The trick, when fighting a Molranoid, was to incapacitate them as quickly as you could. Taking out their ears was the best approach, because a Molranoid’s flappers were particularly sensitive.
Unfortunately, this also meant they protected them far more carefully, so your safest option was to go for the eyes and hope they were too distracted by that to get their hands on you by sound alone. Going for the throat was pointless because Molranoids had a couple of them, and going for the genitals was … well, Molranoid goolies were external and sensitive at only three points in their five-thousand-year life-spans, so you’d have to be lucky. Basically none of the human weak spots existed on a Molranoid.
The benefit, if you were absolutely desperate for a bright side, was that you could generally be as rough as you liked and still have a non-lethal engagement. You were very unlikely to kill a Molranoid, no matter how brutally you attacked. Things that would reduce a human to a quivering mound of flesh and bone-shards would barely slow a Molranoid down. Fleet authorities tended to use explosive rounds, pulse grenades and abbronax as crowd control. And all the assorted peripheral accessories and organs could be printed and replaced.
So it was absolutely no-holds-barred. Of course, if one of them laid so much as a hand on you, it tended to all be over very quickly. And damn it, there were a lot of bat-heads in the room.
The three original Bonshooni had headed off, but had been replaced by two more when the guests arrived in the Captain’s dome, as well as a third tattooed Blaran and two humans. Hosts and visitors were, aside from Dool himself, evenly matched for numbers – eight versus seven – but the hosts were two humans, five Molranoids and a Noro Metak. And unless the crew left behind on the A-Mod 400 managed to do something, there were most likely a thousand more where they came from, ready to hand. A thousand at least.
Drago threw his mostly-unscrewed canister of hoco powder in the face of the Blaran closest to him, and threw his plate like a frisbee at another. The powder he’d sprinkled on the rim of the plate turned its edge into a burning brand as the plate struck the second Blaran right across the eyes just as the canister popped open against the eyes and nose of the first in a cloud of yellow dust. Both Blaren hissed and fell back, but neither were out of the fight yet.
Blue Persephone, one of the A-Mod 400’s non-Corps security Blaren, had meanwhile lifted one of the Black Honey Wings’s human crewmen into the air and bashed him strategically against the second Bonshoon, knocking the former out cold and making the latter stagger to one side. Molranoids fighting humans had precisely the opposite problem – humans weren’t just easy to put down, they were fantastically easy to kill. Just hitting one on the head with something could make it die of an undetected brain-swelling three weeks later. Blue Persephone closed with the Bonshoon while the rest of the A-Mod 400’s team tackled the two Blaren Drago had seasoned.
Their second Blaran crewmember had also leapt back from the table as soon as Çrom had burst into action. His skin a blaze of green phosphorescent dots, he leaned in and hefted the plate of still-sizzling Fergunakil meat – together with its puddle of hot oil – into the upper body of the Blaran whose face had just been blasted with hoco. The unfortunate Blaran went down with a shriek.
Barducci got a closer look at the guns as he launched himself at the third Blaran, who had been the first to tug a blaster from his belt. Some sort of circuit was stuck to the side, and in the split-second he had to examine it he thought it looked like some sort of add-on to cancel out a security suppression field.
Maybe our guns won’t need repairing after all, he thought. That was a relief.
“Gunsides,” he said sharply as he took his best guess and rolled under the invisible beam from the Blaran’s gun. He felt it sunburn his lower back, and then he was up and grabbing at the dampening circuit. It didn’t come off, but it snapped in half under his fingers and the Blaran swore. Drago rose to his feet, attempting to sweep the Blaran’s legs from under him but he stepped back and very nearly clubbed Drago on the side of the head with a lightning-quick swing of the useless gun. Drago dropped and rolled again.
That was another thing. Damnably, damnably fast, your Molranoid.
Meanwhile the Bonshoon Skell had stabbed – the erstwhile Bori, server of the food – surged to his feet with the fork still sticking out of his eye socket. He punched Çrom in the face as the Captain was still pushing himself out of his own chair. There was a sickening crunch as Skell’s head snapped back, and he collapsed to the floor. He was up again before Barducci had time to worry about it, though, kicking the chair into the Bonshoon’s lower legs and scrambling away on feet, hands and buttocks.
This all happened in about the first five seconds of the fight. By the time they reached fifteen seconds, Barducci was satisfied to find, the eight members of the Black Honey Wings’s crew were subdued and the team from the A-Mod 400 were checking the dining room for defensibility. They’d even managed to take a couple of the weapons without disabling them, and had them trained on the still-conscious Molranoids and the menacingly-rumbling Nak Dool.
“Who’s bleeding?” Barducci said, when he noticed the dripping amber on the Noro’s left horn.
“Most of us, Commander,” Melvix said. The Molran was his usual utterly unflappable self, and Drago wasn’t particularly surprised when he added, “but it was me who Captain Dool gored.”
Drago turned to glance at the Molran, who was now crouching over the pair of human hostiles and checking their vitals. His lower left hand was clamped over his side, but even as Barducci watched the Molran eased his slender fingers off the wound and confirmed that it had already sealed off its blood-flow.
“Think I’ve got some busted ribs,” Ital reported. “And Gunton’s face has suffered extensive improvement.”
“Fuck you, Constable,” Gunton said in a wet, snuffly tone. Drago gave the security crewman a cursory glance and deemed the assortment of fractures and facial smearing – an arguably optimal result of being thrown against a wall by a Bonshoon – to be superficial. He’d also managed to snare the big fucker’s gun and shoot him with it six or seven times, which was why he was standing more or less unaided while the Bonshoon was curled and groaning on the floor.
“Good work, Gunton,” Barducci said. “What about ‑ ”
Drago turned with a sigh. Blue Persephone was crouched beside their second Blaran crewman, her left hands moving deftly over his body while her two right hands held an appropriated gun and the tattoo-twined wrist of the Black Honey Wings Blaran respectively. The enemy Molranoid didn’t seem to be in any danger of moving, with the gun pressed hard against the flat top of his head and his twisted arm so severely broken that fibrous bone was visible through tears in cloth and skin. His bleeding, too, had stopped when his spectacularly unfair Blaran blood vessels had rerouted around the wound – only a clear glaze of so-called ambrosia, the chemical compound carrying all the Molranoid’s healing necessities, moistened the twisted limb.
Fallen – or Traumatic / Hysterical / Fallen, to use his full name – on the other hand, had taken the full force of the enemy gunfire directly in the face, and unlike the Bonshoon Gunton had taken down, the Blaran had been carrying a pug. Those nasty little bastards used some sort of minor nuclear cascade to burn like fury. Probably why he was now lying so still, with Blue holding the same pug directly against his skull.
Blue Persephone seemed to be alright – she and Fallen had been friends, but not lovers. Barducci did his best to keep their teams compact and free of intimate connections if at all possible. Her luridly colourful hand was steady as she held the gun on the enemy and kept his shattered arm tightly curled. Blue’s skin, for some obscure Blaran reason, didn’t have bioluminescent infusions but was pigmented bright red from head to toe. When anyone asked her why her name was Blue, she told them, I am blue. You’re just not moving fast enough.
“Shit,” Barducci muttered, crossing to where Blue was crouching. Skell was there before him, kneeling and checking the crewman’s body, so Drago remained standing and scanned the room. Their time was extremely limited, he knew, even if all the enemies here had been locked down and none of them were tripping any silent alarms or panic buttons. He pulled out his whisper beacon and tapped it swiftly. They needed to know what was happening back on the modular.
“He did this thing at parties,” Blue was saying sorrowfully. “Talking through his nose. It sounded like a … ” she cut herself off, raised the pug blaster for a fleeting second, adjusted its settings with her upper left hand, then lowered it again and shot the enemy Blaran through the neck. He screamed briefly, there was a smell of burning flesh that mingled stomach-churningly with the scent of fried Fergie, and his body went limp. He’d still live, with some medical attention and rehabilitation. It really was unfair. “Sorry, Captain,” she said, straightening and helping Skell to his feet. The Captain seemed a little bruised but none the worse for wear for his punishing blow to the face. “Commander,” Blue added. “I’ll check the rest of the dome.”
Çrom and Drago crossed the room and stood above the glowering seated mass of Nak Dool.