Burning Bridges

Hatchery Lab

The Marshal turned at the sound of water splashing. Behind him, the massive tank was spouting from an area the size of a quarter and mottled across the glass were several smaller areas of glass bulging out as if they were about to burst. One area, streaked by the acid, split open and the tank began spraying. It was about to break.

Looking from the floor to his clothes, the Marshal noticed a trail of blood spatter on his vest had already eaten small holes part way through. It was a good thing he kept his distance when shooting the creature.

The massive water tank burst, sending a huge wave of murky water across the lab.

The Marshal and the officer with the flame unit managed to stay on their feet but the other officer was knocked over into the water and against a wall.

Suddenly, the Marshal felt a strong tug at his leg. He was then forcefully pulled off of his feet landing in inches of water. Another Hammerpede had latched onto his leg and he knew that if he didn’t get it off soon, it would break his leg.

The officer with the flamer splashed over to assist the Marshal and yanked the writhing creature away, sending it tumbling end over end across the room and back into the water.

The creature slithered quickly back towards the flamer unit so fast that the security team was stunned for a moment trying to see where it went and when it reappeared, it opens its frills and danced in front of the flamer. The creature was mesmerizing in its feral beauty.

The Hammerpede struck with a bite but got only a mouthful of the side barrel of the incinerator.

Before the officer could react, the Hammerpede was winding its way up his arm and around his neck, forcing him to drop the incinerator grip and pull at the thing with both hands.

The fallen officer ran over to assist and together they held the thing between the two of them. It wriggled and writhed and soon it would be free.

The Marshal didn’t have many options. If he shot the thing or broke it’s skin by cutting it, he knew it would spray acid everywhere. Injuring and possibly killing at least one of them.

He only needed the split second to think. The Marshal let go of his rifle, still slung to his shoulder and picked up the soaked incinerator. He clicked the ignition switch. Nothing… again… nothing. The third time the ignition sparked a flame just big enough. He pulled the trigger and through a flame between the two officers.

"Hold it!" he commanded.

The thing writhed and shrieked as it was being charred and after a moment, one of the officers dropped it, sending the other reeling backward. The flames were hot and the critter was dead. The officer let it drop and sizzle in the water.

Suddenly, the officer who had fallen in the water earlier began convulsing. His skin appeared pale, sallow, and his veins were darker and more visible. The Marshal had a feeling he knew what was about to happen. The officers body began to malform and the marshal didn't wait another second to begin torching him until he was a blackened husk.

"Jesus! Marshal, what the fuck!?" screamed the other unarmed officer.

"Stand down, he was mutating. Check yourself, we could be infected as well. Let's get out of this damned lab and into quarantine if we can manage it."

The man looked as his wet boots and his hands before looking back at the Marshal with a concerned look...

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