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Martian Marines

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I really want to know what everyone thinks. Good, bad, ugly, illogical, different? Let me know. Please :-) I will post a synopsis very soon.

CHAPTER 1: THE MISSION

“Three hundred years in the future humans have taken up residence of the planet Mars. After initial colonization, thousands of scientists and personnel have taken residence on the red planet to perform research and mine.”

“Far beneath of the surface of the tiny planet is a subterranean research facility that discovered alien life that had been long dead. Since the amazing find a year ago the lab has been buzzing with activity that is until the attack. From tunnels beneath of the research lab came a creatures that has never before been seen by mankind.”

“Security cameras have recorded that subterranean organisms from Mars have taken all of the researchers and staff. Those that were left alive at least; we know these organisms to be extremely hostile and they have killed the majority of workers inside the labs.”

“There has been an hour of inactivity in the research facility and we need to send a squad down there to collect data research and artifacts. After the data and artifacts are secured, the laboratory will be detonated by high powered explosives to seal off the area to prevent another attack from the organisms,” said the captain as he looked over his squad of seven marines.

“Why don’t you call them aliens?” asked one of the marines. On the chest of his green body armor there was an A painted in white paint. “We do not call them aliens, because these organisms have been researched by a team,” replied the captain as he smoked his cigar.

The seven marines stood at attention. All of the marines including the captain wore dark green body armor and held their helmets at their side. Each of the body armors had something painted on the chest to signify whose armor it belonged to.

“We will rendezvous with a researcher that would have been down there dead like the rest of them,” said the captain, “But he was on the surface to greet the viceroy and present his findings in order to get more funding.” The marine with the painted A then spoke up, “Luckiest guy on this red rock dirt planet right captain?”

The captain’s only response was, “Shut up Austin. I’m not paid to listen to your mouth going off every three seconds. It’s like a child.” From the silence came a muttered comment, “We’re the unlucky ones.”

“Ah and I hear the squeak of a mouse,” spoke the captain in a bold voice. Before he asked “Do you want to say it loud enough so the rest of us can hear you Sam?” The marine next to her with a white viper painted across the chest of his armor spoke for Sam, “Sam said we’re lucky to go to the frontlines; to get the action Sir!”

The captain exclaimed, “Now that’s what I like to hear from my man Viper!” “What do these organisms look like? So I know what I’m shooting at,” asked a marine with a dark black insignia on his chest. “I was just getting to that,” said the captain with a small round disc in his hand. He held it up so all could see and then walked over to the computer console of the command center they stood in.

On the monitor appeared selected footage of the attack. At first it was merely a chaotic scene of dark brown creatures dragging staff members away, but then the seven marines and their captain witnessed the first kill. One of the creatures used its razor sharp claws to claw down the face of a researcher. There was so much blood flowing that it spattered on the lens of the security camera and turned it red.

The creature then proceeded to devour the man as he still lived. The screams were unsettling, and after he was dragged away from the view of the security camera. Sam spoke up once the screams from the video stopped. Sam asked, “How many were stationed at that research facility?” “Near one hundred,” replied the captain.

With the press of a button, the captain turned off the video and told his marines, “The rest of the footage is just more carnage.” “Can you let us see the rest of the video?” asked the marine with the large black spot painted on his armor.

“We don’t have time for that,” said the captain, before he spoke again, “I am sure that you all can see what the intensions of these life forms are. I am also sure that you will do whatever it takes to see to it this mission is complete and the marine to your left and the marine to your right all come home in one piece.”

He then began to pace in front of his marines and said with a puff of smoke from his cigar, “This is not a mission of peace, this is not a recon mission, if you see one of those organisms, shoot it in the head to make sure it is dead!” He then barked, “Is that clear marines?”

All seven of them screamed out, “Yes Sir!” After which the captain walked to the marine in first in the line. The first in line was a marine of Japanese descent. On the right breast of his armor was a small white upside down U with squiggly lines filling it in. The U also had a pair of uncolored eyes to go with it. “Ghost,” said the captain, “You’ve survived more lives than a cat.”

The captain then walked to the next marine. This is the marine that had the word ‘Sam’ painted in white on the helmet. “Sam,” said the captain, before he added, “Your voice squeaks like a mouse, but man you roar like a lion in battle. If it comes down to it, let me hear that gun or yours roar!”

The next marine to be spoken to be the one with a large black spot painted on the chest of his armor. “Reaper,” said the captain, “Every squad has a reaper and this squad is happy to have you protecting us with that sniper rifle of yours.” The captain then reached to his side and grabbed something. He then presented a pair of sunglasses to Reaper and said, “You’ll need these back and even though I still don’t understand why you need them miles below the surface of mars.” Reaper said, “Thank you, Sir,” in his gravely voice as he grabbed the sunglasses.

With another step, the captain walked to the shortest marine, and said, “Manny.” “Yes Sir,” asked the Hispanic marine. “You haven’t been with the squad long.” Manny then answered, “No Sir, this is the first time I’ve served with any of you.” “If you survive down here boy, I’m sure you’ll make it to sergeant.” Manny stood at attention and added, “Yes Sir. Thank you.” After the captain took another step past Manny, he looked back at him and added, “See to it you these grunts give you a better nickname.”

“Which brings me to Viper,” said the captain, before he added, “Let them feel your strike!” The captain then took the bottom of his fist and bashed it into the snake logo on the chest of the marine. The comment of, “Lamely put Captain,” came from the mouth of Viper.

Afterward, came, “Austin!” yelled the captain, before he added with a smile. “How on Mars did you make it this far I will never know?” After a brief pause, the captain told him, “If someone has to die, I hope it will be you to get you out of my sight.” The blonde Austin asked, “Is that an order Sir?” There was a pause from the captain before he said, “No. If any of these marines let you die, they wouldn’t be doing your job, and because we’ve always survived together, that means you’ve been doing your job too Austin.” “Thank you,” retorted the blonde marine with the A painted on his chest.

The captain moved his head to look at the last marine. “And you Chubbs,” said the captain, “Yes Sir?” asked the husky marine, only to hear the captain reply, “You’ve got weapons.”

With the swift move of his arm, the captain put the cigar in his mouth and barked out, “You’ll all go to Chubbs, who will divvy out weapons and as always, Chubbs gets the heavy artillery!”

The captain looked over his seven troops and told them, “Once you get geared up, meet me in the next room and we’ll get a move on to meet Dr. Gerick and his escort.” After that was said, the captain left the room, only to have Sam utter to Reaper, “Is it me or did captain say that like we’re going to die.”

With only the shift of his eyes, Reaper looked to Sam and told her, “On each mission it is best to expect death.. It is better to know death is present in order to do what it takes to stay alive.”

“Cryptic and creepy as always,” said Sam as she walked out of the line to get a weapon. Reaper put on his black shades, and instantly gained a smile as he watched Sam walk away. Manny said in his accented voice as he looked at Reaper, “Man you smell like death even!” He then held his nose and told Reaper, “That’s one killer cologne you have on!”

The cold Reaper then breathed out as he spoke the words, “Its garlic.” “Captain said we’re not hunting vampires,” retorted Manny, before he continued, “We’re hunting subterranean aliens.”

Manny then got behind Sam and said with a smile, “They probably want to steal our women and breed! You saw those things! Just imagine what their females look like! I’d rather breed with a hot blonde woman than one of those things.”

“Hey I like this new guy!” said Austin with a smile and slightly squinted eyes only to hear Chubbs tell the two of them, “Shut up and get your weapons.”

With that said Chubbs gestured to Austin, and then pointed down to a weapon and told him, “You get the standard issue shot gun.” “As usual,” said Austin, after which, Chubbs pointed to Manny and told him, “You too.” Chubbs began to hand out the weapons to the marines as he barked out, “Let’s get a move on!”

Sam checked the barrel of a machine gun and then loaded it. “Listen to Chubbs,” said Sam, before Austin added, “Yeah, because he’s the man with the weapons.” Manny then looked down to the side of Ghost, “Is that a sword?”

Instead of an answer, Ghost merely glared at Manny and clutched the handle of his sword. “Why do you have a sword?” asked the rookie Manny. Sam was the one to answer though, “He has a sword because it is better than your fists for close encounters.”

The rookie continued to eye up the sheath of the sword as he uttered, “That is a piece of art! You don’t want to bring that into battle.” “Manny,” said Chubbs, to hear Manny ask, “Yeah?” “Learn from Ghost and don’t speak,” said Chubbs.

However, Manny didn’t listen as he asked, “What? He does not talk?” Ghost continued to load his shotgun with shells when Sam answered, “He has taken a vow of silence for his religion and the marines must respect his religion unless it interferes in the line of duty.”

“And since he is not a commander, he doesn’t need to speak,” said Chubbs before he continued, “And neither do you.” “See that sword with him?” asked Austin as he gestured down to the side of Ghost. “That’s another part of his religion,” continued Austin. Manny’s face was blown away, as Sam explained further, “They let him keep it, because of that.” “Yeah, but I think he just says that sword craft is part of his religion to keep the sword at his side,” said Austin, before he added, “Hey I can’t blame him! But a gun does a lot more than a sword in a long distance frag fest.”

“He’s our ghost,” said Sam, and explained, “He doesn’t speak, and he can kill without the sound of a gun blast.” “Don’t mess with him either,” said Austin, before he added, “He’s got a bad attitude!” With that Ghost scowled to Austin and then raised his middle finger to Austin’s face. With his middle finger up, Ghost gave a brief smirk, before he put his finger down.

After that was said, the door of the command center swung open at the hands of the cigar smoking captain. “Well ladies are you ready for the dance?” asked the captain as he held the cigar in his hand.

“Ready Sir,” said Chubbs, before he added, “We were just getting the rookie ready for life in the squad.” “Lets let him live a day, before you all go getting attached to him!” barked the captain, and he then commanded, “Now come on!” He looked at his watch and told the marines, “We need to get out of here to make it to the date on time.”

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CHAPTER 2: RENDEZVOUS

After an hour of travel, Manny asked, “How far until we reach the Rendezvous point captain?” “Not far,” said the captain, who then elaborated, “Just a few more floors.” The marines continued to go down the metal staircase, as the captain put his flashlight to a number on the wall.

“We’re on sub level twenty,” said the captain, before Chubbs added, “We’re headed to sub level twenty-three.” Austin interjected with a comment, “We wouldn’t have to hurry so much if security did not quarantine all elevator usage.” After that Austin used his flashlight to shine it down the center of the dark stairwell.

The stairwell was dark, but had emergency lighting on the floor of each step so the marines could see where they were going. Each of the eight marines had a dual lens light attached to their right wrist. Everyone with a shotgun had their light attached to the end of a shotgun.

After another level, Sam asked, “Do we know the creatures are still quarantined?” “Stop being pessimistic,” ordered the captain, “All the security cameras note that the organisms vacated the laboratory.” He then added, “Besides that, they tunneled up through the basement of this facility; which is still another ten levels below us.”

All eight marines continued to hustle down the steps to sub level twenty-three. The captain flashed his light on the door with the number twenty-three on it. “Here we are,” said the captain, before he added, “Now everybody get loaded, we don’t know if our rendezvous has been compromised.”

After that was said, the marines got to the side of the door; four marines on the left side of the door, and four on the right side. “Austin, get us in this door.” There was immediate compliance, as Austin slid a blue key card into a panel next to the door. He followed that with a quick three key combination.

The door slid open to the ceiling, as the captain said, “Good deal.” He then peaked his head into the open door and quickly back out. With the gesture of his head, the marines filed in two by two until they were all through the door. After a moment inside, one by one they said, “Clear,” as they checked the area.

The cafeteria was brightly lit to the point it was excessive, so the captain commanded, “Lights off everyone!” One by one they turned off their wrist lights and shot gun lights.

“Cafeteria?” read Reaper from a sign on the wall. “Even you need to eat don’t you?” asked Austin. The area was well lit, with silver and metal tables, chairs and walls. “We’re here,” said Chubbs, and Sam added, “Now where is the doctor?”

“Reaper, Ghost and Viper; Check the kitchen,” ordered the commander. Still with his shades on, Reaper moved across the cafeteria and kept his gun pointed at the door to the kitchen. Ghost and Viper swiftly followed behind Reaper and kept their guns pointed at the door as well.

Next to the kitchen door was a sliding metal door that was closed. The door rested on a long counter top, because it was used daily to serve everyone that wanted food in the cafeteria.

Just as they reached the door to the kitchen, there was a clang from within. The three men at the door took a different poise. Reaper displayed a punching motion and then held up three fingers. He lowered one finger, making two, and then lowered the next finger making one.

When Reaper was about to lower his last finger, the door swung open toward the three marines! From within was a man in a white lab coat with a plate of food. The three marines were startled and put their guns in the face of the man! With a scream, Reaper yelled, “Who the hell are you?”

The man in the white lab coat dropped his plate and shattered it on the shiny metallic floor below. Without warning, the metal door next to the kitchen door quickly rolled up to reveal a man with a shot gun.

Reaper kept his gun pointed at the man’s head while Ghost and Viper pointed their shotguns at the man behind the counter in the kitchen. The man with the shotgun uttered, “Whoa. Whoa here guys.” The man with the shotgun lowered his weapon and said, “He’s Dr. Gerick.”

“And who are you?” hissed Viper, only to hear, “I’m his escort, John Mason.” Mason also wore the same dark green armor that they all wore. Only his had a white M painted on the chest. Reaper, Ghost and Viper each lowered their guns, as Chubbs made his way up to all of them at the kitchen.

Chubbs then spoke out, “Johnny isn’t just the escort of Dr. Gerick is he?” Reaper was quick to ask, “What do you mean Chubbs?” “He’s also my little brother, assigned to this planet, because Earth wouldn’t take him,” said Chubbs.

From across the room Austin uttered, “Earth would take me, but I had questionable relations with the general’s daughter.” From behind Austin, Manny wondered, “Really?” “Sixteen year old daughter,” retorted the captain. “That’s not legal, not even in space,” said Sam.

The captain yelled to Chubbs, “Do we have a problem up there?” Chubbs turned his head and yelled back to the captain, “Nothing we can’t handle captain!” With the mere turn of his head, Chubbs looked back to the doctor who told the group, “We were early, so we took time for lunch.”

Behind the group, the captain could be heard as he told the second group, “Stay here. Keep a look out at that door in the stairwell.” “Yes Sir,” said Sam as the captain began to walk to the other group.

With the arrival of the captain, Johnny told the three men that held up their guns pointed at him “Tell them they’re at ease and I can live past today huh?” “Not my call,” said Chubbs. “Put down your guns,” said the captain, and all three marines complied and took a more relaxed poise.

“So tell me doctor,” called out the captain, “What can you tell us about these organisms?” Dr. Gerick squatted down to his knees and picked up the pieces of plate that had broken. “These creatures are indigenous to this planet and live underground as you have very well seen from the surveillance footage,” said the doctor.

Dr. Gerick then continued, “The fossils we have found have led us to believe that they are a vicious subterranean predator. Equipped with long claws for digging and teeth for well. You’ve seen the footage. You know what they use them for.” “Is there anything else you can tell us that might be of some use to us?” asked the commander.

“Just shoot them in the head I suppose,” he laughed to himself. “There is one thing,” the doctor added, “Those helmets you’re carrying with you.” “Yeah?” wondered the captain, “When we get down to sub level thirty, you will need to put them on, because we will all need oxygen.”

“What do you mean we?” asked Reaper, before he wondered, “You’re not coming with us are you?” “No he’s not,” said the escort, just as Dr. Gerick said, “Yes I am.” Johnny put his shotgun down onto the counter top, and told Dr. Gerick, “We’re not going down there.” “I am the only one that has the pass codes to get into the database and retrieve the information,” said the doctor as he pushed the glasses up his nose.

“And I am in charge of your safety,” reiterated Johnny, “There is no way I am taking you to a lab where a hundred people just died.” From the background, Sam called out, “They’re not dead!” Everyone in the group turned to look at Sam, who then shied away from their vision. “They’re not all dead,” muttered Sam with everyone watching.

Everyone in the group turned back to the doctor and his escort. Chubbs spoke up and said, “Look doc, give us the codes, we’ll get the information and detonate the lab before anything else can happen.” “No, I cannot just do that,” said the doctor, who then elaborated, “My friends, my colleagues, my wife.” There was a brief hesitation, before the doctor continued, “They’re all dead or missing. I should have been down there too with them. Now I need to go down there!”

“Besides that,” said Dr. Gerick, “Mason and I have been hearing strange things.” “Strange things?” wondered Reaper with gravel in his throat. Johnny confirmed, “Yeah, Gerick and I have been hearing these voices from down there.” “What kind of things?” the captain asked. “Survivors?” he wondered.

“Not survivors,” said Mason, before he looked to his brother Chubbs. “We can’t make out what they’re saying. Its more like moans,” added Mason. There was an intermittent pause as Mason gripped the counter top and told them, “We’ve checked the live surveillance feeds.” “And?” asked Viper. “And there’s nothing moving down there,” said Mason. The doctor took that comment to heart and he yelled, “They’re dead! How can they be moaning?”

“There’s a survivor, that’s why,” said the captain with a bold statement. “No!” exclaimed Dr. Gerick, before he elaborated, “No one could survive down there.” “The human body is resilient,” said Viper in his deep soothing voice, “There has to be a survivor, at least one.”

The doctor spoke up again, and told them, “There are no survivors because there is no air down there anymore. With quarantine procedure, the shafts that circulate oxygen down there shut off. They all would have died an hour ago.” That thought settled on all of the faces of everyone listening, before Dr. Gerick took a scowl on his face and told them, “The fires in the lab have extinguished, because all of the oxygen is gone. That is why we will all need oxygen.”

With a loud voice, the captain called out, “If anyone didn’t hear the man, you’re all going to need your helmets on and oxygen active!” The captain then looked to the second group, and yelled, “Sam you’ve got to hide that ugly face of yours too! You hear me!” Sam gave a lackluster salute to acknowledge the captain. “You heard the captain,” said Austin with a comical smirk.

“So you’re going to willingly bring a civilian in there?” asked Mason, only to hear the captain tell him, “Yep that’s right.” Chubbs then jumped in with a comment, “And you are going to keep him safe. Got that?” “I got it,” said Mason, before he added, “But I need to call it in with my superior.”

The captain looked to both Chubbs and Dr. Gerick and told them, “Doc you’ll be okay. We’ll go in there, clear it out. You stay in the stairwell with your escort. When it’s safe, then you will come in and get the data.” The doctor nodded his head, and Chubbs told Dr. Gerick, “You’ll be safe. There’s nothing down there now.”

Viper spoke out, “But in twenty minutes there’s going to be an ass kicking kill squad down there.” He then put out his fist and Reaper knocked his fist into it. “Hell yeah,” said Reaper, “I want to see if those things bleed red.”

“You hear anything from your CO?” asked the captain only to hear Mason reply, “There’s nothing but silence. It doesn’t work.” Chubbs then brought out his own radio and said, “Let me try.” The captain yelled off to Austin, “Austin get on the horn with command. See if you can get through.” In the distance, Austin could be heard, “Yes Sir.”

With a radio near his mouth, Chubbs told the captain, “No dice captain. There’s no reception down here.” “Austin you get anything?” yelled the captain. After a moment of listening on his radio, Austin yelled back, “No Sir, not even static!”

The captain turned to the escort and asked, “What’s your name again?” Chubbs answered for him, “John Mason.” “I can answer for myself,” said Mason, before he looked to the captain and said, “Mason Sir.” “Well Mason, it’s a long way to the surface without that elevator working,” said the captain. “If you hot foot it to the top to tell command, you might make it back down here in ninety minutes.”

Mason didn’t look too happy at the thought of going to the surface, but the captain interrupted the thought, “Or you can stay with us and go down to sub level thirty.” Mason looked to his brother Chubbs, before he looked to the captain, “I’ll follow your orders captain.” “Good,” said the captain before he turned to the rest of his squad and called out, “Everyone! We have a new member of the squad temporarily.”

The captain looked to Mason and gestured to him with his hand, “Mason! Before any of you take a laugh or a smirk at that last name, just remember that he’s the little brother of Chubbs, which means that Chubbs has the same last name!” Manny uttered from afar, “Does that mean I’m not the new guy anymore?”

“How long you been out here as a Martian marine?” asked the captain. Mason answered, “One year Sir.” The captain then called out, “How long you been out here Manny?” “Six months,” yelled Manny from the center of the cafeteria. “Which still makes you the new guy by six months,” yelled the captain.

Viper then spoke to Dr. Gerick and said, “If you have any worries about your safety. Don’t.” He then bashed his left fist against his armor and told the doctor, “This armor cannot be pierced. It can be dented, dinged, but not destroyed.”

“Just stay behind us, and you’ll be fine,” said Viper with a conclusion. “There is a weak spot,” added Mason. “A chink in the armor?” asked Dr. Gerick. His question was answered by Chubbs, as Ghost took his finger and pointed it straight between his eyes. “Bullet straight through the visor will make a head explode still in the helmet,” explained Chubbs.

Reaper added with a smirk, “It’s not pretty to scoop out brain from a helmet with an ice cream scoop.” He then put on his helmet and added, “That’s why I wear the bulletproof sunglasses under my helmet.”

Mason then put his hands on the counter top and hopped over the counter to the side with all of the marines. He picked up his shot gun and said, “So when do we leave?” The captain looked to his marines and yelled out, “Marines we’re out of here in five seconds! This meat train is headed for sub level thirty and a station full of unholy creatures from the depths of mars!”

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CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH

The nine marines and Dr. Gerick quickly arrived at the landing of sub level thirty. The marines once again were filed along the door; five on the left of the door and the rest on the right side of it.

“Everyone put your helmets on,” commanded the captain. The few marines that did not have their green helmets on put them on and locked the seal to make their suits airtight. Dr. Gerick spoke up to the captain and told him, “There is emergency oxygen on the walls.” The captain looked to the doctor and retorted, “You’ll wait out here and we will bring you some when the area is clear.”

“Austin! Get us in there!” commanded the captain, and with the swipe of his blue key card and a simple code, the door began to slide up. With the slide of the door, the air from the stairwell began to flow into the research lab.

Two by two the marines poured into the laboratory, and left Mason and Dr. Gerick in the dark stairwell. Mason kept his wrist light pointed back up the shaft to make sure that they were not followed down.

After a brief moment in the darkness, a marine appeared from the door and came straight to Dr. Gerick. It was Chubbs, he gave the doctor an oxygen tank along with a face mask. “Here, put this on and you’ll be fine,” said Chubbs only to have his brother ask, “How is it in there?”

“Rookie is throwing up in there,” said Chubbs, before he added in discontent, “It’s pretty ugly in there marine.” From within the next room, the captain yelled, “Doc we need you in here!”

Before the doctor could act, Mason reached out and yanked on his collar and uttered, “I go first. Got that?” The doctor gave a nod and Mason entered the next room with his shotgun raised. Mason then told the doctor, “And put your mask and tank on.” With that command, Dr. Gerick threw the yellow oxygen tank on his back and put on the clear face mask.

After Mason checked that the area was safe, he called out, “It’s clear, you can come in now!” The first thing that Dr. Gerick saw when he entered the room was Manny crouched down on the floor over a pile of blood. Manny had his helmet off and Dr. Gerick rushed to his aide and asked, “Are you okay?”

“He’ll be fine,” stated the captain, before he added, “We just need your codes to get into the next room.” Austin walked by Dr. Gerick and muttered, “At least he got his helmet off before he threw up.”

Once everyone was in the room, the door slid back down and sealed shut once more. Dr. Gerrick looked around the room at the horror. He was stuck in his own little world until Austin touched his arm and asked, “Are you okay doc?” Dr. Gerick slowly turned his head and told Austin, “Keep that blue keycard. We’re going to need it to get out of here with this quarantine.”

Off in the corners of the room, Dr. Gerick noticed Sam checking the dead staff members. The staff was covered in blood, with huge lacerations all over their body. “These are dead,” called out Sam with a cold voice. Viper then walked over and pointed his shotgun down at the head of a dead receptionist. He uttered, “Dead, but still good enough to waste ammo on.” “Don’t you dare!” called out Sam from next to Viper.

“Sam and Viper!” yelled out the captain, “Sir?” asked Sam when Viper and Sam turned their helmets to face the captain. “Stop messing around and get over here,” yelled the captain who stood next to a large pile of rubble.

There were overturned desks, filing cabinets and bookshelves that barricaded a door. “If this is built up, then where did they get in?” wondered Austin, but he was quickly answered by Reaper, who pointed to the ceiling with his rifle, “That’s how. They popped through the ceiling.” “Which is precisely why quarantine procedure seals off the air shafts,” said Dr. Gerick.

The captain spoke out, “Sounds like someone knew this would happen, wouldn’t you say Chubbs.” “Sure sounds like it captain,” answered the husky marine as the other marines began to clear away the barricade in front of the door.

The clearing was directed though, when there were gasps heard from the center of the room. Everyone stopped what they were doing to look in the center of the waiting room to see Manny still crouched down.

There were gasps of air that came from his mouth, and the captain yelled out, “Put your damn helmet on.” He then commanded the others, “Back to work everybody!” The debris was moved by each of the marines, as Reaper watched the ceiling with his rifle.

Manny continued to gasp for air and choke up more blood, so Sam stopped moving the debris and went over to the rookie. Sam knelt down and took Manny’s helmet from off the floor. The visor of Sam’s helmet reflected that Manny’s face was turning white from choking.

Sam told Manny, “Here get your helmet on, so you can breathe again.” With that said, Manny took the helmet from Sam and put it on. His breathing became normal once his helmet sealed to the black neckline of his armor. The captain commented, “We’re all family down here! We look after each other and we’ll all be fine.” Chubbs and Mason looked to one another as the captain then yelled to Sam, “The UAC isn’t paying you to baby sit and wipe snot from the kid’s nose! Now get your ass over here and start clearing this stuff away.”

Manny slowly returned to his feet next to Reaper; however Reaper stayed focused on the hole in the ceiling. “I see something,” uttered Reaper from within his helmet. The rookie Manny looked up to see what Reaper saw.

After a second, an arm fell down out of the hole; a single arm that tumbled to the floor. Manny ripped off his helmet and threw up blood again. Reaper however was unphased, instead he kept his focus to the hole in the ceiling. He coldly uttered, “At least we know where the receptionist’s arm went to.”

The debris was quickly removed from the door, and Austin slid his blue keycard in the panel next to the door. “Doc what’s your code?” he asked, but instead of giving an answer, Dr. Gerick merely entered the code himself. After that, Gerick mentioned, “I don’t remember the numbers, I remember the motion of my fingers to enter the code.” “That’s reassuring,” said Austin without a smile.

With the door open, Manny put his helmet back on and the group moved into the next room only to discover more bodies. They were everywhere, the bodies were in pieces, and Viper was quite amused, “Hell of a party when you don’t call the police, but you call the mortician.” “That wasn’t funny in the slightest,” uttered Sam, but beneath of Viper’s helmet, he had a smile.

There were pools of blood everywhere, scratches on each of the walls, broken vials, and of course body parts. Dr. Gerick was horrified and began to cringe, but the captain wouldn’t let him. The captain told him, “You’re the one that wanted to be down here. You get that information from your computers.”

He then turned his head, the captain yelled, “Austin you help him collect the information!” With the whirl of his arm, he then said, “Viper, Ghost and Reaper, I want you guarding the three doors in this room. The rest of you I want to collect the artifacts and move them to the waiting room.”

“We should be down in that tunnel where the creatures came from,” pleaded Sam, only to hear the captain tell her, “We have our orders, recover information and artifacts, then blow this whole lab up to seal the tunnel.” “Those that were alive were carried off,” exclaimed Sam, “They are still alive!”

“Alive until eaten,” laughed Viper. The captain then took Sam aside and said, “Look Sam, not even the UAC wants to lose this place. The fact is, if this place isn’t sealed off, those things will get brave and come back up here. Maybe make it to the surface.”

He then continued, “There are colonies up there; almost one hundred thousand people are up there. Civilians, men, women and children, the loss of one hundred researchers is an acceptable loss.” The captain then looked to Dr. Gerick, “We’re sorry for your loss, but it’s not in vain doc. We have your information and research.” Sam stormed off, and said, “But I’m sure Dr. Gerick would rather have his wife back then his research.”

Dr. Gerick looked down to the computer and said, “If you don’t mind captain, I am going to see if the security monitors still work.” “Be my guest,” said the captain with a gesture down to the control monitor. “See if there is any activity in the other rooms of this level,” added the captain.

Sam turned around, and asked, “What if I just go alone?” “I’d shoot you in the leg so you couldn’t go,” retorted the captain, who then added, “Look you can’t go, because if a marine walks down those caverns, the hostiles might perceive that as a threat, then come up here after all of us.”

“Am I wrong to want to go down there?” asked Sam to the other marines and Viper answered, “I’d be down there with you doing a little extermination, but the UAC signs my checks, and they pay me to follow Captain’s orders.” “I wouldn’t go down there,” said Austin, but Sam quickly snapped, “And you won’t, because you’re a self centered jerk.”

“Keep the peace here,” said Manny, who then wondered, “Man do we really have to lug all of these up thirty flights of stairs?” Chubbs answered, “Didn’t you hear about the glory of the Martian marines?” “If I wanted to move furniture, I would have stayed on Earth in Little Havana, working with my brother Diego,” retorted Manny.

After that was said, Manny turned around and was shocked by an artifact in a glass case. He was so shocked, he put up his shotgun and screamed, “What is that?” Dr. Gerick looked over to Manny at the glass case, “This is the fossilized remains of one of them.”

Inside of the glass case was the twisted body of one of the subterranean creatures. Its arms were folded over, but its long claws were still extended. The creature’s mouth was open and its eyes were hollow.

“This is only the skeleton,” said Dr. Gerick. “Is this the only one?” asked Chubbs, and the doctor answered, “No, there were hundreds found. We keep them in a storage area for further testing.” “There are hundreds?” asked Chubbs. “Yes,” said the doctor, “We believe them to be spawned, because they have no reproductive system.”

Manny then asked, “We don’t have to move all of them do we?” “No,” said Dr. Gerick, “This one should be just fine to move, it is already in its case and I am sure there are hundreds of others underneath the surface of the planet.”

From behind them, Sam appeared and even under a helmet, everyone could tell Sam looked in awe at the creature. “Do you know what killed them?” The doctor looked at a computer screened and said, “This particular one died from several puncture wounds.”

“So it was stabbed?” asked Manny, but Chubbs jumped in with a comment, “They were shot.” “Yes, the information that we’ve found has indicated that the majority of the ones we found were shot,” said Dr. Gerick. “That tells me they have weapons,” uttered Chubbs, but Sam believed, “Not with those claws.” Sam still looked to the creature without any movement and stated, “There must be something else down there, another species.”

“We have believed that ourselves for the past year,” said the doctor as the marines behind him moved the artifacts out of the area. Austin continued to download data to discs, until he spoke out, “Did anyone just hear that?”

“Hear what?” asked Manny. “Quiet and listen,” said Austin. After a moment in silence, Viper called out from beside the door he guarded, “I heard it too.” Chubbs asked, “Is it coming from your door?” “No,” said Viper, before he said, “Whatever made that sound is coming from within here.”

There was hushed silence as all of the marines looked over the room. There were corpses strewn about everywhere, but there was no sound. That was until all ten of them looked across the room to a lab table.

A sound of glass scratching against the floor could be heard ever so lightly. From elsewhere in the room there was a ghastly moan that caused all ten of them to look to what had made the moan.

At the wall was a line up of corpses on the floor covered in blood. One of them was missing a head. From behind the lab table there was a scratching that could be heard and once again all ten people looked to the lab table.

A bloody hand came up from beyond the table and slammed onto the table! After that Viper looked anxious to dash to the hand, but instead the captain yelled out, “Viper you stay there. We all stay where we are!”

There was a ghastly moan from beyond the table and the hand slipped off of the table and back to unseen. The captain then ordered, “Alright. Viper, you go check it out!” With a swiftness that would be described as a viper strike, he moved across the laboratory to the table.

The rest of them watched as Viper pointed his gun to whomever was behind the table. Viper put away his weapon and reached out below the table as he said, “UAC, we’re going to help you! Are there any other survivors?”

There was however no response, so Viper asked, “Are you able to speak? Don’t get up!” Viper then turned to the rest of the marines and said, “He’s hurt badly, but still alive Captain!”

After that was said, a man rose from beyond the table and his body fell limp atop the table. Viper looked down at the man and Sam went to assist him. Once Sam arrived, the man raised his arms to the armor of Viper. There was a gasp of air from the mouth of the man, and then the captain ordered, “Get him some O2!”

Ghost saw a wall yellow wall unit that contained the oxygen tanks and masks. He broke open the cabinet with his elbow, reached in and pulled out a single yellow tank and mask.

Meanwhile, the man pulled himself up off the table as he used Viper’s armor to pull himself up. “Easy there big fella,” said Viper, as Sam shined the wrist lights in the eyes of the man.

The man then swung his arm at the wrist lights of Sam and tried to grab them. Viper then shoved the man away and opened fire with a single blast from his shotgun into the man’s chest.

Sam screamed at him, “What did you do that for you trigger happy gun nut?” The captain screamed out from across the lab, “We find a survivor and you shoot him in the chest!” From behind them Austin remarked, “You give a viper fangs and this is what happens.” Viper then screamed, “He wasn’t a survivor Captain!” as he kept his shotgun pointed down at the man. There was blood spattered everywhere on the front of both Viper and Sam.

The arms of Ghost dropped to show his dismay at the fact the man was just shot. “He’s right!” yelled Dr. Gerick, “No one without oxygen is a survivor.” “I saw a man moving with my own two eyes,” said the captain as he looked to the doctor, who then retorted, “Everyone in this room is dead.”

Austin then called out, “According to this computer there were only ten heat signatures in here. That body was cold as ice and dead captain.” “Is there any activity on those security monitors?” asked the captain and Austin took a brief look at the monitors and responded, “No Sir; Nothing.” There was a dead silence as they all looked over to the body of the man with a shotgun blast in his chest.

From one of the walls came a moan, and all nine of the marines raised their weapons in the direction of the sound. The moan had come from the pile of corpses that remained motionless; five corpses, one without a head.

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CHAPTER 4: REANIMATION

“Did anyone see any of them moan?” asked the captain, but silence was the only answer. After a moment of silence, the captain asked, “Are there still only ten heat signatures in this lab Austin?” “Sir there’s only ten heat signatures in this entire facility,” he answered as he looked across to the pile of corpses.

One of the corpses had a bent knee with its foot placed on the ground. After another moment of everyone watching, the foot of the corpse slid forward and its leg extended. The marines didn’t jump, but instead, Mason and Viper got closer to the group of corpses.

Chubbs uttered, “That doesn’t mean anything John. The leg slid, because of all the blood on the floor.” Viper uttered, “Dried blood isn’t slick.”

From elsewhere in the room, there was another moan that caught the attention of everyone. “The room is coming alive!” exclaimed Mason. Manny then asked, “Should we blast all corpses to make sure they’re dead Captain?”

“No!” ordered the captain, before he yelled to Viper, “We don’t want to shoot any survivors. Got that?” Austin slyly remarked, “How can we tell if they’re survivors when they move?”

The captain then gave the order, “Sam, you check all of them, make sure they’re not alive.” Sam swiftly ran across the room to check the pile of corpses. “I know this one’s dead,” said Sam with a gesture to the headless corpse. One by one Sam used a panel on the forearm of the panel to check the corpses.

Sam looked back to the marines and called out, “They’re all dead!” Four of the five corpses snapped up from their place of rest and wrapped their arms around Sam! Everyone raised their weapons, but the captain screamed out, “Don’t shoot; you’ll turn Sam into hamburger inside the suit!”

With an intense struggle, Sam fought back against the living corpses. Sam elbowed back at the corpses, to get a bit of space from them. Elbows that collided with their heads, until Sam reached for a side arm, then decked one of them with the green gauntlet of the armor. Sam followed up the punch by holding a foot against the throat of the corpse to pin it against the wall.

In a split second, there was time enough to see the eyes of the corpse were a vacant white. So Sam pulled the trigger and sent a single bullet that pierced the temple of the copse’s head.

The three other corpses piled on top of Sam, but Viper and Mason quickly acted and shot the corpses dead once more. There was a gratuitous spray of red blood from their shotgun blasts. After which Sam was helped up by both Mason and Viper.

Once Sam was up, the entire room began to moan from all over. Each dark corner, from behind each solid metal lab table came a vacant eyed corpse. Some corpses had deep lacerations through their clothes others had flesh bitten off of them.

“They’re everywhere!” called out Manny as he put up his shotgun at the head of the nearest corpse. Reaper asked, “Permission to open fire Captain.” “Let’s reassure ourselves these corpses are really dead,” said the Captain, before he continued, “Permission granted.”

In a hail of gunfire, each of the marines opened fire while Dr. Gerick covered his ears. There were body parts everywhere as the unarmed corpses were quickly annihilated!

Chubbs and Mason checked each one of the corpses with their guns to make sure they were dead. Sam asked, “How many were there?” “Two dozen,” answered Chubbs, who then added, “Give or take a few.”

The captain then ordered, “Doctor and Austin; I want all of that data downloaded now! Viper, Reaper and Ghost will stay and guard the doors. I want the rest of you to start moving the artifacts to the stairwell!” He then yelled out, “Double time now!”

As Austin and Dr. Gerick began to work, Austin wondered, “You’re a doctor; tell me why those corpses just moved.” The reply of, “In the past decade no one has ever died in the presence of Mars atmosphere.” “Please, plenty of people have died on this little red rock,” said Austin, but Gerick stopped him and said, “You’re not listening. Inside these facilities and in your oxygen tanks are Earth like atmosphere.”

“This lab is now being fed atmosphere from beneath the surface of Mars,” said the doctor before he concluded, “This is only a guess, but when the corpses are exposed to the atmosphere, they become reanimated.” Austin continued to download files as he added, “And we kill them a second time.”

The doctor elaborated, “Everything on Earth has been solved generations ago, and everything else in the universe is too far away to even wonder about right now. Everything on Mars is a new mystery that my wife and I came here to solve.” Viper then yelled out a comment of his own, “I’m here because everything is killable without a permit.”

As the doctor looked down into the security monitors he used little levers to control the position of the cameras. “What’s up doc?” asked Austin. There was no response, until Austin asked again, “Who are you looking for?”

“My wife,” he uttered in a sharp tone. “You don’t want to do that,” retorted Austin, “Cause you don’t want to find her down here. Don’t look for something you don’t want to find.” The doctor shifted his vision from one monitor to the next, as he rebutted, “If I can’t find her that means she’s not down here.”

“Well she’s not up on any of the other levels,” said Austin, “What’s she look like? I’ll keep an eye open for her,” he added as he tried not to smile. The doctor replied, “She is easy to find, she’s the only woman here with red hair.” He then corrected himself, “Well not red hair, but orange hair that is starting to grey.”

Austin grabbed the doctor’s hand with his glove and said, “She’s not down here.” The doctor kept his focus on the monitors, but after a pause, he exhaled and looked up to Austin.

From beyond the door that Ghost guarded came a long noticeable hiss. Ghost even turned around and took a glance at the sealed door. Once Ghost returned to face away from the door, there was a loud ruckus from behind the door; the sound of clanging metal being ripped apart.

Ghost took a step away from the door and kept his shotgun pointed at the door. He then used his fist to pound on a metal table to get the attention of the other marines. When they all looked, the captain stated, “Yeah we hear it. That door stays sealed got it?” Ghost gave thumbs up to the order.

The marines continued to do their duty by getting research, filing cabinets and artifacts out of the laboratory. There was no more racket coming from the other room, instead the racket was the sound of denting metal from above the room they were in!

Ghost silently looked to the ceiling, and pointed with his two fingers so that Reaper could see what Ghost was looking at. Both Reaper and Ghost raised their guns to the sounds that were being made in the ceiling.

Another few meters in front of the sound was the grate to the air ducts in the ceiling, so Ghost took it upon himself to shoot up into the ceiling. There was a ghastly sound of pain that echoed through the laboratory, but that did not stop the sound. Instead the sounds made by denting metal quickened, until the grate was popped through by the fierce punch of a brown arm!

Without warning, Reaper sent a single bullet from his sniper rifle into the ceiling. There was no sound of pain; there was just the sound of the bullet as it pierced meat. The arm hung down out of the hole in the ceiling, it was a clean shot.

Everyone in the room continued to stare at the arm, as the captain stood up on a lab table. The captain first poked at the arm with the barrel of his arm. There was no reflex from the clawed arm.

With slight hesitation, the captain grabbed the wrist of the brown arm. There was still no motion or reflex from the arm. Viper broke the silence, when he said, “Put another bullet in it just incase captain!”

“I don’t miss,” uttered Reaper from inside of his dark helmet, before he continued, “If it has a brain in its skull, that’s what I shot.” Manny then stepped over to look into the scope of Reaper’s rifle. “It’s an exo scope,” said Reaper, as he explained, “If it has a skeleton, I can see it through most walls.”

The scope showed the creature’s body as a skeleton in the air duct above the captain, who then yanked the arm of the creature to pull it down. With a thud, the brown creature slammed to the floor below the opening in the ceiling.

The marines gathered around the body of the creature and looked over it. The head of the creature had just about exploded; there was a huge opening in the side of its skull where a brain used to be.

Reaper was the first to speak about the creature, “It looks like an imp.” “A what?” asked Austin. “In mythology, an imp was a little demon,” explained Reaper, who then pointed out, “But it doesn’t have any horns.” “Do you really need horns to be a demon?” wondered Sam, but the captain broke up their examination, “Alright, everybody get back to work! If there’s another, I’m sure one of our three lookouts will kill it!”

“We need to go deeper and see if there are any survivors,” reiterated Sam, but the captain merely turned around and stated, “You must have a death wish. Not only do you want to go into hostile territory, but you’re crossing my leadership.” Sam then asked, “What death wish Sir? We just annihilated one of them!” The captain looked into Sam’s visor and said, “We annihilated them because we had the home field advantage. Down in that tunnel, they have every advantage and they’re likely going to kill us like we just killed them coming out that tunnel.” He then pointed to the air shaft above them.

The floor began to tremble slightly from beneath of the marines, just before tiles of the floor began to collapse out from under them! Some of the marines slipped down, as the tiles fell into the void beneath of them.

As the marines held onto each other, to keep them from falling, Imps climbed out of the darkness! The eyes of the brown skinned creatures glowed a luminescent yellow! Their sharp claws wrapped around the legs of the marines that were slipping, but Ghost and Viper pointed their shotguns into the pit and blew the heads of the imps off their bodies.

A few of the imps dropped lifelessly back into the darkness from where they had come. However, others took their places, and as Ghost and Viper cocked their shotguns, some of the imps flew out of the hole.

Viper met one of the imps with the butt of his shotgun, followed by a blast to the head. Meanwhile, Ghost fended off an imp, with a fierce punch, where he then cocked his shotgun and sent a blast into the creature’s stomach. That didn’t stop the imp though, it was poised as if to pounce, but, before it could pounce, Ghost put the barrel of the gun into the creature’s mouth and pulled the trigger.

There were claw marks all over the armor of Ghost, but he merely cocked his shotgun again, and pointed it back down the pit to the next imp. With the pull of a trigger another imp was sent back into the darkness.

The marines helped one another out of the pit as the dark brown bodies of the imps clamored at their feet. One by one, they were shot away by Ghost and Viper that stood near the edge.

The imps kept coming from the pit, with ghastly cries when each one was shot. “Drop a charge down there!” yelled the captain, and Chubbs swiftly followed his order. The husky soldier reached into his duffle bag, pulled out a round canister and twisted the top of it.

With the charge set, Chubbs dropped it down the center of the hole as the imps flowed up from it. He yelled, “Ten seconds!” The marines continued to fire at the imps, but one grabbed the foot of Manny. The rookie tried to shoot at the imp, but then a second set of hands grabbed at Manny’s other foot.

“Fire in the hole,” yelled Chubbs, just before Manny’s legs were yanked out from beneath of him. While the imps held onto Manny’s legs, Sam and Austin held onto his arms. It was a struggle, until more imps clamored up the body of Manny to escape the pit!

The imps forced Sam and Austin to let go of Manny. Sam quickly took out a pistol and began to shoot bullets into the face of one of the imps, until a shot gun went off and blast through the body of the imp.

Manny was dragged down below the ground, and Sam tried to reach into the hole for Manny’s hand one last time. However, Sam was dragged away from the hole by Austin who clutched onto Sam’s armor.

An explosion came up from the pit, and the entire lab shook with red rubble that flew up from the hole. The marines were stunned, but the imps were not. Two imps pounced on Mason’s body and clawed at his helmet. One of the roared as it tried to pry off his helmet like it was the head of a victim.

From the barrel of Chubb’s shotgun came a blast that saved his brother’s life from one imp. The other imp was kicked off of Mason and then shot by Viper’s shotgun. Afterward, Mason merely looked up to Chubbs and stood up to his feet.

Sam rose slowly and looked at the hole. It was completely sealed with hard red rocks from below the surface of Mars. Sam then looked over to an imp that was caught in the rubble and struggled to escape.

With a swift movement, Sam unloaded what was left in the pistol clip into the head of the imp. There were brown bodies and green marines everywhere around the hole, but Manny was gone. Sam uttered the phrase, “He’s not dead.”

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CHAPTER 5: EVEN DEEPER

“We need to save Manny,” uttered Sam only to hear Austin retort, “No we don’t. Look, he’s buried.” “But not dead,” said Sam. All of the marines began to slowly stand on their feet as the discussion continued.

“Manny was a nice guy,” said Austin, before he continued, “Lovable even, but it’s a fact that a charge went off and he’s buried.” The captain looked at the two as they discussed it, before he ordered, “Everyone has a tracking device in their armor for just this reason.”

The captain then looked at the panel on his left arm and pushed a few button. “I can barely find his position beneath of all of this rock,” said the captain, who then continued, “But his position is moving.”

“He is alive and being taken to wherever the others were taken,” exclaimed Sam, only to hear Austin retort, “They are moving his body Sam!” Mason jumped in and said, “He could be right, he is probably right.”

“But we don’t know for sure,” said Sam, “And I need to find out for sure.” Sam then turned and asked the captain, “We all go home Sir.” Austin looked to the rest of the marines as he said, “We all go home. Those of us that are alive return! Why do I have to play the devil’s advocate? Somebody back me up on this!” “No one here would leave that to question, not even if it was you down there,” said Sam

Mason agreed with Austin, “Any number of things could have happened to him. The explosion could have killed him in his suit, he could have been buried, and he could be lunch for those imps.” He then wondered, “How do we even get down there through all of the red rocks from the cave in?”

Dr. Gerick spoke up from behind the marines, “There is one way.” With that said all of the marines turned their attention to Gerick, who explained, “The footage shows that the imps that attacked the laboratory came through a tunnel beyond one of these doors.”

“They have to be going to the same place,” said Sam with a shine of glee. “A main chamber,” added Reaper with his gravely voice. Viper then threw in his own comment, “I am all for going down there and killing some aliens to get him back.”

“Enough,” said the captain in a harsh tone, “This isn’t a discussion anymore. Got it?” The marines and the doctor looked to the captain, as he told his orders, “We’re down here to collect research and artifacts.”

There was a pause, before the captain continued, “But to do that we need all of our men in top shape. We need all of our marines here with us.” Sam said, “Thank you Sir,” but the captain’s response was, “We all go home or no one goes home.”

The captain then turned to Mason and the doctor, “There is no reason to involve a civilian. You two are going to stay in here. Keep the area secure and continue to download the data!” “Alone?” wondered Mason, but his fears were laughed at by the captain, “Are you afraid you’ll have chemistry and go on a date here? Of course alone! We will be flushing out the organisms down the only tunnel.”

“Begging your pardon here, but there are two dozen bodies here and another two dozen imps Sir,” said Mason, before he added, “If there are more, I’m just can’t handle them all.” The captain ordered Chubbs, “Give him a gun, I know you always hide two or three on you.”

Reluctantly, Chubbs reached behind his back and took a moment. He then walked over to Dr. Gerick, and gave him a pistol. The captain then commented, “There, now you’re two men that can handle them all.”

Mason merely looked down to the doctor’s weapon and said, “A pistol? That’s not going to do much.” “It’ll do just fine,” said the captain in a bold tone, before he walked across the lab to one of the doors and said, “Alright marines! This is now a rescue mission to save Manuel Santiago. Remember that name; it’ll give you more motivation to make sure that he gets out of this alive.”

“What’s his name Austin?” asked the captain, and Austin replied with a brief hesitation, “Manuel Santiago.” The captain uttered, “Good. Good you can hear me when I talk.”

“Now hear this everyone! We are going into tunnel, even deeper than anyone has gone into the crust of Mars,” yelled the captain, as he continued, “There will be hostile organisms as you very well know. You will be forced to kill them, any hesitation may get you or the marine next to you killed.” As the marines lined up near the door that Ghost and the captain stood at, the captain barked, “Is that understood marines?”

From the seven marines came “Yes Sir!” “Austin make some use of yourself and open that door,” ordered the captain. With a quick motion, Austin swiped the blue key card and opened the door.

Everyone cleared out of the laboratory, except for Mason and Dr. Gerick, who wondered, “Do we really want to be here alone and safe or do we want to be with them, where the guns and imps are?” Mason replied, “Its my job to protect you on this mission. We’ve already gone further than we ever should have, but after facing those imps, I’m just not sure that I can protect you if there are more.”

“That’s what I feared,” said Dr. Gerick, who then wondered, “Do you think they would mind if we tagged along?” Mason looked to the open door and said, “Yeah, I think they’d mind, but any extra gun would help.” After that, Mason looked back to the doctor and stated, “Even if that gun is a pistol.”

Dr. Gerick looked at the gun in his hand and said, “Its light.” Mason took a closer look at the pistol and said, “That’s because it’s not loaded. There’s no clip in there.” The doctor said with half a laugh, “I guess I could throw it at the imps right?” He then asked Mason, “Why would he give me an empty gun?” “I think I know why he would give you an empty gun,” said Mason, who then added, “Let’s get back to the others, we can come back and gather your research.”

“Wait,” said Dr. Gerrick as he trekked back through the lab with the tails of his white lab coat whipping in the wind. “Why am I waiting?” asked Mason, as he moved his head to follow Dr. Gerrick. I need to get something before we leave!

He reached into a storage locker, and pulled something out which was attached to a long chain. As the doctor was about to put the chain around his neck, he heard Mason call out, “That white coat is going to get dirty where we’re going.” The doctor put the chain on the metal counter next to him, before he took off his white lab coat and threw it aside.

With his white lab coat off, he took the chained item from off the neck and put it around his neck then down his dark collared shirt. Mason asked him, “Why do you need to bring that?” “It’s a key that I’m going to leave with my wife when I find her,” he replied, “It is something that she doesn’t want anyone looking in, even me.”

In the next room, Mason and Dr. Gerick caught up with the marines, and informed them, “I cannot do my duty without your firepower.” “So we thought it would be best if I accompanied you,” added Dr. Gerick.

At the wall Chubs could be seen placing a large yellow device for an hour. He then turned and told his brother, “You might not be able to do your job, but we’re still here to do ours.” The captain spoke, “If we’re not back in an hour, this explosive will detonate and destroy the tunnel, the lab and everything else on this level.”

After that was said, the captain added, “At least that’s one thing that General Cantrell won’t have my ass for when we get back to the surface.” “I’ll speak on your behalf,” said Austin, but the captain retorted, “I’d be better off buried in the rubble of the explosion.”

With that said Mason turned his head slowly and saw five marines lined up in front of a massive ten foot tall tunnel. The five marines were lined up in a V formation, in front was Sam, and to the left were Austin and Viper. To the right were Ghost and Reaper.

One by one all of the marines turned on their wrist lights, and the lights in their visors to display their faces inside of their helmets. As for the doctor, he grabbed a flashlight, and still gripped his empty pistol. The captain, Austin, Ghost, Viper, and Johnny turned on the lights at the end of their shotguns. In Reaper’s hands was the sniper rifle with the exo scope that he could see through walls, but not the thick rock walls of mars.

Sam gripped a standard issue UAC machine gun, until the captain took the lead of the V formation. Chubbs lined up behind the rest of them and armed his heavy chain gun. The captain then ordered, “We’re back in an hour. When we’re back, we disarm the explosives, drop charges into the mouth of this tunnel and be done with it.”

The captain then uttered, “Now is everybody ready to go into the jaws of Hell and save a fellow marine?” Every marine behind him said, “Yes Sir,” with the exception of Mason and Dr. Gerick. Viper spoke up and said, “I’m just looking forward to the action.” Austin then added, “Why can’t we ever save a hot blonde?” He then asked, “Hey doc was there a blonde on your staff that was taken by the imps?”

With a few steps forward, the captain uttered, “Keep your mouth shut Austin.” He then apologized, “Sorry doc, Austin was born out of the tail of a fat plumber. Since then he’s always had ass on his mind.”

All of the marines entered the tunnel and used their lights to see their way far from the research lab. The marines stayed alert, despite the fact that the imps looked to be long gone.

The captain would periodically check the screen on his left forearm and announce, “Manny is still moving.” Sam eventually asked, “How is his signal?” “With all of the rock around, his signal is always going to be faint,” retorted the captain. Chubbs added, “Faint until we get to the same chamber just about.”

“Does anyone else see a light up ahead?” asked Austin from behind Sam. “Off with your lights everybody!” commanded the captain. One by one all of the lights were turned off, and in the distance of the tunnel, a faint green light could be seen.

Chubbs asked, “What now captain?” “We keep our lights off and give an element of surprise,” said the captain, but Chubbs got close to him and stated, “This is merely a comment Sir, but without our lights we aren’t going to be able to see our way to even make it to that green light.”

From behind was the gravely voice of Reaper, as he called out, “Captain.” “Yeah what is it?” asked the man that stood at the front of the V formation. “I’ve found another tunnel,” said Reaper, and with the green screen of his exo scope, he pointed it out to the captain.

Reaper asked the captain, “Permission to take Ghost and Viper this way.” “Permission granted,” said the captain in an unusually normal tone of voice. With that said, Reaper kicked aside some of the rocks in front of the second shaft. The second team advanced through the tunnel, while the Captain led his marines even deeper.

Through the dark, the marines stumbled and groped their way through the tunnel. Austin tripped over some rocks and then asked, “Can we turn on our gun lights captain?” “Negative,” we just follow our way to that green light.

“You mean lights,” said Sam, “I can see two of them.” The captain took a second look and said, “Eyes of a hawk Sam.” “And the voice of a mouse,” commented Austin as the group got even closer to the mysterious lights.

Chubbs commented, “The lights are flames.” “Before the doc gives us an explanation on why there can’t be flames,” said the captain, who then asked, “Why are there flames down here with no oxygen?” Dr. Gerick pandered at an idea, “On Earth fires exist with oxygen, and maybe on Mars fires breathe something else in the atmosphere.”

“I think we’re going to have a problem here,” said Sam, but the captain was quick to bat it down, as he said, “That’s just the pessimist in you Sam.” The marine Sam then elaborated, “There’s something moving under the flame.”

Once they were close enough, they could all see the green flames in front of them. Mason wondered, “Did you ever have any chains in that research facility doctor?” Dr. Gerick remained focused on the green flames as he answered, “Only in the storage areas.” He then added, “But those were five floors above the one that the imps attacked.” “Then why are there chains down here?” asked Mason in a hushed voice.

Before anyone could speak again, their eyes followed below the green flames; from each flame extended a massive black chain which was secured to pieces of metal. The marines stood absolutely still as the metal of the chains shimmied and shuttered.

From the green flame came a single low toned growl. It was quickly followed by a second similar growl from beneath of the second green flame. The captain then whispered, “On my mark, turn on the lights and start blasting.”

Suddenly both green flames moved and pulled up on the chains to restrain them. However, the chains pulled forward and rattled as they were pulled tight. Moments passed as the low growls subsided from the flames.

It was at that moment the massive head of a horned beast lowered into the light of the fire. Its head was like the head of cattle. Its horns extended out the side of its head and broadly pointed up.

“Now!” screamed the captain, and all 6 of the marines and the doctor turned on their lights to reveal a large demon with horns and flaming green hands had a pair of four legged demons chained below it.

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CHAPTER 6: KNIGHT

The huge demon that stood over the two others let out a fierce roar before the six marines unleashed their firepower. Shotguns blasted their way into the three demons, as Sam’s machine gun pelted bullets into the two legged demon.

From behind the group of marines came the hum of the chain gun as it started to whirl. Chubbs let out a yell, just before the horned beast let go of the chains that it held.

In the light of all of the marines the two lesser beasts could be seen as they leapt from their pedestals. One of them landed its massive four legged body on top of Dr. Gerick.

Mason took his shotgun’s attention to the body of the large beast on Gerick. With the pull of his trigger, a blast was sent into the bulbous body of the beast, which saved Gerick for a brief moment.

Gerick continuously pulled the trigger of the pistol he was given. Amidst the roar of the beast, clicks could be heard, because the pistol had no clip or bullets inside of it.

The beast remained on top of Gerick and roared in pain with its rows of dagger like teeth. Mason cocked his shotgun again, but before he could pull the trigger, the beast snapped its jaws directly down into Gerick’s body.

There was a scream that filled the tunnel as his stomach was ripped out of his body. The scream was followed by the blast from Mason’s shotgun as it went through what could only be assumed was the beast’s skull.

The two beasts had large bodies, with no real neck or any notable head. It was just teeth that protruded without any visible eyes. Just above their front legs was a metal collar, around what would be considered its massive leg.

With the final blast through the beast, it dropped on the body of Gerick to pin him. However, Gerick was already dead.

From behind came the arm of Chubbs as he yanked his brother away from the second beast that jumped down from its pedestal. Both the beast and the horned demon took punishment from the weapons of the marines.

The arms of the horned demon swirled, before they unleashed a single ball of energy. The ball of energy was green and thrown into the middle of the marine’s V formation, which caused them to scatter. The ball of energy doused the ground and immediately began to burn into the rock like acid.

The marines continued to fire their weapons into the taller horned demon, but their shotguns did not do much to it. The body of the horned demon writhed enough to not release another green ball.

The second beast followed the marines around the chamber. It continued to lash and lunge with its teeth. Sam was the first to get battered by the beast’s front paws and was knocked into the solid rock wall.

When Sam was knocked to the side, the beast kept its tunnel vision and kept charging straight ahead toward the other marines.

At the pull of his trigger, the captain sent a blast into the chest of the beast. However the beast was so covered with fat and body mass, it had little effect. Instead it jumped up to its hind legs and roared, before it came back to the ground on all of its legs.

The captain back pedaled as Sam began to shoot the back of the beast. With another blast of his shotgun, the captain wounded the shoulder of the massive fleshy beast, which hindered its progress.

However, the wounded beast would continue to move forward with its good right leg, knocking down the captain on the shallow perch he found himself on.

The others were busy dodging glowing green balls of energy that would magically form from the horned demon’s hands. Sam continued to shoot into the beast’s back to try and save her captain’s life as the beast continued to climb the rock ledge.

Atop of the rock ledge the captain was on came the trembling of the rock wall. It was not noticeable at first, but soon after, the luminescent yellow lights of imps could be seen. The brown arms of the imps came out of the wall and grabbed the captain’s body, as he then turned his shotgun to their eyes.

Sam noticed the eyes as well, and fired bullets into the crevasse that they came from. The beast however, bent its body down atop the ledge and quickly contorted its jaw to snap down on the captain’s armored leg.

The trigger of his shotgun was pulled, and Sam yelled out to the others that, “Captain needs help!” All of the other marines turned their focus to the pink fleshy back of the beast. Then their focus followed the back of the beast to the luminescent eyes of the imps that clutched his helmet.

With multiple blasts, the imps were scared off into the crevasse that they had come from, but it was too late for the captain. The powerful jaws of the beast had already clamped down on the captain’s armor. He was crushed inside of the thick green armor that had protected him.

From an unseen location came a bullet that pierced the skin of what could be considered the beast’s head. The motor skills of the beast were sent into a tizzy. The beast continued to grasp and hold onto the ledge, but it fell off backward, and almost crushed Sam’s body beneath of it.

The beast was wild, and put its focus to Sam, even as it was on its back. The marines could see the beast’s teeth swivel from horizontal to vertical and then snap at Sam!

Another bullet from above came and pierced the head of the huge beast and Sam unloaded a machine gun clip into the beast’s mouth. There was a spatter of blood as the beast choked up blood in its final seconds of life.

When the beast stopped twitching, Sam gave a stiff kick to the huge beast’s head, before looking up to see where the two bullets had come from. Atop of a high ledge in the cavern were three marines; Ghost, Viper and Reaper, who still looked into his exo scope down to the mayhem beneath of them.

From the corner of Sam’s eye was the horned beast that swirled its flame covered arms and heaved another ball of green light. Sam had little chance to avoid the green goo that was thrown by the horned demon. Instead, Sam could only block with the green gauntlets and machine gun.

It is at that point where Sam discovered, it was not light, nor energy in those green balls that the horned demon heaved. It was plasma, and the little bit that doused Sam’s left hand and forearm melted into the armor.

Up above the horned demon came the blazing fury of Ghost and Viper from their perch. The demon’s body was mutilated from all of the shotgun blasts from everything that had shot into it.

The horned demon turned on its pedestal and looked up to the top of the chamber. There it saw the three marines that shot at it in a narrow crevasse. There it would be their doom, as the horned demon heaved a ball of green plasma from its fiery green hands!

With a crevasse so narrow, there was not enough room to dodge the attack and Viper was struck in the chest, neck and head with the plasma. It quickly burned through the black neckline of his armor, and through the face of his helmet. It didn’t stop there, it burned through his face, and he dropped like a stone from the tall ledge. His body smashed against the rock ground of the cavern beneath him.

After that, the remaining marines turned their focus on the horned demon. The hum of the whirling chain gun could be heard, before it sent bullets into the demon’s tall body. Bullets pelted into its body, while shotgun blasts slammed into the demon’s body and mutilated it.

The demon began to wane and even dropped to one knee. The green flames on its hands lit up the creature’s face with a grotesque green glow. It blew out Martian air, and red blood until Reaper fired from his rifle up above.

The bullet pierced the demon’s horned skull, and shattered it! The demon’s body virtually fell apart as it collapsed from its pedestal to the rock ground. The hum of Chubb’s chain gun slowly subsided as it turned off.

Austin posed the question, “Now what the Hell was that?” “I would say that was their first line of defense,” uttered Reaper from high above, “A knight of Mars, defending it with twin beasts.” “Thank you angel of death,” uttered Austin, before he turned to Mason and Chubbs.

Mason surveyed the damage to their troop, before he said, “It only took three minutes to kill four of us.” “Quiet John!” barked Chubbs, only to have Mason elaborate, “You never were any good at math Chubbs. Check and count. That’s half your squad gone!”

After taking a few steps to Dr. Gerrick, Mason looked down at the corpse that had been torn apart. Mason bent down and placed his shotgun to the side so that he could snap the chain from around Dr. Gerick’s neck.

Mason then put the chain and key around his own neck as he looked up to his brother and wondered, “Why did we come down here; to save one marine that was probably killed in an explosion?” After the questions, Mason exclaimed in elaboration, “An explosion that you set off!” Chubbs spoke up, “I told you as your brother before to keep quiet John. Now I’m telling you as a superior officer to shut up!” Mason continued to antagonize Chubbs, “Superior you are not! You are just a higher ranking officer.” The only response Chubbs had was to tell Mason, “Now I’m telling you as a man with a gun.”

The threat was taken lightly as Mason pointed out, “By the time that gun of yours takes to get warmed up, you would have a shell put through the visor in your helmet.” From the ledge above, Reaper called down, “This is irrelevant, you cannot shoot through the armor. You cannot argue with a superior officer. Now it’s us against them damn it, so take your frustrations out on those soulless things in here.”

After that was said, Ghost banged on the wall with his gauntlet to get everyone’s attention. Once he had everyone’s attention, Ghost then pointed down to the body of Sam.

Everyone turned to look at the downed marine. Sam’s body slowly turned in pain. There was no sound from Sam’s mouth, but instead Austin called out, “She’s alive!” Without hesitation Austin leapt from his position on a red rock formation and raced to be at Sam’s side.

The left arm of Sam’s armor was mutilated and twisted still with the green plasma searing through it. Austin propped Sam up and asked, “Are you okay?” There was no response; Sam’s body leaned back down with the helmet bent backward toward the rock beneath of Sam.

Austin went so far as to take Sam’s facemask and pull it forward so that he could look into Sam’s blue eyes beneath of the visor. Chubbs said from above Austin and Sam that, “She’s probably unconscious from the pain.” Austin looked back to Chubbs who looked over the rest of the marines.

The husky marine paused and looked to the top of the chamber to reflect on everything that had happened. He kept his head back as he said, “We need to press on to find Manny.” There was a squabble, as Mason pointed out, “Are you mental big brother?” Reaper commanded from above, “You will address him as Sir.”

“Excuse me Sir,” said Mason in a harsh tone, until he added, “If you’re keeping score, we may have won that battle, but our forces were cut right in two!” Chubbs looked down to his brother and uttered, “It’s what Captain commanded, and you were told to keep the doctor alive.”

Mason yelled up, “It doesn’t matter what your captain said Sir.” Chubbs remained on a rock formation as he yelled to his brother, “You were told to remain in the lab and continue gathering information!” Mason continued to yell up to his brother, “You’re in command now Sir. It is not his orders that you need to follow, it’s your own!”

Chubbs barked down to his brother, “Our mission for the UAC has been totally avoided. Captain chose to find the rookie, and Captain gave his life trying to find him!” With the move of his head, Chubbs looked up to Reaper and Ghost, and then added, “Now I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m going to see that his death wasn’t in vain!”

With the flick of his wrist, Chubbs looked at his gauntlet to see a digital clock that ticked down. “How long?” asked Austin, and Chubbs answered, “Plenty of time. We haven’t been down here for long at all.”

“I’m giving to give you all a choice,” stated Chubbs. “What’s that?” asked Mason as he looked up to his brother. “I’m going to be the first man to touch the core of Mars, save a marine, maybe save the survivors from the facility and kick some ass while doing it,” said Chubbs, before he posed his question, “So who’s coming with me?” He then gave the alternative, “If you don’t chose to go, you will return to the research lab, get the information and see to it that tunnel gets sealed off when the hour is up.”

Reaper was the first to say, “I go where the boss man asks.” He then looked beside him to Ghost that gave thumbs up. Reaper then added, “Ghost goes where the action and honor are.”

Chubbs turned to Austin and his brother John and uttered, “If anyone returns to the lab, there’s one thing you need to do.” “Make sure everyone knows what heroes you were?” wondered Austin only to have Chubbs give a thumb up and he said, “That’s right baby.”

“But no,” said Chubbs, before he ordered, “If anyone leaves, someone had better get Sam the Hell out of here.” “I wasn’t going to leave her,” said Austin, before he asked, “She’s going to be pissed off she survived, you know that don’t you?”

With that said, Sam’s body jerked up and without looking, her injured left arm stayed at her side. Austin tried to pin her down as she screamed from the pain. Her body tried to roll, but Austin continued to hold her down.

She screamed with her mouth wide open into the mask of her green helmet. Chubbs dove down onto her legs to keep them steady as Austin made the mistake of asking, “Does it hurt?” Her right knuckle met Austin’s helmet with a punch, as she tried to kick her feet out from under Chubbs.

After a moment of continued struggling, she told them, “Let me up!” Chubbs asked, “To do what Sam?” She then retorted, “To.” There was a deep and panicked breath as she yelled out, “Cut off my arm!” Austin looked into her visor and said, “Hey I’m not doing that!”

“Take off her gauntlet,” said Reaper, but the only reply to that was all of them looked to him with a befuddled look. Austin called out, “And you’re not cutting it off either!” He then called out, “Keep your sword away from him Ghost!”

Reaper reiterated, “Take off her gauntlet.” Everyone could see the smoke as it rose from the gauntlet and dissipated into the Martian atmosphere. Austin complied and warned Sam, “I’m taking off your glove.”

With a gentle touch, Austin gripped the smoldering green gauntlet and twisted it to detach it from the rest of the armor. There was only a wince from Sam’s face as Austin pulled on her gauntlet to reveal that there was nothing beneath of it.

The gauntlet just fell right off of her arm, because her left forearm was no longer existent beneath of it. The plasma might not have been able to eat through the armor of the gauntlet, but it had melted straight through the black joints in the wrist and hand.

The five marines were shocked and Austin dropped the gauntlet with disgust on his face. Sam still had her elbow and a bit of her forearm, but when she saw what was left, she passed out once more.

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CHAPTER 7: CHERUBS

When Sam awoke, she found herself over the shoulders of Austin. Without her noticing, the stump of her arm had been bandaged for the moment. The marines had taken her even deeper into the tunnels beneath Mars.

She asked, “Where are we?” Austin was the first to hear that she had said something, he then told her, and “We’re still in the tunnel.” “How far?” she asked, and Austin reported, “Far enough to get back.” “That’s if we turned back right now,” uttered Mason from beside Austin.

Mason then added, “Can you fight?” Sam asked, “What? Yeah I can fight.” Mason maneuvered his head to look into Sam’s visor as he said, “You’re one tough broad.” “I went through the same shit UAC training the rest of you went through,” retorted Sam, before she added, “My arm just hurts.”

With that said, Sam pulled her left arm up to look at it. She then told the rest of them, “I hoped that was a nightmare.” Austin told her, “It’s been a nightmare since you passed out.” “Since you’ve been out cold, the action has heated up,” said Mason, who then added, “The imps have been coming out of the walls at us. Ammunition is getting limited, so Ghost has been using his sword to slice through them.”

In Sam’s head, she had visions of Ghost slicing his way through imps in the darkness of the tunnels. Splitting the imps in two and kicking away the rest the pieces.

“What’s our status?” asked Sam, to which Austin answered, “Dr. Gerick was torn to shreds by one of those pink beasts and you Sam are lucky to still be alive.” Austin then elaborated as he looked into Sam’s visor, “Viper’s gone; he took a ball of plasma that chewed through the neckline of his armor. If your arm weren’t soldered closed from the plasma, you’d bleed to death by the time we got to the surface.” “What about Captain?” asked Sam. “Captain’s dead and now Chubbs is in command.”

From Mason’s mouth came, “I know first hand that Chubbs is one tough son of a bitch, but he’s no leader.” “Watch your mouth,” said Austin, “There’s a lady present.” “You know I gave up my gender when I enlisted,” said Sam, before she asked, “Can you put me down?” “I don’t know,” said Austin, “Can you walk?” “Put me down and we’ll find out,” said Sam.

As Austin put her down on the ground, he uttered, “All that special treatment will go to your head right?” “I know where it can’t go,” said Sam, before she abruptly asked, “What about Manny or any survivors?”

“That’s why we’ve come so far,” said Austin as he stood next to Sam. “We’ve been hearing something that sounds human coming from this tunnel we’re in now,” continued Austin. Mason then spoke out, “Chubbs keeps leading us further and further following these sounds we’ve been hearing.”

From in front of the marines came a garbled voice. The marines had stopped to listen; Chubbs paused and turned his head to Ghost next to him. “You hear that?” asked Chubbs, before he commented, “It’s getting louder.”

Sam lifted her head and turned it to look down the dark tunnel. “It sounded human,” she uttered. John then pointed out, “But it doesn’t sound human.” In the distance of the dark tunnel came another high pitched voice with garbled speech. It was quickly followed by even more garbles from down the tunnel.

Reaper remained still as he said, “We’ve been following these phantom voices. These solid walls echo sound and whatever is making those sounds a mile down this tunnel.” Chubbs spoke, “I want to find out what is making those sounds.” Just as he said that, there was a high pitched laughter that stopped abruptly without fading.

“What the Hell was that?” asked Reaper with his gravely voice, as he looked to Chubbs, who then turned his head to look back down the tunnel. From the mouth of Chubbs came the description, “It sounds like…” “A child,” said Sam as she stood upright and took a step forward.

From out of the darkness and into the lights of the marines came an extremely pale white child! With the brightness of the lights, the pupils of the child dilated to large black circles. There was wonder on the child’s face as it looked at the marines.

Sam was the first to walk toward the child, and when she did, the child stumbled to the rock ground of the tunnel. As she reached out her right arm to the child, Austin spoke up, “That’s not a good idea Sam.” She couldn’t look away from the small child, but she asked, “Why isn’t this good idea.”

“For starters,” he said, “You’re going to scare the kid.” The bald child tried to stand up to its feet, but each time it did, its legs would buckle beneath of it. “And second of all, there are no children down here,” said Austin as he made his way between Ghost and Chubbs to the front.

Sam reached out her right arm to the child, with her body tilted sideways and with a look of amazement, the child focused on the green gantlet. The mouth of the child opened with a slight gasp as it clung to Sam’s arm.

Then from out of the darkness came another small child; bald just as the one before it. This second child was crawling with only its hands. It was followed by a third and they all looked to the marines blinded by their bright lights. Each of the children babbled, but it wasn’t speech. Just noises from their mouth.

“Something is wrong here,” said John from behind Reaper and Chubbs. The three children clung to Sam’s arm, as Sam wondered a loud, “Triplets?” Reaper spoke up and asked Chubbs, “Permission to kill them?”

Sam turned around and exclaimed, “No!” “We’re not killing them,” said Chubbs, “But we’re not taking them.” “We should at least give them oxygen,” said Sam as she shined her wrist lights into the eyes of the children. “They’re fine without us,” said Chubbs.

John then stated to the rest of the marines, “For all we know, those are the offspring of those imps.” “I know there wouldn’t be any kids in a research facility,” said Austin as he looked to Sam with the children clinging to her.

More children appeared from the darkness. Soon there were six of them either on or advancing to Sam. They each spoke in baby garble and looked in amazement at Sam’s armor.

Austin told her, “Sam, don’t you think that its time for the baby sitter to go home before the mother finds you with her kids?” Sam agreed by trying to pull herself away from the children, “Okay little guys. This has been strange, but we need to get going.”

As one of the children stepped toward Sam, it stumbled and the marines watched in amazement as one of its legs fell off. Not in a horrible mess, but rather it merely detached as if it was a spare part.

When the child tried to stand up again, its other leg fell off and the child tumbled to the ground. Chubbs ordered her, “Come on Sam.” As she tried to push them off of her, they clung tenaciously to the plates of her armor.

One of the children hissed and bit its sharp little teeth into the green plate of Sam’s armor. The original child that had clung to Sam’s gauntlet tugged and tried to remove it. Austin stepped forward between Ghost and Chubbs to pull the children off of Sam.

But when Austin’s hands approached the children, they all hissed at him! When Austin withdrew his hand, they put their focus on Sam. All six of the children clung to her legs and arm.

She lifted one of her legs and shook it free from the grasp of two of the children. That was only because when she shook her leg, the limbs of both children fell off and their bodies collapsed to the ground.

Austin asked, “I’m an only child, is that normal with kids this age?” Chubbs looked to Mason and said, “Never happened with you John.” “So why is it happening here?” asked Reaper, before he added, “Reanimated corpses, limbless cherubs. Humans weren’t meant to tread on Mars.”

Sam shook the other children from her body, and into the darkness of the tunnel. The limbs of the children were scattered everywhere, and when Sam put her leg down, she accidentally stepped on one of the little arms.

Her boot flattened it like it wasn’t there and while her focus was on the toddler’s limb; the cherubs slowly regenerated new limbs. From out of the sockets of their arms came green limbs, and clear wings.

Without warning, Sam was frustrated, and merely shoved the original cherub from her arm. The pale child disappeared into the darkness, but in the darkness the limbless cherubs were regenerating themselves.

From children with two arms and two legs came cherubs that looked like children with the small wings of a fly. The marines could hear the hum from their wings and their garbled baby voices.

While everyone drew their guns to face the new adversaries, Ghost drew his Katana from its sheath. John quickly pointed his shotgun down to one of the cherubs as it generated its wings. He pulled the trigger and said, “I’m not waiting to see what else grows out of that kid.”

There was another cherub in sights and Mason stepped on the back of its neck as it was still on the ground. He then cocked his shotgun and splattered the cherub’s brain on the Martian rock floor.

With that done, Sam and John both shined their wrist lights in the darkness where the sounds were coming from. In the air were four cherubs, with their clear fly wings flapping.

The four cherubs rushed into Sam and Mason with their mouths open and green claws forward. Both the marines were startled, and two cherubs tried to grab the shotgun from the hands of Mason, while the other two cherubs buzzed around Sam and tried to pull off her helmet.

Mason flung one of the cherubs away from the force of him swinging his entire body. Meanwhile, Sam was unable to deal with her two Cherubs, so Austin tried to get a hold of the cherubs in his hands.

The cherub was unusually quick, but Austin was able to pry it off of Sam’s helmet, only for it to get shot right out of his hands by Ghost with a shotgun. To continue Ghost’s fury he spun around and sliced through the second cherub that buzzed around Sam.

Mason kicked the other cherub away from his body, cocked his shotgun and tried to kill the cherub, but by the time the gun was fire, the cherub had already buzzed away. It had buzzed straight into the sights of Reaper’s pistol. He pulled the trigger of his pistol several times and shot holes through the body of the strange cherub.

The cherub slowly spun to the ground where Reaper finished off the child like cherub. Mason looked to where the final cherub had gone to, and to his shock, the cherub flew right to him and was sliced in half by Ghost’s sword!

Mason looked around at the floor of the tunnel to see the dying cherubs all around him. He then looked to his brother and said, “Hey thanks for the help Chubbs.” With that said, Mason gave Chubbs a slap on the back of his armor and said, “Didn’t even fire one bullet.”

From the darkness came the garbled sounds of children; More cherubs. When Mason turned around to see what approached, there was a loud mechanical hum. Dozens of child like cherubs came into view in Mason’s lights.

Mason crouched down and cocked his shotgun to ward off the cherubs as the hum from behind Mason turned into an echo of loud gun fire. With Mason down, bullets were launched over his head and through the small bodies of the children.

The roar of Chubb’s chain gun could be heard as he began to roar himself with a mighty yell. The bodies of the cherubs were torn apart before Mason could even put one shell into the advancing foes.

After the cherubs were slaughtered, the heavy hum of the chain gun slowed down and Chubbs asked, “Are you happy now? That was a waste of ammo.” Mason stood up and turned to face his brother and commander, before he asked, “Was that a waste of ammo, because you had to save me?”

Chubbs merely passed by Mason and said to the marines, “Let’s get the hell out of here.” Reaper was the next to walk by Mason; Followed by Sam and Austin. After they had passed by him in the large tunnel Mason turned and called out to his brother, “You didn’t answer me did you Charles!”

After the marines had disappeared far into the darkness of the tunnel, Mason turned around to face the last marine that had yet to pass him. He looked at Ghost to see the mute carefully put away his sword.

Suddenly Ghost was hit by a swarm of a dozen cherubs! There were both walking cherubs that sprung on Ghost and flying cherubs that wrapped their claws around his armor. The numerous cherubs clung all over Ghost’s armor, until the lights on his wrist and armor had disappeared in the fleshy mass of the cherubs.

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CHAPTER 8: THE FRYING PAN

Mason raised his shotgun and yelled out, “Go home to your mother.” With that said, he pulled the trigger and blast one of the cherubs off of Ghost’s body.

Amongst the mass of cherubs, Ghost used his own shotgun to shoot one of them off in the direction of Mason. To avoid the blast and the winged cherub as it flew by, Mason quickly threw his body against a wall only to discover there was an enormous fleshy beast coming down the tunnel from behind Ghost.

More cherubs came into the light and swarmed on Ghost as a lumbering beast charged down the tunnel at Mason. With the cock of his shotgun and the pull of a trigger, Mason sent a blast into the face of the beast with little effect.

It was like there was a spray of blood on the beast’s bulbous head, followed by a roar as it continued to charge down the tunnel. When Mason cocked his shotgun, he uttered, “Shit. What a time to reload.”

He reached to his leg to pull out more shells from a specially designed compartment, but his body was battered and smashed by the beast. Mason’s body tumbled along the rock ground, and he rolled to his knees.

Behind the large beast Mason could see more cherubs swarming on the body of Ghost. As the beast roared toward Mason, he reached to his leg once again for more shells.

However, the beast didn’t give him a chance to get those shells. It charged with a roar toward Mason, and Mason hastily stood up and stumbled backward as he took off to look for the other marines.

Mason ran deeper into the tunnel where the others had gone to. He ran until he saw the glow of a red light and he was momentarily stopped in his tracks when he heard shot gun fire. It either came from Ghost or up ahead where the red light glowed.

Hot on his tail was the beast, and when he turned to see where the beast was, it lowered what could be considered its head and battered into Mason’s body again. The marine slammed into the wall and Mason quickly raised his shotgun and stuck it into the beast’s mouth.

With his elbow propped up against the rock wall, he braced the beast’s large body with his shotgun. Mason pulled the trigger with a hollow barrel. There was no blast, and Mason uttered, “It was worth a try.” Then with his left hand he reached for more shells as the beast tried to jerk forward to eat him. Instead, the beast swiveled its entire mouth and bit down through the shotgun.

Mason quickly took off running deeper into the tunnel when the beast’s body slammed into the wall from having its weight on the barrel of the shotgun.

With a quick halt, Mason shifted his weight to prevent himself from falling off of the rock ledge he found himself on. The tunnel opened up into a large cavern with glowing red lava beneath of it!

The awe that Mason found himself in was quickly disrupted with the sound of a shotgun blast to his left! When he swung his head and body to the left, he saw his comrades as they stood in front of a second beast.

With all of their firepower, the four marines quickly defeated the beast in a blaze of gun fire. Once it was dead from Reaper’s rifle, it dropped to the side of the rock ledge. The majority of its right half was atop the ledge, while its left hand hung over the side.

Below the beast was the red glow of lava that slowly flowed through the large chamber. Mason cried out, “What did I miss?” “The fight,” said Chubbs, only to have Mason add, “I brought the fight to you.” Chubbs quickly questioned, “What?”

Another beast tromped down the stone walkway where the other had come from. The marines quickly fired their weapons at it as it tried to get over the dead demon on the walkway.

With a shot of white light, Reaper shot the right leg out from beneath the beast. The large body of the fleshy beast slammed into the rock ground and wall.

There was now a fleshy barricade that obstructed the walkway of rock. However, the beast tried to get up, but wounded and stuck, it stayed on its side and howled angrily at the marines. Chubbs walked forward, and started the hum of his chain gun, which put bullets directly into the massive body of the beast to a splatter of blood.

After dozens of bullets had found their way through the thick skin of the beast, Chubbs released the trigger and then turned around. He kept his body toward the two dead beasts as he looked to the other marines, with only his head.

“Where’s Ghost?” asked the new leader of the squad. Mason looked behind him to the opening of the tunnel he had just come from. He then looked back to his brother, only to hear Chubbs ask, “And where’s your weapon marine?”

Mason reached to his left side and pulled out a pistol from its holster. “Austin will cover the rear,” ordered Chubbs, only to hear Mason reply, “No I’m going to handle this.” Austin could only wonder, “Handle what?” Afterward, the beast that had followed Mason came charging out of the dark tunnel!

With the turn of his body and the extension of his arm, Mason began to put bullets from his pistol into the front left shoulder of the beast. Everyone was looking to Mason as he dealt with the beast.

Reaper took aim with his special rifle, and yelled to Mason, “Get out of the way!” His plea went unnoticed, as Mason continued to empty his clip of bullets into the beast. The beast barely flinched at the bullets when they lodged into its body.

As everyone looked to Mason and the beast, no one noticed yet another large beast crawl its way onto the top of the two beasts that blocked the walkway! With everyone’s light focused away from the slightly stealthily beast, its teeth were seen as a shadow.

While the beast near mason roared, the one behind Chubbs merely snarled a gurgle of saliva toward the husky marine. Reaper could be seen next to the wall of red rock as he continued to take his aim.

With the pull of a trigger, Reaper’s rifle kicked back, and sent a blaze of white light that screamed past Chubbs and into the mouth of the beast behind him. The beast’s mouth flew back into the air as the red blood poured out into the darkness.

Suddenly the beast became brighter and brighter in only a few seconds, just before a huge ball of fire slammed into the beast! The body of large creature slammed against the wall as the flames dissipated, and Chubbs looked out to see where the fireball had come from.

Across the large chamber and its lava riverbed was a dark ledge that no light could be seen. Meanwhile, still on the ledge the marines found themselves at, there was gunfire in the background, as the other marines fended off the beast that had come from the tunnel.

Chubbs looked to his brother and yelled out, “Get down John!” Instead Mason back pedaled to the other marines, as he popped the clip out of his pistol and quickly loaded another.

He continued to shoot bullets into the remaining beast as it charged forward after the five marines. Just as the beast was about to hit him, Mason rolled to the wall only to get battered by the beast’s large shoulder.

Austin was the next to feel the charge of the beast as he fired off his shotgun wildly and injured one of the beast’s front legs. Even slightly wounded, the beast still lowered its head, and Austin leapt into the air only to get thrown by the beast’s animalistic power!

Austin’s body flew through the air with all of his limbs out before he slammed down onto the surface of the platform still in front of the beast. Sam stepped forward and could only kneel in front of Austin to protect him from another thrashing.

Meanwhile, the beast roared into the air, with Chubbs screaming out, “Get down!” Sam was already down, and grabbed her pistol as she yelled out, “I am down! Shoot!” Chubbs screamed, “Not you!”

However, Reaper was not down; Chubbs had noticed a massive fireball coming his way. The ball of fire slammed into Reaper, engulfing his body in a fire that clung to his shoulders, helmet and chest.

From out of the darkness across the river of lava came a massively bulbous mound of flesh. Chubbs showed no concern though, as he dropped his heavy chain gun and immediately ran to put out the fire on Reaper! He smothered the fire on Reaper’s armor as two more large fireballs had come from the darkness across the river of lava!

The beast continued its roar as it charged boldly toward Sam who then lowered her body and began to shoot the beast as it charged toward her and Austin. Her arm was extended, and the gun kicked back each time it fired a bullet into the fleshy mouth of the beast.

She soon cringed, just as the beast was about to ram into her, but instead the beast lost its footing and slid forward toward them. Red particles of dust filled the hot air.

On the thicker section of the ledge, the beast slid by Sam’s body as she continued to stay by Austin’s side. She quickly noticed that it was only the front half of the beast!

It oozed blood and intestine from it, and she slowly moved her head to see the other half of the beast as it lay on the ground of red rock. It was a horrendous sight, but then she noticed that something stood above it.

Standing tall with his sword out was Ghost. He quietly cleaned the blade of his sword, as Sam noticed that most of the lights on his armor were broken. The lenses of his wrist lights were smashed, and he only had one last light on his helmet that lit up the right side of his face.

The front half of the beast was still in tact, and as Sam had her focus on Ghost, the beast slowly moved one of its front claws. It got closer and closer to Sam’s body, while its other heavy limb fell over the edge of the side of the ledge.

From out of no where, Mason scared Sam when he appeared with his gun pointed down to her, and he unloaded his clip of bullets. There was a scream as she pointed her pistol at Mason’s visor.

Mason fired all of his bullets over Sam’s left shoulder into the still moving beast. With no notable head to hold a brain, Mason was just shooting into the beast until the clip was empty.

Once he was out of bullets he took his boot and kicked into the meaty flesh of the beast. He then looked down to Sam who still held up a pistol at his face and said, “Don’t point that gun at me. I just saved your life.”

Sam’s lone elbow bent, as she put away the gun. In the distance was still the looming threat that had fired the large fireballs at the marines. The threat slinked back into the shadows away from the red light of the glowing lava.

Chubbs stood up from Reaper called out to Mason, “And if you had followed my orders, we wouldn’t have almost died just now.” Mason commented, “Maybe it’s our family Charlie.” “You are to never address me by that,” ordered Chubbs, before he explained, “You will always address me as Sir or by my codename.”

Mason took a breath before he said, “You commanded us to keep going further and further. You put us here right now and now you get pissed off at my decisions? Look at yours!”

With an aggressive pace, Chubbs marched up to his brother and yelled, “I gave everyone here a choice.” Sam looked strangely at the two of them, before Chubbs told his brother, “Your choice was that you could either come with us or go back to the lab and take Sam with you.”

“What?” wondered Sam as she remained next to Austin, she asked, “Where was I for this?” Chubbs showed the palm of his hand to Sam as he continued, “You chose to come down here. Now why did you come here; what is it you need to prove that had the rest of us almost killed?”

“You’re the only person that knows we both have everything to prove,” said Mason as he looked through his visor at Chubbs, before he added, “I’m on this planet alone to grow out of your shadow, but I am down here right now because I want to see to it that I succeed at even one mission.”

Chubbs sneered, “I know that it wasn’t seeing to it that Dr. Gerick stayed alive!” “No it wasn’t,” said Mason, before he elaborated, “You gave him a pistol without a clip in it. He wasn’t going to survive long anyway.” “He would have,” said Chubbs, “But you had to bring him down here into harms way!”

Mason slid the clip out of his pistol and reloaded another as he told his brother, “He was an old man that wanted to die. He had no reason to live.” There was a pause, as Mason sat down on the corpse of the half demon. Mason then continued, “He had one last thing to do before he died, but he died before he could do it. So that’s why I’m now down here, to do what he didn’t get to.”

Sam rose up and asked, “And what’s that?” From around his neck, Mason pulled on the thin chain and revealed a small key to them, “He wanted to find his wife and give her. He said this key opens a locker that was hers in the research lab that he wanted to be safe with her.”

Chubbs looked at his the glowing face of the watch in his gauntlet and said, “You may as well throw that key in the lava if no one wants it. It’s not going to be much longer before we have to go back.”

Mason looked down at the key in his hand and took the chain from around his neck, “You might be right about that. She might not even be down here.” As he drew back his arm, he looked out to the red lava that flowed through the basin of the cavern.

“No!” yelled Sam, “He wanted that to be with his wife.” Mason merely glanced to Sam and uttered, “I don’t even know what she looks like.” From the ground came the statement, “Red hair.” They all looked down, and Sam even crouched down, and said, “You’re alive Austin! I was a little worried without hearing your smartass comments.” Austin then reiterated, “He said she was the only one in the lab that had orange hair.”

Sam looked back up to Mason and told him, “Don’t throw away that key just yet.” Once that was said, the front half of the near slain beast wrapped its left claws around the foot of Mason. He was quite startled, and the rest of the marines were shocked when the beast’s body fell over the edge of the rock platform they were on!

The mouth of the beast protruded from its fleshy body and let out a blood gurgled roar as its body fell over the edge. The heavy body of the beast still clung to Mason’s foot, threatening to drag himself over the edge.

Mason could only try to grasp at the rocks, but he couldn’t brace the weight of even half the beast. Instead, Chubbs rushed to his brother’s aide. He literally sprang to the edge of the walkway, and dug one of his black boots into the rock to brace his brother from falling over the side.

The beast could be seen climbing the rock to get back on the ledge, with its large body bleeding a stream of blood down below. Once the beast’s head rose up and let out a snarl, the swift clean motion of Ghost’s blade could be seen as it came down across the limb of the beast that held onto Mason’s foot.

The blade had cut through the limb and with a terrifying, loud roar, the beast used its other claw to grab the foot of Chubbs and take him over the edge! Mason tried to grab his brother’s hand, but it was too late!

Both Chubbs and the beast had gone over the edge, and Sam quickly flung her armored body to look over the edge. The beast hit the glowing lava with a splash of molten rock.

The beast’s body burned in the lava, but it was not an instant death. It continued to writhe in pain and thrash its two limbs as it was quickly set a blaze. Sam’s eyes caught Chubbs. To her amazement, he was not in the lava; he had fallen onto a thin walkway of red rock next to the river of lava.

Sam yelled out a natural response, “Stay there! We’ll come and get you!” However, Chubbs had fallen twenty feet over the edge; his armor had spared his life, but not his body. He was slow to rise, but when he did, Chubbs watched the beast and called out, “Take your time!”

The beast continued to thrash and burn in the lava as it slowly died. From the thrashing, some lava was thrown onto the body armor of Chubbs.

Knowing what to do, Chubbs quickly removed his helmet, followed by his armor as it glowed from the spatter of lava on its chest. Sam yelled out for him, “Get your armor back on!”

The gruff and battle worn face of Chubbs looked up into the lights of his fellow marines once more. Austin uttered, “If he doesn’t get some oxygen he’s screwed, and that’s if he doesn’t depressurize first.”

Unseen to Chubbs, Masson lowered his own body to the ground and had his arm with Austin’s shotgun dangling over. Mason yelled out for Chubbs to, “Grab the gun and we’ll pull you up!”

Sam, Ghost and Mason each looked over the ledge down to Chubbs when Austin called out, “What the hell is that?” Everyone’s attention was taken away form the situation with Chubbs and put onto another situation that was coming down the walkway of rock.

Beyond the tunnel that they had come from and slowly walking toward the marines was the massive body of a new demon. It had a giant fleshy stomach, two stubby little legs, small tentacles that covered its mouth, tiny eyes and finally two massive cannons for arms. There was a pair of hoses that connected from the twin arm cannons of the creature to somewhere behind it on the creature’s body.

The four marines watched in awe at the strange being, and its giant stomach. Sam was the first one to comment, “That thing was designed for eating.” Austin was the next to comment, “And I bet I know where those hoses come out from.”

The new creature let out a strange, menacing sound from its tentacle mouth, before it raised both of its arm cannons toward the marines. Just before it fired, it let out another strange sound, before it sent a pair of giant fireballs from its arm cannons.

Flames slammed into the lower half of the beast that had been lying between the marines and the new bulbous creature. The impact of the flames sent the lower half of the beast tumbling toward the marines and then over the edge of the cliff down into the lava.

Chubbs watched the other half of the beast tumble over him and into the lava. His eyes looked lazily up to the top of the cliff as he waited for death to come from the subterranean atmosphere.

But his focus soon changed, as he noticed something in the lava. Both halves of the beast had burnt into nothingness. There was something under the lava though. It was something that slowly rose from beneath, which caused Chubbs to reach to his side and grab his second pistol.

He reached behind him and grabbed a clip from a small pack around his waist. Then he slammed the clip into the pistol. From above him, there were shouts of, “Fall back!” That was followed by shotgun blasts, and the tumble of tiny rocks from the top of the ledge.

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I dunno, it just seems stale and uninspired compared to the other one you did. That one at least had striking imagery that pulled the reader in.

Maybe you could rewrite it a couple times, trying different approaches to it?

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Ha! No that you. The other one was my rewrite of this. I still have not really gotten to the imagry part yet... even for the other one. There are people who have read most all of this that had bad comments that made me start the other :-)

Thank you so much for reading :-)

You can always read my other one.

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It was, eh? The other one's definitely an improvement then; the ff.net community sure seems to like it. You may just wanna put this one to bed and start a fresh one, although most writers become really attached to their older stuff.

I tend to take mine out back and shoot 'em.

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Nope, I fully abandon them, which is why I never posted all of this, it was going to end with a cyberdemon including the logic and heirarchy between the demons, lots of deaths with that scene and then once they crawl out of a pit, they are followed by something for one last shock of logic and fun :-)

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Thanks for taking the time to read it or part of it. I consider this up to be a failure. I ended up using a lot of my ideas toward the middle and end of this story for a different story.

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