My shield morphs, lunging like a huge amoeba to envelope the female Host. It bullies aside her shield which winks out of existence, popping like a soap bubble. The tendril in her head is forcibly expelled.
The Host, Parasite and unknown tendril owner aren’t terribly pleased by my actions. The displaced tendril whips wildly across my expanded shell, trying to reconnect with its Host. Failing to find the hole it seeks the arm speedily retreats.
I move closer to my latest conquest, if only to ease the strain on my now highly overstretched shield. Encompassing this third person renews my brain-ache. These abilities are closely linked to energy levels and I am ashamed that I have spent what little I had left on a marathon sex session.
My initial attraction to the nude Host’s lithe body is countered by the dangerously grim expression on her blood-slicked face. A tiny bundle is tucked beneath her breasts which I disregard; instead I leap mentally behind her granite grey eyes to find out if we are discovered.
The Parasite thrashing about in her mind is a vocal little critter. It squeaks a complicated alarm call, complete with my description, totally at odds with its Host’s outward stance. It is obviously a higher cast of intelligence than Cricket so I curtly demand it to be still, and to describe its purpose. It is suspicious, but bows to my authority and flashes a pictogram of its duty.
I see expectant mothers; births; babies. It’s a... mid-wife or a nurse? Not one I’d want looking after me!
The strain of keeping two Creeps in check is murderous. Cricket was difficult enough to control even when he was being compliant, but this nurse is unwilling to be tamed. Fish hooks of dissent dig into my brain as the Parasite tests the bonds I wrap it in. My head tilts from the increasing weight of mental exertion.
I retreat to the powerhouse of my brain and find the source of my problem. There! A swelling node growing from a scar tissue crater. This must be the Other-realms control box that enables me to control minds. Its stupendous growth is also the cause of the constant headache I’ve had since the Parasite mind attack. I delve into the fleshy mass and ascertain that I’ve depleted its store of chemicals.
Outwardly I must look moronic with my head tilted, eye squinted closed and mouth hanging open. I come back to myself and slap at the throbbing, sharp-edged hurt that stabs me in both eyes. My vision is tinged in red. Blinking hot liquid rapidly, I rub my eyes and then find my fingers are coated in blood. Jesus Christ, my eyes are bleeding!
What’s that plopping onto my chest? Tomato sauce? Ah, shit! Blood is running from my nose. And I haven’t even been picking it.
I bow close to Cricket’s chest and use his greasy shirt to wipe my face. A moment later more blood spills across my lips and drips from my chin in steadily drops. Keeping this bitch quiet will soon have me bleeding from every orifice.
As I’d suspected, her sudden disconnection has been followed up. It was arrogant of me to expect my hijacking their workers, throwing of mind bombs and interfering with their ‘cattle’ would go unpunished. All the while I have presumed the Parasite infrastructure is so vast that a few ‘assets’ disappearing from their radar would be reconciled as naturally occurring deaths. Now I’m not so sure. I sense something vast stirring in the ether of that Other-world.
Regardless, I can’t set this one free. It would instantly attack me. I should kill her, and the Parasite. One obvious flaw in this plan is that I’m naked and weapon-less. Changing plans on the run is a specialty of mine. She’s coming with me. Wait up. What is she holding? A bloody package of tiny arms and legs. Fucking hell! It’s a new-born. A live baby girl with a frayed umbilical cord hanging from its belly. Chewed off by the looks of it. The nurse’s bloody face is suddenly explained.
Without meaning to, I dip into the baby’s head. So empty. So brand-new. So clean. No Parasite. She’s sore from the birthing, groggy from the sleep-fog residue, and deeply desiring the nipple that hangs above it. A howl is being formed in her lungs that will peel paint off the walls.
There are certain things I can’t stand. A crying baby is one of them. I jam my fingers under the sticky child and lift it to the Host’s breast. The nurse uncooperatively drops her arm to let me take the weight of the squirming, little body. Oh, that’s just great. Now I’m holding the damn thing. The nurse suffers the indignity of being forced to suckle the baby. At least my manoeuvre keeps the little bugger quiet so I can work on commanding the nurse. I don’t suppose anything else can go wrong now.
To refute my stupid temptation of fate, the baby turns its head from the nurse’s unproductive nipple and screams its frustration. The sound claws at the chalkboard of my mind and churns the Parasite fog. Bloody hell, my head’s going to explode! I pull the child from the Host’s chest and clutch her to mine. She tries to latch onto my man-boob and then screams louder when I deny her that one as well.
The baby’s first squeal ruptures my protective bubble, and hopelessness draws its heavy weights upon me once again. Cricket and the nurse are released and the sudden uncoupling almost knocks me over with pure relief. The shield flops over the baby and I; over-stretched and flapping against her raucous vocal assault.
The Parasites are a stupid species in many ways, but a wide awake baby’s cries bring them down upon me, fast. A few burly Creeps gather around our little mothers’ meeting, and their numbers grow by the second.
Parasite tendrils immediately plunge into the Host’s I’d abducted. I suppose their explanations are found wanting as Cricket’s eyes roll up and his Host’s legs turn to jelly. He and the nurse hit the floor at the same time and are still. Perhaps the Parasite Boss mistrusts them after I’ve been in there?
Enough Creeps have arrived to create a solid wall of bodies on all sides. I turn, holding the baby out to fend them off. Using a child in this way is rather cowardly I admit, but I’ll use whatever comes to hand when backed against a wall.
I’m a little perplexed when the Hosts draw away from the baby. Sure, her cries are loud enough to rupture eardrums, but the Creeps actually seem to be physically rebuffed by the noise. They fall back, continuing to contain me, but failing to follow through with the expected dismemberment. The anticipation of that particular moment is torturous. Paranoia rushes in at the last moment and proceeds to shout conflicting advice at me. ‘Kick, punch, destroy! Run, you idiot! Use your mind blaster thingy’.
Finally, a good idea! I gather my ‘force’ together, visualising the formation of a giant sword. But swinging this blade is too much effort. A great pain explodes across my head and a greater gush of blood pours from my nose. That can’t be good. I think I’ve really overdone it this time.
Right then, we’ll all just stand here and watch me bleed to death. I draw the shield close to fit my skin. Excluding the child relieves me from the strain of covering her. The mind-fog soothes her cries almost immediately.
The silence allows the Parasite Puppet-master to recover and send new orders. Several Hosts prod me forward and I’m moved along inside a second ring of Creeps. Their prisoner once more, the child and I leave the Breeding floor.
It’s not until I recognise David Jones’ store front, and its protective line of guards, that my resigned fright grows into threadbare dread. Meeting the regal ruler of this realm is an honour I’d gladly swap for a quick death.