Brontophobia 1.1

-0-

My 'cloak' dragged noisily behind me along the street. There was really no helping it, considering it was just a tarp I had stolen, but it was better than nothing.

I was lucky, for a certain measure of luck, to find myself in such a quiet, run-down neighbourhood as I did. I wasn't quite sure what city I was in, but the last thing I needed was crowds of people to dodge. Here, even large and noisy as I was, I had the freedom to move and avoid anyone I may cross paths with.

An older lady stepped out of an apartment building. There was no time to stop or turn, so I simply dodged around her as best as I could, eliciting a cry of surprise as I passed. Hopefully she didn't have a phone with her. I wanted to avoid attention as long as possible. I sped up a little, leaning forward in my dash. It was easier running that way, actually. Duh, of course it was easier. My centre of balance was different.

That... wasn't something I wanted to think about.

I put those thoughts aside and did my best to focus on running. Getting away, out of the city. I didn't know anything about the area, where I was or where I was going, so I just did my best to run away from the places where there was more light, noise and people.

A pool of light appeared down the road, moments before a car pulled into view around the corner.

I skidded to a halt, ducking into an alley to hide. I allowed myself a glance back and froze when I saw what I had left behind me.

Bugs. Hundreds of them, maybe thousands. Not little black flies, as if I were a walking trash heap, but glowing bugs. At a glance, one could mistake them for fireflies, but I knew that was wrong. Large swarms of fireflies probably weren't common in the middle of the city anyways.

Mentally, I reached out with my power and beckoned them. It was a faint thing, the connection, as insubstantial as recalling a vague memory, but they obliged. As a whole, they responded...

... flowing into the alley after me like a big, glowing wave of 'weird shit here.' God dammit.

Bristling, I waited only long enough for the bulk of the swarm to disappear under the tarp before I bolted, retreating further into the alley, away from witnesses.

Glass crunched underfoot as I ran. I was barefoot, but I barely noticed. I was focused on my surroundings, what lay ahead. The flickering of a dying street light. The scuffing of a shoe on stone. I turned down another alley, running behind a building, parallel to the street. A can was kicked aside as I ran, the noise making my ear twitch. The alley reeked of people, trash and worse. I expected my sense of smell to be better, more precise, but it was only a little above average. I relied on my other senses instead. My night vision, my hearing... another sense, more alien. The only thing I could liken it to was a radar, or a vague awareness of presences, but stronger. More substantial.

Before I even reached the end of the alley, my ears picked up another sound. A deep rumble, like bass. I stopped, listened.

An engine. It was approaching.

I willed all the bugs I could under the tarp and hunkered down behind a dumpster. My breathing was heavy and huffing to my ears. I could only hope it was less noticeable to humans.

As the rumbling grew closer and became a low roar, I recognized it as a motorcycle engine. It approached the entrance to the ally, tingling my mystery-sense as it neared. I could actually feel it approaching. It reached a crescendo, roaring as it passed. Then suddenly slowed, then stopped. right at the mouth of the alley.

I pushed myself harder against the wall, trying to shrink myself as much as possible, praying not to be seen.

"Hey," the rider called out. "You there. The big guy, behind the dumpster."

Fuck. So much for stealth.

I was up and running back down the alley in an instant. Pavement scuffed and scratched beneath my toes, no doubt leaving conspicuous prints and gashes. I didn't care anymore.

I heard the engine roar behind me and felt a sudden wave of panic as I realized he was going to chase me on the motorbike. Because fuck me. I tried knocking down trashcans and boxes as I went, but it only barely helped.

The alley was unfortunately spacious. The bike dodged and weaved around the obstacles, hardly slowing.

Running wasn't working. The bike had to go.

I made it to the first corner moments before my pursuer did. I turned the corner so fast that I had to take hold of the wall and physically swung myself around, scratching brick and concrete alike with my claws. Bracing myself against the wall, I only had a second to tuck in my leg, winding up.

The instant he reached the corner, my foot lashed out, striking the side of the bike just above the rear wheel.

Tires, metal and stone screeched as he spun out of control, rider and bike both twisting and tumbling over one another. They overshot the corner by a mile like that, with the rider thrown to the ground a good 20 feet from me, while the bike rolled another dozen before hitting a dumpster with a resounding crash.

That was... a lot more violent than I had originally planned. As far as you could call it a 'plan'. For a moment, I was paralysed with fear that I may have just killed him.

I relaxed a little when I heard him swear and begin picking himself up. Thank god, a brute.

... God dammit, a brute!

I felt the temperature in the alley spike in a way that was definitely not natural, and fled without a second thought.

In seconds, I was out of the alley and standing in the street. It was devoid of people and the buildings were sufficiently dilapidated that I could hope they were mostly unoccupied.

I'd caught a glimpse of the bike as it passed. It was no ordinary bike. Something that sleek and sci-fi-ish could only be tinker-tech. That meant my pursuer could've only been one of two things.

A hero, or a villain. Either way, I just ruined his badass space-bike. I had a feeling this wasn't going to end diplomatically.

Slowly turning, I faced him as he emerged from the alley, hands wreathed in flames. His costume was knight-like, consisting of thick, rustic steel armour and a dark-red body suit, with a helmet that hid his face behind a cage-like visor. A stylized logo of a fist surrounded by flames glowed red-hot on chest, repeated in aesthetically appropriate places around the rest of his armour.

We stared at each other in silence for a moment. He reached up and tapped twice against the side of his helmet.

"Dispatch, this is Furnace. Subject is a Case-53, confirmed hostile."

I blinked, then looked down.

At some point during the chase, I had lost the tarp.

Scales, fur spines bristled. Wicked, scythe-like claws adorned my hands and feet. Behind me, a thick, club-like tail that seemed more spine and fur than tail kept be balanced on scaly digitrade legs. My nose was extended into a snout, and though they weren't visible to me I knew from seeing my reflection earlier that two wicked horns curled forth from my skull, placed just above my large, triangular ears.

I didn't look so much human as I resembled an unholy mix of werewolf, dragon and ankylosaur.

And of course, the bugs were everywhere again, swirling about me like an aura of little yellow lights. I didn't bother calling them back this time.

The hero's hands blazed.


A.N. Starting with a suitably newbie-ish OC fic. For the most part, this story is all Worm. The only Monster Hunter elements you should expect from his are monster-inspired Case-53s.

I only have a vague idea and no endgame in mind for how I want this to go, so you can basically expect this story to go on as long as I can take it. This is where I'm going to be working off most of the early writer's crap in my system.

Critiques and suggestions for the style and quality of writing would be very much appreciated. More so than feedback on the idea.

P.S. Yes, I have 'upgraded' my language so to speak. It's hard to fit the tone of worm otherwise. I do the same on Spacebattles.