When Pamela and Janna stepped into the commissary, they found Drake sitting on the floor, his back to the wall, staring into space. His eyes were red, but he no longer cried. He acknowledged neither of his crewmates, not until they approached him.
“Are you all right?” Pamela asked.
Drake sniffed and rubbed at his nose. Checked his fingers. “They killed Everson. Shot him in the fucking back.”
“What?” Janna asked.
Pamela sat next to him and shifted to the side so she could face her former lover. “I’m sorry, Philbin. Really sorry.”
His chest juddered, and he turned his hot face to Pamela’s shoulder, squeezing his burning eyes shut. More tears threatened to sprout, but nothing came.
She cradled his head and didn’t say anything.
“Where’s his body?” Janna asked. “Maybe I can do—-“
“He’s in the freezer,” Drake said. His muffled voice still managed to echo throughout the room.
After a moment, Drake pulled his face away from Pamela and wiped at his moist, shining face. “They have Jason, Rico, Ben, and Winter. That leaves us and Dirk.”
“Dirk’s working on the engines again,” Janna said.
“Good. There’s something else. I don’t know why, but these things don’t want us drinking booze. Maybe it shuts off receptors or something and makes it hard to possess us. Have either of you had anything?”
Janna and Pamela exchanged a glance and shook their heads. “Dirk did,” Pamela said. “I could smell it on his breath.”
“Good,” Drake said. “I’ve had some, so we need to get a few shots into you guys. The first stop is my quarters. I’ll explain on the way, but we have to hurry. The asshole in Jason is sending for his friends.”
“Jason?” Janna asked. Then, she slapped her forehead. “Right. FNG. Sorry.”
Ben jumped for the eyeholes above him, but no matter how hard he tried, they never came any closer. He figured it was because none of this was physical, but he couldn’t stand by and do nothing. Aladnadine had already killed Everson, and Dirk was next on his list.
“Hey!” he yelled. “Don’t do this! Please!”
Aladnadine remained silent.
“I’ll give you anything! Just don’t kill my friend! Please!” The words were out of his hypothetical mouth before he realized that he had nothing more to give. The alien had it all.
Dirk looked up from his work when he saw the circle of light dance over Engine Six. He turned and relaxed when he saw it was only Ben. His friend held a flashlight and rifle.
“Jesus Christ,” Dirk said. “You scared me for a second, there.”
“What’s up?” Ben asked. “How’s the repair going?”
“It’d be easier to fuck a cactus. But I think I’m finally getting somewhere. That bump on my head must’ve knocked something loose. Gimme two hours, and we’ll be on our way.”
Ben grimaced. “These aliens. They killed LT.”
“What? You’re shitting me, right?”
“Drake sent me down to guard you, just to make sure we get out of here before someone else gets dead.”
“Aw, man. That sucks. Everson was an asshole, but he was kind of funny. How’s Cap taking it?”
“Rough. But you know him. He’s got a plan.”
“Thank Christ. ‘Cause I’ve got nothing.”
“Just get us out of here, bro. Things are getting scary around here.”
“You bet.” Dirk turned back to Engine Six, and Aladnadine aimed the pulse rifle at the back of the mechanic’s skull.
Drake rushed into his room and set up three glasses. He poured whiskey into each one, almost to the brim, and he handed two to the ladies. “Drink up.”
“Jesus,” Janna said. “I only weigh one-twenty-five. This might kill me.”
“Drink just enough for a buzz,” Drake said. “We need to keep our heads, but the booze needs to stay in our blood for a few hours.”
Pamela shrugged and downed a quarter of her glass without so much as a grimace.
Janna sighed. “I hate this stuff. I have vodka in my quarters. I could—-“
“This is a priority,” Drake said. “Drink up. That’s an order.”
Janna took a swallow and gagged. Weakly, she said, “We’re not military, Drake.”
“I’m still the captain, and what I say goes. Now, what do we have in the shipping hold? Anything that would be of use to us?”
“The manifest is in my quarters, too.”
“Janna, I know you’re the scientist in charge of the Raleigh Project. Just tell me what you know.”
Janna drank again. “I don’t know. Just basic supplies.”
“Not on your life.”
Drake pulled his hair back from his forehead. “Okay. Our next priority is to trick one of these things into drinking booze. Vodka sounds like the right idea.”
“Then we can use the one as a spy to trap the others,” Pamela said.
Drake noticed her empty glass. “More?”
She hiccupped. “I’m fine.”
“Winter would be a good choice,” Janna said. “If we got her, we could then get Rico. The others would follow.”
“Good idea,” Drake said. “How do we get her?”
“Um . . . .” Janna scratched her head, a weird, pained smile on her face. “I guess you could do it, sir.”
Aladnadine’s finger tightened on the trigger just as Dirk flipped a switch, and the engine room filled with a revving sound. Slowly, the lights powered up, and the air pumps coughed back to life.
“Yeah, motherfucker!” Dirk jumped up and raised a fist above his head. “Am I the man, or what?”
He turned and saw the gun pointed at his head. The smile faded from his lips as he looked down the barrel. “Um.”
“Shut it off,” Aladnadine said.
“Hey, look. I only have one engine online. It’s barely enough to keep life support systems on. We kind of need that.”
“We like it better in the dark.”
“Well, shut it off yourself.” Dirk paused, waiting. When Aladnadine made no move, he continued, “Thought so. You can’t do it.”
“Shut it down, or I’ll shut you down.”
“No,” Pamela said. “Absolutely not. This is not an option.”
“Didn’t you just dump me?” Drake asked. “Besides, this is for the greater good. If I don’t do this, we could all die. You could die.”
“Haven’t you hurt me enough?” Pamela asked. “It was bad enough that I knew you had a family back home, that I’d never have you to myself, but then you had to fuck that psycho bitch? Why? What does she have that’s so special?”
“Guys?” Janna said.
“Do you really want to get into this?” Drake asked.
“Since we’re about to die?” Pamela asked. “Sure. Why not?”
“I love you, Pammie. You’re fun. Responsible. Smart. If I could, I’d settle down with you. You’re the kind of girl I’d bring home to Mom.”
Janna tried again: “Guys?”
“And that’s why you cheated on me?” Pamela asked.
“Kind of, yeah. For one, you never sucked my dick, no matter how many times I’ve gone down on you.”
Pamela rolled her eyes. “Oh, God.”
“You wouldn’t let me do facials. No back door stuff. Nothing . . . weird, or risky. I’m surprised you let me go beyond missionary.”
“You’re so fucking superficial,” Pamela said. She wiped at her cheeks and refused to look at the captain.
“If these things are superficial, why didn’t you do them?”
“Because it’s gross!”
“Jesus. I started this relationship because I was lonely. I needed someone to fuck. But I need to get off, too. You never gave a shit about my needs. You’re one of the most selfish lovers I’ve ever known. Winter? She let me do those things. And she was happy about it.”
“You inconsiderate prick!”
“Me?! You’re the one who—-!“
“Guys!” Janna shrieked.
Drake and Pamela whirled on her in unison and shouted, “What?!”
At that moment, the lights snapped on, and fresh air pumped from the ventilation system. The room temperature, which had fallen considerably, warmed up.
“Dirk did it,” Pamela said, her rage forgotten.
“I don’t feel all of the engines,” Drake said. “Maybe he got one of them going, but that’s it.”
“We need to get out of here,” Janna said. “Captain, let’s get to the bridge and get away from this place.”
“Right. Let’s go.” As they ran to get on deck, Drake couldn’t help but think, Saved by the bell.
When the common room lit up, Snichlo cursed and grabbed the weapon he’d gotten off of Everson. “Fyub, check on Aladnadine. Make sure he completes his mission.”
The thing inside Rico nodded and took up the rifle he’d gotten from the armory before meeting up with Snichlo.
As soon as he was gone, Winter’s body asked, “What about me?”
“Lisg, I want you to stay here in case the captain and his crew decide to stop by. And be careful.”
She nodded, and Snichlo ran for the bridge. He didn’t think Drake would be showing his face in the common room, but the captain would be a fool if he didn’t try to blast out of the ghost planet’s core.
Dirk considered the thing inside Ben and decided it wouldn’t kill him. Since the guy had no technical skills, he needed someone who did. The only one on board who knew everything about the ship was Dirk. Sure, Jason knew a few things, but not as much as the mechanic.
Armed with this knowledge, Dirk thought it would be best to play it tough. Besides, if he could get the other engines going, they’d be able to escape. He’d be a hero.
“Sorry, buddy,” he said. “I’m getting back to work. Shoot me if you gotta’, but—-“
Aladnadine fired, spreading hunks of Dirk all over Engine Six. “Dumb bastard.”
To be continued!