Thanks for the reviews, everyone. You know who you are. I should be writing on my essays, but I couldn't get this off my mind. Hopefully getting it up and over with will free up enough space in my head to let me finish what I need to do in order to survive. I kinda wish I could put up the banner I made for this when I was first starting, but the site doesn't quite allow for it. Regardless, enjoy.


4.

Heavy footfalls echoed in the Ishimura's hallways. Jenessa swept the hallway with her Line Gun's mounted flashlight, heavy breaths accompanying a bleeding side. The wound wouldn't kill her outright, but it was enough to make her cry out in pain when she twisted her torso. She attempted to minimize her movements as she and Kinsley tried to return to the docking bay, if only to keep herself from crying out with every step. To his credit, Kinsley was letting her take the lead and set the pace instead of forging on ahead as the marine normally would have. At the same time however his Pulse Rifle was much easier to reload if worst came to worst, and indeed the worst had come. Jenessa's bleeding side was proof enough of that, and the creature that had done it was a further embellishment of the fact.

"Ugh!" Stumbling, Jenessa balanced herself against wall for a moment as the pain shot through her body, more blood pouring from her side. She almost placed a hand over it to staunch the bleeding but, having touched one of the creatures earlier, she refused to. Even the slightest chance of contamination was enough to send shivers down her spine. With a moan, she pushed off the wall and moved into the flight lounge. The door panel slid open at her command, revealing a waiting Tousa and Ethan on the other side. She sighed in relief, nodding to her friends. "Glad to see some friendly faces…"

"Couldn't have said it better myself." Ethan agreed, his eyes locking on her side. "You alright there?"

"It looks worse than it really is," she half lied, "and we can always patch it up once we get the hell off this ship."

"I just hope Nother's alright…" Kinsley backed through the door, rifle still aimed at the hallway until he was completely inside and the door closed. When he was sure that nothing was going to rip the door down, he turned toward the others.

"Yes. We'd better hurry." Tousa nodded resolutely, heading straight for the door to the shuttle bay. The others filed in behind her, Kinsley again taking up the rear. He stopped as they were about to open the door, taking a good look at the lounge again.

"…Oh s***…" He started, looking around the room frantically.

Ethan was the first to respond, having turned around as well. He didn't see anything wrong however. "What's the hold up?"

"They're missing, man. My squad." he gestured toward the room, having wanted to bring their remains for a proper burial. "Their bodies are missing… " Realization finally dawned on him when he noticed the Pulse Rifles lying on the ground. Dead men didn't get up, and living men wouldn't have left their weapons on the floor. "Not good. Not f***ing good. Go, damn it, go!"

Almost physically shoving them through the door, Kinsley hurried them through the door and into the hanger. He passed them all in a violent hurry, running full tilt down the long walkway to the shuttle. He had almost made it there when he heard something screaming, and slowed as he spied a creature crawling up over the rails. Kinsley opened up with his rifle to his shoulder, ripping off one of its arms as the rounds tore into its fleshy frame. The monster would not be stopped however, and vaulted over the railings as it closed the space between itself and the marine.

"Kinsley!" Ethan shouted as he let fly a Cutter round, striking it dead center in the chest. It stopped the beast cold, leaving its attention divided between the two men. Kinsley didn't let the opportunity go to waste, as the marine slammed the butt of his rifle into the skull, crushing it. A second swing of the rifle toppled the creature over the railing and back into the loading area below. Kinsley turned back toward the shuttle but had barely taken a step before another creature came rocketing up and at his face. Unlike the humanoid slasher type creatures, this one had a powerful set of jaws and a whip like tail –the former of which had clamped down on Kinsley's screaming face like a vice as it tried to tear his head off, man and creature slamming to the ground with man unfortunately on the bottom.

Before the creature could decapitate the unlucky marine, a wave from Jenessa's line gun clipped off its arms and tail, surprisingly causing the creature to go limp on top of him. He shoved it off of him with a curse, kicking it as he got up. The faceplate of his helmet had been cracked by its powerful jaws, creating a web effect from where one of the teeth had started digging in. "What the f***?!"

"I don't think we're going to get to the shuttle… and it doesn't look like Nother's in there anymore." Ethan said wearily as he stood beside Kinsley, his cutter's flashlight illuminating a horribly bloodied cockpit. He shuddered visibly, swinging the light away and into the depths below. "And there are a lot more of those creatures in here!"

Skittering and screaming sounds below them confirmed it, as did another of the slasher types crawling up from the loading deck. "I've got this one." Tousa said wearily, flinging her lightsaber at it. With deadly efficiency it sliced the creature in half, leaving its legs tangled in the railing as the torso fell. Much to Jenessa's surprise, the lightsaber swirled back into the Padawan's palm as if it had never left it. "So what do we do now? I vote against saying here."

Another white hot flash of pain hit Jenessa's side, causing her to moan and almost stumble yet again as she began stepping back toward the quarantine area. The dizziness from her continual blood loss –which was more than even she had expected- wasn't helping matters either. "I-I second that…"

"Majority wins, let's move!" Ethan shouted suddenly as he ducked, firing his plasma cutter into the air as another of the leapers vaulted over the railing. It writhed in pain as it hit the deck, having missed Ethan be mere inches, but it was still moving and still ready for blood. More of the creatures were climbing up the railings, trying to surround the humans before they could escape. From the midpoint of the deck, either direction was becoming equally hazardous, and neither side guaranteed safety. Ethan decided for the group, suddenly charging for the halls of the Ishimura with is Cutter firing as quickly as it could. By no means were his shots well aimed, but they did manage to distract several of the creatures as he rushed them.

Tousa was quick to join him, her violet blade cutting down a creature that let itself become too focused on the engineer. Kinsley and Jenessa were following their companions, Kinsley pumping rounds into anything around them that was no longer human while Jenessa limped along, taking the legs off anything that tried to get close. The swarm was increasing with every moment however, and ammunition had already begun to run low. By the time Ethan reached the door he was down to just two shots in his Cutter's reserves, and he was sure that there would be more encounters with the creatures if they managed to survive this one. A river of worry and fear threatened to overtake him, but seeing the Jedi by his side gave him a good deal of hope. As he opened the door to the flight lounge, he thrust the Cutter in and checked for signs of the monstrosities. When nothing leapt out at him, Tousa moved past him and checked the room out herself as the others backed in behind her, Jenessa firing a timed explosive from her weapon before letting the door close behind her. A muffled boom and a chorus of screams were heard before everything on the other side went silent.

"Can't stay here!" Kinsley said tersely as he eyed the open vents. "Let's get to the tram. There's a chance that somebody's still alive somewhere on this ship and can tell us what the hell happened… maybe they know a way out of here, too."

"Yeah, we're not getting out of here in the shuttle, that's for sure." Ethan agreed as he took the lead, stopping to holster his Cutter and pick up one of the fallen rifles that remained in the room. He checked it over before he looked to Kinsley for guidance. "…Sorry, I'm not too familiar with these."

The marine hesitated as the girls passed them, Jenessa loading the last of her line racks. He almost said something, but thought better of it and nodded to the engineer. "Just pull the trigger. Secondary trigger in front fires the sweep. Hits everything in a circle around you, so duck and hold it up. Try to give some warning to us though. Reload here," He tapped on his own rifle, letting the half empty clip out before he slammed it back in, "and aim carefully. That's all you need to know."

"Thanks." Ethan hefted the rifle and followed in the rear with Kinsley, feeling a bit more confident for having an actual gun. Though, thinking on it as they walked cautiously to the tram, hadn't the Ishimura's security team had pulse rifles? He almost let himself despair then, coming to the conclusion that the rifle might not be all that useful in the first place. He knew that enough rounds in the right places would down a creature however, as Kinsley had shown in the hanger; that was enough to keep the engineer going for the moment. They moved into the hallway between the cargo area elevator and the tram elevator, stopping at the door as Tousa opened it.

"So, what's the plan?" Tousa said as she deactivated her saber and stepped into the elevator. She squeezed into a corner, giving more room for the other three occupants. She still didn't feel completely comfortable around Kinsley, regardless of the situation, and the cramped space only made things worse.

"Um…" This time, Jenessa did stumble as she stepped into the elevator, crying out as she collapsed into Tousa and dropped the Line Gun. In all the hurry of their escape and the general darkness of the hallway, nobody had taken the time to look at her wound in detail. In the brightly lit elevator however, nobody could miss the blood that was running down her side like a flood.

"Jenessa! Why the hell didn't you say anything!?" Ethan almost shoved Kinsley out of the way as he got in, gazing in worry at the bloody mess that was his friend. The marine moved in behind him, a bit crowded into the corner as Tousa laid the woman down on the floor and pulled her fully in. The sudden shift of the elevator traveling down caused her to whimper, but soon enough she'd recovered herself enough to sit up.

"S-sorry… didn't want to worry you guys…" She grinned sheepishly behind her helmet, giving a light shrug as the elevator ticked down to its destination.

Kinsley could only shake his head at the sight. "F***… most guys would have passed out already from so much blood loss. Why didn't you join the marines, girl?" He chuckled lightly, trying to lighten the mood. The joke went unanswered however, making him feel all the more uncomfortable. "Look, we gotta get her to medical. There's got to be some supplies there that we can use."

"Right. We'll make that our first stop." Ethan tapped his helmet lightly. "Good thinking Kinsley."

"Actually, I wasn't thinking all of us, honestly…" Kinsley sighed worriedly. "As much of a suicide move as it seems, I think you and Tousa should get to the bridge ASAP."

Ethan stood up abruptly, almost smacking Tousa with the rifle as he stood. "What?! Why the hell for?"

"Think about it, Ethan." Kinsley yelled as the elevator halted, lowering his voice as the doors opened. "The bridge is probably the most well defended part of the ship. I know they keep at least three PSEC guys on duty up there, which is a whole lot more than what the rest of the ship gets on a good day. If people were going to gather, I'd place my bets that it would be there, and not in the crew quarters. If any place on this ship is going to be safe, if that word can even apply to anywhere on this damn ghost ship, it's going to be the damn bridge." The door began closing, but Kinsley slammed his rifle against it, holding it open. "I'll take Jenessa to medical myself and get her patched up as best I can. I'm the only one here with extensive medical training, and I damn well know that I'm the best fighter here aside from the Jedi."

"So you want to make sure we survive," Tousa said as she helped Jenessa to her feet, "and put as few people in harms way as possible. It makes sense, but I don't like it."

"Well, forgive me for not taking your opinion into account." Kinsley jerked his head toward the doorway, motioning for them to move. Nobody did. "At the moment, my job is still the same as it was when we got here; make sure you're safe and that nothing bad happens. Sorry that I blew the second part of that, but these creepy mother f***ers didn't give me much choice. Ethan was only in command because this was a CEC operation at the start. With these things trying to crawl up our asses, I'd have to say that this is my jurisdiction, which puts me in charge."

"Kinsley…" Jenessa looked at him with a mixture of shock and pain. She had never heard him like this, and it scared her. The engineer turned to Ethan, who was still staring hard at the marine before him. She knew what Kinsley was saying was true, that when a situation turned hostile any military figure of suitable rank could take command if they saw fit, but she still didn't like the idea of separating.

Ethan never looked away from Kinsley, even when the elevator dinged and the Ishimura's computer announced that there was a blockage in the elevator, and that a repair crew should be notified. Finally, he sighed. "Have it your way, then… I think your making a mistake, but I can't really say no to a man with a gun, now can I?"

"Look in your own hands before talking, dumbass." He knew Ethan had meant the last part as a joke, but Kinsley didn't feel it. In fact, he didn't feel much of anything aside from cold fear. He knew what he was proposing was something of an indirect suicide, but that wasn't going to stop him. If he could help Jenessa, he didn't care what happened to him. And in his head, it didn't seem like too bad a plan. Even if the bridge wasn't safe, at least Ethan could look up what had happened on the ship, maybe even call for help in the event that somebody had fixed the communications array. Kinsley led the way, walking out onto the tram platform with the same false confidence that had been carrying him since his team had died.


The tram departed from the station with a high pitched whistle of steel and electromagnetic forces hard at work. Unbeknownst to the survivors of shuttle two, another living human had been watching them from afar throughout their entire ordeal. Through security cameras routed into his safe room, he saw their valiant attempts to survive in the face of terrible odds and horrors from the darkest corners of the imagination. Had it been any other group, he would have simply shaken his head in dismay. Life on the doomed Ishimura as humans knew it was destined to end within a few hours. And yet, the one who wielded the violet blade with such skill had piqued his interest; a faint light of hope in a dark and deadly world. The only question that remained was if it would be snuffed out, or if it would persist long enough to illuminate the darkest depths of hell…