Scary Story Month is here again, and that means time for a sequel!
For those who can't recall last year, this is the continuation of these stories:
Also, be warned. This one's going to be rather gruesome, but it'll mostly be implied gruesomeness. Which can be worse, depending on the person.
â€œCommander's Log, 6th of Descending Water, Imperial Year 566. Official result of active mission codified Grace of Ledaal-21-3.
â€œPlanet marked Kailith is to be declared quarantine zone until further notice. Evidence indicates profoundly dangerous shadowland in place. Ten known dead. No known population.
â€œRecording deaths of Captain Hadana Makar, Engineer Tepet Parn, and Private Olander Jasin. Crew slain by ectoplasmic entitity at aforementioned site.
â€œRecording acquisition of one prisoner of war, Galas Indira of the New Realm. Officer Galas was a scout in neutral space. Her crew is recorded dead at hands of same ectoplasmic entity.
â€œAs of this time, I am taking command of the Grace of Ledaal until a new captain is appointed. Crew will run short-staff until arrival at Crow's Landing and complete debriefing...â€
Commander Ragara Traken thumbed the Eternal Recorder sitting on his desk off, sitting back thoughtfully. After a moment, he shook his head. â€œWhat a gods-damned mess.â€ He would never have expected a routine mission to a barren world to have caused the levels of problems that it had, or he would never have allowed his captain to be a part of the landing party. Now, he had to juggle reassigning three positions on a ship that had few places to spare. With only fifteen crew members â€“ five each in the Command, Support, and Defense positions â€“ the loss of one member of each was a serious blow. He would have to assign extra shift lengths, which was never popular...
Sighing heavily, he reached over and waved his hand across the ship's intercom. Jade filaments studied his voice, copying it and sending it to the destination he keyed in. â€œDoctor Landis, report.â€
â€œAll's well here, Commander.â€ The ship's doctor was as calm as ever. â€œI've looked over the prisoner, and aside from severe fatigue and minor injuries, she's fine. I've left her sleeping. Private Gallen is also doing well. It seems that their report was pretty accurate there.â€ She paused. â€œI'll be looking over Corporal Kaltos in about ten minutes. Until then, I've released Gallen back to active duty.â€
â€œThank you, Doctor. Good to hear.â€ The commander sat back in his chair. At least one thing seemed to be going right. Whatever had happened on that planet â€“ and his exact information was more than a little confused â€“ at least it was done with.
Two levels down, and in his own room, the aforementioned Corporal Kaltos was carefully washing his face, watching glass fragments glitter crimson with his blood as they circled down the drain. It was all so clear, everything that he could have imagined. The corner of his mouth quirked up, listening to the whispers that surrounded him. So clear. He could hear them calling to him, knew instinctively what he had to do.
The Commander, as the only Exalt still on the ship, was dangerous. That would have to be dealt with. But not immediately. He could deal with another first, one of those who had mocked him and ignored him. One who deserved everything he could do.
The man who had been Kaltos tried to look at his reflection in the mirror, but it was shattered, broken from his own efforts only a few minutes before. He shrugged, grabbing his hat and pulling it on, and sliding his left hand into a glove to conceal the telltale signs of injury. Twelve targets on the ship, twelve people who had to die. It would be so easy.
At the same moment, Doctor Landis Janela was lost in thought. The report she had seen sat in front of her, lying open, and she shook her head in horrified fascination. The kind of creature that would do such a thing... she had thought the stories of the Anathema in the New Realm were bad, but even they fell short of the casual and wanton cruelty she had just read.
Her comm rang with the clear sound of an incoming message, and she pressed it with one finger. A voice came over. â€œHello, Doctor. How are things?â€
â€œI'm alone, Tamar. You don't need to be formal.â€
â€œRight.â€ There was a faint chuckle from the other end. â€œSeriously, what's the story?â€
â€œDisgusting.â€ Landis sighed heavily. â€œI'm meeting with Corporal Kaltos in about two minutes, but I expect to give him a clean bill of health. But you would not believe the things they wrote.â€ She shuddered faintly. â€œI'll be verifying it, I think. It might have helped to have bodies we could identify, but... it is what it is.â€ She glanced over at the door. â€œI'll talk to you in a few hours, Tamar. I expect that once the commander's finished talking to me, I'll need to.â€
â€œUnderstood. I'll crack a bottle of wine.â€ The comm went silent, and Landis smiled faintly. Trust Tamar not to pry any more deeply.
The door hissed open, and she turned to see Corporal Kaltos framed in the doorway. She nodded casually to him, turning to collect her instruments. â€œHello, Corporal. Take off your hat and jacket â€“ this shouldn't take long. Gallen and the New Realmer were both pictures of health.â€
â€œDoing a little light reading, Doctor?â€ Landis turned to find that the corporal was still in his jacket, although he had tossed the hat to one side. He had his back to her, looking down at the report that he had filed. â€œWhat did you think?â€
Landis frowned, feeling a sudden shiver. She spoke carefully, suspecting that the corporal had been more seriously affected by what he had seen than he had admitted. It would be in character. â€œHorrible. I can't imagine what those people went through.â€
â€œI can. If I close my eyes, I think I can almost see it.â€ Kaltos remained where he stood, hands gripping the desk.
Landis took a step forwards, reaching out her hand. â€œKaltos, you can't blame yourself...â€
In a single lightning move, Kaltos spun towards her. For a moment, Landis tried to stagger back as she saw the wound on his forehead, a scabbed-over scar that seemed almost to form a symbol. Her mouth opened to scream just as a gloved hand closed around her throat. She choked on the crushing fist, as Kaltos smiled grimly. â€œYou misunderstand me, Doctor. But then, what else is new?â€ He sighed in mock-sorrow, dragging her across the room towards the surgery room as she gasped silently for breath. â€œMaybe I can explain myself a bit better...â€
Fifteen minutes later, the commander's comm buzzed. â€œCommander, this is Doctor Landis. Corporal Kaltos has a clean bill of health.â€
â€œVery good, Doctor.â€ The commander sounded relieved. â€œHow long will you need for a full report?â€
â€œGive me two hours.â€
â€œUnderstood. I'll expect you then.â€
The comm went silent, and the form of Doctor Landis looked around the medical room, her gaze fixing on the rear area. â€œWhat a mess.â€ As she spoke, the illusion covering her melted away, and Corporal Kaltos came back into being. He wiped a trace of blood from his lips, smirking. â€œHonestly, Doctor. You should keep your medical bay spotless.â€ He took a step, then glanced down. â€œOh, dear. And my boots are all bloody. You don't mind if I borrow a spare set, do you?â€ He was answered only with a very faint moan.
With a dark laugh, he stopped at the spare uniform cabinet and traded his boots for a fresh pair, slid the door to the medical bay open, glanced down the corridor, and then set it to lock from the inside. He doubted that he would have the full two hours... but then, he doubted that he would need them. The Doctor certainly wouldn't last more than a few more minutes in the state he had left her.
â€œTake care, Doctor. Don't do anything I wouldn't do.â€ With a small wave, he started down the corridor. Eleven victims left.