Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The cargo bay seems deserted. It should be packed. We know someone performed a ‘war action’ here. They overrode emergency reseal functions and warning routines, closed off internal access, then dropped the environment fields. We don’t know why. Also, the venting of the bay was actioned from inside. That’s the detail that bothers me: somebody killed themselves to do this.
“Mikey Four, this is Pattison. We’ve secured all the dumped ships. They’d all been locked in unsealed states nine hours before the bay was vented.”
Colson chuckles.
“This ride has left weird and is headed toward menacing.”
He’s right.
“Too true, partner.”
The lights come on. The place is a typical cargo bay, done in regulation shades of pale blue or grey. Except for the copious amounts of red daubed across the floor and up the walls to about twice human height.
I gesture to the décor.
“Welcome to menacing.”
He turns completely about.
“Pattison, this is Colson One. Please inspect dumped ships for unusual traces.”
“Colson One, this is Pattison. Was about to call. Looks like some of these ships hosted bloodbaths. Savah, our Dadil Huntswoman, tells me the spatter patterns are right for a large predator slaughtering human-sized prey.”
All vessels and stations have Giger’s Alien on their safety displays. Any form of new infestation could do for us all. His creation encourages paranoid proaction.
“Where are the bodies?”
Colson has a point. I don’t want to be the one to answer, but he and I are first recon. It’s our job.
With Savah’s analysis in mind, I set the forensic reconstruction to ‘track’ the massacre from the traces. Four drones flit from my backpack. Now to find something to do while the process completes.
Turning around, I see Colson standing in the centre of the bay. He’s motionless. I jog over to him.
“What’s up?”
He doesn’t reply. I see his head is back, like he’s looking at the ceiling above. I move round so I can see into the same section.
“You see?”
His whisper is my saving grace. I shake my head and put a hand on his shoulder.
“Yes. It’s not DSHS.”
‘Deep Space Hallucinatory Syndrome’ can happen to any human spacer without warning. There’s no cure except to get, and stay, planetside.
“That’s all of them, isn’t it?”
I set off a Mass Casualty Alert. It lets those who come next prepare, and gives me access to additional routines. Looking up at the tangle of bodies and hull sealant, I wait.
294. All personnel, minus one…
“Last one triggered the venting. Let’s go find them.”
She’s in the dented emergency control room. Barricaded the door, patched herself up, then dragged the needed kit onto the floor rather than trying to stand one-legged..
“Her name was Siobhan O’Malley. There’s a note scrawled on the wall: ‘Never seen the like. Tripeds in body armour. Two clawed arms on the right, giant pincer on the left. Disabled our systems before making entry. The one that got my leg goes with this bay.’”
“Code Red, all units. This is Mikey Four. Check all ingress points for unrecognised traffic. Shoot first.”
The silence lasts for five minutes.
“Mikey Four, this is Pattison. Ventral lock records an unidentified docking nine hours prior to venting. It departed four minutes after we arrived in-system. Residuals indicate it probably exited near L5.”
We entered at L4.
“Relay a Code Red to everything within range: ‘New hostile sentients. Technically advanced, stealthy, very capable, and lethal.’”
Colson adds: “Likely they’ve struck before.”
True. But now we know.
Thank you, Siobhan.