“Gonzalez we are NOT ready for co-option!” Perry said through gritted teeth, eyes rapidly flicking between the man and the pulsing ripples being blasting through each of the pistons.
“You think I don’t know that?” The man was frantically running his fingers from his head to his toes, trying to touch every square inch of his body as he went. Everywhere his fingers reached the advance of the translucent film was slowed, though not completely halted.
“Give him a booster!” Perry shouted, but O’Reilly was already down in the water, preparing the syringe. She had to hold the needle in Gonzalez’s arm for a few seconds, just to be sure that it had fully permeated his dimension-fluctuating body, and then she injected him with an extra dose of his own DNA, keeping him tethered to the real world for a little longer.
“Where are we at on stake dominance?” Perry demanded.
“Seventy-two percent of native life eradicated…” Thompson read off of her control panel. “About three grams per cubic inch remaining.”
“Not good enough!” Perry’s bit his lip as he tried to figure out a solution.
“Hey guys–” Gonzalez’s eyes twitched nervously as he tried to interpret something that was starting to manifest itself to his senses. “Something big is here!”
The air around them was still shimmering, giving glimpses of the strange other world in that area. And while the shimmers around Gonzalez were not clear enough to tell exactly what was happening, there was definitely something massive moving around him. It was nearly twenty feet tall and covered in shimmering, blue and crimson scales. It was moving, seemingly stalking Gonzalez, no doubt sensing his growing presence just as he was increasingly sensing it.
“Category four walker,” Swanson breathed, “and we’re way past being able to do early extraction.”
“We need stake dominance now!” Perry concluded. “Fire up the piston network!”
“But your hands are still breached!” O’Reilly exclaimed.
“And we don’t have time to fully disentangle, even if you did draw them out.”
“I know! I’m not drawing them out. We need an operator!”
“But I haven’t given you your reversion booster from this side!” Gonzalez added.
“Everyone, I know! But we need dominance now! This is not a discussion. Just do it!”
Myers and Swanson looked sick to their stomachs, but Perry was right and they knew it. They were past the point of no return. Either they had to keep following through or else abandon Gonzalez to an early demise. So the two men rapidly touched the metal ball triggers to the back of the pistons, firing them off in one, unified chorus. All the pistons fired as before, but this time they did not stop after the initial surge. Since they had been fired in tandem they were able to draw continued energy from each other, firing over and over in a constant, circling round.
“Unnnnngh!” Perry moaned as the parts of his hands reaching through the window of light were burned by the surge of power. He could not withdraw them, though. Now they were pinned there as if an invisible vise.
“Stake dominance achieved!” Swanson tapped through the screens on her tablet. “Sphere of control is…eight feet in diameter.”
“Get it bigger,” Perry said through gritted teeth, and Dawson immediately rotated the knobs on the stakes, widening the window of light. As he did so, Myers and Swanson added new pistons to the extended region, each of which immediately caught the surge of energy from the already-existing network and joined in with it.
“Stake range?” Perry demanded after a half dozen more stakes had been added.
“Eleven feet in diameter…operating range of thirty feet,” Swanson returned.
“Send a pulse down Gonzalez’s way and see if we can’t push that walker off…. Though it’s just as likely to make it go berserk…”
“Do it!” Gonzalez said through warbling lips. The shimmery film had made its way up to his thighs, and his whole body was shaking violently as he desperately tried to keep from giving over entirely to the other world.
Perry grabbed the inner ends of the pistons and swiveled them to point towards Gonzalez as Thompson punched a button on her tablet, sending a command to the beacon. All at once the energy surge around the pistons focused towards the center and then shot outward, blasting over the area where Gonzalez stood.
Gonzalez’s head and arms thrust backward, and all the hunters heard an otherworldly shriek, like the echo of a massive bellow bouncing off Gonzalez’s body.
Then came the reverse pressure as the outward surge collapsed in on itself. Through the flickering windows to the other world the hunters could see a stream of alien flora and fauna sucking rapidly towards the pistons. None of it broke through the window of light, though, everything burned into nothingness as soon as it collided with the barrier of their staked claim.
Well, almost everything was burned to nothingness.
All the windows flashed crimson and blue as the great creature next to Gonzalez was also pulled into the sphere of control. But unlike the smaller things, this larger beast did not immediately burn away.
Instead, it was wrenched into that Nexus, and suddenly a long, scaly snout pierced through the window into their real world, jaws snapping less than an inch from Perry’s sweat-covered face!
“Cut Perry loose!” Dawson exclaimed, pulling a machete out of his backpack.
“You will NOT chop my hands off!” Perry snarled. Though he appeared terrified by the smoldering fangs lunging at his face his eyes still burned with steely focus.
Dawson finished getting his massive blade out, but he didn’t follow through with his original instinct.
“Dawson,” Perry said with intense earnestness, “through the roof and out the jaw. Swanson, shrink the window to an inch.”
The two men caught on almost instantly. Swanson grabbed the window controls and spun the top and bottom together until there was only enough space for Perry’s fingers and the creature’s mouth. At the exact same moment Dawson stabbed the cutlass down through the air. It had enough of a point to pierce through the top of the creature’s mouth and came ripping out the bottom jaw. With an agonized cry the creature tried to snap its face back, but the tall cutlass slammed into the too-narrow window and refused to move any further. For better or worse, the creature was pinned in place!