The Mausoleum

January 1, 2184 EC // 7.3.6 SW
Early Evening SW-CP-Local Time
Outside the Sotillo

Thunder and lightning raged in the skies above the colony. A blue bolt danced over the craft in the distance. Shusett raced the ATV towards the Sotillo, he was covered in a large disposable raincoat, the rain dripped from the top of the hood. There had been no further radio communication, whatever happened wasn't good. The Sotillo was dark - no light whatsoever - this was worrying. He finally parked up the ATV, he left the engine running just in case he had to make a quick getaway. He had a feeling he'd have to. A small equipment kit was tied to the back of the vehicle. Contained in the kit was a flashlight, electrical binoculars, maintenance tools, and a medical kit. He grabbed the medical kit and the flashlight. As he approached the silent Sotillo he switched on the flashlight, scanning around with the light. "Hello, anyone here? It's Irving... Ladon." He realized he had never used his real name with the crew of the Sotillo before.

Shusett held the gun that he had brought earlier tightly in his other hand, he hoped that he wouldn't have to use it anytime soon. He continued to walk through the damp when he felt his boot colliding with something heavy on the ground below. Nervously he pointed the flashlight down and there staring back at him was the mangled corpse of Lyron Cham. Shusett gasped and inside it felt like his heart had taken a plunge all the way down to his bladder. "Fuck..." Cautiously he knelt down and examined the body closely, it looked like some creature of some kind had found the body and decided to feed on the remains. "I'm so sorry Mr. Cham - I should have come sooner. This is all my fault."

The remains stank of decay, the odour mixed the smell of petrichor in the air. Shusett felt awful, he felt responsible. Was this the doing of the creature he had released? What would Cowboy think when he heard when the crew of the Sotillo were all dead? Irving feared punishment, possibly an illegal execution on some backwater planet, maybe nothing at all. A thousand ideas and thoughts bounced around Shusett's mind, not a single one positive. "Fucking shit," he angrily exclaimed. He got back up and kept on looking. With each step that he took away from Lyron's disfigured body the guilt inside him grew.

With the flashlight still lit, bright Irving discovered a maintenance access shaft near the central landing skid. He had to move the ATV and stand on top of it to reach the hatch. He pulled out a portable access wrench that he always had on him being a technician, luckily compatible with the type of bolts keeping the shaft sealed. For about three minutes he fought with the bolts and got the shaft open. Climbing inside he came across an airtight hatch that led into the lower portion of the ship just outside the ship's bridge. It was dark.

"Completely dead," Shusett remarked to himself examining the blown electronics. Continuing out of the bridge he shuffled his way through the darkness and up to the higher decks where the power maintenance and mainframe would be located. As he ascended the ladder to C deck, the power suddenly came back on. He paused as lights popped on and electronics began to hum. That was a good sign, he hoped. He continued up the ladder and headed toward the APOLLO mainframe room, stopping short as he saw a hatch leading down to the access tunnels; the panel was ajar.

Before he reached the hatch he heard muffled movement below and possibly a shriek. Startled, Irving aimed his gun and flashlight at the hole leading into darkness. Soon the sound was followed by another sound from the ducts like a repetitive scraping against metal just below the deck he was standing. It was heading away from the open hatch so he cautiously pointed the light down the shaft and shifted it around to get a glimpse of anything he could. Just at the edge of his hi-beam and the dark tunnel, he could make out a trail of something wet in the dim glow of utility lights. It looked like fresh blood - too fresh.

"My God," Irving whispered.

He felt a little too uneasy now, concluding that all the crew of the Sotillo was dead. He didn't want to risk venturing any further into this metal crypt. With some haste, but also with equal caution, he tracked his steps back out of the ship.

He climbed onto the ATV as the thunder and lightning continued to boom above. He switched on the engine and readied himself for his next destination, the cryo storage units, to find out what the chatter he had heard wanted with them.

Upon passing Cham's body again he held in the urge to vomit. There was something about the initial shock that made it easier to handle. He thought of all those on the Sotillo he had met and how he would never see them again, he had looked forward to taking up Bangtail's offer of potentially taking Cowboy down. But that was all history now, the horrors of this mission were settling in.

TBC

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