The Stowaway

Good morning, Roscoe Dixon, Galactic Medical LLC, ID# 88126. Three new updates available. First update: Location confirmed. Distance to weigh station and final destination: 0:44:06.

The drowsy space-trucker jolted to attention, his freighter’s alert system piercing through the silence of the tiny cockpit and echoing through the ship. “Well I’ll be a son of a gun. You hear that, Kiwi? We’re nearly home.” His pet parakeet, perched in her auto-feed cage above the co-pilot seat, chirped in excitement.

After five sleepless nights of hurtling through space since his departure from the medical depot, good news was exactly what he needed. His monthly trek to and from his derelict home planet of AG127 was always the same: Pick up the fresh blood supplies at the depot per Company orders, break Company orders to pick up as many refugees as possible, then head home. Rinse and repeat.

The endless nightmares that haunted him whenever he dozed off were a side-effect of the job. If the atrocities facing his people weren’t enough, the stories overheard in old diners of the mutated horrors lurking the planet didn’t ease his mind. Tales of the growing occupation of the planet by creatures that preyed on his people, requiring their blood to survive. In a way, AG127 had become a massive competition between the once-human creatures and the Company exploiting the people; who could get to the precious, disease-curing blood first?

Roscoe shuddered at the haunting thoughts and took a deep drag of his cigarette, recalling his desperate attempts as a young man to steal a ship to flee the planet. But he had to stay focused on doing what others had done for him so long ago and help them start a new life.

Second update: Blood tank #3 Integrity compromised. Service required.

“Shit.” Roscoe sighed as he rubbed his bloodshot eyes. “Well, I guess that’ll take my mind off all this,” He said to Kiwi as he looked around the cramped cockpit for his boots.

Third update: Stowaway detected onboard. Restrain per protocol 391 and submit incident report immediately.

“What?” Roscoe groaned in disbelief and rose from his seat, upsetting the layer of sunflower seeds that blanketed the cabin floor. Kiwi startled and began fluttering around her cage.

“I thought it was odd there wasn’t anyone to bring back with us this trip, we’ve normally got refugees fighting for a spot…” Roscoe pondered. “Alright. Hold down the fort, ol’ girl. I’ll go meet our new friend and get ‘em settled,” he said to his companion. “But first…” His voice trailed off as he knelt over the console to clear the ship’s system of any record of this latest refugee. With a flurry of keystrokes and a few swigs of coffee, the system was hacked and data wiped in minutes. As he headed for the door, Kiwi began chirping wildly.

“Easy, girl. I’ll be back in a jiff.” Crouching to avoid countless systems and instruments, he headed to the back of the cramped cockpit, flung open the steel door next to his bunk and descended below.

In the dark, narrow cargo hold, Roscoe stood before three rows of towering blood tanks that stretched into the darkness. Kiwi’s erratic twittering was distant but still audible over the low hum of the ship. He struggled to listen for any sign of the stowaway. He initiated the bay’s light panel on the wall closest to him, but the flickering bulbs did little to brighten the space. Before Roscoe could take a step, he heard the faint patter of feet echo from the far end of the bay. An unwelcome chill shot down his spine.

“Hello?” He yelled, but only Kiwi’s chirps and dripping sounds responded. “It’s okay, I’m a friend. I helped the Albanes last month.” Roscoe listened before trying again. “You know the Albanes?” No response came. He walked slowly to the nearest row of blood tanks, finding the source of the drip. The tank had been punctured and a steady trail of blood trickled down its side. Probably just got smacked during onboarding, Roscoe thought anxiously, not sure if he believed that.

“Alright, come on now. There ain’t nothin’ to be afraid of!” he yelled to the back of the room. “Shit, maybe the sensors are on the fritz and there ain’t a damn thing. Wouldn’t be surprised,” he muttered to himself. Roscoe took a deep breath and walked to the corner of the long room, past sealed loading doors that led out into the dark vacuum of space. He grabbed a rusted flashlight from a dusty shelf of tools. “Last call!” He yelled before flicking the switch.

He dropped the flashlight as fast as the beam shot on. In the split-second of light, Roscoe saw a flash of what looked like a grey and thin withered arm as it retreated out of sight behind a wall of blood tanks. “Shit!” he whispered to himself. Roscoe fumbled on the ground for the flashlight but the bulb had shattered. Get it together, man, he thought. You’re seeing things. It’s just some scared little kid or something. He yelled out one more time. “H-hello?”

Nothing but a hollow, raspy sound like someone breathing in deep lungfuls of water responded. Roscoe could feel the blood leave his face. “Okay, fuck this,” he said as he hurried back towards the cockpit.

Suddenly, there was a plink followed by a loud clanging as several tools hit the floor. A tall and gaunt shadow scurried quickly out of the darkness towards the cockpit. It moved past the loading doors and dim lights, briefly revealing a glistening, humanoid form.

It was the last thing Roscoe saw before the lights went out, and the sound of the cockpit entryway locking filled the room. He could hear Kiwi chirping frantically, then a crash and silence. Roscoe stumbled his way through the darkness, pounding desperately on the cockpit door as his cries echoed through the storage bay. Then the ship’s alert system shot on:

New update: Storage bay loading doors online. Stand clear – Doors opening.

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