Below is attached my first-ever created novella. It has undergone quite a bit of editing since I first created it, and I’ve chosen to give YOU, my loyal followers, some of my humble, second-rate work. I promise to publish this along with my upcoming book, Paragons of Lost Magic, Book 1: The Mage’s Gambit.
I hope you enjoy.
Gabriel O’Brian, space marine, sat in the back of the gunship after his latest successful battle. He sat with his head bowed, staring at his helmet. It had been approximately thirty rotations since he left his impoverished home on Zandabbar 9 to join the galactic space marines.
Oh, training had been easy enough: poverty on Zandabbar 9 either killed you or made you stronger than the rest. It was the job that distressed him. He just didn’t have the stomach to kill civilians, rebels or not. But he owed his livelihood to the Galactic Government, whose citizens he had sworn to protect.
His mates had nicknamed him Gabe. He put up with that, as long as they said it playfully or respectfully, not with a mischievous snigger. In that case, he would stuff a hand grenade in his mouth and pitch him out of the transport. Yeah, Gabriel was a force to be reckoned with in the Galactic Marine Corps.
Gabriel glanced over at a fellow marine, who also had his helmet off and was snoring loudly. He was Sledge McGavin, but his mates nicknamed him Gav. Gabriel leaned back and re-imagined what the evening had been like…
Lying in a ditch, Gabriel leaned over the lip, and blasted off a couple of rounds out of his laser rifle. The enemy, rebels presumably, had come upon them as they were short on resources, and in doing so they were vulnerable. Gabriel had taken a slug in the leg as he dove for cover, and now he swore at the pain. Gabriel took out a powerful painkiller and stuck his leg. Immediately, the pain in his leg grew exponentially less. Pulling out his laser rifle, he fired off a few more rounds into the faces of several more rebels. Pulling a detonator from his belt, he threw it vociferously at his adversaries, and got the uneasy satisfaction by seeing their bodies break apart, ravaged by the explosion.
Soon, the rebels began to flee into the neighboring town. The Marines advanced and broke them, and only a few of them escaped into the town.
“What should we do now, commander?” Gabriel asked his superior officer. “Will we search the town?”
“That won’t be necessary.” Said the commander. “Call in a bombing run.”
“Did you hear me, trooper?”
Gabriel activated his comm link. “We need a bombing strike on these coordinates…”
Gabriel decided to stop remembering. The gore from that point on was really bad…He wasn’t one for mindless killing.
“All right, every trooper off,” said the transport driver, scowling. “Move it!” Gabriel put his helmet on, squared his shoulders, and walked back into the soldier’s life, the life he knew he could never again perform with pride…
Gabriel stepped out of the crowded transport to the space marine HQ. He proceeded down a slightly narrow hallway filled with marines and officers of the galactic government down to his barracks. Upon entry, he observed several others of his unit standing around the bunks, grinning.
“The mission was a success, Gabriel!” Said Gav. “Great job, bro!”
Gabriel wasn’t anywhere near the ecstatic spirit that was his friend. He just kept rehearsing the bombing of the town in his mental theater…
“We’re being sent out again,” Gav continued. “Some place in the Gimmel sector. Weird place…We’re being sent out to investigate the happenings for the Galactic Government.” Here he yawned. “Hey, bro, you don’t seem too talkative right now. Are you okay?”
Gabriel blinked and shook himself. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just…tired.”
“Get some sleep, Gabe. You’ll need it.” Said Gav, peeling off his armor and settling into his bunk. Gabriel blinked again and took off his armor, then settled down to get some sleep.
“GABE! What are you doing?!”
Gabriel sat bolt upright in bed. Except, he wasn’t on a bed. He wasn’t even sitting. He was in a strange and alien world, in full armor. He had his heavy laser rifle in his hand, and he lay behind a rock, presumably getting cover. He saw no reason in taking cover, because there was no gunfire. He stood up and took aim over the rock.
Lining the horizon, there lay hundreds of swarming humanoid monsters. They were like humans, but their skin was rotting visibly and their movement was staggered.
One of the inhuman monsters let out a hideous shriek. He charged towards Gabriel, the rest of the wave following. Gabriel wanted to get down, but he couldn’t. He stood rooted to the spot, as the inhuman creatures charged and knocked him down, whilst he was stricken with an unshakable fear…
Gabriel sat up in bed, groggily. Over him stood Gav, fully armed and ready to proceed with the mission. “C’mon, buddy. Our mission is in 2 standard hours and I’d like to grab a bite to eat before we depart.”
Gabriel sat up in bed, still groggy. Getting up, he got back into his armor, and proceeded to the chow hall with Gav.
Army food was rough, but for some reason it tasted worse than ever this time. Gabriel still couldn’t shake that dream.
He was still thoughtful about the dream, and the previous day, as the gunship departed for the planet in the Gimmel sector.
“Approaching our destination, gents. Best get ready.” Said the Pilot of the transport Gabriel O’Brian was on.
In the few moments before Gabriel would free fall to the planet’s surface, he contented himself with thoughts of his wife and daughter on Zandabbar 9. He promised he would come back to them…
Gabriel continued to get his landing gear on. Mid-planetfall, he would activate his jetpack and fly to his directed destination. He double checked that every wire, casing, and switch were in their place. “Opening the hatch door!” Yelled the pilot from the cockpit. The side of the transport slid open, and Gabriel found himself staring down at a red, alien landscape. It looked strangely familiar…
Shaking himself, he cast himself out of the transport. The other members of his squad did the same. Halfway through plummeting to the planet’s surface, Gabriel spotted a small, sprawling landscape that looked like a group of structures. Activating his jetpack, he signaled for the rest of his squad to follow. Descending further towards the surface, he saw that the sprawling group of structures was a large city indeed. Gabriel aimed for the biggest building and slowed his descent. He hovered above the building for a minute, and then performed a successful landing. The rest of the squad followed suit, and in a few more minutes he was joined by the rest of the strike force.
Besides Gabriel and Gav, there were five others who had joined to investigate this mission. Sarge, the leader of the team, who was an officer without armor, signaled for everyone to enter the building which they were in. Following procedure, they kicked the door to below and guarded their passage.
Proceeding down a series of hallways, Gabriel noticed that scratches, along with a few blood smears, were splattered across the wall. But there were no bodies.
“This is strange, indeed.” Said Vitale, the medic of the group. “Signs of struggle, blood, but no bodies?” Gabriel kept getting more and more uneasy. Something very strange was afoot.
Finally, they came to a door. Gabriel and Gav used their combined power and a series of kicks to destroy the door, then point their laser rifles through the door.
Instead of enemies, however, a gruesome sight met their eyes: blood spattered the ground and walls, and limbs littered the room. There were a few bodies, although none more intact than one only missing an arm. Everyone was dead, unmistakably, and a foul stench filled the air. The signs of fight and struggle were clearer than ever in this gory scene. Gabriel gazed throughout the room, looking for clues that might help—
Wait, did that eyeball just move?
Gabriel’s gaze came to rest on the corpse that was devoid of its left arm. He felt like he saw it twitch its dead, gory eyeball…
A cough, then a sputter came from the corpse.
The dead, mutilated corpse, bones cracking inhumanly, stood to its rotting feet.
The thing lunged with a hideous screech at Sarge, who unfortunately wore no armor. It sank its teeth into his arm and yanked. Sarge’s arm snapped and a large chunk of flesh became trapped in the monster’s teeth.
Gabriel lost no more time. Pulling his laser rifle from his back, he shot a laser blast at the enemy. The energy bolt struck the monster in the chest, carving a hole in it. The thing immediately toppled to the ground, writhing and twitching.
Vitale was on Sarge immediately. Pulling out a sedater, he speared Sarge in the neck. Sarge’s screaming turned down to a faint mutter. He was now twitching uncontrollably.
“He hasn’t lost too much blood, so he should be all right.” Said Vitale. “Gav, Gabriel, secure the doors!” Gav and Gabriel did so. “You’ll be alright, Sarge. Hang in there.” Said Vitale. Sarge stopped twitching. Vitale gave him an adrenaline shot. The pulse checker on Sarge’s wrist went flat. “What the–“
Sarge, presumably dead, started to writhe and twist. The rest of the squad recoiled in horror. Sarge, the dead man, sat up, eyes milky and vacant. Then he seemed to glance at his fellow soldiers.
With another hideous shriek, he was upon them.
Gav flew with a gut-wrenching put to the reanimated Sarge’s stomach. The thing stumbled backwards and fell heavily. “Everyone out!” Said Gav, brandishing his laser rifle. He emptied several rounds into the Sarge-thing, and then every one of the marines turned tail and fled from the room.
“What the hell were those things?” Said Gabriel, reaching the end of the hall. “What exactly happened to poor old Sarge?”
“Some sort of pathogen, probably. Maybe weaponized.” Said Vitale. “This could be the thing that’s causing these strange happenings. I mean…What’s that noise?”
Vitale broke off, eyes fixed at the end of the hallway. A rumbling noise could most definitely be heard behind the door at the end of the hall. Suddenly, the door shuddered under the weight of an immense blow. The company pulled out their various weapons, and prepared to fire on the door. The door shuddered again, and the hinges gave way. The marines peered through the opening.
About fifty inhuman monsters streamed through the doorway down the narrow hall. The marines opened fire on them, although it did little to slow their pace.
“Guys, we have to go!” Said Gabriel. “Nothing we can do will stop them!” The entire squad fled down the narrow hallway to the next door. The things were getting closer now, they had already tackled a member of the squad, who went down screaming and crying for help. The squad thundered down the hall. The nearest door was now in sight. Gabriel fired behind him to eliminate any monsters that came too close. The squad dove into the open door and Gav pushed the button to close it just in time. The monsters slammed up against the door, which was clear, so all the marines saw the vacant, milky eyes of the monsters that had chased them as they banged their heads against the door.
Gabriel didn’t have the breath to ask what those things were again.
The zombies continued to strike the door, teeth bared and wild. Vitale was already scanning the room for a way out. Distressingly, he found nothing, except for a window on the far side of the room.
“Alright, men,” He said. “We’re going to have to scale the building to a higher level. Get out your cables!”
Just then the door cracked, then shuddered, as the zombies continued to bash it down. The door was yielding.
“You heard him people, LET’S GO!” Said Gav. The other marines scrambled to rope together their cables. The door shuddered again under the weight of a massive blow. Of the seven members of the squad, there were five remaining. Climbing out of the window, the remaining members roped themselves together into a group, and then activated the ascension cable. The servos whined and scraped, but then began to pull them up.
The door of the room they had been in broke, bodies piling onto the floor. The marines continued to ascend to the top of the building.
Suddenly, the servos in the cable began to whine and smoke. Long before they reached the top, the motor was beginning to grind to a stop. Gabriel, in a panic, leaped from the bundled-up squad and broke through another window with an armored fist.
“What are you doing!?” Yelled another member of the squad. The servos of the ascension cable crackled with sudden sparks, and then the rest of the squad plummeted towards the ground. Gabriel watched with horror as the squad started to descend down and out of sight.
Squaring his shoulders and turning his back on his fallen comrades, he took a look at his surroundings. He appeared to be in some form of a storage facility. He took his laser rifle off of his back and scanned the room for hostiles.
In the corner, some boxes rustled. He turned and fired half a dozen shots in that direction. He heard a frightened yelp come from that direction and panicked breathing. “Don’t move!” Stated Gabriel in his best commanding voice. “State your business!” A small, scared pair of eyes poked themselves over the crate. At least they appeared to be human.
Putting away his laser rifle, he pulled a ration slice out of his belt and held it out to those scared eyes. “It’s okay…” He said in a soothing, coaxing voice. “I wouldn’t harm you…” The eyes disappeared, then a hesitant figure emerged from behind the crate.
The figure was a girl, about six or seven standard years old, by Gabriel’s reckoning. She edged closer to Gabriel, hesitantly. Evidently she was very hungry. Hungry enough to accept food from the grim, gauntleted hand of a galactic marine. Sauntering up, she gazed defiantly into Gabriel’s visor, then snatched the ration strip from his hand and began to chew.
Gabriel chucked slightly. She reminded him of his own little girl, back on Zandabbar 9. The mission would have to wait; he had to find a way to his squad, if they were still alive, and then find a way to rescue this small, grubby child.
Well, at least the landing didn’t hurt.
Next thing Gav knew, he was lying on the ground, and Vitale was putting a splint on his leg. Gav groaned miserably, feeling now the pain of his broken leg.
“Hey!” Said Vitale. “Don’t move, pal. Most of us are fine, but one of our buddies died in the crash. You’re the only one with a serious injury.” Gav groaned again, this time inwardly. Now they were separated from Gabriel, heaven knows where he might be, and their squad excluding Gabriel was down to three marines.
“Alright, you should be good now.” Said Vitale, completing the splint, and then injecting a painkiller into Gav’s leg. You should be able to limp without too much pain.“
“NO!” Said the other remaining marine, by the name of Morgan. “He’ll slow us down! Those…things will get us!”
“You’ll obey a senior officer, marine.” Vitale said. “Medic though I am. Let’s prepare to move.” Morgan quieted down, muttering sullenly under his breath. Pulling out a razor, he began to shave himself, using his water and a piece of mirrored metal. Vitale packed up his medical supplies, and Gav sat down. Getting his rest. By his reckoning, he’d need it.
Reacting with a soldier’s instinct, he pulled the laser rifle from his back and aimed in the direction of the voice. It was Vitale who had spoken, and he was pointing to the far end of the alleyway that they were on.
Zombies were swarming down from the opening. Morgan swore and dropped his razor, nicking a smart line in his chin while doing so. All three marines concentrated fire heavily on the approaching mass, doing little harm but slowing it some. With all three marines running and shooting backwards over their shoulders, they made a fine chase down the alleyway. Suddenly, Gav’s ankle twisted on a rock, sending pain shooting up his leg, and he toppled to the ground. A particularly portly zombie was just about to pounce on him, when…
The huge, gauntleted hand of Morgan shot out and carved into the zombie’s face, caving it in and damaging it irreparably.
“Get out of here, fool!” Said Morgan, throwing an explosive at the oncoming mass, sending blood and limbs spattering across the duo. Morgan helped Gav to his feet and they ran from the much-slowed and confused zombie horde. Vitale was right ahead of them, and soon the trio turned a corner, and burst into a shop, door ajar. Vitale pounced on the door and shut it, then locked it.
The three took a breather. They were a sorry sight, blood-spattered and breathless. Gav held out his hand to Morgan.
“Thanks for saving my sorry skin. I owe you one.” He said.
“I still say you slow us down…” said Morgan, who was now tending to the cut on his face. It appeared to be bleeding, but Gav couldn’t tell.
Vitale, the medic that he was, noticed. “Did one of those things do that to you?” He asked.
“Naw,” Said Morgan. I was shaving, and those monsters came on me so fast that I…” He stopped short, realizing what he said. “What a minute…You don’t say…”
Vitale unholstered his laser rifle and pointed it at Morgan. “You’ve become a liability, Morgan.” He said.
Gabriel continued his slow, cautious gait down the hall. The girl followed at his heels.
“So…You got a name?” Said Gabriel, feeling uncomfortable. He wasn’t used to talking to females, no matter what age they were. It had been a while since he had seen his wife and kid.
“Uh…um…” She drawled. Okay, two words out of her, though Gabriel. So far so good. “My folks called me Alema, so you can call me that.” She finished.
“Do you know what happened here, Alema?” Asked Gabriel.
She hesitated. “No…not really. My parents took me to that storage bay and left me there, telling me not to move. They said they’d be back in an hour…” She studied the floor ruefully. “But they didn’t. Do you know what happened to them?” She gazed up into his grim visor.
Gabriel smiled sadly. “I don’t know,” he said. “They’re probably all right.” He added.
Alema appeared comforted by this lie. “That’s good, because I miss them.” She said, quickening her pace to match that of Gabriel’s. “I—What’s that?”
Gabriel instantly spun around and drew his laser rifle from his back. A staggering mass was shambling towards them. It was moving with a strange, odd, shambling gait. Out of sync. Out of rhythm.
The hall was full of them.
“I’m clean, guys! I’m serious!” Stammered an unfortunate Morgan. “You’re not just gonna kill me, are you?” `
Vitale kept his laser rifle leveled. “We can’t risk that,” The medic said. “We can’t afford to have a raging monster at our heels. Take off your armor.”
“Did you hear me, trooper? While you’re still sane, you’re under my command. Take off your armor.” Growled Vitale.
Morgan, still hesitant, started to peel off his armor, until he was standing in his undershirt and shorts. “Please…Gav, tell him!” Morgan was shaking now.
Gav didn’t know what to say. “I…I follow my orders.” He said stoutly. Morgan lifted up his hands with a despairing look on his face, then fell flat in the snow, shaking. Vitale shook his head ruefully.
“Soldier. SOLDIER!” Said Vitale. “Get up, you scum. We still don’t know—“
Morgan leapt to his feet and screamed a bone-chilling howl.
There was a milky murder in his eyes.
Vitale, losing his iron nerve only for a second, reached out with an iron-gauntleted hand and grabbed the thing-that-had-once-been-Morgan by the throat and there the much lighter figure across the room. Turning to Gav, he said, “Time to go. Get your gear and get out!”
No more words were needed. Gav grabbed his pack and rushed outside. Already the Morgan zombie was up, landing ape-like blows on Vitale. The old soldier’s armor began to come off in plates under the relentless onslaught of the monster. Vitale lost his balance and was thrown against a table. Vitale’s laser rifle fell to the ground, and he groped for it. The Morgan zombie, wide grin on its face, staggered over to Vitale and tried to land a bite on his neck. Vitale responded with a boneshattering blow to the thing’s face. It was temporarily stunned, and Vitale leaned for his laser rifle, caught it, and blew a hole in the zombie’s chest. The thing blinked, and fell backwards. Vitale got up, several armor plates falling off of him. Vitale was unhurt, but his armor systems were failing. With a shrug, he let them fall off of him. He was now in his civilian outfit, no armor whatsoever.
“Come on, trooper.” He said to Gav. “Let’s get going. We have to find Gabriel. Then, we’ll leave.”
The two marines limped off, with only the hope of survival holding their spirits from breaking.
Gabriel realized he could lose no time. He scooped Alema up in his arms and dashed down the hall. In a trice, it seemed the monsters had recognized his flight. They flew after him, screaming
Gabriel took his laser rifle from his back, took careful aim, and blew a gaping hole in the zombies behind him. He managed to pick off a few stragglers before reaching the end of the hall. He made a sharp right and dove into an open office room. He slammed the door shut and locked it.
“What were those things?” She asked in terrified tones. Gabriel was a little surprised: not once had he seen her show fear.
“That…I don’t know.” The marine said. “The cause of the disturbance here…probably. Our problem…certainly.” He looked down on the terrified girl. “From now on, you stay close to me. Got that?”
Alema nodded. Gabriel set her down. For a genetically enhanced marine, she was no more than a bundle to him. shouldering his laser rifle, he walked out the opposite side of the room, which led to an adjoining hallway. He peeked out the hallway at first, and, finding it clear, signaled Alema to follow. They headed to the stairs. Reaching them, he walked up. It took him a while, but he finally reached the top, where they had landed. Their flight gear would be there. There he would—
“What?” Gasped Gabriel.
The jetpacks, rations and equipment…gone.
Man…Gabriel thought. This day just keeps getting worse…
“On your left,” breathed Gav, and Vitale reached out and blew a hole in a zombie’s chest without looking. Limping back to their rendezvous was harder than it seemed. Already Gav felt that he could limp no more on his one leg. Walking into another room, the two marines shut and locked the door of it, panting. On the far side of the room, there was a window that looked out on the destroyed city. Both marines slumped to their knees, and shared out the meager rations they had left.
“Alright,” Said Vitale, chewing thoughtfully. “We need a way to contact Gabriel. We need to find him…Unless he’s dead, And get out of here. What about our comm equipment?”
“Damaged, chief.” Said Gav. “We need some better way of communication. If only there was some sort of communication device in this city…” Gav’s eyes wandered over to the window, and he peered out. His eyes came to rest on an old broadcasting tower. If only…
“Hey, chief!” Said Gav. What about that old broadcasting tower?” Vitale straightened, and went over to the window. “That would work…” He said slowly. “And there’s an undue amount of risk involved. Still, it may be our only hope…” Vitale’s voice trailed off, and for once the old soldier’s voice sounded almost…wistful. The two sat in silence.
“We’ll have to risk it.” Vitale said at last. “Gav, get the emergency paragliders. It’s too far to leg it on foot.”
Gav detached the glider from his back. Cutting the protective straps, he constructed the glider. Vitale did the same. Once they were finished, the two comrades-in-arms broke the window with their laser rifles.
“See you on the other side,” Said Gav, and the two marines bailed out of the building.
The paragliders remained strong as the two marines swooped in to crash through the glass in the broadcasting tower. Reaching the tower, the two marines blasted their way through the thick glass and swooped into the room, detaching their paragliders. They assumed a kneeling-down position, pointing their rifles about and scanning the room for hostiles.
“AAAAHHHHH! No, please don’t hurt me!”
The voice came from the other side of the room as a figure cowered in the corner. “Identify yourself!” Said Gav. “I am Gav McGavin of the galactic marine force. Come out with your hands up!” The figure uttered a noise that was somewhere between a cry of relief and a scream of exhaustion.
“Thank goodness you’re here!” Said the figure, stepping into the light. It appeared to be a man in a torn business jacket, stubble running up his neck and chin. “I felt like no one got my transmission!” He paused, looking at Gav and Vitale. “You…are here to rescue me, right? I can pay you whatev—“
Vitale cut him off: “Later. We need this comm tower to communicate with mission control for help. Do you know how to work this thing?”
“Yes! As a matter of fact.” Said the man. “This way please.” Gav and Vitale followed the man down the corridor.
Gabriel saw that there was no way off this planet now, not without an evac. He knelt down by Alema, contemplating his next move. Alema was using a broken piece of debris to draw pictures of…something. In spite of himself, Gabriel asked, “What are you drawing?”
“This?” Said Alema quizzically, putting her head on one shoulder. “This is…you know…IT.” She finished, solemnly. “It turned the men into monsters. I know, ‘cause I’ve seen it!” She said, proudly.
Gabriel wasn’t in the mood for fairy stories. “Yeah, that’s great, kid…But the real cause of this was probably bioweapons, or…”
Alema laid a grubby finger one Gabriel’s lips. “Don’t speak that way,” She said, solemnly. “You must respect It. The monsters do, so they aren’t destroyed.”
Gabriel still wasn’t interested. Probably this had been some sort of biochem leak, or something else.
One thing Gabriel did know, though, was that every child’s tale grows from a grain of truth…
Gabriel sat atop the building, watching the streets as a hawk would its prey. Zombies ambled about to and fro in the streets, grunting and moaning. Gabriel, out of his armor, hugged his laser rifle close as a toddler would a much-loved blanket. Alema lay in the corner, sleeping deeply and contentedly. Gabriel yanked a stimpacket from his much-depleted ration case and stabbed it into his thigh. Immediately he felt an instant boost of energy, and his drowsiness left him. Still gazing down at the zombies, he saw a large figure in the shadows, moving swiftly. Gabriel tightened his grip on his laser rifle and leaned further out to see. Gabriel could only see glimpses of the monster as it moved from shadow to shadow. All around it,. The zombies stepped aside and fell flat on their faces as an act of…Submission, possibly? The figure, invisible in this ever-present darkness, gazed around the zombies, who were flat on their faces. A soft clicking noise emerged from the ground below. Was it…communicating?
Gabriel shivered. It was impossible to see what the shape was, but he could see where and when it moved. Breaking out of the circle of zombies, it moved through an open door of some nondescript and disappeared. The zombies rose up and continued their stumbling gait around the streets.
Suffice to say, Gabriel was notably confused and miserable, as a nameless dread betrayed him.
“How did you all get here alive?” Asked Gav.
The two marines and the unshaven man stood in a room that was packed with people, all of them with a look in their eyes that combined terror, relief, and hope.
“We live here, in this broadcasting tower.” Said the unshaven man. “In the living quarters. We got word that the outbreak had happened, and we gathered all the survivors here. “I’m Garm Kron, by the way. You can call me Garm.”
Vitale held out his hand for peace. “We need to broadcast a message from this tower,” he said. “Garm will show me how it works.” Jerking his head, Garm led Vitale into another room.
Forgotten for the time being, Gav sat down. The room had grown unusually quiet. Gav was starting to get drowsy. Settling deeper into his chair, he fell asleep.
A woman’s scream jerked him awake. Sitting up quickly, he scanned the room and drew his weapon. The door flung open, and the head of Vitale’s laser rifle appeared in the doorway, pointing at the corner where the scream had come from.
“No, STOP!” Cried a man jumping in the way of where the guns were pointing. “There’s no alarm! It’s just my wife!”
“Is she infected?” Asked Vitale, iron will fluctuating in his voice.
“Er, no..” Said the man awkwardly. “Come see for yourself…” Vitale lowered his gun slightly, and the two marines strode across the room. When they reached the corner, they beheld a woman who was doubled over in pain. There was something else, though…
Vitale uttered a strong curse in his native language. “What the—She’s…pregnant?” The man nodded. Clearly words were not enough.
Gav groaned, and then swore. He turned to Vitale. “Were you able to contact mission control?!” He hissed.
“As a matter of fact, yes.” Said Vitale, ignoring Gav’s disrespect. “It’ll be here in the next 12 standard hours. If we sit tight, we can—“
“My wife doesn’t HAVE 12 hours!” Said the man. “She needs it now!”
“Well, sir,” Said Gav, shooting a sharp look at him, “Take care of your wife. There’s nothing more we can do—“
Gav was cut off by the slow, lazy moans that came from just outside the door.
Gabriel was on the move again. He scooped up Alema, still sleeping, and prepped his extension cables to descend. Once on the ground, Gabriel moved stealthily in the shadows, avoiding the zombies. To make sure nothing was following him, he glanced behind him. Nothing. He continued down his skulking path, avoiding what zombies he could. He glanced behind him again.
Something was following him.
Speeding up slightly, he made several turns into some corners. The whatever-it-was was still following him, and it was gaining. Gabriel contemplated facing it, but then he decided against it. Ducking into a ruined building, he set Alema on the ground and melted the door closed with a tool he extricated from his belt. Aleam, being startled, woke up.
“Where are we?” She asked, bleary eyed. “What…huh?”
“Nothing. Don’t even worry about it.” Said Gabriel, sitting down. We’ll be safe here, for the time being. Get some more sleep.”
Alema settled down, and fell asleep. Gabriel tried to keep awake. Surely, He thought, I can get at least some rest. Gabriel, hand clutched tight around his weapon, fell into a deep sleep.
Vitale and Gav stood as they were, gazing fearfully at the door that the groans had come from. A stifled cry came from the corner, and Gav went as quietly as he could over to the pregnant woman.
“What’s your name?” He whispered.
The woman struggled in the pain, gasping in air to form syllables.
“N..Norma…” She gasped out, and then gasped. Her body shook with contractions.
“You,” whispered Gav to the invalid’s husband, and then to an adjoining room. “Get her in there! It’s about to get hot in here…”
Norma’s husband gathered her up in his arms and limped into the adjoining room. The groans from outside the door became louder. Vitale gripped his laser rifle tighter
Suddenly, one of the people sitting in the room bolted for an adjoining room. He slipped on a piece of paper, spun, and fell with a heavy crash.
All at once the growing outside the door stopped. Vitale swore under his breath.
Suddenly, the door shuddered as a massive force flew against it. Screaming outside of it redoubled. The door shook with many massive blows.
“GET OUT OF HERE!” Yelled Vitale. “Gav, get the survivors to safety!”
“But, what abou—“
“JUST DO IT!”
Gav turned and hustled several survivors out of the room. The door cracked and a gray arm and head emerged from the crevice, screaming. Only Vitale stood in the gap, drawing his knife and gun. All at once, the door exploded, and the zombie bodies began to pile in. Vitale gave a mighty roar and tor into the horde, cutting down and blasting the zombies to pieces. Using his mighty strength, he crushed, ripped and dismembered the zombies with his bare hands. Scores of zombies streamed through the gap, trying to get past the old veteran. Scores of bite marks showed on his unarmored arms and legs, and it seemed to give him inhuman strength.
By this time, most of the civilians had gotten out of the room, and Vitale’s strength was failing. His knife broke off at the hilt, and his laser rifle ran out of ammo.
“RUN!” He said, holding the zombies back with the last of his strength. Pulling an explosive from his belt, he activated it, and as Gav slammed the blast door shut, he heard Vitale’s triumphant yell, fading into the intense heat of the explosion…
A massive explosion jerked Gabriel from his sleep. Alema woke up with a start as well.
“What was that?” She asked. Gabriel knew that they had to move, now. “Come on, young ‘un.” He said, scooping her up. “Let’s go.”
Once Gabriel had Alema in his arms, he moved swiftly down the steep, unlighted passages. laser rifle pointed forward, he forged along the path. The sensors in his helmet were indicating that several lifeforms were just ahead.
Several very sick lifeforms.
Gabriel, undaunted, let his instinct drive his efforts. wheeling around the corner, he very nearly walked straight into the sagging face of a walking corpse.
With amplified strength, Gabriel struck mightily with his fist, sending the zombie’s head off its shoulders and out the window. The other zombies turned their heads. Gabriel’s laser rifle spoke with its powerful voice, reducing zombies to dust and charred limbs. Pulling out a long knife, Gabriel attacked the remaining zombies, severing limbs and slicing rotten flesh.
Soon, there were no more zombies in the hall. Only gore and limbs. Gabriel advanced, and around every corner there were more zombies. Gabriel shot, stabbed, cut and slugged his way to the end of the hall. Blood covered his armor, as a fierce drive to survive burned within him.
Reaching the end of the corridor, he arrived at the door. After decapitating the zombie that was gumming his well-armored leg, he slammed the door with his fist. A cry of a child, perhaps, and the muffled voice of a woman.
Gabriel hesitated. Survivors? That was impossible!
“If you’re human,” He shouted. “open this door in the name of—“
“Gabriel?” A muffled voice came from within.
Gav was having a rough time of it. Most everyone had been able to survive, including Norma and Garm. Grappling with the loss of your friend, and holding a door against a wave of burning zombies was not the most desirable situation to be in.
Norma gasped again. She was doubled over in pain.
“Help her, fool!” Gav strained, gesturing to the pregnant woman. A few women hurried over to Norma, and in doing so shielded her from Gav’s plane of vision. A large pound resounded on the door. The hinges were beginning to give way
“Find a way out!” Said Gav, straining now more than ever. The terrified citizens panicked, fumbling about stupidly and wildly.
A new cry was heard amongst the racket…A baby’s choking cry.
Gav swore as the door began to burst its hinges. It would give way in a few seconds. There was nothing he could do to stop it. Swooping over, he grabbed the unconscious Norma who was clutching the baby. The door burst, and Gav made a split-second decision.
Breaking the window glass, he threw himself out, arm out towards the building. Grabbing his knife, he carved it into the building to slow his descent. Breaking another window, he grabbed a floor beam and swung himself in.
Feeling his muscles cry out in agony, Gav flung himself to the floor of the room he had broken into. His leg, now almost healed by the medication that Vitale had given him, was playing up again.
Setting the terrified Norma down on the ground, she said softly, “Thank you.”
“Don’t mention it,” grumbled Gav.
Just then, a large bang resounded on the door. The baby, who had grown quiet in Norma’s arms, let out a wail. The woman herself screamed.
A firm, resolute voice bespoke itself. “If you’re human,” it shouted. Open this door in the name of—“
Gav couldn’t believe his ears. “Gabriel?” He said weakly.
Gav hurried over to the door, limping. Opening it, Gabriel stumbled in, armor covered in infected blood. Gav slammed the door shut, and dull thumping rackets of zombies lining their heads on the door became heard.
Gabriel lay as he fell, clutching something to his chest. Gav went over to him. “Gabriel?” He said. “Gabriel, how…Where…”
“Give me a moment,” Said Gabriel, gasping. Getting up, Gav saw Alema clutched to his chest.
“Sooo…” Said Gav, wiping his armored hands on his thighs. “I see you’ve found a friend. Who’s this?”
Gabriel sat Alema down, who clung to his leg, regardless of the blood that covered it.
“This is Alema,” said Gabriel, more fondly than he intended. “I found her in the storage bay.” Glancing over, he noticed Norma and her baby. “Okay then…I see you’ve been busy as well.”
Just then, Gabriel’s comm beeped. Instinctively, he tapped the receiver button.
“Hello?” A voice on the comm crackled to life. “This is the excavation crew for squad N-96. We received a mayday call to our position, do you copy?”
Gabriel answered. “Yes, I’m here. Two troopers remaining, and two—no three civilians. We request immediate backup. There appears to be a bio leak of some sort, it’s a disease that is infecting the people.”
Silence. “Stand by, trooper,” The comm finally said. “We’ve pinpointed your position. We’ll be along to pick you up shortly.”
“Gabriel out,” Said Gabriel, and he closed the comm. “They’ll be here soon. That means—“
At this point, the pounding on the door had stopped. Silence went unnoticed by the five residents of the room. After the calm, and eerie silence enveloped mother, child, and soldier. Gabriel could feel something, some sort of impending doom…
Then came the clicking.
Gabriel listened. The familiar clicking that he had heard before sounded behind the door. A figure, a nameless dread steeped horror through the door.
Suddenly, the silence was broken. A boneshattering BANG wrenched the door, as its hinges began to buckle. Something much, much more powerful than zombies was wrenching it open.
“RUN!” Yelled Gav. There was little time to lose. The screaming and growling of the zombies redoubled as they tried to get through the door. Gabriel caught a glimpse of something, a massive monster other than a zombie behind the door.
But Gabriel was a man of action. Scooping up Alema and helping Norma to her feet, he ran from the room, Gav retaining his limping gait at his side. Bursting out the door on the far side of the room, Gabriel, Norma, and Gav began to run. A massive screeching and clunking of metal, and the door seems to burst behind them. Zombies flooded the hall, creating a wave of massive, mindless destruction. Still, a massive shadow loomed up after them, tall and menacing.
Gabriel’s comm blinked as he ran. “Trooper,” Said the guy on the other side. “We detect that you’ve moved your position, wh—“
“Shut up!” Gabriel grunted. “Change your coordinates! I’m busy right now!” Silencing the comm, he ran along. they seemed to be running downhill now, apparently this planet’s architects built buildings so that there were ramps instead of stairs. Gabriel, Norma and Gav continued to run at a breakneck speed down these ramps, the two troopers occasionally firing behind them to pick off any zombie stragglers who got too close.
For a while, they ran. Gabriel only remembered that moment as some sort of feverish nightmare, firing and running and funneling his energy into not tripping.
Finally, they reached the bottom, a few seconds ahead of the zombies. They burst out the door and onto the street. Gabriel felt temporary relief.
“Keep going!” Gav shouted, in a coarse, uneven voice.
The group continued to run. Overhead, There was a familiar humming noise. Looking up, Gabriel realized it was a transport.
It was the best moment of his life.
The sight gave him sudden strength, as he and his companions pulled ahead. By now, all the zombies were piling ahead of each other, onto the street. They were faster, now that they were unhampered by the walls and indoor accoutrements.
Pulling around, the transport wheeled out in front of them and hovered, not fifteen meters away.
Suddenly, in the corner of Gabriel’s eye he saw Gav turn on his wounded leg, trip, and fall. Skidding to a halt, he went back for the wounded warrior.
Gav held out his hand as the zombie hordes approached. Everything seemed to be in slow motion. Gabriel heard Gav’s mouth utter a single word.
Then the hordes fell around Gav, shredding his armor, flesh, and humanity.
If Gabriel felt emotion he didn’t show it. Now was a time for action. Mourning would come later. He pelted as fast as he could for the transport, just as Norma reached it. Still clutching Alema, he did a barrel roll onto the transport and fired at the oncoming zombie horde.
“Get this thing off the ground!” He snarled at the pilot, who was seemingly terrified. The transport lifted off the ground, just out of reach of the zombies.
It was then that Gabriel saw it.
The thing he had seen on the street, the thing that made those horrible clicking noises. It stood twelve feet tall, towering over its minions. Its skin had a glossy sheen, and its limbs were long and lanky. Two giant, emotionless eyes adorned its face, and two mandibles stood instead of a mouth. This time, when it began to make its clicking noises, Gabriel seemed to hear…words?
You…you will join me…the voice, wherever it came from, said. You…and everyone else in this universe. You are slaves, and We are many. The universe will be ours…
The transport levitated higher into the air. The voice snapped off almost instantaneously. The clicking continued. Could it be that the creature communicated by way of thought, rather than that loathsome clicking? For a while, the transport just flew in the sky, making a terrific pace. Already they had reached the outskirts of the city. Soon they would be—
“What in the universe is that?” Screamed the pilot.
Gabriel groaned inwardly. If he had another surprise, it would be too soon. Peering over the landscape, he saw…
A massive crater. A deep fissure in the earth, a massive, roughly circular rift. Maybe a mile around. A thought struck Gabriel. That…thing said that they were many. Many more of its kind? Could they have come from this fissure in the planet?
“Take me down,” He said to the pilot. The pilot was still terrified, but it seemed he was more in danger of Gabriel than of zombies. The man had common sense, so he set the transport down right at the mouth of the crater. Gabriel began to armor himself.
“What are you doing?” Queried Alema, who oddly seemed the least terrified among the survivors.
“I’m going in,” Said Gabriel, strapping himself with all types of explosives and ammo packets. Turning to the pilot, he said: “If I’m not back in fifteen minutes, then get the hell out of here. You saw what caused the disturbance here. Some kind of alien life form, not a bioweapon.”
Alema sat as she was, white-faced and afraid. “I’ll come back,” he said to her. Then he put on his helmet. Whether he’d end this menace, or simply die…Well, that he’d find out.
Putting on his helmet and squaring his shoulders, he advanced into the fissure.
Gabriel glanced at his watch. 13:56. Thirteen minutes to plant this explosive in the heart of what was done here. He was in some sort of tunnel that might be considered a hallway by the alien lifeform that created it. The walls were slimy and they shone with a glossy sheen. Altogether, it looked distinctly organic. With the laser rifle clutched in one hand and a heavy explosive device clipped to his belt, he forged onward. He hoped he wouldn’t meet any sort of enemy, because the thing he saw was more formidable than any zombie.
Gabriel heard a clicking in the corridor ahead. Swerving aside, he headed down the adjacent corridor, looking for the core of this monstrosity. Up ahead, a sickly green light glowed. Gabriel advanced faster.
At the end of that corridor, Gabriel stopped. He was now in a different room, this one with egg-shaped objects littering the floor. Gabriel took great care and stepped over them. Reaching the other end of the room, he heard a crunching noise. Whirling around, he saw an egg-shaped object crack and splinter.
Gabriel whispered some choice curse to himself as some being, alien in stature, climbed its way out of the shell. Gabriel moved stealthily out of the room. Those eggs…could they contain infant versions of that thing Gabriel had seen on the transport?
Gabriel pushed the thought away. Odds are, this was the case, but it only made him more miserable. Suddenly, he heard a clicking noise straight ahead of him.
Gazing ahead, he spotted a loathsome creature, the same type which Gabriel had seen on the transport. It moved with frightening speed straight for him. However, his sensors indicated that it had not spotted him yet. Putting his laser rifle on a muffled setting, he glanced at his watch. 10:43. Odds were growing that he might not make it out of here alive. The clicking came closer.
Just as the creature passed the corner in which he was hiding, he came out, barrel blazing, bearing down on the monster. The laser rifle was muffled, and the monster didn’t have a chance to give a cry of dismay. It was soon burned to the ground with minimal noise.
Gabriel forged onward. Soon he came to what appeared to be the core.
It was a sickly greenish-yellow hue, like all the other ones. Only this one hand a large roughly cardiac-shaped bag-type object, wiggling and squirming. Gabriel figured this was the place. Checking his watch again, he saw that he had 5:24 minutes left. Setting down the box, he set the charges…
A subtle clicking emerged from behind him. Ducking and wheeling around, Gabriel was narrowly missed by a massive alien. Rolling, Gabriel keyed his gun to full-auto and blazed the alien. However, he neglected to put his gun on silent mode. The screams of the dying alien echoed throughout the cavern, as well as the racket of the full-auto laser rifle. This racket was followed by an eerie silence. Then, a chorus of clicking emerged from all of the adjoining caverns. They knew he was here.
They had come to stop him.
The cavern immediately received several aliens, all aimed at the explosive device, to cripple it. Before they got there, however, Gabriel hurled an explosive at them, and it exploded, bathing the aliens in fiery agony.
The aliens began to come thick and fast now. Soon the entire cavern was full of them, and Gabriel was fighting for his life. One of their cruel claws cut his helmet open, so he cast it off, trying to get every advantage that he could over his adversaries. Another attack clawed deep into his chest, but Gabriel stood his ground. Just barely, he got another glimpse of his watch. 2:24.
Then it hit him: He was going to die here. No rescue, no last minute save. Up until here, he had hoped, but now there was no chance. He continued to fight until his ammo was subdued, and he was down to his last explosive. He clubbed aliens with his immense strength until his weapon broke. Finally, an alien charged through and rammed him in the gut with its two-foot spike. Even now, with the bloody blade protruding out the soldier’s back, Gabriel O’Brian did not give up. He still fought with the ferocity of a wild animal. At last, he fell to the ground, coughing up blood. The aliens slowed now, seeming to gloat over their anticipated victory. Gabriel crawled over to the detonator, now armed, and pressed the button. A fiery inferno blazed to life in the cave, consuming and disintegrating all in its path.
His final, fleeting thoughts before he sunk into oblivion was that he had protected further generations from this menace. His wife and daughter, even Alema, would be safe…
“Momma, when is daddy gonna get home?” Said Mikaela O’Brian, head in her mother’s lap.
Her mother sighed. She didn’t want to tell her yet, but the drop squadron sent to pick up Gabriel had returned 6 months ago. She saw the report, detailing how Gabriel had died and his body was irrecoverable. The two civilians that had survived told gruesome tales of carnage and gore, recounting that Gabriel had saved them from alien lifeforms and reanimated corpses. The pilot testified to this as well, and the planet was labeled an “irrecoverable” planet and was closed down for traveling purposes.
None would ever go there again.