Counterstrike, Part IIEdit
"Surely you saw our performance; why the troops, then?" asked Sarlena, not ready to accept the fact that they were about to receive backup - backup that was composed of total strangers. Well, I'll have to get used to it someday. Why not now?
The official sighed, and waved the others to sit down at his outdoor table. The dry winds blowing across the settlement brought a much wanted breeze of cool air to the soldiers, their visors now removed. "I was informed that you four nearly went to the supposed rescue of Higgins, Jr.?"
"Here's the scoop: At that time we had thought that there was only one type of alien-"
Oh crap! thought Daniel. Now there's more??? And these obviously can shoot air, which means that they can fire projectiles...
"-, but in fact there seems to be another. One that can attack at range by firing projectiles hidden behind its faceplate. These new identities seem like massive hydras, so we decided to call them Hydralisks to differentiate them--"
"What's with the lisks?" asked Christopher.
"Oh, that. The Confederacy has decided to give an actual name to the aliens to make things less confusing: Lisks. There's hound lisks and then there's hydra lisks, all right?"
"Got it," replied Christopher.
"It was a hydralisk that shot down the unfortunate Higgins Jr., and needless to say, he's now dead. But I want to bring to your attention the hydralisks: they are actually quite like marines, and already they have made more kills in the last two days than have the houndlisks in the last three weeks or so."
"Oh, I get it. Far more deadly than these pesky hound-lisks," said Sarlena without fully comprehending her own words. "But how do we attack them?"
"Well, didn't I promote you four for your brains?" He gave them a wink. "You've had more than your share of boredom the past few years. It's time you got more than your fair share of action, eh?" he remarked sarcastically. "So anyway: the mission. The magistrate wants to know a bit more about what the alien base is like. You're to take the dropship and go to this location-" he took out a map and showed it to them - "Find out what the place is like, scan for and eliminate threats, and then destroy the place. So you see, those other troops will come in handy."
"Yes, sir," said Daniel as he led his team onto the transport frigate. The official saluted, then proceeded into town, effectively turning control of the dropship over to its warrant officer. The massive vessel then ignited its thrusters, quickly launching into the air. Once they were sufficiently far enough from the ground, they began accelerating toward their destination with the aid of their gravitic hyperdrives.
The entire time Daniel and his team was stunned. They just looked at each other. For a full minute. And then realizing that they were in deep trouble, Sarlena took the opportunity to hug Christopher closely, knowing that this may be the last time they would be together. Daniel looked at his weapon, its counter reading 1084.
"Here we are," announced the warrant officer a minute later. "Please stand by for landing." The frigate landed, sending the badlands sand around it flying away in all directions. Daniel and his team jumped out the moment the hatch opened.
"Sir, hydralisks detected not too far away," warned a new member to the team. "Maybe we should get into position to fire on them."
"Look at these corpses," muttered Christopher, pointing at scattered houndling corpses some fifty meters away. "What has become of interspecies relations?!?"
"Quit it, Chris," muttered Daniel. "It won't improve the situation." Hey... Those corpses there give me an idea...
Michael meanwhile had seemed relieved. As if a heavy burden was about to lift. As if this was what he was waiting for.
Death? Or payback? Or justice?
Now things seem to be getting a bit more deadly at last, thought Daniel, not too happily. "Well, let's move out."
"Where's the SCV I sent here?"
"SCV's ready at a moment's notice," said the driver from behind him.
"Well, get out here, we've got some work for you to be doing..." As soon as the SCV emerged, the group began heading toward the site of the previous engagement, while Daniel watched in his visor as its display showed captured episodes of marines fighting the so-called hydralisks.
After a minute, they arrived at the battleground. Or rather, a murdering field, as all the butchered houndlisks indicated. "Well, what now?" asked Michael. For some reason, the battlefield of dead lisks somewhat lifted the troubles that he had been experiencing in the jail. At that moment, looking at the bloodied field, Daniel had an inspiration.
"See all those corpses?" pointed Daniel. "None of them had any weaker armor than we do now. They just didn't have enough, so if we fight with the armor we've got right now we'll be in big trouble, see? I want each of you marines to cut off pieces of the lisks' carapace, and the SCV to weld them to your body armor. Especially armor for the head and chest."
"Roger that," said the driver behind the Space Construction Vehicle, and its fusion cutters burst to life, cutting into the skull carapaces, sending bluish sparks flying everywhere. Slowly but surely, manageable parts of the aliens' skull carapaces were being placed on the firing squad members' bodies, affording them extra protection but also greatly weighing them down.
And half an hour later, the squad was done. They spent some time surveying each others' appearances. None of them looked like your typical marines anymore--they had way too much bulk now, with layer upon layer of strangely shaped armor covering their bodies.
"Now, let's get to higher ground in wait for the lisk offensive," Christopher offered, pointing at the steep cliff right next to them and the hill above. Everyone got into their own speedbikes and prepared to drive off.
At that moment a single greenish spike shot forth from the cliff above and struck at the now triply armored chestplates of a marine. It suddenly seemed to dissolve, as the components of the spike latched onto the chestplate and began decomposing the fiber at a molecular level. The team gasped with astonishment as what had originally been a single green spike turned into a web of barely visible but clearly green - somethings - which burned its way through two layers of armor before the attacking entity exhausted itself. Thankfully, the man was not hurt.
"Ambush!!!" They seem to have beaten us to the hilltop, those darned beasts!
Return fire!, everyone thought, and the marines turned around and began pumping countless Gauss rifle bullets up over the cliff. Aiming not for the cliff itself, but higher up, into the sky, barely a bit off. The hydralisks continued to launch their needle spikes, plastering many a marine with the incredibly corrosive attack. At the same time, the marines launched off on their jet packs to get to the top of the cliff.
For with the same velocity that the shots were fired vertically upward, with the same speed they shall fall back down to earth, Christopher recalled in his engineer's training. Their enemies won't know what hit them.
To the hydralisks, it seemed as if the sky itself rained lead. They, however, returned fire from the edge of the cliff wall, aiming with precision--but unable to strike through the additional layers of the marines' armor. The battle seemed to be ground to a stalemate--the humans with too little accuracy and the lisks with too little firepower.
Until, of course, the marines had managed to scale the cliff--which was not exactly sheer--and then opened fire at point-blank at the hydralisks. Initial volleys encountered stiff resistance; these creatures also had bullet-impervious skull plates.
"Darn it, they have them too!" exclaimed Sarlena a bit obviously.
"Well we're not going to wait for them to work through our armor, will we?" shouted Daniel as he took out his laser staff. He put the staff on full discharge, then aimed it at the nearest hydralisk. At the click of a button the ruby inside glowed with intense brilliance. A brilliant red laser beam shot out of its exit, burning straight into the monstrosity's skull carapace and turning it yellow-hot. The creature immediately crumpled, the skull carapace exploding from being thus overheated.
"Everyone, use your laser staves! Full power!" Daniel ordered. Soon seven more hydralisks collapsed, their bodies fried by the intense laser beams. Then the marines continued to open fire.
Suddenly, the tide of battle turned, as the shells ripped through the suddenly much smaller alien force with suddenly too good of a point-blank accuracy, rending flesh, until all the hydralisks had been felled. As Sarlena regained her breath, she realized that the team had defeated over a dozen of them--surprise, surprise, she thought.
"All right, I want an immediate look at all the marines, find out who's been hurt and get them medical attention," Daniel demanded.
The marines investigated each other and soon realized that aside from the one marine who had complained about the added burden to their jet packs and refused to don additional armor, none had been severely injured. The one who had disobeyed had a greenish needle spine embedded into his arm, the whatever it was coursing through his body and eating it up from within. The marine was convulsing rapidly.
The others looked at their fallen comrades with sadness.
"Oh no, I don't think he's going to make it!" exclaimed Christopher.
"Don't worry, we'll do something to save him," Sarlena countered. Without further ado, the strong-willed Sarlena took up her rifle and with it amputated the injured limb of the marine, then Christopher, as team medic, sealed off the profuse loss of blood with multiple tourniquets. But it was too late; part of the needle had already dissolved into the man's bloodstream and traveled through his body.
"Only through sheer luck will he survive this one," Michael stated matter-of-factly.
Daniel took another careful look at the gravely wounded man. This was the true face of this war, he thought grimly, as the marine's skin turned deathly pale and buboes emerged across his body. He muttered from the pain of the sheer destruction occurring within his body, then lapsed into unconsciousness.
"This is Sergeant Travincal, dropship, come in," shouted Daniel into the radio, as the team rushed back to the dropship with the wounded soldier. "Need immediate medical treatment now for one of my men. You will bring him back to Los Andares," he ordered the warrant officer, who seemed very unhappy with such condescending treatment.
"Did I just hear you correctly, sergeant?" he challenged.
"Yes, warrant officer Cory," replied Daniel adamantly.
"Oh no you did not just say that!"
"Well, warrant officer, unless you want him to die you'll do as I say!"
"I'll not take orders from an inferior!"
"Don't take it as from an inferior; take it as from a human to a human. If you care at all for a person's life you'll do what you have to do!!" shouted Daniel.
This left the warrant officer at a lack of words to say. "I... I'll have you court-martialed for this!"
"Actually, you'll be given a commendation for your noble actions!" cheered Daniel as the pilot took off with the patient on board. "All right team, let's do what we came here to do." Then they turned toward the direction of their destination and marched forward.
"Umm... you guys... Look at your radar scans," Christopher warned ominously.
Everyone obliged... and saw that ahead of them were numerous red blips. "Unidentified entities... not moving as far as I can tell, so perhaps they're immobile... That's what I'd expect but... some of them are quite big."
"You mean like a base?" asked another marine.
"Well, I wouldn't know how big it is, but it does seem like a juicy target."
"Any enemies defending the base?"
"I mean, we really wouldn't know precisely because they're an alien race, so..."
"Well, Daniel, are you going to share with us what you saw back in your prison cell that might give us some clue as to what we're up against?"
"I saw... some structures that seemed to be pulsating... though I don't know what they're for," replied Daniel. "Well, we'll find out soon, won't we?" he muttered as they continued on their journey. They finished the next ten minutes of their journey silently, dwelling over their fate while the blips on their radar screens inched ever closer.
They traveled up and down hills, and when they crested the final one they finally caught sight of what they were going up against.
As far as their eyes could see, the desert plains before them - or rather, that had been desert - was now creeping and pulsating with an incredibly dense, fibrous network of black material that glistened like onyx in the sunlight. Standing like monoliths before them were purplish-black structures, spire-like and clearly otherworldly, standing tall and watching over hundreds of minions - houndlisk and hydralisk alike - and a few floating behemoths way up high in the sky cast large shadows across the already dark landscape. Realizing that this might be a bit too much for them, they all ducked behind the hill, thinking desperately of a way to tackle this problem.
"Uh... I think we're already spotted," said Michael, pointing up. They then noticed that the floating hulks - all four of them - were all starting to move toward them, lumbering leisurely. "And look over the hill." A swarm of the grounded aliens were approaching their position.
"We've got incoming!" Christopher yelled.
"We've got to retreat!"
"We can't, we've nowhere to go! Our transport frigate has already left!"
"We can outrun them long enough for them to send backup! Let's get on our Vultures!" All seven got onto their speed-bikes and drove away, Daniel contacting their transport's warrant officer, who wasn't available to pick up. "Warrant officer Cory, come in, warrant officer Cory, come in please, we need you to come pick us up, immediately," he spoke into the answering machine.
"Okay, now what?"
"Now we keep the aliens off our tail and drive around until warrant officer Cory comes back." The aliens were almost upon them when they had gotten onto their speedbikes, but soon they managed to distance themselves from the enemy while constantly firing their submachine guns backward, causing countless pursuers to drop dead.
Back at Los Andares, officer Cory heard the answering machine's message: "Warrant officer Cory, come in, warrant officer Cory, come in please, we need you to come pick us up, immediately." He smiled. Those guys are in trouble now, aren't they? Wouldn't need my advice to let me to stay behind and save their asses if something like this were to happen. But no! That bastard Daniel would rather make me look like a fool just to save one member of his team. So since he was so adamant about it, I guess I'll just oblige him! Ha! So he sat back, relaxed, and drank some Cold Fusion (TM) soda, with an enormous grin on his face.
"We don't know how long it will take for Cory to get back here... So then maybe we should be going in the direction of Los Andares," said Christopher.
"Yeah well it'll take us days to get to the other side of the planet, you noticed?" retorted Daniel as he looked up into the sky. "And we don't have that long." Everyone in the team stopped firing to steal a glimpse up - and noticed that the floating behemoths were now directly above them and in front of them, and not too high up either. They opened up their insides, allowing the hundreds of minions that they had been carrying down to the planet surface. The entire team screamed in horror as the aliens used the draping tendrils of the behemoth to get down to the surface, snarling and ready to pounce.
"We can't run from them any more," said Daniel after it had been all too clear. Within moments they were entirely surrounded by hostiles that outnumbered them one to fifty. They froze in their tracks, unsure of what to do. It was evident that if they had continued to cut a swath of destruction, they would soon be overcome. The aliens evidently came to the same conclusion, and didn't seem particularly in a rush to cut them down.
"Oh crap, we're overpowered," muttered Christopher. "It's over."
"It's time," muttered Michael ominously.
"No it's not," declared Daniel, with a flash of fire in his eyes. "If we're going to go down we're going to make this fight one that these aliens won't forget!" he shouted, raising his gun into the air. "Yeah!" shouted Christopher; the other two weren't particularly excited. "What, don't you want to live still?"
"Ugh, they're going to want to kill us," groaned Michael.
"Uhh... Okay, we surrender," said Daniel, reaching over and receiving the weapons of the rest of the team and bundling them together in his hand. The aliens seemed to even understand, which Daniel knew was impossible because... well, he simply Knew. That was well, because he wasn't really going to surrender, only fake it and put the aliens off guard. This is a one time only thing, thought Daniel. But if my hunch is correct, it may be our one only hope for making it through this alive.
"Everything happens for a reason," said Michael, resigning himself to his fate as the aliens continued to circle around them, closing in, a wolf pack around a helpless prey.
Daniel aimed the entire bundle of weapons at one particular flying beast and let loose with all the firepower of his entire team. It reeled in agony, and proceeded to depart, parts of it blasting apart and spraying red clouds of dust all over the skies. The creatures on the ground, now furious, rushed at them, the hydralisks firing their needles at the team, all of whom ducked and rushed around from place to place, screaming in terror as they felt their doom swiftly approaching, and without anything to defend themselves with.
Seconds later the combined firepower of the weaponry Daniel was now fielding brought down the targeted flying giant as it exploded in a massive ball of fiery blood which rained over the aliens and humans below.
"Oh no now they're really angry! We're doomed!" shouted a terrified Sarlena.
"Actually... It's not over," begun Daniel, but stopped speaking as a quarter of the aliens suddenly turned on each other, attacking randomly at aliens which had moments earlier been their brethren. The alien battalion surrounding Daniel's team was entirely distracted by the uprising, and turned all their attention to killing the upstarts, leaving the humans dumbfounded. Yes! I did it! exclaimed Daniel to himself as he turned his bundle of submachine guns onto the next creature. Overlord... I'm going to call them overlords, he decided exultingly as moments later the second one fell as well. Even more of the aliens turned against themselves, causing bloodied parts and pieces of themselves to be scattered all over place, mixed with the crimson of their blood and the green of needle spines.
"They still want to kill us?" Daniel asked Michael with a wink as they then swiftly departed on their Vultures, riding right over any enemies that stood in their way, totally unharmed as the aliens placed their own as a greater threat than they did Daniel's contingent. "Another victory to humanity."
"And especially to you," Michael lauded. "Beating such a large alien force with no casualties. But you can be sure that if the aliens are really this advanced, they surely should be smart enough to not make the same mistake again."
"Oh come on, don't get on to him already," said Christopher. "You should be thankful that Daniel was insightful enough to save our little lives."
"How did you know that?" asked Sarlena.
"Everything happens for a reason," Daniel replied enigmatically as he smiled back to his dumbfounded team members as they hovered off into the distance, toward the brilliant afternoon sun.