Mega 4: Behemoth Island (7 page)

BOOK: Mega 4: Behemoth Island
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“I was afraid of that. The EMP was stronger than the elves will admit,” Darby whispered. “You blind?”

“Pretty much,” Max whispered back. There were motes of light and swirls of color that danced in his eyes, fucking up his sight. “You good?”

“I closed my eyes when I heard the first spark,” Darby said. “Stay put. I’m going to check out the tree line over here.”

“Like fuck you are,” Max said. “No splitting up, remember?”

“Stay put,” Darby said again and walked off, taking slow, careful steps.

Max tried to follow her progress, but the moonlight wasn’t strong enough to counteract the still dancing motes and swirls. He closed his eyes, hoping it would let him adjust, and counted to thirty.

When he opened his eyes again, he saw a dark shape closing on Darby quickly.

“Dar—!” he cried out just before his head rocked back and stars were added to the motes and swirls. The pain was excruciating and he heard a soft flapping noise before more pain erupted in his skull.

He found himself face down in the sand, a heavy weight on his back. A person’s weight. Max let himself go wild. He bucked and shoved up with his arms. He got his legs under him and pushed as hard as he could into the soft sand. There was a brief shout then the weight was gone.

Despite the pain, the stars, the swirls, the motes, Max got to his feet. Animal instinct said that if he didn’t, he was as good as dead. And as the spiked club whipped past his face by half an inch, he knew animal instinct was completely fucking right.

No time to find a weapon, Max lifted his fists, settled his feet into the sand, and watched the person-shaped shadow come for him again. The club swung out and Max easily dodged it. It was a wild, desperate swing. No training or real thought put into it. A strange sense of relief flooded Max. The attacker was not a pro. How nice. He was sick of fighting pros all the damn time.

Another swing of the club and Max reached out lightning fast, snagging the weapon from his attacker’s grip without much effort. The attacker grunted and cried out, protesting at the sudden turn of events. Then he/she/it rushed Max, tackling him about the waist.

Max was not expecting the move and he fell onto the beach, landing hard in the sand. The wind was knocked from him, but he ignored the suffocating feeling and boxed the attacker’s ears once, twice, a third time. The attacker cried out again and tried to scramble off Max, but he had had enough.

Grabbing the attacker by the head, Max twisted as hard as he could. The snapping sound was like pure, sweet music. He shoved the corpse off him and scrambled back up to his feet. Then he was down on his knees.

He didn’t remember there being time or space between the standing and the falling. The world sort of swam and wavered. Max forced himself to focus, refusing to give into what he knew was probably a slight concussion.

He reached up and touched his scalp, nearly screaming at the pain. His hand came away dark black with his blood. Gently, gingerly, he put his hand to his head again, probing with cautious fingertips.

Half his scalp was hanging loose.

“Well, fuck me,” he muttered. “Super fuck me.”

The shape came at him so fast he didn’t have time to get his arms up to ward it off. But he didn’t have to. It was Darby. She was in his face and she looked terrified. There were streaks of black blood across her face and neck, darkening her suit, but Max had the distinct impression that the blood wasn’t hers.

“Skull is fine,” Max said before Darby could ask. “It’s all just skin damage. A little dizziness, but I didn’t lose consciousness.”

“We need to stitch you up now,” Darby barked, helping him to his feet and over to the main tent.

“You get the others?” Max asked. “Were there others?”

“There were,” Darby said. “Not anymore.”

“How many?” Max asked.

“Four,” Darby said. “They were fast, but couldn’t fight worth a fuck.”

“Yeah, I know,” Max said. “If I hadn’t gotten sucker clocked, I would have handled mine a lot easier.”

“They had these,” Darby said, holding up a small dart. “Blowguns over there.”

“You get hit?” Max asked.

“No,” Darby said. “Almost. I got in close before they could get a bead on me.”

“Poison?” Max asked.

“No way to know,” Darby said. “The tip doesn’t smell like anything I recognize. May have just been to knock us out.”

“Fuck that,” Max said.

Darby sat Max down by a small table and cracked two glow sticks. Max didn’t ask why so little light, he knew she was being cautious in case more showed up. The glow sticks wouldn’t ruin her night vision and still gave her enough illumination to work by.

Max sat as still as he could. It took her a long time, probably a full hour, to stitch his scalp back together. He didn’t cry out once, but he would have been lying if he said he didn’t piss himself a little at one point in the procedure. Scalp reconstruction by glow stick on a Land Of The Lost beach was not a gentle event.

“Done,” Darby said finally.

“We need to gear up and go after the fuckers, wherever they went,” Max said.

“We’re as geared up as we can get,” Darby said. “Take a look around.”

Not occupied by having his head sewn back together, Max was able to take the time and assess the FOB’s situation. It could be classified as fucked.

“Where’s the gear? The weapons? Ammo?” Max cried. “Where the fuck is my rifle?”

Darby hooked a thumb over her shoulder at the surf. “They dumped everything in the bay.”

She looked at him for a moment then turned her full attention back to the jungle, which she had been facing the whole time, one eye on the procedure, one eye on a possible second attack.

Max looked out where she had indicated and saw crates floating and bobbing in the small waves. He focused further out, towards the bay and the far off shape of the B3 out in the water. The moon had risen enough that the bay was a twinkly light show of wave tips and currents. The fins and flippers still roamed the waters, ever active, ever present.

Something about the scene grabbed his attention, spoke to him, said that things were more fucked up than just their equipment trashed. It took a couple minutes before he figured out what it was. Then he stood up so quickly that he almost knocked Darby over. Despite the brutally painful head rush he received, Max stayed on his feet and pointed out of the tent at the beach.

“One of the fucking rafts is gone,” he exclaimed.

Darby stood and whirled about.

“Fuck,” she said.

Only one of the Zodiacs was left on the beach. The other was nowhere to be seen.

“Call it in,” Darby ordered as she walked slowly from the tent, turning this way and that, looking for more trouble. “Let them know that hostiles may be en route.”

“It’s been an hour, Darby,” Max said. “If hostiles were en route then they have already showed up on the B3.”

“Call it in!” Darby yelled.

Max called it in.

 

***

 

Mike stirred as the com came to life in his ear. He was sitting up on the bridge, taking a turn at watch and giving Lake some needed rest. He’d been dozing in and out, that light rest one got while watching TV or riding in the passenger seat during a long car ride. It couldn’t be called sleep, but it wasn’t full wakefulness either.

“B3! B3! This is Max! Come in!”

“Max, what’s up?” Mike responded.

“Oh, fuck, thank God!” Max exclaimed over the com. “What’s your status, Mike? What’s the status of the ship?”

“Status? Boring as all fuck,” Mike replied. “How the hell are you? Ballantine forced us not to call you guys when we heard the shit going down. Everyone accounted for?”

“No, but that’s not the problem,” Max responded. “It’s only one of them. Listen, Darby and I were attacked on the beach by people, man. Crazy fucking people. We handled it, but one of the Zodiacs is missing. We think you may have hostiles either on the way or already at the ship.”

Mike perked up, his SEAL training pushing away any sleepiness he may have been feeling.

“What? How many? What kind of hostiles? Armed or not?” Mike asked, the questions tumbling out as he grabbed the pistol resting on the navigation station where he sat. He was up on his feet and heading for the hatch to the stairs that would lead to the upper deck. “Give me details, Max!”

“I don’t fucking have any!” Max responded. “No idea how many or if they are armed! The ones we dealt with had crude clubs and fought like amateurs. But they are sneaky as fuck, so watch out for the silent attack.”

Mike stepped from the bridge and looked down at the deck below him, his eyes adjusting from light to darkness. He thought he saw a shadow that shouldn’t have been there.

“Mike, you need to alert the entire ship now!” Max said.

“On it,” Mike replied as he started to switch the com channel to ship wide.

He never made the switch as his world became a sudden sting to his neck and a quickly rising deck coming to meet his face.

 

Chapter Four- We Are Not Alone

 

Vines lashed out at her face, but Kinsey swatted them away, refusing to let them grab onto her, to slow her down, to stop her mad flight through the jungle.

The Team was separated. It was the exact opposite of what they wanted to happen, but there was no choice. Even after taking out the pack of whatever-the-fuck-raptors that came at them, they hadn’t even been close to out of the woods. In fact, they were deeper than ever.

The noise.

It had to have been the noise that brought them.

Three massive monsters. Fifty feet tall, at least. Maybe taller.

Huge motherfuckers with heads the size of compact cars and teeth bigger than her legs, the things had ripped through the trees as if they weren’t there. They had come in fast and hard, their mouths open, roaring, declaring that it was dinner time and the main course was served.

Team Grendel had opened fire, unleashing everything they had on the things, but it wasn’t enough. They ran out of ammo fast, even with the specialized rounds. Only one of the monsters had gone down. The other two were wounded, but far from taken out.

Her dad had ordered them to flee, to run, to book ass as far away as possible. They were supposed to head back towards the beach. That was the plan. But all it took was a few minutes of furious running for Kinsey to be completely turned around. The jungle looked the same. East, West, North, South. It didn’t matter which way she turned. All she saw were the dark shapes of huge trees, giant ferns, and plants she wouldn’t have been able to identify even if it was daytime.

Then came the vines.

They pawed at her, clawed at her, grabbing her suit, stripping away gear that she hadn’t strapped down tight enough. She fled again and hadn’t stopped moving, stopped running, for hours. Her legs were exhausted, her lungs burned, her head swam with fatigue. But the vines were relentless. They would not let her rest. If she even dared to slow down, they went straight for her legs.

They were everywhere.

“Shane! ‘Ren! Lucy!” Kinsey shouted into the com. “Daddy!”

No answer. Nothing. Even the earlier static was gone.

The com was dead.

On she ran. Her M4 was missing, taken by one of the hundreds of offending vines, and her .45s were empty, no full magazines left. Kinsey had a combat knife, but she was afraid that if she unclasped it and pulled it free it would just go the way of her carbine, lost to the deadly foliage.

So she ran. Endless flight. Constant movement.

Despite the fear, despite the insanity of the nightmare she was thrust into, Kinsey was still a Thorne, still a trained professional that lived a life far outside the norm. And the professional part of her began to realize something.

She was going in circles and those circles were intentional.

Yes, the jungle all looked the same, but trees were not just trees. Some had specific traits, such as obvious gashes that had healed after something tore into the bark. Distinct markings that caught her eye as she raced past for the sixth time.

The jungle was trying to get her to turn a specific direction and it wanted her exhausted when she did.

“Fuck you,” she said as she skidded to a halt, done with the constant running. “Fuck all of you.”

A vine shot out from her left and grabbed her upper left arm. She circled her arm around the vine, taking the initiative to grab it back. She wrapped the vine about her forearm and clung to it with her hand.

More vines came at her, and she avoided as many as possible, but she had made her choice. It was time to see where the vines wanted her to go. If she kept running then she’d be exhausted to the point of helplessness.

And Kinsey Thorne was far from helpless.

“You all can suck my dick,” she snarled as the vines began to lead/drag her through the more benign and non-offensive foliage. “Suck it hard.”

She stumbled, fell, righted herself, fell again, then let the vines pull her across the loam and moss of the jungle floor. The tropical climate kept things in a state of perpetual rot, so it wasn’t like the ground was a rough surface.

Kinsey let go and decided to roll with it. It was a strategy she had used too many times back when she was a junkie and surviving on pure instinct and will. It didn’t matter how trained she was, being a junkie meant her skills were compromised back then. She could fight better than most people on the planet, but the need to scratch that addiction itch threw those skills out the window at the promise of a fix.

So she had learned to roll with it. She got herself in situations that no woman, no person, should have gotten into. She pushed the boundaries of survival, all for a taste of whatever was at hand at that moment. Then, once her itch was scratched and she had gotten right, she dealt with the situation. That usually, almost exclusively, meant a lot of blood and someone ending up dead.

Her eyes focused on the vines that moved her through the jungle and she wondered if they had any clue what kind of predator she was. Or if they even had any kind of clue at all. Were they separate individuals, autonomous vines that worked in unison towards a specific goal? Or were they all part of some larger organism, just appendages sent out to troll for food and bring it back to the main body?

Kinsey was almost excited to find out. The fear of the island, and the monsters on it, fueled her mind, her body, her being, with a predatory curiosity generally reserved for cats. Something in her relaxed and she started to enjoy the ride, looking forward to the possibility of letting go. When she reached the end point, Kinsey had every intention of going blank and unleashing something she had been keeping bottled inside for the past year.

She intended to murder the fuck out of whatever she faced.

Yes, she had killed plenty of Somali pirates, cartel soldiers, members of Ballantine’s original Team, and even the odd cannibal here and there during Team Grendel’s brief interludes between massive crises, but since boarding the Beowulf (it was Beowulf II back then) she had yet to really let go.

It was time to unleash the Kinsey Thorne that she had created when she’d been ejected from the Navy SEAL BUD/S training for using amphetamines. It was time to get wild and be the predator, the feral cat, the killer, the hunter, the unstoppable force, that she knew deep down inside was her true self.

Darren wouldn’t understand. Her father wouldn’t understand. Not even her cousins, or any of Team Grendel, would understand. What she was, what she believed in every cell of her body, was too much for any of them. The longing and pull of drugs was always there, but it was a minor annoyance, a fly in the house, buzzing against the window. The true addiction she had been fighting, the one that even Gunnar couldn’t help her get through, was the need to take a life with her bare hands, to wrap her fingers around a throat, to punch through a rib cage, to gouge out eyes and to snap necks.

She craved the taste of death, and more than that, she craved the satisfaction of willingly bringing that death without remorse or regret. Team Grendel wouldn’t understand that. They’d be horrified by it. Except perhaps Darby, but Kinsey had a feeling that even Darby didn’t have the blood lust deep down that she had.

With those thoughts finally free, her mind fully unburdened, Kinsey’s journey came to an end. As did the jungle.

The vines pulled her from the tree line and flung her out into open space. Kinsey was no longer being dragged on the ground, but flying out over a deep, dark pit. She only had a second or two to realize that what she thought at first were rows of jagged rocks below were actually teeth.

Long, vibrating teeth that flexed and twitched as her body fell closer and closer.

Kinsey’s bloodlust, her new honesty with herself, took a backseat when she realized that the vines were simply vehicles to transport food from Point A to Point B. She just happened to be the food and the pit she was falling into was Point B.

“Fuck me,” Kinsey said as she fumbled at her belt, a sudden remembrance hitting her like a ton of bricks.

Which is exactly how she hit the side of the pit as her body slammed into the dark green flesh of the thing that had gone to great lengths to track her, catch her, and drag her to her doom. A tooth the size of her forearm nearly sliced her in half, but Kinsey twisted at the last second so it only bumped her side.

Star Wars slammed into the front of her brain and Kinsey suddenly realized what her predicament reminded her of. That sand monster that ate Boba Fett in Return of the Jedi. She had no clue what the thing’s name was. Her cousins would know. The elves in the Toyshop would know. Hell, Gunnar and Darren and probably everyone on the B3 would know. Kinsey did not.

Nor did she really want to. She had better things to do than play nerd trivia.

Such as getting the small black box free from her belt. The black box that held the containment shield that she had been given by the elves. Kinsey felt guilty for thinking of them as nerds, but the guilt went away quickly as she freed the box and activated it.

Bright blue lines of energy shot from the box and began to crisscross, changing into a symmetrical ten foot by ten foot grid. The living pit shuddered at the touch of the net and Kinsey smiled. That was the effect she had hoped for. Without knowing exactly what she was doing, Kinsey reached out and grabbed the edge of the containment net and pulled it to her.

The net instantly formed itself into a protective cage around her, sealing her inside the blue lines. The living pit undulated violently, reacting to the energy net as if it was the most painful thing ever. Kinsey quickly found herself flung from the side of the pit and out in open air.

The hole below her, the dark circle that lay just below the rows of teeth, widened and Kinsey had a distinct impression that whatever creature she was in, it was holding its nose and going to swallow her in one gulp, just like a kid eating his or her least favorite food.

As Kinsey fell, she noticed that the air tasted like a fresh thunderstorm and every hair on her body stood on end. But the energy didn’t burn. Again, she had to give the elves credit for a job well done. They had intended to modify the net to be a personal shield and it looked like they had succeeded.

Kinsey fell fast then was lost inside the living pit. The light from the net illuminated the new world she found herself in. Once past the multiple rows of plant teeth, the world about Kinsey constricted, becoming a vertical shaft of dark green flesh. Plant or animal, Kinsey did not know. She did not care. All she wanted to know was how to survive and how to kill the thing she was being swallowed whole by.

Then the ride ended and Kinsey found herself splashing down into a sickeningly sweet pool of thick, sappy liquid. It was like rotten honey. The smell made Kinsey gag and she struggled to keep her head above it. Her containment net was designed to protect her from solid threats, threats with arms and claws and teeth and sharp toenails. It was not designed to keep her from drowning in living pit honey.

The burning began almost immediately.

Her exposed skin started to tingle then itch. The itch turned to a stinging and the stinging turned to a full-on burning. Kinsey knew enough about botany, and about carnivorous plants, to realize she had fallen into a honey pot of some type. A really, really big honey pot. A honey pot with hundreds of teeth above it, which was not normal for honey pots, but it was still a honey pot.

The teeth above were only there to deal with the larger creatures that were either dragged or lured into the living pit’s maw. The teeth were angled downward, aimed at keeping anything large enough from clawing and climbing its way out so the death honey could do its thing below. Other creatures, smaller creatures like Kinsey, were actually supposed to bypass the teeth and go straight to death honey jail, do not pass Go, do not collect any chance of living.

Kinsey was fucked.

Her exposed skin felt like she’d been stuck out in the sun for hours, naked and without sunscreen, despite the fact she was wearing her compression suit. The realization that her suit had been breached, which meant basically useless, hit her as she felt the pull of its weight try to drag her under. Just what she needed, more trouble.

She could see the floating bones, picked completely clean, of other victims that had tumbled to their sweet, sweet demise. It became harder and harder for her to tread the thick death honey, to keep her head above the surface. It wasn’t like treading water, it was heavy and exhausting. Her already fatigued muscles were protesting that they had been pushed past their breaking point.

Yet…

Yet, Kinsey was the ultimate survivor. Her primal brain took a full inventory of her options. Her mind gathered and calculated data at a subconscious level so that when the solution came to her, it was as if inspiration had struck without any effort at all.

Her eyes tracked how her containment net reacted to the death honey. All around her the substance steamed and hissed as the blue lines of energy did to the death honey what the death honey was doing to Kinsey. It burned.

Ignoring the pain while still intensely aware of it, which was a junkie skill set if there ever was one, Kinsey studied the sides of the living pit. She noted the sudden angled nature and realized that the death honey couldn’t be too deep. It may have been a pool of death, but it was a shallow pool of death.

BOOK: Mega 4: Behemoth Island
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