Chapter 7 - Tools of the Trade
With reluctance that I haven’t felt since boot camp, I return to consciousness. There was work to do, and no one else to do it. I run down my mental checklist while lying in bed. The experience in the reactor chamber yesterday was so surreal that I’m not even sure it really happened. Maybe the revelation that I’m almost certainly the last human alive drove me off the edge. It’s not impossible that it was all a fevered hallucination, brought on by a mixture of radiation poisoning and grief.
But no, I sincerely wish it was, but the proof is all over my body. My foot is still broken, and through the hazmat suit I fell asleep in, I can feel bruised ribs where I was struck by one of the shock waves the creature produced. Definitely not a dream. I can be sure that I’m not as alone as I thought, though my company is questionable at best. But it’s not as bad as it seems. I learned a lot about my unwelcome guest from yesterday’s encounter, things I can put to use in putting it down.
I pull myself up into a sitting position and the movement shifts the laser rifle that I had fallen asleep with in my arms. In my exhaustion, it was just the first thing I saw, so I grabbed it, but looking down at it now reminds me of what I intend to use it to kill. The creature had been in the reactor room for who knows how long and is apparently no worse off for it. It’s safe to assume that high frequency radiation, such as the gamma rays of the reactor and this laser rifle aren’t going to be very effective. That means lasers are a no go. Plasma was effective, but only minimally so. I’m going to need different weapons, and lots of them.
I lethargically tuck my plasma pistol away as I stretch out my aches and pain. I review what I know about the creature as I make my way to the armory. I know it can camouflage itself to the degree that makes it almost invisible. By the same token it’s bioluminescent and can project lights and colors to dazzle and blind me.
I know it can affect my thoughts by bringing memories to the surface of my mind and can even control my body to a degree through this manipulation. And if mind control wasn’t scary enough, it can even project waves of invisible force. I remember hearing loud claps with each release of force from the displaced air. It’s probably safe to assume that if it can do all that, then I haven’t seen everything it’s capable of.
If I want to be able to predict what other capabilities it has, I need to find the common thread between all these abilities. What does force projections, mental manipulation and camouflage all have in common? I can assume the camouflage is just a biological function like any Earth creatures would be, but the other two remain a mystery for now.
I put my deliberations on hold as the door to the armory slides open. As it does, my vision fills with weapons of war. My eyes scan the room from left to right and top to bottom, assessing each tool and how effectively it could kill my target. There’s everything from energy weapons, projectile launchers and explosives, to automated turrets, chemical ordinances and even a few sets of power armor.
The sheer variety of ways the weapons in this room can kill is stunning. Half of these weapons had been ‘officially’ banned by the Hegemony and about one hundred different treaties. Of course, that didn’t stop anyone from making and using them, least of all the Hegemony military.
As a plan begins to form in my mind, I walk over to the sets of power armor. There are two variations, a sleek and deadly scout configuration and a hulking siege configuration. Both are adorned with thick graphene plates and stand over eight feet tall, towering over me. Wearing power armor makes any soldier more akin to a walking tank than infantry.
Each has a kinetic barrier that’s essentially a smaller version of the one that surrounds the ship. The barrier is complicated in design but simple in function. All it does is project a bubble that applies an equal and opposite force to any mass that exceeds a certain velocity when coming into contact with it. If the shock waves that the creature can create function the way I think they do, then the barrier should neutralize the momentum of the air molecules and nullify the attack.
The only problem is that keeping the barrier active is an immense strain on the suit’s power supply. Just keeping the barrier active is a significant drain. Even if it didn’t have to absorb any momentum, the suit only has enough power to keep it on for 15 minutes. Considering that the shock waves I’m planning to use the barrier to absorb could tear off a titanium support strut from where it was bolted down, I estimate that a suit could only nullify two hits before it runs out of power. After a moment of deliberation, I step behind the scout configuration. Given the creature’s known capabilities, it’s likely mobility will be key.
As for the other weapons, I won’t be able to use most of them if the fighting happens inside the reactor room. The risk of collateral damage is too high. So, I’ll simply need to lure it outside to kill it. I strip off my hazmat suit and step into the power armor from its open back.
I feel a twinge of worry as the armor closes around me. I can’t shake the feeling that I’m missing something. The nature of this creature is so perplexing. Is it extraterrestrial? While part of me wants to say that it must be, I can’t think of any way an alien life form could have gotten inside the ship since there’s no opening that it could have entered through.
On the other hand, even with its ability to hide itself, it’s impossible that it could have gone unnoticed for the months the ship was leaving the Sol system. The crew didn’t enter stasis until after we entered interstellar space. That only leaves the possibility that it somehow got inside the ship sometime after it accelerated to relativistic speeds, which seems its own brand of impossible.
The suit’s startup sequence makes me abandon my worries, I can search for the answers to those questions when it’s dead and I’m on my way back to Earth. Maybe studying its corpse will provide some insights. The suit moans to life and I run system checks and test joint responsiveness. Advanced as these weapons are, they were left sitting in this room for three centuries, best to make sure everything is still in working condition.
I begin my walk around the armory, grabbing what I’ll need to make my plan work. First off, I pack two smoke bombs and a stun grenade in the suit’s belt. Next, I walk over to the rack of old school slug throwers. After the advent of most high yield energy weapons, most people back on Earth had thought kinetic projectile weapons were obsolete and outdated, mere relics of the past. Those people never saw the kind of weapons that were used in the proxy wars that were waged in the decades long Unification Era.
Hanging in front of me is a wall full of high velocity, fully automatic carbine rifles. Rather than the old bullets packed with gunfire, these weapons fire small but dense needles of steel. Not only does the magnetic firing mechanism require no gunpowder and launch the needles at 4,000 feet per second, but their small size means you can fit hundreds of rounds in a single magazine. I take a spike rifle and attach a holographic scope, put it in the sling it over my shoulder, and move on.
I walk over to a deployable taser mine. The small, flat disc will launch a wide cone of electrical discharge when the motion sensors above it are triggered. They can be dialed down to non-lethal levels if need be. I set it to the maximum output and walk over to the final weapon I’ll need if the others fail, a vibration knife.
Made of a highly dense alloy of chromium and titanium, a squeeze of the trigger at the top of the handle will cause the blade to oscillate at an incredibly high frequency. It’s called a knife, but really, it’s a bowie knife. With any luck, I won’t need it. I was trained in CQC during basic training, but it was never my specialty. I was a pilot, not a boots on the ground grunt. Strapping the blade to my belt, I walk out of the armory and off to make the final preparations for the inevitable fight.