Spending the last few days in the shack with his mom was the easy part and they never went beyond a couple of meters from each other. At night though was a different story. He continued to have night terrors from his ordeals and could not get over the fact he almost died that day. Hayley spent countless hours trying to calm him down and get him back to sleep.
Hayley was doing a quick audit of the food, her eyes studying the labels intently while Dexter was beside her, placing cans on the shelf. He was attempting to place a can of beans on the shell when he dozed off and the can slipped from his hand. It landed on Hayley’s feet. She yowled, held on to the shelf for support and pulled up the injured feet to rub it.
With a deep sense of guilt, he uttered softly, “Sorry.”
After the pain subsided, Hayley put her feet down and sucked in a mouthful of air. She let it all out and attempted a weak smile, “It’s fine.”
He continued stocking up the shelf until the box he had on the ground was empty. He went to the storage area to bring out another box of cans. It was fine at first until his head started to feel light. He swayed left to right while struggling to hold onto the box. He started seeing double until he crashed into his mom, slamming her into the shelf. Moment before he understood what happened, the box slipped and hit the ground, causing some of the cans to burst open and covered the floor with rainbow coloured liquid with chunks of food.
Hayley turned around with a scowling face that was all red. She shoved her son, “Why are you so clumsy!”
The push caught him off guard. He staggered backwards until one of his foot was on the puddle. He lost his footing and started flailing as he went crashing to the ground. His butt impacted the hard, grey ground first before the back of his head. The pain didn’t register at first. Even when it did, he was expressionless and remained completely still on ground.
She didn’t move. It was as though rigour mortis had set in. She continued to glare at him while breathing rapidly. When she became aware of what happened, every muscle in her body became like jelly. It felt like she was in a dream but she knew it wasn’t. She had hurt her boy and felt her heart ached. Guilt and shock was all she felt. “Baby, I’m…mm sor…sor..sorry. I…I didn’t mean it.”
He didn’t quite heard what his mom said and all he got were flashbacks to how his stepdad had hurt him. It was like reliving the nightmares again. When the flashbacks ended, he pushed himself up albeit shakily and ran towards the stairs.
Hayley only reacted when her son was near the stairs. She started moving, carefully navigating around the puddle of rainbow on the ground as she called out repeatedly, “Come back! Dexter! I’m sorry!”
He didn’t look at where he was going. He just kept running, unaware that aliens and Earth Union soldiers were battling it out in the town in a tedious and deadly urban warfare. Hayley just kept running after him and called out his name. The gap between them got wider as Dexter was faster due to his age and gender.
One of the alien soldiers, a large humanoid over seven feet tall and resembled a bipedal lizard, stepped out from one of the houses. He heard the shouting and saw two humans running. He raised his plasma rifle and targeted the female human. He squeezed the trigger. A blue sliver plasma bolt went flying out at sub-sonic sonic speed and struck the human on the side. On impact, the bolt discharged as much energy as a thumb-sized grenade, blowing out a fist-sized hole just inches below her armpit. The shouting stop. She crumbled to the ground lifeless.
Dexter heard the explosion but didn’t stop until he realised his mom had stop calling out. He turned around to see Hayley lying face down on the ground.
He started running back to Hayley and tears started rolling down the side of his face. He saw the alien stepped out onto the street with his raised rifle. The alien saw him and fired but Dexter jumped to the side at the last minute when he saw the blue bolt. The shot sizzled past inches away from his right ear. He could feel the heat. If the bolt had been closer by an inch, he knew he would suffer from second degree burns. And he also knew the next shot would probably hit him. He started running on a zigzag manner only to trip over his own feet. He put out his hands to break the fall and scraped his palms, forearms and elbows against the asphalt in the process. He was surprised he didn’t break his arm, considering it was a rather hard fall.
“Shit!” Dexter looked up and knew the alien was about to fire its weapon.
His body jerked when he heard the loud boom. The alien’s head exploded, splattering blue blood and brain matter on the surfaces nearby. It dropped to the ground lifeless. He turned around to see a lone soldier with an assault carbine raised and pointing in his general direction. There was still white smoke rising out of the barrel.
The soldier came closer while scanning his surroundings for more threats. He heaved a sigh of relief when there was no response from the enemy and lowered his weapon when he was an arm’s length away from Dexter. He put his carbine to his side, letting it hang lazily from the strap with the barrel pointing to the ground. He put his hand out as an offer to help the boy up, “Hey kid, what are you doing here? This town isn’t safe anymore.”
“My mom and I were hiding out in our basement,” Dexter reached out and grabbed the soldier’s hand, which started pulling him up. He started sobbing, “Now she’s dead. It’s all my fault.”
The solider looked behind Dexter and saw the dead woman sprawled on the ground, “I’m sorry about your mom. What about your dad?”
“He’s dead too in our house.”
“Is there anyone else that can care for you?”
Dexter shook his head and started sniffing.
“We should get you to the school. There are some soldiers there who can protect you.”
Still sniffing from blocked sinuses, Dexter asked, “Are there other people?”
“Yes. You will be safe there.”
Dexter wiped away his tears with the back of his hands and took a deep breath. He gave the soldier a quick study. The soldier was a member of the elite Earth Union Orbital Drop Marines (ODM). Cost meant not many military units got the exoframe. And there was a unit patch on upper right arm that identified the soldier as such.
The People’s Republic of China developed the original version of the exoskeleton in the late twenty-seventies to give its soldiers an edge over its adversary as it strived to maintain its dominance of western pacific against the North American Union, also known as The Free Union. The Free Union and her allies jointly released their own version later that combined American innovation and German engineering. The exoskeleton saw its first combat use in the war between The Free Union and South American Confederation. Since then, there were multiple variants developed by nations around the world and soon became an arms race in its own right.
Dexter also knew that ODMs operated in squads of four and wondered where the rest were.
“Ok,” Dexter replied. “Are you alone Mr. soldier? I thought there should be more of you?”
The soldier sighed, “My teammates were killed in battle yesterday.”
“I’m sorry too.”
The soldier nodded in acknowledgement.
He debated with himself whether to share what he had with this soldier. He knew he won’t be able to survive on his own without help but didn’t know for sure if the soldier would just kill him and take what he had. Before the soldier could speak, he decided to take the leap of faith and asked, “Shall we have a deal? You get me to the school, help me bring my mom back to the house, and protect me. I will give you whatever food and water I got at my house?”
The soldier didn’t hesitate and put out his hand. Dexter shook it. The soldier smiled, “We got a deal.”
Both of them carried Hayley back to the shack. On the journey back, it dawned on Dexter of how far he had ran. He was upset and guilty about getting his mom killed. She was the only person in the world that cared about him. If not for his mom, he would be dead at his stepdad’s hands. When they placed her down in the basement and covered her up with a blanket, Dexter rested the upper half of his body and arms on her body as though he was praying. The emotions he held back came flowing out like the flood gates had opened. He started bawling. The soldier did his best to comfort Dexter.
He stopped crying some five minutes later. With puffy eyes, he directed the soldier to the stash of food and a bag. The soldier started packing as much food and water he could. At the same time, Dexter found his own bag and packed his own food, water and clothes that he might need for the journey.
It was seven in the evening when they left. Other than the occasional explosions and gunfire going off in the distance, the town was eerily quiet. The soldier led the way to an abandoned vehicle further away from Dexter’s house.
They both stared at the car. It was a four-seater and judging from the fading, peeling paint job, the owner either was broke or couldn’t be bother. And judging from the model, it was one of the earliest version of software-driven vehicle that could connect to the city’s vehicle management network.
“This car can’t move without the city network to perform the initial authentication process. Manual driving requires the physical key. I don’t see the owner anywhere”
“I can bypass that requirement.”
Dexter tried the car handle and found it unlock. He went in via the driver side and started working on the electronics of the car. It didn’t take him long to figure out the circuitry and did a bypass to allow manual drive. The engine roared to life when it received a surge of electricity from the batteries.
“Done,” Dexter said as he got out of the vehicle.
“You can’t drive?”
“I don’t have my driver license. I’m only fifteen.”
“Oh…then let me do the honours.”
The soldier went in and he had to push the seat back to have more leg space. His exoframe was making things very difficult but he couldn’t take it out just yet. He placed his carbine on the dashboard and closed the door.
Dexter went in from the passenger side. He fastened his seat belt and looked at the soldier, “I didn’t get your name.”
The soldier fastened his seatbelt too, “Amin.”
“Dexter. And thank you for saving me.”
Amin nodded his head with a smile, “You are welcome.”
The rest of the drive to the school wasn’t as smooth as they liked. They came upon a few alien checkpoints. Not wanting a confrontation, they had to take a detour via some of the smaller roads and alleyways. The drive took them by many of the houses that were badly damaged and some were on fire. Out on the streets, there were the occasional bodies. Dexter believed that these people couldn’t get away from the aliens in time judging from the charred holes on their bodies.
They arrived at primary roundabout that separated the suburbs and the main city. Without any electricity, the holographic signboards that were at every junction were off. Amin relied on his memory of the city map and turned the car to the left, ignoring right-turn rule. After all, there was nobody to enforce and give them a ticket.
The car followed the roundabout and turned left on the first junction onto a parkway. It would be at least fifteen minutes before they reached the school at the rate they were going. Dexter having gone through this parkway a few times, knew they would only see trees. Under normal circumstances and broad daylight, it would be a pleasant drive. But since they were in a middle of an alien invasion and with the lack of street lighting, those trees only made him afraid. The parkway was so dark that neither of them could seeing anything further than the side of the road in any direction except for the front where the headlights enable them to see just a tad further. During the journey, Dexter sneaked a few glances at Amin and saw that he was equally tensed.
When Amin and Dexter arrived in front of the school entrance, they finally managed to breathe properly. They were covered in sweat too. Amin gave quick glance at the clock on his wrist computer just as two of the soldiers guarding the school entrance came over. It was five minutes past nine.
“Staff Sergeant Amin Yerli, 8th ODM Division, Delta Squad,” Amin said. The soldier standing by the driver-side window bent over to look inside. Amin pointed at Dexter, “This is Dexter, a civilian I picked up from Dunk Town.”
“Master Sergeant Chris Haddock, California National Guard.”
“What happened to Luke? He was on duty when I left for Dunk.”
“Killed this morning when some aliens decided to test the perimeter. We killed them and avenged him.”
“Yeah. And how’s the situation over there in Dunk Town?”
Amin sighed, “Bad. This kid is the only survivor I found since yesterday.”
“Damn! I got an aunt in there. I haven’t heard from since the invasion started.”
“Thanks. We will mourn our dead later. Go on in and get some rest. Most of the people are in the hall.” Chris stepped away and waved his hands around, indicating to soldiers around the entrance to let the vehicle through.
Amin followed the driveway that took him around the main building.
The main building had four visible floors and was rectangle at its center with two protrusions from the northwest and northeast corners. If anyone could look down at the building from above, they would see something like the face of a cat or dog with its ears standing up. Windows decorated almost every side of the building but no one could see through them due to the lack of lights and some had curtains. As the school was located on the edge of the city and in the middle of a park, it had a steel fence around the perimeter to ensure the safety of the students.
Amin parked the car in the carpark behind the building. As there were only a few vehicles, he randomly picked a parking spot. Dexter got out first and went over to help Amin with some of the stuff. Amin was struggling due to the amount of equipment he had on him. When he finally got out, both of them went into the school from the backdoor and made their way to the main hall.
The soldiers divided the hall into two sections: one for soldiers and the other for civilians. There was an empty corridor in between the sections using medical screens. Armed soldiers patrolled the corridor to make sure there were no trespassing.
Dexter went to the civilian area after Amin went off to join up with a friend he saw. He clung on tightly to his backpack and started looking for a place to rest. When he couldn’t find any, he decided to try the upper floors where the classrooms were. He hoped the soldiers didn’t take those rooms too.
He strolled through the poorly lit corridors until he got to the stairs in the center of the building. There were people coming down from it carrying boxes as he went up. Once on the second floor, he turned to his left to check out the classrooms to rest for the night. He tried to open the first door and found it locked. He pouted and tried the door on the right side of the corridor. It was locked too. A familiar voice from behind called his name when he took a step forward. He froze and couldn’t decide if he should run. There was no place for him to hide or run unless he wanted to go out of the school and risk being killed by aliens.
He decided to take a stand, turned around to face the person only to see a grinning face.
“It’s really you! Oh Dexter, I thought I will never see you again!”
“Shane,” Dexter’s eyes went wide before narrowing again, “What do you want?”
Shane strode over. Shocked by the action, Dexter tried to back away only to find arms going around him and pull him close. All he could see was Shane’s midsection and felt uncomfortable. He managed to wriggle out and take a step back.
“What are you doing? I thought you hate me.”
Shane lowered his head in defeat, “I’m sorry for how I have been treating you over the years.”
Dexter raised an eyebrow in confusion, not entirely sure if this was Shane. For all he knew, this person in front of him could be an alien.
“Look, I know what I did was wrong. I’m really sorry. I hated the sight of you because you reminded me of how I felt. I wasn’t ready to deal with those feelings, especially not with the pressures from my basketball team, how people might judge me, and what my parents would think. None of those matters now because I’m not even sure anyone else is alive.”
“What are you saying?” Dexter asked, wanting to clarify what he thought Shane implied.
“I like you a lot.”
“What makes you think I like you at all? You hurt me so many times,” Dexter started crying, “I broke my arm because of you! I nearly got killed by my dad because of you and your drugs! I got shunned because of what you told everybody! I got cuts and bruises all over because of you! Let’s not forget the other day, you nearly paralysed me! And now you fucking tell you like me! Fuck off!” Dexter turned and ran. He wanted to find a room where he could hide in it to get away from everything. Shane went after him.
Dexter went up to the third floor via the other staircase located on the far end of the school. He knew of a good spot to hide in, a place he always went after any major humiliations. He tripped over the stairs halfway through and struck his left shin against the edge of one of the steps. He howled from the pain but he didn’t let it stop him. He limped up the stairs.
Shane caught up to Dexter and saw him limping up.
“Dexter, wait up please!”
“Just leave me the fuck alone!
Even with the poor lighting, Shane saw blood soaking through the left leg of Dexter’s pants, “You are bleeding. Let me help.”
Dexter stopped to catch his breath before continuing up. He only went up two more steps before he decided to sit down. He was exhausted, sweaty, hungry, and hurt.
“Just go away…”
Shane went up the stairs and gestured with his hands to show that he meant no harm, “Come on. Let me get you to the infirmary.”
Dexter glared at Shane and pulled himself up to see the world turn black.
Dexter opened his eyes slowing. It was a blurry sight. He blinked several times before seeing the white ceiling of the infirmary. He felt someone was beside him and turned his head to see Shane. He opened his mouth and only a dried, hoarse voice came out, “What happened?”
“You fainted. I caught you just in time before you went tumbling down the stairs and carried you here. The doctor said you were dehydrated and had low blood sugar. Just rest up for tonight and you will be fine. I will go and help out.”
Shane stood up and was about to leave when he felt someone grabbing on his hand. He saw that it was Dexter.
“If this alien invasion didn’t happen. Would you have continue to treat me the way you did?”
Shane look straight into those tired blue eyes, “No. I decided that enough is enough. And I am really sorry for what I put you through. I want to make it up to you.”
“So that kiss we shared two years ago was real?”
“Yes…” Shane’s face turned red. He leaned forward and kissed Dexter on his forehead, “I do like you and we will talk more after you’ve rested up.”
With majority of the ship system offline and radiation sickness affecting almost everyone, Mu Ren was combat ineffective. Anyone who was able was busy tending to the sick and injured.
Zhang Hao, after receiving his dose of anti-radiation medicine from the medic, went around the ship to find anyone who was not incapacitated and had engineering background. With the communication system offline, there was no way he could coordinate anything. And he knew the ship had to move. It didn’t matter where. Anywhere would be better than above Earth.
He reached the mess hall for the crew and found a communications engineer and an electrical engineer. Both of them managed to stay near the center of the ship throughout the battle and were only dosed mildly by radiation. He requested for their help. First order of business was to get the internal communication system online and then engine control.
He led the way until they reached the nexus. The nexus was a tall cylinder that ran the full height of the ship at the center. As its name suggested, it connected all the decks and allowed crew members to go anywhere. To make travels easier and faster in free-fall, crew members can hold on to the linear powered-handles along the walls to pull them in the direction they want to go.
Without power, the nexus now looked creepy with the orange glow from the emergency lights. The simple design of the lights and being encased in faraday cages meant they weren’t affected by the EMP.
Zhang Hao led the way, pushing against the walls and pulling on whatever his hand could grab on. He stopped in front of a service hatch, grabbed onto the support bar beside it while the other hand unlocked the hatch by sliding the red handle down a quarter way across the hatch and pulling it towards him.
When the opening was big enough to fit him, he pull himself in and the engineers followed behind with the last man closing the hatch before continuing.
After going through a series of interconnected tunnels and several turns, they came upon another service hatch with the label, “Auxiliary Communications”. Zhao Hao opened the hatch to find himself in a square room that was almost pristine with several caged cabinets on the far side of the room with wires coming out the top going into the walls. In the center was a console with its holographic display offline.
“Both of you get this room working again so that we can start talking to each other on the ship.”
“But sir, there’s no power,” the communication engineer pointed out.
“This room runs on a separate power source. It’s for emergencies like this. You got ten minutes. When I’m on the bridge, I want to be able to start talking.”
“Yes sir,” both of the engineers responded.
Zhao Hao made his way across the room and through another service hatch. He followed it until he reached a junction. He studied the miniature signboard and turned right where it would take him to the engine room.
His earpiece crackled to life just as he turned right on a junction that took him past the hydroponics and life support deck.
“Sir, comms system up and running. We will stay here to monitor the system for any further issue.”
Zhao Hao switched the channel on his comms system and tried to call the engine room. However, all he got was static. He gave up after several tries and continued his way through the tunnels.
It would be another fifteen minutes before he exited the service hatch that led into the engine control room. There were miniature fires everywhere, filling the room with greyish smoke. Orders were being shouted and carried out. From his vantage point, Zhao Hao found the soldier who was actively giving orders, pushed himself away from the service tunnel and went over, aiming for one of the console beside the person. His hands reached out to grab onto the bar that ran around the side of the console and reoriented himself so that his feet would touch the ground before engaging the magnetic lock.
The soldier caught movement to his right and turned around. It took a while before he recognised who it was. He called out, “Officer…”
Zhao Hao interrupted, “As you were! I need to know what’s the status here.”
“The reactor is still active but the power isn’t getting to the engine or anywhere. The control systems are fried. So is the internal communication systems. We need to re-route the power to the backup system before we can do anything. But we got to put out the fires first and ventilate the room if not we will die of smoke inhalation.”
“How long do you need?”
“Another fifteen minutes.”
“We don’t have that long. You got eight. I want us out of Earth’s orbit in ten. Just do whatever you can to get the engine running and power to the bridge first.”
“Roger that, sir.”
Zhang Hao made his way back to the bridge via the tunnels again. He would prefer the main corridors as it was getting claustrophobic but with the power still out, the bulkheads won’t bulge. Even if those bulkheads were working, he didn’t have a good enough picture of which part of the ship was damaged and how badly. He didn’t want to find himself opening a bulkhead that led straight into space.
Chris had just finished his double shift when he decided to call it a day and catch some sleep. He was walking back through the gate when he heard two explosions a second apart coming from behind. He spun around to see two of the men standing outside guard post crumpled to the ground with their heads missing the top half and the remaining half badly charred.
His instincts kicked in, unslung his carbine and dashed for the nearest cover in front of him in a continuous movement. He spun around and dropped to one knee behind the concrete barrier while keeping his head low enough so it’s not as big of a target for the enemy. He looked into the night with his military-issued smart glasses that came with built-in night vision mode and did a scanning motion. Despite the green tint, it was easy to see the plasma bolts flying through the air. He zoomed in to get a clearer picture of the aliens and did a quick scan. The threat analysis and identification software picked out at least thirty alien foot soldiers.
He raised his carbine over the concrete barrier and rested the barrel on top. He looked down the targeting sight and aligned the alien’s head with the top of the sight to conserve munition. He squeezed the trigger.
The Gauss Carbine, as its name suggested, used electromagnetism to send projectiles at speeds exceeding five times the speed of sound towards targets. At those speeds, each projectile packed more kinetic energy and was less likely to be affected by wind despite being smaller than the traditional NATO ammunition. Upon impact, the hard steel carbide tip gave the projectile the ability to penetrate through vast majority of body armours including alien ones with ease.
The alien’s head exploded on impact, spraying brain matter on his (her?) friends. The projectile retained enough kinetic energy to strike another directly behind in the neck and blew a hole. The second alien gasped for air as it choked on his own blood. It was dead seconds after it hit the ground. Chris cheered quietly and moved on to another target. He fired. Another alien went down.
He saw a plasma bolt struck one of his men to his left in the head. He suspected they could see in the night better than humans could and maybe had the technology to help as the aliens were surprisingly accurate even at night. The thick helmet was no match against those highly-energetic plasma bolts, which had been known to punch holes through almost anything.
“Fuck!” He cursed and traced where the shot came from. He found the target and fired back. The target went down.
His earpiece crackled to life, “Sir! We got more incoming from our rear and our sides. We count a full company.”
A distant voice shouted, “Vehicles! The aliens are deploying vehicles!”
“Corporal, I want you and your squad to hold them off for as long as possible, prioritise those vehicles!” He fired his carbine again when he had another target in sight.
One of his men to his right screamed upon being hit in the left arm. Another man scrambled to tend to the wounds.
“Chris, this is Amin. What kind of heavy weaponry do you have?”
“We got a few grenade launchers and anti-vehicle launchers. They are all up on the roof with my men!”
“Got it. My buddy and I will head up there now.”
Chris didn’t pin much hope on Amin and his ODM buddy. The ODM were a bunch of highly-trained soldiers with the latest and greatest in technology and equipment but he doubt they could even hold off this assault.
He ducked immediately when a few plasma bolts flew by him and stayed down as plasma bolts started striking the concrete barrier, kicking up debris and dust. The attack became more intense and was clear to him the barrier wasn’t going to hold long.
“Fuck!” He looked to his left and shouted, “Corporal, cover fire. I’m coming over.”
The corporal nodded, popped up from his cover and started firing. Chris got up and sprang over while the enemy bolts sizzled pass him. He hoped none of them hit him…
He didn’t feel pain at first when something struck him, causing him to spin and lose his balance. He fell to the ground with a thud. He did a quick study of himself to determine why. There was a huge charred hole where his left hip was. He could see shredded ash-coloured chunks of intestines on the ground and most of his upper thigh was gone. A small strip of flesh attached what remained of his left leg to his body.
His brain finally registered what happened.
The corporal ran over while firing at the enemy and used his free hand to pull Chris to safety. Half way across the ground, a plasma bolt struck the corporal on the right side of his torso, leaving behind a huge hole. He was dead before he even hit the ground.
Chris heard a couple more cries and bodies hitting the ground. He realised they were all going to die. All he could do was to hold off the enemy for as long as he could.
He crawled towards the cover the corporal used. Once he was there, he tried to prop himself up against the concrete barrier, a much thicker and larger than the one before, with his good leg and arm. He used the concrete barrier as a support for his carbine.
“Fuck you, ugly sons of bitches!” He yelled as he started firing.
He killed one.
“Just die!” He squeezed the trigger, dropping another alien.
He killed three more aliens before a plasma bolt blew his supporting arm off. Despite the shearing pain, he didn’t give up. He killed two more aliens and injured another before getting hit in the face by a plasma bolt.
Amin and Jackson managed to get their hands on exoarmours from the makeshift armoury.
The exoarmour came with thick front and back armours designed to take heavy punishment. There were also claims that it could withstand at least one direct hit from a plasma bolt. However, none of them wanted to take that chance and wore additional protection underneath.
Then they grabbed their weapons and additional ammunitions before heading up to the roof. As they made their way through the flickering corridors, they came across some soldiers trying their best to usher the civilians to the basement where it was much easier to hold their ground.
Seeing these civilians and their scared faces, he couldn’t help but feel concerned for them. He wasn’t sure if they could even survive through the night. By the last count, there were fifty soldiers who could still fight and many of them were injured in some way. Of those fifty, only eight were ODMs, including himself, who had seen combat during their careers and been fighting almost non-stop since they landed. Fatigue had mostly set in. What kept them going was adrenaline and the safety of these civilians. The soldiers from the National Guard on the other hand had never even saw combat before today yet Amin admired their determination and willpower.
There were twenty other soldiers so badly wounded that most won’t make it through the night unless they were given immediate hospital-grade medical care. They were left behind in the hall with their weapons and basic gears, in the event they want to put up a fight against the alien invaders. No soldiers should be without weapon, even in their dying moments. Only two soldiers, one of whom a combat medic, remained in the hall to care for the soldiers while everyone else not on usher duty were outside fighting or setting up defensive spots within the building.
Ten soldiers, most of them from Sergeant Chris’s section, spread themselves around the roof in team of two. They placed boxes of ammunitions around the roof and within their reach. The soldiers took turn popping up from their respective covers to fire at the enemy before ducking back down, calling out over the radio for every alien killed. The aliens returned fire. Surfaces around the roof exploded in puffs of smoke and debris.
The stair access to the roof led Amin and Jackson to the northeast corner of the roof. They took cover behind one of the ventilation shafts while plasma bolts sizzled past them into the night sky.
“Hey!” Amin called out to the soldier kneeling on one knee behind the parapet as he reloaded his weapon, “Sergeant Amin. ODM. Here to help.”
The soldier turned around, “Sir, Corporal Pelton, California National Guard.”
“I heard you got enemy vehicles inbound. Where’s the heavy weapons?”
“We got a grenade launcher and two anti-vehicle launchers over there,” Pelton gestured to the pile of weapons by the parapet to his left. Then he stood up just high enough to look over the edge with his carbine and fired a three-round burst. He called out when he saw the target go down, “Tango down!”
The rest of the enemy soldiers responded almost immediately. Pelton ducked just in time as the first plasma bolt flew past just inches above his head. His helmet protected his scalp from second degree burns.
Amin turned to Jackson, “I need drone overwatch while I get those weapons.”
Jackson nodded and pulled out a small box from his utility belt. In the box were two micro-drones, each the size of a honey bee. He took out the drones and powered them on. Once the drones were hovering in the air, he turned his attention to the wrist computer and started manipulating the blue and green graphics. Before long the drones were on their way and live video feeds started coming in. He then linked his computer with Amin’s so both of them could see the same drone feeds.
Amin did a crouch run over to the weapon pile to minimise the chance of being hit. The parapet was high enough to shield all of his body and most of his head and he would be extremely unlucky if the aliens could hit his head from where they were. He knelt in front of the pile and let his carbine hung by his side. He rampaged through the pile to find the grenade launcher box. He opened it, took out the launcher and inspected it.
The launcher was capable of holding eight rounds in its revolver-style cylinder and had an effective range of six hundred meters, which was more than sufficient for their current situation.
He found the high-explosive smart-rounds for the grenade launcher and started loading them into the rotating cylinders. Then, he programmed the computerised scope to sync up with the drone, his wrist computer and smart goggles so that he could see hit targets with precision while behind cover. Satisfied after a quick review of what he’s done, he grabbed the two boxes containing launcher rounds and ran back to Jackson with the launcher in hand and his carbine slung by the side.
“Jackson, mark the vehicles for me.”
Jackson started manipulating the graphics on his wrist computer and tagging boxes started appearing around the enemy vehicles with their distance labels by the side.
“Targets acquired and tagged,” Jackson said with a monotonous voice.
Amin aimed the launcher towards the night sky and stared through the scope. He moved the launcher around until the reticle of the launcher’s scope aligned with one of the virtual white dots showing on his helmet’s visor. The dots represented points in a virtual hemisphere where the center of origin is Amin’s position. Utilising the data from the drones, the combat predictive software took into account the tagged targets’ movement and updated the dots’ positions in real time. All Amin had to do was to align the reticle with any of the dot, which ensured the fired grenade follows an arch trajectory that guarantees a direct hit. He squeezed the trigger. His exoskeleton absorbed the weapon’s recoil as a grenade went flying towards the target.
The explosion came a few seconds later. Jackson reported it was a direct hit based on the feeds from the drone. Amin aimed the launcher again and fired. This time he didn’t wait for Jackson to report back. He kept firing until the launcher was empty. The sound of explosions started coming in just as he unloaded the empty casings, letting them hit the ground with rapid clanking sounds.
Aliens intensified their attacks and made it difficult for the soldiers to shoot back. Sections of the parapet started crumbling after taking too much damage, forcing the soldiers to relocate to another section. For Amin and Jackson, they took cover behind another ventilation shaft further away from the edge as the parapet section shielding them was gone. A plasma bolt came through the opening and vaporised part of the shaft, reminding them of their vulnerability.
“Anymore vehicles?” Amin asked as he loaded the last round.
“Two more from the west and another two from the east…” Jackson squinted at the feeds before going wide-eyed, “Fuck! They looked like tanks!”
“Oh fuck me! This weapon is useless against those.” Amin spent a couple of seconds to think before coming up with another plan, “Find me a cluster of enemy. I will soften them up.”
“Bringing the drones around. Give me a moment.”
“Corporal,” Amin called out over the radio, “there are four tanks converging on our position. Two to the east and two to the west.”
“Roger that. We will take care of them.”
Amin heard the orders being shouted over the radio when he shifted his attention to his wrist computer to see the first group of aliens tagged. There were six of them bunched together. He aimed in direction of the group and fired.
The grenade exploded just above the aliens’ heads. Those at the center of the blast disintegrated instantly while those further away were blown into multiple parts.
Jackson tagged some more enemies and Amin followed up with his attacks. More explosions followed.
While Amin was busy with the grenade launcher, the soldiers guarding the western side of the roof got to work trying to take out the tanks. The orange explosions from the missiles striking the tanks were clear as day.
Pelton and his squadmate had gone over to the eastern side with the anti-vehicle launcher and extra munitions in hand. He readied the launcher while his squadmate provided covering fire. He aimed at the closest tank with the aid of his smart goggles and the software in the launcher took care of the identification of target, tagging and programming the missile in the launcher. He squeezed the trigger once the targeting box turned solid. The missile with a high-explosive anti-armour warhead shot through the air at two times the speed of sound following an arch trajectory. A turbulent cloud of white fire followed the blinding flash when the missile struck the top of the tank.
Pelton cheered for a brief moment when Jackson interrupted over the radio, “The tank is still moving! It got some kind of energy shield protecting it!”
“Fuck!” He knew he was in serious trouble as the tank was only eight hundred meters away when he fired that missile. Given the enemy’s level of technology, it would be easy for them to track where the missile came from. He ducked down immediately to ready another missile when his squadmate called out…
A massive explosion of orange fire engulfed that side of the building and vaporised everything, leaving behind a hole big enough to fit a van through. It was the same story to the westside.
The missiles didn’t even damage the tanks.
Now with just three two-man squads left on the roof and most of their heavy weapons gone up in smoke, it was a lost cause. A quick status check with the ground revealed that Sergeant Chris and his squad were dead and the only ones left guarding the school were inside. Amin knew they had to buy as much time as possible for the civilians under their care while secretly hoping someone with enough authority in the E.U military know of their current predicament. He gathered the remaining men to prioritise killing alien soldiers.
Over the next ten minutes, the soldiers on the roof killed as many aliens as they can. They spread themselves around the roof, using whatever cover they could find. It didn’t take long before one of them fell to enemy fire. The enemy tanks also joined in the battle as they fired on the building killing three more men. The tank rounds also took out most of the top levels of the school.
Without any viable support below, the roof started crumbling onto the third floor. Without any powered-suit aiding him, Private Lanker was the first to fall together with the crumbling concrete debris. His cries were barely audible amongst the sound of rumbling. He landed on a vertical rebar that went straight through where the heart was and expired seconds later. Amin and Jackson leapt high enough just in time and landed on top of the concrete pile upright.
A loud explosion to the west caught their attention. Amin took a quick look at the feeds the drones returned. One of the enemy tank was nothing more than a charred metal frame.
The aliens were partially confused by the attack but they didn’t stop attacking the school. Another explosion and the second tank went up in flames. They thought the humans had new weapons deployed against the tanks.
“Jackson, what was that? Did you see anything?”
“Looking,” Jackson replied as he put the archive feeds besides the live feeds. He started scrubbing through them and after a minute, he declared, “I still don’t see shit.” Then he saw enemy soldiers near the destroyed tanks going down one by one on the live feed. He pulled up the control for one of the drones in the west and zoomed in. He saw the same kind of expression he seen many times on humans when they were hit or stabbed. In this case, he managed to see that it was stabbing judging from the blood oozing out from holes in their body armour but he still didn’t see who was attacking.
It didn’t take long for what’s left of the aliens to shift their attention to the new enemy. They started sweeping left and right, and started firing at whatever they thought was there but it didn’t stop the new enemy from swiftly killing them one by one.
More explosions came from the east. Like before, the tanks were no more. The enemy soldiers there turned their attention to the new enemy but the moment a few of them started dropping dead, the rest ran towards the school. It was clear the aliens were afraid of what’s out there. Amin and Jackson seized the chance, ran to the east side of the building and started firing on incoming aliens. They killed a few but it wasn’t enough. There were aliens approaching from the other sides too. With no one to stop them, they managed to get into the building.
The main lights in the bridge switched on when electricity started running through them. Power was finally back. Zhang Hao sat in his chair and watched his staffs did a quick system checks. When the reports came back, it was either good news or bad news depending on the perspective. For Captain Zhang Hao, it was mostly good news. The thrusters were operational. The navigation system was mostly functional. Life support was operating at eighty percent of its capability but enough to keep the crew going for a while. The only issue was Mu Ren couldn’t participate in any more battles since they ran out of missiles and the control system to the gauss cannons were fried. It could be repaired using the spare parts lying around in storage but it would be a while before it was operational due to recalibration. The point defence system was partially functional and the crew was working hard to get the rest online.
Just before Zhang Hao could give the order to move, the ship’s sensors picked up an enemy contact. The tactical officer reviewed the reports and send the unfiltered version to him. The enemy was two hundred kilometres away and was much bigger than the alien ship they engaged earlier.
“Ship wide communication now!”
The communication officer switched on the channel, “Channel open, sir!”
“We got enemy contact and don’t have the weapons to respond. Everyone strapped yourself in! We are accelerating out of here! Helmsman, get out out of here!”
Just as the helmsman got to work, the tactical officer called out, “The enemy ship is firing! Multiple missiles inbound. I count thirty!”
“Helmsman, anytime now!”
The ship lumbered reluctantly as the thrusters went online. Then it was turning right, sending everyone swerving to the left from the sudden acceleration. The rear thrusters kicked in simultaneously to move the ship forward.
The tactical officer shouted, “The enemy just launched the second wave of missiles. I count another thirty. First wave of missiles impacting in five minutes!”
Zhang Hao swallowed a lump of saliva. Never had he felt so scared before. He caught himself before he got stuck in his head, second guessing every decision he had ever made till now. Any decision was better than nothing.
“What’s the status of the point-defences?”
“Based on potential impact zones, we could get seventy-five percent of those missiles given the point-defence turrets we have. The rest are coming online now as we speak. Three more minutes.”
“Can we go any faster?”
“We could, sir, but some of us won’t survive the g-force.”
“And if we don’t get away fast, there won’t be anyone left alive anyway.”
With a few more commands sent to the navigation system, the engines delivered even more power to the thrusters causing the ship to surge forward. The sudden increased to 9G of acceleration caused everyone to grunt in pain. Those not accustomed to it lost consciousness within seconds and medical attention had to be given immediately.
“Third wave of missiles inbound. We got a hundred missiles heading our way now!”
Although no one said anything, the tension in the bridge was obviously higher than before. This time, death was inevitable. But they would continue to fight for their survival.
The ship just couldn’t get away fast enough from the missiles even with 9G of acceleration. The point-defence turrets went to work, firing their stores of explosive bullets at the missiles as soon as they came within range.
Then the second wave of missiles came. And the point-defence turrets took care of those too.
The tactical officer studied the flashing white text on red that was on his display. He went wide-eyed, “Sir, the turrets are out of ammunitions. Third wave of missiles impact in two minutes.”
Everyone just knew. That was it.
“People, pray to whichever god you believe in. It’s been a pleasure serving with you all,” Zhang Hao said solemnly.
They all counted down the minute and then seconds. The only wish they had now was to die a quick death given what they knew about those enemy missiles…
The sound of explosions woke Dexter up. He sat up straight and wondered what just happened. Another explosion startled him. After he calmed down a little, he looked around to see no one in the infirmary. Another explosion gave him a hypnic jerk. In between the explosions, there were gunfires. It didn’t take long for him to get used to the commotion. He got out of bed and beelined for the main door.
He opened the door and looked into the dark corridor. There was no one. He didn’t even find it surprising because there just isn’t much foot traffic even during normal school day. There’s nothing important on this side of the building except for the janitor’s closet and washrooms.
He stayed close to the wall, keeping his left hand on it to serve as a guide as he walked down the corridor. More explosions went off.but he had gotten used to them by now. His hand found the first door on his left and he knew he was outside the washrooms. He heard the sound of running water coming from inside the washroom.
“Anyone there?” Dexter called out.
“Is that you Dexter?”
He recognised that voice anywhere, “Yeah. What are you doing in there?”
“Washing up and have a change of clothes. Give me a moment.”
Shane came out of the washroom with a T-shaped torchlight in his hand. The light beams hit Dexter in the eyes, forcing him to turn away in an instant and shield his eyes with his free hand, “Argh! That hurt my eyes.”
Shane put his hand over the torch to cover it up and let out only a few stray strands of light beams, “Sorry.”
Dexter turned around blinking hard while his eyes adjusted to the reduced brightness and could make out Shane’s face. He stared at Shane, “What are you doing here? Where’s everyone?”
“I was by your bedside waiting for you to wake up with the occasional toilet break. As for the rest, I heard some commotion earlier about moving everyone to the basement. That’s when the first gunfires started. I suppose everyone is there now.”
“Then we should go to the basement too.”
“No. I don’t think we will be safe there. The more of us in one place means quicker death. Most probably a massacre. I took a sneak peak through the washroom window earlier. Aliens are attacking from everywhere and the soldiers were having a hard time keeping them back. Soon they will be in here and we will all be dead.”
“But there’s no where else we can go.”
“We can hide here or in the labs upstairs. We could make some makeshift weapons with the chemicals there for defence.”
Dexter breathed in and out deeply several times while thoughts churned in his head, “Fine. Let’s go.”
Both of them jogged over to the stairs that took them to the second level. They turned right onto a dark corridor and jogged a few more paces. The only light source was from the torchlight which prevented them from tripping over themselves. But it was always pointed to the ground as they didn’t want those aliens to see someone running around in the school.
They reached the chemistry lab and found the main door unlock. They went inside and closed the door behind them.
The lab itself was rectangular. To Dexter and Shane’s left, on the far end of the room, cabinets housing various chemicals and equipment took up the whole stretch of wall. On the opposite wall was a stretch of windows, each separated by a section of wall in between. Despite all the fighting, it was surprising to see the windows remaining intact. Below the windows were more cabinets. In the center of the lab were eight rows of three columns of lab benches with black marble tops and concrete bases for students. A meter wide space separated each row and column for students and teachers alike to walk and stand. In front of the student beaches, at least a meter and a half away, was the teacher’s bench which was longer and on a slightly raised platform. Behind the teacher’s bench was the holographic whiteboard that doubled as a display for teacher to show their teaching materials and for students to present their work. Right now, it was just a blank, transparent sheet of glass. Along the same wall and near the window was the door to the storage room where reserves of chemicals, some more dangerous ones, and other supplies were kept. To prevent students from sneaking in, the door was secured with three sliding locks linked to a biometric reader near the door. With the power out, it should be easy to sneak in.
Dexter pointed to the cabinets at the far end, “I will search those cabinets.”
“Alright, I will take the other side.”
Dexter started going through the cabinets searching for chemicals they can use. In his head, there were a few ideas that would make sense and be easy to make. He hoped that Shane would be able to accept his ideas. In the meantime, Shane gathered all the equipment they would need to create the chemical compounds for the explosives. They laid it all out the teacher’s bench. After a quick discussion about what they wanted to make, they got down to work, using the torchlight as the only light source in the room. Dexter was rather surprised that Shane didn’t even argue about what to do because he pictured this person beside him as an alpha male who won’t let anyone win.
It took ten minutes to prepare the two chemical solutions, one yellow and one clear in colour, they needed to fill at least ten bottles of each type. The solutions on their own was relatively safe to handle but when mixed together they would react violently to create an explosion.
Dexter and Shane were bottling up the solutions when two loud explosions came from the ends of the school and shook the building violently, forcing them to stop work immediately. They didn’t want any accident caused by spillage. As soon as the shaking stopped, they filled up the remaining bottles before pairing the bottles of white and yellow solution together, and ensured each of them had five pairs.
Under Dexter’s guidance, they each looped a twine around the neck of the first bottle, terminate with an icicle hitch, gave two centimetre slack before wrapping the remaining twine around the neck of the second bottle, and terminating with another icicle hitch. Then they wrapped the remaining end of their respective twine around the middle in a figure of eight before looping back up to the slacked twine and tying a mooring hitch to secure the twine.
When either one of them needed to use the makeshift bomb, they could just release the knot, undo the twine in the middle and throw the bottles at their target. Since the glass of each bottle were thin, any moderate impact would cause the bottles to shatter and release the chemicals inside.
They used paper clips as makeshift carabiners to hang the bottles by the twines on their belts which were made of twines too. When they were done, they leave the lab only to experience more explosions and falling dust from the ceiling. The building shook more violently this time and there were rumbling from the upper floors. Both of the staggered towards central stairway and saw plumes of dust coming from the top floor. They waited for the plumes to subside before heading down.
While they were on the stair landing between the second and first floor, the front door burst open and two aliens came through.
Shane saw the shadows on the ground first, “Oh shit!” Shane whispered forcefully as he turned around and gestured to Dexter, “Aliens, go back. Back to the lab.”
Dexter jogged up the stairs first with Shane following closely behind, all the while making sure the bottles hanging from their waists didn’t clash with each other. They slipped into the lab, beelined towards the storage room and went in. They bolted the door from the inside and hid in the corner east of the door. Between them and the door was a huge shelf full of boxes and they hoped those were enough to hide them.
They didn’t know how much time passed when they heard gunfire coming from outside. There were a couple of grunts and screeches mixed with a couple of human voices. Then there were the sound of bodies hitting the ground.
Shane led the way. Once he was at the door, he undid the bolt while making sure there was as little noise as possible. Then he opened the door wide enough for him to stick his head out. There was no one in the lab but there were some sort of light coming through the tiny window on the door.
The handle on the door creaked and the door swing opened. Shane caught a glimpse of two soldiers donning exoarmours coming through as he slipped back inside the room. He tried to close the door once more but this time the hinges creaked.
“Fuck!” Shane cursed under his breath.
“Who’s there?” one of the soldiers called out as he edged closer with his weapon raised. The weight of the armour meant the floor quaked with every step he took. “Identify yourself!”
Dexter recognised that voice and called, “It’s me, Amin. I’m with a friend and we are coming out.” He exited the room with Shane following closely behind with his arms raised.
Amin frowned behind visor of his full-face helmet and lowered his weapon immediately, “What the hell are you doing here? You should be downstairs with the rest…” The sensors on his suit picked up on sonic vibrations caused by footsteps. The smart software in the suit identified the sonic as coming from the aliens based on information gathered earlier. “Incoming contacts. Hide.”
Dexter and Shane dashed back into the storage room and closed the door but leave a gap to allow in a tiny sliver of night light that was coming from the window. Dexter was on top of Shane as they peeked through the gap, looking at the two ODMs who took cover by the third column of benches and had aimed their weapons at the door.
It didn’t take long before the first alien came through the door. Amin and Jackson were ready for that. They opened fire before the alien could fire its weapon. The alien’s body jerked and spasmed as bullets struck and ripped holes in his body armour. He dropped dead in a pool of blue blood. Another alien, hiding behind the wall adjacent to the door, took the chance to fire its weapon blindly into the classroom, forcing both marines to duck while another alien tossed in a grenade. The grenade landed on the corridor between the second column and the third column of benches with a metallic clank.
As soon as they heard the clank, Dexter and Shane scrambled deeper into the room and Shane used his body to shield Dexter from any incoming projectile.
The grenade exploded, lighting up the lab in shades of blue and unleashed a blast wave that forced the door wide open. The concrete base of the benches closest to the blast shattered into thousand pieces while the remaining benches managed to contain the initial heat wave from the thousand degree celsius plasma that would have flash burn everything within five meters. The blast also knocked Amin and Jackson unconscious. But the armours did protect them from the falling debris while absorbing the residual heat to charge its internal batteries.
The two aliens with their heat-sensitive eyes couldn’t tell if the marines were dead and had to go closer to check. Even then they would only see a slight smear of red and orange from where the suit’s primary batteries were. After all, the exoarmour was designed to mask any heat signature generated by the wearer.
Shane and Dexter made their way towards the wall adjacent to the door and avoid stepping on anything that would make a sound while listening intently to the aliens’ heavy footsteps as they made their way into the lab. Once at the wall, they leaned against it with their backs and sidestepped towards the door with Shane leading. He leaned his head out just far enough to see with one eye. He swallowed a lump of saliva when he saw one of the alien was almost on top of one of the marines.
Shane turned to look at Dexter and was shaking as he whispered, “Two aliens outside. The marines are down.”
“We have to help them.”
Shane swallowed another lump of saliva. Dexter decided to take matters into his own hands and switched places. He leaned his head out just far enough to see where the aliens were before going back to hiding.
“I will take the one closest to us and you take the other one.”
Shane looked at Dexter for what seemed like an eternity. He felt conflicted. A part of him wanted to prove to Dexter that he was the man and another part was scared shitless. He almost peed his pants but managed to hold it to save himself the embarrassment. Then he decided to say yes anyway.
Both of them unclipped a pair of bottles each and released the knots. Dexter went first and threw his bottles at the closest alien, who had its back against the storage room and would never see the incoming bottles until it was too late. Shane followed up immediately and threw his bottles at the second alien just as the first pair of bottles struck the back of the alien’s head.
The first pair of bottles broke with a satisfying high-pitch sound followed by the sound of explosion and a puff of white smoke as soon as the two chemicals came in contact with each other. It blew a hole through the skull and the alien was dead before he even hit the floor. The other alien turned as soon as the first explosion went off only to have a pair of bottles striking him in the face. The subsequent explosion destroyed most of the alien’s face and didn’t even have the chance of howl. The initial explosion woke the marines up and they swiftly put down the alien with a hail of bullets.
Amin queried what was that explosion about while he studied the injuries on aliens. Dexter went on to showcase one pair of bottles and explain how they made their own makeshift explosives using resources found in this lab which impressed Amin. As Jackson and he were running low on ammunition and without any explosives, he asked if his buddy and he could have some. Dexter and Shane regarded each other briefly before Dexter handed over two pairs of bottles. Shane did the same. Then Dexter went on to describe how to use the bottle and the importance of being careful because of the fragility of the bottles. Amin nodded as he placed the bottles into the side storage compartments of his legs’ armour, which was one of the few compartments in the exoarmours that had cushioning inside to store fragile materials.
Gunfires from the basement echoed throughout the building as soldiers fought off the aliens. Then a general broadcast went out hoping that someone out there could help. Some of the male civilians decided to help out and pick up some weapons from the caches. Despite their lack of training, they were able to distract the aliens long enough for the soldiers to respond. The civilians managed to kill a few aliens themselves.
Amin and Jackson picked up on the broadcast, went to help. Dexter and Shane followed closely behind after their insistence. Upon reaching the basement entrance, Jackson decided to hang back. They both knew someone had to be outside to prevent more aliens from coming through and trapping all of them. Dexter and Shane unsurprisingly followed Amin into the basement.
The three of them stacked up by the basement entrance while Amin pulled out the basement’s virtual floor plan and put it on the right side of his helmet’s heads-up display. He also activated the motion detection feature so that nothing could sneak up on him.
The basement after the stairwell consist of a primary L-shape corridor with several rooms on both sides. The long end of the ‘L’ saw two pairs of shorter corridors branching out at ninety degree in the middle and the far end, forming a ’T’-shape in their respective sections. There were two entrances leading into the basement. The first was where Amin and the teenagers were. The second entrance was located in the room at the right end of the first T junction. That entrance was also where bulk of aliens were swarming through as it connected to carpark behind the school.
Their main goal was to reach the second T-junction where most of the soldiers were, protecting the civilians holed up in the rooms in that area.
Amin took a couple of deep breath before he opened the metal door.
Without lights and no windows, the basement was especially dark. As both Dexter and Shane didn’t have any night vision goggles, they stayed by the entrance while Amin went through. Even with night vision mode, he had a hard time seeing anything beyond five meters. He activated the two infrared projectors mounted on the sides of his helmet, which fired thousands of infrared beams forward to illuminate the scene so that the night vision sensors to have a clearer image. He hoped that the aliens don’t see those infrared beams and decided to come his way. Satisfied that he could see the bend of the corridor, he walked towards the bend with his weapon raised. With each step he took, the weapon reports and shouting got louder but it didn’t affect Amin as the helmet had its own noise dampening and cancellation features. His eyes constantly switched between looking for enemies in front of him and at the floor plan for any red blips near him. He also wanted to make sure the red blips further away don’t come any closer to him, which might indicate they were moving towards him.
He checked the rooms on his end of the corridor and found them all clear. He leaned his back against the wall just before the bend and didn’t dare to poke his head around the corner. Stray bullets were sizzling past and striking the wall in front of him. He didn’t want to get shot in the head by friendly fire.
He activated his radio and switched to the broadcast channel. He hoped everyone on the other side of the basement could hear him, “This is Master Sergeant Amin of ODM. Friendlies coming through the bend. Watch where you shoot.”
“Roger that.” The soldiers mostly stopped firing, which gave the aliens some breathing room to move forward.
Amin knew it based on how the red blips moved on his heads-up display. He took out one bottle pair from his leg compartment with his right hand, undid the knot, swung out of the bend and threw the bottles at the closest alien he saw while his left hand was still holding onto the barrel of his weapon. His right hand instinctively moved to grip the handle and finger on the trigger. As soon as the bottles found their target, he had another alien in his weapon’s line-of-sight and squeezed the trigger. A burst of bullets struck the alien in center of his back, punching through the body armour, severing the spine and shattered a few organs.
The alien howled from the pain after the explosion took out most of his lower face. Amin turned his attention to it and killed it. He killed another before the rest realised what was happening. Some of them turned around to focus their attention on the new enemy. In the time between the aliens raising their weapons at him and squeezing the triggers, he walked back to the wall adjacent to the bend while firing off another burst, killing one more.
Amin was safely behind the wall when its edge exploded from the onslaught of plasma bolts. Soldiers on the other side seized the chance to attack, shooting at any alien exposed at the T-junction. They managed to kill a couple before the aliens quickly shifted their attention again to the soldiers and ignored Amin. It gave him the chance to dash out of cover shooting.
The battle was over when the last alien fell to the ground with holes in his body and arms, spilling blue blood all over. A quick count revealed at least twenty alien bodies on the ground and two human casualties from the firefight.
Amin and two soldiers stood guard by the secondary entrance to the basement and waited for more aliens to come through. But after fifteen minutes of zero activities, he felt it was safe to get the two teenagers still standing outside the main entrance.
Throughout the night, soldiers took turns to watch out for more aliens. It was only fair so that everyone got their share of rest. At morning, communication with Earth Union military high command was established and Amin told them of the situation on the ground. After going a brief exchange over the radio, high command agreed to dispatch transports to get the civilians and soldiers out of the area.
By mid-afternoon, the transports arrived and civilians went on their way to the few refugee camps the government had setup within Sierra Nevada while soldiers were redeployed to hot zones around California.
Death never came. The missiles never hit the ship and had simply vanished. The ship sensors didn’t report any sign of explosion nor was there any report of any nearby ship. The bridge crew thanked their gods for letting them live to fight another day.
Then came the sighting of multiple explosions coming from the enemy ship. It was as though the alien ship had been struck by an unseen weapon.
“Sir, we are being hailed. It’s audio-only and using the same kind of encryption we use to communicate with HQ.”
“Let it through.”
“Am I speaking to the captain?”
It was obvious that this wasn’t the military, “Yes. May I know who speaking to? This is a military channel and you are in violation of multiple laws.”
“You can call me John. And I’m well aware of the laws governing the use of military communication channels and encryption. But I’m sure you can let that pass considering I just saved the life of everyone onboard your ship.”
“What do you want?”
“I don’t want anything. I will ensure the safety of your ship until you get to Mars. After that, you are on your own.”
“Why are you doing this? And where are you?”
“It’s my mission. And you won’t see me unless I want you to. You can think of me as an invisible guardian angel. I’m sending you a couple of navigation points. Get to those points and you should find enough supplies to keep your ship in working condition until you reach Mars. There are also medical supplies for the radiation sickness affecting your crew.”
Then the communication channel went dead. Shortly after, the helmsman reported receiving some data packets containing the navigation points.
The XO asked, “Sir, what are your orders?”
“You heard him. Follow those nav points. We will resupply and go to Mars.”
Click here for Chapter 5.
Click here for Chapter 3.