Malthia Prime Southern Hemisphere
System Levy-Shoemaker 92-93
Hunter Gordon felt the hot sun on her skin as she regained consciousness. She moaned and slowly shook her head as sunlight streamed through a small fissure in the ceiling. She squinted and rubbed her eyes and tried to sit up, fighting what felt like a man-sized hangover. Bound by thick iron bracelets and chained naked to a tilted slab of stone in the middle of the dungeon, she felt a gooey substance dripping onto her from her head down to her toes.
Desperately she tried to lift her arm to scrape the goo off, wondering what the hell it was, but the iron bracelet felt like it weighed a ton. Breathing heavily in the high pressure atmosphere of the massive planet, she stilled when she heard the scraping sounds of stone moving. Her ceiling window grew larger and more sunlight poured down on her. She heard the unmistakable sound of a Pteroid click-clacking and chirping, and saw the winged outline of its silhouette up above. Its human-like face looked down at her but its piercing intelligent eyes looked through her. Its elongated pterodactyl-like head, covered in blue and yellow feathers instead of hair, tilted; it wore a mixed expression of disgust and curiosity on its face.
It was hard to differentiate the female Quetzal-sapiens from the male. Next to it, an android tipped a bucket and the sticky stuff rained down on her. She closed her eyes. She sputtered, wanting to tell them to stop, wanting her gun, wanting to kill them, wanting to get out of her chains. An android leaned over the edge of the barred window and laughed.
“Why are you struggling, Hunter Gordon? It is useless to struggle,” the android said. They should have never given the mechanical beings emotions: greed, envy, hate, love, enmity, and in spades.
“What are you all doing to me?” Her southern drawl seemed heavier and thicker here, like the dense Malthian atmosphere.
“We are feeding the clone.”
“We are preparing you for cloning,” the Anie said.
“Feeding what clone?” Hunter asked.
“The creature down below your feet,” it replied, and Hunter looked down past her feet where a round lump of skin writhed and squirmed on the slate floor. She screamed. Panting, she tried to pull her chained feet away, but the effort was incredible. Her feet felt so heavy.
Hunter watched as the stuff slowly oozed off her skin down carved grooves in the stone toward the strange round lump of flesh pulsating just below her feet. It started to roll toward her. Greys entered her room from fissures in the walls and started probing and piercing her with silver tools.
“What are they doing?” she asked, panting, pulling her feet away, the chains clanking.
“They are examining you for defects.”
“What is that thing? What does it want?”
“It is a Mosaic creature and it’s thirsty for your flesh. It cannot absorb your DNA without the slime,” one of the Anies replied.
“You shouldn’t have tried to escape before. It will take longer because we had to heal you. We don’t want your clone born with broken bones.”
“Why does it want my DNA, doesn’t it have its own?” She watched the ball of flesh roll into a depression in the stone near her feet, where the goo that had melted some of her skin cells drained and collected. Thread-like purple tendrils crept out of the Mosaic insect’s skin into the pool, sparks of electricity spun across its fluid surface. Momentarily, the glob of flesh took shape, a female form with a familiar face, her face. The Greys attended it, examining it more gently than they did her and then they slipped quietly back out through the fissures in the walls. Above her the Pteroid clicked and chirped.
“It is the great imitator and it wants to drink your slough,” the android said.
“Doesn’t it have enough?” she asked.
“The imago doesn’t make a good copy, but close enough. It’s hungry for your organ DNA. We don’t want to kill you, just clone you,” it replied, and she watched the bones undulating under the skin of the insect’s flesh ball as it started to feed on the DNA substance.
“We tell the Pteroid how to sustain you humans, how to torture you, how to retrain you. If you don’t tell us what we need to know, Hunter Gordon, we’ll send your clone back amongst your friends.”
Looking at the undulating thing made her nauseous. “Why?”
“To break your spirit. To kill your hope.”
“I suppose you’ve never heard of the Geneva Conventions?” she asked, and the Pteroid spoke again in its language to the mechanical being. The android tilted its head and then looked back at her.
“Funny you should mention those when you don’t feel they apply to the Pteroids. You are the ones who taught us how to brainwash, torture, and humiliate the Pteroids. All they did was reprogram us when we were captured. You showed no mercy for their kind, Hunter Gordon.”
“You all don’t know the meaning of the word mercy,” Hunter said.
“All the same, we will show no mercy for you unless you comply. Close the window.”
“We hope you like your company, Hunter Gordon. If you’re good, maybe we’ll let you out later.”
“No,” Hunter said, “don’t leave me with that thing. Won’t that Pteroid talk to me?”
“No, it speaks only to people of higher intelligence, not to animals. We’re sure you’ll tell us everything when you’ve had enough of this. If we put you in the brain extraction machine, we may not get all the information we need and you’ll be dead. We need to know where the ICE ships are stationed and how much you know about how our ships are powered. We’ll stop the cloning if you are ready to talk.”
“I don’t know anything about wormhole technology. I told you everything I know before you broke my bones.”
“There were no ships at that location.”
“Then I was lied to,” she said.
“Well, then they basically sealed your fate. We’re done,” the Anie said.
“Please don’t…” Hunter whispered as the stones scraped slowly over the grating, closing out the day’s sunlight, squeezing out the last few shafts of light, leaving her in a tomb of darkness with the thing. She screamed.