|Origin Timestream Period:||1920’s|
|Tech Development:||Era 1|
Cover by Ragged Angel Ltd, using stock images from Dreamstime
© Angela Harburn | Dreamstime.com
10,000 words, sci-fi.
Killgrace and the Alien Threat
"They’re watching me. Oh Stars, my head!" There was a terrible choking scream and then silence. Yemec and Megah ran towards the noise. By the time they got there Doctor Skanes was lying on the floor alone, face contorted. Blood had sprayed from his lips across the corridor floor. Reluctantly, Yemec stepped closer, risked checking for a pulse, and then held his hand in front of the doctor’s mouth.
"Nothing. He’s dead."
"Like the Captain." Megah rubbed his arms as if they were cold despite his armoured security jacket, and glanced out of the airlock window where swirls of liquid hydrogen could be seen twisting in the storm outside the base. "And he’s right by the airlock."
"Don’t say it." Yemec said abruptly. "You go and tell the others. I’ll get a stretcher. We’ve got to get the body to Sickbay."
"And who’s left to examine it? The Captain’s dead, now the Doctor’s gone. I’m telling you they’re working their way down the ranks." Megah stopped talking as he saw the look on Yemec’s face.
"You have your orders. Now stop talking and go," the second in command said, through gritted teeth. Megah stopped, as if to argue, and then realised Yemec was not in the mood for dissent. Instead Megah nodded and left, walking briskly away from the body.
In the storage room, a metal cylinder appeared, wedged neatly into a corner. Inside it Susan looked doubtfully at her Cull companion, which was scrutinising every move she made.
"Your first trip off-world in a Capsule," she said. "We’ve arrived."
"What is your protocol for this procedure?"
"Well, we should investigate."
"Because we might learn something."
"Insufficient." Susan sighed. Explaining everything to her reluctant partner was irritating. Showing that irritation would get her killed.
"Because we’ve never been to a place like this before. It might have useful information."
"Then we should commence conquest."
"Without gaining intelligence first?" Susan asked, torn between resignation and exasperation. "I thought your people were strategists."
"The external technology level is not a threat." She reflected that appealing to the curiosity of a logic-based, normally omnicidal, species was doomed to failure and paused to consider her response.
"Then let me resort to logic. If we continue to journey off-world regularly, you can access advanced technology, discover completely new species and gain resources. If you attempt to conquer a civilisation we visit, you will have to kill me first. That means no more off-world journeys, and no way for you to return to the base we have set up." Even though nothing of the alien was visible within the carapace of its navy blue battle armour she could tell it was glaring. Multiple sensor lights under its shell had moved, all focused in her direction. The creature’s secondary gun arm twitched threateningly. Susan stared it down, reminding herself that she had helped kill these things on more than one occasion.
"I will proceed with reconnaissance. Hostilities will be deferred." It was as good as she was likely to get. She opened the door and stumbled slightly as her foot didn’t lift as far as she expected.
"Now let’s – " She stopped. Her voice had come out in a squeak. She tried again. "We should-" still squeaky. She paused, swallowing and adjusting her vocal chords to deliberately lower her voice. Her ears popped painfully, and everything sounded muffled.
"Is there helium in the air?"
"Atmosphere breathable but not earth normal. High quantities of helium and nitrogen detected. Oxygen levels lower."
"Pressurised?" she asked, trying not to squeak.
"Affirmative." Susan stood still, taking a few deep breaths as she let her body adapt, suddenly grateful she was not a normal human. The sudden pressure change could have caused problems. She would have to tweak the Capsule’s programming on locating safe environments. The Cull was still sitting there, looking surprisingly smug for an alien in an expressionless environmental suit.
"So, we’re somewhere with high gravity, higher pressure, and artificial air. An underwater base for aliens?"
"Negative. Twenty-eight humanoid lifesigns detected." Now it even sounded smug. "Industrial base. Planetary class: Gas Giant."
"And how do you know that?"
"Computer access." Susan sighed, looking at the single blue sensor light that gazed expressionlessly back at her. She could protest privacy rights, or the risks of accessing strange computer systems, but she already knew she was not going to win this one. She just had to pick her battles, and hope the creature’s arrogance did not bite it too badly. Instead she closed the Capsule, locking the door behind her.
"Are they hostile?"
"Negative. Deuterium harvesting detected. Useful byproducts also detected. Acquiring." They seemed to be in a storage room and, as she looked at the crates around them, she had to agree with its assessment that this was an industrial operation. The room seemed full of circuitry components, spare panels, nuts and bolts, but nothing that seemed particularly useful.
Ignoring the crates, the Cull had moved to the storage room door. It unfolded a probe from within its armour, inserting it behind the keypad. The door slid open and the alien began to glide off down the corridor beyond.
"What about the inhabitants?" Susan walked quickly after it, pausing at the door and glancing from side to side. Thankfully the corridor was empty.