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A Marine’s Story Part 13

“One Must Fall”

Medical Lieutenant Tracy Calmanes winced in pain as she mistakenly put weight on her right ankle. She put her left hand on the wall next to her and raised her foot a little. “Come on Tracy we gotta keep moving, that message didn’t sound good!” Jon turned around and put her other arm across his shoulders. “Well if you hadn’t pushed me so hard into those desks, I wouldn’t have twisted my ankle.” Tracy grumbled as she pushed away from the wall and rested on Jon’s armor. “And if I hadn’t, you might not have gotten somewhere safe in time.” Jon gripped Tracy’s wrist hard with his right hand and led her down the hall at the fastest pace they could muster.

After finally making it back to the lobby, Jon released his hold on Tracy and stood up straight. “Which way did Joe go again?” he asked, looking into the two equally dark hallways. “He went down the right one.” Tracy told him and made her way down Joe’s path. “Ok, give me your arm.” Jon walked over to her. “I’ll be fine, It doesn’t hurt as bad now.” punching in a series of buttons on her forearm, her suit released a small dose of pain killers. She began lightly jogging down the passage way, “Joe didn’t sound so good in that radio transmission, I’d be worrying about him right now. With these thick walls I’m sure neither of us got his whole message.”

Jon jogged beside her and checked his rifle. It was kind of funny, less than five minutes ago she thought that weapon would be the end of her. Now she owed her life to it. And to the man wielding it. She watched him as he flipped the safety to 3-burst round. She'd underestimated him. He really knew what he was doing. Rounding a corner she turned to face the enveloping darkness. She had been doing that a lot recently though, hadn’t she? At first she thought Joe Tarn was just another stupid, lapdog-marine of Drake’s that didn’t care about what happened to the people following him as long as he got to kill something. But he wasn’t. Even though he was still an arrogant, cocky, ungrateful bastard, he cared. He cared about all of his men. And, not only has he had to endure all their death’s, he’s had to watch all of them die right before his eyes. By doing that, they each took a piece of his heart and soul with them.

He was more than a marine. He was someone she could respect, even admire at times. Even though she had to deal with the deaths of her patients, she didn’t know what she would do if she was put in Joe’s position. “How do you think Mike and Tiffany are doing?” Jon broke the silence. Tracy thought for a second and responded, “Well, with Mike having shit for brains, if he was alone, one could only assume he’d be dead but since Tiffany’s with him, I’d put my money on both of them being alright. Tiffany may not look it, but she’s strong.” “Yeah.” Jon said, “What about Joe? Do you think he found Stack?” “I don’t know.” She replied simply as they entered a dimly lit room.

It was obvious that a battle took place here. They both stopped and looked around. Jon began making his way up the short flight of stairs to the second floor as Tracy walked toward an over turned desk next to many blank screens. The desk was riddled with bullet holes and nearly all of the screens looked as if they’d never show another image again. “Looks like something big happened here Jon.” Tracy stated and turned toward him, “Jon?” She turned to see him frozen at the top of the stairs. “Rulli? What’s wrong?” she asked, jumping up the stairs to meet him. When she got there she noticed his gaze fixed on something in front of them. Looking forward she caught what he was staring at. She immediately took two steps back and let out a squeak of shock.

Slouched against the wall in front of them was a suit of Terran marine armor. The armor had a hole in the chest were blood flowed out of. Even in the darkness she could make out the red paint along the shoulders that was chipped from constant battle. “No…” she whimpered, not wanting to believe what her mind already knew, “No…” She slowly made her way closer to the collapsed body, tears forming in her eyes. Kneeling down next to the large suit of armor she placed her hands on the visor. Fighting hard to keep back the tears, she swallowed the lump in her throat and pushed the faceplate back.

A horrible scream filled the room as all the tears she tried so hard to keep back, rushed forward and soaked her face in and instant. The lifeless face of the man she once loved rested peacefully against the wall. The small bullet hole in the middle of his forehead had a small, dried bead of blood dripping from it.

Tracy Calmanes collapsed onto the dead man and sobbed over his shoulder. She pulled her lifeless lover into one last embrace and cried, “Why…? Drake why…?”

He was completely detached from the real world. He didn’t see the metal floor below him, he didn’t feel the tears running down his nose and falling to the floor. He didn’t even hear the quickening sounds that Stack’s boots made as they slammed against the ground. He was dead to the world. All he could see and hear was his family. His murdered family. He was ready for It., he was ready to die.

“You can’t die!” his mind yelled at him. “Why not?” Joe asked, “I have nothing to live for anymore. All I feel is pain now. Death is the only option for me.” “So you’re going to let the entire human race die now, huh?” “Why not? The Dominion killed my entire family because of me. They deserve to burn in hell.” Time slowed to a crawl as he argued with his conscience. Stack hardly moved at all. His blade slowly began to rise. “So you think there’s nothing left to live for? You think that you can just give up because you found out the truth?” Joe didn’t respond, “Think about this hard Joe. Are you sure that there’s nothing left for you?”

What am I supposed to be thinking about? The whole reason I joined the marines was to help defend my people. Defend to Dominion; defend my family’s murders…In fact; things would have been so much better if I hadn’t joined the marines. I can trace every problem I’ve had to endure to the marines. All I did was fuck up. I couldn’t stop the Mutalisks from killing my men; I couldn’t save Murry from getting his brain ripped out. If I hadn’t joined the marines they could all still be alive. Same with Dale, and Verdas, and Arenes. If I hadn’t joined the marines I wouldn’t have had to kill an entire platoon of soldiers. If I hadn’t joined the marines Mike would still have his arm.

“What makes you so sure all of that would have happened?” his mind asked. Stack’s blade was at its apex, in prime position to strike. “Because when you take me out of the equation people live!” Joe fired back. “People die every day, regardless of what it is you do. That’s why it’s called war” “Oh yeah? Well if I hadn’t joined the marines I never would have meet…” Joe’s eyes shot open, “That’s it!”

Stack’s blade fell. Joe quickly collapsed his arm and rolled right, narrowly avoiding the attack. The blade fell with full force into the ground. Lodging it between two neosteel plates. Rolling onto a knee he looked directly at Stack. He was dumbfounded, “What the hell’s got into you? Why do you continue to resist? I offered you a quick and painless death. The Zerg will take revenge on this pitiful world for you. We will completely and utterly destroy your enemies as well as ours. And yet you reject death? You refuse to rejoin your family? You no longer have a purpose! Why don’t you die?”

“You’re wrong Stack…” Joe tossed his pistol away and drew his knife. Stack yanked his blade out from between the floor plates, “I am, am I? Then enlighten me lieutenant, why do you fight?” he growled. “Because I found my resolve. I’m not fighting for myself anymore.” Both lieutenants began circling one another, Joe’s grip on his knife tightened, “I’m fighting for my friends, for the one’s I love. They don’t deserve to die by your hands.” “But they’re humans as well. They killed your family.” Stack spotted Joe’s knife and smiled. “No they didn’t, the dominion did. And trust me, I no longer harbor love for the dominion, but as long as they are around, my friends will be safe.” Joe brought his knife up and placed two fingers at the hilt of the blade, “There is one thing that I hate more than the dominion though, and do you know what it is?” Joe quickly ran his fingers down the blade and it crackled to life with psionic energy. “YOU STACK!!!” Joe charged at the infested man, “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU”

Stack was stunned. Never in a million years would he have imagined this happening. Joe let out a fierce yell and swung left. Stack barely had anytime to respond and was pushed back by his half-hearted block. As he staggered backwards, Joe brought his blade up and swung down. Stack’s mind was focused now and he put all his might into the block. Joe’s strike pushed Stack back some but it wasn’t enough. Their blades were locked. Breaking away, Joe leapt back.

Quickly drawing in breath, Joe seized up the situtation. He was exhausted. Stack had the upper hand. He’s been sitting up here the entire time while Joe had to use almost everything in him to get up here. “You really are something lieutenant.” Stack finally spoke, they began circling again, “But even now you know how this encounter will turn out, don’t you? You’ve seen it happen!” “I don’t care! Even if it was a vision of the future I’ll prove it wrong.” Joe yelled. “Please lieutenant, you’re exhausted. You’re mentally and physically incapable of killing me.” Stack sprinted at him and lunged. Joe deflected the blow, pivoted, and hacked. But his blade swung through empty air. Joe franticly tried to spot Stack but it was too late. His blade cut a deep gash along his left arm. Joe dove away to avoid any further damage.

“You see lieutenant? You’re too slow.” Stack taunted, “You’re almost as weak as that Marshal Duke.” The anger bubbled inside Joe once more, “You should have heard her calling your name like the little bitch she is.” “Enough!” Joe screamed and charged him. Stack swung for Joe’s head. He ducked under the slice and Joe attacked Stack’s leg. His blade cut a deep wound across his right thigh. Dark red blood spurted from the wound as he jumped back on his good leg. Joe smiled, he got him. Stack let out a very low and eerie laugh. His smile quickly faded once Joe saw Stack’s leg repair its self. “Oh shit.” Joe mumbled. “You see now don’t you Tarn? You can’t kill me!” Stack laughed and charged him again. Joe had to go on the defensive until he figured out a way to win. He parried the lung and stepped back. Stack swung left, Joe blocked. He swung right, Joe blocked. Kicking at his healing leg, Joe hoped to stop the process. He missed. They both stepped back and paused.

Joe was panting hard. He couldn’t keep this up much longer. His strength was waning. The Hallucination he used on Drake drained almost all of his psionic energy. He was running on fumes now. Before he knew it Stack leapt into the air and was barreling down on him. Joe brought his blade up just in time. Stack landed with a thud on the ground in front of him and the blades clashed. The shear force of the attack nearly buckled Joe’s legs. Stack’s sword began pushing down. Joe put all his might into pushing the blade away but Stack was just too strong. With one final push Stack cut deep into his right shoulder. Joe fell to a knee and Stack brought up his blade to finish him off. With one quick leap, Joe impaled his blade into Stack’s right peck.

He let out a howl of pain and punched Joe’s face hard with his left hand. They both staggered backwards and Joe’s hand clenched his wounded shoulder. It wasn’t as bad as it looked. He could still move his arm and hand but his swings would be no were near as powerful as they once were. Blood began flowing out of his mouth were Stack had hit him. He was running extremely low on psionic energy. He’d cut back on his mental block so that it only covered his moves. Even though it helped him conserve energy it wasn’t enough. He guessed he had about two minutes before his blade disappeared completely.

Stack let out a low laugh again, “You lose lieutenant.” Joe got to his feet and readied his blade once more, “Not yet, I still got some fight left in me.” “No, you lose lieutenant.” Stack chuckled and raised his blade so that Joe could see. The blade was coated in a thick, dark liquid. Something other than Joe’s blood. His eyes widened. Could it be… “Hydra venom.” Stack laughed, “Highly concentrated Hydra venom. The kind my body can produce will kill you in half the time than at normal levels. You lose!”

No! He can’t lose. Everyone was counting on him. Stack leapt straight at Joe without warning. Before Joe had a chance to retaliate, Stack brought his sword up and drove it straight through Joe’s left shoulder. Joe let out a low grunt of pain and breathed in very heavily. Stack was out of his reach; Joe’s blade couldn’t reach him even if he wanted it to. He hung his head and watched his blood run down Stack’s blade. “This is it Lieutenant, this is the end of you. You threw everything you had at me and you still failed. In a matter of seconds your blade will die and your life will perish with it. Looks like your friends weren’t enough for you to fight for.”

His friends…Joe closed his eyes and envisioned there faces. Mike, Tracy, Jon…he saw them. They were in the middle of a deserted street of Tarsonis completely surrounded by Zerg. Jon and Mike fought hard but they would be over run and devoured any minute now. Tracy huddled in between them, legs clutched to her chest, awaiting the inevitable. Then everything went white. Joe stood in an empty, vast whiteness and saw something off in the distance. Tiffany slowly walked up to him and stopped. She just stared at him, a very sad and disappointed look in he beautiful eyes. Joe took her hands in his and immediately felt strengthened. She griped his hands tightly. “I made a promise.” He said to her. She nodded and smiled.

“I made a promise…” Joe mumbled to himself. “What was that lieutenant?” Stack cocked his head, pretending to care. Joe looked up, his eyes were ablaze. He looked directly into Stack’s eyes. Extending his left arm out as far as he could, he gripped the blade and slowly pulled himself closer. Stack attempted to remove the sword but Joe wouldn’t let him take it. Joe channeled all his remaining energy into his psi blade. The blade glowed brighter than it ever had and lit the entire room. “I made a promise!” Joe yelled at the top of his lungs and impaled Stack’s blade entirely into his shoulder, “And I’m going to keep it!”

Keeping a tight grip on Stack’s sword, Joe drove the psi blade directly into Stacks abdomen. With one last howl of pain and anger, Joe sliced upwards drawing a deep wound all the way up to his left shoulder. This gash was far deeper than any either he or Stack had made. The blade mutilated any vital internal organ it touched and sliced through every bone in its path. When it left Stack’s body it deactivated and slipped from Joe’s grip. The knife flew to the other side of the room and clattered noisily as it hit the ground.

“You lose, Stack!” Joe growled as he removed the blade from his shoulder. Stack wore a mixed expression of disbelief and fear. Joe stumbled a little once the blade left his shoulder. Blood ran freely out of both sides of the wound. Stack’s mouth moved up and down but no words escaped his lips. And then he fell. He fell like a tree to a lumberjack’s chainsaw. Landing face up, Joe watched as blood bubbled up from the massive wound.”I don’t believe it. I am Zerg. I am superior to a lowly marine.” Stack spoke to the ceiling. “You still don’t get it do you. Even though I am a marine, I have something that you don’t have.” Joe explained, “I have purpose. I have a reason to be. It wasn’t my body that beat you. It was my will.” Joe began walking toward him. Stack’s mind was completely open. He now saw what was driving him to succeed. Kerrigan had promised to set him free. Joe smiled at this thought. “She probably didn’t even keep the promises she made to her minions.” He thought to himself. “No, she meant it. She would have freed me.” Stack said, confidently, “You have no idea how badly I wanted to taste freedom.” Stack closed his eyes. “That’s why you lost Kevin; you were fighting for yourself, for your own personal gain.” Joe kneeled down, and grabbed him by the collar, “I have people that mean the world to me, and I would gladly lay my life down for theirs.” Joe brought his fist up and punched Stack across the face as hard as he could. He grabbed Stack again and pulled him back up, “I hate you.” Joe balled his fist, “I hate you with every fiber of my being.” He punched him and pulled him back up. “You put me through hell these past few days.” Joe hit him again, “I think it’s only fair I show you a fraction of what I went through.” He threw Stack back to the ground and stood up.

But he wasn’t done yet. So long as Stack breathed he posed a threat to Joe and his friends. So Joe began lifting his leg. Stack winced in pain as Joe planted his boot on Stack’s right wrist. Bending over he took the sword in his hands and pulled. With every last remaining ounce of strength left in his beaten body, Joe pulled. Slowly but surely, the blade began bending. Stack let out a howl of pain as a satisfying CRACK filled the room.

Staggering backwards from the sudden force of the sword breaking, Joe continued to gasp for air. He looked down at the man’s chest. The wound was extremely serious. Joe’s blade had cut right through several of Stacks vital organs and at least three of his ribs. Standing over Stack, he placed the tip of the blade on his throat. Stack’s body attempted to close the massive wound but to no avail. He was losing blood at an alarming rate. “Now you know, Stack. Now you know that I’m stronger than you. And you will die knowing that this entire plan of yours will be undone by me, because you were too weak.” “My Queen…” Stack wasn’t talking to Joe, “I’m sorry, I just wanted to taste freedom.” Joe ignored him, “Let me do you one last favor lieutenant. Let me end your pain. Let me lead you to a place were your soul will burn for eternity…” Joe brought the blade up. Stack then whispered something to himself that Joe didn’t hear. “Go to hell!” Joe planted the blade firmly into the man’s throat. His back arched in pain and blood began dribbling from the corners of his mouth, his body twitched uncontrollably. Both his hands shot up to his throat to try and stem the flow of blood, even though he knew it was futile. Stack then began violently coughing and blood sprayed up into the air. Joe held the blade tightly and pushed it even deeper. And then he just stopped, Stack stopped moving. Letting his grip fall from the sword his head fell back and he breathed a sigh of relief. It was over, he did it.

All the sudden the giant communication screen behind him flickered to life. “Update.” It demanded in a harsh voice. Joe was frozen in place. Even though they had never met before, everyone knew this voice. “Stack, update!” she demanded more forcefully. Joe took a deep breath and turned around to reveal to her that he was not who she thought he was. He stared into the screen at the pale green, scaley face of Kerrigan, Queen of Blades. The long tentacles on her head swayed as if they were caught in a breeze, each of which was as thick as his pinkie finger. Her bright yellow eyes burned with intense anger, “Who are you human? Where is Kevin Stack?” Joe moved so that he blocked Stack’s body from her view, “Kerrigan, Queen of the Zerg, I have to be honest, I really hoped that the this day would never come.” “Answer me human where is Stack?” she growled. “Of course, O mighty Queen of the Zerg.” Joe smiled and bowed mockingly. “How dare you mock me human, once I arrive on your planet I will find you and rip you limb from limb.” She threatened. “I think your going to find that a lot more complicated than you originally planed, O Queen.” Joe snickered, “You see as soon as we’re finished with our little chat, I’m going to alert every Terran ship in this sector to come to Tarsonis’ defense.” She laughed, “That’s cute. You really think that my subordinate will allow you to do such a thing?” “Actually,” Joe raised his eyebrows and moved aside to show her Stack’s lifeless body, “I don’t think he has much to say about it.”

Her eyes widened as she took in the sight of her lieutenant lying motionless on the floor with his sword protruding from his own throat. She was speechless, the only sound made was Joe Tarn’s heavy breathing. “How is this possible?” she said, still staring at Stack, “He is at the peak of your species evolution, and you, you’re a-“ “A marine.” Joe cut her off, “Yes, that’s right. Your whole, ‘brilliant plan to wipe out the human race’ was foiled by the very thing you look down upon the most.” “Who are you human?” She asked in awe, “You are more than you claim to be. I can feel your energy, I’ve never felt anything like it before.”

Joe ignored her. They stared at each other for what seemed was an eternity. Then he felt it, she was trying to get into his mind. As she entered he tried gathering up his mental energy to push her out but he was empty. He had absolutly no psionic energy left in him. Kerrigan was free to roam inside his mind. “Ah, Tarn…” she eventually said, “You are strong.” “Get out of my head bitch!” Joe yelled, he felt her withdraw. “You are strong indeed.” She finished with a sinister smile, “Do what ever you will human. The first waves of my minions should be arriving in a matter of minutes. They will destroy your pathetic fleet and devour all who oppose them, except you. I have big plans for you.” Her sickening laugh echoed off the walls of the comm. room as the screen went blank.

He didn’t have anytime to waste, the venom was coursing through each and every one of his veins and it grew more painful with each passing second. Making his way over to the screen he said out loud, “Computer, contact Comadore Demaria and Major Jackson.” “Right away, please wait while I acquire a safe line of communication.” A female voice sounded from the console in front of him. “Hurry” Joe ordered as he gripped his still bleeding shoulder. Joe closed his eyes and winced as the venom sent an intense shock of pain through his entire body. “Jesus Christ, what the hell happened to you?” came a familiar voice from the communication screen. Joe looked up. Brent stood with both major Jackson and Jeremy. Joe groaned from the pain and said, “You have to get to Tarsonis, NOW!”

“I’m so cold.” Tiffany thought to herself as she rested her head up against the wall behind her. Her suit must have been malfunctioning because it wasn’t doing a thing to keep her body temperature up. She shivered as she looked across the hallway to Mike. He was still unconscious and breathing slowly. She looked up at the stairs leading to the comm. room. It felt like an eternity since she watched Joe walk up those steps to face off against Stack. “He’s fine don’t worry about him” she told herself.

Shifting uncomfortably Tiffany closed her eyes. She sat in a very large pool of blood, her blood. She couldn’t wait for him any longer, she wanted to but she couldn’t. Her heart beat slowed and she began to feel her life slipping away from her. But then someone called out her name. A voice that seemed to be filled with sadness and remorse. She sensed the voice longed for something, something it could never have again. Her eyes slowly fluttered open. A being dressed entirely in white kneeled down so there faces were next to one another. “You’ll be alright now, Tiffany.” It spoke, “I’m here.”

Those words echoed inside her head for a long while, until Tiffany lost consciousness and blacked out.

“You’re sure?” Jeremy asked, skeptically. “Positive.” Joe groaned and another shot of pain raced through his whole body. “Myself and Major Jackson will ready all our forces and head to Tarsonis.” Jeremy said. “If this invasion is as big as it sounds do you think we’ll be able to stop it?” Jackson asked. “Hoffman,” Jeremy called, “Find Joey and you two get any and every Terran ship in this system to Tarsonis immediately.” “Roger that, sir.” Brent said as he sprinted off. “Hurry, you don’t have much time.” Joe struggled to take in breath. “Don’t worry Joe, we’ll come.” Jeremy reassured him. “Thank you.” “Hang in there.” The screen turned off. Joe slowly turned around and made his way toward the door. He did it. His purpose was fulfilled. He made his way into the base, killed Stack, and called in others to help defend the planet.

As soon as he made it past Stack’s body he fell to the ground and let out a deafening scream. His body felt as if it was on fire. The poison inside him was attacking his internal organs. He’d never been in so much pain in his entire life. Joe began shaking uncontrollably and started slamming his head into the ground to try and take his mind off of what the poison was doing to him. Then it stopped, he couldn’t feel the pain anymore. The venom was getting ready for its final assault. “I did it, Tiff.” Joe spoke across the psionic plain, “I saved us.”

He could feel the poison starting up again. There was only one last thing he needed to tell her, “I love you, Tiffany...goodbye...”

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