The hull beams groaned softly. Another groan accompanied it, this from a throat. The throat of a man sprawled on the deck. A series of low thuds resonated through the deck, stirring the man. His eyes opened slowly, breaking the weak glue of long closure. He groaned again, this time with more conviction.
"What the hell?" he muttered. The deck vibrated. He raised a hand cautiously, seeking his head, but the effort was too much. The hand fell limply to the deck once more, mere inches from where it had started. Black spots danced before his vision. He lay still for a moment, breathing deeply, trying to retain consciousness.
A moment passed. The hull groaned. The deck thudded.
The man's vision cleared. He reached for his head again, but thought better of it before his hand arrived. Instead, he used it to prop himself up. He rose to a sitting position and took stock of himself.
Four limbs, both my eyes work, head's in one piece... His head swam. Ugh. Mostly, anyway. Though his limbs ached, and he had no feeling in one of his fingers, he figured he could probably limp out... if only he could get his head to stop hurting. Or at least make it hurt less.
Although... Where the hell was here? And why did it keep making these infernal noises? He looked around.
The deckplate upon which he sat was strewn with broken glass, shredded metal, and blobs of plastic, apparently melted and left to cool. As he raised his head, the superstructure of the... ship? Station? groaned again. It was more insistent this time, as if the hull either wanted him to stay down or get moving.
The tableau before him did little to assuage his confusion. A long desk or counter or something was in a state of disarray similar to the deck. Debris covered it from end to end. There were some things he almost recognized here, though. Things that might have been tools or sensors. A shattered screen here, a handle curled around itself there. A pair of forceps thrust through a tray. He turned from the counter and looked for a door. He found one, though it was closed. A pad adjacent to it appeared remarkably unscathed.
The deck shuddered, the sequence of thuds louder than ever. The man decided to try getting up, in case he needed to get somewhere in a hurry. Unsteadily, he climbed to his feet, using the counter for support. His head swam, almost bringing him down again, but his grip on the counter was solid. As his vision cleared, he looked at the wall opposite the door. A pair of thick metallic disks were attached to the wall. The first was near the floor, while the other, directly above it, was about twenty centimeters from the high ceiling. Jagged glass shards protruded from a collar encircling each ring. A collection of wires emerged from a battered fixture on the wall beside the ruptured chamber, torn and frayed. The wall itself sported deep scores and light burn marks. Whatever the chamber had contained had voiced its displeasure in a most destructive manner. The wall opposite the counter stood clean, defying the rest of the room. No scores or scorches marred its smooth, glassy surface.
The man's contemplation on the matter was cut short by another groan from the hull, matched by a half-dozen pops and bangs from the deck. The man made his way to the door and pressed a palm to the panel in some ill-remembered reflex. In response, the door opened.
The corridor walls beyond were scraped, burnt, and torn. Leaking fluids darkened the wounds or misted into the air. The man walked into the corridor, carefully avoiding the twisted edges and questionable jets. His head was just starting to clear when the deck bucked violently under his feet, throwing him against a wall. A dark, jellylike fluid splattered as his hand met it. The fluid slowly turned silver before his eyes. Curiously, he turned his hand this way and that, noting with some concern that the silvery fluid was crawling up his arm. He tried to scrape it off with the edge of his shirt, but that only spread it. He resigned himself to whatever fate would come and trudged onwards down the corridor.
A horrific screech of failing metal assaulted the man's ears. His stance changed instantly to one of hair-trigger readiness, his muscles tight and eyes wide. The deck bucked again, but he was ready this time. He rode the shift with ease. He began to run down the corridor, noting as he did that the walls were becoming progressively more and more damaged. Where he met intersections, he chose the left with a vain hope that he would find salvation at the edge. He jumped over a holed deckplate, skidded around a corner, slid under a half-closed door--
And stopped dead.
Amnesia could not erase the knowledge of exactly what was leveled at him. Nor the dark, reddish smears on the ground. The rifleman's face held no trace of mercy. The runner held his arms up, his fingers splayed in a gesture of submission.
"Who are you?" barked the rifleman.
The runner frantically tried to remember his identity. Finding nothing, he stammered, "I-I don't know! I just woke up half an hour ago, I have no idea what's going on!"
The rifleman gestured with his gun. "What does your ID say?"
"Carlos Hadgard, Science Division first class."
"Oh great, an amnesiac scientist," the rifleman groaned. "Listen, Hadgard, if you want to live, you're going to have to prove your use. Can you handle a gun?"
"Ugh! Here, take this." The rifleman shouldered his gun and threw a pistol across the makeshift barricade. He leveled the rifle again. "Can you hit that lump of slag?"
Hadgard picked the pistol up gingerly. The gun fit into his hand easily, and he raised it at the chunk of debris. His thumb slid over the safety even as his finger twitched. A blinding flash and a deafening crack emerged from the pistol's barrel. The slag grew a new hole, dead center.
The rifleman nodded approvingly. "You'll do." He lowered the rifle. "Welcome to the Last Sanctuary. I'm Joeson." Joeson beckoned Hadgard over the barricade and walked down the corridor. "We have food and water for longer than we're likely to live, whole walls, clean air, and ammunition. Most of us are military--soldiers, pilots, the like--but we also have a few engineers and scientists like yourself, although most of them have their memories. You'll have to excuse the... rough greeting. Things have been weird since we grabbed that accursed artifact. We've gotten ourselves our own little Sarnath." He glanced at Hadgard. "You should probably get to the sickbay. It's over this way."
The medic looked carefully at Hadgard. "How do you feel?"
He chuckled. "Did you just 'a scientist is always fine' me?"
The medic waved a scanner over Hadgard's limbs. "You don't appear to have any broken bones. There is significant bruising on your chest and arms, but that'll buff out. I'll need a blood sample before I can release you into the Sanctuary proper." He put the scanner down and picked up a small syringe.
Hadgard watched with interest as the medic bared the needle and approached his arm. With a sudden realisation that he was not a fan of needles, he refocused on the medic's face.
The medic's pupils dilated. He stepped back quickly, hiding the empty syringe in a drawer. "That's all. Report to quarantine three until the blood test is finished. Joeson will escort you."
Hadgard walked out of the sickbay. He glanced back uneasily. The medic had turned away, but Hadgard could still see him cross himself.
"Here we are, quarantine three." Joeson palmed the hatch open. "Your home for the next few hours." Inside was a bare white room, with a chair, table, and cot. Closed shutters of some kind, no doubt leading to a lovely view of space, ran across the far wall. Hadgard stepped inside and the hatch shut behind him. It dogged down securely. Finally.
Hadgard burned an hour or so playing solitaire with the box of cards left on the table. Just as he was about to finish his eighth game, one of the shutters slid open. He looked over.
A gun barrel was thrust through it.
With preternatural speed, he leapt from the chair. Cards flew through the air, oddly slowly. Then the artgrav cut out, and he too floated free from the floor. He pushed off the ceiling, bounced from the floor, and grasped the edge of his cot. The other shutters opened, and more muzzles poked in. All at once, they began to fire.
For some reason, the globs of plasma which spat from the barrels were slow. He easily dodged them, bounding from wall to ceiling to floor to table and so on.
Until one hit.
It should've killed him. It certainly should've hurt. But instead of death or pain, all he felt was a light tap. He looked down at his chest. The cloth was burned away, a stray ember devouring a thread. But his skin was whole. And...silvery?
He understood now. The medic could not pierce his skin because of the gelatinous liquid he had touched, back in the corridor. Neither could the plasma.
He was untouchable.
A devilish grin formed on his face as he advanced upon the gunners. He would pay them back for their deceit and betrayal. The plasma splashed off his body like water. The soles of his boots tied themselves to the deck with microscopic silver threads, anchoring him. A silvery blade formed on his hand even as he slashed the barrels cleanly off. The guns spewed warm gas before falling silent. Blood flew in small droplets as he gave the gunners the same treatment.
He leapt through the shutter and fell facefirst on the deck. Unfazed, he stalked down the corridor towards the remainder of the Sanctuary. The small issue of the hatch was swiftly dealt with by a swift punch to the everything. The heavy alloy hatch, dogs twisted out of their slots, flew a good two meters before colliding with a barricade and stopping.
It then came back with a vengeance, propelled by a two-kilo rail slug. It spiraled through the air, catching Hadgard in the gut and throwing him back down the corridor. The silvery fluid absorbed the impacts, spreading them over and throughout his body. He got up again, only to be met with the characteristic crack and flash of a railgun discharge. The shell punched him straight in the chest. Not even the fluid could distribute the impulse perfectly, and he felt something give in his ribs. He got up again, now only a meter or two from the opposite end of the corridor, and dove away as the railgun discharged again. A hole appeared in the corridor's end. Air began leaking from it as he ran for the gun.
The railgun flashed again. So did Hadgard. He dodged the railgun, rebounded off the corridor wall, and scrambled through the barricade. The rails fell to his blade as easily as the rifles. Scarcely were they severed that another slug flew down them, nearly unfazed by the thirty centimeters of lost rails. Hadgard's arm buckled as the slug impacted it. It was bent backwards, and he felt the meaty sound of tearing tendons and snapping bone. The wound did not bleed, thanks to the tough silvery armor, but it hurt like hell. He was only able to rend the gunner's flesh and dice the railgun through force of will and the support of the fluid.
The next adversary was another room full of riflemen. They stood as little chance as the first, though the broken arm did not afford him the same agility as before. Finally, he broke free to the citadel.
"Save yourself from hell!"
The recording looped again as the captain considered it. A man, his clothing charred to unrecognizable tatters and his skin shining silver, beat a fully-dogged hatch down with one hand, while the other hang limply at his side. He then proceeded to eviscerate the comms personnel, one by one, with some kind of blade protruding from his hand. As the last man screamed into the microphone, the killer ran him through, penetrating the console and killing the transmission.
"So..." the first mate said uncomfortably, "Are we planning to...rescue anyone?"
The captain looked him straight in the eye.