Now if you remember, the Sol System War was ongoing, meaning the massacre at Port Aldrin was just another skirmish…
The unknown forces that brought hell to the facility had assumed they’d killed everybody.
But in times of war, you never want to fully assume…
-Alec Johnston (“Pinnacle Beings of Sol’s War”)
Port Aldrin, Luna
(Exact Location Unavailable)
December 24, 2806, 4:13 A.M.
After cautiously slinking through the shattered, airless facility, it became pretty clear as to what happened. Grace flipped the settings on her pistol to infrared beams. Though not as powerful as the standard laser beam, it would help stretch the two-and-a-half power cells she has, not to mention the invisible beam will help to maintain whatever stealth she has left.
Hugging the walls in a dark corner, Grace starts fiddling around with the touchpad on her arm. Checking the oxygen levels on her suit, she determines that she won’t have enough air to breathe if she had to fight for long. After tapping the “radio” sections of her suit to see if anybody else was still alive (which there wasn’t), Grace accidentally heard two people speaking in one of those “blend languages”, just a mish-mash of common languages on Earth. These guys were seemingly Earth-Asian, speaking mainly Japanese, Russian, and New Imperial Chinese. Grace, who outside of English was only fluent in German, placed a text translator on her suit helmet screen. Here’s what she dug up:
“(Processing, please wait) So everybody’s dead, right?”
“They better not be, if (intelligible, probability personal reference) is dead, then our search for (the) creator of Cruz’s Plague will have [been] a complete waste.”
“What (profanity term) that?!!”
Grace gasped when she read “Cruz’s Plague”, alerting the patrol to her presence. She flipped the safety on her pistol off, slid down to one knee, and readied herself to shoot. She read the words “around the corner, lets go” an instant after she saw the beam of a flashlight. Holding her pistol a little tighter, she almost screamed when she saw what was around the flashlight; eight large gun barrels!
Oh, shoot, a railgun! Grace thought, Um, uh, a-ha!
Grace squeezes off a shot down the hall, causing the patrol’s attention to be focused on the generator she just restarted. Collapsing on the floor and turning her head, she spots a symbol nobody within 10 light-years of Earth has seen since the early 2600’s: the symbol of the long-lost Shuriken starfleet!
Back in 2606, when the war really began to take off, many Asian countries, especially China, India, and Vietnam, began removing rank-and-file troops from their selectively bred armies. Combining them with women from an "optimum" gene pool and a modestly sized fleet of military starships (with experimental faster-than-light drive engines), and the two fleets named Katana and Shuriken, after the ships' Japanese origin, and you've got the farthest any human beings have been from Earth.
But in 2651, the quarter-million person crew, the 500-ship fleet, was suddenly lost. Though the communications systems at the Polyphemus colony, the closest one to the fleet, was capable of recieving a message from the ships within a week, the rest of humanity gave up the search after several months of unsuccesful findings.
That's when the rumors started coming in. Whispers of computer viruses, diseases, and failures started coming into play. Officialy, a terroristic crew member set off a series of bombs that destroyed key ships in the fleet-- communications vehicles.
But that's not what happened. When the fleet began monitoring Earth and colonial transmissions, and catching word of trying to bring back the Katana and Shuriken fleets to back up their navy, all 500 ships made a random group jump to who-knows-where, the Katana fleet going off in a different direction as the Shuriken.
For the next 150 years, the two fleets scavenged the local star systems for supplies to support their growing numbers. The troopers that attacked the Lunar colony were scouts who had been surveying activity for months. Though the current location of the ships remains unknown to this day, there is little doubt as to what that scouting team was there for: to investigate their enemy...
-Alec Johnston ("Pinnacle Beings of Sol's War")
Nigerian-Annexed Territory, Madagascar
Superhighway 21, .63 Miles from Launch Pads
December 24, 2806, 3:27 A.M.
Hunter opens a car door as Walker dives into a pickup truck. Hunter readies his rifle's last bullet, takes aim at the core, and pulls the trigger. The explosion of the fuel truck, along with the power core and shotgun shells, produces a slow, powerful explosion, disintegrating anything within thirty feet, destroying the bridge and any chance the undead creatures on the other side have to attack the brothers.
But that doesn't really matter, because they might not need to...
* * *
Two clicks, the crack of a rifle, and a deafening explosion.
"Walker! It's safe..." Hunter says,
Walker, still shaking from the blast, stammers out "Yeah, flinkin' right!!"
"Come on, let's go. Get out of that truck."
"O-kay, just a sec-- Hunter, your arm!"
With a puzzled look on his face, Hunter turns his left arm into view, revealing a large gash up the bicep extensor. Surprisingly, there was little blood. From what Hunter could see, in fine print, there were the words “Petrol Company” scrawled on the piece. Shrapnel must've dug into Hunter's suit as he turned into his cover. The metal must have been hot enough to cauterize the wound-- instantly.
After letting out a deep-throated scream, Hunter shakingly says, "Okay, okay. Walker, hurry and flip down that black and yellow switch on my back. We've got thirty seconds to seal my suit before I'm well, you know. Gimme that patch..."
Walker flicks that switch, and a red twirling light starts flashing on Hunter's helmet. Suddenly, Hunter collapses on the ground, limbs tightly locked in a spread-eagle fashion. Then, joints started freeing up. First the knees, then the ankles and hips, and eventually all his joints except his left elbow, shoulder, and neck.
"What did that do?" Walker asks as Hunter stands up,
"Sealant," Hunter says, drawing his revolver, "Standard equipment on my environment protection suit. It clamps down hard on the two closest bodily joints around any deep cut or hole in the suit. Ours were designed primarily for space, meaning they'd normally trigger if the suit's pressure dropped below a certain point, reason being why you had to flick that switch on my suit. My arm is all stiff because of the joint clamps. Come on, we're almost there, the clamp's cutting off my circulation."
As they walk, Hunter re-holsters his pistol long enough to tape the hole in his arm shut.
When the boys notice the nose cone of a British rendezvous shuttle, they notice the facility is awful dark for a mass-launch being only hours away...
Port Aldrin, Luna
(Exact Location Unavailable)
December 24, 2806, 4:14 A.M.
Lieutenant Cruz is lying on her stomach, watching two (very) young men inching down the hallway away from her, two men who shouldn't exist!
"Holy--, hey, does that seem familiar?" Grace whispers to herself, making sure the microphone was off, "I think I've seen that before!"
As she starts shuffling for her pistol, one of the troopers does a lightning-fast about face, snapping around and firing his railgun wildly down the hall, the clattering metal shards whizzing inches above the air reserve on Grace's suit.
In an anger infused shout, the other scout shouts in full Chinese "Stop that shooting! Save [your] ammunition, you only have [unavailable, probability number] rounds left! Do that again, and [personal reference] strip your shields with my plasma gun!"
Damn, Grace thought as she read the text, they have shields! I'll only get one chance at that backpack...
Sliding very slowly along the ground, Grace reaches for her pistol, flipping a switch to "gamma rays"-- a setting that would drain the power cell in one shot-- and easily brings herself to a firing position. Raising the gun's sights on the plasma gun's power reserve, she pulls the trigger.
That's when Grace's already overtaxed mind blew. In the mere microseconds it took for the long, deadly beam to fly fifty feet from Grace's pistol to the Katana/Shuriken Fleet scouts, the empty cell pops out of the pistol's grip, the bright yellow-green beam catches the attention of the scouts, who react by opening fire in Grace's general direction. The first trooper's railgun jams after a few shots, and the second one, whom Grace intended to blow his backpack up, twists around beginning to let off a stream of superhot plasma, but is interrupted when he takes the full brunt of the beam, shorting out his shields, and ricocheting to the second trooper, giving Grace enough time to reload, switch to lasers, and promptly land two beams into each man's chest.
Being careful not to step in molten metal from the plasma stream, Grace walks over and wields the railgun, testing its weight. It had heft, but for an industrial-machine-looking weapon, it was designed for maneuverability.
Yeah, this'll do. Grace thinks, grabbing an extra magazine from the dead soldier,
* * *
After several weeks of excruciating travel, Hunter and Walker finally approach the main airlock to the launch pads of Great Britain's Northern Madagascar bunker.
"Power's out." Walker disappointedly said, "Great. Nearly three months of travel, and we can't get in."
"Now you just hush. There's got to be another way in." Hunter snaps back,
Cautiously turning their searchlights on, the boys draw their revolvers and march about the area, looking around for another way into the facility.
"Ho! Over here!" Hunter shouts, his pistol in his locked-up left arm for a steady shooting platform,
Typical behavior of Hunter Hayes, to use a crutch as a tool rather than an excuse... Anyways, he discovered a way into the facility-- the air ducts!
(40 MINUTES LATER...)
"Okay, scanners show the air's clean. Let's take off our suits." Hunter says, clamoring out the narrow vent,
Walker quickly strips off his clothes, but Hunter, with his locked arm, barely manages to open his visor.
"Wait, Walker! Help me with this..." Hunter yells as Walker draws his gun and bolts down the hallway, though he does eventually come back.
Remembering the sight from several hours earlier, Walker first thinks and worriedly says, "But what about the shrapnel?"
"That's another problem," Hunter reassuringly says, "First off, the batteries on my suit are almost dead, so I'll have trouble moving and breathing if I just leave it on. Plus, (as he cuts a glove off with his knife) see how white my hand is? I need to un-clamp my arm."
After some horrid thoughts about what would happen if they missed the launch (which by now seems to not be happening), Hunter quickly thinks of what to do.
"Cut off all power on my suit, then dislocate my shoulder."
"What was that last part?!" Walker says in surprise,
"You heard me," Hunter says, "The clamp on my arm needs power. Cut it off, and it can't press any harder. But there's still the pressure that's already been applied. Dislocating my shoulder will give me flexibility enough to slip out of my suit, albeit very painfully."
"Okay... And what of the metal shard buried in your arm? There's still that matter when you're out of the suit."
"Once again, that's another problem."
Walker turns a large, stiff dial on his brother's back, and Hunter does the rest. Hisses, jets of steam and hydraulic fluid, and dying whines erupt from the suit as it sings its death song.
With the suit dead, a sign of slight relief shows on Hunter's face, followed by one of anticipation. Sarcastically asking his brother for a bullet to bite, he sprints down the hallway as hard as he can to the best of his ability, and then slams his stiff arm into a protruding corner.
Up the hallway after hearing the crash, Walker says "Are you alright, did it work?"
"NEEEEEAAAUGH!!!" Hunter shouts out, annoyed,
As he stands back up, Hunter's left arm is bent awkwardly in front of his chest. Walker swiftly assists him in removing the suit.
Shortly after all the sharp cries of pain in slipping the apparently broken arm out of the suit, some distant moans and shuffling of feet begin growing steadily louder and louder...
Making a sling out of his shirt, Hunter draws his pistol and motions for Walker to remove the lights from his now-useless helmet.
"How are we on ammunition?" he whispers,
"How much in your gun?" Walker responds,
With only a dozen bullets between them, the Hayes brothers turn on their flashlights and slowly slink towards whatever spaceworthy vehicle they come to.
Turns out the zombies were way closer than the brothers first thought (Must've been the acoustics of the bunker, nobody has known the truth since 2949), causing a jumpy Hunter to empty his six bullets Spaghetti-Western style (a shooting fashion of holding the trigger and repeatedly flipping the hammer back) when a trio of undead began rushing the boys. Hunter shot while Walker ran. That's when they hit the doors.
With power to the heavy lead-lined door almost nonexistent save an indicator light saying "low power", the brothers Hayes at first attempted to open the door by force, an impossible task with Hunter's broken arm. Then Hunter tried using the power cell from his torch to provide just enough juice to scamper under the door, assuming they can open it. It would've been much easier if Walker didn't have to hold off twenty some-odd zombies with a rapidly dwindling fistful of pistol bullets!
Anyways, by the time Walker resorted to beating the creatures back with the butt of his revolver, the circuits of the door used the last volts of energy in the flashlight's battery to partially open up. The door only opened eight inches, but it was enough for the boys to crawl under. When the writhing mass of undead zombies bumped the battery out of socket, the door hit the floor with a satisfying thud.
The brothers turn around, and through the window in front of them, a massive orange tank geometrically wrapped in six- no, eight missile-like rocket engines. Atop the last sixty of this two-hundred-foot structure, a small innocent freighter ship balances.
“Let’s go.” Hunter bravely says,
Port Aldrin, Luna
(Exact Location Unavailable)
December 24, 2806, 9:19 A.M.
Grace was quietly walking through the dark hall, noting dead soldiers of both Lunar and Katana/Shuriken ranking.
Must’ve been a hell of a fight, Grace thinks, they even broke out one of the grenade launchers!
Taking sight of the M-79 grenade launcher, an old but formidable weapon, Grace plucks it from the hands of a corporal, along with a bag with another railgun magazine, when a small blue light on the helmet of the corporal’s suit began blinking.
“Self destruct mechanism! Gotta run!” Grace screams,
When she began running away, suddenly Grace was frozen. A white light from the inside of her suit flashed on, forming into a sort of scanning grid on her face. Thinking this is the end, Grace shuts her eyes. Only she couldn’t! The scanning light somehow froze her! Eventually, the white light grew brighter and brighter, until she couldn’t see. Then a rapid chirping sound rang in Grace’s ears. Then finally, the light cut off, and when Grace uncontrollably collapsed, she read the message that filled her suit visor:
ARE YOU LIEUTENANT FIRST CLASS
GRACE AUGUSTINE CRUZ
Reading the message and noticing a bar start to fill when Grace hovered over the “Y/N” part, she fixed her gaze on “Y” for about three seconds, and a video feed from several hours ago showing that corporal hipfiring Grace’s newfound grenade launcher and a machinegun, and the man said:
“Grace, I’m not sure if you even get this, but—KITCHENS! Where’s that mortar I need?!-- I put you in your pod because you are our only ‘necessary’ asset here. I knocked you out with that powder in your food because I knew you wouldn’t get in there otherwise. There’s a messenger fighter at the Houston Center dock. Take it and fly to Kepler, humanity can forget about the moon once again.”
Thinking about how she could possibly get to Houston on forty-five minutes of oxygen, Grace is suddenly met by a Shuriken banzai jumper, who is promptly dealt with through the lieutenant’s railgun. Hundreds of long metal shards flared explosively against the boy’s shields, knocking him off his feet.
But, when Grace’s weapon jammed, he began coming back up…
“Crap! Too close for the launcher…” She mumbled under her breath,
In a move even she could not believe she did, Grace dropped her gun, and as the Shuriken boy raised his weapon, charged at him with her pistol. She pulled her handgun out oddly, and when she almost dropped it, she snatched it into her other hand by the barrel, and drove the butt into the banzai’s visor, shattering it like a baseball to a front window.
In the seconds that followed, Grace reclaimed her pistol. For a brief moment, she heard a faint whoosh of air carrying an even fainter scream…
The phrase “(processing) WHAT THE FU—(unavailable)!!” showed up on Grace’s translator as she watched the young boy fall one last time.
At the sight of the unfamiliar troop transport, Grace forgets about the railgun, tests the heft of the banzai’s submachine gun, and promptly fades into darkness.