"Tried kicking it?" Alex asked.
Monkey Jones looked up from the spaghetti-bowl of wiring that had spilled like entrails from the Jump Activator. Monkey sniffed. "You wanna fix the fuckin' thing?"
"Just asking," Alex replied.
"Mind going asking your dumb questions elsewhere?"
Alex wandered off.
The Messenger Ship, Celeritatis, named for an old language word for speed, or the Cellar as they'd come to call it, because that's where you dumped most of the broken shit you didn't want; always had a long list of things that needed fixing.
Back in the day when it had been a pup of a craft it had been one of the fastest. Now it seemed to limp more than run.
Monkey thumbed his talkie. "Captain?"
"Try firing the bitch up for me, would'ya?"
The captain pressed a couple of buttons. "Anything?" The he asked.
"Nada. We're gonna have to try and get it to Derbor-Five, nothing else I can do from onboard, gonna have to get it stationary and Oxy-docked."
"Damn. How much do you reckon it's gonna cost?"
"How much you got to spend?"
"Not much," the reply.
"Probably gonna be more than that then."
"I'll figure something out."
Captain Charles Weathers settled in his chair and looked to First Mate Annabelle Ridge, who was fiddling with the controls.
"Belle, start us on a course to Derbor-Five, gonna have to get the Cellar Oxy-Docked."
Belle raised a brow, funds were low as it was, and wages were sometimes a luxury. "Sure." She started prepping the regular engines.
"You still have contacts on Derbor-Five?"
Belle's interest was piqued. "Looking for some extra funds?"
“Funds full-stop, reckon you can sort out a little side delivery for us?"
"Sure, what were you thinking?"
"Nothing that'll get the ship confiscated if we're caught, dodgy, but not too dodgy if you know what I mean."
Alex shifted some crates as they docked at Derbor-Five's Dimeport, nicknamed so for being the shittiest and cheapest landing point. Even Space-Pikeys didn't land there.
Monkey was gathering up his tools.
Alex looked over to Monkey. "I'm pretty much done here, you want a hand?"
Monkey looked up from the toolbox and thought for a minute. Finally shook his head. "I wouldn't trust you to hold the fuckin' ladder."
Captain Weathers and Belle stood at the main access point to Derbor-Five with the Cellar behind them. Monkey was strapped to its side working on it. Weathers thumbed the button again.
Belle pulled out a wallet, took a small driver from it and began working on the lock. It took under a minute.
The corridors were empty. Weathers had only been to Derbor-Five a handful of times but knew it should be livelier.
Weathers said, "You ever known it to be like this?"
"No." Her hand not straying from her holster.
"Do you think the place is on lockdown?"
"They haven't locked down since the riots of '42."
They took a turn in the corridor and stopped still. The stale-white Perodium walls had been redecorated in places with blood that had dried to shit-brown. Belle flicked the catch on her holster. "Bad to worse."
Weathers drew his sidearm. "That splatter pattern wasn't done by a gun."
"What do you wanna do?"
"Let's get to your contact, we need those parts otherwise we'll just be another piece of scrap floating through space."
"Let's hope he's still alive."
The further into the station they went the more bloodstains they found. It wasn't just contained to the floors and walls; it made it onto the ceilings. The part that puzzled Belle was the lack of bodies.
Alex watched as Monkey got to work a panel. It pissed him off. He could be of help if Monkey wasn't being such a dick. A small incident two years previous involving a plasma-saw and Monkey's right thumb. It wasn't as if they hadn't been able to reattach it.
Some people just didn't forgive and forget.
Alex decided he wasn't gonna stand around scratching his sack. He still had some wages left, which was one of the only good things about being on the Cellar; you didn't get much of an opportunity to waste your pay, that's when you actually got it. Alex reckoned he had enough for a little fun, and if you couldn't find some fun on Derbor-Five then you couldn't find fun or a fuck anywhere.
I'm going for a walk," he called, heading over to the door.
Monkey ignored him.
Belle thumbed the button on the door four times. Two short bursts followed by two long ones. She hoped that the secret 'knock' hadn't changed in the three years since she'd been to Derbor-Five.
A voice seeped through the speaker surrounded by crackle.
"It's me," Belle said.
"Your daughter, open the door."
-Annabelle? Who's that with you?
"My boss, just open the door."
-Is the corridor empty?
The door slid open, but only half way. "Quickly, inside."
The pair of them slipped through, the man worked the door closed again as quickly as he could.
Weathers took in the small, fat man before him. Belle had nothing in common with him appearance wise, not even sharing the same shape of nose. He also noticed there was no father and daughter hug. There was an air of familiarity, the way she went and helped herself to one of the chairs and nodded back at the him to take one as well. Her father stayed standing.
Belle pointed at her father. "That's Jenks. Jenks, that's my boss, Charles Weathers. What's happened? There's blood everywhere."
Jenks looked to them both. "I think everyone's dead."
"You're not." Belle pointed out.
"My line of work you have to be able to burrow yourself away in times of danger."
"Marauders?" Belle asked.
Belle's eyes narrowed. "You're skirting my question which means you know more about it, or worse, had a hand in it."
His hands went up. "Belle, if I'd of known I'd not have bought them, I promise you."
"What did you buy dad?" She sighed.
"Just some new stock for my business."
"You mean whores."
"I prefer to call them stock, but yes, I acquired a group of entertainers."
"Then what happened?"
"Oh, it was great. They were so different. I mean, I know most people think it disgusting bedding different species, but these weren't much different to us. A few small details here and there, couple of extra orifices and pulsating hands, my god they were an instant hit. The money rolled in for the first four months. People soon changed their mind about inter-species frolicking when word got out."
"Loving the story dad, loving the imagery too, honest, I am. But do you wanna get to the important bit?"
"Then we had the lunar swell. On Derbor we only get to see our full moon once every four months."
"I'm following," she said.
"We didn't know that back on their home world their reproductive menstrual cycle was controlled by the lunar cycle, how could we? Besides they wanted to come, apparently there weren't many males about."
"So they all got a bad case of PMT and went about killing everyone?" Belle was shaking her head as she said it.
Belle raised a brow.
"They became insatiable for mating, and killing. I don't think there was a man that didn't feel sick when they saw the bone-like blades that flashed out of the holes that they'd been, you know, poking."
Weathers took a turn at speaking. "What about security, weren't they able to subdue, or even kill these things?"
Jenks shook his head. "They're not just killers, they're cunning too and before they started the main slaughter they went to the barracks with the proposition of a party and then killed them when their pants were literally down. Then it was just a case of them cutting a swathe through everyone else. That's when I locked myself in here, I've several hidden safety rooms, and I'm jacked into the all-seeing eye. I witnessed most of the bedlam. That was a week ago; I've not been out since."
"Where are these things now?" Weathers asked.
"They've made my establishment a nest of sorts."
"Can you show me on a screen?"
Alex headed in the direction of the entertainment section. He came across blood smeared on one of the walls. He chuckled, there was always some shit going down on Derbor-Five. It'd been over three months since he'd boned anything and the thought of getting laid hastened his stride.
He stood before the archway that led to the entertainment sector. He grinned at the flashing lights that blinked different colors, mainly the nipple lights. This was a better way to waste the time whilst the Cellar got its repairs.
He stepped through and wondered where all the loud music was. There was usually always a party atmosphere, and always there were cliental about the place. All he saw were bloodstains. Alex cursed. It was just his fucking luck. This one day of all days there'd probably been another riot and everyone was on lockdown. He had money and all he wanted was a drink and some pussy, even a scabby one would do.
He turned to leave when an exotic but silken voice called out, "Fun-time? Long-time? Short-time?"
Alex turned at the sound of the broken Earthlish. Standing in the doorway to the brothel was a goodtime girl. Alex grinned. She looked different and he'd heard rumors of some new crazy-ass, outer-world whores that could do unmentionable things to a man. He started walking. She was a little taller than six feet. White tendrils of hair spilled from her scalp. His eyes moved to her face, two-eyes, one mouth.
The woman smiled.
Alex was pretty sure he couldn't see any teeth and her gums looked to be undulating. His eyes went lower. Her body was draped in a silk robe. He looked back up as she nodded, beckoning him inside, the whorehouse, or herself, he didn’t care which.
Weathers watched as Belle's father began prodding a monitor with his pudgy fingers. It came to life. He kept tapping. The scene switched from different views of the corridors. They could see a whole trail of bloodstains. Then what looked to be a plaza, then a bar, then a large room, the kind where hundreds could sit and chill, drinking, doing whatever they wanted.
The room was peppered with bodies. The pile was high. Atop the hill of corpses were the ladies of men's leisure, sprawled like royalty, writhing like snakes.
"Can you zoom in?" Weathers asked.
The room grew bigger. Weather's eyes widened. They were writhing on the corpses, all with bellies distended in several different directions, as though they were pregnant with more than one child but in separate wombs. Belle looked at the scene and instinctively touched her own flat stomach and cringed.
Weathers pointed to the screen. "Can you zoom out a little bit?"
They watched as one of the things led a man into shot.
Jenks looked puzzled. "A survivor?"
Belle shook her head and said, "No, not a survivor, just an idiot."
Alex followed the woman. "Yeah, we're just doing some repairs, thought I'd, you know, unwind and relax."
The woman didn't look back. "How many?"
"Me, the captain, Belle, and Monkey, it's only a small vessel, we're parked over in Dimeport. Do you mind if I ask how much this is gonna cost?"
"Not want money."
"What do you…" His mouth dropped open as she stepped aside. It took a second for him to register what was before him. He turned and bent over to one side and vomited until there was nothing left, not even bile.
He turned to run.
The woman reached out with incredible speed and strength and caught him by the scruff of his neck and hurled him into the room that was home to the massacre. There were more of the women. These ones lay in motion atop a mound of bodies. He could see them looking mutated with each owning several swollen bellies. They were feeding on the dead, tearing chunks free from the bones. Blood-wet lips parted, showing their writhing gums. He watched the meat reach their maws just as gleaming bone blades erupted from the gums to slice the meat.
He heaved again.
The one that had led him in by his dick grabbed him and spun him around.
Up close the gums were far from inviting. She pulled him closer as if seeking a lover's embrace.
The three of them turned away as they saw bone-like spikes protrude out of Alex's back. Weathers couldn't help but look back as the monster pushed Alex's body away to crumple at the base of the mountain of the dead. He watched as the spiked-shaped blades seeped back into her body. He saw her lips move. The women that were feasting on the pile began to claw their way down towards its base, following after the one that had killed Alex.
"Where are they going?" Belle asked.
Weathers hazarded a guess. "They know there's more than Alex here, you know what a mouth he has." he paused, "had."
Jenks tapped the screen to switch to a different camera. They watched stunned as the women moved faster than they would ever thought possible in their condition into the corridors.
Jenks scratched his topmost chin. "Where's your ship?"
“Oxy-Docked at the Dimeport," Weathers replied, watching the things disappear off screen.
"We need to get off this station."
"Problem being we need some parts for the Jump Activator. You know where we can get them?"
"Of course, easier now more than ever seeing everyone is dead, apart from for those beasts!"
Weathers took a moment to gather his thoughts. "Okay, show me the route on the screen and I'll go get the parts we need. Belle, you get your father back to the Cellar and shore up inside until I get back with the parts."
Jenks looked astounded. "Why don't we just take another ship? I mean there must be a hundred or so just sitting about."
Weathers shrugged. "I like the Cellar, it's a piece of shit but it's been in my family for two centuries, besides, Monkey's there, we'd have to go back for him anyway."
"Is now the time for sentimentality, Captain?" Jenks asked.
"You wanting me to point the finger over whose fault all of this is, at whose to blame for the death of one of my crew members?"
Jenks went to the console.
Monkey climbed to the ground and removed the harness. He'd pretty much done all he could until the Captain and Belle turned up with the parts. Then it would be a simple, plug in and play deal, or so he hoped. Monkey sat on a crate and wiped the crud from his hands. The tiny white ring of scar around his thumb made him think of Alex. He didn't know why the hell he had even let him have a go with the plasma saw in the first place.
The sound of a grunt from the door caused him to look.
A fat man tumbled through.
Monkey watched the man double over struggling for breath.
"Who the fuck are you?" Monkey asked, as he stood up.
The fat man held a hand up and tried to speak but didn't have enough air. Belle piled through the door. She pressed the button to close the door and cursed as it slid shut leisurely. With inches to go a curve spike flashed through. Belle screamed and tried to push the door the rest of the way manually, she looked over her shoulder. "Help me!"
The fat man stumbled to the door and tried to push as well. It was pointless with the spike sticking through. Monkey didn't have time to think. He ran to his tool tray and grabbed the plasma saw.
He dashed to the door. "What the fuck, Belle?"
"Tell you later!"
Monkey set the super-heated blade to the spike thing. It started to cut through it.
"Fuck me, this shit is stronger than beaded-steal!" He applied more pressure. Monkey got a third of the way through when another sharp bone spike pierced through the gap. The fat man's face was in the way. The spike skewered his right cheek, his fat-tongue and emerged out the other side. Monkey stared at the man and his kebab’ed face.
Belle screamed whilst keeping pressure on the door. Monkey grabbed the fat man and pulled him off the spike. The fat man fell to the ground groaning. Monkey turned off the plasma saw and ran towards the ship. He kicked a few things over looking for his tin of burn fluid. He usually only used it to burn dirt and grease off engine parts, it burned so hot that nothing but the metal remained.
"Belle, move your feet."
She stepped aside.
Monkey knelt low and poured the whole tin through the gap at the bottom of the door. He grabbed up the plasma saw, turned it on and used it to ignite the liquid. Monkey pushed himself away, knowing the heat blast would likely peel his skin. Belle did the same.
Howls of outrage blistered the already fiery air outside of the Oxy-Dock.
The bones retreated.
Both Monkey and Belle managed to shut the door. Belle hacked the lock shut, she was about to sabotage it but thought of the Captain and how he'd get in. She just hoped the things had been burned to death.
She remembered her father and fell to her knees, taking her jacket off to press against his face.
Monkey wiped away sweat. "Now do you wanna tell me what the fuck has been going on?"
"Help me get my father inside."
Belle explained everything whilst she tended to her father. The wounds weren't fatal but they'd made a mess of his face. She'd sealed the gashes with fibre-skin and bandaged him up.
Monkey had listened. "You think we'd be able to patch into the eyes from the Cellar?" He asked.
Belle thought a moment. "Don't see why not, as long as we had the codes."
They both looked to her father who was about to go under with the drugs.
Belle and Monkey stared at the monitor. The flames had subsided and what looked to be three or four of the beasts lay in a crumbled mess on the ground, nothing but their solid bones remaining. Others were writhing nearby. Monkey didn't ask for Belle to zoom in, he moved his head closer to the screen. He pointed. "What the fuck are those?"
Some of the ones that hadn't been barbequed were surrounded by little shapes.
"They've given birth," Belle said. The babies looked normal to her; through she knew they would be far from it.
Monkey blew the air out of his cheeks. "We're gonna have to warn the Captain. We can't have him stumbling into these." He thumbed the communicator. "Captain?"
There was the noise of static, the communicators were cheap Darantian shit and were pretty much useless over long distances.
Finally the Captain's voice came through sounding warbled. "Yes, Monkey?"
"You got the parts?"
"Well, I wouldn't bother trying to come through the front door, we have guests."
"Thought you might have."
"Think you can get through the air-ducts?" Monkey asked.
"Not with these parts. I've got a better idea. Make sure everyone stays inside the Cellar."
"I wouldn't worry about that."
The line went dead.
Weathers hadn't done a walk in over a decade but it looked like his only viable option. The weight of parts he'd borrowed would be impossible to lift up and drag into the air-shafts. At least outside the gear wouldn't be a burden to him. He put the throat-talker on and set it to the Cellar's frequency. Once Weathers was suited up he dragged the trolley over to the airlock. He'd forgotten how burdensome the suits were.
He spun the wheel and opened the first door. Once inside he turned the chamber into a vacuum and opened the outer door. Weathers connected up to the outer rail and pulled the trolley out with him. The gear stayed in the bed of the trolley through strapping.
It was harder work than he thought dragging himself along the outside of the station, towing the gear with him. Weathers was thankful for the numbers on the outside of the docking doors. He wasn't keeping count of the time but figured it took him the better part of an hour to work his way to outside their docking bay.
"Here's what I need you to do."
Monkey didn't hesitate. He used the automated hail and docking channel to activate the vacuum inside their bay. When all the air was gone the docking door opened.
They watched through the view port as the Captain drifted in with his cargo. They watched him secure himself to the ground and nodded. Monkey closed the door and filled the bay with gravity.
They stepped out.
Monkey looked to the door and saw bulges in the surface. They hadn't noticed it from on board. Now they could hear it too. The things were trying to break through. Monkey wondered if he'd weakened the material of the door when he'd tried to burn them.
Monkey rushed over to the captain who was removing the suit. Monkey didn't bother with greetings, he grabbed the trolley, noticing something he hadn't asked for. He knew what it was for. He started getting into the harness.
Weathers stared at the door. "Monkey, how long do you need?"
Monkey was climbing up the side to the panel he'd removed and started to pulley the parts up. "Ten minutes, I have everything ready to just hook it up."
Weathers turned to Belle. "Where's your father?"
"Injured, we've sedated him."
Weathers nodded. "Go prep the engines so we can leave as soon as Monkey's got the new parts hooked up."
"Captain, head on inside and get ready to…" The din of the door giving up its final strength aired. Monkey snapped himself out of it, "Captain, get inside, job's done, just gotta climb down."
They traded a glance and Weathers nodded.
He boarded the Cellar. "Belle get ready to start the vacuum!"
Monkey was only halfway down the side of the ship when the door gave in. The beasts flooded through. The babies still attached by ropey cords. "Captain, DO IT!" He shouted into his communicator. He grabbed the release grips on the harness and pressed them. He fell the twenty feet to the ground. One leg snapped on impact. He pulled his pistol and trained aim on the intruding monstrosities.
From the viewport Weathers watched as Monkey let off a couple of rounds before putting the pistol to his brow and pulling the trigger. Belle started the vacuum procedure and opened the docking door at the same time. The beasts used their spikes and their blades to hook onto the ground. Monkey was dragged out like a wave taking driftwood on the tide.
The docking door closed, air would automatically be fed back into the bay.
"Take us a safe distance away," Weathers said, as he held a detonator.