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Ghosts of Retribution


Ben Dyar

Gloom shrouded the steel walls, red stains appearing faintly orange. Discarded boxes of ammunition and spent shells littered the corridor, intermixing with guns still clutched by their owners. Bullet holes had burnt paint surrounding their impact against the uprights, forming a large radius of damage. Mark Joseph crept silently, pressed against the wall, grasping his rifle with shaking hands. Farther down in one of the compartments, metal struck metal. A scream erupted followed by in inhumane roar and the sound of a sharp object tearing through flesh. Something heavy slammed on floor material, reverberating through the wall against which Mark trembled.

From behind him, a burst of machine gun fire obliterated the silence. An explosion ensued, ceasing all noise save for stale wind carrying foul odors of the dead or dying. A hatchway on his right slowly opened, prodded by a three-clawed hand. Breathing nervously, Mark carefully lowered his rifle and squeezed the trigger. Recoil forced his quaking arms above his target zone, but the damage had been dealt. The hatch slammed shut, echoing down the corpse-littered corridor. Stepping over a severely mutilated body, he continued his slow and intricate trek to reach the outdoor landing area. To freedom. To fresh air.

Darkness gathered as Mark ever-so-slowly opened the heavy-titanium door. A howl followed by a roar to his left, another quick burst of machine gun fire to his right. Seeing a landing ship which had crash-landed before the invasion, he peered left and right again. Assuring himself that no creature stirred within range, he sprinted to the bent but not broken spacecraft. Mark wrapped his muscular fingers around a bar while his others quickly entered a key code. The door’s hydraulics hissed and it opened, sending a rush of cooled air into the bleak blackness of Geon. Sounds of running caused him to spin and he lost balance. Toppling, he jerked his rifle up and fired. The roar of the weapon against the tranquility of the alien dusk forced the runner to slip under a long since burnt-out hulk of a light tank. Without pausing to right himself, Mark tossed a fragmentation grenade and ran up the loading ramp. The running resumed, drawing nearer. He jabbed a button on the pad and the door hissed shut.

The alien, moving too swiftly to stop, slammed into the door. A massive indentation appeared where its teeth had instinctively sunk into metal. Mark ran to the cockpit, securing the door. Too agitated and frightened to sit, he powered up the drop ship’s engines, ignoring preflight checks. Whining with protest, the engines ignited, sending waves of flame from output nozzles. The rear loading door shattered inward, yielding the shuttle’s interior to the alien. Without pausing, it rushed to the next door and began rip it down. The weak metals couldn’t resist the iron-like muscles of the two-meter beast.

It slashed left, it slashed right. Already bleeding from a three-foot gash on his abdomen, Mark attempted to bring his rifle up, but it was knocked down. At last, it relented, having tripped on an exposed cable. He squeezed the trigger and the beast flew backwards into the loading area. Blood from its wounds flew in purple globes only to splash against the titanium deck plating. Mark continued to fire until the beast was completely dismembered. Washed with fatigue, he fell into the captain’s chair. His arm sagged uselessly at his side, broken in six locations. Geon’s six moons glittered brightly in the sky, casting an eerie glow on the ravaged battleground. In the distance, sounds of a continual struggle could be heard; faint gunfire interrupted by roars and screams.

Repayment had been received for Human invasion of a planet which wasn’t theirs.

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