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PART 1 - CHAPTER 1

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PART ONE
—THE GENETIC KEY—

"Immortality a fate worse than death." Quote by Edgar Shoaff

Sarah Lawson had flashbacks at the most inopportune moments. Not random brain meltdowns from a past she'd much rather forget, but repetitive replays of a horrible event that occurred twenty-five years ago in the year twenty fifty-two. These episodes as she liked to call them, weren't nightmares or daydreams; they were more like trances. A vivid memory that felt so real and lifelike, she could smell the distinct odor of burning flesh and hear the terrified screams as everyone—security chiefs, high ranking personnel, and your average every day lab techs—ran for the escape pods.

Emergency beacons flashed their intermittent strobe lights, providing a shadowy frame of reference in the pitch black interior. The main power had been shut down in the core reactor room. Soon there wouldn't be gravity, air to breathe, or warmth to guard against the subfreezing temperatures of space.

Sarah sprinted through the corridor, racing by pipes and electrical conduits fixed to the walls, her husband in tow, struggling to keep up.

People darted through doors into the labs, the lounges, the mess hall, anywhere they thought safe. But nowhere was safe, not with that thing hunting for fresh blood.

Savage did not begin to describe the creature lurking the dark corridors.

A beast driven by pure primal instinct fit much better.

There was nothing anyone could do to stop the creature because there were no real weapons on site, just stun guns called Vipers. Until now, there had been no need for the use of deadly force. Besides that, the space station was a research facility, not a military installation, though the U.S. Navy had a small contingent here under the guise of scientific advancement. Even so, no one wanted to puncture the outer shell with a bullet and lose pressurization. So the most logical solution were the Vipers. They came in pistol and rifle form. The latter with a neat supercharge feature, which helped fend off the creature long enough for some of the crew, staff, and visitors to escape. But not everyone got away.

With gravity losing its hold inside the station, Sarah took a sharp swing for a flight of stairs leading to the next level. She hustled down the steps with an off balance and awkward gait, the soles of her shoes tapping up and down in rapid succession. Her husband, Jake, lumbered a few feet behind her, doing his best to keep up. Around her, the gunmetal gray walls glowed crimson with the flashing beacons. The lighting didn't help the jittery nerves turning flips in her stomach. The anxiety swelled and tried to push its way up through her throat. Sarah tasted the bile in her mouth, but forced it away, deep down in her gut, refusing to give place to the thoughts of vomiting. She crammed it away in her subconscious mind. That's what she had to do. Mind over matter. She had to assume control of the one thing that had taken over this outpost.

Fear.

It was everywhere. On every face she passed in the halls.

As they darted into the next corridor, tears streamed down a grown man's face—Dr. Corvin—a medical physician, a man who always portrayed an air of mental toughness and physical strength. Corvin had raven black hair and ocean blue eyes. He lived in the gym. Sarah never once saw an expression of weakness on the man's face. But he quaked and cried like a child, cutting in front of Sarah and shooting into the stairwell that led up to the level from which they just came, which didn't make sense. The pod bays were ahead on this floor. She couldn't fathom why he was going in the opposite direction.

But unfortunately, they didn't have time to consider the doctor's irrational behavior.

The transformation had been swift and complete, irreversible. The man turned monster hunted its victims, jerking them from hiding places, sinking its canines into their warm and soft skin, splattering blood, ripping off limbs and terrorizing the fleeing inhabitants of the remote outpost.

Sarah slowed a fraction and allowed Jake to slip ahead of her, pushing him along from behind, her husband having more difficulty with the reduced gravity. His body was tall and muscular—not ripped like a body builder, but well defined—v-shaped from the shoulders to his lean core. Ever since they'd arrived on this outpost, Jake had become obsessed with physical fitness. Since his body contained more mass, it took all he could muster to run, hop, and bounce his way forward. Sarah on the other hand was lighter on her feet. She galloped, trotted, and glided through the air with extreme precision. The reason, recently, she had visited the core reactor room on a tour with the station chief. She had paid attention to the way the laws of physics operated in the center of the wheel. The spokes, long hallways that led from the outer ring to the central hub, were partially weightless at various locations. Closer to the hub, there was less gravity. Closer to the wheel, there were more g-forces. Now, her previous experience worked to her advantage.

Savage roars erupted further down the long hallway. There was another ear splitting scream, and momentary silence. Then the growls intensified and the voices fell away into desperate sobs and frail cries for help. But no help came.

A hunched back figure emerged from the red-blinking blackness. The monster leaped onto the back of a woman and sunk its canines into her neck at the base of her skull. Her flailing arms and legs went limp. Her head gone from her shoulders in one bite.

Sarah's heart fluttered in her chest, pounding so hard her breath became lost to the intensity of the moment.

She lost control of her forward motion, but managed to snag Jake by the collar of his shirt, dragging him down to the floor in a near weightless tumble. With enhanced reflexes, she hauled Jake to his feet...and stepped in front of him.

The creature stood between them and the escape pods.

Sarah sucked in a breath, a brief sigh of trepidation as the gasp of air rolled over her lips. She tried to hold Jake back with an outstretched arm in order to force him away from the source of the danger, but he would have none of it. He drew her close from behind and looped an arm around her.

Sarah would protect him with her life. They had been through so much together. Their romance starting at the bottom of a deep blue ocean on Earth, diving the depths, filled with adventure, love, passion...even reaching the stars.

"Quiet," she whispered to Jake, her eyes wide and intensely locked on the creature as it blocked their avenue of escape. "Stay back and don't move. Let me handle this."

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