Eventually he arrived at the park and stored his car in one of many open stalls in a vacant lot. He exited the car and immediately disengaged the disguise and returned comfortably to his own natural form, his antennae twitching alertly. He opened the cargo hold door and took out various devices and inserted them into his belt. He then opened the door to his vehicle and reached into the back seat and brought out a larger device with a long, thin barrel about four feet in length. It was built out of a substance that resembled wood with a smooth finish; it had little grooves and hooks on a box-like part where the barrel jutted out from, designed for his tibiae and tarsi to take hold and operate. He slung this so its strap rested against his neck, just below his head, and the device settled upon his prothorax as he bent it forward about fifteen degrees, it protruded out to either side of his body a good length. He stood a moment facing the wood in the direction of the den, crossed his large upper legs and bowed his head to draw strength and to focus. His senses were acute and he could feel the dark spot. Devoid of light and warmth, it sucked at its surroundings and drew in the energy of the neighboring life, whether it be animal or plant. He pictured its vile form of moist rounded walls built from Riachen fluid secretions that had solidified and became shelter, as it sat under the covering branches of surrounding woodland trees. His mind journeyed within the moist rounded walled den, to the thick syrupy fluid center where the Riachen mother bathed and fed. He saw her clearly in his minds eye and he imagined her pain and saw her screams bubble through the syrupy goo, screams that he would draw from her as he took her life.
He raised his head and the four legs attached at his metathorax moved back and forth along the ground as he scuttled through the bush under the trees. The nearer he got, the darker the wood became and where there were the myriad sounds of birds and animals earlier, silence deepened as the surroundings became bereft of life. The flora sagged and faded in color, browning and decaying the closer he got to the den. Then it was before him, mere yards away, slick and glassy translucent walls made from the fluids of Riachen workers. It was not a large structure, merely twenty or so feet wide, about ten or so feet high, mostly built underground. The Riachen were a burrowing horde, the rains keeping the ground soft and easily minable. The prey that had hung from the trees earlier had been plucked, most likely for the immediate suscitation of the Mother. Pausing here, his antennae alert to the number of Riachen directly within their structure, he began to prepare himself for the first assault. This was always a physic one, designed to cause despair and hamper motivation and focus. He was not prepared before and they were able to crush his will enough to cause him to retreat. Part of the reason they were able to do so was the revelation that a Riachen Mother was present. This unhinged his nerve, he had not prepared for her and confrontation would have resulted in his demise. Now he was ready and he concentrated, building up mental barriers that would shield him from their physic attack. With the larger legs of his prothorax he drew two pistols from his belt; his smaller legs each drew a different device. With long slow strides from the legs of his metathorax, two at a time on each side, he walked into the opening of the den.
Agent E.I.S. relayed information back to Steven’s metallic book and he shared, “Well boys it looks as though the end’s in sight. Seems that E.I.S has registered an opening in the tunnel about eighty or so feet ahead. He is also registering movement in front of the opening, although it is very vague at the moment.”
“Oh, finally!” exclaimed a weary Ron. “Now let’s hope it’s news worthy.” He looked around to make sure Elizabeth wasn’t present or coming down the stairs.
Jim noticed and leaned in close to him. “I’m going to go get her now, so you might want to watch your insensitive career minded notions from here on out.” He patted him on the back, turned and jaunted up the stairs. He had great news and he couldn’t wait to see the excitement on Elizabeth’s face when he told her. He opened the door to her room and was surprised to find her sitting on the side of the bed, wide awake and starring into middle distance. She did not look up as he entered and made his way to her side. He sat down next to her putting his arm around her shoulder. “You alright baby?”
She turned into him, drawing his warmth in closer, “I was just thinking. The possibilities of what we might find are running through my head. I couldn’t really sleep, I’m so afraid that we won’t find her well.”
“I’m sorry.” He drew her in tighter. “You have to prepare for that possibility. We just don’t know what we are going to find at the end of the tunnel. It might not even be human. Keep hopeful baby, but you have to prepare for the worst.”
She sat up, pulling herself away from his embrace but putting a hand upon his chest. “Why? Why do I have to prepare for the death of my little girl? She’s alive, Jim. I know she is.”
“Look, no one is saying she isn’t, but the circumstances lead us to conclude the worst. You just need to prepare yourself emotionally for what could potentially be devastating.”
“Well I’m not going to, because that works against the positive energy of my belief. I won’t allow that to seep in, ever.”
“OK, ok. Listen, the E.I.S. is close to an exit in the tunnel, and there is movement. We should go down there.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened and she stood up briskly. “Let’s go!” She pulled Jim up by his arms and they quickly left the bedroom and headed down the hall to the basement door. They were half way down the basement stairs by the time Steven and Ron noticed, so enthralled were they by whatever was on the metallic book’s screen. Steven rushed up to them while Ron blocked the screen. “Look, I don’t think you guys want to see this. And I’m thinking that we should have had the authorities here. It’s just awful.”
Elizabeth pushed at his chest; Jim had her by the shoulders. “What?!” she said with some alarm. “I don’t care what it is, I have to know!” She tried to push past Steven, but Jim held her tightly and her upper body was pulled back as a leg kicked out. “Let go of me Jim! You can’t keep me from the truth. I need to know!” Jim released her as she pushed up against him again; she stumbled down the stairs in haste and crossed the dusty floor to where Ron stood blocking the screen with arms crossed. She forcibly moved him out of the way and he was easily pushed aside. What she saw upon that screen couldn’t be fully comprehended, at first. It was an infrared view showing countless orange wormlike shapes moving around on a purple background. Perceptibly it began to dawn on her. What she was looking at was what had come for her young child; this was a nest of creatures that are a part of the insectas class. These creatures’ existence was previously unknown to humans, and was only encountered because they settled this distant planet. Creatures of the insectas class operate solely for the benefit of their kind, without mercy or compassion for other life forms. The horror of it was sinking in, they gather for the nourishment of their hive, for the reproduction of their kind. There is no want of ransom, there is no desire to capture and release. Tears welled up in her eyes and eventually escaped and rolled down her cheeks. Her baby was dead. There was no other conclusion, and she fell down upon her knees and wept openly. Jim rushed to her side and put his arm around her, while Steven and Ron watched, powerless as to what to do, from the stairs behind them.