Miscellany

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Previous: 12: Freedom

13
Whistle

This story may be part of a much larger universe, we’ll just have to wait and see. 😉


Chance was working on flow calculations when he heard the whistle. He stood up, frowning at the office door, then circled around his desk to open it. There were three spiders there, each about the size of a dinner plate with thick, black legs. “What made you guys walk all the way over here?”

Whee click sheeep.

“Shit, let me get my vest.” He grabbed what looked like a long drover coat without sleeves from a peg by the door, shrugging into it and then putting on his yellow hard hat and grabbing his rifle before stepping out and locking the office behind him. “Climb on, guys, let’s go.”

Weesh clickclick hee. The spiders jumped onto the back of the coat, clinging to the tough fabric, and once he was sure they were secure Chance started making tracks for the inlet. The water station’s big inlet pipes usually didn’t see more debris coming through than the spiders could handle, but today was apparently one of the rare exceptions to that. A log, maybe? He hoped it wasn’t someone in a boat. People usually didn’t try to come in that way, but you could never tell when someone was going to get stupid and take a dare. The spiders whistled and tweeted softly from his back. Big, it was something big. Alive. Too big. Scared. Shit, he hoped it wasn’t something nasty. The head office hadn’t gotten his ammo refilled yet, the bullet currently in the rifle was all he had until they got off their asses. Chance pounded down the concrete ramps, instinctively categorizing the flow going by on the other side of the steel-pipe railing. A little lower than usual because of the hot summer weather they were having, but still deep enough. The current started to look not quite right as he got closer to the inlets, though…and then he came down the last ramp and saw why. His hand clenched around the rifle. One bullet wasn’t going to be enough.

The creature sloshing around near the inlet pipes hadn’t seen him yet. It was part alligator, or maybe crocodile, not like Chance could tell the difference. It looked like it had four legs down in the water, and it was using two almost human-looking arms to pull web off one of the smaller pipes while two more arms sort of waved around in frustration. Chance could see the web on the largest inlet pipe hanging down in tatters, some of it sticking vainly to the thing’s scaly greenish-black hide. Web that could catch and hold most things, even a human being, but this big mutated bastard had probably gone through it like it was tissue paper. One of the spiders pulled itself up to hook its two front legs over his shoulder. It pointed, then made a very soft hissing noise in his ear. Chance nodded, hissing back, then started backing up the ramp. He didn’t dare take his eyes off the gator-thing, not with arms that might be able to let it climb over the rail, not with one tiny little bullet that probably wouldn’t even pierce the thing’s hide. He was just going to have to hit the alarm and hope the steel-trap doors could hold it for a while.

His hand was six inches from the alarm when the thing saw him. It roared, jumping for the rail, and the spiders whistled in panic. Chance slapped the button, then turned and ran like hell. Over the sound of the alarm he could hear the low, dull thud of the doors slamming shut, cutting off the inlet pipes and the water channel. But he could also hear the metallic scream of steel pipe being torn out of the concrete ramp. The door to seal off the ramp was ahead of him, he plunged through it and hit the second button, which slammed down a steel door three inches thick into a groove that appeared in the floor to receive it. There was a very tiny window in this door, reinforced the way the windows on deep-sea submersibles were reinforced, and Chance watched the ramp. When he saw a disturbingly five-fingered hand claw at the concrete wall he turned and walked briskly back to his office. His phone was already ringing, and he picked it up. “A huge alligator-thing with four human-looking arms, that’s why,” he told the person on the other end who was demanding to know why the alarm had been set off. “No…no, it jumped for the rail when it saw me, I heard the rail give way, and then the damned thing was trotting right up the ramp. No, that door isn’t going to hold it for long…of course it didn’t, this thing is the size of two cows glued together. No, I think you should call the boys and girls with the big guns, Tony – it was tearing web off the smaller inlet pipes, I doubt that was just because it didn’t find it aesthetically pleasing…no, you know I’m not. The spiders ran all the way up to my office, Tony. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m booking it out of here before that thing decides to come see what I’m doing. Yes, probably. No, not if that thing has babies or something – have you forgotten the waterbug incident they had out in ‘Frisco? Because I wish I could. Yes…yes, I’m just going to drive out to a safe distance and then sit and watch until somebody with ammo shows up…no, they still haven’t, I had one bullet in the regular rifle and that was it. Yes, exactly. I’ll message you once I’m clear. Thanks, hopefully I won’t need it.” He hung up, ignoring the ringing that started up again – that one was probably the mayor’s office, Tony could deal with them. He was out of here.

Click weeep. Clickclickclick.

“Yes, of course you’re coming. Come on, you can hide in the back seat of the car just like last time.”

Technically, the spiders weren’t supposed to leave the facility. They were horrifically expensive, and most people were afraid of spiders so the risk of them being injured or killed was high. Unfortunately, the risk of them being killed if he left them behind was even higher, just like last time, so into the back seat they’d go. Chance had never been bothered by arachnophobia, not even a little bit. The only reason he used the spider vest was so their claws wouldn’t tear up his uniform.

He could hear the mutated thing beating against the steel door, and he could feel the building starting to tremble with each thud. Another brisk walk brought him to the parking area, and a quick visual check showed him that nothing else seemed to be moving. Just in case, he picked up a rock from a bucket sitting by the door and tossed it onto the sandy soil. Nothing. Before he could head down the stairs, though, the spiders flowed off his vest and ran down on their own. The wily sand snake didn’t last very long, and one of them quickly wrapped it up and stuck it under the stairs. “Thanks, guys.”

WheEEt weesh.

Chance smiled and opened up the car door, letting the hot air flow out and the spiders flow in, then he got in and started her up, backing out and driving away from the building at a reasonable speed. All of the building’s doors were steel, and the minute the outer-door sensor had registered him leaving every single security door had slammed shut. Mr. Handy Gator wasn’t going to be getting out any time soon.

Hopefully not at all, but Chance wasn’t taking any bets on that.

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