Authors Notes: ZOMG, it's part two, and it hungers for tasty braaaaaaaaaaaaainssssss... Quickly, kill it with fire! My muse is fueled up on a heady mixture of alcohol and imagination and is busy sodomizing my frontal lobes. This is the result. Hate it? Like it? Prefer to eat broken glass and rusty razor blades lightly drizzled with a raspberry vinaigrette, served with crisp salad greens and accompanied by a chilled Chianti (serves 4)? Dinner is served... (Thank you again Richard, for your fine editing).

Taniwha - Part 02

"Do we even know what these - what didja call 'em? - look like?" Corporal Terry The Fish Christian held his assault-rifle close to his body; beads of nervous sweat clinging to his face.

   "Vanguard, and no, we have no idea what they're like. Just chill, Corporal. No sudden moves but keep your eyes peeled and fingers on the trigger. No shooting unless I say, or all hell will break loose. Goes for you too, Oh-Man," Captain George Hardy spoke softly, not taking his eyes off the airlock as the pressure inside slowly equalized.

   "Expect the fuckin' unexpected, right Captain?"

   "Stow it, marine!"

   Terry swapped a nervous grin with Antonio as they waited for the airlock to cycle. The only clue the aliens had given them about their appearance was their size. After studying the schematics that had been transmitted to them, the Vanguard leader had suggested the first meeting of the two species should take place on their ship, expressing doubts about being able to fit through the airlocks on the human vessel.

   Despite the request that had been made by the humans for the meeting to take place on Earth, the Vanguard elders had given the Lightning-Strike leader strict instructions not to approach the human's planet too closely. They would be in a much better position dealing with the humans on Vanguard terms.

   Irinei turned to Petter Nilsen and the marines, after opening the airlock hatch and once the green access light had come on. "Do not to touch sides of airlock, very cold and will burn your skin. I will stay here and keep home on fire burning... Nyet, home fires burning! Da, better. Go now." He stood aside to let Petter Nilsen and the marines through, but stopped Vasya before he could follow, switching to Russian and speaking quickly. "I don't think these Vanguard have come all this way to make trouble, but you still need to be cautious. Any sign of danger - no matter what - get back here with Nilsen as quickly as you can and let Uncle Sam handle the crisis. Make me proud, comrade."

   Vasya found himself falling as he passed through the airlock into the Vanguard ship. He was about to hit the deck when he felt someone grab hold of his arm. Looking up with a grateful smile he locked eyes with Antonio who pulled him to his feet with a grunt. "There you go, comrade," he said, winking at Vasya.

   Looking around the Vanguard airlock Vasya realized it was a fair sized room, almost twice the size of the command module of the Valentina Tereshkova. It seemed that these Vanguard also possessed artificial gravity technology. Oh, they are going to be excited about this back home, he thought to himself. Captain Hardy and Terry were crouched beside a closed hatch leading further into the larger ship, with their weapons ready. Petter Nilsen, the NATO mission specialist, was looking around the mostly featureless room somewhat nervously.

   After rechecking his assault rifle, Antonio turned to Petter and gave the NATO man a reassuring smile. "Are you ready for the moment of a lifetime, Mr. Nilsen?"

   "Ja, I'm just glad to be somewhere that has gravity again." Petter smiled weakly back at the marine.

   With a grinding noise the large internal hatch slid open, disappearing into a cavity in the wall. For a few moments they all thought they were looking at a large grey statue standing motionless in the exposed corridor, when the monstrous thing suddenly came to life, swiftly stepping backwards and making deep hissing and rumbling noises at them. The guttural noises were shortly replaced by an obviously artificial voice speaking to them in English. "Lower your weapons; they are not required here. Follow this one."

   It was several moments before anyone moved. They were too busy gawping at the large alien staring back at them impatiently with four featureless, black eyes. Standing almost three metres high, the alien superficially resembled some sort of muscular, two-legged, raptor-like dinosaur with finely scaled grey skin, but it was there that the similarities ended.

   "Time to stare at this one come later. This way." Motioning for them to follow with the razor-sharp talons on one of its four hands, the large reptile turned swiftly and started lumbering down the corridor, its muscular but flexible tail sweeping around behind it. Occasionally it turned and looked behind, making sure the humans were following.

   "Fish, you're on point. Oh-Man, stick by Nilsen. Kolzak, I want you covering our asses. Double time, gentlemen! You heard the lizard!" Captain Hardy snapped out the orders and they started following deeper into the unfamiliar vessel. It took them about 10 minutes at a half-jog, following the Vanguard along straight corridors, before they reached a fairly well-armoured doorway where the Vanguard stopped and turned to face them again. During the journey they had seen no other signs of life on the ship; the corridors seemed strangely empty and this made them all rather uneasy.

   The tight, black clothing that covered most of the creature's torso did little to hide its musculature. Both Antonio and Terry found themselves suddenly feeling rather inadequate as they stood there, staring at the creature and waiting for its next move. Reaching out with one of its slightly smaller front arms it slapped a small pressure-pad on the side of the doorway and then stood away from the entrance as the armoured door slid open with a rumble. "The leader arrives shortly. You wait here." It regarded them dispassionately as they warily filed past it into the room and then leaned forward, activating the door controls.

   Alone in the room, they briefly looked around the mostly featureless surroundings before turning to face one another. "Did you see that thing? What the hell is this, Jurassic-fucking-park or something?" Terry hissed, carelessly waving his assault rifle around and almost smacking Petter with it.

   "Be aware that they're probably observing us right now. We need to be careful what we say," Petter stepped back from the excitable marine, casting a nervous glance around the room again. "When their leader arrives, let me do the talking. I don't want you... military types mucking up our first meeting with a powerful alien species." Despite his nervousness, the condescending tone in Petter's voice was still quite evident.

   "Hope the aliens eat you first," Vasya muttered quietly under his breath, being careful not to let Petter overhear him. Ever since arriving on the Valentina Tereshkova, the NATO mission specialist had been quite fussy, and loudly critical of the whole venture, the ship, the crew, and practically everything else regarding the mission, much to everyone else's annoyance.

   Antonio sniggered at the overheard remark but covered it with a cough when Petter turned to stare at him. Even Captain Hardy seemed amused; a small smile briefly flickered across his normally serious face. "So Captain, didja see those claws? Man, four arms and eyes; that's some freaky shit right there. And the way those things are built they probably don't need guns either." Terry looked at the others, pointedly ignoring Petter as he spoke.

   "It even had talons on its feet, man!" Antonio traded observations with Terry while the rest of them stood around waiting, silently.

   After several minutes the door rumbled into life again, sliding back into the wall. Several of the vaguely demonic-appearing aliens entered the room, two of them who were rather heavily armed taking up stations on either side of the door. Without preamble, one of the aliens, who sported an impressive number visible scars, started speaking to them. "This one is Blaze-For-Eternity, leader of Vanguard battleship Lightning-Strike. Who speaks for all humans?"

   "I, ahhh, I do." Petter Nilsen stepped forward, with only a slight quaver in his voice betraying his nervousness. The Vanguard leader narrowed his eyes and looked the human up and down before turning and visually examining the other men, paying particularly close attention to their assault rifles.

   "Hrrr, you are warrior? Where are your weapons?" Blaze-For-Eternity turned back and stepped closer to Petter, staring down at the human with his jaws open slightly. Two large upwards pointing tusks were clearly evident, jutting up from his lower jaw. Two prominent canines emerging from his upper jaw, were set slightly behind the two tusks. Coupled with the demonic horns protruding from either side of its head, Petter found the Vanguard leader an extremely intimidating creature as it glared down at him.

   "What? Weapons? No, I'm not a warrior; I don't need weapons. I -"

   "Enough! You leave now. Get out," Blaze-For-Eternity interrupted him mid-sentence and moved back. One of the other Vanguards stepped forward and grabbed the startled man, dragging him out of the room before any of others could stop them.

   "Stop! Bring him back immediately or we'll open fire!" Captain hardy shouted as he and the others raised their weapons, aiming them squarely at the Vanguard leader. The situation was rapidly deteriorating.

   "Vanguard requested meeting warriors! You insult us with that «guttural-noise?»"

   None of the other Vanguard in the room had drawn their weapons, but they had moved closer during the disruption. The four remaining humans were now completely encircled by the wary reptiles. "Bring him back, now! This is your last warning!" Captain Hardy spoke slowly and carefully as he aimed down the barrel of his assault rifle. There were now four red laser spots dancing erratically on the craggy Vanguard leader's head.

   "Do not concern. Human not harmed, being returned to your vessel. You speak for humans now?"

   "Nilsen is the only one authorized to speak for us."

   "Hrrr, that one? Not acceptable. This one make deal with senior warrior only. You senior warrior, you make deal or not."

   Captain Hardy was about to protest again when Blaze-For-Eternity lost patience and slashed an arm through the air, signaling to the warriors. Before any of the humans could so much as blink, the encircling Vanguard moved with blinding speed and wrenched the assault rifles out of their hands.

   Vasya, who had more active combat experience than any of the others, barring the Captain, had managed to keep one hand on his rifle and was hanging on like grim death, swearing blue murder at the reptile in Russian. The Vanguard who was clutching his weapon growled and backhanded him with one of its powerful rear-arms, sending Vasya flying through the air. Vasya's short flight ended as he smashed into a bulkhead, with a pain-filled cry, before falling onto the deck, unmoving.

   Moving quickly, the Vanguard restrained the marines before they could fight back, bundling them up under-arm like sacks of potatoes. "Vasya! You fucking bastards!" Antonio snarled as he thrashed around, trying to free himself from the vice-like grip of the large reptile holding him.

   Blaze-For-Eternity sighed as he reached up to power-off the small black translation disk hanging from his ear. Things hadn't quite gone according to plan. These humans didn't seem to be the powerful warriors he had been half expecting from what he remembered of the New Home battle rumours. Their weapons and spacecraft were primitive. Physically they were even more pitiful than a new Vanguard spawnling. After instructing the warriors to take the humans back to their vessel, Blaze-For-Eternity lumbered over to the one lying motionless on the deck and hunkered down beside it.

   A thick, red liquid was staining several parts of the creature's clothing, and a small amount had pooled on the floor underneath its head. He could smell a salty and slightly metallic scent coming from the liquid, most likely blood. This trip to the edge of the galaxy was looking more like a complete waste of time than ever before. These humans were going to be no help against the growing conflict with the Arbiters. The humans were free to leave, but the body of this dead one they would keep for further study, he decided. If the Tau Ceti colony survived over the next few years while the Empire military recovered, then they would return here. These humans would make for a ridiculously easy conquest.

   Getting to his feet, Blaze-For-Eternity bent down and grabbed the collar of the human's flight suit, dragging the body down the corridor leaving a trail of blood behind him.


Obscuring-Darkness was off duty and was heading to the med bay, to be there for Invokes-The-Storm's last healing session, when he saw the battleship leader approaching from a side corridor, dragging something behind him. "You, engineer - halt. Take this thing to the med bay and instruct the senior medic to study it when he has the time." Dumping the body on the deck, Blaze-For-Eternity turned around and headed for the bridge.

   Tipping his head back and exposing his neck as a show of respect and submission, Obscuring-Darkness waited until the leader had gone before he hunkered down for a closer look at the object. Somewhat surprized, he realized it was some sort of animal, most likely one of the aliens they had come to this star system to scope out.

   Curious, he tentatively turned it over to look at it more closely, when it made a quiet groaning noise. The creature was still alive! Looking up he searched around for any sign of the leader, but Blaze-For-Eternity had disappeared down another side corridor and was out of sight. Gently scooping up the injured creature, he got to his feet and loped down the corridor to the med bay, trying to keep his pace as steady as possible so as not to jolt the alien too much.

   "I need some help here," Obscuring-Darkness hissed breathlessly as he lumbered through the medbay door with his burden. There was only one medic on duty, and when she came over to investigate the commotion she stopped dead in her tracks, staring blankly at the bleeding alien cradled in the engineer's arms.

   "Hrrr, I am not touching that!"

   "What? It is badly injured and needs urgent attention." Obscuring-Darkness leaned down and gently deposited the alien onto a diagnostic table. It moaned slightly and reached out a weak arm towards him. It spoke softly, words the engineer couldn't understand as he stepped away from the table.

   "It is vermin. We treat Vanguard here, not alien filth," the medic muttered, alternating her glare between Obscuring-Darkness and the alien, which had ceased moving and was now ominously still. She looked up as another Vanguard entered the room. "Besides, I have a real patient to attend to."

   Obscuring-Darkness turned his head and saw Invokes-The-Storm standing just inside the doorway, staring at the tableau in front of him with wide, surprised eyes. "What...?" The young warrior managed to get one word out before Obscuring-Darkness rounded on him, quickly explaining what had just transpired.

   When he first stepped aboard the Lightning-Strike several months ago, Invokes-The-Storm was a little nervous, but mostly excited at the prospect of serving aboard one of his colony's most modern battleships. After the Empire military had abandoned the Tau Ceti colony, the various engineering clans had stepped up production of military vessels, and this was the first out of the orbital manufacturing facilities. He had quickly been befriended by one of the senior warriors, who had promised to take the inexperienced young Vanguard under his wing and help him quickly adjust to ship-board life. Only his life had suddenly turned into something resembling a nightmare.

   Weeks soon blurred into months of nothing but degradation, violence and pain from the talons of his many tormentors. Through the many beatings, or worse, that he'd been forced to endure, one tiny spark had kept him going - a white-hot spark of vengeance. Throughout the ordeals, Invokes-The-Storm never broke down once, refusing to give his tormentors the satisfaction. This had led to him being treated a lot worse than some of the other unfortunates who submitted, but he managed to find a hidden core of inner-strength.

   Enough, he mistakenly thought, to get him through.

   Something inside Invokes-The-Storm's mind snapped. Wincing slightly from still-tender muscles, he reached for his weapons and stepped towards the medic with a low, menacing growl. "You heard the engineer, the alien needs your help."

   "But -"

   "DO IT!" He roared, swinging the weapons around and taking aim at the medic's face, the low whine of activated power packs loud in the otherwise quiet room.

   Visibly shaken, the medic quickly turned to attend to the injured alien. Carefully stripping its bloodstained clothing off, she kept half an eye on the agitated warrior standing not far behind her. Closing her eyes, she concentrated hard, swaying slightly as she focused her attention on the alien. Moving her taloned hands all over the bruised and broken creature's body, she was able to feel the damage. There were quite a few broken bones, a lot of internal damage, and several deep lacerations which were still bleeding freely. All were clearly caused by Vanguard talons.

   Nervously, she stepped back and turned to face Invokes-The-Storm. "This may take some time. It would be easier for me if you were both to leave now. I will endeavor to heal this... creature... to the best of my abilities, but I need to concentrate."

   "Very well, medic. I hope, for your sake, you are successful." Invokes-The-Storm stormed from the room, quickly followed by Obscuring-Darkness.

   Once in the corridor, Obscuring-Darkness reached out an arm towards the warrior. "Thank you for your support back there. However I -" Suddenly he found himself slammed bodily up against a bulkhead and lifted slightly into the air, the warrior's powerful rear arms crushing his throat, cutting off his breathing. He started to struggle and thrash around but was no match for Invokes-The-Storm's superior strength.

   "You are just like them!" Invokes-The-Storm leaned forward until he was snout to snout with the shocked engineer, flecks of saliva spraying out of his mouth as he hissed venomously. "You all want something. To use me. I am a thing to you, a thing! You are not going to hurt me any more..." His voice trailed off as he stared into Obscuring-Darkness' bulging eyes, studying the young engineer minutely through narrowed eyes.

   "«Ack!» Please... You... Killing me!" Obscuring-Darkness managed to choke out, his vision fading as he began to lose consciousness, his struggles weakening.

   "Killing you? Hrrr, you should be so lucky. No, you are not going to die. You will only wish you had." With that, Invokes-The-Storm stepped back, releasing Obscuring-Darkness who fell to the floor, clutching weakly at his now badly bruised throat. Looking around, the warrior spotted a disused maintenance hatchway a few metres down the corridor and loped over to it. Opening the hatch, he activated the internal lighting and looked around inside the small room.

   The beginnings of an erection started to stretch the skinsuit material around his cock-sheath. This was accompanied by several strands of saliva sliding around his tusks, dripping slowly onto the floor. Hearing the sound of faint voices, he ducked back into the corridor and looked around wildly but couldn't see anyone other than Obscuring-Darkness, with his back against a bulkhead, coughing weakly.


   Invokes-The-Storm spun around, trying to locate who was whispering into his ear.

   "Get him, quickly! Take him! HURT him!"

   "Hurt... him." The warrior nodded as he made his way back over to Obscuring-Darkness. The voices were seductive, appealing, and strangely familiar. Grabbing Obscuring-Darkness by one arm and a leg, Invokes-The-Storm threw him down the corridor towards the hatch. His erection was now almost painful as it tried to push its way through the material of his skinsuit, throbbing slightly as he watched the engineer cry out weakly when he hit the deck beside the open hatchway.

   "Yessssss... Hurt him! Make him PAAAAAAAAAAAY!" The voices hissed triumphantly as Invokes-The-Storm walked over to Obscuring-Darkness, who was feebly struggling to get to his feet. He reached the engineer and stared down, not seeing Obscuring-Darkness, but seeing instead the many faces of his tormentors. He turned slightly to one side, bringing back his left leg.

   Obscuring-Darkness watched through pain-dimmed eyes as Invokes-The-Storm pulled his leg back, and managed to tuck two of his arms in front of him for protection before the warrior kicked him. He screamed as he felt the bones breaking in his arms, along with several ribs giving way. The kick sent him tumbling into the room. He didn't hear the hatch being closed as he lay on the deck, keening with fear but he did feel the presence as Invokes-The-Storm came over and stood above him, saliva dripping off his tusks and an intimidating erection straining through his skinsuit. "Why...?" Obscuring-Darkness gasped, stunned from the agony and terrified incomprehension at this sudden attack.

   "No more pain!" Invokes-The-Storm bent down dragged Obscuring-Darkness to his feet, before pushing him over onto a pile of metal crates lined up against a bulkhead. Using the talons on his two forward arms he proceeded to rip apart the engineer's skinsuit, while holding the weakly struggling reptile down with his two stronger rear arms. When had finished removing the tattered remains of Obscuring-Darkness' skinsuit, he started stripping off his own. "No more pain..."

   "Hurt him! Take him! Rip him! Show him pain!"

   Invoke-The-Storm's cock glistened and oozed slimy strings of pre-cum as the warrior knelt down on top of the helpless and exposed young engineer. Realizing the hopelessness of the situation, Obscuring-Darkness gave up struggling and just lay back, panting with terror and semi-conscious from the agony of his injuries, bloody tears leaving dark trails across his face.

   Looking down into the battered engineer's eyes, the look of dull resignation triggered something deep within the crazed warrior's mind. "No more... Pain?" he whispered, as the faces of his tormentors faded from his vision, replaced by the tear-streaked, familiar face of a frightened Vanguard his own age. He couldn't hear the voices anymore either; they had disappeared back to the consuming darkness from whence they came. "Oh for the love of the Ancestors..." Invokes-The-Storm stumbled backwards, grabbing his head with all four of his arms in horrified dismay, wailing: "WHAT HAVE I DONE?!"


   Antonio smashed his fists into the unyielding metal of bulkhead, drawing blood, as the Valentina Tereshkova shuddered. Through one of the small view ports he could see the vast grey wall, that was one side of the Vanguard battleship, receding as they drifted away from it. Terry and Captain Hardy were also both in a foul mood, casting an occasional glare in the direction of their NATO Mission Specialist. Petter seemed blissfully unaware of the ire being directed at him by the three marines and, in fact, seemed almost happy as they distanced themselves from the battleship. Although a little bruised around the edges from the rough handling he'd received, Petter had been otherwise unhurt by his experience.

   A deeper rumble cut in as Lieutenant Irenei Putin powered up the nuclear engine from his station down in the engine module, bringing a light pseudo-gravity back as the vessel accelerated away from the scene of their failed mission. "Don't blame yourself, Oh-Man. There was nothing we could have done." Captain Hardy spoke quietly, as if trying to convince himself of the truth of his words.

   "It just don't feel right, leaving a man behind. Even if he is a Russky." Terry joined Antonio beside the small view port, watching more of the battleship come into view as the distance between the two vessels increased. He put an arm around Antonio's shoulders. "Nothin' we can do about it now, though. You gonna be OK, man?"

   Antonio snorted, disgusted with himself, angry at the situation, and feeling a strange sense of loss. In the short time he'd known Vasya, he'd come to admire the cocky young Russian. His sense of humor, the ready smile, the booming laugh - and even the not-so-subtle flirting, had been a source of pleasure. Terry had even picked up on that, joking about it good-naturedly. "Nothing we could have done? That's bullshit! We could have fought harder, something. Anything!"

   Captain Hardy looked over at Antonio, surprised at the strength of the marine's reaction. Both The Fish and Oh-Man had been chosen by him personally for this mission. Scoring at the top of their respective classes, they were both tough young men who were least likely to react badly to extremely stressful situations, according to the experts who did the screening for this mission.

   In the three days it took for them to travel out to the alien battleship it seemed that Antonio had formed something of a friendship with the young Russian cosmonaut. Now Captain Hardy was beginning to wonder if there was something more to it than friendship - why was Antonio so cut up? The possibility of things going wrong with the mission was quite high and they were all aware of the risks; that one or more of them would not make it back, that none of them would make it back

   Antonio's psych-evaluation didn't seem to indicate any homosexual leanings either, although Captain Hardy had noticed that Praporshchick Kolzak seemed to be quite fixated on the marine for some reason.

   Shaking his head, Captain Hardy turned back to the task of writing up the mission report. It was going to make grim reading back home, and he suspected that it spelled the end of his military career. The powers-that-be always wanted to hold someone responsible for fuck-ups, and it looked like he was going to have to carry the burden for this one. He glanced up briefly, glaring at the NATO bureaucrat at the far end of the command module. Nilsen was insufferable and didn't seem overly concerned that they had lost one of the crew. Nor did he seem very put out that the mission was an utter failure, due in no small part to his incompetence.

   Dealing with Lieutenant Putin was another situation he was going to have to face at some stage in the very near future. Despite the fact that they had been effectively out-gunned by the reptilian aliens, Captain Hardy knew that Putin held him personally responsible for the loss of his man. If looks could kill then he was in serious trouble once the Russian officer had finished his duties in the engineering module.

   "Do you think there's any chance he's still alive?" Antonio asked quietly, as he stared back at the rapidly shrinking battleship through the small view port.

   "Nah, man. You saw the strength of that fuckin' lizard, no one could have survived a blow like that. He shouldn't have tried that stunt, could've gotten us all fuckin' killed, stupid commie bastard."

   Antonio bit back an angry response and, instead, just turned around and carefully made his way to the supply module. Once inside, he slammed the hatch shut and looked around blankly before his gaze settled on a small storage locker near the far hatch. Rummaging around inside it, he found a couple of sipper bottles full of the vodka that Vasya liked so much. Breaking the seal on one, he disposed of the entire contents in a few mouthfuls, the alcohol leaving a burning a trail straight to his stomach. Leaving the empty container to settle against the bulkhead under the weak gravity, he made his way into the auxiliary docking module.

   Making himself comfortable, Antonio watched the alien battleship through one of the small quartz view ports, now little more than a point of light amongst millions of other unblinking points of light that made up the spiral arm of the galaxy. As the vodka started taking effect, he busted open the seal on the second sipper bottle. Taking his time with this one, he closed his eyes and reflected on the events of the past few days.

   Vasya had come storming into his life with all the subtlety of a punch to the gut, blowing away all his preconceptions and stereotypes. The Russian cosmonaut had managed to worm his way past most of Antonio's defenses in a matter of hours, something that not even his closest friends had managed over several years. Antonio sighed and took a sip of the vodka, remembering back to his first night on board this strange Russian vessel. Although his memory of the nightmare itself was sketchy, he did remember the genuine concern Vasya had shown towards him.

   The fact that Vasya hadn't tried to take advantage of the situation, even when provoked by the passionate (albeit brief) kiss, impressed him. If anything, the normally flirty Russian had been rather shocked by his response. Antonio smiled sadly as he remembered the expression on Vasya's face.

   Though not entirely sure how he felt about Vasya, Antonio realized it no longer mattered now that the young Russian was dead. Feeling like a knife had just been twisted in his stomach, he opened his eyes and stared at the stars. They were slowly being eclipsed by the bulk of the moon, its dark-side turned towards them as the Valentina Tereshkova began a slingshot maneuver around the desolate object. Taking another mouthful of the vodka, he asked himself a question he'd managed to put off for several days.

   Was he gay? Up until he'd met Vasya, Antonio had never really thought much about it before. Antonio knew that women (and some men) considered him attractive, but he'd never tried taking advantage of his looks. He tended not to even notice the looks of longing on the faces of the women, or the embarrassed desire from the men. None of the few relationships he'd had with girls had lasted very long. They all seemed to be lacking a certain something; a something that left him unsatisfied; a something that he had found with Vasya...

   During the three days it took for them to travel to the alien battleship, Antonio found himself seeking out the company of the Russian more than that of his old friend Terry. More than once he found himself staring at Vasya as the Russian went about his daily duties. Although he protested and laughed it off, Antonio also came to enjoy the physical contact that Vasya initiated, the gropes thinly disguised as accidental bodily contact as they both moved around the various modules.

   With an abrupt lurch the Valentina Tereshkova went into free-fall, and Antonio found himself drifting slowly away from the bulkhead as the acceleration from the vessel's nuclear engine ceased. Taking the last mouthful of vodka from the sipper bottle, he was about to return to the main command module when there was a bright flash from outside, lighting up the interior of the auxiliary docking module through the small view ports. As the glare died down, he scanned the space outside but couldn't see any obvious source for the light.

   He was about to turn away again when several more flashes, not quite as strong as the first, lit up the module again. Somewhat unsteadily, he made his way back to the command module, dumping the half-empty sipper-bottle full of vodka into a disposal unit on his way through.

   "Oh-Man, where have you been? You're missing the light-show outside, dude!" Terry briefly looked at Antonio as he entered the module, before turning his attention back to the small view port.

   Captain Hardy pushed Terry aside to have a look before turning to the two nervous marines. "Oh-Man, go get Lieutenant Putin up here; he's going to want to see this. Fish, break out the spare weapons."

   "Yessir." Terry pushed off towards the main docking module where the spare assault rifles were stored, while Antonio merely nodded and made his way over to the engineering module hatch.

   "Is that absolutely necessary, Captain? I don't think it's anything we need to worry about, just some lights -"

   Captain Hardy waited until the two marines had closed the hatches to the other modules before reaching out and grabbing the front of Petter's flight suit with his hands curled into white-knuckled fists. Cutting the man off mid-sentence, he said, "Listen up, you insufferable little prick! I've had about all I can take of your snide little comments and holier-than-thou attitude. You are going to shut. The fuck. Up. Right now. Do you know what explosive decompression is like? I swear, if I hear one more fucking peep out of you for the rest of this trip, I'll throw you out of the fucking airlock so you can find out first-hand." Captain Hardy's face was scant centimetres from Petter's as he glared at the wide-eyed NATO man unblinkingly. "Do I make myself clear?"

   "Y-Yes, perfectly."

   "Good. Now get the hell out of my sight." Releasing Petter, Captain Hardy grabbed a guide rail and watched as the NATO man awkwardly made his way into the crew module, slamming the hatch closed behind him.

   Antonio reached the propulsion module hatch at the bottom of the access way just as an alarm started sounding throughout the ship. Startled he grabbed for a handhold as the hatch swung open and Irenei Putin came barreling through, a worried expression on his face.

   Briefly glancing at the marine, Irenei slammed the hatch shut and motioned for Antonio to follow him as he pushed off back towards the command module. "It's the radiation alarm," he explained along the way. Seeing Antonio's worried expression, he reached out and patted the marine on the shoulder as he floated past. "It is not our reactor - or your nuclear weapon, so don't worry. Most likely a solar flare or something. External detectors are rigged to sound an alarm if they detect excessive amounts of radiation. Command module is also shielded; we'll be safe there."

   "Uh, we've seen some bright flashes of light coming from the direction of the alien battleship as well, Sir."

   Irenei paused at the command module hatch, frowning at Antonio. "I hope you Americans remembered to pack extra weapons."

   "Yessir, already on it. Captain Hardy is getting Terry to break them out of storage as we speak."

   Irenei nodded, and was about to open the hatch, when Antonio reached out and stopped him, swallowing nervously as he did so. The Russian officer turned to face him with a questioning look on his face. "What is it, Corporal? Please make it quick. We haven't much time."

   "It's about Vasya. I - ah, we did everything we could. They were too quick and strong for us. Just - I just wanted to say sorry."

   Nodding slowly, Irenei lowered his head before looking back at Antonio. "Da, he was good man." Antonio saw a look of understanding as the Russian stared into his eyes for several long moments. "You are good man also, Corporal. You made Vasya happy, and for that I thank you. Come, let us prepare."

End of Part 02