When my attacker stopped wriggling and gurgling on the floor under the hammering of the pry bar, I dropped to my knees. My breath came in ragged gasps and my heart beat furiously. For a while, I sat and watched the blood slowly pool around its upper torso and creep across the floor toward me. I kept the bar held high, in case it made any last moves. When I was certain that it was lifeless, I let the pry bar fall from my aching hands. The bang and clatter from the bar against the deck shattered the silence.  It was then that I realized that there could be any number of other things like this on the ship. I grabbed the bar again, rose up off my aching knees, and quickly hid myself.

The dim green lighting illuminated very little down the long corridor to the fore end of the upper deck. I stood and watched for hours, partially hidden behind the corner of the entryway for the Equipment Lift staging area. During that time, nothing appeared. But nothing looked right either.

The lighting was all wrong, far dimmer and greener than the normal full-spectrum lighting on ships of this type. It hurt my head to stare it it for any length of time. There was also the presence of the thick and sticky green residue that clung to every vertical surface and smeared up the flooring. The smell was awful, choking. It was decay and waste. It was as if the whole ship had become a vile, overgrown aquarium of sorts, sans water.

“An aquarium?”

I suddenly realized that the dead LMO on the floor had more to tell me still. I quickly slipped over to the Emergency Use container and retrieved a retractable scalpel from the med kit and brought it to the body.

Although Living Modified Organisms are common stock for certain business entities and industries, there are only some twenty-three thousand “licensed” LMOs in service. Each type is developed with highly-specific characteristics that meet the needs of the corporation that has the technology to create, grow, train, educate, manage, and track each of these assets. There are a very small number of advanced bio labs on Earth that can create this type of life form. They are highly valuable assets and are tracked as such. Tracking is facilitated by a sub-dermal chipset sealed in a 20mm silicone tube. And each of these tracking chipsets is implanted under the dermis between the shoulder blades.

The chipset is the first key. The chipset is one small piece of the answer. And, after fifteen minutes of cutting and digging, with my hands covered in dead flesh and warm fluids, I realized that I could not find a chipset at all. There was nothing there. This thing did not come from a lab. This was not a licensed LMO. This was something different, something new.

I stood up from the body and tried to shake the filth from my hands, sending splatters of fluids across the floor and all over my clothes. Disgusted, I bent down and wiped my hands off on the body. I then began to make my assumptions.

This LMO could not have been part of the mission on this ship. The ship had either been overtaken at some point during the mission or overtaken prior to departure. I didn’t know which was more possible and I didn’t know which was more infuriating. No reasonable answer was apparent. I was at a complete loss. My mind drifted.

It was quiet. Quiet enough that I could hear residual ringing in my ears from all the recent noise and calamity. For a while, the absence of noise was almost blissful. I almost closed my eyes. It was then that the banging from the decks below started.

[Communication sent: 29JAN2186 Shinkai Maru 5]

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