“Alright, lets get this show on the road,” the scientist, Marty Jacobs, announced as he put the paper mask onto his face; careful to slip the ends around the glasses on his ears.
“Anesthesia was effective,” remarked one of the nurses to the left of the complex operating chair.
“How’s his heart rate?” Marty asked as he looked over the man sitting in it.
“It’s normal—all clear to proceed,” the third nurse in the room commented as she turned from the heart monitor to face the scientist.
Marty inhaled deeply and turned to the counter behind him. Among the mess of equipment littered upon it were three syringes sitting in a clear, glass rack. All three of them contained an eerie, dark fluid, which he delayed in picking up. Marty hesitated as he realized what he was about to do, and the milestone that he was about to achieve. After the exciting thought passed over him he retrieved the one in the middle, staring into it. Both nurses glared at him intently as he moved over the slumbering convict in the chair and inserted the needle into his left arm. A bead of sweat slipped down his cheek as he pushed on the end of the syringe, injecting the Zerg DNA into the man. As the needle came out, both nurses exhaled deeply and stared at the monitors, waiting to see if this dose—if this man would be the one.
“Heart rate is increasing,” The first nurse said nervously as they all glared intently at the machines.
“Blood pressure has increased to one hundred and sixty over eighty…one hundred and seventy over eighty…” the woman continued to go higher and higher as the convict on the table began to shake.
Marty stared at the metal restraints attaching the man to the chair as his head whipped forcefully back and forth.
“His heart rate is going too high!” the second nurse shouted as she shifted her gaze from the frantically beeping machine down to the poor soul.
Marty simply stood there unblinkingly as he prayed that it would stop, prayed that this attempt would not end as so many others had.
As he stood frozen in place it suddenly stopped, and the man fell silent and still in the operation chair, with newly-formed bruises on his wrists; a testament to the struggle.
“Heart rate and blood pressure decreasing…it’s working!” One of the nurses exclaimed ecstatically.
Marty’s eyes widened as he shook off the wooden feeling in his legs and looked at the equipment with his own eyes to confirm it.
“We’ve done it!” He cried as he grabbed the nurse nearest to him into his arms.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Jack Carter murmured with a grin as he stared through the glass at the rejoicing medical staff.
“Did they do it?” Eric Garcia, Jack’s good friend, asked from down the hall in an excited tone.
“Yeah,” smiled Jack as he turned back to the operating room.
“Holy shit!” cried Eric as the cart he was rolling stopped a few feet from Jack and they both watched as Jacobs scribbled the procedure’s success into the log.
“Jesus, do you know what this means?” Eric asked.
“The Confederacy will finally throw some attention our way, and we might just get the hell out of this rat hole,” Jack said exuberantly as he shifted his gauss rifle in his hands.
At this point Jack turned away from the glass and took a good look at the cart in front of Eric, which carried a good number of the mechanic’s tools.
“The generator has been malfunctioning again,” Eric stated as he noticed Jack inspecting his cart.
“Oh, no wonder the AC went out an hour ago,” Jack said. “I’ll escort you down there.”
“Are you off duty?” Eric queried.
“No, but it gives me something to do, rather than wandering my usual routes,” replied Jack as he pushed his weapon up onto his shoulder.
Eric grinned as he continued on down the hall with his friend in tow. Eric had been the first person that Jack had really gotten to know of the six guards, three medical technicians, and Marty Jacobs that were stationed at the tiny outpost, stuck in the middle of nowhere on a planet that few knew or cared about. As far as Jack knew, there was but one small town not far from the forest which the outpost was in, which some of the men went to occasionally to get a drink. Eric and Jack had become fast friends over the first few days and quickly realized they had many things in common, regardless of the fact that Jack was a guard and Eric was the sole maintenance man.
As the two men weaved through the small facility Jack couldn’t help think about what would happen now that the crack-pot scientist of the Confederacy had actually accomplished that which others had thought was impossible. After considering everything that would change, he couldn’t help but reflect on his past, and the things that he had done before he became a guard at the outpost, and before he had lost his passion for everything but his work.
As the two men entered the cramped generator room, Jack dropped himself into a chair at a small desk.
“How’s your daughter doing?” Jack asked as he picked up a small picture frame from the desk and carefully examined the happy child in it.
Eric sighed softly, as if he had been expecting the question but hoping that it wouldn’t pop up.
“The operation was unsuccessful…the doctors said that the tumor in her brain had progressed too much,” Eric said solemnly. “They gave her two months before it will finish its work.”
“I’m so sorry,” Jack said as he regretted asking the question, and also began to think about his own daughter, much to his dismay.
Eric made no attempt at a response and merely continued with his work on the generator. An uncomfortable silence followed, and as Jack opened his mouth to interrupt it, the lights flickered out.
“Son of a bitch!” Eric cried as he slammed his wrench into the side of the metal machine.
“And I thought no air conditioning was bad,” Jack joked as he switched on the light at the end of his rifle.
“Shut up!” said Eric irritably as he groaned. “Give me your radio.”
Jack complied by aiming the light at Eric and tossing the small piece of equipment across the room. Eric pressed down the button on the side and spoke into it.
“Jacobs you better make sure that the life support systems have good batteries, we may be in for the long haul on this one,” he said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.
“Copy that,” a voice answered, which was clearly Marty’s.
Eric tossed the radio back to Jack and adjusted several wires on the generator before the power came back on.
“There we…go….” Eric said, interrupted in the middle of his sentence as the lights went out, and then came back on.
“Brown outs. Terrific,” Jack remarked as he got up and moved over to the door.
“Where are you going?” Eric questioned as he turned to face his friend.
“I have a few things I need to take care of before my shift ends,” Jack replied, before leaving the room.
He had only been walking for a few minutes before a voice came on the intercom.
“We’ve got a hell of an electrical storm coming over us boys and girls, so we may end up losing com—” the voice was cut off as the speakers were filled with static, and Jack couldn’t help but chuckle at the timing.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if we could go a day without the interruptions in communications?” said a man down the hall.
“Yeah, it would,” Jack answered as Matt Collins, one of Jack’s fellow guards during the three-man shift, stopped in front of him.
Jack had always admired Matt’s talents and intellect, it always seemed like Matt was outdoing him at everything, though it never stopped them from being friends. Eric often felt the same way about Collins, so Jack and Eric would usually hang out together in bars during weekend leave and enjoy watching Matt get blown off by woman after woman, though he always managed to grab someone for the night. He was the tough guy of the garrison, and was generally not the man you wanted to fuck around with.
“Where are you going?” Jack asked.
“Jacobs wants me to go down to storage and check on additional batteries for the life-support equipment—he’s treating his infected convict like his own child for God’s sake,” replied Matt.
“Is Huntington at the command center?” Jack questioned about the third guard on duty.
“No, Jacobs is. I think Craig is down in storage, though,” answered Matt as he turned away from Jack and finally rounded the corner, ending the conversation.
“Sarah, what are you doing in here?” asked one of the nurses as she poked her head into the room with the slumbering experiment.
The other woman who was sitting at the desk and furiously scribbling away turned her head.
“Marty wanted me to record some of this data, and he doesn’t want to leave him unattended,” replied Sarah as she motioned to the convict in the chair.
“Screw the records, you can do that later. Come celebrate with us!” said the woman excitedly; referring to herself and the other orderly.
After a moment of hesitation, Sarah looked at the man and then back at her friend.
“Are you sure about this May?” Sarah asked nervously.
“Yes! It’ll be fine, you’ll only be gone long enough for a glass or two of champagne!” May said.
“Alright,” Sarah gave in as she stood from the desk and dropped the black pen that she had been using onto the piece of paper.
She walked quickly out of the room, glancing at the sheet that covered the convict before she shut the door.
Matt’s hand grasped the long door handle and pushed it down, opening the door shortly thereafter. He walked into the large storage room which composed the vast majority of the basement of the outpost. It took up roughly a third of the entire space of the facility and most of it was junk, and an area where old records would disappear to every few months.
He was immediately met by an old, musty smell, which anyone that ever went down there had been forced to experience, and in some cases, get used to. The layout of the room was very simple: it consisted of a central aisle that ran from the doorway to the back of the room for a distance of about one hundred feet. The aisle essentially bisected the room into two equal halves, each with fifteen or so smaller walkways that would lead someone to the two extremes of the room’s space. The end of each row of shelving along the main aisle at one point had labels on them to direct people to various items, though by now the words were stained by water and often unreadable, thus making it so that you had to know your way around the room if you had any intention of finding something.
As Matt made his way down the central aisle the lights flickered twice, though quickly restoring themselves both times. He sighed as he continued on, taking a detour to his left and moving to that end of the room. He stopped in front of several large boxes and opened two of them before he found the battery supplies that had been dwindling for several months, although there were still enough left to keep things running for another week or so. As he closed the box back up and removed it from the shelf he heard something fall behind him. It shattered as it hit the floor, telling Matt that it had been some sort of a glass jar. Curious, he pulled another box off the shelf to create an opening and stared down several rows in time to catch a glimpse of a moving shadow. He dropped the box unexpectedly and turned towards the end of the row he was in.
“Is…is someone there?” Matt asked nervously as his heart rate picked up.
A shape suddenly walked in front of the exit to the row and Matt exhaled as he realized who it was.
“Craig? What the fuck are you doing, man? You scared the shit out of me,” said Matt.
Craig Huntington, the third and final guard on the shift laughed as he walked down the row towards Matt.
“What did you think it was? I only broke a jar,” Craig said as he stopped in front of Matt and looked down at the box of batteries at his feet.
“Sarah was really pissed at me from the other day and got a hold of some of my stuff, which she felt obliged to dump down here,” said Craig as he answered Matt’s question.
“Did you ask her out to dinner again?” Matt chuckled.
“Yeah, she’s a resistant bitch,” muttered Craig.
“With that attitude it’s no wonder she turned you down again,” said Matt as he picked up the large box.
“What’s up with the batteries?” queried Craig as Matt walked past him.
“Jacobs is being paranoid again—he doesn’t want to risk anything with his experiment,” answered Matt as he turned off the row and back onto the main aisle.
“Want to get a drink later after the shift?” asked Craig.
“Yeah, sure,” replied Matt. “Of course that’s assuming we can get into town with this storm going on.”
Craig listened to Matt close the door on his way out and then walked back over to where he had broken the jar. He ignored the slimy mess that had been contained in it prior to him knocking it over and went back to searching the boxes, until he found his stuff at last.
“Gotcha babe,” Craig muttered as he sifted through the contents to be certain that Sarah didn’t take anything.
As he closed it up he heard the door open once again, and hoisted the box onto his shoulder.
“Forget something Matt?” Craig asked as he headed towards the middle aisle.
Silence followed his question and as he reached the central aisle he noticed that the door was open still.
“Hello?” he asked as he continued walking towards the door, expecting Matt or maybe Sarah to jump out at him.
As he approached the door it slammed shut suddenly, causing him to drop his box as his heart race increased. He twisted his head to the left as he saw movement at the other end of the room.
“Alright, quit dicking around!” cried Craig as he tried to see whoever it was.
He suddenly found himself regretting the decision to leave his rifle at the command center for his endeavor, and was forced instead to draw his knife. Several things fell to the floor behind him, making a fairly large racket.
After spinning around several times he found himself staring down the main aisle to the back wall where a shadowy figure stood. As he opened his mouth to speak again, the lights went out, and this time they didn’t come back on.
“Fuck,” murmured Craig in a frightened tone, not sure what was happening.
Frantic now, Craig scrambled around for his flashlight, and as soon as he found it he raised it up, quickly switching it on. The beam of light shone down the aisle, and quickly revealed to Craig that the figure was gone.
“Oh God,” he whispered as he turned around to get back to the door.
As soon as he had made the one hundred and eighty degree turn he was suddenly hit by what felt like a truck and flew backwards onto the floor. As he struggled to catch his breath he turned himself over onto his back, and with the first breath he managed to take in he spit out blood. He groaned as he placed his hands onto his chest, knowing that he had several broken ribs.
“Jesus Christ,” he cried out with a raspy voice as he continued to take in air and cough out blood.
While he writhed in pain on the ground something large dropped onto his chest, holding him onto the floor and causing excruciating pain in his ribcage. He cried out in horror, not capable of comprehending what was happening, and only knowing that the culprit had extremely hostile intentions and that this was not a joke.
Craig suddenly felt a pain in his abdomen as blunt teeth ripped away flesh above his belly button, sending a shockwave of pain and fear radiating through him. He then felt hands or claws—he couldn’t be certain which—grasp the ends of the incision and pull sideways. Blood from his nose began running into his mouth as the skin and muscle was removed from around his intestines and the creature thrust sharp nails into them, before something else hard fell onto his knee, causing a sickening crack as it shattered. The same sharp nails were then shoved into his chest and whatever it was continued to rip away his skin with its teeth.
“Oh Christ, fucking stop!” he screamed as he shook his head back and forth with hot tears streaming down his face. “Please, don’t! PLEASE JUST STOP!”
A sudden piece of hope surged through his mind as he realized that someone would surely hear his screams and come barging in, though this thought faded as the creature slammed something into the front of his neck hard enough to disable his vocal chords. He continued to flail his body amidst the silence before he felt a terrible searing pain and his vision began to wane as his intestines were split into two. His thoughts faded quickly before the last shockwave radiated through him as the teeth dug into his neck, shredding skin as they went, before grasping his jugular and severing it, and then Craig Huntington knew no more.
Jack sat laughing as he downed the last bit of beer in his mug. As he calmed down he wiped his mouth with his wrist and looked over to his buddy, Jeremy Hills, who chugged down the last half of his, before letting out a satisfied groan.
“You know,” Jeremy started. “We really should do this more often. We only get out here once a week, and spending the rest of the nights at home with Betty really gets old.”
“Are you two having problems again?” queried Jack as he tossed the bar tender a twenty and looked at the rest of the room, which was emptying quickly now.
“Yeah, I don’t know; she says we just don’t have the same thing goin’ that we did three years ago,” answered Jeremy.
“I’m sure that you’ll manage to get things back to the way they used to be,” Jack pointed out as both men turned towards the door when another man walked in.
As he approached the bar Jack recognized him as one of the guards that he worked with at the small installation outside of town.
“How’s it goin’ Robert?” asked Jeremy as Jack noticed how frazzled Robert appeared.
“What’s wrong?” questioned Jack as he realized that something clearly wasn’t right.
“There’s…there’s a Confederate marine…” Robert said exhaustively, appearing to have ran across town to the bar. “Who just arrived in a drop ship about a click away from here. He says that the Confederacy is picking up military personnel from our base and that we’re welcome to come along.”
“Why would they be doing that?” Jeremy asked.
“I think it has something to do with the loss of communication going on with a lot of the smaller towns around here—something may be happening that they don’t want the general public to know,” Robert continued.
Jack sat for a minute, pondering the numerous disappearances and rumors that had been going on lately and then posed his next question.
“Are they letting us bring our families?” he queried.
“Yes, I’m bringing my wife and my kids, we’re just going to stay on the cruiser long enough to make certain that everything is alright,” said Robert. “If you want to go then you need to hurry, they may only be sending two or three more ships down here to get us.”
With those final words Robert left the bar, leaving Jack and Jeremy to stare silently at each other, before both quickly got up and headed for the door.
“It’s better safe than sorry as far as I’m concerned,” Jack muttered.
“Megan?” Jack said breathlessly as he rushed up the stairs in his house before emerging on a small landing. He moved down to the second door and found his six-year-old daughter sitting up in her bead with sleep still in her eyes.
“What’s wrong daddy?” she asked quietly as Jack rummaged through her drawer and pulled out several articles of clothing, tossing them into the same bag that he had placed his in.
“It’s okay baby, we’re just going to go on a little trip,” said Jack in a soothing voice.
“But I have school tomorrow!” she said in a worried tone.
“Don’t worry honey, I’m sure that they will excuse you,” continued Jack as he zipped up the bag and grabbed his daughter by the waist and held her in one arm.
“Wait, mommy!” Megan cried as her hands grasped her father’s shoulder.
Jack spun around quickly and moved back to her night stand and snatched up a picture of his deceased wife. He handed it to Megan as he hurried down the stairs and out the door, before he jumped into his old car and started it up.
“Hang on honey, we’re gonna’ go real fast for a little bit,” said Jack as he helped put her seatbelt on.
As soon as his own seatbelt was buckled he floored it and the car sped off through the small town, which they had dwelled in for over four years. It was a twenty minute commute from the town to the base where Jack served, and he drove through the gate, noticing that no guard was posted there and that they had left the gates open. He swerved around the building to the landing pad where the bird stood, hot and ready to go. As he stopped the car he saw a women standing outside of the drop ship as if she was waiting for someone.
Jack got out of the car quickly and retrieved his daughter as well as their bag, quickly walking up the ramp and over to the ship. The woman turned around as he walked up, showing him that it was actually Betty Hills—Jeremy’s wife.
“Hi, Jack,” she said nervously as he approached her.
“What are you doing?” Jack wondered as he stopped next to her.
“Jeremy had to go back and get something and we’re going to catch the next ship—the pilot says that they’ll be making one more run down here for supplies and that they have room for us two,” Betty answered.
“Well, I’ll see you on the cruiser then,” said Jack.
Betty nodded as Jack walked up to the ramp of the ship and the co-pilot walked out.
“Sir, we only have room for one more person on this trip!” said the man over the roar of the engine.
Jack stood for a moment before he looked down at his daughter.
“Take her then!” said Jack, causing Megan to look up at him.
“We have more children on this ship than adults already, and we came for the people that worked here, not their families!” the co-pilot said. “We need an adult!”
Jack started to turn around; his intentions to forget the entire thing because he wouldn’t leave his daughter behind. As he started to head back to the car Betty ran up to him.
“Jack, me and Jeremy can take her! You’ll only be apart for a few minutes, and then you can both get out of here,” she said. “We can certainly make room for a child on the next ship.”
He hesitated for a moment, not wanting to separate himself from his daughter. As he stood there thinking, his mind began to shift to what was best for his daughter, and if something truly was going to happen, or was happening, then staying here certainly would not be the best for her.
“Megan,” Jack said softly, though he let nervousness creep into his voice. “You remember Betty don’t you?”
Megan nodded slightly, not quite aware of what was happening.
“She’s going to watch you for just a little bit, and then we’ll meet up again in a couple minutes,” said Jack.
“But I want to stay with you, daddy,” Megan protested as her father handed her to Betty.
“I know baby, but you’re just going to have to be strong for daddy,” Jack said as he started to walk away from her, praying that he was really doing the right thing.
He blew her a kiss as he mounted the ramp to the drop ship and watched as Betty attempted to comfort her. He got onto the ship and quickly understood the co-pilot’s position—many of the harnesses had children of guards and staff in them. He quickly occupied the last available harness that was just behind the cockpit and waited impatiently as the pilot did a final check and began to ascend. As they were going up Jack noticed the co-pilot put his hand to the headphones on his head, before he turned to the pilot.
“The cruiser has detected a disturbance on the other side of the planet—they’ve arrived!” he said to him.
“Fuck,” cried the pilot as he pressed several buttons in front of him and spoke into his own headphones. “Titan IV, we’re off the ground and heading into orbit; we’re cancelling the last trip down there!”
As Jack heard those words his heart leapt into his throat as he finally understood that some thing was very wrong, and that he may have just condemned the last love of his life. Frantic, he undid his harnesses and moved for the cockpit, though the co-pilot caught a glimpse of him. He moved quickly to restrain Jack, afraid of what he might do.
“Turn around!” Jack cried “We’ve got to go back! There are more people down there that we can get!”
“It’s too late for them!” shouted the co-pilot as Jack began to overwhelm him.
“Then fucking take me back!” Jack screamed desperately. “My daughter’s down there! I can’t leave her!”
Jack finally managed to throw the co-pilot out of the way, though as he attempted to grab at the pilot, the co-pilot kicked out his legs and he fell over, his head hitting a piece of metal hard and knocking him unconscious.
“MEGAN!” Jack shouted as he bolted upright in bed, beads of sweat dripping from his face.
Jack stared across the cramped, dark bunk room where the guards would sleep between their shifts, and tried to calm himself down. He placed his head in his hands as he began to sob. After several minutes he managed to shake the thoughts of his daughter from his head, though his memories came back of all the work that he had done to try and prove that the Confederacy really knew of Chau Sara’s fate, and felt more inclined to save the marines then the people.
He slowly got off from his top bunk and got into his clothing after checking the clock to make sure that his next shift hadn’t come up yet. He placed his pistol into the holster on his belt and then he walked from the sleeping quarters across the complex to the command center, finding it odd that no one was in the halls including the guards that would normally be on duty at this time. As he opened the door into the command center he was met by the loud roar of rain against the windows. It seemed to him that everyone was in there, watching the weather for various reasons rather than wandering the facility as the guard’s should be doing, though rarely ever did for very long.
“Hey Jack,” Eric greeted him as he approached the windows and looked out over the barren landscape.
“Hey,” he said quietly as he took a seat at a desk across from where Jacobs sat, recording information.
“Is something wrong?” Matt asked him as he turned to look at him.
Jack shook his head absently and continued to glare out the window.
“Shouldn’t you guys be patrolling?” Jack questioned the three guards that were on duty.
One man—Sully was his name—turned to face Jack and answered his question.
“Who gives a shit?” he remarked as the other two men chuckled. “It’s not like you guys actually patrol when your shift is up anyway.”
Jack grinned as he turned and noticed a rifle sitting on the counter.
“Where’s Craig?” he asked.
“I don’t know actually,” Matt said as he wrinkled his brow. “Last I saw him he was down in storage looking for some of his stuff.”
“Speaking of which, we’ll need to pull out anything that we intend to bring with us because I contacted the Confederacy and they agreed to get us off of this planet,” said Marty suddenly, surprising Jack.
Several minutes of silence followed, at the end of which Jack stood and left the room. It just didn’t seem right to him. He had only known Craig for several months, though he had never known him to do anything that took longer than two hours tops, and it had been four hours since Matt had gone down to the storage room. Jack decided that instead of taking the normal route through the halls that he would take a short cut through the lounge, and as he walked in he was met by laughter. The three nurses that had been charged with the task of keeping an eye on Jacobs’ experiment were sitting on the couch and enjoying a rather large bottle of champagne. Each of them fell silent as he walked through, and the one woman—Sarah was her name from the best of his recollection—who appeared to not be very drunk at all showed a worried expression at the sight of him, almost as if she was afraid she might get into trouble.
Jack took the stairs down two by two and hurried along the hall until he came to the door at the end. He opened it and was immediately met by a surprise—the lights were out. While he figured that the generator had just started being finicky again, he thought it odd that Craig would be in there in the dark. His first step in seemed to throw him backwards as a terrible smell tweaked his nostrils. Getting nervous now, he drew his pistol and his flashlight, and using the techniques he learned years ago, held the light onto the side of his sidearm so that he was able to accurately aim.
He stepped into the room very cautiously and continued to move down the main hall slowly until he heard a noise behind him. Jack spun around frantically, nearly squeezing the trigger out of reflex. When all that he saw was the light coming through the open door, he turned back around and shined his light down several rows of shelving, each item casting unique, eerie shadows. As he reached the middle of the room he noticed a box on the floor, and as he approached it, realized that the stench was getting much worse. Unsure of what he would find, Jack opened the flaps covering the top with his pistol, and threw himself backwards in fear.
“Jesus CHRIST!” he screamed as he stared into the mangled face of Craig Huntington.
Shaking now, Jack crawled on his knees back over to the box where he threw up as the smell finally overwhelmed him. All that was in the box was Craig’s upper body, which at the bottom had torn flaps of bloody flesh hanging there, making it seem apparent that his body hadn’t been severed by any form of natural means like a knife or some other sharp weapon such as a human would use. Imagining what the creature that had done this looked like, Jack noticed that the inside of Craig’s body was hollow save for the bones on his ribcage and spine, which were bent, torn and crooked.
“Oh God,” Jack cried as he vomited once again.
His heart began to pound once again as he turned back to look at the open doorway. What if the creature was still in there? Jack slowly stood on legs that seemed to him to be made of wood, and he broke into a dead run for the doorway. As he neared it he expected something to slam into him or move between him and his exit, though he was surprised that he managed to dive into the hall and slam the door shut behind him.