Chapter 9 - Hunted

My worry didn't ease as we sped away from the corpses. In fact, the darkness was making me see things out of the corner of my eye. If Walsh found me stopping dead and staring into the forest amusing, he didn't mention it as we ran. I sensed he was as ill-at-ease as I was.

We didn't stop running until my laboured breath became evident, and Walsh suggested we went back to walking. It was more out of necessity than agreement that I slowed. The further I got from whatever was out hunting Entity, the better.

The forest was eerie by night. I had exchanged my torch for NV a short time ago, but it was still difficult to make much out. The oddest part was that there was no sound. I hadn't noticed it before, being preoccupied with my task, but as Walsh and I marched somewhat aimlessly, the silence began to close in around me.

It was broken by him hissing urgently through the intercom.

"Phoenix, 12 o'clock high."

I looked up, and something moved away rapidly into the night, until it was gone.

"What was-"

A loud, feral hissing sound came from my right. Before I could react, Walsh had pushed me roughly out of the way on opened fire on the night.

There was nothing there.

His energised cannon shells struck the ground some way off and exploded, illuminating a crouched dark figure which instantly disappeared.

This was getting seriously creepy. I could feel my heart pounding vigorously against my ribs, seemingly trying to escape.

"Walsh, do you have any flares?" I whispered through the intercom.

The big man shook his head, his eyes continually scanning the dark.

Then something shot between me and him, moving impossibly fast. I fired on it, narrowly missing Walsh. As fast as it appeared, it disappeared.

"I don't like this, Phoenix, I don't like this one bit."

I didn't respond. I didn't want to make any more noise than necessary.

"HELENA, are you sure there's nothing on the thermal scan?"

"Affirmative."

"Walsh, I think we better switch on all our suit lights. Whatever this thing is, it can see better in the dark than we can."

"Good thinking. On three. One... Two... Three!"

Suddenly everything was light again. Walsh looked like some kind of flaming god, with light coming from every part of him. As soon as our lights went on, dark, shadowy forms shot off in every direction, escaping the unnatural brightness. 

"Hey Phoenix, look at this."

I walked over to where he was seemingly examining a tree. There were large claw marks from ground level all the way up to the canopy. He indicated another tree a few feet away, where the same thing was present.

"I think there was more than one."

This evidence of their existance chilled me to the core. While I'd not been harmed, I was pretty sure that whatever made those marks was more than capable of clawing my armour apart.

"At least we know they can't stand the light." I said encouragingly. They had all seemed to flee when we'd lit up.

"So much for a stealthy approach then." Walsh shouldered his cannon and began walking off back into the forest. "I think these are what killed off them Entity soldiers."

It was a sound hypothesis.

"Well, I'm not about to let that happen to me."

It was much less creepy in the light. With both me and Walsh looking like second suns, it wouldn't take much for us to be spotted by Entity patrols, but I didn't think they'd venture out here at night.

"Walsh, d'you reckon the others'll be alright?" My thoughts strayed back to McAndrew and Avery. If they were alone at night, God knows whether they'd know to switch on their lights.

"Avery's fast, and lethal. And if there's anybody with a stronger will than McAndrew, I've not met him."

His answer seemed to satisfy him, so I asked no further, even though I wasn't quite so confident.

The End

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