In the Hive…
My hands squeezed around my spear grips until my knuckles turned white from the exertion. The hissing filled my head from all sides. I had no idea where the attack would begin but they were coming to destroy us and that meant the attack could come from any tunnel around us. Standing at the ready, all the huntresses turned their backs to the middle of the main tunnel and all chose to stare at one of the many tunnel holes. We would all watch and wait for the attack. All plasma guns reared into readiness, moving in sync with our head and eye movements. The red triangle sites activated, shining in all directions. With little effort, the superb targeting system would obey the very waves of our brains and movements of our eyes beneath our masks.
I was panning through my different sight modes rapidly; hoping one would identify the enemy quicker than another. Heat vision, oddly, didn’t work on these things according to Garv. My human sight could see them but my motion detection sights were the best choice for the kainde amedha since they blended in so well with their own nest environment.
Just then, a series of horrible hissing shrieks echoed off the walls. I could see heads jerking in all directions, trying to pinpoint the source. Fear was here…but Predators didn’t concern themselves with it and neither would I. We all just wanted to be on guard and not be killed off in the first few seconds of the attack. Then, as I switched to my natural vision, I saw shadows flickering above in the high tunnel before of me. I braced myself barking a quick Predator warning.
Before I could react, a huntress behind me shrieked a battle cry and I heard blade meet some kind of flesh! I desperately wanted to turn and see what was happening but my focus had to remain on the daunting tunnel mouth above me. If I broke my attention for even a second I could be slain. A horrible hissing shriek of pain followed that was not Predator and then a foul wretched stench invaded my nostrils. It smelled like burning flesh mixed with tihm-shi intestinal fluid…a putrid combination. Then I heard all blades unleash almost at once, coupled with shrieks, hisses, and clattering of armor and flesh.
I wanted to turn, but suddenly several dark forms leaped from the tunnel above me! My eyes widened in horror and I set my spear tip before me, bearing the opposite tip to the floor to absorb the impact. The attack was so fast all I could see was two sets of gnashing translucent teeth coming at my face! Once the crushing weight hit the tip of my spear, I remembered Jet’rikna’s training. Gritting my teeth, I jerked my spear backward, using the beast’s leaping attack to enhance the force of my throw. It worked like a charm; the impaled beast hurtled forward over my head and flew off the tip of my spear in the same motion, ripping a crippling gash down its throat and torso. I didn’t have time to celebrate the effective move when suddenly another black force came at me from the wall! I still didn’t have a good detailed look because the attacks were so fast and fierce but seeing what the kainde amedha looked like was the least of my desires at present. My targeting sight connected with the glistening rounded forehead and in a flash of blue plasma, the thing’s head exploded, showering a steaming hot acid against the Hive wall. I turned again, firing upon another pair of creatures in front of me. They splattered the same as the first. Heat from each blast made the air waver slightly but I couldn’t stop. More kainde amedha slithered from the tunnel hole, leaping and crawling like giant insects onto the main tunnel walls. I fired like a mad woman, shattering their chitinous flesh and splattering the tunnel with guts and acid. Horrible shrieks of their deaths filled my ears as well as the sounds of blade and Predator.
Suddenly, as I blew up one creature, I was blind-sided by one of the beasts. My body flew to the side like a rag doll but my life experiences helped me turn the blow into a roll. The moment I was up my head jerked back when I saw the flash of whitish gray and fangs near my mask. An inner mouth struck the wall next to my head, caving it as if it were made of dead vegetation! Frightened but angry, I screamed in fury, unleashing my wrist blades without thinking and rammed the deadly dual tips into the side of the black monster’s hinged jaws, severing the inner mouth. Shrieking and throwing its elongated head in pain, the kainde amedha backed off, freeing itself but leaving its inner mouth on the tip of my wrist blades. My eyes burned in bloodlust as I flicked my arm to discard the part. Much to my dismay the acid blood from the beast had already begun to melt my wrist blade tips, rendering them nearly useless for me. I didn’t have time to worry about it though.
Pawing at its mouth with long clawed fingers the kainde amedha seemed in pain, but also seemed too pissed to care. It lifted that shining, eyeless obsidian head at me and snarled ferociously. I stood at the ready but gasped when in a flash the point of its jagged skeletal-looking tail shot at my face with lethal accuracy. Dodging to the side, I felt the horrible tail tip screech as it glanced off the side of my mask! My breath stopped in terror for a second. That was far too close. Luckily, my mask survived the blow and my face was spared a skewering.
Shrieking angrily, the monstrosity rose on two legs, towering imposingly over me and lashed its tail against the wall. Suddenly, it leaped on top of me, driving me to the slimy hard floor! Crying out, I felt blade-sharp claws gouge through my shoulder armor and enter my shoulder flesh. Hot, viscous spittle oozed from the fanged mouth above me and I couldn’t move under its oppressive weight. For a brief instant, I understood what Fire Blood had meant. You DID need strength against these things. He or Garv could’ve thrown this kainde amedha across the tunnel and been done with it. I could not. I didn’t have the strength.
Hissing, the huge kainde amedha’s dripping upper lip quivered as if in a state of pure rage. My eyes widened at the expression. As alien as it was…the expression seemed very…Ooman. It truly terrified me. The quivering lips pulled back, exposing the huge translucent fangs it kept in that hinged maw. Luckily, for me, it lacked an inner mouth, which meant its primary attack no longer functioned. However…this thing had more than one way to rip me apart. I tried to plant a foot against its skeletal torso to push it away, but it was useless. It was far too strong to be affected by my feeble Ooman strength. I wanted to shoot it, but I knew that would be suicide. The moment its head exploded a fatal shower of acid blood would melt me into a puddle of blood and guts. I had to shove it off first and then kill it…that is…if it didn’t kill me first. Without thinking, I maneuvered my free right arm and fumbled for the hilt of my hip dagger.
Spewing nasty drool across my chest the beast lunged downward for my head. For an instant time stood still for me. My hand clumsily clenched at the tip of my dagger handle. Fanged jaws of terror above, descending mercilessly toward my throat. Flashes of other black moving bodies. Glowing green blood splattering to the Hive floor. Acid sizzling and smoking in stinking waves. My own rapid heartbeat booming in my ears. This was what Garv experienced. I never fully understood until this instant of certain death. THIS was the First Hunt.
Screaming instinctively, I unsheathed my dagger and braced the edge of it before my face, straight in the path of the creature’s opened mouth. The reaction was instantaneous. Upon contacting the harsh blade, the kainde amedha’s fibrous jaw hinges snapped like strings and as a result, the lower jaw swung free and broken. I gasped in exertion for an instant as I stared into the horrible maw of the creature and then became deafened by its pained shriek. Rearing up on its back legs the monstrosity released me, allowing me to roll out from underneath it and scramble to my feet. I reached for my back but my spear wasn’t there! Then I remembered…it was in the ground nearby. My eyes darted around and instantly I spotted it a few feet behind my wounded prey. Moving with the quick precision of any hunter warrior I leaped over the lashing jagged tail, arms outstretched to my weapon.
The beast must’ve seen me lunge, for it whirled with me, claws flared to snatch me out of the air. Curling my knees close to my body to avoid its claws I felt my hands clench the spear handle and agilely I swung around it like a pole and slammed my feet into the smooth black skull. Temporarily stumbled by my blow the kainde amedha was off guard. Planting my feet to the ground, I jerked the spear hard from the tunnel floor. I looked upon my prey with fire. It was only then I realized the skull shape was indicative of a Warrior. This was a Hive defender and not merely a Drone class! Feeling a roaring cry explode from my throat I reared the tip of my spear into the air and plunged it ferociously into the domed skull before me. The tip penetrated straight down the creature’s elongated brain, out its broken mouth, and embedded into the floor. Limbs thrashing in a spasmodic death throw, the Warrior kainde amedha succumbed to my spear.
My heart felt like bursting from my chest...one for pride and then one from exertion. Stinging pain in my lungs told of my battle. A hot cool trickle of sweat mixed with some blood dripped down my body. I instantly retracted my weapon’s tip and whirled to make sure no other attack came. Much to my surprise the activity had died down and things were still. The first wave’s attack lay decimated.
I could see three huntresses still standing and a pile of steaming carnage all around them. The unlucky other huntress I spotted lying on the Hive floor, mask and head shorn in half probably from a bladed tail or perhaps an inner mouth blow. In any case, she was dead and she wasn’t one I recognized. Schr’all still stood, several gashes lacerating her chest. It seemed however that she had slain a great many of the beasts. She hissed harshly mercilessly stabbing her spear point into the skull of a twitching carcass near her. Hate for her burned in my guts but I could’ve cared less about her at this moment. I had DONE it. I had successfully slain a kainde amedha…several in fact…but this one was done with my spear and not a plasma gun. Not only that…this was a Warrior class! I wanted to scream my victory to the skies, revel in my successful kill, and spit in the faces of those who doubted me now! I had DONE it!
Then Garv’s words echoed in my mind: “Once you kill your kainde amedha, take its skull …get out of there as quickly as you can. Don’t try to stay any longer than you have to.”
I reached for the back of my belt and pulled out my medical pack and hunting kit. Selecting a vial of bluish liquid I pulled a bone dagger from my belt, one Garv had given to me before this hunt. It, unlike most blades, was resistant to the acid blood of our prey since it was carved from their very bones. A perfect tool for beheading by kill.
Striding over to the body of my prize, I took in the sheer size of it, lying prone before me. It was big…probably nine or ten feet long with a long rigid skull pattern indicative of the Warriors. Its thick exoskeleton reflected the sparse light like polished ebony. Every part of it seemed the perfect mesh of insect, machine, and nightmare. Like something only conceived in the darkest minds on the cruelest of planets. I hated it. I was glad it was dead.
Yet…it was a magnificent creature. Something so perfectly designed to kill and survive. The Predator race knew this and that is why they revered hunting this creature. The kainde amedha.
Kneeling down, I stabbed the dagger into the thick tendon corded neck just as I had been taught. Acid blood began to ooze but I poured the blue vial over it, effectively neutralizing the caustic blood to harmless neutrality. Cutting quickly I finally severed the head from the body, dousing it in the neutralizing agent to avoid possible skin melting on my person. The skull was heavy and long, almost as tall as I was but I was able to carry it. Just as I was about to secure it to my shoulder, an unmistakable, chilling death shriek filled my ears! Turning quickly, I witnessed the grisly death of one of the huntresses as a stealthy Warrior buried its claws into her shoulders and back just before splattering her head with its inner mouth! Punching clear through the back of her skull, the fanged appendage knocked her mask off and the dented, bloodied faceplate landed not more than a few meters from me. It was the mask of the second female who’d hurt me; now a ghostly vigil of her dead shell.
Though I tried not to I felt my jaw drop in horror as the beast bore the hapless female’s dead body to the ground, glowing blood dripping from its slavering jaws. The other huntresses screeched with rage, attacking the lone assassin. But I knew instantly it wasn’t alone. My eyes squinted and then widened as I peered down the main tunnel. The walls were writhing…moving…oh dear GOD! Black masses of kainde amedha barreling toward us like a fanged, chitinous tidal wave of death. There were hundreds coming and our exit was where they were coming from. We were trapped and vastly outnumbered.
Immediately, the two remaining female hunters saw the legions of kainde amedha bearing down on us. They knew as well as I did that if we stood and fought, we would be swallowed up by the swarm. However, that didn’t matter. We would die fighting…
My heart boomed in my ears again as my eyes took in the horrifying sight and my body screamed for me to preserve my life. But my mind controlled me. You WILL NOT run no matter what happens. You WILL stand and fight. You WILL die with honor.
I readied my spear and activated my cannon again as I stood with the other two survivors. Memories briefly flashed across my mind’s eye. Garv…my mate. Fire Blood…my friend. Jet’rikna…my trainer. Hunter…my father. It was not the time to think of such things but a tear for them slid from my eyes and evaporated behind my mask. If this was to be my final moments then they would be on my mind.
Suddenly the first, faster Drones and Warriors leaped straight for us with battle shrieks of their own. I fired, splattering two of them. We all shot and defended ourselves as fast as we could, but for every beast we killed two more were there to replace it. One of the monsters jumped straight down upon me. Leaping back, I dodged its initial pounce and rammed my spear through its ribbed torso. Shrieking it backed off but suddenly swung its tail around, slamming me in the chest. I felt my breath leave my body and my feet fly from the ground. Airborne I tried to maneuver into a landing that wouldn’t hurt too much. My feet found the slippery Hive floor as I gasped for air. My ribs hurt, but weren’t broken this time. Trying to stand, I suddenly felt the floor beneath me crack and give way.
I screamed, grasping empty air for something to stop my fall, but nothing presented itself. Swinging my spear, I tried to find a wall. Still nothing. I fell fast into inky blackness. I saw nothing and I felt nothing. My arms flailed wildly as did my feet trying to find purchase. Then I hit something solid and my senses dimmed.