Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Alien Intelligence

Sergeant Harrigan flicked the rest of his cigar, still smoking, into a dense clump of vegetation a few feet away. Almost immediately, a brown mist puffed up from the base of the largest plant in the bunch and the smoldering stub was extinguished with a sharp hiss. Harrigan looked up and away into the hellish void of the jungle. The oppressive humidity blurred his vision and the caustic native pollen made it even worse. He had served plenty of tours on jungle worlds before, but he had never seen adaptations like these; routine foot patrols could become life-or-death struggles in an instant. He gripped his weapon with both hands and signaled to his squad with a subtle nod. They rose from their squatted positions on the chemically-treated clearing and moved closer to him, some of them stretching tired muscles and popping sore necks, preparing themselves for the hard march back to their headquarters. Harrigan counted six men, where was the seventh?

“Makano?”

“He’s off on a crap,” someone said, but he could see in their faces that Makano should have returned by now.

“Rawls. Ganges. Go find him. If you run into trouble, use your whistles.” He fingered his own wooden whistle hanging on a string around his neck: souvenirs from their campaign of Philistos. “The rest of you check each other for pit lice.” The two lucky men nodded grimly and disappeared into a cleft in the writhing green mass.

Given their surroundings, Harrigan was barely surprised to hear the whistle a few minutes later, but it certainly wasn’t coming from the direction he expected. Rawls and Ganges had gone searching to the west, but these high, urgent squeals were coming from the northeast. Then the noise stopped, and after a moment the men realized they didn’t hear any birds or insects anymore, either. The squad leader signaled abruptly with his hand and trooper Berry moved to point, sweeping his chemsprayer to clear a new trail. The genetically tailored solution worked fairly quickly and they were able to cover a hundred yards in only a few minutes. Just as Harrigan thought they were in the right place, the whistle sounded again, this time from a totally different direction, somewhere off to their right. The patrol stopped short.

“What the…” Berry started, but Harrigan silenced him with a quiet grunt and another hand signal. Something was very wrong here. The sergeant brought his squad down to a crouch. Without having to be told, each man checked their safeties and ammunition loadouts. Another whistle, now to their left. A minute of silence passed, then another whistle chirp behind them.

Without warning, Harrigan felt himself knocked off of his feet, sharp pain exploding in his shoulders. Panic began to unwind itself in his gut as he perceived that he was being lifted from the ground by two large black spears, tinted crimson, protruding from both sides of his upper chest. The ground fell away below him with a jerk and he looked down to see his men spinning in place, firing wildly in all directions, their shouting and shooting sounding quite far away now. Through a bloody haze, he could barely see yellow forms moving through the green underbrush from all sides of the small clearing where their search had ended, yellow forms ending in black fangs and claws that came leaping out to rend his men to pieces. He struggled to look upward just as his head was swallowed by a mass of pink tentacles, coated with slime and ending in barbed points that delicately discarded his helmet before starting to dig their way into his skull.

The lictor continued to hang from its perch for several more minutes, translating the information it obtained from the human’s brainpan into sophisticated chemical signals, which were then relayed to the others from spiracles along its head and tail. When the tyranid scout dropped to the ground in a slinky somersault, the genestealers were already beginning to move towards their next target: an isolated outpost several miles to the south, poorly defended and possibly ripe with more valuable information - knowledge the swarm could use to take this planet with no trouble whatsoever. Before setting off on its own trail, the lictor emitted a harsh whistling noise, a high keening peal no doubt distinctly familiar to a native of Philistos.

Hive Fleet Vivax had arrived.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So does that mean you finished painting them?

haha nice story, at first I thought it was going to be about you Red Rifles... you have a lot of armies.

~kings