Jacob's eyes fluttered open, his eyes staring at a dark slate sky above. Pain suddenly washed onto him, and it spread from a location on his chest. Him on his back, he looked down to a small shard of wooden debris lodged within the shallow flesh of his chest. Jacob's hand glided down to his chest, and with a tug and a grunt, the shrapnel was cast away. Jacob let his arm fall back to his side, and he continued to stare out to the large orange planet in the sky he could now see, was Jupiter.
Jacob's body was sprawled out against a dense jungle floor, scrapes littering his face and arms. How his sleeves were torn off was a mystery to him, and he slowly pushed himself off of the ground, dirt pushing past his fingers. He stood, and wiped the dirt off of his hands, going over the damage done to his body. Though his ribs ached, and the scrapes on his arm pained him, they were minor injuries, and he could now set his priorities. Looking around himself, he was caught surprised.
Green fog hung densely in the air, large trees towering above him. Reeds and tall grass were obscuring his vision of the other side of the river bank, and scorched tree stumps still had embers burning in them. Muddy water ran into the river from where he was standing, and the landscape had definitely suffered from some sort of kinetic catastrophe. Jacob's hand went down toward his hip, and a familiar comfort enveloped him when it met his handgun, but the magazine had fallen out at some point. Refocusing on the scene, he could see a pillar of smoke in the distance, and he remembered his mission. Reaching up to his Comm-Link, he pressed the button, to be greeted by no sound. Assuming radio silence, he proceeded.
Jacob found himself jogging toward the wreckage, his stiff body limbering up and pain seeping out of his chest. He began to wade through the river, but an unexpected pain erupted up his leg. His eyes widened, and he looked back to what appeared to be similar to a leech. However, this was no leech, as small legs were protruding from the back, claws extended from each appendage. His face contorted into one of fear and Jacob did not hesitate for a moment, and he pulled the black-scaled being off of his flesh. Jacob found a nearby rock, and with the creature in hand, he slammed the jagged rock into the monsters tender flesh. Jacob ended it with a final stomp to the head, ending the slimy creature. As his boot slammed down onto it's head, a loud screech echoed throughout the entire forest. Jacob spit onto remains of the insectoid, but he noticed something.
Everything seemed to go silent, even the water flowing down the river. Jacob looked back down at his leg, and little teeth marks went through the fabric of his pants, red soaking the area around it.
Behind him, he heard little ripples in the water, but it slowly began to build up. Soon enough, it was as if a hell-storm were erupting in the water, the sound coming closer and closer. Jacob's heart stopped, and he turned around slowly, the approaching wave of noise striking fear into him. Thousands of the monsters were racing toward him, sharp teeth opening and shutting rapidly, becoming a loud chatter. They all began squealing at the same time, and the sound hurt Jacob's eardrums, but he knew if he stood here any longer, he would surely die.
Jacob turned and ran, his heavy boots splashing in the murky water. His eyes set on the crash site, he intended to make it there before he was drowned in the tidal wave of creepy alien leeches. They approached quickly, and his steps grew slower as he went further into the deep. Cold water stung at his wounds, and dread was rapidly filling his heart. He was going to die.
Jacob knew he would not get any farther, so he cried out in terror and desperation,
He turned to face the black-slimy things, and one of them was within biting distance of his face, swimming toward him with hungry glee. He grabbed the creature from the base of its head, and squeezed with all of his strength, the organs of the creature spewing out of the other end.
The rest of them would be upon him in seconds, and he let out a final yell,
Suddenly, the river in front of him became a blood-bath. The creatures began exploding and getting punched back by an unseen force, the water in front of him splashing and rippling all over. His dread washed over, and seeing the last of the bastards sink underwater was of great comfort to the shaking man. However, he began to wonder what could've done that, and began to fear that whatever might have killed them, might turn its sights on him.
"God damn, soldier. You nearly got your ass eaten just then," A female voice said.
Looking behind him, a small band of the Special-Operations soldiers from Charlie Team stared down at his form in the water. Jacob saw she stood in front of the group, and her hand extended forward to him. He grabbed her hand himself, and was pulled from the dark water. Cold water ran down his leg-wound as he came up from the liquid, and a shiver coursed through his body. As soon as he stood firmly on the ground, a gun was given to him. Her pretty face had a little scar running down her left cheek, and her blonde hair was cut short. Her features were sad as the weapon was given to him.
"Keep that gun intact, boy. It belonged to a good man..." She said as he looked back up, her eyes pleading.
Staring at the crevices and trenches throughout the metal weapon, he examined the near pristine state of the rifle. It was a shining example of human ingenuity. And danger. He nodded as he met her stare, and she nodded thanks in return. She noticed the pistol at his hip, and quickly took it from him, continuing,
"Think of this as a trade,"
Jacob did not speak, his nerves still shot from nearly becoming a meal. He clutched the gun tightly to his chest, examining the rest of the squad members. They looked like an exact replica of Alpha team, excluding the blonde-haired leader.
"Alright squad, we're moving in to locate the rest of Alpha Team. You're coming along too, son," The blonde haired woman said.
Jacob pulled the hammer back on the rifle, and he set out with the rest of Charlie Team towards the crash site.
Dear Princess Celestia,
I was using my telescope yesterday evening, and I found some peculiar movements in the constellations. At first, I assumed this was of Princess Luna's doing, but it seems very odd. The 'star' seems to be orbiting Jupiter, and with my knowledge of the movement of our celestial bodies, I no longer can presume it is a planet. It is not a moon, as I was also able to record and document the locations of the other moons of Jupiter as well. As I dictate this letter to you, my mind is racing with possibilities, and I am hesitant to learn the origin of this new intruder.
Your nervous, and faithful student,
"Lieutenant Anderson, report!"
A nervous deck officer turned to Captain Sullivan, sweat dampening his forehead,
"Sir, we're receiving a signal from Europa, but its not looking good,"
The Captain nodded his head, then twirled his finger, motioning for the Lieutenant to play the signal. Reluctantly, the crewman turned toward the control panel, and selected the play button. Across the bridge, in the dim ambient blue light, the audio file began to play.
"This is the U.T.C Gladius, to anyone that will respond, hell, anyone who can pick up this signal. Stay AWAY from the Europa colony, stay AWAY from Europa, and DO NOT, I repeat, DO NOT under ANY circumstances attempt to rescue any crew members. An unknown pathogen leaked through our ventilation systems and seventy five percent of the population has been infected. And that percentage is growing every minute.
It emerged from the waters around our terraformation project, and it only showed initial signs of the common cold. But now, we have seen full on regenerative abilities, coupled with the complete loss of sanity, as well as absurd pysc-psychological mutations as well as physical mutations; the infected are basically becoming plants. *sigh* The animals that we brought with us in our attempt at colonization. They were infected as well and the results were fatal.
Our food sources have been contaminated and the FDU has been damaged. I hated the FDU as well as the rest of my colleagues, but I swear I'll do ANYTHING for a bite of that bland tasteless mush. The infected have excellent motor skills while initially contaminated, but prolonged exposure seems to have completely erased mobile functions, their host bodies becoming some sort of base for a spore-releasant creature."
The crewman stopped the playback, and the entire crew present in the bridge, including the Captain, were rendered speechless. Captain Sullivan rubbed his temples, and then dragged his hand down his face. The other crew stared on in shock, utter unpreparedness taking the entire group present. The Captain stared down at the small moon through the large viewport on the other end of the bridge.
With a sigh, he met the pleading stare of the Lieutenant peering up at him. He was practically begging the Captain not to play the rest of the clip. However, the Captain said in a thunderous voice,
"Play the damn clip!"
"Do NOT land, and do NOT enter the atmosphere. The pathogen is airborne and the spores are spreading like wild-fire. Remember, none of the crew members are to be... none of the crew members, including me, are to be removed from this planet. I have to finish what I started. The only way to stop this infection... is to let us all die out here.
Do not attempt to docking on Mars, they seem to have experienced severe engineering and electrical issues and... they're all dead. All of them. A power outage managed to open up all of the blast doors, the mechanical fail-safes did nothing to stop it. The oxygen was sucked out in the blink of an eye. I saw the security feed. But to do that someone had to override the controls...
I don't think this project is going any better, for the teams that were out to Gliese, and Kepler-22.
I hope you guys made it. I hope someone made it out there.
I hope that the Earth colony managed to somewhat salvage their situation, because this is growing dire. Fast.
This is Doctor Earl Schultz, signing off, at the U.T.C Gladius, f-for the final time."
The meek crewman turned to the grisly old Captain anxiously, sweat running down his brow.
"Mobilize Air-Response units. I want those soldiers out of there immediately. Set up a quarantined zone to distribute the operating units in, and have Haz-Mat teams examine the drop-troopers. I don't want that shit happening up here. This is the U.T.C Ranger, and we're fulfilling our mission damn it,"
"Yes sir! Before our next cycle, drop-ships will be deployed and will meet us at the end of the cycle!" The crewman said as he ran off to go give orders to pilots.
"Fly-boy!" The Captain called down the end of the bridge.
"Plot our next course towards Earth, we aren't staying here any longer than we should,"
"Sir, yes sir!"
The Captain took his coffee mug from the table beside him, and took a long drink.
"'Ey Charlie? Anyone else feelin' like this might jus' be th' start of a horrible end?" An Irishman said, worry heavy in his voice.
"Shut up Connor," Whispered the blonde-haired squad leader.
"Can ye deny, though?"
"Shut up, Connor," The squad leader hissed.
They had been trekking through the deep forest, trying to locate the U.T.C Gladius for shelter. The majority of Alpha Team were killed in the initial impact, and many were flung outside of the roomy vehicle. However, the ones that managed to survive did not fare well and most succumbed to their wounds. There was only one other living, able-bodied soldier there, a medic. They could neither find the Captain, nor the Sniper among the dead, and the Technician bled to death before they had arrived.
The Irish medic was not taking this well. His entire team dying on their first operation together. Usually a bad sign. However, Jacob's presence did comfort him, the knowledge of knowing at least one of his fellow pod-members actually survived the fall, even falling from the pod after impact. It was miraculous, or so he'd say. Jacob constantly checked his rifle was still in his hands, and not left behind. He had seen from first-hand experience in the Unification War that not keeping an eye on your gun was a bad idea, and a nasty scar running down his chest diagonally was a reminder of that.
Jacob noticed something; no one was talking. Turning around, he saw that his little band of survivors had disappeared, leaving him standing alone in the clearing. His thoughts had distracted him and led him away from the rest of the team. His boots sunk slightly into the artificial dirt beneath him, and his breathing became irregular. He looked in the direction from when he came, and began to walk back, but a thunderous roaring stopped him from doing so. From being semi-calm, he leapt from his spot and behind a fallen tree trunk, his rifle barrel peaking over the wood. Slowly, his head too came up, eyes darting from side-to-side, checking for targets.
The rumbling came back, but this time, he could see the tree-line beyond change color in a pale yellow glow. Clutching his gun even tighter, he could feel sweat drip off of his chin, the already hot jungle sealing in the heat. The humidity was accompanied by a thick layer of fog, and Jacob struggled to hold himself together. He tried to access his HUD system, but it could not connect to the mainframe, only displaying information on the surrounding area. However, he noticed there was motion several meters away from him, and ushered himself along. A few attempts to hail the rest of the squad helped him see that his Comm-Link must have been damaged in the crash.
Another wave of rumbling shook the loosened floor, and Jacob tried to convince himself that the light was stationary. Reluctantly, his feet were place in front of each other, causing him to awkwardly stumble forward in an attempt to be silent. Whenever the rumbling stopped, he would stop, and vice versa. Jacob could hear leaves rustle behind him, and took cover behind a tree-stump.
Connor came into the clearing, looking in each direction to find another soul to talk to. He found that his situation was worsening with each passing second, and began to talk to himself.
"Connor, ye fucked up pretty good this time,"
Jacob whistled quietly at Connor, and the man stopped dead in his tracks. Jacob's hand shot up from behind the stump, and he waved Connor over. Connor just waltzed toward Jacob without a care in the world, a relieved smile on his face. However, the light behind the trees amplified as Connor made his way toward Jacob, and a loud humming interrupted him, having them both look toward the light beyond the trees. Connor's eyes widened, and he dived over toward Jacob, narrowly avoiding a bright beam of light as it cut through the trees. The area Connor had been standing was a scorch mark on the ground, red embers replacing fallen leaves.
They both held their positions behind the large tree stump, trigger-fingers twitching. Lasers scanned the area above their heads, the red beams going back and forth.
"Connor," Jacob whispered.
There was a small interval of time, wherein a loud explosion went off in the distance somewhere, the rumble meeting them even at the large distance. Connor, turning his head, a fearful expression on his face,
"We need to move," Jacob whispered again, "We need to find the rest of the squad." An knowing fear was present in Jacob's eyes. He knew what was behind those trees.
A loud ticking filled the area, the ticking slowly picking up the pace. At the same time, a laser began to hone in on their area, and the sound of an electrical buildup was picking up. He scrunched his eyes shut, and gritted his teeth, while Connor was left in utter confusion.
Suddenly, gunfire filled the air, and Jacob looked above the stump, the light seemingly turning away and the strange ticking noise stopping. A deep rumble shook the floor, and it almost seemed like footsteps. A loud booming noise erupted from the tree line, and an aftershock echoed through the floor towards them. All was silent. Then, the pattern of rumbling resumed and began fading away, and Jacob shook his head. He knew what sort of monster was stalking them, hunting them.
Jacob began combing his hair with both hands, and staring forward with wide eyes.
"Alpha-boy, what's th' hell was that!?" Connor almost yelled.
Cursing to himself, Jacob turned to the Irishman, and slammed his fist against the dirt. He tapped his wrist-mounted PDA, and selected a file in his local storage. Selecting a file, he leaned toward Connor, displaying the picture on his wrist.
"That was a fucking Mantis!"