“FUCK YOU,” shouted Skulker, leaning around to squeeze off another few shots around the doorway him and Olivia crouched behind. The guard returned the favor.
Ew, that water smells… funky. And salty. The cuttlefish, now that their tank had been shattered in the firefight, flopped around on the floor. I’m sorry. Though Skulker seems to be taking this worse than anyone else, even the cuttlefish.
Behind Skulker, Olivia said, “This isn’t getting us anywhere.”
“Yeah. I’ll keep him ‘ere, you go ‘round,” he barked.
Good. I was really hoping he wouldn’t have me just go forward, towards the shooting guy. There’s nothing in that room besides the remains of the tanks, and bullets hurt, so I’d rather avoid them if at all possible. Of course, this is assuming there’s a way around.
She backed up as a few more bullets hit Skulker’s doorframe. She turned around and ran, looking for a door to her left that would lead her around. Every room was a dead end. Third room, no. Fourth room, no. Wasting time. Delta didn’t have the blueprints of the building. Did she?
A few moments, then, “Repeat that.”
“Delta? I need a way to get to the other side of the building.”
A sigh. Sorry. “Busy. Got something going on. Just go through, it’ll be quicker.”
Olivia came to a stop. No. How… More gunshots. I’m wasting time. She considered retracing her steps. I need a way through, like Delta said. The longer I take, the longer Skulker’s getting shot at. Then again, he could shoot the guard, but still.
She turned to face where she estimated the guard shooting at Skulker to be. She lowered her shoulder and rammed through the wall, heedless of whatever lay on the other side.
She wound up in a storage closet. This isn’t where I need to be.
She repeated the process in the same direction, this time pushing through some pipes as well as drywall and wooden framing. A bathroom. Tile clattered to the floor as she thought, come on. What next? Come on!
She hissed and slashed at the wall out of frustration, removing a decent sized chunk of it. With a roar she rammed through a wall with underlying pipes.
That got her though. Her vision oriented to the guard running full speed away on the opposite side of hallway and towards the other central room with that enormous steel box/cage thing. Didn’t they say it had a tiger in it or something? It doesn’t smell like it, but then again I’ve never smelled a tiger before, so who knows.
“Fuck this shit,” she heard over his panting.
Skulker teleported in front of her, joining her in pursuit. “Delta, where’s he goin’?” he asked. He teleported again.
“That cage thing. It’s thermal proofed, so I don’t know what’s in it. PETA said it was a tiger,” she responded. Now you have the time to talk.
The guard reached the doorway, scrambling inside as Skulker teleported again. I don’t think Skulker can teleport again immediately after doing so. There’s about five seconds in between. I think.
“Come on. You want to play with ferals?” muttered the guard from inside. Mechanical noises.
Skulker stopped at the door, grabbing the frame with one hand to stop himself, aiming with the other. He squeezed off a couple shots, and the guard screamed something. Olivia finally caught up a few moments later. Some thumps shook the floor from inside. Now what?
She looked inside. No light shone in the room, though she could still make out the foreboding gunmetal grey box in the center. Also, the enormous green thing halfway out of it was hard to miss.
“Ummmm…” What… what is that?
Skulker chuckled. “Olivia,” he said, pointing. “Tha’s a feral.”
The only remaining vestiges of humanity left in it that Olivia could make out appeared to be the face and limbs. Two mandibles tore through the stretched cheeks of the disturbingly human face of the mantis thing on the front of the head fused to the rest of the body. If forced to guess, Olivia would have to say the face belonged to a male, though the pincers and the very wide gap between the bulging compound eyes made it hard to tell.
Slabs of mottled green and brown chitin armor covered the main body, as long as two people put together. A ridge broke the otherwise smooth plate over the spine.
Two arms extended from between the chest and back chitin plates of the upper half. Jagged spines jutted out from beneath the skin of the forearm of the otherwise normal, human sized arm on the right.
The left arm gave Olivia a pause for thought. With the base segment easily as thick as her leg, and covered in the same chitin armor as the main body, the extra third segment of the arm in place of a hand folded back towards the forearm. More unevenly distributed spikes covered the interior inside the second and third segments. Those look… dangerous.
Four legs on the lower half of the body supported the feral, each a different conglomeration of human and insect leg. Three ended in a somewhat human foot, one just sort of stopped with a strange stick thing at the end.
Eugh. He smells awful, too. Like… I don’t even know what. Something’s rotting, though, I know that much.
It made a few clicks as its mandibles twitched, advancing a few slow steps and letting out a dry hiss of air through its ruined mouth, ignoring the dying guard to its side at the controls for the cage. He’s notably taller than me. That is a first if nothing else.
“Ya know, funny thing,” said Skulker, backing up a pace or so. “Bugs like praying mantises can’t get tha’ big, cuz of their absence of lungs or somethin’. Looks like tha’ one’s got human lungs. Also, it’s gonna eat us if it gets half the chance. Jus’ FYI.” He aimed and fired. Praying mantis. And it’ll eat you and me. OK.
Olivia stepped forward, feet digging into the floor, bracing herself.
You stay away from him. Aaaand I’m hissing. Oh well, don’t care.
The feral gave an approximation of a snarl and rushed forward, three bullets lodged in its chest plate. The insect arm flashed as he bore down on her, and suddenly Olivia was yanked off her feet.
Ow. Wing. Its momentum carried two of them carried forward, bursting them through the door frame. The arm had caught her by the wing, caching the bone. The feral thrashed her a bit, she had no leverage with which to fight back with, then threw her on the ground, released her wing, and stomped on her shoulder in an attempt to pin her down.
She grabbed at the offending leg, claws driving into the flesh of the calf under the randomly distributed flecks of chitin embedded in the skin. She pulled and rolled on the floor as best she could, ducking her head down as the arm flashed again towards her head. She felt the thud as it hit the ground, pulling some of her hair with it. OW.
She tore a chunk of leg off, the feral reared back because that shit hurts, and then she was free. It collided with the hallway wall, leaving a rather large dent.
Skulker fired more shots as Olivia struggled to her feet, back to the feral. Bad idea. And everything smells all coppery now. Other than the occasional wheeze of air and click, the feral remained silent.
Olivia spun around just in time for the feral to ram into her with its chest, knocking her back a few paces as her weight rocked back on her solitary heel claws. I hate my feet.
The feral tried the same tactic again, going with its forward momentum. This time, Olivia was ready. She dug in and grabbed its torso. Shoving forwards and upwards, she lifted it off its front two legs. She advanced two paces, then twisted it and slammed it down to its right as hard as she could. The floor groaned and shattered.
A hole began to open up. The feral scrambled at the expanding edge. The stick foot caught, the other slipped and the feral tumbled down.
The others are down there. Stay away.
She jumped down after it, landing feet first on its back as it stood up again. She bent her legs slightly on impact, and threw her hand down close to its head. It thrashed, slamming her into a wall, trying to dislodge her, partially succeeding. Another slam finished the job.
What is that wall made of?
“Fuck off!” said Skulker from the floor above.
Skulker teleported down and to on its back. With a laugh he hacked down with a long knife into the central chink in the armor, the one allowing it to maintain an upright posture with all the hard chitin plates covering it.
The feral reacted, bucking and trying to twist in his direction. He brought the knife down again, and again making contact with something squishy below the armor, then threw himself backwards before its human arm could grab him. He rolled with the impact to the ground, past Olivia and out of her field of view.
Before the feral could turn its attention fully to him, Olivia pulled herself from the wall and grabbed something metal. She swung it, hitting the flank of the feral with a sizable length of pipe. It began to turn towards her.
You’re not too smart.
She let go, the pipe bent too far out of shape to be used again and dug partially into the feral anyways, and ducked to the side and away from the grabbing pincer arm thing.
“Back up. Move outta the way!” yelled Skulker. Huh?
She backed up a turning to Skulker in confusion. Down on one knee, he held his rifle now, aiming towards Olivia and the feral. Then something hit her neck, and her feet lifted off the floor again.
The feral’s arm wrapped around her throat, spikes digging in to her windpipe. Breathing… hard. The other arm grabbed for her eyes.
She intercepted the human arm with her closest hand, the other to the mantis arm crushing her throat. She held a tight grip on the struggling human arm, pulling hard on the mantis one. Air!
She made progress, slow progress but progress none the less, on the strangling arm. It lifted her so they were face to face, mandibles nearly brushing her face. There was something rotting in that mouth. Stop it. Kill him.
A gunshot, not a pistol. This time the feral reacted, flinching back away from Skulker. Another gunshot. More coppery smell.
Olivia wrenched herself free, still holding on to the human arm. She growled and slashed at the elbow with her free hand, pulling simultaneously. The forearm came free, and the feral let out a rasp as its brand new stump leaked brown, copper smelling blood.
Another gunshot, and chitin shattered where the sniper bullet hit it in the flank. A trickle of the same brownish blood oozed out. The feral backed up. COME HERE. She tossed the newly severed arm to the side.
She roared as she threw herself forward at the reeling feral, striking down on its chest, resulting in four satisfying bloody gouges in the chest plate. She hit again, with the same result as the feral backed up some more.
She tried to attack again, but its remaining arm shot out and arrested her motion. No. She reached up and drove her thumb into one of its eyes. It released her arm.
She dove to the side, wrapping a hand around its front leg. She drove a fist into the side of the knee. It shattered. The feral stumbled through a wall. She pushed through the debris to latch on to the side and bring her hand down hard on the chitin plate. Her claws dug in, and she yanked. Something inside tore, and the feral thrashed, trying to make the badness stop.
She tugged her embedded claws out, noting that segment hung a lot looser than it had before. The feral let out another rasp, and the mantis arm struck out with an axe motion. Now with the feral weakened, the arm moved slow enough for her to block it, to keep it from lifting her off her feet once again. She batted it aside, and grabbed for the gouge she’d made earlier, deepening the wound.
She rushed forward, grabbing as she’d done earlier, this time not stopping until the feral crashed through the wall and window of the exterior of the building. She let go, and it fell four stories.
She considered it for a moment. Dead? Something appeared at her side, joining her at the shattered remains of the window. She jumped, nearly swinging her hand out of reflex. Now what? Oh, um… it’s Skulker.
“Well that panned out quite nicely. S’it dead?” he asked, rifle at the ready.
She looked back down to the feral below. Two legs twitched, and the arm began feebly pushing upwards. Still alive. Skulker took aim, exhaled, and fired into its head. Movement below stopped.
“There we go. Y’all right?”
I’m breathing. Wing, throat, and shoulder kind of hurt where he hit me. Nothing too bad. She nodded.
“Excellent! Let’s get down an’ check on the others, make sure they haven’t shot their own feet off or somethin’.” He put away his rifle and began to walk towards a staircase. Olivia followed.
That was… intense. And why would Skulker say something like that? That’s not funny.