The Forest Is Hungry

7.3.5 SW
Late Evening SW-CP-Local Time
Matron's Coast Airfield > Control Tower

Rain beat the tarmac and Mike Duncan let out a heavy sigh as he looked out of the control tower. He was deeply ready to get home to his wife and kids and dinner, but the weather was currently too hazardous and if he wasn’t careful he would end up in a ditch or mudslide, or worse, struck by lightning.

He had stayed late at the control tower to ensure the USCSS Montero was repaired and launched into orbit before the storm came along, besides, the security team was unadvisedly out there in a flying patrol vehicle which meant Mike was stuck with Norm the evening shift Controller until they returned.

Norm was fucking annoying. When he wasn’t focused on work, he talked incessantly about anything and everything like his mouth was directly wired to his stream of consciousness. He would put himself in scenarios that may or may not have happened, quoting himself and even going so far as to answer himself from other peoples' perspectives. He was a scrawny prick in his late 30s who cursed like a sailor, especially when he was riled up or feeling entitled; the kind of guy who complained a lot and thought his problems were really someone else’s and nothing was ever his own fault.

Mike on the other hand was more reserved and perhaps too polite to tell the man to shut the hell up. He tried ignoring him by appearing busy and reading a book. That didn’t matter. Norm never stopped. Mike found himself saying a lot of ‘mmhmms’ by force of habit, even though he wasn’t actively listening.

The only way to turn it off, Mike found, was to redirect him to some kind of work or analysis. Norm was actually good at his job when he could focus and the man knew his ships. He could tell you about almost any model and class of ship built over the last 200 years. Mike was aware of that but just about everything else that Norm claimed to know was horse shit.

Mike groaned. Right now Norm was being particularly annoying as he was talking through mouthfuls of the giant sandwich he called dinner. Something about a woman who he had talked to at the Electric Lotus club being all over him. Mayonnaise dropped off of Norm’s wiry blonde beard.

‘Jesus, what a sloppy fuck.’ Mike doubted any woman in her right mind would tolerate Norm longer than a few minutes.

Looking out the window Mike saw lights far off on the road leading back to the colony. It was the APC by the look of it and some kind of truck.

“Control Tower, this is officer Ricardo Gauss. Gonna do a fly by en route back to Crowning Point.” came the radio.

‘Thank fuck.’ Mike thought. He grabbed the microphone and Norm instantly stopped his chattering.

“You are clear, Officer Gauss. No such traffic in this weather. Let us know when you land.”

“Copy, Control.”

Mike switched off his microphone and picked up his book. Norm or no Norm, Mike was the kind of guy who wanted to see his job through rather than hand off the responsibility to someone else. So he waited until Gauss called back to report the gyrocar had made its way safely back to the vehicle bay before collecting his coat, keys, and WY designated rain poncho.

Norm may have said goodbye but Mike was done listening. The storm had brought an early darkness to the coast and a chill in the air. Luckily, the storm had waned enough that Mike would have visibility to drive back through the Wombwood to the settlement. He hopped into the NR-6 ATV, switched on its head lamps and drove from the parking garage into the night.

He hated driving through the Wombwood after dark, something about the trees towering high above the road. And if you looked up, it was like they were jagged teeth leaning ominously inward as if closing in and swallowing the heavens. At the moment, the Wombwood was darker than usual as the storm clouds obscured the sky. Patters of rain still fell in the foliage and on the unfinished gravel road.

Rounding a corner just past the lumber mill, he saw the tail lights of another vehicle about a hundred yards down the road. That was handy. Probably one of the workers or technician heading home. He could just follow the lights to ease a little bit of the tension of driving in the dark alone.

Feeling slightly more relaxed, Mike Duncan leaned back in the seat a little bit. The trees were more spread out now and the road was more open. The moment didn't last long however as the rain started to pick up again and out of nowhere the ATV was slammed from the passenger side by an unseen force. The vehicle skidded to the left and Mike was thrown from the vehicle as it hit something next to the road.

Mike picked himself up from the mud and brush. As he tried to stand pain ran through his leg from an injury he couldn't see so he had to pull himself over a pile of large logs back to the ATV which he was surprised to see was miraculously still upright on its wheels.

He dragged himself up, sure that he could hop back to the vehicle and head to the medical building, but as he approached he saw something that made his heart sink. Through the rain-sliced beams of the ATV's headlamps came the dark, lithe shape of some quadrupedal entity. Its spindly feet splashed into a large puddle of rain and mud. As it moved into the light Mike froze. The creature was tall and it looked emaciated. Some of its anatomy appeared mechanical. Something about it reminded him of the local wolf-like animal nicknamed the Cervine Fox but this was different. As more of its features were revealed, Mike could make out a long curved head and a spiky skeletal frame, but he couldn't see the thing's eyes and that made him even more uncomfortable. No words could form in his throat, not to plead or even curse. He could only shook his head in denial.

The monster bared its shiny teeth which gleamed like silver in the backlight of ATV headlights. The thing hissed, opening a second inner jaw before it pounced. The blow came to his forehead and Mark was no more. His unconscious body was dragged off through the mud and into the darkness of the hungry Wombwood in the clutches of the beast.
Long-legged Xenomorph Scout - Image by Kronos
Alien 3 Xenomorph Scout/Runner - Image by Unknown

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