Black Sun: What you hide finds you 1
January 31, 2012 § 1 Comment
It was supposed to be easy. A small little planet out on the edge of the galactic arm, whirling around a star no one had claimed or seemed to care about. The six of them would land, snatch up some slaves and pop back out again. No hivequeens would be implicated since they were all ‘exiles’ and couldn’t be traced back to any of the Merchantilians. The locals were supposedly bipedal, with prehensile tails that could be used like a third arm and relatively sharp senses that would make them valuable for guard work once properly conditioned. Hesthet had taken the job after doing her usual research. The money was in mineral wealth, rare metals that could be traded in half a hundred systems. It all seemed perfect.
They’d landed fairly easily. The natives were just figuring out how to use steam, namely because they were so well adapted to their environment that technology had only started developing out of pure curiosity and had no real selection pressure backing it up. Sleek, smooth skin with hundreds of iridescent denticles lining it, they glowed faintly in the amber light of their day. The first four had been easy to catch, they’d walked right up to the ship. There wasn’t much on the planet big enough to eat them. They didn’t fear anything, their huge black eyes blinking curiously as they used their eyelids like strobes to see the ship in UV. Hesthet found them haunting, beautiful as she seized their minds with a thought and forced them to walk into the stasis deck. They were not active – they had no mental defenses – but she could feel the horror in their bright, eager, adaptive minds and it told her that they could probably be broken. Some hive queen somewhere would be getting herself some quality slaves.
“Hest.” Her second, Mrevket, walked around the ship. He was large for a male, with long lean limbs and a lanky face, dotted with fine hairs no matter how often he shaved. Which was often, as she found body hair annoying. “We haven’t heard back from Tren, Nirren or Klahet.”
“I can’t imagine they’ve run into trouble. These things barely understand how to hunt local game.” She pointed to one of the hopping fuzzballs, which was as near as they could tell the most numerous prey item on the local menu. “Unless those three somehow got spooked off of a cliff, they should be fine.”
Nirren found her throat closed off. She strained her will and found it unable to reach anyone. Her leg was hot even through the armored excursion suit.
The heat was due to the gigantic thing made of fire that was holding her by her leg off of the ground. It looked like a Lokari, a male, except it was wearing strange clothes, was far larger than any male of her species, had facial hair, and there was that whole being made entirely out of fire thing. Nirren had already urinated into her suit’s recycler. She wished she could do it again.
There were two women standing in the clearing. One of them was dark, like the soil under her feet, with sweeps and whorls of blue and turquoise color all over her body and a face as haughty as a hive queen. More, it actually looked like a hive queen’s face, the angles of the cheekbones and jawline were iconic, sculpted by generations of genetic artisans for perfection. She was definitely a Lokar. She was holding Tren up without touching him, exerting her will casually while picking through his brain. Each time her eyebrow arched he would jerk and twitch. Nirren knew she wasn’t being gentle. Even over the smell of burning plants from the roaring fire that was holding her up by her leg oh and it was shaped like some kind of giant hair man – she bit her cheek to try and stop the panic.
The other woman was also covered in color, but where the first one was dark and sheathed in blue she was absolutely pale, the color of precipitated ice, with jagged swaths of red coiled around her limbs. Her hair was the color of an open fire, and the flames that held her by her ankle were clearly emitting from the woman’s back. She was all angle and bone, almost no spare flesh on her, and her eyes stared at Nirren.
They spoke out loud to one another. It was not a language she knew. The blue one was flat, almost without affect, but Nirren could hear a Hasrathi accent in the way she rolled her vowel sounds. The other, no idea. Never heard an accent like that in her life. She turned and pointed her hand and a plume of fire erupted from the lines on her skin, coiled into the form of a claw and hauled Klahet off of the ground, searing away the surface layer of his suit. Sparks and melting matter dribbled cherry red onto the loamy soil as he was tossed at the blue one’s feet like merchandise.
They were going to rip his mind away too. Then what? Then her? What were they and what were they going to –
“You don’t care what we are.” The blue one turned her eyes to Nirren, looking her full in the face and pushing aside her walls, latching onto her thoughts. “And it won’t matter to you if I tell you, because when I’m done with you there won’t be a mind in there anyway.”
“Just let me kill them.”
“Killing them is merciful and it doesn’t tell me who their leader is, Lizabeth.” The pressure increased, as memories rose unbidden to Nirren’s mind, were experienced and then dismissed in a way unlike remembering. “This one knows the most, I think. They’re matrilineal, and outbounders. They wouldn’t tell a male anything useful. No hivequeen would risk this kind of sloppy move, so close to unexplored space. These kind are useful, disposable. But they may have left traces.”
“So what? Even if you find out who is paying them the Old Old would never let us raid a hive queen.” The burning one gritted her teeth. “Let me know when you’re done. At least I can spare them having to live like that.”