Chapter 17

Thermobaric OSM-118 147382 knew very little about the universe. The bit that it knew involved a manufacturing plant, a Terra class starship, and the knowledge that it would be a proud day when it was fired towards enemies of Zardonia. This was why OSM-118 147382 was surprised to suddenly find itself hurtling at the hull of a Zardonian spaceship. OSM-118 147382 knew better than to ask why. It wasn’t supposed to ask why. It was supposed to explode, and it did.

Kevin ran blindly, as fast as he could. Which was not very fast at all. He was terrified of accidentally discharging one of the half dozen weapons he was cradling. 

Moments earlier his mind had been occupied with what he thought was a flawless plan. The same plan had worked for Cú Chulainn in his one man fight against the armies of Queen Meadhb. It would be simple enough; force a confrontation in one of the access corridors, and the aliens would have no choice but to fight single file. He would destroy them one by one, and unlike Zero Tolerance, there would be no time limit.

Step one of the plan involved moving crates into the corridor to shield behind.

Step two of the plan involved placing six handheld weapons behind the crates (one to use, and five as backup).

Step three of the plan involved firing off some shots to force a confrontation.

Step three was where things fell apart. It turns out that alien weapons are hard to aim. What Kevin intended to do was send a volley of shots echoing down the corridor. What he actually did was randomly discharge a series of explosives. Most bounced off the walls, and detonated a little further back. It was the one that bounced into the armory that put an end to his plan.

Thrup. The ship rattled with the blast. 

Rattatatta. Thrup. Kevin didn’t think, he just moved. Across a large corridor, and into a smaller gangway. The chain reaction of explosions that he had set in motion intensified. Alarms sounded, and blocked his ability to think.

Heavy footsteps clattered all around.

They focussed his mind, the aliens were coming.

‘Where are ya going mate?’ came the voice.

It barely registered in Kevin’s brain as he careened around another corner. He was concentrating on shuffle-running along the hollow passage. His mind turned thoughts.

‘…no plan survives contact with the enemy’, ‘…but there was no contact’, ‘…I know, I’ll loop around them, take them by surprise’, it was on that thought he stopped. The corridor had ended at a hexagonal window. Beyond it was a sea of stars.

‘Fuck it’

He gently set the weapons on the ground.

‘Stupid aliens, they haven’t a clue how to design a spaceship’

He had nowhere left to run. Behind him the ship rattled and groaned as explosions shook the superstructure. Kevin tapped his foot against the floor, and looked at the pile of weapons.

That was how he got the idea. One by one he carefully placed five weapons against the window. He lifted a panel on the floor to test the cavity below for size.

‘You okay mate?’

The voice made him jump.

‘Fucking hell Billy, never sneak up on someone armed with alien weapons’

‘I didn’t sneak up, what are you doing?’

‘Building a bomb’

Billy the Rant gestured back along the corridor.

‘You sure there’s not enough explosions already?’

‘Very sure, when I fire at these weapons they’re gonna blow out that window and suck the creatures into space’.

‘We’re all on the one ship together, yeah …where’s the rest of your mates?’.

Kevin carefully lowered the remaining weapon into the cavity below the floor and climbed into the hole, ‘…get down here if you want to survive the blast’

‘I’m not sure I trust ya, why don’t we go find the others’

‘because in a few seconds this place is gonna blow sky high’

‘You are sky high’

‘The acid wore off ages ago, right now I’m saving the world’

‘If you say so …how about we see what your mates are up to first though, yeah?’

Billy walked to the window and grabbed an armful of weapons.

‘What the fuck are ya at?’

‘I’m gonna give these back to who they belong to’

‘Are you mental Billy? Put them where I had them’

Kevin scrambled out onto the floor, Billy had turned back up the corridor.

‘I’m gonna dump these in a pile, yeah, half the problem with those aliens is that they don’t talk to each other …if I leave these out like that then they’ll have no choice but talk’

‘What are ya on about Billy’

‘The aliens won’t know whose is whose so they’ll have to chat, yeah’

‘and what’s that gonna do?’

‘Chill them out’

‘Put those fucking things back before ya get yourself vapourized’

Billy continued along the corridor, swinging the weapons as he walked. All around him alarms sounded. Kevin raised his weapon and pointed it.

‘I can’t let you kill yourself Billy …bring back the weapons or I’m gonna fire’

‘that doesn’t make any sense mate, you’re freaking out …take a look out that window, ya know what they say about the stars?’

Kevin turned to look, momentarily distracted, ‘uh, what’s that?’

He swung back from the view, but Billy was gone. Kevin glanced back at the window again. There was only one weapon leaning against it.

Can a single exploding alien rifle generate enough of a blast to blow out a hexagonal porthole in a starship?

The question danced inside Kevin’s head. He looked at the window. He looked back towards the ship. He looked at the weapon he was holding, and he looked at the window again. The answer was just not obvious.

The more he thought about it the more he realized that there was only one person who could let him know for sure. He also knew for certain that there was no way in hell he would ever ask that smug bastard for advice. Not even if the arrogant prick walked up right now carrying a barometer and a Haynes manual for starships. It would never happen.

‘McLoughlin’s probably sitting in the van clapping himself on the back for clearing Zero Tolerance, and telling anyone who’ll listen how deadly he is …the flute, nobody cares about that …I’m saving the world, onboard an actual starship, with actual alien weapons …and I’m not even making a big deal about it’.

Thrup. Another explosion rocked the ship, and brought Kevin’s thoughts back up to outer space.

The clattering footsteps were louder now. He could hear alien voices in between them. They were making the same boulder being dragged ashore sound he’d heard earlier. It was like surf bursting over an unseen reef. He climbed back into the cavity below the floor and slid the panel over him, until only his eyes and the muzzle of the weapon were left exposed.

He steadied himself; ‘it’s just me, an alien rifle, a bunch of cables, oblivion and the floor panel now’.

The footsteps got really close, and stopped. The voices that came with them were lower now. More like pebbles than boulders. ‘Those fuckers …they’ve spotted the weapon’. Then they went silent. ‘Typical, I bet if Gerry McLoughlin was about to explode an alien weapon out a hexagonal porthole those creatures would just stroll on by’. Kevin took aim at the weapon next to the window. ‘It’s alway up to me to do things the hard way’. He knew the creatures were close. Kevin cursed Billy and thanked Physics. He cursed Billy for walking away with the best part of his chance to cause an explosion. He thanked physics for making it very difficult for a squad of heavily armed extraterrestrials to sneak along a hollow gangway unnoticed. Then he squeezed the trigger.

Thrrap. The shot missed completely. It bounced off a wall and landed close back where it came from. Kevin dropped the panel and flattened himself as best he could. The round detonated, and the window was left intact. 

What happened next was a rare moment of Zardonian incompetence. Even if any of the witnesses had survived, they would have died shortly afterwards, because the punishment for that incompetence would have been death. Rattled by an enemy whose tactics were proving impossible to predict they all fired at once. In the direction of the explosion. Where their rounds found nothing, and continued towards the window of docking hatch L361. And caused it to stop being a window. Every last fighter in the squad was instantly sucked out through the place where the window had been. Which may have been for the best.

Kevin braced himself, but his brain was giving up. It had never been his intention to lie prone in the service duct of a spaceship. The ship shuddered and creaked as its systems worked to repressurize the deck. 

Thrup. The alien ammunition continued detonating, but the alarms stopped. That was when it hit him. It was unmistakable. Wafting it’s way along the duct. The smell of human shite. ‘Where there’s shite there’s life’, ‘where there’s life there’s hope’, ‘where there’s hope there’s a man destroying a starship’. Kevin’s thoughts hardened into action again. ‘Crawl’, ‘move’, ‘do’, ‘I’m human, I will not go gently into the night …I’ll follow the shite’. He began moving slowly along the duct, ‘…and then after that I’ll save the world’.