Approx. 3100 words
All Rights Reserved
Copyright 2015 SJ
A Touch of Chaos:
A Big Roach Problem
written by SJ
Lana and Burns had put on their Scout armor, and like the battle suits, they came with cooling units for very hot temperatures. Before taking off to reconnoiter the Colony by land, she informed HQ.
The Governor responded, saying it was a good idea. “Sometimes there are people that have their own underground bunkers. They might be waiting to be contacted. But, I have no idea why I can’t contact them...why they don’t answer.”
“Governor,” Lana needed to ask, “Corporal Burns and I are wearing armor, which should protect us from most civilian weapons. Will your people fire on us if they see us?”
He pondered a couple seconds, then answered, “I’m not sure. It’s more likely they’ll just hide from you.” He sighed. “And I can’t contact them to tell them you’re friendly--” He had an idea. “Add this code to your communicators. That should allow most of our phones to hear you...if anyone’s listening.” He gave her a set of numbers. “And when you call, use my full name: Paddington Jones the Third. They’ll understand the only way you could know that is if you talked to me first.”
“Thank you very much.” Lana felt a little more at ease. She looked at Sammy. “Ready?”
He smiled, then had to say, not using the com. He patted the bike. “I never got much chance to ride these things with the Omicron Rangers. And...allowing me to ride one now, well, you’re the coolest squad leader I’ve ever had.”
Lana had already briefed Burns about their mission. He was to scout the towns along the coast, which included the spaceport. She would take inland. Look for survivors and clues, anything out of the ordinary.
As for weapons, Lana had her two 9.1s, Burns had a pump shotgun, since he said he wasn’t real good with pistols. The bikes themselves were not armed. In either case, Lana didn’t want to take their normal Scout Marine weapons, which would make them look too heavy armed to civilians. On the unlikelihood they spotted Chaos forces, their bikes were fast enough to get them back to HQ quickly.
She looked one more time at Burns, then said, “let’s ride.”
Sammy took the road that went around the fortified hill occupied by Bull and Gannon. Lana stayed on the road and slowed down to tell them what she was doing, and say hello.
Gannon grinned widely as she rode up. “So...back on the horse, huh?”
“Well, I don’ think I’m going to be chased by an entire army of Mekboyz this time.”
“And, I’m not riding on the back.” Gannon was happy to say.
“Have a nice trip, Little Sister.” Bull waved goodby as she took off down the hill.
Burns continued on the road south, then crossed a bridge to the east and slowly drove through the village of Pumice Springs, where Bunker 9 was supposed to be. Lana followed another road south, then started to cross a bridge leading westward.
That’s when they got a call from the Governor. “LaFong, you will pass lone buildings along the road: restaurants, stores...you know. If it looks like one of those has a place for the owners to live, then it’s much more likely they might have a personal underground bunker. It’s still rare, but more likely.”
She looked to her left and responded. “There’s what looks like a ranch house were I’m at now--”
“Yes, those too.”
“Okay, thanks.” Lana parked then got off her bike.
The ranch house had a fancy wooden porch. In back, there was a fenced in stable with two dead horses. Looking closer, she didn’t see any flies, then saw the dead horses were fake. She knocked on the doors, called on her phone, using the Governor’s full name each time; but no one answered, so she moved on, crossing the bridge, then following the road which curved south...
After ten kilometers, she entered the small village of Midway. There, Sammy called her and updated his progress, saying he had just checked the east coast and was on his way to the town next to the spaceport...still, with no answer to his calls.
Lana told him the name of that town was, Somerset Landing, and the town just after the spaceport was Breton, and not to forget the tiny village to the south of that, Bimini.
“You memorized all those villages?” Sammy seemed amazed.
“Yeah.” She answered like it wasn’t much of a big deal.
Then he had to mention. “Hey, there was another of those tiny little villages in the far southeast corner--”
“Yeah, that was it.” He confirmed. “I don’t know if it matters, but I thought I saw a small dog crawl under one of the buildings there...about the size of a weenier dog.”
“Someone’s, pet?” Lana guessed.
“No.” That was the Governor’s voice. “The colonists always take their pets with them inside the bunker..even during the drills.”
“I have a question.” Burns seemed curious. “I’ve been driving along the coast over here. And, every time I get close to the ocean...it looks REALLY green, like a mass of floating seaweed.”
“That’s our algae mats.” The Governor responded, his voice sounding a little proud about it. “We need those mats. They provide us with food and oxygen. We’ve have lots of them, all along the coast.”
“Of course.” Lana spoke out. “With all the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, they’d provide a rich source of oxygen. Very good, Governor.”
“Thank you. There’s not much in the way of fish, so we needed to use the ocean for something.”
“But, in order to really change things on your planet, you’re going to need much more plankton.” She added.
Much to Lana’s surprise, the Governor seemed to have a solution for that also. “Right now we’re working on genetically engineering some plankton. But, I think we still have a way to go for that.”
“Genetic engineering?” Lana was concerned. “That could be dangerous...at least with larger organisms. The Tau have made a few mistakes in the past.”
“Well, we’re careful.” The Governor sounded confident.
Lana wanted to say more, but decided not to, dropping the subject.
At that time, Burns had entered Somerset Landing. He could see the spaceport in the distance. “Hey, there goes another one.”
“What?” Lana asked.
“I don’t know what it was, but, it was about a meter long, and half that wide. It crawled right underneath a house.”
“No.” Mason spoke up. “We don’t have animals that big here. There are some reptiles that can grow about two thirds that long. But, they hardly ever go near the towns.”
“This thing was kind of flat. There couldn’t have been any more than a nine centimeter clearance under that building.” Burns clarified.
By the hum of Lana’s fusion engine on her bike, she was moving fairly fast. “I saw one of those lizards a little while back. They couldn’t go under something only nine centimeters high.”
“Want me to try and find it?” Sammy asked concerning the creature he spotted.
“No.” Lana answered simply. “Sweep the village then check out the spaceport. Examine a few of the landing and departure logs. Maybe a trade ship landed and something got off it from another planet.”
The Governor could be heard making a sigh. He then spoke, concerning Lana’s last statement. “We usually check trade ships carefully. But, it’s not impossible. Anyway, we haven’t had a trade ship land here in about three months...and that was before we went into hiding.”
Lana came to a stop at a crossroads. If she continued west for another five kilometers, she would reach the village of Tonda Hills, where Bunker 4 was. While stopped, she got a call from Dakota, who was on the shuttle with Ramcke.
“Hi, Lana.” Jennifer’s friendly voice sounded. “So far we’ve found nothing out of the ordinary from the air. We’ve landed inside every village that had a bunker nearby it. I got out, check for the WARP. Nothing. I don’t think that Chaos ship landed anyone or anything on this planet.”
“How about those farms to the north?” Lana wanted to know.
“I landed there, and Jennifer got out and checked.” Ramcke answered. “Absolutely nothing...not even any crops. Well, actually, they looked like they were plowed under.”
“Yeah...they looked like that here, too.” Lana had noticed that most of the villages had small farms nearby.
“Standard procedure if we go into hiding.” The Governor mentioned. “Plow under the crops.”
Then Jennifer felt she needed to ask. “Governor, are your people going to be short on food?”
“No...but, thanks for asking.”
“Governor, I’m over here about five kilometers east of Tonda Hills.” Lana informed. “There’s this small house next to what looks like a cave.”
“Mary’s Mushrooms.” The Governor announced.
“You’ve got a mushroom farm inside...ah, okay.” Lana was right about the cave...but, she started to ask. “Do you think anyone could be--”
“Hiding inside?” The Governor knew what Lana was going to say. “No. Mary and her family are over here with me.”
“Could anyone else--”
“Hide there?” The Governor was way ahead of her. “No, it’s not set up to do that.”
With that issue settled, Lana needed another question answered. “You probably know were I’m at then. There’s a road that goes north, then curves around and heads back to the house, where we started. There’s this road that seems to branch off from the road going east and heads into a boot-shaped hill. My map doesn’t show anything there. Does that road go anywhere?”
He answered plainly. “It goes to our genetics laboratory. It’s located inside that hill.”
Lana sighed to herself. “Have you been able to reach them?”
“No. We can’t reach anyone outside our bunker except Mason at the house...and, of course, you guys.” The Governor thought, then asked. “Why is it we can reach you guys, but not anyone else?”
“That’s because you’re actually still communicating with the house. Your signal is being routed from there to us.” Lana explained.
“Ah, I should’ve guessed.” The Governor almost chuckled, then asked, “are you going over to the genetics lab?”
“Yes, I am.” Lana confirmed. “I heading overland straight for the hill it's inside.”
“Let me know if you reach anyone.” The Governor sounded hopeful.
“You’ll be the first to know.”
The hill was high, about five stories, but rounded enough for her Scout bike to go up fairly easy. When she reached the top, she spotted the arch that had to be the entrance to the genetics laboratory on the reverse side of the hill.
The grass on the hill was short, and there, spread out all over the hill were many creatures, each about one meter long, half that wide. She watched as they fluttered their wings sporadically. As she got closer, she could see them clearly.
They looked like giant cockroaches, and were very possibly the same type of creature Burns had spotted earlier. She took a deep breath and sighed, just before announcing in a joking kind of way, “Governor...I think you’ve got a BIG roach problem.”
“Roach?” That was Mason, sounding very skeptical. “You mean cockroaches? No, we don’t have cockroaches here, or insects of any type that are even close to a meter long.”
“Well, I’m looking at them, right now.” She slowly moved her bike forward.
“We have Dougals.” Mason mentioned. “They kind of look like cockroaches. But they’re not really an insect. The Dougals, at their largest, are only about the size of a man’s shoe.” Mason continued. “They’re our primary source of meat, leather, and trade. We raise them, usually in moist, underground, cellars. They produce an oil that can be used for just about anything; it’s our number one trade item.”
“Mason’s right.” The Governor agreed.
“Then what am I looking at right now?” Lana asked, again, then seemed alerted. “Hey! One of these things is coming toward me.”
“Dougals are not aggressive.” Mason tried to say. “They won’t hurt--”
Lana cried out in pain. “It’s biting me!” Without hesitation, she drew one of her 9.1s and began firing, four times before it flipped over and died.”
“I don’t understand...” Mason seemed confused.
Still sitting on her bike, she moaned slightly. The bite still hurt. It had gone through her boot and into her angle. When she looked up, at the rest of the Roaches, she had to let out an, “ohhh, crap!” Almost all of them, approximately fifty, were coming toward her now.
She fumbled slightly getting the bike ready to go, then decided she didn’t have time to turn around, so she headed to the right, taking off quickly, running over about five of them, staying on top the hill going east. After putting about fifty meters between her and the Roaches, she slowed down to look behind her. They were STILL coming! “These things are chasing me!”
When she took off again, the Roaches still continued to pursue her. That’s when Burns called, his voice sounding urgent. “I’m coming to your location now--”
“No.” Thinking fast, she had an idea. “Ride as fast as you can to Bull and Gannon’s position. One of you guys go get Sammy’s flamer--”
“We just landed at the house.” That was Jennifer’s voice. “We’ll get the flamer and meet you guys on the hill.”
By the time Lana reached the fortified hill, everyone was ready, Burns out in front with his flamer. Her ankle was hurting even worse, throbbing; it showed on her face.
Gannon looked at her sitting on her Scout bike and joked. “LuLu, you’re going to have to stop riding those things. Every time you do, some kind of a mob chases you.”
She would’ve laughed, but didn’t feel like it.
“They’re coming!” Burns was the first to see the advancing Roaches. He readied the flamer. “Time for a little Roach Flambé.
“Let Sammy set up a wall of flames. The rest of you pick off any that make it though.” Lana gave orders.
Jennifer smiled. “We know what to do. You get back to HQ and have that leg examined. It looks like you’re in a lot of pain.”
Over her com she heard Ramos. “I’ll make that an order. Get back here, LaFong.”
As she started to leave, she saw Burns’ flamer come to life, turning the first wave of Roaches to ash, others set on fire, dying quickly.
By the time Lana reached the house, she had almost passed out from the pain. Ramos and Mason had to carry her inside.
Apothecary Dylan Ramos had a kind of triage set up in one of the rooms to the house. After he was done treating LaFong, she felt a lot better. He explained over an open com, so everyone could hear. “On Old Earth, there was a large lizard called a Komodo Dragon. When it bit you, it left behind, from its saliva, a very virulent bacteria...VERY painful. The creature that bit LaFong seems to have a similar type of bacteria...which I treated and killed before it spread.” He held out a small, specimen-container. “I saved some right here.” He spoke mainly to the Colony natives. “Are you sure no such creature as the one that bit LaFong exists on your planet?”
He listen to several, no’s...
Afterwards, he spoke seriously. “Then, I would say you have a VERY SERIOUS problem here. If I hadn’t been here to treat LaFong, she might have gone into shock before the bacteria died off in her system.”
At that point, Officer Melinda Dion and her team landed their shuttle at the house, putting it down next to LaFong’s shuttle. They had stayed in space long enough to put their FTL com dish in orbit. Even with Ramos’ favorable prognoses, she had to ask, “LuLu, are you alright? Something bit you?”
“Yeah...and over by a genetics laboratory, no less.” She sighed. “I think I’m going to have to take a team over there.”
“Not today, LaFong.” Ramos needed to say. “At least, not for you.”
“I fried all those that were chasing you, Lana.” Burns was proud to say.
“These things can’t be Dougals.” Mason sounded depressed. “I don’t know what these things are, but if they breed like Dougals, and are aggressive--then we are all in a lot of trouble.” He sighed. “The whole Colony could be looking at extinction.”
“Hank and Jennifer say they can take me up in the shuttle to kill some more, if you wish?” Burns had an idea.
“Stay where you are for now.” Lana responded. “We need to figure this thing out...and the only way we’re going to do that is to get into that genetics laboratory.” She yawned, tired. “Have Hank and Jennifer take the shuttle up and try to see how many of these things you can find. Try to locate where they are congregating. I don’t think we have to many hours of daylight left. As soon as it starts to get dark, everyone either sleep in the house or in a shuttle. Mason said his team will act as night guards. One of you set up a couple sensors, anyway.”
In the morning, Lana had wanted to be on a team to go inside the genetic laboratory, but Melinda’s argument was to logical; her investigative team was the best for the job. Plus, she still had a slight fever from yesterdays infection. However, they would need help from the Space Marines to kill off the existing Roaches.
Before starting this mission, Officer LaFong had insisted on taking a wide range of supplies and ammunition, enough to cover as many different possibilities as she could. She watched from the door of the house as Bull and Gannon equipped themselves with a full load of Mk. 2 heavy bolter incendiary ammunition, something neither she nor anyone else thought they would use.
The two big Marines would accompany Melinda’s team to, and if necessary, inside the genetic laboratory. The bite Lana had suffered to her angle had barely penetrated through her lightly armored boot. She knew there was no way those Roaches could bite through a battle suit. Hank, Jennifer, and Burns would stay on the shuttle and support the attack on the Roaches from the air.