An explosion rocked the ship, knocking Henry out of his bunk. He fell to the floor, tangled up in his blanket, and woke up to a blaring alarm. The lights in the cabin were pulsing in time to the alarm, and smoke was pouring into the cabin. He groaned, rubbed his eyes, and rolled over onto his back.
“What the hell?” he asked. His only answer was another explosion. He stood up, and ran down to the control deck. The lights on several different panels were flashing red, and the numbers on several instruments were changing rapidly.
“Well, I wondered how to get those damn numbers to change. Guess I know now.” He rubbed his temples. “I need some damn coffee.” Raising his voice in frustration, he yelled into the empty room. “Can somebody turn off that damn alarm?” Henry knew he was alone. Talking to himself had become a habit in the months of forced solitude aboard the ship.
To his surprise, the alarm quieted. “Huh. I shoulda thought of that sooner. Just talking to the damn ship is all I have to do? That’s handy. Or, well, it would’a been. What the hell is going on?”
An unfamiliar female voice answered him. “This ship is damaged. Please evacuate immediately.”
“Who the fuck are you, lady?”
“I am the ship’s computer. The navigational computer has detected that this ship has sustained damage.” The voice then repeated itself. “This ship is damaged. Please evacuate immediately.”
“Well butter my biscuits…”
“Unable to comply. Please restate your command.”
“Great. They gave me a computer dumber’n I am. Can you fix me some damn coffee?”
“Unable to comply. Destruction of this ship is immanent. Please move to the evacuation module and seal yourself inside it.”
“Uhhh…never mind. How much damage have we taken?”
“Shields at zero percent. Destruction of this ship is immanent. Please move to the evacuation module and seal yourself inside it.”
“Goddamn it! I need more time!”
“Unable to comply. Life support failing. Please move to the evacuation module and seal yourself inside it. Destruction of this ship is immanent”
Henry ran to the control console. “Shut up! Eject the escape pod!”
“The evacuation module will launch once you are inside it.”
Henry grabbed his gear bag, and ran over to the escape pod. He jumped inside, and the hatch closed behind him. The pod launched into space as the ship disintegrated into flames behind it.
Fuck me, he thought, as the thrusters on the escape pod fired up. His pod started heading for the planet below, but he didn’t get very far. A tractor beam started pulling him towards the alien ship.
When the pod reached the ship, a port opened up and took it in. Henry exited the pod, and found himself in a brightly-lit, plain white room. He was alone, and there didn’t seem to be any doors or windows in the room. Even the hole in the floor the pod had come through had disappeared. He walked slowly around the room. Finding nothing of importance, he sat down in the middle of the room, and waited.
“Well, I reckon whatever is gonna happen is gonna happen,” he said as he crossed his legs underneath himself. He didn’t have to wait long.
He heard a slight hiss as a door opened behind him. He opened his eyes, and looked into the eyes of an elf. At least, that was his first impression. The being in front of him was about his height, but much more slightly built. Long, white hair framed almond-shaped eyes, pointed ears, and a pale, death-like complexion. Although clearly male, the figure had delicate, sharply-defined features which gave it an effeminate beauty. When it spoke, it’s voice had an almost musical, lyrical quality to it.
“Why have you come here, human?” He spat that last word out in distaste. Those almond eyes were beautiful, but filled with hate. Henry stood up slowly, rising into a combat-ready stance: feet shoulder-width apart, arms at his sides. His body was calm, but ready for action. He looked straight into the elf’s eyes.
“Our scientists detected one of your transmissions. My people sent me here to investigate, and to establish peaceful, diplomatic contact with your society. On behalf of the citizens of Earth, I am pleased to meet you.” In his mind, Henry laughed at himself.
“You detected one of our transmissions, human? One? We have been watching your pathetic little civilization for a hundred years. We have analyzed your technological achievements. We have analyzed your weapons, and your defenses. We know they are far less powerful than our own. We also know we will have no difficulty overpowering your military and enslaving your entire species.
We have ten thousand ships such as the one you are on right now, and any one of them is capable of defeating your planetary defenses. We are the Peri, and we look forward to teaching your people new definitions of pain and suffering. I will start with you, human.”
The Peri stepped forward, and Henry sprang into action. His arm shot out and grabbed the alien by the throat as he hooked his foot behind the alien’s leg and took it to the ground in one swift motion. He started squeezing the alien’s throat while keeping it pinned to the floor. “So much for teaching this human a new definition for—”
The Peri kneed Henry in the groin, and rolled out from under him. The alien stood up. As Henry rolled in pain, the alien kicked him in the stomach, and then again in the face. He tried for a third kick, but Henry grabbed its foot and twisted its ankle. The alien fell down in pain, and Henry rolled over to land a solid punch to the stomach. He got on top of the alien again, and started punching it in the face.
The Peri brought both of his fists up and boxed Henry’s ears. Then its arm shot straight out, and delivered a perfect blow to Henry’s solar plexus.
Henry fell back, but got back on his feet before the alien could hit him again. The Peri moved forward, and Henry kicked it square in the chest. He stepped forward, and tried to punch the alien in the nose, but the Peri pushed Henry’s arm away at the last moment with a sweeping block, and used its other hand to smash Henry’s face. Henry counterpunched with a series of quick jabs.
Henry tried for an uppercut, but the alien grabbed his arm and stepped to the side quickly, placing himself on the outside of Henry’s outstretched arm. He struck Henry’s elbow with the palm of his hand, and smirked as the loud crack let him know that he had broken the human’s arm. He grabbed the back of Henry’s head, and pulled it down as he brought his knee up to smash into it. Another satisfying pop let the Peri know that Henry’s nose was broken. The alien threw Henry headfirst into the wall, and watched smugly as Henry slumped to the floor.
The medicinal pump inside Henry’s stomach administered a dose of healing fluid, and flooded his body with painkillers. In an instant, he was awake, alert, and ready for combat. His opponent was not. As the alien moved over to place him in restraints, Henry surprised it with an elbow to the crotch. The alien doubled over in pain, and Henry moved behind it. Taking its head between his hands, Henry snapped the alien’s neck. As it fell to the floor, Henry spat on it and said, “Analyze that, you smug ass pretentious fairy-looking motherfucker.”
Henry snapped his broken nose back into place, and suppressed a yelp of pain. He found a storage locker in the next room, and drug the alien’s body over to it. He searched the body, but didn’t find anything useful. When he was done, he stuffed the body inside the storage locker. He looked around the room, but there wasn’t much to see. Just like the first room, this one was blank with bright white walls. There were two other doors, beside the one connecting with his point of entrance. Not seeing any difference, he picked the one on the left.
He moved down the corridor quickly, his senses on overdrive. “I need a weapon somethin’ fierce,” he said. “Fightin’ these sumbitches hand-to-hand is gonna kill me.”
Henry opened a door, and saw a large hangar that housed several dozen small fighter-type spaceships. They were little more than wedge-shaped bodies with two wing-like structures on either side that housed weapons. They looked like they might fit one or two aliens at a time. “Now we’re talkin’,” he said.
Unfortunately, the hangar was also filled with a hundred aliens. Knowing there was no way to incapacitate all of them before tripping an alarm, he found a shadowy corner and sat down to wait.
He had just barely begun to get settled into place when an alarm rang out. “Shit. Guess they musta realized that cocky asswipe wasn’t coming back,” he muttered under his breath. He was looking around for a more defensible position when he noticed that all the aliens were leaving the hangar. “Well, that’s convenient,” he said as he got up from the floor.
There was a fighter craft not too far from where he was hiding, so he ran over to it and jumped in the cockpit. The canopy closed over his head, and the instrument panels lit up. “Now all I have to do is figure out how to fly this thing,” he said. For the second time that day, he was surprised by a female voice answering him.
“To start the tutorial, say ‘tutorial’, the voice said.
“You speak English?” Henry asked.
“Of course. English is one of seven dominant languages on Earth, the target of our next colonization acquisition mission. All personnel and equipment assigned to the mission must be proficient in the dominant languages of the target planet. Would you like to continue in English, or switch to another language?”
“Uh…English is fine,” he said.
“Very well. Would you like to start the tutorial now?”
“We don’t have time for a tutorial. Any chance you could do the flying for me?” he asked.
“Would you like to engage the autopilot interface?”
“Yes! That sounds perfect,” he said.
“Very well. Where would you like to go today?”
“Earth,” he said without hesitation. “No, wait! What weapons are you carrying?”
“This ship is equipped with two rapid-fire laser cannons, four disruptor cannons, and five hundred molecular implosive devices. In addition, this ship carries a nuclear fusion reactor that can be triggered to overload as an emergency weapon.”
“Can this ship turn around 180 degrees in this hangar?”
“Certainly. Would you like to turn this ship around 180 degrees?”
“Yes. Turn the ship around, fire all cannons, and fire two of them molecular implosive devices, whatever the hell they are, then exit the hangar.”
“Following these commands would result in the destruction of this battle cruiser. Are you sure you wish to proceed?”
“Yes, dammit. Blow this fucker out of space, and get us the hell out of here!”
“One molecular implosive device is sufficient to destroy the battle cruiser. Are you sure you want to fire two?”
“Uh..ok…just fire the one then, I guess.”