I stared out the windows at subspace. I felt as though we were in the Sahara at night; we were surrounded by dunes of sand, while the sky overhead was a dull black. The dunes seemed dimly lit, hazily visible, but I could see no outcrops or breaks in the rolling sand. “On guard against what?” I asked. “Why are we so armed and armored?”
Kurt grunted sourly and didn’t reply, staring out the window, but the soldier on the other side of me gently nudged me. “Listen, traveling out here is dangerous,” he said, his tone much more congenital than Kurt. “There’s things out there. And they don’t like us being here.”
I turned to face the other man. Despite the combat fatigues, sidearm strapped to his leg, and heavy rifle laid across his lap, he looked surprisingly young, his face clean shaven in contrast to Kurt’s rough stubble. “Things? Have you seen them?” I asked.
“Bradley,” the young soldier offered, holding out his hand. “And yeah, they’ve tried to hit us a few times. Personally, I think they’re attracted to the engine noise. Hey, looks like the convoy’s all through – you might want to hold on to something.”
I looked up. Indeed, all of the vehicles had now passed through the the portal, and were moving across the gray sand, their tires sinking in slightly. “Got the exit beacon,” the pilot commented in front of us.
“Then let’s get going!” Kurt ordered. The driver nodded, and his foot slammed down on the accelerator.
Despite Bradley’s warning, I was thrown back in my seat as the convoy vehicles leapt forward, rapidly accelerating until the dunes outside were blurred and sprays of sand were being thrown up by tires.
“Fifteen minutes to the beacon,” the driver announced, his voice nearly a yell to be heard above the roar of the engine. Kurt grunted in acknowledgement, although his sour expression didn’t change as he stared out the window.
I turned back to Bradley. “What sort of creatures are out there?” I asked. I had never heard of anything being alive in subspace; all accounts made it out to be barren and deserted. Yet the preparations and weapons carried by these soldies painted a very different picture.
Bradley opened his mouth, but couldn’t seem to find the words for a minute. “They’re just alien,” he said finally, shuddering a little. “Monsters. Not like anything on Earth. They come in groups, so we don’t-”
The radio mounted in our Humvee buzzed into life, cutting Bradley off. “Contact!” it squawked. “Left side, coming in fast!”
Kurt roared wordlessly, raising his rifle to point out the open window. I stared over his shoulder, trying to see what was coming. At first, I could see nothing out of the ordinary beside the rolling gray sand dunes. As Kurt raised his weapon, however, I could see a darker, indistinct shape approaching, above the dunes. It looked like a bank of very thick fog, rolling in towards the convoy.
As I stared, darker shapes solidified inside the fog, reaching forward. My eyes went wide. The shapes were resolving themselves into massive tentacles! They appeared partly amorphous, wobbling slightly as though made from jelly. Kurt’s rifle barked, the staccato of automatic gunfire shattering the silence. The tentacles burst apart into shredded chunks. But already, more of them were emerging from the fog.
Kurt’s rifle wasn’t alone. The other men in the convoy turned their own weapons on the fog. The higher-pitched pops of rifles were joined by the heavier thudding of the mounted machine guns on the Humvee turrets, each round tearing through multiple tentacles. Yet still they poured out of the fog.
“Faster!” Kurt roared at the driver as he shifted to a new target. “We can’t win! We need to get to the beacon!”
Continued in Part V. Yes, there are a lot of chapters.