Shouted orders turned to frantic screams and pleas punctuated by gunfire and screeches that were not human. The comms distorted the voices, but they still came through laden with panic and fear. Corporal Enders ran as fast as he could, the steel grates beneath his feet clanking against the boots he wore. His armor was heavy and his rifle tired his arms, his helmet bounced as he went. He was beyond exhaustion, but the screams in his ear kept pushing him on. Hadley’s Hope was lost, but they were sent in after the last squad failed to report in, not knowing the full details of the mission. Another sharp turn opened up a new corridor, far from sick bay and command, but pointed him towards the struggle the rest of his squad were having.
He checked the counter on his rifle and it still read 99, he hand’t fired a single shot in this little conflict. Another burst from the comms came in, announcing the retreat of his comrades, he had to get there. Sergeant Mack was up there, but he was newly promoted and didn’t have the field experience to lead his troops. Then the door came up quick, closed and secured. Enders popped the panel and began to run a bypass when the solid steel door thumped like it had been hit by a car. His hands froze in fear. Another thump, just as heavy. He didn’t bother with the bypass anymore, his hands went to his Pulse Rifle hanging against his chest. He breathed out, trying to slow the panting he’d worked up from running. His feet moved on their own, backing him slowly away from the door, but his eyes were locked on it.
Another thump, then another. The steel began to warp and bend in odd shapes. The top left corner of the steel bent and a long, black, clawed hand shot through and started slashing at the air. He was already a good ten feet away, mentally thanking his feet for the favor. He didn’t know how many of them were on the other side, but the door bent more. Nothing in his training had prepared him for what came out of the blackness beyond the twisted door: An elongated, shiny, black head, with teeth the size of his own fingers. It had no eyes, but the Corporal had no doubt that it was looking at him, then it opened it’s maw, another mouth inside the giant one it already had, and hissed. It didn’t sound like a hiss a snake would give. It sounded much more horrifying and it worked. Blinking was out of the question. The creature writhed and fought, trying to pull itself through the crag, claws scraping steel and leaving ragged scratches.
The rifle was at his shoulder before he could even think. The recoil that usually bruised his shoulder didn’t even register in the grip of fear. The familiar sound of his Pulse Rifle jump started his training and he yelled into the mic hanging an inch away from his lips, “CONTACT!” The rounds did their job, exploding on impact upon the creature half hanging from the mangled entrance to the corridor, bursting it apart. It died with an unearthly screech and went limp, bright green fluids fountaining from the giant holes. Everything that was touched by the thing’s blood began to groan and melt, eating away at the already damaged door. He turned and ran as another set of fingers and arms began to try and make its way through the hole, he didn’t wait for it to come out.
Metal walls and grates that all looked the same passed him at blinding speed, his fatigue forgotten. A left turn here, a right turn here. Then the voice of his sergeant came through, “This whole goddamn colony is a contact area! Fall back to the APC!” He confirmed the command as he kept running, mental maps and ways guiding his working legs. A ceiling grate in front of him fell and one of the creatures fell atop it. Enders didn’t waste time aiming, he gripped his rifle to his side and let the grenade launcher give his answer to the thing. The shot thumped in his chest and the thing exploded, spraying green blood everywhere. He ducked the few drops sloughing from the exposed hole and jumped over the growing gape in the floor. As soon as he was past he heard more of them crash down behind him. Another turn. This door wasn’t locked and slid open with a hydraulic push and then back again. He was close to the exit, now.
A square of floor popped open in front of the running Corporal and a creature leaped out. He was going too fast to stop. He was a big guy, standing six foot four and heavy with muscle, but this thing towered over him. He estimated it at about eight feet high. With resignation he did the opposite of his own instincts and increased speed, putting his shoulder down into a ramming position. He wasn’t aware he was screaming in determination when he hit it. End over end they toppled, his arms and legs seeking stability and the creature’s the same. The long tail of the thing whipped back and forth, thick and cutting through the air, screeches and teeth flashed by his face, claws dug into the floor and missed him. Suddenly he knew which way was up and so did it. They fought each other for a moment, his hands releasing the rifle and trying to pin down his opponent’s. It writhed and kicked and hissed, making his struggle twice as hard.
The thing got the upper hand and reared up, exposing its slick, black chest. Enders seized the opportunity. With all his strength he put both booted feet against it and pushed. The creature flew back and he was left on his back. Faster than he’d ever moved before he pulled his sidearm and took aim, emptying the clip at the upturned monstrosity, blowing holes in it, as well as taking off its jaw and a large part of its head. He came to his feet as the creature flopped around on the floor and screeched its earsplitting cry. He resumed his run, jumping over the thing on the floor and avoiding the toxic pool hissing around it. The giant doors leading out of Hadley’s Hope were within spitting distance. And they slid open, into the night and pouring rain.
His breath was ragged again as he ran down the ramp. The doors behind him slid closed and he saw the sight that took his breath away: The last six members of his squad in a circle, shooting and cursing at the ring of creatures that surrounded them and the APC. Screeches, Pulse Rifles, Smart Guns, flamethrowers, pistols, hissing metal and ground, all played chaos in his ears. His sergeant was screaming into his comms mic to who knows whom on the other side, relaying commands and their dire situation. It was too much. He numbly took his place amongst his squad and began to fire at the writhing, hissing, slick, black creatures coming for them. He hadn’t prayed since his first day of basic. Now prayers flowed from his lips like the rain from the sky above him. The counter on his rifle finally dropped to zero and he reached for another clip.
Suddenly the doors Corporal Enders had just exited opened. And a countless number of the nightmare creatures that had turned this colony into a living hell poured out just as a prayer left Enders’ lips, “God help us…”
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