Phantasy Star Zero
Chapter 5: Fear's Reaction
SC 337.01 / EY 1873 / BW 212
“I say we attack while we can!” declared Melissa Maxim angrily, “I don’t trust those things for one second! I don’t care how good they smell!”
Stephen Ossale had never seen her this emotional before. Melissa dealt only in fact. She had no belief in anything but cold hard science, and she was scared. That “force” had turned her world of order and mathematics upside down in the space of a few seconds. He had to keep an eye on her.
“Keller?” Ossale turned to his buxom engineer, trying very hard to look her in the eye, “What do you think?”
“I think if they were going to attack us they would have done it by now,” she replied in her sultry voice, which now carried a serious edge,” The Musk Cats wouldn’t have allowed us back in here, to possibly access our weapons, if they meant us harm.” Stephen nodded, absentmindedly wondering if Shea Keller was more beauty or brains. At this point, he was grateful for her intelligence and rational thought.
“That’s what I was thinking,” Ossale replied, ”How about you, Young? What’s your take on these creatures?”
“They do represent a potential threat,” he admitted, Melissa vigorously nodding her agreement,” but they helped that colonist with their….abilities. These ‘techniques’ as they call them represent an unknown we simply don’t have enough data on. Besides, we have no way of telling how many Musk Cats there are. There’s only seven thousand of us, and only a handful of the colonists have any combat training, by my estimates. We don’t have more than a few hundred weapons available. There could be millions, or billions of them on this planet. It would be suicide for the colonists to attack.”
“True,” pondered Captain Ossale, “We have no choice but to treat with them for now, though I’d bet anything even though Kalewm helped that kid, seeing something that strange is going to panic some of the colonists. Make sure the weapons lockers are secured, and post a guard rotation to-”
Suddenly he was cut off by a sound that made their blood freeze. The RAT-TAT-TAT of automatic weapons fire, punctuated by the staccato burst of small arms being discharged. Hastily the four of them ran to the weapons locker, Stephen slamming his thumb on the DNA imprint. Micro needles too small for the nerves of his skin to feel punctured his epidermis and sampled his DNA, granting him access.
“Hurry!” pleaded Shea. More gunfire, followed by screams, growls and the sound of an explosion emanated from the outside. Quickly the doors of the locker opened, and each hastily grabbed a beam rifle, the most advanced firearm available at the time of their ship’s takeoff. His worst fear already realized, Stephen felt very stupid at that point. Of course the colonists had brought luggage, and of course some had smuggled low-tech firearms. Angrily, he hoisted the beam rifle into firing position, the butt against his shoulder, and proceeded quickly down the exit ramp, followed by the others.
Quickly he ascertained the situation. Several panicky and suspicious colonists had set up a machine gun and took cover behind an overturned cargo crate. A few more had also taken cover, and were using semiautomatic pistols against the Musk Cats. For the part of the Cats, they had already killed three gun-toting colonists, and a prefab home was ablaze; that was probably the source of the explosion. The armed colonists had killed several of the creatures, however, and one wiggled feebly, still alive though bleeding through several gunshot wounds. The machine gunner made sure the Musk Cat would never rise again.
Suddenly, a giant Musk Cat leapt toward one of the colonists armed with a pistol. He shot at the great cat, but the bullets deflected off of some kind of invisible barrier. The doomed colonist kept firing futilely until the tiger-sized Musk Cat ripped his throat open with a single sweep of its great claws. Gushing blood, the colonist fell, dying almost immediately.
The Machine gunner quickly trained his archaic weapon on the great Cat and opened fire. Fifty caliber bullets tore through whatever invisible shield had been there and punctured massive holes into the sides of the creature, which roared in defiance, red blood spattering in all directions, before collapsing into a heap. A smaller musk cat leapt upon a woman desperately trying to set up a highly illegal plasma cannon behind an overturned hover loader, rending deep gashes into her face and chest before she doubled over, screaming.
Some punk youth tossed a grenade at a group of Musk Cats attempting to heal a wounded comrade. Unfamiliar with the weapon, they simply ignored it until the resulting explosion left nothing but red splotches and gore covered in blood-matted fur. The youth shouted in victory until another large Musk Cat, appearing seemingly out of nowhere, quickly disemboweled the young colonist. Clutching frantically at his intestines, the Cat finished the job by crushing the teen's head in its jaws.
All of this happened in the space of a few seconds.
Stephen spotted the machine gunner aiming the archaic weapon toward the other large Musk Cat when he acted.
“Hey asshole! Drop your weapon now!” Stephen barked, swinging the muzzle of the beam rifle toward the machine gunner. The colonist, deciding a human with a beam weapon was the bigger threat, hastily swiveled the ancient weapon toward the captain and began firing. Bullets whizzed by, and some deflected against the struts of the exit ramp. Stephen fired the beam rifle, and the half of the gunner’s upper torso merely vanished in a red puff of mist. The lack of any kind of kick the rifle may have had seemed almost anticlimactic, but he could not argue with the effects of the weapon. The former machine gunner slumped dead, ruptured internal organs spilling from the grievous wound.
Stephen could do nothing but just watch the man die. He had never killed anyone before in his life.
He heard the high pitched whine of the other beam rifles being fired, but was hardly aware of it. He just stared at the grotesque sight of the dead machine gunner. Suddenly, something grabbed his shoulder. He spun around, rifle pointed at the offender.
“Hey, hey! It’s me Shea!” Shea Keller pleaded,” it’s ok, it’s ok! They’re all dead!” Staring into her beautiful face, he slowly lowered the weapon, “that’s it,” she added, as if encouraging a toddler to take its first steps,” it’s ok.”
Captain Ossale looked around. At least fourteen colonists were dead, most of them from being torn open by the Musk Cats. Several had been taken out by the beam weapons, their manner of death obvious from the enormous chunks of body missing from their corpses. Only seven musk cats had died, all of them the smaller variety except for the single large cat. A few were wounded, but were busily healing each other with their “techniques.”
One of them approached him now.
“Kalewm…?” Stephen addressed the musk cat leader tentatively. The Musk Cat’s fur was bristled, claws fully extended, fangs bared, and eyes filled with rage. He noticed many hundreds of musk cats of all sizes approaching the fledgling colony, each as ready for combat as Kalewm. Then there were thousands. The all slowly approached, each one growling menacingly, which combined to become a deafening peal of anger. The rest of the colonists huddled fearfully against the partially completed habitat, and many retreated into what remained of the colony module’s interior. Stephen knew he had to act fast or these fierce creatures would kill them all. Quickly he threw his weapon to the ground. Shea, Gregory, and finally Melissa followed suit. Ossale fell to his knees and spread his hands in a supplicant gesture.
“Kalewm… I’m so sorry..,” he raised his head to gaze upon the Musk Cat. Round and slitted eyes made contact, and Stephen looked at Kalewm until he could bear it no longer. He stood back up and made perhaps the most important statement in his entire life.
“To Kalewm, and all of the Musk Cats…I never intended for this to happen. It was my fault. I should have predicted some of the colonists would react this way to a race different than their own, especially after witnessing…powers…that to us existed only in legend. I offer my own life as payment for my failure, but please, spare the rest of the colonists… the innocent ones. Most of us have no intention of harming any life form that clearly mean us no harm. We came here simply to exist…. Our home planet is polluted and greatly overpopulated, and our attempt to improve the climate there backfired miserably. They said it would be fixed, but somehow I doubt that. We’ve come from a dying world. We just want to survive.”
He turned to appraise his fellow colonists with a cold stare,” from this moment forward, harming or attempting to harm a Musk Cat or any other sentient being, including fellow colonists, is a crime punishable by death. No exceptions. Is that understood?” He bellowed, his rage quite evident. The colonists he could see either nodded vigorously or just stared, too afraid to make any motion whatsoever after witnessing the sudden and unexpected carnage. He turned to look back at Kalewm, whose claws and teeth had retracted, but his eyes still gleamed with fury.
“Mark my words, Earthling, if anything like this happens again, your presence here will be eradicated,” Kalewm was very calm with his explanation, although it sent chills down Stephen’s spine.
“Understood,” was his neutral reply. The Musk Cats turned and sauntered off, one by one, until none were left in eyesight. The bodies of the fallen cats were gone, too, although it was never clear whether the Musk Cat corpses were dragged off or simply vanished. As for the dead human aggressors, their bodies were dumped unceremoniously into the Colony pod’s recycling mechanisms.
“Maybe one of these guys will make a nice pair of boots,” Melissa joked without any humor in her voice “You were all right about those Musk Cats…. If they were truly dangerous none of us would be here now. It seems they’re giving us a second chance.”
“Or maybe just avoiding us altogether“, came the analytical voice of Gregory. “As Chief Science officer, I recommend attempting to reforge some kind of bond with these Musk Cats. It will not only help us learn more about the planet and the Cats’ mysterious powers, but the more our people interact with them, the less suspicious they’ll be. There’s still about seven thousand of us and all it’ll take is one psycho with a gun to get us all killed.”
“Of course,” came the irritated voice of Stephen Ossale, “We need to assemble search parties. Scan everyone’s luggage, by hand if you have to. Someone managed to smuggle aboard a damn plasma cannon, for the Alliance’s sake! One of those things could rip half this habitat down.”
“So do you want us to destroy the weapons?” asked Shea eagerly.
“No, just lock them up. I mean, it is a plasma cannon. What if there’s something else here that we don’t know about? Like really hostile aliens or something? Kalewm said something about a Dezo, and that they were unfriendly there or something. We might need it. Just make sure all non-peace forcers are unarmed. As for the older weapons, keep them too. In case there was all-out war, we’d need every weapon we could get our hands on. Let’s just pray it doesn’t come to that,” and with his orders concluded, Stephen went to go find the doc to get a dose of tranquilizer.
His nerves were frayed and he found his hands shaking, palms sweating… the image of the half-vaporized gunner was still fresh in his mind. I had to stop him, Stephen thought to himself, before he killed me or anyone else. I did the right thing. I did….I did…the right thing. Forcing himself to believe this conviction, he strode into the medical prefab.