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The Peregrine Island Police HQ had seen better days.

The street was crowded with police cruisers, SWAT vans, and the shiny blue and white robot tactical units. Several officers were in position, shotguns, AR-15s, and Glocks drawn at the building, men and women with grim looks of determination on their faces. It had been several minutes since the crisis had begun, and to their credit, they had assembled quickly and professionally, especially with so much on the line.

Apparently, the Malta Group had sent a recovery team to get one of their own out of the holding cells. It wasn’t going as easily as they had thought. Several officers inside were presumed dead. Detective Selnum was presumably being held hostage.

Across the courtyard, past the Data Terminal, the brown brick building that held the police station – each window with the blinds drawn, light filtering through the slats, and every so often, one of the police could see movement. Each of the officers knew that individually, the Malta operatives were Special Forces quality soldiers, easily head and shoulders above even the most hardened, experienced cop among them. This didn’t help matters any.

Inside the front lobby, just inside the front door, several monofilament tripwires crisscrossed the tile floor, each line attached to a Claymore mine – a plastic case packed with hundreds of tiny steel pellets, in which a small amount of C-4 plastique explosive is inserted. When the tripwire was activated, the C-4 would detonate and explode outward, sending an inescapable cloud of death capable of turning a human being – or several, into a crimson mist of meat and bloody vapor. 8 of these mines were placed within the first 10 feet of the door. Not much could live through that. Or the two twin-linked M240 medium machineguns that were placed on either corner of the far wall, both pointed at the door, ready to shred anything that entered.

Just inside the metal detector, two PCPD officers lay in a pool of their own blood. Their limbs were splayed out, backs of their uniform shirts riddled with holes from which blood soaked through the surrounding fabric. One of the officers, a white woman with blonde hair in a regulation ponytail, had most of her face vaporized – it had exploded out when she was shot in the back of the head. The other officer, a black male, was mostly cut in half from a hail of heavy caliber gunfire. Both died fairly quickly.

Moving outward, past the bathrooms, up to the main lobby, two Malta operatives, crouching low behind the pillars, held silenced submachine guns – H&K MP5s. The floor glittered with spent brass casings, and a haze of cordite hung heavy in the hallway. Beyond them, the main lobby looked like a war zone. The service windows were riddled with bullet holes, the bulletproof glass simply unable to withstand the Teflon coated rounds of the operatives, nor heavy machine-gun fire. A woman who had come in to pay her boyfriend’s bond lay slumped in a pile in front of one of the windows, her twitching having ceased minutes before. Several bullet holes could be seen through her pink winter coat – if she were still alive, she would be mortified to know that she was drenched in blood and her own evacuated waste.

Through the blown out glass windows, two dispatchers were sprawled on the floor. One died instantly, her head having exploded when a 7.62mm round passed through the heavy glass and blew through her face. The other dispatched was showered with his partner’s brain matter and shard of glass. He was gunned down when an operative stood at the window and fired inside, killing him as he crawled away. Another officer lay in a heap near the copier, his gun held in his hand, a comical expression of dismay on his dead face. With boots crunching on chunks of shattered glass, a Malta operative callously trod amongst the carnage, his MP-5 hanging from a sling around his shoulder, slowly inserting more rounds into a spent magazine. He stood in the threshold of the door to the hallway, the magazine clicking softly as he pushed more rounds inside, the quiet seeming to be belie the mounting tension in the station.

From above, a black, chitin sheathed arm plunged down, a hand with all too long curving talons spread wide latched onto the operative’s face. Black claws sank into the man’s flesh before he could scream, and his body was drawn up off the floor, legs flailing. Chunks of ceiling tile fell, a small cloud of white dust descended upon the hallway.

From across the hallway, another operative who had pacified the teleportation intake area, walked out, weapon at the ready. He froze, seeing the ceiling tile dust descending. Ducking back inside the doorway, he raised his weapon at the ceiling, where one of the tiles was missing. His upper lip moved, his eyes narrowed. His hand slowly crept up to his mic pickup and pressed it.

“Whiskey Alpha Echo, my 20, be advised…”

A bloodcurdling scream cut him off as his partner burst through the ceiling tiles, slamming down onto the floor with a meaty smack. The hallway filled with a billowing cloud of white dust. The operative on the ground thrashed wildly in agony and horror, clutching a gory, spurting ruin where his throat had once been. Wet, gurgling sounds were all he could make. The operative in the doorway had time step back instinctively before the thing in the ceiling was on him. A massive form slammed into him, propelling him back into the glass case where a coiled firehose was housed, the crunch of glass and metal muted by the horrified gasp and grunt of pain. Pinned against the wall now, a powerful arm holding him by the neck, the operative could see a long mane of snow white hair, contrasting greatly with the black, inhuman face, the glowing red eyes, and the blood drenched mouth open wide, showing long translucent fangs.

His rising, panicked shriek of terror was cut off.

Inside the front lobby, the two operatives were on their feet, moving into the hallway, quietly hustling with weapons at the ready. They saw their comrade thrashing spasmodically, already going about the business of expiring. Messily. One nodded to the other, and produced a flash-bang. The other operative pressed his microphone, hurriedly whispering.

“Whiskey Alpha Echo, this is Team One. This is Team One, over!”

A gruff, mildly distorted voice called back. “Team One, this is Whiskey Alpha Romeo, actual is engaged.”

“Team Two is down, unknown assailant. Perimeter is breached, I repeat, perimeter is breached! Main hallway from front lobby, over!”

The other operative pulled the pin and threw the flashbang into the hallway, and spun away, shielding his eyes. A massive, ear-popping bang erupted, the hallway erupting into blinding incandescence for a moment. Both operatives spun back around, muzzles pointing into the area.

Slowly… a foot stepped into the hallway.

Both operatives braced themselves.

A booted foot.

Momentary relaxation. Then more appeared of the owner of the boot. Narrowing of the eyes.

Walking – well, more aptly, shambling – into the hallway, was their former comrade. The front of his uniform was black with blood, drawing the eyes of the other operatives upwards… to the horrific sight of a dangling, flopping tongue hanging by torn hunks of bloody flesh, sans jaw. An arm reaches out towards them as it steps further into the hall.

The MP-5s were soon firing, both operative’s nerves broke. This was definitely out of the normal realm of sanity. Both men fired into the body of their jaw-less comrade, unnerved by the ghastly sight. But on it shambled, seemingly unstoppable, even when the gunfire destroyed one of its’ knee joints, blowing the lower leg off… on it came.

One of the men noticed the looping, coiling strands covering most of Operative Richard’s body, almost like fishing line…

… or a puppet’s string…

The body collapsed in the hallway, the strands surging off the corpse and towards the two men, impossibly fast. The coils softly hissed as they entangled the men, moving like it was alive, around their wrists, around their necks, around their chests – all this was disturbing, true, but not nearly as much as when it began to cinch tight, constricting and biting into their exposed flesh like razor wire. The men choked and clutched at their throats, watching with bulging eyes wide with shock and horror, as the puppet master, so to speak, stepped out into the hallway.

Standing at nearly seven feet, the white long hair framed the black, monstrous face. A powerful upper body was covered in black and grey mottled chitin-like flesh, and coated in coarse black bristles. From its shoulders were long, foot-long spines, and down the heavily muscled black arms were gore caked talons – from each of the fingers ran the strands of its webbing, each strand almost sentient, connected directly to the beast’s nervous system. The lower body was equally as well-muscled, the feet armed as well with cruel looking claws.

The glowing red eyes looked down on them, like a demon’s. A cruel smile formed, baring wicked fangs.

The strangulation webbing drew tight, and the men were bound up into tight balls, fingers clawing desperately in vain, as the webbing choked the life right out of them. Choking, then the death rattle as they went to whatever reward awaited them. The beast clenched its’ fingers slightly, and the strands fell away, coiling and writing like earthworms cut in half by a sadistic child after the rain had passed. The beast looked upon the four dead Malta operatives, curling its lip.

It wasn’t over. There would be more. It reached down, picking up the weapon of its puppet, fitting the talon through the trigger guard. As Team Three rounded the corner, the MP-5 raised up, the muzzle flashing bright as the creature pulled the trigger, riddling the two men with bullets. The first man around the corner had been in a ready position, but his momentum was carrying him too far out in the open – his torso spun to his left with the first rounds impacting into his tactical vest, falling down facing the wall he was continually slammed with Teflon coated 9mm Parabellum rounds. The second man had a split-second to react, letting off a burst before the creature cut him down. Two round blew through the creature’s shoulder, causing the creature to snarl in pain and irritation.

Dropping the half empty weapon, it slipped past the two dead Malta operatives, moving towards the elevator. Six dead Malta in the hallway. Took too long, the creature snarled to itself.

The gunslinger hear the staccato bursts of gunfire upstairs and his brow furrowed in frustration. Three fire teams, dead. Frustration and anger flared inside the senior Malta Operative, but instead of blowing up, he turned to his remaining troops. Team Four had Detective Selnum pinned against the ground, the redheaded PCPD cop breathing with a bubbling gasp, face bruised and bloody. Operative Jones had just finished handcuffing and hogtying the man, and the last living office in the Peregrine Island police station was subdued.

Whatever was up there, the gunslinger thought grimly, was due to arrive any second now. He turned to his last two troops, and nodded grimly, muttering the subvocal command activating the Reflex Booster surgically grafted into his nervous system. His body shuddered and tensed, eyes opening wide and his heart suddenly pumping faster, like a jackhammer in his chest. The two operatives saw their leader tense, and activated their own boosterware.

The elevator chimed.

The gunslinger spun, drawing both of his heavy revolvers at the elevator. Both operatives brought up their submachine guns, and looked to their commander. The gunslinger nodded, and the men opened fire, one man firing at a point five feet up from the floor, the other firing low at a point one foot from the tile floor. Teflon coated rounds blew through the metal elevator door.

The gunslinger backed up, to Detective Selnum. “The activation code, Detective. Give me the activation code now.”

The bloodied cop curled his lip and looked hatefully up at his captor. “Isn’t… happening… Cops outside… you guys aren’t getting… out of here…”

The gunslinger grunted. That was the problem with hostages with misplaced senses of duty. “You fail to grasp the gravity of the situation, Detective. We are going to get our man out. You are going to give us the access codes to the cells. Do you think your wife is going to be wearing black for the rest of her life? Do you want your children to call another man ‘Daddy’? Do you think your sacrifice is going to mean anything to anyone once the platitudes are said and you’re in the ground? No. So give me the codes, and you can go back to your little safe world. Nobody is going to blame you. Just give me the codes.”

The elevator door chimed again and the doors slide open. Operative Jones tossed in a flashbang. The explosive thumped, echoing in the small confines of the downstairs holding complex.

The operatives trained their weapons at the elevator, their eyes open, ready for whatever would stumble out –

- Metal crunched against the Kevlar helmet of Operative Jones, his partner turning around to see a large red fire extinguisher falling to the floor next to Jones as the man crumpled to the ground. Spinning around, MP-5 up and his trigger-finger tightening -

Long black talons raked across his face, slicing deep into flesh and bone. He fell back, screaming.

The gunslinger was spinning, up onto his feet, revolvers thundering. The thing that had just savaged Operative Hinkle ducked low and sprang, smashing into the gunslinger and impacting the both of them into the heavy steel door of one of the holding cells. The thing was over the shuddering and convulsing gunslinger, snarling, pinning the screaming Malta leader to the ground.

Detective Selnum craned his neck, watching in horror as the thing lowered and opened its jaws, descending upon the gunslinger’s face.

A sickening, wet crunch.

A wrenching motion. A ripping round, like fabric being torn. The gunslinger’s legs thrashed and then went still.

The thing lifted its’ head, turning to look at Detective Selnum with baleful glowing crimson eyes. Something was in its mouth.

The eyes narrowed, and the jaw squeezed shut. A wet pop, a grinding of teeth against bone.

Detective Selnum felt his blood run cold. It had just eaten his assailant’s face. He would have expected to feel a sort of savage joy, but he only felt an overwhelming sense of revulsion and horror.

The thing rose slowly, stepping over to where Detective Selnum lay helpless – wait, a pause in the stride, turning it’s head to distainfully spit out a mouthful of the gunslinger’s face onto the floor. Forensics would find most of the gunslinger’s nose, an punctured and partially chewed eye, and shards of bone belonging to the cheek and orbital ridge, in the puddle of congealing meat.

It crouched before Detective Selnum, smelling strongly of…something. It set his already over-wound nerves to piano wire tension. It swept a talon through the nylon strap the operatives had hogtied him with, letting his shackled feet fall back onto the floor. Pain, as the blood rushed back into his lower legs. Selnum grunted, breathing fast, betraying his fear. “Who are you?” he managed, attempting to not sound so unmanned.

The thing smiled, and an inhuman voice rumbled from its chest. “Deathspider. A Guardian Angel, Detective… Your detainee is safe. Can’t say the same for your captors.”

“Jesus… did you…? You just…”

An amused grunt. “I gave them exactly what they deserved. They killed the other cops in the building – no need to let your heart bleed for these scumbags. But listen – keep me posted about your detainee. I’m an interested party.” It rose, standing over him. “Your friends will be busting in soon. Tell them not to use the front door. There’s enough wasted food on the ground today without blowing themselves up.”

It was gone.

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