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Hyperlinks in the text are intended as supplemental material, discussing elements of the science behind the science fiction. They are not intended as required reading for the story. Hyperlinks will be provided at the point in the story where it comes up, but all the links will also be collected at the bottom of the post for easy reading.
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Amara Black stared at the red-dotted hologram of the Mistrunner with wild eyes, trying to fight down instinctive disgust and horror that threatened to overwhelm her conscious mind. For a moment, she wondered if there was a Void Tracer right next to her and that was why she felt the panic growing… but no. It was just her own, natural terror. Amara let out three breaths, forcing herself to take them slowly, forcing herself to keep the panic away… panic would get other people killed. “We… need to get to the lifeboat shuttles,” she said, her voice icy with forced calm. “It’s the only way anyone gets off this ship alive.”
“Bu—but!” Ri’she’a stammered, frozen in an insentient panic.
“Come on!” the Captain said. She wanted to shout… but she didn’t dare, couldn’t risk bringing the attention of the nearby Void Tracers. She grasped the sylph-like Sethis by the forearm and yanked her along with her.
“Atalanta! Put me through into the ship’s intercom system!” she instructed as both of them dashed through the door and back into the hallway. Frantically, she cast her eyes to the left and then to the right. Not a soul present, just like before. Amara wished that she felt alone like she had before in the darkness… instead it felt like at any moment these very walls could explode open and swarm with the most rapacious aliens known to man. The disparity between the frightening quiet and the immediacy of their danger seemed unreal.
“On it,” the Exalted replied, no mockery in her voice now… the woman was all business as she got to work. “Patching you through.”
“We have to warn Kelindra first!” Ri’she’a exclaimed. “She’s down by the engines… That’s where the most dots were. That entire place is swarmi—”
Tapping her wrist-mounted datapad, Amara hissed with frustration that the order was taking so long to process. Ri’she’a didn’t get it yet… They had lost contact with that team of engineers hours ago. If Kelindra had been down there among the engines, then she and her team were already gone. The Void Tracers were beasts, but they were pack predators… dangerously canny in the way they hunted. They had probably been picking off the crew one-by-one ever since they had blasted free from the space hulk, awakened from their hibernation by the reheating of the internal systems. That would explain the strange lapses in communication… the EM disruption and the missing people accounting for all of it. All of those strange bumps in the dark… those had been Void Tracers moving through the wall, burrowing through metal obstructions to make room for their alien forms in the ventilation and crawlspaces.
“Patched through, Captain,” Atalanta voiced.
“All hands! This is an emergency! Whatever you’re doing, drop it, grab the nearest weapon and head for the shuttle bay, now!” she ordered, trying to mitigate the panic in her voice as much as possible while keeping her command voice. She felt like an idiot for not having her laspistol with her. Why hadn’t she armed herself when leaving the Captain’s Quarters? Stupid stupid stupid…
A door at the end of the hallway slid open. Amara jumped as if expecting a storm of stellar-aged demons, sheltering the helmswoman with one arm. Far from one of the Void Tracers, however, Leila Evangeline stepped out with both a concerned and a puzzled look upon her brow. “Captain! What’s happening!? Is it the Kthid!?”
Somewhere behind her in the room, Evy screamed. A second later, with a blast of feral noises just as the engineer was starting to turn, something abruptly hit Leila from behind… its big purple body pushing and flattening the blonde against the floor. A mouth filled with shark-teeth set upon a hammer-shaped head opened towards them while gargling out oil-like saliva. That thick spittle drooled down upon Leila’s terrified face. The chief engineer’s mouth was gaping and yet no scream came out… and Ri’she’a had an identical look on her face. The monster growled towards the Captain and Helmswoman with low-rumbling, furious challenge. Seeing one of those diabolical space-demons vividly in the unshadowed lights was like beholding a creature right out of hell itself.
A second later, its pheromones reached her, and terror hit Amara like the first of a furious god. She couldn’t breathe… it felt as though her lungs were heaving in and out as quickly as they could but it was like her body couldn’t even process the air. Leila was pinned underneath a killing-machine and she was going to be next, she was going to be next, she was going to be next! She had participated in extermination campaigns against these fiends upon asteroid mining-stations and knew how deadly they could be, even when disadvantaged by modern-aged weaponry. On those excursions, however, she had commanded people from the safety of a ship… she had never actually been in the presence of one of them, and Amara realized with horror that the Federations ways of simulating their terror effects came laughably short of the reality… there was a world of difference from commanding action from on board a ship and staring one of the monsters in the face. The widely-parted sensor disks of the Void Tracer seemed to blink twice in recognition of the two women in the hallway as further prey.
“Le-Leila!” the Sethis stammered.
The stellar-locust crouched lower on all fours, looking ready to hunt them down across the narrowed hallway. Run run run. Amara grasped her lover by the forearm, ready to bounce and drag the paralyzed woman along with her. Run run run. Without weapons, there was nothing she could do for Evangeline. Now it was all about running for their lives. Run run RUN!
With a shrill shriek, the VT slammed its mouth down around Leila’s upper-arm and shoulder and then bit into the flesh. The blonde screamed, bleeding lacerations evident from where its fangs had sunk in. She screamed even louder as the alien monster used its teeth-hold to lift her off the ground and drag her back into the room, vanishing from view. Almost immediately the blares of agony grew rapidly less noticeable, as if the creature had dived down into some tunnel or ventilation shaft. Within seconds, it had almost ceased being audible.
Amara, battling against the terror and her sense of duty, was almost frozen in spot. “We have to go after her!” Ri’she’a yelled, moving as if intending to sprint in its direction.
Something about seeing that… about seeing Ri’she’a display that kind of bravery, shocked Amara’s senses… and also triggered a different kind of terror. Run run run no run run no that was… “No! Don’t! It’s a trap!” Amara yelled in reply, managing to strong-arm her in the other direction before it was too late, letting her nearly mindless urge to run take over but refusing to let go of the Sethis woman as she did. Void Tracers were the legendary for their feral intelligence… they hunted not only with ferocity but with tricks. As soon as the red-haired Captain had managed to pull Ri’she’a in the opposite direction, that opened doorway exploded with Void Tracers rushing into the corridor as if emerging from a disturbed anthill. Run run run run run! A flood of mindless terror washed over her, thankfully in line with exactly what the rest of her wanted to do as well… Both woman sprinted with wide strides, pounding down the hallways with death following in their wake… If any one of those quick-moving beasts caught up with them, they were dead.
“We’re not going to make it!” Ri’she’a yelled, stricken with panic.
Casting her gaze over her shoulder, Amara was forced to admit that she was right. Those clawed abominations moved not only across the floor but on the roofs and walls as well, running towards them abominably fast, closing the distance between them with every metal-tearing step of their clawed feet. What could she do what could she do what could she do what could sh-?
That door in the opposite end of the hall opened. Ensigns scurried out and took aim, lasrifles humming as the particle containment fields activated. “Down!” Amara bellowed, dragging the Sethis woman with her so that they both plummeted to the deck. A moment later a superheated fusillade of scorching death began. Energy beams shot out and blasted down the hallway, clearing their heads by inches as they raked the decks and walls and ceiling, coating it completely in superheated plasma. With such a narrowed shooting range and with such an abundance of targets, it was nearly impossible to miss. The Void Tracers elicited chattering squeals of outrage and pain as jets of blazing energy pierced right through their tough hides and left ghastly punctures. This was not the armor or thick scales of the Kthid, or the defensive shell of an Aegis shield – While the ferocious animals were tough and furious, capable of ignoring grievous wounds and horrible pain, the laser barrage was still impacting into mere flesh, and not a single shooter but a dozen. The result was a carnage that stopped the onrushing Hammerheads dead and slagged in their wake, leaving gruesome carcasses that stumbled and rolled across their pathway. The rest retreated back towards the bridge, the last thing of them to be seen being the sizable tails which slinked right out of vision.
Amara gasped, breathing hard, trying to get her fear under control… squeezing her eyes shut as she tried to slow her breath. As the monsters died or retreated, the horror diminished somewhat, but there was still plenty in the air, and the Captain wished fervently that she had learned more of the mental tricks Ki’an’i had tried to teach her… but there had always been so much else to do…
“Captain! Are you hurt?” one of the ensigns said.
She shook her head, and held up a hand. “Good shooting,” she said, and her voice only broke a little as the crewmen helped her and Ri’she’a to their feet. A second later, a spare rifle was handed to both of them, and the smooth, cold metal felt insanely comforting in Amara’s hands. They were going to need it – Void Tracers weren’t capable of planning exactly, but the sounds of fighting would have alerted them as a group that the time for stealth was past. By now they were now undoubtedly establishing beachheads all over the Mistrunner, coordinating an all-out attack on the survivors of the Midgar-6. Things had really gone from bad to worse.
“We have to get to the shuttle bay, or we’re not making it out of here alive,” she explained. “So stay alert! We are most likely going to be forced to fight all the way there! Watch out for each other… if someone breaks, if they start running, you drag them back into place! The raptors will pick off anyone that leaves the group and-” The moment Amara took the first step forward, a snarling Void Tracer slammed upwards through the floor, fangs unhinged to chop! Only Amara was quick enough to fire her rifle, that laser-blast puncturing through the palate of its mouth, frying its brain, exiting right through its jutting head-fin and into the wall behind it. The creature slumped down right in front of them, deluging out alien blood against their feet.
Everyone stared in shock. Amara tried not to let them see how terrified she was, how much that reaction had been sheerly on panicked instinct… how she was fighting not to hyperventilate at the alien pheromones and how her Aegis was flickering in its disruption. “Let’s move,” she commanded.
In the last five minutes, the Mistrunner had turned into a close-quarters, frantic guerrilla battleground. Void Tracers broke out through the walls, attempted pincer-attacks, or emerged from behind cargo. Whenever one emerged, Amara’s group sprayed those faceless abominations with so much plasma fire that their alien biology was reduced to charcoal, and still they kept coming. Amara did her best to orchestrate them into a tightly-knitted battle-group, directing one to keep a weapon at every angle. During their heavy-fighting advance, they joined up with the scant few other survivors that hadn’t perished in the initial ambush… or worse still, been captured by the aliens, taken alive and dragged into tenebrous dark recesses while screaming in terror. Their vanishing shrieks chilled the survivors’ blood… but though Amara hated herself more with every passing second, her responsibility was to save the ones she still could. She could hate herself later.
As they hurried through the ship, they had to fight to keep their group together… every encounter, every fresh batch of biochemical terror that washed over them, shattered their order a little bit more. They worked to hold onto each other, to stay in position and give others enough time to gather their wits, but Amara feared it was only a matter of time before enough broke at once that they couldn’t defend themselves anymore. Even as she thought about that, however, even more horrid implications gnawed viciously at the Captain’s beleaguered attentions. They could use the shuttles to escape the ship… but what about the Kthid? The Mistrunner’s engines were quick enough that they might have been able to make it through the Lilis jump-point before the alien pursuers could reach them. However, with using the shuttles as lifeboats, that scarcely seemed possible. In the midnight void of space they could be picked off like sitting ducks. What was the point of abandoning a doomed vessel only to be re-captured or possibly killed by another enemy? It was a dilemma where either outcome was a total loss. Amara’s mind ran with desperation like a pursued rabbit, searching for a solution for a problem that seemed to have none.
At last, they reached the door leading to the shuttles. Marshaling a protective formation against its entrance, Amara slammed her fist against the open-button. It was locked… and it wasn’t supposed to be, ever. “Atlanta!” Amara called. “Are you kidding me? Get the door open!”
To her great relief, after a bare second, the override light lit up on the control panel and the door slid soundlessly into the wall. One of the ensigns stepped forward, going inside with weapon raised to sweep the interior… and she didn’t even get past the threshold before a blast from a lasrifle from within pierced through her forehead, her boiling blood spraying out the back of her nearly exploded head and sending her now lifeless cadaver crashing to the floor.
Amara’s eyes widened in disbelief, looking with horror at the flicking failure of the Aegis shield… crippled by the nearness of the Void Tracers. “What the fu—!” Black exclaimed.
The door slid sideways in an attempted to shut, yet was blocked by the dead woman’s legs. The Captain glanced in quickly, barely managing to dodge a superheated kill-shot of her own. “You’ll never take me alive, mutineers!” a voice called from the interior. Everyone was stunned, Ri’she’a looking absolutely horrified at the steaming body of their crewmember, the woman who had been a friend and companion a second ago now just a body on the ground. “You can go tell McConnell than no traitors will be making it off my ship alive!” the batshit insane voice that she had heard so recently in the Captain’s logs yelled out. “So I swear as a heroine of the Federation!”
Despite being the only one who had context as to what was going on, Amara couldn’t help but be as baffled as her crew anyway. “Shit!” She spat with seething venom. She couldn’t believe it. Talia Icarus, freed from her stasis, here and now. Just what they fucking needed.
More laser blasts were fired their way, preventing anyone from getting a shot at storming the lifeboat docks. The Void Tracers kept coming from the opposite end. They were now between a rock and a hard place. Worse yet, Amara knew that remaining motionless versus those sharp-fanged beasts was a death sentence. If given enough time, they would burrow up from underneath the very deck they stood on.
“Who in the hell is that!?” Ri’she’a howled while discharging her firearm. “How did she even get on the shi-”
The Captain heard a light clicking noise whose tenor froze the very blood streaming through her veins. Existence itself seemed to slow to a crawl. She could recognize that sound from one place only. It had to be…
“Grenade!” the Captain shouted as a round, spherical object bounced through the opening of that door. Amara and the rest of them tucked and rolled without regard to the oncoming Hammerheads. Fortunately, since detonating explosives inside of a starship was just shy of actively suicidal, the grenade issued was only a flashbang. Instead of white-hot death it exploded with a disorienting alabaster flash and a rippling bang that made her ears ring. Blinded and with ears sounding like they were a struck gong, Amara struggled to get to her feet. The non-lethality of this device was of little consolation to her at the moment… her crew was now utterly out-of-position to prevent an alien charge.
Talia kicked away the corpse blocking the threshold. She had that doorway closed a second later. Though so thoroughly discombobulated that she couldn’t even remember her own name, Amara swore that she could hear a maniacal cackle coming from within as the lock was reengaged.
Getting gingerly back onto both feet, the Captain cast her gaze towards the hallway. She caught the alien predators in mid-rush, beholding their in-progress charge at the exact moment where there was nothing she could do to stop it. Their faceless maws were opened and ready to devour, bow-legged feet skittering like quick-running spiders. For the briefest of seconds, Amara’s thoughts were occupied to bemoan the absurdity of their unimaginable tragedy. Their last hope to make it out alive, ended by a defrosted relic — a megalomaniacal madwoman who was responsible for these things being on the ship in the first place, a menace that none of them had any way to know was stored away upon the ship at entry. The prolonged cryosleep had plainly turned Talia’s already warped brain into an amorphous mush of sheer insanity if it wasn’t there already. It was so woefully unfair — inconceivable even — that after all of their heroics, after everything they had done to escape the Kthid, it would all come to a halt here. That they had made it past the Kthid’s taking of the Midgar-6, Miranda’s attack upon the Space-Hulk, and now the firefight with the long-dormant Void Tracers, lessening in numbers along the way but always making it through towards freedom.
And all it took was one crackpot to end everything.
Amara didn’t want it to end like this. She wanted for at least the people under her command to live. Every single one captured, every one slain, was a stain on her soul… but there were still some alive, some small sliver of her people that she could save. The desire was an intransigent need. She had to fight on… no matter how her heart beat with terror.
Then the fin-headed monstrosities were upon them, tackling all of the half-risen Terrans back onto the floor. Still dazed, the red-haired captain felt her shoulder blaze with pain as sharp teeth sunk superficially into its flesh. Hot blood poured from the protrusions. She screamed at having the last of her mental strength violently replaced by the immediacy of pure agony.
Beaten, the same capture happened to all of her fellow flash-stunned crewmates who produced a chorus of excruciated cries. Moving with the kind of urgency that only an insentient animal could possess, those abominations lifted their human booty upwards by the teeth and then began hurriedly rushing backwards from whence they came. They were going to face the same fate as Leila and Evy and Kelandra and the rest, spirited away into the shadows never to be seen again!
Dragged against the rough and oftentimes grated floor, Amara’s skin was roughly chafed from how quickly the space-locust ran. It was like she was being propelled by a rocketship blasting down the hallway, a launch loop directing her on a one way course with destiny. This close to it, terror was all she could think of… the horror of its pheromones filling her mind utterly until her heart raced so quickly Amara thought it was going to explode. She couldn’t move, she could barely think. Rooms and corridors flashed by in what seemed like an instant. In the blinding tumult, she was even splashed against hot alien ichor from the bleeding Void Tracer carcasses that they had left in their path. At least they weren’t being taken through any of their tunnels.
Amid the agonized shouting and fear-filled outcries, the Captain could discern the distinct cry of Ri’she’a. Hearing that bellow of terror lit a fire in Amara’s heart, a single thought crystallizing in her mind through the pain and fear. She needed to do something to save them. Anything.
This couldn’t all be for nothing!
Frantically, Amara sought for some grip, a handhold on a door or a corner or anything to anchor herself against the scampering sprint. Yet these slipped right from her fingers and if she actually did achieve a grapple then the resulting tug from the beast’s teeth would rupture her flesh right open. In the kinetic bedlam, she realized that she needed some other means of dislodging the beast! The realization that she was being hauled by an instinct-driven animal made her think of the oldest trick in the book.
It didn’t have any real eyes but… Punching with all of her might, Amara lashed out at the eye-stalks. Three flailing blows at the chitinous structure missed… but the fourth connected solidly, and she used it to wrench the thing to the side, making it strike a corner as they rounded it at speed. The alien predator squealed with pain and dropped her mid stride, sending her tumbling down the corridor. As its fellows kept racing, the two of them were left momentarily behind.
Despite tumbling and rolling, Amara ended up quite a bit behind the space-demon whose feet had to grind to a halt. It stopped and immediately turned its face around with a vicious snarl, thick saliva drooling toward the deck. They had careened right at a juncture, between the opened doorway connecting two hallways. Right at that threshold lay the most beautiful sight that Amara had ever seen… a dropped lasrifle!
Rising to its feet, the monster’s sightless gaze focused quickly onto that deadly weapon and then refixed its attention to Amara and… and a thought breached Amara’s horrified mind. It… knew. It understood. Shocked, Amara again had cause to wonder exactly how well the Federation really understood these things… but she didn’t have time to think about it now. The gun was nearly exactly the same distance between them.
The ship shook with a sudden ‘thud,’ rocking in space. Like the sound was a trigger, they both moved. Amara was starting from her knees. She’d never make it. She scrambled forward anyway. The violet monster leapt forward so to place its snarling mouth right atop that floorbound weapon, easily beating Amara to it…
Because she’d never intended to make it, running to its right instead.
“Atlanta! Activate airlock 17!” she shouted.
“Yes Captain,” the clone said… but before Amara heard the “Ye” sound the airlock – thrice as heavy and solid as a normal door – was already plummeting from the top of the doorframe. It smashed into the Void Tracer’s skull with a wet, disgusting squelch… and the dead monster slumped down into a motionless heap even as Atalanta raised the door again and slammed it back down, once, twice, three times. Then the door raised and was still.
In the wake of the thudding sounds, Amara’s mad onrush of adrenaline finally ended, leaving only pain and fear. She sagged to the hallway bulkhead, panting and bleeding and trying to calm her mind as the toothmarks in her shoulder throbbed like fire and she wondered what the hell to do next. The ship shook with another small ‘thud’ which she couldn’t place, but it barely seemed to matter. No thoughts came. When Void Tracers took captives, they took them to a hive where they could be secured long enough to be used for breeding and food. Ri’she’a and the others were down in that hive by now. She had to save them!
Her feet did a half-step on sheer instinct before sliding back to their original position. She had no plan of action. It was going to be suicidal to run in there. She needed a plan and… and…
The ship shook with another thud.
And that right there was another issue entirely. “Atalanta…” Amara said, voice anxious. “Can you tell me what Icarus is doing right now?”
The marionette-sized hologram of Atalanta appeared from her wrist-mounted communicator. Despite the situation, she looked calm and unconcerned… unnaturally so. Her voice remained soft and serene despite the dire situation. As it was, it was like Atalanta realized that there was danger, but not its psychological gravitas. Leaning on her endocrine control, no doubt. Amara felt a sudden surge of irrational hate. People were dying… Some level of panic and urgency was the appropriate response. Couldn’t she at least act like she cared? She knew that didn’t make sense, but she felt it anyway.
“Captain, it seems that she is in the process of sending off the shuttles unmanned one-by-one into deep space. Such actions are unwise and against protocol… empty shuttles fail to serve their life-saving function… which I suspect is the point.” the holographic projection informed her.
“Goddamnit!” Amara spat sharply. That was another wrench in her wheel. If she sought to rescue her crewmembers, then it would be too late to abandon ship anyhow. Talia would undoubtedly be ejecting all of the shuttles except one that she would save for herself! Such was the insane ire she held for the decades-dead mutineers and their security chief. “Do what you can to slow her down as much as possible!” Amara ordered, spinning on her heels and running back towards that part of the ship she had been dragged away from.
“And what do you want me to do?” Atalanta said, managing to put plenty of disdain into the calm words. “Step out of the walls and grab onto her wrist? She’s the Captain of the ship and has all the proper overrides.”
“Think of something!” Amara snapped as the Captain stomped through the Mistrunner, her heavy footfalls sounding loud against the grated floor. There was no time for stealth… there was a decent chance that she was attracting further Void Tracer attention but she just had to risk it. That madwoman Talia was dead ahead… and the chorus of thuds was a constant reminder that she was still proceeding with her task.
Though beelining towards her target, certain segments of the Terran woman’s mind couldn’t help but ruminate on the larger issue still plaguing them. The Kthid were undoubtedly on the move. No shuttle was going to be able to outrun any vessel they sent to catch up with the Mistrunner. Even if she cleared through all of these problems with perfect results, it would still not be enough to see them rescued.
Approaching those lifeboat-docks, despite her urgency Amara forced herself to slow into a soundless prowl. The Captain flattened her back against the wall by that enclosed doorway, mustering her rifle. Her outpouring blood had dried and matted against the rent rags of her uniform. She thought that if she took aim and fired immediately after having Atalanta open that door, then she might have a chance of killing Talia in one blow.
Readying her rifle, the Captain whispered the order, and the door slipped apart. Amara pivoted and aimed. Icarus had managed to eject all of the shuttles except for the last one at the end of the corridor… the one which she was currently climbing into. The injury to Amara’s shoulder, however, made sure that it was a poorly aimed shot… it only grazed her side… and her Aegis flared to life.
“Giiaahh!!!” Talia shouted with agony and rage as enough energy bled through, scorching her side even as she spun around and fired her lasrifle one-handed.
The haphazard spray forced Amara to seek shelter behind the doorway. “Damnit!” Black cursed, seething against her burning shoulder. Those laser-jets kept blasting as if shooting from a heavy repeater… they had to be melting the barrel of that rifle. Maybe if she could hold out a little longer… but no, time was working against her. She needed to do something, she needed another plan.
“Was that you, Sarah?” the armed lunatic barked. “I sent some of your mutineers down to the Hammerheads recently! A fitting end to all those who stand against the Federation! They will all have their treacherous wombs popped just like your precious Nu’ah’el!”
Narrowing her eyes, frustration and anger warring within her, Amara flattened herself against the wall and took a solid grip on her weapon and prepared her return fire. Placing finger upon the trigger, she prepared to pivot right into the line of the laser’s discharge.
“No!” Talia ignobly barked out of nowhere.
Amara halted her aggressive motion. There was something off with the cadence of her tone, something… panicked, through the madness.
“No! You’re wrong! Not me! It was Katerine! She’s the one you want!” the defrosted madwoman screamed, resuming her spray-like peppering of death… but not at the door. Amara wondered if she had finally gone completely mental and was seeing shadows. The superheated discharge was directed away from the doorway and onto the walls. This was the survivor’s one shot at taking the crazed loon out! However, even as Amara prepare to move around the corner, something stopped her… some small fear that something was… wrong.
Her Aegis was flickering again.
Then Talia Icarus suddenly dropped her rifle and went silent inside.
Amara again resisted the urge to come around the corner shooting. Instead, her nerves were tautened as if in the vicinity of some awesome and fresh danger. Instead of rushing in, she peeked. Face barely exposed, she saw a sight that made her gape.
Talia was hanging in mid air… suspended by a long tail that had wrapped around her torso and was keeping her aloft in mid-air, squeezing the voice out of her. From out of a less illuminated part of that room, a Void Tracer more enormous than anything she had ever beheld stuck out its snarling head. Frothy saliva billowed forth like a waterfall from those gummy lips. The uneven light cast deep shadows across its face, hiding it partially in shadow, but Amara could clearly see that it was a true behemoth of its kind… and upon that fin-topped skull, Amara could notice the scarred criss-cross of a deeply engraved X.
“No! No!” Talia gasped, her voice weak as her lungs were constricted. She just kept woefully repeating the words as she was pulled closer towards those knife-sharp sets of teeth. Her eyes were large and hollow as saucers. The woman was so frightened that she was blind to any other thought or sensation and Amara could understand… a second later, the pheromones hit Amara as well and it was everything she could do not to simply take off running… if she hadn’t been dealing with them nonstop for the last hour she probably would have. This huge, old Void Tracer seemed to be even stronger, her chemical-fear overwhelming even at this distance. From as close as she was, Talia was getting the full dose… and even without it, she ought to be terrified.
This was X… the source of this infestation! The very first Void Tracer encountered by a member of the human species! Every single lesser space-locust harbored upon this doomed vessel was a direct genetic descendant of it. It had built itself this Empire through the rape of Sethis and Earthlings. Now, separated from the verminous horde, it had come here to deal with the human woman whom so long ago had kidnapped it off its natal world and slaughtered its children. It was even Talia herself who had given it that namesake scar. The expressions upon that faceless visage could not more aptly communicate the ancient Void Tracer’s desire for retribution.
Icarus’s instinctual pleading turned into crazed screaming as it slammed her down upon the floor with its tail and then clambered on top of her. Talia had only managed to spin around onto her belly before X applied weight with one of its claws and pinned her down. Being of a gargantuan size for its species, the human possessed even less of a chance of scrambling free than most. Talia’s screams grew even louder and more desperate. Although she wholeheartedly loathed the megalomaniacal woman, Amara felt her already tightened stomach knot with nausea… but as she looked down at the lasrifle in her hand, it seemed almost like a toy compared to that enormous thing, and with the violent way her Aegis field was stuttering in the EM interference of the huge thing, she wasn’t even sure it would work.
The monster was clearly going to get its revenge against Talia in the only manner it knew how. From her clandestine vantage point, the Captain could see a tremendous organ emerging from the underside of its body, directed towards her downheld hips… the Void Tracer’s feared egg-laying ovipositor. The member with which it raped and reproduced with other species. From the records, she knew that X had ravaged possibly as many as 100 women, bred with the entire crew of this ship in an act brought on by acrimony, feral instincts and Terran folly. Now it had finally reached the hierarch herself.
Using its back claws, it scratched against Icarus’s lower-body uniform. Those pants were torn into rags without ripping her skin. Her behind was now fully denuded, the pale hide of those bubbly buns showing through. They wiggled and shook as much as possible while having all four limbs pinned. “No! Stop! I forbid you from doing this! I am the ruler of this ship!” she shouted as if the mindless beast could be reasoned with. The hardened shaft pressed against her ass, silencing her furore with a sudden scream of pain at its reproductive might. Even from her distance, Amara could hear the ancient Captain’s pitiful, sputtering squeals. It had plainly not penetrated her yet, but already just from feeling its girth, the insane woman was reduced to some child-like terror. The Void Tracers were a true epitome of horror. “No-no-no-NOOO!!!-GAAHHHHAAA!!!” the Captain bellowed, her voice turning from the minuscule to the extreme as that quadrupedal creature slammed forward and down with its loins. It savagely banged its pelvis straight against the helpless woman’s upturned posterior, the impact looking like it could potentially rupture her bones. Instead, its entire hard-on plunged viciously into her pussy in one go, the plush vaginal-folds stretched to brutal dimensions around the bulging, misshapen shaft.
Previously, the woman’s legs had been shaking in trepidation, and now they were flexed rigid save for the minute twitches. For an ovipositor that big, it must have struck right through her cervix. She wasn’t just penetrated, she was speared through – her entire womanhood transformed between one second to the next into a sheath only fit for its unnatural tool. As payback for the death of its initial brood, X was vandalizing her snug femininity and transforming it for its own use. Amara could see it jostle its hips lightly so to get in position to pummel its victim into sobbing submission, and she knew that Talia was going to get the kind of fuck that perhaps no human in history had survived!
With a beastly snarl, X began pumping, driving itself deeper into her with each movement. Each one of those malignant strokes was as devastating as the first… X’s violet-colored hips rose almost a meter up into the air before coming crashing down against Talia. The brutalized Captain made the kinds of noise that could blow out someone’s eardrum… To Amara’s eyes, it was insane seeing such an enormous mass of alien muscle and bone bouncing atop a much smaller lifeform. It was like being fucked by a horse… a maddened, adrenaline-fueled stallion with murderous intent! Theirs was a reunion decades in the making… and X had stored up all of its single-minded hatred to pound out into her pussy at this very moment.
Amara needed to get into that room and secure the shuttle.
Hugging the wall with her backside, the Captain couldn’t take her eyes off the interspecies carnage. She knew that she shouldn’t look, should focus entirely on what she was doing so to decrease the risk of being discovered — but through some obscure awe her vision kept being pulled towards the Void Tracer and its mate as if she was enchanted. She couldn’t chance a kill-shot at the dangerous beast… even if her rifle functioned, she didn’t have a clear line on its head, and the rest of its massive form seemed far too large to be debilitated with one shot alone. Missing would only doom her. Sickening as it was, she had to hope that its furious pounding and Talia’s clamorous shouting would provide enough sound cover to keep her hidden. In her mounting trepidation, Amara remembered how the Mistrunner’s Captain had so callously stood by and watched as her security chief was raped and impregnated upon the experimentation-table. It had even been her order! She had seen it as both a morbid fascination and a fitting punishment for what the Officer had done. Black was loathed to admit it, but in a way, she now shared the same impression. If anyone deserved this…
And still… it felt like every breath she exhaled risked Amara’s discovery. X was the sort of space-demon that she would not want to tangle with. Talia was currently learning that the hard way… If that delusional sociopath was capable of learning things.
X’s kinetic rutting continued at a steady, punishing tempo. After a while, Icarus’s thunderous outcries of pain were converted into enfeebled puffs, as if all strength had been blown from her lungs. She was being bounced around like a cheap sex-doll to the point that Amara wondered if her pussy could possibly have burst apart… yet, she could spot no blood. Either way, that ransacked vagina had to be so numb that Talia would have lost all sensation.
Suddenly, abruptly, X stopped thrusting and unleashed a nerve-chilling growl. Amara almost yelped with fright at having been discovered. Yet the beast made to onrushing charge. Instead, it exhumed its heavy-hanging ovipositor yet remained in position. The onlooking woman had no idea what it could be thinking, but Talia’s reaction was immediate. For some reason, the movement seemed to spring her back to life. The desperation was obvious in her voice, no matter how horse and haggard it now had become. She gasped out “No” and “Please” and “Don’t” as it shifted, its jutting rod was still pointed towards her lower-body so that the head of the thing was pushing against her posterior. Yet X seemed to hesitate. It was almost like it was drawing it out — wanting to hear more of the Captain’s pitiful supplications and to prolong her torment.
Then Amara noticed what had happened. She gaped in awe upon noticing it. The monster had changed holes!
With new fury, the Void Tracer slammed forward. Its muscle-power was so prodigious that it had managed to lance right through her once more upon first impact. Somehow, Talia’s ability to bellow out her vocal-cords returned and the female made an excruciated roar, screeching her agony so loud that Amara felt sure it would carry through space itself. That entire sphincter had been forced open and made into a alien fuck-hole! The stellar locust was once again fucking her at an unremitting tempo. Icarus had given it its namesake scar — and now X had given her an ass so brutalized that it would never be able to properly close ever again.
That rectum wore its damage even worse than her pussy had. From afar, Black could barely discern it, yet spied only a pink chasm whose loosened membrane hung like droopy skin. Now it was time for her anal-tunnel to take a reaming. Amara wondered at the logistics of this. She had never seen a Void Tracer befoul a human before, thank all the gods mankind had ever dreamed up… but she imagined it didn’t really matter where it placed its eggs. Either way, the Void Tracer electing to sodomize her instead of continuing from the vagina it had already impaled seemed to testify to some greater malice than their kin usually displayed. By skewering her right in that sphincter, it was making her defilement even more agonizing than normal. However, X itself seemed nowhere near as ponderous as the onlooking human. Utterly frenzied, it humped its pelvis against her pried-open anus as if in a sprint towards the goalpost.
“GAAAHHA! AAAHHHAAA! I’M SORRY! OH GOD I’M SORRY I SHOULDN’T HAVE KILLED YOUR CH—GIIIIAAAAHHHH!” Talia exclaimed as if somehow knowing the origins of the behemoth’s wrath. It had raped its way to spawning an entire lineage of Void Tracers using the crewwomen of this vessel… And now Talia herself would be the last. Finishing its rapid pumping with one final, devastating, hellacious plunge, the thick-skinned predatory beast struck itself hip-to-hip with the Mistrunner’s mad Captain. The Hammerhead had skewered so ferociously that it was at last able to deposit those life-carrying eggs. What Talia had taken from it she would now give back… right through the ass!
Amara couldn’t help but to brave a look. Though only the base-most parts of the VT’s reproduction-stick lay exposed, with the rest being buried deep past Talia’s anal opening, she could still clearly see the eggs traveling through that tube. They came like engorged balls, spheres that made X’s shaft bloat outward. Once they reached the opening of that already outstretched anus, that egg jostled against the opening as if attempting to burrow in, Icarus screaming like an insane animal as it happened. Then the second orb bumped against the first, and then the third did the same against them both… spreading her rear even further as the pressure mounted over and over, planning clearly to give its children access to their host no matter what.
Hearing what was going to be the last of Talia Icarus’s agonized outbursts, Amara averted her eyes and sunk down into the floor. She made herself into a tight ball that was barely noticeable. Those eggs had entered and were now careening through Talia’s rectum and into the colon. When X’s latest batch was hatched, their first meals wouldn’t be the womb that bore them but the Captain’s bowels.
The beast tilted back its head and roared… a shrill, bleating sound that was almost unrecognizable. Even though Talia had gone deadly silent, the new Mistress of the Mistrunner was still moving around. This was its ship now, it was declaring. It had boarded it a slave and had now mated with its previous Mistress… and Amara did not wish to share Talia’s fate. She ducked back against the machinery of the shuttle launch bay, remaining low and inconspicuous and covered with the mechanical scents of the launch bay and hoped to avoid detection.
That four-legged beast lifted Talia then and stormed out of the lifeboat-docks. Its flashed by where Amara hid fast enough that the resulting wind blew Amara’s red locks away from her face. Within a second, the victorious creature had disappeared behind some corner. In its mighty maws it had been carrying Talia Icarus with it, unmoving, limp, and silent. Amara wasn’t sure if she still lived. She wasn’t sure if she cared.
The Captain held her breath and counted the seconds, long after the huge form had vanished. She was terrified to rise. At last, however, the immediacy of the situation pressed itself upon her. She could wait no longer for that behemoth to put distance between itself and her. Feeling the coldness that had encloaked her, Amara Black rose and dashed forward toward the shuttle. She inspected the last remaining escape-pod present. “Atalanta, run diagnostics,” she said as she checked the panel itself.
“Fully operational, Captain,” Atalanta said back. Her voice was quiet, like even the Exalted was whispering. “You know, by HEF regulations, you are obligated to assist her.”
“Fuck that,” Amara whispered back. Still, she let out a sigh of relief. The shuttle was still fully operational and ready to go. At least Talia hadn’t managed to tamper with this one before being rudely interrupted, so there was that… but this was the last shuttle left, and it was only large enough for maybe as many as two dozen people. The realization that only that many individuals would make it off this doomed vessel tightened her gut.
Of course, right now, there was just her. For that to matter, she needed to come up with a way to rescue her crew.
She hit the communicator. “Atalanta. The Void Tracers must have a hive somewhere down by the turbines. Could you tell me anything about its interior or location?”
“Of course,” the doll-sized program replied, her diminutive head giving off an assured nod. “I’ve managed to acquire footage from its security cam.”
“Great! Show it!” she quickly pressed.
Vanishing, the clone’s purple hologram was instead replaced with a miniature monitor hovering just off the ground. The camera appeared to be unmoving, yet still its angle uncovered a great deal of intel. Through its screen, Amara could spot a true nest of hell. Void Tracers crawled and scampered all over the relatively small room’s walls, roof and floor like bees making their way through a beehive. All of the doors appeared to have been left opened and unlocked. Most disconcerting of all, all around the walls there hung the escapees of the Midgar-6! They were encased in some slime-like webbing naturally secreted from their predators before hardening into something more like concrete, held firm so that they couldn’t move either arms or legs.
She spotted the terrified visage of Leila right before a quick-moving Void Tracers climbed over her head. The eyes were bulging and trembling in insentient terror. Black recognized all of them. Though both Ri’she’a and X itself was unaccounted for, it was possible they were merely being hidden by the angle.
Lastly, she spotted Kelindra who had been sent down there to check on the engine, and her breath caught. The Science Officer was unquestionably dead… her unnatural offspring were nestled in the gruesome viscera and nibbling away. The face still remained untouched… twisted and frozen into the excruciated expression filled with panic she had worn at the moment of her death. Intellectually, Amara had known she was dead… it had been hours and hours since she had gone missing but…
Amara forced herself to look, burning the cost of her failure into her memory. “Cut the link,” Amara ordered, at last averting her eyes.
Atalanta did so. A dispiriting energy inflated the Captain’s chest. How could she ever manage to save her crew under a circumstance like this? They seemed doomed. Perhaps she should just take the remaining lifeboat and go…
Amara knew that that was never an option.
Diligently, she pondered, tried to spin some stratagem to have them saved. She knew that the longer she thought, the more of them were at risk of dying like Kelindra. The mere flash of her memory sent a jolt of anguish through the Captain. To think tha—
“Captain, move closer to the back wall,” Atalanta said imperiously.
Amara stiffened. “What?”
“Move closer to the back wall,” Atalanta repeated. A moment’s pause. “Please.”
Moving slowly, feeling frustrated, Amara obeyed… and as she did she saw what Atalanta had seen through the comm unit. What Amara had taken as some broken trash, now that she was closer she could see was no such thing.
It was a corpse, mostly covered by wreckage… but not a corpse like any that Amara had ever seen before.
The woman’s abdomen was burst open the same was Kelindra was but… her flesh wasn’t eaten, and there was no mess. The entire thing was covered in dust and grime more than anything biological… the body was an old one, and yet it didn’t seem decayed at all. And her head… it was gone. Based on the laspistol held in the woman’s hand, it was easy to guess how that had happened… and yet…
“Atalanta… what are we looking at?” Amara said softly.
“I… I don’t know, Captain,” Atalanta’s voice seemed almost shaky, quiet and distant. Confused. “I’ve never seen anything like this. I think… I think we found Dr Mori.”
Amara nodded in slow agreement, even as her words disagreed. “Yeah, somehow I don’t think we really did.” Atalanta didn’t disagree.
This… this didn’t change anything. It didn’t matter why this had happened. All that mattered was getting her people free. Curse Mori and curse Talia and curse the lot of them… they had made this mess, and then made it wor-
Amara gasped. Just like that, a eureka moment struck her. She had it! She actually might be able to get them all out. The red-haired woman began to run. Sprinting back into the corridor, she passed by scenes of battle one after the other until she found what she was looking for… a dropped star-cannon. She opened the weapon and began stripping its interior of parts. Her training had told her plenty about these weapons… safety features, what not to do, ways to keep their fairly unstable, high-energy battery safe. She resolutely proceeded to do the absolute opposite… working to turn the weapon into a makeshift bomb. She was, ironically, reminded of her earlier thoughts that a grenade would be actively suicidal on a starship. This was going to be much, much worse. It wouldn’t be a huge blast… but it would be more than big enough for what she intended. With the weapon panels still attached, the device could even be timed… a little bit, at least.
“Atalanta!” she commanded while tinkering with the explosives.
“Yes, Captain?” the Exalted asked.
“You can control the airlock and doors all over the ship, right?” she queried.
“But of course. As Captain, you really should kn—”
“Good! Because I’m going to be needing the two of us to synchronize our actions!” she quickly retorted. Though haggard, wounded and beyond the point of exhaustion… Amara felt adrenaline coursing through her veins. She was going to do it! She was going to save everyone! It was going to happen… or she was going to die trying.
Moving furtively, almost as if she was a Void Tracer herself, Amara made her way to the bottommost part of the ship. She had dropped her lasrifle and carried only her makeshift explosives now… If she ever came into a firefight within hearing-range of the hive, then she was doomed anyway. With incredible fortune, she managed to slink past all of the Void Tracers no doubt prowling around its vicinity… probably because the hive was too busy with its new victims. She’d been closing airlocks and ventilation shafts as she went, containing the damage she was about to do as best as she could, but it was impossible to do it too much… no matter how she looked at this, the ship was about to leak like a sieve.
Her mission brought her within eyesight of the engine reactor room itself. Glancing from behind a wall like she had when spying on Talia Icarus and X, she could gaze down a corridor and into the opened turbine room itself. Therein, she noticed something new that almost made her heart stop… Ri’she’a!
The Sethis had been suspended onto the floor. That slime-like webbing covered only her wrists and ankles, leaving her entire torso exposed… and atop her straddled a viciously snarling Void Tracer, its engorged ovipositor already jutting into the Sethis’ quim. She didn’t scream or thunder as the space-demon fucked her, merely seemed frozen in a death-like rigidity from her fright, visage sometimes twitching in pain from the organ pummeling into her womanhood. These were solid strokes, the entirety of its reproduction-stick slamming into her cunt with every stroke. The coitus was fully underway by the time Amara arrived to see it occurring. That monster could deposit its eggs inside of her at any moment! She had to move now! Almost maddened with panic, Amara quickened her steps.
She dashed and rolled over the open space. This brought her directly against the outer wall of the Mistrunner’s hull, one room over from the turbine chamber where the women were being held. It was here that Amara planted her charge. The bomb didn’t have a timer… she could merely start the feedback loop that would cause the battery to overload and explode, and that wouldn’t take longer than a mere 30 seconds, so she had to move. As silently as she could, but absolutely needing to be far away, she tip-toed at what had to be record speed until arriving behind the safety of a nearby doorway and bracing herself in place.
“Atalanta. Are you ready?”
“Yes, Commander,” the AI’s disembodied voice replied.
“Close airlock 27.”
The door connecting Amara to the hallway of the Void Tracers suddenly had its airlock deployed, banging down and separating her part of the ship from theirs. The blast came almost immediately after, a detonation that rocked the entire lower part of the ship. In her mind’s eye, Amara could see it… could see the ragged hole torn in the Mistrunner’s side, imperiling their entire life-support system.
Talia had been onto something, but also off-base. You couldn’t snuff out Void Tracers by simply venting the atmosphere. You also needed to use that opportunity to get the damned things off the ship.
Even through that thick steel which constituted the airlock, she could hear the fierce suctioning of oxygen alongside the shrill noises of screaming raptors as they began being pulled out into the midnight void! Air, Void Tracers, and anything that wasn’t nailed down was now being deluged right into open space and made to meet its end… but not her crewmembers. This was the brilliance of her plan! The space-locusts’ entrapment had been made to work against them… the people were safely held by the webbing, locked securely in place while all their captors were sucked out of the ship and sent tumbling through the void. She hadn’t blown the hole in the hive chamber, only an adjacent room, allowing it to suck out everything… Any second now, the hive would be empty of threats and Atalanta would be able to close the second airlock between the rupture and her crew, beginning to re-pressurize the hive to save them all and…
“Captain!” the Exalted said with a level of worry that Black had never heard her use through her endocrine management system, clearly frame-jacked. Instantly, Amara felt her blood grow cold. “The explosion… I think it caused some damage to the airlock control functions! The remote systems I use aren’t working!” No… there was no endocrine control in her voice now… she seemed genuinely afraid and helpless. “There’s still the main system but this damned ship wasn’t built to interface with a system like me! I can’t activate it… it has to be done by a crewman on the bridge!” she exclaimed.
Amara didn’t answer, or hesitate. She simply ran.
Stomping through the hallway, the Captain windmilled her leaded legs and panted through burning lungs. Air wasn’t really the concern… the life support systems would still be trying to provide it, giving enough to the crew to keep them able to breathe for at least a little while. The real worry was the cold. She knew that her crew could only survive for minutes before succumbing to the low pressure or freezing to death. She had to make it to the bridge… Exhaustion could not beat her now!
Pouring with hot perspiration, Amara made a sharp turn and suddenly had the opened room within eyesight. She puffed and ran and puffed. They could not all die now. Not due to a stupid mishap like this! She could not stand the possibility of seeing Ri’she’a dead!
The bridge grew closer. Quickly she closed the distance between it and her. It was within reach!
Quick as lightning, an enormous Void Tracer jumped out from an adjoining doorway and placed itself between her and the room! It snarled at Amara so that frothy saliva spilt out from its gummy lips, exposing fangs. The woman stopped dead in her tracks, shocked to see one of their numbers still living. Through lacking a face, it seemed so palpably vicious and enraged that it almost appeared that it understood that Amara had been the architect of its kindred’s doom… so much smarter than she had been lead to believe. Upon the Void Tracer’s fin-topped visage… there sat a deeply ingrained scar in the shape of an X!
She had to get through this vicious hammerhead, or her crew died. Every second counted… and she was unarmed, having left her rifle behind. Amara flexed her muscles as if ready to brawl… but deep in her heart, she knew the truth – Even if she could make it through this thing at all, she would never make it in time…