Torrill was in the second cargo hold before the first week was over; it was full of coffin-like containers, and he was pretty sure that the dull black circles on the ends meant that they’d flat-lined. He was working his way down the fourth row when he saw the open coffin. How long had it been open? Was there a dead body nearby? Should he look or should he get out and come back with a weapon? All he had was a knife. And the half-light in the hold made him more cautious.
He was nearing the open doorway when a shadow rose up beside him. He leaped for the door, but a prickly noose circled his throat and dragged him back. He couldn’t get his hand up to his throat because another prickly noose held his arms to his sides, but he could hack at the rope or tendril that was creeping up his left leg. One slash, a splatter of liquid, and he was thrown against a wall.
With the wall at his back, he crouched and waved the knife back and forth. The alien—it probably wasn’t a humanoid—also crouched as it held one of its legs that was bleeding all over the deck. The noises it made sounded like curses.
Torrill straightened and held the knife point down. “Need help?’ he asked. The creature stood up, though it leaned a bit on its wounded leg. It was bi-pedal, which should slow it down. It made a harsh, barking sound and then pointed to its mouth.
Thirsty, Torrill guessed. He backed to the door, slipped through, and shut it. He’d bring water, he decided, and see what developed. Opening the door could be tricky. He was as prepared as he could be when he re-opened the door. The water container sat in front of the door. He had a gun in his hand and another in his belt. He’d have had one in each hand if he hadn’t needed a hand, which held a long cooking utensil, to open the door.
The alien was sitting on the floor when the door opened, and the smell of urine and feces greeted him. “Long trip, huh,” he said, and gestured at the water. The alien rose, stretched, and nonchalantly walked out to the water, though he glanced right and left and then up and down. He sat down, sniffed the water, shrugged, and took a long draft. He stayed sitting after drinking.
Presenting himself as non-threatening, Torrill was pretty sure. It probably wasn’t because of his leg. He backed away and waved his gun at the alien and wondered if his normal color was green. It was a pale green, and Torrill noticed that there was now no sign of the thorns he’d felt earlier. He’d really have to watch out for that. Sidling along to the bridge, Torrill never turned his back on the alien. The limp was hardly noticeable. Could be it healed fast.
Torrill didn’t relish being trapped with it on the ship. ’Course he’d set up a hard metal mesh harness on one of the short benches. First, he let it look at the control board to see if it was familiar with it.