The file title flashed across her memory. She knew its importance in helping the people back home understand this place. In the haste to help Stark escape, she forgot to give it to him. Besides, the tooth and claw pack on their heels eliminated the opportunity.
“Oh, bloody stingers,” she said in a whisper to herself. Now, she must survive and wait for rescue. After inserting the mag her hand squeezed into the rifle and smacking the forward assist, she switched back to burst fire and pressed the trigger. The nearest creature’s chest erupted in a shower of chunky flesh, fur, and mists of blood.
Not that escaping muscle-tearing jaws was a dreadful thing. She’d just gotten around to accept her death, and now… to take up the cruel burden of survival again… “Bloody stingers.”
A twitch of her visor from side to side, assessing the surroundings, helped her decide to inch left against the wall, keeping back the beasts. But with few rounds remaining, she’d run out before reaching the ring entrance, and well before the safety of the SME storage room.
What other choice did she have but to try? With spine to the wall, she sidestepped left. The demons crowded around her. One jumped, she fired a burst in its face, and it dropped to the blood-muddied dirt. Another lunged, and it collapsed while crimson splatters of the creature painted its pack mates.
She passed the airlock and risked a look through the bulkhead’s round window to see if Stark made it out. The chamber stood silent and empty. Good, on his way home. But looking away gave the beasts confidence, and three jumped forward. She pumped rounds into the closest, and the second swatted her rifle with a giant paw, pointing the barrel at the third. Not one to ignore a bit of luck, she jammed the trigger and blew its jaw to a stringy red mess.
Beast number two’s mass smashed into her, and they both slammed to the ground. Its claws tore through her suit. A maw covered her visor, and Amelia cried out as teeth cracked the glass, and a tongue left saliva to ripple and trickle across her vision.
The demon’s rear paws scraped at her legs. The knives of feral toes sliced through the layers of her suit and undergarments. Flesh ripped, and the hot flow of blood pulsated up her leg. She heaved against the massive creature, but failed to budge its unconcerned bulk. The snout drooling on her visor pulled back, and a bright light struck her eyes.
The day cycle.
With the illumination to lengthen vision, Amelia spotted a raised flower garden against the habitation ring’s wall. Bees crawled out from a hole between the back of the wooden bed and the iron plates of the structure. She strained her arms and reached for the rifle laying a few feet away. Jaws once again slathered her visor as the predator worked on cracking the shell to gain the tasty prize it protected.
Fingers gained purchase on the gripping of the rifle’s butt. Teeth sunk through a boot into flesh, and a scream erupted from her contorted mouth, bouncing around the helmet’s interior. The jaw yanked her body to scuff across the dirt, and the movement brought her closer to the rifle.
The underbelly of the beast on top of her blocked the surrounding feeding hysteria. It turned, a clawed paw stepping on her gut, knocking the air from her lungs. Its teeth clamped on the arm extended toward the weapon and tore into her suit where armour didn’t protect. The snout’s razors not yet into meat, she flicked the firearm to her torso, and twisted onto her stomach, causing the attacker to trip.
As the rifle’s crosshairs aligned with the flowerbed hive, a weight piled on her spine, and discs crackled despite protection offered by the SM suit. Air blew out her lips, and lungs struggled to re-inflate. Immense force clamped on the backside of her neck, and tooth or claw scraped across the helmet.
The struggle to keep the rifle aimed made an accurate shot impossible. Crosshairs bounced and jostled as the beasts bit, crushed, tore, and sliced her suit. As the scope glimpsed the target, Amelia squeezed the trigger. A burst of rounds slammed into the wood of the flower bed, while several ricocheted off the steel plating of the habitation ring.
The jaw released her arm, bit her hand, and tugged. The demon latched onto her foot, jerked, and tore with rapid fury. Her joints screamed, and tendons stretched. A scream escaped at the pop and ensuing fire in her shoulder; a flare of agony.
More weight jumped on top of her. With visor in the dirt, she couldn’t tell the number of the creatures pulling on her. Teeth pierced the skin of her waist, leg, and arms.
The odour of musk, fur, and blood alarmed her further. With the suit’s integrity compromised, the dome’s atmosphere entered her air supply.
The weight crushing her, and the endeavour to rip limbs from torso ceased. A fight to turn her head against the agony allowed sight of the pack cowering. Their heads low and tails lower, they skulked off in silence. Without a scratch of claw on dirt. Not a whisper, as if on the hunt… but now… the hunted, disappearing among the tall corn.
A familiar humming vibrated through her ears and skin. The tremor of buzzing wings. A mass of yellow swarmed past the view of her visor and pursued the demons.
Did a desperate shot to provoke the little saviours to action prevail? Did the beasts fear the bees? She’d seen them snap up buzzers in wide jaws when Stark and she fled.
Amelia didn’t have time to think. She groaned and sat up, shrugging her pack off the right shoulder. With a sore but functioning right arm, she pushed the strap off her useless left. An effort to move it resulted in a shudder of pain.
She dug into the pack’s side pouch and pulled out a first aid kit. An orange indicator LED in her visor flashed. Her suit’s air supply was contaminated. She knew that. The suit lacked the technology to tell if the contaminates posed a threat to her health. But… to the wasps with it. She unlatched the visor locks and peeled it from the helmet, the pressure differential making a sucking sound. Inhaling a breath of… fresh air? It smelled so… different. So wild.
If she didn’t die from a toxin or virus and could survive and avoid the beasts, she might have time to figure out what happened here, and enjoy the naturalness of this dome.
She patched herself up enough to stop the bleeding and took an oral ketamine analgesic for the pain. An injection of the painkiller wasn’t an option, as remaining alert in this dangerous environment remained top priority.
Yet, to pop her shoulder into the socket… by herself… caused a cringe at the perceived pain and mental power required to do such a thing. An infection prescribed antibiotics to fight, which warranted a trip to the dome’s hospital ward.
Amelia shuffled backward on her ass and leaned against the wall of the habitation ring. The bed of flowers to her left hummed with bees. Busy little bees. They floated from flower to flower, and the memory of her own dome’s little saviours soured her thoughts further.
Healthy bees. Then dead bees.
Could her people keep the new colony alive? The last hive? She hoped so.
But if not, it appeared this abandoned biom hosted many yellow and black pollinators to spare. So they could try again. And again.
She would plan her survival, wait for rescue, and search for answers to the multitude of questions she harboured. How did the airlock open on its own to let in the team? Where from did the creatures come? What happened to the people?
And she expected, as explanations appeared, so too more riddles.
But peace drifted upon her now. She redeemed herself and accepted her deceased daughter once more. Her love of the bees… still a work in progress, much work indeed, but they earned some favour with her today.
Amelia unclasped the helmet’s latches around the suit’s neck. After a struggle to remove it with one arm, she rested her sweat-soaked, blonde hair against the cool steel of the wall. The sun shone through the glass of the dome and warmed her face.
“Mia,” she said, mumbling. “My Mia. My baby.”
So tired… she needed to get somewhere safe and sleep.
But not yet. The video on the drive. She had to watch it and find out what she gave up the peace of death to save, and why the people of this dome abandoned it.
She pushed herself, sliding her back up the wall while stifling a scream to a whimper as the torn muscles of her legs spit electric currents through tendrils of nerves. The blood pooling in the suit began curdling, the chunks squishing against her skin… more stitches required. The left arm hung limp and at a weird angle. Reasonable minds search for safe places to mend. But not Captain Amelia Adams. Not after the shit-storm she survived.
Stumbling back on the path toward the habitation ring’s entrance, she scanned for demons without the HUD of her visor to pick out movement. The shadows of corn stalks drew the most attention from her squinting eyes.
Blood dripped out of the torn SM suit, down the left arm, and off the tips of gloved fingers, the soil absorbing the crimson liquid. The bees drove off the demons, and they remained away, allowing her to trip and bumble into the blackness of the hallways unhindered.
Darkness made travel difficult, so she bent to the floor, groaning, and placed the helmet on the steel plating to click the lamp button with the most useful hand. Fingers gripped the edge of the head bucket’s opening, and the bright beam focused through the hall as she straightened.
Her gait wobbled, eyelids grew heavy, and the left shoulder’s pain annoyed her through the ketamine haze. The common room appeared ahead, and dozing feet blundered and banged on the steel to stop at the table with the projector.
Pulling out the USB drive and fumbling to jam it into the slot, excitement built, relieving the stupor a feeble body tried to force upon her.
The wall flashed to blue. The file name once again displayed for selection. Without hesitation, a finger depressed “Enter” on the keypad. The screen blinked to black, and then a presidential podium with a crowd beneath it emerged. A woman in formal attire walked onto a stage, stopped behind the pulpit, and spoke.
Amelia hit the volume-up button.
A quick inspection uncovered the issue, as the speaker’s cable wasn’t inserted into the audio port. A search for the jack found it on the floor next to the table legs. With another groan, and a light whimper, Amelia bent to grab it, fought rusting joints to stand, and…
A gasp escaped, lungs froze, and her heart must have skipped five beats, for her good hand dropped the jack and clutched against pain striking out from her chest.
On the screen, a man in military uniform replaced the woman.
The Head of SM Operations, her boss, addressed the crowd.
A whisper escaped her. “Carver?”
The End of Episode One of The Last Hive
Thanks for reading Season One, Episode One of The Last Hive. I hope you enjoyed it and want to read Episode Two.
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