Black Honey Wings, Part XII (Meanwhile, Again)

Day 30. 115 pages, 52,942 words.

Çrom had lost count of the number of people they’d killed. It had been at least four. But then, after he’d killed four people in a short period of time, Çrom always stopped counting. He felt that counting the people you killed, after four, was just enjoying it too much. If there were more than four people you needed to kill, there might as well be a thousand. Did you bomb a Mandelbrot and then float through it in a spacesuit, counting up the bodies? Counting the arms and dividing by … well, two if they had five fingers, four if they had four…

He supposed there were people who did that. They were usually doctors, though. You knew where you stood with a doctor. They swore to take no lives, take no sides, do no harm. It was a bit kooky, but it seemed to work for them. People liked doctors.

They didn’t like starship Captains so much. They respected them, he supposed … although he’d given up on trying to earn respect a long time ago. It had been about the same time he’d decided to stop counting dead bodies once he got to four in a row, actually.

He wondered if those facts were connected somehow.

Anyway, he’d stopped counting. He never counted. More than four, and it was a slaughter. It was a travesty. Four could be self-defence, could be an execution of AstroCorps directives, could be the act of a good man doing what he must. More than four was mass-murder.

He knew that Barducci, and Melvix for that matter, looked at it a different way. Their lives were a war, and that made it easy. In a war, you killed and killed and killed until someone with more shiny shit on their uniforms told you to stop killing. If you stopped killing before they said so, you either got killed by the guys you were just killing or you got shot by your own guys because you’d messed it all up for everybody. Wars didn’t need people who just stopped killing willy-nilly. They made everyone look bad.

But when you were in a war, it was okay to kill more than four. That was the point. Enemy combatants, them or us, glorious victory, military targets, take your pick. It was a veritable smorgasbord of redemption.

Çrom had once spent four years in a set of tiny interconnected thermal pods with Drago Barducci. He knew that giant fucker slept like a baby.

Still, he had his method and it usually worked out. They had fought their way through a few knots of mixed humans, Bonshoon and Blaren, and had killed meh-number of them before reaching the oxygen farm level below what they had guessed would be the Captain’s dome, on account of it being the Captain’s dome on the A-Mod 400. It had seemed like the safer bet, since they knew the Captain was gone, so no coin-tossing had been necessary. Plus, Dool had served his last meal in the officers’ dining room only a couple of levels down.

Resistance had been reasonably professional, and alarmingly heavily-armed, but the enemy had been clearly distracted and wanting for orders and leadership. This deficiency grew even more acute after a series of shudders and lighting fluctuations marked Commander W’Tan’s assault and – with any luck – the cutting off of any reinforcements or retreat to and from the Nope, Leftovers. Çrom was pretty sure none of the people left alive in the modular knew where the infiltrators were, or how few they were. The oxygen farm was bloody freezing, after all, and his own crack team had demonstrated admirably just how easily its strategic value could be overlooked.

“Gunton and Constable, stay here and hole up,” he instructed, forcing his teeth not to chatter. Nothing ruined heroic Captain-talky-time like a set of chattering teeth, although he could do nothing about his nipples inexorably freezing and drawing everyone’s attention towards them, starting with his own. There had been three thermals near the access hatch, all of them Molranoid in design, but they still worked for humans. Gunton just looked funny with two extra sleeves hanging out under his arms, and Constable looked adorable with the garment all bunched up and dangling. No big deal. The important thing was that they didn’t freeze. “Find the main oxy-block processing and replacement port. It will have a maintenance panel that connects to life support and basically includes shutdown controls for most of the main systems. You want to be able to switch shit off when you’ve got highly-volatile oxygen-enriched algae thawing out in the system. You can use it to control things remotely if you’re not too fussed about causing major headaches for the repair crews down the line. But the panel will be well-hidden.”

“Copy,” Gunton said, tucking his extra sleeves into his belt.

“Blue, Melvix, with me,” Çrom continued. “Let’s go and take out the subluminal drive. Or undo the long-term docking blocks that have been put in place, or … I don’t know, something. Cut away the caked-on shit that’s turning this thing into an annexe. Keep ourselves busy.”

“Subluminal drive core should be near the recycling plant,” Blue said, checking her weapons. “Five levels down, if this modular keeps on not surprising us.”

“Let’s plan for her to surprise us, but hope for her not to,” Çrom suggested. It seemed the Captainny thing to say.

They killed another four or so people on their way to the recycling plant.

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