It hisses as it leaps from behind the computer, spreading out spindly legs that ended in two clawed toes. A long serpentine tail whipped behind it, uncoiling fast as it launched the creature, whose face was little more than a lamprey mouth attached to a bulbous green nodule full of sloshing fluids, through the air with startling speed. I instinctively bring up my saw and catch it mid-flight, knocking it to the side with a loud crack as the titanium alloy scraped the hard shell of the strange creature.
Looking at it out in the light of the room beneath the light of artificial suns, I shudder in revulsion as I take in its ungodly appearance. Balanced on three legs with a lamprey mouth on its belly, the creature is a sickly grey with twin sacs of brilliant green flanking the spindly tail. The body looks slimy as if it was coated in a thin layer of mucous, and above the join of each leg was a dull set of red spots that I could just barely make out as eye-spots. I revved up my buzz saw and take a step towards the creature, which hisses as it prepares to make another jump at me.
“Come on you little freak,” I growl within my suit, hoping it will provide adequate protection from whatever the hell this thing could be classified as.
It’s tail coils behind it, the legs pushing its frame into the coil as the scrabble on the metal floors, leaving grooves in the high-density steel. I lunge forward before it can launch itself for another attack and swing my saw down, the revved engine screaming as the spinning titanium alloy strikes the steel, tearing an ugly scar in the flawless floor. The creature had rolled to the side, it’s tail uncoiling as it moved and whipping up to slap the side of my helmet with a surprising amount of force. The automated voice of the Station begins reciting how my suit has sustained “significant structural damage” and how I need to get out of the vacuum of space as soon as possible, for my own safety.
To think that this little bug-monster, barely the size of a Schnauzer, could strike with such force is nearly inconceivable. Had I been just standing outside my suit it would have taken my head clean off. I pull the saw from the floor and hold it up defensively as the creature whips its tail to the left, a sharp crack echoing loud enough to be heard through my suit. It lets out a low hiss and the red eyespots swivel, darker orbs peering from within the spots up at me. I know my suit is insulated, so if it sees by heat then it must wonder what is actually attacking it. The buzz saw puts off a good deal of heat, and it hasn’t struck at it yet, so I’m thinking it tracks by motion.
I step forward, watching as it scrabbles back a few feet, snapping its barbed tail at the floor in front of me, slicing grooves into the steel just inches from my hard-cased boots. This thing is deadly, no doubt… so how am I going to put it down? It took care of Salas at his terminal, and probably Riley and the other scientists as well. This thing is a lethal little package, no doubt about it.
I step forward again, bringing the buzz saw to bear as the tail whips at blinding speeds. It screeches as purple gel flies from the end of its severed tail, the titanium ally having proven enough to handle the hide of the alien. Sadly the force of the tail strike damaged the saw and it no longer seems to be able to spin the titanium blades around. The alien is backing away from me, scuttling like a severed human hand as it waves it’s rapidly congealing tail above itself, spines growing out at a noticeable rate near the stump. On the ground the foot and a half of tail that I severed lies still, looking eerily like a piece of uncooked calamari.
I look around the lab for anything that I could use as a weapon as the alien skulked into the shadows beneath the hanging plant life, tail coiling up behind it to prepare for another launch. I don’t know the distance that thing can move, especially while missing a section of its tail, but I need a weapon ASAP. I nearly shout with joy as I spy a particle beam wand, a small device the emits a six-inch long laser along a rod, generally used for taking samples from biological matter as it did so with very little harm to the creature in question. The handle is sitting on the desk near Salas’s hand, and I send a silent prayer to God that Salas is in a better place, as well as a thank you for the weapon. I walk backwards, eyes never leaving the alien as it growled from its spot. I snatch the handle and flick the power on before setting it to its maximum charge, a brilliant crackling white beam springing to life along the rod extending from the handle. I switch the weapon into my dominant hand and hold it like a mugger would a knife, blade out so I can make quick slashing movements.
The times where my father taught me how to use a knife defensively come to mind, and I smile grimly as I remember his grueling lessons that at one time bored me to death. Now they might just save me from it.
“External speakers on,” I command my computer.
“External speakers not found,” the sterile voice replied to me. Dammit! The slam from the creature’s tail must have knocked some circuitry loose. No trying to coax the animal out from its hiding spot with sound; guess I’ll just have to give it a reason to move.
I walk calmly, knife held forward, closer to the alien. It growls out a high pitched warning, but I ignore it. The saying of leaving a wounded animal alone comes to mind as I approach it. I almost laugh at how stupid I’m being doing this, but I can’t just seal it up in this room and leave it to its own devices. Hell, it might be able to get into the air ducts and travel to another section of the Station.
The alien tires of my nonsense and springs forward. Three legs outstretched as the lamprey mouth spits a gob of green fluid at me. It spatters on my faceplate, blinding me; I wave the particle beam wand around, hoping to cut into the creature as it flew at me, but sadly it got past my blind attempts at self-defense and slams into my chest, where I can feel the casing of my suit buckle beneath the grip of the legs. I reach up a hand to wipe away the goo from my faceplate and find that the substance is similar to glue. A small readout in the bottom right-hand corner of my faceplate issues a warning. I read it and almost laugh at the irony.
“Warning: substance has a high concentration of Chlorine and Ammonia. Please use caution and activate internal oxygen supply so as to avoid accidental poisoning.” I read aloud before actually laughing. The thing spit out a sticky type of Mustard gas! I imagine if I could see what was going on, the substance would be giving off fumes like it was burning. I feel the tail wrap around my leg and pull, snapping me out of my amusement as it knocks me to the ground.
While one hand is glued to my faceplate, my other is free with the particle beam wand, and I wave it around the front of me where I feel the weight of the creature settled. I hear a screech and then my hand getting pulled. Surprised, I yank back and hear the tearing of the outer layer of my hard suit. The damn things talons are really strong!
I roll over, pinning it to the floor and yell at the computer. “Connect to Station Wireless Command!”
A crackling noise fills my ears as my suit’s internal computer connects to the stations internal systems. “Station! Camera for Laboratory-M!”
My faceplate becomes a screen that shows my bulky suit lying on the ground, with a fleshy tail whipping about from between my legs. I can hear the claws tearing at the carapace of my hard suit, scratching the alloy that makes up the EPS like an old man whittling away at a piece of hard wood. It won’t be long before those talons are sinking into my skin.
“Station! Emergency Protocol Alpha-Three-Two-B, Laboratory-M only. Lock external doors and seal ventilation.” I command, commanding the station to seal the room before spraying the room down with liquid Nitrogen, freezing the plants and Salas’s corpse in an instant. My EPS can take the flash freeze; I doubt the alien can. It’s a shame the camera won’t be able to see for me due to the lingering mist from the freezing agent.
“Computer, how much oxygen is left?” I ask, knowing that I may very well have sealed myself in an icy tomb.
“Oxygen levels are at eight-four percent. Warning! Exhaust ports are blocked, carbon dioxide build-up will reach lethal levels in eleven minutes.” The computer says. I curse. I hadn’t even thought about my ports getting frozen over. My thoughts are interrupted by a sound that chills my blood.
My hard shell covering my chest just cracked, the freezing having made it more fragile than it’d been previously. “No way,” I mutter, cracking the ice that’d formed over my free arm. I drop the damaged particle beam wand to the floor where I can hear it spark against the steel and begin groping around for the alien’s tail.
I grab onto a column of stiff flesh jutting up from between my legs, a sheet of thin ice covering it. The ice crackles at my touch, but the muscled limb doesn’t. In fact, it pulses beneath my grip.
Right, when I realize this I feel the scrabbling of claws scratching at my chest once more. I scream, knowing that it’s going to break through my EPS any second. Panicking, I open my channel to try and get to Aikman. He answers on the second ring.
“Tubbs, what have you found? The Station just went and doused one of the greenhouses in liquid nitrogen, was that you?” He asked, clearly stressed.
“Yeah, it was me. I was trying to kill the alien. Listen, I don’t have much time. It’s about to carve through EPS suit and get to me. It’s small and fast, and can spit a substance similar to mustard gas. It is unbelievably strong and has killed all of the scientists that I could find. You need to order the Station to close off all ventilation shafts to this entire wing and just keep it sealed in for as long as you can.”
“What do you mean it’s tearing through your EPS suit? Those things are impregnable!” Aikman almost shouts at me.
“I used the LN2 to douse the area in hopes of flash freezing the little fucker, and it made my suit brittle. But listen! Before I did that one slam from its tail was enough to damage my onboard computer. It could have killed me easily if it was intelligent, but its just a simple animal really.”
“Tubbs… I’m sorry for giving you grief over the last year. I know you were one of the engineers keeping us all safe up here.” Aikman said, my comment about how it was going to kill me finally sinking in I suppose.
“Don’t worry about it. Just keep it sealed up in here and have a team of soldiers come up to tackle it.” I order him. “I’m going to cut the feed and… and put on some music. I want to die listening to my music.”
“I understand. Goodbye Tubbs,” Aikman says.
“Goodbye sir,” I reply before cutting the feed. “Computer, upload playlist ‘Nightcore’, begin at song twelve.”
The sound of tearing metal is now accompanied by remastered pop songs. I lie back and merely listen to the tunes as best I can, trying to slow my racing heart as the seconds tick by. I pray to God that it won’t hurt and that the soldiers that eventually come can handle it.
Oh nothing you’re petty military has to offer will be able to slow me down once I’ve finished my work, a voice says in my mind, like whispers from an elderly man.
“What? Who’s there?” I say, looking around within my helmet.
Just the “alien” you’ve been hunting Mr. Tubbs. I must say you were quite the quarry to down. Not like the other so-called scientists that tried to manhandle me when I was pulled from my cocoon. I heard from one of them that you didn’t want me to be freed. You are a wise man Mr. Tubbs.
“You can speak? You mean you’re not mindless?” I ask, horrified at the idea. Suddenly a wave of cold washes over my chest and barbed talons sink into my chest as the creature climbs up my chest until it is inside my helmet, the three legs clumped together so the eyespots can look at me.
I’m far from mindless Mr. Tubbs. I grow more intelligent with each person I slay, consuming their psychic residue to enhance my own considerable intellect. I plan on eating everyone aboard this station and using them as fertilizer for my seeds.
“Seeds? You’re a plant?” I ask, amazed that this apparently vicious creature is pausing to speak to me.
Indeed, that would be the closest parallel your kind could draw to my kind. I’ve planted over fifty-two seeds so far and they should grow into full buds by this time tomorrow. I already know where the food storage is on this wing of the station, so we’ll have plenty to eat before we knock down the doors barring us from the rest of your cohorts on this vessel.
“What are you?” I ask, wincing as I feel the talons pressing into my sternum. The eyespots seem to blink if that’s possible.
A traveler of worlds, a consumer of life. From the one you call Salas, I would be labeled a parasite though the one you knew as Riley would be closer to the truth when she described me as a virus. I fit that description very well since my dermal coating is an antibiotic. I never have to worry about the diseases of the planets I visit thanks to that little evolutionary perk.
“You’re a monster!” I exclaim, crying out when the claws tear a bloody line down my sternum, the claws scratching notches in my bone.
Yes, according to the census of the scientists I’ve consumed, I am a monster. But I think that is all we need to discuss for now Mr. Tubbs. I believe it is time I had my afternoon snack.
I couldn’t say anything else as the three legs snapped open and encircled my head, the lamprey-like mouth pressing over one of my eyes. I scream as countless tongues spear my eye, popping it into a milky substance that dribbles down my cheek before they probe deeper into my head towards my brain.
My last thoughts are a prayer that the soldier’s don’t come after all. That the people of the earth just leave the station alone, a solemn tomb for the dead scientists and engineers, guarded by brain-eating monsters.