1.8 To Die Well [concluded]

Start from the beginning

Refugees showed their hands, encased in blaster gloves. They had tied the gloves for a better fit on their sharp little fingers. They clicked their beaks, and Alex knew they were ready for a war of survival.

"We don't have a chance." Thomas's mouth trembled, as if he was a hermit forced to confront unruly children. "I don't want to be tortured," he said in a small voice.

"The Torth will have to go through me, first." Alex assessed his own potential weaknesses. His hunger shouldn't be a problem, although to maximize his strength, he should probably eat a few more of those tasteless meal-bars. But his flimsy rags ...?

One micro-dart of the inhibitor serum would disable his powers. During that spaceport battle, he had had to pour focus into shielding his bare skin; focus that he could have used to better attack the Torth. Or to protect his mother. What a disaster.

He needed armor.

The ship's cushy upholstery might serve that purpose. Or better yet, the interior supports of that furniture must be a tough material. The utility closet door was framed in metal.

Alex sent out his awareness, seeking strengths, such as metals. He worked himself all the way into the door frame, sensing where it connected with its wall. Hoping that it wasn't vital for life support, he forced the metal to bend and break, tearing the wall apart.

Wherever he found metal, he wrenched it away with a thunderous cracking sound. The ship's interior began to resemble a hollowed out wreck.

Alex flattened those metal extensions of himself, hammering them into rough-hewn steely plates. He held out his arms, and contoured the plates to fit his immense torso, arms, and legs. His metal self cinched around his flimsy clothes. He made sure that each sinuous plate overlapped. Crude hooks and fasteners held it all together.

He twisted and flexed, testing his motions, refining the dark suit of armor until it almost felt comfortable. It was ugly and imperfect, and small gaps appeared when he moved in certain ways, so he added a bit more.

Thorny shoulder protections. A neck guard. He thickened the crude knee guards and gauntlets, and smoothed out his armored finger plates, making them thin enough for dexterity. He forged protection for his feet, holding up each foot to sculpt metal insoles.

If only he had time to perfect the armor. Oh well. It would have to be good enough.

When he returned to himself, everyone was staring.

"That's amazing," Margo said in a tone of respect, as if Alex had created a masterpiece.

"Like me," Weptolyso rumbled with admiration. "Very good."

Along the ruined utility wall, torn wires hung like dendrites, emitting faint electrical buzzing noises. Half the chairs were ruined beyond recognition. The ship was a mess, and the makeshift armor seemed poor to Alex, like something designed by a clumsy child.

But the refugees looked awestruck and courageous. They seemed to approve.

"It's actually a good idea." Thomas sounded as if the admission pained him. "Uh, you should probably forge a helmet as well."

He did something to the controls, and the wrap-around window grew more opaque; reflective.

Alex used to avoid glimpses of his own reflection in the sky room window. He looked at himself now, to see how the spiky shoulders gave him a vaguely nussian profile.

Overlapping metal plates emphasized his big chest, the width of his shoulders, and his gigantic height. He looked like someone who could throw a tank.

Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

Alex collected the last scraps of metal in midair and began to sculpt a helmet around his head. Not easy, but his mirrored reflection helped him check the symmetry and iron out the lumpiness.

"We can find a better ship on the Torth Homeworld," Margo said. "Right?"

"We could try," Thomas said dryly.

"Would it better to steal from that armada?" Margo asked. "Won't we have better chances if we choose our ground to fight on? They can't have traps set up for every square mile of that whole planet."

Thomas looked despairing.

"You could take us to where they have the least amount of fortification," Margo said. "Or the least amount of backup, or whatever. Besides." She shot Alex a look full of hope. "Alex can control the weather."

Alex pinched a crest on the helmet, crushing it into a serrated blade. He widened the cheek guards and nose guard, although his eyes and mouth would still be vulnerable. If only he could mold glass or some other transparent material.

It would have to do. He was armored, and with luck, he could stave off a military barrage long enough for his friends to seize a fresh streamship.

Thomas looked forlorn at the controls. "Are you sure about this?" He seemed to be begging Alex. "We don't have enough fuel to change course once we get going."

"This isn't a decision for just one person," Cherise said.

"I agree." Margo faced Thomas with an apologetic look. "I'm not giving up my life and freedom without a fight. I'm sorry. But we have to fight."

Alex clenched his massive armored fists, and let a fraction of his power shiver up his arms in staticky crackles. His friends should not have to fear or suffer. The Torth Empire needed to learn some limits.

Weaponless combat seemed inelegant, to him. The beasts in the arena had used their tusks or claws or horns, pitted against his bare hands. Not that a blaster glove would fit his hands. Maybe he should fashion a spiked club for crushing Torth skulls.

Or he could experiment with tornadoes.

"Let the Torth come at me." His voice was huge and dark, like a thunderhead. "I'm ready."

Nowhere Nation [#SFF] Updates every 5 days [#Galactic]Read this story for FREE!