Horror/ Action Adventure
Date Published: July 20th
Publisher: Severed Press
Petroleum engineers drilling in the African desert uncover a pocket of
mysterious, life-preserving gas, and the hellish creatures hibernating
within—a colony of ten-foot prehistoric scorpions. After 400 million
years, Scorpius Rex has risen to reclaim its throne as Earth’s apex
When their USAID humanitarian mission goes awry, Dave Brank’s
security team becomes trapped inside the drilling complex’s
electrified perimeter. Now they’re locked in a life or death battle
against hordes of flesh-eating scorpions prowling the labyrinth of
machinery. Brank, a decorated soldier unjustly drummed out of the army, is
determined to save his men and the nearby village. Outside the fence lurks
another kind of monster—renegade commandos with a barbaric plan to
lure the scorpions out . . . by feeding them women and children. Only
Brank’s team can stop the slaughter and, just maybe, save the world.
Unfortunately, these guys aren’t elite Navy SEALS or Delta Force
Operators; they’re mercenaries—battle-scarred mavericks who kill
to earn a living, not to save the world. But with humanity’s survival
at stake and Brank calling the shots, even these hired guns can become
Matabeleland South Province, Zimbabwe
25 kilometers north of the South African border.
Zander Kotze leaned back against a water tanker and closed his eyes, savoring the cool air drifting off the drilling site’s three-story liquid nitrogen tanks. After fifteen hours of work, the exhausted drilling engineer’s head was throbbing. Now all he wanted in life was a few minutes of silence, but the chirping alarm on his watch chopped that vacation down to fifteen seconds. The incessant beeping meant it was ten pm—time to make the long walk back to the monitoring van and check his readings before the night’s final detonation.
Getting to the van meant navigating through the city-block-sized network of cryogenic fracking equipment. The massive liquid nitrogen tanks fed into a maze of fracking tanks, blenders, hydration units, and proppant tanks full of toxic chemicals, all supported by a fleet of two-thousand-gallon pumping trucks. The miles of hose and pipe all converged at the Christmas Tree, the drilling term for the collection of valves and fittings resting atop the wellhead—the final connection point before everything went subterranean.
Looming over it all was a one-hundred-and-twenty-foot steel derrick that on any sane job would already have been torn down. With drilling completed, the ten-story derrick was just one more safety hazard in an already dangerous environment. But taking it down meant lost time—something the company man, Aaron Momberg, wouldn’t stand for. Momberg was Pretoria Petroleum’s on-site representative. Most company men were smart enough to keep their traps shut and let the engineers do their job. But Momberg was the exception; a safety last corporate monkey, intent on getting somebody killed.
Zander walked along listening to the cacophony of pumps, engines, and turbines. To anyone else it was just noise, but to him it was a symphony. He paused near one of the hydration units and listened, thinking it sounded a hair off balance, but after a few seconds he nodded and moved on. The fracking process was as complex as the human body, but Zander knew every gear, connection and sound by heart.
He heard raucous laughter and noticed two roughnecks near the blowout preventer, tightening drill strings with pneumatic wrenches.
Without stopping, Zander shouted, “Hey, you clowns know the rules. No screwing around while you’re tightening drill strings! That’s how guys get killed.”
One gave him a thumbs up. “Won’t happen again, boss.”
“Good, ’cause I’m not breaking the news to your wife, unless she’s pretty, rich or both.”
The men laughed and Zander kept moving, passing the mud engineer, who was too wrapped up in his work to notice him. He knew every man on the drilling crew, mostly South Africans with a few Brits tossed into the mix. The only strangers were the new security specialists—a polite term for mercenaries.
He nodded to one of them. The khaki-uniformed Shona tribesman gave him a broad smile, looking just about as friendly as someone toting an assault rifle could. These security specialists were the only Zimbabweans on the site.
The mercenaries were just one of the insane security precautions Pretoria Petroleum had put in place since discovering the mystery gas. That was three months ago, and since that fateful day, Zander had been a virtual prisoner, unable to leave the compound or even call his wife without security listening in. The company had gone so far as to surround the entire two-square-kilometer site with a steel fence that would be the pride of any maximum-security prison. In his fourteen years as a drilling engineer he’d never experienced anything like it. Strangest of all was that he still didn’t know what the mystery gas was or why it was so precious. All he knew was that it wasn’t flammable, but just one whiff could put a man into a coma.
Zander climbed into the monitoring van and massaged his temples, muttering, “Relax, the brain work’s all done. Pretty soon you’ll be out of here.”
Under Zander’s expert supervision the crew had drilled vertically through twenty thousand feet of shale. From that kickoff point they’d bored another five thousand feet horizontally—practically a record. That’s when the cryogenic fracturing, or ‘fracking’, began. It entailed lowering down a perforating gun lined with explosive charges to blast fissures into the rock. The next step was stimulating that now fractured rock with high pressure liquid nitrogen, water, and a toxic soup of hydrochloric acid, cobalt and lanthanum. Then they’d suck out that contaminated flowback water, put in a temporary plug and repeat the entire process every hundred feet. They’d done it eight times already with no major problems … except for the earthquakes. Three of them in the past forty-eight hours, each bigger than the last.
Zander’s blessed silence was interrupted by a harsh voice.
Jaco Botha, the site’s gun loader engineer, leaned into the van shouting, “Boss, we need to talk about fucking Momberg!”
Zander took a deep breath. “What’s he doing now? And Jaco, do me a favor, and use your indoor voice, my head’s splitting.”
“Sorry boss, I just got riled up. After the last runs you and I agreed to go back to the standard-shaped charges.”
As the gun loader engineer, Jaco was responsible for the safe handling and detonation of all explosives. Nobody on a drilling site argued with or even questioned the gun loader.
Jaco continued, “So after I lowered the perforating gun, Momberg came at me, bitching about why we weren’t using those oversized charges again.”
Zander saw a golf cart rolling up to the van and said, “Speak of the devil.”
Momberg climbed out of the cart. The gangly company man looked like a Halloween skeleton draped in a fat man’s suit.
Momberg made a beeline for the van, barking, “Why’s this guy using small charges?”
Zander said, “And a good evening to you too, sir. We’re using the standard charges because that’s what Jaco and I agreed on.”
“It’s slowing things down.”
“No it isn’t. We ran a nodal analysis and there’s no advantage to using those monster charges. I mean we’re fracturing shale here, not bombing Afghanistan. All you’re doing is damaging the formation, plus maybe you noticed those earthquakes.”
“Probably a natural phenomenon.”
“Natural my ass, they happened because you forced us to use mega charges and oversaturate the well with liquid nitrogen. I don’t have time to explain the concept of negative skin factor right now, but, trust me, oversaturating isn’t helping the well and it sure as hell ain’t making things safer. Plus, I suspect there’s a fault line we don’t know about.”
Momberg was fuming. “The geologist didn’t find anything.”
“Because you ordered him not to find anything! He’s too scared of losing his job.”
“That’s a valid fear, if you catch my drift.”
Fighting the urge to deck the scarecrow, Zander calmly said, “If you want to fire me, go ahead. We can all sit around waiting for my replacement, who’s just going to tell you the same damn thing.”
Jaco added, “Yeah, and I’m not doing fuck all till Zander says go.”
Knowing he’d lost the argument, Momberg said, “I’ll be reporting this to the board.”
Zander said, “That’s your prerogative. Jaco, go run your final checks for detonation and blow the klaxon at the two-minute mark.”
“Got it, boss. I just need a few minutes.” And he ran off.
Zander shouted, “Take your time.” But that was just to yank Momberg’s chain.
A trio of five-thousand-gallon water tankers pulled into the adjacent lot.
Zander asked, “Are those the flowback water trucks coming back?”
“Aren’t they supposed to be dumping at a disposal site across the border?”
Momberg said, “That’s what they did,” already sounding defensive.
“Except they only left an hour ago and now they’re back already. You’ve been dumping the flowback locally, haven’t you?”
“That’s not your department.”
“For Christ’s sake, there’s a village about seven kilometers from here and that water’s toxic.”
Momberg turned and headed back to his golf cart, shouting, “Just do your job!”
Zander watched him drive off, feeling depressed. He gazed out at the sprawling complex he’d helped design. Directly adjacent to the fracking area was the gas separation plant—a technical marvel of machinery, piping and steel spanning six city blocks. Beyond that stood the hundred-foot derrick known as Rig Tower-1. Nestled around it were blocks of Quonset huts housing the welding shops, sleeping quarters and mess halls. Zander had erected a miniature city in the desert that operated at peak efficiency. But now, instead of pride, he felt ashamed. He’d spent much of his life defending his work, while taking every precaution to protect his men and the surrounding communities. Now he’d discovered that Momberg was callously contaminating the local water table. All because of that god damn mystery gas.
He looked wistfully at Rig Tower-1, its flare stack billowing flame into the night sky—a good old-fashioned tower pumping clean-burning natural gas. He muttered, “Ah, the good old days.”
The first klaxon blew, indicating they were two minutes from the blast. After this final round it was just a matter of pumping out the mystery gas—something any other competent engineer could do. Soon he’d be on his way home to Johannesburg, forgetting this place ever existed.
Hansie Bekker shuffled the cards and said, “My deal.” He heard the first klaxon blow in the distance. “Here we go again.”
He was sitting in the security team’s barracks at the opposite end of the drilling compound. Anton, his oldest friend and second in command, sat across the table, studying his cards. The two had been playing the same running game of Klawerjas for three decades. They chatted in Afrikaans to maintain some privacy from their men.
Anton said, “I tell you, something bad’s going to happen.”
Hansie chuckled. “You’ve been saying that since Angola.”
The pair had fought side by side for the past thirty years, first as young recces with the South African Special Forces, until circumstance pushed them into the world of private soldiering. Bush wars, civil wars, coup d’états—they’d been hired guns in them all. Both men were going on sixty, but decades of combat experience kept them in demand.
Anton continued, “And I’m usually right. I hear the drilling crew grumbling. They’re not happy.”
“That’s just because I won all their money, just like I’m about to win yours.” Hansie pointed to the flipped-up card. “You good with clubs as trump?”
Hansie glanced over at the far wall where five of his men lounged on army cots, listening to Zim-dancehall music and gossiping in Shona. All were former Zimbabwean Defense Force troops turned mercenaries that he’d commanded in the recent fight against Boko Haram. His other five men were on duty, patrolling the drilling complex.
Hansie said, “Makanaka.”
Makanaka jumped up from his cot, eager to please. “Sir!”
In near-perfect Shona, Hansie said, “Run over to Rig Tower-2. If any of our men are over there, tell them to fall back by Rig Tower-1. I don’t want you boys anywhere near those idiots while they’re playing with bombs.”
Anton grinned and said, “See you have that bad feeling too.”
Hansie tapped the last Princeton out of his pack and lit it, “I don’t feel anything, I just know they’ll need all of us to pick up the pieces after those morons blow themselves up.”
Makanaka grabbed his gear and ran for the door.
Hansie shouted, “Stop!”
Makanaka froze in place.
“Where’s your rifle? I know we’re not shooting our way across Nigeria anymore, but that’s no excuse to let your guard down.”
Makanaka grabbed his Vektor R-4 rifle, looked to Hansie for approval and hustled out the door.
Hansie made it a point to be tough on the Zimbabweans, who saw it as a sign of affection. He laughed and said, “They’re all young and full of piss.”
Anton dropped down a card and said, “You’re just old and full of shrapnel.”
Hansie went back to his cards, taking four tricks in rapid succession. “Aren’t you going to accuse me of cheating? Something must have really crawled up your ass tonight.”
Anton said, “I’m just getting tired of all this.”
“What’s the problem? We’re not shooting it out with Boko Haram anymore. This is a cushy security job, the closest thing to retirement we’ll ever see.”
“Screw this. It’s another damn desert.”
“Technically it’s a savanna.”
“Screw that too. We should be on the water.”
Hansie took another trick and asked, “Is this about buying a boat again?”
“We can take fishermen out around Cape Vidal during the day then eat lobster and drink ourselves stupid at night. I’ve got some money put away.”
“Not when I’m done with you.” And he started dealing another hand, adding, “Plus you know less about boats than cards. Face it, my friend, we’re old recces, all we do is tell boring war stories until somebody shoots us or we break our neck falling off a barstool.”
The klaxon blew again, followed by a second, longer signal.
Hansie said, “Fire in the hole.”
Zander sat in the monitoring van, switching his gaze between a stopwatch and his screens. When the stopwatch hit zero, he muttered, “Fire in the hole.”
The signals on his monitors jumped, verifying the blast had gone off on schedule.
The klaxon blew three times in rapid sequence, indicating all clear. Nobody had heard the explosion, or felt anything above ground, but his sensors had measured and recorded the blast.
He muttered, “Good, everything’s normal.”
Almost instinctively he reached for a walkie talkie before remembering that the company’s new cell and satellite phone blocker had rendered them virtually useless. He climbed out of the van humming under his breath, until his feet touched the ground. The shale was vibrating.
But it didn’t feel like a tremor, which usually came in short bursts. This was continuous—like a giant never-ending subway train rumbling beneath his feet.
“Shit!” Zander sprinted through the site, leaping over obstacles, shouting, “Blow out! Drop everything and fall back, fall back!”
It took him a solid minute to reach the blowout preventer, the mechanism that stood between them and disaster. The two roughnecks he’d seen earlier were already running in the opposite direction.
Momberg grabbed his shoulder. “What’s happening?”
Zander shouted, “It’s a blowout!” He pulled himself free and ran to a cabinet marked “Emergency.” Inside was a Scott Air-Pack emergency breather. As he pulled on the mask, he saw Momberg trotting over to the blowout preventer to investigate. “Get away from there, you id—”
It was too late. Momberg stiffened for a second then keeled over. The toxic mystery gas was leaking out.
Zander turned on the air pack and scrambled over. The pack only held ten minutes of air, and he might need all of it to prevent a full-on blowout. But now he was wasting precious time saving Momberg, of all people. A low hiss emanated from one of the pipes. Zander twisted a nearby shut-off valve. The hissing ceased. He hauled Momberg up over his shoulder and cleared the area.
One of the security team watched him, resisting the impulse to run.
Zander raced over, gesturing for him to take the seemingly dead man, shouting, “Infirmary, understand? Infirmary,” his voice muffled by the air mask.
The guard nodded and took off, carrying Momberg.
The vibrations grew more violent until Zander could barely stand. He saw the rig tower swaying.
With a scream of tortured steel, the legs buckled, sending the ten-story derrick tumbling down onto the fracking setup. The girders slammed down onto a pair of tanker trucks, rupturing them like water balloons. Wirelines snapped, whipping across the ground, mowing down everything in their path. The work lights around him exploded in showers of sparks, plunging the area into darkness.
The vibrations jumped to a full-on earthquake. Splinters of shale flew up, ricocheting off his air mask. He dropped to the ground for stability and watched in awe as a crevice opened two hundred feet away, spreading in a jagged line towards him. The fracking equipment was swallowed into its maw, and the crevice just kept growing.
Hansie Beeker threw down his cards, shouting in Shona, “On your feet! Form up!”
Anton stood, feeling the steady vibration beneath his feet. “You think it’s a blowout?”
“Could be, or an earthquake, or a bomb.”
The four Zimbabwean mercenaries grabbed their gear and assembled at the door.
The vibration increased and Hansie watched the playing cards flipping into the air. “It’s a full-on quake.”
Anton nodded. “Hell of a lot bigger than the other ones.”
Hansie tossed the lead man a medical backpack. “We’ll probably have casualties. You men go out in two-man teams. Pull any wounded to the central split, then go back and look for more.”
The central split marked the end of the site’s welding shops and housing unit before entering the gas separation plant.
Hansie turned to Anton. “We’ll head for the fracking area and find out what those idiots have done. Now move out!”
The Zimbabweans raced out the door.
Anton smiled and said, “Maybe next time I say something bad’s going to happen you’ll listen.”
“Yeah, that boat’s looking better and better.”
And they stepped out into the chaos.
Zander pressed his belly to the ground, fingernails clawing at the shale, feeling like he was adrift on a rippling sea. The crevice widened, swallowing everything in its path. He watched a thousand-gallon water tanker being sucked into the growing void.
A massive jolt tossed him upward. He slammed down hard, knocking the wind out of him. An instant later the trembling ceased. The crevice stopped advancing and the night became eerily quiet.
Zander lay there in numb amazement until he heard someone shouting his name.
“Zander, you okay?”
Jaco ran over, a cluster of technicians trailing behind. Zander saw that the gun engineer was now wearing an air pack.
Jaco helped Zander back onto his feet, clapping him on the back. “That was fucking insane! If you hadn’t spread the word, we’d all be down in that hole.”
Zander nodded and reeled off the names of every man on the fracking crew.
All twelve responded with, “Here.”
“Okay, good news is we didn’t lose anybody.” Looking east he was relieved to see Rig Tower-1 still standing, a healthy column of flame issuing from its flare stack. The fracking area was dark, but there were still lights on across the rest of the complex, meaning it had power. Most importantly, he didn’t see signs of fire or smoke.
Jaco said, “I checked the nitrogen tanks and they’re intact.”
Zander laughed. “Good, ‘cause otherwise we’d be ice sculptures.”
Rupturing the three-story liquid nitrogen tanks would have unleashed a tsunami of minus 320-degree liquid.
A group of engineers and technicians ran out from the gas separation plant, eager to help, or at least find out what was going on.
Zander shouted, “Stop!”
The group halted.
“We may get aftershocks, so I want every flare valve opened, now! If it’s flammable I want it routed to a flare stack and burning off. Get moving; in five minutes I want that sky lit up like it’s New Year’s!”
The men raced back into the gas plant, where raw natural gas was separated into its valuable elements. The steel labyrinth was jammed with miles of pipe, all connected to a network of two-story separating tanks. Those towers and pipes contained enough compressed butane, propane and methane to level the entire complex. Routing it all to flare stacks would burn off a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of gas, but that beat losing a fifty-million-dollar plant and all the men in it.
Zander turned and addressed his group. “Boys, I think we made it through.”
The hardened drillers whooped with joy.
Zander felt raindrops on his head, smiled and said, “Jaco, if you say it could be worse—”
Jaco finished his sentence, “It could be raining?” earning a round of laughter. Then something caught his eye and he pointed to the crevice. “What’s that?”
Zander said, “It’s the biggest earthquake crevice I ever saw.”
“No, I’m talking about that thing coming out of it.”
Zander strained to see what he was pointing at. “Yeah, you’re right.”
A black shape was rising from the crevice, clearly moving under its own power.
Jaco asked, “Should we take a look?”
Zander put on his air mask and said, “Put on your mask. The rest of you wait here in case there’s any mystery gas.”
Flashlights in hand, Zander and Jaco picked their way through the debris field of twisted metal and broken shale. The increasingly heavy rain didn’t make things any easier.
Jaco said, “It looks like a war zone.”
They were twenty feet from the crevice when they saw the dark shape slip back inside. It suddenly occurred to Zander that there weren’t any trucks or equipment sticking out of the crevice. It was as if everything had been sucked straight down into hell.
Zander wondered aloud, “How deep is this thing?” and shined his flashlight down. All he saw was a black void.
Jaco crouched down, straining to see into the darkness.
Zander heard a dull thud in the distance and looked up. “They’ve got the stacks going.”
A series of flare stacks kicked in, shooting columns of blue and red flame high into the night sky. The flames reflected back off the rain clouds, casting a flickering light into the crevice.
Zander turned to Jaco. “At least now we’ll be able to—”
But the gun engineer was gone.
“Jaco!” Zander knelt down, shining his flashlight into the crevice, shouting, “Talk to me!” Then Zander realized that he wasn’t looking into a dark void—it was a writhing black mass. Dozens of intertwined shapes crawled over one another, hundreds of legs thrashing in an obscene dance. Another flare stack lit up, illuminating the crevice, giving Zander a clear look at one of the things. It stared back at him, the aerial flames illuminating its black eyes and glistening off its exoskeleton. It was a perversion of nature—a living nightmare.
The undulating mass burst upward. A huge pincer clamped around his chest, hoisting him into the air. Suspended there he watched dozens of the creatures stampeding from the crevice. Zander tried to scream, but the pincer only tightened, crushing his ribs, slicing into his flesh. In his final moment he saw the lower half of his body fall away, tumbling into a sea of black monsters.
Hansie and Anton scrambled past the rows of Quonset huts until they reached the central split leading into the gas separation plant. The burning flare stacks bathed the steel maze in flickering shadows. The steady rain had dragged the smoke down to ground level, shrouding everything in a noxious haze.
Anton said, “I can’t see fuck all.”
Hansie muttered, “A two-year drought and it has to rain tonight.”
Despite the dense smoke the pair effortlessly weaved through the warren of pipes, machinery and separation towers. As seasoned reconnaissance soldiers they’d run dozens of drills, committing every turn to memory.
Makanaka emerged from the smoke up ahead, an unconscious man slung over his shoulder.
Hansie waved, shouting, “Over here!”
Anton looked at the unconscious man and said, “It’s that idiot, Momberg.”
Makanaka said, “He sniffed the gas and went down.”
They heard a scream in the distance, followed by another until it grew into a chorus. The shrieks echoed off the steel pipes, making it impossible to pinpoint their origin.
Anton said, “That don’t sound good.”
Hansie pointed to a steel compartment labeled, “Emergency shutdown wrenches.” “Makanaka, shove that guy in there and follow us. We’ll come back for him.”
Makanaka put Momberg into the compartment, secured the door and fell in behind Hansie.
The screams grew closer until a pack of technicians charged out of the haze, tripping over pipes and colliding with each other in their panic.
Hansie grabbed one, demanding, “Tell me what’s going on!”
“It’s a swarm! They’re killing everyone!”
“A swarm of people?”
“No!” The crazed man tore himself away and ran.
Hansie turned to Anton and Makanaka, shouting, “Come on!”
Off in the distance, Hansie heard four rifles firing in unison, releasing short, controlled bursts.
He said, “Good boys! Just like I taught you, concentrated, disciplined fire.”
After three more bursts the guns fell silent, and the screams began.
The trio raced another twenty feet. Through the haze Hansie could make out one of his mercenaries crouched behind a network of pipes, firing wildly into the distance. Then his body shot straight up, vanishing into the haze above. There was a long, agonized shriek then silence.
Looking up, Hansie saw indistinct black shapes crawling among the pipes and rigging. All he could make out was that they were big and fast.
Hansie shouted, “We’re holding here. Makanaka, you cover up top; Anton, left flank.”
Makanaka aimed high, firing at the nearest shape.
To their left, Hansie saw an animal the size of a cape buffalo dart out from behind a gas storage tank. It charged at them, vaulting over the network of pipes with feline grace.
Anton shouted, “It’s mine!” and fired a series of three-round bursts into the oncoming creature. Every bullet hit the target, but the beast barely slowed.
Hansie saw another to their right. He pivoted, unleashing a series of bursts. Every shot was dead on target, but the barrage only served to draw the creature’s attention.
Anton’s target was charging straight at him. He switched to full auto, emptying his rifle at point-blank range. The beast slammed into him head-on, sending both to the ground in a tangled mass.
Another creature leapt off a two-story tower, landing on Makanaka. It slashed his chest, ripping him in half.
Hansie kept firing at his target. The darkness, the smoke, and the creature’s speed made identifying it impossible. It bore down on him then broke right without losing any speed, tearing into a cluster of fleeing technicians. Hansie watched helplessly, unable to fire without hitting the men. Seconds later, it didn’t matter—they were all dead.
The creature paused, savoring its kill. Hansie went on the offensive, charging forward, firing extended bursts. In the muzzle flashes he could make out that his target was at least nine feet long with some kind of claws. It grabbed the nearest corpse, clamped its legs around a vertical pipe and scuttled straight up, vanishing into the steel rigging above.
Anton groaned, pinned beneath the dead creature. Hansie ran over and dragged it off, giving him his first clear look at the enemy. For an instant he froze, unable to process what he was seeing, then quickly pulled himself back together. He’d survived a lifetime of combat through a combination of situational awareness and pragmatic thinking—abstract, irrational thoughts only got you killed. What he was seeing couldn’t exist, yet there it was—an inarguable fact. He couldn’t waste precious seconds denying or rationalizing its existence. All that mattered now was basic math. It had taken Anton thirty rounds to kill one beast, and they only had three hundred bullets between them. Judging by what he’d seen and the distant screaming there must be at least two dozen more. He slung the rifle over his shoulder, knowing attack was pointless. The battle was lost.
He knelt down over his wounded friend. Anton’s Kevlar vest had been slashed clean through. It was soaked in viscous yellow fluid that was melting the nylon outer shell. Hansie pulled it off, revealing a deep gash on Anton’s chest. There were splotches of the yellow fluid, and the skin it touched was already putrefying. Hansie recognized it as necrotic venom.
In a weak voice, Anton asked, “How bad is it?”
“Remember when you got bitten by that ring-necked cobra?”
“This’ll be worse.”
Anton winced in pain and whispered, “Leave me, save your own ass.”
Hansie hoisted Anton over his shoulder and said, “I can’t, you owe me too much money.”
He grabbed the spare ammunition off Makanaka’s dismembered body then worked his way back towards the workshops, keeping to the shadows. Just ahead he saw one of the beasts leap down from the overhead pipes, tearing into a pair of fleeing technicians. More creatures were slinking through the haze, running men down and dragging them off. He resisted the impulse to fire, knowing the sound would only bring the creatures down on them.
He managed to clear the gas plant, entering the network of tightly packed Quonset huts. Most of the rounded steel buildings were workshops or sleeping quarters. Unfortunately, the workers usually kept the steel rollup doors open to escape the African heat—a fatal error.
From the shadows, Hansie watched a screaming man being dragged from the nearest hut. Another of the creatures stood outside, awaiting its turn to hunt.
But he saw one Quonset hut further down the row. The rollup door and windows all looked secure and the creatures showed little interest in it.
The second creature charged into the open hut.
Trying to ignore the screams coming from within, Hansie whispered, “Hang in there, Anton, I think I found us a safe house.”
Seizing the opportunity, Hansie scrambled down the access road till he reached the hut. He set Anton down and yanked open the rollup door. The interior was pitch black, but anything was safer than being out here.
After dragging Anton inside, he paused for one last look at the carnage unfolding around him. Over the course of his life, Hansie had witnessed famine, butchery and even genocide, but nothing had prepared him for this. Tonight, hell had opened its gates, releasing an army of giant scorpions to feast on humanity.
A ten-foot scorpion emerged from the nearby hut, a dismembered corpse clutched in its pincers. Two slightly smaller ones charged into the open building, eager for whatever scraps the larger left behind.
Hansie slipped inside, bolting the door behind him. The room was dark and silent, save for the steady patter of rain on the tin roof. He groped along the wall until he found a light switch. A bank of flickering fluorescents came on. The room was sixty feet long with rows of workbenches. The walls were lined with tools, welding torches … and blood. There was blood everywhere.
Hansie raised his rifle just as the ten-foot scorpion leapt from the shadows, barreling at him like a charging rhino. He let loose on full automatic, emptying his magazine directly into the creature’s face.
And then it was on him.
About the Author
Scorpius Rex is William Burke’s second novel, following a long career
in film and television. He was the creator and director of the
Destination America paranormal series Hauntings and Horrors and the OLN
series Creepy Canada, as well as producing the HBO productions Forbidden
Science, Lingerie and Sin City Diaries. His work has garnered high praise
from network executives and insomniacs watching Cinemax at 3 a.m.
During the 1990’s Burke was a staff producer for the Playboy
Entertainment Group, producing eighteen feature films and multiple
television series. He’s acted as Line Producer and Assistant Director
on dozens of feature films—some great, some bad and some truly
Scorpius Rex is the glorious result of a childhood spent immersed in late
night creature features, monster magazines and horror comics.
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