The Crimson Death
The Evening Dove: A.L. 03
“Chase,” his mother whispered. “Don’t be afraid, we’re safe here”
“He’ll be back. I promise.”
Chase and his mother hid inside of a cramped storage locker aboard the Evening Dove. The Evening Dove was a large freighter that transported supplies between Space Colonies and planetary settlements. There was a constant flow of supplies to move from place to place. These large freighters were common and manned by working men and women who often lived out their entire lives on these vessels. Generations had gone by of these people working and raising families aboard these ships out among the stars. They were commonly referred to as “Freighter Folk” or “Spacers” which was derogatory term used to describe these nomadic people.
They weren’t paid much for the work they performed. They made just enough to pay for their living quarters, food, and some entertainment. Once a person entered into this way of life it was near impossible to transition back into the colonial system. It was meant to be a trap. The ships needed to fly and the work needed to be done. There were no opportunities to leave aside from joining the military.
Chase’s great great grandfather was a petty thief who stowed away on The Evening Dove to escape prosecution on Bethlehem Station. Generations later his descendants were still paying the price for his larceny and cowardice. Chase was cursed to this life because of that man’s crimes. It wasn’t fair; it just was what it was. The universe had no pity for the descendants of a crook.
Earlier, Chase was on the community deck playing catch with the other kids in the courtyard. He was a brown-haired boy of 12 years with big green eyes just like his mother's. He wore a baseball glove on his left hand and he was awaiting the next pitch from Sidney Jenkins. Sidney was a dark-haired girl who could always be found with a scraped elbow or bandaged knee. She was a rough-houser nicknamed "Jenks" who played games and got into trouble with the boys.
Chase nervously held up his glove. Jenks had recently learned a new pitch from her dad called a screwball. No one had succeeded in catching it yet. She was getting too much of a laugh out of making the boys run after the ball after they missed. Chase wanted to take her down a peg but he also didn't want to get embarrassed in front of all of his friends.
After an overly elaborate windup the skinny girl let the ball fly. The ball revolved as it traveled through the air. Chase widened his stance and stuck out his glove. When the ball impacted the glove it continued to spin. As chase squeezed his glove closed it escaped into the air above. It hadn't hit the ground yet. He bounced up and down on his toes as he tried to usher some control over the errant sphere. He snatched the ball out of the air with his naked right hand and showed it off to the others with an accomplished grin on his face.
"That's cheating," Jenks yelled.
"A catch is a catch." Chase retorted.
Jenks put her fists to her hips and stuck out her tongue at him, "whatever."
Chase tossed the ball into the air with his right hand. He turned over his glove to catch it as it fell but just then the ship rocked as an explosion was heard in the distance. The courtyard went dark then the emergency lights kicked on. The ball bounced out of Chase's glove and rolled across the floor. Alarms blared as all the kids save for Chase and Jenks scattered. They stood frozen until Chase's mother Megan stormed through the courtyard and pulled him away by the hand. Megan dashed towards the upper deck where the emergency shelter was located with her son in tow. She pulled the confused boy behind her. He looked back to Jenks but the tomboy had already vanished into the commotion on the deck.
Chase’s father, Clifford Turner, at the top of the stairway, intercepted Megan. “We’re bein boarded,” he yelled.
“What?” Megan asked
“They’re sayin it’s the Crimson Death.”
“That Arez monster is here?”
“Hurry and get to the shelter with Chase.”
“What about you?”
Clifford placed his hand on her cheek. “Get our boy to safety. We’ll do our best to send’em packin.”
Megan watched as Clifford marched off with a group of other able-bodied workers down the corridor. She remembered her responsibility and escorted Chase towards the shelter. Laser fire could be heard in the distance. The people of the freighter were ill equipped to fight back an Arez invasion party. There weren’t many weapons onboard. The higher ups on the ship were afraid of the idea of an armed crew. When you’re treating people unfairly, you don’t want them having easy access to weapons. Even as the escalating war with the Arez made space travel more dangerous.
“We’re leaving dad out there?” Chase asked
“Don’t worry,” she was trying to convince herself also. “Your father can handle himself. This’ll all be over soon.”
As Megan and Chase quickly approached the emergency shelter’s entrance the blast doors were already in the process of closing. A rotund woman was beating on the control panel in a vain attempt to make the doors close faster. “Wait,” Megan screamed out. The woman looked at her but made no attempt to stop the doors from shutting. The large doors closed as Megan and Chase reached them. “Open the doors please,” she pleaded but the people on the other side of the blast door, looking at her through the thick glass, wouldn’t acquiesce to her pleas. They cowered behind their shield and wouldn’t risk their own safety to save a young mother and her child.
The ship shook as a wall 15 meters behind Megan and Chase exploded. “Chase climb down to the next level,” she screamed. They hastily climbed over the railing downward. Megan lost her grip and fell down onto the lower level on her side. Chase made it down safely and ran to help his mother to her feet. She scuttled to her feet and limbed along as fast as she could. Chase watched the upper deck as they ran.
On the above deck a massive Arez warrior stepped out of the destroyed wall. He stood close to seven feet tall and had dark red skin. This was the Crimson Death, Chase assumed. He wore decorative golden colored armor that was segmented as to not restrict his movement. In his right hand he held a spear that was just as tall as he was. The base of the heavy spear was wide and held four crystals within it. He pointed the weapon at the blast door. He pulled a trigger on the shaft and an orb of purple energy began to collect at its sharp tip. The orb grew until he released the trigger and sent it flying into the door. The sphere cut through the blast door like a hot knife through butter. Upon reaching the interior of the shelter the orb exploded sending all who denied Megan and Chase entry to a fiery end. He stood before burning carnage unflinching.
More Arez invaders spilled through the hole behind him. He addressed them in their shared language, “take whatever food and useful supplies they are hauling.” He turned to face his invasion party, “purge the rest. All of it.”
Megan ran with a limp as she searched for a place to hide. The light of a thruster caught her eye out of a starboard viewport. It was the Administrator’s ship. A light vessel he kept docked aboard the Evening Dove just in case of emergency. Megan assumed that he and the other ranking crewmembers were attempting to flee. They were leaving their workers to the slaughter. It was unlikely that the Arez would totally destroy the Evening Dove. The Administrator would return once the crisis was over. After the smoke cleared they would just replace the workers. As the light vessel got further away a beam of purple light struck the small ship from a source beyond the view of the viewport. The small ship was rocked then a chain reaction of explosions tore it to shreds.
“Chase, You and the other kids play hide and seek right?”
Chase nodded and led the way. They circled back to a cargo area the Arez warriors had already pillaged. There they hid inside a cramped storage locker. They waited as the sound of laserfire and screams echoed throughout the hallways of the freighter. Chase was trembling. Megan did her best to comfort the frightened boy.
“Chase,” his mother whispered. “Don’t be afraid, we’re safe here”
“He’ll be back. I promise.”
The main door into the cargo area slid open. A tall slim Arez entered into the area. She had a leash wrapped around her left wrist. She pulled at it and a beast the size of a tiger entered. The beast had greenish red fur with zebra-like stripes, long ears that stood upon its head, and large fangs that protruded up from its bottom lip even with a closed mouth. It was sniffing the floor with its snout as it pulled the Arez along. They were searching for survivors. They methodically stalked from row to row of cargo lockers. From the back row Megan could hear them getting closer. The invader and her pet stopped in front of a locker just a few units down from Megan and Chase’s hiding place. The beast growled. The Arez pulled out her laser pistol and started firing shots through the closed locker door. A man’s voice screamed out then went silent as a soft thud confirmed that his body had gone limp inside the locker as his life left him.
There was someone else hiding here, Megan thought. It was only a matter of minutes before Chase and she were discovered. Megan had to act. She started to cry when she realized what she had to do.
“Chase,” she whispered. “Stay here and don’t make a sound.”
“Don’t make a sound. Stay here and stay quiet until I come back for you.”
It felt horrible to lie to the child who was clinging to her arm but there was no other way. Megan knew she what needed to be done to save her boy. Oddly, she wasn’t fearful of what was coming. She had a purpose. She gently pulled her arm from her son’s grip. She gazed at him as she messed his hair with her hand. She then noticed a small box of salt on the shelf above him.
The Arez and the beast stopped in front of the locker. The animal growled. The Arez casually reached for the pistol on her hip. Suddenly, Megan sprung from the locker and threw a handful of salt into the alien woman’s eyes. She closed the locker behind her and ran for the cargo room door. The woman turned and started firing her weapon blindly in Megan’s direction. Half blind the Arez gave chase pulling the animal along with her.
Chase could here the sound of the gunfire getting further and further away. He trembled inside of the locker as he waited for his mother to return. He waited for hours. He woke up inside of the box. At some point he had fallen asleep. He decided to go and look for his parents. After some struggle he managed to kick the locker door open. The Evening Dove was different than before. There was an eerie silence about the ship now.
Chase walked out into the hallway outside of the cargo room and there he found her. His mother didn’t make it very far. She only got about 5 meters from the door before the Arez gunned her down. There were small circular burns on the back of her blouse as she lay there with her left cheek pressed to the floor. Her eyes were still open. Chase knelt beside his mother and wept. He noticed that his mother’s wedding ring had slipped from her finger and was lying on the floor beside her. He picked it up, and held it in his palm for a few moments before putting it into his pocket.
Chase needed to look for his father but he couldn’t just leave his mother in her current state. He wasn’t strong enough to move her. He returned to the storage room and found a blanket inside of a locker. He draped the large cloth over his mother’s body. This was all that he could do.
The boy walked the long desolate hallways. It was obvious that the Arez invaders were long gone but still, he was terrified. He swallowed his fear and continued his quest to find his missing father. The bodies were getting more numerous as he progressed. He was getting closer to the where the invaders entered the ship. He passed the blown out shelter and remembered that monster, the Crimson Death. This was all his doing. He brought this death and destruction to Chase’s home. He became angry and started running through the ship. He had to find his father.
He stopped when an emergency airlock door impeded his path. These doors activated automatically when the oxygen aboard the ship drops below a certain level in an area. Likely after the Arez disengaged their airlock upon returning to their ship, they left it open to space. Chase was a bit too young to understand all of this. He kept exploring and kept getting blocked from this section of the vessel due to the emergency doors.
Something caught his eye out of the viewport to his right. Looking out into space he could see objects floating by. They were people. They must’ve been sucked out of whatever hole the Arez left in the closed off section of the freighter. What Chase witnessed next caused his face to distort in anguish. Off in the distance beyond the port was a girl floating motionless. Her small hands were clutching a baseball. Chase put his back to the wall then slid down to the floor.
Chase never found his father. Over the course of the next week he met other survivors and they sustained themselves on whatever supplies they could find. Eventually the military finally responded to the initial distress signal and came to rescue them. He was drafted into the military academy, which was fine with him. Chase needed to find the Crimson Death. He needed to make that monster pay for what he took from him. He wouldn’t stop until he had justice.