Last week I introduced you guys to Brady Garrett, the narrator of Dark Space. Now meet Cameron Rushton. Cam has spent the last four years as a prisoner of the Faceless. Here, Brady comes face to face with him for the first time.
Branski had said Cameron Rushton was in stasis, and I guess I’d thought of some sort of plastic pod, all sleek and smooth and rounded, like a throwback to those old sci-fi movies. But this was nothing like that.
This was black, the same oily black as the Faceless battle armor, and it wasn’t sleek. It was bulky and misshapen. It reminded me of a beetle’s carapace. Back home in Kopa we used to get those big hissing rhinoceros beetles, with sharp mandibles and articulated legs. The stasis unit could have passed for one of those, except it was about ten feet long, lying on its back with its legs clamped around an opaque sac of fluid with veins through it. It was fucking terrifying.
Just looking at it, I could feel the blood draining from my face.
There was a body floating inside the milky fluid, and I didn’t have to ask: Cameron Rushton. It looked like he was being consumed by a giant insect, or hatched by one.
I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was grotesque. Why the hell had Doc asked me to be here for this? Whatever this was. I fought the urge to shove my shaking hands inside my pockets. I tried to remember to breathe. If I hadn’t been surrounded by a bunch of officers, I would have cut and run. No fucking question.
“Take a look, Garrett,” Doc said and pushed me forward.
My stomach clenched and churned.
My skin crawled. I didn’t want to be in the same room with the unit, let alone close enough to touch. I didn’t want to get closer. I wanted to be outside. I wanted to be in my barracks. I wanted to be a million miles away, with the sun at my back and my feet in the dirt. Not here. Not in the black, in the cold, with a nightmare right in front of me.
The unit hummed like a living thing, and I couldn’t shake the idea that if I got too close, it would suddenly attack. One of those mandibles would detach from the sac in a split second and stab me right through the guts. It would be like every horror movie I’d ever seen. Maybe that’s why all those officers wanted me there. I was their test bunny.
I looked back at Doc.
Please. Please don’t make me.
He waved me forward.
I moved closer to the unit, the soles of my boots squeaking on the floor. The unit was inky black. I could see my reflection in it, more or less: a pale face with big, scared eyes and a bad haircut.
Keep it together, Garrett.
I reached out and touched the bug. It was warm underneath my trembling fingers. It was smooth. It even felt like a carapace. I couldn’t see a power source, but I could feel power humming through it, below the seamless outer casing. I ran my palms over it, just to be sure it wouldn’t move. Then I raised myself up onto the toes of my boots and took a look inside at Cameron Rushton.
A pallid face lay close to the surface of the opaque fluid.
It was the most famous face of my generation’s war, a face I’d seen a hundred times on posters and TV. Immersed in that milky fluid, Cameron Rushton’s face was pale, paler than mine, and thin and angular as though the skin was stretched too tight across the bones of his skull. His eyes were closed; dark lashes lay against his cheeks. There was a tiny bubble caught between the lashes of his left eye. I found myself reaching out to wipe it away. I stopped myself before I touched the sac. Shit. My heart raced. What the hell was I thinking?
Cameron Rushton was naked. He looked like a corpse. Were they sure he was alive? How could they be sure?
I turned around, and all the officers were staring at me.
“What do you think, Garrett?” Doc asked me.
“Is he dead, Major?” I asked, my voice wavering. I thought I could see his body moving slightly, rippling almost, but maybe that was the power thrumming through the unit. What the fuck did I know about Faceless technology?
Doc came and stood beside me. “Touch it.”
You fucking touch it.
Doc winked at me. The gesture was so out of place, so fucking absurd when we were standing beside a piece of humming Faceless technology that could be anything, that could mean we were already dead, that I almost laughed. I caught the laugh before it broke free, smothered it into a cough, and then remembered that this was terrifying.
Dark Space will be out from Loose Id on December 4.