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John Carpenter's

Ancient Enemies

by Roy Morris

Introduction and Glossary:

Welcome to my fan fiction based on the popular Alien/Predator franchises. This also includes the alien creature from John Carpenter's The Thing. Although name of the plot elements are taken from the John Carpenter movie, my inspiration for the creature comes from the novella "Who Goes There?" by John W Campbell (the source for the movie).

To show the story from all sides, I have included the thought process for The Thing and also conversations between the Predators. I felt it would be too linear to have them mute throughout.

Glossary:

Xenomorph: Meaning Alien. Generalised description for the creature from the Alien movies

Yautja: Hunter. The official name for the species of the creature from the Predator movies

Kainde Amedha: "Hard Meat" The Yautja name for the Xenomorph

Soft Meat: Humans

Bad Blood: Yautja term for an honourless exile. A bad blood returning to his homeworld would mean instant death

Story Description:

When an expedition uncovers bodies in the Antarctic they unknowingly unleash an unspeakable horror onto their party. A group of Yautja are attracted to the struggle and discover an ancient enemy they thought to be long dead.

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Chapter 1: Chapter 1

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Chapter One - Cold Storage

The wind forced spirals of icy air into his lungs, every step felt like a marathon as his boots were as heavy as lead on his weary feet. He trudged slowly and uneasily making his way across the vast expanse of desolation that spread in front of him. Although he was covered in many layers of clothing, the cold bit mercilessly at the skin of his chapped and aching face. The briefcase he was carrying was getting heavier with every step. As he stopped to regain his breath, Martinez surveyed the landscape through squinted eyes. He was miles from anywhere. In front of him lay an expanse of ice and snow that seemed to continue infinitely. The freezing wind lapped at his legs and threatened to force him off balance as he leaned forward to compensate. He looked down to his GPS. The co-ordinates matched those in this morning’s briefing. The target destination cross sat in the dead centre of the GPS screen as it beeped away happily. This was the place. He placed the briefcase down onto the ground and pushed the release buttons, the briefcase opened to reveal a blank LCD screen and a tripod with several laser drill components. He deftly assembled the drill and activated it. The laser drill whirred into life, slicing and penetrating deep into the surface. After a few minutes the screen in the briefcase flashed text in bright red characters.

 

ORGANIC MATTER LOCATED

 

Martinez fumbled awkwardly with the latchet on his belt pack, swore under his breath and pulled his glove off with his teeth. Although the metal of the fastening was sticking to his fingers he unfastened the pack and fished out a handful of marking flares which he then lit and placed along the ground at two meter intervals. The flares emitted their crimson hue illuminating the bleak whiteness of the icy ground on which they stood. Martinez pawed his radio with his re-gloved hand, “I’ve found traces at the correct co-ordinates. I’ve marked you out a parking space.” Martinez thought for a second and rekeyed the mic, “hurry up and get me before I freeze”.

 

Martinez wrapped his arms around his torso as he was encircled in the icy grip of the Antarctic wind. He looked to the horizon and saw a faint black spot that was slowly increasing in size. As it got closer the mass took shape. The black research helicopter thundered overhead and excited the snow that lay thick on the ground causing it to swirl and dance in the air as if mesmerised by some mystical music. The dance slowed to an almost stop as the helicopter touched the ground. A tall, stocky figure stepped down onto the cold surface. He was; like Martinez; also protected from the elements by layers of thick clothing. A snow mask covered most of his face but his piercing ice blue eyes practically shone in contrast to the pale snow and the dark clothing. Martinez turned to face the new arrival. “Hey Sverre, Can we get this done quickly before I become a human ice cube?”

 

Sverre pulled a long sack from the helicopter and removed two larger versions of the laser drill Martinez used earlier. He erected them effortlessly and placed them either side of the flares then pulled his snow mask away from his face. “Ready? Clear!” He yelled over the howls of the wind as he pushed the activation button on the panel of the nearest drill and they burst into life. The drills started to swivel slightly as they cut into the ground. The ice slowly started to melt.

 

“Whoa! Sverre, stop the cutting!” Sverre flipped the lasers to off.

 

The two stood at the lip of the hole and stared with amazement at the two bodies that lay perfectly frozen in the ice. Sverre jumped into the hole and started to dig with his gloved hands. Martinez followed suit. Both were working feverishly trying to free the frozen bodies from their prison of ice. After what seemed an eternity for both of them, the bodies were uncovered. Sverre knelt beside the nearest. Martinez stepped forward, “Careful Sverre, they’ll be brittle. You don’t wanna snap them.”

 

Sverre gently moved the corpse and noticed an open wallet laying beneath; he brushed the ice from the top and studied the faded ID card. The name was Macready.

 

 

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Chapter 2: Chapter 2

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Chapter Two – Bears, Beer and Broken Machines

 

The progress bar seemed to be stuck on 95. Lewis was sure it had been there for the best part of an hour. So far it had taken an entire morning to simply install an operating system on a server. He was now in the midst of one of the most uninspiring parts of the server rebuild; setting up the built in RAID array. It was necessary to ensure that if any of the hard disks failed, there would be no loss of data or production. RAID Mirroring did the job perfectly but unfortunately took an age to set up on the gargantuan hard disks on this particular server. He let out a disconcerted sigh and flicked the KVM switch back to his own display. The display flickered as the progress bar disappeared and a chess board wavered into view. The computer had yet again managed to force him into a corner. He could see no means of escape from his predicament. It seemed that there was only one course of action available for him to save any last scrap of dignity. Lewis grabbed his mouse and clicked on the “X” in the corner of his screen to close down the chess program.

 

“Piece of crap”. He looked away in disgust and ran his fingers over his short dark hair. He was only on his sixth week as resident support engineer of the outpost and he was already starting to feel the walls closing in. He had worked in the IT field since leaving school, not eight weeks ago Lewis had decided that enough was enough; it was time for a career change. He had decided on enrolling into medical school and using his skill with technology to help others. His dream had been cut short with the announcement that his wife was expecting their first child. They had been trying for so long that it seemed that there was no hope of them ever conceiving, yet shortly after enrolling on his course in Nuclear Medicine, she had broken the wonderful news to him. Realising that they would need money quickly, he enrolled with an employment agency who had managed to organise a six month stint at an “off-shore installation”. Off-shore had been an understatement. He was now trapped in the freezing climate of the Antarctic, watching hourglasses on PC screens and shooing away the occasional penguin. He removed his wallet from his pocket and stroked the picture of his wife that was contained within.

 

His attention was drawn away from his private family moment by the harsh beep emanating from the server rack.

 

“No, no, no!”, Lewis spun on his chair to face his screen and switched back to the server. It had restarted. “Back to square one. Damn it!” He was going to have to work late. He rolled a frozen Burrito into the microwave and watched it slowly revolve on its turntable as he resigned himself to another evening with the enchanting company of the servers.

 

Outside the relative solitude of the server room, two figures moved down the long lonely corridor leading to the main complex. One was a short stocky man with a long bushy beard. He spun a set of keys around his index finger and occasionally made a clicking sound with his tongue. The other, much taller man turned to him and, with a look of pure agitation, placed his hand on the man’s chest. “Pollard. Seriously, do you have to keep doing that?” He growled in a deep bassy tone. His accent was a broken hybrid of American and Eastern European. It gave the impression that he was well travelled. It was hard to tell from his voice where he was from originally. In reality, he was from Norway. He and his brother, Sverre, were two of the most respected polar navigators in the business.

 

“Sorry, I just get nervous walking down this corridor. It gives me the creeps. I keep thinking that damn dog is planning to escape and eat me or something” Pollard shrugged and shoved his keys into his pocket, “Besides. It doesn’t help that you keep filling my head with your weird theories on aliens and ghosts. So you, Baldur the great storyteller, should stop freaking me out with tales of pixies that eat your heart and wear your skin as clothing or whatever it was.”

 

Baldur grinned mischievously. “But you react so well to them. I have never known anyone so gullible in my life”. He walked to the large dog cage that filled the left hand wall of the corridor and placed his fingers through the wire. A shadow crept into view and as Baldur wiggled his fingers it came closer to the wire. “Come on, you” he purred soothingly as the large gray Husky padded toward him and licked his fingers. Baldur pulled some beef jerky from his pocket and poked it through the wire. The dog took the strip of dried meat and padded back into the darkness with it.

 

“Bonding finished? Can we go now?” Pollard didn’t look amused.

 

“Guess so, looks like Lewis is in there for the duration.” He stood up straight and they made their way through the doorway into the main complex.

 

The helicopter lowered onto the landing strip kicking a fine mist of ice into the air on touchdown. Sverre and Martinez swung their legs out and slid onto the cold hard ground. They each took a side of the large flat stretcher containing the frozen cadavers and pulled it out of the side of the helicopter and onto the icy floor below. They ran into the main entrance and headed for the medical area. Martinez pointed down the long metallic cylindrical corridor, “There should be a few trolleys nearby; we can use one of them to carry the subjects into the lab.” Having found a large silver trolley they headed back outside to the helicopter site. As they loaded the stretcher onto the trolley Sverre noticed movement behind Martinez. A large imposing figure ambled through the mist toward the pair. “Martinez, behind you!” Sverre pointed.

 

“Wha…?” Martinez turned in time to see a large mouth and several razor sharp teeth only inches away from his face. “Shit!” He vaulted over the trolley and turned to fully face his attacker. The polar bear let out a roar of warning and rose onto its hind legs, towering above them. Sverre pulled his handgun from his pocket and fired it into the air. This sudden loud crack startled the bear and sent it ambling back into the mists of ice and the pair quickly wheeled the trolley into the safety of the complex.

 

“Damn Polar Bears. They get bolder every day” Martinez exclaimed as he kicked the snow from his boots.

 

“It’s not their natural habitat is it? They don’t know where they should be. Worse thing we ever did was relocate them.” Sverre commented as he removed several layered coats.

 

“Couldn’t just let them die out I guess but just dumping them here and leaving them to it seems a bit…”

 

“Irresponsible?” Sverre offered knowingly. He then pressed the talk button of the wall mounted tannoy system, “Navarro, this is Sverre. We have your mummies here. Where do you want them?”

 

A voice crackled over the tinny speaker, “Just pop them in the cooler, I’ll come take a look later”

 

Lewis was on his fourth burrito and subsequently his fourth attempt at installing the server that was quickly becoming his arch-nemesis when he was startled by a loud bang on the door of the server room. He leaned over to the comm system attached to the door, “go away”.

 

“You sure? I come bearing gifts!” came the voice of Sverre through the speaker.

 

“Oh yeah?”

 

“I have Vodka, crisps and movies”, Lewis looked up at the window only to see the large grinning face of Sverre as he stood there with bottles of beer, spirits, many bags of potato chips and a selection of DVDs under his arm.

 

Lewis flipped the catch of the door and as Sverre strode into the room, Lewis eyeballed the server, “There’s two of us now. Scared?“

 

Lewis caught a beer from Sverre, pulled the top off and leaned back in his chair. The evening just got a lot more interesting.

 

 

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Chapter 3: Chapter 3

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Chapter Three – The Body of Childs

The space cruiser punched through the Earth’s atmosphere leaving a thick black smoke trail in its wake. There was now no way of controlling it as it roared toward the surface of the planet, its engines roared with a sound akin to a primal scream. It left vapour trails as it pierced clouds and ploughed through the Earth’s relatively thick atmosphere. The three occupants of the vessel braced themselves for the inevitable impact. All three had been branded traitors to their race for violating the honour code of their home world in one way or another. They were not afraid; they would welcome death with open arms. Death was more favourable than their current sentence of a life without honour; a life of banishment on an alien planet. Their sentence was one of exile and forever being branded as “Bad Bloods”.

 

As the cruiser screamed through the atmosphere it began to further pick up speed and was at this point plummeting toward the surface at breakneck velocity. The surrounding area shook with the shockwave as the vessel finally pounded into the icy, desolate wasteland. The freezing winds lapped at the hot chassis of the craft causing steam to rise to the heavens, sparks flew and lights flickered on the ship’s mangled body. As the steam cleared, all that could be heard in the dead of the night was the cruel unrelenting Antarctic wind. The ship lay motionless for hours until shadows began to move on the inside.

 

Slowly the door started to open.

 

Navarro looked upon the now thawed body of MacReady with great interest. It was almost perfectly preserved. There were obvious signs of ice burns and the skin had started to break down but you would suspect that he had been dead less than 3 days rather than the thirty years it had actually been. His pale sullen face and closed sunken eyes suggested that although he died of exposure to the harsh elements, he died relatively peacefully. In short: Time had stood still for MacReady, his hand still clutching a bottle of whiskey which he must have been using to keep himself oblivious to the cold. The other body had been taken out of the cooler much later and as a result had only just begun to thaw. Navarro let his mind wander as he cleaned up MacReady’s corpse. The post-mortem had shown nothing unusual. He had simply stopped living and been preserved in an icy tomb for decades. This meant that their mission had been a success. The joint commission had been reluctant to allow further scientific tests in the area due to the unexplained deaths of a team from Norway and the disappearance of a team from America. They were concerned that some form of contagion might have been responsible for the loss of so many people. Giving Macready’s body the all-clear was encouraging. When the second body comes up clear the Commission will have no other option but to allow teams to take up permanent residence here again. Navarro relished the prospect of being permitted to lead expeditions to such an untapped archaeological location. “You mustn’t be far off ready, my friend.” he mused as he turned to look over the second body; it was still quite stiff, definitely still too cold for the post-mortem. In life, it had been a fairly broad shouldered male, his dark skin suggested that he was of African descent. Navarro placed his hands on the torso and noted that the clothing was now pliable. He slowly unzipped the body-warmer and looked for any passes or wallet to aid in identification, there was none, as he pulled slightly on the jacket he noted the embroidered name on the breast of the shirt. “Childs, eh? At least we know who you both are.” He covered the bodies with silver sheets, removed his gloves and made to leave the medical area, stopping only to glance back at his subjects and finally switch off the lights.

 

Darkness filled the room with only the light from the corridor creeping in through the gap between the door and the tiled floor. The silence was then broken by a slight but constant sound. Nobody was around to hear the repetitive dripping sound of the ice melting on the suddenly quickly thawing corpse of Childs. Had somebody been there, they might have noticed that Navarro had not properly covered the bodies and had left Child’s foot uncovered. It is pretty certain also that had somebody been in the room at the time, they also would have seen that uncovered foot twitch.

 

The recreation room was a very basic large cube shaped area with a few mismatched couches dotted around and dominated by a large metallic circular table. The room contained a few basic creature comforts. Navarro entered the recreation room and sat at the table. He glanced around at the others who had congregated there to wind down after their days work. Martinez, Baldur and Pollard all sat on a large squarish couch facing a wall painted brilliant white. The projector was currently in use and throwing a six foot high image of a large green monster chasing a screaming damsel against the wall. At the other side of the room, Kristanna was curled up on a smaller couch thoroughly engrossed in a battered old book, she looked over the top of the book and nodded, “Hi Doc”

 

“Hey, Krissy. What’s that you’ve got? Another one of your horror books? What is it this time, Blood sucking Vampires or evil zombie rabbits?”

 

Kristanna smiled, “Neither. Its one I found in the Library. I’ve only just started it but I’m already hooked”. Navarro shook his head, to him; bookish people were a certain way. Kristanna didn’t meet his stereotype. She was smart, attractive and was actually very interesting to talk to. She just loved books. Navarro wished that she gave him half the attention she gave her books. He’d fallen in love with her within the first month of working with her. He would have told her how he felt if it wasn’t for the fact that they got on so well. If she rejected him, things would probably become so awkward between them that they couldn’t work together. He didn’t want that at all so he had decided to settle for a close working relationship.

 

The server had crashed again but Lewis was way past caring. He and Sverre sat on the floor, cross-legged and watching their third movie of the evening. Lewis took a valiant swig from the vodka bottle, grimaced and passed it to Sverre; who, without looking away from the screen, took the bottle and added some into his glass. The glass now contained beer, schnapps, vodka and a small amount of Ethanol they had found in the cleaning cupboard. It was evident that Sverre was now extremely drunk. His speech was slurred, he had developed a squint and now sported a rather attractive pair of bunny ears that he had found in one of the desks. Lewis opened yet another beer bottle and held it aloft, “Did I tell you, I’m gonna be a daddy?”

 

Sverre clanged his glass against the bottle and cheered drunkenly, “I know. I know; you must be so proud. I know when I had my first; I was so happy that I could have burst.” Sverre suddenly looked uneasy.

 

“You alright mate?”

 

Sverre banged at his chest frantically, his eyes bulging. Lewis slapped him hard on his back and Sverre release a loud, resonating belch that took Lewis by surprise and the two fell about in fits of laughter. Lewis looked up at the server screens. A light was flashing, one that never usually does. It was the proximity alarm. Lewis struggled to his feet and made for the tannoy system. “Hey, proximity’s going off. Anybody working on the doors?”

 

The speaker crackled into life, “This is Navarro, we’re all in recreation. We’re missing Sverre. Is he with you?”

 

Lewis looked down at Sverre's now snoring form, “Yeah, kinda.”

 

“Ok, Can you check on Akira? She might have gotten out of her cage again. I’ll check the doors.”

 

“’Kay”, Lewis stepped over the sleeping Sverre and wandered down the corridor to the dog cage. Akira was curled up sleeping in one corner of the cage. Lewis’ presence caused her to stir slightly and through heavy blinks she stared at him for a short time. Realizing that she was in no danger, The gray husky stretched her mouth wide into a yawn and settled back to sleep.

 

Navarro walked to the main entryway and immediately felt the chilling breeze that whipped through the door that now hung loosely from its hinges. He pulled a fire axe from the wall and walked to the door, pushing it closed with his foot while jamming the fire axe between the handles to keep it closed. Had something tried to get in? Had something successfully gotten in? The polar bears were coming closer and closer to the camp but would they be capable of bringing the thick steel door down? He looked up the corridor to the dog cage, he could see Lewis watching Akira sleep. He  turned to face the medical section’s corridor and froze. The lab door was swinging. Something had gotten into the  labs. Had it harmed the bodies? He had to be sure. Navarro gingerly walked down the dark corridor toward the lab room. He peered into the room. There was nothing in there. What had caused so much damage? A bear would have ransacked the place for food. Everything in the room was intact. He could see the outline of MacReady’s body in the shadows. He turned to flick the overhead lights on. As the room filled with light, a grim realisation grasped him.

 

Child’s body was missing.

 

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Chapter 4: Chapter 4

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Chapter Four – Seeing Ghosts

 

The third consecutive sweep of the immediate area surrounding the outpost had proved equally as fruitless as the previous two. The body was nowhere to be seen. It was by no means fresh meat so the polar bears would not have considered it food, besides; the body of MacReady had been closer to the door than Childs’. The team now stood in the lab where the body was last seen, each as confused as the other.

 

“It’s got to be bears”, exclaimed Martinez with a hopeful tone.

 

Navarro shook his head dismissively, “No, bears wouldn’t have taken a lump of half frozen rotted meat. No matter how hungry they were”

 

“I think they’re either really hungry or pissed off about something. One of them went for me just outside the door earlier today. If Sverre hadn’t…” Martinez’s rant was cut short as Sverre stepped into the conversation.

 

“It did but I don’t think a bear is the culprit on this one.”

 

Martinez looked spooked; he headed to the damaged lab door and pointed excitedly, “Look at the fucking claw marks! It’s either a bear or one angry penguin! Face it. Something has gotten in here and dragged out the body like some sort of take-out meal!”

 

Sverre examined the marks on the door and muttered under his breath. “Except the door was forced from inside.”

 

“What?”

 

“Whatever did the clawing; clawed its way out. Not in. Besides, the door is hanging out. If something had broken in, the door would have been inside the room.”

 

Navarro shuddered, “He’s right. So something might have been in here with me tonight. Waiting?”

 

Sverre raised his eyebrows to acknowledge the grim fact. “Looks like it.”

 

Navarro shuddered again, “Why are there no drag marks in the snow? A body is large and heavy, especially a dead one.”

 

In the server room, Lewis stood staring in horror at the small screen in front of him. The colour had drained from his face. Could his eyes be playing tricks on him? His hand shakily pressed the call button on the tannoy system.

 

“Navarro, I think I’ve found something on the CCTV.”

 

The speaker emitted a few crackles followed by Navarro’s voice, “What is it?”

 

Lewis looked at the image on the tape again. He had to be sure. He did have a lot to drink earlier but this sight was enough to sober any man. “Its best if you just come take a look.”

 

In the lab, the others glanced at each other quizzically. Navarro took a deep breath, shook his head and rekeyed the communicator, “Okay, I’m on my way”

 

The three former occupants of the now derelict space cruiser stood a little away from the crash site. All three were now surveying the landscape looking for some form of retreat from the blizzard. The thermal netting around their torsos was insufficient to protect them from the cold for any serious length of time. There seemed to be no sign of life in this desolate wasteland, no chance of a sanctuary from the cold. Little chance of survival. As part of their punishment they had been stripped of their advanced weaponry and now had to rely on their spears and their wristblades. It appeared that they would have little use for either.

 

The creatures trudged through the frozen desert in a random direction hoping that if they could not find shelter, death would quickly find them. On their home world, they had identities, they had lives. They had names. The tallest creature, clearly the oldest of the three, was a former soldier. His visor was worn and cracked in places and bore marks where claws had scratched and acid had burnt. Back home he had disobeyed orders to retreat from battle and instead returned to rescue his fallen friend. Tra’Bir had served his people. And now they condemned him.

 

Bok’Tof was once a simple hunting clansman, he travelled the known galaxies in search of big game. On his last hunt he had been incompetent, one of the creatures, known as the kainde amedha or “hard meat”, had managed to stow away on his craft and survive the journey to the home world where it had killed many unarmed clansmen before being subdued and destroyed by the hunters.

 

The smallest of the three, known as Ramnah, had not even earned the mark of his clan. On his first hunt he was hunting a humanoid soft meat race. They were heavily reliant on their primitive technology and their futile attempt at defending themselves was easily neutralized. He had engaged one particular target and seconds before claiming his prize with his wristblade, the youngling of the prey had run to the aid of its parent and was noticeably pleading for Ramnah to show mercy. He had been reminded of his father and had been distracted long enough for the soft meats to make their escape.

 

Tra’Bir stopped in his tracks. He was receiving heat signatures on his infra red vision. Through the mists of ice and snow, a figure appeared silhouetted. As it came closer to the hunters; the mass split into four. The four polar bears were fleeing something. The hunters could tell their motion was that of quarry fleeing a predator. These beasts had run in the wrong direction. The three hunters would now have sufficient animal pelt to make warm cloaks. As the bears lifted onto their rear legs defensively the hunters extended their wristblades and moved in for the kill.

 

Navarro stared at the grainy image that jumped and flickered on the small screen. It was an outside view of the main doors. He watched as the door on the screen lurched open. He drew closer to the screen as a dark figure ambled from the darkness into view. The image was grainy and low resolution. The cameras were very basic. They needed to be to cope with the inhospitable climate outside. The more features a device had, the more could go wrong. Even though the image wasn’t clear, it was obvious what he was looking at. It was Childs.

 

“What the fuck?” Navarro muttered as he stared at the image moving slowly across the screen. It was without doubt the body he was looking at mere hours ago. It looked like a man but the way it moved, the way it held itself up seemed.

 

Alien.

 

Lewis forced a laugh. Unfortunately due to the sick feeling in his throat it came as only a whimper, “This is your guy? I thought he was dead.”

 

Navarro looked away from the screen and towards Lewis. His face pale and gravely serious, “He was. There is no way he could have survived all that time in the ice. He was frozen solid.”

 

Pollard pointed to the screen, “Woah, woah! There! What’s he holding?”

 

Lewis paused the screen, “What the hell is that?”, he was pointing at a grotesque appendage that swung at the side of the image, like an elongated trunk with jagged claws at the end.

 

Navarro inspected the image closer, “Judging by the marks on the door and by the apparent absence of the limb in that area. I think that’s his arm”

 

Sverre folded his arms and placed his fist in front of his mouth, “What on Earth are we looking at here? I sure don’t believe in zombies but this thing was definitely dead when we pulled it from the ice.”

 

Navarro pulled his PDA from his pocket, “We’ve got a remote unit scouting the general area where the bodies were found. We seem to have found a large mass only a few hundred clicks away. We think it might have been the Norwegian base camp. We might get some answers there.”

 

Sverre raised his hand, “I’ll go. Anything’s better than sitting here letting our minds wander over this. I’ll take a team and we’ll look over the site. See if we can get some answers. We’ll take a look for our new friend too. Find out where he’s going.”

 

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Chapter 5: Chapter 5

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Chapter Five – The First Assimilation

 

The hunters showed little interest in the last remaining, much smaller bear as it disappeared into the mist, they carefully removed the skins from the three dead bears that lay in the ice, cutting holes in certain places and fashioning them into cloaks. The ice was stained deep red from the pool of blood that slowly melted it with its warmth. Fear gave the remaining polar bear the energy to burst into a sprint to escape the creatures that had slaughtered his brothers. He was badly injured and too weak to defend himself but he knew that if he stayed he would surely die.

 

The bear needed to find its way back to the remainder of its family; to heal its wounds and warn of the approaching aggressors. As the adrenaline wore off, the bear started to slow, its wounds and profound blood loss sapping its very strength. As it slowed to a trot, it could smell something new. It could smell man. A meal would help keep its strength up for the journey home. As the bear followed the scent, it happened upon a still figure lying in the distance. The bear cautiously made its way toward its intended meal.

 

The alien lay motionless on the icy ground with its strength all but gone. It had been lying dormant for years waiting for its current host to be reanimated or to be brought closer to new hosts. It had not yet received the opportunity to assimilate another form, it was still too weak to reveal its true self in an attempt to take over another. Its previous victims all those years ago had been insistent on cutting it open; it was in no doubt that these new ones would wish to do the same. It was not yet strong enough to defend itself against multiple beings so the best chance of survival was to leave the warm place and find a stray to assimilate. It could wait. It had just waited for decades, before that it had lay dormant for millions of years. As it lay there it could sense a heartbeat; a warm, strong heartbeat. It was getting closer. The alien let its mind wash over the atmosphere and try to enter the creature’s thoughts. The creature had been attacked. It was weak. The alien knew that with this new beast that was coming ever closer came the chance to regain its strength. A chance to take the form of those beings that embraced technology. Scanning the minds of its previous hosts it had learned something of a place called a City. Many beings co-existing in close proximity. It would be so easy to replicate and continue its species in such a place.

 

The bear came closer and started to nudge the body with its shiny black nose. Its prey was obviously too weak to defend itself. It would eat well. The bear opened its mouth and sank its teeth into the throat of the prone body. As the teeth pierced the flesh the body started to convulse. The bear pulled a large chunk out of the throat and stepped back in surprise as the figure started to violently spasm. The bear roared and leapt toward the body as its chest split in two and long strands of sinew shot forth and wrapped around the bears neck. With extremely violent force the bear’s head was forced into the chest cavity of the alien and the bear let out a final muffled yelp. The bear fell limp and silent as the thick strands of flesh wrapped themselves around its white furry form and pulled it closer.

 

The helicopter had been fuelled and was prepped and ready to go, Sverre and Martinez climbed up into the cockpit and Baldur lifted Akira into the back then climbed in himself. The rotors picked up speed and slowly the helicopter lifted off the ground and headed off towards the location given to them by Navarro. They thundered over the frozen surface, over snowy dunes and crevices and finally over a single polar bear that watched them intently as they hovered into the distance and began to descend. Slowly, the bear turned and started to walk toward the landing site.

 

Kristanna sat on the worktop in the research lab. She casually swung her legs back and forth while reading her book. Navarro was placing Macready’s body into an extra thick bodybag in preparation for placing it into the freezer. He wasn’t going to take the chance of this one suddenly getting up and walking. He was momentarily distracted as Kristanna flicked her hair and pushed it behind her ear. He stopped for a moment and just watched her read. She obviously found escapism from reading her stories. He felt words come to the tip of his tongue. All he needed to do was open his mouth and she would know how he felt about her. With great restraint he forced the words back down into his stomach. ‘Stupid. Stupid.’ He thought to himself. ‘I’m a highly trained biologist and qualified Doctor of Medicine and around her I become as articulate as a fourteen year old.’ He shook the thoughts from his head and busied himself with securing the body. Kristanna looked over her book and watched Navarro work for a short time. She liked him; he was really the only one who gave her the time of day when she was first posted at the installation. Without doubt he was the only one she could actually count as a friend. Sure, the others were friendly but he was there when she needed cheering up.

 

Kristanna placed her book down onto the worktop and slid herself off, “I’m going to grab some coffee. Fancy some?”

 

Navarro placed the final lock on the bodybag and slammed it onto the freezer. “Please. White; no sugar.”

 

Pollard sat in the recreation area with the couch facing the door. He had been sat there since the team left for the Norwegian site and not moved a muscle. Lewis walked into the room. “Dude, you’ve been sat there ages. You’re going to be stuck there if you carry on.”

 

“I’m not moving I want my eyes on that door in case that thing comes for me.”

 

“That’s all good and well but you’re missing one thing.”

 

Pollard’s eyes narrowed, “What? What am I missing?”

 

Lewis laughed, “It could just as easily come through the window behind you. Sweet dreams.”

 

Pollard whimpered and moved the sofa into the corner to face into the room. Lewis grabbed a few beers from the refrigerator and headed back to his bunk. He flicked on his floor heater and climbed onto his bed. He twisted the cap off of one of the beers and fished his wallet out of his back pocket and immediately opened it to the picture of a happy young couple embracing on a beach. It was the only picture he had brought of his wife. They had it taken on one of their monthly trips to the coast. He could not remember a happier time than when he was with her. He stroked the image of her face and brushed a single lazy tear from his eye before switching his desk lamp off, switching the radio on and allowing himself to fade away with the music.

 

The three hunters watched the light go out in the complex and listened with interest to the sounds that were being emitted from the room. Bok’Tof activated his wristcomp’s locator and found that the sound was being received as part of a radio transmission. He set the locator to track the frequency and playback. As the static faded, the music Lewis was listening to began to play in Bok’Tof’s helmet. Having determined that it was a Human language, he activated his translator. The broadcast seemed to be describing the actions of an unknown party. Bok’Tof increased the volume and listened intently to the translation:

 

“All the leaves are brown.”

 

Heat signatures increased as other entities entered the area containing the audio source

 

“And the sky is gray.”

 

Lights went out in most areas of the complex. The inhabitants of the building must have been preparing to sleep.

 

“I went for a walk”

 

A final cluster of lights at the far end of the complex remained on. Bok’Tof gestured to the others. There must be a few remaining in that area. They should move now and neutralize them and take this shelter as their own.

 

“On a winter’s day”

 

Bok’Tof switched off the radio broadcast. It was some pointless repetition of words along with a melody; a nonsensical message. He clicked his mandibles with agitation. Finally the three hunters made their way around the complex to investigate the source of the lights.

 

Kristanna and Navarro sat across from each other in the lab area nursing their hot cups of coffee and generally putting the world to rights. “So, Krissy; how are you finding it here? Not too boring I hope.” Navarro mentally kicked himself ‘damn. What kind of stupid question was that?’

 

Kristanna took a sip from her coffee and placed it on the table beside her, “It’s quite good. I’m able to discover more about this region, more about myself and there’s always lots of time to get through my piles of reports and papers.”

 

Navarro smiled, “There’s not much going on here though. It’s a good job you are into books. Not much exciting happens in reality.”

 

“I wouldn’t say that. I use books as a distraction really. Keep my mind off things”

 

“What things?”

 

Kristanna blushed and looked away. “Just, things.”

 

Shadows moved outside the window as the hunters moved in.

 

“You can’t leave it there. What things?”

 

Kristianna looked to Navarro and blushed even more, “Well I… Ah.. The thing is…”, she became flustered and went silent.

 

Navarro’s heart skipped a beat. Was he reading this conversation properly? Were his feelings reciprocated? He leant towards Kristanna and placed his hand on hers. “I have a thing too.”

 

The hunters stood on the roof watching the scene unfurl below, waiting for their moment to strike.

 

She smiled and bit at her lip, “Really? And what’s your thing?” she asked in a hopeful voice

 

He looked up to the ceiling looking for inspiration from above, “Krissy. Thing is. I…” Navarro stopped his words and his eyes widened as a pair of green eyes flashed in the vent above them. He looked into Kristanna’s eyes pleadingly and mouthed a single word to her. She watched as his mouth formed a single command. He had told her to run. The vent in the ceiling shattered as a large armoured figure dropped to the floor. Navarro ran back to the mortuary table and grabbed the cleaver, As the creature turned to face Kristanna Navarro leapt forward, "Not her, you son of a bitch". Navarro's feet hardly left the ground before he felt a sharp pain in his abdomen as the creature impaled him with a large metallic spear. With his final breath, Navarro reissued his final order to Kristanna, "Run!"

 

Kristanna grabbed a handful of scalpels and threw one toward the creature, it stuck in its arm. The creature roared with contempt and tore the scalpel from its arm. As it began to advance towards her, Kristanna leapt to her feet and ran as fast as her legs would allow. She sprinted toward the recreation block where Pollard had been. As she burst into the room she found herself alone there. Without stopping she continued to run into the residential area containing the bunks, she could hear heavy footfalls getting louder and louder. They were chasing her and they were gaining. As she turned the corner she felt a spear skim past her head as it lodged into the wall beside her. She dived through the door and engaged all the dead bolts. The door was at least six inches thick. They would be safe in there for now.

 

Lewis woke with a start. “Krissy, what the fuck?”

 

She sat on the edge of Lewis’ bed and buried her head into her hands, “There are these things outside the door”

 

Pollard’s eyes widened again, “like that body we found?”

 

“No these things are different. I didn’t get a good look but they’re much bigger.”

 

“Oh shit. Damn! What do we do?”

 

Lewis sat up in bed, “Right, we wait here until we can get in touch with Navarro. He knows how to move around here using the ceiling structure and the like. He’ll know what to do.”

 

Tears welled in Kirstanna’s eyes, “Navarro is dead.”

 

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Chapter 6: Chapter 6

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Chapter Six - Shapes in the Ice

 

Akira sat watching the lasers burn into the ice. As they cut deeper, the steam slowly started to rise. A criss-cross pattern was etched into the ground and the resulting water and sludge was pumped out into a large container. They had found something. It wasn't a building but was instead, large metallic object around a mile across. They had located the dead centre and a deep probe drill had confirmed the existence of some manner of door or hatch. Sverre had offered the suggestion that it was an old submarine that had been lost during one of the many wars. Baldur would hear nothing other than it being a giant tripod killing machine hell-bent on destroying humanity. Martinez just wanted to go back. He had a bad feeling about this place and suspected that Baldur's outlandish theory wasn't far wrong. Before long the ice surrounding the hatchway had been melted away and it was safe to take a closer look. Martinez offered to guard the helicopter while Sverre and Baldur explored their find.

As they made their way through the hatchway the brothers realised that this vessel was no submarine, in fact, they doubted very much that this giant craft had been crafted by human hands. There were symbols on the walls that looked completely alien, there was no man made language known on the Earth that had such imagery. The ceilings were extremely low indicating that the inhabitants of this place were no larger than five feet tall. As they descended into the bowels of the craft, it became much more alien; the most unsettling thing being the floor lights that were still functioning. As they reached the very bottom of the craft they discovered a room containing several giant rectangular cases. Sverre pulled his crowbar out of his backpack and prised the nearest case open. Contained within was an equally large rectangular block of ice covered in a thin layer of frost. Sverre leaned forward and removed the covering of frost with his glove. What he saw made him jump with fright. "Oh shit!" he cried, "Baldur, take a look at this!" Baldur leaned over and peered into the container. Trapped in the centre of the ice was a creature; approximately five feet tall with electric blue strands of snake like hair; its face merely a skull thinly covered with dark grey skin. Its three eyes were an angry deep crimson that seemed to reflect pure hate and rage. Baldur tapped the top of the block, "Ugly fucker. Let's get out of here. There are no answers here and this place gives me the creeps."

 

"No. We can't leave this. It's a significant find. You take a few pictures of the ship's interior. Pass me the hand cutter, we're taking this freak show on the road", Sverre took the hand laser from Baldur and began to cut through the ice block.

 

Martinez sat on the side of the helicopter nursing his hip flask. Of all the places in the world he could be, he was sat on a giant clump of ice at the end of the Earth. He would rather be where he was than down in the belly of that... Thing. It always surprised Martinez how Sverre could be so nonchalant when faced with something so eerie. He put it down to having a lunatic like Baldur as a brother. That would pretty much mess your head up for life. He shook his head and took a swig from his flask. Akira started growling and barking at the now aggressive mists of ice and snow.

"Barking at ghosts little girl? You're spending too much time on your own". Martinez reached down to stroke Akira's bristling fur but as his fingertips touched her back she bolted into the mists growling and snarling at very air around her. "Damn it you stupid mutt! Get back here!" Martinez cursed as he jumped to his feet and wandered after the dog. He hadn't travelled far when he saw Akira stood facing away from him. She was sniffing the air as if looking for the source of all her troubles.

"Hey girl, come here." Martinez called in soothing tones. Akira turned and started walking toward him as he held his hand out to beckon her. "Come on. You scared the shit out of me."

 

At that point Akira froze. The hair on her back raised, her teeth bared and her mouth twisted into a snarl. Martinez stepped back in shock. "What the fuck is wrong with you? It's me!" Akira wasn't listening as she stood firm, her growl almost constant now. Martinez looked into her eyes. She was afraid. He then realised that she wasn't looking at him, she was looking over his shoulder. As he turned slowly to face the cause of Akira's distress he felt a sharp pain in his side as a large paw knocked him to the ground causing him to hit his head hard on an outcrop of ice. As the darkness started to close in around him he heard a sickening tearing sound shortly followed by a dog's yelp.

The hunters made their final preparations and headed back outside. They had secured sufficient human technology to rig together heating equipment and slightly primitive plasmacasters. They no longer had any need for this human habitation. They had decided to allow the humans that remained there to live, they could return later to hunt them if they ever became bored. Tra'Bir stood at the entrance, his giant frame almost filling it. He gestured to the others that it was time to leave and the three filed out of the complex and headed into the bleak Antarctic mists.

Lewis paced back and forth in the heavily barricaded bunk room. "We are so fucked. We can't stay in here for long, there's no food and no water and I'm pretty sure if those, whatever they are, want to come in here, they'll find a way." Kristanna breathed a heavy sigh and gazed out of the window. At that moment her heart jumped as she saw their chance at survival.

"Look." She pointed excitedly at the three figures in the distance, "they're leaving!" Pollard pushed in front of the second smaller window.

 

"Where are they going?"

 

Lewis started to remove the barricade, "I don't care. While they're gone we can get supplies or maybe even get in touch with the away team and get that chopper back. Kristanna's face filled with hope, "Escape."

 

Pollard, Kristanna and Lewis all hurriedly pulled the heavy furniture away from the thick steel door and rushed to pull it open. The outside corridor was dark, cold and grim. The air was icy and sharp. The cold pierced their skin and chilled them to the bone.

"The generator's offline," Pollard cursed. "We're gonna freeze if we don't get that back up and running."

Lewis spun to face the other two. "I bet that's why they left. They came in from the cold. As soon as it got cold in here they abandoned."

 

Kristanna wasn't convinced. "What if they come back? They've already. That is. They, took Navarro. They might be waiting for us to come out. They might have laid traps."

 

"That's a chance I personally am willing to take. If you guys want to stay in there I'll bring you supplies but I get the feeling they've either changed their minds about us or got what they wanted."

 

Pollard and Kristanna looked at Lewis' determined expression and decided to take the chance.

 

Sverre climbed the rope ladder to the surface with great difficulty. Not only was the rope made slippery by the melting ice surrounding it but also the weight of the block of ice that was now strapped to his back was sapping his upper body strength with every rung he climbed. Baldur now stood on the surface helping to bear the weight by hoisting Sverre with a separate rope.

"Man you need to lose some weight. You might wanna reconsider the evenings of Burritos and beer you spend with Lewis. And maybe learn to love salads." Sverre reached the top of the ladder and crawled onto the icy floor. He caught his breath as his brother helped him back to his feet.

 

"Firstly, I'm the same weight as when we got here and second, I'd rather die than love salads."

 

"Are you guys ready? The weather is taking a turn for the worse so we should think about heading back." Sat in the side of the helicopter was Martinez, Akira padded up to Baldur and began to nuzzle his hand.

"Missed me, have you?" He crouched down ruffled the dog's fur, "lets get back, the others will love to see what we have found." Akira regarded the occupant of Sverre's ice block with a certain degree of interest as he slid it into the back of the helicopter and the team headed back to the outpost.

 

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Chapter 7: Chapter 7

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Chapter Seven – Subversion

 

The wreckage of the space cruiser had now been lifted out of the crater and sat level with the ground. It’s buckled chassis now serving as the hunters’ temporary home. While the weather outside was harsh and unforgiving, the temperature within the craft was now much more bearable. The cold fusion reactor was back online and the ship’s guidance systems and life support were running at full operational capacity. Bok’Tof sat at the main controls and gazed out into the frozen wasteland outside. It was obvious that they would not be able to escape their predicament. They were trapped on the planet with no effective means of interstellar transport. The ship might, however, be able to be repaired enough to relocate them to warmer climes. Bok’Tof thought back to the lush arid landscape of the place of his first hunt. Anger welled inside him as he dwelled on his exile to such a cold, soulless void. There must be more life than the paltry soft meat and toothed carpets they had encountered thus far. He eyed the entity scanner on the dashboard, willing it to find an answer. He shook his head and started to turn away when suddenly the scanner emitted an excited beep and started flashing reams of data on screen. In his own language, the screen was filled with red characters. The characters read:

 

LIFE SIGNATURE FOUND. CELLULAR IDENTIFICATION COMPLETE…

 

WARNING: TYPE 5 CELLULAR FORM DETECTED – ZONE CONSIDERED CONTAMINATED

 

Bok’Tof tilted his head in wry interest. He punched up the details for a type 5. He felt a mix of fear and excitement grip him as further data filled the screen. As an infant he had heard the stories of a species that lived millions of years ago; a species so evil and so centred on its own progression that every individual pore, cell and sinew would fight for its own survival if necessary. This was a race of beings that took on the form of their vanquished opponents in order to blend in and slowly take over relatively unnoticed. The stories told of these things laying waste to hoards of the Kainde Amedha and almost wiping out the then primitive Yautja.

 

Bok’Tof charged his plasmacaster, stowed his spear in his armour, crept away from the others and made his way toward the source of the signal.

 

He clicked his mandibles in excitement at the thought of claiming one as a trophy.

 

He was going to hunt the Changeling.

 

“Outpost this is Sverre, we’re on our way back. We will report our findings on arrival.”

 

Lewis grabbed the mic; “Sverre. How far off are you?”

 

“ETA in eight minutes. I was expecting regular contact with you, has there been a problem with the comms?”

 

“No, we ran into a little trouble of our own. I’ll explain more when you land. Pollard says he’ll meet you at the doors, over.”

 

The helicopter thundered over the perimeter fence of the outpost and finally came to rest on the landing pad and the team unloaded their new cargo and carried it into the building. Once inside, Pollard was there to greet them. He looked pale as a ghost and shakily held a portable flame thrower at his side.

 

Sverre’s smile dropped into a concerned frown, “What’s happened?”

 

“We had an encounter with some sort of beings.”

 

“Has the other body…”

 

“It wasn’t one of those. It was something else.”

 

“Oh Jeez. What now?”

 

“Krissy said they were huge and wore some sort of armour. They used weapons and. Oh man. Navarro’s gone”

 

“They took him?”

 

Pollard shook his head, “They killed him. We managed to get images from the CCTV but they leave us clueless as to their origin. One thing’s for certain though; they don’t look human.”

 

Baldur, Martinez and Sverre manhandled the ice block onto a nearby trolley. Sverre turned to face Pollard, “I guess you don’t want to see our little find, then?”

 

Pollard stared down at the deep red eyes in the ice, “What the hell is that? This is the third piece of weird shit we’ve seen so far. Navarro’s gone so we have nobody to examine it so we should just burn it.”

 

Martinez jumped forward, “No! We need to keep it here. I mean; I doubt its going to wake up and kill us. Look at it.”

 

Pollard turned on Martinez, “Yeah? You would have thought that about a body trapped in ice for decades. What did it do? It came alive, grew a weird arm thing and clawed its way outside. Burn the fucker.”

 

Sverre waved his hands dismissively, “Look, while it’s frozen it is trapped. Dead or alive; it’s going nowhere. Let’s stick it in the freezer and discuss this later.”

 

Despite protests from Pollard, Sverre pushed the trolley into the lab area, slid the ice block into the freezer and slammed the door shut. “There, safe and sound.”

 

Pollard forced a fake smile, “Which, it or us?”

 

They closed the newly repaired lab door and made their way into the recreation area where the rest of the team sat in stony silence, the reality of their loss had fallen upon them and all sat in a collective daze, unsure of the proper reaction. Akira lay under the pool table watching the red glow of the large storage heater at the other end of the room. Pollard stared at Kristanna for a spell then broke the silence. “We’re sat here just waiting for those fuckers to come back. We need to be ready for them.”

 

Lewis leant forward to meet Pollard’s eyes, “Which fuckers? So far I count two, not including the polar bears and the freaky popsicle in the freezer.” He glanced around to the others, “Pollard is right though. We could at least have regular patrols of the main points of entry and the occasional review of the security tapes. Those not on watch can get some shut-eye”

 

Kristanna shook her head “Good idea, but I doubt I’ll ever sleep again. Mind if I take first watch?”

 

Lewis shrugged indifference “All yours, if you want it. Take the flamer in case you get bear trouble.”

 

She stood, prised the flame thrower from Pollard’s grip and headed out into the corridor. Baldur stood and suppressed a yawn “I’ll take next watch. Bed, I think. Get Krissy to wake me when she gets back. Better lock you up girl. C’mon”. Akira crawled out from under the table and padded past Baldur and out of the room toward the kennel cage. Baldur followed the dog and started to close the cage behind her. She turned and poked her nose through the wire and whimpered softly. Her big black eyes stared imploringly into Baldur’s. He instantly melted, “I guess today’s spooked you too, eh? I guess it’ll be ok if you came in with me for tonight.” He opened the cage and tapped his thigh. Akira padded happily to his side and followed him into the sleeping quarters and curled up at the end of his bed. “G’night girl.” Baldur slid into bed and turned off the bedside lamp. The room was filled with darkness as he drifted off to sleep.

 

Kristanna stood at the junction between the server area and the medical labs. She placed the flamethrower onto a nearby worktop and rubbed her eyes wearily. She was certain that she could not sleep but her body was slowly shutting down due to the exhaustion from the day’s events. She had been wandering the corridors for the best part of four hours. Her mind kept replaying that moment in the lab. She could still see Navarro’s face; his command for her to run; his assailants pursuing her. And where were they now? Why had they left when they did? As she struggled with the answers to those questions she glanced around the junction looking for something other than those haunting thoughts to occupy her mind. As she turned to face the med lab her heart skipped a beat and a wave of panic washed over her like a tsunami. There was a dark figure near the labs. She reached back and grabbed the flame thrower and cautiously paced down toward the entity. As she grew closer she reached out to the wall and hurriedly flicked on the overhead lights. The figure jumped back in surprise. It was Pollard.

 

“Oh Jeez, Krissy. You scared the shit out of me!”

 

“Pollard, what the hell are you doing creeping around here? I almost toasted you!”

 

“I-I couldn’t rest without checking that the thing in the ice was still there. Whenever I close my eyes I see its dark red eyes. It’s like its watching me, but from my own brain. Does that sound crazy?”

 

Kristanna shook her head “No, it sounds like it’s got you spooked. We’re all like that. Just sit tight, The atmosphere will clear up tomorrow and we can radio for help. Lets head back to the rec room. I could do with a good coffee.”

 

Pollard’s face relaxed, “Remember where we are. We’re still on the Outpost, you know. There’s only shit coffee here.”

 

“I’ll take a shit coffee then. Come on.”

 

As their voices and footsteps disappeared; a figure rounded the corner. The lab door opened. The figure moved slowly to the freezers and looked through each view window until it had found the ice block. Then; without hesitation; it twisted the dial to the “off” position and returned to the sleeping quarters.

 

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Chapter 8: Chapter 8

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Chapter Eight – Caged

 

The blizzard had almost covered the stricken craft with its icy curtain. The temperatures outside were plummeting quickly. Inside, Tra’Bir entered the cockpit of the craft and sat at the co-pilot seat. He was followed by Ramnah who prised open a locker behind the navigation console and pulled several packs of emergency rations from within. Tra’Bir tried to ignore the noise as he contemplated the circumstances surrounding their exile and Bad Blood status. There was absolutely no way that clan law would require their exile for their transgressions.

 

For disobeying commands in order to rescue his comrade; he had been expecting a court marshal and eventual demotion to warrior status. Ramnah had shown compassion to his quarry, surely he would have been made to face an extended blooding trial to instil the ways of the hunter within him? Even Bok’Tof’s negligence would only qualify him for farming labour on one of the outworld penal colonies. Even though the three Yautja had never before met, their trials had been held simultaneously. Their sentencing had also come as a surprise to the council of Elders who had left the punishment in the hands of Maknah, the clan high priest. Although the punishment was overly harsh, it was not acceptable to question the high priest. Tra’Bir paused for a moment; an eerie sense of foreboding entered him. He slowly spun the chair to face his comrade. “Ramnah, have you seen Bok’Tof?”

 

Ramnah stood, peered into the sleeping section of the craft and then returned. “Bok’Tof is not here. His spear is also missing”

 

Tra’Bir turned to face the cockpit again. Bok’Tof’s actions were confusing. This landscape was desolate. The only quarry in the vicinity was the white beasts and the paltry tribe of soft meat they had encountered earlier. He reached for and activated the scanner in an attempt to locate his missing comrade. As the screen flickered into life, a string of text scrolled across the centre of the screen advising that a proximity search had not yet been closed down. Tra’Bir activated the current search hoping to see Bok’Tof’s location. Instead he was greeted with an entity identification screen advising the existence of another life form in close proximity to the craft. A Type 5 had been located near the soft meat compound. Tra’Bir closely regarded the details of the creature classification. He hoped that the scanner was mistaken. “Ramnah, Access the information system and locate known type 5 species. I fear that Bok’Tof is in trouble.”

 

The plane taxied from the landing strip and toward the arrivals section. As it came to a stop Lewis stood and pulled his bag from the overhead locker. He wearily made his way down the aircraft steps and boarded the shuttle bus to the terminal. As the bus drew closer to the terminal he could see her, she had come to meet him regardless of being heavily pregnant; she had come. He fought down the lump in his throat and leapt from the bus. He ran towards her outstretched arms and was within an inch of embracing her when the lights in the terminal faded to a deep crimson hue. Everyone disappeared, leaving Lewis alone in the terminal. A heartbeat thumped hard in his ears as he wandered the deserted corridors. Just then he spotted her; she now sat at the end of a row of seats cradling a child. Lewis started to run toward her “We need to go! It’s not safe here! Something’s not right!” His wife looked up at him with terror on her face then disappeared leaving the tightly wrapped babe in Lewis’ arms. He looked down at the sleeping infant and pulled away the sheet to view its face. Everything around him went pitch black as the baby disappeared. Just then he could feel something behind him. He slowly turned only to face the three deep red, hate filled eyes as they darted toward him with a primal screech.

 

At this, Lewis woke with a start. This had been the third nightmare that night. Each one had involved that monstrosity in the ice. He swung his legs over the bed and sat up, cradling his head in his hands and sobbing quietly. Opposite him, Sverre woke with a start. He sat bolt upright in bed.

 

“Fuck! wha? Gah! Ah. Lewis.” Sverre clutched at his chest, “I just had the weirdest dream, man.”

 

“Did it have anything to do with that imp thing in the ice?”

 

Sverre’s face had drained of colour, “Yes. The damn thing has gotten into my head.”

 

Lewis stumbled to his feet and struggled with his pants, “Come on. Let’s grab a coffee. I think we’ve both slept enough”

 

As they entered the recreation room they noted that everyone else was also fully awake and sat around on the large couches that adorned the room. Kristanna twisted round to face the newcomers. “Hey, welcome to insomniacs anonymous.”

 

Lewis grabbed the coffee pot, poured one for Sverre and one for himself, “You guys not been to bed yet?”

 

Pollard rubbed his face anxiously, “Course we have. It seems we are all being plagued by bad dreams.”

 

“Involving our little ice-bound friend?” Lewis raised an eyebrow.

 

Kristanna rose from her seat, her expression grim; “I don’t think the nightmares are a coincidence. Sure the damn thing is spooky looking but I hardly ever remember my dreams this vividly. So far, with what I can gather from all the dreams we’ve discussed, the little bastard is doing the same thing in each and every one. Scaring us away.”

 

Lewis thought back to his dream. “Mine had my wife and I guess my unborn baby in it.”

 

“Everyone’s seemed to include someone they care about and ended with ol’ three eyes grabbing them. I suspect that somehow our little friend is communicating with us.”

 

Pollard fidgeted, clearly agitated; “It’s frozen, it can’t do anything to us if its frozen” he mocked, “I’m for burning it right now. Before it does more creepy shit.” He looked around sheepishly, “Where’s Baldur? Surely he can’t be sleeping through this?” He shakily made his way to the door leading to Baldur’s bunk and gently pushed it open. As he leaned in slowly a dark figure burst out of the darkness and shot between his legs, “Akira! Damn it! This stupid dogs gonna be the death of me.”

 

Akira padded into the recreation room, sat alongside Martinez and gently nudged his hand with her nose.

 

Pollard turned to peer back into the room as Baldur staggered to the doorway scratching his head and yawning, “What on earth is going on in here? It’s enough to wake the dead.”

 

Martinez let out a laugh “You know how his mind works; he probably thought they were wet dreams. Compared to his usual.”

 

Lewis placed his coffee cup down onto the table, “Well, if I’m awake I might as well take a look at the radio situation. We have GPRS but I couldn’t get the second server set up so I don’t know how long we have it. I’ll hail a few frequencies on the old radio system. Y’know, test the waters.”

 

Pollard refilled his coffee, “Sure thing, I’ll be in with you in a while. Can you do me a favour and stick that dog in the cages on the way past?”

 

Lewis tapped his thigh and Akira reluctantly padded along after him. She lay still in the shadows as he fastened the padlock on the cage door. “Sorry girl. You’ve got to stay in here for now. I’ll smuggle you some goodies in as soon as I can.” He gave the dog a childish wave and headed off into the server room. Moments later, Pollard entered the server room nursing a cup of coffee, “Hey, how’s the signal strength?”

 

Lewis turned to face him without looking away from the meter, “Not good, atmospherics would indicate another twelve hours or so before the blizzard is gone. We’re running solo ‘till then”

 

Pollard kicked the door with his heel. “So we’re stuck in this cabin fever shit for a while longer. Damn!”

 

“It seems pointless both of us being stuck out here, take a bottle of Sverre’s happy-time elixir and wipe out on one of the couches for a while” Lewis pulled a bottle of clear liquid from his desk drawer and handed it to Pollard, “You can drop a few titbits off for Akira too. Might cheer her up a bit”

 

“Yeah, thanks. Might get shit faced enough to stay out of it until help arrives.” Pollard grabbed a handful of dog chocolates and headed out of the server room. As he drew closer to the cage containing Akira, Pollard wrestled with his pocket in an attempt to free his torch. In the scuffle he managed to drop his bottle and cursed as it smashed against the hard concrete floor. As he levelled with the cages, he noticed the slumbering shape of Akira in the corner. He started to poke the chocolate through the gaps in the wire. “Come on you little fur ball, eat your chocolate.” He shone the torch over her head in an attempt to attract her attention. “What’s wrong with you?” Pollard flipped open the padlock and entered the dog’s cage. Akira was lying on her side and panting heavily. Pollard dropped to his knees and ran his hand along the dog’s chest. Her heart rate was normal, her nose was wet. Pollard turned to face the surveillance camera and yelled “Baldur! We need assistance in the kennels. Akira’s sick.”

 

Suddenly the dog started to yelp and kick out with her hind legs in an attempt to stand. Pollard held her tightly and made shushing noises in an attempt to calm her down. Finally, the yelping stopped. For a moment the dog lay motionless in Pollard’s arms. He gently laid her onto the floor and started to rise to his feet to get help. He froze in horror as the silent stricken animal began to convulse violently on the floor, he ran toward the cage door to find the much needed assistance but found that the padlock had jammed closed with all the excitement. He turned and walked toward the viciously shaking body of Akira. A hissing sound emanated from within as several tentacles tore through her thick fur and swung back and forth around the room as if performing some perverted mating ritual. “What the fuck?” Pollard backed up against the cage door as the dog’s chest burst open and the beast raised up using its innards as a form of plinth. Its head turned to face Pollard and its neck began to stretch causing the head to draw ever closer to him. “Lewis! Anyone! Get me the fuck out of here!” He shook the gate violently in an attempt to jolt it free and make his escape. He turned back to face the former-dog-creature only to find it mere inches from his face. Its head messily split in two sections and peeled pack to reveal a circular appendage that resembled a flower with teeth. The flesh flower shot forth and wrapped around Pollard’s head and pulled him closer to the creature. His screams became fainter and he slowly began to struggle less as the tentacles wrapped around him and pulled him ever closer.

 

Lewis lazily flicked through the camera screens and spat coffee out at the sight greeting him from within the Kennels. “Oh Shit!” He punched the intercom button, “We need the flamer up here now! There’s something in the Kennels! Looks like its got Pollard!” Lewis flung the door open and sprinted to the kennel cage. By the time he had arrived, Sverre, Baldur and Kristanna were already there and struggling with the cage door.

 

Kristanna pulled at the padlock, “It’s jammed!”

 

Lewis pulled the fire axe from the wall and swung it at the lock with immense gusto causing metal shards and sparks to fly to the floor. In an instant the cage door swung open. Kristanna pulled at Pollard’s legs as Sverre unleashed a tongue of flame toward the mutated dog creature. The air filled with acrid smoke as the beast screeched and fell to the ground in a smouldering heap. As a further burst from the flamethrower engulfed it, the creature released its grip on Pollard.

 

Kristanna leant over the twitching figure, “He’s breathing. Just” Pollard’s face was unrecognisable, his features mangled, his mouth opening wide and then snapping shut as he made sickening glurping sounds. Kristanna jumped to her feet and spun to face the others, “He needs help, get him to the lab quick!”

 

Baldur and Lewis lifted Pollard and carried him to the med lab area as Sverre doused the pulsing remains of the dog in flames until all that remained was charred beyond recognition.

 

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Chapter 9: Chapter 9

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Chapter Nine – The Balance of Power

 

It wasn’t looking good for Pollard; Kristanna had attached heart rate monitors to his torso and as yet they had failed to pick up a single beat. He had begun to make louder glurping sounds as he appeared to be gasping for breath.

 

“He has no pulse! What’s keeping him alive?” Kristanna yelled to the others as they held his struggling form to the table. She looked into the mangled wreckage of his face and peered into his remaining eye, there was no recognition there, no sign of humanity. This was his body but it was not Pollard. “There are no intellectual responses. I think he’s dead, maybe some sort of toxic substance from that… Whatever it was is just causing his body to spasm. Sverre, could you?”

 

Sverre nodded solemnly, “You might want to turn away for this”. Kristanna looked away as Sverre pulled his large revolver out of his jacket and fired a single shot into Pollard’s head. His convulsions and glurping ceased immediately and he lay there motionless on the table.

 

“Bye, man” Lewis bowed his head and mentally offered a prayer. It had been a while since he had last prayed but he felt now would be as good a time as any. Once he had finished he turned to Sverre. “Shall we bag him up?”

 

Kristanna raised her hand shakily, “Not yet; It might be worth performing an autopsy. There might be a clue as to what we’re dealing with.”

 

Lewis slumped down onto the other table, “I was in there just five minutes before Pollard. There was nothing in there except Akira? Was that thing our dog?”

 

Sverre rubbed his eyes with a hand, “Some of the parts I found suggest a dog. The markings on the fur that remained on it would suggest it was Akira but there were skull fragments that looked more like bear than dog. It was such a mess down there…” Sverre stopped speaking suddenly, “D’you hear that?”

 

A dripping sound was coming from the table containing Pollard. They glanced over the body to locate the source of the sound. Kristanna beckoned the others to the remains of his head, “Its blood from the bullet wound. It’s ok.” She picked up a large clump of surgical gauze and proceeded to stuff it into the gaping hole in Pollard’s head. As she pushed it inside with a gloved finger an inhuman scream emanated from Pollard’s chest. Kristanna pulled her finger back in time to see a row of razor sharp teeth slam closed in the top of Pollard’s head narrowly missing her fingertip. Sverre pulled out his revolver again and emptied it into the head and face of the creature as it slowly began to sit upright. Its back tore apart to reveal two large claws that extended out from within and reached for the ceiling, its spine swinging back and forth like a demonic tongue.

 

Sverre stuffed his gun back into his jacket, “Bullets do nothing! Torch it!” Martinez stood frozen staring at the beast as its claws tore into the ceiling in an attempt to escape. Sverre screamed even louder, “Martinez! Torch it! Now!”

 

Lewis yanked the flame thrower away from Martinez and blasted the beast with red hot flames. It roared and dropped down below the table. Kristanna grabbed a bottle of ethanol from the cupboard, placed a rag inside and lit the end before throwing it onto the convulsing mass of flesh at her feet. The makeshift Molotov cocktail erupted on contact engulfing the screeching beast. Finally the creature let out a sigh and struggled no more. The charred remains looking no longer like Pollard. No longer human.

 

Kristanna eyeballed Sverre frantically, “The one in the Kennel. You sure it’s dead?”

 

“Its toast. Couldn’t be deader”

 

“Good, can you bring it in here? I want to check something.”

 

Bok’Tof stood at the brow of the ice hill overlooking the human outpost. From his vantage point he could see into the large lab windows. The cold wind was beating against his skin but he felt nothing but the thrill of witnessing the battle below. Identifying the changelings within the camp would be difficult without the enhanced technology from his home world. He would have to watch and wait until they revealed themselves to attempt assimilation. As the humans perished; the creature would become bolder. It would currently not reveal its true nature unless it was either certain of successful assimilation or under an immediate threat. Bok’Tof was certain that when it revealed itself again; he would be ready.

 

Tra’Bir and Ramnah hurriedly armed themselves with their spears and plasmacasters. They had to act fast if they were to ensure the safe retrieval of Bok’Tof. The Entity Classification of Type 5 was reserved for the most vicious and despicable beings known to the Yautja. Any beings belonging to Type 5 had historically been a threat to the very existence of the Yautja. Even the Kainde Amedha ranked as only a Type 3. It was forbidden by clan law to even attempt to hunt a Type 5. Although Tra’bir no longer had love for his Clan’s rules; he could not allow a fellow Yautja to walk into certain doom. “Ramnah, you have seen the historical records on this being. You understand why it cannot be allowed to live. Our first priority is to retrieve Bok’Tof and regroup to formulate a plan.”

 

Ramnah’s wristblade glistened as he extended it in anticipation of the forthcoming battle. He turned to Tra’Bir and simply nodded. Nothing more needed to be said as the duo burst into a sprint toward the outpost.

 

The two smouldering heaps of burnt flesh sat precariously on the examination tables of the lab like side attractions at a ghoulish freak show. Bones, tendons and appendages jutted from the masses adding to the macabre spectacle. Kristanna; now wearing coveralls and a surgical mask; carefully examined the shapeless form that was formerly Pollard. The others sat around the lab watching with disgust and fascination in equal measures. She skilfully wielded her scalpel as she sliced into the flesh where she suspected the heart and lungs might have been. The burnt flesh separated with ease and soon the blackened innards were on display. She deftly plunged her hand inside and pulled out a thick red ball of sinew.

 

“Heart. Enlarged. Mucous covered suggesting that some early onset infection was in place.”

 

Lewis hurried to the waste bin and promptly vomited. Sverre snorted his approval; clearly welcoming the distraction from the current dire situation they all faced. Lewis turned to Kristanna with a look of sheer disgust, “Can we be a little less descriptive?”

 

Kristanna looked at him blankly and finally delved back into the mangled carcass. “Hmm, pieces of dog skull. Must have happened during the struggle… What the hell is this?” Carefully she grasped at an unseen mass in the centre of the chest cavity and with a groan of exertion she pulled it slowly clear of the body. It was a thick fleshy sack. Its pink opacity concealed its contents from view. Gently, Kristanna made an incision along the perceived top of the container and prised open the two parts. She jumped back in revulsion as an appendage limply fell through the newly created opening and flopped to the table. It was a miniature head.

 

“What is that?” Lewis exclaimed in horror. “It looks like two halves of a different head stuck together”.

 

Kristanna doused the head with water, cleaning off the mucous and blood that obscured their view. “Its looks like a hybrid of some form. Maybe partly digested by the monster and has fused together from the heat. The structure indicates that it is. What? Look at this part! This is the jawline and upper neck of a polar bear but it looks… Incomplete.” As she turned the head to better see the remaining part she jumped back in fright. “No. What the hell is going on here?” The second part of the head was unmistakeably human. It was unmistakeably recognisable by those who witnessed it either being pulled from the ice or escaping from the compound just the night before. The second part of the head was formerly known as Childs.

 

Kristanna quickly bore down onto the mutilated corpse of Akira and tore its outer skin open; anxiously looking for an answer. Ribs and muscle tissue landed on the floor with a sickening squelch as she pulled at the insides. Finally she stopped. Her hand was resting on something spongy but firm to the touch. Gingerly she pulled at it; at first it resisted but after a moist tearing sound it finally began to move. As it left the gaping wound in the dog, Kristanna let it drop to the floor. It was a human arm.

 

Kristanna knelt over the arm, “Another victim? Clearly Caucasian although muscular and quite tanned so not belonging to Childs, Pollard was a slight man with freckled skin so it was unlikely to be his. Besides, prior to him turning inside out on the table, all his extremities were accounted for. Unless.” Kristanna stood over the mass of dog flesh and manipulated the burnt flower of flesh, carefully forcing it closed. It was an entire dog’s head. She briskly walked to the computer terminal.

 

Sverre approached her cautiously, “Unless?”

 

She replied without taking her eyes from the screen, “Unless I’m on the wrong train of thought. What if these parts aren’t taken from the victims?”

 

Sverre looked confused, “Sorry, you’ve lost me.”

 

Kristanna eyed him suspiciously, “That might be true.” Without warning she ran to the surgical trolley and grabbed the cleaver.

 

Lewis jumped to his feet, “Krissy, what the fuck?”

 

She waved the cleaver at each of the others slowly. “Body snatchers.”

 

Martinez shook his head laughing “She’s flipped. That’s it. We’re fucked. We either die by armoured beasts, alien blobs or this psycho bitch”

 

Lewis waved his hand frantically at Martinez, then at Kristanna “Martinez, shut the fuck up! Krissy, body snatchers; what do you mean?”

 

She leant back against the wall. The pressure of the situation was telling. Her countenance was one of desperation. “Isn’t it obvious? These aren’t bits it has eaten. These are bits it is storing or growing; stealing body mass from its victims. The only reason such a creature would want to make copies would be to imitate. You have all been alone with that dog to a certain degree. That male arm might be part of any of you.”

 

“Krissy. I’m not one of those, things. I sounded the alarm when Pollard was attacked, remember? Sverre shot and torched them.”

 

“Each separate creature may be a completely new life form, only out for number one. If keeping quiet or even attacking another of its kind aids its survival, why wouldn’t it?”

 

Martinez stepped forward, “Hey, you were in here with Navarro. You were both left alone with that body. What’s to say it didn’t grab you?”

 

Kristanna gazed defiantly at him, “You can’t know for certain. The only suggestion I can offer is that it is a fairly peaceable being, favouring slow quiet takeover rather than forceful attacks. The times it has ‘burst out’ in front of a group it has mounted an escape attempt.”

 

Lewis nodded in agreement, “That sounds likely, it will know how many people it has taken over and would wait until the balance of power was in its favour. Better for three to overpower one than a single creature reveal itself to an alert and possibly armed crowd and risk being killed. I’m guessing that those who are taken over will know that they are. In which case I know I’m me. So if there is another one, its more than likely in this room pretending to be one of the others.”

 

“Easy to say; I don’t know who I can trust and until I do; you can all keep the fuck away from me.”

 

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Chapter 10: Chapter 10

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Chapter Ten – The Test

 

The med lab was alive with electronic sounds and the steady flashing of instruments as Kristanna performed barrage after barrage of tests on the burned remains of the creatures. Her determined expression unfazed as reams of results scrolled across the lab computer’s screen. She sat and examined the data output. A flash of realisation appeared in her eyes as she excitedly strode to the remains of Pollard. She inserted a syringe into the carcass and extracted some of the not-yet congealed blood. Carefully she placed a small sample onto a glass plate and placed it under the microscope.

 

“Cellular activity. You’re not completely dead, are you?” Kristanna placed the remainder of the blood into a Petri dish and activated a small blowtorch. “Let’s see how you react to this.” As the flames touched the surface of the blood an almighty screech emanated from the Petri dish as the now clumped blood leapt to the floor and slid under the desk. “Cellular individuality. Each cell is a separate living entity.” She grabbed the blowtorch and doused the blood-creature until none remained. Excitedly she ran to the intercom and pushed the button, “Can everyone meet me in the holding area? I think I’m onto something.”

 

The excitement raised in Bok’Tof’s chest. He could sense that combat was imminent. The Female soft meat was clever. She had used her primitive human reasoning and had found a way to identify the Changelings. When they hear of the potential risk they would be certain to attempt to silence her. And he would be waiting. He entered the perimeter of the complex and set up a vantage point close to where the soft meat was congregated. It was only a matter of time before his fellow Yautja found him, he had to ensure that he could neutralise his quarry before they arrived.

 

The holding area was a small concrete corridor situated under the main complex itself. At one end sat the main generator and at the other an entrance into the complex. Two large sturdy doors sat halfway. These were holding cells for detaining perpetrators of violent crimes. It was commonplace for researchers to suffer from cabin fever due to the isolation that working in the camp required.

 

Kristanna walked the stone steps into the corridor; flamethrower at her side. The others were already there. “Okay, are any of you armed? If so, toss whatever you have to the floor. It’s only temporary.” The others exchanged glances and finally stared back at Kristanna. “I’ll make it simple; toss whatever you have or you burn. I’m pretty certain at least one of you isn’t who you say you are.”

 

Sverre dropped his pistol to the floor.

 

Lewis dropped his fire axe and raised his hands “What’s this about Krissy?”

 

She gestured to the large doors, “Everyone inside; two to a room. Then I’ll explain”

 

Reluctantly, the group entered the tiny holding cells and the doors slammed closed behind them; the freezing stale air inside causing them to wretch as they inhaled it. The cells were designed for single detainees and were only three meters by two meters. Lewis and Baldur were contained in one cell, Martinez and Sverre in the other. Kristanna slid two Petri dishes under each door; “My research has uncovered a lot about what we’re dealing with. This creature operates at a living cellular level. It digests the cells of those it attacks and creates a perfect replica which then splits away from the original. I watched it happening through the microscope. Each individual cell is capable of functioning independently, when it detaches from the original it becomes a separate entity capable of independent thought and action. Complete assimilation could take only twenty minutes; a single cell introduced to a host would be a guaranteed assimilation but may take longer.” She slides scalpels under the doors, “I want you to pick up the dish with your name on and use the scalpel to obtain a blood sample then pass it back under the door.”

 

Lewis looked over the scalpel, “What will this prove?”

 

“Human blood is just tissue but anything discharged from these things is something else completely. If my theory is correct, once the blood is separated from the original being, it will be a new life form that the original cannot control. It’s not going to sit there in the dish while I try to harm it.”

 

Sverre pushed Martinez aside and ran at the door kicking it violently, “This is bullshit! I’m not slicing myself open. You’re crazy!”

 

Kristanna stepped back from the door, “I think we’d better do you first Sverre. Sooner you do it the sooner you can leave. Just a scratch on your thumb should be sufficient.”

 

Sverre cursed in Norwegian and picked up the scalpel. He winced as he ran it across his thumb. The sharp blade dug deep into his skin and was followed by a trail of crimson that slowly dripped into the Petri Dish marked “Sverre”. He sucked on his wounded thumb and pushed the dish under the door with his foot, “There. Happy?” he asked sarcastically while raising his middle finger.

 

Kristanna picked up the dish and unclipped the laser scalpel from her jacket pocket. She set it to the lowest output and circled the red hot beam around the dish. The resultant steam and slight hissing sound heralding a look of relief on the faces of both Sverre and Kristanna. “Ok, you can come out.” She slid the bolt from across the door and Sverre pushed it open. As he stepped through into the corridor, Martinez shoved Sverre aside and sprinted up the corridor toward the complex. Kristanna spun to face him, “Stop him!”

 

Sverre sprinted to his pistol and snatched it up, bringing it to bear in the direction of Martinez just as he disappeared round the doorway. The main door slammed shut and the locking mechanism could be heard to engage. “Shit, we’re stuck in here!” He turned to Kristanna, “what now?”

 

Kristanna ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes. After a long sigh she finally replied “We carry on with the tests, once we know who’s on our side, we can look for Martinez”

 

Lewis gripped the bars on the cell door and arched his neck to look at Sverre, “She needs to do the test before I even consider it.”

 

Kristanna nodded curtly, “You’re right, I’m under just as much suspicion as you all are.” She pulled a third scalpel from her jacket and sliced through her own thumb. The blood dripped into the Petri dish originally intended for Martinez. As the laser scalpel circled the sample, a faint hiss could be heard. “I’m clear”

 

Lewis kicked the door, “I think we’re wasting our time here. This test isn’t proving shit.”

 

Kristanna ignored his gripes and walked to the door of the cell containing him and Baldur, “Baldur, you next.”

 

Baldur sighed. “Is there no other way?”

 

Kristanna stepped closer to the doorway, “It’s all we’ve got for now.”

 

Sverre, leaned toward the cell door, “Come on you sissy. It’s only a little prick; like you.”

 

Baldur used the scalpel to slice deep into his thumb; the blood flowed evenly into the Petri dish bearing his name. He thoughtfully placed it onto the floor and shoved it under the door.

 

Kristanna picked up the laser scalpel and activated it. The red beam flickered into life for a split second then faded out. “Damn. It’s out of charge.”

 

Lewis rapped on the cell door, “One of you go to the generator cage. I always leave a set of screwdrivers in there in case I need to fix the backup power supplies for the servers. They’re metal and sturdy enough to be heated by the flame thrower. I always to do it when I cant find my soldering iron.”

 

Kristanna gave Sverre the flame thrower and headed off to the generator room. Sverre leaned against the locked cell door. “Looks cosy in there.”

 

Kristanna returned with a thin but sturdy looking screwdriver with a rubber handle, “Right, let’s carry on.” Baldur closed his eyes and bowed his head.

 

Sverre held the screwdriver in front of the nozzle of the flame thrower until the tip was glowing red; he took the dish from Kristanna and held it under the screwdriver, “Time to clear your name”

 

The screwdriver tip barely made contact with the blood lining the dish when high pitched squeal came from within. The blood pulsated and quickly formed into a pulped mass before crashing to the ground. Sverre fired the flamethrower at the blood mass instantly incinerating it leaving no trace of its existence. Within the cell, Baldur sat motionless; his eyes still closed and his head still solemnly bowed. Suddenly his body erupted into violent convulsions. Lewis tugged at the door and slammed his fists repeatedly against it, “Get me the fuck out of here!”

 

Sverre and Kristanna fumbled with the bolt on the cell door. It had not been used for a significant length of time and had all but seized. Inside the cell; Baldur was starting to reveal his true form. His torso split open from his abdomen to his throat. His mouth started to stretch as though beginning a yawn that would last for eternity. Lewis attempted to put as much distance as possible between himself and the creature, the intimacy of the cell allowed only a few inches.

 

Sverre kicked at the bolt on the door in a vain attempt to loosen it, “Open! Open!”

 

Lewis stared in horror as an exact replica of Akira’s head emerged from the gaping chasm of Baldur’s torso, his innards flailing and cracking against the walls like whips. Without warning, the Baldur-thing leapt toward Lewis sending him backwards into the wall. The jaws of the dog head snapping mere inches away from his throat. Lewis twisted and dragged himself from underneath the imposing, pulsating figure and crawled toward the cell door in time to see it swing open and Sverre point the flamethrower towards the creature. Lewis rolled out of the cell and struggled to his feet “Sverre, torch it!”

 

Sverre stood staring at the immense creature that now almost filled the room; its neck had now torn loose from the rest of the body causing the head to loll sickeningly back and forth. The head was still Baldur, his kid brother. How could he possibly kill his brother? Thoughts quickly flooded his mind; maybe they could change him back. Maybe they could save him. He slowly started to lower the flamethrower. He quickly raised it again as the creature sent its grotesque tentacles toward the door. They gripped the doorframe and the beast started to advance toward Sverre. As he aimed the flamethrower into the room he could feel tears welling in his eyes. The dog head snapped forward toward Sverre and he instinctively fired the flamethrower into the room engulfing the monster in flames. As the beast squealed and writhed in agony he continued the barrage of fire until it lay motionless. Finally he looked upon the lifeless, twisted face of Baldur and with a broken voice he whispered "Adjø meg bror."

 

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Chapter 11: Chapter 11

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Chapter 11 – Manhunt

 

Martinez looked over his shoulder for the final time before heading into the med lab. He made straight for the freezers and promptly opened the one containing the creature trapped in the rapidly thawing ice block. He watched for a moment as water dripped onto the floor before finally sprinting out of the lab and into the main corridor.

 

Lewis, Sverre and Kristanna stared at the seared corpse of Baldur in disbelief. Lewis stepped closer to the cell and peered inside. “Sverre, man. I’m so sorry.”

 

Sverre looked away “I know.” He bit his lip hard enough to draw blood. “If there are any more of those fuckers out there. I’ll make them pay.”

 

Kristanna put her hand across Sverre’s chest, “We’ve not tested him yet. We can’t even think about leaving.” she could feel her grip tightening on the scalpel in her hand.

 

Lewis picked up the scalpel and roughly sliced across his palm, as he clenched his fist blood began to pour out onto the floor. Without making a single comment he then placed the scalpel in front of the flamethrower’s tip and slowly twisted it ensuring it heated evenly. Once it started to glow red he dropped it into the puddle of blood resulting in a slight hiss and nothing more. “There; I think we’ve established that I am human. Something I thought you’d have realised when that thing in there tried to FUCKING EAT ME!”

 

Martinez pulled a fire axe from the wall of the recreation area and ran into the server room. With great exertion he swung it at the cabinets of rack mount servers, sending sparks flying and smoke billowing into the room. He stalked over to Lewis’ desk and stood over the server sat in the middle. The screen flickered into life. A progress bar moved from 99 percent to 100. A dialog box filled the screen.

 

RAID ARRAY REBUILD COMPLETE.

 

Martinez swung the axe down onto the server causing it to crack neatly in two; the resultant force of the blow causing the desk to buckle and split. He turned to face the door to the radio room and paced purposefully toward it.

 

Bok’Tof had been watching the soft meat closely. The one who seemed to want to distance himself from the others was now systematically destroying key installations in its own compound. He decided that this action deserved a closer look. It was time to hunt.

 

Lewis winced as Kristanna bandaged his palm with strips of cloth torn from his shirt. “There. You need to try and keep it clean. You’re lucky the blade didn’t cut any deeper. You were a hair’s width away from bleeding to death.”

 

Lewis tried to clench his fist. It was sore and it felt stiff but the bleeding had stopped. “Feels better, thanks. I’ve been thinking; the generator cage has a cable vent running into the store room. There’s a box for the breakers in there. It’ll be a squeeze but I think we could all get through.”

 

Sverre wielded the flamethrower and stared into the cell containing the burnt remains of the creature. “Son of a bitch is going to pay.”

 

Kristanna walked to him and placed her hand gently upon his shoulder; “Sverre, we need to go.”

 

The three climbed on top of the generator and Lewis deftly unscrewed the cowl covering the cable vent. Once it had become loose, he yanked it from its housing and they climbed up into the storage room. Kristanna dusted herself off and turned to the others, “We need to find Martinez. He needs to do the test. I know he ran but he may have just lost it. We need to find out.”

 

As they opened the door leading form the storage room into the main corridors they heard an immense crash from behind them. Lewis spun, “The radio room!” The three ran into the server area only to see Martinez running out of the door at the far end. The room had been ransacked; the radio equipment had been smashed to pieces and all connections leading to the uplink dish had been completely severed.

 

Sverre ran back into the corridor, “We’ll lock this door and head him off through the rec room.” They sprinted through the corridor into the recreation area.

 

Martinez stood by the main window and raised his axe over his head, “Back away. I-I don’t know who to trust. You might all be those things.”

 

Sverre raised the flame thrower, “You’ve cut us off. The radios are beyond repair. We’re screwed thanks to you.” He glanced over to Kristanna, “no need to bother with the test. He won’t be living long enough.”

 

Kristanna stepped in between Sverre and Martinez, “Sverre! Don’t! He might be suffering some form of breakdown! You don’t have the right to…”

 

Martinez leapt forward and pulled the axe handle across Kristanna’s throat. “Back away or I break her pretty little neck.”

 

Lewis raised his hands defensively, “Martinez. Put down the axe, you don’t want to do this. We’ve all tested clean. We’re all ok.”

 

“We’re all ok? We’re all ok! Nothing’s ok! We’re fucked! I’m not taking any test! You might do something to me. It might be a trap.” Kristanna slowly dipped her hand inside her pocket and felt the firm handle of Lewis’ screwdriver. Gently she pulled it free from her pocket and with all her strength, plunged it into Martinez’s thigh. The shock of the screwdriver penetrating his leg was enough for him to momentarily release his grip on Kristanna, who pulled herself away and ran behind Sverre.

 

Martinez pulled the screwdriver from his thigh leaving a gaping wound; his countenance was ablaze with rage. He made a leap toward the now terrified Kristanna but was impeded by Lewis who swung a haymaker punch into the side of his head. Martinez was sent crashing to the floor; his head smashed into the corner of the table as he fell. He lay there motionless; the impact with the table had caused significant damage to his head.

 

Sverre poked him with his boot, “I think he’s dead.”

 

Lewis crouched beside the body, “Nobody could have survived after hitting his head so hard against a steel table. I’ll get a trolley so we can move him.” He backed out of the room and headed out toward the medical area, as he turned the corner into the cylindrical med lab area, his progress was halted by a large figure. It slowly advanced on him, its face masked by a metallic mask. Long strands flowed from its head resembling dreadlocks. Lewis recognised it as one of the creatures Kristanna had previously eluded. He backed away slowly, “What do you want? Oh shit, help!!” The creature continued advancing. Sverre and Kristanna ran toward Lewis’ voice as fast as their legs could carry them.

 

Back in the room, the now unaccompanied body of Martinez started to move.

 

Sverre and Kristanna reached the corner the same time Lewis and the large armoured creature did. Kristanna screamed and the three ran back into the recreation area and slammed the door shut, locking it as they did.

 

Kristanna was clearly terrified, “They’ve come back! They killed Navarro and now they’ve come back for us!”

 

A loud banging came from the corridor as the creature pounded at the door in an attempt to gain entry. Kristanna, Sverre and Lewis backed away slowly, not taking their eyes from the doorway for a moment. Lewis glanced toward Kristanna. “We could hole ourselves in here for a while, they might leave again. We could make good our escape. There’s room in the chopper for three of us.”

 

Lewis’ reasoning was cut short by a thick growl coming from behind the three of them. He was afraid to turn; afraid to see what was behind them. Slowly he turned his head and came face to face with a nightmarish vision. Perched upon the table that had only too recently seemingly ended the Life of Dominic Martinez was a grotesque figure, its legs bulging, its feet more resembling talons. The flesh that previously covered its torso now torn away was revealing a large carapace with rib-like protrusions jutting out to the side. Its jaw split in two, the tongue long and sharp. Slowly and keenly it surveyed the three remaining humans; the rage still red as fire in its sunken misshapen eyes.

 

Lewis now started to back away from this new threat. He glanced across to the others, “What now?”

 

Sverre increased the fuel flow to his flame thrower, “Payback.” He pulled the trigger and a single ball of flame spat out of the barrel. “Come on!” The flame again sputtered out of the end of the thrower and finally the pilot light extinguished. “No! Shit! I’m out”

 

Lewis glanced over to Sverre, “I’ll draw its attention. You take Krissy and run for all you’re worth.”

 

“I’m not leaving you.” Sverre dropped the flame thrower to the floor.

 

As they awaited the inevitable the door burst open and the large armoured creature filled the doorway.

 

Tra’Bir searched the wasteland of ice looking for a sign of Bok’Tof. They were now only a few miles away from the soft meat encampment. Ramnah appeared through the mists of ice and stood next to Tra’Bir, “There is no sign of him yet. Any tracks are being covered by the winds. I did pick up the scent of Yautja heading toward the soft meat earlier but it seems to have disappeared now.”

 

Tra’Bir thought for a moment; “We have no option but to engage the soft meat again. Our brother must be there. We must find him and quickly.”

 

Bok’Tof stood staring at the immense figure of the changeling that dominated the room. Feelings of fear and excitement filled him. The three remaining soft meat stood and stared at both the changeling and at him. The changeling stared only at him. Bok’Tof stepped aside from the door and tilted his head gesturing the soft meat to leave. They ran past him cautiously and sprinted off down the corridor. Now they were alone. Now the fight could begin.

 

Bok’Tof extended his wristblade and gave an ear splitting roar in preparation. The changeling dropped from the table onto the floor and let out a roar of its own. Deep in its cellular stored memories, the thing recognised this creature. Many aeons ago; this creature that now faced it as an assumed equal was once a pathetic hut dwelling life form. Their technology was non-existent; their values of honour and their strength were minimal. Now this being was not only prepared to fight, it wanted to.

 

Bok’Tof quickly advanced on the creature with his spear extended; it pierced the carapace covered abdomen of the Thing and burst through its back. He quickly retracted the spear and set up for another lunge. The creature anticipated this attack and leant away from the blow causing it to glance off its reinforced torso. It extended a taloned hand and hit Bok’Tof hard in the face causing his visor to shatter and causing him to be thrown to the other end of the room. Bok’Tof sprung to his feet and discarded the now useless visor. He extended his mandibles and roared in fury as he again charged toward the Thing slashing wildly with his wristblade. The first swing sliced cleanly into the throat of the creature sending sinew spattering across the floor. A second slash causing the head to hang limply from a small strand of flesh. The ribs of the creature swiftly and violently extended causing Bok’Tof to leap away from their attack. He skilfully aimed his plasmacaster and fired it into the upper chest of the now livid creature. The plasma bolt impacted causing the head to be fully decapitated and sending it rolling under the table.

 

As Tra’Bir and Ramnah approached the camp they were alerted to the presence of Bok’Tof by the flashes of plasma fire emanating from the furthest away wing of the complex. They broke into a sprint and headed toward the source of the disturbance.

 

The battle was a true clash of the Titans; neither side tiring, neither side willing to give an inch. Blades swung and claws gouged. Roars of fury and hate filled the room with every blow. Bok’Tof lunged again with his spear gripped in both hands, the tip of the spear tearing down into the gaping neck of the creature. A set of teeth closed around the spear holding it firm and preventing Bok’Tof from extracting it. From the chest of the thing came a sickening tearing sound as the disfigured head of a polar bear slowly protruded from within. Bok’Tof roared and charged again, mandibles flared; his eyes filled with determination. He lunged toward the creature and dug his wristblade deep into its chest cavity. With a ghastly roar the thing’s chest ripped opened further swallowing Bok’Tof’s hand up to his forearm; the ribs slamming closed severing it with little effort. The tentacle like innards swarmed from within the abdomen of the beast. Slowly they began to wrap around his legs. He roared with contempt as he was slowly pulled into the chest cavity.

 

Tra’Bir Burst through the recreation room window and impaled the beast with his own spear. He was closely followed by the spinning figure of Ramnah who thrust his spear between his legs as he landed on the back of the creature tearing it in half. Tra’Bir quickly ran to the aid of Bok’Tof who was prone on the floor in front of the now insanely furious creature. Although he was severely wounded, Tra’Bir could see responses from him. His mind flashed back to the battle field, his comrade lay bleeding, his wrist computer removed when his arm was severed. A horde of Kainde Amedha was swarming from their hive nearby and they were gaining fast. He heard the sound of his group leader telling him to retreat and regroup. He wasn’t prepared to let his clanmate suffer the fate that the Hard Meat had in store for him.

 

Tra’Bir shook his head to clear it of his daydream and quickly scooped up the fallen Bok’Tof in his arms. He was fading fast and was now making deep glurping sounds; his eyes glazed over and clouded with a milky haze. Tra’Bir turned to face Ramnah, “Find the soft meat. We must know for certain how many are infected. I will sterilize this area before I leave.”

 

Ramnah nodded compliance and sprinted down the corridor toward the centre of the complex. Tra’Bir ran at the wall sending part of it crashing away and sending both him and the gravely injured Bok’Tof flailing to the ground. He turned to face the room to see the changeling regrouping and mustering up for a further attack. He threw his wrist computer into the mass of pulped flesh and fired his plasmacaster as it landed. The resultant explosion caused a white hot ball of flame what left nothing of the room that stood there previously.

 

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Chapter 12: Chapter 12

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Chapter Twelve – A Breed Apart

 

Lewis, Kristanna and Sverre ran to the main entrance fuelled by adrenaline and pure fear. As they reached the doors Lewis paused. “Keys. We need the keys for the helicopter.”

 

Kristanna glanced over her shoulder momentarily, “We have spares of everything in the med lab as part of our emergency pack. I’ll grab them.”

 

Sverre gripped her shoulder firmly, “No, we all go.”

 

The med lab was in a state of disarray after Martinez had ransacked it earlier. The air was thick with the stench of burnt flesh and an unidentified fetid damp smell. The windows were thick with condensation. The group entered the lab and stepped lightly over the shards of test tube glass and splintered metal that littered the tiled floor. Kristanna shuffled over to the large emergency locker that filled one side of the room and fumbled with the combination lock. The door swung open with a groan revealing stacks of tinned food, sterilizing equipment and assorted tools and trinkets. Without much of a search, she pulled open the key storage box and fished out the envelope containing the helicopter keys. “Got them. We’ll take the spare laser drill as well; we might need it.” She slid the briefcase containing the drill out of the locker and grabbed a handful of flares. Stuffing them into her pocket she turned to face the others.

 

Lewis and Sverre stood by the door; they shared the same look of paralysing terror. Slowly Lewis raised his hand and pointed at the far wall containing the banks of freezers. Kristanna craned her neck and to her shock saw the freezer that contained the ice-bound creature not only open but also completely empty. She slammed the locker door shut and turned to back away towards the others. As the locker door closed, it revealed a lone figure standing there. Its three deep red eyes sunken and hate filled. Its head was skeletal and grey with strands of electric blue hair writhing like neon snakes. It remained there, staring at Kristanna with an unmatched intensity. She could feel it; it was like a wave crashing against her mind. The sensation intensified as the creature began to read her thoughts, her fears; her very soul. Powerless to resist, she was forced to relive the attacks by the chameleonic alien that had assumed the identities of her friends, the death of Navarro at the hands of the large armoured beings. The image of the armoured creatures remained in the forefront of her thoughts for a moment longer. Finally the creature whispered a single sound; “Yautja”. As she battled to regain control of her own thoughts a torrent of emotion washed over her. She was now seeing the thoughts of the alien.

 

A vast landscape with a burnt orange sky, the rolling plains littered with small huts. Campfires burnt in small enclosures as giant horned birds soared in the sky. A single creature stalked through an area filled with trees, its wooden spear gripped and poised to strike; it’s Mandibles flared. The sound washed over her, that alien word: “Yautja”. This one seemed different to the ones she had encountered, there was no armour, no visor; favouring instead a loincloth fashioned from some form of animal skin. Its eyes seemed more humane. Something ran through the undergrowth, attempting to escape. Without a moment’s delay, the hunter thrust down with his spear and impaled the small creature, finally examining it and placing it into a small animal fur satchel. The Yautja paused for a second and looked into the burnt sienna sky in time to see a ball of flame streaking across the heavens.

 

“Krissy, back away slowly.”

 

The thought faded into darkness and was then replaced by the sight of a fierce battle; the Yautja wielding spears and shields were advancing toward a horde of blue haired creatures. They were identical to the one currently invading her thoughts. Even though these creatures had armour and lasers, the ferocity of the Yautja’s offensive caught them by surprise as one by one, the invaders fell to the spears of the Yautja. In desperation, the leader of the invaders ran to the control bridge of his ship and activated the console for their prototype weapon; marked only as a single word: “Virus”.

 

“What’s wrong with her?”

 

The memory jumped to a scene. A campfire: several of the Yautja staring at each other. Mistrust in their eyes. One of the Yautja was dressed in black robes, he wielded a spear. Slowly he ran the tip of the spear across the forearms of the assembled party sending bright green blood dripping into crude wooden pots. Finally the robed being removed a large reptile from his satchel and forced its mouth against each pot, the reptile hissed as venom ran from its fangs into the pots causing both the pot and the blood inside to burn away. It was acidic. The serpent was placed against the final pot; the venom causing the blood to retreat and coagulate, the robed being readied his spear as the Yautja holding the pot began to convulse.

 

An explosion. The space ship had pounded into the icy ground causing an immense crater. The cold winds were now whipping through the control cabin deep in the belly of the craft. The controls had obviously been sabotaged; a Yautja lay dead, slumped across the navigation system. It had destroyed the craft’s guidance system but had been killed in the process. The navigator backed away as the doors slid open and two of the crew stepped inside. They were the same species but there appeared to be an atmosphere of hostility between them. The co-pilot reached back and picked up a sliver of metal from the buckled control panel, with a roar he plunged it into the neck of one of the advancing creatures. It screamed and fell to the floor and began to convulse, its clothing and skin tearing apart as its innards flailed back and forth. The co-pilot steeled himself and turned to run through the door from which they entered. As he made the dash, the mutating creature lashed out and tore into his leg with a jagged tentacle. The navigator stumbled through the door in the confusion and punched the button to lock it down. Fear gripped as the navigator then ran to the emergency hatch and leapt out into the icy wastes. Its very breath was freezing in its lungs as it slowly crawled away from the downed spacecraft in search of shelter, its body was weak, its morale depleted. Finally it reached to the sun with its grey clawed hand as the ice claimed it. Over the centuries, the navigator and the other creatures in the ship were encased in a prison of ice.

 

“Krissy!”

 

With a flash, Kristanna regained her composure and found herself back in the med lab, the creature still staring deep into her eyes. Slowly she backed away and headed to the others. “That thing; It just read my mind. It just showed me its own thoughts.” She looked to Lewis with terror in her eyes, “It knew the other creatures a long time ago.”

 

Lewis stood frozen, transfixed by the gaze of the dark red eyes that seemed to penetrate him. “What does it want?”

 

Kristanna shook her head, “From what I saw; the thing that has been killing us, this thing created it.”

 

“Why the hell would you make something like that?”

 

“They were invading the planet of those armoured things; I think they called them Yautja. They were losing and unleashed it as a last resort. Didn’t figure on it attacking them too. Looked like they tried to escape and ended up crashing here and freezing.”

 

Kristanna looked over the creature as it shifted its gaze to Sverre. The deep wound in its leg still visible. This must have been the co-pilot. “Guys, it’s been attacked by one of those things, its probably infected. We need to get out of here, who knows what the undiluted strain can do.”

 

As they slowly made their way to the door, the creature watched them intently, it looked behind them and noticed the door and shifted its gaze back to them, its eyes filled with intense rage, it’s back arched and its sharp teeth bared.

 

Lewis dug his heel into the door, swinging it open, “Run!”

 

The three ran down the corridor at an intense pace, the creature dropped to all fours and gave chase. Slowly the creature began to get closer to them. Lewis glanced back over his shoulder, “Its gaining. We need a distraction.”

 

Sverre closed his eyes and uttered a prayer in Norwegian. He knew what he had to do, “I’ll hold it off. You guys head for the helicopter.” He skidded to a stop and turned to face the creature.

 

Lewis stopped and spun to face Sverre, “No! We can make it! Come on!”

 

Sverre smiled and shook his head, “You leave and take Krissy with you. You’re like a brother to me. I’ve already lost Baldur. I can’t watch another brother die.” They grasped hands and hugged for a second until they could hear the creature getting closer.

 

Lewis grabbed the back of Sverre’s head, “I love you man.”

 

Sverre laughed, “Get the fuck out of here.” As the others ran out into the main complex, Sverre prepared himself for his final battle. The creature slowed when it saw him and looked deep into his mind. He had lost those he loved. Only recently had he lost his brother. Only thirty years ago he had lost both his parents during an expedition to this very location. They had been part of a Norwegian outpost that had perished at the hands of an unknown entity. Sverre pulled his pistol from his jacket and aimed it, “This is for Baldur you piece of shit.”

 

Shots rang out followed by a scream of pain mixed with maniacal laughter as Sverre taunted the changeling with his final breaths. Ramnah burst down the corridor; his mind single to finding the soft meat and ensuring the Changeling was unable to assimilate further. Allowing this abomination to take ownership of an entire planet was unacceptable. The two remaining soft meat beings rounded the corner and ran toward him at a breakneck pace. He steeled himself for battle, assuming that they had now all been assimilated. He swung his spear at their legs causing one of them to trip. The other soft meat cried its name, “Lewis!” He extended his wristblade and held it to the soft meat’s throat. Without warning Lewis dug his feet into the abdomen of Ramnah and kicked as hard as he could sending the Yautja crashing to the floor. Lewis then brought his fire axe to bear and swung it at Ramnah’s head. The Yautja effortlessly blocked the attack with his forearm and delivered a well aimed punch to Lewis’ face causing him to stagger back. Ramnah seized this opportunity to leap into action, pinning Lewis and preparing for the kill.

 

Kristanna ran to the pinned figure of Lewis, “No! Please!” With tears in her eyes, she stared pleadingly into Ramnah’s visor. Her imploring eyes and child-like fear brought thoughts of his first hunt into his mind. Ramnah started to reason; he couldn’t possibly be a changeling; he would have revealed himself by now. He released his grip on Lewis and stood with his back to them, He was unsure of what do to next. By keeping the soft meat alive, he was allowing the possibility of the Changeling’s survival, If he destroyed them, he would ensure the end of the strain but would finally be worthy of his Bad Blood status. He spun as a roar emanated from the corridor leading to the med lab. He gave a click of surprise as a figure rounded the corner, its deep red eyes fixed on him. The creature slid to a halt metres away.

 

For what seemed an eternity, the two creatures stared intensely into each other’s eyes; neither breaking the gaze. The Changeling’s face contorted into a sneer, its bright blue strands of thick hair waving erratically. Throughout his training, a certain spark had been missing from Ramnah; a desire for the hunt was overshadowed by the desire to please his father. This had meant he had wavered during his first hunt sparing his quarry simply because of the presence of its offspring. Now the pieces of the puzzle had finally fallen into place; Ramnah stood motionless, his composure as cold as ice, waiting for the moment to strike with deadly force. He wasn’t simply a Yautja, he was a warrior. He was a Predator.

 

With a roar of rage the two creatures burst into a sprint meeting and clashing together; the impact resembling a head-on train crash. Ramnah gripped the throat of the creature as he punctured the chest of the beast with a flurry of blows with his wristblade. He closed his first attack with an uppercut using his wristbladed fist. The creature howled in pain as the jagged blades tore through its jaw and protruded from the top of its skull. The beast retaliated by swiping at his visor with its talons fully extended, causing deep scratches across the metal but not impairing his vision. He sprinted toward the changeling and leapt into the air placing both feet into its chest in a manoeuvre resembling a vicious high speed drop kick. The changeling crashed to the floor and Ramnah extended his spear as he followed, as he landed with a thump so did his spear gouge deep into the throat of the changeling. Limbs flailing, the beast tore the spear away and flung it across the room and then raised itself up to its hind legs. With immense strength, the Changeling lunged toward Ramnah pinning him against the wall. As he struggled in vain to release himself, the changeling began to alter. Its head split clean in half revealing a set of razor sharp teeth with a set of misshapen mandibles around the edge. Slowly it drew closer to Ramnah’s face taunting him and savouring its perceived victory.

 

Lewis saw his opportunity. He snatched up the spear and charged at the beast yelling from the pit of his stomach. The tip of the spear tore through the side of the changeling and stuck in the wall when it burst through the other end. It released its grip on Ramnah sending him falling to the floor. Lewis watched in horror as the neck of the beast tore away causing the head to drop to the ground. Large thin tentacles now sprung forth from the gaping neck wound, swishing back and forth in a mesmerising but disturbing dance. With terminal velocity the tentacles snapped toward Lewis in an attempt to knock him off balance, he managed to dodge all but the last one that slammed into his arm and sent him reeling into the wall.

 

Ramnah sat dazed at the feet of the Changeling; he shook his head violently and regained composure in time to see the tentacles make a break toward seizing him. He rolled away and with deadly precision aimed his plasmacaster at the changeling. He paused for a second and instead aimed for the gas pipe running directly behind. A flash of plasma pierced the pipe and ignited the gas sending a deadly jet of flame over the writhing mass of the Changeling until it hung from the spear; limp and lifeless.

 

Ramnah dusted himself off and paced toward Lewis who flinched in expectation of an imminent death. Slowly Ramnah extended his hand and helped Lewis to his feet.

 

“Thanks, I think.”

 

Kristanna stood at the door staring in disbelief at the display of chivalry by the Yautja. The creature that had murdered Navarro was now working with them with the same goal in mind.

 

As Ramnah turned to leave the room, the severed head of the changeling now lurched toward him at an astounding pace. It had grown eight spider-like legs and had clearly become more than aware of its own need for survival. He dislodged his spear from the wall and impaled the creature with little effort, as it struggled to escape; Ramnah tilted his head in curiosity before turning the spear upside down and placing it in the jet of still burning gas. He grunted in disgust as the spider-head roasted in the flames.

 

Ramnah left the room closely followed by Kristanna. Lewis looked around at the carnage and spared a moment’s thought for Sverre before setting off for the door. He winced in pain as he rolled up his sleeve, removed the section of tentacle that was lodged in his arm and ran to catch up with the others.

 

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Chapter 13: Chapter 13

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Chapter Thirteen – The Masterplan

 

Tra’Bir struggled through the mists of ice; Bok’Tof laid limp and gasping in his arms. Their vessel was so far away, the soft meat camp was even further. Tra’Bir had no other option than to trek onward in the hope that his strength was sufficient to carry them both to the warmth and safety of their ship. His thoughts moved to the welfare of Ramnah; he was a competent fighter; highly proficient in the art of hunting, but he seemed to lack the passion to kill; the thrill of the hunt. That could be his undoing. For a moment Tra’Bir regretted leaving the young hunter alone in the lair of the Changelings. He was drawn back into harsh reality by the gasps and gagging of Bok’Tof; he was having difficulty breathing. The glurping sounds were becoming as disturbing as the spasms as his body was wracked with pain. His only apparent injuries were his lack of an arm below the elbow and puncture wounds from the giant rib-like teeth of the Changeling. This should not be sufficient to cause such agony to a Yautja; something else was wrong.

 

In the deserted cockpit of the damaged Yautja craft, the navigation console burst into life. Its screens filled with complex charts and mathematical integers before finally falling dormant. The only sign of activity in the whole craft was now the red light that slowly and steadily blinked; illuminating portion of the navigation panel. The label above the blinking light contained a single word: “Proximity”.

 

The Earth hung in the heavens, slowly rotating in the warm glow of the Sun. A solitary satellite angled its solar panels toward the Sun to perform its scheduled recharge. Slowly, an imposing shadow reached over the satellite depriving it of its much needed sunlight. The tranquil celestial scene was disrupted as an immense space craft soared mere inches above the satellite, its engines incinerating it as they passed close by. On the bridge of the vessel, a robed figure stood regarding the shining blue planet below.

 

Behind him, a heavily armoured Yautja entered the bridge. “Your Excellency.”

 

The figure turned to face the source of the disturbance, “What is it?”

 

“We have located the crash site.” The armoured Yautja bore the symbols of the Home World defence force on his breastplate, he was a soldier. He handed a token containing the co-ordinates to the robed Yautja. He was clearly uncomfortable. This situation was unheard of; High Priests never travelled on Army ships.

 

“Is that all?” The High Priest flared his mandibles with impatience.

 

“There’s something else. They have come into contact with a type 5. Cell structure scans show that one of the Bad Bloods has been infected along with one of the soft meat indigenous to the planet.”

 

“Then prepare for entry and imminent landing.” He turned to face the viewscreen again, “We have very little time.” The soldier clicked in acknowledgement and left the Bridge. The robed figure punched the co-ordinates into the navigation screen and viewed the downed craft with eagerness. All was going to plan.

 

Ramnah stood at the crest of the hill staring in the direction of the stricken vessel. The soft meat were not prepared to remain in their camp, preferring to take their chances alongside the Yautja. He was not about to argue; the form known as Lewis had already come to his aid once in the heat of battle. It was wise keeping them around. A deep roar came from behind him; he turned to see the blades of the helicopter slowly rotating. Kristanna ran to Ramnah’s side, “Come.” Ramnah tilted his head in confusion. She placed her hand in his, the sheer size of his hand dwarfing hers. Gently she pulled him toward the helicopter. Ramnah understood her request. She wished him to travel with her in their primitive craft.

 

Lewis performed the pre-flight checks as the blades whirred faster overhead. The doors slid open as Kristanna crawled in and sidled up alongside him. Ramnah was not far behind; he squeezed into the back of the helicopter and appeared cramped as Kristanna slid the doors shut. “Where are we headed?”

 

Lewis fiddled with the dials on the helicopter, “I’m going to try and reach Amundsen-Scott station, it’s a trek but with any luck the wind will favour us.” He winced with pain and clutched his arm.

 

“What’s wrong?” Kristanna looked worried.

 

“Nothing. I think I caught my arm during the fight. I’ll be fine. I’ve only had a few hours training on these things so it might be bumpy. Hold on.”

 

The helicopter uneasily levitated from the ground and swept forward; steadily increasing altitude as it went. The icy surface blurred past below them as the helicopter thundered along at a swift pace. As they soared over the crest of a hill, Ramnah’s excitement raised, he nudged the back of Kristanna’s seat and pointed down to the ground below them.

 

Kristanna turned to face him, “I think he’s found something.” She flicked the searchlight on and illuminated the surface. A figure could clearly be seen. It was the other Yautja.

 

The helicopter slowly lowered to the ground sending a flurry of ice into the air and causing the mists to appear denser. Ramnah slid the door open and beckoned Tra’Bir to enter. Tra’Bir looked to the soft meat and appeared unsure. He eyed Ramnah suspiciously as he hauled Bok’Tof into the back of the helicopter before climbing in himself. Ramnah leant into the cockpit and pointed to the brow of a hill many miles away. The helicopter lifted uneasily and shakily made its way out toward the location of the Yautja crash site.

 

The cloaking device on the gargantuan ship engaged as it slowly entered the Earth’s atmosphere, they were now completely undetectable by sight, as well as the soft meat’s primitive radar and sonar installations. The High Priest sat at his desk reviewing the notes on the three Yautja stranded on the planet. So far their attitudes had allowed events to unfurl just as he had anticipated. He knew when he saw them at the Yautja Council of affairs that they were ideal candidates for perpetrating his plan. At that moment he had put in motion his scheme to persuade the Elders to allow him to deal with their cases personally. The Elders would never have banished a respected warrior such as Tra’Bir, not for a minor case of insubordination and certainly not considering he had saved the life of a member of Yautja royalty by disobeying the order. Ramnah was barely an adult; his compassion for his quarry would have faded over time; he was only present at the council of affairs on that day to receive conscription to the Defence Force in an attempt to nurture his blood lust. Bok’Tof was an easy target; his actions had caused the deaths of many, his sentence was to be custodial service but his Father’s Bad Blood status allowed the High Priest the ability to invoke the “Sins of the Father”. The high Priest sat back as he contemplated the outcome of his scheme. His communication screen flickered into life, He waved to the image with forced apathy, “Ah, Elder. So glad you could entertain me at such short notice.”

 

The Elder was clearly agitated, his mandibles flared; “High Priest Dorok; the council is eager to know where you are. I cannot cover for you any longer.”

 

Dorok leant toward the screen with contempt in his eyes; “Tell them nothing, it is no longer of any consequence. I am only hours away from acquiring the source of our salvation. The council has grown as weak as their clansmen. Their thirst for glory at all costs has gone. All that will change. Our people were made strong by the elimination of the weak by the Changelings many aeons ago. It is time for another purge. When I unleash the creature upon our world again, we will once more rise up a glorious race of natural warriors and survivors.”

 

Fear covered the face of the Elder, “Dovok, this is madness! The Changelings will destroy us all! You’re insane!”

 

Dovok abruptly ended the communication and leant back in his chair; “The history scrolls will see things differently.”

 

The wind had increased dramatically sending the helicopter reeling from side to side as it was buffeted by the thick mists and sheer cold. Kristanna turned to face their new passengers, unsure of how to break the obvious tension. She looked upon the struggling form of Bok’Tof as he groaned; bright green blood trickling from his mouth. “Thanks for helping us back there.”

 

The Yautja stared; their expressions masked by their helmets.

 

“I guess you all look like him behind your masks.” She looked out at the darkness before turning back to face them, “So, Yautja; is that what you’re called? Yautja?”

 

Tra’Bir tilted his head in recognition of the word.

 

Kristanna pointed to Lewis and then to herself, “Human.” Then she pointed at Tra’Bir and Ramnah, “Yautja.” Finally she pointed back at herself, “Kristanna.” As the Yautja stared at her unmoving she decided that her Extra Terrestrial bonding session was a waste of time.

 

“Woah! What is that?” Lewis pointed the spot light at the crater containing the Yautja craft. Ramnah leant into the Cockpit and pointed down. He wanted them to land.

 

The Yautja craft rocked as the helicopter came in to land. The Yautja leapt from the back before it had even touched the ground. Kristanna moved to open the cockpit doors. Lewis grabbed her shoulder, “Krissy, wait.”

 

She stopped and turned to face him, “What is it?”

 

“I promised Sverre I would keep you safe.” He gripped his arm as the pain intensified, searing through his nerves like a hot needle, “I-I don’t think I can do that anymore.”

 

Kristanna looked from his eyes to his arm, “Why? What happened?”

 

Lewis slowly rolled back his sleeve to reveal a deep gash on his arm; tiny specks were moving slowly inside causing his skin to pulsate slightly. “During the fight; it got me. That thing you were saying about a small amount being enough to guarantee it takes you over. I don’t know how long I’ve got. You’ve got to promise me, the first sign that I’ve changed. End it.” He pulled his wallet from his jacket pocket and handed it to Kristanna, “When you get back. My wife…”

 

Kristanna silenced him by placing her finger against his lips. “Don’t worry; she will know you were thinking of her to the very last moment. And she will know how much you love her. I’ll make certain of it.”

 

Tears welled in his eyes, “Thanks”

 

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Chapter 14: Chapter 14

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Chapter Fourteen – The Calm Before the Storm

 

Kristanna lay sleeping in the rear of the helicopter. She had promised Lewis she would stay awake to warn the Yautja in the event of him succumbing to his injury; unfortunately sheer exhaustion got the better of her. Lewis now sat fiddling with the helicopter controls. The engines were switched off so his incessant interfering with the instruments served as nothing other than an attempt at distracting himself from the tirade of thoughts that plagued his mind. Death was not something that Lewis had spent too much time dwelling on in the past. Now he had to cope with his own inevitable and imminent demise. He always assumed that he would die at a ripe old age, surrounded by loved ones; a peaceful death in his sleep. It just didn’t seem fair to him that he would die there in the icy grip of the Antarctic surrounded by aliens and a woman that wasn’t his wife. He wondered if there was still anything left of the person taken over at the point of the creature “bursting out”. He tried to block the thought out of his mind, busying himself instead with attempting to contact Amundsen-Scott station using the helicopter’s radio. The static punctuated the lack of response from any form of radio equipment reinforcing the isolation and sheer distance they were from civilization. Lewis clenched his fist and punched the dashboard in desperation.

 

Kristanna woke with a start, her arm reaching for the door release handle, “Everything ok?”

 

Without saying a word, Lewis swung open the door to the helicopter and jumped out into the swirling mists. It was becoming darker; night was creeping in. The winter months were drawing nearer, the entire continent could be plunged into darkness for days on end at the lowest point. Lewis cursed the cold, cursed the darkness and finally cursed his situation. It was plain and simple; he was going to die. He considered interrupting the Yautja and trying to explain his situation to them in the hope that they may kill him. He could simply run in there and start a fight with the biggest one, surely that would do it. Then his thoughts turned to Kristanna; when he’s gone, she would be alone. Alone like his wife; forced to face life as a widow, bringing up a child alone. He fought back his tears and returned to the helicopter in time to see Kristanna putting on her jacket and tying her hair back into a pony tail.

 

She looked at him and smiled, “I’m going to join the aliens in their ship, its warmer in there. You coming?”

 

Lewis slumped into the cockpit, “Yeah, just want to check the radio some more.”

 

The scanner screen displayed thermal readouts of the various ice structures located in a 300 mile radius around the Amundsen-Scott station. Jens, the radio operator, sat lazily in his chair sipping the thick black coffee that sat in the Styrofoam cup he gripped with both hands. The station was heated but looking over the vast expanses of ice always made him feel cold. His attention was drawn from his steaming cup by a bright ball of light on one of the temperature readouts. “What the hell was that?” He swung his chair to face his desk phone and punched in a four-digit extension number; “Sir? I think you should come take a look at the readouts for the last 24 hours.” He swung round to face the screen again, “judging by the thermal readouts, there’s been an explosion at Outpost 31.”

 

Tra’Bir had managed to successfully strap Bok’Tof onto a makeshift table and had attached a wrist computer to his remaining arm and activated the mediscan. Red lights danced across the display and alien characters flickered along the dark panel. The now heavily sedated Bok’Tof groaned quietly.

 

Tra’Bir watched over his fallen comrade with concern; “sleep well, my brother.” He turned to face Ramnah; his eyes showing his doubt for his patient’s survival.

 

Ramnah turned away from Bok’Tof’s body as a mark of respect. He bowed his head and prayed to Cetanu that the fallen one would be taken swiftly. As he finished he raised his head and his attention was caught by the steady blinking light on the navigation panel. “Tra’Bir!” He roared as he ran to the console; “There is a Yautja craft nearby.”

 

“Do not be foolish. We have been exiled. We have no right to contact our former people. They would disregard us at best.” Tra’Bir rebuked Ramnah but then softened his tone for the young hunter; “But I see no problem with tracing their movements.”

 

Ramnah slung himself into the control seat and activated the navigation console. His fingers danced across the screen as he activated the tracing routines and initiated the tracking system. He excitedly turned to face Tra’Bir; “It appears to be engaged in final descent into this planet’s atmosphere. Their trajectory would indicate they’re landing less than 200 miles from our location.”

 

Lewis was slowly starting to drift off into sleep; the pain in his arm seemed to lessen for a while. He reasoned that maybe it has changed its mind and no longer wanted to infect him, or maybe it had already infected him and he was now an alien just pretending to think like him. The twisted logic of his thoughts caused his head to throb. The dull pain began to subside as his eyes slowly fell closed and he began to drift off.

 

“Krrrzt – Outpost 31. Outpost 31. This is Amundsen-Scott station. Do you read? – Krrrzt” The speaker on the radio vibrated hard causing it to visibly shake.

 

Lewis snapped out of his slumber; a look of shock played out on his face. He fumbled with the mic; “Amundsen Scott. This is Outpost 31. Well. What’s left of it. Can you hear me?”

 

There was silence for a moment. Absolute silence save for Lewis’ heart thumping against his chest. “Please, please.” He begged the radio to respond.

 

“Krrrzt – Outpost 31. I read you faintly. Your signals real weak. We’re having to boost the signal with the emergency dish just to hear you. We detected an explosion at your compound. Can you clarify? - Krrrzt”

 

“They’re all dead. There are only two of us left. We have made our escape in the chopper. Our current co-ords are South 89.9975° by East 139.2728°. Request urgent assistance.”

 

“Krrrzt – Outpost 31. Request acknowledged. Due to the weather it may take us some time. –Krrrzt”

 

Lewis laughed, “I don’t think we’ll be going anywhere. Thanks. Over and out.” He leapt out of the helicopter to run to the Yautja ship to tell Kristanna the news but no sooner was he out of the cockpit he fell to the floor with a searing pain in his chest that seemed to squeeze the very air from his lungs. Gathering all his strength; Lewis staggered up to the craft and through the airlock doors.

 

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Chapter 15: Chapter 15

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Chapter Fifteen – Survival of the Fittest

 

The Yautja mother ship was a behemoth yet was now gracefully gliding through the Earth’s atmosphere as it continued it’s descent to the icy continent below. On the bridge, the heavily armoured soldier disabled multiple auxiliary functions to distribute power to elsewhere in the craft. As he deactivated each console in turn he came to the terminal used by the High Priest.

 

“Sloppy. He hasn’t closed his session”; muttered the soldier. As he closed down the various star charts and entity classifications on the screen he was shocked to see the conversation log from a recent communication with the Council of Elders. As he read through it he realised the gravity of the situation he now faced. He was too engrossed in this new revelation to hear the bridge door slide open.

 

The High Priest stood behind the oblivious soldier; “Interesting reading?”

 

The soldier snapped round to face Dovok, “You! You’re planning to actually do the things written here?”

 

Dovok held his hand aloft in a gesture of placidity, “My friend, you misunderstand; the information you have before you is purely fiction. Something put together as part of a training exercise I have planned.”

 

The soldier stared at Dovok unfazed; “If that is the case, you won’t mind explaining it to the council of Elders.” He raised his spear.

 

Dovok breathed a heavy sigh; “I wished it wouldn’t come to this but you leave me with no choice”, he uncovered a dart gun that had been hidden under his robes and fired it into the soldier’s spear wielding arm causing him to crash to the floor; the sedative laden dart working immediately.

 

When the soldier came to he found himself in the bottom of a dark circular pit. The sides were metallic and offered no means of escape. The top of the pit was covered in translucent green mist; it was a holding pen.

 

The soldier struggled to his feet and felt for his weaponry; he had none. Worse still; he had been stripped of his armour. “Dovok! May Cetanu banish you from the other world! You’ll never get away with this!” A sudden flurry of movement caused the soldier to spin round to face the source of the sound. He approached the shadows from where the noise had emanated. The holding pens were used for transporting live cargo but none had been registered as aboard the ship. As he drew closer to the shadow he was able to make out a figure. A large figure; crouched; its elongated head reflecting what little light penetrated the pit. Without warning the Xenomorph pounced upon the unarmed soldier and pinned him to the floor. The soldier was unable to defend himself; his body was still weak from the sedation. He could only watch on in horror as the creature prepared itself; its teeth glistened like steel in the dim light. Slowly it opened its mouth to reveal a second set of teeth which shot forth and pierced the skull of the soldier sending bright green blood spattering across the walls.

 

Dovok stood at the camera control panel and watched with wry amusement as the Hard Meat ravaged the twitching corpse of the soldier; “When you meet Cetanu; you can tell him yourself.”

 

The airlock doors slid open revealing a worse for wear Lewis. He clutched at his chest and panted heavily as though his throat was sealing up. The Yautja growled their disapproval at his loud arrival. Kristanna ran to Lewis; “What’s happened?”

 

Lewis coughed and gripped tighter at his chest, “It’s getting worse. I don’t think I have long left. Look; I have been in touch with Amundsen-Scott. Its gonna take a while but they’re coming. It’ll be too late for me but at least you’ll be ok.”

 

Kristanna’s face filled with hope but quickly became overrun with a look of sheer fear; “Tell them to turn back. We can’t risk them becoming infected. We certainly can’t risk our aliens seeing strangers, they might decide to kill them like they did with…” In all the excitement she had forgotten about Navarro. He had been killed in front of her by the very beings that now offered her shelter.

 

Lewis pushed her away, “Don’t be stupid; you’re getting out of here. You can make up any story you want about what has happened. Just make sure it involves a communicable virus that lay dormant in the ice; something like the Ebola virus or similar. Just to make sure that they don’t go to the Outpost to check.”

 

“I’m not leaving you here to die!”

 

“Don’t you understand it Krissy; I’m already dead!”

 

Kristanna’s eyes welled with tears as she looked into the determined expression on Lewis’ face. She couldn’t take it anymore; seeing those people killed in front of her very eyes was nothing compared to this senseless but somehow peaceful death that crept up on Lewis. He was doing all he could to ensure her survival without a second thought for his own suffering. She looked away, not bearing to look upon the man who was looking out for her in spite of his impending death. The Yautja were now distracted from their computer screen and stared at the two of them; clearly confused.

 

Tra’Bir and Ramnah stood transfixed; their gaze switching between the two soft meat. These creatures allowed their emotions to run their bodies. Such a lack of sensual discipline made them weak. Tra’Bir’s attention turned to the beeping console behind them. He turned to the screen and read through the output. “They’re coming in to land; using our ship as a reference. They’re coming for us.”

 

As the mother ship hovered miles above the icy wastelands of the Antarctic; Dovok stood in front of a line of heavily armoured Yautja soldiers. A landing shuttle powered up behind them. Dovok slowly paced in front of them; “My brothers; a grave error has been made by the Council of Elders. They have sent three of our beloved brethren into exile as Bad Bloods on inconceivable charges. They have sent them into this desolate wasteland that lies beneath us. Left them there to perish. One lay dying as we speak; the other two have not got long before they suffer the same fate. There are also members of the indigenous population that are suffering due to the negligence of the Elders. We must collect them and put them into quarantine with our exiled brothers. We must put right the wrongs of our people. We will travel to the surface and rescue these poor victims of circumstance. Prepare yourselves to do the will of the Gods.” The soldiers roared in approval and began to file into the landing craft. Finally; Dovok entered the craft and the airlock slid open as it began itsdescent to the mists of the Antarctic below.

 

Tra’Bir assessed the incoming stats regarding the Yautja vessel with a hint of suspicion. Were they coming straight for them? Was there other Yautja already here? He performed another entity scan to locate the proximity of life forms in their immediate area. The screen showed a large collection of Yautja at 30,000 feet above their position and descending rapidly. “Defence force greeting party” he muttered to himself. His eyes fixed on a new entity entry on the screen. The system had picked up a further two type 5 life forms within close range. One was a weak signal but one was undeniably strong. He snapped round and fixed on the two soft meat that sat in the far corner of the cockpit. They were in close discussion. He assumed they were planning their attack. He extended his wristblade and roared in fury. Ramnah ran to his side, “What is wrong Tra’Bir?”

 

“These creatures are not as they seem. The scanners show changelings have infiltrated our ship. We must destroy them.”

 

Ramnah forced his palm into Tra’Bir’s chest; “You are wrong; they fought alongside me. They cannot be Changelings.”

 

Bok’Tof began to convulse.

 

Tra’Bir shoved Ramnah away; “You have softened to them. They are not pets. We should neutralise them before they cause more damage.”

 

Unknown to the Yautja; the straps holding Bok’Tof in place tore away. Whip-like tentacles emerged from his body as he shook ever more violently.

 

Ramnah again blocked Tra’Bir’s path; “You are making a mistake we can trust the soft meat.”

 

Tra’Bir grabbed the wrist of Ramnah firmly; “We allow ourselves too close to these things, they cause nothing but pain. Look at your clan-brother. He’s dying in a corner because of how easily the changelings can interact with these pathetic life forms.”

 

Bok’Tof emitted a primal scream causing the other Yautja to spin round to face him. Bok’Tof’s neck began to split, his head slowly sinking into his torso. Finally his chest split in two as his head began to protrude from within.

 

Tra’Bir stared in disbelief at the grotesque spectacle, “Pauk!”

 

Lewis heard the commotion and stood to look around the squabbling Yautja. There; lying on the makeshift table, the third alien was twisting and mutating, His head rising out of his chest like a flesh phoenix. Lewis froze to the spot with fear, “Fuck!”

 

A sickening tearing sound could be heard as sinewy strands pulled away from the mutilated body of Bok’Tof revealing a dark slimy shaft of tissue that slowly ascended until the head was towering over the terrified onlookers. Large spider-like legs protruded from the torso and the mass began to amble toward the survivors; the whip like tentacles lunging forth with every step. One of the tentacles encircled Tra’Bir and pulled him closer to the creature, he deftly swiped with his wristblade severing the tentacle and sending it crashing limply to the floor. The severed appendage flailed wildly before hundreds of tiny legs burst from within and a set of sharp pincers protruded from the gaping wound. The tentacle scuttled toward Kristanna at lightening pace. She turned to run from the advancing menace but her progress was impeded by Lewis.

 

He grabbed her arm and pushed her firmly into the airlock, “Run!” He pinned the tentacle creature with his boot and then pulled his hip flask from his pocket and doused the writhing tentacle. He grabbed a marking flare from his jacket and held it over the spirit soaked alien. “I propose a toast!” He dropped the flare onto the trapped creature engulfing it, and his foot, with flames. The beast writhed in agony as the fire seared its flesh before falling silent as the contained conflagration claimed it. Lewis removed his jacket and smothered the flames that covered his boot. He then made a break for the airlock to ensure that Kristanna made it to the helicopter. As he sprinted outside he came to Kristanna’s lonely figure stood with her back to him, unmoving.

 

Lewis limped to her side; his chest now feeling fit to explode; “What’s the hold up? We need to get you to the Station”

 

Kristanna turned her head and looked pleadingly into his eyes. “Run.” She whispered as tears streaked her cheeks.

 

Lewis quickly scanned the general area, there was nothing else here. Why would he have to run from her? As he backed away, his question was violently answered as he felt a sharp pain in the back of his head. He fell to the floor and felt intense pressure on his throat as if being held down by some invisible force. Before his eyes, several creatures materialised into view. They looked like the creatures he had just left fighting for their lives in the spaceship only much more advanced. Their armour was shining and clearly spotless; their wristblades were less ornamental than the others. Stood directly in front of Kristanna was an immense robed figure, his ceremonial dagger held to her throat. Finally Lewis felt a sharp pain in the back of his head and everything went black.

 

Tra’Bir and Ramnah fought with all the strength they could possibly muster. Each appendage they severed from the Changeling became a separate living entity and would either engage them in battle or attempt to escape. Each burst of plasmacaster fire served only to enrage the Bok’Tof abomination further; its mandibles clicked and flared as it mimicked their expressions. Ramnah rolled away from a deadly tentacle strike and stood back to back with Tra’Bir; “It is immovable. We must overcome it somehow. It cannot be allowed to live past today.”

 

Tra’Bir snarled; “even if it costs us our own lives”

 

Ramnah pulled his spear from its strapping and extended it, “better to live a second as a warrior than an eternity as a coward. It has been a pleasure to fight by your side, Brother.”

 

Tra’Bir cackled; “you might not have proved yourself in the hunts but today you have earned yourself the mark of your clan.”

 

The two Yautja roared as they lunged at the Changeling with their spears extended and poised to attack. The spear points hit home pinning the wailing creature to the navigation console. As it flailed violently in an attempt to escape, Tra’Bir grabbed hold of the wristcomp bearing arm and initiated the destruct mechanism. Tra’Bir cursed, “There isn’t enough energy to achieve critical mass. It needs to be attached to a living Yautja to send it over.” In an instant Tra’bir knew what he had to do. He tore his visor from his face and roared with all his might, “If I am to die, I will die in victory.” He sliced the arm from the changeling and attached the wristcomp to his own arm. The changeling wrapped its tentacles around Tra’Bir and pulled him closer. He was now inches away from death. His mandibles almost touching those of the changeling’s grotesquely deformed head. Suddenly it pulled him down; impaling him onto his own spear. He roared in agony as green blood began to run fro the corner of his mouth. He painfully reactivated the destruct mechanism and watched as it counted down.

 

“Farewell, Brother.” Ramnah burst into sprint toward the airlock and out into the storm outside.

 

Tra’Bir began to laugh as the Changeling pulled him closer; its tentacles penetrating his skin and slowly consuming him. He looked into its eyes in the final few seconds and whispered, “Let us now rest; Bok’Tof my dear brother.”

 

The explosion vaporized the craft and its immediate surroundings creating a deep crater where the ship and helicopter had once been. Ramnah had been thrown to the floor by the shockwave of the blast and lay face down in the ice. His strength had been sapped by the battle and from being thrown to the ground with such great force. As he rolled onto his back he tried to focus on the two outlines that appeared above him. He had little to no resistance as they attached shackles to his hands. He could feel consciousness slipping away as the two figures began to drag him away. 

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Chapter 16: Chapter 16

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Chapter Sixteen – The Breakout

 

From the moment Lewis could open his eyes he then was forced to keep them closed tightly by the blinding light that shone directly on him from above. He tried to raise his hand to shield his eyes but found that it was strapped tightly by his side. He cried out in pain as a large needle penetrated the wound on his arm and proceeded to extract blood; the clear glass container slowly filling. He cried out even further when the pain in his chest returned; it was now almost unbearable. A second needle pierced his neck and injected him with a translucent green liquid; the pain in his chest subsided. The light dimmed slightly as the overhead lamp slid away and Lewis could now see the room he was in. The metallic walls were covered with monitors and readouts, the doorway looked extremely ornate with miniature effigies lining the top. He couldn’t see them clearly but could tell even from this distance that they were not human. He craned his neck to look over the wound in his arm; it had been cleaned. The dark particles that formerly could be seen moving within were now no longer present. He noticed the large monitor facing him from the far wall. Although he could not understand the language, the diagram explained it thoroughly enough. It was an outline of a person. The majority was filled in green with the exception of its right arm and part of the chest that sported an urgent-looking red. The infection had spread. Although his captors were keeping him pain-free, he felt that the longer he remained strapped to this table; the worse his situation would become. Unfortunately the sturdy straps that held him firmly to the table offered little hope of escape. “Well this is different” he muttered to himself; “Guess I’ll just wait around here; see what happens.”

 

The pain Ramnah felt was lessening with every impact on his battered and bruised body. The wire that held him up cut deep into his wrists. His torso was littered with burn marks from the business-end of a shock gun. Ramnah simply looked into the eyes of his attacker with a look of defiance. Dovok held his hand up to signal a pause in the brutal onslaught. The attacker stepped back. He was a large muscular Yautja; his face covered with a ceremonial visor resembling a skull. He was an Inquisitor, employed by the council of Elders to punish and glean important facts from Bad Bloods prior to their sentencing. The room was dark and foreboding; at the side of the Inquisitor stood a table containing Ramnah’s wrist blades, visor and various instruments of torture.

 

Dovok stepped closer to the beaten figure of Ramnah; “You fool. Your hasty act of bravado has destroyed one of the most significant finds for aeons. You are fortunate that one of your soft meat pets carries traces of the infection with it. Otherwise we would have no use for you.”

 

“This creature has killed our brethren. Their deaths were senseless and…”

 

“Necessary.” Dovok cut over Ramnah’s protest; “Our ancestors would not have fallen victim to this creature. We have become weak, heavily reliant on our technology and less on our wits. All that will change when I reintroduce the Changeling back to our home world. Our weapons are feeble at best against its immense strength and versatility.”

 

“Where is your honour? You stand there and talk of weakness yet have your bidding done by another.”

 

“You think I am weak?”

 

Ramnah sneered; “High Priest; the only ones who wear long garments and talk as much as you are the Child Makers.”

 

Dovok waved his hand and the Inquisitor pounded his enormous fists into Ramnah’s already bruised face.

 

Dovok stood over Ramnah; “Your compassion for the soft meat makes you no better. I know your thoughts are on their safety. I will put your mind at rest. Your female pet is locked up safely with a pet of my own.”

 

Kristanna searched the smooth metal walls of this high cylindrical room in search of a method of escape. Although the walls were extremely high; there appeared to be no roof or ceiling. She looked up at the translucent green mist that covered the top; there was little chance of climbing up there, and even if she could; that mist was there for a purpose. Her thoughts of escape were cut short by a faint hissing sound. She turned and followed the source of the noise and found a large lathery egg-shaped mass. The base had a form of webbing containing what appeared to be roots. It slowly pulsated and emanated its low menacing intermittent hiss. Kristanna slowly backed away from the mass until she was pressed against the cold hard metal of the wall. She had no idea what was inside the cocoon, but there was one thing she knew for certain; she was in trouble.

 

Dovok tired of witnessing the savage beating before him; “Come; we will leave him to contemplate what fate has in store for him. Give him something to keep him going until our return.” The inquisitor slammed his fist into the side of Ramnah’s head sending blood flying across the room. Their laughter faded as they left the room and headed down the corridor. Ramnah hung there suspended by the wires that sliced into his skin, his thoughts dwelled with his predicament. He was alone, he was beaten and unarmed. An honourless death would surely follow. The inquisitors tended to take you apart piece by piece and once you had finally died, they would smash your skull in a final act of disrespect. To them, you were not worthy to be kept as a trophy. He closed his eyes in an attempt to shut out his harsh reality. Thoughts of Tra’Bir flashed before him. He had known the end was coming and had embraced it; choosing to fight to the death over fleeing and allowing his adversary to live. His train of thought was suddenly derailed by screams of pain from further down the corridor. The screams sounded like those of the soft meat; it sounded like the male. Dovok must have been using his Inquisitor on him. Ramnah’s eyes fell upon the tray of torture implements that stood just out of reach. He stretched his foot as far as he could and cursed as he was still a considerable distance away. He steeled himself for the inevitable agony as he attempted to force his hand out of the wires that held him. He let out a roar as the wires dug deeper into his wrists causing blood to flow thick and fast from the wounds. As the wire gouged deeper into his skin he found himself slightly closer to the table. He paused for a second; footsteps were heading back toward the room. He clenched his mandibles tightly and lurched forward again, the wire cut deep into his fingers and removed large chunks of flesh from his hand but with a final and audible roar of exertion, his hand pulled free. He reached for the nearest implement on the tray; a large metal duo-blade with serrated edges. He sliced through the final wire that restrained him with relative ease and crashed to the floor. The footsteps were now outside the door.

 

He lay motionless as the Inquisitor stepped into the room. He looked upon the prone body of Ramnah and noted the blood and snapped wires. Slowly he advanced; his eyes not leaving Ramnah for a moment. The Inquisitor stooped low over him and turned him onto his back. Ramnah lay there with his eyes closed; the blade in his hand hidden under his leg. The Inquisitor placed his hands around Ramnah’s lower mandibles and started to attempt to tear them from his face. Ramnah snapped his eyes open and thrust the blade forth. The Inquisitor roared as the blade sliced deep into his side. He leapt back and checked the severity of the wound. Ramnah got to his feet and gestured to the Inquisitor to attack him. They charged to each other with lightning pace, the sickening crunching sound of body against body rang out as the two exchanged blows. The Inquisitor grabbed at Ramnah’s braids and pulled them tight while delivering vicious blows to his face with his other fist. Ramnah kicked out at him and landed a hard kick into his stomach causing a moment’s lapse of concentration. Ramnah followed up with a savage uppercut that landed directly above the Inquisitor’s throat sending his visor crashing to the ground. The inquisitor lifted Ramnah from the ground and launched him across the room. He landed on the floor with a thud and lay there winded; his blade slid away from him.

 

Slowly the Inquisitor stalked toward Ramnah; “I’m going to enjoy this. Runts like you are a disgrace to the species.” He leaned over Ramnah and wrapped his immense hand around his throat. Ramnah felt the pressure on his throat intensify; black spots began to form in his vision. He fumbled to reach the blade, his fingertips gently skirting over it. Finally with a moment of excessive concentration, he gripped the handle. Ramnah knew the moment had arrived; he thrust with the blade again, sending it firmly into the Inquisitor’s throat. His grip on Ramnah’s throat lessened and he fell to the floor choking on his own blood. Ramnah regained his breath and struggled to his feet. He staggered to the now upturned table and collected his wristblade and visor. After attaching them he turned again to face the now completely dead Inquisitor. He stood over the corpse and watched the green blood ooze from his throat before finally raising his foot and with all his strength bringing it down hard; the blow easily crushing his skull. Ramnah darted out of the room and headed down the long corridor away from the screams of Lewis. It was not time to face Dovok; not yet. He reached the doorway that lead to the cargo and holding pens and slid it open.

 

A Yautja soldier blocked his path, “You should not be here.” He raised his spear.

 

Ramnah extended his wristblade; “I was about to say the same thing to you.”

 

Kristanna stared transfixed at the egg as it pulsated and twitched before her eyes. Slowly the top of the egg peeled open with a wet tearing sound and two small spindly legs gripped the edge. As it pulled itself out of the egg, its form became clearer. It was a large spider-like creature with a long tail. It skin was the colour of flesh and glistened as it was bathed in the green glow from above. Without warning the creature launched itself from the rim of the egg toward Kristanna with intense velocity. She darted out of its way and ran to the other side of the room. The creature scurried along the floor to her; its tail flicking back and forth as it did. She dared not look back as she ran at full speed across the room, the clattering sound of the creature’s legs against the metal grated floor coming ever closer to her with each step. Finally she fell to the floor and backed herself into the corner. It drew ever closer. She screamed as it finally leapt at her; its legs outstretched and its tail aiming for her neck. With a flash of silver the creature was gone. Kristanna looked to the floor and saw it pinned to the floor by a large spear; its blood eating a hole in the metallic floor. She looked up to the top of the walls and saw the green mist had gone. Stood at the edge was Ramnah.

 

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Chapter 17: Chapter 17

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Chapter Seventeen – Fight or Flight

 

The Xenomorph watched through the vent into the adjoining chamber as the soft prey was assisted out of the holding pen by one of the hunters. Although it’s exposure to these armoured beings was limited, its hive memory told it that it hated them. It could sense its brothers were detained nearby. It knew it had to free them. Their Queen was subdued but alive; the hive must be re-established at all costs. It had tried to push through the vent earlier but had been burned when it touched the vent. The box with the green flashing light was making it burn. Staring mesmerized by the beautiful green light that pulsed rhythmically it pondered the problem. Its gaze was drawn to the face hugger that lay skewered in the now vacant pen; its blood eating into the metallic floor. The others could sense its thoughts. They approved. The Xenomorph laid its tail across the floor and held itself above it. With a roar of fury it launched the sharp teeth of its second mouth into the carapace at the tip of its tail. Blood sprayed from the tip as the spike at the end severed away easily. The Xenomorph swung its tail back and forth dousing the green box with its acidic blood. With a hiss and a loud crack the box melted away from the wall. With a growl of determination the Xenomorph slowly approached the vent. Stopping suddenly it remembered the burning pain. It turned to face the mangled carcass of the dead hunter that lay on the floor. The Xenomorph scooped up a chunk of torn flesh and tossed it against the vent. Nothing happened. Slowly but decisively the Xenomorph advanced on the vent.

 

Lewis struggled with his bonds as one of the creatures examined his wound. Only a few moments earlier they had wheeled in a table containing one of their own kind; restrained in the same was as Lewis was. He wasn’t struggling to escape, he must have been sedated. The robed creature stood over him watching intently as the blood extracted from Lewis’ arm was injected into the neck of the sleeping creature.

 

Lewis struggled against his bonds; “You’re fucking crazy! Do you have any idea what you’re doing?”

 

Without turning to face the source of the outburst, one of the creatures; dressed in the armour of the hunters; approached and swung open a container removing a vial containing a deep green liquid which they promptly injected into the creature at the same site as the first injection that contained Lewis’ blood. The creature began to spasm as the green chemical reacted within its blood causing the cell re-growth in the infected blood to accelerate rapidly. The hunter then stepped back and pulled another vial from the container, this time a deep red colour. The creature on the bed stopped struggling and lay dormant. The hunter pulled his knife from his belt and plunged it deep into the creature’s chest causing it to roar and spasm violently. Its skin tearing and tentacles began flailing back and forth. Without hesitation the hunter placed the contents of the vial onto the tip of a dart and fired it into the chest of the rapidly mutating creature. It wailed and thrashed as its flesh bubbled and burnt. It screamed as the skin shrivelled and buckled until an unidentifiable mass lay motionless on the table. The hunter activated the scanner above the table. From the images, Lewis made the assumption that the red chemical killed the cells that caused the mutation. A grim realisation gripped him; they were trying to control it, not contain it. The two creatures turned to Lewis and slowly approached him. The Hunter was now holding the vial containing the green liquid.

 

Kristanna’s thoughts were fraught with confusion; this creature that first tried to kill her had not only assisted their escape from the outpost but now had rescued her from what she assumed was certain doom at the hands of that spider creature. Why would this being have such a change of loyalty? Why would it have a change of heart? Her lungs felt like lead as she tired from running down the corridor at full sprint. She looked to her masked saviour. He seemed to be holding back so she could keep up with him. At least she assumed it was a “he”. Its muscular physique resembled that of a human male. Kristanna finally began to drop back as her energy depleted. She leant against the wall, gasping mouthfuls of air. Stars danced in front of her eyes as she struggled to maintain consciousness. Ramnah skidded to a halt and turned to face Kristanna. He walked back to her and stared at the heat signatures dotted around her body. He could plainly see that she was exhausted. He snapped his head to look down the corridor they had previously run through; the sound of hurried footfalls could be heard. The soldiers had found their fallen comrade and were now giving chase. Ramnah repeatedly looked at the tired form of Kristanna and back down the corridor before finally scooping her up in his arms and running at full pelt down the corridor putting as much distance between them and their pursuers as he possibly could. Kristanna was slight in build but carrying her would still slow down even the strongest runner, yet this creature was able to sprint at an incomprehensible speed. Shapes sped past her eyes as she was carried through the maze of corridors. Ramnah came to an abrupt stop as he was met by several soldiers all with spears brought to bear on them. Ramnah allowed Kristanna to slide to the ground and activated his wrist blade and gave a furious roar. One of the soldiers stepped forth and threw his spear to the ground, also activating the blade on his own wrist. The two circled each other; behind their visors neither one took their eyes from their opponent. Finally with the clashing of metal and the slam of body against body, the two began to land vicious blows upon each other. The soldier gripped the badly cut wrist of Ramnah causing him to snarl in pain before striking the soldier across the face with the back of his wrist blade sending him crashing to the floor. Quickly the soldier leapt to his feet and charged at Ramnah. The two combatants became locked in a deadly embrace, each trading vicious blows with the other. Ramnah saw his opportunity and plunged his wrist blade into the side of the soldier and kicked him away with all his strength. The soldier skidded across the floor before struggling back to his feet.

 

Ramnah readied himself for a further attack; “You wear the honourable mark of the defence force yet you follow the whim of the corrupt High Priest. He will betray you as he did my brothers and me.”

 

The soldier sneered; “Spare me the lies, bad blood. Save your breaths because you do not have many left.”

 

Suddenly the corridor was plunged into darkness. Kristanna could see nothing but Ramnah was still able to see. The ship’s emergency defences had activated. The soldier backed away from Ramnah and activated his wrist computer. A 3d image projected from within and rotated slowly in front of the visor of the soldier. The image was of the ship. The display zoomed into a single location on the ship and outlined several creatures with long tails. One was releasing the others and they were advancing down the service vent at speed. They were heading to their position.

 

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Chapter 18: Chapter 18

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Chapter 18 – Lewis’ Incarceration

 

Lewis blinked heavily as his eyes became accustomed to his new surroundings. Everything seemed to have a deep blue tinge to it; his vision seemed wavy and distorted. He looked down to his feet, there was no floor beneath them; he was suspended. It was at this point that he realised that he was submerged in some form of liquid. For a short time he panicked, clawing at his throat for fear that he would surely drown. Reason finally came to him. Before the realisation of his location, he was able to breathe. He forced his mind to abandon thoughts of a watery demise and took a nervous but deep breath in through his mouth; the sensation was warm and unusual but felt like a breath nonetheless. He reached out with his left hand until its progress was impeded by the thick clear alloy of his container. Instinctively he looked up to what he assumed would be the surface of the liquid and was disheartened to see only small circular lights. Outside the tube, the robed creature appeared to be deep in animated conversation with the hunter from earlier. Both were pointing to a crimson light that was flashing determinedly on the wall. Shoves were exchanged before finally the robed being flared his mandibles and swept out of the room, pacing down a corridor that was pitch black save for the scant deep red illumination from similar warning lights. The hunter stalked toward the tube and placed his palm against the glass. Lewis watched on as the creature pierced the flesh of his arm with an empty syringe and extracted some of his luminous green blood before finally inserting the needle of the syringe into a small slot in the tube. Lewis felt his pulse quickening as the blood mingled with the blue fluid within the tank. The feeling unsettled him as he felt an unnatural urge to touch the hunter. He felt as though there was a split personality lurking in his subconscious; A Hyde to his Jekyll. That if it were allowed, he would be forced to concede control of his own body and allow it to be controlled by the will of his… Monster. Slowly the blood from the syringe drifted toward him and, upon contacting his skin, was absorbed. Within moments he could feel new sensations as unbeknown to him, the cells within him were rapidly altering to take onboard the new information contained in the alien blood cells. For the first time in this entire ordeal, he felt truly scared. He could feel the creature within him claiming more of his body; it was only a matter of time before he would succumb. He looked deep into the hunter’s eyes as an immense surge of hate filled his heart. With an expression of worry, the robed being returned to the room and strode up to the hunter.

 

The hunter turned to face him, “Nahr De’thak Taun Den takom’tah. Serk arrer... testing his reaction.”

 

Lewis’ heart fluttered as he realised he understood the last words of this tirade of nonsense.

 

The hunter continued “I’ve put some of my blood in with him. He seemed to react. It won’t be long now.”

 

These creatures spoke perfect English? Why did they wait until now to do so? Lewis looked over to the status screens that were attached to his tank. The alien symbols were now making sense. They were indicating that Yautja blood had been inserted in to the subject’s cell structure successfully. Lewis wrestled with that information for a beat, and then pondered its implications. They couldn’t speak his language. They couldn’t understand him. HE understood THEM. His eyes darted back to the readouts on the screens. His excitement quickly turned to horror as he pondered the contents. The liquid they had injected earlier was an accelerant designed to make the creature inside him assimilate him faster. The blue liquid he was currently submerged in was a chemical that suppressed the cell takeover and instead only allowed it to take onboard information. In short; if he stays out of the blue stuff for too long, he’s dead. Filled with frustration, Lewis slammed his fist into the side of the tank causing it to develop a miniscule crack at the point of impact. The Yaujta both turned to face him and before long returned to their conversation. They hadn’t noticed the crack. Lewis strained to listen to the Yautja’s conversation

 

The hunter extended his wris tblade; “The other soft meat and the bad blood; what are we to do with them?”

 

Dovok the high priest pondered for a moment, “The inquisitor will be finished with the bad blood. You can go and deal with it as you wish. The soft meat is busy entertaining one of the hard meat samples I smuggled into the ship earlier.”

 

Lewis felt his insides twist. His friends were in danger; he knew he must find a way to help them. He seemed to possess a heightened strength but it was useless as long as he remained trapped inside his tank. To leave would mean to die. Would death be a welcome alternative to whatever these creatures had in store for him? He stared at the tiny crack for a moment.

 

He knew what he had to do.

 

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Chapter 19: Chapter 19

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Chapter Nineteen – The battle

 

Kristanna strained her eyes in an attempt to see in the near darkness that now surrounded her. The deep red hue that now illuminated the soldiers made them look almost demonic. She looked to Ramnah; he was staring in the same direction as the soldiers. Kristanna’s eyes snapped up to the same spot as the sound of scurrying claws on metal began to emanate from the corner of the large room. The soldiers began to back away from the spot and slowly stepped toward her. Whirring sounds came from the shoulders of the soldiers as the corner of the room began to be lit up with a multitude of tiny red circles that Kristanna reasoned must be the crosshairs for some sort of weapon. As the scurrying became louder; Ramnah nudged Kristanna in an attempt to attract her attention. She turned to see him looking down at her, he gestured with a nod that she look down. In his hand he proffered a retractable spear which he dropped into Kristanna’s hand. It was surprisingly light for something that felt so dense and solid. As she held it aloft Ramnah leant toward her and pushed her thumb firmly into a crevace in the centre. Kristanna jumped as the spear extended and locked into place with a reassuring “swish”.

 

The soldier that had previously been attacked Ramnah slowly back up until he was at Ramnah’s side. “You spoke of honour, bad blood. My respect and trust is earned in battle. Will you fight with us or follow the bad blood path and save your own skin?”

 

Ramnah extended his wristblade and wrapped his arm around that of the soldier, “I have lived, will fight and will die according to Yautja law.”

 

The soldier nodded, “Very well, brother. I am Fen’kah. If you fight alongside me as passionately as you faught against me, you will earn my trust before this battle is through.”

 

Kristanna noted that Ramnah had linked arms with the soldier and as she looked to the others she saw that they too had all linked arms, their sights pinpointing the vent in the corner, their spears or blades extended. The sight reminded her of the Phalanx formation that the armies of ancient Greece used. Her attention was thrust away from the awe inspiring sight by the violent clang of the vent being torn from the wall. Shapes danced in the bright red circles that painted the vent as shiny domed heads were followed by long horned tails. A swarm of what appeared to Kristanna to be giant beasts somewhat resembling black ants were climbing down the walls and dropping to the floor not thirty feet away from her. White hot bolts of plasma shot forth from the shoulders of her protectors. Those projectiles that found their target slammed home causing the black alien creatures to explode of at the very least tore large sections away from their bodies. The flashes of light from the impact explosions were as bright as daylight and made the darkness that came inbetween seem thicker. Finally darkness triumphed as the shoulder cannons fell silent and the only sound to be heard was the violent hiss caused by the acidic blood of these black creatures as it ate into the floor. A further patrol of the aliens began to clamber from the vent and, seeing their siblings laying in a smouldering heap; vaulted to the floor mere feet away from the soldiers, rendering their cannons useless. The soldiers adopted a semi-crouched position and those with spears extended them to face the aliens. Both sides let out a chilling roar as this inhuman carnival of hate and pain erupted once more. Spears swung and tails shot forth both sending acidic or luminous blood spattering over the scene. Screetches of pain were met with roars of fury as weapons and limbs connected with their intended targets. Kristanna faught a sudden sense of nausea that was starting to flood her stomach. She staggered back slowly and looked up in time to see one of the large black aliens vaulting over the Phalanx and slowly making its way over to her, its teeth bared in anticipation of its next kill. Kristanna could feel her knees go weak with fear as this imposing figure bore down on her. As she backed away from the monster, her heart jumped as she lost her footing and fell to the floor, she looked to her feet; she had slipped in some of the luminous green blood from the soldiers. Her eyes shot to where the alien was in time to see it begin to lunge for her, teeth bared and mouth open revealing a second row of razor sharp teeth. Intrinctively she curled up into a ball awaiting the inevitable. There was a sickening tearing sound and Kristanna winced as she felt a sharp pain in her side. For what seemed like an eternity, she lay there unable to move, paralyzed by fright. She could still hear the battle raging around her. She couldn’t be dead, could she? She chanced opening a single eye and glanced around her. She was still in a foetal position, her side was in agony. She rolled to her back and screamed as she saw the razor sharp teeth of the monster merely inches from her face. Something was wrong. It wasnt moving. Kristanna noticed the spear she had maintained a death-like grip on during her fall. She looked down to her side, it had torn the skin of her waist. She whimpered in pain as she followed the spear up to its tip. The end dissapeared into the throat of the alien. It must have been impaled when it tried to lunge for her. She closed her eyes and allowed her head to fall back in a mixture of shock and relief.

 

Ramnah thrust his wristblades into the domed head of yet another of the creatures as it flailed at he feet. The Phalanx was still holding. The aliens were being neutralized. Fen’kah roared as his spear skewered the alien that was tearing into the side of one of the fallen soldiers. Finally a single alien remained crouched on the wall, surveying the soldiers and clearly analyzing its options. This one was obviously still young. With a hiss of contempt it spun 360 and scramled up the wall and into the vent before the soldiers could bring their canons to bear.

 

Fen’kah pulled his spear free from the now dead alien, “Why are the Hard Meat here? There were no plans to bring them aboard on this mission.”

 

Ramnah retracted his blade and crouched over the mangled remains of one of the soldiers, “They were killing, not capturing. That means no eggs so we have no Queen and no hive here. Tell me Fen’kah; what do you know of the High Priest’s intentions on board your ship?”

 

“He was here to offer absolution to a group of bad bloods that had been exiled to this planet. We were to rescue you all and finally allow you to be executed with honour. He then discovered that you and some of the soft meat had been exposed to some form of disease. We were to capture and quarantine the soft meat.”

 

Ramnah stood and waved his hand signalling Fen’kah to stop; “The High Priest lies. He assumed that I would die unable to tell of his deeds. I would assume that the hard meat were smuggled aboard to catch you off guard and destroy and means of Yautja resistance so he could take it back to our Homeworld.”

 

Fen’kah tilted his head in confusion, “Take what?”

 

Ramnah’s voice was grave; “A Changeling.”

 

The remaining soldiers stopped what they were doing and fell silent. All stared at Ramnah looking for a sign, hoping that this was some form of joke. It wasn’t.

 

Fen’kah stood unmoving for what seemed an eternity; his eyes not leaving Ramnah. “A... Changeling?”

 

Ramnah nodded solemnely.

 

“On board?”

 

He nodded again.

 

Fen’kah burst into motion, pacing toward the corridor Ramnah and Kristanna had previously run down, “We must destroy this ship. It cannot be allowed to return home. The High Priest will pay for his treachery. Ramnah, I see you as a bad blood no more. You stood by me with honour. You are free to go, brother. Take the soft meat and return her to her home. She does not need to perish here. I have a piece of primitive human weaponry, she might be able to use it as protection.” He handed a brown cloth bag to Ramnah and turned to walk away.

 

Ramnah grabbed Fen’kah’s arm, “If I survive, I will return to take the final journey with you. Until then; farewell, brother.” They clasped hands and then Fen’kah turned to rally his comrades. Ramnah ran to Kristanna who was now sat upright but was still dazed. He grasped her arm and hauled her to her feet. He glanced over at the impaled creature and looked back at Kristanna. He nodded appreciatively.

 

Kristanna smiled “Just doing my bit”. Ramnah handed her the cloth bag and walked past her, she turned round to see where he was going. He had stopped and glanced over his shoulder before setting off walking again. “You want me to follow. Right.” She set off in the direction of Ramnah all the time unfastening the cloth bag. She stopped in surprise as she opened the top of the bag and peered inside at its contents. “Woah”, gingerly Kristanna pulled out an extremely mean looking gun from inside. Having seen many modern gangster movies she instantly recognised it as a Mac-10.

 

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Chapter 20: Chapter 20

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Chapter 20 - The Rage Within

The lab was plunged into darkness. The only illumination came from twittering diodes that littered the control panels that surrounded the tube. Lewis" eyes quickly became accustomed to the gloom and his attention darted to the air vent in the corner of the room. Metallic scratching sounds emanated from within. Those scurryings were then replaced by the sound of plasma fire and the occasional primal scream that clearly marked the violent demise of a life form. Finally, the scurrying began again. Lewis watched with anticipation as the air vent in the room began to shudder and finally break free from its housing. A sleek figure unfurled itself from within; its shiny black carapace reflecting the crimson glow from the control panels. The creature lowered itself to the floor before turning its attention to the tube containing Lewis. It advanced menacingly toward him as he remained unmoving in his fluid prison. He stared at the glistening metallic teeth that were drawing ever closer. Lewis could feel his heart banging hard against his chest. But it was not fear that gripped him; it was excitement. Something within him yearned to be closer to this magnificent beast, to understand it; to become it. Memories stirred from deep inside. These flashbacks were not from his mind. They seemed to come from within his very soul.

 

The flashbacks seemed so real, so vivid. He felt pangs of familiarity at the burnt orange sky, the rolling plains littered with small huts forming a primitive community. The screams of pain and the roars of fury from the inhabitants as his kind began the process of assimilating them.

 

His kind; Not human; but a single consciousness manifested in multiple organisms.

 

Lewis shook his head violently in an attempt to dislodge these alien memories from his mind. Focussing instead on the beast that now stood mere inches from him, teeth bared, twisting its mouth to almost resemble a sneer. He was unable to look away from this being. He was transfixed on it. Deep down, he admired it. He watched on in awe as its mouth opened slowly to reveal a second set of razor sharp teeth that shot forth and pounded into the tube that contained him. Though the tube was strong, the crack widened, the impact violent enough to initiate the built in security measures. The creature screeched and thrashed erratically as it was doused with jets of freezing cold liquid that shot from the base of the tube. Lewis could feel the rage building within the now prone creature as it struggled to its feet. With a hiss it turned away and bounded out through the main doors and down the corridor out of view. Lewis" heart was now practically bursting out of his chest. He anxiously cast his eyes over his surroundings look for a way to escape his current incarceration. The glass of the tube was holding in spite of the crack and the vicious attack by the monster. The steel supports at the base of the tube glistened in the artificial lighting of the lab. They were covered in a thick layer of ice. Lewis stared thoughtfully for a moment. The liquid nitrogen had doused the creature earlier and had also covered the metal supports in the process. Mustering all his strength, Lewis kicked the back of the tube sending himself violently into the front. Again and again he violently forced himself into the reinforced glass until finally weakened steel began to give way. With a thud and the crack of ruptured steel the tube shook and began to lean precariously toward the floor. Lewis braced himself for the inevitable impact

 

"Oh, Shit!"

 

The steel yawned as it gave way and the tube crashed to the ground, shattering on impact. Lewis lay in a foetal position as the pain returned. It was beginning to take him over. Time was running out.

 

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Chapter 21: Chapter 21

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Chapter 21: Escape

Ramnah and Kristanna dashed down toward the escape bay and to eventual freedom. Their progress was only momentarily marred by the occasional single Xenomorph patrol that roamed the corridor in search of an easy meal. Short work for a trained hunter or even a human with a machine gun. As they round the corner into the engine bay area Ramnah froze. He turned to face one of the entry ways into the security room. The band of hunters he had only previously fought alongside all lay across the floor. Slain by an unknown hand. Ramnah"s insides twisted with rage as his eyes scanned the area of the party responsible. Kristanna tugged at his arm, "we have to go! Please!" Her touch was enough to snap Ramnah back into reality. He resumed his pace toward the escape pod only to stop again a moment later. Tilting his head to one side, he clicked his mandibles in curiosity at the unusual sound emanating from within one of the rooms. With a deft kick the door came crashing in and Ramnah strode into the room, spear extended. There in the room was the cause of the death of his comrades. A sea of shiny black domed heads spun to look directly at them. Shiny silver teeth exposed as though engaged in a twisted smile. Ramnah quickly weighed up the odds and realised that the softmeat had no chance of surviving this battle. He pulled his plasma gun from his side and fired it into the room before dragging Kristanna by the arm at high speed away from the hoards of Xenomorphs that began to file out of the room and down the corridor after them. Ramnah roared and threw Kristanna down the corridor before turning to face the creatures and prerparing for battle.

Lewis had been occupying his mind with thoughts of mind over matter. He was a dead man walking. But maybe he could make the most of the time he had left. Maybe he could keep thoughts of failing at bay long enough to take advantage of the instinct and the strength of the creature that dwelled inside him. It wouldn"t want to die before it has realised its full potential so maybe they could work together.

 

"stupid thoughts" he murmered to himself.

 

A split second later, a dull thud emanated from inches behind him and was followed by a sharp pain in his side. He turned to see the large dark creature from earlier. It had hidden in the vents to ambush him.

 

"Sneaky"

 

With a scream of fear and anger he hit out at the creature with all his might. His blow hardly connected with the beast let alone caused it any harm. Lewis winced preparing to die at the hands of this nightmare creature. It drew closer to him and seemed to be evaluating him. Could it sense the thing that infested him? It turned away from him, it had no interest in killing him after all.

 

"I dont think so you bastard", Lewis grabbed the loose cover from the vent and charged at the xenomorph. The sharp steel edge penetrating its throat sending acidic blood spattering across the walls.

 

"This might have potential"

 

Ramnah was badly beaten but was not prepared to concede without a fight. As each wave of Xenomorph leapt into attack he cut them down with his spear and wristblades. The resulting pool of blood was steadily eating into the flooring. Kristanna looked up as the grating above began to buckle. They had found a way round. She struggled to her feet and ambled to the corner of the corridor. The aliens took no effort to destroy the grating and now surrounded Ramnah. One turned its attention to Kristanna. It stalked her slowly. Savouring its intended meal. Almost enjoying the anticipation. It reared back and prepared to lunge. Suddenly a figure pounced on the creature from above. With a barrage of expletives Lewis plunged a metal post into its mouth and pinned it to the floor. "These alien fuckers wont kill me. I"ll make them wish they had". Ramnah had very little armour energy left. Nowhere near enough to make critical mass and take the hard meat with him in a blaze of glory. He rerouted the remaining power to his plasmacaster and fired a well-aimed shot at the heart of the group sending them scattering long enough for him to slam closed the escape bay blast doors.

 

Ramnah looked to Lewis who was stood with his back to the door. Lewis turned to Kristanna. "I can"t go back. I"m finished. Theres nothing else for me other than death. Better now while I have a choice than later." He walked toward Ramnah and raised his sleeve exposing the wound where the infection had started. Ramnah"s eyes narrowed and he pointed to the far wall. It was dark and shadowed. Kristanna did not need to see what was about to happen. Slowly Lewis walked to the wall and placed his hands against it, bracing himself for a sudden and quick death. As Ramnah extended his wristblade and paced toward Lewis to strike the fatal blow, a plasma bolt pierced the darkness and hit Ramnah square in the back causing him to fall at Kristanna"s feet. She looked down at him. He was stunned but alive.

 

A familiar figure entered the chamber from an escape pod entryway. The robed creature raised his hand and gestured for his one remaining bodyguard to stow his weapon. Kristanna gripped the handle of her mac 10 firmly her eyes never leaving the High Priest. They were Ramnah injured they could never outfight these two creatures. She needed to redress the balance. With a sharp intake of breath she raised the Mac10 and emptied the chamber in the general direction of the High Priest. Although he was advanced in years he was nimble enough to dodge the onslaught. His bodyguard was not so lucky. A single bullet passed through his head and sent shattered skull and blood across the wall behind.

 

Lewis sensed that the time was right. He leapt from the shadows in an attempt to restrain the High Priest. No sooner had he leapt into sight when Dovok grabbed at the spear at his fallen bodyguard"s side and thrust it out into the direction of Lewis. Dovok sneered, unable and unwilling to hide his arrogance and contempt. "You thought that you could simply sneak up on me and kill me so easily? You soft meat are more pathetic than I originally thought. I found your kind pitiful yet endearing. Something that could be kept as a pet but was also good for hunting. Now I have come to the realisation that you are merely a pest." He thrust the spear deeper into Lewis" stomach, blood splayed as the tip pierced the skin and finally protruded from his back. Dovok turned his back as Lewis crumpled to the floor. "What a waste" Lewis lay doubled over, gasping for breath. This last injury had sent him over the edge, he could no longer control the creature within. Tears began to well in his eyes as thoughts of his wife and unborn child filled his mind, he clenched his fists with rage as he thought of his wife having to cope on her own; his child without a father. Lewis let out a groan of remorse as he felt his humanity slipping away. A strange sense both of peace and numbness washed over him as he became less aware of himself before finally he sank into the eternal sleep of oblivion.

Ramnah stood firm, his wristblades extended and poised to strike. Either way; this battle was going to end with the death of a Yautja. Dovok tilted his head in mock surprise "And now you decide that you are brave enough to face me? You are no better than the animals you ally yourself with." "Save it , traitor" were the only words that Fen"kah uttered as he burst from the shadows, lunging toward the High Priest with deadly force. Fen"kah was younger, stronger and faster than Dovok and quickly had him pinned to the ground, he lowered himself until he was mere inches from the terrified face of Dovok and let out an ear piercing shriek of rage before raising his arm in preparation for the final blow.

"Blam!" Fen"kah froze for what seemed an eternity before slumping to the floor. Dovok unsteadily arose to his feet before tossing aside the dart gun he had concealed under his robes. "Youth has such terrible drawbacks. So eager, yet so stupid". Ramnah"s gaze suddenly fell upon the area immediately behind Dovok. In all the commotion of the struggle with Fen"kah, neither he or Dovok had noticed that the lifeless body of Lewis was no longer where it fell. The body was nowhere to be seen. Dovok sneered as he pointed to Kristanna, "There is one working escape pod. It will not be wasted on the soft meat livestock. She can burn here with you, bad blood". He slowly backed into the escape pod and slammed his fist into the engage panel causing the security door to zoom into the closed position. Slowly the escape pod eased itself away from the main vessel. Ramnah and Kristanna ran to the view panel next to he escape pod doors and watched as the Smug sneer on Dovok"s face began to fade into the distance.

"No!" screamed Kristanna as she kicked at the wall in frustration. Ramnah clicked with agitation and placed a firm grip on the back of her neck to force her to look out at the view panel. Dovok gazed unmoving at the mothership, a sense of accomplishment in his eyes. Behind him loomed a large figure; it was badly disfigured but she instantly recognised it as Lewis.

Dovok froze as he felt the breath at the back of his neck. Slowly he turned to face the imposing figure that stood towering over him. With eyes suddenly filled with fear and mandibles flared he let out a primal scream of terror as sinewy tentacles short forth from the mangled body of Lewis and wrapped around him. His scream was finally cut short into a sickening gurgle as the Lewis-Changeling"s jaw tore apart and large bone-like fangs plunged into Dovok"s throat. Kristanna looked on as the escape pod rolled forther away from the ship and, with no pilot to engage the heat shields, it twisted and burnt away as it reentered the Earth"s atmopshere.

Kristanna turned away and closed her eyes, "Well done. Now you can rest, honey." Her thoughts filled with memories of Lewis and how much of a rock he had been during this ordeal. It seemed almost poetic that he had been the one to end this nightmare but it was also such an injustice that so many decent people had died over the past 24 hours.

Ramnah looked on at Kristanna"s weeping frame and took pity. There were no other escape pods onboard the ship but there was a single Hunter class quick insertion pod not far away from their current location. He was planning to use it himself to escape once Kristanna was safe. Now there was only one option. Kristanna looked up in time to see Ramnah striding toward her at a vicious pace, with a roar he struck her across the face sending her crashing into the wall where she slumped to the ground unconscious. Ramnah quickly scooped her up and walked to the engine maintenance chamber containing the insertion pod. He deftly bundled her inside and secured the door closed. He turned to the main console and activated the manual eject for the pod. There was no response. Ramnah could hear the scraping sound of claws on metal. The hard meat had recouperated and returned to battle. Ramnah knew what he had to do. He ran to the engine cooling coil and wrenched it from its housing with all his strength. As it came crashing to the floor the navigation lights began to flash red. Every viewscreen flashed with bright red lettering that dissapeared in turn. The insertion pod juddered before finally roaring out through an opening in the side of the ship. Ramnah extended his wristblades as the shiny black creatures slowly closed in and with a roar he leapt to the closest one. If he was going to die, it would be in battle. The ship was engulfed in a ball of white-hot plasma as the engines overheated and detonated sending shockwaves through space and just as quickly as it had appeared. It was gone.

 

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Chapter 22: Chapter 22

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Chapter 22: The cycle begins

The insertion pod plummeted through the atmosphere, its underside glowing white hot from the intense heat generated by re-entry. In a matter of minutes the pod thumped down into the bleak white wasteland of the Antarctic. Kristanna tumbled out of the escape door and into the icy mists that enveloped her. The cold air on her skin began ro rouse her, through heavy eyes she saw a large shadow overhead that progressively increased in size. The gentle whoosh of the snow against her ears was then replaced by the roar of the immense engine of the resuce helicopter that came to rest beside her.

The helicopter doors slid open and a jump suited figure ran toward her. "Control, we have a live one. Barely, but still breathing!" He crouched over Kristanna and peered down at her through thick snow goggles before scooping her up and carrying her into the chopper. The medical team burst into action wrapping her up in heat foil and attaching drips and IV needles with precision and equal care. The goggled rescuer removed his hood and eye protection and leaned over her. "Hey there, its alright, we"ve got you now. We"re from Amundsen-Scott. We got a distress call from Outpost 31 telling us to come here for survivors." Kristanna moved her oxygen mask to one side, "Yes. Lewis. They"re all dead. This creature..." Her faint mumblings were cut off as one of the medical team replaced her oxygen mask.

The rescuer continued, "We picked up a massive explosio at the Outpost so we decided we"d buzz past. It was dead up there. A wasteland. I guess we were lucky to find even you. Let alone your friend." Kristanna gazed blankly as the sedatives set in. Her eyes followed the rescuer as he shuffled to the back of the helicopter. "Yeah. Found him wandering in the mists. Seriously disorientated. Poor guy. Lucky to be alive." The rescuer pulled back the foil wrap slightly so that Kristanna could identify her unconscious colleague. Her heart jumped into her throat but she was too heavily sedated to scream. Suddenly her vision began to narrow as she slipped into sedated sleep. The last thing she saw as her eyes forced themselves shut was the embroidered name on the shirt.

The name was Sverre.

 







 

 

 


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