Aloe and the others finally returned to the Bridge with a few supplies. Lenio had the Pulsator, still inoperable, but planned to fix it. Lester had managed to grab a few of his tools that could possibly help after they swung by his workshop. Aloe on the other hand, had brought up a small case she found in Faa’s lab.
“Where’s Dr. Qim?” Lenio questioned looking around.
Aloe noted her absence as well. The Bridge wasn’t that big so there was nowhere else she could be.
“And Eri?” Lester brought up. “I don’t see the lad either. He’s too hyper to be this quiet.”
Ven was silent, hands pressed against a panel, leaning over it.
“Sir?” Aloe said. “Where are they?”
He sighed, turning around slowly. “This might be hard to take in,” he started. “Eri was killed by the Thing – shortly after, I lost contact with Dr. Qim as well.”
Lenio dropped the Pulsator, which crashed with a loud thud. “Lost contact? Why did they even leave the room?”
“Dr. Qim insisted on grabbing some supplies,” Ven answered, “in case things took a turn for the worst. Eri went with her to the Medical Bay.”
Tears began to fill Lenio’s eyes. “So she’s…”
“I don’t know for sure, but she ran into It before her Caller went black. I’m sorry, Lenio.”
Lenio turned around immediately, heading for the Ascender. “I’m gonna look for her.”
Ven pressed a button on a panel, locking the Ascender.
“What are you doing?!” Lenio yelled. “Unlock the door!”
“I can’t let you go out there, son,” he replied sharply. “I’m sorry about Dr. Qim, I really am, but she’s gone and I can’t risk losing someone else.”
“You don’t know that for sure!” Lenio roared back. “Unlock this door now!”
Ven stood unmoving. Lenio turned around, attempting to pry the doors open with his hand, but it was useless. Lester headed over to the surveillance display.
“Sir, if I may,” Aloe began, “maybe Lenio is right. Dr. Qim could still be alive.”
“Hey everyone! I see her!” Lester exclaimed.
The others rushed over to the screen. Lenio barged his way to the front to see. The feed showcased one of the corridors. Dr. Qim was seen running through the halls. She stumbled a few times looking back – she looked terrified and very exhausted. They couldn’t see what was chasing her though. She turned at the corner, disappearing off the feed.
“Where is she?!” Lenio screamed at Lester, who flinched from having him yell in his ear. “Find her! Hurry!”
“Alright, lad,” Lester said, shifting the view of the feed to another hallway.
The view was changed, but she wasn’t seen in it. He changed it again, but just missed her as she quickly flashed by, turning a corner.
“Lester!” Lenio said, impatiently.
Lester was beginning to look agitated, but he bit his tongue and complied. He finally found her reaching the end of the hall with the main Ascender’s doors. She could be seen pressing the panel to summon it, but it wasn’t responding. Her face was consumed with terror as she pounded onto the panel, glancing back. Behind her, a black cloud slowly began to swarm up to her.
“She’s right below,” Lenio announced, heading for the lock. “We gotta let her up.”
Ven quickly stepped between him and the button.
“Chief, get out of the way! We have to let her up!”
“And risk letting those things up here as well?!” Ven brought up.
“We don’t have a choice,” Lenio argued, attempting to get by him.
Ven held him back effortlessly, pushing him away. Lenio was large, but the Chief was stronger. “You’re not thinking clear, Lenio!”
“Oy!” Lester called out, “I think I see Eri! He’s approachin’ her fast!”
Lenio doubled his effort to reach the button, but still couldn’t pass. In a last ditch effort, he turned to the others. “Guys?” he pleaded.
“She makin’ a run for it!” Lester announced from the screen.
“Aloe? Please?” Lenio said, tears forming in his eyes.
Aloe was speechless though. She didn’t know what to do.
“Corporal, you stand-fast!” Ven bellowed, pushing Lenio back again.
“Vexus’ Great Pull – it’s got her! She’s trapped in the Dinin’ Lounge with nowhere to go!” Lester continued.
Lenio raced over to see, pushing Lester away from the screen. “Eri” stood at the doorway, blocking the exit. Dr. Qim could be seen backing up into a corner of the room. It walked over to her slowly. As it did, she slid down the wall to the ground, curling up into a ball like a child. The Thing loomed over her.
Unexpectedly, it exploded into a large cloud like a swarm of bees, completely engulfing Dr. Qim. She thrashed about on the ground, rolling around with them covering her. Streaks of blood were flung in all directions, coating the walls and ground. Like before, the feed was interrupted by many of the insect-like creatures crawling over it, forcing the screen to go black.
Lenio held onto the screen, dropping to his knees. He sobbed quietly to himself with his head down. Aloe and Lester were speechless – looking at each other, hoping the other had the answers.
Lester was finally the one to make a move. “Lad?” he said, reaching over to comfort him.
Before he could touch him, Lenio launched onto his feet over to Ven. Without hesitation, he punched him across the face. The blow was hard enough to knock him clean off his feet. Aloe was ready to rush in to restrain him if he planned to unleash his rage on Ven. In hindsight – it would have been futile considering her size against either of the large men. She might as well have been a star fighting off a Vexus.
Lucky for her, Lenio didn’t continue. He was trembling out of anger though – white knuckles baring with his fist shaking.
“You did this,” Lenio said softly. The tears hadn’t left him. “You let them go out there – you got them killed.”
He appeared as if he wanted to say more, but it was clear the anger was preventing the rest from coming out.
“Lenio?” Aloe said softly, attempting to comfort him.
He immediately brushed her off. “And you’re no better. I expected more from you of all people, but you just watched and let it happen.”
He stormed off into one of the corners, sitting down, facing away from them. She could hear him sobbing quietly to himself.
“Are you alright, Sir?” Aloe asked, helping Ven off the ground.
“Fine,” he replied, rubbing his jaw. “Please tell me you found out something we can use against it.”
Did the man even care about Dr. Qim’s death? she thought. Vexus – he seemed to brush it off like it was nothing.
“Not much, Sir,” she answered. “Faa’s reports were helpful in establishing that it’s some type of ‘alien’ insect.”
“I’ve gathered that much,” he replied, looking over at the surveillance screen. “What else?”
“She mentioned a possibility of them being related to Cicadas – maybe ancestral by origin, but…” Her words fell flat.
“Sir – after seeing what they did to Dr. Qim, I don’t know what we can consider valid anymore,” she finished.
Ven cursed under his breath. “That’s it, I gather?”
She simply nodded.
With that, he headed towards the back of the Bridge.
“Sir?” she called after him.
“I’m going to push this up to the Captain,” he said without turning around.
“Option B, then, Sir?” Lester chimed in.
“We have no choice,” he replied, continuing forward. He turned into the small groove behind the wall next to the panoramic display.
“And that’s where we stand right now, Ma’am,” Ven finished up. “I’m requesting a transport for the rest of my crew.”
The chrome sphere’s lights appeared be more active than usual.
Chief Ven, she began, you were specifically ordered to update upon rectifying the reports.
“I know that Ma’am, but circumstances–”
However, in spite of recent events, your failure to comply is justifiable. With that said, your request for evacuation has been denied.
“Denied?” Ven repeated. “Then what are we supposed to do? I’ve already lost three of my crew. Are we supposed to just sit here and die?”
She didn’t initially reply. The silence left Ven irritated nonetheless.
Your course of action, she began after a minute had transpired, is to send remaining reports for Rev three including the abnormality.
“The reports?” he started, feeling the anger boiling inside him. “What about–”
Following that action you are to quarantine your crew and await further guidance.
“That’s it?!” he asked.
You have your orders, Chief Director Ven. You are dismissed.
The vexing bastards! What good would that do, just sitting here? It was easy to say that when they were nowhere near the danger. They were lucky enough the Thing didn’t try and attack them while they were on the Bridge, but how long would that last? Vexus – was this how Lenio felt when he had made a similar decision with Dr. Qim?
Ven returned back to the Main Bridge. Immediately upon re-entering, Aloe came up to him.
“I’m Sorry, Sir. I tried to stop him, but I couldn’t,” she said solemnly.
Ven glanced around the Bridge, noticing Lenio missing from his corner. The vexing b*****d. Could he really blame him though?
“He took the Pulsator with him as well,” Lester brought up. “Just took off with a vengeance. Lad’s gonna get himself killed.”
Ven sighed. “It’s alright, Corporal. It couldn’t be helped.”
“And what did the Captain say?” she asked. “Are we cleared to get off this vexing ship?”
He shook his head, running his hand through his hair. “Our orders are… to remain put until further guidance can be provided.”