The daunting array of thick, insulated wires the plate had concealed sat illuminated in the light of the snapstick, both ends of the stubby device emitting a sphere of light. Despite the time constraints of good working light, and whatever else might be in store for them on the Gehanon, Xander knew he had to be cautious. Besides destroying the ships systems, there was a very real possibility that he could kill himself by touching the wrong wire at the wrong moment. Cassie too left her hand hovering over the wires indecisively, her eyes flitting back and forth between them.
"Okay, that's our juice-box," she said softly, indicating the largest of the wires. "A bit of creative crossover work and we should be laughing."
"You make it sound so simple." Xander smiled nervously. "Well, no guts, no glory."
"Fine line between guts and brains."
Rolling over from his prone position he shot Redge a fiery look. "Okay I get it, you don't think this is a good idea. Now get this: I don't care." Shaking his head in annoyance he turned back to the task at hand. "C'mon, let's do it." He heard the other man mutter something but ignored it, focusing on the mass of wires. Reaching forward with a pair of small cutters, he carved a tiny slit in the insulation of the thickest wire. Moving as quickly as he dared, he broadened the slit all the way around until he could slide the insulation up, revealing the glowing inner-workings.
"That resistor's gonna have to go," Cassie declared, rubbing her hands together in anticipation. He frowned.
"So now you're ready to start lending a hand?"
"Well you were basically catatonic until about five minutes ago!"
"Oh…" She let her eyes fall to the floor. "I didn't mean to seize up like that. I just, didn't know what to do, what we were doing. Now I can knuckle down and do this, feels better."
"Alright, forget about it, Cass. I guess we all got more than we bargained for on this hulk."
"Don't remind me." She leaned in till she was virtually inside the panel, a screwdriver in one hand and thin pliers in the other. "C'mon y'little bugger!"
They pressed on as best they could for the next ten minutes, isolating certain banks of circuitry from the main systems before fusing the sub-units to the main power line. Although, under normal circumstances their progress would have been impressive, Xander knew they were taking too long. The light of the snapstick sputtered and died, so he propped his torch up inside the gap.
He jerked backwards as the current conduit under disassembly let out a hissing spark of protest. Cassie swore and punched the side of the panel.
"Too close to the transistor," she muttered.
"How much longer are you two gonna be?"
"Give it a rest, Redge, it's not like we're changing a battery here!" Xander selected a fresh tool from the arrangement in front of him. "Don't suppose you've had any luck with that virus?"
"Are you kidding me?" he exclaimed incredulously. "The thing's basically alive! And its one step ahead of everything we try to do."
"It's not one step ahead of this," Cassie growled, completing another tiny weld to the main power conduit.
As one, they froze.
"Captain, what are you doing?"
Xander reached forward and picked up his flashlight along with a hefty wrench. The all too familiar monotone made his blood run cold as he stood up. Swinging the beam of light towards the door, he swallowed hard. Standing, illuminated on the threshold of the core room, was Brodie. Another beam fell onto the spectral figure a second later. He looked normal save for one thing. His eyes. Black tendrils seemed to crawl from his iris like veins, pulsing in the torchlight.
"Brodie?" Isla whispered.
"That's not Brodie," he snapped.
"Captain, I would advise you to stop what you're doing. You could cause irreparable damage to the ship."
"I'll bet you would," Xander growled back. In the gloom to his right he could see Redge edging towards the figure in the door. "Turn around and walk away or this is going to get violent."
An echoing, ghostly laugh reverberated around the chamber for a moment. "Really, Captain? You can't threaten me." The monotone had slipped away now, replaced by a sinister hiss.
"Back off." Xander raised the wrench.
"You can destroy this body, yes," the voice said, stepping forward. "But you won't kill me, and you will kill him."
"Brodie's already dead," he grated, cutting Isla off. "His life sign vanished almost a quarter of an hour ago. That means he's gone for good." They stood for a moment, staring at one another, Xander's eye's drawn to the sickly black tendrils in the iris of his former shipmate. Brodie, or whatever was inside of his body, stared back briefly, before baring his teeth and dropping out of the torch light.
Sweeping left and right frantically, Xander tried to spot him but to no avail. With sweat beginning to bead on his cheeks, he swallowed again. Taking a precautionary step backwards he brandished the wrench, before a piercing scream echoed through the room followed by a dull thump. Isla's torch clattered to the deck and running footsteps sounded in his ears. As he spun, the torchlight revealed Brodie's snarling face for a fraction of a second before Xander was borne backwards by the diving form.
Slamming hard onto his back, Xander lost his grip on the torch. As the light tumbled away across the floor he flailed wildly in the apparition's grip. His left hand eventually fastened itself around what he hoped was Brodie's throat, and he pushed upward with all the strength he could muster. A clenched fist smashed into the side of his face with shocking force, making stars explode in his head but he clung on grimly. Lashing out, he felt the wrench connect with something solid, the dull clunk of metal on bone sounding in the room. Suddenly the weight on his chest was lifted away and he let out a gasp of relief. Above him he could just make out a pair of madly churning forms before one was sent tumbling across the room.
"Xander, you okay?" Redge shouted.
"I think so." He spat out a gob of blood. "Get a torch, quick." A scuffling sound filled his ears for a moment, before a beam of light shone straight into his eyes. Raising one hand, he looked away. "Alright, you've found me. What about Isla?"
"Oh, she may be alright. I'm not sure how hard I hit her," a mocking imitation of Brodie's voice droned into the air.
"You son of a bitch!" Before Xander could react, Redge was off and moving across the room. With the beam from the torch jerking madly from left to right, he could just barely see Redge and Brodie crash together. The torch fell to the floor and he heard an animalistic snarl, followed by a crash. Shaking his head, he scrambled over to where Isla's torch lay and swept it up, swinging the light over to illuminate the battling pair.
Redge sat astraddle his opponent, bringing his fist down three times with sickening force, and Xander heard the impacts. He darted across the room till he stood alongside them and raised the wrench high in his right hand.
"Redge, hold him!" he shouted. Delivering one more thunderous blow to Brodie's struggling form for good measure, the other man complied, pinning his adversary to the plating, his muscles straining. Casting the light down onto Brodie's face, Xander raised the wrench even higher.
"You will be!" the creature roared back, before the wrench fell, caving in Brodie's skull. It shuddered for a few seconds then went limp.
For a moment all he could hear was Redge's heavy breathing. Closing his eyes, he let go of the wrench, leaving it to fall to the deck with a clang. His knees shook and he sat down heavily, the torch pointing up at the ceiling.
"Xander," Redge said hoarsely. "Xander, you alright?"
"I…" he murmured. "Yeah."
"You did what you had to," the other man grunted, rolling off of Brodie's corpse. "The crew of this God forsaken wreck probably got wiped out because they couldn't make that decision. You did good, Xander."
"It doesn't feel like it." Probing a loose tooth with his tongue, he could taste the warm tang of blood in his mouth. Then a thought struck him. "Shit, Isla!" Turning, he swept the beam of his torch across the room, revealing the woman lying in a crumpled heap beside her console. Clambering to his feet, he followed Redge across the room and they both dropped to their knees beside her.
"She's taken a nasty whack," Redge murmured, cradling Isla's head in his hands. Blood stained the side of her face, flowing from the deep gouge in her left temple. Xander reached forward, placing two fingers against her neck, checking her pulse.
"Well, she's alive." He turned around on his knees and cast his light over the main console. Cassie sat huddled beneath the computers, hugging her knees. "Cass, you okay?"
"That…what was that?" she whispered.
to be Brodie."
"Christ, Redge, at least act like you gave a shit!"
"What do you want? Used to be Brodie, now its not, so we killed it. ‘Nough said."
"You're a cold bastard, y'know that?"
"A cold, alive bastard." Redge shrugged his broad shoulders and turned his attention back to Isla. Glaring at the other man for a moment, Xander's jaw tightened in anger. He forced himself to suppress the feeling and moved away from the pair, back over to the control console. Reaching out he put a gentle hand on Cassie's shoulder.
"Okay, I know you're freaked out," he said huskily. "I am too, but you've got to pull it together. I need you Cass, I'm not gonna be able to finish this by myself."
"It's almost done," she murmured.
"While you were fighting I…I didn't know what to do, I didn't want to think about it, so I just kept going."
"Wow." Despite himself, Xander almost laughed. "Well then let's finish the job!" Just as he moved toward the open panel, however, the radio began crackling. Exchanging looks with Cassie he took a deep breath, and opened the channel.
"Xander, you reading me yet?"
"Jonas, thank God." He let out a sigh of relief and slumped with his back against the console.
"Feeling's mutual. Are you guys alright?"
"More or less," he grunted. "Brodie's dead. His…well his body I guess came up here and attacked us."
that's one word for it. Alright, Jonas, tell me you've got some good
"Well…I've got both to be honest."
"Let's start with the good."
"I have managed to get some of the main systems back online. There was some kind of computer virus thing that tried to worm it's way in with that power down. Good thing Isla and I had the firewall protocols all set up or it'd of had the ship."
"That's good." Xander nodded.
"Yeah…so I did another mass scan of the Gehanon to see what was going on."
"I think I figured out what that mass of stuff in the cargo hold was," Jonas said, his voice tight. "Xander, I'm pretty sure it's bodies."
"Bodies?" he exclaimed. Beside him, Cassie put her fist in her mouth to keep herself in check. "How can you tell?"
"I've been going over the scan data. The mass in the bay is made up of carbon compounds, potassium, water…and some of it's coming your way."
"Some of the bodies are up and on the move. I caught them on another scan." "Jesus…"
"Give us a fucking break." Xander banged his head against the plate in anger. "But they don't read as life signs?"
"Nope. Just like Brodie."
"A dozen so far."
it!" Taking a breath, Xander closed his eyes and tried to think. What to do?
With his mind racing with possibilities, he came up with only one thing that
had to happen. "Jonas, disengage the Lunchbox from the airlock. I want
you to get away from this ship."
"Xander, I'm not about to leave-,"
"That's not what I'm saying," he snapped. "Decouple, but stay close enough for radio contact. The last thing I need is the virus that's got control of this ship to spread and get the Lunchbox. Okay?"
"Yeah I…I got it," Jonas answered. With a resigned nod Xander closed the com channel, closed his eyes, and closed off his mind from the outside world for a few precious seconds.