Survival of the Fittest


Already establishing a perfect nest in the form of a dark cave, the change took place as it grew into adulthood. It hissed painfully as it slowly raised its second pair of arms and the crown continued to jut out mangled and unfinished. Soon the eggs would come where more of their kind would emerge.

However, before the eggs could be laid, she would need to find suitable hosts.

Kotal Kahn had noticed Reptile growing increasingly more and more impatient as he continued to fix his direction towards the tree line. The night was ending soon, and Cassie Cage and her team would give the Emperor an answer if they would assist any further. She was currently on her communicator talking to General Blade and from the little he could overhear, she sounded just as disturbed about the possible quarantine that would have to take place—especially since they had no idea what they were facing.

Reptile heard the Emperor approach, but he was too focused to acknowledge him until he was right next to him. "Something troubles you," Kotal Kahn pointed out.

Reptile nodded. "Something watches us."

Kotal Kahn looked at his Zaterran friend; he did not like this news. "How do you know this?"

Reptile nodded towards the tree canopy, "I've felt its presence. It stalks us silently— using the trees to blend itself."

"You have seen this?" Kotal Kahn asked. Reptile shook his head, a disappointed frown on his fanged face.

Kotal Kahn gave a minuscule nod as he looked at the trees. He knew that Reptile could be mistaken from time to time, but never had he been as unfaltering as now. Even after they had buried the Osh-Tekk warrior, he scanned the trees waiting for something to emerge.

Kotal Kahn placed a hand on the Zaterran's shoulder, which made Reptile look up at the Kahn for an explanation.

"Go. Quell your suspicion. Be vigilant in your hunt and inform me of what you find," Kotal Kahn instructed him.

Reptile nodded his thanks. "It will be done with pleasure Ko'atal." With that, he camouflaged himself and Kotal's hand left his shoulder as he took off into the jungle.

Nearby Cassie looked at the holographic image of her mother who seemed very perplexed with Cassie's report. Cassie saw her sigh and nod her head trying to figure out a solution.

"I want you and your team to stay in Outworld to assist Kotal Kahn," she told the sergeant, "I don't want whatever this is to venture into Earthrealm, so until we hear you have contained it, the portal stays closed."

Cassie grimaced inwardly at that. Great. Stuck in Outworld forever. I hope they have sushi here.

She nodded obediently, trying hard not to convey her distaste for the order. "Understood," Cassie answered.

Her communicator cut off after that and Cassie exhaled and placed it back in her pocket. She turned to the Emperor, who was watching the tree line with more intensity than she thought necessary.

Kotal Kahn heard her approach and turned to face her.

"We'll be assisting you in quarantine the… well, whatever it is," she related to him with a shrug.

Kotal nodded a thanks and returned to what he was looking at. Cassie's eyes moved to the trees. "Something the matter?"

Kotal Kahn fixed his narrowed, pupilless eyes around the jungle. "I fear we have yet to discover what we are facing, and we will never come to understand it before it understands us."

Cassie furrowed her brows in confusion as Kotal Kahn gave the jungle one last stare before retreating to his tent, leaving Cassie without a clue of what he was talking about.

The morning broke through the jungle with humid intensity and far away from Kotal Kahn and the Earthrealm Teen Titans, the leader of the Black Dragon stood casually shaving his chin with his knife.

He glowered under the hot sun as he was constantly reminded of the morons he was around. They had no idea where they were in the bloody jungle and the last of Kano's patience left him when the navigator of the group shrugged at him. Kano stopped shaving his neck and grabbed the map roughly from his cohort, looked it over and shoved a finger into the spot they were supposed to be.

When they first came to the jungle, they were chasing a rumor and despite their setback they were still looking for a second Kitai stone somewhere in the Kuatan Jungle. Their camp had been lost days ago when the sinkhole they had unknowingly made camp on engulfed everything except what they had on them. The portal stone would serve as the only way out of the Kuatan Jungle that didn't involve running into Kotal Kahn and his guards. They were tired, hungry, hot and severely diminished in both the number men and supplies and each one of them was afraid that Kano would start slicing throats if he didn't hear good news soon.

"It ain't tha' difficult, is it?" he scowled, trusting the map back at him.

He barked at the other six men in the company, swinging his knife in the air in a harsh beckon.

"Pick up ya skirts ya tossers and move! We're reachin' it before sundown."

Kano led on, his boots soaked by the wet jungle floor as sweat dripped down. A lizard that was innocently climbing a tree and meant no harm was stabbed in half just because it was in Kano's way. His frustration grew the more he remained in the jungle and trudged on leading a bunch of incompetents like a Boy Scout trip. They were all exhausted, and he wanted to get out of this bloody situation as fast as he could. It became harder when he found out they were outnumbered by the same Emperor that had wanted his head for a while now. It was nothing personal; he just tried to kill him.

The closer they came to their location on the map, the more Kano noticed the lack of noise coming from the irritating little scampers that shrieked annoyingly in the forest. The sound dwindled and then it stopped altogether. No critters, just the sound of their boots.

He looked around suspiciously and frowned. Something wasn't sitting right—especially when they reached the cave.

He had ventured into a lot of caves but never did he find one so gooey. It was made out of what looked like jagged, volcanic rock and another white colored substance that he couldn't place. The whole cave didn't seem to fit in the equatorial jungle and he felt the corner of his mouth tug up slightly in doubt. His cybernetic eye scanned around, but he found nothing but rock and darkness inside.

He volunteered the map holder to venture in first and waited for him to give the all clear.

Ten minutes had passed when he heard screaming, and as much as he hated to admit it he nearly howled in terror when the reason for the critters disappearances emerged from the cave and came after them one by one.

They opened fire on the massive black monster that towered over them, but it seemed to have no effect on it— even Kano's eyebeam didn't appear to slow it down.

Kano was the last man left and he clung desperately to the outside of the cave wall in a panicked anger, the black rock cutting his hands open, before he was yanked inside the cave as well; a sharp tail wrapped around his ankles.

His screams died down the more he was drawn into the abyss.

Already on the hunt for the nest, the Predator was thrilled when he heard the sound of gunfire and screaming. If there were more humans in the jungle that he had overlooked, there could only be shooting at one thing. High and perched on a branch without his camouflage he opened his wrist computer and looked at the holographic map of the forest that was provided by the ship's computer. He saw the location of the where the warriors were camped, and it was only a few miles from where he was. He noticed the small entrance of a cave that was tucked heavily in the jungle. That would be the best place for a serpent to hide.

The wrist computer closed and he looked about the jungle again, trying to decide which direction to take when he felt a pair of clawed feet push him off the branch he was crouched on. He roared in surprise and tried to grab onto any branch he could to stop his fall but only succeeded in hitting and breaking them on the way down; causing him more pain.

He landed face first with a hard thud and felt agony course through his chest. His camouflage flickered and exposed him, and he noticed his metal chest plate was bent from the fall. He braced his clawed hands on the ground and pushed his way up just as his assailant had made his way down and materialized.

It was a creature that Reptile had never seen before, and it perplexed him greatly. The being was tall, taller than Kotal Kahn and built with strong muscles. He wore a smooth metal face mask with dreadlock cords coming out the back of it. Reptile noticed that while his chest was a discolored beige, he also had traces of dark scales on him which made him wonder if he was reptilian. Reptile noticed the shoulder cannon gun that sat on top, whirring as if ready to blast him into pieces.

"Why do you watch us!" Reptile hissed at him.

The beast didn't acknowledge him; all it did was stare at the Zaterran as if it didn't understand him. Reptile took his silence as disrespect.

"Speak your last!" Reptile growled, crouching into a fighting position. The Predator answered him by withdrawing two wicked arm blades from the gantlet on his arm.

Reptile charged him first; his moves nimble and fast. The humanoid drove his arm blades down onto him, but Reptile moved quickly out of the way and managed to claw the flesh over the top of his thigh before sliding behind him.

The Predator winced slightly but turned around, his arm blades swinging back around which Reptile barely missed by leaning his head back. Reptile jumped in the air and drove both of his feet into its chest, making him stumble back in pain before Reptile landed on his back. Reptile's feet rolled over his head until he was crouched on the ground and spat a pool of acid where he was standing.

He flailed out of the pool as the acid bit at his heavily sandaled feet and the flesh of his calf muscles. He clicked angrily at Reptile as three laser dots emerged from the forehead of the mask and aimed for him.

Reptile's tongue shot out to grab the shoulder cannon, but he misjudged the reflexes of the hulking beast as the creature's hand caught his tongue painfully before it could latch on to the shoulder gun.

The Predator pulled—hard—on his tongue and felt satisfaction when he was able to rip it out altogether. Reptile howled in pain and stumbled back clutching his mouth as the Predator discarded the tongue to the floor of the jungle.

Blood spewed from Reptile's mouth, and he glared dangerously at the Predator. He lunged for him with clawed hands and the felt his ribs break when the Predator brought his heavily muscled leg up and kicked forward. Reptile yowled in pain as his back hit the ground, a hand going instinctively to his broken chest.

He barely moved out of the way as the arm blades came down and stab the forest floor where he once was. He swiped a kick at the back of his ankle and frowned when all it did was make him lose his balance for a moment. He looked to him and grabbed Reptile by the throat before he could get away and lifted him high over his head. Reptile choked and flailed angrily in the crushing grip, his eyes narrowed in anger at him.

Reptile spat into his hand and placed it over his wrist computer. The Predator smelt something burning and watched as his computer sizzle. Reptile took satisfaction that the beast didn't like that he had melted whatever importance his gantlet served him. He glowered behind his face mask and Reptile snarled in pleased malice at him.

Reptile felt unbearable pain enter his abdomen and looked down to see the arm blades buried deep in his gut. The Predator twisted the blades and soon after a couple of painful spasms the Zaterran species was finally extinct.

He dropped him by simply loosening his grip and turned his attention to the computer. Quickly, he reached into the utility belt and produced a cleaning agent to counteract the acid burning through the software.

He managed to save some of his communications and the bomb activation, but his camouflage capabilities were over. He clicked angrily and shut the computer screen with an angry flick of the wrist. Taking this trophy had come at a price— it would be difficult to hunt the serpents or anything else without camouflage. He looked at his prize with a scowl, grabbed it by its ankle and dragged it away for a flaying he wasn't particularly looking forward to.

The first thing Kano noticed was the how sticky he was and that he was sitting on the floor. He blinked his single eye and found himself in darkness, the only light source from the cave entrance that might as well of been a marathon of a way to get to.

He was delirious and tried to move his arms and found he couldn't which caused him to jolt awake even more. He saw his arms trapped off to the sides in the same white substance from the outside of the cave that and it was as hard as marble. He heard what sounded like labored breathing and looked up at what he was sharing a room with and felt a sliver of fear crawl its way to his face.

The creature that had attacked them snarled nearby as saliva dripped from its mouth like a broken faucet from a row of iridescent white and needle-like teeth. It didn't have any eyes from what he could see, and it seemed to be constantly snarling in pain.

His eye followed its head to see a massive crowned head that spiked into intricate and sharp points at the end; the body itself was bony and as obsidian as the cave rock. Kano noticed that it was sitting on a large putrid looking sack that had the traces of orbs in it, his eye followed to a funnel that laid eggs one by one. He pulled at his arms and felt a small sigh of relief when one of them was loose, the other side would need some work, though.

He heard groaning to his left and noticed he wasn't the only one in the cave. One of his companions had already been awake for some time now, and he looked as if he was in pain. Suddenly his chest lurched and he screamed in pain. Kano noticed his chest coating in blood the more and more the violent the spasms became. Kano's eye bulged in surprise when the man finally died, and a tiny demon like creature emerged screeching from the man's chest.

Kano looked around in panic as if for an explanation and found it across the cave. More of his team was with him, and they were unconscious with spider-like creatures holding onto their faces in a disgusting embrace. When the egg opened up in front of him, all the pieces came together.

"Oh rack off," Kano cursed. They would not have him.

His eyebeam whirred to life and blasted the facehugger before it could launch out at him. The egg-laying psychopathic monster came to life when he started to blast his way out of his hold, his eye beam burning himself as well, but he was getting free nonetheless.

Kano finally got an arm free and worked on the other as the beast hissed and snarled at him. He kicked himself out of the goo but felt a stabbing pain engulf his arm, and he looked down to see one of the crystallized shards created a massive, gaping cut on his arm; blood spilled over his bicep and down his forearm. He covered his arm with his hand, jumped to his feet and bolted, but not without leaving the queen bitch with a parting gift.

"Sorry love," he smirked sarcastically as his eyebeam burned as many eggs as he could on his way out. He chuckled a little as she thrashed and screamed unable to do anything without detaching herself from the ovipositor. Kano noticed she wasn't following him, and he made his way out of the cave in no time, covered in blood and white goo alive.

However, if he had only noticed the dead facehugger that had been right next to him when he woke up, he would have felt different.

The Predator had just finished patching his leg and skinning his prey when he heard something running through the jungle down below.

A large human with a cybernetic chest and eye mask was clutching his arm and running away from something in haste. The Predator watched, the human too fixed up in his own thoughts to see that he was watching him.

He heard him saying the same word over and over with distaste as if to himself while he ran in the direction of the warrior's camp. By the looks of how frantic he was, it didn't seem he knew where he was going. He thought of hunting him, but there was no sport in hunting the wounded.

"Bugger. Bugger. Bugger."

The Predator watched him leave and returned to his work. Taking a mental note of what he was running from most likely the black serpent and would head in that direction momentarily.

Cassie was talking to Jacqui when she saw what might have been the strangest sight so far. Kano was running into camp, noticed where he was and tried to run the other way before Ermac was able to place a green bind on him. She heard him curse 'Bugger' in pure frustration and Cassie felt a tidal wave of anger flood her.

"Is that who I think it is?" Jacqui groned, the look on her friend's face confirming her suspicion. Takeda and Kung Jin also came around the corner and frowned at what had stumbled into camp.

"Great. He's here," Takeda remarked with a frown. Kotal Kahn and the other Outworlders were making their way out of the tent as Ermac had Kano in a green hold and forced him to walk towards camp.

"Get your glowy freak hands off me, you wretch," Kano snarled. Ermac's answer was to place Kano in front of Kotal Kahn in a kneeling position with the bind still on him, his arms molded to his sides as blood dripped down his arm and onto the ground.

Kotal Kahn crossed his arms over his chest and raised an eyebrow; trying to decipher the strange sight that was before him.

"Red eye!" Ferra snickered from Torr's shoulders. Kano scowled at them and then noticed Sonya's brat and team approaching, he smirked at the outraged look on her face.

"Baby girl. Happy to see me?"

"Asshole," Cassie spat back before a sudden, disgusted look crossed her face. "And... what the hell are you covered in?"

"Ya mum's breast milk," he shot back with an annoyed frown. Cassie punched him in the face.

"Enough," Kotal Kahn said, looking at Cassie Cage intentionally. She understood and backed off, the anger still evident on her face.

"I was unaware of vermin in the jungle," Kotal Kahn quipped, the ghost of a smile on his face. Kano spat blood at the comment but didn't say anything and instead wiggled the tooth that Cassie had knocked loose. "I know you are no fool to wander into your own execution. Have you come to plead for your life?"

"Don't flatter yourself, mate," Kano fire back with a dirty look. "It was a mistake."

"A mistake you will pay for making," Kotal Kahn retorted darkly.

"Wait a minute," Kung Jin interrupted. He had no love for Kano, but something did not make sense about the entire thing. "What were you running from? Obviously it was enough to spook you."

"None of ya business," Kano spat.

Kung Jin frowned, "You're stupid but not that stupid enough to run into us. What attacked you?"

Kano glared at the Shaolin Monk. "A nasty bitch that wasn't too thrilled when I gave her what she had comin' to her. Kinda like your mum blondie."

Cassie resisted the temptation to shoot him in the face, Jacqui's hand on her shoulder keeping her even grounded. Kano laughed softly.

"How'd you get away?" Erron Black asked, a voice in the back of his head wondering if it was the creepy little beast that he had failed to kill.

"I'm a survivor mate," was Kano's answer.

"Where is this creature?" Kotal Kahn questioned, a grim expression on his face.

"First we make a deal," Kano said, a knowing gleam in his eye. "Let me go and I'll gladly tell ya where to find it."

"You will tell us or perish," Ermac said, tightening his telekinetic hold.

Kano grimaced, but it wasn't what made his eye bulge in pain. They heard the sound of his ribs being broken, barely audible over the sound of Kano’s cry of pain and surprise; his chest lurching violently even with Ermac's power.

Kano breathed heavily, understanding what happening as panic was set in.

"Bugger," was the last thing he was able to say before agony engulfed him and he started to scream. Ermac let him go as he thrashed on the forest floor on his back. Erron noticed that there was something different this time as Kano continued to writhe on the ground, clutching at his chest, and he was right.

Unbeknownst to them the chestburster was having a difficult time trying to claw it's way through Kano's metallic chest piece over his scarred pectoral muscles, so it went the only other direction it could think of.

Kano started to choke on his own blood and the group grimaced as they watched his throat expand unnaturally and painfully. The chestburster clawed its way up Kano's chest and throat while it destroyed him from the inside. It came out his mouth screeching and covered in blood as Kano went slack. Erron Black, who did not want to make a repeat of last time, brought out his gun and shot it. The little white demon exploded, small white chunks coating Kano's face and what happened next surprised them all.

As the blood of the creature soaked into Kano's skin it started to bubble and melt, burning through him as if it was nothing. They smelled sulfur and grimaced as it burned holes through his face and into the forest floor.

"Acid for blood?" Takeda said out loud.

"Impressive," D'Vorah smiled under her breath.

"Well we know one thing," Jacqui said. "There's more of those crab things out there."

Kotal Kahn nodded in agreement at the Specialist's assessment, "The tide continues not to be in our favor. We must find this creature before we become overwhelmed."

"Whatever it is it's breeding more crabs, and those things came from eggs," Takeda said. "It must have a nest of some sort."

"Yes a hive," D'vorah said in agreement. "And if there is a hive there must be a mother to lay them."

"Great. More bugs," Kung Jin groaned, earning a scowl from D'Vorah, which he smirked at.

"We will all take part in finding this nest and seeing it destroyed before we are the next to succumb to similar fates," Kotal Kahn said which everyone seemed to be in agreement. They would all have to go into the jungle before it found them.

Cassie looked over the smoldering, rancid body of Kano with a black look, on the fence about whether she should be happy that Kano was dead or disappointed she didn't do it herself.

"Some survivor."

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