screamer-by_eurai at https://www.deviantart.com/art/Screamer-29923535
“Where’d you get the parts?” Lieutenant Wong studied the inventory on his crystal.
“From a salvage company. They recovered the Del Rio from Hippolita Four.” MaintTech Dora Soledad checked her crystal. “Shame about the Del Rio.”
Wong nodded and clicked off his crystal. “Yeah. Three hundred and twenty-seven colonists and the whole crew, dead.” He sighed. “Okay. We’ll go with these. Start with the engine. That capacitor is way over due for replacement.”
Dora nodded. Wouldn’t be if the company cared about anything but the bottom line, she thought. Wong turned and left the maintenance shop. Dora went over to the shelf where the capacitors were stored. She looked over the parts. They all looked pretty good, so she picked one, grabbed her took kit, and headed for the engine room.
The Chief Engineer, Sue Goode, was sitting watch at her boards and greeted Dora when she arrived. “No kidding, there are parts?”
“Yeah.” Dora grinned. “I grabbed a whole list of parts as soon as I saw them come up on the sales boards. Used but in good condition.”
“Fantastic.” Sue grinned back. “About time.”
Dora put the part in, tested it, and was done in an hour. She gave Sue a wave as she left.
The next day she was at the noon mess with the third engineer, Dave Bookman. “It was creepy down in engineering last night.” He sighed. “I kept hearing things.”
“What kind of things?” Dora took a sip of her soup.
Dave shrugged. “It sounded like screaming.”
Dora’s eyebrow rose. “Screaming.”
“Yeah! I checked over that whole engine. Everything in the room. Couldn’t find anything wrong.” Dave shuddered. “Creepy.”
Dora nodded. “Sure.”
Two days later, she was walking along a passageway when she caught sight of something from the corner of her eye. When she turned to see it, it drifted away, like smoke, through the bulkhead. She shook her head. That wasn’t possible. Seeing things, she thought, and went on her way.
At the evening mess, it was all the talk. Just about everyone had seen or heard something. Just inside hearing range, or just about in sight, it was scaring everyone. “What could it be?” Dave asked her. “Are we all going nuts?”
“Everyone? All at once?” Dora shook her head. “I’m not buying it.”
“Well, something is happening.” He crossed his arms. “What’s the Captain going to do about it?”
Dora shrugged. “He can’t stop people from seeing things, Dave.”
Dave stood and picked up his tray. “I guess. But something is going on.”
Dora finished her meal after Dave left. Thinking about it. Finished, she went to see the Lieutenant. “Sir. Have you heard about the ghosts?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been hearing stuff myself.” He studied her. “You?”
“I’ve seen something, not sure what.”
“Okay. What do you have?”
“It seems to me the sightings started after I began using the parts from the Del Rio”
He rubbed his chin. “How do you figure?”
The sighting I had was in the hall where I’d replaced a fan blade the day before in the air handling system. Dave Bookman heard screaming the night I replaced the capacitor in the engine room. I’ve been listening to people talk about where they were when they had a sighting. It’s all places I’ve worked over the last three days.” She took a breath. “Where were you when you heard stuff?”
He thought a moment. “Outside the bridge, for one.”
“I replaced the switch plate to the door.”
“Let’s talk to the Captain.”
They met in the Captain’s ready room and explained Dora’s theory. “And how did it happen?” he asked.
“I heard the Del Rio crashed hard, Sir. Quite a psychic shock. Drove their, souls, I guess, right into the nearest thing.”
The Captain nodded. “Sounds like a lot of hooey to me.”
“What can we do about it?” Wong asked.
“Nothing. It’s a figment of people’s imaginations.”
“But Sir,” Dora started to speak. He cut her off.
“No. I’m not buying it. Dismissed.”
Dora spent the next week doing her best not to use any parts from the Del Rio but often, they were the only parts available. Apparitions hung clearly beside the shelves and racks in the Maintenance Office. She tried to talk to them, reassure them, but it didn’t seem they could hear her.
People were starting to look haggard, especially the people who were hearing screaming. Dave Bookman collapsed and had to be taken to the clinic where they sedated him.
The Captain showed up in the Maintenance Office, stopping short just inside the doorway. His eyes grew bigger as he looked around the crowded room. “How long?” He gestured at the ghosts.
“Four days.” Dora looked around. “I try to talk to them. But no response.”
He rubbed his cheek. “I’ll check with the doctor.”
Dora nodded as he left and went back to work.
The doc started in the Maintenance Office. “Captain said you’ve been talking to them.”
“Yeah. It doesn’t help, though.”
“Supportive counseling, it’s called.” He watched the ghosts as they drifted around the room. Better is what you’ve already done, in vivo exposure. They’ve been put back on a space ship. Eventually they’ll see that nothing bad is happening and they’ll get better. Probably disappear.” He turned to her. “They don’t bother you, interfere in any way, anything?”
“Nope. They just drift around. I walk around them, though. It seems rude to walk through them.”
The doc nodded. “Yeah. I can see that. Just keep talking to them. It’s about the best we can do.”
He gave the people who could hear screaming drugs to keep them calm and set others to talking to the parts that had been installed around the ship.
It took three months for the first of the ghosts to disappear. Last to go were the screamers, the shock of their death more acute with them. Dora was a little sad to see her ghosts go. They were good company.
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