A young ensign battles a monster on an unexplored planet to save her life and the ship she’s pledged her loyalty to. (PART THREE)
Somewhere in the distance, a baby wailed, and a thin wind sliced through my uniform.
I crawled to my knees, chilled to the bone. Goosebumps stood up on my skin, a precursor to the panic that overtook me.
Here we are again, are we?
Swaying grey-green grass, the salty smells of nearby water, and brown as far as I could see. Right behind me sprawled the longhouse, sides tiled in Fibonacci spirals.
This time, though, there were roughly thirty people milling about the surface. I recognized them as civilians we picked up on our last trip.
“Sir!” I grabbed the first man I saw by the shoulders. “You shouldn’t be here. Get back to the Venture.”
He held a blubbering toddler by his tiny hand. The man didn’t say anything. He stared straight past me.
I turned around and the wind blew my hair in my face.
Through tears brought on by the wind, I recognized the dark graceful form of the Monster.
Shrieks arose from the small huddled company of civilian passengers. They were people I had sworn to protect. It was my duty to protect them.
All chaos broke loose as the civilians fled. They scattered dirt clods and trampled each other in the process. As I stood still in shock, I watched the Monster.
It made no move. It stood there wearing its eyeless metal mask with the eerie blue pattern spiraling from the middle.
A bloody corpse lay at its feet in a crimson heap.
Did it relish the terror its presence caused? My fists clenched in an automatic response; it would suffer for its crimes. How dare it take an innocent human life!
Already, the last of the civilians had fled the area. The edges of the grassy prairie swallowed them. As it was the only available option, I fled.
Remembering my training as I ran, I kept a cool head and tried to think of the best way out of this situation. The initial surveys of Gamma XA-113 showed a hoverbike depot nearby. It was within walking distance. If I headed there, I could escape the Monster.
I never stopped running. This time, there was no monitor to give me a quick escape.
My lungs ached and my throat stung from gulping the cold, salty air. I ran through numbness in my legs and pain in my chest. Your body can always go farther than you think it can, a trainer had once told me, back in my academy days.
He was right. Death was a great motivator.
The concrete rim of the depot’s walls rose over the horizon, beyond a stretch of marshy water. I ran harder, not wanting the reassurance to slow me down. I took a quick peek behind me, judging the Monster’s distance.
I muttered a curse.
The Monster was fifty meters away and gaining. Judging by his speed, he’d catch up to me in less than ten seconds. I couldn’t go around the water; it would take too long.
I jumped in.
The water clung to me, more mud than liquid, and I slogged through the thickness. The Monster paused at the edge of the water, then stepped in. Faint ripples on the surface gave his presence away.
Clawing through the blasted mud, I managed to make another meter before pincers grabbed my leg.
The surface closed over my head, and mud smothered me.
I couldn’t open my eyes in the sludge and I couldn’t see. Metal claws dug deeper into my calf. I kicked with my free foot.
The Monster caught that foot too and pulled me downward. The mud made a sucking noise. I kicked again, but its iron fingers pinched my flesh.
In an involuntary response, my mouth opened to breathe. I closed it. I stopped kicking; it hurt too much. My brain and heart needed the oxygen.
Did it need air? I needed air. Would mud suffice instead? I could try it. No one had before. It was worth a chance.
So this is how I would die. Drowning in the mud. Meters away from escape. Failing my duty, and letting those civilians die.
My will spoke to me.
Whatever you do, don’t give up.
The Monster held me in a prison of its claws, but it couldn’t hold all my limbs in its grip at once. Not effectively, anyway.
I wrenched my leg back and delivered a vicious kick. The grip on my other leg loosened enough for me to kick out of its grasp and rebound off the bottom of the river.
Frigid air smacked my head. Drawing in sweet clean oxygen, I coughed on bitter, smoky mud in the back of my throat.
Catching one of my ankles, the Monster yanked downwards. I swore it had pulled my leg out of my hip.
I grabbed at the roots of the overgrown trees embedded in the bank. I held on to a root sticking out from the rusty soil, hanging on for my life.
Something brushed my face. It was a scaly vine, snaking through the branches of the trees. Hanging roots. I reached up and grabbed it with my other hand, which was bloody and ripped from the Monster’s grasp.
All those ab exercises I’d completed every day weren’t so useless after all. The Monster, still underwater, held on to my legs which dangled in the water while I held onto the tree roots on the bank. I sympathized with Procrustes’ victims from those old legends. It took all my muscle strength to keep my joints from dislocating.
At least, I could breathe.
A sharp pain stung my backside. I screamed and shifted slightly, but that made it worse. Looking around me, I saw fragments of metal shrapnel littering the bank.
Had there been an explosion in the past? Whether or not, it wasn’t helping me now—but then I saw a meter-long jagged piece of pipe next to me.
It’s a weapon, my mind decided, falling back on training instinct.
The only way for me to grab it was to let go of the roots. I needed to time it perfectly.
One, two, three…
I let go of one of the roots, scooped the pipe into my hand, let go of the other root, and grasped the weapon in both my hands.
As the Monster dragged me into the river again, I angled the weapon downward and plunged it between my feet.
The Monster roared.
It let go of both my feet and launched through the surface of the muddy water. Brown liquid dripped from its sleek black body as it writhed like a snake.
I had lost my shoes in the river. I scrambled up onto the bank and sprinted into the depot, leaving bloody footprints across the concrete.
The Monster’s roar increased in volume as it bounded into the depot in a fury. Blood dripped from a hole in its chest.
So you’re mad now, I thought, good.
I gripped the pipe in bleeding palms, wielding it like a sword. As it rushed at me, I raised the pipe and swung down with as much strength as I could muster.
The pipe’s jagged edge cleaved through the Monster from shoulder to hip. Across its chest. Through its vital organs.
As the pipe dropped from my hand, the Monster collapsed on the ground and I stumbled away from it, catching my breath, reeling, overwhelmed by inexpressible relief.
I sat beside a hoverbike on scratched, oil-stained concrete. For a moment I watched its motionless form. My hands were bleeding heavily, as were my legs. The black fabric soaked with dark spots, crusting as the blood and mud mixed and dried.
I unzipped my top from the uniform pants and ripped off the hem, hands shaking from blood loss. I did my best to apply pressure to the wounds to stop the bleeding. I treated my legs and then my hands.
Once the bleeding stopped, I formulated a plan. For all I knew, there were terrified civilians wandering across Gamma XA-113 at the moment. I had to round them up and get to the shifter landing site, and assure them they were safe from the Monster. Then, I’d have to communicate with the Venture and get medical attention.
I got to my feet slowly. I read a full energy charge on the hoverbikes. They looked to be in decent condition. No doubt I’d be able to get to the shifter landing site within a few minutes. Before I mounted the bike, I had one more task.
Walking gingerly, and careful not to disturb the bandages on my legs, I knelt beside the dead Monster. Mask crushed, it lay curled upon itself in a black-red heap. Like the man it had killed earlier.
I scrounged around for a padd, knowing there wasn’t one and that I might have to resort to paper and pencil. Death involved extensive paperwork, I had learned in the academy.
As I searched for something to take notes on, I heard the raspy soughing of the wind through the dry grass and cattails.
But I felt no wind on my back.
. . . to be continued . . .
Author’s Note: Okay, I’m very sorry this took forever for me to get out! I finally had some time today, thanks to a snow day. I really don’t know how Fibonacci has much to do with the story. Honestly, it’s just a remnant from my dream that’s nice for aesthetics. I hoped you liked this part! I’m hoping to have part four out next week. Thank you for reading!