Vaporized ll, p.11

Vaporized ll, page 11

 

Vaporized ll
 


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  As Amber pushed through the main superstructure door, she glanced back to see the creature tumble through the damaged door and out into the corridor, before crashing into the opposite wall, falling to the floor and then scrambling to get back up again. It then advanced unsteadily along the corridor towards her. Amber exited onto the deck. It was pitch black and freezing cold as she ran along the deck towards the bow of the tanker, swerving around the corner of a container at the last minute, just as the dark shape came into view.

  As she manoeuvred around the container, she slipped on the damp surface of the deck, landing on her side, but quickly got up, fear propelling her forward. Amber continued running along the dark surface of the super-tanker, looking for somewhere to hide. She came across another cargo container, moved around to the end of it and yanked the heavy door, but it was bolted closed and padlocked.

  An unnatural cry from just behind the container sent a column of ice up Amber’s spine. The creature had somehow stealthily advanced from the superstructure to her location. She trembled with fear and turned to run towards the bow. As she did, something on the deck, close to the edge, caught her attention. Glistening in the light of the moon, fifty feet or so away and next to a thick, coiled up length of rope, was a curricular hatch, like the sort you’d see on a submarine.

  Amber sprinted for it, sliding to a fall as she reached it. She bent down to try and open it, but it was locked. Kneeling down now, with the creature just twenty feet behind her and limping quickly towards her, she used her body weight to twist the opening screw on top of the hatch.

  It moved, allowing her to spin it anticlockwise. She then pulled on the hatch a second time and it swung open on a set of hinges surprisingly easily. She quickly lowered herself into the cylindrical dark space, her feet finding purchase on some steel steps, just as a tendril whipped out from the advancing alien and wrapped itself around her neck.

  Amber felt the air being crushed out of her, and she lost her footing, and dropped down a foot or so, before managing to reach out and grab the handle fixed onto the underside of the hatch as she did. The hatch slammed shut under her bodyweight, severing the tendril that was still wrapped around her neck, crushing her windpipe.

  She hung there momentarily, dangling in the dark space, feeling like she was about to suffocate. Suddenly the lack of oxygen from being strangled caused her to lose her grip, and she fell into the darkness.

  Amber fell fifteen feet or so, landing awkwardly onto a hard surface below the hatch. She felt a surge of pain rush up from her previously injured foot and grimaced in agony, trying but failing to stifle a brief yelp of pain. She pulled the now lifeless slippery tendril away from her neck and tossed it in to the darkness. She heard it thud against a hard surface. She coughed as she felt the constriction from around her neck lift, but she still felt as if she was being suffocated. She lay there in the pitch dark, inhaling and exhaling deeply, filling her lungs with much needed air, listening for any sound that spelled danger, but hearing only silence. There was just the odd distant metallic clank coming from the ship’s hull way below. She then thought about her friends, Dom and John and started to sob, trying to fight back her emotions – fear and rage. What had happened to them? Dom appeared to be ok, the creature didn’t actually get to him before it came after her, but she wasn’t able to see what had happened to John. Was Dom able to get away? He’d have had enough time, provided the adult creature hadn’t also attacked him, she reasoned.

  Amber turned onto her back, took a few more deep breaths, and then slowly got to her feet, careful not to place too much weight on her injured foot. Her shoulder had also taken a severe knock when she’d landed and was also painful. She rubbed it. Good, she thought, nothing appeared to be broken. She felt around her immediate environment, soon realising she was inside some kind of corridor. She could feel pipework running above her head along the ceiling, and to her right.

  She placed her arm up inside the cylindrical space she’d just fallen down, obviously an exit out onto the deck. She bent down and touched the floor. It was cold, and made of smooth concrete. She moved slowly forward, taking baby steps, until she felt the side wall, and then brushed her hands over it, in an attempt to find a light switch. She arrived at what must have been the end of the corridor, or a T-Junction, and as she moved left, she saw a dull orange glow coming from what she hoped was a button for some lights. She moved towards it and then pressed the soft rubber-like cover that was protecting the glowing bulb. As she depressed it, she heard a click, and the entire area lit up with low-level amber light, coming from wire-mesh-covered rectangular lighting units, set into the pipe-covered ceiling above.

  As Amber’s eyes adjusted to the low light, she could see she was standing in some kind of service corridor, perhaps used for access to the tanker’s huge oil tanks. A myriad of different sized pipes snaked along the low-level ceiling of the corridor and along its sides, various valves and levers protruded out at regular intervals. Amber moved slowly along the left-hand corridor, which she guessed headed back towards the main superstructure, although she couldn’t be sure. As she proceeded along the corridor, the heat made her perspire and her throat became course and dry. She needed to get back to the surface, where the water was. She stopped and removed her blouse, quickly tying it around her waist. The white vest she had on underneath felt much more comfortable. As she looked down, she gagged upon seeing the green goo caked all over the lower half of her jeans, which were also ripped above both knees. She sat down, placed her fingers in the rips and tore the material off around her lower legs, removing the goo-covered portions in the process and giving herself a homemade pair of shorts at the same time. She immediately felt cooler.

  Feeling slightly more comfortable, she continued along the corridor in the direction she assumed the superstructure to be.

  There were various number/numerical markings in large black paint every ten feet or so, B5, D1, F7, but she had no idea what they meant. They didn’t seem to have any logic to them.

  She walked along the corridor for approximately a hundred feet or so, the distance she estimated she’d sprinted from the superstructure door to the hatch situated on the deck and stopped. The decal S2 was stencilled in large black figures on the corridor wall.

  She looked around, not immediately seeing anything that looked like a door, when, a short distance along she saw a black arrow pointing upwards. She walked over to it, looked up and saw a steel ladder, the bottom rungs hidden just out of sight. Amber reached up, grabbed the bottom rung and yanked it down. As she did, a ladder slid down effortlessly and clunked onto the floor.

  Amber ascended the ladder up another cylindrical tube, until she reached the top, where she found another hatch, identical to the last one, secured by a twist-lock. She reached up and turned the lock anticlockwise. It twisted easily and then clunked, as the lock mechanism released. Amber took a deep breath, and slowly pushed the hatch open.

  CHAPTER 18

  Nostrum: Day 4

  A DIFFUSE CIRCLE of light appeared above her as she pushed the hatch open. It clunked gently as it came to a rest upon its hinges. Amber poked her head up and looked around. The hatch had opened into a small room, stacked with items which she didn’t immediately recognise. As her eyes adjusted to the light, she realised she was looking at the packs of water and other tinned goods that she and John had stored when they first boarded the tanker. It was the small storage cabin, just ten feet or so along the corridor, when you first walked in through the main door.

  Amber remained motionless, listening. She heard the main door thud against its steel frame intermittently, but apart from that, nothing. As she listened, she wondered what the time must be. Probably around five a.m., she guessed. Thankfully it would soon be getting light. It was imperative she got to the bridge before 7.30 a.m., for the next broadcast.

  Amber pulled herself out of the access hatch and headed straight for the door and bolted it. She then turned and ripped a bottle of spring water from one o
f the packs and gulped the contents down, barely stopping to breath.

  She stood there for a while, thinking and assessing her options. She had to get her weapon back. Trouble was it was lying out on the deck by the hatch, where she’d fled from the creature. Amber set down the empty bottle of water and headed over to the door and placed her ear up against it to listen. All was quiet, apart from the occasional thud of the main door slamming the metal framework of the superstructure.

  She slowly unlocked the door and peered out, checking the corridor to her right, and then left towards the door. All appeared normal, there was no sign of the creatures, and dawn had already broken outside. Amber took a deep breath and headed out, moving quickly towards the door to the deck, and stepped through it. She checked the area immediately around the superstructure and then over towards the area where she’d dropped down the hatch. That was when she saw it. The Juvenile creature appeared to have fallen to the deck next to the hatch, no doubt mortally injured from the gunshots the night before.

  Amber slowly approached the mass of limbs, of what appeared to be a strong, keratin-type material. The alien’s limbs were attached to the double-segmented body. The thing looked like a cricket on steroids, with thick smooth armour plating, light green in colour which covered its body. The only reason she'd managed to shoot it do easily, she reasoned, was because it had only formed within the last 48 hours.

  Glinting in the dawn light, she then spotted her gun, which she’d dropped in the panic whilst she was trying to escape.

  She approached, taking a wide circle around the creature, which had fallen right beside the hatch. She wondered if severing its tendril was more than it could bear.

  Amber crouched down, and reached out for the pistol, which was on the deck, just two feet away from the shoulder of the fallen creature. Its thick green gooey blood formed a crescent around the weapon.

  Amber tried not to look at the huge eye, inky black and lifeless, like the eye of a monstrous shark, as she stretched for the pistol. She grabbed the barrel of gun and lifted it towards her. Able to breathe properly again, she turned and sprinted back to the superstructure door.

  The corridor was quiet. She checked the gun. Two bullets remained. There were more in a box up on the bridge which she'd have to get later. She also reminded herself that the next broadcast from Nevada was due at 07.30. It was going to be a sobering conversation she'd be having with Mr Montgomery, or whoever called.

  Amber pushed forward along the corridor, pulling her blouse back on as she did. Her adrenalin levels dropping, she was starting to feel the cold. She eventually reached the Rec Room cabin door, which was as it had been when she'd forced her way through, except a slightly larger hole was now present after the creature had forced its way through after her.

  She very gingerly peered through the smashed door. The room was empty, from what she could see. Should she return to the bridge first, re-load the gun? Or should she go in to investigate? What if Dom or John was still hiding inside injured?

  "Shit!" she cursed under her breath, curiosity and the thought of her friends still being in there getting the better of her. She carefully stepped through into the smashed cupboard that was still barricading the door to the cabin.

  There was green sticky liquid all over the rec room’s floor, but no human blood from what she could see, a very encouraging sign.

  Amber then slowly proceeded towards the threshold between the rec room and the galley, where the adult alien had been standing, pulling John across the floor towards it. She scanned the floor for blood; found a few drips, but nothing excessive. Could John somehow have gotten away?

  She ventured further into the galley. In the middle of the black and white chequer tile floor was a large pool of green liquid, which trailed all the way to the large double oven at the rear of the galley, where the flu ascended into the ceiling above.

  Amber stood there, assessing what might have happened. John had clearly shot the creature, perhaps blown its tendril off as he was dragged towards it. It might have bought him enough time to make a run for it, before the alien retreated back into the ducting. She couldn’t see any evidence of the shot-off tendril anywhere however. Whatever had happened, Amber felt a little more optimistic knowing that John and Dom might have survived the assault.

  The powerful lingering stench of ammonia concerned her however, so she backed out of the galley and headed back over towards the hole in the rec room door. She suddenly felt very uneasy. The next stop was the bridge. Perhaps the guys had set up base back in there. It would have been the logical thing do, despite the breach in the floor.

  Amber climbed back through the hole in the door and out into the corridor, the smell of ammonia fading as she went. She moved silently along the corridor to the stairway and headed up the six flights to the top.

  The door to the bridge was closed. She silently walked up to it and craned her neck to look through the small gap in the boarded-up window that looked into the control room. The room appeared empty from what she could see.

  Amber drew her gun, reached out for the heavy door handle and pushed the handle down.

  The door creaked open on its heavy hinges. The room smelled ammonia-free, and Amber felt reasonably safe to enter. She panned the room with the gun held out in front of her. There was no evidence that either John or Dom had been in there. The box of ammunition was on the table, where it had been, next to the med kit. Amber re-loaded the pistol, inserting four bullets into the six-chambered barrel and emptied the rest of the box into her pocket.

  The box of Mars Bars was on the shelf by the bulkhead and Amber waked over and grabbed a bar, eating it voraciously whilst staring through the bridge windows out over the vast ocean. As she chewed on the chocolate bar, she saw a pinprick of light. She grabbed the binoculars and panned them around to where she’d see the light, delicately focussing them as she did. On the horizon was a large cruise ship, no doubt adrift. There would be a huge amount of supplies on board, she considered, but she had no desire to alter the tanker’s course and head towards it. There would be others, she figured, if their current food supplies ran out.

  The mechanical clock on the bulkhead ticked to 07.12 and she waited nervously for the radio to spring into action. Communication from the USA was scheduled for 07.30 a.m.

  The clock ticked to 07.32, but all Amber could hear was static and she began to panic. Had she missed the broadcast? Was something wrong? She paced the cabin, feeling completely isolated and alone. She was just about to sit down on the table when the radio sprang into life.

  “This is Colin Montgomery, calling as arranged. Are you guys there?”

  Amber jumped up from the table and ran over to the communications station on the bulkhead, grabbing the portable microphone and raising it to her lips. “This is Amber Lee, calling from the bridge of the Nostrum,” she blurted.

  There was a short silence, followed by a burst of static. “Good to hear your voice Miss Lee,” Montgomery said. “Please confirm your current status and location.”

  “Hold on,” Amber said, moving over to the main control panel and the radar, its green line sweeping the screen like a minute hand of a clock.

  She read out the coordinates to Montgomery and confirmed their current speed, 24 knots and distance travelled since leaving port, 2,160 nautical miles.

  “That’s good, you guys are making great progress,” Montgomery said. “So, how are you all doing? Any more sightings?” he asked.

  Amber cleared her throat. “We’ve had some major problems,” she said, reciting what had happened since their last conversation, and confirming that she was now alone, with no sign of the other two since they’d been attacked last night.

  Amber heard Montgomery take a large sigh before responding.

  “I’m really sorry to hear about your situation Amber, it sounds pretty critical. I’m sorry there is nothing we can do. My only advice would be to hole up somewhere safe with enough provisions to last. The autopilot will take you all
the way to the port of San Francisco,” he said.

  “Thanks for that,” Amber replied, trying not to sound too sarcastic.

  “We’re all rooting for you here,” Montgomery replied.

  “Well that’s good to know sir. I take it you’ll have a hot bath waiting for me when I get there?” she said.

  There was a burst of static, and then, a faint sound of laughter over the radio. “You can be sure of that Amber. Good luck. We will contact you the same time every day. If we don’t reach you, we will assume you can’t get to the bridge, but please don’t keep us waiting too long.”

  “Understood, I will do my best,” Amber replied, feeling more alone with every second that ticked by.

  “You are on all our minds here Amber,” he said.

  “I’ll be back here to speak to you when I can. Take care sir,” Amber said.

  “We will be waiting for you. God be with you,” Montgomery said, before clicking off.

  Amber stared at the communications console as it fell silent; and she felt a wave of panic wash over her. What now?

  She had all day to try and search for the other two. She had a reasonable secure place to stay tonight, she hoped. She could barricade herself in the small storage room, leaving the hatch to the lower corridor open. If the creature tried to enter, she could escape down the hatch. If it came along the corridor, she could seal the hatch. The problem would be staying awake, as she had to get some sleep sometime. She hoped she could find the guys, alive.

  Amber took one last look into the hole, somehow made by the creature, and the internal damaged framework of the bridge, which looked like it had been melted away by some powerful acid, before turning to leave. She grabbed a handful of Mars Bars and two tins of tomato soup as she did; one for lunch, and one for supper, grabbed the mechanical clock and left.

  She made her way back downstairs to the main corridor and headed back to her new hideout to decide what to do next.

 
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