The World Today

The World Today
Earth in 2013

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Life-Eater Virus

Biochemical Test Facility
Sorn II
Sorn System, Mshrak Sector

Natkva nar Che’ri hated what she had to do, but her Pride were some of– no, the best biochemists in the Empire. None could match the Che’ri Pride in their ability to engineer genetic material. She hated this particular material, but when the Kilrah Pride issues a command, none are strong enough to ignore. She growled as she looked at the latest reports on her failing computer. Billions for genetics, but not a single coin for a descent backlit monitor. Since all this equipment came from Kilrah, naturally it used the red light of the Homeworld. The Che’ri Pride’s planet orbited a much brighter star, and her eyes were accustomed to something greater than this glume.

To kill when threatened, be it territory or cubs, was one thing, but what the Emperor had in mind was quite another. It was killing on a scale that boggled the mind. She expected indiscriminate killing from any male, but even the brutes on the frontline would be appalled by this. They wanted to get their claws bloodied, to crush the skulls of their fallen victims beneath their boots. They would be crushing many skulls once Life-Eater was perfected; plenty of lifeless bodies. How could the Emperor order such a weapon– no, this was no weapon. The Terrans have a word for it; ‘murder’. They had to borrow it from their language, for the Kilrathi are not a people to kill enemies from the shadows, without issuing a challenge. Prey perhaps, but never enemies.

Prey or not, the Apes deserved better than this. Natkva looked over at her sister, Mrisha, who finished typing her own report. "Status, my sister?"

Mrisha, whose hair was a few shades darker than Natkva’s own golden-brown, glanced at her with a board expression. Or perhaps depressed. "Life-Eater has proved 100% contagious in the limited tests, but we will need a much larger population to get solid numbers."

Natkva bowed her head in shame. More victims. A shipment of Terrans arrived on world a few days ago, some two octaves of the Apes were set up in a pen. The walls were tall enough to prevent them from escaping, but not so tall as to skew test results by trapped pockets of air. The planet’s warm air will blow the virus all about. It will be a good test, one that will see just how lethal the virus could be in an open environment.

Natkva quietly cursed the war. Like all of her Pride, she too has lost cubs to the Terrans. Out of five males she has born over the course of ten years, only two are still alive. The younger of the two served with the Imperial Guard. She thought of him with some pride, despite having no love for the Imperial Pride. To be selected to serve in the Kilrah Pride’s own fleet was the highest honor, accorded only to the best.

Her oldest– she did not like to think about him. He was sent to Repleetah, that slaughter house of a planet, and was taken under the wing of a veteran. Last she knew, both were on the rebel planet of Ghorah Khar. If he still lived, he was lost to her anyway. She did not wish to lose any more cubs to this war, nor did any of her sisters. If this virus could end the war, and prevent more of Che’ri Pride’s sons from dying, then perhaps it would be worth it.

She looked over some of the stills of the slaves. They looked new, recently captured from who knows where. The Terrans did a masterful job of pushing the Kilrathi out of the Enigma Sector. "These are new captives?" she asked her sister.

Mrisha snorted. "Of course. The Emperor doesn’t care how many sickly Apes Life-Eater will kill, only how many healthy ones."

Natkva tried to inquire the computer system as to their origin, but received no reply. They looked to be young, at least by Terran standards. The way some marched, still trying to maintain their dignity despite the shame of imprisonment, made her believe they must be warriors. Perhaps ejected from one of the numerous Terran ships destroyed in Enigma. She briefly wondered about the Terrans’ own mothers. Did they mourn their losses the way she did her own cubs?

Terrans might not be as cultured as a Kilrathi, but even the mothers of the lowliest species would fight to defend their offspring. And, at least she had the comfort of knowing her cubs died in battle. Terran mothers would never know their own children died as nothing more than experimental subjects. Died as laboratory rodents, and their deaths would no be nearly as quick as that of prey.

"The subjects are in place?" she asked her sister.

Mrisha tapped a few buttons on her keyboard. "Just about, give it a moment."

Natkva snarled, not at her sister but the whole situation. "Tell the guards to hurry them up. I want to get this test done and over with." The sooner the Apes were dead, the sooner she could push them from her mind.

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