Author : Julian Miles, Staff Writer
“Yngtranzian Harvester incoming! Genghis Class – it’s huge!” Janice sounds terrified, but she’s new. She’ll get over it.
Many pre-spacers compared the depths of space to the seas of Earth. Truly prophetic words. A wise man once said: “The ocean is the only café where the food fights back.” Fortunately, in an environment renowned for big-eats-little dynamics, humans were a decent size. Unfortunately, in space we’re only just medium sized and nothing out here thinks we’re cute and worth protecting.
The ‘blip’ on the screen is about the size of the Isle of Wight. It’s filled with six-metre tall tripeds with wide mouths full of sharp teeth. They have a cookery book dedicated to making a whole range of delicious meals, for any time of day or night, out of human. Including several recipes where we go into the hot and/or sharp part of the process conscious. Apparently you can judge the succulence of human flesh by certain tones in the screams emitted by the owner.
“Alright, it’s big, but it’s not bigger than a Dobberil Grinder. Set up a pair of point-three light triple-stage boosters; add countermeasures packages Alpha Cream Nine and Pete Echo Four. Slap a teraton warhead on the second one. Fire control to me.”
The Dobberil are like whales in size, and that they like their food small. Minced, to be precise. They drive whole herds of people out of cover into open ground using sonics, then a Grinder class vessel swoops in, mulches them up – along with a decimetre of whatever they were cowering on – and serves the whole mess fresh with a splash of peroxide.
The Harvester comes straight in, ignoring the defensive batteries on the Moon and on Moon Two, the defence station that orbits opposite the Moon. But we’re on patrol today, back at last from persuading the Slavyesh that humans are not for drinking. We had to knock the society back to their stone age to do it, but they will think twice before squeezing one of our colonies for their morning juice again.
The fire control comes online and I wait. Yngtranzians are fussy. They’ll want to line up before entering atmosphere, and that’s when I can clip them.
Two, one… “Fire one!”
The missile leaves me, accelerates like nothing on Earth, leaves a rainbow contrail in high atmosphere and slams into the Harvester at a several hundred Mach. The Harvester pitches and yaws out of orbit, station-keeping drives and stabiliser fields spitting. By my head, trajectory calculations are coming in faster than they are correcting their yawing vessel.
Tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock. They have passed the orbit of both Moons. Time.
The night goes bright just as the concussion of launch fades. The first missile was slowed by atmosphere, its control systems keeping it from going to relativistic speeds. The second had no such limitations. No-one on this ship saw it go and nothing on the Yngtranzian saw it coming. For a few seconds, we have a third, supernally bright moon. I’m glad sound doesn’t travel in space. That would have been loud.
“Northern Hemi Control, this is Orca One. Please alert Russia for debriteors and add an Yngtranzian Genghis to our kill tally.”
“We hear that, Orca One. Orca Two has risen from Mars Base and will relieve you in twenty-seven hours.”
That’s the good news. A kill means we get a couple of days shore leave.
Slowly but surely, the predators of this ocean called space are learning that the tiddlers from Sol Three are vicious and have really big teeth.