Eses pulled his hand from the ground and looked at the handful of sand he gathered, he shook his head, If we are looking for a cavity on the ground we can find it that way, but from what I can see this stratus it is quite rough.
Should we try the sonars?, his assistance Lakar asked.
it would be a waste of time, lets try again in a couple of kilometers
are you certain about that Eses? the captain asked unsure of the situation.
Are you asking me if I know how to do my job, captain?, Eses said whining, the rest of the soldiers around held their breath as they saw their captain tense. But he only sighed very well then lets not waste any time, east we go, adjust our coordinates, Lakar surprising everyone with his calm response. Their feet were dragging on Nevuls sand. Lakar took out his GPS and started, working on it, Tera noticed their hosts take their time, still watching them from afar. He wondered if they planned to move in on them at some point, but they seemed content to just observe their team.
The sand was getting softer the more they moved away from their base, teras feet were sinking further in, while some of his team were even stuck in it, god damn it, this makes no sense, the ground of this planet was not supposed to be hard, so what is going on? lakar said whining. Tera looked at Eses who turned
toward the captain.
This might be the place. We need to make a quick stop. The captain pulled up his hand in a stopping motion and the squad started settling in.
Eses calmly took out some of his work tools, mostly electronics. Tera did not recognize most of them, what caught his attention was a small, hammer like object but it had small digital screen on its sides with numbers on it.
what is that? Eses turned to Teras object of interest.
A geological hammer, thanks to that I can recognize all the minerals by, just taking a sample with this hammer, it almost instantly shows the minerals weight and density, I would just take that he reached out and Tera handed him the hammer, the mariners had all the possible knowledge surrounding geology, their unique planets structure along with their own ability to withstand immense water pressure allowed them to venture to the core of their own planet, of course divulging the information they gathered was not part of their scientific agenda, so it was not uncommon for many other races to employ them in missions or simply scientific ventures.
Tera took a look at Eses, he was obviously suffering being from a 99% water planet, his health was decreasing steadily, the army made every arrangement possible for his comfort, but all the clothing material and water supplements for the skin couldn make much difference, he wouldn last two weeks, they knew they had to send him back sooner or later, he was ill equipped for this mission. So they were pushing much harder on this desert that they were supposed to. The longer we stay stationary the harder it gets for him, Tera thought; many members of the squad were spreading around, either securing positions or simply stretching their feet, awaiting another long march.
Small notions both of the mind and the body; instinct, that was all one soldier needed to survive on the battlefield. Instinctual soldiers were survivors. Tera was aware of that, so when his alert popped off on his mind he could not look away from the danger, as the ground in front of him was vibrating stronger and stronger.
Fractures on the ground became bigger and bigger, within few second hell broke loose. Tera jumped backwards as his lieutenant in front of him was thrown into the air only to be torn apart, he looked up; a gigantic worm like creature was coming out of a hole in the ground, with small oval nooks all over its body. Teras gaze was fixed on its head, an enormous mouth, full of hard cylindrical spikes for teeth. Its eyes
looked petrifying and it was like its expression was fixed, it took Tera a minute to realize what that thing was. Bullets and beams were flying around in the meantime, his whole teams fire was focused on the worm, Tera took out his gun and hid behind a rock, he looked to the side where the team that was following them was a minute ago, but they were nowhere to be seen, realizing the danger before them.
Tera looked in his mag, it was full. An energy weapon would be useless against that beast, he felt glad he brought his steel gun with him. The worm was tearing apart his squad, everyone was trying to get in position to fight back, but it was no use.
get behind the hill NOW captain screamed from behind Tera.
Ground shook again and two more worms pop beside the first one, Teras fear was confirmed at that point; those were planet protectors. He looked around trying to find the captain. His com was the only one that was connected with everyone elses.
He was amidst the chaos. Beams, bullets and energy grenades were flying around trying to chip at the special metallic armor of that creature. Its huge head, dropped down and stroke at the soldiers below, instantly smashing one of them to the ground. But it didn stop there, it spin its head creating a cyclonic movement, huge chunks of sand and rocks flew around hitting everything. Small rocks smashed and crushed the protective suits of their human targets.
The squad was covering each other trying to retreat to some of the few rock covers around the area. It was useless the other two worms were dragging their huge bodies, cutting of any escape for the squad. As any creation, the worms were no different, they had a weakness. Tera was shooting around the body trying to find any sense of where the weakness might be. Tera move out, its coming towards here Ferrow screamed. They both knew it was no use; they were surrounded anyway. Suddenly a group started shouting from behind Teras cover, he dared a look while the worms seemed preoccupied, a small opening behind the rock drew
his attention, he was shoved aside as the captain took a closer look, is this?..
yea some of the squad already seemed to be inside he immediately reached for his com and called everyone to their position.
But no one answered back. They were all barely hanging on and those that didn were already dying on the sands of Nevul.
They can get close, they need some coverage, some real coverage, the squad that was left behind was trying to maneuver around the big creatures but their movements were too fast despite their huge bodies. Kicking out sand at the same time; plenty enough to cover the whole squad.
I have an idea captain, let me go there Tera said looking the captain straight in the eyes; he seemed to consider it for a moment.
No stay put, we can endanger anyone else.
You know that this is suicide? We have no artillery and our weapons are useless against those things Ferrow added.
Reremos is out there Ferrow you know that, I am sorry captain but I can comply. Tera said calmly while preparing.
The captain only snorted whispering to himself nothing new there. Ferrow grabbed his arm; he opened his mouth to say something, but thought better of it. what is it?
Nothing, forget it, seeming concerned.
If you want to be helpful just give me all your light grenades Ferrow frowned, but he unfastened his belt handing them to Tera.
Just know I will be covering for you . He accepted them with a nod before rushing out the small cave, he heard some shouts behind him but he ignored them. He looked ahead, the two new snakes had already surrounded the squad that was left behind, they were throwing light-grenades but that only slowed those things down for a few seconds each time, sinking in the very soft sand below. Tera rushed towards the triangle that three mechanical snakes were forming while they have surrounded the rest of the squad.
He looked to his left where one of the holes from where one of the snakes popped up, it seems like there was something beneath, maybe a chamber, he stopped and set some explosives, got up and continue to rush towards the snakes, he grabbed a grenade and aimed carefully,
hitting the closest snake square in the face, it made a screeching sound and turned towards him, and moved fast headed for him. Well at least those things were dumb, he took out his radio, not stopping for a sheer moment, he turned to the direction he just came Everyone move towards the snake that is moving away, RIGHT NOW, over.
He hoped his squad heard him, his legs felt a bit numb, moving to that sand with his suit was not an easy thing, he looked behind him where the snake easily had caught up with him, damn it its too early for the explosives, instead he took out another frag and threw it behind his feet, the snakes head moved for a fatal blow, instead the grenades explosive power threw a wave of sand in both directions Tera quickly grabbed a rock nearby so that he won be buried behind it.
All that just to buy a few moments since the snake ,after shaking its head,went after Tera once again, he jumped behind the rock and tumbled past the snake hole he planned the explosives moments ago. Ferrow was looking at him near the exit. The snake was drawing nearer, and time froze. Ferow was hesitating, the snakes head was inches away from his neck his body was swirling around, and then the explosive sounded, he felt the heaviness behind him slip away and turned and saw the
snake being sucked below. He dropped to his knees sighing while looking at the hole, his assumption was correct; there was indeed an open space below from where the snake came from, now it had to find another tube like escape to come to the surface again, not knowing how much time they had bought before that happened, he rushed near the cave entrance to help Ferrow usher everyone inside. Reremos was one of the last people to come inside; drawing a sigh of relief Tera watched him enter casually waving at his direction, with a big smile on him. He couldn help but smile as well.
Tera finally noticed their resting place, their luck was immense. This place was few meters below the ground; small notches were all around the cave creating dimness due to the light of the portable lambs they set all around. The cave was big enough for the few dozen remaining members of their squad to mingle around and
each tend their own needs. Most of the team was gathered near the entrance. The officers were grouped on a small circle, Tera was next to them expecting to hear what they were going to do next, few people seemed to have some minor injuries and some others damaged suits how much is the count? captain asked at Ferrow who was counting all along.
There seems to be around 10 lightly injured, 5 suit dysfunctions and unfortunately 10 died during the attack, we lost Spelen too, this is going to be tough without him, the only doctor that remains in our squad currently is Pert.
This is not as bad, if everyone can move we should pack up soon, we don know when those creatures will come back if they even can come in here. What is this place anyway The captain said.
Its a cave system, but its artificial. Eses said.
Is it recent?
I don know how long ago it was made but its more than a few hundred years old if thats what you are asking.
We are on track then Bagh said. He was always on the back so Tera rarely noticed his presence, but he was more or less the only source of information concerning the reason they came to this deserted place. He refused to let anyone know any more information than it was necessary, the only governmental official among them. While Tera was curious he had other things to worry about for now.
The captain started clapping loudly, everyone turned to him for his announcement thankfully we are on the right track, there is a tunnel system ahead of us within this cave, those creatures outside do not care to follow us anymore apparently, but keep an eye open. The injured who can walk right now should be helped up, we have little time to waste, I want everyone to start moving within the next minute. He half turned towards the rest of the officials but instead started addressing everyone again.
Also, you can honor the dead later, unfortunately there is no way to go back for them, but remember them for they served our team and the human race well, may they be the last of our losses.
He waited a moment as everyone shared a prayer in their own way for the lost ones, now start helping the injured up we will push through the tunnel ahead, our target should lie within the next few kilometers, you will all soon be home. He closed his suit open channel and switched to a lower frequency to converse with his officials. Few moments later the squad was back up having licked their wounds.
Tera looked at how bad the situation was, if they encountered these snakes again or their dear hosts, survival
chances were minimal, he realized that he wasn the only one who has figured it out, gloominess spread around the passage they were moving on. He felt someone next to him, Reremos looked straight ahead, surprisingly he was smiling.
what are you so cheery about now?
Oh you don know? I survived an attack by a giant snake, you should have
seen it, it was awesome. Tera couldn help himself but laugh causing Reremos
to join in.
I am sure it was, but what about if we haven seen the end of that?
Reremos simply shrugged we will probably die.
I wouldn worry about that, they won come this way Eses said
Teras scowled How would you even know that?.
They are planet protectors, thats the most likely reason they popped out the moment we stepped out at that place. That would mean that they exist to stop anyone from coming this far, at least thats the fairest assumption I can gather.
Wait what are planet protectors? Someone from behind tera asked, that made Tera take a look around, more than a few heads were turned their way. Very few of them would have seen something like what they been through even after countless missions to different places, and the secrecy only added more questions, it seemed to Tera that possibly no one from their squad has been briefed on what the heck they were doing on this place.
They are creations of a planets occupants. Usually they are grown through different methods artificially. They are essentially bio-engineered beings. Eses said abstractedly.
bio-engineered? the same soldier asked exasperated.
They are beings that are created within or near a planets core. Various metals or other protective materials are used to merge with a biological entity. Usually the entity is artificially made, or the biggest hunter of the
planet can also be used. The technology behind it is quite advanced.Some whispers started spreading across the squad following Esess statement. So Nevulers couldn possibly have created them.
That is correct Esses replied.
Ok enough of this, everyone shut up and focus on the mission, we are almost there I don want any more conversations.
Tera looked at the captain baffled. He was surprised by the rebuke, but kept thinking about all the information despite it. His curiosity took over. Probably one of the reasons he was such a bad soldier to begin with, he was just unable to chuck down orders no questions asked, and the lack of information and trust only added to the feeling that he needed to understand the situation. But for now he felt like relaxing before everything go wrong again as it always did on every other mission. Soon they would see what they came here to do anyway and the questions that piled up will be answered in part at least.
The tunnel they were following, seemed to go for ages, the orange walls were perfectly excavated creating an oval shape. Along the way the team was passing few scraps or weird carvings, yet nothing lived down here. Even small organisms seemed scarce. Everyone around Tera were dragging their feet, they were tired, wounded or simply lost all resolve along with many of their friends death on a mission that they did not expect any extreme danger. The captain took a look at the mood and immediately fastened the pace. Tera took it as a good sign; they were near the end of this repetitive and depressing stride through the tunnel they
were following for the past two hours. A mechanical, sliding sound cut the silence and alerted everyone in front of the formation, for a moment everyone feared that the snakes had found a way through and in such a narrow hallway they were surely dead, but instead the sound kept repeating on the same volume, carefully the squad moved forward. They cut two corners and finally they reached an opening.
A den in the shape of a domed cone was before them. The orange dirt color on its walls was less healthy. Pillars made of stone circled around the den, following its shape, converging on the very ceiling which was domed. More than few whistles went around.
The captain and the rest of the officials hurried to the front where the point of admiration of everyone else was focused on. A machine took much of the middle space of the den; a metallic box with slits which radiated light, metallic plates were growing from the middle of the machines core like flower petals. The squad spread around inspecting the area. Tera heard the captain and the Bagh enter a heated argument. Their voices were low but Tera could tell that there was some sort of
problem. He went closer to inspect it, watching the lights within the slits shimmer, his hands stretched to touch the weird box but a voice from officials cut him short ordering everyone to gather around and do not touch anything. He looked at Reremos confused, but his expression was just as confused as his was. Was Esses right? Was this a kind of advanced weapon?
NOW the shout cut his thoughts short, followed by explosions, a tremble followed by the ceiling opening up, big chunks of rock fall around the machine few even within the circle of the metallic petals.
Everyone covered the plastic lens of their helmet trying to keep their vision as intact as possible to protect it from the dirt cloud that arisen from the explosion. A rock hit Tera on the back of the suit big enough to drop him to his knees most of the shock was absorbed by his tenacious, springy space suit, he shook his head and looked around at the chaos, everyone moved around the columns while fires were shot, but Tera was not seeing any enemies. He looked around and saw few heads turn to the ceiling that was collapsing. A group of black suited soldiers were descending with gravity-decelerators. He got up quickly and tried to take cover behind a column along with Turio who looked shaken.
They were caught off guard. His rifle was rested on his lap; he ventured a peak behind the column. The team was trying to hit the descending enemies, who were taking shots as well with beam guns, hitting few of the columns and scratching their surfaces. But not all of his squad was focused on the men descending; confusion and anger found its way to his mind, some of his squad were grabbing the edges of the cavern and were taking shots at their own team.
He looked at Turio who was as baffled as he was. He heard a noise of an object hitting the dirt next to him and saw a light grenade next to his feet he grabbed Turio and jumbled sideways to escape the blast while trying to protect him as well. He rolled to his side while his ears rung. He tried to get up but his legs were shaking, he looked up to scout his perimeter and once again dread send a shiver to his whole body, a black suited man was looking at him; straight in his eyes. The enemy force who was trying to wipe them out was in fact humans.