My Alien Threshers by Nikki Clarke
The sound of a nearly indestructible plex-table breaking isn’t enough to make most of the beings sitting around the raucous space station saloon flinch.
Each section of the place is fit to service the variety of personalities found in this part of the quadrant.
In the middle, it’s rowdy and savage among those who came looking for a good time.
In the corners, where the beings who came for business they don't want anyone else to overhear sit, there is no one who is going to flinch at less than the activation of a vera-canon or other life extinguishing weapon. Like most of the noises in this place, the sound of plex splintering goes mostly unnoticed.
Except by me and my brother where we sit in the far right corner, facing the door, a strategic position that allows us to see everyone who’s coming in and keeps our backs against the only windowless wall.
We watch the increasingly boisterous game of Kreesian tiles with easy but keen eyes.
My brother—who to any observer is enjoying the several very pretty Liluthian females twisting their jointless bodies on the stage, but is really following the high stakes gamble occurring across from us—takes a swill from his drink and nudges his head in no particular direction. “He’s cheating.”
I snort. “Of course, he’s cheating. He’s a Ulig. All they do is cheat. If he’s not careful, that Borq is going to smash his head like he did that table.”
The Borq in question expertly stacks his tiles, despite the cumbersome formation of his thick fingers, each one as wide as three of my own. The heavy callouses over his knuckles crack as he grips the delicate bone-carved pieces. They are his deck, and he most likely fashioned them from the remains of one of his enemies.
My brother smirks, secretly hoping to see some carnage.
Of the two of us, he’s always liked to instigate a fight. It’s hard for him not to. The craving for mischief is in his blood. It’s in both our blood, the blood that we share. He’s just less inclined to suppress it as I am, which for years has remained a constant thread of contention between us. He knows where temptation toward the mischief in our blood leads.
“Maybe I should go over and give him a nudge. They’re drunk enough. It won’t take much.” He starts to rise, but I catch him by the arm.
“Not tonight, Syree. We’re on mission.”
My brother shifts his eyes up, the secondary vertical slit blinking quickly, a sign of annoyance, but drops back down into his seat. He knew I was going to say that. “We’re always on mission, Hail. When have I ever compromised that? It’s just a little fun.”
My look speaks to the times Syree’s need to throw a punch or see one thrown has gotten us in trouble. Never compromised us greatly, but delayed things when they could have been done quickly.
“I’ve never thrown a mission, though,” Syree rolls his eyes again, the motion calling me a killjoy.
“Threshdan twins!” A hulking Yuk stumbles into our table, the slurred Thresh spilling from his thick lips with a dribble of saliva.
Leaning over, he claps a beefy hand onto my shoulder, triggering me to look down at the appendage like it’s the vermin Syree and I occasionally find in the bowels of our ship.
“Please do not touch me.” I shrug off the Yuk’s hand and return my attention across the room.
“Ho! I want no trouble with you Threshers. I just have a question, and I’ve been waiting for the day when I met a pair of infamous Threshdan twins to ask. Is it true you share everything?” His droopy, wet lips split into a wide grin, and my expression evens at the same moment as my brother’s, our apathy a clear sign we know what’s coming.
“We aren’t twins, but, yes.” My reply is clipped.
His grin gets wider. “So, when you have a female, I bet you fuck her face to cunt.” He cackles loudly like he’s the first male to offer this attempt at gutter humor.
If Syree and I had half a credit for every drunk male that thought to point out this feature of our Thresher bond, we’d be richer than we already are.
Together, my brother and I watch him, our expressions unchanging as I give the response we always give when we’re asked this.
“And our dicks meet in the middle.” Syree lifts his brows in confident challenge, holding the Yuk’s gaze until the drunken male bellows out a loud, obnoxious laugh.
He bends over and slaps his knee, jostling the table behind him as well as the one where we sit. My drink sloshes, but I disregard it, allowing him his humor.
“Hilarious! Dicks meet in the middle.” He wallops his thigh again and ambles off to annoy another patron, this one a stony looking Dorwian who appears slightly out of place. Dorwar is not in this quadrant, and there is nothing special here to bring his kind so far.
Syree huffs out another breath and sits back in his seat. He was hoping for a fight, and my sideways glance lets him know that we don't have time.
“I know, I know. Although, the fact that our contact is nearly half a span late should entitle me to have some fun to pass the wait.”
“Your fun is a slippery slope. And there needs to still be an establishment for him to meet us at when he does get here.” I take a sip of the stale, sour brew we were served when we sat down and turn my eyes on the door.
The lieutenant is late. As unofficial contractors of the Council for Universal Peace Enforcement, we’re forced to meet in places like this, places where the business of two Threshers wouldn’t be investigated or even noticed, and where no one would guess that a commanding officer of the Council was directing two mercenaries to do something other than keep the peace in the most passive of ways.
Because, passive, Threshers are not.
“There he is.” I nod my head in the direction of the grimy windows where the lieutenant is just passing by.
He’s dressed in the plain, roughly woven clothes of the locals, but his severe bearing shouts soldier in a way that no costume can hide, making the point of the subterfuge futile.
It doesn’t matter. It's known that to insert one’s self into the business of a Thresher is to ask for problems, and most of the beings here don’t want them.
I push my drink to the side as the lieutenant approaches, not bothering to hide my annoyance with having to wait. As much as Syree enjoys a good fight, I value my time, and I don't like lingering in the seedier parts of the quadrant if I can help it.
“Threshers, I apologize for the delay, but the situation I need your assistance with is even more dire than we predicted. I was gathering some last minute intel.” The lieutenant drops down into the seat, his bulky body making the cheap metal creak.
A thick black tongue darts out between the two elongated tusks overlapping his lips, and he raises a hand for a server to bring him a drink. He doesn’t indicate which one because in an establishment like this, there is only one choice.
“You mentioned this was recon. Can you be more specific?”
The server, a young Kreesian, skulks up to the table and drops a cup down, spilling a good portion of the contents, then waits impatiently for the lieutenant to scan his comm band before leaving.
The lieutenant frowns at the young male’s behavior.
“It would be pointless to expect better,” I say with a smirk. “In fact, that the majority of the drink is still in the cup says much for the youngling’s efforts.”
“Hm,” the lieutenant huffs, still glaring after the server.
Once we’re alone again, he takes a swig of the drink, grimaces, and clears his throat. “Ah, yes. It was recon, but it’s looking more and more like an extraction. The Dorn have really gone too far this time.”
Syree sits up, his interest piqued as mine is at the mention of the scum pirate faction that’s been terrorizing across the Universe for several rotations.
The Dorn are an exceptionally coordinated group of marauders, banded together under the banner of doing wrong for wrong's sake, who favor attempting to overrun planets, mostly for resources, sometimes for fun. They are a constant thorn in the Council’s efforts to protect unexposed planets, and in the years since my brother’s and my lives have been irrevocably changed, our unspoken nemesis.
In fact, we make it our business, on unofficial record and off, to thwart the Dorn whenever we can, a constant game of catch owed to the group’s elusive leader.
Before this meeting, we’d spent the past two rotations infiltrating and disbanding a contraband ring involving a specific genus of endangered Istan clam and a very accommodating Junku smuggler. He’d indicated in our interrogation of him, which included the systematic remove of his arms only to allow them to regenerate so we could remove them again, that the Dorn was expanding their enterprise. That, soon, there would be no corner of the criminal market that they didn't control.
That hadn't stopped us from relieving him of the clams, which we’d turned over to the Istan government. The clams themselves had been worth a fortune in credit, and our fee had been considerable.
But the credit was nothing compared to the satisfaction that we’d received at having derailed the Dorn, yet again.
“The Dorn have someone? Who?”
The lieutenant leans forward, lowering his voice. “A human.”
The only evidence that this news is something of note is the slight twitch at the corner of my left eye, a movement so slight that no one can have caught it.
The lieutenant, however, a shrewd man, who couldn’t have advanced in the elite Council military, otherwise, spies the flinch and nods.
“I see you understand why I need your intervention. Your work for the Istan has been noted, and the Council would like an equally favorable outcome since a smooth incorporation of the humans into the greater Universe is contingent upon them not realizing less honorable species have been poaching them for years. And this female is special.”
This time, Syree gives the nearly imperceptible tell. “It's a female?”
I barely contain my eye roll. Like fighting, females are another one of my brother’s weaknesses.
The lieutenant dips his head again. “A woman, they’re called. She’s some kind of influential person back on her planet, and her abduction was sloppily done. There were witnesses and footage. If I have heard correctly, she was taken in the middle of a musical performance. She was a part of a larger group that was returned shortly after due to one of the crew mating with one of the captives and freeing the rest. However, this particular woman was off loaded before the others were rescued.”
“Off loaded to who?” I manage to keep my affect even though my heart is beating a war chant in my chest.
I hate slavers almost as much as I hate the Dorn, and them working together could only mean terrible things.
“Who knows, but the buyers are Xhlebans.”
The spots around my brother’s eyes darkened with his rage, and I know it replicates my own anger. Xhlebans are renowned across the quadrants for their unscrupulous practices when it comes to the subjugation of others, and their particularly cruel treatment of females. If this human woman has been given to them, we know she's as good as dead.
Females who are kept by a Xhleban master become shells.
“Why do you want to extract her? It may be more of a mercy to send us in to end her misery.”
Syree nods his agreement with my assessment, which causes the lieutenant to lean in further.
Our conversation is most likely private, but there is always someone watching. In fact, when I pretended to watch the dancers on stage, I noticed that one other patron in particular was paying very close attention to me and my brother.
The lieutenant’s eyes dart back and forth between us, his lips pulling into a firm line. “She has not been turned over, yet. She is still in transport. Apparently, they had a difficult time gaining her compliance, and it has taken longer than they anticipated. To our advantage, the buyer has requested that she remain unsedated.”
“To increase her fear.” Syree’s insight is tightly spoken.
“In fact. Whoever she is meant for, they have particular tastes.”
“Sadistic, you mean.”
The lieutenant’s gaze meets mine. “That would be putting it mildly. According to our intel, he plans to cannibalize her. Apparently, the fear scent will make her taste particularly good.”
There’s a low rumble making our table vibrate. It’s coming from my and Syree’s chests, and the beings nearby scoot away in caution.
A rumbling Thresher is never a good sign.
“Where is she now?”
“Here. Two levels below. Hidden in a private room off of the pleasure sector with only two guards. The authorities here have been paid off to ignore any disturbances in that area and have provided us with her location.”
I stand up, already moving toward the exit. “Send it over a secure line to my comm.”
“And you can double our fee.” My brother fixes the lieutenant with a hard stare as he rises from the chair to follow. “Less preparation means more risk. More risk means more credit.”
“Of course.” The lieutenant inclines his head and watches us leave, the casualness of our strides obscuring the deadliness of our intent.
This is why we make such good mercenaries. There are few things more determined than a Thresher on a mission.