“Can you get everyone somewhere?” said Zane. “We should probably tell them what the plan is, and also apologize for tapping their power.”
“We can… we can go into the hall of dinosaurs. Everyone should be able to fit,” Luisa said, motioning for everyone to get down.
Once they were safely inside, Luisa turned to look at the rest of the crew. “I… know it’s still a long way off, but thank you.”
“We’re not heroes, kid,” said Ash. “There’s no money in being a hero. But we’re not bastards either.”
“I think not leaving people to be eaten by vampires is in the spacer’s code,” said Zane.
“Back when these were still working, we used to hail ships. Send out the distress beacon. I was told spacers were always supposed to answer that. We saw some even break atmo. They never stopped,” Luisa sighed.
“Yes, well,” said Ash. “We’re dumb spacers, remember? Can you get everyone together?”
“Sure,” Luisa said, giving Ash a smile, before ducking down the hallway.
Fifteen minutes later, everybody (including some of the parrots) was gathered in the hall of dinosaurs, with the crew of Songbird standing before them.
“So, it’s good news/bad news time,” said Jayna, who was speaking because people paid attention when Jayna spoke.
“Is the bad news worse than vampires?” Paco called out from near the back.
Jayna and Ash shared a quick look.
“The good news is, we got you all a ticket out of here,” she said. “In two or three solar days – not sure what the conversion is – a heavily-armed dropship will be taking all of you to the closest populated world.”
Part of them was expecting cheers. But what went through the crowd was a tense murmur.
Finally Lina spoke up. “What’s the bad news?”
Zane stepped forward.
“I’m about seventy percent sure that the vampires are smarter than you’ve been giving them credit for,” said Zane.
The murmurs picked up in intensity. They were accompanied by looks of shock, worry, disbelief, or some combination thereof.
“They’re animals,” said Felipe. “They barely have a shred of humanity left in them. They just lay dormant until they get hungry and then they go out for blood.”
“If that’s true,” said Zane, “then why are there always more of them near where you guys go looking for food or fuel?”
Felipe sputtered. “B.. Because that’s where we always are, they follow us there.”
Zane shook his head. “They were camping out there during the day,” he said. “And one of them was in a locked room when we came to fetch a power cell for our ship.”
“And that’s not all,” said Ash. “I think they’ve been downing ships.”
Zane shook his head. “I’ve seen animals hunt. The vampires wouldn’t stay where you go in the hopes that you come back. They’d just keep following you until they couldn’t. It’s not the right behavior.”
Ash spoke up. “And I don’t think it’s just coincidence that the last two ships to get close enough both ate it the same way, even though they’d both just been serviced. I can’t say for sure until tomorrow… but I think they have a way to down the ships.”
The rabble started to pick up again. Someone whistled loudly. It was the woman they had met earlier, Tanya.
“I don’t know if this is relevant to the subject at hand,” she said, “but there’s a shit-ton of vampires outside the museum. More than I’ve ever seen this close.”
Jayna hopped down from the stage and stalked towards Tanya and the front doors. “Define ‘shit-ton’.”
“More than I’ve ever seen in one place at one time,” she said.
Jayna peered out one of the small windows, pulling the makeshift shade open.
There were… vampires. A lot of vampires. A lot of pale bodies shifting around, looking at the museum. There had to be at least a hundred. They knew better than to come within the range of the big spotlights, but they were still keeping watch. A lot of them were hissing and snarling as expected.
But… now that she knew what to look for… not all of them were. Some of them were keeping their distance, perched birdlike on pieces of high ground. Vantage points.
“Shi,.” Jayna sighed, closing the window. “How secure is this place?” she asked.
“The front entrance is the only way in aside from roof access,” said Felipe. “You did bar it back up, right?”
“Tighter than before,” said Ash.
Tanya sighed. “Uh, Jamie, Thomas, go check and make sure that the back entrances are still buried in rubble. Angela, you take Felipe and go double bar the roof. As long as we’re quiet, we only have… six more hours of night.”
They all went off to their assigned tasks.
“If they’re here because they saw all the noise that the comm tower was making,” said Zane, “do you think they know that we got a signal off?”
“Not sure. I mean, we were in and out in five minutes. I’m not sure.” Ash shrugged. “Let’s go check on the back gate, shall we?”
“Let’s,” said Zane, drawing his sidearm.
The back gate, as it turned out, was more secure than they could have hoped. They had not only locked and barricaded the doors, but pushed a giant slab of stone with faux hieroglyphs all over it. Nobody was getting in that way without some serious help.
Ash pulled a flashlight from his belt and hopped up to see what was going on beyond the slab.
There didn’t seem to be much going on. There was a sound that might have been movement outside… and might have been their imagination.
Ash looked at Zane. “I don’t like this at all. We’re trapped like rats in here and our only way off this rock is a half hour of daylight away.”
“I think it’s time to get everyone prepared for the worst,” said Zane. “I mean… think about it. If the vampires – some of them, at least – are smart, then what reason would they have to be going on like they had been.
Ash sighed. “Long con. Lull them into a false sense of security. Wait until the long night, and then boom. Pop this place open like a can of sardines. Us getting here though… maybe they have a new plan,” Ash sighed.
Zane nodded. “If they know we got a signal out, they have to accelerate their plans,” he said. “I think… we need a plan of our own.”
Ash looked at him for a moment. “Looks like we’ve got nothing but time to think about it,” Ash said. “We’re not going anywhere.”
For the first time in months, morning came and nobody left the confines of the museum. Time was spent reinforcing all of the barricades, triple-checking the generators and watching the windows like hawks.
This was the shortest day since Songbird had touched down on Paraiso, and the sun was setting before they knew it.
Anyone inside the building was re-fortifying the walls. But once that was done, people pulled off and went about the necessities of the day. Weapons were cleaned, batteries were replaced, and parrots were fed.
The survivors didn’t have much in the way of conventional weaponry, hence the need for so much improvisation. But they did have a few guns. Plus one functional crossbow that had been part of an exhibit. So Zane took it upon himself to make sure all of them were cleaned, oiled, loaded, and ready for whatever sort of action they would see.
He looked up and saw the young girl in charge of most of the equipment heading his way, her face… pensive.
“Hey, Luisa,” said Zane, as he put his personal sidearm back together. “Something I can do for you?”
She nodded. “Um… so you’re pretty good with weaponry, hm? You took out twenty vampires and didn’t even break a sweat.”
“Lots of people are good at things,” said Zane. “Ash is good with the ship. Mari keeps us healthy. I shoot people.” He shrugged. “Honestly, I’d rather be good at something besides this, but you have to make do with the hand you’re dealt.” He paused, looking up. “Well, actually, I’m getting pretty okay at painting, but that’s not very useful at the moment, so mostly it’ll be the shooting.”
Luisa smiled. “Um… well. I’m glad it’s the shooting.” Luisa then looked at the gun he was currently cleaning. “Can I um, show you something?”
Zane blinked. “Sure, I guess,” he said, standing up. “You sure you don’t want to talk to Ash? I know I’m the captain, but he’s kind of the one who knows what’s going on most of the time.”
“He’s good. You’re better for what I need.” Luisa beckoned him back to her corner of the museum.
Zane looked around at her little space. “Where’d you get so good with this stuff?” he said, picking up a device that looked like it may have once been an electric lathe.
She shrugged. “I’d started taking introduction to Engineering before everything went to shit. Luckily I’d just gone to the library before everything went to shit. I picked up what I could from my coursework, and improvised a lot from there.”
“Improvisation is a good skill to have,” said Zane, nodding. “Bet you’ll have a lot of opportunities when you get out of here.”
“I like how you’re still saying ‘when’,” said Luisa, patting his arm. “We’re not out of the woods yet. If the vamps are as smart as you say… I’m not so sure.”
“Yes, well,” said Zane. “I don’t know how smart they are. But I know one thing for sure, they aren’t smarter than you.” He picked up another device. “What’s this one do?”
“That one is a bubbler. It creates a sphere of UV light, maybe an eight foot radius. Just enough to get you away from them and get you somewhere else safe. Has a thirty minute battery life. I’ve been trying to extend it to an hour.”
Zane looked the device over, peering into it. “Pretty clever,” he said.
Luisa shrugged. “Breaks down a lot, though,” she said. “Shocked the hell out of me one time. Only so much I can do with the parts I have.”
“The art class I took said that limitations foster creativity,” said Zane. “Right now, we’ve got a pretty big limitation on us.” He held up the crossbow and peered down the sight. “Imagine how creative that’ll make us. Think they’ll let me keep this?”
“Well, the Oxomo Medieval Weapons Heritage Association certainly doesn’t care anymore. They got blown up about three months ago,” Luisa smiled.
“Why did you even have one of those?” said Zane. Luisa shrugged.
He continued cleaning. Luisa sat and watched him.
“…Something else I can do for you?” said Zane.
Luisa gave a small sigh. “A lot of these people don’t know how to fight, not really. And we’re under siege now. If these vampires are smart… they’re going to try something. We may need you guys for more than just transportation out of here.”
Zane blinked. “Um… yeah?” he said. “What did you think we were going to do? Make rude gestures at the vampires?”
Luisa scoffed. “Don’t get smart with me, spacecase,” she said.
“Why would I start now?” said Zane.
Luisa sighed. “I want you to try and help them learn. I studied siege tactics… but I’m no good at teaching other people. I’m prickly.”
Zane’s lip twisted as he thought for a moment. “Honestly, this is my first siege, so I’m making it up as I go,” he said. “Easy enough in theory, we just have to hold out until Martens’ backup gets here in…”
“Four Oxomo days,” said Luisa.
“Right,” said Zane. “But I think I might be able to help out a bit. Like I said. Limitations.”
Luisa smiled. “Then you’re up. Daylight’s wasting.”
Zane finished putting the weapons back together and slotted the magazines in place. “Guess we’d better get started, then,” he said. “Tell ‘em to gather up every weapon they have. And everything that looks like it might be a weapon if you use it right. Or wrong.” He stopped and thought for a moment. “And do you have any schematics of the building? That might be useful. And snacks. I am definitely going to need some snacks.”