My name is Freya Savitri, and I am a human from the planet Terra. Earth in my language, Terre in French, Dharti in Hini, La Tierra in Spannish, Zemlia in Russian, Erde in German, though I suppose such a tangent isn’t necessary to bring up. I do so because I’m scared.
Because I don’t want to think about the things that are actually happening. I don’t want to forget what I remember of home. So I’ll go over all the details I can muster, desperately searching for some mental exercise I can latch onto. Even if it amounts to nothing more than trivia.
I stand at a towering five feet tall, my eyes easily looking over the tops of even the largest buildings. Their alien designs fascinated my inner child, and I could not help but marvel at what construction methods must have gone into them. Thin windows of tinted quartz giving the spiral towers a shimmering design. They sparkled so beautifully in the light of this planet’s twin moons.
Beneath my armor was a reddish pink skin, and a trimmed, military cut blond hair hidden behind a helmet. Not that any of the indigenous life forms could see this. My green eyes looked out of the large tinted visor, my head swiveling automatically as my body scanned for a place to set my boots down. There was a sickening squelch beneath my foot, though it didn’t lift up so I could investigate. My armor was dark green in most places, a glistening silver in area’s that had yet to be repainted. The flowing, angular design marred only by the occasional scratches to mark the primitive projectile weapons lobbed against me.
As the first squealing life form crawled out of a nearby building, a tiny stick in its fuzzy little paws, I almost wished they had something stronger. Something dangerous. Something that could blow clear through my visor and exit out the back of my head.
Strange to think of myself as suicidal.
The creature had a soft, luxurious coat of grey fur underneath it’s simple brown cloth. It stood at a height of three, maybe four inches tall, average for the Gesshru race. It’s hands were lanky and thin, the fur jutting out in all directions like it had not taken the time to groom itself before stepping out to confront me. It’s tail was thick at the base, thin near the center, and ended in a large ball of fluff almost the size of the creature’s head. It’s nose was a cute pink color, almost a perfect triangle, and it’s eyes were large and expressive ovals. I could see the beginnings of tears in the corner on its tiny little face. I could see the fear. The desperation.
It was male, clearly, as indicated by the extra fur near the base of its tail and the second pair of ears that swiveled and flared from the top of its head. The first pair of ears resembling some cross between a mouse and a bunny, the second pair looking more like horns of bone with a flap of skin between the tip and the base. The horn-ears would move and bend independently, and I knew from previous attempts at study that the males used them much like antenna.
When he opened his mouse shaped muzzle, there were two sets of comically sized buck teeth on his upper and lower lip, giving him …
Giving /IT/ the distinct appearance of a mouse.
It’s loud squeak didn’t help to deter that connection, the Gesshru language consisting mostly of half audible squeaks mixed with tongue clicks and teeth clacking. The small indigenous life form seemed so cute to me. I’d have given anything just for the chance to hold the creature in my hands and make an attempt at dialogue.
Not that it would work. I could hear it’s language. Me and my team managed to decipher it within a week of first contact, the creature’s vocalizations being simple and straightforward when compared to Terra’s thousands upon thousands of competing linguistic styles. I could hear this Gesshru’s shouts and pleas with uncomfortable ease, even through the protection of my armored helmet. Not quite as airtight as human designs.
But the creature’s ears did not possess the same range that a human’s did. My voice, even if I knew to be quiet, even if I practiced hard and worked to produce similar sounds to their own language, it would be at too low a pitch for them to make out. I’ve heard how they describe the speech of a human. Thundering howls that rock the landscape. A unsettling, steady boom that seems to crash through the air and rattles the very bones. I tried many times to speak with these creatures.
My team tried many times to speak with these creatures.
I fought back tears as memories shifted over that horrible mistake.
“W-we are loyal to the Gashn empire, soldier. We are on y-your side! Please. P-please don’t do this. We … w-we missed one payment, but we’ll have the tribute ready within the week! I swear it!” the creature squeaked, the translation coming instantly in my head. I’ve seen this type of situation before. What he said wouldn’t make any difference. There was no such thing as mercy on a world like this. I wished I didn’t understand what he … /it/ was saying. I wish I could just tune them out, ignore their pleas as I went about my work. To remember that these people have hearts and lives, families and hardships, to be reminded that they aren’t just some curiosity to classify or a statistic marked by a number.
That they had hopes and dreams on par with my own. Aspirations to strive toward, and friends to protect. It was simply too much for my heart to bear. But I’d already learned the language. To not understand while listening was as impossible as not reading a word right in front of your eyes. Despite my best attempts at distancing myself from this Gesshru, he was already earning a piece of sympathy from my battered soul.
My foot lifted high above the streets. The dark skies, bright to my sharp, human eyes, did nothing to deter my aim as the boot stamped down. Another splotch. Another squish. The crunch and grind of bones between plastic and dirt. Whoever that man was, brave enough to stand before the human sent to demolish his city, now nothing more than a ruined corpse littering the sidewalk.
I stepped forward. The weight pressed down further into the poor creature, squeezing his organs out the sides of his skin like toothpaste coming out of a tube. My left arm lifted up, my fingers curling into a fist, before slamming down hard onto the roof of a spiral tower. The Gesshru equivalent of a skyscraper. It crumpled in on itself easily, but did not fall. Quartz crystals and debris flew onto the road bellow, clinking noisily onto my armor exterior.
That’s when the screaming started.
A piercing wail, this high pitched, squeak-like squeal that flowed through the air as the little rodents started to panic. An alarm signal. An obvious sign of distress. It was clear the point of this sound was to warn other members of the species of the impending danger, or, if applicable, a cry for help should any of the Gesshru be in a position to lend aid.
No matter how much I detached myself with a cold, scientific rhetoric, I still couldn’t hear it as anything less than the screams of terrified people.
My foot lifted back, awkwardly and mechanically, before swinging forward to deliver a strong kick at the base of the structure. It toppled to the side. The support struts failed. And with an awful clash, the creatures inside were crushed underneath the falling rubble.
The Gesshru caught on fast that the attack could not be stopped. Could not be deterred. There was no negotiation, there were no demands. Only destruction and death. Gesshru of all colors and shapes started to pour out of buildings as they realized even the sturdiest tower was a deathtrap. They took to the streets, taking shelter in alleyways or slipping down into the sewer systems. Many simply fled for the city’s edge, hoping to reach the rocky areas outside city limits while I was distracted in the center.
Without a thought, my hand lowered down to snatch a young boy off the street. His golden brown fur so soft and so pretty. His chest fluff poking through my gauntleted fingertips, his tail twitching madly in agitation. The boy’s eyes were dark, the pupil’s having expanded to fill the whole eye, something that some Gesshru do when terrified. I could see the tiny droplets of tears falling down his cute little cheeks. He was a handsome specimen, clearly healthy and agile.
“P-please … no.” he whispered, clacking his teeth together in an effort to fight off his fear. It’s something Gesshru do a lot when near humans. The closest equivalent gesture would be a nervous whistle.
My expression unreadable through the orange tinted visor, I held one of his arms in my right hand, and his other arm in my left. He screamed. I pulled. His body fell into the fleeing crowd with a wet thud, and the two furry little arms in my grip were tossed aside with a casual flick of the wrist. Before the first victim even had time to bleed out, I was raising my foot t stomp down on another Gesshru. And another. And another …
Another step, another death, the gruesome process repeating itself until I reached the next building on my list. I bent at the knees, my gait awkward and mechanical. My hands extended towards the base of the structure and my fingers closed around the supports in a tight, unyielding grip. My muscles flexed. I stood up. The building topped over in the opposite direction like a domino, crashing into the adjacent building and knocking that one down as well.
The angle was off to take down more than two towers, but the rubble splashing away managed to crush some of the smaller buildings completely.
My leg raised, and my boot proceeded to do the same. Avoiding the streets now, I leapt from rooftop to rooftop like this were some twisted game of hopscotch, crushing lives beneath my boots with every horrific crunch.
Hands reaching down into the fleeing crowd of rodents, scurrying about like some sentient carpeted floor, I swatted a pair into the side of a nearby building. Out cold, they weren’t even able to scream when I slammed my fist down on them. But that was okay. Lots of other people were screaming in their stead. I wished they would run faster, that they wouldn’t waste time shouting and crying but instead focused their attention on getting away. I wished more of these people would manage to escape.
Another step. More squealing rodents met their gruesome end beneath my boots. The blood and gore and bones alike staining the armor, making it look dark red, almost black, rather than it’s natural green.
I know Gesshru don’t see as clearly, and that they have poorer night vision, but I still wondered what I looked like to the adorable little faces down bellow. I was probably this dark mass of plastic and terror that they didn’t think too hard on lest my visage fill their dreams with unspeakable horrors.
My stomach growled, and I frowned behind my visor. My hands reached down to pluck a young woman, kicking and screaming, from the arms of her companions. I could tell this was female by the smooth head, the single set of more rounded ears, the more compact hips, and the extra bit of fluff poking out of her chest. A young teen with bright yellow eyes and a soft grey fur. She was a pretty little thing. Clearly an attractive specimen by Gesshru standards, clean and healthy like most females of this species tend to be.
I felt a plastic slide flip out, a hidden pocket on the side of my right thigh revealing itself. My hand automatically lowered the girl down into the opening and it snapped shut around her with an audible cling. Once inside, I knew that a tube providing her with air would clasp around her muzzle, while the rubbery walls would be compressed against her fur as the suit took a miniature vacuum to the inside of her cage. She’d be sealed tight in a thin, black rubbery casing. Not able to see or smell. Barely able to hear, though I was loud enough for them to feel the terror of my voice and footsteps.
And not able to move.
Not even the slightest twitch.
Another notch opened, and I felt a sick twist in my stomach when my arms moved down to pluck more Gesshru off the streets. One after another, six in total were sealed away in my suit, each with their own pocket hidden by a movable plastic slide. There were only two reasons to capture and store Gesshru this way. The first, and most pleasant, was for interrogation. The prisoners will usually die during the interrogation process, but that was always much nicer than the alternative reason.
I felt like puking as I thought about it, but of course none of my systems would allow such a compulsion to follow through.
The other reason was food. Oftentimes, live Gesshru, sealed away in airtight snack packs, was all I would be allowed to eat. I’ve gone days sometimes, given a captured Gesshru and a bowl of water, with no further provisions until I had swallowed down the first set of terrified victims. They tickled the throat on the way down, but tasted okay even if unwashed and uncooked. Live, they tended to make me feel sick and squirm too much for me to swallow. Dead, they reminded me of chicken wings, but crunchier.
But of course it never takes much to take a live specimen and turn it into a dead one.
I’m human. I’m built for endurance, and I can last without eating for a lengthy period of time. The Gesshru are not. I’m proud to say that many of the latest ‘meals’ have died of starvation, with my trying desperately to comfort them, long before I gave in and decided to eat the corpse. But sometimes you’d find one who felt starving to death was crueler. That it would prefer I simply kill it, quickly, and end the creature’s suffering. I always hated being obliged to go through with that. Especially when they went mad and starting talking directly to me. Shouting at me. Pleading at me. Cursing how my presence has ruined everything they hold dear.
There was no reason to interrogate the people from this particular city. No reason to suspect they knew anything, or that they even had something to hide. While my hands reached down to snatch three Gesshru at once, haphazardly tossing them over my shoulder to die where they landed, I shuddered at what I’d be forced to eat when I got back to base. Who I’d be forced to eat.
And of course they’ll talk once I take the wrapper off. And of course I’ll listen to them, and remember their names.
There are times I truly hate …
Another stomp, and a small trade outlet was crushed along with all of its supplies. A careful step, a hop and a kick, and an empty place of learning was scattered across the streets. Tiny shelves and little books littering the rooftops and alleyways. My hand reared back, then shot forward into a tower with an audible crunch, the fragile mudwork building cracking apart. My fingers gripped the inside, hooking around the wall, then pulled back with a savage efficiency.
Inside, I saw an adult female Gesshru, her silvery fur matching the white cloth across her arms and hips in a display of stunning beauty. Her mouth agape, she kept her arms wrapped tight around a young, male child. My heart leapt at the sight of the terrified toddler, barely an inch tall and clasping a stuffed toy close to its chest. They had the same facial structure. The same jaw-line. The same nose. I figured it safe to assume that this was a mother trying to protect her son.
She stared directly into my visor, her face twisted in fear though her posture betrayed an admirable bravery. Her teeth clattered and a series of squeaks competed against the grind and clamor of falling debris and fleeing Gesshru. I wish I hadn’t understood what those squeaks meant.
“Y-you’re going to k-kill me … aren’t you.”
It wasn’t a question. It was an accusation. The words, though not technically directed at me, stabbed through my heart like knife. And then she decided to twist.
“P-please. Do whatever y-you want with me, but spare my son. Please … please, just spare my son.” She gasped, choking out the words whilst the child, too young to be without it’s mother, began to cry. He stared directly at the cold, expressionless visor I portrayed to these people. The woman hurriedly hushed her son, whispering that everything was going to be alright. Whispering into his ear that he needed to stop crying. Everything was going to be alright.
I didn’t want to do this.
My right hand reached further into the building, my fingers clumsily curling around the mother and son alike with an awkward grip.
I didn’t want to do this …
My fingers began to tighten.
The mother hushed her son, curling her tail around the both of them even as my gauntleted fingers began to exert a bone-crushing pressure.
I didn’t …
Both sets eyes wide and dark with a single color as pupils expand. Complete terror visible in their expressions. The child knew something was wrong, and the mother was trying to keep him calm until the end even through her own panic.
I won’t …
I was NOT going to do this.
Gritting my teeth against an overwhelming pain in the top of my spine, I locked my fingers stiff. I fought against the muscles that kept trying to tighten, slowly opening my fingers to let the two Gesshru drop that few millimeters to the floor of their high rise. My hand twitched and jerked, like a robot with hydraulic systems and a faulty battery.
I wasn’t going to do this. I was resolute. I was certain.
Having won that slight battle against my hand, I slammed a hard order on my legs, desperately trying to back away from the two rodents before my focus failed me. Before the pain overwhelmed me. I needed to …
I had to …
My hand shot out to grab them again, but this time my other hand accompanied it. I struggled and twitched. I fought to keep my two hands apart with a feverish will. I lost miserably, and the two metal gauntlets smashed into the whimpering Gesshru with just enough force to cripple them. While the mother and child were screaming and sobbing, my hands would twist and grind, mashing their bloodied corpses together into a flatted slurry of fur and bone and gore. The awful snapping of their limbs, that slick pop as their skulls exploded in my palm …
There were tears welling up behind my eyes. But all anyone would have seen was the cold, emotionless visor as my hands lifted into the air, balled into a fist without even the decency to wipe the corpses off, and then slammed down into the building with all of my weight.
Defeated. Jaded. Wishing with every fiber of my being that I’d never come to this planet. Never bothered to make contact with this race of fascinating rodent creatures. The rampage continued …
The screams echoed into the air. The dead numbered into hundreds as my hands reached into hiding places and tore apart Gesshru after Gesshru. Always personal.
Always one Gesshru at a time, while others were around to watch.
It was a long, awful, terror filled night for everyone.
My body stomped lazily into the hanger of the nearest Gashn base. Little rodents scampered fearfully into the hidden walkways, occasionally opening up sealed doorways to permit me further into the building. My movement stopped on a large circular pad. A vehicle pad. How fitting.
Robotic arms extended from the nearby walls, gripping the parts of my armor with a startling precision and slowly pealing them away. I saw other humans stomping awkwardly into the hanger bay as well, some being fitted for combat, others being treated for injuries, and still others like myself having their clothing removed.
Every face was hidden by a tinted visor, the same as myself.
The gauntlets were taken off, as was the shoulder and chest plates. The knee-caps, and armor around my hips, all of it piled neatly to the side. There were no latches for easy handholds and this armor wasn’t designed to be removed anywhere but here, the mechanical arms snatching up sections while screws and socket wrenches remove the attachments. An awkward looking tube extended towards the center of my thighs, just barely above the crotch, and a sharp suction pulled out the sealed up snacks I’d acquired earlier so that the thigh armor could be removed safely.
They weren’t even able to scream as the black bags were shoveled into a nearby sack, piled on top of each other ungracefully. But I knew they were still alive, and still very much afraid.
My bare skin available for all of the other humans to see, and for the actual soldiers to gape upon, the only thing I could be thankful for was the tube top bra and the tight shorts. I could be thankful I had them. I could be thankful most of the other humans had matching outfits beneath their armor, and were allowed to don them when not on an active mission. But I could not feel thankful for how uncomfortable the fit was.
My helmet wasn’t removed, keeping my face hidden just as completely as the faces of all my comrades. All my teammates. The friends and co-workers I’d signed up for this exploration task with, most of whom I’ll never get to speak with again.
My legs moved, the balance off now that my center of weight had shifted, and I stumbled forward into the hallway. I counted the doors, three down and to the right, until we’d reached my pen.
Somewhere down at foot level I heard the telltale beep of someone pressing a button, but try as I might I could not get my eyes to scan downward. The door to my living area opened, revealing a ten by ten room with matted cloth in one corner, a half empty bowl of water in another, and a crude bucket with a sealable cap for defecating into.
You have no idea how grateful I was when they finally decided to give us the cap.
My knees bent, much too quickly for my taste, and the kneecaps slammed into the hard floor with a jolting pain. I winced, but was unable to do anything about it. My hips bent forward until my chest was pressed into the cold, unyielding floor. My right hand extended in front of my face, then twisted to the side so that my hand was perpendicular with my shoulder. I knew what this was for. This was to provide a ramp.
Once my body was in place, low to the ground and easy to climb off of, I felt a sharp tingle flow through my bones and all of my muscles suddenly locking into place. I was stiff.
Paralyzed. I could not even move my lips, and my eyelids seemed heavy and slow.
A hissing noise emanated from the back of my helmet, followed by a hard click as the panel slid back. Two warm, fuzzy sticks could be felt poking into my shoulder blades, but they soon alternated, one after the other, as the creature walked down the length of my arm.
Tasgall Flits. A name spoken in a half audible squeak, but a name I remember well. Easy for me to pronounce even if my voice was too low for the smug bastard to understand. The uniformed Gesshru walked casually down the length of my arm, his tail swaying in amusement. Once he was at my finger-tips, the tiny Gesshru delivered a harsh kick into my fingernails. It didn’t hurt half as much as I’m sure he wanted it to.
“Hey Sqaopi, I’ve got to talk to you about the neural dampeners for this Max unit.” The creature squeaked. Though his expression betrayed amusement, the male Gesshru sounded angry. Annoyed. He spoke to a white furred Gesshru in a lab coat, no doubt the one who opened the door to my pen. Neither paid any attention to me.
“More? I still can’t fathom why you’d need any.” Sqaopi answered with a nervous, confused chittering.
“The beast is just getting so hard to control these days. I swear, crippled by chemicals that would have numbed most other Maxes into drooling couch cushions and this one still manages to resist.”
These two might qualify as my owners, in human terms, but they did not call themselves that. Tasgal might qualify as my trainer if one used human terms, but he did not call himself one.
“I’d say you need to work on your piloting skills good sir. Most of the other pilots can keep control of the Max without use of any dampeners. Yet somehow you need twice as much as the most extreme case? You do realize you’re the only Max pilot in the whole district who needs a depressant Numberjack AND a neural shock stim just to keep your bioweapon in line.”
“Yeah, well … that’s not enough either. I’m thinking we can double the dosage of those meds, maybe see about a partial lobotomy.” Tasgall shrugged, unashamed, as he and the other little Gesshru walked towards the open doorway with the pitter patter of tiny little feet.
“What could have possibly possess you to request such extreme measures? We only have so many Maxes available to us, if this one dies then that’s one less Max for the empire to deploy.”
“Ugh … well, I was out in the low wastes, clearing out a small town of eastern scum that failed to meet their quota for the month. I had these two pieces of low caste trash right in my hands, when all of sudden ‘Maneater’ here decides to start fighting for control. I swear, she almost took off running even with me at the helm and a full shock to her motor controls.”
A metallic clatter sounded as the large door to my pen shut behind them. I could still hear them talking, though exactly what was hard to make out.
I still couldn’t move.
My helmet split in two, after a moment of silence in the empty room, then it began to twist and fold in on itself. My short blonde hair revealed to the oppressing emptiness, the helmet continued to fold and shift until it had become just a thick collar at the base of my neck. Enabling remote controls from anyone with the proper signal, and still able to convert back into a helmet the next time someone wanted to take me out for a mission.
Slowly, the numbing stiffness in my joints relented, and I relished the controlled, swift, organic movement in my arms for the first time in hours. Finally able to move of my own violation, finally able to take a deep breath of the stale, recycled air in my sleeping quarters, as opposed to the stale, rank and sweat laden air from inside my armor.
The first thing I did was stand up. The second thing I did, before Sqaopi and Tasgall could get too far away, was stomp over to the door and slam my fist into the metal. My knuckles bled. I didn’t care.
“You disgusting little monster.” I growled in English, knowing full well they would only hear grunts and deep, booming explosions no matter what language I used. “You can’t do this. I’ll fight! I will escape! As soon as you assholes let your guard down, I will fucking murder you! Do you hear me, monster?”
I pounded futilely against the door.
“Jeeze, looks like ‘Maneater’ is getting rowdy again.” Sqaopi squeaked.
“Pff- she’s always like that. I think I’ve been given the worst Max of the bunch, this one isn’t nearly as obedient as any of the others.”
“Hehe, yeah. I heard she got the nickname because of what happened to the last three pilots.”
“Only the last two.” I heard Tasgal mutter, not even slightly afraid of my pitiful shouting. “The first guy who rode her only lasted a week before she tore his head off. The next two were dumb enough to stick around during feeding time, and the beast mistook her pilot for one of the easterners.”
“That ISN’T what happened at all!” I screamed, throwing my shoulder against the door. Recounting how I’d acquired my nickname amongst these … people. “Open this door you asshole and I’ll fucking show you what happened!”
People was a term I applied loosely, for I doubted Tasgall and his ilk should truly qualify.
“Scary to think about.” Sqaopi stuttered fearfully. But his concern was shrugged off. So long as I still had the collar on and a solid door in my way, there was little I could do to them.
“Eh, you get used to it.” The bastard squeaked, walking away from my impotent raging. “I figure one of these days she’ll start to taste the difference between those of high caste, and those of low caste. Just keep feeding her an easterner or two each night and she’ll catch on eventually.”
I continued to slam into the door, struggling and fighting and bloodying my knuckles. It hurt, but in truth it felt good to just move. Move and flex. To feel like I’m actually fighting them, that I might break loose one of these days. One of these years …
Tears were streaming down my cheeks by the time I’d stopped, the sound of heavy breathing the only noise in my barren pen. The cage I was forced to return to after so much destruction. After being used as a weapon to bully and enslave an entire people. I wept for the families who looked directly into my eyes before meeting their end at my fingers, or my boot. I wept for myself, trapped in a horrible nightmare in which I played the monster. I wept for my friends, hidden in their own separate pens, mindslaves under the command of a vile empire just like myself.
I looked to my right, noting the two tubes that extended from the wall and hovered over my food bowl. One dispensed a mushy brown substance not entirely unlike kibble after it’s been soaking in milk for two long. The other plopped out a single rubber bag, the telltale bulges in the exact shape of a Gesshru. Once the food bowl was filled, the tubes retracted into the wall.
A muffled crying could be heard through the vacuum sealed wrapper.
I wept right along with him. Fully aware of how he’d react once I set him free to move about.
Fully aware how this awful, terror filled story would end for the both of us.