The man came to a halt. There was pain etched on his very face. His body shook badly. And there were trails of blood left behind, awashed by the downpour.

He swept his long hair that was overshadowing his sight off, and left a very weary sigh. Looking up the road, he prayed deep that he’d be able to make it. There was no telling if he was going to fail on the path up ahead, but that would not be his option. He had his fight, and he was not going to give up. Not just yet.

“I hate that face of yours!”

The sentence did not matter. He may not look like a real handsome gentleman, but he knew he had it in him: the will, the strength to save those who’re in a pinch. Yet, he knew he was no superhero with superhuman ability, but then, who else would be daring enough to go through hordes of ghastly creatures on his own?

He stripped a monstrous horn off his left foot with a grisly scream. It was 12-inches long, sharper than the Great White’s, he presumed, as it managed to pierce right through his thick, impenetrable exo-suit. They were no ordinary creatures. Someone must had been breeding them and turned them into that kind of horrendous killing machine. And conceivably that individual could even be one of them by now; he’d be butchered if he was human.

No, that person is not human.

As that thought hovered through the edge of his mind, his earpiece began to crackle. Communication with HQ was starting to re-estabilish. It may be one of the many signs that he would accomplish this suicidal mission fruitfully. But he dared not to say that the table had turned, for he never knew what kind of appalling surprise was awaiting him before his goal.

“HQ to Ghost… HQ to Ghost. Do you copy?”

He was relieved. Radio was not as good. But he finally found a means that could get him back home.

“Ghost One, copy. Need Vulture extraction ASAP.”

The earpiece’s effervescent hiss continuously emanated. “Ghost One, are you the only team survivor?”

He sighed, gritting the pain into his teeth. “I’m afraid so, Major. There’s nothing I can do to save them.”

“That’s it, we cannot risk losing another man. Abort mission at once.”

He grunted. He was so near to the objective. “Objection, Sir! We cannot just abandon the objective. There must be at least a survivor waiting to be rescued.”

“Survivor or no survivor, I am not going to lose one more of my best men. You are important to this army, Isaac. Just… forget this operation. This is an order. Abort—”

“SHE’S YOUR DAUGHTER!” he roared. “How could you just simply dump your family member in this dire situation?”

“We’ve scanned the whole perimeter!” the Major yelled back angrily. Then, there was a pause. His voice lowered. “There… is no survivor. My daughter is d—”

“I’m going to carry this mission on, Major.”

“Don’t disobey my order, Isaac!”

“Have a little faith, can’t you? Now what I need is a transport to exfiltrate. I go to the Lair, check things out, and if there’s no survivor, off we go.”

“Isaac.”

“I know you hear me well, Major. Just get a Vulture ready.”

The Major did not say a word. The earpiece still gave the distant communication hiss. Then, there came the Major’s voice. “Vulture dispatched. ETA 45 minutes.”

“Thanks, Major. Glad to be in your service.” He did not think that it was the best possible sentence to reflect his gratitude.

“I’m still insisting that you pull out of this mad endeavour of yours, Isaac. This mission is already a failu—”

He pulled the earpiece out of his earlobe and threw it away before the Major could even finish, swiftly took his gun out and fired at a sudden movement at his side. Death was instant. The creature fell half-way on its track, headless. There was another at the other side and it managed to get on top of him, severing the circuit of his exo-suit’s left arm.

The creature was quickly put out of action as he dragged it off the suit, threw it to the soggy, grimy wasteland and fired. There was no mercy in his face as the creature got mutilated. It squeaked and screamed like a banshee in a night of full-moon. Creepy to those who had never heard its cry. By the time he emptied the gun, red, warm blood had already smeared all over his suit.

Another gun was equipped hastily. Aiming to his left and right warily, he concluded that there was no more ambush. From the previous fights, he could make a deduction that they would only attack in a group of two or more. But he did not dare to drop his guard. Danger could come in any way. Unanticipated.

He lowered his gun, his eyes fixed on the earpiece he threw just now.

He knew the Major was lying. They could barely establish radio connection into that earpiece, how could they possibly scan the entire perimeter, at least in this weather? What nonsense.

A thunder cracked aloud, like it was going to strike him from his back. He paused on his track. His breath had gone heavier than before, as if you could hear it from miles away, even in the ravaging rainstorm.

He was finally at the so-called Lair. It did not look like one, though. It just seemed like a huge wreckage of spaceships, forming what look like an ancient, prehistoric ruin with revulsion and terror hanging about in the air. Blood-stain was everywhere. The smell was nasty like rotten flesh, which, for instant, reminded him of the stench of his fallen comrades.

Through the heavy rain, he could hear someone crying weakly for help. Despite the situation, his heart overjoyed, just when his hope was beginning to fade. There was indeed a survivor. He rummaged around the soil for the source and was shocked. A woman of his age was confined inside a metal cage, hanging several meters in the air, safely beyond the reach of any creature.

He mulled over for a while and activated the jetpack at his feet. The gas was almost empty but it was enough for him to reach the cage, hauling it forcefully together to the ground.

With the might of his exo-suit’s right arm, he easily stretched open the metal bars and released the prisoner.

He was not surprised to see that she was the Major’s daughter.

“You… why you?” she sobbed. “Why do the one I always detest has to be the one who save me?”

It was obvious. She was being too egotistical.

“Lady, after all these,” he paused, showing off his disfigured exo-suit, “don’t you think I deserve some gratitudes?”

The woman wiped her tears. It was apparent that she was too scared to respond. But maybe because she was just making a silly joke over being too egotistical.

There was a loud whirr above them. A Vulture transporter hovered lower to the ground just a few metres ahead of them. Ah, home at last!

For a sudden, something really disturbed him. This seemed just too easy. He could not believe it. After all those fights, he and the survivor were just going to walk away like nothing ever happened?

That was what he thought, until he clearly heard the Vulture’s pilot screaming in definite dread.

“QUICK! THE CREATURES ARE COMING!”

He could tell that the Major’s daughter was turning her head at her back too, when he heard a deafening roar. The woman screamed in fright instantly. There was a horde of creatures. And not just that. There was another one, bigger than any of them, racing together towards their fleeing preys.

In distant, he heard an outrageous cry. “You’re not going to escape us, human!”

He could almost hear his heart beating thrice the speed. He was right. The one responsible in breeding the monsters was no longer human. But indeed, it could still use its tongue to talk human language.

He then understood what they had been doing. They had been using a fresh human to lure rescue troops to be the creatures’ meal. It must had been doing this in chains: leaving no one alive but one to be a ‘beacon’, luring another foolish human to be their next prey. They would then kill the weakened ‘beacon’ and put another fresh meat for an exchange.

The woman was fortunate to become that ‘beacon’. And she was fortunate enough to be the only ‘beacon’ alive.

He looked at the her. “Can you run?”

At this rate, they could never make it, unless someone do something to stall those hungry fiends.

The woman looked at her injured feet. “No, I don’t think so. But I can walk.”

There was panic in her face. Indeed, only now had he realized how stunning and beautiful that face was. And he was going to miss it.

“Good. Now go.”

The woman was too afraid to object, though her heart ached as much when she finally realized: behind that ugly face, which made her hate that man so much, was a heart, pure as snow.

“Isaac!” she cried as she struggled to reach the transport. She knew he did not hear her words. The deafening shots had already taken place. Several creatures were slain brutally, but not long afterwards, he was engulfed in the wave of swarming creatures. “I am…”

Then, there was no more sound of bullets.

The Vulture managed to escape the clutch of those creatures. Yet, it was too late for an apologize. Tears broke.

“I’m sorry.”

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