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Approx.7700 words

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Copyright 2015   SJ

The Rise of Chaos:

Chaos Unbound  


written by  SJ



    There was a small, open-topped, bastion located on the hill just in front of Cheyenne Ranger headquarters. Lana sat down on a small chair and put her elbow on the rampart of the cement bunker, her head in her hand, as she watched the last of the shuttles return to the civilian airport and parked themselves in neat, orderly rows. By now, the assault had already begun inside the mine.
    She stood up, then slid down the Scout binoculars on top her helmet to look at the Planetary Guardsmen below her; they seemed even more disorganized than before. Private Zane, her Marine partner in the bunker had to ask her. “What’s wrong?”
    Lana shook her head. Technically, she was in charge of the defense of the HQ. It was her responsibility, and she didn’t like not being able to give commands to the Guardsmen below her, even with a direct phone-link to do it with. She looked at Zane’s friendly smile, then spoke, her frown disappearing, but her dismay remaining. She pointed. “Down there...those Guardsmen. They’ve removed their armor and it’s laying around on the sides of the trench...and there’s a couple women in their unit...they’re prancing around wearing shorts, and--”
    Lana stopped short of saying anything more. She felt a little embarrassed as she apologized for her sternness. The pain of her ribs and her worry over Jennifer’s condition had made her a bit irritable. He told her he understood completely, then lowered is binoculars to look down the hill.
    Meanwhile, Lana stared at Gallardo’s antique, rocket launcher device sitting in the rear part of the bunker about ten meters away. It was square in shape, made by welding numerous heavy steel bars together with a metal seat in the center. Basically, it held a large, bazooka-like, tube which could fire old-style, 150 millimeter, wire-guided rockets. There was a rack that held, last she checked, five rockets, which could be loaded automatically from a control panel in front of the chair, one rocket at a time. It had a scope which could be attached to almost any helmet for targeting. It only had two rockets, now. She tapped Zane on the shoulder. “Hey...what happened to three of the rockets?”
    He flipped up the binoculars, looked at Lana, the rocket launcher device, then back at Lana again. “Oh...I was told the Colonel used them up for some kind of celebration.”
    Since the invention of the miniature defense grid, which could be carried by almost all armored vehicles, large and small, wire-guided rockets were obsolete. But, apparently, Gallardo kept the rocket launcher device around just to be nostalgic...and for the occasional celebration. Men liked big explosions...and, even though the rockets used old-style, C-4, explosives, it was a one hell-of-a BIG rocket, with a big boom attached.
    Lana shrugged her shoulders and stepped back over to sit down. She winced a little as she did, then decided to stand up, so she could put on more topical analgesic.
    “Where are you going?” Zane wondered.
    “Nowhere.” Lana curtly answered as she winced again.
    “’re going to put on more of that salve, right?”
    “Very good guess.” Lana nodded, grinning.
    “Need any help?”
    “Nah...just keep an eye on the scanner while I’m busy.”
    Lana was wearing only her fatigues, no soft or hard armor. But it still hurt to take off her fatigue shirt. Grunting painfully, she rolled up her undershirt to expose her bandages. She rubbed on a heavy load of analgesic cream this time, before replacing her fatigue shirt.
    Instead of any normal armor, she wore a Tau-made personal force shield attached to the outside of her fatigues...something only Special Ops personnel had access to. Actually, it was new and the Colonel wanted someone to try it out...see how it worked, its different settings. It was turned off at the time; but she had tested it earlier and it seemed to work fine.
    Personnel force shields, like the one Lana was wearing, were very different from the force shields Space Marine battle suits had. They were designed to stop or defect ANY type of attack, both energy and projectile, but were very expensive.
    Zane had been looking at her all along, but still with one eye on the scanner. Lana smiled at him. He smiled back. “How did you get that big bruise?”
    She answered curtly, not really wanting to talk about it. “Someone hit me.”
    “Wow...did they have a steel glove on or something.”
    Lana sighed. “They hit me a bunch of times, okay.”
    The young Marine quickly saw that Lana didn’t want to talk about it, and decided to give her a compliment. “’s a shame.”
    She smiled shyly, then decided, since the battle inside the mine was going to be awhile, conversation would be the best remedy for taking her mind off worrying about Jennifer. She returned his comment. “You look like a big strong guy, how come you didn’t join the regular Marines?”
    He smiled, then shrugged. “I preferred the Scouts. I was hoping to use that Scout heavy bolter. I read all about it before I joined, but...”
    “Yeah...Gallardo doesn’t have any of those.” Lana was feeling a whole lot better; her smile showed it. “Omicron Rangers...some of their Scouts are trained with it. I found it too heavy and bulky.”
    “You’ve trained with one of those Scout heavy bolters?”
    “Special Ops...” She shrugged. “I have to learn everything.”
    The two Marines pulled up their chairs next to the bunker’s scanner, sat down and talked, off and on, for what seemed like almost twenty minutes. During a lull in the conversation, Lana decided to take another look at the Guardsmen: most of them weren’t even in the trench anymore, many of them taking naps on the soft grass. She decided to let them be.
    When she turned to Zane, she saw him giving the scanner a double take. “What do you make of this?”
    Lana stared at the detection device for only a second, her eyes widening as she spoke, her voice serious. “Those are WARP openings, INCOMING!” her voice crescendoed as she grabbed the phone.
    “...hello...hello. Pick up the damn phone, this is serious!” Finally the Guardsmen’s sergeant answered. “Listen...we aren’t Marines down here--”
    “Listen, bozo, we’ve got multiple incoming WARP openings...get your troops in their trenches and prepare for battle,” Lana shouted forcefully into the phone.
    As she looked back to examine the scanner, she noticed more WARP openings forming...some near, some far, too many to count.
    “Lana...” Zane called anxiously, looking though his binoculars. “Is that a WARP looks like a black hole in the middle of the air?”
    By the time she spotted it, it had formed into a long black hole, like a dark, evil, eye opening. With a flash, the WARP hole was gone, leaving what she recognized as Khorne Chaos Marines holding hand weapons and axes. They were only a hundred meters away from the Guardsmen, three of them firing hand bolters before the Guardsmen knew what had happened. One of the Guardsmen was hit in the back before he took cover, his legs buckling as he dropped forward, rolling into the trench lifelessly.
    Zane had already snapped off a couple quick shots at the Khorne Marines. It looked like he grazed one of them. As Lana raised her Scout bolter to fire, she heard over the now dangling phone, a frightened voice, “...what do want us to do...want do want us to do?”
    She had to delay firing to answer. Her response was succinct and to the point. “Either fire back or get the hell out of there--”
    Letting the phone drop, she returned to aiming her bolter, using her holo-sights. The Khorne Marines were about five-hundred meters away from the bunker, but closing in on the Guardsmen. It looked like several of the Guardsmen got off a couple wild shots with their lasguns, then one of them threw a grenade, landing way short of any of the five targets. Three of the Khorne Marines continued to fire their hand bolters causing spouts of dirt and mud to shoot up all around outside the trench as most of the Guardsmen hunkered down inside, not returning fire. When two of the Khorne Marines fired hand flamers, out of range, but lighting up the ground one meter short of the trench, the Guardsmen bolted and ran, one of them carrying one of the women, who had apparently sprained her angle getting back into the trench seconds earlier.
    Lana didn’t know why the fleeing Guardsmen weren’t hit by anymore hand bolter fire; spouts of dirt shot up all around them as they ran. Zane had changed his aim to one of the Khorne Marines holding a hand flamer. Lana quickly told him to fire at the other ones, which he did. Together, they took down one of the enemy Marines, who got up right away, then was hit again, this time staying down. The Khorne Marines were running up the hill after Lana and Zane now, hand bolter fire zipping way over their heads.
    One by one, Lana called out targets. Together, they fired. Eventually one, then another one, fell down until the last Khorne Marine was killed, two-hundred meters in front of the bunker. She looked at Zane. His eyes were wide with adrenaline, but he stayed calm, passing his first baptism of fire like a good Marine. As she stood up on the rampart of the bunker to look around, out of the corner of her eye, behind her, down by the base of the hill, she spotted dark blue battle suits with dull yellow trim moving in and around their two Marine shuttles parked less than fifty meters away.
    Her orders were simple, “follow me,” as the two Marines ran to the back of the bunker.
    The Marine shuttles were parked side by side, one was blocking the view of other one. She spotted two Chaos Marines, the symbol of Tzeentch on their shoulders, go behind the first shuttle; but there were two others trying to get into the front one also.
    The Chaos Marines had brand new Omicron Ranger bolters. Lana and Zane took cover behind the bunker’s rampart and began firing, prompting the enemy Marines to return fire, their shots accurate, but not accurate enough. The Chaos Marines, out in the open at such a close range, were taken down quickly, leaving one shuttle uncaptured.
    However, Lana stood in dismay as she watched the other shuttle take off, then accelerate into the clear blue sky.
    “They took one of our shuttles? How did they get the codes for that thing?” Zane wondered, watching the shuttle disappear.
    Lana didn’t have time to answer as she ran over to the other side of the bunker, jumping up on the rampart as she used her binoculars to look at the civilian airport with all the other shuttles. There was smoke over a battle was going on. She had an idea what might be happening...but didn’t have time to give it another thought as Zane called out, spotting, first on the scanner, then with his binoculars, another WARP opening, a big one, about six hundred meters away to the northeast were the road wound its way up and over the hill toward Marine HQ.
    Both Marines were standing on the bunker’s rampart, watching the WARP portal open. They expected to see more Chaos Marines, but instead, saw something worse.
    Lana began scanning it immediately. From its appearance, it was obviously some kind of mechanical device, like a Marine dreadnought, but different. It had four legs which carried it along like a crab, connected to a flat base from which a kind of large square-like head sat on top of it like a turret. Extending from the base in front, it had two long, outstretched arms with three-clawed hands on the ends. Weapons were mounted on both sides of its head, one looked like some kind of vertically-aligned, twin-linked, auto-cannon, the other she guessed had to be some kind of double-barreled heavy flamer. In the center of the head, was a cannon barrel.
    She noticed on the road, almost to the top of the hill, the Guardsman carrying the woman with the sprained ankle, moving slowly. The mechanical device took a couple steps forward, then fired its auto-cannon, killing the two Guardsmen instantly. It then proceed up the hill on a direct course for Marine headquarters.
    Lana attempted to call Marine HQ, but found commutations blocked by the WARP energy of so many openings. She turned to Zane and ordered. “Get over to HQ and help evac them to fallback point ‘B’, okay?”
    He looked at her as if to ask--what are YOU going to do?
    “GO...right now, Marine!” As she repeated the order, he took off running.
    Lana stepped down from the rampart and took cover. She reloaded her bolter with AP ammunition, then studied her recent scans of the strange war machine...
    She didn’t make any sense--there was no bio sign, a place were a crewman would ride and control it. And even more disturbing was that it scanned as a demon.
    The official definition of a demon was any living entity that had been brought out from the WARP and made to exist in our Universe. This thing was a demon AND a machine...which, so far, didn’t make any sense. She was hoping to spot a location for a driver, then fire AP rounds to try and take him out, but that would be impossible now. However, as the thing continued to plod up the hill, she knew she had to slow it down, divert its attention to her so Zane would have time to evacuate HQ personnel, which was located just on the other side of the hill.
    Taking the time to turn her Tau force shield back on, setting it to maximum, she then aimed carefully and fired a couple, three-to-four-round bursts hitting the demon machine in its head section before switching her bolter back to semi-automatic.
    Her firing, unfortunately for her, had the desired results. It stopped advancing, then turned to fire at her. She ducked down behind the rampart as high velocity, large-caliber, bullets zipped over her head and broke apart large pieces of the cement bunker. As she used her Scout periscope to take a peek at the demon machine, she saw its cannon go off, causing a large explosion right in front of the bunker, the concussion knocking her over backwards as pieces of cement flew over her head.
    Once she recovered, she saw what looked like a cloud of black smoke right where the explosion occurred. A second later, she noticed that the smoke seemed to change, taking shape like a living entity, swirls of blackness in the form of tendrils reaching out then dropping down on the cement rampart, each tendril turning the area where it landed black as it ate into the concrete, creating deep cracks before dissipating. One tendril of the eerie smoke came straight for her. She barely had time to put up her arm when it hit her. She watched in amazement as the smoke sparkled, hitting her force shield like millions of microscopic objects shorting out and exploding against the energy of her shield. She didn’t need a scanner report to understand that the smoke was not smoke at all, but millions of tiny nanobots. She shuttered to think of what would’ve happened if they had contacted her skin, happy she remembered to turn her force shield on...and that it tested positive for this type of attack.
    More high velocity bullets zipped over her head as she laid down on her back, holding her body up slightly with her elbows. She noticed that the cement in front of her had been almost totally compromised; one more cannon hit would easily put a hole in her defensive cover. She glanced over at Gallardo’s antique rocket launcher. It might as well be a thousand miles away. If she got up to go over there, she’d be cut down before taking two steps. And one quick glance told her that the demon machine remained facing her, but still continued to advance toward Marine HQ, using its legs to crab-walk sideways. A second later, she heard its battle cannon go off again, just missing the bunker over the top of her, exploding someplace in the distance.
    In the sky above her, she spotted a meteor...but knew it wasn’t; it had to be a drop pod. Finally, Gallardo had sent reinforcements.
    After rolling over on her belly, Lana crawled to an undamaged part of the bunker, listening to the numerous sonic booms as the drop pod ejected force fields downward to slow its decent, then as it came to a quick landing in the shallow crater the force fields made for it. As she peeked above the rampart, the demon machine had slowed down and was facing the drop pod now, but not before the six battle-suited Marines were able to unload and spread out before being fired on by its twin-linked auto-cannon, which fired first at the drop pod, punching it full of holes and destroying its support armament. After raising herself up and resting her bolter on the rampart, Lana started snapping off shots at the back of the demon machine’s square head, hoping to draw fire away from the running Marines. She got a call on her com instead.
    “...Little Sister...Little Sister, can you hear me, this is--”
    “Bull!” Lana answered the callers name gladly...also happy that communications were no longer blocked.
    “Where are you?”
    “I’m in the rec room playing pool...were do you think I am?” Lana snapped, jesting.
    “Your in that bunker on the hill, right?” That sounded like Gannon’s voice.
    “You sound a little shell shocked.” Bull chuckled.
    “It’s nice to hear both of your voices, guys,” Lana spoke earnestly before firing a couple more shots, trying now to hit the demon machine’s auto-cannon pod. At first she thought it was going to turn around and face her, which was one of the things she wanted, but all it did was turn enough so the weapon pod was much harder to hit. Then she spotted a Marine with a multi-melta, hoping he’d have time to aim and get off a shot off before–-
    The demon machine’s battle cannon fired, an explosion right in front of the Marine, sending him tumbling backwards. It looked like several pieces of his battle suit came apart. He looked shaken, but okay as he started to get up again to re-aim his multi-melta after taking cover behind a large bush. That’s when Lana spotted the black cloud, which always followed the explosion, coming toward him, swirling, vaporizing the bush, then engulfing his battle suit.
    Lana had attuned her com to the Marine squad’s frequency, listening in. She could hear Gunnery Sergeant Len Evans talking to the Marine with the multi-melta. It sounded like Len was wounded...but, she didn’t see his squad-leader-marked battle suit anywhere. Then she heard the Marine with a multi-melta cry out in pain...then scream. The black cloud--the nanobots had found a way through his damaged battle suit...he was dying, screaming in torment as Len tried to call to him...then there was silence. Afterwards, Len cursed--that was the end of a good Marine and their one and only anti-tank weapon.
    Before any of the Marines had time to speak, Lana spoke, informing the squad. “That black’s a swarm of very deadly nanobots...keep your suits sealed and your shields up!”
    “Roger that, Little Sarge.” Evans responded; he sounded in pain himself.
    “Len...are you okay?” Lana had to ask.
    “I’m out of action...DAMN!” He sounded more disgusted than hurt as he responded. “That thing clipped me in the leg as I got out of the pod!”
    The other four Marines of Evans’ squad had successfully taken cover on the reverse slope of the hill. When the demon machine started firing its flamer, lighting up one whole side of the hill with some kind of eerie, WARP, plasma fire, landing short of the Marines, Lana had to take action.
    She got up and ran for Gallardo’s rocket launcher device...

    It took time for Lana to get situated in the chair, bring the rocket launcher online, then attach the scope to her helmet. It was a tedious task, to say the least. She noticed bolter fire coming from the top of the hill in the distance. The guys were buying her some time; if that thing turned on her, she would be a sitting duck in that chair.
    Finally she got a target lock, but knew there was strong possibly that thing had a defense grid. If she fired now, she would probably waste a rocket. Using her scanner, she watched and waited...coming up with a plan, only a theory at this time.
    For the most part, it was ignoring her...but the guys were soon going to be in deep shit if that thing got any closer to them. Then it fired its battle cannon, hitting the top of the hill with a mighty explosive roar, a swirl of black smoke quickly following. She looked at her scanner and grinned; her theory was correct: The machine’s defense grid went offline after it fired its big cannon. She reacquired her target lock, then sent the rocket on its way.
    All she needed to do was keep her sights on the target...the rocket would be guided to that mark. She second...then, DAMN--the defense grid came back on line! An energy beam, either an EMP pulse or repulser beam struck the rocket. As soon as it did, she had already known what she was going to do...her hand on the self-destruct.
    The explosion was massive as it cleared a large, smoking hole in the shrubbery and grass twenty-five meters short of it’s target; she even felt a slight shockwave from where she was sitting. But she didn’t delay as she worked the control panel, loading the last rocket. It took only a couple seconds, but it seemed like an eternity. When it was ready, she looked at her scanner and smiled: The rocket had been close enough to the demon machine when it exploded to knock out all of its systems...hopefully, for longer than its cannon did. But Lana, didn’t wait. It took her less than two seconds to reacquire a new target lock, then fire, keeping her eye on the target as the rocket traveled the distance, then stuck the demon machine dead on.
    The one-hundred and fifty millimeter anti-tank rocket blew the demon machine literally to pieces. She saw one of it arms flip end over end across the north part of the hill and disappear in the distance as pieces of its head flew in all directions. She didn’t know what had happen to its other arm, but all that was left of its legs had been embedded into the side of the hill. She sat back in the rocket launcher’s uncomfortable, metal, chair and slouched down, breathing a deep sigh of relief.
    But then she almost jumped out of her skin when she heard a loud, “WOOOOOO...HOOOOOO,” from the other Marines over her com. The comments of congratulations came loud and all at once.
    Thinking of another worry she had earlier, she got quickly out of her chair and raced over to the south side of the bunker, standing up on the rampart as she used her binoculars to look at the civilian airport. Much to her dismay, more than one-third of all the shuttles were gone now. She could see the trail of two of them high in the sky, going into orbit. All the other shuttles were smoking, destroyed or disabled.
    She had an uneasy speculation as to where all the hijacked shuttles were going...and she would need help from four big strong Marines to bring her counter plan into operation.
    “Len...can I take command of the rest of your squad for an Ops mission?” She asked quickly.
    “What are you going to do?” He asked tentatively, ready to give his okay, but curious.
    “At the civilian airport almost half of the shuttles have taken off, hijacked, probably by Chaos Marines. One of our shuttles got taken by them. I think they’re going into orbit--I think to try and capture a spaceship.” She explained as briefly as she could, not wanting to waste any more time. “All the other shuttles have been destroyed. We have one of ours left and I’d like to--”
    “Say no more, Little Sarge–-they’re all yours.” He made the order official. “You guys are with LaFong now...get over there, right now!”
    As she dashed over to back side of the bunker, she spotted four Cheyenne Ranger battle suits running across the crest of the hill toward her. Standing on the highest point of the bunker, she tried to guide them, pointing down at the remaining Marine shuttle.
    “We’re coming, LuLu.” Gannon’s deep voice sounded out over her com as he led the three other Marines in a single file column.
    “You guys aren’t over there, yet!” Gunnery Sergeant Evans shouted out in a deep, drill-sergeant-like, voice.
    “Len...can any of your guys pilot a shuttle?” Lana needed to know.
    “I can.” One of the men promptly responded.
    “Yeah..Corporal Hill can.” Len confirmed.
    Lana, then asked, “Hill, do you think you can follow the trail of one of our shuttles...go where it went?”
    “Uh...I think so.” He paused. “Is one of our shuttles miss--” He paused again, looking at the empty spot next to the existing shuttle. “Crap--one of our shuttles is missing!”
    As the four Marines arrived at the remaining shuttle, Lana needed to check on something. “ are you doing with that evac?”
    “We’re all here at evac point ‘B’ with Sergeant Major...and a bunch of very frightened Guardsmen.”
    “Good.” She addressed the wounded squad leader. “Len...can you make your way to evac point ‘B’ on your own?”
    “I think so. I’m on my way there now...wait, I see Apothecary Ramos on his way. Len, out.”
    She knew her next question was far fetched, but she had to ask. “Zane...can you pilot a shuttle.”
    When he responded, no, she sighed, disappointed.
    Then she got a response from an unexpected source, Sergeant Major. “I you need pilots, bad?”
    “Yes!” Her answer was desperate.
    For the most part, Sergeant Major Rollo Rhodes had long since retired from front line duty. His hair was almost fully grey, his face a little on the wrinkled side, but was still a good, dedicated, Marine, his duties for the last six years relegated to HQ staff.
    “Can you--”
    “Say no more...I’m on my way,” Sergeant Major replied.
    Lana turned to look at her new team, who were all looking very strangely at the two dead Chaos Marines. Corporal Hill had just started to enter the Marine shuttle’s drivers seat, getting seated.
    Lana thought of something. “We’re going to need a space suit for the Sergeant Major.”
    Hill replied shortly after he dropped the shuttle’s rear ramp so the other Marines could load up. “We should have spare suits in here...two, normally.”
    Sergeant Major had to chuckle. “So you got me doing some zero-G work also, huh?”
    “Well, I just want you have one just in case.” She examined the side of the shuttle where the two dead Chaos Marines lay; it was just as she thought. “...and--I shot a couples holes in the side of the shuttle.”
    “What?” His surprise was almost that of a chuckle.
    Then she heard Zane over her com in the background explaining to him the reason, and another chuckle.
    He responded. “Understandable... But did they go all the way through...those shuttles are fairly well armored.”
    “I didn’t want to take the chance.”
    He chuckled again, agreeing just as he took off running.
    Lana knew that the bunker had several boxes of assorted ordinance, as most do. Just before she took off running to shuttle, she equipped herself with two melta bombs, which Zane had examined earlier and left conveniently laying on top of a box.
    The Marine shuttle was ready to go by the time the Sergeant Major had arrived and had stepped on board. Space Marine Private Alvaro had the spare space suit ready for him to put on. Lana had strapped herself into the co-pilot’s seat up front just as the shuttle began to rise.
    From behind her, Gannon asked, “LuLu...aren’t you going to need a space suit?”
    She turned to look at him, pointing at the light-weight, harness and power pack with air tank attached. “I have a Tau force shield has a space suit function.” She looked at her Ops scanner, which had the device’s monitor linked. “’s operating properly.”
    Sergeant Major knew what she was talking about and responded, “yeah, those Tau force shield are nice. Gallardo will be happy it tested successfully.”
    By the time the shuttle was in the air, and on course following the previous Marine shuttle, she had a fairly good idea as to where they were headed: one of the command cruisers currently in orbit. All along, Lana had been switching her com frequency, trying to get a line to any of the three commanders: General Parker, Major Yarrick, or Colonel Gallardo. All she got was ‘line busy’ each time. And so far, she didn’t have the command authority for an interrupt.
    Eventually, Gallardo called her. “ that you in one of our shuttles?”
    “Holy crap!” Lana was surprised to finally get a hold of someone...anyone.
    “Okay, Sergeant Holy-Crap, what’s up?” He quipped, but needed to know what her plans were quickly.
    There was some laughter from a couple of the Marines, now all on her com line, including the Sergeant Major.
    “Hey, Rollo.” Gallardo continued, speaking to the Sergeant Major. “I called HQ and they told me you’d volunteered for an Ops mission.”
    “Yes, sir.” Sergeant Major grinned. “Even though I’m still waiting with baited breath as what the hell we’re up here to do.”
    “Right now we’re following shuttle number two.” Lana began to explain. “All I know so far, is that it’s headed into orbit. I think--”
    “It’s headed for Yarrick’s cruiser...along with a couple other shuttles.” Gallardo verified, interrupting.
    Lana sighed, wishing she was wrong about this possibility. “Sir, have you been able to reach Yarrick’s cruiser...are they under attack?”
    “I can’t reach the cruiser...and I can’t reach Yarrick.” Gallardo seemed realistically concerned. Lana could see the Colonel clearly on the shuttle’s video com now. He pondered, then continued. “So you think his cruiser might be under attack?”
    “I think it’s a very good possibility.” Lana answered with positive assurance.
    “What’s the plan?” Gallardo continued.
    “We need to get up there--into the ship’s shuttle bay.” Lana explained anxiously. “As soon as we dock, Corporal Hill and Sergeant Major can take shuttles back down to a rendezvous point so the General can send Marines back up and retake the cruiser.”
    “What are you guys going to do until--” Gallardo seemed to know the answer before he finished his question.
    “We have to hold the shuttle bay until reinforcements arrive.”
    “Sounds like a plan. I’ll try to get a hold of the General--”
    “What about Yarrick? Can you reach him?” Lana was serious about Major Yarrick knowing, so he can at least give orders for his cruiser to defend themselves.
    Gallardo seemed to grin. “Oh...he went along with his troops in the mine--trying to play hero like he does way too often. So he’s not going to be available. Gallardo out.”
    Lana had some time to think as they spotted, then watched as Yarrick’s cruiser came closer and closer into view, approaching it from the port side, near the stern. And, just as she was expecting, the ship’s port shuttle bay was open...ready to take in more shuttles.
    Before getting any closer to the cruiser, Lana had Corporal Hill and Sergeant Major Rhodes, switch places in the pilot seat. As soon as the other Marines were disembarked, Rhodes was to take the Marine shuttle back down to the planet, where, hopefully, the General would have a landing sight ready for him to pick up more Marines.
    By the time the switch had been made, Lana was hoping Gallardo would have made contact with Yarrick’s cruiser. When she tried calling the ship, all she got was interference--WARP interference. Not good! However, with communications out, there was no way to tell if returning shuttles were friendly or not. She was hoping her shuttle could land the same way, without being challenged.
    Soon, the Sergeant Major had the shuttle lined up and ready for docking, coming in at a moderate speed straight for the lower, left, side of the bay. Lana had her Special Ops scope up and ready...looking carefully, keeping the shuttle bay under constant observation for the final approach. She didn’t like what she saw, her muttering giving Rhodes enough concern to ask, “something wrong?”
    “Crap! Pull down...below the shuttle bay! Dive...dive.” She shouted quickly.
    The Sergeant Major obeyed, happy he did as a stream of tracer rounds flew over the top of the shuttle.
    “What--” Rhodes tried to ask.
    “Stay below the docking bay.” Lana gave orders fast and quick. “Come in underneath.”
    “What--” Rhodes asked again...but was answered before he finished the question.
    “They got a damn Terminator in there...with an assault cannon.” Lana sighed. “It’s guarding the left side of the shuttle bay.”
    “I always knew Yarrick had a Terminator,” Rhodes explained. “I’m assuming it’s not under his command anymore. Damn!”
    Lana bit her lip thinking, but, it was the Sergeant Major that came up with a plan; he shouted, “we’re coming in for a crash landing.” As he dropped the back hatch, he continued, “you guys make your way out of this thing BEFORE we crash.” He addressed, Lana. “Hold on tight, LaFong.”
    She seemed to know already what the Sergeant Major was up to, and was preparing for it...and what she was going to do afterwards. With the Sergeant Major’s indulgence, she added an additional order for the four Marines. “After you guys exit, make your way into the next section of the shuttle bay--on the other side of the bulkhead on the right side.” She looked at the Sergeant Major one last time. “I don’t want that assault cannon wiping out our whole squad before they have a chance to get situated.”
    He didn’t have time to respond, but obviously liked Lana’s addendum to the plan. While the shuttle was still slightly under the shuttle bay, he ordered the Marines to get out, follow LaFong’s instructions, adding one extra, zero-G fact as he did, “guys, your still going to have the momentum of the shuttle; let it take you up and into the shuttle bay--and brace for a crash and a tumble.” Even though they were called Space Marines, they didn’t have very much experience for combat actually in space, since they rarely fought there, and then always given specific training in advance.
    The Marine shuttle clipped the shuttle bay floor only slightly, causing the shuttle to start turning right as the Sergeant Major maneuvered up, over, and inside. He tried to increase speed once he was in, but, the assault cannon’s AP rounds still riddled the cargo area of the Marine shuttle full of, happily, empty of any Marines. The shuttle then glanced the right side of the shuttle bay bulkhead, which caused it to straighten out and crash directly into the beam where the Terminator was standing on an upper walkway, just as the Sergeant Major had planned. He and his one passenger were jolted violently in their seats as the shuttle crashed to a halt.
    The Sergeant Major moaned only slightly, trying to recover as fast as he could. But, Lana didn’t have time to moan. After a quick recovery, her adrenaline allowing her to ignore her aching ribs, she popped the release on her seat belt and at the same time opened the passenger door on her side. The door was very close to the dividing bulkhead, and she had to squeeze to get outside, happy she didn’t have any armor on. She then used the door to climb her way upward in zero-G, moving quickly.
    Once she made her way up to the now damaged, upper walkway of the shuttle bay, she spotted the Terminator trying right itself after being knocked off its feet. She knew she only had a short time as she pulled out a melta bomb and set the timer. She then kicked herself off and away from the bulkhead, aiming herself straight at the Terminator, which was almost upright when she caught it and attached the melta bomb, starting the timer. She kicked herself off again, this time using the body of the Terminator, aiming toward the bulkhead she just came from, hoping she would have time to slip around behind, were she assumed the other Marines would be. However, as she did, not only did she discover she was going the wrong way, but the Terminator had clipped her with its power fist, causing her to flip end over end before she hit the railing of the shuttle bay’s walkway above.
    Once the dazed woman had reoriented herself, she saw the Terminator facing her, its deadly assault cannon being brought to bear--directly at her. For a second, she thought she had set the timer too long--then, with a blinding FLASH, it went off propelling the melted and wrecked remains of the Terminator (obviously being operated virtually) in all directions, any pieces fortunately missing her.
    Down below, she saw the Sergeant Major make his way into another shuttle parked nearby, getting inside just as the Terminator exploded. She sighed with relief...both at still being alive and at knowing, at least, one shuttle would make it back to the planet.
    But Lana was not out of danger yet. Her force field had red lights flashing--warning her of imminent failure to the spacesuit function, which had obviously been severely damaged by the Terminator’s power fist. Pulling herself up and over the railing, she crossed the metal platform to the opposite side, next to the bulkhead, then used the zero-G bar to pull herself along to a doorway leading inside the ship, which was where she was going to need to be--very soon!
    At the doorway, she pressed buttons fast, the airtight door opening a lot slower than she hoped, and during which she spotted two of her fellow Marines on the other side of the shuttle bay, one coming her way. But, she didn’t have time to talk to anyone as she slipped inside, then began pressing buttons again to close the door. She was relieved when she heard the pressurization cycle. It was done, and the inside door was opening just seconds before her force shield gave out.
    However, now she needed a spacesuit so she could go back outside again.
    The area leading to the shuttle bay, inside of Yarrick’s command cruiser had to have some. However, there also could be a small force of Chaos Marines ready to cut her down.
    Before the door was fully opened, she knelt down and readied a blind-smoke grenade, tossing it in about two meters.
    On her com, she heard someone call her name, but didn’t have time to answer.
    She waited a few seconds for the smoke to cover more area before continuing inside, staying crouched down as she crept across a metal platform similar to the one outside in the shuttle bay. Against the bulkhead to her left, were several spacesuits. But she decided to go right. Crawling on her hands and knees, the cloud of blind-smoke now larger and more concealing, she moved over to a walkway, barely wide enough for two people, which led deeper into the spaceship. She traveled only three meters down the walkway, before she carefully placed her second melta bomb, this time setting it so it became a proximity mine, moving out of its range before it became active. She then made her way to the bulkhead with the spacesuits.
    “Lulu, answer me!” She heard Gannon’s urgent voice over her com, realizing he had already called her several times. At the doorway to the shuttle bay, she could barely make out the shape of a Space Marine battle suit, kneeling down. “Why did you come in--”
    “My Tau force shield got damaged by that damn Terminator power fist. I needed a spacesuit.” She snapped, answering him quickly.
    “Well, hurry it up.” The man’s deep voice maintained its urgency. “We gotta get off this ship...NOW!”
    Once she was more centered in the smoke, she got to her feet to move faster. But as soon as she did, bolter fire came from somewhere further inside the spaceship.
    Bullets zipped all around her as she dashed over to the spacesuit rack, grabbed one then dropped to the floor, putting the spacesuit on while laying on her back, seeing, as she did, Gannon’s bolter come to life, returning fire.
    Once she was almost secure in the spacesuit, she noticed that enemy bolter fire from inside the spaceship had ceased, followed by Gannon’s bolter, only in his case, he was answering a communication from the General. Once he was finished and ready to fire again, the area where Lana has set the melta bomb exploded. The crashing of what was left of the walkway continued as Lana got up and raced over to the door, which was still open. It closed, then started the pressurization cycle once they were both in.
    Gannon had to ask, concerning the explosion, “hell, LuLu, what was that!”
    “A melta bomb--I set a booby trap--”
    “Geez...I’m glad you’re on our side.” Gannon exclaimed, just as the door to the shuttle bay opened for them.
    As standard equipment, Space Marine battle suits had a couple small, CO2 air-jets attached so they could maneuver around in a zero-G environment. The air-jets weren’t very powerful, but were better than nothing at all. Lana held on as Gannon made his way to one of the hijacked Federal shuttles where the remaining Marines, Bull, and Alvaro, were waiting inside. When Gannon let her off at the door to the pilot seat, she was just about to ask why, then remembered: Corporal Hill had obviously already found their hijacked Space Marine shuttle and was piloting it back down to the surface; she was the only pilot they had left.
    Gannon had already moved around and entered the shuttle from the back, lowering the back hatchway by the time Lana had seated herself and was ready to take off. So far, she had only piloted a shuttle in space virtually; hopefully, the real thing would be nearly the same.
    She had already started the shuttle engines and was already starting to back up, doing so cautiously, when the General’s deep voice shouted over the squad’s com, ordering, “get out of that spaceship RIGHT NOW! It’s getting ready to make a space jump...and I DON’T what you guys going with it!”
    The General’s voice startled her. However, the idea of getting caught in the wake of a space jump scared her worse. She quickly set the shuttle to back up using emergency power and speed, feeling herself lunge forward in her seat against the seatbelt. At first she saw the cruiser moving sideways away from her, then to the left, speeding up, as its engine pods glowed brighter. Then the glow appeared to envelop the entire craft as it shot off, going into space jump mode, then disappearing in the distance.
    The wake, however, hit the shuttle, spinning it like a top. Lana quickly became disoriented as the Universe spun around her. She had no idea how fast she was going or in what direction. Focusing all her attention to the shuttle controls, using one hand to block her view to the dizzying outside space, she carefully set the shuttle’s auto pilot to bring herself to a complete stop.
    Gradually, the shuttle became still in space, no more spinning.  She sat hoping the spinning in her head would stop soon as well.
    “...can you hear me yet...can you hear me...” She began recognizing the General’s voice, then saw his face on the shuttle’s view screen. It was obvious he could see her as well when he laughed. “You look a little dizzy, there, Sergeant.”
    “Uh huh, yeah...were am I?” She was holding onto her seat with both hands.
    “You’re way the hell out there near the asteroid belt.” He had one last chuckle, very glad she and her compliment of Marines were still in the Proxima Altar solar system. “You got knocked over 300 million kilometers away from us by the wake of that jump drive. Your in one of my shuttles, thanks for the save, by the way--”
    “You couldn’t of saved one of my shuttles, huh.” She heard, what sounded like, Yarrick in the background, his agitated voice more of a banter.”
    The General sighed, then continued. “It’ll take you almost a day to get back here in that shuttle, so I’m coming to pick you up you in my command cruiser. We’ll see you in about an hour. Parker, out.”


















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