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Saving Grace

by J. Morrison


Prologue: A change of Face Edit

'There is order in chaos, and certainty in doubt. The wise are guided by this order and certainty.' - Zhuangzi


The walls feel like they're closing in, as if something malicious is following every move I make. I've been running for several minutes down corridor after corridor. I though this shit about finding an ancient mask'd be pretty easy. What a damn mistake I made!

Oh, I'm Grace by the way.

And now I definately know I'm being followed. A pair of Hellise are chattering in the background. Scaly 8-foot spawn, lacking eyes and displaying their rotting bodies like trophies. Grotesque, you might think, right? Their bones are made from a mineral closer to diamond than calcium. Diamond talons, too. One swipe from those, and it's game over. The sweat running off my brow drips in suspended animation as I slow down to catch a breath.

The female creeps around first, poking her head next to mine. In the eerie moonlight, I can see its face; the slots where eyes should be are filled with her own eggs, and her crown-like feathers glint gold. I know they're eggs, I've seen an unfortunate victim of these things. Like maggots crawling from behind his retinas. Suddenly, she freezes, and licks my face. I try hard to mask a scream, and it works. She's soon back onto her knuckles, shuffling down. Her mate, a drab green example, follows her. Nowhere near as dangerous as his mate. As the chattering stops, I back out into the previous corridor, and look straight up another. My chance to run was now...

~ That girl Grace Is always late. Our entire colony knows it. Off on some wild goose chase yet again, probably in danger. As her brother, 'course I'm worried. Us two, the last of the Culver Family. Good ol' Grace, though. At least she has more balls than me.

~ The exit is within my grasp, I can see precious moonlight. Glorious. Unfortunately, something else can. As I take a step foward, something above me shrieks. A Ceiling Crawler. I panic, yell out something along the lines of "Oh shitbricks!", and leg it. The centipede falls down with a crash, shaking its jaws and shrieking again. And then all hell breaks loose.

The Hellise decided to listen.

I clutch the mask close as the pair of Hellise trample over the Crawler. The 3rd one, a huge female, rips it in half and takes a bite out of its shell. The closest female extends her jaws, and tries to bite me. She rips through my coat, and then hisses as I duck under her bulk. She topples into the Male, and luckily they're too busy hissing at one another to see me escape. Yet another lucky break.

It takes another ten minutes for the three of them to pick up the scent. I keep my hand locked onto the handgun burried in my pocket, and keep looking over my shoulder. The big female (What a fat bitch, I thought) is peering over the rocks behind me, sniffing the air. Curiously, she reaches her claws out, and taps at the stone. And then the other two veer up the cliffside, and pounce onto the boulders in front. Now they know where I am. The big one strikes first, but i'm quick enough to dodge through a crack in the side of this stone prison. The male pounces, biting the big female. Without a care, the female rips hm away, and slashes him through the abdomen. His mate screams, slashing at her, but a quick brush aside slams her into the boulders, and then she fell to her death. Only the big one left now, and she is quick on her feet. Without warning, she has me in her path, and growls loudly. Another lunge, and she'll be on me. As I reveal a gun, she sniffs the air again, and then cowers.

To my relief, its bloody James and the cavalry. A single tank fires as the Hellise tries to escape. It's nowhere near target, but still throws her balance off. It roars, and then stops. James on horseback intercepts, throwing a net over her. His horse whinnies as it tries to lash out. A scientist runs up to the Hellise, and darts it. For a while, the beast is still restless, and then it falls into a deep sleep.

"I knew you'd be in bloody trouble," He laughed, waving as I walked over, shaking my head.

"And you're always late bro!" I sighed, punching his arm. He pretends to be injured, but I see through his ploy. He coughs, and then points to the Hellise.

"Care to tell me why a Queen Hellise is 'ere?"

"No idea," I lie, "It just came out of nowhere. I swear!"

"Found a gap that could fit a mask!" The scientists called. Before I can sneak off, James scowls at me. He catches my arm as I try to escape, and then I splutter.

"Damn it, sis," He sighed, a serious tone in his voice, "You risked death by pulling a mask out off a Hellise?"

"It'd get us some money, at least!" I retort, pulling furiously from his grip. He releases, and then mutters something.

"We'll talk about this when we get back," He finally says, whistling to his team mates, "We want the Hellise taken with us, so get a transport sled ready!"

~

Grace was pretty pissed. I know it was for money, but such as risk was fuckin' stupid, by all accounts of the word. She walked off to a troop transport, so I would assume she went home. I myself had to attend to moving this Queen. Took six of us an hour to move it onto that sled, and even then we could only pull it via the goddamn tank.

"Get yourself gone, James," Wilcox said, nodding, "We'll have this jolly lizard back in a while."

"What happens if more arrive?" I asked him, worried about another ambush.

"We have tank shells and hunting rifles," He reassured me. Great, I thought. And the horse hates the dark.

"Well take care anyway," I called out, before I alighted my horse and rode along the carriageway towards home base. I doubt even an ambush'd stop them. But in any case, travel by night is pretty safe.

~ I watched them closely, and grinned. There was a time when three Hellise would wipe out an entire army of humans, but alas, this is no longer the case. What have I sent to battle? Hellise, Crawlers, a couple of Eleraze, but just mindless beasts of chaos. As the Queen of the Armogian Cluster, maybe I should up the game a little, no?

I have something special planned for these deceited humans. And this time, that mask won't escape my grasp. Not ever again...

~

I remember the day my parents were killed, for it was when these creatures started appearing. They were found dead in ice during excavations in antarctica about 4 years ago. Back then, the scientists kept the remains frozen, but the eggs were valuble.

And soon, my father brought some back unfrozen. James was away from home, so he was lucky. The eggs were actually awaiting to hatch. And they did, all over the dinner table. The first crawlers grew to full-size in minutes, constantly moulting and growing like wildfire. I was in that kitchen, all alone and defenseless. Father knew what to do, and used his pistol stored in the kitchen draws to kill them. Then the other eggs hatched. Hellise. He ushered me out, to help my mother. But they were clever. Blocked the path to my mum, and then kept me in a corner.

The Hellise were quick to pursue my father. He ran out of bullets, and I watched as his hand was severed. They pair of them seems egged on as i screamed and burst into tears. The larger one ripped through his jaw with its own, and then ripped through the cartilage in his neck. The other was gleeful, raking at flesh and burrying its head in his back. I couldn't bear to watch the crushing of his spine, and that was that. Carried him off, never to see his bloody corpse again.The same basically happened to my mother, but it was no Hellise. That was an Eleraze. I've only seen one that close up. Resembling wolf-sized Tapiars with upward facing tusks and a pair of tattered wings on its back. And that wasn't as scary. But still strong enough to rip through the wall as it carried my dying mother off through the ficket at the back of the house. I later found out it got many times bigger; larger than an elephant, in fact.

And following this, I was a nervous wreck. Suddenly, it was unsafe. These things started multiplying, and as the ice melted, more so. They were unlike anything we'd ever seen. We caught a few, and found out they were bound by one thing. Like the russian frogs which can freeze and unfreeze, they had similar cells. The Tapiar was different. It had anti-freeze in its blood, and was the menace that took dead penguin carcasses to maintain the icy grace of that continent. One or two managed to get on the ship, and bred quickly like hogs. The wings were actually for signalling over large distances. I myself was admitted due to insanity, but later everyone had similar experiences. I wasn't mad, just mortified. Inside i was fine, just lusting for revenge. But meh, that's the past.

I became a treasure hunter last year to get money and tradable goods. Yeah, money. The dollar was obselete, as was the Euro, the yen, and so on. The americas were affected most, their own experiments on these creatures leading to their demise. Japanese researchers took most of the eggs, and so they hatched and decimated millions. I'm not sure about other places, but Britain took the brunt of it. Only 10,000 hellise or something, more crawlers though, and only 2000 or so Eleraze. It was fine for us. But we took precautions. They used to slaughter us, even with tanks. We had to develop new systems to lock on to them. Eleraze were only sent once or twice, but then only when we attempted to fly in jets and shit. I've never been in a helicopter before, but the traders from Germany and Canada come in them. I get them ammo and masks and stuff, they get me money. Pounds mostly, sometimes canadian dollars. I was given some nice dresses and shit once. They even give me stories, of creatures we haven't seen. I hardly listen, just the Hellise are bad enough.









  

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