the plague by adam haugan

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
a short story about a groupe of rangers that get dropped onto a planet to investigate it and they uncover more than they expected

Submitted: December 25, 2010

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Submitted: December 25, 2010

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The Plague
 
They both sat in an interrogation room. A man in his mid twenties starring across the dim lit room at a battle hardened veteran. “Jared A. Xander” the young interrogator said with confidence on his breath. Xander sat there with his arms folded and with fire in his eyes, starring at the incompetent interrogator. “How long have you been with the orbital drop rangers?” the interrogator proceeded to ask. Xander sat there silently. Ignoring his silence the interrogator asked another question, “What were the details of your mission?” again no reply. The interrogator sighed and threw the paper he was reading the questions off of on the ground. Then he leaned forward putting his elbows on the table crossing them while he looked at Xander. “Look” he said, “you’re facing life in lunar prison for what happened. We already know what happened, and the only hope you have of seeing the sun again is with me, so if I were you, I’d cooperate.” Again Xander stayed silent. The interrogator sat back in frustration with his feeble attempt at making progress. “What’s your name boy?” the only words thus far to slip from Xanders mouth and fill the air around them. The interrogator looked at him in surprise and answered “Jon, Jonathon Lewis.” “Well Jonathon Lewis,” Xander said with a smirk “it seems that the only way you have of keeping your job is by getting information about what happened on that cesspool of a planet, I know everything about you, your screw ups, feeding officers the wrong information that got them killed, partying every night after payday and waking up drunk in allies, even steeling an officer’s car several time just so you can impress a date and hopefully get lucky that night, only to have it blow up in your face after you run into a lamp post and put the girl in the hospital.” Jon sat there with terror in his eyes “how do you know about that? You don’t even know me.” “Oh, believe me Jon I know you, your address, your phone number, your social security number, everything.” “How?” Jon asked. “When you do the work I do, the things you do just as a standard mission, you get to know people, people who now things about you, some are cartel drug lords, some are even who you work for, so Jon, you WILL get me out of here, and I’ll give you what you want, but you screw me, lets just say that you’ll be sharing a cell with me in lunar prison.” Xander could see the beads of sweat beginning to form on Jon’s brow. Xander sighed in frustration; he reached into his pocket and pulled out two cigarettes and a lighter. “Loosen up Jon” Xander said and slid him a cigarette. “How did you get those past the guards?” “Like I said I know people.” “Well” Jon said pulling the white stick to his lips “I spose we should get started” he said nervously.
“The mission started as a routine patrol of a back water world” Xander began, “We were orbiting a planet called Ragnorak, named after the native animals, kinda like giant chickens” Xander said between drags. “There were ten of us, this was to be my last jump, 450 jumps and your time is served.” “Why 450?” Jon asked.” “You can only jump so many times, constantly going through atmospheres wearing 2 inches of armor isn’t the best thing for your body. The constant thrashing and shaking of re-entry after a while would break every bone in your body. 450 jumps stops you with just enough bone structure to still be able to drop your drawers and take a crap.” Xander said with a laugh. “Anyway, we had gotten into our drop tubes all wearing brand new re-entry suits, we reached drop altitude and the floor opened beneath us, we began to fall through the atmosphere, our suits glowing as bright as the sun” Xander said looking at the glowing embers at the end of his cigarette. He almost became lost in his thoughts of past missions. “What then?” Jon asked wanting to continue the interrogation. “After getting through the atmosphere we engaged stabilizers and eventually hit turf. The planet had a decent enough atmosphere to where we could survive without our suits. We were separated at first but we all met up eventually.” “Wait, so why exactly were you patrolling this planet?” Jon asked. “They were planning on settling there, the feds were that is, military bases and the like. We needed to find good building areas for the bases and make sure the planet wasn’t inhabited by another country. Most of the planet was thick jungle, but we knew of some great plains so we began working our way towards them using pictures and maps taken from orbit. We hiked for several days; we finally came within site of the plains. We had hiked to the top of a cliff that overlooked them. They were filled with ragnorak, herds were everywhere, one of the guys thought he’d have some fun and see if he was a good enough shot to hit one. After several attempts he got one, so we decided we were having ragnorak for lunch but after we scaled down the cliff and got to where the carcass was, there was nothing there but a bloody patch of grass.” “What happened to it?” Jon asked. “We figured at the time it had just been wounded and ran off for the jungle, so we paid no attention to it. So there we were, in the middle of the great plains on a back water planet filled with dumb animals.” Xander said with pity in his voice. He held the cigarette between two fingers and watched as the embers burned. There was a silence between them, both lost in their thoughts. “Well how do you know they’re dumb?” “What?” Xander asked at Jon’s stupid question. “ The ragnorak, they could be smart enough to know at least that you were not from their planet.” Xander just starred at Jon in disbelieve, then Xander argued “we would walk up to one and kill it for food, they wouldn’t even run away or fight” Xander exclaimed. “They WERE dumb animals, we all were.” “What do you mean by that?” Jon proceeded to ask as if on que.
“We were told to recon for suitable places for military bases and strongholds. Problem was, there already were.” Xander exhaled his last puff of smoke and buried the roach in an ash trey. “In fact there was more then just basses, there was an entire city. Schools, stores, offices everything, even skyscrapers.” Jon exchanged a glance of interest. “Wouldn’t you have been able to see the city from satellite?” “Unfortunately not, the city was built in a magnetic cavern, all its signatures were masked.” Xander replied. “What about heat signatures?” At this Xander stared at Jon with an empty look in his eyes. “There were none, the city was completely uninhabited when we arrived, not a single whisper of life.” Jon sat with a blank look on his face. Xander continued “The entire city was centered around a single military encampment, when we got there the tents were still up, all had personal belongings in them but no one was around. Once we got to the center of the encampment we came to a large hill with a bunker door carved into the side. We tried to get a hold of HQ to get the access codes but the magnetic field of the cavern the city was built in was screwing up our transmissions. So we made our own access code, let me tell you napalm infused c4 can make one big hole.” They both shared a slight laugh. “It was dark and musty inside the base, fortunately its generators didn’t run out yet so the lights were flickering just enough to light our way. Some of the guys who were superstitious started talking, getting scared, me, I just wanted to get paid. The barracks, infirmary, mess hall, all empty; we finally reached the center of the base where there was an elevator. The elevator could only hold five, so five stayed in the upper level of the base and secured a perimeter while we descended into the lower levels of the base.” Xander paused and placed his hand on his neck, rubbing it as if to soothe it, he rolled his head around to loosen his neck which revealed a cut that was stitched from the back of his neck. “Where’d you get that?” Jon asked. Xander removed his hand, “we weren’t the only ones down there, and as we walked the narrow confines of the lower levels, none of us could deny that we felt a presence there. It was quiet, eerie, I smelt moist and damp down there, and almost as if it wasn’t the planets air we were breathing. We eventually came to a room filled with operating tables, all of which were empty, except one that had a white cloth covering it. I worked my way towards it and removed the cover.” Xander pauses remembering his past, an awkward silence hung in the air, “Well?” Jon’s voice broke silence. “What?” Xander asked. “What was under the cover?” Jon proceeded. “There was a body, it was a man who seemed to have died of a heart attack.” Xander paused, and then sighed “but we weren’t the only ones in the room, I replaced the cover, but when I turned around something jumped out of the darkness and latched onto one of our guys back. I was able to shoot it off. It fell to the ground and scurried of into a dark corner holding its arm where I had shot it. Instead of killing it I wanted to capture it for studies back on earth.”
“I moved to pick it up, my guys had my back of course, but when I got close it quickly jumped onto me, it dug one of its claws into my neck dragging it down the side but barley stopping before it hit my artery. I shucked it off ad killed it.” Xander ran a finger down his stitched cut. “You said claw Xander, what was it exactly that attacked you?” Jon proceeded. “What attacked me, I don’t really know what it was, but when I looked at it, it almost looked as if it had once been human. If it was, its nails had mutated and grown to an extraordinary length and thickness, its teeth had began to extrude from its mouth and its eyes had permanently grown shut. Hair ran from its head down its back and looked as if it walked on all fours.” “Sounds like a blind dog.” “This was no dog Jon, it was at one point, human.” “So how did it see you? It had no eyes, it was dark.” “Are you that stupid Jon?” Jon looked at Xander in astonishment. “It could see through sound, through smell, it had been down there in the dark long enough to have evolved to its surroundings. It had become an efficient killer. We left the body and the doc stitched me up, we began to walk farther into the base. We came to a laboratory, we were able to flick on the lights and the room was filled with those things, we had entered what was their nest or something. We backed out of the room quick enough to lock them in there. They were clawing at the windows and climbing on the walls to get to us. We left them there, hopefully to die and not risk a conflict with them.”
“We finally came to the flight bay, which was the last section of the base we hadn’t yet explored. In the hangar the overhead lights were left on because they were the first to be powered by the generators in case of an emergency evacuation of the place…” “Kinda ironic ain’t it” Jon interrupted. “They were prepared to evacuate but they were never able too.” “Actually most of the ships meant to be in the hangar were gone,” Xander replied “looked like some were able to escape, there was just a lone freighter left sitting in the center of the hangar bay, its loading ramp still down. From inside we could see a blue light glowing from the doorway the ramp had left open into the cargo bay of the freighter. I was on point. When I entered the cargo bay I saw a girl lying inside a cryo tube. She was about 18 years old. The blue light was coming from her, I don’t know how to explain it, but when we extracted her from the tube the blue light vanished. There was no sign of the freighters crew except for some torn uniforms that lay in the crew’s quarters and the cockpit. We also found that the starboard engine had been scrapped by one of those things. After getting the girl we began to work our way back to the surface. On the way back we had no resistance from the kunips.” “Kunips?” Jon replied to Xander’s strange word. “Before we got off that planet we were able to capture a few of those things. Some scientist that no one thinks is important called them Kunikosanthropos, which is the combination of two Greek words. Kunikos means dog-like, and anthropos means human, we called them Kunips for short. Anyway, when we got to the upper levels of the base our guys were either dead or gone. Looked like some kunips had gotten to them. There wasn’t anything we could do for them.” “You just left them there, on a hostile planet with no hope of escape,” Jon protested. “Don’t give me that load of crap, we all knew what we signed up for on that mission, if you get bogged down in a fight the ODR groups were strong enough to fend for themselves and small enough to not risk an extraction in a hot zone, we were expendable. That’s why we’re always the first in.” Xander said this with fury in his eyes and grit on his breath. Intimidated by Xanders sudden out burst Jon sank into a slump in his chair. There was a long silence between them.
Xander lit another cigarette and as the smoke filtered through his teeth he began again. “Our way in was easy, but our way out of the city was a different story. When we came out of the base the sun had began to set and night was closing in. Night on Ragnorak was an eerie thing. It wasn’t like on earth or any other planet. When the sun set it got so cold it began to snow, but when it was in the sky temperatures got as high as 110%. As the snow began to fall we finally heard the city come to life. Snarls and growls began to echo around us, bouncing off of the skeletal remains of cars and buildings, they screeched so horribly it was like they were eating into you before they got to you. Silhouettes began to fill the windows of vacant houses and buildings around us. Finally they came for us. Kunips flooded the streets, powering out of windows, cars and even coming up from the sewers. We opened fire. The guy in front of me was carrying the girl over his shoulder and holding onto her with his left hand and holding his gun in his right hand to shoot oncoming kunips. The flash of our muzzles cut through the darkened falling snow lighting our path. After losing a guy and what felt like ours of double time we reached the edge of the canyon. Me and one other covered for the other two that were beginning to scale the side of the canyon. We were able to buy them enough time to reach the top of the canyon. They began to cover for us from the top of the canyon so we can start on our way up. I let the guy with me go first. By the time he got half way up the canyon wall I had ran out of ammo for my rifle and had to use my side arm. The kunips began to over run me. I had to start throwing them off my back and arms and started pistol-whipping them. Eventually I pulled out my knife and started to fend them off that way. With a knife in my right hand and a 45. in my left I began to drop them one by one. Finally I ran out on my 45. and I just had my knife. There was no way I could make it up the canyon wall. They got smart and started to back off for a bit and strategize, they began to circle me. Some would jump at me and I’d grab them in mid air and stick them to the ground. One finally pinned me to the ground and I started wrestling with it. Just as they started to move in I heard the whirl of a drop ship zoom in overhead as it shot off its flairs illuminating the city. The kunips all scurried off and hid in the surrounding buildings away from the blinding lights. ODR troopers began to repel from the ship and created a small perimeter around me. The soldier leading them came up to me walking over the deceased kunips that lay around me and asked if I was ok. I simply withdrew my blade from the kunip I had been wrestling with and pointed to the hundreds of kunips that littered the ground and said ‘does that answer your question?’ and began to climb the rope to the drop ship.
“So after everything, the countless days of hiking through jungles, the desolate city, the kunips, you only found one survivor of this military outpost, one survivor of this in the entire city?” Jon questioned Xander. “Exactly” Xander replied. “Do you think there were more?” Jon proceeded to ask. “Let me tell you what I think” Xander said finishing off his cigarette and folding his hands on the table. “Do you remember the very first atomic bomb several thousand years ago?” Xander asked Jon as if to be the one doing the interrogating. “Well, of course I do” Jon answered. “Well then you must know that the Manhattan Project had an entire town devoted to the making of the bomb. Schools, houses, stores, even movie theatres were all built in order to provide housing, proper living conditions and entertainment for workers who every day got up and worked on the development of the first atomic bomb. Now look at the abandoned city and military base it was centered on. The government was making a weapon of mass destruction. Only this time it was the most lethal biological weapon that turned its victims into ravenous dog-like creatures that ate everything that came into its path. The way I see it, their project needed workers, but also test subjects, so they built an entire city to house them in a magnetic canyon where they would be virtually invisible to the galaxy on a backwater planet where not even the dumbest pirate would seek refuge. I believe when the government developed their weapon, they released it onto the city to study its effects. And when they had concluded their studies they would just let the planet be. They assumed that no one would think to settle there. Although soon they wanted to see how their little experiment had fared against the climate of Ragnorak. So they sent us in, and they didn’t expect us to survive. Which is why I sit here in front of you today. We know of their secrets, and they want to stop the galaxy from finding it out.” Jon sat there for a moment thinking, then asked “What about the girl?” Xander thought about this for a second and then Jon’s voice broke though the air. “She was the only survivor, and she had been loaded on a freighter in a giant test tube and hadn’t even gotten a bruise.”
Jon looked and Xander with a sense of renewed confidence in his eyes. “You see, Xander, I know about the city, about the weapon, and I already know that you will spend the rest of your life in lunar prison in a cell as some inmate’s woman. You see, I don’t care about what happened on Ragnorak how you killed countless kunips,” Jon stood up, and placed his palms flat on the table and stared Xander in the eye. “What I want to know is how the only survivor is a girl that is 18 years old and the only thing she did to survive a lethal chemical agent is sleep. She survived a weapon that is not survivable, if she survives, our weapon would have failed.” Xander sat there with a smirk on his face. He gradually reached into his pocket and again pulled out a cigarette and let it and drew in a big puff of smoke and calmly exhaled it into Jon’s face. “Fine,” Jon exclaimed in anger “I was going to put you into a single cell with a view of the sun, but you can rot for all I care.” With this Jon headed towards the door. “Jon” Xander said calmly looking at the smoke hanging in the air. Jon stopped and looked back at Xander. “You know what it feels like to enter an atmosphere at 200 kilometers an hour?” Jon stood there with a puzzled look on his face as Xander sat there and exhaled a puff of smoke during the pause. “Its one of those things you don’t ever wan to do, but when you do it you never want it to end, falling that fast, the adrenaline pumping through your veins, it can scare the death out of you, but its one of the most unreal and exciting things you can ever experience. To bad when you bury your face into the ground the only rush you’ll feel is the blood coming out of your nose.” Xander looked over at Jon, “You’ve jumped one too many times, it’s getting to getting to your head ” Jon said mockingly trying to open a wound but having no lasting affect. “Those cigarettes I gave you Jon, they weren’t filled with tobacco.” Jon’s eyes began to grow wide. “You see all this time you have been breathing a knockout agent, I’ve been talking long enough for the agent to kick in, I of course am not immune to it, but then again I didn’t get this scare from a kunip, a rebreather was implanted into my windpipe the neutralized the agent before it reached my lungs.” At this point Jon collapsed to his hands and knees clasping his throat with one hand and started coughing. Xander stood up and walked over next to Jon. Using his foot he flipped Jon over on his back. “I expect you got a piece on you too.” Xander reached into Jon’s coat and pulled out his pistol as Jon held his throat. “And seeing as a cocky cop you are you locked us in here expecting I would be an easy case,” banging from the other side of the door started to echo through the room. Jon lay there on the ground rolling in pain. “Don’t worry it don’t kill you, the agent paralyzes you, starts with the legs, then the arms, as a side effect it causes swelling in the throat, it will suffocate you, but only long enough for you to black out.” The pounding and banging on the door began to grow louder. Xander chambered a round. Jon was able to make out one word, “How?” Xander said, “Like I said, I know people.”
Xander picked up Jon and heald him as a hostage. He opened the door with a gun to Jon’s head. The guards backed off letting him pass. Xander moved through the halls of the lunar prison with a gun always trained on Jon. “What…are..you…doing?” Jon gasped. “That girl is being held here. She was infected but she had survived the agent, if there’s a cure for this new weapon, its in her vains, I’m taking her.” Xander exclaimed with vigor. Xander reached the lab where they were running tests on the girl just as Jon passed out. Xander dropped Jon and trained his gun on the scientists and yelled, “Get out! All of you!” Xander walked over to the table where the girl had been strapped in, she was still in a coma-like state. Xander unstrapped her and flung her over his shoulder. Xander shot his way to the lunar prison hangar-bay. The hangar-bay being empty of most personnel he quickly commandeered a transport ship. He had just opened up the loading ramp and had lain the girl in a bunk when he heard Jon’s voice “Don’t move!” Xander turned around in a mocking fashion. Jon stood with gun pointed at Xander’s head. “I’m not letting you leave with that girl Xander. Drop your gun.” Xander tossed his gun on the metallic floor of the hangar and slid it away with his foot. “Wow kid, didn’t know you had it in ya” Xander said with a laugh. “Your not leaving Xander” Jon continued to say. “You got a wife Jon? Maybe a kid?” “You tell me you already know me so well Xander.” Jon said mockingly. “You see Jon, I already knew about the city, I knew they were offering jobs, and during hard times I took my family there. I enlisted in the orbital drop program and was shipped off planet, soon after they released the chemical weapon on the city.” Xander paused and listened to the alarms blaring around him. “My wife and kid are still down there Jon, they’re monsters, and its because of the government you work for, that I work for.” Jon lowered his gun slightly but still kept it trained on Xander. “That girl Jon, she’s the cure, she’s the only chance I got to getting my family back.” Jon lowered his gun. “She’s the only chance I got.” Xander said. Jon looked around, then holstered his gun, “You got 3 days, Xander, 3 days, after that, I’m coming for you” Jon said pointing at Xander. Xander smiled and replied “I guess it’s a date.” With that he turned and boarded the ship. Jon stood watching his future prey fly off just as the security teams arrived. Xander hit light speed five minutes after he took off. Jon never saw him again.
 
 
The Cure (Epilogue)
 
 
I woke up to the smell of recycled air and grease. The bunk I woke up in had been hard and uncomfortable. Looking around it looked as if I was in a ship of some sort. I gradually climbed out of the bony bunk and began to walk bare foot through the small ship. Walking down the hallway to the cockpit I could see a figure sitting in the pilots seat starring out to an abyss of stars. Turning and looking to the side I could look out a window and saw a nearby nebula glowing beautiful colors. When I reached the cockpit I turned and looked at the figure. He was tall and scruffy looking. He had a cut that ran the length of his neck. His hair was shaggy and he had a five o clock shadow sprouting. Looking at me he said with a chuckle “Look who’s up, sleeping beauty. What’s your name kid?” “My name’s Cassy, what am I doing on this ship” I answered. “My names Xander, Jared Xander. You’re gona save a lot of lives Cassy.” 


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