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Short Story: The Epirus Mission Part III

Upon our return into the complex I decided to stick to the tactic of searching out the bio-chip signals which were scattered around the complex. Most of these signals were up on the second level. On our way up we came across another danger, this time environmental. Our tech-pads detected toxic gas in our vicinity but we managed to avoid it. We found four more survivors without much trouble. Sara, a young mother, and her five year old son Jimmy were together surrounded by gas filled rooms.  They had escaped a stronghold where Sara’s husband and brother had stayed to fight the invaders. She hadn’t seen them since. A young married couple, Joseph and Rose, informed us that they’d recently returned from a survey expedition to find the complex abandoned and had been in hiding ever since. Again we evacuated these people via drop-ship and returned to the complex for the final time.

We had four more signals to check out before we had to go to investigate the large group of signals I mentioned earlier. This time we met resistance from more groups of patrolling aliens. We killed them all but it was getting more difficult, we were now coming up against larger groups. A few of us took some light wounds from small bites and scratches but nothing Cross couldn’t handle. Our armor helped us out as acid blood sprayed us in some of the close quarter encounters. We managed to remove the armor before the acid ate them away and reached our chests and limbs.

The first survivor we found was a middle-aged woman called Sofia. When we found Sofia she was in bad shape with a deep wound to her left side. Sadly, she died as Cross was trying to move her to attend to the wound. Moments later we were attacked and had to leave Sofia where we had found her. The next two signals were together. We found two adolescent colonists, a girl and a boy that looked to be around sixteen years old. Both had a bullet hole in their head’s and in the boy’s hand was a pistol. We left them where we had found them and moved on. The area wasn’t safe and we had to continue to the next and final solitary bio-chip signal.

The deeper we got into the complex and the closer to this signal, on the third floor, the more aliens we met – firstly, two or three at a time but then groups of four and five. One room contained four so we opened fire from medium range as we had been doing from the beginning of the mission. We were now down to around half of our ammunition and had started using stronger weaponry like our grenade launchers and hand held grenades – they were very effective.  In this particular room we took out three of the aliens with one grenade but suddenly three more showed up and then another two. Some of us again received light wounds but then Jones got badly beaten up. An alien managed to bite into his shoulder. His screams caught everyone’s attention and a few of us fired in his direction to kill the attacking alien. The acid blood sprayed three people. Private Sugden luckily still had her armor and it saved her life. Unfortunately, Private Watson and Jones were not so lucky. Most of the blood ended up covering Watson’s chest and throat and he died before Cross or anyone else could get to him. The gurgling sounds as the acid burnt through his throat were horrific. It was not a clean death. Jones’ passing was an easier one. He had already passed out, I hoped, from the pain of the shoulder wound but what killed him was the acid which had sprayed across his face. It ate away everything down to the bone and deeper. Conscious or not he couldn’t have suffered much. Acid blood works fast. Losing two marines within minutes hit the two squads hard. We were all silent for a while but we had to keep moving, we had a mission to accomplish. We were not far from the signal so we continued without moving Watson and Jones as we were planning to come back that way on our return towards the eastern parked APC.

We found the single survivor about five minutes later. He was a boy of fourteen called Roland. He told us he’d been into the Nest, as him and his friends had called it, on the third level and that many of the colonists trapped there were still alive. I remember he was very nervous and avoided many of my questions. He was suffering from hunger pains and thirst from not eating or drinking anything for days. We headed back the way we had come to pick up Watson and Jones and get the kid to the APC. I remember it was PFC Simpson who made the discovery. He was the first back into the room where we had left our comrades. The bodies were gone. I ordered the marines to keep moving and they silently did, except for Simpson who kept commenting on how wrong things were going – Persson told him to keep it together.

Half way towards the APC, Roland started convulsing; he seemed to be in excruciating pain. We soon learnt the cause of his discomfort.  Something that resembled the creatures we had been fighting burst out of his chest. The thing managed to crawl out of Roland’s chest and run out of sight before anyone reacted. Roland was dead. We had just witnessed what Johannson had described had happened on Themis hundreds of times – the birth of a new alien from a host who had been impregnated. We had no idea Roland had been impregnated but the reason for avoiding some of my earlier questions seemed to have been made clear.  Now with no survivors to evacuate it was time to check out the large group of bio-chip signals.

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