Obliterator by Piper
It was a mistake anyone could have made. Hell, ten years ago,
before all those damned treaties were signed, it wouldn't even
have been a mistake, it was what we'd been trained to do, the
reason why they'd played their expensive games with our insides,
until our reactions were almost as fast as a politician's
excuses, our vision was nearly good enough to read the fine print
in our contracts and our hearing had been fine tuned to the point
that even heavy breathing was close to deafening. It was why we
were called "Obliterators".
There were only ever fourty of us: we were too pricey to mass
produce, and so powerful that it was only certain rare mental
types that they could trust, people like me, completely loyal to
the human race, people those murderous BEM's could never corrupt,
people who would never betray their planet to any alien scum. And
none of us ever did. Whenever a planet had any trouble with BEM's
that they couldn't handle themselves, they'd send us in. When we
left, there'd be no more trouble. There'd also be no more BEM's.
After a while, some of the slimy geeks got the message that it
might be better for them to start co-operating, and the treaties
started coming. They figured that it's pretty difficult to kill
guys who have an energy shield and pistol built in to their
skeletons. We still had to carry around an energy store and ammo,
but the rest made us armed and ready even in the rare moments we
It was after the treaties got signed that we started taking
casualties. The missions were harder, the BEM's more desperate
and better armed, and our numbers kept falling. No-one was ever
replaced. Know what they call me now? The Last of the Oblitera-
tors. I always see that with capitals.
Cyrtris was my last mission, the one all the fuss was made
about, the reason why I'm locked up here. I had been briefed that
a bunch of BEM's were making life difficult for the local human
population, and they wanted me to convince them of the error of
their ways. How was I to know that there was a race of
"Friendlies" down there as well? One BEM looks just as bad as
another to me, why should I make distinctions? It's my job,
right? It's the way they trained me.
When I got back, I was politely taken in front of a committee
of Diplomats, who politely asked me to place myself under arrest
(no-one was stupid enough to think that they could force me) and
politely told me that I'd wasted the wrong E.T.'s. Also the right
ones, but they'd forgotten about that. I was to stay confined
until they had "considered the matter". Frankly, I don't know
what's to consider. A few extra BEM's are floating around as free
ions. Me? I think that's an advantage.
I'd heard this guy coming five minutes ago, positively
identified him from his heartbeat a minute and a half ago, and
still he seems to think he has to announce himself.
"I'm Diplomat Hendricks. I'm here to offer you the chance to
make up for your previous embarrassing lack of self-restraint."
I scan the guy over. A thin, neat man, but not a wimp. Probably
ex-army. They hardly ever send anyone to see me unless they're
army people. Probably think they have a better chance of
understanding me. But not much better. "Kind, Diplomat Hendricks.
More than I deserve, perhaps."
He smiles slightly before replying. "Maybe. There were calls to
have you restrained. Permanently. Your style is a little too ...
enthusiastic for the situation as it has been recently. We want
to expand, make peace, have friendly contacts. You, on the other
"I don't trust any BEM just coz he's signed a piece of paper
saying he's a good boy. You never saw the things that we were
shown during our training period, did you Diplomat?"
"No, no, I didn't. But that was training for a different time,
an easier situation."
"So what are you doing here. Has life just got easier again?"
Again he smiles. I could actually get to like this guy. "You
could put it like that, Obliterator Drak .."
"Thanks. Yes, life's just become very easy, if you call a two
kilometre long warship built with totally alien technology which
is currently wiping out any fleet we send against it 'easy'.
Simple in the extreme."
So that's what all this is about. I've been able to hear the
tension in the place over the past two weeks, I knew something
was going down somewhere. And I knew that those slimy killers
would be at the bottom of it somewhere.
"Sounds bad. Where do I come in? I'm good, but I'm not quite in
the same league as a warship. Which of the BEM's are in on it,
Hendricks starts pacing around my room, picking up various
souvenirs, examining old photos, trying not to think too much
about what needs to be said. "There seems to be an alliance of
non-human sentients, a kind of underground. But it must have had
official backing as well, there's no way they could have built
something that advanced, that big completely in secret, but no-
one's admitting any responsibility for it, so we can't take any
punitive action against a home planet, only against the ship
itself, and no-one on board seems particularly bothered what we
throw against it, it all bounces off."
"Like I said, where do I come in?" I'm beginning to not like
He continues examining the various artifacts I've picked up on
my travels. "We think that one man alone could disable the ships
engines, shields and weapons, collect as much information as
possible from the databanks and still get off alive if he was
fast and careful. Unfortunately, stopping the ship is more
important then getting the information about it back, so as soon
as the ship is crippled, there will only be a limited time to get
out before Federation ships move in and destroy it. It's packing
enough power to blow up an entire star. And guess which star it's
I think about it a while. It doesn't get any better. "So you
want me to cripple this star-killer with no guarantee that I'll
be able to get off after I've done it."
"That's about the size of it, I'm afraid. But you have to
understand, that ship could destroy our entire solar system if it
gets through. They may be able to repair it if we wait too long."
I hate it when people make sense about me risking my life.
"There's still one thing I can't figure out: How do I get on
Hendricks pauses in his pacing and carefully studies the
Byzantian Leaper tooth he's holding. "We want to try to teleport
you on board."
It took less than one twentieth of a second for me to cross the
room, take the tooth from his hand and jam it against his neck.
He hasn't even noticed what I've done before there's a thin
trickle of blood pooling in the poison channel of the tooth.
"Diplomat Hendricks, you seem to be asking me to commit
suicide. We both know that when you put an animal in one end of a
teleport machine, you get an unpleasant smelling red jelly out of
the other. I never did like jelly."
He's good. He's being held half a metre off the ground, and the
only thing that gives away that he's nervous is the smell of
increased perspiration. If I don't have to kill him, I could
really learn to like this guy.
"I could probably explain things better if I didn't have some
extinct creature's dental equipment lacerating my vocal chords."
He looks me directly in the eyes, voice completely controlled. I
let him down and put the tooth back on the display case.
"Explain, Hendricks. Why does the Federation want me dead?"
He doesn't look away as he takes out a handkerchief to dab at
the small point of blood on his neck. "Drak, you've got to
realize that it wasn't just your body that was rebuilt. Your mind
was adjusted too. Your attitude to non-human sentients was just
what we needed when you were being trained, but it doesn't fit in
any more. Cyrtris was the final proof of that. We can no longer
use you in the sort of missions you're used to. Nobody thought
that there would ever be any more missions where we could use
you. Until now." He pauses to examine the handkerchief, folds it
and replaces it in his pocket. "Drak, everything I've told you
about that ship is true. Nobody else has a chance of doing what
has to be done, you're our last hope, and that will prove to the
Federation that we still need you. We think we've solved the
teleport problem. We can put a rabbit in and get a rabbit out,
but to do it, we have to know the rabbit very well. Every machine
has to be built specifically for an individual DNA code, complete
with inbuilt data on weight, size, density and what flavour fruit
juice you had for breakfast. Every test we've done so far with
this method has worked, except for when one of the lab assistants
children got in and slipped an extra carrot to a cute little
bunny. It took about three days to clear up all the bits. But
every time we have to start from scratch, every time is a new
"How many times is 'every time', Diplomat?"
He looks uneasy again. "Seven, Drak. Seven."
I look him over again and start to laugh. "Did you know that
was my lucky number? If I've got to risk my life, tell them not
to build any more test models, it could be unlucky."
"You'll do it?" Hendricks looks relieved. Also a little
"I know what they did to my mind. Just because I'm strong
doesn't mean I'm stupid. I know what they did, and I like it. Do
you know what happened to my family?" Hendricks looks even more
surprised. "Look it up sometime."
We walk out into the corridor on our way to the Science
Institute. It's crowded, but no-one gets in our way. One of the
advantages of being an Obliterator.
"Just one more thing, Diplomat: Are there any 'Friendlies' on
This time he actually laughs. "I think you can presume that
anything you come across in that ship is a distinctly 'Un-
Friendly'. No-one's going to complain how enthusiastic you get."
Three days later. I've been probed, proded and had things done
to me that I could have made a fortune from if I'd filmed it, and
now I'm standing in front of a humming piece of chicken-wire and
light-bulbs that I'm told is going to teleport me in one piece
right to the heart of the BEM ship. Hendricks is standing to one
side, giving me the thumbs up. It's time to go. I step forward
into the wire and ...
Jezus, what was I drinking last night. No, no I remember, the
teleport. From the smell of the place, this must be the BEM ship.
They should shoot their interior decorator. If I'm lucky, maybe
I'll get to do it for them. Time to get to work. Okay, you slimy
geeks, who wants to be first? Boy, is someone going to pay for