9 | NO LONGER HUMAN
DECK 13, MENDEL STATION | 0522 HOURS ZULU
The door to deck thirteen should have been labeled as a sign of things to come. Upon reaching the door, the squad of marines found the door slightly ajar and the control offline despite the restored power. Gordon called for Yamoto to run a bypass on the door, which he did within only a few moments. The doors opened on their own to reveal the normal white wash hallway like all of the other decks. This deck, however, carried a distinct metallic smell in the air instead of the usual recycled sterilized air.
Daniels and Wells moved into the hallway first, carbine and Razor at the ready as they kept an eye open for any signs of movement, hostile or otherwise. Knowing that there were possible Talishar aggressors on the deck, the squad switched tactics to squad based scan and sweeps instead of moving in two by twos. Even though they moved slowly across the deck, the defensive measure afforded the squad better protection from more angles in the event of an attack. The doctor stayed at the center of the squad just behind Yamoto.
The first room to their right was clear and vacant just like all of the other rooms they had come across. The second room was the same as the first. After the fifth room, they reached the end of the hallway and a window hatch that looked out into space and a view of the yellow dwarf in the distance.
Rustovich glanced out the window and gave a smile at the simple but pleasant view. “I can see the Austin from here.” he said quietly.
“Keep your eyes on the hall Dominic.” Barrington snapped.
Rustovich grumbled, but brought his carbine back up to the ready position and took a couple of quick steps to catch up to Yamoto and the doctor.
Now facing the rest of the hallway, Daniels and Wells made their way down to the next unclear door where Daniels held up his fist signaling to the squad to stop moving. He motioned with his hand to his ears, then held up two fingers, and then pointed to the door.
Wells nodded that he understood. Daniels had heard two people in the room. He put his hand to Daniels’ shoulder and moved into position just behind him. He then gave a squeeze indicating that he was ready.
Daniels moved immediately and with authority through the doorway after Wells hit the open button on the control panel. He checked the front sector of the room and then immediately swept to his right to check the right corner while Wells came through the door way only a split second later and checked the front and then swept left.
The room was a conference room with a large table at the center. A holoprojector was on at the center of the room, projecting an image of a human male body cross section with various organs highlighted. The blue light from the holoprojection gave a soft illumination across the room, just enough to see the corners and the two people at the head of the table at the far side of the room. They were human by first glance with normal skin and hair. Their clothing, however, was ripped and frayed as if they had been shredded by a wild animal.
Daniels let the people drop from his sight as he check his corner to make sure that there were no hostiles in his corner. When that was clear, he turned his attention to the two humans at the far side of the room. Wells moved to check the left corner while McAdams and Yamoto swarmed into the room and brought up their carbines at the two humans.
“Freeze!” McAdams yelled out.
The two heads whipped their heads around to the group of marines in the room and the sight of their faces made the marines freeze in their tracks. Their faces, while mostly human, showed signs of animal characteristics, specifically that of a reptile. Their facial skin showed segments like scales and their eyes were slanted vertical and emitted a golden glow.
“What the fuck?” Yamoto said slowly.
Barrington and Rustovich took position at the doorframe and trained their weapons down on the humans while Gordon, Karzarian and the doctor took defensive positions along the wall in the hallway.
“One the ground!” Daniels called out as he took the human on his right into his sights.
The pseudo-humans gave a hiss as they took a step back defensively. Their faces showed no signs of recognition of the marines or the weapons they were holding.
“On the ground now!” Wells yelled as he leveled his Razor down on the human to the left.
The creatures continued to ignore them as they tried to register what was happening.
Rustovich noted that fear was starting to show on their faces as if an animal would show when backed into a corner. “Get down!” he yelled.
The final yell finally provoked an action from the pseudo-humans. The two gave a loud hiss and took an aggressive stance with their arms held out wide to increase their size of their appearance as if an animal would to try to ward off predators. Then the one on the right tried to rush Rustovich.
Keeping to their firing lanes, Daniels and Rustovich both fired off three rounds from their R-92 carbines. The human staggered as it took four armor piercing rounds to the chest and two to the head.
The second creature moved a split second later and was met with a flurry of shots from Wells and McAdams that dropped it to the ground.
“Report!” Gordon ordered into the squad channel as he moved into the room from the hallway.
“Two hostiles Sarge,” McAdams said as she kept her carbine up and ready, “They charged us.”
“Damn.” Gordon said and looked over at the two bodies. He then motioned for Daniels and McAdams to check the bodies.
Daniels slowly moved up and nudged the creature with his boot while keeping his R-92 firmly fixed on its center mass. When it didn’t move, he lowered the weapon a little and leaned in a little closer to get a better look. The reptilian eyes looking back at him remained unmoving for several moments before blinking once. The movement caused Daniels to jump back and fire off another two rounds into the chest of the creature.
“Daniels!” Gordon yelled and took several steps over to check the situation.
“Fucker blinked at me.” he said between rapid breaths.
“Secure the hallway.” Gordon snapped and knelt down next to the bloody mess. It certainly looked human enough with two arms and two legs, a head and torso. Its normal human skin was still a normal caucasian tone, though now had a metallic golden sheen to it and held a segmented pattern similar to the scales of a reptile all over its body. The bullet holes in its chest and head were smaller than what it would normally be on a normal human, as if the skin scales somehow blunted the impact of armor piercing rounds.
“Rustovich! Get over here!” Gordon called out.
The young marine broke formation from the doorway and made his way over to Gordon and the dead body. “Yeah Sarge?”
“Take a look at this and see if you can figure out what we are dealing with.” Gordon said as he stood up. He then walked over to the second body that Wells and McAdams were guarding over with their weapons at the ready.
“This one hasn’t gotten back up Sarge.” McAdams reported.
Gordon nodded as he looked over the body. This one was even more of a bloody mess than the other one since Wells opened up with the Razor and pumped an ocean of bullets into the body. Like the other one though, the bullets were blunted on impact by the skin scales.
“The science freak ain’t movin’ Sarge.” Wells grunted.
“Roger that. Good shooting.” Gordon said and then looked over towards the doorway, “Doc! I need you in here.”
Doctor Carr slowly made his way into the room with eyes wide. Upon reaching Gordon and the dead body, he put his hand to his mouth in horror. “Oh god.” he stammered.
“I need to know what I’m dealing with doctor,” Gordon said as he motioned to the body. “Is this one of those human experiments?”
Carr’s gaze lingered over the blood covered body with the look of horror still over his face. He then shook his head, “This can’t be…this isn’t possible.”
“What? What isn’t possible?” Gordon asked.
Walter Carr opened his mouth to speak when the room shook violently as the sounds of explosions echoed in the air. The lights flickered off as well as the holoprojector. The marines staggered and reached out for something to hold onto to keep from falling down.
“What the fuck was that?” Daniels called out as he leaned against the hallway wall.
“That didn’t sound good.” Karzarian muttered.
“No it didn’t.” Gordon said and switched his mic over to the platoon channel, “Captain Herrera come in.”
Static came over the line for a moment followed by two clicks as the PMA cycled through several frequencies to try and reestablish a connection to the platoon comm server. Herrera’s voice finally came onto the line mixed in with the static, “Gordon? Gordon do you read me?”
“Copy Cap. What the hell happened?” Gordon asked.
“Unknown explosion. The control board is reading that we have a hull breach on deck twenty six. What is your squad’s status?” Herrera asked.
Gordon checked his HUD for the vital signs of his squad and found that though everyone had an elevated heart rate, there did not appear to be any injuries among them, “We are all fine here sir. How is the reactor?”
“Still online, but we have power disruptions across most of the station. Estimated time to total power failure in six hours.” Herrera said.
“So I have three to recover the targets.” Gordon stated firmly.
“Copy that, no more than three and then you get your squad to the extraction point.” Herrera said.
“Roger that.” Gordon said and switched off the mic. He then turned to the squad, “Marines, circle up.”
The squad of marines gathered in the room while the doctor stood shivering from fright at the conference table.
“What’s going on Sarge?” McAdams asked.
“Yeah Sarge, what was the explosion?” Barrington asked.
“Listen up marines,” Gordon looked to the group, “We have a hull breech on deck twenty six and power fluctuations across the whole station.”
“And not to mention dragons running loose on the station.” Wells added.
“And…whatever the fuck those things are.” Daniels said motioning to creature on the ground.
“And scientists to save.” Karzarian said.
“What sort of timeframe are we looking at?” McAdams asked.
“Six hours until total power failure.”
“That’s not a lot of time Sarge.” Yamoto said.
“No it isn’t, but we have a mission to complete marines and we don’t leave anyone behind.” Gordon said.
The marines nodded their affirmative. It was a tradition of the Marine Corps dating back over a thousand years to a time before space travel. The Corps was more than just being a soldier and defending their homeland. It was a family and protecting the man beside you. Marines were known for their bond of brotherhood and when they lost one of their brothers on the battlefield, they never left them behind. They deserved to be taken home to rest among the brothers that were lost before them.
“Doc,” Gordon said, turning to look at the doctor who was still holding onto the table to keep himself upright, “Stick close to Karzarian.”
Carr slowly nodded his head.
“Sarge!” Yamoto called out as he looked down to his wrist PMA screen.
“What is it?” Gordon asked with a note of concern.
“I’ve got movement in the stairwell. They’re moving too fast for details, but I count at least eight moving on our position.” Yamoto reported without looking up.
“Game time marines! We’ve got incoming.” Gordon called out.