Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Kanárek walked a few paces ahead of the squad, weapon in the low ready position. He talked back to Caufield, the squad leader, as they advanced, glancing back only occasionally to see if she was paying attention.

“It’s bad enough they genetically modify the food we eat, have you seen what they’re selling in the pet stores now?” He paused at the corner of a building, red dust swirled in the cross wind, sticking to their uniforms, adding extra load on the adaptive camouflage. “They’ve got fish that strobe when they’re hungry, and when the water needs changing.”

Caufield nodded reflexively, studying the range finder looking for any signs of life nearby.

“They have lizards you can turn off while you’re away, you just dial down the temperature and they turn off,” he was on a roll now, “that’s not natural. How do we know they’re not aware, and we’ve just made it impossible for them to move? Because why? People are too cheap or irresponsible to have someone feed the damn thing while they go on vacation?”

“Keep your eyes up Kanárek,” Caufield peered up into the inky blackness above them. There shouldn’t be an elevated threats in here, but she still felt like a sitting duck, exposed between the rows of prefab structures this far away from any regulated settlement.

“They’re growing plants in the agridome that taste like meat, they’ve got wheat that grows in this shit,” he kicked at the red sand, “and apparently you can’t tell the difference between it and real wheat. How do we know when we’re eating the alien shit? Does anyone know the long term effects of that stuff?”

They advanced, pausing at each alleyway and open doorway, checking scanners and scopes, but staying on the street. Occasionally the squad would wait while a couple of soldiers checked a vehicle, or climbed a ladder to a rooftop.

There was no sign of life anywhere, even though there were clear signs the complex had been actively inhabited fairly recently.

As they approached the center hub, they could see a large vehicle parked in the middle of the intersecting roads, listing at an odd angle.

Caufield stopped.

“Hold Up”, she barked.

Ahead of her, Kanárek’s exposed flesh had turned from dusty tan to fluorescent yellow.

“Back it up and mask it up. Biohazard!”

Kanárek just shook his head.

“I did not sign up for this shit.”