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The Caretaker by Craig BushSUMMARY: 'The Caretaker' takes us aboard a ship under seige by the Cloans, where we find out what happens when those who are there to protect us turn to out to be our worst foes...
I heard the loud hum of the ships extractors as the choking black smoke cleared. I rubbed my eyes, blinking them to remove the sting. I stared at the rings of charred glass on the floor, the remains of two of the hibernation chambers. The former occupants lay strewn on the floor. The only intact chamber stood between them.
I jumped at the high pitched beeping from the console in front of me. I cursed myself for being so afraid. As I watched, the middle chamber began to split open with a loud crack.
The pod door pushed opened, a layer of blue slime expanding out through the opening. The sac tore with a ripping sound, spewing forth a glistening figure.
I grabbed the rifle and moved over to the coughing figure.
‘Captain Ellis, it's Carmichael, Peter Carmichael,' I said and then added, 'Do you know who I am?'
He failed to respond. I pointed the rifle and then with my free hand withdrew the small scanning device I had improvised for this work.
Relief flushed over me as the device confirmed he was not contaminated. Not one of them. The relief though was cut short as the ship lurched around us.
‘Sir,' I said, ‘We need to move!'
I placed a hand under the Captains arm. He shrugged it off and rose in the same motion. He was at least six inches taller.
‘Car...Carmichael, revive the rest of the... the command staff - where the hell is Oakland?' he said.
‘Commander Oakland is dead sir,' I pointed to the two charred rings,' As are the rest of the command staff.'
The captain looked at me, then at the rifle. His eyes were Jovian black and even with his wet grey hair he cut a menacing figure. His next words were cut short by a violent shake of the ship.
My feelings of exposure, not just to the captain, but from them emboldened me, ‘We need to move now sir - the bridge is the only safe area on the ship.' At seeing my determination the captain paused and then, stepping past me, left the chamber. I had to move quickly to keep up with him.
We moved rapidly through the wide corridors of our ship, each dully lit by the thin green rods that lined the walls. Ellis strode on at his fast pace. The man had clearly not heard of hibernation weakness.
‘Carmichael' he said, addressing his question in front of him, ‘What the hell is going on?'
I did not want those eyes turned on me again so spoke rapidly, 'We've been under attack sir, two days ago, a ship...'
‘Who?' he said.
He stopped and pivoted on his heel staring straight at me. I felt immediately uncomfortable.
‘It's what I call them sir, they boarded the ship about two days ago, in the Larus sector...' I felt suddenly stupid. The next lurch of the ship was almost welcome.
‘What do they want with a colony ship?'
‘They haven't made any attempts at contact, but they seem to...'
And then I saw it.
About thirty feet back down the corridor, a crouching shadow. Instantly the shape stood. It must have been assuming a firing position.
‘Get back!‘ I shouted. Ellis pressed himself against the wall heeding my warning.
A green flash filled the corridor.
I looked down and saw my finger on the trigger.