“Keep alert! Whatever did that will likely want to do the same to us. Safeties off, hit anything that isn’t human, and any human that’s armed.”
The squad moved along the corridor, opening doors as they went. However, when they reached the bridge, the door to it was welded shut.
“Sir, it looks like they tried to lock this door down pretty good.”
“Just get it open, Cole.”
“I’ll do what I can, sir,” Cole said as he placed several charges along the edge of the door and linked them.
“Here goes everything,” he said, stepping back and pressing a detonator switch.
The charges exploded, leaving wide gaps around the edges of the door. Half of it fell away, leaving the other half hanging by a very small piece of glowing metal. Cole reached out and tore the piece the rest of the way off, aided by the heat weakening the metal.
They looked inside, and the bridge was strewn with bodies torn up beyond recognition beyond that fact that they were marines.
Cole entered the bridge, glancing around. “I’ve got movement,” he said, motioning to the rest of the squad to follow. He led them to the far wall, weapons drawn, where a man was hiding behind a console, a standard issue sidearm in hand.
He held the gun out, aiming at shadows in the corners of the room, rapidly jerking the gun around the room.
“Th-the sh-sh-shadows c-came a-and took th-them… they t-took them a-all…” he said hysterically. When he finally saw them, he jumped and pointed his gun at the nearest member of the squad, Cole.
“Calm down, we’re the good guys,” Cole said, stepping forward slowly. The hysterical soldier squeezed off two rounds into Cole, who fell back solidly.
“BACK! STAY BACK! Keep away from me! I won’t let you get me!” the apparently insane soldier screamed as the rest of the squad moved to help Cole. The armor had absorbed the impact of the bullets without much damage, but it still knocked him on his back to be hit with them.
The insane soldier continued firing wildly, but Doyle lunged forward and disarmed him. Doyle unloaded the pistol, and then set it upon the console. The insane soldier sat as far behind the console as he would fit, arms crossed and rocking back and forth.
“What happened? Where’s the rest of your platoon?” Nichols asked.
“Th-they were t-taken… the sh-shadows came and took them all… every last one…” he babbled.
“You aren’t going to get anything from him, sir. Whatever happened was too traumatic,” Doyle said.
A sharp clang resounded through the room, and everyone within fell silent, the squad turning with their weapons drawn.
A small pipe lay on the floor, having apparently fallen from the ceiling, which had pipes running its length. They instantly relaxed slightly, but only slightly.
“We can’t take him back, and he can’t come with us. Not in the state he’s in. If he’s managed to survive so far, he should be fine.” Cole said.
“Alright, but we leave him his pistol.” Doyle reloaded the pistol and set it where the soldier could reach it, and then they advanced through an unlocked door on the other side of the bridge, having found nothing that could explain what had happened to the research team or where they had gone.
Bohateur led them towards the engineering compartments. Nichols covered their flank, gun at the ready. They heard a tapping above them, and Doyle raised his weapon to point at the smooth ceiling of the corridor.
“I don’t like that sound of that,” he said.
“Now the gate has been unlatched, headstones pushed aside… corpses shift and offer room, a fate you must abide…” came a whisper, seemingly from all around at once.
Immediately, the squad dropped to one knee and scanned all directions.
Three seconds passed, and then Bohateur opened up.
“Hold fire! Hold fire!”
Bohateur stopped shooting.
“What did you see?” Nichols asked.
“Something crossed the hallway. Looked mighty like a shadow before it moved.”
Shadows flitted across the corridor behind Nichols as he talked, but no one was looking in that direction. Instead they were looking toward where Bohateur had shot.
One of the shadows was nearly upon them before Cole looked back down the corridor. He screamed and opened fire, the shadow lunging forward.
Everyone in the squad turned and opened fire with him, even though they didn’t see the shadows, now hidden by muzzle flashes illuminating the walls, creating dancing shadows. They stopped firing, seeing nothing, and heard the soft pitter-patter of bare feet moving away.
The shadow that had lunged at Cole had disappeared, but there was a green splotch on the wall, as well as drops leading back down the hall.
“Looks like you hit it. Follow the blood trail. Bohateur, you’re still on point.”
They moved back down the hall, and drops of green every four to five feet or so kept appearing.
They followed the trail toward the engine room, but eventually it stopped without a clue as to where the creature had gone. Nichols searched the surrounding hall, even retraced his steps, but couldn’t figure where it had gone.
The sound was behind him, and by the time he looked back to the source – where the trail ended – Cole was looking up at an opening in the ceiling through the sights of his SMG.
“Well, well. Looks like our friend can jump. Come on, Doyle, we’ll lift you so you can take a look.”
Nichols formed a step with his hands as Bohateur did the same, their weapons slung over their shoulders. Together, they lifted Doyle into the opening.
“Looks like a ventilation duct,” Doyle said.
“Can you see which way he went?” Nichols asked.
“Somewhat. Looks like he… guys, there’s something up here.”
“Yeah, you.” Cole said.
“No, I’m serious, something is up here. I can hear it.”
“Alright, we’re lowering you down.”
Doyle suddenly started screaming and lost his balance, his squadmates caught him, however. He had his gun in his hand and was already spraying the ceiling with bullets.
Sparks flew and holes appeared along where the duct ran as bullets punctured the metal. Doyle continued firing for three seconds, and then stopped to listen.
They heard soft running coming from the duct, but it kept getting quieter, as if they were fleeing. A steady drip-drip of green blood was coming from the ceiling.
“We may be a bit in over our heads. Bohateur, call the Normandy and see if you can get some reinforcements in here.”
Bohateur nodded and tapped the side of his helmet, switching to the command frequency. “Normandy, this is Dagger. Do you copy?”
He waited a few moments, and then repeated, “Normandy, this is Dagger! Do you copy?”
He waited for a reply then said, “I got nothing. Either we’re being jammed, or my radio is on the fritz.”
Nichols nodded, and then switched to command frequency. “Normandy, this is Dagger actual.” He waited for an answer, and then repeated the phrase. He got no reply.
“Alright, we are getting no help from Normandy. Our best bet is to search for the source of the jamming. My guess is that it’ll be on one of the two bridges or in a hangar.”
“It might be in the comms room, too. At least it’s a logical place.” Bohateur added.
“Alright, we check the hangars on one side, then the comms room, then the other side’s hangars, then the bridges. The starboard hangars are closest. Load caseless ceramics, and move out!”
The rounds Dagger squad used mainly were caseless ceramic high-velocity rounds. These would appear to become a puff of powder when striking metal as the bullet shattered. They used these because they guaranteed no damage to the ship’s hull, yet were extremely brutal to anything organic. Because they were also electrically primed, they were very quiet compared to metal jacketed rounds, and generated less kick and muzzle flash.
Dagger squad moved back through the ship, moving along the outer compartments so that they would not have to cross decks via stairwells. Occasionally they stopped because one of them thought they saw one of the “shadow” creatures, however, it was not long before they reached the first hangar.
Cole set a breaching charge on the door as the rest of the Daggers took up position behind him. Cole stepped away quickly, and one heartbeat later, the charge exploded, blasting open the door, and Doyle tossed a flash-bang through. The grenade exploded, and the squad rushed through. There were two gray bodies on the floor, stunned. Cole put two rounds into each of them, and then they scanned the rest of the hangar. Sitting in the center of the deck was a large piece of wreckage, appearing to be from a Vasari capital ship.
It was impossible to tell what class the ship had been, but it must have sustained much damage, as the piece was jagged at the edges and was riddled with holes about the right size for autocannon fire, but the edges of the holes were melted, signifying an energy weapon.
“Looks like this is how they got on the ship. There were probably still a few sealed compartments when the Vasari took it aboard. It doesn’t look like this is the source of the jamming as I doubt that they would have set up the jammer so close to this. Let’s move on,” Nichols commanded. His squad moved across the hangar to the door on the opposite wall, which led out into a hall.
Several minutes later, they arrived at the comms room door. The area was suspiciously devoid of movement, and static appeared on the squad radio and became louder as they drew nearer.
“Looks like this is it.” Cole said, reaching for the door controls. He sliced the door, and it opened noiselessly. The squad stepped into the room, their nerves on edge.
Nichols had his eyes glued to the sights of his gun, and was nervously scanning the room, searching for whatever threat that could be waiting for them.
Everyone’s hair stood on end, and they scanned much faster, hopping from one possible hiding place to the next. Nichols finally said, “Okay, spread out. See if you can locate the source of the jamming.”
A few nervous “aye, ayes” answered him, and he watched his squad move to the corners of the room. He, in turn, took his own corner and started searching around the dead holodisplays, hoping that he would find it quickly. He noticed a slight movement in a thin maintenance access opening, just wide enough for him to step in without turning. He flipped on his gun light and first crouched, bringing the beam of light slowly upwards, then stood to get a better view through the mess of wires. The beam of light fell upon a bundle of swinging wires, hanging near the end of the passage.
Nichols started backing out of the narrow passage, but he heard a soft thump behind him. Spinning, he barely saw a dark form before it leapt back to the ceiling, hidden from view by wires that were swinging back and forth. Nichols set the weapon to full automatic, then continued edging his way out. He heard another thump behind him. He caught nothing except swinging wires when he spun around again.
Nichols tried to call for one of his squadmates, but his voice failed each time he tried.
There was the soft pitter-patter of running feet, accompanied by the sound of wires hitting the metallic sides. Nichols trained his gun on the space in front of him, backing still farther out. A slight movement caught his eye, and he opened up, yelling.
Thunkthunkthunkthunkthunk was the sound heard when his shots shattered on the far wall or computer processor, leaving little puffs of white powder. The ceramic fragments were enough to damage some of the mainframes, ensuring they wouldn’t be used again, but he didn’t hit anything living.
Nichols continued firing as he quickly backed out of the passage. He heard more than felt something rake across his back as the two layers of steel plate stopped anything sharp from digging into his skin or clothing. Turning, he lashed out with the butt of his weapon, but it didn’t connect with anything. Something knocked him on the side of his helmet, making him stumble and have to catch himself on the wall, but he could not see where the thing had gone. Having emptied the clip, he reloaded his gun and stepped the three more feet out of the passage.
“Cole! Doyle! Bohateur! Report!” Nichols shouted.
“Fine here, Sarge.” Doyle’s voice said out of the gloom.
“Found the jammer and disabled it,” came the voice of Cole.
A few moments passed and then Nichols shouted, “Bohateur! You hear me? We got hostiles!”
There was no reply from the missing squad member, so Nichols primed and tossed a flash grenade into the passage he had just left. He turned and sprinted toward where he knew the rest of his squad was, and quickened his pace even further when he started hearing the soft gunshots of his squad’s rifles. He rounded a corner, and saw the muzzle flashes as the two squad members fired.
Nichols ran up between the two and opened up with his own rifle, firing into more passageways like the one he was attacked in. Nichols had to reload twice before he stopped seeing movement.
“It looks like we finally got his place cleared. How about you get us some reinforcements, Cole.”
“Aye, sir. Normandy, this is Dagger squad. We have lost one squad member and request reinforcements immediately. I say again, we have lost a squad member and request reinforcements immediately.”
“This is Normandy. We read you loud and clear. We have lost contact with the squads on the other two ships, and have sent rescue teams. Reinforcements are already on their way to your ship. They will arrive near portside hangar bay.”
“We copy, on our way there now. Dagger out.”
“You heard him, let’s get to the port hangars. Then we are off this godforsaken ship.” Nichols said.