriend?”

Boeddeker nodded slightly.

“If you want to see him again, we’ve got to make it through this. Okay? We can’t do that if you can’t pull it together, alright?”

“What are you doing, Kaz?” Alexis asked. “You’re wasting your time.”

Boeddeker took a deep breath and nodded in reply. She picked up her pistol, and Kaz helped her to her feet like a gentleman. Boeddeker wiped her tears away and loaded her Divet.

“Here.” Kaz grabbed a blood-soaked Plasma Saw off the floor and handed it to Boeddeker. “Don’t mind the blood; we don’t have much time to clean it up. Use it to cut them apart. It’s the only way to kill them quickly.”

Chapter 6

You’d Better Upgrade

Boeddeker, Alexis, and Kaz continued on down the hallways with no real goal besides survive. They weren’t encountering many necromorphs. In fact, they hadn’t encountered any, but Kaz was hearing things in his ears constantly. He was getting slightly paranoid about it.

Boeddeker seemed fine but distraught. Her entire team had been killed, so Kaz didn’t blame her.

According to the map of the Ishimura that Boeddeker had uploaded to their RIGs, they were traveling on the edges of the starship. There were several windows to affirm their theory. There was a loud rumbling noise outside and a lot of violent shaking. The three looked outside a nearby window, finding a gigantic mass of flesh traversing the side of the Ishimura.

“My God…” Kaz gasped. “That’s…that’s a giant one of them…crawling across the ship. It’s worse than I could’ve possibly imagined.”

“All the more reason to alert the Captain,” Alexis resolved.

“Captain’s dead,” Boeddeker said. “That’s one of the problems. The only person that can take control was killed by Dr. Kyne just a half-hour ago.” Boeddeker turned away from them. “Let’s just keep moving, alright? I’d rather not stick around for the creeps to arrive.”

The three continued on through the halls, with Alexis occasionally looking through the windows they came across. They were getting close to a tram station, which they would probably use to go to the Bridge and help out. Since they had very few other options, they might as well put themselves to use.

Pain shot through Kaz’s head, causing him to nearly collapse. The morphine applied must’ve worn off just now. He slumped down against a wall next to a door and held his patched face.

“Are you alright?” Alexis asked, worried.

“I’m fine,” Kaz told both of them. “Just give me a minute.”

“Alright,” Alexis sighed, ignoring the looks she was getting from Boeddeker. “We’ve got some time to spare. Just relax.”

Kaz took a second and got up slowly. He checked his plasma cutter and rose to his full height. “We should be good. Just…keep me on my feet. If I fall over, leave me behind. Don’t keep me as a detriment.”

“We won’t leave you behind, Kaz,” Alexis stated instantly. “That’s a promise. Hey, look at me.” The engineer grabbed Kaz, pulling him close. “We’re not leaving you behind, you got that?” Kaz nodded, and Alexis gave him a sly smirk of agreement, letting him go.

Kaz hacked the doorpad (with some pointers from Alexis, of course) and got the door open. It rose above them slowly, but it did open eventually. The entire station was abandoned, with only a few spatters of blood to signify what really happened.

“Jeez…” Kaz looked at the blood dotting the floor. “It’s already hit here.” Kaz turned to his side. “Hey, a Store! Anybody got any spare credits?”

“I know a workaround system I can run to give it whatever we’d need,” Boeddeker laughed. “I got this.” She walked up to the store and placed her gun on a very specific spot on the machine. She fired off a round, and the holographic projectors flickered for a few seconds.

“I thought that you were running a workaround,” Alexis said with doubt in her voice, though her eyes were on Kaz.

“I was shooting a device I had to plant to stop the small bug from working. Destroying it makes the glitch work. Watch.”

Boeddeker activated the Store, and she tapped the hologram in front of her a couple of times to get an item. The projectors slid back, and Boeddeker walked into the machine. She placed her back against the end of the newly-opened booth and the store sealed shut for a second. When it opened, Boeddeker was in a more armored PCSI Sec uniform that covered her entire head with a snoopy cap. She then slid a helmet with a clear visor over it, and the suit auto sealed itself.

“Cool, right?” Boeddeker said, her voice altered by the helmet. “Give her a spin, Kaz.”

“Kaz, are you okay?” Alexis asked. “You’re...” Her own voice trailed off, and a lightbulb seemed to go off in her head.

“I’m fine.” Kaz stepped onto the Store platform. The projectors came out, showing the Ishimura’s logo before going to the Store screen. It displayed an upgrade for Kaz’s suit. He tapped it, and the projectors retracted. The booth opened up again. He walked inside, placing his back flat against the wall. He was then latched on as the doors closed and it went dark.

He couldn’t tell what was going on, but he could feel himself getting heavier. When the doors opened, the machine let go. He stumbled out and looked at his hands. They were armored with white plating that felt comfortable when he moved. In his hand was a helmet that was almost identical to Boeddeker’s, but it had plating over most of its visor, and it held a white coloration instead of a grimy brown one.

Alexis took her turn. She ordered her own suit and stepped into the booth. When she got out, she was wearing an intermediate engineer suit in the same grimy brown color as Boeddeker’s. Her helmet was on already when she exited the machine.

“Alright, we’ve got armor,” Alexis said, “so let’s get some transport out of here, eh?”

“Right on, right on,” Boeddeker laughed in reply, immediately brightening Kaz’s mood. “Let’s move.”

Chapter 7

In Our Memories

The tram didn’t take them to the Bridge. Instead, it went backwards and stopped suddenly near the cargo bay. Kaz and Boeddeker got off the tram and began looking around, confused.

“We’re not at the Bridge,” Kaz stated as he closed the map. “Let’s get back on the –”

The tram doors shut abruptly, separating Alexis from the other two. Kaz tried to run to her aid, but the tram left the station in a hurry. Kaz swore and kicked a box in anger.

“How did that happen?” the angered Kaz asked Boeddeker. “How does something like that even happen?”

“I don’t know –”

“How can that happen?!”

“I don’t know!” Boeddeker shouted. “Maybe she walked too close to the console? The things are automated to work that way.”

Kaz sat down on one of the benches and rested his head in his hand. He was silent for several moments while Boeddeker tried to find some ammo or credits. Kaz was having problems keeping himself together at this point. The voices, the necromorphs, the deaths…it was getting to him. He sighed and got up, checking his plasma cutter.

“Do you have any credits, Kaz?” Boeddeker asked.

“I don’t know, actually,” Kaz answered her. “Worth a shot.”

“Buy a pulse rifle if you can, okay? We’ll need some heavy firepower.”

Kaz stepped up to the Store, and, lo and behold, he had enough to buy two small medkits and a pulse rifle. He smirked in acceptance at his new gear, though he wished it had that bit of personality that his old one did.

Kaz and Boeddeker left the tram station and began working their way toward the cargo bay. Boeddeker was awfully silent, and only gave that she was there through her footsteps and occasional reminders that she was there when Kaz turned around to make sure. Kaz was hearing even more whispers in his ear as he got further along. He couldn’t tell what all of them were saying, but he could always pick out ‘Make us whole’.

Kaz opened the next door and went in, and the scenery was changed. It was no longer the grungy Ishimura he was standing in; it was a bright desert. The Sun glared in his eyes. There was an odd wind that blew sand onto his face. He looked around, and there was nothing but sand for miles across. He looked back, and the door stood there alone. It was locked.

“This isn’t real, Kaz,” the man told himself. “This is not real.”

Make us whole, said a voice in his head.

Kaz turned around to see a white marker standing alone in the center of the dunes. Kaz ran back to the door and banged on it.

“Can anyone hear me?!” Kaz shouted at the door. “Can anyone out there hear me?”

“Make us whole again, Kazuhira,” said Yuki’s voice.

Kaz turned to the White Marker and slowly approached it. An apparition of Yuki appeared, cheering him on. Kaz moved toward her, but a flash of a necromorph scared him into keeping along his path. Yuki vanished and reappeared right next to the Marker.

“Come on, Kazuhira. Don’t let me go…”

Kaz approached his sister, finally slumping against the Marker and holding his sister’s hand. He removed his helmet and looked at her with a weary smile.

“Please, Yuki, please stay.”

“I can’t,” Yuki said somberly. “You gave up on life after death, and I can’t stay here with you. But I can tell you one thing before I go:  you can do this.”

The visage faded, and Kaz was slumped against something else. He looked at it, and he jumped in horror. It was a glass pane, and behind it were several of the necromorphs. He regained his wits and sat down against it, grabbing his helmet from the ground. He was in the cargo bay of the Ishimura again.

His RIG crackled to life. A video projection appeared in front of him. It was Alexis, who looked extremely paranoid and scared.

“Kaz! Kaz, are you there?” she asked in a hushed tone.

“Yeah, I’m here,” Kaz said, weary and sad. “Where are you? Where’s Boeddeker?”

“Boeddeker isn’t real! She doesn’t exist!”

“What?”

“I was going to tell you before, but you sent me away on the tram before I could get the secret out!”

“But…”

“Listen to me, Kaz, it’s all in your head! Alright? It’s not real! She’s not real! You hear me loud and clear, yeah?”

“I hear you, I hear you.” Kaz rubbed his eyes. “Where are you, Lexi?” he asked her.

“I’m en route to you, Kaz. I got my way to the bridge, and it was full of the bastards. But, where the hell are you? I was tracking your RIG and you just disappeared. I thought that…” Her words trailed off into silence.

“I’m fine, Lexi,” Kaz said. “I’m very tired, but I’m alright. I’m near –” He pulled up the map on his RIG “—the cargo bay. I’m losing my mind here, Alexis. The damned hallucinations are really getting to me. I can’t go back. There are more of them right behind this panel behind me. Where do I go?”

“Just stay there, okay? Don’t go anywhere, it’ll just –” The tram stopped. “I’m here, headed to you. Stay there.”

Necromorphs started appearing from the darkness. Kaz swore and put his helmet on as he got up. “I’m running, Lexi! They’re in here!”

Kaz broke into a sprint down the hall. He was glad this was a straight way out; otherwise he may have been screwed. He pressed the doorpad to open it, but it stalled.

“Come on!” Kaz shouted, smashing his fist into the doorpad. It flew open in a hurry. The door closed behind him, leaving him inside the cargo bay.

Kaz looked ahead of him. He saw it. The Marker. The engineers had unearthed it so long ago; it felt like years since he had last seen it. However, unlike the last time, he wasn’t joyed by its presence. In fact, he utterly hated the thing now.

Kaz heard the door open behind him. Without looking back, he darted toward the Marker and slid down next to it. He got upright and looked back. Nothing. The door hadn’t opened. It was all in his mind.

“Shit!” Alexis said on his RIG. “I’m trapped in here.”

Kaz looked down at the holoprojection. “Where are you?”

“A maintenance closet. I locked myself in here by accident like the ditz I am.”

“No vents?”

“None I can see.”

Kaz sighed in relief and sat down, his back against the Marker. He removed his helmet and rested his head against the oddly smooth grooves of the Marker.

“Hey, Lexi…since we’re both not going anywhere anytime soon, just talk to me. I want to hear you; it calms me to know you’re there.”

Alexis sighed. “What about?”

“Anything you want.”

Alexis turned off the video projector and it became audio only. “Okay…I was born on Earth, in England. God, it sounds weird to say that I was born on Earth. A few hundred years ago, and that was a given.”

“Heheh…yeah,” Kaz yawned.

“It was…oh, around 2469 when I was born,” Alexis continued. “My mum and dad were engineers that worked alongside Poul Clarke himself. The prides of the Prodo family. I was raised by my grandfather my whole life and never met them myself. I wanted to be like my parents, so I enrolled in an engineering school to hopefully meet them one day on the job.”

“Hey, didn’t Poul have a kid, too?” Kaz asked. “What was his name?”

“I think it was Issac or something along those lines.”

“Wonder if Isaac ever met his dad…”

“From what I heard, he didn’t, sadly.” Alexis audibly sat down. “I’ve never liked Unitologists, and this mission kind of solidifies it. A Dr. Kyne, a registered Uni, shot the escape pods from the ship.”

“Damn…”

“What about you?”

“Me? Right…” Kaz readjusted himself. “I was born on a ship – not sure which – in 2471. My mom was a Unitologist, which got me into the religion. Never knew my dad. Anyway, Aegis VII is my first experience on a planet, and, I’ve got to say, nothing’s gonna top it.”

“You were born in space, eh? It must be strange to go from artificial gravity to the real thing with no real thing to compare it to.”

“Oh, it is,” Kaz admitted. “It was strange at first, but I got used to it. Anyway, I loved being in the Zero G playgrounds they made for kids on the ship, from what I remember. I got good grades, passed exams with flying colors. My sis and I got the CEC jobs after I was fired from my old one as a miner for attacking my boss with a rock saw.”

“You killed him?”

“Nah, I just gelded him.” Kaz laughed a bit. “Yuki didn’t like that she got fired too, but she changed her mind once she saw the pay.”

“Yeah, it’s weird that they give us so much so that we can go to the arse end of nowhere. Is this your first time with P-Sec?”

“Used to work as security on the Sprawl, but I shot my CO for trying to kill innocent civilians. Again, I didn’t kill the guy; just gelded him and some poor fool that stood next to him.”

“You have an odd fascination with shooting a man’s testicles off.”

“It’s a gift,” Kaz said sarcastically. “And, no, this isn’t my first job with P-Sec. We went through a few ships to secure them, and we got rid of whatever remained of a terrorist cell on a few ships. I rose to Detective quickly by following orders and not disobeying orders, and I got assigned to Aegis VII P-Sec. I’m pretty sure that I’m the last surviving officer of this division now, so I guess I’m commander now.”

“Huh…well, that’s true, I guess. Anyway, you look tired. You should get some rest.”

“Yeah, I should…”

Chapter 8

Nothing Left

Kaz awoke to Boeddeker shaking him violently, trying to get him to wake. Boeddeker smiled when Kaz opened his eyes.

“Come on, Kaz,” she said frantically. “We’ve got to go.”

“No; you’re not real,” Kaz told her. “You’re going to get me killed. Go away.”

“Not real? How real is this?!”

In an instant, Boeddeker threw Kaz against the Marker and had a plasma cutter planted on his neck. Kaz grabbed the frame of the weapon and fought against the hallucination’s strength to keep it away from killing him. A shot fired off, and it was so close to Kaz’s head that the man could feel the heat from the blast.

“How real do I have to be for you, Kaz? How real do I have to be?!” Boeddeker suddenly changed into Alexis. “Is that enough? Of course not!” The hallucination changed into a blood-soaked Yuki with two glowing eyes and a glowing mouth that was permanently open. Her skin was gray. “How real does it have to be for us to be whole?!” Even as the hallucination said these words, the apparition’s mouth never moved. They sounded even more demonic and reverberated in the officer’s head.

A realization came to him. It was the Marker speaking to him! He pushed against it even more.

“Fuck you and the Marker!” Kaz shouted at the Yuki hallucination.

The apparition vanished, and Kaz found it to be his own hand holding the gun. He sighed and dropped the gun, and he held his hand to his face, trying to fight the headache he was getting.

The door by the side of the Marker opened. Alexis appeared, now covered in blood and toting a Javelin Gun that was as soaked as its wielder.

“Finally,” Kaz sighed, putting on his helmet. “Let’s get off this ship. There’s a shuttle over there. We can use it to escape.”

“I’m sorry; Kaz, I can’t take you with me.”

“Huh? Of course you can, Lex! We’re leaving together!”

“No, we’re not,” Alexis reaffirmed. “I got my orders from the church. I’m going alone with my report. They’re going to send someone else to get the Marker, but you won’t be alive to see that.”

Kaz picked up the plasma cutter with his left and took off. However, Alexis was quick. She shot one javelin, and it was embedded deep in Kaz’s right palm, sticking him to a wall.

“Aagh!” Kaz screamed in agony. He growled at Alexis. “You betrayed me! You lied to me!”

“Sorry, Kaz. Hey, let this be a lesson to you: you shouldn’t chase what you can’t get.” Alexis put on her helmet and pressed the button that Kaz’s hand was close to. It opened up the bulkhead that allowed for the shuttle to leave. “Tell me, Kaz, is this how you wanted to die – at the hands of a woman?” She aimed the javelin gun at Kaz’s head.

Thinking quickly, Kaz shot Alexis with his plasma cutter. At first, nothing seemed to have happened, but Alexis dropped the javelin gun and put her hands to her head. Alexis’ head dropped off, and her RIG flatlined mere seconds later. Her lifeless body was pulled into space, and she was gone.

Kaz gripped the plasma cutter between his legs and tried to press the button. His fingers could feel it, but they couldn’t provide the force to push it. He was already straining himself to reach it. He tried and tried, but he couldn’t.

Then Kaz realized what he’d have to do.

Taking the plasma cutter, he positioned it a few inches below his right elbow, right before the plating. His jaw tightened, and he fired. His arm came off, and immense pain flooded his entire body. He pressed the button quickly, mere seconds before his Zero-Gravity Boots failed to keep him upright. He flew helplessly toward the narrowing opening before it closed, dropping him to the ground hard.

“Damn it!” Kaz yelled, banging his hand into the ground. He screamed for several minutes before he got up, and even then, he was still crying. He tore his helmet off violently and began to walk to the shuttle.

A horde of necromorphs appeared from the vents. Kaz, too angry and too tired to fight, walked calmly back to the Marker. They weren’t going that fast, so he had time. He leaned against it with his left hand, awaiting his death.

“Come and get me!” he bellowed. “Come on!”

The necromorphs picked up speed, trying to get to him, but the ones that did hit an invisible force. They tried again, but they couldn’t get to him. The man looked at them, and he sighed.

“It’s going to be a long day,” he said to himself.

Chapter 9

Going Home

After an unknown amount of time eating and sleeping under the Marker’s protection – probably days – Kaz had set up a camera and a chair from equipment he had tossed at him by the necromorphs. He set the video to broadcast to everything within range as long as this camera stays active. He turned on the camera and sat down in the chair with a slight wince. Kaz looked into the camera, with a look of desperation fixed to his face.

“This is –” Kaz shifted and let out a pained groan “– Kazuhira Paxtun, now Commander of Aegis VII P-Sec, and this is a warning to all ships coming to the Ishimura’s aid. Do not approach.

“At first, it was just people seeing or hearing things constantly, which turned into paranoia and hallucinations, which then became homicidal thoughts toward all people. Colonists, miners, whatever, began attacking each other, and when the bodies piled up, they became live again, and, since we were unprepared, we were utterly slaughtered.

“Any of us not completely insane and dead tried to escape to the Ishimura for respite. We had survived long enough to get on a shuttle to the starship. More of us went insane, and a good few of us were killed before in transit. Even now, thinking on it, I might have killed someone in a fit of madness…”

Kaz turned behind him, to the horde of necromorphs, and he sighed. He turned back to the camera, closed his eye, and took a deep breath. “Look, I don’t know what EarthGov is telling you, but the Ishimura and the Marker must be destroyed, because if this gets to Earth, it’ll be the end of her. Please, don’t let our sacrifices be in vain.”

Kaz rose and ended the recording. He then sat back down in his chair and wheeled it around in boredom before the idea hit him. The shuttle! He can use it to escape!

Kaz looked for an opening in the horde. He had found it, in a narrow path to the button to open the airlock. He bolted and pressed the button quickly. The necromorphs jumped at him at the same time the airlock finally opened, sending them all flying. Kaz’s Gravity Boots had kicked in, and he made a mad dash toward the shuttle. The bandaging on his eye tore off and flew into the void far beyond what he could see. He prayed to God that he’d make it.

He didn’t. His gravity boots failed, and he was sucked out into dead space. He clutched at his neck, trying to breathe, but he couldn’t. His vision clouded, and he desperately reached out for the bay as it got further and further away from him. His eye closed, and he could see her.

Yuki reached out to him, her form not twisted but beautiful. Kaz had forgotten his injuries entirely. Behind Yuki was a bright light – a haven to Kaz’s eyes. He grabbed Yuki’s hand, feeling it cold but inviting. He was violently ripped from the sight. He was being fitted with a helmet, and, once on, he was able to breathe again.

He looked back, and Boeddeker was there. She wore no helmet – a sign that she wasn’t real – and gave two thumbs-up to Kaz before vanishing for good.

Kaz, using the thrusters on his suit, flew back inside the bay. It took up a chunk of his oxygen reserve, but he managed it. When he landed, his gravity boots kicked in again, and this time the void wasn’t sucking everything out into it. He stumbled next to the shuttle and opened the loading door.

The officer brought himself in and closed the door, allowing air to recirculate inside. Kaz tossed his helmet off to one side and slumped into the command seat. He powered it on and activated the port boosters, and the shuttle shot forward from the bay incredibly fast as the airlock was closing.

Kaz sighed with relief and relaxed. He heard some faint movements behind him, which gave the officer a morbid curiosity. He picked up a blood soaked rock saw that was on the floor and got up.

It was a medical officer, a woman. She huddled into the corner and looked at Kaz in fear. In her eyes, it was a heavily-injured psychopath wielding a weapon to kill her with. However, Kaz realized how he looked and powered down the saw. He stabbed the jagged end into the wall and left it there. He then offered his hand to help her up.

“You’re injured,” the woman said. “You’ll need attention.”

“Later,” he told her, still holding his hand out.

The woman took his hand, and Kaz helped her up off the ground with some difficulty in keeping himself balanced. The woman then helped Kaz into one of the extra seats, examining his arm.

“You’ve had this for a few days; you wrapped it yourself? Well, good effort, but you had no other choices.”

“How did you get on here?” Kaz asked. “I didn’t see you get in.”

“I’ve been on the whole time. I barely saw one of those things up until now, and even then, I only glimpsed them when they flew out of the Ishimura at your hand.”

The woman removed the cloth Kaz had draped over his arm and replaced it with fresh bandages that were held firmly in place by a metal lock. She then injected Kaz with some morphine to dull the pain that would inevitably come. The doctor then sat down next to him.

“So, what’s your name?” the doctor asked.

“I’m Kazuhira Paxtun, P-Sec,” Kaz told her.

“You came from the planet? I guess that was you who crashed on the ship.”

“And you are…?”

“Hecate Frigato,” the woman said with a sigh. “My dad worked down on the planet. You might’ve known him. I-is he alive?”

Kaz relaxed into the seat. “I’m so sorry, Hecate, but your father’s dead.” He had to stop himself from telling her the truth about Frigato. “I came up with him, but we were shot down and crashed into the hull, as you knew. He died in the crash.”

“Oh.” Hecate set her head against her hands and began crying to herself.

Kaz patted her on the shoulder and got up. He walked to the control console and set a course for the Sprawl. He enabled the Shockpoint Drive and they began traveling faster than light.

Kaz sighed and relaxed in his chair. “Finally…we’re going home.”

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