by Ed Jowett
“We’ve got a DISARM incoming! Hold for evac!”
Styxtirian heard one of his comrades swear as they looked for a way out. He ducked down behind an overturned desk, his bulky body barely fitting behind it; the flimsy material would be scant protection against the DISARM’s weapons, but it would at least protect from the pilot’s view. Moments from his past flashed before his eyes, as the office inside Aeron Station faded away…
Back when he was known simply as Styx, he was one of the last of his group to hatch in the huge, comforting Chamber of Sleep. Surrounded by the untold antiquity and revered elders, as was Ximian tradition, he’d found his great-grandfather’s cocoon: instinctively drawn to the familial DNA, the Worker attendants had claimed.
The next memory was only a year or two later, sitting at his great-grandfather’s feet, listening to stories of the slavery on Robor, learning about the suffering their people had gone through. Looking at the scars the venerable Ximian had carried since that day, he had promised his ancestor that he would do everything he could to make sure it never happened again.
He recalled his first cocoon, the anticipation of this rite of passage combined with the fear that he would never again see anyone of an older generation who he had come to know. The realisation that when he emerged, fully grown and ready to go out into the Consortium – the worlds could have completely changed – dawned for the first time that day.
He thought of his first mission working for the Mining Conglomerate, on an asteroid in the remote parts of the Icaunus system – no contact with anyone but his mining team for 3 months, securing the asteroid for long-range transport. He’d made friends for the first time during that assignment. He’d lost them all since, but he cherished the memory.
He remembered his breeding cycle, and the offspring which he had produced with various females – he wondered briefly if he would ever see any of them.
And now he was a proud part of Stiletto Unit, the flagship team of the Resistance, infiltrating the most secure station in Consortium space to keep that promise he had made so long ago to his grandfather. He’d made friends in this team, too, and he would protect them with his life. His unit was his hive, and a Ximian never let their hive down. He stood tall and stared down the corridor, waiting for the assailant, automatically straightening the left sleeve of his heavy armour, which slipped, as always, over his bionic limb.
The floor shook as the huge machine, at least twice his size, lumbered into the room and raised an arm. Styxtirian could hear the rocket launcher mounted on it clicking as it loaded, preparing to fire.
With a shout his great-grandfather would have been proud of, his quadrupedal form charged at the huge machine in a blur, grabbing at its slick metal surfaces and fighting its hydraulic strength. Stiletto Unit would survive. He would make sure of it.