Session Reports

Mothership: The Haunting of Ypsilon-14

A session report, from one of my talented players.

With hooded eyelids and bleary eyes, Sven Beepo 137 – a normal human, and definitely not an android – looked at the other two people occupying the small shuttle with him. He was still shrugging off the three-night continuous underground rave that had finally earned him enough workplace demerits to be sent off-world, but he made an effort to study these two: you never knew who was an android, posing as a normal, fleshy, human person.

One was a hefty man, with the large hands and muscled arms and shoulders of a worker, and the vacant smile of an idiot. He seemed to be doing some sort of calculation using his fingers, and Sven guessed it had to do with credits, either owed or owing. His fingers looked to have been broken in the past, as if by a loan shark or someone in a similar line of business. Probably credits owed then.

The other man had the scarred features of a veteran soldier, and wore a scowl on his face. Even when the shuttle had bucked and bounced as it left the atmosphere, and now as it encountered the meagre gravity well of Ypsilon 14, the man had not appeared worried in the slightest. “Definitely a military man,” Sven thought, “or a marine biologist perhaps.1One of the players misunderstood what a “marine” was and was roleplaying under the impression that he had a background in dolphins. Either way, both of them are androids.” He was certain.

The shuttle doors swung open and the three men – or one human flesh man and two insidious metal automatons – took their first steps into the cramped interiors of Ypsilon 14. Sven surveyed his new surroundings as they were greeted by an android who had taken the appearance of a human female with a thick accent that had its origins somewhere east of the Urals back on Earth. She introduced herself as Sonya. “More like S0ny4, you android fuck,” Sven thought to himself, chuckling internally at his very hilarious, very human joke.

Sonya explained the layout of the facilities on Ypsilon 14, Sven’s mind wandering until she informed the new arrivals that they would unfortunately be unable to leave the asteroid in the near future. His ears pricked up as she said something about the chief engineer, an android named Mike, going missing very recently, and that company policy stated that all shuttles were locked down until all crew were accounted for.

Sven studied the large workspace they were in as the three androids pretended to have a human conversation. The large muscle-bound one had introduced himself as Brogan, a teamster with a gambling problem. The other one had indeed been revealed to be a veteran marine, named Darwin.

Being the busy, liquid and bone-filled human that he was, Sven grew impatient with the robots; he realised that if they were to make their delivery on time, Mike would have to be found.

“These are Mike’s quarters”, Sonya said as she opened the door to a tiny room, “feel free to look around.” It was compact, only just managing to fit in a bed and some drawers with very little floor space, but it was clean; too clean. Sonya told them something that might have been important, about Mike making a discovery of some sort down in the mines, and someone named Dr Giovanni coming to Ypsilon 14 to investigate and verify said discovery, but Sven, briefly in the thrall of a flashback related to a heavy lysergic acid diethylamide session the previous week, only half heard her. Before he could enquire any further, Sonya excused herself, claiming that she had work to do, but Sven knew she was probably just going to power down somewhere and recharge her batteries, as she pondered how best to exterminate the entire human race. “No matter,” Sven said to himself, “wherever there are steel-boned, computer-brained scum like that seeking to conquer mankind, there will be wet-blooded, sweaty, bacteria riddled baseline human heroes like myself to stand in their way.”

There were others in the different crew cabins around them, and Sven glowered suspiciously as a tall man – probably an android – walked past them in the direction of the washrooms. He watched the man until he disappeared through a door, then Sven went in to Mike’s quarters. Brogan and Darwin were searching the small room rigorously, but it was clear there was nothing to be found. The other two were growing on Sven; they had approached the issue of the missing chief engineer with intent and an almost human-like vigor. For androids, they weren’t half bad.

Suddenly, a thought hit Sven: the roof was a suspended ceiling, made up of cheap tiles. He stood on the bed and lifted one, peering into the open space. At first glance it appeared empty, only an air duct and wires running through, but then he noticed two shapes in the gloom. Reaching out to grab them, he saw that one was a firearm – a revolver, with a small amount of ammunition – and the other was a plastic spray bottle. Replacing the tile and stepping down, Sven showed his finds to his two android friends. “For you, soldier man”, he said, holding out the pistol to Darwin. The marine accepted the weapon with a nod. “Odd,” said the soldier, “everything has been cleared out of here, except for this? That suggests someone other than Mike stripped the room – if he’d done it himself, he definitely would’ve taken his weapon.” “Good point,” said Brogan, stepping forward, “now let’s go check out those washrooms, I gotta drop a deuce.”

They pushed open the door to the washrooms and entered. “Where is the tall man?” Sven asked. Darwin looked at him like he was a dolphin, ready for slaughtering, Brogan just ignored him and went straight to a stall, where he began loudly voiding his bowels.

“Hmmm, a clever trick, for an android: simulated organic processes,” Sven Beepo 137 thought. Then the smell hit him. “Very well simulated.” “Woo! Somebody light a match!” Brogan hollered. Sven stopped for a moment as a thought hit him: he himself had never once gone to the toilet in his entire life. Peculiar. Nothing to do with his being an android of course, because he wasn’t an android. No, it probably had more to do with the fact that he had never actually eaten anything. Yes, that was it.

Sven’s very brief identity confusion was interrupted by Darwin, who started kicking open the doors of the toilet stalls and opening the cisterns to peer inside. “Nothing.” He concluded.

Brogan finished up, and joined Sven and Darwin as they searched the room. There was a broken shower, some graffiti reading “Dana 4 Kantaro”, and a noisy ventilation shaft that was heroically struggling to deal with the smell that Brogan had created. The stench was clearly organic in nature, and Sven had to very reluctantly admit to himself that perhaps the big man wasn’t entirely an android after all. But then maybe Darwin wasn’t an android either? But then maybe that meant that he, Sven, was in fact…

Suddenly, the door to the washroom swung open, and a human female-shaped android came in. She looked at the three and politely asked, “who the fuck are you?” Sven, too busy internalizing his fight against a potential identity crisis, didn’t pay any attention, but one of the other two told them who they were, and asked about Mike, and the graffiti. Sven bottled up the confusion he was battling, ruthlessly beating his self-doubt into submission, like Darwin amongst a pod of dolphins, and tuned in to the conversation.

“It says Dana 4 Kantaro? God damn it, have those fuckers been tagging bullshit again. I’m Dana.” The woman looked angry. “You are in love with Kantaro?” Sven asked. “Fuck no, someone just thinks they’re funny”, the woman retorted, clearly edging towards beyond-pissed-off, “now can you guys fuck off. I’m trying to have a shower here, and I don’t want you creeps watching.” The three men, or two androids and one man, or two men and one android, or – oh God, I hope not – three androids, started to leave, before Sven stopped and asked the volatile woman, “have you seen the tall man?” “Who, Jerome?” She responded in an exasperated voice. “He’s probably in his quarters, and if he’s not there, he’ll be in the mess. Now fuck off!”

The quarters had been a dead end, Sven had barged into Tall Jerome’s room, but the android wasn’t there. Darwin, Brogan and Sven had chatted with a relaxed android called Ashraf, who pointed them in the direction of the mess hall, hinting that he wanted privacy, so the three new arrivals had headed there.

The mess hall wasn’t busy, but by Ypsilon 14 standards, it was almost at capacity, with two women, a man, and a cat sitting down eating. The male, it turned out, was Kantaro, and he seemed just as pissed off at everything as his alleged lover, Dana. He quickly and rudely excused himself, barging into Sven as he left. “That’s one angry android.” Sven thought. Then he and his friends turned their attention to the other two, who introduced themselves as Morgan and Ri. Morgan had in her possession a small, feline-shaped android named Prince.

Darwin and Brogan, who were proving to be surprisingly reliable and effective investigators – and almost certainly trustworthy humans, Sven had decided – grilled the two women on Mike. The chief engineer had almost certainly discovered something of worth in the mines, and he had been excited about it. The arrival of Dr Giovanni had exacerbated things, and by all accounts, Mike had been acting “strange”. “Maybe he’d been taking drugs?” Someone suggested, and Sven’s head whipped around. “Drugs?” He asked, a sudden deep yearning growing in the pit of his human stomach, filling him with excitement and an all-encompassing desire. “What have you got? Jimjam? Gravity Sunrise? Got any Digital Flow? What about Turbocrash?” It was the smaller female android, named Ri, who looked up at him and answered, “Turbocrash? You’re after some Turbocrash? I can hook you up, come back to my quarters.”

As they had left the mess hall, the cat, Prince had looked at Sven and the others with absolute contempt, the sort of contempt only an android could muster for a human, Sven thought. Or, come to think of it, the sort of contempt that a cat could muster for anyone at all. Maybe he was being too quick to label everyone androids? No, nonsense! Paranoia, suspicion, and finger pointing were an essential ingredient in the human condition, and Sven was as human as they come; he was sure of it, deep in his pulsing, metal heart.

Ri led them to her quarters, where she began speaking in hushed tones. “Okay, who wants the turbocrash? Just you?” She gestured towards Sven. Sven nodded enthusiastically and reached out his hand like an impatient child. Ri handed him a small vial of a vibrant yellow powder as Brogan and Darwin looked on, then she opened a second one. “Might take a little bump now, just to take the edge off.” She tapped some of the powder out onto the back of one of her hands, and quickly snorted it. As soon as she had, she launched her head back to look up at the three men, her pupils rapidly expanding until it looked like she had no irises at all. “Holy shit, that’s the stuff! Hey, can you guys head off now? I’m just gonna chill here.” Sven looked greedily at his own vial, but then pocketed it, and followed Brogan and Darwin out the door.

As the three men stood in the hallway, the sound of what seemed like furious masturbation reached their ears from Kantaro’s room. Again, Sven was confronted by what he had to assume was a deeply organic action being carried out by someone he was certain had been an android. “I will address this later”, he muttered to himself, then, out loud to the other two, he said, “I would like to find Tall Jerome.” “Why do you want to find that guy so bad?” Asked Brogan, looking at Sven in confusion. Sven turned to the big man and answered, “I am unsure, but I’m certain that he has something to do with the disappearance of Mike. We have a mystery at hand, but it can be solved, we just have to find Tall Jerome to seal the deal.” Sven noted that when he said the word “seal”, Darwin, who had been silently scanning the hallway, tensed up, and got a far-away look in his eyes. “Peculiar”, he thought to himself, filing the information away for later analysis.

“Well, he’s not in his room, he’s not in the mess hall, and he wasn’t in the washroom,” Darwin said, shaking himself out of whatever brief trance he had been in, “so maybe we should go and see that Sonya lady again.” It was a good idea, so the three men started heading back to the work space where Sonya’s desk was located. As they walked, Sven absent-mindedly fingered the vial of Turbocrash in his pocket, and a smile spread across his face as his pulse quickened. He’d had some crazy nights on this stuff, and he was looking forward to having another one soon. Then the smile vanished as he thought of the android they were about to go and talk to. “Sonya,” Sven whispered to himself, “that woman is definitely an evil machine, I’m one hundred percent certain of it. If we ripped that robot bitch open, there wouldn’t be a single human organ in there.”

Sonya was tapping away on her console as Darwin led them into the work space. She looked up at them with a cocked eyebrow and said, “So, how are you getting on?” “Have you seen Tall Jerome?” asked Sven, cutting straight to the chase. Sonya looked slightly confused as she responded, “I’m sure he’s around, in his quarters or the mess hall?” “No,” Sven told her, “he’s not in his room, in the mess hall, or in the wash room. Has he come past her, perhaps going into the mine?” A look of concern replaced the confusion on Sonya’s face, and Sven was impressed by the engineering that had gone into this android that she could mimic human expressions so deftly; that only made them even more dangerous… “No-one has come past here at all,” Sonya told them, the slightest edge of panic sneaking into her words, “you’re telling me we’re missing another crew member?” She packed up her console and exited the small booth she worked in. “Come, we need to gather everyone together.”

As the group made their way to the crew quarters area of Ypsilon 14, Sven was filled with the smugness that only a human – or a complex, highly-programmed android that wholly believed they were human – could feel. He had been right about Tall Jerome, he was sure of it. Somehow, the lanky android had been the key to this. Now, they would solve the missing Mike mystery, get what they came for, and be on their way. Then, he could take a dose of the Turbocrash in his pocket, and maybe see if he could drag Brogan and Darwin along to a rave somewhere; he’d heard that there was a perpetual dance party in an old nitrogen processing plant on Triton that had been going for three decades now, and he’d always wanted to check it out. Soon enough, he thought. It was all going to be plain sailing from here! As long as this Sonya robot lady didn’t try anything funny. Sven’s hand drifted to the stun-baton that hung from his hip as he scowled at the back of her undoubtedly metal head.

Sonya accessed an intercom in the hallway outside the crew quarters and called everyone to her. Doors started opening, and the inhabitants of Ypsilon 14 made their way to the administrator, some looking groggy, some looking confused, and, in Ri’s case, some looking like they’d just drank 15 caff-stim beverages and were in the middle of receiving a mild but ongoing electric shock. “Fuck yes,” Sven chuckled to himself, “Turbocrash was one hell of a drug.” Only Morgan, Ri, Dana, and Ashraf converged on Sonya and the three self-appointed investigators, so Sonya repeated the call, to no avail. “Where’s Kantaro?” mused Brogan, as he pushed open the door that they had seen the man disappear into earlier.

Kantaro’s room was covered in a sticky goo, and at first Sven drew back in disgust, remembering the sounds of self-pleasure that had originated from here a short time ago, but then curiosity overwhelmed him, and he followed Darwin and Brogan in. There was nothing amiss in the room at all, if you ignored the coating of yellowish slime that was everywhere, and the complete absence of Kantaro. “What the fuck…?” began Darwin, before he was interrupted by a muffled cry and loud screams from the hallway behind them.

The three dashed out of the small room to see Sonya being pulled into the ventilation system that ran along the ceiling, by some unseen force. Sven acted quickly and darted forward to grab her leg, trying to pull the android back down – she wouldn’t escape human justice that easy! Whatever had the other end of Sonya was much stronger than he was, so he felt relief when Darwin appeared next to him, grabbing her other leg. Even with the old soldier’s help, they were losing this game of human tug-of-war, so Sven turned his head towards Brogan, who was standing there scratching his head. “Hey! Big man! We need your help!” Brogan looked at Sven, shrugged, and came over to lend his strength. With the three of them pulling, Sven could feel them starting to make some gains, so he shouted, “On three! One! Two! Three!”

With a wet ripping sound, like a soggy newspaper being torn in two, Sonya opened up like an organic Christmas cracker. Her upper half disappeared into the vent, and Sven, Darwin, and Brogan fell back onto the floor, still holding the bottom part of the administrator. Blood that had been pressurized within her body only seconds before rained down on the three men, coating them in gore. Sven kicked off the small intestines that had looped around his legs, holding up his hands to look at the red fluid that now covered them. “Peculiar.” He said aloud, as Morgan, Ri, Ashraf, and Dana screamed, “Perhaps she wasn’t an android after all.”

Darwin, like the soldier he was, had pulled out his revolver and clambered straight into the blood-slick ventilation shaft, even before the screaming had stopped, but he’d returned a few minutes later, red all over, saying he’d run into a dead end. That whole time, Sven had stood there, perfectly still, staring at the bright crimson ichor that covered him. “She…what? Human? Not…but…” he had stammered, as confusion washed over him, coating him just as completely as Sonya’s blood had. She was an android, he knew she was an android. Definitely. But she wasn’t an android, that much was clear. His sensors were all off, his programming needed patching. Wait, what? No! He meant his senses were all off, right? What was he thinking? Maybe now was a good time for that Turbocrash after all, he had thought, just to set things straight, clear his mind, help him focus. He wasn’t a god damn android, he was a skeleton, encased in flesh, which was filled with blood, organs, and a fucking human soul! “Snap out of it, Sven Beepo 137!” he had admonished himself, pushing the vial of Turbocrash deeper into his pocket, just as Darwin had dropped back down from the vent. “We gotta get back to the shuttle,” the grizzled veteran had growled, “the shit’s hitting the fan, and we don’t wanna be here for the clean up.”

So, the survivors ran for the work space, where the shaft down to the mines yawned open like the maw of a feeding Saturnian gas whale. Darwin went straight to Sonya’s terminal while Dana watched over his shoulder. Ashraf cradled Ri, who was still clearly very much in the clutches of a Turbocrash high that had no doubt been sent somewhat off the rails by the brutal spectacle of her boss being torn apart like pulled pork. Morgan was pacing in circles, rambling to herself about escape, while Prince, the cat-shaped android, watched on, also appearing unsettled. Sven tried to distract himself, postponing the burgeoning identity crisis that was building in his head by talking to Brogan. “Our shuttle is still there, and that Dr Giovanni has one here too. I wonder where he is?” “I dunno,” said the massive teamster, “but we gotta get on that shuttle and get the hell out of here.” Sven disagreed, saying, “No, we should go down into the mines. We can still solve this mystery.” He didn’t want to spend any time alone in the quiet of a space shuttle. Too much time for introspection; he had to stay busy. “We can still find Mike, and whatever he discovered down there.” Sven could see that Brogan had no desire to stay, so he appealed to the big man’s apparent gambling habit. “I bet you six credits that we find Mike down there.” Brogan’s eyes lit up. “Yeah,” he said, “I’ll take that bet!” Sven could almost see the gears turning in the other man’s head – figuratively, of course, by now he was fairly sure that Brogan was a baseline human – as he looked excitedly towards the mine shaft. “And you know what, whatever he found is probably still down there. We could make a lot of money off whatever it is!” Dana, who had overheard the conversation chimed in, “I’ll come with you. I owe some payback to whatever it is that took Kantaro.” At that, Morgan stopped pacing and stared at them in alarm, before taking a deep breath and yelling, “Are you crazy? You’re crazy! We have to get out of here! GET THAT DOOR OPEN, WE HAVE TO LEAVE!”

Suddenly, the cat started to hiss in the direction of the mine shaft, as it backed away in fear. Morgan kept rambling and shouting, but the others had mostly stopped listening to her, instead watching Prince. Sven turned toward the open mouth of the mine, but there was nothing there; he turned back to look at Prince just in time to see Morgan let out a sudden choke, as a red line formed across her neck. Her eyes went wide, then blood geysered out of her mouth as the red line on her throat opened up like a zipper on a pencil case. Then she was jerked forwards, snatched off her feet by something Sven could not see. He stared as her body was pulled, causing her head to loll back on the ruined neck like a gruesome pez dispenser. “Hmm. Also not an android.” Sven said, pulling the stun baton off his belt and charging forwards towards the apparently invisible thing that had slaughtered Morgan.

Sven Beepo 137 dashed forwards, swinging the charged stun baton towards the seemingly open space in front of Morgan’s convulsing body. He had no idea if whatever was hunting them was still there, but it felt better to take action rather than to cower in fear. Not that Sven had ever felt fear. He spent a fraction of a second reflecting on the fact that he had never actually felt any strong human emotion, ever. Peculiar. He filed that particular piece of intelligence away and focused on the matter at hand: neutralising the threat posed by the aggressive, invisible, and unknown creature that was somewhere in his immediate vicinity.

He got lucky. The stun baton halted in mid-air as it struck something in mid swing, and Sven depressed the button that would release the weapon’s charge. More than 50000 volts arced out from the electrodes, dancing forks of lightning spreading across the invisible surface of the creature, which let out a howl of pain. “Welcome to the danger zone, asshole!” Sven shouted. Humans always had the best lines, and that one was a doozy. Another tick in the I’m-definitely-not-an-android column, he thought. He reached back to swing again, when he suddenly felt a sharp pain raking across his chest; the monster, whatever it was, was fighting back.

Sven dropped the stun baton and clutched his hands to his chest. Pain. Another trademark of organic biology; another tick in the human column. He looked down at the wounds, his skin shredded in long slashes, revealing the metallic frame, wiring, and flashing LEDs beneath. Peculiar. “Yep, definitely human.”

All of a sudden, Sven found himself transported from a world of pain, into a world of very loud noises. And pain. Six detonations rang in his ears as bullets hurtled just past his head and impacted into the invisible creature. It howled in distress once more, then it seemed to flee down the mine shaft, it’s cries vanishing into the darkness. Sven covered up his damaged chest with his jacket, then turned slowly to see Darwin, his revolver still raised and smoking after he had discharged the six rounds. “You got some good dance moves, amigo,” he snarled at Sven, lowering the gun as he pulled some sunglasses out of his front pocket and slipped them on, “but I just had to cut in.”

Darwin was back at Sonya’s terminal before Sven knew it, tapping away on the screen. “We gotta get that door open,” he muttered, “but in the mean time I’ll try to hail the pilot.” Dana nodded and pointed to a spot on the wall where life support suits and a mining laser cutter was mounted. “If you can’t hack into the control system to open the door, I think we can use that to get the door open.” Without looking away from the screen, Darwin gave her a thumbs up.

Sven walked over to where Ashraf was comforting an almost catatonic Ri. “The turbocrash should be burned out soon, the high cannot last much longer”, he told the other man. He noticed Ashraf was looking down at his ruined chest, and he pulled his jacket closed once more and said, “I’m not an android. You’re an android.” Got him good.

Suddenly, the speaker at Sonya’s terminal started crackling, and Sven heard the pilot’s voice, tinny and distorted as it asked “What the hell’s going on out there?” Darwin paused for a second before answering, “there’s something here, it’s hunting us. It’s already killed a lot of people; as far as we know, there are only six of us left. We have to get the hell out of here.” “Well, we’re not meant to leave without everyone accounted for, but if it’s that bad, you lot should get in here. Can you get the door open? It looks like it’s sealed.” The pilot responded. Sven noticed Darwin twitch slightly at the word “sealed”, but the soldier nodded to Dana, who was standing by with the laser cutter. She lowered a protective visor over her face and thumbed the ignition, bathing the entire work space in a red glow like a miniature red dwarf. “We’re about to cut it open.” “Holy shit! Okay, but be careful not to hit my shuttle!” Yelped the pilot. Without another word, Dana got to work.

Sven approached Brogan and addressed the massive worker. “So, I guess we have to abandon the foray into the mines?” He asked. Brogan turned to him and laughed, “If you want,” he answered, “but that means I win the bet, I still want to go down there! Plus, I’ve got a 50 credit bet that we find the cat down there, and that the cat did all this.” He pointed to the lifeless corpse of Morgan. Sven was confused at this; he replayed the recordings of the last 10 minutes in his memory banks, but could find no mention of the wager that Brogan was referring to. “Who do you have that bet with?” He asked, cocking his head to one side in confusion. “With you guys!” Brogan responded with a chuckle. “I never made that bet. None of us made that bet.” Sven said slowly. Brogan, still laughing to himself, just walked off, “50 credits, man. I’m gonna be rich.” Sven stared at him and shook his head. The big man was great to have around in a fight, but he definitely wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

Darwin had been working away at the terminal for a few minutes when he suddenly sat back and yelled, “Yes! I’ve hacked the doors, I can open them now!” At exactly the same time, Dana powered down the laser cutter and called out, “Alright, we’re through.” Darwin looked a little disappointed, but nodded and said, “okay everyone, that’s us. Let’s get the hell out of here.”

Dana dropped the cutter and climbed through the hole she had made, as Ashraf slowly helped Ri towards the exit. Sven realised that they were going to make it out of this deathtrap after all. His hand went to his pocket, feeling for the vial of Turbocrash. It’d probably be best to take a hit before he got on the shuttle. Thinking too much could be bad for him right now, given the threatening identity crisis that was waiting for him in his own head. He turned to leave when all of a sudden Ashraf let out a scream of pain. Sven hung his head in disappointment, then slowly swivelled on the spot to face back towards Ashraf, Ri, and the mine shaft. Ashraf’s leg was severed at the foot, and blood was gushing out: the monster was back.

There was no hesitation this time; Sven reached into his pocket and pulled out the vial of Turbocrash. He popped the lid off with his thumb, put the vial to his nose, and snorted like his life depended on it. It probably did. Turbocrash really was one hell of a drug. First, the imbiber was treated to a rapid-fire reliving of a few of their most exciting experiences, maybe four or five of them, all crammed into the space of a half a second. Next, all the concentrated excitement and exhilaration – along with plenty of other emotions – washed over the user, supercharging them with adrenaline. That was what Sven was after. Although, Sven didn’t seem to react like other people who took the drug; whenever he had used it, the memories he relived weren’t really memories, they were elaborate fabrications. They had to be: no human could do the things he saw.

There was a blinding FLASH! Then Sven was in the open vacuum of space, unprotected by a space suit, holding a light-sail and standing on a molecule-thin spaceboard, surfing the solar winds. FLASH! He was a member of a civilian militia on Ganymede during the Jovian Schism, moving through a quiet commercial strip, when all of a sudden he and the rest of his patrol was engulfed by an exploding IED, jury-rigged out of a miniaturized plasma core. FLASH! He was in a massive cage, facing off against an android in a robot versus robot deathmatch; as a baying crowd watched on, he narrowly dodged a high kick from the android, then responded by surging forwards to tackle his opponent. FLASH! He was waking up in some sort of lab, apparently having suffered catastrophic damage – the skin on his hands was torn clean away, a metal frame showing underneath, and his left leg was severed just below the knee, with sparking wires sticking out – and a man in lab coat approached him, saying, “oh, Sven, you’ve rebooted! We thought your core processor may have been corrupted. Well, just lie back and we’ll get this memory wipe underway.” FLASH! Him charging towards an invisible monster on Ypsilon 14, Ashraf lying on the ground just in front of him, screaming. Sven felt his energy levels going through the roof, and time seemed to slow down slightly, as he swung the stun-baton once more.

He missed the creature this time, and he let out a loud curse. “Fucking invisible space monster! This is bullshit!” he yelled, as he swung again, with the same result. He looked back to Darwin, who was drawing his revolver, and Brogan, who had picked up the cutting laser and was advancing forward with a grim look on his face. “Where the hell is it? We can’t see it, but I bet it can see us! This thing probably smells blood, and we’re covered in the stuff!” Like the proverbial light bulb going off, Sven was hit with a flash of inspiration. He darted forward to Ashraf and grabbed the injured man’s leg, which was launching arterial spray across the floor. As Ashraf screamed, Sven pointed his leg stump towards where he thought the beast was, sending blood gushing out like a fire hose. Success! The blood landed on the thing, painting a horrific picture of a round maw filled with needle-like teeth, and surrounded by reaching tentacles. That was all Darwin and Brogan needed: they charged towards the monstrosity.

Darwin’s revolver barked twice, sending his last two bullets at the now somewhat visible creature, but it was Brogan who did the real damage. The big man hoisted the laser cutter, cable-like muscles rippling in his arms and shoulders, and a grin forming on his face. He turned the dial on the cutter to maximum, pointed it at the monster, which was still writhing in pain from the hits it took from Darwin, and called out to it. “Hey! Space thing! Want to make a wager? I reckon I’m gonna send you to space hell.” He pressed the trigger, and a blinding red beam raked across the creature. “I’ll bet your life.”

Ashraf was still screaming as they dragged him to the shuttle. “Where is it! Oh god, where is it? Is it coming to get us?” he cried. “Relax,” Darwin said, “it fell back down the shaft after Brogan smoked it. It’s time to leave.” “We’re not leaving”, Sven said, putting a hand on Brogan’s shoulder, “we’ve got some business down in the mine.” Darwin looked at Sven and Brogan. A smile spread on his face as he pulled out his sunglasses for the second time, and put them back on. “I thought you’d never ask.”

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