13 | To Young to Die
DECK 17, MENDEL STATION | 0637 HOURS ZULU
Gordon rounded the corner into the hallway as he brought up his R-92 carbine. “Mike with me!” he commanded.
Karzarian immediately broke into a run behind Gordon towards the doctor’s office through the red lights of the hallway. Another scream came from the office as they closed in followed by an animal-like roar and then the sound of breaking bone.
Gordon reached the doorway and came to a brief stop to wait for Karzarian to get into position. He then turned the corner into the room and paused for only a brief moment to take in the sight of a creature that had not been seen in well over a hundred years.
The office was half covered in blood as a massive creature stood in the center of the room holding Walter Carr’s head in one large clawed hand with the rest of his body sprawled on the ground at its feet.
The creature easily stood seven feet in height and was covered in quarter sized scales of black and dark green. A ridge of spikes ran down from its neck all the way down to its three foot tail. Its face reminded Gordon of some mythical fantasy dragon mixed with a horny toad lizard. Small spikes lined the outer edge of its golden eyes. It wore nothing clothing or adornments over its vaguely humanoid form of two legs, two arms, a head, and a tail.
“Dragon!” Gordon called out and squeezed the trigger of his R-92. The burst impacted on the dragon’s armored scales of its chest, but did little to injury the creature or even slow it down.
Karzarian also opened fire with his carbine, aiming for the head and upper torso. His burst was also ineffective as he only chipped some scales.
The talishar issued forth a roar of anger and tossed Walter Carr’s head at the two marines who ducked out of the way and moved back closer to the door. The dragon then inhaled a deep breath and then clicked its teeth together as it began to exhale. Upon the exhale, the glands within its mouth secreted its liquid fire that then came in contact with the clicking of its teeth, which produced a tiny spark. That tiny spark ignited the liquid fire and a moment later, a fountain of flame came roaring out of its mouth.
Gordon and Karzarian were forced to dive out of the room to avoid the flames of the talishar. They tucked and rolled back up to their feet and squeezed off another round of armor piercing rounds that again proved to be mostly ineffective against the scale armor.
“Contact!” Gordon called into his mic and pushed Karzarian in the direction of the lab as he began to run.
McAdams and Yamoto came rushing out of the lab with their carbines at the ready in time to see the talishar come crashing through the doorway of the office and into the hallway. The two took standing firing stances while Gordon and Karzarian both went into a slide to get out of the line of fire.
“Full auto.” McAdams said to Yamoto coolly as she flipped the switch next to the trigger with her index finger.
The talishar turned to face the marines and flexed its body to appear larger and more frightening as it roared again.
McAdams and Yamoto answered the roar with the loud howling of their R-92’s on full automatic fire. They braced their back foot to absorb the impact of the carbine’s recoil as armor piercing rounds ripped down the hallway and into the talishar. The bullets continued to bounce and chip away at the hardened scales with little effect at first.
As the other two marines came to a stop of their slide, Gordon and Karzarian both quickly spun around, flicked on the full auto of their carbines, and opened fire from a laying position. The additional rounds impacted the dragon and caused it to take a step back and raise its arms over its face to shield its eyes from the bullets.
“Changing!” McAdams and Yamoto both called out mere seconds after their teammates opened fire. They quickly ejected the magazine and loaded a fresh mag into the R-92. They then locked, loaded, and cleared the chamber of their carbines before opening fire once more.
The talishar gave a squeal of displeasure as the constant stream of bullets prevented it from moving forward because of the force of the impact. In addition, the constant barrage wore down its hardened scales to the point that they were beginning to break off and expose its tender flesh underneath.
“Changing!” Gordon called out and ejected his empty magazine onto the ground. He then loaded a fresh one into his carbine. He then drew out and attached his AP200 to the side of his carbine again while his squad continued their suppressive fire on the dragon. Once the light turned green, he loaded a stardust grenade into the chamber and took aim at the dragon.
“Fire in the hole!” he shouted and launched the grenade while his marines took cover.
The explosion from the grenade rocked the deck and sent fire, molten shrapnel and pieces of the deck flying in every direction as the grenade exploded on impact with the talishar.
The marines paused for a moment as they waited for the smoke to clear the red lit hallway to clear to see the results of the grenade.
They didn’t need to wait long.
The dragon came charging through the smoke covered into its own black blood and missing an arm. It howled as it came crashing down on the marines. Karzarian quickly got to his feet to try to get out of the way, but was swatted away with by the talishar’s one good arm. The blow sent Karzarian flying down the hallway and into the wall with a loud crack as his arm snapped in two.
Gordon rolled to his left and narrowly avoided the stomping clawed foot of the talishar as it then reached out and grabbed McAdams by the shoulder and picked her easily off the ground as its claws dug into flesh.
McAdams screamed in pain and let go of her carbine, letting it swing free on the lanyard connected to her battle armor. She drew her G-10 sidearm and began pulling the trigger and point blank range. The higher caliber bullets tore away chunks of scales and flesh of the dragon, but it refused to die and instead tried to take a bite of her face with its mouth, missing by mere inches.
Yamoto, being on the other side of McAdams and the dragon, took a page from McAdams tactics, drew his sidearm, and began shooting into the other flank of the dragon, tearing away more scales.
Distracted by both marines, the talishar didn’t see Gordon rise to his feet behind it. He extended his vibroblade bayonet on his R-92 and jabbed the blade at the back of the talishar’s neck. The blade cut through the scales easily. Gordon pulled back and then thrust once more at the exposed neck and severed the spine at the base of the neck. The blow caused the talishar to immediately go limp as its head lost all contact with the rest of its body. It collapsed to the ground and convulsed for several seconds before going still.
“Get this fucker off me!” McAdams called out as she had also gone to the ground with the dragon. She tried to reach for the clawed hand in her shoulder, but couldn’t get the leverage to pry the claws loose.
“I gotcha Tracy.” Yamoto said reassuringly. He took hold of the large fingers that were half as large around as a forearm and strained to pull them free of McAdams’ shoulder. The claws pulled free from her body as she screamed and blood began to flow freely from the gaping wounds.
“God that hurt!” she grunted and then rested her head against his chest as he wrapped her up in his arms.
“Mike!” Gordon said and raced over to Karzarian who was slumped against the wall.
“Ugh, did anyone catch the license plate of that bus?” he mumbled as he held onto his limb arm.
“Easy there cowboy.” Gordon said as he helped him sit up straight and against the wall.
“So that was a dragon?” Karzarian winced in pain, “Not so tough.”
“I think your arm is shattered.” Gordon said as he gingerly looked over his friend’s arm.
“I’ve had worse.” Karzarian groaned.
“You’re lucky you didn’t break your neck.” Gordon smirked.
“Anne will be so happy.” he remarked.
“Sit tight.” Gordon said, patting him on the shoulder. He then stood up and did a quick check on the hallway to make sure there were no new threats trying to sneak up on them. He then switched on his mic to the squad as he started walking to the lab, “Barrington, sit rep.”
“I’m losing him!” her voice said over the channel.
Gordon immediately ran the rest of the way into the lab and over to her side. Barrington was frantically working over the control panel of the medical table while Rustovich’s body was convulsing again.
In the short time that they had encountered and dealt with the talishar, Rustovich’s body had undergone a radical change. His skin had changed color slightly, taking on a greenish hue as well as showing separation marks of where the skin was turning into scales. His leg was now nearly entirely mutated with full blown scales just like the talishar they had just killed out front.
“Holy hell…” Gordon whispered.
“Whatever you were doing out there suddenly caused a spike in his cellular mutations. It’s been mutating five fold in the last minute and I can’t get it to stop.” Barrington said as her fingers flew over the medical controls. She then grabbed a syringe with a blue tinted liquid and injected it into his arm.
“There was a talishar out there. A full blooded one.” Gordon said.
“That’s it? Nothing else?” she asked.
“No…it killed Carr.” Gordon said.
“Fuck!” Barrington growled, “He was the last person who knew what the hell was going on!”
“Just see what you can do, we’ve got wounded in the hallway.” Gordon said.
“They will have to…oh! No! No! No! He’s going into cardiac arrest!” Barrington yelled and moved from the console to the table next to Rustovich as his body seized up.
“Dominic! Hang in there man!” Gordon said and moved to the other side of the table.”
“I need a crash cart!” Barrington as she ripped open his fatigues to expose his t-shirt. She then grabbed her knife and quickly sliced open the shirt.
“On it!” Gordon said and looked around the room for a crash cart, which he spotted on the far side of the room. He dashed across to the cart and dragged it back over to the medical table.
Barrington expertly turned on the cart and grabbed the paddles. “Set it one.” she said.
Gordon looked over the cart controls, found the strength meter, and set it to one.
“Clear!” she called out, set the paddles on the top and side of his chest, and pressed the ignited button. A shock of electricity shot through Rustovich’s body and caused his body to immediately tense up for a second.
Barrington looked to the medical screen and frowned, “Still no pulse. Again! Clear!” She called out, put the paddles to his chest, and hit the trigger once more to try to jump start the heart.
She looked back to the screen and saw that he was still flat line. “Fuck! Sarge! Chest compressions!” she ordered.
Gordon knew better than to get testy about being ordered around, especially when it involved something he knew very little about. When it came to medical things, Barrington was one of the best and he ok with letting her do the bossing around. He had to dig a little deep for his standard medical training that all marines received to make sure that he did CPR right without doing too much damage to the young marine.
After ten compressions, he eased off so Barrington could give him mouth to mouth resuscitation. When she was done, he went back to doing chest compressions. They went back and forth several times until he slowed and stopped as the medical screen showed that Rustovich was still flat lined.
“Amanda, he’s gone.” he said quietly and put a hand to her shoulder.
She nodded slowly, her head dipped low. He thought her heard the sniffling of holding back tears of grief so he didn’t press. He turned his head instead to look at the young man and his half mutated skin and his eyes staring up at the ceiling. The mutations were happening so fast that even his right hand mutated into a golden slit while his other blue eye was left normal.
“I hope you find peace soldier.” Gordon said quietly and used his hand to close the young man’s eyes. As he drew his hand back, he sucked in a breath of surprise as Rustovich grabbed his arm with an iron grip as his eye flickered back open.
“Dominic?” Barrington said hopefully.
Dominic hissed as he began to twist Gordon’s arm in an unnatural direction.
“Hey now!” Gordon said and tried to turn his arm back, but found that Dominic’s strength was much higher than he expected.
“Dominic?” Barrington said again worried.
“At ease,” Gordon said as he brought his other arm in to try to stop his arm from twisting. “I said at ease soldier!”
Dominic growled and then lurched up and bit down on Gordon’s arm.
“Argh!” Gordon cried out. With his arms pinned down, he had no means of trying to break free.
Barrington jumped into the fray and quickly grabbed Dominic by the head and wrapped him up into a headlock. Dominic stopped biting Gordon’s arm and used the grip on his arm to throw him back away from the table. The sergeant fell crashing to the ground, knocking over the medical screen causing a shower of sparks.
“Yamoto!” Gordon called out into his mic as he tried to pick himself off the ground.
Yamoto came running into the room a split second later. He had heard the commotion from the hallway and had already propped McAdams against the wall before making his way to the room when Gordon called him. He saw Barrington on the table with Rustovich in a headlock, or what use to be Rustovich. His body had changed so much in such a short amount of time; it was hard to see the young marine’s normal face underneath.
“Amanda, clear!” Yamoto yelled out and brought up his R-92 into a firing position.
Barrington relaxed her grip to try to jump back off the bed, but Dominic was too fast for her with his new founded speed and strength. He elbowed her in the stomach that sent her tumbling off the table with incredible force and left him alone on the table.
“I’m sorry buddy.” Yamoto said before firing off a controlled burst of three shots that hit two to the chest and one to the forehead. Dominic’s blood splattered the wall behind him and his body slumped onto the table dead.
Gordon got to his feet and rubbed the back of his head, “God dammit.” he swore and stumbled over to the table. “What the fuck happened?”
“Sarge?” Yamoto said and lowered his carbine.
“There was nothing you could have done Rikichi. Now, go check on the others and make sure they are ok.” Gordon said.
He nodded slowly and backed out of the lab in somewhat of a haze after having been forced to put down his friend.
“Amanda? You ok?” Gordon called out as he moved around the table to check on her.
“Yeah.” she said slowly as she sat up.
Gordon helped her to her feet, “What happen?”
Barrington shook her head, “I don’t know. I think the genetic mutation jump started his heart. It was like rebooting a computer as the mutation needed to rewrite his neural pathways to accept and use the new mutations.
“That sounds really smart for a mutation to do.” Gordon said.
“It was enhanced by the nanobots. That’s why his mutations were going farther than the other ones we had come across.” Barrington said as she leaned against the table. She looked over Rustovich’s body and then looked to Gordon, “Sarge, I think I know what happened.”
“To the scientists?” He asked.
Barrington nodded. “When doing highly theoretical research, scientists and lab techs usually have to get a variety of shots and buffer drugs to sterilize their bodies and protect against whatever it is they are working with. Well, I think what happen was these scientists used medical nanobots programmed to deal with any sort of sickness so they didn’t contaminate their work. Then one of them got infected by the new genetic mutation and instead of curing them, the nanobots feed it and changed them.”
“My god.” Gordon said, “So all of those hybrids were station personnel?”
She nodded, “I think so. It was the medical pad I put on Dominic’s leg that tipped me off on why it happened to him and not us. We don’t have any nanobots in our systems.”
“So we just handle wounds the old fashion way.” Gordon said and then blinked as he did a quick mental check of his people and remembered that McAdams had a wound on her shoulder.
Gordon immediately began running for the door, “Stop!” he cried out.
Rikichi looked up as was kneeling next to McAdams with a medical pad in his hand that he was just about to put on her bare wounded shoulder. “Sarge?”
“Stop!” Gordon yelled out again with his hand up, “Drop the pad!”
Rikichi looked at pad and set it down on the ground. “Ok, ok.”
“It’s spread by the nanobots.” Gordon said and quickly picked up the pad and tossed it down the hall.
“Oh man! I almost put that on Tracy!” Yamoto said.
Gordon sat down on the floor of the hallway, “I’m getting to old for this shit.” he grumbled.
“What’s going on?” Tracy muttered as she opened her eyes and looked around.
“Just relax for a few minutes and let those painkillers do their thing.” Yamoto said quietly and pushed some of her red hair out her face.
She gave a soft smile and closed her eyes, “Ok.”
Gordon clicked on his mic and patched over to the platoon channel, “Hellcat One to Hellcat Prime, do you copy? Over.”
“This is Hellcat Prime Gordon. Sit rep.” Herrera said.
“Rustovich and Doctor Carr are KIA. McAdams, Daniels, and Karzarian are injured.” Gordon said.
“Copy. What is the status on those scientists?” Herrera asked.
“We have reason to believe that the hybrids that we have encountered are actually the scientists that have been genetically altered. This mission is fubar.” Gordon said.
“Dammit. Roger that. Squad two is pinned down on deck six. Can you assist?” he asked.
“Negative. Main stairwell is blocked and the service stairwell only covered the lower levels. We are cut off.” Gordon said.
“I’m ordering an immediate evac. Falcon should be inbound within thirty. Try and get to deck three as best as you can.” Herrera said and then cut the channel.
Gordon sighed quietly to himself. The evac was in thirty minutes and all he had to do was go up thirteen decks through a blockade of rubble, two hundred hybrid genetic monsters and three talishar with one unconscious soldier and two wounded. It was going to be a rough morning.