By Cat Bountry
“Doc! Doc, you there man?”
Medic grumbled, turning over in his bed against Heavy’s body. He screwed his eyes shut, trying to ignore the Scout. He had been coming into the infirmary far too often over the past few days, late at night and early in the morning, complaining of nausea. Quite frankly, he was getting sick of it.
“I know you’re in there man, open up!” Scout whined, pounding at the infirmary door. “Ah, jeez.”
“Scheiße,” Medic muttered, sitting up out of bed, and getting up with all the urgency of a drugged sloth. Heavy shifted in bed next to him, rolling over to look at the doctor.
“Scout is back again?” He asked sleepily.
“Ja,” Medic replied. “Go back to bed, Liebe. I’ll take care of zis.”
Heavy sighed and rolled back over with a yawn, and Medic massaged his temples as he left the bedroom. He tried to wake himself up a bit, shaking his head as he opened the infirmary door. There was Scout, looking pale and sickly, with a slight hunch to his normally cocky stance. There were visible bags under his eyes, and the boy seemed to be having trouble standing upright, as his knees wobbled and knocked underneath him.
“Same as last time?” Medic asked flatly.
“Think I’m gonna be sick, Doc,” Scout said.
“Lie down on vone of ze loom and leaf beds,” Medic sighed. “Zis is getting to be a problem.”
“You got a bucket or somethin’, man?” Scout asked. “I think I’m about ready to start blowin’ chunks.”
The doctor sighed, and rooted through his cabinets to get the boy a pan. At first, he thought that these waves of nausea might be caused by anxiety or stress; surely, being as young as he was and dying and respawning constantly on the field of battle, it certainly wouldn’t be too far of a stretch to say that it was having an adverse effect on his health. He hadn’t even made it to Scout’s bedside before he noticed the young man starting to quiver and heave. Medic rushed over, and shoved the pan underneath Scout’s head to catch the bile that spewed out from him. He winced at the sight, and Scout rolled back onto the infirmary bed, groaning in agony. Medic glanced over the boy, and noticed that he appeared to be putting on some weight around his midsection.
“Scout,” said Medic, “do you have any idea vhat is causing zis? Any at all?”
“Nah, man,” Scout said, shaking his head. “I swear ta god, I don’t know… just started havin’ these weird dreams ‘bout bein’ operated on an’ then I start throwin’ up when I wake up…”
“Und ze veight you have been gaining?” Medic asked.
“Man, I don’t even know about that,” Scout groaned. “Haven’t felt like eating much lately, ya know? I mean, I’ve been feelin’ hungry, but I feel like I can’t keep nothin’ down.” He buried his face into the pillow. “I don’t know what’s goin’ on with me, man.”
“Have you been experiencing any ozzah symptoms?” asked Medic, as he rinsed out the pan in one of the sinks on the counter.
“Yeah… a little,” Scout admitted. “Like, my guts hurt sometimes. Is that weird at all?”
“I should say so,” Medic said grimly, walking back over to Scout. “Lift up your shirt, bitte.”
Scout gave a pained little groan and obeyed, revealing a rather unnatural-looking bulge protruding from his stomach. Medic ran a finger along it, noticing a very faint scar down the center of his abdomen, like the seam of some stuffed doll.
“Vhere did you get zis?” Medic asked.
“Get what?” Scout asked, looking down at his stomach. He finally noticed the scar Medic was touching, and regarded it curiously. “Huh,” he said. “Don’t remember gettin’ this.”
Medic frowned, and gave the scar a tentative poke. Scout gave out an anguished cry.
“Jesus, man, that fuckin’… fuckin’ hurts.” He swatted Medic’s hand away. “Don’t touch it, man, you’ll make it worse.”
“Let me give you somezing for zat, zen, hmm?” The doctor turned away again, rooting through his cabinets. “How does morphine sound to you?”
“Whatever makes it hurt less s’fine with me,” Scout said. “Dope me up already.”
Medic prepared the IV bag, trying to maintain his nonchalant demeanor. He didn’t want to upset the boy, though his mind raced through one horrible scenario after the other: had the Scout been kidnapped one night and operated on by the enemy Medic? What was inside of him? A bomb, perhaps? He shuddered at the thought. He quickly injected the needle into the crook of Scout’s arm, and waited for the drug to kick in. He was probably going to have to cut the boy open, find out what horrible device was implanted inside him. He slipped on his lab coat, surgical mask and rubber gloves, and set to work.
Carefully, he laid out his scalpels and tools, and plucked the one he needed for his first incision. He sliced through the skin and the abdominal wall, and noticed something moving just underneath the skin, recoiling away from his tools. Medic lifted the layer of fat and skin and muscle, only to find object writhing around underneath. It was hard to describe what, exactly, he was looking at, but he did know one thing; it was not made by human hands. He picked up a pair of tongs and attempted to drag the thing out, tugging at it as it tried to wriggle away back underneath of the boy’s flesh. He managed to get a grip on the slithering, slippery thing, and coaxed it out from Scout’s guts. When he finally pulled it out, he held it up to the light, to get a better look at the thing.
He had never seen anything quite like it. It looked sort of like a very soft crab, only instead of claws it had twisty, squirming tentacles, and nothing even remotely resembling a face. He held it up in the air, up to the light, to see a much smaller thing visible through its translucent body. Its shape was indefinite, but there was definitely something there. Medic felt his body seize with horror and disgust; he had to dispose of this thing. At the same time, he was morbidly curious about it, and how on earth it ended up inside of their Scout. He carried the thing over to his tiny medical refrigerator, sealing it away in a bag and stuffing it in the back, ignoring the sounds of bottles being knocked over as he closed the door. After firing the Medigun onto Scout’s unconscious form and watching the wound seal itself up like a zipper of flesh, he looked over his patient, removed the drip, and checked the freezer again. Whatever it was inside of there had stopped moving around. The doctor was too tired now to investigate the creature further. Tomorrow, when he was more alert, he would study it. But for tonight, his bed felt as though it were calling to him, beckoning for him to curl up next to Heavy and fall back into blissful slumber. He trudged back to his bedroom, and crawled back into bed, nuzzling up against the big, Russian bear of a man in his bed.
“Vhat did Scout vant?” Heavy asked sleepily.
“I’ll tell you about it tomorrow,” Medic said. “Go back to sleep.”
“Okay,” Heavy conceded, and wrapped a giant arm around Medic. “Good night, Doktor.”
As much as he wanted to, Medic found it difficult to fall back asleep. He kept thinking that he heard noises coming from the infirmary, but he wasn’t sure if it was his tired, rattled mind playing tricks on him as he tried to drift off to sleep or if what he was hearing was real. After one particularly loud clatter caused him to jolt up from his bed, he got up to investigate the noise, creeping out of his room and switching on the light. Scout was still knocked out, lying on fresh sheets, totally oblivious to what had happened earlier. Medic made his way over to the refrigerator, opening it cautiously. He looked inside, and froze. The bag was open. The thing he had found was missing.
Don’t panic, he thought. That would do no good. It crawled out of the fridge; it could not have possibly gotten that far. He stooped down to check underneath the cabinets, scanning the floor for any trail of the creature. Quite suddenly, he felt a sharp, jabbing pain in his ankle and turned to look down. One of his needles from his syringe gun had found itself lodged in his Achilles’ tendon, and as he reached down to yank it free, he collapsed onto the floor, and everything went black.
He wasn’t sure what time it was when he awoke. He thanked God that they were still in the middle of a cease-fire, and picked himself up off the floor. He removed the syringe from his ankle with a hiss. Had that thing done this to him? He immediately rushed over to Scout, who was still in a drug-induced slumber. He lifted the boys shirt and studied his stomach. No, the bulge was gone. It hadn’t tried to crawl back inside. So, then where was it? His eyes wandered over to his medical tray, and he noticed his tools were in a state of disarray, spread out as though rummaged through in great haste. But most worrying of all was that one of them, his largest scalpel, was missing. Oh God, he thought. It was going to attack him again.
Medic found and grabbed hold of his bonesaw, gripping it tightly in his slippery, sweating hands. He listened for any noises, not particularly eager to be caught off guard and stabbed again. As a precaution, he decided to check the bedroom. Heavy was probably still asleep, and he hadn’t even told the man about the thing he had found in Scout’s abdomen. Slowly, carefully, he opened the door to his bedroom, and flicked on the light switch. He immediately gasped at what he saw.
There it was, burrowing itself inside of Heavy’s stomach, sealing the opening closed with the propped-up Medigun. Heavy’s flesh was slipping closed, and the tentacles of the creature poked and writhed from underneath the layers of flesh, trying to close the flaps like those of a tent. Medic screeched in horror, and raced over to grab at the parasite, only to grab at Heavy’s stomach after it had already closed. Without thinking, Medic grabbed for the scalpel the creature had used, and was ready to slice into Heavy and pull the thing out, when shapes began to form underneath Heavy’s skin. They joined together and wriggled like worms, and formed letters. Medic nearly dropped his scalpel in shock.
“IF YOU CUT ME OUT I WILL KILL HIM,” the letters in the flesh threatened.
“Vhat do you vant?” Medic hissed.
The letters broke up and started to reform again. “TO INCUBATE,” they replied.
“Find somevone else to ‘incubate’ in, you monstah,” Medic said. “You leave him alone!”
“NO,” said the creature. “THIS BODY IS PERFECT. I AM STAYING.”
“Zen I vill cut you out,” said Medic.
“YOU KILL ME, AND I WILL KILL THIS MAN,” the creature replied. “I HAVE ALREADY GAINED CONTROL OF HIS ORGANS.”
Medic could feel his hands trembling. He looked over Heavy, who was miraculously still asleep. Had the creature ensured that he would not wake up? He watched Heavy’s giant barrel chest rise and fall peacefully, looking content as he dreamt.
“Please,” Medic whispered. “Anyvone but him… I… I love him.”
“IF YOU DO AS I SAY, NO HARM WILL COME TO HIM,” the creature replied. “BUT I NEED A HOST.”
He should not have been agreeing to this, he thought. Any reasonable man would have killed the thing. But he would not dream of killing his Heavy, or hurting him in any way. “Promise me you vill not harm him,” Medic said.
The creature seemed to hesitate a moment. It finally shifted underneath Heavy’s skin again, forming two words: “I PROMISE.”
The doctor felt sick, disgusted with both himself and the creature who had invaded his lover’s body. Could he tell Heavy about this? Surely, he would notice this thing occupying his guts, but he didn’t want to cause the Russian any undue stress, or worse, cause him to take action against the creature himself. He shuddered. “How long vill you be in zere?” Medic asked.
“AS LONG AS I NEED TO BE,” it answered. “YOU CAN CUT ME OUT WHEN I AM DONE.”
“Very vell, zen,” Medic said, trying to hide his contempt for this creature and maintain his normally detached demeanor. “I vill be holding you to zat.”
“GOOD,” the parasite spelled out. “NOW GO TO BED.”
Medic shook his head. He put away his equipment and tools before he finally retired, lying down next to his oblivious, slumbering Heavy. He felt helpless. Was the creature bluffing? Did it really control Heavy’s body now? He felt as though he didn’t have much of a choice. He lay on the bed, his back against the mighty Russian’s frame, and tried to sleep, tried not to think about that thing which had violated his Heavy, penetrated and invaded him and claimed him for his own. Eventually, he drifted off to a nervous, fitful sleep.
When Medic awoke the next morning, stirred by the sounds of Soldier rousing the rest of the base from their slumber, his head was pounding, and he had only the foggiest recollections of the bizarre dream he had the night before; something about some sort of alien that had burrowed into Heavy’s stomach and threatened to kill him. He rolled over to look at Heavy, who was just starting to stir from his sleep.
“Good morning, Doktor,” Heavy said with a yawn. “Did you sleep okay?”
“Ach, I’m afraid not,” Medic grumbled. “I had ze most horrible nightmares last night. It’s funny, really… I dreamt zat some sort of monstah crawled inside of you und zhreatened to kill you if I tried to get it out.”
“Maybe is sign you are vorking too hard?” Heavy suggested as he sat up. “Ve have not fought BLU for several days. You should relax.”
“Perhaps you ah right,” said Medic. “It didn’t even make sense anyvay…”
“Most dreams usually do not,” Heavy said with a chuckle. He got up, and the blanket slid off of his bare stomach. “Huh,” he said, running his fingers down a faint, pale scar running down his midsection. “Vhere did dat come from?”
Medic looked over to Heavy and stared at him in horror. “Oh, nein…” Medic whispered. “Nein, nein, nein…” He clamored over the bed and grabbed at Heavy’s belly, inspecting it frantically, poking and prodding it.
“Is probably battle scar I forgot about,” Heavy rationalized, wincing a bit. “You vorry over nothing.”
“I’d like to do some x-rays,” Medic said, trying to hide his panic. “If it’s in zere, it von’t let me take it out vizzout killing you.”
“Is no big problem,” Heavy said, shrugging. “I respawn anyvay.”
“Just get to ze infirmary!” Medic shouted. He noticed Heavy’s rather concerned expression, and he ran a hand through his hair and cleared his throat. “Bitte. I just… I just vant to make sure I am wrong. You go on ahead. I vill meet you zere.”
“Sure,” said Heavy, nodding. He walked over to the infirmary, but not without casting a troubled glance back at the doctor, whose head was in his hands. Heavy was worried about the doctor, yes, but as for himself… well, he felt oddly serene. He couldn’t explain it, this mellow feeling over him. It was almost as though it was impossible for him to be upset. He closed the door, and awaited his inevitable examination.
Medic fastened the x-ray of Heavy’s stomach to the light-board and stepped to the side so that Heavy could get a better view of it. It was taken from the side, and quite visible underneath the flesh was an opaque, white blob that stood out noticeably against Heavy’s organs. Medic pinned up a second x-ray taken from the front, showing the blob’s wide shape, and the long, white tendrils that radiated from its body.
“Vhat is it, Doktor?” Heavy asked.
“I don’t know vhat it is,” Medic said, studying the x-rays. His expression was grim, and he wrung his hands nervously. “But it vas not a dream. Zat zing is inside you, right now, no doubt feeding off of you.”
“Den vill you take it out?”
“I plan on it,” Medic said. “Show zat little monstah vhat for. Heavy, I vill need to perform surgery to get it out.”
“You do vhat you need to do,” Heavy said. “I do not vant octopus in my stomach.”
“Sehr gut. Now, let’s get some morphine und-” Medic was cut off by a deafening, high-pitched noise. It was constant, ringing in his ears and making his temples throb and his knees wobble. He clutched his head, and the pressure inside of his skull felt so intense he was sure his head would burst. He fell to his knees and he could see Heavy get up to catch him and see the Russian’s mouth moving as he cried out, but he could hear nothing except that terrible screech. His face had gone ashen and his eyes bulged uncomfortably from their sockets, and he felt twin streams of blood dribble from out of his nostrils before he blacked out completely.
When he came to, Heavy was looming over him, looking frightened. “Is Doktor all right?” Heavy asked meekly.
“I… I’m not sure,” Medic replied. He tried to sit up, but Heavy put a hand back on his chest.
“I tink you should lie down for leetle bit,” Heavy said. “You are pale, like ghost.”
“Ja… I probably should,” Medic said, nodding slowly.
Heavy lifted up Medic in his arms, and carried him off to bed, where he laid him down gently. “Vhat happened, Doktor?”
“I’m not sure,” said Medic. “I just heard zis terrible noise… like a screech or a ringing, und zen I felt ze most horrible pain in mein head… und zen I blacked out.”
“I heard no ringing,” Heavy said. “You tink… it vas ting in my stomach?”
“I zink… zat it may have been,” Medic said with a groan. “Oh, Heavy, I don’t know vhat to do. It said it vanted to ‘incubate’ inside of you… I don’t zink it vill let me take it out.”
“How long does it vant to stay inside of me?”
“I don’t know,” Medic said helplessly. “It… it said zat when it vanted to come out, it vould tell me, und zen it vould leave us alone… I made it promise not to hurt you, but I don’t know if it vill keep its vord…”
“… Should ve do vhat it vants, den?”
“I don’t zink ve have a choice.”
Heavy looked glumly at his stomach, running his hand down it with the graveness of a man given a death sentence. He looked back up at Medic, who looked ready to burst into tears.
“All right,” Heavy said. “But ve do not tell team. They vould not understand. They panic. Ve keep zis secret, da?”
Medic nodded. “Ja, okay…” he said. His lip started to quiver and Heavy leaned down over him, embracing the smaller man and holding him. Medic let out a choked sob, and Heavy rubbed his back and gently shushed him.
“Do not cry,” Heavy said. “You are too strong to cry. Ve make it through zis, okay?”
“Okay,” Medic said, trying his best to regain his composure, sniffling back soggy tears. “I’m sorry, Heavy.”
“You have nothing to be sorry for,” said Heavy, and he stroked Medic’s hair and gave him a kiss on his forehead. “Get some rest. You vant me to get you somezing to eat?”
“I’m not hungry,” Medic mumbled.
“I am,” Heavy said, standing up straight. “Am starving.”
“Zat’s not surprising.”
“I come back and check on you later, then,” said Heavy, giving Medic one last affectionate pat before he left the room. Medic laid back on his bed on top of the covers, staring at the ceiling. Despite how drained he felt, he could not sleep even if he tried. Visions of that thing kept swimming through his consciousness, writhing and twisting around inside his lover, making its home inside of him… it made him feel physically ill. And Heavy, for his part, seemed to be taking it remarkably well. Was it controlling his mind? Perhaps it was releasing something into Heavy’s system to calm him, making him more docile so that he would be more willing to cooperate. No doubt it would affect his metabolism as well, requiring Heavy to eat even larger portions than usual. Surely, the others would notice something. They’d start asking questions. Would they believe them, even with the x-rays? He turned over on his side, and stared blankly at the wall. He hadn’t even started to consider where it had come from, what its basic biology was, or whether it was fully grown or perhaps some sort of hideous larvae that could grow into something even worse…
The more he thought about it, the more terrified and helpless he felt.
It had been a week since the parasite had taken up residence inside of Heavy. It was fairly obvious that Medic had been sleeping less, and not taking care of himself. His hair was unkempt, he was frequently forgetting to shave, and his normally proud gait was replaced with uncharacteristically bad posture. He crept about the base and avoided talking to the other members of his team. At dinner, he would stare at his plate, eat sparingly, and ultimately give his plate to Heavy, who would devour it as though he were starving.
Initially, Engineer had asked the doctor if he was feeling well, only to have Medic respond that he was fine in a very curt manner. But after witnessing this for several days in a row, Engineer finally decided to confront Medic about his concerns.
Engineer knocked tentatively on the door to the infirmary. “Doc?” he asked. “Can I talk t’ ya a minute?”
After a moment’s hesitation, Medic finally responded. “Ja, come in.”
The Texan opened the door and saw Medic at his desk, pouring over what were probably medical reports. Medic didn’t look up from his work. “Are you feeling ill, Herr Engineer?”
“Nothin’ like that, Doc, I’m fine.”
“Zen vhat is it you vant?”
“Well, Doc,” said Engineer, taking off his hardhat, “I’m here ‘cause I wanted t’ make sure you were doin’ okay. I’ve been kinda worried about ya lately.”
Medic looked up at Engineer and stared at him for a moment, eyes moving up and down as he studied him cautiously. “I’m fine,” he said. “Zere’s nozzing wrong viz me.”
“I don’t mean t’ impose or nothin’, Doc, but I think there is somethin’ wrong,” Engineer said, his voice coming through much more firmly. “Somethin’s been eatin’ you an’ we can all see it. An’ well, quite frankly, I’m mighty worried about ya.”
“It’s none of your business,” Medic said, and went back to his reports.
For a moment, Engineer wasn’t sure what to say. His hands shook a bit, and he put his helmet back on his head. “Dang it, Doc, can’t you see I’m tryin’ t’ help?” He said, his voice raised enough that it caused Medic to jerk his head back up at full attention. “I’ve been seein’ you walk around like a dang zombie, not getting’ any sleep, an’ yer not eatin’ anything while Heavy’s eatin’ all th’ time… he’s actin’ strange too, ya know. Not as strange, he’s just quieter an’ lazier an’ I can tell he’s gainin’ weight… look, I jus’ wanna know what’s going on!”
The doctor stared at Engineer even longer, not saying anything for a bit, he then slowly removed his glasses with one hand, and pinched the bridge of his nose with the other. “I am sorry, Engineer,” he said, speaking very deliberately. “I cannot tell you vhat is wrong viz me und Heavy.”
“Well, why th’ heck not?” Engineer asked, resting his hands on his hips.
“It’s personal,” Medic said. “Und you vould not believe me anyvay. Suffice to say, I must deal viz zis alone.”
Engineer stood there, fumbling awkwardly for a response. “I wouldn’t believe you, huh?”
“Nein,” said Medic. “Und I am not particularly inclined to share viz you.”
The Texan frowned. “Fine then,” he said, throwing up his hands in defeat. “You know I try an’ make myself available t’ talk whenever. I’d listen t’ ya, if you needed it. I’m jus’ tryin’ t’ help out a friend, is all, ‘specially since th’ ceasefire is set t’ be endin’ tomorrow…”
“I appreciate your concern,” Medic said flatly. “If I change my mind, I vill talk viz you. But I highly doubt I vill.” He put his glasses back on, and returned to his reports. “You may leave now, Herr Engineer.”
With a disappointed sigh, Engineer turned and left. Medic listened to him leave, letting the door clatter shut behind him. Medic swallowed, and chewed the inside of his lip nervously. He continued writing in his journal, making notes on Heavy’s condition.
… Heavy has still been experiencing bouts of nausea, though they have been less severe than previous days. Appetite has also continued to steadily increase. Weight gain and sluggishness have become apparent to the other team members already. Engineer has already confronted me on my own health. Refused, told him to leave. Already beginning to wish I had taken him up on his offer…
Soon enough, the cease-fire ended, and the opposing teams were back to their regularly scheduled battles. To say that Medic was apprehensive about the upcoming battle was a bold understatement. Heavy was in no condition to fight, surely. Medic had taken blood and urine samples from him, trying his best to find any sort of abnormalities. Unfortunately, his resources were limited, and had so far found nothing of any use to him. Initially, he had wanted Heavy to sit out on the battles all together, but Soldier would hear of no such thing, screaming in Medic’s face about how he had personally killed 142 Nazis while suffering from a laundry list of nasty diseases, and that Heavy should suck it up and be a man. He hadn’t hesitated to throw the doctor some rather nasty slurs about both his nationality and his sexuality as well, and Medic thought it best to forget he even said anything.
When the morning of their first battle in two weeks arrived, Medic found himself in the supply room, building up his Übercharge on Heavy. It had been hard to rouse the Russian from his sleep that morning, but he hadn’t thrown up again, and Medic hoped for that to be a good omen. Heavy had been throwing up every morning since the parasite crawled inside him, much like Scout had. Speaking of Scout, he had long since returned to his old, boisterous self, and was currently jogging in place besides Heavy.
“Hey, what’sa mattah wit’ you, picnic boy?” Scout asked.
“He caught vhat you had,” Medic said, answering before Heavy could speak.
“Then why don’cha jus’ fix ‘im up, like ya did ta me?”
“I’m afraid it’s not zat simple,” Medic said.
“Scout,” said Heavy, turning to the younger man, “Vhat did you get sick from?”
“Man, I told Doc, I don’t remember. I jus’ remember havin’ these weird dreams before it happened, ya know? Like, with glowin’ lights in the sky an’ bein’ on an operating table an’ shit.”
“MISSION BEGINS IN 60 SECONDS.”
“Wot kind a’ dreams were ye havin’ now, lad?” Demoman turned around, having overheard Scout, and was now listening with intense interest.
“I told ya, glowin’ lights in the sky an’ bein’ operated on. It was weird, ya know? I usually don’t got reoccurrin’ dreams or shit like that, but I had this one a couple nights in a row.”
“An’ then afterwards ye end up getting’ sick?” Demoman asked suspiciously.
“Now is not ze appropriate time for zis conversation,” Medic said.
“MISSION BEGINS IN 30 SECONDS.”
“Well, wot was wrong wi’ him, then?” asked Demoman.
“I zink it vould be unprofessional of me to divulge ze nature of my patient’s ailments.”
“Aw, come off it, ye great dandy! ‘Sides, if it’s contagious, we got a right tae know. Ye said Heavy’s got it…”
“It’s none of your business!” Medic barked
“MISSION BEGINS IN TEN SECONDS.”
Nobody in the supply room said anything. Medic glared at Demoman, who was still looking at him curiously, and when Scout let out a nervous laugh, Medic quickly turned his gaze to him, and silenced the young man.
“FIVE… FOUR… THREE… TWO… ONE! MISSION BEGIN!”
The supply room door opened, and the team rushed out into halls of Nucleus to gain control of the single capture point. BLU had come back to try and take back control of the mysterious doomsday device, and most of RED team was ready for them. Heavy and Medic stuck close together, as per usual, though Medic noticed Heavy was moving more slowly, more deliberately than usual. There was no sense of urgency in the way he moved, and this made the doctor feel anxious. As they made their way to the point, they saw that the BLU Scout and Soldier had already planted themselves on the point. Heavy fired up Sasha and started to barrage the two of them with bullets, but his usual enthusiasm was gone, now replaced with a steely-eyed concentration. The enemy Soldier was quick to react, firing a rocket towards the two of them. Medic was quick to get out of its path, but Heavy didn’t budge. He clearly saw it coming; it was headed directly towards him. Medic let out a strangled cry, and watched as the rocket suddenly made a complete change in trajectory and went upwards, hitting a nearby wall.
The doctor blinked in shock. Had he really just seen that? No, that wasn’t possible, physics simply did not work that way… unless the parasite had some interference. Heavy looked back at the doctor with an expression of mild surprise, before the doctor aimed his Medigun back onto the Russian and they continued forward. Medic stayed close behind Heavy and watched as the Russian made and almost leisurely advance forward as the BLU Soldier and Scout continued to fire at him. They were both firing directly at Heavy, and yet they kept missing. The BLU Scout quickly caught on and ran, but the BLU Soldier stayed put, still stubbornly firing rockets at Heavy until Sasha’s bullets ripped into him and killed him.
“Vhat vas zat?” Medic asked.
“Vhat vas vhat?” Heavy asked back.
“Don’t give me zat!” Medic shouted. “Zey vere firing right at you! You should have respawned twelve times ovah! Zose rockets ze Soldier shot at you vent flying avay like zey vere repelled!”
“Oh,” said Heavy. “Dat.”
“Don’t ‘oh, zat,’ me!” Medic screeched. “You didn’t even act surprised by zat! You vere deflecting rockets like zey vere nozzing!”
“Not me,” said Heavy. “Octopus in stomach did dat.”
Heavy merely shrugged. “Do not know.” He looked past the Medic, and pushed him aside, firing Sasha at the BLU Pyro, who had attempted to ambush the two of them. Heavy riddled the enemy BLU with a shower of lead, and then turned back to Medic. “It told me I vould be fine.”
“’Told you?’” Medic asked.
“Da,” said Heavy, tapping his temple. “In my head.”
Medic stared at Heavy, not sure what to make of this new development. He saw the BLU Demoman coming up from behind, firing grenades, but Heavy was already on it, and whirled around to fire at the Scotsman. He killed him, but two grenades bounced towards Medic and Heavy. Seemingly of their own accord, they rolled off to the sides and exploded well out of harm’s way. Heavy looked back at Medic, and noticed the doctor was looking very upset.
“Vell,” said Medic. “I suppose zere’s no need for me to stick around zen, now is zere?”
“You can defend point vit me,” said Heavy.
“Nein,” said Medic, turning off the Medigun. “I have teammates to heal. Vones zat actually need it. You seem to be doing fine on your own.”
Medic stomped off, only to hear Sasha start up again and bullets fly past him. Medic watched as the BLU Spy materialized and fell to the ground, dead. He looked back up, and looked at Heavy, who offered him a pathetic little smile, silently pleading for him to come back. Medic sighed, shook his head, and left to find the other members of his team.
From his perch above the control point, Sniper lowered his rifle and stared at the events that unfolded beneath him in disbelief. “Holy mother a’…”
“Good job, men!” Soldier said, made their way back to the base. “Every one of you deserves a medal!”
“We friggin’ wasted ‘em!” Scout exclaimed. “Fuckers won’t be tryin’ that again anytime soon.”
Medic hung his head in exhaustion. He had spent most of the battle chasing Soldier, Demoman and Pyro around, and he was sure everyone else had noticed he was avoiding Heavy. Even now, he was purposely keeping his distance from Heavy, who was putting on an air of indifference.
“Somezing happen between you and ze fat man?”
Medic turned, and saw Spy walking along side of him, eyebrows raised in interest.
“Zat’s none of your concern,” said Medic.
“Is zat so?” Spy asked.
The doctor didn’t answer, and instead turned away and refused to acknowledge Spy any further.
Spy was undeterred, however, and continued. “Because I could not help but notice ze two of you weren’t anywhere near each ozzer during ze battle today. We’ve all seen you bicker, but zis is ze first time I’ve ever seen you avoid each ozzer.”
Medic kept his eyes locked forward. Engineer, who was ahead of him, turned back his head to look at him, but the doctor responded to this with a Look, and Engineer quickly looked away. He also could have sworn Sniper and Demoman were both peering back at him, but he chose to ignore them.
“I also never saw ze Heavy in ze respawn once today,” Spy remarked. “Not once. Especially unusual, given zat you weren’t seen anywhere near him. What, was he eating ‘sandviches’ ze entire time?”
It was at this point that Medic gave the Spy a one-armed shove, and stomped off ahead of the rest of the group angrily. Soldier and Scout stopped talking in surprise, and halted the procession to watch the Medic leave until he was out of sight.
“The hell’s his problem?” Scout asked.
“It would seem like our resident nurse is having her period,” Soldier said, and laughed at his own wit. Scout joined in, and they continued back to their base, not giving the matter any further thought.
Heavy merely looked towards where Medic had vanished, and frowned.
Medic was in bed, trying to take a nap. He couldn’t fall asleep at all, though. He was lying on his back on the bed, hands folded over his stomach, looking like a corpse in a coffin. His glasses were off, making his sunken, darkened eyes were all the more visible. He was collecting his thoughts, going over what had happened on the control point between him and Heavy over and over again.
The creature had the ability to manipulate its environment outside of its host, and this ability extended beyond its attack on Medic with that noise it emitted. Had it been a noise, or was it some sort of psychic attack? The doctor was not usually one to entertain such absurdities as ESP and other such phenomena like their Demoman did; he was a man of science. He also used to not believe in extraterrestrials either, for that matter, but that had changed now. There was no possible way that the creature was earthly in any respect. To add insult to injury, it had made Medic and Heavy’s usual dynamic on the battlefield totally obsolete. It was just too much to bear.
Medic didn’t answer at first, closing his eyes and pretending to be asleep. It didn’t work, as Heavy opened the bedroom door anyway, and came, in taking care to close the door quietly behind him. The doctor listened to the sound of Heavy’s footfalls, when Heavy sat down, the mattress sank underneath him, causing Medic’s body to shift.
Heavy didn’t say anything for a while, merely staring at the floor between his feet. Eventually, he turned and looked at Medic, lifting a hand to brush back the curl above the German’s forehead. Medic didn’t move or react in any way, still keeping his eyes closed as he feigned sleep.
“I am sorry, Doktor,” Heavy finally said softly.
“Vhat do you have to be sorry for?” Medic replied, his eyes still closed. “It’s not your fault zat I’m useless to you now.”
“Dat is not true.”
“Is it?” Medic opened his eyes and looked up at Heavy. “Zat zing in your stomach effectively gives you all ze effects of an Übercharge. Vhat do you need me for? Using ze Medigun is just redundant.”
“You could have stayed on point vit me,” said Heavy. “Shoot BLUs vit needle gun.”
“My primary job is to heal, Heavy. If I am fighting vhen ze ozzahs need my aid, zen I am not fulfilling mein duties.”
“… I missed fighting vit you, Doktor.”
The doctor’s previously stern expression softened. It was hard to stay mad at Heavy… especially considering Heavy was not at fault. Medic sighed. “I missed fighting viz you too, Schatz. I’m sorry I yelled at you today. I just… I just feel so helpless.”
“Doktor has been stressed.” Heavy stroked Medic’s hair, and bent down to plant a kiss on the German’s brow. “Has been hard for you. For both of us.”
“Oh, Heavy… I vish I knew vhat to do.” Medic nuzzled Heavy’s hand, and Heavy bent down to kiss him. As Medic deepened the kiss and wrapped an arm around Heavy’s shoulder, he wondered why he had gotten so mad at Heavy in the first place. Heavy’s hands started to wander down the doctor’s body and Medic broke the kiss for a moment when Heavy hooked a thumb underneath the hem of Medic’s pants.
“Relax, Doktor,” Heavy said, and he started to kiss Medic’s neck. “Lie down.”
Medic obeyed, lying back on the bed, and Heavy made short work of removing his shirt. The Russian leaned forward, and kissed a trail down to the doctor’s stomach. “You have so much stress,” Heavy said. “Am tinking you need to… relieve it.” Before Medic could say anything, Heavy pulled down his zipper. “You lie down. I vill take care of everyting.”
Medic leaned back his head and closed his eyes, and for the first time in over a week, was finally able to forget about the thing in Heavy’s stomach.
It was shortly after dinner when Engineer heard the knock on the door to his workshop. “Come in!” he said, looking up from teleporter he was tinkering with.
The door opened, and there stood Scout. “Hey, Hardhat, we’re havin’ a meetin’ in the rec room, an’ everybody else told me ta get ya.”
“A meetin’?” Engineer asked. “About what?”
“Spy wanted ta talk about some shit. I think it has to do with how weird Doc and Fatty have been actin’.” Scout shrugged. “Also, Demoman seems like he wants ta know about when I was feelin’ sick last week, so yeah.”
“I s’pose I’ll go,” said Engineer, getting up from his kneeling position on the floor. “I’m jus’ glad t’ see I ain’t th’ only one concerned about th’ two a’ them.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Scout said dismissively.
Engineer followed Scout out of his workshop and down the hall, and they entered the rec room. There, Spy, Sniper and Demoman were sitting around, waiting for them. Pyro was also there, but not really paying attention to them; he was sitting in front of the television, watching Star Trek.
“Where’s Soldier?” asked Engineer.
“He weren’t interested,” said Demoman. “Take yer seat then, lad.”
The Texan grabbed one of the chairs and took a seat, resting a foot upon his knee and crossing his arms. Scout turned his own chair backwards and sat, resting his arms along the back.
“Gentlemen,” Spy started, “as you may well know, two of our comrades have been behaving strangely lately. Normally, I would chalk such zings up to zem having some sort of lover’s spat, and ignore ze whole zing… Medic not getting any sleep, Heavy being even more of a gluttonous slob zen usual, ze two of zem wizzdrawing more and more from ze rest of ze team… surely, not really zat important. But today, I noticed somezing especially alarming, and I’m sure you may have heard me mention it to Medic.” He took a drag on his ever present cigarette, and let up a stream of smoke over his head. “Tell me, did any of you, even once, see Heavy come out of ze respawn?”
No one answered for a moment, looking at each other with unease. Everyone slowly shook their heads, except Pyro, who never once tore his eyes off the television, and let out a simple “Nurr” in response.
“No?” Spy asked. “Zat’s what I zhought. I’m sure you also noticed zat he was not wiz ze Medic outside of ze very first few minutes of battle. And ze only person to witness zem parting ways was ze Sniper.” Spy looked over at the Australian, who was rocking back in his chair, his hat tilted over his eyes. “Would you mind telling us exactly what you saw happen between ze two of zem, Bushman?”
“I don’t think anybody’d believe me,” Sniper murmured.
“Humor me,” said Spy.
Sniper sighed, and leaned forward so that the two front legs of his chair were now firmly on the ground. “All right,” he said. “Now, I’m jes’ gonna tell ya wot I saw, with me own two eyes. I wasn’t drunk, or sleepy, or nothin’, ‘fore ya say anythin’. So, I’ve got a position over the control point, an’ I don’t know where th’ rest a’ you pikers were, but Heavy an’ Medic were th’ only one’s cappin’ th’ point. Heavy’s movin’ pretty slow-like, though, like he’s not in any hurry at all, an’ th’ BLU soldier fires a rocket at ‘im. An’ I swear t’ God, th’ rocket’s headin’ straight for ‘im, an’ then suddenly, it just flies up an’ over ‘im, for no real reason.” Sniper demonstrated the action with his hands, imitating the path of the rocket in question, and shook his head. “I’ll tell ya wot, I did a double take. Th’ BLU Scout’s firin’ at ‘im, right at ‘im, an’ somehow he’s simply not hittin’ Heavy. I mean, if Heavy was hit, an’ we weren’t feelin’ any pain, his body would still jerk from th’ impact, am I right? I… I think th’ bullets somehow went around ‘im…”
“Now hold up a second,” said Engineer. “What yer describin’ here is physically impossible. Now, I have a degree in physics, an’ I could tell you exactly how what you saw could not have possibly happened-”
“Engineer, please,” Spy said, cutting the Texan off. “Let ze filthy jar man finish ‘is story.”
“Thanks,” Sniper said flatly. “Anyway, Heavy mowed ‘em down without getting’ a scratch on ‘im. He an’ Medic start getting’ into a tiff, but I couldn’t really hear everythin’ they were sayin’. But th’ BLU team’s Pyro an’ Demoman go to attack ‘em both, an’ Heavy’s not even really payin’ attention when ‘e takes ’em out. Hell, th’ Demoman shot two grenades straight fer th’ lardass, an’ they just roll out of the way, like they were pushed. Medic an’ Heavy fight some more, an’ Medic goes to leave when Heavy just starts shootin’ inta thin air. Turns out BLU Spy was right next t’ Medic, cloaked, an’ somehow, Heavy knew he was there. I mean, there was no way he could have known, if Medic, who was right next t’ ‘im, couldn’t even tell. It was bloody uncanny.”
Demoman seemed to be deep in thought, considering this. “Oi, Scoot,” he said, turning to Scout. “Ye were tellin’ me aboot how ye weren’t feelin’ well a week ago, an’ those dreams ye were havin’.”
“Yeah, I was,” Scout said. “Doc dinnit’ want me ta talk about it, though. He cut me open though, an’ I know he did surgery on me or somethin’, ‘cause I was goin’ in there like every day ‘cause my guts was hurtin’.”
“Your guts were hurting?” Spy repeated.
“Yeah, like, really bad. So bad I was throwin’ up. An’… well, I know this is gonna sound weird, but… I felt like there was something in my stomach, or on my stomach. Like, I felt fat all the sudden.”
Spy seemed to consider this a moment, before taking a drag on his cigarette, looking down at the floor in deep thought.
“Wot were ye dreamin’ about, Scoot?” Demoman pressed. “Ye told me a little bit, but I wan’ tae ‘ear it in detail.”
“Man… I don’t remember much aside from what I told ya,” said Scout. “Like, I remember dreamin’, like I’m lyin’ in bed, an’ I see these lights. An’ I get up, an’ I’m followin’ th’ lights, an’ then I’m outside inna desert, an’ then there’s more lights, an’ the next thing I know, I’m on an operating table an’ these guys are cuttin’ me open an’ I can’t see their faces.” Scout shrugs. “I dunno, man. Alls I know is, after havin’ a couple dreams like that, I start throwin’ up an’ I’m sick.”
“An’ yer fine now… but Heavy isn’t,” Demoman said. “An’ even though he’s boakin’ an’ slower ‘n usual, he’s able tae not git hit by rockets ‘r grenades ‘r bullets.”
“You are zinking zis is all connected, zen?” Spy asked.
“There’s not a doubt in me mind,” said Demoman. “Scout, wot ye jes’ described there sounds a lot like a certain phenomena that I, too, have been subject to…”
“Oh, for ze love of-” Spy groaned, cut off before he could continue any further by the Demoman.
“Scout, lad, ye were abducted by aliens.”
Scout didn’t say anything for a moment, staring at Demoman in shock. “Aliens? Seriously?”
“Demo, I hate t’ shoot down yer theory,” said Engineer, “but I should remind you of just how highly improbable th’ event of extraterrestrial life ever makin’ contact with us is, exactly…”
“Engineer, I been abducted three times in me life, an’ I know an’ abduction story when I hear one.”
“Ya sure ya weren’t just pissed, mate?” Sniper asked.
“I BLOODY WASN’T!” Demoman exploded. “Listen tae me for a moment! I been through th’ kind a’ experience Scout went through. I been experimented on. Those aliens put somethin’ in ‘im, Medic took it out, an’ now somehow it’s inside Heavy!”
“I zink you have by-passed jumping to conclusions in favor of pole-vaulting to zem,” said Spy.
“I’m afraid Spy’s right, mate,” said Sniper. “I mean, that’s jes’… a’ bit of a stretch, t’ say th’ least…”
“I should a’ known better than tae think ye’d ever take me serious,” Demoman spat bitterly. “But I know I’m right. I’ll prove it tae ye somehow. Somethin’ queer’s goin’ down, lads, an’ I intend on getting’ tae th’ bottom o’ it, whether yer helpin’ me or not.” With that, Demoman stood up, and stormed out of the rec room angrily.
Engineer tried to stop him, shouting after the Scot. “Listen, Demo, wait up! Jes’ wait a sec…” He followed Demoman down the hall, leaving Scout, Sniper, Spy and Pyro in the rec room.
“Aliens,” Scout repeated.
“Ah, ya don’t really believe that, do ya?” Sniper asked.
“Man, I dunno…” Scout said, scratching the back of his head, “it makes sense enough, I guess…”
“Please,” said Sniper. “Demoman doesn’t know wot he’s talkin’ about, an’ ya shouldn’t encourage ‘im.”
“But what about what you saw?”
“Wot I saw didn’t involve any bleedin’ aliens,” Sniper said, getting up from his chair. “I mean, I consider Demo a friend an’ all, but he goes off like this, an’ ya can’t get ‘im t’ shut up about aliens ‘r ghosts ‘r fairies ‘r yetis ‘r wotever.”
“Don’t forget ze conspiracy zheories,” Spy said.
“Yeah,” said Sniper. “Listen, I’m bushed. I’ll be in my room if anybody needs me.”
He walked out of the rec room, and Spy and Scout watched him leave. The only sound in the room was coming from the television, which Pyro was still watching with intense interest. Spy looked between Scout, who was still seriously considering Demoman’s idea, then to Pyro and his sci-fi drama involving alien races in a utopian future. He sighed. “I’ll leave ze two of you man-children to your ‘aliens,’” he said. “I’m sure Pyro would be more zen happy to listen to your drabble.”
“Yeah, same ta you too,” Scout sneered as Spy walked away. His gaze wandered to the television, watching as Mr. Spock was doing a mind-meld with some blobby-looking alien thing called a Horta. Even though it was a cheap-looking special effect, Scout felt a sickening, cold ball of fear in the pit of his stomach, and shuddered. He could not explain why.
Medic was asleep, lying next to Heavy in their bed. It was a small bed, and when they slept together in it, they were always right next to each other, sometimes with tangled legs and arms draped over one another. Had Heavy not been such a sound sleeper, perhaps he would have felt Medic’s twitching in his sleep, or felt Medic toss over in the bed, burying his face in Heavy’s chest.
Medic’s eyes flew open when he felt something bump against his stomach. He looked down, and felt it again, and noticed that he was lying belly-to-belly with Heavy. He rolled over, to get a better view, and saw Heavy’s stomach jiggle a bit, seemingly on its own. Something started to poke at the skin from the inside, created a visible, moving bulge. Whatever it was looked as though it was trying to break the surface, and Heavy’s skin stretched like rubber. Medic reeled in horror, and shook Heavy’s shoulder frantically, trying to wake him up. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from the bulge, and then it ruptured, spewing blood and organs and staining the white sheets. Medic was screaming now, but Heavy was still asleep, or worse, dead. A writhing, slithering thing crawled out of the wound, dragging itself out by its tentacles. It looked up at Medic with black, glassy eyes that were too large for the uncanny, baby-like face that sprouted from its body. The thing opened its toothless mouth, and it screeched.
Medic shot up from his bed, in a cold sweat, gasping for breath. He looked over at Heavy, who grunted in his sleep. His stomach was uninjured, and he slept soundly, even with the knowledge of that thing being inside of him. The doctor lay back down next to Heavy, and tried to fall back asleep, but could only ponder the significance of the dream. The parasite wanted to incubate, it had told him. Incubate. Medic thought it strange, as couldn’t recall ever seeing anything that resembled eggs inside of its translucent body, but he did remember that dark, clumped shape inside that he had thought was some sort of organ. The more he thought about it, and about Heavy’s behavior since it had invaded him, realization dawned on him, and he wondered why he hadn’t made the connection sooner…
No, he thought. It couldn’t be that. He would have to test it… but it made sense, in a horrible, twisted way. He clung to Heavy, and shivered.
“Ya want me to wot?”
“Catch me ein kaninchen… a rabbit,” Medic said. “It should not be too difficult. I know you ah a skilled huntah, Herr Sniper.”
“Wot d’ya want a rabbit for?” Sniper asked, leaning against the counter in their kitchen, nursing a cup of coffee. “We got plenty t’ eat… unless yer thinkin’ you wanna make a pet outta it.”
“Nozzing like zat at all.”
“Thought not. Wild rabbits make fer lousy pets, anyway,” said Sniper. “Ain’t nothin’ but pests that eat everythin’ an’ fuck.” He took a sip from his “#1 SNIPER” mug. “So… ya dinnit’ answer my question.”
“Research,” Medic said curtly. “I require a live specimen, und it needs to be female.”
“No bucks, then, right,” Sniper said. “Wot kind a’ research are you doin’, anyways?”
“Zat’s none of your business,” said Medic.
“You’ve been sayin’ that a lot lately,” Sniper noted. “You do know that th’ rest of us are onto you.”
“Vhat is going on viz Heavy und I is personal,” Medic said, with great deliberation. “I vould appreciate it if you und ze ozzahs simply mind your own business instead of gossiping about us like a bunch of old vomen.”
“We’re worried, is all,” Sniper said. “An’ I think we got a right t’ know wot’s goin’ on.”
“I already said zis to ze Engineer,” Medic said, turning to walk away. “None of you vould believe me anyway.”
“Can’t possibly be any weirder ‘n Demo’s ‘alien’ theory,” Sniper said offhandedly.
Medic bristled, losing his footing for a split second. He didn’t turn back to Sniper as he straightened his posture. “Don’t be ridiculous,” Medic said. “It’s nozzing like zat.”
“If you say so, mate,” Sniper said, taking another sip of his coffee as he watched Medic leave.
“Man, this is retarded.”
“Boy, if ye dinnae shut yer gob, I’ll shut it for ye.”
“I don’t even know how ya talked me inta this.” Scout was sitting in a chair in Demoman’s room, hands on his knees, waiting as Demoman searched through a trunk full of moldy, dusty books. “I mean, how do I know you’re not gonna go an’ make me bark like a dog or some shit, huh?”
“Trust me, it dinnae work tha’ way,” said Demoman. He pulled out a slim, dog-eared and yellowed paperback from his trunk, titled “How to Manipulate Friends and Hypnotize People.” “Tha’ stuff’s fer party tricks. I’m tryin’ tae recall any repressed memories ye might have.”
“I ain’t got no repressed memories,” Scout said, crossing his arms over his chest.
“Tha’s th’ thing aboot repressed memories,” said Demoman, flipping through the book. “Ye don’t know ye have them until they’ve been brought up.”
“I still say this is a load a’ crap,” said Scout.
“Don’t git wide with me, lad.”
“Fine,” said Scout. “So, what, are ya gonna swing a gold watch in front a’ my face, or have me stare at some swirly, spinning, spiral shit or what?”
Demoman landed on a page, and his lone eye moved back and forth, scanning it. “Won’t be necessary,” he said. “We’re goin’ tae yer room.”
“It’ll work better if yer in a place ye feel is safe,” explained Demoman. “Trust me on this.”
Scout grumbled. “Fine,” he said. “Let’s go.” Demoman led the Scout outside, and they went to Scout’s room. Scout opened the door, revealing it to be messy and littered with comic books, candy bar wrappers and empty cans of Bonk! Energy drink.
“Lie down on yer bed,” said Demoman.
“Pfffft, fine,” said Scout. He swept aside his crumpled sheets and lay down on the bed on his back. “’Kay, now what?”
“Close yer eyes,” said Demoman, his voice flattening into a monotone.
“This is so stupid,” Scout said, even as he did so.
“I want ye tae relax,” said Demoman, in a voice that was so uncharacteristically soothing that Scout felt a little unnerved. “Take slow, deep breaths, and clear yer mind totally.”
The young man obeyed, eyes still closed, inhaling and exhaling as though he were trying to fall asleep. Admittedly, it wasn’t that hard to clear his mind.
“I want ye to focus on relaxin’ yer whole body. Start from yer toes, an’ slowly work yer way up to yer head, an’ keep breathing slowly.”
This wasn’t so bad, Scout thought dimly. Gradually, he could feel himself almost melt into the mattress. It felt weird, really. He very rarely ever sat still; even when going through his comic books, he’d kick his legs back and forth, move some part of his body to release all that energy that constantly built up inside of him. Demoman was still talking to him, though now he seemed to be very far away. He wasn’t sure how long it had been since Demoman had started talking to him. It seemed like a very long time indeed.
“How do ye feel?”
“Fine…” Scout murmured. Everything seemed slower, somehow, and somewhere in the back of his mind he was in some sort of trance.
“All right,” said Demoman. “I want ye to picture a safe place. A happy place. It could be from yer past, or it could be imaginary. It dinnae matter, as long as you feel safe. Hold tha’ image in yer mind.”
Scout didn’t say anything. In his mind, he was home, back in Boston. It was Christmas Eve, and it was snowing, but inside the crowded little house it was warm. His seven older brothers were there, his mother was preparing Christmas dinner, and the house smelled like the roasting turkey in the oven and gingerbread. He was also much younger, still a little boy, and it was the last year he would still believe in Santa Claus. He was looking out the window, watching the snow fall, watching his breath fog the glass, watching the snow accumulate, and listening to his brothers bicker and wrestle in the other room.
“Are ye in yer safe place?” Demoman asked.
“Speak up. I need tae hear ye.”
“Yeah,” said Scout. “Safe…”
“Good,” said Demoman. “Now, I want you to go back to your dream. Yer in yer bed. Tell me wot ye see, as it’s happening.”
“I’m lyin’ in bed,” Scout said, words spilling out of his mouth. “I open my eyes and above me I see these lights over my head.”
“Wot do th’ lights look like?”
“They’re floating. Above my head. They’re not colored or anything, but they’re soft… and they’re moving, and I gotta follow them.”
“Do ye hear any voices tellin’ ye tae follow ‘em?”
“No… I just… I just know I have to. So I do.”
“How do they move?”
“They’re… zippin’ around, like they’re alive… like bugs. An’ they’re kinda small an’ round, an’ I walk out an’ follow them until we’re out in the desert.”
“An’ then wot happens?”
“Then… they take me like, way out in the desert, far away from the base… out in the middle a’ nowhere. An’ then they start spinnin’ above my head, faster an’ faster, an’ they’re gettin’ brighter an’ brighter… until I’m blinded.”
“So, ye dinnae see a spaceship or any kind of craft above you?”
“What happens after that?”
“I… I don’t remember. I think I fell.”
“Ye think ye fell?”
“Yeah… I remember feeling like I’m fallin’… and then the lights get softer, an’ I’m lying down in a bright room.”
“Wot does it look like?”
“It’s all white… but there are people talking…”
“Are ye sure they’re people?”
“I think so… I mean, I don’t remember what they look like, but I hear talkin’, an’ I can’t understand what they’re saying.”
“I want ye to focus on wot they look like for me, Scout. Jes’ relax an’ let it come tae ye.”
Scout was quiet for a moment, his eyes still closed. “I remember… long fingers. They’re white. I see them over my head. They have… things in their hands, like tools. They have these long, skinny fingers an’ hands an’ they have these tools…” His breath started to quicken a bit at the memory.
“Keep calm, lad, keep breathin’ slow… can ye see their faces?”
“Wot can ye see?”
“Eyes,” Scout said. “Big, black eyes… kinda like birds’ eyes… on white skin… an’ it’s all slimy an’ slick an’ it jiggles a bit…”
“Do ye see th’ rest a’ ‘em?”
“No… I can’t. I’m strapped down on a table an’ they got these long heads… they look like big white birds or lizards, but I don’t see no mouths on ‘em… I can’t see ‘em too good, but they’re cuttin’ me open, I can feel it, but it doesn’t hurt… an’ then I see…”
Demoman waited for a moment, noticing Scout was trembling at the memory. For a moment, the Scot considered breaking Scout of his trance, but decided to push the boy further. “Wot do ye see?”
“I see… the thing they put inside a’ me,” Scout says in a shaky voice. “It… it looks like a jellyfish, an’ it’s wrigglin’ an’ it’s got these arms like a squid an’ they’re lowerin’ it inta my stomach, an’ I can’t scream…”
“I think tha’s enough,” Demoman said. “Breathe steady now, lad. Deep breaths. Relax yer body an’ clear yer mind.”
Scout’s breathing slowed, and the tenseness in his muscles subsided.
“How do ye feel?”
“Scared,” Scout admitted.
“Don’ be. Yer safe now. Open yer eyes.”
Scout’s eyelids shot open, and he stared up at the ceiling. Slowly, he came out of his daze, and sat up, shaking his head. “Whu-… what the hell was that?”
“Tha’s hypnosis,” said Demoman. “Ye had some repressed memories after all.”
“Oh, man…” Scout said. “I’m never lettin’ you do that shit to me again. S’fuckin’… fuckin’ mindfuck shit right there.”
“I have tae say, outta all th’ times I tried this, you were th’ most forthcomin’ with yer memories. I mean, we weren’t here but aboot…” Demoman pulled back his sleeve and looked at the watch on his wrist, “two hours. S’pretty fast.”
“What?!” Scout sputtered. “Oh, you are shitting me! That freakin’ long?”
“Aye,” said Demoman. “But we learned a lot. That thing ye saw in yer dream, it weren’t no dream. Alls we need noo is proof tha’ wot was in you is noo in Heavy.”
“An’ how are ya gonna prove that?” Scout asked. “You gonna try an’ cut Heavy open?”
“No, th’ alien would know,” said Demoman. “But I’d bet me good eye Medic’s got notes on it.”
Sniper knocked on the door to the infirmary cautiously. “Doc?” he asked. “Ya in there?”
There was no answer. The burlap sack in his hand was thrashing around, and Sniper gave it a hard shake to spook the creature inside into standing still. “Look, Doc, I got yer rabbit for ya, d’ya wanna take this thing off me hands?”
The door opened just wide enough for Heavy’s face to be visible. “Doktor is sleeping,” he said.
“Sorry,” Sniper mumbled.
Heavy looked down at the sack in Sniper’s hand. “Vhat is dat?”
“S’a rabbit,” Sniper said. “Medic wanted me t’ catch one for ‘im…”
“Vhy did he vant leetle bunny rabbit?” Heavy asked, now curious.
“He said somethin’ about ‘research,’” said Sniper, handing Heavy the sack. “Anyway, you can take it. Took me a while t’ get a doe, he’d better bloody appreciate it.”
“Doe?” Heavy asked. “Like deer?”
“S’th’ name fer a female rabbit, mate.”
“Ah, of course” said Heavy. “Tank you, Sniper.”
“Eh, don’t worry about it,” said Sniper dismissively. “I’ll see ya around.” He turned to leave, shoving his hands in his pockets.
“What?” Sniper turned around, and saw Heavy sticking his body further out the door.
“Are you going past kitchen?” Heavy asked.
“Wasn’t plannin’ on it,” said Sniper. “Why?”
“Is nothing,” said Heavy. “You go.”
Sniper shrugged and walked away. Heavy watched him leave for a few moments before he went back inside the infirmary. He opened the burlap sack, and peeked inside. Sure enough, there was a wild rabbit inside, paralyzed with fear, beady black eyes open wide and her nose twitching rapidly. He reached inside, and the rabbit stayed still as Heavy grabbed the animal by the nape of her neck and lifted her up. “Vhat does Doktor vant vit you?” he asked. The rabbit just stared, and seemed to relax a bit.
Of course, the rabbit did not respond. Heavy wasn’t sure what, exactly, prompted him to cradle the creature in his giant arm, but he was surprised when she didn’t make any attempt to struggle or kick or bite him. In fact, the doe in his arms seemed to relax at his touch. Heavy chuckled as he started to slowly stroke her fur. He wasn’t sure why, but suddenly he felt like this little animal needed some kind of affection. Heavy carried the rabbit in his arms, and sat down on one of the infirmary beds. The rabbit sat perfectly still in his lap, and closed its eyes as Heavy’s giant hand rubbed its ears and back, and his fingers would occasionally stroke the underside of its chin. Sniper had caught this, a wild rabbit that seemed as tame as a family pet? Heavy lay back on the bed and let the rabbit sprawl out on top of his stomach. He wasn’t sure how long he was lying there, looking up at the creature and petting it into a trance, but he jolted a tiny bit when he heard the bedroom door open and saw Medic come out. Heavy immediately sat up, grabbed the rabbit and hid it behind his back.
Medic noticed Heavy’s sudden movement from the edge of his peripheral vision, and turned to look at the Russian with a raised eyebrow. “Hello, Heavy,” he said, still not sounding fully awake yet.
“Hello, Doktor!” said Heavy, sounding far too enthusiastic. “You enjoy your nap?”
“Not really,” Medic said, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I can’t sleep anymore vizzout having nightmares…” He opened his eyes and looked down towards his feet, and noticed the empty burlap sack lying on the ground. He looked back up at Heavy, who still had both his hands behind his back. “Vhat ah you hiding?”
“Am hiding nothing,” Heavy said with mock innocence. “Do not know vhat you are talking about.”
“Sniper brought ze rabbit, didn’t he?”
Heavy’s face flushed, and he brought his arm around, cradling the rabbit in front of him. “Vhat do you vant vit it?”
“I need it for testing your condition,” Medic said. “I have a zheory about vhat, exactly, is going on inside of you, und I require ein lab animal for zis particular test.”
“Vhat kind of test?” Heavy asked.
The doctor hesitated. “It… vill be testing for ze presence of certain hormones in your body.”
“Vhat kind of… ‘hormones’?”
“Just give me ze rabbit, Heavy.”
Heavy looked down at the animal in his lap, and only just noticed that he was still petting it. “Are you going to hurt her?”
“Mein Gott, Heavy, really now?”
“Is such nice leetle bunny,” said Heavy.
“Heavy, it is ein vild animal!” said Medic, throwing up his arms in frustration. “Really, you shouldn’t be playing viz it anyvay, it’s not a pet.”
“So you are going to hurt her,” Heavy said.
Medic sighed. “Ze rabbit vill not survive ze test, Heavy. It vill require dissection.”
“Oh,” said Heavy, his hand falling still. “I see.”
“Didn’t your family trap rabbits back in Russia?” Medic asked. “I’m quite sure you said zat.”
“They did,” said Heavy.
“Zen I fail to see vhat ze problem is.”
“They vere not nice like this rabbit,” Heavy said. “And… I do not know. Needed someting small to hold.”
“Vhat, am I not good enough for you, zen?” Medic asked. He was only half-joking.
“You are not small enough.”
The doctor was not quite sure how to react to that statement. It was entirely possible that this could be conditioning on the part of the parasite. It was only giving his theory more credence, and the thought made him highly uncomfortable. “Heavy, I am sorry. Zis is necessary. Perhaps I shall see if I can talk ze Sniper into catching you anuzzah vone…”
“Nyet… I understand,” said Heavy glumly. He stood up, and with the solemnity of a man handing over his firstborn child. “Just do not hurt her too much.”
As soon as Medic reached out to intercept the animal, she started bucking and thrashing wildly. Heavy tried to soothe her, but with little success; he pulled the rabbit back close to him, and it immediately calmed down. Medic bent down to pick up the discarded burlap sack, and held it open for Heavy, as he gently lowered the creature inside. As soon as Medic closed the bag, it started to writhe again in protest. “I zhought you said it vas a nice little rabbit.”
“She knows,” Heavy said.
Medic gave Heavy an odd look. Usually a remark like that would have been accompanied by a wry chuckle, given Heavy’s sense of humor. But the delivery of those two words was flat and gloomy, as though he were completely serious.
“Yes…” Medic said. “Before you leave, Heavy, I am going to need anuzzah urine sample, bitte.”
“Another?” Heavy asked.
“Ja,” said Medic. “You know vhere ze cups ah. Aftah zat, you should probably leave.”
“Vhat kind of experiment is this again, Doktor?”
“I vill let you know vhen I get ze results,” said Medic. “Now go.”
Heavy watched Medic as he carried the sack to him to a small, rarely used room where Medic performed his more intensive experiments. Usually, when he retreated in there, it would be to make tweaks on his Medigun or the Kritzkrieg, although now it was getting much more use, what with the many blood and urine samples he had taken from Heavy. The creature inside him stirred; he could feel it move, feel its weight inside him, but at the same time as it moved he felt a wave of serene energy wash over him. Any discomfort he may have felt was gone now. It made him feel tired, so tired, but at the very least, he also was… content. He rooted through Medic’s medicine cabinets, and grabbed one of the plastic sample cups. When his mind started to wander towards the experiment Medic was about to perform, he could feel his mind switch to more pleasant thoughts… suddenly he was thinking about sandwiches, and how much he suddenly wanted one. Perhaps, after giving Medic his sample, he could go to the kitchen and make one, or two… maybe even five or six. Yes, that seemed to be a good idea. He was, after all, very hungry, and technically he was eating for two now, what with that octopus thing inside of him.
The wording of that particular thought made him shudder. He could not say why.
Medic stared down at the dead, dissected rabbit that lay on the table before him. It had been a few days since Medic had injected Heavy’s urine sample into the rabbit, and after a thorough examination of the animal’s ovaries, the results were clear, despite all common sense and scientific probability. All that remained for Medic to do was to try and break the news to Heavy, as gently as possible.
Medic disposed of the corpse, rinsed off and removed his gloves, and left the lab. Gently, he opened the door to his bedroom, and saw Heavy lying in bed, chest heaving as he napped. There had been another battle against BLU today, and despite the fact that the parasite ensured Heavy’s safety, the mighty Russian was still very tired. Medic tried his best to tell Heavy to avoid the other members of his team so that they would not notice the fact that their tank was apparently impossible to hit. It hadn’t worked out terribly well, as Medic could see his teammates speaking to each other in hushed tones behind his back. The doctor stood over the bed, watching Heavy for a moment as he silently debated whether or not he should wake Heavy up. Before he could reach a decision, Heavy started to stir and rolled over to face Medic with a grunt before he opened his eyes.
“Hello, Doktor,” Heavy said sleepily.
“Hello,” Medic said, trying to put in a friendly smile. The corner of his mouth twitched and faltered, twisting into the wrong direction.
“Vhat is wrong?” Heavy asked, lifting up his head slightly.
“Nozzing,” Medic lied. “Go back to sleep.”
Heavy did not break eye contact with Medic, staring at him and seeing right through him. The doctor knew he had been found out, and sighed. “I have some razzah distressing news, I’m afraid.”
“Is this about test vit leetle rabbit?”
“Ja,” Medic said nodding. “Vould you prefer to sit, or stay lying down?”
Heavy sat up, obviously concerned. Medic looked down at his stomach, which seemed to have grown slightly. He was getting flabbier, rounder, and less like the strong, burly man that Medic originally found himself so attracted to. Medic could barely stand to look at him.
“Zis is difficult for me to say,” said Medic, looking at the floor. “But aftah many tests zat proved inconclusive, I decided to go out on a limb and give you vhat is called a ‘rabbit test.’”
The Russian just stared blankly.
“Vhat ze test entails is zat a sample of your urine vould be injected into ze rabbit, und a few days latah, ze rabbit is dissected, und ze ovaries are checked for a called hCG… human chorionic gonadotropin hormone. I performed zis test on ze rabbit… und I found zat zere has been a change in ze rabbit’s ovaries… ze hormone vas present in your sample.”
“Vhat does dat mean?”
Medic took a deep breath. “Heavy,” he said cautiously. “hCG is a hormone only found in pregnant vomen.”
Heavy didn’t react, for a few seconds. He blinked, and slowly reeled his head back. He started to shake his head. “Dat… dat is not… how?”
“I did check ze rabbits’ uterus to make sure it vas not already pregnant,” said Medic, dodging the question. “I could not find any ozzah signs, but if possible, I could try to run ze test again, just to be sure…”
“HOW?” Heavy roared. Medic jumped at the outburst, and cringed. He was not used to Heavy angry with him… at least, not like this. Heavy had been so docile lately; he had not raised his voice since this whole mess had started.
“Ze parasite,” Medic said, his voice wavering slightly. “It has to be ze parasite doing it, zere’s no ozzah possible explanation…”
“Does that mean I am going to turn into voman?”
“I don’t zink so,” said Medic. “If my zheory is correct, zen zat vill not be necessary… zhough, it is entirely possible zat you have been undergoing an increase in your levels of estrogen, vhich might explain ze fact zat you have not been very aggressive lately… if it continues, it’s quite possible you might experience side effects such as your voice being altered, or possibly developing breasts…”
“BREASTS?” Heavy’s voice cracked, and his face was bright red, a tumultuous mix of anger and confusion.
“You have been gaining veight, mein Liebe… tell me, has your chest been feeling particularly… tender?”
“Dis is not happening,” said Heavy, clutching his head. “Is not possible. It cannot be!”
“I’m afraid it only gets vorse,” Medic said glumly. “I have given zis some zhought. Unfortunately, since I cannot cut ze creature open und study it, und I am only allowed to go by vhat little it has told me, I highly suspect zat… ze creature inside of you is using your body as an incubator. I do not know if it is keeping eggs inside of you or… somezing else.”
“Eggs?” Heavy repeated, his voice cracking. “You mean there vill be baby octopuses?”
“Zat is vone possibility, ja.”
“It did not tell me dat!”
“Vell,” said Medic, “vhat has it told you?”
“Nothing about eggs,” Heavy said. “Just… tells me I vill be safe. Am protected.”
“Can you ask it exactly vhat it is incubating?”
“Do not know…” said Heavy. He rubbed his stomach, as if to coax an answer from the invader. “Do not tink it vill say.”
“Try to ask it anyvay,” said Medic. “It is your body, after all.”
Heavy closed his eyes, trembling a bit, but not saying a word as he cradled his gut. After a few moments of sitting there, he opened his eyes. “It is not saying anyting.”
“Ze creature speaks viz you telepazhically, ja?”
“In my head, da,” Heavy said. “But… not vit vords. More like… pictures.”
“Can you tell it you vant it out of you?”
“I try,” said Heavy. “But does not listen.”
“I suppose it vouldn’t,” Medic mused.
“Vhat do I do, Doktor?” Heavy pleaded. He looked up at Medic, eyes wide and his giant frame shaking.
“I honestly don’t know,” said Medic. “For now, ve ah at its mercy. Best to try und appease it, ensure zat it does not try und hurt you…”
“I vant it out of me,” said Heavy, shaking his head. “Get it out of me, Doktor, I don’t vant it inside of me…”
“You und I bozh know zat it vill not allow zat,” said Medic.
“I DON’T CARE!” Heavy roared, standing up with surprising speed. He grabbed Medic by his shirt and pulled him close, shaking and startling the doctor, throwing his glasses askew on his face. Heavy stared at Medic, seeing the doctor quiver underneath his grip, though the German was trying his best to suppress it. He released his grip and stumbled back onto the bed, the bed creaking under his weight as he sat, and covered his face with his hands. “I… I am sorry, Doktor.”
“Heavy…” Medic sat down on the bed next to the giant Russian, wrapping his arm around Heavy’s broad shoulders. “Ah you all right, mein Kuschelbär?”
“Nyet,” said Heavy. “Am not all right. Feel sick…”
“If you’re going to vomit again, you’d better hurry to ze bazhroom…”
Heavy’s chest started to heave, and he cupped a hand to his mouth as he rushed out of the bedroom. Medic could hear the door to the infirmary bathroom slam against the wall, and the sound of Heavy retching into the toilet bowl. Medic waited for the sounds to subside before he got up and walked out of the room, looking towards the open bathroom door to see Heavy still hunched over the toilet, panting for breath. Weakly, Heavy pawed for the handle and flushed it, staring down at the floor. Medic walked over to him, crouching down next to the kneeling Russian, and started to rub his back.
“Is not fair, Doktor,” Heavy said in a choked voice. “Vhy does dis happen to me?”
“It’s not your fault, Liebe,” said Medic. “I zink zat part of ze blame lies viz me.”
“Doktor,” croaked Heavy. “I’m… frightened.”
“You’re feeling vulnerable,” said Medic. “A natural side effect of ze rising estrogen levels and your predicament, I’m sure.”
At first, Heavy didn’t respond to Medic’s explanation. He could tell Medic was trying his best to remain detached, look at this purely from a scientific point of view, but it did little to assuage his distress. He felt a tightness in his chest, his eyes started to water, and as hard as he tried to swallow the rising lump in his throat, he couldn’t fight it. He did something that he had not done since he was a young boy.
He started to cry.
“This is bleedin’ stupid.”
“I’m no’ askin’ ye tae do nothin’ but keep yer eyes out. Ye got th’ best eyes on th’ team, jes’ make sure an’ warn me if ye see Medic comin’ back.”
“I still say this is stupid,” Sniper grumbled. “Why couldn’t ya jes’ get th’ little jabberjaw t’ be yer bloody lookout?”
“Poor lad dinnit’ feel up tae it,” said Demoman. “He hasn’t been right since th’ hypnosis. It took a bad toll on ‘im, it did.”
“I still don’t b’lieve any a’ that,” said Sniper. “Lot a’ power a’ suggestion an’ all that psychological mumbo-jumbo. I think ya wanted ‘im t’ b’lieve ‘e was abducted by aliens, an’ he bought it.”
“Scout wouldn’t a’ been able tae dream up giant white space lizards on ‘is own. He’s no’ tha’ bright.”
“Tha’s ‘cause ya suggested it to ‘im,” said Sniper. “If you’re goin’ t’ do this, you’d better do it quick, because Medic will be fucking livid if he sees you rummagin ’ through ‘is desk.”
“Trust me,” said Demoman. “I’ll be in an’ out an’ th’ old codger’ll ne’er know.” With that he opened the infirmary door and slipped inside.
“Famous last words,” Sniper mumbled, leaning against the wall.
Demoman hadn’t heard the Australian, as he immediately headed for the desk. He opened the drawers, and sifted through folders, flipping them open and looking for something, anything, that might have anything to do with the creature Scout has described. He ran into some difficulty, however, upon the realization that all of Medic’s files and notes were in German.
“Well, tha’ bloody figures,” Demoman muttered. He looked for some word, some clue, that might be a cognate of some sort. He continued to skim over the files and found nothing of any use; just basic medical records, as far as he could tell. Losing patience, he shoved them back into their drawer, and started to open the other drawers. He pulled open a long, thin drawer underneath the main body of the desk, and saw a leather journal, one that he had seen the doctor writing in while sitting in his office late at night. Demoman snatched it up, and started flipping through its pages.
Unsurprisingly, the journal was also in German. The entries were dated, and Demoman flipped through, searching for a more recent date. Along the way Demoman noticed the occasional, amateurish drawing scribbled hastily on odd pages. He wondered how much of the time Medic actually was taking notes, and not doodling multiple busts of Heavy or the occasional portrait of another teammate. As he got to a more recent entry, he almost flipped over a very detailed drawing, surrounded by hastily scribbled notes. He stopped, and though he couldn’t read the notes surrounding it, he immediately knew he had found what he was looking for.
The drawing was of some sort of flat, jellied thing, with a great number of long tendrils flaring out from its body. There was an illustration of some sort of lamp, as if to demonstrate that its body was transparent. Sure enough, it matched the description that Scout had given him. This could not possibly be a coincidence. He had the evidence he needed. He tucked the journal underneath his vest, and made his way to the door, only to hear Sniper conversing with someone outside. Demoman flattened himself against the wall close to the door, and tried to listen in.
“-Not hidin’ anythin’, ya bloody spook, now piss off.”
“Ah, but I zink you are… I know you better zen to zink nozzing of you standing around in front of ze good docteur’s office. Who put you up to zis?”
“Nobody did. Or can ya not take a hint?”
Spy. That figured, Demoman thought to himself. He considered hiding, but trying to hide from the Spy was usually a bad idea. Being an expert at concealment, Spy had a penchant for being able to find other people. The best he could hope for was that Spy would leave of his own accord.
“Who is in zere, Sniper?” Spy asked. “You don’t have to be coy wiz me, I won’t tell… probably.”
“Don’t you have anythin’ better t’ do?” asked Sniper.
“Non,” said Spy. “Besides, you do know about how terribly curious I get about secrets…” There was a pause in their conversation, before Spy spoke up again. “But I suppose, if you ‘ave nozzing to hide, zen you would have no problem wiz me going in zere.”
“Don’t think Doc would appreciate you pokin’ around in there.”
“What ‘e does not know will not hurt him,” said Spy.
“Just bugger off, all right?” Sniper said, much more harshly this time.
“So… you are hiding somezing, aren’t you? What, are you going to stop me from going in?”
“I’m jes’ gonna advise against it,” said Sniper. “But go ahead. Go in his office. See if I care.”
“Your poor attempt at reverse psychology is not going to work on me,” said Spy. “Let’s see what you are hide-”
Spy was cut off when the infirmary door hit him in the face, smashing his nose and propelling him backwards. Demoman stumbled out, staggering drunkenly and laughing.
“Fils de salope, you broge my fugging node!” Spy shouted, covering his nose with his hands as blood started to dribble down between his palms.
“Sorry there, lad!” Demoman slurred, gesturing towards Spy with his ever-present scrumpy bottle. “Dinnit’ see ye there.”
“You druggen liar, you knew I wad ‘ere!” Spy shouted.
“Well, then, you should prolly call th’ Doc about that, shouldn’t you?” Sniper remarked, trying not to smile too hard.
“Fugg you, bushman!” Spy rushed into the infirmary, still cupping a hand over his nose. Frantic shuffling noises could be heard inside, followed by Spy shouting “WHERE ID DAT FUGGING MEDIGUN?”
The two conspirators did not stick around, however, as Demoman grabbed Sniper by the wrist and pulled him out of earshot of the furious Frenchman. Sniper found himself being led to his own room, and watched Demoman scramble inside with far more speed than Sniper ever thought the Scot capable of mustering. Sniper followed him inside and shut the door behind him, and saw Demoman keeled over, trying to catch his breath.
“Find anythin’?” Sniper asked.
“Aye,” said Demoman. He removed the journal from his vest and tossed it over to Sniper. “Take a look a’ this.”
Sniper caught the book, and flipped it open. “S’all in German,” he observed. “How d’you even know if this has anythin’ in here t’ back up yer crazy theories?”
“Go tae th’ latest entries,” said Demoman. “Turns out our resident sawbones fancies ‘imself an artist.”
“He shouldn’t quit ‘is day job,” Sniper said dryly. “Wot exactly am I lookin’ for, anyway?”
“Ye’ll know it when ye see it,” said Demoman. “Trust me on that.”
“Yeah, well, I’m not seein’ anything that looks like it could…” Sniper’s voice trailed off, as he stopped flipping through the pages, and stared. He pulled down his aviators, and glanced over them, a look of bemusement on his face. “Bloody ‘ell is this?”
“Tha’s th’ thing Scoot had described tae me durin’ ‘is hypnosis,” Demoman explained, coming around to look at the drawing over Sniper’s shoulder. “I guarantee tha’ if we show this tae him, he’ll recognize it fer sure!”
“That doesn’t prove anything!” Sniper said. “Only thing this proves is that Medic apparently likes t’ draw freaky little monsters in ‘is spare time.”
“Did ye see any other drawin’s a’ wee beasties in there?” Demoman asked. “Jes’ drawin’s a’ Heavy, mostly. I bet if I had more time, I could a’ found somethin’ else tae prove this. Come tae think of it, I dinnae remember seein’ Heavy’s medical record wi’ everyone else’s in Medic’s desk…”
“Wot’re you suggesting?” Sniper asked. “That wotever was in Scout is inside of Heavy now?”
“Tha’ would explain why th’ ‘sickness’ went o’er tae Heavy, an’ how Heavy hasn’t been gettin’ hit wi’ anythin’ durin’ th’ bouts with BLU, aye.”
“That’s jes’ bloody ridiculous.”
“Ye got a better explanation, then?”
“No,” Sniper admitted. “But that don’t mean ‘e’s got a weird little alien thing livin’ in ‘im!”
“An’ why’s that, then?”
“Because aliens don’t bleedin’ exist!” Sniper said, throwing his arms up in the air.
“You dinnae know that!”
“I know enough t’ know a crock a’ shit when I hear it,” said Sniper. “Look, unless you have some concrete evidence that Medic saw fit t’ take some sort of alien thing an’ put it inside a’ Heavy for God only knows what reason, I’m not buyin’ it.”
“I think ye do believe it,” Demoman said, crossing his arms. “Ye jes’ won’t let yerself.”
“Look, jes’ leave already,” Sniper said curtly. “When Medic finds out ya took ‘is lil’ diary, I don’t want t’ have nothin’ t’ do with it.”
Demoman scowled at Sniper, and snatched the journal from Sniper’s hands. “Fine,” he said. “Guess I’ll jes’ show this tae Scoot, then.”
“Yer not seriously gonna…” Sniper’s voice trailed off, as Demoman slammed the door on his way out. Sniper considered going after him, for a moment, but decided against it. He walked over to his bed and flopped down in it, lacing his hands behind his head and staring at the ceiling. He thought about the drawing, that horrible, slimy, tentacle thing, and tried to picture it inside of a human being. He could not suppress the shudder that crawled up his spine.
He hoped to God that Demoman was wrong.
Soldier was the first to hear the scream. It was high-pitched and shrill, and Soldier immediately recognized the cry as coming from their Scout. Slapping his helmet onto his head, he burst out of his room, wielding his shovel and shouting “SPY IN THE BASE!” at the top of his lungs. He nearly knocked Scout’s bedroom door off its hinges only to see Demoman holding a leather journal and Scout backed up against the wall, bug-eyed and panting wildly. Soldier immediately let out a deafening screech, held his shovel aloft over his head, and lunged towards Demoman.
“YOU WON’T MAKE IT OUT OF HERE ALIVE, YOU GODDAMNED DIRTY SPY!” he hollered, and smacked Demoman upside the head with his entrenching tool.
The Scotsman was sent teetering back, until he lost his balance and fell to the floor. Soldier peered out at Demoman from under his helmet, and noticed that Demoman had not turned into the BLU Spy. He wasn’t sure how to react to this, though it was entirely possible, in Soldier’s mind, that the blow was not hard enough to destroy the enemy Spy’s disguise. He lifted his Shovel again, prepared to turn the BLU Spy’s face into a fine paste.
“Soldier, what in th’ Sam Hill do you think yer doin’?”
Soldier turned around to see Engineer standing in the doorway, looking horrified. “What does it look like I’m doing?” asked Soldier. “I’m dealing with an enemy Spy.”
“He ain’t a friggin’ Spy, ya moron!” Scout shouted, though his voice came out hoarse and nervous.
“He’s not?” Soldier asked, blinking in disbelief. “Then why in the name of Sun Tzu’s beard were you screaming like a goddamned woman, Private?”
Scout instantly tensed up. “N-no reason,” he said. “It’s nothin’, forget about it.”
“Didn’t sound like nothin’,” said Engineer, stepping inside to help Demoman up. He felt his boot come down over something, and lifted it to see a book on the floor, its pages flat upon the ground. He lifted it up and tucked it under his arm before he lent Demoman his hand and helped him up off the floor.
“You okay there, Demo?” Engineer asked, as Demoman clutched his head and tried to regain his balance.
“‘M all right,” he said. “I think I’ve got permanent brain damage noo, but I’ll walk it off.”
“Ya dropped yer book,” said Engineer, as he handed the journal to Demoman. “What was all this fuss about, anyway?”
“LEMME SEE THAT!” Soldier snatched the journal from Engineer, and started flipping through this. “Is this German?”
“German?” Engineer echoed.
“‘The blazes is goin’ on in ‘ere?” Sniper peered inside. “I heard there was a Spy.”
“Ain’t no Spah, jes’ Demo,” said Engineer.
“What are you doing with the Kraut’s diary, Private?” Soldier asked Demoman. “Is he trying to turn on us?”
“SPUURRH?” Pyro rushed into the room, flamethrower at the ready, swinging it around wildly and nearly smacking the other men in the tiny room with it. “WHUURRR?”
“Dang it, there ain’t no Spah, calm down!” Engineer said, trying to give the fire starter as wide a berth as possible.
“Dammit, Demo, ya really did go an’ show ‘im, dinnit’ you?” Sniper cupped his face in one palm. “That’s wot happened, dinnit?”
“Show ‘im what?” Engineer asked.
“What was all zis screaming about?” Spy arrived, standing outside the door, wiping the last traces of blood from his face. He was still surrounded by dying Medigun fumes. “I heard Scout screaming like a school girl.”
“I was not!” Scout retorted.
“What the hell is this thing supposed to be?” Soldier recoiled from the journal in his hands, eyes bulging from underneath his helmet. He turned the book upside down, and tilted his head. “Is this some sort of Nazi science project?”
“Come on, Soldier, ya shouldn’t be lookin’ at that man’s private notes,” Engineer tried to take the journal back from Soldier, but Soldier pushed him back, staring at the page intensely.
“Found it, did ye?” Demoman asked.
“Aw, jeez, don’t make me look at that fuckin’ thing again,” said Scout.
“Whurrt thuurrng?” Pyro asked, looking over Soldier’s shoulder.
“This thing,” said Soldier, jabbing a finger at the page. “What is that?”
“Urrn urrturrpussh?” Pyro suggested with a shrug.
“It ain’t no bloody octopus,” said Demoman.
“Octopus?” Engineer asked. “Th’ heck are you talkin’ about?”
Spy snatched the journal from Soldier’s hands, and skimmed the page in question. “Zey’re notes,” he said. “On a parasite.”
“Parasite?” Soldier asked. “What kind of parasite?”
“One zat apparently was found in ze Scout’s stomach,” said Spy. “How interesting.”
“Wait, what?” Engineer cried. “You sayin’ Scout had some kinda tapeworm?”
“Trust me, zis is much bigger in mass zen ze average tapeworm, given ze measurements noted,” said Spy. “How in ze hell did it even fit in ze Scout?”
“Man, I don’t even know,” said Scout.
“Demoman says it’s an alien,” Sniper piped up, coming inside with the others.
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Engineer. “I’m not even gonna get into the probability of alien life ever reachin’ our planet, suffice t’ say, it’s next t’ impossible.”
“That’s wot I said!” Sniper exclaimed. “No such thing as aliens.”
“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” said Engineer.
“What else does it say, Spy?” Soldier asked, looking over Spy’s shoulder. “Did Medic put that thing inside Scout or what?”
“Non,” said Spy. “Medic took it out of ze Scout. And according to ze notes, it found its way into ze…” he looked up and out of the door, “… Heavy.”
All eyes turned towards the open door, to see Heavy standing there, looking like a man who had just found out that someone ran over his dog. Medic was not far behind him, shaking with a mixture of hurt and rage, his face turning a distinct scarlet shade, and his lip quivering like a leaf in the wind. His hands were clenched into tightly balled fists, and even beneath his gloves, the flexing of his muscles in his forearms was plainly visible. Nobody was quite sure how long the team stood there, underneath Medic’s gaze. It was Engineer who finally broke the silence, voice coming out almost meekly, trying his best to calm the livid doctor.
“D-Doc? Are you all right?”
Medic’s eyes bored into the Texan, and Engineer immediately regretted saying anything at all. Heavy put a hand on the doctor’s shoulder in an attempt to soothe him. “Am I all right?” Medic asked back to Engineer. “Am I… all right?”
“Doktor…” said Heavy, rubbing Medic’s shoulder. “Stay calm…”
“Ole’ Fritz is redder than a beet,” Soldier said softly, nudging Spy in the ribs as he spoke.
“So, it’s true, then!” Demoman said, pushing his way closer to Medic, past the other members of his team. “Ye did pull tha’ thing oot a’ Scoot, dinnit’ ye? An’ now it’s in Heavy!”
The doctor couldn’t answer. He seemed too busy gnashing his teeth, so consumed by rage he seemed to be quickly approaching the state of rigor mortis. Heavy decided to answer for him, nodding solemnly. “Da,” he said. “Is true.”
“Holy dooley,” Sniper muttered.
Medic seemed to become slightly less tense, though to say that he had relaxed would have been inaccurate. Slowly, he opened his fists, and looked up at Heavy in disbelief.
“Doktor,” said Heavy. “I am tinking ve need to talk to team.”
“So… what is this thing exactly, Doc?”
Medic cleared his throat and flexed his laced fingers, his hands resting on the table in the conference room. “I must admit, I am not entirely sure, Herr Engineer,” he said. “I have not had ze opportunity to study ze creature at length. It’s unlike any ozzah creature I’ve read about, and I’m convinced it may be of unearthly origin.”
“Well, what do ya know about it?” asked Engineer. “You know more ‘n any of us.”
“I do know zat ze creature is sentient,” said Medic. “Originally, I zhought it to be a parasite… I’m still not zhoroughly convinced zat it isn’t… for now, it only seems to be affecting his metabolism und stamina, mostly… but it also protects him, no doubt out of an interest of self-preservation.”
“So, what yer sayin’ is, that it’s a symbiotic relationship?” asked Engineer.
“I vould not be so bold,” said Medic. “Just because ze alien is pumping Heavy’s body viz hormones to keep him calm and complacent does not mean it is mutually beneficial.”
“Sounds like a parasite t’ me,” said Sniper, leaning on the table.
“And ye removed it from Scout,” Demoman stated flatly, arms crossed. It was not a question.
“Zat I had,” Medic said. “Vhen I removed it from Scout, it escaped from being held, used vone of my own syringes from ze needlegun against me, und cut its vay into Heavy. Ze creature is highly intelligent, given its very simplistic structure. All ze evidence I have gazzahed seems to suggest zat it possesses psychokinetic abilities.”
“That’d explain wot it did wi’ th’ rockets, aye,” Demoman said solemnly.
“What I want to know is why haven’t you taken the damned thing out?” Soldier barked, slamming his fist on the table. “You’re a doctor, right? You could cut your commie-pinko circus bear over here open and just yank out the little sucker!”
“Zat vas ze first zing I tried,” Medic said, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “Ze creature vill not let me touch it.”
“And how’s it stopping you?” Soldier asked. “What, is it just asking you politely and offering you a cup of Earl Gray with one of those frilly little doilies?”
“It emitted some sort of high-pitched frequency zat caused me to lose consciousness. Heavy saw it happen, but vas unaffected.” Medic turned to Heavy, who was seated next to him, and Heavy gave a quiet nod. “I have been afraid of trying to remove it, due to ze pain zat it is capable of causing.”
“‘Pain’?” Soldier echoed. “Oh, so Nurse Nightingale’s scared of a little pain from some sort of space slug, eh? Well, I, for one, am not! I’ll show you how it’s done, Pretty Princess Panzer!” Soldier stood up from his chair quite suddenly, shovel in his hand, and Heavy’s face instantly went ashen. He hopped up onto the table, prepared to lunge at Heavy, before he stopped, standing on top the table with his shovel in mid-swing, and he froze completely. He started to shake, though it appeared to be more of a vibration. His eyes bulged out of his sockets moreso than they usually did, and Medic gasped in alarm as pink foam started to form at the corners of Soldier’s mouth. The American was reduced to making pained, gurgling noises as his eyes rolled back in his head and he dropped his Shovel. With shaking hands, he reached up to touch his throbbing temples, and let out a shrill, primal scream before his head burst like a squeezed boil. A shower of blood, brain and bone splattered over the shocked and screaming members of RED team, and Soldier’s lifeless body fell to its knees and collapsed onto the table, the stump of his neck squirting crimson all over Medic, who stared at it stupidly.
“HOLY SHIT, MAN!” Scout shrieked. “THE FUCK WAS THAT?”
“Should not have made it mad,” Heavy said simply. “But is okay. Soldier vill respawn.”
“Mon dieu!” Spy cried out. “I’ve got fucking brains all over my suit!”
Engineer slowly raised his glove and wiped a smear of blood from his goggles. “Well, Doc… I can understand now why ya hadn’t taken th’ darn thing out…”
“Supposin’ ye had multiple people try an’ go after it at once,” Demoman suggested, “wot d’ya think would happen?”
Medic didn’t hear Demoman at first, still staring at the headless corpse lying down in front of him. After a few seconds delay, he finally responded, taking off his glasses and wiping them off on a clean part of his coat. “If I vere to guess, I vould say… zat, times however many ozzahs joined in,” he said.
“Ya tried sedatin’ it?” Sniper asked. “Bet it couldn’t blow yer head up if ya jes’ put it under.”
“It reads minds, Sniper,” Medic said, putting his glasses back on. “It communicates viz Heavy telepazhically, and zhere’s no doubt in my mind zat it can also know exactly vhat ve ah zinking.”
“Seriously?” Scout asked. “Hey, Bubble-Butt, can that thing read my mind right now? What am I thinkin’?”
Heavy thought for a moment. “You are tinking… of Sniper… dressed like ballerina… doing leettle dance like Engineer does vhen he is happy… and now, everyvone tinks it. Except for Scout, who is asking how I tink dat, and Sniper, who is tinking of strangling Scout now.”
Everyone else in the room just stared at Heavy with a dumbfounded awe. Heavy cleared his throat. “Dat is vhat it says to me, anyvay.”
“As fascinating as zis is, I would like to have a recess so zat I may able to change my suit.” Spy was still standing awkwardly, holding out his arms to the side.
“Would’ja stop whinin’ already, ya hardly got anythin’ on ya,” said Sniper with a sneer. “‘Least compared t’ Medic an’ Heavy, anyway.”
It was true. Medic was soaked in blood, and seemed rather indifferent towards the matter, aside from unconsciously licking off a spot of blood off his lip. Soldier’s body disappeared as it was picked up by the respawn system, but the blood remained. Medic wondered idly if the boisterous brawler would be making a reappearance.
“So… what does it want?” Engineer asked.
“Vhen I first confronted it, ze creature simply said it vanted to incubate,” said Medic. “I’m almost certain zat it is carrying some kind of offspring.”
“Ya mean there’s gonna be more of ‘em?” said Engineer, sounding genuinely alarmed.
“Zat is vone possibility, ja…” said Medic. “Alzhough… vhat I have found out about how Heavy’s body has been reacting to ze creature has been… unsettling, to say ze least.”
“Yeah, well, we can tell Porkavich has been packin’ on the pounds, an’ sittin’ around on his fat ass,” said Scout. “That ain’t exactly news.”
“It goes beyond zat,” said Medic. “I had mentioned earlier how ze creature vas ensuring Heavy’s cooperation by introducing certain hormones into his system. I vas not sure vhich hormones I vas dealing viz until I performed… ah… ein rabbit test.”
“… Yer kiddin’,” said Engineer.
“I’m completely serious, Herr Engineer.”
“Isn’t that fer testin’ if a woman’s pregnant?” Sniper asked. “An’ that’s why ya wanted me t’ get ya th’ rabbit?”
“Zat’s correct,” said Medic.
“What on earth possessed ya t’ do that?” Engineer asked, staring at Medic completely aghast.
Medic didn’t answer for a while. He steepled his fingers and averted his gaze. “It vas a desperate guess,” he said. “I honestly did not expect ze results to come back positive.”
The silence that followed was almost suffocating, akin to being shut in a tomb. Most of the men at the table looked horrified and disgusted, mouths hanging open in shock. They all struggled for words at the gaped at the Medic in shock. Heavy looked down at his stomach, averting his eyes from the others in shame.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa…” said Scout. “What’re you sayin’, Doc? That the Heavy is freakin’ pregnant?”
“THE HEAVY IS WHAT?”
Soldier was standing in the conference room’s doorframe, his helmet and his shovel’s spade hastily wrapped in tinfoil. His eyes were focused completely on Heavy, simply staring at him in disbelief. Medic pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes, wishing the Soldier would just leave. “He’s not pregnant,” said Medic. “He’s just-”
“Don’t you lie to me, you dirty Kraut,” Soldier snarled. “I heard what Scout said. What did you do to him, huh? Is it yours? Are you trying to dodge the responsibility of what you’ve done?”
“Vhat ah you talking about?”
“I didn’t think it was possible, but it seems like you two cum-guzzling butt-burglars have gone and made a baby. And on top of that, it’s in there with some sort of Martian! That’s hardly safe for any kind of infant, unless you’re purposely trying to toughen it up.” Soldier approached Heavy with caution, afraid of the being residing inside of the Russian. “So, what’re you planning on naming it?”
“HE’S NOT PREGNANT!” Medic shouted, slamming his fist down on the table.
“Then why’d that ‘rabbit test’ thing you did say he was?” asked Scout.
“Doc, did you… try an’ repeat this test?” Engineer asked. “I mean, th’ rabbit ya had Sniper caught, it’s not unreasonable t’ think that it might a’ already been pregnant.”
“Und vat do you propose I should do, Engineer?” Medic asked. “Ask RED to send me some lab animals? Undah vat pretense?”
“Well, shoot, I’m sure ya could think a’ somethin’,” Engineer said.
“Medic,” Demoman spoke up, his expression grave, “are ye jes’ gonna let it do this tae Heavy? Grow some kind a’ alien babe in yer best mate?”
“I. DON’T. KNOW. DEMOMAN!” Medic shouted in sheer exasperation. “I am powerless to do anyzing against zis monster! You zink I vant to leave it in zere, inside of Heavy, feeding off of him like it is, growing, making more of… vhatever it is?” He sat back, glumly looking at the table surface. “I hate it. I hate vhat it has done to Heavy. But I cannot do anyzing to fight back. I have to let it do zis to him. If I do not… it vill force me.”
“Zis is ridiculous,” said Spy. “Assuming zat it is, in fact, an alien, zen why would it come ‘ere, to Nucleus? Wouldn’t it want to be some place safer zen a military base?”
“Well, it is out in th’ middle a’ nowhere, with not a lot a human contact,” mused Engineer. “An’, supposin’ this was close encounter that Scout experienced, perhaps it was attracted by th’… device we been fightin’ over.”
“Yeah, what the hell is that thing,anyway?” Scout asked. “All’s I know is that it’s big an’ round an’ green an’ it gives me the creeps.”
“I always figgered it was some type a’ nuclear reactor,” said Engineer. “I haven’t really had th’ chance t’ look at it thoroughly, mostly because th’ higher ups don’t want me to.”
“Zat’s because zey don’t want us to know what it does,” said Spy. “And we are not paid to be asking questions, we’re paid to defend it.”
“We’re not paid tae be dealin’ wi’ aliens, either,” Demoman said. “No good is gonna come o’ this.”
Pyro, who had been completely silent during the entire meeting, let out a low hum from his gasmask filter. “Yurrr theernk wuuh currrd scurrr eet wirrf uh currrt hurrnguurr?”
“Hey, hey, hey!” Soldier snapped. “None of that talk in here, freak show! We wait until after babies are born before we start killing them! Have some common decency, you godless mutant.”
“Hurrrrr,” Pyro sighed, and crossed his arms.
“It would seem that we’ve found ourselves in at a bit of a quandary,” said Engineer. “Heavy’s being held prisoner by a creature of dubious origin, it’s got the power to kill us as many times over as it pleases, and here we are, unable to do a thing about it.” He frowned. “Quite frankly, Doc, I have no idea what t’ say t’ you or Heavy.”
“If you try and understand,” said Heavy, “dat is good enough.”
“No offense, big guy, but I kinda doubt any of us could really understand wot yer goin’ through,” Sniper said. “I mean, th’ whole situation is kinda alien to us… no pun intended.”
Heavy mumbled something incomprehensible in agreement.
“I vill continue to keep track of any developments in Heavy’s condition,” said Medic. “Ozzah zen zat… I have no idea vhat to do aside from trying to make ze experience as painless as possible.”
“So, wait,” said Scout, “if he’s got alien babies in there, then how are they gonna come out? They’re not gonna burst outta his stomach or somethin’, are they?”
“Ze creature said zat it vould need to be cut out, und it vould let me know vhen,” said Medic.
“And what the hell are we supposed to do with a bunch of gay Martian babies?” Soldier asked. “Because I can say for sure that I do not want to share living space with anything like that.”
“Your guess as good as mine, Herr Soldier,” said Medic. “Does anybody else have any more questions?” After an awkward silence, Medic showed some mercy and killed it. “Sehr gut. Now, if you vill excuse me, I’ll be in ze infirmary. I vould prefer not to be disturbed.” He got up from his seat, and without casting so much as a wayward glance at the other members of his team, left the conference room, closing the door behind him.
Heavy, who was still sitting at the conference table, shifted uncomfortably as all eyes turned to him. He too got up and left, following the doctor out without saying a word. The remaining of RED team watched him leave, and exchanged worried glances.
“So, now what’re we supposed ta do?” Scout asked. “Throw a freakin’ baby shower?”
Spy tried his hardest not to not to laugh at the comment, though he did produce an odd, snorting noise as he suppressed the urge to start cackling widly.
“S’not funny, Spah,” Engineer said. “This is serious, an’ you ain’t doin’ anythin’ t’ help.”
“What are we supposed to do zen, exactly?” Spy asked. “Zis whole situation is absurd!”
Engineer sighed. “Th’ only thing we can do now is be here fer th’ two of ‘em… an’ wait.”
The following are excerpts from the Medic’s journal. They have been translated from German, and recorded in chronological order.
April 14th, 1968
The rest of RED team now knows about the creature. Demoman had stolen my journal from my desk in order to prove the involvement of extraterrestrials. He claims he had hypnotized Scout in order to obtain information on the parasite. I did not know Demoman was familiar with hypnosis. I would be furious with him were I not so concerned about how the team’s reaction to news of the parasite has affected Heavy. When he came back to the infirmary, he went into our room. I am sure I heard him weeping softly. Knowing Heavy as a man who never cries, these recent emotional outbursts have been most disconcerting. I must not let the team know about them.
April 20th, 1968
Heavy has not gained any additional weight in the past few days. Perhaps we have reached a plateau, of sorts. Though, his complaints about cravings for certain foods have been far too analogous to the cravings of a pregnant woman for comfort.
Soldier continues to wrap his helmet in tinfoil, in an attempt to keep the creature from reading his mind or making his head explode again. He has not made any further attempts on the alien’s life, though he is quite vocal about his suspicion of it. He is convinced the creature is Martian in origin, referring to it constantly as “the Martian,”, and has suggested that the President of the United States be contacted so as to wage an interplanetary war. So far, no one has acted upon this suggestion.
April 26th, 1968
Heavy has started to gain weight again. Most unsettling is the fat gathering around the pectorals. It seems he actually is starting to develop breasts, and has naturally become very self conscious about them. Even though they are tender, today he insisted on wrapping them with bandages in order to make them less obvious.
Another side-effect of the parasite is an almost complete disappearance of Heavy’s libido. To be fair, the stress of this situation has pushed sex to the back of my mind as well, and Heavy’s gradually ballooning appearance has not helped matters much. What’s odd about this, however, is Heavy’s insistence on performing fellatio on me on an increasingly more frequent basis. Even more odd is the fact that there’s very little enthusiasm in it; he’s simply going through the motions. I fear that it may be the creature commanding him to do this, but for what purpose? I will have to confront Heavy on the matter.
April 27th, 1968
I have talked to Heavy about the insistence on giving me oral sex. He admitted that the creature had, in fact, told him to do it. When I asked why he had agreed to it, he said simply that it required DNA. He refused to elaborate any further. I have decided to sleep in one of the infirmary beds tonight.
May 2nd, 1968
The nightmares have become more frequent. Visions of tentacles bursting through Heavy’s stomach wall haunt my dreams. I’ve not had a decent night’s sleep in quite some time.
Fights with BLU team are now few and far between. They seem to fear Heavy, despite his snail-like pace, for the fact that he has become all but indestructible on the battlefield. Normally Heavy would relish this sort of notoriety, but he seems to be complete indifferent towards it. He spends a lot of time in the recreation room, watching television and eating. He seems to be perfectly content with this, though I cannot help but worry.
May 8th, 1968
Today, I made a disturbing discovery. While removing the wrappings that Heavy has insisted on having around his chest, I had noticed that he had begun to lactate. It was everything I could do to try and suppress the rising bile in my throat at the sight of it. Heavy was immediately ashamed by this, and my gagging did not help matters. He locked himself in the bathroom and refused to come out for a good 20 minutes. Eventually, I managed to talk him into coming out, but he was shaken by this for the rest of the day.
May 12th, 1968
It would seem that our Scout walked into the showers when Heavy was in there alone, and saw Heavy’s breasts. All day, he’s been tormenting Heavy, calling him “Bitch-Tits” to his face, telling the other members of the team. Soldier was quick to pick up further emasculating Heavy, calling him a “dirty Martian lover,” on top of insults regarding his masculinity and his sexuality. Engineer was merciful enough to break it up, but the damage has been done. We can both see how the others look at us, how Engineer, despite the friendly façade he puts on, is disgusted and horrified by what Heavy is turning into. He denies it, of course, and tries to be pleasant, but I can see the truth written all over his face, even with those goggles on. I’d hate him for it if he weren’t one of the only allies I have.
May 22nd, 1968
Lately, Heavy’s mood had improved drastically. It’s almost jarring, really. Whatever the creature has put into him, it’s elevated Heavy into a state of euphoria. Engineer described him as “glowing,” and said that Heavy reminded him of his own wife when she had been carrying Engineer’s child. I regret the angry response I gave him, but I cannot stand having Heavy compared to a pregnant woman. These comparisons are inevitable, of course, as the symptoms are alarmingly similar, but this feels like a cruel mockery of pregnancy, a perversion of it. It fills me with revulsion, and every day I wish I could kill that thing inside of Heavy, and free him from it. But I cannot. And I hate myself for it.
May 31st, 1968
Today I caught Demoman attempting to talk Heavy into poisoning the creature inside of him with alcohol. Heavy seemed as though he was going to follow through on this, but for whatever reason, could not bring Demoman’s bottle of scrumpy to his lips. It was as if he were fighting his own body to try and drink it, struggling against some unseen force. Eventually, he gave up. I had been watching from afar, and neither of them had seen me. I later asked Heavy about it, and he lied to me outright, saying he had no idea what I was talking about. This is the first time I can recall him lying to me. I’m not sure what to make of this.
June 2nd, 1968
The creature has been invading my thoughts. It’s been trying to plant images in my head without my consent. Last night, while I was lying in bed with Heavy, I entertained the fantasy of ripping it out of Heavy and stabbing it. Almost immediately I felt thoughts of me hugging the creature, cooing over it, petting it, flood into my head. I felt horrified by this, and I knew immediately that these thoughts were not my own, but they were being pushed onto me. I tried to fight it, increasing the violence in my head, picturing myself stomping on it, spitting on it, even biting it. It retaliated by sending back mental images of Heavy and I, sometime in the future, when the war has ended, living together happily in a cottage in the Alps. The images were so vivid in my mind’s eye. I could feel the sunshine filtering through dainty glass windows, I could smell eggs and sausage being prepared in our tiny kitchen, I could hear the sound of Heavy singing along with Strauss on an old gramophone, and see him turn to me, looking strong and handsome, with a glint in his eye and a smile on his face. And then I remembered where I was, and I wept.
June 7th, 1968
Heavy’s gut no longer feels as flabby as it was. It seems the extra weight was to hide the firm mass growing inside him, which means the creature is getting larger. He is eating more than he was before, but the amount of fat around his stomach seems to be decreasing. I must conclude that the creature is requiring more food, and is possibly living off of Heavy’s fat when he is not eating. I will have to make sure, however. The creature is not terribly forthcoming with information on itself.
Also of note is that his urination has already started to become much more frequent, and he has been drinking more water for fear of dehydration. I should hardly be surprised by this, really, but it’s just one more symptom for me to worry about.
June 18th, 1968
Last night, while I was in bed with Heavy, I felt something move against my arm. I had only been half-asleep, and I noticed my arm was draped over Heavy’s stomach. At first, I thought I imagined it, until I felt another thump against my arm, from inside of him. I immediately woke Heavy up, and told him what had happened. We waited a few minutes for it to happen again. There was no further movement inside of him, and he told me to go back to sleep. I tried to, but I could not. I distanced myself from him on the bed, no longer wanting to touch him. I’m not sure if I even want to share a bed with him anymore.
June 23rd, 1968
We have not had a battle with BLU for quite some time now, and the boredom is starting to settle in. As a result, the members of our team have been desperate for some way to relieve it. Soldier was apparently trying to convince the rest of the team to murder the “Martian” that’s inside of Heavy. The rebellion was squashed, however, when Soldier’s head exploded. He came out of respawn, furious that the tinfoil on his helmet had done nothing. He assumed that this was because he had not used enough of it, and went to wrap himself up in more. I probably should have stopped him, but at this point, I’ve stopped caring about what Soldier does, for the most part.
July 5th, 1968
Heavy’s stomach now has a tight, firm bulge, where the creature is growing. It has become noticeable to the other members of the team, and Engineer has suggested we contact HQ, and have Heavy sent home. Sniper jokes about how there’s no maternity leave in our contracts, and it’s everything I can do not to strangle him, even after he immediately apologizes for the remark. Though, Engineer’s suggestion is sounding more and more tempting as I give it more thought… perhaps I will contact RED and inform them of Heavy’s condition. I feel I do not have the proper resources to study the parasite here, though it pains me to have to part with Heavy. I feel as though I have not been supportive enough during all of this, and I’ve been too selfish. Perhaps I will make it up to him, somehow.
July 6th, 1968
HQ had no interest in sending Heavy home or to a facility that might better be able to study the creature. They would not listen to reason, nor would they listen to pleas. In fact, they didn’t seem to believe me, though they had heard about our Heavy being impossible to hit in battle, and insisted he stay right where he is. It was not until after I had ended the radio call with them that I lost my temper, when Spy revealed he had been listening the whole time, and asked what I planned to name the baby. I really should not have hacked at his throat with the bonesaw, true… that was uncalled for. But I felt the need to lash out somehow. Spy avoided me for the rest of the day, not particularly eager to be killed again.
July 7th, 1968
Heavy found out about the call I made to HQ. He was quite upset that I had tried to send him away from the base, and started crying in front of the rest of the team. Any attempts I made to calm him failed, as he pushed me aside quite violently, and retreated to our room, which I am now locked out of. I’m quite sure there are a great number of snide remarks being made about us behind our backs.
July 8th, 1968
I talked with Heavy today, and he seemed a bit more understanding. I felt terrible for ever wanting to have him sent away, and he seemed to accept my apology, if only halfheartedly. I attempted to make it up to him with sex, but he had no interest. To be completely honest, neither did I… not with the thought of that creature being a silent, eyeless voyeur, and knowing that it had harvested my sperm for reasons I can’t even begin to guess. It was awkward and unsatisfying for us both, though Heavy tried his best to convince me otherwise. The only part he showed any eagerness in was licking my seed off of me. I almost told him explicitly not to do that. I’m not sure why I didn’t.
July 25th, 1968
Heavy’s voice has risen in pitch. He has become quite embarrassed by this, and has been speaking less often, and will forcefully lower his voice when he does.
Also, there was another joke today about signing up Heavy for Lamaze classes. I’m fairly sure Scout made it. I’m not even sure I care enough to retaliate. Never before had I wished more that BLU would hurry up and try to capture our control point.
July 27th, 1968
BLU team launched a surprise attack on us today. The creature was quite upset by this. I’m not sure how it pulled it off, but it managed to shut down respawn on BLU team’s side somehow. Once it had done that, it proceeded to blow up all the members of BLU team. Not just their heads, but their entire bodies, bursting into a shower of blood and gristle.
Soldier was most upset by this, as he did not have the opportunity to kill any of the enemy team by his own rocket launcher. The rest of the team now knows how I feel, since they are now as superfluous as I am. They are now much more afraid of it now, going to great lengths not to upset Heavy, and by extension, the parasite. I pray that the creatures’ reign of fear over us will not last much longer.
August 3rd, 1968
It would seem that the period needed to gestate for the creature inside of Heavy is much shorter than that of a human fetus. His stomach is swollen enough now that I have had to alter several pairs of his pants so that they would not be so restrictive.
HQ says they wish to move us to a different base, most likely to Sawmill. When Spy told us of this, Heavy looked horrified, and said that the creature did not wish to leave Nucleus. Immediately, everyone in the room feared for their lives, and what the creature might do if it were not satisfied. Spy nervously said he would try and talk to HQ and convince them into letting us stay here. Somehow I don’t think they’ll agree.
August 4th, 1968
Just as I suspected, HQ would not hear of us staying in Nucleus. Spy tried to drop the news as gently as possible, and for this news the creature punished Spy by knocking him unconscious, causing him to bleed from his nose and ears. I took Spy to the infirmary and Heavy tried to reason with the creature that could not be reasoned with. I sit here in my office, writing this, having been a prisoner of this creature for almost six months. Six months of madness, of self-doubt, of fear of this alien being. All I want is for it to end.
God have mercy and make it end.
Medic looked up from his journal and saw Heavy come out of their room, clutching his stomach. “Vhat is it, Heavy?” Medic asked.
“I vant to say I am sorry,” Heavy said. “For vhat happen to Spy. Vill he be all right?”
“Hopefully, he vill be,” said Medic, casting a glance towards the bed Spy was lying in. “Besides, it’s not your fault. You have absolutely nozzing to apologize for.”
“Yes, I do,” said Heavy. “I have to apologize.” He sat down on the chair in front of Medic’s desk, keeping his legs spread apart. “I am starting to feel… that I like the octopus in stomach.”
The doctor looked at Heavy curiously, sunken eyes studying the Russian’s expression. His first thought that it was the alien controlling Heavy’s mind. It had tried to convince Medic to like it many times before, and he had resisted, but poor Heavy was probably assaulted by such thoughts constantly.
“Vhy is zat?” Medic asked. He tried his best to sound pleasant, but the thought of what the creature was doing to Heavy enraged him, and he was quite sure that the creature knew this.
“I do not know,” said Heavy. “I feel it is… part of me, now. I have to protect it. Is very important.”
“It’s not a part of you, Heavy,” said Medic. “It’s an invader, a parasite. Don’t let it tell you ozzahvise.”
“It does not vant to leave here, Doktor,” Heavy said. “It tells me that it needs to be here, in Nucleus.”
“It vill not say.”
Medic sighed. “It nevah does, does it?” He closed his journal and placed it inside of its designated desk drawer. “It has no choice but to go vhere you go. Ve ah going to Sawmill. Tell it zat it had bettah get used to ze idea.”
“It vill not let me go to Sawmill.”
The tone that Heavy used, so grave and matter-of-fact, gave Medic a chill. He felt his stomach knot tightly. Even after so many months being stuck in Nucleus with that thing, it still never failed to make him uneasy. He had to be careful with how to answer to this assertion; he was not particularly eager to be knocked unconscious by the parasite’s whine again. “Heavy, it is not your choice, nor is it ze creature’s choice. Our job requires zat ve relocate, und it must understand zis. It goes vhere you go. Und if ve ah going to Sawmill, zen it must come viz us.”
Heavy looked uncomfortable, looking down at his stomach as if to consult the creature inside of him. He rubbed it, and looked as though he had been given a death sentence. “I do not vant it to kill any of our men.”
The doctor could not suppress the shudder that racked his body. He couldn’t look Heavy in the eye. Would the creature try to shut off Respawn again and kill off members of the team permanently? Or would it lash out at whatever RED staff tried to help them move out onto the train? “I vill try und talk viz RED to see if ve can postpone ze move a little longer,” Medic said.
“Tank you, Doktor,” said Heavy, the faintest of smiles on his lips.
“Don’t zink anyzing of it,” said Medic, scratching the neglected stubble on his chin. He hadn’t slept in two days, and it was quite apparent from his appearance that he was running on fumes. “Do you zink you could sving by ze kitchen under get me anuzzah cup of coffee, Liebe?”
“Da,” said Heavy. He got up from his chair slowly, grunting with exertion. He cradled his bulging gut with one arm and made his way to the door he stopping and turning around. “Ah, Doktor?”
“Octopus vanted to say it vill come out soon,” said Heavy. He betrayed a hopeful smile as he said this. “Is good news, yes?”
Medic stared at Heavy, eyes wide, his mouth opening slightly in shock. It took him a while to finally react beyond that. “Yes,” he deadpanned. “Zank you, Heavy.”
Heavy left the infirmary, looking a bit concerned, but otherwise in reasonably good spirits. Medic was still staring at the space where Heavy had been standing. It was coming out, he thought. Whatever it was carrying was going to be born. How could Heavy possibly be happy about this? What had that wretched, eldritch horror done to his Heavy? He cupped his hands over his face, propped his elbows on the desk, and held his head, closing his eyes and let out a low, mournful moan.
With great care, Engineer plucked apart Spy’s dead ringer, inspecting each tiny cog and gear underneath a magnifying glass that was attached to his hardhat. Spy had complained that the device had been on the fritz before he had been knocked out, and Engineer was eager to take a look at it… anything to take his mind off of that thing in Heavy’s stomach, really. Try as he may, he couldn’t seem to keep his hands completely steady, silently muttering curses under his breath with each unwanted twitch of his muscles. When he heard a sudden knocking on the door to his workshop, he jumped and yelped in surprise, spinning in his chair. “Who’s there?”
“It’s me, Herr Engineer,” said Medic. “May I come in, bitte?”
“Oh,” said Engineer, placing a hand over his chest in an effort to slow the frightened palpitations of his heart. “Come on in, Doc.”
Medic opened the door, and after a brief check of the hall to make sure there was no one else around, shut the door behind him quietly. “I need to use your radio,” said Medic. “Ve need to postpone ze move to Sawmill.”
“Didn’t Spah already try that?” Engineer asked.
“Ja, he did,” said Medic, “but I need to at least try again. Ze creature may try und kill us permanently if ve do not appease it.”
“Trust me, I’m well aware a’ that,” said Engineer. “Why does it wanna stay at Nucleus so bad, anyway? Has it said anything?”
“Of course not,” said Medic. “Only zing it’s said lately is zat it is coming out soon.”
“What?” Engineer’s voice cracked in surprise. “When?”
“It vould not tell me, just like it does not tell me anyzing else,” Medic sighed. “May I?”
It took Engineer a moment to notice Medic was gesturing towards the radio on his worktable. “Oh! Sorry,” he said, scooting out of the way. “Go on ahead. Don’t mind me, I’m jes’ tryin’ t’ git some work done.”
“Danke,” said Medic. He lifted the transceiver from its cradle and leaned on the table as he pressed the call button. “Zis is RED Medic, calling ze Administrator. Permission to speak viz RED headquarters?”
“If you’re calling about putting off the move to Sawmill, Medic, I can safely say that HQ is not interested in your excuses,” the Administrator snapped. “You really should not even bother. Over.”
“Frau Announcer, please,” Medic pleaded. “I am ze team’s doctor. Ze parasite inside of Heavy may try und kill us permanently if ve try und move it. If you could please postpone ze move to Sawmill for just vone more veek, zat is all I ask.” He paused, and hastily added, “Ovah.”
“That’s not my problem,” the Announcer said in a clipped tone. “You do realize, of course, that we are not inclined to believe you about this ‘creature’ you keep going on about. Nor do we owe you any favors. In fact, you are hardly in a position to be asking anything of us, considering your blatant disregard for certain clauses of your contract. Over.”
Medic froze. “Vhat do you mean?” he asked, his voice faltering. Surely she hadn’t found out about… no. “Ovah?”
“I think you know exactly what I mean,” said the Announcer. “I would advise you not to ask us for any more favors, lest the details of certain affairs be brought up to your superiors at RED. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“Zis is bigger zan zat!” Medic protested. “Ve ah talking about lives at stake, here! Do you intend to kill us all?”
There was a moment’s silence as Medic awaited an answer. “Listen,” she said. “I don’t know or care if the creature in question even exists. What I do know is that your Heavy is indestructible on the field, and we need him out at Sawmill. You tell the creature it is a valuable asset to your team and it will be compensated should it agree to go to Sawmill. Over.”
“I don’t zink it vill accept your offer, Frau,” said Medic. “Ovah.”
“Make the offer anyway,” said the Announcer. “Perhaps we could postpone the move a few days, should it accept. Over.”
“You really mean zat?” Medic asked, suddenly sounding much more hopeful.
“Yes,” said the Announcer. “And because I am in such a good mood, perhaps I can see fit to look over any… past transgressions. Is Engineer in the room with you?”
Medic nearly forgot that the man was sitting next to him, quietly working on Spy’s dead ringer. Engineer looked up from his work and pushed up one of the lenses on his magnifying headset. “Ja,” said Medic. “He is here. Ovah.”
“Good,” she said. “I would like to speak with him, if you are quite finished. I’ll be awaiting the creatures’ response. Over.”
“Danke, Frau Announcer, danke,” Medic said. This was the break he had been waiting for, the break he did not think he would ever get. He quickly handed the transceiver to Engineer and rushed out the workshop door, leaving Engineer alone.
“Is the Medic gone?” the Announcer asked.
“Uh… yes ma’am,” said Engineer. “He prolly went back t’ find Heavy. Over.”
“Good,” she said. “I should probably inform you that we’ve had a change of plans. You will not be sent to Sawmill at all. Over.”
“But… you just said to th’ Doc that’d you were shippin’ us out there. Over.”
“That’s exactly what I want him to think will happen,” she said. “The parasite as well. I’m going to need you to follow my exact instructions, Engineer, if you wish to ensure the safety of your teammates, over.”
Engineer felt a rash of goosebumps break out over his arms; he always felt as though someone has walked over his grave when she spoke in that voice. “I’m listening…” he said. “Over.”
“Good,” she said. “Glad to know I have someone I can count on.”
“Heavy!” Medic called out. “Vhere ah you? I vant to talk viz you a moment!”
He heard something rattling from the direction of the kitchen. The doctor walked briskly and opened the double doors, only to see Heavy in there, face stuffed full of sandwich as he hastily tried to close the close the silverware drawer. Heavy froze for a moment as he saw Medic, but eventually sagged, taking the sandwich out of his mouth. “Hello,” he said.
“Still hungry?” Medic asked.
“Cannot help it,” Heavy said. He reached onto the counter behind him, and showed Medic a plate which had several more sandwiches stacked on top of it in a pyramid of bread, cheese, lettuce, tomato and meat. “It needs more food. Needs to be strong vhen it comes out.”
“About zat…” Medic said, clearing his throat. “I actually have some good news.”
“Good news?” Heavy asked, looking excited. “Vhat is it?”
“Ze Announcer is prepared to put off ze move to Sawmill for a few more days,” said Medic.
Heavy beamed, grinning like a happy child. “Oh, dat is good news!” he boomed. “Dat makes us very happy!”
“Zere is a catch, zhough,” Medic said, watching Heavy’s face fall. “Ze Announcer vants ze creature to come to Sawmill, und be used in our future battles zere. She said she vould be villing to compensate it for its service, but she vill only postpone ze move if ze creature accepts.”
“Oh,” said Heavy. He looked down at his stomach, and held his gaze, silent for several long, agonizing seconds. “Vhat kind of compensation?”
“Vell, vhat does it vant zat she can offer?” Medic asked.
“It vants to come out,” said Heavy. “But it must be here.”
“Vhat vill it do vonce it comes out?” Medic asked. “Vill it finally say?”
Heavy closed his eyes, and looked pensive. “It only says dat it needs care,” said Heavy as he opened his eyes again. “Dat is all.”
“I suppose zat is bettah zen nozzing,” Medic said. “So, vill it accept ze offer, or not?”
“Ve… need to tink about dat,” Heavy said cautiously. “Ve let you know.”
“I really vish you vould not say ‘ve’ like zat,” said Medic. “It’s… unsettling.”
“Am sorry, Doktor,” said Heavy. “Ve… I vill try to do dat less.”
“If you could, bitte,” Medic said. “I’ll be in ze infirmary.” He turned to leave, but stopped. He looked back to Heavy, and frowned.
“Someting wrong, Doktor?” Heavy asked.
“Heavy,” said Medic, “please… tell it to accept ze offer. I don’t vant any of us to be killed by zat zing.”
The Russian nodded solemnly. “Okay,” he said. “I try.”
Medic couldn’t really say he was comforted by Heavy’s half-hearted reassurance. He left the mess hall quietly and retreated back to his quarters, not sure if he should be dreading the creature’s final decision or not.
An hour had passed and Heavy eventually returned to the infirmary. He walked past Medic, who had been compulsively re-organizing his cabinets. Without so much as a glance in the doctor’s direction, he went straight to their bedroom, shutting the door behind him. Medic paused in his busywork, considering going to talk to Heavy. He ultimately decided to leave him alone for a bit, and continued with his tasks.
He found himself passing several hours cleaning the infirmary, going back over spots he had already scrubbed or re-sterilizing his tools. Occasionally, he would check in on Spy. He hoped that the man had not suffered any permanent damage from the psychic attack he had endured, but it would be hard to assess until Spy woke up… if he did wake up. When dinner time rolled around, Heavy finally came out of the bedroom, and they both made their way to the mess hall in silence.
Conversation at the dinner table was virtually non-existent. The mood that hung over the eight men was grim, and each man kept to themselves, refraining from the usual idle banter that normally dominated their meals. Medic didn’t even finish eating before he handed his plate off to Heavy and excused himself.
When he finally made it back, he checked on Spy again, hovering over his bed and looking the man over. Spy looked downright peaceful, almost like he was asleep. Medic wrung his hands nervously, and walked over to his record player. He needed to relax, and perhaps having some music playing might encourage Spy to rouse from his current state. He made his way over to his record player and flipped through his records. After a minute of deliberation, he decided on Handel, and placed the vinyl disc upon the turntable, gently plucking the needle and placing it with great care as it crackled to life.
Medic jolted a bit, and saw Heavy standing in the doorway. “Ach, it’s you,” said Medic.
“Did I startle you?” Heavy asked.
“I’m fine,” Medic said, shoulders slumping as the sounds of Water Music, Air came filtered through the room.
“How is Spy?” Heavy asked.
“Still unconscious,” said Medic.
“Oh,” said Heavy. “I see.” He turned and shut the door behind him, and walked over to Medic. “Ve need to talk.”
“About vhat?” asked Medic. “Is ze creature ready to accept ze Announcer’s offer?”
“Uh…” Heavy didn’t look Medic in the eye. “Not… about dat. Is different. Ve should go into the bedroom.” He took Medic by the hand and lead him away, to their room. Heavy shut the door behind him, and Medic looked at him, bemused.
“Vhat is going on?” he asked, his voice tinged with irritation.
“Others are planning someting,” said Heavy. “Tonight. Vhen ve are asleep. Dey vant to capture me and send us avay.”
“Bozh of us?” Medic asked.
“No, not you,” said Heavy. “Me and octopus. But they might capture you and keep you somevhere so you do not stop them.”
“You read zheir minds, zen.”
“Da,” said Heavy. “Vas all dey could tink about.”
Medic sat down on the bed, shaking his head. “Vhy…?”
“Announcer told Engineer to do it,” said Heavy. “He does not vant to, but is forced. He tried to tink of other tings to throw us off, but did not vork. Octopus knew.”
“Vhat do ve do, zen?” Medic asked.
“Ve cannot leave here,” Heavy said. “Octopus vill not allow it. Ve lock ourselves in here.”
“But how long are ve supposed to hold out?” Medic asked. “Ve don’t have any food or anyzing in here, und zey vill get in, I assure you.”
“Octopus vill keep us safe,” said Heavy.
“In zat case, I am far less vorried about us zen I am about ze ozzah members of our team,” said Medic. “I don’t vant it killing zem off permanently.”
Heavy frowned. “Da,” said Heavy. “I do not vant dat either.”
Medic held his head in his hands. “So, vhat, do ve just vait for zem, zen?” Medic asked.
“Dey do not know that ve know,” said Heavy. “I do not tink ve can talk dem out of it.”
“Is she blackmailing zem as vell?” Medic asked.
“Dat,” said Heavy, “and they are scared of octopus and vant it gone.”
“I cannot say I can blame zem for zat,” Medic said, shaking his head. “Mein Gott… zis is just a nightmare…”
Heavy stood over Medic, and extended his arm to stroke Medic’s hair. Medic looked up at him with a doleful expression on his face, and then stood up, wrapping his arms around Heavy. He was forced to lean forward, as Heavy’s stomach bulge was too large and firm for Medic to press up against Heavy as close as he wanted to. Heavy rubbed the doctor’s back, and for a moment, Medic felt…calm; serene, even. He wasn’t sure if it was the creature’s doing or not, but at that precise moment, he didn’t much care. Something about Heavy’s presence there made him feel like they would be okay.
Scout was the first to open the door to the infirmary. He groped for the light switch and flipped it on, watching the giant florescent lights buzz to life. He peered inside, noting how there was nobody else around, save for Spy lying motionless on one of the beds in the corner. Turning around, Scout quickly motioned for the others to come inside.
Engineer, Sniper, Demoman, Soldier and Pyro all came inside, and all of them but Sniper clustering around the door to Medic’s bedroom. Sniper ferreted through Medic’s cabinets before briefly pulling out a bottle, and tucked it under his arm before joining the others. Nobody touched the doorknob for a moment, instead eyeing it as though it were some accursed object.
“Well?” Soldier said, far too loudly for the comfort of his comrades. “Is it locked, or what?”
“Would ye keep it down?” Demoman hissed. “We cannae afford tae wake them.”
Scout nervously reached out to the doorknob and gripped it firmly. He hesitated before he turned the handle, slowly, only to find it give a dull rattle. “It’s locked,” said Scout.
“Anybody know how t’ pick a lock?” Sniper asked.
“Spy does,” said Scout.
“A fat lot a’ good that does us,” said Demoman.
“Does anybody have a credit card?” Engineer asked. “I heard those work when ya wanna unlock a door.”
“No,” said Sniper. “You really think we’d think t’ bring a credit card out here?”
“Naw, I guess not,” said Engineer. “Thought it wouldn’t hurt t’ ask, though.”
“You’re telling me not a single one of you knows how to pick a lock?” Soldier asked, making a great effort to keep his voice down. “What about you, Demoman? You know how to pick a lock?”
“Wot’s that s’posed tae mean?” Demoman asked, glaring daggers at Soldier.
“What’s what supposed to mean?” Soldier asked innocently. “I was asking you a question!”
“Right, askin’ th’ black man if he knows how tae pick a lock,” said Demoman.
“Solly didn’t mean that, Demo,” Engineer said, trying to diffuse the situation before it escalated.
“Oh, I’m sure he dinnit’,” Demoman said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“You didn’t even answer my question,” Soldier said.
“No, I dinnae know how tae pick a bloody lock!” Demoman said in a harsh whisper. “Happy, noo?”
“I am satisfied, thank you,” said Soldier.
“Urrr knuuw hurrw turr perrck urr lrrrck,” Pyro piped up.
“Well, why dinnit’ ya say so earlier?” Sniper asked.
“Surreh,” said Pyro.
“Well, ya think ya can get this open so’s we can get this over with or what?” Scout asked.
“Kehy,” said Pyro with a nod. He scuttled off to the corner of the infirmary, and reached inside Spy’s suit jacket, which had been draped over a nearby chair. Pyro fished through the coat pockets until he found what he was looking for. He waddled back over to the door, both parts of the lock pick in his gloved hands, and set to work on opening the lock.
“I got a bad feelin’ aboot this,” said Demoman. “It dinnae feel right.”
“I didn’t wanna do this either,” said Engineer. “But th’ Announcer said that they weren’t gonna hurt him or nothin’, at least.”
“She’d better not be lyin’,” Demoman said. “I cannae hand Heavy o’er tae her in good conscience if it turns out they’re gonna start experimentin’ on ‘im.”
“Well, technically, Medic was already experimentin’ on ‘im,” said Engineer. “They said they’re jes’ movin’ him to a better facility, is all.”
“An’ ye b’lieve them?” Demoman asked.
“I honestly don’t know what t’ b’lieve,” said Engineer. “This whole situation is just too much.”
The door gave a satisfying little click. “Isshh urrnlrrcked,” said Pyro, handing off the lock pick to Scout.
“Cool, we’re in,” said Scout. “Now what?”
“Sniper, d’ya get th’ chloroform?” Engineer asked.
“Yeah,” said Sniper, holding up the bottle and the rag. “Ya think it’ll be enough? I’ve never done this before, I don’t know how much is too much…”
“Just tilt it over onto the rag until ya get a good amount,” said Engineer. “I ain’t ever done this neither, but I imagine ya don’t wanna have it drippin’ wet.”
“I’ll bet Doc’s done that sort a’ thing before,” said Scout, laughing nervously.
Nobody acknowledged the comment. Pyro opened the door, and it gave a soft little creak. The light from the infirmary spilled into the bedroom, revealing Heavy and Medic in bed, Heavy’s arm wrapped around Medic as though he were a teddy bear. Their arms and shoulders were poking out from underneath the sheets, revealing both of them to be in their pajamas.
“Disgusting,” Soldier snorted.
He was quickly shushed by the rest of his teammates. They crept inside, and Sniper stood over Heavy towards the head of the bed, his Adam’s apple bobbing nervously as he swallowed. Demoman and Scout stood close by Medic. Engineer gave Sniper a nod, and Sniper nodded back. The Aussie sucked in his breath, and lowered the chloroform-soaked rag to Heavy’s face. His hand was shaking, and he was barely able to keep it steady.
“Would you friggin’ hurry it up already before he wakes up?” Scout hissed.
It was right then that Heavy’s eyes flew open.
Sniper panicked, trying to smother Heavy’s face in the rag. Heavy caught the Australian’s wrist in his giant hand, and tossed him aside into the wall. Just then Medic woke up with a snort. “Was ist…” he asked sleepily, before he noticed the rest of his team in the room.
“Hold ‘im down!” Engineer commanded, and Demoman and Scout grabbed a hold of Medic’s arms, holding him back.
Medic immediately started screaming in panic, trying to wriggle his way out of their grip as they pulled him off of the bed and away from Heavy. Meanwhile, Soldier, Pyro and Engineer attempted to dogpile onto Heavy, and the massive Russian swatted them off. Soldier abruptly flew off of Heavy and slammed into a wall, as though yanked by some invisible line. Sniper approached Heavy and latched onto his back, climbing up like some agile, lanky lemur, cloth still in his hand, and Engineer and Pyro tried in vain to hold onto Heavy’s arms. Heavy was still able to reach up and grab a hold of Sniper, yanking the man from his back and tossing him into the corner of the room. Heavy let out an angry bellow as he swung his arm and flung Engineer into the makeshift nightstand, breaking the bedside lamp and sending the stacked crates clattering as his doctor let loose a string of German profanities. He then reached to grab Pyro by the scruff of his suit like a puppy, and tossed him into Soldier, who had only just gotten to his feet.
“ALL OF YOU LEAVE US ALONE!” Heavy roared, screwing his eyes shut and clutching his head.
When he opened his eyes, the others were all gone, save for Medic, who had fallen flat onto his backside and simply looked stunned. He looked around the room, looking desperately for the rest of RED Team, who had seemingly evaporated into thin air. “Vhere are zey?” he asked, his voice cracking in panic. “Did you kill zem?”
“Nyet,” said Heavy. “Zey are fine.”
“Vhere are zey?” Medic repeated, scrambling to his feet.
“Where are we?” Scout asked.
The six of them were standing outside, in the middle of the desert. The moon was full and high in the sky, staring down at them like a blind, milky eye, and a cold wind blew.
“I’d say we’re out in the middle of the goddamned desert,” said Soldier.
“Really?” asked Sniper, rubbing his aching backside. “I never would a’ guessed.”
“We’re lucky it jes’ decided tae teleport us out ‘ere instead a’ killin’ us,” said Demoman. He turned to Sniper. “Ya think ye can find our way back all right, lad?”
“Shouldn’t be too hard,” said Sniper, taking off his aviators and looking around and spying a familiar rock formation. He pointed at it. “I think I’ve been out around here. If I’m right, we’re about a few miles southwest a’ Nucleus.” His arm swept over about 45 degrees until he was pointing roughly in the direction of their base. “S’a bit of a hike, but I think we’ll make it back all right.”
“You thinkin’ we should start walkin’ now, ‘fore th’ sun rises?” asked Engineer, rubbing his sore back.
“That’s probably th’ best idea,” said Sniper. “We’re not exactly well prepared fer a hike out in th’ desert in th’ summer, and we can keep warm if we keep movin’.”
“This sucks!” Scout said. “I didn’t wanna do this anyway! I just wanted ta get some friggin’ sleep, but no, ya had ta pull me inta this.”
“I don’t think any of us wanted t’ do this, Scout,” said Engineer.
“I did,” said Soldier. “I’d wanted to get rid of that goddamned Martian ever since I found out about it.”
“Spurrsssh shhtturl uurrn thurrr,” said Pyro. “Urrh hrrpp hiissh urrruurrt.”
“I think he’ll be okay, Pyro,” said Engineer, putting a hand on the firestarter’s shoulder. “Soon as he wakes up, I think he’ll be able t’ take care a’ himself.”
“You blokes comin’ or not?” asked Sniper, who had already started on his trek.
The others followed the Australian, forming a single file line as they made their way back to Nucleus, unsure of what would await them upon their return.
Medic walked around the now-empty base at Nucleus. Though he knew that his teammates were no longer in the building, a part of him felt that he needed to confirm this. His footfalls echoed through the halls, and his mind wandered to where on earth his teammates were. As he stalked the base, he came across the wide, rolling steel door that allowed them to go above ground. On a whim, he looked for the button used to open it, and found it along the wall. He pressed it. Nothing happened. He pressed it again, and there was still no response. Immediately he suspected the creature of somehow sabotaging the machinery, trapping him inside.
He then made his way to the giant, glowing metal hub. The device thrummed under the pale moonlight, providing an eerie, green glow that lit up the canyon that the base was nestled inside. Engineer had suspected that the hub had something to do with what drew the alien here, of all places. He looked up at the sky, and noted that the moon was full. He couldn’t say why, but it gave him an awful, sickening feeling in his stomach looking at it. He went back inside of RED’s half of the base, making his way back inside towards the living quarters. He dragged his feet as he walked, his head tilted towards the ground and his hand trailed along the walls.
When he heard the screaming coming from the infirmary, he immediately jerked his head up. They were Heavy’s screams. He immediately broke into a run, making a beeline for the infirmary doors. He flung open the double doors, and saw Heavy rolling on the floor in agony, clutching his bare stomach.
“DOKTOR!” He shouted. He winced, and let out a roar as Medic knelt by his side. Medic managed to pull Heavy’s hands away, and noticed Heavy’s bulge was… moving. Medic blanched, recalling his frequent nightmares where he had seen this before. He stared aghast as letters raised in Heavy’s flesh.
“NOW,” the creature spelled out.
“Mein Gott,” Medic breathed. It was time. “Please… I need him up on ze operating table…”
“VERY WELL,” it wrote. Heavy jerked upright, and startled Medic, who let out a gasp as he toppled backwards. The Russian stared at his hands in horror as he pressed his palms against the ground and pulled his legs underneath him, and pushed himself up off the ground… only, his movements were unnatural, looking more like a marionette with invisible strings. His head lolled back as he shambled forward, limbs popping and locking as he made his way to the operating table, and collapsed onto it. Medic quickly gathered his tools and anesthesia, and scuttled to Heavy’s side, quickly trying to prepare an IV. The sooner he could relieve Heavy of his pain, the better.
He quickly swabbed the crook of Heavy’s elbow with an alcohol cotton swab, and had trouble inserting the IV needle into Heavy’s quivering arm. “Please, Heavy, I need you to hold still,” Medic said.
“Hurts, Doktor,” Heavy said through gritted teeth.
“It von’t hurt anymore if you hold still for me,” said Medic.
Heavy bit his lip and nodded, and stilled his arm as Medic inserted the needle, and taped it over. The effects were almost instant, and Heavy instantly seemed to calm down, his breathing slowing down and his shaking ceasing altogether. Medic raised a hand to stroke Heavy’s bald dome, shushing him gently.
“It’s all right,” Medic said, only partly to Heavy. “It vill be all right… relax.”
“You are great Doktor,” Heavy said sleepily. “I already don’t feel any-” His head rolled back and he fell into unconsciousness.
Medic breathed a sigh of relief. He prepped himself for surgery, and eyed the still-moving stomach of Heavy with unease. His preparations complete, he lifted his scalpel, which suddenly felt heavy in his grip, and made the first incision, cutting open Heavy’s stomach. The skin was pulled apart, and the parasite was revealed, seeing the outside world for the first time in months.
The creature’s main body had grown in size considerably, and it no longer retained its pancake flatness. The creature was rounder, its tentacles shorter, as it slowly retracted its grip from Heavy’s organs, pulling its tentacles into its body and shaping itself into a ball. Inside, there were two solid, wriggling shapes, pushing to the surface of the creature’s skin. Medic could taste the bile in his throat, and inhaled deeply through flared nostrils, before breathing out through his mouth. The creature was too large to lift it with his tongs. He reached out to the creature and lifted it with both hands, feeling it wriggle in his grip. He then placed it in a sink nearby, and then reached for his Medigun, hoisting it up and aiming it at Heavy, closing the incision wound and watching as the cuts zippered shut. With that out of the way, he turned to the creature in the sink, which was now trying to crawl out. Medic dashed over towards it and held it down with one hand. Suddenly, in his mind’s eye, he saw his scalpel cutting the creature open. He stared at the parasite, and realized what he had to do. He picked up his blade, and cut into the creature.
The alien’s skin peeled apart and oozed a clear, foul-smelling jelly, and its tentacles flailed about. The odor that emanated from it was sickly-sweet, like rotted fruit mixed with dead fish. Medic held his breath and pulled its skin further apart, and reached inside it, grabbing one of the objects inside of it. The thing he pulled out writhed in his hands, leaving a thin, ropey trail of slime with the consistency of raw egg yolk in its wake. He held it up to the light as it started to cry out in protest, and his jaw hung open in shock.
It was a baby. It was tiny, though, small enough that Medic could have held it in one hand. It looked mostly human, save for its size and its white, slightly translucent skin, and Medic held it up to the light, highlighting the tiny, purple veins that formed a roadmap over its fragile body. But the most unsettling part was its face, and its own uncanny resemblance to the doctor’s. He remembered seeing photographs of himself as a baby, and this creature’s face looked almost exactly like his own had in those ancient photos. It was crying loudly, sounding very much like any human baby, but there was a ghostly, inhuman quality to its cries. Medic noticed the thin, stringy cord coming from the baby’s stomach; much thinner than a human umbilical cord. He placed the child down, and picked up the scissors from his tray, snipping the cord. It was then that he noticed the child’s gender for the first time; mostly, that it didn’t have one, and instead just had a mass of shapeless lumps where its genitals should have been. Medic felt a psychic jolt in his head, and turned back to the parasite. There was something else inside it, and the doctor reached his gloved hand back inside of it, and pulled out a second thing.
This one… could hardly be called a baby. It was a growling, wheezing monster, and unlike the first one, its eyes were wide open, revealing onyx black orbs that reflected Medic’s face like glass. Its limbs were malformed, twisty little twigs, and it gurgled as it breathed through its mouth, revealing tiny, needle-like teeth. Its nose was almost non-existent, save for slits where its nostrils should have been. Its skin was even more transparent than its siblings, and Medic could see its organs and its ribcage with alarming clarity. Its passing resemblance to the Scout was what sent Medic over the edge. Immediately, he reached for his scalpel, and raised it above his head, his heart pounding in his ears and his breath coming out rapidly. He dropped his scalpel, however, when he could hear that god-awful screech, and he clutched his head in agony until it stopped. He lifted his head, and looked at the two creatures lying on the counter. “Twins,” he said. “It had to be twins…”
Medic turned around, and saw Spy sitting up from his bed, mouth open slightly, unable to tear his eyes away from the doctor and the newborns.
“Vhen did you vake up?”
“Just now,” said Spy, starting to stand up.
“Get back in bed,” said Medic. “You’re in no condition to be walking about.”
“What is going on?” Spy asked. He had sat back down on the bed, but his was still upright. “What… are zose zings?”
“Stay quiet,” Medic snapped. He opened the cabinets, looking for some rags he might wrap the infants in.
“Zey sound like babies,” said Spy. He was taking this far better than Medic expected, as he was most likely still disorientated from only haven woken up from his ordeal with the creature. “Did Heavy… have babies?”
“Heavy did not have babies,” Medic said irritably, as he wrapped the infants in spare scraps of cloth that he had usually used for cleaning his tools. He held one of each in his arms.
“What would you call zem, zen?” Spy asked.
“Zey ah not human, zat’s for sure,” Medic said curtly. He turned and noticed the parasite was attempting to crawl out of the sink, spilling its putrid goo onto the countertop. “Could you hold zese for me, bitte?” He said quickly, jogging over and forcing the twins into Spy’s arms, before briskly turning around and trying to contain the creature.
Spy looked down at the miniature infants in his arms, and his head reeled back in shock upon the site of them. The more normal looking one cried even louder after being handed off to Spy, while its sibling let out a series of low, soft growls. “Zese came out of Heavy?” He asked, his voice cracking.
“Zey came out of ze alien, vhich came out of Heavy,” Medic said, trying to get a good grip on the slippery creature in the sink. “Ach, vhy isn’t zis zing dead yet?”
“What are we supposed to do wiz zese?” Spy asked. “Should we kill zem, or what?”
“Ze creature vould not allow me to do zat,” said Medic, searching desperately for something to contain the parasite. “I zink zey vere born quite prematurely, und I suspect zat zey may not live very long.”
“I should hope not,” Spy muttered, glancing over the infants in his arms. They reminded him of shining white grubs that might feed off of dead flesh. Suddenly he felt quite sick. “When are you going to tell ze ozzers?”
“I assume if zey ah allowed back inside ze base vhen zey return, I vill tell zem.”
“Return from where?” Spy asked.
“I don’t know,” said Medic, grabbing the creature from the sink and walking over to the medical freezer, shoving it inside and locking the door shut. “Ze creature teleported zem avay earlier vhen zey tried to capture Heavy und I.”
“It can do zat?” asked Spy.
“Ja,” said Medic. He unhooked Heavy from the IV drip. “Heavy said zey ah safe, but he vas not told vhere zey are, exactly.”
“I zhought zey had a mental link or somezing,” said Spy. “Maybe he does know, but won’t tell you.”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” said Medic. “He tells me everyzing.”
“Are you so sure about zat?” asked Spy.
“Of course I’m sure,” Medic bluffed. He had a feeling Spy could see right through it, but he couldn’t let Spy know that he knew. “Soon as he vakes up, he vill tell me everyzing zat he knows.”
“And how soon is he going to be up?” asked Spy. “Because if I have to hold zese miserable zings any long I am going to toss zem against ze wall.”
“Don’t say zat!” Medic hissed. “Ze creature could still hear us. You vant to be on ze floor viz blood coming out of your ears again?”
Spy shuddered, and Medic took the swaddling infants out of Spy’s arms. They calmed down considerably, staying mostly silent and wriggling like larvae. He looked at the healthier one, the one that looked like him, as looked back at him with half-lidded eyes, its large, black pupils encased in a shade of blue that matched the doctor’s own. Was it the result of the sperm collection the creature had done? Was he really partially responsible for the existence of this wretched thing?
“Vhat is it?” Medic asked.
“You didn’t answer my question,” said Spy.
“He shouldn’t be out very long,” said Medic. “Give him an hour or so, he’ll vake up.”
Spy muttered something to himself, and reached for his suit jacket, rummaging through his pockets. He pulled out his cigarette case and lighter, and with fumbling hands he plucked out a cigarette and placed it between his lips. Medic cleared his throat, and Spy looked at him, noticing the scowl on the doctor’s face.
“Fuck off,” said Spy. “I was just holding two alien hybrid babies zat you pulled out of ze fat man. I need zis.”
“Fine,” said Medic. “But just zis vonce.”
“Merci, Docteur,” Spy said.He managed to steady his hand long enough to produce a flame from his lighter, and inhaled deeply.
Medic carried the infants away from Spy. He figured the newborns would need to be weighed, measured… all of this would need to be recorded. It was better to focus on that, he thought, than to think of what might happen later.
When Heavy woke up, the first thing he noticed was the warbling crying. His eyes adjusted and his vision and he heard what sounded like a bawling baby. Immediately, he knew what had happened.
He could smell the lingering scent of burnt tobacco, and tried to get sit up. He could see Spy, sitting on an infirmary bed, arms draped over bended knees and head hanging. Medic heard him shifting, however, and rushed over.
“Lie back down!” he said, and placed a hand on Heavy’s chest.
Heavy obeyed, not really feeling as though he had much of a choice. He tried to speak, but all that came out was a string of mush-mouthed half words and groans. His mouth wasn’t cooperating, and he could hear that crying becoming more and more clear.
“You just lie down,” said Medic, running a hand over Heavy’s head. “Everyzing vent fine.”
“Zat’s a funny way of putting it,” said Spy dryly.
“Shush!” Medic snapped. “I vill not have you upsetting him.”
Spy mumbled something in French under his breath, and laid back down on his bed. “I feel fine now, you know,” he said. “I could probably get up and walk around now, if you’ll let me.”
“Sehr gut,” said Medic. “Zen go make yourself useful or somezing.”
“How?” Spy asked, stretching out his legs.
“Get me a cup of coffee,” said Medic.
Spy stood up, tottering only slightly as he left the infirmary. Medic stared at him as he left, and patted Heavy on the chest, offering him a weary smile. Heavy watched helplessly as Medic walked back over towards the crying noises, his back turned to Heavy. The Russian tried to collect his thoughts, and slowly sensations started to become more and more vivid. His chest was swollen and aching, his stomach felt lighter, and he was hungry and thirsty.
After a few minutes of self-collection, Heavy managed to cry out to Medic. “Doktor?”
“Ja?” Medic turned around, holding something in his arms.
Heavy mumbled a long string of Russian, and Medic looked at him in confusion.
“Vhat vas zat?” Medic asked.
It took a moment for Heavy to remember the doctor didn’t speak his native tongue. He had to think about what he was going to say in English. “Vhere iss it?” he slurred.
“Vhere is vhat?”
Medic stiffened. “Ah, yes…” he said meekly. “Vell…”
“Zhere… ah two of zem.”
Medic bent over the counter he had been working over, lifting two tiny bundles out of some empty drawers he had laid out. He held one in each arm, and looked to Heavy, dreading the possibility of having to show him the results of his gestation. “Ah you sure you vant to see zem?”
“Da,” said Heavy. “Show.”
The doctor bit his lip, and walked like a man being led to the gallows. Even in his current state, Heavy could tell just how distressed Medic was. Heavy had half-expected this, however. The creature had never said so directly, but in the back of Heavy’s mind, he had known that it would come down to this, this moment, with Medic standing over him with two swaddling cloths in his arms, as he bent down to show Heavy the beings that had grown inside of him.
He had a distinct feeling that he should have been reacting in disgust, reeling in horror. He instead, he looked upon these creatures and felt… pity. They were so tiny and helpless, and they got so quiet when they got close to him. The more human one looked… cute, almost, even with its pale, ghostly skin. The other one, not so much, but Heavy took the both of them in his massive arms anyway, gazing down upon them with genuine curiosity. Medic said nothing, just watching nervously as Heavy cradled them.
“Are dey boy or girl?” Heavy asked.
“Zey don’t seem to have any sort of sex at all,” Medic said. “But it’s possible zat, not being human, ze reproductive organs ah simply different, zhough I doubt zat.”
“Did you name zem already?”
Medic stared at Heavy, aghast. “Of course not,” he said. “Zat vas ze last zing on my mind.”
“I am tinking dey need names den, da?”
“Und vhat vould you name zem?” Medic asked. “Zey don’t even have a proper sex!”
“I vill tink of someting, den,” said Heavy. “Ve vill need to take care of dem. They are ours, now.”
“Neizzah of zem ah mine,” Medic said indignantly. “Zey’re not yours, eizzah. Zey’re parasites, Heavy, zey leeched off of you, und you ah going to continue to allow zat?”
“Look at dem!” said Heavy. “They are so tiny. They need our help, Doktor.”
“Vhy should I help zem?” Medic asked. “Aftah vhat zey put you zhrough, aftah vhat zey put everyvone zhrough… you vould help zem, nurture zese… abominations?”
The more human one the twins started to turn its head to Heavy’s bare chest. Its head was already close to his nipple, and its mouth opened to suckle at his teat. Medic turned away in disgust, only to turn towards the infirmary door and see Spy. The Frenchman stood there, cigarette falling from his open mouth, holding Medic’s coffee cup in one hand as the other hung limp at his side, and a distinct twitch developing in his left eye. Medic wisely decided to snatch away his coffee cup before Spy either dropped it or puked in it. “You may leave now, Herr Spy,” he said.
“Yes… zat sounds like a good idea,” said Spy, backing away slowly and letting the doors close in front of him.
The doctor stared into his cup of coffee, and he could hear the sucking noises that the little monster was making. Suddenly, he didn’t think he could put anything near his mouth anymore. The inside of his cheeks felt rubbery, and he felt his stomach churn.
Medic turned and looked at Heavy, trying not to stare as he was now breastfeeding both infants. The more deformed looking on caused a trickle of blood to slide down Heavy’s floppy breast. He could barely tear his eyes away from it.
“Are you all right, Doktor?” Heavy asked, eyebrows arching softly in concern.
“I’ll be fine,” Medic lied. “You take care of zose two.” He went over to the same sink that he had birthed the newborns in, and felt his head go light. The nausea came over him so quickly, he barely had time to react before he lurched over the basin and purged his stomach in one, swift expulsion.
“Doktor!” Heavy cried out.
Medic closed his eyes. He reached to the sink and ran the water, washing down the bile and the goo from the creature. He suddenly felt exhausted, as though his energy were being drained by some outside force. Images of his bed flashed through his mind. He suspected it to be the creatures doing, but his limbs and head felt the weight of fatigue, and he could not resist, lest he collapse onto the floor in front of Heavy. He opened them again, standing up as straight as he could, trying to cling desperately to his last shred of dignity.
“I’m not feeling vell,” Medic said. “I need to rest.”
Heavy nodded in understanding “I understand. You go to bed.”
“Ja,” said Medic, stripping off his gloves and rubbing his eyes. “Good night, Heavy.”
“Good night den, Doktor,” he said, before hastily tacking on, “I love you.”
Medic cringed as he stood in front of the bedroom door. He let his head fall forward, his forehead hitting the wooden door, and sighed. “I love you too, Schatz,” he said flatly, and slipped inside without even casting a glance at Heavy.
As the sun rose over sun-baked desert of New Mexico, the six members of RED team who had been transported outside of the base had almost completed their trek. Already, it was starting to get hot, as many tiny lizards skittered out from under rocks and away from boots that stomped across the earth. RED Team had noticed the caravan of military vehicles parked around the edge of the canyon that harbored Nucleus. They increased their pace, arriving to see RED personnel hovering around the canyon, and they all had taken notice when the mercenaries arrived.
“Well, howdy, fellers!” Engineer said, initiating contact as the uniformed men looked up and gawked at him. “What’s all this then?”
A short, chubby, balding man made his way forward, mopping at his forehead with a handkerchief. He was wearing a three piece suit and sweating profusely, and he licked his dried, cracked lips. “Ah… you’re the Engineer, right?”
“That’s what it says on my résumé,” Engineer said with a laugh, extending his hand. “And you are?”
“Nobody terribly important. Just… a Civilian.” The man gingerly took Engineer’s hand, and gave it a rather limp shake. “As you can see, ah, we’re here with RED concerning your, uh, Heavy Weapons Man.”
“Guy,” Sniper corrected.
“ Ah, yes, Heavy Weapons Guy,” said the Civilian. “We were supposed to pick him up late last night.”
“Yeah, about that,” said Engineer, rubbing the back of his neck. “Y’see, Heavy managed to elude us, an’ we wound up in th’ desert miles away against our wills.”
“How, um, exactly did that come about?” asked the Civilian.
“It friggin’ teleported us,” said Scout before Engineer had a chance to answer.
“I’m sorry, ‘it’?” asked the man, patting his brow with his kerchief again. “What is ‘it,’ exactly?”
“The gay Martian space baby!” Soldier interjected. “And the goddamned thing has mind powers! It made my head explode twice!”
“A… a gay, Martian space baby,” the Civilian repeated. “Oh… oh dear.”
“Look, that’s not exactly what it is,” said Engineer. “Th’ thing is this parasite inside a’ Heavy with these weird psychic abilities, an’ it teleported us out here.”
“Just, uh, out of curiosity, do these, uh, abilities include being able to create invisible walls, perhaps?”
Engineer was taken aback. “I s’pose that ain’t too far outta th’ realm a’ possibility, given th’ kind a’ things it could do,” he said. “Why d’ya ask?”
“Oh,” said the man. “I suppose that would explain that.”
“Wot, ye cannae get in there, then?” asked Demoman.
“N-nobody can get in there,” the Civilian stuttered. “W-we even tired blasting rockets at the shield that is surrounding the canyon, and it’s done n-nothing!”
“OUT OF MY WAY, CRUMPET-MUNCHER!” shouted Soldier, pushing the Civilian aside. “I’ll show you ladies how it’s done!” He stomped ahead of the rest of his team, and snatched a rocket launcher from one of the hapless RED employees. He aimed it as the canyon, towards the glowing device. He fired, and the rocket spiraled into the canyon, only to collide into some unseen barrier, which was highlighted in a ripple of bright green light, which vanished quickly after the flames and smoke dissipated.
“Huh,” said Soldier. “That’s never happened before.”
“Th’ bloody hell was that?” asked Sniper.
“That, uh, that’s been happening even time we do anything to it,” said the Civilian. “I guess it’s the, uh, Martian that you had mentioned earlier, th-the one we’re trying to get a hold of.”
“So, what, nobody can get in?” asked Scout. “There’s a freakin’ elevator you can use ta get inta the base, didn’t ya try that?”
“That’s… that’s the first thing we tried,” said the man. “It’s apparently been, uh, sabotaged, since it’s simply not working at all…” he wrung out his damp handkerchief, and sweat dripped from it onto the sun-scorched earth. “The Administrator is not going to be happy about this… I’m going to have to contact her… oh, dear… oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”
“So, what’re we s’posed t’ do, then?” asked Engineer.
“Well, uh… I honestly don’t know,” said the Civilian. “Let me, ah, contact the Administrator. I’ll… I’ll let you know in a moment. Excuse me.” He scuttled back to the caravan of military-style trucks and vans, hopping into the back of one.
“Fat pommy bastard isn’t going t’ be any help at all,” Sniper grumbled. He turned to Demoman. “No offense, mate.”
“Why would I take offense?” Demoman asked. “I’m nae bloody English.”
Engineer looked around, to the RED employees standing around, unsure of what to do with themselves. He had noticed Pyro had wandered to the edge of the canyon, and reached out a gloved hand until he bumped into the barrier, which illuminated in a green ripple, showing the contour of the invisible bubble around Nucleus. Heavy, Medic and Spy were all trapped down there, with the creature, with no way to escape, and no chance of rescue. Engineer felt his stomach twist in apprehension.
“I just hope they’re okay down there,” Engineer murmured, wringing his hands nervously.
Demoman overheard Engineer, and placed a hand on the shorter man’s shoulder. “We’re all hopin’ they are, lad,” he said. “Not much we can do fer nao ‘cept hold our breath an’ pray.”
“Yeah,” said Engineer, his voice coming out hollow. “Pray…”
“Doktor, vake up. Is important.”
Medic felt Heavy’s hand on his shoulder, shaking him with a gentle urgency. Medic grumbled and tried to swat Heavy’s hand away, turning away from the Russian.
“Please vake up, Doktor. Vone of the babies… he is…”
The German turned back over, only half awake, and looked at Heavy. Heavy was holding one of the bundles in his giant hand, looking as though he were about to cry. “He is dying, Doktor.” He lowered the bundle down to Medic’s eye level. “Please… help him.”
Medic propped himself up, pawing for his glasses, and put them on his face as he peered at the infant in Heavy’s hand. It was the more deformed twin, and its breaths were labored and rattling in its tiny chest, gasping for air as its mouth hung open slightly. Its pinprick teeth were exposed and still tinged pink from Heavy’s blood. Medic narrowed his eyes, trying his best to remain stoic and mask his obvious disgust. “Vhat do you vant me to do, exactly?”
“Use Medigun on him!” Heavy suggested desperately. “Please… do not let him die!”
“Heavy…” said Medic, “I don’t know if zere’s anyzing I can go to save it.”
“You are not even trying!” Heavy said, voice choking with tears.
Medic got up from the bed, and sighed. “Follow me,” he said, as he walked back into the infirmary. He was only doing this for Heavy, he told himself. He highly doubted the little monster had much of a chance, and if it died, well, it’d only make Medic’s life that much easier. He picked up his Medigun, which was still propped up against the wall where he had left it.
“Hurry, Doktor!” Heavy urged.
The doctor pulled the lever on the Medigun, and the healing red beams shot out of the barrel, enveloping both Heavy and the infant. Heavy stared down at the tiny being in his hand, and seemed to become more and more panicked as its breathing only grated more and more.
“Is not vorking!” Heavy cried out.
The Medigun beam dissipated as Medic pulled back the lever on his Medigun. “Heavy,” he said, “I don’t even know how I vould save it, even if I could.” He placed the equipment back onto the floor, and walked up to Heavy, placing a gentle hand on Heavy’s shoulder. “I am sorry.”
Heavy shook his head, looking down at the tiny, mutated little creature in his palm, tears welling up in his eyes. “Nyet…” he said, his voice cracking and coming out in a choked sob. “Not Nikolai…”
Despite the temptation to vocally express his revulsion at Heavy actually naming the twins, Medic said nothing. Instead, he pressed himself closer to Heavy, stroking his arm and holding him as the newborn wheezed and sputtered. Heavy bit his lip, tears silently streaming down the side of his nose as he lifted a giant finger and stroked the child lovingly, and it looked up at him with glassy, black marble eyes. It let out a barely audible death rattle, and breathed no more.
The Russian’s body started quaking, and he gently clutched the tiny body to his chest. Medic was unsure what to do, and tried to assuage Heavy by continuing to hold onto him and pet his arm, and Heavy shuddered under his touch. “Just go,” he said. “Leave me alone.”
Medic obeyed, retreating back into the bedroom sheepishly. Though he was relieved that one of the monsters was now dead, seeing Heavy in such a state, and being totally unable to do anything to comfort him… he closed his eyes, shook his head and sighed. He still felt sick, though there was nothing in him to vomit up, and images of beds, along with the drowsiness returned. Most definitely the alien, Medic thought. Its hypnotism seemed to be working, however, as Medic’s mind and body ached for the bed again. He closed the door behind him, listening for any further noises from Heavy, and hearing nothing. He trudged back to his bed and collapsed on it, face down, burying his face in his pillow and groaning.
Heavy had barely noticed Medic leaving. He was still cradling Nikolai as he started to pace, putting little thought into his movements. He only looked up from the body when he heard a thud coming from the medical refrigerator. There were several more thuds, until finally the door was forced open from the inside, and translucent tentacles snaked out. The parasite slid out of its prison, still spilling out clear goo behind it despite its wounds being closed up, and dragged itself across the floor over to Heavy’s feet. Heavy watched this, unmoving, staring as the creature wrapped a limb around his ankle. Instantly, Heavy’s eyes went wide, as his mind lit up with images transmitted into his brain. He looked down at the parasite in dumb shock. “… Vhat?”
The parasite let out a low-pitched hum, and Heavy tried to back away from it, only to have it cling to his shin. “Nyet… I cannot… I vould never… please, do not make me do that!” He started to panic, shaking his leg desperately. “Leave me alone! He is dead! I cannot do that…”
His pleas went unheard as the creature crawled up his leg, ascending further and further up his waist and chest, its body stretching and squashing like an inch worm. Heavy let it, and stared at the corpse in his hand with dread. The parasite resting on his shoulder, caressing Heavy’s neck with one of its tendrils.
“I don’t vant to do this,” said Heavy. Tears started to well up in his eyes. “He… he is a child… he vas my child. Please…”
The creature let out a nasty, subsonic buzz, which caused Heavy’s temples to throb. He started to tremble, and looked down at the corpse in his hand. It was so delicate, so tiny and fragile. It had depended on him, and he could not save it. In his mind, he bore witness to a grisly slideshow of its twin, a threat delivered to the theater of his mental eye by the alien itself. It was giving him a choice. Though it sickened him, Heavy realized that the decision was clear.
“I am so sorry, Nikolai,” Heavy said in Russian. He kissed the dead infant on its oversized cranium. “Forgive me.”
The creature tickled Heavy’s neck with its mouth villi. Heavy carried his burden over towards the counter where its twin’s makeshift cradle lay. It was light in his hand, but at the same time it felt as heavy as a lead weight. He looked at the other child, who was asleep, its eyes closed as it slumbered. He looked back at the dead baby in his palm, and took several deep breaths. He closed his eyes, swallowed, and stuffed it into his mouth.
Before he even started chewing, he wanted to throw up. He cupped his hand over his mouth, feeling the baby’s head burst between his molars, making a noise in his head like a rotten melon being stepped on. Its blood tasted odd, not coppery like blood normally tasted… but definitely metallic, like liquefied aluminum foil. He doubled over on the counter as an eyeball rolled over his tongue, his eyes watering as he tried his best to keep the contents of his stomach down, as his Doktor had failed to do earlier that night. He forced himself to chew more, gnashing tiny, barely-formed bones and organs. The parasite nibbling his neck did its best to soothe and relax him, but Heavy nearly lost all control when a trail of oily blood dribbled from his mouth and down his chin. After what felt like hours of painful mastication, he finally swallowed, and let out a gasp as he pulled his mouth from his hand. As he caught his breath and collapsed onto the counter, he caught a glimpse of his hand, and noticed it was black and sticky, like tar. He choked back the vomit rising in his throat. He couldn’t throw up yet. It wasn’t time. He was only vaguely aware of the fact that he was crying, and tried not to sob. If he started sobbing, it’d only make this more difficult.
In a strange way, it felt comforting to have the baby inside of him again. Perhaps it was just the influence of the parasite currently perched on his shoulder, telling him that this was for the best, telling him to stop crying. The octopus had a funny way of rationalizing things such as this. He felt a jolt of awareness on the forefront of his consciousness, and whirled around, staring precisely in the spot where Spy would have been seen, were he visible.
“YOU!” Heavy shouted, and Spy’s cloak instantly wore off in a puff of red smoke. “YOU… SAW…”
Spy screamed, reduced to panicked inarticulateness. He tried to run away, but found himself reeled back like a bass on an invisible fishing line. Heavy reached out and grabbed Spy by his suit jacket, glaring at him face-to-face, as though wishing the Frenchman to death.
“Oh God, let me go!” Spy screeched. “What is wrong wiz you?”
“Vhy are you here?” Heavy demanded. “Tell me!”
“Or what, what will you do, zen? Eat me too?” Spy’s voice cracked as he spoke, betraying his horror. Even underneath his mask, Heavy could tell the color had drained from his face.
“Don’t be stupid,” said Heavy.
“I’m not being stupid, you’re being a madman!” Spy retorted, his voice becoming high and delirious. “Zat’s what all of zis is! Madness! I’m trapped in here in zis madhouse while you and Medic lose your grip on your sanity and I have to sit by and watch!”
“I’m not a madman,” said Heavy quietly.
“Oh, fuck off!” said Spy.”You just ate a dead baby! A dead alien baby! Your dead alien baby! And you mean to tell me zat doesn’t make you a lunatic?”
“I only did it because octopus told me to,” said Heavy. “And do not be so loud. You vill vake up Doktor.”
“Oh, I sure wouldn’t want to do zat!” Spy said, his tone a mix of terror and sarcasm.
“Heavy!” Medic’s voice rang out from behind the door to his room. “Vhat is going on out zhere?”
Heavy lunged towards Spy and cupped a sticky hand over Spy’s mouth, holding the Frenchman still. “Nothing, Doktor!” He said. “Go back to bed.”
The parasite let out another low hum. There was some incoherent mumbling from the bedroom, and then, silence. Satisfied, the creature stroked Heavy’s neck with its tentacles. Heavy nodded and took his hand off of Spy’s mouth. Spy immediately dashed to one of the sinks and ran the water, splashing it onto his face to wash off the alien child’s blood, even pulling up his balaclava onto the bridge of his nose as he did so. Once he was sufficiently clean, he turned to Heavy, his expression grim.
“You do realize, of course, zat Medic is going to find out about what you have done.” Spy’s voice was shaking. He pulled out a handkerchief from a pocket on the inside of his suit jacket, and toweled off his face.
Heavy didn’t say anything, though his shame was obvious. He walked back over to the counter, and started searching through the cabinets, Medic’s instruments clinking and shifting under large, clumsy fingers. The parasite on his shoulder shifted around, and started to crawl down Heavy’s back. Gravity soon took over as it reached the bottom of the curve of his back, and it fell to the floor with a wet slap. It then pulled its tentacles into its body, causing it to become an almost perfect sphere. It rolled forward, like a living, squishy bowling ball, and propelled itself with enough force to push one of the infirmary doors, and disappeared down the hallway. Spy watched it the entire time, and could not suppress a shudder once it was gone.
“Where is zat zing going?” Spy asked.
Again, Heavy didn’t answer. He pulled out a funnel and a glass jar, a rubber glove and a pair of scissors. He started to cut away at the rubber glove, and was ignoring Spy completely, his actions now conveying a grave sense of duty.
“Did you hear what I said?” Spy asked, trying his best to sound assertive. “I asked you a question.”
“I heard,” said Heavy. “I do not know vhere octopus is going.”
“What on earth are you doing, anyway?” Spy asked. “Are you going to eat ze ozzer one?”
“Is none of your business.”
“Fine, don’t tell me zen, see if I care,” said Spy. “I prefer not to keep company with baby-eating psychopaths, anyway.” He turned on his heel and left, trying to put on an air of conceit, but was still quite visibly shaken. He hadn’t even pulled his balaclava back down.
Once he was finished his preparations, all there was for Heavy to do was wait. He glanced over at the other twin, who was still sleeping peacefully, and reached out to it, gently brush its face with his index finger. “Do not vorry, Yuri,” he said. “I vill protect you. Make sure you grow up strong.”
The child yawned in its sleep, and Heavy betrayed a faint smile. He continued to watch the infant sleep, with nothing short of doting affection for the tiny creature in front of him. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he felt a sickening rush of stomach acid in his throat, the waves of nausea sudden and terrible. Thinking quickly, he grabbed the glass jar he had set aside, and started to heave into it. It wasn’t that hard to force himself to violently eject the partially digested remains of the dead alien. Some of the mess spilled over onto the floor, and when Heavy opened his eyes, he saw that it was mostly black. Some of it had even run onto his fingers, as it had overflowed. He placed the jar on the counter, and grabbed the snippet of rubber glove he had cut off. He placed it over the mouth of the jar. The thumb of the glove flopped to the side limply and the hole in the tip was probably too large, but Heavy didn’t really have anything else to use for his purposes, so it would have to do. He rinsed off the sides of the jar in the sink, watching the black goo swirl down the drain. As though out of instinct, the remaining twin cried out, and Heavy scooped it up and held it in the crook of his arm. He propped up the makeshift bottle he had made, trying to figure out the best angle for it, before he directed the thumb of the glove to the infants’ greedy mouth. The baby started sucking at it instantly, and calmed down. For his part, Heavy felt a tide of relief wash over him. He had not wanted to do this, but the octopus in his stomach said that it would make the child stronger, make him grow faster. Heavy hoped it was right. Medic would probably be mad that he would have no subject to study and dissect, or perhaps be horrified by what Heavy had to do.
“Ve vill make Doktor understand,” he said to the baby in his arms. “You vill see.”
Medic was lying in bed, twitching in his sleep fitfully as the tentacles made their way up his legs, holding him down and snaking up to his thighs. But the time he had felt them and opened his eyes, they had also secured his arms, pinning him down to the bed as he tried desperately to lift himself up. The body of the giant parasite rose into his view, and the tiny appendages on his face grew and stretched out, moving like sentient vines up his body as Medic screamed in terror. They shot into his mouth, forcing their way down his throat, acting like a rubbery gag. Medic could feel the tentacles slither down his esophagus and into his stomach, and he felt as though he would burst. There was a curious feeling of suction in his gut, and he watched helplessly, eyes pried wide open, as the parasite started to change shape, condensing and molding itself into the shape of a human, skin bubbling and writhing as his face transmogrified into Medic’s own. He tried to gasp, but found himself choking and suffocating from the lack of oxygen. The parasite grinned with Medic’s face, and suddenly Medic felt his skin tightening. It took his a few panicked moments to realize his age was rapidly regressing, as he became a young man again, then a teenager, then a child, until his body shriveled into that of a screaming infant.
He lifted his face from his pillow and took a deep, gasping breath. He looked around the bedroom, and saw no sign of the giant parasite anywhere, though his breath still came out ragged. He turned his head and looked at his arm, and cautiously raised it, just to confirm that he could. It almost didn’t, as a part of him was still convinced that he was being restrained, but he did manage to pull his hand in front of his face, and flexed his fingers. Satisfied, he collapsed back into the pillow, making sure to lie on his cheek, and stared at the wall, even though it was blurry and out of focus. He didn’t really feel like putting on his glasses, since if he did, he would probably have to get up, and he wanted nothing more than to sleep forever in a peaceful, dreamless sleep.
He was not allowed such a luxury, however. He could hear familiar snoring coming from the infirmary. The doctor suddenly remembered that one of the twins had died. If Heavy was asleep, perhaps he had recovered a bit, or at least cried himself to sleep. Medic got up from the bed and staggered to the door to the infirmary, peeking his head out and noticing Heavy had fallen asleep in the desk chair, balancing the surviving twin precariously on top of his stomach. It was threatening to roll off with every rise and fall of Heavy’s chest. The doctor gently scooped the infant up, and noticed that it appeared to be slightly larger than it was upon delivery. He wasn’t sure if it was purely his imagination or not, though some quick measurements could confirm this. He carried the infant to his scale, and placed it gently on the weighing platform, and calibrated the weight until the scale was balanced. 1.5 Kilos. Earlier that day, it and its twin had weighed 1.3 kilos.
It hadn’t been just a mind weakened by nightmares and stress. The child was getting bigger.
Medic turned to see Heavy shifting in his chair, straightening his posture as he did. The man was like a great, sleepy bear being roused from hibernation, and Medic considered himself lucky, really; had any other man been touching the infant, they probably would have had their skulls smashed in until they resembled a fine tomato paste.
“Vhat are you doing?”
“Just putting ze child to bed,” said Medic. “I don’t zink it’s safe for it to be sleeping on your stomach like zat.”
“Oh,” said Heavy. “Sorry. Had not realized I had fallen asleep vit him.”
“Zat’s quite all right,” said Medic, putting the child to bed in the makeshift crib. “I just don’t vant to upset it by having it harmed.”
“Da,” said Heavy. “Do not vant anyting happening to him.”
“Just out of curiosity, Heavy,” said Medic, swiveling around to meet Heavy’s gaze, “vhere is ze ozzah vone’s body?”
“… Oh, Nikolai?” said Heavy, suddenly looking very pale. “I, uh… had to dispose of body.”
“Vhy did you do zat?” Medic asked. “I could have done an autopsy on him, und you go and ‘dispose’ of him?”
“Sorry,” said Heavy meekly. “I did not tink about dat.”
“Ach, dummkopf,” Medic muttered, wiping his hand down his face. “How ah you feeling?”
“Strange,” said Heavy. “It does not feel right not having octopus inside of me.”
“You vill get used to it,” said Medic. “Hopefully vizzout ze creature releasing zose hormones into your body, you will recover from ze damage zat has been done and return to normal… zhough, it’s hard to tell right now vhat ze long term effects vill be…”
Heavy didn’t answer. He sat in Medic’s chair, leaning back and causing it to groan like an old man underneath his weight. His body language was anxious, not unlike a child who had broken something and was waiting with dread for their misdeed to be discovered. Medic picked up on it quickly, as Heavy was a very transparent man; he was terrible with keeping secrets or lying. Of course, that hadn’t stopped him from trying in the past few months.
The Russian jolted upright. “Da, Doktor?”
“Did you really dispose of ze body?”
“Of course,” said Heavy.
“Really?” Medic asked flatly.
“How, exactly, did you dispose of it, zen?” Medic crossed his arms and stared at Heavy with a scrutinizing eye.
“I… I burned it,” Heavy mumbled.
“You burned it,” Medic echoed, sounding incredulous.
“Vhere ah ze ashes?” asked Medic. “Vhere did you burn it?”
“Uh…” Heavy hesitated. He was clearly grappling with the decision whether or not to tell Medic the truth. “I burned it… outside.”
“Ze outside is shut off,” said Medic. “You didn’t burn it at all, did you?”
“I… nyet. I did not.” Heavy looked up at Medic with a look of quiet subdued shame.
“So vhere is ze body zen?” Medic asked. He started to drum his fingers on his arm, indicating that he was quickly losing his patience.
“I… cannot tell you vhere body is,” Heavy said sheepishly.
“Vhy is zat?”
“… You vould not understand.” His tone came out desperate, his eyes were pleading gently.
“Vhat vould I not understand? Vhat is zhere not to understand?” Medic noticed that Heavy was shriveling under his gaze. “I am usually very patient viz you, Heavy, but you ah straining ze limits of vhat I can tolerate. Now, you ah going to tell me exactly vhat you did viz ze body, und you vill not lie, or try und vorm your vay out of it. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
“Da,” said Heavy with a nod.
“Sehr gut,” said Medic. “Now… vhat did you do viz ze child’s body, Heavy?”
Heavy hesitated. He looked as though he were struggling with the words, and he started quivering in equal parts fear, sadness and shame. “I ate it.”
Medic stared blankly at Heavy. At first, he didn’t have any reaction at all. He had heard the words Heavy had spoken, and though there were only three of them, they were so utterly absurd, he didn’t process them right away. No, that was stupid. Heavy was still lying. There was no possible reason that he would turn around and eat the corpse of a creature he had mourned over… but Heavy looked completely serious.
The doctor’s features slowly formed into a mask of total disgust and horror, jaw hanging slightly open and eyes open wide. His body was rigid, as though going into a sudden state of rigor mortis, and he felt his stomach plummet. He could barely shake his head in a feeble attempt to deny this revelation. He tried to speak, but his throat and mouth simply would not cooperate with the rapid firing commands from a panicked brain, until he was only able to choke out “Vhat?”
“I had to!” said Heavy, quickly losing grip on his composure as his eyes became bleary. “Octopus said so! I vould have never done that to Nikolai, but it told me that if I eat it and throw up for Yuri, and give it to him, he vill be stronger! You must understand!”
“You… you ah telling me zat you regurgitated it und fed it to ze ozzah vone?” Medic spat out the words, so foul on his tongue, he was on the brink of regurgitation himself.
“I did not vant to!” said Heavy. “You tink I vanted to do that?”
Medic just stood in place, staring at Heavy completely aghast. There was a niggling voice in his head that told him he should run screaming, but his feet seemed firmly rooted in place. His Heavy would never have done such a thing. The man before him was soft and flabby and obeyed the mad whims of an alien creature… he was not the strong, reliable, lovable Heavy that Medic knew anymore. That accursed creature had twisted him into something else, a cruel perversion of what Heavy was, and that act, that single command that Heavy obeyed with unfaltering complacency, had cinched it. Medic fell to his knees, then bent down on his hands and knees in front of Heavy, and started giving out heaving, undignified sobs. Heavy got up from his seat, and bent down to console the doctor, extending a comforting hand only to have it viciously smacked away.
“DON’T YOU TOUCH ME!” shouted Medic. “Don’t you evah touch me again, you… you… you monstah!”
Heavy retracted his hand and recoiled, looking wounded. “Doktor… you do not mean dat…”
“Vhy vouldn’t I?” Medic bristled like a cornered feral cat. “You’re not Heavy anymore! You’re… I don’t even know vhat you ah, but you ah not ze man I fell in love viz. You’re just a slave to zat creature, aren’t you?”
“Nyet!” Heavy protested. “Is not true!”
“LIAR!” Medic shouted.
“Doktor, please, listen to me…”
“Nein, you listen to me.” said Medic, scooting across the floor to get father away from Heavy. “You’ve done nozzing but follow ordahs from zat zing since ze beginning. You listen to it ovah me. You enable it, und now you vant to raise zat… zat abomination as your child! As our child!” Medic pointed towards the desk-drawer cradle where the baby lay, and it responded by letting out a shrill wail.
“Please…” said Heavy. “You are scaring him.”
“OH, VELL, PAHDON ME, ZEN FOR HURTING ITS FEELINGS!” Medic shouted.
The infant cried out louder, and Heavy fidgeted, quite obviously debating with himself whether to stay focused on Medic or to tend to the baby. “Please, Doktor,” begged Heavy, “don’t upset him. Do it for me…”
“I see no reason vhy I should do anyzing for you,” said Medic. “I gave, und gave, und gave, und I let zis go on long enough. You ah on your own.” With that, Medic struggled to get to his feet. He still seemed to be in shock, and his legs wobbled as though they were made of jelly, and slipping underneath him as he fell back to the floor. He ended up crawling away on his hands and knees, and didn’t bother looking back at Heavy as he left the infirmary, door swinging behind him.
He hadn’t made it very far out when he saw a round ball rolling towards him, seemingly of its own accord. Medic stopped and stared, and the translucent ball rolled between his hands, and stopped. Medic recognized the sickly color of the object, and knew what it was immediately before its tentacles branched out from its body and it started to flatten. That was when the screeching started.
It had not been the first time Medic had heard that terrible whine, the one that made his eyeballs feel they were going to burst inside his skull and his brains liquefy and start leaking out his ears. He collapsed onto his stomach, mouth hanging open, trying to make some kind of noise to cry out for help. Dimly he thought that Heavy would never come to his aid, not after what he had said. Medic could feel something warm and wet welling up inside his ears, and his eyes rolled back into his head as everything went black, and the last thing he could hear beside that screech was the faint, muted shouting of Heavy.
With Nucleus being almost totally abandoned, Spy found himself alone. Shortly after having witnessed Heavy breastfeeding the twins, Spy managed to suppress his urge to vomit, and retreated to his room, locking the door and staying inside for several hours. He paced and smoked, and failed to focus on any of his books when he sat down to read them. It was hard to concentrate on anything else aside from what he had witnessed. He grappled with his own disbelief, as the most rational part of his mind refused to believe that what he had seen was anything more than a horrific nightmare. However, after much pinching of his own arm and slapping himself in the face, he confirmed that he was not, in fact, dreaming.
He finally sat down on his bed and turned over the events in his head. He was afraid to leave his room, as he was not particularly eager to have his brains scrambled by whatever psychic frequencies that the creature emitted. The tentacle alien that had been drawn in Medic’s notebook looked much different from the twins that had been pulled out of it, but that wriggling thing that Medic was trying to contain in the sink looked fairly close, from what little Spy saw of it. Spy wasn’t sure if he wanted to know why they looked so different from the parasite, though he was sure Medic had his theories. Ah, the Medic… the man looked as though he had aged ten years in less than a year, the gray in his hair creeping up his temples and sprinkling his scalp, and he looked constantly as though he might nod off at any given moment. Spy had to admit that he felt pity for the man. He could not really sympathize, and it was very hard for Spy to feel empathy, as he was not an empathetic creature. He felt bad looking at the man, and would get a sickening feeling in his gut seeing how Medic simply subjected himself to the whims of some malicious, extraterrestrial being. He considered going back to check in on the good doctor and make sure he hadn’t attempted to blow out his brains with Heavy’s shotgun, but Spy found himself stalling. That parasite was still alive when Spy last saw it in Medic’s grasp, stuffing it into a medical refrigerator to try and keep it trapped. Would it know Spy was there? Did the twins have any sort of powers, or were they completely helpless? Soon, Spy’s fear of the twins and the parasite was overridden by his insatiable curiosity. He was a Spy, after all. As long as he kept a low profile, tried to filter out any outwardly malicious thoughts towards the alien beings, he figured he could, at least, learn something. If the radio in Engineer’s workshop was still operable, assuming that it had not been rendered useless by any alien interference, he could contact headquarters and relay this information. If he made it out of this mess alive, the potential reward could be great.
Having made up his mind, Spy stood up from his bed, and put out his cigarette in his ashtray, letting it die out with a soft, short fizzle, as it spewed out a wispy ribbon of smoke. He was still probably going to reek of burnt tobacco, but if he kept his distance, neither Heavy nor Medic should pick up on his scent. Besides, no doubt the two of them would have their hands full with other matters, and would be distracted by the newborn alien monstrosities. Spy figured he would cloak, listen in, and simply observe. It would be simple enough. He unlocked the door to his room and stalked the halls, making his way to the infirmary. He cloaked, and slid in, like a snake slithering into a crack in a wall, silent and undetected.
No more than ten minutes later, Spy stormed out of the infirmary, his balaclava pulled up over his face, trying his best to cling to what little was left of his composure. He whipped his head to the left, then to the right, checking for any sign of the parasite. It moved quickly, and Spy couldn’t hear it anywhere. He pulled his revolver from the holster just inside his jacket, and backed himself against the wall. His eyes darted around, checking for any signs of life, before he side-stepped along the wall, headed towards Engineer’s workshop. Any time he walked over a door, he would pivot around and kick it open, barrel aimed at the floor. He would give the room a cursory check, and once he was satisfied that the creature was not there, move on. Finally, he made it to the other end of the hall, right beside the door to the workshop. Spy took a few deep breaths as he prepared himself. The creature might have beaten him. Cautiously, he placed a gloved hand upon the doorknob. He licked his lips, which had suddenly felt so dry, and in his head, started to count.
His finger twitched involuntarily, and he could feel the sweat beading on his brow.
He closed his eyes, and sucked in his breath, his fingers curling around the curve of the grimy brass doorknob.
In one quick, fluid motion, Spy twisted the knob and pushed it open, arm swinging down and bringing the barrel of his revolver level with his shoulder. There didn’t seem to be any other living thing inside, but Spy knew he would be a fool to let his guard down. He closed the door behind him, locking it thoroughly, securing all the chains and locks that Engineer had along the inside of his door. Spy knew that Engineer only installed all those locks after he had suspected the Frenchman of snooping and breaking into his workshop when the Texan wasn’t around. True, Spy had broken in, but it wasn’t like Engineer had much to hide, aside from blueprints that were of little interest to Spy and love letters to his wife which failed to yield any titillating details of their relationship. This didn’t make Engineer any less protective of his various toys and gadgets, hence why he decided to order and install so many locks in the first place. Spy knew that he could still easily break through this barricade, though given the sheer number of them, it would be a tedious task. He wondered if it was foolish to assume they’d provide some kind of barrier between him and the wandering parasite.
He looked under Engineer’s bed, inspected the shelves that housed spare parts, and checked under his desk and in the corners of the room. Satisfied that he was alone, he sat in the chair that Engineer was usually in during the off hours late into the night, working on his various projects. He noticed a familiar, gleaming object on the desk, set aside with tiny tools lined up in a row beside it. It was his dead ringer. Spy had complained it had not been working before he had been rendered unconscious, and Engineer, true to his word, seemed to have been working on it. Spy plucked it off the desk, and opened it, satisfied to hear its usual rhythmic ticking, the second hand moving steadily across the clock face. He clasped it shut and stuck it inside his coat pocket, feeling relieved for the first time since he woke up. He then picked up the radio transceiver, and pressed the button to call out.
“Zis is ze RED Spy, calling RED Headquarters. Do you read me, RED?”
The members of RED team were huddled under a canopy, milling about and taking swigs from bottles of water handed out among them. The only one who had forgone the bottle of water and the refuge in the shade was the Pyro, who was far too busy exploring the surface of the bubble around Nucleus, delighting every time he tapped the surface and the ripple of green light would surge from the touch, outlining its spherical shape. The others watched him idly, not speaking very much too each other. It didn’t take long for Soldier to start losing his patience.
“Would somebody tell me why we’re just standing around here like a bunch of cows chewing our own cud and not doing something?” Soldier demanded, stamping his foot for emphasis. “I’ve been doing a crapload of diddly squat since this Martian business started, and I am goddamned tired of it!”
“Wot d’you suggest we do then?” Sniper asked. “Go an’ ask it politely t’ give itself up? Because I guarantee you that there’s no way we’re gettin’ in there by brute force.”
“Have they tried nuking the site from orbit?” Soldier asked.
“Soldier, I could give you a list a’ reasons longer n’ Thurmond’s filibuster as t’ why that’s a horrible idea, but quite frankly I don’t think you’d listen.” Engineer took a swig from his water bottle, and shook his head as he sighed. “Not like anybody’d take you serious, anyway.”
“We’ll see about that,” Soldier said, crossing his arms.
“Ye know wha’ th’ worst part a’ this is?” Demoman said casually, looking wistfully at the bottle in his hand. “All me scrumpy’s in there, with tha’ bloody alien. Wish I was drinkin’ tha’ instead.”
“Water’s better fer keepin’ ya hydrated,” Engineer reminded the Scot. “Though, I gotta admit, I would certainly not be averse t’ havin’ a cold beer in my hand right now.”
“Think we could all use a cold beer right about now,” Sniper muttered, pulling down the brim of his hat. “Where’s that fat, useless limey bastard, anyway?”
Sniper turned around and saw the short, portly Civilian standing behind him, who trying his best to look angry and intimidating, but failing miserably. His doughy cheeks flushed and his mouth was fastened into a tight little frown, making him look more like a young child on the verge of tears than a full grown man who was angered over being insulted. His fists slowly unclenched at his sides, and he cleared his throat again.
“Are there any more smart remarks you have to make, Mr. Sniper, sir?” He asked slowly, his voice quavering a bit, but otherwise free of its usual stutter.
The Australian looked the Civilian up and down, sizing him up. He scoffed. “I’m sure I’ll think of some later.”
“I could think a’ plenty now,” Demoman said with a snigger.
The Civilian huffed in indignation. “W-well then,” he said, puffing up like a quail. He looked as though he was going to say something else, as though grasping for something witty or intelligent or something to knock the Sniper down a peg or two, but he just stood there, shifting awkwardly.
“Well, then, wot?” Sniper asked.
“I… I don’t have time to deal with the likes of you,” The Civilian said, still puffing himself up in a feeble attempt to not seem like a complete doormat. He turned his attention to the Engineer. “I actually, ah, wanted to speak with you, Mister… Engineer, was it?”
“That’s me,” said Engineer, moving in to separate Sniper and the Civilian with his own body. “What can I help ya with?”
“If, ah, you could follow me to another tent, please, I would be much obliged, thank you.” The Civilian pulled his kerchief from his pocket and fanned it out, turning and shuffling towards the caravan. Engineer followed, casting a disapproving glance at Sniper as he left. Sniper returned this by shrugging and mouthing “What?” back.
“I apologize fer th’ behavior of my co-worker back there,” said Engineer to the Civilian. “He’s a bit of a misanthrope, but he ain’t so bad once he warms up to ya. He don’t mean nothin’ by that.”
“You d-don’t have to apologize for his r-rudeness,” the Civilian sputtered. “Even though you seem t-to be the only civilized person among all those… brutes.”
“Aw, they’re not all that bad,” said Engineer. The Civilian gave Engineer a very worried look. Engineer merely cleared his throat awkwardly. “So, what exactly did you need that required my expertise, if I may so bold as t’ ask?”
“Well, ah, you see, we’ve been trying to contact the team members that are still inside Nucleus,” said Civilian. “And for a while, nobody responded, but about half an hour ago, we started getting some, ah, interference from a totally different signal.”
“Interference?” asked Engineer. “What kind a’ interference?”
“Would you like to have a listen?” The Civilian pulled open the flap of a canvas tent, and stood aside as Engineer stepped through. There was a RED employee fiddling with the radio set up on a folding table, flipping switches and turning knobs, but he was shooed away by the Civilian. The radio was emitting a series of squealing, mechanical beeps, varying in pitch and tone seemingly at random.
“We, ah, think that it may be some kind of coded message, but none of us have been able to make heads or tails of it,” the Civilian admitted. “If there’s a pattern, we haven’t been able to find it. It’s on every frequency, we haven’t been able to send anything out or receive anything… why, we even tried to turn the radio off, and it did absolutely nothing.”
“It ain’t morse code, that’s fer sure,” said Engineer.
“I must admit, Mister Engineer, that we are, ah, quite desperate at this point. We can’t contact headquarters, and if anybody inside of Nucleus is trying to contact us, we can’t hear it. All the other signals are completely jammed, and we are completely stumped as to what kind of message this could be.”
“Ya don’t have anybody that specializes in breakin’ codes with ya, then?”
“If we had thought we were going to need anybody like that, we would have brought them,” said the Civilian sheepishly. “But we can’t even reach them right now, and, well, being a man with your credentials, I thought that you might have as good a chance as any to, um, try an possibly decipher whatever message that could possibly be in here.” He wrung out his handkerchief, twisting it around his hands. “If that’s, uh, not too much of a bother.”
Engineer chuckled. “Aw, heck, I gotta say, that’s mighty flatterin’ of ya,” said Engineer. “I could have a crack at it, I guess. I had a few college buddies that used t’ make up secret codes jes’ t’ try an’ cheat off a’ me durin’ exams. I kept tellin’ ‘em that all th’ time an’ effort they put inta makin’ up th’ damn things coulda been spent studyin’, but it ain’t like that’s th’ first or th’ last time I’ve given advice that’s fallen on deaf ears.” He laughed, and the Civilian just stared blankly at him. Engineer cleared his throat. “You, uh, had anybody write down any of the sequence so far?”
“I, uh, m-must admit I had not thought to d-do that.”
“Ya got a pencil an’ some paper?” Engineer asked, as he sat down on the folding chair in front of the radio.
“I’ll go get some for you,” said the Civilian, ducking out to leave the tent. Engineer propped his elbow upon the table and rested his chin in his hand, listening to the notes play in sequence. He found himself unconsciously tapping along with the notes as he listened, as though he were playing an invisible piano. His mind started racing, wondering if the code could be figured out. Math and music both worked in fractions, which gave him at least something to start with, at least.
Engineer was jolted out of his reverie when the Civilian placed a pad of paper and a pen down on the table in front of him. The Texan muttered an awkward “thanks,” and immediately started jotting down the notes.
“Do you, ah, need anything else?” asked the Civilian.
“Naw,” said Engineer, scribbling furiously onto the paper. “I’ll call if I need ya.”
“Right then,” said the Civilian with a nod. “I’ll check in later, then.”
“Mm-hmm,” Engineer hummed. He hadn’t even really noticed when the Civilian discreetly left the tent. Already the gears in his head were turning, moving forward with a furious momentum, as he could feel the chords make the table thrum under free hand. If possible, there might be some sort of pattern he could pick up on, something, anything, that might work into some sort of written or spoken language equivalent. If it was a code, would it even translate into English? Or maybe it was some other language? What if the notes themselves were a form of communication for these aliens? Given it was an entirely otherworldly species, anything could be possible.
As Engineer continued to jot down the chords, B flat, F sharp, C, C, A flat, he felt something in his ribcage. It was a weird thrumming, like he could feel a sound that he couldn’t hear. He couldn’t say why, but he thought of Spy, and a fuzzy mental image of the Frenchman down in Engineer’s workshop, trying to call in on the radio down there, popped in his head before it flickered away, much like a passing dream. Engineer stopped writing for a moment, not sure exactly what had happened. The vibration in his chest was gone, though his hand was still clinging to his shirt. Slowly, he unclenched his fist, releasing a wrinkled wad of cloth, and stared at the notes he had written down. Already, he noticed three notes, C flat, A sharp and D flat, appearing in order several times in the sequence. Surely, that had to mean something, which meant that he was getting somewhere.
“Hold on, Spah,” he muttered to himself. “We’ll git you outta there yet.”
Heavy had long since dragged Medic’s unconscious form back into the infirmary, and placed him in one of the beds. He sat in a chair, looking over Medic’s unconscious form, hands clasped between his knees and head bowed to the floor as he stared at the space between his feet. Occasionally, he would tilt his head upwards, and his eyes would roll up to peer at Medic, who was still lying still. He looked oddly at peace, as though he had not been screaming at Heavy for being a liar only hours before. Heavy could barely stand to look at him for too long, and hung his head again, closing his eyes.
He lifted his head back up when a familiar, gelatinous ball rolled into the infirmary, and stopped by Heavy’s feet. It flattened and its tentacles unfurled, and Heavy leaned over to pick the creature up off of the floor.
“What do you want from me now?” Heavy asked, now speaking in his native tongue. “Haven’t you done enough?”
The creature hummed curiously.
“Doktor hates me now,” he continued. “He does not understand. I am not even sure if I understand anymore. I love Yuri, but I do not like what you tell me to do.”
The creature stroked Heavy’s hand with its tentacles, and Heavy shuddered.
“I am not sure I should be listening to you anymore,” said Heavy. “I do not even know what I have become. You promised everything would be okay, and it’s not. Everything is so much worse now, and I don’t know what to do. I just don’t know.”
Heavy felt waves of sound reverberating in his chest. His eyes widened as images of Medic flooded his mind, and he looked down at the creature in his hand, which had entangled its tentacles with Heavy’s fingers, and was purring like a cat.
“No,” said Heavy. “I have had enough. Leave. I will take care of Yuri myself.”
The parasite’s tentacles began to tighten around Heavy’s hand, cutting off the circulation and grinding his bones together, displaying a strength that Heavy had not thought it would be capable of. He used his free hand to try and pry the creature off, gripping at its slippery body, but it responded by letting out a shriek that nearly caused Heavy to fall off his chair. His eyes lost focus and he could feel the whine in the pit of his brain. “Stop!” Heavy choked out. “Stop it!”
The alien complied, and loosened its grip on Heavy’s hand. It slid off, and waited patiently on the ground.
“I am not doing what you ask,” said Heavy breathlessly, clutching his head. “Not that. Enough is enough.”
The alien assaulted Heavy’s mind, and they made him feel sick. His entire body started to quiver. “No… no… please… I beg you!” Heavy implored. “Don’t make me do that!”
There was another screech, worse this time, and Heavy fell onto the floor, clutching his head in agony. The pressure building up behind his eyeballs felt so severe he feared they would pop from his sockets, and one of the veins in his nostrils burst and let out a rivulet of blood. It stopped abruptly, but Heavy’s body was still racked with aftershocks, trembling like a beaten dog.
The creature then crawled to Heavy’s side, and stroked at his arm with its tendrils, almost as though it were petting him. Heavy pulled his arm away, and was punished again with more screeching.
He completely lost track of how many times he tried to crawl away, or say no, or resist in any way. Many times he felt as though his head was going to burst like an overripe melon, and there were moments where he had blacked out, only to be revived and introduced with more temple-throbbing pain. At one point he woke up in a puddle of vomit that he didn’t even remember making. Finally, the creature crawled over in front of Heavy, and waited expectantly, its tentacles coiling and rubbing against each other. Heavy lifted up his head, which was a laborious effort at this point, before letting it fall back to the floor and screwing his eyes shut.
“Why don’t you just kill me already, then?” Heavy muttered. “Get it over with.”
The parasite appeared to be unmoved. It broadcasted images into Heavy’s brain, showing more prolonged torture, and Heavy started shaking again. His vision blurred, and tears welled up in his eyes, he blinked, and they dribbled down his face to mix with the puddle of blood and sick on the floor.
“Fine,” he croaked. “Just… just leave. I do not want you here. Go.”
The alien did not move right away, but then cautiously skittered out of the way, before pulling in its limbs and rolling out of the infirmary. Heavy lay on the floor for a few moments, trying to let his brains settle from the furious assault on his nervous system. Eventually, he managed to lift himself up off the floor, and he staggered over to the sink, which still stank of the goo that spilled out of the parasite during the birth of the twins. He washed his face and hands, holding his head down towards the faucet, letting the warm water run over his face. He wasn’t sure how many times he had scrubbed his hands with soap, but it never felt like it was enough.
He was aware he was stalling. He wasn’t sure he could feel the creature’s presence outside anymore. He walked over to the drawer where Yuri lay, and saw the child sleeping peacefully. It was a small relief. He looked back towards Medic, and trudged to his bedside. The doctor looked beautiful as he lay there, even with the creases under his eyes and his mussed hair and his gaunt looking face. He had lost weight over the past few months, and now looked so fragile and breakable. Heavy climbed onto the bed and straddled him. Medic had no response, still looking as serene as he did before. Heavy leaned over, bed creaking under his weight, and kissed Medic on the lips gently. He half expected the doctor to wake up, like Snow White roused by her Prince Charming, but nothing of the sort happened. It was a silly thing to think of, really, given what the task he had been assigned. He brought his giant hands up to Medic’s face, dwarfing his head. Medic continued to breathe steadily, even as Heavy’s fingers trailed down his neck. His digits wrapped around the back of Medic’s neck, and his thumbs rested upon the doctor’s throat. He traced the contour of Medic’s Adam’s apple with his thumbs, rubbing the soft, vulnerable flesh. It would be so easy to just snap the man’s neck, or cut off the air to his lungs with just the right amount of pressure. He would die in his sleep, without struggle, peacefully, not having to deal with any more of this madness. Then, Heavy could just stick his shotgun in his mouth and pull the trigger, and it would all be over. Since the alien had turned respawn off, he’d finally be free of this. Maybe Spy could take care of Yuri, as unlikely a possibility as it seemed. He and Medic would at least be free.
As he started to gently apply pressure to Medic’s windpipe, Medic’s eyelids fluttered open, and he groaned. His eyes adjusted and he looked up at the Russian above him. “Heavy?” he asked groggily. “Vhat ah you doing?”
Heavy immediately froze. He saw Medic looking up at him, and he saw his own hands around Medic’s throat, and he started to shiver. He then immediately yanked Medic upwards, and wrapped his arms around the man’s body, clutching the doctor to his chest like a teddy bear. He buried his face in the crook of the German’s neck, and his chest started to heave with great, deep sobs. “I am sorry, Doktor,” he said, rocking Medic gently. “I am so, so sorry. Please, forgive me.”
It was taking a while for Medic to process exactly what was going on. As he slowly came into realization, he found himself speechless, as Heavy prattled on with his apologies.
“Octopus vanted me to kill you, Doktor, but I cannot do it, I just cannot do it to you!” Heavy squeezed Medic tighter, and sniffled. “I thought I could, if I killed me too, but I love you too much, Doktor! I am so sorry for everyting! Please… I love you.”
“Ze creature… vanted you to kill me?” Medic asked. He felt a chill crawl down his spine, like frost creeping down a windowpane.
“It tortured me, Doktor,” said Heavy. “It said if I did not, den it vould kill you, and I could not let it… ve must hide you! Make sure you are safe-!”
“Heavy,” Medic said, “it vill know I am not dead. It can read your mind.”
“I vill not let it hurt you!” Heavy insisted. “I promise! No more!”
Medic didn’t say anything. They were probably both as good as dead now. Heavy seemed to have regained a small fraction of himself back, but it was all for naught.
“I vas coward, Medic,” said Heavy, leaning back to look at Medic face to face. “Is my fault dis happened. I listen to it, because it vas easier than trying to fight it. Vas easier to do vhat octopus say.”
“It’s not your fault,” said Medic, though when the words came out of his mouth they felt empty and meaningless. “You didn’t choose to have ze creature inside you.”
“I choose to chew up Nicolai,” said Heavy. “I choose to listen to octopus instead of telling him no. I choose to say that I vould kill you, instead of having octopus scream in my head forever, because I am veak.”
Deep down, Medic wanted to agree with Heavy, at least partially, but he knew that was the last thing Heavy needed to hear. Then again, Medic could not really imagine what it was like to have the constant psychic influence of the creature on his mind, as Heavy no doubt did. He wasn’t even sure what to think of this situation anymore. Perhaps accepting death by head explosion would be easier than going through with this madness. “It doesn’t mattah much anyvay, Heavy,” said Medic. “It vill no doubt kill us vhen it finds you disobeyed it.”
Heavy was quiet for a moment, looking pensive. When he spoke again, his voice came out with a deep, rumbling determination that Medic had not heard in months.
“Not if ve kill it first.”
Spy was nearly out of cigarettes. He had been calling headquarters repeatedly for God only knew how long, and had gotten no response aside from the occasional series of high-pitched electronic shrieks. He could only guess where the rest of his team was, at this point. He rummaged through Engineer’s drawers, finding out the hard way that Engineer apparently didn’t smoke. Who the hell didn’t smoke, for God’s sake? He thought. Oh, but there was a stash of beer in a hidden cooler just inside his work desk. As Spy cursed the Engineer for being a total wet blanket as usual, he slammed the drawers closed, and leaned back in Engineer’s chair. He couldn’t hear any noises coming from the hallway. Then again, that alien didn’t make much noise as it moved. Even with all the locks on his door, he couldn’t let his guard down. He flipped the radio on again, confirming the fact that it was still transmitting those noises. Spy left it on, and listened. It was not unlike the numbers stations he had heard about back in Europe, broadcasting numbers in a seemingly random sequence interspersed with electronic tones and jingles. It gave off the impression that these sounds had some sort of secret meaning in their sequence. Was it some message from a sort of mothership, perhaps? Hard to say. As Spy listened to the broadcast, he heard a dull thump against the workshop door, like something had run into it. Instantly, he felt a sinking, dreadful coldness in the pit of his stomach.
Spy acted quickly. He grabbed his lighter from his coat pocket, and searched Engineer’s desk. He noticed he somehow skipped over a drawer that was still locked, and fumbled with getting out his lock pick from the inside lining of his glove. There was more thudding against the door and Spy eventually controlled his shaking hands and managed to pry the desk open. There was an object wrapped in an oil-stained rag, and Spy pulled off the rag and beheld the object.
There, lying in the drawer was an unlabeled bottle of golden brown liquid, and Spy had a sneaking suspicion he knew what it was. He grabbed the bottle and quickly unscrewed the cap, taking a tentative whiff. It was whiskey. By the smell of it, it was some horrible, homemade brew that would be no doubt impossible to drink. Demoman would surely be envious of it. Spy beheld it, and the rag, and suddenly it was the most beautiful thing in the entire world. He looked around the workshop, and the sheer number of flammable liquids like oil, rubbing alcohol and gasoline suddenly seemed bountiful, as though God himself were smiling down upon him, and he could almost hear the heavenly choir singing on high in his head.
The creature, meanwhile, was feeling the door with outstretched tentacles. It felt the vibrations being sent from the radio, and they were maddening and all-encompassing. It dragged a limb down and found a crack underneath the door. It was thin, but this was of little concern to the parasite. It slid one cautious tentacle underneath, and pulled itself forward. The friction of its mass dragging against both the ground and the door slowed it down as it squeezed inside, contracting its entire body like a bag full of jelly as it pulled its way through. It wasn’t until the creature was already halfway inside that it could feel other vibrations, ones that were not familiar messages from the Superiors, thrumming through the floor and into its body. One of the humans was in here. Given the strength of the signals being broadcasting, it was hard for the creature to concentrate on where exactly the human was… but it could feel the human’s thoughts, and they were not very nice thoughts.
It wriggled forward, and finally managed to pull its body through with a wet pop. It scuttled forward, and the vibrations became stronger, both from the radio and the human. It released a low-pitched hum, and suddenly it had a very clear view of the room. It could, in its own way, see the layout of the shelves, the desk, the chair, the creeping human holding something that was headed towards it. Out of panic, the creature let out a screech and sucked its limbs into its body. It could feel the human reeling backwards and collapsing onto the floor; it felt the thud of a body, and the ensuing shockwaves that crept up its mass. Slowly, it stretched out its limbs. Was there a pulse? It couldn’t tell, as the message on the radio became louder and more urgent. The parasite was just about ready to turn and crawl up and transmit its response to the Superiors when it noticed a very low, almost unnoticeable buzz coming from the human body. It slithered forward with caution, and suddenly it picked up on… thoughts?
Dead dead I am dead dead as a doornail dead dead…
The creature started, reaching out to where the body would have been. Its tentacle passed through a hologram, and the buzzing stopped abruptly as something hot and sharp suddenly washed over it. There was pain and heat and it screamed, long and high, so loud that Spy stumbled backwards into Engineer’s shelves, sending so many metal parts crashing and twisting his ankle painfully as he fell on his backside and into a motor. He could feel blood gushing from his nose and flooding the balaclava from the scream, and he blacked out for a few seconds. When he came to, the screams had faded, and he looked to where he had thrown the Molotov cocktail to see the creature was still burning. It shriveled and crumbled like paper, its limbs charring and twisting into charcoal, falling and breaking off as it ceased its dying wail. The smoke from the fire was thick, oily and foul, like burnt rubber. He pushed himself up, and stepped on his ankle wrong, stumbling at first before he caught himself. He noticed a pain in his bicep, and ran gloved fingertips over the area, pulling his hand back to see blood staining his fingers. He wasn’t sure what he had cut himself on, but it barely mattered. He watched the creature burn a few moments longer before he grabbed Engineer’s fire extinguisher, aiming the nozzle at the smoldering remains and dousing it with a thick layer of white foam. He then proceeded to stomp upon the crisp corpse of the creature, only barely suppressing the urge to spit upon it. He reached inside of his coat, pulling out his cigarette case, and pulled one out, placing it between his lips and lighting it with an air of cool and calm collection that would have put James Dean to shame.
“Go back from whence you came, you hellspawn,” he said, and blew a stream of smoke.
Engineer looked up from his desk, and swiveled around to see Sniper standing in the tent opening, looking sheepish.
“I got some sandwiches if ya want any,” Sniper said, holding up a brown paper bag. “Back-up jes’ arrived, brought food with ‘em. Ya been in here all day, I thought you’d prolly forget t’ eat if somebody dinnit’ come in here.”
“That’s awfully thoughtful of ya, Sniper, thank you,” Engineer said. “Jes’ set it on the table there.”
Sniper obeyed, placing the bag gently on the desk out of Engineer’s way, as Engineer went back to jotting down notes furiously in scrawling shorthand. He looked back up to notice that Sniper was still there, standing over him.
“Somethin’ wrong, Sniper?” he asked.
“Nah, nothin’s wrong,” said Sniper. “Jes’ wanted t’ know wot it was sayin’.”
“That, I ain’t figured out yet,” said Engineer. “I did figure out that approximately every 3 minutes and 14 seconds, the message loops itself. There a few sequences within that message that show up repeatedly, notes that could possibly represent a word or a concept that I haven’t figured out yet. I thought maybe th’ length of th’ message, might have some significance, as it could be a reference to pi, but then that would assume that these aliens use th’ same measurement of time that we do. Quite frankly, th’ more thought I put into this, th’ more hopeless it feels. It’s like tryin’ t’ understand somethin’ by applyin’ concepts that I’m not even sure these creatures have any kind a’ equivalent for.”
“So, is it a code or wot?” asked Sniper.
“Th’ more I’ve written down, th’ more I doubt it,” said Engineer. “Tryin’ t’ find a code usin’ different fractions has done next t’ nothin’. It simply don’t convert t’ an alphabet that I know of. I think this might very well be its own language.”
“That don’t sound like any language I’ve ever heard,” said Sniper. “Sounds like a cat on a keyboard, if ya ask me.”
“That’s just it, Sniper,” said Engineer. “Th’ closest similarity t’ anythin’ on earth I can think of would be birdsong, I guess, though given that these creatures are intelligent enough to send one a’ their own t’ earth and communicate like this, I can imagine this language has its own grammar and vocabulary an’ we jus’ can’t make head or tails of it.” Engineer took off his hard hat, and clutched his bald head in his hands. “I feel like I’m goin’ insane tryin’ t’ make sense a’ this.”
“Then take a break,” said Sniper.
“I can’t!” said Engineer, letting his head hit the desk. “I feel like if I figure this out, I can get Spy an’ Medic an’ Heavy outta there. They’re still trapped in there with that alien inside a’ Heavy an’ we can’t get to ‘em. I jes’… I jes’ don’t wanna feel like I’m just idlin’ by while they’re trapped in there, but I can’t do it! I can’t figure it out! I’m wastin’ my time!”
Sniper shifted his feet awkwardly, before putting a gentle hand on Engineer’s shoulder. “Don’t say that,” he said, trying his best to sound hopeful. “Yer helpin’ out plenty.”
“You don’t gotta stoke my ego, Sniper,” said Engineer, not bothering to lift his head. “I know a lost cause when I see one.”
“Now, look here,” said Sniper, prompting Engineer to lift his head and look up dolefully at the Australian, “you’ve been able t’ find out more about this language than th’ rest of us have.”
“That ain’t sayin’ much,” Engineer said with a humorless chuckle. “I mean, no offense t’ you or anyone else, but nobody really has a clue how t’ deal with this.”
“Don’t be so hard on yerself,” said Sniper. “Yer a hell of a lot more useful t’ us than that fat busybody that RED sent in.”
“Dang it, Sniper, why do ya gotta be so hard on that poor feller?” Engineer asked. “Man’s jes’ tryin’ t’ do his job.”
“He’s a tosser,” said Sniper.
“Seems nice enough t’ me,” said Engineer. “I really don’t think it’s fair a’ you an’ Demo t’ rag on him jes’ because he’s English.”
“It’s not just because he’s English,” Sniper protested. “Me mum’s English. It’s because I can tell he’s a bootlicking, fat, doddering stand-in for somebody who might actually have some sort of inkling as t’ wot th’ hell they’re doin’!”
“Hey, now, that’s not his fault…”
“I mean, really, they send in all these strong arms t’ come in an’ intercept one fat Russian man with a pregnant alien in his stomach, an’ that is who they get t’ call th’ shots?”
“Regardless a’ what you think of him, I think you should keep those kind a’ comments to yerself,” Engineer said, his voice gentle, but firm. “We’re all havin’ a hard time here, an’ nobody needs you exacerbatin’ th’ situation with yer needless antagonizin’.”
“Fine,” Sniper grumbled. “But only fer you, ‘cos yer my mate. It’s certainly not fer his benefit, that’s fer bloody sure…” his voice trailed off, and he tilted his head upward, staring at the ceiling. “You hear that?”
“Hear what?” Engineer asked, but was shushed by the Sniper. Engineer listened, and he quickly picked up on a very low, metallic hum, sounding as though it were coming from over a great distance. Sniper turned his head towards the general direction the noise came from, still looking upwards.
“Wot th’ hell is that?” He asked in a hushed voice.
Outside, desperate shouting could be heard, becoming increasingly more frantic. Urgent footfalls came closer and closer to the tent, and Scout was shouting “ENGIE! ENGIE! COME QUICK, MAN!”
Engineer got up his chair just as Scout appeared in the tent entrance, flushed in the face and out of breath. “Boy, what th’ heck is goin’ on out there?” Engineer asked.
“A UFO!” Scout said breathlessly. “THERE’S LIKE, A FRIGGIN’ UFO IN THE SKY, MAN, IT’S HEADED RIGHT FOR US! COME ON!” He ran back outside, with Engineer and Sniper following him.
They stopped and looked up at the night sky, now illuminated by a spinning, acorn-shaped object, moving through the air like a top and lit up with rows and rows of blue and green lights. As it moved through the air, coming closer and closer to the caravan with a steady speed, it became larger and larger in their sights. Engineer stood looking up at it, completely slack-jawed. Given the rate at which it was moving, combined with the rate that it seemed to be growing… this object was surely massive in scale.
He barely noticed the rest of RED’s personnel, moving into action and bustling about in panic until Sniper grabbed him by the shoulder, shouting at him. “WE NEED T’ GET OUTTA HERE, NOW!”
Engineer tore his gaze away from the encroaching vessel, and followed Sniper to one on the jeeps. Sniper immediately hopped into the driver’s seat, groped at the ignition to find there was no key, and then turned to Engineer. “You know how t’ hotwire a car at all?”
“Sniper, we can’t leave here!” Engineer said.
“Says you!” said Sniper. “Look, maybe you want t’ stick around an’ have yer head blown up by aliens, but personally, I’m not terribly keen on th’ idea. Now, are you goin’ t’ help me start this car or wot?”
Before Engineer could answer, Soldier rushed in and smacked Sniper in the back of the head with his shovel, sending Sniper tumbling out of the jeep and rolling onto the ground. As Sniper clutched his head and groaned, Soldier stood up on the seat, brandishing his shovel menacingly. “I WILL NOT HAVE ANY DESERTERS ON MY TEAM, YOU NO-GOOD, HIPPIE, DRAFT-DODGING SCUM!”
“‘Draft-dodgin’,’ nothin’, I’m jes’ practicin’ self-preservation!” Sniper protested.
“I’m sorry, I do not speak ‘coward!’” Soldier shouted. “Now, are you going to help me blast some Martian asses into the stone age, or are you going to slither under a rock and hide like the snake you are?”
“Dammit, Soldier, you shoot at them, an’ yer gonna kill us all!” Engineer said. “If we fire at them, they’re gonna take it as an act of aggression an’ prolly vaporize th’ lot of us!”
“They already made an ‘act of aggression’ when they made Heavy pregnant with that gay Martian baby!” Soldier argued. “As far as I’m concerned, they’re fair game!”
“YOU GUYS!” Scout shouted, rushing over towards the jeep, “THEY’RE REALLY CLOSE NOW, IT’S HUGE!”
The men looked upwards, and the vessel, now closing in over Nucleus, could have easily dwarfed a freighter. The rows of colored lights spinning in opposing directions were hypnotic, and the low hum of the vehicle thrummed in the chest of every man standing below it. Once it positioned itself directly over the base, it slowed to a stop, though it was still spinning in place. All movement on the ground ceased, as the men looked on in awe.
Demoman seemed to be the only one moving, as he rushed over to the jeep. “DO YE SEE IT, LADS?” he said, sounding like an excited child at Disneyland. “IT’S ALL LIT UP LIKE A BLOODY CHRISTMAS TREE! LOOKIT TH’ SIZE A’ IT!”
“It’s beautiful,” Engineer muttered as he lifted his goggles up onto his forehead.
Pyro, who had been lingering by the barrier for a while, stood closer to the vessel than anyone else. He started to wave to the ship, giving out muffled shouts through the gas mask, trying to call its attention. The Civilian could be heard shouting at him, telling him to get away from there, but Pyro either did not hear him or flat out ignored him.
Another jeep, flocked by several black Lincoln Continentals, pulled up beside the one that most of RED team had gathered around, halting to an abrupt stop. The door on the driver’s side opened, and a weathered army general stepped out. Soldier was seemingly the only one to notice the man, as he stood tall on the jeep seat and struck a smart salute, remaining in that position as the general walked to the back door and opened it. Out stepped a thin, gaunt-faced middle-aged woman, wearing a purple jacket with a high collar, short skirt, and bright red stockings, black hair done up in a bouffant, with a shock of white sprouting from the center of her forehead like a feather on the crest of some regal bird. Engineer finally turned and noticed her. No… it couldn’t be…
“What are you still doing here?” she asked, her voice sharp and clipped and instantly recognizable.
“I’m sorry, Miss Announcer, Ma’am,” Engineer sputtered. “We, uh, had a bit of a fiasco in th’ base… Heavy an’ Medic an’ Spy are still inside…”
“I want all of RED team out of here and back at headquarters,” Announcer said, as several men in black suits got out of the cars behind her. “You’ll be debriefed later. This matter no longer concerns you.”
“But what about our boys in there-?”
“I said, this matter no longer concerns you,” Announcer repeated, cutting Engineer off and giving him an evil eye so vile that Engineer half expected to turn to stone on the spot. “You will be escorted back to headquarters. You have no say in this. Do I make myself perfectly clear?”
Engineer nodded. “Yes’m,” he said, bowing his head in submission.
The Announcer, satisfied with Engineer’s response, walked briskly towards the vessel, which was still hovering precariously over Nucleus’ shield. Engineer watched her go, and a feeling of helplessness clutched at his chest and gnawed at his mind.
“Wot th’ hell wos that?” Demoman asked. “Yer jes’ goan’ an’ let her do tha’ to ye?”
“What choice do I have?” asked Engineer. “Arguin’ with her ain’t gonna do nothin’!”
“We got three of our team in there, an’ yer backin’ doon ‘cos one shriveled up bitch says tae butt out?” Demoman looked furious.
“She’s our superior,” said Engineer. “I don’t like it but all we can do now is trust her an’ hope she brings out our boys.” He turned back to the others, Sniper and Scout looking as dejected as the Engineer, and Soldier still saluting. “At ease, Soldier.”
“You are not a superior officer!” Soldier barked. “You do not give me orders.”
“Nobody gave you orders to salute anyway,” said Engineer. “Let’s go.”
Soldier relaxed, grumbling to himself, as he stepped down from the jeep seat. Several black-suited men approached them and herded the men to an unmarked van, ushering the mercenaries inside. Demoman muttered to himself about blowing up people for a living and how they had no right to treat him like some kind of civilian.
“Hey,” said Scout, head swiveling around, “where the hell is Pyro?”
They all looked back to Nucleus. The many round lights on the spaceship were spinning faster and faster, until the light itself stretched out and became long, blurred rings around the body of the craft. The shield around nucleus lit up in a flash of green and started to pulsate, faster and faster, and the lights on the vessel became brighter and brighter. There was a sudden, blinding flash, and a beam of light shot down onto the shield, joining it, and causing it to shoot upwards and encompass the ship, shielding it completely from view. Silhouetted in front of the display was Pyro, who was raising his arms and shouting in jubilation, like a tribal dancer in front of a towering fire. “HUDDAH HUDDAH HUDDAH!” he cried, his muted voice wracked with sheer and unadulterated joy. The ship, still cloaked in a vermillion veil, emitted a series of electronic tones, as though singing back to Pyro. Pyro babbled incoherently back to it, even as he was being dragged away by more dark-suited individuals, and the Announcer and the Civilian spoke in hushed tones to each other.
Soldier scoffed at the lightshow unfolding before them. “Goddamned show-off Martians,” he muttered. “I’ve seen better.”
“Da, Doktor?” Heavy asked, cocking his shotgun closed with a click.
“Ah you sure you vant to do zis?” asked Medic. He was holding his syringe gun, his hands trembling, causing the needles inside to rattle. “Zis could get ze bozh of us killed.”
“If ve die, ve die together, Doktor,” said Heavy. He walked over to Medic, and put a hand on his shoulder, and Medic ceased his quivering as though on command, instantly relaxing under Heavy’s touch. “But I vill protect you as best I can.”
“Zat seems to be a bit of a contradiction zhere, Schatz,” Medic said with a nervous laugh. “It’s funny… I feel like zis is ze first time in a long time you have been yourself again.”
Heavy didn’t say anything. His head slumped down, and his gaze fell to the floor and away from Medic.
“Nein, I did not mean… I’m sorry,” Medic said, reaching out to touch Heavy’s chest. “I did not mean it like zat.”
“No,” said Heavy, “you are right, Doktor. Octopus ruin everyting. Make me tink differently. Is hard to explain.”
“I undahstand,” said Medic, though truthfully, he could not.
“Do not vorry,” said Heavy. “Ve kill octopus, and ve live together somevhere nice. Ve raise Yuri like our own, maybe teach him to be like man, da?”
Medic tried his hardest to smile for Heavy. It was impossible to do, trying to force his lips to curl up against muscles that wanted to pull it down into a grimace. They were most certainly going to be killed by the creature before they even had a chance to fire, and on top of that, Heavy was trying to comfort him with being forced to live with that hideous infant that he had pulled out of Heavy, the real cause of all their misery over the past months. He lowered his head and started to sob, his chest heaving violently as he leaned forward into Heavy’s chest, and tears started to flow.
“Please, do not cry, Doktor,” Heavy said gently, bringing his hand up to rub the doctor’s back. “Ve vill fight it together. Okay?”
The doctor looked back up at Heavy with watery, reddened eyes, and saw Heavy smiling at him, and tried his best to smile back. “Ja,” he said. “Ve go togezzah.”
Heavy craned his neck down parted his parted his lips, drawing Medic in for a kiss. Medic had forgotten the last time they had shared a kiss like this, something that wasn’t just Heavy trying to reassure Medic by giving him a peck on his cheek or his forehead, or some sloppy kiss to try and initiate a half-hearted sexual encounter. For a brief, fleeting moment, Medic felt that the two of them had returned to normalcy again, like he could pretend none of this had ever happened. But Heavy pulled his head back, and the illusion was broken; Heavy was still flabby and soft, there was still that alien child in the room, and Medic was no doubt going to die and stay dead in a matter of minutes. And on top of that, he had kissed a man who had eaten an alien. He shuddered involuntarily, trying to banish the thought from his head.
Both Medic and Heavy turned to the infirmary doors to see Spy standing there, arms crosses as he leaned against the frame. “Am I interrupting somezing?”
“Spy!” Heavy gushed. “You are alive!”
“Oui,” Spy said in a very matter-of-fact tone. “Why would I not be?”
“Octopus vanted to kill you!” said Heavy. “Vanted you and Doktor dead!”
“Did you see ze creature out zhere?” Medic asked.
“Oh, I saw it,” said Spy. “And I assure you gentlemen that you no longer have to worry about zat horrid little abomination of nature ever again. It’s dead.”
“Dead?” Heavy echoed, sounding genuinely confused.
“Oui,” said Spy. “Turns out zat zey don’t take very well it being set on fire.”
“Spy…” said Medic, staring at Spy in disbelief. “How… how did you manage to kill it?”
“What can I say?” said Spy. “Lady Luck is but anozzer one of my mistresses. Zat…” he pulled out a familiar golden watch from inside of his coat jacket and opened it, “and ze Engineer may have helped.”
“Ze Dead Ringer?”Medic asked. “But it does not even have eyes. It reads minds, Herr Spy.”
“You cannot argue wiz ze results, Docteur,” said Spy. “I stand before you alive and well.”
“Vhere is ze body?” Medic demanded. “I vish to see it for myself.”
“In ze Laborer’s workshop,” said Spy. “Somewhere underneath a pile of foam, zhough zere is not much left zat hasn’t been stomped for good measure.” Spy took a drag on his cigarette. “You’re welcome.”
Medic stared at Spy, jaw hanging open slightly. He let out a hoarse, raspy laugh, which then turned into a chuckle. He then started to laugh harder, but it was totally devoid of any kind of humor. Instead, it was a laugh of relief and disbelief, and it quickly devolved into happy tears, and Medic dropped his syringe gun and wrapped his arms around Heavy. Spy observed this with seeming indifference.
“Get a hold of yourself, Docteur,” said Spy. “You haven’t even seen the corpse yet.”
“I’m… just so… happy,” Medic choked out. “It’s dead… it’s finally dead… it’s all over.”
Heavy looked up at the ceiling, furrowing his brow. “Do you hear that, Doktor?”
“Hear vhat?” Medic asked.
The three men fell totally silent, and turned their eyes to the ceiling. There was an ominous hum that could be heard above their heads, gradually increasing in volume, until even the floor beneath their feet vibrated. The contents of the drawers and shelves in the infirmary started to rattle and move, and the florescent lights above them began to flicker. The alien child began to cry out from his cradle, prompting Heavy to immediately rush over and scoop him up, trying to rock him in his arm and coo him back to sleep. The lights then fizzled out with a buzz. The child screamed louder, with a piercing, inhuman wail that sounded more like a wounded animal than a baby, and assaulted the eardrums of all three men like a rain of sonic arrows. Medic felt the panic setting in, and he lifted the syringe gun, staring upwards, as though he expected some terrible beast to burst from the ceiling and drop down upon them. He did his best to control his increasingly rapid breathing, and licked his lips, which had suddenly felt very dry.
“What…” said Spy, suddenly not sounding nearly as confident as he had before, “was zat?”
“I don’t know,” said Medic.
Heavy didn’t say anything. He just looked upwards with dread, and had the lights been on, the other two men would have seen the color drain from his face. Spy peered down the hallway, craning his neck cautiously. The hall was illuminated faintly by a faint, eerie glow, tinted a sickly shade of toxic green. Spy held his pistol aloft, and ducked quickly back into the infirmary.
“Did you see anyzing, Spy?”
“I zhought I saw somezing,” said Spy. “I’ll be damned if I know what it was.”
“Do you zink you could get a bettah look, zen?” Medic asked, sounding anxious.
Spy squirmed uncomfortably. Medic sidestepped next to him, syringe gun at the ready, while Heavy hung back, and tried to soothe Yuri. He seemed to be failing, as the child was crying out even louder. Medic could feel his temples throb from the shrieking alone, and he clenched his jaw tightly. Spy poked his head back out into the hall. He froze, sucking in his breath and tensing as though he had just received an electric shock. His cigarette dropped from his mouth and fell to the floor, rolling in a circle and leaving a trail of ash.
“Spy!” said Medic, grabbing the Frenchman by his shoulder. “Vhat do you see?”
Spy didn’t say anything. His eyes were locked on the figures that were moving down the hallway, advancing at a slow, methodical pace. Their bodies were large, shapeless blobs, and they seemed to glide across the floor without legs, moving by scrunching up their mass and pushing forward. Their long, gangly necks jutted out from their mass, ending in slender heads with curved, beak-like protrusions, giving off the appearance of dark-age plague doctors. They stared back at Spy with large, black eyes that seemed to suck in what little light there was in the hallway, and their skin was white and translucent, looking like clear jelly with milk swirling underneath the surface, and their veins were highlighted by the glow behind them. Spy couldn’t tear his eyes away from them, and he felt the sickening realization that the eyes and skin of these creatures and matched with those of the twins. He tried to move away, tried to give Medic some response, but he found his feet had been rooted to the ground. One of the creatures slid forward, extending a bony arm, so thin that it looked as though it had been stretched out like taffy. The fingers on its hand resembled spider limbs, lithe and nimble, and the creature pressed two of its fingertips to Spy’s forehead. Spy’s mind was screaming, telling him to run away but he found himself rigid with terror. He suddenly felt his limbs grow stiff and numb, as though the muscles in his arms and legs and neck suddenly petrified. The creature gave Spy a gentle push, and watched as he fell backwards onto his back. Spy stared up at the ceiling, and found that he could not move. He was still breathing, his heart was racing like a horse, and his eyes were darting around, trying to get a look at the creatures again. He tried to cry out, but all he could do was let out a choked groan, his mouth stuck half-open, wanting more than anything to scream, but completely unable to.
Medic had watched Spy fall onto the ground, stuck in the same position he had been standing in, looking more like a knocked over statue than a man who was paralyzed. He looked back up at the creatures, and let out a strangled cry, backing away from them and aiming his syringe gun at their massive bodies. “Stay back!” He said. “Don’t come any closah! I vill shoot!”
There was a sound like a hundred hushed voices babbling, and Medic found himself trembling again. There was a gasp, and he heard words, in perfect German. He could not be sure if they were only in his head, or if they were perhaps being heard by the others as well.
Put down your weapon. We mean you no harm.
“LIARS!” shouted Medic, now speaking in his native tongue. “I saw what you did to the Spy!”
He will live, the voices said. We simply need him out of the way. He will recover once we have left.
Medic glanced down at Spy, and then looked back up to the creatures. “What do you want from me?” he asked, still clutching the syringe gun, his gloves slick on the inside with sweat.
We have come to collect the child, said the alien. You have made a great contribution to the scientific community of our people.
“Spare me,” said Medic. “You have made my life a living hell for the past six months. Take the child and leave us alone!”
Please… we feel that we owe both you and the surrogate proper compensation, said the creature. After all, you had said so yourself, that you life had been… unpleasant during the period of time since the experiment started.
“Compensation?” asked Medic, lowering his weapon slightly. “Is this a trick?”
For your cooperation in this experiment, you shall be rewarded with that which you desire most.
Medic simply stared at the creature in disbelief. “You… you are serious?”
We know what you want most, it said, and we are prepared to grant it. We promise.
Heavy strode up beside Medic, holding the infant who had fallen quiet around the time the aliens appeared in the doorway. He and Medic looked to each other, and Heavy held out his free had to the doctor, down low. Medic took hold of Heavy’s hand, so strong and warm, and he felt more tears welling up in his eyes, and he gave a wavering smile to the giant man at his side. The fear he had, the doubt in his mind… it was gone now. There was something in their words that he felt he could believe, though he could not explain it. And with Heavy at his side, he knew that everything would be okay. He gave Heavy’s hand a gentle squeeze, and Heavy smiled back.
He turned back to the alien, and took a deep breath. “Ve accept,” he said in English.
Excellent, said the alien. It lifted its hand and tapped Medic’s forehead, and then everything went warm and white…
Sunlight filtered in through the windows and kissed Medic’s brow, rousing him from his slumber. He could hear the sound of birdcalls outside, among them, the familiar twitter of the Alpine Chough. He sat up from his bed, rubbing at his eye with the heel of his palm, and then stretching his arms, letting out a satisfied grunt.
“Good morning, Doktor!” said Heavy. He was over by the stove, prodding at a skillet with his spatula. “Sleep vell?”
“I slept vonderfully, Schatz,” said Medic, reaching for his glasses. “Ach, zat smells delicious.”
“You are hungry then?” said Heavy. “Making bacon, eggs, and toast. Also, coffee. Two sugars, no milk, da?”
“Same as alvays,” said Medic. He threw off his blanket and swung his feet over the edge of the bed, getting up and stretching his back. Heavy turned his head slightly to catch a glimpse of the nude doctor, and smirked lecherously.
“I saw zat,” said Medic, opening his dresser drawer and retrieving a pair of cotton boxers. “You should be ashamed of yourself, ogling me like zat.”
“Is compliment,” said Heavy. “Is hard not to look at handsome man like yourself.”
Medic couldn’t help but smile as he stepped into his boxers, pulling them up snuggly around his waist. By the time he was dressed, Heavy had already set both of their breakfasts out on the table, and Heavy was patiently waiting for Medic to join him, refraining from digging in until the doctor had a seat; something that Heavy would do for no one else save the doctor.
A month had passed since they had agreed accepted the aliens’ offer, and life had never been better for the doctor. They finally had their own cottage in the Swiss alps, and Heavy was as strong and as powerful and as strapping as he was before the creature had invaded his stomach. As they ate together, Medic found his gaze wandering to the window, looking on at the mountains off in the distance. He and Heavy chatted idly, and Medic found himself laughing at Heavy’s crude jokes. The doctor cleaned his plate and finished off his coffee, and Heavy took their dishes away.
“It’s such a beautiful day outside,” said Medic.
“Vinter vill be coming soon,” Heavy observed. “Vill not be so nice much longer.”
“Zat is true,” said Medic. “You know, I zink I’d like to go into town. You alvays seem to keep me cooped up in here.”
Heavy turned to Medic and chuckled nervously. “If you need anyting from town, I can go for you.”
“I’ll go viz you,” said Medic.
“I do not tink it vould be good idea,” said Heavy.
“You never say vhy,” Medic said, pouting and crossing his arms.
“Just do not vant other people talking about us, is all,” said Heavy.
“Let zem talk,” said Medic. “I can see ze town from here, it’s not like I vould get lost.”
“Just… stay here, Doktor,” said Heavy, much more firm this time.
“Not until you have given me a good reason vhy I shouldn’t.”
Heavy sighed. “Doktor, do not be stubborn, please.”
“I’m not being stubborn, you ah being stubborn,” said Medic, standing up from his chair. “I’m going into town. I’ll be fine. I am a big boy, I can take care of myself.” He grabbed his jacket and Tyrolean from the coat rack and put them on, as Heavy looked on, looking almost forlorn.
“I said I vill be fine, Heavy,” Medic said, sitting down to pull on and lace his boots. “Really, you vorry too much. It’s not like I am going to be ambushed by a pack of vild marmots.”
“Of course not,” said Heavy, shuffling away from the sink. “That is silly ting to tink.”
“I shouldn’t be long,” said Medic, grabbing a hold of his walking stick. “Ve could use some groceries, anyvay.” He leaned over to Heavy, and planted a quick kiss on his lips. “You finish ze dishes, ja?”
“All right,” said Heavy. “Be careful.”
“I vill,” said Medic, as he turned and opened the door. “Good bye, mein Kuschelbär!”
“Good bye, Doktor,” Heavy said.
Medic closed the door behind him, trying not to dwell on Heavy’s odd behavior. The air was brisk, and a cool breeze ruffled the long grass in the valley ahead. The nearest town was not a long walk away, just down a series of rolling hills and off in the distance. He estimated that it would be a half-hour walk at a steady pace, and he could soak in the sunshine. The sky was pure, infinite azure expanse, with nary a cloud to blemish it, and the mountains behind their cottage stood proud and jutting, tinted blue by the sky itself. Medic started walking down the hill, taking in deep breathes of the crisp, mountain air. He had walked down about 30 meters before he bumped into something solid, and staggered backwards. Clutched his nose, still sore from the collision, and looked forward. There was nothing in front of him that resembled an obstacle in any way. He reached forward, pawing at the air, until his hand hit something solid, like a smooth, glass wall. There was a green ripple in the air around where his hand had made impact. He retracted his hand and gasped. No, he thought. It couldn’t possibly be…
He then banged his fist against the invisible wall, creating more ripples on its surface. This did nothing. He started to panic, and slammed his shoulder into the barrier, over and over. He then ran back several paces, turned around, and charged into the wall, nearly throwing his shoulder out as it collided painfully with the barrier. He fell back onto his behind, and watched as the sky and the mountains and the town melted away, giving way to an entirely new scene.
There were the aliens that had visited Nucleus, inside of a dimly lit room, emitting strange, melodious tones to each other. Most of them were tending machinery that was unlike anything that Medic had seem on earth, sleek and curvaceous and covered in many rows of colored lights. One group of the creatures was talking to a human. It was a thin, middle aged woman dressed in purple with red stockings, and though her voice only came through muffled to Medic’s ears, he recognized it immediately. Beside her was a familiar looking creature, much more humanoid in its appearance than the other aliens, with bright white, completely hairless skin and inky black eyes. It turned to Medic, and his jaw dropped in horror as he immediately recognized the face as being identical to his own. He gaped at it, his hands pressed against the wall, and soon the other aliens and the Announcer turned to look at him. One of the aliens slunk over towards the barrier, and Medic heard his name being called. He turned and saw Heavy running towards him, shouting at him. He could not respond, as two long, spidery fingers pushed through the barrier and tapped Medic’s temple, causing his eyes to roll back into his head and his body to crumple to the ground like a marionette with its strings cut.
Heavy stopped in front of the Medic’s body, and looked up at the alien. He briefly turned his gaze to Yuri, who had stepped up to the wall to watch with detached curiosity. The Russian scooped up Medic’s body into his arms, and carried him back to the cottage, as the alien waved its hand and the skyline returned. Heavy pushed the cottage door open with his shoulder, and walked over to their bed, placing Medic down gently onto the mattress, before taking off his hat and boots, and placing them on the coat rack and by the door, respectively. He then went to finish cleaning the dishes.
A few minutes later, Medic groaned and sat up from the bed, clutching his head. “Ach… vhat happened? How did I get back here?”
“You fainted on vay to town,” said Heavy. “I told you not to go.”
“Oh,” said Medic. “Funny… I don’t remember feeling faint. I felt fine.”
“You have been having spells again, Doktor,” said Heavy. “Get some rest. I vill go into town for you. Maybe get you some medicine from the clinic.”
“Ja…” said Medic. “You do zat…” He lay back down, and stared at the ceiling. He tried to recall the moment he collapsed, but found himself unable to. He was walking along, feeling better than he ever had and then… nothing. This had happened before, too. There was a nagging feeling that this was off, that there was something wrong here. No, it couldn’t be. The stress of his time at Nucleus probably just had an adverse effect on his health, is all. A few more weeks out here, he would soon feel right again.
At least, he hoped so.