Horror/ Action Adventure

Date Published: July 20th

Publisher:  Severed Press

 

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Petroleum engineers drilling in the African desert uncover a pocket of
mysterious, life-preserving gas, and the hellish creatures hibernating
within—a colony of ten-foot prehistoric scorpions. After 400 million
years, Scorpius Rex has risen to reclaim its throne as Earth’s apex
predator.

When their USAID humanitarian mission goes awry, Dave Brank’s
security team becomes trapped inside the drilling complex’s
electrified perimeter. Now they’re locked in a life or death battle
against hordes of flesh-eating scorpions prowling the labyrinth of
machinery. Brank, a decorated soldier unjustly drummed out of the army, is
determined to save his men and the nearby village. Outside the fence lurks
another kind of monster—renegade commandos with a barbaric plan to
lure the scorpions out . . . by feeding them women and children. Only
Brank’s team can stop the slaughter and, just maybe, save the world.
Unfortunately, these guys aren’t elite Navy SEALS or Delta Force
Operators; they’re mercenaries—battle-scarred mavericks who kill
to earn a living, not to save the world. But with humanity’s survival
at stake and Brank calling the shots, even these hired guns can become
heroes.

 

 

 


Excerpt

Chapter Thirteen

After narrowly escaping an ambush, Brank and Emily settled on a new defensive tactic—running like hell. They sprinted the final leg without encountering any scorpions.

Brank said, “It should be right up here.”

Breathing hard, Emily asked, “So are we walking right up to the pit full of scorpions?”

“Nope, we’re driving.”

Rounding the corner, they came to a gated yard packed with heavy construction equipment. Among the vehicles, Emily saw dump trucks, backhoes—and a ten-foot scorpion. She froze.

Brank dropped to one knee, raising the .50 caliber. But the creature didn’t attack. In fact, it didn’t even move.

Emily asked, “Is it sleeping?”

“Must be a heavy sleeper, ’cause we made a hell of a racket. Stay here, I’ll check it out.”

“Uh uh, the deal was glued to your ass, and that’s where I’m sticking.”

Brank crept forward, rifle to his shoulder, ready to fire at the first sign of movement. At the halfway point he kicked a stone at the creature. Nothing.

Emily whispered, “Could it be another trick?”

Brank scooped up a rock and hurled it. The stone bounced off the scorpion’s head, but it didn’t move. He took a few more steps, shining his flashlight where the creature’s mouth should have been. There was just a black void. Brank knelt down for a better look.

“It’s hollow.”

Emily asked, “Don’t scorpions shed their skin, like tarantulas?”

“Yeah, I think I saw that on Animal Planet or someplace.” He kicked the hollow shell, amazed by how light it was. “But where’s the previous tenant?”

“I’ll keep an eye out.”

They heard gunfire in the distance.

Emily asked, “Rescue mission?”

Brank listened to the next burst and said, “No, it’s too soon, plus I’m only hearing R4s and SS77s, all South African hardware.” Taking a deep breath, he said, “Screw being cautious, we’re out of time,” and charged deeper into the construction yard, pivoting his rifle left and right. There was no sign of scorpions.

Brank said, “That’s our ride,” and pointed to a Cat-D6, medium-weight bulldozer. He ran to the dozer and did a quick walk-around. “Perfect, it even has a deep bucket blade like a back hoe.”

“Can it get past those things?”

He patted the bulldozer, pitching like a used car salesman. “Miss, you’re looking at twenty thousand pounds of steel tracked vehicle, packing two hundred horse power, guaranteed to plow through anything. Wanna know the best part?”

“What’s that?”

“These babies go faster in reverse than forward, so getting out’s even quicker.”

“Um, can you drive it?”

“Yup, a combat engineer in Iraq taught me to drive an M9 earthmover. We used it to clear minefields. This is almost the same, without the bulletproof glass and armor.”

“I kinda wish it had those things.”

“The only downside is that this rig’s older than I am, but once I get it started it should be the same.”

Brank trotted over to a row of sheds and steel equipment cages. The first steel cage held acetylene and oxygen tanks. Next to it was a rack jammed with shovels and rakes.

“Emily, grab one of those shovels.”

He walked along a row of covered pallets, tearing off the tarps until he found stacks of five-gallon drums labeled, “Rubberized Fiber Coat.”

Brank muttered, “That’ll work,” and lugged a can over to the bulldozer. “Hand me that screwdriver.”

Emily dug it out of her pocket and watched curiously as Brank pried open the can. “What’re you making?”

“It’s kind of a sticky bomb.”

“I heard that in a movie once.”

“It’s a real thing. Shovel please.”

Brank dug out a generous helping of the thick black goop and shoveled it into the well of the bulldozer’s blade.

He said, “Once we’re close, we’ll jam the perforating gun into this slop, with the bang-bang side facing out. This stuff bonds to anything, so it’ll hold the gun in place long enough for me to get in position.”

Emily didn’t look convinced.

“Trust me, it’ll work. When we set off the charges, this twenty-thousand-pound backstop will direct the blast right where we want it. In theory anyway. Do me a favor and toss those perforating guns in the cab.”

Brank added two more shovelfuls of goop until the rear of the deep blade was lined in black sludge.

Emily opened the cab door and heard a beeping sound. “Goddamn it.”

The door alarm wasn’t loud, but in the stillness it seemed ear-splitting. She set the pipes and cables inside and slammed the door shut. The beeping ceased.

She hopped down and said, “Sorry.”

“My fault, I should have known about that.” He stared at the dozer’s engine, mentally running through a checklist he hadn’t performed in years and never on such an ancient machine. “Okay, compression release down, fuel switch on, decompressor pointing out towards me, throttle halfway on the puck.”

Emily leaned back against a dump truck, scanning the yard for scorpions. Something lightly brushed her ear.

She swatted at it, muttering, “Well, at least the mosquitos aren’t giants.”

It happened again, only when she swatted this time, her hand came back speckled with sand. More sand drifted down from above. Emily looked up and saw a ten-foot scorpion perched atop the dump truck’s body. “Up top!”

Brank saw the creature and raised Goon’s shotgun.

While the other scorpions had moved with almost blinding speed, this one was slow—its movements awkward, almost clumsy. The creature’s body was jet white, almost translucent, and coated with amniotic fluid.

Emily said, “It looks like an albino.”

“I think it’s the one that just shed its skin.” Brank knew that, despite its clumsiness, it was still a ten-foot, venom-packed scorpion. “I hate firing a weapon here, but no choice.”

The scorpion slipped, nearly falling until it latched onto the truck’s cab and took a few more tenuous steps down.

Brank fired. The buckshot tore through the scorpion’s unformed exoskeleton like a hot knife through butter. The impact blew the beast in half, shredding the dump truck’s door.

A deafeningly shrill truck alarm pierced the night air.

Brank said, “Shit, I didn’t know it was made out of Jell-O!”

“They’re gonna hear that.”

Brank handed her the shotgun and went back to prepping the engine. “Okay, choke straight out.” He turned to Emily and pointed to a knob, shouting over the wailing siren. “This thing’s old, so once I turn it over, I need you to push in the choke.”

Emily nodded then saw something and pointed to the yard’s entryway. “There’s one over there!”

Brank grabbed the .50 caliber, saying, “There’s never just one,” and fired.

The round tore into the creature, killing it. But he could already see shadows hovering in the distance. He jumped into the cab, knowing the bulldozer was their best defense.

He jammed the control levers, muttering, “Clutch out, fuel on.” Satisfied, he pressed the starter motor. The machine belched then began to run. “Push the choke in slowly, till it sounds … happy.”

Emily pushed the knob until the rough running engine smoothed out. She looked up at Brank and saw a five-foot scorpion crawling across the cab’s roof.

She shouted, “Up top!”

The beast’s pincer’s swiped down at her, barely missing. She hit the ground, crawling away from the dozer. The scorpion leapt off the roof, scuttling towards her.

Brank grabbed the .50 caliber, hoping for a clear shot, when a second scorpion jumped onto the back of the dozer. It slammed against the Plexiglas, momentarily confused, then climbed up top. It tore at the roof, puncturing the metal. Brank raised the .50 caliber straight up and fired. The armor-piercing round went straight through the roof, catapulting the scorpion into the air. The acoustic pressure in the closed cab roared through Brank’s skull, turning all sound into a distorted feedback loop. His head reeled and blood trickled from his nose.

Emily staggered onto her feet and turned, raising the shotgun. The blast hit the scorpion squarely in the face, knocking it back, but the recoil nearly threw Emily to the ground. She pulled the trigger again, but nothing happened. She turned and ran, silently cursing her liberal parents’ “no guns” policy.

Twenty yards ahead, she saw another scorpion blocking the yard’s entryway, poised to attack. It charged forward. Now surrounded, she scrambled for the only available shelter.

His senses still reeling, Brank slammed the bulldozer into gear. The twenty-ton machine lurched forward.

Then it stalled.

Emily dove for the ground and crawled inside the scorpion’s shed exoskeleton. The interior was slick with thick amniotic fluid, but she kept moving.

The pursuing scorpion’s pincers tore at the discarded exoskeleton. When that failed, it jabbed down with its stinger. But, like a suit of armor, the hard shell proved impenetrable.

Emily curled into a ball, her hands too slick with amniotic fluid to operate the shotgun. The scorpion pounded at the shell then lifted it into the air and hurled it to the ground.

Brank pumped the starter again, the checklist racing through his head. Nothing. Then he looked at the dozer’s hood, instantly saw the problem and shouted, “You goddamn idiot!”

He’d done everything right but still made a rookie mistake. The dozer’s vertical exhaust pipe stack still had the dust cover on it. Without a clear exhaust, the machine would just keep stalling. He popped open the door, scanning the yard for Emily. He saw two scorpions huddled around the shed exoskeleton and realized she was hiding inside—a clear shot was impossible.

Brank leaned out further, groping for the exhaust stack, cursing himself. His fingers were only inches away when he caught something moving in the corner of his eye. He jerked back as another scorpion sprang up in front, gripping the dozer’s blade. It lunged forward, but its legs became momentarily caught on the blade, saving Brank’s life. He slid back inside, slamming the cab door. Once free, the scorpion climbed onto the bulldozer’s hood, smashing at the cab with its pincer. Then, in one glorious moment, it swung its pincer back, slamming into the exhaust stack, severing it from the chassis.

“Thanks, asshole!” Brank jammed the starter, praying it would turn over with the choke closed. The engine sputtered twice then roared to life.

Brank shouted, “Yeah!” just as the scorpion smashed its pincer against the cab, cracking the Plexiglas.

Jamming the steering control left, Brank spun the dozer in place, smashing the blade against the nearby dump truck. The dozer shook, throwing the scorpion off balance. Brank slewed the dozer right again, sending the creature tumbling off.

Brank shouted, “Want some more?” and threw the bulldozer into forward.

The twenty-ton machine rolled over the scorpion, crushing it with nary a bump. Brank kept rolling. Now only one scorpion was hovering around the exoskeleton. It turned its attention to Brank.

Brank raised the blade high, waiting for the creature to attack. As soon as it lunged forward, he lowered the blade, pinning the scorpion to the ground. He raised the blade slightly while turning in place. The steel tracks spun for a second then caught, grinding the scorpion into the hard shale.

Brank locked the brakes and raced over to the exoskeleton, shouting, “Emily!”

The scorpions had torn it to bits. He rooted through the pieces, yelling her name. But all he found was Goon’s shotgun lying in a puddle of clear fluid.

Emily was gone.

Then, despite the incessant ringing in his ears, he heard a faint voice, far in the distance, screaming his name. It was Emily. The scorpion hadn’t killed her—it was taking her to the pit.


About the Author

Scorpius Rex is William Burke’s second novel, following a long  career in film and television.  He was the creator and director of the Destination America paranormal series Hauntings and Horrors and the OLN series Creepy Canada, as well as producing the HBO productions Forbidden Science, Lingerie and Sin City Diaries. His work has garnered high praise from network executives and insomniacs watching Cinemax at 3 a.m.

During the 1990’s Burke was a staff producer for the Playboy Entertainment Group, producing eighteen feature films and multiple television series. He’s acted as Line Producer and Assistant Director on dozens of feature films—some great, some bad and some truly terrible.

Scorpius Rex is the glorious result of a childhood spent immersed in late night creature features, monster magazines and horror comics.

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