A beautiful sun rose high above the golden shore of Annyox. If it wasn’t for a large security force, hundreds of projectile rifles at the ready and Kelvin being stationed behind erected barricades, this might be a perfect Saturday morning.
As the Bleeders dropped into the terraformed ocean, he could hear a distant splash. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of the aliens plummeted down from the Harvester’s troopship that hovered in the sky above. The large space vehicle moved to partially block out the sun.
The sight evoked both awe and fear in the security team and they grew silent. Shards of light gleamed off the invaders black ceramic shells. Somehow they managed to fall feet first through atmosphere and submerge into the cooling blue waters below. With a gravitational acceleration of just something slightly less than Earth’s, the scientist admired the aliens’ bold landing technique.
After the last alien made its drop, nothing happened for several minutes.
Security officer Dennis Allstot nervously peered northeast through a pair of digital binoculars, constantly adjusting focus. Kelvin noted that his large hands trembled slightly. He must have missed the training on how to remain confident before a genocide.
“Doc, they say the bio-toxin doesn’t work,” Allstot said.
“Dr. Jasmer adjusted the formula.”
“Yeah, well, we’re out here and up close. Too close. It better work.”
“The sensors still solid on the beach-side dispensers. Nothing activated yet.”
While submerged, the Bleeders would break out of their protective shells. It was the early stages of adapting to their surroundings. They collected water over their softer internal biology to form something like a plasma membrane. Filaments gathered calcium and other materials to create a skin-like shell as they worked their way to surface. The invaders almost seemed fragile and helpless, a deception that Colony Five could not afford to believe.
“I see them! I see them!” Allstot pointed ahead.
Kelvin raised his own binoculars to his eyes. Dozens of the seven foot aliens propelled themselves onto the white sandy beach. Bits of organic matter filled out their hands and legs, all wrapped in bundles of chorded neural fibers. From what dissection reports had revealed, multiple cognition clusters controlled these extremities independently. The Bleeders were a fleshy jigsaw puzzle of various life forms ingested over the years. Grotesque, certainly, but Doctor Frankenstein of old would have been proud of the beauty of their fluid motions.
The Bleeders began collecting weapons from crates that were dropping from above. Several bio-toxin sensors blinked and then a cloud of gas covered the wave of invaders. Bleeders fell, twitched and stopped moving. Others slowed down and looked confused. The security team cheered, an unfounded optimism. If they had bothered to fully read the reports, they’d know that it was only a matter of time before the aliens adapted.
A second wave of aliens appeared from the ocean. Tentacle feeders extended from their core bodies and began ingesting the Bleeders that fell victim to the bio-toxin. Those that had been stunned were cut up while still alive. Then the new Bleeder formation advanced, now immune to the continuing stream of bio-toxin.
Allstot yelled at his team members to check their guns.
“The second line of dispensers has a second adjustment to the toxin. We were expecting this,” Kelvin said.
“Yeah, well, they’ve got some sort of handheld microwave gun. Close enough and they cook us from the inside.”
There was a grand irony at play here. Kelvin might soon be turned into a Bleeder’s hamburger patty. His stomach turned and he felt sick. His mood only slightly less soured knowing that he may give the aliens a bad case of indigestion.
But he did have an alternative.
He held in his pocket an injector tube containing Loraine’s programmed virus. All Kelvin had to do was insert the cylinder into the nearby vapor pump and activate the machine at the right time. The pump would fill the air and cover both the assaulting Bleeders and the security team. They stood tensed behind their barricades, hands gripping projectile rifles and ready to fire at a commanding word. Kelvin still wrestled with the science of it all. He wondered how long before they turned those large guns on each other.
– Excerpt from the story, “Edge of Twilight.” Spectrum is available now.
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