“Stand down, Marine. She’s just a kid.”
The flamethrower Corporal Howser was holding dipped slightly. “The Major said to sterilize the ship, sir.”
“That’s what we’re doing. Burn the bodies, wipe the data storage, and point this hulk into the sun,” the Lieutenant replied. “We’re taking the kid with us back to the Agamemnon, so the doc can take a look at her. Do you have a problem with that?”
“It sounded like you did. Major Danforth thought everyone over here was dead. Turns out that’s not the case, so we’re making adjustments. Now stand down, Corporal.”
Howser managed half a salute before turning and heading down the corridor towards the ship’s drive reactors, flamethrower at the ready. Lieutenant Mitchell turned back to the storage locker where the little blonde-haired girl huddled.
“It’s okay,” Mitchell said, holstering his sidearm as he knelt down and pulled a protein bar out of his pack. The girl couldn’t have been more than four years old. She watched him, her mouth slightly open, her eyes tracking his movements as he unwrapped the snack and offered it to her. She did not move.
“Go on, take it,” he said. “You should eat something. How long have you been in there? A few hours? Days? I bet you’re hungry.”
As he said the word “hungry,” a spindly tentacle shot out of the girl’s mouth, crossing the one-meter gap between them in the blink of an eye. The stinger at its tip pierced the back of Lieutenant Mitchell’s throat, and he began to gag. The girl collapsed forward, and he fell back into blackness.
The parasite wasted no time in hijacking his central nervous system. The five days it had spent in the girl’s body was more than enough time to adapt to human physiology. Within minutes, Mitchell’s body was up and moving about again. When Corporal Howser returned, the little girl was finishing off the protein bar the Lieutenant had given her. By the time the Marines returned to the Agamemnon, it was all over but the shouting.