Brave & the Bold 3000
Brave & the Bold 3000
The pirates had rounded up their sentient cargo, to be smuggled off-world, and Leeta Eight-Seven remained concealed among the crates of legitimate cargo, thankful to Four-Two for her skills in bypassing the anachronistic security systems used by these low-rent thugs. She waited patiently, willing her muscles not to cramp up, until the ‘passengers’ were shoved into the hidden compartments, with their much more advanced jamming technology, to hide contraband from the sensors of the port inspectors, and prepared to spring into action, assured that the shielded bulkheads would protect the civilians from any stray blaster-fire.
Blaster-fire. The thought still filled her with trepidation, and she momentarily flashed back to the half dozen times she had lost her life to an energy weapon, ruthlessly cutting those memories short before they led to yet more memories of the many dozens of deaths that lay in her diverse past lives.
She takes a few deep breaths, saturating her muscles with oxygen, wishing that she could call up the strength of her past lives, and not just the memories, as she heaved the crate she was hiding behind down onto the nearest of the pirates, and suppressed a smile at the muffled squawk of pain and surprise he emitted before a hundred kilos of who-knows-what slammed him to the ground. In both hands, stun pistols flashed into life, and the two primary light sources in the chamber sputtered and exploded as the electrically-charged pellets found their marks. Thank you, Leeta Two-Three for a lifetime dedicated to sharpshooting, she thought as she rolled forward and came up in the midst of the surprised pirates, using the gymnastic skills picked up in yet another life, and activating a flash-grenade to destroy the night vision of the pirates, whose eyes were only now adapting to the sudden change in illumination.
The red strobing lights of the emergency backups creating surreal shadows, distorted and ever-changing, like pictures in a series, her lithe form moving in staccato bursts among the blinded and disoriented pirates, dealing out blasts from her stun pistols, and the occasional martial arts move as one closed in too close, and she was forced to flip him away from herself with the softer styles she’d mastered four generations ago, or the unleashing brutal kicks with the more damaging style she’d mastered only a generation past.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan, when the crewman she was moving to strike down moved with impossible speed, dodging her stun-charge, and moved in a blur of motion to first strike the pistol from suddenly nerveless fingers, and then nearly took her head off with the follow-up. Too late she realized that he was cybernetically-enhanced, explaining his heightened reactions and fearsome strength, and as she fell back to avoid his strike, she landed at the feed of a pair of his fellow crewmen, who took advantage of her fall to pin her in place. She cursed herself for never taking up cybernetics in some past life, and mentally added it to the list, If I live… she added, unnecessarily.
The captain had regained his feet, and one of the crew was admininstering stims to felled crewmen, allowing them to shake off the effects of her stun-pistols, and Leeta realized that in a single moment, she had utterly lost control of this situation. Memories of dozens of past lives showed her no way out of this situation, and she took a breath, steadying herself, awaiting an opportunity to escape at a later time, all-too-aware that any resistance at this point would just lead to a brutal beating, as several of the recovering crewmen were already demanding of their captain…
The captain shoved the loudest of them back, and she heard a loud clunk from the compartments where the ‘passengers’ had been stowed. She could dimly see past the crush of crewman that a robed and hooded figure had stepped out of the hidden compartment, which he appeared to have broken open. The figure raised its hands to its hood, and a powerful guttural voice that sounded like none of the crew, speaking in Kartikeyan, her native tongue, said, "Close your eyes."
Aware that her situation could hardly get worse for trusting some strange voice on a pirate ship, she did so, and heard a pirate shouting at someone to, "Get back in there, scum!" and another exclaiming, "What kind of freak is that?" "What the hell kind of freak are you…"
She heard the captain shouting for the ‘dogs’ to stand down, but suddenly was tossed aside, as the pirates began fighting among themselves, and while the fighting started with brawling, she opened her eyes when one of them turned his blaster on another crewman and gunned him down, only to be gunned down in turn by the captain, who appeared to be having no luck stopping this sudden riot. Men rolled on the ground, tearing at each other and beating each other’s heads into bulkheads, and she rolled to the side, to avoid the press of the wild melee, apparently completely forgotten, only to stop pressed up against the body of the crewman the captain had shot.
His body was trembling, and his eyes looked like those of a trapped animal. She had been three different types of emergency medical responder and an actual surgeon in her past lives, and recognized the symptoms of being shot by a nervefire disruptor, a Khundish weapon illegal in the UP for it’s terribly cruelty. She could see the tiny sparks of electricity dancing around the wound, cauterized and likely non-fatal in and of itself, and knew from her training, and the courses she’d received on the weapon during her times serving in security and military roles, that the current was travelling down every nerve, burning out receptors like a creeping poison. He would take long minutes to die, each second in excruciating agony, not even able to fall unconscious, as the direct nerve stimulation kept him awake for every liquid drop of torment. She looked up to see the captain aiming that terrible weapon at another disobedient crewman, and felt her own nerves tremble with the desire to tear it from his hands and bludgeon him with it.
Leeta had never felt such anger, and looked to the robed figure, who stood calmly, his alien face now exposed, red flesh appearing like some twisted rakshasa, the ancient enemies of the gods, and the anger and the hate seemed to pour from him. He met her gaze, and as suddenly, it was gone, the hood flipped back into place, and she could hear the immediate effects on the brawling pirates, as if the anger and hatred had also drained from them, all in an instant, leaving them momentarily confused and drained of initiative.
She leapt forward, taking advantage of the lull as the pirates recovered from the greater dose of whatever emotional manipulation the hideous alien had inflicted upon them, rolling across the back of one that was just staggering to his feet to slam both feet full force into the pirate captains back, sending him hurtling forward into a bulkhead. She knew that she would expose herself to the other pirates, but she didn’t want to risk the nervefire disrupter being fired again, and the sound of a rumbling roar at her back reminded her of that guttural voice from before.
She flipped the stunned captain around, and hurled his weapon across the room, pausing only for a second to jam the mechanism so that it could not be picked up and used by another. With the captains arm twisted behind his back, he proved most cooperative, and she kept him between herself and the mob as the robed figure barreled into them from behind, roaring like a runaway cargo-hauler. He seemed larger than before, and she was not sure if it was some trick of the robe he wore, but his arms flashed through the melee whenever his sleeves trailed behind him, and they appeared as thick around as another man’s legs. Men flew in all directions, and only one of them managed to tag his side with a blaster, setting fire to the robe, which he shrugged off and wrapped around another pirate, who ran screaming into a bulkhead, attempting to get the flaming material off of his head, but only knocking himself out in the process.
The alien with the hateful face shrugged off the blaster fire, ignoring the ugly wound and continuing to fight. She was afraid the rage would overtake her again, seeing his face exposed, but quickly realized from his frothing appearance and incoherent screaming that he had somehow internalized all of the anger and hate that he had projected upon the others, pulling it back into himself to make himself stronger and more resistant to injury. She hurled the captain into the wall behind her, stunning him into unconsciousness as she dove forward and kicked the blaster out of the hands of another pirate, about to shoot the rampaging alien in the back, and then pushed the man straight into the ruddy alien, who swept him from his feet and used him to bludgeon another crewman.
Their will broken, their captain clearly felled, all of them but the man she recognized as the cyborg from before began to fall back, attempting to flee this rout. The cyborg moved like lightning, delivering a blow powerful enough that the red-skinned alien staggered back, and moving with calculated speed, avoiding his own lumbering counter-attacks. Leeta just shook her head, and retrieved one of her fallen stun-pistols, maneuvering into position so that her shot wouldn’t affect her ally, before calmly placing a stun-blast into the cyborg’s lower back.
The cyborg staggered to one knee, and the alien pressed the attack, only to receive a brutal blow to its grotesque face and fall back stunned, and Leeta fired again, this time at the base of the neck, causing the cyborg to begin convulsing as the current shorted out his neural modifications. She stepped forward, pistol still in hand, unsure if her ally was still gripped in whatever rage had seized it, but he rose, apparently reduced in size, and quickly retrieved his scorched robe, and wrapped it like a head-scarf over his shoulders, head and face.
From the concealment of this makeshift mask, a calm voice, bearing only slight resemblance to the animalistic roaring that had echoed across the room moments before, said in a surprisingly soft tone, “I am no threat, attend to the others.”
She turned to the twitching cyborg and leaned down, calling upon any part of herself that had worked with similar machinery in the past to come up with an educated guess, finally locating a pressure switch, and successfully shutting down his neural modifications, so that he stopped convulsing and his systems went into diagnostic mode, leaving him effectively paralyzed for the next twenty minutes. A low hissing noise reminded her of the other man whose nervous system had been overloaded, and she could see his strained features trapped in a silent scream to which he could not give voice.
A soft movement of cloth and the smell of charred fabric alerted her to the presence of the alien at her side. He leant down in front of the twitching man. “He is in terrible pain. I have never felt it’s like.”
Again, surprised at the gentle sounds coming from the mysterious man who had just moments before been a rampaging mindless monster, Leeta nodded sadly, “Nothing can stop it. Until the rest of his nervous system burns out, he’s going to be trapped like that.” She looked over to one of the other crewmen’s fallen blasters, and walked over to retrieve it, thinking that nobody would fault her for ending this man’s suffering a few minutes before it would have ended on its own, but before she could raise the blaster, or her nerve, to be honest, a slender, but surprisingly strong, red hand rested upon her own wrist.
“You carry enough. I will bear this.”
His hand raised to rest upon the man’s head, over his eyes, as if to spare him the sight of his own death, and she wondered if he was planning on snapping his neck, aware that nothing short of decapitation would spare him the degeneration of his nervous tissue. Instead he raised his hand, now trembling and convulsing, and the man lay still, eyes still open, but muscles relaxing, as he was no longer locked in the rictus of unending torment. A final sigh as the breath left his body was the only sign of his passing, and she turned to seize the hand of the alien, pulling him to his feet. He swayed unsteadily, and she reached a hand beneath his hood to press against his neck, instinctively checking his pulse. He attempted to pull away, but whatever freakish strength he possessed in his time amok, it was absent now, and he seemed barely able to stand without passing out.
“You took it, somehow, didn’t you?” she said, feeling the heat under his skin and his thunderous heartbeat.
“Yes.” The hooded figure said, drawing a shuddering breath and rising to his full height, as if regaining strength by the second. “That is my gift. And my curse. I gave to these men of my anger and my rage, turning them upon one another and letting it multiply in their many souls, only to take it back manifold from them, to make myself a mighty beast. And to that man, I took his pain. He could not bear it, but I already carry pain far beyond his. It is a but a drop.”
Dimly, Leeta Eight Seven became aware that her comm.-link at her belt was making a squawking noise, and she checked the frequency to discover that the SP backup she had called in was finally arriving. She looked up to see the hooded figure already standing at the exit, his charred mantle fluttering with the change in air pressure as he opened the hatch. “See them to safety,” he said, nodding towards the other huddled captives who had been secured in the concealed compartments with him.
“You need to stay…,” she said, following SP protocol, knowing as the words left her lips that he wouldn’t.
She could feel something like amusement, and wondered if his power extended to this as well, or if she was just imagining a smile twisting that hideous face. “I must go. People hate my face.”
And he was gone, only moments before the first SP officer burst into the room...
You know what we don't have enough of? Stories about the adventures of the enigmatic Hate-Face and the clone-hero, Leeta Eight Seven!