"The Undead" is a short story leading into the events of Starbuggers: From the Logs of Captain Maloney. The adventure follows Commander Beltris off the USS Who's Your Mama 2 as he and his crew must survive an outbreak of zombies called the Undead.
- Adam Bridger (First appearance)
- Captain Maloney (First mentioned)
- Fletcher (First appearance)
- Mari Tann (First mentioned)
- Mikael (First appearance)
- Sam Beltris (First appearance)
- Sara (First appearance)
- Zev (First appearance)
There was no possible way that help was going to arrive on such a lonesome planet like Alturan. That’s one of the reasons it’s called the “Planet of No Return.”
Commander Sam Beltris sighed, rubbing his temples. The officer had been onboard the USS Who’s Your Mama 2, serving as a top naval executive alongside Captain Maloney and Commander Mari Tann. That is, until he was sent off on this mission.
The one that left him—and his crew—stranded.
“Sir,” one of the younger crewmembers, a female named Zev, spoke, stepping towards him. While Beltris himself wasn’t that old—he was glad to proclaim himself at the ripe age of twenty-nine—he didn’t really feel that young. "That’s what leadership does to you, Commander," Maloney had told him once before.
Yet even while Maloney was in command of a whole starship, he had the mind of a child—seemingly.
“What is it, Zev?” Beltris asked, cocking his sandy-blonde-haired head to the young cadet. She stood at attention, holding out a datapad.
“We’re picking up scans of a ship coming towards the planet. It’s dropping out of atmosphere now.”
Beltris had to see this. No ship would come out to rescue this crew—Maloney surely hadn’t heard of their disappearance yet. And he certainly wouldn’t have thrown a rescue party together this quickly, either.
“Do we have any emblems on it? A classification of its allegiance? For all we know, it could be a Klingon transport.”
One of the other crewmembers, an older, war-hardened man named Adam Bridger, shook his head. “I highly doubt it, sir. Klingons don’t venture out to unknown worlds with just a small transport.”
“Then what the kriff is it?!” Beltris demanded, spinning to Bridger. The older crewman shook his head. “I cannot say, Commander.”
Beltris turned his head, his eyes narrowing as the ship approached. The other members of his strike force were running about, gathering whatever weapons they had. He knew that each of the crew were equipped with at least a pistol. There was a rack inside their own ship—which now was lying in a heap on top of a mountain ridge—that was filled with rifles.
“Salvage whatever gear you can from the ship, then run for cover! We don’t know who’s on this ship, so take no chances!”
Beltris drew his sidearm, motioning to Bridger and Zev. “Get down!” he ordered, crouching. The two followed his command, getting low to the ground. Three other crewmembers—two men, whom Beltris knew as Mikael and Fletcher, and a woman named Sara—joined them. Mikael was armed with one of the rifles from the ship, and Fletcher and Sara each had a pistol and a case of survival gear.
“That ship doesn’t seem to be that…hostile,” Mikael observed, keeping himself lowered to the ground. Beltris nodded in agreement. “Yes…but it could be a ruse. We stand up, and boom.”
Zev’s face grew pale. “Really?” Bridger nodded solemnly. “I’m afraid so. Things are not as peaceful as they used to be.”
But the ship wasn’t lowering to land. It was simply drifting without any signs of a pilot directing it. In fact, it was drifting straight for the spiked point where the crew had crash-landed.
“What are they doing? Do they even have a pilot onboard?!” Fletcher shouted. “Maybe they’re all dead,” Sara suggested. No one added anything to her comment.
The slow shuttle didn’t make any move to dodge the spire as it slammed into both the rock face and the remnants of the strike force’s ship. The remaining crewmembers that had surrounded themselves by the shuttle were instantly thrown as the rock began to crumble.
Dust spewed into the air, filling the whole sky with a tanned color. Beltris and his comrades covered their faces to prevent any of the dirt and rock shards from flying into their eyes, noses, or mouths, yet they stood their ground.
After the debris had settled down, Beltris lowered his hand. No one—nothing—emerged from the ship. Within a period of two minutes, Beltris’s curiosity caused him to investigate. “Come on,” he said, waving with a hand.
The six crewmembers slowly marched from their cover. No other survivors were in sight. They either were dead or had made it away from the site entirely.
Each of the group gripped their weapons tightly. Mikael stood to one side of Beltris, his rifle extended outwards. Zev—who had her weapon held the least tightly—stood behind both Bridger and Beltris.
“I don’t like the looks of this,” Fletcher muttered. From the small amount of time Beltris had spent with this member of his team, he deduced that he was the most negative of them all.
Soon, the team had reached the shell of the ship. There were no emblems known to Beltris’s mind, only a few markings that looked like some insignia of a pirate gang or something.
A message was written underneath the largest of the symbols. “I can’t read this,” Beltris said, shaking his head. “Can anyone decipher what it says?”
“I can, sir. It’s Klingonese,” Zev piped up, quickly returning her sidearm to its holster at her thigh. From the swift movements, it seemed as if she had been waiting to do exactly that.
Zev put her face up to the scrawling. “It’s some sort of name they must’ve given themselves, Commander. It says…‘The Infinities.’”
Mikael snorted, lowering his laser rifle. “Some infinity. They crash-landed right into this hellhole.”
Beltris nodded in agreement. “Yes.” He raised his pistol. “Let’s try and find a way inside.” Fletcher stepped back. “How about no? I don’t think it’d be wise to go tampering with some random ship that just dropped out of the atmosphere. What if there’s some disease inside? Or the crew’s still alive? We’d be blown to bits!”
Bridger shrugged his shoulders. “Possibly. But it beats running around in circles searching for a way off this rock.”
Fletcher chuckled. “You guys really are insane, I think. I’m not gonna waste my time possibly getting my tail shot off.”
Just as he turned, Fletcher was met by a…thing. The creature was padded in some sort of uniform—it may have been the design of the crew of the ship. Because that’s where it came from: a hole in the lower end of the shuttle.”
“What the—?” Fletcher started, but was cut off as the creature tackled into him and bit with its teeth, sinking its fangs into his arm. Sara yelled out in alarm as he cried out in pain. “Fletch!” she barked as Mikael raised his rifle, blasting off a shot into the creature’s skull.
Sara dove down to Fletcher’s side as Mikael sat down beside him. Beltris and Bridger kept their weapons aimed steadily as Zev watched the whole scene in horror and surprise.
“How is he?” Beltris asked, looking over his shoulder. Mikael gritted his teeth together. “I can’t tell…This thing’s bite is starting to turn purple.”
His curiosity piqued, Beltris turned around. “That’s not normal for a bite,” he said, kneeling down. Mikael chuckled. “And a wild maniac doing the biting is?”
Ignoring Mikael’s comment, Beltris tore a sliver from his sleeve and wrapped it around the wound on Fletcher’s arm. “Zev, you and Sara carry Fletcher. Mikael will watch our back and Bridger and I will watch the front.”
The team nodded, gathering up their gear. Zev and Sara each had one of Fletcher’s arms over their necks, holding him up. He was, at the moment, unresponsive. The group all silently prayed that he wouldn’t stay that way.
- - -
After a trek that spanned for a half hour, the group had found a small outcropping. In that time, Fletcher had begun to grow more responsive, but not much; all he could do was bob his head every so often.
The team had settled into the small cave that they called home for now. They hadn’t bothered to check into the rest of the ship in case other creatures like the one were in there.
Beltris stood at the cave’s entrance with Bridger. The two had been through a lot prior to Beltris’s promotion to commander of a strike force; Bridger had been Beltris’s mentor during his early days as a cadet onboard the ship.
“How are we supposed to get out of this mess?” Beltris asked, looking to Bridger. The older man shrugged his shoulders. “Don’t look at me, Sam. You’re the commander.”
Beltris sighed. “I guess that is right.” Before either man could speak again, a call from Sara alerted them. “Fletch!”
The young woman had bounded over to her friend, wrapping her arms around his neck. Before she could continue the embrace, though, an eerily familiar growl came from her old friend. “F-Fletch?”
Suddenly, Fletcher lurched forward, hissing. “Whoa!” Mikael exclaimed, jumping from his position at Fletcher’s side. He stumbled on the stone floor of the cave, his rifle clattering to the ground as he rolled into the rock wall.
Beltris spun around, drawing his sidearm as Zev jumped from her seated position. Bridger ran for Mikael’s discarded rifle, snatching it up. But before either man could fire, Fletcher sank his teeth into Sara’s shoulder, just as the other creature had done to him.
Uttering a curse, Beltris popped off a shot into Fletcher’s chest, but nothing happened. The creature stumbled to his feet, emitting a growl. A shot from Bridger’s rifle cut the growl short, causing the former crewman to collapse in a heap.
Beltris sighed as he raised his own pistol, aiming it at Sara’s head. “These things…they spread their disease—or whatever it is that infects those they kill—by biting into people and turning them into their own.”
He blinked his eyes, his finger wrapping around the trigger. But before he could shoot, Mikael’s voice cut him off. “No. I’ll do it.”
Before Beltris could even react, a shot sounded, and smoke sizzled from the barrel of Mikael’s pistol. The crewman looked on in calmness, although one could easily guess that he was in distress at the actions that had just transpired.
The other three, while not knowing him, began to feel sympathy for him.
“Mikael—” Bridger started, but Mikael shook his head. “No. Don’t worry about it. Nothing’s wrong. Don’t ask. Just—don’t.”
And the older man didn’t push any further. “Okay,” he simply stated, stepping back.
“I think we should move on,” Zev suggested. It was the first thing she had said since the whole event had transpired. Beltris figured that the young blonde woman hadn’t ever seen anything like this before in her life.
Beltris nodded in agreement. “I agree. Let’s move on.” Bridger let out an “okay,” yet Mikael simply nodded and followed closely behind the three as they left the cave.
As they left the small outcropping, Beltris’s jaw dropped at the sight before him.
At least fifteen of the creatures were walking before them, in similar outfits to the one who had infected Fletcher. Another ten at least were wearing the uniforms of the USS Who’s Your Mama 2.
Beltris’s words barely left his lips. “I don’t believe it…” he whispered, shaking his head. Faces of old friends, around the graying of rotting flesh, jumped into his mind. He began to hear voices in his mind. You could’ve saved us. We were your crew! It was your duty.
Beltris shook his head. “N-no! I’m not gonna let you screw with my mind!”
He hadn’t realized he was shouting, but he must have been because the other three members of his crew turned to look at him. “Commander? Is something wrong?” Zev asked.
Beltris shook his head. “N-n-no, nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.”
With a look of unease, Zev nodded. “Whatever you say, Commander.”
The group moved on down, past their new enemy. Their new fear. “Do we have any ideas what those things are?” Beltris finally asked after a handful of minutes of walking.
Bridger stopped, sighing. He stroked his bearded chin before speaking. “They are the Undead, a ‘race,’ if you will, of those who have joined the netherworld between life and death. They haven’t died, but they aren’t completely living and wise like humans and other life-forms.”
Beltris shrugged his shoulders. “But why did they all of a sudden pop up now? There have been no other sightings that I’ve known of.”
The old man sighed again. “The Undead had been ‘formed’ by one of the Sorcerers a long time ago, on the world of Mimbar. The Sorcerer—a life-form known as Ta’la’ruth—had used his skills of magic and sorcery to bring his dead family back from the grave. However, his powers had not only reanimated his family, but the rest of the dead on Mimbar.”
Mikael, who had begun to get out of his phase, spoke up. “I’ve heard of Mimbar, but I thought it was a piece of fairy tales and myth. I didn’t know it was a real planet.”
The storyteller nodded in agreement. “Many don’t. After Ta’la’ruth’s creation spread to other planets, all space and trade routes to the entire system were shut down so no part of the epidemic could travel to the rest of the galaxy.”
“But somehow, it must have,” Mikael pointed out.
Bridger shook his head. “Not necessarily. There is another possibility,” he said, causing Zev’s jaw to drop. “You mean…we’re in the system?”
The old man nodded. “Yes. It’s possible that, after this period of years, that the land we have called the ‘unknown cosmos’ has been re-discovered by us.”
Beltris spoke up again. “So the ship that we discovered must’ve ventured out here by mistake and picked up the disease.”
It was Zev who piped in next. “But…that means that we can’t return back to Earth, does it?”
Sadly, Bridger nodded in agreement. “I’m afraid that it does, Zev. None of us will be able to go back to Earth with this disease, or we risk bringing the epidemic to our friends and family.”
Beltris’s eyes narrowed. “But we have to do something to stop this disease, or someone could unknowingly take the disease back to Earth.”
Mikael shook his head. “There’s no way we can wipe out this whole epidemic, though; we don’t have any way to go back to Mimbar.”
“Who says we aren’t on Mimbar?” Beltris countered.
“Well, it isn’t proven that we aren’t. But how do we get to the rest of the planets in the system? The disease must be on them, too, if that ship picked the disease up.”
Beltris nodded. “That is true.”
“Wait a minute!” Zev exclaimed, jumping. “What if someone else has come to the planet we’re on? Their ship may be intact, if they did.”
The three men examined the possibility. “That is a fair point,” Bridger said, crossing his arms. “But we’ll have to do a search.”
Beltris smiled. “I’m up for that, if it means saving the Earth and other planets from this damned fate.”
Mikael spoke up next. “It’s settled, then. We will start up our search to find some means of transportation leading to the other planets.”
Bridger nodded. “So it is.” And with that, the quest—and fate—of the crew under Commander Beltris was decided.