Aboard the derelict long-lost loderunner Kilgary, Commander Vic Chapman held his blaster ready for action as they started down the vacant corridor, in the direction leading back to the bridge. Behind them, a pack of the undead swarmed around what they presumed was the body of their comrade, ensign Pierce, apparently gorging themselves on his remains. They cautiously made their way to the turning, trying their best to do so as quietly as possible – it wouldn’t do to make any noises that might attract more of them!
“Got anything resembling a plan?” Vic asked his captain.
“Not yet.” Captain Flane replied. “How about you?”
“Yeap.” Vic replied tiredly, his sense of humor apparently still intact. “We get out of here, pronto. That’s as far as I’ve gotten though…”
“Funny!” Flane managed to smile as they turned the first corner. The corridor was still completely vacant, aside from what could only be described as dust bunnies on the deck and abandoned cobwebs in the corners of the ceiling. It wouldn’t do to let this situation break their spirits. That would be the end. It was hard enough grappling with the paradox of the reality of their situation – if the word ‘reality’ indeed applied!
Suddenly, a door loomed ahead in the shadows that clung to the bulkhead to their left. The door itself was part-way ajar in the frame. Flane sneaked a peak through the gap inside. It was an office of some kind, probably the skipper’s office. Aside from the dust-covered furniture inside, he couldn’t see anything remarkable about it. But it offered a place to hole up for a few minutes, a place to think things through and perhaps mount a defense! It took the effort of both of them to force the door along its rails back into its frame far enough to allow them to pass inside. Unfortunately, they realized, there was no way they were going to get it to close again without power!
“Here!” Vic called, over at the former skipper’s desk, sweeping the clutter off the top onto the carpet. “Help me with this!”
Flane helped Vic carry the desk over to the open doorway, where they upended it and leaned the top end against the opening. Flane jammed an armchair against the lower legs to help prop the obstruction up. The desk almost closed the entire doorway off – just a small gap remained above the top edge. Before Flane could even remark that their lights would leak out there and give away their position to any passing zoms, Vic had rolled up a dusty throw that had been lying on a sofa against the bulkhead, and placed it to cover the gap.
“Home sweet home!” Vic sighed, planting himself on the right side of the sofa. Flane, tired out himself, sank down into the sofa beside him. For a long moment neither of them heard a thing beside the very feint sounds of their environment suit pumps recycling the air they breathed, scrubbing the waste gasses out, reprocessing the oxygen, regulating the humidity and temperature inside, recycling waste water, which also allowed them to drink some of it. It was a welcome respite, and drinking tubes extended into their mouths from the inside of their helmets, Flane and Vic Chapman caught their breaths and rested up.
As they did so, their eyes swept their surroundings. Behind where the desk had been, stood an old-fashioned wheelie-chair. Small items that had cluttered the desk – a pen holder, a computer screen, a brass desk-sign that read “Capt. P. Sickers” – lay scattered about the dusty carpet. Then, finally, they noticed the walls. Someone had scrawled words on the walls, in big red letters – “CURSE” and “GET OUT! MUST GET OUT!”
“Well, that’s just downright unsettling!” Said Vic in a flat, tense voice, breaking the silence. “We are so fucked! Yup… Very, very fucked!”
“How’s that escape plan coming, Vic?” Flane asked.
“Don’t look at me, man!” Vic half-snapped irritably. “You’re the captain!”
Okay, Flane paused. Rather than berate his first officer and friend, which would only serve to escalate things all round, he decided to draw him into working on a solution.
“Bet if we can make it to an airlock, we can get off the ship, get clear of whatever’s jamming our comms!” Flane postulated, looking at his companion. “Then Mercury should also be able to pick us up! How’s that sound?”
“Oh, go jump out an airlock!” Vic retorted.
“Exactly!” Said Flane, forcing himself to sound enthusiastic. “These things aren’t going to follow us outside, are they?”
“Lemme think, Stu.” Said Vic, not really ready to buy into the idea yet. “Four of us have been killed and probably eaten by what I can only describe as ‘walking corpses’. I’d say the possibilities are endless, wouldn’t you?”
“Ah Vic, I’ve known you a long time.” Said Flane sighing. “But I’ve never known you to be a quitter!”
“I’m not quitting!” Vic grunted back in frustration. “I’m tired! Angry! Pissed off! I want to get out there and kill those fucking things that killed Pierce, Miller, Berry and Clay! I want to get back to the ship – our ship – and back to a world that makes sense!”
“Then let’s get out there – find an airlock and we can do just that!” Said Captain Flane encouragingly and incredibly leader-like. “When we get back to Mercury we can blow the bejesus out of this thing!”
Vic began to nod. Slowly and gently at first… and then enthusiastically.
“Yes!” he cried. “Let’s get out there and kick rotten zombie ass!”
* * *
While on a routine deep-space mission to chart new territory on the frontier of unknown space, the starship Mercury stumbles across an apparent shipwreck in deep-space that poses quite a mystery for her crew. How had the Kilgary – a ship last seen light years away forty years ago – got here before the Mercury? Why couldn’t the cause of death of its crew be determined? What was in the deleted log entry of the Kilgary – and why had it been deleted?
The last thing Stuart Flane – Captain of the Mercury – expected while he and five members of his crew worked to discover the answer to the enigma, was a day-long running battle with the undead inside the bowels of the moldering corpse of a long-vanished loderunner! Their troubles didn’t end there though, because Mercury – their only ride home – was also in trouble…
Christina Engela proudly presents “Static“, the 1st volume of “Panic! Horror In Space” – a series of horror misadventures in deep space with the crew of the I.S.S. Mercury – which, of all the starships in the elite Terran Space Fleet, is probably the unluckiest ship in history! Not once, not twice, but many times over, the same hapless crew – give or take a few dozen casualties – on a supposed voyage of deep-space exploration, stumble into the weird, wake the creepy and trip over the downright terrifying and possibly even supernatural…
“I loved the suspense and thrill of Mercury Rising; I felt like any moment was going to break into horror. Zombies in space on a small, dead ship in the middle of nowhere is an utterly terrifying thought. I felt claustrophobic, like I was in that derelict with them… It’s refreshing to read some old-school action sci-fi that works more on the story than the plausibility of the sciences in it.” – Anike Kirsten, author of “Of Beasts And Men”.
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All material copyright © Christina Engela, 2019.