There was talk of sci-fi today…so, here’s something a little different for FridayFlash.
Claws That Catch, Blood That Burns
Cooper led the way towards the stasis chamber’s aft hatchway, pulse blaster drawn and ready. Laura and Shaard followed, covering the rear. He had decided the best tactic was to rendezvous with Wyatt and Bug near the derelict ship’s reactor and then proceed to the airlock as a single unit.
He stopped at the circular hatchway and put his free hand on the locking mechanism. The others gathered around him. Shaard kept his keen predator’s eyes focused the way they had come. Cooper unlocked the hatch and slowly pushed it open, the metal hinges squealing in protest after one hundred years of inactivity.
“Coop,” Shaard barked. “Hold up.”
Cooper looked back down the dark chamber. He wasn’t positive, but he thought he could see movement in the shadows. “Am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?”
The Venntak nodded. “There’s at least six of ’em,” Shaard reported. “I have no idea what they are, but from what I can see, they look pretty nasty.”
They emerged from the stasis chamber and turned into the ship’s main corridor. Two lanky figures were waiting for them at the junction. One of them turned its single glowing eye and flashing sensor indicators in their direction and waved.
“Bug, what are those things?” Cooper asked.
The mech shook his head and shrugged as best as his mechanical joints would allow.
“No idea, Coop. I ran some scans on the cocoons or whatever those things we found back in the reactor chamber were but I’ve never seen anything like it before. It looks like some kind of organic metal.”
“And why didn’t we notice it before?” Laura asked over her shoulder, her carbine aimed back the way they had come.
“Not sure,” Wyatt said. “We found the things attached to the underside of the plasma conduit, partially hidden by the port distribution tube. The radiation probably masked it. Sorry”
“Doesn’t matter,” Cooper said. “Let’s just get the hell out of here.”
“Easier said than done,” Laura groaned.
They all turned and looked down the main corridor. Pairs of glimmering eyes appeared in the shadows, one at first, followed by others.
There was a raspy hiss as the first creature appeared. Two meters long, not including a serrated, whip-like tail, the creature’s muscles rippled beneath its shimmering, purple scales. Rows of needle-like teeth dripped with milky white saliva. Hissing, the creatures filled the corridor, their metallic skin glistening under the dim emergency lighting. Their flat, pointy heads moved from side to side, jaws snapping, flickering tongues tasting the air. As they approached, their sharp claws click-clacked against the ship’s metal deck plates.
The nearest one lunged towards Bug, its claws and fangs ready to rip the mech to scrap metal. Acting out of reflex, Bug swung his spindly arm, and the heavy toolkit he was holding, at the attacking creature.
The metallic reptile hissed as it fell back onto the deck. Before it could attack again, a supercharged bolt of energy hit it squarely in the stomach. The dying creature shrieked in agony as the smell of ozone and burning flesh filled the corridor.
“One down,” Laura said, leveling her carbine.
“About two dozen to go,” Bug said. He reached into his toolkit and pulled out a plasma cutter, which he gripped like a club.
Another hissing monster jumped forward, but was cut down by a swipe of Shaard’s hooked claws. The Venntak roared in agony, a patch of his thick, brown fur smoldering and sizzling. “What the–?”
“Watch out,” Cooper called over the sound of blaster fire. “These things have acidic blood. You okay, Shaard?”
The Venntak just grunted an affirmative. His heavy repeater roared as he started spraying the corridor with sizzling bolts of super-charged death.
“So,” Laura said, swinging her carbine to knock a leaping creature back to the deck before shooting it between its narrow red eyes. “What’s our best bet?”
“We stand here and pick them off one by one,” Cooper said, firing at a nearby reptile.
“Anything less messy?” Laura asked, kicking a wounded creature aside and hitting the one behind it with a precise shot to the heart, or where she assumed the thing’s heart was located.
Cooper fired randomly down the corridor, sending a pack of the creatures scattering for cover. “We can charge the buggers and try to beat them to the airlock.”
Laura shrugged. “Sure. Why not? No reason to start thinking rationally now.” She raised her carbine, took aim and fired off a pair of precision shots. “How about a plan that we might survive?”
“You know,” Cooper said, “you’ve been awfully negative lately.”
“Really?” Laura dropped her carbine and drew her pulse blasters, firing one, then the other, down the corridor. “Must be this sudden sense of impending doom.”
Cooper shook his head. “Okay,” he said, “I think I have a better plan. I’ll hold these things off while you and the others double back to the ship.”
“That’s a better plan?”
“Sure,” he said, checking his blaster’s power level. “You need to get back to the ship and power up the main guns. There’s no way I’m letting these things get anywhere near an inhabited planet.”
Laura nodded. “And you can handle a dozen of these single-handedly?”
“I have two hands,” Cooper corrected. “Two hands. A pulse blaster. And Shaard’s grenades.”