I am awake. I shouldn't be awake. Should I? Has it been six months already? Are we at Neptune already? I had heard travelling in cryogenic stasis felt like no time at all, when in fact months or years could have passed. Whatever length of time that has passed I can't wait to get off this freighter, travelling through the vacuum of space has always given me the creeps. I'm not looking forward to protecting mining workers in the atmosphere of Neptune either, but a contract is a contract.
I will do my twelve months stint of protecting the miners from fuel raiders, then head back towards the inner colonies where it is warm. I realize I still have my eyes closed, I open them, peering out through the viscous life preserving liquid I find myself in. I strain my eyes trying to see out of the tank looking out to what should be a white sterile bay of the stasis ward, and the operator who should be there to revive me. I look out but all I can see is vast smears of red over the walls and the tanks opposite me. This doesn't look right, the walls weren't red when I went into stasis, the stasis tanks opposite me look to be shattered. This isn't right, this isn't right at all, has there been an accident?
Suddenly there is a huge figure standing in front of my stasis pod, I cannot make out any of its features but it is far bigger than a human. Then a thought comes to me. The red on the walls. It is blood, the crews blood, something has killed them. I am next. Despair starts clawing at me, I am naked in a stasis tank, how can I defend myself? Only a few inches of reinforced glass and hundreds of gallons of amniotic fluid separate me from the interloper. The amniotic fluid. I spin myself around on my axis, the manoeuvre slow and labored, out of reflex my hand reaches for the emergency vent latch.
As I activate the latch, I am literally thrown out of the pod as the fluid hurls my attacker away, washing it down the far end of the stasis ward. I am washed to the opposite end, lying in a pool of amniotic fluid mixed with blood and excrement. I have literally seconds to take in my surroundings before I try to make good my escape, but it is far to much time for the horror I find myself in. These scant few seconds seem to stretch out into eternity. The first thing that assails me is the smell, the stench of rotten meat, voided bowels and the iron tang of cut veins. Scattered around the ward are human remains, body parts strewn across the floor, not a single body is in one piece. I look at the head of each victim I see, each face is contorted into a silent scream of anguish. They felt pain when they died, they knew what was happening to them, they died slowly. Their killer, took its time to torture them before ending their lives.
A terrifying growl the sound of distant thunder claws at my soul. I dare not look back, fire burns in my heart and veins, hauling me into action. I scramble to my feet, slipping and sliding on the wet floor, almost tripping over the pieces of crew. I make it out of the stasis ward and hammer the emergency containment button. A massive armored bulkhead slams shut separating the stasis ward from the rest of the ship. I look around the corridor I find myself in, the scene before me is just as ghastly as the stasis ward. There is blood splattered all over the walls and floor, the only difference is that it looks like someone put up a fight here. There is evidence of a firefight, bullet holes riddle the walls and floor, all leading to a prone form on the floor, the body is the most intact I have seen.
A massive clashing sound steals my attention, I spin around to its source, the ward I had just escaped from. The thing, whatever it is, it is trying to break its way out of the stasis ward. The bulkhead begins to bend inwards with each new vicious hammer blow being dealt against it. I back away slowly from the sealed off ward, while focusing on the bulkhead, the rate it is bending, it won't be sealed off for much longer. I almost trip on the body I had seen seconds ago, as I look down I see the ships Captain, in his cold dead hand is an assault rifle. I snatch up the rifle, checking the magazine, it is half full and will have to do.
I look to the far end of the corridor, which leads to another stasis lab, then back to the one I sealed, a plan forms in my mind. The bulkhead sealing the ward blows in, with a wash of sparks, it comes to rest mere feet from me. I finally see my attacker, it is definitely taller than me, it is covered in all enclosed black armor, protruding from one of its hands is a lethal killing blade dripping from wet blood. It starts to walk toward me in silence, I open up with the assault rifle with short controlled bursts, each fresh shot chips paint from its armor. I back away as I fire, noticing this the intruder picks up its pace, my heart is drumming inside my chest, subconsciously I know I am nearly out of ammunition.
'Come and get me!' I scream, as I switch to full auto, spending the rest of my ammunition in a matter of seconds. I scream again in frustration and hurl the rifle down the corridor. Sensing it is time to strike it sprints towards me, I turn in kind sprinting for the stasis ward, it will be on me in a second. I feel the deck shudder as it leaps at me. I instinctively hit the deck sliding as I do so. I look up as I slide, the thing leaps over me, it is to late to correct its trajectory, the inertia of the leap carrying it into the stasis ward. I scramble to my feet and hammer the emergency release locking it away once more. The plan that I formed is one I should of put into action when I first sealed the intruder away. Every stasis ward on every star ship has its own life support system, so that in the event of a disaster those in stasis can be ejected from the craft. As the attacker attempts to break out once more, I activate the ejection system, with a muted thud a small explosives charge throws the stasis ward from the craft, hurling it out into the void of space. I laugh to myself instead of crying, I turn around and slump to the floor. I look down the corridor at the Captains body and the charnel house in the other stasis ward. I sit there in silence the reality of what I have just survived settles in.
A terrifying growl reverberates through the companionways from deeper in the ship. My eyes dilate as I begin to hyperventilate
It wasn't alone!