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Bad Things


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#1 Zombie

Zombie

    Mr. Grognard of X-COM

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Posted 02 January 2019 - 03:26 AM

They came in at maximum speed over Long Island Sound, breaking every window within hearing distance. Which, when added to the roar of their main armaments, made quite the calamity.

The four ships landed in Central Park, crushing trees, scorching the grass, and causing much commotion.

Alloy panels slid aside, and out they came.

And New York burned. From Wall Street to the Bronx, people died by the bushel, gunned down, ripped in half, poisoned, or ground into the pavement by the alien horde. Policemen and thugs; investment bankers and the homeless; black and white; there was no bias on behalf of the bugs. Everything in their path was killed, with utmost prejudice.

Battery Park--where long lines of tourists waited for ferries to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island--was a madhouse. Driven south by the advancing front of otherworldly terror, frightened civilians, stinking of puke and urine, mingled with the tattered remnants of New York's finest. There, crammed on the very tip of Manhattan Island like sardines, they waited for death in the waning light of evening and prayed that it would be quick.

Death touched down at eight sixteen p.m., escorted by a squad of brawny soldiers in power armor. In his left hand, he carried a pistol of strange make. In his right, he carried nothing, a molded composite fist encasing a withered, useless hand.

Death pulled off his helmet and looked across the panic-stricken people of New York. He glared down at a small black girl holding the hand of her mother.

Death closed his eyes and uttered the first prayer of his young life.

"OUT!" he ordered to his people. They marched down onto the trampled grass of the park, their four 'Rangers looking quite out of place bare meters from the blood-soaked waters.

"CHILDREN AND PREGNANT WOMEN!" he barked.


Hirsch ducked as the machine fired again.

Two meters tall and two meters wide, the alien constructs were easy targets. However, standing on two thick, armored legs, and armed with a pair of heavy plasma cannon, the robots were simply impossible to destroy.

Davidson emptied the last ten slugs in his belt into the nearest 'walker.' Its large faceplate cracked slightly.

"I think this one's going," the captain yelled over the rumble of return fire.

Tokubetsu fired a burst into the monster's crab-like rear leg. The robot swiveled with uncanny speed and geysered alloy inches from the Japanese squaddie's head.

"SHITTO!" he gurgled, rolling aside.

The remnants of the First, Fifth, and Sixth Kansai were nestled behind a mangled large scout, a thick, unyielding alloy wall to their rear and twelve hideous robot-aliens to their front. On Hirsch's right, Davidson frantically attached a new belt to his M-60; on his right, Bob the Airtech mended the nasty gash in Squaddie Aishu's torso.

Fuck, fuck, fuck, he grimaced. Sure hope Yoshii shows up with the cavalry sometime soon. Sure could use them psis, too, 'though I don't think they can do all too much to these motherfuckers.

The sergeant tossed a grenade between the legs of the nearest monster. The bomb scraped some of the brownish alloy from the creature, but didn't nearly stop it.

Might as well have farted at it, he thought. Holy shit, I hope they haven't fucked the 'Rangers...

Sneaking a glance at the far side of the hangar, Hirsch prayed that his ticket home wasn't a smoldering pile of rubbish. He failed to spot any damage, but a guided missile whistled by, preventing a detailed inspection.

"Yeah,"grunted Davidson. Idzerda was already reloading his launcher, the spark of hope once again alive in his eyes.

Hirsch noticed the blazing mess that had been a robot.

Another missile streaked off and immediately slammed into a robot, puncturing its body and buckling its legs.

Idzerda tossed aside his launcher.

"What... in hell?" Davidson shouted.

"Out of ammo," the commander responded.

"Henry, you got any on you?"

Hirsch pressed his body against the backside of the large scout as the robots began blasting the wall behind him, hoping to collapse it.

"That was my ammo, Mike!" he yelled back.

Takahashi scrambled around the edge of the scout.

"How in fu-?" started Hirsch.

"Don't ask," he replied, swinging around his heavy plasma and pumping a burst into a robot on his heels. It staggered and backed off.

Bob swore, and tossed aside the medikit he had been holding to Aishu's chest.

The robot was back, pushing its way around the UFO and firing with both its barrels. Hot black smoke from falling alloy flakes drifted off the monster's cannons. Immensely tall, and impervious to destruction, it sighted its nose up with Tokubetsu and blew the squaddie apart, blazing alloy ribbons interlaced with charred flesh.

Poor bastard, winced Hirsch, diving to the tarmac and firing his laser into the creature.

Poor me, he thought as the robot bared down on him.

Suddenly, the tremendous creature shivered and collapsed.

"Holy fuck," whistled the sergeant, sighting up the next robot. He squeezed his laser emitter's trigger, and it too went down, all its servos locked.

"It's the laser!" cried the jubilant Idzerda. Accenting the point, he pulled out his plasma pistol and shot the nearest robot. It responded with a hail of fire, completely ignoring Hirsch as he burned through the monster's faceplate, irradiating the delicate sensory systems of the construct.

"Fuck, we're gonna live," whispered the sergeant, killing another.

Davidson grunted.

Hirsch ducked down to allow his laser sufficient time to cool off. Smiling at Davidson, alarm bells suddenly went off in his head...

The captain stiff as a board, his eyes rolled back and his machine gun lying at his side.

Hirsch tried to scream, to shout a warning, anything.

"..."

He too, collapsed.


The hangar was deathly silent, but Rawlings had no illusions as to what was about to occur. Carefully stepping around a pallet of alloy cut from the base's walls, the bodyguard held Faith at the ready.

"Don't bother with stealth," Marcussen abruptly spoke. The fat, bumbling psi stepped on a scrap of alloy, sending it spinning.

They already know we're here, the man completed, speaking in Rawlings' mind.

"Some of us like to play soldier," he replied, glancing around the landing struts of a 'Ranger.

Twenty meters away, in the spot where the Gabriel had landed, stood Yoshii and Davidson. Rawlings opened his mouth to speak.

SIT.

Heavy plasma tossed away with a flick of his wrist, the sergeant staggered from behind his cover. Somebody is pulling on my brain! whimpered the bodyguard, incapable of resistance. Collapsing like a marionette whose strings were cut, Jack sat against a thick stack of alloy.

Stop, he could hear Marcussen think.

Stepping out into the open, the four terran psis approached the clearing. Rawlings struggled to look around, to see where the enemy was. Only through extreme labor was he able to move his right eye several degrees to the right.

The air shimmered around the officers, and the illusion was torn down. Three tall, lean figures, clothed in heavy, silky cloaks, suddenly came into focus.

Grenade, one grenade, thought Rawlings.

YOU WILL DO NO SUCH THING, commanded the Voice.

release my comrades, thought Marcussen.

FOOLISHNESS IS NOT COURAGE.

release them!

Jack absentmindedly wondered why Marcussen wasn't yelling at the aliens before deciding that the psi was screaming his balls off--the aliens were simply too powerful.

YOU ARE A RACE OF FOOLS.

i command you, release them!

A warm, lazy haze slowly flooded Rawlings' consciousness.

Shit, they're taking me all over, every piece, he thought, suddenly feeling like a man trapped in a smoke-filled room.

DIE, FOOLS.

An image of twisted hate and malice cut through the fog. The bodyguard suddenly smelled flesh roasting, the stench of shit, and unearthly screaming. But not aliens dying, realized the sergeant.

And then it was over.

A rapid dialogue flowed through Rawlings' hijacked mind.

THIS ONE IS STRONG--FOR HIS KIND.

WE WILL REMAKE HIM IN OUR IMAGE.

STRONGER YET.

LIKE THE OTHER ONE.

NO. HE WAS STRONGER.

IT IS GOOD THAT HE DIED.

TOO POWERFUL.

A THREAT.

The bodyguard's sight was suddenly restored. The hooded aliens had Marcussen standing with the officers.

What you going to do with the brass? he wondered, drunk with the haze.

WATCH.

One of the bugs reached out with a slender, frail hand, wrinkled with age and the corruption of power. With sickening delay, it rested its fingers upon Yoshii's bare head.

The colonel's eyes blinked open, fear stitched across her face. Struggling to murmur, she collapsed to her knees, her mind torn from its foundations.

The Death slowly withdrew its wizened hand, its tips glowing slightly.

Yoshii's stiff body tilted towards the alloy flooring.

"NO!"

The otherworldly scream shredded Rawlings' ears and staggered the three hooded bugs.

The full force of a midday sun burned away the fog and etched the scene in Rawlings' mind. Even before Yoshii's corpse hit the tarmac, the bodyguard leapt for his plasma.

A psychic knife lashed out at the sergeant's brainstem--instantaneous death to any other man. But something stayed the dagger, and Rawlings smiled with the new warmth, the clean courage of Sol.

WE ARE THE BRAVE.

Wrapping his fingers around Faith's handle, Jack rolled behind a stack of alloy.

YOU ARE THE FOOLS.

"Welcome back home, Jonas!" he yelled.


"SHIIIIIT!"

Well, that answers that question, smiled Sakurai. He spread his legs apart and fired between them, bursting the bulbous sack of magma that was following him. A thin trickle of cooling molten rock chased him.

"Sir, the fucking walls are alive!" Suzuki yelled.

"Get out, Hideya!"

Sakurai squirmed to an upslope, eyeing the gathering pool of lava behind him.

"Keisuke, blow the reactor," he ordered, spotting something moving behind him.

"Yes sir!" answered Nakagawa.

The Japanese Captain sighted his plasma pistol on the small lake behind him. If any more of these strange burrowing creatures die in this segment of tunnel, I'm going to be buried alive, he thought with alarm.

A soldier, armor welted with magma burns, scrambled through the lava, a sharp hiss rising from his every slosh.

"Tahara!" Sakurai yelled, "You're burnt!"

"No fuck," winced the sergeant. "My knee servos are shot--I can barely move."

"TSUKETE O KUDASAAIIIIEEEEEE!" somebody screamed.

The captain grimaced, trying not to think who's voice it had been.

"Which way up?" he asked Tahara.

"Fuck if I know, sir."

"You need help?" inquired Sakurai, looking over Tahara in the dim enhanced light.

"Let's go, sir. I'll worry about my legs when I'm back in Kansai."

The Japanese captain grunted and crawled up the incline, quickly checking side tunnels for bugs. He glanced back at his wounded comrade, who lagged behind by several meters.

"Kenichi, I want you to go first. I'm going to crawl into a side tunnel--you take the lead."

"I'll slow you down, sir," he responded.

"That's an order."

Tahara grunted, squirming to the front as Sakurai waited off to one side.

"Sir? Sir? I rigged the reactor, but I've become separated from my squad."

Sakurai tapped his helmet. "Nagasawa? Find them, damnit!"

Tahara blasted a bug, and both soldiers straddled the trickle of blood-like lava that oozed from its corpse.

Something rustled in the tunnel behind Sakurai. He twisted his head around and glanced.

"Is that you, sir?" asked Nagasawa, crawling ahead as quickly as possible.

"Yes," replied the captain.

A small pile of rocks fell from the tunnel ceiling a meter from Nagasawa's face.

"Keisuke, you might want to watch-"

A gallon of digestive magma juices poured from above, splashing across the sergeant's face and arms.

"AAAAIIIIIEEEE!" he yelled, collapsing in pain. One of the rock-eaters, bulging with lava, hopped down from the hole. Basically a short, fat, purple cucumber, the creature proceeded to spray the unlucky soldier with more magma.

"No!" bellowed Tahara, struggling to turn around.

"Go go go," ordered Sakurai, beating on the wounded sergeant's legs. "His grenades are going to blow!"

Eyes wide with fear and pain and self-loathing, Tahara scrambled upslope and around a corner.

"I'm sorry, friend," whispered Sakurai, pushing his senior sergeant further ahead.

A wave of heat rushed over the two.


OCCUPY THE ROBOTS.

Rawlings stumbled around a cargo crate, thinking, What robots?

THE DEATHS WON'T ATTACK YOU UNLESS YOU ATTACK THEM. KEEP THE ROBOTS OFF MY BACK. I WILL KEEP THE DEATHS OFF YOURS.

Can't be anything worse than those 'Deaths' of yours, snorted Rawlings, checking Faith's ammo supply.

An armored leg crunched down ahead of the sergeant.

With practiced ease, he leapt to a side, blasted the machine with four plasma bolts, and air- mailed a launcher-borne grenade just to be sure.

Holy portapotties, Batman, it's still alive, thought the bodyguard, dodging the robot's twin plasma pulse and reloading his launcher.

The monster rushed Rawlings, straddling him with plasma bolts. Suicidally, the soldier dove between the machine's legs--the one spot where it couldn't shoot him.

"Looks like your transmission's plum full of plasma, pardner," he screamed, lying on his back and torpedoing shots into the robot's undercarriage. Sparks and slivers of composite rained down as his magazine drained into the creature's inner workings.


Wilkes looked up from the crumpled heap of flesh and armor that had been Mariel Yoshii.

"You killed her? Why?" he asked, masking his thoughts and forcing the three grim aliens to rely upon their weak sense of hearing.

HER KNOWLEDGE WAS WORTH MORE THAN HER LIFE.

Wilkes snorted, holding his helmet in one hand and brushing the other over his love's face to shut her eyes.

YOU AGREE, DO YOU NOT?

He lay her head and its short, silky black hair to rest upon the cold alloy flooring.

"Hell yes, I agree with your thesis, but sadly, I cannot agree with your means."

YOU ARE MUCH LIKE US.

The colonel stared at the nearest alien, searching for any sign of humanity underneath its brown hood.

NO, I AM NOT LIKE YOU, the human replied, rising to his feet. I CAN LOVE. I CAN FEEL PAIN. I DO NOT KILL WITHOUT EMOTION.

THESE PETTY THINGS WILL FADE AWAY WITH THE POWER.

A plasma bolt sailed overhead, and Rawlings, somewhere near the 'Rangers, laughed heartily.

JOIN US. WE WILL TEACH YOU HOW TO MASTER THE POWER. THE POWER WILL DESTROY YOU OTHERWISE.

"Hmm, how about I just take your minds, same as Mariel here?" Wilkes mumbled.

WHAT?

"How about I," smiled the Colonel, DO THIS.

With unholy speed, Wilkes lashed out and sent a psychic shockwave into the aliens. Reeling with pain, the creatures wavered in their counterattack, time enough for the vengeful soldier to stride over to the nearest.

Wilkes pulled his flaming hand from the dead alien's face, thick billows of black smoke pouring from the creature's hood.

A scathing blast of intense hatred rolled over Wilkes', taking physical form as a beam of blue flame. Staggering towards the bug, the soldier blocked the mindstrike with his right hand, channeling his thoughts into a psychic lance. Sailing into a Death, the lance spontaneously combusted the alien, welting the floor beneath its feet.

Screaming and twisting with pathetic, impotent rage, the creature flailed about, its ancient body dry tinder to the blue flames engulfing it.

Wilkes twisted to face the last alien, reaching out with his hand, groping with his mind.

Five wrinkled digits touched his forehead.

NOW, YOU ARE MINE.

The soldier sucked in a breath of air from the breached hangar.

"No, we are mine," he replied, reaching into the alien's skull and unfastening the locks which held it in place.

YOU ARE STRONG. AS STRONG AS ONE OF US. WE WILL TEACH YOU THE POWER. YOU CAN BECOME ONE WITH IT. YOU WILL BECOME ONE WITH IT.

Blind eyes suddenly open, useless pupils dilated, the Death staggered with the terrible realization.

YOU WILL...

The creature collapsed in a heap, its body already decaying for lack of a mind.


Sakurai patted Suzuki on his back, unconsciously glancing at the fold-up chair across the 'Ranger's aisle.

"Strap in, lift-off in one minute," he mumbled, avoiding the prone Tahara.

Buckling himself into his seat, the captain looked over the maimed scraps of his team. Four men dead... making the Fourth Kansai the luckiest team of all six that had made the assault.

First Kansai--two survivors, neither Colonel Dillan.

Second Kansai--five survivors, Yoshii not being among them.

Fifth Kansai--four survivors, including Captain Davidson.

Sixth Kansai--three survivors.

Queensland Fourth--six had made it out, but Commander Idzerda was dead.

Oh God, thought Sakurai, staring at Nakagawa's empty seat, We've got a 'Ranger completely filled with our dead.

The Japanese captain cringed again. Nakagawa didn't even get that...


Schancer looked Rawlings in the eyes. The bodyguard returned the stare, not a word braking the noisy silence.

The hint of moisture appeared in the corner of the Ubercommander's eye.

"Sir, we'd best be going. Captain Sakurai specified that the reactor will detonate within the next half hour."

Schancer nodded dumbly and staggered back up the Gabriel's ramp.

Rawlings glanced back at the slump-shouldered colonel.

"Jonas, let's go."

Wilkes watched the last 'Ranger lift off. The Avenging Angel was the final ship in the battered hangar of the alien hive, not counting the three heaps of wreckage that had been a pair of 'Rangers and Bob's Blitzen. The sun's waning rays painted the sky a deep yellow.

The colonel turned away from the gash in the hangar's ceiling, closing his eyes.

"It's inside me," he whispered to the impatient bodyguard.

"Huh?" grunted Jack.

"I pulled it into me, I pulled Yoshii into me."

"Come on, we can talk once we're airborne."

Hirsch, tired and grimy, stumbled over.

"We've got a bunch of blues over here-"

Schancer peeked down from within the Gabriel. Face hard as iron and pale blue eyes run through with streaks of red, he rasped, "Kill them."

Dumbfounded, the sergeant looked up.

"Sir, they're unarmed--we can stun them and take them back-"

The commander's face twitched.

"You heard me the first time, Henry. Kill them. Kill them all."

Hirsch opened his mouth to speak, but thought better of it.

Dragging his feet, the sergeant walked over to Takahashi. The Japanese sergeant glanced at the American and then at the dozen blue prisoners. Hovering on their anti-grav pedestals, they detected the stark change in their captors' moods. They huddled closer together, edging against the hangar wall where they were cornered.

"Commander says 'kill them,'" Hirsch relayed. The sergeant checked the power left in his laser rifle. Takahashi frowned and raised his heavy plasma.

Rawlings tapped Wilkes on his side.

"Let's go," he muttered, eyeing the situation with regret.

"I don't like this," whispered Hirsch.

"Nor do I," replied the Japanese.

The American shrugged. "Oh, fuck it. On my mark. Mark."

With systematic brutality, the two soldiers gunned down the blues, the aliens screaming and moaning and wailing as microwave beams and plasma bolts gutted and fried them. Blood, not so unlike that of humans, splattered the walls and the floor and the murderers, marking everything with its touch.

As the last alien slumped to the tarmac, Hirsch waded into the gore, firing into each bug's skull. Some twitched, and they received a few more shots.

The two sergeants looked at each other; the border between civilization and barbarism had been crossed long ago, this just another signpost on the downward slope.


Rawlings watched tiredly as the Gabriel's sensors registered a radiation surge.

"Think we'll see anything on the surface?" asked Will.

"I don't know," responded Schancer.

A pinprick of light of the ship's aft view blossomed into a massive glowing sphere. Rising slowly, it dimmed to reveal the dread profile of a mushroom cloud.

"Shit," muttered Davidson.

Hirsch grunted, not bothering to wipe the blood from his armor.

Marcussen stared at the unholy light, his brain still overloaded.

Wilkes, seated the furthest from the ship's main cabin screen, leaned over Rawlings.

"Voices," he whispered.

The bodyguard slid his last cartridge from Faith, stowing it beneath his seat.

"You're hearing voices?"

Wilkes nodded, his eyes dilated.

"It swallowed Mariel whole, and I did the same to it. Now I hear both of them."

Rawlings frowned and looked at the haunted man.

"What are they saying?" he asked, a morbid curiosity overwhelming him.

"Bad things, Jack."

Wilkes was silent for a moment.

"They say there's a man on the moon," he continued in a sing-song voice, "but his face is on Mars."

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JellyfishGreen said:

Zombie: Empirical data's your only man, when formulating a research plan.
A soldier's death is never in vain if it makes the formula more plain.
A few dozen make a better case for refining that third decimal place.
They call me Zombie because I don't sleep, as I slowly struggle to climb this heap,
of corpses, data points, and trials, but from the top - I'll see for miles!




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