It completely figured that the Gamenians would choose to attack our colony world on the one vacation day I had taken in over three years. The warning klaxons sounded signaling a vessel coming out of sub-space inter-atmosphere, and having been born and raised on one or another military base my whole life, I knew the drill better than most of the other civilians who happened to be standing around in front of the Commerce and Welfare building. I immediately crouched and stuck my fingers in my ears to ward off the worst of the pressure wave I knew was coming. Sure enough, a few seconds later I was literally bowled over onto my ass as I rolled with the shock-front. Even prepared, my head hurt and my vision went wobbly for a few seconds. I cursed, and found that I could still hear my own voice, which was more than I could say for the two dozen others currently picking themselves up off the ground. No doubt an alarming number of them would be deaf for hours, if not permanently. I barely even had a chance to see the ship that landed as it hit emergency retro-thrusters about half a click from the ground and all but crashed into the port facility. Somebody was either really really busted, or really really in a hurry to see someone important. They would get the latter no matter what the excuse.
I pulled myself up and did a quick personal inventory. Convinced that all my body parts were where they were supposed to be, I cursed again, this time a lot louder and more eloquently. My brand new bright-white cotton dress was a total loss. Between the grass stains and engine soot, I looked like a used pipe-cleaner. To my surprise, there was also a widening splatter pattern of red on my chest and I realized that my nose was bleeding.
“Fuck!” I shouted to no one and rummaged through my bag for a tissue to plug the flow. Then, with the thing still hanging out of my nose, I stomped off toward the gate of the base. The guard knew me by sight, but still checked my badge as I fumed and waited to be let in. He was wise enough not to question my current state and never said a word. He knew that I would never use the fact that my father was Base Commander, but he wasn’t about to get in the way of an angry young female who had fire in her eyes and a bone to pick with somebody, just so long as that somebody wasn’t him.
I stormed into the elevator and presented my ID to the sensor. It seemed to take forever to clear me, then finally prompted, “floor?”
“B-8,” I replied to the emotionless computer.
There was a very slight feeling of falling, and then three seconds later the doors went “whoosh” and I was striding out into a mad frenzy of running uniforms. Something was screwy.
“Catherine! Thank god you’re here,” said a woman’s voice amid the scuffling feet. A moment later I recognized the face of Dana Killpatrick, the woman my father referred to as his ‘personal assistant’ as she rushed forward and took my hand. “Come on. Your father is going to want to see you, and not just because the old bastard cares.”
“Dee?” I asked as I narrowly missed colliding with a panicked looking young man coming the opposite direction. “What the hell is going on?! Does all this have something to do with that ship that pulled a duster run about thirty minutes ago?”
She didn’t answer right away. “Look, I probably shouldn’t talk to you about it before you see your father, but the whole damn planet is going to know in another hour anyway…”
“That ship is from Orley Ott.”
I frowned. “The colony in the next quadrant?”
“That’s the one,” she replied as we made our way toward what I thought was my father’s private office. At the last moment she turned left and we were standing in front of the big vault door to the Situation Room.
“Yeah. Well, about six hours ago they were attacked by the Gamenians – four full base ships.”
“We lost sub-space contact with them almost at once, then nothing, not a peep… right up until that ship popped out of lightspeed right on top of us. By the way, you look like hell. Were you close?”
I rolled my eyes. “I was just coming out of the CaW.”
“Oh my god! You could have been killed!”
“Not likely. The blast was mostly air pressure. The klaxon saved my hearing though. Kudos to whoever was manning the switch. I’d like a few private minutes with the pilot driving that ship though. I don’t care how serious it is, there’s no reason to rocket-jock it that close to the ground.”
Dana took the badge hanging around her neck and slid it through the special reader on the door. “Well, you might want to reconsider given the fact that the ship didn’t have nul-grav.”
My eyes went wide. “What?! Anyone aboard would have been subjected to at least 30 gravities… They’d be smashed flat! What an idiot!”
“According to the log, the pilot knew that before he punched the coordinates into the jump computer. Apparently he felt that it would waste too much time getting clearance through the orbital defense grid. He’s in the infirmary if you really want a crack at him.” The huge door went click and started opening.
“Yup. Kinda cute too…”
I just stood there with my mouth open while Dana stepped into the room beyond.
“Come on, before the door closes.”
“Catherine, thank the stars…” My father gave me a quick hug. “I had hoped you’d have the sense to get back to base before we locked it down.”
“Uh… Actually Pop…”
The man turned away and joined a number of others around a large display table. “As it turns out, we can really use a good bio-tech. We need to figure out a way to stop what the Gamenians are about to drop on us.”
“Whoa, whoa… rewind there. Are we really under attack?”
“We’re about to be,” he replied. “We received a data pack from Orley Ott aboard a direct transport…”
I snorted. “Yeah, I… noticed.”
He spied the wad of tissue in my nose and frowned. “Sorry about that. If it means anything, he was justified in this case.”
I just nodded, accepting the fact that in times of war, all bets are off.
“As far as the packet is concerned,” he continued, “there isn’t much. Mostly some… rather disturbing surveillance footage. As you are aware, the Gamenians are Creators. They make specific genetic weapons for whatever task they need accomplished, whether it’s terraforming an asteroid or eradicating an interstellar enemy. When New Herra dropped off the grid a few weeks ago, we thought that the Gamenians were simply doing another slash and burn campaign, but we were wrong…” My father slipped heavily into a chair. I looked to Dana for explanation.
“The survey ships found an inordinate number of male bodies compared to females.”
“About forty percent of the female population is missing,” she completed.
The room was very quiet for a few moments. Finally, my father sighed and looked up at me.
“Listen Catherine, go with Dana and take a look at what Orley Ott sent us. Maybe, just maybe you can find a way to stop them. Our defense ships estimate that the Gamenians will be within drop range in an hour. Once they start sending down their monstrosities, we had better have a plan… or at least a data pack for the next nearest colony planet.”
Dana took me down another level and upgraded my security clearance so that I could enter the research center. The faces were just as grim, but at least there were more non-military types. A lanky, slightly bug-eyed man wearing an orange tie greeted us at the elevator and introduced himself as simply, “Miles”.
“We know they use at least seven different types,” he started in as soon as Dana had introduced us. “We’re sure that three of those types are strictly combat oriented. I have a team working on some possible defenses, but don’t hold your breath. Those things are seriously tough hombres. Armor plating, regenerative tissues. They have ten times our own strength at least, and can move so fast that unless you’re firing point blank, they can very nearly dodge bullets.”
“What about a poison?” I asked.
“Thought of that, and so did Orley Ott. They sent a hastily assembled report on what didn’t work, and the long list of poisons makes me think that they must be able to isolate toxins somehow. Nothing, even the most deadly nerve poisons had any real effect.”
“No. They use a completely different nerve transmission system which isn’t susceptible to anything we could trow at them in any practical sense.” Miles was walking us into a viewing room. “We’re looking into focused heat, but I’m not expecting much. Of more concern, however, is type number four. It’s the one in the surveillance recording. There’s almost no commentary, so we think it was included at the very last second before they rushed it off to us.”
“Well,” I said taking a seat in the viewing room, “let’s have a look.”
Miles glanced at Dana, then back to me. “Um… I need to warn you, the recording is…”
“Disturbing. Yeah I know,” I answered somewhat flippantly.
“Catherine,” said Dana softly. “It may not be what you expect.”
I shrugged my shoulders. “Look, one way or another I’m going to have to view this thing. I might as well get it over with.”
The woman nodded to the researcher, who sighed and then tapped a few controls on the table.
An image appeared in the air in front of us. It was a simple two-dimensional video recording of what appeared to be an entryway, possibly to a military facility. For a few seconds, the image seemed to be a still frame. But the numbers ticking away at the bottom showed the passage of time. Finally, there was some motion in the upper left and a woman, not much older than Catherine herself, stepped into view. She looked panicked, almost hysterical as she frantically punched the buttons of a keypad. Suddenly, she whirled around and shrieked. Involuntarily, I jumped as I watched her dart back and forth as though trying to evade something just out of view. And then, in the span of a single frame, a large, insect-like creature shot across the room and knocked her to the ground. It had six spindly legs, and a large body that made me think of a giant cockroach. I could see the plating down its back.
The woman in the frame was only able to struggle for a moment before the creature had pinned her upper extremities with its two uppermost arms while the lower limbs at first appeared to be tearing her apart. But I quickly realized that it wasn’t shredding her flesh with its knife-like talons, it was literally cutting the girl’s clothing from her body with surgical precision.
“Oh my god… is that thing… no…”
Neither of the others said anything and I swallowed nervously. It didn’t take long. In less than two minutes, the Type Four Gamenian had completely stripped the struggling female bare. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing because it was just too much like something out of a cheap horror movie, yet I was fascinated by the fluid and graceful motions of the obviously intelligent creature. With complete grace, it rolled its long body under itself so that the underside of its abdomen was facing up and slipped it under the girl, her back settling into a depression of sorts that was formed in the soft underbelly of the organism. Two thick tentacles at the very end of its tail snaked out and wound around the girl’s arms, locking her in and freeing up the creature’s front pair of spider-like limbs. The girl was shrieking and thrashing all the time, but it was obvious that she was no match at all for the creation, which then used its forelimbs to grasp her thighs and push them up and apart.
“Oh man…you can’t be serious…” I said, looking to Dana.
She lowered the volume on the recording a bit, frowning. “Take a closer look at the creature’s midsection, right where it starts to curve under.”
I squinted at the image and then asked, “can we blow that up a bit?” Miles touched the desk and the image grew so that it included only the creature and the girl. The midsection was clearly visible now and my breath caught. Amid a number of slowly moving tendrils, was what was very obviously a phallic member. It was erect and perfectly placed to allow entry into the struggling girl if she were moved just a little closer.
“Watch her here,” said Dana motioning to the young blonde’s features.
I saw the creature appear to lean over her a bit more, bringing its “face” up closer. It had a single large “eye” of sorts, and another set of tendrils under its chin. Something about its eye made me shiver involuntarily, and even through the limited resolution of the recording there was an unusual intensity about the gaze the creature was giving her, almost as though it was trying to look right through her. Suddenly, the girl’s eyes widened and her body stiffened slightly for a brief moment. Then she was still. She had stopped struggling, though the terror on her face had not lessened in the slightest. in fact, she looked almost paralyzed, like she wanted to look away, but couldn’t.
“Did you see that?” Asked Dana.
“What just happened?”
“We don’t know. Miles thinks that it may be using some form of mild psionic attack at this point, locking in the person’s attention.” I looked over at the man and he nodded in confirmation.
Turning my head back to the recording I saw that although the girl was no longer struggling, she did seem to be very slowly sliding down the depression toward the torso of the creature, and the waiting phallus. She had to know what was coming, yet she did nothing to free herself. She never once looked away from the eye as her body was very gradually eased closer and closer. Even when the lips of her womanhood pressed against the slick head of the creature’s shaft, she continued to gaze at the single round orb hovering above her. She gasped, and her face took on an almost pained appearance, but did not look away. Her body moved down still further, and her lower lips parted around the alien member, drawing it inside. I saw her legs quiver in obvious arousal as she was gently impaled on the organism’s phallus over a minute or so. Shaking, her gasps became louder and more intense, and I saw that the soft underbelly of the creature was undulating so that the girl’s body was forced to very slowly rock against the organ that was buried deep within her sex. The result of that motion was obviously driving the girl nearly insane with sexual arousal. Her nipples were hard towers flushed with blood, and her voice was becoming staggered groans of lust. In a few minutes, her eyelids began to flutter as she seemed to fight for control. And then it hit…
With a single sharp gasp, the girl cried out briefly as a glazed euphoria settled over her face. Even in her state of bliss she never completely looked away from the eye. Her body trembled and twitched for nearly two full minutes, and then went limp. Her eyes still open and glazed, she no longer resisted in the slightest and if not for the rapid rise and fall of her chest, you wouldn’t even know she was alive.
Abruptly, the image went dark.
“Oh my god…”
“I’m sorry you had to see that, Catherine,” said Dana putting a hand on my shoulder. “Now you understand why we need your help so badly. Unless we find a way to stop the Gamenian creations, that could very well be us in another couple of hours.
I accepted the washcloth from Dana and did my best to clean the dirt and blood off my face as I spoke to Miles.
“And you’re sure they’re not taking males as well?” I asked.
Miles tilted his head a bit. “Well, we can’t be one hundred percent sure since there was almost no one left alive on New Herra to ask, and Orley Ott is still out of contact. If they are taking males as well, then they sure aren’t taking many of them. From the data pack, the males were being killed on sight, and any female that wasn’t actively fighting back was left alone… at least by the three combat types.”
“What could they possibly gain by raping the females?” asked Dana looking tired and scared. I felt the same way.
“It could be a shock tactic,” Miles posited. “To get us to just give up.”
I shook my head. “No. There’s more to it than that. There’s no point in raping someone for shock value if there’s no one around to see it. That thing couldn’t have known it was being recorded. There’s also the fact that we know the females were taken off-planet whether they were alive or not. Forty percent of the female population is a huge amount of mass to take to orbit. They wouldn’t expend that much effort unless they had a bigger reason.”
“Impregnation?” shivered Dana in question.
“Maybe, but to what end? Remember that the Gamenian are master geneticists. It’s one of the reasons we couldn’t use biological weapons against them when they first started attacking our worlds. They can simply manipulate themselves to be resistant to whatever we throw at them. Any issues they were having with their own reproduction they could fix. It would take a massive commitment of food supplies just to keep all those humans alive, let alone healthy during a pregnancy. No, I don’t think that’s it.”
“Uh, as much as I don’t like to think about it,” stated Miles a little sheepishly, “how about as food itself?”
“I raised an eyebrow. Possibly, but then why just the females?”
“Maybe you taste better.”
I coughed out a half-laugh. “Doesn’t make sense though. Same problem of mass. They could genetically make food cheaper than dragging it up out of a gravity well. According to the scout ships on New Herra, they didn’t even bother bringing back most of the creatures they dropped down to the surface to do their dirty work. They just left them there to forage for themselves. But you might be right in another way…” I ended, thinking.
“Well, suppose that humans ‘taste’ better psionically. As advanced as they are, there’s a huge difference between a creature with limited intelligence – even basic sentience – and one with a specific psionic signature. Humans are well known in the galactic realm as being high-level emitters, despite the fact that we have never developed the skill to any practical usage. Suppose the Gamenians found a use.”
“For our psionic signature?” Dana leaned forward. “But… we’re back to why just the females again…”
“Yes, but I think it has something to do with that Type Four. Why rape us? That creature was specifically designed to do what we saw it do to that poor girl. It captured her, stripped her, and then very purposely aroused her to the point of orgasm, all while she stared transfixed at that damn eye. That’s the key.”
“The eye?” Miles still wasn’t sure.
“You yourself thought it might be using some kind of psionic connection. If that’s the case, then that fact alone could confirm that the Gamenians have been playing with it within their species. That girl was mesmerized. She couldn’t look away, no matter how much she wanted to.”
“You know,” said Dana, thinking. “I seem to recall we did some testing a few years back using visual reprogramming to access some of the deep logic in the brain. We could never really get it to work consistently despite the amazing potential we saw. By accessing the mind directly through a visual interface, we were able to put a few of the test subjects into a highly suggestible state. So much so that they almost became zombies.”
“You think the Gamenians are turning human females into zombie slaves?” Miles was incredulous.
“Doesn’t fit,” I added. “Again, they could make slaves easier than harvesting them off another planet.”
Dana shook her head that she hadn’t finished. “One of the other effects that appeared when the subjects reached a zombie state was a marked increase in psi emissions. Apparently, loosening up the higher functions was enough to kick in those abilities. But like I said, we could never do it consistently, or for any useful length of time”
I turned back to where the blank surveillance image was still floating in space. “If the Gamenians have found a way make it stick, they could turn those females into living psi emitters…”
Dana went pale. “Oh my god.”
Miles was still clueless. “I don’t understand, do the Gamenians eat psi or something? What does that have to do with raping someone into a coma?”
“One of the strongest transmitted emotions is that of pleasure, Miles. Even normal non-psions can often feel the pleasure of someone they are close to. If they were able to get them fully projecting…”
“Human females would be perfect pleasure puppets,” Dana finished for me.
Miles swallowed. “Oh…”
“Okay, that gives us the ‘why’ they are attacking. Now we just need to figure out a way to stop them.” Dana was pacing while Miles just looked defeated.
I was reviewing the recording again, specifically the point in which the girl first stared into the eye of the creature. It only took a moment, and it was as though someone had simply clicked a switch in her head. One moment she was in control, the next, she was barely struggling. It had linked with her, completely overriding her free will.
“I wonder if the link was two way…” I said to myself.
“Pardon?” asked Miles raising his head off the table.
“Oh, I was just wondering. Was this a full psionic link, or something else. It sure looks like the creature is linked to her. I mean, yes, it has her paralysed, but it didn’t look away either. It had to hold the eye contact the whole time. Suppose its visual reprogramming links it to its victim.”
“Well, sure,” agreed Dana. “So that it can manipulate her pleasure and better feed…”
I was shaking my head. “No, that’s not what I mean. If it’s linked to her, then it would be just as susceptible to psionic attacks from her as she is from it.”
Dana stopped pacing and thought for a moment. “But human psionic abilities only appeared after the subject had reached a zombie state, so that won’t do us much good.”
“Why not?” asked Miles.
I rolled my eyes. “Because the whole point is to prevent these things from killing and raping us. It’s kind of moot if you can only fight them after you’ve been raped into oblivion.”
He paused for a second and then said, “No, you’re wrong.”
“I don’t see…”
“The whole point is to destroy them, not simply prevent them from harming us, physically or, er… sexually. Destroy. Once they are down on the surface, they will do whatever the Gamenians have instructed them to do until they physically can’t anymore. And obviously their masters aren’t interested in recovering them. They’re tools. And it’s not moot.”
“Miles,” I started to apologize.
“If they’re susceptible, then we need to take advantage of that! They may be tools, but let’s make them OUR tools.”
“Catherine is right, Miles,” said Dana with a sad look. “We don’t have time to develop advanced psi. The Gamenians are already on their way.”
“We don’t have to develop anything,” he explained excitedly. “The link is already there!”
“I still can’t see that it….”
“Use a post-hypnotic suggestion. Something that will kick in after the subject has been… er… I mean…”
“After she’s been raped?!” I finished incredulous and slightly ticked.
“No, wait… he might have something,” said Dana, who went back to the data pack.
“I know all about the work on visual reprogramming because I was part of the original research,” continued Miles. “All my team was trying to do was create a way to implant post-hypnotic suggestions easily… which we were able to do actually… but the focus shifted when it was found you could completely access the mind’s higher functions. I was moved to other research at that point, but the original gear is still in my lab not four miles from here.”
“So…” I took the idea. “If someone were to be pre-programmed before one of these things attacked her, they might be able to… fight back?”
“No, probably not. But if the link is truly two-way like you suggest, then it might be possible to pass a command the other direction. They would be just as susceptible as you are. Maybe more so since we’re pretty sure they don’t have advanced higher functions to get in the way.”
“And take a look at this,” said Dana as she brought up some information to a floating table-window. In front of us was a running description of the attack on Orley Ott. It had embedded troop movements, enemy tactics and even running sensor readings. “Those colonists knew they weren’t going to make it and were recording everything they could to send on to us, just as I’m sure we are.” Dana looked up and met both our eyes.
I gasped. “Do you really think…”
“Catherine, I have no doubt whatsoever that your father has our fastest ship fueled and hot with a pilot in the seat ready to blast out of here at the last possible moment. I would. If we don’t make it, we have to give the next colony as much of a chance as possible. For your reference, I have been recording our sessions to that data pile since we arrived here.”
I nodded and we were all silent for a moment as the implications sank in.
“What I wanted to show you was this…” She tapped a control and one of the tactical analyses came up. “Notice that the attacks are coordinated? How are they doing that?”
“So they have communicators, so what?” Stated Miles.
“No. See here,” she said pointing to one of the side readouts. “No detectable transmissions. Not radio, microwave or even sub-space. Yet somehow those things are coordinating.”
All at once I got it. “They’re psionically linked!”
Dana nodded, smiling, but Miles was a little slower.
“Think about it, Miles…” she continued. “They’d be the perfect soldiers. Always in contact with each other… completely aware of the situation tactically. God, they could coordinate at a level that our forces only dream of. It’s no wonder they can take out a whole planetary defense so quickly. Look, I need to pass this on to your father directly, Catherine. He won’t believe it unless I show it to him. Miles, you had better come too.” She started heading toward the lift.
“I’ll continue to go through the data here and see if I can confirm the psi link, but we need to go get that gear at your old lab, Miles,” I said. “If they’re linked together, what affects one is very likely to affect them all!”
“Do that,” said Dana as the door to the elevator opened. “I’ll have Miles send you location information once we’re in the Sit-room. But be quick about it. I don’t think we have much time.”
At that moment there was another warning klaxon, this one a pattern that sent shivers up my spine. It was the one signaling that we were under attack.
“Actually,” said a male voice from just beyond Dana, “it would appear that your time has just run out.”
“Lars Gunnarson… pilot,” said the tall man with close-cropped blond hair as he extended his hand.
I could see a number of blotchy bruises on his face and neck. I took his hand and found his grip to be light and warm. “Catherine McAllister… civilian,” I countered just a bit flippantly.
I was staring a bit at the bruises, thinking that when he didn’t look like he had just been in a bar fight he might be a pretty attractive guy. “I just got out of the infirmary,” he added and several things clicked all at once.
“It was YOU!” I was still holding his hand when his mouth opened to say something and stopped. “You were the one driving that ship earlier!”
“Uh… you saw that?”
I made a tight-lipped smile. “Let’s just say that I had front row seats.”
Lars glanced at the blood stains on my dress and then caught the overall smudged gray that probably made me look like I had been rolling around in some back alley. “Ah… Sorry about that,” he added looking embarrassed.
“I’m sure that under the circumstances it was necessary,” I replied letting go of his hand. “But you owe me a new dress, bub.”
He eyed me a little more closely and decided to keep the smarmy comments to himself. “Deal.” He agreed, much to my surprise. “Provided of course that we both live through the next twenty-four hours… I heard you mention something about retrieving equipment?”
I took the next six minutes to bring Lars up to date on what we had discovered.
“Of course, it’s all really conjecture. We have no real proof for any of it.”
The man rubbed his chiseled chin while he stared at the data page that Dana had brought up earlier. “Still, it’s a hell of a lot further than we got on Orley Ott.” Suddenly, he looked incredibly saddened and I gently placed my hand on his shoulder.
“I’m sorry, Lars,” I said with complete sincerity. It hadn’t previously occurred to me that the man had basically lost everyone and everything, his whole entire world, maybe from birth. Worse, he might very well be one of the only survivors. That’s a pretty massive burden to carry around with you.
He turned to me and nodded after a moment, pushing back whatever feelings might be tormenting him. “So, really all we need is a transport and some help from this Miles fellow.”
“Correct in essence, but I think there may be a lot more to it than that. If all of our assumptions are correct, and if Miles’ post-hypnotic device actually works, then all that’s left to do once we have the thing is to find a willing female, implant a command message and er… let nature take its course, so to say. Damn…”
“What is it?” he asked.
“Who’s going to want to do that kind of mission?! I mean, walk right out there and let some disgusting bug-like monstrosity rape you into a coma on the off-chance that we might get really really lucky and cause them to run off a cliff or something? God!”
“You might be surprised. This is a military base. I have no doubt that there are at least a dozen female marines up top right now that would be perfectly comfortable to ‘take one for the team’ as it were. Especially when it’s pretty damn likely that that they’re going to bite it one way or another in the next day or two. To be offered the chance to maybe make a real difference… Hell, that seems like a no-brainer to me.”
“You’re right, of course,” I replied, frowning. Then I shivered at the thought of having to make that kind of sacrifice.
“Hey, one step at a time. First, we need to get that gear.”
The local intercom buzzed.
“Speaking of which,” I said and answered. “This is Catherine McAllister.”
“Catherine, it’s Miles. I’m sending you a file, dump it to one of the data plaques on the table there and keep it with you. The file contains detailed directions to the device itself as well as instructions for its operation. I highly suggest that you read it all as soon as possible and commit as much of it as possible to memory. Your father says that they are seeing incoming drop ships all over the planet so the situation may go sour very quickly. You should go up to ground level and requisition a truck and several Marines right away.”
“Miles, this is Lars Gunnarson. I’m with Miss McAllister in the research center. I assume your lab is in one of the buildings nearby?”
“That’s correct. All the information you need is in the file…”
“Yes I know,” he continued, “but I was wondering… does the building have rooftop access? Maybe a landing platform?”
“I… Why yes, I believe it does. I’m sure the access codes I sent to you would work there as well. You a pilot, sir?”
“You might say that,” he replied, casting me a look and a grin. I blushed and couldn’t help smiling at the irony.
“Well, that would be even better… and faster. I’ll let you two get on with it then. Good luck to the both of you. And Catherine?…”
“Your father is insanely busy right about now, but he specifically told me to tell you… ‘next time he’s unpacking the china…’ I have no idea what that means, but it seemed important.”
I sniffed back a tear. “It is. Thank you Miles, and good luck to you too.” Being the daughter of a high-ranking military official meant that we never really settled anywhere while I was growing up. It was something of a personal joke between us that we never stayed anyplace long enough to unpack the good tableware. Over time, it sort of became a term of endearment between us. What he was saying, other than the fact that he loved me dearly, was that if we managed to get through the shit this time, we would finally settle down someplace.
I switched off and wiped my face again.
“You okay?” Lars asked as I picked up a data placard and connected it to the room’s port reception area. Instantly a single file was transferred into the device and I pulled it up to be sure it was from Miles.
“We’re all set. I’ll read as we go.”
“That’s not what I meant,” he replied genuinely concerned.
“I know. Let’s get out of here before I start thinking about the fact that I’m about to fly into an active combat zone.”
Getting to the surface wasn’t hard, but the marines at the top of the elevator indicated that getting back in might become near impossible at any moment. As soon as it was confirmed that the base perimeter had been breached, the whole place would go into serious lock-down. Lars escorted me toward a row of short range stratachopters. They lacked any real armor or weapons so they weren’t being used in battle. They were fast however, and compact enough to fit on a standard commercial landing platform.
“Can you fly this thing?” I asked and accepted the look that Lars gave me as we climbed in.
“Compared to a sub-space cruiser, this is like riding a tricycle. Let me just make sure the tower knows what we’re doing so that they don’t blast us out of the air.”
While he was busy on the radio, I finished browsing the data that Miles had sent to me. I passed the coordinates to my would-be pilot, then settled the flight harnesses over my chest and affixed them for a quick release. I sat quietly while Lars finished with the tower and quite thoroughly checked my setup. I think he just wanted to stare at my chest, but I wasn’t going to say anything since, frankly, I was enjoying the attention.
“You’ve done this before,” he said, raising his voice above the quad rotors that slowly came to life as he powered up.
“You might say that,” I quipped using his own words. Then he handed me a headset so we could talk above the noise. I slipped it on and gave him a thumb’s up.
“Okay, as soon as we leave the base defense perimeter I’m going to keep this bird as low to the ground as possible, as well as use trees, buildings and anything else with any vertical height to limit the angle of sight to a ship in orbit. No doubt the Gamenians will be using pattern recognition to hunt down any aircraft and blast them out of the sky, military or otherwise.”
Lars gracefully eased the craft into the air and swept us around toward the city.
“The less time we spend in the air the better, so I’m going to really open this tin can up. Do you get flight sick?”
“Not usually,” I answered, my knuckles already white as the man accelerated and banked along a forest, the rotors only a meter from the treeline. “But then I’m usually not trying to dodge orbital attacks either.”
“When we get to Miles’ lab I’m not going to be able to leave this thing on the roof. I’ll have to drop you off and go hide under a bridge or an overpass or something.”
“Wait, you’re going to send me in there alone?” I watched as several fiery trails of light streaked across the sky in the general direction of the city. Drop ships.
“Unless you want to walk back to the base… How long do you think it will take you to get the gear?”
“Well, the actual apparatus is pretty small. It looks like an over-sized version of a standard military issue binocular unit. As long as it’s where it’s supposed to be, figure five minutes to go down, five to find it, then back up. Say, fifteen minutes?”
“I’ll give you twenty,” he said as we entered the edge of the city. I had to remind myself to breathe as he cut back and forth between the buildings. “And Miss McAllister…”
“Call me Catherine,” I yelled over the din of the whining engines as he pushed the small craft to its limit.
He glanced over at me and smiled. “Catherine… I won’t be able to wait around long.”
I frowned. “Right. Twenty minutes. Don’t be late.”
We were almost to the coordinates that Miles had given to me when there was an explosion about a hundred yards to our left.
“Damn,” said Lars pulling a wild evasive arc that had us flying backwards for a few moments. Then he spun us hard around and did something with the throttle that made the craft scream like a banshee.
“Hold on, this is going to be close!”
When I looked out the canopy, the vertical surface of a large building was tilting over so that we suddenly appeared to to skimming a sea of glass. Ahead of us that sea dropped away into sky and I understood that Lars had flown us straight up the side of Miles’ lab building and was even now clipping over the top. We cracked a satellite dish with one of the skids, but managed to miss the railing. The next thing I knew the passenger door was sliding back and I was dropping to the landing platform. I hit pretty roughly but rolled into it and signaled to Lars that I was okay. He immediately slammed the throttle so hard that I was very nearly blown off the platform, then he careened over the edge and was gone. A second later there were two white hot flashes from the sky and then a deafening series of matching concussions. Time to move indoors.
It wasn’t until I was keying into the access door that I remembered I was still wearing my shabby white cotton dress. I must have given Lars quite the show as I jumped out of the craft into a blasting wind. The door went hiss and I decided that I didn’t mind. It might very well have been the last image of another human he would ever see. Those artificial lightning strikes were awfully close.
The automated illumination came on as soon as I entered the access way, and I checked my watch as I pressed the button to call the elevator. There was a brief moment of panic before the light came on indicating that the car was in motion, and I considered how long it would take me to descend eight flights of stairs as well as how much time I would have to make up to still make my twenty minute deadline. But the door opened and I stepped into the metal room, tapping the panel for the correct floor.
Miles’ lab occupied almost all of the twenty-sixth floor of the building. Just off the lobby was a large set of industrial doors and a placard indicating that hazardous chemicals could be stored within. Nothing more save for the keypad, which I accessed at once. I muffed the code on my first try and double checked my data plaque to be sure to get it on the second. Most government offices had an automatic lock-down after three failed access attempts, and I didn’t have time to call in an override. There was a loud clacking sound and then a whoosh of air as the negative pressure within the room slowly equalized and the massive doors slowly and noisily slid open. When I had enough room to squeeze through, I looked on the other side for a close switch and hit it at once. Unfortunately, I realized that this was an old-style door that needed to open completely before it could cycle closed again. I didn’t have time to wait so I continued into the lab in search of the lockers Miles had mentioned.
The facility was basically one long space separated by a number of chambers, each with a smaller, and more well-kept version of the door at the entrance. The elevator was at one end, and the lockers at the other. None of the other doors were locked shut, but I was still pushing my five minutes by the time I located the long term storage bins and found the correct locker. The device was exactly where Miles indicated it would be and I sighed with relief. Just as I was turning to leave, however, I heard a sound that caused my heart rate to skyrocket. It was the ding of the elevator indicating that the car had just arrived on this level. Miles mentioned that his lab was no longer in use, so either that was Lars, who had found a place to park nearby and had miraculously managed to join me, something I found incredibly unlikely, or someone else had heard the sound of the industrial door and had come to investigate.
A second later I picked up what sounded like a bunch of people tapping canes on the ground and knew that my worst fears had just been realized. It wasn’t Lars. It wasn’t even human. A Gamenian creation had just stepped out of the elevator onto my level.
“Shit… shit… shit…” I whispered to myself as I considered my options, which were basically reduced to two. I could hide and hope the creature didn’t find me, or attempt to somehow dash past it and get in the elevator before it was able to snag me. Right, like that would work. So hide it was. If I could just wait long enough, perhaps it would leave. Then of course there was the fact that Lars would be looking for me back at the top of the building in about six minutes. Not a lot of time to hang around… And not that I really had a choice. There simply wasn’t anyplace to go. Every part of the lab was accessed through the room before it, so to get out, I was going to have to run right over the creature that was looking for me. Not good.
I risked the tiniest of peeks around the corner, and nearly fainted. I could see all the way to the main entrance, and there, standing as though it had nothing better to do, was a Type Four. Seen live, instead of on a recording, the beast looked enormous, like a cockroach the size of an elephant. It was also beautiful in its own way. I was bio-tech after all. It was very gently rocking back and forth, as though ranging. I pulled back when it started to turn and head into the lab.
Right about the same time, the grinding squeak of the main door ceased. The creature paused only for a moment before continuing its slow progress in my direction. Then I heard a sound that froze my very soul. It was the door again, and I realized that the ‘close’ command I had given it when I first entered was now being carried out. There was nothing I could do but sit there as I was slowly locked in with the Gamenian drop bug. Even if I could manage to get past the creature and make my way back to the entrance without it seeing me, I was still going to have to re-key the code and wait there again while the door opened enough for me to leave. All this while somehow avoiding an organism specifically designed to hunt down and capture me. In short, I was royally fucked… or about to be, literally.
The Type Four moved out of view as it investigated something at the edge of one of the chambers and I had a brief surge of hope. Maybe I could indeed sneak past… Then I checked my watch and almost wailed aloud. Twenty-four minutes had passed since I had entered the building. Lars would be gone, and with him any hope of escape.
I slumped to the floor and just sat there, a deep sadness filling me. I was doomed, that much was certain. There was nothing I could do, no escape. In a few minutes that bug was going to find and rape me into oblivion.
As I waited there for my own dissolution, an odd clarity settled over me. It was as though my mind had simply stopped thinking about anything but the moment and I found that even the deep depression I had been experiencing began to wash away. For that moment at least, I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t anything. I just sat there staring down into my lap, wondering what it was going to feel like to be screwed by a giant cockroach. I was intimately aware of my senses – the random clicking of the Type Four’s spider-like limbs as it made its way closer and closer, the bluish illumination of the lab’s fluorescent lighting, the way the heat was slowly sucked out of my buttocks by the cold concrete I was seated on, even the weight of the device in my lap…
The device! I stared down at the odd apparatus and knew what I had to do. Between my mental clarity and a growing sense of fear, I turned the contraption over in my hands and looked for the power switch. Behind me, I could still hear my nemesis tapping its way nearer, but I guessed by the sound that it was still at least one chamber away from the lockers. I never even needed to reference my data plaque. The procedure to activate Miles’ device was clear to me and I worked with a purpose. I paused only once, when the unit powered up and produced a slight electrical whine as though charging. The ticking from the other room stopped briefly, but resumed almost at once and I continued.
Finally, when the device signaled it was ready, I realized what using it meant…. That I had given up hope completely. I sighed and double checked the setup, noticing for the first time that the display was blinking.
ENTER SUGGESTION COMMAND:
That’s right… It still needed a command to implant in my sub-conscious that would be activated after a time, with the hope that it would be transferred to the Type Four through the psionic link. But what command should I give it? My mind went blank. We simply hadn’t gotten that far. It wasn’t supposed to be ME who would be using the damn thing.
Frantically I tried to come up with an answer, but rejected my ideas as fast as I came up with them. The problem was, I needed a command that would not only kill or disable my attacker, but would leave me alive. I couldn’t simply suggest that it die, because it might very well work, but on me as well. It also had to be something simple. I wasn’t sure how intelligent the creature was, or what kinds of language it might have, but was pretty sure that the emotional content of whatever command I gave it would get translated through a psi link. Going to sleep was a possibility, but it left my rescue to a specific period of time and I wasn’t even sure that the damn things ever rested.
The tap-tap-tap of the Type Four was starting to sound really close and I knew I was running out of time. Whatever I did, I had be now. But WHAT? I was frantic. What would kill my god damned cockroach, but leave me intact… And then I knew.
I flipped open the small keypad, typed in a single word and hit enter.
ACCEPTED. UNIT READY.
I was now aware of a soft rustling sound between the clicking of the creature’s limbs on the hard concrete, and when I checked, I could see a large shadow bobbing back and forth just outside the locker area. In a moment it would step inside and see me.
Placing the unit against my face was the hardest thing I have ever done. I knew that my monster was literally meters away and it took every ounce of will I possessed to put that aside and step into the darkness of the soft, rubber-like seal around my face. There was a moment of severe claustrophobia, then a tiny green dot which seemed to float in space some distance away. Just as I focused on the pinpoint of light, wondering how I actually triggered the device, there was a bright flash and a whoosh of noise in my ears. The next moment I was setting the unit into my lap again as my vision slowly returned from whiteout. What faded into view before me caused my stomach to turn. The Type Four was standing within the lockers, the single eye of its massive, elongated head fixed directly on me.
With very few exceptions, almost every human I have ever met has had at least a mild fear of insects. Some would let small ones crawl on them, and a few, usually those in the proper biological field, could tolerate some of the larger specimens. But deep down, it was almost universal that the larger the bug, the greater the fear. There was just something about the things that grated against our souls. So, you can imagine my utter terror upon seeing an insectoid creature the size of a small transport, especially when I knew without a doubt that it was also seeing me.
I barely had time to sit up before there was another rush of air and a loud bang as the Type Four rushed forward and pinned my limbs. My arms were snapped back to the wall behind me with almost no resistance. It had moved so fast that I never even saw it coming. I turned my head away by reflex and screamed, but I knew what was about to happen. The second set of legs was already clawing at my dress, the razor-sharp edges of its long limbs slicing through the light cotton fabric like soft butter. It slit the garment on either side and I felt a rush of cool air all along my body, which was already shaking in terror. The tatters of my once bright white sun dress vanished as they were yanked away, and the thin fabric of my panties and bra followed closely thereafter. Naked and nearly hysterical, I saw that the creature was lifting slightly and I recognized the maneuver from the surveillance tape. With an eerie liquid grace, the Type Four was slowly curling its long abdomen under itself. Looking down my nude form, I could see the slightly concave section sliding toward me. I tried to kick at the alien, but the twin tentacles that extended from what would have been its tail end, found and entwined around my ankles, holding me still while the long section moved forward and under me. The tentacles released my legs about the same time that the creature’s posterior section was slipping under my buttocks, and slithered up my torso until they could reach around my upper back to coil around my arms.
Now that I was no longer resting on the cold concrete of the lab, I felt how amazingly warm the soft underbelly of the Type Four really was. I was now effectively lying in a depression of slick, smooth flesh that rippled and sucked at my bare back, hips and thighs as it fully accepted my still struggling form. The claw-like pincers that had been pinioning my arms moved away and let the tentacles hold me, but I cried aloud when I felt them again under my knees.
“AHHH! Shit! Noooo….”
My voice sounded weak and frail, even to me as I was inexorably positioned for the next phase in my abduction. My knees were brought up and then pushed apart, opening me completely before the creature. It was then that I got my first good look at its genitalia.
“Oh god! NO!… Please!….”
Surrounded by a mass of short, ooze-covered tendrils, the Type Four’s phallus seemed huge and completely alien. Somehow, when viewing the recording, it had appeared vaguely humanoid, but not now that its tip was hovering just a dozen centimeters from my own sex. It was covered with strange ridges and nubs that, like the mass at its base, seemed to move with a life of their own and I shivered to think what it would feel like once it was inside me.
Something like a smooth slimy snake dropped down into my field of view and slithered over my sternum. I jumped and followed the long tendril upward until all at once I realized I was looking directly into the face of the monster, its single massive eye meeting my own.
What happened next is hard to describe. In the span of a heartbeat, the eye dilated, revealing a wildly changing pattern of color and motion. I felt my own eyes grow wide, and then a warm buzzing sensation fell over my entire body starting from the crown of my head and working downward. There was an extremely uncomfortable impression that something had reached through my eyeballs with thin living filaments which were slowly snaking their way into my brain and locking out my ability to consciously move my limbs or even look away. At the same time, I was completely aware and awake… frighteningly so.
The link with the Type Four was an oily wash of images and feelings that slid through my own thoughts like a spreading fuel spill on the surface of a body of water, their alien form entangling with my own, wrapping around and infecting my memories, prying open my life and injecting its own vile seed into my soul. Visions of past sexual encounters were pulled forth and replayed to me against my will in rapid succession, and a wave of lust spread out and enveloped me all in the span of a single breath.
“Ughnnn…” I gasped in shock. The hot warmth of my blush brought my nipples to hardness and I felt myself becoming wet with arousal. I was aware of the creature’s emotion as well. I sensed the rising excitement it felt at trapping a victim, and the sinister pleasure it received by manipulating me into arousal. Its own lust was to fulfill its mission by pleasuring me to the point of orgasm, at which moment it would be able to fully invade my mind and wrap my soul in a web of unbreakable psionic strands.
To that end, I felt it curling its abdomen slightly, raising my torso up at an increasing angle so that my own weight started to pull me down the creature’s underside like a child on a slide. Behind me, the Type Four must have been excreting some form of lubricant gel, because all along my back and rear I was nearly dripping in liquid warmth, like drool from the lips of a hungry animal. And I was the meal.
Even though I was unable to look away, I still felt everything, still experienced the same raging fear, and was still able to understand with dire clarity the helplessness of my position. I knew what was coming. I knew even as I sensed a slight loosening of my limbs that my captor was letting my own weight carry me down onto its waiting phallus. It had begun the next stage in its program of deadly arousal, and would soon be impaling me, its pulsing, wriggling sex organ buried deep within my body, doing everything possible to drive me over the edge into ecstasy… into a zombie-like existence as a Gamenian pleasure puppet.
My mind screamed in resistance even if my body refused to cooperate as I was allowed to slide closer and closer. At my chest, the organism’s facial tendrils reached down and swirled around my nipples and breasts, eliciting from me a sharp intake of air as they were teased and tortured with unstoppable sexual stimulus. My arousal grew and deepened even as runnels of viscous lubricant drizzled over the entire front of my body and slowly inched down around my naked form. Other tendrils snaked lower, sliding sensuously over my belly and sides, a few just brushing onto the wet mound of my Mons. And despite the fact that the Gamenian creation repulsed me in the extreme, I found myself reacting more and more to its touch. It was an agony of pleasure that was impossible to fight against.
More memories were pulled from the depths of my mind, ripped from my earliest sexual experiences and played back to me with vivid clarity. I could do nothing to stop the erotic recollections, or their added effect on me. I saw myself with past lovers, my body entwined in passionate intercourse… I saw myself gasping in wondrous pleasure as I was brought to ecstasy in one position, then immediately in another, and then another… and on and on. My heart pounded so forcibly with lust that I thought that I would die of arousal.
My trembling body was so out of control that I had forgotten that I was still sliding… At least until there was a soft slick pressure at each side of my spread vulva. Instantly I tensed and gasped sharply, but was powerless to halt the insanely slow penetration. Wet pleasure rippled up my torso from my hips as my flower was willingly, wantingly parted for the head of the alien phallus, centimeter by agonizing centimeter. My breath caught and I was nearly driven insane by the anticipation, but then, with a sopping slurp, the tip passed into my quivering passage and signaled that the foreplay was officially over.
I could hardly do more than make staccato gasps for air as white hot pleasure threatened to send me into orgasm right then and there, but I stayed just shy of Nirvanna. I groaned in lustful anguish, mentally begging the creature to come into me more quickly, to finish me and be done with, but it could feel my tortured frustration and only played on it, holding me from sliding down further for several impossibly long seconds before allowing me to continue again even more slowly. After the third time it had done this, I was all but ready to scream.
Slowly, slowly, my trembling body was lowered over the pulsing phallus until I was beginning to think that it was all some terrible repeating dream, and not real. I felt the alienness of its member, the odd bumps and ridges as each one passed through my hungry petals and continued to pleasure me as it wriggled and slid within my sex, exploring me as no human lover ever could. And then, quite suddenly, there was something else playing along my quivering, dripping folds… a touch, ever so lightly at first, but growing in boldness and number with each second. All at once I understood that my apex had finally settled into the tangle of active tendrils at the base of the phallus.
The thin filaments spread out over my nether region like a crazed anemone. Some reached up over my Mons while others tickled along my thighs. Still more eased into my petals and joined the alien shaft that filled me. A few slipped lower and teased at my anus, while a final pair settled around the pulsating button of my clitoris and started a new sexual torment that literally forced the air from my lungs in disbelief.
All of this was occurring in the span of a few short minutes, but to me it was as though hours had passed. And the whole time, the creature tore image after image from my erotic memories and paraded them before me, forcing me to relive every sexual encounter I had ever experienced in order to further arouse and excite me. And it did. Oh, god it did. I fought it as best I could, remembering what it was that was fucking me, but how can you fight against your own sexual recollections? And yet I did. Somehow, my mind refused to let the pleasure consume me so long as I resisted. However, that in no way lessened the erotic affliction I was enduring, and I suffered on and on and on. But something wasn’t right. With all that stimulation, all the remembered passion, I should have come. I shouldn’t have been able to stop myself. And then I knew.
I wasn’t. The Gamenian monstrosity raping me was. The beast was created just for the purpose of breaking me. At last, I understood that its ultimate goal wasn’t just to force an orgasm, but to cause me to give up… to pass into oblivion willingly.
For the first time, real panic driven terror gripped me. From the very beginning, when I was first captured, and through every second of increasing sexual torment, there was always some tiny bit of my mind that thought that my little trick with Miles’ device would save me in the end. But now, knowing the truth, that by linking with me it could control when I could cum, I wasn’t so sure. If I let it take me willingly, would I ever be recoverable? Or would my soul be forever locked away behind the trap the Gamenians had set for me?
And how long could I stand it? The pleasure was constantly tearing at me, slowly wearing down my will. My captor was patient. It had all the time in the world, and could go on stimulating me for days if necessary. All the while, my body would gradually tire along with my resolve. There was no escape. The Type Four creation would keep trying different things, new ways of arousing me, until it found just the right passion that would finally cause me to give in.
As if reading my mind, something in the constant sexual attacks was changing. I felt it in my lower back first, but it quickly spread upward as well as down under my rear. Up until that moment, the slippery trough of flesh I was laying in had been mostly quiet and still. Now, however, it was ever so slightly undulating, and my body with it. The pulsing, wriggling phallus deep within me was suddenly being drawn out and angling upward as my hips were pushed up on a wave of flesh. And like a passing wave, the warm slickness under my pelvis then dropped down and the creature’s shaft eased back into me again sending sparks of fire through my belly. As my hips settled into the base of the fleshy wave, the organism’s genitalia was driven in even deeper, and a sharp gasp escaped my lips in response to a jolt of erotic delight. And then my sex was riding up the next wave as the pattern repeated.
“Noooo… ughnnnn…. ahhh!” I moaned, realizing my fate. Just like the woman in the recording, I was finally being truly fucked by the Type Four creature. Up until now, everything had just been preparation, using my own lust to tire me out. But now, my Gamenian nemesis was at long last getting down to business. Albeit, slowly, for the undulations would hardly be seen by someone simply viewing my demise. But to me, each gentle rise and fall of my pelvis was a shocking thunderbolt of pleasure.
I rode out each successive wave wondering how I could possibly stand another, each undulation coming in eight-second pulses from crest to crest. It was a slow intercourse that was maddening… but that was the point. After only ten repetitions I was nearly weeping, and by twenty I was shaking again, the lust so intense that stars flashed in the corners of my eyes from the pounding of my heart. After about thirty my breathing started to falter, and that’s when the creature chose to deepen the rhythm. It kept the same painfully slow pace, but it brought my hips up a just a bit higher, only to plunge them down again into a slightly deeper trough. This of course increased the humping motion of the phallus and my eyes took on a new panic. Now, with each additional rise and fall, the undulation was increasing in intensity, and with it, my pleasure and the utter need for release. Up and down… up and down it pumped me, over and over and over, and gradually, deeper and deeper. I started to lose track of the individual waves because the pulses of ecstasy were beginning to overlap.
Soon, the undulations had the organism’s shaft almost fully withdrawing, so deep was the rocking of my hips. I was growing fuzzy mentally, my brain overloaded with remembered lovers and constant shocks of pleasure. I was having trouble separating the past from the present, and if that were not enough, the period of the creature’s undulations was also now shortening.
Abruptly, something snapped in my mind and I knew it had me. Between the churning of my hips and the quickening pace of its fucking, the Gamenian Type Four had finally found my sweet spot… that magical rhythm to which I was powerless. I could see it coming, in just a few more repetitions, the period would be just right and my need would become too much for me to hold back. I started gasping, my voice rising with every thrust. A little more… a little more…
“UGHNN!!” I cried out, my will shattering. I felt my resistance drop and almost at once the oily presence of the creature rushed in and held me open psionically. I sensed its triumphant exaltation through our joining and was then drowning in orgasm.
My body bucked and thrashed of its own accord as the giant roach-like monster
continued to fuck me without pause, locking in my passion and driving my
consciousness deeper and deeper under the flood of ecstasy. My legs twitched
and shuddered, and my eyes glazed over as the sticky webs of psionic
conditioning began to wrap around my soul. The room faded, and with it the face
of my tormentor. Only the eye remained as a bright-white ember of pleasure from
which there was no escape. It was like looking at the sun from the bottom of a
deep well. I still felt everything that was happening to me, but I was no
longer aware of the passage of time per se. My orgasm just went on and on and
on, and every moment it did wound the Gamenian trap tighter and tighter, until
I was slowly cocooned and utterly helpless.
At first, I thought that the face hovering above me was that of my father, but as my eyes adjusted to the light, a younger man’s features became apparent.
“Lars,” I smiled. My voice was a little weak.
“Welcome back, Miss McAllister. We weren’t sure about you there for a bit.”
I took in the man’s gentle words while I tried to figure out where I was. I could make out the same cold lighting from Miles’ lab, but I could feel a soft bed or cot behind me. There was a blanket draped over my still naked form, though a quick check seemed to indicate that the worst of the slippery lubricant had been wiped off.
“Call me Catherine, damnit, and what happened?” I asked, trying to sit up. My body groaned a little and the blanket slipped down exposing my breasts.
My pilot friend’s eyebrows rose slightly before he politely looked away while helping me to cover up again. I noticed that he held on to my hand afterward.
“You damn well saved the entire planet is what happened,” answered Dana as she stepped into view. I saw Miles in the background as well as several armed marines.
I looked back to Lars for confirmation. He just nodded slowly.
“But… I was… I mean… Was it the command I gave to that Type Four? You mean that WORKED?”
Miles stepped forward and handed me the goggle-like apparatus. “We’re still trying to figure out what your command meant, and how it caused such damage. What was ‘MOLT”?
I stared down at the device in my lap, remembering.
“It’s what insects do as they grow,” I said absentmindedly. “When I realized that I wasn’t going to make it back out of the lab, I, er… flashed myself with that command word in the hope that it would be passed through a psionic link like you mentioned. I guess it did, get passed I mean.”
Dana snorted. “You could say that. That thing basically turned itself inside out.”
Miles frowned. “I still don’t see how…”
“Insects have exoskeletons. As they grow, they shed or ‘molt’ an old outer shell for a new one that fits. But they only do this until they reach adulthood. Commanding an insect to molt without a new shell to replace it…”
“Would tear the damn thing apart,” completed Dana, nodding. “Nice work. I should also mention that you were right about it affecting them all through that link. That’s why we’re even standing here. As soon as your Type Four got that command message, so did every single one of the creatures, as well as most of the Gamenians in the orbiting attack ships. We’re going to be cleaning up the mess for months, but I don’t think the colony worlds are going to have to worry about the Gamenians again for quite a while.”
I was stunned. “It got them all?!”
“Every last one,” answered Lars, still holding my hand. “You’re completely safe from them.”
I couldn’t contain my happiness, and giggled with glee.
“The satellites are still down, so I need to get back to Command and let your father know you’re awake and in reasonably good health before he sends out a strike force,” said Dana preparing to leave. “As soon as you’re able, report to the base infirmary so they can check you out thoroughly and debrief you.”
My head snapped up. “No.”
The woman turned around, a little caught off guard. “Catherine, you’ve just been through major emotional and physical trauma. You need to be seen by someone.”
I locked eyes with her. “No way. I’m a civilian, so I don’t take orders from you. I’m owed a vacation, and despite what you think you might know about my condition, I believe I have a much better grip on what I ‘need’ right now, thank you.”
“That’s not proper protocol…”
“Having just saved the entire fucking planet, I think I qualify for an exception to the damn protocol!”
I felt Lars fingers tense around my own, and the room became deathly quiet until the woman’s hard features finally softened and she sighed.
“That you do… And more. I would greatly appreciate it if you would drop by the infirmary at your convenience at a later date.”
She smiled back at me, briefly and turned toward the door. “Miles… Major. You’re with me.”
Lars started to let go of my hand but I held on. “Major… Gunnarson isn’t going anywhere.”
Dana turned around slowly, as though she were counting to ten before speaking. “I am a patient woman. Busy, but patent,” she began. “I am willing to make exceptions for you, Catherine, both for what you have gone through, and again on behalf of your father. But the Major…”
“Is also due a little R&R,” I interrupted. “Or did you forget how he came to be here?”
The woman’s breathing looked a little labored, and I got the impression that people didn’t buck her often. Made sense, given who she worked for. Lars decided to intervene before one of us started started yelling.
“Uh… The Commander did give me a direct order to see to her safety, sir.”
Dana snapped her eyes away from me and pinned down Lars as she considered his words.
“Fine,” she said at last. “Consider yourself on seventy-two hour leave, Major Gunnarson. But I expect a report on my desk as well as a full debriefing first thing Monday morning.” She pointed a thin finger at the man.
“Good. Now if it’s quite all right with you all, I very much need to get back to the base. Miles? If you please.”
The man with the orange tie waved to us as he joined Dana and the two marines and headed into the elevator. Once they were out of sight, I heard Lars take a heavy breath.
“So, MAJOR… what do you plan on doing for your rest and relaxation,” I asked with a smile as I played with the device Miles had placed in my lap. I flipped down the keypad and started typing.
“Please… I’m off duty. No rank here. And thank you for that… the time off I mean. I don’t think I have fully accepted what happened back on my home world.”
“We’ll try to forget together,” I said simply. “And speaking of rank, did you catch that shit she was trying to pull?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well I know my dad has a lot of clout and all, but that woman has a serious stick up her butt if she thinks I’m going to take orders from his personal assistant.”
Lars went pale.
“What is it?” I asked, genuinely worried.
“Personal… Uh, she doesn’t parade it around, but the woman who just left here is a four-star General. Technically, she outranks your father…”
“What?! But he calls her…”
“His ‘personal assistant’, because it’s how they work together. She’s in Intelligence.”
I stared at the elevator door and decided that I was pretty damn lucky.
“So, is that the thing that we were trying to pick up before?” He asked to change the subject.
I smiled and held it up.
“Yup. Saves worlds and makes Julian fries to boot.”
Lars’ laugh was very refreshing to hear. Then his face became serious.
“I’m sorry I was unable to get to you sooner. When you didn’t show up on the roof, I ditched the stratachopter and was about to come looking for you.”
“You were?” I asked, touched.
“I guess the Gamenian’s spotted our craft, because the next thing I knew it was an hour later and I had one hell of a headache. They blew the chopper right off the roof.”
“Oh my god! Are you okay?”
“Sure. Just a few bruises on my bruises. So… what do you say I go dress shopping? You might be a little, uh, under-dressed for a night on the town, and like you said before, I owe you.”
“Later,” I said fiddling with the device again. “And don’t you like my attire?”
He paused, his mouth open. “I like it just fine, but…”
“Here,” I said, holding the contraption in my hands up to him. “Check this out.”
He didn’t really have time to protest before he was looking into the eyecups.
“Uh, what am I supposed to be see…”
I giggled and lowered the device.
“Um, what was that?” he asked, blinking.
I’m sure the grin he saw on my face as his eyes readjusted must have made him a bit nervous.
“Oh nothing,” I replied. “Just a little something to help with my… recovery.”
“Yup. Now,” I said, placing Miles’ little hyptno-gadget on the floor by the bed. “About my attire…”
The display on the device read: