Dexter Liu’s ending

The medical lab was sparklingly white in the bright overhead light. Dexter thought it would probably glow even if all the power in the ship were turned off, it was so sterile and polished.

The stasis pods lining the walls were full; the crew of the starship slept peacefully and unaware inside. The frosted glass covers allowed Dexter to see the men and women who were at his mercy.

The steady lights on the individual control panels indicated that all was well with the crew and no one had begun their wake cycle. None of the pods sat empty, either, leaving Dexter to question whether it was a malfunction or the shadowy forms that had led to the overhead lights being on. Dexter Liu knew enough about space travel to know that during stasis trips, minimal power was used during the flight.

Dexter searched the glass canopies, looking for signs of familiarity in the faces of the crew. He found none. He touched each canopy, his fingers leaving greasy smudges on the glass. He bowed to each one, his supposed ancestors, apologizing for his actions.

Then the bare-footed man turned from the stasis pods and fled down yet another corridor, continuing his flight to the bridge.

Sound followed Dexter. He heard the same alien voices, calling his name, taunting him in the unfamiliar language. He heard the swooshing of doors, opening and closing in his wake. He heard the computer, chiming and chirping to itself from distant rooms. His uneasiness grew. He ran faster.

Dexter’s path from the medical bay led him to a nearby access tube. His fingers trembled as he pulled the panel from the wall. He ducked his head inside. The interior was illuminated by micro-lights, evenly spaced along the edges of the ladder, reminding Dexter of the landing lights at his home space port. He shook off the memories and began to climb.

Halfway up the tube, a gush of air flew past Dexter’s upturned face. He paused. Fear swarmed inside, but he roughly pushed it aside to continue his journey.

The last access point of the tube was just three corridors away from the secondary bridge door. He was almost to the end of his mission. Dexter prayed that this time his expensive override code would work to open the locked room.

The dim hallway lit up dutifully as Dexter Liu crawled from the access port. He glanced quickly around, searching for signs of the shadowy aliens. But he saw nothing unusual. He jogged the remaining distance to the door, listening to the mocking sounds that followed him still.

The electronic lock was easily manipulated and the door swooshed open with a quiet huffing sound. The voices fell silent, leaving Dexter in a stunningly loud vacuum. He felt his nerves quiver as he stepped inside.

The bridge was blue and white, with chrome fixtures. Dexter paused to take it all in, but a quick glance at his watch put him into overdrive. He rushed to the main computer bank.

Dexter’s fingers flew across the keys. He modified the flight plan, taking the ship further into the depths of space. He smiled to himself. The ship’s new course would have it running out of fuel near Aryth, a world far more civilized than his ancestors had originally planned to settle on.

While he waited for the warning chimes of his chrono-watch, he punched up the crew manifest. The short list of officers held none of the familiar names of his predecessors. A rapid search of the remaining crew gave him no answers, either.

It wasn’t until he searched the entire ship’s record did he find his ancestral name. Seventeen of them, just as the Liu family history claimed. But not as officers and crew, but as exiled slaves, sent to do hard labor on a penal planet.

 

Dexter Liu continues

(Part 1; Part 2; Part 3)

Dexter felt his legs move. They carried him, almost against his will, toward the dojo door. With his heart thudding wildly in his ears, he strained to make sense of the murmuring voices coming from within the room.

Dexter managed to filter out one or two words, but they held no meaning for him. He could tell there were two voices, but they were so similar in tone that it took him several minutes to decide on that number.

The bare-footed man tiptoed closer to the keypad. He saw the steady green light indicating the door was unlocked. He let his eyes roam to the other doors nearby. All showed steady red lights.

Dexter Liu’s uneasiness grew. He felt his chest tighten in anticipation. Without second guessing himself, he stabbed the keypad, firmly hitting the ‘open’ command key. In response, the dojo door swooshed open and the light inside flickered on.

Before he could lose his nerve, Dexter rushed through the opening. As he crossed the threshold, he realized the voices had stopped. His eyes darted around the room, searching for the source of the conversation. All he saw were shadows cast by the equipment stands and the pair of decorative armor sets near the back wall.

Dexter moved further into the room. His bare feet sank into the protective mats that covered the dojo floor. The door closed behind him with a whoosh and the air pressure inside the room increased. Dexter felt the small hairs on the back of his neck stand to attention.

He continued his search, though now he considered that he might have been imagining the voices. The pressure to quickly finish his mission was making his mind whirl in confusion.

The man moved quietly to the middle of the floor, his eyes still roving. From the far wall came movement. His eyes darted back to stare at the decorative armor. It took several long moments for his mind to register the absence of one of the shadows.

A sound from behind caused him to turn, but too slowly. Something barrelled into him, knocking him onto the cushion of the dojo mat. His breath rushed from his body as he landed. A heavy weight on his back kept him down, unable to turn to see what had attacked him.

“D e x t e r,” a voice whisper-slurred in his ear. It was the same voice from earlier, in the dojo, and, he suddenly realized, from near the bridge.

“What do you want? Who are you?” Dexter’s voice was frantic with fear. Tears filled his eyes and overflowed, spilling out onto his cheeks.

The voice laughed, but Dexter found nothing funny in the sound.

A shadow disconnected itself from the wall behind the armor and slithered across the floor toward the prone man. Dexter shivered in terror. He couldn’t make out any details in the dark shape. The only thing that registered in his mind was the shape; it was not quite the shape of a man with its elongated arms, shortened legs, and triangular head. It was certainly not a member of the crew.

The approaching shadow hissed, but not at Dexter. Its arms moved and it continued to speak to the weight on Dexter’s back. After a few bursts of indignant sounding replies from Dexter’s attacker, the weight lifted and the pair of dark forms scurried through the wall of the dojo.

Dexter Liu stared, unbelieving, at the solid wall where the shadows departed. He was too frightened to move, but the urgent tug of his mission pulled on his mind. The man rolled onto his back, then sat up. He pushed himself from the floor and ran for the door, his bare feet slapping solidly against the safety mats.

The mechanical whooshing of the door opening was musical to Dexter’s ears. He paused at the door, looking back toward the interior, wondering what exactly it was he had just encountered. Shaking the puzzle from his thoughts, he turned once again to the med lab and its mysterious light.

He feared for his mission’s success, but he was also beginning to fear for his life.

Should Dexter Liu continue his quest to take control of the ship, or should he awaken the crew for their assistance in handling the alien invaders? You decide.

Dexter Liu’s decision

(Part 1 is here. Part 2 is here.)

His instincts won over his desire to finish his mission quickly and Dexter Liu hurried down the corridor toward the medical lab. The lights in this corridor worked properly, lighting his way then dimming behind. His bare feet carried him at a trot down the long hallway, passing junction after junction.

The med lab was near the rear of the ship, close to the hangar bays. When Dexter reached the final branching of hallways, he paused to listen. He heard nothing but the throbbing hum of the life support. He smiled to himself.

He turned right, away from the elevator that led to the massive hangars. His confidence returned and he checked the watch on his left wrist. He chuckled to himself when he realized he still clung tightly to a suede slipper. Dexter dropped the shoe, then thought better of it; he might find a use for it before he reached the bridge.

He bent over to retrieve the slipper. Just as his fingers closed on the hard sole of the shoe, he felt a rush of air across his back. Dexter dropped to his knees. He twisted his head to look down the corridor toward the med lab, but he saw nothing out of place.

He whipped his head toward the elevator. His eyes widened as the doors to the lift closed silently. He watched the numbers flip on the display next to the door. The numbers stopped at the bottom, the entrance to the hangar bays.

Dexter Liu’s heart rate increased. He could feel the thudding of his pulse in his temples. In horror, he saw the green lighted numbers begin climbing. Fear screamed in his ears, urging him to run. He turned away from the elevator and scrambled to his feet, letting the terror fuel his flight.

Just past the corridor junction, the short hallway widened into a dining room. Dexter recalled the wall map and decided this must be the crew dining hall. He tore past the metal chairs and tables with their super-weighted legs and into the adjoining kitchen. He ignored the sparklingly sterile area as unimportant and continued his dash toward the medical lab.

Another corridor, lined with doors leading to larger rooms, loomed just past the kitchen. The locked doors all lead to various fitness and leisure rooms. A crew in space needed regular exercise to maintain muscle mass and flexibility.

A shadow flitted by the windowed door of the main gym as Dexter sped past. His steps slowed, then stopped. He backtracked to the gym’s door and gazed at the window high in the metal door. Nothing moved inside the room.

Dexter Liu waited, willing his breathing to equalize and his nerves to calm. He listened intently and was rewarded with the sound of the digitized keypad being depressed on one of the nearby locked doors. He spun in a circle, searching for the origin of the noise. His eyes were drawn to a room several doors back toward the kitchen.

The dojo, where most of the crew gathered to learn hand-to-hand combat in the forms of ancient martial arts. Curiosity drew Dexter toward the door.

He took several steps then paused. He heard voices, low and urgent, coming from the direction of the dojo.

Dexter’s feet, with a mind of their own, slid backward, carrying him away from the beckoning voices in the room down the hall.

But his feet stuttered to a stop only seconds later, when a light flickered on in the distant med bay.

Dexter Liu stared at first one anomaly then another. He needed to get through the medical bay to reach the bridge to complete his mission, but the flickering light suggested he might have to contend with an awakened crewman. On the other hand, the furtive voices in the dojo might mean he was already in the middle of a flanking maneuver.

Which way should Dexter go? Continue toward the medical lab with its many sleeping crewmen and mysterious light? Or should he investigate the voices in the dojo, hoping to outmaneuver any enemies? You decide.

Dexter Liu’s flight

(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.

Once.

Twice.

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?

You decide.

The plight of Dexter Liu

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.

One step.

Two steps.

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.)