Chapter 16, RetributionMature

Chapter Sixteen

Retribution

November 9th 2140, A desolate plateau somewhere on the Roman I space station

3:49 P.M.

            John and Dale were walking to the other side of the plateau they had spotted from the mountain peak. The chasm was just below the far side of the plateau, and the cave right beyond that. A few rocks and a handful of massive boulders were resting around the area.

            "So we blast the jamming device and head back," John spoke. "This is gonna be quicker than I thought. Nakahara may never even know we left."

            They finally reached the other side, but froze with surprise at what they saw. A massive alien tower was positioned right on the section of land between the base of the plateau and the edge of the chasm.

            "Uh, I thought the jamming device was in the cave," John proclaimed dismally.

            "Yeah, same here," Dale's shoulders slumped.

            The tower almost matched the height of the plateau, which was approximately eight hundred feet high. It was thin however, having only a diameter of close to a hundred feet. Its architectural design was sleek and smooth. It had a well sized oval shaped dome at the top with a circular tube chamber fastened around the oval by support rinks.

            A shiny neon green light ran through the tube, orbiting the oval at a rate of one cycle per second. The base of the tower had a low angle. The perimeter of the base was one big ramp that led to a flat central area. Eight long rectangular pillars supported the top of the tower, making the interior hollow and temple-like.

            Several alien crates and other sorts of supplies and technology was scattered around the area and in the tower. Two service balconies were present on the tower as well. One of them ran the perimeter of the dome, just under the tube-like chamber. Another smaller one ran around the pillars for more frame support. A small amount of aliens were posted on both balconies, and even more were at the base of the tower. They looked like tiny crawling termites from the top of the plateau.

            However, they noticed a major difference about a large number of the aliens in front of them. Most of them looked female, and weren't wielding just swords. They also had weighty looking rifles slung over their backs. At closer inspection, they noticed that it was only the females who had rifles, and the males they were familiar with still only had their blades. Their helmet coms were slightly fuzzy and emitted a droning static noise.

            "This is it," Dale said with a mellow voice. Inside he was excited to have found the source of their communications failure, but was curious about how they planned to go about destroying it. They both didn't expect such a massive jamming device.

            "Yeah, it is but," John began. "We don't have the supplies for a job like this."

            Dale looked in to their sack of plastic explosives. "Yeah, you're right." They slowly got down low to the ground to avoid being seen. "How do you want to go about this?"

            "You still intend to try and take it out?" John asked.

            "Yes," Dale bluntly replied. "How about we hit that tube running around the dome? It looks pretty important."

            His plan sounded silly to John. Simple but logical. "Maybe, but I'd rather destroy the entire tower, just to be sure," John said.

            "Well then what's your plan, genius?" Dale questioned. John thought for a moment. He looked around and noticed a massive boulder resting very close to the edge of the plateau. The edge of the plateau had a mild slope right next to the boulder, angled right toward the tower. John glanced back at the support beams and smiled.

            "I've got it," John exclaimed. "We can't take down the tower with what we've got, not every support beam, even if we hit every single one. However, I bet we can destroy half of the beams on the far side, and use that to knock it down," John pointed to the boulder.

            "You think that boulder will hit with enough force?" Dale asked, unbelieving of John.

            "Yeah," John answered. "We blast the ground next to the boulder to send it on its way, at the same time we blast the columns."

            "You gotta be kidding me?" Dale shook his head. "That plan is more of a long shot than Nellon's plans ever were."

            "Just trust me on this," John smirked behind his visor. "Besides, I'm sure we can think of something else even if it fails."

            "uuggggggg," Dale moaned.

            "Stop whining," John chastised him. "Let's move." They remained crouched down and clambered their way over to the boulder. They set a portion of their explosives on the side of the boulder closest to the edge of the plateau.

            "That should do it," Dale remarked. "Now let's get down there."

            "Yeah, but," John started. "Do we really need to waste time sneaking our way down?"

            "What do you mean?"

            "Forget trying to remain unseen. Let's fly down there, take out all of the aliens on the walkway around the support beams, then plant our explosives and blast it as soon as possible."

            "Fine by me," Dale pulled his pistols off of his hips. John pulled his submachine guns out as well. "Race you."

            "You're on," John accepted the challenge. They activated their jetpacks and swiftly descended to the center walkway. Most of the aliens stopped and looked around when they heard a pair of jetpacks in the air. The aliens on the walkways spotted them first, but John and Dale were upon them before they could prepare themselves.

            They each landed on an alien, smashing them in to the metal floor. The rest of the aliens screeched and pulled their rifles off of their backs. John and Dale separated, covering both sides of the balcony. They ran and fired at the disorganized creatures, offing them before they could retaliate. The females seemed not as resilient to bullet fire as the males were. The aliens on the far side finally fired at them when they had a clear shot.

            "Get down!" John yelled out. Their ammunition was similar to the weapons their phoenix fighters used. Needle shards pinged off of their armor, failing to injure them in any way.

            "Haha, is that the best you got!?" Dale roared. His pistols clicked empty and he holstered them both and charged the closest alien. She tried to hit Dale with the butt of her rifle, but Dale caught it, twirled her around and flung her clean over the side of the walkway. He pulled out his carbine and continued down the walkway, sending bullets tearing through the creatures in front of him.

            John was ahead of Dale. His submachine guns were the perfect short range weapons he needed. He reached the other side of the walkway with no difficulty. One last alien remained between him and Dale. He unsheathed his knife and stabbed the creature in the back. Dale stabbed it through the heart and slashed its neck with both of his curved blades.

            "Slowpoke," John teased. Then from above, a needle bullet struck an unarmored portion of his shoulder and lodged an inch in to his skin. "Gah! Up top!" John groaned. "Take the explosives and plant them, I'll keep the ones above us busy."

            "On it!" Dale leaped over the edge of the walkway and activated his jetpack. He reached every pillar on their side of the tower, planting an even amount of explosives on the four supports. Meanwhile, John pulled out his sniper rifle and dispatched every alien who dared to show its face over the top walkway.

            At last, Dale arose from below and yelled to John, "Move! Let's light this candle!"

            John holstered his sniper rifle and bounded over the walkway railing. They both flew back a distance. At this point the entirety of the alien encampment was firing at them. Needle bullets pinged off of their armor and whizzed past their bodies. They turned around to witness the tower's destruction, hovering over the chasm below.

            "Hit it!" John shouted. Dale detonated all of the explosives they had planted. The shock of the explosions rattled the entire tower and rumbled the ground around it, throwing the majority of the aliens off of their feet. The support beams were blown to pieces and the tower lazily leaned toward them. The sound of creaking metal shot through the air.

            "Wait for it," John remarked. Only a couple of seconds later and the giant boulder came tumbling over the edge of the plateau. It smashed in to the dome of the tower and snapped it free from the rest of the support beams. It began to fall straight for them.

            "Shit!" Dale yelled. They both turned around and set their jetpacks on full burn. Chunks from the boulder fell around them as the tower chased them on their retreat.

            "Get in the cave!" John ordered. They descended as quickly as possible to the mouth of the cave. The tower's dome was rapidly closing behind them. They didn't slow down, and instead entered the cave at full speed. Only one second after they entered, the dome of the tower crashed in to the mouth of the cave, blockading the entrance and rumbling the foundation of the cave's ceiling.

            Chunks of the ceiling broke off and fell around them. They manually activated their helmet torch lights and sped through the darkness down a long tunnel. The cave continued to collapse behind them. At last, they reached a massive chamber, far bigger than they could have assumed would be present in the cave. They slowed down and came to halt, hovering in the center of the cavern. Their breathing was heavy, but ebbed off after a few seconds.

            "Jetpack fuel capacity... 25%" John's helmet AI reminded him. Dale's did the same a second later.

            "These things don't last very long do they?" John asked rhetorically.

            "Nope," Dale agreed. They looked at each other and laughed, amused at how such a near death experience hardly even fazed them.

            "We're going to need as much of our jetpacks as we can spare, especially now that we could possibly be trapped in this cavern," John said as he lowered himself to the floor of the cave. Dale did the same.

            "So, let's see if it worked," Dale remarked. He opened all channels on his helmet com but heard nothing. The static, however, was gone. "Attention. Does anybody read me? This is Shadow of Vapor Team. Anybody at all, have we restored communications? I repeat, this is Shadow of Vapor Team, broadcasting on all channels and all frequencies." They waited a few seconds, then a very unhappy voice spoke back at them.

            "Are you out of your damn minds!?" Nakahara's voice bellowed in their ears.

            "Ah, good to hear from you Naki," Dale ignored his comment. "No congratulations, good job, mission accomplished?"

            "Your foolish acts could have cost us a lot! I gave you direct orders not to leave the Manifest Training Base! You will have to answer for your refusal to obey my command!"

            "Hey, put Smoke and Fog on the line," Dale continued to ignore Nakahara's yelling.

            "Nakahara, forgive him," John spoke on their behalf. "We're currently underground in a cavern with no idea how to get out. The entrance is blocked. We're going to see if we can find another exit. Hang tight all of you. We'll be back soon. Until then, you're welcome for restoring communications, and let's worry about trying us for dereliction of duty later please?"

            "... Very well. Get your asses back here pronto soldiers! I'll be waiting," Nakahara only slightly lowered his voice.

            "Will do, Mist and Shadow out."

            "What a prick," Dale muttered.

            "He's just doing his job," John reasoned.

            "Whatever," Dale gave in. They looked around the chamber for a few seconds, at a loss of where to go.

            "I never thought I'd be trapped in a cave as part of my military career," John said. Dale chuckled.

            "Alright, let's see where that leads," Dale pointed to a low hanging crevice about two hundred feet below the tunnel they flew out of. The crevice was barely tall enough to fit them, if they were crouched down. They shone their light inside and saw it continued on in to the rocky wall.

            "This might work," John agreed. They crouched down, ready to enter, when they heard a noise from across the cavern behind them. The sound of shifting rocks and a short grunt echoed off the walls.

            "Lights off," Dale whispered. They both switched off their helmet lights and turned on their night vision instead.

            "We're not alone in here," John muttered. They waited until they noticed four aliens proceed across a cave ledge about halfway up one of the walls of the cavern.

            "Let's get out of here," Dale slithered back in to the crevice and continued away from the chamber. John followed closely behind. The crevice opened up enough for them to stand straight up for the moment. They reloaded their weapons and continued onward. Every now and then they heard an alarmingly close growl or some other noise that caused them to freeze and look around themselves.

            "This cave is giving me the creeps," Dale moaned.

            "You?" John questioned, unbelieving of Dale.

            "Let's just hurry out of here," Dale gripped his carbine tighter. The sound of a pebble skipping across the ground came from behind them. They both turned around instantly and aimed their weapons in front of them. They saw nothing.

            "You're right," John moaned. "Let's pick up the pace."

            Dale turned around quickly and hastily stepped forward, right in front of an awaiting alien.

            The creature opened its maw and screeched in his face. Dale was surprised, but responded instantly. He smashed the alien's face in with his fist, halting its loud outburst. The sound of the creature's screech echoed all throughout the cave structure several seconds after Dale had shut him up.

            "Not good," John raised his submachine guns, ready for a fight. More screeches and wails began echoing through the cavern. The aliens had definitely heard their comrades cry.

            "Forget staying quiet," Dale took the suppressor off of his carbine. John quickly took the suppressors off of his guns as well. "Let's move, on the double."

            "Agreed," John turned and sprinted down the tunnel they were following. Dale followed closely behind. The aliens' shrieks continued. They could hear movement around them whenever they passed by little crevices or came across forks and intersections in their path.

            They stopped when they reached a three way fork in front of them. The path to their right appeared to be u-turn right back where they came from. They immediately discarded that option. The one directly in front of them appeared to lead upward. The one to their left headed downward and then leveled out. They could also discern a faint light from the left path.

            "Down there," John suggested, excited to see a light. He started down the path, but Dale grabbed his armor collar and stopped him.

            "Hold up," Dale said. He turned off his night vision and took note of the color of the light to their left. It was a greenish glow. "That's not sunlight." The sound of snarling aliens grew closer and closer, echoing from the left path as the greenish light began to shine brighter.

            "Crap," John muttered. "Which way?"

            "Well not that way," Dale pointed to their left.

            "I don't vote right either," John shook his head.

            "Then we go up?" Dale shrugged. The alien horde to their left began filing in to view at the bottom of the slope.

            "Yeah, up!" John confirmed. They both fired in to the monsters clambering their way up to them. The beasts slowly fell, but as usual, continued to gain ground. "Let's go!"

            They broke their aim and rushed up the center pathway. They holstered their weapons and sprinted at top speed through what turned in to a very narrow tunnel. The tunnel continued to narrow more and more until they could hardly run side by side anymore.

            "I don't like the look of this!" John referred to the narrowing path.

            "Up ahead," Dale nodded forward. "Dead end."

            "You gotta be kidding me!" John ceased his sprinting and skidded to a stop. Dale continued forward and crashed in to the wall. Chunks of rock and limestone chipped away at his impact.

            "The wall is weak," Dale proclaimed. "One last hope." Dale slung the pack of explosives off of his back.

            "You still have some left?" John questioned.

            "Five left," Dale threw the pack at the base of the wall, then took his grenade and tossed it on top of the pack as well. "Keep your head down!" He and John ducked down and Dale detonated the last of their explosives. Rock chunks were blasted past their bodies. Dirt and dust filled the corridor. They rose and looked at the damage they caused to the wall behind them. To their relief, they were blinded by sunlight beaming through a basketball sized hole. They quickly switched off their night vision and peered out of the hole. They found they were about halfway between the top and bottom of the chasm outside.

            "Oh it's glorious," Dale joked. The aliens chasing them were only a few seconds away. Dale and John tried as hard as they could to claw at the wall and make the hole bigger, but to no avail. "Come on, we're so close!"

            "Shadow," John started. "Get me two of their blades."

            "On it," Dale turned around and bore a strong stance. He knew John intended to cut a larger hole in the wall. The beasts clawed toward Dale and slashed at him. Dale dodged every which way, knocking their blades away. He kicked a few in to the crowd of aliens behind them, slowing their progress enough to focus on just a couple near him.

            Dale bashed one in to the cave wall next to him and yanked the blade out its hand. He tossed it to John and quickly whirled around to find a second alien coming down at his head with its blade. He brought his arm up and blocked the creature's arm, then seized the alien's shoulder with his other hand and flung him over his head and slammed him in to the ground. He disarmed the creature and tossed the second blade at John.

            John hastily began carving up the cave wall. Dale continued to guard his back. He drew his pistols and fired at the beasts, injuring them enough to make their attacks sloppy and easy to defend against. Several fell before they began pushing Dale back with the sheer amount of their numbers. He disarmed a couple of them and took their blades for himself once more. Dale had to step backward more and more, however.

            "Any day now!" Dale shouted.

            "Almost done!" John yelled back.

            "Nope, you're done right now!" Dale dropped the alien blades. He turned around and sprinted toward John. "Face me!"

            "What?" John turned completely around to find Dale only a few feet in front of him, closing fast. "Whoa! HEY!"

            Dale crashed in to John and took him with him in to the cave wall. Luckily, John had weakened the structure of the wall enough for their impact to force any remaining debris out of the way. John felt the thud at his back, then they both sailed in to the open chasm. They oriented themselves to face the ground as they fell.

            Dale activated his jetpack to slow his fall. John tried the same, but only sparks and smoke ejected from his jetpack.

            "Shadow!" John called out to Dale to help him. His jetpack was destroyed when Dale ran him against the wall. Dale jerked his head to look at John and noticed his jetpack malfunctioning. He angled himself toward John and sped his way. They were rapidly closing to the bottom of the chasm. Dale latched on to John and flipped right side up and set his jetpack on full burn.

            "Jetpack fuel capacity... 20%" Dale's helmet AI nagged in his ear.

            "I know, shut up!" Dale shouted at his AI. They were only two hundred yards away from the ground. "Brace yourself!"

            They descended the remaining yards and hit the ground at a speed fast enough to kill any man except for them. Sand kicked up all around their impact zone as they both loosened their knees and let their weight spring in to their legs. They both grunted as they stood up.

            "Jetpack fuel capacity... 10%" the AI continued.

            Dale sighed and said, "well, great. No way we're flying back to the training base now." John unfastened his broken jetpack and tossed it away. They both looked up when they heard the shrieks and roars of the aliens they had left in the cave. All of the monsters that had been chasing them leaped from the opening they had made in the cliff wall and clambered down the rocky chasm's terrain toward them.

            The rest of the aliens that had survived the jamming tower's destruction heard their brethren's call and rushed to the edge of the other side of the chasm. The females aimed their rifles at them while the males began clawing down the chasm wall as well.

            "We're not clear yet," John remarked.

            "No kidding," Dale agreed. "Run!" Needle bullets penetrated the sandy ground around them and shattered on their armor as they sprinted through the chasm. It was going to be a nonstop run back to the training facility, with a countless number of alien creatures in chase.

The End

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