A day in the life
“Can we survive against this enemy? Is there a meaning in what we have been doing for the past two months? Or are we just like ants trying to escape from inside a glass box? We had enough difficulty dealing with the so-called ‘transgenants’ already, especially the heavier armed ones, and recently some soldiers reported having seen the ‘reticulans’, real aliens, much like we always thought they would be, armed with weapons capable of massive destruction. So far we thought the transgenants was the main attack force, but now… Is it possible aliens even stronger than the reticulans exist? That they are just ‘pest control’, while the real soldiers wait, hidden out there in the shadows of space…” These thoughts made John shiver.
“Squad we’re there! Move out as planned, for Earth!” Sergeant Rodriguez’s rough voice woke him up from his depressing thoughts.
“For Earth!” his comrades in arms shouted and they all jumped out of the Chinook helicopter to the ground. The squad was almost always six people in total, a new person added each time one of them died. They were all living in the same military base and they trained together as much as possible, in order to act less as individuals and more as a team. Right now, they were on their way to destroy what possibly was an alien artifact, located in what remained of the mayor’s house of a small town, a couple of hundred meters from where they had dropped off. A moderate level of resistance was expected, with reports indicating the existence of Chompers and armed Cudgels.
They checked out the perimeter. No hostiles detected. They moved forward. Advancing into positions was routine by now, done instinctively. A few seconds later they checked that the radio was working and split in two teams of three members each, each team set off on a different path to reach the target. He, Kelly and Ronald were Team Alpha and would take the long way round to reach the artifact; the other three, Lee, Barry and Helena were Team Beta.
They ran to the next street corner, checked the area and proceeded carefully to the next one. It was quieter than they expected. Soon after Team Beta sent a report that they were in view of the target and that no hostile unit was visible. They were ordered to proceed. John’s team would reach them in time to back them up in case something went wrong. “Almost there. John, check out this corner” Kelly said and pointed just ahead.
Once again he moved on, reached the corner and took out his handy little mirror. He took a look… “Chompers! Three!!” he shouted. They stood in formation and waited, as the sound of the three “Chompers” running became increasingly louder. It appears that they were aware of their location.
In these few seconds of waiting the enemy to appear, more depressing thoughts found their way into John’s mind. “Are they even telling us everything? What are these artifacts we keep on destroying? Are they even important at all for the aliens? Do our superior in rank know or are all those raids meaningless, a way for us to die in the battlefield without regrets??”
“Here they come! Cover me, John!” Kelly was already running, being the bait to lure them along the route, where Ronald had just thrown a fragmentation grenade. John lifted his Colt 0.45 pistol and fired at the Chompers. Ronald also started shooting with his HK MP5, causing confusion to the Chompers. As soon as the grenade blew two Chompers fell dead; the third was stunned for a few seconds, before it decided to attack them.
“Kelly!! Where are you?” John shouted, as the third Chomper was falling to the ground, fatally wounded from their gunshots. Kelly was nowhere to be seen.
“Over here John. I’m ok…” Kelly was under some debris, thrown over by the grenade explosion. They helped her stand up. She seemed to be all right. “We’re late” she said and went on to check the next street corner. Kelly was as hard as they got, a capable and experienced soldier, even before “The Fall” of the spores. The fact that she hadn’t joined the elite squad instead was the cause for a never-ending stream of rumors about her, but nevertheless John and the others felt very lucky she was part of their squad. They knew that, due to her fitness and battle experience, she had saved them more than a few times.
Screams and gunshots were heard through the radio “Do you copy? … destroyed the… out of nowh… resistance… Oh my g… A ret..!” And then silence. Commander Rodriguez’s voice was heard on the radio “Mission successful, retrieve everything that you can and come back to the chopper A.S.A.P.”
John could see heavy smoke rising from where the artifact was supposed to be, but they had no direct visual contact from where they were standing. Carefully they retreated to the point, they had encountered the Chompers. Kelly checked them swiftly, pointed to one of them and said “John, Ronald, carry it to the copter, I’ll cover you”. They picked up the half-dead Chomper and returned to the planned pickup point, with no further enemy encounters. There was no soldier from Team Beta on board the helicopter as they flew away from the mission site. Sergeant said coldly, “They shall be missed” and went on to pack the Chomper they had brought with them in the cryo-container.
As the Chinook was rising through the air, just for a moment, John saw the artifact site; there were two big craters, and the whole place was burning in big red-blue flames. He could not see the bodies of his comrades. He picked some ammunition clips and went on to refill his guns and belt as the shivering thoughts entered his mind once again. “Is that the power of the reticulans? And what’s the deal with this ‘biomass’ thing, the rumors run wild about? If this is real, can we counter it or will this be the end of the planet? All engulfed by a stinking sticky mass? I always thought that at least something would survive, even in such a war. A proof that life existed in this planet...”
“Lost in your thoughts again John?” John looked up to see Kelly’s face, in hope of seeing her smile. But it was the same old apathetic face. “Someday you’re going to get us in trouble with that head of yours.” She said so, but Kelly didn’t seem to really care about it. This war was what gave her power. Battlefield was her home and every enemy she killed made her feel more alive; she was happy.
“Perhaps you should be given a new psychiatric evaluation?” Ronald shouted from the other side of the helicopter. John didn’t know Ronald very good, but he knew he did not want to know him any better. He was the ‘demolition guy’ both in battles and in character. Always carrying all kinds of explosive, nothing was too hard for him not to blast and no line was too subtle for him not to step over. John preferred to speak in a low voice and say something incomprehensible, which sounded like he had just given an answer. But Ronald did not really care about an answer, “Hey man, I did one recently and it was good. They said I was fitted to be a grenadier. And have I trained long and hard with the grenades… I remember once…” The same stories again… he had lost count of how many times he had heard them already. But at least he was not messing with him now.
To be frank, John was not pleased with being a soldier. He used to be a teacher at an elementary school. Being with children was natural for him; helping in “the upbringing of people who would build a better world than we did” was his motto. That was where he felt alive the most. But that was no more. Most of his class died during “The Fall” of the spores and a girl named Lila turned into transgenant and was killed in front of him, by her parents. He then knew that he would never be able to live this way again. So, without any more dreams or motives, he joined the army. That was the only thing to do, as far as he could see. But lately, it seemed to have become too much for him to handle… Of course if he was evaluated properly they would never let a person like him into the army, but at that time of panic and need, almost everyone was accepted, without properly taking the necessary tests. And because of the ongoing war, even now, that the army had regrouped and was functioning properly, none of the existing soldiers was given the tests, unless asked for it by someone of superior rank.
The bottom-line was that John was here, now, continuously battling aliens and suffering from a repeated depression crisis. He had to endure, there was no other way.
“Soldiers, we have an emergency!!” Rodriguez’s voice brought him back to reality once again. “One of our pilots is stranded in the woods nearby; his plane was downed by alien spaceships. We are the closest to him, and we are going to get him back. Soon another squad will be coming over to assist us, but it may be too late for him by then. Preliminary reports tell us that carcrabs, deathbellows and flappers populate the area, and that a three person squad is enough to take them on. So, get your weapons ready and let’s get to business!”
They soon got off the Chinook at a clearing, a hundred meters away from the location of the pilot, whom they had confirmed was alive and holding his own in a house that used to be a fire-guard’s post. The forest was not too dense and they would be able to see well into the distance if it wasn’t for the thin fog. The helicopter flied above them to scout the area.
“At least two carcrabs are headed towards you from the east.” Knowing the enemies’ weakness, Kelly had chosen to bring her HK G3 and Ronald a FN P90 and, of course, lots of grenades. John carried a fully loaded Desert Eagle and his trusty Colt 0.45.
It didn’t take long for them to see the carcrabs. As they had done in training, they spread in a circle around them and started shooting at them from all directions while taking cover behind the trees. They soon succeeded in killing both of them, without being injured.
At that time they realized that the radio connection to the Chinook had failed. The plan in such cases is to complete the mission and then return to the rendezvous point to be picked up. In any case, the Chinook was above them monitoring the area. Following Kelly, they headed towards the little house. They reached it, easily dealing with a number of flappers along the way.
Ronald blasted the door and everything the pilot had stacked behind it, and they entered. They soon found a deformed body, with multiple wounds all over, wearing a uniform, with flappers all around it, chewing on the hands and face of the corpse. They were too late.
“Die little suckers!” Ronald kept on saying as he was stepping on them. “Just die!” Kelly and John were finishing them off. Suddenly, a buzz was heard from the west side of the house. “Deathbellows! Everyone out!” Kelly shouted as the house was invaded by the small bugs. They managed to escape with only minor wounds and ran off into the forest. That deathbellows must have been what killed the pilot too. Thankfully, deathbellows were not a serious threat once distance had been taken from them, but the long range of their attack made them a considerable enemy in situations such as this one.
Now, they had to return to the rendezvous point, to the west of the house, and be picked up. But, with the deathbellows located somewhere in the west side of the house, they had to take the long way round to get there.
“Damn! If I could just know where it is, I would finish it off with one of my grenades” Ronald kept saying as they were walking to the south. But the fog was getting thicker and they would not be able to spot it, before it was too late for them. They soon turned northwest and as they were getting close to the pickup point, a number of carcrabs blocked their way. They could see just three faintly, but sounded like many more were there. They tried to circle them and eliminate them like the ones before, but soon discovered they were the surrounded ones. “We will stand our ground here then.” Ronald said and instantly threw grenades to the ones that were closer to them. The battle had begun.
Ten minutes later, six carcrabs were dead on the forest ground and only two remained alive. Ronald was on the ground, suffering from a critical wound and Kelly was shooting with her last rounds of ammunition. John, out of ammo and injured, had crept to a tree and was watching Kelly as she was fighting with all she got. A smile was on her face. He tried to remember if they had ever been in such a situation before, but his memory was failing him. “Is that the end? Surrounded by carcrabs in a forest?”
“Aaargh! Get them off me!!” A couple of flappers had reached Ronald and were biting him. “Little suckers, I am going to kill you all! Just you wait!!” Kelly fell. She was dead, no doubt about it. The smile was frozen in her face. At least she died a happy death. “Kelly! Kelly, help me! Aren’t they all dead? I can’t hear you shooting any more!” Ronald shouted. John couldn’t speak. Despair had gotten the best of him.
“Damn you Kelly! Help me bitch! Don’t just stand there. They are eating me, for Christ’s sake!” John woke up from despair for a moment, tried to kick one of the flappers away, but all he did was fall over to the ground. A flapper left Ronald’s hand and started biting his. “Will that really be the end…? Do I really care anymore?”
What seemed like seconds later, John heard something resembling human speech in the far distance. Who could that be? He couldn’t feel any pain. Had he died and gone to heaven? He couldn’t think of anything anymore. He opened his eyes and saw a flapper approaching his head. He was unable to move, even if he wanted to. He closed his eyes again…