The mirror shard sliced deep into the tentacle and the Cancer shuddered, spasmodically tightening its grip. My vision disappeared down a tunnel. With my last burst of strength, I forced the sharp edge through all the way. The creature bellowed as I dropped heavily to the ground, gasping for air. The first amazing breath of cold air shocked my starved lungs and propelled me into action. I scrambled to my feet as more tentacles descended from the its amorphous mass.
I glanced around desperately for the nearest exit from this nightmare and saw something much better instead—an abandoned rifle dropped by one of those soldiers! I dove for it. Warm joy blossomed within me as my hands closed around the sticky weapon.
No more Mr. Nice Snippy! No more running from disgusting monsters! No more hiding from walking traffic lights! No more getting harassed by screaming wraiths! I was going to go full murdermachine, and it was going to feel so good! I checked the safety and turned as the first tentacles snagged my shoulders. I let out a terrified yelp and my finger clamped down on the trigger. The gun slammed back into my shoulder, its irate chatter filling the air. How I’d missed that shoulder ache!
The Cancer convulsed as its tentacles burst into a clotted red spray, its motions rendered jerky and disconnected in the light of the muzzle flashes.
I kept shooting until it stopped moving and then waited, keeping the gun aimed and ready. These things never died so easily. Through my mask I smelled hot metal and the cloying reek of blood. My ears were ringing. A flicker of smoke fluttered up from the end of the barrel into the chilly air. The splattered mass of Cancer’s body quivered.
The beast convulsed and gurgled, and then humanoid figures started to emerge from its bulk. It’s like a reverse tumor, I thought. I braced to attack.
“yOuR AsINinE pRoJECTilE WeAPon LaCks EfFicaCY oR eVeN sTYlE,” rasped Cancer’s human puppet, facing me.
“We’ll see about that,” I said. “Get ready for a lot more from where that came from. I mean, a lot more. These guns pull nitrogen from the air and freeze it into bullets. ANNET may have destroyed human civilization, but she designed some really cool guns. Which I’m prepared to use to fill you with infinite bullets!” I wasn't sure if the bullets were actually infinite, but it was always a good idea to sound more impressive and dangerous when dealing with monsters.
“a POiNtLesS EnDeAvOR, I aSsuRE yOu.” the creature retorted. “Be ReaASOnABlE, ChARlEs SnIPpY. wE hAvE MucH To OFfER YoU. THiS dEaL iS TO yOuR AdVAnTaGE.”
If it was talking, it wasn’t actively trying to eat me. I decided to hear it out. Maybe I’d get a deus-ex-Captain. Zee always seemed to pick strange moments to show up.
“Oh, yeah?” I asked. “If I accept your… deal… what’s in it for me?”
“WeLl, uH…” Cancer started, hesitant. It didn’t seem to have expected to get this far. “HoW aBoUT BeINg BeSt FRIenDS fOrEvER?” I shook my head, trying to act more nonchalant than a person drenched in other peoples’ blood should be.
“Nah. My current friends are a handful already,” I told it honestly. It’s Captain’s fault I’m even in this mess! I silently added.
“WiTh My AsSIstANCE, wE CaN AtTAIn tHe MosT dElICioUS BaGEl In tHe UnIVerSE,” it offered. I had to admit, that did sound a little better.
Food is always great, even if ‘the most delicious bagel in the universe’ seemed like a little too much to hope for.
“What else have you got?” I asked. “I’m not that into bagels.”
The creature hummed thoughtfully and stroked its chin in a creepy echo of the humans it had recently consumed.
“hOw AbOUt a HiGHlY ComPeTItiVE hEaLTh pLAn?” It offered. “110 pErCeNT prOTeCtIOn aGaINsT MoLd.” Well, that was a nice thought. My current health plan consisted of praying that I wouldn’t step on anything sharp and rusty.
“I don’t have a mold problem,” I eventually said to avoid sounding too interested. It was just lying so that it could eat me anyways. “And I resent you for implying that I do!”
“HoW aBoUT a ReSToRaTIVe vAcAtIOn tO A GenETiC mEmoRY Of YoUR ChoICE?”
“That sounds really cool, but also really fake.”
“It iS NoT!”
“Is so!” I said. This was getting boring, and it didn’t look like Captain was going to show up and inject some much-needed chaos into the situation.
“CEaSE To WasTE OuR TiMe,” Cancer demanded. “I Am YoUR FuTuRE. I aM YOUR DeStInY. wE ShaLL InTeGraTE NO mAttEr wHat YoU wAnT.”
“Remember what happened last time you started talking about my destiny and crap?” I asked. “You’re, like, five seconds away from infinite bullets.”
“YoU cAnNot HaRM tHe BiOmATrix.”
I watched how the exposed tissue of its face moved as it talked.
“Wow,” I said. “I heard once that it more muscles to frown than to smile. Looks like they were right about that.”
More human figures formed in my peripheral vision and started to edge towards me. Their fleshy bodies steamed faintly in the cold air.
“FiNAL OpPoRtUnITy foR a PAiNlEsS iNtEgrATion,” Cancer warned me.
I tried to give a hearty, manly laugh. It came out as more of a high-pitched giggle.
“Let’s be real,” I said, adjusting my aim slightly, “none of this is going to be painless.”