Swarm

It’s Wednesday, so that means story day! This time it’s a Sci-Fi story, set on an alien world, in the future, involving humans and an alien race. This story will be the longest I’ve posted thus far at around 7100 words. Because of its length I’ve had to put in a number of page breaks. Not sure if this is how I’ll do this from now on (as the next few stories are longer). I may instead have to break them up and post a new section each week, but we’ll see. OK, that was way too much rambling, so without further ado, here is Swarm.

The world is so alien with its magenta six inch high grass billowing in the warm breeze, while the grey barked trees, leafless and sinewy, remain motionless. Three moons hang across the horizon’s orange sky with a blue sun lingering brightly between the two left most moons.

“I hate bugs!” Josh exclaims as he takes aim and unleashes four three round bursts from his eighteen round pulse rifle. The 8.52 rounds explode from the bullpup rifles muzzle with a blazing yellow flash. The armour piercing rounds cross the distance of several hundred feet in little more than a blink of an eye. The majority of each burst finds their targets, which explode into green goo that stains the ground below the bodies that once housed the blood. The sound of the detonation is wet and disgusting, much like the smell which can only be described as being akin to a mixture of rotten eggs and fermenting yeast.

“They’re not bugs.” Frank calls over his shoulder as he too fires off several bursts of his assault rifle. Frank, unlike Josh, doesn’t aim the weapon in his hands. Instead he sprays the smaller calibre 4.88 rounds that tear from the barrel with a revving spit as he swings the weapon left and right. Difference is that maybe only half of the bullets make lethal contact with the aliens that are swirling toward them en masse. Frank though, doesn’t care about his bullet hosing seeing as each of his assault rifles magazines holds ninety four rounds of the composite ammunition.

“Swarm coming in.” Sasha announces as she faces a different direction to both Josh and Frank.

She is covering them from their flank as the ten legged aliens skitter towards them. The squad had picked this position, a low hill, in the heat of the moment as the swarms of aliens had forced them into a retreat from their original position. But that original position, long since lost, had been early this morning and they haven’t had a letup from the aliens since.

“Lyra. Lyra! What are you doing?” Sasha calls to her younger sister who is a few feet from her trying to reload her weapon.

“It’s jammed.” Lyra calls back without diverting her focus from her weapon as she tries desperately to wrench the trapped bullet casing free.

“Get your ass back here!” Sasha roars before adding. “That’s an order.”

“No. I’ve almost…” Lyra says as she manages to prize the bullet casing free. It leaps into the air, spiralling end over end.

Lyra watches it until she realises how close the swarm are and instinctively throws her rifle into the air, spinning it as she does, so that she can grasp the barrel which she clings firmly with both hands moments before she starts swinging it, violently. The butt of her rifle slashes across the first row of skittering aliens, the sight of which make her skin crawl. They go flying as the rifle butt makes contact, but Lyra doesn’t stop there as she continues to swing and sweep the rifle back and forth, clearing the area directly at her feet as she retreats back to the rest of her squad. As Lyra continues her backpedal one of the aliens leaps at the side of her head, its razor sharp front six legs slashing at the helmet protecting her face and head.

Lyra can hear the scraping sound of its bone claw appendages against the hardened metal which makes her wince even as she violently throws her head from side to side. The motion dislodges the alien critter just in time for Frank to cover her by laying down a spray, literally, of bullets from his freshly inserted magazine.

“Ready up kid.” Frank calls as he steps in front of Lyra to provide cover so she can reload.

Lyra takes the hint and does just that as she slides her last nine round .50 calibre magazine into the long rifle, cursing as she does.

“I’m nearly out.” Lyra calls to inform the rest of her squad.

“Side arm!” Sasha calls back as she frantically turns this way and that trying to cover them from the steepest side of the hill. The aliens are unfazed by the angle of the near vertical ascent that is only a couple metres high. If only humans could conquer things so easily, she thinks, as she fires, shifts target and then fires again.

Lyra pulls her sidearm, which she knows is fully loaded, tossing her long rifle across her back as she does. Nevertheless she checks the slide to make sure she isn’t about to get a repeat of her long rifle jam but this time with her sidearm. She breathes a sigh of relief as she confirms that it is clear of any jam as she appears at Frank’s side, just in time as he needs to reload.

She has no idea how he hasn’t managed to expunge all his ammunition, especially with the way he indiscriminately fires walls of bullets, but she’s thankful he isn’t as she takes aim and fires off single eleven millimetre rounds. Each finds their mark, which in response detonate with a fountain of green blood. She’s so glad she can’t smell it through the filtration filters in her combat helmet. She’d had the displeasure once and it had nearly resulted in her losing her stomach.

“What we going to do?” Josh asks as he feels his concentration slipping. He knows he’s tired. Between the hours of running and the near endless firefights his body isn’t going to let him continue much longer, even if he is determined not to die here.

“Withdraw?” Frank questions.

“To where!” Josh responds.

“Captain?” Franks calls to Sasha whose primary weapon is spent as she now fires off rounds from her fourteen round sidearm, all while trying to think of an answer she can give.

“Sash.” Lyra says trying to get her older sisters attention.

“Sis.” Lyra then barks a little too late for Sasha to realise what she is trying to make Sasha aware of, as a giant ten legged alien, the height of a human races toward her.

Lyra turns to fire but can’t get an angle on the alien as Sasha’s body is blocking her. Lyra goes to roll so she can get a better angle but at that moment Frank howls in pain.

Lyra turns to find his suit has been ruptured by another large ten legged alien. Two of its bone claw appendages stabbed through his thigh. Lyra fires three shots, all of which hit their mark, but the small calibre bullets do nothing to the bone-like outer shell of the alien, as two more bone claws stab Frank through the back, impaling him. He lets out a gasp as his body twitches and then he coughs, thick dark blood spews onto the inside of his visor, his face hidden by it. Lyra screams and roars as she continues moving forward, firing, but the rounds do nothing as another large alien falls on Frank, impaling the other side of his torso in the moments before both aliens pull in opposite directions. His body is torn apart in seconds with a sickening tear.

“NOOOOOOO!!” Lyra screams as something knocks her to the floor. Her head goes into a daze as she feels the world around her spin. Then she remembers her sister Sasha and the alien that had been right on her. Lyra snaps her head to her left, but feels only dizziness as a shadow looms over her. Lyra prepares for the worst, sure her death is imminent.

“Come on Lyra, you gotta get up.” Josh shouts as his weapon threatens to drown out his words.

Josh isn’t aiming anymore. He doesn’t need to. The aliens are too close now and too large.

“Where’s Sash?” Lyra manages as her dizziness begins to subside. It feels like hours to her as she continues to blink, hoping that will hasten progress.

“Right here sis.” Sasha says as she appears in Lyra’s vision.

It takes Lyra a few seconds to realise what she’s looking at, but when she does, dread consumes her as she reaches towards her older sisters’ tattered right cheek. It’s a mess of gore with tendon, muscle and bone visible. The aliens bone claws having managed to tear right through Sasha’s combat helmet, which she is still wearing. The medical systems of the helmet are pumping Sasha’s system full of painkillers, but they are barely doing a thing for her. She can feel the pain, all of it, and can guess what her face looks like as she hauls Lyra back to her feet. Sasha tries to force a smile but she is sure it is more of a grimace. Her younger sister looks shocked, so that means her face really must look bad.

“Come on. We’ve got to go.” Sasha says as she forces the sidearm back into Lyra’s hands.

Lyra nods unable to find her voice and speak. She fears what she might say if she does. Truth be told she feels like crying having seen the damage to her sisters’ face. This isn’t right, she tells herself as Sasha taps on Josh’s shoulder. The act is a squad signal which calls that they are ready to move and with that Josh turns his head.

“Josh!” Sasha calls as her eyes go wide.

Josh snaps his head back just in time to see a bone claw stab through his right foot. He screams in agony as he falls back, shooting. The alien detonates as he continues to fire.

He tries to wrench his foot free now that it is pinned to the hard ground beneath them, but he can’t.

“Cover. I’ll get you free.” Sasha orders as Josh continues to fire with little more than a pained grunt by way of confirmation.

Sasha meanwhile, drops low at his side so she isn’t impeding his line of sight. She studies his foot as dark crimson bubbles from the wound. Josh winces in pain as he continues to fire, reload and then fire again.

Lyra also provides cover fire with her long rifle, which is back in her hands once more. She quickly takes aim and then fires a single round at the closest and largest of the aliens. One shot, one kill. Seven targets down. She’s pleased that even their hardened bone shells can’t resist the bullets in her long rifle rounds, though she knows she only has two left.

“I’m going nowhere fast Cap.” Josh offers after a number of howls during which Sasha has tried to get his foot free, without success.

“Don’t you dare Josh.” Sasha fires back refusing to accept his words.

“You know it, and I know it.” Josh retorts as he loads his last magazine into the bullpup rifle in his hands.

“Bullshit! I’m not leaving you.” Sasha roars incensed by his words.

“Save your sister.” Josh says pulling Sasha close, only now realising how bad her right cheek is. He manages to suppress a grimace, but only just, as he looks her in the eyes.

“Fuck!” Sasha says as she hangs her head.

“Gimme the nades.” Josh orders now. He knows it will be the first and last time he ever gets to give Sasha an order.

“What! No!” Lyra spits shocked at what he is obviously planning to do.

“You know it’s the only way Cap.” Josh reasons.

“You can’t hold them off.” Josh continues as Sasha thinks harder than she has ever thought before. There has to be another way, she tells herself, as she desperately searches for it. Then suddenly the voice in her head replies that it really is the only way. Sasha hates to accept it, but knows Josh and the voice in her head are right.

“Here.” Sasha says. Her voice is filled with resignation as she shoves the grenade belt into Josh’s arms in the moments before she jumps back to her feet and before Lyra can protest throws herself at her younger sister.

The tackle from Sasha takes Lyra clean off her feet as they leave the confines of the nearly swarmed hill that had been their position. They tumble down the far side of the hill, rolling through the smaller aliens, whose bodies are crushed beneath the weight of the sister’s heavy battle suits. The world spins over and over for both of them until they finally come to a halt, their momentum finally having run out.

Lyra somehow manages to spring to her feet so that she can sprint back for Josh but she only manages four steps before an enormous explosion of red and orange balloons, the shockwave from the detonation takes Lyra off her feet again as she is thrown back a few metres, screaming as she goes.

Her body slams hard into one of the leafless trees. Unsurprisingly it’s just as unforgiving as any other tree she has ever seen. The wind knocked out of her as her visions goes blurred again. She shakes her head; eyes closed hoping that the act will clear her vision.

“Ly, its ok.” Sasha says from somewhere.

Lyra isn’t sure if her sisters voice is real or just a memory as she opens her eyes once more, her vision now clear as she scrambles onto all fours, the pain in her back horrific.

Lyra tries to stand but can’t get off all fours as her breathing labours and she tastes blood in her mouth. She can’t even summon enough energy to lift her head and look for her sister, the last remaining member of her squad.

I have to, Lyra tells herself as she tries to gather what little strength she still possesses as she struggles to lift her head. It’s all she can do, but as soon as she does, she wishes she hadn’t, as before her are the aliens. They’ve somehow encircled her. She doesn’t know how. She is sure she hasn’t been down that long.

“Ly…it’s going to be ok.” Lyra hears Sasha say.

Lyra casts her straining neck around until she sees her sister, her eyes closing tightly when she does. She tells herself this isn’t real in the moments before she opens her eyes again only to find that Sasha is still sat there, an exposed root from a downed leafless tree impaled through her abdomen. The root is soaked in blood, her sisters’ blood, which is beginning to pool around her.

“Sash.” Is all Lyra manages as her voice breaks into little more than a whisper.

“It’s ok sis.” Sasha manages between ragged breaths.

Lyra tries to crawl toward her fatally wounded sister but as she does the aliens move a step closer.

“Don’t.” Sasha urges her sister, feeling the pain in her gut throb. She knows she isn’t going to make it. Her little sister is all that matters now.

“Sash.” Lyra says with tears in her eyes and a lump in her throat.

“Stay. You move…they’ll attack.” Sasha says with greater ease now. She knows that means that she won’t last much longer, as she pulls a detonator from her waistband.

“No sis. Don’t do this.” Lyra reasons with several shakes of her head, as she feels her heart thunder from deep within her chest.

“I have to. I promised mom. Goodbye sis.” Sasha says just before her thumb begins to press down on the detonators button.

“NOOOOOOO!!!” Lyra howls as one of the ten legged aliens leaps from the tree above Sasha, impaling her with all of its bone claws, stopping her from activating the detonator.

Lyra screams with a mixture of rage and pain as she curses and cries at the death of her sister.

“Kill me!” She begs of the aliens who are still lined up in front of her.

“Do it!” She bellows attempting to bay them into murder, seeing as they did it so easily with her sister and friends, her squad, her family.

“What are you waiting for?” She demands to know in the moments before she lifts her combat helmet off, revealing her vibrant green eyes and thick dark brown hair cut in a short bob. Her thin pink lips stained red by her own blood.

“Come on!” She roars as she tries to hurl her combat helmet at the swarm before her. But her helmet never leaves her hand as it instead comes to be slammed down into the dirt, from which the magenta grass is still rustling peacefully.

“Why?” Lyra asks as she falls back onto her backside so she is now sat again. Her limbs too tired to hold her on all fours any longer.

“WHY!?” She screams at the top of her lungs, spittle thrown from her bared white teeth.

But Lyra gets no answers as the aliens remain in position, staring at her with their seven black eyes formed into an inverted triangle shape along their insect-like heads.

Lyra shakes her head, which hangs low in defeat, as the aliens shift aside to create a path for the largest of their kind, twice the size of a human male, to skitter to the fore. The huge bulky alien with its ten legs and wide rear section all crusty and mauve in colour stops a few feet from Lyra. The woman raises her head praying that this is the end. A point at which she too can die alongside her sister as she looks straight into the seven black eyes, each as large as her fist, as they sit in the wide triangle shaped head. The bulky aliens’ jaws part to reveal four lines of chittering teeth.

“End this, please.” Lyra begs.

“Never.” A deep booming rumble of a voice retorts.

Lyra is sure her exhaustion has made her delusional. The aliens have never shown any ability to spoken before.

“We…swarm…kill…human. War…unending…victory…ours.” Lyra is sure the alien before her says much to her shock. But she can’t be sure as the annunciation of the words if off.

“Why? Why war?” Lyra asks. She is confused as to why she is asking the alien, that she is sure can’t actually speak, a question.

“Human…weak…human…invade. We…kill. Our…nature…our…way.” The alien says and Lyra is sure that it really is the alien speaking now and not some delusion from her exhaustion or grief.

“I don’t understand.”

“You…threat. We…serve…must…serve…masters…demand.” The alien replies surprisingly succinctly Lyra realises as the annunciation continues to improve.

“You’re being controlled? Maybe we can form an alliance and fight against your masters demands?” Lyra reasons, unsure what she is trying to achieve.

“Never!” The alien booms.

“You…will…join. Serve…masters.”  The alien continues as the other aliens around it chatter their jaws in agreement of its words.

“We won’t be slaves!” Lyra spits angrily.

“Die!” Alien roars as it lunges at her to deliver the killing blow.

Lyra wakes with a start, her head snapping left and right as she surveys the space around her, a cave, small yet warm.

“Hey kid, you ok?” Frank asks Lyra, as she sits bolt upright a few metres from his position around the fire.

“I know what they want.” Lyra declares.

“What who want?” Josh asks exchanging confused looks with Frank.

“The swarm.” Lyra answers while still attempting to ease her thundering heart, which she can hear booming in her ears noisily.

“Ly, what do you mean you know what they want?” Sasha says as she appears at Lyra’s side.

Lyra says nothing as she wraps her arms round her sisters’ neck and hugs her. It hadn’t even dawned on her who she’d been talking to, but now that she has it dawns on her that everything she has just experienced was neither a dream nor real, at least yet.

“It happened again Sash.” Lyra whispers into her sisters’ ear, who pulls back in the moments after, her face etched with surprise.

“You sure?” Sasha asks looking her younger sister in the eyes.

Lyra simply nods in response to her older sisters’ question as she looks at her soft features, thin nose and grey eyes, her hair pulled back into a black ponytail.

“We’re leaving.” Sasha then declares.

“What?” Both Frank and Josh return with surprise.

“What do you mean we’re leaving?” Josh then asks.

“Where too? Why?” Frank quickly adds.

“Command.” Sasha simply replies as she rises back to her full height.

“Like hell they’ll let us do that.” Josh replies.

“Oh they will. They know how special my sister is and they’ll want to hear this.” Sasha says with a nod to her sister, who can’t explain the joy she feels at having witnessed a vision that will have saved Josh, Frank and most of all her sister, Sasha.

It wasn’t been the first time Lyra had seen things that shouldn’t have been possible, and it wouldn’t be the last. At least that is what she hopes as she clambers to her feet. She knows Frank and Josh don’t understand. The last time Lyra had experienced such a vision had been years before they’d met, but command knew of her special, albeit sometimes unreliable at least in terms of frequency, gifts.

That’s why command had given the sisters explicit instructions that if Lyra experienced another vision they were to report back to them immediately, irrelevant of their current mission.

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