MONTEZUMA, Ch.11 & 12
By Kenneth J.
Crist, BP Editor
Implants & incense
When Gunny Hatcher
was sufficiently rested the debriefing began. He had seen nothing of Marla, but
this did not surprise him; after all, she was an officer. He had been subjected
to a much more thorough physical examination and measured and fitted for a
prosthetic arm. This involved taking molds from his good arm, which would be
reversed to make his artificial limb as near an exact mirror image as possible.
He had been assured that his prosthesis would allow him not only a full range
of motion and near-normal strength but its nerve-stimulation module would allow
him to feel the same sensations his own arm had provided. The limb would be
built on Earth and shipped within a few weeks.
In spite of his
ordeal, Gunny Hatcher was found to be in quite good condition, all things
considered. His diet was adjusted to suit his needs and a light exercise
program was prescribed for him, under the watchful eyes of a cute female
Gunnery Sergeant, Jan Whitmore. She assured him that she would get him in top
condition very soon. After the first day’s “light” workout, Billy believed her.
He came out of the shower with his ass dragging, sure he was going to be sore
until his body caught up to the routine.
Just about a week
after their rescue, Billy attended his first debrief and it didn’t go well. His
questioners were a captain, a major and two colonels, who seemed inclined to
believe nothing Billy told them. Only his military training and respect for
authority kept him from telling them to ‘shove it’.
Nobody had ever
seen the inside of an operational Glassie hiveship and lived to tell about it.
They found Billy’s story as incredible as the ravings of a madman, and they as
much as said so. Whether their motivation was to try and shake his story, or they
really were incredulous, Gunny Hatcher could not say, but by the week’s end,
they seemed to be coming around. He was smart enough to know they were
doubtless debriefing Lieutenant Kinkaid and getting the same story from her. As
things progressed, their skepticism waned and they became more interested in
particularly interested in the disease or epidemic that swept the Glassie ship
and killed all their captors. They not only asked endless questions that seemed
to have no bearing on the event, they also returned him to sick bay and took
samples of everything from his skin to his feces, including tartar scrapings
from his teeth. It soon became apparent that they were looking for the factor
that caused the deaths and would not rest until they found it.
Marla Kinkaid was
getting much the same treatment as Gunny Hatcher, although with somewhat more respect.
Still, she endured the debriefings, the skepticism, the taking of samples, and
the endless questions. Several times during her examinations, she caught
glances exchanged between doctors and other medical personnel that told her she
wasn’t being let in on everything they knew or suspected.
The samples being
taken were being transferred daily to a research lab elsewhere on Earth Station
where several captured Glassie warriors were secreted in a fairly plush POW
facility. The existence of these specimens was not general knowledge; until
Billy and Marla showed up with their incredible tale of the deadly epidemic
aboard the hiveship, they were merely being used for normal research. They were
not at all cooperative, and, as with any vicious animal, required care in
handling. Their very nature made them hateful and dangerous. Perhaps that was
why nobody seemed to mind inoculating them with every factor that could be
found on Billy and Marla. The hope was to find something that would readily
kill them. So far, the research team had had no luck.
The crews of the
Deep Space Salvage Vessels Lunar Raven and Coyote spent eleven
days in frantic activity, stripping everything useable from the hulk of Montezuma
and cutting her up into chunks small enough to fit inside the vast, empty
salvage bays within their own crafts.
accomplished while they were under way to Mars. The material and equipment
would sell more readily there, to colonists who tended to ask fewer questions
and were glad to get anything at all since the war started. They were a proud
lot, mostly misfits and malcontents who had little use for Earth government,
anyway. Getting their hands on stolen goods or raw materials from an Earth ship
wouldn’t bother them in the least.
Trojan Asteroids lie in two clouds, one sixty degrees ahead of Jupiter and one
sixty degrees behind. It was in these clouds of tiny planets, ranging in size
from a few hundred meters to a few kilometers in diameter that the Glassies hid
their fleet, while more warriors were bred and readied for what was believed by
their leaders to be a final assault on Earth and mankind. When, in a few
months, the next crop of soldiers was ready, they would make the strongest and
most coordinated effort yet to eliminate the human threat from their universe.
Dr. Emmet Carlisle
sat at the head of a polished table in a medium-sized conference room located
in the medical wing of Earth Station. Also present at the meeting were the
Earth Station Commander, General Warner, the Sub-Commander, Colonel Brierly,
two more doctors, and a stenographer. The meeting had been in progress for some
time, though not much had been accomplished.
“So, do we know
exactly how these implants work?” the General asked.
“No, sir,” Dr.
Carlisle answered, “we don’t. We do know they are planted under the scalps of
both Lieutenant Kinkaid and Gunnery Sergeant Hatcher, and we suspect that they
are the reason for all the nightmares they both complain of; but, as to their
functioning, we have no clue. We don’t think the implants are transmitting
information, at least not on any frequency we could detect. We think they may
be receiving, though. They may be
some type of brainwashing device the Glassies use, or maybe just a tracking
device. Anyway, we’re keeping both subjects under close observation.”
“Are you thinking
sabotage?” the General asked.
possibility, sir. If the Glassies can influence these two, there’s no telling
what they might do.”
“Why not just take
out the implants?”
“We’d rather leave
them in, sir, and study the subjects, so we know what the intent was.”
“That could pose a
danger to this station, and I’m not sure it’s worth the risk.”
General, we have them under control. Nothing’s going to be damaged and no one’s
going to get hurt.”
“Let’s hope not.
What about finding the factor that killed the Glassies, out on that hiveship?”
working on that, sir. So far, we haven’t found anything positive, but I’m
confident that it’s just a matter of time.”
“I admire your
confidence, but time may be the one thing we don’t have a lot of, doctor.”
cosmetics?” the doctor asked.
Marla Kinkaid was
being interviewed for about the eleventh or twelfth time by these people and it
was getting to be repetitious.
“Yeah, you know,
lipstick and stuff?”
“When we were
picked up by Lunar Raven, I left everything behind. I wasn’t using much
of anything, anyway.”
“Let’s talk about
specifics. What were you using? We
need brand names of everything you can remember.”
For the next hour,
they discussed Marla’s deodorant, lipstick, blush, nail polish, and feminine
products. They’d obtain samples of each over the next few days, inoculate the
captive Glassies, and look for reactions.
perfume?” the doctor asked.
“Well, I hardly
ever used any, except a few times when me and Gunny...well, you know...”
needn’t be embarrassed. You were alone out there, facing death. He was a normal
man and you were a normal woman. People have needs. So tell me about your
“It’s some stuff I
bought in Rio on my last vacation. It’s called Brazilian Encounter...”
Nine hours later
two operatives broke into a warehouse in Curitiba, Brazil. They had already
captured and interviewed the one-time owner of the now defunct “Perfume La Brasilia”
company. He had assured them that all of the leftover stock was warehoused
here. As their flashlights swept the darkness, they could see where barrels had
sat in the dust, but the last of the “Brazilian Encounter” was gone. The
thieves had been here first.
Marla Kinkaid was
curled up with a detective novel in the VIP lounge of Section 2 of Earth
Station. This was a large, cheery room in officers’ country, which could have
been a place of relaxation on almost any civilized world, had it not been for
the intrusion of the white-painted structure of the station and the stars and
Earth wheeling by outside. Large windows, made of Lexan3, allowed a panoramic
view, if a person cared to look and was not subject to motion sickness.
Marla, who had no
problems in that area, could sit there for hours. She was curled up in a window
seat which was formed by merely adding cushions to the eighteen-inch-wide
interior ledge of the window. In her lap was Timmy, one of the many cats aboard
Earth station. Most were private pets and some were feral, but others, like
Timmy, had become “station” pets, belonging to no one but cared for by every
animal lover aboard. Timmy had taken a shine to Marla and become her constant
companion. He seemed to satisfy a need within her that had been gnawing away
since the death of the “Chef.”
windows were in the sides of the “wheels” which formed the living areas of the
station, her view was of the other, outer wheel and the Earth beyond. The outer
wheel appeared stationary to her and the Earth tumbled over and over like
clothes in a dryer, though not as quickly. Still, if one didn’t look away
periodically, it could make you dizzy.
She stared out at
the view, firm jaw set and eyes slightly narrowed, her novel forgotten for the
moment. When she arose that morning, she’d had another bout of morning sickness
and, later in the day, had stopped in at the drug store over in Section 1 and
purchased an early pregnancy test kit. Its results had been positive.
During the time
she and Gunny Hatcher had been trapped aboard Montezuma, she had given
little thought to possibly becoming a mother. She was aware, of course, that
her contraceptive implant had run out, but when that happened she hadn’t been
seeing anyone and it just didn’t seem important.
Now, she wondered
why the medical teams who had examined her so closely hadn’t caught the fact
that she was going to have a child. Or perhaps they did and just chose not to
tell her. But she was bound to find out as soon as she skipped her next
menstrual period, even if it weren’t for the sickness. She wondered now what
else they weren’t telling her.
She also wondered
what to do about the child. Of course, she could just go buy an abortion pill
and terminate the pregnancy. Perfectly legal. No repercussions of any kind. It
was her body, after all. Recent interpretations of constitutional amendments
had given every woman the right to choose within the first trimester whether
they would carry a baby to term. Now would be a good time to end it, while the
fetus was small enough to expel without difficulty. But every time she thought
of that, she started another wrestling match with her conscience.
This child was
half Billy Hatcher and, in spite of the fact that before Montezuma they
would have had little in common, now Marla could envision a day when the war
might be over and she could be married to Billy (or someone very much like him,
should he not survive).
She hadn’t seen
Billy since they came aboard Earth Station. Attempts to contact him via phone
message and electronic mail had all gone unanswered, and Marla suspected her
messages were being intercepted. She could not imagine that Billy would snub
her, nor fathom any reason why the military would keep them apart, but it was
happening. Military protocol more or less forbade Billy from contacting her,
since she was female and a superior officer; she figured they would have run
into each other merely by chance by now. Her thoughts were interrupted by
someone near her right elbow clearing his throat. She turned to find
Sub-Commander Clifton Brierly standing about three feet away.
She quickly hopped
to her feet, dumping Timmy unceremoniously on the deck, and assumed the
position of attention, saying, “Good Afternoon, sir!”
Lieutenant,” the colonel said with a deprecating wave of his hand. “Nice view,
“Yes, sir. Quite
“Let’s have a seat,
Lieutenant,” the colonel said, motioning to a table and chairs not far away.
What the hell’s
this all about? Marla wondered. The colonel was a dapper little guy, about
four inches shorter than her, with more than just a slight paunch and a bad
comb-over, but he was a “wheel”, so she’d better pretend to respect him, even
if she didn’t, really. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Timmy stalking out
of the lounge, miffed at the dumping. He’ll
probably get over it.
When they were
seated, a waiter scurried over and the colonel ordered a whisky sour for
himself. Marla ordered straight orange juice. Alcohol would be bad for the
Marla...may I call you Marla?” Marla smiled slightly and nodded, and the
colonel continued, “You know, I really owe you an apology.”
“An apology, sir?”
right, Marla,” the man was being positively oily. “Almost two months ago, a
memo came across my desk about a possible nuclear detonation in space and a
large object tracked nearby and I blew it off. The message was from a salvage
vessel, commanded by a man I knew to be a notorious drunk, so I just gave it no
credence at all. I’m afraid, after reading your reports, that I caused you and
this Gunnery Sergeant of yours to be stuck out there a lot longer than you
needed to be.”
drunk would be Bill DeForrest.”
right. A drunk and a womanizer and totally unreliable. But still, if only I had
known that someone such as yourself, someone so lovely...”
“Not your fault,
colonel.” Marla said. She was starting to get the picture now. This little
tyrant was going to try and score with her.
“Still, Marla, I
feel somewhat responsible...”
The hell you do,
you little prick. You just wanna get in my pants.
“I thought perhaps
you might let me make it up to you. Perhaps dinner some evening soon?”
“Nothing to make
up for, Colonel. Besides, it might not look good, militarily speaking, for us
to be seen together socially. Someone might report it to your wife or a
superior officer. I don’t think I’d be comfortable with that, although I do
appreciate your gracious invitation.”
Marla could see
that she had effectively cooled his jets, at least temporarily. She had no
doubt he’d soon try some other ploy. She glanced at her watch and said, “If you’ll
excuse me, colonel, I’m late for my hairdresser. Thank you for the drink, sir.”
The colonel stood
as she left, rather glassy-eyed at the whirlwind brush-off. She would not be
easy, this one, he mused.
awoke from an afternoon nap, exhausted and sweaty. His sleep was filled with
vivid dreams nowadays, dreams of the rain forest and the singing of the
Glassies. Dreams of war and extermination. In his dreams, the battles never
ceased and the singing went ever onward, a destiny that he had inherited intact
from another culture. In his dreams, he was still a soldier, but that was where
the similarity ended. When he dreamed now, he rode the giant hiveships to a
small solar system that held a blue planet full of hateful beings called “humans”
and he could not wait to taste their blood.
In Brazil, the
hunt for the perfume called “Brazilian Encounter” went grimly on. The
operatives charged with the task of finding and securing samples of it were
given a free hand and an unlimited budget. These were intelligent men, men of
imagination and resourcefulness. They were not, however, men of compassion, not
when it came to anything having to do with winning the war against the
Every man, woman
and child in the entire neighborhood around the warehouse was taken into
custody and questioned. Little thought was given to gentleness, the prime
objective being the recovery of the perfume, rather than the winning of hearts
They learned that
men had come in the night with a red truck and taken away barrels. “Did anyone
see a license number?” Nao, seņor. “Did
anyone see the faces of the men?”
Nao, seņor. “Did anyone
see which direction they went?” Ah, sim, seņor. Este. “East?”
Sim, seņor, toward
Paranagua was a
small fishing village with docks. From there, the barrels were no doubt shipped
up the coast to São Paulo or Rio. Hadn’t the woman said she bought it in Rio?
Thirty agents spread themselves up the coast, checking open-air markets,
department stores, boutiques and private shops. Everywhere the question was the
same: “Do you have or where may one obtain Brazilian Encounter?”
In the Trojan
asteroids, thirty hiveships paced the numerous chunks of spinning rock and
metal, remaining camouflaged from inquisitive patrols by the sheer number of
radar contacts. Queens laid eggs, which hatched into larvae with voracious
appetites. These were lovingly fed and tended until they entered the pupal
stage, at which point they were packed into chambers or cocoons for their
change to adult stage warriors. The process would continue until there was no
longer an adequate food supply or sufficient room to contain them. Then the
ships would de-orbit and the Glassies would pour forth to raid and replenish
In the inner
planets, preparations were underway for the next assault no one doubted would
come. Battle damage was repaired, even as new ships were being built. New
weapons were being developed at an astounding rate, even for humans. Cities
were being rebuilt underground, with personal shelters the norm for every
being recruited from middle schools and care homes. Even a boy of twelve or an
old person with an alert mind could make some contribution to the war effort.
Many a dowager, wearing incontinence diapers, had learned to watch a radar
screen or stuff ammo boxes from her wheelchair. The “Granny Brigades” already
had their own awards system and some wore more medals than any general in the
In Brazil, in the
small village of Alfredo Chaves, an operative at last found “Brazilian
Encounter” being sold in a stall at the open-air market. He bought all the
wizened old vendor had, twenty vials, then questioned her. Where did she obtain
it? A shrug. A man comes around...
“What does this man look like?” Another shrug. Like any other man.
“Does he drive?” Sim, seņor, he drives a red truck. “When is he due
again?” Another shrug. Any time, Seņor. Perhaps esta noite.
The operatives sent the
samples to their contact and settled in to watch and wait.
Billy Hatcher had
decided to see the shrink. His nightmares were starting to affect his appetite
and his general well-being. He was sure he was developing an ulcer.
On the other hand,
he had received his prosthetic arm and was in therapy. It was working out
nicely and it should, considering that it had cost the taxpayers sixty thousand
credits. Not only did he have a useable hand and arm again, it was so lifelike
that most people didn’t give it a second look. Best of all, he no longer had
the tingles and phantom limb sensations. His nervous system had adapted quickly
to the way the arm felt and the sensations it produced, including heat, cold,
pressure, and touch. The only thing it couldn’t do was transmit pain. Billy
thought that might be a definite advantage, especially in battle.
overseeing Billy and Marla’s cases were meeting almost daily now. They knew
Marla was aware of her own pregnancy by now and was starting to experience
nightmares similar to Billy’s, though not yet of the same intensity. Billy had
asked for the services of a psychiatrist, something most battle-hardened
veterans prided themselves on not needing. He had told one of the doctors that
he was becoming fearful that he might hurt someone, and got urges he wasn’t
sure he would be able to continue to cope with. He didn’t want the
responsibility of someone’s blood on his hands.
The doctors were
deliberating over how soon they should take out the implants. They had also
noticed that whenever Billy and Marla were having their nightmares, the
Glassies being held as prisoners showed an increased level of agitation, well
above their normal, merely vicious nature.
The doctors had
received word that the perfume had been found in Brazil and was being shipped
by the next shuttle. They were aware they were walking a fine line between
complacency and loss of control. The detail that was assigned to watch Billy
and Marla was doubled.
In Brazil, the man
in the red truck showed up in Alfredo Chaves and was taken into custody, along
with his eight-year-old daughter and six-year-old son. Questioned as to the
whereabouts of the remaining Brazilian Encounter, he steadfastly refused to
cooperate. He was made aware of the gravity of the situation and the fact that
if the Earth lost this war, no one would survive. He still refused to give up
the perfume. It was not until agents tied him in a chair and made him watch as
they prepared to torture his son that he finally gave up the location of the
stash. The remains of the world’s supply of Brazilian Encounter was hidden in a
shed behind his house.
eleven barrels of the stuff was on its way out of Brazil and the original owner
of the perfume had a check for thirty thousand dollars. The man in the red
truck had nothing but his children, safe and sound. Still, he counted himself
lucky. The operatives had been very dangerous.
From the stable of
six Glassies that Earth science had managed to keep alive, one was selected for
inoculation. It was carefully isolated and a decision was made as to how the
Brazilian Encounter was to be administered. The scientists decided to start
with an airborne mist. If that didn’t produce results, they could move on to
direct inoculation. They needn’t have worried. The Glassie began to show signs
of agitation within twenty minutes of the time a fine mist was sprayed into its
containment cubicle. It began constantly trying to clean and groom itself,
running its feelers through its mandibles and chewing at its feet. Most any
Glassie kept in confinement would pace its containment area whenever it was not
asleep; however, the infected specimen began a concentrated effort to flee or
escape that included some astounding leaps onto walls and even the ceiling.
hours it was starting to show obvious signs of weakness. It no longer leapt or
threw itself against walls or bars. It became quite docile, merely sitting and
feeling poorly. After forty-eight hours it had stopped eating and was hurling
everything back up. In seventy-two hours, it was having difficulty breathing
and, in four days, it was dead.
Now the medical
team aboard Earth Station bundled up the Glassie’s remains to be shipped back
to Earth. There an autopsy of sorts would be done to find out why it died.
The deep space
salvage vessels Coyote and Lunar Raven arrived in orbit around
Mars. They made a total of two laps around the planet and were preparing to
send down a shuttle to start negotiation of sales of the equipment and materiel
salvaged from Montezuma. Before a shuttle could be launched, however,
they were hailed and boarded by Federation troops who had been alerted to watch
for them. All personnel were taken into custody and held, pending an
DeForrest and Arthur Griswold would be charged with piracy of a United
Federation Space Vessel and reckless endangerment of military personnel and,
perhaps, even attempted murder. Their vessels and all contents were impounded
and sealed, to be held as evidence for the court. As time permitted, all
contents were inventoried and a video record was made for the benefit of a
Hatcher awoke from a deep, slow-moving murky dream to the buzzing of the
interphone. He had no idea how long it had been ringing. Its tone had blended
so well with the song of the Glassies in his dream, that it had taken him a
while to respond. Again, he had been in the deep, cool rainforest, listening to
the dripping of moisture, tinkling of leaves, and the soft rasping insect song
of the alien creatures.
He reached out and
slapped the “active” button without even sitting up.
At the sound of
Marla’s voice, he sat up quickly and looked at the monitor. He felt his heart
give a leap as he saw her face. Damn, she looked good!
“Hi, Ell-tee. Long
time no see.”
“That’s no shit.
They’ve been keeping me from calling you. I finally raised enough hell, they
let my calls go through.”
“Why would they do
“I don’t know, but
they’re probably listening to us now.”
Billy was smart
enough to know what that meant. Keep the conversation strictly professional. No
bantering, no fraternization, no hint of intimacy. “So, what’s new, Ma’am?” He
hardly ever called her that but it would let her know he understood.
“They believe they’ve
found the factor.”
“The thing that
killed the Glassies.”
“Oh, no shit? What
“My perfume. Or
more correctly, something in my perfume. They’re working on finding out
why it kills ‘em right now.”
“Yeah, Gunny, the
best. Maybe we can still win this friggin’ war.”
“Where are they
“Over in Section
Two. Officer’s country. You know they have cats over here?”
“Oh, yeah, we do
too. They’re runnin’ all over the place—mostly underfoot, but everybody likes
havin’ ‘em around.”
“Yeah, they tell
me they take to low gravity really well.”
Conversation was starting to drag and both of them realized they couldn’t say
any of the things that were really on their minds—their time together, their
futures, their love for each other. Billy wondered if they might be able to
meet somewhere. He reached over and flipped a switch to record the
“Hey, you got your
said, holding it up, flexing the fingers of his bionic hand, “pretty cool, huh?”
“Have you been
doing any exploring?” he asked.
“Oh, yeah. I’m all
over the place, as far as they’ll let me go.”
“Yeah, me too.
Especially up the walls, if you know what I mean.”
affecting me that way, too. Up the walls and across the ceilings.”
“Yeah, I can’t
leave Section Two without a pass. There’s an MP station on every access port.”
“What’s your cabin
number? In case I need to call you?”
“It’s two dash
one-one-seven. You just punch that in on your keypad and hit “star.”
“Got it. Okay,
Ell-Tee, I’ll let ya go. I gotta get back to sleep.”
“Sorry I woke ya,
“I’m not. It was
good to hear your voice and see ya, Ell-Tee.”
Billy wondered if she was smart enough to catch his ceiling reference. He got
out of bed and spent the next twenty minutes going over his cabin for hidden
video cameras and microphones. He found nothing. Then he got dressed and
climbed up on his bunk and unscrewed a ceiling panel. Lifting it away and
sliding it over, he poked his head up into the crawl space above. It was dark
but not inky. He could see well enough to navigate. It was a maze of wires and
pipes, everything color-coded and precisely laid out. Every fifteen feet there
were reference numbers painted on the walls and every forty-five feet there
were small pressure hatches.
He knew what
direction Section two was in and he had a flashlight and time on his hands.
Might as well explore. If Marla was as smart as he figured she was, she’d be
finding him somewhere up here.
He didn’t have to
wait long. Billy was crawling along on all fours, keeping his weight on the
struts rather than the panels, so nothing would flex and make his presence
known. He had proceeded as quietly as possible through the false ceiling access
and gone over three sections, carefully closing and dogging each access hatch
as he went through. He saw nothing to indicate that the hatches might be wired
to a security board somewhere. Most people on the station probably didn’t even
know they existed. They were kept closed and dogged in case of a meteor strike,
which might open a compartment to space. The idea was to keep the rest of the
station air-tight, isolating the problem until it could be repaired.
Soon, he saw a
flashlight ahead, turned off his light, and found a large strut to crouch
behind. When he was sure it was Marla, he flashed his light and she came to
They had an
awkward moment when Billy couldn’t decide whether they should salute or hug
each other. Marla solved that one by wrapping both arms around him and kissing
him heartily on the mouth. It was nice to be able to respond with two arms. At
last they broke off the kiss and she said, next to his ear, “I’ve missed you.”
“God, I know it. I’ve
missed you, too.”
“Any idea where we
could go to be alone?”
Billy chuckled and
she asked, “What?”
“We spent five
months alone in space, finally get back to civilization, and we can’t wait to
be alone again.”
“Yeah, well, it’s
been a while, ya know?”
“Yeah. So, your
place or mine?”
she said, shining her light at the nearest reference number, “see? We’re in
“Okay, you lead, I’ll
making their way back to Marla’s quarters.
At the same time
that Billy and Marla were crawling around in the ceilings, arranging their
clandestine meeting, another meeting was taking place in Section two. Present
in the conference room was the Station Commander, General Warner, the
Sub-Commander, Clifton Brierly, Dr. Carlisle, and three other doctors. They
were discussing the death of the Glassie they had “perfumed” and other topics.
“Killed it deader’n
hell in four days, huh?” General Warner said.
“Yes, sir,” Dr.
Carlisle responded, “and we need to repeat the experiment, to be sure but it
looks like we’ve found our weapon. Of course, we’ll need to figure out why and
how it works, you know, isolate whatever is in that stuff that kills ‘em. It
appears to affect their respiratory system first, then their nervous system and
“Good, good. Fed
Headquarters assures me you can have all the money and resources you need, but
they want it post haste and need to figure out a delivery system.”
“All we’ll need to
do is get it inside their environment, General. It should spread throughout
their hive ships within days.”
“Okay, how about
our other problems?”
Kinkaid and Gunny Hatcher? No change, really. They don’t seem to be turning
violent or anything, although Hatcher has asked for psychiatric help.”
“He must be pretty
desperate then. He’s gotta know this won’t help his career.”
to go along with it for now, General. We want to see if anything changes as
these captive Glassies sicken and die.”
“I’m not sure I
like the idea of having them running around loose with these implants in their
heads. If one of them snaps, they could do a lot of damage, maybe cost us a lot
“We can’t really
confine ‘em, General, not without an explanation. They’re considered heroes,
you know. Besides, we know where they are at all times, and, whenever they’re
not in quarters, they’re being watched. They can’t do anything we don’t know
Not strictly true,
you prick, Billy thought. He was perched three feet above the doctor’s
head, in the false ceiling. He and Marla had crawled directly above the
conference room and paused, mesmerized by the conversation. Implants. It certainly
explained a lot.
Billy looked over at Marla and, in the dim light, could just make out the frown
line between her eyes. He could also see that her complexion had darkened. She
was pissed off and getting ready to do something stupid. He motioned her
quickly to move on and, in three minutes, they dropped down into her quarters.
When she opened her mouth to speak, Billy clapped his hand over it, then turned
on some music and her shower. Then they crawled into her bunk and pulled
blankets over their heads and had a conference.
said, in the hot, muffled darkness, “We’ve got fucking implants?”
“It would explain
“The way that
queen was able to show us things...”
“The way our
feelings have changed...”
been having bad thoughts, stuff like murder and sabotage...”
“We’ve gotta do
“I agree, but
“Gotta get these
things outta our heads.”
“They wanta leave ‘em
in...an’ study us.”
“Hey, I ain’t no
lab rat, okay? They can study all they want, but I’m gettin’ this thing
outta my head.”
“How we gonna do
it? We don’t even know where they are. They might require some kinda special
surgery. We can’t do that.”
“You’re right. I’ve
gotta get to General Warner. He doesn’t like the idea of us havin’ these
things, either. If he knows we know we got ‘em...”
“Then, he’ll make ‘em
take the damn things out. Might work, babe.”
“I’ll see if I can
get an appointment with the General.”
“Say, while we’re
Billy pulled her
closer and they kissed, roughly at first, then more tenderly. Soon the jump
suits were in the way and they solved that, too.
said, “I hope all this turns out okay and the war’s over soon. You’re gonna be
a daddy, Billy.”
hell did that happen?”
“I should buy you
a book, or what?”
“No, I know
how it happens, smartass. But I thought all military women were
“Well, mine ran
out while we were on Montezuma and there wasn’t any pharmacy handy. I
can get a pill and take care of it, if it bothers you.”
“We’ll have to get
out of the military, or at least one of us will.”
“I know. Probably
me, since I’m the one carrying the kid.”
“They must, but
they haven’t said anything yet.”
“Okay. For the
time being, let’s just leave it that way. We’ll see how things go and, when it’s
over, get married.”
“Think so, huh?”
“Yes, ma’am.” He
reached for her, pulling her close once more.
She snuggled close
under the rough military blanket and whispered, “God, I love you, Billy.”
For the time
being, it was all he needed to hear.
stayed the night in Marla’s quarters, in spite of the fact that if they were
caught it would mean a court martial for him and dismissal for her. They were
in the kind of mood where they didn’t care. After all they had been through,
the loss of her commission would mean little to Marla, and a few months in the
brig would seem a picnic to Billy after the time they spent on Montezuma.
In the morning,
Billy went back to his quarters via the above-ceiling route. Along the way, he
noticed two cats up inside the access areas, hiding. Neither would come to him
when he called and, in fact, one of them hissed at him. They were clearly
afraid of something, but Billy couldn’t imagine what it might be. He had just
dropped into his quarters when the public address system paged “general
Billy had never
heard general quarters sounded since he’d been at Earth Station and didn’t even
know what to do or where to go. He went out into the hall and approached the
nearest Marine guard post.
The Lance Corporal
on duty sent him to the nearest armory to draw a weapon. When Billy arrived, he
was issued a compressed gas riot gun with beanbag rounds and something called “sticky
net.” That was when he learned the reason for the alert. The remaining five
Glassies were loose. No one seemed to know how that had happened and all the
Marine personnel who were guarding them had been found dead, none of them in
Rather than rampage
through the station, as might be expected, the Glassies had chosen to hide and
a search was under way.
Billy and another
Lance were given radios and a sector assignment. They were to search and secure
Section Two and remain there until relieved or the crisis was over. Station
personnel were being assisted by patrol craft that were being called in and
their crews assigned to help.
Billy had been
gone for only a few minutes and Marla was in the shower when the Glassie
warrior dropped through the false ceiling and into her quarters. When she came
out of the tiny bathroom, wearing nothing but a towel, she came face to face
with a nightmare. The Glassie was between her and the door and there was no way
she could outmaneuver it anyway. The Glassies were notorious for the speed with
which they could move, especially when excited or agitated. She had no chance
to reach safety or a weapon. They stood facing each other, and Marla waited for
the end. It was clear that the Glassie would be able to rip her to pieces in
seconds and she would be able to do little to defend herself. She stood
perfectly still and the Glassie did the same. She thought of the phone and the
Glassie turned and looked at it. She thought of the door and it looked in that
direction. My God, it’s reading my mind, she thought, it’s got to be
the damned implants.
When the Glassie’s
mind invaded hers, and its cold hatred bashed at her defenses until it seized
control of her thoughts, she at last fainted.
As troops began to
spread throughout Earth Station, it soon became apparent that finding the five
missing alien warriors would not only prove difficult but extremely dangerous.
The average person who lived and worked on Earth Station had no idea how
complex the structure of the station really was. There were numerous areas that
most persons never saw and hiding places abounded. There were false ceilings,
pipe chases, and tunnels running everywhere and from various access hatches
that had been found open; the Glassies were finding and using them all.
General Warner was
livid with anger, not only because the Glassies got loose but because he had
lost some troops and his station was in danger, along with everyone on it. A
quick solution to the problem would not be forthcoming. Before this was over,
he would probably lose more marines.
Billy Hatcher and
the Lance Corporal were teamed with two other regular combat Marines into a
four-man squad. The other two troops were off the Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller,
which happened to be in port. Named for one of the most famous marines in
history, the Chesty and its compliment of Marines had a reputation of
being the saltiest, nastiest group of battle-hardened bastards to ever jump
into a scrap. They fought with a maniacal toughness that had to be seen to be
believed and, even when in port, loved a good fight. They had torn up bars and
whorehouses on every settled planet they had ever visited. Rounding up and
containing five Glassies would be an afternoon’s play for them, no more
threatening than a game of touch football.
started a sweep through Section Two, checking and clearing every room and
compartment as they went. The maddening part was that even after they secured
an area, they really had no assurance that it would stay that way. Something
could move through the ceilings or floors and come in behind them at any time.
The Glassie in
Marla’s compartment spent considerable time hovering over her inert form, its
mind linked to hers by way of the implant buried under her scalp. When it had
learned all it could from her, it would kill her. Even now, it lusted to taste
her blood and feel her bones crunch in its mandibles; but the time was not yet
right. Just as it learned the information that would be the most important to
its survival, it heard stealthy movements outside, in the corridor.
Billy’s team had
just turned into the corridor where Marla’s quarters were located when Billy
saw the cat. He didn’t know it as Timmy. He just saw a black and white cat
crouched and staring at Marla’s door, its tail twitching back and forth. It’s
hunting, Billy thought, it’s got something it’s really interested in.
Too bad it can’t hunt Glassies...
Then realization dawned that the cat might be doing just that. He began
to speculate about what might be behind Marla’s door. She was surely in there,
along with his unborn child.
Billy motioned the
team to both sides of the door and, out of the corner of his eye, saw the cat
take off. He gently tried the door and found it locked. He turned to the
biggest of the Jarheads off the Chesty and nodded, readying his weapon.
The Marine lowered his shoulder and rammed the door, effectively assuring that
it would need to be replaced after this was over. As the door exploded inward
with a crash and the squad burst into the room, Billy saw the back legs and
part of the abdomen of a Glassie as it sprung upward into the ceiling. Then he
went to Marla, snatching a blanket from her bed to wrap her with.
As other Marines
were called to converge on Section Two, Billy changed radio channels and
summoned medics to Marla’s room.
To Be Continued
Kenneth James Crist,
firstname.lastname@example.org, www.blackpetals.net, of
Wichita, Kansas, wrote the SF serial (starting in BP #76) SURVIVING MONTEZUMA (+ BP
#78’s “Those Other Guys,” “The Big Well” & “Virtuality” for BP #75, “Gift
of the Anasazi” for BP #73, “The Weeping Man” for BP #72, “Pebbles” for BP #71,
“The Diner” for BP #67, “New Glasses” for BP #61, “Ones and Zeros” for BP #50,
the novelette Joshua) and has edited
BP for many years, continuing as Editor Emeritus, then Coeditor/Webmaster.
Widely published, esp. in Hardboiled
and on Yellow Mama, he also has four
chapbooks currently for sale in Kindle
format on Amazon.com, Dreaming of
Mirages, The Gazing Ball, Joshua, and Groaning
for Burial, his latest zombie fiction.