Survival of the Fittest

TROPHY

Earlier...

The Kytinn Queen walked behind the ill-tempered Xenomorph with a permanent grin on her face. Ever since she saw the chestburster she had wanted to learn more of the creatures that were deadly from birth; to be that lethal at a larva state— she had to know more of them. However when she saw the adult version she knew what course of action she would have to take. They were not intelligent creatures from the little she saw; just drones following the orders of the Queen. When she delved into their minds she saw nothing but scathing hatred that clouded any room for rational thought.

D'Vorah wasn't worried about the Queen; she merely thought of her as a necessary obstacle to gain control of this hive. Even now as the drone led her to the nest with the unconscious Osh-Tekk, her smaller gnats set to work on the drone. She had let the smallest of her children wander from her hand and crawl their way up the Xenomorph to find orifices to plant themselves in. Like an Amazonian fungus, they would latch on to it and overpower its mind, leaving it susceptible to the control of the hive and in theory unwillingly surrendering to the whims of the Brood Mother. She could tell that the Xenomorph detected something; he shook its tubular head and gave a snarl, but ignored it and continued.

She would do this to the Queen as well if she could attempt it. If not she would kill her any other Xenomorphs that rebelled and be devoured by her children where they would gain the Xenomorph's powers from their dead corpses.

When they reached the cave, the Xenomorph looked back at her and gave a scowl while it tipped its head towards the cave opening as if commanding her to go in first. She smiled and removed the hood from her head as she walked towards the entrance. The Xenomorph snapped its jaws at her when it felt her run her hand down its head like it was her pet. She pulled her hand away in time and just smirked, entertained by at its reaction.

The Xenomorph let out a pained grunt and shook its head, trying to clear itself of whatever alien buzzing was going on its head. It hurt, and it confused him. Regaining control for a moment, he followed D'Vorah in and obeyed his objective to secure the host.

It was hard to see in the cave, and D'vorah did her best to avoid the eggs strewn about the floor, however, she still accidently bumped into one and caused it to hatch.

D'Vorah looked down at it with fascination and knelt down to watch. She watched as the tail unraveled itself from around its body and the legs flare and stretch. It sensed a potential host above it and prepared to spring onto it when a deafening hiss came from the Matriarch not to.

D'Vorah looked to the end of the cave to see the massive figure of the Queen Xenomorph staring venomously at her. Already she could sense it's pain as it laid egg after egg slowly from the sack it sat on. D'Vorah relished in the fact that the Queen was immobile despite it's dominating figure that caused D'Vorah to hesitate for a moment. She had to say that the Queen was impressive and it would be a shame to destroy such a worthy mother but there could only be one Queen to control the hive and D'Vorah was determined to secure herself as the victor.

D'Vorah stood back up and approached the Queen, she gave a bow like a servant would for a master, and looked at her with a false smile the Xenomorph Queen did not like.

"... You will perish..." The Queen spat at her, the maternal voice hissing like an ill-tempered viper through the connection D'Vorah had initiated. D'vorah gave the Queen a confused look; she had not expected this reaction but reminded herself not to falter.

The Queen lifted her crowned head high at her. "...You think I know not your intentions?... You are similar and inferior to us... Hive Mother..."

D"Vorah looked at the Queen stunned and apprehensive; she had not thought the Queen to be as intelligent as she was. D'Vorah decided to play as innocent as she could until she could regain an opportunity to lower the Queen's guard down.

"...This One knows not what you mean...I come with the willingness to learn of you... Much appreciation, this One has..."

The Queen lowered her head dangerously in her direction, the drool falling from the teeth that were eager to sink into D'Vorah's flesh. "...I am no fool Hive Mother... Do you not think I do not feel what your children are doing to mine!..."

D'Vorah took a half step back. How was the Queen so perceptive? Then it hit her... they shared a telepathic and communal bond with each other just like D'Vorah did with her own children but severely more advanced. D'vorah should have seen this and for the first time she felt a twinge of fear enter her after she realized her mistake— her overconfidence.

The Xenomorph Queen hissed at her once again, her head tilting to the side in a vain show of dominance. "... I feel all... I know all... I will devour you..."

D'Vorah narrowed her eyes defensively at the Queen; there was no longer any reason to play along.

"...This One will take your hive and your powers!... First I will start with your children..."

D'Vorah turned to hear a horrible screeching and saw two of the drones advancing on her, the infected Xenomorph seemed to be able to regain control over himself. He heaved and vomited. A mixture of acidic blood, the gnats and flesh burned in the floor and after it was done it flashed D'Vorah with an aggravated snarl that caused her confidence die. The only card she had to was gone.

D'Vorah turned back and heard the evil and ominous voice of the Matriarch laughing telepathically at her arrogance and stupidity. Another Xenomorph approached from the shadows, this one larger and perspired heavier. He stalked and placed himself protectively in front of the Queen before it hissed at her savagely.

"...I will feast on flesh!... Your flesh, Hive Mother..."

D'Vorah heard the drones approach and snap their jaws in anticipation before they stood on their hind legs and walked towards her.

"...Rip!...Feast!..."

"...Tear!... Kill!..."

D'Vorah turned with her back on the two that blocked her escape and unleashed her spider legs on them and felt the tips pierce their bodies. They shrieked as the ends stabbed them, flailing as D'Vorah continued to relentlessly maim them.

D'Vorah cried out in pain as the acidic blood ate her legs. With a pained grunt, she detracted her legs and let her wings come out. However, before she could take flight, the bulkier of the three, the one guarding its mother, latched on to her and sank its teeth into her shoulder while its tail wrapped around her body. She screamed in pain as the spear end stabbed her in the shoulder and secured her.

Like an electric eel the Xenomorph used its new capabilities bestowed upon it from its host to send electricity through her, trying to stun its prey. D'Vorah cried out in agony as it fried her, inside and out. It did not last long, but it was enough to cause her to collapse to the floor as it released her, groaning as it pulled the spear out. She writhed pitifully on the floor, the volts sending spasms through her as she tried to crawl away with little luck. The Xenomorph grabbed her by the ankle with its mouth and dragged her to the Queen like a dog with a chew toy.

The Xenomorph let go, and she could hear the hissing from the Queen before it impaled D'Vorah on its own speared tail. D'Vorah gasped in pain then screamed as the spear stabbed her in the back and then flipped her over, so her stomach was to the air. Gravity did most of the work and D'Vorah looked down to see the spear coming out of her belly. A haggard breath of pain was all she could muster as she felt herself being lifted and brought closer to the Queen's waiting claws and teeth.

The last thing D'Vorah saw was the Queen's mouth opening and the second set of teeth shoot out and broke her skull open.

Then nothing.


Present...

"You sure you don't want to take care of that?" Takeda asked, pointing to the burn marks on Ermac's shoulder. The collection of souls looked at Takeda then to the acid burns on his body with indifference.

"It is nothing," Ermac commented passively.

"Alright..." Takeda said with a shrug. To be honest he was more concerned with finding Jacqui than asking Ermac how he was doing but it was the only way to distract himself from wondering if she was ok. It was still night and the more and more it dragged the more concern ate at him.

"What do you think those things are?" Takeda asked Ermac.

Ermac glanced back at him with a blank expression before his eyes narrowed slightly as if he was trying to find the answer himself.

"We do not know," Ermac's multiple layered voiced answered.

Takeda let out a small laugh. "Thousands of souls in there and not one of them has an idea?"

Ermac raised an eyebrow at him, the look on the mummified face unsure if he was supposed to be offended by the comment. "No. We have not," was Ermac's reply.

Takeda shrugged, accepting the answer, and sighed lightly. "First time for everything I guess."

Ermac did not comment any further and instead panned his head around the jungle as he walked ahead. Takeda pulled the end of the whip, enough to expose the tip and frowned at the acid burns that left the ends mangled. He supposed he could still use it but he prefer it not to be melted. He sighed, his worry for Jacqui sneaking back up on him. He decided to finally give in and radio her.

/Jacqui are you alright? Where are you?/

Commotion through the trees caused them to turn sharply on their heels to face it. Ermac's hands glowed and Takeda was already in a stance. He placed two fingers to his head and listened.

An avalanche of relief fell on him as he heard Jacqui's voice in the brush before she came stomping through it. Ermac lowered his hands, and Takeda grinned at her which she returned as she walked to him.

"Right here," she said, answering him back with a smirk.

Takeda, although ecstatic to see Jacqui safe, frowned when he saw Jacqui's purple and green bruised jaw. He ran to her and hugged her tightly which she returned warmly.

"Thank God, I was worried," he said into her ear. She ran a hand into the back of his hair to comfort him and felt him relax into the touch.

"I'm good, Takeda. I told you I was a big girl remember?" Jacqui said. Takeda laughed as he let go of her. Jacqui's smile faded when his face slowly fell, and he gave her a look that made her pause. Takeda sighed and looked at her with an uncertain look. He could sense something was eating at her, and he also had a mutual feeling.

"I have to ask you something Jacqui because I can't understand it no matter how much I think about it," Takeda began solemnly.

"Ok..." Jacqui said, uneasy to what he was thinking.

"Why didn't it kill you if was able to kill Ferra and Torr as quickly as you said it did," Takeda asked, having a hard time restraining himself to read her mind for the answer.

Jacqui felt her stomach sink at the question. She did not actually know why it didn't kill her but had a suspicion to what it was; she thought it was because she was a woman but then reconsidered when she remembered Ferra. She was just a little disappointed that he had to find out this way...

Jacqui saw something out of her peripheral as did Takeda and they noticed that Ermac had floated closer by to them, the mystic wondering if their news pertained to anything to their objective to destroy the nest. Takeda cleared his throat at him; silently asking him to give them some space. Ermac looked back and forth between them and without a word respected their distance and floated away.

"There's something I've been meaning to tell you— and don't get mad because I just found out before we came here," Jacqui said, her voice grave and timorous.

Takeda nodded slightly. "What is it? You can tell me."

Jacqui exhaled and closed her eyes, she sighed as shaky as her nerves. "I think... I'm... pregnant."

After a few seconds of silence, Jacqui opened an eye to see Takeda staring at her with a mixture of stun and anxiety on his face. She opened both eyes and looked at him with a bit of disappointment, patiently waiting for him to say something. Instead, he just stared at her with the same dumb look on his face as if he had accidently stumbled upon something he didn't want to. His eyes continuously flickered from her face to her stomach before he caught her stern expression.

"Are you gonna say anything?" Jacqui questioned a little angrily.

Takeda blinked his eyes for a moment and then seemed to remember where he was. He smiled sheepishly at her but with an understanding smile; letting Jacqui know he was happy about it. She gave him an awkward smile before she laughed loudly at what he said in response to her news.

"Your Dad is gonna kill me. Literally. He's gonna kill me."


By the time the next day approached and with little luck finding the nest, Cassie decided to go with a different strategy. Leading with Kotal Kahn and the other Osh-Tekk warrior behind her, she tapped the microphone of her Bluetooth device as they walked along the ravine.

/This is Cassie. Anyone copy?/

/I copy./

/Briggs here. I copy/

/Takeda here. I copy./

Cassie let out a sigh of relief. /Alright guys new plan. What's everyone's location?/

/I'm with Takeda and Ermac./ Jacqui replied. /We're walking alongside the river./

/We're by the river too./ Jin said with an exasperated sigh. There was a pause before Jin angrily added /Oh by the way, we ran into the brick-shit house you told us about. Thanks for the heads up that he had a cannon!/

/Take a chill pill, Jin, kinda slipped my mind when it was giving me a beat down./ Jacqui snapped back with an unapologetic tone.

/I lost my staff and broke my arm!/

/Guys quit it./ Takeda said calmly over the radio. /Cassie what are you thinking?/

/We need to regroup. Kotal Kahn and I are near the ravine as well. Let's find each other and then we'll find that nest./

/Why couldn't we do this in the beginning?/ Jin mumbled angrily.

Cassie frowned in annoyance. /Because we didn't know they would start kidnapping us!/ Realization suddenly hit Cassie like a softball to the head. She noticed that Kotal Kahn and the other Osh-Tekk warrior were looking in her direction, and the final jigsaw piece fit together when she remembered the battle that had taken place with the Xenomorphs.

/I don't think they kill you.../ Cassie said over the comm. link.

/What?/ Jin questioned with a confused tone.

/What makes you say that?/ Jacqui asked.

/We got attacked, and they grabbed a couple of the Kahn's guys. They could have killed us easily, but they didn't. I think they grab you and take you for the crab-things at the nest./

/So they're scavenging us./ Takeda clarified. /Then they impregnate you.../

/Ya... that's gotta be what they're doing. Then the crab-things do what they do, and another albino creepy comes out of you./

/Oh that's just fantastic./ Jin groaned. /I hate this place./

/Let's group up. We all need to find this nest together before there isn't any more of us to take./ Cassie concluded before she cut the comm. link.


Back on Earthrealm, Johnny Cage was spinning the round communications device on the table while waiting patiently for Cassie to answer it in the Operations Tent. He had his chin in his hand that was braced on the table while the other one flicked it in a circle like a dreidel. He sighed and felt his sunglasses fall from the bridge of his nose to the end, his eyes poking over the dark lenses tiredly.

Cassie was usually pretty accountable for answering his calls, and it was past her scheduled time to check in and report her progress. He knew that she could be as forgetful as he was— especially when she became as focused in her work like Sonya. Plus he knew that Outworld was not known for its cell-phone coverage, but in the back of his mind a tiny little voice told him to worry.

"Don't ponder too much on it, my friend," the voice of a familiar telepath said behind him, causing Johnny to jump.

"Jesus, we need to put a bell on you. You're too sneaky— especially for a blind ninja," Johnny said as he pulled his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose between his fingers.

The corner of Kenshi's mouth tugged slightly in a smile. "I have confidence they will be able to handle the situation with ease."

"You're not worried about Takeda in the slightest?" Johnny asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Of course I worry about Takeda," Kenshi answered before he nodded slightly with a reassuring smile, "But I know he is capable as well as Cassie and the others are. Have faith in your team."

"I'm her dad, and she hasn't answered my calls," Johnny pointed out with a frown.

"And you answer every call when you are busy?" Kenshi asked him with an eyebrow raised rhetorically at him.

"Well.. no, but..."

"Then do not worry," Kenshi interrupted, his head nodding in Johnny's direction as if trying to highlight his point. Johnny sighed and reluctantly let Kenshi's words sink in as he tried hard to silence the doubt in the back of his head.

"Alright fine. You win Confucius," Johnny grumbled. He decided to try and change the subject but before he could ask Kenshi had already read his mind.

"They are on their way. Hanzo is most eager to see his apprentice and how he is fairing with the Special Forces unit," Kenshi informed him.

"And Coldy-locks?"

"Curious to hear the training exercise you have in mind for your team," Kenshi replied.

"Ya, hopefully they don't start burning and freezing up the place when they get here," Johnny said, "If they do make sure they fight near Sonya's side of the barracks and away from mine."

"They have reconciled although they are still hesitant of each other. I'm sure they will be able to restrain themselves for a day," Kenshi answered with a grin.

"And Leonardo DiCaprio wins Oscars..." Johnny said with a smirk, turning back to the communicator once more and trying his daughter again.


After informing Black about what the next course would be, Jin let Erron lead ahead to the rendezvous point in the ravine they would meet up. Eventually, the river bank became too narrow for them, so they decided to continue their trek through the trees. The trees were thick, and the vines hung like hammocks all around them trying to snag them. Kung Jin looked into the trees, a thought crawling its way back into his mind as he glanced at his arm grimly, now hanging in a dirty, brown sling against his chest courtesy of a piece of Black's poncho.

"What were those things?" Kung Jin asked, "I've never seen them in the Shaolin Archives. You have any idea?"

Black shook his head, keeping his eyes forward. "Whatever they are, they're gonna be dead soon. Best not to think too hard about it."

"You're not at all curious?" Kung Jin questioned, raising an eyebrow.

"I was until they tried to kill me. Now I just want to return the favor," Erron answered nonchalantly. Kung Jin rolled his eyes.

They walked in silence, the trees getting thicker and providing more and more coverage from the sun that beat on them relentlessly. The humidity was thick enough to choke on and Jin could hear his stomach growling. He closed his eyes and day-dreamed about sinking his teeth into something terrible and greasy when he got back to Earthrealm. He opened his eyes and blew a raspberry quietly. Who knew how long that would be if they didn't find the nest.

Kung Jin's eyes widened in alarm when he saw the three familiar dots dance across the back of Erron's poncho. He immediately sailed into Black's back and sent them both to the ground. Black grunted, and Kung Jin hissed in pain as they landed on the ground.

"What are you—"

He didn't get the chance to finish his sentence when the ground exploded inches from his face and they both rolled over on their backs in unison to see the familiar humanoid stalking them in the trees, balancing on a tree branch above. He aimed the lasers once more, and they rolled away from each other as the blast blew dirt where they once lay.

Jin reached for his chakram and threw it as best as he could with his non-dominant hand, but grunted in pain as his arm flared. The Predator turned to see the disc embedded in the tree and turned back to Jin with an almost annoyed look. Jin felt his face drop deeply as the Predator ripped the chakram out of the tree and placed it in his own utility belt.

"Oh you gigantic asshole..." Jin breathed angrily under his breath. The Predator clicked at them and aimed the lasers at him again. Jin tucked and rolled out of the way as the tree behind him erupted in flames.

Jin looked at Erron who was reaching for his guns, Erron noticed he was staring at him and raised an eyebrow at him in confusion.

"Here's your chance to return the favor!" Jin yelled to Black before he did the only thing he could think of.

Kung Jin, injured and without his staff or chakram opted for running away to where they were supposed to rendezvous. Black glared in disbelief and rage that Kung Jin suddenly abandoned him.

"You cowardly son-of-a-bitch..." Black grumbled with ire as he watched Kung Jin sprint like a deer through the jungle, his one good arm swinging wildly.

Black heard a thud hit the jungle floor and turned to it. He aimed his revolvers in its direction and unloaded his bullets into its unprotected stomach. Green, fluorescent blood exploded from the holes that he shot into its body, and the Predator stumbled back in pain, his clawed hands covering his body instinctively. He aimed a couple of bullets at the face mask but almost all of the rounds ricocheted off, and he decided it was not a good target to waste bullets on.

His revolvers clicked, and he backed up, trying to reload them as the Predator regained his strength. The Predator roared at him like an angry bull, and it was his turn get fired at. The laser dots came for him and without his weapons loaded, it was Black's turn to run. He reloaded them as he ran, hearing the thunderous footsteps behind him pursuing him.

"Shit," he cursed as he heard the cannon fire behind him. He ducked and rolled forward, the tree in front of him incinerated into splinters. He looked back to see the injured beast still coming for him, five holes in his torso and two in his legs; the rest of Black's bullets must have bounced off his chest plate. The wounds bled angrily, but it didn't seem to slow it down at all. Erron Black got back up and could see the laser dots glide over the trees as he zigzagged his way through them, trying to avoid the dots landing on him.

Finally reloaded he flicked the cylinders back into place and unloaded another round at the masked humanoid. The trees provided enough cover, and the Predator hid behind them as Black fired at him.

He stopped firing when he realized that he couldn't get a clear shot and decided to walk backwards and reload his gun. He saw something silver launch his way at him, and he barely rolled out of the way when he felt the top of his shoulder tear open and a cry of pain escape him. He heard something hit the tree behind him and looked to see an intricate but deadly spear stuck in the tree, the same one that had cut his arm open.

He looked up to see the Predator gaining on him but hesitated slightly and placed his hand on his torso, the bullets finally affecting him. The Predator took shelter behind a tree as Black shot at him again. He saw it start to retreat and decided to try and catch up with Kung Jin.


Ermac, Takeda, and Jacqui were the first to meet up to Cassie and Kotal Kahn and what they found surprised them when they got to the small river.

Cassie looked at the pink form of Mileena's decomposing corpse with a grimace and turned to Kotal Kahn with a shrug of her shoulders. "Well... least you won't have to worry about the rebellion anymore."

Kotal Kahn looked at her with a raised eyebrow, his expression dull and said nothing in response to her joke, leaving Cassie feeling as if she should have kept her mouth shut.

"Looks like Tanya's here as well," Takeda said, looking at the Edenian's corpse that was under the water that was currently being picked at by fish and other aquatic scavengers.

"Ya... but who killed them?" Jacqui said, looking around the jungle hesitantly.

"Brick-shithouse maybe? The creepy things would have taken them," Cassie said, looking over at her friend. Jacqui seemed to accept that as a possibility.

"He certainly did a good job..." Takeda murmured under his breath, his eyes flickering around warily.

Kotal Kahn crossed his arms over his chest and walked away, turning his back on the group to gather his thoughts on the events unfolding. He was not pleased with the creature whatever it was and started to feel little hope for Reptile. It had been days, and he had not returned and Kotal Kahn knew better; he knew his friend must have befallen a similar fate. He doubted the black serpents took him mainly because the Zaterran had been most eager to track down this beast. He must have confronted it and died in the process. He exhaled, his head dipping a forward a bit as he mourned his most trusted spy.

Kotal Kahn turned to see the brush move wildly and one of the other Earthrealmers spring through the trees out of breath, his arm clung tightly in a sling and sweat dripping over his face and clothes. The Emperor looked for Erron Black and felt a sense of relief enter him when his mercenary bodyguard also stumbled through the trees, a look of pure resentment burning in his eyes as he walked to Kung Jin.

Erron Black spun Kung Jin around and punched him in the jaw. Jin fell on his rear and into the water as he rubbed his jaw, giving Erron the hardest glare he could muster. "What the hell was that for?"

"For running," The gunslinger drawled with a scowl.

Jin rolled his eyes and retorted angrily, "What was I supposed to do? Throw a rock at it?"

Black grumbled inaudibly under his breath and instead turned his attention to the Emperor and walked over to debrief him on their progress. Takeda and the others walked over and offered Jin a hand that he took with his uninjured one.

"Looks like you two are the best of friends," Takeda jested sarcastically with a smile. Kung Jin scowled in response and looked at his arm.

Cassie nodded towards Jin's arm. "You ok?"

Jin looked at his arm and gave the Sergeant a scowl that wasn't necessarily for her and more for the broken forearm. "I'll live. What's our play?"

"Still the same: find the nest and take it out," Cassie informed him, crossing her arms across her chest.

Jin scoffed a little. "How are we gonna do that by the way? Don't exactly have any flamethrowers or bug spray."

Cassie smiled lightly and leaned her head in the direction of the Emperor, who was talking with Black. "No, but we got the power of the sun on the side."

The corner of Jin's mouth picked up in an understanding smirk, the cogs in his head working out the plan. "Up the stair path to the fire's edge, huh? Not bad. One problem, though. What if the sun isn't in the sky? He can't do that light show at night and can he take out the whole nest?"

"He said he would try. Which is why we make sure Kotal Kahn reaches that nest before the sun goes down," Jacqui quipped. "Or we'll camp out till the next day if we find the nest at night."

"I'll bring the marshmallows," Takeda smirked.

"I got dibbs on the Hershey bars," Cassie laughed.

Jin rolled his eyes but couldn't stop the humored smile on his face, until it dropped when he felt his arm twinge slightly. "Hopefully... that brick-shit house doesn't find us before then. He didn't look like the one to sing Kumbaya."

Opposite the river, Black and the Kahn had their own discussion.

"I am pleased to see you were able to rejoin us," Kotal Kahn began, "What news do you bring?"

"We ran into those things. We were able to take them out, but we got ambushed by what Briggs was describing," Erron informed him. Black motioned his head towards the jungle, "I was able to put some lead into him before he backed off."

"Hmm," Kotal Kahn grumbled, his eyes looking towards the tree line. Ermac had also joined them at this time, and Black noticed the acid burns on his skin.

"Looks like you two ran into them as well," Erron commented.

"We have destroyed them," Ermac clarified.

"So... can't be too many left, right?" Erron stated. "Should be no problem to take the rest of them—"

An enormous roar of echoed through the jungle and caused the Earthrealmers and the Outworlder's head to snap in the direction of the trees. Cassie noticed a flock of birds taking off, startled from where they were perched and felt a gloomy expression engulf her face when she saw how close it was.

Another roar shook the jungle, and they all looked uneasy at each other.

"Let us proceed to the nest. I long to rid Outworld's jungle of this plague," Kotal Kahn addressed. Cassie didn't have any objections and signaled her team as well.


The Predator howled in pain as he cauterized the bullet wounds with a neon blue, rocky substance made from his own medical kit. His mandibles flexed in pain as he set the medical trowel down and reached for the set of optical pliers he had placed off to the side. Sitting with his back to a tree he reached in and fished out another bullet, this one on his leg and growled in pain as the metallic ends swept through the mangled flesh and pried the bullets that were shallowly embedded in him. Grunting in pain he pulled out the last one and picked up the trowel again. Hesitantly, he placed the burning substance to his leg and felt the horrendous sizzle that burnt his skin and sent throbbing waves of pain. He roared again before he finished up his work, extinguished the cauterizing agent and straightened up. He was in pain, but he was ready to get back to work.

He had been chasing the large warrior Xenomorph when he had run into the humans again, having lost the Xenomorph and seeing that one of them was armed he had tried to neutralize them but had underestimated the human's accuracy and readiness to engage him.

He would make sure the human's death was as painful as the Predator's wounds, and he clicked in prospect at it.

He marched in the direction they had fled in and heard clambering around the trees. He zoomed on to the trees and saw two Hive Drones jumping quickly from tree to tree and in the direction the humans had fled to.


The group didn't make it too far into the jungle when they heard the commotion in the trees. They stood ready, all of them waiting for them to attack and heard the hissing before they fell from the trees.

Cassie aimed her guns it at the Xenomorphs that were making their way towards them, Jacqui on her left, Takeda on the right and Jin taking up the rear. Next to their circle, the Outworlders formed their own as the other approached them: Kotal Kahn had his tecpatl dagger ready, Erron Black with his revolvers, Ermac's hands glowing bright and the Osh-Tekk who held his spear at the ready.

The Xenomorphs started to circle them like sharks, walking among the trees and at an appropriate distance so none of them could engage them with a clear shot. They all waited, none of them making the first move.

"What are they waiting for?" Takeda questioned as he watched them uneasily. "They had no problem attacking us before."

"Probably looking for chinks in the chain," Jin answered, his eyes following them as they moved and snarled. Without a weapon, he couldn't stop thinking he might be referring to himself.

"These things are really scary looking," Jacqui commented with a wary jest as she saw the Xenomorphs for the first time.

"Keep steady guys..." Cassie whispered to them.

The Warrior Drone watched from the tree afar, stalking behind and watching as his two siblings as they distracted the group of prey below. He gazed upon them and looked for the one that would be the biggest threat. He locked on to the one who levitated with ease and made his way silently to where he could reach it. He smelled much like a corpse and knew the Matriarch would have no objections if he killed it. Besides, there was plenty to go around...

The Xenomorph hissed, water droplets pouring over his body and leaped from tree and latched on to the prey while it was distracted.

Ermac screamed as he was stabbed from behind, a spear-like tail entered out of his torso, and felt a set of teeth sink into his shoulder. Ermac hit the ground with a thud with the Xenomorph glued to him as volts paralyzed him. He fought hard for concentration, but the thousands of souls screamed simultaneously as the Xenomorph shocked him without mercy.

While everyone turned to see Ermac having a hard time neutralizing the Warrior Drone the other two Xenomorphs came for them.

Takeda lashed out with his whip and ensnared one of them. It's struggled as the whip pinned its arms to its side while Cassie and Jacqui fired upon it; it shrieked as the bullets hit him. Jin watched as one of the Xenomorphs advanced on the Osh-Tekk warrior before it grabbed him and took him up the tree, the Emperor struggling to hold onto his legs as it pulled the bulky form of the Kahn with them before Kotal lost his grip.

Gunshots did little to aid Ermac and instead made it worse. Black cursed as the acid burned Ermac over his torso, and he let out a scream. The Warrior Drone shot Black a scathing look as it released its teeth from its shoulder. It hissed at Erron before it he ceased, a strange inquisitive look seemed to cross its malicious disposition.

With Ermac still speared the Xenomorph took the opportunity to heave painfully and Black stared at it in repulsion as it vomited heavily on Ermac, coating him in a disgusting combination of yellow acidic blood and digested flesh.

When Black heard the sizzling and the agonizing overlapping screams of the entrapped souls within Ermac’s vessel, Black knew why it had done it. Like a cobra spits venom at its prey, it regurgitated blood on Ermac and let the acid melt away the vessel. With Ermac's already decomposing corpse melted all it had to do was lift the tail up, its tail lifting through Ermac's head like it was nothing with a sickening wet sound. Melted flesh and bone hung from its tail like sap dripping off a tree and it slapped its tail sharply through the air to remove the remains off before the Warrior Drone advanced on Black again.

Green orbs danced wildly around and clouded Erron's vision as he tried to aim through the fog of souls that were released without a body to contain them. Erron retreated slowly, walking backward as the Warrior Drone came for him, the revolver's firing loudly and the bullets landed in the oblong and ridged head of the Warrior Drone.

It shrieked in pain as bullets blasted holes in its skull, and he had to fall back from the onslaught, it scrambled up the tree, and Black cursed as he lost it in the dense branches. The Xenomorph staggered away; it's strength and stamina depleted from exterminating the levitated corpse. The wounds ached, and it remained in the trees until it could find a better way to snatch on to prey.

Takeda held on but frowned when he heard Jacqui and Cassie's guns click.

"I'm out," Cassie called out.

"Same here," Jacqui said.

The whip bounced wildly as he struggled to hold the alien still. The injured Xenomorph tried to rid the whip from him and swung it's speared tail at Takeda's head. Takeda ducked and rolled as the tail missed his neck by inches. He felt the whip go slack and watched as the Xenomorph charged him on all fours like a freight train, his acid blood from the bullet wounds helping rid the whip from its body.

It shrieked and went silent as a spear went through one side of his head and exited out the other end, Kotal Kahn standing off to the side and nodded in approval as he saw Osh-Tekk warrior's discarded spear had hit its target. Takeda exhaled a sigh of relief and retracted the whip back in the gantlet near his wrists.

Cassie and Jin went to join Takeda and Kotal Kahn's side as Erron Black caught up to the rest of the group. Jacqui was looking down at her arm gantlets; it didn't look like they were empty, just jammed.

"One down... two to go," Jin said, looking around the trees for any more.

"We don't know that," Erron Black commented grimly. "There could be more."

"I wonder—"

A scream was all it took to interrupt Takeda while it ripped his heart out in unison. They turned to see in time as Jacqui being pulled away by the boney charcoal tail of the Warrior Drone; she aimed her gantlets at the dorsal spines, but nothing happened. She cursed and struggled to rid the tail of her with little progress and shuttered in pain as the Xenomorph snapped her with enough electricity to stun her for a moment. The Warrior Drone carried her up a tree, and Takeda felt the most insurmountable horror course run through him.

"NO!"

Takeda ran and managed to grab her ankles before they were out of reach, the Warrior Drone hissed when it felt something pull back. Takeda also felt himself being lifted but was halted when Cassie, Jin, Kotal Kahn and Erron also joined, all of them pulling back as the Warrior Drone pulled the other direction, trying to climb up the tree but felt itself slipping.

"Let go of her you fugly son-of-a-bitch!" Cassie screamed angrily at the Xenomorph as she held on to Takeda's other leg. Erron Black, Jin and Kotal Kahn grunted as they held onto Takeda's leg. Takeda felt as if he was strapped to a medieval stretcher and grimaced in pain but held on, determined to hold on to Jacqui at all costs. They would not take her from him!

Even with all five of them pulling the Warrior Drone gave no reconsideration of letting the prey go. It snarled and felt its bony hands start to slid over the wood, leaving claw marks as they slowly dragged it back to the ground. They grunted and pulled eagerly, winning the tug-of-war, and determined not lose another member of their company to the Xenomorphs.

Takeda looked up in time to see the Xenomorph turn sharply and scurry down the tree, causing Jacqui to fall and Takeda to land on his face on the ground. The others lost their balance and almost fell on top of each other from the unexpected and rapid slack. Takeda looked up in time to see Jacqui being pulled back up the tree, a look of delirious panic on her face.

Takeda sprang to his feet, prepared to latch on to Jacqui once more but the Warrior Drone anticipated this. Takeda cried out in surprise as the Warrior Drone slashed him across the face with its claws, cutting his right eye and spilling blood. Takeda cried out in pain and lost his grip on Jacqui as the force of the hit whipped his head to the side and sent him to the ground.

His eye screamed in pain, and he clutched instinctively to stop the bleeding that poured heavily out of his eye socket. His eye felt as mangled as hamburger meat, and the pain made his other eye tear up, but it was a pittance compared to the heaviness he felt. To be honest he didn't care about losing the eye or both eyes, they were nothing compared uncontrollable guilt and anguish when he realized that he was responsible for Jacqui's death. He had let her go. He had let her be taken to the lion's nest.

The heard rustling in the trees and Cassie's eyes shot in the direction of the noise. She looked at the others before she sprang to her feet, not really caring if anyone was following her.

"We can still catch up to them— move!" Cassie yelled, taking off in the direction Jacqui was taken. Takeda had never seen the Sergeant run this fast in training and despite his eye burned and protested in agony, he ran after her, hot on her trail.

Takeda placed the Shirai Ryu bandana he wore over his damaged eye as a make-shift bandage and tightened it. He felt his eye brim with tears from the wind and pain and could also feel the bandana getting wet, but he didn't care. There was a chance of hope that they could reach her before it was too late; it was a small the promise of utopia and it was all he needed to ignore the pain and press on with a surge of adrenaline fueled determination.

He would make sure they would not finish the job— they would not have her. He heard Jin and the Outworlders on his trail, and he looked back to see them trying to catch up to them as well. He didn't care that they were just after the nest, Cassie himself and Jin were probably the only ones that really wanted to get her back, but it was nice to know they would have a couple others to help when they ventured into Lucifer's crypt and battled the demons within.

Unbeknownst, behind them, another was also keeping up as well.

Following them all to the nest...


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