Previous Next

Pack Instinct

Posted on Jan 21, 2016 @ 1:51am by Captain Kassandra Thytos
Edited on on Jan 21, 2016 @ 1:51am

Mission: Promethean

"Pack Instinct"

(cont. "Squirm")

Location: LAVENZA II

Stardate: 2.16.0121.2128

Scene: Exhaust passages

It seemed as though they’d been running for ages - though Kassandra supposed it had been less than fifteen, maybe twenty minutes - when the creature chasing them vanished from the edges of her sensor net. Kassandra allowed herself to slow down, and Barton who’d been in front of her for a while slowed down and stopped. They were in a vestibule with six passages diverging in it, like spokes on a wheel, they’d been through at least half dozen of them since they started running.

“Fuck. *Fuck*. FUCK!” Kassandra slapped the flat of her hand angrily against the wall, punctuating the space in between each profanity as that thought sunk in. She had absolutely no idea where they were, or how to get back. They were lost, she was having trouble with her sensor nets, and they were being hunted.

“Calm down, Kass.” Barton said, putting one hand in what was clearly meant to be a soothing gesture. She glared at him in the half light and flung his arm off her violently, and his expression rapidly changed to the face of a man who realizes that he has committed one of the cardinal tactical errors.

“Shut the hell up Chastity, I’m as bleedin’ calm as I goddamn need to be, an’ you don’t need to be patronizin’ me you upstart whippersnapper. Didn’t your momma teach you never to fuckin’ tell a woman to calm down? If she ain’t calm, it ain’t gonna help, and if she was, well she won’t be no more.” Kassandra glared at him in the half light, feeling more than a little exposed. The nanites that coursed along her sensor nets keeping the delicate system calibrated and in working order flickered like minute electric sparks underneath her skin, causing her to light up in the gloom like a Christmas tree. Something in the tunnels were interfering with her nets, and the nanites were working overtime, she could practically feel the heat from the tiny machines under her skin as they tried to keep everything in working order. Even so, the range of her sensors was hampered, and the detail at the edges was vague, like paper cutouts, or the idea of walls. “I have no idea where we are. I have no idea how to get back, and I still haven’t gotten a good read on whatever the hell is stalking us, and my nets are acting up.”

“Anything you have on whatever the hell it is would be useful, if we have a moment’s breathing space.” Barton said a tad touchily, picking up on the accusatory note in her voice. She’d wanted to wear full battle rattle down to the planet, he’d convinced her otherwise, explaining that showing up in heavy combat gear would lessen the chance of them being able to end things peacefully. He still entertained the notion that Kalenda the Black’s latinum might be used to leverage the return of the data.

“It’s really hard to translate sensor data into a description,” Kassandra frowned. “I know what it looks like, but I don’t SEE it so describin’ it is… Whatever it is, it stands about 1.5 meters high, so it ain’t huge, but it’s got a mouthful of teeth, like a deep sea fish or somethin’, they’re mostly about as long as my hand, and the jaw is heavily muscled. ‘S got large eyes, bout the size of a tennis ball, and moves like a reptile, you know, all esses and slinky. Lotsa muscle. Huge claws. Got a hind claw on the feet the length of my forearm. Tail, maybe with a stinger or a spine. Did I mention a mouthful of teeth? And it’s a fast bastard.”

“And? You sound like there’s something you’re not sure about, or something that you’re not telling me.” Barton said softly, his features eerie, underlit as they were by his flashlight. .

“I… This is just my gut, but somethin’ about the way it moved, and somethin’ about the way it just kind of vanished made me think that… It seemed like a pack hunter.” Kassandra’s fingers tightened around the pulse rifle in her hand. Even entertaining the thought made her nervous. “I ain’t sure what to do, Barton. We gotta keep movin’, but these corridors are bloody narrow. if you go first, I can watch out back, but I won’t be able to fire around you and help you if they attack our front, and vise versa.”

“How high is the ceiling?” The hulking man asked, his face drawn in contemplation.

“Ten feet- Hey what are you?” Kass squawked as Barton hefted her up onto his shoulders.

“Problem solved. As a bonus, for the first time in your life, you get to feel what it’s like to have a height advantage. Besides, you could barely keep up with me on those little stubby things you call legs, we’ll go quicker like this.” Barton grinned up at her. She punched his shoulder none-too-gently. “I’m going to assume that Commander Jos and the rest will continue on with their plan, so let’s find a conduit and follow it, and we should hopefully meet back up with them.”

“Giddyup then,” Kassandra joked, playfully kicking him in the sides with her heels. “Tell anyone about this and you’re a dead man.”

* * *=/\=* * *

Time Index: A couple minutes later.

They both heard the noises long before Kassandra’s sensor nets picked up the creature again.




The sound of the creature’s footfalls on the metal floors echoed crazily around the space, making it impossible to tell where it was coming from. Barton could feel the tension in Kassandra’s body change as she shifted on his shoulders, her pulse rifle coming up to attention. The light was dim, and the air was stuffy. They’d both stripped their suits to the waist and ditched their uniform jackets which kept them from being overly uncomfortable. Suddenly Kassandra’s thighs tightened around Barton’s neck, and she awkwardly grabbed a hank of his hair.

“Run,” was all she said, and it was all she needed to say. Barton bolted, just in time to feel the vibrations of something coming up behind him. Kassandra twisted her torso around, her hand pulling his hair painfully as she tried to steady herself. She fired a few rounds with her rifle, but apparently to little effect. Not that he could blame her, it was damn hard to fire while being jostled around on someone’s shoulders. They rounded a corner and came to a fourway junction, Barton was about to barrel through it, when Kassandra yelled in his ear. “Take the right passage. More things down the others.”

He struggled to change direction, a difficult task top-heavy as he was. Something rocketed out of the tunnel he’d been about to run down. He didn’t have time to see it properly, but he could smell it well enough: A wet, earthy, musky scent, reminiscent of wet dog. The thing reached out and clawed at him, catching only his snowsuit. He threw himself forward, trailing bits of insulation, Kassandra sliding and swaying, throwing his balance off. Then suddenly, her hand unclasped from his hair, and her weight was suddenly gone from his shoulders. He hesitated, half turning to help her, but the creature was already nearly on him, and he felt a puff of fetid, moist breath upon his exposed arm. He saw no trace of the tiny Marine in the darkness, and he hoped one of the other creatures had not already pulled her off to her fate.

Free from Kassandra’s weight, Barton put on a burst of speed, hoping that he’d distract the creatures long enough for her to make a getaway of some sort. If she was still alive. From above him came another muffled noise, rhythmic, quick. It drove all other thoughts from his mind. One of the damn creatures was in the air ducts. He redoubled his efforts, and the creatures increased their pace as well.

Then suddenly he was in an open space, another room with a ventilation shaft and a huge fan. three other passages left the room, and standing in each of them was one of the creatures that was following him. He swore inwardly. Kassandra had been right. They were hunting in a pack, and had forced him into an ambush. There was a clang overhead, something moving nimbly through the gantries and the ducting, he chanced a glance up, but could see nothing but wires and metal structures disappearing into the gloom. He shuffled backed against the wall, his phaser in his hand, staring at the creatures as they circled him.

Kassandra had painted a very broad picture, she evidently had been having trouble translating the disparate mishmash of sensor readings into a cohesive image of the creature. They were corpse white, limbs long and spindly with ropy muscles leading to a heavily muscled chest and slim hips, covered with a sparse, mangy-looking coat of fur. Their faces were heavily muscled at the jaw, with teeth that were a dentist’s nightmare, and huge, predatory eyes. They moved with lithe grace, chest and claws parallel to the ground, tail counterbalancing their chests. They were something out of a nightmare.

Barton eyed them, looking for a leader. If they hunted like a pack of wolves there should be an alpha, a male or a female that was dominant. If he took them out, then he might buy a few moments respite while the others were thrown into confusion. Or something. He wasn’t a man given to excessive flights of fancy where combat was concerned, but he could almost feel those razor sharp claws tearing at his chest and throat as he tried to take the rest of them out…

Then suddenly fire rained down from above. From high up in the gantries he heard the familiar sound of pulse rifle fire. One of the creatures fell, and the rest milled around, confused by the sudden aerial bombardment. Barton began to fire his own phaser, taking out several of the other creatures. The air was filled with the stench of burning hair and flesh. Soon the pack was dead, and there was a dull thud as Kassandra dropped to the floor next to him, surveying her handiwork with pride. Suddenly she knelt down and swore.

“Hey, Barton. I got good news and bad news. Good news: I think I found a scrap a’ jumpsuit they group used to mark their path. Bad news, I’m pretty damn sure we’re in the same goddamn room we started in,” she grumbled, pulling out a rumpled package of cigarettes from her pocket and lighting one up. “So, what you reckon is our next step?”

* * *=/\=* * *

A post by:

Alix Fowler as:

Kassandra Thytos

The Rat in the Wall

USS Phoenix


Previous Next