Vaporized ll, page 10
"Ok, the phone's memory has been deleted, so we have at least half an hour of continuous video record time. All we have to do is insert the Corvette into the duct," she said, smoothing over the tape securing her iPhone to the windscreen of the Corvette one last time to make sure it was stuck down properly.
Amber had thought about all the videos and photographs as she'd deleted them to free up space. Thank God she'd transferred them all on to her laptop the weekend of The Event, before the power had gone. At least her memories of Earth as it once was, could be brought to life once again, if and when she could power-up her laptop.
"All done?" Dom asked, interrupting her thoughts.
Amber turned the toy car over and switched it on. She then turned the remote control unit on and wiggled the miniature steering wheel. The toy car's wheels turned as they should, and its rear wheels spun in response to the accelerator lever bring pushed forward.
"All set," Amber replied, winking.
"I have an idea how to get the car into the vent, without one of us having to go in," Dom said.
"Let's hear it," Amber replied.
Dom stood up, walked over to the cupboard near the main console and pulled out a white sheet, which they'd stored in there earlier. He formed the sheet into a narrow sling and placed the corvette into the bottom of it.
"If someone holds my legs, I can lower this down into the vent," he said.
"I like it," John added.
"Well come on then, what we waiting for?"
With the I-phone turned on and set to record, Dom had positioned himself with his head and shoulders extended out over the hole in the floor. Amber and John were sitting on his legs to prevent him siding in, and John also had his shotgun trained into the dark void for good measure.
Dom lowered the sling into the open ducting, and carefully released the remote control Corvette. The toy car landed onto the surface of the ducting with a light thud and Dom quickly pulled himself back from the hole.
Amber slowly pushed the lever on the remote control unit forward and the car zipped forward.
“Easy,” John said.
“I got it,” Amber replied, delicately moving the car forward into the dark ventilation duct, lit only by the iPhone’s torch application.
AMBER STEERED THE Corvette along the ventilation ducting, the light on her iPhone illuminating the way ahead and now displaying on the small screen on the remote unit. Each time the car drove over the rivets securing each large section of the ventilation ducting in place, the small wheels jerked left or right, requiring small adjustments to the steering wheel on the remote control unit to keep it in a straight ling.
The three of them were seated at the wooden table, hunched over the remote control unit and studying the small screen, as Amber manoeuvred the car along the ventilation system. Every now and again, a lump of jelly-like goo came into view, which Amber did her best to avoid, by steering the car around the stuff.
The screen showed the ducting turn sharply to the right. Amber turned the small car around the corner, but accelerated too quickly, and accidently drove the car into the vertical side of the shaft. The cone of light emitted from her iPhone strapped to the front of the car blinked out as the car hit the side of the duct. Amber delicately reversed up, turned and moved the car forward. As she did, a large jagged piece of material came into view, a piece of Adam’s sleeping bag which had caught on one of the internal rivets.
Amber moved the car over it. The view ahead now was of a long straight section of ducting, disappearing into the darkness.
She edged the little car forwards and then suddenly, she appeared to lose control and was unable to steer the Corvette anymore.
“Shit,” Amber cursed, “It’s not responding.
The image on the screen then started to blur, as if the car had rapidly accelerated, and then as quickly as that happened, it had come to an abrupt stop.
“It’s just fallen down a vertical section of ducting,” Dom said.
“I think you’re right,” Amber replied, applying pressure on the accelerator stick. Nothing happened.
“What was that?” Amber whispered, looking at the screen, as a dark shadow passed in front of the light coming from her iPhone.
Before the three of them could speak, the small car seemed to jerk upwards. A blurred image of a large cocoon, similar to the one that fell out of the vent on the lower level, came into view. The toy car was then spun ninety degrees, and the small screen on the remote control unit momentarily filled with a serrated claw, before the screen went black again.
“Oh Jesus,” Dom said, moving back from the remote control unit like the creature was about to crawl out of it.
“Come on, that thing is just below us and it doesn’t look too happy!” Amber said, jumping up.
John double-checked the chambers of the shotgun, both were loaded. “I’ve got twelve cartridges left. Including the two in the gun,” he said.
“We have two pistols, both of them full, three flares and this harpoon,” Amber said, directing her gaze to the assortment of weapons laid out on the table.
“It’s enough hopefully to take one creature down, but we’d be in trouble if two came for us at the same time,” John said.
“You mean the creature and…Adam,” Amber said.
Dom shook his head. “It’s almost six p.m., the light is starting to fade and that bloody thing, together with whatever Adam’s turning into, are just beneath us. I don’t want to spend another night in here. Let’s move to one of the other cabins, the recreational room maybe?” he said.
Amber thought about the suggestion. The ship’s auto-pilot had been engaged. As long as that remained the case, there was no real necessity to be based up on the bridge any longer, not with the large breach in the control room’s floor.
“I guess we could move to a safer location. The bridge is clearly no longer secure. What do you think John?” Amber said.
John shrugged. “I don’t fancy staying up here, not with that hole over there with direct access to the duct. Only problem, this is where the radio is. We need to be here when the next broadcast comes through from Nevada, which will be 07.30 tomorrow,” John said, checking the time.
“That’s true. We can always come back up for that. At least there will be daylight,” Amber said.
“I say we get out of here now. Make our way down to the rec room, secure the door there,” Dom said.
There was a few seconds silence. Amber nodded. “Ok, Dom, make sure the tanker’s auto pilot is functioning and that we’re still on course. John and I will gather up the weapons and food. Then we go.”
“Roger that captain,” Dom said, his demeanour a little more relaxed for the first time in hours. He headed over to the console and started checking the controls and engine settings.
Amber and John started gathering the food and water and other essential items. They could leave some items up here, as they’d be back tomorrow in any event. They placed a sheet over the packs of water that they’d stacked in the corner of the control room, behind the table, and decided to just take one twelve pack of water down with them. It was a risk, but they couldn’t lug it all down. Most of the packs of water were still stacked in the small storage cabin, near the main superstructure entrance. Arguably, the more locations they had supplies, the better.
“Help me push this across would you,” John shouted to Dom, as he started heaving a large bookshelf across the floor towards the rec room’s door.
Dom walked over from a set of cabinets he was looking in, and helped John push the heavy bookcase over from its positioned against the wall at the mid-point of the cabin across the door. The obstacle would at least cause the creature some trouble if it decided to gain entry through the main door.
The cabin was fairly large, giving the three of them more space and hopefully options, if the creature decided to attack. The only problem was the ventilation system inside the roof space above.
“We need to
Amber made dinner and the three of them ate, nervously looking around at the slightest creak or groan that came from the tanker’s infrastructure as it ploughed on through the ocean.
“Anyone fancy a game of table-tennis?” Dom suggested, after they’d finished eating.
John shrugged. “Aye, why not. I used to play a lot when I was younger.”
“You two guys go for it,” Amber said. “I’m going to clean up.”
Amber cleared the table and took their dirty plates and cutlery back to the galley. She placed them in the sink, squirted some washing up liquid on to them and poured a little water from one of their bottles of water into the sink, just enough to cover the plates. The dishwasher was already full of dirty plates and cutlery and she figured at least it might not smell if the plates were covered with soap and submerged in water. There were enough clean plates to last the entire journey, so she wasn’t going to waste time washing up, and use precious drinking water.
Amber returned to the main room, where the guys were still playing table tennis, sat down on the sofa along the rear wall, and picked up a magazine to read. It was a May 2015 edition of the men’s magazine Maxim. She started browsing its glossy pages and came across an article entitled How to get Ripped in Two Easy Steps. Eat chicken, reduce carbs and do 100 abdominal crunches a day for a month and bingo, you too could have abs like the model in the photograph.
The model’s physique did look good, no doubt about it. But, there weren’t many men who could seriously sport a set of abdominals like that, and keep them, she considered. As she read the magazine, she almost felt like she was at home, spending a lazy Saturday afternoon on the sofa following a hard week in work. The title of the article quickly reminded her that it wasn’t the case. The word ripped, suddenly taking on a sinister meaning, as she thought about the huge pool of blood from Paul, on the floor in the cabin next door. Amber felt an icy chill race up her spine as she thought about spending another night on board the Nostrum.
“Ok, I think you win,” Dom said to John, as he plonked himself on the sofa next to Amber, sweating and out of breath.
“Fancy a game?” John said to Amber, as he wandered over.
“No, I’m good thanks,” Amber said, tossing the magazine back on the table. “Don’t forget we have to get back up to the bridge for seven-thirty tomorrow to catch the broadcast from the USA.”
John nodded. “Don’t worry. We’ll make sure we are there in time. Get everything set up and ready.”
“So, who’s on first watch tonight?” Dom asked, checking his watch. “Its eight forty-five already.”
“We are going to have to rotate in pairs. One person gets three hours sleep, then the second and then the third,” John said.
“Who’s the most tired?” Amber asked.
“I got to be honest. I’m pretty whacked,” Dom said. “I’m happy to take first sleep, and stay awake from midnight until six, as long as I can then sleep again until say nine.”
John shrugged. “That’s fine with me.”
“Go for it. I’m not tired yet anyway,” Amber said.
Dom disappeared to the back of the room, close to the entrance to the galley and disappeared into his sleeping bag.
Amber went to make a couple of warm drinks for the two of them. She brought them back to the sofa and sat back down. As she did, a low vibration from the engine room below caused the cabin floor to shudder slightly.
Amber looked at John.
“I’m sure it’s nothing. The engines are working hard. They’re bound to protest a bit, especially if the ocean is a little rough,” John said, trying to sound reassuring.
“I hope so,” Amber said, sipping her black coffee, her nerves already beginning to fray at the thought of spending another night on board.
IT WAS APPROACHING midnight when an odd sound sent a chill down Amber’s back. She'd been due to swap shifts with Dom and get some much needed sleep, when a noise somewhere in the ventilation duct above them, or from one of the adjoining cabins, caused her to look up at the suspended ceiling. She nudged John, who'd momentarily dropped off to sleep next to her.
John turned to look at her, his eyes suddenly wide open, as if he'd fallen asleep while watching a movie and was trying to kid her he was still fully alert. "What's the problem?" he asked, nervously.
"I just heard something, coming from the ventilation system, corner of the room," Amber said, getting up slowly.
Dom was still sleeping over in the far corner and had not yet woken. Amber sensed the motion from the tanker as it continued its course across the Atlantic, the heavy swell now making itself known. She suddenly began to feel slightly queasy, on top of everything else.
The pair of them slowly got up off the sofa, John clenching his shotgun and Amber her pistol. They stood, motionless, trying to listen for the sound again, above the faint and natural groans that they knew emanated from the huge tanker.
Thirty seconds or so passed, with nothing apart from the odd groan from the tanker's steel hull, and then, there it was again. Chirrrp…chirrrp.
The insect-like sound seemed to emanate from the far corner of the room, close to the corridor, where the schematic had indicated the ducting was located.
"I heard it that time," John said, his eyes wide with fear.
"Quick, let's go and wake Dom," Amber suggested.
The pair of them slowly walked backwards, keeping their eyes and weapons focussed towards the front of the rec room, where the sound seemed to be coming from. They reached Dom’s sleeping bag, and Amber gently kicked him awake.
Dom stirred, and then looked up at the pair of them and quickly realised something wasn’t quite right. “Wha…what’s going on?” he asked.
“Shssh,” Amber said, raising her finger to her mouth and then pointing towards the corner of the room.
Dom eased himself out of the sleeping bag, before grabbing his harpoon and standing up, a little shaky on his feet after being woken so suddenly.
“There’s a chirping sound coming from the corner of the room, up in the roof space,” John confirmed.
Dom rubbed his eyes, and followed their gaze to the spot.
Chirp…chirp. Louder this time, emanated from the end of the room, somewhere above them.
“Oh shit, it’s up there and seems to be getting closer,” John said.
“Ok, let’s try and remain calm. We need to take up offensive positions, close to the back of the room. We can use the sofa as cover. If that thing drops down, we hit it straight away with everything we’ve got,” Amber said, looking at the two of them. “Are we all focused?”
“As ready as we’ll ever be,” Dom said, stifling a yawn, a tremor evident in his hand as he scratched his chin.
Suddenly there was a loud grating type of noise, like metal being cut with an angle grinder.
“Ok, get ready, I think it’s cutting its way through the ventilation duct,” Amber whispered, as she felt bile rising from the pit of her stomach as she thought about what was up there.
Suddenly the suspending ceiling in the far corner of the room gave way and pieces of white prefabricated heavy mineral fibre sections of suspended ceiling splintered down in a cloud of white dust, followed by a thump of something large hitting the floor.
The three of them remained crouched, motionless, Amber feeling her heart pounding in her chest, as they waited momentarily for the cloud of dust to disperse. They didn’t need to wait long. The alien creature, a juvenile, standing on its insect-like spindly legs, moved slowly forward in jerky movements, stepping over the fallen ceiling tiles to get to them.
As Amber stared in horror at the creature standing there, she noticed something strange hanging from the creature’s serrated front forelimb. It jerked forward, a little closer to them, and as it did, the thing hanging from its arm fell off, and then Amber
“Let’s kill the son-of-a-bitch,” John whispered, just as another loud clunk came from the galley, behind them, followed by an ear piercing chirping that cut through the unfolding chaos like a knife.
Each second that ticked by felt like it had been stretched into a minute, as time appeared to slow down as the chaos unfolded before her. John had been dragged out of sight, towards the galley, where the creature was standing. Dom was trapped under the upturned sofa, but the juvenile creature was seriously injured, and was unsteady on its legs.
Amber arced around it in order to try and get a shot at the larger alien, but she was suddenly confronted by the juvenile, which moved off the sofa towards her, it’s smaller, but still lethal tendril whipping back and forth in front of it, preparing to strike at her.
Amber had nowhere to go. She fired at the creature at point blank range and hit it in the abdomen. Green liquid squirted out, covering her jeans and spraying across the rec room floor. The creature continued to advance and then scuttled towards her like an overgrown crab on two legs. Amber turned and instinctively ran for the door, forgetting that they’d barricaded it earlier. In a futile attempt to escape, she grabbed the wardrobe door and jumped inside, just as the alien’s rapidly moving serrated forearm sliced through the wooden door like it was made from butter. Amber ducked, quickly moving sideways as she realised she was about to be next for the chop. As she cowered, waiting for the fatal swipe, the back of the wardrobe and rec room door behind her, caved in, sliced to bits by the creature’s serrated forearms. Amber tumbled backwards out into the corridor, unscathed, apart from a nasty gash on her forearm.
She froze momentarily, unable to believe her fortune and then, adrenalin pumping through her veins and the flight hormone flushing into her blood stream, she ran for her life along the corridor, and out through the main door of the superstructure and onto the Nostrum’s deck.