“Fuck this” hurriedly pocketing the torch, Cass activated her terminal; her fingers dancing over the display surface as she summoned her drones back from their search for the missing skutling and launched a scan of the area
The next thing she knew was an explosion of pain as Jade hit her from behind with an improvised cudgel; the first blow staggering her and then the second knocking her to the ground.
Jade was on her then, her face twisted into a mask of hate as her weight bore down on top of her and her hands closed tightly around Cassandra's neck
Horrified, Cass tore at Jade’s wrists, trying frantically to wrest the doctor’s hands from around her throat, but to little effect; whatever madness had seized her friend, seemed to have imbued her with a fevered strength and a vice-like grip
Trying her best to suppress her panic at the black spots beginning to dance in her vision, Cass bucked violently and swung her hands up to claw at Jade’s face, her fingernails scrabbling for purchase as they sought her friend’s eyes. Jade though was having none of it and, with a hate filled snarl, simply rattled Cassandra’s head hard against the ground for her temerity.
As the black spots began crowding into tunnel vision, Cass twisted and flailed in a terrified, last ditch effort, trying desperately to loosen Jade’s grip to allow her to draw just one more precious breath; her mind all the while screaming in protest at the unfairness of a death like this after all that she had endured
Two of Cassandra’s drones hit Jade more or less simultaneously; their combined weight of nigh on two hundred kilo’s barrelling into her with a bone jarring impact to knock her well clear of Cass who scrambled up and over onto her hands and knees, gasping for breath
There was a fifteen-hundred millisecond window for members of the crew...
“Cease!” Cass croaked, her command preventing the drones from gutting Jade as she struggled in their lethal embrace
She took another sweet breath of the delicately scented cool night air
“Oh shit” she gasped
It hurt to talk
And another
What the fuck had just happened?
“Cass?” Jade’s frightened voice drifted up from beneath the two drones “What did I do!?” she sounded close to tears “I can’t remember a thing!”
Staggering to her feet, Cass stooped to retrieve her terminal from where it had fallen
“What happened?” Jade begged “Why won’t you answer?”
“You tried to kill me” Cass shrugged and glanced down at the screen, absorbing the readings for a second before issuing the stand down command to her mechanical horrors
“I wouldn’t” Jade protested as the drones picked their way off her, leaving her sprawled alone on the ground “I... I mean, I don’t remember...”
Gesturing at the screen, Cass frowned and shook her head in disbelief at what she was seeing, before quickly resizing the terminal to slip it into her pocket and pull her communicator out
“I’m getting some really weird readings” she croaked, her voice scratchy and hoarse “They’re barely perceptible,” she paused to swallow and winced in pain “but they seem to be originating from in and around that pyramid...”
A sudden breeze picked up around her feet, whipping sand up into the air and making her squint and hunker away from the dust devil as it gathered strength and whirled around her
“They've a beta wave pattern which seems to have affected Jade, but it could affect...” Cass trailed off, her eyes widening in fear at the tall figure with dark hair that stepped out of the sand storm “Oh shit”
The first blow felled her; a solid punch to her left temple that blistered stars across her vision and turned her legs to jelly beneath her, leaving her sprawled in an ungainly heap on the floor
Grabbing her hair, her assailant hauled her up onto her knees and leaned in close behind her, the reek of cheap brandy ripe on his breath
“I told you not to breathe a word, you stupid little bitch” he snarled in her ear “You know what happens when you break the rules, don't you?” he jerked his handful of hair upwards, making Cass hiss in pain "Well?"
“Fuck you” Cass snarled, her right hand fumbling for the pistol holstered on her hip “You’re not here!”
Infuriated, he dragged her up onto her feet "I’ll teach you to disrespect your father, you little bitch!” he shouted “Come with me"
Still maintaining a tight grip on her hair, he began striding through the darkness towards the jungle, hauling Cass along behind him
"Don't leave me alone!" Jade called after her, struggling up onto her feet as the drones milled around her in watchful uncertainty
She didn't seem to hear
From Jade's perspective, Cass seemed to stumble across the moonlit clearing on her own, grappling with an unseen nothing that was apparently clamped in her hair
She fell with a cry before she reached the trees and almost immediately screamed, curling up into a foetal position with her arms clamped around her head
“Get up you little bitch!” her father grabbed another fistful of her hair and dragged her up and onto her feet with a strangled yelp of pain
“Damn it Cass!” Jade hissed, hurrying after her as she lurched away towards the treeline
“I'm in Hell because of you!”
“This is fucking bullshit” Cass yelled, struggling against him “I killed you! You’re not here! How can you be here!?”
“I'm in Hell!” he jerked his fist, rattling her head
“Get the fuck off me!” Cass lashed out at the mirage of her father, her fist connecting with nothingness and merely passing through him
He punched her twice in the mouth
“Oh my God!” Jade gasped as blood erupted from Cassandra's mouth and she staggered backwards, near insensible
Hurrying to her side Jade made it in time to catch Cass as she fell, but struggled to maintain a grip on her and only just managed to lower her to the floor in little more than a barely controlled descent
Almost none of what she was observing made any sense to Jade; although following her earlier experiences out in the jungle with Tony, she was at least able to make an educated guess at what her friend was going through, but with little else to go on, she found herself powerless to help or intervene
“Just snap out of it Cass” she pleaded “None of this is real - None of it!”
Ignoring her, or perhaps not even hearing her, Cass struggled up, fighting her way out of Jade's arms
"You piece of shit!" she screamed through her bloodied lips, her hands balling into fists “You ruined my fucking life!”
She staggered back from another unseen impact to collide with Jade, directly behind her, stumbling over the doctor's legs to land sprawled on her arse on the ground
Recovering quickly, Cass dragged her pistol out and, as Jade threw herself flat on the ground out of the way, she opened fire with a sustained burst
The air in front of the two women shimmered and warped, the shockwave from the blast dissipating after a couple of seconds to reveal two human sized, tripedal figures, standing not far away from them.
Whether they were wearing armour or not was hard to say, but one was equipped with a bulky device which it appeared to be attempting to operate, albeit with little success, while the other carried what was quite obviously a heavy energy weapon of some description. Levelling it at the two women, it barked something in an unintelligible language

It seems as if aliens might be responsible for all this, but what's in the pyramid? - is that power source anything to do with them?
Does anyone else encounter them?
What do they want with us?
I've kept their description purposefully sparse to let you guys fill in the blanks
If you encounter these beings, what happens? (death, negotiation, enslavement? - something else?)
If you don't, how do you manage to overcome your worst nightmares? - what happens?

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