“Damn it, die, die, you six-legged freak!” Desperately trying to avoid the huge threatening claw, Cailey rolled to one side. She switched the deadly Plasma Cannon from pulse to full power, took aim and fired point blank. The burning white stream found its mark, striking the threatening creature in the middle of its red eye. The force of the erupting weapon sent Cailey sliding backwards on her butt across the rain soaked ground. Stubbornly, she continued to blast away at the bulging cornea. The advancing monster slowed. Cailey could feel the weapon growing hotter, burning her fingers.
The overload circuits of the Plasma Cannon confirmed what she feared. “Warning, fuel cell is nearing critical mass!” In another minute it would be too hot to handle.
“Shit!” The fierce lady warrior gritted her teeth, steadily holding the lethal stream of ionized plasma on its target.
The metallic voice roared again, “Warning… warning,” as a bright red bar on the gun’s power pack flashed its urgent message. A second later, the Crowbarb’s center eye exploded. Temporally blinded, the purple crab like creature let out an ear splitting high pitched wail and stopped in its tracks. Green and yellow goo poured from the obliterated center eye. Wasting no time, Cailey scrambled to her feet and took off running. She knew from experience the single debilitating blow wouldn’t stop a fully matured Crowbarb.
She was right.
The ground shook as the fierce mutant renewed the attack. Its two powerful legs tore a path through the thick purple and green overgrowth while its pincer like arms snapped wildly at the air.
As she ran, Cailey pumped furiously at the Plasma Cannon’s auxiliary handle. Slowly the weapon began to recharge. Glancing down, she stole a quick peek at the gun’s flow meter. It registered a feeble thirty percent charge.
If she could destroy one more of its eyes, Cailey would have the advantage. Crowbarbs were deadly but stupid creatures, possessing no other senses except an insatiable taste for warm red blood and soft pink flesh. They depended heavily on the compounding effect of the multi-faceted lenses that made up their large triple eyes. Much like a single humanoid’s eye, the mutant’s one blue, one red and one green eye combined to form images in the back of the creature’s tiny brain. From there, the Crowbarb thought process was slow and dim. But they were agile for their size and moved at a quick, dangerous pace. Standing nine foot tall at their moss covered brow, and weighing in just south of half a ton, the mutants were at the top of Alt-Sete-Nine’s food chain. And they loved nothing better than a tasty baker’s dozen Al-téarièns for dinner.
The Crowbarb’s bulging bottom green eye rotated rapidly in its socket, searching a full 270 degrees. The unblinking gaze landed on Cailey. In an effort to evade the creature, she’d ducked behind a small clump of Boysen bushes. “Damn,” the warrior cried out. She knew well the Crowbarb’s one deadly tell. Thanes Tracking the Al-téarièns called it, the Crowbarb’s ability to track its prey using heat recognition. Unlucky victims are able to feel a concentrated, growing warmth when the creature’s burning stare locks onto them. Honing in on Cailey with his damaged, distorted heat image, the partially blinded Crowbarb advanced. Cailey would make a small but satisfying meal.
The telltale sensation of warmth increased as Cailey checked the weapon’s flow meter. It read fifty percent. “Guess I’ll just have to go old school on your ugly ass.” She reached for the antiquated sawed off over-under holstered at her hip, pointed it and fired both barrels. But the shotgun’s deadly pellets went wide. Missing the intended eye, they struck the creature’s left jaw, leaving an ineffectual rip in its rubbery skin. More phlegm-like goo seeped from the small tear, along with a disgusting stench. Pausing only briefly, the Crowbarb’s long forked tongue lashed out, licking at the wound. The taste of his own vile fluid seemed to please the hulking mutant.
He lurched forward.
Cailey’s only chance now was to find cover and hide till morning. Alt-Sete-Nine’s three bright moons were just entering their full phase. She glanced up. The slowly darkening twilight wouldn’t last long. Moon Alpha with its shimmering yellow halo was starting to rise over the distant Grey Mountains. Her sisters, Beta and tiny Omega would soon follow. Their bright luminous glow wouldn’t help Cailey’s plight.
Luckily for Cailey, the Tic trees were in full bloom. And because of the recent rainfall and rapidly dropping temperature, a low, creeping fog was beginning to form on the ground. If she could make it to the nearby grove, the dense blue mist, combined with the trees’ thickly furred branches, might confuse the Crowbarb. Breaking free of the creature’s tracking ability, for even a few seconds, could give Cailey an opportunity to get away. It might even afford her a second shot at her pursuer’s vulnerable eyes.
Cailey turned and took off running. The strap of the heavy Plasma Cannon tugged at her shoulder. She could feel the worn leather of her crossed bandoliers rubbing and cutting into her bare skin. The sharp, whip like branches of the tall wet brush left stinging slashes across her cheeks, arms and thighs. Exhaustion began to set in and Cailey stumbled momentarily as her boots searched for solid purchase in the soft undergrowth. But worst of all, Cailey could feel a steadily increasing warmth on the nape of her slender neck. It moved down her exposed back and spread across her shoulder blades.
The Crowbarb was closing in on her.
The deadly Thanes sensation grew stronger.
Cailey dived head first into a tall, thick outcrop of blue-white fuzz coated Tic trees. Several low branches snapped beneath her weight. They poked and stabbed at her as she tumbled onto the dew laden ground. Desperately scrambling forward on all fours, and moving deeper into the protective growth, she suddenly felt a powerful grip on her forearm. Another hand landed across her mouth, cutting off an instinctive scream. The lady warrior struggled but she was held too tightly. A second later she was thrown to the ground.
“Shhh…! Don’t move!” a deep voice whispered in Cailey’s ear. The sky darkened and the trees cracked, trembled and parted as a tremendous weight landed on top of her, pinning her in place. A putrid stench reached Cailey and she thought for a moment she might vomit. An eternity later, the bright night sky returned and the ground shook in gradually receding waves as the wounded Crowbarb lumbered slowly away. The heavy figure lifted off of her and Cailey rolled to the side, unsheathing her dagger. She lay staring up into a pair of deep set sad, piercing black eyes.
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