Aliens Versus Zombies - Excerpt

© Mark Terence Chapman

Chapter Zero

 

May 2034.

 

He had no name. He simply was.

 

Once a mechanic, he was now but a part of The Pack. His filthy, bloody, torn coveralls had a patch on the chest that read Jay. A tattoo of an anchor peeked out of a rip in the right sleeve.

 

Movement across the street caught his eye. Jay shrieked and grunted, then pointed. The others in The Pack understood the meaning.

 

Food!

 

Another pack had entered their territory. He knew they were not of The Pack. Their cries and hoots were different.

Once, food had been plentiful, but as the easier food was caught and eaten—the two- and four-legged ones, the flying ones—food got scarcer, until the packs began to starve. They soon eyed one another. The hunger gnawing at them was incessant. It had to be quenched.

 

Now The Pack, twenty-three strong, gave chase. Some raced left, some right, and some straight ahead. They would leave few openings through which the prey could escape. Ahead, three more members of The Pack waited for the prey to be driven toward them.

 

They closed the trap. The Pack pounced on the seven interlopers. Bloodstained teeth ripped into flesh, tore open arteries, cracked bones.

 

Eat!

 

This food fought back with ferocity. Two of The Pack died along with the interlopers.

 

That made nine foods to eat.

 

The Pack slept with full bellies that night.

 

Happy.

 

* * * *

 

March 2033 (fourteen months earlier).

The end of the world had begun with a neither a bang nor a whimper, but with pain.

 

March 23, 2033 began like so many other days, with Lao Tse reaching for a sack of rice to throw onto the back of his cart.

 

“Ow!”

 

He yanked his hand back and sucked the drop of blood from the back of his finger.

 

“Damn it!” Must have been a thorn, or a sharp twig.

 

The wild gerbil that nipped him darted unseen into the nearby reeds. The wound didn’t hurt much after a few minutes, so Lao Tse thought no more of it.

 

Two days later, he was in a marketplace outside Lhasa, Tibet, to sell his crop. After negotiating a fair price for two bags of rice, he sipped the butter tea he’d brought with him to soothe his sore throat. The traditional thick tea, made with yak butter, milk, and salt, and fermented overnight, helped a little.

 

He developed a headache during lunch. Mild at first, it worsened as the day progressed. So did his sore throat. At 3:07 pm, he began coughing intermittently. By 4:00, he coughed almost nonstop and his head throbbed to the rhythm of his pulse. Lao decided to call it a day, but not before he had transmitted this new mutation of the Tibetan Hemorrhagic Fever virus to several other merchants.

 

“Spring colds. They’re always the worst,” he said later to his daughter, Mei. “I’m going to bed. I’m sure a good night’s sleep is all I need.”

 

By the next day, his symptoms had progressed to vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and fever.

 

“Daddy,” Mei insisted, “you have to go to the hospital!”

 

“No, no, I’ll be fine. I just need to rest a little more.”

 

“You’re not fine! Look at you. You’re feverish, sweating, your eyes are bloodshot, and your hands are clammy. No more arguments—we’re going. Get your clothes on.”

 

“No, really, I’m fi—” A prolonged coughing fit cut off the rest of the sentence. When he finished, it took him several minutes to catch his breath. “Maybe you’re right,” he finally conceded. “I’m having trouble breathing.” He wheezed as he spoke.

 

Mei had to help him dress, and then she rushed him to the nearest emergency room in Lhasa. Before leaving home, he infected Mei, his wife, Pema, and their young son, Tenzin. “Rushed,” in this case, meant a seventy minute drive through rough terrain on bad roads in their ancient Toyota Land Cruiser. Tibet in March, meant snow on many of the roads, and pockets of ice, especially in the shaded areas.

 

She drove as slow as she dared. Better to take a few minutes longer than not get there at all. But she couldn’t go too slow for fear that her father might not get medical treatment in time.

 

Upon arrival at the Lhasa People’s Hospital, the admitting nurse directed them to “Have a seat over there and fill out this form.”

 

Mei trembled. “But...my father is very sick. He needs someone to look at him right away!”

 

The nurse took a quick glance at Lao Tse, before smiling. “I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about. Probably just a mild case of the flu. Your father should be fine in a few days.”

 

In the twenty-two minutes before he was examined—coughing and sneezing the entire time—he infected eleven people in the waiting room. All received treatment for the injuries or illnesses that had brought them there and then left the hospital before they became  symptomatic.

 

Lao’s condition worsened and he passed out during the examination.

 

“Nurse!” the doctor called out. “Admit this man for observation.”

 

The doctor ordered intravenous electrolytes, and Tylenol to break the fever. However, by morning Lao’s temperature had risen to 106ºF; an ice bath did nothing to help and he began bleeding from his eyes, nose, ears, and rectum.

 

By the time doctors diagnosed hemorrhagic fever and quarantined the hospital, Lao had already infected two doctors, three nurses and an orderly. Fortunately, the doctors and nurses were still at the hospital when the quarantine occurred. However, the orderly had the next two days off and came down with “flu” symptoms while at home and spread the contagion further before seeking treatment.

 

As soon as new patients began to arrive with hemorrhagic fever symptoms, the hospital contacted the government, which immediately locked down the city and alerted the World Health Organization (WHO).

 

It was already too late. The merchants Lao Tse had infected days earlier in turn infected others in his village and surrounding ones. Several had traveled to other towns and spread the contagion further.

 

Lao Tse, Patient Zero, died three days later.

 

* * * *

 

CNN Headline News, April 4, 2033:

“Tibetan virus escapes China; thousands infected throughout East Asia. WHO warns neighboring countries to take precautions.”

 

Der Spiegel International (English), April 10, 2033:

“Germany closes borders to travelers from East Asia.”

 

USA Today, April 14, 2033:

“Virus immune to vaccines”

 

New York Times, April 17, 2033:

“CDC: ‘Not Enough Time’”

 

Paris Match headline (translated), April 25, 2033:

“112 MILLION BELIEVED INFECTED”

 

Chicago Tribune, April 26, 2033:

“President McKinnon dead! Marshal Law declared!”

 

The Kyoto Shimbun (English), May 1, 2033:

“Plague Reported in Every Country”

 

Daily Record and Sunday Mail (Scotland), May 2, 2033:    

“Parliament Abandoned; UK in Crisis”

 

Pravda headline (English), June 29, 2033:

“2.5 billion believed dead”

 

The Rio Times (English), July 17, 2033:

“Brazil Government Collapses”

 

Times of London, August 23, 2033:

“6 Bn Dead. Will Anyone Survive?”

 

miamiherald.com feature article, September 19, 2033:

Humanity’s end?

By Roger Cseh

Staff Reporter

 

This pandemic is like nothing mankind has ever experienced. Approximately eighty-two percent of the human race—more than eight billion people—died within the first six months.

 

Of the eighteen percent of humanity currently living, nearly all suffered through lesser symptoms, including intense fever that resulted in major brain trauma. Scientists say the damage occurs primarily to the frontal lobe—the part of the brain that controls the higher brain functions—and especially the cerebral cortex.

 

These victims don’t die, yet they also are no longer quite human. Instead, they become ravening feral hordes, hunting for living things to eat: snakes  raccoons, peopleeach other. It doesn’t matter. As long as it has a heartbeat, these “zombies”—for want of a better term—pursue and eat it. However they are not the shuffling, undead automatons of horror fiction. They are something else entirely. They are living, breathing creatures, cunning and fast—too fast.

 

The estimated remaining eight-tenths of one percent of humanity—fewer than eight million individuals worldwide—seem to be immune to the virus. However, with the collapse of all governments and military we stand little chance of surviving long-term against nearly a billion zombies.

 

God help us all.

 

* * * *

 

On May 19, 2034, fourteen months after the plague struck, a Drahtch invasion fleet arrived in Earth orbit with more than twenty thousand armed ships, two million ground troops, and a half-million colonists.

 

 

Chapter One

 

Battle Commander FronCar snapped to attention. “Your orders, sir!”

 

A lesser Drahtch soldier would have been unable to maintain the absolutely motionless pose he held for several long seconds before his superior spoke. FronCar’s golden skin glinted in the filtered yellow sunlight streaming in through the massive viewport to his left.

 

“At ease, Commander.” Viceroy CresNal, supreme military authority of the massive fleet of Drahtch ships, shifted in his command chair.

 

“What do you make of what you see below?” His dark bronze coloration attested to his great age.

 

FronCar relaxed slightly, then turned and looked at the deep blue, green, and brown planet below. White fluffy clouds scudded across the large eastern continent; the northern polar ice cap reflected the sunlight; the western land masses were nearly invisible in the dark. The seas were enormous, much larger and deeper than the shallow blue-green seas of the Drahtch homeworld.

 

To the right of the viewport in the Fleet Control Room, the battle status screen remained dark. To the left, the threat assessment screen showed negative across the board. Between CresNal’s command chair—or throne, as FronCar thought of it—and the viewport sat dozens of people. There were military strategists, analysts, tacticians, senior pilots, troop commanders, and all the other people required to stage an invasion.

 

“Your Excellency? I see nothing special. No orbital defenses, no surface-to-space missiles approaching, no energy weapons powering up. Everything is quiet.”

 

“Exactly. We have been transmitting demands for the planetary governments to surrender or be destroyed for a day now, and they have made no attempts to attack us, or even reply. From the long-term reconnaissance of this planet before we left our system, we know the indigenes were beginning to explore their solar system and had missile systems capable of reaching orbit. Surely they have made progress in those areas during the eighteen years since we left. So why haven’t they attempted to attack us?”

 

FronCar shrugged. “Perhaps they saw the futility of any such action.”

 

“Why would they? They know nothing of us.”

 

“They must have high-powered telescopes on the planet, or orbital ones. They can see that our ships are far beyond anything they have. Perhaps they don’t have the will to fight.”

 

“I doubt that, Commander. From our observations, we know they’re a warlike race. I can’t imagine they wouldn’t at least try to mount an attack, or attempt to negotiate a peaceful resolution. Besides, look again at the planet. There are billions of people living there, so why are there so few lights? The scans show relatively few operating energy sources and almost no transmissions on radio or microwave frequencies.”

 

 

FronCar frowned and pursed his lips in thought. “You raise some excellent points, sir. Perhaps an on-site inspection is in order.”

 

Viceroy CresNal smiled. “My thoughts exactly. Send a flight of attack ships in for a low-altitude flyover of some of the major cities and stream the footage to the viewscreen. Have them use due caution, in case the indigenes are planning something. Let’s see what they’re up to.”

 

* * * *

 

A high-speed, high-altitude flight over what appeared to be a military base—judging by the shape and size of the aircraft and ground vehicles and the primitive camouflage coloring—was encouraging. There were people walking around, but no indication of a heightened threat posture. A similar pass over two cities likewise showed no indication of active offensive or defensive measures.

 

“Attack flight leader to Control.”

 

“Control to Leader. What’s your status?”

 

“All go. These people seem to have no idea that we’re here over their planet. Or don’t care. They’re practically begging to be invaded. Their cities don’t even appear to be defended. Request permission to begin mission phase two.”

 

“Acknowledged, Leader. You are cleared for a low-speed close-observation pass.”

 

“Acknowledged. Beginning observation pass.”

 

The flight of three attack ships swung back around. The craft couldn’t hover, but they were capable of traveling at relatively slow speeds. The ships were arranged with the flight leader taking point at low-left, another at medium-right, and the third at high-center providing cover for the other two. Their firing cam images appeared on the darkened viewport-turned-viewscreen of the command ship in orbit as they flew over a major thoroughfare.

 

“Are you getting this, Control?”

 

“Acknowledged, Leader.”

 

Below was a scene of devastation. Vehicles were abandoned in the middle of the roadway or smashed together. Buildings had broken windows and doors. A small winged aircraft jutted from the side of one of the taller structures. Vegetation grew wild here and there. Smoke drifted above the ashes of what was left of a small building. Nothing living moved, just litter blowing in the breeze.

 

Still, for the most part the city was intact. It certainly didn’t look as if there had been a civilization-ending war.

 

“What in MemKar’s name happened here? Where is everyone?”

 

“Focus, Leader.”

 

“Acknowledged.”

 

Passes over other major streets showed more of the same, as did several passes over the next city. Then, on the last pass before the flight was due to return to the command ship, sensors detected motion. The flight slowed to minimal speed to observe.

 

Below, nearly a dozen indigenes cornered a small animal in a recessed doorway. As the pilots watched, the indigenes caught the creature and passed it around, each tearing out large chunks of flesh with their teeth. None of them seemed to be aware of the invaders overhead.

 

“Leader to Control. Are you seeing this?”

 

“Acknowledged, Leader.”

 

“Orders?”

 

“One moment, Leader.” After consulting with Viceroy CresNal, Control responded, “Return to ship, Leader.”

 

“Acknowledged. Flight returning.”

 

* * * *

 

Commander FronCar turned to

CresNal. “Your Excellency, it would seem that the indigenes have paved the way for our colonization efforts.”

 

“It certainly does appear so.”

 

“Pity. Our soldiers have been training for this day for eighteen years. It would be a shame to deny them the opportunity for glorious combat.”

 

“True. Whatever befell the civilization here—such as it was—there appears to be survivors. That may mean armed resistance at some point. Keep your soldiers at readiness.”

 

FronCar’s facial expression, despite his control, leaked the barest hint of offense. “Of course, sir! Always.”

 

“Good, good. Whatever happened, it saved us the trouble of having to bombard the planet from space and reduce it to rubble. It appears that much of the infrastructure is intact. Roads, at least some power plants, dams, perhaps water treatment plants. If so, that will save us much time and effort, and greatly reduce the time needed before we can land the colonists. It looks like this will be a relatively effortless victory.

 

“This last city looks nearly perfect. Small enough that we can erect a protective barrier around it, moderate climate, adjacent to a navigable waterway, with power in at least parts of the city, and reasonably intact. We should be able to begin colonizing in short order—once you’ve cleared out the indigenous population infesting it.”

 

* * * *

 

“Shit. Did you see that, Sarge?” Chrissy Montoni looked back from the window of the aptly named Hungry Shopper supermarket at the man standing behind her munching on a not-quite-stale candy bar.

 

“Yeah.” Byron “Chick” Daniels craned his neck for a better look before the trio of ships disappeared beyond the window frame.

“They sure don’t look like anything we or the Russians or the Chinese have. They don’t move like anything I’ve seen before, either.”

 

“You don’t suppose E.T. finally came back, do you?” Chrissy said with a smirk.

 

Daniels chuckled. “If he did, he’ll have a tougher go phoning home this time.”

 

“Wouldn’t that be a cosmic joke, though? Zoms wipe out almost all of humanity right before an alien invasion?”

Daniels laughed. “When it rains, it pours, right?”

 

“Tell me about it.”

 

“Well, the way things are, they’re welcome to the planet, as long as they leave us alone. We’ve got bigger problems to worry about. Besides, who knows? Maybe they’ll get rid of the zombie problem for us.”

 

“Wouldn’t that be nice. I hope they’re friendly.”

 

“Same here. The last thing we need is to have to fight zombies and aliens.

 

“I don’t even want to think about that.”

 

Daniels peered out the window again. “It looks the Zoms are busy with that poor dog. We should be able to slip out and get back to the others.”

 

“Sounds like a plan.”

 

They called them Zoms because they were only half zombie. They were brain-dead man-eaters, but they weren’t “undead.” They lived and had animal cunning. Once, the ferocity with which the Zoms shredded the poor animal would have shocked them. No more. They had seen worse, far worse, many times over in the past year.

 

The duo approached the duffel bags they’d filled with food, batteries, and first-aid supplies, ran their belts through the duffel grips, and positioned the bags behind them like giant fanny packs to keep their hands free. Then they picked up their rifles and headed for the back door. After checking for movement in the immediate area, they slipped through and ran for the shadows across the alley.

 

The Zoms were on the prowl. There was no telling how many there might be in the area.

 

* * * *

 

Chick Daniels slouched back against the stack of tires with a satisfied sigh. The place smelled of rubber and cat piss, but it was cool and, for the moment at least, free of Zoms.

 

Although a hot meal would have been better, a fire was out of the question with Zoms in the area. Besides, cold pork and beans and canned Vienna sausages were a huge leap forward from the peanut butter “sandwich” crackers they’d been down to before this sortie. Not really Daniels’ idea of a sandwich, or a meal…

 

Two of the main items Daniels had been determined to find in the grocery store were a can opener and real peanut butter.

He muttered, “I’ll be damned before I eat any more peanut butter crackers—that’s for sure.”

 

“What’s that, Sarge”? Hector Villa called over his shoulder from the next stack of tires.

 

“Nothing, Moose. Just wool-gathering.”

 

“Cool, dude.”

 

The two, plus Chrissy Montoni standing watch by the front door of Steve’s Tire Palace, and Jesse Jefferson keeping an eye on the side door, were all that remained of the seven that banded together over the past few months.

The first to fall had been Marge Kanakaredes.

 

* * * *

 

February 2034.

When the group turned the corner at Fifth and Sweeney, Jesse, on point, spotted a Zom a hundred yards down the street. He ducked back, but not before it spotted him. It bellowed in the combination of grunts and shrieks that the Zoms had developed as a sort of rudimentary language. There didn’t seem to be any actual words, but the others understood the sounds to mean food at hand and they came running.

 

“Shit!” Jesse immediately began firing at the four Zoms that raced toward the group.

 

Marge Kanakaredes and “Moose” Villa—came up behind him and fired their shotguns. Nine more Zoms poured out of various doorways and charged the humans. They were too fast, and weaved from side to side to make hitting them harder. Daniels and Chrissy opened up with their rifles as soon as they had a clear shot.

 

A bullet to the chest dropped one and a shotgun blast blew the leg off another. Blood spurted into the air as he fell. Four more emerged, and then another six. Within seconds, there were far too many to fight off.

 

Peter DeBerge fired with pistols in each hand. “Man, what I wouldn’t give for some slow, shambling zombies!”

 

“Shut up and move!” Daniels ordered. The group turned and ran for all they were worth. More Zoms joined the chase from the side streets.

 

Seemingly from out of nowhere, bricks rained down on the group. Three Zoms were throwing them from a rooftop. One hit Kanakaredes in the head, felling her instantly.

 

“Grab her other arm,” Daniels yelled to Jerry Lombard. “We have to take her somewhere safe.”

“It’s too late, Sarge. She’s gone.”

 

Daniels finally noticed the vacant, lifeless stare. “Damn it!”

 

With more bricks falling, the group had no choice but to leave her and run for their lives. Seconds later, the horde of Zoms pounced on the unfortunate woman, ignoring the rest of the group. It didn’t take long before the Zoms were passing severed arms and legs around like giant Buffalo wings at a party.

 

That wasn’t the first time nineteen-year-old Chrissy Montoni had ever witnessed such viciousness—and it wouldn’t be the last.

 

* * * *

 

May 2034.

Squad Subregulator MerFon stood at the foot of the ramp as his men marched off the battle pod. He paused for a moment to look over their heads at the far side of the clearing.

 

What an ugly planet! I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to trees that are green instead of blue. Green everywhere, even underfoot! And that sky… Ugh! Too-bright sun, light blue sky, and only one moon.

 

He shook his head and sighed to himself. It’s home now. Ugly or not, better get used to it. The heavier gravity might take some adjustment, though.

 

MerFon stepped out from under the shade of the battle pod, walked in front of the men standing at attention, and turned to face them.

 

“At ease.” It was a testament to his training that, although they shifted from attention to parade rest, they did so in unison and as smartly as any precision field maneuver.

 

“Men, our orders are to reconnoiter the area, looking for potential threats. Intel indicates there shouldn’t be anything we can’t handle. Due to some unknown cause, the indigenes’ civilization appears to have collapsed, along with their military forces. Intel says the population has gone feral, living day to day, hand to mouth.”

 

He paused to look his men in the eye, one by one. “In my opinion…long-distance intel is worthless until verified by boots on the ground. Men, we’re those boots. We’re to scout the western part of the city up ahead. Three other squads are entering from the other three cardinal points. We don’t really know what to expect, so keep your eyes open and don’t take any chances. If you see any creatures holding what looks like a weapon, or that bares its teeth at you, shoot to kill. But, for MemKar’s sake, don’t shoot each other.”

 

The latter was a minor joke on his part. He knew they were too well trained for that.

 

“All right, men, formation!”

 

The squad of nine formed a circle around MerFon in a matter of seconds, with each man precisely five paces apart.

 

“March!”

 

The ten soldiers marched for the nearby highway that headed into town, half a mile from their battle pod.

 

* * * *

 

The members of Daniels’ group hurried to fill their backpacks with as much food and drink as they could squeeze in. The store had been ransacked in the past, probably more than once, but there were plenty of canned goods left untouched. The lighter stuff tended to go first. No one wanted to be loaded down with heavy cans in case they got cornered. Still, food was food, and you took what you could find.

 

It would be dark soon and they needed to get back to their base. Maybe the Zoms couldn’t see them in the dark, but they couldn’t see the Zoms, either. No one liked the feeling that one could be sneaking up behind them. It didn’t help that the Zoms tended to scream when they attacked. It was creepy and often terrifying to operate at night.

 

Daniels held up a hand. “Shhhhh! I think I heard something.”

 

Everyone knew to shut up and listen. After a minute of silence, Daniels gave the go-ahead and they resumed stuffing, now with a higher sense of urgency.

 

And then all hell broke loose.

 

A large piece of rubble crashed through the big window and four Zoms charged through, shrieking and hooting. Daniels fired his pistol; they were too close for a rifle. Moose blasted with his shotgun. Five more Zoms poured in behind the others.

The others opened fire and it was insanity. The cacophony of hooting, howling, shrieking, and grunting, combined with the echoes of pistol and shotgun fire, was deafening.

 

The humans fired round after round. The Zoms kept coming. Nine Zoms fell; the same number didn’t. Daniels wrestled with two, Chrissy with another, and six fell upon the other four humans.

 

Three more Zoms ran inside as Daniels finished off his second with the knife. He turned and switched hands with the knife, drew his pistol and shot the one that launched itself at Chrissy. Three others fell at the feet of Moose Villa, and Peter DeBerge. Jesse Jefferson and Jerry Lombard were fighting from under a pile of four Zoms.

 

Moose and Peter shot two at close range, and Chrissy picked off another from across the room. Daniels kicked one in the knee and shot him as he fell.

 

That left three in the pile. It was too risky to shoot, with Jesse and Jerry underneath. Daniels grabbed one Zom by the hair and pulled his head back. Chrissy slit his throat and Daniels shoved him aside. Blood fountained from the Zom’s throat. At the same time, Moose and Peter took care of the second.

 

That left only one, and Jesse shoved her back with his legs and shot as she stumbled backward, still shrieking. He put another round into her chest and she finally dropped.

 

“Wow!” Jesse said. He struggled to regain his feet amid all of the bodies. “That was intense. How many’d we kill?”

 

No one responded.

 

“What? What’s the matter?”

 

Chrissy pointed down near his feet. There lay Jerry, with his throat ripped open, in a pool of blood. Some of it was his and some belonged to the Zom who had Jerry’s knife sticking out of her neck.

 

Jesse swallowed. “Damn. I was right next to him. That coulda been me.”

 

“It’s small consolation,” Peter said, “but at least he took his killer with him.”

 

Daniels grimaced. “I doubt he’d find that any consolation at all.” He took a deep breath. “All right. Get your things and let’s get out of here before any more show up.”

 

Chrissy said, “We can’t just leave him here to be eaten by the next Zoms to come by.”

 

“I didn’t plan to leave him. Moose, would you mind helping me carry him when you’re all packed up?”

 

“Sure thing, Sarge.”

 

Peter shook his head. “This sucks. Life sucks.”

 

Daniels shrugged. “You can always eat a bullet.”

 

Peter snorted. “It doesn’t suck quite that much.”

 

* * * *

 

MerFon’s squad neared the first two buildings on the left side of the four-lane highway on high alert. Three men, forming Team One, quietly darted from cover to cover as they approached the first building, while three others in Team Two leapfrogged them to check out the second one. The subregulator and the remaining two men stayed back and to the right to provide covering fire for the other two teams.

 

One of the men in Team One peered in through a window a split second before a man in Team Two did the same at the other building. Both men gestured and the other two men in each team blasted the front door lock, kicked in the door and dashed inside, panning their weapons from side to side. It took only a minute for each team to signal all-clear. The teams continued in a similar manner as they drew closer to the city.

 

Subregulator MerFon kept his eyes focused on the buildings across the highway, watching for movement, as his men cleared the buildings on this side. It would take an army to clear the whole city. That army would be coming shortly.

For now, his squad was merely there to get the lay of the land.

 

Five buildings later, the first two members of Team One entered a large, low building. Energy weapons buzzed. The third member ran inside.

 

Shortly thereafter, shrieks and guttural screams accompanied the sounds of continuous weapons fire.

 

MerFon squawked Team Two with the command to back up Team one. The trio entered through a side door and MerFon’s Team Three closed the gap.

 

As Team Three entered by the expedient of blowing out the display window in the center; more weapons fire and screaming came from inside.

 

MerFon took point. More guttural sounds and moaning emanated from the left, beyond the second rack of shelved inventory.

Although schooled in the art of warfare for more than two decades, MerFon was stunned by what he saw. Four of his highly trained soldiers lay torn and bleeding on the floor up and down the aisle, as nine indigenes gnawed on their flesh.

 

He rained death upon the filthy creatures that had dared to kill and dismember his men. The other members of his team did the same and in a moment, all of the indigenes were dead.

 

Team Three stepped over the bodies of his people and the creatures and continued to the end of the aisle. He barely registered how much redder the blood of the indigenes was than that of the Drahtch.

 

At the sound of scuffling to his right, MerFon turned in that direction in time to see the legs of one of his men being dragged around the corner of the next aisle. Team Three raced in that direction and turned the corner ready to fire. Four indigenes turned toward them. Two of the creatures held legs, one an arm, and one the torso that was still attached to the other arm, minus the head. The creatures dropped their loads and charged.

 

Team Three opened fire and immediately fell under the weight of eight more indigenes dropping down upon them from the top of the aisles, eight feet above. Helmets and body armor might protect their heads and torsos against hand weapons, but they did little against the ferocity of teeth and adrenaline-fueled rage ripping at their throats, arms, and legs.

 

MerFon managed to get two more shots off before two indigenes pulled him down and a third went for his throat.

 

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