“I get no readings,” his A.I. El says.
“She was in cryo sleep,” Bob says.
“I see,” El nods.
“We have to jump start her heart.” Bob moves a hand over instruments and the table vibrates, momentarily jolting her.
Her cerulean blue eyes open; she looks at them and says, “Other.”
“How odd,” El notes as she closes her eyes again.
“She is delirious because her blood is thawing.”
Bob goes to the cockpit followed by El, sits in his chair, and waves his hand over the panel. The derelict ship explodes quietly. “The rest of the crew’s cryo units malfunctioned.” He watches as the detritus of the ship scatters into the black abyss dotted by distant stars.
El stares at Bob with unemotional generic features. “Even after you started her heart, I detected nothing.”
Bob stands and touches El’s hard robotic arm. “I may have to tune you up.”
“I am functioning perfectly on all levels.”
“Okay, I believe you.”
Her blue hands are flat on the clear acrylic table. She watches Bob eat a hamburger and French fries with a quizzical expression.
“I’m eating a memory,” he says while chewing. He points to the unit on the wall. “Order anything you want and it will come out just as you remember.”
El asks, “Aren’t you hungry?”
“No,” she mutters.
“Not unusual after cryo,” Bob says. “You will never know the agony of it, El, but it’s the only way we humans can get out this deep into space.”
“My nature has peculiar advantages,” El notes. He turns and studies the woman. “What was your mission on the Falcon?”
The woman looks down at her hands. “I…I don’t know.”
“Why was the ship’s log destroyed?” She just stares at him with almost blank eyes. “What is your name?”
She whispers, “I don’t know.”
“According to our records, the only female aboard your ship was Lieutenant Eve Waters, who left earth almost 100 years ago. It’s quite unusual that any cryo unit would function for such a lengthy period.”
Bob says, “I have seen cases where cryo units last much longer than that.”
“I stand corrected.”
Bob turns to the woman. “May I call you Eve?” She nods silently. “Perhaps you would like to go to your quarters to rest.”
“Yes,” she says softly.
Bob shoves his plate into the cleaning vent and stands. “Come, I will escort you.”
When he returns to the mess hall El is waiting. “That was quick. I thought you would succumb to biological urges.”
“That is ridiculous.”
“I can read your thoughts, remember?”
“Okay, you’re right. I have been on this mission a long time, but I can control myself.”
“For how long?”
“I am going to bed.”
“Alone for now.”
“Listen, be nice; she is our guest.”
“I am programmed only to protect and serve humans.”
During the night El hears an unusual noise. He leaves his station outside Bob’s quarters and heads to the mess hall. Turning on the light, he finds Eve with blood on her face and a raw steak in her hands. She looks up at him briefly, tears into the meat, and chews it quickly.
“It’s customary to cook food before eating it,” El says. She keeps chewing and grunting. He watches as she devours the entire steak, then drinks the remaining blood from the plate. Eve drops the plate and stares at him with bloodstains on her night garment. She turns quietly, and as she walks away El believes that he sees a tail writhing under her clothing.
El scans her again, changing the parameters of his search. He realizes why he could not detect her before; he had been searching for human life forms. Eve suddenly rushes him. She is stronger than El, knocking him to the floor where he is plunged into darkness.
Bob is surprised that El is not there when he unseals his door. He walks to the mess hall for breakfast and finds El’s decapitated body lying in a pool of purple inner lubricant. Bob touches El’s cold cheek, and his gray eyes open. “Eve is not human, Bob. She killed the Falcon crew, coming on board as the last survivor of another ship. She can morph into any form. She will kill you.”
Bob feels tears in his eyes. After all this time recovering the dead, he had thought he finally rescued someone. “I’ll take care of her.”
“I am sorry I failed you.”
He goes to the security room, straps a laser pistol to his leg, lifts a rifle from the rack, and places a scanner helmet on his head. A blip on his visor indicates that Eve is in the transport bay. “She is probably trying to escape in the pod,” he thinks.
As he enters the bay, a squid-like creature with long, powerful tentacles attacks him. It knocks the rifle away, slipping one tentacle around his arms and another about his neck as it pulls his head toward a drooling beak.
Bob manages to get his hand on the pistol, jabs it upward, and fires. The creature releases him and flounders as Bob fires several more times. It slumps into a ball, and the signal on his visor indicates “life form terminated.” He stands over it with pistol ready, but those now benign blue eyes stare up at him lifelessly.
“I’m taking no chances,” he thinks, placing the carcass on the loading ramp and ejecting it out into space. He watches through the porthole as the mass floats in the void, its tentacles rigidly extended against a tableau of silent stars.
Bob quickly forwards a report of his first encounter with an alien species, noting it was hostile. He looks out the porthole wondering if he will ever see earth again.
Photo credits: xrayer.blogspot.com, wikipedia, telegraph.co.uk[amazon template=iframe image&chan=default&asin=1569902747]