Chapter 17: Situational Analysis

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Eric hesitated as he heard something nearby. He waited, standing as still as he could, sensing Weller at his back doing the same. He listened intently, filtering out the other natural sounds of the base, trying to discern any threats. Erebus was getting sneakier. It was freaking him out. They'd hardly made it a quarter of their way back through the base and they'd been jumped by three different groups of meat machines. No more of those ice or fire shooting things, thankfully. They seemed to be, mercifully, in short supply.

Finally, he decided that he was just hearing things and set off again. He could sense Weller following alongside him, unhappy with the decision to send her back out, though not for the reason some people might think. Eric had the idea that she had no problem walking back through dark, potentially enemy-infested underground environments, by herself, to the ship. In fact, she saw it as the easier assignment. Fortunately, she was still beholden to reason, and understood that, logically, it made the most sense for her to go back and fix the ship.

They might need a fast way out of here or even a pickup. Given how all their other missions went, it wasn't an unreasonable concern.

Eric moved down the length of the passageway he was in, coming to a T junction. As he began to peer first left, seeing nothing, then right, he heard a loud metallic buzzing sound suddenly kick to life and he snapped his gaze right.

"Fuck!" he growled, backing up so abruptly that he ran into Weller, knocking them both unceremoniously to the deckplates.

Something completely new was coming for him. A larger, more sturdily built, meat machine, a good six and a half feet tall, its chest broad, arms thick with muscle, its body crisscrossed with big dark stitching and piecemeal with metal plating, was rapidly approaching him. It had two big fucking giant drills for hands that were now spinning steel death. As it rounded the corner, it zeroed in on him and Weller, who were desperately trying to untangle themselves and get to their feet. One of the elongated spinning drills dripped for him.

Eric let out a scream of fear and jerked backwards. The drill bit hit the floor between his legs and there was a metallic squeal as it started cutting into the metal. Weller managed to get out from under him and he grunted as he dropped a few inches onto the floor. Then he let out another yell and dodged yet again as the second drill came right for him. He rolled, twisted, and dodged away, managing to lurch violently to his feet.

Weller was already opening fire on it as Eric leveled his gun. The beast yanked its arm free of the floor and took a step towards them, then another as the bullets opened up ugly wounds across its broad chest. The thing took another swipe at Eric and he leaped back. There was a shriek of metal on metal as the side of the drill made contact with his chestplate and sparks flew. Cursing, he took the opportunity presented to him as the thing tipped forward, as if bowing, in its attempt to kill him. Its twisted, malformed face was in his.

Eric shoved the barrel of his gun into its face and put half a dozen armor-piercing rounds straight through its head, wilting flesh, metal skull, brain, and all. The thing let out a loud electronic squeal as it pitched forward. Its body jerked several times as black-red liquid seeped out of its head, making a nasty, widening pool around it. The drill bits continued spinning, but abruptly shut off, then started up again, then shut off again, stuttering until at last they were silent. Eric took a deep breath and let it slowly out.

"That was-"

He grunted as a bullet hit him in the back and he stumbled forward several feet. Fear and fury rose up in him and he spun around, spying a half dozen more regular meat machines headed his way, plinking shots at him and Weller. She joined him as they retreated and opened fire. Eric couldn't tell if the bullet had gotten through or not but he didn't think so, he didn't feel wet from blood and given how close it was to his heart, it would have killed him had it penetrated his suit and skin. He kept backing up, putting down one, then two of the things, then running dry. As he ejected the spent magazine, he caught a blur of movement to his right.

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