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Short Story: The Epirus Mission Part II

2nd Squad had nothing to report from their sweep to the meeting point. They were very surprised to hear about ours. I remember Private Barnes sounding very disappointed that he hadn’t used his Smartgun and PFC Jones had. They had a healthy rivalry – that was clear from the short time I had spent with them. From here I decided we would join forces and proceed to the control room in the north. We made good time and didn’t experience any problems – no sign of those things or more damaged or transformed areas of the complex.

We arrived at the control room and got the main computer online. We checked environmental readouts – temperature, gas and power sources. The complex was in bad condition. There was a large area of gas just south of our meeting point and small fires all over the place, some of them very nearby. The condition of the place was deteriorating with every passing hour. We took some notes and then checked the colonist bio-chip readouts. Luckily for us every colonist had an implant so that their location was always known. The program displayed the whole complex and showed that the majority of bio-chips where localized to one area, on three levels but all right on top of each other. Some were only a few rooms away from where we’d first encountered the damaged area. We didn’t feel good about the fact that most of the colonists were all together right where we’d met so many of those things. Most of the colonists were there but not all of them. There were eleven signals coming from separate areas of the complex, some of them in pairs. One of these signals was quite close to our location so I sent three marines over to check it out, the rest of us stayed in the control room. It was an important room to secure as we’d be able to get updates on environmental damages and bio-chip movement.

After about five minutes the three marines came back with a colonist. Her name was Ellen, a middle-aged architect. She confirmed a lot of what Johannson had told us about the life forms and in particular that they came from eggs. She said she had seen dozens of eggs up on the third level. She had also seen where the eggs had come from – a Queen. She described how this enormous creature was busy laying eggs whilst she was a captive in the nest. She told us she’d managed to escape before impregnation. Impregnation – like Johannson had reported had happened to the colonists on Themis. We gave Ellen a little food and something to drink, she was exhausted but otherwise seemed healthy.

Next, I decided to give orders to Gunnery Persson and most of the marines to go to investigate the bio-chip signals on the first level, very close to where we had already been to, while Johannson, Rook, Ellen, Barnes and I stayed behind in the control room.

Minutes after the group left we were attacked by two aliens who broke into the room through the re-enforced glass windows. I was surprised by the attack and I gave the order to quickly retreat from the center of the room to the furthest corner away from the aliens. We couldn’t leave, as by that time we were mostly surrounded by fires.  In the confusion we left our primary weapons near the main computer and had to fend off the attack using secondary weapons. After killing our attackers we tried to retrieve our weapons when another wave came through the windows. Being caught by surprise a second time un-nerved me and again I ordered a retreat to the back of the room without our primary weapons. This time the aliens got close, closer than they’d ever got before. Before we could dispose of them Barnes was knocked to the ground when one of the aliens charged him. I managed to kill the alien attacking Barnes and then he spun around and took down an alien attacking Johannson. That’s when it happened – we lost Johannson. Barnes’ firepower caused the alien to burst into a cloud of acidic blood and Johannson was just too close. She died within a few seconds as the blood worked its way through her chest. There was nothing we could do. Things had started to go wrong. Luckily Ellen was unharmed. She’d made herself into a little ball in the corner of the room, no doubt something she was used to doing in the last few weeks. Strangely, throughout the attack the aliens had not targeted Rook, I thought maybe because he’d never fired a shot. We killed two more aliens before I decided to abandon our position and move to meet the others before someone else was killed.

We met the main group as they were also withdrawing from where the bio-chips signals had been on the first level. Several of the group had received light wounds from some very close encounters with more aliens. Persson reported that they had found more of the transformed or damaged areas and reached the bio-chip signals. They hadn’t found anyone, no-one. They were right where the signals had told them colonists should be. We started to speculate about what the organic material in those areas was made of. Persson added that as they were returning to the control room they were attacked inside the transformed area by a small group of aliens. With the reduced visibility some of the aliens were almost on top of them by the time they killed them all.

I decided to move as one single unit again to find more survivors. Perhaps the signals we had seen that were far from this area might prove more fruitful. They did. Over the next hour we didn’t come up against any of the life forms and found two more people alive. The first was a very scared little girl called Emilia. Corporal Cross, our Medical Officer, calmed her down and checked out her wounds. The second person we found was an elderly man in poor health. Ridley had been an accountant before the aliens had appeared and told us of the struggles the colonists had had with them before the end. The colonists only had a few pistols and mining explosives to defend themselves with and most were slaughtered. Ridley told of people often going missing at night.

With now three survivors, including a child I thought it best to head for one of the Armored Personnel Carriers (APC’s) and call for a drop-ship to come and pick them up before we continued the mission. We did so without incident and replenished our supplies at the same time.

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