It seemed to happen in slow motion. Dr. Formolius pulled the trigger, the blue beam fired out of the pistol, and impacted Dr. Antontak in the center of his chest. To Lucia’s horror, it also exploded its way out the other side of his body. He didn’t react for a moment, just staring at Dr. Formolius, tears in his eyes, pain evident on his face. Not physical, but emotional. He just stared at her, directly at her face. After a few seconds, his expression faded, as did any sign of life in his eyes, his body simply folded, and he ended up in an oddly posed heap on the floor. Before anyone could process what had just happened, Dr. Formolious simply stated, emotionless. “I’m sorry too.” And turned the gun on herself. With another silent pulse of light, she fell to the floor, a new smoking hole in the side of her head.
No one knew quite what to say or do. They simply stood there, with eight corpses lying on the floor. Darlinna was the first to move, she gently walked over to Dr. Antontak’s body, knelt on one knee, and closed his eyes. “Fuck… FUCK!” She began shaking. “What the fuck are you two? Angels of fucking DEATH?!” She stood and backed up, placing herself in front of the door to the room. “I loved my job on that Waystation. I loved my co-workers. They were my friends. And you… you came in and killed them. Just like that.” She continued backing up. “I get fired. I get away from that place, I’m unemployed. Six months I look for work, and find a job as a security officer in this shady fucking place. It turns out to be rather pleasant for an illegal blacksite facility. I come to care about my co-workers again. It’s hard for me, after what you did.” She turned and picked up Formolius’s weapon, not aiming it, but making it very clear she was prepared to use it. “And then… shit goes wrong. I lose my entire sense of self. I get it back… only to see you two again. And two of my coworkers, innocent people who got caught up in this shit like I did, dead.”
Niarith stepped forward. “Listen. We never intended for anyone to die. We just needed fuel. All we wanted was FTL fuel so we could leave. We never meant for this…”
Darlinna pointed the pistol at Niarith. “Don’t you fucking move! I don’t care what you meant to happen. I don’t care why you’re here. This is an illegal blacksite. No one is coming to help us. I could kill all three of you right now with zero repercussions.” For a long moment, she continued aiming the gun, switching targets intermittently. Finally, she lowered it. “But I won’t. Because I’m not like you. I’m not a murderer. I’m not a monster. Ghostinite storage is back up the stairs, seventh door on the right. Take what you need. Get the fuck out of here.” She turned to walk away, but stopped, looking back over her shoulder. “Just remember that I had the chance to kill, and I didn’t take it. Remember that.” And she walked away, off down the opposite side of the catwalk from the door they’d entered.
Another long, silent moment. Then Niarith jerked slightly, and her eyes glowed teal “She has a point you know.” the glow faded.
Niarith shook her head vigorously, then just held it in her hands. “We are murderers. I… I said it to you earlier, Luci. I said it so casually. How the fuck have I just been casually going along killing people?”
Lucia stepped closer to her, placing a hand on her shoulder. “You killed when it was necessary, Nia. You’re not a maniac with an axe.”
Niarith looked up at her “Was it necessary when we killed those guards at Ninia’s compound? So we could steal back some necklace for some rich prick who never paid us anyway?”
“Those were criminals, Niarith, it’s not-”
Niarith interrupted “What the fuck are we, Lucia?”
Lucia didn’t answer for a moment, just staring. “I… we... that isn’t…”
“Look at this fucking room full of corpses and tell me it was necessary. These people are dead because we’re here, Lucia. They’re dead. Gone. Because we happened to be here, and we ‘helped’. I don’t know how to just… be okay with that. How are you just fucking okay with that, Lucia?!” Tears were streaming down Niarith’s face, she was pacing, her hands on her head. “This isn’t just.. okay. I wanted… I wanted adventure, excitement. Not… horrific death and suffering.”
“Nia.. dear.. Just.. just go on back to the ship, okay? Lolanene and I will get the fuel, it’ll-”
“No YOU go back to the ship!” the words echoed in Lucia’s mind, they were a command. It just made sense to follow. To do as she was told. She immediately began walking out of the room, hardly paying attention to where she was going.
Lolanene ran after her, stopping her in the doorway. “Lucia! Stop! Where the fuck are you goin’?”
She felt… strange, her voice came out distant, dreamy “Back to the ship…” The words came out of her mouth and they… they weren’t hers. Those words, that action. They weren’t her own. Niarith had forced her. Niarith had been forcing her over and over, to do things, think things. But why? She turned back to Niarith, who had slumped to the floor, her back against one of the server racks, her head in her hands. She walked back over to her. “Niarith. What is happening? Why are you controlling me? How are you controlling me? Nia… I… What’s going on?”
Niarith sniffled, then looked up. “What are you talking about, Luci? I… what? I’m.. I don’t understand.”
“Ever since we left Xia IV, you’ve been… every so often you say something.. Tell me to do something and… I just… I just do it. I enter some kind of trance state and just do as you say.”
Niarith’s expression showed a complete lack of comprehension. “I don’t understand, I.. I haven’t.. Done that.”
Lolanene interjected “Listen y’all, this is an important conversation that needs to be had, but can we have it at home, instead’a y’know, here? In this room full of corpses?”
Lucia offered a hand to Niarith, who took it and stood. They made their way back out of the room and up the stairs in awkward silence. Suddenly the PA system blared to life. “Attention Intigrelt Facility staff. This is head security officer Darlinna Mechanicane. You may be wondering where our PA operator is, the answer is, I don’t know.”
The trio began walking more quickly, following the vague directions Darlinna had given them. “What happened here is something I don’t really understand. You’re likely all very disoriented and confused. You may be wondering why you’re wearing Intigrelt harnesses.”
Darlinna sighed “I may not know the specifics, but I will say this. Research Director Dr. Fringaline Formolius is dead. As is Senior Research Project Allocation Manager Dr. Arnitch Antontak. Nine others have died as well, they have yet to be identified.”
The trio arrived at the room that had been designated, and found several crates full of Ghostinite. They looked at each other, Lucia shrugged, and picked up a full crate. Niarith took another, and they began the trek back to the airlock.
“We were hijacked from within. Dr. Formolius was at the core of it. Dr. Antontak stopped it. I would ask that everyone gather in Mess Hall 2, and wait for my arrival, for more in depth explanation. Thank you.” The PA system clicked off as the trio arrived at the airlock.
The massive door opened with a hiss, revealing the sterile space within. The bulky environment suits still stood where they’d left them. “So uh, do we tell anyone about this place? What happened here?” Lolanene asked.
“I.. think it’s best we leave this in the past.” Niarith said as she carefully placed her crate on the floor, and entered her suit. The group donned their suits, picked up the crates, and made their way home.