Previous: Chapter 13
No Man's Mine
The entrance panel was lifted and a 20-man UNCC squad marched inside the mine, their weapons ready. The mine was eerily quiet. A warm, musty fog flowed through the dark mine, preventing efficient use of their flashlights. The squad examined the various corpses scattered amongst the floor, of both human and Diathel.
"This place looks dead." One soldier said.
"I-I-I Think we should leave. You know, get back to Kellogg!" Exclaimed another.
A third, tougher soldier rebuked the two. "Sardec! Aren't you going to tell these children to stay focused?"
Sardec did not respond. He walked slowly towards the Diathel corpses, in a trance-like state. He slowly placed his hands on the Knight helmet of a fallen Diathel.
"Sir! Don't! Those things bleed lava, remember!?"
Sardec broke his silence. "I need to check."
"Check for what, sir?"
Sardec gently twisted the Knight helmet, listening for a click. The helmet clicked and he twisted it the other way. The others took several steps back from Sardec as he slowly slid the helmet off of the body. Hot steam emitted from the helmet, but no lava was to be seen. After a short moment, the steam dispersed and the head was revealed. The rest of Sardec's squad took a step closer, curious about the Diathel's facial appearance. Its facial structure was similar to a human face, with the exception of apparent ears or nose. The face appeared to be made out of rock. Its eyes a dark, soulless gray, its mouth open with obsidian drool.
Sardec examined the scalp and found a burnt Kartinava parasite corpse attached.
"They're Possessed..." Sardec said under his breath. "They're the right enemies..."
Sardec's trance broke. He got to his feet and faced his squad.
"Alright. I checked. Spread out and investigate. Walk in pairs."
"Yes, sir!" They replied.
The squad walked about the mine, finding nothing but corpses, discarded bullets, and craters.
A strange sound echoed throughout the mine. All units stood up straight, weapons at the ready.
"Where's that sound coming from?"
"Everyone group up!" Said Sardec.
The squad assembled into a single group and listened closely for the sound. It then sounded more clear, like bones crunching. Sardec took point and followed the sound, venturing deeper into the mine. Past a few narrow tunnels, they arrived in a larger room where many of the tunnels connected. The crunching sounded very nearby, but no one could see very far.
Sardec accessed his scanning protocol and saw hundreds of outlines of creatures consuming the corpses. The scans identified the creatures as Crawmites. He addressed his squad quietly and softly.
"Alright, no one act irrational. There are Crawmites everywhere."
Sardec looked back at the outlines. They were still unalerted. He looked back at his squad.
"Grab your laser weapons and destroy as many as you can with one shot. The less casualties to this mine, the better."
The soldiers shuffled through their backpacks and cocked their weapons.
Various lasers struck the idle Crawmites. Many were killed, but many more were alerted. At once, the swarm charged towards the squad. The large room lit up from muzzle flashes and laser projectiles.
"Hold your position! Don't spread out!" Sardec ordered.
The Crawmites began to spread out, taking the floors, walls, and ceilings.
With the Crawmites coming from every direction, the soldiers had a harder time standing their ground. Some Crawmites were shot dead too close for comfort for some soldiers. Some started to stand further away.
"Hey! I said stand your ground! Get back here!"
"Spiders! Spiders! SPIDERS! I HATE THESE GOD DAMNED SPIDERS!" Exclaimed one soldier as he moved further away, ignoring Sardec's orders. He backed into a dark corner and a bone cracking sound was heard, ceasing his gunfire.
"Man down! Man down!"
Some of them began to panic.
"Come on, babies! Sardec said to stick clo-"
A Crawmite had pounced on the tough soldier, mauling his face.
"Fall back!" Sardec exclaimed.
The remnant of the squad followed along Sardec as they backed off from the Crawmite swarm.
"Good! Now everyone on me!"
They all stood close to him as he deployed his Catalyst VOID. The shield covered the squad as they were now able to take more steady shots. The number of Crawmites began to decline. They swarmed around the base of the shield as it exploded, causing the ceiling to rumble.
"Push forward! Out of the way!"
They ran forward as a part of the ceiling collapsed. Shortly after the Crawmites began retreating.
"Ha ha! Take that, you blasted arachnids!" Exclaimed one soldier.
"A swarm? Running away? That's unusual." Said Sardec.
A New Threat
"Squad, casualty report!"
"Five dead, sir. I-I think."
"You 'think'? Alright. Gather the ones that didn't stick together."
The squad spread out, searching for their fallen comrades. Three went towards the dark corner that one soldier backed into. As they entered the shadows, bone crackling and short screams were heard.
"What was that, Sardec sir?" One soldier asked.
"I... I have no idea. Weapons ready."
Sardec took point as the remaining 12 approached the dark corner. Four human bodies were seen and nothing else.
"What the Hell? They died out of nowhere?"
Two soldiers standing at the back of the group were then struck down by something heavy. The soldiers turned around and saw their comrades dead with a blood-soaked boulder nearby.
"Something tossed that!" Said Sardec. "Form a circle!"
The remaining 10 soldiers formed around, looking closely for the killer. Sardec readied his scanning protocol, but saw nothing ahead.
"On my lead. Hold your formation and walk slowly."
They searched the area for an exit. Sardec took point and approached a wall. He noticed a strange pattern amongst the wall. He scanned it and saw a Knight armor outline. At that moment, the wall broke apart and a creature rammed the squad to the ground.
"What the Hell was that!?"
A low-pitched roar echoed throughout the mine. A bullet gray blur passed near the soldiers as they tried to get their bearings.
Sardec charged his RABS-II Harbinger and waited for a target. Out of the darkness, a larger Diathel Knight pounced the soldiers to the ground and bashed them inwards. Sardec released the charge and fired four laser coils at the enemy. It flinched and Sardec quickly scanned the Knight.
The Diathel was identified as "General Gajuro".
"Everyone get up! Don't let him out of your sights!"
The remaining squad fired their laser guns at Gajuro, but he barely even flinched. Gajuro angrily roared and smashed the ground, falling them to their feet. Gajuro stared at Sardec's helmet. Sardec got a close look at Gajuro's light gray visor, but saw no face behind. Gajuro raised his bulky arms, preparing to strike. Sardec deployed Twilight and dashed out of the way. Gajuro missed his target and smashed the floor, causing a strong rumble in the mine. He growled and charged forward, pinning two soldiers into a wall.
"Explosive weapons, now!"
They shuffled through their backpacks and equipped explosive weapons.
"Fire at will!"
Various explosive projectiles, from gloves, shotguns, and rocket launchers, struck Gajuro and stunned him. Sardec switched to the Harbinger and began charging. Gajuro tilted his head up and saw the railgun barrel facing him. He smashed his hand into the ground and grabbed a large boulder. He hurled the boulder at Sardec, striking his railgun. Sardec released the trigger, but the weapon did not discharge and began glowing brighter and brighter.
The remaining squad fired more explosives at Gajuro, keeping him pinned down. Without any way to save his railgun, Sardec thrusted his arms forward and tossed the Harbinger by Gajuro's side. The Kartinava general roared in distress shortly before the weapon exploded, flipping him on his back.
The soldiers gathered around Gajuro's unresponsive body.
"My God. We just killed one of their leaders!" Exclaimed a soldier.
"Yeah, we should collect its body and use it as a scare tactic! Haha!" Said another.
As the squad were celebrating, Sardec kept his focus on the creature's face. Gajuro's visor started to flicker on and off. Before anyone could react, Gajuro struck the ground, sending them onto their backs. Gajruo got back to his feet, breathing heavily. His visor stopped flickering, now appearing as a television screen without reception. As the squad tried to get to their feet, Gajuro roared violently at them. Most soldiers cowered and stayed down on the ground. Gajuro turned around and fled from their sight.
Sardec got back to his feet and helped everyone else up.
"How many? Who's left?"
"Just us 5." Said one of the remaining soldiers.
"It was a mistake coming back here. Kellogg shouldn't have left so many people here. Let me contact him right now."
Sardec accessed his helmet's radio receiver.
"Kellogg. Do you read?"
"Sardec! Status report!"
"5 of us left. There's another Kartinava leader on this place. General Gajuro is his name. We fended him off until he fled. The 50 you left here are dead."
Kellogg sighed. "It's too dangerous then. If Gajuro is following us, we have to keep on the move... Hurry back here and we'll see about getting off of this planet."
"Would you say this mission was a success? I have my doubts."
"All is not lost. I'd rather explain in person. Just hurry back here in one piece."
"Alright sir. Sardec out!"
Sardec and his four squad mates found their way out of the mine and began heading back to Mining Site Delta to reunite with Kellogg and the rest of the regime.