The trip to the armory wasn't a complete waste.
Eric had been secretly hoping for something that would pack more of a punch, something that would help them take out the creatures with ease. Well, not ease, exactly, that felt like it was asking for too much. But to facilitate their death more smoothly, at the very least. The armory was a medium sized room, not just a place to store guns and ammo but also to work on the guns and also body armor. In between the crates, smudged glass cases and lockers, there were workbenches with scattered tools and spare parts.
Eric knew that to some people it might seem very odd, possibly illegal, for an isolated cargo pit-stop to have a well-stocked armory, but anyone living on the fringe knew that not only was it legal, it was recommended and, often, necessary. Life along the Far Reach alternated sharply between mind-numbingly boring and ridiculously lethal. It was all too easy for a group of raiders or slavers to swoop down and overrun your ship or your station and often Search & Rescue or any Galactic Alliance military personnel were too far away to get to you in time. Space was huge and mankind was spread too thin.
Although it was obvious that the armory had been well-stocked, it had been almost thoroughly cleaned out. Eric wished there was some kind of electricity-based weapon he could find. They seemed fairly susceptible to it, but the best he could come up with on the fly was an overcharged stun pistol and he couldn't even find one of those. He supposed if he had enough time he might be able to rig up something, given his technical knowledge, but they didn't really have the time. So, he and Autumn performed a thorough search of the armory.
They didn't manage to come up with as much as he'd hoped for.
"Lame haul," Autumn said as they finished up.
Eric grunted in reply. He'd secured another compact SMG, almost the same model as the one he'd had before, since he'd managed to score a kill with it and it wouldn't slow him down. He grabbed a powerful pistol and managed to snag some armor-piercing rounds, loading his pockets down with whatever he could find. Autumn also grabbed any armor-piercing rounds she could locate and she managed to find a grenade as well.
That was it.
"Better than nothing," he said as they left the armory.
They stepped back out into the corridor beyond, checked to make sure the coast was clear and began making their way down it. They had to get back to the pair of hangars where they'd been tricked into believing there was a way out. That was still fucking with Eric. He was having difficulty wrapping his head fully around the concept that these grinning lunatic creatures were anything beyond alien animals. They were just so...insane looking. He supposed, more than that, it was the fact that they were so unrelentingly brutal.
Despite all the cruelties he had seen in his life, the inhumanity, he found it difficult to reconcile an intelligence behind this merciless, almost mechanical savagery. It was so much easier to attribute this level of brutality to an empty animal mind, responding only to triggered instincts, instead of some kind of actual intelligence.
Because that begged the disquieting question: what was the purpose of such violence? What were they doing?
There were pieces of a puzzle here, a terrifying puzzle, and Eric wasn't sure he wanted to contemplate it. Besides the giant mystery of where these things had come from and what they were, there were subtler, more disturbing questions, like: Where were the bodies? It was obvious that they were collecting the corpses...
To what end?
Besides Amanda's severed arm, Eric hadn't stumbled across a single corpse. He imagined, with a sudden chilly intensity, that if he were go right now and track down that infirmary where he had left Seth's body lying on an examination table, he would find that very same table vacant, save for a large bloodstain. He was positive of this, in fact. In a way, it would be simpler to ascribe the missing body parts with something basic and primal. Food, for example. He could understand that. Food for the pack, for the young.
YOU ARE READING
The twelfth novel in The Shadow Wars. Eric Starck is a man adrift. After fighting in the Systems Wars that ravaged the galaxy, he's spent the past three years drifting from one job to the next, never quite feeling comfortable. The latest in a long l...