My mind swirled with visions of grandeur. It was a trick from the horrifying species on the surface of the planet below. It was a hive mind, and it sent traitorous thoughts to the crew of the Eviscerate.
Half of them had turned. They had grabbed their weapons immediately upon exiting the slipstream of light speed travel. With a glaze in their eyes, the lizard-like crew turned on the humans. They knew that our minds were stronger. That we would be resilient.
It was only me and perhaps two others, now. I saw five others go down, and I only escaped because I happened to be next to a blast door when it happened.
I ran. I knew where to go. Weapon bay number four would have the least accessibility. I could hold them off while I loaded the nukes by hand. It would kill my back, and my arms, for sure. But I’d recovered from worse.
Through small corridors, past hallways. Shots rang out, and pellets hit the steel walls next to me. I had run while shot before. This hive mind had obviously never come across humans.
I ripped the door open to the weapon bay. A needle of pain shot through my whole body. The hive mind was engaging in mental sabotage. I reeled back, colliding with one of the walls.
“Why do you fight?” it slithered into my mind.
I ignored it. All the successful creatures of this galaxy ask the same thing. I nuked them, too. Nukes can’t be mind-controlled. They always forget that.
I blinked, getting a hold of myself. Inside the weapon bay were 40 missiles. None of them were armed, and I would have to cap them by hand since the god damn weak-minded crew members shut down most of the systems.
Luckily I was the captain. I could override. None of those reptilian fools had prime access. I had pushed for that.
As I closed the door, there was a glimpse of activity from the hallway. Seven reptilians all firing boarding weapons at me. Some of the pellets made it into the room. They bounced around a bit, and one of the softer metal balls found my head.
It hurt, and I checked myself. My hand came back with blood, but not enough to be mortally wounded. Good.
I locked the door using the bulkhead and the electronic locks. The sounds stopped from the other side. No doubt they were planning something, probably going to attempt self-destruct.
I went to the monitor.
“Captain’s override 47-47-KILLD3ATH.”
The screen changed from static to a series of buttons. I launched one of the missiles. I had to see what kind of defense this enemy had.
It got halfway to the surface before it was intercepted. This wasn’t good. I had to launch the rest at the same time to get maybe a third through.
“Why do you fight it?”
Visions of a united world, with me at the helm of a powerful warship, taking planet after planet entered my mind. A feeling of accomplishment and comradery washed over me.
They always send the same thing. But not with emotions tied to them. This hive-mind was much more sophisticated, and much more dangerous. I shook my head like a dog to rid myself of the poisonous intruder.
On the screen I saw there were two loading bots ready to go. I set them to work arming the warheads that were already installed. I went to the other side of the room. The 100 pound warheads were all over the wall. I removed one, and worked my way across the room to the array of missiles.
Toughest first, I thought, and kicked a ladder over to the upper corner. Beside me the bots reached their long arms over the missiles, flipping switches and plugging in specific wires. They worked much quicker than me.
“Why do you fight?”
It sent another pang of hypnotizing visions and feelings.
Unoriginal, uncreative, and unsuccessful.
I smiled. If this thing was going to try the same thing over and over, my job got easier.
I loaded the warhead, strapping it in, letting the small mechanical arms above the warhead seal it for the journey through space and atmosphere.
When I dropped from the ladder, there was a loud bang. I couldn’t be sure if it was my weight hitting the deck, or it was something else.
The door, it was bowed inwards. There was only one force that could do that. Mining charges. If they were in atmosphere they had to be detonated manually. The reptilians were already suicide-bombing to stop me.
It sent a feeling of relief to me, that in giving in I would finally be able to relax.
I laughed, shaking my head again. It was going to have to try harder than that. I never relax anyway. Not after surrendering. That’s not something I did.
Next warhead, and another, and another.
Another suicide bomb erupted. The door held, my ears were ringing. I was most likely deaf, but it didn’t matter.
Another, and another. My legs began to burn, and I grew lightheaded. I felt behind my head.
The pressure changes from the explosions had opened my wound. I needed a boost.
From the side of the room there was a first aid. I made my way there quickly but safely. When I ripped the flimsy metal door open another reptilian detonated a charge. The door was held on by the hinges and the lock, but now there was enough space for my enemy to see inside, and shoot inside.
I grabbed a small syringe, and dived for cover. Pellets cascaded around the small bay, and one of the loading bots stopped its erratic movements.
I plunged the syringe into the area above my collarbone, the only place without my lightmesh clothes.
My vision blurred. My body surged with energy and tenacity. I stood up, flexing my fingers at the sensation of methamphetamines being introduced into the blood.
I ran to the door, ignoring the weapons fire. I reached my arm through a section of separated door and felt the familiar metal and plastic body of one of the weapons. I ripped it from the reptilian’s arms, through the open spot.
I turned it around, and then thrust the barrel into the opening, firing at random down the small hallway. They retreated, but not before I heard two of them fall. I fired until the weapon was out of ammo. When I felt there was no recoil, I dropped it.
That should buy me a couple minutes before another charge blows the door into the weapon bay.
I got to work. This time even faster. The drugs fueled my arms and legs to superhuman levels. It would be a long recovery from just this small dose, but it was a tactical necessity.
“I have assimilated thousands of cultures. Thousands of species. Thousands of worlds. What makes you think this will stop us?”
It showed me. A movie played in my head. Warlike cultures putting up a fight. Nothing like I had seen. Armadas clashing in open space, with enough metal to build tier 1 space stations. It all meant nothing. The mind permeated through the space and metal. At the helm were minds, and minds could be turned.
A million battles over a time period that was nearly incomprehensible. There were few losses, and victories meant civilizations crumbled under the might of The Hive.
I forced a laugh.
“If you think I will be frightened into submission you are wrong! Do you think you are the first hive mind I’ve fought? I will be the one to slam my boots into your precious mind! I will be the one to kill you! I will be the one to subvert you, to sabotage you, to fight back at every turn!” I screamed as I loaded the warheads.
“You will not break me! My mind and body are strong! I will fight until my last twitch of life!”
With the drugs cycling through me, the yelling became a mantra, and it kept me going as I armed missile after missile.
It sent spikes of radiating pain through me. I shuddered with each telepathic hit, but I kept going.
“Your time has come.”
From the door I could see movement. This would be the final mining charge. I took cover and waited.
The door shot into the room like a bullet. It bounced against the wall and fell onto the floor.
Reptilians poured into the room in weapon-ready stances. I lunged at one of them, grabbing at the gun in its hands. I pulled the creature towards me, placing its body in between me and the others.
They fired, and I fired. I could feel my weapon arm shredding a bit, but I killed them. Gritting my teeth through pain was something I did well. When the other two fell, I cast my body shield aside and went back to the missiles.
With one hand I lifted the warheads and placed them, and with the other I covered myself with a rifle.
This went until I had slain another three. Their bodies piled up in the hallway, making it easier for me to defend my position.
My arm bled, and it made aiming difficult. About a quarter of skin was missing, and I would not be alive much longer. The drugs did their duty, though. I pushed on.
From the corner of my vision I could see a change on the small screen. It was riddled with scratches and holes, but it was still functioning.
I was getting a message. There were other survivors after all. If I couldn’t hear the alert sound it meant I was truly deaf.
I went to it and opened the com. I wouldn’t be able to hear them, so I shouted into the system.
“Captain Serba speaking, I am wounded, possibly mortally, and deaf. At least six reptilian crewmembers killed. Arming nukes in weapon bay four. Don’t know how many are armed. I will launch all missiles in a planet-wide spread.”
“You continue. Even when there is no hope.”
“As long as I have breath in my body…” I staggered, becoming dizzy with blood-loss, “I will fight you.”
Another warhead, and another.
I blacked out, and woke up on the floor. It was only for a moment, and my arm snapped up with my weapon, aiming at the hallway.
No movement, at least none that I could make out.
I got up, slipped on the blood that was built up on the floor and got up again. I went to the screen, and launched all available missiles.
32 left the ship. I figured I wasn’t going to get another chance to launch. I was in terrible shape.
I lay down on the bloody deck of weapon bay four. I felt my heart pounding from the drugs, but my body was growing cold from my drained body.
Before I passed out there was a magnificent, painful, telepathic scream of death that came to me. I smiled as I passed.