Dee could have ended the meatling’s pain, but agony and suffering were her vitamins and minerals. If she simply put him out of his misery, then she wouldn’t her maximize nutritional intake (she hadn’t been able to pace herself with the first one; she’d been too damn hungry, and couldn’t resist snapping him down). Accordingly, she pushed the meatling (Ricky, she reminded herself, his partner had called him Ricky) below the surface of the reservoir, reveling in his wild heartbeat, his frantic moans for help. Every so often, she’d let him up for a brief gulp of air—he would take in a great, shuddery gasp that was almost a wail—and then she’d push him back down into the muck. His fear was delicious.
I could get used to this.
Nevertheless, she couldn’t draw it out for too long. Wielding her powers was a catch-22; whenever she used them, she left a “signature” on the aetheric membrane. Other entities would be able to sense that activity, and in her current state, she wouldn’t be able to fight them off. She had to suck as much as she could from these three bloodbags (she hadn’t forgotten about the one on the hill) and keep a low profile until her strength returned. In order to consume this planet, she needed to be at full strength. Meaning she couldn’t risk attention from other entities; if she got caught up in a fight with Abraxas or Memnoch, her ascendance would be delayed by several millenia. When she finally got the better of them, these worthless bipeds would probably have evolved beyond general relativity, and made their home on a new mudball.
She had no desire to chase her food halfway across a Universe. So she would have to exercise a measure of caution; eat a little here, eat a little there…then when the time was right, eat it all.
The sound of an engine rumbled through the air. Dee looked toward it—at the hill to her right—saw a pair of headlights blaze into existence.
She raised her right hand up to her ear. It formed into a two-foot long, spiny proboscis. She plunged it downward, into the center of her prey’s brain (Ricky, she realized as her mental siphon connected with his screaming psyche) and sucked the remnants of his consciousness into her being. Her eyes drooped closed and she let out a moan. He tasted amazing…her perception was funneled through a human form, so her mind interpreted the flavor as strawberries and cream.
She heard the truck coming toward her. A second later, it came to a stop.
“Ricky! Gonzo! Where are you?” the man in the truck (Hank, she realized, courtesy of the incoming data from Ricky’s brain) screamed. “Come on—let’s fucking GO! SRU’s on it’s way!”
Dee saw his gaze settle on Gonzo’s corpse: the giant red holes, the wriggling worm-creatures that were still burrowing through flesh, bone and body armor….Hank made a retching noise.
Dee called back the worms with a mental command.
She tilted her head back and yawed her mouth open. The worms slid up her body, braiding together into thick, gleaming coils as they crawled up her neck and slid down her throat. Her cheeks bulged wide as she took them in. Her throat flexed in obscenely large gulps. After the tail end of the “worm-braid” disappeared down her mouth, she slowly lowered her head, closing her eyes in undisguised pleasure. Fresh misery was coursing through her being, and it was extremely welcome.
“Aaaaah.” She smacked her lips and locked eyes with Hank, who was leveling the end of his ridiculous metal weapon at her. Oh, it had all sorts of energy manipulation devices mounted on it, but her auric sight informed her they weren’t weaponized. Even if they were, they probably wouldn’t generate anything more than intensified heat or basic radiation.
“You know what’s going to happen, right?” Her form had solidified; she now looked like a pretty teenage girl dressed in a black “goth getup” (that was what Ricky’s consciousness said it was, anyway). She watched her prey trying to process the change, and found it charming. Ricky’s psyche informed her that Hank was a soldier who had been hammered with the concept of “target identification.” Unless push came to shove, he wasn’t going to fire on a teenage girl.
Fool. Her lips spread wide in a predatory smile.
His eyes hardened as his critical thinking took over. She was mildly impressed; she’d brought down entire civilizations by manipulating their populaces through the pull of dogma. The fact that Hank could adjust this quickly meant he was a formidable human.
“Yeah,” he said, centering his holographic sight onto her buxom chest. “I’m pretty sure I know what you’re about.”
“So why fight it?” She cocked her head, curious.
“You know the answer,” he said tightly. “I am who I am.”
She nodded respectfully. “At least you’re honest about it. Doesn’t change what’s going to happen, though.”
“All I was doing was watching men walk in a circle.” A slight grin. “In a lot of ways, this is a welcome change.”
She threw her head back and laughed. “Maybe we should thank each other.”
“Not how it works.” Hank unloaded on her, emptying his clip in a matter of seconds. He ejected the mag and canted his rifle up, simultaneously reaching down and grabbing a fresh clip out of his harness. He jacked it in, slapped the side of his rifle—the bolt slammed home with a crisp-sounding chank—before she blurred toward him, gouging each of his eyes with her index and middle fingers. Her right fingers went in his right eye socket, her left fingers went in his other one. Both her palms were turned outward.
A wail of pain and rage, followed by: “Mother FUCKE—”
She pulled her hands out to the sides, extending her arms in a wide, sweeping slash. Chunks of brain and skull trailed her fingers, marking the air with red-speckled gore.
Hank slumped to his knees, then thudded on to his side. The wounds in his temples—curd-filled craters that were leaking blood onto the moon-lit grass—looked like someone had taken a razor-edged ice cream scoop to his face.
Mmmm…Dee popped her fingers into her mouth, licking them clean of blood and viscera. Yummy.
And then she saw a fleet of vehicles—none of them had their lights on—park in a herringbone formation next to the guard shack. They were SRU, according to Ricky’s assimilated mind. That was confirmed a second later, when a squad of kitted-up operators poured out from the cars. They dropped to a knee and scanned their surroundings.
Dee hesitated. She had to get out of here, but…
The squad leader signaled with his hand, and the rest of the operators repeated the gesture. They all got up and began moving toward her.
I can make this quick, she thought. And I need the sustenance.
She started walking toward the operators. One of them raised his fist and the rest halted, spreading out into a line whose width was to her front. They raised their weapons, painting her body with invisible lasers. Her auric sight rendered them into a glowing network of dancing lines. She could also see the night vision goggles protruding from their eyes. To her, they looked like steady-burning embers.
“Girl,” one of them called. “Teenager. Not armed.”
“Weapons free,” the squad leader replied.
They began to fire. They were taking their shots with measured confidence, grounded in their stances, so calm they almost came off as boring and disiniterested. Dee could appreciate that; she’d consumed entire armies that had intimidated weaklings through their bluster and boasting. These were professionals.
She didn’t move as a barrage of slugs plinked off her skin, causing her clothes to jump and quiver with each impact. Dozens of rounds later, the team leader called, “Stop.” His men repeated it, and the fire came to a halt.
Dee stood tall. Urgent murmurs—shit, what the fuck—rippled through their line.
“Again.” The squad leader tried to keep calm, but a tinge of hysteria was audible in his voice. State-of-the-art ordnance washed over Dee, enveloping her in a blanket of snaps and pops.
The squad leader let his rifle droop. He was wearing a balaclava; the fabric around his mouth dimpled and quivered as he tried to find the words to express his disbelief.
A moment later he high-ported his rifle. “Back to the trucks, no peel! MOVE! NOW!” For a second Dee was confused—“no peel?”—then the Rick-i-pedia informed her that under normal circumstances, they would have retreated in an orderly manner that would have allowed them to maintain a steady rate of fire.
So sweet. She sighed contentedly as she drank in their fear. It tasted like dark, rich coffee with two lumps of sugar, and a splash of milk. During her existence, she’d devoured plenty of warriors before, and they had always tasted something like this—robust and flavorful with the perfect amount of bitter.
She waited until they’d piled inside their vehicles. As the engines started up, they rolled down their windows and began to shoot at her. This time it wasn’t nearly as disciplined; they were going full auto, tearing apart the landscape with wild, frenzied bursts. Grass and dirt popped and spat, and the muck to her rear exploded with tiny divots.
And then she was moving.
Everything slowed, to the point where even she could see the bullets streaking through the air. To the men in the trucks, she looked like a black-line blur.
The volume of fire picked up. She ran up beside one of the trucks and accelerated into a vicious shoulder-check. The force of the strike caused the vehicle to rocket forward, pinballing off another truck and sending them both careening off the road. They tumbled and flipped, and even though they were equipped with armor, Dee had hit them so damn hard that both of their hulls had bent inward. Two of the gunmen had been poking out from the windows; their limbs and appendages hung off their torsos at odd, mind-bending angles. One gunman’s head was bent so far back that it looked like it was going to snap completely off, like an overworked piece of superheated plastic.
The other two cars were gaining distance; they probably thought they were going to get away.
But that wasn’t in Dee’s plans. She raised her right arm to shoulder level, fingers clutching the air like she was holding a baseball. When her telekinetic freeze hit the vehicles, their wheels spun and screamed, churning up acrid clouds of foul-smelling smoke. Screams erupted from inside the cars. Dee’s smirk turned into a predatory smile.
Puny little meatlings. To think you can fight me with tiny metal fragments…ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
She began drawing the vehicles in, slowly but steadily. A few seconds later, the doors popped open and the soldiers poured out. They tried to run, but Dee’s mouth yawed open impossibly wide; her lower jaw reached down to her knees, and—
—unleashed a torrent of armored, segmented coils, each one capped by a vicious, snapping mouth that looked a like a just-hatched xenomorph from the Aliens film franchise. They lashed and twirled, winding through the air in violent, whip-like twists. In a few seconds, the men were enveloped in a tangled rat’s nest of demonic tentacles, screaming and gibbering in wordless howls. Sharp-fanged mouths latched on to their gear and flesh, tearing through skin with vicious shakes of their eyeless heads, then diving into the open wound. The men were reduced from a seasoned cadre of highly trained operators into a writhing pile of bloody food.
Dee’s eyes closed again. Terror, marrow, and blood were pouring into her being and feeding her essence; it felt goddamn orgasmic.
The screams became quiet, blubbering sobs, then dimmed and faded into hushed, oppressive silence. They’d arrived as warriors, but she’d taken that away; she’d revealed them to be humans, then animals, and now meat.
As it should be. She called the worms back. Her eyes opened as the last tentacle slid back into her mouth with a wet, sliding shhlllPP.
God DAMN that is tasty. She wiped a shiny blob of drool off the edge of her lips, then checked the aether for any otherworldly presences. There were quite a few. Fortunately, the closest one was at least five dimensions distant. Meaning it would still be at least fifteen minutes before it arrived. Plenty of time to get the hell out of Dodge.
Who knows? she thought as she slid into the front of an intact car.
This could be fun.
Dee gunned the ignition and drove off into the night.