Chapter VIII – Empowering Escape

The Staging Bay raged with combat, blobs of plasma and gunfire sailed through the air as demons continued to appear from portals. The Marine was shooting in two directions at once, holding the shotgun and assault rifle in each hand, blasting holes into Imps and Demons with ease. A Security Marine on a higher landing suddenly becomes possessed, it took the strength of every nearby survivor to tackle it and push it from the railing. The former human falls and splashes into a toxic waste tank and quickly dissolved into the green corrosive sludge. The Marine climbs to the next level above with little effort and begins mowing down the hordes amassed there. He sensed a large-jawed demon closing in from behind. He pivots slightly, tightly swings his shotgun toward it and fires two rounds. The Demon collapses with a dying grunt.

A Hell Baron suddenly materialized on the main level, roaring fiercely. A blob of green plasma closely zips past the Marine. The Baron took a few steps toward him and reached its arm back to throw another volley when almost every survivor opened fire on the hulking demon. The beast roared with fury and hurled the searing mass toward the Marine, it roared past as he narrowly shifts out of its path. The Baron was staggering against the barrage but still standing until a screeching grenade rolled to a rest at the demon’s hoofs and explodes. The blast severs the Baron’s midsection and injures some nearby Imps, the alien splattered to the ground with its unusual organs spilling onto the cold floor. The Marine was starting to clear the level of invaders under a constant onslaught, but there were still several Cacodemon attacking throughout the Staging Bay.

He climbs higher and gets into range of the bloated abominations. The first shotgun blast went up what passed for the demon’s ass. Then crossing to the next demon, he presses the barrel against its single eye. Blue blood splashed over the walkway, the Cacos tumbled and splattered to the ground. A blob of blue plasma hurls toward him from a demon at the far end of the walkway, he dodges by briefly bounding onto the handrail. He approaches firing both weapons at once, the Cacodemon hissed angrily and sank into a bloody deflated mass. He then stomps up the adjoining metal staircase where a squad of survivors was holding out. They turn their heads and see him approaching. A Security Marine was continuing to bark orders, an Engineer wades through the squad and greets him.

“Amazing work, marine” he states, thankfully. “I don’t know if we would have been able to hold out much longer” he says, as he resumed firing. “I’m Takeshi, I used to be a technical specialist around here. Who are you?”

Unable to come up with an answer, the Marine remains silent. “How did all this happen?” he returns.

“Something to do with the teleporter, but that thing is way beyond my security clearance” Takeshi says in a mild Japanese accent. “From what I’ve heard, the damn thing just started running on its own, these freaks started pouring through and they couldn’t shut it down” he loudly explains, picking off possessed humans one at a time, the sound of exploding grenades echoed from below.

“We sent a scouting party to find some escape pods, I hope we don’t have to send another”

About ten minutes passed when they noticed two of their scouts approach. They jogged toward the squad shouting,

“We found a bunch of pods! Sector-H has full suites of escape pods on all levels” they shout their report over the continuing gunfire. “The rest of our team didn’t make it”

“Excellent work. I’m sure your team did all they could” Takeshi says.

“You’ve just saved our asses” yells a survivor.

“We gotta go and fast” the scout continues. “One of those possessed cock-jockeys is going around destroying pods”

“That’s all I need to hear. Let’s lay down some suppressing fire and move out” Takeshi orders.

They moved strategically to the top level of the Staging Bay and through the passage leading to Sector-H, returning fire against the demons and former humans as they went. The corridor was wide, cables and large conduits stretched down its length and curved down intersecting paths, smashed maintenance robots lay motionless alongside the corpses of humans and aliens. Every meter they encountered more invaders.

Several waves of devilish skulls with tongues of fire charged through the air toward them and erupt against their storm of bullets. They turned down a right hand path and stumble upon a mob of Imps and Demons, the Marine quickly begins tearing limbs from their torsos, ripping into one demon after the other, painting the hall in dripping blood and leaving the survivors in disbelief as the hall vibrated with alien screams. The Marine slaughters the last Imp and they moved on. After a couple more minutes of fighting they soon had a clear path to the outer rim.

Something suddenly occurs to the Marine. In the brief gap from combat, he asks broadly, “Are there anymore survivors on the station?”

“Actually, there are some survivors in a Data Storage Vault in the Central Processing Facility. Sector-B. They’re trapped inside.” Takeshi recalls.

“You plan to go after them? It’s a bit distant” another survivor asks.

The Marine remain silent in thought, weighing his chances.

I can make it, I know it. He decides to himself.

They walked into the ring and the survivors wasted no time assembling into the escape pods on that level and trickling down the access staircase to the other pods below deck.

“I’m going after them” he states.

“You’re braver than I am, Marine” Takeshi states, pausing at a pod’s hatch.”I’ve gotta know, how did you manage to fight like that? It’s unbelievable”

“No idea, my instincts are taking over. I woke up from an artificial hibernation just recently and I have no idea how I got there” the Marine explains.

“Sounds like a classified project, possibly genetic testing. It doesn’t happen often, but the UAC won’t think twice about breaking laws to further their agenda” Takeshi offers. “This squad has had about all it can take, we’ve lost a lot of friends to these freaks. If you’re really going after them, then you should know that the reactor probably has a little less than two hours before the radioactive gas will leak. You need to secure your escape by then, because you won’t survive the initial flood of the gas”

Without saying another word, Takeshi ducks into the pod. “Good luck, Marine” he says, then closes the hatch.

The Marine studies a nearby station schematic posted to a wall, finds the most direct route to Central Processing before moving out. Outside the base, several escape pods undock from the station and are launched into space.

In Central Processing Administration, the emergency rescue squad lays defeated. Their bodies were scattered in close reach of each other on one side of the long rectangular common area, along with the charred remains of aliens. Their armour held cracks and gaping holes that revealed charred, smoking flesh. A pair of the fallen squad had been dragged to the centre of the room by large-jawed demons who were making disgusting blusts of noise from their feasting on the disgraced marines. The disturbing smacks and slurps of the gorging Demons rouses Major Sergeant Martinez from unconsciousness.

Knowing the danger undoubtably surrounding him, he stays perfectly still. He found himself on the cold floor with one of his marines strewn atop him. He allows his vision to restore, then quietly takes inventory of his equipment, he still had his pack stocked with energy cells, but couldn’t find his plasma rifle. He peeks out from his place on the floor and scans the area, carefully taking in everything he could see. He sees his dead and mutilated squad, the large-jawed demons were in view. He sees only one plasma rifle that wasn’t smashed or overloaded, lying on the hexagon floor tiles just behind the foul beasts. Silently, he reaches into his pack and readies a magazine of energy cells

He slips out from under the corpse and sneaks toward the armament with one delicately placed step at a time. He closes on the rifle and lifts it from the floor. Standing barely a meter away from the demons, he carefully extracts the magazine and sees that only three rounds remained. Gripping both at once, he almost drops the empty canister trying to insert the new one. Martinez reloads and a confirmation tone rising in pitch emits from the rifle. The demons made a curious grunt and turned toward the sound, Martinez fires point blank at the pair, turning them to finely textured, smouldering ashes.

He allows himself a sigh of relief, there didn’t seem to be any more aliens nearby. His eyes were inevitably drawn to the sight of his squad, they were mauled by Imps and missing limbs or heads. The image of their motionless bodies becomes permanently etched in his mind, fuelling his fury. He drops his pack onto a desk and retrieves the armour shards from an inner pocket, he snaps them twice into four sections and applied them to damaged spots on his armour. The nano-tech shards reform and patch the damage. During the repair, he finds his data-disc computer. He activates it and sends a signal to the USM Hurricane. Disturbingly, the ship did not respond. He uses a homing scan and received a signal from further out in Mars’ orbit, the ship had somehow undocked and moved away.

Chapter VII – Wrath of the Marine

The recently revived Marine moved fast, his instincts were sending him some previously unknown signals and seemed to imply lots of trouble, but he couldn’t seem to slow himself down. Any doubt he had in his mind was silenced and new focus took hold. He knew some dark evil had invaded the base and that he had what it would take to strike it down. With complete confidence, he shoots out his arm and grabs a brown spiked demon by its throat. He had known it was approaching for some time and that more lay ahead. The Marine looks into its dimming angry eyes, his grip continuing to close, crushing it into crumbs. He then slams it nose-first into the closest wall. Further along the path, he sees a group of imps approaching. He raises his sidearm, with new-found focus he shoots them down with pinpoint accuracy. A single imp remained and closed in, smartly dodging the shots fired. The Marine closed his hand into a fist and socked the imp right in the face, it collapsed with a crater in its skull.

At that time, the Marine hears a notification about weapons fire occurring in the fusion power plant. Realizing the power plant was a short distance away, he decides to head there and help whatever survivors he can find to escape. He turns toward the direction of the plant, fighting demons as he went. Arriving at the entrance a gathering of possessed members of station security staggered before the large door, absently lugging their pistols and shotguns. They lock their dark eyes with the Marine’s and fired their weapons. The Marine returned fire and swiftly rolled to evade fire.

“Die” the former human moaned.

The Marine easily dodges more of their bullets and proceeds to quickly empty the magazine, the former humans caught the rounds and hit the floor. The Marine approaches the large door, the dead zombiemen laid before him, bleeding out. He reaches down and pulls a shotgun dripping in blood from a zombieman’s dying grip.

He pulls the manual door release and it slowly raises into the ceiling. He hears demonic grunting and assault rifle fire coming from within. He pumps the forend of his shotgun, a spent shell flies out and drops to the ground.

Inside the power plant, a group of engineers led by a space marine walked through the outer ring of the facility, they came upon yet another spent escape pod module.

“Damn” swears the Marine “This one’s gone, too. There must be some pods left around here, somewhere”

They run to the next pod module.

“What the fuck is this?” An Engineer says, surprised.

The escape pod had been destroyed, turned into a smouldering, spark-shooting crater.

“This looks like it was done with an energy weapon” another Engineer says clinically.

“Who the hell would do this?” The Marine asks.

“Help!” sounded a desperate cry from further along the circular ring, accompanied by the sound of fast foot falls.

A trio of engineers were running towards them. A blob of green energy approached them from behind and detonates on contact, graphically consuming the engineers, leaving only dust behind. The group of survivors was shocked.

“Holy shit!” One shouts.

The corrupted Chief Administrator steps from the shadows, grinning madly and gripping the BFG 9000. The survivors ran for their lives, the Marine fired his pistol in retreat. The former Administrator’s chuckle echoes through the rounded hall.

The Marine moved through the short hall, a security office was through a door on the left, large-jawed demons blocked the path into the plant. The Marine steps toward the nearest demon and shoots at the optimal distance, dropping it quickly and targets the next. He shoots shell after shell, tearing through the revolting hell-spawn one at a time with blooms of blood coating the rounded walls. The Marine clears his way to the Staging Bay. The titanic area was rimmed with seven levels of walkways connected by steel staircases, a pair of massive anti-gravity cranes were attached to the ceiling, different levels held crates, hover-lifts and tool cases, on the lowest level there were two large vats of bubbling toxic fluid. The massive arena was roaring with assault rifle and chaingun fire that sprayed wildly in all directions.

A determined force of marines and engineers were fighting for their lives. Imps and demons dominated the area, along with revolting demonic blobs that float through the air, and more demons were appearing from nowhere, teleporting from flaring green energy. The Marine leaps over the guard rail, drops from above and slams into a demon, shattering its bones in an instant. An angry mob of monsters had encircled him, staring with countless pairs of red eyes. The first demon stepped toward him and the carnage began. The Marine wound up his closed fist and punched the imp square in the chest, the force shooting it back and striking the demons behind it. He made a few more quick strikes in effective succession before the power of his blows began to spike. He finds the strength to begin ripping limbs from the demons in progressively more efficient and faster maneuvers, arms and heads were torn and discarded, the cries of tortured demons briefly filled the air. The survivor’s gunfire rained down on demons around the Marine from above. The Marine aims his shotgun at the nearest cacodemon and fired a few shells, sending it to the ground with a messy impact.

“Hey, you!” sounds a voice from above. “Catch!” A survivor drops an assault rifle to the Marine.
The standard issue of the marine corp, the SSAR-40 spun slightly through the air and glistens brightly against the artificial light. He smoothly catches the rifle and puts it to efficient use.

Unlike the previous installment this story has much more action.  Aiden has assumed the identity of a Freeborn warrior, named Jorge. Freeborn warriors, unlike the genetically engineered Trueborn, are born naturally from loving parents, instead of being born from an artificial womb.

The book opens on the planet Glory with Base Commander Kael Pershaw in a discussion with his personal aide. Unaware of Aiden’s false identity, he is disgusted upon learning that he had easily defeated a Trueborn warrior in a brawl. The Commander despises the Freebirth under his command. After another fight results in the death of a Trueborn warrior, Kael Pershaw punishes Aiden by forcing him to wear the Dark Band of Shame. In spite of the punishment, Aiden’s unit are selected to carry out a rescue mission. Him and his squad deploy their battlemechs into a region known as Blood Swamp.

After locating the stranded warriors and their crashed mechs, their combined forces plan for an attack on a unit from a rival clan. The Trueborn warriors, having no experience piloting mechs through swamps, are humiliated that a Freeborn will command the operation, which ultimately ends in victory. So great was the victory, that the Trueborn warriors are entitled to compete for a Bloodname title, something only Trueborn are entitled to obtain.

Aiden, secretly a Trueborn warrior, interrupts the Bloodname ritual and reveals his true origin, demanding the right to compete. Kael Pershaw, compelled by a witness, sends the conspirators back to planet Ironhold to stand before the Grand Council where a decision will be made on the matter. Falconer Commander Ter Roshak is summoned to testify for his role in giving Aiden a false identity. Ter Roshak testifies that he was convinced that Aiden is the reincarnation of his former Commander, Ramon Mattlov.

Ter Roshak and Aiden’s defence is overruled, both men reject the decision and demand a Trial of Refusal, the right of any Jade Falcon warrior to contest a judgement by going into combat against some of the clan’s best warriors.  The votes of the trial decide the odds of  three to one against the accused. With the odds stacked against them, only cruel violent fate can reverse the decision.

Another highly recommended title, especially for fans of action driven stories. I encourage you to read it yourself and discover how the subsequent clan battles turn out.