Joined: 12 Jul 2006
|Posted: Thu Jul 27, 2006 8:09 am Post subject: VS #7-"The Derelict" (Chapter 3)
Apollo could feel his mind reeling from shock over Sheba's revelation. Great enough to momentarily drive all the fear and unease over the predicament of being trapped in a lonely derelict in the dark out. But as he pondered the story that had baffled all Colonial warriors for 500 yahrens, he now realized how that only made the situation even more frightening then ever from his standpoint.
"You're absolutely sure?" he managed to say.
"Apollo, what cadet who took basic military history doesn't know the Callisto's insignia?"
"None," he shook his head. "If that's what you see then......but good Lords of Kobol how could...." he trailed off, unable to think of anything else to say.
Now, the both of them found their minds going back to when they first heard the story of the Battlestar Callisto. The greatest mystery in the annals of Colonial military history. Both had heard the story described in full by the same Academy instructor, Colonel Gaddis, at different times. Of how a battlestar containing a crew of a thousand had been lost with all hands while on a deep space patrol in the Alpha Quadrant, some five hundred yahrens ago. Leaving no clues as to what her fate had been. Cylon attack had been ruled out because captured intelligence reports indicated none had been anywhere near the Callisto's sphere of operations. In the centuries since, there had been much speculation, but no evidence upon which to construct a realistic scenario of what might have happened.
One ramification for the Colonial military that had come as a result of the Callisto's loss had been the construction of a new battlestar to replace her in the Fleet. That had been the Galactica. And now, a crew from the ship that had replaced the Callisto had been the first to find clues as to what had happened to the lost battlestar.
"Apollo," Sheba struggled to regain her composure, "I think it's beginning to make some sense. You're sure the section you're in resembles a Cylon baseship's central core?"
"Older version, but yeah," Apollo was also struggling, "I....oh good Lords I see what you mean. This derelict is literally assembled from different ships. Pieces of one seamlessly welded to another!"
"It's the only explanation," Sheba nodded, "Whoever is behind all this takes parts of one ship, and adds it to another creating this monster ship. Given the size, who knows how many other kinds of ship pieces from how many races add up to this."
"That would also explain the Borellian sign you saw earlier." Apollo tensed, "Sheba, do you still feel like making your way forward?"
The brown-haired warrior glanced back down the red-lit corridor, "I......think so. Whatever that shadow was I noticed a centon ago isn't there now."
"Okay, just keep moving and.....try not to let the ramifications of what this ship is rattle you."
Sheba noticed from the sound of his voice that Apollo was likely more rattled inside over these new revelations. As she took a tentative step forward, she realized that this was the first time she could ever recall Apollo sounding.....scared.
And to think I got on him for never feeling that way when I confronted him in the Cylon fighter cockpit, she thought without any mirth as she resumed walking. This time, she no longer cared about what she might discover on the sides of the passageway. All she was interested in was what she might see in front of her at any possible micron.
"I've resumed walking," she said, "I still have a general sense of how far I've gone since I fell to this level. Probably about 100 metrones now. I'm keeping my paces even so I don't lose track of distance. As soon as I reach 1000 metrones, that's when I resume looking for shaft access leading up to the landing bay, and I'll maintain that for another 500 metrones."
"Okay, sounds good," Apollo was slowly letting his voice return to normal. "What do you do if you find multiple shafts?"
"I pick one and then I pray that all of them empty out to the same decks above." she could see the reddish glow illuminating the corridor taking on a darker hue to it. One that made her feel more ill at ease, especially as she felt it jog a memory inside her.
"Apollo," she said, "The way this passageway is illuminated reminds me of something. It's like......." she abruptly stopped.
"Like what?" Apollo's voice crackled anxiously. But Sheba didn't answer him.
"Sheba?" The captain sounded alarmed through the mini-com, "Sheba, are you there?"
The brown-haired warrior could hear him but was at that instant too terrified to move or say anything. Twenty metrones away, through the eerie dark red glow, she could see a figure crouched low on the ground, facing toward her. At that angle, she couldn't tell if it was an upright creature crouching, or one that moved on all fours in a normal posture. There was a lighter reddish hue to its body which enabled it to stand out more distinctly through the darker red glow filling the corridor.
But what struck the note of silent terror through Sheba that made it impossible for her to respond to Apollo's increasingly frantic voice over the mini-com, was the creature's face. It was the most hideously ugly face Sheba had ever seen in her life. Red piercing eyes, a high forehead with a heavily deformed nose, mouth and exaggerated sized cheeks. And from the top of the head, she could almost make out what seemed like tiny protrusions.
"Sheba! Damn it, are you still there?"
Her eyes still locked on the hideous beast, Sheba slowly lifted her laser pistol and pointed it so that the barrel was aimed right between the eyes of the creature. For a micron that seemed to stretch to eternity, neither she nor the beast moved.
Then, the reddish creature let out a hideous growl and began to move toward her. She could see it vaulting forward on its hind legs, its forearms flapping back and forth. As it drew closer, she could make out a tail sticking outward from behind.
Without batting an eye, she pressed the trigger and fired.
She saw the laser fire strike the creature directly in the face, and in a flash Sheba saw something that made her eyes widen in disbelief. For just the tiniest fraction of a micron the ugly, evil beast that now moved toward her was gone, and instead was something...... recognizably human. And with a tortured look on its normal male face.
But just as quickly as it had appeared, that image was gone, and the beast was there again still charging toward her. Sheba prepared to fire again but suddenly she saw what looked like wings sprout from the sides of the creature and it took to the air, flying towards her.
Sheba dropped to the ground and heard the snarling creature pass over her. She turned around and in the darkness behind her could barely see its shadow disappearing in the direction from which she'd come.
It took her nearly a centon to find the strength to get back to her feet, and when she did she found herself trembling violently from what she'd just seen and experienced. Yet amazingly, she found herself resisting the urge to scream out in terrified anguish. She knew it wouldn't solve anything, and more than anything else, she wanted to keep her wits about her no matter how frightened she felt. For Commander Cain's daughter, no other course of action was possible.
Finally, as Sheba managed to put her laser pistol back in the holster, she realized that she hadn't heard Apollo's frantic voice for some time now. Concerned, she looked down at the ground where she remembered seeing her mini-com fall when she'd been forced to drop to avoid the creature flying at her. She felt her sick feeling increase when she saw the vital communications link destroyed and beyond repair. Smoke wafted up from the broken remains and Sheba realized that she hadn't stepped on it or crushed it accidentally. Some kind of corrosive acid had fallen on it, rendering it inoperable. And she knew that could only have happened when that demonic looking monster had passed over her.
"Great," she said aloud, "Just fracking great. What do I do now?"
She removed her laser pistol again and kept it pointed forward as she glanced down the red-lit corridor. She could see no other creature, and no other shadow. But even if she had, she knew she had no other choice but to move forward no matter what was there.
A dim awareness of what the real secret behind the fate of the Battlestar Callisto and the other ships this derelict had been assembled from, was starting to occur to her, And if her hunch was right, she knew that her only weapon of defense wouldn't be the laser pistol she carried. It could only come from her own sense of inner strength.
Apollo found the silence on his mini-com maddening. There was no explanation for why Sheba would stop talking unless her own com-line had become damaged, or if.........
He shook his head violently. There was no way he would consider that possibility that something had happened to her. Not if he was to keep himself calm to try and figure out what he could do now that contact with her had been lost.
He looked around the darkened central hub that surrounded him, barely able to make out the general contours in the dark and wondered what had possessed him to take a chance on landing on this ship. It had clearly been a foolish risk, and now there could well be a terrible price paid as a result of that error in judgment.
Dear Lord, he silently prayed, wherever she is, let her be safe and let us both find a way out of this hellhole.
As he got to his feet, he realized that waiting for her to find a way to him was no longer a practical option. It was one thing to sit in this dark crypt and still be able to talk to her, but in this vast chamber of silence, he couldn't dare let himself sit still. He had to take some action.
His eyes tried to focus on where there was an access ladder, since he had already decided that venturing out from the bottom of this core wouldn't be the right course of action. Even if he didn't know whether an upper level led back to the same passageway he'd fallen from, at least going up would be going in the right direction.
So be it. He would go up and at the same time would carefully keep his sense of direction so he could retrace his steps back to this central core if need be.
He put his laser back in the holster and took his first step, and then abruptly stopped. He was certain he could hear from somewhere amidst the vast chamber of the core a sound. As he stayed frozen in his spot and concentrated he could make it out some more.
The sound of something breathing heavily from somewhere. And in this vast open area, the sound of what was only low breathing seemed magnified beyond belief, making it sound more eerie. What made it worse was that he knew there was no way of pinpointing just where the sound was coming from in this shaft.
A lesser warrior might have cracked emotionally in terror, but Apollo was determined to not let that happen. He would summon all his strength and go down fighting if he had to, with his dignity as a warrior intact. And one way to do that was to challenge whatever creature this was.
"What are you?" he called out, his voice echoing throughout the open core like a lone voice in an empty stadium. "Show yourself!"
As the echo of his voice died down, he could hear the sound of the breathing increase. Apollo found himself wishing he had Starbuck's gift for sarcasm and black humor, because he was sure it'd be the best possible response he could summon.
"I've faced many enemies before!" he called out, "I'm not afraid to face something new. Not even you!"
He looked around the upper part of the hub's circumference, where the balconies leading out from access tunnels winded around. Then, about halfway up he finally saw a pair of red eyes staring down at him. It was impossible to make out any other features. Just a pair of menacing red orbs, and the unholy sounds that emanated from it.
Apollo detached his laser from the holster and pointed it right below the glowing orbs. And his mind finally thought of a Starbuckism to use.
"Speak now or forever hold your piece, chum."
Before he could pull the trigger though, the red eyes bolted forward, over the railing overlooking the hub, and Apollo's mouth dropped open as he saw a reddish, winged creature flying overhead across toward the other side of the hub. In the dark, the red color of its body gave him a clear look at all of its details. And in an instant, Apollo realized that he had something just like this once before. Nine sectars ago in the wreckage of another massive ship on a desolate planet.
All of the fear for his own well-being was gone. He knew exactly who was behind all of this, and he had stood him down once before. The only thing he could worry about was whether Sheba would realize the same thing and show the same sense of inner strength that was needed more than anything else.
The sound of her boots against the floor was the only sound in the passageway, as Sheba kept walking in the measured, even steps that would let her keep track of how far she had walked. She held her laser pistol by her side, knowing that it wasn't a useful weapon, but she still felt carrying it helped boost her overall sense of resolve.
She didn't think it wise to dwell further on the ultimate truth behind this monster derelict and the hideous creatures that dwelled within it. There would be plenty of time to reflect on that later, after she and Apollo were on their way back to the Galactica. Keeping her mind focused toward that objective was another tactic she knew her father would have approved of.
I won't let you down, Daddy, she thought as she kept walking. I'm going to stay strong and make it out of this so you'll be able to see me again someday.
In the last several sectars, since she had begun dating Apollo, Sheba had tried not to dwell on the fate of her father and the Pegasus, like she had done so much in the past. It wasn't that she'd lost hope that he was still alive somewhere, it had more been a case of not wanting her desire to see her father alive compete with her desire to see a meaningful relationship develop with Apollo. She had forced herself to tell Apollo aloud that he had to stop clinging to Serina's memory as an excuse to not open up, and she also knew that she couldn't let her sorrow for her father be the excuse to keep her from enjoying life. And so, she'd just put her hope into the background. Not abandoning it, but being realistic enough to deal with life if she was never fated to know the answer of what had become of him.
Now, at this moment when she felt her skills and instincts as a warrior being tested like they'd never been before, she felt the need to reach out and let that hope that her father was still alive guide her. Especially since she also had to deal with the prospect that Apollo was also in danger and she could do nothing right now to help. The prospect of her surviving, and Apollo not, was something she might well have to consider.
The faint sound of something in the distance caused her to stop. She could hear metal moving, like the sound of a compartment door opening. The creaking, metallic sound indicated that it was being raised rather than opened sideways like on the compartments of a battlestar. That meant that at some point, this passageway that had been part of the Callisto turned into something that came from another ship of unknown origin.
She did some mental calculations and estimated that she had another one hundred metrones to go before she'd be under the original starting point where she and Apollo had parted, and where a passageway existed that led back to the landing bay. That would be the time to start searching for a way off this deck level, and she had a hunch that if the landing bay had originally been part of the Callisto, like this passageway had been, then there had to be some kind of access point connecting the two sections.
Then, she heard that distant metallic sound again. Like a compartment door sliding shut. And then....the sound of not one, but two distinct sets of footsteps coming toward her.
More of them, she thought as she raised her laser pistol again and pointed it forward. She was prepared to shoot them both, just to let them know she was still unafraid on the outside, and maybe that would get them to move past her just like the first one had.
Sheba remained in her position, her eyes looking down the darkened passageway waiting for the first visual sign of them. But for a half centon there was only the sound of the footsteps. Then it was joined by the sound of an eerie breathing noise.
Two sets of reddish eyes came into view first, about fifty metrones away. The footsteps stopped, but the breathing seemed to pick up in intensity. Clearly, she had been spotted by them.
Don't be afraid, she thought. Show no fear. Look angry. Look contemptuous of them. You're a proven warrior. They should fear you.
Her face contorted into an angry scowl as she held her laser pistol out, ready to pull the trigger.
Suddenly, two hideous sounding cries erupted and the beasts began charging madly toward her in wild leaps that no human would ever have been capable of making.
Sheba pressed the trigger and fired at the one on the left. The laser blasts struck it in the neck, and like before Sheba saw the flash of something else in place of it. But this time, instead of a human, this one had a reptilian body. She barely had time to make out any details before she trained her laser on the second one and fired at it. The laser blasts struck it in the mid-section, and Sheba's eyes widened at the brief sight of another human with a horrified look on its face. But unlike the first time, this one was close enough for her to make out the unmistakable sight of a Colonial uniform from five hundred yahrens ago.
The two snarling beasts were now just twenty paces from Sheba and she abruptly flattened herself against the left side of the passageway, hoping there was enough room for them to pass without hitting her. And then....her facade cracked slightly so that she closed her eyes as they moved past. An odious smell filled her nostrils as she felt them go by, perhaps no more than fractions away from her. A burning sensation hit her leg, and she realized that some kind of acid that they secreted, the same acid that had destroyed her mini-com, had splattered on to her.
Convinced they were gone, Sheba moved back out into the center of the passageway whacked at her leg to try and ease the pain. She hoped it hadn't penetrated through her uniform enough to cause no more than a superficial wound.
As she rubbed her leg some more she became aware of a loud snorting noise from behind. She turned around and saw that the two beasts had not continued on, but had merely stopped some twenty metrones away. And both of them had their red eyes trained squarely on her.
"Holy frack," she whispered. It was now becoming evident to Sheba that these two planned on doing something more specific aimed at her. And she now had a feeling that she was going to have to do more than just stand still with a contemptuous look on her face.
Slowly, she started to step backwards and away from them. The red eyes of both of them had a menacing, piercing quality to them, as though they were examining her not only on the outside, but inside to every facet of her psyche as well.
And can they sense the fear inside me? Is that what they're probing for?
She could hear the creatures' feet start to drag across the floor. Sheba had the sense that when they reached her, they weren't going to move past her. That meant she had no other choice but to run from them as fast as she could.
She turned around and began to sprint down the dark passageway, not letting herself think for a micron of how close they might be.
For ten microns, she could only hear the pounding of her boots against the floor, but soon she became aware of the creatures' roaring behind her. That meant they were pursuing her, and she knew that their incredible dexterity meant it would only be a matter of time before they caught up to her.
What she needed to find was an open compartment door on either side of the passageway and then hope she could close it quickly.
She could feel a rush of air behind her and she knew that one of them had leapt toward her and landed just short. The next time one of them tried, she might not be able to elude them any further.
Then, she saw it on the right side. An open compartment door, it's black interior standing out in contrast to the red glow of the corridor. She leapt inside and could see the two beasts storm past. Scrambling to her feet, she placed her hands on the wall and searched frantically for any sign of a button that would close the door. From outside, the snarling noises of the beasts indicated that they were prepared to turn around and charge back toward her.
Finally, Sheba's hand touched something that felt just like the door panel that she might have felt on the Galactica. She pressed it and saw the door slide horizontally.
She just had time to glimpse the hideous face of one of the beasts charging toward the closing door before it slammed shut.
Apollo reached the base of an access ladder, and didn't even give any thought to the fact that the winged beast was probably somewhere above him. As far as he was concerned that demon, and anything just like it, was a known enemy that he could deal with. It was perfectly safe for him to be pro-active and look for a way back.
He slowly mounted the ladder one rung at a time, making sure his laser pistol remained securely fastened, along with his micro-scanner and mini-com. He was halfway up to the first level when he heard a noise that sounded like a hideous laugh boom through the open hub. It was enough to make him stop in mid-climb and collect himself.
Funny, he thought. I know what those beasts look like and yet it's more spooky to just hear them and not see them.
The black-haired captain resumed his climb and decided to bypass the first two deck levels since he was convinced he had fallen from no lower than the third one. When he reached the third level he stepped onto the balcony, and looked back out at the hub to see if the sense of height was the same he remembered before he'd fallen.
I think this is it, he thought. But what I don't know is which hatch did I fall through?
He followed the circumference of the balcony and kept his eyes peeled for the recess of an opening. The first one he saw, he stepped into and he found himself back in a passageway that was not unlike the one he had originally been in, but there was no way to know for certain if this was the right one.
Apollo turned around and looked back to catch his bearings, and pinpoint this view of the hub in his mind, in case he needed to return this way. Now, he would carefully pace his steps for however long he stayed in this passageway.
And then, he turned to start walking and had gone only two steps when he found himself just a single metrone away from one of the beasts. The unexpected sight of one so close to him sent a jolt of terror through him that he was unable to control.
The beast lifted an arm that Apollo saw had claw-shaped talons on the end rather than normal hands. Quickly, the captain pulled out his laser pistol and fired two blasts into its mid-section.
When the laser blasts struck the creature, Apollo saw the flash of something else for two long microns. Instead of the creature it was a reptilian looking figure that seemed vaguely familiar to him.
Apollo fired two more blasts at the creature and saw the flash again for another long micron and now he realized why it looked familiar. At some point, long ago in a distant past, this beast had been a living Cylon.
"I know what you are!" Apollo shouted. "You can't harm me, because I don't fear you or your master!"
The beast seemed to back away from him, a wet saliva dripping off its contorted mouth. When the drops struck the floor, Apollo saw a smoky cloud emit, suggesting that it was comprised of some kind of acid. The captain knew that he couldn't dare let that come into contact with him and he took a step back, but still kept his eyes fixed on the demon.
Finally, the mouth opened and Apollo heard words emit from it. Words he could recognize but in an indescribable kind of hideous voice. One that was both low and high pitched at the same time, as if it were electronically operated, and set to the most irritating low and high decibel settings possible.
And then, the creature suddenly turned and bounded off down the corridor at tremendous speed. Apollo kept his eyes on it until it disappeared from view.
Slowly, Apollo decided to make his way down the same passageway. Perhaps the beast, or one of its fellow minions hoped to instill fear in him by planting themselves as close to the area of safe exit as they possibly could. If so, then he would rise to the challenge, because at least it offered him a chance of getting closer to where he needed to be.
Sheba, I hope you've figured it out, he thought again for the thousandth time in the last five centons.
The captain's steps were evenly paced, as he was determined to keep his reference point of where he'd entered this passageway accurate. His face remaining focused on the center of the passageway.
He had gone approximately one hundred metrones, when he came alongside a closed compartment door and suddenly became aware of a different kind of noise. The sound of tapping.
Apollo stopped and stared at the door with a cautious air. As he heard the tapping continue his eyes then widened as he realized the tapping came in a distinct pattern. The pattern of.....Colonial code. What he was hearing was a longstanding Colonial code to indicate a warrior in distress.
Sheba? He felt a chill go through him. He reached for the door, where he could see an access button like that of a battlestar and then stopped. This could easily be a trap by one of the demons, trying to lure him in and then produce a moment of terror that could leave him at their mercy.
But he knew he had to take that chance. Especially if there was an equal chance that the woman he loved was on the other side, perhaps injured and unable to speak.
He pressed the button and the door slid open. He could see immediately that the room had auxiliary light illuminating it at half the normal level.
Apollo looked down and his eyes widened as he saw not one of the beasts, or Sheba, but something else. The figure of a man lying on the ground. He looked to be about forty-five or fifty yahrens old, with unkempt black hair and a ragged beard stubble. His clothing was rumpled and slightly tattered but even Apollo could recognize it immediately as an old-style Colonial officer's uniform. And he could also recognize the insignia of the Battlestar Callisto on the shoulder of the man's jacket.
The Galactica warrior found himself completely at a loss for words as he saw the man look up at him, and with a tortured expression extend his arm toward the captain.
"Help me," he whispered in a low, broken voice, "Please."