Chapter 1 - Mancatcher
A crash resonated through the empty hallways of the laboratory. Atriea coiled again, then smashed her armored tail against the airlock door. Finally it yielded, the metal buckling from her repeated bludgeoning. Atreia carefully pushed the remains of the door through the lock with the tip of her tail. Her fangs bared, pilot light flickering. Her shadow was the only presence in the hallway.
Atreia sat contemplating yet another empty corridor revealed by her efforts. Nobody was here. Somebody should always be here. Atreia slithered down the empty hallway, wary of every dimly lit room she passed. Strips of emergency lighting flickered, in the darkness. A year ago she would have laughed at the idea of having a tail. Now hers snicked back and forth, whipping the air.
Atreia only needed to break through a few more doors to get out of the cursed abattoir which had claimed all of her dreams. She had always known the Terran Accord treated political dissidents harshly. She hadn’t known to what extremes they would go to during her time working on Jötunn A 4. Those months of hard work going straight from the factory floor to meetings behind closed doors. All of it seemed important. Impactful even. The organization had grown because of her! Until- She stemmed the flow of despair that tore through her chest.
A specimen cart full of Ichor samples jarred her back into the present. She flicked the pilot light in her mouth into life, igniting a spray of her venom . A swathe of flame engulfed the cart. The temperature rapidly climbed as her secondary sacs began to add gas into the mix. Atreia’s flames turned blue, jetting out into the soot filled air. She continued tending to every trace of the ‘project’ she encountered. The air soon filled with the scent of burning alcohol, caustic melting polymers, and the acrid smoke of torched Ichor.
Atreia finally began to tire of smashing her sinuous armored body against metal several airlocks later. Each one required time under her ‘torch’ to weaken them before she could break them open.
Only one more airlock remained between her and escape. That and Yorick, the OCNI Officer who had personally made her stay into a deeper circle of hell than Atreia had previously believed possible. Yorick blocked the final hallway. His first bullet missed only because Atreia caught the man off guard.
“Leave it to you, to not even have the human decency left to die in your cell like your sister,” Yorick growled over his power armor's speakers.
Atreia could say nothing, her thoughts only filled with one goal: Surviving her captor's trap. Seeing more of the accursed Ichor samples Atreia’s augmented eyes drew to slits as a plan bloomed, this time the Ichor would serve her.
The flaming canisters arced down the long corridor, one was struck by a shell, but Atreia was ready and surged forward with two more canisters at the ready. Using the cover of the first explosion her second volley found their mark. Atreia didn’t hesitate in launching her bulk straight through the still swirling flames of her freshly born cataclysm.
She knew her explosions could only buy her time, Yorick’s heavy power armor would easily withstand an unfocused blast. Atreia came upon the man as he pulled his hulking form from a smashed interior wall. Atreia snapped her body forward with a desperate lunge. She closed the gap as Yorick fired the rifle again. A single round struck obliquely on her plated tail. Ricocheting off it took a large chip from one of her scales.
“Fucking worm,” The man snarled as he reached for Atreia with a powered gauntlet.
She hissed angrily, ducking her torso out of the way, her flame sparking to life as she wrapped her lengthy body around Yorick. Her fire was narrow and blue, harshly white at the tip. She coiled tighter still around him, bringing her cutting torch to the back of his power armor, to his vulnerable hydraulic systems controller.
Yorick desperately tried to disentangle himself from Atreia’s embrace. She began slicing through the thin metal with a harsh crackling sizzle. The hydraulic system ruptured and exploded under her focused heat. The blast threw her head back, blowing out Atreias flames.
Yorick was a statue.
Atreia uncoiled, loosening her grip on the cage which had been his power armor. She drew herself up in front of him to stare down at the human.
“How could you possibly believe we were less human, than monsters like you?” She spat angrily.
Atreia could barely see Yorick's face through the pitted glass of his armored helm, but from what she could make out it was pure boiling rage, like a mad animal caught in a trap.
“You think I don’t know what we did to you? It was just and right, you should be grateful to have found a way to contribute.”
“I did, and you took it all from me for even trying, you and all the rest of the Terran Accord.”
Her flame flicked back into existence, it was reassuring now, something that was hers alone amidst all the darkness of the world. This door too would yield to her will.