"Star Destroyer Ocalus, this is Shuttle Patna. Please respond."
"Ocalus, do you copy?"
"Again, this is Shuttle Patna calling Ocalus, are you reading?"
â€œOcalus, do you copy?â€
"Set her down in landing bay seven,' commands the officer in charge. "Fire teams, at the ready."
"No one to even meet us," says the man, squinting. "Interesting."
"Holem and Kane!' he shouts. "You and your men will search the ship. Holem, take your men and go to the bow. Kane, move aft."
Silently, the men follow their orders as their troops depart with them.
Holem and his men begin searching the forward section-
While Kane moves to the rear of the ship.
"Where do you think everyone is at?" asks one soldier named Quin.
Kane winces at the thought. "Not sure," he sighs.
"Just watch those corners," he tells the troopers.
The men continue on for what seems like an eternity, the quiet ship only creaking as the low hum of the engines can be heard far off in the distance.
"Pirates?" says another Stormtrooper, Davis, who can't stand the quiet. "Maybe pirates did this?"
"Now," says Thorton, the heavy gunner, sarcastically. "Do you really think pirates would have wiped an Imperial Star Destroyer clean? There's no crew here. No trace! No one!"
"Cut the chatter," demands Kane. "We don't want anyone getting the drop on us, right?"
The soldiers nod.
"Holem, Kane?" asks the officer, his voice reverberating through the soldiers' helmets. "Find anything yet?"
"Negative," says Holem into his microphone, as his men move forward. "Nothing here."
"Not a soul?"
"Nothing here either," responds Kane. "Just-"
"Wait," he says. "There's a droid. We're going to check it out."
As the fire team approaches the droid, they can hear its clunky foot steps echo down the long hall.
"Hey," whispers Kane. "Hello?"
Suddenly the machine stops shuffling, and the hall goes silent.
Its neck buzzes as it turns to greet them. "Hello," it responds in a sickening quaint and proper voice. "It's a pleasure to see you."
"What happened here?" asks Kane. "Where is everyone?"
"A lot of things have happened here," it replies. "Please, be more specific."
"Where is everyone?" Kane says sternly. "Where's the crew?"
"Kane, don't waste your time with the droid. Move up to the bridge and secure it."
"Copy, sir." He looks at the droid. "Show us to the bridge," grumbles Kane.
"This way, please," gestures the droid humbly as the fire team begins to move out, eyeballing the corridor as they walk.
"What's your operating designation?" asks Kane, following the droid.
"I am Imperial protocol droid EN-3PO-L2RSD-43-129A," it states. "I prefer to be called EN, like a person."
"Like a person," repeats Thorton, rolling his eyes under his helmet.
"It is important to me. Just as you have preferences, as do I."
The group continues to follow the droid for quite some time.
"Why are all those blast doors sealed?" asks Davis, holding his rifle tightly as they walk. "Why is that?"
"Would you like access?" asks the droid, its robotic voice echoing down the hall.
It approaches one of the doors.
"I can show you," it states. "But you might not like what you see."
The men shift on their heels, looking around, as the droid casually presses a few buttons, releasing the door.
A gust of wind flows out into the corridor, the foul smell of death and oil entering into the hall.
"What the Hell is that?" asks Quin, staring into the mess.
Thorton shakes his head. "Smells like a dead reek in there."
The droid turns around, staring at the men briefly. "I said that you might not like it."
"Come," gestures the droid. "See what's inside."
Kane tenses his shoulders and enters the hallway-
-his men following him, their rifles raised-
-As the door seals behind them.
Meanwhile, in the bow of the ship, Holem and his men push forward, having still not met anyone.
"Nothing," states the man. "Not anyone. What's going on here?"
"Movement!" shouts one of Holem's Stormtroopers. "About, there," he points. "At that frame."
"EN, what is this stuff?" asks Kane, his men still following the droid. "Where is everyone at? And why are communications down?"
"I turned them off." The droid faces way from the men, its blue eyes glowing in the darkness
"Once it started spreading, I thought it best to turn off all non-vital systems."
"I put everything in lockdown, and set course for the nearest space port. Emergency protocol dictates my actions, as you might know."
"EN, what was spreading?" asks Kane, with anger in his voice. "Where is the crew?"
"As I told you," it responds. "AROUND."
"What was that?â€ whispers one of Holem soldiers, approaching the corridor.
â€œDo you see anything corporal?â€
"Corporal?" he asks.
"Hey!" shouts Holem, a streak of panic skipping through his voice. "Hello?"
"Does anyone copy?"
"Sir," interjects Thorton. "Take a look at this." The men follow the heavy gunner, his heavy boots clunking against the floor.
"What are those EN?" asks Kane slowly. "What-are-those?"
"Humans," begins the droid, stepping past Kane, "are always getting into things. Going places, bringing things in. There's simply no telling their place of origin. They are harmless to me. Take a look, inspect them."
The leathery object opens with a slight moist sound, and something moves inside of it. The men watch closely, their fingers on their weapons' triggers, ready to fire.
Suddenly a creature escapes from its cell, springing towards the soldier's face.
"Watch it!" shouts Kane as Thorton fires his weapon several times-
-Unknowingly shooting Davis-
-Panic setting in as the creature removes the manâ€™s helmet, attaching itself to his face.
~ Jodo - Check out my latest photonovel as of Oct. 27/17: Era of Darkness Halloween Special - "Lurkers"
: Part 1!