1.12 Nuclear

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Terrified nussians shoved past each other, but the overcrowded launchpad lacked guardrails, and a few tumbled into the abyss.

Missiles exploded into Alex's awareness. Automatic missile launchers were mounted everywhere, and if they missed hitting their target ship, they hit other things. Tons of nussians spilled to their deaths.

Alex connected to the hull, to the air, and built a cushion for their ship to bounce off of, seconds before impact. He sent them tumbling the other way. But it was a dangerous angle, and Thomas worked the controls with a look of furious concentration.

Maybe this was only one of many disaster scenarios which Thomas had anticipated. Maybe that was why he hadn't spoken a warning that the spaceport might be chock full of nussians.

Or maybe he'd figured that Alex should know the Torth would sacrifice tens of thousands of slaves to get what they wanted.

Only an idiot would fail to see this coming. Why had Alex insisted on fighting for another day? Hadn't enough innocent people already died for him?

"Alex." A thorny nussian hand gently scraped his armor. "We must survive," Weptolyso said in heavily accented English.

Alex studied his nussian friend. Weptolyso gazed back with placid red eyes full of empathy. His alien face was difficult to read, but he understood the pressure of being a protector. And he knew isolation due to his size, since he'd been forced to guard much smaller govki and ummins.

The idea of slaying people like Weptolyso, or abandoning them to die in a condemned spaceport? Alex couldn't do it.

"They are for the wrong side of this fight." Weptolyso eyed the hordes of nussians, and his huge nostrils flared in what looked like disappointment. "They will understand. They will wake up. Or not."

"We're crashing in three minutes," Thomas said. "Unless we find another ship." His merciless tone made clear how unlikely that was.

Alex shut his eyes and sent his awareness outward. He split himself in two, so that half of him embraced the ship's damaged hull. The voices of his friends faded to background noise as the other half of him expanded into the spaceport.

He became the launchpads, the walkways, the steel walls, the tunnels, the electric wiring, the pipes and vents. He crumpled missile launchers wherever he found them.

Amidst it all, he tasted multitudes of nussian life sparks. He could dislodge most of those troops with a flex ... but he guessed that was why the Torth had filled this place with nussians instead of Red Ranks. The aliens had no idea who they were fighting or what they were up against. They had no clue what a Yeresunsa was capable of. They were innocents, and Alex wasn't going to murder them without provocation.

Bit by bit, he swallowed the entire spaceport into his awareness. He inhabited every wall, every flow of energy or air. He was the frozen muck that hung off the exterior walls. He was the basement levels where slaves slept or died. He was the repair bay where unfinished vessels ...

He withdrew to his human self. "Go to the lowest tunnel on my right," he told Thomas. "There's a repair bay with ships. Jumper shuttles, I think."

Thomas gave him a strange look. "They left shuttles in the repair bay?"

"Down and to my right." Alex swatted away more explosive blasts.

They dropped in that direction, but a disturbing shock wave roared up from below. Alex absorbed its deadly force, protecting their ship while launchpads disintegrated and hundreds of nussians died.

The force of the wave scalded his mind. He lost focus, and lost his ability to keep track of all the vaporized matter. He became just Alex again.

It only lasted for a second. As soon as he could extend his awareness, he explored the repair bay ... and discovered only burning wreckage. All of the life sparks below were gone. The lower levels of this spaceport were ruined.

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