I’m the first in, naturally.
We’ve cut into a long hallway that extends far to the left and right, but there are also turns that extend inward to the center of the ship.
My attention shoots to three men who happen to be in the hallway. Two are sheepish and resemble slaves or browbeaten workers. The third looks proud, with a uniform and gun that fits the description of a Gurant Empire soldier. The gurant are a species of large toad men, and their empire stretches across thousands of worlds they’ve ripped from various human races. These three aren’t gurant, they’re human, all enslaved, though the soldier has slightly better working conditions.
I lunge forward and plant my boot firmly on the soldier’s chest, kicking him into the metal wall hard enough to dent it. A lot of bones are probably broken, but that’s not enough to kill a person. The slaves run away, screaming, but before they get far, I catch up and knock them out with quick blows to the back of the heads. We’ll take the three with us, rescue them from the gurant.
With a look back, I see the peldaks begin to enter the ship. Glancing up and down the hallways, more sayran exit their shuttles through similar holes. Did the Protectorate plan for us to enter the same hallway? I wish I paid attention during the briefing.
“Alright friends,” the peldak commander says over the comms, “we’ve got one hour. Form a perimeter, set up defenses, go out and crack some skulls!”
“Yeahhh!” We shout as we raise our swords or rifles.
I give one last salute to the men from my shuttle, then take off down a hallway.
I’ve no idea where the captain is, but I’ll figure it out. The hallways are plain, simple rectangles. Metal walls, metal floors, metal doors, well-lit so I can see all the electrical paneling, seams, and pipes. The captain won’t be down here, this place is so bare bones, it’s where they keep the masses of slaves. It stands to reason that the gurant captain, this ‘Gogrundudel’, would stay in a more luxurious part of the ship. Probably high up to further accentuate his wealth and power over those beneath him.
Makes sense to me. I hail from the Sehat estate, it’s common sense that the servants must be kept separate, lower, than those of class.
The alarm blares soon after I begin, and the imperial soldiers offer stiff, yet futile, resistance.
My whole body glows red, increasing my speed and strength in ways mere mortals, and even many sayran, could only dream. My barrier stops any bullet, my sword cleaves through anything, my stamina can’t possibly be depleted in a single hour.
Barreling through firing lines. Slicing new doors to circumvent enemy positions. Leaping off walls or jumping over enemies like an agile cat, calling forth vaalige to toss soldiers aside, knock them down, or slam them against walls.
I head in a vaguely upwards direction, taking stairs when I can and making holes to jump up when I can’t. On my travels I happen to see another sayran as he throws a soldier through a wall.
“I’m heading up to the captain’s quarters!” I yell as we get closer.
“The armory! I bet there’s a lot of expensive equipment inside!”
As we pass, we give each other a high five that cracks like thunder. It even stings my hand a little. But from there I continue, swatting away the useless fodder that stands in my way.
In this ship, I’m simply a monster that can’t be stopped. As it should be! The gurant’s soldiers are right to fear me, for I have the limitless strength of love on my side. The captain’s head will be mine, and with it comes an affection-filled kiss I’ll remember for the rest of my life!
In light of this lovey-dovey feeling in the air, I carve Henryk Burza’s name into several walls with the finest calligraphy I can manage. Similarly, I don’t kill nearly as many soldiers as I could. Mostly I just toss them around, or break bones, or slice their guns in half and leave them with the sense that I could have ended their lives if I felt slightly more murderous. It’s important to remember that even if these soldiers are working for the gurant, they were enslaved and brainwashed into doing so.
My ascent through the ship comes with an upgrade in the décor as the surroundings grow more opulent. The hallways become taller so they can easily fit a nine-foot-tall toad monster. The doors become personally etched and swing open rather than slide up. Carpeting, paint, it’s like a mansion rather than a warship, and I purposefully make a shredded mess of the interior as I pass. I know well the pain of losing something expensive and trying to find a suitable replacement. It’s petty, but repairing the damage will prove quite the inconvenience.
The hallway exits out into this grandiose, multi-story room that connect to other grand halls via large archways. The rooms are spacious enough to produce an echo, and each are stylized with stone statues, flowing tapestries, and works of art. With an eye of detail borne from being raised in a wealthy estate, I know each of these are priceless heirlooms, none less than a century old. So obviously I destroy all of them.
Between bouts of sidestepping soldiers or throwing them off balconies, I take notice of one certain painting. It’s of the gurant standing triumphant over a group of humans. The humans are cyborgs, and the lead cyborg is holding up a severed metal arm to the lead gurant, who accepts it.
This painting seems important and historically valuable. I swiftly cut it out of the frame, then roll it up and jam it under one of my armored pieces. I’ll present the captain’s head to Henryk, but this comes home with me.
Continuing my rampage, I come upon a great bridge. The room is a large cylinder, with bridges crisscrossing above and below me, though it seems most of the bridges are retracted into the walls. Below my bridge is a massive, circular elevator with carts and trolleys on them, and on each level of the cylinder there are tracks for the trolleys. It seems I’m in the heart of the ship and this is how supplies and men get around the place. The bridges retract to get out of the way, then the elevator can get to the right floor.
What an architectural wonder. Nothing in the Protectorate even comes close to something this grand. Then again, this ship also has real gravity, unlike the imitation we use, which is just magnets placed everywhere to replicate the feel. When we win this war, I look forward to seeing what happens with all this technology.
A booming snarl from the far side of the bridge. It’s three gurant. Three actual, nine-foot tall gurant clad head to toe in a powered armor that’s leagues above anything I’ve seen outside their lands.
Their voices are deep, and their language consists of guttural snarls and grunts, like some feral animal. As we sayran are on the front lines in this war, it’s only natural we’re taught to understand them.
“[End of the line, alien. You’ve had your fun but it’s time to die.]”
The three raise their forearms with chainguns attached, and the barrels start spinning in a high-pitched whine.
I smile and stand proud. With my chin high, my right foot forward and my sword down at my left. “I, Zahra of the Sehat estate, accept your challenge, beasts!”
They point their guns at me, and the muzzle flash is like a solar burst that almost catches me off guard. I focus the vaalige around us into a cone shape before me. It’d be wasteful to try and stop so many bullets with so much force behind them, so instead the goal is to have the bullets bounce outward. Like a stone skipping off the water, the bullets are knocked off course and rip apart the walls behind me, punching craters through the metal, severing all kinds of electrical wires and water pipes. The lights in the room sputter and the sparks dance down like fireworks.
Then I walk forward. A slow, casual stroll towards the gurant as they impotently keep firing down range. My face is twisted in a mixture of smugness, victory, and a sadistic joy at watching their best attempts to stop me fail so completely.
They keep firing. Are they afraid? Confident? Completely ignorant of the foe they’re facing? I wonder how many battles they’ve fought, how many worlds they’ve helped subjugate. These gurant and their power armor, truly walking tanks with nothing to fear. Normally.
Nevertheless, I break into a sprint. My body glows brighter than the red sun of Sayar, and I leap high into the air. The toadmen try to shoot me even still, but my barrier keeps me safe.
I come down hard on the first gurant, splitting him in half from brain to balls and sending deep fissures along the limbs of his now-useless armor. The remaining gurant, from their gauntlets, extend two massive, teethed claws.
The gurant on the right lets out a visceral warcry, “[GRRRRYAAAAAAHHH!!]” as he swings his claws in a wide arch towards my waist. I swing my sword up and slice his claws in half, letting his swing carry on with no threat to me. His body turns more than expected as he didn’t meet any resistance, and I step forward and stab him through the heart. His armor provides some resistance, but I force it through, cracking his breastplate in the process.
The second gurant tries to stab me in the back, but I step out of the way. As I turn, I slash him perfectly in the gap between his helmet and chest piece.
There’s a gurgling cry as the gurant steps forward, taking me by surprise and wrapping his massive armored hand around my head.
“Oh dear! I thought that would have killed you.”
He starts squeezing, which would easily crush my skull if I let him continue, so I simply cut his arm off at the elbow. I then step forward and chop off his head with a single slice.
“Hmh.” I look around, admiring my handiwork. “Three gurant dead. Haha! I guess my curse is null and void when it comes to dealing with disgusting toad aliens. The full might of an empowered sayran with no curse to hold her back? Maybe I should just stay on this ship and destroy the whole thing myself!”
Most sayran would have a hard time killing just one gurant at a time. What I just did is not normal. Three gurant at once is a feat reserved for the older sayran with decades of combat experience, yet I’m only 21!
I hop off the bridge and deafly land on the elevator hundreds of feet below. I fiddle around with a control panel and eventually it begins to rise. Since the ship becomes more luxurious the higher I go, and the gurant’s resistance seems to grow stiffer, I’ll save my limited time aboard this ship and take the express way up.
Looking at my watch, only 20 minutes have passed since the operation started. I hope everyone else is having as much fun as me!
As the freight elevator heads up, I use the moment to catch my breath. I still have plenty of energy to spare, but I am a little winded. Creating that cone of vaalige to bounce the bullets off was more work than I expected.
But now that I’m given a moment to think, this’ll be my first real victory. This curse, this weakness to attractive men, has caused me so much grief over the years. Potential suitors scared off, duels I should have easily won gone awry, various incidents with alien men that have been called quote unquote ‘unbecoming’ for a woman of the Sehat estate, it’s been rough. I wonder how far I’d have made it by now if I didn’t have this curse.
And I don’t care that the many physicians and mystics my family has consulted over the years all said I suffer from no such affliction. I know how my body reacts and how my mind wanders. It’s a curse. One in exchange for my limitless power.