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Kid Airbag

Memento Mori

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Memento Mori

Latin - "Remember that thou will die."

by Archvile


United States Colonial Marine Corps

Major George McClellan


Captain William Sullivan, Gamma Team Leader
Lieutenant Gordon Johnston
Master Sergeant Jens Nielsen
Sergeant Florian Helmberger
Sergeant Tom Mustaine, Squad A Leader
Sergeant Eric Sargent, Squad B Leader
Corporal Alden Bates
Corporal Orin Flaherty
Corporal Mark Klem, Communication-Technology Specialist
Corporal Scott Lampert, Pilot
Corporal Denis Moeller, Medical Officer
Private First Class Avatar, Motion Tracker
Private First Class Mario Casali
Private First Class Thomas Moeller
Private First Class Kurt Schmid, Engineer
Private First Class David Shaw, Motion Tracker
Private Andrew Badorek, Sniper
Private Reggie Barker, Heavy Weapons Specialist
Private Dario Casali, Rapid Fire Heavy Weapons Specialist
Private David Davidson, Co-Pilot
Private Eric Reuter, Motion Tracker
Private Eric Sambach
Michael Rapp - Convict, sentenced for life on Io
NOTE: The characters in this story are purely imaginary. Their names and characteristics bear no resemblance to those of actual people, except by accident or coincidence.


Black Mesa Maximum Security Prison Complex
Black Mesa, New Mexico
March 19, 2035
0945 hours

"Jesus Christ."

Captain William Sullivan put an arm up to his face but it didn't help much against the blustering sandstorm that moved around him. "Can't see a damn thing."

Sullivan stumbled forward a few feet from his parked car. All he knew was that he was in the parking lot, and the prison administration center was somewhere in front of him, through the swirling sand.

He groped his way forward until he finally felt a wall in front of him. He followed it to a door, which opened easily, and Sullivan fell inside, out of the maelstrom at last.

He shook in an attempt to rid his once-red windbreaker of the brown streaks that had settled upon it, and he blinked a few times to remove stray particles of sand from his dry eyes. He apparantly was in the administration center. He approached the reception desk, where no one was there to greet him. He hit the bell on the desk once, then twice, and finally he gave up after a flurry of rings still didn't summon anyone to the desk.

He looked around and didn't see signs, or anything that would tell him where the rest of his team was. There were a couple of vending machines, so he decided to get a Coke or something with caffeine to keep him up after the twenty-hour drive from Sacramento, during which he had only stopped once or twice, and for gas only.

The machine was as useful as the nonexistant desk receptionist. After Sullivan had deposited his seventy-five cents and punched the Coca-Cola button, the machine remained silent. He punched the button again, still to no avail. He then tried another button, Mountain Dew. Still, nothing. He pushed every button on the machine, and nothing came out. Muttering about broken machines that eat some innocent guy's money, he pushed the Coke button one more time, then swore and beat his fist once on the stupid machine before turning around to leave.

As he did so, he heard the clunk of something being forced from the vending machine into the little tray at the bottom. He saw his coke, then picked it up and stared at it like it was from another planet.

"Having a bit of trouble?" asked a familiar voice from behind him. He whirled to see the rough face of Private First Class Avatar standing in a doorway.

"Jesus, Private, it's about time someone showed up and told me what the hell we're doing here at a prison in the middle of nowhere."

"I dunno myself, but rumor says we're shipping a bunch of cons to Io."

"That's our mission? Dammit, we need to be fighting, not babysitting."

"It ain't my fault, Cappy. Come on, some of the guys are here already."


In the changing room, Sullivan set his duffel bag down and looked around. A handful of marines were there already. He saw Sergeant Nielsen in a corner, alone, getting his outfit on. Mark Klem and the Casali brothers were sharing jokes in another part of the room.

When he finished getting changed, he entered the briefing room, which was actually a gymnasium with several rows of bleachers that the troops would be sitting on.

He took his seat at the far right in the front row, a place he'd been sitting ever since he'd taken command of Gamma Team. Seats were done by rank, from right to left, row by row. Soon, most of the other troops were in. Lieutenant Gordon Johnston took the seat right next to Sullivan.

Sullivan surveyed his team. It was one of the finest around, so it wasn't too hard to see why he was pissed at being given this bullshit mission to some bullshit moon to babysit some bullshit convicts...

There was himself, a well-respected Captain who'd led Gamma Team through twelve missions since Captain Jones had bit the dust three years ago. He'd successfully operated through each of them, and had yet to lose a man.

To his left was Lieutenant Johnston. He was young, and not too experienced, but it didn't matter much. He'd proven himself to be very valuable very quickly, and had an excellent mind for the army.

Next in line was Sergeant Jens Nielsen. Nielsen was quiet, and kept to himself most of the time, but Sullivan knew he was a genius. He'd been in the Corps for over ten years, and was as experienced as they come.

The other two sergeants, Mustaine and Helmberger, were the ones that did the yelling and ordering around. Mustaine was a short, fiery, black man who had a good number of missions under his belt, and Helmberger was young, and similar to Johnston in the way that he had risen very quickly (albeit quite competently) to his rank.

Actually, there was a fourth sergeant, and his name was Eric Sargent. It seemed as though he had been destined for this rank, especially with a name like that. Sargent liked to find fault in anything, because any fault meant that the team was no longer a lean, mean, well-oiled fighting machine. When he did find fault, he definately made it known, often using his favorite four-letter words in the process.

Gamma Team had five corporals. Pilot Scott Lampert was a Texan, and had first flown when he was fifteen years old. Denis Moeller was short and stocky, but was an excellent shot, and as strong as anyone twice his size. He also was the team's medical officer. Mark Klem was the Communications Technology Specialist, or Com-Tech officer for short.

Then there was Alden Bates. Bates was looked down upon by almost all of the other troops because he had no right to even belong in the military, much less hold the rank of corporal. He had no skills, wasn't authoritative at all, and basically, when you got down to it, he was a flat-out coward. However, he was the son of one General Kerry Bates, and many of the troops suspected that the prestigious general was the only reason Bates was even in the Corps, let alone a corporal.

The last corporal was the opposite of Bates. Orin Flaherty had been in the Corps for nearly fifteen years, and was brave and fearless. He had turned down countless promotions because he loved being able to be in there fighting, while being able to give orders to a lot of the troops, but not having to worry about commanding them whole-heartedly, like anyone of a higher rank would have to do.

Next to Flaherty, at the end of the row, was Private First Class Avatar. Avatar was not his real name, but no one knew his real name, and no one cared. Avatar was one of the most-respected troops in the team. He had bounced back and forth between corporal and private a lot, and currently he was a private. However, Avatar was always allowed to sit with the corporals, especially when one of the corporals was far less deserving of the rank than he was.

The fourth row contained the rest of the PFCs. Mario Casali was the older of the two Casali brothers. He was short and stocky and sported a big, bushy mustache. Thomas Moeller was Denis' younger brother. Kurt Schmid was the team's engineer, and David Shaw controlled one of the team's three motion trackers, which detected motion within a radius of fifty yards.

The fifth and final row contained all of the remaining privates. Andy Badorek was the sniper. Reggie Barker was in charge of all of the heavy weapons, including (and especially) explosives weapons. Dario Casali, Mario's little brother, was the automatic weapons master, including his favorite, a belt-fed mini Gatling gun. Apart from being brothers, Dario's physical similarity to Mario ended there. Dario was tall, lean, and gaunt, much unlike his brother. David Davidson was Lamepert's co-pilot. Eric Reuter used the second of the three motion trackers (Avatar had the third one), and the final marine was young Eric Reuter, fresh out of boot camp to replace the retiring Lieutenant Miller.

Finally, all the troops had settled in, and a man dressed in dark green fatigues entered the room and moved to a podium in the middle of it. He began to speak.

"Good morning, marines. I am Major McClellan. I'm sorry for the lack of notice, so I thank you all for being here today. I'm here to brief you on your next mission, so please pay attention.

"On Io, one of Jupiter's largest moons, the Union Aerospace Corporation has developed a new maximum-security prison complex which holds all of the state-of-the-art technology required for keeping a prison as safe as possible, and nearly escape-proof.

"Twenty-five convicts who have been convicted of serious crimes, ranging from mass homocide to arson and manslaughter are scheduled to make the trip from here, at Black Sands, to the new Io facility. Knowing the nature of some of these guys, extra help is needed to supervise them while they are being transferred. That's where you come in."

Sullivan knew what was coming.

"Your mission is to safely escort the prisoners to Io aboard the space cruiser Madison, then your job is done."

At that, all of the marines began talking loudly, mostly complaining. McClellan held a hand up to silence them, then continued.

"I know this isn't the most exciting job in the world, but it is necessary, and will only take forty-eight hours at the most. Now, in the event that something happens and some of the prisoners escape, do not hesistate to shoot them if they are threatening to kill one of you. Believe me, murderers will not be missed by anyone.

"That's all. Go, get lunch, then return here at thirteen-hundred hours to for pre-flight checklists and the loading of the convicts. I'll see you then."


1315 HOURS

Captain William Sullivan stood under one of the space cruiser Madison's four wings, watching the raging sandstorm that was still taking place outside, through a pair protective plastic goggles. Behind him was Corporal Mark Klem, the com-tech specialist, inspecting the wing's hydraulics before the flight began.

"This has got to be the biggest shithole in the universe," Sullivan said to no one in particular, talking about the desolate desert that stretched for hundreds of kilometers in all directions, and the gusting sand that was wailing by outside.

Klem slammed shut the compartment he was checking out, then came up to Sullivan and stood next to him, looking out at the horizon, which was obscured by the storm.

"No, the place we're going is much worse. Imagine this desert, but made completely of dull gray rock. No plants, no animals at all. Not even cacti and horny lizards. Just endless plains of rock, with the occasional small mountain range. There's not even any oxygen."

Sullivan stared at Klem as the corporal walked away towards the next wing.

Jesus, this was going to be a long mission.


1330 HOURS

From his station just inside the main passenger loading doors of the ship, Lieutenant Gordon Johnston could see the long line of prison guards stretching from the ship to the prison facility. They were set up so that they would be flanking the narrow aisle that the cons would walk down to reach their transportation to a new home.

Standing next to him were sergeants Helmberger, Nielsen and Mustaine. Sargent was further into the ship, rallying the troops was his excuse, although he was probably just sharing a final drink with them before they left earth.

The four men leaned forward to watch through the dirty window as handcuffed convicts began to march from the door of the prison, through the swirling sand, and down the long path leading to the ship. Twenty-four of them walked across the desert, up into the ship, and past Johnston's security station. He got a good look at some of them as they headed towards the forward lower cargo hold, which had been converted into a makeshift prison. They all looked depressed.

"That's only twenty-four," Mustaine commented.

"You sure?" Helmberger asked. "I counted twenty-four, too, but we mighta missed one. It's pretty goddamn sandy out there-"

As if on cue, the twenty-fifth and final convict walked through the door of the prison, heavily surrounded by guards. As he moved from the doorway, the four marines could barely see what appeared to be a man on the floor just inside the prison, writhing and clutching his wrist in agony.

"Jesus, what the fuck happened down there?" Johnston asked to no one in particular.

As the con was roughly shoved aboard, he stopped and shot an evil grin through the bullet-proof glass at Johnston and the three sergeants. They could clearly see a long, well-defined scar running from the corner of his right eye, down his cheek, to the corner of his mouth. Then, he began to laugh hysterically. The guard behind him smacked the back of his head with the butt of his rifle, along with a coarse "Shut up, you."

But the prisoner just kept laughing as he was shoved down the corridor, further into the bowls of the ship.

Johnston left the watch-station and pulled aside the trailing guard as the hatch leading outside to the desert was pulled shut and sealed for the space voyage.

"What happened back there?

"Rapp broke the guard's wrist," the guard answered as he removed his sand-coated goggles. "The two never got along, and the guard always was giving Rapp a hard time. Rapp decided to dish out a little retribution since he's never coming back here, anyway."

The guard moved on into the ship, leaving Johnston looking stunned.

"Who the hell was that?" Mustaine asked upon Johnston's return to the watch-station.

Johnston leaned over tapped a few things in on an unoccupied console.

"That's Michael Rapp. He's killed over one hundred men on one day alone. He should be on death row, but they don't have enough evidence to convict him of over seventy-five percent of his crimes. Instead, he's a lifer, and he's heading for Io with us and the rest of his buddies.

"He broke that guard back there's wrist," Johnston explained.

"Jesus..." Helmberger said.


1415 HOURS

Up in the cockpit of the Madison, the preflight frenzy was becoming even more evident.

"Tower, this is Lampert. We're already fifteen minutes behind schedule, what the hell is going on," Texan pilot Corporal Scott Lampert drawled over the small radio that was attached by a spiral, black, plastic wire to his flight console.

"Pilot Lampert, this is the control tower. Please stand by."

"Jesus, what are they doing?" Lampert asked to no one in particular. Co-Pilot Private David Davidson tapped a read-out on the console in front of him with a pen.

"Tank B is only seventy-five percent filled, only fifty percent for C," he said, referring to the gas tanks.

"God damn it, we're behind schedule. Sargent's gonna be pissed, and it ain't even my fault." Lampert flicked a switch on the radio and said into it, "Schmid, how are the engines looking."

The voice that responded was tinny-sounding and the noise of heavy machinery could be heard in the background. "They're looking great, they're just getting warmed up!"

"Good, stand by, takeoff could be any minute now."

"I copy."

"Tank B's done, C is up to seventy-five," Davidson announced. Lampert sat back and sighed.


"Tower to Madison, tower to Madison. Stand by for liftoff."

Lampert jerked forward in his seat. "Action time," he said, rubbing his hands together. The radio came to life again.

"Tower to Madison, liftoff in ten...nine...eight..."

"Schmid, you getting this?"

"I copy," the engineer's voice responded over the countdown. "Engines fully prepped, ready on your mark."

"...three...two...one..." the tower finished its counting.

"Mark!" Lampert shouted.

The five giant engines roared to life as Lampert pressed on the throttle, and the space ship shot upward.

"Clearing lower atmosphere," Lampert said over the intercom to the passenger seating area, where the rest of the marines were safely strapped in.

"Approaching upper atmosphere. Make sure you're buckled in tight," the pilot advised. After shaking for a few minutes, the ship was still as it entered the black void of space.

"All right, we're good for approximately twenty-one hours. Feel free to move about as you please."

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March 20, 2035
1230 hours

When Johnston went into the crew mess, the only other inhabitant was Sullivan, sipping a coke as he scanned news from earth on a table-top computer. When Johnston entered, Sullivan looked up.

"Did you need something, Lieutenant?"

"No, only a cup of coffee. I haven't slept for thirty-six hours."

"Join the club."

Johnston prepared a cup of coffee, then sat down at the table across from Sullivan. "What's the deal, putting us on a stupid baby-sitting mission like this?" the lieutenant asked.

Sullivan sighed. "I have no idea. To tell you the truth, I'm just as unhappy as you are. Do you think I want do be this bored?"

"Yeah, well they could at least do something interesting, like try to escape..."

They finished the rest of their drinks in silence.


1250 HOURS

"Your turn."

The guard inserted the key into the door Michael Rapp's cage, and a *click* was heard as he turned it. The door swung open, and the guard stepped inside. He pulled the prisoner to his feet and led him out of the cell.

"Potty time."

The guard prodded the prisoner ahead of him. It was Rapp's turn for the bathroom, for the first time in fifteen friggin' hours. His bladder was about ready to explode.

Rapp waited until the guard led Rapp out of earshot of the forward cargo hold where all twenty-five of the convicts were located, and into the small bathroom before putting his plan into action.

Nothing had happened since Rapp had broken that stupid asshole's wrist back in New Mexico, so this guard was bored. He certainly hadn't been expecting Rapp to suddenly fling himself around, grab onto the guard's neck with his hand-cuffed hands, and snap it with one quick stroke.

The guard sunk to the ground, and Rapp quickly began to search the cadaver for a set of keys. After the first four pockets, bingo! Rapp yanked the key chain from the pocket, and hastily began trying all of the keys in his handcuffs.

Finally, the cuffs snapped open with a satisfying click, and Rapp set to work on his feet manacles. After he was completely free of his bonds, he removed the guard's gun, and dragged him into one of the toilet stalls, where he undressed the guard and put the guard uniform on himself. Once that task was complete, he relieved himself before scrounging up a first-aid kit. From that, he produced a bandage that completely covered his scar. If anyone asked, one of the convicts had attempted to escape, and cut Rapp's face in the process. Then, he'd only have to hope that no one counted the prisoners and came up with only twenty-four...then he'd be screwed.

Rapp just had to avoid confrontation until the ship landed on the surface of Io. Then, all that would be left to do would be to make it to the UAC settlement, where no one would ever think there was an escaped convict among them, and he'd be a free man.

Unfortunately, things were not to turn out the way he'd wanted.


1315 HOURS

Lampert set his coffee-filled thermos down on his console, and checked his wristwatch. "Damn, we're an hour behind. Sargent's gonna have my rear fried over an open fire for this."

"We should radio the prison, tell them we're beginning our descent," Davidson suggested.

"All right," Lampert agreed. He picked up the radio and fiddled with the radio a bit, before saying into it, "Space Cruiser Madison to UAC Correctional Facility Tower. This is Space Cruiser Madison to UAC Tower. We have your cons, and we are beginning primary descent."

Static was his only reply. "Odd, there's no answer."

"Try again," Davidson said.

"This is the U.S. Space Cruiser Madison, calling Union Aerospace Corporation Correctional Facility Tower. We have your convicts, and we are beginning our descent."

Still no answer.

"God damn," Lampert said. He was frustrated. Sargent was going to be really pissed now.

"Well, we might as well just continue our landing pattern, and hope someone wakes up down there."

The Space Cruiser Madison continued its slow, but steady descent.


The guard who walked into the bathroom had just wanted to relieve himself. Instead, he was greeted as he walked into the stall by a pale, naked corpse and an orange convict suit on the floor next to it.

Without thinking, the guard panicked and dashed from the room to smash in the nearest emergency alarm.


Back up in the cockpit, the emergency light on Lampert's station began to flash and its siren began to wail.

"Jesus, now what?" the exasperated pilot asked.

"I'm tryin' to find out," Davidson responded, as his fingers flew over his console's keyboard. "It's originated from near the forward cargo hold."

"Shit, ain't that where the prisoners are being kept?" Lampert realized.

Davidson shrugged. "I dunno. I think so."

"You think something happened? One of them escaped?"

"I hope to God not, but there's plenty of guards down there in case something did happen. I wouldn't worry."

Lampert shrugged, and tried to hail the prison facility's aircraft control tower one more time.

Suddenly, the ship lurched violently, and shuddered. Lampert's coffee tumbled from his station and the thermos' lid popped off, allowing its contents to flow forth onto Lampert's lap.

"Fucking shit!" he shouted in painful surprise, leaping up to stop any more of the scalding liquid from pouring on him. "Jesus, what was that?" he asked in shock. He quickly grabbed up the radio and called over the intercom, "Schmid, what's going on?"

"Damned if I know," the engineer's voice came back.

"Aren't you in the engine room?"

"No, I'm in the lower forward mess. I haven't eaten in two days, gimme a break."

"Just get the fuck down to the engine room and find out what the hell is going on here."

Suddenly, Davidson interrupted. "Christ, Scott, we're losing altitude like crazy."

Lampert's eyes flicked down to his console and saw the rapidly decreasing numbers confirmed Davidson's statement.

"A, B, and D tanks are losing fuel like hell, too," Davidson added.

"What the hell is going on?!" Lampert shouted in frustration, and spiked the radio towards the floor, where it was saved only by the spiral cord that connected it to Lampert's console. Quickly, he snatched it back up again.

"Jesus, Facility Tower, Facility Tower, we're going down. I repeat, we're going down ..."


As soon as Private Kurt Schmid had received Lampert's orders, he made like a bat out of hell for the engine room, but on the way he crashed right into a guard wearing a bandage on his face, and they both toppled to the ground.

"God, I'm sorry," Schmid mumbled, and clambered back to his feet before starting off for the engine room once more.


Rapp's first instinct had been to kill the marine, but realized that if he did, that would further complicate his escape. He let the other guy pick himself up, then continue his frantic run further towards the back of the ship. He decided to follow the marine, just to see where he was going in such a hurry.

Suddenly, the Madison was racked in another series of violent shakes. Rapp lost his balance, crashed into a steel bulkhead, and lost consciousness.


When Johnston first felt the tremors, Sullivan had already left the crew mess. The lieutenant stood up, and began making his way towards the passenger area, where the nearest radio was.

On his way there, the ship shook for a third time, the lights flickered and went out, and Johnston toppled into a wall. When he stood up, there was a large gash above his right eye, on his forehead, and he could tell it was bleeding pretty badly. He stood up, and continued on towards the passenger area.

He had barely taken one step before the entire ship was pitched into darkness as it slammed into the surface of the moon Io.

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DOOM Anomaly is interested...
DOOM Anomaly is reading...
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DOOM Anomaly praises you for awesome story dee-lee...
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Hey, I remember this story, you wrote it a while back, It rocked when I first read it, still does :D

If I remember though, weren't you making a sequel or something?

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Heh, yeah I did write this a while ago but not a whole lot of people read it, and I recently went back to look at it and realized I could make it a whole lot better through editing, so I've begun to revise it bit by bit, and posting it as I do.

As for the sequel, I had it all planned out and everything with the first few pages written on my old 486 which I used for word processing until it decided to only work when it wanted to. If I can find some way to get it off that piece of junk, then it may someday see the light of day.

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March 20, 2035
1345 hours

Johnston ripped open the first aid kit as he stared into the mirror at the open wound gushing blood down the side of his face. With sterile wipes, he gingerly dabbed the extra blood away, then quickly applied a gauze bandage around his head. He was lucky he didn't have a concussion.

When the bandage was firmly wrapped around his head, he saw that blood was still showing through. Christ, he'd probably need stitches. He'd see to that once they reached the prison facility, which in all likelihood had an infirmary.

First, though, he had to get back to the rest of the troops. He exited the bathroom and made his way down the dim corridor that led to the passenger area, and Captain Sullivan. The lights flickered twice, and then flared back on.


The captain was busy ripping himself free of the tangled safety harness that was imprisoning him in his seat, a task made much more difficult by the fact that it was pitch black.

"Jesus Christ," he muttered to himself as he struggled with the harness. The goddamn thing was stuck. Finally, he managed to reach inside one of his pockets and extract an army knife. He used it to cut the safety belt, enabling him to escape from his seat.

"What the fuck?" he heard one of the other bewildered marines ask. He couldn't see who it was in the darkness.

"We must've crashed," Sullivan said, only then realizing the impact of what he had just said. "Is everyone all right?"

Suddenly, the emergency generator fired up and the room was bathed in bright light. Fortunately, Sullivan could see that no one had been knocked unconscious. Almost everyone was still in their seat, most with blank looks of astonishment on their face.

He clambered across the room, to the intercom. "Lampert, come in Lampert. This is Sullivan."

No response.

"Lampert? Davidson? Is anyone there? What the hell happened?"

Still, no reply. Sullivan was about to give up, when suddenly, "Yeah, this is Lampert. We've crashed on Io," the pilot reported hastily in his southern twang.

"Jesus, how'd that happen?"

"I don't know, but my best guess is that we hit something in orbit. It fucked our engine room and three of our gas tanks."

"Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. I got a little burnt, but otherwise okay."

"What about Davidson?"

"He's fine. He's checking the damage assessment."

Sullivan looked around briefly. "Where's Schmid?" he asked after noticing the engineer was missing.

"I sent him to check the engine room just after the first shakes, but I don't know whether he made it there or not."

"God damn it." Turning around, Sullivan looked over the rest of the grim-faced marines. They were all there with the exceptions of Lampert and Davidson, who were in the cockpit, and Schmid and Johnston.

"What about Johnston?" Sullivan asked into the radio.

"I'm afraid I haven't heard from him."


Schmid was missing, possibly dead for all anyone knew. He had no idea where the fuck Johnston was. The last time Sullivan had seen him was in the crew mess, where the lieutenant had been finishing his coffee.

Turning back to the radio, he asked Lampert, "All right, what's the damage assessment?"

The pilot's drawl came back after a few seconds.

"We've got hull breaches in the engine room, and along the port corridor running aft. But here's the biggie--the entire forward cargo hold imploded on impact."


"Yep, imploded. The entire thing was crushed when we slammed into this rock. My guess is whatever we ran into up there weakened the hull so badly that when we hit, the whole thing just collapsed. Estimated zero survivors. If you were unlucky enough to be forward of mid-ship on the lower deck, you've been dead for twenty minutes."

"Good God...that means all the prisoners, gone?"

"That's right, sir, unless the computer is wrong."

"Shhhit," Sullivan cursed. "Fuck!" he almost screamed. "Lampert, radio the prison tower and alert them that their cons have all died and gone to hell, and that we're in a situation FUBAR here."

"Well, that's the problem, sir."


"The tower's not responding. I've tried six times, not a single reply."

"Maybe the crash screwed our communications?"

"No, that ain't it. I tried three times alone before we even crashed, twice before the shakes began."

"God fucking dammit...just get down here with Davidson, and we'll figure out what to do next."

"Okay, we'll be right down, sir."

With that, the radio clicked off.

"Avatar, Private Moeller, get the hell down to the engine room. Try to find Schmid, and see what the situation is down there," Sullivan ordered. Immediately, the two marines dashed from the room towards the back of the ship.


One deck lower, and much further aft, Kurt Schmid stumbled to his feet, feeling the salty taste of warm blood in his mouth. He'd fallen whenever the third set of shakes had occured, but hadn't been knocked out.

Once on his feet, Schmid decided to forget the engine room and head straight to the captain, where he could find out what the hell had just happened. The emergency lighting was on, so he'd have no trouble finding his way. Thank God the auxiliary generator was still working.

Suddenly, his thought was interrupted by his feet becoming snagged on something heavy, and soft, and his elbow smacking into the hard metallic floor. He looked down to see he'd fallen over a body. It was breathing, so it wasn't dead, only knocked out. It had a bandage over the right side of its face, and so Schmid was able to recognize the body as that of the guard he'd run into only what...twenty minutes ago? Had only that short of a time passed? It seemed like a lot longer.

Schmid decided that he couldn't just leave the guard there, so he picked him up and began to carry him towards the passenger area, where everyone else was...

"Hey, Kurt!"

He spun around to see Privates Avatar and Moeller standing at the other end of the corridor.

"Hey!" Schmid shouted back, and hurried up the passageway as fast as he could while carrying the weight of an unconscious man. He arrived at the end where Avatar and Thomas Moeller were after a few seconds of uncomfortable half-running, due to the bulk of the guard.

"Hey, guys. What's the deal?"

"We crashed," Moeller explained.


"On Io."

"How'd that happen?"

"That's what we're going to find out. You haven't been in the engine room recently, have you?"

"No, why?"

"Because that's where some of the most severe damage happened."

"Jesus, I'm glad I didn't make it in there," said Schmid with a shocked look on his face.

"Anyway, the entire forward lower section of the ship was destroyed, so you're gonna have to take the aft stairwell to get up to the passenger section, if that's where you're headed."

"All right, thanks," Schmid said, and was about to head off, but was stopped by Avatar.

"Hey Kurt, who's the poor bugger you're carrying there?" the experienced soldier asked.

"Just a guard who was knocked out. I figured I couldn't just leave him there."

"Okay, see you up there," Moeller said impatiently, as they set off in different directions, Schmid towards the aft stairway that would take him up to the rest of the troops, and the captain, and Avatar and Moeller towards the engine room to find out what the hell had caused their ship to crash so suddenly and violently.


Avatar checked the readings on the panel next to the engine room door to see if the air pressure and oxygen levels were healthy, before pushing the door open.

The engine room was a mess. Things lay scattered everywhere, including pieces of Schmid's console. The four engines that flank the central aisle of the room were dented and dinged all over, and the two rear ones were completely broken.

But that was nothing compared to the rear wall. An entire chunk of it had been ripped out.

"Jesus," Moeller whispered. Avatar moved forward to examine the giant hole stretching across nearly the entire wall.

"What caused it?" Moeller asked.

"It's too circular to be caused from something natural hitting it. This looks to me like a space mine."

"Why the hell did the UAC put mines around Io and not tell us?"

"You got me, unless--" Avatar stopped, as he peered outside the hole. It was raining.

"Unless? Unless what? Hey, Avatar, what is it?" Avatar vaguely heard Moeller move across the room and stand behind him.

"There's rain. It's raining," the awestruck private managed to say.

"So, so what if it's raining?"

Avatar yanked himself out of his trance to turn and face Moeller.

"Look, Io is a lifeless rock without oxygen, right?"


"Water requires oxygen. This means there's oxygen, somehow. I should've figured something was up when the oxygen level read normal, especially since I knew there'd been a hull breach..."

Avatar turned to examine the outside again, and noticed something else. He stepped from the hole, and stooped down. There was grass growing. How was this possible?

The bewildered private picked a blade of it, stood up, and turned around to tell Moeller, but stopped when he saw the entire back of the ship. Jesus Christ, what had happened?

"Thomas!" he shouted. "Get the captain. He's got to see this." Meanwhile, the rain slowly drizzled to a stop.

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Johnston, who'd by then arrived in the passenger area, bloody bandage and all, was the first one to leap out the boarding hatch when Moeller had burst up from downstairs shouting for Sullivan to get outside to the back of the ship. He leapt the six feet to the ground, not even waiting to get the boarding ladder down, and sprinted towards the back of the ship.

He had already been there for a few seconds, and was able to survey what the shocked Avatar had seen, when the others came running around the end of the ship.

Sullivan stopped dead on his tracks when he saw the rear end of the Madison. It was almost completely blackened. There were three large holes in it, including the one in the engine room. The other two had decimated the four fuel tanks, which explained Davidson's earlier report of a sudden drastic drop in fuel levels.

"Jesus," Sullivan breathed. "What the hell did this?"

"There's more," Avatar said, re-capturing the attention of his fellow marines. "Look," he said, gesturing out past the burnt out end of the ship. There were trees, dotting the landscape. Several gasps of amazement and awe-filled murmurs could be heard from among the group of twenty-one marines.

"There's grass, too," Avatar added. Suddenly, a loud clap of thunder boomed across the plains, and it began to rain again. The cool rain felt very refreshing to all of the troops who'd been cooped up inside a ship for the last twenty-four hours.

"What happened to the worst shithole in the universe?" Sullivan asked Klem, who was standing beside him.

"They must have the atmosphere processors up," Klem said in awe, still staring out across the green landscape.

"Atmosphere processors?" Sullivan queried, puzzled.

"Yeah...The UAC was talking about setting these giant complexes up around their facilities on foreign planets to create an entire atmosphere, with breathable oxygen, weather, and everything."

"Well, it sure as hell appears they've accomplished it," Sullivan remarked, but no one was listening, not even himself. They were all too busy gawking at the marvels that the Union Aerospace Corporation had managed to create on the once hostile, desolate moon of Io.


On the way back, Sullivan fell back to talk to Avatar.

"Any word from Schmid?" the captain asked.

"Yeah, me and Thomas ran into him. He was heading up to the passenger area with an unconscious guard, or something."

They continued walking back to the ship, Sullivan relieved that their engineer was okay.


Schmid was waiting for them when they got back, standing over his knocked out guard.

"Where the hell'd you guys go?"

"Who's that?" Sullivan asked.

"It's a guard. He was unconscious, so I thought I'd bring him up here."

"Great, now all we need is to find the prison facility, so we can get this guy and Johnston some help."

"I'm fine," Johnston said quietly but stubbornly, even though his forehead was still throbbing like crazy, and the large splotch of blood on the bandage was slowly growing.

"Lampert, get on the scanners and try to pick up the facility."

"I can't, the communications are shot."

"Then get up to the tower and find it manually!" Sullivan barked, getting irritated.

"Yes sir," the big Texan drawled, then jogged off to the viewing tower, which was just above the cockpit, where a person could see clearly for miles using the latest in telescopic technology.

"Good God, how did this go so wrong?" Sullivan asked to no one in particular as he watched Lampert's retreating back.


1445 hours

About one hour and fifteen minutes after the ship had crashed, Lampert reappeared in the crew area.

"I got it. It's about almost three miles to the east."

"Excellent," Sullivan said. Finally, they were going to reach some form of civilization. There had been no survivors apart from the marines and the still-unconscious guard. Most of the dead were the twenty-five...well, twenty-four prisoners, but Michael Rapp was assumed to be among the dead, and although Lieutenant Johnston was sure he'd seen that guard's face somewhere before, he kept quiet about it.

"Okay, some of you get together and bring all of the weapons and ammo up from the rear cargo hold. Someone else, find a stretcher for this guy," Sullivan ordered, indicating with his thumb the prostrate form of the 'guard'. "Let's move!" Sullivan shouted, clapping his hands together once.


About an hour later, the group arrived at a low-lying building protruding from a grove of trees that extended back and looked like it became a forest.

Johnston arrived at the building's door first, and pressed the buzzer to the right of it. He tried it every thirty seconds or so, and after about five tries, there was still no answer, so he tried to open the door and found that it was unlocked.

He opened it and stepped inside a darkened hallway. He flicked a light switch to the left, which bathed the corridor in bright florescent light, but he still found it eerily silent.

"Hello?" the lieutenant called into the hallway that seemed to stretch forever. Only his echo answered. He didn't like it one bit, so he un-holstered his pistol, and proceeded carefully.

Immediately to the left was a reception area, completely devoid of life. Nothing moved at all. The marines put their equipment in the small foyer in the reception area, and slowly, they stalked down the hallway, checking all of the doorways cautiously.

On the right, just past the reception area, was a mess hall. The other rooms proved that the marines' luck had finally changed. Everything on both sides of the hall beyond that were medical offices and examining rooms, proving this building to be the infirmary. So it looked like they would have food and medical supplies, but everything was completely empty, and deathly silent.

Finally, they reached the end of the hallway, and the entire complex seemed to be clear. At the end was a large door with a sign above it:


"You want us to check out the prison?" Avatar asked.

"No," Sullivan answered. "Let's re-group and figure out what we're gonna do, first."


All of the equipment was moved from the foyer to the mess hall, and set on tables, and a few of the men went to work sorting it.

"What should we do with him?" Corporal Denis Moeller asked, indicating with his thumb the form of Rapp's body lying prone on the stretcher which had been left on the only remaining table that wasn't covered in various weapons, equipment, and ammunition.

"Let's go check him out," answered Johnston quickly, who was still suspicious of that bandage-covered face, while Sullivan was busy overseeing the sorting of the equipment. Johnston and Moeller picked up the stretcher and began moving it into an examining room immediately across the hall from the cafeteria mess. Avatar followed, and Corporal Bates tagged along, too.

The examining room was set up with a small bar-type partition right in front of the door, with a computer console on it. Beyond that was the medical bed and other equipment needed for medical operations.

Moeller and Johnston carried the stretcher in, and pushed the guard--Rapp--off it onto the bed. "First," Moeller said, after finding a first-aid kit and pulling on a pair of latex gloves, "Let's see what's under this guy's bandage..."

He began to peel the bandage away carefully, so he wouldn't harm the unconscious guard by pulling skin away with the bandage. Underneath was a large scar, that had somehow been re-opened in the crash.

"Jesus!" Johnston yelled in shock. The other three looked up at him after the sudden outburst.

"What?" Avatar asked.

"This guy's not a guard," Johnston explained. "He's a criminal. Michael Rapp, he's done some really awful stuff, he was a lifer on board the ship."

"How'd he get the guard's uni on?" Moeller asked, puzzled.

"You tell me, but this guy's dangerous. Get your guns ready, just in case he wakes up suddenly and doesn't like the situation he's in."

"Okay, but we still oughta seal this guy up, right, Lieutenant?" Avatar asked, pulling his sidearm out of its holster and holding it loosely at his side, his index finger outside of the trigger guard.

"Yeah, I guess we should," Johnston answered, and nodded at Moeller, who went to work with a sterilized needle, and stitches found in the same first-aid kit as the gloves. As soon as Moeller pierced Rapp's skin with the needle, and began to gently sew the convict's scar back together, Bates piped up.

"Hey, how do you know how to do that?" the inferior corporal asked. Moeller stopped, and looked up, with an expression of annoyance on his face.

"Simple first-aid is part of basic training," Moeller answered coldly, like Bates was a small child who had to be taught common knowledge over and over before he got it. "But of course, your daddy got you in without basic," Moeller continued coldly. Avatar laughed, and even Johnston couldn't help chuckling a little bit. Bates remained silent after that.

As Moeller neared the end of the operation, Rapp began to stir. "He's waking up," Moeller cautioned.

"Guns at the ready," Johnston ordered, pointing his handgun at Rapp's body. Avatar and Bates followed suit, although Bates barely managed to hold his up without shaking.

"Done!" Moeller announced, and began to peel off the latex gloves. Suddenly, Rapp's eyelids fluttered open, and in a split-second, a muscular hand had clenched itself over Moeller's neck before the corporal could react.

It was fortunate that Johnston and Avatar (and Bates, too) had the foresight to have their guns at the ready.

"Let go, or your head explodes," Johnston threatened. Rapp, whose eyes were now wide open, stared determinedly at the lieutenant, while Moeller struggled to remove the meaty hand from his throat as he began to black out from lack of oxygen.

"I mean it!" Johnston said sharply. "You have three seconds before I shoot you, okay? One...two..." Rapp didn't move. Moeller's struggling began to weaken as his lungs burned for oxygen, and slowly, consciousness began to leave him.


As soon as Johnston said three, his finger tightened around the trigger, but Rapp had already let go. Moeller leaned against the partition with the console, gasping for breath.

"Get up," Johnston ordered, and Rapp, still wearing the guard's clothing, complied with his orders immediately, and swung his legs to the floor.

"Walk," Johnston said, pressed the barrel of the gun into Rapp's back, and began prodding him out of the room, across the hall, and into the mess hall. As soon as he entered, Sullivan, who had been watching the equipment-sorting, which was almost finished, turned around.

Sullivan opened his mouth to say something, but stopped when he noticed the guard was now awake, and had a large scar on his face.

"Hey, aren't you the guy that blew up the U.N. meeting two years ago?" Sullivan asked in amazement, with his mouth still open. Rapp only nodded curtly, and showed no signs of any facial expression at all, except for a constant glower that stretched his newly stitched scar and exaggerated it even more than usual.

"He's dangerous, watch him," Sullivan ordered Johnston.

"I know, sir," Johnston answered with a slight smile, which he flashed at Rapp, but the prisoner didn't respond with one of his own. Corporal Orin Flaherty ran up to Sullivan and informed him that the sorting was finished.

"Very good," Sullivan said. "What've we got?"

Flaherty led Sullivan over to two of the tables, where the equipment was gathered. The others followed, even Rapp, after Johnston waved him to go ahead with his gun. Johnston kept a close eye on the criminal.

"We've got three motion trackers, one each for Shaw, Reuter, and Avatar," Flaherty began, sweeping his arm across the three small scanners that attatched to one's wrist and told them when it picked up non-friendly movement, and from what direction it was coming.

"Six shotguns with about twenty rounds each, a chaingun with fifty rounds, Reggie's rocket launcher," Flaherty continued, indicating a large black tube lying on the table.

"Amen," said the huge black private, Reggie Barker with a smile.

"Twenty handguns, with thirty rounds each, Klem's laptop, Badorek's sniper rifle, and Dario's dual Gatling gun, with two hundred rounds, in two belts," Flaherty finished.

"All right," the tall Italian remarked with a large grin, picking up the gun and beginning to attatch it to his shoulders. Johnston noticed Rapp eyeing the weapons with interest.

"You ain't getting one, so don't even think about it," Johnston told him quietly. Rapp responded with a slight, wry smile.

"That's all?" Sullivan asked.

"Yep," Flaherty answered.

"Okay, everyone gets a spare handgun, shotguns go in order by rank. This means Johnston, Nielsen, Mustaine, Helmberger, and Sargent, and Corporal Flaherty will get them. Corporal Moeller gets the chaingun."

"What about you, sir?" Flaherty asked. Good ol' Orin, he knew that as a corporal, he shouldn't be getting one, especially at the expense of higher-ranking officers.

"Don't worry about it, corporal," Sullivan replied. "I won't be needing one."


After the weapons and ammo had been dished out, Sullivan decided to continue on into the prison itself.

The twenty-three men shuffled down the long infirmary hall, with Johnston keeping a constant eye on Rapp. The big prisoner knew that as soon as he made a sudden move, even if it was just to scratch his nose, Johnston would shoot him in the head, and his plan of escape would be crushed just like his skull.

All he had to do was play it safe and wait. The marines only knew as much as he did, and that was nothing at all except that they were all stranded together on Io whether they liked it or not. Rapp knew he'd get his chance to escape. He just had to wait.

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I know you said this is a revision of yer story, but it's news to me. Love it. Love it. Who woulda thought you could terraform Io.

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ravage said:

I know you said this is a revision of yer story, but it's news to me. Love it. Love it. Who woulda thought you could terraform Io.

The UAC, apparently ^_^

And yes, I realize is a molten slag heap with volcanoes and all that fun stuff, but having it be just a desolate rock fits my story better, so screw all of you.

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Archvile46 said:

The UAC, apparently ^_^

And yes, I realize is a molten slag heap with volcanoes and all that fun stuff, but having it be just a desolate rock fits my story better

Indeed, its your story what ever you see fit, go ahead, I like it the way you have it.

so screw all of you.

..No thanks, I'll pass...

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Archvile46 said:

...so screw all of you.

Nope, sorry. Only with teh gurls thankyouverymuch. ;)

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