It looked like a house-sized tumor. It was a fleshy mass that twitched and oozed thick scarlet fluids and puffed out gases at intervals. The whole thing had a clear sheen like raw pork shoulder. The two scientists and their military escort were too amazed to retch at the otherwise disgusting glob that filled the Black Gold‘s cargo hold. “So what is it?” asked Private Philips.
“Can’t say for certain—” Dr. Levon started to say, but Dr. Dremmarman interrupted her.
“An alien lifeform. It’s obvious, isn’t it?”
Levon looked at the private and shrugged. “There are a lot of questions that still need answering. Hopefully your friends on the patrol ships are able to recover some of the escape pods; it would help if we could interview someone from the crew.”
Philips rolled his shoulders and stretched out his neck. “Don’t worry. If anyone survived, brass’ll ask ’em so many questions they’ll wish they’d been spaced.” He chuckled, but Levon didn’t find it particularly humorous. Dremmarman had been inching closer to the mass, but now she was creeping up on being unsafe.
“Hey, not too close,” Levon called. She looked to Philips, but he didn’t seem concerned. He was probably relying on the scientists to be professionals. Dremmarman extended her gloved hand before her and continued her approach. “Not too close!” Levon called again, but it was too late.
Before the doctor’s hand reached the mass’ surface, the fleshy glob bubbled up and burst like an egg left on the fryer, and the splatter that coated Dremmarman connected her to the mass with thin filaments. The strings tightened and pulled her in close, and then into the folds of the mass itself. She screamed horribly as her body snapped and burst open in the mass’ bulk. In a dozen places, morbid Dremmarman-shaped bulges protruded from the mass, each mimicking her last pained scream. Philips fired his pulse rifle wildly, but Dr. Levon was already through the hatch and locking it behind her. The Black Gold needed to be scuttled, and fast.