Counterstrike, Part IEdit
That night, Daniel was brought wide awake by the shrill cry of Michael, while he was still in his bed: "Faster, girl, Run! Girl, RUN!! Oh, I am so, so-- sorry..."
"You okay?" asked Sarlena, from the nearby cell. The lights turned on, and then Daniel could see the sweat beads rolling off of the tormented soldier.
"What's it look like?" Christopher responded sarcastically. It must still be the trauma of having shot the civilian on that first day, he recalled...
The days dragged on, two more days of toil building the crafts. They were getting excited, though Daniel also didn't wish for the summons to action to arrive before the crafts had been built. Strange, now that we're doing something, I Don't wish for any errands to be coming our way, after wishing for them for weeks already.
Shortly after the fourth one was completed, the summons came, the four were freed, and they raced to the waiting dropship, each carrying the improvised crafts, with the official leading the way and shouting, "...this time, telsat II has spotted about fifty xenomorphs progressing at a feverish pace toward another civilian settlement, one that has not yet had time to evacuate. Requesting your immediate assistance at said location, to be disclosed once dropship has arrived at thirty thousand feet..."
"...strap yourselves in, boys..." came the lofty feminine voice of the warrant officer as the hatch closed, leaving them inside a personnel transport.
There was the warp in space-time, as the dropship travelled at faster-than-light speeds toward the settlement of New Haven, population 140, nearly one third of the way between Los Andares and the first sightings of the beasts...
Daniel wondered what the vehicle at the rear of the dropship was doing, along with the brown-skinned driver in its front seat. It seemed to have various instruments straddled across it, like some very complex construction robot... As the dropship descended, the four, now in gear, watched out the window as the planet visibly drifted ever closer upward...
The Quantradyne engines came to a halt as the dropship settled upon the ground roughly one mile away from the city outskirts. The warrant officer announced, "we have arrived at the destination. Expected contact with the subject: ten minutes. The aliens seem to be headed straight through the pass toward the settlement; the SCV on board, and driver, are here to help you rapidly construct a defensive fortification; you five are the only ones defending this area. Good luck." The five rushed outside of the hatch as the dropship began levitating off the ground, its task done.
"All right, time for Operation Recoil," declared Daniel. The SCV driver asked expectantly, "SCV's for go, sir! What'll you have me build, a bunker? I can get a light one up in ten minutes straight..."
"No, no, we have our bunkers right in our hands, private! Make for the safety of the settlement, now!"
"What?? I'm afraid I didn't hear you correctly, Corporal--"
"I said, get your SCV and your life back to the settlement! You're not needed here!"
"Well... if you insist, sir," said the driver.
The SCV sped off at top speed, and Daniel now turned to the other three. "All right, everybody get down on your craft!" Each Marine placed his or her craft on the ground, resembling a prototype wagon on the rough barren ground, then laid down on it, back upward and chest on the ground, hands gripping the wooden crafts tightly and Gauss guns propped forward, instantly transforming into miniature gunships.
"Now remember," Daniel told his squad, "With these CLCS-410's we can propel ourselves into the air for a short while. I suggest you get used to thinking of using it to escape harm."
"Uh... sir, I just inspected the fuel pods and realized that they're not holding liquid Nahqadah like the engines in all our airborne and spaceborne craft," announced Daniel. "We will only be able to stay aloft for a particularly short while. Not enough for holding off countless aliens at any rate."
"And now we wait," said Daniel, looking into the unremarkable distance with fiery eyes.
By the time they had finished testing their gears, the aliens were nearly in sight. "Don't fire until they are within a hundred yards," Daniel said clearly. "What's the term for it? The whites of their eyes..." So they waited, as the aliens approached so swiftly... the visors read them as coming in at Twenty miles per hour and with no signs of slowing down. Five hundred...... Four hundred...... Three hundred...... Two hundred...... Fire!
The rounds of the Gauss rounds fired into the wave of alien flesh and tendon, a spray of death, as blood burst from the unfortunate aliens at front. All the large pack of "mad dogs" chased after their quarry, claws ready to tear them apart.
But they could never get close to the four marines, since as the shots fired out in a nearly continuous stream from each submachine gun, the combined momentum pushed their crafts backward over the ground, hurtling backward to the settlement at up to twenty miles per hour - the same speed at which the aliens were rushing forward, in fact. The constant rat-a-tata-rat-a-tata-rat of the gausses fired unrelenting, as alien after alien died along the long path back to the settlement.
"Uh, sir, they seem to have hardened skull plates," warned Sarlena.
"Carapaces," corrected Christopher. "And yeah, I realize that too. Focus your fire at anywhere but on those carapaces."
The squad members did as they were advised, but even so many shots hit the now incredibly resilient skull carapaces of the aliens instead. As they were moving so quickly backward and over such rough terrain it was impossible to get off any accurate shots.
"This can't be good," muttered Christopher.
"Doesn't matter; they can't get to us," declared Daniel triumphantly as the four squad members continued rolling backward towards the settlement on their crudely fashioned vehicles.
The aliens knew that they had lost this engagement, and the surviving dozen rapidly burrowed into the ground, three of them being shot to pieces in the process. Cautiously walking forward to have a better look, they realized that there was absolutely nothing on the ground that indicated where the aliens had gone to. Down the entire wasteland corridor there were bright red pools of blood and swiftly decomposing carcasses.
"Well, that's another victory for Artifact Station," cheered Sarlena, and she embraced Christopher as Daniel looked on happily, taking a few pictures of them from within his suit silently so they didn't notice.
"So... they do bury into the ground," mused Christopher as they began the long walk home.
"Well of course they do... Err... Sorry, never had the opportunity to share with you all the stuff I saw while we were in prison," lamented Daniel.
"So Mike! You feeling any better?"
After a long pause, he asked slowly, "Why should I?"
"Umm... Because you got the little girl's revenge against the aliens?" asked Daniel.
Michael walked up to Daniel ponderously. "Well... maybe... But revenge wasn't what I'm after. You can't bring somebody back to life by killing an alien."
"Come on, Mike, cheer up! You were always the one to crack the jokes back at base!" said Christopher, trying to alleviate the inner pain that Michael felt.
"That's retribution," said Michael. "But... It's bittersweet." No matter how many aliens I kill, I can't ever bring the girl back. I'll always have that unspeakably heavy weight bearing down upon me...
By the time the foursome had arrived back at the settlement of New Haven, another transport frigate had landed, this time down the middle of the street, and a uniformed military official was in wait. "Ah, you're here now," he said once he saw the team. "We saw the encounter--flawless tactics!"
Daniel looked at Christopher agape, who was also looking at Michael, and Sarlena with mouth wide open...
"...And so I'm here to promote all four of you. Corporal Daniel, to Sergeant, Private Christopher, to Private First Class, Private Michael, to Private First Class, and Private Sarlena, to Private First Class." The officer handed them each a new badge. Daniel's had three chevrons on it, one more than before.
Daniel glowed with happiness as the officer pinned it on his uniform. It meant quite a bit to Daniel, to be recognized for his achievements, rather than imprisoned for them.
Michael looked at Sarlena agape, who was also looking at Christopher, and Daniel with mouth wide open...
"Well, what're we waiting for! Celebration!!!" shouted Sarlena, while the hundred-odd civilians watched on...
From the dropship came another four soldiers, each of them dressed in the CLCS-410 and armed with submachine gun and laser staff. "These Marines command a second fire team are your additional troops for your rifle squad," the officer declared pleasantly.
"Corporal Riley reporting, sir!" shouted someone who had two chevrons on his shoulder badge.
"At ease!" Daniel ordered just as loudly with a smile.
"Permission to speak freely, sir, but why send the troops to us right now? Aren't we going back home?" Oops, err... not 'home', per se... asked Christopher, a bit of a worry on is face.
"Let's see, how's NO for an answer?" The official mocked him lightly for giving the appearance of wanting to back away from the war, and continued in a falsely light tone. "You see, shortly after your dropship took off, Telsat II informed us of a squadron of additional creatures heading for New Haven. You know what to do."
Despite themselves, they all moaned.