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The sounds didn't register as a voice for several seconds, during which Dee kept trying to understand what was happening.
The "woman"... whatever it was... had come out of the larger creature like some kind of... newborn. It was even attached to its womb by tendrils of black flesh that may have been umbilical cords. Was this a separate being? Dee couldn't tell, but this was definitely the woman she'd seen before... the thing she had mistaken for a woman in black.
The voice was the same. Voices.... one from the mouth-region of the woman's pale, featureless face. The other a powerful hiss from the creature that loomed behind the woman.
It was speaking to her.
It was... speaking.
The giant leech had coughed up a human avatar and it had just asked her a question.
Insane or damned... Dee didn't know which she was, but she wanted no more of this.
She shook her head and began backing away.
"No..." she whispered. "...no... no this isn't happening..."
"You are not of the Covenant! What Are You! How came you here! And WHY!" the woman barked/hissed. The slender figure glided forward with a motion that was intended to look like walking. It wasn't. The woman was being held a few inches from the floor by the black umbilicals. They were carrying her. But they only closed the gap that Dee created by backing away. The carried the woman no closer than she'd been before.
It was cautiously keeping its distance from Dee... a fact that Dee failed to notice.
"M-me?" Dee stammered. She didn't realize she was speaking until the next few sentences wer out of her mouth. "I'm n-nobody. I don't know where I am... I don't know what you are.... I just want to leave. "
The lumps beneath the woman's face shifted in an unreadable expression. More words came.
"Your beast..." The woman pointed to the pit bull crouching protectively beside Dee. The slender arm swept upward, along with the woman's eyeless gaze. The SUV still perched on the ledge, ultra-bright headlights stabbing into the darkness above them. "Your... chariot. Your garments I know them not. What realm sends you to steal the Red from me!"
"I-I'm not here to take anything!" said Dee. "I'm just lost-"
"LIAR! Assassin!" The voice was sudden and loud. Startled, Dee raised her hands defensively, palms out-
The woman recoiled. The creature behind her shifted position. The massive head pulled back... also recoiling. Then it eased forward slowly, examining her with those hideous segmented eyes.
Dee's eyes narrowed in realization. She lowered her hands.
This thing... was afraid of her. Dee didn't know why, but it was definitely afraid. Its words and actions broadcasted that fact quite clearly.
The idea formed in her mind even as she acted on it. Dee straightened herself, lowering her hands inhaling deeply.
"You don't want trouble with me," she said. "I'm walking out of here. If you try and stop me... then you'll SEE what kind of power I'm packing. You don't want that."
The words felt hollow and stupid... but Dee spoke them without tremble or stutter.
There was another unreadable shift in the woman's shrouded face... if, in fact, she HAD a face.
Then, the woman backed away. Slowly.
"Okay then," said Dee. She reached down and grabbed Treach's collar. The dog stood at her touch. "Nice and easy..."
They began to back away.
They'd gone exactly two steps before Treach halted suddenly and began to growl.
Dee looked behind them. Red eyes gleamed at them in the darkness on three sides. She'd been surrounded.
"Hey!" Dee whirled to face the creature. The woman had retreated to the edge of the shadowed area that hid the creature. There, she stood... watching. "I said-"
"You fly into the Temple of the East and expect to walk out alive!"
"You may leave here... but only as one of MINE!"
The red light on the creature's head pulsed bright red.
The creatures around and behind Dee swarmed inward. Dozens of them surged toward her, pouring out of the darkness; a tide of red eyes and shriveled flesh.
"Let us see your power, thief!" The woman/creature both hissed. Dee watched as the woman left the floor... yanked up and back by the tendrils of flesh that connected her to the creature's body. The womb-like pocket of flesh that had spawned her yawned open like a giant mouth... a mouth that swallowed the woman and snapped shut with a moist smack.
The dog didn't wait to hear what she wanted. When the nearest fiend crossed the invisible line known only to the dog, the beast launched itself at the creature. Teeth met throat, and both went down.
But it wasn't enough. It wasn't even close to enough. A half-dozen more of the fiends veered over and around the dog, and three times that many darted for Dee from other direction. Behind them, more eyes waited motionless... watching to see if they were needed.
It didn't look like they would be.
"HELP!" Dee shouted... to no one. "SOMEBODY!" For the second time, her hand tugged at the zipper on her backpack. This time it gave way with a small rip, and Dee's hand quickly snaked inside. Objects tumbled past her frantic fingers as they sought out the interior pocket. She found it, tore open the velcro flap and clutched at the large object inside. Fingers wrapped around the handgrip
As the first wave of creatures reached her, Dee snatched her right hand out of the bag holding what looked like a black police baton, only shorter and thicker. Her finger hit the button, and a thick arc of brilliant white light arced between the metal prongs at the end of the ten inch baton. The arc emitted a series of loud CRACKS as it ionized the air around it.
"STAY BACK!" Dee screamed. The first pair of hands grabbed her left arm, squeezing HARD. More hands reached for her face. Dee plunged the stun baton in the one of the later, tagging it in the forearm as it reached for her.
Four million volts later-
Something roared. Dee's ears filled with a sound akin to a jet engine. The floor shook. The leathery hand on her left arm vanished. Dee pulled away, turning... looking for a way through the crowd of motionless fiends...
Everything had stopped moving... and had STARTED moving simultaneously. The fiends stood around her like a forest of manikins. Their red eyes flickered chaotically as they stood, unmoving... but also toppling as a powerful vibration shook the stone floor.
Dee looked behind her. The centipede-creature was in the throes of a massive convulsion, the tubular body attempting to move in several mutually-exclusive directions at the same time. The lower third slammed repeatedly into the ground while the head whipped back and forth with such violence that it looked like it might tear loose from the rest of the body. The circular mouth was flexed open... frozen... and the sound that came from the orifice was almost deafening. It was a roar of shock and pain and...
Dee looked at the stun baton in her hand. She hadn't touched the creature, but it was reacting as she had. How-
Dee's mind ran on for a few seconds, attempting to explain what she was seeing. Meanwhile, her instincts moved her extremities with a simple three-word command:
Do It Again!
As Dee turned to the nearest motionless figure, the flickering red eyes suddenly... stopped. Solid red orbs glared as the withered arms reached out-
Dee activated the baton and shoved it into the fiend's throat. This time, instead of a brief contact she held the weapon in place. The fiend went still... not flailing or dropping as she expected. The red eyes flickered violently again as Dee heard the renewed sounds of monstrous thrashing from behind her.
Dee looked, and saw the creature's entire body whip sideways into one of the truncated columns, striking so hard that it shook the floor. When the creature's thrashings peeled it away from the column, Dee saw that the stone surface was smeared with black ooze and equally dark chunks. The thing was going to bash itself to death-
A thick liquid splattered the side of Dee's face. The fiend before her dropped... empty sockets spraying twin jets of red mist as it fell.
The prolonged voltage had 'killed' it. And it had also severed her connection to the creature that controlled it.
The sound of thrashing quickly subsided behind her as the creature recovered... doing so much more quickly than it had the first time.
All around her, the flickering red light in the eyes of her assailants was replaced by a steady red glow.
They began to move.... away.
"TREACH! TIME TO GO!"
Dee didn't wait for the animal. She picked a direction and sprinted. Red eyes loomed before her, but they peeled away as she darted toward them. She held her stun baton ready for any that moved away too slowly, but none did.
Briefly she heard the click of claws behind her-
-then the louder sound of flesh sliding against stone. Then a rising, ominous gurgle-
Dee changed direction and darted behind one of the columns. Something spattered against the stone floor to her right. Dee sprinted again, hoping that the creature needed at least a few seconds between sprays. She risked a glance behind her, and instantly regretted it.
The creature was pissed. And it was fast. And it was CLOSE!
Dee reached for more speed... searched for a place to hide. She found neither. The gurgling came again, and Dee made a sharp right turn, heading for a large pile of stones-
Something gave way beneath her foot. A brief bolt of pain shot up her left leg as she twisted, stumbling. She landed hard on her shoulder. The stun baton slid away among the stones. Loose rocks jabbed into her side, and then her back as she rolled-
The creature loomed above her, the predatory head rising higher as the mouth angled downward. Three eyes... one gleaming red... stared down at her.
Treach darted between her and the creature. The dog barked furiously, announcing his intention to protect his master with tooth and claw, but the sheer size of the creature made the threat meaningless.
They were both going to die. Dee looked up at the monstrous mouth... the trio of eyes gleaming in the light-
The creature looked up suddenly as a shaft of bright white light transfixed it.
Dee looked up. She was beneath the spot where she'd first arrived... beneath the stone ledge where the SUV had been perched so precariously. The vibrations from the creature's thrashings had finally dislodged it-
There was time for only a brief hiss of alarm before the Ford Explorer struck the creature's head with a loud CRUNCH. The falling SUV drove the monster's head to the floor, where it ruptured against the stone. One of the segmented eyes split open, launching a stream of watery ichor that splattered across Dee's prone form, covering her torso in cold, slimy ooze.
The SUV tilted to one side and finally came to rest, crushing another part of the creature's head beneath it as it did. A single shudder shook the length of the creature's body. Stubby legs flexed... and went still.