N2 – Hunter In The Night

Written by: Terra Ray

Southern Nigeria, 2028

Sweat dripped from the tip of Abidigun’s nose. The only sound he could hear was that of his own heartbeat thudding within his ears. His breath came in ragged gasps as he crouched within one of the many thick shrubs that surrounded the small painted walls enclosing many small homes and businesses. His family had called this village home for generations, back to his great-great-grandfather calling the same building home, but they were no longer safe there as a new type of predator stalked the trees. As his breath finally began to calm, his ears were able to pick up the sound of night insects chirping away as they always did, and he chanced a look around, popping his head out of the bush.

Behind him stretched copses of trees, groups of shrubs, and grasses all blowing slightly in the wind. The motion was distracting, but his gaze dared not linger too long for a chance to see a much larger kind of movement. Whipping himself around, he scanned his village before him. Most of the lights were off and the buildings appeared deserted. Good, they were taking the threat seriously; anyone with good sense was hunkered down inside with the lights off. It would do no good to attract attention.

Not like me…,’ Abidigun thought to himself, breathing out a slight chuckle as he continued to scan the village. ‘I can’t ever leave well enough alone, can I?’ His hands were slick with sweat in the humid night air of summer, clutching tightly to the wooden stock of his weapon. The makeshift crossbow was held at the ready, string pulled taught over the bolt. The weapon was held by cobbled together pieces of wood and metal Abidigun had salvaged over the years. He just needed it to hold together a little longer. There wasn’t anyone else that would patrol the night to keep his friends and family safe, not without him patrolling and armed for the danger.

Abidigun took a sharp breath, steeling himself before he dashed from cover and made his way over open ground towards the wall that surrounded the village. He had a little bit of trouble controlling his speed, however, and Abidigun’s back slammed against the painted cement a bit too hard, driving the breath from his lungs and sending a muffled thud into the night. He tried to recover, eyes darting side to side across the landscape in front of him. He saw something move, disturbing the brush around where he had just been, and that was all the confirmation that Abidigun needed.

He was not alone.

Despite his exhaustion and lack of breath, he took off at a jog parallel to the wall before taking a massive leap into the air. Abidigun’s arm pressed against the smooth, flat top of the wall, and with a grunt of effort, he managed to vault himself over the structure and onto the other side. It was not nearly enough. Experience had taught him that such a fortification wouldn’t do much but delay the creature, but it would buy him precious time to get into a better position. His feet came down on the dusty ground in the small gap between a home and the wall behind it, which he rounded quickly and began to move more cautiously with his crossbow raised and braced to his shoulder. He scanned back and forth as he walked, just like he had seen soldiers do on television before, his feet quiet and steady as they could be to carry him onto one of the main thoroughfares of his village.

Abidigun began to lean out around the corner and scanned the moonlit street for any sign of life, but it was thankfully deserted. As he pressed his back to the wall to prepare himself for the next dash his eyes fell on the set of faded and torn posters on the opposite wall. They depicted a set of men dressed in camouflage uniforms standing proudly and tall at attention, weapons slung at their sides. The majority of the poster was in his native Yoruban language, with a simple slogan of “Fight the Monsters, Retake N2!” Below this was the symbol of the station that had become infamous in the mind of every Nigerian. Lagrange Station North 2. Where it all started…

Abidigun had been only fifteen, a different person with a different name, when the comet fell. He could remember being woken from his bed by the sound of it roaring overhead. And how his whole home shook when it struck, despite it coming down in Lake Chad, over 1000 kilometers away. He could remember being so confused and concerned when his parents would watch the news, images of men fighting against these huge hulking creatures that never seemed to be in focus to get a good look at. Everything had been so confusing at the time, and he began to hear the name N2 over and over again. Now, six years later, it was something that he couldn’t get out of his head. That station had been ground zero of one operation against the monsters after another. How many times had that forsaken station been won and lost from the Kaijin, over and over again? But this time felt different. This time Abidigun had a feeling that it really was lost for good, and his world would be forever changed because of it.

There was no time to get lost in memories now. He was still being hunted.

Abidigun moved quickly from his spot in cover, walking swiftly but never lowering his weapon as he crossed the street over towards the Kumuyi house. He knew they had a small set of steps up to their door that he could use to swing up onto the roof and get a vantage. The sound of his boots clattering on the metal shingles pattered softly in the night as he approached the edge and scanned below. No movement, no shifting shadows, no hulking masses sliding between alleys. Maybe the creature really had-

There was a loud thud and Abidigun spun on his heels towards the back of the roof. There in the pale moonlight was a monstrous creature crouched from its leap up onto the roof. Humanoid in form only in that it walked on two legs, the creature was chords of tight muscle contained in reptilian-like skin occasionally broken by thicker natural armor plating. It had a bestial head with front-facing eyes and a snout that showed fangs despite its mouth being closed, like some kind of crocodile. But oddest of all was the slight pulsing glow of the crystal-like protrusions embedded in its clawed arms and at the tip of its small, useless tail that dangled behind it.

“Oh boy,” he muttered before the creature lunged across the roof at him. Abidigun tried to kick against the sheet metal shingles to get himself off the roof, but the Kaijin’s speed was blinding. The two struck together with a dull thud and tumbled off of the roof intertwined, the creature’s jaws trying to sink into Abidigun’s neck as he held it off with stiff arms and legs. They landed in a heap, the young man landing atop the Kaijin, fortunately cushioning his fall. The creature continued to thrash and lunge at him before Abidigun was able to land a solid hit across the creature’s thick jaw, wrenching its head to the side and causing just enough slack in its grip to let him free himself and get some distance. As he pulled away, however, the Kaijin’s claws raked across his chest over the ribcage. Cloth tore and Abidigun’s chest blossomed with pain as he stumbled, but he managed to scramble to his feet and run into another alley between buildings. Amazingly, he had been able to keep his crossbow clutched in his trembling hands.

Abidigun ran and darted through a few other gaps, trying to throw the creature off and buy him some time. ‘Come on, think. Think!’ his mind raced as he ran. He had been fighting the occasional rogue Kaijin that wandered near his down for almost a year now, but this was by far the worst situation he had been in. His free hand clutched at the wound on his chest as his mind scrambled to come up with a solution just as his ears picked up the sound of the Kaijin hot on his heels behind him.

In a flash of inspiration, Abidigun darted to the side, taking a different route and causing the Kaijin to overshoot and go too far down the previous alley before it was able to reorient itself and continue its chase. What the creature made up for in brute strength it clearly lacked in maneuverability and intelligence, things which Abidigun could exploit. Just as the creature was catching up to him, he again darted into a different alley, then another, gaining a bit of ground each time that the Kaijin would soon close. However, he was nearing where he wanted to be, thankfully too, as he could hear the creature’s inhuman snorts of effort behind him as he ran.

Finally, he saw his target, and at the last moment Abidigun leaped, pulling in one leg and extending the other so that he slid across the ground. Right under a thick metal clothesline strung up between the two homes. It was too hard to see in the pale moonlight until the reflection caught it, something he was counting on. Sure enough, there was a grunt behind him, and the sound of bone against the earth. Abidigun didn’t slow down to see what happened as he jumped up to his feet and kept running. Now he had enough time to put his plan into motion.

The Kaijin recovered quickly, not gravely injured by the clotheslining, only minorly inconvenienced as it began to pick up its human quarry’s trail. It began to stalk through the alleys slowly, following both scent and sound to weave its way through the village. Until just ahead it saw him—Abidigun standing there with his crossbow raised. The creature shifted its weight forward, lowering its head and shoulder plates towards its prey, and charged without a second thought. The Kaijin’s jaws opened and its whole body lunged forward to sink its teeth into him.

But instead of flesh, the Kaijin only found shards of metal and a brick wall behind it. Abidigun grinned from a roof behind the monster as shards of mirror flew through the air. Abidigun aimed his crossbow down at the stunned Kaijin below him and placed his finger on the trigger. It was beginning to extract itself out of the shards of glass and brick rubble, a claw reaching up towards Abidigun. But with a sharp held breath, a steady hand, and the squeeze of a trigger, his bolt went flying. It pierced the Kaijin just beneath the armored shoulder plate, sinking into its skin and releasing the extra surprise Abidigun had in store for it. The creature’s body seized and frost began collecting on its skin as the Kaijin’s entire form was flash-frozen in a matter of moments, its claw still reaching towards its quarry.

The tension eased, and Abdigun’s breath finally released. He sat back on the roof, letting his legs hang over and off as he let out a raucous cheer into the starry sky. His family and friends were safe for another night.

Recruit Abidigun “N2” Rotimi in Project Athena coming soon!

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