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PREVIEW: Jack in the Box

September 13, 2018

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Alien Life, Part Six

Friday, April 27, 2018

While one hand is glued to my faceplate, my other is free with the particle beam wand, I wave it around the front of me where I feel the weight of the creature settled. I hear a screech and then my hand getting pulled. Surprised, I yank back and hear the tearing of the outer layer of my hard suit. The damn things talons are really strong!

 

I roll over, pinning it to the floor and yell at the computer. “Connect to Station Wireless Command!”

 

A crackling noise fills my ears as my suit’s internal computer connects to the station's internal systems. “Station! Camera for Laboratory-M!”

 

My faceplate becomes a screen that shows my bulky suit lying on the ground, with a fleshy tail whipping about from between my legs. I can hear the claws tearing at the carapace of my hard suit, scratching the alloy that makes up the EPS like an old man whittling away at a piece of hard wood. It won’t be long before those talons are sinking into my skin.

 

“Station! Emergency Protocol Alpha-Three-Two-B, Laboratory-M only. Lock external doors and seal ventilation.” I command, commanding the station to seal the room before spraying the room down with liquid Nitrogen, freezing the plants and Salas’s corpse in an instant. My EPS can take the flash freeze; I doubt the alien can. It’s a shame the camera won’t be able to see for me due to the lingering mist from the freezing agent.

 

“Computer, how much oxygen is left?” I ask, knowing that I may very well have sealed myself in an icy tomb.

 

“Oxygen levels are at eighty-four percent. Warning! Exhaust ports are blocked, carbon dioxide build-up will reach lethal levels in eleven minutes.” The computer says. I curse. I hadn’t even thought about my ports getting frozen over. My thoughts are interrupted by a sound that chills my blood.

 

Crack.

 

My hard shell covering my chest just cracked, the freezing having made it more fragile than it’d been previously. “No way,” I mutter, cracking the ice that’d formed over my free arm. I drop the damaged particle beam wand to the floor where I can hear it spark against the steel and begin groping around for the alien’s tail.

 

I grab onto a column of stiff flesh jutting up from between my legs, a sheet of thin ice covering it. The ice crackles at my touch, but the muscled limb doesn’t. In fact, it pulses beneath my grip.

 

It’s alive.

 

Right, when I realize this I feel the scrabbling of claws scratching at my chest once more. I scream, knowing that it’s going to break through my EPS any second. Panicking, I open my channel to try and get to Aikman. He answers on the second ring.

 

“Tubbs, what have you found? The Station just went and doused one of the greenhouses in liquid nitrogen, was that you?” He asked, clearly stressed.

 

“Yeah, it was me. I was trying to kill the alien. Listen, I don’t have much time. It’s about to carve through EPS suit and get to me. It’s small and fast, and can spit a substance similar to mustard gas. It is unbelievably strong and has killed all of the scientists that I could find. You need to order the Station to close off all ventilation shafts to this entire wing and just keep it sealed in for as long as you can.”

 

“What do you mean it’s tearing through your EPS suit? Those things are impregnable!” Aikman almost shouts at me.

 

“I used the LN2 to douse the area in hopes of flash freezing the little fucker, and it made my suit brittle. But listen! Before I did that one slam from its tail was enough to damage my onboard computer. It could have killed me easily if it was intelligent, but it's just a simple animal really.”

 

“Tubbs… I’m sorry for giving you grief over the last year. I know you were one of the engineers keeping us all safe up here.” Aikman said, my comment about how it was going to kill me finally sinking in I suppose.

 

“Don’t worry about it. Just keep it sealed up in here and have a team of soldiers comes up to tackle it.” I order him. “I’m going to cut the feed and… and put on some music. I want to die listening to my music.”

 

“I understand. Goodbye Tubbs,” Aikman says.

 

“Goodbye sir,” I reply before cutting the feed. “Computer, upload playlist ‘Nightcore’, begin at song twelve.”

 

The sound of tearing metal is now accompanied by remastered pop songs. I lie back and merely listen to the tunes as best I can, trying to slow my racing heart as the seconds tick by. I pray to God that it won’t hurt and that the soldiers that eventually come can handle it.

 

Oh nothing you’re petty military has to offer will be able to slow me down once I’ve finished my work, a voice says in my mind, like whispers from an elderly man.

 

“What? Who’s there?” I say, looking around within my helmet.

 

Just the “alien” you’ve been hunting Mr. Tubbs. I must say you were quite the quarry to down. Not like the other so-called scientists that tried to manhandle me when I was pulled from my cocoon. I heard from one of them that you didn’t want me to be freed. You are a wise man Mr. Tubbs.

 

“You can speak? You mean you’re not mindless?” I ask, horrified at the idea. Suddenly a wave of cold washes over my chest and barbed talons sink into my chest as the creature climbs up my chest until it is inside my helmet, the three legs clumped together so the eyespots can look at me.

 

I’m far from mindless Mr. Tubbs. I grow more intelligent with each person I slay, consuming their psychic residue to enhance my own considerable intellect. I plan on eating everyone aboard this station and using them as fertilizer for my seeds.

 

“Seeds? You’re a plant?” I ask, amazed that this apparently vicious creature is pausing to speak to me.

 

Indeed, that would be the closest parallel your kind could draw to my kind. I’ve planted over fifty-two seeds so far and they should grow into full buds by this time tomorrow. I already know where the food storage is on this wing of the station, so we’ll have plenty to eat before we knock down the doors barring us from the rest of your cohorts on this vessel.

 

“What are you?” I ask, wincing as I feel the talons pressing into my sternum. The eyespots seem to blink if that’s possible.

 

A traveler of worlds, a consumer of life. From the one you call Salas, I would be labeled a parasite though the one you knew as Riley would be closer to the truth when she described me as a virus. I fit that description very well since my dermal coating is an antibiotic. I never have to worry about the diseases of the planets I visit thanks to that little evolutionary perk.

 

“You’re a monster!” I exclaimed, crying out when the claws tear a bloody line down my sternum, the claws scratching notches in my bone.

 

Yes, according to the census of the scientists I’ve consumed, I am a monster. But I think that is all we need to discuss for now Mr. Tubbs. I believe it is the time I had my afternoon snack.

 

I couldn’t say anything else as the three legs snapped open and encircled my head, the lamprey-like mouth pressing over one of my eyes. I scream as countless tongues spear my eye, popping it into a milky substance that dribbles down my cheek before they probe deeper into my head towards my brain.

 

My last thoughts are a prayer that the soldiers don’t come after all. That the people of the earth just leave the station alone, a solemn tomb for the dead scientists and engineers, guarded by brain-eating monsters.

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