Anyone Got a Shovel?
As Cally tried to process what exactly she was seeing, something deep inside her knew that she had to fight.
She grabbed the tentacle that had her leg with both hands, and squeezed, hard, as hard as she could; surprising herself, she was able to pinch the tentacle right off the thing, and suddenly she was falling to the floor.
Cally found herself twisting in midair, and was able to land on her feet, but the thing slammed a tentacle into her stomach. The impact tossed her a dozen feet backwards and she landed on her butt, dazed. She shook her head to clear it, and touched underneath her chin, gingerly testing. It was painful to the touch, swollen and sticky with blood.
The thing was approaching her slowly. It was a sickly pink ball of tentacles, looked shiny with slime, and seemed to be about half again her height, or maybe a bit taller, as it held itself at the moment. Most of its tentacles seemed to be one to two meters long. Cally stood shakily, watching the thing, and took up a fighting stance.
A tentacle swiped at her head, and she grabbed it and twisted; a squelching noise and a fountain of orange-ish goo erupted from the ruined limb, and it hung limply from the point where Cally had torn it.
The monster scrambled sideways, moving slightly away from Cally, and grabbed the tentacle Cally had torn off a few moments before. Cally swallowed back bile as she watched it stick the end of its limb back on the stump and the break healed in moments, the restored limb waving as freely as the others. She noticed, too, the one she’d just damaged was rapidly healing itself, too.
Deciding that doing a lot of damage quickly might slow the thing down, Cally rushed it, trying to grab and destroy as many of the thing’s limbs as she could. She was able to tear off three or four before one came up underneath her, slamming into her groin and sending her flying straight up into a beam overhead. The impact was enough make her black out momentarily, and she came to just as she hit the deck, fortunately feet-first, then collapsed.
She groggily rose to her knees, then realized in horror that two of her crewmates were rushing the thing. It swatted the first almost idly, hitting his neck with a sharp crack! He fell bonelessly and lay still. The other crewmate swung a large wrench at the thing, only to have it tear the wrench out of her grasp and swing it at her head; she was barely able to jump back out of the way as it wound up. The monster darted at the woman who’d swung the wrench and grabbed her by the neck, choking her as it had been choking Cally moments ago.
Seeing her crewmate in danger, Cally felt a thrill go through her, and she leapt, somersaulting in midair directly over the creature and slammed into the woman dangling in it’s grasp, the impact jolting her free. Cally and her crewmate hit the deck hard, and Cally rolled them away from the monster. She sprang up, and ran back into the fight. Anticipating the thing’s swipe at her head, she grabbed the tentacle and yanked it in the direction of motion, pulling it off its feet. Cally spun, swinging the monster around, and hurled it into a bulkhead. The sound of the impact rolled deafeningly throughout the deck, and that orange fluid spattered out from the thing as it hit. It slid down to the deck and shuddered momentarily, then was still.
Cally wobbled momentarily, then leaned over and rested her hands on her knees and took a series of deep breaths. A clatter of boots, weapons, and body armor announced the arrival of two marines, followed almost immediately by Galen. A crewmember pointed the marines at the Cally, and the three newcomers jogged over.
The look on their faces on seeing the swarm of tentacles was shock warring with sheer repulsion. “What the frak is that?” The senior marine, a corporal, demanded.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Cally began still looking at the thing, only to blanch and interrupt herself as it began to twitch. “Oh, frak me,” she breathed as it rose up again, shivering its limbs and beginning to reach out towards the people gawking at it.
The marines opened fire, their bullets ripping holes in the thing’s arms and spraying the thick gunk behind it, but the holes seemed to seal over almost the instant they were torn open. Ricocheting bullets were flying everywhere as the rounds bounced off the bulkhead.
“Cease fire!” Galen yelled as he and the rest of the crew hit the deck in hopes of avoiding a hit by the rebounding bullets.
Cally grabbed a knife from a holster on the nearer marine’s webbing and was moving cautiously towards the thing when there was a bright white flash from somewhere behind her. Ignoring it, she darted in close and hewed off the first tentacle to swing at her, then the second. The knife was slicing deeply into a third when she saw it picking up one of the limbs she’d just slashed off. Cally ducked and rolled to the other one, and threw it behind her, the length of the deck. She figured if she could keep it away from its lost limbs, then it couldn’t reattach them.
She heard a voice behind her yelling: “No! Wait! Don’t use that knife!”
Cally made the mistake of turning to look at whoever was talking to her, and a tentacle slammed into the side of her head, sending her cart-wheeling as her vision went black. She felt herself hit a bulkhead harder than she could have imagined possible, and she fought to stay conscious as she slid down, finding herself sitting against the bulkhead with bright flashes of light before her eyes. She leaned forward and vomited, but then she let herself fall forward to her hands and knees, and pushed up so she was standing again, though unsteadily.
Blinking in confusion, Cally watched as someone she’d never seen before, a muscular man with dark hair and a black eyepatch, was poking at the monster with a spear. He was fighting hesitantly, easing closer to the thing until it swung at him, and when it did he slashed at the appendage with his spear. After a several unsuccessful swings, the man hit a tentacle, and the thing let out a low vibrato thrumming sound. It recoiled as the severed tentacle turned black and disintegrated as it fell.
Cally was feeling a bit steadier when she realized the man was working his way around the monster towards her. Drawing a deep breath she moved towards him with only a hint of a stagger.
“Hi,” the man said casually. “It’s not really a good time for introductions, but I’m Xander.” He feinted at one of the thing’s arms, then jumped back after it tried to grab the spear. “I’m here to help.” He paused, then added, “And isn’t it sad that I’m the best we could send? – Don’t answer that. Ever. You OK?”
“Ummm. . .” Cally had no idea how, or even if she should, respond. She ducked a flailing tentacle; she was trying to split her attention between the strange thing and the strange man, but between the shock of the monster’s appearance and several blows to the head, she didn’t have all that much attention left.
“OK, tell you what. You don’t know me, I don’t know you.” He thrust the spear at the thing, and again it thrummed and retreated as a tentacle blackened and smoked, then hung limp and unmoving. “Ha! Gotcha that time!” He glanced at her as the thing lurked just out of range of the spear. “I can keep poking at it, but eventually it’ll hurt bad enough to get pissed off and come in swinging. It’ll take me out easy if it does. I could give you the spear, you should be able to keep up with it, or I’ve got a sword that will work on it too.”
“Um, why me?” Cally asked.
“Huh. ‘Cause you got up – Whoa!” They both pulled back as the thing shot towards them, but he wasn’t fast enough and the thing knocked his spear away.
Cally ducked and dove to the side, her hand reaching out and grabbing the haft of the spear while both she and it were still in midair. She rolled as she landed, and moved into the monster, the spear a blur in her hands as she attacked. Four of the tentacles disintegrated almost instantly, and Cally pressed her advantage, taking out two more as the thrumming sound the thing made was echoing through the deck. The thing was able to grab the shaft of the spear, but Cally simply snapped it and continued the attack.
When another five tentacles were gone, Cally having taken a flurry of blows on her arms and legs and responded with her own, heard Xander yell “Try and thrust into the central mass! That’ll take it down!”
The thing kept rotating so she was always facing undamaged appendages, but with a couple more strikes she noticed that there were now gaps distributed around the thing. Her body reacted to an opening she didn’t even realize was there, and she found herself lunging, thrusting the spear deep into a junction between a stump and a still-whole tentacle. She paid the price, as she took a powerful blow to her right side just below her ribs, and again she was sent flying.
Barely able to pull herself upright, she staggered back towards the fight, only to realize the thing was down, and the man who called himself Xander was sticking it repeatedly with a long blade, wisps of greenish smoke rising up from each wound.
“Why. Won’t. You. Just. Die!” He yelled with each successive stab, then he kicked the thing, and stabbed it again.
Suddenly, it shuddered, then dissolved into a pile of pinkish-orange powder.
The man turned to her and looked her up and down with a brown eye. Jerking his head at the slowly settling pile, he grinned and asked “Don’t suppose you’ve got a shovel handy?”
Cally just stared at him, then hugged herself. She felt her knees give out, and the world went dark.