Read Orbital Decay Online

Authors: A. G. Claymore

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Genetic Engineering, #Hard Science Fiction, #90 Minutes (44-64 Pages), #Post-Apocalyptic, #Science Fiction

Orbital Decay (4 page)

BOOK: Orbital Decay
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Thin Hope

From
:
[email protected]

 

To
:
Oversight23@(withheld).gov
;

 

CC
:
Steering23@(withheld).com

 

Subject
: Progress of Project Chronos – Live testing protocols.

 

This is Dr. Dwight Young. Dr. Narcisse has succumbed to the infection and took his own life. His remains were destroyed along with two research assistants when we flashed the alpha lab. As Dr. Narcisse’s account is the only one with surface access, I am using it to notify you that the experiment is now being conducted out of lab number two.

 

We believe the subjects in lab two have acquired an immunity to the infection as a result of their successful uptake of the alien organelle. Not having the luxury of time, we have injected our staff with the phase three serum. It seems to have prevented the spread of infection among our group as well as reversing the early stages in two of our team.

 

We appear to be too late to save the two hundred other staff on the station who were not connected with our project. The majority of the station didn’t have the same containment protocols that exist in our compartments.

 

Dr. Davis is almost certainly the cause of their infection. He toured the entire facility before locking us down and escaping.

 

Dr. Mortensen was right, and he’s lucky he won’t have to live through what’s coming.

 

Dr. Dwight Young

 

Using the account of:

 

Dr. Kelvin Narcisse

Gaia Bio Design

23345 W. Wacker Dr, Chicago, IL

Tartarus Station

Low Earth Orbit

T
he sudden staccato of automatic weapons fire caused all eyes to fall on Ben. He took a deep breath. “That means our ride is here,” he told them. “A team sent to kill me and keep the whole thing quiet, and it sounds like they’ve run into your infected co-workers. We should be able to get to the shuttle before they realize we’re not up here anymore.”

“Is nobody else thinking we’re betting on the wrong horse here?” Dr. Brown spoke for the first time. “No offense, detective, but you’re one guy with a pistol. We’re supposed to throw in with you against a team of soldiers?”

“No offense taken,” Ben said mildly, “but you’re assuming they’ll rescue you after I’m dead. I’m sure they
do
have some leeway in interpreting their orders but those orders are to clean up loose ends. Now that they’ve seen this place, I’m thinking they’ll decide the whole damn station is a pile of loose ends.”

“We can’t know that,” Brown said with alarm.

“What are the chances that everyone in this room can be relied on to keep quiet?” Ben spread his hands out to the side as though the idea should be able to speak for itself. “After all you’ve been through?” He shook his head. “No, they’ll kill you too.”

“He’s probably right,” Dwight said over his shoulder before turning back to a screen on the wall. “Whoever’s out there with all those guns, I don’t know them from a hole in the ground. I trust Detective Marks. I’m going with him.”

Ben crossed over to stand by Dwight. “This is a security feed?”

“Yep. Our screens tie into the main systems. It looks like our new friends are bogged down in the common area between the bay and our labs.” He pointed to one of the many screen-in-screens. “They’re in the cafeteria. Looks like at least two of them are bleeding.”

“All right…” Ben pointed to the schematic on the right side of the display. “They’re one floor down from us. Let’s go one more floor up and stay to this side so we don’t run into them. They may try to bypass the cafeteria if they can’t force their way through.” He turned to the scientist. “You have the cooler loaded?”

“Two hundred doses,” he said, patting the plastic case on the counter.

 “All right, everybody,” Ben began quietly, “we need to move fast. Once they figure out we’ve gone around them, they’ll move damn fast to catch us. It won’t take them a lot of head scratching to figure out what we’re up to, and they’ll have already cleared the way. If you have a weapon, keep the safeties on. I don’t want a panic shot giving us away.”

“What if we run into infected staff?” Brown was pulling out a pistol to check its status.

“If they move like the one I saw, you can probably just run around them and keep going.” Ben waited until the Doctor looked back up from his weapon. “Our weapons are for defense against the living, not the dead. If you think a slow-moving corpse is dangerous, wait till you bring a half dozen special-forces operators down around our ears, each firing a thousand rounds a minute.

“All right, how do we get up to the next level?” Ben asked Dwight.

“There’s a shaft ten feet down the hall,” he answered, picking up the cooler and sliding its sling over his shoulder. He headed for the door.

Ben joined him, nodding at the control box. Dwight hit the button and the doors hissed open. Leaning out, Ben saw a clear hallway and moved toward another set of glass doors, ten feet down on the far side. Again, Dwight hit the button and they leaned in to check the shaft.

“Shit,” Dwight muttered in quiet alarm. “There’s one of ‘em floating up there.”

Ben reached over and pushed the scientist’s shotgun down. Dwight looked down as though unaware that he had begun to point it at the horrific mess that had been a person only days ago. Holstering his XD, Ben crossed the hall to grab an intravenous stand from an alcove in the wall. Holding the stand above his head by the top end, he pushed off from the edge of the floor to float up into the weightlessness of the shaft. He guided the four-wheel base of the stand into the midriff of the animated corpse before shoving up on the chrome pole for all he was worth. The two bodies, the quick and the dead, rebounded away from each other. Ben let go of the stand and flailed his arms, trying to avoid dropping past the floor he had just left and two pairs of hands grabbed him and pulled him back out to the comforting familiarity of the gravity plating. 

“Huh!” Dwight was leaning into the shaft, peering upwards. “We’re clear.” He straightened, looking over at Ben. “Maybe next time you could explain what you’re about to do? I thought you’d gone all Don Quixote on us with your lance…”

“Well,” Ben replied, double-checking his pistol, “our opponents are a little more dangerous than your average windmill.” He grinned at Dwight. “Let’s get moving, Sancho.”

As he floated out of the shaft on the next floor up Ben was a little too high and he crashed to the floor, tumbling over to the far wall of the corridor. He watched with rueful admiration as the scientists, accustomed to using the zero-G shaft, stepped neatly out onto the grav plating.

“Not bad for a first timer,” Dwight said, one eyebrow arched.

“Really?”

“No, not really.” He chuckled. “One of our chimps got loose once, and
he
did better coming out of the shaft. Seriously, it’s like watching a…” He slowly turned his head to the left, looking toward the interior of the station. “Oh shit!” he breathed. “It must have heard you.”

A grisly form shuffled toward them. His skin was grey and hanging loose at the joints where the bones were most likely to bump against other objects. His blue coveralls were covered with dark stains.

“Forget about him for a second.” Ben pointed past the approaching figure. “Is that the common area?”

“Yes, it is,” Brown said. “And it’s crawling with meat puppets.”

“Hey.” A young woman grabbed Brown’s arm. “Those were our co-workers, Tim.”

“No, they weren’t.” Brown shrugged her off angrily. “We’re all contractors. They brought us up here for this project and nothing else. We were discouraged from even mixing with them, so don’t start acting like you’re all outraged – even though that seems to be your hobby.” Just as she was about to start an angry response he cut back in. “Tell me the name of that guy over there, Mendel.” He pointed at the figure in the blue coveralls, now only fifty feet away. “Tell me and you can go ahead and lecture me all you want. Till then, stick with the conversations in your head.”

“All right, that’s enough!” Ben turned to face the group. “We need to get moving. Is there a way around the common area?”

“Next right,” Dwight answered, pointing to an intersection twenty feet away. “Then the second left. It’s actually the same distance as going through the common area.”

“C’mon.” Ben started toward the turn. “Might as well get there before Coveralls Guy.” He crouched against the wall at the intersection and stuck his head around the corner, relieved to see an empty hallway in front of him. With a quick glance at the lurching horror, now only fifteen feet away, he got up and led the group down the hall.

At the second left, he went through the same drill. He was leaning his head against the wall with his eyes closed when Dwight sidled up next to him.

“We good, detective?”

“Depends on how you define ‘good’, Doc.”

Dwight grimaced. “How many?”

“Looks to be about fifteen, all clustered together just this side of the shaft doors.” He rubbed his eyes. The skin around them was an angry red and his nose was getting runny. “Any other way of getting back to the deck below us?”

“Sure, there are, but they’re all clear across the other side of the station, and this shaft comes out right in the shuttle bay.”

“Alright, we need this shaft.” Ben looked to make sure the whole group was paying attention. “We’re going through the common room. Everybody stay together and keep up. We need to move fast to stay ahead of these guys and we need to take that shuttle before the assault team realize we’re not still sitting in your sector.”

He crossed over to the far side of the hallway, pulling a fire extinguisher from a recessed compartment. “First, let’s draw them away from that shaft.” He pulled the pin and stepped around the corner, hitting the cylinder against the wall.

“That’s got their attention,” Dwight mused as he peered around the corner.

“Yep, now let’s cover our retreat.” Ben pulled the trigger, filling the hallway with a cold white cloud. “Go, go, go!” he stage-whispered as he raced past the group of scientists, heading straight toward Blue Coveralls, who now lurched down the hall toward them. Ben swung the extinguisher as hard as he could, striking the decomposing figure on the side of its head. He was rewarded with a sickening crunch, and the stinking mess fell to the floor.

He careened around the corner, feet pounding on the decking behind him. Ahead in the common room, the crowd looked thin enough to slip through and he angled toward the widest gap, striking down another ‘meat puppet’ at one of the worst choke points. They were starting to move toward the humans now, drawn to the promise of fuel.

The gap was closing.

Ben swung the heavy extinguisher, sending the top of his target’s head flying across the room. He slid a hand under the cylinder, lifting it and driving it forward to smash the end into the face of another meat puppet.
Funny how quickly you start using a name like that,
 he thought as he back-swung his weapon to knock down a third assailant.
We let euphemisms insulate us from the true horror of a situation.

With a final swing, he opened the path to the door on the far side and he was able to build back up to a full run. Feet were still behind him. Living feet, announcing themselves with solid drumbeats. He hoped Dwight was still among the living with his precious serum, but he couldn’t spare the time to look, couldn’t risk tripping.

He reached the far doors, seeing nothing on the other side of the glass panels, and he hit the button to open them. He looked. Dwight pounded past, along with Brown, Riggs and Mendel, the woman who had argued with Brown by the shaft. The other two members of the group were on the floor, screaming as their throats were being torn open.

“There’s nothing we can do for them,” Ben said forcefully as he restrained Mendel from going back. He shoved her toward the right-hand turn that would take them to the shaft. “Move, people!” he hissed. “You stand still, you die.”

They raced down the hallway, streaming around both sides of a single meat puppet who couldn’t seem to decide which way to turn. They came to an open area in front of the shaft entrance. A reception desk on the far side of the area had two more animated corpses milling around behind it. To the right of the desk, they could see the same hall that they had originally intended to use. The large group that Ben had decoyed was mostly wandering around the intersection where they had last seen their human prey.

“Dammit! The door won’t open,” Dwight hissed. “Shit!” He pounded his fist against the glass panel. “This one leads to the shuttle bay. The lockdown must have sealed off this entrance.”

“No way in hell are you gonna tell me the only way back to Earth is to go back through all those freaks and fight off a team of government killers with shotguns and pistols.” Ben pushed Dwight out of the way and swung his extinguisher with every ounce of force in his body. The cylinder rebounded off the glass with a loud, sonorous chime.

A small crack was his only reward.

“Puppets heard that,” Brown volunteered. “They’re coming.”

Ben swung again, widening the crack, but not by much. He took a look down the hall.
No time.
He pulled his pistol out, checking automatically to see the raised indicator on the top. A round was chambered. He squeezed off three quick rounds at the center of the radiating cracks and the glass shattered into a thousand pieces. “Alright, let’s get out of here.”

BOOK: Orbital Decay
6.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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