Dann could hardly take his eyes off the landscape as they passed through the more lightly wooded north-west area. His few memories of the biome pre-launch had been of an area largely covered with freshly cut grass and lots of young saplings and bushes. The pure beauty of the woodlands that had grown in the centuries since were simply breathtaking.
“C’mon Chambers, keep up. We don’t have time to sightsee here,” Jackson complained any time he slowed too much. At such times, he found himself gritting his teeth and holding his tongue.
They’d traveled far enough that he figured they must be getting to the right ballpark when distant shouting reached them. Jackson was instantly on the alert, seeking the source of the voice. Dann was right behind her. They were passing around a thick copse of old trees and coming up on a clearing. Far ahead and across the clearing, Dann could just make out a figure running towards them and waving.
“There,” he said. A second figure moved into sight; Rose, by the color. They were both moving fast, faster than Dann would have expected from the one that must be the lieutenant, and their voices were agitated. “I can’t make out what they’re saying,” he started to say. He got about as far as ‘make’ when a passing cement truck clipped him on the head and the ground slammed up into his face.
The growling, yelling and shooting that followed flowed over him like water across his bubble of shock as he crawled, dream-like, away from whatever had struck him. His head was ringing badly enough that he couldn’t stand, but he got himself to the base of a tree trunk and turned, then very nearly turned away again. Jackson had her SMG out and was firing point blank at what was by far the most terrifying bear Dann had ever seen, her features twisted in terror. The smallest of the thing’s limbs was thicker around than all four of his together. From where he lay, it looked like it must’ve been eight times the mass of the gun-toting private.
It reared back on its hind legs, standing so tall it almost blotted out the sky as he looked up at it.
He gaped, then remembered that she wasn’t the only one with a weapon. He fumbled for his pistol, brought it up in shaky hands, even remembered to click the safety off. Hands shaking, he tried to line up on the beast, but the best he could do was keep it away from Jackson’s direction. He squeezed off several shots just as the bear looked like it was rearing back to strike at her.
It ignored—or didn’t notice—the shots, and its arm smashed her to the ground with incredible force. But then it turned back to him and rushed him with shocking speed. Fleshy, furry mountains shouldn’t move that fast, he thought, gun still raised. He was just about to fire another shot out of instinct when his arm was jostled as a grey blur practically flew past him and into the oncoming bear.