Sulblorrg’s security opened fire like their lives depended on it! Their long, hot laser blasts cut gouges through the ranks of attacking butterfly people. Crimson’s eyes flicked back and forth trying to choose a target as they swarmed the platform like locusts. Her throat constricted. They were probably considered a beautiful species. One landed roughly on the vehicle that served as Crimson’s hiding place. The vehicle rocked with the creature’s arrival. Instinctively Crimson blasted it with her maser. The close range blast of stun energy propelled the light alien into the air again before dropping it to the ground, twitching.
Crimson’s sense of life-preservation quickly became annoyance. The blue, red, and yellow butterfly assailants were not exactly attacking them, but pouncing on the escapee spoors.
Far from delicate creatures, the jointy, multicolored arthropods scrabbled for the fuzzy spoors, and fell about them in mats and tangles of strangely hinging limbs. Crimson watched them fight to corral the floating spoors with their wings, and then hook it with a long curling tongue. More and more of the plague of attackers dropped to the space port around them, and covered the cart and fallen crates with bodies. They tugged and fought to open the remaining boxes.
“Diablos,” Crimson growled. Heaving herself up she clanked out into the open. “Hey!” she shouted, “Get away!” Sulblorrg’s security were firing frantically, dangerously, in all directions. Butterfly people swarmed them like an airborne mob, attempting to take them down. Crimson hadn’t come 4 days—and an eternity of light years across solar systems—to lose her stupid cargo to a bunch of fairies from Shannara.
Crimson fired repeatedly into the throng directly ahead of her. The wide blast of the maser plowed a path through the butterfly people like an Earth II leaf blower. Another danger occurred. Her crew from inside the Boatman, a reserve force in case of such an emergency, were opening fire into the mass of assailants. Crimson and Sulblorrg’s crazy security forces were directly in their line of fire. With another blast Crimson cleared a handful of butterfly people of Sulblorrg’s henchman, and shouted, “Get outta’ there!” To her own people she Linkbursted, “Shoot wide, you idiots!”
A butterfly person landed beside her, grabbing her maser arm. For a moment she looked into the alien face. Large, dark eyes with an iridescent sheen stared back at her from the sweetly human-sweetly insectoid face. Then it wrenched down harder on her weapon and two more joined the first. She yanked with her human arm: the last of her self-restraint. The trio of assailants could not be shaken.
With a guttural sound in her throat, Crimson brought the full weight of her robotic arm across into the face of the closest butterfly attacker. The piston-like blow smashed the attacker backwards. She back handed the other two, and the strength of the hydraulics sent both the creatures flying with the sound of cracking bones audible even through her two ear pieces.
A sextuplet of hands fell on her back as more butterfly people engulfed her. She spun on her robotic heel and leveled the wave of attackers. The sky was growing dark above her. Suddenly she realized that protecting her cargo was not her only concern. The butterflies clumped around her, arms and legs falling across her head and shoulders, grabbing at her limbs and body.
Crimson struggled, her powerful cybernetic limbs wreaking havoc on the bones and wings of the closest attackers. But she couldn’t break her free. A strange chittering language buzzed outside her ear pieces, and more hands groped and grabbed her. The mat of appendages began to press her down.
Her Mindframe froze. Crimson gasped, trying to see, to fight for freedom against the press of machines and cables. No! she told herself. Wings and arms. Terror clutched her throat without permission though, as gears, tubes, and hard metal clamps at her wrists and ankles froze her soul. A stabbing pain of fear flashed through her nerves like blue fire. She heard a bone saw, and felt needles and tubes in her arms and torso. Where was her crew? Where were the butterfly people? What was happening to her? She felt fiery pain as her skin sliced open. She screamed.
A strange bubbling sound, followed by a silly high voice yelled, “Get away! Get away from her!”
Crimson could barely see through the mass of dark wires covering her.
The watery wawp of a maser wobbled overhead. Another voice arrived, chanting a tribal cry. Voices of alarm sounded from the chittering masses of butterflies. She heard the solid thwack of a pole on skin. Multiple times.
The wires and machines faded to a dark mass of arms and legs and wings. Around her was a violent clamor; bodies scattered and clambered everywhere. She was on her back. Suddenly a gap appeared at her feet. A massive bronze ant rose from the chaos, lifting piles of butterfly people like a sack. To her right the chanting voice became the whirling red and gray cyclone of a Trivven, beating back the hordes of flying attackers with a long pole.
More maser fire clapped and popped through the sky around them, and the butterflies erupted into the sky with a cry of high-pitched, alien fear. The burst of colorful wings lifted, revealing the Boatman, and the running figures of the Rival Bay advancing to secure the space port.
Clidjitt clattered over her, and whirled, his four barbed arms extended to ward off further attack. Shaak-Rom skidded under the insectoid’s umbrella of protection, arriving at her side with a bump. Before she could react he had yanked her free arm around his shoulders, and looped his two muscular arms underneath her. With a heavy groan he lifted her and her robotic pelvis, arm, and leg. For a moment she felt the reassuring solidity of his strange, rock armor.
Andross’ cheer of triumph in her ear piece scorched her eardrum. Members of the Rival Bay gathered around them as Shaak-Rom toted her back toward the Boatman. Crimson stiffened in anger. The taste of terror still stung her mouth like the taste of metal.
“Let me down!” she shoved against Shaak-Rom. Her own voice sounded far away and weak. She pushed harder, forcing the Trivven to relinquish his grasp. With a clank Crimson dropped to her feet.
Sulblorrg’s guards were attempting to catch a surviving spoor. Two of them, scratched and battered themselves, corralled and captured one of the furry purple bubbles with a crate and quickly snapped the lid shut.
Gator thundered up to Crimson like an earthquake. “You okay, Crims!” He clapped a scaly, clawed hand on her good shoulder.
Crimson nearly fainted under the weight, but she bit her lip beneath her rebreather mask, and leaned on her robotic parts for support. “Fine,” she growled.
“Quite a spectacle,” snorted an arrogant voice. Crimson and the crew turned to see a fat blue, nose-tentacle alien rolling toward them on a mobility platform of some sort. The triangular head on the fat, lumpy body looked like a birthday hat on a pile of a melted cake. “I’m afraid we may not have a deal, Crimson, if your spoor-load has floated away with the Zeeplans.” He gestured a fat blue hand to the absent hordes of attackers.
Crimson pulled herself up, hoping her voice would come across stronger than before. “I was born yesterday!” she sneered.
Sulblorrg, as it no doubt was, cocked his head: not understanding.
Crimson opened her hand towards the toppled cart and boxes, and would have mock bowed if she’d had the strength. “Decoy cart. Only three spoor boxes for effect. Shipment’s still onboard,” she stabbed her thumb at the Boatman behind her. “We good, or do I need to call your fairies back?”
The rest of the transaction was a comparative breeze. Sulblorrg was thrilled with their decoy plan. He now seemed to think the horrific riot was a peaceful and successful spoor transaction. Payment was theirs in the hour. Their victory was tempered by the number of fees they’d accrued setting up the dangerous trade unfortunately. But it had still been worth it.
Three grav-zones later, they were back on the Rival. Everyone who’d been planet side had a sterilization shower on the Boatman before disembarking to the generation seed-ship. Who knew what was living in the green, oozy atmosphere of Qualvana? Crimson wasn’t having it on her ship.
On the flight up she was morose even for herself. She sat strapped in a back seat savoring the terror from the claustrophobic vision. It had been awful. But it was more than a psychedelic trip. It had been real; once, she thought.
Gator found, hours later, her sitting in the dark of her quarters.
“Hey. You in here?” the deep growl of the compassionate beast dragged a response out of her.
“I saw something, Gator.”
“Yeah, me too. If I could turn a light on…” the hulk of the Megladyte was silhouetted by the hall’s weak lighting. Crimson didn’t respond. In a moment Gator flicked on the room light revealing his yellow scales, red shock of hair, and a concerned look on his crocodile face. “You okay, Crims? The others told me you nearly got eaten alive.”
“I saw something,” she repeated. “Something of my past.”