“What was that?”
“What was what?” Jason, spoke around the screws he was holding in his teeth, didn’t even look up. Tally had been twitchy since they’d cleared the Ort Cloud.
“That sound,” Natalia’s head tilted sideways, as though listening more intently could actually allow her to hear a sound that couldn’t exist in the empty vacuum of space all around them.
Jase carefully screwed the cover panel back over the sensor array access and slid the screwdriver into its pocket in the front of his blue coveralls. Tally’s eyes were too round and she was carefully concealing an all over sort of trembling that looked like perhaps their climate controlled compartment had suddenly gotten cold. Maybe she was getting sick. It wouldn’t be the first time one of them came down with some inexplicable illness out here on the edge of known space. He should probably go wake one of the team docs and he was trying to remember if Desta or Hai had more sleep to go on at the moment and was about to head to the crew quarters when Natalia yelped.
He slid away from the panel over to where she was hovering by the small window, staring out into the strangely bright dark. He reached out to lay a hand on her shoulder, but she whipped around and shoved off from the wall to get away from him. They all joked about space dementia, but Captain Ross was starting to find it less and less funny. They lost Kolya back just after Pluto to some strange bout of madness and fever, then Buzz (because of course the Aldrin descendent had to go by Buzz out here) when they’d approached the Barrier. And Tally had been worrying him for days, jumping at every noise, eating poorly, and getting increasingly paranoid. It was actually why he’d relieved Marsh to work on the array problem. As the commander, he wanted eyes on struggling crew.
“Tal, what is it?” She shook her head and closed her eyes tight. “Natalia?”
“It’s the screaming, Jason. I know you can’t hear it. When Nikolai told me I thought it was delirium.” She shook her head and gave a little hopeless sigh. He started toward her again, but she put up her hand. “No, Jase, don’t. Maybe it won’t get you; maybe you won’t hear it.”
“Natalia, I’m responsible for this ship and everything on it. Tell me, so I can help.”
She sunk slowly to the floor, as though she’d found a tiny pocket of gravity that only effected her. She spoke, but there was a quality to her voice that made Jason’s blood run cold. “When you look into the Abyss, the Abyss looks into you.”
Instinctively, Jason was using his hands on the console to make his way toward the hatch dividing this room from the command console. Wanting to keep her talking, he ventured, “What’s the screaming? What do you keep hearing?”
Her head came up; her smile was sharp and perfect. “It’s Natalia’s. She doesn’t like us inside.”
Jason to a slow breath. It had never been this bad, gotten this scary with Buzz or Kolya. He was about to thumb the catch and leave to get help when the eyes that had once belonged to Natalia Ross, his sweetheart since grad school, opened and bored into his. They were liquid black and in them he could see distant invisible stars. She rose and glided toward him, free from her own gravity once again. She pressed her body against his and looked into his soft azure eyes and was gratified to see the instant shift in color and his hands rising toward his ears to block out the sound.
“You always wanted to be the one to make contact, Captain Ross. How do you like it?”
It wasn’t long before the pair walked heavily down the hall to introduce the rest of the crew to life in the Black.