Feeding the Octokittens
The octokitten sidled up to Nastya warily. It could tell from the vibrations in the deck that there was no one else to feed it nearby, and it was hungry. It was also aware that it might not survive whatever Nastya had up her sleeve. By this point it was just too hungry to wait.
“Oh good. I was wondering when one of you would show up,” the engineer said. She picked up a glowing green cube and tossed it to the creature. “Try it.”
The octokitten sniffed it suspiciously. It smelled oddly like food, so it ate it. It gurgled once, twitched all eight of its tentacles in sequence and fell motionless on its side. Nastya looked surprised. “It was only re-sequenced spinach.” She thought. “Maybe I shouldn’t feed it to the others after all.”
Jonny was stalking something. It had crept onto the ship while he wasn’t looking and was slithering down the corridors. Thankfully it seemed not to be going anywhere important — only one of the storage lockers. He’d be damned if he didn’t head it off before it got there. Firefights this deep in space were too few and far between.
He scrambled through an air duct, hung a sharp left, and was at the T-junction before the beast. Carefully, gun drawn and ready to unleash hell, he stepped round the corner.
It was a terrifying sight. A wave of scuttling limbs coated the corridor, floor, walls and ceiling, slipping steadily closer. The individual octokittens could hardly be told apart. It looked more like some swarm of ants. Deadly space ants, bearing in their midst the prone, but happy, form of their next meal. Except that it was Ivy.
“Ivy,” said Jonny. “What the hell are you doing?”
“I’m travelling by octokitten!” she proclaimed. “To Storage Bay Three! Maybe.”
“Oh. So you’re feeding the octokittens again.” Which made sense — there was a dead cow in Storage Bay Three at the moment. For some reason. Jonny considered shooting her, or shooting wildly into the swarm, but knew it would be deeply unsatisfying.
“Here, kitty kitty! Here, kitty!”
“What are you doing, Tim?” Ashes looked at him, bemused. He had a bowl of some kind of reconstituted meat in one hand and was looking around under all the control panels on the bridge, waving the food hopefully.
“It’s teatime,” he said. “For the kittens. But they don’t seem to be around.”
“Ivy fed them,” Jonny called from across the room. “I met her near the storage bays yesterday. Hey, Tim — when did some of them start glowing green?”
“Nastya must have been feeding them too,” said Ashes.
Tim put the bowl down, put his head in his hands, and despaired.