The next chapter of my latest sci-fi work in progress.
In case you missed it, part 1 is here, part 2 is here, part 3 is here, part 4 is here. I'm sharing the first parts of this story as I write it so you can follow along and ask questions or make comments, so please do comment below – I read every comment.
This story is set in the world of Colony B – you don't have to have read any of those stories, but it will help if you have because they do follow on from each other. If you're interested, there's a link below the story.
The truck banked into a steep turn, and in the co-pilot’s seat, Lyndsey took a steadying breath as her stomach lurched. Alec seemed intent on throwing the hover truck from side to side, barely slowing as he hunted out a route between the tall phase two symbiont structures, and Lyndsey’s patience was beginning to wear thin. They’d been traveling for hours, having set off from base camp early in the morning, but so far, there’d been no sign of the mysterious figure Kyrksen had spotted; only acres of symbiont, the bizarre angular forms glistening blue-green in the sunlight.
“How much farther, Alec?”
“Not long now. I think we’re almost at the same spot where Kyrksen picked up the image. I’ll check.” He reached for the intercom switch on the control panel, but Lyndsey beat him to it.
“I’ll do it. You have enough to be concentrating on.”
Alec nodded, his eyes never leaving the unchanging view from beyond the windshield, so Lyndsey opened a channel. “Kyrksen, are we on target? Do you see anything?”
Kyrksen’s voice crackled over the intercom. “Nothing yet, but we need to slow down. I need to run a full sweep with as many sensors as I can, and it takes time.”
“All right,” Alec said. “Make it snappy though. I don’t want to be out here for longer than absolutely necessary.”
Kyrksen’s only reply was a grunt before the channel went dead, and Alec exchanged a look with Lyndsey. “He has his uses,” Lyndsey said. “Would you have the patience to stare at the monitors for so many hours at a time? Could you have picked out a lone person in this jungle of symbiont?”
“We all have our jobs to do, Lyndsey. I just wish…”
“Kyrksen wouldn't be such an asshole all the time,” Lyndsey offered.
Alec flashed her a grin. “Something like that.” He opened HS mouth to say more, but the cockpit speaker hissed, Kyrksen’s voice crackling over the intercom: “There he is! Twenty degrees right. Turn. Turn!”
“I can’t see a damned thing,” Alec said, but he complied, sending the truck into a turn, banking hard to avoid a clump of symbiont.
Lyndsey gripped her seat’s armrests, leaning forward to peer out through the windshield. “Wait a second. I thought I saw…yes.” She pointed. “Jesus! He’s really moving.” And her heart leaped in her chest. Because there, dodging between the symbiont structures, a man was running, hell for leather, his head down and his arms pumping; running as if his life depended on it.
“I’ve got him,” Alec said. “Pursuing.” The truck surged forward, the dull, throbbing drone of its engines rising to fill the cabin.
“Take it easy,” Lyndsey said. “He can’t outrun us, and—” She broke off, frowning. “What the hell is he wearing? That isn’t an EVA suit. How is he surviving out there?”
Alec shook his head. “You must be mistaken.”
“No, I’m not. He looks like he’s just wearing a jumpsuit. That’s how come he can move so fast.” Lyndsey sat back, staring at the lonely figure, a chill stirring in her stomach. Whoever he was, the man ran like a wild animal, his lithe legs powering him forward with great strides. The man jinked, leaping over a boulder and landing lightly, carrying on without pause, in tune with his environment, like a predator closing in on its prey.
“The symbiont’s getting thicker here,” Alec said. “What do you want me to do?”
“Set us down,” Lyndsey replied. “We can’t risk the truck. We’ll have to follow him on foot.”
Alec grunted in disapproval, but they both knew that they didn’t have any choice. If the truck so much as brushed up against the type two symbiont, the hull would be compromised, risking the lives of everyone aboard.
The engines growled as Alec brought the truck to a halt, Lyndsey’s muscles tensing as the truck dropped to the ground. But she was already unfastening her harness and climbing from her seat. “Let’s go. Just you and me. We’ll leave the others in the truck for now.”
“Sure.” Alec was right behind her as she opened the cockpit door and strode into the main compartment. As well as Kyrksen, they’d brought David and Thaddeus along. Alec had wanted to bring a full security detail, but Lyndsey had disagreed. She’d wanted to keep this mission small, and she could trust David and Thaddeus. Both were calm in a crisis, and now, she knew that she’d been right; both men had gone into action.
David was standing beside the door to the decontamination chamber, checking the controls. Thaddeus was readying a medical kit. “We saw him on the monitors,” Thaddeus said. “Want me to come out with you?”
“Not yet.” Lyndsey marched through to the far end of the truck, grabbing her helmet. “Keep doing what you’re doing, Thaddeus. The guy out there doesn't even have proper gear. He’ll need medical help for sure.”
She fixed her helmet into place then took the pair of gloves David was holding out to her. “Thanks. Check my seals.”
“Sure.” David ran his hands over the seams of her suit, paying special attention to the collar. “You’re good.”
Alec approached, a plasma rifle in each hand, and when he passed one to Lyndsey she grabbed it without hesitation, checking it was in safe mode before slinging the strap over her shoulder. “Hurry it up, Alec. He’s getting away.”
“Breathe, Lyndsey,” he said, looking her in the eye. “Take a second. If you wind up with a breached suit, you’ll be no good to anyone.”
She jutted her chin. “I’m fine, but we need to get out there. David, check Alec’s suit.” She waited while Alec fitted his helmet and David fussed over the seals and seams, then she opened the door and stepped into the chamber. A moment later, the inner door securely sealed, they climbed down the short ladder to the surface.
“Footprints,” Alec said, pointing to the ground, and Lyndsey looked along the trail of boot-shaped marks that traced a path into the forest of symbiont.
“You can take point,” Lyndsey said, starting forward. “It looks like he’s alone, but…I don’t know. It doesn't feel right.”
“Agreed. I don’t see how anyone could survive out here alone. We’ll go carefully, keep an eye out. If there are too many of them, we’ll fall back to the truck and come back with reinforcements.”
“Good plan. Let’s move.”
They started forward, cradling their rifles, turning their heads to scan their surroundings as they walked. There was still only one set of footprints in the sticky mat of symbiont that coated the ground, but as the trail took them farther into the dense forest, the path of their quarry weaving erratically between the symbiont structures, a chill of apprehension prickled the back of Lyndsey’s neck.
“Feels like he’s leading us on a dance,” Alec said. “Maybe we should head back to the truck.”
Lyndsey hesitated. “In a minute. He can’t have gone much farther.”
“All right.” Alec halted, turning back as if to check that the truck was still in sight. And that was when it happened.
The man came out of nowhere, charging toward them, swinging a weapon in his hand.
“Look out!” Lyndsey yelled, shouldering her rifle.
Alec spun around, raising his gun, but before he could fire, the man hurled his weapon, a dark shape whirling through the air toward Alec’s head.
Alec jumped back, dodging the attack but taking himself perilously close to a tower of symbiont.
“Watch your back,” Lyndsey called out. They were surrounded on all sides by symbiont structures, and if their suits made contact, they’d be dead in seconds.
But Alec was all right. Regaining his balance, he took aim, but his shot went wide, the plasma bolt thudding into the ground beside the man.
Breathing hard, her aim unsteady, Lyndsey swung her rifle to follow the attacker, but as she fired, he leaped into the air, launching himself at Alec.
“Shit!” Lyndsey’s finger hovered over the trigger. If she fired now, she’d risk hitting Alec.
“Alec!” She yelled. “Take the shot!”
But Alec seemed frozen. Then he raised his rifle higher, firing into the air. “There’s too many. Warn them off.”
“What?” Lyndsey raised her head from her rifle. Their attacker had staggered to a halt, so perhaps Alec’s warning shot had done its work. But then she saw them, and she turned around, looking frantically from side to side.
All around her, dark figures were emerging from the shadows: men and women in jumpsuits, their faces concealed beneath respirators and hoods, crude weapons in their hands. “Truck one, are you receiving me?”
“Yes,” David responded. “What’s happening? We heard shots.”
“We’ve made contact. I count seven, no, eight.”
“We’re coming out,” David said. “We’ll be right with you.”
“No,” Lyndsey shot back. “Stay in the truck. Stay safe. There’s nothing you can do—not yet.”
“We need to fall back,” Alec called out. “Lyndsey, follow me. Stay close. They’re not armed. They’ll stay back for a while, but we have to move. Now!”
“Okay,” Lyndsey said. “Okay.”
But when she looked back toward the truck, she knew that it was too late. Another three men had crept out to cut off their escape.
They were surrounded.
I hope you enjoyed this part of the story.
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