Author's Note: Oh my gosh, I finally got this done! Sorry to keep you guys waiting for so long, but I promise this chapter was worth the wait. You'll get some much needed info and of course lots of blood, sweat, and tears. I put that into this fic and that's what will come out. In a couple of chapters shit really hits the fan so be looking forward to that. Unfortunately, I won't be able to update for a few weeks or even really work on this the coming week or so since I have some exams I really need to be prepared for, but rest assured I'll update when I can. Happy reading guys!
Still grasping her by the wrist, Jerry half dragged, half led Noelle down a maze of halls and corridors at a breakneck pace she could barely keep up with. He spotted a recess in a wall with a partition and pulled her behind it.
"Are you okay?" He asked her while he peered around the partition to make sure they hadn't been followed.
"Yeah, I'm fine." She answered with a bit of difficulty. She was panting from the exertion of their flight. "Are you okay?"
"Sure am." Jerry turned from the hall with a huge smile and wrapped Noelle in a tight hug. "I'm just so happy I found you before those monsters could hurt you." Noelle welcomed the embrace. Jerry's southern drawl, humanity, and familiarity were a potent balm to her frayed nerves.
"I don't think they were going to hurt me, Jerry." Noelle let go and looked him in the eye. "At least… I hope not. I'm not sure. But that's not the reason we should keep away from them."
"Why?" Jerry was a smart man, but this seemed to stump him.
"That weird fella? How could I forget?"
"He's the cause of all this."
"What d'ya mean 'all of this'?" Jerry's face started to dawn with understanding.
"Short version? The Outbreak." Noelle confirmed the suspicions she saw on his face. "And the Aegis 7 incident. Well, his family caused it anyway."
"Sweet Jesus. Are you serious? How is all this connected?"
"Damn you ask a lot of questions." Noelle teased and they both shared a fleeting laugh. "It's a really long story." Noelle peered down the hall in her own fit of paranoia.
"So… why should we been hidin' from them again?" Jerry seemed to have gathered his thoughts. Noelle was working on that herself.
"We need to find the other team members or anyone else who is running around the ship. Wolfgang and his goons are trying to kill the rest of us off, but I don't know why. His family's plan obviously failed. Why bother to keep it up? Why not escape and leave the rest of us to fend for ourselves on this alien ship?"
"But since you think these aliens might be friendly, why don't we ask them for help? You didn't answer why we should be runnin' away from 'em."
"I'm sorry," Noelle ran a hands down her face, "I'm so tired I can hardly think straight sometimes. They figured out that I escaped from the medical deck and they wanted to take me back there before I could have the chance to find people."
"They didn't believe you?"
"Not a word." Noelle said with mild amusement.
"Well, I kinda find the whole thing a little hard to swallow myself." Jerry chuckled lightly.
"We should keep moving. I'm sure they're looking for us and they're bound to come this way at some point." Noelle stepped slowly from the recessed area they had been hiding in and looked both ways down the hall to be sure the coast was clear.
"Alright, boss, what's the plan?" Jerry said with a smile.
"We need to find a way to communicate with the others." Noelle gestured for Jerry to follow her as they continued down the hall the opposite way from where they had come, "We also need a safe and secure meeting place. I had found a com-link that belonged to one of those aliens, but I left it in that bathroom…"
"Sorry I couldn't have given you more warning." Jerry looked only half serious. Explosives were not only his passion; they were also his source of humor.
"That's okay. I'm just happy you got me out of that jam in one piece." Noelle assured him.
"Well, any cowboy worth his silver spurs shouldn't feel he needs to ask permission before he saves a damsel in distress." He said this at first with humor, but then it quickly disappeared to a troubled frown.
"I hope you use that phrase 'damsel in distress' loosely." Noelle tried teasing him to lighten his mood. Jerry couldn't seem to pull off a convincing smile.
"So what happened in the theatre?" It hit Noelle that she didn't know what had gone on after she passed out.
"Well, we had gotten everyone 'cept some of the team members into the back room when those aliens started pourin' in. They had some wicked guns and fresh armor. Made ours look like shit."
"After a month without new ones it's not like they can blame us." Noelle snorted.
"Made me jealous though." Jerry winked at her. "Go that long without a new security suit and soon anything looks better." Noelle had to give that to him. The security guards like Jerry on the Ishimura took great pride in the efficiency and strength of their armor. Not being able to keep up with regular maintenance must have driven him crazy.
"So, where was I?" Jerry thought for a moment, exhaustion obviously having taken a toll on him as well, but he didn't seem happy when the memory was recovered, "Oh yeah… I saw ya go down when that big Slasher jumped ya, but I'd gotten cornered by a Leaper. It had me pinned to a wall. I shouted for someone to help ya, but I don't think anyone could hear me. Next thing I knew George had killed the Leaper and I tried to go to ya, but he grabbed me and shoved me to the back room. He shut me in with the others before I could do anything. You and him were the only two let outside when they locked the doors. I'd set explosives at the base of the stage rafters before all that happened, figurin' the doors might not hold if we had to hide there. I wouldn't detonate the charges since you were still out there and I kept telling the fella guarding the door to let me out, but he wouldn't hear it. I was about to slug him when Jared beat me to it. Knocked the guy flat on his ass. Well, the son of a bitch had snatched the control board to the fuses out of my hand as he went down. He detonated everything and sent two tons of metal down on the door and stage." Jerry paused for a moment and it looked like tears were threatening to spill over. He had stopped in the middle of the hall and turned towards Noelle completely.
"As soon as that man hit that button I just knew you were dead." Another tense pause, "Funny thing is, I never gave a thought to George. Maybe I'm heartless for that… or disloyal, but all I could do was stand there and the only thing I could think was 'Oh my Lord, she's gone…'"
"Sweetheart, I've seen a lot of things in my years. I've seen men lose the ones they love. I've seen women lose people too. But never in my thirty-seven year have I ever seen faces like the ones Merrilee and Jared had. You would have thought the entire world had just caved in. That little Brit started pounding on the doors and screaming your name like she could have reached you just like that. Jared was a whole nuther story. He got this real dark look to his eyes that gave me chills. I've never seen him like that ever. He always smiles. Always. But he snatched that guy up from the floor and had him pinned to the wall so fast it made my head swim. Started hollering at him- callin' him a murderer and a bastard- so loud that it hurt my ears. The people behind us started panicking because I think they thought Jared was gonna kill him."
"I don't think Jared would have done something like that." Noelle assured him, her voice quiet.
"Noelle, I don't think he would have killed that man…" Jerry looked her dead in the eye and spoke matter-of-factly, "I know he would have killed that man. He had him by the neck and the only thing that stopped him from throttling the guy was me. I had to drag him off the fella. I was able to hold him long enough till he calmed down and he eventually listened to me when I told him there was nothing we could do."
"So… they think I'm dead?" Noelle asked in horror.
"Most likely." Jerry said, his voice hollow. Suddenly he reached out and grabbed Noelle, pulling her into a tight hug. "I thought you were dead."
Noelle didn't hesitate in returning the hug, but looked up from the embrace to see tears falling down Jerry's cheeks. She only held him tighter as she realized she had thought him dead and gone as well.
"I feel awful." Jerry's voice shook and his chest heaved, "I just stood there and did nothing. You were out there and I didn't do anything."
"There was nothing you could do, Jerry." Noelle told him soothingly. She tried to comfort him in any way she could. It was obvious he felt racked with guilt, but the fault was absolutely not his. There really was no blame to assign; she had just been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
"It's okay, Jerry," Noelle said softly, "There was nothing anyone could do. It was just bad luck."
"I should have done somethin'." Jerry buried his face on her shoulder. "I should have done somethin'."
"Stop it, Jerry" Noelle raised her voice a bit, "Don't do this to yourself. You said it yourself that nothing could've been done. What would you have done? Stood there and pounded in the doors in vain? I would have much rather seen everyone keep calm than throw fits over me." Jerry pulled his head up and looked at her. To her relief tears no longer streaked his face.
"You're a lot more important to us than you give yourself credit for, sweetheart." Jerry said with a warm smile. Noelle could only smile back in gratitude.
"Thanks, Lone Ranger." She patted him firmly on the shoulder after she gave him one last tight hug.
"Any time, sweetheart." Jerry let her go and they stood silent for a while, "Sorry I lost my cool there for a second. When you think someone's dead, but they show up anyway, it's like seeing a ghost. When I figured out you were real it just kinda hit me like a sack of lead."
"Don't worry about it." Noelle dismissed it with a wave of her hand, "Not like I've been the most emotionally stable person either. Rode an elevator and all of a sudden could have sworn there was a Slasher in there with me and I was back on the ship."
Jerry's face sobered, "You been haven' those hallucinations too?"
"Yeah…" Noelle stood mystified, "Wow, I'm not the only one. Thought I was finally just losing my marbles."
"I don't get it." Jerry explained, "Your uncle took the Marker down to the planet. Why are we just now having these hallucinations when others had them right when they unearthed the thing?"
"Have you seen Isaac!? Is he okay?" Noelle inwardly panicked. Where was her uncle? Was he alive? Was he on this ship?
"Sorry, I haven't seen him. I wish I had. He sure could think of something to get us out of this jam. But hey, you're just as smart as him and you're his niece. You'll get us out of this."
God I hope so, she thought. "We need to find him. Soon. But something's not right though. I'm sure he made it to the planet with that Marker. If this ship is even so close it's orbiting the planet we'd be too far away to feel it's affects." She greatly suspected Wolfgang and all the other Osiris followers on the ship had something to do with it, but for now she had no idea how.
"We should keep walking." Noelle gestured for Jerry to follow her, "All this standing around and talking is making me nervous."
"Sorry." Noelle couldn't help but feel guilty at Jerry's apologetic expression.
"Don't worry about it." She playfully punched him on the arm, "You needed to get all that off your chest. So what happened after that all that trouble in the back room? You guys obviously got out of there somehow."
"Well, that's where the story gets really interesting. We could hear guns going off for several minutes. Jared and Merrilee had given up by that point and were standing real quiet near the front. All of a sudden all the noise stopped and we could hear voices, but they were pretty dampened by the door. The talking got closer and closer until I could tell they were right in front of the pile of metal in front of the door. A few minutes later it sounded like bolt cutters and plasma saws started revving up. Those creatures must've started cutting and moving the rafters to get to the door. Everyone else figured that out pretty quickly too; almost started a full blown panic. Thankfully Jared and Merrilee stepped in and calmed everyone down. I was glad to see they weren't going crazy like I thought they were.
"Well, so it took them about half an hour to cut a path to the door. I was sure surprised they were that quick. Those things started tapping on the door and calling out for us to let them in." Jerry started chuckling a bit. "No one budged."
"Freaked the hell outta me that they spoke English." Jerry shook his head. "Made me wonder how they learned it and how much else they knew about us."
"How'd they get in?"
"They must have used something like a blow torch to break the bolts on the door. They were able to pry it open. It had been almost pitch black in that room so when those things came barging in they practically blinded us with those lights of theirs. I was so scared, but I just stood and waited to see what would happen. They came in all decked out in combat gear and kept telling everyone to keep calm, that they were there to help. I don't know what possessed everyone, but they started pulling weapons. That bastard Jared nearly strangled had a baton and swung at one of those aliens, but missed. Thankfully Jared stopped him before he could get another swing in and punch him square in the face. Knocked him out cold. I'd bet anything he wasn't too broken up about that."
They must have thought we were all gonna go after them, so they pulled their helmets down and tossed these little silver balls at our feet that started pumpin' gas into the room. I kinda lost my shit and kicked one away and it flew and clocked one of those aliens in the head." Jerry covered his mouth to suppress a laugh. "I'm sure they're not gonna exactly thank me for that. Must have been some kind of sedative since I saw people start to drop, but at the time I thought they were killing us. That was the last thing I remember."
"Jeez, what a night." Noelle let out a short sarcastic laugh, "I've had college memories tamer than that."
"You're not a' kiddin'." Jerry shook his head. "Woke up lyin' on a table with those things standing over me."
"How'd you escape?" Noelle's eye grew huge.
"I played dead until only one of them was standing there. It was this tiny little woman and she turned her back to get something. I hoped off the table, but she caught me and tried to grab me. That took some bravery. I felt so damn bad, but I had to wring her hand off me. Made a run for the door and never looked back."
"Well, I'm happy you're here."
"Me too." He put his hand up and Noelle and he bumped fists, "So what is this whole messy thing with Wolfgang-" Jerry stopped short, both in mid-sentence and mid-stride as he stared at something.
Noelle turned to look. Both gawked at a large blood stain smeared on the floor only a few feet in front of them that trailed farther down the hall until it rounded a corner out of sight. The stains were bright red; a sign they were fresh. Hand prints and boot treads were visible as well, telling Noelle there had been a struggle. It made her sick to her stomach. The whole scene reminded her too much of the hallways of the Ishimura. She only had to glance at Jerry and hold his gaze for a moment to know what they would do.
In unison the pair drew their plasma pistols and edged down the hall at a swift but quiet trot. Their steps were in such complete sync and they were back to communicating wordless, which put Noelle at great ease. It felt like when they had things somewhat under control after the outbreak. They had been one unit, a team, but had lost each other the night before. Now she had at least one person back in her reach. That was what helped to give her the courage and the strength to turn the corner and face whatever monstrosity reared its ugly head.
Noelle pulled up short just before the edge of the wall. Jerry followed within a fraction of a second later. The team had learned through necessity to be completely in tune with one another. Without words, Noelle indicated with a series of waves and finger pointing with one hand that she wanted to go in first and have Jerry follow in behind her as cover. Jerry nodded in agreement and understanding.
Noelle counted down from three visually with her fingers. Once she made a fist, the duo charged the corner. Like a well-oiled machine they scoped the area with their guns drawn. Eyes following the trail of blood on the floor, Noelle came across the source which rattled her like an earthquake. There, sitting about ten yards away leaning up against the wall drenched in blood, was a man. Seeing as no one else seemed to be around, but still cautious knowing the scene was fresh, Noelle moved closer. Something was smeared on the wall above the man in red, but she needed to get closer to make any sense of it. What she didn't need to get closer to know was that the man was dead. Brain matter littered the wall and floor having clearly exited from a gaping hole in the man's skull near the back. The entry wound was on his temple. His stomach was split open with his intestines sitting in his lap in a grotesque heap. The mouth was open, overflowing with blood, as if the man bemoaned his condition loudly. But to Noelle, the most eerie aspect of all was the man's eyes. The victim still had them open; two blue orbs staring into the space above them, yet seeing nothing. Noelle couldn't help but feel that at any moment the eyes would blink, the man would look over, and then ask them why they were standing there staring at him.
"God almighty…" Jerry breathed near Noelle head. He was standing right next to her, which almost made her flinch since she had been so fixated on the scene before her. She was completely speechless as she tried to comprehend what she was seeing.
Why this man? Why a human and not the aliens on the ship? A million questions took a ride on an out of control merry-go-round in Noelle's head until she could make sense of them. After she had a few seconds to think things through, she had a condensed question.
"What happened?" Her voice was nothing more than a weak whisper.
"I have no idea." Jerry answered just as quietly a few seconds later. His delayed response told her he was as disturbed as she was.
Seeing no other choice, Noelle crept closer. The nearer she got, the better she could see the horror before her. Soon it became clear that the smears above the man were words and not in any kind of ink. The message "For the White Queen" was scrawled thickly in the man's own blood upon the wall.
"The White Queen?" Jerry looked over at Noelle with utter confusion on his face, unaware of how she was handling it.
To Noelle, it felt like she had just been yanked into cold water suddenly and kicked in the gut with enough force to knock the wind clean from her lungs. She might as well have been underwater. Every time she tried to inhale she was unable to.
Noelle? Are you okay?" Jerry put a hand on her shoulder and shook her hard, "Please look at me."
"Me." She said, still staring at the macabre words on the wall.
"What?" Jerry said more quietly, try to hear her clearly.
"Me." She repeated. "This is for me." She was talking more to herself than to Jerry. The realization that others were caught in the crosshairs that Wolfgang was trying to focus on her was sinking in, leaving her feeling empty. The fact that there was little she could do about it until she had her team together and had the crew under their protection added the cherry on top of the helpless feeling trying to make itself comfortable in her mind.
"Noelle, you're not making any sense." She finally turned to look at Jerry as he spoke. She could see the concern on his face. He looked like he was expecting her to have a meltdown of some sort.
"Wolfgang and his soldiers left this as a message for me."
Author's Note: Damn, I know, I really kinda revved up the gore on this one, huh? I felt that since this is a Dead Space fanfiction I need to stick to its roots and keep it bloody and scary. I don't know if you guys find this story scary or not (no one's said so), but I hope you've all liked the plot and the direction it's been going in. Please leave some reviews. It motivates me to keep writing and basically makes my day in general. Seriously, I squeal and spazz like an idiot when I get an email that says someone reviewed this. I think my roommate may be concerned. :B Anywho, happy reading!