The next chapter of my latest sci-fi work in progress.
In case you missed it, part 1 is here, part 6 is here. I'm sharing the first parts of this story as I write it so you can follow along and ask questions or make comments, so please do comment below – I read every comment.
This story is set in the world of Colony B – you don't have to have read any of those stories, but it will help if you have because they do follow on from each other. If you're interested, there's a link below the story.
Jared strode toward the humans, his crowbar in his hands, sensing Katya keeping pace with him on his left, Caleb on his right. He shot an angry glance at Aaron, the young fool now without his weapon since he’d been stupid enough to hurl it at the humans, ruining the plan. Instead of luring the intruders into an ambush, he’d broken cover, charging at them in a bid for glory, putting them all in danger. But this was not the time for recriminations; that would come later.
The two humans were back to back now, their weapons held ready as the drogues closed in on all sides. Jared studied the pair of them, cold hatred cramping in his gut. One of them was a woman, the other a man, and he might be a problem. The woman was afraid, unnerved, her weapon wavering from one target to the next, but the man was still, calm, his rifle trained steadily on Caleb. Perhaps he’d decided that Caleb’s broad frame made him the leader of the group, and that suggested a cool head, a tactical response. Even now, he’d be calculating the odds, knowing that if he started shooting, he could probably take out three or four before the others rushed him. But he wouldn't do that. He would wait, clinging to the hope that there’d be another way out. Humans, Jared thought bitterly. Their weakness is pathetic.
Jared raised his arm, and the drogues halted, their silent stares fixed on their quarry. And Jared lowered his hand to point at the humans, raising his voice to be heard through his respirator. “Lower your weapons to the ground. Do as we say, and we’ll let you live.”
Jared waited. Had they heard him? Had they understood? No doubt the humans had comms inside their helmets, but were they even speaking the same language?
He took a step closer to the man, and the human responded, aiming his rifle squarely at Jared’s chest. “Put your gun down,” Jared called out, pointing to his rifle then gesturing toward the ground. “Do it now, or you’ll both die.”
The man did not react, but Caleb moved silently to Jared’s side. “This will make them understand.” Slowly, carefully, Caleb made a show of stowing his long knife in its sheath.
“No,” Jared growled. “We hold onto our weapons.”
But the human male lifted his head from his gun, and the woman turned around so that they were both facing Jared. He focused his senses, and yes, despite their helmets, he could hear them talking, their voices raised. He listened for a moment, transfixed. How long had it been since he’d heard anyone else except his fellow drogues? Too long, he thought, and an unfamiliar emotion stirred in the back of his mind. These people were frightened, outnumbered, fearing for their lives. They’d be thinking of their families, their friends, mourning for a future they might never see. But what of it? They were intruders, invaders, thieves. They had no right to trespass on this planet. This is our world now, Jared thought. They’ve taken everything else away from us, but I won’t allow them to take our home.
“Jared,” Caleb began, “if we put our weapons away, they’ll do the same.”
Jared clenched his jaw. “There’ll be more of them in their vehicle. We can’t face them empty-handed.”
“Whatever you say, Jared,” Katya put in. “We can take them all on. They’re slow, clumsy, and they rely on their suits. One rip and they’ll be dead soon enough.”
“And their friends will take revenge,” Jared snapped. “No. Caleb’s right. We need to do this differently.” He turned to the others. “Put your weapons away. Now!”
Reluctantly, the drogues did as he’d asked, returning their knives and improvised blades to their belts. Jared hesitated, but when all the others had stowed their weapons, he followed suit, holding out his hands to show the humans. “Now you!” he called out. “Put your guns down, then we can talk.”
The woman was the first to sling her rifle over her shoulder, then the man did the same, though his stance said he was ready to fight.
Jared strode toward him, squaring up, focusing beyond the man’s visor to look him in the eyes. There was defiance in the man’s stare, the will to survive, but no anger, no animosity. A fierce enemy, Jared decided. It might be better to kill him now.
But it was the woman who stepped forward to meet him, interposing herself between Jared and the man, her shoulders back, her hands hanging loose at her sides. Was she the leader?
“My name is Doctor Lyndsey Teare,” she called out. “We’re here on a scientific mission. We don’t want to hurt anyone, and we can help you if you let us. We have—”
“Shut up!” Aaron snarled, barging past Caleb, his hand on the hilt of his knife, ready to draw it. “We take what we want. We don’t need your help. We don’t need your permission.”
Enough, Jared told himself. In one motion, he slid the crowbar from his belt and lashed out at Aaron’s back, landing a crushing blow on his spine.
Aaron grunted as he fell, crumpling to his knees then toppling to land facedown on the ground, sending soft ripples through the thick layer of blue-green scourge. The humans recoiled, the man reaching for his rifle, but Caleb grabbed his arm, held him back.
“You’re worthless,” Jared growled. “Worse than that; you’re a danger to the others.”
Aaron writhed, struggling to get up, his hands on the ground. “No,” he cried out, his voice hoarse. “I’m sorry. Jared, I—”
But Jared had heard enough. With a savage roar, he brought his crowbar down in a vicious arc, the cruel steel tip striking hard between Aaron’s shoulder blades. And when Aaron collapsed, rolling onto his side, raising his arms to cover his face, Jared struck, again and again, beating at his head, his shoulders, his chest. Aaron’s scaly skin was tough as hide, his muscles hard, his bones dense. Like all the drogues, he was almost impervious to pain, but Jared’s blows were brutal, ripping through Aaron’s Hazchem suit, splitting his skin.
Suddenly, Jared stopped his attack. Stowing his crowbar, he reached down with both hands, grabbing the back of Jared’s suit. He hauled him to his feet, but before Aaron could regain his balance, Jared lunged forward, pushing Aaron before him. Dazed, Aaron tried to resist, his boots slipping on the slimy ground. They were near to one of the tall blue-green growths now, and Aaron tried to break free from Jared’s grip. “Please!” he cried out. “Stop!”
But Jared wasn't listening. With a dismissive grunt, he shoved Aaron forward then let him go, sending him staggering toward the sickly tower of solid scourge.
Aaron tried to save himself, to twist his body away from the inevitable impact, but he was too late. He fell against the growth, his gloved hands sinking into its surface. And now, his body went rigid, a muffled scream forcing its way from his respirator. Panic lent strength to tortured muscles, and Aaron scrambled back and away, hurling himself into a headlong dash for freedom. He ran for his life, arms pumping, his legs a blur, darting between the tall growths as though he could escape his fate.
Jared bared his teeth, watching for the moment when the scourge would do its deadly work.
He didn't have to wait long.
Aaron stumbled to a standstill, his hands reaching around his back to find the tears in his suit, to claw at the infected flesh beneath. But there was nothing he could do. He limped onward. One step. Two.
And a sharp crack rang out. Something smashed into the back of Aaron’s helmet, punching a smooth hole, and Aaron fell heavily, not even trying to break his fall, his body immobile on the ground.
Jared spun around, his arm raised, his crowbar in his fist, but then he froze.
The woman had her rifle at her shoulder, and her earlier indecision had vanished. She aimed her weapon at Jared’s head, and when she called out to him, her voice was hard: “You forced me to do that, you bastard. I told you, we didn’t want to hurt you. What the hell is wrong with you?”
The man chose his moment, breaking free from Caleb’s grip and readying his own weapon, jabbing the barrel at Caleb, forcing him to back away. “Get back!” he yelled. “Get back, all of you.”
“No!” Katya shouted, brandishing her knife. “We’d rather die.”
But Caleb raised his hand. “Jared, look.” He gestured beyond the humans, and Jared followed his gaze. There, emerging from the shadows, three more humans marched into view, and all of them held rifles, ready to fire. “Be careful, Jared,” Caleb said. “If they shoot now, we’re finished.”
“This isn’t over,” Jared muttered, but he lowered his weapon, turning his stare on the woman, jutting his jaw in defiance. “One word from me, and my drogues will tear you apart. Your guns won’t save you. But if you’re ready to talk, I’ll listen. No one else needs to die—not today.”
“Son of a bitch!” the man snarled, his finger sliding to his rifle’s trigger.
But the woman met Jared’s stare with one of her own. “All right. We’ll talk. But if you so much as threaten us, we’ll open fire. Understand?”
Jared nodded, but in that moment, a light flared in the distance, flashing once, twice, and he allowed himself a smile. “There’s just one thing you’ve forgotten. You’ve left your vehicle unattended.”
The woman’s expression fell, and Jared stepped close to her. “We have you now, human. We have your vehicle, and without it, you won’t survive for long. If you want to live, you’ll do as I say.”
He listened while the woman muttered frantically over her comms, and he saw the defeat in her eyes as realization dawned. “Disarm them,” he said. And when Caleb took their rifles, they didn't resist.
He turned to Katya. “Take Eliot, disarm the others.”
They hurried to obey, and Jared watched as the humans handed over their guns. We’ve done it, he thought. No more skulking underground. We’re free.
“What now?” the woman demanded. “You can’t fly our truck. Without us, you won’t be able to do a damned thing with it.”
“Then it’s a good thing you’re alive,” Jared shot back. “If you want to keep it that way, you’ll do what I say.”
And after a moment of defiance, the woman nodded. “Tell me what you want.”
“We’ll get to that,” Jared said. “We’ve got plenty of time. Now, let’s go inside. I’m sure you have food, and we’re hungry.” He took hold of the woman’s arm and nodded to Caleb. “Let’s escort our visitors to their vehicle.”
Caleb shoved the man’s shoulder. “Move.” The man cursed under his breath, but he started walking, and Jared followed with the woman at his side.
“My people won’t let you get away with this,” she said. “They know we’re here.”
“Then we’d better get ready,” Jared said. “No more talking until we’re inside.” He urged the woman onward, but already his mind was working overtime. If there really were more humans, and they arrived in vehicles of their own, then they would fight to rescue their people; it was the way humans behaved. But the drogues could work like no others. They would be prepared before the human reinforcements arrived, and they would fight with every fiber of their beings. Because they couldn't let this bounty slip from his fingers; the prize was too great. We’ll win, he told himself. We have to. And if the humans have to die, then we’ll do what needs to be done. We’ll kill them all. Every single one.
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