Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Aliens Overboard - Flash Fiction

Here's a sample from my Kosmosflot universe, a flash fiction entitled:

by Viktor Kuprin

After the battle at Attalus III was lost, we retreated with the Tsoor flotilla. Wreckage streamed off the alien ships as we made the mind-wrenching transition into S-space. I closed my eyes, praying that our cruiser wouldn’t shake itself apart.

It was only a micro-jump, just far enough to escape the attacking Helgrammites. The Tsoor group-leader didn’t believe our damaged ships could survive an extended flight. He or it or whatever was right. Three bulkheads ruptured when we re-entered normal space. I hoped no one was in them.

A bridge officer called out that we had suffered 40 percent casualties and 60 percent of our systems were red-lined. He had to shout – all intraship comm was offline.

The tech seated beside me yelled, “What are they doing? Captain!” I shouldn’t have, but I and everyone else looked away from our consoles and glanced at the main viewer.

It was one of the Tsoor ships, still surrounded by St. Elmo’s fire. Without waiting for the warp flux to dissipate, our alien allies had sent a repair team out onto their hull. They looked like four jellyfish in bubble-domed vac suits as they struggled on a safety tether. Insane! Yes, Tsoor biology is very different than ours. Even so, I knew they weren’t immune from electrocution or intense radiation. What could kill us was lethal to them, too.

“They’re desperate to send a damage-control team out like that,” said the captain. He nodded toward the chief-of-the-ship. “Send a runner to engineering. We’ve … ” The Tsoor ship lurched off the screen when an entire section of its hull exploded. We watched in silence as the four aliens were thrown into space. They flashed past our ship, tumbling and spinning on the now-useless tether.

The captain stood and shouted, “Man overboard protocol! Full retros!” He turned to face me. “Can we launch a cutter?”

The launch tubes were clear and operational. “Yes, sir.”

“Take Kuzmenko with you. Go!”

Our inertia was great, and the cutter’s engines burned at full thrust for over an hour before we actually started moving toward the alien cast-offs. No one knew how much atmosphere their vac suits carried.

Kuzmenko and I stood in the open hatch, and shot a line toward the drifting aliens. A tentacle-like arm caught it, and gave a yank.

The alien farthest away raised one of its tentacles. It held some kind of metallic tool, a small blade. With a single motion, it slashed the line and pushed off from its three companions.

“What in bloody hell is it doing?” I cried. The first Tsoor grasped its way into the airlock. I pulled them inside.

Kuzmenko pointed toward the drifting alien. “That one wants to die. Now that won’t do.” He keyed his suit’s propulsion and launched himself into space. The alien struggled briefly, but Kuzmenko was stronger.

We never learned exactly why that Tsoor went suicidal. Warrior’s honor, shock, or grief … who knows? There was no translator or dictionary onboard the cutter. The four aliens couldn’t tell us.

Nonetheless, by the end of the day, every Tsoor in the flotilla knew and honored the name Kuzmenko.

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