Alien Bane

Title: Spacefarer: Alien Bane
Series: Malbane Chronicles #2, Spacefarer #2
Release Date: 2/2/2022
Contributors: Edmund de Wight
Genre: ,
Pages: 517

Is the person next to you a monster?

They can look like anyone: your neighbor, your friend, your spouse. How would you even know?

Aliens have invaded the Interstellar Trade Commonwealth and are hiding in plain sight. Free Agent Malbane is hunting them.

After their adventures in Fanatic’s Bane, Malbane and her crew of Custodes are back and must work with new friends and old foes to uncover hidden aliens, free Barbo from their control, and save the Commonwealth before it’s too late.

Alien Bane is a high-action space opera with a touch of horror. If you want a two-fisted adventure hero like Jason Bourne, a tough, smart heroine like Honor Harrington, and horrors from the outer darkness like Alien or The Thing, Alien Bane is for you.

Alien Bane formats

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Free Agent Emma Malbane pretended to sip synth-beer in a grimy cafe on docking level blue fourteen of Barbo Transfer Station. Dressed in stained green coveralls, she appeared no different than the dozen other cargo handlers taking their break. Her eyes never ceased scanning the room but paused on each sweep to verify the location of her target.

"Is there any sign of his contact?"

Malbane muttered her question as she raised her mug. Anyone observing would have just seen a woman taking a sip of her beer. A subcutaneous microphone and speaker carried the whisper to her crew clearly.

"Not yet skipper," Custodes Ma Zhong said from his post on the Free Agent Ship, Manta. "I am monitoring all cameras on level fourteen and am tracking all elevators. No sign of the other Narath yet."

"Maybe he got cold feet, or whatever these things have." Osok's gravel filled voice almost vibrated her implant.

Malbane scanned the area again. Try as she might she could not spot her Engineer. Osok was the premier assassin in the Interstellar Trade Commonwealth before being conscripted into her crew. If he didn't want to be seen, even someone as talented as Malbane would fail to spot him.

"Give it ten more minutes then we stop waiting and bell the cat."

Affirmatives came from Zhong and Osok and finally from Dilys Stonebay. The stone-skinned Hawlvin officer was seated at the table directly behind their target. She was whooping it up with two other Hawlvins, actual cargo handlers unlike herself.

Custodes were answerable to no one except the governing Council. Each layer of society possessed law enforcement organizations: Enforcers who patrolled streets, ITC Investigators, and Fleet Police. None held the power of the Custodes, they were judge, jury and if needed, executioner. If a Custodes team stalked someone, that target was a risk to the entire Commonwealth.

Their target was a Narath. He looked no different than any other Narath on the station, green skin, large hairless head, and built like a boulder. One month ago he had been an Enforcer in a massive fight which had almost killed Malbane's navigator, Notoka B'lal. Ceaseless scanning of Barbo security cameras using biometric software finally recognized his features. Zhong declared a seventy-five percent probability that this laborer was one of the suspect Enforcers. Malbane would rate Zhong's seventy-five as an actual one hundred any day. The man was a prodigy at intelligence collection.

The intel officer tracked the faux Enforcer's movements for weeks after the battle with the ARCh terrorists. The terror organization almost sparked a race war between the Narath and Humans before being crushed in a fiery raid. Zhong displayed a near pathological need to prove his competence at locating their quarry. Perhaps he considered it penance for the terrorist leader, Brother Cassius Venator, escaping under his nose.

This Narath had met with several others who had been in that battle as well. Most were ensconced in positions unrelated to the Enforcers with whom they had worked. Zhong had targeted the others for the ship's AI, Felicia, to track for future reference. There was no proof that he was one of the shape changing aliens. He appeared similar to thousands of other Narath on Barbo, squat and powerfully built with hairless green skin. Zhong staked his reputation that it was the same creature.

Why would a shape shifting alien keep using the same face? Were they limited to duplicating something they had encountered? Was it a lack of imagination? She'd have to ask if they managed to capture this one.

He appeared to be coordinating a cell of the invader's personnel toward some unknown objective. Zhong suggested moving on them now, before whatever plan it was hatching achieved fruition.

Malbane trusted her crew to be the best at their jobs, that was why she recruited them in the first place. She didn't need a lengthy briefing or impassioned pleas to make her decision. If her intelligence officer believed that the Narath eating a steaming bowl of Koroth egg soup was a threat, she was prepared to act.

"Screw it, go in sixty seconds."

Her officers responded in the affirmative to her order. Malbane tensed for action. Dilys shifted in her seat, prepared to spring. Osok remained invisible.

"On my order..."

His head lifted with his spoon held halfway to his mouth. His head turned like a gun turret, ratcheting toward its target, and his eyes locked with Malbane's. He stared, unblinking, for far too long, and stood.

"Shit, I'm made. Go now."

Time slowed, and everything exploded.

Malbane sprang from her chair.

The table flipped, spraying soup across indignant diners as he took off running.

Dilys hoisted her table, and hurled it at the fleeing Narath.

A beam of blue light sprang from a sex shop two buildings away striking their target in the throat.

"Mister Ma, track him. We're in pursuit."

He shrugged off the impact of the table with an ease that would have made a Hawlvin proud. The fatal shot to the throat had no more effect on him than a mosquito bite. Zhong had been right, he was one of the shapeshifters.

Malbane triggered her implant for emergency broadcast.

"Custodes. Halt!"

Her voice boomed from every speaker within a block. She didn't expect the alien to stop, but her amplified voice would clear civilians away from any potential battle. Dock workers and spacers scattered as he raced past. The pursuing trio wore laborer's clothing but the weapons they brandished sent everyone in their path diving for cover.

The faux Narath was outdistancing them with ease. Narath were short legged and built for strength rather than speed but the creature was moving as fast as an Akil sprinter.

"Old man, you have to slow him down."

Osok raised his weapon and rapid-fired bolts of energy into the legs of the fleeing creature. Each hit burned holes through the alien's upper legs. Chunks of smoking flesh flew to the sides as the coruscating beams chewed the creature's limbs. The damage soon outpaced its regenerative abilities. It hit the floor with bone crushing force and rolled several yards before coming to a halt.

Malbane and her crew closed the distance in seconds. Dilys dove across the final few yards and landed atop the prone suspect. Her 400 pounds of muscle landed on the alien with a crunch. For several seconds it appeared that she had subdued it, then dozens of thick tendrils erupted from below. Dilys disappeared in a cocoon of writhing flesh. tendrils, hands and other fleshy shapes battered Dilys' stone-like skin. Malbane and Osok joined the fray. They pulled at tendrils, attempting to free Dilys. Each grasping member split and reformed lashing out at the Custodes officers. In moments the attackers became frantic defenders. For all her enormous strength, Dilys was having little effect on the creature. Her punches and kicks sank into the amorphous form as if it were a sponge. Malbane kicked and clawed at a tendril seeking to choke her. Osok fired beams of energy into them but each time he disabled one, two more erupted from the mass to replace it.

The creature grew, extruding even more tendrils. It heaved and lifted all three Custodes into the air. It no longer resembled a Narath. The green skin remained, but the creature's body had expanded into a bubbling, balloon-like mass covered in cilia. It was as if a protozoa had enlarged to titanic proportions and now attempted to consume the three humanoids.

The creature focused most of its energy on Dilys and soon she was immobile. Malbane heard her security officer groan in pain as the tendrils contracted. Their attempt to subdue and capture the creature was failing spectacularly. If the fight continued much longer, the Custodes would soon become the victims.




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