Chapter I

The trajectory was matched to the object. Four mercenaries watched behind a window and on display screens as two miners used a hoist to pull the small craft into the bay. Doors closed and atmospheric conditions were slowly restored. The two figures got busy with plasma torches, and soon a three by three door was made. The duo was still in their space suits providing them a sense of security against anything inside the derelict craft. The mercs watched the screens displaying the miners’ fields of vision. The closest worker saw the vials first. Reaching out greedily he grabbed one. It had a lid, which he gripped and turned.

Jones, the leader of the mercs, shouted through the mic “Don’t do it!” It was too late. The top broke free suddenly and a couple small pellets popped out.

Two things then happened. First, the worker realized the mistake and snapped the top back on the vial. Second, the pellets flew and stuck to each of miners’ suits like magnets. The suit’s rigid material quickly melted through and the pellets found the flesh of their hosts. There were screams of pain, which turned to screams of terror, which morphed to angry shouts of deep guttural malevolence.

The murks were proficient. Samie and Frank the Tank ran to the bay, weapons drawn. The squad leader, Kush shut the door behind them while Lexi hit the turbos, redirecting the salvage craft away from Earth. The two miners had begun doing grotesque convulsions, joints bending wrong, heads spinning impossibly in circles inside their suits while growling like cats fighting in an alley. The unnatural motions of the joints made the cartilage and tendons crunch and grind. It also sounded like some of their bones snapped.

“Shoot!” yelled Kush. The two murks let loose with their standard needle guns. The weapons’ ammo could knock down anything, but did not have enough power to breach walls, loaded with twenty five substances and five lethal energies per round. They fired, piercing the deranged miners’ suits. The barrage dropped the miners but didn’t stop them completely. The contorted writhing bodies continued making growling noises, now more demonic than feline. From the screens Kush could see thick mucous drooling from one of the miners whose head had stopped spinning. His eyes had turned entirely dark blood red. “Get the relics and get the hell out of there!” Kush shouted.

The closest to the salvage door, Frank the Tank hustled over to the cut out opening. Seeing two more vials and two capped petri dishes he grabbed them in both hands, turned and ran for the door.

The other merc was having difficulty prying the other vial from the incapacitated squirming miner. The miner’s grip was like a machine vise. “Leave it Sami! Get the hell out of there!” The female hired gun, Lexi , yelled. It was too late, the twisted miner using the fist clutching the vial punched Sami. With a bone crushing sound he flew back into a motionless pile. Despite dislocating all joints and being injected with enough toxins to drop a herd of buffalo, the miner sprung to his feet.

Frank the Tank passed the small bay egress door and shut it behind him. He ran to the special containment reefer and carefully set the dangerous goods inside. Slamming the lid shut he clasped and locked the heavy duty container.

Meanwhile Kush saw the miner leap like a psychotic lemur towards the door, following Tank. Calmly he pressed the button to open the bay doors. Stuff not nailed down started flying out into space. The animated lemur miner lost momentum while his companion had starting coming to life somehow and was clutching for a grip. It grabbed the drone nose as he flew by, stopping his vector to space. Kush hit the release button holding the drone back and it slowly screeched towards the void of space. From the screen as he watched the miners get sucked out, he wondered if those things could die. He calculated the trajectory of the fresh space flotsam. The ship and the miners would get pulled into the sun within a month. Satisfied the hazards were beyond the reach of further contact, limited by time, gravity and distance, he turned to the two other survivors.

The jettisoned bodies and AI ship were fading into the background. Frank the Tank watched and said smiling, “It’s a three way split now. I think I’m going to buy some land in Northern Canada. What about you little lady?” He said eyeballing Lexi. The Tank was a pig. She walked over and unbuttoned her shirt. “Woah Baby” he said seeing part of her tattooed breast.

She reached into shirt. Frank the Tank was smiling, which quickly changed to a frown when she pulled out a badge. “I’m not ‘baby’ but I am ECA… so Agent Lexi will do.” Frank reached for his gun but Kush got it first. Frank glimpsed a badge was also hanging from Kush’s neck. It was the last thing he saw before the tranquilizer dart hit him.

The two agents immediately downloaded all recordings and scrubbed the computers. Their jammer was deactivated and a message was sent to the Dragon Mining HQ: Salvage problems. Casualties sustained. Mission fail. Returning to Earth for repair.

Dwight Metalloid2019

Source:Artificial Intelligence on Medium