Chisel & Groove: Chapter Eight
Copyright © 2012 by Stuart Wakefield
All rights reserved by the Author
Chisel sat up, his face smarting from a rough slap. Groove hunkered down at his side, soaked to the skin, his hair plastered to his handsome face. Bundled next to him was spare clothing—a uniform—and a gun. Klaxons bellowed around them.
“What happened?” Chisel reached out for Groove’s support, stood up, and discarded his sodden gown, wondering why he was in it considering his last memory was being in his uniform. Yes, that was it; he’d been talking to the apparition and then—
“Ship dropped out of nowhere. Sheared through the bow. Heavy damage to all decks.” Groove held out the clothing, fear in his eyes.
“One of ours?” Chisel zipped himself into the suit.
Groove shook his head. “Nothing I’ve ever seen before.”
“Gone, but the vacuum shield has sealed off the breach to—”
“Maintain integrity, I know.”
Chisel gritted his teeth, took the gun, and shook off what must have been a dream. He’d try and find out how he’d got here later, if he had time.
There was no way of knowing how many senior officers had been on the command deck during the impact and, as effective as command continuity drills were, he guessed no one on board had prepared for anything quite as grave as this.
He didn’t know they’d been boarded, and Groove would have said, but he remembered the apparition’s warning. “We have to get off this ship. Where are the lifts?”
“They’re all out. I had to use the service shafts to get down here.”
Chisel looked up. “We’ll use that service ladder to reach the deck above.”
As they climbed, Chisel realised how far he must have fallen as broken yellow chunks of storage containers shrank beneath them. What he couldn’t figure out was where the water had gone, and why he’d been in a wet gown. He’d never walked in his sleep before.
The ladder led up to a central service passage, with doors leading off to parallel corridors used by crew.
Chisel stopped to listen at the first door. Groove stopped beside him but stayed uncharacteristically silent. Chisel wondered if their escape from his workshop had taught Groove to trust in his training and judgment. Right now, an augmented soldier, albeit a retired one, was Groove’s best chance of survival—even if Groove was a trained agent. Chisel found himself watching Groove lean in at the door to listen, his eyes turned down, and his lips parted. Groove’s lashes were long, his bottom lip full, and Chisel fought off the urge to kiss him.
“Nothing.” Chisel indicated for them to move on.
At the third door, Chisel listened for only a moment before releasing the safety on his rifle and waving Groove back. Muted thuds of gunfire, marginally louder than their breathing, sounded in the passageway.
Groove’s eyes widened with concern as Chisel reached for the door controls. “Are you sure about that?”
The soldier shrugged his shoulders and a smile played across his lips. “There has to be some of us the other side; we don’t shoot at nothing.”
The door swung open to reveal a standard ship corridor stretching out on either side. Figures poured into a doorway far away on the right and a small squadron was barricaded further up on the left. The gunfire died away the moment Chisel and Groove leapt into the corridor.
Chisel rolled sideways as he opened fire on the advancing threat. “Run.”
Groove needed no encouragement and Chisel followed. The smell of rotting flesh closing in behind them was unbelievable. Their enemies collapsed under renewed fire from both the men ahead of them and Chisel himself. He saw a spatter of blood narrowly miss Groove as he vaulted over the barricade. He dove over it himself and immediately swung around to continue firing.
“Glad you could join us,” an olive-skinned soldier grinned, punching a fresh cell into his blaster. “We were getting lonesome!”
Groove nodded and gave him a half smile before pausing his fire to look into the corridor. To his surprise, the enemy was a crowd of decomposing bodies, their advance slowed by dead bodies piling up in front of them. Those that remained were still trying to reach the small band of troops. Chisel fired off another volley out of repulsion and fear until Groove reached up and pulled him back down behind the barricade.
“You okay?” Groove scanned his face before turning back to the olive-skinned soldier. “What’s the situation?”
“Erm—we’re fucked?” The man yelled over the thunderous fire ringing out around them.
Chisel chuckled and stuck his gun backwards above his head, shooting randomly. “It’s great being in the thick of things.”
Groove didn’t look so sure and Chisel was surprised to find the thought of being driven back into the end of this corridor, and possibly crushed, wasn’t as appealing as getting the hell off this ship. He stole a look over the barricade, bolstered by the knowledge that the enemy were indeed unarmed.
“Is that door operational?” He jabbed a finger towards the doorway behind them.
“Negative,” the soldier replied. “All arterial doorways have been sealed.”
“Why?” Chisel said, squeezing off a volley of pulses into the congealing mass of advancing bodies.
“Damned if I know!”
Chisel turned to Groove, jerking his head towards the door. “Shall we?”
Groove was off in an instant, thrusting himself away from the barricade towards the doorway, and scrabbling across the floor as he lost momentum from the launch. Chisel walked backward, alternately providing cover and checking Groove’s progress.
Groove faced the control panel, his expression pinched with concentration. “I know every override code on the ship but this one. I’ll have to try and short the circuits out.” In less than a second a panel dropped to the floor and Groove plunged his hand into the mess of wires behind it. The door shuddered and started to slide up enough for him to squeeze through.
“We’re in. Get the others!”
In the split second it took for Chisel to look round at Groove, something massive broke through the wall of bodies and loped towards them. The thing flattened the barricade under a heavy limb, crushing some of the men but throwing some clear, including the olive-skinned soldier who came skidding towards Chisel.
Chisel’s gun came up in an instant and, with lightning precision, put several blasts into the thing’s head. Momentum carried it forward but it looked dead. After one more step it toppled. Chisel and the soldier skittered backward toward Groove until he grabbed them and hauled them back through the opening.
“Groove,” Chisel said, his lungs burning with exertion. “Now might be a good time to close the door.”