The ominous message rang out over the sub-space sound amplifiers at Strato Base Epsilon, which lay a scant twenty miles away from the decisive war. The words shot across the room, penetrating everyone's ears, and chilling their bloodstream. They fluttered from one person to the next, slicing their nerves of steel, then hopping to the horrified passengers below the bridge. Despite the fact that these were cold, hard space marines, they couldn't believe what they were hearing. Those were their best men being slaughtered out there..
"This is impossible! . . . How the hell could this happen? . . . Who gave these orders? . . . Nuke them, that is the only way of being sure the others don't get through! . . . Stay calm people, just stay . . . That's it, its all over."
Incessant rambling broke out in the room as this once strong platoon of the "universe's finest" became hysterical. The situation, as declared by whoever sent the SOS, was insuperable for those who were in the battle center. For those in the Strato
Base, the situation was about to become worse.
"This base is only twenty miles from that war zone, we will not give orders for
nuclear counter-measures . . ." yelled Colonel Hithers as he whipped around to see a stupefied lieutenant hastily working the communication controls.
"N7659MS08A, code Nemma, TNCM order, 0300 hours," were the words that plummeted out of his mouth and into the headset hugging his ears.
"What have you done?! Those were the orders for a full nuclear purge over this area! Everything within five hundred miles will be disfigured by the radiation. First thing you will do when we get back, soldier, is resign your postage and burn off your Zip." cried Colonel Hithers.
"With all do respect, sir, we won't be making it back," responded the panic-stricken officer.
Suddenly the room became quiet. Being faced with the overpowering force that lay a short twenty miles away and the possibility that it might attack this base was one thing. The terrifying reality of being rained upon by the menacing Tactical Nuclear Control Measure device orbiting this forsaken planet only fifty miles above was quite another. These marines knew this apocalyptic day might arrive, but never thought that the simple mission they set down on this arid, stony planet would bring about this disturbing end. It would only be a few minutes, a few precious minutes before they would meet this severe boundary of life.
As was customary, all the marines in this seemingly acrid room bowed their heads in complete silence. Seeing their rescuers standing in this solemn position, some of the exasperated passenger became calm and mimicked the marines' stance. Other passengers, who still had some part of the family with them, gripped their loved ones in one long, last hug. Tears invaded the welcoming eyes of each and every crew member and slowly, softly caressed the cheeks as each perfect ball of both love and regret fell into eternity. This was the end.
Abruptly, the somewhat comforting silence that pervaded this scene was shattered with another transmission from the heart of the blazing battle that went on not so far away. None of the space marines believed their cautious ears, but some of the more faithful passengers perked up and listened to the sub-space sound amplifiers that covered the room. Static. Harsh static filled the sounds that slipped through these machines. Had there been a transmission? Or was it just a tormenting hope?
As soon as the optimistic people sank back into their sad, self-pitying positions, the dead silence broke again. This time everyone listened as excited cries rang out from the sound system.
"I repeat, the creature has been destroyed, the creature has been destroyed. God, it feels good to be alive, sir!"
Some of the tired passengers started to smile, others became horrified, while Colonel Hithers simply shook his head and woefully muttered, "Those poor men, they don't have a clue about the oblivion that we have all been consigned to."
One last message returned from the battle center in which the terrible monstrosity was downed. The crew of the Strato Base Epsilon sat in disbelief as the wonderful feeling of life and relief permeated throughout their bodies:
"Sir, I was informed that Strato Base ordered a TNCM. I was then informed that the transmission sent by Strato Base to the TNCM device has been intercepted and disabled."
The entire crew of Strato Base Epsilon began to cheer. Everyone clapped and shouted thanks to the savior of their respective religions. In the midst of the commotion, a now smiling Colonel Hithers responded to the marine in the battle center who reported
this success, "Good job, marine! Do you know how this was done?"
After a short time which seemed like an eternity to the excited colonel, a reply tore its way through the static of the sub-space sound amplifiers, "Yeah, uh huh. He won't? . . . Sir, the man responsible for intercepting and disabling Strato Base's transmission will not divulge that information."
Perplexed, Colonel Hithers inquired, "Why? Who is this person?"
The response came quicker this time, yet more enthusiastically:
"What? Huh? That's amazing! . . . Sir, this man, he single-handedly annihilated the Zerichia creature!"
Slightly annoyed at this marine's indignity in his reply, Colonel Hithers asked once more, "Marine, who is this man?"
"Hunter, sir. The man who destroyed Zerichia and saved these people's lives goes by the handle of Hunter."