The Gloam: Chapter 1,

Interloper:

The only thing I learned down in that tomb they called Site 112 is that I—we are nothing.

The rain beat down hard across the cement as the team’s boots entered the soundscape of millions of droplets. Illuminated by flood lights painted over the grey and blue hues of cold ground, the six of us moved through the open air towards the massive bunker door implanted into the side of the mountain. The rain cascaded down our gasmaks, creating a deafening torrent across our hazmat suits.

As we approached the massive metal door it groaned open like a hungry beast waiting to ingest us. The locking metal spokes, the teeth, the inside of the maw, and the single freight elevator at the back its throat.

As we all entered the elevators, I heard our commanding officer Lt. Auger call out, “Weapon and gear check.” 

Her voice echoed through the comms in our ears, a muffled undertone suffocated by her gas mask. I wiped the rain from my mask and checked my M4. I pulled the magazine and looked at my reserve ammo count on my vest. Slid it back into the weapon, pulled the slide back to chamber a round. Letting it dangle on its sling I pulled my sidearm and did the same. I was checking through my vest when the comms buzzed.

“I want us close down there, understand?” Her green eyes even managed to pierce through her rain-spotted mask. 

We all gave a decisive nod and a “Yes ma’am.”

Her black rubber gloves moved along her weapon, checking it as she continued to speak.

“As I was told, there are no expected survivors on sight. Regardless, keep steady and don’t fire unless absolutely sure.”

The elevator hitched, the lights flickered.

“This is a containment breach. Asset 11-b1 has broken out of its cell. We aren’t sure about other assets being released. So are to assume the worst. Move quickly and quietly, find asset 11-1b, and contain it by any means necessary.”

She took a deep breath, as if to calm herself. That scared us the most.

“The asset is considered to be extremely volatile. I have been instructed to shoot on sight. Do not attempt to communicate with it. We don’t have much to go on in the way of threats, what it can do. I was just given a brief description of it. Three meters tall, a humanoid posture, digitigrade footing. Eyeless and covered in a thick oily black chitin. Tendrils along its back that are believed to be used as sensory organs. Try to keep your minds clear.”

Her voice at the end dropped, as if concerned. The elevator doors opened to the sterile white lobby of Site 112.

The talk stopped as we moved into the white room, weapons up. It was nothing but a lobby. A bathroom door to the right and locked door going into the elevator to the different levels.

We saw no signs of bodies.

Auger’s eyes connected with Blaine and Wesley with a hand pointing to the restrooms to clear them. There was a slight whisper from the comms. 

“Abbot, get on the lobby computer.”

“Yes ma’am,” he said as he moved behind the counter and sat in the rolling chair.

My eyes darted from corner to corner, weapon down but finger still hovering over the trigger guard. After just a moment Wesley and Blaine exited the bathroom with a fairly loud “clear.” We all somewhat relaxed, and could then hear Abbot’s tapping on the keyboard.

“Ma’am any other loose assets in the facility?”

Auger’s eyes looked as if she hadn’t thought of that. 

“I’m not sure, Gates. But we deal with it bit by bit. The higher-ups only told me about the one. So I hope that’s the only issue going forward.” She looked back to Abbot. “Anything?”

He spoke without stopping the keystrokes. “I have limited security footage. Nothing current. The cameras seem to be down throughout the facility, some door access as well. The system is a mess, Ma’am”.

Auger looked at the four of us standing waiting for an order and then back at Abbot. “Alright, Fredericks you’re staying here with Abbot. There are two floors below us. Wesley, you’re with me. We’re going down one floor.” 

Wesley moved promptly over to her side.

“That means Blaine and Gates, you are going to the sub level.”

We both gave verbal confirmation. In truth, I was happy. I’d much rather be with someone I knew well. Wesley only joined our squad a month or two ago. He’s gotta be talented to make it into the squad, but not knowing him well would give me another variable to deal with. Blaine and I had fought alongside many times. It comforted me knowing he was going with me.

“Abbot, keep us updated as best as you can. Let us know if you find anything relevant to the asset. The rest of you, let’s move.”

The four of us moved towards the sealed door as the tapping of a keyboard ended with a decisive click. The door hissed and slid open. The hallway wasn’t more than 10 or so meters, with a stairwell door on the left and an elevator straight ahead. We all piled into the elevator. Auger pushed both buttons. B1 and B2. The doors closed and the elevator shifted as it took us on our descent. 

Only a moment passed before it dinged and opened. There was a stark difference from the floor and the sterile white, untouched lobby. The lights were barely on and flickering. All of our guns went up as Wesley moved into the room. Before Auger followed she shot us both a look—the kind a worried parent might give. She exited the elevator. As the doors closed, mine and Blaine’s weapons lowered.

Blaine was checking his master key, the underbarrel shotgun on his M4. He was always a fan of being able to use it whenever he could.

“Let’s make sure to stay focused.”

Blaine only responded with a half chuckle before looking up at me.

“100% all the time. We got this.”

The elevator dinged again, sounding warped and distorted. The doors struggled to open.

Blaine and I moved through the opening hall quickly, rifles up, our eyes darting under the thin layer of protection.

Every door we passed—closed, requiring more clearance than either of us had. We came to a double door. A large sign above the door said “subject testing.” The text was in blue, contrasting with the surrounding white of the walls.

I pushed on the door. 

“Sealed. See if Abbot can get it open before using your key?”

The sentence that indicated restraint on using his favorite tool seemed to sadden Blaine, but he gave me a quick nod of approval.

“Abbot? It’s Gates.” I could hear a slight echo from Blaine’s comms.

“What’s up?” He said, almost mockingly.

“We are outside subject testing, sub level 2. Any access from there?”

It was only a second before the comms clicked back.

“I have none. Auger asked me the same about administration. I can barely load up security footage from more than a day ago.”

“”It must be Christmas,” I whispered before I answered the comms. “Understood. You made Blaine happy.”

“Have fun. Over,” he said quickly, knowing how much the master key meant to him. With one quick concussive shot the middle lock burst open. I entered first, followed quickly by Blaine. 

The room was massive. It was a circle, desks and computers lining the walls, some still on and working. The center was raised, on it an inner circle of desks. In the center was an almost glass aquarium, but with no water.

We skirted around the room, clearing it before regrouping to search for anything that could give us a leg up on the situation. We both imminently started digging through papers, working computers, anything. The sound of us rummaging echoed through this almost hollow feeling white room. It felt like an eternity before I stumbled on to something.

Subject11-b1:

Made contact with an unknown entity through The Veil. It returned multiple times on separate occasions. Wasn’t overtly hostile. Not sure if it even knew we were there. Its presence did seem to provoke some adverse reactions in some of the newer staff. One even went as far as to mutilate their eyes with a pen.  After that incident we only have had senior staff working around it and only short intervals to be sure.

We were able to lead it to containment. It absolutely senses our presence, even without obvious sensory organs, other than perhaps the tendrils coming from its back section. Once in containment it just stood in the center of the cell. Not moving. No sound. Nothing.

Our first test to gain a deep tissue sample was a failure. The dark chitinous plates that cover its body  made such a thing impossible without a powered drill. I fear such a device may startle or aggravate it.

“Anything?” Blaine called out from across the room.

“Yeah, this thing is 100% not terrestrial. Look for something about The Veil. It’s mentioned in this report. It’s some kind of device, I assume on site.”

Blaine started to search through his pile of discarded papers and documents. Just as he started, the lights turned off with a loud hum. The sound of his papers stopped. I lifted my weapon.

“Flashlight isn’t turning on,” I heard Blaine in the dark, immediately trying to switch my shoulder flashlight on my vest. It just clicks, nothing. Same with the comms, nothing.

“Fuck, comms aren’t on either.” 

My mouth felt dry as I said it. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears as if it was echoing in my gasmask. Apart from that, I heard the occasional sound of mine or Blaine’s hard boots stepping against the tile floor. My eyes started to settle in the dark as shapes were starting to be visible. I could see Blaine.

“You see me?”

“Yeah, back to me.” He shuddered as he directed me. I heard another footstep. Heavy, slow. Couldn’t be more than 10 meters away. Our guns went to our shoulders.

I felt like I could hear both of our hearts stuttering in unison. Every shape in the dark felt like a threat. We rotated, scanning and trying as best we could to see everything.

“Gates, did you bring any light sticks?” Blaine whispered as low as he could.

I lowered my weapon and started to search my vest. I did. I had five on my lower vest. I slid one from its home and snapped it quickly against my leg. I threw it to the center of the room, illuminating us in an eerie green glow. That’s when both our guns raised tighter to our shoulders and fixated on the form just on the other side of the containment cell.

Its vaguely humanoid form was distorted by the low light and layers of glass. A low groan filled the room, like a rumble that felt like it shook my bones.

I glanced at Blaine. His gun was up but his eyes were drifting. His composure faltered. Even through all the gear, I could tell it was getting to him.

There was a loud weighted clang like that of metal on stone as the creature took two large gated steps around the cell. I took a step back and almost slipped off the raised floor. Blaine stood still.

The creature’s large, almost cocoon-like silhouette moved along on its beastly legs laggardly. The rumble filled the space within my gas mask along with my hyperventilated breath. Its form made little sense. A head with no features. No arms seen. Blaine still hadn’t moved. I hesitated to fire.

My head flashed with pain, a piercing migraine that reached into my neck. I stifled vomit.

“Blaine. Hey.” I tried to grasp his attention as calmly as I could, but he didn’t break his stare.

“Fuck Blaine! Look at me!” I couldn’t hold back the panic anymore. It got him to turn his head to me, and I saw that tears were running down his face. I heard the creature take another step towards us. 

“We need to leave. You understand?” I said, beckoning him with a hurried motion. He started to stumble towards me as a sickening sound filled the air. Wet stones rubbing together, a sickly sliding of flesh and chitin. The cocoon silhouette grew in my periphery. Eight armored tendrils unfurled from its back, leaking some liquid across the dimly lit floor.

The creature was feeling, moving things around as it kept its slow pace. Blaine’s eyes had moved back towards the thing as it metamorphosed into something else in front of us. His gaze once again fixed to that horrid point.

I took a step forward to try to grab Blaine by the back of his vest, but as I did, one of the tendrils cracked like a whip and moved across the floor in front of Blaine, cracking and shattering the tile.The rumble oscillated as I backed off.

I had to deal with odd things—violent things—in this squad, but nothing like this. I knew they wanted me dead, but this thing? I didn’t know what it wanted at all.

I raised my rifle tight against my shoulder. It moved closer to Blaine, but its featureless face fixed on me the entire time.

It dwarfed him as it closed the distance, his eyes staring up at it as it started to wrap him up with its armored appendages. I wasn’t just going to watch. I squeezed the trigger, aimed for its head. I had to. It’s tendrils moved like lightning, covering its face as the rounds skipped and chipped chitin from them. The rumble turned to a hiss as it stumbled back.

As the last round in the magazine left the barrel, I was already grabbing Blaine by his vest and dragging him away. With my free hand I dropped the magazine out of the weapon, still trying desperately to drag Blaine with me. He was fighting me. Struggling.

“Blaine shake it off. Focus. Please!”

He turned and lunged at me. He was like some sort of zombie, his eyes still filled with tears.

“Let me be.” He said in an almost choking voice.

With my eyes fixed to his I didn’t see the tendril wrap around his waist. It pulled him from me and pushed me forward. I landed on my face. 

I fought to get my rifle out from underneath me, rising to one knee as fast as I could. By the time the new magazine was in and the slide snapped the round in the chamber, the creature was gone. It left as quickly as it came. 

The lights flickered on. Immediately I felt tears running down my cheeks and Abbot in my ear shouting.

“Gates, Blaine. Respond!”

“Contact. Blaine was taken. Tell Auger! Get them both to me. ” I could hear my voice crack.

“I haven’t been able to contact them, Gates. ” I could hear the frustration in his voice. My heart dropped along with my rifle.

“What do we do, Gates?” Abbot pleaded.

“I’m falling back to you. “