CHAPTER 55

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Callisto and Nova stood stock-still in the center of the laboratory while Luna angled to the right in order to outflank the hideous monster standing before them. Vladimir Sergov was poised, ready to pounce on his next prey. He no longer bore the resemblance of a human being. At the shoulder blades his spine curled over grotesquely like a man with a severe case of kyphosis, a hunchback. His legs were bent backwards at the knees like an insect. His biceps and forearms bulged with long and lean muscles, skin pulled taunt over sinewy tendons and rippling veins. Patches of hair sprouted from his naked body, a course jet black. His jaw jutted forward, stretched into an elongated snout, making room for canine teeth and fangs protruding from the top and bottom of his gum-lines.

Luna had never seen anything so terrifying and disgusting. She trembled, clutching her Viper. Her teeth ground together. Her eyes wide and alert.

Air wheezed over her lips. Regardless of the serum they'd been given, she knew they were in mortal danger.

Holding the middle position in a v-formation, Callisto fired, the Viper spitting out an electric ball of light. The thing that once was Sergov jumped from the floor, over the tiny charged bullet and barreled in Luna's direction. With another flying leap, even higher this time, Sergov soared above the muzzle of Luna's weapon as she locked in on the target, tracing its path, firing, her shot flickering off the wall behind the creature. She watched as the monster stuck to the wall like a spider.

Sergov leapt off the wall with the nimbleness of a cheetah, cruising by Luna with his three inch bony claws. In one swipe he—if it could be called a he at this point—lashed out at Luna, slashing across her upper arm. She screamed as the claws raked across her bicep—ripping four gashes to the bone. The swipe continued over her leg, slicing a pair of inch deep wounds in the flesh.

As Sergov landed behind her, near Callisto, Luna crumbled to the floor, on the verge of blacking out from the pain flaring from the cuts, throbbing as her heart pumped more blood from the wounds. She was lucky her arm hadn't been severed. She peered at the gash and caught a glimpse of bone, dark red and white meshed together and glistening.

Callisto's glassy eyes and gaped open mouth scoured over Luna's form—and the crimson red streaking over the gunmetal gray floor—as she regained a grip on her Viper and took aim.

Luna pulled the trigger, as did Nova from Callisto's far side, this time their electric bullets found their target, sizzling over Sergov's hairy flesh. He whined, high-pitched and animalistic, throwing up an arm in defense.

Within reach, Sergov backhanded Callisto, knocking his weapon aside and striking him high on the cheek. The blow launched him across the room and his body slammed into a set of countertop cabinets against the far wall. Callisto collapsed to the floor in a daze, his Viper clattering next to him.

Sergov with his sights on Nova, leaped into the air, springing toward the vault on the back wall. As he soared over her, he slashed at her left arm, drawing her fire, a bright white ball of electricity missing wildly. But Sergov's swipe didn't miss, drawing a hefty splatter of blood across a nearby table. Nova's body whipped around from the force of the blow, the momentum causing her to stumble and fall to her hands and knees, her weapon slipping from her grasp.

Luna, lying prone, having left a trail of blood across the floor where she'd crawled toward the action, flicked the lever on the side of her Viper. Three agonizing seconds later, the weapon's display bar glowed green as Sergov bounded off the vault door and propelled himself toward Nova again. With a savage yell, she fired the supercharged electrifying bullet at the creature as the lab door crashed open. The intrusion distracted her for a split second, long enough to cause her shot to careen above Sergov's lunging form.

Phoenix stormed into the room swinging his Viper up into firing position.

Clutching her wounded forearm, Nova struggled to a knee, and then to her feet, stumbling for her weapon—her back turned to the creature as it leapt toward her, it's clawed hand rearing back for the kill.

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