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Homeward Bound

The Alliance Battle cruiser ‘Rosenkohl’ was old, real old. So old in fact that humans were not able to figure out exactly how old it was in terms they could relate to. The Saurian’s had given the ship and several like it to the newly formed Earth Defense force as a training vessel.

It seems conflict, often thought to be a uniquely human foible, is merely a part of life after all. When it was learned that Earth lay directly in the path of a new ‘red’ menace, the call to arms was sounded once again.

And this time the enemy really was red!

So it came to pass that the ‘new’ navy had ships that, as far as anyone could tell, were older than dirt.

Trained as a fighter pilot, Stephen Fox quickly learned that life aboard a battle cruiser was not all death and glory. Between battles there was lots and lots of maintenance to be done.

He has just finished a lengthy test of the back up comm. unit’s back up system (which for some odd reason could only be serviced from outside the ship) when he received the order for all hands to report to the launch bay at once.

Upon waddling into the launch bay (still wearing his space suit) Steve spies his pal, Jim Gianni. Steve elbows his way through the crowd to stand with his friend.

Being EVA when the call came, Steve is the last one to arrive and they’ve started the briefing without him. He’s just in time to hear Commander Faber tell the Captain,

"Cap’n…there’s something loose on board and it’s eating the men!"

"Just the men?"

"You know what I mean sir!"

"Oh. It would be much more interesting if it only ate men but I guess what you’re telling me is that it’s eating every one!"

"Aye sir!"

"What could it be?" The Captain muses aloud.

"It’s a mystery to me too Cap’n. I’ve been searching the ships computer and I’ve found nothing like it in the records."

"Like what?"

"Well sir, the creature attacks in a highly unusual manner. It bites its victims on the ol’ gluteus maximus and sucks their innards out through the hole."

All present involuntarily clench their cheeks at the thought of having their intestines sucked out through their backside.

"All that’s left of the poor buggers is a hollow sack of bloody bones!" The commander continues.

"How long has this been going on?" The Captain asks.

"Since we left Fangoor, Sir. Nobody noticed it right off but the creature is clever, it hides its victims when it’s done with ’em. We’re missing twelve hands."


"We’ve only found three. All of ‘em died the way I told you. We found all three stuck in the service access between decks twenty and twenty-one. The rest are unaccounted for."

"This is outrageous! We’ve been underway for four days and this is the first I’ve heard of this!" The Captain roars.

"I only found out an hour ago myself. It didn’t occur to me to check for missing hands until after we found the three dead crewmen."

The Captain stares at the deck beneath his feet. One of the problems of commanding an Alliance ship is a majority of the troops were volunteer units from sovereign planets. If the huge cruiser was not engaged in battle, the volunteers were free to leave. When the Rosenkohl had been ordered stand down and return to base for overhaul many of the volunteer units had exercised that option.

Courtesy varies from culture to culture and some squadrons had left without as much as a ‘see ya’ when they learned they were off the leash.

"I take it no one has reported anything suspicious?"

"No Cap’n. No one’s seen the beast but it should be easy enough to spot. The four fang marks on the victim’s backside are huge! Each hole is about an inch round.

"Big honkin’ snake!"

"Aye Cap’n. We’ve got to hunt it down before it feeds again!"

"Twelve victims in four days. It seems the creature likes to eat regularly. By my watch we should be missing another hand any minute now." The assembled crewmembers consult their chronographs. It’s three minutes ‘til the late meal.

"All hands are to arm themselves and break up into squads. We’ll conduct a deck by deck search. This ship is four miles long and a half a mile wide. The creature could be anywhere from what I gather. All personnel are to make certain their ID unit is active. I’m going to re-engage the internal intruder defense system." The Captain orders.

The ship’s intruder defense system is always active whenever the ship is in hostile territory. Fangoor had been pacified for over a year so it was deemed unnecessary to keep the power hungry equipment active for no good reason.

Steve and Jimmy naturally stick together; they’ve been best friends since boyhood. Paz and her friend Lela cross over to the two young humans.

"Most of our squadron left for home. Lela and I stayed on board so we could visit the base on Lobos Twelve. We heard it’s a real swingin’ place." Paz smiles. "Do you boys mind if we join you?"

Steve swallows hard, a Saurian minx is an evolutionary cross between humans and reptiles but this isn’t a bad thing. They are tall, muscular and strikingly beautiful with mostly human features except for their tails, which they use like a third arm. Steve can’t help but notice that Paz has strong, muscular legs and a very nice tail indeed!

One of the interesting and inexplicable mysteries of the universe is that all of this galaxies sentient species are bi-pedal hominids. Features vary depending on planet of origin but the resemblance to humans is always there

Jimmy rescues the tongue-tied Steve by nodding in the affirmative. The quartet makes their way over to the weapons locker to arm themselves, chatting amiably.

Steve and Jimmy each select light saber’s while the girls pick hi-powered plasma rifles. After taking a moment to strip out of the bulky EVA suit, Steve decides at the last moment to strap on a slug thrower, a .457 Magnum. Jimmy frowns at his friend’s choice of weapons but he keeps his comments to himself.

The squads parade down the main passageway that leads to the bridge with groups splitting off at each junction to search for the creature.

Before long the quartet finds themselves alone in the ship’s arboretum. The girls have been subtly steering them in this direction as the views from the ship’s garden are breathtaking while the ship is underway.

Lela steers Jimmy off towards the right side of the sprawling garden while Paz guides Steve to the left. Once out of view of the other couple, Steve feels something stroking the inside of his thigh.

Naturally, he panics thinking it’s the creature! He draws his weapon and leaps away brandishing the light saber all about.

"That was me silly!" Paz chides him gently.

She notes his puzzled expression and waves her tail to show where the touch had come from.

"You scared the pants off me." Steve protests.

"Did not! Your pants are still on! Paz pouts. "But I can fix that if you’d like!" Paz purrs as she wraps her arms around Steve’s neck and draws him close. Just as their lips meet, the steady thrum of the arboretum’s life support system is shattered by a blood-curdling scream.

Steve and Paz rush in the direction of the scream. They find Lela in the clutches of the creature! A creature that is protruding from Jimmy’s backside!

Paz fires her plasma rifle at the serpent-like monster and it has no effect. She takes the stock of the weapon and swings it like a baseball bat, loosening the creature’s grip on Lela’s backside.

Steve is paralyzed with indecision. His lifelong friend has become the host of a hideous monster! Jimmy’s face betrays no emotion or even recognition of his childhood chum as the wicked serpent’s head dashes straight for Paz.

Paz screeches in horror as the fanged monster strikes her hard in the mid-section with its head, knocking her off of her feet.

Jimmy draws his light saber and slashes at his life long friend. Steve parries the blow just in time as the monster launches itself towards Paz again.

Steve struggles to lure his end of the beast away from Paz by aiming a viscous slash at Jimmy’s head.

Apparently the creature has a hard time doing two things at once and it fails to parry the blow. Jimmy’s head flies off of his shoulders and tumbles into the nearby bushes.

Enraged at the loss of his lifelong friend, Steve slashes at the snake’s flanks with the powerful saber but it has no effect. The hideous monster almost has Paz in it’s grasp! Steve must act quickly.

The awesome roar of the magnum fills the air as Steve opens fire. The creature’s head explodes from the impact of the heavy slugs. The monsters’ body whips about in all directions, shaking itself loose from Jimmy’s backside.

Steve fires again, severing the creature’s body in half before it finally stops wriggling and dies.

Paz helps Lela to her feet while Steve just stares in astonishment at the desiccated corpse of his best friend.

"What happened?" Steve asks.

"We were over there by the strawberry patch, kissing." Lela sobs "Suddenly, your friend went all slack mouth and then the creature attacked! Your buddy didn’t lift a finger to stop it either! He just stood there like a zombie!" Lela sobs.

Steve wipes the tears from his eyes and kneels beside his friend’s deflated corpse. The creature not only hid the bodies of its victims; it hid in them as well.

(By George C. Anderson Jr.)

story Information

Upload Date: 31/12/1969

Downloads: 1878

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