Two cycles after Human Greg's return to work, X'melborp took an early break to go check on him. He knew that Human Greg rather he didn't-- some human need for independence or something-- but X'melborp was a good friend, and what kind of friend would he be if he didn't periodically ensure his friend's well-being? Especially considering that now almost everyone on the ship had heard about Human Greg's latest outburst and was doing their best to give him space. This meant that X'melborp was now the only one around willing to interact with him socially, and thus the only one who could check in on his personal wellbeing.
To look casual, X'melborp went instead to the beverage dispenser near Human Greg's workstation and got some juice. He sipped casually, glanced around casually, and rested his eyes on Human Greg's workstation casually.
Human Greg appeared to be explaining some technical matter to a coworker-- Technician ValRaex. Human Greg was pointing to a screen and moving his arms animatedly, apparently describing the whatever-it-was in detail. X'melborp smiled. How could something so small and squishy have so much energy when part of itself was literally broken? That was the word Human Greg had used! Broken. Technician ValRaex appeared to be listening attentively, and based on her stance and antennae, she was maintaining a formal, yet open, demeanor. This was good! It means some Andarians were still communicating positively, and that Human Greg wouldn't be isolated again. X'melborp smiled and finished his juice.
I wonder if I should document this? he thought. Surely this constituted as meaningful information regarding the development of Human-Andarian social relations. But he also didn't want Greg to be mad at him. It was a tough choice.
He tossed the juice box into the instant recycler and was about to return to his own workstation when everything suddenly jolted.
The first thing to happen was that everyone and everything was thrust forward forcefully. Then everything and everyone that hadn't fallen down in the first jolt was knocked backwards with even more force by the next jolt. X'melborp went tumbling face-first onto the floor. The second thing to happen was that the lights went out. The main overhead light strips went out, then the lights on the walls, then the smaller, dimmer ones built into the floor, until all that was left was the light from the computers and the red and white emergency flashers. The third thing to happen was that all the alarms that could go off, did go off. Loud, blaring alarms, high ringing alarms, insistent beeping alarms from the smaller tech malfunctions-- all sounded out at the exact same time.
There were moans and groans across the ship. X'melborp struggled to his feet, pushing himself up with three arms while the last one rubbed his aching head. Around him, other crew members were also getting up, groaning and moaning almost loudly enough to hear over the alarms. Up ahead, Human Greg was helping ValRaex to her feet. X'melborp made his way over.
"What happened?" shouted Human Greg over the noise.
"I do not know!" X'melborp shouted back. "We should find the Commander--"
He stopped suddenly. There was something wrong. Something in his head. Something slinky and slimy and misty that was sliding across his mind. A feeling wrapped in a thought-- a thought that wasn't his.
Do not be afraid said the thought.
And with that, he wasn't. As though a switch had been flipped, X'melborp suddenly wasn't worried. The alarms were blaring, the emergency lights were flashing, Human Greg was saying. . . something in an agitated manner, but none of it mattered. X'melborp smiled. He felt. . . free.
"X'melborp!" Human Greg shouted, grabbing his shoulder. "What's wrong? Why are you smiling like that?"
"Do not worry, Human Greg,' X'melborp said. "All is well."
Go to the Central Hub.
"We should go to the Central Hub," X'melborp said.
"What?" said Human Greg. X'melborp walked past him and joined the throng of other crewmates, all on their way to the hub. They ambled together down the massive hall, with no sense of urgency, no sense of fear. The Central Hub was the place to be, and they'd get there eventually. The only one showing any concern was Human Greg. Silly Human Greg who was worried for no reason, who ran between the crew members, trying to stop them. Who kept shouting things like,
"X'melborp! What are you doing?"
"ValRaex! There's something wrong with the ship!"
"We have to stop!"
"Torvald! Xai'axith! Mon'Drax! You guys-- wait!"
"What's wrong with you all?"
"You guys, stop!"
It did no good. It was sort of funny, seeing him running around, trying to talk to everyone. He was so concerned! But then, he was usually concerned about everything in general, it seemed. X'melborp giggled. Humans needed to relax.
They all made their way to the Central Hub. Somewhere along the way, the backup generator must have kicked in, because the emergency lights were on again. The alarms stopped. Wonderful, X'melborp thought. That only went to verify that everything was. . . wonderful.
The Hub was the largest room on the entire ship. It was large, round stadium-style room with enough space to seat the entire crew around the rising stage against the back wall, as well as have regular comfort seating for the assorted eateries, drinkeries, and other recreational facilities around the perimeter. There was no floor-based ceiling; instead, the other forty levels of the ship were fenced and visible from the hub, like a hole drilled in a nesting doll. The only actual ceiling was the layer of Andarian alloy that served as the interior protection of the ship.
Four figures stood in the center of the stage. They had long torsos with curved spines, four legs on their lower half and four arms on their upper half. They had thick, scaly hides beneath their scavenger gear, three-fingered hands, and long teeth that always seemed to poke outside of their mouths. Their segmented tails curved over their backs, always ready to strike with the poison barbs at the end. One of them had his head wired up to a device that he held in front of him like a keyboard, with a wired box of electronics attached to his back like a backpack. Through the haze in his head, it took X'melborp a moment to recognize it as a home-made neurotransmitter, made to amplify telepathic abilities of some species. Beside them stood Commander Te'Falar.
The Ga'arish, thought X'melborp. Some tiny, tiny part of him, pressed way down by the comforting warmth in his head, began to panic. The Ga'arish were here, and they were hunting.
"What have we got, Mythil?" said the largest of Ga'arish. He wore a tan jacket made out of thick hide over his bodyarmor.
"Standard stuff, Cap," said one just entering the room. "Core crystal tech. Good shit for the intergalactic market-- got some Ter'isk who'd love to--"
"Hey!" said Human Greg, pushing his way through the crowd. He sounded upset. "What the hell are you doing?"
The big one looked at his companion with the neurotransmitter.
"I dunno, boss," he said. "That one's brain wave signature ain't on here."
"What the hell are you?" said the Ga'arish captain.
"I could ask you the same," said Human Greg. "What the hell did you do to them?"
The Ga'arish captain looked to Commander TeFalar. "What the hell is this thing?"
"Human," said the Commander dreamily. "New species. In the process of being Uplifted."
"Commander!" said Human Greg, moving towards her.
The Ga'arish captain pointed the blaster at the human's chest before moving his head to look at him. "Really, now?" the captain said with interest. "A new one? After all these years? Here I thought the whole universe had been scoured clean." The vents on the side of his neck flapped in the Ga'arish equivalent of laughter. "And they're letting you lot Uplift them? The Andarians are gonna Uplift a new species? Humi, you'd be better off if I put you out of your misery right now."
He jerked the gun, indicating for Greg to move forward. "Get over here," he said. "I want to get a look at you."
Human Greg looked at the rest of the Prosperity crew helplessly, then grit his teeth. He moved forward awkwardly, using the crutches to support his weight.
"It's still bein' uplifted," said the Ga'arish with the neurotransmitter-- Osterl. "It ain't part of the Galactic Alliance yet."
"It ain't protected yet," said the third, Mythil.
"They's still up for grabs," said the fourth Ga'arish.
"What's wrong with its leg?" the captain said. "Do they come like that?"
"He's injured," X'melborp said vacantly. He squinted, trying to remember why that was important.
"Who said that?" the captain called. "Step up. I can't hear you."
Obey the Captain.
X'melborp stepped onto the stage.
"Speak up, Andarian," said the captain Ga'arish, aiming a second blaster at X'melborp with one of his free hands.
"It's injured," X'melborp said loudly.
"Damn," said Mythil. "Damaged goods."
"It will heal," X'melborp said.
"X'melborp, shut up!"
"Ha! Healing? Nice. So what do you gentlemen think?" the captain said, keeping his eyes on the human. He and Greg were staring at each other intently. X'melborp wondered absently if Human Greg had suffered some sort of paralysis; he'd never seen him hold so still before.
"It's kinda cute, in an ugly way," said the fourth Ga'arish. "Like some pets get, y'know? So ugly it's cute."
"It's not too loud," said another. "Chatty, but it's not screaming or sending off psychic distress calls or some bullshit. That's good. Nobody likes loud cargo."
"Cargo?' said Human Greg.
"I know a few collectors out past Polaris who'd be interested," said Osterl. "And there's lotta reasons people'd want a new species. Meat. Labor. Collectors. Weird pets. If it heals, some biotechs might want it for study. Any way means money for us."
"I was thinkin' the same thing," said the captain Ga'arish. In one fluid motion, he swept forward, grabbed Human Greg's arm, and pulled him forward fast enough to cause him to stumble.
"Come on, Humi. Osterl, Mythil, get the others and load anything useful into the ship. I'll dump this in the brig."
"Commander!" Human Greg shouted. He looked around frantically and pulled back, trying to keep balance and also keep hold of his crutch. The commander said nothing. She stared vacantly into the middle distance, as were all the other members of the Prosperity. "Commander Te'Falar!" he shouted again.
Greg struggled, and the captain rammed the side of his head with the butt of his blaster pistol.
Greg cried out, staggered, and fell, losing his crutch. The Ga'arish pulled him up by his hair, and he yelped out in pain again.
Something was wrong with X'melborp's head.
let him go
He stood still, half watching with eyes half-focused as Human Greg put up a fight while the Ga'arish dragged him away. He tried to think and found it difficult. Something bad was happening. What was happening?
He moved. Slowly, sluggishly, like walking through molasses, he stepped forward.
"Don't," he said quietly, barely above a whisper. He wasn't even entirely sure himself what he was saying. What was he saying? What was going on? Who was he even talking to?
don't hurt us please
"What was that?" said Osterl. He fiddled with the transmitter. "I'm getting a blip."
"Stop," X'melborp said. "Stop. Don't."
"Excuse me?" said the captain. He strode towards X'melborp, dragging Human Greg behind him. X'melborp stared at the floor in front of him, unable to look up.
"What did you say to me?" the Ga'arish captain was far taller than X'melborp. He grabbed X'melborp's horns and pulled his head back. "Look at me, Andarian. What the hell did you just say?" He jabbed a blaster under X'melborp's chin and pressed the activation button. There was a whir as the gun's power cells activated, gathering power. "What did you say?"
"Stop," X'melborp whispered. "Don't."
"Order me again, Andarian," he said. "See what hap--"
X'melborp didn't catch what happened next. His head was still foggy from the neurotransmitter. However, later the Andarians would review the security recording to see how exactly things went down.
The captain turned his attention to X'melborp, as had the other two Ga'arish present. Human Greg, despite his injuries, took this opportunity to throw himself onto the captain's back and punch the sensory nodes on the sides of his neck. The armored spines cut into Greg's side, but the human ignored the discomfort and kept hitting the captain's neck. The Ga'arish captain screeched and flailed, trying to get him off. In the confusion, Human Greg grabbed onto the captain's eye stalks and--
--ripped them off.
The other Ga'arish started firing at Human Greg, but it appeared the captain received most of the blasts. The Ga'arish captain dropped the blasters he was holding and bucked Greg off. He screamed for his crew to cease fire, and one of the blasters and Greg clattered to the floor at X'melborp's feet. While X'melborp was staring, trying to figure out the significance of this through the fog in his head, Human Greg grabbed a blaster and unceremoniously shot the Ga'arish with the neurotransmitter.
"Eat it!" he hollered, a fierce grin on his face.
The effect was immediate. X'melborp felt his head clear like having a damp cloth lifted off his face, like leaving a smokey room. X'melborp ran, partly crouched, to retrieve the captain's other blaster. He'd never fired one before, but the mechanism was simple enough. He shot at the Ga'arish called Osterl and missed wide, hitting the wall behind him. One of his shots hit the fourth Ga'arish he never got the name of, who went down immediately.
Meanwhile, Human Greg scrambled for cover, using the corpse X'melborp just made to shoot at the remaining Ga'arish, and the rest of the 150 crewmembers of the Prosperity all blinked themselves awake, wondering what had happened.
"The Ga'arish!" someone screamed.
"Get them!" screamed someone else. It sounded like Torvald.
Then everything was blurry, and it had nothing to do with the neurotransmitter.
X'melborp remembered a stampede of Andarians, Tangalorians, and Velorvians running towards the last Ga'arish left alive-- the captain. The captain ran back towards where his ship had breached the Prosperity.
He remembered them loading Greg onto a stretcher. The human's side was still bleeding from the spikes on the Ga'arish's back. Several others were headed for the infirmary too; people who'd gotten hit in the chaos.
He remembered standing over the corpse of the Ga'arish he'd killed, though he had no memory of walking to it, and feeling ill.
He remembered most clearly Commander TeFalar standing before him, filling his vision, her face worried.
"X'melborp!" she said. "You have to get to the infirmary!"
"Yes," he said. "Human Greg is--"
His legs buckled and he fell forward. She held him up, supporting his weight.
"X'melborp!" she shouted.
For the first time, X'melborp looked at the floor and saw the shining green of Andarian blood. The assorted alloys in it made it glitter in the dim backup lights. X'melborp followed the blood trail up to his side, where he had apparently been hit by one of the blasters.
"Oh," said X'melborp, staring down at the hole in his shirt, the singed fur, and the charred meat beneath. "I didn't feel it. I didn't even feel--"
Ignore the shittiness/incompleteness of the picture. Just to give you a rough idea.