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Gabriel Flynn slipped silently like a ghost through the dark shapes of the tortured and twisted trees of the forest. He dodged between the hanging razor vines and avoided the acidic secretions of various bushes. The sounds of the forest din pulsated around him. The pungent smell of rot and decay filled his nostrils. He dropped to one knee and carefully looked at the spore left by the predator. It wasn't far in front of him.
Entering a circular clearing over 200 meters wide, he was confronted by a massive dense thicket of needle bush resting within its exact centre. Carefully he circled slowly around it; there appeared to be only the one entrance and indications were that the creature was inside. He reached over his shoulder to pull the trembler out of his pack. When activated it would send vibrations down into the earth and alert the Slithadon that prey was at hand. Carefully choosing a spot, Gabriel set the timer and moved 5 meters back to prepare for the creature's emergence. He removed his pack, and raised the beamer to his shoulder in one fluid movement just as the device commenced its rhythmic call. With the activation, all surrounding sounds ceased.
Gabriel sensed movement within the bush. It began to shudder and shake as the enraged Slithadon moved into view. The creature itself was born of "nightmare"; the head of a dragon, the fluid grace of a snake of insane proportions and the colour of midnight black. Light seemed to be absorbed rather than reflected from it. In one sinuous movement, it raised itself erect. Balanced two meters above the ground, its horned head moved with deadly grace from side to side. Its tongue flickered, as sensors worked to pinpoint the source of its annoyance. Gabriel waited with studied patience for the perfect moment to take up the slack on the trigger and slowly close the contact. The Slithadon froze and Gabriel felt the weight of its gaze centred upon him. Now was the time. A blast of red pulsating energy erupted and entered the creature's mouth as it started its downward strike. A red nimbus of energy erupted around its head, causing the eyes to flame and glow eerily. A frenzy of movement and a high-pitched scream pierced the air as its death throes tossed it from side to side. "A clean kill," Gabriel thought to himself. He moved towards the trembler and flicked it off. Laying down his weapon, he drew his knife so as to strip the creature of its valuable skin.
From behind him a second Slithadon crashed through the surrounding forest and into the clearing, drawn both by the vibrations and shriek of its mate. In that instant time seemed to stand still. He gauged the distance between the monster and the beamer. A quick mental calculation showed that there was no time to attempt to retrieve the weapon. Gabriel quickly drew his knife from his boot and faced the approach of the creature. His luck had finally run full measure and it was time to face the inevitable, but he had no intention of going meekly to his final rest.
The Slithadon moved forward and quickly got itself into position to strike at the interloper. Head back, mouth wide, it threw itself forward. There was no way to avoid its inhuman speed. On reflex Gabriel swung upward and felt the sharp, long steel point strike home within the mouth of the beast. As the knife worked its way through the tough tissue of the palate and through the bone into the brain, the razor sharp teeth closed with an unstoppable pressure and a finality that severed his arm neatly above the elbow. The creatures’ wild spasms and convulsions of death finally overcame it and threw him roughly to one side. The Slithadon was dead. He knew he would be to if he did not act quickly.
The shock had so far negated the pain. Lurching back to his feet, he fell towards the discarded beamer. Gabriel fumbled the controls to a lower power setting whilst the blood that pooled around him grew alarmingly. He held the contact down. An agony previously considered unimaginable sent him reeling. The wound had to be cauterised if he was to survive. Seconds felt like minutes, minutes like hours, but still he managed to keep the weapon trained on the stump of his arm. There was nothing but the endless pain of the moment. He passed out.
Consciousness returned quickly; awareness and actual lucid thought took forever. Glancing down, he discovered that the beamer lay dead in his good hand. The firing mechanism still engaged, but the energy pack exhausted. Willing his eyes to focus, he surveyed the remains of his arm. The stump was blackened with a slight seepage of fluids, but mostly contained. The smell of cooked meat was all pervading in the air. He pulled himself towards the discarded pack whose contents had been scattered by the gyrations of the dying beast. A small silver sphere lay half buried in the earth. Retrieving it and bracing it between his legs, he used what little strength he had left and twisted sharply clockwise. The emergency beacon fell apart and activated. He knew he had only a slim chance, but that did not matter. After all, he was a survivor.
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