Killgrace and the Alien Threat

You function?

“Yes, I – oh no.” She dropped to her knees, checking for Yemec’s pulse. There was none.

You were under attack.

“He was deranged. He did not know what he was doing.”

Irrelevant. He would still have killed you.” She swallowed, unable to argue with the creature’s logic.

“Go back to the Capsule. I will explain this and then meet you there. I think we’ve finished here.” To her surprise the Cull did not immediately leave.

They may be aggressive.

“Unlikely.” It was already getting easier to breathe, and she could feel her head clearing, the lifting of a faint fuzziness she had not known was there. She looked at Yemec’s body, wondering if she could have held him off a little longer, whether he would have snapped out of it. Then she looked away, in the certain knowledge that he would have killed her first.

“They will be recovering. Introducing a new factor to an unstable group of people is more likely to cause problems than solve them.” And, she said quietly to herself, she really did not want to be around the Cull right now. Her nerves were worn thin and if she let her emotions slip and screamed at it she would be as dead as Yemec.

Agreed.” And now, mercifully it turned and left, as silently as it had entered. She bent down, closing the corpse’s eyes and laid it out neatly, arms crossed. There was no reason to give the crew a more unpleasant job than they already had. Finished, she could not put off the far more difficult task any longer.

She walked to the lounge, gathering her composure to face Yemec’s colleagues. The others were waiting, looking more alert already. From their looks on their faces they knew something was wrong.

“What happened? Where’s Yemec?” Megah demanded.

“We solved it,” she said, sinking into a chair. “But Yemec is dead.”

“Explain.” Jayan said, putting a comforting hand on Susan’s arm. Involuntarily Susan flinched.

She explained, as simply as she could, what had been causing it and what had happened to Yemec, leaving out the role of the Cull entirely. If they weren’t familiar with high pressure damage then there was no need to reveal the creature’s presence and give them another shock.

“But if it’s so simple, why didn’t anyone work it out?” Megah asked incredulously and Jayan shook her head.

“By the time, the symptoms showed, no one was thinking clearly enough,” she said. Susan sighed. “I think the first crew worked it out, but by the time they did they were so far gone that they couldn’t work out the complex details of lowering the pressure. Opening the door must have been all they could think of.”

“If the pressure in here is dropping, why isn’t the base going up?” Megah asked.

“Because it’s going back into the tanks,” Jayan said, “the total mass of the sphere doesn’t change.” Susan coughed, drawing their attention.

“If you can, get them to lift this early. It needs to be strengthened if they are going to put people down here for any length of time. Lower the pressure to one atmosphere permanently and even if a storm rolls in it should be safe.”

“We can’t radio – ”

“The escape pods,” Jayan said simply. “We don’t put a person in, we just put a written message. If it gets through the storm great.”

“And if – ”

As their discussion turned technical, Susan took the opportunity to quietly withdraw. The hiss of the door closing behind her was hardly noticed as the team went to work. She knew they would make it, and staying longer would simply be delaying.

She walked back to the storage room alone, slowly, trying to put off confronting the Cull. At least one of the deaths here was directly due to their presence, but if they had not been here, the entire crew would have died. One life for many, a logical trade perhaps, but one she was never comfortable making, and it weighed on her conscience.

All too soon, the store room door opened. A familiar, armoured, navy-blue, shape rested outside the capsule, turning a piercing blue glare on her. She walked past it, pulling the key from her pocket.

What was the cause?” the creature demanded. Susan wanted to snap back at it, but as far as she could tell the Cull was honestly curious. She did not want to look at the alien, so she settled for turning the key instead and speaking to the lock in front of her.

“Nitrogen narcosis. It’s a pressure-related condition, like the bends,” she said, hoping the earth terminology would confuse him and he would shut up.

The Bends. Cassion Disease.

“Well, yes. A related condition. But no one’s called it that since the nineteenth century.” Susan stared at it, wondering where it had picked up the obscure slang. The Cull did not answer, simply gliding into the Capsule and rotating its head piece and sensors to face her.

You are no longer under duress.

“No. I feel absolutely fine,” Susan said, with some bitterness. She stepped inside and the interior of the Capsule lit up. She closed the door, sitting down on the bench and pulled the lever. “Home.”

I detected no – ” Susan opened the Capsule door and stepped out into their laboratory.

“The trip home is always shorter. Excuse me, I want some time alone.” She turned, heading for her rooms above. Mercifully, the Cull did not follow.


“Aliens? Isn’t it more likely that one of you hallucinated them, and in their more suggestible state the rest of the crew went along with it?” The officer asked. The rest of the crew were huddled in blankets in the sickbay of their main base, grateful and safe.

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