AT THE MESENTERY OF MADNESS
The following takes place before the events of Rogue Cell.
Running late again! Alex couldn’t afford another tardy appearance, he wasn’t exactly in the professor’s good graces to begin with. Of course, that didn’t mean he wasn’t going to grab lunch first. Stopping briefly at his favorite halal cart, Alex ordered his usual chicken and rice dish. With his impatience growing as his food cooked, Alex took a look at the meat and figured it was cooked enough, and told the vendor to pack it up. He quickly paid and continued his sprint to his endocrinology class, and arrived with only seconds to spare. Pleased with himself, Alex began a celebratory meal of what he should have known was dangerously undercooked poultry. What Alex could never have known was that what would cause him moderate indigestion would be a waking nightmare for the BioWarriors of his immune system.
Weeks later, within Alex’s Biocosmos:
We’d been hearing rumors for weeks. Unconfirmed whispers of empty eggshells and little slithering things. These stories sounded far-fetched to begin with, and on top of that it came from the intestines. Bowel-dwellers don’t exactly have a reputation for having their heads on straight. So when the call came in that the B-Cells were mobilizing down there, we all figured it was a wild platelet chase. We were so naive.
We’d been told that an entire patrol had gone missing the day before, so priority one was to ascertain their fate. Our secondary objective was to find what was responsible. As we winded through the seemingly endless entrails, an inexplicable sense of dread filled the air. This section of tissue looked the same as the last, but we could all feel a chill creeping up our cyto-skeletons.
A faint trembling overtook the tissue below us and gradually grew more intense with each passing second. While we couldn’t pinpoint the source right away, we knew that something was heading straight for us. Something big. Some of the BioWarriors were starting to lose their nerve, and they hadn’t even seen them yet.
Then they came. Horrific beasts almost beyond description. Their size was unfathomable, by far larger than even the most gigantic creatures we’d ever even heard tell of. Their massive slithering bodies towered from the ground to the topside of the intestine, with mass left over to trail ceaselessly behind them. They were encased in a carapace of sickly yellow and covered with intermittent spikes. Their most terrifying feature however, was their gargantuan gaping maws, a trisected mandible encasing a dark abyss.
For one moment we were all frozen in place, jaws hangings open as our minds struggled to comprehend what we saw before us. In the next, there were more antibodies in that intestine than there was empty space. Every B-Cell present was unloading at full power, but our attack only served to anger the behemoths. As the monsters descended upon our forces, the BioWarriors of a weaker constitution were overtaken by panic and hysteria. Not my squad though, we were made of sterner stuff.
We rallied with those amongst us still possessing some backbone in spite of our overwhelming disadvantage. The beasts were cuttings swaths through our formation, leaving the broken screaming bodies of BioWarriors in their wake. We were forced to break ranks to give them smaller targets. Blastor, our Commander, ordered us to concentrate our fire into the mouth of the closest annelid. The creature reeled from the onslaught, and collapsed dead from its internal injuries.
Seeing that it was actually possible to kill them, the surviving BioWarriors’ resolve was reinvigorated. Those of us remaining took down most of the titanic monsters, and the rest fled. The battle may have been won, but it was a Pyrrhic victory. As I glanced across the battlefield, it was brutally evident that there were more of us dead on the ground than there were left standing. Among the fallen was the entirety of my own squad, my brothers-in-arms. Except for me. I lived while they died.
Those of us left stood silent and numb as the air of trepidation subsided. We’d all lost someone, but right now all that mattered was protecting the Biocosmos. If those worms managed to do any serious damage, our comrades would have all died in vain. Blastor rallied the remaining B-Cells and we took off in pursuit of our eldritch quarry.
They were quick for their size, but so were we. When we finally caught up with them in the Thoracic District, we came upon a sight as strange and unnerving as the beasts themselves. Surrounding the monsters in wide concentric rings were hooded figures performing some sort of infernal ritual, kneeling motionless on the ground. As we drew closer to the bizarre scene, we could see that all of the cloaked cells were elders, and were all macrophages or lymphocytes. The cultists were not our mission, at least not yet anyway, so we initiated the same tactics that proved effective in the bowels to take down the rest of the annelids. One of the “smaller” creatures managed to escape, but we had more pressing matters at hand. Once that last of the worms were dead or gone, the cultists that hadn’t been crushed by the objects of their own worship snapped back to reality and turned their attention towards us.
They launched toward us with a speed and fury of cells half their age, and as they pounced we were bombarded by synchronized chemical messages from each cultist. My comrades and I reeled momentarily as an arcane incantation flooded our receivers. It was a chilling dialect that could only have come from the Beyond. As verse after dire verse slithered into our minds, we were forced to combat the weird sect with clouded senses. Luckily, for all their vitality and ferocity, the elders still had the strength of the superannuated cells that they were. When we felled the last of them, the chanting subsided, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief.
After regaining his composure, Blastor lifted one of the surviving cultists into the air and…interrogated him. He put up some mild resistance, but the captive soon relented upon more aggressive persuasion. The fanatic told us a familiar story, increasingly manic as he went on. This was not the first time beasts like this invaded the Biocosmos. Years ago, when he was the one on the front lines, they had to endure the same horrors that we were now intimately acquainted with. Some of the aberrant cells driven mad by terror managed to escape the Natural Killer Cells and focused their psychosis into occult worship.
Blastor sent out a chemical message to the NKCs cleaning up the intestines telling them to be especially thorough. The NKCs would have to take care of that on their own, because we still had to track down the final worm. We continued on its trail, which we feared was initially heading towards the Council of the Mind in the Thalamic Chamber, but the path instead led us in the direction of the starboard Ocular Base.
We arrived not a second too soon, as the creature’s gaping jaws were about to chomp down on the soft white tissue in front of it. Luckily, an open mouth is what we needed, and we unloaded everything we had right down its gullet. As ultimate annelid’s death throes ceased, the nearly-unbearable weight of the entire ordeal was lifted off our shoulders. With the monsters dead and the cultists on their way to the same fate, we could at least take some solace in the fact that our friends didn’t die for nothing.