Results: 86% for “Grab the nearest pistol and look at the ceiling. The Naath are blasted giant space bugs, and their favorite trick is to lurk on the ceiling, because no one ever looks up.”
You drop to one knee, snatch the Krupler 330A pistol out of the dead man’s holster, and look at the ceiling.
And, just as you suspected, a Naath warrior drone hangs upside down from the ceiling. It’s about your size, and looks like a mutant hybrid of a mantis and a hunting spider, all armored black chitin, razor-edged forelimbs, and jagged mandibles.
Bits and pieces of the dead security guards still cling to its forelimbs.
Reflex takes over, and you swing the pistol up, squeeze the trigger, and the plasma bolt flash-bakes the inside of the warrior drone’s head all over the ceiling. The rest of the drone goes into a spasmodic, twitching dance, and falls from the ceiling to writhe atop the dead guards.
A metallic shriek erupts from the security office, and your head snaps around. You see another Naath warrior drone leap over a desk with a computer terminal, razor forelimbs reaching for you, mandibles yawning wide to emit that horrible brassy battle shriek.
A battle shriek that comes to an abrupt end as you put a plasma bolt through its mandibles. The warrior drone skids to a halt on the bloodstained deck. You rise to your feet and put a single blast through each of the drones’ hivelink organs, to keep the Naath hive from taking direct control.
The nasty smell of plasma-fried Naath chitin fills your nostrils, bringing back all kinds of unpleasant memories.
But there is no time for that now. You urge the children into the security office (after checking the ceiling, of course), tell them to stay put, and help yourself to the desk’s computer terminal. You have to hurry. The second warrior drone saw you kill the first, which means that the Naath hive mind knows you are a threat, and warrior or hunter drones are probably on their way to kill you right now. However, you don’t want to strike out blindly.
Right away you see that the ship’s mainframe is acting…oddly. Most of the primary systems are down, and you suspect that the mainframe has been infected with a powerful virus (that might explained why the Morningstar dropped out of hyperspace). Which is strange. The Naath do not use technology, and their general response to human computer systems is to smash them as a threat. However, the ship’s internal thermal imaging sensor grid is still functioning, and you bring up the display.
The results aren’t good.
You vaguely recall hearing that the Morningstar could carry six or seven thousand people. The sensor grid can only find about five hundred people left alive on the ship, most of them clustered in a formal banquet hall on the luxury-class deck. It looks like the banquet hall forms a natural choke point, and you suspect that any survivors have barricaded themselves in the room. You ought to make for there.
Getting there, however, might prove something of a challenge.
Naath drones generally have an internal temperature between 115 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and the system is tracking at least a thousand of them, thickest near the aft cargo hold, but with packs of them moving throughout the ship. The cargo holds themselves register as completely dark, and you suspect the Naath smashed any sensor nodes they could find.
There’s also a group of a dozen drones moving towards the security office. They’ll be here in about three minutes or so.
Time to go.
In a flash of inspiration, you wirelessly link the computer terminal to your smartphone, allowing you to view the sensor image anywhere on the ship. And on your phone, you see two viable routes to the banquet hall. You could take the turbolift to the luxury-class deck and proceed from there, but there are Naath patrolling the corridors. You might have to fight. Alternately, you could take the access ladders to the luxury deck. The system reports no Naath warrior drones in the access ladders – but there are lots of nooks and crannies where scout drones could hide undetected from the sensor grid.
A quick search of the security office yields up no other lethal weapons, but you do find a half-dozen stun grenades. They won’t stop a Naath drone for long, but they might come in handy.