There’s always a lurch when you fall, especially if it’s from any significant height.
Some people feel it in their gut, some feel it over their whole body, some get disoriented and start to twist and turn in the air; it’s a function of the inner ear, after all, that gives you the lurch once you tumble into the abyss. Eventually momentum catches up with you, and you sort of “level out” at a terminal velocity that is, in and of itself, absolutely terrifying to everyone but adrenaline junkies.
Juan felt that. He felt all of it. Eyes screwed shut in fear, body tumbling into the abyss, he screamed into the wind as gravity worked it’s mighty and indifferent work upon his frame, pulling him down, faster and faster.
Eggsmerelda, for her part, spread her wings in a vain attempt to do something positive.
The hard-light projector crackled to life, a warped human standing proudly on the little boy’s arms, glowing harsh and bright against the night – so it was very easy for people in the neighboring towers to track his trajectory in impotent horror.
= = = = = = = = =
“But no, SERIOUSLY, Where the fuck is my backup HUMMUS?” Lt. Heinz growled, the indicator of his surviving shield drones dwindling down to the single digits. “I thought you said 10 minutes!”
“I did, I – fuck off with that report, Ashish – I did CHICKPEA; titans have broke atmo but our comms are dead until the burn-off window is over. You still have 3 minutes-”
Figuring the giant fuck-off moth wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon, Lt. Heinz popped a few canisters of smoke around his technically-a-Gundam-stop-laughing in an attempt to get the smaller fuck-off moths to leave him alone for a few seconds. Every once in a while a moth would venture to close to his weapons, and the heat – or the vortex of air that was caused by the sheer amount of ordinance being propelled forward – would suck one of them into the bullet stream. With a disgusting pop the creature would explode, which is a minor victory, but whatever it was made out of was unfortunately flammable.
And Unit Zero One was standing in the middle of an inferno, and the fire was rising.
“What about CASINO?!”
HUMMUS bit her lip for a moment, before delivering the bad news. “CASINO is closed; DEALER is going to see what gets destroyed, but all infrastructure is secure and personnel are evacuated to the sub levels. Best case, xeno districts get fucked and we can put in some new slot machines; worst case is we get to rebuild CASINO from the ground up with a little more advertising on the front.” HUMMUS said, the flurry of her keyboard an omnipresent background noise as she continued to manage incoming data, ignore civilian requests for information, and push whatever data needed to be pushed to wherever it needed to go.
“So I’m waiting for the other snack pack crew and then what?” Lt. Heinz sighed as his craft shuddered slightly, the barrels rotating to cool without cessation of fire. “Apparently whatever the fuck that giant one is made out of is strong enough to withstand punishment, and I don’t see coordinated fire doing anything impressive.”
“I’m working on it – PDF are totally fucking ass-backwards with how to deal with this.”
“The FUCK do you mean?”
“I mean, apparently this shit is myth and legend to them.” HUMMUS said, pausing for a moment. “Everything’s… fucked. The fire brigade needs to get down there to kill the flames and end the mating dance of these things, but there’s so fucking many of them that it’s all birdstrikes in their engines, so they’re outside the perimeter. Our own fire-suppressant isn’t working because of course it’s not, and any personnel trained for it are bunkered down. PDF don’t want to come in guns blazing because (1) that just looks bad when you shell civilians and (2) They don’t know what to make of … you.”
“I’ve stunned and amazed many a woman-”
“Fuck off CHICKPEA. Goal right now is… hopefully with full Titanfall we have enough firepower to push THE terror-beast back, and a few of the other rigs can then mop up enough of the smaller ones to allow the brigade to swooce right on in and put out the fire.”
“So, just keep shooting and hope everything works out?”
“I got nothing better for you.”
“Great, well, fuck it.” Lt. Heinz laughed, mirthlessly, as another of the beasts was pulled in and popped simultaneously. “There are worse ways to die I guess, than by… moth.”
“Just think, it’ll be a first for the corps!”
“Oh fucking great, they’ll make a fucking cadence out of me, won’t th-”
“CHICKPEA I need you to talk to me what the hell just happened-”
Lt. Heinz’s hands danced over the console as multiple warning lights demanded his attention; internal stress fractures, snapped gearbox, power fluctuations, coolant intake and venting clogged, hydraulic leak-
“OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE-”
“THEY GOT SUCKED INTO THE ENGINE.” Lt. Heinz roared, reaching down to start manually pumping an emergency level, forcing a single barrel into firing position a few inches at a time. “THE LITTLE BASTARDS FUCKED ME UP.”
“Wait. Oh Goddamnit-”
“ONE BARREL, LETS DO THIS YOU CUNT-”
Unit ZERO-ONE fired off what remained of it’s ichor-fused, terror-beast clogged main gun in short bursts, standing defiant as IT came closer. Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Lt. Heinz realized that he wouldn’t make it to a second mission; his goal now was to buy time, and survive.
And the door to Human Comfort Pod #1722-18-FS8-4 opened with a soft hiss.
= = = = = =
You would think, at some point, the Jornissians would realize that they’re very bad at making drinks for Humans, and would let them lead when it came to stocking the pantry.
Sure, there’s test kitchens all across the Sol system; every day thousands of tons of new foodstuffs were shipped in, the intergalactic community eager to learn what new and exiting gastronomic discoveries would be made by their inquisitive colleagues. The snack-industrial complex therefore was part safety testing, part taste-testing, and part culinary experimentation lab, but the unfortunate truth is that the sheer volume of stuff coming in was too much to allow for deep and thorough documentation. Sure, it was always easier to say “if it’s not human-made don’t eat it” but that’s not something the average human would be willing to say when you’ve just been served Matriarch T’t’t’t’t’t’t’t’s homemade flavorpaste and the chef stands eagerly before you waiting for your critique. There just literally weren’t enough people to run thorough tests, to ingest the food, to be monitored and followed up on, so Humanity turned to a tried and true method:
“Fuck it. If they live they live.”
And so, food was approved. Now it was made very clear that food was simply indicated as “edible” and “non-edible”; the thought was that by “crowdsourcing” the taste-testing, Humanity would naturally discover what foods and combinations of foods would lead to horrific and painful death. Not only would this work faster at scale, but by out-sourcing the whole thing, the snack-industrial complex could come in under budget. Sure, Mingli rolled the dice and died frothing at the mouth, but Lubanzi’s implant was updated in time to stop him from making the same mistake. Sometimes you just get super sleepy, sometimes you discover a neurotoxin.
So, yanno. Expediency and all that, the ends justify the means, etc., etc.
Isabella Aleman, professional Abuela, was the first human to ingest what students everywhere would come to use as “natural” adderol, mystics would hail as a “transcendence elixir” and the Military would eventually call a phenomenal combat drug. The Sruprimsn spice is a bog-standard additive to most hot Jornissian drinks; after decades of research and translation upgrades the best analogue to it would be a thickening powder that (to the Jornissian palate) tasted lightly of clove. It was a warming spice, meant to still impart the feeling of heat even when the drink itself cooled down. There were entire mono-agriculture stations dedicated to growing the stuff in an industrial scale, and it could be found pretty much wherever a good, hot drink was being served.
It also, through not-entirely-well-known processes, was metabolized in three very distinct ways in the human body.
First, it caused drowsiness, and eventually sleep – A deep, restful sleep where the brain was kicked almost constantly into REM. Once enough of the chemical was metabolized and there were a couple exchanges of proteins and electrons and whatnot, the body moved into the second stage.
Isabella Aleman was currently experiencing the second stage, and she experienced it as if it was a dream. The door to a room she did not remember going into opened up, and hell was laid bare before her. Wordlessly, silently, she stood up, climbing out of the off-kilter door and stepping into the pit itself. If God had deemed her unworthy, then who was she to fight her fate?
“No.” She thought, as she looked around. “Not Hell.”
Underneath her feet, a tarmac; There a little ways off were the horses, spooked. Same with the cattle; a few had serious injuries. She would have to tend to them if the menfolk weren’t around. There was an.. An absence of a low, deep droning noise that had slowly roused her from sleep; it was comforting, but the relative silence left her confused.
Looking around – there, to her left, a ship? Some of her children – good, maybe, they’re unloading. They even had some of the locals come help.
Isabella furrowed her brow.
No. That’s not right. They had already unloaded…
She turned her head, to the right. Fire, fire and brimstone and standing in the midst of it a devil, triumphant – an angel, fallen – some beast from the pit, black and flaming and with a sword of fire-
Isabella frowned. Why was it so hard to focus?
The machine fired another burst of fire, the comforting but now obnoxiously loud sound causing her to full-body recoil. Something kept nagging at her, something-
She waved her hand at her side to get the puppy to stop jumping up. You have to train animals, you see, and if little Juan wanted a house-dog then he needed to start putting in the work on making it house-broken-
Wait. No. This… This wasn’t Earth. She wasn’t home.
Isabella looked up as IT pushed forward triumphantly, body dwarfing any beast she had seen in reality or imagination, wings spreading over the two towers blotting out the stars. The fire licked against the moondust on it’s wings, and dancing embers began to glitter in the night.
“Tch. Ricardo left the window open.” She muttered, leaning down to her side as she brought her heel up, slipping off her chancla. With a steady eye she took aim.
Sruprimsn spice is metabolized in the Human body in three ways. Two of which are predictable; A deep long sleep based on your bodyweight and the quality of the spice. A purely zen-like pseudo-hallucinogenic calm that lasts far less than your sleep, but can still be roughly guesstimated based on your metabolism and how long you spent under. And then the final bit, which the Military still hasn’t cracked to this day, and whose variableness is the only reason why it’s legally traded in Human space to begin with:
A single, fast-twitch burst of pure fucking adrenaline with absolutely no metabolic crash afterwards.
For a brief moment the terror-beasts parted, the air was still, and the fire abated.
“YIIII-” Isabella screeched as she let fly, her slipper flying true. It spun, a blur of brown against the black sky, a small piece of synthetic rubber lost amidst the chaotic scene unfolding before her.
= = = = = = = =
“FUCK, FUCK, IT’S COMING IN-”
“Lock your bracers in, CHICKPEA-”
“DANGER CLOSE-” Lt. Heinz gritted his teeth, his whole body tensing for the collision of the gargantuan beast. Although he had ammunition to spare, the excess heat of his weaponry forced an automatic shutdown. Without coolant being pumped through the system and vented properly, the barrels had to air-cool, which would take… minutes. Hours, if he was unlucky. It didn’t matter, though.
Lt. Heinz knew he was dead from the start.
There was a scraping as gigantic chitinous claws punctured the tarmac, the beast fanning the flames triumphantly. Once it fully landed, it’s whole weight would be atop the tower – potentially crushing ZERO ONE, and potentially collapsing the tower itself. There was nothing to do but wait, and hope that somehow his body would be intact enough to identify in the wrecka-
IT blinked, if it could be called blinking, as a single faux-rubber slipper landed squarely between it’s wide and inky-black eyes. Antennae twitched, focus turned inward, and for a brief moment the fire was forgotten.
= = = = = = = = = =
Juan Esteban was falling, and there was nothing to be done for him. This was a simple fact, and the assembled xenos – both in glass towers nearby, in ships outside of moth-strike range, and those viewing on camera – could do nothing but witness the tragedy. The beasts, stupid and brutish, battered about by the winds, tumbled down with him, beating against the glass and the building itself.
Juan cried as he kept his eyes shut, and the planet’s gravity tugged at him
Hard, multi-joined limbs wrapped around his small frame, a disgustingly soft-yet-firm body pressed against his back, his clothing was pinched in all the wrong places as one of the things latched onto him and-
and spread it’s wings.
Juan lost a shoe from the change in momentum, the errant article of clothing spinning off into the void. He felt the surprisingly firm beat of the creature’s wings as it bled momentum, vertical speed turning horizontal turning into a gentle lift.
“Wh-what?” He wept, red and wet eyes opening for the first time.
“ÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖÖ-” The beast said, admiring the T-posing human-light that was clamped onto Juan’s arms. It beat it’s wings, attempting to close the distance from it to the light – accomplishing nothing but mild acceleration.
Juan sniffed and coughed as the beast flapped it’s wings again, riding the thermals up.
“I uh… it’s…-”
“Oh!” Juan lessened his death-grip on Eggsmerelda, the chicken thankful that she wouldn’t die by impact or by a terror-hug. As he loosened his grip the hologram shifted to the left; with a gentle turn the beast followed it. Juan turned his arms to the right, and the beast followed it after just a moment’s delay.
Hesitantly, Juan turned his arms up, and flew.