An Introduction for Dr. Hawke (Story)




"Uhn... gah..."

"I've seen that look before," a voice mentioned from the darkness.

Marcus clawed himself upright and rested on his knees. Weakly, he wiped the vomit off his chin.

"You killed it, probably without thinking about it. Feeling some regret or pity? Some kind of failure, perhaps?"

"It hadn't attacked me," Marcus gasped. "But I didn't even consider trying to talk to it."

A match light flared in the darkness, briefly revealing a bearded man in a white coat. The man lit a long, evil-looking cigar and began puffing. Even after the match went out, the cherry-red coal on the end of the cigar provided a glimmer of light.

"It wouldn't have helped. It would have attacked you as soon as it saw you."

"You know about these creatures, Doctor..."

"Doctor Hawke. Abraham Hawke. We've met a few times in passing, Statesman, but I imagine that we scientists must tend to blend together after eighty-odd years of crimefighting. Cigar?" he offered. "It'll help wipe out the stench."

Marcus was initially repelled. It'd been literally decades since he'd partaken, but the scientist's idea seemed like a good one. He took the proffered tobacco and book of matches.

"Have you ever seen a kitten viciously attack a piece of string or a garden hose?" Hawke asked. "Of course many adult cats will kill snakes. This is the same thing. It's a racial memory. Most human populations in the galaxy have been strongly selected for the ability to kill these guys on sight."

Marcus finally got his cigar lit and inhaled deeply, drawing as much of the bitter tobacco smoke into his lungs as he could. Like the doctor indicated, the sharp smell muted the stomach-churning scent of the alien carcass in front of him.

"The reaction is usually stronger in non-terrans. You've been to planet Caramine, yes?"

Statesman coughed, belching cigar smoke. He settled into a more comfortable puffing rhythm before allowing himself to fall back against the wall behind him. "Briefly. Years ago. I was very pressed at the time. I seem to remember that they were a very ceremonial people."

"My daughters are half Caramine. Somehow, they caught a male in an airlock when they were toddlers. Then they tortured it to death over five or six hours. When I found them, they were beaming. 'Daddy! Daddy! We squished a bug!'"

"I remember now. The Caramine King mentioned that his empire was based on a standing war with an aggressor species," the superhero said.

"That was probably my dearly departed father-in-law," Hawke indicated. "The Caramine Empire is a totalitarian military dictatorship now. My wife used to be a princess, but works as a freedom fighter against them. The one thing they agree on is that there is not enough room for these guys-- Slavers-- and humans in the same galaxy. I've examined what historical records I've been able to obtain at length. No where have I ever found any indication that Slavers have ever been amiable to peace with humanoids of any kind. What humans didn't learn to destroy them were either enslaved or butchered. That's true here on Earth and on just about every other human world I know of."

"It still seems... brutal," Marcus admitted. "The rage... I've never felt anything like it before."

"I wouldn't feel too bad about it. You're one of those people who are revolted by insects or spiders?" the scientist asked.

Marcus nodded.

"And you probably have a bit of difficulty with shellfish, yes? Even if you eat lobster or crab, the fact that it looks like a 'bug' is always in the back of your mind."

"I'd have to admit that's true," Marcus said sheepishly.

"The trait is dominant, so it tends to stick around for millenia in any given human population after contact with Slavers," Hawke explained. "Assuming the population survives, that is. You may even have some Caramine ancestors. I understand that a few have crash landed on Earth in the past. At any rate, you'll find that most people become irrational while dealing with them. I'd even go so far as to use the work 'Berserk'."

Suddenly, there was a distant scrabbling noise. Marcus felt the muscles in his shoulders and back tightening, seemingly of their own accord. His body was going to fight, he realized, regardless of whatever mental discipline he could muster.

"Kerrrap," the scientist grumbled. Marcus saw him light another match. This time, the prominent pilot nozzle of a Crey flamethrower ignited, providing significantly more light. "I wrote a report for Vanguard last year. If we make it out of here alive, I'll make sure to forward a copy to Longbow and the Freedom Phalanx if you don't already have it. Slavers are NOT our friends and probably never will be."

Marcus found that the nausea and horror had left his body. All he could feel was disgust... and rage. "You know Positron?" he asked quietly while climbing to his feet.

"Ray Keyes? Professionally, but we don't really operate in the same circles," Dr. Hawke admitted.

"Let's deal with this," Marcus commanded. "Afterwards, I'll get you two to sit down and share what you know about this threat."

"Good," Hawke agreed. "For now, I suggest you attempt to destroy the middle body-segment first. They can't breathe without it."

Statesman attacked the first of the chittering aliens before he realized his body was moving. Behind him, Dr. Hawke took a long puff off his cigar and began to rain fire down on the approaching Slavers.



A Brief Overview of Slaver Alien Physiology

Dr. Abraham Hawke Ph.D., D.Xb.

Efforts to trace the origins of the Slaver species and Slaver technology are frequently controversial and met with setbacks, false trails, and information hiding. Much of Slaver history has been obsfucated and destroyed, frequently by the Slavers themselves.

It's been suggested more than once that much of the Slaver technology was stolen from another sentient race. Unfortunately, most of these suggestions are almost completely circumstantial and lack hard evidence.

Complicating this is that fact that most non-Terran human societies that encounter Slavers destroy them on sight. The Slaver species itself is considered almost extinct throughout the galaxy. If a Slaver homeworld exists, it has not been found.

In the few cases that live Slavers or their technology have been captured, they exist at a level far inferior to that recorded by historians.

Slaver Biology:

Few records exist of Slaver biology, but those that do are definitive.

Sources: Grebori-descended humans on Grebor 2 maintain records that indicate that humans conducted extensive dissection and vivisection studies on the few slaver individuals that survived a pre-Grebori ship revolt. Similar studies have taken place during the first Caramine-Slaver war.

Grebori biological records describe slavers as so:

Slaver height is typically between 2.5 and 3.5 meters. They have 2 apparent genders with moderate physiognomical differences between them.

Both 'Male' and 'Female' Slavers have a hard, but somewhat brittle exoskeleton. Their main body is composed of either 4 or 5 segments depending on gender.

The first segment contains the bulk of the species' brain and sensory organs, including complex eyes, membranes that are sensitive to sound, and feelers that are sensitive to touch and electromagnetic flux.

The second segment contains a larve nerve-cluster analogous to a human's brainstem, mouth, mouth feelers, and membranes inside grooves on the feelers that are sensitive to scent, including pheremonal signals.

The third segment contains organs responsible for maintaining the flow and oxygenation of blood. Rather than organs analogous to lungs, the contraction of the internal 'heart' muscle draws air into spiracles located in rows down both sides of this segment. These spiracles are lined with gill-like membranes that absorb oxygen from the air and release carbon dioxide.

The fourth segment contains the majority of the slavers' alimentary tract, including organs that function similarly to crops, stomachs, and intestines. There is a sizable opening in this segment for excrement.

This segment also serves as the primary anchor for each of the slaver's ten legs, two of which are adapted to act as dexterous arms with 'hands' and two of which are almost completely vestigial. Each hand is composed of 4 fingers, one opposing, each of which has five major segments. The slavers 'feet' are configured similarly with a 'heel finger' and 3 multi-segmented toes.

The fifth segment contains, in females only, reproductive organs dedicated to producing eggs. The segments are lined with two rows of non-functional pheromone releasing feelers on the anterior side. The oviduct is located on the anterior side, between the feeler rows, usually immediately below the excremental opening. Any pheremonal chemicals are released via the oviduct.

In males, the fifth segment is merged with the fourth. It primarily serves to distribute a fertilizing seminal fluid. It also contains two small rows of functional pheremonal releasing feelers.

Male Slavers are taller, thinner, and typically weigh less than females. They are somewhat more intelligent than females and are able to maintain control over the females by secreting a pheremonal substance from their reproductive glands.

Female slavers are shorter, much bulkier, and much stronger than their male counterparts. They are vastly more aggressive and will defend the males to the point of self destruction or destruction of their eggs.

The ratio between the two seems to be approximately 1 male to 10 or more females.

In large groups of Slavers, it's not uncommon to see a crowd of female slavers gathered around the reproductive area of a male Slaver's fourth segment, wiping excreted liquid into their mouths with their mouth-feelers. They will in turn carry this pheremone-rich liquid to other females in the group by stroking their mouth-feelers together.

Male slavers are capable of short-term survival without their brain/head segments. Their mental capacity is severely reduced and they will soon bleed to death without surgery, however. Slavers typically treat a decapitated male as 'dead', even if the rest of the body appears to be functioning.

In stark contrast, Female slavers suffer only moderate capacity reduction when their head segment is severed. In fact, it's not uncommon to see females that have been purposefully decapitated, either with metallic tourniquets or cauterization. While blind and deaf, these females still fight viciously and are capable of reproduction.

Slaver Vulnerability:

Any human-written text about Slavers would be incomplete without instructions on how to kill or destroy them.

Environmental vulnerabilities:

- While adolescent and adult Slavers are tolerant to temperatures considered 'cold' by humans, they're much more vulnerable to heat. At ambient temperatures above 36 degrees celcius, most Slavers will experience pain, delerium, and reduced function. Above 40 degrees celcius, most Slavers will begin to suffer severe injury, including bleeding from spiracles, mouth, and other orifices, as well as internal hemmorhage, permanent brain damage, and permanent organ failure. Above 44 degrees celcius, most of their internal tissues will begin dying and 'cooking' due to protein denature.

Exposure to ambient temperatures of 40 degrees or above for more than 15 minutes is usually enough to kill most Slavers, although a very few females may last longer.

Explosure to ambient temperatures of 44 degrees or above for more than 3 minutes will kill most Slavers.

Note that Slaver tissues contain proteins that are typically toxic to humans. Eating Slaver meat will cause illness or death in humans.

- Slavers are more tolerant to cold than humans, and don't seem to experience hypothermia. Instead they go into a state of hibernation. However, it is possible to freeze them to death by exposing them to ambient temperatures below 0 degrees celcius for adequate periods. Since Slavers seem to avoid protective clothing other than armor, humans equipped with arctic protection clothing will most likely have a strong advantage over Slavers in cold conditions so long as they can outrun or use ranged weapons against the Slavers.

Note that in such circumstances, female Slavers will cluster together over male Slavers to try to maintain adequate warmth. It is not advisable to approach a pile of Slavers than appears to be 'frozen to death'.

- Slavers cannot respirate under water, nor in most other viscous fluid media. If submerged in water, Slavers will typically asphyxiate in under 1 minute.

Likewise, it is quite possible to asphyxiate Slavers by covering their spiracles in thick oils, paints, or other adhesive fluids. Slavers cannot resipirate through their mouths or any other orifice.

The traditional ceremonial Camerine paint gun is likely derived from weapons that shot paint and and oils at Slaver aggressors.

- Slavers are far more vulnerable to variations in external pressures than humans, partially due to their rigid exoskeleton.

Slavers are most comfortable at approximately .9 standard Earth atmospheres (91 kPa).

Below .5 standard Earth atmospheres (50 kPa) or above 2.2 atmospheres (223 kPa), Slavers spiracle membranes will begin to rupture.

Below .2 atmospheres (20 kPa) or above 3 atmospheres (305 kPa), Slaver carapace sections will begin to break and rupture.

A quick human with an airlock can easily kill Slavers. Likewise, Slavers will not be able to follow a human to any depth while swimming.

Note that it is not recommended to expose oneself to the vacuum of space to avoid Slaver attack. However, legends and partial historical accounts of the Pirates of Camerine indicate that mutineers-turned-pirates successfully took two Slaver ships without protective gear by expelling as much air from their lungs as possible, and leaping between two open airlocks.

- Slavers are slightly less vulnerable than humans to strong radiation due to their exoskeletons. However, Slaver exoskeletons have proven to be extremely flammable in an oxygen atmosphere.

To quote the Grebori poet Derensha, "When in doubt, kill them with fire."

Flamethrowers, heating lasers, or other incendiary weapons should be considered standard issue to any military force that may encounter Slavers.