Captain Alfred “Freddie” Parkway stood in the docking bay staring at the huge hunk of meteor-beaten metal in front of him.
A transporter. Origin unknown. He read the seriel number on the side, for the umpteenth time: AL1 HAL10W5 EVE
The maintenance androids had completed their inspection, it had been scanned, checked for viruses, explosive devices (there were still boobytrapped vessels floating about left over from the Spectre War, over 2 centuries ago), and life. All negative. Not surprising. Aside from Tabitha, the ship’s cat (she would be currently curled up asleep on the bridge), it had been years since he had come into contact with another living being.
It was time to open it up. Freddie watched the two droids as they forced the large doors open.
As he stepped inside, a metallic smell filled his nostrils. The floor under his boots was sticky. Thé droids filled the space with light, and Freddie saw that all the surfaces were painted red. No not painted. Splattered. Even before the droids identified it, Freddie knew it was blood.
In the centre of the room stood a barrel. Freddie had never seen a real one, not made of wood, like this. It looked exactly like the ones he had seen on bottles of brandy. Although it had been years since he had tasted real brandy. Probably, the last time he had been in the company of another human.
It was also the only thing in the room NOT to be covered in blood.
Knowing he should be making a swift exit, leaving the droids to investigate, Freddie found himself walking over the tacky floor towards the barrel.
The barrel was large, chest-hieght and lid-less. He peered inside.
Curled up inside the barrel was a human figure, pale and shrivelled as if all the blood had been removed from it. Clutched in the corpse’s arms was the body of a dead cat. A piece of paper lay beside the cat.
Freddie reached into the barrel and took hold of the paper. He stared at the three words.
GET OUT NOW!
From the other side of the room he heard a noise. A clunk.
Something brushed against his leg and he jumped, nudging the barrel. The body shifted and Freddie found himself staring at his own face, dry, wrinkled. Dead.
Something touched his leg again. Looking down he saw Tabitha.
He turned towards the door.
Just before the lights went out, he saw them crawling towards him