Well how did it all start? A contact of mine in the Agrillian system gave me the heads up concerning a suspect they wanted to question in connection with nine murders. It took place on Agrillia 3, on an archaeological dig where a team of scientists were looking into some ancient civilisation that once inhabited that region of the planet. There were ten in the team who lived and worked at the dig for three months, after which they were due to be transported back to draw up their conclusions and official report of their findings. When the pick up got there to take them out, they found nine dead and one missing. The official law enforcement file says the usual crap; an extensive search of the locale was made etc, the suspect wasn’t found etc, you know the kind of shit they come out with when they don’t want to admit they were too stupid to find the guy. My contact there is a good friend so he called me up and told me about it and said would I be interested in the job and the substantial reward? Would I be interested? Hell yeah, that’s my job and the promise of a substantial payout is always of interest.
The suspect they were after was some brainiac called Professor Kluvak Nembier, a native of Agrillia and up until that time he seemed to be your average well respected humourless clever guy. He had no previous record, worked hard all his life and was respected by everyone in his field of expertise, which was ancient Agrillian languages. He was one of those guys who is all brain and no brawn y’know? A guy like that is clever but seldom resourceful and tends not to be too successful at being on the run and keeping himself hidden. Having been doing this job for a long time, it was reasonable to assume that this would be one of the easiest paydays I’d had in years, so when my contact asked me if I wanted the job, I almost bit off his arm. How wrong can you be?
It took me all of two days to find out the guy had taken off and signed up as casual labour on a low budget, long haul, passenger liner that just happened to stop by Agrillia 3 at the very time he went missing. One of the whores who works the Agrillian Space Terminal remembered approaching him and being given the brush off by him. Between you and me, he was an idiot to turn her down; she is an expert in her craft, but I digress. A couple of calls told me that there was only one cruise line that called on Agrillia around that time, so after securing the details of their course I set off after them and caught up with the liner within a few days. Experience convinced me that I’d have the guy in custody within a few hours and would be able to deliver him, claim my pay check and head back to Agrillia to revisit my new lady friend at the Space Terminal to continue our umm, conversation. Boy if only I’d known then what was to come.
“Let’s go,” I whispered as Dex slapped the sensor and all hell broke loose. It seemed as if the whole cell wing was filled with the shrieking creatures; the noise and flapping of their wings momentarily overwhelming us. We stood our ground in the doorway and fired as they soared towards us, dropping one by one as they closed the gap. As they reached the doorway they suddenly swooped around and away from our fire and headed back to the far end of the corridor and the open emergency door. For a moment I hoped they were intending to go back outside but at the last second they swooped around and headed back towards us for a second wave. Again we opened fire as they soared towards us; their screeching splitting the air painfully. The last one fell twenty feet from where we stood and we lowered our weapons as the silence enveloped us.
“Shit, oh shit,” Dex exclaimed as he ran a hand through his hair and sighed, his dark brown skin enhancing the shine of sweat on his brow. Ronjo stood between Luggs and me; his arms still held out in front, weapon at the ready. Again, I gently put my hand on his arm.
“It’s okay Ronjo,” I soothed, “it’s done. You did good. You did real well buddy, thank you for your help. Relax now okay?” He blinked a few times and lowered his arms as he sighed deeply. “Come on guys.” I stepped forward, “let’s get that door closed huh?” We ran to the end of the corridor and pulled the heavy door shut and locked the lever in place. It was as we leant on the door to get our breath back that we heard Ronjo’s yell. We spun around and I found myself staring into a pair of gaping jaws; the two opposing sets of curved fangs yellowed with age and I noticed one of them had its sharpened tip missing. Time seemed to slow and then stop as first my hearing left me, then my vision narrowed until I was looking through a long tunnel with just that face at the end. The huge, soulless black eyes bored into mine as the head retracted, readying itself to strike forwards. The jaws opened even wider and I tried to come to terms with the fact that I was about to die as the head began its strike towards me. For as long as I live I will never forget the sight of that eye imploding a split second before the back of the skull exploded. The rest of the body came to rest against my legs and abdomen; the wings spread out sideways and behind like a grey leather cloak. Slowly, I looked up to see Ronjo still holding that ridiculous AB11 Rookie at arms length, his eyes wide.
As my senses returned, I was vaguely aware of shouts to the side but I was mesmerised by the sight of Ronjo and that useless gun that just saved my life. Slowly he turned his head to look at me, his eyes still wide with shock and I saw the trickle of blood that ran from one corner of his mouth and dripped off his chin. He coughed and spat blood everywhere and looked down at himself. Still trying to force myself to calm down, I followed his gaze and saw the gaping rent in his abdomen that he struggled to hold shut as his intestines slithered through his fingers and trailed down his legs.
“No,” I yelled as I came to my senses and rushed to his side. “Ronjo, stay with us buddy.” Cold gripped me through to the bone and I held onto his hand as he dropped to the floor spitting blood and gasping for air. My heart leapt in panic as I crouched down beside him and looked into his eyes as he held my gaze and died in agony. “You did real good buddy and I’m proud to have you on my team.” He nodded slowly and his hand went limp in mine.
Half way there Stitch called out. “Oh my god guys, look.” We stopped dead and turned to look at him. He was looking to our left, towards the edge of the area of ground upon which the Island is built. At first I couldn’t see anything untoward but then I heard a couple of the guys gasp and Luggs swore.
“What?” My heartbeat quickened as the adrenaline coursed through my veins and panic rose in my chest. “What the fuck is it?”
“Look Sam,” Stitch said, his voice now an octave higher than it was a minute ago. “Right down on the ground at the edge of the trench, over there.” He pointed and I looked and at first saw nothing but shadows. Then all at once I realised what those shadows were and I almost lost control of my bowels.
“Holy shit on a stick,” Luggs whispered and I realised that for the first time since I met him, he was scared and couldn’t hide it.
“Oh my good god,” Dex said as he wiped a hand across his face and hoisted the Incendipulse gun he was carrying.
“What the fuck is that?” Bud asked as he took a step forward to try to get a better look. Cap pulled him back quickly and yelled for the other two incendipulse guns. Grelly and Luggs hoisted the big flame guns and stepped forward. The black roiling tide of insects poured over the edge of the trench and flowed towards us like an oily river and we stood there, rooted to the spot and unable to look away. This was the stuff nightmares are made of and all those silly vidicoms of folks being eaten alive by millions of insects came swarming back into my mind uninvited.
“Now,” Dex yelled and all three opened fire with the Incendipulse guns. A ball of energy shot out of each one and hit the ground right in amongst the black roiling tide. The smell of these weapons is very distinctive and it filled our lungs and made us all gag and cough. As the energy bolts hit, they exploded with the heat of a volcano and everything for several metres around was instantly vapourised. The black tide continued to pour over the edge towards us in a seemingly unending tsunami and time and again the three guys opened fire and incinerated them by the tens of millions. I was just beginning to wonder if we would ever see the end of this tide of insects when the flow pouring up over the edge of the trench rapidly diminished and with two more shots from the Incendipulse guns and it was all over.