CHAPTER SIXTEEN – Escape the Penthouse

The first thing I remember after the accident is the sound of that alarm. Continual, quick paced beeps that came from within my helmet. The flash of yellow kept on coming through my eyelids. I felt my head hurting like a truck had run over it. I unsuccessfully attempted to move my right arm, but it was being weighed down by something. My mind was swimming. Confronted writing flashing in yellow in front of my eyes, I squinted them open like I was looking at the sun. At first it said something in some alien language I didn’t understand. But as I tried to focus on it, I saw it change. “Warning!” Warning for what? I wondered. I noticed beyond this message, I could see a crack in my visor. Then I remembered.

Remembering the building collapsed, I figured I must be under the rubble. Panic set in as I attempted to move both my arms. Remarkably, my left arm began moving and the surrounding rubble moved. At that point, I pushed the rubble off of my right arm and then rested for a moment. However, as soon as I attempted to move my leg, I felt an exceptional pain shoot up my body. I had broken it. My heart rate beat faster, time seemed to become less of a thing, and I pushed away the surrounding rubble like it was made of foam. 

It didn’t seem to help, more just fell where I had moved others. However, I didn’t give up, realising that some rocks held others up. I worked with that. I understood it and began constructing a small cave. Once my body was free and I could see my legs sitting up, I stopped. The rubble had compressed my suit into my leg and I could no longer feel my foot. The pain was unbearable. I just thought at that moment how much I needed help and then it just happened. My suit administered a pain killer into my body and the writing changed from being a warning to display “Distress call broadcasting…” I took a deep breath and tried to consider what that meant. Then the answer came to me as a small, grey alien with spindly arms and an enormous head. 

Its black eyes blinked sideways as it looked at me, hovering in front of my eyes. “Is this better?” I hear it say in a high-pitched voice. I looked at it confused and then it said again, “Is this better?” in a deep voice. It then said, “Is this better?” relatively humanly and I said “yes”. “Ahh, good. So, what is your emergency?” it said to me. I explained my situation with the Stilla on board when it cut me off.

“We have had problems before on that vessel. The Stilla are back, you say? Okay, make sure you upload any files or memories you would like to keep into the Galactic Union cloud. Hold on while we activate the self-destruct! Patrol vessels should be at your position in three days to make sure they destroy all matter!”

“Did you say self-destruct?” I said as I panicked and wondering if this alien mean’t for this place to be destroyed with me and Periclum still in it.

“Yes, with enough time to…” at that moment, the figure in front of my eyes seemed to freeze and then disappear. Followed by the words, “Signal lost!” appearing in front of my eyes.

I panted for a moment, stared into space. In the distance, I could hear the banging of rock on rock filling the otherwise silent moment. Then Periclum crossed my mind. I looked at the cable still attached to my suit and gave it a tug. It wouldn’t move. I tried shouting, “Periclum!” there wasn’t any response. I dug, using my suit’s amazing strength to move the rocks into place. It must have taken me ten minutes, but I reached him.

He was laid there with one side of his suit compressed from the weight of a large support beam. He stared at me, alarming me as soon as I found him. His eyes glossy as they shone from my suit’s lights. In front of my eyes, my visor was reading his vitals with what appeared to be a heartbeat. It displayed that he had 0 beats per minute, his blood oxygen levels were very low and other things I didn’t understand. The report concluded he was dead. 

When I saw the words, “death occurred”. My heart stopped. I had this sinking feeling take over me. My breathing increased, and I felt as though the world had just collapsed around me. Literally and figuratively. I needed to get out of this situation and I decided I would take Periclum with me. I moved and my memory was a blur at that moment. All I know is that somehow, even with a broken leg, I made a cavern for Periclum. Although, wasn’t able to get the support beam off, that was crushing one side of his body. I then dug us out. When I got to the top of the rubble, the last rock was moved for me. Looking up, I saw a Stilla staring back at me. The sight made me stumble back down into the hole and I fired my weapon at the Stilla. 

Pulling the trigger, green blood splattered with chunks of green meat out the back of its head. I sat in the hole holding my gun towards the entrance. Adrenaline running through my body and my heartbeat pounding in my head. The once heavy gun felt light as a feather as I held it there, waiting. There was little movement, nothing happening. Until a Stilla showed its head, I fired. Another Stilla came round with a gun, again I fired first. I kept firing, realising this gun had so much in it. Imagining it was like wiping them out with a Gatling gun, bullets firing everywhere. I saw the words “connecting” come across my visor. Another Stilla stepped up into my view as I heard wind in the background. It was looking at something other than me. But I still fired, hit the Stilla, the force forcing it backwards. Then I heard it.

The sound was so distinctive. At first I heard its motors and metal scraping. Then a loud sound filled the room. It was a Gatling gun firing. I saw tracer fire trail across the entrance to my hole as I crouched there, placing my fingers in my ears. It was so loud. Something within me reminded me at that moment that I was connected to this EMC room. A thought crossed my mind about how much more control I had over the Stilla. 

I lifted myself out of the hole, somehow confident in knowing the Gatling gun won’t hit me. Clambered up, stuck my head out and looked around. One Stilla after another was being shot down by the Gatling gun. The force of the bullets threw the Stilla back, causing green blood to paint the rubble beneath their feet. It was a slaughter that I caused. At the time, I should have felt something for them. I thought I would feel pity or feel at least bad for their demise. However, I felt exhilarated as I watched each of them being mowed down by a torrent of bullets. 

The sight made me happy, and I felt invincible. Standing up high, I watched the Stilla being shot down around me. It felt like I was a superhero. But then, as I stood to the highest point, I was shot three times in the shoulder. It forced me back into my hole, reminding me where I was. The pain was intense, but then I just thought to myself that I didn’t want to feel the pain. Then I didn’t.

I sat down in the rubble, looking down at my shoulder as blood was being pumped out from the newly formed holes in my suit. Just at that moment, I accepted I could die, and then a strange acceptance of it washed over me. My life was so messed up anyway and so I relaxed. It was at that moment I remembered something, or should I say relearned something. I remembered back to the last time we were on the Myrmekes and how we could get out. I realised I was in an environment that could create anything. Do anything. It was time to get creative. 

My head was spinning because of the loss of blood. But I knew what I needed to do to make sure me and Periclum survived. I knew how to solve this situation and I needed to act fast before I lost consciousness. 

I needed eyes in the room. A single camera would do, high in the room. A drone. It materialised and then I soon had pictures being sent to my suit. Showing me the room. I glanced at the room just before I saw bullets fly towards it. I lost signal, and the drone crashed. From the moment I could see a picture, I saw a door open and many Stilla waiting outside to drop in. Many were also clinging to the walls, hoping to avoid getting shot by the Gatling gun. 

Next, I imagined a large metallic panel made of the toughest known substance the computer knew. The computer helped me with that one, selecting from a menu. Then it was fixed to the wall on an atomic level, preventing any more Stilla from being able to access the room. I dematerialised the Gatling gun, however, left the Stilla. I felt like I should give the ones that survived a chance to live. At that moment, I pulled myself out of the hole so I could see what was happening. I dragged myself up, leaving a trail of blood behind. 

Looking around, I could see the Stilla walking down the wall towards me. Then the hand that was supporting me slid off the rubble that was supporting it. I fell down while the Stilla were running at me. I looked at it while I laid with my head just out of the hole. Just then, I pulled my gun out and fired. I hit the Stilla’s shoulder and then hid as the rest were after me. 

I tried to think how I could get out of this situation. Then poked my head up out of the hole I was in and began firing. But I saw them all surrounded me. I had no way of killing them all with the way I was firing at them. Fear gripped me once again, my heart raced and time seemed to slow. I concentrated on how to eliminate them and visualised what I could do. Next thing I hear is the sound of wind and a bright light shining around me. The Stilla that surrounded me were being disintegrated by the EMC machine.

A big sense of relief washed over me as I saw them disappear. Then I sat back in the hole, wondering what I needed to do next and feeling dizzy. I tried to concentrate, knowing that I needed to do something fast. My head seemed clear at that moment and I could think for a moment. After a moment, I had a plan. 

There had to be a way to scan my and Periclum’s body, upload it to the computer and then let the computer send us. With a little research from a menu that appeared in the air, I could see the room was already fitted with scanners that could scan us. I just needed a device that could boost our signal and get us to an NCRN, then get us out to The Liberty. The computer gave me a selection that I could choose from. I was feeling woozy and felt a powerful desire to sleep, just as I set everything to scan me and Periclum, then upload us into the machine.

It scanned and uploaded us to be sent on our journey. I remember thinking how much I hope all of that worked just as I closed my eyes for a moment. 

I heard wind and the bright light through my eyelids. Then I heard, “You idiots! What pathogen did you bring back with you? The system is going crazy and trapped me in here with you!” I opened my eyes to see a Tuhingan shouting at me and me hearing him through the crack of my helmet. There were what looked like to be fire doors blocking the two sides of this small stretch of corridor. The same corridor me and Periclum left for the cargo ship on. I saw the Tuhingan go over to Periclum and then hover over him. He looked at me, “You brought Periclum back dead?” He looked shocked and almost tripped off the platform as he stepped backwards. “You also look like you are about to die any moment. For Bum flaps sake, I hope you had a good reason for all of this!?” I felt like I would die. I laid on the floor looking at it outstretched from me. The Tuhingan’s voice seemed to go fainter as I listened. Just then, the voice faded out and then everything went black. I guess I must have died.

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