My mission briefing had not prepared me for meeting a Valkyrie in person. They were kept away from the baseline humans for a reason. I knew there were there, housed deep within the bowels of the ship, safely segregated from anyone or anything they would instinctively class as prey. I just never gave it much thought.
I had been aboard the Hunter’s Lament for two months, drawn from a pool of scientists and technicians to staff the exploratory module of the warship. I headed the biological sciences team, a large group of cross-specialist graduates tasked with analysis of the microbial life recently discovered in the Wolf-359 system.
It was fascinating work. The microbes were only the second instance of non-terrestrial life ever discovered, and the implications of their biology was potentially far reaching. We postulated that, with certain catalysts, the Wolf-359 microbes could be easily processed into a robust and nutrient rich base constituent for food printing. A singular, efficient protein foundation to replace the current system of hard to store nutritional print components. Long distance travel and planetary colonisation would be revolutionised.
My team were deep in the testing phase when the ship entered orbit around a small planetoid in the outer system. An abandoned Commonwealth outpost now used by separatists as a base for insurgent activity. I hadn’t paid much attention. I had work to do.
That’s when I met her.
My flight or fight response kicked in before she had even crossed the threshold into my lab. I didn’t hear her enter, more that I felt her approaching presence and turned to the doorway in fear. Upon seeing her, my mouth went dry. Those empty, pupilless black eyes regarding me with an unblinking stare. I broke eye contact and focussed my attention on her name plate. It read Capt. S. Tarasenko.
“Doctor, you are needed on the surface,” she said flatly. “The incursion team has found something in the facility that requires your expertise.” I caught sight of her secondary rows of teeth as she spoke and felt the hairs on my neck rise.
I swallowed hard. “What did they find?”
“Please follow me,” the Valkyrie said, ignoring my question and walking out.
She silently escorted me through the ship, the personnel in the corridors parting for her like water around a rock. We rounded a corner and passed through a midship bulkhead to arrive at Medical, where I received injections that altered my pheromonal signature. The rest of her gene-spliced team would now key to the smell of my blood, the Carcharodon carcharias parts of their DNA making them instinctively process me as an asset to be protected, rather than eviscerated.
On the flight deck I strapped the unfamiliar body armour on with clumsy hands as she watched, unmoving. We then headed past the hangers to the transport suite and stepped onto the platform. Seven coloured lasers gently pulsed above each of the alcoves, which began to slowly spin up once we had taken our places.
“Destination platform set,” a technician announced as his fingers tapped across the control console. The alcove lasers spun faster, the whine of the motors building. “Transport in fifteen seconds.”
I could feel her gaze on me, and I glanced to my left. Our eyes locked and I felt a shudder of terror.
“Have you ever been in a Valkyrie engagement zone before, Doctor?”
“No,” I said, the pit of my stomach lurching.
She broke eye contact and looked ahead. The coloured lasers creating odd patterns on her pallid, grey skin. The machines roared above us, the colours blurring into brilliant white and bleaching my vision.
“Expect blood,” she said above the noise.
And with that, we were sent across the void of space on a cascade of information and light.
I took the inspiration for this from the fantastic #SundayStoryDice