Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

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Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby arbon » Tue Jun 13, 2017 12:31 am

My question for this week: "Try reversing this scenario, if you were captured and taken to an enemy stronghold, then tossed into a cage alongside a soul eating dragon ... how would you handle it? If not you personally, then a character of yours from your own stories?"


Gesshru
__________
Chapter 17

My name is Freya Savitri, and I think prince charming is never going to come.

When I woke it was disappointingly back in my cage.

Skin hurt, my eyes hurt, my stomach ached something fierce and I could feel the dry scratching in my throat. A tumble forward to sip at the water.

Irora in Yuruba. Intlungu in Xhosa. Poen in Welsh. Dau Don in Vietnamese. Ogriq in Uzbek. Marwadzo in Shona. Bolest in Slovak. Bolecina in Slovenian. Xanuun in Somali. Dolor in Spanish. Nyeri in Sundanese. Maumivu in Swahili. Smarta in Swedish. Agri in Turkish. Smerte in Norwegian. Bol in Polish. Dor in Portuguese. Durere in Romanian. Tiga in Samoan. Aypy in Kazakh. Sapes in Latvian. Skausmas in Lithuanian. Sakit in Malay.

Pain.

Doule in Haitian Creole. Mob in Hmong. Fajdalom in Hungarian. Mgbu in Igbo. Rasa Sakit in Indonesian. Peine in Irish. Dolore in Italian. Bol in Croatian. Bolest in Czech. Smerte in Danish. Pijn in Dutch. Valu in Estonian. Kipu in Finnish. Douleur in French. Pine in Frisian. Schmerz in German. Novos in Greek. Pyn in Afrikaans. Dhimbje in Albanian. Agri in Azerbaijani. Bol in Bosnian. Kasakit in Cebuano. Chisoni in Chichewa.

Most every language I’ve encountered has some concept of pain, a universal trait that most every human experienced at some point or another. I wasn’t sure which was entirely worse, the physical torment of being zapped and pummeled before carried through a chilly desert, or the emotional drain of just existing here.

I saw Loren again. He was alive at least, and from the sounds of things would remain such for much longer than I will. His strategy fundamentally different, his patience and skillset far more effective than mine at disarming their assumptions.

Time to drink, time to breathe. I nibbled up globs of nutriment paste and washed it down with a few more sips. Slowly so as not to overwhelm my system, and thankful that there wasn’t another corpse I’d be expected to bite into.

Too much time and not enough to do.

Seated atop the blanket it was the dull monotony of staring at walls, counting the tiles, relieving myself when needed. And then going right back to sleep.

Another day of fresh food and fresh water. Another routine. Another rest. The only thing to pass the time was poking at my stab wounds and trying to see how long until that coral through my cheek starts to recover.

It was two days of complete nothing, lost in my own thoughts, before my body acted on its own accord and once more maneuvered into the operating position for ease of handling. Stable, paralyzed, my arm extended as a ramp for that easy access to my shoulder. The helmet popping up to cover my face on its own accord.

Heh, the helmet was still broken. That gaping hole with half my face visible past the jagged edges not entirely fixed yet. I closed my eyes and listened. The voices of the coming rodents quiet and whispered by comparison to Loren’s joyous bass, the distinction between the two was so hilariously drastic. But I was the linguist. I could understand the words.

“B-but sir!” Tasgal mutters in a panic. Tap, tap, tap, as he walks. Was he in crutches?

“It was a simple mission, pilot. We sent in Prot to clean up your mess and it went smoothly, with the exact same parameters as your mission.” It was someone new, someone young by the sound of it. Unfamiliar but distinctly male, and approaching quickly.

“Prot fell back like a coward and went to grab a small army to back him up, that isn’t something we should be praising.”

“And yet he got the job done, as in accomplished, without losing an entire Max Unit to the enemy. And without stepping on his own forces!”

“Sir.” Tasgal sounded as if he was about to say that was an unfair accusation. “This Max unit is the worst of the bunch, this is Maneater. I am the only one in this compound who can pilot her in the slightest, and even with two full injections she can still manage to resist me.”

“Again with the lobotomizing. You’ve won already, she’s scheduled for the procedure at the end of the month. We can’t act any sooner than that, and with you too injured to assume full responsibility we have to delegate her tasks to a younger pilot.”

“You remember what happened when that Doth girl tried to drive this monster. At my hands the worst she suffered was a minor blow, and the only breach in her armor is where it was cracked the last time. If you send someone else they are just going to get eaten alive.” Tasgal was passionate for some reason.

“As much as I understand that this is your Max unit, the jobs we require are still on the timetable, and this Maneater itself is perfectly functional. You may not agree with it but someone has to pilot.”

“Then I will.”

“You’ve been stabbed through the gut, you can barely walk, and you still have a shard of plastic embedded in your spine that we need to remove.”

“And yet I can still sit in a chair and press buttons. Admit it, piloting a Max unit is far more skill based and mental than it is physical, and our soldiers do not need to be muscle bound and in the top of their game to pilot effectively. I can do it. I will do it. And may the core help me if I’m pulled away from my next assignment for mandatory bed rest I will make your afterlife a living hell.”

For a moment there was silence.

Well, silence, then snickering.

I was annoyed that snickering didn’t turn into laughter, but it settled down calmly.

“Well if you feel that strongly about it, fine then. We need to have her helmet patched up by the end of the week, so until that time you are indeed assigned to mandatory bed rest. You are dismissed.”

“I want to stay and make sure the engineers- …”

“And I said you are dismissed. Now leave.” The man’s voice wasn’t the demanding presence of authority, nor loud. It was simply intimidating.

For a squeak.

Okay, I’ll admit the adorable little squee noises could only possibly be intimidating if one grasped the context. And I could imagine he’d be far less of an authority figure if I were allowed to hug him and squeeze him and hold him tight. The same could be said for a lot of Gesshru actually.

The gentle taptaptap as Tasgal leaves. A sensation of tiny pokes along my hand and fingers, something crawling toward me. I could feel his warmth. And when he made it beneath my head to stare up through that gaping hole in my visor. A glance at his features, he was tall and proper with good posture. Speckled brown along an off-white fur color that is far more common in the snow capped regions than down in this desert basin. There was the mark of rank on his chest and a split hat between his horns. His eyes gazing back were a sparkling blue.

“You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you. Maneater was it? Ghastly name.” he says with an odd accent I had trouble placing. Every word he spoke was with a grinding purr, as if his teeth were clenched together and he was chewing on something for every syllable.

Injury? He was too young, his horns too clean, this must be from a local dialect. Perhaps experts in some field coming to advise in operations here, which would suggest a neurosurgeon who’s going to be lobotomizing me or an animal trainer setting up to study the lone Soul Eater they’ve captured.

I said nothing. My name as the maneater was well earned, and if this man would get just a little bit closer I might consider trying to wrap my tongue around him. One bite is all it takes to cripple, two or three and the tiny things become a red paste. But then I didn’t know who he was or where he stood.

He wasn’t close enough anyway.

“Well, I can see the damage to your helmet is quite extensive. We’re going to have to replace the entire visor. Have to repair the holes in your control panel. We might be stuck attempting to replace the entire collar, everything save the jackpoint to your spinal column. Hrmm. Interesting.”

He spoke to himself in an empty room. Pulling out a thin scrap of paper and a much too small line of graphite, drawing it over like a pen to write. Marking his thoughts, I remained stationary as the man scampered off to who knows where. Distant taptapping of mouse paws on tile, the whirring grind as a door slides shut behind him.

It was several minutes before I could move again, gasping to my feet and touching at my face when the helmet slides away, folding up all too neatly in that thick band around my throat.

I breathed.

Always this thing felt as if it choked me, offering just enough space to expand so that I could breathe but never anything more. A constant discomfort that the entire human population of this planet had to deal with.

I thought about pounding on the door, but Loren’s plan harkened back to me. Pretend, be docile, convince them all to lower their guard.

Just give up and let the rat bastards take you …

Roll back onto my blanket and curl up like a little girl, wet across my cheeks while refusing to cry.

Another day passes. Warmth welling through me and the pain ebbing away. A scar formed along my cheek to match the marked lines on my leg, war scars in a technical sense. Even if few soldiers alive would brag about how tiny mice with rubber bands and plastic toothpicks managed to injure you. No window to see the sky, nothing but the count of my heartbeat and rhythmic waking cyrcles to mark the time.

Water fed into my bowl from that same tube, and with a wet splat food is guided in via mechanical assistance.

Flash of black, the brown and grey paste coating the sides. I let out a whining groan at, yet another, ANOTHER! live wriggling meal all wrapped up in plastic.

“Dammit …” a moan in English that only terrified the thing more. “Fucking dammit.” My voice quieter rather than louder, anger willing. Fatigue setting on my mind even as my body recovered. One more time we go through this song and dance, hoping maybe next time it will be different. Knowing, from beginning to end, that I’m just going to watch them die.

I didn’t want to handle this yet, and so I didn’t. A low growl, a flop and rumble off my blanket. I didn’t even walk, I crawled over to the food bowl and pinched my fingers around the rubbery casing of a vacuum sealed bag. Without ceremony I tossed it into my mouth and licked away the food stains smattered over the outside, making sure to suck the ends clean as I pulled it free.

It wasn’t hard to feel his warmth. One couldn’t mistake the obvious panic, attempting to move and just being held in place no matter how hard you applied what meager strength you have. A tiny part of me felt he deserved it, that someone deserved to feel the same way I did every waking moment. The rest of me just had pity for another victim of the Gashn empire.

He’s placed on my blanket as gently as possible, the ends curled over to offer him warmth. True I proceeded to ignore him completely and set about devouring my own breakfast for the next ten minutes, only wet slurps and the smack of licking my fingers as a response to his muffled screams and useless wriggling. For the moment he was behind my back. That means he was behind me. By ignoring him I was doing the mature thing and moving on.

See?

Anyone would agree with me.

Water to wash the food down, a heavy sigh at the fact I’d be stuck with another scream and introductions. A glance at his packaging the Gesshru was clearly a man, his horns even came close to popping the seal if one handled him the wrong way. Adult was the important thing, children are rarely taken prisoner and fed to the eaters of souls. Or whatever they think we are I guess.

Naked as usual, but noticeably muscular. Trained to fight if not quite a hulking powerhouse or a lithe acrobat. Another wet smack, gobbling up half of my rationed food to make up for the amount of energy that had to go into regenerating skin tissue and managing blood loss, the amount left would easily last him a while.

“Fine.” I click my teeth in his own language, reaching a hand out to scoop the wrapping away and curling back into my own bed. “I’ll get you out, just promise to entertain me. And do it without telling me your name, I don’t want to hear it.”

Peeling away a banana, that’s what this felt like. Or perhaps opening a plastic wrapped chocolate bar. The rank smell of unwashed rodent burst out with that vaccum sealed pop the moment it opens and the sound of desperate gasping reaches my ears.

“Wwhhyyyyy!” he breathes more than he screams, backpedalling away from my hands and getting tangled in the mess of blankets. To be fair my bed was also unwashed so I probably didn’t smell much better at the moment.

“Because the Gashn are assholes.” It was only answer I could give him, and perhaps the most truthful answer possible.

“H-hhookay, I’m up. Yeah you destroyer thing, I’m up.” He was on his knees at the moment. Close enough I guess? No, wait, he stood onto two legs and would probably fall down if I sneezed at him. “Time for round two? Well let me tell you something you foul breathed slow moving hunk of carbon in the miserable excuse for a life form, my name is Jace Morot. And I’m going to be the first guy to escape this place.”

The tiny little thing didn’t look familiar, and was just as twitchy as everyone else when I fell into a seated position and crossed my legs. He did hold his ground, and I’ll have to admit watching a mouse squeak up in defiance was amusing enough to keep my attention. I put my chin in my hands and puff my cheeks out, arms clearly well away from him and staring down with annoyance.

“Hah! Yeah, you remember me don’t you. Of course you do, everyone does, I’m awesome that way.” This Gesshru was obviously not the lithe and powerful man with a Coral spear, if he were Orchi’s father I would have recognized him on sight. Who else did I see recently?

“Seeing as you’ve offered the grace of your own name it is only fitting that I grant you my own. Freya Savitri, NASA linguist from the planet earth. If you want to escape then be my guest, but I’m going to take a bet that it’s not happening.”

“Aarrgghn.” His ears pull back and he seems to be reeling at the sound of my voice. Even whispered in this clickchirp language I was always too loud. “Will you knock it off already? That hurts you know!”

“Oh, my apologies. I never would have guessed.” Biting sarcasm just as lost on him as it was on anyone else.

“Ffffff- so your just toying with me, huh? Well guess what, even if you eat my soul I’m still giving up. My soul is going to rip you apart from the inside and wear you like a hat. So don’t mess with me!”

“Yes, quite scary. You are doing me a frighten and all that. Clearly you have intimidated me into never wanting to eat another Gesshru again. All hail the mighty hero.”

“… I get the distinct impression you are mocking me.”

“Yes.” In his own squeaks and as bluntly as possible, he deserved to know the truth of my complete lack of respect. Well, fear honestly. He was far more adorable than an imprisoned one year old war veteran has any right to be.

Or at least I assumed he was only a year old, didn’t look aged enough to be a full two years. Might even be very mature for someone less than a year old.

“That’s it. Don’t care if they took my spear away, you and me. Right here, right now, I don’t need to stand on top of a building to hit a seed as fat as you are.” He charged forward.

“Standing on a building?” now that sounded familiar.

“Aaarrggh!” he let out a blazing war-cry and tore forward in a bursting rush. He actually was fast for a Gesshru, maybe even twice as fast when tearing all out, but still just above walking pace for a human. The little soldier boy threw himself at my kneecap with enthusiastic abandon, back-flipping just before impact and slamming both feet hard against my skin.

Well, I felt a tap at least. The rodent bounced aside and rolled to the ground, already horns pointed forward, his shoulders drooped low and in a wide stance. His arms up by his torso. This was a mouse with actual combat training.

“Oh no, ooww, I am in so much pain. Please stop.” I deadpanned while looking straight at him. A deliberate attempt to appear as bored as possible.

“Had enough yet? Well too bad. I’m pissed and I’m naked and you’re the only one I can take it out on.” He rushes forward again and makes a two-prong flurry, quick jab followed by a sidelong punch. It might have been a boxer’s move if not for his low stance.

Pap-pap. The proper response would have been to sigh with indignation, but having seen Loren and realizing what he would do I decided on something more dramatic.

“G-gaahhh!” I lurched forward, holding my heart in one hand and reaching to the roof with my other. A sprawl backward, legs spreading and sitting up only high enough to aim where I’d fall.

“Oowww …” Jace moaned about the noise.

“Dying. You’ve got me! N-no. Blackness. Fading … tell my mother her fruit pies were delicious!” I lay down onto my back and close my eyes, mouth open and tongue lulling out to the side. One knee propped up and the other spread, one arm on my belly while the other drapes into my water bowl.

Jace seemed perplexed.

“Oh come on, I know your just doing that to mess with me!” he shouted.

“How astute an observation of you.” I lifted my head up and looked directly at him as I spoke. “Of course the average kinetic force of a single mouse-thing’s fist being delivered into a human kneecap very rarely has the left of power required to routinely stop a heart from the impact alone. Judging by the theatrical way the body is sprawled and the very much still actively breathing one can only conclude that this human specimen is attempting to act. This must be very fascinating.”

Then I lay my head back down and pretended I was dead.

“Hrmph, if you aren’t going to take this seriously we might as well not fight at all.” He sounded more mopey than I would have expected.

“Can’t say anything.” I whispered in clattering squeaks. “I’m dead.”

Just as suddenly as anything else in this asylum run by the insane, I felt his feet on my leg. Crawling up the thigh. Walking over my belly. Wait, no, he stopped directly on top of my breast and gazed down. I poked open a single eye to see his very disapproving glare before closing my eye again. Had to make this helpless act look good.

“Well, I guess I really am just that amazing. Cheers! Every witness to my ultimate accomplishment rise and squeak for your new hero! Jace Morot, destroyer of Max units. With but a single punch I lay waste to all within my path!”

A quick scoop. My arms around his bare waist, a panicked chirp as he’s far more alarmed than he was a moment ago. I sit up in a bolt, turning him toward my head and making sure his tiny little face couldn’t escape my presence. His arms pinned to his side, his feet dangling, kicking at air. Wait, no, kicking at my boobs actually, but lifting him a few inches up solved that problem. Now it was just his tail tickling me. Possibly on purpose.

“I feel compelled to discuss the evident flaw in your calculations based from both extrapolation and direct data sets. According to eyewitness accounts it required three strikes in total before any sign of damage or danger was present in your human combatant. How can we on the peer review team be certain this was not some embellishment on your part?”

“Aarrgh! You dirty, underhanded little sneak of a rust splotch, unhand me this instant! I will not allow you to kill me under any circumstances. No matter the torment, no matter what horrors, I shall not give up!”

Ohmygodwow he was so squeaky and cute, he even tilted his head down and put more of a growl to his speech to try and appear menacing. High pitched little chirps that sounded more like something out a chipmunks cartoon than a genuine action film. I couldn’t resist. I just had to do it and hope he’d forgive me later.

“Squeeeeeee~” I hugged him close and shook my hips like a child with a teddy bear. One hand to keep him stable and my other hand to pet down his shoulders, patting the back of his head, massaging between the horns. A scoot and a scootch I was back on top of my blanket with this little Gesshru as a plaything. Warm squishy doll that fit all too snugly between my palms.

“W-waitwhat. Nooo! I am not a toy, release me!”

I responded by tapping him gently on the nose. Laying him face-up in my palm and rubbing a fingertip across his belly. It flattened so easily he might as well have been made of jelly and sealed inside a rabbit fur baggy.

“Preliminary experimentation on tummy rubs and noseboops has yielded unprecedented findings leading to the at present unverified conclusion that Jace is the cutest little thing in the world. Oh yes you are, such a sweet little soft thing.” I made a grand show of purposefully petting him down and rubbing his fur, holding his legs still and massaging the back or keeping his horns strait and scratching just under his chin. He wasn’t taking it terrible well.

“Nnnoooo! Kill me now, please! Oh core take me away from this hell!” Either I was being far too rough, which I rather doubted, or he was trying to outdo me in melodrama.

I uncurled my fingers and allowed him to breathe, to rest while free of my tickly influence. He lay sprawled atop my palm with a tail swaying in my breath and fur starting to look more damp as I held him to my face.

“Has this been a satisfactory second battle of which to test your might, sir Jace? Hero of the coral rooftops?” He didn’t understand my words, but he didn’t need to understand to recognize a taunt.

“Why that Starflung little rust spot, Orchi was telling the truth.” He gasped, sitting up and looking back into my eyes. The rodent’s legs dangled off my palm, his tush atop my thumb like a makeshift chair. The saddest part is that he was so soft and fluffy it was actually comfortable for me to hold.

“I’m not sure what she’s been telling you, but … wait, Orchi’s alive? Did she make it out of Scando?”

“[Expletive] your breath stinks and your loud. No sounds! Stop it.”

“But -…”

“I said none! Now I’m getting down to ground level, and you great big puffed seed are going to stay still and be quiet so I don’t trip on the way down.” He seemed determined to start climbing.

It was fun to crush all of his hopes and dreams by setting him down onto my blanket faster than he could stand up. Such an adorable little pouty face.

“You’re doing this on purpose.” He accuses, and I don’t deny it. “Ugh, fine. Guessing this means you monsters really aren’t as vicious as everyone likes to think. Everything in wartime is on the pilots, without someone pressing all your buttons you just became this lazy little museum ride for children to laugh at.”

“I’ll admit that would be a nice change of pace.”

“NO!” he shouts now, dusting himself off and stepping away. He points an angry finger at my face and waggles it. “Stop talking, stop making those dumb noises, they hurt and their useless and nobody can understand you. Good pets stay quiet.”

The only dignified response was to expose my tongue and apply controlled air pressure in such a way that spittle vibrated off my lips and flew in his direction. Producing a sound not unlike that of flatulence at high velocities as a direct result of the vicious nature of air pushing aside water at that scale of an opening. Jace didn’t appear amused.

“Mature. Yeah, real mature of you.” And now wiping spittle off his face he starts making toward the door in bold, grand leaps. “Right then, my only way out of this mess is to get through that door, and out of the main base. I’ll need some way to figure out the layout so I know where to avoid and where to go. No equipment, no clothing, there aren’t any vents to sneak into, going up the food tube is a bad idea, I’ll be drowned or drunk if I try the water tubing. Meanwhile the only things that go in or out of this room are the Max itself and the soldiers who operate and maintain the max.”

He looks back at me. A glint in his eyes.

“I can’t pretend to be a soldier all that easily, they’d figure me out for sure. That leaves me with only one way in or out. A way you’ve already managed Max unit. Just have to trust you won’t swallow. Or, do things the smart way and avoid your mouth completely.”

“You aren’t going in my pants.” I shoot back, his ears folding to either side and a wince across his face.

“Rusted core, that is just so LOUD! Ugh, that’s it. We are teaching you a quiet language right here and right now.” He stomped toward me, a bold determination on his face.

“HAH!” I might have been intentionally loud in that one. He wasn’t amused. “As if there’s anything you could say to teach me even the slightest bit of new data on your language. I’ll have you know I can speak every dialect more fluidly than even most generals, if anything I’d be the one giving you pointers on- …”

“STOP!” he shouts now. Doing his best to be overheard in the throng of words barraged down at him. “Nothing loud, no. If you open your mouth to say one more thing I am going to throw food in your bed and laugh at it. Don’t think I won’t, monster girl.”

I rolled my eyes in annoyance, flopping my chin down into two palms and just waiting for the rat to get on with it.

“There are only two things I want to hear out of you, and that’s the sound of your finger tapping on the floor. Got that?” he actually tried to sound angry, and I suspect he legitimately was. “I am the best codebreaker this side of the great ocean, if that little kid could figure out how to talk with a dumb beast like you I’m pretty sure I can. Tap.”

It was hard to tell if my eyebrows could get any higher than they already were, but the simplest solution was to once more play a game of yes or no questions.

My hand to the tile floor, one finger raised. I tapped once. The sound all but imperceptible.

He nods smugly. “Okay, good. So do you understand what I’m saying?”

I tapped once.

“Make sure it’s two taps for no, then one tap for yes.”

I tapped once.

“I am the greatest codebreaker of Scando, and I’m going to be the first person to escape this miserable trash heap. You got that?”

I tapped twice.

Jace wasn’t amused.
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Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby Mdcrmn » Fri Jun 16, 2017 5:45 am

I will say that if the scenario was reversed I would not be arguing with the fire breathing dragon! Also would I be wrong to assume that Jace is an intellegence operator? He is almost as smart as Orchi
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Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby arbon » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:46 pm

Pff-ahahah!

"Almost as smart as Orchi" has to be the best description of Jace I could ever come up with. And when we do see Orchi again I really hope people are impressed by what she makes of herself. Jace is indeed an intelligence officer of the diplomatic corps, and came to Gashn controlled territory for a specific mission. It didn't go as planned, and I suspect this story would have seemed a lot more like a sci-fi spy thriller if told from his perspective.

Jace likes to call himself some equivalent of "super-spy" though whether or not he has that level of skill is up for debate.
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Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby arbon » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:56 pm

My question for this chapter: "Is there any aspect of this planet of tiny alien rodents that you'd like to know more of?"


__________
Chapter 18

My name is Freya Savitri, and I am finally able to play twenty questions with someone tiny enough to fit in my palm.

“Max unit, have you eaten any souls.” It wasn’t a question. “And answer properly, no speaking.”

Dikidiki in Shona. I vockel in Albanian. Nho Be in Vietnamese. Kixhkina in Uzbek. Miniatur in Azerbaijani. Maneheyki in Belarusian. Sicusan in Bosnian. Minuscul in Catalan. Tingonotingono in Chichewa. Kpnxithnn in Ukrainian. Minik in Turkish. Manaark in Tajik. Mycket liten in Swedish. Leutik pisan in Sundanese. Minusculo in Spanish. Malicky in Slovak.

I tapped twice.

Petricaghju in Corsican. Sicusan in Croatian. Drobny in Czech. Lille Bitte in Danish. Klein in Dutch. Eta in Esperanto. Pisieke in Estonian. Maliit na maliit in Filipino. Pikkuruinen in Finnish. Sehr Klein in German. Mikpookottikos in Greek. Laitiiti lava in Samoan. Malutki in Polish.

Tiny …

Why were these creatures so tiny. The fact my hands alone become a weapon on this planet was distressing enough, even worse that there were Gesshru who had no qualms against using humanity against their enemies. If they were just a bit bigger I wouldn’t have to worry about stepping on them, it would take more than a clench of my fist to end them, and it would …

“If I escape this room then can I run directly to freedom?”

My fingers over the tile floor, a quick two taps for no. It would be a bit less important to resist being annoyed at them when they treated me like an animal. I could tell he was still not pleased with the fact I personally destroyed his city, but that didn’t make tone any better. This guy was like talking to an internet troll, hard to tell what he was serious about and what was just false bravado.

“Can’t just rush free. Outside the door is it just one layer of defense?” he looks more questioning than frustrated.

I tap twice.

“Ugh, is it two layers of defense then?”

I tap once with a single eyebrow raised.

“Perfect, so it’s probably another door and a wall then. I need to make sure that whatever plan I end up with accounts for that.”

I tap once.

“Rusted core you really do understand every word I’m saying, don’t you.”

I tap once, cheeks puffing out in annoyance.

“How about we test this then, you remember me don’t you?”

I tap twice. There was a guess based on the fact he said roof, and a bit from his age, but I didn’t recognize him at all.

“Of course you recog- … HEY! We’ve gone over this you rust spot, from the roof remember. You were there!”

The response I offered was no taps at all, my finger poised and ready but not actually pressing down. This was like playing with a touch screen computer, a slightly more advanced game of twenty questions than what Orchi had come up with. Interesting that it was the survivors of a town I destroyed who seemed to devise simple communications so quickly. The child I can understand, but what’s his motivation?

“Standing on the spire. I shot you right in the face and waved you up to me. That was ME, got it? Big dumb idiot that you are walked right where you were supposed to and got pasted by a siege cannon because of it.” The little guy actually sounded angry.

“It was Tasgal who fell for your traps, he’s not hard to fool.” So this was a man whom I almost split in half, a man willing to use himself as bait to try and protect others. For a noble cause perhaps, or maybe he was just too arrogant to realize what danger he was in.

“NO! Bad, use the code. Stop with that howling screech you worthless moron, we’ve been over this and I know you can figure this out.”

A roll of my eyes. I tap once. When I last saw him this man was a red smear in the dirt, Tasgal used my arms to throw him at their siege weapon. Slingshot of course. Far cry from the ‘cannon’ his vernacular described it as. He must have lived through it, I know Gesshru heal faster than humans, even modified ones, but he must have been down for a while. Interesting.

That must also explain why he was captured, too injured to run away and then contained within a wrapper for the duration of his rest. Either that or he was just durable enough to walk it off, tiny things don’t have to fear falling from great heights as much as larger things. And to be fair the mechanical awkwardness of Tasgal swinging my arm might have lessened the blow somewhat.

“Pfteh.” He clicks his teeth in the rough equivalent of a snort. “I don’t know what that kid saw in you, but she was right about one thing. Without the pilot inside you’re as docile as a seed.”

An eyebrow raised at that.

My first reaction would normally have been to cup my palm over him and establish, if not dominance, at least respect. Perhaps a healthy dose of fear. But then I realized this man wasn’t afraid of me.

This man fought me, head on, almost died and yet was still willing to call out a re-match. If getting tossed across the city wasn’t enough to make him afraid then simply petting him wasn’t going to either.

I didn’t want him to be afraid.

Nervous terrified little rodent things were annoying and painful, it always hurt to see the terror in their eyes and know it was justified. Loren’s advice. Let them think you are calm, allow the captors to assume you are no threat. If he thinks I’m docile then the plan is working. After a long few moments to think and a nervous gulp at the implications …

I tap once.

“Must be really well trained then.”

I tap twice with no hesitation.

“Oh really now, so if I were to open that door up you’d go on a neat little rampage?”

I tap once.

It was a lie perhaps, my goal would have been to escape and come back later with an actual plan, not take on an entire army specifically trained to restrain humans with weapons designed to remove a human from combat in non-lethal ways. I’d just be taken down and captured again if I didn’t have some way to counter their expectations. But if he could open those doors and I allowed him to think that doing so was a good idea, all the better. It’s not like I’d just leave him behind if he was in trouble.

“Then that’s our first order of business. Max unit! Take me to the door control panel, I’ve got some hacking to do.”

Incredulous disbelieve was palpable on my face. Rising to my feet and allowing the shadow of my bulk to overtake his miniscule form. The man really was over twice the size of that child, he’d struggle to fit inside my mouth if things came down to that. I couldn’t help but imagine trying to smuggle him out of this room the same way, and hope he could open the doors from outside.

A step. Careful and planned, making sure to grant this bold rodent a wide birth lest he surprise me with some foolhardy movement. Another few steps, leaving him at my back as I go toward the doorway. There were still the faint outline of a dent where my fists have collided, not from any one solid blow but rather the repeated smashing I delivered over the years.

“H-hey, wai … WAIT you overgrown cupcake, I can’t move that fast!” Jace shouts upon realizing I wasn’t going to carry him.

I wait patiently until he’s back up to my feet, sitting down into a cross-legged stance and tapping my finger against the off-white block of squares set at Gesshru height. It was designed, to their best efforts, to be camouflaged to human senses. Didn’t work quite as intended, but they did know to make the buttons smaller than my fingernails, and set into the wall so that I would require a needle or other long device to get through.

“Huh, so just press these and the door opens?”

I tap twice.

“Well then what, it’s a button. If you don’t press a button then what do you do with it.”

Another roll of my eyes, I stagger up to my feet and scamper away. Not to avoid him, as the annoyed cries of the rodent indicate he might have assumed, but to grab my food bowl. Easy to pluck it off the ground and carry it over to the door. A pointed glare is offered to Jace, to which he responds by lashing his tail back and forth and folding his arms together. Horns pointed directly at me in a show of aggression.

“No I don’t want your stupid food. If you aren’t going to help then just get back to bed.”

A loud clatter as I place the food down, dip my finger into the grey nutriment paste, and then start to smear it along the tile floor. These were clean tiles after all, clear and white and easy to leave a mark in. My finger swiping across in deft strokes as I draw out the outline of that control panel as best as I could see it.

A rectangle. Multiple circles inside. A few square blocks.

“Rusted core!” he shouts upon catching on. “Okay-okay I want the stupid food, I take it all back. You’re trying to show me the buttons to press, right?”

I tap once.

“Good, now do you know what order I’m supposed to press them in? If you have the code we can press it right now.”

I tap twice.

“Core … then forget the rusted panel, draw me a layout of this military base. As best as you can, try to make the image smaller so I can see it from ground level while I work on trying to hack.”

I tap once, using the hand that wasn’t coated in mushy food grime. But while I set about drawing the square within a square of the base he was trying to gnaw his way through the ceramic outer covering to tear at the wires inside. Not having the best of luck, after all this room was designed to hold in naked Gesshru as well as unbound humans. And none of the other prisoners managed to escape that way.

There was one short-lived attempt to get through by chewing off toenail clippings and inserting them into those deep recesses to press the buttons, but that only worked once and I didn’t get even as far as the end of the hallway before a panicking soldier put me in lockdown. Ever since they’ve not only changed the code, but keep changing it. Making sure to not give me enough time to memorize.

If poor Jace had arrived earlier I might have just opened the door right up for him, but three years of failure is hard to live down.

“Hrm, this isn’t working.” He said after the longest time, at one point literally bashing his head against the walls. He was perfectly interested in my own artistic endeavors, but floor planning and fine art in the medium of finger-painting with space food wasn’t exactly my area of expertise.

I tapped once.

“You really aren’t good with a quill, even Orchi was a better artist than this. Chrrr, guess it’s to be expected when dealing with animals. Let’s see what we have here, first the open hallway and then into a large room. Anything important in that room?”

I tap once. There was the control tower, various office buildings, the loading docks, the mechanic’s workshop, it’s where they worked with plastic molding and where our armored suits were fitted on. And of course it lead right to the main door. Jace seemed to be hopping his way over the smeared lines of food trying to take in where every wall and door was.

“Long hallway, the actual Gashn are outside the huge building here. Secondary wall surrounding the whole compound with only one gate. Can you jump the second one?”

I tap twice, then once. Jace frowns.

“Is it yes, or is it a no? I need a straight answer here.”

I tap once, then tap twice. The truth was that I couldn’t jump the fence, certainly not easily, but I could climb over it. There was barbed wire and live soldiers, I’d have to deal with needle throwers and jabbing spears and whatever else they could throw. A small chance of electrified fencing exists, but I can’t remember if that was still operational or not. They’ve discontinued electrical weapons testing as ineffective in the past, and it’s been ages since I managed to reach the fence itself.

“Guh, leave it to an animal to fail at a basic question. Ignoring the outer wall then I’ll find a way around myself. Hrmm …”

A roll of my eyes at Jace’s assertion, pulling my stained finger up to lick away the food. He really didn’t like me talking, but then he did have a better alternative from the perspective of his tiny little ears. And he was among the first two who recognized I was talking at all.

“These smaller doors in the hallway here, those are to … more holding cells. That’s where all the other Max units are kept, right?” annoying, but astute.

I tapped once. A bit curious to whether or not he’d have the capacity to handle what he was obviously about to suggest. Open the cages of all the other humans and try to sneak them out, you’d just make it easier for the Gashn to set them in lockdown and someone or other climb into the cockpit. Then suddenly you are fighting a human, perhaps multiple humans, all while struggling to escape the army of angry mice and their tiny plastic needles.

Do so while naked and it might actually hurt, even without their siege weapons throwing rocks at my face.

“If I tried to free them, would they side with the Gashn?”

Eyes flared, my nose wrinkled. There were so many curse words I could have shouted in so very many different languages to affirm the raw strength of my negative assertation to the very idea of his question. With the fury and energy of an enraged berserker …

I tapped twice.

Just didn’t have the same level of urgency or emotion behind it, even if I could tell his knees shook and his horns were aching just from the impact of my finger on this tile floor.

“That is worth remembering, you Max units aren’t loyal to your pilots?”

I tap twice.

Technically this wasn’t true, there are good pilots. They exist, they keep popping up, and I’m certain a number of my crew has at least one Gesshru they’d try to save for personal reasons. But the good pilots keep dying to be replaced by increasingly terrible ones, both those who are bad people in general and those who are utter failures at piloting our bodies.

“What would happen if say, all of you were freed? Would you Max units be willing to join the Cavni Federation?”

That gave me pause. We didn’t know much about the Cavni before we set down, they were a competing band of tribes united only in their combined defense against the Gashn, with nothing else in common. A loose band of what were once primitive communities all scrambling to catch up with the technological might of the most powerful empire on this planet. We didn’t ignore them, Earth would have gone and greeted each tribe as merit required just in the sake of study.

But we never got the chance to. Meeting with the Gashn leadership was our first and last foray into Gesshru politics, and now it’s been generations since the Cavni we once studied. Cut off from any notable changes and only catching onto the snippets we hear from soldiers or pilots, how would the Federation treat us? Would we just be changing one side of brutality for another, and continue in a bloodsoaked war?

I tap once. Then I tap twice.

This question was too nuanced and too difficult, with the answer being maybe.

“Again with the three taps, argh! Why do you do this! It’s a simple question with a simple answer, are you going to side with the evil Gashn or the good Cavni. The terrible tyrant murderers who eat babies and feed on souls, or the band of freedom fighters serving as the last bastion against an oppressive military doctrine.”

There was no possible way a simple yes or no answer could account for that, he didn’t even phrase it the right way.

I tapped once, then I tapped twice, a bit faster than I normally do and waving my other hand at him like I expected something.

“Fine, be that way. I’ll torch that leaf when we get to it.” Some rough equivalent of a colloquial saying. “How about this, if you Max units are broken out of these cages, will you attack the Cavni at all?”

With a resounding yes I tapped twice. It was all I could do to keep from slapping the floor, I wanted out of this fight and away from the conflict. As much as I wish it didn’t happen at all, at this point I was more than willing to settle for just being free of it, to not let the blood be on my very own hands. To eat something other than rat corpses and day old slime.

“Great relief then, makes at least one decision easier.”

I found it weird that he somehow believed he was in any position to make profound decisions of any sort. But he was fully aware that under no circumstances would I simply end him here, and he believed he was going to escape somehow. Interesting.

He breathed deeply, a longing glance at the door controls before he takes off and scampers along the walls. Naked form just as lithe and supple and fuzzy as one might expect of a fit soldier, if not nearly as effeminate as that one leader. He put his ear to the walls and tried to listen to what was going on outside. No, more than that. He was looking at the floor for cracks.

I stood up, put my food bowl back within range of the feeding tube, and laid back down. If that tube couldn’t reach then they’d paralyze me again and hook in a pilot just to put the food back in place. An annoying habit I’ve had to deal with.

“Heh, wonder what the guys back at Scando would say if they saw me here.” He muses, running along the corners and feeling over the walls.

I tap once. It was a worthy consideration.

“That wasn’t a question dummy, but I mean here and with this chance. Orchi’s the first one who ever got to see how you things think, and here I am discovering they’re so poorly trained they don’t want to fight anything.”

That sentiment garnered a frown. I started to speak in English with a bit of an annoyed huff, but he cuts me off.

“Fine, fine! Don’t screech at me, how about I say moral instead. Its not that the idiots couldn’t train you properly, its because you are far too morally upstanding to ever consider working for the Gashn. Even animals know how evil they are.”

Ugh …

Was he trying to get on my nerves or is that what he actually thought? I wrap the edges of my blanket over my shoulders and stare at him. To answer him I take my palm and hold it up, all five fingers extended and waving at him. He pauses to look at it, his horns pulling back when each of my digits curl one by one into a tighly clenched fist.

Slam.

Fist into the tile, the loud smack reverberating through my room. But I’d only tapped once. This was just a very threatening yes from my part.

Jace seems to be trying to ignore this now.

“Hrmm, now this is interesting. Why is this room so clean?”

Yep, he was most certainly ignoring me, a palm around his chin and whiskers to the walls. He didn’t find a single useful crack save the feeding tubes, and unlike countless other people didn’t assume the tubes would somehow be his salvation. As if crawling up into a food container was preferable to being in the open blank room. The rodent was thinking of something though.

“Okay, asking again. Do you know why the room is so clean?”

I tap once.

“Is it because of cleaning crew coming in?”

Another single tap, I cock my head to one side a bit suspicious of his plan. Make a mess and hope people crawl in, sure that could work. Except I’d be paralyzed for the duration and he’d just be killed on sight if he made too much trouble. Needle throwers on an unarmored Gesshru were like rifle shots, that rubber band flinging a sharp plastic stick were slightly more lethal than being shot by an arrow. At least to the standards of these indigenous life forms.

He’d be torn apart if he tried to take on this entire base while naked, nor would he be the first to have attempted such.

“So that means when people see your little layout of the base they’re going to start cleaning it up. More than that, this crew is going to recognize it’s blueprints for the base and start to be a bit more cautious about you and your little snackfood. Might even take me out prematurely so I can’t help you break free and go rampage around at them.”

Shit …

I didn’t even think of the blueprint idea. Immediately I was up on my feet and scrambling over to where I’d drawn out this little map in finger painting. Using the nutriment paste like a half dried smear, I wiped my open palm over the center and edges. Smudging it away until the map was little more than a disjointed strain on the ground with no real resemblance to anything in the lines.

“Haha, wow you are smarter than you look I guess. I think we can use this, next time someone com- …”

The walls start to click. My body stiffens. Even with that greasy smear in my palm there wasn’t much I could do.

“J-ggnh aah! Hiding. Rusted core are they coming in now? Nnrgh …” he runs bolt-right toward my food bowl.

I was already in this involuntary process of folding my knees into my chest. Planting my head down on the floor in a prostrate kneel, the smeared and stained hand extending out to form that ramp. Facedown in the stain of my own food, breathing heavily while right next to the door itself. I could see a crack opening up.

This was sloppy …

“Coooooore!” the little Jace whispers when scrambling behind the rounded corner of that literal doggybowl style dish, making sure the food was between him and the door. I couldn’t see him either, but his muttered cursing made it easy to tell where he went. This left me a bit glad he didn’t opt to dive right in under the hopes no one would look for a live Gesshru there, because despite being much taller than Orchi there was still no possible way for him to climb out on his own once he’s fallen in.

Normally they paralyze me for a lot longer than this, this door shouldn’t be opening until long after I was on the ground. Some emergency perhaps? Or maybe they really did just want to clean up the mess before anything dried on and was hard to scrape off. Tiny little mouse hands don’t make for the most effective cleaning tools after all, and they did enjoy keeping the room spotless.

“Sir, I’m telling you it’s nothing to worry about.” A nervous little voice clicked and chiped, followed by a very familiar one.

“A full battalion of Cavni? Nothing to worry about?” Tasgal Flits, his voice and one other just on the opposite side of this door. Whirs and grinding when the mechanical gears start to pull it up, sliding into the roof.

I was right in the way of course.

“ Sir, I must reiterate that you are on probation until the injuries to your Max are fully healed. There is no need to deploy a Max so far south, especially during this time of year, and if we did send a Max it would not be you.”

They were right next to me, right there … in the doorway. Just in front of my hand, Tasgal was already starting to climb on. I couldn’t tell what expression his face might have offered, but the feel of his feet squishing into the paste on my palm wasn’t pleasant for either of us. Couldn’t turn my head, impossible to see who was doing what. Eyes locked strait down as usual.

“Did you see my schedule?”

“Well, yes. And you are very specifically slotted for other non-combat duties, there are free Max units who can fill the role of a battlefield spearhead or siege unit.

“Look closer rust spot, maneater here is slotted for a full lobotomy.” Tasgal talking as if he were the smartest person in the room and having to explain simple concepts to an infant.

“Because you demanded it!” the other voice fumed.

“And every single one of you wimpy science types keeps telling me there’s a chance this Max dies, got that? Huge army coming along, this Max is free until next week, and if we don’t use it for something we might never get the chance to use it at all.”

“Sir, as the assistant floor manage to Ontal base- …”

“You will stow whatever dumb whining you have to offer and hold that door for me.”

The sensation of Tasgal on my arm, crawling up the length of my shoulder. His wet, sticky feet tracking paste all the way up my arm. But then an odd sensation, something I hadn’t really felt before.

Clinging, crawling, the pull of tiny claws scrambling to find purchase over the thin hairs on my shoulder. A foot tickling into the crook of my other arm, a second Gesshru making his way up the opposite side.

“I am going to handle this door with open objections, sir.” The nervous little mouse padding away and starting into working those tiny little controls from the outside.

Jace …

He was racing Tasgal up the far side of my arm, trying to leap and claw his way up while my pilot simply had to walk a slight ramp. The competing sensations of a nude body rubbing over bare skin, warm fur against the exposed arms and his miniscule weight bracing against my elbow. The squish and plop of Tasgal approaching my shoulders, reaching up to my neck.

“Ugh, again failing to turn the helmet on. I can’t believe how lax you guys are being.” The click. The whir and snaps as my collar expands, long sheets of plastic once more wrapping around my head.

Jace was climbing, racing. I was in just the right position to hide him from view, no one else was looking and my pilot was too distracted to notice. The prisoner getting into position to do … what … what was his plan? Oh please if nothing else let him kill Tasgal.

“We haven’t repaired the helmet yet, you’ve snapped it since the last time and there are still holes in the control panel!”

“Shoddy work from you engineer bunch, why haven’t you been written up then.” Tasgal waiting patiently. Unaware of the naked soldier sneaking up behind him, crawling onto my shoulders himself.

By the time my helmet had unfolded completely and half my vision was the shattered points of a visor around my face, Tasgal works the correct sequence of buttons to open my panel up. Exposed, ready to crawl in.

“We got those rusted spears out, what more do you want!” I heard the shout from behind the corner, with some mumbled angry growling that would reasonably have been too low for another Gesshru to hear at this distance. Human senses outpaced them so completely in every regard. And the nervous little mouse wasn’t as nervous after all of these insults.

This was the moment Jace struck.

I could feel the leap, feel the run-up, and feel as each tiny form embraces into the other with the dance of combat. Only able to tell when feet were pressing on my shoulders and making intuitive guesses as to what was actually happening. Dead silence from either combatant.

Still paralyzed …

Still helpless …

Still …

And all of my hopes in this moment rested on that annoying little soldier who flicked me in the face with a needle. While the only assistance I could offer him were dreams and wishes.
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arbon
Extinction Level Event
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Location: Despite what the green paws might claim, not a giant monster. Look down. See that little mouse?

Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby Mdcrmn » Sat Jun 24, 2017 4:44 am

One thing I have wondered is if the scientists sent a distress call before they were captured, or was it so sudden they couldn't?
Also how are the citizens of the gashn treated? Are they also abused and oppressed?
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Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby arbon » Thu Jun 29, 2017 2:13 am

Oh! Then it looks like I have the right questions to answer in-story as I start writing into book two. Not just here, but questions asked elsewhere. I will state that technically no, there wasn't any form of distress call blaring out nor do they have the tech required to make it matter. No FTL communication, though they do have an awkward and hard to use FTL drive. Forces from Earth will arrive on Gesshru at some point within the next few years at minimum, but that's because of a scheduled followup trip that's supposed to come here anyway regardless of what the outcome from the original scouts was.

I wish I had some final question to ask here. Perhaps ...

Are you ready to see the ending?


__________
Chapter 19


My name is Freya Savitri, and I am an aspiring flight risk.

The choking gasp of one’s throat under constriction. Harsh jabs into the spines on my neck as either Gesshru tries to keep their footing, twisting and turning.

Kampf in German. Loita in Galician. Fjochtsje in Frisian. Bats toi in French. Taistella in Finnish. Away in Filipino. Voitlus in Estonian. Lukton in Esperanto. Strijd in Dutch. Kaempe in Danish. Boj in Czech. Borba in Croatian. Cummattimentu in Corsican. Stryd in Afrikaans. Perleshje in Albanian. Mybarze in Azerbajani.

Jace held firm and I could hear his labored breathing. Attempting to choke, keeping his arms around Tasgal’s neck. He left me wishing I could hear the snap, some indication of that bastard’s death.

Stri in Scots Gaelic. Tau in Samoan. Lupta in Romanian. Luta in Portuguese. Walka in Polish. Slass in Norwegian. Whawhai in Maori. Glieda in Maltese. Perjuangan in Malay. Ady in Malagasy. Kampf in Luxembourgish. Koba in Lithuanian. Cina in Latvian. Pugna in Latin. Ser in Kurdish.

With nothing else to focus on I put all of my attention on this moment, on these sounds. Face down and incapable of watching the play by play. Flesh tore and tufts of fur tickled down onto my bare skin. I could feel dabs of blood sprinkle down like the lightest of rain. Warm and sticky, so small it felt more of a mist than a drop.

Claws raking through his forearms, or perhaps teeth trying to bite, and I wasn’t able to tell who the winner or victim was. If Tasgal wins then everything is through, if Jace wins then we have …

They leave the embrace.

One close to my helmet cockpit was gasping, struggling to draw breath after the choke. The other regains balance and steps forward. A hard slam of skin against bone, the soft crunch of a blow connecting. Fist perhaps? I could feel all four sets of feet. I could hear Tasgal trying to yell, cut off from whatever he attempted to shout by a blow to the stomach. Or maybe it was the chest?

I felt Tasgal shifting to swing a strike of his own, only for Jace’s feet to reposition. A deft maneuver slipping around the outside of it, the squealing gasps when he goes for the hold again.

“H-he -…” Tasgal twitches atop my shoulders, his feet wedged directly into the bones on my back. His movements desperate but his position off-balance. I could feel as Jace walks backward, wordlessly, silently dragging that Gashn pilot toward the edge.

No words. Only struggle, for I could tell that it felt as if my pilot’s arm were pinned and Jace had his elbow looped around the bastard’s chin. Taking a step back, dragging, away from my cockpit and towards my shoulder. No ramp on this side, somewhat hidden from view, a pain to climb back up assuming the fall doesn’t knock him out.

Oh who am I kidding, these things are tiny. A fall was barely worth worrying about.

Just at the edge. Jace seemed ready to throw, or at least twist and shove to hurl Tasgal off. But my pilot slips away right at the last moment while Jace is wobbly on the uneven ground of my skin. His claws stung, bare feet and the squish of food paste that I couldn’t wipe off.

“I-intruder!” Tasgal shouted, or rather choked out in a breathless sob. Backing away, moving defensively.

Another grab, a step forward and thrust. I felt the slap of palm against fluff when Jace’s arm is bapped aside.

Tasgal counter-attacks with what had to be a kick, one leg lifts off the ground and the weight on his other increases sharply. But then I heard fur rubbing against fur, I could practically feel the panic in my pilot’s voice. Jace must have grabbed the leg and tucked it in close.

Still I felt the attempt at pulling free, the tiny swoosh of his paws swiping at the air, the angry clicks and frightened whimpers of a rodent taken off-guard.

Jace throws. Pulling at my pilot’s leg in the most literal sense of the word, wrenching his hips out from under him and forcing a swing down my shoulder. A smack onto my elbow, a slide and bounce as he keeps falling. The soft plap when the monster lands face-first onto hard tile. A surface as cold and unforgiving as his own heart, and by all rights a fair bit more intelligent.

My prisoner in arms ran to my cockpit. A moment I dreaded on every occasion, even now as I realized how close it meant to victory, how this might be my only chance at escape before the end. Assuming I even live through a full lobotomy I was not going to possess the mental facilities required to organize any form of jail break, alien or otherwise. But there was always something so impersonal about a fuzzy rodent controlling your body from just behind your skull.

“Sir, what was that racket? Sir. Please tell me you aren’t having trouble just jacking in …” the voice of that irritated assistant calls in. I could hear his footsteps on tiles, rounding the corner and getting closer. Impatient at the fact I still haven’t moved and he’s stuck there holding the door open until I get up.

Jace was in my cockpit now. He was struggling to get his tail inside and fit his thin little body into the seat, the design almost intentionally obtuse by what little I’ve seen of it. Feet trying to slot into a fitted holster, elbows propped up in an ergonomic armrest for long term use, face wedged into a holster of wires that left one staring at a computer screen.

The interface and my vision was on that. Everything I could see, Jace could see, which mostly amounts to the bridge of my nose and a shadow on the ground.

“A-aalrrm.” Tasgal sobs off to my left while his assistant approaches from the right. The sound of my pilot wobbling back onto his knees, that pitter-patter of a rodent clamboring up onto my already stained hand.

Buttons were pressed, wide twitches and involuntary jerks as random signals are shot through my central nervous system. My leg starts to extend. He was going to mess this up. The idiot didn’t know the first thing about how to pilot, he didn’t know … he just …

He’d just …

I moved my eyes for the first time in minutes. A curled my fingers into a fist.

I did that. Me. Jace had just turned off the control over-ride, giving me full range of motion, and I had Tasgal rounding the corner right in front of my face.

Instantly I was on my feet. Left hand swiping at Tasgal with a feverish speed, curling into a low crouch that pressed knees against my shoulder and left me with a better range of motion. Jace leased a tiny squeal and I could tell he was almost thrown out of the cockpit, but that didn’t matter right now.

“R-run … Rruuuuun! I-intrud- …” Tasgal starts to scream, and staring up, all the way up, far too much up to see my glaring eyes through a cracked helmet that assistant did indeed turn and run. Scrambling madly.

It wasn’t hard at all to snatch him with my opposite hand, if a bit awkward for the both of us seeing as it left him smeared in nutriment paste. The door wide open, a Gesshru prisoner latched onto the back of my open control panel, and two Gashn soldiers in hand. Oh this was glorious. If I were the movie villain type I would have used here and now to gloat over my impending victory.

And that would of course been the moment Jace figures out enough of the controls to strip that victory away from me. No, I’m not letting that happen. Move quickly.

I leapt toward the center of my cage with a greasy, panicked Gesshru in hand, shoved him as gently as it was quickly into the center of my food bowl, and then immediately moved to grasp at both ends of Tasgal.

“A-aahh, nononono! Maneater, No! NOOooo! I’m not food get me out of here, Aaaahhh!” the assistant screamed, already on the verge of tears. I could see a dark patch of wetness on the clothes between his legs, presumably a sign that he’s just ruined my food.

“You monster.” Tasgal whispers to me, left hand around his shoulders and his legs dangling free. My right hand reaching to pluck at the bottom of his pants and pull, sliding them off as quickly as I could. “I knew you couldn’t be trusted, I knew we had to fix your mind. But they didn’t’ listen.”

His speech wasn’t stopping me. And at any awkwardness I didn’t try to slow down either, the gray paste coating his fur and the thin fabric shredding under my touch. Next I gripped his legs in one hand while snatching at his shirt in the other, calmly walking toward the doorway. A peak into the halls as stealthily as I could manage, one finger cupping over Tasgal’s mouth to keep him from screaming for help. No two ways about this.

I flung his shirt off toward my food bowl, flicked his pants back so the shredded cloth drapes down on top of that poor assistant. The tiny thing, soaked in nutriment paste, looked up at me as if the whole world was about to end. As I were the great apocalypse and every god or spirit he’s ever prayed to have all abandoned him.

“Waitwat.” Jace muttered behind my ears, seemingly surprised at what happened next.

As I brought the naked pilot up toward my lips, squeezed him through the cracked hole in my helmet, and popped him down like a pill.

“HGmmph! No-nooooo, y-you should be dead! We should have killed every last one of htmnmoph!” the man struggled to talk once my lips closed around him. The flavor nothing special, not outright horrible but also nothing that stands out. The texture of fur, familiar after so long with that child on my tongue. The sensation of his tiny scrambling paws trying to claw at me for purchase. He didn’t break the skin, he didn’t tear, he didn’t even cause pain, on the spit slicked surface he mostly just slid about like an idiot.

He was screaming the whole way, but his voice didn’t carry very far.

I leaned my head back and gulped.

Furry little body easing down my throat, I lost track of his screams, of his threats, even the tickle of his fingernails was hard to focus on past my collar bone. It was done. The room was effectively empty.

I had just become a soul eater in their eyes, and if that bastard suffered just a tiny bit more knowing he was the first, then it was all worth it. A lick of my lips mostly to wipe the flavor off, the warm sensation of something weighty in my stomach. He went down easy which was the hilarious thing.

“Okay, no …” Jace whispers. He was actually trying to talk quietly as if someone else might hear him. None have yet come in to hear the screams of these two workers. “Either you show me how these controls work, or you are the one getting us out of here. Do not fight. Do not rampage. Do you hear me? Don’t let them know anything went wrong, we need them to be clueless for as long as possible. Okay?”

I poked my head out of the open doorway. Cold and lifeless halls, at the far corner they were teaming with Gesshru workers and technicians and soldiers alike.

Normally this is where I’d tear down this pathway at a dead run, knocking aside any who got in my way and smashing through the main gate. That didn’t work last time though, nor the time before that, and it certainly didn’t work the first time so many years ago. The Gashn expect that and know most of our tricks and capabilities, even if they try to suppress that knowledge from the common people.

Loren’s plan once more flickers into my mind. Be quiet. Act like you are tame, so that they never know when you are going to strike.

It was with a heavy breath that I pulled my hand back, licked my fingers clean of the gray paste, and snapped the control panel shut. Sealing Jace inside and making the helmet appear as normal as possible. Cracked still, the holes from those spears still haven’t been repaired and there was a gaping tear in my visor. But those were all hard things to fix without removing the collar outright, it’s designed to fold up after all, meaning near impossible to replace one aspect without replacing the whole thing.

“No control for you.” I clicked back in his own squeakity language, striding boldly … no, I had to catch myself, awkwardly down the halls. There wasn’t a Gesshru controlling me, and from the sounds of it Jace didn’t seem to be trying. He trusted me as best he could manage, perhaps aware that I knew more about this than him.

Or just conscious of the fact that he’d draw even more attention to us than I would if he’s crashing me into walls and slapping my face with my own hand over and over again.

Head strait, try not to look down. Move slowly and deliberately, walk the way you’d expect a robot to step. Arms stock at my side, knees raising higher than they should. I was already supposed to be coming out. This was a time where people expected me to leave the hallway, albeit they also expected someone to close the door behind me.

“Pst” Jace mutters. “Get your armor on.”

I couldn’t feel him point and I didn’t turn my head to look, but I was already planning on that. Walking lockstep toward the tall metallic pillars of gears and latches and hydraulics wires. Never did take much to just stand between two of them and keep my arms to my side. It was so hard not to breathe, not to sigh at the sensation as thick padding once more wraps itself around me.

Hard outer layer of cheap plastic with the soft foam lining the insides, in a world where that foam was actually just as effective at being armor as the plastic itself was.

Boots around my feet. Twin loops of plastic perfectly fitted to my legs cover the thighs and foreleg, one half on the front and one half on the back while a robotic screwdriver latches them together.

The same occurred to my waist and groin, then the shoulders and stomach. The arms and the neck. Always leaving only enough articulation for ordinary movement, about as effective as a space suit and not especially bulky. Being bulkier than normal clothing just couldn’t be helped of course.

No one at my feet suspected a thing.

There were awkward stares about the damage to my helmet. The thigh and chest armor had long ago been replaced or repaired, those things were removable and easier to work with. But this was among the first time most of these Gesshru could see my eyes.

Staring down at them. Eyes as big as their head and focused directly on a Gesshru, then another, then another. Waiting impatiently for the pillars to finish their outfitting.

In truth I’d rather be without the armor because one required these same machines to take it off, but that just couldn’t be helped.

With a click and whiirr the outfitting was done. I stepped forth a tiny bit too quickly and had to remind myself how much control I had right now. There was no delegating to Jace, who watched with a knowing anticipation as if this were his plan all along. We aren’t out of the compound yet, lets at least wait until we get to the woods before trying to celebrate.

People moved away from my stomping boots when I padded forward, a strait ninety degree angle turn to pave a pathway directly into the center. Approaching wide, metal garage doors and awaiting them to open it.

These same doors I’ve slammed my fist against so many times. These same doors that I knew could withstand a shoulder check, and that merely kicking at it won’t do a damned thing. There was nothing for it but to wait.

“All clear!” I heard a man in that tiny little control box shout as he started pressing buttons. Eye level with me, and it took all of my will to not turn and stare at him.

Most pilots didn’t bother with idle standing poses or unnecessary movement when waiting around, normally nothing happened at all unless they chose to press a button or a combination of levers. So I had to be just as still as the collar normally forces me to.

Clicks and clicks and a small bit of grinding, the door swings up and harsh light from a desert world begins to overtake this small room. I could feel a tiny fluttering in the pit of my stomach as if I’d swallowed a butterfly, sheer excitement and a childish nervousness.

Wait … what? No. The butterflies were now focusing on a single point, and I could practically feel the brief vibrations. It was just Tasgal trying to pound on my stomach walls, or scream in the hopes someone would hear him. But if I couldn’t make out a single word he said, knowing that human senses were almost universally better than Gesshru senses, there’s not a snowball’s chance in a supernova for that pilot to be heard by anyone.

The metal door slides up past my eyes, and I glance out to that bright landscape of tents and square buildings and yet another open gatehouse with a cheaper, less mechanized doorway. Towering walls of mud and brick lined with razor wire that all faces inward, clearly intending to keep us giants from climbing out than from enemies to work their way in.

Max units were the largest, scariest, most dangerous thing on this planet. Who would want to fight their way into this place? Or so the logic goes.

It was hard to keep from looking down at any of the people at my feet, left to simply hope that none were dumb enough to stand in the way. Tagal never looked down, even the kinder pilots didn’t bother. Just an assistant, Doth had said. Don’t worry too hard if one of them dies …

But by that same token none were especially keen on talking to Tasgal, and knowing exactly which unit I was by the state of disrepair my helmet was in left few people brave enough to stand in the way.

“Almost there. Keep it up.” Jace mutters into the back of my head. I could hear how tense his voice was, just at the edge of panic. Just waiting for the action to start.

My eyes turn to the side. No, I turned my head and made sure my eyes followed, a glance of orange, a flicker of yellow. There was a fluttercat thingy trapped inside a cage. A foot deep pit in the ground with a series of metal bars lining the roof, and a several metal poles jabbed into the ground around it. Presumably to keep the thing from just digging out. A thin sloping hole to one side formed a tunnel going from ground level to where the souleater was buried.

I could almost feel Jace shuddering, and his breathless whisper is filled with dread

“They really are trying to make souleaters into weapons …”

A bright green collar adorned the creature’s neck. It didn’t seem to jab through the flesh like mine did, was far too loose to have been melted into the poor thing’s spine. But the intent was clear, as were the obvious plans Gashn forces had for this thing. Humans were aliens dropped in from another world, and take generations to reproduce. Assuming we even manage to in the first place. And then the child would take longer than their entire civilization has existed to reach maturity. Ten years was ancient, twenty years was the realm of legends.

But these? Native creatures on this world. If they could be captured here, in greater numbers, a far more formidable task force could be formed out of this entirely new breed of pilot …

I did nothing.

It disgusted me, but I did nothing. Not when my own chance at escape was so close at hand.

“Heh, but I guess we already knew that. Your quite the souleater yourself.”

We made it to the final outer gate, and I pointedly ignored his jab. However accurate by their own mythologies. Two guardsmen along the tower walls bearing down at me, from what was just barely eye level and draped in the shadows of spike coated metal. I stood stock still and waited, listening to their squeakity shouts.

“Pilot Flits, you were told to wait until repairs had finished.” One of the Gesshru said, glancing back over to his small roofed hut that presumably had communication equipment. Either way these were the first and final check.

I said nothing. Jace said nothing, but then I’m not sure he even knew where the speakerphone was or how to contact it.

“Flits?” the other one shouted, a little sterner but acting as if on the verge of falling to his knees and begging forgiveness. “You are supposed to be resting yourself, to recover from your own injuries.”

“Play it cool.” Jace whispers. Well, in truth it was actually a specific turn of phrase about being calm under the face of the enemy most common in military jargon but- …

“You have d-direct orders Pilot Tasgal. Turn around and put Maneater back in her cage.” One of them says, neither moving to open the main gates.

“There’s no need to put both of you in combat. No. Leave now and I might p-put in a good word with y-your supervisor.” The other started off strong as if he were brave and confident, but then slipped into fearful stuttering when it was increasingly apparent that I wasn’t going away.

We stared at each other.

All movement in the camp stops now, the walls closed and me as the center of attention. Sweat dripped down my forehead, my eyes going from a narrow scrutiny to fearfully wide as I tried to run through my options. They could see it, one eye through the cracks in my visor. I could see them, their own fear growing, perhaps fully aware of how callous and unstable Tasgal was.

My stomach fluttered. The sensation of butterflies that now left me pleasantly warm, faint tickles as I could just about make out his face rubbing against my belly. Feel his movements slow and falter.

Neither of us backed down, and I could see the Gesshru on the left starting to turn back toward his tiny little booth. There was only one way I’m getting out of this.

I turned around.

I took one step back toward the compound, then another step. I could feel Jace worrying in the back of my head, the way his weight shifted as he tries to look behind him and realizes the cover of a control panel is in the way.

He leans down and whispers.

“Rusted Now!”

My body turns. No, I was turning it, twisting on my heels and throwing my weight foreword. A slam!

Plastic against wood, my fist against a doll house, the wires and glass and thin sheets of paneling crumple under my weight. I could feel the crunch of a Gesshru inside, dead instantly and blood seeping into the sides.

“ALAAaaaaarm!” The other one screams, now drawing the Needle Thrower off his shoulder and trying to back away from the main gate.

This was a noisy affair, and there were guards lining every inch of that wall for the very obvious reason of wanting to have eyes up all over the place. Every single one of them should have a remote on hand, any single one should be able to shut me down with the press of a button.

My arms still moved. I reached above the chest high walls and wrapped my fist around razor wire. The gauntlets cut and metal sticking into the padding, but my skin untouched.

People were scrambling, some picking out weapons while others held up tiny little boxes, still more simply ran away or took cover inside a building.

A pull up, dragging my body over the tall fence, lifting my knee high and crunching down over the inner walkways. Standing higher, draping my stomach over the wire and all but throwing myself across the battlement in a desperate fervor.

The Gesshru on the walls took fire. A plink against the armor, another soft click, tiny plastic literally firing into my backside as I’d decided to make sure my butt was their only target. The controls to the gate were smashed and I was halfway over, the armor was getting scraped and clawed with every movement, my belly feeling the slight twinge as some of the wire catches and holds firm into the plastic outer shell.

It didn’t support my weight though, popping right back out as I flop to the ground in a ruined heap. Shoulder first, the rest of me afterword, it was all I could do to keep my head from slamming down first. But the armor did blunt some of the damage, and while dazed I wasn’t exactly stopped.

Crawling.

I’ve made it this far before, that was back before they’d put on the razor wire, back when I could just jump the gate in a moment. It was always a remote control that took me own.

Kneeling.

The wide open desert and smooth rounded rocks, a place that looks so much like mars it’s uncanny, even if the rest of the world doesn’t quite follow suit. A hail of tiny plastic needles smack onto the back of me, some solid blows flung by those bits of rubber sticking directly through while most simply glanced off harmlessly.

Scrambling to my feet.

This was the first time I have ever escaped while wearing my armor. A symbol of my oppression, the ultimate dehumanizer, something that signifies I am no longer my own creature but rather an extension of someone else’s will. A machine to be put to work, a weapon used mostly to kill and destroy. An alien terror on the Gesshru battlefield.

Staggering forward.

Move, just move and don’t stop, get out of sight. I had to get as far as possible and never look back. Worry about food later. Get something to drink later. Move … just keep moving. The soft tinks of plastic on plastic were all I needed to tell I was far too close. The shadow of that compound receding behind me, tiny needles of their weapons jabbing into the dirt at my feet.

Breaking into a run.

They would never be able to catch up to me unless I stop moving. A max unit was the fastest thing in their military short of a light sailboat with a tailwind behind it, and even that I could outrun if it came down to a sprint. Assuming they didn’t even realize this wasn’t Tasgal in my cockpit, they’d still be left with suiting up with whatever humans and pilots were available. That same lengthy process of putting on armor and staggering down the halls, that slow gait under the painfully robotic movement that now served as my aid.

Run. Just run and keep running.

Nothing they had was as fast as an free human at a full sprint. Even weighed down by this very light armor, even staggering through the pain of impact and my bulky clothing, I was leagues faster. Doth was the first in over a year to realize it, though I suspect any they send after me would discover this in short order. Wait, no. There were several humans stationed directly in combat, something about repelling an attack to the south. If they decided my escape was a priority they’d send those humans up after me. Chasing me down.

Don’t think about it. Run.

Something I told myself but didn’t actually try to do, thoughts racing at ghosts and possibilities. I needed a direction, but I had to get out of sight first. No matter where I go there will be obvious tracks, even if I tried to hide them a Gesshru could trip over my footprints in the sand. Scando was taken, and presumably someone is still setting up a base there. Galm? Yes, head to the ruins of Galm and then north to the forests. Gesshru can’t chase me there …

“Told you we’d make it.” Jace clicked in my ears.

I kept running. Faster and faster until my breathing was ragged. “Yes.” I squeaked back and could practically feel the little rodent cringing under the sound. He didn’t stop me though.

“Where are we going to go from here …” he muttered. And I couldn’t tell if he was asking me or himself. Presumably himself.

But it a question I finally got to ask. After all these years, and for him it was so matter of fact. Freedom.

Heat and exhaustion and the smell of my own breath. My stomach lurching with that tickle of butterflies within, my feet aching from every pounding step and my shoulders bruised from such a hard landing. This was freedom, and every ounce of discomfort would be worth it.

I’ll have to come back to Ontal once I have a plan figured out. There has to be some way to break my people free. Whether it be myself smashing through walls or with an army at my back, I’m not going to abandon my teammates. Escape. They’ll know I’m going to come back for them.

Rodan, as soon as we get you out we’re going to need you working on that ship.

Toris, Kell, I’m coming for you. Just you wait.

Just wait a little bit longer Loren.

The nightmare will finally end.
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arbon
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Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby Mdcrmn » Mon Jul 03, 2017 5:04 am

I am ready to see the conclusion of this arc, but not the end of the semester weekly updates
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Re: Gesshru (Arbon's attempt at Flash fiction)

Postby arbon » Mon Jul 03, 2017 7:03 am

Unfortunately I don't know when I'll next manage weekly updates, or even when book two has finished. Patreon will always have things first, but that still doesn't mean a set schedule. In the meantime I can help out a bit by pointing you toward another story I've been interested in, not really macro/micro but still an interesting sci-fi take on the idea of humans being dangerous aliens.

https://www.reddit.com/r/HFY/comments/6 ... education/
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