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.)