“Fall back! Fall back!”
Trooper Zhenyi agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment being expressed on the squad circuit. He was minus a pulse rifle and minus his squadmates. In retrospect, he should have gone right at the crossroads, not left, but there was no way he was going to double back. That thing was probably still there.
The same damn thing that had casually swept in amongst them and torn up Toole.
Zhenyi could still see in his mind’s eye the wet splashing shape of Toole’s two halves being thrown around.
He doubted he would ever forget the sound.
His boots rang on the Hadesian flooring, the erratic thump-thump-thump was only outstripped by his heart and lungs which were busy reminding him that if he didn’t slow down he might die anyway.
A coughing, wheezing ecstasy of panic as he slumped against a wall. His limbs shook, trembling with fear and adrenaline.
There was the faintest suggestion of a noise, distant. His ears pricked as he strained to make it out.
It occured to Zhenyi that maybe he was better off not being able to make out the source. The squad circuit was silent, had been silent for far too long.
His boots rang out once more as he set off.
It was definitely chasing him.
“Leave me alone! Please!” He yelled into the dark before ducking through a ruined pressure door.
It was human.
There wasn’t supposed to be anything in Hades’ aether layer.
His eyes caught the double helix logo of Vattek Corp.
There, a plaque.
“Vattek Incubated Resequencing, Una Project”
Then the sound again. The scrape, the thud of motion, the suggestion of it.
His mind projected the image of that faceless creature. The claws and tendrils. That terrible savagery.
He picked up his pace.
Another noise sounded out. Closer.
He broke into a sprint.
Mistakes were made.
Zhenyi knew this well because he hadn’t bothered to question the doors he had run through.
Now he was in a room dominated by a ruined vat. One of Vattek’s resequencing tubs. It appeared to have been exploded from the inside, with the ruined tangled limbs of metal dangling and hunched over like supplicants before an altar.
There was no exit. None save for the doorway he had entered through. Weary limbs pushed the door shut, locked and cycled the system before he slumped against the cold metal.
There was time now to still the shaking, to ease the screaming fire in his limbs, to draw labored breath.
The door rocked under a blow, the metal caving inwards with enough force to push Zhenyi down. He screamed and screamed and screamed, arms wrapped around his knees.
The door rocked again, rattling with another blow as Zhenyi sobbed to himself.
Then silence came.
He dared to breath a sigh of relief before the ice cold touch of terror ran down his back.
There was a squeal of metal, a hiss of air and the grinding roll of the pressure door cycling.
Two tentacled limbs released the wheel and it pushed inside.
A sharp, angular skull without eyes stared directly at him. The words “V.I.R. – UNA” stared at him, the skull scarred where Vattek tools had long ago carved a measure of ownership on this abomination.
Zhenyi backed up as the quadruped paced towards him, but there was nowhere to go. There was no chance he could outrun it, nor keep it at bay.
And yet, the trembling in his legs, the way his eyes were locked on that creature across the room from him. He knew he would run.
And he knew.
It wanted him to run.
Taloned limbs tore into his back. Those tentacled limbs wrapped around his arms as he fell face first against the hull. His head was pulled up, hot breath washed over his skull.
Then Zhenyi was no more.