Part 1- here
Part 2 -here
Part 3 -here
Part 4 -here
Part 5 -here
Part 6 -here
Part 7 -here
Aside from the shadow infested gritty walls, the flickering green light that made visibility a neat idea, the smells one would get if a radio shack crashed into a dry cleaner that they then set on fire, and a disquieting howl that belonged on some craggy moors of Scotland not in a space station these old warehouses weren’t so bad. A new coat of paint, some power washing, a few air freshners and it could almost be a nice place right up until your body was found jammed in the gears two decks below.
“Ww . . where are we?” Pearl asked, her gloved hands sliding along the wall for fear she’d take a tumble and figure out what sticky thing she kept stepping in.
Erica tipped her head back and forth, “Hang on, I can’t quite seem to get a signal,” she raised one hand high then bent over like an airplane in a bank.
“Does that help?” Hellena asked, about the only one having a blast. It was like going home for her, which she was surprised to find she missed.
The guide looked up at her, a few of her hairpins slipping loose and clattering to the floor, “Not really.” She dropped down to her knees and began to search.
“So what you’re saying is that we’re trapped in some dark forgotten cesspit, we have no idea where we’re going and we have no way to get back?”
“No,” she was having trouble finding her pins. This wasn’t good, she didn’t have the credits to buy a uniform replacement and of course the council of tour guides insisted you get everything replaced at the same time, “the cesspits are on deck 789. We’re on 434.”
“Wait, I thought we were on 500,” Hellena rolled her eyebrows together attempting to do Amazonian calculus. “That’s like another 60 or so levels. When did that happen?”
Pearl paused, certain that some strange lights ahead kept winking in and out, “It was that Hu, the Doctor Hu. He pulled us into something and we woke up here.” There they were again, an eerie red.
Erica, resigning herself to Ramen for a month stood up pinless, “Oh, why didn’t you say? Doctor Hu has his own section of deck 434. It’s on the other side of the station.” She shifted nervously as a surprising weight skittered across her foot, a new prize clutched in its poisonous jaws.
Breathing calmly inward Pearl turned from her gaze down the darkened corridor to stare back at her companions, “Wonderful. Let’s just turn around and see if we can talk that green woman into letting us somewhere else.”
The howling, which became an almost comforting background dropped away to be replaced by the sound of millions of tiny nails scrabbling away at metal sheets. Hellena lowered herself, an arduous task for the statuesque woman, the only one in requisite sandals she’d felt the rising tide far earlier but chalked it up to the ways of these humans. But old hunting triggers were firing. “Hey, did you guys see . . .” her hands snagged one in mid bound across her big toe, “Gotcha.”
Into the groups line of sight pinched between her two fingers she raised a small mammal not much bigger than a mouse with a long pointed nose and burning red eyes glared back at them. It shook, not out of fear and snapped its jaws. “Awe isn’t that the cutest little fuzzy!” Erica started going eye level. As she went in for a tummy rub the creature curled and bit her on the finger dropping to join its brethren “Sonnofa . . . hey get back here you little bastard!” she screamed, picking up a long abandoned broom from what was once the Janitor’s Storage swinging madly after her attacker.
“Wait,” Hellena’s scalp was itching, a very bad sign. But nothing was going to stop the tour guide in her quest to get after the worst category she could think of “non-tipper!” The broom swooshed back and forth kicking up long abandoned hunks of what most thought were derelict spaceships (actually mop buckets. What? Even Janitors need cool equipment sometimes).
“I’ll get you my pretty and your little, uh, rat too!” Erica narrowed in on her prey. It, finding this strange woman fascinating, paused mid-scurry and looked up at her. Pearl and Hellena chased after from behind, slowing to watch the proud hunter circle her prey. “Now, that wasn’t very nice was it?” she got down on one knee to look the creature in the beady eye, “what do we say when we bite someone?”
The creature turned its head taking in the other strange beings in the back, this was a tricky situation with six large stomping obstacles but he’d got top marks in the AMOL and casting one last look from the red and black then back to the strange blue creature in front it made a calculated decision. Like a cat, the rodent jumped two feet straight into the air and chomped down hard on the blue woman’s nose, a trickle of blood flowing down.
“AHH!! GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!” She rose whipping her head around. The rodent unclenched its jaws disappearing airborne deep into the corridor of the damned.
Pearl grabbed the hysterical woman by the shoulders, pulling her face down to her, “I don’t think it’s bad,” she started to rip sections of her robe off from inside.
“Guys,” Hellena started.
“Is it infected? Do I have rabies? Am I gonna turn into a werewolf?!” Erica sobbed as Pearl dabbed at her nose.
“Something’s not right,” the Amazonian wasn’t certain how to get their attention, at least not without her giant sword.
Pearl sighed, trying to fight through the babble of hysteria, “No, you’re going to be fine. Look it’s already stopped bleeding.”
“Seriously, this isn’t good,” running out of ideas, Hellena tried poking the two in the shoulders.
This only set the normally subdued Pearl off on her second tirade of the trip, the elders were going to have a field day with her when she got back home. Assuming they were still alive. “What?! What is it? What is so damn important?”
Hellena blinked, leaning back from the unexpected rage. It was like getting attacked by a precious moments figurine, “The rodent?”
“What about it?”
“It didn’t make a noise.”
The anger dissolved into something new and even sharper, “What do you mean it didn’t make a . . . noise,” her brain started to slide the pieces together, the blinking lights, the sounds.
Hellena feeling like she was back in school having to recite the Amazonian code in front of the class, First Rule of Amazonian code is don’t make any stupid Fight club references, shuffled her feet, “When she threw it, it should have made a whomp clang thud noise. But it didn’t.”
Through the black cloth Erica peered from one to the other, her fear blocking all the psychic training she spent 6 months living with no heat for. Pearl’s head turned slowly to where the nose cruncher slipped into shadows that were darker than they should be. “I think we really need to get out of here.”
As those words left her mouth the darkness parted as a million small red eyes opened. Before any of the women could think to scream, the horde rose up; a multitude of plague carriers descending from the heavens biting and clawing carrying them out to sea.
Oh creators, not this again. Pearl mumbled under her breath as excruciating consciousness broke across her. Cool metal froze her forehead, which helped cut the impending headache from the goose egg forming on the back. But the rest of her sat in surprisingly warm shredded paper. The light was dimmer here than in the hall but still had the same strange green tinge.
“I am really getting tired of this,” Hellena swore next to her.
“Are you okay?” Pearl asked trying to rise but her back collided into the ceiling. The walls were no more than a few feet high and unsure of what to do she sunk down to her knees.
“Oh yeah, just great. Who doesn’t love getting attacked by an army of rats?”
“Can you see the tour lady? Is she okay?” Pearl was getting woozy, the smell of fur and cedar and possible dual concussions getting to her.
“I can’t really see anything other than the stupid Maurice and his Amazing Rodents poster tacked to the ceiling,” The little creatures having lost a large number of their fighting forces to the Amazonian’s fists hadn’t taken any chances and tied her down Lilliputian style to the bulkhead. Tiny, but surprisingly strong ropes covered her entire body cutting off circulation to everywhere.
Ah, you are awake bipeds. Excellent.
Pearl turned at the voice thundering across her temple. A few heat lamps switched on and perched like a toad in a tree glared the biggest rat she’d ever seen. This thing would put some collies to shame.
First contact with an unknown species is something people spend years learning and training for. How to make sure to keep your voice neutral, make no sudden movements and never ever itch your nose lest you insult the good people of Taxolia and are vaporized on the spot. Sadly Pearl flunked out of FC101, “You can talk?!”
Yes, with help from the blue one
The blue one? Another light flickered on, this one stolen from an unguarded desk. Zonked out next to Hellena snored Erica, her nose bandaged up with a few supplies nicked from an old first aid kit.
“You took her ear piece!” Pearl’s old FC instructor would be having a series of 6 heart attacks right about now.
Yes the voice oozed smugness in her head which set a chain reaction on Pearl’s fragile emotions. Dangerous signals screamed from deep inside her and even with a giant talking rat talking to her brain she began to recite the meditation.
“What the hell is talking?!” Hellena yelled from her non-vantage point.
You killed many of our brethren
“Damn right, I’d have killed more too if ya hadn’t of snuck up like that. Lousy cheating using the pitchfork like that.”
Pitchfork? All Pearl remembered was the horror of thousands of nails digging and climbing up her robes scrabbling as they fought over top each other. The terror was enough to take her down; the rats didn’t need to do a thing.
You must atone
“I ain’t toning fer no rat,” Hellena’s grammar became atrocious the more she trash talked. If this continued any longer she’d start sounding Welsh.
The voice roared I AM NO RAT!
Pearl finished her meditation as a multitude of red eyes opened ringed around the small nest. ‘Oh sweet sister who saved us from the fires of unending fury . . .’
GAZE UPON THE MIGHT OF THE KILLER SHREW’S!
This didn’t quite have the impact the king was going for as the one woman was still focused solely on the ceiling and the other rocking back and forth keeping herself trapped in her own safety zone of bubble kitties and fuzzy baths.
Oh for the love of . . . Jerry? Cut the big one’s ropes
Yes, sir the one, I guess called Jerry scurried forward and made record time of slitting each of the ropes with his teeth. Hellena not needing any encouragement sat up, snapping the rest. She shifted from one side to the next and tried to reach up smacking her hands into the poster ripping it down. “Oh great, my bum’s gone numb.”
NOW GAZE UPON THE GREAT KILLER SHREW ARMY! The king wasn’t about to let one of his best lines fly by like that.
Hellena looked up at all the murderous rodent faces as one warrior does to another across the battle line. They even nodded their heads at her, all at the same time. “I see ‘em. So . . . now what?”
The king grinned in their minds, a gut wrenching experience for both of the women, You are to fight our mortal enemies or we shall kill you At the signal each shrew snapped and snarled its jaws, barking the only way a shrew can.
“I see,” Hellena tried to lean over to Pearl who shuddered as the Amazonian made contact, “I could take maybe 700 – 800 tops. That leaves about 550 for you.”
She looked into the Amazonian’s serious face, then turned to look at the Giant shrew, “Who do you want us to kill Mr. Killer Shrew sir?”
They call themselves the Kouban