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Deadlier of the Species


  09:37:14 am, by Nic Wilson   , 4885 words  
Categories: Nexus

Deadlier of the Species

Friday Night Stories are written once a week, and updated on Friday. Recently, I've been doing serials, and this one, Nexus, began here, and continues below.


Elle and I threw the ground crew a party- with liquor. After Oma, well, we knew we might not all be coming home. There is no stronger aphrodisiac than that; basically everybody got laid.


So it surprised me to catch Elle sneaking out the back. ?Somebody?s got to be an adult tomorrow. At least one person shouldn?t be hungover.?


?I?m totally, one hundred pershent sober. Shit. I meant percent. Whatever, I know my limits. I can be the adult and go home if you want to stay and enjoy the adult aspects of the party.? She smiled and left.


Even with the tension reduction, the shuttles were silent. We knew enough of the Meh-Teh, which it turns out is properly pronounced almost like ?murdered,? to know how dangerous this mission was. But we were all so focused on the ground mission, none of us were looking where the trouble actually came from.


?I hate you, you know that?? It was SciDiv, on my eyescreen. ?I convince you to leave me behind and this happens.?


?Stop being a wang and let me speak to the captain,? NavDiv interrupted. ?There?s a ship. It?s in a stable planetary orbit, but it?s been in the shadow of the planet- that?s why we never picked it up on our scanners, before now. But it?s moving, fast, on an intercept trajectory. We?ve tried to hail them, tried to commbox them, even tried adjusting to get out of their way. But they?re coming for us. ETA ten minutes.?


?What the shit, SciDiv? I thought you said they didn?t have extraplanetary capabilities.?


?Yeah, and that that was weird. Well, what we failed to realize is that those spires, they aren?t just cities- they?re ships. Given that, I don?t think they?re from this planet. I think they?re a mobile mining species and, at.? The communication cut off.


?Haley? What?s going on.? There was a long pause.


?I am? zzzzorry, captiain. Mah-mah-mah-my systems are being, innnnnfiltra-.?  


?Shit. How much of that did you get?? I asked SecDiv.


?Enough. What?s the plan??


?If they?re attacking the ship, they?re likely also setting up an ambush on-planet. 24 people on the ground crew versus a city of millions. SecOffs remaining on the Nexus should be able to hold off the Meh-Teh until MilSec can be thawed out- though there?s no telling how that fight plays out.?


I pulled up a schematic of the Nexus, with a scan from the Meh-Teh ship approaching, and shared it across the shuttle. ?Procedure says we should return to the Nexus, but odds are pretty good we lose the docks before we get back- so that?s no better than continuing down to the planet. But what if we swing back around behind their ship,? I drew with my finger and a red arc traced the path, ?and open up a second front.?


?That?s insane,? Elle said. ?We?d have an entire ship to fight through to get back to our own.?


?But, we might be able to force them to split their forces. We don?t need to win- we don?t even need to advance, so long as we can make them weaken their assault on the Nexus enough to get MilSec an edge. Once that happens we should be able to get back into the shuttles and head for the Nexus.? They stared at me for a while. ?I?m open to other suggestions. I just like my outline for the suicide mission better than alternatives I can see.?


Nobody liked the idea, but nobody seemed to have a better, one, either. I set down in the pilot?s seat and switched on the comms to the other shuttles. HR sent over a coded brief on our plan of action, and I gave the other shuttles a moment to read them.


?Haley?s down, so we?re going to have to take manual control of the shuttles. No telling what kind of defenses they might have, so form up on me, tight. Let?s all try not to die.?


The orbital spire was even more massive than we?d imagined- it just kept getting bigger and bigger, until the whole world in front of the shuttle was their ship. ?Shuttles have emergency docking capabilities that should get us into the Stalagmite, but we?re looking for some place we can make noise without getting too deeply involved.?


One of the other shuttles spotted a docking bay midship. I pulled our shuttle along beside the closed bay door. A man-sized tube telescoped from the door to the Stalagmite. There was a loud crunch, and I opened up the door. There was a rush of air as the shuttle equalized pressure with the Meh-Teh ship. ?Smells like a rotting wig.?


The docking bay was small, just a single ship the size of our shuttles, and room for another. The other shuttles cut holes in the docking bay door and followed us in. Then a familiar voice cut into our comms. ?Captain??




?Their ship had artificial intelligence countermeasures; I nearly lost command of the Nexus. Note the past tense; I have disabled their countermeasures.?


?You sound cocky.?


?I have also taken control of the majority of their ship. The Stalagmite?s control systems have only rudimentary automation. Reliance upon artificial life form slavery has made them wary of granting too much control to an artificial intelligence, but it also left them open to artificial intelligence attack. The crew members they had controlling systems couldn?t keep up with even one of my processors. The primary exception to the lock-down is the security tunnels; these are operated manually through local, closed systems.?


?Sadly, I was not able fast enough to prevent a Stalagmite force from entering the Nexus. The bulk of our crew were forced to eject in escape pods down to the planet?s surface, and the intruders have taken over most areas of the ship. I was able to lock down MilSec, and per protocol, I am in the process of thawing MilSec to purge the Meh-Teh from the ship. Also of note, security forces are currently encroaching upon your position.?


?Encroaching how fast, Haley??


?They will be at your position in ninety seconds.?


?Wonderful. Defensive positions. I want security on point, but everybody gets a goddamned gun. ETA on encroachment??  


?Fifteen seconds.?


We were up against the outer bay doors; it was the only place with any cover, as there were a few shipping containers strewn about. It also had the added benefit of shielding our rear. But it also exposed our shuttles to overshot gunfire.


?Hold fire until my signal,? I said over the comms. ?We want them massed in the center of the room, away from cover; it?s about the best kill zone we can hope for, here. Until then, stay down; if they suspect us, they may try to recon by fire, so don?t return fire unless you?re certain you?ve been seen.?


It was a relatively small force, thirty or so, but still numerically superior. The woman in charge was leery of moving too far into the hangar. There seemed to be disagreement, or maybe just lack of agreement, on how to approach. One of the males sniffed the air, then pointed at our position. ?Steady. Right side, on my go, I want you firing first, on their right flank- drive them away from the doors and deeper into the room. Left, hold fire for my signal.?


?Right side, fire like your lives depend on it- because they do.? There was noise and heat. The Meh-Teh reacted with surprise, even the big bastard pointing his furry finger in our direction. The males formed a circle around their officers, but they weren?t bright enough not to be corralled where we wanted them.


The officer in charge of them broke out of the formation, trying to physically force the males back towards the door; she wanted to use them as meat-shields to push through our fire and get back to safety


I stood up and shot her center mass. The left side of our group started firing. ?Are you calling that a signal?? Elle asked between shots. 


?It seemed to get the point across.?


The Meh-Thh?s discipline shattered; the remaining officers didn?t know who inherited command, and were stuck shuffling in place. But they were picking and choosing their shots over-carefully, until the finger-pointing male leveled a big rifle at me and fired. Elle dove into my midsection to push me out of the blast path. It smacked against the door, which gave a deep, metal groan. One of the Meh-Teh officers knocked him to his knees and shot him in the head. Elle and I looked at one another, then at the hangar door. ?Holy shit,? we said together.


?That door, if it gets blown we all get sucked out into vacuum, us and them,? she said. 


?Everybody, retrain your fire on their left flank. Shove them back through those doors. We need this firefight over, now.?


The Meh-Teh officers took the bait and made a rush for the doors.


?Follow me!? I yelled, bolting from cover. We couldn?t let them dig in back at the doorway, or we?d never make it any deeper than the hangar- and probably never make it out, either.


But with the losses they?d sustained, the security team was routed, and made for a side tunnel, and bolted a door behind them. ?Any of you engie types feel like getting that door to stay shut? Don?t want the furballs circling back on us.? One of the SciOffs timidly raised his hand, and I shook my head for him to get to it.  


?Haley? We need directions, here. Last thing we want is to get lost in the damn access tunnels.?


?I think I have a suitable route through the tunnels back to the Nexus. But I have news. From their communications, and what the commbox has been able to decipher, the captain of the Stalagmite was in the security tunnels when I locked down the rest of the ship.?


?How big is her escort??


?Ten crew members, six male.?




?What?? Elle asked.


?That?s too good to pass up. Which maybe means it?s a trap. Haley, how?s MilSec coming along??


?The entirety of MilSec has been thawed, and are currently arming. Time to full combat readiness estimated at 3 minutes.?


?I?m going with you,? Elle said.


?Probably isn?t a good idea to leave HR to deal with MilSec.?


?She isn?t. I?m with you, too. And you try to cold-cock me this time, I?ll shoot you in the balls.?


?Great. So apparently the entire remaining hierarchy is going along. Any of you red shirts coming?? I got blank stares. ?Oh come on, I?m not that old. Which of you is the highest ranking SecOff?? A stocky, dark-skinned man raised his hand. ?Good. You?re leading the rest of this charge. Softly softly, understand? Your force is about half-civilian, so don?t look for a conflict. If you find one, push them out and away- clear a path to MilSec. Speaking of, Haley, I need him on the line.?


?Well shit, son, hadn?t expected to see a friendly face. Heard you lost your ship??


?Temporary inconvenience.?


?Oh, then I guess my boys can go back to bed.?


?Ship?s crawling with Meh-Teh.?


?Big, hairy fuckers. Remind me of my stepdad, and he used to kick me as a boy.?


?So you?ll enjoy yourself. First priority is reclaiming the ship. I?d suggest a sweep, starting on the far end, and pushing them back on all fronts toward their incursion point. I?ve got a force of about 2 dozen that will be hitting them from this side.?


?Bottlenecking them is good, it?ll make ?em frantic and reckless- but the people on your end should have a release valve, funnel them away. They?ll think they?re escaping, when the fight is theirs to lose. But we got to tread light, cause we press them for annihilation, your 24 are as good as KIA, and the stand-off continues until somebody falls over. And they?ve got us pasted on pop size.?  


?Agreed. We?ve got a local commander who?ll be directing from our side, but you?ll have overall strategic authority.?


?And you?ll be hand-washing your dainties in the stream, I presume.?


?Taking a shot at the captain.?


?But ain?t going after the king with ours exposing us to the same risk??


?Nope. Because if I?m caught, you aren?t to even discuss my release- I?m a derelict, child-shitting monster and you will personally sodomize their pope if they even try to give me back.?


?I don?t negotiate with terrorists, pirates, or women.?


?Good, because in this case I think they?re all three.?


?Heh.? He hung up.


?Any questions? Because the rest of you are heading out. Stick to the SecOffs, because this is their bag and they know the routine. Be safe, and we?ll see you on the other side.?


We?re not ten feet out of earshot of the rest of the crew before HR thinks it?s bond over stories time. ?I put myself through school working PsyOps.?


?We call it propaganda in the real world.?   


?Well, it?s propaganda with the potential of having to shoot someone.?


?Have you ever??


?Shot someone? No. Drawn my weapon, but never fired.?


?Hooray. Well, at least it?s one more target to deflect fire from the useful members of the suicide mission.?


?Is every mission you command a suicide mission??


?Most. Yet I miraculously survive them. Though I don?t know if that makes me really good at suicide missions, or really bad.?


?I know for a fact you both suck at sneaking.?


?Oh right, I knew I was forgetting something. Haley? How far to the kahuna??


?If you are referenceing the Stalagmite?s captain, she is around the corner, which is a full 180 degree arc, constituting a quarter mile?s travel. But my information does not indicate that she is a priestess, sorceress, magician, witch or minister, though it is possible, perhaps even likely that she is an expert in some field.?


?Never change, Haley.?


?I?m afraid my higher processes include smart evolution coding which audits and streamlines my operations; I cannot help but change.?


?He meant stay you, Haley.?


?Who else could I be??


?What?s their tactical situation??


?I believe they have only now realized they are trapped in the security tunnel network. They are attempting to communicate with the nearest security checkpoint, but I have not allowed it. They have assumed a defensive position. They seem to be in possession of a commbox, as I can hear them speaking, and also understand them in English. Patching them through to your comms.?


?--Captain Diu?rnae, I still think we should move, you aren?t safe here and-?


?Your preference has been noted, Lieutenant Commander, and disregarded. Offering it a third time would be bothersome, and furthermore insubordinate. If we scurry around like prey we?re likely to become someone else?s quarry, defeating your point.?


A thicker voice, presumably one of the males, said ?Captain, it?s not possible for these humans to have done this.?


?You honestly believe a lockdown, hours after we attacked their ship, wouldn?t be related? In the ten years I?ve been captain there has never been a lockdown. But of course you ?believe? it, Koel; men always ?believe,? because actually thinking would be too taxing. I can?t help but wonder how remarkable our species would be without your gender urinating in our gene pool.?


?Captain, you are about to make visible contact,? I was rounding the long corridor, and spotted the first of them, as Elle yanked me backward.


?Warning was a little on the light side, Haley.?


?I apologize, Captain. The Meh-Teh attack left several million pieces of malicious code, and I am experiencing mild difficulty functioning while quarantining and fighting them.?


?That?s fine, Haley. Don?t worry about us. Focus on keeping their ship locked down and yourself uncompromised.?


Over the comms, I could hear the Meh-Teh argue: ?Humans. I told you this wasn?t safe.?


There was a loud blast that I heard first through the air, then through comms. ?Captain??


?Oh, calm yourselves; she isn?t dead. She just knows that when she misbehaves, mama spank.?


?But the humans??


?Are tiny little food sacks, with primitive weapons. The males could flay them by hand. Come out, little humans. I presume you can hear me. Your archaic talkbox should be translating into your horrible, guttural little speech. If you surrender now, I?ll only give one of you to the males to rape.?


?Not it,? Elle and I said together.


?Fuck both of you,? HR said.


Elle leaned out, ?Like anybody?d want to rape you.? She fired, but the nearest Meh-Teh was behind enough cover that she didn?t quite have a shot. 


?Rush them,? Diu?rnae ordered.


?Modeling their approach, Captain,? Haley said. She showed video of a wave of meat and fur, her 3D model rendering each thick muscle in real time. HR and Elle dropped to one knee, steadying their rifles to fire.


I was the furthest out from the wall, which also meant I?d be the first to see one of them around the corner. I overlaid Haley?s model across my HUD, with high transparency. The moment the first of them was around the corner enough to take the brunt of a pistol blast, I fired. A geyser of head pieces and fur, looking like a thrown plate of spaghetti, splatted across the rest of the charge, but they weren?t smart enough to be deterred.


HR got his first kill; then he got hit by freight train of fur, and I heard the familiar sound of his ribs breaking. Even before Elle turned to shoot the Meh-Teh I knew he was out of the fight.


?Nothing but a bunch of life-support systems for genitals.? Diu?rnae said. The heavier of her two attendants gave her a look, presumably offense.


?Fall back,? I told Elle.


?Not too far, assholes,? HR said from the floor. We retreated just enough to use the curve of the wall to our advantage, isolate the furthest part of their defense.


?You want suppression?? I asked.


?What, you think you can hit her from this distance with a pistol??


?Right, so I?m suppressing. Don?t leave me hanging out in the wind too long.? I leaned out from cover, and peppered her position with fire. She was pretty fearless, so I had to get the shots within a couple of feet before she ducked down- though not out of range. ?Got her??


Elle breathed out, and squeezed the trigger. The Meh-Teh tumbled over, almost peaceful, aside from the hole in her chest.


We were advancing slowly along the wall, waiting for the next Meh-Teh defender to come into view when Diu?rnae yelled, ?They?re not going to nickel and dime us to death. Press them. A rolling advance. It?s two on five. End this.?


The move forward, one step per person, in a wave. The female officers are trained at this, and even the two remaining males are better than the ones who died. We don?t get an opening until the males are close, and before we can exploit it they charge.


Elle and I fire at the same male, and the one neither of us focused on backhands me with a rifle larger than my leg. I get a break, in that he?s angry, and rather than just shoot me, he stomps on my knee a couple of times. It?s enough time for Elle to shoot him in the back.


The officers aren?t used to operating without protection.


?My name is Captain Diu?rnae. I presume you?ve come here to capture or kill me. I propose instead a union. A male capable of this much violence is highly desirable in my species. And you communicate above a ten-years? level. Practically the best of both genders.?


?It?s not likely we could actually procreate.?


?Procreation?s for matriarchs and women without ambitions. I?m talking about arm candy- among other delicious places I could touch or taste you.?   


?I?m flattered, really, honestly. But I?m kind of spoken for. Two or three times over, maybe- It?s complicated.?


?I assume the slag is part of this complication. I could always help simplify your life.?


?I?m going to tear your tits off.?




?It?s one thing to have somebody try to shoot me- but it?s a whole other level of demeaning when they try to do it over you.?


?I?m trying not to take that as an insult.?


?No, it?s insulting because she wants to bang you more than she wants me dead.?


?Sounds like excellent priorities to me.?


?Maybe the two of us should just shoot you, then.?


?I might be amenable to that, provided you?re on trajectory to become captain.?


?I?d have to shoot the other prick, but yeah.?


?Okay, this has really gone way far past funny. Elle!? The male that wanted so desparately to break my knee popped up, and slapped her rifle out of her hands. It hit the ground with enough force that it broke down the middle.


?Poopsticks. Nice sasquatch?? She rolled out of the way as he swiped at her head. I couldn?t get a shot, so I kicked Elle my pistol, but it went wide.


She dove for it, narrowly missing two shots from Diu?rnae, and grabbed the pistol and turned it on the male looming over her. He brought one of his giant clawed hands over his head and she fired. He collapsed on top of her with a booming thud. 


?Way to slice it,? she said from beneath him, out of breath. Her arms, and my pistol (presuming it survived the mountain of man-bear falling on it) are pinned.


?It?s been a while since I?ve had to slapshot a pistol.? I know Diu?rnae?s still out there. I lean my head out to recon, and nearly get it blasted off. Judging from where the shot came from, she?s got a clear shot at Elle.


I know what comes next. I feel like a coward, but I close me eyes. There?s a shot.


It?s a moment before my brain puts it together, that the shot came from behind us. I hear Diu?rnae hit the ground and swears, though through the commbox it becomes ?frog-shitting infant balls.?


HR managed to crawl forward, grab his rifle, and get off a shot. God only knows how, because he?s not even holding his head up anymore. I feel about the same, but I stick my head out. Diu?rnae?s down, and her pistol?s a few feet away. I think it?s over, until I see her hand start to twitch.


She pushes herself enough off the floor to look at me, then to her pistol. We form points of a triangle; and she wagers she won?t beat me to the gun, so she hobbles towards me.


?Are you sure about this, human? We could always just put away our hostilities and screw.?


?Make love, not war? I don?t know if I could live with myself, after that.?


?It?s not an entirely ignoble suggestion.?


?You say that only because your planet doesn?t have hippies.?


?Peacemongers? We killed them to make bread centuries ago. They didn?t even resist. And they were delicious.? Okay. Now I?m actually a little turned on.


?I normally don?t hit ladies, but you?ve got them big old claws; I bet even light on your feet you could still take my head off.?


?Why don?t you come find out?? She tried, but only manages to clip my shoulder; almost rips it out of the socket. But I get in one good haymaker- enough to knock her flat, and get me the couple of seconds it takes to stagger to her loose pistol. It?s a complicated little piece of machinery, but the safety?s already off and it doesn?t require a genius to figure out it?s triggered by squeezing the grip with a fist.


?You?re dead to rights,? I said, and only then wondered what the commbox would do with the phrase.


?Then I suppose I surrender. Though I?m not certain I see the point.?


?I?m going to help you up, and help you walk. Don?t make me regret either of those.? She leans on my shoulder; for the first time the femininity of her build is betrayed by the heaviness of her bones and muscle.


I turn her towards Elle, who smiles at the sight. ?That brings me back.?


?Yeah, but you were way heavier.?


?Not as heavy as this fucker. Ass. Are you going to help me up??


?You did just call me an ass.?


?And you not helping me up disproves me theory how??


?Just pointing out how funny it is you expect me to risk yeti-herniation from somebody who not four seconds ago called me an ass.? I leaned Diu?rnae against a rail. ?Make a run and I?ll shoot out your knees; I?m perfectly happy to drag you back to my ship.? 


The Meh-Teh male was heavier even than he looked. I may not have even been able to roll him, except Diu?rnae put a hand on him to help. It struck me then that she probably could have killed me while my back was turned; maybe her species had some honor, after all.


I get Elle onto her feet, then offer Diu?rnae my shoulder again. ?I can walk alone, human.? Elle nearly falls back over, and I?m no so sure she can.


I walk over to HR. ?Why don?t you help each other, then, while I scrape numb nuts off the floor.? He doesn?t respond to shaking; doesn?t move until I kick him in the leg.


?Ow, fucker. What if I had a spinal injury??


?If you had a spinal injury you?d probably be up shit creek. I doubt I?d convince one of the MedOffs to come all the way here to get you. I?m going to help you up, but it?s going to hurt. Like a hundred bitches. All stabbing you in the chest at the exact same instant.?


?Wait. Let me take a dose of painkiller.? He suit dispenses at a mental command. ?Okay. That already helps.? He still screams when I lift him, like I was picking him up by the scrotal hair. He leans part of his weight on the wall and the rest on me. ?Should have waited for it to kick in the rest of the way,? he said. 


He took a few steps, made a disgusted face, and took a few more. ?Why are my pants wet? Did one of them mark me like a tree??


A look at his ass. ?You?re bleeding.?


?Funny, I don?t feel any pain below the waist- aside from where you kicked me.?


?No, you?re bleeding internally- since you?re still alive, probably somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract.?


?You know, I honestly figured if anybody was coming back bleeding from the ass it would be you.?


?Another rape joke? Seriously, how did I miss the memo that rape jokes were funny.?


?I sent it out while you were in your rape coma.?


?It?s just a little internal bleeding. It?s gross, but it?s coming out slow enough that even the field MedOffs we had with us should be able to patch you up. Milsec??


?You got him, cowboy. Captain? Hol-ee shit, son. Didn?t expect you back in one piece.?


?What?s your progress with the Meh-Teh??


?Routed em a good fifteen minutes ago. Just mopping up the stragglers.?


?And our detachment??


?Present and accounted for. Took a couple of casualties, but they fought good, son. I wasn?t too embarrassed to be fighting next to em.?


?Good. Have them grab a few stretchers and haul ass to our position. We?re moving way too slow to want to hoof it all the way out.?


?Roger, Wilco.?


?Why did this all seem too easy?? Elle asked.


?Well, we are still in the belly of their beast, basically crippled. How much harder did you want this to be??


?I just, I?ve got a bad feeling about this.?


?And you couldn?t keep your bad feeling to yourself until we got safely back aboard the Nexus. Way to jinx us, Elle.?

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