Ends and Means - Part Six
After escaping the confines of Bethany's quarters--thankfully without any more attempts at smoochage this night--Alex bolted for his quarters. He just wanted to get on his lousy cot and sleep away this nightmare.
So jumbled were his thoughts, he failed to notice the lack of noise coming from his noisy neighbors' room. He also failed to notice the blood on the floor. That is, until he slipped on it, crashing to the floor yet again. This time he went down ass first. And his hand, slapping against blood as he tried to break his fall, did not go unnoticed.
He lifted the sticky hand, staring at the blood. His eyes traced along the path leading straight under the door of his sexaholic neighbors. The silence stabbed at his mind for he never knew such a silence.
Now, Alex considered himself above average in terms of smarts, but on this night, after that devastating encounter with Bethany, those smarts seemed to have disappeared completely. He approached his neighbors' door, mindful of the blood despite it now decorating the back of his pants and his shoes. Had his smarts been functioning properly he would have turned and ran in the opposite direction.
Instead he knocked. When no reply came, he shoved open the door.
Inside he found the reason for the silence. Heather and Nicolas were both on the floor. One look told him they were dead. After seeing his brother dead, Alex didn't think anything could disturb him. For some reason, though, the sight of these two, their faces smashed in, blood covering them and the floors and walls, made his stomach churn. He held on to the doorframe for balance before fumbling at the intercom in the hall.
His call of distress brought Horus, Yerik, and Sela almost at once. There was no mistaking the death-gaze as Yerik's eyes pointedly centered in on Alex's bloody hands and clothes.
"I fell on the blood!" Alex said defensively.
Horus checked the bathroom and closet for any uninvited guests, which naturally turned up nothing. Each time he stepped away from one of the potential hiding places, his gaze shot toward Alex more suspiciously than the last.
"Look at me. Do you think I'm physically capable of something like, like, that!" Alex said, pointing at the dead couple.
Sela remained silent for a time. Alex could only imagine what she thought. If these two were any indication, she was probably about to hang Alex.
In one instance of insanity, Alex nearly blurted out that he was in Bethany's quarters and couldn't possibly have done this. He bit his tongue, though. They'd find something to prove he was innocent... right?
Horus's massive frame stepped in front of Alex. "If you didn't do this, then your partner did. Everyone else on this ship has proved their loyalty countless times."
"Enough," Sela said. "Enough. He's right. He would have a hard time in a fight against Bethany. There's no way he could take out Heather and Nicolas at the same time."
"Who else possible?" Yerik nearly shouted. "Bethany not kill. Frank not kill. Jared, you, me, Anthony?" He shot a look at Horus, and then added reluctantly, "Horus? None of those kill. Only two people left."
"Assuming we don't have an intruder."
"I tell you they are spies. You don't believe me. Now they kill and still you don't believe!" Yerik fumed, limping away, heavily favoring his injured leg.
"We should lock them both up," Horus said. "At least until we can verify--"
Sela said, "No. Alex, go get cleaned up."
Alex slipped into his quarters before Sela changed her mind. Not that being there would stop them from getting him.
He stood there in the darkness, unable to breathe. In only a few short hours he was part of a massive slaughter of children, sexually assaulted by a teenage girl, and now he's been blamed for two murders. The only way things could possible get worse-- No, he wasn't about to even think how it could get worse. No sense preparing for that inevitability.
As soon as Alex shut his door, Sela pointed down at the blood in the hall. "Don't tell me you didn't notice this, Horus. This indicates someone that was already bleeding entered these quarters. When's the last time you saw our guest?"
Horus's dark features frowned. "There's no way he can get loose. It has to be one of those--"
"A few hours before the attack."
They made their way to the engine room. Amidst the ear-shattering thrum of the engines, Horus moved ahead of Sela and approached the small, room hidden away in the back where the special guest resided. He didn't get very far before turning back to Sela, his entire face a scowl of indignation.
"Impossible!" he shouted over the engines. "One of those two must have let him out!"
Sela went past the man and stood in the opened doorway. A mess of blood stained the single chair inside, along with the walls and floor. The occupant, however, was nowhere to be seen. Behind her, Horus continued to shout his denials. Fact is he screwed this up big time. Yerik's doubts about the man suddenly solidified in Sela's mind.
She turned, eyes scanning the floor until she found the blood trail leading along the side of the engine room. She followed it until it stopped abruptly. On the floor, the grating that normally covered the air ventilation shaft laid tossed aside. One look inside the shaft told her all she needed to know. The blood trail continued within.
Calmly, Sela turned to Horus. "Find him," she shouted over the roar of engines. "Find him before he kills again. My orders stand. Do not kill him. And Horus? If he kills again, you will be next."
She walked away from the now raging ball of muscles. His shouts faded into the growling engines.
Katlyn sat on the edge of her bed--Jared managed to find one in storage, disposing of that pitiful cot she'd been using--reading a historical romance novel on her SoftPAD. The story took place in the late twentieth century and was absurdly inaccurate. Still, she found it well written and enjoyed it.
Just when it was about to get good, Alex busted into her room. The first this she noticed was the blood. She set the SoftPAD aside, rushed over to him. "Are you hurt?"
"Not my blood. Look, Katlyn, I think we've made a mistake. We need to get away from this ship and these people."
"Not your blood? What did you do?"
"Heather and her boy toy are dead."
Katlyn stepped back. "Alex--"
"I didn't kill them! Even you? What the hell!"
"Calm down. Tell me what happened."
After a brief rundown, Katlyn shook her head. "Maybe I should go help."
"Listen to me. These people are insane. We have to get out of here."
"We're in the middle of space. How would you propose we leave?"
Alex sagged against the door.
"We're in too deep now," Katlyn said.
She led Alex over to her bed, his look of disgust poorly hidden as his eyes fell upon the real bed. She stripped his shirt off, using it to wipe his hands as clean as possible. "Right now," she said, "You need to concentrate on finding us a way home. I'll deal with the people here. You just work on that."
She paused, looking up at his defeated face. "What do you mean?"
"You're practically one of them."
That made her laugh. "I don't want to be here any more than you do, Alex. At the same time, I don't want to sit around wasting my life while you tried to get us home. That's not who I am. So until you do finish your machine, I have to look at this as my life and I have to live. That means becoming a part of the group. Look at how miserable you are trying to fight the current. You don't want to be here and you don't do anything to show otherwise. That puts you at odds against everyone."
Alex just shook his head. "I don't know if I can get us home."
"You can." Katlyn tossed the bloody shirt aside and removed Alex's shoes. "You just need to sleep--a good, deep sleep. Use my bed. Sleep. Tomorrow start fresh."
"You really don't want to be here?"
"No, I don't. But here is where I am, and it's my belief I was brought here for a reason. I don't know what you believe in, Alex, but that's something for you to decide. For me, being here at this specific time in this specific place must mean I was meant to be here. So here I am. I'm not fighting because I'm meant to be here. And until I can go home, which will be when you finish the machine, which, as far as I believe, will be when I've done whatever it is I'm supposed to have done."
"Maybe," Alex said.
Katlyn saw the doubt but said nothing. She stood Alex up, pulled off his bloody pants, and then pushed him onto the bed. He fell asleep in moments, exhausted as he was. She covered him before heading across the hall to fetch him some fresh clothes for the morning.
To be continued...