Jack, Kane, and Buck were the first to move through the door. Melaine and Ricky followed. Almost no light was in the hall. The group moved slowly, in the direction towards the main sector. Despite Jack’s misadventure in the ventilation ducts, he knew they weren’t too far from the first vent, where he went in.
“So who’s this friend of your?” Kane looked at him.
“We use to talk years back. Was a love thing, for a while, but we got back into our solo lives,” Jack replied.
“You’ll be lucky if we find her alive,” Buck sighed, “Those things-”
“Stop it,” demanded Kane, “Quit scaring everybody. Yes, we’re in deep shit, and yes, it’s dangerous to be alone, right now, but there’s no reason to assume anyone is dead. Jack, how long were you by yourself up here before finding us?”
“Five, ten minutes,” Jack wasn’t comfortable. The creatures could have easily attacked and killed him, but they didn’t, “I thought I saw one in that duct, but I couldn’t see too well in there.”
“Gentlemen, can we all quiet down? All this arguing is just going to attract them,” Melaine interrupted.
“She’s right,” Kane smiled. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with Buck’s paranoia.
The group rounded a few corners. Jack tried to radio Jane several times along the way, but he still could not reach her. Jack wasn’t surprised in the least. When had any radios worked since arriving on Viridi Mortem?
The group finally walked into the main hub, the large room Jack and Jane found once before, but the woman was nowhere in sight. There was, however, now a giant crack through one of the panels on the window. It appeared as though a rather large creature attempted to break through.
Nonetheless, Jack was struggling to convince himself that there were no creatures. He had yet to see anything other than the corpse in the duct, but that had to be a figment of his imagination. Could it have been that something was causing everyone to hallucinate? Jack thought about it. It wasn’t out of the question. There were numerous air-borne diseases that caused hallucinations, but why would one be on this planet?
While the thoughts of these people all actually being insane ran rampant in Jack’s mind, there were other possibilities. Maybe there were actually creatures running through the base. But even that did not make sense. There was no life on Viridi Mortem, said for the outpost.
But the final thought had nothing to do with the planet, or the group: it was on Jane. Jack had known her for years. She never ran off. Was this why he couldn’t radio her? What if she took off with his ship? Jack was not about to get marooned on this rock.
“Well?” Buck was pissed off to say the least, “Where is she?”
“Buck, settle down,” the doctor raised her tone.
Kane looked at Jack, “Any idea where she would go?”
Jack scratched his head, “Well, I got a couple ideas. First of all, that window wasn’t cracked before. If something tried to get in, she might have hid somewhere. The other, is that she might have tried to take my ship.”
“What? Take your ship? Not the one we were going to use? How the hell d’you expect us to leave now?” Buck yelled.
Ricky sat on the main console, looking away from his father. As much as he loved Buck, the man was always in a bad mood. It might have been a result of Buck’s years of alcoholism. Regardless, Ricky decided to keep calm: to keep his mouth shut.
“Look, I doubt she hijacked it,” Jack motioned his hand for Buck to calm down, “She’s hijacked one ship of mine before, but she came back. The situation was also not very…drastic…Either way, let me run over real quick and I’ll check it out. There’s a window on the bay door, if I recall.”
“Yeah, there is, but you shouldn’t heading up alone,” Kane shook his head. Something was very wrong, and he knew it, “I’m sure Buck doesn’t want to go, and Melaine is in no condition for watching your back. I doubt Buck would let you take little Ricky.”
“You’re damn right,” Buck exclaimed.
Jack sighed. This trip was getting ridiculous. He had now picked up way to many passengers. He hated people. But, despite his current feelings, he cared for Racheal still, and she him. Jack wasn’t about to let her go this easy.
“Alright, Kane, let’s move. We check the platform. If my ship’s there, she’s still inside.”
“…if those things didn’t get her,” Buck mumbled.
“Don’t take long,” Melaine joked to Kane and Jack, “I don’t like being left alone with Buck.”
“Oh, shut up!” Buck walked over to the window and sat on a bench.
“We’ll be back in a few minutes. Promise,” Kane smiled.
The duo turned to the staircase and ascended. Passing through the first door and into the first corridor, they double checked their weapons again, making sure they were ready. Jack was growing rather fond of Kane. While they only knew each other for nearly half an hour, he saw that he and Kane resembled each other in a way: both were somewhat rogue pilots.
“So what’s the deal with Buck,” Jack struck a conversation. It was too quiet for his tastes. On the Rapier, this quiet was fine. He was the only passenger, usually, but in an outpost like this, it was unsettling.
“He lost his wife a few weeks ago,” Kane replied.
“Oh. Sorry to hear that.”
“It’s okay. It wasn’t the creatures. She fell into the canyon.”
“Not exactly what I call ‘okay’.”
“Well, it was a faster death than the ones caused by those bastards.”
“Okay, I see where you’re coming from.”
Kane thought he saw something up ahead. He maneuvered his flashlight, but it was just a cable hanging from the ceiling. He and Jack continued walking.
“What about you?” Kane said.
“What about me?”
“What are you doing way out here in the middle of the Doorway?”
“Running cargo. My ship’s accelerator broke down. Turned out we needed a new coupling.”
“You didn’t think spares were a good idea?”
“I never need spares. The Rapier hasn’t ever had any problems. I’ve flown her for 15 years.”
“Kane, ever since crossing into this system, everything’s been odd.”
“True. There’s a reason why they call it the ‘Devil’s Doorway’.”
Jack stopped walking, “Speaking of, just what’s really going on around here?”
“You all keep talking about the things crawling around and biting into people. I’ve yet to see any kind of evidence, though.”
“I’ve noticed. We were barred up in there for a while. Seems someone cleaned up around here.”
Jack was puzzled, “‘Cleaned up’?”
“Yeah,” Kane smirked, “I haven’t figured that part out. I’ve had the thought running through my head ever since we left that room.”
“There are no bodies. No blood.”
“Jack, I get it. We sound like a bunch of crazy fucks, and the absence of human remains just backs up that theory,” Kane was firm with his words, “Man, you are lucky you haven’t seen these things yet. The shit I had to see these past few weeks was intense. I’ve seen fucked up, but this? This was legitimate hell.”
“Look, all I’m saying is that I don’t know what to think of the situation. I’ve got to see it to believe it.”
The two grew quiet after a few seconds of staring the other down and continued walking. The docking bay door way just up ahead. There were more webs, even thicker than before. Jack thought back to what Jane mentioned when they first came in: there was no life on Viridi Mortem, beyond the walls of the outpost. But, despite the webs being even thicker than before, neither of the two saw any spiders, of any kind.
“There,” Jack said. He pointed through the window. Between the dirty window on the door and the fog, the Rapier was only recognizable by its silhouette.
Kane cupped his hands on the window, trying to peer through the glass, “The Rapier? That’s her name?”
Jack tried to peer though as well, “Yes, sir. She’s the best damn ship I’ve ever flown.”
“Any chance your friend is on there, just not taken off yet?”
“Jane hates that ship. I doubt she’d be held up in there. One thing’s for sure, if she was on it, she would have already taken off already.”
Kane was aware of the dangers of leaving the walls of the outpost. Opening the door would put what few survivors there were at risk. But the thought of someone possibly being stuck on a ship was unnerving.
“Jack, we should at least head out there.”
“You guys were the ones going on about how bad of an idea that is. Not happening.”
“I know, but there’s just the two of us. If we move, quickly and quietly, we should be fine.”
“Kane, we shouldn’t. Look, my ship is right there. Jane will show up, I’m sure. Let’s head down to the lower levels, grab that part, and leave.”
Kane sighed, “You know as well as I that we need to check. If she’s infected with whatever was mutating everyone, we need to know before we put the others on the Rapier.”
“Shit,” Jack knew he was right, “Alright. We make this quick.”
Kane grabbed the door latch and tried to turn it, “Damn thing won’t budge.”
“There’s a busted window over here,” Jack started towards the entrance he and Jane used.
“Shit! Those things could have gotten in!” Kane whispered.
“Don’t worry, I’m sure it’s fine.”
“You wouldn’t be saying that if you saw one of them, Jack.”
Jack shook his head. He hoisted himself up and climbed through. The fog was warm. It almost burned his skin. His feet touch the grate. Jack looked towards the enormous silhouette of the Rapier. He had never been so happy to see his ship.
Jack began crossing the bridge to the platform where the Rapier was docked. It creaked with each step, worse than the first crossing. Jack was beginning to think that maybe something really did happen in the outpost.
The two made it to the platform. Jack observed his ship, which now appeared to have three scratch marks across the left half of the ship, “What the hell? What’s big enough to do that?”
“Beats the hell out of me,” Kane was in shock, “Even that Kraken wasn’t as terrifying as this place.”
“Let’s just get on board. We’ll check everything out.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice,” Kane murmured.
Jack opened the airlock door to the Rapier. It was a familiar sight. It was the first thing that brought relief to him in a while. They headed through the airlock and into the main hall, which connected most of the rooms in the Rapier.
“Check the engine room first,” Jack said as he walked towards the sickbay, “I’ll check the sickbay.”
“You want to split up?”
“Kane, she may be a big ship, but she’s not that big.”
“…and if those things are in here?”
“Just being on a ship, with one way aboard, has us cornered. I think it’s safe to say that we can’t be in a worry position.”
Kane sighed, “Good point.”
“Straight back, down the ladder at the end of the hall.”
“I’ll head back there once I’ve checked sickbay and living quarters. The engine and accelerator rooms are one in front of the other below us. Stay sharp, though.”
“The accelerator room doesn’t have lights. It gets dark in there.”
Jack laughed, and the two wished each other luck. Kane flipped his flashlight on and followed Jack’s directions to the engine room, coming up to the ladder. It was fairly dark, but it wasn’t too bad. Kane climbed down and turned around. There was a touchpad light switch on the wall next to him. He attempted to activated it, but to no avail. He shook his head and began searching for Jane.
“Goddamnit, Jane,” he whispered, “I ought to kill you for this…”
Jane was his sister. Neither of the siblings planning on telling Jack. He knew well that the man would lose it.
It was Jane’s fault that the Rapier was down. Kane had sent a distress signal, and she had picked it up on X-24. The plan was simple. Jane would “sabotage” the Rapier, forcing Jack to land on Viridi Mortem. From there, they would locate Kane and the other survivors, then Jane would “fix” the ship. All that would have been left to do was leave the system.
Kane knew the plan wouldn’t work. He knew the creatures would do something. They were the ones that locked Melaine, Ricky, Buck, and himself in the storeroom. The demons of Viridi Mortem were planning something.