Twelve hours was all the time it had taken for nearly the entire crew of the Star Destroyer Vector – all 46,700 personnel – to die.
Ensign Bran Fenrell didn’t know why he’d been spared. He didn’t know why, just a few hours earlier, his bunkmate, Ryas, had drowned in his own blood just a few feet away. Fenrell himself had felt no ill effects, except for the painful knot of nausea that caused him to vomit all over the floor of their quarters as his bunkmate and friend gasped and writhed.
Finally Ryas had let out a slow, lifeless breath, like a deflating balloon, and lay still. Fenrell hadn’t bothered contacting the infirmary because by that point, everyone knew there was nothing that could be done. Whatever had been unleashed upon the Vector, it was invariably fatal.
Fenrell had sat on his bunk for hours, in shock, as the corpse of his fellow ensign putrefied across from him. He knew he’d have to leave eventually, though he had no idea where he would go.
He was considering his limited options when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw a flicker of movement on the opposite bunk.
He stared. He couldn’t have actually seen that, could he? His nerves were getting to him. But there it was again – he saw it clearly this time. Ryas’s finger had moved.
Fenrell hesitated, then crossed over to the other bunk. Could it be true? Could Ryas still be alive?
He looked over Ryas’s body. The skin of the ensign’s face and hands had turned to a gray-greenish color, with a rough, dried-out texture. It seem to hang loosely, although Ryas had been a bit overweight in life.
There was a slight hiss of air from the body. Was Ryas still breathing? A thought struck Fenrell – could Ryas actually have survived the infection? Could he be getting better? Or was this just the last bit of air escaping from a rotting corpse? Slowly, Fenrell leaned closer over Ryas, turning his head to listen for an intake of breath.
That’s when Ryas bit his ear off.
Fenrell screamed, blood spurting between his fingers as he clutched the ragged remains of his ear. Ryas lunged for him, sinking his teeth into Fenrell’s arm. The thing had terrible strength, and it was all Fenrell could do to tear it away. A chunk of his forearm came away in the monster’s jaws.
Fenrell ran for the door and frantically punched in the code to unlock it. Mercifully, he got the code in one try and the door slid open. As he fled, he glanced back to see the thing chewing with what seemed like deliberate concentration on the flesh of his arm, an almost beatific expression on its face. Torn bits of black uniform, sticky with blood and offal, clung to the thing’s lips.
Clutching his forearm and trying to ignore the desperate throbbing of his missing ear, Fenrell staggered through the door, being sure to lock it behind him. The thing that had been Ryas could have unlocked it from the inside, but Fenrell doubted it would remember how.
He found himself leaning along the corridor wall as he struggled to walk, leaving a long, bloody smear. He came to the end of the corridor and turned the corner…
…and found himself facing a squad of Field Stormtroopers. He recognized them by their yellow pauldrons and the rail detonators that dangled from their hands…
…their green, mutilated hands…
Fenrell managed one last scream, and then they were upon him.
I know zombies are probably kind of uncool at this point – particularly the tendency to insert zombies into any geek franchise you can imagine. But Joe Schreiber’s novel Death Troopers came out three years ago, when the whole zombie thing was a bit closer to its height. I wasn’t even into Star Wars at the time but I still bought it when it came out, primarily because I found zombies in the SW galaxy a more interesting idea than, say, the Marvel universe.
Part of that novelty was because Star Wars doesn’t typically veer into R-rated territory. Fifteen years ago, LucasFilm gave author Daniel Keys Moran a hard time for a scene in his Boba Fett story for Tales of the Bounty Hunters in which a mass murderer is executed by being eaten by animals (the actual killing isn’t even shown). Evidently by 2010 they’d realized there was a market out there for more mature-oriented SW material.
Death Troopers is fun, and it does indeed get pretty gory (even more so than my little indulgence above). An interesting aside: I bought this book on the Kindle, and I didn’t read the Amazon page or any reviews before reading it. Since there was no book jacket or anything to give me a heads-up, there was a “twist” in the book that I had no idea was coming and was very welcome. It’s the sort of thing you’d run into if you spent any time at all on the Amazon page or reading a review of the book, but I was actually surprised by it and it added a lot to my enjoyment of the book.
Zombie stormtroopers make perfect aesthetic sense: the stormtrooper costume itself is reminiscent of a skeleton, so combining it with the undead is a no-brainer. So when Star Wars Black came out and delivered us such an amazing Sandtrooper (reviews are coming, don’t worry), I couldn’t resist commissioning my friend Joe Amaro to create a zombie Sandtrooper for me.
There’s actually another level to this custom – it’s actually a zombie Field Stormtrooper. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I was a huge fan of the Dark Forces and Jedi Knight computer games, and they introduce the concept of the Field Stormtrooper. They’re basically high-ranking stormtroopers in environments that aren’t particularly sandy. Instead of orange, they wear red or yellow pauldrons. I must have Force-choked a thousand of these guys in my Jedi Knight days. (For some reason, it was always really funny…it seems really creepy to say that, but it’s true. Something about the combination of animation and sounds when you Force-choked characters was amusing.)
I think the photos make it quite obvious how amazing Joe’s work on this custom is. There’s nothing I could add that wouldn’t be gushing hyperbole.
Joe was also kind enough to throw in a custom Rail Detonator, one of the signature weapons of Jedi Knight. It’s a fantastic sculpt of one of my favorite videogame weapons.
Suffice to say, I’m more than pleased with this custom and amazed by Joe’s skills, as always. If you haven’t seen it, don’t forget to check out his incredible SWB Jabba custom.