Sometimes, it was heard by the crew sent to investigate what had happened to the original crew. And, since most humanoids learn from such mistakes, successive investigations are increasingly better prepared.

The whole bit about vicious, flesh-eating creatures is also mostly bunkum. Anything smart enough to hunt is also smart enough to raid unguarded food, but not smart enough to check for sedatives.

But that never stopped a human from telling a story.

And the right kind of story skips merrily past logic, reason, and common knowledge to burrow right into the back brain where all the primitive instincts are and revs them into hyper-awareness.

All of this went through Alex's mind as the Laughing Hyena docked with the latest ghost ship on their two year long tour through a very large area known as the Wastelands, even though it was just a vast swathe of space apparently used as a dumping ground by various civilizations. It was perfect as a place to leave stuff for later. No nearby suns, no passing bodies of any mass. Just an otherwise empty space between wormholes.

Ghost ship. Even the name was evocative. It called to mind glowing green sails and skeletons at the helm, and other ludicrous falsities that filled every young child's mind with adventure, and bedclothes with the after-effects of ancient fight-or-flight instincts.

But those days were a long time ago, now. Alex was grown. Physically mature and psychologically responsible. As sane as any other human in the known expanses of space. Which wasn't saying much for a species declared universally insane, but, thankfully, also mostly harmless.

Alex concentrated on steady breathing as the airlock cycled open. The interior appeared whole, or as whole as the inside of any stripped ship could be. The interior door mechanisms had all been removed, leaving gaping, black maws where more mundane portals should have been. The uneven edges put Alex in mind of a giant rodent, gnawing away at the long-abandoned metal in order to manufacture egress for itself.

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