The creature had been trapped in the electro-net overnight.
“Sensors indicate that’s the last one, Span.” Murdock began charging his obliterator.
The creatures had plated exoskeletons. Pincers at one end could easily clip off a person’s foot. At the oversized head, three antenna-like appendages waved large globular eyes. They had about a hundred stubby legs on both sides of their 10-meter-long body and emitted a melodic hum, a recording of which was used to bait the traps.
Dr. Jansen put his hand on Murdock’s arm. “Please don’t let him kill it, Mr. Span.”
Murdock jerked away from Dr. Jansen’s touch. “I don’t know about you, Jansen, but I want paid. Out of the way.”
“We’ve never seen anything like this creature,” Dr. Jansen said. “We’ve killed all the others. There’s so much we don’t know. Please. We need to better understand it. We can keep it in the cargo hold. All that matters to the terraforming bots is that the planet’s cleared. We–”
“That’s crazy.” Murdock spat and aimed his weapon at the creature’s head. “Span?”
The crew chief looked at his two underlings. Jansen seldom carried his weight, but having a doctor on the crew was HQ protocol. Murdock, on the other hand, was the most cold-blooded killer and efficient mercenary he’d ever seen. He was perfect for an assignment like this, but also somebody who needed to be put in his place occasionally. “Configure an electro-net in the hold. Get this thing in there.”
The ship had been en route to its next assignment for a couple of days when Span decided to stop by the cargo bay. He met Murdock in the corridor. “Shoulda let me kill it, Span.”
“Murdock, did you ever think you enjoy killing a little too much?”
Murdock started to spit on the floor, thought better of it, and stalked away.
Inside the bay, Span found Dr. Jansen with the creature, which shuddered in pain under the electro-net. Several areas of its plates had been removed, revealing soft tissue that oozed a golden sludge.
“Mr. Span, I’m glad you’re here. This is remarkable. Watch.” The doctor activated a laser prod and pressed the searing light into an area of the creature’s exposed flesh. The beast trembled and emitted a musical tone. “That’s a C major. Now listen.” The doctor drew the laser along exposed flesh, and the quivering beast emitted a series of tones. “That almost sounds like a run from Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 16.”
Span gave the doctor a quizzical look.
“I play a little classical piano,” the doctor said. “There’s more.” He drew the laser down other sections of tissue. Each time, the creature emitted a different sequence of tones. “I can hear similarities to Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert. And get this.”
Dr. Jansen reached through an opening in the electro-net and held one of the frantically waving eye appendages steady. He then focused the laser prod on one of the globules till it popped. The creature spasmed and moaned rhythmically. “That’s a perfect Alberti bass in G Major. Amazing, isn’t it?” The doctor put down the scalpel and picked up a large hypodermic.
“Now what?” Span asked.
“Just some hydration and nutrients. I want to keep this thing alive till I’m done exploring it.”
Span stared at the doctor as he charged his obliterator, then turned and put the creature out of its misery. He didn’t know much about music, but he realized that some symphonies were best left unfinished. And that he still had a monster on his ship.
David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has appeared in various journals including Bewildering Stories, 365 Tomorrows, Dime Show Review, Flash Fiction Magazine, Fiction on the Web, and Literally Stories. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.