Chapter 3: The Meeting
I sat in the meeting room for several hours before the meeting started,
trying to figure the best way to present the insane plan to my officers.
It took me two minutes before I had a plan.
I spent the rest of the time smoking two whole packs of cigarettes,
trying to remember how I ended up here at all.
I got real scared when I found I couldn't.
All I could remember were those nightmares out there, hacking, slashing,
My family had been reduced to what could be crammed into that small
frame on my desk.
Sharon, little Tate, and Julia… What was it, five years? Five years
living in this nightmare?
Six, a cold voice inside my head corrected.
And that feeling of loneliness, total, utter loneliness, struck me like
a hammer in the temple.
I screamed, partly in horror, mostly in sorrow.
I wailed, hammering my fists against the table, hammering until I
couldn't feel them and blood flowed freely from them.
Then I leaned against the table and cried.
Again, I thought.
Something is amiss here…
I gave it to them straight, spiced up with a tactical map and some
waypoints Davidson and I had laid out the night before. I told them
about our odds, why we planned it this way, and also why I felt a need
to lead the strike force.
They all nodded in understanding, soaking it all in, taking some quick
notes here and there.
All in all, a standard briefing.
Until the tactical assignments.
During the whole briefing, Kingby had been sitting still, watching me
with a blend of defiance and hate, just waiting for the right time.
I turned to him, opened my mouth to talk, when he stood up, not much to
my surprise, and screamed.
"THIS WILL NOT DO!"
Kingby slammed his fist into the table, making a small dent. He
regretted the move a second later, I could see, rubbing his hand behind
his back, trying to cover it up by raising his voice.
"I will NOT accept this insane act! This is in direct violation
against every single mass destruction treaty I know of, and I will not
stand idly by and watch you perform this insane stunt!"
I closed my eyes for a second, using all my willpower not to grab him
and bludgeon him senseless.
"Kingby, you have 15 seconds to excuse yourself for that stupid
little opinion, then I will resort to physical force."
He hesitated for a brief second, a hint of fear running across his face.
Then he stepped towards me, not broken, but more determined to defy me.
"Sir, if I may express myself freely…" He tensed, my hand
unconsciously unsnapping the retention strap of my holster, my fingers
sliding over the pistol in it.
"…You are no longer capable of distinguishing what IS RIGHT HERE!
I must humbly-"
Unknown to him, I could clearly see his feeble attempt at pulling the
pistol supposedly invisible beneath his jacket, in the front of his
The murmur of the other six officers in the room was growing, and I saw
Davidson rising in the corner of my eye.
I knew Kingby's type. Enough experience to know that the plan was
insane, but not enough to understand that you don't try things like
these against your CO. He was desperate to redeem himself in the eyes of
his colleagues, redeem himself because he panicked before, redeem
himself for something that was totally irrelevant to everyone but him.
Egoistic son of a bitch! The rage ran freely in my body, and I watched
my hand grip the pistol, tearing it free of leather in a split second,
racing towards his face.
He didn't even get the pistol clear of his pants before the front sight
of mine dug into his forehead, knocking him down against the table.
Davidson was there the next second, sending the pistol in my now limp
grasp into the wall.
Kingby blinked, blood streaming into his eyes, and smiled faintly.
"I told you, CAPTAIN-"
My foot moved without me even thinking the thought, driven by anger and
hate for this man so utterly egoistic, just like the other bastards, the
bastards who sent the bomb who just couldn't let us leave who were so
eager to get their medals-
The kick connected with his chest, rewarding something inside me with a
grunt of pain and a snap of bone. A second later I was sitting against
the wall, feeling a bit dazed, and it was then I realized what I had
Egoism, I thought briefly, simple egoism.
And I hated myself.
Never again, I thought, will I resort to their methods.
Davidson pulled me to my feet, looking unusually concerned. I found I
couldn't meet his gaze, blinked and tried a smile. It didn't work.
He in turn looked over at the unconscious Kingby, and spoke to the
"What you all just witnessed was a desperate attempt by a stressed
and mentally unstable officer on Captain Haynes life, who wounded the
attacker in self defense. You saw nothing else, is that clear?"
Six heads nodded slowly, watching the slumped form of Kingby on the
"Get a medic for his man." someone whispered in a hoarse
It took me a while to realize that it was my own.
Then the runner skidded into the room, his breathing labored, face pale.
"Sir, we have contacts. I think you'd better see this."
I didn't even blink, just joined the runners mad dash for the wall.
I ran, not because of guilt.
But because of fear.
Fear of losing control.
He came right at us, straight as an
arrow, legs pumping in the red-green grass.
He had about a thousand meters left when
I put my binoculars to my eyes and saw him for the first time: blue
power armor, stained with blood and bits of Zerg, visor down, no
Blue armor…that meant he had been part
of Ceiner’s outfit. What the hell was he doing out here, alone?
"What is a Ceiner man doing out
here?" Davidson had reached the same conclusion as I had, and we
exchanged puzzled looks. I activated my headset and opened a channel to
"Eleco, does Ceiner have any units
stationed here we don’t know of?" The last sounded stupid to me,
since we were the only unit supposed to be here.
"Not recently, boss."
"Well, according to these files,
there was a unit dropped near the mountain range north of us about two
months back…and the unit in question has been disbanded after that
Now I was worried.
I could almost hear him shaking his head.
"Nope. No one."
"Thanks." I keyed out, bringing
my binoculars up again.
My rangefinder showed 450 meters, and he
was still sprinting like a madman.
No unit insignias. I scanned the hill
behind him, looking for Zerg. Nothing.
Another look at him. What the? Something
very, very strange was attached to his back, like a big…claw?
"Anyone got a transponder lock on
him?" I asked in the direction of the guards next to me.
"Yep…" The soldier was as
non-descript as anyone clad in power armor, but his voice had a peculiar
ring to it.
"…Name, William Gertram, age 40,
"Eleco, I think you can nix that KIA
on everyone, because we’ve got someone wearing their armor ranked as
Lieutenant Colonel bearing down on our main wall."
I unsnapped the retention strap of the
holster, trying to remember when I’d closed it.
"Can you get anything off the
transponder? Vital signs, sinus waves?"
The man with the transponder scanner
nodded slowly, squinting at the monitor.
"These are some pretty weird brain
patterns. Almost as if…"
His face went pale.
"As if what?" Davidson urged
him, taking a step backwards.
"As if he wasn’t human."
"Davidson?" I asked, staring at
the man, who was now fully visible to the naked eye.
"Evacuate the barricade, save you
and me and these three gents, and get me my rifle."
"Roger that," he said in a
shaky voice. He turned and started shouting orders down the length of
the barricade, men jumping off the side and running for the main bunker.
A hundred meters. No time for the rifle. Damn
he was fast. Davidson and I drew our pistols at the same time, that
old, burning feeling settling in the stomach once again.
I got off five, maybe six shots. I
didn’t even try to count them. Davidson fired a whole clip dry, all of
our hits hopelessly bouncing off our armor, his legs still pumping.
At fifty meters he slowed his pace
somewhat, raising his visor for added effect.
Not human, I managed to think, Zerg. His
eyes were black, his mouth covered by some sort of sickening web of
organic matter. He did, indeed, have a claw on his back, about as thick
as my arm. And he screamed. By god did he scream. It burned right
through whatever part of my sanity that was intact, and I reacted in the
only way I thought of: I jumped. I simply threw myself backwards, and I
still heard Lieutenant Colonel William Gertram’s dying words in my
ears as everything went black.
"GLORY TO THE SWAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARM!"