Lead Vs Fantasy 7-6

7-6  White ElephANT (get it?)

 

As Cauliflower ran back into the camp to rouse the team, the Captain turned his attention to the where she’d been staring moments ago.  He considered whether he should contact the knight’s commander to tell them of the attack.  A question without an answer.

If whatever monster their scout was leading was too much for his team, then he’d have no other choice.  If he didn’t need them, the interference of the soldiers could only result in more casualties.  The most of them probably only had a few months’ worth of training.  Even if the knights themselves got involved, they had no experience working together with his team.  They’d get in each other’s way and get each other hurt.

Turning a brief glance back at the army’s camp, the Captain shook his head.  They didn’t need anything to worsen their relations with the knights.  They could manage that all on their own.

As the Captain contemplated their loosing battle of P.R., the rest of his team were being roused from their tents with varying degrees of urgency.  Seeing them manage to look ramshackle while still managing to shuffle into a serviceable defensive line in front of the trees brought a smile to the Captain’s face.  They were nothing like the men who used to be under his care, but they were professionals in their own way.

As the inappropriately reminiscent mood threatened to overtake him, the Captain was brought back into the moment by a sharp cracking in the distance.  Watching two of the pines deeper in the forest slowly tumble over, he slowly muttered, “That’s not a great sign.”

“It’ll be here soon,” Cauliflower called out from beside the Newbie, at the rear of their small blockade.

“Yeah, we can see that,” Champ observed as another tree fell.

“Anyone have eyes on our man?!”  Edge shouted over the thundering approach of the enemy.

“Not yet…” Knot declared, standing in front of the group, his shotgun ready.

“He could’ve stayed out of trouble on the first day, at least,” Lotus complained, crouching to the side of the rest and raising her rifle.

“At least we’ll earn our keep,” Knot observed with a shrug.

“We’ll get paid either way, I’d rather not spend the money on the bullets,” Edge responded bitterly.

Before anyone could add anything else, a section of shrubbery in front of them shook violently before producing a billowing blur of green.  The fluttering cloak dashed between Knot and Champ before it gave any signs of being occupied by a person.  Then the ranger through off his hood, exposing his, now oily, black hair and a haggard expression.

“What is it?” the Captain called out as the ranger continued into their campsite.

“I don’t know,” the ranger answered without even slowing his run.  “It came out of nowhere and attacked.  Seems like an insect.  And big.”

“Figured that much,”   Edge observed as two more trees on the border of the campsite were snapped aside to reveal what could only be called a charging bug.

As the insect, larger than their rover, rushed towards the team, the Newbie cowered and everyone else held their ground.  Then, Knot stepped forward and held out his shotgun.  For a few seconds, his body took on an ethereal glow, then he released a shockwave of pale energy towards the charging monster.  The insect crashed into the wave headfirst and its body was bent to the side as it skidded to a stop.

As dirt, kicked up into the air, settled back to the earth, the Captain finally got a good look at the monster. It was huge, as he’d seen before and definitely an insect.  Or better said, quintessentially an insect.  It looked like an ant, except it was huge and its whole body was a creamy white color.  It’s thin, spindle legs stabbed into the earth as it swung its body to face its new threats.  Its sharp, hooked jaw bit at the air and its unreadable insectoid face looked unpleasantly alien.

As it spun around, It lunged towards Knot, closing it’s mandibles to pierce his abdomen.  Before it could, however, Edge, Champ, and Cauliflower all started firing.  The assault rifle bullets all bounced helplessly off of the inset’s thick carapace.  However, the sudden impacts were enough to shock the bug and it stopped its attack, edging slowly backwards.  The ant slowly swung its head around and flailed its thick antennae as it observed the situation.  It almost looked like it was actually intimidated by the ineffectual attacks.

“What is it?”  Champ asked, warily watching the monster warily watch him.  “I don’t think I’ve seen anything like it.”

“It’s a white ant,” Cauliflower answered helpfully.  “Like an ant, but white… also, huge.”

“Ants don’t come in white,” Edge observed critically.  “Either red or black.  And it’s new to me too.”

“Ants can be white if they want to be,” Cauliflower rebutted with a frown.

“Except they aren’t.”

“Looks like small arms aren’t going to be that useful,”  Knot cut in sternly.

“I could use my arte…” Lotus responded, her face showing clear reluctance

“No,” the Captain answered with a shake of his head.  What she’d done back on the mountain was already enough to consider it dangerous overuse.  It’d be best to let her rest for a while if they could afford it.  “We couldn’t fully restock our serum yet.  I’d rather save it if we can.”

“That means explosives,” Edge declared, not taking his eyes off the slowly shuffling bug.  “Newbie, go to the rover and get the yellow box from under my seat.”

“S-sure,” the newbie responded with a nod before stumbling to where the rover was parked at the back of their campsite.

“Walk, don’t run,” Champ cautioned the Newbie seriously.  “Otherwise you might attract its attention.”

As soon as Champ finished giving his warning, the ant swung its head towards the fleeing rookie and the Captain let out a deep sigh as it seemed to make a decision.  The insect’s whole body shook in anticipation.  Then it raised its head in the Newbie’s direction and, with a shrill hiss, let out a stream of pale green liquid.

As the spout sped towards the Newbie, he helplessly turned to face it, his expression turning shocked and confused.  Then, Cauliflower leapt out and grabbed the Newbie’s arm, jerking him backwards until they both fell into the dirt.  The unknown chemical stream shot passed where the Newbie’s torso had been and splashed onto one of their gathered tents.

The treated cloth and plastic began to sizzle and let off steam as they dissolved into nothing.  Seeing that, Champ let out a wordless moan that seemed to come from the depths of his soul and cried, “I was going to sleep in that later!”

Rounding on the insect, Champ grit his teeth and let out a retaliatory burst of bullets into the ant’s placid face.  Then, he was immediately forced to leap out of he way as another chemical jet started eating at the dirt where he’d been standing.

“Maybe next time you’ll learn to give your warnings a little earlier,” Lotus suggested, not wasting an ounce of sympathy.

“Just for that I’m made homeless?”  Champ demanded passionately.  “How’s that fair!?”

“If you’re losing a tent makes you homeless, then you were already homeless in the first place,” Cauliflower observed as she pushed herself back to her feet.

“If it’s full of acid, I don’t think we want to blow it up,” Edge declared as he let off a few bullets to grab the bug’s attention.  Then he took off running.  “We’ll have to do something else… maybe with its joints…”

The Captain moved forward and took a few shots of his own before sprinting off in a clockwise circuit around the ant.  At that point, it seemed too distracted even to attempt spitting at anyone now that it had three different fleeing targets to choose from.  Even as he tried to come up with the most efficient strategy to take the thing down, its attitude worried the Captain.  It was aggressive enough to chase the ranger through the woods as soon as it found him, but with just a little aggression in return, it became entirely passive.  Almost entirely passive.  It was like it was an infant.  A very impressively sized infant.

As the Captain and Edge both worried uselessly, Knot seemed to decide on something and stepped forward.  He let off a loud blast from his shotgun to grab the bug’s attention.  Then, when he didn’t move afterwards, the ant reoriented its whole body to face him.  Again its body spasmed as it prepared to release another acidic jet.

“What are you doing?!”  The Captain demanded even as he jumped backwards to not interfere with whatever Knot was planning.

Knot said nothing in response and everyone else made uncomfortable faces.  As they all backed away from the ant, their stares didn’t leave Knot, whose body began to take on a dull glow.  Then, when the ant spat out its sickly, green liquid, Knot raised his shotgun and released his arte again.  The acid struck the wave of light and lost all semblance of control.  Globules went flying to either side of the ant, forcing the team to retreat even further.  Small droplets even landed behind the wave of light, landing on Knot’s muscular arms and forcing him to wince as he refused to shift his attention.  Most of it, however, shot backwards, sticking on the ant’s face and antennae.  A sour smoke rose from the ant’s head as it shook wildly.   It gave off a blood curdling hiss as its exoskeleton slowly melted away, leaving a mass of yellow-orange flesh in its place.

Seeing the opening, Edge and Champ both raised their assault rifles and emptied half a magazine each into the bug’s brain.  When it finally stopped moving, the Captain turned away and decided to leave Knot’s burns and reprimanding to Cauliflower and the Newbie.  Instead, he moved to the small crowd that was beginning to form at fringe of their campsite.

Drawing near to the group, the Captain tried to give a business-like smile as the hawkish knight commander stepped forward and imperiously demanded, “Mind telling me why I wasn’t made aware of this development?”

 

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2 thoughts on “Lead Vs Fantasy 7-6

  1. Pingback: Lead Vs Fantasy 7-5 | Dakotah Sicking Web Novels

  2. Pingback: Lead vs Fantasy 7-7 | Dakotah Sicking Web Novels

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