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A KinetoFayetophobia

Thats all there was to it. The solar No time to lose, Anastasia did the
system was going to hell in a hand- one thing she could. She grabbed the
basket. biggest locker she could find, way to-
wards the back, and dove into it. For-
Its funny the thoughts that oc- tunately, she could lock the door by
curred when being chased by dozens putting her hand through one of the
of tentacles that kept bursting out of holes. She didnt figure the thing was
the walls and floor, one by one. Each smart enough to work a digital lock.
lashed out at Anastasia, trying to
gain purchase on some part of her Her Bandit pistol wasnt going to
body to do only god-knows-what. do much when the time came, but
it was all she had. The thing had al-
The wriggling, sour-smelling, slimy, ready claimed her Blizzard subma-
1 boneless limbs brought out a primal chine gun back outside. She looked
fear in her, the kind that makes the frantically around the container for
back of your legs go numb and your anything that might help, but there
knees go rubbery. The kind Anasta- was nothing. Then, she froze.
sia had to choke back with every last
shred of her will if she wanted to live The first slender tentacle gently
through this madness. wormed its way through one of the
holes, about hip height. It probed
Right, left, right it didnt matter its way through, cautiously but de-
anymore. In her panic, shed totally liberately. The second wasnt far
forgotten the layout of this tragic behind, this one much thicker than
little building stuck deep in the Mar- the first. It could barely push its way
tian outback. She hoped desperately through, but barely was enough. The
to find another door out, so that the fear gripped Anastasia again, much
thing might get caught up in the build- worse this time. She grabbed hold of
ing long enough for her to get clear. a cargo strap, just to help keep her
from collapsing.
Charging through the only door
she could see, her only way forward, More tentacles followed, backlit by
it was marked storage. Looking the lights of the storage room which
around, this was probably the last poured through the holes. She hoped
door she wanted. There was no oth- they werent going to notice her
er way out. The room was filled only hoped against all hope but she
with storage lockers, but that wasnt knew better. In a few seconds the
the worst of it. The doors to the lock- probing monstrosities would zero in
ers werent solid they had holes in on her and rip her limb from limb. If
them. she was lucky.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


2

One of the larger tentacles inched the other side, closer every moment.
its way towards her. The tip touched The command came from her brain
her uniform and slowly slithered its to fire the gun, but something short-
way up. If terror hadnt already para- circuited the thought en route.
lyzed her, the smell would have made
Anastasia vomit. Another came from This was a hell of a way to die.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


Suddenly, the storage room ex- the bright lights of the casinos. Its
ploded with a bright orange light and mayhem felt like home.
she could smell burning flesh. The
tentacles spasmed and began to Coming back from the restroom,
yank their way out of the locker. The she practically melted into the chair.
room lit up again, but this time some Finally, she said. A hot meal in a
of the flames shot through the holes civilized place.
in the locker, singeing Anastasias
eyebrows and bangs. The last of the Marcus looked carefully around
tentacles slithered out and she was the room, taking in each person in
thankfully alone. turn, which was something he did ev-
erywhere he went. I ordered for you
Anastasia kicked the hot metal while you were gone.
door as hard as she could. Her com-
bat boot took the worst of it, but the Thanks, she replied. I didnt want
door shot open. The wriggling things to wait. Ive missed Asian food so
were withdrawing into the ground as much. What did you order?
3 a figure shot another burst of fiery
death at them. It took a minute for Marcus smiled. Its a surprise.
Anastasia to overcome her shock to
figure out who it was. So Ive been correlating the data
and this isnt good. Felius had his
It was Felius, who looked downright nose in his computer again.
funny a bookworm with a flame-
thrower. What the hell. It wasnt the Anastasia took a sip of her water.
weirdest thing that shed seen today. It was nice, properly recycled water.
He just sat there, grinning like an When is it ever good?
idiot.
The reports show that bodies
No time to waste, Anastasia kicked have been going missing from the
her legs to get the numb out of them. morgues with regularity. Theres al-
most a pattern to the body-snatch-
Look what I found, said Felius. ing. It appears that two cadavers,
more or less, are stolen from differ-
Anastasia pointed at the hole in the ent parts of the colony every week
ground. Look what found us. Lets and have been for a little less than
get back to the rover so we can call in three months now.
an airstrike. Im not taking any more
chances. Marcus frowned, his eyes on other
things. Necrophiliacs wouldnt need
bodies with that kind of frequency.
That leaves cults and
It was good to be back on Gany-
mede. She was born in Troy, under Ghouls, finished Anastasia.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


Just then, the food arrived. Felius inside job or that the perpetrators
had ordered what many had come were using the access tunnels in the
to call white people chicken, while city to get around. Either way, Anas-
Marcus tastes tended more to- tasia and her team still didnt know
wards the exotic Echizen jellyfish, what they were up against.
which can be toxic if not prepared
properly. Which is something Anas- While Marcus positioned the lo-
tasia had forgotten when she asked cal authorities to keep surveillance
him to order for her. on any of the two dozen people who
might possibly be insiders, Anastasia
There it was san nak ji. A live oc- was stuck with the fun job of crawling
topus on a bed of vegetables. Anas- through the access tunnels. Fortu-
tasia knocked the chair over jumping nately, Felius was sitting at a remote
out of it and away from her dish. terminal with the city plans at his fin-
gertips.
Take it away! she shouted at the
waiter, who promptly fell all over him- At the next intersection, turn left,
self to remove the offending delicacy. he said. 4
He bowed and disappeared.
Whoever built Troy at least had the
Anastasia composed herself and sense to make it easy to get around,
sat back down. Marcus looked at her, even for the maintenance staff. The
shocked. Whats wrong with you? hidden corridors were big enough
for a person with gear to stand up
Kinetofayetophobia. in as well as being big enough to
transport dead bodies through. They
Even Felius was stumped. Kineto- also had softly glowing lights through-
fayetophobia? What the hell is that? out the tunnels. They may not have
illuminated everything, but they were
Fear of moving food. Its the clos- enough to get around.
est phobia that translates to tenta-
cles. Remember the thing on Mars? Anastasia reached the intersec-
tion and turned left, only to be greet-
Marcus picked up a chunk of jelly- ed by darkness. Is there any reason
fish with his chopsticks. Theyve got the lights should be out in this part of
phobias for everything, dont they? the grid?

Everybodys scared of something. Hold, please, She could hear Fe-


lius typing. Okay, I dont see any com-
plaints or repair requests. Accord-
ing to the system, no one knows the
The locals had already tried setting lights are out. The other utilities are
a trap, but had no luck. That meant working just fine. Is the rest of the
the body-snatchings were either an electricity on?

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


Im not going to lick my fingers to sickly sweet smell of rotting flesh. The
find out, but I can hear the lines hum- green light of her glow-stick slowly re-
ming. Can you turn them back on? vealed something she did not want to
see. Oh no.
More typing. Huh. Looks like some-
one has taken that system complete- What? What is it? She could
ly off-line. hear Felius pulling out his sidearm.

Anastasia pulled out her pistol and Though she covered her mouth,
snapped a glow-stick to life. The cor- Anastasia said, Dont go anywhere.
ridor ahead glowed a sickly green, a Stay put.
color that always reminded her of ei-
ther Halloween or radioactive waste. This room was much larger than it
Neither was particularly comforting first appeared. Whoever had stolen
right now. Well, if someones taken it the corpses had brought them here.
off-line, then someones up to some- Over a dozen dead bodies in various
thing. Call Marcus and let him know states of decay were arranged in an
5 what weve found. But Felius, dont go almost reverent fashion. Some were
anywhere. hung on the walls in carefully con-
sidered poses. Some were placed
Fortunately, she knew from expe- in compromising positions that sug-
rience that Felius had no problem gested things that made Anastasia
multi-tasking. sick.

Stepping further in, she eventu-


ally found something that made it all
Wait. This isnt on my schemat- clear, or at least as clear as it was
ics. going to become. There, on the oppo-
site wall, was an altar, made of bone
Those were not the words Anasta- and other unidentifiable things.
sia wanted to hear. Then where am
I? She thought she smelled some- Felius, Anastasia finally spat out
thing funky. after a couple tries. Its not ghouls.
Im sending you images of the altar.
Felius stammered. Uh uh you
youre off the grid. I dont know why Oh no, she heard him respond.
there would be tunnels that arent on We need to get the locals mobilized.
the schematics. These are supposed
to be the map for the entire city. I got Ill stay here, just in case whatever
them from the city mainframe! sick bastards did this come back.

Anastasia stepped into what looked From behind her, Anastasia heard
like a spacious junction room, but a voice that made her skin crawl.
paused when the smell hit her the Too late. Were here.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


She whipped around
in one practiced mo-
tion and squeezed the
trigger, aimed right in
the face of the portly,
sweaty man licking
the curved blade.
The gun didnt fire.
She pulled the trig-
ger three more times.
Nothing.

The man snarled.


Must be magic.

Without missing
a beat, Anastasia
jabbed a knife hand 6
into his trachea. The
man stumbled back-
wards into another,
choking violently.

She didnt need a


firearm to make sure
these low-lifes paid for
their crimes. This was
careful when opening the overhead
not Anastasias first barbecue.
compartments as things may have
shifted during flight. Thank you for fly-

ing Warden airlines. Welcome to the
Eye.
There was a satisfying thunk as
the Knights Errant corvette formed
Powering everything down, Anasta-
hard seal with the dock. Welcome
sia zipped up her suit and headed for
to Warden Prime, also known as the
the airlock. Marcus and Felius were
Eye. The gigantic space station hov-
already waiting for her.
ered over Earth and was the primary
center of Warden operations for the
Man, is it good to be back in civili-
entire solar system.
zation! said Marcus, smiling. If the
Captains feeling generous, maybe
Anastasia cued the comm. La-
we can get a vacation day to go plan-
dies and gentlemen, please stay
etside. Its the perfect time of the
seated until the captain has turned
year for the beaches in Ibiza.
off the fasten seatbelt sign. Also, be

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


Hanging out and getting burned by Absolutely not, sir, replied Mar-
the sun while having smelly salt water cus.
sprayed on you sounds like a blast,
added a particularly sarcastic Anas- Calado turned and assessed his
tasia. Im sure the Captain will see underlings. The report got here
that as an important use of our time. weeks ago, so we can skip most of
the BS. Any new thoughts?
I dont even know how you call
yourself human. What do you think, Always, sir, began Felius. We put
Felius? our heads together on the trip and
came up with several hypothesis.
As usual, it took Felius a few min- However, given the facts, it seems
utes to realize someone was talking like it was Primoris Nox. Not many
to him. Im sorry. What? other cults would be that organized
and want to play with that many dead
Figures, replied Marcus. bodies.
7
And with that, they walked out of The Captain poured himself a glass
the docking area and into the busy of water, but didnt bother to sit
halls of the most notorious space down. Cults, huh? Monsters I get. I
station in the solar system. like monsters. Theyre ugly and nasty
and you know you should shoot them.
Cults are full of people and people are
devious. Theyre hard to root out. Too
Captain Calado was waiting for bad we cant just hook everyone up
them in a debriefing room. The heav- to a lie detector and flush them out.
ily scarred man stood staring out the
window at the Earth below. He was We believe we broke the back of
the kind of man that made people that particular cell. The morgues on
wonder whether or not he was boil- Troy should be safe again. Until the
ing with anger on the inside. The next time, said Anastasia.
patchwork color of his hair, which
couldnt decide if it was black or gray, Well, the locals will be keeping an
didnt help. eye on things in the meantime. On to
new things for you. So, which do you
Marcus made a happy sound as he want first the good news or the bad
grabbed a seat at the conference ta- news?
ble. As the only one of the three that
was from Earth, it made him nostal- Anastasia almost laughed. Lets
gic homesick even. hear the bad news first.

I never tire of the sight. Do you, Calado turned to look back out
Agent St. Croix? over the beautiful blue planet. I know

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


I promised you a rotation on the inner ideal for colonization. The surface is
planets, but somethings come up. I covered with giant impact craters.
need you to go right back out again. Ursa, the only colony on the planet,
has been constructed in one of
Anastasia saw Marcus twitch. them.
Too much time on the outer planets
made him unhappy. She never really Ana, this is your neck of the woods.
understood why. What do we need to know? asked
Marcus.
Somethings up on Callisto, con-
tinued Captain Calado. Local scien- The moon loomed larger every
tists thought they read something minute and they were about to break
strange in the atmosphere. They atmosphere though the thin layer
thought the epicenter was in one of of carbon dioxide and molecular oxy-
the impact craters. Naturally, they gen didnt really mean anything in
went out to see what they could find terms of entry. Anastasia kept her
and never came back. The readings hands on the controls. Its a bed-
look real. The data has already been room community mostly. People do 8
uploaded to your ship. tours elsewhere in Jupiter space
and then come back to homes here.
Marcus put down his glass. Sir, Its quiet. If you dont live there, there
why us? I mean, isnt there someone isnt much of a reason to go there.
closer?
The former cop in Marcus started
Believe it or not, Agent St. Croix, to show through. Okay, so Im as-
this is a busy agency. We dont al- suming that means low crime. Any
ways have the luxury of sending who racial tensions to worry about?
is closest. Youre between cases and
Agent Kiss is Jovian. Any other ques- No. Callisto has about eighty thou-
tions? sand residents who do whatever they
need to keep Ursa a nice place to live.
What about the good news? Most of the crime is drug smuggling,
asked Anastasia. domestic disputes, or minor property
crime, with the occasional drunken
Calado snorted. Since when has assault. Honestly, its some of the
there been good news? biggest bang for your buck property-
wise anywhere in the outer planets.

Thanks, replied Marcus. Ill re-
As they approached the Jovian member that for when I retire.
moon, Felius read statistics off his
comp, like he always did. Callisto is Get yourself geared up, smart
the outermost of the Galilean Moons, alec. The locals dont like disturbanc-
with low enough radiation to make it es and theyll view us as exactly that.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


Youll have to do some fancy talking pattern baldness, if such a thing
to keep them happy. hadnt been cured. He approached
and held out his hand. Welcome. I
Oblivious to the rest of the con- am Lieutenant Ismo Jarvi, Head of
versation, Felius chimed in. Wow. Ursa Security. Governor Amarnath
Theres a subsurface ocean more asked me to greet you.
than 100 km down. Is anyone re-
searching that? Could that have any- Marcus stepped up to shake his
thing to do with these readings? hand, smiling disarmingly. Pleasure.
Im Agent Marcus St. Croix. This is
Anastasia brought the Knights Er- Agent Felius Fickerwith and Agent
rant into Callistos airspace, slowly Anastasia Kiss.
descending over the frost-capped
peaks surrounding the massive cra- Jarvi turned and ran his eyes up
ters. Theres a small outpost thats and down Anastasia. Kiss? Is that
been digging and taking samples, but intentional?
it is really radioactive down there.
9 Im no scientist, but it seems like it Though she wanted to immediately
wouldnt have anything to do with bathe herself, Anastasia knew that
what were looking at. you catch more flies with honey than
vinegar. So, she gave him one of her
Up ahead, she could see the giant best smiles, the kind that typically
dome of Ursa. She cued her comm. got men to do what she wanted. It
Ursa Spaceport, this is Warden ves- should be, but its actually Hungar-
sel Edge of Dawn requesting docking ian.
clearance.
Jarvi looked pleased, so Marcus
Edge of Dawn, you are cleared for took the opportunity. So, Lt. Jarvi.
docking on pad five. Welcome to Cal- We have no intention of making your
listo. life difficult. Well make our way to the
site and get out of here as soon as
we can.

They hadnt even gotten out of Jarvi tore his eyes away from An-
the docks before Ursa Security met astasia long enough to relax. That
them. Just to make a point, there is wonderful news. Wed like to mini-
were five of them. Another warm mize your exposure to the population.
Warden welcome. Our citizens prefer a quiet life, one
unhampered by the kind of concerns
The one that was clearly in charge Council agents like yourself most of-
led the pack. He had a round face ten represent. Weve prepared the
and the kind of eyes that lied. In the gear youll need on our end, so gath-
past, he looked like the kind of guy er up the rest of what youll need and
who would have suffered from male well escort you there.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


There wasnt
much choice, so
the three Wardens
went back into their
Knights Errant
and headed to the
armory. Marcus
snorted. For once,
I wish these colo-
nies werent so wor-
ried about whatever
crap theyre worried
about and start wor-
rying about whats
really going on. They
do have bigger prob-
lems. 10
That would make
our job easier. Ex-
cept that its also
our job to make
sure they dont know
whats going on, re-
sponded Felius.


Anastasia was the first to the rim
and what she saw there made her
The place in question was several
gasp. This only served to make the
hours journey from the colony. The
other two scramble to join her as
rover took them as far up the side of
quickly as possible. What they saw
the crater as possible, and it was on
was not lost on them either.
foot from there. The extremely low
gravity of Callisto made it both hard-
It didnt take a genius to recognize
er and easier for them to get up the
that something very strange was
slope. They each wore heavy weights
happening. A thick, swirling mist filled
on their ankles to maintain some
the crater about halfway to the top.
traction, and grapple guns and ropes
They could see the shadows of some-
allowed them to reach the lip of the
thing growing up out of the ground
crater with only some small fuss. For-
maybe stalagmites or even trees?
tunately, it was the middle of the day
Either would be way out of place. Even
or the whole thing would have been
worse, there were sounds. Noth-
nearly impossible.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


ing lived on the surface of Callisto, Marcus wasnt far behind. What
so there should be no sounds other kind of atmosphere? Can we breathe
than the ones they were making. it?
Something also seemed to be glow-
ing down there. Felius held his hand up and closed
his eyes, the way he did when he was
They stood in awed silence for a asked too many questions at once
moment. Finally, Anastasia was the not something that happened infre-
first one to speak. Were going to quently. One answer at a time. How
have to go down in there, arent we? is this possible? I dont know and it
will take a lot more research to get
Without waiting for an answer, she even close to an educated guess.
took her first steps down towards What kind of atmosphere? The kind
the bottom of the crater. that can support life, just not ours.
Open your helmet now and youll as-
phyxiate. He paused, thoughtfully.
Better than explosive decompres-
11 It felt a little like diving underwater. sion, I suppose.
Going under the mist layer was more
than any of them could have expect- Great. Lets review. Life and an at-
ed. mosphere. Marcus was getting agi-
tated, as he did when trouble loomed.
Felius stepped up to the gray trunk- Dont we have enough to leave and
like thing before him. It had delicate call in a better equipped team?
tendrils splayed out from the nearly
eight-foot top. Felius answered his question by
ignoring him and walking deeper into
Dont touch it! cautioned Marcus. the crater.

Felius turned and frowned. Do He walked about another ten feet


I look new? He took out a scanner and stopped. The others joined him,
and nudged the thing. The tendrils quickly discovering what had grabbed
swayed as if caught in a breeze. Felius attention. That plant was only
Whatever it is, its alive. Wait, that the first. They were entering what ap-
could mean peared to be a forest. An alien and
foreboding forest, but a forest none-
Anastasia and Marcus stood theless.
back while Felius did something that
looked very technical. He then waited Should we be taking samples or
patiently, until his comp beeped. The something? inquired Anastasia.
mist layer is actually an atmosphere.
Felius shook his head. Im not
What? How is that even possi- touching anything until were on our
ble? asked Anastasia. way out.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)


Anastasia lifted one of her feet and Meanwhile, Anastasia walked over
noticed something shed missed in to investigate the speckled growth.
her shock. Things felt heavier. Uhh, Again, it felt like she should be un-
guys? Why does it feel like I dont derwater someplace like Europa to
need the leg weights anymore? be seeing things like this. However,
something caught her eye behind the
The other two finally noticed as fronds several somethings, in fact.
well. Felius took off his weights and Gently nudging the plants aside with
tried to walk. It wasnt bad. The gravi- her assault rifle, she saw a patch of
ty is definitely higher in here. Id guess football-like objects, set upright in the
about half a G. And before you ask, I ground. Each was white and rough,
have no idea how that can happen. with an almost vein-like texture.

Anastasia and Marcus followed Tell me these dont look like eggs,
suit and shed their weights. The in- she said.
creased gravity made it much easier
to press forward. Felius was up like a shot. Oh no. Of
all 12
There appeared to be many small-
er plants, if one could call them that, Before he could finish his sentence,
growing amongst the bigger ones. It something large charged through
was as if what they were seeing were the alien forest near them. Anas-
only the first shades of much larger tasia took a defensive stance and
things to come. looked every which way, trying to find
the thing that was most likely mom.
Not much further in, they came The others drew their firearms, too,
to what appeared to be a stream, preparing for what they knew was
though the liquid flowing down it the inevitable.
seemed to have a silvery sheen on
its surface. There was some kind of From out of the mist, something
thick growth near the bank of this wriggled. Several meaty, green ten-
stream, with blue and pink speckled tacles, tipped with black talons, mov-
fronds, perhaps a little like ferns. ing with sinister purpose. Anastasia
However, the texture was wrong could feel the chill creeping up the
more leathery. back of her legs.

Felius was the first to the stream. Not this again, was all she said
He knelt carefully down near the before opening up with her assault
edge, sticking some kind of device rifle, its blaze lighting up the alien for-
into it. The surface tension of the est with flash after flash.
liquid was much greater than that
of water and he had to push a little Yup. The solar system was going to
harder than normal. hell in a hand-basket.

Keith Hooper (order #10649407)

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