Dusk of Defiance (The Era of Ensemble Book 1) (5 page)

Chapter 5

Luke stood still. He did not dare to move a muscle. A man stood across the hall from him.
Luke surveyed him. The man was tall, dressed in protective armour, but he didn’t hold his gun like a soldier. The small details flooded Luke’s mind as he made a quick assumption.
No, he's not a soldier at all
. His battledress was more dusty than bloodied. He wore a bandage strapped around his left arm. His eyes were distinctly bloodshot. There were cuts and bruises all around his face. His nose looked swollen and purple,
but he could just be a heavy drinker.
He did not look like a man who had directly battled with one of the creatures... but he had battled with something. He was far too twitchy and alert.
He must know what's going on aboard this ship. He may be able to help me.


What are you doing here?” The man whispered loudly across the room.


I came to restore power to the tram.” Luke replied. He watched the man twitch from side to side, turning at every little noise. Luke gently, purposefully and slowly lowered his hands. Although the man's gun pointed in his direction, he had asked Luke a question, and Luke deduced the man didn't want to kill him. The man was listening out for those creatures.


Who are you?” The man squinted as he asked.


My name’s Luke Mason, and…”


Why aren’t you like the others?” The man interrupted Luke.


I’ve only recently woken from deep sleep. I awoke to find the ship in this state.”

The man lowered his weapon, and eased slightly.
“What are you looking for? Why are you fighting it?”


I’m trying to find my sister…” Luke paused, unsure of what the man was asking. “Fighting what?”

The man lau
ghed. “You don’t even realise…” He stopped laughing, and then studied Luke. “Maybe you can help me? Yes you must help me.”


Okay. Just explain to me what you want.” Luke answered the man.


Sure… But not here, it’s not safe, follow me.”

Luke began to follow the man.
“Who are you?” He asked.


Maxwell… Maxwell Pearce.” He stopped, and turned to Luke. “Keep your distance from me… I don’t trust you.” He glared at Luke.

Luke raised his hands for calm.
“Okay… Okay, easy now.” He waited a few paces, and then began to follow Maxwell again. There was something familiar about the man’s name, but his memory failed him.

Luke kept a constant few paces distance away from Maxwell. They passed several forks in their travels, Luke was surprised that the man knew where he was going
. It all looked the same in the maintenance tunnels.
Or maybe he's just leading me down random turns, waiting for an opportunity to strike. No,
Luke thought,
I can't think like that. I'll never get to Megan with thoughts like those. I'm just going to have to trust this man.

Maxwell led Luke to a small room, just beside power section 67-X. It felt like they had been walking for hours. Luke was surprised with the lack of abominations around. He didn’t question it though, he just thanked God.

He followed Maxwell into the small room. It was bright, the power cell had worked. Luke briefly smiled, but it soon vanished.


It’s too bright.” Maxwell paused as he moved a chair from the back of the room and placed it towards Luke. “They aren’t going to like it.”

Luke took the chair, but Maxwell waved him to move back. He picked
up the chair and placed it further away from Maxwell, and then sat on it. He felt his muscles ache and appreciated the rest he was finally receiving. “They?”


Those people who have lost their minds. They won’t like what you’ve done.” Maxwell paused again as he rummaged through a box below a table. He pulled out round objects covered in foil. He turned them over and looked at the notes attached to the bottoms of the round foil covered objects. “You might even make them worse.” Maxwell continued to search through the foil covered objects until he found what he was looking for. He ripped off the foil. He looked excited, like a spoilt child with a present. “It’s best if you keep your head down for a while. I know of a place where…”


No.” Luke blurted out. “I need to find my sister.”

Maxwell stared at him
, unimpressed with the interruption. He turned away from Luke and took off the last piece of foil. It was a flower decorated plate, with food placed on top of it. Maxwell smiled as he picked up a small chunk of the food with the tips of his fingers and placed it into his mouth. He didn’t chew, he just savoured the taste. Maxwell watched as Luke licked his lips, and drooled.

Luke felt his saliva trickle to the lef
t corner of his mouth. He hadn’t eaten yet.
This is torture.
He watched Maxwell with an increased sense of frustration.
Pure torture.
Luke's body quaked with desire. He had an overwhelming urge to rip the food from inside Maxwell's bulging cheeks. His eyes focused on the malleable mounds of moving flesh. His nostrils flared wider to absorb the intoxicating smell. He imagined his teeth sinking into... Luke shuddered.

Maxwell had caught sight of the hunger in Luke's eyes, and he relished
the power he held over Luke. “So what do you intend to do?” Maxwell smacked his lips as he placed another small portion of food into his mouth. “Just run about the ship until you find this sister of yours?”


I’ve restored power to the tram. It won’t be as difficult as you’re making out.” Luke replied, his stomach rumbled intensely. He breathed heavily as he resisted the urge to lunge at his tormentor. He had to hold his nerve.
Perhaps Maxwell is testing me? Testing me before he places any trust in me. Testing me before he shares a morsel with me.

Maxwell stared, and then laughed wildly.
“That won’t make it easier.” He swallowed the food in his mouth teasingly before he continued. “You know those things will be attracted by the noise of the tram, right?” Maxwell held the plate invitingly at a distance. Displaying the exposed edges to tempt and lure Luke away from his chair.

Luke stayed glued to the seat, as if captured and held by
an invisible rope. He battled with his survival instincts. His body and mind fully absorbed with his own desires. He found his lips and tongue twitched with anticipation. He would gladly eat the regurgitated contents of Maxwell's stomach if that's what it took to quell his current desires. He had to focus on their conversation. He had to make sense of his own words. “But there’s sound suppression throughout most of the ship. Not many will be able to hear it.” Luke replied, he tried to concentrate on the discussion but all he could do was stare at the food in Maxwell’s hands.


The vibrations will still travel throughout the ship.” Maxwell paused briefly, as if he was in deep thoughts. “Maybe you will get around the ship. Where are you going to start looking for your sister?”


I’m heading to the opposite side of the ship. Why?”


I’ll help you look for her, if you help me.” A smirk emerged across Maxwell’s tired, wrinkled face.


What do you want?” Luke was unsure whether he trusted this man.


I just want you to check out the captain’s quarters.” Maxwell looked down at what was left on the plate, and then offered it to Luke.

Luke snatched it off him and stuffed his mouth. The food slipped easily across his tongue. He used his fingers as scoops. The moment one mouthful had been swallowed another replaced it. Luke had never tasted anything so satisfying. His pleasured
taste buds left his head reeling with instant joy. He felt electrified with life. His head buzzed with a feeding frenzy. He licked his fingers. He sucked each crevice and fold in his skin. His tongue caught every moist trickle. Nothing was untouched by his devouring urges. Luke licked at the plate until nothing was left.

Maxwell's eyes flashed a different glint. An acknowledgment that his captor would currently be a willing participant in furthering his desires. While Luke hovered towards starvation, his instinctive need to feed would keep him submissive and obedient. Like a d
og waiting for a treat from its master. Maxwell held a power over Luke, which in turn fed his own addiction. His eyes widened as a second pouch of food delivered another appreciative, favourable response.
Luke has a strong willpower and has controlled savage impulses for a man spurred on to live, he would make a competitive adversary.
Maxwell gloated to himself.

Luke preoccupied with finishing his food, continued the conversation.
“Why the captain’s quarters?”


I think I might... I think we might have a way off this ship.” Maxwell smiled as he watched Luke clean the second portion of food off the plate.


Okay. So are you coming with me on the tram?” Luke inquired as he wiped his fingers on his clothes. He assumed the meal and the contentment from being full meant that the two men would work together. Side by side.


No.” Maxwell walked over to Luke and took hold of his wrist. “But I will keep in contact with you.” He entered his contact details on Luke’s wrist device, and saved it. “We ping each other first. Got it?” Maxwell stared intently at Luke and waited for him to nod in acknowledgement before he continued. “You never know what’s around the corner on this ship.”

Luke opened up his backpack, and Maxwell placed in some supplies. Some water, some food and even a magazine from years ago. Luke appreciated the supplies, but he was still sceptical about this man. He recognised the name, it was bugging him.
Why does the name Maxwell Pearce sound so familiar?

Chapter 6

Luke had been walking for a while. His backpack weighed down on his shoulders, it felt much heavier with the water Maxwell had provided. He breathed a sigh and tried to keep his mind on the task at hand, to get to the tram and find his sister. The name Maxwell Pearce still irritated him. He knew it, but he just couldn’t recall from where.

He exited the power section of the ship, and followed the tram directions. They were lit up brightly after Luke restored power. He smiled as he looked at it, proud of what he had accomplished.
Restoring the power will surely help someone aboard the ship
.
That is if there is anyone still sane aboard.
Luke shrugged,
the increased light is a good thing, I’m sure of it. It improves visibility, the creatures can’t approach suddenly from the dark shadows. There are fewer shadows for the creatures to hide in. It will improve my accuracy too, less of my ammunition will be needed. The lights are definitely a good thing... but why would I be advised otherwise? Why would the light attract the creatures?
Luke didn't understand. There was a lot about the spaceship he did not understand or relate to, he just knew he had to find Megan. The thought of seeing his sister again spurred him on.
She’s all I have left.

Luke felt vibrations as he continued to walk, but he couldn’t hear anything.
It must be the tram. I must be getting close.
The directions to the different parts of the ship were brighter and much more intense. Mainly because of how brightly illuminated the signs now were. It reminded Luke of taking Elizabeth to the entertainment section of the ship for the first time. They went to watch a show in the theatre. Luke didn’t care much for it, but she loved it. He smiled as he remembered the awe that was bestowed upon Elizabeth’s face as she watched the show. Her eyes had sparkled with the dancing lights, and she had laughed, smiled and cried with every action. She had especially enjoyed a dancing segment. Ribbons flowed and twisted around the twirling graceful woman. The dancer was portraying a girl being carried away from her home by a storm. The ribbons billowed as if caught by an unyielding hurricane. Elizabeth was enthralled. Captivated she held her breath. The tears trickled as she absorbed the passion of the dance and its emotive story. The young girl lost her life and her body was washed away by the cascading music of the waves. 'She's drowning.' Elizabeth had choked between her tears. 'Look at the movements of the lights. It makes you feel like you are falling with the girl below the water, pulled down below the surface of the sea.' Her eyes held her awe. Elizabeth had smiled, a tearful, grateful acknowledgement at Luke's supportive arm wrapped around her shoulder and his little squeeze. He had wanted to wipe away her tears. Luke's eyes stung as he remembered his girlfriend’s emotionally filled eyes and compared them to her last cold dead stare. His mind flooded with the words.
She's no longer here.
He imagined telling Megan of Elizabeth's fate. His eyes stung, but he did not cry or feel melancholy.
Damn these chemicals in the air. I shouldn't feel this calm. I should at least feel waves of sadness… My eyes sting from the brightness of these damned lights.

His guilt at not feeling any significant grief led him to fumble in his pocket. The gold chain of the necklace wrapped its sections around his fingertips in a twisted link. Luke removed the entangled trap and smiled again as the sparkles of crystal blue topaz lit up his eyes with the remembrance of
Elizabeth. 'A perfect match.' His grandmother had told him.
But what about Megan?
She had grumbled that Luke was a boy. 'What does he want with a necklace? It should have been mine by right.' Luke had overheard his sister complaining. Megan had thought it should have been passed down to her. She had more use for the jewellery. Instead it was handed to the eldest of the two siblings. Megan had sulked with jealousy for what felt like an eternity. She was only really coming to terms with the relationship between her brother and Elizabeth since they boarded the ship... But even then, Luke always sensed a barrier.
Was it the necklace?
You never really trusted Elizabeth, did you Megan?

Reality kicked back into Luke’s system as he heard a door open ahead of him. He quickly shook loose his fingers and allowed the piece of jewellery to slip silently into his pocket. He refocused in a flash. He clung tight to the wall, and pulled his revolver out of its holster. He aimed his weapon at the noise. Nothing moved.
What opened that door?
Luke asked himself as he heard more noises. Footsteps sounded and a figure emerged. It was surrounded in darkness, just a shadow. It seemed to turn and face Luke, and then it stopped. Luke didn’t know what to do.
Should I fire?
He thought, but before he could come to a conclusion the figure spoke.


Y…You!” The man shouted.

Luke’s memory struggled, and then remembered where he had heard the same stuttering voice. It was the man who sat on the white sheets, who kept his wife chained up like a rabid dog. He looked strange and disorientated.
Where was his wife? Would he have left her chained in that room like an animal?


Y…you must have t…taken her!” The man started to walk towards Luke. “Wh…Where is she!? Where ha…have you taken h…her!?” The man’s walk speeded into a jog. He raised his right hand, and a shiny blunt metal rod rose with it. “Wh…What have you d…done with my wife!” He stopped right in front of Luke. The rod in his hand shook intensely.


I haven’t done anything with anyone... I don’t understand.” Luke pleaded with the man. He lowered his revolver and placed it back into its holster, and then he raised his hands for calm. The man glared at him, and then slowly glanced down to the floor in deep thought.


My w…wife is gone. I…I don’t know where sh…she is.” The man looked around, hoping to find a clue to his wife’s whereabouts. “The li…lights came back. It agg…aggravated her. Then the n…next thing I knew, the chains had sn... snapped and sh…she was gone.”


Maybe I can do something to help you?” Luke asked. He didn’t realise the lights would be a problem to anyone.
Maybe this was what Maxwell was talking about.


You must help m…me.” The man checked the device strapped to his wrist and added Luke’s contact details. “Th… There. We can con…contact each other n…now.”

Luke checked his own wrist device. A profile of ‘Lance Felts’ appeared on his device.

“Lance?” Luke asked, but the man did not answer. “Are you Lance?”


I must fi…find my wife.” He avoided eye contact with Luke and sprinted off down the hallway.

There was suddenly silence. Luke felt as if he was the only person aboard the ship. He somehow expected more to happen with th
e power being restored to non-essential operations. But maybe he didn’t realise the full severity of the situation he was in. He felt for his revolver, and then carried on towards the tram. Luke found a brief moment of consolation.
The lights may have aggravated Lance's wife, but at least he could follow her trail, at least Lance can see where he's going instead of stumbling in the dark.

Luke had been walking for a while before he began to feel the vibrations of the moving tram again.
At least I can get to my sister now
. He jogged up a staircase, which sat below a brightly lit sign indicating tram station RE1. He felt the tram come to a halt through the vibrations. His weary jog turned into a run, and then to a complete stop as he heard a deafening bang from a gunshot. Luke didn’t know what to do.
Should I enter through the double doors, or just wait?
Another bang sounded. He hesitated, but opened the doors. The room shone brightly from the lights which were all around the room, from the ceiling to the tram. There were broken benches, over turned vending machines, glass scattered along the floor from broken windows of a general shop, and blood smeared incomprehensible scribbles across the walls and floor. The intensely illuminated tram was larger than Luke remembered. It stretched the whole length of the station. Twelve doors were open to let passengers aboard the transportation vehicle, but only one of them was being used.

Shrieks and grunts were
the response to yet another gunshot. Seven people, if you could still call them people, stood surrounding one of the entrances to the tram.


You want some of this too?” Someone shouted from within.

Luke couldn’t see the man, and he could only barely hear him. Luke entered the station and the doors closed behind him. He heard the doors shut, and he
quickly raised his head expecting the savage cannibals to be heading his way, but they hadn’t heard him. If those things had heard him Luke didn’t know if he could have escaped. He stepped softly on the dull grey metal flooring, and moved towards an entrance to the tram at the rear of the vehicle. He stopped abruptly as the man fired his weapon multiple times. The person must have fired four bullets straight after each other. For a few seconds there was nothing, and then one of the things shrieked louder than Luke had ever thought possible. He clasped his hands over his ears in a futile attempt to drown out the unbearably high pitched scream. It felt as though the sound lasted an eternity before it eventually stopped. For another brief period there was no noise again. Luke hesitated, but stepped towards the back of the tram. He made it to the open doors of the transportation vehicle and hit the red close door button located to the side of the doors. He breathed a short sigh of relief. Just as he finished his sigh, he heard more distant shrieks and screams.
They're getting closer
. The door Luke had entered the station from thudded from multiple fists, feet and heads banging against it. It eventually opened and a mass of homicidal maniacs crashed through. Many falling over and many more stampeding over them, they ignored anything in their way just to get to the man who had been firing his weapon. Luke ducked his head. There must have been at least thirty of the demonic creatures who had lost their minds. Luke heard the man shout for them to go away. They didn’t listen. He heard a few more shots from a firearm, a loud scream of agony, and then a snap.

Everything went quiet again, almost peaceful, but that didn’t last long. Luke heard footsteps and glanced up through the glass window of the door. He saw six of the abominations, carrying the man, covered in blood, and his head barely attached to his body. Blood gushed from the hole in the neck like water from a waterfall. A seventh abomination stood below the neck rinsing its face in the blood, showering herself in it, holding out her to
ngue to relish the taste. Luke gagged.

He stayed still and quiet. He couldn’t move from the fear that bound him to the floor in his crouched position, out of sight. He felt shame wash over him.
I could have helped.
He knew he sacrificed saving the man, for the hope that he could find his sister. The tram hadn’t moved, someone or something had pressed the emergency stop button. The tram needed to be manually started again. Luke built up his courage and lifted his head up so he could glance around the immobilised vehicle. Nothing, but an eerie silence. He swallowed his fear and stood up. His right hand clutching at the handle of his revolver in its holster. He needed to keep moving. He needed to know that his sister was okay.
She just has to be... Otherwise I'm fighting to survive for nothing.

The seats in the tram made for good cover. Luke used them to the best of his ability to keep out of sight from anything that could look into the
vehicle through any of the windows. Luke couldn’t hear anything, but he knew he couldn’t be too careful now.
Maybe I shouldn’t have restored power. Maybe it was my fault that the man died… It was my fault. The lights coming on could have disturbed so many people in hiding.
Luke tried to stop thinking about the lives he may have ruined, and needed to focus on the task at hand, getting the tram running again.

He felt his foot step onto a sticky liquid. He glanced down to the floor of the tram and realised he was standing
where the man had been killed, where the man’s head had nearly been yanked off his body. Luke shivered as he remembered the woman showering in the blood. He reached the door that led into the control room. The door was bashed and dented, the lock snapped completely. Luke pulled the door open slowly. It creaked, so he prised the door open enough for him to squeeze through, and then waited. He couldn’t hear anything.
At least those things are long gone…
They're probably feasting on that man.

Little lights of red, yellow and blue flashed across a terminal in front of Luke. They could have been indicating anyt
hing from low power to a fault on the tracks. Even if there was a conveniently placed instruction manual, Luke didn’t have time to read it. There was a large flashing message across a screen to Luke’s left. ‘Brakes Locked’. Luke pressed the button to release the breaks. Nothing happened. He placed his hand on his chin and began to rub his unshaven face as he glanced over the control panel. After a pause, he began to press a selection of buttons. It wasn’t long before a beep echoed throughout the station. Luke’s heart skipped a beat and he held his breath.
What have I done?


Disengaging locks... Don't forget to choose your destination on your wrist devices. The tram will not stop unless passengers want to board, or leave the tram. Thank you.” The familiar computerised female voice sounded out of the tram’s speaker system. Luke wasn't sure whether to believe the computerised voice.
Knowing my luck, the tram will stop next to a horde of those creatures.
There was a moment of silence, and then the doors closed simultaneously. The tram jumped forward and began to move. Luke lost his balance, as he fell back into the wall behind him. He moved out of the control room and edged back into a seat.
Finally I can rest
. But he knew there could be complications he would have to overcome when the tram eventually stopped.

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