Their ragtag band made its way down the side corridor - they were on level one, and the entrance to the engineering room four floors below. Unlike Hollen's Prize, the Lilarcor was not designed to spin or use delta-vee to provide a semblance of gravity, thus apparently had inertia compensators and artificial gravity generators - and a gravitic sheath drive. Useful - if only they were operational. Thus, they had to do with the hand holds placed at convenient intervals to pull themselves along.
The synthetic carpeting was randomly torn in places, a roof plate smashed in revealing the darkness above. Quan whistled as he noticed that something orange had escaped from the hidden compartment and was smeared along the wall - and the orange was unmistakably pastel and iridescent. Spice. The drug could not be synthetized, and was horribly illegal almost everywhere. It might have something to do with its propensity to drive people insane - or to awaken rogue psi talents. The Lilarcor was certainly smuggling some high-grade goods, it seemed.
As they neared the descending ladder at the corridor's end, another cluster of bullet dents pock-marked the right-hand wall - the outer wall of the ship... luckily, they had not pierced it! They had struck home, if the stains around them were any indication.
The door on the opposite wall was smashed in, like so many others.
A living quarter, trashed - the bunk bed broken, the table smashed through the middle, possessions floating hence and forth.
There, stuck in a crevice on the destroyed table, an arm - or rather, the bones, intact to the middle of the forearm. The cut seemed perfectly clean - and so did the bones.
Sunny whispered: "How long ago did the Lilarcor go missing? The bone looks fresh, but is utterly clean - and there are no bite marks to indicate it was gnawed upon by... rats, for example."
Then she added hesitantly: "And there's no body - where are all the bodies?"
They were able to trace the source of the bullets - a bent SMG, its magazine spent. Thirty shots, seven holes in the wall.
"Huh, who writes diaries by hand these days?" Jerome smirked. "Looks like it belonged to some wench called Erica."
"Read this: 'We caught the buggers; easy like taking candy from a baby. They went down from the tranq shots like nothing, really not the greatest tacticians without their head honchos around, too. Once NeoGen has homogenized these bastards and regressed them to stem cells, this should solve their graft compatibility problem with their ever-so-secret Gilgamesh series. They'll pay well too - after that fiasco at Veradani.' NeoGen? Girl was playing with the 'Corps."
"Oh, there's more, apparently - she copied the systematics to the drive feeds..."
Autumn gave the drawings a glance: "...and marked the accessible weak 'bottleneck' spots. Why is this suspicious?"
The diary's pages were smeared with blood in places - but according to the pattern... "Blood that was wiped away with a wet rag?" Sunny mused.
The clangs of the drone probing the outer hull drove them back from their musings into reality.
The ship shuddered slightly.