Without out a sound, the anti-grav pad carried the crate towards the apartment building. Jack Rankin managed to get the crate to the doorway just as Lisa Benson was exiting the building...in the company of yet another young and burly SPACOM cadet. Upon seeing Jack, the doctor seemed to whisper something to her companion, who then took off running across the quad.
“Jack! I told you I didn’t want to speak to you!” Lisa complained.
“I got you something,” Jack said.
With the touch of a button, the cover to the crate slid back and a kangaroo popped out. The marsupial made a hissing sound and made a kick in Lisa’s direction. She jumped back.
“Do you like him?” Jack asked. “One of only a handful left on Earth. You can name him anything you want.”
“Jack!” Lisa exclaimed as she and the kangaroo circled one another like boxers in a ring. “It is forbidden to have endangered animals on base!”
“Just shows you how sorry I am about Vince,” Jack explained.
The kangaroo whacked Lisa across the face with a swipe of its tail. He then bounded away, across the expanse of SPACOM.
“Oh hey, it wasn’t supposed to do that,” Jack said as he rushed to help Lisa up from the ground.
She knocked his hands away and rose to stand. A rattle grew from the distance. Without warning, a convoy of military vehicles appeared. Hovertanks, personnel carriers, and fifth generation Humvees all rolled through the complex while scores of attack helicopters flew in from overhead.
“What is this happy horsepucky?” Jack asked aloud.
“The creatures!” a soldier on a Segway said. “They’ve broken in!”
An almost funeral air settled over the entire scene. Jack felt his gut flinch as his head churned, churning out thoughts from what he called “the not-so-good” place of his brain. It felt like the end. The complete and utter end.
Resolving to at least have a good seat for the end, Jack gave Lisa a “come on,” and then urged her up and over a landscaped burm that skirted the edge of the grassy quad and looked over the southward expanse of the base/city. From there they could see it; a fuzzy, green, knobby shag carpet that walked. Hobbled, rather, as it plodded unimpeded for the center of SPACOM. Closer still were the Japanese Defense Forces, dug into the ground with their searchlights stretching outward as if to place the things in a spotlight dance.
“Holy crap!” Jack exclaimed at the sight.
The tank cannons opened up first. Advanced depleted uranium ordinance burst all over the coming tide in balls of orange flame. The smell of cordite filled the air along with a scent that would be best described as “cooked spinach.” Missiles from both APCs and shoulder units followed. In straight lines they made contrail streaked paths to the targets and detonated. Fragments of the green monsters erupted like a tossed salad. Jack clamped his forearms over his ears and smothered himself around Lisa as the chopping, thudding, helicopters overhead joined in the pounding. Ordinance disgorged from their stubby pylon wings and found their marks below. A pair of ATF fighters swooped in low from the North and came in just above the rooftops of SPACOM. Each one cleaned off their wings by launching their full complements of missiles. A rolling mass of fire bloomed on the horizon. Then the Toho HGX laser units opened up. It was the most impressive display of military might that Jack Rankin had ever seen.
Too bad it didn’t work. Though shredded, the creature army continued to march. In their wake came newly regenerated one-eyed beings, rising up out of the ooze that was their predecessors and charged by the various energies employed in the barrage. The tanks went fast, overrun by the surge of creatures. The electrical jolts from their tentacles fried whatever systems they came in contact with. Foot soldiers fought on with rifles, rocket launchers, and even hand-to-tentacle fighting in a few cases...all of it having the same outcome: dead, mangled troops and officers.
“Holy crap!” Rankin shouted once more.
People, both military and civilian alike, ran with terror for the imagined safety of the main building of SPACOM HQ. It was Lisa who went into action that time, shoving Jack into motion to head for the aforementioned direction. After stopping her so that he could pilfer a laser rifle and a water canteen from a dead soldier (who oddly enough insisted that he “was not quite dead” despite his blackened and burnt features), Jack accompanied the doctor.
With his hand clamped tight to Lisa’s forearm, Jack yanked her through the corridors of SPACOM HQ. In his other hand he held the laser rifle. The weapon was entirely counterproductive against the creatures. He knew that firsthand. Still he carried it, glancing down at the gun periodically and muttering a prayer to both it and Charlton Heston while running.
They rounded a corner and Jack’s feet hit a lump on the floor. He tripped forward and Lisa screamed.
“I’m all right, baby,” he assured her as he pushed himself back up with his hands.
“Look...” she gasped.
That’s when Jack saw them: Thompson and Curtis, both lying dead on the floor. Their clothes were ripped, cuts covered their face, and the charred black flesh of electrical burns filled the air. Curtis’ coffee cup with its former contents spilled over the man’s face, lie next to him on the floor, shattered to pieces. Jack lowered his head in respect and then nodded with a sullen acceptance...just as the all too familiar screeching of the slime creatures began to cascade down the hallway.
“Come on!” Jack grunted, taking hold of Lisa once more. “We’ve got to move!”
Down the hall they went, jumping, clawing, and kicking their way through the strewn rubble of SPACOM HQ as mass confusion sounded behind them. Screams. Laser fire. Screeches of swarming creatures. Scattered troops were still fighting the war and Jack wanted more than anything to be back there, standing alongside the men. He swallowed his guilt instead. Vince had already been lost to the monsters. He was not about to lose Lisa to them as well.
They made their way into the great hall that was the cafeteria and Jack slid the heavy doors shut behind them. So far, the massive dining hall had been untouched by the carnage. The room was formed of cold steel and white tile, sterile, almost like a futuristic doctor’s office. Row upon row of obsidian tables reflected the intensity of the overhead lighting affixed to the vast ceiling...a ceiling disliked by Jack Rankin.
“Too big. If it collapses we’ll be buried alive,” Jack told Lisa. “We’ll hole up in the kitchen for now.”
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