A Marine's Story Part 11

"The Leprechaun's Luck"

“What do you mean?” Joe asked, already probing the Templar’s mind for the answer. He broke through all his layers of defense except the very last. Gylenacs was putting up a fight to make sure he didn’t see what was behind it. “You’re mind is much more powerful than I thought.” Gylenacs placed his fingers on his temples, and with one swift fluid motion of his mind, forced Joe out all together, “Even with out training.” Joe shook his head and breathed deeply, “What do you mean, Gylenacs?” Joe asked more forcefully. Gylenacs paused, then started, “The past that you know now is not your true past. It is a lie.” “What’s my true past then?” Joe growled, mustering the forces of his mind together for another assault on the Protoss’ mind. “Don’t” Gylenacs spoke softly, “I will explain.” Joe withdrew his forces. His mind felt stronger than ever. Before continuing, the Praetor glanced around at the carnage left over from the battle. He was stalling, and Joe didn’t have time for that. The occasional stab of pain from within was a constant reminder of what flowed through his veins. Joe began drawing his mind together again. “You must learn to shield your mind lieutenant. Fore your enemies will foresee your attacks before you even make them.”

Again, Joe settled his mind, “Get on with it Gylenacs. What’s my real past?” He sighed, “The memory you know now is an illusion. A blanket of lies that is pulled over the truth to hide its terrible deeds. What your dominion did to you is unforgivable. But I am afraid that it is not the time for it to be revealed to you. It jeopardizes your mission, and your mission must be completed.” “God damnit Gylenacs,” Joe yelled, “you don’t get it. I’m as good as dead. In a few moments I’ll fall over and die. Then you’ll be all alone. On this fucking planet. Still fighting this fucking war. Against an enemy that won’t fucking die. I’ve failed my mission.” “You’re not dead yet. Your mission is not yet failed. And the Zerg will die. You must face Stack and defeat him. Only that will ensure victory over the Zerg.” Gylenacs said in a claming voice. “Well unless he hauls his fuckin ass over here, chances are we’ll lose this war.” Joe snorted, and turned around. “You will not stand alone either. You will have support.” “Sorry Gylenacs, you’re a great warrior and you can call down some pretty nasty shit, but Stack is sure to have some kind of defense to make sure we can’t touch him.” “I will not be with you.” Gylenacs stated. Joe spun back to face him, “What? Then who will help me?” “I never said I wouldn’t help you. I will train you mind as best I can for as long as I can. But as for the ones who will help you carry this burden, they approach as we speak.” Gylenacs motioned at something behind Joe. Carefully, Joe looked over his shoulder and saw the most welcoming sight he’d seen in days.

A large, metal ship about ten miles away was approaching fast. A Dropship! Joe breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. Stretching out with his mind he sensed six minds within the cargo bay. Three of which he thought he’d never see again.

Stack had spent the rest of the journey in solitude. He’d forced his captain to stay in the cockpit so Stack could be with his thoughts. “We’ve arrived at Tarsonis sir. We’ll be landing shortly.” The pilot came across the intercom. Uncrossing his legs, Stack stood up and called Drake back to him. He felt his captain’s mind bidding farewell to their pilot and stroll back into the cargo hold. “Make a new friend captain?” Stack asked jokingly, a fake smile playing across his face. Drake still had a grave look on his face. Yet another weakness of humans. They mourn their dead for far too long. Some are even “scarred” by another’s passing.

The Dropship came to a halt and the cargo bay door opened. “Come captain, let us depart.” Stack said in a commanding voice. Drake slowly began walking out of the ship. Stack joined him and they walked side by side with one another. “You’re all I have left, Stack. The sole survivor of my men.” Stack sensed his captain about to break down again. Quickly, he relieved the man of his pain, but only temporarily. Two marines in all black armor greeted them. “Sirs.” they saluted.

Stack waved them down. “Fill me in.” Stack ordered. “Yes, sir.” One of them squeaked, he was frightened, “We have a jeep waiting to take you to you command center. Their you will regroup. A two platoons of the 301st marine’s will provide you security. They will be accompanied by four tanks.” “Excellent.” Stack exclaimed. More loyal subjects for my queen.

In a matter of seconds, Joe had raced over to the cargo bay door and embraced Tiffany. She had tears streaming out of her eyes. They released and stared at each other. They could have said thousands of words to each other, but the looks on their faces said it all. Suddenly, a burning hot knife drove its self into Joe’s heart. Letting out a howl of pain he collapsed to his knees. “What is it?” Tiffany cried. “That’s my cue.” came a bored voice from somewhere behind Tiffany. Tracy stepped out from behind her and remove a syringe from her belt. The all white armor was blurred in Joe‘s eyes. “Hydra venom?” she asked as she moved the needle over one of the many holes in his armor. Joe nodded as he let out another scream of pain. She drove the needle deep into his arm and released the fluid inside.

His pain disappeared in an instant but knocked the wind out of him. Joe gasped to regain air. A hand placed itself on Joe’s left shoulder. “You okay?” it asked. Joe took in another deep breath and looked up. Jon stood over Joe, offering a hand to help him up. His friend had been through much since they last saw one another. He had numerous gashes across his armor, indicating some close combat, and eyes were full of sadness. Probing through his mind Joe found a deepening sense of remorse and loss, but much happiness in seeing his friend alive. Pulling him to his feet Joe looked Jon straight in the eyes. Smiling, Joe nodded, “Yeah, just like new.” “Not quite lieutenant.” Tracy piped up, pushing Jon aside, “The venom is gone but you are in danger of, yet again,bleeding to death.” “You noticed?” Joe asked, cocking an eyebrow. She gave him that little, sarcastic smile that Joe always caught her giving Drake. “Well if you’re serious about living, you’ll get out of that torn up, piece of junk you call armor so I can close your wounds.”

Joe slide her a sly smile and began taking his armor off. When Joe released his chest piece, it split into two as soon as it hit the ground. His all cotton shirt was in similar condition. Its numerous holes were only matched by the amount of blood it held inside it. Both his sides, right above his hips, were completely red. He stepped out of his leg armor nearly collapsed again. Tiffany gasped once she saw his gash. Tracy quickly looked him over to see which of his many wounds was most serious and life threatening. She settled with the gash on the back of his leg. Walking behind him and kneeling down she brought up her wrist mounted healing ward. “Hold still lieutenant.” she ordered.

Joe put all his weight onto his right leg and kept his left as still as he possibly could. The familiar tingling feeling ran up and down his leg as Tracy closed his wound. Tiffany walked up to Joe and looked directly into his eyes. Joe meet her gaze. Reaching out across the psionic planes he began searching her mind. She had worried about him a lot over the few hours they spent apart. Joe couldn’t blame her. He thought she had died. Smiling he said, “It’s alright, I’m here.”

She didn’t return the smile, “You’ve changed.” “I bet we’ve all changed.” Joe looked around at his remaining friends. “No, its something different.” she said, her eyes moving up and down his body. Looking over to Glyenacs, Joe replied, “It’s a long story.” Tracy finished with his leg and moved up to his sides. “I’m gonna need that shirt off to close those.” Joe slowly, carefully began removing his blood soaked taters. “I think you just want me to take my shirt off so you can see my sexy body.” Joe laughed. She drove the healing ward into him, causing pain to shoot up through his back, “That’s exactly it lieutenant, how did you know I get super turned on by guys who have bloody, cut-up torsos. Just the sight of you makes me wanna tear these pants off of you right now and fuck right here.” “Restrain yourself Calmanes, we have a job to do.” Joe’s expression turned serious. “We need to get to Tarsonis.” “Why?” Jon asked. “We need to kill Stack.” “What?” Tiffany asked, flabbergasted, “Why?” “Because he’s responsible for everything that’s happened today.” Joe paused before finishing, “He’s infested.”

Tiffany and Jon’s mouths fell open and Tracy even halted in the middle of bandaging up Joe’s fore arm. Joe told them about where Stack had sent them and about the ambush that was set for him. He told them about how Verdas and Dale died. And about the battle that had transpired only minutes ago. Tracy paused in her healing every now and then during the story and just stared at him in awe. Tracy finished with his chest and backed away, not saying a word. Grabbing the combat knife and the torn pistol belt from his leg armor, he returned his gaze to the still shocked soldiers. “He did it then.” Tracy broke the silence. “He did what?” Joe asked, focusing his attention on her. “He shot Mike.” she looked up and him. Mike! “What!?!” Joe yelled, “But I sensed him on the Dropship.” Joe wheeled around to face the Dropship. Looking into the cargo bay he saw three figures. One was standing at the edge of the door, the other two were seated in seats. One looked perfectly healthy but the other was slumped over. The figure had bright red hair. Shaking his head, he said, “He’s not…” “No, he’s alive.” Tracy responded. Joe breathed a huge sigh of relief. Turning to Tiffany and Jon he said, “I thought I’d never see you three again. Stack told me you were all dead.” “Stack told you?” Tiffany asked. Joe nodded, “Ya, WE had a little “chat”. It turns out I’m a ghost too.” If they looked shocked when they heard Stack was infested, it didn’t compare to these looks. Jon’s jaw looked ready to drop down to the desert floor, Tiffany clasped both hands over her mouth, and Tracy was speechless. Joe continued, “He said he watched you two and Mike died. I felt like I had lost everything again. The only thing that fueled me to go on is the urge to kill Stack.” “He can’t be infested!” Tiffany interjected, “He saved my life, and yours.” “All to stay in character. This must have been his main mission.” Joe explained. “What would you have done after you killed Stack?” Jon asked. This question caught Joe off guard, “I don’t know.” he laughed, “I guess I’d be lost. You two and Mike are the closest thing to family I have left.” Tracy gave two fake coughs and said, “Oh ya, just ignore the person who saved your life, what is it now? Three times!” Joe turn to her and stared her straight in the eye, “Thank you Tracy, but your just doing you job. And you can be a real bitch sometimes as well.” The medic’s eye’s looked as if they would pop out of her skull, but she calmed down and smiled, “Ok lieutenant, I’ll remember that.” Joe and Tracy just stared at one another. “We must be leaving. We haven’t much time.” Gylenacs’ voice came fourth. Everyone turned and stared at him. They all forgot he was there. “He’s right, everyone saddle up, we need to move.” Joe started toward the Dropship. About half way to the ramp he stopped, turned around, and ran back toward the rotting Zerg carcasses. “Where are you going?” Tiffany asked as he ran past her. “Forgot my rocket launcher.” Joe replied. The desert winds were picking up again and Joe was running into and field of sharp spines and twisted bodies in nothing but pants. A large pile a Zerg bodies stood in front of him. Summoning up some of his psionic powers, he jumped and used them to give him the extra lift to get over the pile. When he landed on the other side he would have given anything to have landed anywhere else.

In front of him lay the charred remains of red and yellow armor. Joe stood there for a moment. “He’s gone lieutenant, there’s nothing anyone can do.” Gylenacs’ voice echoed in his head. Joe nodded. He swallowed hard and continued his search for his weapon. After sifting through a few charred Zerg bodies, he finally dug up his RL. He turned back to the Dropship and sprinted. Passing the pile of dead Zerg he took one last look at his fallen comrade. “I’m sorry, Arenes.” he whispered.

As Joe closed on the ramp he spoke directly into the pilots mind, “Start lifting off.” No response came to Joe and he didn’t expect any. The ships engines starting roaring though and the ramp began to close. Joe leap through the closing gate and slide into the cargo bay. The ramp sealed itself with a hiss and the ship tilted up wards. Joe got to his feet and placed the rocket launcher on a near by seat. “Welcome aboard sir.” came an unfamiliar voice. Joe turned to see a ghost in a skin tight Hostile Environment Suit and saluting. He had dirty blonde hair that he kept right above his brown eyes. The ghost was a few inches shorter than Joe and was pretty muscular. Joe waved him down, “Name and rank soldier.” “Devon sir, Specialist Devon.” “No last name?” Joe asked, cocking an eyebrow. The ghost shook his head, “Sir, no sir.” Joe nodded, “Who’s he?” motioning to the ghost sitting next to Mike. The ghost turned his attention to Joe and stood up. He was silent for a second and Joe felt him trying to probe Joe’s mind. Joe gathered up his power and forced out the ghost in an instant. The ghost took a step back and put a hand to his head. Maybe Joe used a little to much force. “I don’t appreciate people trying to read my mind soldier. Name and rank.” Joe barked. The Ghost brought his hand down and Joe saw his eyes. The green eyes that clashed with his red hair and bright red cheeks. “Ria?” Joe said. He nodded. “Sorry bout that.” Joe apologized, “You of all people should know not to do that.” “One would think sir.” he replied with a faint smile. Joe smirked. “So where will we all be heading today?” the pilots voice came over to intercom. “Tarsonis.” Joe replied. “Ooo, that might be a problem sir.” The pilot said. Joe was about to go to the cockpit himself to find out what the problem was. But a vision of Amy being crushed to death by the dashboard convinced him otherwise. “What’s the problem?” “Just in case you hadn’t noticed sir, this is the older version of our beloved Dropship and we don’t have light speed.” “God damnit” Joe thought. “How long will it take us to arrive by normal speed?” Gylenacs spoke. The pilot paused, probably trying to figure out what just spoke, “Uh, ‘round eighteen hours if I push this baby to her limits.” she finished. “Fuck.” Joe whispered, “Alright just get us there as fast as you can.” “Roger that sir.” the intercom clicked off. Joe turned to face the other seven people in the ship. Joe opened his mouth to speak to his men when Gylenacs cut him off, “Not a wise mover lieutenant.” this message was one only Joe could hear. Joe reached out with his mind and said, “What?” “You were going to tell them that we must kill a very powerful enemy, that’s most likely under high guard by your own people, with nothing but what we have here.” Joe was impressed, “You’re good Gylenacs.” “It’s my job.” “So what do you propose we do?” “This mission depends on you. So I suggest allowing me to train your mind as best I can until I deem fit. Do not trouble your men with this burden until they have to deal with it.” Joe took a long look at the soldiers under his command. All were tired and beaten and none looked as if they could bear the thought of a possible company against seven. Two of which weren’t able to fight. Joe sighed, “Alright Gylenacs.” The Protoss nodded and made his way over to the far right corner, nearest the cockpit.

Joe turned back to his beaten soldiers. “Everyone get some rest. Trust me you’ll need it. I’ll explain everything in more detail when we arrive back on Tarsonis.” Joe added seeing Devon and Ria’s mouths open, “Tracy how is Mike doing?” Tracy took a few strides over to the Corporal and bent over, putting her fingers to his neck, “He’s still got a pulse. I’m fairly sure he’ll wake up, question is when.” Joe nodded, “Keep and eye on him for me, will you?” She gave a very serious nod and took a seat next to the passed out marine. Joe took a few seconds to search threw her mind. She still harbored a growing hatred of him, but when it came to her job it didn’t matter who she was caring for or taking orders from. Joe was grateful for that. Must have been how she was able to remain in Drake’s company even after they split up.

Gylenacs beckoned Joe to him. He wanted to cram as much training into him as he could. “Shouldn’t we wait till everyone is asleep before you try and train me?” Joe asked as he reach the Toss. “It doesn’t matter. You’ve already told them, why should they care. Besides, I sense their minds already starting to drift out of conciseness.” Joe turned to look for himself. Indeed, they were dropping like flies. Both ghost’s had their goggles pulled down over their eyes. Jon’s back was up against his seat and his visor was down. Mike was limp and still sound asleep, Tracy sat next to him taking his pulse and shoving some pills down his throat. Joe carefully, and slowly went into her mind and took all her drive to stay awake, away from her. In a matter of seconds she was sound asleep against the Dropship hull. She deserved a break.

The only one fighting the tiredness was Tiffany. She sat in a seat, clutching her legs to her chest. Joe could only see her eyes above her knees but they were wide open. Turning to face Gylenacs, Joe looked at him. The Templars eyes glowed blue as he said, “Five minutes lieutenant.” “Thank you.” Joe replied as Gylenacs sat in a meditative state. Joe walked over to the empty seat next to Tiffany and sat down. Putting his arm around her and pulling her in, he said, “You should get some rest.” She shook her head. “You need to recover your strength. Your safe with me. You know I’d never let anything happened to you.” She turned and looked him straight in the eye, “You’ve changed though.” “For the better, Gylenacs has helped me uncover a power I never knew I had. A power that will allow me to kill Stack.” “That’s what I mean!” she cried, “I fell in love with the man you were. The man that sits here in front of me is completely different. He’s full of anger and rage. And…revenge.” she finished slowly. Joe turned away from her and stared into space, “The man who sits in front of you is the same man you knew.” Joe said in a soft voice, “Though, he was twisted by thought that an infested was responsible for the deaths of his two best friends and the woman he loved. Also having to deal with the deaths of five great soldiers…and one great friend. I think that’s enough to drive anyone to the point of anger, rage and revenge.” Tiffany opened her mouth to protest, but Joe put his finger to her lips, “You want proof?” he asked, “That I am still the man you love?” she nodded.

For the first time since he got his new powers, he let down all of his walls. His mind was completely defenseless. “Look into my mind. You’ve gotten better at it. I know.” She just looked at him for the longest while, her green eyes shimmering with tears. Then she closed her eyes and Joe closed his. He followed every mental move she made. He allowed her into the deepest, darkest parts of his mind that he’d never shared with anyone. In an instant she understood. She had learned everything about him. All his likes, his fears, his whole life story and, even more importantly, what had happened this day. All of his knowledge was hers now.

Joe opened his eyes to see Tiffany’s streaming with tears. Joe pulled her into a hug and she embraced him. “I’m so sorry.” she sobbed quietly into his ear. “It’s ok, it’s ok. I’m still all here.” Joe comforted her. “I missed you.” she sobbed. “Me too babe.” he kissed her forehead. They sat there hugging for a long while. It took Gylenacs’ voice to break them apart, “We must get to work lieutenant.” “One sec.” Joe responded, “I gotta go. Try and get some sleep. For me?” She smiled and said “Yeah.” Joe got up and walked back toward Gylenacs. “I still need to know what happened to you.” Joe turned back to her, “Stack said he watched you die.” “It’s a long story.” she smiled and closed her eyes. “I’ll hear it.” Joe said and she just smiled.

Joe got back to where his trainer sat in meditation. “Remain standing.” he ordered. Joe did, he was only half listening to Gylenacs. His was mainly focused on Tiffany. She was growing sleepier with each passing second and her mind was becoming more open. “Lieutenant!” Gylenacs snapped. All Joe’s attention was focused on the alien. “This is a matter of life and death for both our races. You can not rely on me to come to your aid this time. I need your complete attention.” “Alright.” Joe replied. “I thought I’d start with helping you strengthen your mental defenses. You won’t stand a chance against a highly trained ghost when he can read every move you make before you make it.” “Right.” Joe said, letting his attention slip back toward Tiffany, “What do you want me to do?” “Strip away all of your walls, just as you did with shadow marshal Duke.” Joe nodded and lowered his defenses. While doing this, he risked one last look into Tiffany’s mind. He caught her at the perfect moment, just as she slipped into her blissful sleep. Joe smiled. She was dreaming about him.

Stack sighed, “How many men do we have here now private?” “We have a full platoon outside the complex with our four tanks and a squad of five are asleep in the mess hall. And a ghost is patrolling the corridors.” the nervous private explained. Stack had wanted to keep and extra squad on hand, just in case, so he authorized the use of the mess hall as a sleeping area for his resting squad. “Very well, what of the rest of the other platoon?” “They are at there main barracks, ten miles away as you know.” “Yes I know. Thank you.” Stack snapped at the fresh recruit. The lieutenant stood in the communications center of his companies new command post. It was a rather small command post but he didn’t mind. He wouldn’t be staying here long. The center was on the third floor, the highest of the building. The building had a large lobby, that was unoccupied by anyone right now, which spilt into three different hallways. One leading to the mess hall on the second floor, the other leading up to the comm center, and the other to the security room, also on the second floor. One couldn’t reach the mess hall from the security room directly. You had to either go up to the comm center then to the mess hall, or down and up. A flaw in Terran building design. Between the two rooms were a complex system of offices, which were reachable from the mess hall. The security room only had two ways in or out.

Stack sighed again and looked at the three privates on call tonight. Each sat at his own terminal and watched their screens. “You two are relieved for the night me and the private can watch things here.” Stack patted the nervous private he’d been taking to earlier on the shoulder. He had dark brown hair and light blue eyes. A horrible combination. The other two men got up, gathered there things, and left. He had treated the platoon on guard with lunch earlier today. An ingenious move seeing as how he laced each meal with parasites. They would belong to him in a matter of hours. The three men on call right now hadn’t been there though and Stack was feeling merciful. So he’ll kill this only and let the other two live. For now. Stack walked over to a small surveillance screen and watched the two men. As he predicted, the marines on guard stopped them and asked the three questions. Where did you come from? Where are you going? And, When will you be back? Stack shook his head, “Foolish humans.” his whispered. “What was that sir?” the nervous marine asked. “Nothing private, back to work.” Stack barked. After stepping away from the screen, Stack found himself walking to the small, closed off office in the comm room. The door was closed. He knocked, “Captain? Are you alright?” the door hissed open.

The horrible stench of alcohol met Stack nostrils. His captain sat behind the desk pouring himself another glass of Umojan whiskey. Two empty bottles clattered nosily on the floor as Drake spun himself around in his chair. He stopped and set another half empty bottle down on the desk as he saw Stack. “Kevin.” he was drunk, “You-You’re the only one I have left…hic! So-So you better not die…hic!” he laughed, “Or-Or I might just have to kill myself…hic!” “Oh no sir.” Stack chuckled, “I won’t be dieing anytime soon. As for you…I’m sure you won’t die by your own hands. It’s my job to prevent that.” Drake smiled, “Oh Stack, I’m so glad you made it…hic!” “Me too sir.” At that moment Drake dove under the desk, retrieved a trash bin, and began vomiting profusely into it. Stack left the room. “Well,” he thought to himself, “he’ll be throwing-up mostly alcohol, so that’ll sober him up somewhat.” he stood behind the nervous private, pretending to look at his screen, “It’ll be night soon. That’s when my queen will come.” Stack pulled a chair over and sat behind the young marine, “You won’t last the night I’m afraid.” Stack thought and smiled.

Joe stared again in awe that he held in his hand a psi blade. It formed off of his knife just as it did before. Gylenacs had taught him how to summon and dismiss the blade, but it required a lot of Joe’s mental energy. “I think you’ve got it now lieutenant.” Gylenacs said, and Joe caught a feeling of pride coming from him. “I still have a question. How could I summon this blade when I didn’t do any of the things you’ve just taught me?” Gylenacs didn’t answer right away, “I awakened the powers inside of you before that happened. Though you could not feel them yet, they were there. And they came to your aid when your life was in danger.” Joe nodded, “How much longer do we have until we arrive on you home planet?” “I don’t know, lemme check.” Joe said, as he walked up to the cockpit. The ride had gone uninterrupted for the entire journey. He had expected some kind of fight to keep them on the planet, but he reminded himself that Stack thought he, and the others, were dead. And even he’s smart enough not to guard a dead body. When he reached the cockpit he asked the pilot, “How much longer until we reach Tarsonis?” “Umm… little over five hours and we’ll be arriving sir.” Five hours?!? Had he really be training all this time? “Thank you.” Joe said and stumbled his way back to Gylenacs, “Five hours.” he repeated. The Praetor nodded, “Then get some rest lieutenant, you need to rest both your body and mind. I’ve taught you enough to survive. ” He was right, Joe was mentally and physically exhausted. “What will you do once we land, if you’re not helping us?” “I will make my way to the nearest Protoss fleet and bring them to Tarsonis. Stack will be calling in the whole might of the Zerg swarm. And Kerrigan shall come soon after.” Gylenacs looked troubled, “But I fear the closest Protoss fleet will not be enough to stem the tide.” Joe remained silent. The entire Zerg swarm would be descending on Tarsonis in a matter of hours? Joe shivered at the thought. “Get some rest lieutenant.” Gylenacs ordered. “Alright.” Joe responded. Joe reached out with his mind and spoke directly into the pilots head, “Alert me when we’re within 30 minutes of Tarsonis.” No answer came but he was sure she got the message.

Joe found it a lot harder to reach out to the pilot’s mind now, than he did before. It was probably the thirteen hours of training Gylenacs gave him, but during that time he’d gotten much done. The alien had taught him how to close his mind off so that no one could break in, but, again, it to required a lot of energy and concentration. He could now fully control when his sword appeared and disappeared. He would have to try and keep that weapon secret until he was face to face with Stack. He didn’t want to show off his best card before the game even started.

He carefully took up the seat next to Tiffany and put his arm around her. She moved a bit to get comfortable but didn’t wake, Joe looked at her. She was so beautiful. She rested her head on his shoulder and stopped moving. Joe’s bangs fell uncomfortably into his eyes. This was a problem. If he didn’t cut them he ran the risk of them affecting his aim. But he loved his hair and it was the perfect length. Still he had already made his decision. As quietly and carefully as he could, he reached down for his knife. His bangs fell onto his tattered pants and Joe suddenly felt depressed. The remainder of his hair now rested somewhere above his eyebrows. It was the best he could do without a mirror. He sheathed his knife and put his arm back around Tiffany. Joe felt her back expand and retract as she breathed. His tiredness won over at this point. Placing his head against the cold, hard metal hull of the Dropship, he went over the days events in his head. It had been a very long day. Then, without noticing it, he drifted off.

The five hours of sleep Joe got had passed as quickly as five minutes. Before he knew it Jon was shaking him, “Come on Joe, wake up.” “Five more minutes?” Joe moaned. “Nope, get up.” Jon brought his hand up and smacked Joe across the face. “Ah, what the fuck man?” Joe yelled, he was awake now. Joe stood up and balled up his fist. Jon grabbed his arm and slammed him into the Dropship hull. Joe was still extremely tired. “Quit dicken around. We need to get you some armor and a weapon.” Joe nodded. The Dropship pilot’s voice came over the intercom, “Twenty-five minutes until we arrive at Tarsonis lieutenant.” “See, I let you sleep in.” Jon smiled. “What kind of supplies do we have aboard this thing?” Joe asked rubbing his eyes. Tracy, Mike, Ria, and Devon were still fast asleep. And Gylenacs was still sitting in his meditative state. Tiffany answered, “I just go the pilot to open up the storage bins, so lets take a look.” Joe took a seat and put hand to his head, “Do we have any CMC suits?” “Mike’s is the only one we got and that’s too small. Lucky for you, I found this” Tiffany pulled something out of a bin. Joe looked up, “No.” he replied instanly. Tiffany stood there, smiling, holding up a black Hostile Environment Suit, “Oh yes.” Joe jumped up and grabbed it from her. He felt the material, “It feels like rubber! There’s no way this will stop an Impaler round.” “These things deflect Hydra spines. Put it on, it’s all we got,” Tiffany argued. Joe gave in. He slowly slipped on the rubber suit and zipped up the back once it was fully on. The suit was surprisingly comfortable. It stuck to every part of Joe’s body and started to warm him up.

The cold air of the Dropship cargo bay evaporated instantly. He felt warm. Tiffany strolled over to the weapon storage bins, “The temperature gages automatically adjust to fit the users environment. And the button right there,” Tiffany pointed to a divice on Joe’s belt buckle, “ will cloak you when you hit it.” “Nifty.” Joe growled, Jon was chuckling, “Hey, lets shove you into this rubber death trap and throw you into battle!” Jon laughed harder, “You can’t imagine how ridiculous you look” “Oh, come on Rulli,” Tiffany walked over to Joe and put her arms around his shoulders, “I think it makes him look sexy.” she stood up on her tippy-toes and kissed him. “Yeah, I’m sure Stack’s gonna be thinking the same thing when Joe’s shoving a gun barrel down his throat.” Jon joked. They ignored him, “This will really deflect Impaler rounds?” Joe asked. “Guarantied.” She smiled and tapped his nose with her finger, “Come on, gun time.” They all searched through the storage bins until all they could come up with was a C-10, one clip for a C-10, a pistol and clip, and one rocket round. “So, all I get is ten C-10 rounds, twelve pistol shots, and one rocket.” Joe sighed. “And, apparently, a psi blade.” Tiffany spoke directly into Joe’s mind. His head spun to face her. She stared directly into his eyes. “Don’t say anything,” Joe spoke to her, “I need it.” she nodded. “Yeah I guess so. We raided the supply boxes when we first came aboard. There wasn‘t much then either.” Jon said. “We can split what we found.” Tiffany offered, motioning to the other ghosts. Joe flashed back to when Dale said almost the exact same thing. He shuddered slightly, “No. I’ll be fine.”

Joe placed the pistol into his belt and slung the C-10 over his shoulder. Grabbing the rocket round, he walked over to where he had set down his RL. After sliding the round into place, he saw something stirring on the left side of the cargo bay. Tiffany gasped as Joe looked over to see Mike unbuckling his harnesses and standing up. He stretched and let out a great big yawn, “Wha’s goin’ on guys?”

Tiffany raced over to Mike and threw her arms around him. “Whoa, glad to see you too Tiff.” Mike said as he started pushing Tiffany off of him. Joe and Jon walked over to the marine. “You’re alive?” Joe gave a hint of surprise in his voice. Mike looked up at him and his eyes widened, “Joe? Is it really you?” “Yeah it’s me Corporal.” Joe said folding his arms. “I thought I’d never see you again.” “Ditto. I’m to understand that Stack was the one to put that hole in your chest?" Joe saw the scar that sat in the middle of Mike’s chest, "Am I right?” “Yeah,” Mike yelled, “That two-timing fucktard blew a fucking hole in my chest. What the fuck’s the matter with that dick?!?” “Put your armor on Mike, I’ll explain everything. You two,” Joe motioned to Jon and Tiffany, “Wake the others.” They nodded and walked off. Joe saw the C-10 impact in Mike’s armor. It left a three inch wide hole in his chest that showed to his bare skin. It would be a major weak point for him.

Joe walked over to Gylenacs, “You awake Gylenacs? We arrive in, like, twenty minutes.” “I’m awake lieutenant. Inform your men about the situation and what they are going to have to do." “Right away.” Joe replied.

Joe waited until all the others were awake and once Mike was fully armored before he started speaking, “Alright we land on Tarsonis in twenty minutes. We are landing at our companies new command post.” “If we’re hooking up with command sir, why have we gotten ourselves all armed up?” Ria asked. “Because we aren’t hooking up with command, we’re doing the opposite. We’re going to destroy it.” Joe explained. “Why sir?” Devon had a surprised look on his face. “Because we have a traitor. Lieutenant Stack is infested.” Joe revealed.

Shock spread across the two ghost’s faces, Jon, Tiffany, and Tracy weren’t looking as surprised as when Joe first told them and Mike was the first one to know. “It’s possible that we could be going up against an entire company, none the less. We must succeed. Stack is Kerrigan’s man on the ground. He has an unlimited supply of information at that command post. She needs him to launch her attack.” “What attack?” Mike asked, raising an eyebrow. Joe paused for a moment before saying, “Kerrigan is massing all her Zerg for a final assault on Tarsonis. If we take out Stack, then we’ll throw off her plans long enough for Gylenacs to give us a fleet for defense.” His party was awe struck. None said anything for the longest time. Joe left them and walked toward the intercom, “Pilot.” “Yes sir?” she responded. “What’s our ETA?” “Seventeen minutes and closing sir.” “Good. Drop us one mile from the 390th infantry division, C company’s command post. Which direction has the most cover?” “The southern side.” she replied “Drop us there then.” “Roger that sir. And I…I heard your whole conversation.” “And?” “And I would like to help in anyway I can.” Joe smiled, “Thank you ma’am, but all I need you to do after we leave is to take the Protoss wherever he pleases.” “Will do sir.” The comm turned off.

Joe walked back to his still bewildered marines. “Come on marines shake it off!” Joe yelled, “We land in less than fifteen minutes. I need you all to understand the severity of this situation.” They all threw away their awe struck faces and gave him there full attention. Joe continued slowly, “Our objective is to infiltrate the facility, rescue our Captain, and eliminate Stack. We will not be going up against Zerg here. The enemies we’ll be fighting here are full blooded humans. They have, undoubtedly, heard of our deaths and will not believe that we’re still alive. They’ll think we’re infested and just trying to destroy the dominion. Stack might have even put parasites into them. This makes them even more dangerous. You all have to be prepared to take life away. Human life. If any of you do not feel you can bring yourselves to do this, then stay right where you are. All those who are with me, steep forward now.”

At first not one of them moved. They stood, frozen. Joe's heart began to sink. Then, he witnessed something he thought would never happened. He saw Tracy pick up her right boot and take an unsure steep forward. The one women who Joe feared would be one of the last to stand behind him now showed him how much trust she had in him. Inspired by this, both Jon and Tiffany stepped forward at the same time. Mike was next. The only two remaining now were the ghosts. “You two have a problem with what we have to do?” Joe asked them. Ria shook his head, “No sir.” and stepped forward. “No sir.” Devon stepped forward. They were all with him. Joe smiled, “Thank you.” He pulled out his C-10 and put the rocket launcher in its place. The intercom buzzed, “Sir, I have good news.” “What is it?” “They have a single platoon guarding the post. Looks like you guys will have it easier than you thought and…oh…” she trailed off. “What’s that “oh”? That “oh” doesn’t sound good!” Joe exclaimed. “Four tanks are accompanying them.” she finished. “Shit!” Joe brought his hand up and rubbed his eyes. The intercom clicked off. “That complicates things.” Joe sighed. “Do you have a plan sir?” Ria asked calmly. “Well, I only have one rocket. Assuming I hit one, that still leaves three others.” Joe sighed, “I don’t know. Me and someone else could try and commandeer one.” “That still leaves two though.” Jon pointed out. “I’ll try and take the other two out.” Joe offered, “Lemme get a look at the battlefield before we draw up a plan.” They nodded. “Ten minutes till drop sir.” the pilot’s voice sounded. “You heard her marines, lock and load.” Joe ordered. The men began checking there weapons one last time. “Bro’ha, toss me my Gauss please, would ya?” Mike asked. Joe smiled at him. He turned around and picked up the rifle. When he tossed it to the Corporal he noticed something. “Where’s the power cord?” Joe asked, “It needs to be powered.” “You didn’t noticed?” Mike laughed, “They replaced all our rifles at the quartermasters when we first arrived at the forward fire base. These babies are battery powered.” “Sorry, I was a little busy shoving your slow asses out of the barracks before that Scourge blew the shit out of it.” Joe fired back. Mike nodded, “Good excuse.” This was good. Them joking around. Hopefully it helped the others keep their spirits up. Joe looked around. Jon and Tiffany were snikering, the ghosts were wearing smiles, even Tracy had a smirk on her face. Anything he could do to help keep there minds at ease, he’d do. Even if it was only temporary.

The mood quickly changed though. The thought that an enormous Zerg swarm would soon be hovering over Tarsonis started sinking in. Then the ‘what ifs?’ came. What if they couldn’t get into the building? What if they didn’t do it fast enough? What if he couldn’t kill Stack?

All of these questions had one obvious answer.

The human race would cease to exist.

“Let’s go marines. Follow me!” Joe found himself shouting as he leap through the Dropship hole. The goggles Tiffany scrounged up just before they’re arrival, flopped dangerously on his forehead. He put his hand over them as he landed and rolled right. He brought his rifle up and scanned the area through the scope. The pilot hand dropped them in the middle of, what looked like, an abandoned city street. Tattered buildings lined both sides of the narrow road.

Two loud ‘thumps’ told Joe that both Mike and Jon were on the deck. He looked back to see Tracy’s all white power suit slam against the ground. The drop doors of the ship closed and the engines blasted off into the night sky. Joe got one last message from Gylenacs before they were out of range, “Good luck lieutenant. Use what I taught you. Do not fail.” “You too Gylenacs. I won’t.” Joe replied. Stack and the Zerg were responsible for every bad thing that had happened in Joe’s life. Nothing would make Joe lose to him. The moon was high in the right sky and offered them some lighting, but Joe pulled his goggles down over his eyes anyway. “Keep to the shadows.” Joe spoke into their minds. He motioned for them to move to the right side of the street. Just in case this part of town wasn’t as abandoned as it looks.

After about a half hour of walking they finally arrived at the base. A small, one story abandoned house sat 300 yards from the south gate and was in complete darkness. “Perfect.” Joe smiled. He and his men moved swiftly to shack. Joe peered around the corner to survey the complex. Two hills on the western side rose above the wall and looked perfect for a little sniper fire. Another hill, that sat on eastern side, barely peeked above the wall. It was well covered with trees and bushes, maybe Joe could squeeze off his rocket round there, then help with sniping. He saw four guards chatting at the front gate, but no tanks were in sight. Joe pulled back behind the building.

“Alright, we got two hills that are higher than the wall on the west side. The ghosts will head over there and trim down there numbers. I’ll head over to another hill on the eastern side and see if I can get a clear shot at one of those tanks. You three, “Joe pointed to the ghosts, “will not fire until I get my rocket off. Got it?” They nodded, “What do we do?” Tracy asked in a hushed voice. “You, Mike, and Jon will stay here until the four guards there,” Joe motioned to the gate, “are dead.” Jon and Mike nodded. Joe took a deep breath and looked up at the night sky. It would be full of Zerg in a few hours. They had to move fast. “Let’s move. Now!” Joe ordered, “Take the gate guards out first.”

Joe hit the cloak on his belt and sprinted out from the house. As he put up his mind block he scanned the area. The four guards hadn’t noticed a thing. They were having an argument to rival Brent and Patterson’s. Joe got the apex of the hill and took cover behind one of Tarsonis’ few remaining trees. With the new oxygen purification system, there was no real need for the planet to have them. Joe stood the trees shadow and set his C-10 down, next to it.

He could see the whole base from here. A three story building sat in the center, surrounded by four tanks at each wall. Joe looked at the tank closest to the hill. It was a perfect target. Five guards stood around, admiring it, while the tank crew chatted about how “nothing could get into the complex with these babies here”. Joe carefully slipped the rocket launcher off of his back and positioned it onto his shoulder. He stared through the scope and place the tank in between the cross hairs. No wind, no need to adjust the aim. Joe squeezed the trigger.

The round let off a deafening roar and the guards looked up just in time to see the rocket collide with the tank and change it into a fiery ball. At first all the troops in the base were stunned. But it didn’t take them long to start sending rounds Joe’s way. Tracers flew inches away from Joe’s head and smashed into the tree. Joe dropped as quickly as he could and threw down his rocket launcher. As he rolled behind the tree, Joe heard the first sniper shot hit its mark. A marine screamed out in pain and yelled, “I’m hit!”

The rounds stopped flying over head and Joe grabbed for his C-10. Joe saw a muzzle flash come from the southern most hill. It hit a marine in the shoulder and blew away his armor piece. Two more muzzle flashes came from the northern hill. Two more marines dropped. Joe scanned the area and found a target. The young marine had hidden himself behind a concrete slab, completely hidden from the ghost’s positions, but not from Joe’s. He squeezed the trigger and left a gapping hole in the marines head.

Puling the bolt back and popping in a fresh round, Joe said to himself, “Nine shots.” “Joe, we’re entering the complex.” Jon’s voice sounded in his ear. Tapping his comm, Joe replied, “Roger that move along the eastern wall, sweep and clear everyone. Keep Calmanes alive, if she goes down we all go down.” “Copy that sir.” Joe spotted a marine taking aim at Mike and Jon as they entered the base. Joe picked him off and pulled back the bolt, “Eight shots.” As he brought his scope back up his eyes caught something. A tank pilot stuck his head out to see what was going on. Joe smiled as he watched a ghost put him down.

Now was his chance. He tapped his comm, “All units, all units. I am beginning my run to commandeer a tank. Cover me on my run.” “Yes sir.” came from all his soldiers. Joe sprinted down from the hill and was inside the complex in a matter of seconds. An enormous sound emanated from somewhere and blasted a hole in the outer wall. A tank got a round off. Joe had to hurry.

He made his way over to where Jon, Mike, and Tracy were firing. Joe ran up next to Jon and tapped his shoulder. His head jerked toward him and was full of fear for a moment. But after he realized who it was he relaxed and returned to firing. Joe took cover next to Jon and peered at the tank he was planning to take. He couldn’t believe his luck. The second pilot popped his head out and tried waking the other pilot, though his head had a inch wide hole through it. As fast as he could, Joe dropped the other pilot. He ducked back down and pulled back the bolt, “Seven shots.”

He’d need someone else with him to fire the tanks main gun. So he grabbed Jon by the arm and they both sprinted toward the tank. As they reached it, rounds started flying in and bouncing off the tanks armor. Both Joe and Jon took cover behind the monstrous machine and began returning fire. Joe saw five marines huddled behind a collapsed part of the wall, covered from Joe and Jon’s position. Joe waited for one of them to stand up, then sent a round through his neck. Dropping his rifle, he clutched his throat and collapsed.

Joe pulled back the bolt, “Six shots.” Bringing his rifle back up he saw another tank out of the corner of his eye. It was rolling off in the direction of the other hills. Joe had to hurry, if he didn’t, his ghosts would be turned into red mist. Joe shook his head and dropped another marine. “Five shots.” Jon sent several rounds into a marines chest and killed him instantly. As Joe watched the marine fall, another C-10 round flew in and blasted open a marines back. Bone and armor fragments flew in all different directions. His ghosts were still giving them excellent sniper fire. The last marine, in a blind rage, readied his grenade launcher. Joe easily placed his fifth shot into the marines torso. “Four shots.”

Joe tapped Jon’s arm and they both climbed up into the tank. Joe, with his slimmer armor, slide into the driver seat. Jon, with his bulkier, heavy armor, scrapped the tanks interior as he climbed into the gunner seat. “Joe, I’ve never been inside a tank before. I just fix them.” Jon informed him. “It’s a cake walk Jon. See the big red button in front of you? “Yeah.” “Press that when I tell you too.” The memories of basic rushed back to him and Joe quickly had the tank up and speeding off to meet the other tanks.

He pulled around the side of the building to find the two tanks turrets facing the northern hilltop. Joe sensed Devon and Ria hadn’t noticed the tank and were continuing to fire at the marines. “Devon, Ria! Get your asses out of there now! Fall back to the complex. Tank shells incoming.” Joe yelled over the psionic plane.

It was too late. Both tanks fired and blasted the entire top portion of the hill off the face of the planet. Along with whoever was up there. “Tiffany, Get out of there now tank shells incoming.” Joe yelled again. “I saw.” came her response. Joe moved to line Jon up with a shot. The two tanks turrets began moving toward Tiffany’s hill top. “Jon hit the red button.” Joe yelled. The twin 80 millimeter cannons erupted and slammed into the rear of the closest tank. The rounds ignited the tank’s fuel tank and it burst into flames. The cannons need six full seconds to automatically reload. Joe counted in his head, “One, two…” The other tank’s turret rotated, “three, four…” the turret settled over them, “Five, six. Jon fi-” The enemy tanks cannons went off and blasted Joe’s tank back a few meters. But they were still alive. The damage indicator showed the rounds hit the left tracks. The tank would never move again, but the turret was still operational. At least two seconds had passed during this time. Joe quickly moved Jon’s turret at the tank. Another two seconds passed, “Jon fire now!” Joe yelled. He didn’t answer, and the guns didn’t fire. Another second passed. “JON FIRE NOW OR WE DIE!” The cannons blasted the two rounds into the tanks cockpit.

They were safe, Joe sighed in relief. A waling echoed inside of the tank. Fires were spreading and would soon reach the fuel tank. “Come on Jon, lets get out of here.” “Gladly.” came his response. They both climbed out of the tank and sprinted for cover. “Joe come in” Mikes voice came over the radio. “What’s up?” Joe asked. “Five marines have us pinned down. Mind giving us a hand?” “On it.” Joe called back, “Come on, lets move.” Joe and Jon carefully made their way around the side of the building and saw the marines. They were behind another concrete slab and all had their guns blazing. Joe brought his rifle up and fired, dropping a marine. Jon opened up next and took two down. Joe pulled back his bolt and took aim, “Three shots.” But the two remaining marines stood up and opened fire on them. Both Joe and Jon dove opposite directions to avoid the deadly spray of spikes.

Something hit him hard in the left shoulder. He’d been hit! Joe’s right hand shot up and he clutched the wound. But there was no blood. No hole in the armor, not even a scratch. Joe looked back to Mike’s position to see him pop up and pour rounds into one of the marine’s backs. A C-10 round flew right over Joe’s head and shattered the marine’s face plate. Looking back to the gate, he saw Tiffany’s rifle smoking. She calmly walked over to them and pulled back her bolt. Joe got to his feet. Nothing moved, nothing was left alive in this area except for his marines.

Tiffany reached him and saw him holding his shoulder. She moved his hand away from it. Smiling, she said, “I told you.” Joe smiled back. “What now Joe?” Tracy asked. She sounded like she was out of breath. Joe looked at the entrance of the building. There was no one there. “We move in.” Joe answered. He made his way to the entrance. “What about the other ghosts?” Mike asked as hid drum fell to the ground. “They’re dead.” Mike stopped dead, holding the fresh drum in his hand. Joe and the others pressed onwards.

The inside of the build was dark, no lights were on, except for small blue fluorescent lights behind the lobby desk. Joe saw three separate hallways, one leading left, one leading right, and one going straight. Joe turned back to his marines. Mike had caught back up with them and, even though his mask was down, he could tell he was deeply troubled by the two ghost’s deaths. “We’ll split up and check every inch of this building. Jon, you take Tracy and head down the left path.” Jon nodded and tapped Tracy’s shoulder. They ran down the left hallway and disappeared in the darkness. “Tiffany, take Mike and head down the center path, I’ll head down the right one.” “Got it.” Mike said, as he ran past him and into the hallway. Joe looked to Tiffany, who was reloading her rifle, “Be careful.” He whispered to her. “I will.” she replied, throwing her bolt back into place. Joe watched her and Mike being swallowed by the darkness of the passage. He checked his rifle and ran down his hallway. “The die is cast, Stack.” Joe thought as he ran through the darkness, “There’s no going back. Lets see who comes out on top.”

Stack watched the entire battle from the safety of his communications center. The multiple screens showed burning tank, bleeding human corpses, and one large hole in his wall. During the middle of the battle, Drake had found his way out of the office to watch the event with him. He was still in his armor. “Sir the attackers have infiltrated the building.” the young private reported. Stack sighed with frustration. “I’ve had enough of you private.” Stack growled and produced his sword from his wrist. “You-your…you’re a…” the marine stuttered helplessly, as Stack approached him. Stack brought up his sword and sliced downwards.

The marine let out a howl of pain and clutched his chest. It would do no good. The gash was far too big and too deep from him to do anything about. Stack walked calmly over to the struggling man and planted his foot on the wound. The weak human screamed in pain. Stack place the tip of his blade on his throat and pushed down. The marine coughed and blood sprayed out of his mouth. After a few seconds, the marine stopped coughing and ceased moving.

Stack pulled his sword back. “Stack what did you do?” Drake cried, wide eyed. “He was infested sir.” Stack said. “Oh, good work then.” Drake turned back to the screens. He swayed back and forth, indicating he still had alcohol in his system, but he seemed focused. “What do we do about the intruders?” “Don’t worry sir. I’ll lock us down and alert the squad in the mess hall.” Stack assured him Captain. Still staring at the screens he scanned the floors below for the intruders identities. Heading to the mess hall he sensed Medical lieutenant Calmanes and…Corporal Jon Rulli? “How could this be?” Stack asked himself, “I saw his bunker explode before my very eyes.” He checked again. It was defiantly him. It didn’t matter he was no threat. The marines in the mess hall will pick them off easily.

Heading directly toward the communications center he sensed someone who he never thought he’d see again. Corporal Mike Patterson was running down the hallway with an unknown. A ghost. Stack brought his hands to his temples and massaged his head, “How could this be?!? I shot him myself.” Stack shook his head, “Oh well, looks like I get the pleasure of doing it again.” Stack smiled.

The last mind he couldn’t sense either. “Another ghost?” Stack thought, “This one’s cocky. Venturing off on his own.” The ghost ran past a camera and what Stack saw made his heart skip and beat. Though dark and grainy the image was, there was no doubt in his mind who it was. Lieutenant Joe Tarn peered around an empty corridor and moved out of sight. “Joe?” Drake asked the screen, “It can’t be. You’re dead.” “He’s just as good as it sir,” Stack said, thinking quickly, “He’s infested too, along with every one of the intruders. They’ve come to kill you sir.” Drake looked blankly at Stack. “No.” Drake said, “He can’t be.” “He is sir. Don’t worry I’ll lock us down and call up the squad.” Stack kicked the dead human away from his terminal and began typing in the lock down codes.

When Stack finished, a count down appeared. “Ten seconds sir, and we’ll be unreachable.” The hiss of a door opening and closing sounded behind him, “Sir?” Stack turned around. The door that leading out of the communications room had closed and locked itself. “NO!” Stack yelled turning back to the screen. He saw Drake grabbing two pistols and running down the corridor connecting the comm room to the security center. Stack rushed back to the computer terminal. He feverishly began typing in the abort codes. “Lockdown in three, two, one. Lockdown engaged.” The computer said. “FUCK! NO!” Computer, lift the lockdown!” Stack yelled. “Affirmative. Lockdown will be lifted in ten minutes.” “God damn it!” Stack yelled. He could not let the Queen’s prize be marred. He sighed. Reminding himself that Drake was a marine captain. They were more superior in human life than a lieutenant.

He would just have to wait until the lock down was lifted before retrieving Drake. Stack watched the doors leading to the security center and the mess hall seal themselves. Another hiss signaled that a five inch thick blast door had sealed itself around the comm rooms entrance. “Things are about to get interesting.”

Joe reached a room with many desks and screens. A set of stairs led up to an open door. The door was flanked by two identical metal desks. This room had the same blue tint as the lobby. All the screens were up against the east wall. Joe looked into them and saw his reflection in the black screens. But he saw someone else’s too. And who’s ever it was, he held out two pistols. Joe ducked down and took cover behind a metal desk and automatic rounds poured into the screen Joe was just looking into.

Joe quickly strengthened his mental blocks, just in case it was Stack. The voice told him otherwise though, “Looks like your still as fast as you were in basic Joe.” Joe couldn’t believe who he just heard, “Captain?” “So you do remember me.” Joe heard Drake’s boots echoing on the metal floor, “One would think an infest wouldn’t remember a thing from their old life.” Joe reached out and looked inside his captains mind. Only now did he see it. The parasite inside his captain. The pieces were falling into place. “Are you drunk sir?” “Don’t worry Tarn, I’m sober enough to kill you that’s for sure.” Drake sent more automatic rounds into Joe’s cover. Once he stopped, Joe stepped up and took aim. He fired as Drake dove behind another desk. His shot sailed over his captains right side and left a three inch hole in the wall. Joe cocked back the bolt but Drake popped up and sprayed his area with automatic pistol fire. “Two shots” “Like these new weapons lieutenant?” Joe didn’t answer, “They’re brand new. The X88G Hell Hound. 32 round clips and fully automatic.” “Very nice sir.” Joe responded, “So you think I’m infested?” “Correction. I know your infested. What human would slaughter all those men out there.” Drake yelled. “They were infected with the same thing that infected you. I stropped it before it took them over. Before they became slaves.” Joe yelled back, “I showed them mercy. You are bound to do that things master whatever he wills.” “No one controls me!” Drake shouted back, pouring more rounds into Joe’s desk. As soon as he stopped shooting, Joe jumped up again and fired.

This time Drake wasn’t as fast as before. Joe’s round clipped the edge of Drake’s left shoulder and blew away a chunk of armor. “I see you still have you shooting skills too. Maybe nothing much has changed in you since we last met.” Drake groaned. “Trust me sir, a lot has changed.” “How many rounds do you have left Joe?” Drake asked. “Only one sir. You?” “I got about thirteen in each. So what are you gonna do? I’ve got you pinned and there’s no way you’ll hit me with one shot.” He was right. Drake had him out gunned and there was no where he could run. He was running out of time.

Just then a crazy thought entered his head. Gylenacs had mentioned something about it during his training. But there was no way he could pull it off. It took a lot of psionic power and years to master, but Joe had no other choice. He put both hands to his head and focused his power. If this doesn’t work, I’m out of options.

Tracy Calmanes followed as quietly as she could behind the young marine. The whole area around her was full of desks and computers. This must have been some kind of office space. Her and Corporal Rulli had bypassed the mess hall door when they found out it was locked and proceeded onwards to this area. “It’s clear.” Jon said as he lowered his weapon. Tracy walked forward and sifted through the contents of a desk. Corporal Rulli made his way to the door out of the room. “Communication room.” Jon read the sign above the door out loud. “You surprise me you know.” Tracy said to him, still looking through the desk. “How’s that?” Jon asked, as he tried opening the door. “I didn’t know marines could read.” she smiled. Jon ignored her. Tracy looked up to see him pulling desperately on the doors handle. She folded her arms and sighed, knowing full well what was about to happen.

And sure enough, with a snap, the door handle broke off the door and sent the Corporal flying through the air and onto his back. “You marines really aren’t the brightest bunch.” Tracy shook her head. “I don’t see you giving any other ideas.” Jon shot back. “I’m sorry for not knowing that a man had no idea, that if you pull hard enough on a metal handle it would fly off of a wooden door.” Jon turned back to the door, she won. “The whole place must be locked down. We should probably go back.” Jon turned back to face her. “Wait, wait, maybe if you ran really fast at the door and rammed it with your head. Do you think that’ll work?” She laughed and turned around. “Shut up bitch!” Jon yelled. Tracy stopped and turned around. Jon had his rifle raised and pointed directly at her chest. For a moment she felt fearful of him, but she pushed that emotion away. “Lower your weapon Corporal. You do realized that your aiming at a superior officer right?” she said calmly. “I know what I’m doing. Stop treating me like I’m some fucking moron!” Jon yelled at her. “Oh, I’m sorry Corporal. What would your definition of “Fucking moron” be?” Tracy asked, pretending to care, “Because mine falls between a man ripping a door handle off a door and pointing a gun at his C.O.” Jon raised his rifle higher and aimed for her head. More fear spread through her body. “Are you going to shoot me Corporal?” Tracy seriously asked. Jon smiled, “Yes.” Tracy’s eyes widened with fear.

His weapon fired.

“Mike, god damn it, keep up.” Tiffany ordered as they ascended another flight of stairs. “Well I’m sorry that I don’t have armor that sticks to my every curve and is light as a feather.” Mike gasped. “I’m not.” Tiffany whispered. “What?” Mike yelled. “Nothing, come on we’re almost to the top.” Mike mumbled something but Tiffany didn’t catch it.

When they reached to top, Tiffany scanned the area. “Clear.” the said. It was another hallway. That seemed like the only thing in this place, stairs and hallways. They walked silently to the end of the corridor. There they saw three doors. One to the right one to the left and one straight ahead. The one straight ahead had a sign above it. It was lit with whit lights, “Communication room” it said. “What now?” Mike asked, “It doesn’t look like we can get past these.” He was right all the doors were firmly shut and the comm room’s had a blast shield around it as well. “I don’t know. I guess we just wait here for the others.” “Can you see what’s behind this door?” Mike asked, referring to the comm room’s blast door. “Hold on” Tiffany probed the inside of the room. She could sense two bodies, one was pacing back and forth. She recognized the thoughts as Stacks, “Stack is in here.” Tiffany gasped. “Really? Well then we should wait here.” Tiffany still searched the room. The other body wasn’t moving. She sensed no thoughts from it at all. Then the conclusion hit her. “Oh my God.” she cried. “What?” Mike asked looking at the door. “I think Stack killed Drake!” she cried. “No way.” Mike’s mouth dropped open.

Just then they heard shots come from behind both doors and laughter coming from the comm room.

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