The silence on board the ship was deafening. Dexter Liu strode through the empty corridors with purpose. The entire crew was in space sleep, the hibernation pods locked with time locks, so even if they had been aware of his plans, they couldn’t stop him.
Dexter’s slippered feet swished quietly along the organic metal floor. Pulsing low-energy lights illuminated the area within five feet of him. Each light brightened to allow easy visibility as he moved within range, then lowered again to a soft ambiance as he departed.
The plush gown the man wore kept him warm enough in the lowered temperature of the ship. The barest of chills swept across the few patches of bare skin as the ship’s circulatory systems refreshed the air around him. He smiled to himself, anticipating his arrival on the ship’s bridge, only a few hundred more yards away.
A whirring sound behind him intruded on his thoughtful anticipation. His steps slowed. Dexter turned his head to the side, angling his ears toward the sound. He didn’t hear it again.
Shrugging his shoulders, Dexter picked up his pace once again. He turned his attentions to the sounds of the ship, listening for anything peculiar. But nothing seemed out of place. Besides his presence, of course.
He smiled once again, reviewing his plan for the millionth time since he hatched it. Dexter’s steps carried him to the lift, which dutifully opened to allow him entrance. He selected the bridge level, four stops up.
A flash of light appeared in the corridor he’d come from, just as the lift doors closed. Dexter wondered at it, thinking perhaps the ship, feeling his presence, had opened a security officer’s pod early.
But as he considered the possibility, he realized that none of the low-energy lights had brightened behind him, as they were programmed to do when a physical being was present. Vaguely disturbed by the phenomenon, Dexter mulled it over during the short ride to the captain’s deck.
As the doors on the main deck swished open, the man heard scuttling noises coming from a nearby corridor. The hairs on his neck stood up and chills scattered across his spine.
“Hello? Who’s there,” he called. There was no answer, but the noise stopped.
Ignoring the closed bridge doors beside the lift, Dexter Liu moved outward, toward the noise-containing corridor. The lights, as low-energy here as in the rest of the ship, behaved properly at his advance.
The entrance to the metal hallway was brightened by his presence, but none of the lights, further along, brightened to indicate anything was amiss. Slowly, Dexter bent to slide the slippers from his feet. Cocking his arm back, he threw the shoe as far down the corridor as he could. In response, the lights flickered uncertainly, due to the size of his shoe, but Dexter determined the sensors were working properly.
Unease set in. Dexter stepped sideways, keeping his eyes trained on the length of the corridor.
Then a barely audible, incoherent whisper brushed past Dexter’s right ear.
Startled he whirled, wide eyes looking in vain for the source. But the vestibule was empty except for him.
His nerves wrecked, he raced to the doors of the bridge, but they refused to open for him. Frantically, Dexter punched in his key code on the door’s manual lock. Still, it refused to open.
Feeling eyes on his back, he tried the override code he had paid his family’s fortune for, but it, too, was rejected.
From the corridor, furthest right in the vestibule, Dexter heard his name whispered.
He ran. Down the center hallway, the lights flashing on and off, before and behind. His whispered name chasing his flight.
His heart pounded and ached. His legs cramped from overuse, but still Dexter fled. Until the corridor branched off in two directions.
Dexter Liu stopped, panting, as he considered his choices. Left? Right? Which way was safe? Which way led to danger?
You decide. Which way should Dexter Liu run, to the left or to the right?
(Part 2 is here.)