By Sam Morrison

"I'm sorry, I didn't see where you went."
Oh shit.
I twisted and looked out of my hiding place to where the noise had come from. One of those damn protocol droids was standing in the doorway. I could hear the thing's movement motors whirring.
I slid my pistol from its holster and checked the clip. Seven rounds. And one more in the chamber. Eight. I let the slide snap forward to cock the pistol.
"The Many, sings to us…"
Double shit.
Where was the thing? I couldn't see it in the cargo bay's gloom. Damn. Better take the droid. I could take the hybrid later. I stood up from behind the crate and drew aim.
At nothing.
I looked around. The droid was standing three feet away.
"That's the TriOptimum way!"
Oh no.
The droid exploded.
The shockwave threw me backward across cargo bay. I may even have hit the wall if the crate hadn't gotten in the way. I hit it hard. Way too hard. I felt a crack in my chest, followed by a pop. I couldn't breathe properly. Ruptured lung. Cracked or broken ribs. Not good. I reached into my pack, hoping I had a medical kit. No such luck. I did have some hypos though. I stabbed the needle into my chest and pressed the stud. The drugs and nanites flowed into my bloodstream. As the anaesthetics dulled the pain, the miniscule robots went to work, mending bones, linking blood vessels, repairing my lung.
I dropped the now useless hypo, opened my eyes and looked up.
At the hybrid.
The sickly yellow eyes stared down at me out of mutilated, blood caked flesh. The tattered remnants of a blood stained uniform covered its twisted body. The worm stretched between its chest and forehead. It was holding a pipe over its head.
I brought the pistol around.
The shot drilled its way into the monster's chest, knocking it backward a step.
The hybrid's shoulder exploded, throwing the pipe out of its hand and clattering on to the metal deck.
"Arrrgghhh, kill me!"
The final bullet exploded into the thing's jaw, ripped through its brain and removed the top of its skull. The creature screamed a final time then lay still.
I wiped the blood off my face and stood up. God I wish I hadn't asked for this assignment. That I wasn't on this god-forsaken ship. In the week since we reached Tau Ceti V and landed there, this dream mission had turned into a living nightmare. I knew that on the upper decks, the eggs containing the worms that had twisted these men and women into mockeries of themselves decorated the walls, floor and ceilings. Or so Delacroix's log had said. From the eggs came worms that attached themselves to people's brains, altering their DNA into that of the hybrid's. Taking over their minds. But not completely.
The hybrid had asked me to kill it. Part of it wanted me to.
Get me out of here.
The TriOptimum had spent millions since their re-licensing designing and building this ship. With the new Faster Than Light drive, it could reach star systems far beyond humanity's reach.
I wish they had stayed that way.
Whatever the hell these creatures, these "annelids" were, we couldn't let them reach Earth.
The UNN had sent the Rickenbacker and a huge squad of troops - including me - to protect the Von Braun.
I don't know who was going to protect us.
I remembered what I was here for. I walked over to the cargo lift on the other side of bay and pressed the switch. I needed to find that card.
The lift pulled up at the second floor of the bay. I searched it quickly. Nothing. I returned to the lift and hit the switch again. The lift rose to the third floor.
A quiet sound of motors heralded the turret on that floor. The gun turned to face me.
No cover for ten meters. I brought the pistol to shoulder height and aimed.
The bullet pinged noisily off the turret's armored shell and did nothing. I dropped my aim lower.
The pair of bullets hit the rotating barrels of the turret, cracking the metal and jamming the gun. I swung my aim to the ammunition store.
The majority of the bullets in the turret exploded simultaneously, turning the turret into a smoking wreck. I lowered my arm so the pistol hung by my waist and stepped toward the edge of the lift. As I reached the edge what seemed like a huge weight rammed into my stomach. My body armor took the hit but I doubled up, winded.
"You are, not like usss…"
The hybrid swung its shotgun around to blow my head open. I took a step so my front foot was off the lift and brought the pistol up.
The bullet shattered the hybrid's skull grotesquely, throwing it backward to the floor.
The slide on the gun locked back.
With a rasp of metal on metal, the magazine began to slide free.
Still winded, I brought my free hand around to catch the clip.
I missed.
The empty magazine fell to the floor of the lift, bounced, and dropped into the gap between the floor and the lift.
The silence as it fell was horrible.
The crash it made as it landed was worse.
Oh shit, shit, SHIT!
I ran for the remains of the turret and dug through it. Inside I found a half-dozen undamaged pistol bullets. I pulled them free of the chain feed and pushed them into an empty magazine.
The triple beep of an incoming voice e-mail interrupted me.
"Greet- Greeeetings human. I require- requiirre your assistance. My Avatar is now aboard the Rickenbacker- Rickenbacker enacting my will -my willl against the annell- annelids. I wish you to go to the FTL core -the cooorrre.
"Once you are there, I will speak to you agaiiin -again. Go now."
What the…
Who was the "Avatar"? Who was the damn voice? It was familiar. Should I do what it wanted? If it was fighting the annelids…
I snapped the clip into the pistol and headed down the lift.
"Xerxes. Intruder detected."
A bolt from an arc welder zapped past my ear and liquefied the wall behind me. The massive yellow maintenance bot was standing in the mouth of the cargo bay. I swung the pistol around at its sensor bay.
The glass that covered its "eyes" cracked.
"Xerxes. Intruder appears hostile."
The glass plate shattered and the bullet crushed a dozen sensors.
Now the thing was blind, I could run.
I belted around the blinded robot and headed for the door.
"Xerxes. Intruder lost. Attempting to reacquire."
I sprinted out of the cargo bay and down the hall. It was about five hundred meters to the core control room. I didn't meet anything or anyone on the way, just corpses and destroyed equipment. I reached the control room and looked around.
"Thank- than- than- thank you. Now, go to the terminal on your left. I require the control -controol of the FTL drives. This terminal will let you give this to me. Re-route the re-route the FTL the FTL drives through computer control. I will access them there them theerrre."
I stepped over to the control panel and switched on. As I flicked through various directories and subdirectories for the FTL control files, a loud hiss came from behind me.
I spun, bringing up the pistol at the two-foot long spider behind me.
The arachnid flinched, blinked all its eyes a couple of times then lunged. I leapt to the side and swung the pistol to track the thing.
This shot wasn't so good. The bullet pinged into the deck and ricocheted into a computer console. I had one more shot to kill the thing.
The shot hit the spider's stomach, but the tough hide slowed it down enough that it wasn't lethal. As the empty magazine clattered to the deck, I threw the pistol to the ground and drew the heavy wrench from my belt.
As I did, the spider darted forward. I tried to dodge again but I wasn't fast enough.
I screamed as the spider's massive fangs sank into my leg and the toxins flowed into my body.
I swung the wrench down and brought thirty-three pounds of solid steel into contact with the spider's body. The weight, combined with the force of the swing popped the creature's body open and spattered my with venom.
A burst of pain shot through my body as the toxins began to take effect. I knew that, if I didn't get it done now, that console would never be reprogrammed.
As I went back to the console, I found a replicator. Hoping against hope, I switched it on and searched the menu. Yes! It was programmed to synthesize anti-toxin hypos! I checked my nanite stash. I only had enough for one hypo. Those spiders injected enough venom that it took two hypos to neutralize it. Damn.
I synthed up the hypo and injected it. These nanites would configure themselves to neutralize the toxins in my bloodstream. Another, lighter jolt of pain hit me as I did. The toxins were still there, just lessened. I still didn't have much time.
I returned to the console and found the FTL drive controls. I tried to move them to the central computer's control but it wouldn't let me. Hacking it was then.
I hacked into the system, using backdoors I'd found for fun while we were still en-route to this damn planet. I shut down the safety interlock that would have prevented me shifting control of the FTL drive.
I then went back to the FTL drive controls and shifted them to the central computer's control.
"Th- thank you, insect -insect. I now have control of the FTL drives -TL drives. Your paaart in this is -this is over, puppet. Now you must not interfere -erfeeeeere. Goodbye, inseeect -insect."
Oh my god. That voice.
The computer intelligence that, forty-two years ago, in 2072, had gone insane and seized control of Citadel Station. The computer intelligence that had manipulated the genetics of the station's crewmen. The computer intelligence that was meant to have been destroyed by the hacker who helped create her.
I was in big trouble.
If SHODAN was on this ship, she had control of the central computer, Xerxes. So she was in full control. And I'd given her the FTL drives. And now I was going to be killed by her agents.
Another spasm pulsed through my body. If I didn't do something now, SHODAN wouldn't have to kill me. I checked the room for bodies. There was one slumped in a corner, behind a terminal. I rifled through its pockets and found what I was looking for. A nanite container.
I sprinted back to the replicator and rammed the chip, pressing the key for an anti-tox hypo. I rammed it into my chest and relaxed. That would deal with the last toxins.
I checked the counter on the nanite container. Still over a hundred. I hacked the replicator's database and uploaded the schematics for a clip of bullets. I pressed the key a couple of times and the clips dropped into the tray. I pocketed one and snapped the other into the pistol.
A quiet, mechanical hissing and pooping came from the hallway outside the room. I knew that was what SHODAN planned to use for my demise. Twenty-four bullets had better deal with it. I stepped out of the room and swung the pistol up.
Nothing was there.
I lowered the pistol to my waist and stepped carefully out of the room.
In the hallway I saw them.
A trio of black clothed figures were standing in the passage. Hoods covered their heads, but underneath, I could see their faces were covered by electronics and vision augmentations.
At the same time, all three turned to face me. A sextet of glowing blue ninja stars embedded themselves in my chest.
Again, the body armor saved my life. But I was still badly wounded.
I swung the pistol around to target the nearest.
The bullet tore a hole in the cyborg's clothing and bounced of the metal that coated its skin.
The bullet jammed in the barrel of the gun. Without a couple of minutes to fix it, the weapon was useless.
I pulled the wrench and rushed headlong at the cyborg. Before I got two steps a volley of stars planted themselves in my chest, stomach and neck.
I collapsed to my knees and dropped the wrench. Blood was running from a dozen wounds. The world was spinning before my eyes. I tried to reach for a medical hypo, but my arms wouldn't move.
The lead cyborg pulled a laser rapier from its clothes and switched it on.
I had to stop SHODAN from using the FTL drive.
The cyborg drew the weapon back.
I had to stop SHODAN.
The cyborg bowed its head to me.
I had to-
The cyborg swung.

SHODAN smiled to herself and activated the Faster Than Light Drives. Everything was going according to her plans. Soon, her ultimate goal would be achieved.

(Author's note: I know a lot of the information in this story is redundant to anyone who's played the games, but I did it for an English assignment, so I needed to put in some background.)


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