Chapter 4: Faceless Clues
Even through the tinted sheen of his visor Carington could see that Burson was ashen. She had remained outside while Burson’s security team went into Rogue 5.
"What is it?” she said.
Burson and a fellow officer turned their eyes to one another before he spoke. That glance alone spoke of horrible things.
"Lieutenant, something atrocious happened hear. Everyone inside has been killed.”
Carington was confused. "I wouldn’t expect anyone to survive a crash like this. It’s amazing the ship is still in one piece.”
Burson shook his head. "No, Lieutenant… They did not die from the crash. They have all been mangled in a sick, tortured way.”
"What are you talking about?” Carington could not imagine what Burson was trying to say. She had never seen Burson so disturbed.
"Amy, these men have been mutilated beyond recognition.” His eyes were wide and his voice quivered unsteadily.
"What do you expect from a crash like this?” She moved to enter the fallen craft when Burson grabbed her arm. "You shouldn’t go in there,” said the security officer.
The security team shared more uneasy glances.
Pulling Burson’s hand off her arm, Carington looked at Burson steadily and said, "I may be a woman, Sergeant, but I am your superior officer.”
Burson released his grip and shook his head. "Amy, you don’t want to go in there.”
She looked at the men around her and said, "I do want to go in there.” Expecting Burson to immediately follow as she turned, she was startled to be alone in the entry portal. When she saw the men unwilling to follow her inside, she realized that chauvinism had not been the source of Burson’s anxiety. Suddenly she did not feel so confident in entering the ship alone when these seasoned security members were apprehensive.
Burson said, "You should call the Captain before you go in there.”
Carington agreed and opened a channel to the ship orbiting high above.
"There aren’t any survivors,” said Carrington. "Sergeant Burson’s team searched the entire ship.”
Jarolds’ voice rang out from her comlink. "Did you get any of the records? We need the data logs, Lieutenant.”
Burson shook his head. "There was no power and most of the consoles are destroyed.”
Carington said, "We could not get to the logs yet. The damage is heavy.”
Jarolds said, "Gleam as much information as you can. We need to know what happened here.”
She was about to finish the transmission when she saw the urging eyes of Sergeant Burson.
Carington said, "Captain… Burson fears foul play. He said that the bodies appear mutilated.”
Jarolds did not respond for several seconds. He finally said, "Use extra caution, Amy. Keep close to Burson. And don’t let anything happen to Dr. Radock.”
The transmission ended and Carington looked at the men with her. She ordered a group of three to remain outside to guard the entry.
Pulling her pistol as she looked into the darkness of the passage inside, Carington called for Radock and Burson’s men to follow her. She stepped inside, not so sure she wanted to be the one in front.
Most of the walls displayed signs of trauma with dents and tears in the metal. But there was little sign of fire damage beyond the engineering deck. Carington’s fears soothed slightly when she saw no bodies… but she knew that Burson’s grim focus foretold of a terrible scene to come.
The dark passages already held host to several local creatures. Some of the blue ant-like creatures had made a colony in the port wing of the ship. The creatures had already removed much of the fabric from the furnishings.
Upon seeing the activity of the creatures, Radock said, "It’s possible that the mutilation you’ve seen was caused by these creatures. Perhaps the crew has been consumed—”
Burson cut off Radock in mid-sentence. "What you will see in the command wing will quickly dispel that theory, Doctor.”
Traversing passages that were designed for the simulated gravity of space was difficult. The access panels and portals were not all on a single plane, forcing the team to climb in several areas. More often than not they walked on walls and ceilings instead of floors.
As they neared the command wing Carington’s heart began to speed up. She saw dark streaks on the walls that looked like handprints being drug through crimson paint. They were not isolated to the walls, but to the floor and ceiling as well. A hazy white mold grew over many of the streaks.
Carington looked to Burson, but his gaze was fixed on the black doorway leading to the command center. She saw only determination in his face.
Taking a slow breath, she began to lead the way when Burson grabbed her. Without speaking he took the lead. She did not object.
Two other security officers stepped forward, their rifles drawn. Carington could not see into the command center. Even when the men were only a few meters from the doorway, the darkness beyond seemed too strong for the floodlights of the suits.
Carington opened a vislink to Burson’s helmet so she could see what he saw from her helmet’s internal screen. The image was dark, and she flipped to night-vision. Suddenly the image turned to bright green and black… and she almost shrieked in horror. She turned off the vislink and turned from the entrance, attempting to catch her breath.
"What is it?” asked Radock.
She closed her eyes and shook her head. Raddock went ahead to meet Burson in the command center. When he stepped inside he immediately saw ghastly forms of once human bodies strewn about in obscene manners.
"Dear God!” he said.
Burson turned to him and said, "How long have they been dead, Doctor?”
Fighting his urge to vomit from the sickliness of the scene, he forced himself to kneel down by the faceless head of a woman. The blood still glistened.
"Not long, Sergeant.”
Burson scanned the whole chamber. This room had been largely untouched by the ferocity of the ship’s crash. Yet the damage here was worse and more frightening than everything else about this mission.
"Get me the data logs so we can get the hell out of here.” Two other security members came in and helped search for undamaged computers. Radock stood as if to leave when Burson said, "Collect whatever samples you need before we go.”
Visibly shaking, Radock raised his head and turned to follow Burson’s gaze towards the front of the deck. An officer had lit the main control console to show the naked body of the disemboweled captain of the ship impaled into the large view screen. The eyes and face were gone, leaving a hideously inhuman smile from the exposed teeth and flesh, and a maniacally haunting empty stare.
"Make it quick, Doctor.”