Original Content Foreign Warning - Part 4

Still in year 6431, Day 270 (Fian calendar), aboard the Aienta

“What's that sound?”

“What soun... CRAP stop the mining now!” Derrema practically screamed.

Hurriedly they slammed the emergency stops and the mining LASERs ceased.

“Damn it's getting louder.”

“What is it?” Hlat’s worried query accompanied by a very light acetone smell involuntarily showing a small level of fear.

“Miners dirge. It happens when you go too fast and create an atmosphere of rock dust that carries sound to the ship. Check the stability of the tunnel.” Being able to hear the rumble of crashing rock while in a supposedly airless environment usually meant the mine shaft was collapsing and had kicked up enough dust to create a temporary atmosphere.

After some quick jabbing at the controls and beeps from the computer Hlat replied “it's fine, why?”

“Thank the Mothers. I read that sound usually means a cave-in is happening. We’re lucky we’re not stuck down here.”

“Well a few million kilos of rock just gave way below us, I thought that's what we were trying to do, break in to one of the tunnels?”

The captain slowly looked at him with a blank expression but eye wide.

“You mean you did that deliberately? You nearly gave me heart failure! Damn you!"

“I thought we were aiming for the tunnel though" Hlat grinned in relief now the sudden panic calmed, focusing more on defending against any possible accusation of negligence.

All worry now gone the captain checked the readouts and, sure enough, the cacophony must have come from the rather large collapse of rock below them. He’d been busy with the mining beams in the other side of the ship meticulously picking away rock and daydreaming, only now realising their surprising speed must have been because of the other's lack of training and apparent total carelessness.

Looking at his shipmate with narrowed eye and a suspicious expression Derrema asked “Did you do the training simulations?”

“What sims? I was just told I'd won and to get to the ship. Didn’t even get chance to have my lunch break.” The reply genuinely concerned both men, Hlat because he now realised there were some very important safety information that no one had told him and Derrema because his life was in danger, once again, due to the incompetence of the Staff Training department failing the workforce even worse than ever before.

An awkward silence fell over the cabin as both sat worried and staring blankly at their control panels, contemplating. The rock crashing below them had long since stopped when Derrema decided to make a move.

Pressing the communications control he broadcast “Aienta to Kenladur, when will the soldiers get here? We have broken through early.”

“Aienta this is UCS Kenladur, the unit is enroute, ETA 35 minutes. This is a first contact situation, you must either await the team’s arrival or ensure you observe proper Union first contact procedure.”

“I understand. We, uh, we don’t know the procedures so will wait.” Derrema looked sheepish as Hlat silently mirrored the sentiment. Neither wanted to deal with a bunch of primitives even if they were going to get a big bonus based on whatever they managed to bring back to the cityship.


Nereid Mining Base

All staff were now safely installed into the myriad mining equipment. Even the units that were out of commission just days earlier now buzzed and whined with servos and gears. All film crew were as ready as they were ever going to be now that they each had a make-shift self destruct mechanism, cannisters of compressed hydrogen and oxygen next to the bio-unit would ensure a quick death instead of years of slavery. They all still held a small smoking ember if hope that they were wrong and everything turn out OK.

The breach of an access tunnel had been violent enough that it caused some secondary collapses within the base and the atmosphere was quickly depleting in a strong breeze. The actual hole must have been small or the entire compound would have been blown out. James, in his newly acquired role of battle commander, began issuing orders while he navigated his blastbot to the front lines.

“Hide yourselves around the entrance, use anything as cover and wait for them to commit then we’ll pincer them” his voice being transmitted over local channels rather than any actual sound.

A new voice burst into the comms with an air of determination. Former infantryman Benny Devons gave useful advice James took to heart. “Blastbots attack first, cameras stay well back, and swarms pick apart any armour that we can't destroy. Blasters: Use maximum fire setting, as if you're trying to get through a solid thousand kilos of iron in one shot. And everyone? Keep shooting no matter what. Even if they seem dead just keep shooting. We've all seen the videos of what the Diseased can do. Let's not give ‘em the chance”


Thirteen Fian soldiers arrived in a small transport pod and docked with the Aienta. Their commander stepped through the hatch into the rear cabin and greeted Derrema with a quick, but formal, hand wave.

Returning the gesture Derrema welcomed the commander aboard. “Thanks for coming, we’re ready to follow your instructions. I am Derrema and my colleague is Hlat” cringing at his unprofessional opening but remembering good manners by giving introductions last.

“Good day Derrema, I cannot give you instructions as you are a civilian but being as you’re not aware of firsst contact regulations I am allowed to explain tthem to you if you request it. My team will then head to the surface and secure the area to allow yours safe access to the surface. I am commander Eridet.” The formal tone was not lost on Derrema and he recalled a short warning he’d received during the training, that the military are not legally allowed to tell a civilian do anything so he must lead every interaction with them. A quirk of Fian law that lead to awkward first meetings between inexperienced workers and the armed services but deemed crucial to keep clear separation of military and state.

“Right. Sorry, please can you explain the procedures to me?”

“Certainly. First contact with a previously unknown species is a dangerous situation and must be handled carefully. Due to the significant threat of harm to Fian life from pathogens as well as physical effects from an alien race civilians should, where at all possible, delegate all such duties to an available military unit.” Eridet recited the textbook almost perfectly. “In cases with a trained unit is not available or deemed unnecessary by on-site civilians the contact must be conducted as per guidelines set out in Union Edict 415, chapter 6.”

Now standing silently but clearly waiting for something Eridet nodded slightly to Derrema.

“Oh right. Thank you commander. I am delegating this first contact to you, please go ahead and let me know when it is safe for us to disembark.”

“Understood” Eridet performed a full salute, standing with tentacles down to the side but puffing them out a what would have been the soldiers he released a small controlled smell of sweet honey. A split second later they had spun around sharpily and quick-marched back through the hatch. Derrema headed back to the bridge and could hear the barking of orders just before the loud clunks and clangs of docking seals disengaging.

“Well that was awkward.” Hlat commented as Derrema dumped himself back onto his captain’s seat. It was actually just a regular pilot/miner control station that someone had jokingly put a ‘Captain’ sticker on the back of.

As the two began to plan their first steps after getting the all clear they could see the troop transport drop suddenly, flare their engines, and land atop a pile off loose rocks. They established an environmental shield and began sampling the atmosphere.

“If they get out in space suits I’m definitely staying in the ship”

“Hlat, you told me you’re staying in the ship. I’m not letting you out anyway, you’ve not even had the basic training. All this glory is mine” Derrema made the stern admonishment into a joke but his tone kept all the warning he had intended and Hlat knew he was to stay put. He was in actually in perfect agreement and, right now, there was nothing he could think of that would make want to leave the ship even if the aliens breathed the same atmosphere, looked like supermodels, and offered him a million credits.

Watching on through external cameras they saw the transport pod’s docking hatch open and saw all of the soldiers pile out with only light breathing apparatus covering their mouths. This at least meant there were no deadly toxins found in the alien atmosphere and hopefully was only a precaution to protect the soldiers from all the rock dust.

“Aienta, this is commander Eridet. The atmosphere is tainted by rock dust but otherwise breathable. Standard procedure suggests a class three breathable. We have secured the immediate vicinity and await your arrival.”

“Understood commander.” Derrema took control of the ship and lowered it slowly to the area indicated by the soldiers on their shared map. Gracefully, the Aienta descended toward the ground and submerged through the environmental field with a buzz and aura of blue light. The angelic sight was admired by the soldiers on the ground, even though they were highly trained they had only ever been involved in simulations fighting AI pirate holograms or other units dressed up. For them, seeing a civilian ship exhume elegance was reward enough for this trip. The fact that their names would go down in history as the discoverers of a new race was, of course, monumental but didn't really come with any rewards. As rare as the event was it’s just another part o the job and most newly discovered races aren’t useful anyway.

Nereid Mining Based Access Tunnel 23

A large and sturdy looking craft slammed into a pile of rocks, crushing them into a stable platform. No more than three seconds passed when the gushing breeze of escaping atmosphere ended and a second later the vessel hissed loudly as a hatch blew open and a ladder of some kind extended outwards. This was it, the first time any human would see an alien. The day will surely stand in history as one filled with many, many, firsts.

Hideous monsters spilled forth from the dark hatch screaming with three tentacles each, two of which held something that was unmistakably a weapon. They swept a circle around their ship then spread out to cover all the available space searching, or hunting, for any sign of life. Within seconds they surrounded the hole that lead into the base and aimed their weapons at it.

Stilled with fear and resolution the entire mining team watched through surveillance feed at the fluid motions used by these aliens who were clearly military.

“It looks like they’re using some kind of breathing equipment so I don’t think they breath oxygen” James announced while watching the feed “How much stored oxygen do we have?”

“A touch over 29 megagrams.” one of the engineers replied enthusiastically.

“Get ready to pump as much as possible into the atmosphere. I want to take us to 30% oxygen if things go bad. Make sure all necessary equipment is turned off and be ready for fires.” James’ voice betrayed no emotion, it acted as a pillar of calm for the others with only those few that actually had any army experience knowing they were being lead by a complete novice making far too many assumptions.

The first craft was followed by an even bigger ship. This one glowed blue and fell to the ground delicately, extending some landing gear before tentatively kissing the surface and its blue haze fading. The soldier-monsters gazed at the new ship and, despite alien features, the miners could tell they were in awe.

“Looks like their boss is here” commented one of the engineers which drew a strained chuckle from a few.

After what seemed like a long time but was really only a few minutes the hatch of the new ship slowly opened. Instead of a loud hiss and banging this one unfurled and stretched like a flower opening to reveal a metal corridor and another monster. This one stood patiently waiting while the access ramp produced a path to the ground. It also wore something over its mouth but this appeared to be far more decorative. The mask had more colour and intricate patterns within symbols. Just as the ramp met the ground this new monster, without any visible weapon, took an ominously slow step forward as if to establish its presence then marched stiffly down the ramp toward the nearest soldier.

The two exchanged a waving gesture and began screeching back and forth as if in an argument. The soldier, larger than the one seemingly in charge, suddenly turned and bark-screeched at the others.

A resounding chorus of unified squeals and clicks echoed back from the guard and they opened fire on the wall, blasting a sizable mass of reinforced rock out of the way.

“They've breached the wall, get ready.” James announced as if the rest of the crew were anything but ready.

The soldiers sprinted through the hole blindly not even waiting for the dust to clear and took up positions to defend the entrance. Followed shortly after the air cleared by the rest of the soldiers who flooded further into the tunnel and finally the sizable soldier appeared to escort the commander to the middle of the formation. While clicking some more.

James whispered unnecessarily, giving away the fact he was just a normal person with no idea how to act in this situation. “OK, wait until they send some soldiers past us then… Then we go for it.”

The humans, existing as a disembodied brain kept alive within a head-sized biocontainment unit, waited cautiously in the darkened store room. Hiding behind crates of ore and spare parts they all watched the camera feeds showing the alien squad, now only meters away, hold their position while the apparent leader collected dirt into vials and waved an instrument over a conduit that carried power and data. They seemed to click and screech to one another a little more and gesticulate at the piping, pointing up and down the length of the tunnel then turn toward the vast room with many containers.

“They’re coming. Get ready.” James needlessly uttered to the team without even realising it. The aliens slowly advanced toward the edge of the tunnel where it opened up until the side of Warehouse 9. This particular store room was supposed to be filled with spare parts for the many mining chassis but a good few months had provided an abundance of ore so it also held a sizeable amount of metal ore. A fact that the team were now grateful for, a few thousand kilograms of rock provided much more robust better cover than crates of electronics ever could.

Two aliens moved forward and held their position while swinging their weapons around to check the area. They had gone far enough into the room that James and the other forward-defenders could hear each footstep through their own onboard audio pickups. As before, the rest of the squad hurried forward to secure the area after a few seconds and some screeching from the first two creatures.

James and his companion leapt over the container they were using for cover with magnificent ease provided by the blastbot’s fantastic strength and gravity manipulation systems. They opened fire on the nearest soldier at the exact moment another two of his colleagues pulled the same maneuver from the opposite side of the alien formation. The railgun type blast drills hummed with a deep growl for a split second then released a blinding flash and sonic boom ‘ping’ as the four projectiles were launched at their targets. Two alien soldiers were instantly shredded, splattering their teammates with bluish blood. All fifty of the blastbots had burst from cover and executed a sloppy but effective ambush obliterating ten of the thirteen soldiers. The last three and their leader screeched and clicking loudly while running back through the tunnel. They fired powerful energy-based weaponry into the horde of blastbots with thunderous roars, slicing at least two in half, killing the pilots outright.

Seeing the effect their weapons had on the attacking army two of the retreating aliens stopped to face the horde and had activated some kind of personal shield that bubbled around them with an indistinct shimmer. They returned fire on the machines and destroyed another six while the humans realised their makeshift weapons would not pierce the alien’s defenses.

“We’re gonna die!!”
“Help! HELP! My bot’s back section has gone, I can’t move!!”

The cries of disaster overwhelmed James who began firing at the ground of the tunnel in front of the monstrously powerful soldiers before him, managing to kick up enough dust that their weapons’ energy was mostly dissipated on the flying rock. Quickly seeing what their manager, now battle commander, was doing the remaining survivors copied his tack. The ground the aliens defended disappeared in seconds and their weapons were completely neutralised by the impromptu rock shield. Their shields, while impenetrable to direct fire did nothing to save them from falling into the rapidly growing pit below them and getting crushed by rock.

The human militia began to fall back while dragging their fallen comrades. For a second James nearly began firing on his own kind as the world lit up around him and powerful shapes moved through the cloud of pulverised rock and alien carcass. The Earth News Network team had run forward to pick up the injured and had their camera lights on full. In all they had lost eight friends. Eight people died in under five minutes. Eight real deaths at a time in humanity’s existence when there was no real reason to actually die. Those people were gone for good and with them went any last vestiges of fear. The miners, completely unaffected by the cloud of rock, turned to rage. The aliens had proven their superiority in weapons but had also demonstrated they could be easily killed when caught unaware or their shields were bypassed.

“She’s dead!” one of the junior technicians screamed and then followed it up with a blood-curdling battle cry. Junior technician Sandy had joined the mining operation with her partner, Melissa, as part of her university course to gain work experience. The pair were inseparable in virtual space and had even brought a digital version of their physical home from Earth to live in. Sandy was controlling one of the mining swarms, usually the more dangerous of the two chassis to control. The many mechanical bodies making up her swarm surged forward and buzzed around the Mellisa’s deceased blastbot. The biocontainment vessel had been shattered and the contents blown to pieces. Blastbot anatomy was designed that if a human pilot was required they would be heavily protected from sharp knocks and crushing forces but the alien weaponry had somehow sliced through the chassis and detonated within the crucial systems.

The swarm, Sandy’s swarm, picked up speed while circling the remains. A vortex had just begun forming when he cackled demonically then flew at full speed up the tunnel in pursuit of the aliens.

“Sandy wait!!” someone screamed but the legion of drones had already gone and Sandy, within the swarm control chassis, flew after them. Her cylindrical metal body resembled the drones themselves but much larger. They were all armoured and provided with light shielding to protect from high velocity debris, the control unit could even survive a direct hit from a blastbot.

“DAMN IT I said WAIT!” all staff in swarms and blastbots began to chase Sandy while the ENN team continued collecting the dead and injured. The only thing on her mind was killing those remaining monsters.