we're both back at university for our second year, Luke flew through his first year got top marks, me i got through well enough but this year is were i hit my stride hopefully. Luke invited me to spend the summer with him and his mum, we had a brilliant time, stopped an alien invasion, attended an alien tea party and Clyde even taught me how to work a skateboard, and shortly afterwards Rani took me on a first aid course. currently we're both heading back to Luke's room after one of our more interesting adventures
"i did tell you to duck"
Luke sent me a burst of annoyance across our mental connection, it was amazing how good he was getting at that, it felt like a psychic flick on the forehead the reason for his annoyance was at this present moment he was covered head to toe in alien slime.
"you could have told me that about five seconds earlier"
our latest adventure had come from a travelling circus. it's universally renowned for being one of the most spectacular shows in the entire universe and unfortunately for them one of there star attractions the amphiclops, a giant one eyed frog named Marney had escaped somewhere on earth
"well on the plus side, we found her, and got her back to the Circus, and they promised us free tickets to the show whenever we wanted"
i was really excited at that, i had only seen the show once when i was little but it had been indescribable, when aphelion returned i was going to have to take Luke and everyone else to see it.
"on the down side Marney felt threatened when she heard us and spat all this at me, what is this anyway"
he was rubbing some of the slime between his fingers and was wearing that adorably curious look he always seemed to have when we encountered something new
"its a bit of a self defense mechanism, Marney comes from a desert world with patches of water here and there, if she is threatened she covers a predator with that stuff in one burst and when it gets hot the slime hardens in an instant completely immobilises just about anything"
his curiosity disappeared and was replaced by annoyance
"so on top of everything else I'm gonna have to take a cold shower to wash this stuff out"
i nodded my head quickly before turning away to hide a snort of laughter
"its best to play it safe Luke, if that stuff solidifies, it will take days to break it up"
i think that had been part of the stage show, one of the clowns ends up encased in amphiclops slime, then the others spent at least ten minutes hitting him to try and break it up, i couldn't stop laughing
"ok but how did you convince Marney that we weren't going to hurt her, she didn't even try to slime you"
"oh that's easy i told her so"
Luke stopped to pick a rather slimy door key out of his pocket
"so you're an alien doctor Doolittle, anything else i should know about you"
i was tempted to tell him i could fly, but Luke could always tell when i was lying
"well i have a few tricks left up my sleeve, I'm pretty certain i can cook an omelette with my eyes closed"
he grinned quickly before opening his door quickly and disappearing into the bathroom, after a few seconds i heard the water running
"hey weren't you supposed to talk to your mum tonight"
"oh yeah can you set up the video chat"
working my way quickly around Luke's computer i hooked up the web cam and then logged him into webchat
"oh, hello Marcus i was expecting Luke is he there"
over Sarah-Jane's shoulder i saw Clyde and Rani as well
"yeah he's just in the shower, we had a little run in with an amphiclops, fairly harmless but very slimy"
Sarah-Jane looked like she was doing her best no to laugh, but behind her Clyde and Rani had given in to fits of giggles
"well its good to see your both alright, i trust everything went OK"
i gave her a reassuring nod and she smiled satisfied that we were both Okay, in the other room i heard the sound of the water being turned off
"alright he's just coming, Luke make sure your decent, the web cams on"
this comment came after i accepted a chat request from Maria but forgot to tell Luke, when he came out with a towel wrapped around his waist to find some clean clothes i think this was the first time Maria had seen Luke with his shirt off, he turned bright red.
Luke quickly stepped into the room and i moved off the seat to let him sit down and stood by his shoulder
"ah there you are, i thought i'd best tell you Mr Smith detected a small energy pulse close to the university early this morning"
i quickly flipped open my scanner and plugged it into the computer, after a few seconds Mr smith's data appeared on my scanner
"its quite a short burst of energy, K-9 do you have any ideas"
K-9 rolled out and i knelt down to show him the readings
"negative Master Luke, it appears you are failing to do your job at Maximum efficiency Mr Smith perhaps you need some time off"
both Luke and Sarah-Jane rolled their eyes at K-9 they both got on a lot better but their rivalry was still there
"alright K-9 enough of that, i don't know if it's anything to worry about but i thought it best to tell you both, anything else you want to talk about?"
i left them to it and took another look at Mr Smith's data, it was too short to get anything other than an approximate location of where it ended and no clue where it began, a mystery
"OK mum, we might go and check it out tomorrow after lectures, speak to you later"
"love you too mum"
it was good to see they were still so close, but i felt something heavy on my heart and decided it was a good moment for me to leave
"I'll see you tomorrow, make sure you some get me or I'll never wake up in time"
he nodded in agreement and i closed the door behind me
"i can't believe how boring that guy is, he can even make supernova's sound like little more than flickering candles"
Marcus had been complaining about our lecturer for the past ten minutes although i wasn't really paying attention we had been driving for about half an hour trying to track down the endpoint of the mysterious energy burst
"oh hang on stop for a second, i think i've got something, pull over for a second"
i brought the car to a stop on the side of the road and then let K-9 out of the back seats
"K-9 i have some readings can you confirm"
"yes Marcus analyzing"
K-9 was getting us a few strange looks but he was a lot easier to explain than officer Tibo
"readings confirmed energy trace 10 meters to our left and 3 meters below us"
with a quick nod we took off after K-9 running down the streets.
"K-9 whats wrong, this is a dead end"
"negative Master Luke, this is the correct path"
before i could ask what he meant K-9 turned to his left and disappeared through a solid wall
"fancy, a holographic disguise, wonder what could have made that"
i poked my hand through the wall experimentally and felt the hairs on my arms stand on end
"i don't know but it would be safe to assume that whatever made this is the cause of the energy readings from yesterday"
nodding his agreement Marcus stepped forwards through the wall, and after a few seconds i followed, the wall concealed a set of stairs leading down quite steeply, i don't think I'm claustrophobic but in the dark going down i couldn't help but shiver. Marcus sensed my fear and activated the light on his watch flooding the small passage with light. when we finally reached the bottom of the steps the strange smell was much stronger. Marcus looked really worried
he stopped in place clearly something wasn't right
"I'm not sure, something is alive down here. i can sense it, i can sense...hunger!"
a terrible screech accompanied that last word, before either of us could react a strange creature stormed across the room knocking us both on our backs before scuttling up the stairs
"Marcus you alright"
i heard a groan from somewhere off to my left after pulling him up we set off back up the stairs, K-9 hot on our heels
"any idea what that was K-9"
"Master Luke life form is a truncle"
i saw a flicker of white flash through Marcus's hair, it must be bad
"Marcus what is a truncle?"
he paused a second before responding, it was a habit of his i noticed whenever he was nervous
"a truncle is an unstoppable predator with an insatiable appetite, the best way to describe it is, well, ah its like the alien from alien"
i had only ever seen that film once Clyde had brought it round, they reminded me a lot of slitheen when they were fully grown
"so this thing is looking for a host body, and then its going to kill someone from the inside out"
we made it back to my car and jumped in
"yeah it will shed its shell quickly, then look for a host, it will choose somewhere with a lot of people it will stay inside the host for about 3 hours then when it's large enough it will break free and will need to devour a lot of organic matter to sustain the next phase of its growth"
i had a strong feeling that for the organic matter it needed, humans would do nicely
"ok well what about schools there are a couple nearby"
i started up the car i knew we had to be quick
"no the host needs to be a certain size, full grown adult, it will pick somewhere with the greatest concentration of suitable hosts, where would that be"
i quickly raced through the facts and figures stored in my head
"by my calculation the greatest concentration of suitable hosts is the university"
the look on his face said it all, of course it is. we drove quickly, if it found somewhere to hide in the university, then the entire campus will be in danger
"Master Luke alien life form detected moving through the alley on our left"
i pulled over quickly. we got out and chased the disappearing shape of the truncle down the alleyway. Marcus turned the corner a few feet ahead of me and tripped over the truncle shell
"dammit, its already shed its shell, K-9 can you track it"
K-9's nose extended and he rolled off down the alley to the left. we took off in hot pursuit. he lead us quickly down the alley across the street and onto the campus straight into Luke's dorm
"master insufficient data to continue tracking the truncle"
oh that's not good
"killer alien loose somewhere in a dorm full of possible hosts, we need a plan"
mostly Marcus's plans involved our goals and not much else
"i agree, and i think you might be a good place to start Marcus, you sensed its hunger when we were underground, do you think you can do it again"
he closed his eyes, i could feel his mind brush past mine and the minds of everyone in the building
"got it, follow me"
we both ran as fast as we could, bypassing the queue at the elevator we hit the stairs at a sprint and climbed up like our lives depended on it
he ran out onto the fourth floor and kept going, my muscles are burning but i have to keep going. he stopped just outside room 413
"it's in here"
he reached out and knocked on the door. the student who opened it was easily a head taller than both of us and definitely fit the requirements for a truncle host
"and you two are"
"in a hurry, sorry about this"
before anyone could react there was a flash of light from the palm of Marcus's hand and the guy dropped to the floor, out cold. i frowned at him but he ignored me and dragged our unfortunate victim back into the room
"before you say anything that involves me being in trouble luke, it was a stun bomb from solaris, and we really are in a hurry"
K-9 wheeled in behind us
"Master Luke, in depth biological scan confirms the truncle is inside him"
"Ok that's good, but how do we get it out?"
"regret Master Luke, there is only one way i know of that this life form will leave its host"
he didn't have to say it
"i don't know how to get it out Luke, but i think i know how we can buy ourselves more time"
Marcus walked out into the hall and hit the fire alarm. to me it just sounded like the dinner bell for the truncle
"OK that will save a lot of people, but what about this guy"
he looked smug, and he only ever looked smug when he knew something i didn't
"simple Luke, the truncle is keeping on eye on things, even from inside its host, if it can't sense enough prey close by it will slow down its growth indefinitely, won't burst until its certain it has enough organic matter close by to sustain the next phase of its growth"
i could hear the sound of people moving about downstairs
"OK now what about him, there has to be another way, i mean what if the host was in danger, would it leave then before its grown large enough to do any damage"
before he could answer a giant flash of light hit the building. a lot of people stuck their heads out of the windows, us included, surrounding the entire building as high as we could see was a force field, it was translucent but had a sinister red glow to it
"is this the truncle's doing, is it trying to keep its food from escaping?"
"no there's no way, i mean for a truncle to do this, well the equivalent would be monkey writing a sonnet worthy of Shakespeare"
i filed that away in my head, the force field can be a mystery for later
"back to the matter at hand..."
the truncle gave a stir and its host started having a fit
"help me hold him down"
we both tried our best, but he was very strong
"Luke what were you saying earlier, if the host is in danger"
i took a few seconds to pin an arm to the ground before i could speak
"will it leave the body prematurely if it feels threatened"
he thought about it for a second too long, one particularly violent fit and we were both flung against the walls.
"i think i can trick the truncle, make it think its host is in danger so it will leave before it is fully grown to save itself, try and hold him still"
i did my best while Marcus knelt down and pressed his finger tips against the mans temples, i heard him whisper
"I'm so sorry"
the fits turned into a frenzy of flailing limbs, but Marcus held him in place, for a minute of frantic movement nothing happened, then from Brad's throat, i saw something, little more than a tentacle at first, but a sprawling mass of limbs and teeth soon followed. Marcus couldn't move he was still linked to brad. the creature reared up to attack him
his laser flashed bright and the creature fell against the wall
"good dog K-9"
Marcus moved gently away from brad and lent heavily against the far wall
"he'll be fine, wake up in a few minutes, hopefully won't remember any of this" he turned to look at the truncle "as for that, I'm not sure what to do with it, its down but not out, any ideas"
i didn't have long to come up with an answer, the same bright light struck the building and when i could open my eyes again, the truncle and the force field was gone
"K-9 what was that?"
"insufficient data Master Luke although it did bear a similar energy trace to the reading from Mr Smith, suggest both phenomenon are connected"
the man on the ground gave a stir and we both quickly left the room, we had done it, saved people's lives, but there were too many strange things to make it feel like much of a victory
once we made it back into my room i kicked off my shoes and collapsed onto my bed, Marcus followed suit and lowered himself into my computer chair
"I'll call my mum tell her everything that's happened, I'm sure Mr Smith can handle a cover story"
he nodded but he wasn't really listening, he looked tired run down, i had seen the same flicker of black in his eyes that mum had told me about
"I'm sorry you had to do that, scare the truncle out of its host"
he looked at me and gave a small smile in thanks, at the same time i felt him gently brush past my emotions
"thanks, is there anything else you wanted to ask"
ah so he had sensed my concern
"yeah yesterday after talking to mum you left quite quickly, was something wrong, you looked upset"
"and i thought i was supposed to be the empath" he sighed before continuing "just saw you and Sarah-Jane how close you are, it stirred up some old memories"
his mother, oh how could i have missed that, no wonder he looked so upset
"I'm sorry, you must miss her"
"you don't need to be sorry Luke, but you're right i do miss her, sometimes it just hits me that she isn't there and she won't ever be again"
he looked like he was about to cry
"hey do you want to crash here tonight, i can set up the blow-up mattress"
"yeah that would be good"
i took a few minutes to set things up for him
"thanks for this Luke, its good to have company, till i get my head back on straight"
"no problem, one thing though, do you remember where we left my car"
he shrugged his shoulders, oh well something to do tomorrow at least
"this round of games is complete mistress what shall we do with those who failed there challenges"
"feed them to the truncle, it must be starving by now, poor thing, we can feed it up for the next round of games"
distant screams of horror could be heard as the truncle feasted
"i had been hoping that you would be my opponent in the games Sarah-Jane, but this boy of yours and his friend, they will be much more interesting"