It had noticed them, somehow.
Eric disappeared from sight, he hoped, into the crawl-way. He had no idea what kind of sensory input these creatures had. Maybe they could detect thoughts or body heat or pheromones...they could survive in a zero-atmosphere environment and were practically bulletproof, so why not? Ahead of him, Autumn was on her hands and knees, crawling away. He moved to join her, hurrying to catch up. Overhead, they heard the thunderous thuds of the creature as it entered the corridor they had just escaped from.
The pounding from overhead drove dust from the cracks in the deckplates and rattled everything around them.
As it came directly over their position, they both froze. Eric had just about caught up to Autumn. He considered the situation for a moment. They could probably get to the control tower from the crawl-ways and it was about another twenty meters ahead of them. Not much of a trip at all, if they were walking, but crawling, down here in the dim lights with a living nightmare overhead...Eric gently tapped Autumn's foot.
She glanced back at him, the tightly controlled fear obvious on her face. He pointed forwards, indicating that she should start moving. She nodded, faced forward and began to very slowly and carefully move again. Eric followed after her. He studied the crawl-way as they began making slow progress, more to keep his mind from completely freaking out than anything else. The creature had gone still for the moment and he could somehow feel its presence radiating through the deckplates. It was a horrific feeling, as though darkness itself was somehow seeping into his body and his mind. Eric tried to shake it off.
The crawl-way was a fairly tight place with flat, scuffed lights about every five feet on either side of them. Thick, black cabling ran along the walls, held in place by what amounted to essentially giant staples and, in some places, industrial-strength tape, providing power and light to the facility at large. To make matters more annoying, it wasn't really a floor they were crawling on but a tightly-packed nest of piping.
He wondered how often stuff got lost down here, falling into the cracks.
Suddenly, overhead, he heard the footfalls start up again. Definitely not a good sign. They were getting closer, not further away. Very not good. Eric and Autumn began to hurry up, risking moving faster, making noise.
Surely it knew they were there-
There was a tremendous bang and a rending of steel and, just ahead of Autumn, one long-clawed hand appeared, punching down through the deckplates. She screamed and stopped. Eric ran into her, then began to back up, pulling her with him. The hand reached around for a moment, then disappeared, light spilling in from above through the new hole.
"What-" Autumn began, then another hole appeared, practically over her head and the clawed hand punched down once more. One of the claws reached forward and hooked Autumn's suit. She let out a scream of fear.
Eric's mind tried to come up with something to do but all he could think was to curse himself for choosing to go down into this fucking crawlspace where they were sitting ducks. He realized Autumn was doing something. She had reached over and grabbed one of the thick, black cables. Grunting with effort, she simultaneously managed to rip herself free of the creature and yank the cable out of the wall. Blue-white sparks began to spit.
With a yell of fury, she drove the sparking end of the cable into the creature's reaching, alien hand. Suddenly, the smell of burning meat filled the crawlspace and a loud, furious shriek sounded and the hand attempted to retract, but the cable seemed to be stuck fast to it. All around them, the lights surged and flickered madly.
Suddenly, they were plunged into darkness and all at once the creature stopped moving. All was still and silent.
"Is it dead?" Eric whispered.
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...