So the crew of The Excelsior IV are facing a dire situation, the power draining from the ship and drifting in an uncharted area of space with something nasty in the hold….if you have no idea what I’m talking about then…why not??? Get yourself caught up on the story before we launch ourselves in Chapter 4 🙂
“We’ve got to stop the power loss L.D.” Dorke said desperately “it’s got to be something to do with that signal – see if you can block it.”
L.D. tapped furiously at the computer console, trying desperately to find a way of blocking the strange signal. After a few tense minutes, he suddenly jumped up with excitement.
“Done it,” he gasped in relief, “I’ve blocked the signal.”
Instantly, the computer screens and lighting regained their normal brightness.
“Brilliant,” the Captain shouted, “now onto our next problem. We’ve got to find out where we are.”
Suddenly, the doors to the Command Deck glided apart. Jennings and Gatwin ran in and stood panting before the Captain.
“What on earth…..” Dorke started.
“Captain,” Gatwin gasped, “our men are under attack.”
Stevenson and Lewis were amazed at the suddenness with which the whining noise had stopped and with it, the sound of tearing metal. The crates around them had stopped pulsating and the only sound they could now hear was a strange, heavy breathing.
“Whatever’s down here,” Lewis said, turning to his partner, “is coming our way.”
“We’d better make for the upper levels,” Stevenson replied, “set your staser to full power.”
Both men lifted and primed their weapons. Turning, they started to run towards the stairway leading to the upper level and safety.
Andrew’s eyes were still firmly glued to the crate before him. Backing slowly away, he suddenly felt the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end as he realised that something was behind him. Stopping in his tracks, he turned slowly – dreading what he would see. His eyes widened in amazement as he saw that the figure standing before him was none other than Dane.
Robertson and Hartley were getting very worried as the strange noises continued around them.
“Hartley,” Robertson said suddenly, stopping them in their tracks, “listen.”
Robertson stood listening for a few moments but could hear nothing. He turned and looked questioningly at his partner.
“What?” he asked.
Hartley lifted his Shaft and pointed it at the junction that they had just turned from, waving his arm to indicate for silence.
“Something’s following us,” he whispered.
Both men froze as they heard whatever was tracking them approach laboriously along the passageway.
“Set your staser,” Hartley instructed.
Doing as he was told, Robertson crouched on one knee, ready to blast whatever was following them into oblivion.
“It’s almost on top of us,” Hartley shouted, his Shaft shaking in his hand. Robertson aimed his staser at the junction, his finger tightening on the trigger. A bead of sweat trickle down his forehead and into his eyes as around the corner came….
“Rippon!” Hartley gasped.
Robertson lowered his gun in relief.
“You almost got yourself shot,” he said, wiping the sweat from his eyes. Rippon stood staring at them, a blank expression on his face, as if unaware of who they were.
“Robertson?…..Hartley?” he muttered, a vacant look on his face.
“That’s right,” Robertson answered. He turned and looked at Hartley before turning back to Rippon, “are you all right?”
Rippon shook his head and rubbed his hand across his eyes, as though coming out of a dream.
“Ye-yes,” he stuttered, “I’m sorry – I just felt a little strange.”
“Where’s Andrews?” Hartley asked, walking over to his crewmate.
Rippon looked strangely ahead of him.
“We got separated,” he replied, “I couldn’t find him……” His voice trailed away as he put his hand to his head, a look of pain once again passing over his face.
A concerned look passed between Robertson and Hartley.
“We’d better get him up to the sickbay,” Robertson said, walking over to Rippon and putting his arm around the man’s shoulders
“You help him,” Hartley instructed, “I’ll lead the way.”
With that, the three men started their trek back to the safety of the upper levels.
“What do you mean, ‘under attack’?” Captain Dorke demanded, looking from Jennings to Gatwin and then back again.
“Well Captain,” Jennings started, “it’s like this.” She turned to look at Gatwin. “Stevenson and Lewis reported in to say that something was breaking out of the ore crates.”
“That’s right,” Gatwin butted in eagerly.
Jennings threw him a withering look.
“And that something was tracking them,” she continued.
“And now there’s no reply from their com-links,” Gatwin said matter of factly.
“Thank you Gatwin,” Jennings snapped. “That’s right,” she continued, “all we get is heavy static – as if there’s a strong magnetic field down there.”
L.D. shook his head.
“They’re like a double act,” he muttered to himself.
Captain Dorke sat in his chair, staring at the pair in total disbelief – wondering what sort of crew he was employing.
“Well,” he started, “isn’t this great. Not only are we lost in the depths of space, but now the whole crew has turned into a load of nutters.” He threw Jennings and Gatwin a withering look.
Gatwin and Jennings looked embarrassingly at each other.
“Did you hear that L.D.” Dorke shouted, “these blokes are nutters.” He jabbed at the inter-com link to the hold.
“Oy, nutters,” he bellowed, “can you hear me?”
Jennings and Gatwin looked at each other open-mouthed as the inter-com crackled into life.
“Captain, it’s Andrews,” came the reply from the hold.
Dorke turned with a smug grin on his face.
“Ah, Andrews,” he said sweetly, “so nice to hear from you.” He swivelled in his chair. “Can I have your report please.”
“Yes Sir,” Andrews replied, “I’ve found Dane.”
Dorke sat bolt upright in his chair.
“Pardon?” he said in amazement.
“I’ve found Dane, Sir,” Andrews repeated, “and there’s something else,” he continued.
“Which is?” Dorke prompted.
“I think the cargo’s alive,” Andrews replied.
The Captain reached forward and switched off the voice link before slumping back into his chair.
“I was right,” he said to the trio before him, “that bloke’s a nutter.” He turned the voicelink back on, “O.K. Andrews,” he said, “bring Dane back up, you can give us your report when you get here.”
Dorke turned the inter-com off. Looking first at Gatwin, then Jennings and then L.D., he tilted his head back and shut his eyes.
“Heaven help me,” he muttered.
Robertson, Hartley and Rippon had made their way to the staircase leading to the upper levels. As Robertson placed his foot on the first step, a voice shouted from the darkness.
The three men turned to see Andrews and Dane running eagerly towards them.
“Rippon,” Andrews shouted, “I thought you were dead!”
“No,” Rippon replied bluntly, staring blankly at his crewmate “I..I..I got lost,” he said vaguely.
Andrews was taken aback by the abruptness of his friend but had little time to reflect as they heard the sound of footsteps approaching from the depths of the hold.
“Lewis, Stevenson,” Robertson shouted, “is that you?”
“Don’t shoot,” Stevenson’s familiar voice shouted back from the blackness.
A look of relief passed between the group standing at the base of the stairway as they saw their friends turn the corner of the junction.
“Look who we’ve found,” Stevenson continued.
Lewis and Stevenson turned back to the junction and the crowd gasped in amazement as around the corner walked ……McCarthy!
As the group exchanged relieved greetings, Andrews voice called them all back to duty.
“Right everyone,” he shouted, “we’ve got to get straight up to the Command Deck – Captain Dorke wants a full report.”
He turned and led the way up the stairway, closely followed by Stevenson, Lewis, Robertson and Hartley. Still standing at the bottom, Rippon, Dane and McCarthy turned and stared back into the dimness of the cargo hold. After a few moments they turned to each other, a knowing look passing between them, before they too turned and walked slowly up to the upper levels.