by Simon sNowlock

     Metal locks, electric door jams, everything that could stop Xander - didn't. Xander had spent more than half his life collecting anything needed to pick and destroy each one, and although these models were very tough, he managed to get past every single one. He had spent so much time inside the house that he was sure it was dark outside.
     What the thief thought strange was that the entire house was covered with spider webs. It was like no one actually lived inside, and coupled with the fact that only a small amount of spiders still remained in existence, it meant that whoever did own the house, hadn't used it in years.
     But, no matter. Xander had reached the basement. The entire house was controlled from here. Lights, electronics, even cameras - although they had no use as it seemed no one was watching the monitors - were spread everywhere when Xander entered the basement. Only a few dim lights lit the large room, but enough light filled the inside to see the enormous stacks of computers and security gear. It was like a maze of electronics and generators, the middle crisscrossed with computers and almost every part of the walls lined with them. It was painfully obvious no one had expected anyone to gain entrance to such a protected area.
     He lifted his gloved hand and touched the metal electronics that lined the walls. Cobwebs drifted off with his touch, sticking to his hand and leaving an open hole where one piece had split from another.
     Then he stopped. A rectangular, electronic remote with two slits on one side and three pegs on the other was clicked into the wall. Switches and panels reflected light from the remote, and its silver exterior had an odd gleam. He reached for the psi-generator attached into the wall and pulled it out. Here it was, the reason for his entire mission. Here was a hundred grand in his hand. He quickly took a sling pack off his belt and unzipped it.
     There was an audible click followed by a hoarse whisper. His arm shot down and pushed the generator into the pack while he whipped his head over to find where the sound had come from.
     "Don't move." A harsh grate from the lips of a carcass pierced the air. The beady eyes of the man that faced him scared the life out of him; like burning coals left on a fire. Perched in his long, stick like fingers was a Magnum-Shotgun. The thick three barrels of the deadly power rifle didn't waver as they faced directly at the thief. He stood on a short staircase, leading to an unknown area of the immense house. Xander's movement was a blur of motion as he tucked himself into a ball and rolled away. Gunfire from the stairs told him that the man had fired, but the burst of explosion that hit the wall and sent Xander flying confirmed it.
     He scraped the floor of the basement still sliding from the explosion. 
     "Stop!" The man shouted, throwing himself down the staircase and sending another tri-versi power bullet pack into the floor behind Xander.
     Again Xander was rocked to his heels, this time feeling a pierce inside his suit and past the skin of his back. He grunted and started to run as another pack was fired into the wall in front of him.
     The heat of the explosion from this shot threw him backwards, scalding his face and the exposed fingers of his finger-cutoff gloves. He bared his teeth and threw himself closer to the maze of computers in the room. The man with the Magnum-Shotgun let out another burst, this one pushing the large computer cabinet behind Xander to topple over, forcing him to get to his feet and run. Unfortunately, the computers in front of him were only close to three-quarters of his height.
     A fury of tri-versi bullets layered his path in front and behind him.
From the corner of the thief's eye, he could see the man running across the walls, putting himself in position where he faced Xander's back as the boy ran. The computers running in the row on both sides of him acted like a barrier, smoking from the fire of the shotgun blasts and burning with the other computers around.
     Soon the man was directly behind Xander putting the gun to his eye for a clear shot. The thief took one last glance over his shoulder as he was running directly into the small area of one of the walls that didn't have a computer or generator facing it.
     A gunshot echoed right behind him, and, as he felt the bullets almost touch him, Xander pulled his body and threw himself over the counter of the computer on his left side. The rounds of the tri-versi power pack demolished the walls, sending it to crack and spill outwards into the chill night.
     Moonlight suddenly spilled throughout the room. It flooded the small basement like rushing water suddenly spilled inside; consuming electronics and the two people.
     The man with the gun doubled over and dropped to the ground clutching his guts and screaming in pain as he rolled over. Xander peeked over the computer and watched the man toss and roll, squirming across the floor as he screamed over and over again.
     "A Rad-Freak!" Xander gasped, recalling the term from a barroom brawl some months past. Radiation of the Xenon bombs had affected every life on the planet Earth, but some more than others. The air had been contaminated, as well as water and other life supporting substances, but light that entered the atmosphere had been abnormally disfigured. People who had changed from the radiation sometimes received chemical burns from sunlight, and especially reflected sunlight from the moon. They developed tumors on sight, cells in their body doubling in the space of seconds. Xander gasped at the man gurgling on the metal floor of the Vlacner basement.
     The dark man suddenly crawled to his knees and let out a howl like a scared animal. His eyes were shut, but the red illumination spilling from the eyelids held no human resemblance. His body seemed to thicken and grow substantially, tearing his clothes as sharp muscles and tendons outlined against his pale skin. Then thick bushels of fur broke across his body, covering him in brown wool like Xander's coat.
     "You.... son of a bitch..." the humanoid growled, its eyes opening and mouth facing Xander. Its face was covered with the fur, lining the red eyes and bending at the sharp breath from the shiny black nose. Long, sharp teeth dripped green saliva as it screamed, "I'll.... kill you!"
     It leapt to its feet and started across the floor. The speed of the former man had almost tripled, its entire body bursting across the room at a speed an Olympic runner would have been proud of.
     Xander could barely blink as his own body responded to natural instincts. He took off, running and tumbling over electronic computers, his arms bumping and bruising themselves against the computers. He screamed when he felt a sharp rip across his skin as the deformed animal sent sharp claws to rake against the skin of Xander's back.
     Then the claws dug into his waist, tearing long gashes on both sides. "I'll kill you!" it repeated, throwing Xander's body across the room. He smashed into the wall of the computers almost eight meters from the hairy beast. His hands groped around the floor involuntarily from fear, to find rags of clothing which he clutched wildly when he heard the rough thumps of the beast running from the other side of the room. "KILL you!" it shouted, closing in and sending a claw straight into the computer where Xander's head had been. The scared boy rolled to the side as the beast jumped back from the electricity jumping through its system after it had put its claw into the computer.
     Quickly, a claw closed over Xander's chest tight enough that he was pinned straight down. He screamed when the claw tightened and cut through the flesh, forcing his hands to scratch across the ground in pain. Little specks of spittle hit his clothes as his hand suddenly caught hold of something that fit so perfectly inside. He raised the large object, smashing it into the beast's chest, and squeezed all his fingers tightly.
     He turned his face away forcibly when the gun in his hands literally exploded into fire and light. The torso of the beast exploded outwards, sending black ichor to spread away from Xander and into the computers, gushing over them and slithering down the front in a formless mass. The beast was thrown backwards, splashing against his own blood and falling to the ground in a clump of fur. Black ichor poured from every orifice of its body, including the one in its chest the size of Xander's head.
     Xander sat up and moaned. The.... thing was lolled over, drooping on the ground with its tongue out. The red light in its eyes had faded to a dull sheen and Xander's heart was starting to slow. He stumbled to his feet, using the support of a nearby computer, and looked all around him.
     The room was a mess of flames and smoke. Computers lay tossed across the ground, smoke billowing from them and escaping through the wall that let moonlight filter through. The fire from the destroyed computers twinkled in omnipotent masses, slowly growing larger as fuel was found in the heaps of now scrap metal.
     Xander looked at the beast lying on the ground, holding the sides of his waist where the thing had cut into him. 
     "One last thing to do," he whispered, opening the belt buckle on his front side. Although he had been on the verge of not completing this task set upon him, the drooling creature had shown him the error of his ways.
     Xander pulled out four timed mini-mines, clicking the passwords into the correct slot. He set the time for thirty seconds and threw all of them into the mass of fire, looking back and heading for the open hole in the wall.
     And stopped. One look back at the beast and he took off at a run of his fastest pace. Or at least, one look back at the place the beast had been in; for the vast outline was there, as well as the moist ichor, but the hairy monster's actual body had disappeared and Xander wasn't about to find out where it had gone.
     Abruptly, something grabbed his arm and tossed him forwards, almost yanking the limb from its socket. He grunted and slid across the ground when he touched down. His body twitched with the momentary pain of exhaustion and his eyes flickered open and closed.
     "Twenty Five seconds remaining....." the detonation timer attached to his waistband bleated, silencing itself a second afterwards. Xander rolled to his feet and ran, not bothering to look back at the disfigured monster behind him.
     Both took off at the fastest run their bodies could handle. The monster, the hole in its chest momentarily greased over by a green mucous, limped as it ran, still faster than Xander and catching up to him quickly. Xander was too close to the hole plunging the room in light, though, and hurled himself into the snow as he ran, pushing ahead only by putting every effort to throw himself forward. With every moment he was getting closer to the shield.
     The beast leapt before it reached the snow, throwing itself eight feet in the air with its legs tucked underneath. A roar of victory rushed from its throat when it slammed into Xander, crushing the boy into the ground. Xander rolled and tried to run, but a claw raked across his arm, forcing the young thief to shout and drop with his back to the ground, staining the white powder with red blood pouring from his body.
     The creature raised its claw into the air, preparing itself for the sharp talons on the end of each finger to penetrate through flesh; preparing for it to rip Xander's heart from his chest.
     "Fifteen seconds remaining....."
     The young thief knew he would hate himself if he survived, but steeled his heart as he raised his hand and shoved it into the gaping hole in the beast's chest. The nails of the fingers scraped at the internal organs it touched, opening them to the air and letting the black ichor inside spill all over Xander. The beast reared back, whining and screeching deafeningly. It gasped for air, the water molecules of its breath condensing and pouring out like smoke. Xander floundered to his feet, wrestling with the psi-generator clutched in his blood soaked hands. The beast let out a final roar and fell upon Xander, yet again throwing the boy to the ground.
     "Eight seconds remaining....."
     The generator popped out of the small thief's hand, spilling onto the snow and sending tiny drops of the white powder onto it. Xander's eyes widened.
     "Five seconds remaining....."
     He struggled out of the weight of the monster, crushing and holding him to the ground. 
     "Get..... off of me!" he yelled bursting loose and grabbing for the psi-generator. He clicked a button and threw the metal box forward past the energy shield as it flickered down.
     "Two seconds remaining....."
     Xander dived forward, almost reaching the outside of the energy shield, but was yanked backwards as something wrapped around his ankle.
     "One second remai---" The detonator squealed with a vengeance as Xander smashed the wretched device into the beast's claw tightly wrapped around his ankle. The claw came off as Xander beat it, turning the fingers into pulpy masses of black ooze.
     Xander reached out and clicked the psi-generator when he hit the snow from his dive. The shield sprang to life not a millisecond earlier than the bright plumes of fire which burst the house in two, sending waves of light and heat whipping into the shield. Flames burst across the top and sides, fanning out when they slammed into the cover of energy.
     A lifeless body was thrown into the barrier, slowly being picked apart by the intensity of the flames. Sharp, tiny pieces floated off from the main carcass until all that was left was the black ooze dripping across the shield and molten snow.
     Xander lay back and thanked his God that he hadn't felt the heat that time. He breathed life back into him, feeling the pain of his cuts and bruises.
     He lay back. 
     "A fuckin' hundred thousand dollars."