Chapter 4

I got up, reached for my M20C, and ran for the northern part of the bridge. Then it was just waiting in anticipation. I was anxious. I knew the attack was coming. Somewhere from the north. But when? Or maybe the defensive perimeter around the city would fend them off?

What about Andie? I hadn't spoken to her since I left for the asteroid. Was she really at Peary? Or maybe she was at Fort Byrd? Being a student, I suppose she probably was at Peary, and Peary was to the northeast. Would she be okay? Would they have enough soldiers to fend off any attacks? Would they try to evacuate the school? Would they sit tight? Would we have to help who knows how many people across these three bridges to the southern half of the city?

This seemed like the perfect example of an old Navy quote I used to hear so much, Hurry up and wait. My adrenaline had shot up within seconds, and now all I was doing was sitting behind a crate, waiting for an attack, waiting for a blue flare, waiting for something to happen. As a result, all these thoughts flew through my head. Hypothetical situations, imagining what would happen if the worst occurred, then trying to think positively, but, in the back of my head, still knowing that I could very well die today, or worse, somebody I cared for could very well die today, and there'd be nothing I could do about it.

"Everybody listen up!" Sergeant Cricien yelled, "The charges are armed! Listen up for me; if we have to blow the bridge, you better hope you're not on it!"

The explosives that lined the bridge actually amused me. They were all connected with a wire and would explode in series. Our detonator was an old school plunger. Not even our electronic detonators worked properly. Three EOD guys from Fort Byrd rigged the plunger detonator and honestly, I wasn't even sure it could work. Didn't they use this type of thing in like the 1800s or something? It had a wooden case and a metal handle. If I saw it under any other circumstance, I would've just thought it was a lever for a door or something. An old door.

The sound of rifle fire continued furiously in the distance. Whatever was happening, it was happening. Gunfire wasn't sporadic; it was fast, frequent, and chaotic. I could only imagine what those guys were going through.

A blue flare was coming. I knew it had to be. There was no way that there could be that much gunfire without an overwhelming attacking force.

Then suddenly, the gunfire started to cease. It was subtle at first, but sure enough, everything started to quiet down. I looked to the sky for a green flare signaling the all clear. Maybe we had really survived their attack? Was there going to be any more waves? Did we just destroy the bulk of their force?

A blue flare shot into the sky.

No, this had to be a mistake. Why would there be a blue flare with no accompanying gunfire? They must have gotten their flares mixed up. I sat intently, waiting for a green one.

None came.

Seconds past. Then minutes. An eternity.


What happened? Did they not notice that they shot the wrong flare? What was going on?

All of a sudden, more red flares shot up into the sky, and the gunfire continued. But this time, the flares came from within Shackleton itself. Red stars flew over the roofs of the city.

I looked at Matt with a grim face, and he returned the look.

They had penetrated the perimeter. Fast.

I put my rifle in condition one; fully loaded, round in chamber, and ready to fire. I flicked the safety off.

My eyes scanned back and forth, looking for the first signs of the invaders.

A blue star shot into the sky. Then another, then another. Under any other circumstance, I would probably think they looked pretty cool, like slow moving comets.

I snapped back to reality as I saw what looked like hundreds, but was probably more like dozens, of people scurrying towards the bridge. Most were military, but there were a few civilians scattered in the mix.

"Come on!" Roe yelled, urging them on.

As the soldiers started to cross, I noticed they were taking up defensive positions across the bridge.

I felt my heart thumping in my chest. I didn't want to have to face these things again. Part of me wanted to just turn around and run, but my feet stayed planted into the ground.

There they were. The spiders. Jumping from building to building, cutting down everyone in their path.

I heard the sound of a flare light off behind me and whoosh into the sky.

"Fire!" I heard Sergeant Alicia Carter, second squad's squad leader yelled.

I gladly obliged and took aim. There were still people trying to run for the bridge, but they were all being cut down and if we waited for them to reach the bridge, the spiders would already be within jumping range of us. It was a lose-lose situation either way.

I took careful and precise shots, trying to avoid the people that were still in my line of fire. This would, under most circumstances, be considered a big no-no. I was flagging friendlies left and right with my rifle. Unfortunately, it couldn't be helped.

A spider jumped straight towards me as I took three shots at it. Not knowing if I had hit it, I fell backwards as the spider crashed into the crate I was behind. It looked dead, but I took another three shots to be sure.

I raised my rifle again and scanned back and forth. By now, everybody was either across the bridge or was dead. Nobody human in our field of fire anymore.

There were only a few spiders left. With a clear field of fire, they had nowhere to hide.

A massive amount of lead poured across the fissure, towards north Shackleton. Tracer rounds could be followed from muzzle to target, slamming into spiders and splintering the walls of buildings at over twenty-five hundred feet per second. They were cut down in a swath of burning metal.

"Cease fire!" somebody called. I released my trigger and repeated the order along the line. The deafening sound of gunfire was quickly replaced by the deafening sound of silence. The only thing that I could hear was the ringing in my ears. I could feel the burn of the bullet propellant on my hands and in my eyes.

Slowly, my eyes drifted from scanning for more enemies to the damage that we had just wrought. Buildings were peppered with bullet holes, windows were shattered, and doors were blown open. But that wasn't even the worst part.

Pools of red blood was splattered across the streets. People were lying facedown in the crimson pools, with huge gashes, slices, and punctures throughout their bodies. Next to them lay dozens of spiders, a greenish-blue ooze slowly flowing out of bullet wounds.

My vision blurred and I suddenly didn't feel well. I sat down on the ground and felt my stomach churn. Warm bile rose up my throat, and I leaned over and puked. I could hear other people in the distance heaving along with me, so at least I didn't feel very self-conscious about it.

I looked up just in time to see a green star launch into the sky.

Area secured.

The three moons of Amundsen were shining brightly in the cloudless night. The silver light reflected off the snow, and it gave it all a slightly blue tint.

Being completely dark, vice a few battery powered lights we managed to scavenge, the stars were in full view. It was almost amazing how much light was provided from just the moons and the stars themselves. The only other times I've ever been in a place so dark you could actually see every star in the sky was during trips to space, and when I had been out to sea on an actual seaborne warship.

Admittedly, there weren't many seaborne warships left in service. They were almost completely obsolete, now only used primarily on Earth. It was a rare treat to be on one during my lifetime. Though I don't think I could've handled being on a ship for months at a time, I did cherish what little time I did spend on it.

I fell to my back and stared up at the sky, getting lost in my thoughts. It felt like there were years between what happened earlier today and the present, though it really was only a few hours. Since then, we remained at the bridges. Nobody had ventured across to even police the bodies of our fallen comrades. It's not that we didn't care for them, but we didn't want to get attacked while dragging dead bodies across a bridge. We basically didn't want to get caught with our pants down. Though nobody admitted it, we were all scared.

Peary University had shot off a red flare about an hour ago. At least, I think it was Peary University. If it wasn't it was really close by. There was sporadic gunfire, but nothing too alarming, as far as I could tell. They hadn't yet shot a blue or green flare into the air, so all we could do was wait and watch.

I started thinking of my parents, and how they were both so supportive despite my lazy slacker attitude throughout life. I hadn't talked to them in weeks it felt like. Now I wasn't sure if I'd ever get to talk to them again.

My thoughts slowly drifted to my life during high school. How I had scrambled to find a date to prom, four days beforehand. How I had made a commitment to cram for my finals, only to get distracted by more entertaining activities. How I had stressed out about seemingly otherwise minor and mundane problems. And now, here I was, on an alien planet, fighting alien invaders, just trying to make it to tomorrow.

Although I did my best to avert my thoughts, I kept worrying about Andie. Who knows, maybe she was safe behind the gates of Fort Byrd? More than likely though, she was somewhere on the campus of Peary. Suddenly I had the grim thought that maybe she didn't survive the initial attack. I pushed the thought out of my mind and focused again on the stars.

Hawke walked over and stood over me. "Hey." He kicked my leg.

I shot him a look, "Don't fuckin' kick me."

"Whoa," He put his hands up innocently, "No disrespect intended, GM2."

I shook my head and looked back up at the sky.

"Just letting you know you're on watch in twenty."

I looked at him again and said, "Thanks."

He turned around and walked away, muttering something, expletive I'm sure, under his breath.

I don't know why I had snapped at Hawke like that. I was usually a pretty relaxed person. I guess it was just the stress of combat. I made a mental note to apologize later, even though I knew I probably wouldn't.

I got up and stretched. I was on the southern end of the bridge.

"Sokolov." I said.

He turned around to face me. He had been on watch, observing the bridge with Hawke.

I continued, "Get some rest."

He nodded silently, before getting up and leaving.

I took his place behind a barrier we had set up, and stared across the bridge, watching for movement. After another ten minutes, Rellard had shown up to relieve Hawke, easing the silent tension between us. It was probably the longest I've ever seen Hawke both silent and conscious at the same time.

"Where are you from?" I finally broke the silence, speaking to Rellard.

"New Haven." He replied. It was a mid-rim planet and one of the most populous. "You?"

I unsnapped my helmet and took it off, trying to get more comfortable. "Earth."

There was a long silence between us, before he finally asked, "So why did you join?"

I laughed and shook my head. "I really don't know. I guess it was a combination of my need for a job and an odd feeling of patriotism."

Rellard nodded, "I have a degree in mass communications, I had three job offers after I graduated, all at major news networks. Instead, I wanted to serve in the military. I thought it was a good idea at the time. Give back, you know? I didn't think I'd be on a backwater planet shooting at giant alien arachnids."

Two red streams shot into the air in the distance. Two more flares in the northeast, it looked like from the exact same location.

"Two red flares? Is that a special signal or something?" I asked.

Rellard shrugged.

Gunfire erupted in the distance. The cracking of rifle and machine gun fire echoed through the otherwise silent streets of Shackleton.

Two more flares shot up into the sky. This time, it was both red and blue.

I turned to Rellard, and he returned my look. "What in the hell does that mean?" I said.

"Well, it can't be good."

Sergeant Cricien came running up to us, and ducked behind the barrier. "Hey guys, you doing alright?"

I kept looking at the horizon as Rellard replied, "Yeah, just trying to figure out what's going on."

Sergeant Cricien pat us both on the back. "Don't worry about it. Our only worry is if those spiders come here." He turned and left back towards the rest of the soldiers.

I looked at Rellard, "Shouldn't we send help? What if they're in trouble? There's a lotta of people there."

"Regardless, I don't know how much help we could provide. And if they break through us, they could potentially reach Byrd."

I turned back to the horizon, and listened to the gunfire.

It continued for the next hour. At this point, I was getting anxious. I didn't know how much ammo they had left or how long they could hold the spiders off for.

A beam of light started waving in the distance.

Rellard and I raised our rifles and pointed it at the source.

"Friendly!" we heard someone yell from across the bridge, "Friendly!"

We both lowered our rifles as the silhouette of a body came out from behind a building and started running in our direction.

"Stop!" Rellard and I yelled as he reached the bridge.

He obeyed our order and put his hands up. "I'm a marine! Lance Corporal Isaac Hester!"

Rellard ran up to him to restrain him and bring him back, as I covered him from the barrier.

"Cricien!" I yelled. Sergeant Cricien came running up promptly. "He came running from across the bridge."

Rellard sat him down behind the barrier. He was panting furiously.

"I'm Lance Corporal Hester." He reiterated. "I'm from one of the units at Peary. Me and three other guys were sent out to find you. We need help." He took a few deep breaths to try and relax himself, "We're getting murdered out there. I don't know how long more we can last, but we need help or all those people will be killed."

"Where are the other three guys?" Sergeant Cricien asked.

Hester shook his head, "They're all gone. I'm the only one left."

Cricien looked at me, then Rellard.

At this point I was very anxious. We had to help them.

Sergeant Cricien turned towards the squad, "Sokolov!"

He came running up to us. "You're gonna be my runner. Go to Lieutenant Rivera and request that we send a team to help them out at Peary."

"That'll take too long." I blurted out, "We've gotta be decisive. Send a team now and tell Lieutenant Rivera that reinforcements were sent."

Sergeant Cricien shook his head.

"Come on," I pleaded, "Send me then, and after Sokolov gets back, send the reinforcements."

"There's no guarantee that we'll get to send reinforcements in the first place." Sergeant Cricien replied.

"Just send me, come on." I looked at the marine, and he nodded.

"Yeah I can go with him, lead him back to Peary. We're getting killed out there; we don't have much time left."

Sergeant Cricien looked deep in thought. Finally, he turned around. "Carter!" he yelled.

Sergeant Carter ran up and they discussed the situation between themselves for a few minutes. I kept looking back towards Peary, worried out of my mind.

"Bahler, Hawke, Davis, and Hiura, get up here." Sergeant Cricien finally yelled. We all gathered around him. "Alright." He looked at me. "You wanna go? You're going. Corporal Hester will lead your direction to Peary University, but Corporal Hiura, you're in charge. Load up, bring extra ammo. I'm gonna send Sokolov over to Lieutenant Rivera, requesting to send more reinforcements.

"Hiura—" the Corporal turned towards Cricien, "Use your judgement. Make good calls. You'll be alright." He nodded in reply.

I ran and got loaded up, making sure to fill every pocket I had with extra ammunition. I was pumped. Adrenaline was coursing through my veins. I was ready for this.

I hoped.

Author's Note: Thanks to all my reviewers. Just wanted to let you guys know that I've come up with a lot of really good ideas that would probably make this story a lot better, but I don't think I'll incorporate them unless I do a rewrite of the story. As some of you may (or may not) know, I'm in the military and I'm about to deploy, so if I don't finish the story before I deploy, I won't get to update it until I get back. However, I will have my laptop during deployment so I'll be able to continue working on it, so a rewrite is very possible.

Also, I just wanted to let you guys know that this is basically a rewrite of my old, old, OLD, story, The Predators. If you read the chapters in it called The Battle of Paris and The Turning Point, you'll probably recognize a LOT of similarities. I don't particularly think my Predators story was very good, however. I mean, I did write it in high school.

One last thing, you may notice that in all my stories I try to cut down on the swearing as much as I can (especially for military stories). It's a conscious decision. Now, don't get me wrong, in person, I swear in almost every sentence (probably something I should try to stop . . .), but this is the internet and I don't know who could be reading, so I try to keep it as clean as I can, and I try not to make it excessive. Just an FYI.

Anyway, thanks again to all my reviewers.