Beauty and the Fleet

By: Robert McKay

(Intergalactic Fairy Tales Book 2)


"Beatrix," a male voice called from downstairs, "your supper is getting cold. Get your nose out of that book and come down here and eat."

"I'll be right down, Papa!" Beatrix called, for what was probably the fourth time. How could she help it? She'd just gotten to the part where the monster was going to kill the twits who had summoned it, despite all the dire warnings they were given. Served them right.

"If you don't put that book down right now and eat, I'll be sure to tell George how much you're looking forward to seeing him this weekend."

That was just playing dirty. "Fine!" She read a couple more pages anyway, hoping it was still an idle threat. The possibility that it wasn't convinced her to close the book, even as the monster tore into the popular girl who had decided a creepy cabin in the woods was the best place ever to lose her virginity. Horror stories were her guilty pleasure. They were just such campy fun. All the unnecessary gore and violence put a smile on her face. Unlike that dolt George Womack that everybody was so keen to see her married off to. She was only fifteen, and in no hurry to be an adult.

She ran a comb through her unruly brown curls and sighed. Papa would give her a talking to about her grooming. He'd tell her that the only man she'd ever catch looking the way she did was a pig farmer, and that he wouldn't know whether to marry her or put her in the pen with the pigs. Well, she'd rather be a pig farmer's wife than a trophy for some career soldier like George Womack. All he and the rest of his ilk could talk about were how many Colarians they'd bagged. It was pointless. The war had been raging on for a decade and she wasn't even sure who started it. All of her teachers said it was the Colarians, but she was sure their teachers said it was the Nedrans.

A shout rang out from downstairs and she shook her head. "Papa, are you alright? Did you burn yourself with that holey oven mitt again? I told you to toss it out," she chastised as she made her way down the stairs. "When will you ever learn to listen to me?"

Beatrix stepped out of the stairway and locked eyes with her father, not understanding the look she saw there. "Bumble Bea," he said weakly.

"Papa, I outgrew that silly name years ago. Let me see the burn, so I know whether I need to get the salve, or just some ice for you."

A lone tear trailed down his face and his eyes flickered with panic. "Run!" he wheezed and then fell face first onto the kitchen table, a wicked blade sticking out of his back. She ran to him, ignoring his advice, and caught sight of the open door to the back yard. A hulking figure was pushing its way through the too-small door frame. The pictures in her textbooks didn't do their size justice. She'd never seen a Colarian in the flesh. They were monstrous. But a Colarian couldn't be there. They had never attacked rural areas before. They hit cities, where they could inflict the most damage. Beatrix shook her head. It didn't matter why they were there, only that they were trying to kill them. Her father's voice echoed in her ears, telling her to run fast and far away, but she couldn't leave him there to die.

The creature was most of the way through the doorway, its massive four-fingered hand groping for purchase to pull the rest of its bulk inside. She couldn't let that happen. If Papa was going to live, it was up to her to save him. She grabbed a large knife from the counter that Papa had been using to chop potatoes. The smell of potato and leek soup still filled the kitchen. He'd made it because it was her favorite. It was the only meal she could remember her mother making when she was a child.

Her grip on the knife tightened and she climbed onto the counter next to the door, just out of reach of the Colarian, and waited. Finally, the Colarian beast was able to crouch low enough to push its head inside the door and Beatrix made her move. She stepped forward and slashed wildly at its head. She saw the beast clearly for that few seconds; its sleek, black, fur-covered face contorted in pain as the patch of black flesh above its left eye fell on their kitchen floor. She knew the Colarians weren't really a single organism. Her biology class had taught her about the symbiotic relationship they had with the black sinewy creatures that covered a large part of their bodies. In science class it made perfect sense. And yet, none of that knowledge had prepared her for the frightened confusion in the beast's yellow, vertically-slitted eye. It caught her so off guard that she forgot to strike again and take the advantage she had won herself. The beast recovered before she did and swung its meaty fist at her middle, knocking her halfway across the room. The only world she knew faded to black.

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