It needed to die.

There. I hear you, slug.

First Lieutenant Mason Witriet thumbed his safety off for the tenth time since leaving his grounded cruiser. The slug that had brought his ship down was in this clearing. Underbrush shook almost imperceptibly where the trail led. He pushed through the thorny vegetation.

It had left a trail of black blood, pushing itself along the ground on tentacles. Witriet stalked it from a few steps away, pointing his plasma rifle in its direction and taking pleasure in his domination of the creature. It was afraid. It held its “hands” up, and something in the air came at him, brushing his face. Witriet held the muzzle to its malformed squid-like head and pulled the trigger.

The gun went off. Pain. Fear. Sharp and sudden, knocking him back. He had been shot before; this was identical. Something in the air had passed from the slug to him.

The thing had made him feel the shot. He knew what that gas was; he had thought it was just a rumor.

Pure, unadulterated empathy.

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