Dee could have ended the meatling’s pain, but if she simply put him out of his misery, she wouldn’t maximize her nutritional intake (she hadn’t been able to resist with the first one; she’d been too damn hungry).
Accordingly, she pushed the metaling below the surface of the muck, reveling in his wild heartbeat, his frantic moans for help. Every so often, she let him up for a brief gulp of air—he would take in a great, shuddery gasp that was almost a wail—and push him back down. His fear was delicious.
Nevertheless, she couldn’t draw it out for too long. Other entities would be able to sense her 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. If she got caught up in a fight with Abraxas or Memnoch, her ascendance would be delayed by several millennia.
The sound of an engine rumbled through the air. Dee looked toward it—at the hill to her right—and saw a pair of headlights blaze into existence.
Her right hand 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 psyche) and sucked the remnants of his consciousness into her being.
Her eyes drooped closed. She let out a moan. He tasted amazing.
She heard the truck come to a stop. It was a dozen yards away.
“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!”
Hank looked around, then his gaze settled on Gonzo’s corpse. The giant red holes, the wriggling worm-creatures that were burrowing through flesh, bone and armor….
“Oh my…oh my…FUCK!”
Dee called back her worms with a mental command.
The worms slid across the grass, braiding into thick, gleaming coils before they crawled up her neck and slid down her throat. Her cheeks bulged wide as she took them in. After the tail end of the worm-braid disappeared down her mouth, she closed her eyes in undisguised pleasure.
Fresh misery was coursing through her being, and it was fucking delicious.
“Aaaaah.” She smacked her lips and locked eyes with Hank, who was leveling the end of his ridiculous weapon at her. Oh, it had all sorts of energy manipulation devices mounted on its rails, but her auric sight informed her they weren’t weapons; they were for optic enhancement.
“You know what’s going to happen, right?” Her form had solidified; she now looked like a pretty teenage girl in a black goth getup. She watched her prey struggling to process the change, and found it charming. Ricky’s psyche informed her that Hank was a soldier who had been inculcated with the concept of “target identification.” Unless push came to shove, he wasn’t going to shoot at a teenage girl.
Fool. Her lips spread wide in a predatory smile.
His eyes hardened as his critical thinking overrode his training. She was mildly impressed; she’d crushed entire civilizations 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 want.”
“So why fight it?” She cocked her head, curious.
“You know the answer,” he said tightly. “I am what I am.”
She nodded respectfully. “At least you’re honest about it.”
“All I was doing was walking in a circle.” A slight grin. “In a lot of ways, this is a welcome change.”
“Maybe we should thank each other.”
“That’s not how this works.” Hank unloaded on her, emptying his clip in a matter of seconds. He ejected the mag and canted his rifle up, reaching down and grabbing a fresh clip out of his harness. He jacked it in, slapped the side of his gun—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 the other one. Both her palms were turned outward.
She pulled her hands out to either side, extending her arms in a wide, sweeping slash. Hank’s skull blew apart. Chunks of brain trailed her fingers, marking the air with red-speckled gore.
He slumped to his knees, then thudded on his side. The wounds in his temples—curd-filled craters filled with messy red slop—made it look as if someone had mutilated him with a razor-edged ice cream scoop.
Mmmm…Dee popped her fingers into her mouth, licking them clean of blood and viscera. Yummy. She extended her senses and felt a bit of relief—the aetheric tides were still and quiet. So far, she hadn’t been noticed by any other entities.
At that moment a fleet of vehicles parked 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 from the cars. They dropped to a knee, shouldered their weapons, and scanned their surroundings.
The squad leader signaled, and the rest of the operators repeated the gesture. They got to their feet and began moving toward her.
She started walking toward the operators. One of them spotted her; he raised his fist and the rest halted, spreading 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.
“Girl,” one of them called. “Teenager. Unarmed.”
“Weapons free,” the squad leader replied.
They began to fire, taking their shots with measured confidence. Dee could appreciate that; they were professionals.
A barrage of slugs plinked off her skin, causing her clothes to jump and quiver with each hit. 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. Hand-loaded 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 express his disbelief.
A moment later he high-ported his rifle. “Back to the trucks, no peel!” 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 called a “peel” which would have allowed them to maintain a steady rate of fire.
She waited until they’d piled in their vehicles. As the engines started up, they lowered their windows and began to shoot at her. This time it wasn’t nearly as disciplined; they were tearing apart the landscape with wild, frenzied bursts. The muck to her rear exploded with tiny divots.
And then she was moving.
Everything slowed—she could see individual bullets streaking through the air. To the men in the trucks, she looked like a black-line blur.
She ran up to a truck and hit it with her shoulder. The vehicle pinballed off another truck, sending them tumbling and flipping off the road. Even though they were equipped with armor, Dee had hit them so damn hard that both of their hulls had bent inward.
The other two cars were gaining distance; they probably thought they were going to escape.
Dee raised her right arm, clutching the air like she was holding a baseball. When her telekinetic freeze hit the vehicles, their reinforced wheels spun and screamed, churning up acrid clouds of foul-smelling smoke. Screams erupted from inside the cars.
Puny little meatlings. To think you can fight me with tiny metal fragments…ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.
She began drawing them in, slowly but steadily. The doors popped open and the soldiers poured out. They started to run, but Dee’s mouth yawed 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 resembled a just-hatched xenomorph from the Aliens film franchise. They lashed through the air in violent, whip-like twists, enveloping the men in a rat’s nest of tentacles. Their sharp-fanged mouths latched on to gear and flesh, reducing the operators into a writhing pile of bloody food.
They’d arrived as warriors, but she’d revealed them to be humans, and now meat.
As it should be. She called the worms back. The last tentacle slid into her mouth with a wet, sliding shhlllPP.
God DAMN that is tasty. She wiped some drool off the edge of her lips.
Who knows? she thought as she slid into the front of an intact car.
This could be fun.
She gunned the ignition and drove into the night.