a Serial in Seven Parts
By CJ Alexander
There is nothing inside the irradiated canisters, crafted by sentient beings, floating on a planet entirely covered by salt water. My mind works overtime to parse out what this means. Did the trusty old Hubbell Telescope receive bad data, were the promising signals from Alpha Centauri somehow tainted by space debris? Was the planet a sort of deep space dump for nuclear waste? I have no idea. I will have to contact NASA for guidance. And I will have to inform the Hierarchy that our mission is in jeopardy.
Nagging doubts surface. I don’t know why, but I’m finding it hard to trust my first officer. Is she competent? A hidden agenda of her own? Maybe I should have sent another crew member along to inspect the canisters. Well, too late now. I have kids to feed and then, myself.
* * *
A whoosh, a swish, the slightest hint of a shadow. Ensign Natalia Abrams shakes off the eerie sensation of being watched. She goes rigid, forces herself to peer in both directions down the dimly lit corridor. No, there’s nobody there. Nothing moves. She keys in her room code. The shadow slips unnoticed into her quarters, the door shudders shut. Anyone passing by would hear a muffled tussling, like someone cursing to herself over a stuck zipper. Inside, the vampire flings back its cloak, clasps Natalia to its breast, and bares its elongated, sharp fangs. A fetid stench issues from its mouth. Natalia faints. The vampire stretches its lips wide and jams its incisors into her neck.
* * *
A bit of exploration on a habitable planet would have been a welcome diversion, wouldn’t it, instead of the bloody ruckus I have to quell.
I summon the Chief of Security to my conference room. “Report!”
“Captain, the crew are worried and restless. I’ve been told they’re forming cliques, but really, it’s more like gangs. The brig’s been full of repeat offenders for days.”
“Because of the body?”
I’ve noticed some of the crew eyeing each other suspiciously. A murderer on board…so much for background checks. Still, the neck’s puncture wounds could easily pass for vampire bites. But that couldn’t be. I’m the only vampire on board, and I am the epitome of self-control.
So who – or what – left the Ensign with the delectable AB blood drained and … dead? Everyone’s spooked.
I’m worried, too. There are only six people aboard upon whom I can dine, and sparingly at that. I dare not turn the ship around and return to Earth, or I’ll risk losing my grandchildren. So now that we’re on our own out here in deep space, with no other solar systems in sight, we must conserve rations. Death…I shudder. It mustn’t happen again.
To be continued