The first anthology of original short stories featuring the confluence of two iconic properties, as the Predators seek the ultimate prey: the Xenomorphs from Alien
The ultimate hunters, the Predators, are pitted against their ultimate prey, the Xenomorphs, with humans caught in the middle! Taking place on Earth and in distant space, these tales have been crafted by a who’s who of today’s most talented authors of the fantastic:
David Barnett - Roshni “Rush” Bhatia - Curtis C. Chen - Delilah S. Dawson - Mira Grant - Susanne L. Lambdin - Jess Landry - Yvonne Navarro - E. C. Myers - Scott Sigler - Maurice Broaddus - Chris Ryall -Bryan Thomas Schmidt - Steven L. Sears - Jonathan Maberry and Louis Ozawa
With fifteen new and original stories, this first-of-its-kind anthology is inspired by the events of the original Aliens vs. Predators movies, graphic novels, and novels. Includes a new story written by Jonathan Maberry and Louis Ozawa (“Hanzo” from the movie Predators) as Hanzo’s brother faces the eternal threats of both the Yautja and the Xenomorphs.
Release date: March 1, 2022
Publisher: Blackstone Publishing
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
Aliens vs. Predators: Ultimate Prey
BELOW TOP SECRET BY CHRIS RYALL
The day was going fine until April’s phone died. She hoped it wasn’t a sign. One of those cosmic “don’t count your chickens” things, or that other axiom about assumptions.
“I charged my cell this morning,” she whispered. “What the hell?”
She glanced at Brockton’s face, and thought that his look of dismay was because his cell was dead, too. Which it was. But he was put off for another reason entirely.
“April, come on, we need to hurry,” he said. “We have to move. It’s that way.”
He pulled her away from the rest of the team and pointed toward the long, low building over the bluff a few hundred yards away.
“Be subtle about it,” he cautioned. “We don’t want anyone following us.”
The excursion onto the grounds here at Area 51 had gone without incident—well, beyond the suddenly non-functioning mobile devices—but the farther they drifted from the others, the more uncertain it all felt.
Brockton, though. Up until now, his certainty about things he couldn’t possibly know for sure had a kind of charm to them, but now April wasn’t as sold on his bravado. As they approached the building in question, he started to reveal new information that she found quite disconcerting. She looked back at the rest of the large group. Not one of them was following yet. They all continued down the road toward the military installation itself. Which Brockton said made sense as a destination for anyone who didn’t know what heknew.
It also meant they were fully exposed, walking on the road toward a base no doubt packed with military forces and other security. But the broader plan for the day was to get arrested and force the base to acknowledge there were strange goings-on here.
Brockton had suggested to her that they should try to enter a building that was much closer to the gate they’d just breached, and that sounded smart. It would allow them to feasibly check things out and then leave before they found themselves zip-tied and under arrest. With black bags over their heads and a one-way ticket to a black site.
But once Brockton started talking about the limited time left for them to get into this building before it was too late, April began reassessing her willingness to just accept whatever he said.
Still, he was right about one thing, she mused. He could indeed get them into the building.
The front of the building had no windows, just a set of double doors that looked impregnable. The lock contained a digital keypad, but Brockton simply pulled up his right sleeve and copied a number he’d written on his forearm, typing it into the keypad.
Brockton looked at April and grinned. “See? My source knew what they were talking about.” But April thought he looked a little too relieved when he said it, as if he was surprised it actually worked.
“Funny how you never mentioned a source before,” April said. “By which I mean, this isn’t funny at all. We just went from breaking and entering a base to try to force freedom of information to, well, a full-on B&E of a military outpost.”
He took a few steps deeper into the building. She followed, and they stood in what looked like the waiting area of a typical—though unoccupied—office building. “It won’t matter,” he said, “not if we hurry. If the rest of what my guy told me is also true, we’re on the cusp of breaking this thing wide open. I didn’t want to freak you out before but… I’ve been talking to someone who works here. At the base. The first guy since maybe Bob Lazar to really admit that, and he told me.”
“Really?” asked April. “Why would he just confide in you?”
“Well,” Brockton said, sheepishly, “we may have had a transaction. A number of them, really.”
“Shit,” muttered April. “You boughtinformation from a stranger?”
“No, it’s cool. Look, April, this is a guy I came across online a few years ago, and I’ve been building up trust and gaining his confidence and… well, sure, sending him money. Maybe a lot of it. In regular installments. But not all or even most of it. He knows we have to get in, get the goods, get out safely, and then he gets the bulk of it. Give me some credit here.”
April snorted. “Okay… greed and a penalty if he fucks us. That makes a bit more sense.”
Brockton took a few steps deeper into the office space. Against her better judgment once again, so did April. “Once this excursion got set, he said it was finally time for the world to know what goes on here, and he gave me that code.”
“You mean, you bought that code.”
“Whatever. It was money my parents gave me for college, so it was mine to spend how I wanted. And what better education than this?”
Brockton leaned close and lowered his voice even more. “He told me another thing, April.”
“Oh, I can’t wait for this,” she said.
“This building… it’s sitting over the real base.”
“Oh, come on…”
“And,” he said, “he told me how we can get down there.”
“I—” she began, but then froze. There was a noise outside. She peered through the glass door and saw a vehicle coming their way, pulling a dust plume behind it.
“Brockton,” she said quickly, “I don’t quite know what to say to any of this, but if you have a plan, we better go now.”
“That’s what I was trying to tell you…”
He took her hand and they hurried deeper into the deserted office. April thought she heard the outside door open behind them.
“If my guy wasn’t lying,” Brockton said as they rounded a corner, “then it should be right… whoa. Here it is.”
They approached an elevator bank. April felt a chill—why did a one-story building built on top of sand and dirt have an elevator?
Inside, a control panel contained only a grid of sixty-four buttons without numbers on them. The buttons alternated between black and white. It looked more like some kind of game than it did an elevator control panel.
Brockton pushed eight of them in sequence. Nothing happened. April heard heavy footsteps and voices from down the hall.
This was all too much. She wanted out. “Brockton, stop. I don’t want to do this.”
“Come on,” Brockton growled as he kept stabbing the buttons in a sequence once again.
“This isn’t fun anymore,” said April.
“Well, we’re here now,” he growled. “Let me work, will you? Just standing here and waiting to get caught—or shot—isn’t fun, either. We’ve come this far and—bingo.” The elevator lights abruptly came on, and they could hear the motor powering up. “Now, we’ve got nowhere to go but down.”
He was so right about that.
* * *
As the elevator descended, April found herself taking a long, cold look at how the hell she got here.
She’d started out wanting to improve her social life—or at least her social-media life—and had ended up on this possibly ruinous path. Only a month ago, she’d let herself get led down a new online rabbit hole. She saw some friends share a group that consisted of people planning to make an excursion onto the grounds at the legendarily secretive military base located at Area 51 in Nevada. April was intrigued, mostly because she saw that hundreds of people had already clicked, “Will attend.” And she happened to know one of them, a friend of a friend named Brockton. Brockton, who owned a car with air conditioning and offered to drive her through the desert to attend this event. She accepted.
April didn’t particularly believe in the existence of UFOs. Really, she didn’t think about them either way. Following conspiracy theories seemed to be the province of, mostly, underemployed men. But the event promised a massive turnout, so why not? Surely she could get a few interesting pictures and a fun story to tell. Enough to ensure another weekend of social media “likes,” anyway.
On the drive out, Brockton proved his conspiracy-nut bona fides by showing her all the proof of aliens he had on his phone. Lo-res photos and grainy videos, mostly.
He also convinced her there wouldn’t be any real price to pay for the planned excursion. “That’s why we made it public, to warn them in advance,” he said. “Besides, I have it on good authority that we’ll be able to get full access to the base that day. I have it all covered.”
The morning felt full of promise. They joined others at the agreed-upon meeting place, in front of Rachel, Nevada’s famous Ale-E-Inn. The buzz was electric, and infectious even to a non-believer (“non-carer” was more accurate, she had told Brockton before) like her.
One hour later, outside the base’s outer gate, April felt her first real twinge of doubt about what the hell she’d agreed to.
There was no security in sight—the guard station next to the high fence had been deserted. The wooden bars blocking the path didn’t look like they would keep out anything except a myopic raccoon. Nothing looked particularly impressive or intimidating. And it certainly hadn’t scared off the three hundred people who’d come along on this crazy raid. Hardly the stuff of a high-security military installation.
April hoped all of this was a good sign that maybe this would be easier than it appeared.
Yeah, she thought, because nothing ever goes wrong when you break into a military facility that is the literal definition of ‘looks too easy.’ It was a walk in the park, right?
Then she saw the other sign. A big wooden one posted near the gate.
UNAUTHORIZED PERSONNEL NOT ADMITTED
Photography is prohibited
$1,000 fine, six months imprisonment, or both
“Well… shit,” April said.
Brockton laughed it off, though. “If they really cared about us being here,” he said, “they’d have more than just scary signs. Ooooo. I mean, we made sure everyone knew when we were coming.” He paused. “You know, though, that sign is just a cool spot for people to take pictures.”
People started to walk onto the grounds. Tentatively at first, and then with more enthusiasm. A cheer went up. It was time. Fame awaited!
That was when Brockton asked April what time it was. When she pulled out her phone, it went dead in her hand.
* * *
When the elevator came to a stop, April and Brockton were both thoroughly freaked out. It had moved far deeper into the earth than they’d ever expected, and the time it took to finally reach its destination gave them plenty of opportunity to envision a worse-case scenario. They didn’t say anything, but the nervous look in Brockton’s eyes matched what she felt.
They clung to the sides of the cage as the doors opened, trying to be invisible, but outside was a short, empty hallway. They stepped out cautiously and saw there was a door a few yards from the elevator and another at the far end. Both had keycard scanners mounted on the walls. They crept toward it and looked through a small window into a room filled with row after row of metal exam tables.
Brockton tried the door.
“Locked,” he said, stepping back.
“Now what?” asked April, but before he could reply, the door suddenly opened and a man in a lab coat plowed right into Brockton.
The man rebounded, actually shrieked and swung a heavy flashlight at Brockton’s head, missing by a hair. He overbalanced and dropped the light, which rolled against the wall.
“Whoa, whoa,” said April, pulling Brockton back.
The man stood for a moment just gaping at them. He wore an ID badge clipped to his lapel. It read: Doctor Stephen Renfro. The scientist’s eyes were wild, and he lunged forward, pushed past them, and ran for the elevator. He began pushing buttons. The elevator doors remained stubbornly shut.
“No no no no,” cried Renfro. “It can’t be, not already. I’m too late. Too late…”
Brockton grabbed his sleeve. “Too late for what?”
April looked at Brockton. “And I thought yousounded crazy before.”
Doctor Renfro kicked the closed elevator door. He was panting and his face flushed red.
“Come on. Come on, you fools,” he snapped.
Brockton pulled back and said, “Hey, man, calm down! You’re freaking us out. Are you the one who—”
His sentence died in his throat when the large, insectoid creature dropped onto Doctor Renfro’s shoulders from somewhere above them. Despite its massive size, the creature never made a sound until it landed on the doctor with a heavy thud.
April and Brockton both screamed as they scrambled backward, horrified beyond rational thought.
The creature was monstrous—it must have been seven feet tall, and while its frame was thin, like an insectoid exoskeleton without skin, it had long, jointed arms ending in six clawed fingers on each of its two hands; a longer segmented tail that ended with a wicked, pointed tip; and four thick protrusions extending out of its back. Most horrific of all was a long, domed head, and a mouth filled with sharp teeth and dripping with mucus.
Renfro’s scream was awful. High and shrill—filled with absolute horror and bottomless pain.
The monster attacked the hapless doctor, its tail whipping back and forth, coming within inches of April and Brockton.
April’s brain was nearly stalled by shock, but there was that one part of her—the clinical, rational mind—that kept working. Analyzing. It did that even when she was stoned, or having sex. Always trying to make sense of the world.
And now it was shrieking at her that, after everything, Brockton was right. Aliens were real. This thing, this monster, was nothing she had ever seen or heard about. It was not of this earth, that much was certain.
It wrapped its arms around Renfro in a horrific parody of an embrace, then raked long, sharp fingers in a jagged X across his chest. The claws tore through clothing, flesh, and muscle with little resistance and blood exploded outward.
Brockton seemed too stunned to move, but April grabbed him and dragged him backward toward the laboratory door. For the moment, the creature seemed to ignore them and continued savaging the scientist. It lowered its head, dripping slime onto Renfro’s neck, and plunged its tongue, a rigid thing with teeth of its own, into the back of Renfro’s neck, the toothed tongue rending flesh and muscle alike. The third time it did so, it got stuck on Renfro’s spinal column with a thunk.
The door had not swung all the way shut and April saw that the flashlight the doctor dropped was blocking it. It was a splinter of luck. Was it enough? She snatched it up and shoved Brockton into the room.
“Hey,” someone yelled—it was a female voice from the far end of the lab. “Come on, this way… this way.”
April risked a look over her shoulder. The monster had heard the voice, too. It raised its head from the limp body of Renfro, then dropped the corpse. The man’s head had been so thoroughly savaged that it tore free and rolled crookedly away. Then it began stalking toward them. Its clawed fingers caught the edge of the door, its tail whipping back and forth.
They ran. The alien chased them, but another splinter of luck saved them because its chitinous feet skidded in the blood spilling from the stump of Doctor Renfro’s neck. It gave them a half second’s grace, and they reached the woman, who held open a thick metal door with a square glass observation window in it.
The woman grabbed them, shoved them roughly inside, then slammed the door. April and Brockton collapsed against a wall and stared at her. April hugged the flashlight to her chest as if it was a sacred talisman.
The woman wore an identical lab coat to Renfro, and her name tag read: Doctor Amy Kupihea.
“You people are trespassing,” she snarled. “And you’re a pair of goddamn idiots.”
* * *
As she fought to catch her breath, April looked around. The room they were in seemed to be one of those shelter-in-place spots. Doctor Kupihea seemed to read her thoughts and nodded.
“It’s a safe room,” she said. “We have them peppered throughout. We’ll be okay here for now. There’s water, MREs—military ready-to-eat meals—cots and blankets, and they tell me the walls are impregnable.”
Brockton kept blinking, clearly trying to reboot his brain.
Kupihea kept talking as if she was giving a freaking tour. “We have a solid security door, an intranet computer, and a dedicated power source.”
Brockton mumbled, “This is where they brought the UFOs they found. That’s what that thing is, isn’t it? An alien from one of those ships, and it got out.”
Doctor Kupihea did not answer, and instead demanded to know who they were and how they got there. April did her best to explain, and the doctor listened with increasing dread as April relayed the last hour of their day—their ease of entrance—obviously enabled by someone from within the base; the elevator code, and then the death of Doctor Renfro.
“This is another of those Occupy Area 51 things?” Kupihea said, appalled. “Jesus Christ. And you’re sure Renfro’s dead?”
“Very,” said Brockton.
“God damn,” said Kupihea. Then her face hardened. “Serves him right. He set this in motion. He should have enacted a hard lockdown. He should have called in a strike team, that’s why they’re on standby. But no… he kept saying it was all under control, that everything was fine. Shit. And now that thing has the run of the lab, and we’re in here.”
Despite her anger there were tears in the corners of her eyes.
“Did all of you morons come down here? All—what was it? Three hundred?”
“No,” said April. “Just us. The rest are upstairs.”
“And if that thing gets up there they’ll all die,” said Kupihea. “You don’t even want to know how.”
“We saw how,” said Brockon. “It tore that guy’s head off. Can’t get a lot worse than that.”
Kupihea’s expression was bleak. “Yes,” she said, “it really can.”
* * *
“Nothing. I’m a scientist, not a soldier.”
“Wait,” said April, “there’s nothing in this room that we can use as a weapon to kill that thing?”
“Of course not.”
“Lady,” said Brockton, “that giant cockroach murderized your friend in like two seconds.” He nodded at the computer. “Can you call in, like, tactical nukes or something on that thing? ...
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