LV-426: The Return
After the utter cock up The Company made of the LV-426 incident, and the ensuing cover up they concocted to keep the truth hidden from the public, The Company doesn't seem to have learned much from their earlier mistakes. In fact, Wayland Industries then compounded their tenacious ability to flaunt the law and the truth even further, and within a few months, devised yet another underhand and nefarious plan to secure 'Alien samples'for their Bio-Tech Weapons Division on Mars.
This time, they sent a S.W.A.T. team of crack Colonial Marines to secure as many samples (especially eggs) as they could reasonably manage. The danger margin in Lieutenant Calthrom's Company FOR YOUR EYES ONLY file stated very clearly:
"Priority Level 1: Bring Back Infected Sample(s) For D&A Analysis, Freeze Sleep Human Hosts Before Xeno Maturation. Priority 2: Secure Egg Samples From Brood Queen. Priority 3: Rescind Normal Military Protocol; Survival Expectancy Of Marine Detachment Is Moved To Low Priority."
Calthrom's orders were clear! Take the men deep into enemy domain, expect heavy casualties, retrieve any infected human incubators for immediate hibernation in cold storage; grab a few xeno eggs, then use the surviving Marines to help him get the hell out of there... securing a safe route back to the APC and Drop Ship for himself, the samples, and his small medical team. After this, the safety of the rest of his men was of no further consequence to The Company.
All the Lieutenant needed now was a deck of cards to perform this neat trick.
Calthrum: Priority 2 executive worker for the Wayland Industries'highly classified Bio-Tech Division. Recently transferred into the Colonial Marines with the immediate effective rank of Master Lieutenant. No questions were asked about this unusual request and string pulling, and as usual, when The Company wanted something badly enough, it got done. The Military simply turned a blind eye and looked the other way.
When contact went down with the mining colony on LV- 426 (on the other side of the planet, far away from the misfortunate's who had been working at the Atmosphere Processing Plant, and who had all been killed mysteriously in a nuclear explosion, accidentally started within the refinery itself... or so the cover story went), it was no surprise when the second rescue mission was also funded and fronted by Wayland Industries. Naturally, the Colonial Marine Corp were keen to lend a hand - and somewhere, someone high ranking got rich by keeping the whole thing quiet... it's simply how the system worked.
When The Company's newly appointed Lieutenant Calthrum was picked for the operation, no one else seemed to notice that his handpicked team all consisted of men and women who had little or no family ties. They were all solitary loners no one would miss if any or all of them vanished and were simply never heard of again.
The plan was set. The return mission to the Alien infested planet kicked off with no real excess commotion or excitement - just the way The Company liked things done, and two months later, the space frigate Leonidas entered the LV System, and the top secret mission known as Operation Sparta formerly took shape.
"Okay, listen up. You've all been briefed on your mission parameters, we're to enter the complex from the rear entrance, get in fast and probe deeply into the service levels. Hostile activity is an unknown equation, so stay frosty people. The Lieutenant here has further information, so shut your mouths and open your ears and listen to what the man has to say.... and that includes you too Landowski." Master Sergeant pointed a long finger towards the olive skinned Private slouching in the shadows at the back of the group.
"Awww sarge, I am listening, you know I always listen to you." The swarthy, unfresh looking soldier replied.
"Secure that mouth, Private, right now" the Sergeant warned with warm intensity.
A few of the others sniggered rebelliously; displaying the usual pre-mission jitters and cocky juvenile banter just about every Marine in the force seemed to take part in before a battle, to cover nervousness and to seem big and brave in front of fellow comrades.
Jonathan Calthrom took a few paces forward and addressed the small gathering. He wasn't an easy talker, and he was aware of the smirks and disdainful apathy of the men he was supposed to command. It was academic whether they liked him or not, but he was an intrinsically vain man and would far rather have their respect if at all possible, even though he didn't expect many of them would be accompanying him back on the home journey.
"Nothing much to add really" he began, unsure exactly what to say now he was in the lime light with half a dozen hard nut Marines and a couple of medical staff staring back at him across the ship's loading bay and hanger deck.
"As the Sergeant says, we're on a potential rescue mission to find out exactly why we have lost contact with the colony." He lied: "It's altogether possible the colony is simply experiencing satellite difficulty, or the population at the complex has come down with a bug or something... but that's what we're here to find out."
He paused for air.
"Sir, is this gonna be a stand up fight, or is this another peace mission?" Enquired a short, tufty haired female Marine packing an awesomely large Smart-Gun fixed to a harness on a frame belt.
Calthrum took a deep breath. "Well, Private...?"
"...McGuire, let's hope for the colonists'sake it's something as simple as that. We have a medical staff standing by in case they're needed for such an emergency. But I want you all to go in expecting hostile activity. After all, we don't know whether there's an infestation of Space Mites, or even a terrorist hostage situation taking place down there, do we?"
The Lieutenant smiled to himself, inwardly content The Company had been able to keep the lid on the real danger below so thoroughly. 'These poor fools have no idea what they're getting themselves into... good! That will make human host extraction that much simpler to handle once the crap hits the fan.'
"It's another bug hunt." One Marine smirked, quoting the usual Marine cliché whenever the military sent a team to deal with a bug infestation epidemic. If only the soldier knew how big the bugs he might soon be encountering actually were.
Calthrum continued. "I'll personally be accompanying you into the colony complex; and I will re-appraise you of you mission parameter objectives once we're inside. Good luck Marines."
The Sergeant took his cue, realizing the officer had finished speaking when he stepped back a pace and looked at his watch, as though suddenly bored by the whole experience.
"Okay, this is it, saddle up people, you know the drill.... they ain't paying us by the hour, let's get this thing started. Lock and load and prepare to move out in five!"
With professional ease, the assembled Marines jumped with a will to their equipment lockers, and started strapping on weapons, attaching body armour, and checked their gear. Four minutes forty eight seconds later, they were all seated in the APV waiting to be driven into the drop ship ready for touchdown on LV-426.
LV-426 (Current date 2180):
Class M Planet
Atmosphere: Thin Oxygen Based (care of Wayland Atmosphere Processing Plant built in 2175)
Colony Population 317
Activity: Mining Colony Plant - First Generation
History: The Seven Nations first colonised the Planet in 2171 one hundred odd years after FTL (Faster Than Light) travel was invented. Ancient alien ruins were discovered dotting the landscape below the polar equator. The find was carbon dated as having been built sometime in Earth's pre-history. However, no evidence of the original alien species who built the complexes was ever detected by the teams of archaeologists who later excavated some of the sites.
In 2179 (the same year events depicted in Aliens and Alien3 occur), a satellite distress beacon was picked up by a passing freighter and located as originating from the surface of LV-426. The Mining Colony has been silent ever since, and no word of their fate has reached the outside world. In 2180, the Leonidas enters the LV System and prepares to investigate... and this game begins.
"Move, move, move!" Sergeant Tomlin counted them out, slapping each of the Marine on the shoulder as either he or she filtered out the sliding door of the M12 Armoured Personnel Carrier and into the thick pea soup mist and rain outside.
Puddles pooled in the uneven and hard packed clay, and the ruddy ionised precipitation from the impure atmosphere made the water run down the face of each trooper like a blood red shower.
The Complex stood before them; a vast alien ziggurat of immense size and built of some kind of thunderous non porous grey stone. The structure looked almost like an amalgamation of Earth's distant past, and seemed superficially to contain recognizable features from Mayan, Aztec, Inca... and even Egyptian cultures.
The entrance to the complex; the Squad moves in to investigate. Inter-dispersed with this ancient relic were obvious signs of more recent tampering, and old met new in a clash of uninspired symmetry. The artist's pallet which had designed this draughtsman schematic had not taken aesthetics into consideration when the mining facility had been built in 2171; instead a typical colonial exercise in economy and unimaginative efficiency had been employed, and the end result: a hybrid collection of fused metal and cold ancient stones.
Almost last to leave the M12 APC were Doctor Madderson and Nurse Kim West. They looked somehow incongruous with the rest of the scene. Dressed as they were in their civilian style medical overalls, and rather conspicuously lacking any visible weapons, their appearance was an almost startling contrast to the tooled up and green camo clad military grunts who had piled out of the vehicle previously. Finally, a serene faced young gentleman in a blue company suit stepped airily out of the troop carrier, and nonchalantly surveyed the scene.
"Lieutenant!" Sergeant Tomlin looked momentarily surprised. "Sir, I thought you were staying on the APC until the area is secure?"
The blue suited Lieutenant Calthrum smiled sweetly and pulled his jacket collar up around his chin. "No, I want see this for myself." Momentarily looking up at the monotonous sky, and then towards the alien ziggurat, he continued. "It's kinda wet out here, Sergeant. How long do you suppose it will take Landowski to open those outer doors?"
"He's on it now. Should have the electronic coding for the hanger doors any minute." Tomlin replied, after listening into his headset microphone for a few seconds.
"So they still have power then?"
"The Complex, it still has electricity running through it. Otherwise the outer doors wouldn't respond to a tech override." Calthrum reasoned intelligently.
Sergeant Tomlin was suddenly impressed. The 'suit'didn't look much, but he sure as hell wasn't slow on the uptake either.
"Sir! Landowski's preliminary analysis shows the complex still has basic power.... probably driven by a backup generator and running on auto."
The Marines formed a perfect perimeter around Landowski, protecting him as he worked to override the security codes in place upon the vast hanger door. A minute later, and with a loud snap, the lock was breached and the Plastisteel doors began to swing open. The Marines gripped their weapons tightly, but the outer hanger was clear.
Sergeant Tomlin began to file his soldiers into the complex as smoothly and as quickly as he could. He wanted to get his men under cover and safe and as fast as possible, and the broodingly exposed barren rock and drenching atmosphere of LV-426 made him feel very uneasy.
Once inside, the alien strangeness gave way to the regular cold hard steel of the mining facility's heavy duty tunnel complex.
Judging by the debris strewn across the floor, this access tunnel was no doubt used by the miners to move heavy trolleys of ore into the hanger for eventual evac aboard a convoy of company Space Tugs. But except for abandoned tools and a couple of overturned trolley jacks, there was no sign of life anywhere, and motion trackers were showing an all clear right across the spectrum.
Outer access tunnels where the mineral ore is carried to the hanger dock via Power lifters and fusion trolleys.
After a little while, the Plastisteel system of duplex corridors and chambers once again gave way to the icy cold stone of the alien structure. The air noticeably dropped a few degrees, and slick moisture seemed to cling to the walls and ceiling like resinous sweat.
The Marines followed spaghetti passages winding like a desecrating scar into the ancient mountain of stone, and sometimes they passed through series of linked rooms, offices, and cavernous store rooms; past staircases leading up or down to dimly lit orifices yawning like hungry and uninviting mouths. But Sergeant Tomlin kept them heading straight where ever possible, and never allowed the troopers to steer far to the left or the right, nor to investigate any of the branching tunnels.... always pressing the men deeper and deeper into the service levels of the miners'strange, vast, and labyrinthine work place.
The further they pressed forward, the more noticeable it became that there was no trace of the missing minors. A few signs that the workers had dropped whatever they had been doing... sometimes literally in the middle of a job lay all about them. Whatever had gone on here, it had happened fast. So quickly in fact, that the place still looked like it was fully operational and the work gangs had merely taken a break for their dinner.
However, the thick layers of dust, and the red emergency lights flickering on and off from time to time high in the wall brackets overhead, betrayed that all was far from well here. Peter Smith, Private First Class, took point up front and led the way for the rest of the team. And Med-Tech Juliet Fletcher took up position behind. Her eyes were like a cat and kept searching the gloom for possible hostile threat. She walked slowly backwards, covering their exposed rear. Though truth to tell, none of them really even knew what to watch out for... all except the Lieutenant, and he wasn't playing kiss and tell.
Maxi McGuire followed up the advance with her heavy Smart-Gun, while the rest of the Marines filed along behind in a staggered line. The close confines of the passages made keeping formation extremely difficult, and Tomlin was painfully aware just how strung out they were.
Cold Stone Alien Tunnels and Chambers - Slowly, the Marines advance deeper into the complex.
The first attack came suddenly... from everywhere and nowhere at once. It came so fast and so was so violent, no one even had time to cry more than a few words.
"In front and behind."
And then total war broke out.
Al Barker got it first. It was as though the wall just erupted into life beside him, turning into a mass of arms, cruel clawed fingers, and rows upon rows of long razor sharp teeth. One minute the Marine was standing there, preparing to listen at the portal on his left... next thing, the door burst open and the trooper was grabbed firmly by a huge glistening blue hued monster that dragged him kicking and screaming through the opening - and then they were both gone.
From all around, similar scenes were unfolding, and Sergeant Tomlin watches as his team was taken apart a piece at a time by the dreadful alien monsters which literally shredded anything they touched with their vicious claws and oh so terrible double jawed fangs. The smell of pulse rifle fire filled the air, and the acrid stench of acid choked the throat. Where ever an alien was hit and its blood splattered the walls or floor... the smoking snot coloured plasma literally burned through everything it touched: stone, metal, and especially flesh.
Peter Smith downed a couple of the advancing creatures with a few well aimed bursts of his weapon. But one of the monsters had been too close, and as it's chest exploded into ruination, the blood from the wound had spurted in all directions. Some of it had landed on the Marine, and within seconds the unfortunate Marine was writhing on the floor, screaming in agony and clutching at his ruined face and eyes.
William Fields was pounced on from above, and was bodily grabbed and pulled upwards and away into the gloom... towards a hole in the ceiling where a sky light should have been. But the soldier was not going down without a fight, and thinking fast he raised his weapon with his one free arm and poured a whole clip of case-less armour piercing round into the Alien attacking him. The creature let go with a loud hiss... it could have been a scream, and although the trooper somehow managed to avoid being hit with any of the acid blood... when the creature let go, Fields dropped awkwardly back to the ground, and snapped his neck upon impact.
At the rear, Juliet Fletcher kept her head, stayed calm, and laid down a carpet off suppressing fire at the horde of glistening seven foot nightmares advancing down the corridor towards her like a tsunami of death.
When her pulse rifle read empty, rather than losing precious seconds while she banged in another clip, instead she coughed round after round of high explosive incendiary shells from the under lock pump action grenade launcher into the aliens instead.
Eventually, the attack ceased... as suddenly as it had begun.
The walls and floor were a steaming choking mess of blood and bodies. Two Marines lay dead, another had been dragged away into the darkness. His vital signs still flickered yellow in the Sergeant's headset HUD, but his fate was unclear.
Maybe a dozen of the alien 'bugs'lay dead on the ground, but Tomlin had the distinct impression there would soon be plenty more to replace the few they had killed.
"I suggest we re-group Sergeant. Re-group and push on. We still have our mission to complete." Lieutenant Calthrum encouraged breezily.
Sergeant Tomlin looked incredulously at the Lieutenant for a few seconds, his mouth hanging half open in surprise and shock. He recovered his composure quickly. Swallowed hard, and replied:
Sgt. G. Tomlin
M. (f) McGuire: Smart-Gun
(5 Marines: Phase Rifles with a total combined pool of 5 grenades.)
T. Landowski (Electronics)
J. (f) Fletcher (Med-Tech)
S. Paulo (APC Driver)
Lieutenant Jonathan Calthrum (Supervisory Tactical Officer): Pistol
Doctor Mary Madderson (f) and assisting Nurse Kim West (f): both unarmed
Numbers: ... lots!
© 2008, Stephen A Gilbert