The Venuvian Rock Mantix by Jeshields, see more at http://www.jeshields.com/
We set down upon the landing site on the far side of the asteroid without incident. Jonsey geared up and headed out to work on the Limbux Altitudinator. The panel on the lower rear quarter panel affords the only access to this critical navigational tool for the Spahn. My thoughts reflected on Jonsey's continual discussion of the Spahn's age and inevitable impending failure. I shook off his negative thoughts. With Jonsey and I working her, I was confident the Spahn would keep flying for years. Possible outlive my Space Patrol! days.
"How's it looking?" I wanted to get an estimate on our length of stay on the asteroid prior to heading to 'Landro's station. Causing a ruckus at the station, with guards in tow and returning to find the Spahn still landlocked was not an ideal situation.
"Three hours tops and I will her running again."
"Excellent work, Jonsey." That would give me enough time to slip into the station, get the information we needed out of 'Landro and get back out. All without being seen." I heard a noise behind us and turned to study the barren rocky landscape that surrounded the ship. On all sides of the expanse of flat land we used as a landing site tall rocky crags reached for the empty black sky. The brown and red rocks reminded me of photoscans of deserts. I looked for the source of the sound.
"Jonsey, you hear something," I asked through our helmet comms.
"No boss, just me tinkering away with the Altitudinator is all." He was crouched over the access panel and halfway inside the ship, working the innards.
That's when I saw it. It rose up over one of the skyward-reaching crags. A giant slug-like thing slithered over the edge of a rocky outcropping, its maw open and searching. I admit I was startled. The thing was huge.
I struggled to speak, "Jonsey..." My hand stretched to tap him on the shoulder but missed, waving mindlessly in the air.
"Yeah boss?" He did not look up, focused as he was on the repair he had no idea. The end of the thing turned our way.
I pushed Jonsey aside as the gargantuan maw of the Venuvian Rock Mantix slammed down. "Get back into the Spahn!" Jonsey's eyes were filled with horror at the idea of ending up as the Mantix's lunch but he managed to find his feet.
As he ran I turned back to the Mantix, keeping agile on my feet while I studied the creature. It vaguely resembled a caterpillar. I noted its fifty foot long bulbous body, twelve foot wide and fang rimmed maw, eight foot long glaive-tail... Ok, maybe it did not resemble a caterpillar*, but that is what sprung to mind when first laying eyes upon it. Perhaps a carnivorous, spaceship-eating, behemoth of a caterpillar.
The Mantix reared up, the end hovering thirty feet above me. I darted behind nearby rocks and drew my lazpistol. The rock shook violently and I was tossed to the ground, though I kept my pistol in my hand. Looking back I saw the tail-blade and struck the rock from above, a massive crack extended from the point of impact and three feet down the side. The blade would slice me in half if the creature managed a strike!
I sprung to my feet and darted into a small field populated by small clustered piles of rock. These piles were half as tall as I - they would not stop the creature or protect me but they might slow it enough for me to get a better look. I sprinted another 50 meters past the rock field and turned.
The creature was crawling over and around the rock piles, the multiple prolegs moving in a smooth rhythmic pattern that made my skin crawl. I briefly contemplated shooting the prolegs and immobilizing the creature. They looked sturdy and there were simply too many, I nixed the thought and studied the creature as it moved ever closer.
Along the dorsal sides of the creature were a series of round openings ranging in size from a few inches to well over two feet in diameter. I watched these with earnest as the creature crept and crawled ever closer to my position. With a slow and predictable rhythmic pattern, these opening squeezed closed and then opened again. Breathing holes!
The creature was just ten meters away. I notched up the setting on the pistol from level three, where I normally keep the setting to six. I leaned onto a waist high rock and steadied myself, using the rock to stabilize my pistol. Taking careful aim, I pointed the pistol at one of the most forward mounted holes and squeezed off a shot. It struck perfectly. Striking well inside the hole and hopefully on softer tissue that what I suspected was tough, outer skin.
The effect was immediate and appeared to be painful. The creature reared up and emitted a loud and thunderous roar pointed directly at my position. Inside the huge maw I spotted a bulbous protrusion of flesh that hung from the roof of the maw. It appeared very fleshy and unprotected but quickly disappeared as the creature closed its mouth and charged directly for me!
I turned and ran, dodging the protrusions of rock piles. I hoped these would have the same effect of slowing the creature. I sprinted until I came to a small rise and a quick glance back confirmed my hopes. The Mantix was lumbering along, slowed by the rock piles as it crawled up the slope.
I took aim for the same small hole and fired the blaster, missing the mark this time. I took a deep breath and steadied my aim on a pile.
The second blast struck home. The creature reared up again, repeating the process, and exposing the inside of its mouth with a silent roar.
I let out a long exhale and carefully took aim at the fleshy bulbs that danged from the roof of the creature's mouth. My shot landed perfect and the creature began violently thrashing about, knocking rocks this way and that, crashing to the ground and blindly trying to destroy whatever had caused it pain. I took cover behind a large outcropping of rocks, ducking as dust and blade-like shards of rock were tossed in every direction.
When I looked up I could see the creature hastily ambling away, appearing to list to one side. I had hurt it and it wanted nothing to do with us. I turned in the opposite direction and headed back towards the Stahn.
* "Though technically not related to the Terran Lepidoptera order of insectoids it has been postulated that the Venuvian Rock Mantix is the early incarnation of the well documented Blue Spotted Tunnel Gastropoditudinal (Latin: Acochlidium Amboinense), more commonly known as the Space Slug. Intensive study of the physical traits have determined a relative proximity in the characteristics of the two species. Dr Filidor A. Huptusae has noted a commonality reference in the cylindrical body with scat head formation associated with well-developed mandibles and nine matching pairs of prolegs. Dr Huptusae has been quoted as saying "The similarities are similar enough to postulate a referential commonality of related parental DNA, nothing more. - ref. Space Patrol Field Guide FG-02-17.06, "Common Pests of Asteroidal Bodies"