10 | LEMMINGS
DECK 13, MENDEL STATION | 0536 HOURS ZULU
Gordon pulled up the deck plans onto his HUD quickly as his marines went into action setting up a defensive stance in the conference room. Deck thirteen contained a single hallway and twenty rooms of various sizes along the length. One end of the hallway ended at a window overlooking the system while the other end of the hallway ended at a large laboratory. Whatever was coming down the stairs effectively cut them off from escaping.
“Flip that table!” Karzarian yelled, pointing at Daniels and Yamoto and then the conference table. The two marines immediate moved to the edges of the table and strained to turn over the heavy table.
“Wells, plant at the edge!” Karzarian said next, pointing to the edge of where the table was now flipped over. The Razor was designed as a mobile heavy machine gun to provide suppression fire against infantry as well as anti-armor capabilities. A later modification to the weapon allowed the operator to set up a set up an anti-grav pad and turn the Razor into a fully automatic death machine.
“McAdams! Yamoto! Charges here and here!” Gordon stepped in and pointed to the left and right doorframe. “Barrington! Rustovich! Secure the doctor behind the table!”
Tracy and Rikichi pulled tungsten ball bearing anti-personnel mines from their packs and slapped them to the doorframe. The shaped charges were designed to explode in a specific direction that would take down enemy troops entering an area without harming the marines nearby.
An animalistic scream echoed down the hallway that brought a shiver down the collective spines of the squad and brought them to a temporary halt. A second scream followed and then a third. Each scream was progressively closer and louder.
“What the fuck was that?” Daniels said as he looked to the hallway.
“Defensive positions! Toggle your HUD to infrared!” Gordon yelled and moved over to crouch behind the overturned table at the center. Karzarian moved to the right side while Wells planted his Razor at the left edge. The remaining marines filed in behind the table and took aim at the doorway with their R-92 carbines.
“Short and controlled bursts marines.” Gordon reminded the squad and then let his body relax amidst the cacophony of animal roars and the sounds of talons clicking on the floor.
Through his infrared display through his visor, the room took on a green hue from the enhanced ambient light. He waited with his index finger relaxed just to the side of the trigger and ready to fire at the first sign of trouble. He then gave an exhale of breath and let go of all the pent up emotions, doubts, and worries. It was part of his training, part of every marine’s training to becoming an efficient killing machine. Emotions invited hesitation and hesitation invited death to a marine in combat.
There was also no hesitation to the creatures that crashed through the doorway. They were pseudo-humans like the first two with skin-like scales, reptilian eyes and dressed in clothing of doctors and laboratory technicians. Their mouths hung up like ravenous animals showing a row of sharpened yellow stained teeth. Three of the creatures tried to pile through the doorway all at once, scratching and clawing at one another to try to be the first to rend flesh from bone.
“Fire in the hole!” McAdams yelled out and pressed the ignition on the fire control of the charges.
The marines all ducked behind the table as the shape charges along the edge of the doorframe exploded violently. Tungsten ball bearings shot out into the doorway and hallway and shredded every piece of clothing, flesh, and bone in its path. Though they had enhanced resilience against damage that blunted the ball bearings, the concussive fire damage that quickly followed sent them flying back into the hallway as burning hunks of flesh. Even with the explosion, still more half burned creatures crashed through the doorway screaming.
“Open fire!” Gordon called out as he rose back up from the table and leveled his aim at the nearest creature and fired off two rounds center mass of the pseudo-human. The impact of the bullets staggered the creature, but did not drop it to the ground. It looked down at the bullet holes in its chest and the blood that running freely. Gordon narrowed his eyes and squeezed off another round into the creatures head. Blood and brain matter splattered against the creature behind it before it slumped onto the ground.
The other marines opened fire, choosing their targets as they came through the doorway. They followed their training and kept their shots controlled and precise, hitting center mass to where the heart should be. Like the one their sergeant first shot, they found that chest shots were not killing the creatures in their tracks. Though a smaller target, the marines immediately switched to head shots, which they hit with striking precision.
The entire hail of bullets only lasts a few seconds as the creatures ran into a hail of bullets when they entered the room. After the tenth creature was shot and fell to the ground, the room and hallway grew eerily silent. A firefight was never as long as it felt with being in the heat of the moment. It was as if time slowed down to a crawl and then suddenly resumed to normal speed when the last opponent fell to the ground.
“Cease fire.” Gordon called out even though his marines were all already holding their fire. It was habit for him and no one ever gave him lip about it. It was good to be the ranking NCO sometimes.
“Well that was rather…anticlimactic.” Daniels said as he held still and kept his R-92 trained on the door.
“I would have thought they would have put up a tougher fight.” Wells added. He adjusted his grip on the Razor and deactivated the anti-grav unit so he could once again carry the weapon.
“Teams one and two secure the deck. Team three secure the bodies.” Gordon ordered and then stood up from behind the table. None of the creatures made it any further than ten feet from the conference table; most of them were confined to the doorway and the hallway. The smell of burnt flesh and fresh blood was on the air and Gordon was pretty sure that the room would be half filled with smoke if it weren’t for the fact that it was mostly dark in the room.
Daniels, Wells, McAdams, and Yamoto made their way past the fallen pseudo-humans cautiously, keeping their carbines trained on the bodies. The four carefully entered the hallway and broke off by teams of two to the left and right. Once both teams were past the stench of charred flesh, they all noted the distinct smell of sulfur in the air that came from the stairwell. Daniels and Wells turned left and slowly made their way down the hallway towards the stairwell.
“Did that seem to…easy to you or was it just me?” Wells asked Daniels quietly as they made their way back into the hallway and began to check the rooms on their end.
“Fuckers just ran right into the line of fire. It was like they didn’t even know what was happening.” Daniels replied.
“Like lemmings.” Wells said.
“Like what?” Daniels asked.
“Lemmings. You know, little animals that walk off cliffs.”
“Why would an animal walk off a cliff?”
Wells shrugged, “Cause the first one did.”
“What kind of fucking nonsense is that?”
“I never said they were smart.”
Daniels shook his head, “Fucking stupid.”
“My point is that they just ran into our bullets. Didn’t even try to dodge out of the way.” Wells said.
“So they’re dumb. Good, dumbasses can just keep running into my bullets. It’ll make this op nice and easy that way.” Daniels remarked as they reached the stairwell.
Wells and Daniels hunkered up to the wall right at the doorway’s edge and readied themselves for more creatures to great them on the other side. Yet, they heard no noises or the sounds of breathing through the open door to the stairwell.
Daniels waited for Wells to squeeze his shoulder with his hand. Once he felt the squeeze, he swept into the stairwell boldly. He checked the center of the room first and then immediately stepped to the right and checked the stairs heading upwards. Wells followed into the stairwell immediately behind him and stepped left to check the stairs heading down.
“Clear.” Wells said.
“Clear.” Daniels said and then frowned. “Well that’s a fucking problem.” he added.
“What?” Wells asked and moved over to look at the stairs headed up. Halfway up the stairs were now covered in debris from somewhere up on deck eleven. The pile of twisted metal beams and plastisteel siding made a convincing enough wall that the marines would not be making their way up quickly.
“That way up is blocked.” Daniels said the obvious.
“No shit.” Wells retorted.
“Sarge ain’t going to like this.” Daniels said.
“Hell, none of them are going to like this. How the hell are we supposed to get back up?”
“Well, at least no more of those fucking things will be coming down.” Daniels said.
Wells looked at the debris at then cocked his head to the side, “How did they get down in the first place? All of that must have come down with that explosion from earlier.”
Daniels and Wells looked at each other as they put the pieces together. The creatures hadn’t come from the lab on the deck above them. They would have had to come from below.
“Just fucking great.” Daniels sighed.
“Doc? Are you all right?” Gordon asked Walter Carr as he stayed huddled behind the overturned table.
The doctor looked up and numbly nodded his head. “I…I think so.”
“Just hang tight right there while we secure the area.” Gordon said and motioned to Karzarian to stick close to the doctor while he moved over to the side of the room and clicked his mic over to the platoon channel.
“Captain Herrera come in.” Gordon said.
“Sergeant sit rep.” Herrera barked over the channel as his voice was nearly drowned out by the sounds of gunfire.
“Encountered ten hostiles. All are down, no friendly casualties. Deck thirteen is secure. Over.” Gordon said.
“CNC is under attack from unknown hostiles.” Herrera said, the sounds of gunfire still prominent, “Gregors is down. Hostiles have some form of body armor.”
“Head shots take them down Cap.” Gordon offered.
“Roger that. Double time on those scientists Gordon. We are bugging out as soon as you round them up.” Herrera said.
“Copy.” Gordon said and clicked his mic over to the squad’s channel. “Double time marines, we need to get moving.”
arrington and Rustovich extended their vibroblade bayonets that were unslung on the barrel of their carbine as they began a more complete check of the bodies back in the conference room. All of the bodies were a bloody mess from the numerous bullet wounds they took.
Barrington made her way through the bodies just inside the room while Rustovich began checking the bodies in the hallway.
“Hey Dominic, these bodies are wearing lab coats and scrubs.” Amanda called out from the room.
“So are these.” Dominic replied and knelt down next to one body that was missing half of its face from a hail of bullets from Well’s Razor. The skin and eye that remained on the face were similar to the pseudo-humans that they had encountered in the room originally.
“I’ve got one with a name tag…a doctor Conner McDonnel.” Amanda said and looked over to the table were Walter Carr and Karzarian were standing, “Do you know him doctor?”
Walter blinked in surprise, “Conner? Yeah, he’s a geneticist specializing in quantum genetics. What’s he doing here?”
“I don’t know doc, but he’s mutated just like all of the others.” Amanda Barrington said and stood up from the body, “There are several other lab techs in the group as well.”
“Impossible,” Walter said and quickly moved around the table to get a closer look at the body, “He wasn’t directly involved with any of the test subjects.”
“His mutated body says otherwise.” Barrington said and moved on to check the other bodies.
Walter walked over, knelt down next to the body, and inspected the remains. He saw the familiar jaw line and cheekbone of his colleague and dread set over him. “I…I don’t understand how this could have happened.” he stammered.
“Doc, we need to get moving.” Gordon said as he stepped over and put a hand on his shoulder.
“No, you don’t understand, this shouldn’t be possible. It isn’t possible for Conner to turn into one of those things!” Walter growled in frustration.
“What do you mean? Are you saying that he never tested on?” Gordon asked.
“That’s exactly what I’m saying! He should be human, not some genetic hybrid.” Walter said.
“Then how did turn into one of them?” Gordon asked.
“I…I don’t know.” Walter said, his shoulders slumped.
“Ahhhh!” Rustovich screamed from the hallway that drew the attention of everyone. They then saw him lower his carbine and squeeze off several rounds into a body that was clutching onto his leg. Blood splattered over him and the wall as the body went lifeless.
“Rustovich report!” Gordon called out as he ran to the hallway.
“Fucker grabbed my leg and bit me.” Rustovich said.
“Barrington!” Gordon called out and took a closer look at Dominic’s leg. There was a little blood as the bit had broken skin through his fatigues.
“Let me take a look at that.” she said as she knelt down and shouldered her carbine before taking out a med kit from her leg pocket. “Sarge, get your light on this so I can see.”
Gordon flipped on the light scope of his R-92 so Amanda could dress the bite wound in his calf. “It broke skin, but doesn’t look like any permanent damage.” she said and stuck a self knitting bandage over the wound. The bandage contained medical nanobots that would stitch the wound closed at the cellular level in a few hours and wouldn’t even leave a scar. She then pulled out a medical injector, loaded it with a broad spectrum anti-pathogen cocktail, and injected it into his leg. “This should fight off any infection from the bite.”
“Thanks.” Rustovich said with a wince.
“Fireteams, sit rep.” Gordon said into his mic as he stood up and checked up and down the hallway to get a visual on his men.
“All clear on this end.” McAdams reported in.
“This end is secure Sarge, but we got a problem. The main stairwell has collapsed.” Daniels said on the channel.
Gordon raised an eyebrow, “How bad is it?”
“Everything up is blocked off by several tons of metal and debris. It would take hours to clear.” Daniels said.
“Roger that. Hold your position.” Gordon said and then looked to Karzarian who was leading Walter Carr out from the room to join the others in the stairwell.
“We’re cut off?” Rustovich asked as he gingerly tried to put weight on his wounded leg.
“Mike, I need you to go through the deck plans to try and find us another way off this deck.” Gordon said.
“On it.” Karzarian said and pulled up a more detailed deck plan of the station on his HUD.
“How the hell are we going to get out of here?” Rustovich said a little more loudly.
“What do you mean?” Walter asked confused.
“We’re cut of man. The stairwell caved in. We can’t get back to the CNC.” Rustovich snapped and nervously looked up and down the hallway.
“Stow it marine.” Gordon snapped.
The verbal slap snapped Rustovich’s head towards Gordon. He nodded quickly, “Yes Sarge.”
“There’s a service stairwell on the other side of the deck.” Walter offered.
Gordon looked to the doctor and then shot a look over to Karzarian, “Mike?”
“Pulling it up now. Yes. Section 40 Bravo. There is a service panel that connects to a narrow stairwell.” Karzarian reported as he zoomed into the stairwell schematics, “There are some pretty tight spaces and corners, but it will get us moving.”
“All right.” Gordon said and then clicked on his mic again, “Marines, regroup at Section 40 Bravo. We need to get moving it we are going to save those scientists.”
The squad of marines hustled their way down the hallway to the service stairwell. McAdams and Yamoto were already there securing the stairs and found the stairs empty.
“Daniel and Wells, you know the drill.” Gordon said.
The two marines moved into the lead and began to move down the stairwell when the emergency lights flickered on, emitting red light across the deck.
“Oh hey, the lights came back on.” Barrington said.
“At least something went right.” said Yamoto as he switched off his infrared.
“Thank god for small miracles.” Wells grumbled and then began his descent to the next deck.