Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Fun With Zookeeping

They never did find the orangutan. Post-disaster analysis indicated that a sizable section of the mammal house got spaced at the moment of impact, and it was deemed likely that Mr. Bubbles ended up incandescing in the nearest star.

Of course by then that was the least of the U.F.S.S. Carnivale’s problems.

* * *

“Get this goddamn raptor out of my face!" Keeper Lieutenant Keller punched the snapping, feathered lizard straight in the snout, her powered environment suit lending her limbs the proportionate strength of a hacked off Tyrannosaurus Rex.

The velociraptor let out a high-pitched screech, then ExTee grabbed it by a haunch and slammed it into one of the remaining stasis cells. The blue-white field within flickered to life, locking the velociraptor in space and time.

"We are now down to two functional stasis cells," ExTee said. The android's shiny exterior was burnt and dented, and his voice was hissing static in the hard radiation.

"Save them for high-value lethals only," Keller said. "Do we know what the hell happened yet?"

"A navigational error ran us into a meteor," said Baila'rukh. The Hypersaurian veterinarian was affixing emergency oxygen supplies to a cache of smaller mammals that had survived decompression. An orange, hard light shield was plugging the hole, though Keller wouldn't rate it for long.

She did a quick head count. "Bai, where's the third lemur?"

"Didn't survive the impact." A long tongue flicked out and wiped a spot of blood from Baila'rukh's jaw.

Keller rolled her eyes, then staggered as she felt herself pulled toward the now-flickering light shield. The luminators set in the displays were dimming as well, some going out completely.

Keller's eyes widened. "Ah, shit. Did anyone check the Vore's pen?"

Her question was answered when a steel-gray insectile burst out of the opposite wall and burrowed into ExTee's chestplate. The android squealed as the two foot long bug buried itself in his innards and feasted on the delicious current within.

"Shit! Bai, get his mem-chips!" Keller pulled her laspistol and fired two quick shots that caught the Vore on its carapace. The insectile shrieked and launched itself away, digging quickly into the deck plates and out of sight.

ExTee toppled over, his power drained. Bai quickly moved to his side and pulled his mind free. "We've got to call a level five quarantine-"

"Won't work. The damn thing eats through adamantium. We need to kill it or we'll lose the entire ship."

Of course it was that moment the Captain chose to chime in. "Lieutenant, why am I receiving reports of a ravenous bug creature eating my ship?"

Keller gritted her teeth. "The Vore's loose, sir," she commed back. "We need fire teams patrolling all decks."

"Negative, Lieutenant. We need the specimen taken alive."

"Alive? Captain, the Vore will kill the entire ship in ten minutes."

"Alive, Lieutenant. Get it done." Keller swore as the Captain broke the connection.

"If we can get the Vore into a stasis cell..." Bai began.

"It won't stay still long enough," said Keller. "We'd need to bait it in and keep it eating long enough to..."

Keller glanced at the mem-chips in Bai's claws. "How many spare bodies does ExTee have again?"

Bai made to answer, but then he got distracted pulling a Siberian tiger off Keller's leg.

* * *

The ship was at 40% power by the time Keller and Bai got the last few dangerous animals contained and put their trap together. Bai had lined up all twenty of ExTee's spare bodies in the stasis cell. The inert android bodies looked like a squad of shiny aluminum soldiers at parade rest.

Keller was tracking shipboard faults on her HUD. As soon as she saw the trail of glitches heading toward their position again, she shouted "Now!"

Bai powered on the twenty androids. The Vore tunneled out of the ceiling seconds later, skittering at high speed for the largest power cluster in the room.

The ExTee bodies, following their default programming, bolted out of the stasis cell in all directions. The Vore leapt at one of them just as the artificial gravity plating failed, launching itself and the android through the hard light shielding and into vacuum.

Keller blinked. "Fuck," she said. "Captain, the Vore just spaced itself."

"Recover it."

"Re- we've got no way to do that, sir!"

There was a brief pause. "Understood. All evidence pertaining to this voyage will be destroyed immediately."

Keller's stomach knotted. "Captain, are you blowing up the ship?"

"Of course. My backup self is up to date and has no interest in serving out a millennial prison sentence for trafficking in bioweapons." The entity sounded amused. "By the way, your service has been terminated retroactively. We'll be billing any clones or next of kin you have to recover your pay. Good day cycle!"

"You bastard!" Keller slammed her fist against the deck. Bai was staring at her, his scales a deep terrified blue.

"I don't want to die," Bai hissed. "I have a creche of eggs due to hatch in twenty standard cycles."

"We're not going to die," Keller snapped. "Well, yet. Throw one of ExTee's bodies into the stasis cell and help me get it through the breach."

"What about the specimens?" Bai said, gripping a panicked ExTee body under its armpits.

"Just pick a few snacks and hurry up!"

* * *

The U.F.S.S. Carnivale was lost with all hands halfway through its transit, which subsequently ceased to exist on any galactic records. An industrial accident on Hydra Pacificus was fabricated to explain the ship's loss. The damage to the Carnivale's backing company's bottom line was papered over with the quick sale of a few toxic assets.

The stasis cell was eventually recovered by scavengers five decades later. Ironically the crew was made up of Bai's creche children, fully grown, and after a week of celebrations the Carnivale's survivors changed their names and enjoyed the benefits of compound interest.

No records of the Vore were ever created, which got really annoying when its parent species invaded the galaxy.


Bad Girl Bex said...

I'm pretty sure this one is going to appeal to Chuck - big time! You've got all the core components of a bloody, space-tastic gore fest, complete with the sardonic asides. Loved it. Wouldn't mind finding out about the kids in stasis too! Bex

David said...

Many thanks Bex!