Tidbits and Tales: Monsters! Oh no!

Things aren’t always what they appear to be.

So monsters.   They’re bad.   They attack aimlessly and they attack in droves.   Are they predictable?   Yes.  Are they able to drive story?  Yes.

Sometimes the biggest threat is the most mindless one.   A creeping horde out to eat your brains or some facsimile.

This week’s story is a Sci-Fi number  I hope you enjoy it.

Stalked

The three of them sat in a dark room, sweat on their brows and fresh blood on their boots.   A body peppered with shot lay twitching on the floor, a body that used to be their fourth.   Kirkwall’s hands were shaking as he loaded another shell.  It fell to the floor with a noisy clink and everyone held their breath as it rolled to a stop in front of Johnson.

“Easy,” Johnson said, in the low light his stocky frame was revealed by his tracking goggles.  He stooped over and picked up the shell, and calmly tossed it back to his partner.  “We can’t afford to waste ammo.   You might need to use that on me next.”

“Don’t say that… please…” A spindly man with raven hair hugged his rifle close to his body.   He pulled it away briefly to make sure the bullet was clear to fire.   “Can’t we just say we’re going to live through this?   I don’t want to think of…”

His eyes fell to the body in the center of the room.   A pool of blood was forming around him.

“…that.  You saw it didn’t you?   How fast he turned?   We have to stay on our toes.   Eyes open.” The thin man swallowed.   “Why did I ever leave my snipers nest?”

“You’d be dead if you didn’t Rattler, the little ones like dark cramped spaces.   Just like you.”  Kirkwall said with a sigh.   He placed the shell without difficulty and cocked it with a satisfyingly smooth motion.  He was a forlorn, large built man with dark skin.

“Maybe,” Rattler glanced around.   He raised a hand to his mouth and yawned.   “I don’t see why we deserve this though.”

“For Christ sake Rattler.   You gonna whine em’ to death?” Johnson smirked as he fiddled with his pistol.

A loud hiss echoed below them.  The body between them started to stir, but the muffled sound of a pistol round through a silencer interrupted it.  One clean shot to the brain.   Johnson took the shot effortlessly but his face wore a grim frown.   Even with the low light it was clear as day.  “I was hoping to save that bullet.”

“You coulda used a knife.” Kirkwall looked uneasy.

“Yeah… fuck that.   Pretty sure that thinking is what got Goodman a ticket to Zombie land.” Johnson  eyed his gun.  “We’re gonna to have to roll, EP shit storm.”

“God damn it… we don’t have time,” Rattler said, “Why would they nuke the place it’s lost!”

“Moron.   This station is a click from Earth.   They’re gonna blow it rather than have this come visit.” Kirkwall gestured with his shotgun, it made the smaller man flinch.

“Not like they know how to pilot a ship.”

“Do you know that for sure?   They know how to open doors.  Even an infant can work an escape pod.” Johnson shook his head.   “We need to get a report in at least.  We’re heading to the data room.”

“Right,” Kirkwall nodded.

“No!   We should…” Rattler started to stand in protest.

Kirkwall reached out and grabbed Rattler by the neck and threw him to the ground.   With his other hand he pointed his shotgun at a vent.   “Light.”

Johnson nodded and pointed a flashlight at the vent with one hand and pointed his pistol with the other.   He covered the side of the room Kirkwall couldn’t see.

When the light popped on a small creature cringed away.   It was small and black, no larger than a small dog but had a mouth full of needle sharp teeth.  Kirkwall let go of Rattler and brought his other hand up to his shotgun.  The little creature hissed in disapproval and paced in place.

Johnson kept his eyes forward and scanned the room for others.

“Just shoot it…” Rattler said as he rubbed his neck.

“Can’t.   Canned heat on its six.” Kirkwall jabbed the gun threateningly towards it.  He forced the creature to back pedal into a canister of plasma fuel behind it.

 “Moving the tea party?” Johnson smirked.

“Affirmative, Rattler cover Johnson.”  Kirkwall took a step forward, threateningly.

“Fine,” Rattler readied his rifle and Johnson opened the door to the stock room.  He scanned outside of the room and held up a closed fist.

Rattler raised a fist within Kirkwall’s field of vision.  He responded with a nod and began to back pedal.  He took his free hand and held up five fingers, closed his fist, then held up four fingers again.  Rattler paled when he realized what he meant.   A cacophony of skittering filled the room.   Kirkwall has already started to move; he was shoulder to shoulder with Rattler and gave him a nudge.

  Rattler spun and started to backpedal out of the room but there had been ten or more of the creatures along the walls.   At least four had poured from the tank locker and more were on the way.  One leapt and Rattler took it out with a well-placed rifle round.   His high caliber sniper rifle swept the  beast from the air and splattered it against the wall.

Kirkwall stayed steady and didn’t fire when one made its move.   It wasn’t until a second jumped that he fired.   The closest one was shredded to paste while the second flew dead and helpless past them.  Rattler stepped back into the door way first and Kirkwall had to use the butt off his shotgun to push back another leaper.

A small metal pin clinked to the ground, Johnson was holding a grenade at Rattler’s eye level.   The handle was splayed out and it was live.   But despite that it was being held up lazily.   The sniper’s eyes grew wide as he cleared out of the way.  He flattened against the wall near the storage room’s entrance.

Kirkwall stepped through and snagged the grenade.  Johnson had three fingers splayed out in the lazy grip.  His shot gun blazed again as he killed another of the beasts and wounded three more.   The small room was not working in the creatures’ favor.

“Throw it.   Throw it!” Rattler fixed his eyes on the grenade.   There was no cover in the hall.

“Happy Birthday,” Kirkwall lazily tossed the grenade into the room and flattened against the wall.  He narrowly dodged a leaping creature, but it was caught in the initial blast and was forcibly pushed against the opposite wall of the wide hallway.  It was reduced to little more than a black stain.  A second explosion rocked the hall when the supplies in the room ignited.  The wall behind them deformed from the force of the blast.  It even threatened to throw the three of them to the other side of the hall.

They stayed firm though.   A torrent of flame erupted into the hall.  It scrubbed against the opposite wall and peeled the stain left from the creature and the top layer of enamel from it.  They winced when the fire pushed past them; it was mere feet from searing their flesh.

The flames died out and the three of them were left in silence.  Kirkwall rolled his shoulder and stepped   away from the wall, he calmly loaded shells into his shotgun.

Rattler peered into the doorway.  There were dozens of the creatures inside all of them dead.  The fallen body of their fourth was charred and peppered with shrapnel.   The creatures had fared much worse their exoskeletons had been scorched a most of them had been roasted thoroughly.

Johnson let out a heavy sigh and pulled out a crooked cigarette from a side pouch.  He lit it on a small fire smoldering on a federation banner in the hall.

“Hey.   You know those things are bad for you.” Rattler scolded him.

“So are leapers eating your face, what’s your point?” Johnson paced away and took a puff.

“Relax.  They hate smoke.” Kirkwall cocked his shotgun.  “What’s the next move?”

“Com Room,” Johnson let out a simple grunt.

“Uh hello?   Escape pod!” Rattler let his rifle swing to his side.

Kirkwall glared at him.  “Not happening.   We have to blow the station.  But Johnson’s right.  Gotta warn people first.”

“You’re nuts.” Rattler rubbed his forehead.   He reached into his pocket and pulled out a little baggie it had large white pills in it.   He popped one in his mouth like a candy but swallowed it whole.

“Just say no.” Johnson donned a wry smirk.

“Fuck off.  Its medication,” Rattler said, “But we can warn them when we get back… We don’t need to do anything stupid.   When we get back we can just have the fleet raze the station.  Why would we…”

Johnson held out his arm.   It was rolled up to the shoulder and a blackened wound with thick green pus stood stark against his pale skin.   The wound spoke volumes where words could not.

Kirkwall fidgeted with his shot gun.  His eyes turned to Johnson then Rattler.  He nodded once.  That was a clear message too.  I knew.

“Y…You were bit?!” Rattler’s eyes went wide.

“Yeah.  About an hour ago.”

“An hour?   Geets turned in ten minutes!” Rattler took a step back.

“What’s your point?” Johnson took another drag of his cigarette.

“Stuff it.   We got this,” Kirkwall pointed a thumb at himself.   “We’re gonna need him.   And we’re  warnin’ the base and blow this place to space dust.”

“And what about us…?” Rattler said, his voice became faint.

“What about us?   We’re soldiers.   It’s our job.” Kirkwall lowered his eyes and fiddled with something through his shirt.

“Family huh…?” Johnson rolled down his sleeve,  “Sorry to hear that.”

“Yeah… five girls,  two boys,  and a beautiful wife,” Kirkwall said, “This is for them though.”

“What do you mean?” Rattler looked uneasy.   He was visibly trying to avoid Johnson.   Why wouldn’t he?  He was infected and as good as dead.

“I’m protectin’ them.  Even if I get killed, they’ll live well for the rest of their days.   I already made plentya credits to retire.   Call me greedy I guess.   Fat lotta good that money’s gonna do if Tetra Seven gets wiped out.”  Kirkwall shouldered his shotgun.   “We’re gonna need you too Rattler.  You can run to the pods if you want.   But you won’t make it.  You help us, and you might survive.”

“Fine,” Rattler said, “You guys are going to need my eyes anyway.”

Rattler popped another pill in his mouth and took a swig from his canteen.   He shook his head quickly.   The drugs were working fast.

The three of them hurried down the hallway.   It was uneasily quiet.   Johnson seemed focused and didn’t waste time checking corners.   Rattler did that for them.   Johnson ran a hand through his mop of blonde hair and carried is pistol casually as he jogged.   He didn’t look remotely ill in fact he looked healthier than most of the men did before the attack.  He wasn’t even panting.   Kirkwall and Rattler were pushing their limit while it seemed a leisurely jog for him.

“There.” Johnson pointed.   “Rattler.   Cover us.”

“Fine,” Rattler halved his eyes.   He wasn’t keen on sitting in the hall alone, but the alternative, walking into a room with a lot of ventilation shafts wasn’t exactly golden either.

Kirkwall stepped in as soon as the motion sensor picked up on him.  His weapon was at the ready.  There were corpses of the officers strewn about.   They had been eaten rather than turned.   Most of the ensigns in the chairs around the room had a single bullet hole in their brain.  Kirkwall didn’t really blame them.   They were glorified civvies.  The pistols they carried only unlocked when the ship was in a state of emergency.

He was thankful actually.   Even a civ would be a threat turned.  A gurgling roar came from his side.  He spun and aimed.   One of the ensigns lunged, their eyes burrowed put by the virus and black spikes jutting out from their cheeks.   He fired but the shot only soaked into their arm.

“Spin him,” Johnson said calmly.

Kirkwall yanked to free his weapon but only managed to put his back to the large monitors lining the room.   The taken ensign lunched and gnashed, their teeth hand doubled in size and thick black ooze rolled from their mouth.   He could feel the monitor crack behind his head.

He pushed as hard as he could.   As the ensign cleared him the ‘thwip’ of Johnson’s pistol took its life.   Clean through the brain.   It fell into a heap, dead.

“Fuck…” Kirkwall stooped and panted.   “That was close.”

“Yep,” Johnson said walking to the panel in the room’s center.

“You all right in there?” Rattle called out as loud as he dared.

“Yeah man, clear.” Kirkwall stood and sighed.

Rattle came in and operated the panel, locking it.   Biological threat lock-down was enabled so any soldier could open and close the door as long as there were no airborne contaminants.  The door snapped shut and a red glow hovered ominously over the door way.

Johnson had been typing calmly, a message chimed over the loudspeaker in a soothing woman’s voice.  “Message set.   Emergency protocols pending cancellation.”

“Huh?” Rattle turned towards Johnson and raised his rifle.  “What the hell did you just do?!”

“I told the truth.” He smiled and raised his arms in surrender.  “Everything is just fine.   Everything is going according to plan.   Send reinforcements and replacement workers.”

“You… why would you?” Kirkwall raised his shotgun at him.

“Why?   Isn’t it obvious?” He calmly removed his tracking goggles.   Black spines jutted from the ruin of his eyes.   “Half of us were just being short sighted.    The real feast is about to begin…”

The sound of skittering legs surrounded them and hundreds of leapers poured into the room’s vents.   “As foe why I let you live… You’re still of use to us.”

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