The Dohani War
by Martin Kerharo
Part 1 appears
Chapter 1: Contact
The Dohani grunted furiously and tried to hit Miller. Miller regained his presence of mind and ducked just in time to avoid the blow. We heard noise throughout the dormitory: apparently all the Dohanis were waking up at the same time.
“Sonic disrupter!” I yelled.
At the same time, Gen Kratzki, who was carrying our special equipment, took a cylinder out of his bag. This cylinder was forty centimetres long and was covered with small slits. Kratzki threw it into the middle of the room. The cylinder spun as it flew and went off as soon as it started to fall.
We heard only a muffled thud. But the Dohanis were hit head-on; they huddled on their knees. The disrupter had sent a sonic pulse that knocked them out. We didn’t know exactly why it worked; it might have had to do with the neural implant they all had in their large brains, but it did work, and that was all I needed to know. For once, I was glad to have been chosen for this mission. I knew that only a disrupter could get us out of this situation.
Nonetheless, we couldn’t hang around. Their little buddies weren’t going to take their time coming back.
And that was when we saw her.
At first, we had no idea what it was. Something was rushing towards us from the end of the dormitory. It was letting out the same furious scream as the Dohanis, a few seconds before, but in a much higher-pitched tone. The strangest thing about it was that it was very small for a Dohani, and it didn’t even look like a Dohani.
The thing was upon us before we could raise our weapons to intercept it. It was extremely fast and we had stood still too long, surprised by this apparition. Now that it was close enough, we understood what it was.
It was a human being.
A young girl. A metre and a half tall, medium-length black hair, slender but muscular, skin somewhat tanned. And very angry.
What was she doing there? Why was she attacking us?
She didn’t give us time to ask. She ran to our group and struck. Three of my men fell flat on their backs, the wind knocked out of them. She immediately picked herself up and attacked M’go, who was closest to her, throwing a punch at his jaw. She was extraordinarily quick. M’go in turn was thrown to the floor.
The girl turned around in a flash and rushed towards Dumas, who had the presence of mind to raise her assault rifle, which probably saved her face. The girl was fighting wildly, beating at Dumas’ chest, forcing her to pull back, when Charts calmly arrived from behind and dealt her a blow on the head from the butt of his rifle. I thought for a moment she might avoid it: she was already starting to turn, as though she had sensed the danger, when the rifle butt hit her. But this time she wasn’t quick enough.
We heard a crack. The young girl staggered, giving us a surprised look that was perfectly human. I had the impression that there was something strange about her eyes, but it was too dark to see more details.
Then she crumpled to the floor.
I hurried towards M’go to help him up. His wound looked nasty; he probably had a broken jaw and was in agony. Charts and Dumas helped the others.
We had to get out of there. And quick. I had a sudden impulse. “Charts, take the girl,” I ordered.
He looked at me and raised an eyebrow, but he had too much experience to discuss orders during a mission, especially when dozens of Dohanis were on our trail. He bent down, swept up the girl and swung her onto his shoulder. She couldn’t have weighed much, especially in Dohani gravity. How had she been able to put half my team out of commission in a few seconds?
We started to run towards the airlock, preceded by Dumas, who was showing us the route to follow.
The Dohanis had been slow to react. We had time to get out of the dormitory. With a little luck, we would be able to escape before they caught up with us.
We moved quickly, despite our equipment. I thought for a moment of asking my men to drop everything. But the time it would take to get rid of our equipment, added to the fact that this equipment could help us gain time in our escape, made me give up the idea.
The passageways and hallways led into each other. I hoped we weren’t lost; all the passages looked alike. But Dumas had an excellent sense of direction. My lungs felt like exploding from running. I hoped Charts would hold out, carrying the girl. So far he was keeping pace...
Finally, we got to the airlock and we each clicked our helmets onto our spacesuits.
“Everyone out,” I said, “the girl goes last. We’ll leave her sheltered in the airlock. I’ll cover you.”
The girl didn’t have a spacesuit, but the airlock contained enough air for her to survive until we got back to the Phoebus.
While my men were getting out of the airlock, I prepared two more sonic disrupters. I heard Dohani footsteps approaching; we only had a little time left. When the last man was out, I placed the girl in the airlock, pushed the button to engage the lock, then programmed it to detach from the wall after five seconds.
I threw the disrupters as far as possible in the direction of the noise of the stampede. One was set to go off in three seconds; the other, in ten. That should slow them down a bit.
The airlock started to beep, then detach itself: explosive loss of pressure. The air in the corridor started to roar through the hole, alarms went off, wailing madly. I secured myself next to the hole, but not too close. The magnetic suction cups that covered my tactical suit stuck to the wall and kept me from sliding out through the hole. That would have definitely turned me into mincemeat. Or, worse yet, I would be propelled into space, a new meteorite to add to the astronomical catalogue of this system...
Finally, the security partitions closed to seal the section of the hallway, which also meant that all the air in the station wouldn’t escape. And the Dohanis couldn’t get to us anymore.
The hurricane calmed, the corridor was entirely emptied of its atmosphere; I could get out.
Charts had recovered the airlock with the girl inside. She was still unconscious. The airlock was equipped with mini-thrusters; it was easy to transport in the near zero-gravity that surrounded the station.
“Back to the ship!” I ordered.
I didn’t need to repeat it. In huge leaps, we began to cover the distance that separated us from the ship.
* * *
The pilot had already started the reactors. The access ramp was only halfway out, just enough to let us board, but the opening was too small to let the portable airlock through. Initially we had planned to abandon it.
I waved to the pilot, pointing to the airlock and the ramp, all while continuing towards the ship. I still couldn’t break radio silence. The Dohani would definitely try to locate the ship, now that they knew approximately where to look. We could not take any risks.
The pilot finally saw me and understood my gestures; the ramp lowered completely just in time. We entered the ship. The ramp started to close again and the pilot took off right away.
“The others have already taken off,” he said. “They’re sheltered on the other side of the asteroid.”
That was where we were going too. Next we would set off the EMP, after turning off all our electrical equipment. Even though it was protected by the asteroid, the pulse would be devastating enough to damage it.
At last we saw the other ship. The pilot landed suddenly not far away. I broke radio silence. “Beta team ready for EMP!”
“Alpha team ready for EMP,” replied Captain Finn from the other ship. “Activating EMP in five seconds. Radios off.”
We waited about ten seconds before turning the radios back on.
“EMP activation confirmed,” said one of Finn’s men.
“Return to base,” ordered Finn.
The ships took off and headed for space. The pilot restored the atmosphere and we could take off our helmets. It was so hot in there! After having run through the station’s hallways, I was sweating. But we could finally breathe. We had succeeded!
“Status, Lieutenant Zimski,” Finn asked me.
“No losses in Beta team. One injured, broken jaw; and one whose chest will be covered in bruises.”
“No losses, no injuries in Alpha team,” said Finn. “Did you encounter any resistance?”
I glanced at the portable airlock, wedged into the bottom of the ship. The young girl was still not moving.
“Well, yes, Captain.”
I explained to him that we had entered a room filled with sleeping Dohanis. “Kratzki threw a disruptor at them when they all began to wake up and we got rid of them. Well, just about.”
“A Dohani resisted a disruptor?”
“It wasn’t exactly a Dohani, sir.”
I resumed. “It was a human being. Or something that looks just like one.”
There was silence.
“A human being?” he said after a moment. “You mean to tell me a prisoner of war?”
“No, sir. A human being who was living among the Dohani.”
He swore. “Are you sure? A human soldier would never enlist with the Dohani!”
“I don’t think it’s a soldier. In any case, not one trained in our army. It’s a young girl; she can’t be more than sixteen years old. And I think, given her clothing, she was sleeping among the Dohanis.”
Finn started to laugh out loud. “Wait, you’re trying to tell me that you saw a young girl in a nightgown, running towards you and attacking you?”
“Actually, it was pyjamas,” I clarified.
Beside me, the men started to laugh at the direction the conversation was taking, all except M’go, who was dosed up with painkillers.
“In fact I have the proof, Captain. We captured the girl. She’s locked in the portable airlock. She’s unconscious, Charts knocked her out.”
For a moment, Finn was silent. “Okay, we’ll see when we’re back on the Phoebus. Finn out,” he concluded.
I relaxed, sinking back into my seat as comfortably as I could. I looked at the young girl locked in the box. The airlock had plenty of portholes, which allowed me to see her. The others contemplated her as well, trying like me to understand who she was. She still wasn’t moving, but her chest was moving up and down regularly. There did not seem to be any blood, despite the heavy blow she had taken.
She was dressed in a sort of plain uniform, tight-fitting, with patches of colour in pale blue and brown. The Dohani used this kind of fabric to make belts or sashes — they also wore robes, but more rarely; most of the time they hardly wore any clothing.
Her face had fine features, a mouth with narrow lips, a small nose. She had a small chest, but her powerful muscles indicated that she had little fat. Athletic. A fighter, clearly. At sixteen?
Where the heck did she come from? It made no sense at all. Did the Dohani capture human children and turn them into soldiers? We didn’t know anything about it, we didn’t know what passed through their minds: it always came down to the problem of communication... The Dohani were incapable of communicating with us.
At least it had seemed all this time that our enemies couldn’t talk to us. Before the war they had no reason to stay silent. The impossibility of communication might have been the cause of the conflict. It all remained a mystery.
Ten years before, the Dohani had attacked us without warning. They annexed many of our systems along the frontier, advancing rapidly until the humans organized a defence. Today, this was the status quo. We lost one of our systems, we captured one of theirs. Interstellar war posed lots of logistical problems, which made any strategy very complicated. We had been reduced to tactical operations like this one.
I looked at the girl again. I realized suddenly that she had done more damage on her own than all the rest of the Dohani garrison. They hadn’t even had time to do anything to us, while she, on her own, had almost succeeded in knocking us out. If the fight had gone on any longer, she would have given her... comrades in arms?... time to come and overwhelm us.
Evidently she was the only one who could resist the disruptor. I glanced at one of these devices, which was sticking out of a sack hanging on the wall. It didn’t work on humans, which indicated that this girl was human. But really, alone against a team of eight people, how could she so easily gain the upper hand? Her speed was incredible. She was much faster than a human being. And her strength! She had knocked out M’go with a single blow.
She could not really be human. She had to be something else. But what?
I observed her again. If she wasn’t a human being, she was an incredibly precise copy. Everything in her appearance would give the impression she was human. Seeing her like this, so vulnerable, anyone would want to protect her.
I spent the rest of the trip turning these questions over in my mind.
Copyright © 2012 by Martin Kerharo