18 | LAST STAND
DECK 03, MENDEL STATION | 0728 HOURS ZULU
Yamoto screamed and ducked out of the way of the hybrid as it tried to bite down on him. It’s teeth caught his battle armor instead and nearly broke all of its teeth in the process. He then side stepped to the hybrid’s flank and made a swift kick to its gut causing it to double over. Yamoto then reached down and snapped the hybrid’s neck with his hands.
“Move it!” Gordon yelled to Karzarian who nodded and quickly made his way up the stairs to join Yamoto and McAdams as they made their way through the doorway into the familiar hallway of deck three.
The marines swept into the hallway only two doors down from the rec room and the hatch that the Falcon would dock with. The lights were flickering off and on creating a strobe like effect that made their infrared display useless. On the other side of the hall they saw a pile of bodies at the main stairwell and the marines of squad three making a strategic retreat back towards them while firing at hybrids as they came racing out of the main stairwell.
“Thunder!” Karzarian called out.
“Lightning!” Gunnery Sergeant Yars called back as she dropped a hybrid that got a little too close for comfort with a controlled burst of three rounds to its face.
“Oh thank god.” Karzarian sighed with relief, “Yamoto, support three while we secure the extraction.”
“On it.” he replied, raised his rifle, and started taking pot shots down the hall.
“Gordon! Get your ass up here!” Karzarian yelled into their stairwell before moving off with McAdams and Daniels into the rec room.
Gordon heard the yelling and took another shot at a hybrid that tried to crawl through the doorway on the deck below them. He then grunted and quickly ran up the stairs to the door. After reaching the hallway, he slammed the lock code onto the control panel and prayed that the power override had enough juice left to shut the door.
He watched the horde of hybrids racing up the stairs as the doors began to shut, but too slowly as the lead hybrid reached out with its hands and caught the edges of the doors. It flexed and tried to force the doors back open while screaming at Gordon who raised his R-92 carbine and put a bullet through its screaming mouth from point blank range. The hybrid flew back from the force of the blow and let go of the door, which shut tight before the rest of the hybrids could reach it.
With their stairwell door secured for the moment, Gordon took a quick look at their situation. Karzarian and McAdams were making their way to the rec room while Yamoto was helping squad three during their retreat.
“Grenade?” he asked as he stepped up to Yamoto’s side.
“Two, side pouch.” he said as he kept firing down the hall.
Gordon reached into the side pouch, pulled out both of the stardust grenades, and loaded one of them into his AP200 grenade launcher. “Help secure the rec room. I got this.” he said.
“Copy.” Yamoto said and ran down the hall to join his squad mates in the rec room.
“Fire in the hole!” Gordon yelled out as he took several steps forward and waited for a clear lane of fire.
The five marines of squad three quickly scrambled for the walls and covered their heads as another group of hybrids hit the hallway running from the stairwell. Gordon launched the grenade down the hall, getting a single bounce along the ground that popped the grenade up into the chest of the lead hybrid that caught it out of reflex. The grenade exploded a second later and disintegrated the hybrids where they stood.
“Move it marines!” Gordon yelled out and took aim down the hall for anymore hybrids to come charging out into the hallway.
Sergeant Yars ordered her marines to retreat and then took one marine by the shoulder and helped him hobble down the hallway. After a few feet, Gordon could see that she was helping Captain Herrera who was wincing in pain. A quick inspection of his body showed that his left leg was badly mangled and bloodied.
Once the marines had finally past him, Gordon began to retreat back with them, walking backwards so he could keep his eyes down the hall. Upon passing the door to his stairwell, he heard the hybrids on the other side banging and clawing at the door. Their augmented strength was rattling the door and it would only be a matter of time before they forced it open.
Gordon continued to retreat instead of trying to reinforce the door. Once he reached the rec room, he called out over his shoulder to the marines behind him, “Two on the entrance!”
Two of the marines from squad three quickly made their way up and took over guarding the hallway. Gordon finally turned to face the rec room. “Gunny, we need a kill box in here.” he said.
Rachel Yars nodded and set Herrera down next to Daniels against the wall next to the emergency hatch on the far side of the room. “Graves! Help me with this equipment.” she said and made her way over to one of the treadmills and began to drag it over to the entryway.
Gordon pointed to a table, “Mike, flip the table.” he ordered and then pointed to another piece of exercise equipment, “McAdams, get some more equipment to block the entrance.”
The marines worked quickly to put as much stuff as they could in the entrance to slow down the hybrids while also setting up cover for them to fire from.
Gordon checked his time on his HUD and saw that they were ahead of schedule by two minutes. He quickly walked over to the window and looked out in hopes of seeing the glow of the Falcon’s engines on approach from the TCD Austin, but he saw nothing except the destroyer sitting in space.
“Hellcat One to Hellcat Actual. Over.” he said quickly into the command channel.
“This is Hellcat Actual. Bird is inbound.” Captain McAdams said over the channel as if he knew what Gordon was going to ask.
“No visual confirmation.” Gordon said.
“Uh, hold on Hellcat One.” he replied.
Gordon moved away from the window and surveyed the rec room as he waited. Satisfied that the room was set up as best as it could be, he pointed to the tables, “Everyone get under cover!”
The marines moved away from the entrance and behind the flipped over table. Gordon then made his way, stood behind his men, and watched the entrance.
“Actual, I need an update. We have hostiles inbound.” Gordon said onto the channel.
“Hellcat One. Falcon One is experiencing an engine malfunction. I have an alert shuttle launching now. ETA twenty minutes.” McAdams said.
“I don’t have twenty minutes Actual.” Gordon said as he heard howling coming from the hallway.
“Hang in there, hell or high water I’ll get you out of there somehow.” McAdams said.
Gordon flipped off the channel in anger. “Our bird is late to dinner marines,” he said to the gathered marines, “I know this has been hell on all of us, but right here and now I need your best. Do that and we will survive the day. Remember to conserve your ammo and take only short controlled bursts.”
There was a collective nod from the marines before settling down and focused their attention at the entrance and waited for the enemy to come.
Waiting was the worst part about combat Gordon thought to himself. At first, your body is wired and ready to go at a moment’s notice. As the seconds turned to minutes, your body started to complain about the tension by twitching muscles and small amounts of pain crept up into the back of your mind from a hard day at the office. When the minutes ticked by, a person’s mind began to wander, going over the events of the day and how bad things went. Doubt and frustration would start to set in as one started to wonder how things would have gone differently if they had just done one thing different. Could they have saved a fellow marine that died earlier or could they have saved that one civilian from dying a horrible death. Eventually fear would begin to set in and once that happened, a marine was destined to fail would could lead to their death.
All of these things ran through Gordon’s mind as he waited next to his fellow marines with their weapons trained at the entrance for the enemy that was sure to come before their escape arrived.
At first, it was quiet and only the flickering lights gave off any sound as they turned off and on. Next came the pounding at the door down the hallway as the enemy angrily tried to break through the barrier that separated them from their prey. Then the howls echoed down the hallway into the room followed by the sounds of metal ripping away from the bulkhead.
When the first hybrid’s head appeared at the blockade, Gordon nodded slowly to Karzarian who was settled in the rear with his Viper sniper rifle resting on a chair for support. He took the open shot on the hybrid, watched as the .50 caliber round blew off half its face, and showered the mutants behind it in blood and brain matter.
The single loud shot was like the starting gun of a race. The horde of hybrids in the hallway rushed the barricade at full force that pushed the heavy equipment back a foot.
“Open fire!” Gordon called out.
A hail of bullets rained down on the bunched up hybrids as they tried to push the equipment out of the way. The screams of the dying quickly joined the howls of rage to form a symphony of chaos.
“Changing!” Corporal Graves called out, ejected his magazine, and quickly slapped in a fresh one.
A few seconds later Yars ducked back behind the table, “Changing!” she called out and switched out magazines.
Each marine went through the same process in roughly minute intervals. The constant stream of bullets and that seemingly endless stream of hybrids was quickly taking a toll on the ammo reserves. As they changed out, the suppression fire being laid down weakened just enough for the hybrids to take advantage of it.
With the wall of bodies that had piled up at the entrance, the hybrids used the bodies as a shield to protect themselves from the marines and as a battering ram against the barricade. With each push of their augmented strength, they moved the heavy equipment another few inches.
“Where the hell is that evac?” Gordon grumbled and switched out his magazine for his last fresh one.
A thumping sound then came from the emergency hatch that shook the room violently. The shaking was followed by the flicking lights flashing on and staying that was as the hum of power reverberated across the room.
“Great time for the fucking power to come back on.” Rachel Yars said.
“I think our ride’s here marines! Fall back by twos! Three, you’re up!” Gordon ordered and then quickly raised his carbine and made a quick snap shot at a hybrid that was trying to squeeze its way through the barricade.
Epperson and Graves both stood up from behind the table and pulled back to the emergency hatch. Graves checked the console and saw that it was in the process of cycling through the compression sequence. The hatch would remain sealed until the process was completed as a safety measure to keep the station from experiencing a breach in the hull.
“Rikichi I need another mag!” McAdams called out as she ejected her last magazine.
“My last one!” Yamoto called back and tossed her the magazine, which she immediately slammed into her R-92 and went back to firing at the hybrid.
“Hellcat Actual to Hellcat One. Over.” Captain McAdams’ voice came over Gordon’s mic.
“This is Hellcat One. Evac has arrived. Pull out in ninety.” Gordon said.
“Copy that. I’m also picking up an aether transmission coming from the station. Is that one of your men?” he asked.
“Negative.” Gordon said.
“What the hell?” McAdams said, “I’m locking down comms from the station Tony. Get your ass on that bird and come home.”
“Roger that.” Gordon said and switched his mic back over to the platoon, “Graves, what is the ETA on that hatch?”
“Thirty seconds to green!” he called back.
“Yars! Wilkes! Get the wounded to the door!” Gordon ordered and then quickly took another head shot at a hybrid that took a flying leap over the barricade. Its head splattered from the impact with the bullet and showered red blood all over the white floor.
“Hold the line!” Gordon yelled as he moved up to the table and added his carbine to the salvo being unloaded on the mass of half dead bodies piled up at the barricade.
A gut wrenching battle roar rose above the cacophony of firing carbines, a sound that Gordon had grown to know all too well. The sound of a talishar was beyond the hybrids, deeper into the hallway and well away from the reach of their carbines.
“Get the god damn hatch open!” Gordon called out over his shoulder.
“In five!” Graves called out.
Yars and Wilkes hoisted up Herrera and Daniels onto their shoulders in preparation of going through the hatch in a hurry.
The green light on the console finally turned green signaling that the docking clamp had finally pressurized. Graves hit the open button and the rose his carbine and made took several shots at the hybrids as they made a concentrated push of the equipment another six inches. The left side of the barricade was far enough away from the wall that one of the skinner hybrids could squeeze through.
The hatch opened up with a hiss as air swept in. A marine was on the other side with his carbine held up and at the ready. He moved forward into the room to give enough space for the wounded to make their way onboard the Falcon transport.
“Marines! We are leaving!” Gordon called out. “Go! Go! Go!”
The remaining marines began pulling back by twos back towards the hatch and quickly ran onboard once they were clear of the docking ring.
“Tony! Time to go!” Karzarian called out as he made his way back and saw that Gordon was the last one at the overturned table.
Gordon took one last look at the barricade and saw a glimpse of the talishar on the other side. Its golden eyes locked with Gordon’s and the two had an instant understanding that this was predator verses predator, and it’s had every intention of winning.
“I don’t fucking think so.” Gordon said and stood up from his cover boldly.
He reached back and grabbed the last stardust grenade from his pack. He calmly loaded it into his AP200 grenade launcher and locked it into place. He then looked up and saw that the talishar had already reached the barricade and with an impressive display of strength, pushed the wall of dead bodies into the equipment and sent it all tumbling into the room.
“Semper Fi.” Gordon said and pulled the trigger to the launcher.
The stardust grenade shot forward with a loud thump, arced across the room, and landed right at the feet of the dragon. It looked down at the grenade and then back up at Gordon with a look of disgust.
He knew what the talishar was thinking; their locked eyesight said that the dragon expected an honorable fight, one were they would battle in the old way of hand to hand combat. What the talishar didn’t expect was what it saw as a cowardly act of using ranged weapons, especially a grenade. That was ultimately the difference between humans and the talishar, the need to satisfy honor verses one’s duty. Gordon wasn’t willing to sacrifice his life to satisfy some person glory. He had already killed more than a score of the mutated hybrids and two talishar, one of which was in hand to hand combat. His duty now was to get off the station and take the fight to the corporation that created these monsters and took the life of his marines.
Not without a sense, however, Gordon gave a quick salute to the talishar for a hard fight that it and its ilk had given the Hellcats. He then turned and ran for the hatch were Karzarian was waiting at the entrance, yelling for him to get on board before the stardust went off.
Except the grenade never exploded.
The dragon looked at the grenade with a confused look as it expected to dead by now. Not wanting to curse it’s good fortune, it roared and charged across the room with full intent to rend Gordon limb from limb for trying to deny it a glorious battle.
Gordon had enough of a lead on the talishar that he made it to the hatch with a several second lead. “Close it!” he yelled as he dived into the transport.
Karzarian slammed he hatch door closed right in the face of the talishar and then pressed his good shoulder into the door. Gordon scrambled back up to his feet and joined Karzarian at the door as it rattled from the dragon’s impact.
“Get the latch!” Gordon said as he braced the door.
Karzarian let go of the hatch and spun the lock closed. He then slapped Gordon’s shoulder and ran down the ramp and onto the transport.
The hatch rattled again as the talishar on the other side refused to give up on hunting its prey. Gordon quickly let go of the door and ran across the ramp where Karzarian was waiting to shut the transport hatch.
“All aboard!” Gordon yelled out as he crossed the threshold of the transport and Karzarian shut the hatch behind him, “Get us the hell out of here!”
The Falcon transport’s fusion engines roared to life and the pilot disengaged the magnetic clamps that held the transport to the station’s emergency hatch. Once released, the Falcon transport rocketed forward and away from the station and into the safety of outer space.