Stardancer

by B.A. Phipps about a year ago in science fiction

Prologue

Stardancer

An explosion shook the ship, knocking the bloodied man to the ground. The lights wavered as he scrambled for purchase on the smooth metal floor, his hand slick with blood and sweat. Somewhere ahead of him he could hear the telltale hiss of air before the expected shaking thump of the blast doors slamming shut to protect the rest of the ship. Getting his hands and feet under him, he pushed himself up, leaning heavily on the wall. A second explosion rocked the craft, sending him stumbling into the opposing wall. He clutched the wound on his stomach, wincing hard, and slid to the floor. The lights flickered and went out, plunging him into darkness. Moments later, red emergency lights came on, bathing the corridor with a faint red light, but it was enough to tell the captain he was not alone.

The thing filled the entire end of the corridor, a massive body held aloft by four thick, clawed legs. Thick black scales covered the entirety of its body, and menacing spikes ran the length of its spine from head to long tail. Its tail came to a sinister barbed tip that swished back and forth on the cold metal floor like a whip.

The bloodied remains of a member of his crew fell from the creature’s maw to the floor with a wet thud. It turned its head to regard the captain, and its red maw opened, showing the captain row upon row of serrated black teeth. It stared at him with a dozen slit eyes, each one glowing yellow in the dim light. The thing advanced, each clawed footfall clanging onto the metal walkway.

Clang. Clang.

“No, please,” begged the captain. “What do you want from us?”

The beast continued its slow advance, ignorant to the dying man’s pleas. The spikes on its head grated against the steel ceiling, making a painful grating noise as it walked. Its glowing yellow eyes were fixed upon the captain, simultaneously entrancing and terrifying. They seemed at odds with the rest of its body, which was so dark it seemed to be made of shadow itself; so dark even the red emergency lights died upon its scales.

Clang. Clang.

The captain pulled himself away from the hulking creature as best he could, not daring to rise or take his eyes from the demonic thing. His hands slipped slightly on the smooth floor with each pull, making his retreat slow. His shoulder touched the panel of a door and he looked up to see a dead entry pad and knew he had reached his end. His hand fumbled at his belt for his gun, but found only an empty holster.

“You have no escape, Captain,” soothed a voice from behind the beast.

The captain froze, searching for the source of the voice. A tall thin man, taller and more slender than a man ought to be, gracefully moved past the hulking beast, running his hand loving over the scales. His eyes glowed yellow, matching the beast’s; his skin was pale and blotchy, weathered like old leather; black metal mask covered the lower half of his face, carved with symbols of an ancient religion.

The beast clawed impatiently at the floor, a low growl coming from deep within, pulling the captain’s attention back to it. The pale man placed his hand on the thing’s neck and brought his face close.

“Be patient, sweet sister,” he purred through the slits of his mask, his voice like wet silk pulled across a smooth stone. “Soon you will have your treat.”

He turned to face the captain, his fingers linked before him.

“Deathbreather,” cursed the captain, spitting blood onto the floor in disgust.

“Indeed,” said the man. “And now, Captain, to business. Where is the girl?”

“I’ll never deal with your kind.”

“This is unfortunate,” mused the man. “You see, I cannot leave here without her. Being an honest businessman like yourself, I give you a choice: Tell me where she is and I will give you a quick death—a noble death. Deceive me and I will give you to my sister, who is infinitely less tolerant than I am of your folly ways.”

He stroked the beast’s neck and the captain swore he saw the thing’s eyes flicker between pleasure and hunger.

“The Federation will never allow this… this-”

“Your Federation and your Inquisitors do not frighten me or my employer,” the man interrupted. “But our business will continue. Give me the girl, and you shall be free from pain and torment.”

The captain spat at the man in response. The tall man shook his head sadly.

“Pity,” he said, making a small circular gesture with his right hand. “Jaackt nam inoft.” Die in peace.

The beast resumed its slow advance, bringing its massive weight down the hallway towards the captain. A long, thin red tongue, dripping with acidic saliva, lapping hungrily, eagerly anticipating the taste of the captain’s flesh. The captain collapsed in defeat and his hand brushed something small laying against the wall. He glanced and saw a grenade against the wall, laying forgotten where it had fallen. He slowly grasped it and pulled it to his chest, feigning pain as he pulled the pin, holding the lever tightly shut. The thing loomed over him and opened its mouth.

It bent and brought its face next to the captain’s, its breath putrid as death. Its eyes bore into the captain’s skull, searching for something inside his mind, making his head scream in protest. The pain in the captain’s head nearly pulled him into unconsciousness, but he fought the pull, knowing he had to for only a few moments more.

“Last chance, Captain,” the tall man called from behind the beast.

The captain looked dead into the thing’s eyes.

“Fuck you,” the captain growled, and released his hold on the grenade.

###

I awoke with a start, sitting straight up in bed, panting hard. My heart pounded as I looked around, seeing nothing out of the ordinary in my room. The sheets around me were drenched in cold sweat and, as I flipped back the blankets, blood. Confusion turned to panic as my labored breaths turned to screams.

science fiction
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