Crawling through the snow towards the flying saucer, Charity froze in place as another sled flew almost directly over her head. The strange vehicle disappeared inside the larger craft and she had a terrible feeling that any moment now the aliens would close the ramp and lock themselves inside their ship. Raising her head from the cold snow she looked around for Ed.
“Pissst!” she hissed.
“What?” Ed’s head appeared four feet to her right.
“Look I think they’re going to lock that ship up tight any second,” Charity clambered to her knees, “it’s now or never.”
“Okay,” Ed started to climb to his feet.
He didn’t question how Charity ‘knew’ what she knew, he’d worked with hunters long enough not to question their feeling; instead he pulled back the slide on his automatic and chambered the first round then nodded to Charity.
“Right then,” Charity was crouched in the snow like a big dangerous cat about to spring her ambush, “on three…one…two…”
Inside the engine room.
More than a little awestruck Mary Prior looked around the engine room and wondered how she could possibly damage something so big and solid looking.
“Well,” she spoke to her unborn child, “I suppose I’d better try something.” She walked further into the compartment, “Maybe they left some tools behind or something.”
Turning Mary saw what had to be a storage locker, walking over to it she tested the door, it was locked. Using the heel of her hand she hit the locker’s door handle, there was a crunch as the lock gave way and swung slowly open. Inside she found several incomprehensible objects that might have been some kind of tools. Just as she was about to give up and walk away something caught her eye at the very back of the locker. Reaching in her grasping hand found something big and heavy. She pulled the object out and examined it under the harsh glare of the compartment’s lights.
Hefting the oversized spanner in both her hands Mary smiled and walked towards the closest control panel. For a moment she studied the array of flashing lights and levers, she had no idea what it controlled. Raising the spanner above her head she brought it smashing down on the centre of the controls. Sparks and flames escaped the panel as she hit it again and again. Once she was satisfied that the panel was no longer functional she moved on to the next, and the next, and the next! Finally, breathing heavily, Mary stopped to admire her handy work, her spanner held loosely by her side.
“Well, junior,” she stroked her belly with her free hand, “I think that will have caught their attention.”
Sure enough a recorded voice was making some kind of announcement in the alien’s language. Mary had no idea what it was saying but she did sense movement the other side of the half opened door. Looking around for a hiding place she made off and hid in the shadows amongst the labyrinth of pipes and cables at the back of the compartment.
In the Main Corridor.
“ATTENTION! ATTENTION!” the automated announcement blared out from the loudspeakers set into the ceiling. “There has been a major reactor containment breach,” explained the robotic sounding voice. “You have one L’tu to reach minimum safe distance.”
“Oh Znghfu!!” Zifphaplit stopped dead in his tracks and stared across the corridor at Qiknigort.
“THE REACTOR ROOM!!” they screamed in chorus just before sprinting down the corridor towards the engine room.
Sliding to a halt Qiknigort held up a bunch of feelers to restrain his elder sibling from going any further.
“Look,” he gestured to the half open door.
Readying their weapons the two aliens advanced cautiously towards the door and looked through the gap into the room beyond. They could see whiffs of smoke and the occasional spark coming from the smashed up control panels. The creatures looked at each other in horror, ‘The Female’ their eyes seemed to say.
“Look,” whispered Qiknigort, “we’ll have to go in there and close down the reactor.”
“But what if she’s still in there?” Zifphaplit moved around trying to see more of the compartment.
“That’s a risk we’ll have to take.”
“Look sibling,” Qiknigort grabbed his older sibling by the shoulder and spun him around so they were eye to eye. “We both go in there and close down the reactor so that we at least have a ship to repair, or…”
“Or,” Zifphaplit nodded his head in resigned agreement, “we get used to spending the rest of our lives on this miserable planet,” he sighed deeply. “Cover me.”
Having struggled to get through the gap Zifphaplit signalled for his sibling to follow him. When both creatures were through the door they moved slowly towards the smashed control panels their weapons held at the ready. The automated warning advised them they now had fifty-five M’tu’s to reach minimum safe distance.
An urgent beeping emanated from the motion detector hanging from Zifphaplit’s equipment belt; juggling his weapon and the detector he studied the instrument closely.
“Movement!” he announced urgently.
“Where?” Qiknigort swung his gun back and forth to cover the room in front of him.
“Twelve yards, right in front of us,” Zifphaplit looked up but could see nothing amongst the jumble of pipes and cables that criss-crossed the compartment.
“There’s nothing there!” Qiknigort glanced around at his sibling to get confirmation.
“Ten yards!” a hint of panic entered Zifphaplit’s voice as he tried to fine tune the tracker with trembling feelers.
“There’s nothing there!” repeated Qiknigort he was starting to panic too.
“Its there sibling,” Zifphaplit almost sobbed in terror as his eyes searched for the approaching menace. “Eight yards!”
“Then you’re not reading it right!” Qiknigort strode over to where Zifphaplit stood and snatched the machine from his sibling’s numbed feelers.
He studied the read out, his sibling was right; something was coming to get them. The thought raced through his mind that maybe this type of female could make herself invisible.
“Look,” Qiknigort tried to sound calm, “When you see it, remember short controlled bursts. We don’t want to cause too much damage in here.”
“Sibling!” Zifphaplit dropped the motion tracker and wrapped as many feelers as he could around his weapon, “Its right on top of us!”
“THE PIPES!” Qiknigort looked up in horror.
Hearing the sound of something landing quietly behind him Zifphaplit tried to turn and bring his weapon to bear on whatever had been menacing him and his sibling. He caught a glimpse of pink skin and light coloured hair just before the spanner smashed into the side of his head. In an instant his skull gave up the unequal struggle and Zifphaplit descended into darkness forever.
Turning Qiknigort triggered his weapon as he caught sight of movement next to his sibling’s collapsing form. Energy bolts flashed and strobed across the room impacting on the walls, pipes and cables. Steam escaped from ruptured pipes as sparks cascaded across the floor. A pink figure shot across the compartment with Qiknigort’s energy bolts tracking just behind but failing to hit it.
Releasing his feeler from the activation button Qiknigort stared around the compartment in terror. His eyes finally fell on the body of his elder sibling, he gasped as he realised he was now in charge. Turning at a sound from the depths of the reactor room he fired a long burst from his weapon before turning on his heels and sprinting for the half open door.
Struggling through the gap Qiknigort fired a wild burst into the chamber before running in blind panic along the corridor. Almost without realising it he collapsed against the door to the pod bay, it opened after a moment’s hesitation and he fell through into the soft light of the interior. Scrambling to his feet he closed and locked the door behind him, backing away from the door Qiknigort realised his weapon was no longer in his feelers. He fell to his knees sobbing with fear, not only was he trapped but he was also unarmed.
The automated voice informed him that he had fifty-two M’tu’s to reach minimum safe distance.
The Cargo Bay.
Relieved at seeing his siblings arrive at the ramp, Slurfup was also saddened that his clutch had been reduced to a mere six siblings. This raid had been terrible and showed just what the natives of this planet were capable of. Waving a feeler to his siblings Slurfup walked over to the controls to close the ramp as his siblings started to unload the sleds.
Something buzzed by his head an instant before his world was filled with loud bangs, hot metal and the screams of his dying siblings. Dodging behind a handy packing crate Slurfup dragged his stunner from the clip on his belt and peered cautiously over the top of the crate. Flashes and impossibly load bangs came from just outside the cargo bay as high velocity pieces of hot metal ricocheted around the chamber. Bringing up his stunner he fired it at one of the indistinct shapes outside the ship. He ducked back quickly as a hail of slugs impacted the walls, floor and ceiling around him.
Hearing the scream of one of his siblings Slurfup risked a glance around the edge of his cover. He saw one of his sibling’s lying in a pool of his own blood near his sled. A second sibling was hiding behind a sled firing at the shapes that danced about in the flashes from all the weapons fire. Once again Slurfup fired and once more he was forced back into cover as a swarm of angry metal bees smashed themselves against the crate he was cowering behind.
Watching in horror Slurfup saw the sibling by the sled stand up and run for the door leading to the main corridor. There were two deliberate shots and his sibling slumped to the floor bleeding from a terrible wounds in his head and body. This was too much for Slurfup, he scrambled to his feet and firing his stunner continuously he made his way to the door and out into the main corridor.
Amazed at still being alive he rested his back against the door as he caught his breath, a slug ‘Spanged!’ off the outside of the door and he remembered he wasn’t safe yet. Locking the door securely Slurfup made his way along the corridor in search of his other siblings. It was only then that he noticed the automated voice telling him he had fifty M’tu’s to reach minimum safe distance.
Climbing into the cargo bay Charity sent a bullet towards the door the alien had just gone through. It bounced from the door and ricocheted across the compartment, she ducked as it whizzed over her head to fly out into the snow. Turning her head she looked for Ed.
“You alright?” she called.
“Yeah, fine,” Ed’s head appeared above the edge of the ramp, he looked around carefully before climbing aboard the alien vessel.
Cautiously the two humans made their way across the deck to examine the dead aliens. One lay on the floor by the door where Charity had shot it as it tried to escape. Another lay behind one of the strange floating vehicles, it had been shot between the eyes as it had fired on the humans trying to board the ship. The third alien body lay slumped over the sleeping forms of several women who lay on the deck. Ed knelt down and started to check for pulses.
“They’re all still alive,” he answered Charity’s unasked question, “just unconscious that’s all.”
“Hope there’s no lasting after-effects,” Charity came over to examine the women, they looked as if they were asleep, “Is your wife here?”
“No,” Ed shook his head.
“Then we better get through that door then,” Charity nodded at the portal through which the surviving alien had disappeared. “Wonder what that voice is saying?”
The two agents walked over to examine the door.
“I expect its an intruder alarm,” Ed tried the door, it wouldn’t budge, “I don’t suppose its important.”
Breaking open her revolver Charity ejected the cartridges, after sorting the expended cases from the live ones she reloaded and added new cartridges from the store in the pocket of her parka. He fingers did a quick count of her remaining rounds.
“What you got?” she asked Ed lifting her pistol and indicating the bullets she was thumbing into the still warm cylinder.
“Enough,” Ed patted his pockets and Charity heard his spare clips rattle together.
“We better go find your wife then,” Charity ripped a panel from the wall and studied the mass of wires inside.
Ripping out the wires she stood back as the door opened.
“That was lucky,” commented Ed as they both peered down the deserted corridor.
“Uh-huh,” agreed Charity, “lets go!”
The Main Corridor.
The sound of the door opening behind him leant wings to Slurfup’s feet. He sprinted down the corridor until he came to the door leading to the pod bay. Frantically his feelers tried to open the door. It wouldn’t move, it must be jammed from inside. In a panic he saw the communicator on the wall next to the door. With a sigh of relief he activated the communications device and spoke into the grill in the middle of the box.
“Its Slurfup here,” he gasped, “who’s in there?”
“Qiknigort,” came the tinny reply from the other side of the door.
“Open the pod bay door, Qiknigort!” pleaded Slurfup.
“I’m sorry Slurfup, but I can’t do that,” the speaker went dead.
Sobbing Slurfup turned to face the corridor, he could hear footsteps as they rang on the metal deck, coming nearer, coming to get him.
A voice like doom told him he only had forty-seven M’tu’s to reach minimum safe distance.
“ED!” Mary Prior squeezed herself through the gap in the engine room door and rushed into her husbands arms.
The couple kissed and hugged as Charity looked on slightly embarrassed by this public expression of affection, she’d always thought that American’s were slightly too…excitable. Eventually the couple separated for a moment.
“What’s that noise?” Charity pointed to the ceiling with the barrel of her revolver.
“Don’t know,” smiled Mary as she hung onto her husbands arm, “but it started just after I smashed up that control room,” she jerked her thumb over her shoulder to indicate the room behind her.
“You don’t think…” Ed started to say before his wife cut him off.
“No,” she grinned at him, “think about it, if this was a human ship would busting up the controls cause anything really bad to happen?”
Both Ed and Charity had to agree she was probably right.
“Anyway it started before the two monsters began to shoot the place up.” Mary continued.
“Monsters!” exclaimed Ed in horror, “Shooting at you?”
He hugged his wife again and Charity rolled her eyes.
“Hey yeah,” cried Mary from deep in her husband’s embrace, “I killed one and the other ran off.”
This started a whole new round of hugging and kissing, and the rag that Mary Prior had wrapped round her breasts was starting to come loose; Charity turned away and studied the floor for a moment.
“Look,” she said when the couple showed no sign of stopping anytime soon, “umm, I’ll go look down here,” she pointed down the corridor, “see if there’s any…”
Her voice faded away to nothing when she realised that the Prior’s weren’t listening. Shrugging her shoulders ruefully Charity hefted the gun in her hand and walked on down the corridor.
Coming around the curve in the passageway Charity saw the alien; it stood with its back against the door clutching one of their odd pistols in a bunch of tentacles. It saw her just after she had spotted it. Instead of firing at her it turned and started banging its tentacles against the door. It seemed to be pleading to be let inside but the door remained firmly shut. As she approached the alien turned to face her, it held up its weapon in trembling tentacles and fired.
The beam, or whatever it projected, went harmlessly over Charity’s head. Aiming her own pistol she fired as she walked towards the monster her bullets making the creature jerk and spasm as each round hit it. By the time the hammer of her revolver clicked on an empty chamber the monster lay dead at her feet.
Breaking open her Webley once more she let the empty brass tinkle merrily onto the floor. Reloading she studied the door; it appeared to be just like all the others she’d encountered so far. Snapping her trusty revolver shut she reached over and pulled the cover from the door control panel before ripping out all the wires. This time the door only opened a few inches.
Thrusting her revolver back into her pocket she took the edges of the door in her hands and slowly but surely pulled them apart. A little out of breath she walked into the darkened chamber beyond the door. The only light came from the corridor but it was enough for her enhanced eyes to pick out row after row of glass pods each with its own human prisoner.
Feeling the anger of the hunter rise up inside her Charity started to stalk between the rows of pods. Her heightened senses roamed the chamber seeking out her enemy, then she heard it; the sound of a soft foot fall behind her. Whirling to confront her foe Charity found herself face to face with another of the vile tentacled horrors. This one held a long metal bar in its tentacles. Surprised by Charity it stepped back as it tried to bring the bar down and around to hit her on the side of the head.
Her fist shot out like a steam hammer, striking the alien between the eyes, it shrieked with pain and fell back against one of the pods and dropped its bar. Coldly Charity lashed out with her foot, she heard the bone snap over the creature’s screams as she felt the monster’s knee cap shatter under her foot. Directing hammer like blows to the alien’s head she beat it to the floor where, after one final kick to break its spine the alien lay still and silent.
Gasping for air to help calm herself down Charity rested against one of the pods. She looked at the young woman trapped within and realised that her work wasn’t over yet, she’d need to free all these women, but something told her she’d need help to achieve that. Slowly she got her breathing and emotions under control and walked back out into the corridor.
Walking around the curve of the ship Charity saw that the Prior’s were still locked in a passionate embrace. Charity tutted with disapproval; it wasn’t that she was against showing affection, in fact she was all in favour of ‘private’ displays of affection…the more affectionate the better as far as she was concerned but there was a time and a place for everything.
“Excuse me,” Charity called after several minutes when the Prior’s didn’t show any sign of breaking apart. “But we’ve still got work to do.”
“Yes sorry,” Ed reluctantly let go of his wife and turned to face Charity, “are there any more of these alien things to fight?” he asked as he pulled his jacket straight.
“No,” Charity’s eyes drifted over to Mary Prior who was busy rearranging her breasts; Charity quickly turned her eyes back on Ed. “Umm no,” Charity felt her cheeks turn red, “no not as such,” she coughed into her hand before she spoke again. “But there’s nearly a hundred women aboard this ship, we’re going to need blankets and food and probably doctors. Plus there’s this craft itself…”
Just then the incomprehensible voice spoke again from the loudspeakers.
“Y’know,” Mary looked up at the ceiling, “it says something every thirty seconds or so…I think is a count down.”
“You could be right,” agreed Ed as he went to wrap his arms around his wife again.
“That’s enough of that!” cried Charity, she pointed at Ed, “I want you to go to the village and get help.”
“Why me!?” demanded the American.
“Well,” Charity smiled insincerely, “if you think I’m leaving two enemy agents alone in what has got to be the biggest military secret ever…you must think I’m simple. Plus if you go I’ve still got the Missus here so I know you’ll come back…you don’t want to send your wife do you? Not in her condition.”
“Hey sister,” Mary looked as if she was squaring up for a fight with Charity, “I did okay back there, I beat one of these so ‘n’ so’s head’s in all by m’self so…”
“Alright, alright!” Charity tried to calm the situation by backing away from the woman.
“It’s alright honey,” Ed spoke up preventing an outbreak of hostilities, “she’s right I’ll go.”
Sometime after Ed had left the ship for the village Charity and Mary sat in one of the alien’s living areas swapping ‘war stories’ of the monsters they’d killed.
“It’s a pity all us Hunters,” sighed Mary, “Asesina de Demonios, Chasseur des Vampires, Jäger der Vampire and such can’t all work together.”
“It’d never work out,” Charity could never imagine working with that silly Asesina de Demonios girl from Valle del Sol.
“Uh-huh,” Charity nodded her head emphatically, “I mean what were you doing up here in New England?”
Giving her sister hunter a side long glance Mary seemed to be making up her mind about something.
“We were heading for Canada,” began Mary, “we wanted asylum, we couldn’t live in the States any more not with what we know.”
Keeping very still as if frightened of scaring the woman beside her Charity considered her next words very carefully…then, what the hell?
“What’s that you know?”
“Oh,” Mary sighed sadly, “what they’re doing to the nig…sorry blacks in those relocation camps,” there was a long pause before Mary spoke again, “What they want to do with hunters like me.”
“Like?” prompted Charity.
“Breeding programs,” Mary informed her simply stroking her belly protectively.
“You know,” Mary brightened a little and looked up at the ceiling, “I do believe that voice has stopped.”
Both women listened for a while; no further announcements were being made.
“I wonder what it was going on about?” asked Charity.
Several Hours Later.
Standing on the ramp of the cargo bay Charity watched as soldiers carried the bundled up forms of unconscious women away on stretchers. Some military intelligence people had already led the Prior’s away for debriefing, Charity had told the couple that’d she’d check on them and not to worry. It was also a veiled threat to the MI types to treat the Americans courteously or face the consequences. No one wanted an angry Nightwatch hunter on their tail.
Her own Nightwatch people had turned up in the fullness of time and relieved Charity of her responsibility for guarding the space ship.
“I dare say,” announced the Chief Inspector in charge of Nightwatch party, “that there’ll be medals and what-not for you young lady.” The CI smiled like a small boy at Christmas with a new train set, “You never know there might even be something from the Palace don’t y’know?”
Charity looked at the old white haired guy a little cockeyed, the Palace? Her, Charity O’Donoghue, daughter of a dead prostitute? No never, not in a million years.
“Look,” Charity smiled, “I’ll be glad just to get to my bed.”
She suddenly remembered why she was in this neck of the woods; oh well she could get in a couple of hours shut-eye and then get on to Nancy’s place, she’d understand why she’d been held up.
“I don’t think you realise just how important this find is, young woman,” the CI stroked his long white moustache as he spoke. “There’s things here…well we may not be able to duplicate them for years yet but the possibilities are endless.” He smiled down at Charity, “If I were you Miss O’Donoghue, I’d buy myself the poshest frock I could find and wait for that call from the Palace, eh?”
“You think?” Charity asked doubtfully.
“I do,” agreed the CI before he walked off to supervise the removal of the dead aliens.
“Gee,” Charity smiled to herself as she walked out into the cold afternoon air, “Dame Charity O’Donoghue,” she said quietly to herself.
Not bad for a prostitute’s daughter from the Boston slums.
Miles away from the excitement of the woods near Freedom, the two Cooper girls sat naked and cold in the cellar of a house, somewhere deep in the forest. They sobbed with fear and clutched hold of each other as they wondered what had happened to their parents and their little brother; they wondered what was going to happen to them! Slowly as if to answer their unspoken fears the door opened to reveal the silhouette of a man framed in the doorway.
“Do you girls want to play a game?” he asked with an evil chuckle.