Ch. III, p.4

Hunched awkwardly, the beast squeezed into the small opening, crowing with pain as the metal frame pressed blood from its ravaged body. Move... he urged his frozen muscles, move! Soundlessly, he activated the destabilizer, still wrapped around his hand.

Wark! The creature shrieked with pain. Waarrk!

Thrashing madly, it rammed its head into the ceiling and stumbled sideways, thrown off balance. He squeezed the device again. SCHRAEEEE! It hissed, wheeling around in a circle. Unnatural heels sprang forward, unleashing a violent pounce.

Shit. His muscles twitched and tossed him into a diving roll—delicate bones crashed over tile and he slammed into the wall, eyes struggling to reorient themselves.

The darkly feathered creature had skittered to a stop. Splayed out on all fours and panting heavily, it struggled upwards, muscles heavy with fatigue.

It's hurt badly, he knew. But I'm no match for its strength. I have to run...

Schraeeeeee… it hissed, circling towards him, its long black tail whipping at the ground. Straightening its neck and glaring at him, it stepped in front of the exit; this was a fight to the death.

Twitching violence flashed in its eyes and it swiped outward precisely. He dodged with a spin, his body singing with terrified adrenaline. The claw swept past him, bristling his skin. Too close. He turned to face the creature—a mighty talon hovered over him.

“Augh!” Sharp claws raked at his flesh, ushering glistening ruby droplets from his heaving chest. Another swift motion and his shoulder was pinned to the ground beneath the massive beast. It lowered its beaked head towards him, panting steadily.

He squeezed the destabilizer.

Graawwwk... It moaned, tongue waggling pitifully from its open mouth. Brains scrambled, muscles seizuring, it stumbled backwards, loosening its grip.

He pushed himself up and reached forward into the darknes, grasping a fist full of feathers. It staggered groggily, jerking its head side to side. He gripped tighter.

What now? His fingers burned; he couldn't hold on much longer. 'You have to kill it,' a voice seemed to reply. An image of what he needed to do flashed through his mind.

This doesn't feel right...

He slipped his free hand into its mouth. Hot, watery tongue slithered against his fingers and serrated teeth pricked at his flesh. The creature's jaw lolled uselessly open, drooling bloodily.

A tinge of compassion tremored up his spine.

'Do it! Now!' the voice urged.

Almost unwillingly, he slid his hand down its throat.

Spluttering, it backed itself into a corner, wings flapping in disoriented resistance. Its heart beat against his clenched fist. He squeezed tightly.

The destabilizer activated at full force; contracting muscles pressed against his wounded arm, and he gritted his teeth. The creature went stiff. Glinting eyes rolled back into its head and its bloody tongue convulsed with the last taste of life—a violent, depraved sampling.

Slumping over top of him heavily, its hefty body crumpled into the tile, dragging him with it. He slammed his free hand into the beak, lifting and struggling to keep its teeth at bay. His arm was stuck. Writhing nakedly in the wet spillage splashed across the floor, he groaned and pushed himself backwards, legs scrambling for hold.

Muscles shuddering, he tried to extricate his arm from the beast's throat. Come on... please... With a loud glooping sound, he wrenched the damaged limb out painfully and fell backwards, laying quietly in shock as he stared into the sagging ceiling overhead.

His mind struggled to catch up with reality. Did that really happen? Ribbons of flesh hung from his arm, alabaster bone glistening beneath a sheen of crimson as watery red liquid pooled warmly on his chest. I guess so... The world was already slipping away behind a veil of darkness.

He coughed, shaking as he picked himself up from the ground in an unguided daze, and lurched towards the reconstructor. So wet... Dragging his pile of things onto the floor, he fell into the chamber and strained to raise himself into a sitting position.

'Medical attention,' he thought hazily, blood pounding through his brain. Antiseptic rays flashed invisibly over his body and a light mist cleaned his wounds, numbing him. Dark sliding glass enclosed the chamber.

“Agh…” his breathing grew labored; unconsciousness loomed.

“Sealing lacerations.” A gel sprayed over his wounds, stopping the flow of blood. “Applying biosystem-regulating clothing.”

A large disc dropped slowly down from above, spraying black strands of nano fiber from his throat down.

“Extra-muscular support system in place.” The words were difficult to distinguish, pattering syllables atop his brain. Soft black cloth wrapped around his torso, extending to his arms.

A flash of blue light brightened the chamber. Sky… Clouds…Everything is He drifted away, lost to peaceful oblivion.

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