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Storming the Gates

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Storming the Gates

 

Alex J Mercer, viral abomination, tended to have one response to mindless zombie-drone creature things.

Death with a side-serving of full dismemberment and a slice of decapitation for dessert. And then more death.

So when his day unexpectedly decided to rain a whole freaking army of walking corpses onto Aguerra, he wasn't all that bothered. No wait. He was. It was Aguerra Prime for fucks side. A backwater planet in the middle of nowhere, no one bothered with Aguerra. All it had going for it were the deep sea mines and the minerals extracted from there were essentially worthless unless you owned a refinery. Those tended to be out of reach of the average space pirate.

Alex craned his head back from his window, melting into the shadows of the room and watched the invaders with a scowl. He'd made a life here, a boring one working the spaceport, but it was a life nonetheless.. These things...they threatened the relative security and anonymity he'd lived in these past years. And they reminded him of his days on the run, of Blackwatch's continued scramble to test weapon after weapon to bring him down. Granted these were a little more crude and unrefined than Blackwatch's usual fare and he'd also lost Blackwatch off his tail long ago.

He'd taken to drifting from planet to planet after leaving Earth, unable to completely shake the belief that someone out there was searching for him. Blackwatch may have been long gone but it had birthed countless daughter organizations. They'd eventually turned to other pursuits amongst the stars -instead of chasing after one viral monstrosity- and had completely vanished on distant planets somewhere. The universe was just too big for him to keep track of them but he had no doubt that they had a presence on the core planets.

But out here, in a place where all reason would predict that Alex would definitely not go, someone had just made a huge mistake. Most of the colonists had been captured and dragged off to the big ship. Alex had laid low during the initial attack, unbothered as the population had been defeated. It wasn't an unusual tactic for pirates, most normally attacked isolated colonies like Aguerra to stock up on slaves, but until he knew more about the situation, he wasn't about to announce his presence. Time had lent him some maturity and an appreciation for the importance of recon. His experience out in the stars had taught him that anything was possible. Humanity had diverged on so many different paths, each with their own unique cultures and technology and unknown tech equaled unfortunate surprises.

So he'd waited.

It had been almost an army that had descended on the city but now the patrols had gradually thinned.

It was time to hunt.

x x x

He wasn't alone out here.

The realization had been surprising. As he tracked across the city, he found scores of the invaders dead on the streets. Their bodies weren't obvious, most had been dragged away into the shadows but the bodies themselves showed little signs of a struggle. Just the same distinctive blade plunged into vital spots, the minimum number of stabs to kill a person quickly and silently. Clean kills and nothing like Alex's usual kamikaze whirlwind of absolute destruction that saw enemies reduced to blood splatters. The killer was obviously incredibly stealthy and Alex couldn't help but admire the skill. He could have probably achieved the same effect quite easily if he put his mind to it but he had the advantage of shapeshifting abilities and mimicry and was pretty much invulnerable.

No, this was impressive for one lone human being, armed seemingly with only a blade against what appeared to be a small army.

And what Alex found even more interesting were the invaders themselves. He examined a body and found it was more metal than man, a skin-suit full of tubes and circuits with a gun welded permanently to the body in place of an hand. Alex had seen weirder things out in the black but he doubted that the manipulations had been done voluntarily. All those wires...they were machines dressed with human meat.

And if they were machines, then they could be controlled by a computer.

Suddenly, the capture of the colonists made terrible sense.

Alex's biomass rippled unhappily as he pondered the implications. If there was one thing Alex guarded jealously, it was his own independence and freedom. But he could remember the Hive mind, the Infected all moving together as one under Elizabeth Greene's own will.

The parallels here were enough to place whoever had created these things firmly on his Must Kill list.

With that decision in mind, Alex began to follow the bodies. They lead him across the city, towards the port where the pirate ship was docked. With each corpse, his respect grew for the their killer. Humans simply did not kill like this. He'd met pirates, bounty hunters, soldiers and they were nothing like this. Cock-sure and convinced of their own immortality due to their possession of a gun but lacked the sheer skilled lethality to back them up. The methodicalness reminded him of Cross, mortal and yet near unstoppable.

Whoever he was following was a hunter.

Then...he stumbled upon an even bigger body and he had to stop. Because, seriously. What the fuck. It was another weird machine-human fusion, except it was more like someone had taken a D-Code's big brother and scooped out the meat inside to replace it with metal, tubing and wire. D-Codes had been difficult to fight, this thing looked like it would have been capable of taking on Alex easily during the Manhattan infection.

He eyed the grenade launcher some mad scientist had decided to fuse to the creature in place of its left arm. The other arm was a massive gun just like the other bodies.

Then Alex tried to imagine the sort of human -and it had to be a human, judging by the blades that had killed these things- that had taken this monster on and had lived.

He failed.

He even had difficulty envisioning Cross coming out of this encounter intact.

What the hell was he following?

Alex glanced more closely at the body. It hadn't been killed by bullets. The hunter had killed it with a blade.

He decided not to think too hard about it and pressed on. He found a few more corpses of those massive skin suits and his curiosity deepened as his respect grew. He was close to the port and the pirate ship now and Alex picked up his pace. He slowed at the sound of gunfire, carefully slipping into the loading bay where the ship was docked. There were a few active defense mechs searching the area and he backed out of their sensor range.

Then, Alex saw him. He was more shadow than man really, a ripple of movement in the dark from behind the shipping containers. A split second later, the shadow was a human armed with a gun, taking down the mechs with unnatural aim. Alex leant back and watched the man work, there was no need to get involved at this moment as the situation was clearly under control. The man stepped back into the shadows and both Alex and the now damaged mechs immediately lost sight of him.

Alex was impressed, the other hunter vanished into the shadows as seamlessly as Alex had slipped on the lives of the people he'd consumed. He'd never seen a human capable of such before and he watched with interest as the man appeared again, this time taking down the mechs permanently.

He approached the still sparking case of one, reaching in to grab something. Alex caught sight of the key card flashing between the man's fingers. Then he straightened and looked directly at Alex's hiding place.

"Know you're there," the man called out, his voice calm and languid, assured of his own lethality.

Alex Mercer stepped out, acutely aware of his own superiority but not prepared to underestimate the human. He'd followed the trail of bodies this man had left behind in his wake after all. The human assessed him without a change in expression, head turning to the side. It was difficult to tell whether he recognized Alex as anything more than an Aguerran native but something about his piercing gaze told Alex he'd seen right through him. It was the recognition one predator gave to another.

He waited to see this human would do.

Without taking his eyes off him, the man tilted his head towards the ship. "Only one way off this planet," the human informed him calmly. "And the ride is just about to leave. Down here's death and up there is even more death. Your choice which one you want to take."

"More death?" Alex smiled slowly. "I can help with that."