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A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs
by Cora Buhlert
Copyright © 2017 by Cora Buhlert
All rights reserved.
Cover image © Luca Oleastri, Dreamstime
Pegasus Pulp Publications
A Mess of Arms and Legs and Limbs
Space-suited creatures stream through the airlock. At least, I think they’re wearing space suits, since those sure as hell don’t look like any space suits I’ve ever seen. There are too many arms, too many legs, too many limbs. Even looking at them hurts and makes me doubt my sanity.
More and more pour into the station, until the entire corridor is just a mess of arms and legs and limbs. Closer and closer they come, relentless, unstoppable.
My finger tightens on the trigger of my plasma rifle, itching to shoot, itching to blow off some of those arms and legs and limbs, blow them to smithereens.
“Hold your fire,” the voice of Security Chief Burnett echoes in my ear, “Hold until they’re at the bulkhead.”
Intellectually, I know he’s right. After all, we’ve only got one shot at this, just one chance. But though my mind knows he’s right, that doesn’t mean that my heart does.
After all, I’ve seen what they can do. I’ve seen the aftermath, the bloodstained floors and mangled human bodies, the charred remnants of outposts where not a single soul was left alive.
At first, we didn’t even know what it was. All we knew was that along the rim, outposts and space stations suddenly went dark. And once the galactic government got around to sending someone to investigate, all they found were wrecked stations and decomposing bodies without a single clue as to what had happened.
Bodies and wrecked outposts piled up, as the attacks increased. And gradually, we found clues. SOS calls, breaking off in mid transmission. Marks and scratches on walls and bulkheads that nothing human could have made. Traces of organic substances that matched absolutely nothing in the known universe. And finally, grainy security cam footage of multi-limbed horrors the likes of which no human eye had ever seen.
We’d thought that we were alone in the cosmos, that the universe was ours for the taking. We were wrong.
But though we knew what we were up against, we still had no real way of stopping them. And so outposts and stations continued to go dark, their crews torn to pieces. Central Government increased patrols along the rim and sent marines to guard and defend endangered stations, but it was to no avail. The enemy continued to strike, evading the patrols and killing the marines along with everybody else.
The enemy. That’s what we call them, cause we don’t know what their proper name is or if they even have one. We don’t know what they want, why they attack us and why now, we don’t even know what they look like. Until now…
Cause I’m seeing them, seeing them with my own two eyes, these creatures with too many arms and legs and limbs. I see them advancing towards us, scurrying like oversized spiders, scuttling like lobsters or starfish, different, terrifying, other.
Very likely, it’s the last thing I’ll ever see.
Cause unlike the other colonies and stations that were hit, we don’t have a large crew. Hyams II just a small outpost, a handful of miners extracting tantalum ore from an asteroid plus support personnel and families. We don’t have marines to protect us, just a bunch of underpaid and underequipped security guards. We’re outnumbered and outgunned and we know it.
And yet we fight, make a stand. Because we have to. Because we’re humans and we don’t just lay down and die. We fight and even if we go down, we’ll make sure those monsters regret ever having come here.
The first of the creatures, the vanguard, are almost at the bulkhead now. It’s the perfect spot for an ambush, a natural bottleneck. Just a few more feet and then…
“Fire. Fire at will,” Chief Burnett yells, his voice echoing in my head.
I press the trigger. I see the flash of fifteen plasma rifles discharging all at once, hear the roar. I see a blast hit its mark, see one of those too many limbs blown off, see green alien blood — of course, it’s green — splatter onto the bulkhead.
I don’t know if it was my blast that blew off that limb or somebody else’s. I don’t care either. I just press the trigger again and again. I don’t even have to aim, cause the corridor is full of creatures now, a solid wall of arms and legs and teeth, giant razor-sharp teeth. I just fire, fire into that living, writhing wall, fire again and again and again.
The creatures scream. Their screams are eerie, like the screams of a doomed soul in hell or the screech of a ship breaking apart in deep space. It’s a scream the likes of which no human being ever emitted and yet I know what it means. These are death screams, the sounds of the creatures as they rage against the end of everything they ever cared about, whatever that might be.
I see the first of them go down, go down in a tangle of too many limbs. The ones that follow clamber over their fallen comrades, but nonetheless their advance has slowed down. And still we fire, fire until the charge of our plasma rifles runs out.