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36: Crunch Time « Void Dogs

March 17, 2008

36: Crunch Time

Filed under: Hot Swap — Alexandra Erin @ 1:30 pm
« « 35: Ghoulish 37: Spaces Between » »

The injuries the ghouls had sustained from the bed had slowed them down, but also served to make the pale and pallid creatures all the ghastlier. Galatea whimpered and tried to scale a particularly towering piece of cloth-shrouded apparatus on the table beside her, but it wobbled threateningly. Instead, she moved behind it, and when the first clawed hand began groping on the edge of the table, she gave it a push.

“Oh, I hope to space this is neither explosive nor valuable,” Galatea said, rocking it back and then giving it a hard shove forward. “And that forgiveness proves to be a universal virtue.”

The heavy piece of machinery—whatever it was—toppled over with a satisfying crash, crushing the upper torso of one of the ghouls who began to scream a horrible, wordless scream. It was pinned and mangled, but still alive… or at least, not dead.

Unfortunately for Galatea, its slower fellow now had something like a ramp, and she could watch it crawl like some obscene bug up the side of the toppled machine. The pinned ghoul screamed all the louder as the added weight aggravated its condition. The mobile one joined in, creating an eerie duet. From beyond the alchemy lab came the echo of distant answering howls.

Galatea began picking up tools and throwing them, underhanded, in the general direction of the vague vicinity of the approaching undead horror.

“Oh, for space’s sake!” she said, her increasingly flustered condition making her aim go wider as she backed up to the edge of the work table and almost stepped off it. “My genes cost more than this entire ship. I should think I’d able to hit a man-sized target at this distance!”

Down in the engine room, Cicada fed additional ammunition into her GSMR gun’s cylindrical clip one round at a time while Lilliana clutched her bolter and stared wide-eyed at the stairway. She jumped when the injured ghoul started howling.

“Jumpy little twat, aren’t you?” Cicada said, chuckling.

“I’m just worried,” she said. “Regan and Galatea are up there.”

“I ran into the runt on the steps,” Cicada said. “Didn’t see Her Nibs. She may have been taken.”

Lilliana paled.

“Not that you’ll be caring, of course,” Cicada said. “Everything’s fine as long as you make it through in one piece, isn’t it?” She gave the full clip a spin and then locked it in place. “Here they come. Best be ready.”

Dick stood with one hand on Lilliana’s computer station, the other on his service needler. He kept the corner of his eye on the door, but he knew he’d have plenty of warning from the computer if it was even close to opening. He was re-locking and re-scrambling the door codes as quickly as the remote-assisted undead outside could break through them. The computer did most of the work, on random algorithms that changed according to random algorithms. He kept throwing his own monkey wrenches in when the programs the necromancer was using started to get a handle on it. Sometimes tiny changes to keep the substitution from being noticed, and sometimes larger ones.

It was a losing battle… a war of attrition. They were progressively infiltrating the door’s controls, gaining a stronger foothold all the time. Even if he could shut them out completely, that wouldn’t prevent them from employing the classic brute force hack: high explosives. The door had not been designed to withstand a siege, and what hardening it did have was a century and a half old.

It was purely a matter of time.

It hadn’t taken Leo long to spot the ghouls. They were arrayed in pairs all over the cargo hold, scenting the air and cocking their heads to the side to listen. He knew they knew he was there. His scent and fur were all over that vast space, though, and that confused their tracking senses.

If they hadn’t originally been human, they might have scaled the piles of boxes to pick up the freshest trails and get a better vantage. Instead, they stayed at floor level, peering around in the darkness. If they caught sight of him, however, it would be all over. Those claw-like fingers would find plenty of places to grip on the stacked crates and containers.

Leo moved carefully and quietly, picking his way across the hold, pitting his senses against theirs as he peered over the edges and leapt across the gaps only when he was certain there were no hunters to expose himself to. He was searching for the source of the invaders, the still-open portal which connected the necro-ship to the Rebellion. He didn’t quite know what he was looking for, but he was sure he’d know it when he saw it.

He knew every inch of the hold, after all. It was his domain. He’d know right away if he saw something that wasn’t supposed to be there.

Then he saw it, in the general vicinity from which the first group of zombies had emerged, in a dead-end alley of sorts.

He’d been wrong about one thing, though. It wasn’t so much something that wasn’t supposed to be there as it was something that wasn’t there in the first place.

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