Continuing the Saturday Funnies, here is part four of my on-going Sci-fi tale. Remember: this is offered just for a bit of fun. If public opinion is that it holds any promise, I’d be happy to rework it and try it as a short eBook. If it stinks… well, why waste the time? If you want to start at the beginning [just click here]
Troopers Kim, Barklay and Rodrigues work quickly as they double check each others gear: body armor strapped on, photon grenades clipped to waist band and on safety, phaser rifles loaded and on safety, extra clips secure, Comm set on and working. The ship is still at red alert yet the call went out for all ground assault troopers to suit up. Barklay, the squad leader, notices Kim fidgeting. It’s Kim’s first active G.A. mission. Since Kim joined the squad, fresh out of the academy, they had participated in one boarding party against a Birdman ship, and called to stand ready in three other skirmishes, but saw no action in those.
“So, Kim, are you ready for your first taste of true G.A. action?”
Kim grabs his rifle and brandishes it threateningly, “You bet!”
Barklay smiles, “Good man. Just remember; don’t get close enough they can touch you. If they inject you, holler for one of us and we’ll off you. If they get one of us, you do the same for us.” A look of doubt crossed Kim’s face. Barklay pressed the point, “Have you ever seen anyone get assimilated? Believe me, it isn’t pretty. You would be doing me or Rodriguez a favor.”
A chime sounds, followed by the voice of the strike force leader echoing through the docking bay, “All troops, assemble at your transports. Prepare for disembarkation.”
The three troopers rush to take up their positions in formation beside a landing craft. Sergeant Seikes looks every man over with the experienced eye of a long time trooper, then yells, “Load up!” and the platoon files up the ramp in the tail of the landing craft. The ramp swings up, locks in place and seals as the men strap in for launch.
A landing craft is a multi-purpose ship. It can be used to bring in equipment, supplies, or troops. It’s not a large craft, so the interior has to be easily converted for each use. To land troops, the interior is partitioned into cells, two feet wide and 6 feet deep. The partitions are made of a metal mesh that rolls up and stows easily. There are two rows of cells, with an aisle down the middle. Each cell holds one three-man squad in standing position. Each man is strapped to the mesh behind him with safety belts. It’s no place for a claustrophobic.
The ship lurches as it lifts from the deck and glides toward the launch bay door. There are no windows, but Barklay envisions the scene: fighters are outside already, falling in beside the shuttles as they emerge and begin their descent. A similar scene is occurring near the Val’Pah, which is joining the assault force, except that a Victorious does not carry fighters, so they use armed drop ships.
Seikes strides up the aisle shouting, “We’re in close, it will be a short trip. There is little atmosphere, make sure your envirogear is turned on. There is one structure in the surface. Landing craft will set down in a ring around it. Company A will go in first and locate accesses. The rest of us will follow. Upon landing, disembark and take cover until I order you to move in. Is that clear?”
With one loud voice, the company answers, “Yes, Sir!”
Seikes pauses to listen to his head set, and respond to his orders before continuing in his loud, clipped manner, “Unclip, landing in 10!”
The ramp begins to swing down. A force field holds the air inside, but will allow the troopers to pass through. As squad leader, Barklay is on the aisle, he leans over to look out the door as the drop ship swings into position.
The black sky is dominated by the planet around which this moon orbits. Basically a molten sphere of magma, spewing great plumes of molten rock, that look like bright flowers blooming on the surface, it will be millenia before that planet has an inhabitable surface. As the ship swings around he loses sight of the planet and something else drifts into view for just a moment; a very strange looking apparatus hanging in the sky; a tube made up of rings each comprised of small cubes strung together with very thin tubing. Not knowing how far away it is, he can’t even guess at its size. Finally he catches just a glimpse of a bizarre looking building; a massive circular core that flows up and outward ending in long spiky arms. To Barklay, it looks like a huge crown. Low, blocky wings of this building radiate out from the center almost to the edge of the tarmac, dividing it into wedge shaped courts. Then the ragged, rocky landscape they are about to land on. The ship touches down just as the ramp is fully lowered.
Seikes starts at the ramp and trots up the aisle slapping each squad leader on the shoulder as he passes, yelling, “Go… go… go…!” When he gets to the end of the compartment, he turns around and follows his men out. As he runs down the ramp, he radios, “Clear!” and the landing craft lifts off and heads back up into the blackness.
They were dropped at the outer edge of the tarmac. Beyond the pad edge the natural landscape resumes with large shards of rock jutting up and chunks strewn about. It offers lots of cover and the company quickly disappears into the shadows of those stones.
Overhead, not more than twenty to thirty thousand feet up, hang the Executioner, the Val’Pah, and two war birds. Barklay’s eyes grow large at the sight of the war birds.
Rodrigues catches him looking up and follows suit, “Whoa, they landed us right under the ‘birds’ noses?”
Even at this distance large burn marks are evident on the war bird hulls. One was glowing brightly where a plasma conduit had ruptured. There is no exchange of weapons fire, and none of the ships are moving. Two large beetle-like Stormer landing craft pass low overhead, humming softly as they lift back toward their mother ship, obscuring the view long enough to snap Barklay back. “They wouldn’t have landed us if those ships were a threat.”
“I hope so…”
Off to Barklay’s left, Sargent Seikes is checking his company, and reporting in to Major Hammil, the strike forces commander.
Barklay peeks around the boulder. Several piles of smoking metallic ruin dot the pad in front of him. And bodies. More bodies than Barklay had ever seen. Alpha company is just reaching the central building. Doors open in the walls and Cyborg drones pour out and engage them. Unconsciously Barclay rechecks his weapon and armament and says to his squad, “Get ready guys, the dance has begun!” His squad-mates check to see that their weapons are hot and get ready to spring from their hiding place.
Sargent Seikes’s voice sounds in Barklay’s headset, “Epsilon Company, advance.” The Sargent jumps out in front and his company forms up in a “v” behind him. “Squads 15 and 30, watch our 6.”
They advance at a fast walk rather than a run, watching the bodies as they pass through; some may not be dead. The two trailing squads pay particular attention to those inside the “V” where an ambush would be easiest.
Barklay mentally reviews his training on “bugs”; the Cyborg have power sources powerful yet small enough to power personal shield generators. This is a feat the other races have not duplicated, they rely on ablative body armor to disperse phaser fire. Birdman disruptors are harder to stop. However the Cyborg rarely use weapons, they prefer to take you alive for assimilation. They do so by extending a needle like tube from the end of one arm, piercing your armor at a weak spot, like the neck joint, and injecting an oily substance containing nannites into your body. The nannites: microscopic robots, get into your blood steam and spread throughout your body to begin the conversion process. Once they reach your brain, they attach themselves to major neural pathways inducing a stupor and paralysis until they’ve completed their work.
Feds have developed a rotating frequency phaser rifle that is fairly effective against Cyborgs in short encounters. Birdmen disruptors somehow are a little more effective. Stormers have always preferred to fight hand-to-hand using a large curved sword. They consider beam weapons to be cowardly.
As the company approaches the skirmish Seikes orders, “Spread out, hold position and take aim.” A contingent of Stormers off to the right snarl loudly and rush forward. They do not wear the full body armor that the Fed Troopers do. Theirs is much lighter with no helmet, just breathing gear, allowing them to move more freely, as is required for their form of hand to hand combat.
“Open Fire!” orders Seikes.
Each trooper Squad Leader chooses a target, identifies it to the rest of his squad with a tracer shot. Then all three troopers open fire on the one target. It takes a dozen or more rapid hits to overpower the Bug’s shield generator, the next round will kill it.
Sounds simple enough, thinks Barkay; if Troopers outnumber the Cyborg 3 to one, and they don’t move around much, or have any place to take cover. Which is rarely the case.
Barklay selects a particularly ugly Cyborg, orders, “Select!” fires his tracer shot, hits his mark, then orders, “Fire”. The squad squeezes off three synchronized rounds then another drone steps in front of its companion taking the fire, allowing the other to withdraw and recharge. They fire at that one as fast as their rifles will recharge, three shots and another one steps in. Alpha company can no longer be seen. Either they got through the Bugs and into the building or… Barklay didn’t want to think about that.
Other squads were having similar luck. The Stormers, surprisingly were doing quite well. The drones, while quite strong were also very heavy for their size, and could not dodge the nimble Stormer warriors and their swords, against which their body shields provided little if any protection. Their bodies are armored with a metal/flesh alloy, but even that has to have weak spots. Rodrigues had taken a pointer from the Stormers and fashioned a knife blade which mounts to the business end of his rifle. Sarge told him that he didn’t ever want to see that device in place during a drop, but Barklay let him carry it as long as it was tucked out of sight.
“They’re getting past us!” shouts Kim.
As if on cue, Seikes’s voice orders, “Fall back & eat dirt; incoming!”
The Fed troopers spin around, take four long running steps and dive over the pavement as two fighters swoop in low and strafe the Cyborg. Another wing follows. Cyborg body parts rain down around them. A glob of greenish-yellow goo containing an eyeball and a circuitry chip lands on Kim’s outstretched arm. He freaks. Screaming, he jumps up and backs away…
“Kim, look out!” Shouts Rodrigues.
Kim backs into the arms of a Cyborg drone. The drone is missing part of one arm, but still walking. It grabs Kim with the stump of its left arm. A needle snaps out of its right wrist as it raises that arm.
With one smooth move, Rodrigues rolls to his feet, snatching the bayonet from it’s clip on his leg as he goes, and snapping it in place on the rifle, then lunges forward, thrusting the knife under Kim’s left armpit and into the bug’s belly. Kim wiggles free and Rodrigues fires a shot, point blank. The bug, jerks, folds over and crumples to the ground, motionless.
Several more are approaching. Rodrigues wrenches his rifle away from the dead bug. No bayonet. Just the same, he lunges forward, rams the end of the rifle against the bugs belly and fires. That one too, crumples.
Excited, Kim and Barklay follow his example. And quickly dispatch several more drones. Kim runs toward another that is moving his way.
“Kim, get back here!” Shouts Barklay. Kim doesn’t stop.
He tries their new trick against this one but as he lunges, the bug raises its arm, needle extended and impales Kim through the neck. Kim goes limp, dropping his rifle.
“Noooo!” shout Barklay and Rodrigues together. And together they open fire on the Cyborg. This time no others are there to protect it. It’s shields go down, and it follows. They pump several more shots into it before they get a grip on their emotions.
Kim moves weakly, rolls onto his back.
Barklay peers in through Kim’s face shield, “Kim, you OK buddy?”
As he watches, gray tendrils creep up Kim’s face, his left ear shrivels like a dried apricot and his eyes, filled with terror, go glassy and lifeless as the nannites go to work on his brain.
Barklay’s stomach tightens and a lump rises in his throat. He knows what he must do. He stands up, places the rifle end against Kim’s face place and fires.
He says to Rodrigues, “He was the first squad mate I’ve had to kill. “Why did it have to be Kim. He’s just a kid.”
Another group of drones were moving in their direction. Rodrigues elbowed him.
Barklay counted; four drones against the two of them. “What is it the Stormers say… ‘It is a good day to die.'”?
He aimed his weapon, “Select!” fired the trace, “Fire!”
They got three shots off and he expected that one to drop back and allow another to take its place. Instead all four stopped walking. The troopers fired again. Still the bugs stood there. They fired again and the bug dropped. “Select!”
They dropped a second one just as easily.
And the third, and the fourth. The Cyborg just stood there, staring.
The two troopers looked around the tarmac. Other small groups just like theirs were doing the same thing. In a few minutes, not a single Cyborg was standing.
“What? What is going on?” Rodrigues asked, but they didn’t get time to wonder about it.
“Assault Troops, assemble for retrieval!”
“Gladly.” Mumbles Barklay to no one in particular. He turns back toward Kim’s body. He knows they can’t bring a contaminated corpse back, but just to say ‘good bye’. He looks over at Rodrigues, who knows what he’s thinking. Rodrigues shakes his head slowly. “Bad idea, buddy.”
Barklay nods. “I suppose so.”
He and Rodrigues run back to their drop point. Their side had won. They should be rejoicing. But neither was in the mood for celebration.
If you want to start at the beginning [just click here]
Continue for Chapter Five