The Alliance frigate Normandy appeared from inside a plasma cloud and flew through another star system before jumping to hyperspace. It had been several days since the new Prime, Commander Jack Darby and his crew had started its search for Saren and so far the they had come up empty. They had visited several of the coordinates given to them by the Council and yet they had found nothing. What if Saren had found yet another relic of the Lithone or had discovered the Conduit already. These thoughts and more had gone through the minds of the crew as they performed their duties aboard the ship.
Miko was keeping Wheeljack company as he worked in the ship's science bay. Tali was in Engineering. Kaidan was talking to Hotrod in the cockpit. Wrex was sitting alone the Common room and felt quite bored. He activated his com link.
"Garrus its Wrex, you there you little Pyjak."
Garrus though was in the main battery room, running diagnostics on the ship's weapon systems.
"I can hear you Wrex, what's the problem?" Garrus replied not taking his attention from what he was doing.
"Are you gonna come up here and talk to me. The others are busy with whatever it is that they are doing, the rest of the crew wont speak to me." he said with a rather sad tone.
"I think they are intimidated by me."
Garrus then looked up from the console.
"Intimidated by a Krogan, now what would give you that impression?" Garrus replied with a chuckle.
"Yeah yeah, just get your ass up here and have a drink with me." Wrex replied with a sigh.
"Sorry, I'm still in the middle of some calibrations." the Turian replied with a sympathetic edge to his voice.
"You said that same thing two hours ago." The Krogan said bitterly as he looked down at his glass and sighed yet again as two crewmen walked in, immediately keeping their distance.
Jack was in his new quarters, well they were Anderson's quarters but as he was in command now, had the honour of a more spacious room that had everything his old quarters had and a little more. It had a bathroom and also a fish tank, Jack looked over from his desk to the fish tank that was lit up in an azure blue light.
'No definitely not getting any fish for that.' he thought to himself. The last time he had attempted to look after fish, his mother ended up flushing it down the toilet when he was younger. He turned back round to his desk and reactivated his console. There were still empty boxes lying in the corner of the room next to the far end of the fish tank, left over from his attempts of making it feel more like his own. But he had to keep on looking through the reapers file that the council had sent him before they had left Citadel space.
As he looked through the file, he could see why the Council liked to believe the Reapers were nothing more than a myth. This whole file read like one of those dark fairy tales his mother read him when he was a little kid, like Hansel and Gretel. The old witch in that one had scared him so much that he had to sleep in his mother's bed that particular night. His thoughts drifted to his mother as he recalled the conversation they had a few days ago over the stellar com.
She was extremely proud of him for becoming a Prime and had faith in him to complete this secret mission that she could not know about. She had also told him not to worry about her as her husband, Jack's step father William Fowler had just bought them a new house on the coast of California and they had just moved in a few days ago. Jack had never really liked Fowler when they had first met, but they soon earned each others respect as they took part in the Autobots war.
They had even grown to be friends by the end and Jack had also noticed how Folwer and his Mother had grown close. He was happy that his mother had found someone who actually cared about her compared to the other guys that had come and gone in her life. So when Folwer asked June to marry him, he first asked for Jack's consent and he gave it happily.
As Jack sat in silence he was suddenly brought out from his thoughts by a sound going off which meant that someone was waiting outside his room.
"Come in" he answered as the door opened and Arcee walked in, her electric blue eyes scanning the room before falling on Jack as he sat at his desk. A gentle smile grew on her face.
"Hey Jack, I'm not bothering you I am?" she asked as Jack returned the smile.
"No not at all, actually I could use the company. This file on the Reapers is starting to give me a headache with how little it actually says on them." He replied while gently rubbing his eyes.
Arcee walked beside him and bent down placing one hand on the desk and the other on the back of his chair as she looked at the data on his screen. At this close Jack could smell the natural fragrance of her soft skin and it sent waves over him as he suddenly felt very hot. He took a deep breath before looking back at the screen. If Arcee had noticed this, she didn't show it as she continued to look at the data, but Jack couldn't see a small smile that had graced her lips.
"Maybe you could use a fresh pair of eyes on this?" she said in a gentle tone.
"That's a good idea." he replied as Arcee rose back up and walked over to get a chair. She then noticed the door to her left. Her curiosity got the better of her as the femme walked over to it and opened the door revealing a small bathroom with toilet, a sink and a fully functioning shower.
She turned to Jack with a look of surprise on her face.
"You have a shower?..." she asked making Jack turn to her.
"...My quarters don't have one?"
Jack gave her a playful look as he looked at the femme.
"Well I am the commanding officer, all the privileges and such."
She crossed her arms and tried to look as annoyed as she could though she found it hard to do with the way Jack was looking back at her.
"But you can use my shower if you like?" he said which caught her by surprise.
"Really Jack?" she asked.
"Sure, we are partners after all." he said as he got up and went over to the drawer and picked out a large towel which he then handed to her. Arcee took the towel.
"Thank you Jack" she smiled to him as she then turned and headed to the bathroom.
"It does only have cold water though" The Prime joked which the femme didn't find funny.
"You better be joking because if not, then I will hunt you down…partner" she playfully replied as Jack chuckled.
Arcee then entered the bathroom only to come back out a moment later.
"There is not enough room to change in there" she observed. Jack then pointed behind him to the area on the other side of his bed.
"Then get changed behind me, I promise I wont look" Jack said with a smirk gracing his face. His XO looked back at him with a look of disbelief.
"Yeah sure, because you are not like other males of your species are you." she replied dryly.
"I am a Prime after all and we Primes do not lie remember" he said in kind. Arcee then motioned him to turn back to the screen, Jack faking hurt feelings as he gave her a sad smile and then carried on reading the data on the Reapers.
After a moment, making sure that Jack was true to his word, Arcee then started to undress. As he kept his eyes on the screen, not wanting to upset his partner. Jack found himself actually wanting to take a peek, but kept himself from doing so out of respect for her. When she walked back towards the bathroom she was wearing only the towel that Jack had handed her.
'Damn, Arcee looks great no matter what she is wearing.' he thought as he found himself ever so slightly glancing back.
"I wont be long Jack" she said as she closed the door behind her. Jack then looked back at his screen only for his attention to be caught by the sound of the shower activating. He just sighed and slumped into his chair, numerous thoughts going through his mind.
Arcee removed the towel and hung it up on the wall as she walked under the shower, the warm water spraying over her. It was so soothing on her skin that she let herself completely relax. But it was at that moment that her thoughts dwelled on the man in the next room, her Jack. And she found that thinking of him warmed her spark more than the shower she was in.
After a few minutes, Arcee stepped back out with the towel wrapped around her, and her blue hair all messy from drying it with that same towel. Jack turned away again, this time without her needing to mention it. Which made her smile as Arcee got dressed, she actually thought it was quite cute that Jack had obeyed her.
"So did you enjoy the shower?" Jack ask as Arcee stepped back round to him fully dressed and her hair styled back to the way that she always had it and personally Jack loved the way she looked.
"Yes I will have to use it again" she replied.
"You hungry, I was just thinking of getting a bite to eat if your interested in joining me?" the Femme then asked. Jack smiled at her and turned off his console.
"Sure, feeling a little peckish myself actually, lets go see what chef has on the menu today." he replied as the both headed out of his room.
They had only got to the elevator when suddenly the intercom activated and Hotrod's voice spoke.
"Senior Officers report to the CIC, I repeat….." Jack and Arcee looked at each other for a moment and they could both see the disappointment in each others eyes as they entered the elevator.
Once in the CIC, they both walked up to the cockpit and stood next to their pilot.
"Report Hotrod, what is it?" Jack asked.
Hotrod looked up from his console at both of them.
"Commander we are picking up a strange signal coming from the star system next to one we are in. I only detected it because I recalibrated the sensors to a more sensitive calibration, so that we don't miss a thing when we entered the last system on our list."
Jack smiled at his pilot and placed his hand on his shoulder in support.
"Good work Hotrod, I think this is worth checking out."
Arcee looked at the Commander questioningly.
"Jack why do you think that?"
Jack looked over to her.
"Just seems strange to pick up a signal when we are about to reach the final set of coordinates. We might have missed it if Hotrod hadn't altered the sensors."
Jack then turned back to the Autobot pilot.
"Hotrod set course for the location of that signal and engage the hyper drive."
"Aye Aye Commander" Hotrod replied.
The Normandy entered the system and flew towards a large brown/red planet with a ring of asteroids around it. Both partners were still in the cockpit with Hotrod.
"Sir the signal is coming from a star ship that is inside the planet's asteroid field. I can't get any more details from this far out."
"Then take us in closer Hotrod." Jack said. The pilot nodded and flew the ship towards the outskirts of the field and slowed the ship to a stop.
"Cant afford to get any closer with the random way that those Asteroids are moving in there. But I am getting a more clearer scan. I am also picking up an Alliance IFF code." Hotrod said while bringing up the details of the ship on his screen. The Prime and the femme looked over the details.
"Alliance cruiser Conestoga, what is it doing all the way out here in the Terminus systems..." Jack asked.
"...How is the ship looking?"
"Sensor readings show that it has taken a bit of a beating from the asteroids but it still has about 57% hull integrity and breathable atmosphere aboard." Hotrod reported.
"What about life signs?" the Commander asked.
Hotrod shook his head in frustration. "Funny thing is whatever that signal the ship is emitting, it is blocking our sensors from detecting any life signs. But the same signal doesn't effect our sensors when it comes to anything else."
Jack mulled over what their next move would be and then activated the intercom.
"This is the Commander, Garrus, Wheeljack and Tali, I want you to meet Arcee and myself in the shuttle bay in full combat gear. And Colonel Kage, I want you and a team of marines down there ready too." Jack said before gesturing to Arcee to follow him.
"Hotrod, the ship is yours until we return" he added, earning a nod from the pilot.
"Aye Aye Commander." Hotrod replied as the partners left the CIC.
Down in the Shuttle bay, Garrus, Wheeljack and Tali were waiting next to shuttle one in full armour. Wheeljack's was his usual Black and white design, while Garrus was wearing a blue and silver armour. Tali was still wearing her enviro-suit while adjusting the shotgun in her hands. Next to shuttle two was a group of marines in standard alliance battle gear. Among them was a Caucasian man in his mid forties who looked like he had seen many battles in his life.
"I cant believe that I have to take orders from that boy." he said in a gruff voice tinged with frustration.
One of the marines turned round to him, surprise on his face.
"But he is the first Human Prime sir, as well as a Commander. Surely that is enough to warrant respect Colonel?" the private asked hoping not to offend him.
He looked at the private and gritted his teeth.
"Son I have spent twenty five years in the military, I have fought in some of the most dangerous conflicts on our planet. But this boy, this Jack Darby has risen through the ranks with ease, probably due to his friendship with the Autobots. I don't trust anyone who has had an easy ride, especially in our field of expertise."
One of the Marines then pointed out to the Colonel that Jack had just entered the Shuttle bay. Kage looked around to see the commander in his Prime armour and walking next to him was the Autobot femme Arcee, who was wearing a blue and black armour with pink highlights on her arms and legs. Jack stood between the two groups with his XO to his left side.
"Okay everyone, the mission is simple, we are going over in two shuttles. Arcee, myself, Garrus, Tali and Wheeljack will be in shuttle one and will board the Conestoga via the bow shuttle bay. Colonel Kage, you and your team will take shuttle two and board via the aft cargo bay. Once onboard, we will search the ship and meet in the CIC at its center. Our objectives are to access the data core and find out what happened on the ship, see if the crew are still alive and assist them if possible. Any questions?"
Everyone remained quiet as Jack looked at each of them, noticing Kage's not so pleasant look, Jack walked up to him.
"Is there a problem Colonel?" The Prime asked his face remaining stoic. The colonel just stared at Jack. If this was Kage's attempt to make the Prime feel small, then he really didn't know Jack at all. "Is there something on my face Colonel?" he asked, his face remaining stoic. The two just stared at each other like statues. Neither man wanted to break first, as the room had gone so quiet that if you listened you could hear crewmen talking on the deck above.Everyone just looked at the two leaders. A slight smile appearing Arcee's face.'
That's my Jack' she thought as Kage finally broke the silence.
He didn't look happy that he had just yielded to Darby, the man he didn't believe deserved to be where he was.
"If there is nothing else…..sir" he replied in a annoyed tone.
"Carry on Colonel" Jack replied as he turned, ignoring the fact that the Kage was staring daggers into his back as he joined his team in shuttle one.
The two shuttles left the Normandy and flew into the asteroid field, dodging the huge chunks of rock that were double, some times triple the size of them.Onboard shuttle one, Jack was sitting down with Arcee to his left and Garrus to his right.
"Jack, I know you may not want to hear this, but I think Kage is going to be more trouble than he is worth." the Turian said looking at Jack with a troubled expression.
"He will do his duty, he wears the uniform." The Prime replied, causing Arcee to give her two cents.
"I don't think it is that simple Jack..." she said while placing a hand on his in support. Jack smiled back in appreciation.
"...he doesn't respect you and I can see that. Just don't turn your back on him." she said as she looked into his eyes. Jack could see the worry in her electric blue eyes.
"Okay Arcee" he then looked over to the Turian.
"Garrus thanks, both of you. I will make sure not to turn my back on him." He then looked across to Wheeljack and Tali who also smiled at him in support.
"Commander we are coming up on the Conestoga." the pilot reported as Jack went over to the cockpit and looked out at the damaged ship that they were heading towards.
"Okay, land us in the in the shuttle bay at the ship's bow." Jack said before rejoining his team.
The two shuttles then split up, shuttle two went round to the aft of the large star ship as jack's shuttle flew round to the bow and into the open shuttle bay and landed.
"Sir I have established a connection to the Conestoga's systems and erected a force field and established a breathable atmosphere in the bay." the pilot said. Jack acknowledged him and opened the hatch, him and his team disembarking, weapons at the ready.
"Colonel team one is aboard, report your status." Jack said over his com link. After a few seconds Kage's voice came through.
"Team two is aboard and has begun searching the ship. No sign of the crew yet."
"Roger that, we are heading towards the CIC now." Jack then closed the com as Tali activated her holo- tool and brought up a map of the ship.
"We should be able to reach the CIC via the these corridors" Tali pointed out to the group as they left the shuttle bay and promptly headed into the rest of the ship. As they walked the corridors the team found that they were almost completely dark apart from one or two lights flicking on and off every now and then.
"Well this is a good sign" Garrus said as they activated their torches and illuminated the area around them as they started down one of the corridors.Following the map that Tali had, they walked through the empty hallways but not come across one single crew member.
"Is anyone else getting a bad feeling from all of this." Wheeljack said as Arcee and their Prime took the lead.
"It certainly doesn't bode well for the crew does it." Arcee replied.
"Tali, are you getting any life readings at all." the femme asked the Quarian who just shook her head.
"No, I have added my scanner to the map, but that signal is still messing with them."
Jack turned to face Tali. "Any idea where that signal is coming from?"
"No, I can't pin it down, its like the whole ship is emitting it." she answered, the confusion in her voice evident. Jack was about to say something else when Arcee froze on the spot, her weapon's torch illuminating a body lying on the ground in front of them
"Jack, I have found something" she said with a unnerved tone. The Commander and Wheeljack walked up to investigate while Garrus watched the rear. The two kneeled down next to the body as the Autobot started scanning the body with his holo-tool. Jack looked down at it. It looked like it had been attacked by a wild animal. The flesh had been torn from the bones and the face was missing, most likely ripped off. If Arcee had been human, she would have thrown up by now. She had seen some sights during the war, but nothing like this. Jack looked at Wheeljack.
"What have you got?"
The bot looked up from his holo -tool.
"Well he's dead Jack" he said in a matter of fact tone. Jack looked at him with deadpan expression.
"No ****, can you tell us anything else?"
"Well that whatever killed him was strong and fast, going over the marks left by the flesh being torn from the body."
Both then got up and stood over the corpse and looked back at the others. Jack saw the worry that had appeared on his team mates faces.
"This doesn't change our mission, we still have to find out what this ship was doing out here and we can only find that out at the CIC." He then activated his com link.
"Colonel Kage, we have found one of the crew dead. Have you found anything on your end."
Nothing came over the com but static.
"Colonel come in" Jack said again but still nothing.
"Now that can't be good." Garrus said as he kept watch.
"Maybe the signal is interrupting our com link." Jack replied before he turned to Tali.
"How far are we from the CIC?" he asked as the Quarian looked at the map.
"We are not far now, just a little bit further."
Jack nodded and looked at the rest of the group.
"Okay, we're moving on, but be on your guard. Whatever killed that man is probably still here. Lets go."
The team then moved further through the ship, keeping a watchful eye on everything they saw as they tried to stay silent, so not to alert whatever could be hiding in the shadows.
When they got to the CIC, they found it the same as the rest of the ship they had gone through, empty. Wheeljack and Tali started working on the ships computers, trying to bring up whatever information they could find. Garrus kept an eye on the door they had just entered by while Arcee guarded the other, looking out into the dark corridor ahead. Jack walked over to the galaxy map that was still functioning and activated the captain's terminal. He saw the last two reports that the ship's commanding officer had recorded and played the second to last entry, keeping the volume just loud enough for the team to hear.
"Captain's star log, 13th March 2028. We have now been in this system for the past three days, while attempting to repair our engines that had been going faulty ever since we found that artefact on the planet Virmire days before. I do not know why that Spectre had ordered us to that system but I am certain that the artefact is to blame. Since we excavated it, several of my crew have complained of headaches and others have reported seeing things that are not there. Even as I record this log, I too have seen parts of the bulkheads seemingly move when in fact they did not. What is happening to us?"
Everyone looked toward Jack.
"So this ship has been here for over a year and yet no one even noticed that it had gone missing?" Wheeljack said as he and Tali continued to work.
"And he mentioned a Spectre and an Artefact, it has to be Saren. I guess he sent this ship out here and then deleted any record of its mission." Arcee replied while looking down the dark corridor.
"And what about condition of the crew, the headaches and hallucinations they were experiencing, could the artefact be responsible. Does that mean we are in danger of falling to its effects." Tali said looking at Jack.
"I don't know Tali, but it sounded like they had been exposed to it for several days, so for the moment we should be alright. Now I will just play the last report." Jack said as he activated the terminal.
"Captain's Star log, the date…. what was it again, It doesn't matter. I was wrong, we were all wrong. They are here to save us all, to make us one with them. Help us ascend. All we need to do is listen to their song. When I close my eyes I can see them in my mind, black shadows infesting my thoughts. I was afraid of them to start with, but not any longer. I will give my life for Sovereign…." the captain said before the sound of something metal piercing his skin filled the room and then he was heard coughing up blood before everything went silent and the recording ended.
The whole room was quiet, as everything they had just heard sank in. Jack then turned off the terminal and walked over to Tali and Wheeljack.
"Oh keelah" Tali said as the Commander put a hand on her shoulder to reassure her.
"Have you found anything?" he asked and Wheeljack nodded.
"Yes, Saren was the Spectre in charge, he used his position to have this ship go out to the planet Virmire without giving them any additional information. Also the artifact they found wasn't Lithonian, but of unknown origin and is currently in the Science lab. I can't get anything else of any use since the rest of the database is heavily fragmented."
"Is it possible that the artifact is of Reaper origin?" Arcee asked while looking back at them.
"It is possible, and I think it is worth a look." Jack replied as he placed his hand to his ear and activated his com link.
"Commander Darby to Colonel Kage, please come in" he said, but still nothing. Jack was about to turn if off when sound of gunfire came over the com. He then heard voices shouting, including Kage's.
"Kage come, in what's your status?" Jack asked again.
"Kage here, we are under attack by multiple enemies and have been forced to take cover in a storage room on deck 12. We have lost two of our team and could use some assistance."
Jack motioned the others in the direction of Kage's team.
"We are on our way, hang on Kage" Jack said before turning off the com and looking at his team.
"Okay, we now have a better idea of what happened here, but team two needs our help. So our new objectives are to help Kage and his team, then find this Artefact and find a way to shut down its signal so that we can communicate with shuttles, ok?"
Everyone nodded even though Jack could see that they were shaken a little by what they had just found and heard in the last few minutes. "Alright then, lets move out" he said as they left the CIC and headed in the direction that Kage's team were in.
They hadn't gotten far when a high pitch scream echoed down the corridor in front of them. They raised their weapons and illuminated the area in front of them with their torches.
"What the hell was that" Arcee asked as Jack took a step in front of her.
"I guess we are about to find out what has killed this crew and who are currently attacking our other team. "Garrus said as another scream echoed behind him making him turn in its direction.
"Okay we are surrounded then, everyone take defensive positions." Jack ordered as he and Arcee kept a vigilant view on the corridor ahead of them, it was blanketed in darkness between flickers of the lights on the ceiling. Garrus, Wheeljack and Tali watched the area behind them. For a long moment all they heard was inhuman screaming getting closer from both directions. Then suddenly a horde of creatures ran out of the shadows towards the group. They appeared to be human but their eyes were devoid of life, glowing a hollow blue light as they screamed at the team.
"Fire at will" Jack shouted as they opened fire, taking down several of the creautres that were running at them, but more still came. Bullets riddling through the creaures, spilling blood all over the walls, but still they kept coming.
"They gonna be on top of us in moments Prime" Wheeljack shouted back as he and Garrus took down several more while Tali blew two others away with her shotgun.
"Take that you bosh'tet" she cried out while Jack and Arcee remained quiet and just focused on head shots, putting down a number of the enemies.
"Go for head shots and conserve ammo" Jack commanded as he took down three more that had nearly got within arms reach of them.
"Start moving forward and keep this formation" he said as the group started moving while keeping the creatures at bay with their weapons fire.
"These things just don't know when to quit." Wheeljack commented as one enemy got too close, causing him to equip his sword and slice it in half, blood splattering on the wall next to him.
"Well at least they not very smart" Garrus observed as he and Tali switched positions so that she could cover him while he reloaded his weapon.
"Yeah but if we let our guard down even for a second they will overwhelm us" Arcee replied as she blew open the head of one, causing its insides to hit the face of another creautre that screamed at her. Arcee then pointed her weapon at that one and fired taking its right eye out the back of its head as it then fell limp on the floor. Others running over the body as they continued to attack.
Jack then got a signal from Kage and answered it as he killed a few more creatures.
"Kage, what is your situation?" he asked as he heard gunfire and inhuman screams over the com link.
"We are holding our own right now, but they just keep coming. How close are you?" he shouted over the weapon's fire.
"We are near, but have come under attack too" Jack replied as he reloaded his gun and Arcee covered him.
"We will join you in a few minutes" he said as he lifted the gun up and blew the legs from under one creature before putting a bullet between its eyes.
"Roger that" Kage replied before deactivating the com link.
They slowly made their way through the hallways while under continuous attack from the monsters. But things were starting to get desperate as they soon realised that if these things continued to attack like this they would run out of ammo before they could reach Kage and his team.
"So any ideas" Garrus asked as he took down two more with one bullet passing through both their heads.
"Nice shot" Tali said gaining a smile from the Turian. Jack took a quick scan of the corridor ahead while continuing to fire on the hordes approaching them. He then saw what looked like a gas cylinder which was on a the wall right down the bottom where the creatures were running from.
"Do you see a gas cylinder down your end of the corridor." Jack asked.
"Yeah" Garrus mentioned after spotting it.
"Shoot it" the Prime replied. Garrus looked back after killing two that had gotten close.
"That's your plan?"
"Yeah" Jack said with a grin growing on his face.
"Okay then, fire in the hole" he shouted as both of them shot their respective cylinders which exploded into a fireball at either end of the corridor, enveloping the horde close by and taking out the ones closing on the group. The team dived onto the floor as the fire passed over them before disappearing.
After the ringing in their ears had died down. They all got up to find charred remains lying around them and no more creatures attacking. Wheeljack looked at the bodies and smiled
"Why didn't I think of that?" he said happily. Garrus turned to him.
"Well if you had you may have brought some grenades with you." he responded with sarcasm in his voice.
"Well I didn't know we would be fighting zombies on this mission." Wheeljack answered back.
Tali looked over at one of the bodies.
"It's not a…what did you call it. A zombie?" she remarked as she took scans with her holo-tool.
"They were human though but it seems that they have been heavily modified by tech. And that tech has the same energy signature as the signal covering this ship." she added as the others stood around her as Arcee and Jack looked at each other.
"Are you okay?" Jack asked not trying to hide the concern in his voice.
"I'm fine, just running low on ammo" Arcee replied while giving Jack a gentle smile. Jack then turned back to Tali and the others.
"Well we can figure out what these things are once we are together with Kage's team, lets keep moving."
They were about to head on when suddenly the vent covering behind Arcee smashed open and a creature grabbed her and pulled her into the vent.
"JACK, HELP!" she screamed as it hauled her off. Jack suddenly felt any self control he had disappear as his mind was overcome by the need to help his partner, his girl.
"ARCEE!" he yelled back as he jumped into the vent, falling down into the darkness below. While leaving his three friends alone with the sounds of more creatures screaming as they approached them once again.