Somebody on RPGnet brought up Vampires in Space again, so I figured I’d dig out this story of mine which I quite liked.
Pace pulled her hair back and yanked it fiercely into a ponytail. She couldn’t have her hair getting in the way now. There could be no mistakes at all. Not this time.
It should never have got this far, she thought. This is my fault. I was sloppy. I didn’t double check everything. I just saw a dead ship on the scanners and thought nothing of it. And now, nine people are dead, and it’s all my fault.
The inner airlock hissed open and she put on her suit in record time. Only two items remained outside – the overrider, strapped to her left hand, and the pistol on her belt. The pistol was a decidedly illegal, super-up flamer she’d stolen from a dead trader when she’d first arrived at the station. It was risky just owning it, but EMPers were useless on this kind, and penetration weapons were unheard of this far from the rim. The overrider was probably also illegal, and just as vital. A brilliant little device Cord had designed for her, it was her way in. She simply had to clip it into the port, and the codes would unlock any security system in the base. Including the door to the junkyard.
She hooked it up, and it worked perfectly, as always. Good old Cord. The air hissed out of the room, the pressure stabilised and then the iris opened and she was floating in the emptiness of space.
You couldn’t want a better hiding place. Every bit of spacejunk big enough to hold an engine ended up being dragged in here, from the huge, system-spanning BDOs, down to life pods and even lost crawlers. It was a huge, seething mass of steel and opfibre, bobbing slowly back and forth in the stasis field, like the sighing belly of some hideous, scaly beast. Not only would anything hidden in this twisted mass be impossible to find, but it was also an incredibly dangerous place to go looking. The closeness of the dead vehicles created a thousand little gravity pools and eddies, and a single mis-step could find you crushed between two ships the size of moons in a second.
Pace spread her arms and slowed herself down. She couldn’t let her determination to end this let her make such a mistake. Her jets would get her out of all but the biggest pockets, but swimminng up-stream would cost her a lot of time, which she didn’t have. Just drift, she told herself, breathe slowly and drift. Look at all the pretty stars stretching out around you, and let the gravity do the work.
It wasn’t actually hard to find the ship. When you hide something where no-one would ever think to look, there’s no need to bury it. And he needed an access hose to get into the base – even in his gaseous form, he still couldn’t survive the vacuum of space. Very few of the dead ships had any fuel by the time they ended up here, so only two hoses ran into the yard. She just had to find the right one, and follow it along and –
She touched her wrists to activate the magnets in her palms and soles as she floated into the ship’s gravity well. Again, she admired his skill. The damage to the cockpit looked severe enough to have wiped out all that was worth salvaging, and made the risk of decompression high enough to keep away all but the most insane junkers. Pilot most likely killed on impact. Just another bit of spacejunk. Nothing to see here.
And that’s why he’d been able to sneak right into her territory and work right under her nose. He probably even knew she was here, she realised. He had been playing a game the whole time, seeing just how good he was at covering his tracks, and staying hidden. Well, you did a damn good job, she admitted. If you’d left a few hours ago, I never would have traced the ship. In fact, if you’d left the last two alone, I might never have found you all. But it’s always the same with these breathless bastards – they always had to push it, had to rub your face in it, really make themselves look big.
And that, she thought triumphantly, is why I’ll always get you.
She braced herself for impact, palms and soles facing the metal hull. The magnets kicked in and she adjusted the strength until they held her steady, just a few inches away. She realised she’d stopped breathing for a moment. Come on, Pace, breathe, she chided herself. Concentrate. He’s good, but he’s not that good. You will get him.
She waited until her breath was back in rhythm once more, and then slowly reached out and carefully placed the overrider into the doorlock. With a shudder, she was in.
The interior airlock was pitch black, but her readings told her that the hull was still intact, and that gravity was still on. But no oxygen, of course. That was how he’d stayed dead to sensors all the time. So simple. She wondered how many of them might have done the same over the years. How many she might have missed.
It also meant she would have to keep her suit on. ZG training or not, she could never move as fast as one of them with all this metal on her back. The only solution was to get the drop on him, and take him out with one shot. She checked the gun. Full charge. Targetting ready. She turned off her lights, switched her vision to UV. And then she reminded herself, once again, to keep breathing.
It wouldn’t be long before he knew she was here, but without lighting up like a Christmas tree on the scanners back in the control room, he couldn’t run internal sensors. As long as she kept moving, she could still surprise him.
The UV let her manoeuvre well enough, but the darkness was still oppressive. Every step she took echoed through the corridors around her, disappearing into the dark corners far above and below her that she could never see. She resisted the urge to run, and fought to keep her breathing slow. In. Out. In. Out.
But she had to move quickly. She swept each corridor and bay only once, then moved on. She remembered enough of her military training to systematically rule out the peripheral areas first, then slowly work back inwards. Every now and then her vision would scramble, or she’d get an echo, and she’d frantically rescan the area, back and forth, up and down, her heart in her mouth, expecting him to leap at her at any second, but still nothing. Just the slow, quiet beeping of her enviro-scan and the warmth of the gun in her hand.
In. Out. In. Out. The dark corridors sped along under each step after ringing step. In. Out. Scan, left, right, nothing, keep moving. In. Out. The cockpit was empty. In. Out. So was the medbay. In – then she saw it. An slight heat trail, leading, most likely, into life support ops. She tightened her thick gloves around the pistol and flicked the targetter onto silent mode as she crept forward.
She edged through the medlab, around the bulkhead, and there was her target, crouched down with his back to her, playing with the life pod controls. A quick getaway, maybe. She only barely had a shot, but is she moved again, he’d almost certainly hear. Slowly, she raised the gun to her eye level, matching the targeting interface to her pupil. She took another second for one more breath. In. Out.
And that was enough.
It was clever. Once again, so very clever. Not just an accurate visual holo, but the heat signature was matched as well. It was just slightly too warm to be real. She breathed again. You didn’t make the mistake. You picked it in time. You’re going to get him.
But if this was the bait, where was the trap? She wheeled around, her heart shuddering like a dying engine. The medbay. She hadn’t checked the body tubes. A perfect place to hide. She pounded back into the room, sweeping every corner, checking every shadow. She leapt over the console, and kicked open the body tube, and drove her fist down into the empty case, and that was when he took her.
It was her suit alarms that told her. Without peripheral vision, she hadn’t even seen him, hadn’t even felt him touch her. But one simple knife cut, and he’d killed her – completely severed her oxygen line…and the backup, she verified, as the warning messages rolled across the HUD. Before she even had a chance to turn, she felt the second cut rip down through her safety valve and the air left around her in the suit gushed away in one great sigh. In. Out. In. Out. And it was gone.
Finally, she turned right around and saw him, stepping back to enjoy his handiwork. A sickly smile spread across his twisted face as she lost her balance and slumped back against the wall.. Something in her mind was telling her to raise the gun again, to take the bastard with her, but all her body could think about was getting oxygen. She kept breathing in, but each time, there was nothing there. In. In. In. In.
Silently, she sank to the floor, her legs useless, her vision clouding. Her weapon skittered away across the steel floor as her hands clawed wildly at the hoses, as if she could some how reconnect them. Her mind was elsewhere; she was realising that he’d been hiding behind the hologram itself, hiding in plain sight again, where no-one would think to look. She was wondering if he would feed on her before she totally lost consciousness, and smiled at the thought that the lack of oxygen might make her blood taste off. She wondered if Cord would find her body, if he would know what happened, if he would tell her story, and make sure her successor learnt from her mistakes.
She noticed was still breathing, even though it served no purpose. In. In. In. With each breath, her lungs burned with red fire and her throat seemed to crack from dryness. Dimly, she could still see her killer close by, hovering, mocking her perhaps, but she was seeing only the strange curve of the bulkhead opposite her, and the wonderfully intricate screws that held it together. Poor Cord, she thought, between the fiery explosions of pain that rocked her head. He would never get over her death – he would blame himself. Which was stupid, because everything he did was perfect, and she was the one who always made the mistakes. He made the overrirder, and it worked every single time. Every single time.
She realised she was still holding the overrider in her left hand, and she rubbed a gloved thumb across it, as a final goodbye. Then, as her vision went black, she remembered something. With her last ounce of strength, she bent the plastic casing of the overrider back, back, back – and then it snapped. A few opfibres tore, and the charger gave off one tiny little spark.
The explosion engulfed half the ship. As the intense heat ate through her heavy suit, and then flesh, and then bone, she had time to remember one last thing, something she had learnt by heart, all those years ago: In every generation, there is a Chosen One. She alone can battle the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness.
She is the Slayer…