Chapter 07: Shadows

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"Holy shit," Allan muttered.

They had come into an immense room of black metal. There were a few work-lights in the area, but the shadows ruled this section of the ship, gathering along the edges of the light. Someone had stuck twin lines of sharp blue lights down the middle of the room, creating a pathway into the darkness. The direction they had to go.

"What...are those?" Callie asked softly.

All along the walls to either side of them were honeycombs of hexagonal doors. Several of them were open, but the majority of them were closed. Unable to deny his curiosity, Allan led the group off the blue path and to the wall. Allan stared up in mute wonder at the honeycombed chambers. What was in them? The material was a solid, flat black that looked faintly moist. One of them in the area had been opened through some unknown method. There were no panels, no buttons or switches or anything to indicate some method of control. Allan cautiously approached the open one, which was one row above those on the floor.

He peered inside.

A hexagonal tube extended about seven feet into the wall. There was just more black metal. No lights, no control mechanisms, no scanning equipment...no technology of any kind. Just black metal and empty space.

"Well, what the hell was inside?" Malone asked.

"Hopefully we don't have to find out," Donovan replied. "Can we go? This place is really freaking me out."

Allan glanced back at him. He normally seemed like the level-headed one, a man who laughed in the face of danger. Now he looked worried and pale. Fair enough. Allan sympathized greatly with him. He began to turn away, but that's when one of the nearest doors began to silently slide open. Malone called out a warning.

Everyone backed up a few steps, guns raised, trained on the smoothly opening doorway. The metal was very thin, less than a half-inch thick, and swung open on hinges until it finally came to a firm halt. An ominous gray mist poured from the opening, pooling on the floor where it quickly dissipated. Allan sidestepped twice, to get a better view into the chamber, but he couldn't see anything. The mist obscured all.

"What-" Callie began.

Something leaped from the gray haze.

Allan only got an impression of it. Something thin and dark and agile. He hardly had time to see what it was before it pounced on Malone. He let out a scream of fright that was very abruptly cut off. A hollow sound, almost like a dull pop, could be heard, and then he collapsed. Crouched on his body was...was....

What was it?

Allan stared in horror as he trained his rifle on it. It was razor thin, vaguely humanoid, five feet tall and...somehow, it seemed to be made out of little more than shadows and darkness. A pair of eyes, burning a cold, cold blue, were all it had in the way of facial features. It was looking directly at Allan, staring at him, its alien eyes burning into his...

He squeezed the trigger.

A spray of gunfire caught it in its thin midsection and the thing seemed to pop out of existence, its wispy shadows fading away into the air like ink in water. Within seconds, there was no trace that it had ever existed.

"What the fuck was that!?" Donovan cried.

"I don't know. Parker, check Malone," Allan replied.

She hurried to his downed body and shifted him slightly, then gasped. Allan joined her, staring in through the visor, into his helmet.

A skull.

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