Chapter 339: One Hell of a Crew
“Sorry, but we had to seal both hatches completely to keep the parasites and mutated hosts away. There’s no way to change its programming now,” Yewu said.
The transport ship’s system had gone haywire after the bioweapons were unleashed, and the situation earlier was critical. Therefore, she had no choice but to order the technicians to hack into the hatches’ internal system and execute an infinite loop command. What this meant was that the door would always remain shut no matter the command—open or close—it received.
When Hua Xi and her men arrived, the survivors had had to use a high power beam rifle to manually carve an opening on the hatch. They could try the same thing on the second hatch, but there were several problems with this solution. One, the hatch was the only thing standing between them and the creatures. They already had to destroy the first hatch to let Hua Xi and the hunters in, if they destroyed the second one as well the army of parasites and mutated hosts behind them would be able to rush them unhindered. Two, there were also enemies on the other side of the second hatch, so they would be forced to fight on both fronts and most likely suffer heavy casualties as a result. Three, even if they were strong enough to weather the assault, it took precious time to carve an opening on the hatch; time that they couldn’t afford to lose right now.
That was why Yewu had wanted to follow Hua Xi’s suggestion to escape to the nearby fork leading up to the fifth entry point. Cillin claimed it was a dead end, but Yewu didn’t know if she should believe him. It was because she hadn’t given the order to seal any entry point.
Besides that, Yewu was prejudiced against hunters due to certain unpleasant experiences from the past. The fact that the Eleventh Squad did nothing to help Hua Xi’s team when they were clearing out the enemies in front of the first hatch only served to deepen that prejudice. If he hadn’t given the word, she would’ve voiced her support of Hua Xi’s suggestion already.
Moon ignored Yewu and walked up to the hatch, pressing a finger to the supposedly inoperable switch. The blue strip on his faceplate started flashing rhythmically.
Cillin was the commander of the Eleventh Squad, but even he didn’t give her a response, much less the rest of the squad. It wasn’t on purpose though. A big fight was about to happen, and their enemies this time was a kind of parasitic bioweapon that could infect a person or worse, bury into their bodies and take control of them directly. They were battle-hardened veterans, sure, but that was exactly why they wouldn’t let themselves be distracted by some inane question when they could be using that time to channel their best fighting condition. This meant keeping an eye out for any form of danger, maintaining a razor sharp focus, and being ready to react to anything in the most efficient way possible.
Seeing that no one was going to give Yewuan answer, Sigma replied kindly, “The command can be changed. Your people just lacked the ability to do so.”
Yewu felt a throb in her head. What’s a faceslap? This is a faceslap. She couldn’t even tell the little robot to piss off because he clearly didn’t mean any malice by it, which made her feel worse.
While the hatch was being hacked, Dias pulled out a bazooka-like weapon and pointed it toward the hatch. Beside him, Eudy held a smaller but similar weapon as well. Yewu wanted to tell them they were inside a passage, and that any damage to it would be as detrimental to them as it was to the creatures, if not worse, but she stopped herself when she realized that no hunter could be so bad that they lacked even the most basic of common senses. Those who were would be dead already.
After Moon made a hand gesture, Cillin raised his left hand and bent his fingers one by one.
Five… four… three…
All sounds except the growing, inhuman screeches behind them ceased to exist. A tense atmosphere surrounded the whole group.
Hua Xi sneaked a glance at her bracelet. It showed a horde of mutated hosts running toward their position at high speed. The bounding parasites were only as big as a human fist, and yet the feelings they evoked were black and oppressive.
Hua Xi swallowed once, sucked in a deep breath and gripped her rifle tighter. That bastard better be right, or else…
When Cillin bent his last finger, the closed hatch made a beeping sound. It wasn’t loud, but it was the figurative horn that signalled the start of the battle.
The gear-shaped hatch slid open. When the gap was just wide enough to fit a bullet, Tang Qiuqiu opened fire and caused a spurt of dark gray liquid. It was a one-tap.
Hua Xi couldn’t stop herself from looking at Tang Qiuqiu even though she knew that she couldn’t afford to be distracted right now. She was just too curious. She had thought that Cillin would be the one to make the first and most difficult shot and so kept a close eye on him, but no, it was a girl who was still in her teens who did it!
There was no anxiety, no excitement, no solemnity; no visible emotion that she could detect from Tang Qiuqiu’s expression whatsoever.Not only that, most people’s hands would shake when they fired a gun, but the teen’s were as steady as a rock. It was as if the act was as common as eating to her. That was Hua Xi’s first real impression of Tang Qiuqiu at least.
The gap widened further, and they could now smell the foul stench that belonged to the parasites and mutated hosts. If the beep was the signal, then Tang Qiuqiu’s shot was the cord that drew the curtains of the battle.
A concentrated volley of firepower kept the closest enemies from breaking through immediately, but the enemies were too numerous, and the distance too short. Something had to be done immediately, and that was the moment Dias pulled the trigger.
What came out of the launcher weapon was neither the cannon shell nor the energy beam Yewu had imagined. Instead, it was a metallic object that looked like a spear. Three leaf-like blades spread out from the object, spun like a fan, and sliced and diced every enemy in its path like a meat grinder.
Dark gray blood spilled out from the parasites’ decapitated bodies. A couple mutate hosts tried to jump them only to be carved into many pieces as well.
Now, the group only had to deal with the enemies that were hanging by the walls and so didn’t get hit by the spinning blades.
Due to the sheer number of parasites on the other side of the hatch, the spinning blade was only useful for ten meters or so. Its blade dulled, and its spin eventually slowed to the point where it was completely useless.
Still, it had done its job nicely. Instead of the mere centimeters of space they had earlier, they now had ten whole meters to work with.
BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG—
Five ice blue projectiles erupted ten, twenty, thirty, forty and fifty meters away from the group. Instead of the fire and smoke that usually accompanied an explosion, they turned into a white fog that froze the closest parasites into ice. Not even the bigger mutated hosts fared much better than them.
The flash freeze shell had an effective radius of ten meters. Even those who weren’t within the effective range were slowed by the frigid air, albeit only slightly and very shortly. No matter how strong the mutated hosts had become, the body used to be human. This meant that they could be affected in a number of ways such as low temperature.
Tang Qiuqiu’s skill was as sharp as ever. She hadn’t stopped shooting since the start of the fight, and there was almost no pause at all in between shots. A machine gun could’ve achieved the same effect with greater consistency, sure, but could it fire in every direction and hit the head—or in the parasite’s case, something that resembled a weak spot—every time? Likely not. Just as Dias said a long time ago, Tang Qiuqiu was a natural-born shooter.
For example, Ba Dao had three pairs of hands—two more than your average human—and the neural wiring necessary to shoot six guns at once, and yet his efficiency might not necessarily exceed that of Tang Qiuqiu’s.
Tang Qiuqiu’s footsteps were incredibly steady. She also didn’t need to dodge any attacks thanks to a certain white fatty protecting her. Snowball’s job was to cut down all the parasites who tried to get close to her. The parasites were small, agile, and faster than the mutated hosts. Worse, if they managed to burrow into someone, and the necessary countermeasures weren’t taken in time, they would transform into an empty puppet just like the mutated hosts around them.
Snowball did its job perfectly though. Fat wasn’t always slow, and in Snowball’s case it blew the usual common sense completely out of the water. While Tang Qiuqiu was blasting heads off mutated hosts, Snowball was catching every single parasite that tried to attack them and turning them into pancakes. Even those that miraculously maintained a form were completely incapitated and out of the fight.
At one point, there was so much gray goo on its paws that Snowball had, after flattening a parasite against the wall, painted its grayish, gooey flesh and blood across the entire surface. It was a terrifying sight.
Scarlet Wind’s fighting style was as bloody as ever. It took a while, but by the time he tore his seventeenth mutated host in half, Hua Xi and the others finally realized that the humanoid was one hell of a beast, possibly literally.
Before the battle had begun, Scarlet Wind had looked every bit the innocent, harmless boy who belonged anywhere but the battlefield. Sometimes his eyes melted like water when he felt wronged, and it was impossible not to feel protective of him. It was why people said that dogs were more likely to win sympathy than cats.
That cute boy was nowhere to be seen, however. In fact, he was easily two times the murderer Luminous Flower’s team were supposed to be. Gone were the innocent and soulful eyes that evoked pity on command, replaced by brutal but calm bloodlust. It was impressive enough that he was able to keep his violent impulse fully under control, but he was cooperating really well with his teammates as well.
The old man being surrounded at the center of Luminous Flower and Golden Willow’s team thought that Scarlet Wind was an excellent hunter. There were some flaws here and there, but no one was perfect, and it certainly didn’t impact his excellence in the slightest.
Even the newest and most unripe of them all, Sha Rou was performing much, much better than she used to. She wasn’t at Tang Qiuqiu or Scarlet Wind’s level of steadiness yet, but she was definitely growing at a tremendous speed.
Moon caught a parasite that was rushing Sha Rou, scanned it, and electrocuted it into smoking charcoal before moving onto his next target. It was his “occupational habit” to collect data on anything new he encountered.
The Eleventh Squad might appear unimpressive when they were on standby, but it was a completely different story when they were on the move. Their total crew didn’t even exceed twenty, and yet the level of strength and skill they displayed could only be described as stunning.
Every member in the Eleventh Squad was a star in their own right, with Cillin being the greatest of them all. Hua Xi knew from the second Cillin took his first shot that she could call off the duel, assuming that they both survived this mission. Forget winning, the chasm between them was so wide that she couldn’t see any hope in catching up to him right now.
Cillin and Tang Qiuqiu were known by the crew as the best human shooters in the entire Eleventh Squadron. Why human? That was because the two non-humans in the squad, Moon and Sigma, believed that they were the duo’s equal or better if they went all out. Czedow most likely qualified as well, although there was very few data to support this assumption because the robot rarely used guns.
While the group was pushing forward, the horde of creatures behind them had finally entered into view.
Moon was ready for this and shut the second hatch before the parasites and mutated hosts could come through. Their backs were safe for now, but they also had nowhere left to go. Now, the only way left for them was forward where the fourth entry point was.
As a side note, Cillin didn’t ask Xi Kai to send in his robots. He took three with him just in case, but that was all. He didn’t even allow them to disengage their invisibility mode and help.
Originally, Cillin was planning to deploy them for this rescue mission, but he changed his mind after realizing who was the creator of these parasites. Xi Kai’s robots were a hidden trump card that should only be used when the time was right, least of all in front of the people of Sector M. GAL wasn’t without its own robotic empire, and the Robert Family was famous throughout the galaxy. Considering that Xi Kai’s robots were very different from theirs, it would cause a whole host of problems if they were found out, not to mention that the new technology they were testing as of late wasn’t yet mature, the research wasn’t yet finished and more.
Lastly, his crew could use the experience. In any combat situation, a hunter’s best friend was their teammates and themselves, and the only way to hone both things—skill and teamwork—was through actual combat.
The mutated hosts were a lot easier to kill than the parasites despite their greater speed and strength. It was because the parasites were tiny, fast, and could potentially transform an ally into an enemy if given the opportunity.
Sometimes there would be a lull in between the battle, and the group took the opportunity to inject themselves with the second syringe of antibodies. At this point, some of them were injured, and practically everyone was covered in some gray goo. Even if they weren’t, the air must be choke full of all sorts of potentially dangerous germs. If they didn’t take the second injection when they could, there was a high chance they would start changing even before they exited the passage.
“Cillin, the specialized antibody will be complete in another half an hour at most, so there’s no need to take a third injection,” Tico said to Cillin through his earpiece.
“Got it!” Cillin checked the time before urging everyone, “Move faster!”
Hua Xi’s team couldn’t understand his urgency. No matter how massive the horde behind the second hatch was, they knew it would hold for at least a short amount of time. That being said, they didn’t let it stop them from quickening their pace. Some people even removed their protective suits because it restricted their movement, and the amount of oxygen they were inhaling through their breathing mask was nowhere enough to satisfy the amount of “exercise” they were doing right now. Plus, everyone in the Eleventh Squad had removed their protective suits the second their commander gave the order. They couldn’t show weakness now, could they?
More importantly, the number of mutated hosts and even parasites had decreased drastically since the start of the battle, so the better option here was to finish the battle ASAP.
It wasn’t like the protective suits were completely detrimental though. They weren’t made of metal, but they could buy them some time if the parasites did slip through their defense. Without one, it would take a fist-sized, adult parasite only half a second to burrow into their bodies, and a smaller, infant parasite less than a-fourth of a second to perform the same feat. The reason for this discrepancy was size. It was far easier for a smaller object to burrow through the human skin, and it was a lot less noticeable.
When a mutated host dropped dead, a couple of bumps immediately appeared on their grayish skin. One of them was fist-sized, and the rest were a lot smaller. A few seconds later, they—an adult parasite and several infant parasites—burst out of the host’s body and continued chasing after the group.
What insane reproduction speed! As expected of a bioweapon!
Even as Hua Xi and her ring of bodyguards ran past a section, parasites were growing, pushing their way out of bodies, and rushing them almost right next to their feet. Already, the security team Hua Xi brought with her had lost much of their numbers.
A bodyguard defending the rear shot an adult parasite that was pouncing toward him, but he didn’t see the infant parasite right behind the adult, and he wasn’t so lucky that his bullet penetrated both creatures at once.
The newborn parasite was as hungry as a wolf who hadn’t seen fresh meat for a very, very long time. The bodyguard felt a sudden, sharp pain in his abdomen, and for an instant he saw a vision of himself joining the parasites and chasing down the very people he was supposed to protect. He was prepared to face his fate though. He was a bodyguard. It was his natural responsibility to die in place of his subject when necessary, and he knew that the possibility was very real from the moment he learned of this mission.
Theoretically speaking, an infested host could be saved if the parasite was removed before it took over the body. In reality, it was one of those “easier said than done” things. Even if it took a long time for the parasite to control a host—which it most certainly wasn’t—how could anyone be expected to extract a parasite in the middle of a battle?
The bodyguard was about to say some brave and totally unoriginal last words, “Leave me! I’ll cover the rear! I’ll catch up to y’all later!” when he realized that someone was standing in front of him. When he looked down, he saw a pair of finger stabbing into his abdomen about three centimeters above a bloody hole.
Maybe it was because he thought he was going to die, but he had no idea when the pair of fingers had pierced his abdomen. He hadn’t even felt the pain until now.
When Czedow pulled the tiny parasite out of his flesh, the bodyguard felt as if he had been reborn.
The bodyguard standing next to Solace saw the parasite and took it out in a hurry. Then, he asked his comrade, “You okay?”
Solace was still a little pale, but he forced a small smile and said, “I’m fine now.”
Sure, there was now another hole in his abdomen, but at least he was alive, right? Between a bit of pain and being turned into a mindless monster, he would choose pain every time.
“Thank you!” Solace said to Czedow. He was among those who were disgruntled by the hunters’ absence when they were clearing out the enemies before the first hatch, but that changed quickly when he realized just how strong they were. Now, even his last bit of resentment had melted away into sheer gratitude. Czedow had saved his life, and he appreciated that.
Czedow didn’t look back at the duo. He kept his eyes trained on the new parasites crawling out of the dead bodies on the ground as he said, “The commander told me to cover our rear. You guys are too slow.”
You could’ve not said that last bit, you know.
Czedow killed the enemies way faster than the bodyguards even though he was just using his bare hands. Three parasites had tried to run past Czedow to kill Solace and two other bodyguards who stayed behind to cover the rear, only to be cut in half by a casual swing of the hand. The guy never even looked at the parasites. That wasn’t what really shocked the bodyguards into silence, however. Yes, it was stunning that he fought like he had eyes behind his back, and yes, it was also stunning that his hands moved so fast that they could only see a blur, but seriously though, why weren’t the parasites attacking him in the first place?!
That’s right, the parasites weren’t targeting Czedow. In fact, they acted as if he didn’t even exist, bounding past him in favor of the bodyguards at the back.
The bodyguards were confused, but there was no time to ponder about the mystery, much less question Czedow about it. The group moved faster and made steady progress toward the fourth entry point.
“Cillin, your assumption is correct,” Moon said to Cillin on the way.
Moon’s scans revealed that all the depots carrying radioactive sources had all been opened. One of these depots were located close to the fifth entry point, and all the parasites near that area had begun mutating. In other words, these parasites absorbed radiation like food, and it wouldn’t be long before they evolved into stronger, far deadlier forms that they definitely didn’t want to face.
The parasites around the fourth entry point had no such depots, so they wouldn’t undergo an evolution. It was one of the reasons Cillin chose to come here.
“The mutated parasite would replace the old parasite already occupying a body and make it stronger. Already, some hosts are growing shells on their skins. Worse, the first, second, third, fifth and sixth entry point have all been unsealed. I’m sure the same thing would’ve happened to the fourth entry point if I hadn't secured it. The new parasites and mutated hosts are currently climbing out of the entry points and crawling all over the surface of the transport ship. These ‘things’ are capable of operating in space, and I’m sure they’ll hinder us when we try to escape to our ships later.”
Moon had learned to describe the parasites and mutated hosts as “things”.
Everything Moon told Cillin was something he had guessed might happen earlier. It was why he wanted to get out of the transport ship as soon as possible. The longer they stayed, and the more parasites and mutated hosts infesting the surface of the transport ship, the harder it would be for them to escape to safety.
Here’s a quick quiz: who is easier to best in combat, a C-rank human or an A-rank human? A C-rank human of course. And Cillin had zero intentions of pitting his crew against an endless horde of A-rank parasites.
Cillin took a moment to discuss plans with Hua Xi’s group before contacting Udoze and Xi Kai. Then, he waved for Moon to follow him before saying, “Moon, Wheeze and I will head out to clear a path.”
Then, the hunter pinched the ear of a certain cat who had been dozing atop Sigma’s head all this time and said, “Wake up, you lazy cat! It’s time to work!”