Categories > Original > Sci-Fi > Bug Run.

Chapter Eight.

by Hussar 0 Reviews

Category: Sci-Fi - Rating: G - Genres:  - Characters:  - Published: 2013/01/13 - Updated: 2013/01/13 - 2921 words

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8.

“JUDY!”

“Whit!?” after coming into the room on her way back to central, Judy found herself looking down the muzzles of three rifles.

“Where the heck have you been?” Zoe demanded as she lowered her weapon, “We nearly shot you…I thought you’d been eaten or something.”

“Eaten?” Judy looked from one friend to another as if they’d gone insane, “I-I went to the lavvy,” she gestured over her shoulder with her thumb before asking, “Whit is gonnae oan? Whaur is Brandi and Sam?”

“Brandi’s dead,” Zoe replied, “Sam’s missing and we’re surrounded by bugs.”

“But bugs dinnae come it at nicht,” Judy insisted.

“Tell that to Brandi,” Kandi snarled in a low voice.

“Oh!” Judy took a step back from the short hill girl and noticed the tear tracks down her face for the first time, “Oh dear, I’m sorry Kandi,” she took a couple of steps towards the blonde before giving her a hug, “Ah ken ye waur special friends.”

“Did everyone know those two were sapphists or was just me that didn’t notice?” Zoe asked Lea quietly.

“Tell you later,” Lea shrugged, “now, how about getting outta here?”

“Yeah, right,” Zoe glanced at the door they’d entered the room by; so far the bugs weren’t attacking it, but that wouldn’t last long.

Looking around the room the only exit that Zoe could see was the door that Judy had just come through.

“Where does that go?” Zoe demanded, “we’ve gotta get outta her like /now/!”

“Erm,” Judy let go of Kandi and tried to remember what she’d seen, “Thaur is a service corridur doon tae th' washroom wi' a coople ay doors leadin' aff it, Ah didn’t swatch tae see waur they went.”

“Okay this way,” Zoe pointed to the corridor, “it’s not like we’ve got much choice.”

The four women filed down the corridor closing the door behind them, opening the first door they found a cleaning closet; the second opened into a store room.

“Damn!” Zoe snapped after looking around the room, “No way out!”

“Look,” Kandi pointed upwards, “a skylight!”

Looking up at the ceiling, Zoe smiled, there was indeed a skylight that hadn’t been covered by a metal plate, the colonists must have forgotten about it. Hurriedly clearing boxes of stationary from the shelf units that filled the room, Zoe and her squad built an add-hoc ladder up to the skylight. Being the first to climb up the unstable ladder Lea found she couldn’t open the window.

“It won’t budge!” she called down desperately.

“We’ll have to shoot it out,” Zoe got her weapon ready, “get down from there Lea.”

“Won’t 'at attract th' bugs?” Judy asked bring all action in the room to a halt as everyone stood and stared at her, “Ah am jist askin', Ah pure techt th' bugs hae bin bonnie whieest thes lest wee while.”

“She’s right,” Lea agreed as she climbed back down onto the floor.

“Screw that!” Kandi lifted her rifle and pointed it at the skylight; before anyone could say or do anything she’d fired a burst and smashed the heavy duty Perspex of the skylight. “We can’t stay in here for ever!”

“She’s right,” Lea agreed as she started up the shelves after the hill girl.

“Judy, go!” Zoe pushed her buddy towards the ladder as she turned to face the door; she’d heard something like bugs ripping through the thin partition doors, “Move it Judy!” Zoe called as she heard the sound of bug feet on concrete and their angry hissing as the bugs swarmed into the corridor outside the room.

What to do, Zoe asked herself as she looked to see how far Judy had got, if she fired now it would probably just bring the bugs through the door fast than if she’d stayed quiet. Putting her foot on the lowest part of the shelf-ladder, Zoe heard the door start to splitter behind her as the bugs started to rip their way through and into the room.

“Crap!” Zoe looked up to see Judy had finally cleared the top of the ladder, she started to climb while keeping one eye on the door, it was already splinted and she could see the clawed hand of a bug reaching through to her. “BUGS!” she yelled at the top of her lungs.

Scrambling up the ladder, Zoe reached the top just as the first bug burst into the room. No sooner was it in that it started up the ladder as it nest mates crowded into the room behind it. Leaning over the edge of the broken skylight, Kandi fired a long burst into the storeroom knocking the lead bug off the ladder and slaughtering half a dozen more that had been following it. As usual more bugs appeared and climbed over the bodies of their fellows in an attempt to get at the humans on the roof.

“LEAVE IT!” Zoe cried as Kandi emptied her magazine into the advancing bugs, “EVERYBODY RUN!”

Grabbing hold of Kandi who seemed reluctant to leave off killing bugs, Zoe dragged her after Lea and Judy as they headed off across the roof between the air-con units and water tanks.

“India-three-sunray, this is India-three-four-sunray, urgent message, over!” Zoe spoke into her comms unit as calmly as she could as she ran, jumping over pipes, ducts and power cables.

“ZOE!” Sergeant Burden’s reply came almost immediately, “Where the heck have you been!?”

“Bugs Sarge, thousands of them!” Zoe explained as the four women took shelter behind a comms array, “There all over the habitat there’s some sort of big bug hole under the place and one of my people said she saw something like a ‘queen-bug’ or something…”

“Okay, Zoe calm down…” Burden began.

“CALM DOWN!?” Zoe screamed, “I’m surrounded by thousands of bugs and you’re telling me to CALM DOWN!?”

“Look there can’t be that many bugs we’ve been killing them all day,” Burden pointed out.

Before Zoe could disabuse him of this fact, Lea pointed over the edge of the roof which was only about six feet away.

“Oh shit!” Zoe said quietly as she saw what Lea had seen.

The area around the habitat was alive with bugs their black chitinous skins shinning blackly in the star light.

“Ian,” Zoe said softly into her comes, “there’s thousands of them coming from under the habitat units and they’re all heading your way.”

“Roger that,” Burden replied, “wait one…” the comms went dead for a couple of long minutes.

“Guys,” Zoe turned to her friends, “look for a way out, will ya?”

Judy and Lea crawled to the edge of the roof and tried to find a direction that wasn’t swarming with bugs. While this was going on Zoe and Kandi kept a look out for the bugs that had followed them up onto the roof; so far there was no sign of them. Either they’d lost track of their human prey or they’d got something more important to do.

“Zoe?” Burden’s voice in her earwig startled her for a moment.

“Still here,” Zoe replied.

“Look,” Zoe heard Burden take a deep breath, “there’s an orbital nuclear strike coming in on your position in ten minutes, can you get outta there?”

“Don’t know,” Zoe looked at her friends pleading silently with her eyes for them to find a route out.

“Look,” Burden continued a moment later, “the strikes gonna come in whether you’re there or not, these big bug holes have been popping up all over the place. The only way to plug them is to drop a nuke on them.”

“Oh crap,” Zoe replied.

“If you can get to my location,” Burden spoke again, “the rescue shuttle will be here in thirty…”

“About freckin’ time!” Zoe snapped, the shuttle had been expected ages ago; now it was on its way it looked as if she was going to miss it because she was going to be incinerated. “Look, I’ll try and get us outta here if I didn’t…” Zoe didn’t know what to say, “…well,” she grinned to herself, “it might have been fun, y’know?”

“I know,” Burden agreed, there wasn’t much else for him to say, “luck, Zoe.”

“And you, India-three-four-sunray, out.” Pausing for just a second to get something out of her eye, Zoe looked at her friends, “we’ve got less that ten minutes before we’re radioactive toast, tell me there’s a way out.”

“Thaur looks loch thaur is a path clear thes way,” Judy pointed to the south-west.

“Cool,” Zoe climbed to her feet and trotted the couple of yards to the roof’s edge.

Sure enough there were only a few bugs wandering across the grass in the starlight, if they could get down from the roof and run up the ridgeline in time they should be safe. After all, the navy wouldn’t use a city-killer nuke on a bug hole…would they? However time was marching on, if they didn’t move soon it wouldn’t matter what size nuke the navy used, they’d just be ash floating on the wind.

Looking down, Zoe saw that it was about a twelve foot drop from the roof to the ground. To be honest it didn’t matter how far it was down they had to go, they probably only had six or seven minutes before the navy dropped their bomb.

“GO!” Zoe pushed Judy towards the roof edge as she got down herself and slipped over the side of the building.

Letting herself down on her arms, Zoe saw Kandi jump and land in the sand next to the building. Judy sort of fell off the roof and landed in a heap next to her and Lea sat on the edge of the roof before pushing off and landing gracefully a few feet away from her.

“Everyone okay?” Zoe called, there were nods and muttered reassurances that they were fine from the rest of the squad. “Okay then, let’s go!”

Running towards the ridgeline, Zoe calculated that they had about five minute before they were standing in a nuclear fireball, she stepped up the pace a little. As if the threat of nuclear destruction wasn’t enough the nearby bugs started to notice them and moved to intercept. Soon the women had to pause to fire at individual bugs as they closed. About half way up the slope and with only two or three minutes before almost certain death, Zoe turned to spray a group of advancing bugs with fire. In the bright starlight she could see the bug horde making it way over the ridge to the east of her; she also saw a great swarm break off from the main group and turn to head towards her little force.

“Give me a break would ya?” Zoe demanded of the universe.

Turning, Zoe tried to forget about the bugs, if the bugs caught up with them it would be at about the same time as the bomb dropped so either way it was over. If they could make it to the other side of the ridge line maybe, just maybe they’d live to see old age. Coming up behind Judy, Zoe grabbed her equipment harness and dragged her along with her. Fear of nuclear fire or the jaws of countless bugs adding strength and endurance to her tired muscles. Almost before she realised it, Zoe found herself running over the crest of the ridge. Letting gravity help her she sprinted down the slope dragging Judy behind her for another twenty paces or so.

“DOWN! DOWN!” she yelled as she threw herself to the ground.

Her mind was still working and dredged up long forgotten memories of what she’d been told to do if caught near a nuclear explosion. Lie flat on the ground, hands under your head with your helmet facing in the direction of the expected explosion, open your mouth to equalise the pressure and wait. Whether it’d do any good or not she’d soon find out, but it had to better than putting her head between her knees and kissing her ass goodbye.

No sooner had she got down than there was a bright white flash of light from the other side of the ridge. It was so bright that Zoe could see it even though she had her face pressed into the sand and her eyes where tightly shut. Then came the pressure wave, it washed over her in an instant as it tried to push her through the planet. Then came the heat wave, it wasn’t as bad as she’d expected but she could feel her exposed skin start to burn like a bad sunburn. Finally a great roaring wind appeared to engulf her and the world in general, sand stung her burnt skin as the wind tugged at her equipment and uniform trying to make her relinquish her grip on the ground and hurl her through the air to her death.

After an eternity that must have lasted two or three minutes, Zoe lifted her head out of the sand. In front of her was a great mushroom shaped cloud, around her were smouldering patches of grass and odd bits of still burning bug. On either side of her where three low humps in the sand each with a pair of legs and army boots sticking out of them.

“Whit tae fuck…?” Judy raised her head, sand streaming from off her helmet, she looked around wide eyed as she realised she was still alive.

Getting to her feet, Zoe walked back up the slope until she could see over the crest. Of the habitat there was nothing remaining, just a deep black hole that seemed to glow eerily in the dark. By the light of the stars, she could see heaps of dead bugs blown into drift like piles by the force of the explosion. The bomb must have killed thousands of them, further out she could just make out the bodies of more bugs, this time lying where they’d fallen. In amongst the dead bugs she could see others wandering aimlessly about confused and disoriented.

Knowing from bitter experience that the bugs would soon recover and reorganise, Zoe turned to make her way back to her squad. Turning she found them standing slightly behind her, Lea passed her-her rifle.

“You might want this,” she said as she handed the weapon over.

“Everyone okay?” Zoe asked her own voice sounding far, far away; everyone nodded or said ‘yes’ or just grunted, “Okay lets move out,” Zoe gestured toward where she hoped Sergeant Burden and the rest of the platoon would be waiting.

Tiredly the women turned there backs on the scenes of destruction and walked slowly towards what they hoped would be sanctuary.

0=0=0=0

“Zoe!” Sergeant Burden smiled his face illuminated by a glow stick hanging from his harness, “I thought you’d bought it, I’ve been trying to call you for ages…”

“Nuke musta burnt out my comms,” Zoe explained.

Although he wanted nothing more that to hold her close to him and never let her go, Ian Burden remained the professional NCO, at least for now.

“Report, Corporal,” Burden asked quietly.

“One dead and one missing in action,” Zoe replied flatly.

“Who?” Burden got out his electronic notebook to take the details.

“Private Brandi Wells, killed by the bugs as she covered our escape when the bugs jumped us in the habitat,” Zoe explained.

“I’ll need a detailed report of that,” Burden replied as he noted the change in the platoon’s fighting strength, “maybe get her a medal or something,” Burden noticed the look on Zoe’s face that seemed to ask, a life for a piece of metal? “For her folks,” Burden explained, “something to remember her by.”

“I don’t think they’ll forget her, I won’t, Kandi certainly won’t,” Zoe said.

“Missing in action?” Burden knew it was best to get this stuff over with, don’t dwell on it until later when they’d all be able to say goodbye in their own way.

“Private Sam Rispoli,” Zoe sighed, “just disappeared when the bugs hit us, MIA, she’s probably KIA now. If the bugs didn’t get her the nuke definitely did.”

“I’ll post her as MIA until we can sort things out and do a proper head count,” Burden shrugged, “you never know maybe she got out before…”

“Yeah, whatever…” Zoe slumped to the ground, “…you got a smoke?” Burden shook his head, “Pity.”

“I gotta candy bar,” Burden searched through his pockets and pouches for the elusive confectionary, “or I did have…”

“Doesn’t matter,” using her rifle as a walking stick, Zoe levered herself to her feet once more, “my mom always told me never to take candy from old guys,” she gave a bitter laugh, her mom would probably tell her not to stand too close to a nuke when it went off too. “Anyway I better check on my people…”

“Shuttles started its decent,” Burden called, “it’ll be here in about five minutes…”

“Roger that,” Zoe acknowledged Burden’s call with a wave over her shoulder, “I’ll be there.”

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