“<Go to your positions, now! When you see it, shoot to kill! Fall back when it advances.>” There wasn’t time to remove any of his heavy ordnance or salvage things. At best, all he could hope to do was delay the monster so his men could withdraw. A select few volunteers, chosen amongst themselves by drawing lots, stood their ground with him outside his main warehouse, manning the heavy machineguns. “<I’ll buy you a beer in hell…>” he muttered, fingers white-knuckled on the emplacement handles.
Far down the road, perhaps a hundred fifty yards, came a alien cry, more like clicking than a roar. The thing blitzed through a pile of cars with shocking speed. Grigori’s gut churned like a Siberian blizzard. It wasn’t entirely insectoid, but it surely was not human either. It towered over its surroundings at perhaps eleven feet tall, with the chest of a man but limbs of a beast. Its sickly green exoskeleton was riddled with bullets and painted crimson in areas, but he figured that wasn’t its blood. The mandibles over its jaws clicked again when it saw Grigori, and it continued its charge.
“<Fire!>” ordered the Russian, lighting the oncoming creature up. It wasn’t enough… Whatever that thing was made of, it shrugged off bullets like they were butterflies. The thing stepped through landmines and claymores, buffeted by the force of the blasts but undeterred. “<Fuck! …Fall back. Fall back! Prepare the ship! I will join you soon.>” Levelling his trusty PKM, Grigori fired at the beast as he retreated backwards towards the warehouse, covering his mens’ escapes.
Once he slipped through the door, he locked it and headed for the ladder to the catwalk above. He took the rungs two at a time, pulling it up after him, and grabbed a bandolier of impact-sensitive grenades. When that thing came through, he was ready to give it some hellfire straight from the Motherland. One. Two. It took only three hits for the beast to fight through the door. It turned its horrible compound eyes to him and clicked.
“Grigori!” It spoke? Its cadence wasn’t human, but those were clearly words. “I’m going rip your fucking head off!”
“I have been steppink on things more threatening than you in the Motherland!” he called back, heart racing. Pulling the pin on one of his grenades, he slung it at the creature. The explosive detonated upon contact with the floor. It yelped, bringing its skinny fingers to its face, and took a step back. He just barely managed to throw another one before his feet slipped out from under him. The mantis creature had taken out a support beam, and the whole catwalk slid down a few inches.
Grigori caught himself on the railing, pulling a pin with his teeth and tossing the entire rest of the bandolier at the creature. He managed to right himself and took off in the opposite direction, towards another cache of explosives. It had to crack sometime. It had to…
“You Russians move quick for being such stocky louts,” the mantis complained, staggering below. When it caught its bearings, it hurled a crate at Grigori. The splintering wood peppered him, but he refused to be shaken.
“You had better hope that you are quicker,” replied the man, hefting an RPG onto his shoulder. The weapon was second nature to him, only requiring the most fleeting moment to aim his shot before firing it at the creature.
The beast was consumed by smoke and fire, then lay on the ground silent and still. Grigori peered closer, to ensure his foe was dead. Green ooze leaked from its chest. Then its neck cracked. It spun its still quite lively head a hundred and eighty degrees, then contorted its limbs like a conventional praying mantis and crawled up the wall. He stumbled back. From which circle of hell had this demon crawled out of? It lept out at him, bringing its scythe-like right forearm down through the catwalk before him.
“<Fucking dog! Die already!>” Grigori fired at it with his rifle in a panic, rushing to his last cache. Where was the thing? Right behind him, where he was hoping it wouldn’t be. He grabbed a flashbang, pulled the pin, and whirled around, jamming it in the creature’s face. The Russian threw himself over the railing, crashing onto a tall metal shelf and collapsing it under his weight. When the flashbang went off, he didn’t even look back to see if it had worked. Instead, he rushed out the door, through the hole it had made. This place was not worth it…
“Hey, whoa, what are you in a rush for buddy?” asked a muffled voice. Suddenly his ankles were stuck together, and he fell onto his chest. Goddamn it all. Grigori crawled forward on his belly, shooting a frightened look over his shoulder.
“It’s right behind me! Why would you waste time with me when the real monster is there?!”
The black-clad man straightened his back. “It is?” He glanced behind them at the charging beast.
Grigori’s eyes were swamped in black, and he braced for death. Instead, after fifteen seconds, he opened them again, and saw they were on the roof.
“Sweet mother Mary, what was that thing?!” The man screeched, visibly shaking.
“You think I know? It just showed up and began the killink of my men! We shot it, hit it with cars, blew it up… nothink worked. Whatever you are plannink on doink, don’t. Just leave.”
“Sure, after you give us the location of your other caches.” That was a woman’s voice. Where had she come from?
Grigori laughed. It didn’t sound very convincing. “You are crazy, American. The last of my supplies are in my compound to the east of here. I think it will not be doink you much good, but you are welcome to them,” he spat.
“Is that so? Then I suppose you’re no longer useful to us.” She turned to her comrade. “Drop him.”
The man in black looked surprised.
“Pah! You are just like the others. You say you ‘help’, but when things become rough, you become an animal. I tell the truth and you don’t accept, so for that I must die? America is worse than the gulags with corruption.”
“You shut the fuck up!” The woman kicked him in the face.
“Ha! Have I touched a nerve?”
“Alright, that’s enough,” the man barked. He moved the caped freak away from him. “Just get out of here Grigori.”
He got to his feet, brushing off his pants in an attempt to hide the tremor in his legs. “Da. Good luck with your task, Americans. You will most certainly be needink it.”
They watched for a moment as Grigori ambled away. Onyx turned to Shade. “Were you being serious?”
She put her hands out. “It was just an interrogation Onyx. You have to show you’re not joking around.”
“That didn’t look like ‘just an interrogation’.”
“Just keep your focus on the mantis, okay?” She put up her index finger to stop further questioning and clicked her transceiver on. “Chiro, you there?”
“Do you have any experience fighting giant… bug… things?” What were the words coming from her mouth?
“Excuse me?” said Chiro, equally incredulous. “Can you describe it to me or something?”
“It looked like a mantis. Big, green, buggy eyes, crooked right arm. Twice as tall as I am and probably weighs five times as much.”
“Hmm. Well, if I were to guess, it sounds like one of Martin’s abominations. He may be a genius, but he’s also neurotic. All his creations retain the same flaws that wouldn’t let them beat out humans evolutionarily. A bug thing… bugs are afraid of fire, right? Have you tried fire?”
“No, but Grigori might have something around here like a flamethrower. We just need to get to it, that thing is still down there.”
The ground beneath her trembled, and she heard the contents of a crate spill onto the catwalks.
“Well, it can’t be that smart. One of you should distract it while the others steal a flamethrower. Sound doable?”
Shade jolted as the mantis rapidly climbed up the wall, beginning to shear through the roof at the building’s end.
“Yeah, great, but just so you know, it can speak.”
A hiss, like a lightbulb filament surging with electricity, seemed to come out of nowhere, immediately followed by a wave of harsh light. The wave split in two as it approached the mantis and seemed to slice just under the monster’s clinging feet, sending it tumbling off the wall.
“Hey, bug boy!” Prism shouted, having run out from his hiding place. “Quit beating on innocent bricks!”
Shade grabbed ahold of Onyx’s shoulder, and he took that signal to teleport them down and across the warehouse from the mantis.
“Prism! You think you and Onyx can hold that thing off while I search the area?” she shouted.
“Yeah!” Prism yelled back, slinging another burst of light at the creature. “Between us two, we might just not die!”
“That’s a big ‘might’,” Onyx whined. Glossy obsidian outlined the creature’s form, holding it in place while Prism pounded its eyes with spheres of light. Shade left the howling creature behind, tearing through every crate and shelf she could get ahold of. Grigori had stockpiled a vast array of Russian weaponry, ranging from the Soviet era to fresh off the assembly line. Certainly worth a fortune, but not worth anything in a fight with a monstrosity.
She glanced over her shoulder to witness the creature slowly tear through its inky bindings. The duo backtracked, and Prism blindly hurled half-formed spheres of light as he ran.
It tore at Onyx’s form, but its scythe only touched a dissipating shadow – he was already gone.
“Ohoho, think you’re clever huh? Too bad I can smell your ass from a mile away.” It presented its massive translucent wings and turned to an upper catwalk. “Say, are you Hispanic? You smell spicy.”
Onyx was thrown against the railing by a sudden gust of wind – she could see the air rippling around the fabric of his costume. He held on for dear life.
Shit, shit, shit, shit. She set off a knockout gas pellet and hurled it at the beast as she advanced to another crate, closer to its reach.
“Grah!” The monster brought its foot down on the pellet, crushing it, but its muscles already began to seize up. It gave Prism a moment to send a flat wall of light into its side, knocking it down.
Shade tore through the contents of a table, growing ever more frustrated, hurling things into the ground or into the wall.
“God fucking damn it!” She kicked the table over. The mantis spun its head at the sound of the clatter, muscles creaking as it got on all fours and shuffled after her.
Again, Prism conjured a wall of light and stretched it out in the mantis’ path.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you not to pick on girls?!” Prism barked at it.
“Hey, maybe I’m a girl!” it snarled back, snapping back to a bipedal stance. It paused, as if waiting for a response. “I’m not, but hey, you wouldn’t know.”
Shade was just about ready to call the fight off when, as if gifted by the gods, she found a vintage flamethrower before her. She hoisted the fuel tanks over her cloak and turned to see the mantis shatter the light screen in Prism’s face.
“You talk too much.”
Her heart jumped as the device clicked. Had her luck ran as empty as the fuel tanks? Then, a plume of fire and smoke erupted from the barrel, flaking the outer layer on the mantis’ chest. It recoiled harshly, letting loose a bloodcurdling shriek. She pressed on, watching with satisfaction as its torso ruptured and caked with green ooze. Knowing when it was beat, it retreated and dashed out of sight.
“Did you mean it or me?” Prism asked, squinting at her. “Wait, don’t answer, I think I like not knowing.”
Onyx waited until Shade had shed the flamethrower and began leading them down the road.
“Speaking of talking to much,” he whispered to his friend, limping as he tried to keep up with him by foot, “the more she does, the more uncomfortable she makes me. Is she going to make it through this without snapping, or…?”
“I have no idea,” Prism muttered back to him. “But I know I’m sticking around to find out.”
Fritz and his damned cryptic answers. “Should I say something? Or would that make it worse?”
“If you got something to say, then just say it,” Prism said, shaking his head. “You can’t putz around forever.”
“I dunno,” he said with a snort. “You seem to get by just fine.”