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PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

September 13, 2018

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Alien Life, Part Five

Friday, April 20, 2018

It hisses as it leaps from behind the computer, spreading out spindly legs that ended in two clawed toes. A long serpentine tail whipped behind it, uncoiling fast as it launched the creature, whose face was little more than a lamprey mouth attached to a bulbous green nodule full of sloshing fluids, through the air with startling speed. I instinctively bring up my saw and catch it mid-flight, knocking it to the side with a loud crack as the titanium alloy scraped the hard shell of the strange creature.

 

Looking at it out in the light of the room beneath the light of artificial suns, I shudder in revulsion as I take in its ungodly appearance. Balanced on three legs with a lamprey mouth on its belly, the creature is a sickly gray with twin sacs of brilliant green flanking the spindly tail. The body looks slimy as if it was coated with a thin layer of mucous, and above the joint of each leg was a dull set of red spots that I could just barely make out as eye-spots. I revved up my buzz saw and take a step towards the creature, which hisses as it prepares to make another jump at me.

 

“Come on you little freak,” I growl within my suit, hoping it will provide adequate protection from whatever the hell this thing could be classified as.

 

It’s tail coils behind it, the legs pushing its frame into the coil as the scrabble on the metal floors, leaving grooves in the high-density steel. I lunge forward before it can launch itself for another attack and swing my saw down, the revved engine screaming as the spinning titanium alloy strikes the steel, tearing an ugly scar in the flawless floor.

 

The creature had rolled to the side, it’s tail uncoiling as it moved and whipping up to slap the side of my helmet with a surprising amount of force. The automated voice of the Station begins reciting how my suit has sustained “significant structural damage” and how I need to get out of the vacuum of space as soon as possible, for my own safety.

 

To think that this little bug-monster, barely the size of a Schnauzer, could strike with such force is nearly inconceivable. Had I been just standing outside my suit it would have taken my head clean off. I pull the saw from the floor and hold it up defensively as the creature whips its tail to the left, a sharp crack echoing loud enough to be heard through my suit. It lets out a low hiss and the red eyespots swivel, darker orbs peering from within the spots up at me. I know my suit is insulated, so if it sees by heat then it must wonder what is actually attacking it.

 

The buzz saw puts off a good deal of heat, and it hasn’t struck at it yet, so I’m thinking it tracks by motion.

 

I step forward, watching as it scrabbles back a few feet, snapping its barbed tail at the floor in front of me, slicing grooves into the steel just inches from my hard-cased boots. This thing is deadly, no doubt… so how am I going to put it down? It took care of Salas at his terminal, and probably Riley and the other scientists as well. This thing is a lethal little package, no doubt about it.

 

I step forward again, bringing the buzz saw to bear as the tail whips at blinding speeds. It screeches as purple gel flies from the end of its severed tail, the titanium ally having proven enough to handle the hide of the alien. Sadly the force of the tail strike damaged the saw and it no longer seems to be able to spin the titanium blades around. The alien is backing away from me, scuttling like a severed human hand as it waves it’s rapidly congealing tail above itself, spines growing out at a noticeable rate near the stump. On the ground the foot and a half of tail that I severed lies still, looking eerily like a piece of uncooked calamari.

 

I look around the lab for anything that I could use as a weapon as the alien skulked into the shadows beneath the hanging plant life, tail coiling up behind it to prepare for another launch. I don’t know the distance that thing can move, especially while missing a section of its tail, but I need a weapon ASAP. I nearly shout with joy as I spy a particle beam wand, a small device the emits a six-inch long laser along a rod, generally used for taking samples from biological matter as it did so with very little harm to the creature in question. The handle is sitting on the desk near Salas’s hand, and I send a silent prayer to God that Salas is in a better place, as well as a thank you for the weapon.

 

I walk backward, eyes never leaving the alien as it growled from its spot. I snatch the handle and flick the power on before setting it to its maximum charge, a brilliant crackling white beam springing to life along the rod extending from the handle. I switch the weapon to my dominant hand and hold it like a mugger would a knife, blade out so I can make quick slashing movements.

 

The times where my father taught me how to use a knife defensively come to mind, and I smile grimly as I remember his grueling lessons that at one time bored me to death. Now they might just save me from it.

 

“External speakers on,” I command my computer.

 

“External speakers not found,” the sterile voice replied to me. Dammit! The slam from the creature’s tail must have knocked some circuitry loose. No trying to coax the animal out from its hiding spot with sound; guess I’ll just have to give it a reason to move.

 

I walk calmly, knife held forward, closer to the alien. It growls out a high pitched warning, but I ignore it. The saying of leaving a wounded animal alone comes to mind as I approach it. I almost laugh at how stupid I’m being doing this, but I can’t just seal it up in this room and leave it to its own devices. Hell, it might be able to get into the air ducts and travel to another section of the Station.

 

The alien tires of my nonsense and springs forward. Three legs outstretched as the lamprey mouth spits a gob of green fluid at me. It spatters on my faceplate, blinding me; I wave the particle beam wand around, hoping to cut into the creature as it flew at me, but sadly it got past my blind attempts at self-defense and slams into my chest, where I can feel the casing of my suit buckle beneath the grip of the legs. I reach up a hand to wipe away the goo from my faceplate and find that the substance is similar to glue. A small readout in the bottom right-hand corner of my faceplate issues a warning. I read it and almost laugh at the irony.

 

“Warning: substance has a high concentration of Chlorine and Ammonia. Please use caution and activate internal oxygen supply so as to avoid accidental poisoning.” I read aloud before actually laughing. The thing spit out a sticky type of Mustard gas! I imagine if I could see what was going on, the substance would be giving off fumes like it was burning. I feel the tail wrap around my leg and pull, snapping me out of my amusement as it knocks me to the ground.

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