Johnathan swore as the thrat burst out of the undergrowth in front of him. His finger tightened reflexively on his trigger and the assault rifle in his hand discharged a spray of mercury blobs at supersonic speed into a tree with a sound like tearing paper. The thrat danced briefly aside and turned to vanish into the undergrowth, its large hairy body moving with unnatural speed.
He sighed as he checked his tally. Five thrats down, three more to go. He silently cursed the corporate rep back at the base who sent him on this thrat hunt. Who needs eight thrats killed? Why only eight? Why did he need to harvest their tails? What does the corporation want with eight thrat tails? Sometimes he wondered if the world really was as messed up as the company grapevine always said.
He almost stumbled over another thrat in the clearing front of him. A big one, the biggest he’d ever seen. The long spindly legs crouched, tensed with hidden power ready to launch it off and out of targeting range. Johnathan held his breath and brought his integrated combat systems to the forefront of his mind. The thrat stirred briefly, its natural magnetic senses giving it a warning tingle as the nearby electronics warmed up.
Johnathan raised his rifle and triggered a burst. The rifle was fully integrated into his combat systems and he barely even realised he was selecting a different fire pattern with a flick of a thought while another part of his mind calculated angles with the cold precision of the electronics laced through his grey matter. The rifle bucked in his hands, the on-board processor overriding his own muscles to apply carefully measured movements to bend the path of the spray as it left the barrel, forming a perfect fan of supersonic droplets of mercury.
The thrat leaped, but the wide pattern meant it couldn’t move out of the arc far enough to avoid being hit. Johnathan felt a burst of glee as the thrat’s flank spattered blood into the air and the thrat staggered. He stepped forward, thinking he needed a single-shot execution. The rifle grip clicked silently in his hand, tactile feedback that indicated his selection, a saboted spike, was acknowledged. His combat systems locked the thrat’s head.
As he squeezed the trigger the thrat moved. It wasn’t as lamed as he had thought! It easily dodged the spike, and Johnathan gaped as the supposedly harmless, peaceful herbivore turned to attack. He needed something more wieldy in a closing engagement than the rifle, and his combat systems took over, holstered his rifle and drew his pistol faster than he could even finish forming the thought. Gunslinger reflexes, installed as standard, part of the Company package.
The thrat leaped through the air, and Johnathan fired wildly, and shards of glasslike polymer sliced into the thrat’s other flank. Still not a kill shot.
The thrat landed on his chest and the long burrowing claws in the legs punctured his nanoplate chestpiece. His combat systems disabled the damaged nerves and dispassionately dumped a report on tissue damage into his awareness. A fraction of a second later they informed him of a broken bone in his arm as the thrat’s powerful nut-cracking jaws clamped down. His powered knife was in his hand. Instinct must’ve triggered his combat systems to draw it. He thrust upwards with his uninjured arm, then sawed it through and across the thrat’s belly, spilling its intestines out over himself.
Johnathan pushed the carcass off himself. His bleeding had stopped as blood was diverted around the damage, and his systems started their repair work. He watched the bone repair progress in his mind’s eye as the repair progress bar crawled slowly but steadily down. Sweat popped out over his body as the medical nanites in his bloodstream dumped heat, a byproduct of their work, into his circulatory system. They had built a calcium scaffold and were busily reassembling the bone. His combat systems informed him his stocks of iron, carbon, and sodium were almost depleted. He reached into his pack and pulled out a handful field rations, picked out the ones that matched the symbols insistently flashing in his mind, and threw the rest back into his pack. They weren’t anything most people would recognise as “food”, but they had everything his body needed. They were so fortified with essential elements to resupply his nanite complement an unaugmented human would find them highly toxic. He grimaced and swallowed a bite. The nerves in his chest tingled and itched furiously for a minute while the skin knitted over his wound, and his formerly broken arm ached and throbbed like there was a small construction crew with jackhammers working in there. He supposed, on reflection, there was. He swallowed the last bitter, dry, choking bite of his “meal”.
He bent down and pushed over the thrat carcass, powered knife in hand, and swore once more. Loudly, this time. This thrat, this crazy, inexplicably homicidal thrat, had no tail.