Just one more, they said, Slink thought to himself as he huddled in the air duct listening to the sound of distant plasma explosions. One went off on the other side of the wall he was on, made him close his eyes and press his hands over his ears. He had to clench his mandibles together to stifle a chatter.
He tried to creep along, cursing inwardly every time his exoskeleton scrapped along the metal. How was I supposed to know they were dangerous? They were so soft and pink - like Spiro's Salt Taffy.
They had almost bypassed the planet. It was the last day of school break, and they needed to get back. But he had wanted to just see one more planet before returning to the grind. Maybe get a pet.
Honestly, it had been how cute the puppies looked asleep that had made him grab this particular bunch. With no chitin or mandibles he didn't even bother to lock their doors. Which was why they had been able to access the armory. And then the killing began.
He'd seen Brib take Laser-filimented knife to the eye, while one of the pink puppies gave a blood curdling cry of rage and defiance, spraying a hideous clear spittle in Slink's face. Some of Brib's green blood had gotten in his mouth, and he gagged thinking about it.
I bought him 'Bleakers Revenge' to play on his Mind-Station for his birthday last week. I was going to show him how to beat the Tiger-wasp level. Slink stifled another chittery sob, with a segmented leg.
Inching forward, he knew if he could just get to the other end of the duct, he would make it to the escape pods.
There was an explosion of gunfire, and holes perforated the duct and Slink couldn't stop a high-pitched clicking, or the sudden spray of pheromones. The acidic smell filled the air.
"One of them is in the ducts," a voice said. And within the space of his double hearts beating, there came a deafening pounding on the metal, and Slink could see them bludgeoning their way into the duct.
He ran, his hooked appendages slipping on the smooth metal, but he moved swiftly once he found purchase on the riveted seams. He was working his way into a rhythm, each of his six feet moving in syncopation that calmed his mind from the numbness of panic. The noise faded into the background, though he was sure they would find a way to track him.
The pods are just ahead. The pods are just ahead.
The duct came to an end, and he peered through the slotted grate. The airlock seemed empty. His antennae twitched, but he couldn't scent a single puppy in the room. Slink clamored down, trying to walk softly, but knowing it was futile. He rushed to the pad and clicked in his code, the door opened with a 'whoosh' and he slipped in and hit the lock code.
He began the launch sequence when the pod was rocked by an explosion. Slink screamed and began mashing the controls with his hooked appendages.
"Leave me alone," he screamed. The thrusters kicked on - and he realized he hadn't buckled in when his head slammed into the overhead paneling. The world went black.
Slink woke up to the gentle beeping sound of the pod's homing beacon. His head throbbed and he gingerly touched it. The carapace didn't seem broken. But as he turned to sit in the cockpit, he froze.
"Can't let you infest my planet," said the pink puppy that had been waiting in the pod. Slink didn't even hear the plasma rifle fire. But he could smell it.