Alice strode down the ornate hallway to the Administrator’s office. She had walked past the security station and ignored the clerk at the desk. She knew how risky it was to leave Map to a backup station but he needed answers. Map was injured and up against too many uncertainties. She reached the outer door to the Administrator’s office and heard the clerk coming down the hall after her. She ignored him again and hurried into the room. She pushed past the secretary without a look and barged into the office. There was a bank of monitors on one wall and the Administrator was talking to the people who Alice could see on the screens.
“What’s going on?” Alice said surprising herself with her own audacity. The secretary and clerk walked in behind her cautiously. It was clear to Alice that they were torn between interrupting the Administrator and trying to stop her from causing more of a disturbance than she already had.
The Administrator turned to face her. He let out an annoyed breath and sent out the terrified secretary and clerk with a wave.
“Alice, as you can see I am in the middle…”
“I don’t give a fuck,” Alice said interrupting him. “Our systems are still not working and Map has reported that they are building something. Couple that with the size of the attack and the creatures playing hide and seek with our sensors and something bad is happening. I think you know more than you’re telling us. Map is injured and has five more to deal with. I need to know what you know.”
“That’s insubordination,” the Administrator said calmly cutting the feed to the conference he was leading.
“You going to fire me again?”
“I could have you shot.”
“Fine, do that – after you tell me what I need to know to get my operative home safe.”
“And what makes you think I care if he gets home safe?”
“I doubt that you do, but he is the only tool you currently have and he’s standing between them and us.”
The Administrator stood up and walked around from behind his desk. It was an imposing piece of solid wood that made the move take time. Alice figured it was to help make the Administrator seem that much more out of reach. The action seemed like a practiced move meant to manipulate and Alice had to admit that it was hard to keep her momentum. He fixed his cuffs and leaned back on the desk.
“I wish I could tell you more, but honestly anything dealing with these things is mostly guesswork. I can tell you that our intel suggests that the reason the attack is so large is because it’s their final push – a gamble to overwhelm us.”
“And the structure they’re building?”
“No idea,” the Administrator said shrugging his shoulders. The action was more casual than Alice expected from the man. “It clearly has something to do with our systems acting up, but that’s an observation of my own.”
“What are we going to do?” Alice asked, her anger eroding into concern.
“My suggestion is to do your job. If you want him to survive you should man your station.”
Alice ran. The administrator reminded her of where she could do the most good. If he didn’t know any more her place was at her station coordinating with Map. She ran all the way back to the hanger plugged, in and took control back from the secondary.
“Yeah,” Map said his answer barely audible through the static.
“Just checking in,” she said. “Ready?” She couldn’t hear his reply but she knew he would be.
Map lined up his first shot. He knew he had to put his target down and line up the next before they could move out of range. He counted his heart beats, held his breath and squeezed the trigger. The first creature was hit and dropping as Map lined up the next shot. He found the next target and hesitated. The other three creatures hadn’t moved. Map aimed again and the next one went down. He lined up the third and – felt the building he was on shake.
He spun around and saw the biggest creature he had ever seen. It was easily three times Map’s size. The thing was a mass of muscle, teeth and claws moving at unbelievable speed. Map noticed features from dozens of targets he had faced in the past. The head was little more than a snout filled with uneven tangled fangs. The long bulky arms ended in claws as long as Map’s own arms and all along its broad back were bone plates overlapping and forcing each other to jut out at odd angles. It didn’t look like it should fit together and it didn’t seem very happy about that. It almost hurt Map to even look at the gruesome creature.
It charged at Map tearing away pieces of the tar roof in its path. Map emptied his clip as quickly as he ever had, reloaded and did it again. The creature didn’t seem to notice. Map rolled away as the thing ripped out huge chunks of where Map had been.
Map got to his feet, reloaded and emptied another clip into the creature. It was injured but kept coming at Map faster than he would have believed something so large could. Map ran, failing to think of a better plan. When he got to the edge of the building he launched himself at the next roof, landed roughly with little room to spare and kept running. He heard the creature chase him and could almost feel how close it was.
Map ran hard. Sweat poured down his face and collected in his rig. His legs felt like worn elastic threatening to snap and every step shook his bones and tore at his tendons. His lungs burned and constricted as he struggled to get oxygen into his body. With shaking arms he reloaded and emptied clips into the creature as quickly as he could while trying to stay ahead of it. By the time he had jumped to the fourth roof he was out of ammunition. Even with several wounds leaking noxious fluids the creature hadn’t slowed down. Map knew he couldn’t keep his speed up much longer but didn’t like his chances facing the creature with only his axe left. He ran to the next building and dropped. He landed hard onto a fire escape hitting the railing and had to grab it to stop himself from going over. The creature didn’t anticipate Map’s move and overshot. Map heard it scrambling on the next roof as it turned around to continue the chase.
Using his already damaged arm and what he thought was his remaining strength Map smashed the window facing the fire escape and crawled into the building. He found himself in an apartment that reminded him of the house he had been in earlier, but not as elaborate. He quickly found the door and ran down the hallway. His desperate escape gave him some room, the creature would have a harder time getting into the building, but he still didn’t know how he would stop it.