Wolfe allowed a smile. The smile became a grimace as he felt the all-too-familiar
onset of a coughing attack. Stepping back from the others, he produced his well-worn
handkerchief and waited for the inevitable hacking to begin. Belisarius demanded
to know what was happening as Wolfe coughed violently into the silk.
A bad one, he thought, as blood freely mingled with the upsurge of thick phlegm and
saliva. Another cough doubled him over, his forehead breaking out in cold sweat
that chilled him and made him shiver until the relentless series of noisy spasms
gradually lessened, then faded away altogether. When the fit finally passed, Wolfe
stood up straight, dabbing at his mouth.
Turning to offer an apology, he saw all eyes fixed beyond him. He spun around in
time to see a score or more of the horrific gillmen scrambling over the stone wall.
The monsters approached with clawed hands outstretched, mouths open, gills flexing
It was his fault, Wolfe realized. The beasts had been drawn to the noise of his
coughing fit. “Sorry,” he managed, before a flare caught his attention, appearing
high in the red sky, followed by the distant staccato of gunfire. Up the beach,
the strangers were under attack.
“Defend yourselves,” Churchill shouted, producing a pistol from inside his white-trimmed
Wolfe recognized the pistol. It was the same sort of gun Benedict Arnold had shot
him with at the Plains of Abraham. He stepped back as his two remaining soldiers
opened fire, the steady pop of their automatic rifles stitching the gillmen with
bloody holes, staggering them. Jets of black ichor sprayed the rocky ground where
the monsters stood.
Churchill and Eugene advanced side by side, guns clasped in both hands, firing repeatedly,
covering each other whenever empty clips had to be replaced.
The creatures proved tough, absorbing vast damage. But they died all the same, dropping
to the ground and thrashing like great beached fish, their gills opening and closing
in frantic last gasps before their large, black, lifeless eyes glazed over completely.
“Careful where you’re stepping, Wolfe.”
Wolfe hadn’t realized he was still backing up. He turned to face Belisarius. “How
did you know it was me?” he asked, lamely.
An excerpt from
Rogues in Hell,
a re-launch of the classic Heroes in Hell
Janet and Chris Morris.
My favorite of the 22 stories that comprise this anthology is Colony, by Bruce Durham.
It's a solid read: well-told, has great momentum to keep things moving, fun, crackling
dialog, and prose that engages all the senses.
-Joe Bonadonna - author of Mad Shadows
Colony by Bruce Durham is among my favorite of the collection...