The Fathoms

MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
edited May 2005 in Fan-Fiction Forum
This is just something I'm writing in my spare time, for the purpose of improving my writing. Comments/criticism appreciated.


<span style='font-family:Courier'>TSA.WinDawn//Message.Receive...

DATE 4.25.72 3:22:52 EST
LOCATION ARIADNE 18257, 99214 AST201

Captain Masters, this distress signal originated from a privately-owned research station near an asteroid field near the Ariadne Arm. According to DevAlloy Corporation, the owner, it's on Fathom, the moon of a planet just behind the field. This mission is extremely sensitive, as DevAlloy is one of our top suppliers, so you'll be given carte blanche to salvage as much research and development as you can -- or, failing that, to stem the tide of the infection.</span>

A TSA capital ship, the <i>Winter's Dawn,</i> slowed to a near stop amidst a small asteroid field. It floated gently between the rocks, gradually coming to a stop in a small clearing. From the outside, the entire ship seemed to go dark for a few moments, before sections lining the hull lit up, scanning the field.

The airlock hissed shut in the <i>Dawn</i>'s loading bay as the large doors slid open. A dropship flew out, its thrusters burning dimly as it left the loading bay. Three more dropships followed it out of the Winter's Dawn, maintaining a loose formation. The four dropships gently filed into a line formation, keeping their distance as they moved between the rocks.

The lead dropship slowed to a halt as it reached a tight cluster of asteroids. The pilot looked up at his panel and pressed a button. His voice crackled over the comms system: "Fletch, Mason, I'll start scanning for holes. Alton, move up and see if you can find another way around."

There was a pause as the other dropships started moving. A pilot's voice came up: "Roger, Chase. This is Mason. We'll hold here."

Chase reached up and flipped a small switch to start the dropship's local scanner. His panel's map showed a small icon, representing the dropship, with blue circles radiating out of it. After a few seconds, a detailed map of the field appeared on his screen, showing several asteroids around the four ships.

"I don't see any paths. Alton, do you have anything?" asked Chase.

Alton looked on his map and said, "Yeah, there's one a bit to the north and west. You'll have to squeeze through a pair of rocks single-file."

Chase maneuvered his ship around to Alton's position and said, "I see it. I'll go first. The rest of you follow through, ten seconds in between."

The thrusters on Chase's dropship lit up as he accelerated between the two asteroids, disappearing into the darkness on the other side. Fletch, unsure of himself, hesitated. Mason moved in front, going through the squeeze himself, worrying about Chase.

He emerged on the other side to find Chase's dropship nearby, waiting. Chase's voice came through on the communications: "... in, come in? Ah, is that you, Mason? I think the asteroids were blocking the signal."

Mason said, "I guess. Shouldn't have, though. Our signals are supposed to work through three miles of solid steel."

Soon after, Fletch and Alton flew through the squeeze. Chase said, "I guess the crew's all here. Let's get going," and turned the ship towards Fathom, a blue-green orb veiled by the floating rocks before him.


  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    edited May 2005
    <b>Chapter 1</b>

    Mara Neve leaned back in her seat in the TSA dropship, <i>Valor</i>, as she waited anxiously for her part of the mission to begin. She looked across the personnel bay at the other Marines. Some of them were simply staring at the wall, while others were looking around nervously. One of them was slumped in his seat, asleep.

    She checked her LMG to make sure it was working, something she had done seven times already. She started thinking about home, to take her mind away from the mission, but began to feel homesick. She checked her weapon again.

    Suddenly, she felt the whole ship buck. The sleeping Marine snapped his head up and looked around, dazed. The pilot, Alton Cyril, opened the door and shouted, "Brace yourselves! We've been hit by a rock and the controls went haywire!"

    Mara quickly snapped her seat's restraints in place. The other Marines did the same. The Frontiersmen were trained to stay cool in the face of danger, but that did nothing to diffuse the sense of panic that pervaded the small room. Mara began to hear a ringing in her ears, but she thought she could Alton yelling something at them from the cockpit. Suddenly, the entire ship lurched forward and bucked once. A steady, whining sound pierced the ship's hull, causing Mara to clutch her ears in pain.

    The <i>Valor</i> entered Fathom's atmosphere, losing part of its already-damaged hull in the process. Pieces of the hull flew off, spinning away into the turquoise sky, while the ship continued its erratic, downward descent. What remained of the hull began to glow red as the friction of entry superheated the ship.

    Alton took off his helmet and wiped his forehead. Most of the controls had been damaged or rendered unusable. <i>There's no way the asteroid alone could have done this,</i> he thought. <i>It had to be some foreign contact.</i> He tried several times to contact the other ships, with no result. All he had left was his panel's screen, which seemed to mock him as it displayed the constantly rising temperature. He sighed and snapped his restraints in place, preparing himself for the crash. He took a look through the cockpit window and saw a sprawling carpet of colorful vegetation, as well as the roof of a building near the horizon, surrounded by an enormous lake. <i>That's not too far,</i> he thought. <i>If we make it, we might just...</i>

    A stream of liquefied metal trailed behind the <i>Valor</i> as it went streaming down towards the surface and crashed, cutting a wide swath through the dense forest. High-pitched chirps and cries echoed through the forest as alien creatures flew from the treetops in surprise.

    From the middle of the forest rose a faint trail of smoke. All was silent.
  • BreakthroughBreakthrough Texture Artist (ns_prometheus) Join Date: 2005-03-27 Member: 46620Members, Constellation
    Another awesome story! This is awesome so far, I can't wait to see what the future holds for this.

    Definitely keep up the good work <!--emo&;)--><img src='' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='wink-fix.gif' /><!--endemo-->
  • TheJimTheJim Join Date: 2005-01-09 Member: 34080Members, Constellation
    Very good the odd spelling mistake and word missing but me will let you off <!--emo&:p--><img src='' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tounge.gif' /><!--endemo-->

    Keep up the good story and please make sure you finish it <!--emo&:)--><img src='' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile-fix.gif' /><!--endemo-->
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    Hey, if you see errors, tell me. I want to know.
  • BadMouthBadMouth It ceases to be exclusive when you can have a custom member titl Join Date: 2004-05-21 Member: 28815Members
    nice way to start a story. looking forward to see the rest of it.

    hope it doesnt end up like homeward bound though....
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    <b>Chapter 2</b>

    Chase's ship, the <i>Blue Talon</i>, shook as a smaller asteroid grazed the side of the ship. Frantically, he maneuvered out of the way, making sure to put plenty of distance between his ship and the next rock.

    He looked at his panel's map. It was dark and empty, showing only the <i>Blue Talon</i> and the <i>Valor</i>. The scanner had been damaged by the impact. He looked around through the cockpit window, searching for the other ships. He caught sight of Alton's ship swerving to avoid a pair of large asteroids. Suddenly, a small chunk of an asteroid passed by his window, and he picked up his ship's receiver, trying to contact Alton and warn him. He shouted into the receiver, looking at Alton's ship, still swerving. There was no response. He threw the receiver down in anger.

    Chase futilely sped his ship towards the valor, with no idea of what he would do. He watched in desperation as the rock slammed into Alton's ship, tearing off a chunk of the wing. He flew right over the cockpit window, looking on in horror as Alton worked at the controls frantically. The next thing he saw, when he turned the ship back towards Fathom, was Alton's ship careening towards the moon, pieces of metal floating away in space.

    Soon, he passed through the asteroid field. His communications system came back to life with the familiar crackle and chatter. The other two pilots were already contacting Captain Masters. Mason yelled into his receiver, "The <i>Valor</i>'s been hit! Requesting a dropship and ground team to salvage them!"

    Masters replied, "Give me an assessment. How bad is the damage?"

    Chase cut in, "Captain, they were hit on the starboard wing, possibly the tail, as well."

    There was a small pause, followed by Masters' response: "Negative. The field's dense as it is, we can't afford another loss. If they were hit that bad, then they probably won't make it. If they survive, then Lieutenant Cyril will know what to do. Until then, you three are to proceed as planned."

    Chase slammed his fist down on a bulkhead. <i>Damnit,</i> he thought. <i>He could still be alive.</i> He said, "Roger that, Captain. Entering Fathom's atmosphere now."

    The three ships flew down through the atmosphere in a triangle. Chase looked through his window, searching for the <i>Valor</i>. He saw nothing but the vast treetops.

    Fletch called in, "Hey, I think I see the outpost. It's in the middle of that lake over there. You can just see the tips."

    Chase looked up. Sure enough, there were about four white, metal spires sticking out of the lake's surface. They were sitting on a squat building. He said, "Okay, then. Lower altitude until we're one hundred meters above the treetops. We'll search for a clearing to land in then."

    Immediately, he dropped down, watching as the treetops seemed to rise. He saw the other two coming down above him and waved at them to go ahead. He squinted his eyes at the window. <i>I could swear I just saw something else...</i>

    Suddenly, he sat straight up. There it was. He could see a thin trail of grey smoke rising up from the forest, sticking out through the green and blue backdrop. He said, "Uh, I... I think I see the crash site. I'm going to land."

    Mason said, "Negative. The Captain told us to leave it. I don't like it either, but orders are orders."

    Mason looked through the side of his window and watched as the <i>Blue Talon</i> descended to the treetops, approaching a plume of smoke.

    "Screw orders," said Chase, as he slowed his ship down. "I'm going to help them out, one way or another."
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    edited May 2005
    <b>Chapter 3</b>

    The <i>Blue Talon</i> came to a stop over the crash site and began a slow descent. Its thrusters kicked up clouds of dirt as it slowly landed. The loading hatch opened with a hiss, and six Marines hopped out of the dropship. One of them observed the wreck and whistled. The <i>Valor</i>'s hull was streaked black, and much of the hull had been torn off. It was barely recognizable.

    Chase powered down the ship and stepped out into the forest with the rest of his Marines. He looked up and saw the other two dropships streak past his location, headed towards the lake. He shook his head and walked up to the dropship to check for survivors.

    The Marines circled around the wreck, looking for an opening. Chase climbed on top and tried to pry open the loading hatch. It was stuck; it had been fused shut by the heat.

    A Marine called from the other side of the ship, "Chase, the cockpit window has been shattered here. I'm guessing the pilot got out, along with most of the crew."

    "What do you mean, 'most' of the crew?" asked Chase.

    The Marine simply beckoned him and pointed inside. Chase stooped down to look through the cockpit door, which was at an upward angle due to the way the ship had crashed. He could see a person lying across the doorway. "Give me a hand here, Jack," he said.

    Chase crawled through the window and pulled himself through the doorway, over the body. He brushed some debris and dust from the Marine's face and checked the nametag. "Mara Neve," he said softly. He put two fingers to her neck, feeling for a pulse. It was faint, but present.

    Chase held her under her arms and carefully lowered her into the cockpit, where Jack took her from his arms. They laid her down on the ground outside, where the other Marines had gathered to see who it was.

    A Marine muttered, "We'd better get her to a medic, or at least the ship." A murmur of agreement ran through the crowd, and they carried her to the ship. Chase stopped to look at the surrounding forest, wondering where Alton and his crew had gone. There's no way they could have made it away from the wreck that quickly, he thought. No way at all.

    He walked up the loading hatch, switching the lever on his way in. The hatch closed with a loud hiss as Chase powered up the ship. Dead leaves and dirt scattered in small clouds as the ship lifted off, turning towards the lake. In the distance, Chase could see the other two ships already over the edge of the lake, beginning a slow descent. He looked once more at the forest below, and took off in search of the survivors.
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    After nearly an hour of flying over the forest, searching for thermal signatures, Chase finally set his course for the lake. He took another, sad look through the window. <i>I'm sorry, Alton,</i> he thought.

    Half an hour later, Chase stopped the ship over the center of the lake, where the compound was. It was a squat, white building that sat on a wide, hexagonal platform. He saw the other dropships on landing pads on top of the building. There were two Marines standing at the doorway, looking up. Chase slowly descended until the ship was just over the platform. The Marines opened the loading hatch and stepped out. Chase closed the hatch and flew the ship to one of the landing pads.

    The two Marines by the door saluted Chase as he came down from the roof. They turned and walked through the doors, which slid open for them automatically. The inside of the building was markedly different from the stark, white exterior; it was essentially a circular catwalk with stairs leading down into the center of the room, which was an extension of the building itself, with glass panels allowing them to see the lake. The walls appeared bluish due to the light refracted through the panels.

    One of the Marines who led them in said, "We're from Lieutenant Mason's crew. Both of them already moved on, but we were told to wait for you."

    Chase nodded and said, "Lead the way, then."

    All nine of them walked down into the center of the room, which was surprisingly dark. Chase turned on his helmet's light and found a light switch. He flicked it, but nothing happened. He flicked it off and on again, and shrugged. He motioned for the Marines to turn on their flashlights and unsling their weapons. After a bit of looking around, they found a wide doorway at one end of the room.

    The two Marines from Mason's group went first, walking slowly with their guns raised. The light from one of their helmets fell on a black shape, causing the Marine to jump. The other one turned and aimed his light at the same spot. He hesitated slightly, then said, "Sir, you should... you should see this."

    Chase walked up behind the Marines and cast his light on the spot, too. He frowned and walked up, kneeling down to examine what they had found. It was a man, dressed in black. From the looks of it, he was military. He was also dead, evidenced by the still-wet pool of blood around the body. However, the uniform was unlike that of any branch of the TSA. The entire suit was pitch-black, including a mask over the man's mouth and nose. The soldier had a helmet not unlike Chase's, except for the visor. Instead of a visor, the soldier's helmet had a single, crystal panel, like the kind used in holographic projectors.

    He moved closer so he could get a better angle. He winced as he saw what must have been the fatal wound: A long, serrated gash along the soldier's neck and shoulder. <i>That would do it,</i> he thought. <i>But who or what did this?</i>

    Just as he completed that thought, a Marine yelled in surprise behind him. In a flash, Chase stood up and turned around with his gun ready. His light fell on a brown shape, which darted out of the beam before he could identify it. All of the Marines looked around, their helmets playing a light show on the ceiling. One beam of light caught the shape again. Chase swore as he got a long look at the shape. <i>Skulks! The infection's worse than I thought it would be.</i>

    Suddenly, he realized that most of the Marines were thinking the same thing; they were simply staring at the skulk on the ceiling, instead of shooting. Too late, he shouted, "Shoot it! Shoot the bastard!"

    Bullets riddled the ceiling where the skulk had been for a second. The helmet lights did their dance again as the Marines looked around for the skulk. Suddenly, one of the lights fell as a Marine cried out in pain. Jack turned and cast his light on the Marine. He was on his back, beating at the skulk, which was on his stomach. Its scythe-like claws dug into his arms. It chuckled once and tore into the Marine's throat, then pounced off, skittering away into the darkness. Chase fired several shots after it, with no effect.

    One of the Marines from Mason's group knelt down by the wounded Marine to check him. The body's face was frozen in an expression of cold shock. The Marine closed his dead teammate's eyes and stood up.

    He had not even finished doing this when there came a deep, guttural chuckle from the doorway. All eight remaining Marines immediately looked at the doorway, ready to fire. As their helmets lit up the doorway, they saw a gigantic shadow on the wall, crouched on all fours. One of the Marines screamed in terror. Chase smacked him on his helmet.

    The doors slowly slid open, and the Marines moved into protective positions. As the doors opened, the creature silhouetted in their lights was revealed to be a fat, pudgy thing that was rapidly waddling away. <i>A gorge?</i>

    The Marines all opened fire, angry at the suspense it had caused. In less than a second, the gorge had been riddled with a few hundred bullets. It keeled over as green blood pooled out below its body.

    The Marine who had screamed in terror stood up and wiped his forehead in relief. As soon as he did that, there came a piercing cry from above. He looked up in time to see down the throat of a skulk. He didn't even have time to scream before it knocked him to the ground and bit into his torso, eating through the armor. His screams were cut short as the skulk viciously slammed one of its claws into his throat.

    This time, Chase didn't hesitate to shoot. He fired at the skulk, which would have gotten away, had its claw not been stuck in the Marine's throat. The force of the bullets flipped it over, causing its claw to slide out of the Marine's throat with a sickening pop.

    Chase reloaded his gun and looked up. He could see shadows moving about on the upper level, accompanied by more chuckles and alien screams. He motioned at the door and shouted, "Move it! There are too many!"
  • BadMouthBadMouth It ceases to be exclusive when you can have a custom member titl Join Date: 2004-05-21 Member: 28815Members
    nice. really nice. i can really picture the environment pretty well, especially the crashed ship. action was just the right pace with not too many descriptions to slow it down.

    a little work is done on character btu I would like to see more.
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    The problem right now is that I would have too many characters to deal with, so I'm trying to cut it down before I go into more detail.
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    <b>Chapter 4</b>

    Chase was already through the doorway when he heard the other Marines begin firing again. He looked back and saw the two Marines from Mason's group back-to-back, each firing at a pair of skulks. Green blood splattered the walls as three skulks fell in crumpled heaps. The surviving one bit down on one gun, crunching its barrel, and proceeded to snap its powerful jaws over the Marine's neck. The other one turned around and started walking backwards, only to trip over a skulk that had run into the room. He fell on his head, mercifully knocking him out before the skulk turned around to kill him.

    The remaining four Marines from his team were running for the doorway, reloading as they ran. Three surviving skulks pursued them, their claws clicking on the metal floor. The skulk in the lead pounced forward and bit into the ankle of one of the Marines. He screamed in pain, but kept on running. The skulk bit down, crushing the ankle with a loud crunch. The Marine fell forward, with his leg separated from his ankle. He might have been screaming, but it was impossible to tell, as everyone else was shouting.

    The skulk stopped chasing the Marines in order to feast on its prey. The other three Marines continued running for the doorway as Chase awaited them on the other side, kneeling in a firing position. The other two skulks were still chasing them, running along the walls like some kind of monstrous breed of dog and insect.

    Just as the first of the Marines reached the door, one of the skulks leaped into the air with its claws extended, screaming. Chase riddled it with bullets, watching as its body continued its flight past them and into the wall. The Marine stepped through the doorway and turned around, raising his LMG. The second one followed soon after. Jack was still several meters behind with the skulk almost on him. He had a look of hopelessness on his face as he ran. His expression turned into one of determination as he jumped and pulled his knees up, doing an about-face in midair.

    The skulk seemed to hesitate for a moment, surprised by the sudden reversal. Its predator instinct took over, however, as it simply jumped forward and knocked Jack down on his back. Chase aimed to shoot, but stopped as he saw that the skulk was on Jack's head. The skulk looked up, then reared as if to bite into Jack's throat. Quickly, he brought his arm up and pushed the skulk off of him. It flew into the air, landing gracefully on its claws. Chase and his two Marines killed it in a flurry of bullets.

    Suddenly, there was a loud clang from the other end of the room. Jack turned around and saw a skulk jump out of a vent, followed closely by one more. He could hear more of their strange clicking resonating in the distance.

    Chase traced the one that had jumped out of the vent with his LMG, taking it down before it hit the ground. Jack started to get up, but stumbled. The second skulk leaped at his back and knocked him forward, onto his stomach. Chase aimed carefully, trying not to hit Jack.

    There's no way, thought Jack. He yelled in pain as the skulk took a bite out of his back. The armor had protected him, but its teeth had still taken out a sizable chunk. Jack, seeing no other option, drew his pistol and fired three shots at the wall. The doorway's control panel suddenly lit up bright red and began to spark. Chase began, "What the..."

    The door quickly slammed shut as its controls began malfunctioning. The panel sparked rapidly, then exploded, leaving a small cloud of smoke. Chase shouted, "NO!" as he stepped forward, trying to make it through the doors. He slammed his fist into the doors, watching helplessly as the skulk raised its head to finish Jack off. Jack mouthed, "Go," and dropped his pistol in defeat.

    Chase felt a hand on his shoulder and turned. A Marine said, "C'mon, Chase. You can't do anything for him now."

    Chase brushed the Marine's hand from his shoulder and stood in place, holding onto the door hopelessly. He could not tear his eyes away from the doorway as the skulk crushed Jack's neck with its powerful jaws, finishing him off.

    The Marine tugged on Chase's shoulder harder. Reluctantly, Chase left the door, and the three of them walked into the depths of the lake facility.
  • BadMouthBadMouth It ceases to be exclusive when you can have a custom member titl Join Date: 2004-05-21 Member: 28815Members
    i think there is more emotional depth in this chapter than the previous ones. i felt really sad when chase couldn't do anything so good job on that. Action was also done pretty well too but i really don't think marines are that n00b. <!--emo&:D--><img src='' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin-fix.gif' /><!--endemo-->
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    Figured I'd show a bit about how Alton's doing...

    <b>Chapter 5</b>

    Alton pushed aside a large fern, wiping his forehead as he led his Marines through the dense, alien jungle. They had been trudging along for hours since the crash, which was still fresh in his memory. The rush of green through the cockpit window flashed through his thoughts, causing him to shudder. <i>Two good men and one good woman,</i> he thought. <i>Damn, I could use them right about now.</i>

    He and the three surviving Marines had made their way through the forest based solely on Alton's idea of where the lake was. He was unsure of his sense of direction, but was not about to tell his soldiers that. They had enough to deal with as it was.

    After the first two hours of wandering, the treetops had begun to block out the sky. There was enough light for the Marines to see each other, but it was just dark enough to make them jump at any noise. Alton led the way with his flashlight on.

    Alton heard a twig snap and stopped abruptly. He put his hand up behind him and heard the Marines stop moving. The only sound was that of the wind rustling the leaves. He motioned for the Marines to continue walking.

    After a few minutes of walking, he heard another snap. He turned around and looked at his Marines with a raised eyebrow. They shrugged and shook their heads. Alton pointed at the machine gun slung over his shoulder and the Marines quickly readied their weapons. They paced cautiously through the forest.

    Alton stepped over another bush and suddenly found himself in the middle of a small clearing. At the far end of the clearing appeared to be a path leading through the forest. He made some quick hand motions at the bushes around the clearing, then stepped out of the forest as the Marines took up covering positions.

    The moment he stepped into the clearing, several alien cries came through the forest. Alton spun around, raising his LMG to his shoulder. He could hear rapid steps and grunting coming from all directions. He saw one of the Marines shift uneasily.

    He heard a loud rustle come from behind him, followed by a shout from one of his Marines. He didn't turn around. He heard footsteps - if his attacker had feet to speak of - growing closer, but stood his ground. Suddenly, the footsteps stopped. In a distant part of his mind, he heard a Marine shout, "Skulk!"

    The skulk's leaping cry gave it away. As it hurtled towards the back of his neck, he took one hand off of his machine gun and swung it around, catching the skulk by its leg, halting its leap. Before the skulk could adjust, he used the skulk's momentum to swing to the right and bring his arm down, throwing the skulk to the ground.

    The skulk, however, got up nimbly, as if it had simply tripped. It snarled at Alton and jumped up, giving him no room to shoot. Seeing no other option, he brought his machine gun up and pushed at the skulk, which held on to the barrel while clambering at his arms in an attempt to get around the obstacle.

    Before he could fire into the skulk's throat, however, it found a foothold on top of the gun and jumped up, pushing the gun out of his hands as it did. It arced through the air towards his head, snapping its jaws in anticipation. Just as it reached the peak of its jump, a spray of bullets came out of the forest without warning, taking the skulk down with almost no sound. Alton looked around, bewildered. <i>That was definitely not a TSA weapon,</i> he thought. <i>Silenced?</i>

    He didn't have time to think about it any more, though, as the unmistakable pitter-patter of skulk feet approached again. He heard his Marines open fire and ran to the forest for cover.
  • BadMouthBadMouth It ceases to be exclusive when you can have a custom member titl Join Date: 2004-05-21 Member: 28815Members
    there is a nice build up to the action with the right amount of suspense. great action scene too. Keep up the good work! <!--emo&:D--><img src='' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin-fix.gif' /><!--endemo-->
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    Alton dove behind a bush, rolling to a stop on his side. He heard rapid gunfire and shouts of surprise. The forest seemed to come alive in a cacophony of gunfire and screams, and all he could do was find some cover. He chewed on his lip and thought about the shooter who had saved him.

    There was a sudden explosion across the clearing. A skulk's limp body, torn to pieces by the shrapnel, flew out of the forest and landed on the ground with a wet smack. Alton kept his sights trained on the body. It didn't move.

    A Marine broke cover and sprinted into the clearing, firing his pistol behind at a skulk behind him as he went. The skulk danced gracefully around the shots, rapidly gaining ground. Alton tracked the skulk's movements with his machine gun, preparing to squeeze the trigger.

    Suddenly, his aim was thrown off as he was jerked upwards. He felt a strong hand on the neck of his armor pull him back and turn him around. He found himself looking into a pair of dark eyes staring out from a face masked in black. He glanced down at the figure's suit. It was almost completely black, with a dark camouflage pattern. At the waist was a belt with various bulging compartments.

    Dark Eyes spoke. His voice was dark and gritty, with a heavy accent. "Come on. There's no time to lose now; they're on our scent."

    Alton lightly took the man's hands from the neck of his armor. "But my men, they - "

    Dark Eyes snorted. "Your men," he said, emphasizing the last word, "are dead. And we will be, too, if we don't get the hell out of here."

    With that, he started running off into the forest. Alton looked for his men, but found only the body of a Marine in the middle of the clearing. He gritted his teeth and turned back to the forest.

    By the time he caught up to Dark Eyes, they had arrived at the foot of a small cliff. He looked up, then looked at the man, who was looking instead at the wall of the cliff. The man brushed some dirt from the cliff wall, then palmed it. Suddenly, the ground shook and the cliff wall slid open, revealing a deep tunnel. Alton peered through the cliff. It seemed to have no end.

    The man stepped inside carefully, grabbing onto an unseen handhold. He climbed down a few steps, then called up to Alton, "Are you coming, or are you just going to wait?"

    Alton nodded and climbed down. He said, "So, do you have a name, or should I just call you 'Dark Eyes'?"

    Dark Eyes raised an eyebrow. "Dark Eyes? Sounds like something you'd call your girlfriend." He chuckled. "I suppose I shouldn't be telling you, for my own reasons, but we'll probably have to trust each other if we're going to get out of here alive. Just call me Kurt."

    Alton opened his mouth to tell Kurt his name, but stopped as Kurt said, "No need, Lieutenant. I already know who you are."

    Kurt started climbing down, leaving Alton with his mouth open.
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    edited May 2005
    The tunnel was hot and cramped. Sweat dripped down the side of Alton's face as he climbed down the angled ladder. There was no light besides the glow of his equipment.

    After a while, Alton began to feel detached, as if he weren't even in his own body. It took him a few moments before he finally heard Kurt saying, "Alton. Alton, are you still there? Are you conscious?"

    Alton blinked a few times and rubbed his head. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little dizzy."

    Kurt didn't respond. They continued climbing downwards for another half hour. For some reason, it was getting colder, not warmer, as Alton would have expected. He shivered.

    Finally, Kurt said, "Ah, we're here. This must be the cooling section of the facility, which is why it's so cold."

    Alton's teeth chattered. "N-no kidding." He stepped off of the ladder and found himself in a large, white room. At one end was a row of vertical pipes to run coolants through. On the left wall was a series of computer consoles to control the cooling systems.

    They crossed the room to the pipes. On the wall beside the pipes was a detailed map of the facility. The maps of all the floors were arranged vertically. A red dot marked their location on the bottom floor.

    Alton walked over to one of the consoles and began typing, trying to access the system. Kurt was still staring at the map, plotting out paths. Alton pressed a few keys and a dialog came up on the screen. It asked for a login and a password. Standard introduction. He palmed the side of the console, linking his armor's nano-network to the system. Several strings filled the login and password rapidly, scanning through the possibilities.

    Kurt glanced over his shoulders and stared at the screen. His eyes narrowed, then widened. "Alton, what are you doing! Don't - "

    Several rapid beeps came from the console and the system stopped filling in the login and passwors "UNAUTHORIZED ACCESS" flashed across the screen. Alton swore and stepped back. Kurt tackled Alton to the ground and shielded him with his body. Alton grunted as he felt the breath knocked out of him.

    There was a high-pitched whirring from the ceiling and several tiles slid to the side, revealing dangerous-looking turrets. Their red laser sights scanned the room in a circle until all of them spotted Kurt. A collective red dot marked the small of his back. Kurt began, "Oh, sh - "

    The turrets opened fire. Alton screamed as he felt the impacts through Kurt's shuddering body. After a few seconds, the turrets stopped firing and withdrew into the ceiling. The acrid smell of smoke hung in the air.

    Alton rolled Kurt's body off of his back and knelt over it, shaking it futilely. He sighed with regret and stopped. He stared down at Kurt's body.

    Kurt's chest suddenly heaved as he broke into a coughing fit. Alton jumped back in surprise, staring at the seemingly unharmed Kurt, who had rolled over onto his hands and knees.

    Alton helped him to his knees. He was panting. Alton looked up at the ceiling, then looked back at Kurt. His eyes were wide.

    Kurt wiped his forehead and said, "They were rubber bullets, intended to stun. The turrets scanned me as an employee." He stood up and showed Alton a card imbedded in his black vest. It read, "DA Security Clearance 3."

    Alton glanced at Kurt's heavily-modified weapon. <i>Who</i> is <i>this guy?</i>
  • monk3ymonk3y Join Date: 2003-10-30 Member: 22139Members
    keep it up!!!!!!!!
  • BadMouthBadMouth It ceases to be exclusive when you can have a custom member titl Join Date: 2004-05-21 Member: 28815Members
    Lots of mystery. Good storyline so far and I think it can only get better. Real interested to know who Kurt is. The descriptions for the facility were quite good.
  • MantaManta Join Date: 2005-01-12 Member: 35056Members
    <b>Chapter 6</b>

    Chase and his two Marines came through a doorway onto the catwalks of a very wide room. A Marine peeked over the edge and stepped back in surprise. Chase looked over.

    At the bottom of the room, which was a long way down, was a thick coating of bacterium covering the floor. It had carpeted the entire floor and the bases of the walls. The bacterium had grown around a sign on the wall that read, "Fathom Research Lab - 2C." Even more surprisingly, there were several eggs resting on the bacterium, apparently in hibernation. Chase looked harder and saw several skulks milling around.

    Another Marine muttered, "Let's get the hell out of here. Don't wanna be around fighting these things," and made his way down the catwalk, holding the railing with one hand.

    There was a loud creaking noise and Chase snapped his head up. He shouted, "Get back!" but it was useless. The bacterium growth had weakened the catwalks' support beams, which were giving way under the Marines' combined weight. The Marine who had walked off looked around himself in horror as a beam finally snapped and the catwalk lurched. The skulks below looked up, their open mouths dripping with saliva.

    The other Marine backed off, trying to reduce the weight. Chase stepped forward, reaching his hand out to the Marine, beckoning him. The Marine slowly edged his way along the catwalk, unsettled by the creaking of the supports. Chase said, "Come on. The longer you take, the closer it'll be to snapping. Come on!"

    The Marine picked up his pace and came within a few feet of Chase. There were several loud snaps and the catwalk suddenly dipped beneath them, sending the Marine tumbling back. Chase threw his arm out and grabbed the Marine's arm. He winced as the Marine's entire weight shocked his arm, but he knew he couldn't use his other arm.

    Chase looked down at the skulks. They were busy trying to climb the walls, but kept slipping back down. <i>What the hell? Specially made, skulk-resistant walls?</i>

    He panted as he tried to pull the Marine up by walking backwards. The Marine looked up and shook his head. "You can't do it, Chase. Just let me go."

    Chase shook his head. "No, I won't. Do you know how many skulks are down there? I count at least six. No."

    The Marine smiled ruefully. "At least it'll be quick then."

    Chase prepared to summon all of his strength to pull the Marine up when another support beam broke with a snap and the catwalk swung downwards, causing him to lose his grip. The Marine fell all the way down and hit the bacterium with a soft thump. Immediately, the skulks rushed him, tearing at his armor.

    The catwalk continued swinging, hitting the wall at a vertical angle. Chase brought his other arm up and climbed the catwalk back to where his last two Marines were. The Marine's screams resonated through the large room as the skulks devoured him. Chase pulled himself up and looked down at the pack of skulks.

    He shook in anger as one of the skulks chuckled. He drew his pistol and fired six quick shots at the skulks, killing one of them. The other skulks all turned to look at him and, strangely, opened their mouths. There was a soft, hissing noise. Chase barely had time to duck before he saw the parasite hit the ceiling above him and fall back to the floor.

    There was more loud hissing and Chase pushed his last Marine out of the way. He cried out in pain as two parasites hit him, burrowing their way into his armor. He drew his knife and quickly removed one as it was digging into his chestplate, but couldn't get the other one in time. He muttered and drew his pistol, emptying the rest of the magazine at the skulks.

    Chase rubbed his shoulder. They would have to find another way into the facility.
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