11 | MAN DOWN
DECK 14, MENDEL STATION | 0551 HOURS ZULU
The marines of first squad quietly spread out onto deck fourteen like silent specters. Considering the now clear and present danger of genetically mutated creatures as well as dragons running loose on the station, Gordon ordered the marines to keep their formation tight and controlled as they methodically worked their way down the hallway.
The red lights that flooded the hallway made it difficult to make out tiny details of the surrounding area and the distinct smell of sulfur hung on the recycled air. The most disturbing sense that troubled Gordon was the noticeable lack of noise on the deck. Usually there would be the blowing of air circulators, the whirling chirps of computers, and the hum of pulsing generators from the large fusion reactor far below them. Upon deck fourteen, however, the only sounds Gordon could hear were the soft footfall of boots on the floor and the steady controlled breaths of the marines around him.
With the service stairwell roughly two thirds of the way down the deck, the marines were cautious in their approach to the rooms in the hallway. The first room was cleared by Daniels and Wells, while McAdams and Yamoto cleared the room on the other side of the hall. The squad then moved onto the next set of rooms, all the while using hand signals to remain completely silent.
Upon reaching the next closed door, Daniels lined up at the doorframe and waited for Wells to settle behind him. When he felt the squeeze on his shoulder and saw the door open, Daniels swept into the room quickly and checked his zones. Upon turning to check his right corner, he saw a person squatting at the corner chewing on what seemed to be an arm bone. Blood was dripping down from its mouth as it chewed on a piece of muscle.
Daniels wasted no time in squeezing of a three round burst at the hybrid human. Two rounds hit the creature in chest and the third hit squarely in the throat that nearly removed its head from its body. Wells came into the room a split second after Daniels and found no other hybrids in the room.
With the sounds of gunfire breaking the silence on the deck, Gordon quickly hunkered against the wall and clicked on his mic, “Report!”
“Contact. Creature down.” Daniels replied quickly.
A symphony of animal screeches echoed throughout the hallway that had the marines looking every which way across the hallway.
“What the fuck was that?” Rustovich asked.
“Oh shit.” Yamoto said as he recognized the sounds of the hybrids.
“Incoming!” Gordon called out and trained his R-92 carbine at the short stretch of hallway to the rear of the group.
Several doors from the far side of the hallway were thrown open as a wave of creatures poured out, screeching and howling as they looked around ravenously for the source of the gunfire.
“Contact! Six o’clock!” Karzarian yelled out from the back of the line.
Gordon was already watching that direction as Karzarian called out the incoming enemy. Barrington and Rustovich whirled around and brought up their R-92s to take aim on the red lit hybrids.
Yamoto turned to reinforce the rear, but stopped when he noticed the wall on the far side of the forward hallway a dent appear in the siding as if something on the other side was trying to punch its way through the wall. It was then followed by a second and then a third, which caused the siding to buckle. “Contact! Twelve o’clock!” he called out.
McAdams was in the process of turning to face the hybrids that were swarming from the rear when her teammate called out the contact. She brought up her carbine and took aim on the buckling wall.
“Daniels! Wells!” Gordon called out to get his marines from inside to reinforce their position.
Wells was out the door first with his Razor out in front. He checked to his left, saw the swarm of hybrids racing down the hallway, and put his finger on the trigger. “On it!” he yelled out.
On his way out of the room, Daniels turned in the opposite direction of his teammate and focused on the buckling wall that McAdams and Yamoto were focused on. He brought his R-92 up in time to see the rest of the wall give way and spew forth another swarm of hybrids. “Holy…” he muttered before squeezing the trigger in short controlled three round bursts.
The first hybrid staggered back from taking three rounds to the chest. Instead of falling to the ground, the hybrid roared and continued to charge forward. McAdams and Yamoto opened fire on the same hybrid, hitting it in the legs and the chest multiple times until the final shot hit the temple. The shot stopped the creature in its tracks and sent it toppling to the ground.
Standing side by side, the marines on the rear opened fire in unison with the Razor’s loud barking muzzle drowning out the carbines. The spray of bullets slammed into the swarm of hybrids as they raced down the hallway. Sprays of blood showered the hallway as the bullets chewed through flesh and bone. Even with the impressive amount of ammo being shot down the hallway, the creatures were mostly only slowed as only a few of them on the front line fell to their wounds.
“Hold the line!” Gordon called out then squeezed off another controlled burst, hitting the upper chest and then the side of the head of a hybrid. The creature spun around from the impact of the shot and fell to the ground.
Daniels shifted his stance slightly to his right and away from McAdams’s flank in an effort to get a better angle on the hybrids as they poured out from the hole in the wall. He fired several more volleys of bullets into another creature as it darted out from the hole and only one of his shots landed, clipping the arm.
The hybrid wasn’t slowed by the grazing and started to zigzag its way down the hallway towards the marines while it screamed inhumanly. Daniels shots another burst and hit once in the chest, but was once again a glancing blow. The hybrid then cut to its right and dove with claw-like fingers extended and its mouth open wide showing sharpened teeth.
Daniels cursed as he was forced to hop out of the way and further away from McAdams. The hybrid landed where Daniels was standing, but was met by flanking shots by Daniels and McAdams to the head that exploded on impact. The three on the front end of the hallway tried to shift and reform the line, but the hybrids swarmed them too quickly.
The three marines quickly extended their vibroblade bayonets as the creatures had gotten too close for the marines to keep up suppression fire. Daniels ducked to the right as the nearest hybrid reached out to try to punch his head. The throw missed and Daniels then stepped in, jabbed forward with his vibroblade, hit the hybrid squarely in the ribs, and easily sliced through skin and bone.
The blade was a starium composite knife with nanotubes. The base of the blade was designed to send a quantum charge down the length of the nanotubes that caused the starium metal to vibrate at a molecular level. This vibration increased the sharpness of the knife by a factor of a hundred. While the skin scales of the hybrids provided good protection against bullets, the skins were dramatically less effective against the vibroblades. It came as a welcome surprise to Daniels as the bayonet dug deeply into the body and penetrated the heart.
“Hah!” Daniels called out in victory. He then grunted and stumbled forward as something large and heavy hit him in the back. He looked back to see another hybrid behind him rushing towards him with its mouth of sharp teeth open.
Daniels tried to step back and out of the way from the creature, but ended up stumbling over the body of the hybrid he had just killed. He hit the deck and immediately brought up his hands to fend off the hybrid that jumped onto top of him by the shoulders. The creature snarled and snapped at his face, but couldn’t quite reach as Daniels pushed with all of his strength while he screamed to get the creature off him.
The hybrid quickly found the effort to bite the marine’s face too much effort and switched to a different tactic. It opened its mouth and drew upon its Talishar genetics to breath fire. Though no fire issued forth to its dismay, the chemical laced saliva dripped down onto Daniels face and rapidly began to dissolve his flesh. His screams for help went from hopeful to panic as his face liquefied.
“Daniels!” McAdams called out, turned her carbine around, and put two shots into the hybrids cranium.
With the creature dead, Daniels’ reached up to his face to try to wipe off the acidic salvia, but only succeeded in smearing it over more of his face. He continued to scream for another few moments before the pain became too much for his body and he slipped into unconsciousness.
Hearing the screams of his friend and teammate, Wells turned around and saw that the rear line had collapsed. McAdams and Yamoto were forced to fight with hand to hand combat with the hybrids. Though there were fewer creatures at the rear, they still outnumbered the two marines three to one.
“Moving!” Wells called out as he took several steps back as the marines on his end opened fire on the pinned down group of hybrids. Wells then pivoted and turned on the antigrav unit on the Razor and took a firm grip on the adjusted handle. Being farther back, he had a clear lane of fire on the hybrids, except that McAdams and Yamoto were in melee combat.
“Clear!” Wells yelled.
McAdams and Yamoto didn’t bother to look to see who or why the command was given. McAdams kicked a creature of her bayonet that she had just stabbed and then dove for the room next to them. Yamoto dove into the room with her and the two of the rolled along the ground in a tangled mess and out of the way of Wells as he opened up the Razor on full auto.
Hybrids screamed as they were cut down by the massive amount of bullets being sprayed down the hallway. The last of the hybrids, in an effort to avoid the gunfire, grabbed another creature with a bullet wound to the chest and dug its claws into its back. It then hoisted up the hybrid like a shield and charged Wells. The marine instantly turned his Razor onto the charging hybrid, but the bullets only slammed into the resistant body shield.
When the hybrid was in close proximity of the weapon, it pushed the body shield forward, which crashed into Wells and knocked him to the ground. The hybrid then rushed the marine, jumped on top of him, and went immediately for his throat. The creatures teeth tore through Wells’ flesh easily and his screams turned into gargles of blood.
“No!” Gordon screamed and turned around to see his marine die a gruesome death. He squeezed on the trigger of his R-92 and unloaded a burst of rounds into the creature that knocked it off Wells and onto the ground. Gordon then took a step forward for a better line of fire and put another round into the hybrid’s face.
Wells looked up at Gordon as he tried to breathe through the blood that was quickly filling up his lungs. His body spasmed twice before going still and then his eyes blinked once before going still.
“Tony!” Karzarian called out to bring Gordon out of death aura.
Gordon blinked and then looked up to see his marines still firing down the hallway as the hybrids took cover at the doorways and behind fallen bodies. He gave a growl and stood up. He reached back to his rear satchel and drew out an AP200 Grenade Launcher. It was a designed add-on to the R-92 carbine that could be attached when needed. Gordon felt now was a good time to use it.
He fixed the AP200 to the attachment slot on the side of the barrel, right next to the vibroblade attachment. The power indicator turned green that signaled that the AP200 was now attached ready to fire. Gordon reached to his belt, pulled out a stardust grenade, and loaded it into the launcher. The stardust grenade was an anti-personnel weapon designed to be effective against large groups of armored targets in confined spaces. It contained shrapnel pieces of starium and a plasma core that superheated the metal fragments upon detonation. The stardust had originally designed during the war with the Talishar as one of the few ways of penetrating their armor and naturally armored scales. The grenades were so effective that they had remained in service ever since.
“Fire in the hole!” Gordon called out and braced himself as he launched the first grenade to the far back part of the hallway. Without waiting for the grenade to detonate, Gordon began to reload the AP200. As soon as he loaded the second one, the first grenade went off with a deafening roar as sharps of superheated metal exploded out and shredded the hallway and walls as well as the hybrids trying to hide behind them.
The result of the explosion caused the surviving hybrids to be flushed out from their cover and into the hallway, which brought a satisfied grunt from the Command Sergeant Major.
“Fire in the hole!” Gordon called out again and then launched the second grenade into the center mass of the remaining hybrids. The second explosion caught the hybrids in the middle of the pack as the starium shrapnel proved to be just as effective as it was intended two hundred years ago. Body parts and blood coated the hallway and silence returned to deck thirteen.
Gordon lowered his R-92 and motioned to the charred and bloodied hallway, “Karzarian, you and Rustovich sweep the deck for any stragglers.”
The two marines nodded and quickly made their way down the hallway.
“Barrington, check on Daniels.” Gordon said next and they looked around the hallway and noticed that two marines were missing. He switched his HUD from its tactical readout to the GPS system and saw them located in the room just to his right. He made his way to the doorway with strong strides and looked into the room where he spotted McAdams and Yamoto in a tangled heap on the ground.
“Save the playtime for later marines. Secure the rear hall.” Gordon ordered.
McAdams and Yamoto looked at one another and the tangled hug they were in from diving out of the line of fire. Their eyes locked for a moment before the both of them blushed and quickly untangled from one another and picked up their carbines.
Gordon walked away from the room and made his way over to Barrington who was hunched over Daniels with Doctor Carr at her side. He knelt on the other side of his marine and looked him over. His face was badly burned away showing muscle and bone underneath. “How is he Amanda?”
Barrington was checking his vitals with her medical scanner that was plugged into her PMA. She paused and gave a heavy sigh, “He’s in a trauma com from second and third degree chemical burns over half his face. He’s lucky to be alive right now.”
“Will he make it?” Gordon asked hopefully.
“I can’t say for sure. I’m going to wrap his face with nanopads for the burns and then give him some painkillers. The rest is up to him.” she said as she pulled out her medical kit and began working.
Gordon nodded slowly and then looked to Walter Carr. The sight of the scientist made his mood turn sour. “Doc, you got some explaining to do.”
“I told you, this…all of this shouldn’t be happening.” the doctor stammered as he leaned back away from the furious aura emanated from the Sergeant Major.
“Wake up! It’s happening right now!” Gordon growled and pointed to the dead hybrid that was next to Daniels’ body, “That! That is a damn scientist that just spit acid on my marine and burned his face off! I want answers and I want them right now!”
Walter Carr looked at the scientist that was missing half of its head and then down to the name tag on the lab coat that read ‘Simpson’. He used to be a jovial man who loved to play the guitar in the mess hall and always played songs during Confed Independence Day. Now he was dead because somehow he turned into a monster. “I don’t know,” he said quietly and then paused for a moment.
“Carr, I can’t fight what I don’t know. I need something!” Gordon pleaded.
“All right! All right! Fuck it!” Walter exclaimed, “Hydra’s going to string me up for this, but, the all the main files on the project are in Doctor Sorensen’s office on deck seventeen.”
“Thank you Walter.” Gordon said and then stood up and clicked on his mic, “Sit rep marines.”
“Clear.” McAdams reported.
“Clear.” Karzarian said.
“Regroup on me. We are making a straight shot on deck seventeen.” Gordon said.
The marines quickly regrouped with Gordon in the hallway. Karzarian walked up to Gordon’s side and spoke quietly, “Why seventeen Tony?”
“That’s were all the files are on these things. I need to know what the hell is going on if we are going to get through this.” Gordon said.
“Roger that.” Karzarian said.
“Help Barrington with Daniels.” Gordon said and then looked over to the marines of team two, “McAdams and Yamoto, you have point.”
“Oh fun.” Yamoto said.
“Rustovich,” Gordon said as he looked over to the youngest marine who looked a little pale and was wiping sweat from his face, “You ok?”
Rustovich nodded slowly, “Yeah, just a little warm. Probably just the drugs.”
“You got the rear then.” Gordon said and then looked to Walter, “And doc, you’re with me. Let’s move out.”