There were about five or six of them. And still more were coming. Fuse and the Kahnan were hiding behind the information desk. The Kestinos spread out, looking for targets. The Kahnan shouted “Now!” Both of them jumped out from behind the desk and started to fire. From in the middle of firing compressed sonic pulses of high-intensity, Fuse caught his first glimpses of the Kestinos. They didn’t look too ominous or dangerous. They looked rather like blue or purple worms; only they were upright, floating on some sort of foamy cushion of pink appendages. Their faces were flat with only eyes, set in and with vertical eyeslits. Their hands were outstretched over their rounded heads. That’s when Fuse noticed the proboscis sticking out of their hands. With a shock, he realised that they were the Kestino’s mouths. What it used to suck the brains and thoughts of other creatures with. By the time he had digested this information, he had already shot off enough pulses to turn most of them to Cheddar cheese. The Kahnan had got the rest of them. Fuse stepped out to examine the dead bodies. They looked quite like scythes from the side. He noticed that their mouths were still moving around, searching for food. Fuse shuddered and started recharging his Compulser, while the Kahnan searched around to see if any were still alive. Seeing Fuse’s scared look, he asked, “Son, are you okay ?”
“I’m fine, pops. How many more?”
“A lot, I don’t think we can hold out much longer.”
“Well, what can we do ?”
“We clear up a little bit more and then we go. Okay ?”
More Kestinos came bursting through the viewing window. Fuse and the Kahnan started rounding of pulses again. There were more this time. They were slowly branching out. That’s when Fuse saw one of the Kestinos bend down and hold the hand of one of the dead Kestinos hands…or mouths. With astonishing clarity, Fuse saw the two probosces intermingle and the Kestino shudder as if he had received a shock. Something clicked, and in a moment of insight, Fuse knew that they were communicating. The living Kestino then held the mouth of the Kestino next to it, and so on until the Kestinos had formed a chain around them. Fuse realised that they were trapping them, while simultaneously exchanging information. The Kestinos lunged as the two of them started firing.
The repeated pulses kept the first wave at bay. But the Kestinos just kept on coming. There were many more than Fuse had thought, slowly circling in on the both of them.
“ Kid, look out !”
Fuse turned just in time to see a Kestino be blasted off. He turned back, and saw a horrific sight. The momentary distraction had been enough. The Kahnan had been pierced by a Kestino while he had been trying to save Fuse. He saw the Kahnan shudder and shake while the Kestino continued to suck the thoughts out of him. Two things struck Fuse instantly. The first was that the Kahnan was the only one who had known the lockdown codes, not Fuse. The second was that the Kestino who had drained him also knew them now. Without a moment’s hesitation, Fuse blew it to bits.
With great effort, Fuse shot down the rest of the Kestinos before he got enough breathing space to think out a firm decision. There was no way Fuse was getting out. He had to make sure that the Kestinos didn’t either. The waiting room annexe was clear of Kestinos. Fuse began the laborious task of stashing the Kestino bodies. But he knew eventually, one of them would find the one with the lockdown codes. He needed a more permanent solution. He began to think of everything he knew, everything he had seen or heard since the ominous crash of the spacejet. And almost out of nowhere, a plan was formed in his head.
He headed out of the annexe. The plains outside looked deserted. It looked like the Kestinos had turned their attention elsewhere. Fuse only hoped that it was kept there long enough for him to do what he had to. He found the Kahnan hovercar outside and got in.
Fuse had set up everything. The timer dial on the dashboard said “2 minutes till penetration.” Now he only had to wait. His plan still involved being a hero. He just wouldn’t be there to receive the adulation. Besides, Fuse thought, laughing to himself, they might rename some better planet than G27…since they obviously wouldn’t be able to rename G27. Fuse smiled, perhaps a little too prematurely, as hordes of Kestinos suddenly came into view. Fuse couldn’t possibly hold all of them off. “1 minute 30 seconds till penetration.”
Fuse started rounding off shots. But it was clear that he didn’t have the ability or the ammo to bar them much longer. Soon they would overwhelm him. Fuse just hoped it was long enough. “1 minute till penetration.” Fuse found himself praying after many long years. The swathes of Kestinos kept coming. And then, just when it looked like it was all over, the Kestinos started dropping dead. Fuse looked up in absolute surprise. To his amazement, there was a spacefighter, up in the skies, cutting down the Kestinos with its own onboard laser cannons. The spacefighter slowly started to lower itself closer to the ground, simultaneously lowering the gangplank at the rear. A Silum was standing in the gangway, screaming and firing the Pyros 45 high-power flamethrower he was wielding, shooting down whatever Kestinos the ship’s laser cannons missed. Then over the noise, the Silum screamed out, “Hey kid, you coming or what ?”
Fuse grunted, mostly to himself, “ Is this the part where I believe that there is a God ?” and ran like hell. He dived the last few metres into the spacefighter, the Silum giving him cover fire, quite literally, and as he slowly got to his feet, he heard, just barely, a tinny voice saying “30 seconds to penetration.”
Fuse wasn’t even to his feet but he was screaming, in between heaving gasps of breath, “Lift-off, now. Dead otherwise.”
Silums could be really slow sometimes.
“Get this spacefighter off the planet. Or else we die with the Kestinos.”
The Silum wasn’t sure what the kid was blabbering about but he looked like he was serious. He relayed into his vid-com. “Request lift-off now. Full speed VTOL.”
“Tell them to get the impact shields up.”
The Silum looked at him obliquely but relayed the message.
As the spacefighter rose, the surviving Kestinos turned back. They didn’t notice the hovercar Fuse had left behind parked in a perfect position. They didn’t notice the red glow from the Class III lasers on the hovercar, set to a low power setting that would take it some time to cut through the mass ahead of it. They definitely didn’t see the letters in black painted onto the metal pip, which were reflected in the red glow. The ones which spelled out : WARNING – CONDENSED PLASMA FUEL LINE . HIGHLY EXPLOSIVE. The timer dial chimed out, “10 seconds to penetration.” …9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…