Hunted

4.44/5 (4)
Created by potrace 1.16, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2019

‘Surely it’s gone?’ The Bondsman’s voice was shaky. Though not from the cold. From the fear.

‘Quiet Covo!’ Sing snapped as she eerily peered out from the bunker’s gun slit. ‘We’ll give it five more minutes, then Gregor and Hurth can sweep the perimeter.’

Scented. Close.

Sing’s Bondsmen had taken the contract, landing them on this backwater planet to oversee mining.

‘Why am I going out there?’ Gregor raised his voice to a whisper-shout. 

‘Because of that bloody great red eye of yours!’ Sing sternly replied. ‘And because I said so,’ she added.

Gregor’s augmetic eye had saved his squad-mate’s lives time and again. In this situation he wasn’t so sure.

‘It’s probably had its fill.’ Covo caught his breath and found his voice. ‘It took those three you employed enroute, and I don’t need to remind you of what it did to Garix and Sullivan.’

Hurth and Gregor shared a glance. Sing’s stomach lurched at the mental image.

Visual augmetics. Cool body temperature. Use cover.

‘Hurth, Gregor, sweep clockwise. We’ll cover,’ said Sing, shouldering her las-rifle, looking out into darkness. 

Yurr was a planet of rich minerals. Yet the climate was harsh. Ice covered the world. Crevasses and jagged rocks made travel difficult. The miners had settled into the ore-rich mountains centuries ago and hadn’t left.

Covo took up position beside his Sergeant, cradling an impressive plasma gun. It whirred into life and its brilliant pink coil lit the bunker in a vivid hue.

Medium ranged plasma weaponry. Close distance. 

‘Right, one quick lap and then back,’ Hurth stated as he buttoned his thick fur-lined coat.

‘Just get a move on, eh?’ Sing said abruptly. 

Gregor checked his las-rifle and followed Hurth out of the door. Covo hurriedly locked the door behind them. 

‘They’ll be fine Covo. Like you said: “It’s probably full”.’ Sing sounded reassuring. She pulled her hood up.

Two outside the structure. Follow.

‘What do you think it is?’ Covo asked. It was a simple question but one none of them had dared ask each other.

Sing thought to herself: In a few short weeks on Yurr, they had lost half their team and around ninety percent of the mining colony. They had been stalked. Miners had told the Bondsmen of creatures that came in the night. Any who strayed too far from camp would be taken. Bloody pools and scattered remains were all that remained, yet none knew what hunted them.

Muffle the screams. Partake of their flesh. 

Sing had laughed off the warnings. Her squad had a schedule to promote higher yield mining and things ran as normal for the first few days. The three she called Dan, Sam, and Pam had joined her team close to Yurr. It was those who met their end first.

Move. Lure them out.

‘What was that?’ Covo snapped left, his weapon humming. Sing broke from her thoughts. ‘Did they go anti-clockwise? Those bloody fools…’ he trailed off and focused down his weapon’s sights. 

‘No, they went clockwise. They turned right out of here,’ Sing added. She swept her rifle right and breathed slowly. 

‘Hurth! Is that you?’ Covo shouted.

Desperation. Close distance. 

‘What do you think you’re doing?! Keep your voice down!’ Sing snapped. She lit her stab-light and pierced its beam toward the icy ridge to the bunker’s left.

‘Seems like your imagination, Covo. Scared me half to death you f…’

Sing fired; Covo too. Balls of plasma erupted toward the stab-light’s beam. Las-rifle shots burned deep grooves into the rock-ice. The torrent of fire ceased.

‘What was it?’ Covo blurted. 

Flesh wound. Negligible. Continue.

‘Something ran past! Seemed humanoid and pale,’ Sing said. Wide-eyed, her features focused, she scanned the area with the stab-light. She turned to head for the door. 

‘Oh, come on Serg? We aren’t, are we?’ Covo looked on the verge of tears.

Sing unbarred the door.

Wait.

‘We have to, Covo. Else Hurth and Gregor are as good as dead. Come on.’ Sing pushed the door open. Covo swore. But he followed his Sergeant out. 

‘Stay close Covo. To my left. Don’t hesitate to fire. No second chances, eh?’ Sing ordered.

They paced out and arced clockwise around the bunker. Each pace an icy crunch in Covo’s ears. He shook both from the cold and the fear.

Strike.

Covo fired: his shot wide of the pale creature, not three steps to his left. He heard its manic caw and smelled its rancid musk of blood and dead flesh. He darted back as Sing rounded. She fired toward the beast, but she hit only air. Covo’s chest was heaving.

Let them fear me. Hold.

‘Did you see it? What the hell was it?’ Sing shouted out. All hope of stealth gone.

‘I… I don’t know. It was taller than me. Like a big lizard or bird. We need to go back!’ Covo’s cheeks were slick with tears, and he shook uncontrollably.

‘Quick!’ Sing took off in a run and Covo followed.

Leave this here. Their horror will make for a more supple morsel.

Sing saw a red light at the bunker. Covo shouldered his weapon to run that bit quicker. He crashed into the back of Sing as she abruptly stopped outside the locked bunker door. 

‘What are you doing? Get inside!’ Covo bellowed as he picked himself up. Sing did not reply. They stared at the door. 

Hurth was pinned to it. His chest broken open with Gregor’s red eye inside. The corpse dripped red slew into a thick pool stark against the white ice. 

‘Wha…’ Sing began. She looked up to the bunker’s roof. The creature was perched. Alabaster skin, pale blue quills and a blood-stained beak. Piercing black eyes stared back at her.

Feast.

The beast let out a shrill call. From the icy wastes around the bunker, scores of creatures appeared. 

Sing didn’t fire. Covo had no time to fight.

Claws and beaks. Blood. Screams. Avian delight and human dread.

‘We Kroot own these lands,’ the Shaper called.

About the Author

Sam has been in love with Warhammer and its surrounding lore since his teen years. He is English,  recently married and lives in Stockholm. If he’s not rock climbing, he’s hiking or at work fixing elevators.