General Sonya Blade had to adjust her eyes when she looked at who was hailing her on the communicator.
Usually, messages from Outworld ended in some headache or forewarning of an impending future verbal altercation, and she was not in the mood for either. She sighed and answered the communication.
"General Blade," The glowing face of the Osh-Tekk Emperor dominated the screen and Sonya could tell instantly he looked more than displeased. "I request an audience with your ambassador."
Sonya nodded her head. "Alright, I will send my team to your coordinates. May I ask what this is in regards to?"
He had already cut off the communication before he heard the question. Sonya stared at the screen with a grim look for a moment before she sighed and paged Sergeant Cage.
"Cage here," replied her daughter's voice through the radio.
"Sergeant, report for briefing with your team in one hour," she instructed firmly. "The Emperor has requested your presence in Outworld."
"Understood General. Cage out."
Cassie Cage walked through the barracks unable to locate a certain hotheaded Shaolin Punk, who had refused to answer her radio. Actually, they all had declined to answer their radios and Cassie did not want to incur the wrath of the General if they were late again; she could only stand burpees for so long.
She snapped a piece of bubble gum in annoyance and continued her search outside until she felt her eyebrows shoot up in confusion.
Kung Jin was outside, dressed in his usual attire and staring at something in a large oak tree. Cassie drew near and could hear that he was unhappy with something that was refusing to budge from its spot.
"Get down here you little fuzzy brat," Jin sternly and comically demanded.
"Meow" a small squeak came from the tree as a reply that made Cassie smirk.
She had known of Jin's little stowaway for a while; she had seen all the cat hair on his clothing. It was forbidden to have pets, but there wasn't anything any harm in having it in his room. She thought it was kind of cute to be honest and almost contemplated about breaking protocol to get a puppy as well.
"Do you want me to get in the trouble is that it?" Jin questioned angrily.
"You're going to make me climb and get you aren't you?" Jin huffed in defeat.
Kung Jin sighed and began to make his way up, but each time he came close the cat darted farther away and climbed higher as a result. Cassie snickered from behind and caught Kung Jin's attention. Already halfway up the tree he looked at the Sergeant with a peeved disposition.
"You not having fun with fluffy?" Cassie asked with a sarcastic smile.
"Fluffy is about to get an arrow through him if he doesn't get down here," Jin spat back, mostly to himself. Cassie smiled.
"Come on, we're on duty," Cassie said, her face falling with seriousness, and jerked a thumb in the direction of the compound. "We gotta grab Takeda and Jacqui too."
"Hold on!" came Jin's frustrated demand from the tree as he ducked back into.
Cassie heard the cat cry out in anger, hiss and heard Kung Jin say a triumph 'gotcha' before he jumped down from the tree.
Jin held a small black cat with jade eyes by the scruff of the neck and Cassie heard the cat growling under its breath as if peeved its escape did not go as plan.
"Awe, cute," Cassie smirked. "I'm more of a dog person, though."
Kung Jin smiled, "I caught him trying to steal food from me a couple of months ago. He kept coming back after I started feeding him. We share a bond."
The cat hissed.
"What you name him?"
"Cat or shithead, whichever mood I'm in," replied Kung Jin with a shrug which made Cassie roll her eyes at.
"Make sure nobody sees him," Cassie told him sympathetically. Kung Jin nodded thanks and carried the black cat back to his room under his clothing while Cassie went to find her Jacqui and her Shirai Ryu boyfriend.
Cassie eventually found her best friend asleep on Takeda's chest. The latter had his head leaned back his mouth gaped open and snoring loudly as the credits to the movie they were watching in the Rec Room drawled on. Kung Jin had walked in, stood next to Cassie and smiled sarcastically as he looked at the pair.
"They look comfortable," Jin quipped. Cassie gave him a stern look and rolled her eyes before she nudged Takeda's boot hard. The ninja jolted awake, stirring Jacqui as well and blinked back into consciousness.
Takeda rubbed his tired face and yawned, "Huh, oh ya that was a good movie."
"Yup," Jacqui yawned; truthfully they didn't make it past the first ten minutes of the film.
"Get up," Cassie said. "We got a meeting."
"Yay..." Takeda groaned. “What’re doing today?”
Cassie frowned. "No idea, but I know my mom when it's something not good."
They stood at ease as Sonya briefed them about Kotal Kahn's strange and direct request.
Truthfully, they were as wary as the General was. The communicator given to Kotal Kahn was an offer of good faith that if he needed anything of Earthrealm, they would assist them as much as they could within the lines of the Reiko Accords. The fact that he did not state the reason for their visit or that he had appeared to be in good spirits, they immediately knew something was wrong.
"I want your team to meet the Emperor's request, but I want you to remain on your guard," General Blade told them. "If the situation turns sour, I want you all to get out of there as soon as you can. I don't think the Emperor would break the Reiko Accords, but I want you prepared if things turn that way."
"Yes, ma'am," Sergeant Cage answered.
"Dismissed. Report to the Portal at 2300."
The Osh-Tekk warrior woke up gasping for air, the first thing he noticed were the stars that hung over him in the night sky.
How long how had been unconscious for?
He gasped, choking on his air. He felt something by his side and turned his painted face to what lay beside him. In the darkness, he could make out the white bony form of the animal that had attacked him. He pushed it away with a startled gasp and jolted to his feet. The creature felt cold, stiff and did not react to him at all. He gazed further inspection on it and discovered it had died and must have detached itself from him.
He adjusted his eyes to the darkness and looked for the direction of the camp. The Kuatan Jungle echoed with life once again as the nocturnal inhabitants emerged and moved about in the shadows.
He felt something different with him. He had a sickening feeling one would feel if they had been violated. He looked upon the dead creature with revulsion and confusion and debated what to do with the dead animal's corpse. Perhaps this was what the Emperor wanted to be discovered, what they were sent out to look for; it was small enough to of come from the egg the Kytinn had discovered. With much distaste, he picked up the creature by its long, leathery tail and walked it back to the camp.
Erron Black and Ermac, who were standing guard outside the Emperor's tent, turned their heads in the direction of the noise that had materialized loudly in the jungle. Both guards watched as the Earthrealm warriors that had been requested came through the portal looking equally unsure of why they were here and armed for battle.
The portal dissipated and they found themselves looking at the Marksman, who was the first to approach them, with his hands resting on his hips and over the handle of his revolvers.
"Alright we're here," Cassie began, her tone a little suspicious. "Mind telling us what this is all about?"
Erron nodded his head in the direction of the tent, "He'll tell you himself."
The Earthrealmers looked at the canvas as if waiting for a trap to spring. Grudgingly, they made their way forward and entered the heavily, fabric garnet red tent. Cassie was the first to see Kotal Kahn, his form in candlelight from the many candles that decorated the tent. D'Vorah was standing by the side of his throne and greeted them with a glower.
Kotal Kahn stood from his throne. He looked exhausted as he approached them, the sun warrior's energy low without the presence of the sun.
"I thank you for coming," Kotal Kahn he said with questions nod. "I understand the hour was late on Earthrealm as well."
"It's alright," Cassie replied. "Can you tell us why you called us here tonight?"
"We have found something most peculiar this day," Kotal Kahn told them, a frown on his face. "Come. Let us show you."
Kotal walked passed them with D'Vorah sauntering behind him, offering the Earthrealmers an unfriendly sneer as she passed. They ignored the unpleasant looks of the bug woman and followed behind her as Kotal Kahn led them.
When the Osh-Tekk warrior finally reached the camp, he felt something wrong with his chest. His fellow guards saw him approach from the darkness, and he barely heard them question him about his whereabouts. A strange and painful pressure had slowly emerged the closer he walked to his fellow guards. It felt as if he had something dislodged in his chest he could not rid of not matter how much he pounded on his chest for relief. He felt his heart beat faster and faster…
The fellow Osh-Tekk warriors anger for their comrade for disappearing was replaced with fear and concern as he dropped the dead animal from his hand, and they saw his chest lurch painfully up; as if something pushed on his sternum from within. He gasped in pain and placed a hand on his chest for comfort that he would not receive.
Erron Black was standing nearby when he heard screaming that erupted from the missing Osh-Tekk warrior that had finally returned to camp. He rushed to the scene as the guards held his arms and his chest lurch wildly while he screamed in agonizing pain.
"What's wrong with him?" Erron demanded, a stern expression of befuddlement on his face.
Erron's hands went to his revolvers as the Osh-Tekk's eyes bulged in surprise, pain, and terror. His chest erupted into a fountain of blood that coated all that had been standing near. A horrible shrieking came from within the chest, and the Osh-Tekk warriors that were holding him released him in horror. They backed away as his body fell to the forest floor dead, and a white tubular like creature with fangs and no eyes snarled at them all; covered in his blood and crawling its way out of the man's chest.
"What in the hell—" Erron said, his hand lifting his gun out of his holster and aiming it at the little beast. It snarled, let out a screech at him and fled with more speed than he would have given it credit. It disappeared into the forest floor, concealing itself and causing Erron to miss his target as he fired at it. Black frowned deeply behind his facemask.
Silence and shock enveloped them, and the gunslinger looked in the direction of the creature's path with a grim thought; as if he knew that this would not be the last he would see of it.
Now they understood the cause of the suspicious looks that Kotal Kahn had given them and why he had been urgent to summon them here. Kotal Kahn could see that they also had no clue as to the origin of the craft; their faces expressed the same uneasiness that they had when they had first discovered the ship. It was foreign and they did not recognize it. He just had to be sure it was not of Earthrealm before he could determine that there was a need to fret.
"Do you recognize it," Kotal Kahn questioned the young Earthrealm ambassador.
She shook her head, "I've never seen anything like it before," the corner of her mouth picked up slightly, her eyes a little anxious. "Are you sure it's not from Outworld?"
"We are certain," Kotal Kahn answered.
"This one still believes it of Earthrealm," D'Vorah announced, still unrelenting in her doubt of them. It earned her glares from the Earthrealmers.
"Well, it ain't," Jin answered curtly, annoyed by the insect mother's persistence to demonize them.
"This One does not believe you—"
"D'Vorah, enough," Kotal said, "I believe them. Do you know where it may have come from?"
Cassie wished she could have given him an answer because she was just about to ask him the same thing.
Takeda was looking over the craft; his eyes focused on the central computer console that was made out of strange hard metal that looked like hammered aluminum. He looked at the keyboard that had strange symbols he had never seen before he motioned to Jin for him to come over. The Shaolin walked past D'Vorah with heavily digusted stare before he looked at the ship and what Takeda had called him over for.
"You recognize the lettering? I don't," Takeda frowned.
Kung Jin looked at the symbols on the keyboard, but nothing was coming to mind. "You sure it's not from Outworld?"
Takeda shook his head, reading his friend's mind. "Whole lot of stage magic to get us here to break the Reiko Accords. I think they are as confused as we are."
Jacqui who was standing nearby the group suddenly flinched when something heavy and invisible landed right next to her. She smelled Reptile before he materialized from the air.
"Emperor, come quickly! Something has happened," the Zaterran seemed distressed. With haste, they followed Reptile back to the camp and found themselves at a loss for words when they arrived. The situation was getting stranger and stranger the more the night progressed.
The first thing they all noticed was the dead body that everyone in the camp had come to look upon. Cassie and the others saw Erron Black's clothes splattered with blood as well as few of the Osh-Tekk warriors. Ermac and Ferra/Torr also gathered near trying to figure out what kind of beast had done this.
Jacqui was the first to notice that Erron was holding something in his hand as the group walked towards the body. It was a cross between a crab and spider with a long cord-like tail as well as mouth that opened sideways with a tube-like appendage jutting out from it and by the looks of it, was dead.
Kotal Kahn looked upon the body with a frown of sadness, the wound he stared at violent and unnerving. He had no doubt died terribly. A gaping cavity was all that remained in the man's chest; his ribs jutted out.
"Holy shit-fuck," He heard Cassie breathed out as she looked at the corpse in disbelief.
The Emperor looked at Erron Black as he lifted the spiderlike animal by its tail for the group to see.
"He was carrying this," Black told him, handing over the dead creature to his Emperor, who had been reaching for it.
Kotal Kahn shuffled the dead animal back and forth between his hands with curiosity; it was bony and cold with skin similar to a fish. The creature was alien to him, and he looked at the Earthrealm warriors who seemed to be as ignorant of what it was well.
He handed it to Cassie who gave him a disgusted look as if Kotal Kahn had offended her; clearly not wanting to take it from him to inspect it. Kung Jin offered his hand reluctantly not to offend the Emperor, took it with a grimace and looked it over as well. Takeda and Jacqui looked over his shoulder at it.
Kotal turned to Erron, "Was it what killed him?"
"No," Black answered, "He came in carryin' that thing. He had somethin' inside of him that broke its way out."
"What kind of thing?" Jacqui questioned with a hesitant grimace.
Black's mouth twitched with a bitter smirk, "Something that didn't seem all too friendly."
Kung Jin looked at the creature's orifice and accidently pulled out the long tube that was embedded in the animal. It reminded him of tapeworms and let it roll off his hands and let it fall to the ground unceremoniously; the deadpan but repulsed expression on his face looked as if he was done with life altogether. Jacqui looked at it and mouthed 'eww' silently.
D'Vorah was the next to examine it and instead of disgust she found it intriguing, a thought crossed her mind as she looked at the appendage that hung limply from its 'mouth'. "Perhaps this creature is from the same hive."
Eyes shot in her direction.
"You mean like a parasite?" Takeda questioned, the telepath reading her mind for clarity of her suspcison.
"Precisely," she confirmed, "Perhaps he was but a host for what sprung from him."
"A host for what sort of creature?" Ermac said.
"This One is not sure," D'Vorah answered.
Cassie exhaled in both irritation and worry. Unsure really of what their next move would be.
Above them, the hunter that had been stalking them cursed in his native tongue. The facehugger had already lain a serpent that was somewhere in the vastness of the jungle.
He would have to find it before it grew to adulthood that did not give him much time. He looked down at the group of warriors, more had joined them, but they were humans. He grew tired of hunting humans; the were repetitive, dull and simple-minded...
His felt as if something had noticed him, and he looked through to see the one with skin much like his own had caught his scent and was looking in his direction. He still could not find him in the trees, but he knew he was there.
He narrowed his eyes at the reptilian humanoid and wondered if he would have to make the black serpent wait.