; Mythgraveyard

Weyland-Yutani incident file 4075080009 - Luyten 205-128

Recorded Logs - S. Darwin, Commander, 10278

05/08/2174 - Whatever happened on LV426, it was presumed that Lieutenant Ellen Ripley succeeded in whatever it was she was trying to wipe out - for the "good of mankind" as that famous last tribunal suggested. she's still a whispered name in pilot circles, and an over-developed sense of humanitarianism is still referred to as "pulling a Ripley". The detonation of the Southeast atmosphere generator did take out the area where she alleged the hostiles were operating (and the colony with it... whether anyone really perished in that final blast, only the company knows) - but the relatives and friends of those at the Acheron colony will never forgive Ms Ripley. I was visiting the company HQ in Seattle when news of the colony's destruction came home. I saw the anger on the faces of that crowd of people, all with banners and hoardings, all clamouring for political blood.

The company as usual nailed a big lid on the whole affair, and nobody except a few key people in Weyland-Yutani and the united systems intelligence agencies knew what had really went on. There was talk at high levels of another incident in the Fiorina system, but the company nailed an even tighter lid on that one, as far as I know, not even United Systems Military had their fingers in that particular pie, despite being the perpetual puppets of the omnipotent Company. It's much warmer out here in the silence however, and if my outfit never have to tangle with any hostile ET's then I can count my blessings. Like most USM forces these days His Majesty's 4th Royal Offworld Regiment (or simply the Space Marines if you want to use the tabloid label) are required to work alongside the company when the divine comedy of corporate politics requires it - but I joined the navy to fight for peace, not science.

We're moving out on a routine frontier patrol tomorrow, and I'm spending my last hours of earth dock in my hometown of London. London used to be in the United States of Europe, but the complacent European government had spent so much time ignoring its own people that in the mid 21'st century it was pitifully easy for the Separatist armies from Britain, Germany, France and a host of other countries working together to stage a coup. In the first all-out European war since the 1940's, the citizens of all the European countries overthrew the coalition government (and the unionist countries! no more Belgium! no more Italy!) and restored monarchy to their own countries, working on the premise that it had served them well for a thousand years previously and might as well be given another chance.

Though long and bloody, the European conflict was highly successful (as it is ironically still called, as there is no such nation anymore - say Europe in any of the former European countries and you're looking to get dragged into the nearest alley for some sociogeographic re-education). The restoration of their national identities had brought a much needed sense of pride to all countries, and instead of the traditional bickering, the relations of all the mid-western countries are now much more cordial than they have ever been.

A lot of Earth is untidy, even post-apocalyptic these days. Of course there never was an apocalypse, just a hell of a lot of neglect. America took the worst of the decay, and now whole cities are nothing but slums. Los Angeles, once the party capital of the world, was so thoroughly destroyed by gang warfare that the state disowned it and evacuated the remaining citizens to San Francisco. New York faired little better, especially when the people of New Jersey decided that a wave of immigrants from their neighbours was not to be tolerated and started a minor civil war. The Leaders Of The Free World had grown almost as complacent as the European government, and the election smiles of the various presidents told of the complete lack of regard for the deteriorating populace. It was here in the late 21st century that the real space race began, with as many as they could escaping into space, away from the "madness of earth".

But the worst is over for London. The air raids and the scars from ground fighting still pockmark the capital, but the rebuilding was swift and total. Those scars that are left are an intentional reminder, like the rubble of Downing Street which is still reputed to hold the body of the pitiful Prime Minister Euan Blair, which nobody bothered to clean up after the battle of Whitehall, a political turning point in the war. The skyscrapers are back though, which I never liked. Not after seeing my Grandad's pictures of the London of the 20th century. On a good day you could see for miles from the top of Denmark hill. London always was beautiful.

I suppose I had better report back to gateway in an hour or so. I love the banality of the Greenwich Commercial Space docks, Not like the harsh cold steel of the military docks in Aberdeenshire and Nottinghamshire. If I get a cab quickly I'll be able to take the 16:45 up to gateway. That station will be a stark contrast to the lazy warmth of early autumn in London, but I'm not paid to sit on my arse in cafes on the strand.

(MAP 1 - "Oratorio"

30/8/2174 - 22 days out into this 4-month patrol and the ship's comscans have picked up something. A scheduled cargo flight bound earthward from McAllen, the USCS Oratorio, has transmitted a highly bizarre distress call. We were only able to make out its approximate position before the signal was cut short, so I suppose we have to go check it out. At least I get some peace and quiet on this tub whilst the rest of the platoon are in hypersleep, but I kinda resent having to do my own laundry. I guess that's the price you pay for being woken up to read a priority signal. The Lupis is the sixth ship I've been assigned to in my ten-year career, and as battleboats go it's not at all bad.
The British-designed American-built company-owned USM vessel is at least in good condition. Lupis has a formidable arsenal including amongst other things some economy-sized nukes, three dropships - but no APCs (cutbacks are the watchword for the military these days), longer range scanners than previous classes, a turret mounted induction-plasma cannon and some formidable boarding grapples. A badass ship she may be, but I still wouldn't want to live here (especially since the speech synthesiser of the shipboard central computer sounds maddeningly like an old girlfriend of mine). Its another 14 days flight time to the source of the transmission, so its back to the freezer for me. Not before a cup of coffee though - everybody says that navy coffee rots your guts but I kinda like the adrenaline rush.

I checked the Oratorio's manifest with sol control, and it's a big bastard. 1.5 million tonnes of admantium ore payload plus another 26,000 tonnes of ship. Whatever's gone astray on that sucker will be a bitch to sort out. I can only hope that these hostile ET rumours are a pile of horseshit... this is too similar to the nostromo incident for my liking.

15/9/2174 - After locating the oratorio we were surprised to find the ship almost completely intact with all comms systems functioning normally. After a brief search we were unable to locate the crew, but they (or their remains) must be on board somewhere as the shuttle is still docked and in my experience nobody disappears off a ship in space (we would have seen the usual stains around the airlocks if that had taken place). The flight logs reveal almost as little as the search of the ship. Only that the crew's bioscans went dead one after the other in the space of about 2 days, and some fractured internal communications - almost none of them discernible. At one point an attempt to vent the ship was talked about, but seems to have not taken place. My men are understandably jumpy about this situation, and I see no alternative but to trace back along the ship's flight path, covering McAllen Colony in the Luyten 205-128 system, the Acheron colony on LV426, and the Harper colony at -45'13677. I wish people would give these systems some more imaginative names.

USMHQ back earthside have given us permission to make this case our own, and I must admit a personal curiosity about the fate of the Oratorio's crew, having given up on locating them or their bodies. We left the ship on autopilot back to earth space where it will be picked up by a notified salvage team. Despite the protests of some of the more acerbic of my marines, we will continue on to the Oratorio's last destination, the McAllen colony in the Luyten system. I have already sub-spaced a message to the colony and am expecting a reply within the next two hours.

ADDENDUM - it has been five hours since I made the call to the McAllen colony and there has still been no reply. This is getting predictable. I have requested access to the files on the LV426 incident from USM NET, just in case we do run into one of these alleged Hostile ET's...

ADDENDUM - Bastards. USM refuse to grant me access to those LV426 files. As usual they treat their ground troops like fungus - keep us in the dark and feed us on bullshit. Fortunately the rest of the platoon went into hypersleep before I subspaced the colony, so they wont get any more nervous than they already were. I wish I could say the same for myself.

Ah well. Back into the freezers for another fortnight of cold sleep. I must have gone into hypersleep a hundred times and I still hate it. You ever wake up from a long sleep and feel like you've not slept at all? Hypersleep renders you unconscious - nothing more. It brings with it none of the revitalising rest that a good night's natural sleep will give you. But worse than that are the dreams. I can't remember ever having a dream I found pleasant whilst in the freezers. Some boffins reckon it's all to do with the body not having the option of waking. A kind of mental claustrophobia. But it beats spending months alone in a dark ship with only the autopilot for company. At least we in the corps have a variety of inanities to choose from.

(MAP 2 - "McAllen" -

30/9/2174 12:10hrs - We arrived in orbit around Luyten 205-128 a few hours ago, and we've spent the last hour prepping to drop. Still more radio silence from the colony. I'm taking a detail of troops down to investigate and I've briefed them on what I suspect we may encounter. There were a few jokers - there always are - but on the whole they're taking it well. I'm trying to be a good leader to them, but without all the facts, I can only give orders, not allay their fears.

30/9/2174 23:45hrs - Nothing could have prepared us for what we have encountered in the last 12 hours. The initial shock of finding the colony complex lifeless and looking like a battleground was far surpassed by the sudden appearance of not one but two hordes of hostile ET's the like of which I had never imagined even in my most fevered hypersleep dreams. Their behaviour was immediately threatening, and the description that Pvt Dale gave of the twin seas of dark chinituous bodies scrambling towards the colonies from the east and west outfields was chilling. We prepared to fend off a massive attack, aware that against such a force of any kind of creature we were likely to come off second best, when the twin tides met in the middle of the complex in a huge clash of blackened organic armour, completely ignoring us (luckily we hadn't fired a shot or things might have turned out differently - it was not the last time that day I thanked god for the discipline of my platoon).

They proceeded to rip into eachother with a ferocity I have seldom seen outside the insect kingdom. As the wounded fell, huge gouts of yellowish blood sprayed the ground and appeared to corrode and burn whatever it touched. Obviously a dangerous customer, this creature. After about ten minutes of cowering behind the colony superstructure we realised that the creatures were continuing to ignore us, and had no interest in anything but the complete destruction of one another. We could make out one feature that distinguished the creatures that had come in over the east gate from those that had come from the west - their colour. The eastern "tribe" was a lighter, reddish hue, whilst the westerners were more of a deep mottled blue. Apart from this we could not see any differences between the two - well... one could only call them armies. If my biology is correct, I think this represents the first evidence of race war amongst a single species apart from man. One wonders what these two tribes have against one another that their extinction is the only resolution - most animals choose flight over fight every time. In this creature I sense an unusual amount of malevolence - I would hate to say intelligence but for an even more unusual incident that occurred about a half-hour later.

The tide of the battle was turning. The red aliens were easily outweighing the blue aliens and the dwindling force of blues was retreating - back towards our position! We didn't want to hang around to be discovered by these terrible creatures and so we began to beat a retreat back towards our dropship. About 200 yards from the dropper we were confronted by at least fifty of the red aliens which appeared out of one of the many subterranean maintenance tunnels that criss-cross the complex. Fortunately my platoon were on razor sharp form and we wasted no time in gunning the bastards down. We took a few casualties from the acidic blood spatter, but no fatalities. Unfortunately the rest of the red alien force was also alerted to our presence, and we found ourselves fighting for our lives against the spindly horrors.

Luckily for us the hordes of reds had been significantly depleted by the fighting with the blues, and we were just about able to eliminate them although a few of us didn't make it (I couldn't be sure in the heat of battle but I think a few of the men were still alive when the reds dragged them down into the maintenance tunnels). It was in the eerie silence after the fighting that we noticed the blues. They were surrounding us, but not moving. They were sitting perfectly still, crouched low with their spine-like tails swaying and their stick-thin legs folded up past their long smooth heads. We had no idea what to expect from them, and it was a good two minutes before we plucked up the courage to begin edging our way back to the dropship. The blues followed us very slowly and at a distance, but left us enough space to board the dropper and clear out.

I am deeply puzzled by this behaviour from a creature who we had seen turn on its own and then upon us with such alarming savagery, but then again it was the reds who turned on us... it's a crazy theory but maybe these blues are actually grateful to us for taking out the reds.... But there will be time for such speculation later. I have more important things to think about at the moment such as caring for the wounded and talking to the rest of the men. All of them are shaken and I don't want to give them a chance to go to pieces.

1/10/2174 - spent the entirety of this morning in consultation with the medical officer - a synth called Abel. I can never get over the lack of emotions that synthetics show in battle conditions. I know it's only a product of their programming and probably more of an asset than a defect, but it gives me the creeps the way he can coldly consider the scientific merits of this creature we have encountered given the casualties we have sustained. He has been on the long-range scans for a few hours and has detected two large structures about 30km each to the east and west of the McAllen colony complex, which do not appear in any maps of the area. He postulates that these creatures could have built them, and if this is true it would suggest that they employ a social structure similar to earth insects; a hive society - except that hive societies in an insect environment do not usually war with eachother. If I only had access to those LV426 files I might be able to form a better impression, and I have sub-spaced USM net again requesting access and reporting our findings.

Since we are still in the dark here Abel has suggested we take a dropper with modified scanners and do a few flybys of these "hives". We are also concerned as to the whereabouts of the colonists as we failed to find any remains during our brief sweep of the complex. Hopefully we can pick up their locator signals from the dropper without actually landing. I'd like to go myself but I'm going to have to wait here for the return on that subspace to USM which should be here in about 6 hours. I'm sure I can put my faith in my boys not to screw up.

2/10/2174 17:10hrs - I am hoping that this mission is just an extremely unlucky one, and not anything to do with my bad judgement as commanding officer. The scan team in the first dropship have gone down about 5km southwest of the eastern hive structure. Communications with them was lost as they were finishing their sweep on the "red" hive, having already scanned the "blue" hive. The data feed from the dropper was highly informative and I believe we may have located all but a few of the colonists, and more worryingly some of our own men - their bio readouts are faint but they are unmistakably alive. As for the colonists, their locators do not have bioscan capability so we don't know what shape they're in. About sixty of the colonists were located in the blue hive, but the remaining 300 are located in the red hive along with five of our men. Judging from the manner in which our men were abducted I'm guessing that the colonists are not there of their own free will either.

The last communications we got from the team in the dropper did not sound enthusiastic, a cacophony of shouts and curses can be made out above the screaming of the wind, indicating that a hull breach must have forced them down. I hope for all our sakes that it was nothing to do with these creatures. No more time can be lost and the second dropper is being prepped. I am taking the full remaining compliment of troops down to retrieve the scan team as I do not want to be caught off guard again. Only Abel the science officer will stay aboard the Lupis to monitor the situation and await the reply from USM regarding the LV426 files. By the USM grant us access to those files I think we may have already found out more than we want to know about these things. Once we have retrieved the scan team we will retreat back to the Lupis and call for backup. This is turning out to be more than a single company of marines can handle.

MAP 3 - "Dropper Down"

3/10/2174 18:34hrs - This nightmare isn't over yet, and we're really in the shit right now. We found out what brought the other dropship down. We were coming in from the north edge of the canyon where the dropship went down when the ship was attacked. We were doing 200 knots and circling down at about a thousand feet. We could see the remains of the first dropper lying at the end of the huge ugly furrow in the canyon floor that its crash had carved out of the landscape. Lt. Lorentz called five blips on the local radar coming in sharp from above, and in seconds they were on us. After the event we identified the creatures as an aerial version of the red alien creatures we had already observed, but in the blur of the attack the only glimpses I saw of them gave me the impression of giant wasps, with ribbed insectile wings two a side like a dragonfly and a segmented abdomen tapering to a cruel hooked point, but retaining that evil curved skull and meatgrinder jaws characteristic of the McAllen alien. The initial clang of rending metal as the creatures struck the ship was quickly overtaken by the mingled sounds of their scrabbling claws on the plasteel armour of the hull and the flittering buzz of their massive wings. During the two or three seconds after the first impact all of us were frozen in terror, listening to the sounds of these insane things outside working their way in as easily as we would open a beer. Not even the lurching motion of the ship as Lorentz took evasive manoeuvres could shake the grip that our fear held over us. The world held still for us - a few moments of being a sardine in a fragile tin, listening to the nightmare mechanics of the can-opener...

It was the stabbing light of day that finally galvanised us into action as one of the creatures managed to rip a hatch off its locks. Two of my men were swept out of the opening by a combination of the creature's flailing claws and the irresistible slipstream before somebody managed to grab a pulserifle and lay into our attackers. It was at this point that one of the things worked its way onto the cockpit canopy. That canopy is reinforced carbon triplex, built to withstand hard vacuum and harder knocks - but the creature gripped the outside edges of the cockpit and in one obscene, fluid movement thrust it's sharp abdomen through the canopy, punching a neat hole in the triplex, and sprayed the whole of the cockpit with a vitriolic substance which looked akin to the acidic blood I had seen back at the complex. In seconds both the screaming Lorentz, his co-pilot and the whole cockpit were a melting burning mess, and the dropship fell from the sky like a stone, tearing the winged aliens away from the ship in the process.

If this had happened a minute earlier we would have been dead meat, but fortunately we were only a couple hundred feet above the ground, and the dropship was on a fairly level trajectory. We crashed about half a klick from the first dropper and only about twenty yards from the edge of the canyon.

The few of us with any presence of mind left grabbed what weapons we could and levered ourselves out of the wreckage, blessing the multiple crash cages of the dropship which had preserved nearly all of our lives. We were sharply aware that the winged creatures were still abroad and scanned the surrounding skies for any sign of them... to no avail. They had disappeared for the moment. But now we are trapped planetside only 5km from a nest of the most hostile hostiles we've ever met, with no orbit-capable comms, multiple wounded and no transport. We managed to climb down the canyon walls and checked the wreckage of the first dropper. We found no trace of the crew - abducted I'm presuming by more of the alien nasties, and no salvageable equipment except the modified scanners in the wing pods. I've got Pvt Rhodes working on a way to use that hardware to our advantage. His parents didn't send him to Oxbridge so he could join the navy and we've all poked fun at his classic computer nerd looks from time to time but a master's degree in electrical engineering may just save our lives right now.

It will be dark soon, and I'm thanking my lucky stars that this world is at least tolerable to human survival needs. It's going to get mighty cold though, and we're digging in next to the wreckage of the first dropper on the canyon floor. This position wouldn't have been my first choice due to its poor defensibility, but the second dropper had several dozen missiles and other assorted pyrotechnics and we're not a fire crew. If anything goes off during the next few hours I'd like it much better if we weren't sitting on it. We at least have plenty of ammunition, pulserifles, smartguns, incinerators and even some Hammergun support weapons rescued from our dropper so we should be a match for anything that comes prowling during the night.

4/10/2174 07:12hrs - Rhodes is a goddamn genius. I used to scoff at the old replays of star-trek TNG where the engineering officer would be given a seemingly impossible task and achieve it by "re-aligning the phase modulator" or some other such pseudo-technological guff using some ordinary and unrelated piece of shipboard equipment. But our boy Rhodes has managed to somehow use the modified scanners in conjunction with a standard field radio to achieve a very shaky but ultimately workable orbit-capable comms setup. We'll have to use dead reckoning to align it with where we think the ship will be, but it all sounds like it should go off without a hitch. According to our calculations the Lupis will be above the horizon in less than an hour, and then we can radio Abel and get him to pilot down the third dropship. We're not taking any chances with the aerial bugs again so we're backing off away from the hive AND the complex as far as we can, about another 10km south - as soon as we make the transmission (unfortunately the makeshift comms setup wont stand a lug across harsh terrain such as the McAllen southern hills so we'll have to arrange a rendezvous point and then break contact).

4/10/2174 09:50hrs - Disaster has struck yet again. Five minutes before the Lupis was due above the horizon the aliens attacked again. We were well entrenched but even our best preparations were inadequate. They came from the direction of the red hive which was fortunately our best defended flank, but we were hard pressed to hold them off.

We only had to hold them for another 5 minutes so Rhodes could make the transmission to the Lupis and then we could retreat, but it looked like they were about to break through the hastily erected barricades we had spot-welded together from the wrecked dropper much sooner... suddenly the attack eased off. Aliens were shrinking back from our position, hissing, tensed - as if they were suddenly afraid of something that we couldn't see.

And then relief arrived, and not from any source we ever expected... over the lip of the canyon just behind our position came the blues. Like ants marching up a tree in reverse they picked their way down the canyon walls with a sickening sound like breaking twigs and hurled themselves into the fray.

They were fighting alongside us.

Once again we watched in horror as alien fought alien. The small but savage force of blues beat the reds back another twenty yards on their first rush, and from then on all we had to do was provide covering fire. I glanced around at this point and saw on the faces of my marines the same dull incomprehension at this bizarre turn of events as must surely have been on my own. The trained soldier does not ask where an advantage comes from but takes it, embracing the moment and the opportunity to survive. I am glad that my marines trusted their instincts.

But even with the help of the blue aliens we could not hold out against the seemingly unstoppable hordes of reds for long, especially with the arrival of their flying counterparts. Rhodes managed to make the transmission just before the front barricade fell so we didn't have the time or the inclination to wait for a reply, we just fell back. Way, way back. And let the blues take their chances. We're now licking our wounds about a kilometre from the dropship wreckage and we'll proceed to the location where we asked Abel to meet us as soon as we're fit to travel.

4/10/2174 14:23hrs - Something is obviously wrong. Again. Abel is an hour overdue already and we don't know if he received the transmission anyway. I'm going to give him another hour and then we'll have to work out something else. I'm running out of ideas.

4/10/2174 15:30hrs - still no sign of Abel in the third dropper. I'm assuming he never got the transmission and I really don't know what we're going to do here. Rhodes has suggested there might be enough hardware back at the colony complex to get another transmitter up and running, so I guess we're heading back there. I don't like the idea of going back to that silent wind-blasted carcass of a settlement but we have very little choice in the matter. It's another 15km northwest so we'll be lucky to make it before nightfall. We are all tired and strung out and in no shape to fight. I hope we don't have to.

MAP 4 - "Scavenger"

4/10/2174 20:14hrs - We arrived back at the McAllen complex just before dark and Rhodes has gone out to the maintenance bays to scavenge accompanied by a detachment of marines. He'll have to investigate this ghost town quite thoroughly to find the parts he needs, and we've been getting some weird readings from the motion trackers - one minute we get a signal and the next it's disappeared. We haven't seen anything yet but I've advised caution and everybody is required to keep in radio contact.

Map 5, MB - "Ops"

4/10/2174 23:14hrs - Rhodes just got back with what's left of his squad. Apparently there are still a few aliens, reds and blues, lurking around the place. They got a few of our guys but most of the men came back. We have no choice but to hole up in operations, post autoguns covering the ops rooms and guards watching the main complex entrances and wait for Rhodes to work his magic again.

5/10/2174 06:33hrs - We spent the first part of the night listening to the distant scrapes, bangs and skittering noises that surround us, frightened and worn down. The motion trackers were still being sporadic even though Rhodes could find no fault with them. We sealed the complex up, and spent the night in the ops centre. Rhodes patched together another orbit-capable comlink, (exhausted though he was, he refused to sleep until it was finished) and we proceeded to contact the Lupis. What we found was unexpected.

Five hours after our drop party went down near the red hive, a priority signal had been received by Lupis's mainframe. We couldn't read the message from our comlink because the mainframe aboard the Lupis requires physical identification. About a half hour after that, the third dropship was prepped and launched - but that was before we transmitted our distress signal from the canyon... had Abel decided to attempt a rescue on his own initiative? Apparently not, for the dropship's last recorded heading was in the direction of the blue hive. As usual we had been left with more questions than answers, and an even more remote chance of a swift dust-off.

At about 3am, with absolutely no warning, the autoguns opened up on the east corridor. The gunfire made us jump half out of our skin, and I rushed over to the portable terminals that were monitoring the guns. For agonising minutes I sat and watched as the ammo counters dropped and dropped, eyes glued to the CCTV screens as wave after wave of black bodies died under the withering hail of fire. Finally the last gun fell silent, and we took up our own weapons and braced ourselves for the attack. They came in through the ops doors like a screaming dark tide of hideous insects. We fought tooth and claw with them, not knowing in the dim light if these were blues or reds, and not caring. We lost a few men, but there were not so many foes as in the canyon and a few minutes vicious fighting left us breathless, but alive and victorious.

I remember my disbelief that the guards monitoring the main entrances to the colony could have been taken out without sounding any kind of alarm, and I was relieved and baffled to find that they were all alive and unaware of the attack on the ops centre when I rushed down to the main locks. So how could the aliens have got into the complex undetected?

MAP 6 - Into the Hive

A quick review of the colony building records told us what we hadn't realised before. A subway was under construction between the atmosphere processor nearest to the complex and the complex itself. This was an innovation on the part of the colonists, to help them get to work in the mornings, and wasn't in the USM plans of the complex. So although we had been monitoring the entrances to the complex, they had been the last of our worries. The subway entrance was in the basement of the main colony building, leading down to a tunnel in which railway tracks had already begun to be laid.

It was from this direction that the attack had come, and the corroded floors and walls confirmed that the remaining wounded aliens had escaped this way. The tunnel led west over 40km to the atmosphere, on a course that took it only 1km from the Blue hive... Knowing that the third dropship was at the blue hive, knowing that at least 60 colonists were also there and not knowing when the next attack on the complex would come, I made the decision to continue down the tunnel. Further into the nightmare.

5/10/2174 10:02hrs - 15 k's down the tunnel we found a battleground. Scoring from small arms fire and explosives marked the smooth concrete walls, and the sick aroma of weeks-old blood and decaying alien bodies permeated the air. In the left side of the man-made tunnel there was a gaping hole gauged in the concrete plating, and another, smaller tunnel leading off to the south. A warm wind blew through the hive, and the smell was unspeakable. Several of my men were violently ill. We pressed on into this wretched pothole, trying to ignore the horrible warm wet air and the cloying stench, which we could not identify. After a few minutes we began to get used to it, and used to the darkness. It was then that the motion trackers started reading signals.

Though this was obviously the Blue alien's nest, there seemed very few about, and the opposition we encountered was composed more of reds than blues. A few aliens here and there who more interested in killing eachother were no problem, and we pressed on, fighting our way into what must have been the blue hive. Resistance was moderate but I was determined to make it to the end of what had now become a branching system of tunnels running parallel to eachother.

MAP 7 Breakout

Eventually we broke through into a huge cavern, lined on all sides with a weird resinous material in arcane, organic patterns. By now we were way past being afraid, and the faces of my troops wore expressions of numb determination. We all realised we had to get out, and the only way out was through the hive. We had been heading uphill so I figured we were pretty close to the surface by now, and I sent a party to investigate the other exits. My platoon pressed on deeper into the gargantuan warren of tunnels, here and there meeting small pockets of aliens, both reds and blues, some fighting eachother, which we wasted no time in gunning down.

The scout party radioed back saying they'd found something, although static made it almost impossible to understand Cpl White's voice, so we proceeded, swiftly up through the sinister winding passages of the hive, passing structures that looked like deformed limbs and pulsing organs, to their position.

The huge spherical chamber in which we emerged was filled with hundreds upon hundreds of what could only be described as giant eggs, about 2 feet high, and at their centre sprawled on the floor, was Abel, or what remained of him.

It was immediately apparent that Abel had been trying for some reason to move one of the eggs. He had not succeeded, for the egg he was attempting to move was stuck firmly to the floor with a stickier type of resin. Something had obviously taken offence to his action, because he had been ripped into fairly small pieces and left a sodden milky mess. I asked Pvt Christiansson, the med-tech, and Pvt Rhodes to see if they could boot him up on the spot - we needed information. They spent a few minutes tinkering with his partially severed head until with a snicker and a twitching of organic relays, he simply switched on, like a TV or a toaster.

The next ten minutes involved me having a heated row with a disembodied head, as I demanded to know the contents of the priority signal and what the hell he thought he was doing abandoning the Lupis in the third dropship. When I realised that he wouldn't tell me even when I threatened to leave him there to rot, I had Rhodes bypass his behavioural and security inhibitors.
I have never heard a more sickening noise than the scream of an android when it is being bypassed against its will - imagine what we might sound like with open brain surgery being performed on us whilst we were still conscious, scrambling our minds and forcing us to comply. When Rhodes was finished, Abel had quietened down, and his once almost-human expression of incomprehensible pain had vanished, revealing his face for what it was - organic plastic. Abel began to talk.

The company had ordered us to retrieve a specimen, at all costs. I was to ignore any danger to my troops or myself and retrieve the specimen regardless of loss. In addition, (and this was the real shocker) a high-security encryption embedded in the audio of the message which only Abel with his computer mind could ever decode, directed very specifically that if I should refuse to comply with this directive, Abel was to assassinate me and my whole crew by puncturing the Lupis's oxygen scrubbers. A sabotage that would not have been noticed until we were almost unconscious, and then, irreversible.

He recited the information I required in a dull monotone, and after I had heard enough, I told Rhodes to switch him off. Abel twitched the last of his amps away and fell silent, gurgling biotic fluid. After hearing the contents of the message, I felt no guilt about Abel - and I don't think my troops did either.

We started to pick our way through the maze of eggs towards the far end of the chamber where a tunnel sloped outwards and upwards, when Pvt Simons called out. He was watching a nearby egg that had slowly begun to open. With his pulserifle at the ready he peered over the egg to see what kind of creature was inside... in a flash, a thing which looked like a cross between a hand and a spider with a long thin tail had leapt out of the egg and wrapped its long, finger-like legs and body around his face. He screamed out and fell backwards, inadvertently squeezing the trigger of his rifle as he did so.
Gunfire echoed across the chamber as we all hit the ground to avoid his wildly firing weapon. He went down, struggled for a moment and then went still.

Shocked by what we had just seen, all was silent for a moment, and then, like deformed flowers in fast motion, the rest of the eggs began to open one by one.
We ran, then. There was no time to retrieve Pvt Simons, no time for anything but flight. The spidery creatures were faster though, and not 100 yards from the chamber we were forced to fight them. Alerted by the gunfire, more of the bigger aliens joined in the fray, some seeming to appear out of the walls as if they had been there all along. In the dark it was chaos, gunfire illuminating the passages and the screams of the wounded ringing in our ears. We fought our way back up through the tunnels and antechambers killing every skittering black thing that moved, and it wasn't until we reached another large chamber that we realised that nothing was following us.

MAP 8 mb mb mb - Arena

We were on the edge of a massive cavern with a hole in the roof that opened up to reveal the murky sky above. All around the floor of this chamber were aliens, red and blue, their attention riveted on the centre of the room, where two aliens, one red and one blue, were fighting to the death.

These were no ordinary aliens, if such nightmare creatures could ever be said to be ordinary. They were over ten feet tall, massively built and utterly deadly in appearance, they had huge fan-like cranial protrusions that ran back over their shoulders into a mass of pipe-like structures like the workings of some evil church organ. Each was equipped with a long serrated tail with a wicked-looking barb on it. When they moved, the floor shook, and their screeches and snorts as they battled were like demons being exorcised back to hell. If these aliens were social insects, these must have been the queens.

As with the battles we had witnessed previously, the Blue was losing, ripped to ribbons by the powerful claws of it's red attacker, it circled and hissed and struck out, but had already lost an arm and was bleeding profusely. As we watched, it was struck down and stabbed by the tail of the big Red, until it could fight no more and lay still on the ground. The Red let out a roar of victory and swung round to our side of the chamber, on which the remainder of the blue aliens were spectators to this titanic duel. On the far side, an army of reds, some noticeably bigger than the normal aliens and sidling up to stand by their queen, began to chitter and shift, edging closer.
The blues stood absolutely stock still, as if waiting for the inevitable rush, and then I remembered something. I remembered the blues who had let us escape after we gunned down the reds at the colony complex. I remembered the blues who came to our aid in the canyon, and in a moment of what I now regard as absolute insanity brought on by exhaustion, hunger and desperation, I pumped the 20mm grenade launcher on my pulserifle and shouted at the top of my lungs -


And I began firing grenade after grenade into the red horde. Luckily the remaining marines caught on pretty quick, and followed suit. The blues recoiled in surprise for a moment, and then with lightning speed, they barrelled headlong into the attackers, screeching like banshees.
I figured we were dead anyway, and there was a kind of dementia born of the hive that sunk into my mind as we battled though that foetid mire. I felt their need to survive become my own, I felt the loyalty of the brood and the importance of continued existence and every single war ever fought by any nation against any other burning though my veins like white-hot fire.
We fought alongside them. We killed reds like we'd been born blue. We killed and killed until the act of killing became a sacred thing and we could only think of the complete extermination of the red aliens and the success of the blue jihad, the holy war. The perpetuation of the species.
When the fight was over, we stood in the middle of the debris and cheered like madmen whilst all around us the blues screamed their victory salutes at the cold hard sky and stood back to regard these strange animals who had helped repel their invaders.

And at that point we became afraid once more. We picked up our fallen and walked slowly, ever so slowly backwards, out of the hive and into the daylight. Outside was a mess of dead alien bodies from the fighting that had preceded the final confrontation in the hive. All around us, the blues stood as they had at the colony complex five days before, silent, tails swaying fluidly behind their spindly bodies. I became aware that although we had aided them this time, we were not of their species and would one day have to be confronted.
There was always a Jihad, always another war. War would continue in the universe until one species would remain. I wondered how many species had already fallen to these perfect killing machines, bereft of technology excepting their own unparalleled evolution. I wondered how far ahead they were in the evolutionary war, and how far Man had to go to beat them.
I was lost in these thoughts as the pitiful remnants of the 4th Royal Offworld Regiment backed up into the dropship which was landed not a hundred yards from the entrance to the hive, miraculously untouched save for a few acidic stains. Lost in thoughts of the human war we had waged for millennia, against animals, geography and climate, as Pvt Mitsuri fired up the engines. Lost in thoughts of the Jihad we must wage against the universe if we are to survive the dark tide which threatens to consume all species - that of oblivion, of extinction.

As we climbed though the atmosphere away from that strange place I felt I had come to understand a lot more about the universe, and life within it. When we reached the Lupis, I filed this last log. After I finish typing it, I will launch tactical nuclear warheads and annihilate both hives, for it is my belief that those who were captured are lost.
I will serve my species, perpetuate my kind, and fight the war against the tide of evolution, and then I will retire to my quarters and kill myself in the least obtrusive fashion, for my purpose in the Jihad of Man is served. There will only ever be war, until one species remains.

I do not think that mankind will be that species.

DEBRIEF - Mjr Owen Fincher, USM military police -

Two A63C Orbit-surface nuclear warheads were launched at 19:02hrs on 5/10/2174 targeted at locations on Luyten 205-128 corresponding to the positions of the alleged structures described in the above log. Commander Darwin was found dead in his quarters two hours later by Pvt Mirren. He had sustained a confirmed self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head from a Colt-Magnum .65 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
Although the remaining marines corroborate Cmndr Darwin's statements, all except Pvt. Mirren have been certified Unsound of Mind and Judgement by a USM board of enquiry. Pvt. Mirren was incarcerated in a maximum security penal facility on Eta Carina 3-43' prime following his arrest as a suspected member of the outlawed underground Jihad Of Man cult, involved in numerous terrorist attacks on USM research laboratories and government installations. The Cult claims that the world's authorities will "allow the dark tide of evolution to ruin man and his kind".

Tip: If an 'originally published at' link is not active it's because the page is no longer available.