Chapter 04: Situational Deterioration

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Eric stood outside of the security center once more.

Amanda's arm was gone.

This simple fact send mindless terror whispering through his body, chilling him to the bone. One of them had been here, had come back for the specific purpose of gathering up the arm. How soon after he had left to fix the comms relay had it done so? More importantly: Why? There was an awful kind of intelligence implied in such an act. Or was that just his imagination? Either way, he couldn't stand here lingering, pondering over it.

He needed to move.

So he did.

Eric set out, pistol in hand, eyes constantly scanning his surroundings for signs of the creature. As apparently large and dangerous and noisy as they were, they seemed to have the ability to creep up on you. How was that even possible? Again, he surmised that he didn't have nearly enough facts. He hadn't even seen one of the things yet. He just had hints, what'd he heard, the aftermath he'd come across. What had Autumn said about them before? Long arms. She'd said they had long arms. Well, that didn't do much for his mood.

Despite the skin-crawling horror of how exposed he felt now, there was a great relief in the fact that he at least knew others were alive. For the time being. That thought made him quicken his pace. He reached the end of the corridor that led to the security center and paused at the junction, remembering Autumn's words. She hadn't been too specific on where they were going to meet up and it wasn't as if there was a great deal of distance in between the security center and the hangar. So where could she have ended up?

"Eric."

He jerked and bit back a surprised shout, spinning around. At first, he saw nothing. Only military discipline had kept him from firing off half a magazine in pure fear. For a long moment, he was completely stymied.

Had he imagined that?

"Autumn?"

"Up here."

He glanced up. High in the ceiling was a ventilation grate. Behind it, he could just make out Autumn's face. He sighed in immense relief as the grate opened up and she began shifting around until finally her feet poked out. Eric helped her down out of the vent. As soon as they were standing, he wrapped her in hug, made awkward by the pressure suits they were both wearing. She hugged him back fiercely and for a moment neither of them said anything. Then, distantly, something let out a deep, bone-chilling roar.

They let go of each other.

"We need to keep moving," Autumn said.

Eric nodded absently, looking back the way he'd come. Autumn set off, hurrying towards the hangar. Eric followed after her.

"What happened after I left?" he asked quietly.

"We were alone for awhile. Then I started to get nervous and tried to reach you over the radio. When I didn't hear anything, I thought I might go and check it out. Amanda and I were debating about that when this...thing just came in from one of the side doors. It opened the door. It was huge. Dark. So tall. Its arms..." She shuddered. "Amanda and I both opened fire on it. It grabbed her and I just...I ran. I cut and ran."

"You'd be dead if you hadn't," Eric said quietly.

"I know. It doesn't make me feel any better."

"I can understand that."

Autumn seemed like she was working herself up to say more, but suddenly their radios crackled to life. For a moment, Eric tried to pick out a message through the haze of static, shouts, and gunfire. It was clear that Marco and Seth were trying to convey some message. For a moment, he heard, very clearly, Marco shouting run! and something that sounded like a warning. Eric and Autumn took off, hurrying back towards the hangar, their boots coming down hard as they pounded across the deckplates.

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