Before I start off, I have to thank my editor SYPHON for helping me edit this chapter and the other chapters before this one. Hope you enjoy this and as usual, constructive criticism is encouraged.Found“When all is lost, we can still hold on to one thing. Hope.”
– Sergeant Bane
Trent was literally knocked off his feet. The force of the explosion sent him sailing through the air. He landed on his back, the wind knocked out of him. His entire body throbbed with pain as he sat up. Trent looked at his hands and saw that they were covered with blood. His armour had been totally destroyed by the explosion and his helmet was cracked beyond repair. The HUD in the helmet buzzed with static and Trent threw the useless helmet to one side. Trent groped for his med pack and applied it to himself. Some of the wounds healed, but not all. However, he was still able to move, albeit with a little pain.
Trent looked around and saw Zack lying on the ground five meters away from him. Zack was totally covered in blood, his face bleeding from numerous cuts. When the skulk exploded, its ribs acted as death inducing shrapnel, flying outwards at incredible speeds. One of the ribs had plunged into Zack’s chest. Trent was lucky to have missed all of the shrapnel. Zack groaned in pain and coughed up some blood. His hands were shaking as he touched the skulk’s rib that protruded from his chest.
“****,” Zack said hoarsely. “I got hit.”
You are going to be okay. It’s nothing, just a minor scratch,” Trent said, trying to sound hopeful. “We are going to get you fixed up with some med packs.”
“You are a crappy liar Trent,” Zack said, his voice strained and wavering. “I’m dying Trent. I can feel death knocking at my door. Don’t waste a med pack on me. Take it for yourself.”
“No!” Trent said forcefully. “I won’t let you die!”
“Trent! Listen to me! Take the-,” Zack started but stopped mid-sentence as he coughed up some more blood. “Trent. Take the med pack. It will be wasted on me.”
Trent finally nodded his head. Zack was right. Trent took Zack’s med pack and kept it. Then, he noticed something was wrong. He looked around and realized that he couldn’t see the other squad members. Trent looked at the corridor he had come from and realized why. When the skulk had xenoed, the wall had collapsed and caved in, separating Trent and Zack from the rest of the squad. Trent rushed to the rubble and started shouting, hoping the others could hear him. Then, he heard a response.
“Trent! Are you all right? Is Zack all right?” Trent heard Sam shout.
“I’m okay! But Zack is in a bad condition! I’m afraid he won’t make it!” Trent shouted back. “Is everyone okay on your side?”
“Only minor injuries. Sergeant Lane is-,” Sam shouted back but Trent didn’t hear the rest. Zack was convulsing and Trent ran over to him.
Trent got very worried and was about to use the med pack on Zack. However, Zack stopped and his eyes seemed to become clearer.
“Hey Trent, we had some good times huh?” Zack said. Trent nodded his head sadly, knowing the end was near.
“I know you love chocolate. There are some chocolates in my bag onboard the Forger
. You can take them,” Zack said. “When death comes knocking on your door, the only thing you can do is let him in.”
With those final words, Zack died. His eyes rolled up to the whites and all his breath left his body. Trent went back to the wall of rubble, pain and anger heavy in his heart. Rage took him for a moment as he attacked the wall with his bare hands, trying to tear it down. Sergeant Lane was shouting at him from the other side but Trent ignored it. Somehow, only the wall mattered. It seemed to symbolize all the Kharaa and the damage they had dealt. Finally, the red mist that clouded his mind cleared and he stared at the wall. His hands throbbed with pain but he shoved it to the back of his mind.
“Trent! God damn you! Can you hear me?” Sergeant Lane shouted. “Are you there?”
“Zack’s dead,” Trent said.
“What Trent?” you’ve got to shout before I can hear you.”
“Zack’s dead! Okay? Zack’s dead!” Trent shouted furiously.
There was a moment of silence. Then, Sergeant Lane shouted, “Trent, you’ve got to focus now, understand? You need to put your emotions aside if you want to survive! Now get your helmet so we can talk over the comm-link.”
“My helmet’s damaged. It doesn’t work any more.”
“Then get Zack’s helmet,” Sergeant Lane shouted impatiently. Trent took Zack’s helmet and put it on. He was relieved to see that it was still functioning properly.
“Trent, can you hear me?” Sergeant Lane said through the comm-link.
“Loud and clear sir. What do I do now?” Trent asked.
“I have looked at the mini map. We can meet up at navigations, except that your route will be longer. You go past nano-storage, alpha deck and turn right at the bridge. Use the bridge to bring you to platform four. From there, take the staircase up to level twelve. Navigations should only be a few hundred meters away. You can use the mini map and find your way around by yourself. Now move! We don’t have much time.”
The corridor was long and dark. It had multiple vents and Trent walked as silently as he could so as not to attract any Kharaa. There was a turn up ahead and Trent slowly edged his head around it. He spotted two skulks standing at the door to nano-storage. The skulks looked like they were guarding the door but Trent doubted that skulks had that type of intelligence. Luckily, the skulk’s backs were turned so they did not see Trent. Trent waited to see if the skulks were going to move but after a while, it became evident that the skulks were staying put. Trent checked his mini map for alternative routes to navigations but found none. He debated whether to wait some more or to kill the skulks. He didn’t favour the second option because he was short on ammo but if there were no other choice, he would have to attack. Trent chose the first option, to wait, and keep watch on the skulks. Then, Trent witnessed something not many had the chance to see, and survive. One of the skulks slowly faded until it disappeared. It happened in a matter of seconds and it took Trent about the same amount of time to realize what had happened. Cloaking!
Trent thought. Now he was in big trouble. The skulk could have noticed him and cloaked or it could have cloaked just because it was standing still. Trent didn’t want to take any chances and assumed the skulk had noticed him. However, the other skulk didn’t move. Why?
Trent wondered. If the other skulk knows I’m here, why doesn’t the other one move? Can it be a ploy?
Trent frantically looked at the floor for any sign of irregularities. He saw it just five meters in front of him. A distortion of sorts was moving along the ground but it was hard to track. Trent fired a burst at where he thought the skulk was. A dab of yellow immediately appeared and hung in mid-air, as if it was part of some magician’s trick. Then, the skulk materialized. Using its powerful hind legs, it leapt at Trent, biting as it went. Trent sidestepped and crouched at the same time, his LMG firing in short, accurate bursts. The skulk’s side was peppered with bullets. It died just as it hit the floor, covering the floor with its sick yellow blood.
The other skulk wasted no time. It let out a shriek and leapt at Trent. Trent jumped aside, back around the bend, and rolled to his feet. The explosion of blood and bones happened a split second later. Trent was lifted off his feet by the rapidly expanding hot air and was thrown against the wall. He felt bits of shrapnel scrape his face and he closed his eyes, worried for his eyesight. Trent touched his face and felt blood. However, as far as he could tell, there was no major damage done so Trent didn’t use the med pack. He was saving it for serious injuries. Trent looked at the corridor and was relieved to see that it had not collapsed. If it had, he would definitely be screwed. The ceiling was badly damaged; pipes and wires hung from it like vines. Some concrete chunks had fallen onto the floor and certain pipes had water leaking out of them. The ceiling was only held up by a pipe and steel bar, both already straining against the weight. Trent didn’t want to see how long the ceiling would hold and ran to nano-storage.
He noticed the low humming noise as he reached the door. It was the unmistakable sound of a fade blinking. It was coming from the corridor Trent had come from. Trent reloaded and checked his ammo. He had about a hundred and seventy reserve ammo for his LMG and three reserve clips for his pistol. Trent did some fast calculations in his head. The risk of going one on one with a fade was too great and even if he did survive, he would be very short on ammo. An idea suddenly struck Trent. He whipped his pistol out and fired five shots at the pipe holding the ceiling up. It shifted slightly but the ceiling did not collapse. Trent fired the last five bullets of the clip into the pipe just as the fade came into view. The ceiling crashed to the ground. Trent gave the fade the finger just before the rubble blocked the entire corridor.
Time was scarce and Trent went into nano-storage. Huge cylindrical tanks lined the walls, each tank was connected to another by a complicated network of pipes. Trent saw two Kharaa RTs attached to nozzles, collecting resources for the Kharaa. As tempting as knifing the RTs may be, Trent had more urgent business at hand. Trent walked through nano-storage and as it turned out, it was a few hundred meters long. Trent was very tense and jumpy, aiming his gun in the direction of any sound. As Trent went further and further into nano-storage, it became humid. Puddles of water soon became common and from somewhere, there was an annoying dripping sound. The sound of water dripping on metal echoed throughout nano-storage. Plink!
It was maddening. Trent did not mind the puddles of water. In fact, he was glad the puddles of water were there as it would alert him of any Kharaa if any one of them stepped into a puddle. It was the dripping that was infuriating. It would mask any clicking sounds skulks made, if they didn’t step into the puddles. Finally, after a few minutes of walking, Trent finally saw the end. Trent saw a blue door right at the end and a bright light illuminated it. The bright light at the end of the tunnel!
Trent thought excitedly. About time.
Trent was excited at seeing the door and he quickened his pace. He was so focused on getting out of nano-storage, he did not hear the first splash. But he heard the second splash. It was an exclamation mark in the silence. Trent spun around and crouched, his LMG raised. He looked around and saw no Kharaa so he assumed that the Kharaa was cloaked. Trent hoped that it was just a skulk, not a fade. There was another splash, this time, much closer. Trent turned his flashlight on to help him see. He fired off a few bursts at the floor but he did not hit any Kharaa.
The skulk suddenly materialized in mid-air, sailing towards him with its jaws wide open. Trent rolled to his right, barely dodging the skulk. He fired at the skulk but it leapt into the air and hung onto the ceiling. Trent sprayed the ceiling with bullets but only a few hit the skulk. The skulk jumped from the ceiling and aimed itself at Trent. At that moment, his LMG gave a dry, empty click. Trent realized that his LMG clip was empty but he did not have time to reload. He pulled his pistol out just as the skulk landed on his chest. Trent felt the skulk’s claws dig into his chest but the damage was only skin deep. Trent took careful aim and blew the skulk’s brain out. The corpse fell to the floor, blooding flowing from where its head used to be.
Trent wiped the sticky yellow blood off his face in disgust. He reloaded both his LMG and pistol before moving on. Trent opened the blue door and stepped out, finally out of nano-storage. He was in a brightly lit corridor that stretched on for a few hundred meters at either end. At one end of the corridor was alpha deck. Trent began jogging down the corridor and past all the locked doors on either side of him. He just wanted it all to be over. Suddenly, his legs crashed into something organic and he tripped, falling face first onto the floor. Trent immediately flipped onto his back and fired his LMG, sure that it was a cloaked unit he had tripped over. However, what appeared was no unit but a structure. It was a sensory chamber and it had already begun to cloak itself again. It was bluish-green and had some short feelers at the top of it. The SC can detect any marines in its presence. That means instant SOF for aliens.
Dr. Strom had said that.
Trent didn’t have much time to consider his options so he did the first thing that came to mind. He jus started hacking and slashing with his knife. Blood covered him but he didn’t care. The SC had to be destroyed. Finally, it collapsed into a useless pile of crap. The Kharaa definitely knew where he was now but at least he would be able to see them. The Kharaa responded quickly. Four skulks came, two at each end of the corridor. Trent was trapped. There was no way he could take on four skulks at once and survive.
He looked around t see if there was any way to escape. There was a door behind him and there was a panel beside it. The skulks started leaping towards Trent just as he pressed the “open” button. There was a beeping sound, indicating that the door was locked. Trent randomly pressed a few buttons but the door was still locked. The skulks were only twenty meters away and they were ready to feast. Trent slammed the panel with his palm in frustration and to his surprise, the door slid open. Trent stepped into the room just as the skulk leapt at him. Trent quickly pressed the “close” button from inside and the door firmly slid shut. He used his LMG to bash the panel, jamming the door permanently.
It was a kitchen. It was quite obvious from the pots and pans left scattered and all the cooking utensils. Most of the lights were flickering constantly. The walls and floors were very clean except for a few smears of blood here and there. The kitchen was huge and stretched for a hundred meters. The walls were lined with stoves, fridges and cabinets. Hundreds of tables and sinks were scattered throughout the kitchen. Strangely, Trent could not see any dead bodies. A lot of food still lay on the table and at that sight, Trent’s stomach rumbled. It had been some time since his last meal. Trent walked around and took an apple. He took a bite and relished the sweetness that filled his mouth. There were even a few cold dishes that would never be served. Even though they were cold, they still tasted great.
A few bottles of water was lying around and Trent took two. He drank one and kept the other. Trent debated on whether to take another bottle and decided to play it safe. As he reached for the bottle, he noticed that the water inside the bottle formed some ripples. Then there was a deafening crash. A huge dent was created by a very huge Kharaa on the door. Trent didn’t need three guesses to guess what was on the other side of the door. He looked around for anything to reinforce the door but there was none. Another bigger dent appeared and the door was about to split open. There was no other door leading out of the kitchen and Trent began to panic.
Trent opened his eyes. The ceiling seemed to be spinning but after awhile, it stopped. He was in the infirmary and lying in a bed. The bed was quite comfortable with a nice pillow. His movements were sluggish and slow when he tried to look around. Everything seemed brighter than normal but Trent guessed that was because he had been unconscious. Pamela was also in the infirmary but she was sleeping. Trent looked at the clock on the wall and was astonished to see that the time was three in the morning.
He felt his neck, legs, chest and face. They all appeared to be okay and in good condition. The doctors had done a good job, as he knew they would. He wondered where Timothy and Nora were. Normally, there would be one of them in the infirmary at any time. Trent decided that the best thing to do was wait for one of them to come. He waited for five minutes but still, nobody came. Trent was not only getting restless, he was also getting hungry. Furthermore, he needed to use the toilet. Trent thought they might be slacking off so he decided to go to the toilet first and then get a snack.
Trent got out of the bed and walked to the toilet. There was a slight pain in his thigh, causing him to limp but it was no major hindrance. He went to the toilet and did his business. Then, he went to the canteen and got some food. The canteen was empty as most of the people were sleeping. Trent was feeling quite bored and wished that he had somebody to talk to. After finishing his meal, he came up with a good idea. He went back to his cabin to get some sleep. Sam was sleeping and did not wake up when Trent came in. Trent lay down on his own bed and slowly drifted off to sleep.
It only seemed that he had been sleeping for a second. Trent was being rudely awakened by somebody shaking him. Trent blinked at the bright light that was shining down on his face. After a while, he realized it was Timothy shining a flashlight into his eye.
“What…? Why?” Trent started, totally confused at what was happening. “Why are you here?”
“Trent, what are you doing here? You should be in the infirmary resting!” Timothy scolded.
“Just to let you know, I am resting. Or rather I was resting. What’s wrong with sleeping in my bed?”
“Look, I need to monitor you. You have not fully recovered yet and it is vital that I keep track of your progress. Now come back to the infirmary,” Timothy said.
“Yeah Trent. We don’t want anything to happen to you. Rest and get well,” Sam said, who had just woken up from all the commotion.
“Hey doctor. Why weren’t you at the infirmary? I waited for you but you didn’t come,” Trent said when he was back at the infirmary. Pamela was awake and drinking coffee. She couldn’t sleep due to the noise Trent was making.
“I was getting some coffee. I’ve got to stay awake right?” Timothy said.
“But what if I was in trouble? Like having a heart attack or something. I could die and you wouldn’t even know about it till you come back. I don’t think a good doctor would do that. I have been seriously wounded and deserve the best attention.”
“First of all, you sound like Jude. Quit whining. This isn’t the Shangri-La,” Timothy said as he checked Trent’s legs. “Secondly, I am a good doctor. I know you definitely won’t get a heart attack and die while I am away. But I do know that if you walk around too much in your condition, you will aggravate your leg injury. Third, you don’t leave the infirmary without any permission. In here, I am the king and you listen to me. Okay?”
“Yes, my lord,” Trent said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Can you give Trent a sleeping pill or something?” Pamela asked. “I’m trying to sleep here.”
“If you are trying to sleep, why are you drinking coffee?” Trent asked.
“Shut up and mind your own business!” Pamela said irritably.
“Both of you sound like children,” Timothy said. “Stop quarreling. Trent, your legs are healing fine. But don’t go walking too much and don’t even think of running. Your other wounds are fine but don’t exert yourself. You will be here for another day or so.”
Trent nodded glumly. He wanted to be out of bed and training. He didn’t want to miss the next mission. Trent knew that the missions were very dangerous but he still wanted to be part of them. It showed that he was part of the team. Trent winced slightly as Timothy gave him a jab of a blue coloured liquid. Trent settled back into the comfortable bed and pillowed, trying to get some sleep. Timothy had gone to play with some of his new medical equipment. After ten minutes of just lying in bed and watching Timothy, Trent asked for a sleeping pill. Timothy gave one to Trent and Trent took it. Soon, he was sleeping.
The onos could be seen through the hole it had created in the door. Trent looked into its yellow eyes and only saw violence. He got ready to make his final stand. He was not going to make it easy for the onos. Trent gripped his LMG tightly, adrenaline pumping through his veins. He stood behind one of the tables for cover and took one final look around the kitchen. And he saw his way out. Right above him was a vent. Trent immediately jumped onto the table and tried to reach for the vent. He stretched as far as he could but the vent was still eight inches away from his fingertips. There was another crash and the door bent inwards but it was still blocking the onos. One more smash from the onos and the door would definitely give way.
Trent looked around and saw a stool lying on the floor. He bent down, grabbed the stool and placed it on the table. Trent stepped on the stool just as the onos charged through the door. Trent ripped the vent’s grating off and dropped it onto the floor. He jumped and reached for the vent, just as the onos charged into the table. Trent’s fingers made contact with the edge of the vent and he hung there for a few seconds. The onos turned around and made a clumsy jump at Trent, trying to devour him. Trent hurriedly pulled himself up and into the vent, lucky to have just escaped the onos. He could hear the onos roaring in frustration underneath him in the kitchen. Trent looked at his mini map to see where the vent would lead him. After studying the map for a minute, he saw that he could crawl his way to oxygen control five, move to the bridge and reach navigations from there.
“Sir, I’m in the kitchen vent,” Trent reported through the comm-link. “I will try to crawl to oxygen control five and get to the bridge from there.”
“Why the hell are you in a vent?” Sergeant Lane asked angrily. “Did the onos chase you or something?”
“Erm… yes,” Trent replied matter-of-factly.
There was silence at the other end of the comm-link. Then Trent heard Sergeant Lane clear his throat and told him to proceed. Trent proceeded to crawl through the vent, his stomach against the ground. He had his LMG in front just in case any skulks came. The crawling process was slow and arduous. There were many bends left and right and sometimes, the vent would slope upwards and downwards. After ten minutes, Trent checked his mini map again. He groaned in frustration when he saw that he had a hundred meters left to crawl. Trent continued crawling, trying to put the distance out of his head.
Trent crawled for another five minutes. He turned a corner and got a shock. He did not see a Kharaa life form or structure. The vent turned ninety degrees, not to the side but upwards. The vent was literally L-shaped. Trent could not believe it. He checked his mini map and he checked it again. He was on the right track but had not noticed this obstacle before. Trent cursed at himself for being so careless and wondered how he was going to get up the six meter high vent. He looked at the mini map to see if there were any alternate routes. There was one but it required Trent to crawl all the way back, which he was not too keen on doing. Trent sighed and began to try and get into an upright position. Moving from the horizontal vent to the vertical was very difficult. He edged and wiggled, slowly getting into position. Five minutes later, Trent was finally in an upright position.
Trent pushed his back against the side of the vent and he used his legs to push against the other side of the vent. Slowly, with the aid of his hands, Trent began to climb the vertical vent. Even before he was halfway up, his legs began to ache. Twice, he slid down back to the bottom and had to start again but after ten minutes, he finally reached the top, sweat pouring down his face. Trent took some time to just lie down in the vent and recover his strength. When he felt he was ready, he started crawling again.
He saw it before he heard it. The skulk just stood there quietly and stared at Trent, as if it was waiting for him. And it probably was, since it was reasonable to assume the skulk had SOF. Trent fired his LMG but in such an awkward position, it was hard to aim. The skulk let out a scream and started running towards Trent. Trent knew that he could not kill it in time so he began to crawl backwards. Trent turned his face away before the skulk exploded five meters in front of him. He felt something sharp pierce his shoulder as he fell. His stomach hit a hard object and he clutched his wounded stomach in agony. He blacked out. He was back. He always came back, for every single night. It was the only logical thing to do. It was dark, and cold. It was so cold Trent could feel it in his bones but strangely, he did not shiver. He was in a long dark hallway. The only thing he could see was the door right at the end of it. The door was also black but bright light shone from behind it. There was absolute silence. Trent could even hear his heart beating. Trent started walking towards the door, as he always did. There was no other choice. He could not resist it. Trent’s footsteps echoed loudly, almost to the point where it would become painful.
The laughter started. Light, cheerful and carefree laughter floated from behind the door. It was the laughter of children, the time of life where all the joy was. It was uplifting and Trent couldn’t help but laugh. The door had to be reached, had to be opened. There was sure to be happiness and peace on the other side, a place where Trent could lie down and rest. He picked up his pace, walking a bit faster, anxious to reach the door. He was almost there, so close. The sound of laughter was louder, as if it was right next to his ear. The doorknob shone brightly in the dark, enticing Trent to hurry up. Just as Trent was about to touch the doorknob, the entire hallway broke apart.
The hallway broke like glass, shattering into small little bits. It happened so fast, Trent didn’t have time to react or do anything. He could just fall, with the pieces of glass falling with him. He looked up and saw the door, hovering in the air and getting further away by the second. Despair filled his heart. He fell and fell and fell. It seemed that he was in a bottomless pit and that he would fall for the rest of eternity.
He landed. He landed on something hard and rough but it did not hurt. It never hurt. It was very dark, almost pitch black. He could not even see his fingers if he stretched his arms out. It came from the shadows, already waiting for Trent. It had the burning red eyes. The eyes showed deep thought and intellect, and it showed evil and malice. Trent felt his heart beat faster and he thought it might just explode in his chest. Fear filled him and terror ran through his veins.
Pzzt… Trent… Pzzt… Do you… Pzzt…me?
Trent opened his eyes. At first, he thought that the xeno must have damaged his eyes and blinded him. However, it was just because the lights were out. Trent tried to sit up but his entire body ached. He felt for his med pack with his bleeding hands. When he found it, he took the needle of nanites and injected himself with it. Some of the pain went away but some still lingered behind. His legs were bleeding from numerous cuts, his stomach had a huge bruise on it and his left arm hurt when he moved it.
“… Time left… Pzzt… Hurry…” Sergeant Lane said over the comm-link. “Can you… me?”
“I hear you,” Trent replied groggily. “But there is a lot of static.”
“Repeat… please… Pzzt,” Trent heard. “… Not clear.”
“I said there is a lot of static. A skulk xenoed me. I’m fine but I don’t think the helmet is.”
“Listen Trent, this… Pzzt… So listen… Passed the nuclear silo and… nuke. Apparently, some… Pzzt… timer. We only… Pzzt… have about… minutes before it blows… up. So never mind… navigations… Straight to… room… Pzzt… Clear?”
“What? The static is interfering too much. What nuke? What timer? Can you repeat your instructions?”
“… Didn’t hear that right… can… Pzzt… again?”
Trent rolled his eyes. This was getting very frustrating. Trent talked slowly, hoping to get his message across. “Can you repeat your instructions?”
“The nuke’s… timer has… We only… Pzzt… ninety minutes to get… ship before it… blows. You need to proceed… phase… immediately… you understand?”
“Oh ****!” Trent exclaimed. “I understand. Sir, I will be dumping this helmet. It is no use to me. I will get to the phase room as fast as possible.”
Trent staggered to his feet slowly and painfully. He took off the helmet and tossed it to one side. The HUD was damaged so badly that he could not use the mini map. It looked like he would have to find his way out by himself. Trent reached for his gun and got… nothing. The gun must have been knocked away by the explosion. Trent hoped that his LMG was in the same room as he was and began searching for it. After looking for five minutes, Trent realized that his LMG was lost. He only had his pistol left and it only had about two extra clips. He had to avoid contact with the Kharaa at all costs or he was a dead man.
Trent looked around, trying to figure out where he was. The room he was in had a high ceiling and there were some cranes that hung from the ceiling. Multiple barrels were scattered around the room, some upright, some toppled over. Trent went over to one of the barrels and tried to read the label on it. He squinted his eyes and made out the words “radioactive material”. Trent instinctively jumped back although he knew the barrels should have a lead interior. Trent put two and two together and figured that he was in the nuclear waste storage area. He tried to remember the briefing on board the Forger and the map Sergeant Lane had shown them. It was impossible to memorize the whole map in such a short period of time but Trent remembered some of it.
Trent could go out and move to chemical storage eleven. He could then cut through chemical storage and climb up a ladder to cargo transfer. At that point, Trent remembered there was a fork but could not remember whether to take the left or right. One of paths would lead to the bridge. Trent decided that he would think about it when he got there. He drew his pistol and approached the door, putting his ear to it so as to listen for any Kharaa outside. It was quiet outside and Trent opened the door. He peered outside and looked both ways. The corridor was clear and Trent stepped out. He took a few steps and then, quickly ran back to nuclear waste storage and closed the door. He thought he heard a fade blinking but could not be sure. Trent pressed his ear against the cold metal door and listened again.
At first, there was nothing. Then, only a few seconds later, Trent heard a fade blink past the door. Trent waited for a minute before venturing out again. The corridor was modestly lit and relatively clean. Only a few bodies lay on the floor and there was hardly any blood. Trent moved quietly and quickly. He reached chemical storage in no time and went in. He was surprised to see a Kharaa RT there, noisily sucking resources. Trent didn’t touch it and made his way past it. Chemical storage was very large. Huge rectangular shaped glass containers filled the room, each container holding different coloured chemicals. Pipes ran from the containers and up into the ceiling, where it would connect to different parts of the ship.
Trent was wary of the pipes as it made skulk ambushes easy. He looked at the ceiling intently, scanning for any Kharaa. He saw a brown spot on the ceiling but he was not sure whether it was rust or a skulk. Trent did not have a lot of ammo and he didn’t want to waste any of it. Suddenly, the brown spot shifted. Trent didn’t need any more confirmation. He raised his pistol and aimed carefully. He squeezed off six bullets and was satisfied to see the skulk drop five meters to the floor. Trent kicked the skulk with his boot, making sure it was dead.
Trent barely dodged the skulk as it suddenly snapped its jaws at his boot. Trent fired the last four bullets in the pistol at the skulk. Yellow blood splattered all over the floor as the skulk’s body jerked at the impact. Trent stabbed his knife into the skulk just to be safe. Once he was sure that the skulk was dead, he wiped his knife clean and reloaded his pistol. Due to the damned hivesight, every Kharaa would know that one of them had died. Trent hurried to the corner of chemical storage and came to a door. Behind that door was the ladder that would lead him to cargo transfer. The door had an old fashioned lock, the type that needed a key. Trent threw himself against the door, trying to break the lock. However, it was no use.
The only thing he could do was to shoot the lock. Trent took careful aim. Just as he was about to fire, he heard the scream. He had heard it twice before and he automatically dove to his left, behind one of the glass containers. He turned his head just in time to see a skulk explode, on the other side of the container. The explosion shattered the glass, driving shards into Trent’s back, and spilling the chemical contents inside the container. Trent felt the warm chemicals wash all over him and it hurt like hell. His skin felt as if it was on fire. Trent didn’t have time to check his injuries. Another skulk leapt into the room and landed on Trent’s stomach. He frantically fired his pistol, hoping he didn’t shoot himself.
Nine bullets hit the skulk, all going into its head and shattering its skull. The last bullet that Trent fired went into his own foot. His right foot exploded with pain and he let out a shout. Not only did his whole body feel as if it was on fire, his foot also had a hole in it. Trent just lay there for a few minutes, trying to contain the pain. He was a vulnerable target but the pain simply overwhelmed him. Slowly, the burning pain caused by the chemicals ebbed slowly. However, the searing pain in his right foot continued to grow.
He knew that he couldn’t stay in one position for too long. Besides, he was running out of time. Trent tried to get up but with only one usable leg, it was hard. He fell once, his teeth clenched in pain, but he tried again. Finally, he managed to stand upright, leaning against the wall for a bit of help. Trent reloaded his pistol with his last clip. He limped painfully over to the door and shot the lock. The lock fell to the ground and the door swung open. Trent started climbing the ladder, using only his hands, and tried to keep his injured foot away from the rungs. Trent finally got off the ladder at cargo transfer.
Cargo transfer was where all the cargo was brought to and then it was transported by a series of conveyor belts to different cargo storage areas. Cargo transfer was two stories high, was as wide as a football field and its length was twice its width. To put it simply, it was massive. Conveyor belts criss-crossed above him in a web-like pattern. Cranes automatically picked up crates and placed them on conveyor belts. It was pretty amazing to see how so many different components could work together so seamlessly. Trent tried to get through cargo transfer as quickly as possible. The amount of noise the machines were making would cover the sound of any Kharaa so Trent didn’t bother listening. He could only use his eyes to detect Kharaa and he assumed it was the same with the Kharaa.
He wondered how the rest of the squad was doing. They were a bigger group, meaning more firepower but it also meant that they were an obvious target. He wondered if any more of his squad mates were injured or if any, and he hoped none had, died. Trent estimated that about twenty minutes had elapsed since his conservation with Sergeant Lane. That left him seventy minutes to get to the phase room. Trent was sure he could make it in time, even with his injuries. As Trent limped painfully along, he kept glancing nervously over his shoulder. He was especially afraid of a fade coming, as he knew it would catch up with him in a matter of seconds.
Trent could see the door now. It was only about twenty meters in front of him. Trent quickened his pace as much as he could. When he reached the door, he looked over his shoulder once more. Trent’s heart skipped a beat. A fade stood at the other end of cargo transfer. Even though Trent could not see the fade’s face, he was sure it was staring at him menacingly. The fade just stood there, as if waiting for Trent to make the first move. After all, it had the upper hand. Trent immediately reached for the door and opened it. The fade started blinking towards Trent, closing the gap between them with amazing speed. Trent started limping down the corridor, trying to push the pain out of his head.
He came to a fork. He only had a split-second to decide on which direction to go. Trent chose the left. He heard a door open behind him and instinctively knew that the fade was close, very close. Trent was now at near jogging speed, his foot exploding with pain every time he took a step. Trent risked a glance back and saw that the fade was only twenty meters behind him. It could catch up with him by just blinking twice. Trent looked forward and was relieved to see the bridge. Then, Trent heard the fade blink towards him. He immediately dropped to the floor just as the fade blinked over him. Trent’s foot hit the ground and he shouted in pain. The fade turned and faced Trent, its long, sharp claws raised.
Trent staggered to his feet, using the bleak gray walls for support. The fade ran at him. Trent knew he couldn’t miss, not this one. Using both hands to steady his pistol, he fired his last clip at the fade’s face, aiming specifically for the eyes. Trent saw two bullets hit its mouth and the rest going into its eyes. The fade jerked its head back in surprise and pain. It gave a roar of pain and anger. It began swiping madly about, hoping to get Trent. Trent took the chance to slip pass the fade and made his way for the bridge. However, Trent didn’t make it very far. The fade’s eyes regenerated and the fade was furious that a pathetic human had gotten the better of it. It swung its arm at Trent, catching him in the chest. Trent felt the wind get knocked out of him as he got knocked off his feet. He landed two meters away and barely managed to suppress a scream of pain as his leg hit the ground.
The fade raised its claw above its head and brought it down. Trent rolled to one side. The claw hit the area where Trent’s head was a split second ago. Trent grabbed for his knife and stuck it into the fade’s chest. The fade seemed to smile, if that was possible, and hit Trent’s hand away. Then, it clumsily pulled the knife out and let it clatter to the floor. The wound on its chest closed immediately and there was no sign to show that it had been stabbed. Trent frantically reached into his pocket, seeing if there was anything he could use to defend himself with. His hand closed around something cylindrical and he pulled it out.
It was the laser cutter. Trent turned it on just as the fade attacked again. The fade stabbed Trent’s left thigh just as Trent stabbed the fade’s neck. Both screamed in unison. The claw went right through Trent’s thigh, tearing flesh and shattering bone. The laser cutter went through the fade’s neck easily, creating a small hole. Trent swung the laser cutter wildly and cut off one of the fade’s claws. The fade took a few steps back; surprised that something so small could do so much damage. Even though the fade had regenerative abilities, it was going to take a few days to grow the claw back, simply because it was bone.
The fade decided to finish Trent off once and for all. An organic cannon suddenly grew out of its shoulder. The fade looked down at Trent and started shooting balls of extremely corrosive acid. Trent felt one hit his neck and one hit his shoulder. The skin immediately got burnt off.
They were already at the phase room. Sergeant Lane had already set the coordinates for the Forger
and all they had to do was step into the phase gate. But they didn’t. They were waiting for Trent, if he was still alive. Pamela had already been phased back and the doctors were taking care of her. Sergeant Lane wondered if Trent was still alive and doubted it. He didn’t like that thought but it was reality. As a commander, he just had to accept that. There were still eighty minutes left before the nuke would explode. If Trent didn’t show up within the next twenty minutes, Sergeant Lane would assume that Trent was dead.
Every A-class ship had a nuclear warhead on board it. It was meant to be used on facilities that were beyond salvage. The crew of the Horizon
had started the countdown timer, hoping to take the Kharaa with them to hell. However, the crew had not been able to contact the TSA to inform them of the plan. Now, Sergeant Lane and his squad were on a ship with a live nuclear warhead and waiting for someone who probably had no hope of getting off the ship alive.
“Sir, should we look for Trent?” Sam asked. “We know his last known position. There is quite a good chance that we might find him.”
Sergeant Lane pondered on it for a while. Sam was right. He knew Trent’s last position and there were only two routes that he could have taken. However, there was the risk his squad would have to take. If they went out, they would have to face the Kharaa with their three hive abilities again. Currently, they were very safe. The phase room had a thick metal door that soundproofed the room. His squad was in a good position and if any Kharaa somehow attacked them, they would have the tactical advantage. There was also no guarantee that the squad might return to the phase room in time, if they went out looking for Trent. Eighty minutes was a lot of time but it was very likely that the Kharaa would delay them. Sergeant Lane decided to let his squad choose.
“Who wants to go out and look for Trent?” Sergeant Lane asked. “Raise your hand if you want to.”
Sam instantly raised his hand without hesitation. The rest of the squad looked at each other, not sure what to do. John and Jake raised their hands hesitantly. Jude looked at Lewis questioningly and then, both of them raised their hands. Slowly, one by one, the squad members raised their hands, except for one person. Alan crossed his arms across his chest, refusing to raise his hand. The rest of the squad looked at Alan with a look of slight disgust on their faces but Alan stuck to his decision.
“Since majority of you are in favour, let’s go,” Sergeant Lane said. “Alan, stay behind and guard this area.”
Sergeant Lane took the front while Maria was at the back. Sergeant Lane was going to the nuclear silo first, proceed to the recycling plant and then to the bridge. Hopefully, they would meet Trent on the way. Nuclear silo was dark and quiet, giving it a very depressing look. The walls were painted with red and gray horizontal stripes. Missiles hung from the ceiling by still cranes, ready to be launched. The marines moved quickly, looking all around them.
They didn’t see the lerk hiding on one of the missiles on the ceiling. It spored the entire place first and then let out a cloud of thick, yellow umbra. The marines felt their skin burn with pain as the spore ate through their armour. They raised their guns and began firing at the lerk. The lerk easily dodged their bullets, with the help of the umbra, and dived at them. It struck Leonardo, sinking its jaws into his neck. Warm blood squirted out and covered the lerk. Leonardo fell backwards, the lerk still on his neck. Sergeant Lane kicked the lerk away with his boot. The lerk flew up into the ceiling and released another cloud of spore. This time, the lerk targeted Sergeant Lane.
Sergeant Lane waited till the last possible second before opening fire. He didn’t want to miss. Sergeant Lane fired thirty bullets into the lerk before deftly sidestepping. Before the lerk could fly off again, Ronald stepped in its way and finished it off. Bullets tore holes in its wings and the lerk cried out in pain as it flopped to the ground, dead. Ronald stood triumphantly over the lerk and reloaded. Meanwhile, Maria rushed to Leonardo. He was injured very badly and blood was all over the place. Maria used his med pack and injected it into his neck. The wound healed partially so it meant that the bleeding was stopped temporarily. They needed to get him back on board the Forger. Sergeant Lane ordered Maria and Lewis to bring Leonardo back to the phase room. They were to phase Leonardo back and then guard the phase room with Alan. Waiting for Maria and Lewis would take too much time. The marines that still had their med packs used them.
The squad kept moving. They reached recycling plant without any further encounters. Recycling plant was lit with pale green light and the whole place seemed very eerie. Huge machines lined the walls, each connected to one machine that was in the middle of the room by a series of pipes. There was a low pumping sound that filled the silence. The low pumping sound was not loud enough to cover the clicking noises that came from the ceiling. The marines looked up but saw nothing. However, the clicking noise continued.
“Sensory!” Sergeant Lane realized. “Spread out a bit!”
The marines spread out slightly. They did not want to be taken out with just a single xenocide. They turned on their flashlights and searched for the skulk. Then, another set of clicking was heard, this time on the wall. Now, there were two cloaked skulks in the room. Sergeant Lane ordered John to fire his LMG randomly at the walls and ceiling. John did so, trying to spread his bullets out as much as possible. However, no skulk showed up.
“Find the SC!” Sergeant Lane ordered.
The marines began their search and at the same time, tried to watch each other’s backs. Then, there was gunfire. A lot of gunfire. A skulk had just dropped from the ceiling, screaming as it fell. The marines still remembered their last encounter with xenocide and were not eager to repeat that experience. The skulk was torn to shreds by the bullets and it hit the ground with a loud smack. The other skulk took the opportunity to leap at the marines. It landed on Jake and he felt his leg burn with pain. He fell and clutched his knee with both hands. Sam turned and pulled out his pistol. He took careful aim and blew the skulk’s head away. All his bullets hit the same spot.
A med pack was applied on Jake. His leg healed but he still had a slight limp. The marines reloaded and quickly hurried out of recycling plant. About twenty minutes had elapsed since Trent had contacted them. Sam wondered whether Trent was still alive. Cissy sensed Sam’s worry but did not say anything. Her focus was on the mission. Once the marines were out of recycling plant, they made a left turn and walked a hundred meters down a long passageway. A few bodies lay on the floor, half-eaten and rotting. It was a very gruesome sight.
Cissy saw the distortion before anyone else. She shouted a warning but it was too late. Sergeant Lane had walked right into a trap. Two OCs uncloaked five meters in front of Sergeant Lane and fired a volley of spikes into his shoulder and thigh. Cissy lunged forward and dragged Sergeant Lane back out of the OC’s range. The OCs were right in the middle of the long passageway and had been cloaked by a SC. It was a good ambush but had one major flaw. Since it was in the middle of a long corridor, it was very vulnerable from marines that were out of its range. John and Jake threw their grenades at the OCs. The OCs shuddered at the explosions and bled profusely. The marines finished the OCs off quickly with one clip for each OC.
Sergeant Lane pulled the spikes out of his shoulder and thigh. He grimaced with pain at every spike he pulled out but made no sound. Thankfully, none of the spikes had severed any important arteries or veins so there was minimal bleeding. The squad had run out of med packs but that did not bother Sergeant Lane. He got up, with a little help from Ronald, and ordered the squad to keep moving. Sergeant Lane looked at his mini map. Only thirty more meters to the bridge. The bridge was in a huge circular area that had a radius of fifteen meters. In the middle of the area was a pillar. One end of the bridge was attached to the pillar and a giant motor that was at the bottom could rotate the pillar. The bridge was ten meters above the floor and had handrails to prevent anyone from falling off. The bridge could only stop at ninety-degree angles.
When the squad got to the bridge, they saw Trent on the other side. A fade was standing over him and was about to use its acid rocket. Luckily for the marines, the bridge was currently docked at their side. They got onto it and Sergeant Lane pressed a button. The bridge gave a slight jerk and then, started rotating toward Trent. However, the bridge was not fast enough. Sam watched helplessly as the fade started shooting balls of acid at Trent.
“You bastard! Over here you god damned bastard!” Sam shouted as he fired his LMG, hoping to divert the fade’s attention. “Come get me, not him! You some sort of wuss?”
The fade felt bullets hit its side and turned to see who was shooting him. It saw a group of marines, standing on a bridge that was moving towards it. It turned to them and started firing its acid rocket. The marines dodged the slow moving projectiles effortlessly, though some acid did get splashed onto them. The fade wanted to finish them off so it blinked towards them and landed on the bridge. Sam was in front and fired ten bullets into the fade’s chest. He had to duck to avoid getting hit by the fade’s claw. Cissy fired twenty rounds into the fade’s face. The fade gave a howl of pain and turned around. It blinked off to heal.
The bridge docked with Trent’s platform. Sam and Jake helped to lift Trent up. Trent was a mess. Most of his skin was burnt off and he had multiple wounds all over his body. They carried Trent, now unconscious, back to the bridge. Sergeant Lane pressed a button and the bridge started to turn again. The marines carried Trent back, through recycling plant and then to the nuclear silo. John took the point while Jude covered their backs. They were halfway through nuclear silo when the fade came. It also brought along a friend, the onos. The fade didn’t even try to blink at the marines. Instead, it fired acid rockets at them, stopping occasionally to regain some energy. Sergeant Lane ordered Sam and Jake to go on and carry Trent to the phase room first. They would try and buy them some time.
It was now five marines against two monsters. The marines were into their last clip already. The marines kept strafing left and right, trying to avoid the acid rockets. As the fade fired its rockets, the onos let out a roar and charged towards the marines. Sergeant Lane heard briefings about the onos’ fearsome charge ability but had been skeptical. If he wasn’t seeing the onos charging at him with breakneck speed, he would never had believed the reports from eyewitnesses. Sergeant Lane knew that they couldn’t take down the onos with the few bullets. He looked around, to see if he could use anything to his advantage.
Sergeant Lane spotted a missile, hanging from a crane, right above him. He didn’t have time to look for the control panel to release it so he just started shooting the crane, hoping to dislodge the missile. Cissy saw what Sergeant Lane was doing and also started shooting. The onos reached John just as the crane broke apart. John got the full impact of the charge and was sent hurtling through the air, landing five meters away. Then, the missile fell from the crane and landed right on the onos’ head. Sergeant Lane saw the onos suddenly stop all movement. Then it began to sway slowly from side to side and finally, fell to its side. Sergeant Lane doubted that the onos was dead, just unconscious.
Cissy helped John up, who was a little dazed, and they continued moving. The fade was not firing its acid rockets anymore. Instead, it was blinking rapidly towards them. The marines stopped, turned and fired. It was pointless to try and outrun the fade. The fade got two hundred bullets in its face in less than five seconds. It didn’t even get to hit anyone and had to turn back. Cissy gave a yell of contempt at the fade. Sergeant Lane estimated that they had around forty minutes left to get back to the Forger.
The marines reached the phase room, worn out and tired. They hurriedly phased back, eager to get some well deserved rest.
Trent felt much better when he woke up. The dream lingered at the back of his head. Now that he could remember what the dream was about, it seemed worse than before. Sam and Cissy came in. Trent greeted them and they returned the greeting.
“So, how are you feeling?” Sam asked. “Better?”
“Yeah. Much better. My leg doesn’t ache anymore,” Trent said.
“Damn, you should lose some weight. Carrying you back to the phase room was tough man. You ought to cut back on the chocolates,” Sam said.
At the mention of chocolates, Trent immediately though of Zack. One more comrade that had been taken away by the hated Kharaa. It was not fair. Why did the Kharaa come to their territory? The Kharaa should have stayed back in hell, where they belong. Cissy saw the look of grief on Trent’s face.
“Thinking about Zack? We are all hurt by the loss. He was very funny,” Cissy said. “And Nicholas. Damn the Kharaa!”
Suddenly, Trent said, “Get me the chocolates. In Zack’s cabin. Get them”
Sam and Cissy looked puzzled but they went to get the chocolates. They brought the bag to Trent, who took it and stared at it for a while. All the memories of Zack flooded Trent’s head and the sense of loss gnawed at his heart. Then, Trent took the chocolates and ate them. He imagined the chocolates to be Kharaa and ate them quickly. There was no sweetness in the chocolate, only bitterness.
From the Shadows...