A ship in which inexplicable things were going on and was a puzzle piece in the Enos puzzle.
Fog wafted through the room. The lighting was very dim. The walls and floors were oily. It was slippery and smelled rancid. The atmosphere on board was eerie, almost haunting. Memories came flooding back to me of the time I had worked on a Reclaimer. Only in this ship there was no noise, no life. It was dead silent. I didn’t move and listened to the silence. Suddenly, a creak and grind was heard behind me. Metal grinding over metal. I looked over my shoulder to the source of the noise. A door opened with a long drawn quieeeck. Kjeld walked in.
“Welcome to the Hydra Talis. I think it’s the Twelve.”
“How twelve”, asked I confused “Are there multiple Hydra Talis? Like the Hydra had multiple heads?”
“Possibly”, replied Kjeld. “We had found Xedan on this ship. After no one else was here, we had taken it to Grim Hex. Stupidly, there have been increased cyberattacks on me since then. My personal AI is now offline. We had searched the whole ship but found nothing. Maybe you’ll notice something else. Come on, I’ll show you around.”
Kjeld gave me a tour of the Reclaimer. He told me that the Hydra Talis was a slave ship. They had found several names on the ship computers, including Xedan’s name. What was probably done to the slaves on board was beyond my imagination. I had the impression that the wailing of the slaves was still echoing off the walls. The deeper we went into the bowels of the ship the creepier I found it.
As we came up the ladder out of the engine room, I heard a beeping sound. There was a blinking light on the wall.
“What’s that blinking? A time fuse”, I asked jokingly.
“I don’t know. I hadn’t seen that before. When we searched the ship, there was nothing flashing. I’ll have it looked at more closely.”
“There seems to be more electronics active on board than you are aware of. Are you sure the cyberattacks aren’t coming from this ship”, I teased.
Finally, we got to the cargo hold.
“This is where we had found Xedan”, Kjeld told me.
“How is he”, I asked.
“He was interrogated and tortured on board. Now he is in a kind of coma. I wonder why he was left behind. The kidnappers could have gotten a lot of ransom for him. It almost seems like he should be found.”
I frowned and looked questioningly at Kjeld. “Which leads me to question if Xedan is a victim or a perpetrator.”
Kjeld nodded. “I’m not sure about that anymore either.”
Suddenly, a loud rumble was heard. The freight elevator was moving.
“Did you call the elevator”, asked Kjeld.
“No I didn’t press the button.”
Kjeld radioed his man, who had come on board with him. “Kjeld for Root. Are you at the freight elevator?”
“No I’m in the cockpit”, said Root’s voice from the radio.
Kjeld and I looked at each other, then we looked toward the elevator and both drew our weapons. Either someone else was on board, or this ship was haunted. Again, a rumble was heard. A little quieter this time. The elevator stopped on another deck.
“Kjeld for Root. Check the internal scanners to see if anyone else is on board.”
We started searching the ship. We took the elevator from the cargo to the salvaging deck. The low lighting didn’t make things any easier. I started seeing shadows where there were none. Then I saw something red on the wall.
“What is that? Blood? Rust?”
Kjeld came closer and looked at the wall. “I don’t know, it wasn’t there when we searched the ship.”
“Are you sure you really searched the ship? Flashing lights and red stains don’t just come ……”
I couldn’t finish the sentence. Out of nowhere, the elevator door opened. We wheeled around, pointing our guns at the elevator, ready to fire at anything that might come out of there.
“Easy guys, it’s me. The scanners only showed our three life signs on board.”
It was Root. I forced the pent-up air through between my teeth and slumped against the wall. My God, this ghost ship was straining my nerves. Root looked at the red stain and couldn’t make sense of it either.
“I’ll get a scanner. We only have a basic one, but maybe it will show something interesting”, said Kjeld and disappeared.
Root and I continued to look around. On the balcony of the Salvaging Room we found more red stains.
“Tell me, where are you from and what do you do”, asked Root with interest.
I told my story and Root told about himself. He seemed like a pretty nice guy, even though he was an officer in the UEE Navy. From the Navy to a security company on Grim Hex. What a career. I grinned to myself.
Finally, Kjeld came up with the scanner. But it didn’t really get us anywhere. Kjeld thought he saw some kind of crystals.
We searched the rest of the ship and found these red stains everywhere. I could hardly believe that the stains were not there when Kjeld and his team searched the ship. Maybe it was a microorganism that had infested the ship. In any case, I was glad I had my spacesuit and helmet on and was breathing filtered air.
After we disembarked, I went for a beer. I looked through the panoramic window of Grim Hex’s racetrack at the asteroids and the stars. The Hydra Talis, Project Enos, the bioweapon, the killer satellite. How was it all connected? And how deeply were the Nine Tails involved? Kjeld had told me that the attack on my hub was the work of outsiders. The Nine Tails didn’t want us snooping around, but they had distanced themselves from the attack. But the Nine Tails were no longer a unit. There were splinter groups. One particularly radical splinter group was owner of the Hydra Talis.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)