Missed an installment? Find the links here. In the meantime, let’s head back tot he planet and Lt. LaFuentes.
The Captain had left LaFuentes with a difficult situation. He had six men to keep over 200 combatants at bay. That, itself, was not the problem. Ordinarily, he’d set up two restraining fields and separate sides. However, here, there was no way to tell who was on which side. No one wore colors, and while a few had on ship uniforms, there weren’t enough to indicate the army – plus a few uniformed people were fighting each other, so it probably wasn’t a good indicator, anyway.
In the end, he took a lesson from his childhood. While his team and the medical team started separating people by injury, he had Security replicate and send down PunchBacks for each combatant, plus more security.
The crew of the LoneStar and the natives awoke to find themselves in groups of 20 held in a containment field guarded by a security officer armed with the CrowdStunners. The groups were in a halfcircle focused on LaFuentes. Behind him was a holographic screen.
“All right! Listen up!” he said when a sufficient number of people had awakened and taken stock of their situation. His voice was amplified and projected through the communicators of his team, so everyone could hear him. Several folks winced at the sound, but they quieted. “I’m Lieutenant Enigo Guiermo Ricardo Montoya Guiterrez LaFuentes, Security Chief of the HuFleet ship, Impulsive. We got no argument with anyone here, understand? We got sent from HuFleet – Earth – to find you, and we’re not going to go back and tell them we watched you blow each other up. At least, not until we tried to make peace. Now, my Captain is trying to talk sense into your leaders –“
He was interrupted as several folks tried to strike their neighbor and promptly screamed in pain.
“Ai! I’m talking, here! Shuddap and listen. Callate! Now look. My job is to keep you guys from beating each other to pulps while my Captain talks sense into your leaders. Every one of you is wearing a device that measures the force and speed of your extremities. Try to punch, kick or headbutt your neighbor and you get the zap of your life.”
“That’s it?” One burly guy said. “If I try to punch a good-fer-nothin’ SOB next to me, I get shocked?”
LaFuentes knew what he was getting at. There always had to be one, but he did appreciate that someone asked questions. Showed they were paying attention. He made sure the camera projecting to the screen was focused on the man before he answered. “Yeah. Harder you try, the more it hurts you.”
“Worth it!” He gritted his teeth and swung at the man next to him.
LaFuentes stunned him.
“He’ll wake up in a few minutes,” LaFuentes assured the crowd as the man crumpled live and on holo. “Hopefully, a little wiser for his curiosity. We can stun you all again if we have to. If you guys want to sort yourselves out, we can make accommodations. Otherwise, sit tight. Captain Seip-Tiberius will no doubt smooth things out between your leaders.”
“And if he doesn’t?” a young woman with a swelled lip asked.
LaFuentes shrugged. “We’ll finish patching up the injured and teleport out of here, taking the restraints with us, and you can go back to happy little war. Don’ matter to me. I grew up on the Hood.
“In the meantime, if you’re curious about what’s been happening in the rest of the universe while you’re gone, the ship’s historian Lieutenant Ashton Leito is going to give you a crash course on the past three centuries.”
He gave them a nod and went to check on the wounded. He figured someone else would try their luck eventually, but his people could handle it. Besides, Leito was a good lecturer; funny as well as informative.
“Good speech, sir,” Minion Il said as he approached. They stood together outside swinging range of any of the wounded and watched as the medical team used the InstaStitch on lacerations, the bone knitter on breaks, and Imposazine on just about everything else. LaFuentes had suggested to the doctor that he leave the bruises and at least a scar or two so they could remember the incident. The doctor was also running a scanner over an unconscious native, getting readings.
Il continued. “Great idea about the PunchBacks, too. Could I ask you something, though? Without you stunning me?”
He snorted. “You ask smart questions, Il. What is it?”
“Well, the PunchBacks. They were used on the Hood, right? Didn’t it lead to one of the bloodiest rebellions in your history?”
“Sort of. They’re alien tech, remember? And the effects were much worse. You could end up in a coma for bloodying some benndero’s nose. The Dread Oogs of the Coe Nebula used them to enslave us while they tried to teach us empathy and social awareness. So yeah, we also had a two-year cease-fire among the gangs. Then, we worked around the tech and killed them all and half their fleet besides. Once our common enemy was gone, it was back to gang warfare.”
He grinned at the memories. He’d been seven, aware enough of the animosity against the Crips, the Spanners and the Spokeriders, but young enough to have enjoyed a pick-up game of basketball. (Rugby and LaCrosse, of course, had proven too painful for everyone.) Sometimes, he wondered if those years of peace had contributed to his wanting to join HuFleet. If so, he was glad for it, even if at nine, he’d scored his first kill by taking out a Dread Oog during the revolt. Good times.
He shrugged. “Anyway, don’t worry about it. They won’t be wearing them for long. The Captain will get this figured out.”
His communicator beeped – a message from the Impulsive. “Lieutenant, it’s Gel. You’ve got company coming. Four humans and two aliens. They aren’t being especially stealthy, though. They may want to talk.”
“Nova. Let the Captain know, and ask if he wants them to come aboard. Tell him, I’ll try to keep them conscious.”
A burble of amusement told him Gel got the joke. “Aye, LT. Gel out.”
“LaFuentes out.” He tapped off the communicator and called over two of his minions. Time to meet the neighbors.
So, I thought this year was going to be calmer, but it’s just nuts. On the bright side, I had a story accepted in Superversive’s To Be Men anthology. I’m also in the middle of writing two stories for their planetary anthologies and have a third one planned. Stay tuned for more news or sign up for my regular newsletter.