Eric tried to control his breathing as he and Seth waited out another one of the creatures.
They'd decided that the things that Seth had named Bandersnatches (and Eric thought of as demons), should be avoided at all costs. They were just too dangerous, too hard to kill and they didn't have the resources to deal with every creature they ran into. Not to mention that three, possibly four, of their seven-person squad was down already and they were hardly two hours into this mission. Not that Eric was sure it was even a mission any longer. He more thought of it like a fight for survival. The situation was pretty fucked.
With no ship, no communications, and dwindling resources, it was looking grim. They'd done an inventory check before leaving and between the two of them, they each had a pistol, the ammunition of which had been salvaged for Eric's SMG, which only had one full magazine in it and another two spares. Not that that mattered too much, given how piss-poor the bullets did against the creatures. Seth's heavy machine gun had more powerful bullets that seemed to have a bit more stopping power, but he only had a full magazine and one more in reserve. Between the two of them, they just had a single grenade and one medkit.
Things were not looking up.
"Okay," Seth said softly, "I think it's gone."
They'd made it perhaps halfway to the thermal units before running into another one of the creatures. Not that they had actually seen it. The second they heard it snuffling around somewhere further on down the corridor, they'd ducked into a side bathroom to wait it out, hoping and praying that the thing would wander on.
It had moved closer at first, then began to leave.
As they prepared to move on, Eric felt fear slither icily through him. He didn't want to go back out into the corridors...almost. He was slowly getting used to this situation and his desire to face the situation head on, to whatever end it might lead, was settling back into place. It was a weird feeling that creeped him out. Here he was, back to wondering about his own mental health, his own state of mind. How long had he been adrift? Not just in the way he lived his life but in his own mind? Thoughts and emotions seemed fickle things, sailing out of the darkness into a brief, mental clarity and then sailing away once more.
Eric knew he needed to focus, and it was easier this time around. Someone else was with him and someone else might be out there, surviving. He had people to cling to, people that would need his help and that would offer help. He had missed the idea of pure, mutual survival. Nothing mattered anymore except for staying alive.
Seth led the way out of their temporary sanctuary and gave the all clear. Eric followed him out into the corridor beyond. For the next few moments, they simply navigated the hallways, sticking to the sides, preparing to duck into any conveniently placed door at a seconds' notice. So far, Eric felt like they had survived off of pure luck. The creatures were good at sneaking up on you and it had been blind, random happenstance so far that they'd managed to hear them breathing or the scrap of a claw against metal.
As they hurried on, Eric found himself wondering more about where the creatures came from. He'd narrowed it down to just two possibilities. They might have been discovered here, which seemed unlikely, given the fact that there was no mining going on, at least as far as he knew. It was possible, he supposed, that someone had been out exploring the asteroid and had found some kind of alien facility, probably underground.
But...that just didn't feel right.
Of course, nothing about this situation felt right and he was just guessing in the dark. It seemed more likely that they had been brought here. But where did they come from originally? They seemed too vicious to be naturally occurring. On the other hand, he'd encountered some pretty nasty creatures in his life on alien planets. Could they be a human experiment? Some kind of shock troopers? According to the rumors he'd picked up in the military, it wouldn't be the first time humanity had tried something like that.
YOU ARE READING
The twelfth novel in The Shadow Wars. Eric Starck is a man adrift. After fighting in the Systems Wars that ravaged the galaxy, he's spent the past three years drifting from one job to the next, never quite feeling comfortable. The latest in a long l...