Tales from The Crypt: Reduviidae
In again, he went. Deep into the tunnels below Cerelatir is where horrors lurked and men like him often met their doom. A ‘Seeker’ they called him, on account that he sought out the nests and destroy the eggs before they could be fertilized or worse. Hatch. He preferred the term ‘Bug Hunter’. It had a professional ring to it he liked as where ‘Seeker’ sounded like some fabled hero, of which his kind certainly were not. They had been in and out of caves and tunnels for days now searching for a potential nest in the local networks. A month back local man had said he had seen a female bug in the area scoping out the caves and believed she might have been searching for a proper place to lay her eggs. So far they had turned up nothing other than very old markings. Whatever had come through here was long gone it seemed. But if a female had laid her eggs down here they should have plenty of time to get to them before they hatch, assuming they had been fertilized.
“I think we might be chasing a ghost.” Otto said, looking at the markings along the cave floor.
“Regardless, we need to see this through. I believe the old man that he saw a bug around here. She might not have laid anything down here but it’ll bite our asses if we don’t check.” Gerard replied. He turned to look at the men. Otto, Markus, Anton, Matteo and Carter all returned his gaze, the torchlight casting shadows that danced on their faces. Bug Hunters - what a shit profession, but a needed one. They all brandished their standard ‘pokes and hooks’; a long piece of steel with a fine tip and a hook midway up the shaft. The weapon was meant for piercing between a bug’s plated armor and the hook was for prying off the plates, when possible, to allow for a weak spot. Otto and Matteo both carried their crossbows loaded with ‘bleeder bolts’, sickly, sun shaped, razor tipped bolts meant to bleed out a bug.
“Uuhh, Riker, I think I found something.” Carter said, pointing to a small side passage in the dark recesses of the walls. They all walked over and took a look down the passage, fresh marks could be seen towards the edge of the torchlight. Riker looked at his men and nodded. Riker lead point with Markus and Carter behind him, their pokes and hooks ready, with Otto and Matteo at the rear, Anton at center. They proceeded forward at a snail's pace and step by step uncovered a graveyard of large beetle shells. Riker felt a tingle go down his spine and on a hunch threw his torch down the tunnel where is clattered revealing what he had suspected and what they all had feared most. Hatched eggs.
“Run!” Riker cried spinning on his heels. The men all began to charge back up the tunnel. As they passed through the opening into the larger system a bug leapt out from the shadows taking down Matteo. He screamed as the bug’s claws shredded through his flesh but his screams were quickly silenced as the bug gurgled a green substance onto his face, melting it away. Markus and Carter charged the bug and drove their pokes into it, their force driving the adolescent bug off of Matteo’s corpse. Carter pulled his poke out and slammed the hook into the bugs chest. Carter grunted, using all of his strength to peel back some of the plating on the bug, as Otto lined up his shot. The crossbow fired and the bleeder bolt slammed into the bugs exposed flesh, it chittered and thrashed knocking Carter to the ground. Markus struggled to get his poke out of the bug and before he could the bug whipped its razored tail and severed the man’s head from his body.
“Anton, I need a detonate now!” He shouted, watching as another bug ran up the side tunnel. Anton was already on it and had begun the chant and gestures seconds before. Riker looked over at Otto and Carter who drove their pokes and hooks into the maw of the wounded bug, dodged its flailing limbs and tail. Once the bug was dead Carter grabbed Matteo’s loaded crossbow and tossed it to Riker who then aimed it down the side tunnel and fired. The bolt hit its target but did not penetrate and it halted the bug for those precious seconds Anton needed. Anton slapped the stone between the side tunnel and the main chasm and ran, with the rest of the men following. As they fled the main tunnel they could hear more chittering and clicking behind them and then a rush of heat swarmed past as an echoing boom deafened them. They all were launched forward by the blast. Rubble and dust being thrown up and around them.
The villagers stood, staring at the group of men who had passed through several days before. Although now they were short several men. Riker, Anton and Otto, carrying a legless Carter, walked past them. Riker said aloud “The bug problem has been dealt with. It was a fucking male you saw last month.”. The villagers continued to stare as the group of men pushed on. “Bug Hunters,” Riker though, “What a fucking joke of a job.”.