Title: The Taurus Conspiracy
Author: Zoe LeCraw
Summary: The inhabitants of an orbital ring adrift deep in space pass through an unusual nebular only to come out the other end in an unknown star system with a hostile force bearing down on them. Foul play is suspected….
Word count: 946
Image: Stefan Böttcher
A great, rusting ring drifted through a stale ether of thick clouds that had blotted out Taurus. The mysterious clouds settled especially thickly around the stars of the Great Bull’s horns, causing Messier 1 and Elnath to become so diminished they could no longer sense one another.
Unfortunately, it’s very hard to determine how everything went so wrong when no one was around to witness. But when Gunnar woke up to the consequences of said unknown event he knew that Murphy’s Law had played a strong role. Even through the thick clouds that swirled amidst his mind, he could tell that much.
Gunnar shook his head, hoping to clear it, but instead resulted in more open spaces for the madness to seep into. He dropped to the meshed-steel floor, his vision wavering on the thick lines branded into the grime-covered flesh of his forearm; 76. Just as his vision began to focus the ship lurched, sending him rolling into the glass siding of his ship; The RV Osiris.
A dead body bearing an uncomfortably familiar face slid into Gunnar’s lap, staring up at him with clawed out eyes. Gunnar gagged, pushed his dead wife’s body away, and screamed to the empty heavens.
“You have been chosen.” A grating voice filtered through the clouds consuming his mind, and it filled him with a sudden rage.
“Chosen by what?!”
“I… apologize, that the experiment was a failure, but everything needs a beginning.”
Gunnar stared wide-eyed at the rusting floor -fuckin’ Torres- forcing the darkness in his mind to subside, but it had built a home nestled deep within his cerebellum. The muscles throughout his body twitched with the effort, it was like dragging cinder blocks through molasses with dental floss.
“Unfortunately, this is where I must leave you. The Follies may have chosen you, but we no longer have a need for them, and the well-being of Taurus is no longer our concern.”
“What are you talking about?!?”
“I’m sorry Mr. Gunnar, but this is where you die.”
The voice was gone, and a gap opened up within his mind. Thinking quickly he dove for it, taking control of the territory before the Follies did. Gunnar stayed bent over for what seemed like hours, just trying to accept the bottom line fact of the situation. Torres had betrayed him, had betrayed Amy, had betrayed Taurus, and he’d be damned if he’d let them get away with it.
Gunnar pushed himself up and stumbled for the Diving room. With power long gone he had to rely on his brute strength to get around, and it was slowly being consumed by the Follies’ infestation wreaking havoc on his mind. A row of helmets, all either broken or on the head of a dead companion, filled the numbered stations. He walked through a graveyard of gore -disgust, rage, and fear playing their own roles across his face. Gunnar reached station 76 and slipped the thin band around his temples comfortably, a middle band locking into place from the back of his neck to his forehead.
Darkness swirled around him like a tornado, and when it was over he stood there, sweating and breathing in the middle of the murkiness of his infested mind. He could feel the twin Magnums strapped into holsters at his ribs, the sawed-off shotgun resting against his back, the machete hanging from his belt, and thousands of beady eyes ready to rip him open and use him like they’d used the rest of his crew.
Perfect marksman bullets tore through the air, slowly depleting the amount of beady eyes racing toward Gunnar, slowly diminishing the darkness clouding his mind, slowly killing the infestation of Follies. With every hit, Gunnar became clearer of mind and stronger of body, but with every hit, he felt it. Felt the searing pain the removal of a Folly caused in each cell it had latched on to.
The sun had risen and set its light on the thick darkness that shrouded Taurus twice by the time Gunnar had fought his way to the base the Follies had built within his cerebellum. He stood, sweating and breathing, looking out the citadel window the Follies had built. Gunnar pulled a cigar from his pocket, it’s paper stained with blood on one side, and lit it up, pulling a long, slow drag into his burning lungs. He knew one of the slimy little buggers was still around, lurking in a corner of the off-kilter room. It soon came screaming out of hiding and Gunnar, still puffing away on the cigar, lifted the shotgun and fired, the large caliber bursting through the Follies’ spindly black chest. Black goo sprayed across the stone floor, and the whole building began to crumble.
Gunnar closed his eyes, pulled an invisible helmet from his head and gasped for air, the cigar dropping to the steel floor of the Diving Room. He dropped to one knee, hands held to his head, a physical attempt to keep from it metaphorically exploding along with the crumbling citadel the Follies had built within him. His screams hit the walls of the room and dropped, echoless within his dead ship.
Pain had consumed his life since he’d woken up to the inexplicable devastation that had befallen The RV Osiris, and now he was ready to dish some out. Torres would have no idea what hit them.