Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Egg Drop

“Hey Sarge! What are we doing out here anyway?”

“Keep it down,” Sgt. Rasmussen admonished, without a backwards glance at the greenhorn behind him. He scanned the rubble around him, his gaze lingering on a wall which still, improbably, stood. Satisfied that they were alone, he licked his chapped lips before answering. “Sentries reported a ‘meteor shower’ in this sector last night. The Leftenant thinks that’s how the bugs are being resupplied - ‘orbital weapons cache insertion’, he called it. That’s what we’re doing out here, Ade. And keep it down!” That last in a hushed rasp. The veteran sergeant hoped that his tone didn’t betray his own insecurity. It wasn’t safe to leave the laager at any time, let alone during the light of day. But the El Tee had claimed that they couldn’t wait for the presumed safety of nightfall.

An unusual... something... caught the man’s eye, just beyond the corner of the lone standing wall. An egg, thought the veteran. Must be. “Come over here,” Rasmussen waved to his ward. “Looks like we’ve found something.”

The something was a round cocoon, wedged against the bottom of the wall’s lee side. It glistened even as it collected breeze-borne wind and grime. Well-camouflaged otherwise, the mucous gave it away in the angle of the morning sun.

Rasmussen crouched nearby, barely an arms’ length away. “You see the little beastie growing inside?” He asked, tracing the embryo’s outline in the air with a finger. “By nightfall that little thing will have grown into a seed-soldier, and will be shooting at us in our bunks. But we found it first, didn’t we?” The Sergeant’s grin faded fast as a flicker of movement caught his attention. He reached out and put his palm over the barrel of the younger man’s gun. “Careful, son. No noise, remember?”

Rifle butts and boots made quick, if messy, work of the alien pod. “Remember, we’re looking for a weapons cache. Some kind of drop pod, maybe”. Adewayan nodded absent-mindedly, and wandered off, looking for a way to find something to wipe the goo and grime from his rifle.

“Hey Sarge, look! I found a bigger one!”

A sixth sense, some survival instinct borne of countless patrols and engagements, made the Sargeant whirl, a warning half-caught in his throat. The young recruit had raised the butt of his rifle to smash his new discovery, an alien cocoon wedged in the trunk of a burned-out car. As he brought it down, the front of the egg detonated in an explosive spray of shrapnel, vaporizing the boy from neck to waist.

Rasumussen had time to flinch, as the razor fragments blew into his body armor. More calcified pellets sliced into his unprotected throat and face, felling him instantly as he staggered backwards, gurgling his last breath.

Behind the translucent flesh wall of the cocoon, misted red with the alien blood of its enemies, the Cadmus stirred. It was nearly time to wake.

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