1229 words (4 minute read)

Chapter 3

The halls of the ship feel oddly silent and lonesome as he begins to head towards his quarters. Memories of emotion taunt him with each step.

“Did you know?” he asks, his voice echoing through the hallway.

It is my job to be informed on important information. So, yes, I did. Rahn decided it was better to keep that information from you, and I agreed, Allie replies.

“Not exactly your call to make,” he grumbles as the frustration builds.

It is my job to keep you safe. If you had known, you would have scoured the galaxy in an effort to hunt her down. Likely getting yourselves killed in the process.”

She was right, but after everything they’d been through hadn’t he earned that right. Thus, instead of acknowledging the potential that Allie’s argument was the correct course of action, he simply remains silent. His thoughts turn to the bottle of scotch he has stashed in his quarters just down the hall. He releases a long held breath and continues on his way.

He doesn’t get far before a loud groaning sound, like that of a rock scratching metal, stops him in his tracks. Alarms blare as red warning lights illuminate the dark passageway.

Damage to the portside exterior, not sure what caused it. Allie alerts him.

He hears the door slide open and swiftly turns around to find Anna and Jaya hastily exiting the guest room, their faces a mix of confusion and concern. Anna has changed into a fresh shirt and jacket. Without another word they join him in running back down the passageway. He grabs the first weapon he can find, slings the strap over his shoulder, and hits the console to open the doors. The ramp gradually lowers itself with a heavy groan. As soon as there’s enough room they rush out into the howling chill. They drop off the ramp, impacting the snow with a crisp crunch before racing around the corner of the ship.

Thoughts on what could be attacking them race through his mind. Had a few of the mercenaries managed to survive and track them here? Had they landed on a piece of ice and part of the ship was stuck in a lake?

When they see the source of the disturbance, Tal’s floored by the size of the creature. It’s as tall as the ship. The massive fangs protruding from its gaping jaws, its size, and the shaggy white fur make it look like the monstrous love child of a polar bear, a sabretooth tiger, and a wooly mammoth. To make matters worse it’s torn a massive hole in the side of the ship, either using the aforementioned tusks or the large hooked claws on its gargantuan feet. The beast sniffs the hull, but quickly looks away as it senses that its target doesn’t contain anything appetizing. Just as its about to leave it notices the trio of operatives standing slack jawed before it.

A great bellowing roar echoes throughout the plains. The behemoth eagerly charges towards its newfound prey. Tal dives to the side, snow momentarily filling his vision. He quickly returns to his feet, anxiously looking about for the massive creature that attacked them. He spots it chomping and swiping at Jaya. The younger operative rolls under each clawed attack in an attempt to avoid being crushed or eviscerated. It’s clear that her weapon must have fallen off during the beast’s initial charge since none can be spotted on her person. He hastily reaches for his own gun only to find it too came loose in the tumble. As he frantically looks about, gun shots ring in the distance. Hope flares at the sound, but an answering roar confirms the creature is still alive. Either Jaya’s found her weapon, or Anna’s got its attention. He doesn’t chance a look, instead he intensifies his search, cold seeping through his gloved fingers. Then he sees it, Jaya’s sniper rifle lies abandoned a few feet from his position. He rushes over to retrieve the gun, the torn strap billows in the wind behind him.

He drops to his knees, aims for the creature’s head, inhales deeply, then squeezes the trigger. The shot embeds itself in the creature’s shoulder, which only serves to piss off the beast and redirect its attention towards him. He quickly backpedals in an attempt to line up a second shot, but the creature, for all its girth, moves faster than he anticipated. It bulldozes over him, tusks crush his armor leaving a sizable gash along his left side. Air leaves his lungs as he impacts the ground. He tries to get up, only to find himself face to face with the vicious beast. Crimson flows from its shoulder, dripping down its snowy fur like a red river. Tal grimaces, scuttling backwards in an attempt to put some distance between himself the beast. A sharp pain emanates from his wounded side, before completely subsiding as Allie releases a dose of pain killers to keep him focused on the task in front of him. The monster snarls, the stench of fish and fresh blood waft over him. He desperately feels around for a weapon, never letting the beast out of his sight. He feels the familiar stock of his rifle, grips it, and desperately swings it forward.

Before he can pull the trigger, the beast snaps forward, massive jaws clamping down on the gun breaking it in half. It continues to look at him, hunger in its eyes. It rears back, ready to strike. Then, instead of the no doubt overwhelmingly painful sensation of jaws tearing him in half, he feels a wet, warm mist on his face. He opens one eye, then the other. The snow creature is still before him, only now it’s laying on its side, mouth agape, with a two inch hole through its skull. Standing atop the monster, sniper rifle in hand, hair flailing in the wind, and a satisfied grin on her face, is Anna.

“You’re really not very good with this thing,” she teases him.

“I’ll remember that, the next time an alien monster tries to eat you,” he responds through gritted teeth.

He presses his arm to his side as he climbs to his feet. The world begins to shift and sway. His legs suddenly feel weak. Shit, he thinks as he falls to one knee. He tries to stand but his legs feel boneless.

“Tal?” Anna questions him warily. “You okay?”

“Fine, I…I’m not fine.” His legs drop out from under him. He tries once more to get to his feet, darkness constricts his vision. Anna questioningly calls out his name as Jaya comes up alongside her. His sister screams his name, he begins to fall, but he doesn’t feel the impact. Then everything goes black.

Next Chapter: Chapter 4