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A short story by

Danny McAleese

Charn stepped up to the viewing window. "That's it; call it in! Call in the nuke right now, and we'll get all of them at once!"

Eerily, like an automaton, the ghost spoke just two words.

"Already done."

Charn's eyes closed. Relief flooded over him in a euphoric wave. Finally the strike. Finally they could all go home. He breathed deep, wiping sweat and hair from his face. Off in the distance, he imagined he could hear the engines of the incoming dropship.

Everything was fine now. Everything but the red dot on the floor.

The ghost reached up and removed his headset, revealing eyes that were white, glazed, lifeless. He shifted forward with a mechanical jerk, and that was when Charn saw green tentacles reaching out from the man's spine, gripping his neck and head… tentacles belonging to the neural parasite that was now controlling the ghost's every action.

"Already done," the ghost repeated, only his lips did not move. Instead, the muscles around his mouth began to curve into a smile. It was the sick, unnatural smile of something that never knew what a smile should be.

The ghost stepped backward into the shadows. The last thing Charn saw was the telltale shimmer of a cloaking device being engaged.

His mouth dropped open, all the blood draining instantly from his body.

The red dot on the floor blinked on, as the roar of the engines got louder and louder.

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