I'm telling you, I think she's possessed.
Gavriil Kichgelkhut ran the beam of his flashlight over the crumbling wet cement lining the abandoned train tunnel. He didn't admit it, but this place gave him the creeps. The crumbling subterranean remains of 21st century Brasilia were a world away from the steep, snow-covered mountains and wide open plains of his native Kamchatka.
Once they'd traveled deeply into the tunnels, the only light came from the team's flashlights. They moved through utter darkness, and every footfall, no matter how quiet, echoed ominously in the gloom. Soupy brown puddles lay at their feet, occasionally filled with bits of trash. An oppressive odor filled the air with the smell of decay. The tunnel walls were covered in graffiti - no doubt left there over the years by teenagers and adventurers trying to prove their mettle. Names, dates, artwork, images of skulls... Gavriil tried not to become distracted. It reminded him strangely of prehistoric cave art.
Humans always left their mark in the darkest, strangest places, just because they could.
A rat scurried across their path, pausing only a moment to look at the team, before squeaking and hurrying off into the gloom.
There's no such thing as spirit possession, thought George dryly. George was a good bloodhound, Gavriil knew - they were all the best - but he didn't have a spiritual bone in his body.
Then how do you explain it?
Gavriil could feel George shrug. He didn't care - he just wanted to capture the rogue and go home.
My grandfather was a Koryak shaman, Gavriil 'cast. He showed me things. I'm telling you, she's possessed.
Did you grandfather tell you there are spirits on Mars? Because she disappeared on Mars.
Maybe there are. Maybe we brought them with us.
George let out a small huff - a half-laugh in the stifling darkness of the tunnel.
Telepathically, they all strained to find the smallest hint of their quarry, but she was nowhere in "sight." Every time the tunnel branched, the team paused, made a choice, and moved on together. With a weaker rogue, they would have split up, but they were facing a Psi Cop, and couldn't take any chances. They would need every last man when they found her.
Twelve bloodhounds and one Psi Cop against one... possessed Psi Cop. Gavriil didn't like it, even with those odds. Possession supposedly could give people otherworldly abilities, and whatever spirits had taken hold of Khol were both powerful and malicious.
After an hour of walking, they came to another branch in the tunnel, this time three-way. According to their map, two of the three the branches opened to a whole new "line" on the metro, and ran for many miles. It was decision time again.
No, we should keep going east. We can backtrack later, if she's not there.
They were still debating their options when an ear-piercing scream echoed through the tunnels all around them, seemingly emanating from all directions at once. The team spun into formation - backs toward each other, weapons pointed outward. Around them, forms took shape in the gloom, and thousands of black snakes rose out of the mud and coiled and hissed, blocking off all three paths of escape.
They're not real! Gavriil 'cast. Frank discharged his weapon into one of the tunnels, sending a bright green PPG blast into the mass of snakes, but having no effect. Hold your fire, they're not real!
Gavriil saw something move in his peripheral vision. He spun. There! She's there!
He charged - right through the "snakes" - and the others followed him down the east tunnel.
It wasn't exactly protocol - usually Psi Cops gave the orders, and bloodhounds provided firepower - but this was no ordinary rogue, and Gavriil wasn't about to let her slip away. He imagined himself following in the footsteps of his ancestors, hunters on the plains of Siberia... or so he imagined, anyway. Maybe they'd been just fishermen, or herders of reindeer. Maybe they'd never hunted anything fiercer than a seal. But he was a hunter, he knew, in his blood - that was his calling. He was a bloodhound. He was a wolf. And he was on the hunt, with his pack.
For a moment, the beams of their flashlights landed on the darting figure of the rogue Psi Cop, but before the hounds could get a telepathic lock on her and bring her down, she was gone once again in the oppressive darkness. Peter slipped on the tracks and went face-down in the slime, slicing his cheek on a sharp rock, and he let out a telepathic curse.
The tunnels here, Gavril noticed, were in worse shape - in places, the ancient concrete walls had entirely caved in, blocking off old metro routes that lay behind.
The air in this part of the tunnels, Gavriil noticed, was even fouler than before. Gavriil fought down waves of nausea. Did she bring her victims down here into the tunnels?
They continued east, following the faint telepathic "scent" of their quarry, and ran for what felt like an hour. Finally they came to a cave-in. Debris nearly blocked off the path ahead.
No, 'cast Gavriil. She scrambled over that. She's on the other side.
We can take another route.
No, we'll lose her for good.
This time they followed protocol, and Mr. Bester made the decision. "We're going through," he said, aloud, and up they went, one by one, over the mountain of debris, sliding through the narrow gap between what remained of the tunnel roof and the debris below. Sharp rocks dug at Gavriil's ribs. He used his hands to push through, inching his way through the narrow passage into the inky blackness beyond. Until he got through and fired up his flashlight for the others, none of them would be able to physically see a thing.
Was she out there, waiting to attack them the moment they slipped through? He could barely feel her scent in the distance. He couldn't even tell if she was near or far.
He held his breath for one last push, and tumbled out the other side and down the mountain of debris, landing on his rear and jumping to his feet. He lit the flashlight and scanned the area - nothing. She'd run off again.
He worked from the other side to help widen the hole for the others, and when everyone was through, they continued their run. There was no graffiti on this side of the cave-in - perhaps, Gavrill thought, they were the first people to walk these tunnels in a hundred years. The thought gave him chills.
The hounds cornered Khol at the end of the line. She sat crouched in the corner, her dark hair spilling out in every direction, her clothes - the remains of a Metapol uniform - in tatters. Her psi insignia glinted in the light from the flashlights, but her eyes held nothing human anymore.
"It's over, Ms. Khol," said Mr. Bester, stepping forward out of the pack. "The Corps is Mother, the Corps is Father. You're coming home."
She looked up and him and snarled, like a wild dog. "They're coming," she said in a raspy voice. "The spiders are coming, for all of us. It's too late."
She 'cast a telepathic illusion of spiders, everywhere - millions of them crawling up and down the abandoned station walls. Mr Bester ignored the illusion entirely.
"Come home, Ms. Kohl."
"Never. They're coming. You will see."
Spiders? Gavriil wondered. Had she been possessed by some sort of Spider Spirit? In the gloom of the abandoned tunnel, he felt a chill run up his spine. There was something vaguely Lovecraftian about the whole affair, as well, as if the poor unwitting cop had stumbled upon the Necronomicon in the shifting red sands of Mars, and had been reduced to a gibbering monster who prophesied about the return of the Elder Gods.
He could feel George sighing, next to him, simultaneously amused and annoyed at Gavriil's superstitious, even sentimental fantasies.
"I don't want to use force, Ms. Khol," Bester was saying in a clear, loud voice that echoed off the tunnel walls with authority. "You are one of us, a telepath. You are Corps. I don't want to hurt you, but we will if you make us."
She snarled again, and sprang to her feet. "I said, NEVER!"
And with that she leapt straight at Gavriil, the intent to kill blazing in her eyes.
An instant later, they were locked in psi combat - she, a spider demon of a thousand eyes, and he, a black wolf. He sprung at her with all he had, tearing this way with his claws and gnashing with his teeth. Her mental form didn't have any recognizable head, or even a throat to lunge for, so he went for what he could - the thousands and thousands of writhing, staring, unblinking alien eyeballs. As they fought, the alien beast tried to envelop him in the swirling mass of tentacles that made up its "body." He fought with all his strength, snapping eye-stalks and severing sinews with every bite, but he was sinking down, down...
And then it was over. Mr. Bester stood over his crouched form, a dark, sad, knowing look on his face. Khol, or what was left of her, lay unconscious on the ruined train platform, barely breathing.
"Thank you..." Gavriil gasped.
Bester nodded. "It's over. Let's get out of here."