Furry Writers' Guild Forum

Critique Needed, Sci-Fi Horror story

If you’re hearing this, your civilization is in grave danger. You can detect long-wave radio, so I’m assuming that either you have already developed the technology to generate radio waves, or you will soon. If you’ve just started producing radio, then congratulations, you have maybe 10 generations left if my people are any indication. I don’t know if you’re human, parahuman, or some bug-eyed alien race we never had the chance to make contact with. But no matter what you look like my advice is the same.
Shut off your radios and get working on escaping your solar system. Fast.

It seems that I still have some time left before the hammer falls on me. So I am going to try to explain what happened in a bit more detail.
My name is Jarlisse, and I might be the last of my kind.
First, you should probably know something about my “species”, if we can be called such. I am what was called a “parahuman”, an artificial mixture of my ancestral homeworld’s one naturally evolved sapient race and the genetic material of the other, non-sapient species on said world. I am approximately 2,800,000 wavelengths of the orange-red emission line of krypton-86 in height. I possess a bilaterally symmetrical torso about half of that height on top of two columnar legs that are jointed at the connection between the legs and torso, halfway down, and at the junction of two feet that protrude forward slightly. The feet segment into five smaller appendages that can curl around objects to a limited degree and are tipped with retractable claws. To the rear of the connection between torso and legs is a tail as long as the legs, it can wrap around things to a limited extent but mostly it acts as a stabilizer and mechanism of non-verbal communication. On top of this torso is a head with a pair of eyes facing forward, two pointed ears on the sides, and a protruding muzzle that includes both a nose and a mouth filled with sharpened teeth. I apologize for scaring any of you who might be herbivores. Arms are to the left and right of the torso, up near the head, they have as many joints as the legs but the hands at the ends possess longer and more dexterous grasping appendages. The whole thing is covered with a thin layer of fur of a light brown shade with a pattern of black spots. I, personally, along with a little less than half of what was parahumanity also possess a reproductive anatomy that includes two protruding glands just below the neck which can, might have, produced a nutritious fluid that my potential offspring could have drank until their bodies developed enough to digest solid food. The rest of my reproductive organs, along with the excretory orifices, is between my legs though I don’t particularly feel like explaining them on the long chance that you are another of my kind.
I believe I can attach a picture to this transmission. Hope you can decipher it.
{Photo of female cheetah/dog cross, suspended in zero-gravity}
The first generation of parahumans were created by humans, the natural sapient species, as deep-space labor. Their governments afforded certain rights and protections to humans, but not to creatures that were quite clearly not human. So, some corporations decided to blend some human genes with genes taken from assorted other species found on their homeworld, Earth. They experimented with thousands of unique mixtures and printed out the viable ones, then sent them out to the asteroids to bring back minerals.
However, the early parahumans shared the humans’ drive for independence and soon the time came for them to rebel and claim the Asteroid Belt for their own. The parahumans, having no experience with self-governance, experimented with several different forms of government reasoning that they’d be able to tell which ones worked out best and all would come to adopt the greatest government. But, as the humans had discovered years ago, it is very subjective which government is better and many parahumans could not bring themselves to agree on many ideas. And like humans, when parahumans disagreed on something strongly enough, there was the urge to settle the argument through violence.
The first major organized conflict between governments came from the Feudal Anarchy of Vesta and the Republic of Pallas. The Vestans believed that we should bioprint exact replicas of ourselves, with public safety and welfare entrusted to particular sets of replicas who had proven their ability and devotion to the cause. Whereas the Pallene released the locks the humans placed on our “natural” reproductive systems that combined genes from two parahumans to produce a new one. Vesta saw Pallas as a threat to long-term stability and attempted to destroy them with nuclear explosives. Pallas blocked the attacks and retaliated in kind. They had been fighting for two Earth orbits when I was born to a Pallene couple. My mother was spliced with genes from what was called a “cheetah” while my father had “coyote” genetic material. All of us second-generation kids were bizarre mixes like that. Both habitats lost half their populations in that war, when it was realized how easily they could wipe each other out the two agreed to an alternative plan. They would instead devote their industries and destructive capabilities to designing and building ships that could plant colonies of their people on worlds around distant stars. Whoever colonized the most stars first won, I guess.
Pallas decided that, since even the fastest ship would take decades to reach any other star, they would train their children to crew the ships. Even the Grand Mayor zirself sent zir son and daughter into the program. I entered training when I was seven, I was barely half the size I am now. It was a grueling time, constantly tested to determine where to assign me, drilled on every possible emergency procedure they could imagine, trained to calculate orbital mechanics in my head without mechanical assistance. At the age of ten, I was introduced to the rest of the crew I would serve with. Tony, the bear/tiger assigned to engineering. Rachel, rabbit/mouse pilot. Stewart, the musteline biologist. And myself, the cheeyote communications tech. We would carry a payload of all the equipment to build a self-sufficient colony on a distant planet. Hydroponics beds, pre-fabbed shelters, mining drones, omni-printers to make whatever non-living items or structures we needed, and bioprinters to make food and the colonists themselves. There were thousands of gamete samples preserved in cryogenic storage in the hold, we could mix them up however we wished for maximum genetic diversity and print them into a new colonist who would be rapid-trained like the corporations used to do. But as soon as the colony was sustainable we would allow the colonists to breed naturally. We were expected to pair up with crewmates, or possibly any colonists who caught our eye, and make babies ourselves once the mission was complete. But no sooner, we couldn’t afford to waste time raising kids while running a starship. So, when we turned fourteen gamete samples from each one of us were taken and placed into storage, and our plumbing was surgically modified so that those samples were the only way we could ever reproduce. Our ship was ready for departure to the star system designated “Epsilon Indi” a couple years after that.
I remember watching my parents wave goodbye over the monitor that displayed a video stream transmitted by radio from the Pallas habitat as the nuclear fusion propulsion system kicked in. I think back to that moment now and have to remind myself that whatever radio waves brought the doom upon us all were transmitted long before that fateful day.
Over the next six years we fell into a comfortable routine of maintenance checks, course corrections, and consumption of assorted forms of entertainment. Mostly stored in the libraries of the ship’s computer but we did get the occasional data packet from Pallas, or tried to write our own material. (Stewart’s weekly poetry readings, the memory still makes me gag.) We also found other, non-written ways to entertain ourselves in each other. Tony was always so strong and controlling, Stewart, rather flexible if you know what I mean, while Rachel could do surprising things with those grass-clipping teeth of hers.
All this while, I was assigned to keep vigilant watch on any and all communications from home. However, after a couple years it got boring just sitting by the comm station and replying “confirmed” to every message so I set a program to respond automatically and alert my handheld comm whenever someone called. Wherever I might be. Messages were coming less and less frequently as time went by anyways.
Then, one day, it all changed.

We hadn’t received any messages in three months. To be honest, it took them more than seven months to reach us by that point in our journey and an equal amount of time to get back home so the delay was understandable. We thought nothing of the long delay until one day when we received a report that chilled us to the very bones.
“Earth has been attacked.” The simple text message started. “An object massing approximately ten million tonnes and traveling at 90% of the speed of light collided with the planet from somewhere far outside the solar system. Nothing on the surface survived, the crust was split and the mantle exposed.” It ended with a line that tore at the very foundations of our belief system. “Scientific consensus is near unanimous. It could not have been natural and it cannot be the result of any action by human or parahuman technology. We are at war with an alien civilization.”
Needless to say we were dumbfounded. Alien civilization? That was the stuff of old science-fiction. The humans had concluded long ago that they were the only intelligent life in the known universe, and even after creating us we weren’t very alien. We just sat there in the media room staring at the last sentence in shock until finally one of us gathered themself up enough to speak.
“They’re doomed.” Tony said simply. “Nothing they can do.”
Stewart disagreed to an extent. “They can hide. The aliens have only attacked Earth. It said nothing about the Asteroid and Mars domes or the Venus aerostats. If they dampen their emissions to background levels they might avoid detection and escape further attacks.”
“Dampening emissions sounds like something we could do.” Rachel cut in. “I could shut off the active sensors, rely on passive only. Maybe even cut the drive to minimal pulse. But that would take a lot longer to reach Epsilon Indi.”
I asked her, “How much longer?”
The bunnymouse sighed. “Eighty years, give or take.” She leaned forward on the table and groaned. “We might not live that long.”
Humans can live about a hundred years, given proper care is taken. On the other hand no one knew how long parahumans could live, the oldest of us would only be in their fifties by now. Still, we were already twenty. The odds of us living through another eight decades seemed slim.
Stewart, of course, had worked out another answer. “We have life support capacity for three times our number, indefinitely. We could, you know…”
I looked up. “Lay our hopes and dreams on the next generation?”
The weasel mix grinned. “You were always a better poet than I.”
Tony the bear-tiger snarled to bring the meeting to order. “We still need to figure out how to avoid the same fate as Earth.” He said. “Have you sent a reply?” He directed straight at me.
“No, I…” I stopped. The machine would have sent a reply automatically upon receipt of the message. Just a brief confirmation code but it would still be a traceable signal. “I need to go change some settings.” I rushed off before any of them could ask me what was wrong.

For four years we heard nothing else from home. We kept on going almost mechanically. Throwing ourselves into our work to distract ourselves from the literally world-shattering revelations. In every moment of idleness our minds crept back to thoughts of hab domes exploding under a rain of alien fire. We ran through the entertainment library’s collection of any and all media that didn’t involve alien invasions and strained the synthesizer’s ability to produce stimulants to keep us from sleeping, and dreaming, as little as possible.
When we couldn’t avoid it and had to sleep we dreamed horrible dreams of the worst things our subconscious could invent. Spidery walkers multiple stories high striding through habitat domes stomping on pedestrians. Swarms of glistening grey assemblers turning people into rubbery monsters with too many tentacles and feelers (if any octopi are listening, no offense), and worst of all: unseen snipers launching planetoids at Pallas, shattering it into a million shards of rock and dust without ever revealing themselves.
Finally, we heard something back from Sol system. Unlike the tight-beams sent from Pallas, this was a broad-spectrum transmission sent in all directions at once. I still have a recording, I might as well re-transmit it now, even though you’ve probably heard it already.
“This is an automated beacon broadcasting what may well be the last message ever sent by the human race. Five years ago, our homeworld, Earth was struck by a moon-sized projectile travelling at 90% of the speed of light. The debris took out most of our habitats in Earth’s orbit, a few million of us survived elsewhere in the solar system. Then the rest of the invasion force arrived. Machines, vast machines kilometers in length that home in on any sources of radio transmissions, and annihilate them. We pray they are not intelligent and are simply weapons fired by a xenophobic alien race. But they’ve almost completed their work, we estimate that there’s only a couple hundred of us left in the system. We’re sending this message in hopes that there is someone out there who can hear it and beware. This universe is more hostile than we thought. They attack radio transmitters, dismantle whatever devices you are using to listen to this before they find you.”
Stewart broke down halfway through the message, collapsing into a sobbing, blubbering heap, while Rachel made it to the last sentence. Me and Tony just barely managed to hold on. The entire Sol system demolished? All of humanity and parahumanity dead save for us few individuals out in deep space? It was almost too much to grasp.
The big tiger-bear held me close in his strong embrace. I will always remember how tightly and warmly he held me. How he reassured me “we’re still here, we’re still here.” As if merely remaining alive was reason for hope. But something nagged at me, the final message had said five years ago when we were notified of the destruction of Earth four years ago. They’d waited most of a year before informing us that 99.9999% of all known sapient life in the universe were dead. And they had not even sent us any updates on how the war was going until it was all but over. Not to mention that the final message was a broad-range burst rather than concentrated in any way. Had the Pallas long-range radio array been one of the first targets after Earth? It made sense given how it was a giant transmitter and the Berserkers homed in on radio signals. Had Pallas itself been destroyed so early in the conflict?
I decided that if Pallas had been destroyed quickly, then they were the lucky ones. The survivors would have had to run and hide somewhere deep in the asteroids or near the gas giants or somewhere. Always on the move, living in terror of some unseen enemy finding them and wiping them out from millions of kilometers away. Just waiting out here for news for that long had been horrible. Imagine knowing what was going on, knowing you could not outrun them, and not knowing when you would be found. I could not think of a worse way to live.
Slowly, Tony loosened the grip of his heavy, fur-covered arms and I slumped out of their grasp into a chair. I watched as he strode over to comfort Rachel and Stewart, admiring his mental fortitude as well as his physical strength. It’s why what happened next shocked me so much.

Barely two weeks after the fateful message Tony told us that the main engine had some sort of issue and he would need to go outside to repair it. We all waved him good luck as he donned his vacuum suit and strode out the airlock to climb along the exterior of the craft towards the rear. We watched on the cameras as he did something out there, he seemed to be disassembling and reassembling the same component over and over again, it was puzzling to be honest.
Then something on Rachel’s personal comm unit chimed and her face fell. “What is it?” I asked, thinking that the worst was happening.
She tapped her unit a few times on the touch-screen, breathing rapidly as she tried to find what she was looking for. Then calmed down a little. “It’s okay.” She said. “The system was set to detonate the next charge in a few minutes, but Tony said the launcher wasn’t operational and the charges have safeties preventing them from detonating until they’re a safe distance away.”
Our ship was propelled by a massive load of nuclear fusion explosives. We called it the “Daedalus Drive” after a myth about an ancient inventor who figured out how to fly and flew so close to the sun he got burnt. I guess they had a sense of irony. Every so often the ship would chuck one out behind us and detonate it. A miniature sun appearing for an instant to shove us a little closer to our destination. Tony was working on the machine that threw those bombs out behind us now. “Maybe you should cancel it anyways.” I suggested. “Wouldn’t want to put any undue strain on the systems.”
“Good idea.” The rabbit-mouse admitted, and opened another page and quickly tapped out a sequence of keys. And tapped those keys again. And a third time. “What the hell is going on?” She exclaimed. “My password isn’t working.”
“What do you mean it’s not working?” Stewart asked. “The only other one with access to the engine controls is out there working on it.” Then the weasel’s eyes grew very wide all of a sudden. “Wait, can you check on the status of that thing he’s trying to fix?”
“Easily.” Rachel said. “Why would you…” She stared at the readout on her device. “Oh no.”
“What’s going on?” I exclaimed.
“The launcher is operational.” She replied. “It’s been operational the whole time. It’s going to launch, and detonate!”
I scrambled to my communications console. Most of the surfaces were covered in dust from disuse but I was still able to activate the short-range radio. It would dissipate into incomprehensible static within light-hours but Tony’s suit would be able to pick it up easily. I flicked on the microphone and spoke slowly but worriedly into it. “Tony. The launcher is operational. I repeat, the launcher is operational, come back in.” No response. “Tony, a bomb is about to be launched, please get in here before it blows.” Still nothing, had he disabled his radio? “Tony! Please, get in here!” I yelled into the mic but still he did nothing.
Stewart started to suit up to go out and grab him the hard way, but it was too late. The external cams registered the launch tube opening and a silvery spherical object exiting, then the cameras switched off to protect our vision from the light. In less than a minute the cameras reactivated, there was no trace of Tony to be seen, nothing but the frayed end of a tether whipping back to wrap itself around the ship. He was gone.

Ten minutes later we were all in the recreation room drinking large mugs of relaxant tea and trying to collect our nerves enough to speak. Rachel was the first.
“He must have known.” She said, almost robotically, before taking another sip of her beverage. “He must have planned it out, there’s no way he could have been mistaken about the launcher.”
“You think he wanted to end it all?” Stewart asked, his hands trembling as he gripped his mug in both of them.
“He wouldn’t have.” I insisted flatly. “He was too strong. He wouldn’t have done something so weak.”
Stewart sighed and set down his drink. “It’s not a simple case of ‘weakness vs. strength’.” He said. “I studied something about human psychology during training. It said that people who entertain thoughts of suicide aren’t afraid, or cowardly, or anything like that. They can’t imagine themselves ever being happy. They have no hope, no reason to remain alive.”
“That still doesn’t sound like him.” I said.
Rachel interjected with a suggestion of her own. “Maybe we should check out his room. There might be something in there we never knew about.” We agreed. We emptied our mugs and set out for his cabin out in the rear wheel.
Our ship has its living spaces in two wheels that spin in order to simulate gravity using centrifugal force. The smaller rear wheel actually consists of four unconnected sections on the ends of long “spokes” that hold our personal cabins. The isolation ensures that if one cabin is opened to space the others won’t be so easily affected, and discourages rooming together as the area is cramped. Tony’s room was as sparsely adorned as the rest of ours, having been taught from a young age not to clutter up our scarce living space with useless ornaments. There was a bunk recessed into the wall on one side, and a standing desk on the other with a large-screened computer terminal and a couple print books. Backup repair manuals in case the power went out.
While Stewart and Rachel searched the bed I picked up one of the books, a user’s guide to the radioisotope thermoelectric generator that provided us with power. It seemed strange to me, a race that had been raised from the start on e-tablets using something so primitive as “paper” to store information. I flicked through a few chapters, it was full of complex diagrams and language I couldn’t have hoped to understand. But I noticed that the top corner of one page in the middle had been folded over, as I opened the book to that specific page to inspect it I found a single large word written by hand across the page. “Dandelion”.
I showed it to the others and Rachel entered the word into the password prompt on her personal unit. It worked. And not only did she once again have manual control of the ship’s drive system, but there was a message there, waiting for her. She opened it as we glanced over her shoulder.
The message contained an image file of the stars behind us, with one point in particular highlighted. Annotations listed the spectral analysis of the star’s light, there was something about “antimatter?”, and the velocity and direction of the object. It was headed straight for us, traveling at almost a quarter of the speed of light, but it was decelerating. The aliens had found us.
“What are we going to do?” Rachel asked me, her voice quavering.
“I…” I trailed off, “I don’t know.”

More than the destruction of Earth, more than the razing of the Solar System, more than Tony’s death, the news that we had been found shook us. Tony’s data indicated that we had three months before it reached us. Our first impulse was to abandon all pretenses of concealment and go at full throttle, since we had already been found. Rachel set the launcher to throw out nukes every 15 minutes, any faster and the drive plate would not be able to dissipate the heat and melt. Without the plate protecting the ship the rear of the craft would melt or be outright vaporized. As that section contained our main drive section, our power generator, and the life support scrubbers we would be dead in space if it were destroyed.
Our pursuer accelerated. Our effort had given us no more than two more weeks.
We didn’t want to talk about it. The only way we felt we could cope was to throw ourselves into our work with even more fervor than before. And to occupy any spare time studying to fill Tony’s duties. Even if we weren’t on such a short deadline there wouldn’t have been a reason to bioprint a full-time replacement for him. We had basic training in each other’s duties and it was unlikely we’d have a major issue in that area in the time we had left.
We largely avoided one another for the next week. We didn’t want to talk about what had happened. Rachel spent almost all her time at the bridge, leaving me and Stewart to bounce around the ship between our original jobs and Tony’s vacated duties. Even then, we barely spoke, we just glided past each other, him simply mumbling “dandelion seeds” under his breath.
I shouldn’t have been surprised at what happened next. He didn’t even try explaining his actions afterwards, we couldn’t find any hints in his cabin or his lab. All we knew was neither me nor Rachel saw Stewart for a couple days and didn’t think anything of it until I checked on the life-support logs and noticed that O2 recycling had diminished by a third in the past couple days. I couldn’t find any mechanical problems that could account for the change, and I didn’t feel any faintness or shortness of breath so I decided to seek out Stewart for his advice.
I couldn’t find him in the Bio lab, or the Rec room, or his cabin, or in Tony’s room. Finally I went over to the bridge to ask Rachel if she had seen him anywhere. She was hanging suspended in the middle of the gravity-less compartment staring blankly into open space through the main screen covering most of the far wall of the bridge. I cleared my throat loudly to draw her attention and the mouse-rabbit turned to face me. Giving me a serious look of annoyance as I disturbed her reverie.
“Sorry,” I apologized quickly, “but I was just wondering if you had seen Stewart today.”
“No,” she replied dismissively, “have you checked his cabin?”
“I have,” I replied coolly, “and all the other cabins and compartments.”
Her ears drooped and her eyes widened in shock. “You checked the entire ship and couldn’t find him anywhere?” She exclaimed in disturbed surprise. “I’ll pull up all the camera feeds now.”
The stars on the main screen shrank to one corner, with the rest of the giant monitor now occupied by the feeds from the various security cameras scattered throughout the craft. There was one in each cabin, pointed away from the bed so that one couldn’t peep in on anyone sleeping, but I had already checked all the bunks. Each of the larger compartments, including the bridge, had two cameras facing in opposite directions so as to cover the entire room. The central shaft had cameras every five feet and the fore and aft airlocks each had one camera. The exterior had four at each end of the long ship for observing crew performing extra-vehicular activities, like those we had used to watch Tony die. About twenty-nine security cameras in total, thirty sections to the monitor counting the navigation feed. None of the live feeds showed any trace of Stewart, where could he be?
Then Rachel asked me when I’d last seen Stewart. I couldn’t remember, but recalling the life support data, I told her it was three days ago. She called up recordings from that day. We saw Stewart wake up, dress, eat breakfast, brush his teeth, and go in to the lab. Zipping forward at several times faster than normal play speed we saw him take out a sample cuvette with a sample of gametes for the colony we were intended to start, consider it for several minutes, then place it and several other cuvettes in a bag and carry the bag out to the aft airlock. We watched in horror as he carelessly shook the bag out into the airlock, then came back through the interior door and grabbed more and more loads of gametes, releasing them all out into the airlock space. Then, eventually, he gathered up all the cuvettes in one large armful, mouthed two words directly at the airlock camera, and opened the outer door.
We gasped in shock as he opened the door, letting the air rush out. He remained inside for a few more moments, as there was not nearly enough air pressure to push him out. Then he positioned himself against the inner door, coiled, and leaped out into open space. Carrying the gametes with him.
Parahumans were designed to live in space. The first generation had titanium-plated bones to prevent loss of strength from microgravity-induced osteoporosis. As we of the second generation grew instead of being bioprinted with fully adult bodies we lacked those bones and needed to spend much of our time in centrifuges but we still retained our parents’ enhanced oxygen retention. Our blood and muscles were so filled with hemoglobin and myoglobin as to be almost black in color. We could remain conscious in an environment completely devoid of oxygen for ten minutes and alive for an hour. But Stewart had left the ship more than two days ago without any sort of reserve oxygen supply or anything. It was impossible for him to still be alive at this point.
We watched, helplessly, as the external cameras tracked his flailing body careening out into open space. His arms kept alternately folding and flicking out, as if he were throwing things. We were puzzled as to what he was doing until the light from a detonation flashed off a small glass tube leaving his hand. He was throwing the samples in all directions. We watched in frozen horror until he was so far away as to be invisible to the naked eye.
Then Rachel asked me if I had checked on gamete storage since the weasel’s disappearance. I turned and ran, bouncing off the walls in the microgravity, until I had reached the spoke leading to the bio lab. The freezer had closed automatically, and I had to undo all the locks to open it and check the contents.
It was empty. The whole compartment had been cleaned out. He had even taken our own potential babies. A colony was no longer possible.

I didn’t return to work after that. I just went back to my cabin, turned out the lights, and curled up in my bed. For the first time in months I let myself think. Really think hard. I wondered, perhaps me and Rachel could clone ourselves when we reached the planet. The bioprinter was still intact, and even if our gonads were gone our every cell contained a full genome. I could study how to perform the biologist’s duties and replicate samples of our cells into the stem cells used by the bioprinter to fabricate new parahumans. There wouldn’t be much genetic diversity in the new colony, even if we found some skin or hair cells from Tony or Stewart and the clones were allowed to breed naturally. They’d be inbreeding within three generations.
But, we could just keep on cloning, so long as we kept the machines working. Heck, we could even pull it off with a single genetic template maybe. There was no need for both of us to survive.
Then it hit me. There was no way that someone as strong as Tony would commit suicide, and it was Rachel who told me that the launcher was working after all. And now it was down to just me and her. Would I be the next one to “kill themself”? Would Rachel continue on to Epsilon Indi to rule over a new planet full of copies of herself? She may have even faked the transmissions from Sol, she knew enough about radio to pull it off, somehow.
It was so clear to me now, one of us had to die soon, and I didn’t intend it to be me. I would have to kill her before she killed me. And I wouldn’t bother making it look like a suicide, there was no one left to object. It wasn’t even really murder, when you thought about it, it was self-defense.
There weren’t any obvious weapons like guns or knives on board. Barely even any eating utensils as we just ate with our hands or sipped it out of the container. But there were some power tools in the engineering section, and Rachel had neglected to remove them. I dismissed a circular saw and a plasma cutter as too heavy and bulky to wield as effective weapons, they were probably designed that way. But I found a cordless drill and the largest, sharpest bit in the inventory, I’d just need to press it against her in the right spot and start drilling. I took the drill and sprang forth towards the bridge with death on my mind.
The mouse-rabbit was in the same fugue-like state she was in when I’d come to talk to her about Stewart. Soundlessly, I pushed off towards her with one hand outstretched to grab her protruding ears and the other one holding the drill ready. Somehow, she heard me and turned slightly to look at me. Seeing the drill she scrambled frantically to grab something for mobility while yelling “Lisa, what are you doing?”
I got hold of her leg as it waved near me. She jackknifed back and caught hold of a console, whipping me towards a wall. I shoved the drill point-first into her other leg and used it as leverage to swing my free hand further up to her torso, where I grabbed her at the shoulder.
She screamed in pain as the drill punctured her leg, black droplets of blood streamed out as I removed it and swung it up towards her head. “Why are you doing this?” She begged as I brought the drill up against her eye.
I didn’t give her the satisfaction of my reply. I depressed the trigger of the drill and the bit began spinning and whirring loudly as I thrust it towards her. She swung her head to the side and I only grazed her on the first pass, so I took hold of her head in my free hand and adjusted my angle so that it bored into the side of her cranium. Rachel bit down on my hand with those long rodent incisors of hers, but my drill was already tearing chunks out of her brain and in seconds her body went limp.
I let go and cast aside the corpse, the drill bit still in her head. I had won, I thought, I had survived. Now, I would need to figure out how to clone myself so as to fill all the empty crew positions and soon. Maybe I could find enough DNA traces of Tony and Stewart to clone them, and then I could print off some new ovaries for myself and bear their children. But I certainly wouldn’t be cloning this psychopathic bitch who had murdered them, her genes would be flushed out into the void never to live again.
But, doubt struck me and Rachel’s body turned to face me, her blank eyes staring past me and seeing nothing ever again. What if I’d made a mistake? What if the monsters were real? It was ridiculous but that small part of my brain would not let the idea go so I went back to the telescope controls and calibrated them to find the so-called pursuer that Tony had supposedly detected.
It was really there, and it was getting closer.

I kept Rachel’s body with me for the next week. I couldn’t bring myself to dispose of her like some piece of garbage now that I knew I’d murdered her for no good reason. I covered the hole in her head with a bandage and placed her on her barely used bed, which I came by to visit every day before going to work. One day I found myself getting into bed next to her and snuggling up to her corpse like it was a large stuffed animal, but I had to rinse off the fluids that were leaking out as she decayed the following morning. The deterioration reminded me that she couldn’t stay there, it would stink up the entire ship and spread bacteria all over. Reluctantly, I decided to take her out the airlock after that moment of weakness.
I didn’t bother with a space suit, I wouldn’t be out long, as I carried her carcass out into the aft lock. I closed the inner door behind me and triggered the decompression cycle. My eardrums popped and I got a headache from the sinus pressure as the air was sucked out, but I held on and kept going. I opened the outer door and looked out into the depths of space. Inky blackness, with only a few distant pinpricks of light for illumination, it seemed to call to me as I stood there on the threshold to oblivion. I pulled Rachel out to the edge of the doorway and straightened her out to throw her away. I gave her one last look into those glassy eyes and mouthed the word “goodbye” before gently pushing her out into space.
I considered leaping out to join her, but I couldn’t, something was still holding me back. I watched her float away into the endless night until my vision began to swim from lack of oxygen, then I finally closed the outer door and started the compression cycle just before I lost consciousness.
I dreamt fitfully as I lay there in the airlock, my brain acting up as it slowly regained enough air to function. I found myself kneeling in a dark room before a trio of podiums where my dead friends stood. They accused me of killing them, not by drilling a hole in Rachel’s skull, but by leading the Destroyer to the ship with my automated messages. I tried to explain that with the time delay it could have been any of the messages sent out before I received the notification of the Earth’s demise but they kept shouting me down.
I woke after too long a period of unconsciousness in the airlock. I scrambled to the inner door and glided back in, shutting it with a start. My friends would be back the next time I slept, I just knew it, would they be there waiting for me if I killed myself now? Maybe if I made an effort to ensure their deaths meant something they might leave me alone.
That was when I started sending out these messages. It’s been 60 hours since I vented Rachel into space and barring that brief moment of oxygen deprivation I haven’t slept since. I hope that whoever is hearing this heeds my warning.

It’s been two weeks since I told my story to the stars. In that time I have slept six times and contemplated suicide twice as often. They visit me in my dreams again and again, always telling me that “I haven’t paid yet”. What else can I do?
The Destroyer creeps ever closer. Two and a half months before it catches up with me. Unless its weapons have extremely long range like what they used to destroy Earth.

Six weeks to go. The Destroyer is just entering visual range. It’s… huge. My ship is bigger than any skyscraper ever built on Earth and this thing looks like it could swallow me up and have room for the rest of the colony fleet. I can’t really make out much more detail, it seems like just a massive block of metal with a constant nuclear flare at the far end. How could it store so much fuel? What does it use for fuel?
My friends haven’t let up on their nocturnal haunting. Stewart’s shade has taken to mumbling that one phrase he kept repeating in the week before he jumped out into eternity. “Dandelion seeds.” What could that mean?

I remembered that Tony’s new password was “dandelion”, I looked it up in the encyclopedia. Dandelions were a kind of flowering plant native to Earth that were considered a weed by most cultures. The leaves were covered in spines but the little yellow flowers looked kind of pretty. However, it was their lifecycle that fascinated Tony and Stewart. The flowers closed after a day or two, then in their place grew a sphere of seeds with white wisp-like parachutes. The wind blew on the seeds and they’d be carried away to land in distant field and grow until some gardener found and uprooted them. Over a hundred seeds per plant, only a small fraction of them would take root and an even smaller percentage would have the opportunity to produce their own seeds.
Was that what Stewart was thinking when he threw the gamete samples into space? It makes no sense, he must have known they’d never grow without a uterus or bioprinter to sustain them.
Oh well, I suppose the strain must have gotten to him. Like it did to me.
I’m so sorry Rachel. I wish you were still here to keep my mind off the inevitable.

Three weeks. The Destroyer is clearer now in my view. It appears to be unfolding somehow. The front end is separating into eight long sections that are spreading out like arms. Does it mean to grab me?
Why doesn’t it just shoot me and get it over with?

Last week. I can see the spaces between the arms filling with some kind of foamy substance. Radar pings indicate that it’s soft, but very strong and dense. It may somehow even be capable of stopping and securing an object travelling as fast as myself.
Does it want to study me? That makes no sense. If they wanted to dissect parahumans or put them into a zoo they would have had plenty of opportunity when they were burning the Sol system to the ground years ago. Analyze the computer banks for information? Everything there is public domain, it would have been in the system-wide internet when they got to…
Oh shit, they’re after the coordinates to the other colony expeditions. Only the ships and mission control back on Pallas would have known the exact trajectories and destinations of each craft. Mission control would no doubt have erased the servers, even vaporized them, as soon as Earth was destroyed. So I might be their only way to discover where the other remnants of parahumanity have hidden themselves.
I need to stop talking and wipe the databanks.

They’ve accelerated. When I had a week I now have mere hours. I guess they were listening. I may have wiped the servers but they could probably reconstruct the data from the molecular traces on the solid-state cards. I would need to vaporize the very same computers that the ship requires to stay functional.
I’ve given Stewart’s words some more thought. Those samples weren’t the dandelion seeds he was talking about. We, the entire ship and its crew, were just one seed. A seed ship, a shot in the dark, a long chance. So long as one seed ship plants a colony and develops enough to build its own seed ships the parahuman race survives. If one or two never make it to their destinations it doesn’t matter.
And we were just a failed seed. I can die, knowing that my civilization can continue without me. With this final act to ensure that my friends may even forgive me and let me rest in peace.
If the machine pursuing me can capture a vessel travelling at my speed I can’t do anything to harm it. Not even if I detonated every propulsion nuke on board simultaneously. But I could easily reduce this ship to its base atoms.

There are parts of this story that I think are well done. However, I think the structure takes away some of the drama, because other than the first section, the tone of the story seems flat despite things getting more and more dire.

In the first section, we have Jarlisse giving a panicked announcement of what was happening. This part not only feel sincere but reminds me of some old X-1 radio plays. Good work there and if I were going to suggest any changes there it would be to Jarlisse to give her name, rank, and the name of her ship there. Whatever protocol the ship-born parahumans have.

I don’t really like the section where she describes herself and her species, even if I found the herbivore comment funny. It doesn’t seem the thing one might include if one was still sane and it doesn’t seem all that much like insane babble if one was not at all insane. I like the bio-printer. If I were the writer, I’d have her broadcast her own bio-print database. Let some pseudo-science act as descriptors.

This is a transcribed verbally told story but it feels a bit too polished for that. I would make it more emotional and make the end of each section feel like there won’t be anymore broadcasts. I would also, if you aren’t sick of hearing what I would do if I were you, take a look of the stages of grief (I think they come in several flavours from 5 stages to 12 stages) and consider matching the emotional tone of a section or two to each stage.

Just a suggestion of what I would do. You may have different goals than I am projecting into your story.

Other things you might do in this story is having Jarlisse speak to her dead crew-mates in different sections. Lonely people do that to protect their sanity. She might also spend several days searching for a ghost on non-existent invader on the ship. She might picture who’s listening to her broadcast… call them idiots for leaving their radios on and then beg them to keep listening. Whatever you do, show the terror.

And there’s always talking to her hunters especially as the pincers close in on the ship.

One of my other readers didn’t like how it started out terrifying then went to a mundane descriptor. So I took out the warning at the beginning. I also compiled all the transmissions into one log that was sent in a single burst right before she self-destructed, it seemed like I was dragging it out otherwise.

And that was when I sent it to Ocean, maybe I should have waited a little longer for more readers.

No two readers read the same story, so do not worry overly much about that.

It’s better to submit than get caught up in opinions. Writing’s not a democracy.

Good luck!

I tend to advise beginning stories with an action by a character-- it’s a good way to plunge a reader directly into the plot and engage him or her emotionally from the very beginning. Speech is an action, and thus I’ve always found a quotation mark a wonderful place to begin. In fact, it’s the best single piece of advice another author has ever given to me.


I’d consider restructuring this a bit by making the opening an actual, quotation-mark speech by an actual living, breathing character sitting at a microphone and pouring his/her heart out.

Just my .02. Hope it helped!