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prologue (before beginning)

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(I figured this would be good since I didn't provide one earlier. Have at it.)
"Sergeant McKnight, you have been found guilty for assaulting a superior officer," the judge stated during the court-martial. With a stern look such as his, nobody dared to defy him. The wrinkles on his pockmarked face were reason enough to fear him, but his voice did not help at all. After all, this was a Marine court-martial, where the toughest of the toughest faced charges. It was ironic, however, that a Marine such as McKnight, a man of pure integrity, would end up in a place like this.

"However," the judge continued,"since you provided enough justification for you action, the court has decided to drop the sentence of imprisonment."

"Thank you, your honor," Sergeant McKnight said.

"I haven't finished," the judge responded. "But, since you have defied a rule of conduct, you will be punished. I have declared, with permission from you superiors, that you are to be stationed at the joint Union Aerospace Corporation/United States Armed Forces research installation on Mars. Once there, you will await further instructions on your duties."

This totally disgraced McKnight. His place was not on an isolated planet sucking dust all day. Only the lowest in society deserved that. No, he could not stand to face such a fate. He wanted to defend the rights of the common citizen from tyranny and oppression, something he could easily take the opportunity to do after a few recent events in the years past. What was there on Mars to defend? A few rocks? Maybe some old fossils (yes, some microscopic life had been discovered)? What significance did that serve? In a way, McKnight downgraded to a civilian, a fifth wheel, whatever other useless device there was in the known universe to him. This was certainly no fate for a Marine such as him to suffer. But what could he do? The law was the law, and nothing could be changed. He may have felt disgraced, but since integrity was one of his virtues, he never questioned the law.

"This just isn't fair," he said. "I tried to protect the common good, and see how end up?" The whole reason for the trial was McKnight had assaulted his C.O. after ordering his platoon to fire upon innocent civilians while on a short tour of duty in Afghanistan during the second Cold War. Unlike the first Cold War though, this one was a little bit "warmer". Actual fighting occurred, and it did not aim at any particular government; it aimed towards terrorist groups. Also, a catastrophic even, not an argument, initiated this one. Though the man behind the operation of this event had been dead for a few years, his followers still drug the battle on. Thankfully, at the time of McKnight's court-martial, this Cold War was about to come to an end.

"Listen to yourself, you sound like an eight-year-old," said McKnight's lawyer. Though not a Marine (he was a Navy officer), this lawyer still a pretty burly look to him. Having been stationed on Marine base after Marine base, this man grew to adapt with the Marine way of life. After all, the Marine Corps did fall under the Department of the Navy, so it was no wonder both commonly took part in the same events. Everywhere a Marine was seen, Navy personnel could surely be found next.

"But you know," he continued," it could have been a lot worse. You might have served a severe sentence, maybe even dishonorably discharged! But it looks like you lucked out. Just be glad the judge said you had justification."

"Right," was all McKnight said, a bit solemnly, even though there were countless things on his mind that he wanted to 'teach' his lawyer. Without any more words, the Navy J.A.G lawyer left the courtroom as armed MPs escorted McKnight to his temporary quarters. The shuttle to Mars would leave in two days.


Aside from the extremely cramped living conditions, the trip to Mars did not end up as bad as McKnight had thought it would. Within two weeks after launch the shuttle finally approached the Red Planet itself. As it came into view, McKnight got a chance to see it for himself. It was redder than he imagined. Like the red that ended up on his fist after giving his C.O. an almost fatal blow to the nose, the planet reminded even a person like him that all humans are only mortal. Strange as to see that Mars had the color of more blood about to be shed in the future. The struggle never ends.

The moons of Mars, Phobos and Deimos, loomed in the planetary skyline. People constantly debated about the twin rocks being called 'moons'. Even with their combined mass, it only added up to a fraction of the lovely Luna orbiting the humans' home planet. Not even the shape qualified them to be actual moons. Those arguments did not change the fact that they served as perfect spots for the kind of experiments that the U.A.C conducted. Instant matter transportation within a local area had been already been accomplished. The next the U.A.C scientists aimed for was to send objects, maybe even people, across vast distances. Nonliving items (tools, books, etc.) transported from one moon to the other proved feasible. Now the next step was to see if anything living would make it across. Those files were classified, however.

Mars came closer into view, and McKnight finally rose from his seat and talked to the pilot. "Pretty red for a hunk of rock, don't you think?"

"Red like a devil coming at you from the inner depths of Hell itself," the pilot responded. Maybe the choice of words he used would serve as a jinx. "Still, it's amazing to see what the universe has to offer. Red or not, Mars still marvels me."

"I for one would rather stick to the green and blue of good ol' Mother Earth, the pure colors," McKnight said back to the pilot.

He had to sit back down because the shuttle had started the re-entry process. As he went back to his small bunk in the living area (this definitely did not qualify as a luxury cruise line!), he pondered the question of what his duties would comprise of. Whatever the case, he might have had to do mining work at some point. It all came with the job description.

Oh well, at least he only needed to serve about three months on the forsaken pile of rock. After that he could return to his normal life. Until then, loads of hard labor thanks to a fateful punch in the face lay ahead. All McKnight could do now was to lay back and shut his eyes. At the present moment, black definitely seemed better than red.

The pilot's voice boomed over the intercom after six minutes. "Sgt. McKnight, this is where you get off." McKnight grunted as he opened his eyes, annoyed that three long months of swallowing dust and vacuum had now started. He grabbed his bag and headed on out of the living area. The door opened and he exited off the shuttle. His new C.O., Lieutenant O'Neil, met him on the other side. McKnight gave the required salute, it was returned. Just then, the shuttle lifted off and flew out of sight forever.

"Welcome Sgt. McKnight," were O'Neil's first words. "Private Mitchell will escort you to your quarters. Just know that reveille is at 0530 every morning, breakfast at 0600, and duty starts at 0630." This being said, Private Mitchell led McKnight to the room already chosen for him. After a few twists, turns, and trips in an elevator up to the billeting level, they finally arrived. Inside, McKnight admired the sickly tan concrete walls and floor, bed with the metal frame and headboard along with the single white mattress accompanied by matching white sheets and blanket, the silver nightstand nailed to the floor, the chemical toilet to the left and down from the bed, and the small porcelain sink with a mid-sized mirror attached to it.

"I knew I should have stayed on the shuttle," McKnight thought to himself.


McKnight took a moment to knock some of the ash off his cigarette. It had about four days since he last had a smoke, and this occasion definitely called for some relief. His tour finally ended, and he just now waited for Lt. O'Neil to come and sign one of the two glorious pieces of paper within his sight, the transfer order. The other he held in his hands, a copy of the N.R.A Today magazine. What Marine didn't like to read about guns? Was he really a Marine if he didn't? A great many questions like these ran through McKnight's head as he kept reading on.

He patiently waited for O'Neil to show up in the rec room. What better place to reward oneself than in there? He had watched plenty 'restricted' movies while off duty with some of the other grunts, despite the U.A.C's feelings towards pornography. But what else was a guy supposed to do while being marooned on this lousy excuse for a planet with no women? He had to let himself off somehow! The stash of Hustlers and Penthouses got boring fast, as no real action could come from them. He contemplated having a beer as well to celebrate to occasion, but then after popping the tobacco stick in his mouth, he passed. Alcohol and tobacco just seemed like a bad combination to him.

The watch on his wrist read 1320, and then he spoke to himself, if a bit annoyed. "He said ten minutes. It's been half a damn hour! What could be taking him?!" A few seconds after he said this the doors to the rec room behind him slammed shut. Now he was starting to get angry, but he kept his cool for now. He tiptoed over to the door and put his ear against it so that he might hear what was being said on the other side. From the sound of the voices, there wasn't any good news at all.

"What did the rest of the message say?" said a voice that sounded like Lt. O'Neil's.

"We don't know," an voice unknown to McKnight responded. "All we could make of the last segment was what sounded like 'urgent', 'things', and 'evil'." The last word sent a shiver up McKnight's spine. "All we do know is that any attempt to communicate with either of the two moons has resulted unsuccessful after that."

"I should have smelled trouble when Deimos vanished off the scopes!" O'Neil continued "First the trouble with our human guinea pigs, and now this!"

Human guinea pigs? What on Earth, or Mars, did they talk about? After they exchanged a few more sentences that made little significance to McKnight, the door finally opened again, with Lt. O'Neil making his way into the room. McKnight stood at attention almost immediately. "SIR!" he shouted.

"At ease Sergeant," O'Neil replied. "Come with me, and leave that transfer paper on the table."

They both walked out of the rec room as O'Neil shut the door behind them. He started to speak again. "I'm pretty sure you haven't kept up to tabs all the way with what's been going on. Lately we've been experiencing some problems with our experiments on the moons. We just recieved a garbled message from the Phobos installation about 25 minutes ago, that should explain why I was late. In that message, the U.A.C scientists sent a distress signal with some disturbing reports. Seems as though something not quite human emerged from one of the gates. No further description was given, just 'not human'. Ever since we recieved the message, neither of the two moons were we able to send communication to. Things are obviously not looking too good."

At this moment McKnight decided to ask a question or two. "Sir, I didn't mean to be eavesdropping, but I believe I heard you making a comment about how Deimos vanished from the scopes."

"It didn't just vanish from the scopes," O'Neil said, "it vanished from the sky as well! I can't explain it any better than the rest of the grunts, no offense."

"None taken, sir." McKnight replied. Then the thought hit him; how could such a celestial body, even the size of Deimos, just disappear without a trace? It seemed physically impossible, at least in this world. He asked one more question. "Also, sir, what did you mean by 'human guinea pigs'?"

O'Neil took a few moments to answer, then frowned as he began to tell McKnight the whole story. "Sergeant, what you are about to hear is extremely disturbing. We have successfully transported nonliving items from one moon to the other, as you and almost every other person in the Armed Forces knows. After we tried that, we decided to transport simple cultures of bacteria to see if living tissue could be feasible. Out next step further was to send rats from one side to another. Physical conditions when they came back were a little shaken up, but that was to be expected with a more complicated organism. Finally, we selected some human candidates who actually volunteered to cross over. Our first minor problems occurred when the transfer time took abnormally long. Even with the other organisms the downtime remained constant. But ever since we started sending humans over to the other side, the results have not gone well. Men came back with some form of hysteria. The became mentally unstable as well, uttering vulgarities of many sorts that not even in the most stressed state did they extort. Next they went berserk trying to kill anything that stood in their way. It took considerable manpower just to hold these men down. Finally, a most unfavorable death happened next...."

"Like what, sir?" McKnight asked, his voice shaking somewhat.

The words almost never seemed to come out of O'Neil, then he finally told McKnight, "Think of what happens when spaghetti with meat sauce is left in the microwave for too long."

That was enough for McKnight to almost vomit at that moment. It was amazing he didn't. "I understand, sir," was all he said. "Now, what does all of this have to do with me?"

"I have ordered a small strike team to penetrate the Phobos installation and clean it out of any opposition. I myself will lead the team. The team will need all the manpower it can get, so I've decided to add you to it. If we do survive this one, Sergeant, we'll hopefully get some answers out of this one."

His last words made McKnight shudder even more. And while they both talked, he almost failed to notice that they walked towards his quarters until the door almost hit his face. As McKnight entered, he asked Lt. O'Neil one last question as he stood outside. "I understand, sir. So when do we depart?"

"In exactly one hour," O'Neil responded. "Get your BDUs on and reconvene with the rest of the team at the shuttle bay in 45 minutes. Dismissed." With this, he closed the door without waiting for a salute. A deep pit formed in the bottom of McKnight's stomach.


The gleam of the transport module that airlifted the Marines to Phobos could almost been seen from anywhere in the solar system as the sun reflected off of it. It only took a matter of minutes to reach topside, as if Phobos had a streamlined shape to it. Before the troops went out, Lt. O'Neil gave last minute orders.

"Alright sweethearts! Listen up! The objective here is to clear out the base of anything inhuman! I want each team to investigate each room on each level! If the room is clear, the report in and rendezvous at the specified point I give you! The maps that I gave each and every one of you should come in handy for that!" Each Marine except McKnight took out a map of the installation. O'Neil continued. "McKnight, I want you to secure the entrance and the perimeter. If anything suspicious happens or appears, notify me as soon as you can! Is that clear?"

"SIR, YES SIR!" McKnight bellowed out.

"As for the rest of you," O'Neil told the others, "do not, I repeat, do NOT get separated from the rest of your team! If you get separated, then you have obviously done something wrong! Teamwork is of the utmost importance here! Remember, we're dealing with something that's not human, so don't try to negotiate if the situation becomes hostile! Unless there are any questions, are we clear on this?"

"SIR, YES SIR!" the Marines shouted.

"Good! Let's move out Marines!" O'Neil ordered. The hatch opened quickly, and the troops swarmed like it was the Battle at Normandy. After a few feet, they arrived at the entryway to the hangar, the main level of the installation. O'Neil took point and approached the control panel to the door. A few key presses and the door slowly opened. "MOVE IN!!! GO! GO! GO!" O'Neil shouted to the company of Marines. "MCKNIGHT! TAKE YOUR POSITION!" McKnight did as ordered.

"Good luck, Lieutenant!" McKnight said to O'Neil. He gave a nod of response, then went inside the door and shut it from the inside. The slam of the door almost seemed like the last good sound McKnight would hear for awhile.

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You bastard! you copied my prologue concept!.

Oh well, good story, except for one thing:

"the 2nd cold war" takes place in Afghanistan. That's a little too close to the current timeframe.

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Good story, though I agree a bit with sleepy about the second cold war.
Btw, is this story a response to this thread?

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You bastard! you copied my prologue concept!.

Rest assured, it's purely coincidental.

Oh well, good story, except for one thing:

"the 2nd cold war" takes place in Afghanistan. That's a little too close to the current timeframe.

It was meant to be :)

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Hm, I take it that people don't look thoroughly through this forum.

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