(Part 1 of this serial is here.)
Dexter Liu’s heart thudded wildly in his chest as he turned to the left. He raced down the hallway, the lights flickering on and off in response to his flight. He ignored the solidly closed doors to either side, knowing that they were dead-ends, single occupant rooms.
In his panic, his thoughts jumbled together. He slowed to a jog, then a walk before finally stopping his head-long rush. Dexter looked around himself, trying to determine where his frantic flight had landed him.
His roving eyes saw, several feet down the hall, a ship schematic hanging on the wall. He hurried to it, his eyes scouring the map for a route back to the bridge. No matter what he believed he had heard or seen, he needed to access the bridge. His whole future depended on that.
Dexter Liu studied the map for minutes, committing the best route to his memory. He reviewed two other routes, as well, in case something unexpected occurred in his journey.
He turned from the map, gazing back along the hallway from which he’d come. Nothing seemed amiss, now, and he chided himself on his panicked flight of fancy. But, preferring to be safe rather than sorry, he twisted on his bare feet to continue along the metal-walled corridor.
As he walked, Dexter ran over his course in his mind. He counted one junction as he passed by, then the next. At the third junction, Dexter turned right. A few steps in, however, an uneasy feeling washed over him. He hesitated. The small hairs on the back of his neck shivered in an imagined breeze.
Past where Dexter Liu knew the next branching corridors to be, down the hall he hesitated to continue into, the low-energy lights flickered.
Then several flared at once, brightening to an unbearable level, then suddenly failing altogether, plunging the distant portion of the corridor into an inky blackness.
Dexter considered the path ahead, then considered the longer, more roundabout route that would take him through the medical bay, with its occupied sleep pods, to the bridge. He turned around, looking across the junction to the longer route. His feet carried him back into the wide area where the corridors met.
His instincts urged him to flee from the darkness, but his desire to finish his work pulled him toward the well of inky blackness.
Dexter Liu worried over both options. He could take the direct route, through the pool of dead space, where the lights had suddenly gone out, or he could make his way through the medical bay, where several of the ship’s officers slept. Either way could be dangerous. One way could put his plan back on schedule, while the other risked putting his plan, and his life if he was caught, in danger.
Which way should Dexter Liu take? Straight through the menacing darkness to the bridge, and completion of his dread plans? Or should Dexter Liu avoid the darkness and its possible dangers, to risk total disruption of his timeline by going through the medical lab?