They’d been traveling for hours and the “sun” was beginning to “set” when Rose left them.
Her departure was sudden; she had lead them across the forested biome were nearing the passage into the rain forest section when she’d stopped dead in her tracks for almost two minutes. She’d been completely unresponsive, standing like a statue while Dann and Jackson tried to get her attention to no avail.
Finally she reactivated, as though a switch had been thrown. “I’m sorry,” she’d said. “A situation has come up that requires my attention.” She’d dropped the supplies she’d been carrying; extra food and some ammunition for each of them, and then she’d run off with no further explanation. She was far too fast for them to catch her, so they’d simply stared after her, stunned.
When it became clear she was going to be gone longer than ten minutes and that they were going to have to find somewhere to hole up for the night, they divided what she’d left and set out.
“She couldn’t take ten seconds to direct us to a cryo-bay or armory to stay in?” Jackson growled.
“Given the choice, I’d take an armory,” Dann said. “We’ve already woken up once this century surrounded by the bodies of our crew. I’m not anxious to do it again.”
“It’s better than staying out here. A lot of predators are nocturnal.”
“True. We know they’re dug into the ground, but rise above it. We should check any small hills we see.”
His words were punctuated by a low, ghostly sound that reminded him of nothing so much as a wolf call, as though the wolf were whispering.
He grabbed the pistol out of his belt and gripped it tight. “What was that?”
“Keep moving,” Jackson said. She kept her voice low; her eyes were narrowed in the dimming light. There was no actual twilight on the ship; the compartments didn’t contain enough atmosphere or the proper lighting to simulate the effect. It was all too good at impairing their vision though.
The sound wasn’t repeated; cautiously they kept moving. They’d checked several hills as they went on in the same direction Rose had led them in. They’d found nothing so far, but there were several more directly in their path.
After a few minutes, the sound came again; it was both closer and quieter, and nearly caused Dann to jump out of his skin. At the same time, Jackson exclaimed, “Got one!” and pointed at a barely-visible door recessed into the sheer side of a hill. They ran for it just as a chorus of answering whispered howls echoed through the air.
Dann reached the door first, and immediately started wrestling with the latch. A glance told him there was no keypad; a cryo-bay then, not an armory. Jackson stood behind him, weapon drawn, keeping watch.
The door wasn’t as thick and heavy as an armory door, but it was heavy enough, and hadn’t moved in centuries. The latch felt like it was gummed in place; he could move it, but slowly, and only with a lot of effort. “Um, Chambers? Now’d be a real good time,” Jackson said.
Dann jammed his body against the latch and felt it give; when he’d lifted it as high as it’d go, he pulled on it with his body weight and the door rasped open. “It’s open!”
“Get in!” Jackson yelled, and fired several bursts from her weapon. The air filled with growls that sounded far more wolf-like than the howling had.
Dann didn’t wait to be told twice. He all but dived in and stood by the door; Jackson followed and together they began hauling it shut again. Before it closed Dann caught the image of a long-bodied, low slung wolf form with grey-white fur and piercing, ice-blue eyes snarling at him before the door slammed shut with a solid thump. Several more thumps spoke to the ferocity with which they’d been hunted.
They caught their breath in the near dark; much like the bays they’d awakened in, the only light came from bank after bank of controls with brightly colored LEDs shining away through the centuries. Dann found the light controls and hit them, lighting up the bay.