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Reaper is a 2017 short story written by Dan Abnett, published by Titan Books as part of the anthology novel Aliens: Bug Hunt. It follows a contingent of Colonial Marines sent to investigate a giant harvesting machine on the planet LV-KR 115 that has fallen mysteriously silent.

Plot

Colonial Marines from the USS Montoro are sent to the agricultural planet LV-KR 115 to investigate the loss of contact with one of the two colossal harvesting machines operating there. While the unit's leader, Captain Broome, heads to the second harvester, Lieutenant Teller leads a second group to the primary target, aware the operation is a test of his potential leadership abilities. The dropship encounters a severe storm on the way in, rendering pilot Canetti blind and forcing him to fly via instruments alone. Despite the hazardous conditions, Canetti manages to set the dropship down on the now stationary harvester's landing pad.

Teller leads his squad inside, saving a Private called O'Dowd who is almost blown over the side of the landing pad in the storm, and the Marines find the harvester totally powered down and seemingly deserted. As they move further into the huge machine they also make other strange discoveries — the exteriors doors have been welded shut from the inside, environment suits are missing yet the glass helmets have been left behind, wiring has been stripped out and metal components from everyday items, such as a belt buckle and eye rings from a pair of work boots, are found lying on the floor.

The squad reaches the machine's bridge and discover the exterior windows have been scoured to the point of becoming totally opaque. One of the Marines manages to power up the computer and access a tracking record for the harvester; the information they find corroborates their mission briefing — prior to stopping altogether three weeks previously, the harvester had been moving off course for nine weeks. Investigating further, the log reveals that the machine hit something in the ground prior to going off-course, causing minor damage to the harvesting machinery but nothing to explain its subsequent movements or current condition.

Only when the squad finds an image in the log of the object the harvester hit does one of the Marines, Rogers, realize what has happened — the object was a nest, and when the harvester struck it it sliced off the top of the structure, opening it to the atmosphere and unleashing the creatures within. The voracious locust-like organisms subsequently found a planet newly terraformed by Weyland-Yutani and now entirely covered in abundant crop life, leading to a population explosion. The monstrous swarm of creatures has subsequently scoured the area clean, stripping and devouring anything and everything organic, including the harvester's crew and their clothes — minus metal parts such as belt buckles. As if to drive home the horror of the creatures' feeding frenzy, the Marines find four of the harvester's crew dead inside storage lockers on the bridge, having sealed themselves inside and starved to death rather than emerge and become food for the aliens.

Teller immediately calls an abort to the mission, but it is too late. As the squad attempts to leave, the swarm arrives, devouring Canetti in an instant and pouring into the harvester through the doors the Marines opened. As Teller and his squad scatter in panic, one marine named Bose makes a futile stand, firing into the onrushing swarm until it envelops and shreds him.

Trivia