Warbird

As a treat, here’s an excerpt from the WIP. It’s a massive book – 160,000 words – and is complete apart from final edits and tweaks. It’s space-opera, written in first person and head-hopping between six characters, although most of it is from Rachel’s point of view. It’s being looked at by a couple of publishers, but if they don’t take it, I intend to self-pub it on Kindle next year.

This is the part where the cute and cuddly alien beasties first appear, and Quinn and Rachel have an interesting first encounter with them.

 

Chapter Ten:  Rachel Murray:  First Contact

Two weeks later we were still in the Achernar system. Our stop-over at Algol proved to be an academic exercise, as the beacon was operating perfectly. We reported in to Space Corps and they acknowledged, sending us their farewells and wishing us good luck. From now on we would be out of routine contact, although they could still reach us if it was really necessary. Alone at last, we went through Eveleigh space to Achernar.
Achernar was a small, blue-white star and we found six planets in its retinue. The nearest to the primary was a tiny charred world and we braved the close proximity to the star for as short a time as possible to look at it. The second had a thin atmosphere, but we spared the time to scan it for mineral deposits. Finding little to interest us, we moved on. Achernar Three and Four were young planets–thick, misty methane-hydrogen atmospheres, vast tracts of primal ocean and considerable volcanic activity. We found life on Achernar Four in the form of single-celled creatures in the waters. The biology section cheered loudly and collected samples, which they assured us would keep them amused for months. We briefly mapped the place, made our reports and moved on. The planet had little promise for colonisation. Young planets generally had a non-interference order slapped on them and were left alone to see what life forms would develop. Achernar Four would probably become a mecca for graduates seeking a subject for their doctorates in exobiology.
Both Quinn and I were on the Bridge as we edged out into the colder reaches of the system towards the fifth planet. This was a novelty, as we had been staggering our duty periods to cover as much of the day as we could. What off-duty time we had was spent sleeping, usually together and after riotous bursts of sex. Quinn was a much better lover than Ben had ever been; there were no power struggles, no undercurrents of cruelty or malice, just honest, easy pleasure and gentle, adult play. Our blossoming relationship was the talk of the ship. We’d made a vain attempt to conceal it, but we couldn’t hide how happy we were or how much we adored each other. I think the crew found our constant glow of contentment and satisfaction rather annoying, although it did ward off all my previous male companions. We were being professional about it and not letting it interfere with our duties. Mark and Carla were attempting to do that too, with less success, as they did sometimes sneak off together and return flushed and rather breathless. Quinn chose to ignore their behaviour.
We’d left Achernar Four far behind, when our routine was disrupted.
“Captain, I’m picking something up on sensors.” April Howard reported.
“Any idea what?”
“It appears to be a spacecraft.”
Quinn frowned. “Warbird, any ideas?”
“There is a high probability of the object being a ship of some kind,” agreed the computer. “It is small and consists of a mixture of metallic alloys. It is travelling quite slowly and following an erratic course.”
“How far away is it?” I asked.
“Five hundred and sixty kilometres,” Warbird replied.
“Let’s go take a look.” Quinn decided. “Lt Dawe, set in a course to intercept. Approach at moderate speed.”
“Aye, sir.”
The Vienna banked round and I felt the change in vibration as she reduced speed.
“A ship out here?” Quinn said. “It sure as hell isn’t one of ours.”
“How erratic is its course?” I asked.
“It has no set heading. It would seem to be proceeding without purpose.”
“Out of control? Perhaps it’s damaged.” I suggested.
“That is one possibility.” Warbird agreed. “Another is that this behaviour is a deception.”
“A trap?” Quinn unconsciously tapped a finger on the console beside him. “Who’d want to trap us? The Vrauthi, maybe?”
“It does not resemble the craft we found attacking the Intrepid,” Warbird said.
“We could put Weapons on standby just in case.” Quinn offered. “Rae, what do you think?”
“I don’t think we’ll need them.” That was my gut reaction talking. “Lt Dawe,  what’s our ETA?”
“Six minutes, Commander.”
“Lt Howard, can we put it on visual?”
“We can’t make out much yet. We’ll be in visual range in four minutes.”  She consulted her screens. “I detect a power source on board, operational, I think.”
“Affirmative.” Warbird added. “Data consistent with nuclear-type pile.”
My intuition twitched suddenly. “Quinn, put yourself in their place. You’re in a possibly damaged but functional ship. You detect an alien craft coming towards you, pretty fast. What would you do?”
“If I had weapons, I’d shoot first and ask questions later. Lt Dawe, reduce speed to minimum.” Quinn ordered. “We don’t want to panic them.”
“Aye, sir. New ETA thirteen minutes.”
“Captain, I’m picking up a signal from the mystery craft,” Carla said. “It’s only just started. It’s an audio transmission only, over a wide band of frequencies.”
“Let’s hear it.”
Carla flipped a switch and the transmission came to us over the speakers. There was a lot of static–it seemed to be a low power signal. It was a high-pitched stream of sound, a sort of warbling interspersed with hisses and clicks. It reminded me vaguely of birdsong, but otherwise it was totally alien.
“Enough.” Quinn decided and the noise stopped. “Analysis, Warbird?”
“It is a continuously repeating message, length one minute eight seconds.” Warbird informed. “It appears to be language rather than mechanical code. I cannot speculate on the content, as it bears no resemblance to any Terran or known extraterrestrial language.”
“And it’s only just started?”
“Affirmative.”
“Do you have any idea, Rae?” Quinn asked.
“Maybe. We get into their sensor range and they start broadcasting. That makes it one of two things, a warning or a distress call.”
“Lt Byrne, activate the defense shields. If that noise is a warning, they may attack us.”
“Aye, sir. Shields up.”
“I favour the idea of a distress call.” I admitted. “Can we see her yet?”
“I’ll put it on screen, ma’am.”
Against a backdrop of stars hung the object in question. Certainly it was a spacecraft but not of any design I’d seen before. She was perhaps one third of our length, but less than one tenth our mass. In line she was very slim, needle-sharp at the prow with five stubby fins at the tail. She was silver, striped near the nose and halfway down her length in blue. A long, dark gash down one side all but split her in two and a pair of the fins were blackened and bent. A pale cloud of liquid poured from the region of the tail like smoke, leaving an uneven trail to mark her passage. She fell slowly through space, somersaulting gracefully nose over tail.
“The alien craft appears to have suffered extensive damage.” Warbird observed laconically. “Apparently the transmission is a distress call.”
“Surely that’s not collision damage?” Quinn gazed at her, horrified.
“Negative. Appearance is consistent with an attack using laser-type weapons. From the residual heat in the damaged areas, I calculate that the craft was in combat less than three hours ago. Approximately sixty percent of the interior is still airtight. There is a low but not negligible possibility of survivors.”
“Are there any other ships in the area?” Quinn demanded.
“No, sir.” Carla checked sensors. “Nothing inside our range.”
“Can we really expect survivors in that?” Mark surveyed it doubtfully.
I shrugged. “Somebody turned on that call.”
Quinn drummed his fingers on the console, deep in thought. “Lt Dawe, approach her slowly and match her course at a distance of around five hundred metres. Lt Commander Russell, prepare Exploration Vessel One for immediate launch. I want the crew to include a biologist, a couple of medics and a linguistics expert. Oh, and a pair of engineers. We’ll probably have trouble getting into her.”
For a moment there was silence.
“Excuse me, sir?” Russell stared at the Captain in amazement. “You’re going to board her?”
“What else can we do?” Quinn demanded.
“Isn’t there too much risk involved in that, sir?” Carla asked.
“Warbird?”
“I estimate a moderate degree of risk. The craft is seriously damaged, and if there are any survivors, it is doubtful whether they would be in a condition to inflict harm on a boarding party.”
“I’m going with you.” I added.
Quinn frowned and I knew I’d guessed correctly that he’d planned to lead the exploration team. “No, Rachel.”
“Since this may be a first-contact event, I would advise both of you to go,” Warbird put in.
Quinn continued to look dubious.
“Two-thirds,” I said, under my breath. “I think we have a majority.”
Quinn shook his head, but gave in. “Wilder–you have command of the Vienna. Commander Murray is included in the boarding party.”
He managed to bottle up his anger until we were in the elevator.
“I don’t want you to come, Rae! It’s too dangerous!”
“You don’t have any choice,” I said smugly. “Warbird and I outvote you–hard luck. And you can just stop playing the protective male with me. I can take care of myself.”
He leaned close to me and brushed my cheek with a kiss. “My hormones insist that I do have to protect my woman. Stay on the Vienna, Rae.”
“Can’t, my love. I need to be over there. My intuition, feminine or otherwise, is very clear on that point.”
He fumed for a while and we arrived on level 10 to join the transport corridor, which whisked us along to the shuttle bays.
“Do you suppose that we’ll find anyone in there?” I wondered. “Or anything, come to that?”
“Doesn’t your intuition know what we’ll find? If we do find survivors and we get them out alive–well, can you think of a better way to open relations with an alien race?”
“You want to play the Rhabwar gambit? That’s a great idea, Cap’n sir,” I said cynically. “In theory.”
We left the transport corridor at that point, then made our way to the port landing bay. The rest of the party were in the anteroom, donning their suits. I caught sight of Vincent and two of his junior medics, David T’Sung, who was Wilder’s second-in-command with three engineers, three other crewmen and Lyn Sawyer, a pretty brunette from Linguistics. Quinn and I stripped off, climbed into our suits and checked the seals, then we passed through the airlock. The pilot and co-pilot were entering EV One’s hatch and we followed. The bay crew sealed the hatch behind us and cleared for departure. We strapped into the couches, while the pilot went through the pre-flight checks.
“All tell-tales green, Vienna,” he reported. “We’re ready to go at this end.”
“Affirmative,” answered Warbird. “You are cleared for flight. Bay doors will open in ten seconds.”
The pilot started the countdown and on zero the doors slid smoothly apart. EV One lifted in a hover only inches above the deck and we edged out of the bay. Once we were clear of our mother ship, the pilot fired on full thrust and the Vienna fell away behind us.
“Go in gently.” Quinn directed. “We don’t want to alarm them. We need a hatchway we can seal the tunnel to.”
“Why are we all armed?” Lyn Sawyer asked. We’d all been issued with Corps standard neural-disrupter sidearms, generally known as stun-guns.
“Just a precaution. Set your weapons to minimum fire, which ought to stun anything with a human-sized body mass.” Quinn ordered. “I hope we won’t need them, but I do like to be prepared.”
“We’re coming in now, sir,” the pilot said. “Starboard side, if you’d care to take a look.”
Quinn unstrapped and moved to the viewport. I followed, at his heel. Even now we were beside the alien craft, it still seemed slim and frighteningly fragile. The ugly gash almost ripped the vessel apart, starting about a third of the way down from the nose and stretching as far as the tail. The edges had been bent outwards by the escaping air and the metal was blackened and melted at the borders. It did look like laser damage. EV One moved under the craft and we could see the unmarred side. This looked much more promising and in the centre of the second blue band was an intact hatch.
“Take us in there.” Quinn directed.
EV One matched the alien vessel’s course, which wasn’t easy, as she was still looping wildly out of control. I held the rail by the port as we began to spin to match her, then we inched in towards her.
“Can we halt their spin?” asked Quinn.
“We might, sir,” the pilot said cautiously. The co-pilot turned in his seat to face another console. After a moment or so, I saw a trac-beam reach out towards the craft like a glowing line. It froze, then locked and the pilot began to reverse our spin, very slowly. It wasn’t easy to judge how long to apply the force, but after a while he waved at his second and the beam winked out. Tiny as the pull had been, it had stopped the dizzy somersault and we both hung motionless against the dark starfield.
“Nice flying.” Quinn said. “Let’s get on her.”
That was easier said than done. Two crewmen left EV One and extended the flexible tunnel from its housing around the main airlock. Using backpack propulsion they took it across to the alien vessel, sealed it to its outer skin and came back across to EV One inside it. After a couple more minutes came the signal that it was pressurised, but Quinn ordered us to seal helmets before we entered the tunnel. David T’Sung and his engineers went first, with their sensory probe equipment. When the rest of us arrived on the scene, floating carefully along the tunnel, they’d already started to drill through the skin of the craft to one side of the hatch. It didn’t take them long, and they slipped the probe through and consulted their analysers.
“We have a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere,” T’Sung said at last, turning to us. “About 77% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Also 4% water, as vapour, 0.05% carbon dioxide and traces of mixed inert gases.”
“Sounds familiar,” Vincent commented drily. “It makes me feel right at home. Can you estimate gravity?”
“Artificial gravity at approximately one half Earth-norm. Polarised at nose-up, tail-down.” David supplied, uncoupling the probe. “Now, let’s get it open.”
They scanned around the hatch, then pried off a small plate on the left-hand side. T’Sung studied it for a moment or two.
“I think this is the emergency release,” he said. “You’d better stand back.”
We withdrew as far as we could and T’Sung activated the control. The hatch blew with a dull boom, and the door swept him off his feet and carried him along for a short distance, until the two crewmen caught it and laid it down on the floor of the tunnel.  They had to repair a few rifts in the adhesive seal that attached us to the alien craft. T’Sung picked himself up, checked his suit and went into the airlock, unruffled by his experience. What we called the left-hand side of the hatch proved to be the floor and he was a strange sight as he stood there and waved us in to join him.
“We’d all better hang on.” T’Sung suggested. “I’ve found the controls, but there’ll be quite a breeze through here until the pressure sorts itself out.”
There was a rail around the lock at waist level and we all gripped that as he opened the inner door. Air streamed past us into the vessel for a minute or two, then all was still. David T’Sung stepped aside. Quinn glanced at me and drew his N-D sidearm. I copied the action and we moved out of the airlock. Beyond was a corridor, circular in section, empty except for a line of pipes along the roof, each painted in bright colours. It seemed extra wide, even when compared to the Vienna’s spacious passageways. The lights were dim and blue-grey, filling the space with uneasy shadows.
“This must go right around the ship.” Quinn guessed, his voice reaching me through the suit comm-link. We moved on, passing two doors on our right.
“Leave them,” I said, as Quinn turned to investigate. “Let’s start at the nose. We’re more likely to find the control cabin up there.”
Quinn gave me a thumbs-up in lieu of a nod, and went on. I could hear the others following me at a safe distance. We passed one more door, then found a passage that led into the body of the craft. Quinn followed it for five metres or so, where it abruptly ended in a shaft that seemed to penetrate the whole length of the vessel. It was featureless–no ladder or lift mechanism to be seen.
“Use backpacks.” Quinn directed. “Up, I think.”
I adjusted my propulsion unit, stepping into the shaft as I did so, and followed just behind. In some sections the lights were out and we used the flashlights built into the right wrists of our suits to find our way. Quinn hovered as we reached the end of the shaft, then stepped onto the circular ledge that surrounded it. All we could see were two doors, set opposite each other on the diameter of the shaft. Quinn raised one hand, palm up, in a gesture of uncertainty. He picked one and activated the controls, his  sidearm levelled and ready. The door dropped downwards and we were able to see beyond. The far wall curved away to either side, clothed in equipment, all of which had a familiar feel to it. More units were free-standing and rose about four feet from the floor. Here was more evidence of the attack; some of the units were burnt out and charred, but the fire hadn’t spread, extinguished by a blanket of yellow powder that was scattered over the deck. Some of the emergency lighting was still functional, but there were pools of darkness dotted around the room.
I heard Quinn’s sharp intake of breath over the link. Out of the tail of my eye I saw him jerk as if to fire, then hold back. I followed his gaze.
Something–not someone, but something–lay in a heap at the base of one of the consoles. It lay too still to be alive. It was pale mint-green in colour and had fallen so that it was difficult to guess its shape. I estimated that it had three or possibly four pairs of limbs along with the two pairs of lace-like wings. Its body was in two sections, the rear part sharply pointed. The wings and limbs were charred and the tail, impaled on an exposed spike of metal, oozed red, sticky blood. It lay so that we couldn’t see its head, which was in shadow; somehow I was relieved that privilege was denied us.
“It’s dead.” Quinn failed to conceal the horror in his voice. “What do you make of it, Rae?”
I’d often glibly used the word ‘alien’ yet hadn’t understood what it really meant until now. I forced down a wave of very unprofessional nausea and fished for words, coming up with nothing. “You sure couldn’t call that humanoid. It’s like some giant insect.”
“Insectile?” Vincent appeared beside me. “No, not a close match. Its wings look like a dragonfly’s, but there’s no exoskeleton. It seems soft-bodied with an internal skeleton, covered in skin-equivalent instead of chitin. Octopod–it’s more like a spider in shape but for the wings. Oxygen breather, red blood–haemoglobin-based perhaps, or one of its analogues. Can I take samples?”
“Go ahead, but nothing too invasive,” Quinn said. “It may be dead, but I’m guessing it was a sentient individual. I wouldn’t want any alien medics cutting chunks off my deceased relatives!”
“It’s horrible!” Lyn Sawyer turned away. What I could see of her face through her visor looked as green as I felt.
Quinn and Vincent moved in to examine the corpse. The rest of the party stared in fixed fascination at the remains of this monster from another world. I left them to it; my stomach told me that I had no desire to study the beast, but the controls on the consoles around us interested me greatly. I moved from one panel to the next, becoming more engrossed at each new item. It was twin to our own Bridge in many ways, and yet that familiarity made it all the more alien, like finding a passage in ornate, indecipherable script dropped into the well-thumbed pages of your favourite book. I stared at the screens, data readers, the rows of gaudy lights and controls, trying to fathom the purpose of them all. Here and there were patches of meaningless scrawl that might have been writing, but although I could guess at the function of some of the equipment, the rest was so strange that it was unidentifiable.
Eventually I turned back to look for the others and found that they were out of sight. The room was circular, broken only by the shaft in the centre and I had strayed too far round it. None of the rest had followed me or even noticed that I was gone. I’d better get back to them, I thought, before they started to worry.
A low, venomous hiss made me jump. I whirled around to see another of the aliens, this time very much alive, its hideous face turned towards me.
Hideous is not a strong enough word to describe that monstrous face. Its skin was pale turquoise, stretched gauntly over a sharply-angled head. A long antenna flopped from each side of the forehead, one drooping and bleeding. The mouth was a wet, lipless slit, with clusters of feeding appendages hung in front of it, blunt tentacles that twitched slightly. Six clear, lidded eyes watched me from their ugly frame, deep sea-green and without pupils.
In one lithe movement it was on its feet, four of them I noted, each with three claw-tipped toes. The remaining limbs were equipped with thin, six-fingered hands. All the limbs were jointed on its thorax, over which trailed the double wings, and which was linked to the abdomen at a minute waist. The end of the tail was wickedly pointed. It was about six feet long and I guessed that it massed a bit less than a human. It held its upper body upright, in a stance like a praying mantis, and its head was a strange hybrid of locust and spider.
It hissed again and its wings rustled, trembling along its back. Its skin colour had paled further and was now almost white, with a hint of teal green. I stood frozen to the spot, rigid with terror, unable to move a muscle.
“Quinn!” I tried to scream, but it came out as a feeble, dry whisper. “Quinn!”
At my second cry, the hiss rose to a crescendo. The beast leapt at me, its wings humming as they lifted it into flight. I squealed and stepped back, losing my footing on the loose debris and crashing down on my back. That fall saved my life–I’d no doubt that it wanted to kill me. As I lay there, fighting to regain the breath that had been knocked out of me, I saw the creature drive its tail forward in a slicing arc over my head. The end of it was knife-sharp and gleaming. It knew it had missed but had to follow through on the blow, and it passed over me. It banked for a second attack, screeching its rage. I rolled over and came to my knees, cursing the fact that I’d dropped the N-D sidearm in the fall. The beast was coming back at me now and I could literally feel the waves of its hate on the air.
I raised my arms to protect my head as it flew past, but it managed to get a fist past my defensive screen and into my faceplate. Flesh and bone wouldn’t have broken it, but the shard of metal it held did. Plasglass shattered and I clenched my eyes shut, instinctively holding my breath. I shook the nuggets of glass from my face, then turned to seek my attacker. How long could I hold my breath? I thought desperately. Would it attack again?
I saw it sweeping in and dived aside, but it caught me in the ribs with a heavy blow and I lost my precious lungful of air. Without thinking, I took a deep breath. There was a sweet acrid smell in it that tickled my throat, but at least it ought to be breathable. Not that I had a lot of time left to breathe it–the creature was hovering now, abdomen twisted beneath its body, with the vicious sting aimed at me. Its head was bent low as it studied my suit, searching for the weakest point to strike. It would make no mistake this time and I’d pay with my life. Desperately I searched for a weapon, the fallen gun, anything…
There was a whistle, loud and shrill, like a factory siren. Both of us turned to look. It came from a third alien, pink in colour, less gaunt than my attacker and smaller. A female, I thought as I looked at it, then I noticed the four breast-like bumps on the underside of her thorax.  I realised that she was telling my assailant to stop. The storm of sounds was meaningless, but I read the emotions behind it with uncanny clarity–cold anger, disapproval and disgust. The blue-green one radiated red-hot fury and protest in return, along with a stream of irate high-pitched twittering.
No!
The word stood out in the female alien’s mind, as if it was on a screen and I’d read it aloud. She chattered slowly at my attacker, swinging her abdomen from side to side. The blue-green alien backed off, complaining. Then it stiffened, glaring past me. The cavalry had arrived.
“Rae!” A strangled gasp from Quinn. He was standing, pale and furious, facing the aliens. In one quick movement, his gun came up and steadied to fire.
“Don’t, Quinn!” I screamed. “NO! Don’t shoot!”
The weapon lowered a fraction.
“Quinn, I’m all right,” I said quickly. “I’m not hurt. This air is okay. Don’t shoot them!”
Through his faceplate I could see his mouth set in a grim line. “What happened, Rae?”
“The male attacked me. I startled it, I think. The female stopped it. I think we’re safe now,” I said, as the blue-green one hissed. “Stop waving that gun around, Quinn. You’re upsetting them.”
The blue-green male landed and retreated, keeping all its eyes trained on Quinn. Its colour had shifted again, darkening back towards turquoise. The female had changed too, from pale to mid pink. She whistled, a question in the note, and took a hesitant step towards me. Quinn stiffened again.
“Let her be!” I said. “Take it easy!”
Still on my knees, I looked her straight in the face; now it didn’t seem so repulsive and I could hold her eyes without a shudder. Six eyes, lidded but lashless, deep red with no pupils, like cabochon gems. I could still follow the flow of her emotions, or at least, imagined that I could. My intuition told me to believe what logic deemed impossible. Fear had replaced the anger in her now, but curiosity and anxiety were creeping in.
“Thank you,” I said slowly, hoping she might understand the tone if not the words. She took another step towards me and I was vaguely aware of the rest of the boarding party looking on in horror. Quinn had let his weapon drop to his side and the blue-green alien was quiet now.
“Don’t worry.” I beckoned to her, oblivious of all else. “You’re safe. We won’t harm you.”
Three of the ruby eyes blinked at me as if she’d understood, and she came right up to me to look into my face. I could feel the warmth radiating from her body and smell the sweet, not unpleasant scent that hung about her. It reminded me of geraniums.
Are you harmed? she asked. The sounds she made were as alien as her looks, a melodic blend of bells and whistles, yet the words took shape in my mind like fresh ink on new paper.  Perhaps she’s a telepath, said the logical section of my brain, but I shushed it and concentrated on projecting my own feelings at her.
“I’m not hurt,” I said clearly. “Can you understand me?”
This time her whole body dipped in a weird four-legged curtsey. I felt a surge of elation.
Alien, help me! she pleaded.
How? I mouthed the word. This time there was no clear answer, only a tangle of desperation, fear and hopelessness. I shook my head and I think she guessed I couldn’t follow. She shut all but two of her eyes, her wings drooped and her antennae touched the broken edges of my faceplate. When I made no move, she reached inside and I felt the delicate hot touch in the hollows of my temples.
There is another of us, she thought, a mess of alien nonsense and bright fragments of images, the physical contact aiding the flow. My mind provided the words, twisting the unknown language into something I could understand.
We found one dead over there. I reflected.
No! She returned urgently. One is dead, one is here, I am here. There is another. Maybe dead, dying. Maybe still alive.
Where? I questioned.
Near the tail, the engines. I fear he is dead! Her desperation swamped me. Help me, alien!
I will, I promise.
Thanks, alien, she thought.
My name’s Rachel. I returned, on impulse.
Someone caught my shoulder and pulled me to my feet. The female backed away, hissing. I turned and looked into Quinn’s face and the expression on it was murderous.
“What was it doing to you?” he demanded, furious.
“She didn’t hurt me.” I was angry at the interruption. “We could understand each other–I’m not sure how, but we could. She told me that there’s another alien, down in the tail of the ship, with the engines. He may still be alive. Quickly, we’d better go and check.”
“It told you all this?” Quinn’s disbelief was evident.
“Yes. I was only able to sense her emotions at first, then it was as if I could read her thoughts.”
“In English?” Lyn Sawyer asked.
“No, in Gemmdian.” I tried to stay calm, but they were all staring at me as if I was out of my mind. “Somehow my brain was turning it into our language–”
“Hallucinating,” Vincent said, in an undertone. “Must be something in the air or the shock of the attack.”
“Hey, wait a minute, I’m not in shock–” I protested, in vain.
There’s an emergency packet in the arm of a combat spacesuit that delivers a shot of anaesthetic when a trigger is pulled, usually only used if the wearer had been seriously injured. I saw Vincent give the signal to one of his medics too late, and I couldn’t dodge as he dived at me and hit my trigger.
“Damn you!” I shrieked, as the needle bit into my arm. “I’m perfectly coherent! Go and look in the tail if you don’t believe me–”
The medic caught me as I began to keel over. A wave of panic from the female alien washed over me.
“A -shel!” she squealed. “Err-a-shel!”
“You see–” I muttered, as everything went black.

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2 Comments

  1. July 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    […] a bonus, I’ve swapped the content on the Warbird page. It now has Chapter One, and I may post other chapters later, just for […]

  2. December 21, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    […] a Solstice gift to all of you, I’ve changed the excerpt on the Warbird page to Chapter Ten of the lengthy space-opera, the bit where the crew of the Vienna have a first […]


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