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Thread: First Contact (PG-13)

  1. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Galaxy_Hunter View Post

    "Too much," said the medic, checking his readouts. "Luckily it wasn't anything permanent."

    "My head's pounding," the Corporal muttered, standing up. "What happened?"

    "Oh you know," Lt Miller said laughing, slapping him on the back, feeling the tension drain away. He was relieved to finally have something good happen that day. "It was a late night, we were making dumb decisions. One thing led to another and someone stabbed you in the side with a giant tooth. You know, a typical Saturday night."

    "I don't know," said the Lt from his shoulder. "Based on what happened though, I'd say that that noise was some sort of threat or warning directed at that thing." he paused.

    "Yeah," said Corporal Jenkins. "And whatever made that noise is between us and Lt Zeal's party."

    "It doesn't matter," said Private Jones. "If whatever made that call wanted us dead it could have just let the thing get us. I say we push on."


    "Say again, sir!" she all but shouted into the mike, but it was no use, the rig was dead. "Damn," she whispered, closing her eyes. "Get here soon Captain, we're in it deep."

    "Good to see you again Miller," she said with a smile. "We almost thought you had given up the ghost back there."

    "No, no," he said, slightly delirious from the pain meds. "You see we're on a rescue mission, and since we've found you, I'd say it's mission accomplished."

    "His leg is shattered," he replied. "And he's swimming in painkillers. He should be fine if we can just get him out of here."

    "Hey," said Lt Miller. "Never though I'd be so glad to see your ugly face."

    "Something's coming," Lt Miller hissed through gritted teeth. "We're about to be attacked!"

    "There," he whispered. "Look there."

    "Yeah," she said. "Yeah I see him."

    "H-hey, you're not so bad," said Lt Zeal faintly. "Guess not everything here is a monster after all..."
    I put the corrections in bold. If you write: ""H-hey, you're not so bad," said Lt Zeal faintly" then you either have to put a comma after "faintly" and not capitalize the next part of the character's speech or put a period after the "faintly" and capitalize the next part of the character's speech.

    --------------------------

    Other than that, great story. Nice plot, but I can only think of one Pokemon that looks like an "angel" and that's Swanna. Or maybe I'm just really confused. You really don't want to PO Rayquaza, but if you do...watch out for the HYPER BEAM! There may be other grammar issues here, but your Fic is so good I really don't care. I'm just the Grammar Nazi for Punctuation.
    Last edited by Corrosion; 6th March 2011 at 1:28 AM.
    Quote Originally Posted by bobandbill
    Quote Originally Posted by zomegax7249
    So now it's not enough that we beat the NPCs, now we have to steal their clothes as well? Isn't this basically mugging them?
    Suddenly the aim of the Pokémon games is apparent. It isn't to catch them all, or to be the best trainer, or to learn about the values of friendship with strange monsters that can breathe fire and whatnot.

    It's to beat up other people for their hats and jackets.
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  2. #27
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    Wow. Raquazza is a boss. Incidentally, this fic comes off like Jurassic Park (the book) quite a lot. That isn't a bad thing by any means. Anyways... wow. I'm not sure how you're ever going to find a way to realistically get anyone off of that planet. I would review on a more indepth, but it was so incredibly epic that I can't actually find anything that it could improve on until I've waited a few hours. Forget my earlier comment, this is the best fic on Serebii IMO. Keep up the epic work.


    EDIT: Is the "angel" Gardevoir?
    Last edited by Rediamond; 10th March 2011 at 1:36 AM.
    The Flash Drive of Champions: Backgrounds

    There are many reasons to journey in the Pokemon World. It turns out that banishment, Bond Villains, unbeatable rivals and being forced to attend one dance too many are among them.

    File 2.5 is up. Gela literally puts on a show for the world to see while elsewhen her world is shattered beyond repair.

  3. #28
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    I can actually imagine this a a computer game or something. Your style reminds me a bit of one of my friends, but anyway, thats not the point. You've still missed a lot of capitals in second parts of speechs by the way. And Again, I thought it was a good episode. It did seem in some places like you were just trying to rush to the action though. I have nothing more to say, it was the same as usual - awesome.
    A group of 10 special trainers have been essembled by Professor Birch in a unexplored land. Their mission - to find some special stones to stop Team Magma and Team Aqua from getting them so that the professors can start their indistrialisation of the place. Follow their adventures in "Regional Conflict - The Five Sacred Stones. Please read, and review :)Here is the link. http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=482753 Last chapter - Chapter 10: The Tides of Terror

    Please read my other fic, a Unova journey fic - Unova apprentices. - http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=498160

    VM me if you want me to review your fic.

    White is nearly done, and nearly all my generation 4 pokemon are on there.

  4. #29
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    The last statement carried an ominous not of finality.
    *Note
    From the thing's back sprouted a pair of ragged-looking wings, membraneous wings.
    Usage of the word "wings" twice seems overly repetitive.
    *Among the newcomers were giant giant orange arachnids, with a double set of fangs that dripped with a strange purple fluid. They towered over the battlefield on ling spindly-looking legs and had short orange and yellow fur covering their bodies.
    You used the word "giant" twice...
    Also, "ling" should be "long."

    Great couple of chapters! The characterization was excellent, as was the description of the battles and Pokemon (especially Rayquaza)! Keep up the good work.

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  5. #30
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    Wow, thanks for all the positive feedback! .

    I'll definitely get to work making those grammar changes as soon as possible, thanks for letting me know. Anyways, I'm working on the next chunk of the story, Interlude I: Dissent. It shows the situation from a let's say different perspective and shows what the 'angel' that Lt Zeal saw really is. Other than that, yeah Rayquaza's mad and that's a far worse thing than anyone can imagine. I won't say anything else for the moment. I'll be back in a few days with the next chapter.

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

  6. #31
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    I thought the music the marines heard was Grasswhistle, since it was mention it sounded like a whistle made of grass. I thought Grasswhistle put Pokémon to sleep. Actually, I thought the marines were going to be put to sleep, but seeing this is a more ‘realistic’ Pokémon world Grasswhistle could have another effect besides putting anybody to sleep.

    I was like, ‘Hooray!’ when Lt. Zeal and Lt. Miller were united, even more so when Captain Cordo showed up with a rescue squad to save them. Unfortunately, the Captain goes down, literally.

    Rayquaza clearly doesn’t what the marines to leave, at least not alive. That’s some fight Rayquaza put up, even after it was hit by a missile it still survived. I wonder what happens to Lt. Zeal now. I’m curious of this ‘angel’. Great chapter, I’ll be waiting for the next one.

  7. #32
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    Well, thanks to brilliance on the part of tech support, my Internet connectivity has been gutted, so release of the next two Chapters will be delayed for a little while. Sorry, it was kinda unexpected.

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

  8. #33
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    Note: this isn't a chapter so much as a sub-chapter to bridge the gulf between the first and second acts. It's told from a very different point of view from the other chapters, and deals with what happens to Lt Zeal after she crashed. And thanks for being patient, computer issues (the bane of my existence) and schoolwork forced me to delay releasing this chapter. It was also a little difficult to write from this perspective, but well worth it I think. Here it is:

    Interlude I: Dissent

    Kileera glanced through the trees as she stood. The smell of death was in the air, it floated down upon the north winds, bringing a scent of ash and blood and death with it for hundreds of miles. There was a faint smoke covering the forest, mixing with the mist and irritating her eyes slightly. The normally bright foliage had dulled in response to the smog as well, making the normally vibrant forest look dull and lifeless.

    Those fools, she thought to herself. Despite what they may think, I know the aliens will come back for revenge. One battle does not win the war. she started gliding away through the dense trees, still thinking. They may be invading our planet, but outright attack wasn't the answer, we should have at least opened negotiations with them before coming to a decision like that. The Council is going to get us all killed. she realized with growing dread.

    Kileera knelt came to a small pool to drink and observed her reflection for a moment. She was a tall, frail-looking creature. She had large, bright red eyes, which rested in the middle of her large head. Her face was partially obscured by a curving, green skull-ridge that covered the top of her head like a helmet and protected her delicate brain from injury. She had a small, compact body with two long, wispy arms and a red spot on her chest. Her long, green legs were concealed beneath a white, fan-like tail, which descended down her form like a flowing gown. She was covered in short, microscopic fur, which shimmered slightly in the changing light. Despite her ethereal appearance, she was a powerful fighter, being able to manipulate energy and attack with the power of her thoughts. However, she disliked fighting; being a gentle, peaceful soul and preferring to live a quiet life of solitude with her children. Kileera glided through the forest, supported by a small anti-gravity field projected and manipulated by her powerful mind.

    _______________________

    She was making her way through a thicket of trees when she heard a faint call echoing through the trees. She paused, then went to find out what had made it, curious. She couldn't identify the source of the call, but from the tone of it the sender seemed worried, though not overly distressed. After some time she came to a clearing overshadowed by closely-woven branches and beheld a small, fox-like Aivia sitting by a-

    Kileera stopped dead in her tracks, what lay before her was obviously one of the aliens the Hierarchs had spoken about. She started slightly when the thing raised its head to look at her, then collapsed, That quick look was all Kileera needed to remember the moment forever. The creature that lay on the ground was short, smaller and stockier than she was and similar to her in basic body structure; two arms, two legs, and a head. The creature's body and limbs were covered with some sort of green plate-like skin, while its head looked a lot softer than the rest of its body, covered with a light-brown colored skin and some fur adorning it. The face was the strangest part of it, the eyes were so small, the face all scrunched up on its small head, with a bizarre bump right in the middle between the closed eyes and a large slit-like opening at the lower end of the face which could only be a mouth. It was the most bizarre thing she had ever seen, not even resembling anything she had ever seen on her world before. She was repulsed by it for a moment, but pushed the feeling down and cautiously approached it. The alien didn't stir as she moved over to it and knelt down by its side, and the Aivia ran off and hid in the bushes at her approach. She was silent for a long time, and then she eventually gathered her thoughts.

    One of the invaders, here? How? Why?

    She glanced around, trying to see how it had gotten there, but couldn't see anything. She decided to gently attempt to make mental contact with the alien, but the moment she expanded her awareness beyond her own being, she was overwhelmed by a massive mental presence that drowned out all else. Something with aggressive and angry personality was approaching, perhaps ten miles away based on the intensity of the feeling. The dark presence was almost strong enough to cause her physical pain, but she managed to grit her teeth and pull back from the contact.

    It's not one of the Hierarchs, she realized, recovering from the incident. If it was I'd be dead by now, but if it's that aggressive and intelligent, that must mean... she shuddered from the realization. If one of the enforcers finds me here with this creature, they'll kill both of us. she looked down at the alien again.

    It would be best to just leave it here, or kill it outright, but as a representative of its species... she glanced back at the creature; she had to make a decision now, one way or another, on how to deal with this alien that had arrived unasked on her world..

    After a moment of hesitation made her choice; she would save it, if only in the interest of peace. I'll move this alien somewhere safe, learn from it, find a way to safely open negotiations between them and us; I'll force it to if I must. she was desperate, this could be the only way to avoid a massive war that could destroy one or both sides.

    She reached down to the creature, intending to wake it and get it moving, when she noticed a dark stain spreading on the grass beneath it. The alien was wounded.

    Oh no... she thought, gently turning it over.

    The were two small holes on either side of the creature's abdomen, each leaking a dark red-tinged fluid. Kileera reached out mentally, shielding herself from the presence bearing down upon them. The alien's consciousness was weak, fading. Even so Kileera tried to connect with it, but the thing's mind was so alien she only got a several confused images and sensations before she was forced to break off the contact. She refocused her mental energies on the wound, using her sight of the flow of energy to find the depth and severity of the wound. She was shocked to learn that the alien's body was encased in a non-living shell; the green plating was an artificial armor that cocooned the creature's small body. She made a mental note of this and focused on the task at hand. Kileera created a small blade of sharpened air with her mind and cut carefully, with the precision of a surgeon, through the soft under-layer of the armor. When she had finished she carefully pried the artificial armor off of the being's torso. A long, thin red wound ran across the abdomen of the alien, it was bleeding profusely.

    They bleed red, like me... Kileera thought, momentarily stunned by the similarity. Focus! she told herself. Its wound is serious, if this alien is anything like me it'll die soon without treatment.

    She hesitated, the fewer beings that knew about what she was doing, the better, but she couldn't do this on her own. Kileera straightened and then extended her awareness once more. After a moment of frantic mental searching, she found the two beings she was looking for nearby. She summoned all of her mental energy and put it into a single, desperate cry directed at them.

    Come!

    Several tense minutes passed as Kileera waited anxiously for them to arrive. Eventually there was a crashing sound and two four-legged beings burst through the foliage into the clearing. The were large, yellow beings covered in a short, grass-like yellow hair and possessing green eyes. The most unusual thing about the two creatures was the large, dark-green leaf sprouting from each of the two's heads and the ring of smaller, rolled-up shoots arranged in a ring around their necks. Their legs ended in thick, dark green claws. The two beings looked like some sort of fusion between plant and animal. They were two of Kileera's closest and most trusted allies. The two glanced around quickly, looking for whatever had made Kileera call them to her so urgently. When their eyes lighted on the alien on the ground before them they started slightly and turned as one to look at Kileera. She cocked her head to one side, a sign of acknowledgement, and added in a quick mental burst.

    Please, help it. This may be the only chance we'll get at communicating with one of them and stopping a genocide. If it dies...

    She didn't need to say anything more. The two beings knelt down beside the alien and closed their eyes. Suddenly several thin vine-like tendrils sprouted from each of the shoots on their necks and probed the ragged edge of the alien's wound. After a second the ends split apart into finer tendrils and entered the flesh. They crisscrossed the gaping cut, quickly weaving a green scab over the gap; an organic bandage. While they were doing this, their body color faded, becoming less vivid as they worked. They were transferring nutrients and energy to the creature's body, weakening themselves to help keep it alive.

    After several minutes of tense activity the vines broke away from the shiny, bright-green scab that now covered the alien's stomach, tiny tendrils extended from the scab into the alien's healthy skin, integrating with its biology and allowing nutrients from its blood to enter and help it heal faster. The veins pulsed in time with the being's heartbeat. The two would-be medics slumped against one another, exhausted. Kileera floated over to them, concerned that they had gone too far, but they stood up after a second, and faced her shakily. She relaxed; her gambit had payed off.

    Thank you, she said mentally to the two beings. What you did demonstrated enormous courage and faith. I wish I could give you more than just words, but what we have done here gives us a chance for peace between us and them, thank you.

    She closed her eyes and reached out again; the dark presence was closer now, only five miles away at most. Her eyes flew open, they had little time left.

    I must go, she explained quickly. This alien must be kept safe if we are to have a chance; if they discover it they'll kill us. You have to leave too, if they find you here they'll kill you as well, go now!

    They stared at her for a second, then they got wearily to their feet and tramped off through the gloom.

    Stay safe... she added quietly.

    Kileera turned again to the alien and concentrated her mental powers once more, creating an artificial zone of zero gravity around the being's prone form, gently lifting it off of the ground. The energy formed a shimmering blue aura around the alien's form. Kileera turned and moved off quickly through the trees, wondering what she had gotten herself into. The Aivia followed at a discreet distance, keeping to the shadows and whining softly every now and then. Kileera let it, it was no threat and she didn't want the Council to hurt it for what she had done.

    _______________________

    Ar'kalen stooped down in the clearing.

    The alien scum desecrating my beautiful world has been here recently, its blood is still fresh upon the grass. he thought, searching back and forth.

    He stood and glanced around the clearing carefully, there was no trail to follow, but he was undaunted. He was an imposing six-foot, blue, jackal-like creature, with piercing green eyes and a vicious temper. He had stocky, muscular legs, a dog-like face, a short, straight tail, and dextrous paws. His torso was covered in a cream-colored fur, while the rest of his body was covered in blue and black skin. He was an agile fighter and not only was he skilled at close-range combat, years of training had made his skin as tough as steel and had taught him how to access his inner mental powers. He was fast, strong both physically and mentally, and arrogant; a dangerous an unpredictable being.

    He knelt again and sniffed the ground intently, the creature had clearly been wounded when it landed, the scent of blood -strange though the scent was to him- was evidence enough of that. However it had vanished from the area without a trace, leaving no trail and no scent for him to track. Ar'kalen stood, closed his brown eyes and reached out with his sixth sense. Like some other species, he was able to see and discern the patterns of energy that were created by all living things. However while most who could use the second sight had been born with the gift, he had to work to develop it. It had taken years, but the reward was that it made him an unmatched tracker. He saw, as clear as he did the sunlight with his physical eyes, the faint disturbance in the energy lines of the area, the kind only left by a powerful psychic field.

    He furrowed his brow, nothing suggested that the aliens were capable of psychic powers, not the ones that he'd fought anyways. Then he realized: the alien had help, someone else from his planet was aiding it. His upper lip pulled back over his ivory fangs, a sign of anticipation. He now had a traitor to hunt as well as an alien. He located the direction that the energy disturbance was the strongest and ran in that direction with a fire in his heart.

    Game on. he thought confidently.
    Last edited by Galaxy_Hunter; 14th March 2011 at 12:47 AM. Reason: Fixing the double alien issue.

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

  9. #34
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    That was... interesting.

    One of my major concerns that I'd never gotten around to voicing previously was that the story never explained why every Pokemon on the planet suddenly rose up in arms. The idea of a council makes a little more sense.

    The perspective of a Pokemon's first encounter with a human was interesting, and I believe it was very well handled. Of course, I have nothing to compare it too, but that just makes it better.

    If I had a problem with the chapter, it would be information dump. While it was kind of needed, and the fic is in third person, it did get kind of distracting. It really wasn't too bad, and it was kind of needed, but it's still something to consider.

    Just confirmation I'm still reading...
    The Flash Drive of Champions: Backgrounds

    There are many reasons to journey in the Pokemon World. It turns out that banishment, Bond Villains, unbeatable rivals and being forced to attend one dance too many are among them.

    File 2.5 is up. Gela literally puts on a show for the world to see while elsewhen her world is shattered beyond repair.

  10. #35
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    Nice interlude. As Rediamond said, it was nice to learn more about the pokemon's point of view. I liked th characterisation of both of the pokemon. Yeah. It was really good to know why they are doing what they are doing - but what is this mysterious comitee? I have a feeling it's going to be a good answer.

    Your description still needed improvement though. You jst said things like "Trees" and "forest". I thought before getting into Kirlia (or gardevoir) you should of explained senses, and what thetrees looked like - not all trees are the same.

    Here is something mega confusing -

    The two aliens knelt down beside the alien and closed their eyes
    Gaah! Alienitus!

    Anyway, a nice turn from the action, it shows that you can write stuff other than action. Good work, man.
    A group of 10 special trainers have been essembled by Professor Birch in a unexplored land. Their mission - to find some special stones to stop Team Magma and Team Aqua from getting them so that the professors can start their indistrialisation of the place. Follow their adventures in "Regional Conflict - The Five Sacred Stones. Please read, and review :)Here is the link. http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=482753 Last chapter - Chapter 10: The Tides of Terror

    Please read my other fic, a Unova journey fic - Unova apprentices. - http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=498160

    VM me if you want me to review your fic.

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  11. #36
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    Ah Gardivior. Her being the first pokemon (besides the eevee) not to attack them must have something to do with they will do anything to protect thier trainer. Ah one of many firsts. I await more chapters. Keep up the great work!
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  12. #37
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    Shiny Rayquaza used Free Fall.
    It's super effective.
    Lt. Zeal fainted.

    ANyway, I'm back. I'll make this quick, because homework calls. X(

    Like everyone else, I didn't really see any grammatical issues. I thought I did somewhere but I couldn't find them again, so oh well. Once again description could use some beefing up, but you are working on that and it shows so keep it up. Like NinjaScepSneasel said, from the pokemons' view the trees and stuff do need more description, but take it from a more natural view, like how we would describe trees on earth. These are the trees they see everyday, afterall.
    Another point of description I really liked was how Golem had no eyes. Not gonna lie, it threw me off a bit at first (and still kinda creeps me out, actually) but you handled it very creatively and well. And it's refreshing to see someone experimenting with descriptions of pokemon other than the usual animal comparisons.
    On that note one slip I did notice was that Kileera described the Eevee as fox-like; I don't think she'd know what a fox was. Also, I like how the pokemon have their own names for the different species other than just Eevee, Gardevoir, Bayleaf (I'm assuming?), etc.

    One thing I am now very confused about though: where the heck did the humans land?? At first I thought it was Kanto, because you described Scyther, Pinser, I think Venomoth, and Herracross and Ariados (but those to can slide, since Kanto and Johto are connected). And there's an Eevee. The Bayleaf(?) were a little odd, but again with the regional connection. But Kileera turned out to be a Gardevoir and a Lucario was hunting her down, that threw me. Are they located in a region you made yourself that has all these species endemic to it, or since this is in the distant path were different species way more widespread than they are now?

    All that aside, still enjoying the fic so keep up the good work!

    Cheers,
    Yashe

  13. #38
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    Thanks for the advice, when my computer's internet is fixed tomorrow I will get to altering the descriptions of the forest. As for the whole fox-like Eevee thing, I completely missed that, but I'll figure some way to fix it. Also, as for the whole 'where the marines landed issue', I'll explore that in the next chapter, but a short (<- blatant lies) explanation is that the marines landed on the large northern continent that contains Almia, Orre, Kanto, and Johto. The regions account for a very small portion of the land mass as the continent is the second largest on the planet. Hoenn lies to the south (or should I say "will lie"? <- foreshadowing) as will the various archipelagoes. Sinnoh lies to the far north, and is connected to the main continent by a thin land bridge that floods frequently (more foreshadowing). Sinnoh will play a big role in the next chapters. Anyways yeah, pretty long description that will be further fleshed out in the next chapter(s). BTW: Unova lies on one of the world's smaller southern continents, far from the other regions. Oh, and on the whole conflicting Pokemon thing, I'm going more by the idea that several different pokemon species from one region may be found in another region even though they are few and far between. IE: a few Gardevoir can be found in Kanto, but there aren't as many of them as there are/will be in Hoenn. There's way more to it then that, but I'll leave that off for further chapters. (on the plus side, I got a new Plot idea while writing this)

    In other news: Landing at Fort Haven is going to be great when I start writing it. From the basic outline I've drawn up, it's going to be long, suspenseful, and (hopefully) emotional. Since I really want these next two chapters to be the best ones yet, I'll probably be working on the first one until about this time next week. And the next one will take about that long as well. So, thanks again and I'll be seeing you later!

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

  14. #39
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    Most original fanfic (is that an oxymoron?) I've ever come across. Subscribed. You will finish this within a reasonable timeframe, yes?

  15. #40
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    I just read through all the chapters you have written so far, and I am completely engrossed in the storyline you have come up with. The idea that the pokemon world is actually another world from our own is something I had never even considered, and it is brilliant!

    Subscribing right now, and I hope, like teamVASIMR above me, that you continue to produce more awesome chapters very soon.



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    Another really long chapter guys, just bear with it and keep reading. There isn't much action until the next chapter, which I'll get to writing now that I'm done here. Warning: the first part of this chapter may freak out younger readers, discretion is advised. If you have a weak constitution, skip to the first story break and you won't miss anything that isn't be summed up in a few sentences afterward. If you think you can handle it, more power to you and let's get this party started!

    Chapter 5: Light and Dark

    Lt Miller opened his eyes slowly with a ringing in his ears. It was as if a concussion grenade had gone off nearby. His vision was blurred and it took several seconds to focus his eyes. He held his hands in front of his face and saw that his gloves had large holes torn in them, revealing bloodied, raw skin. He heard soft noises coming from somewhere close, it sounded like muffled gunfire and shouting. He looked around slowly, and saw that he was lying on his back in the middle of a vast field of tall golden grass that grew to about chest-height under a brilliant blue sky and a bright sun. It was beautiful sight. His helmet was off and he inhaled the rich earthy scent of the world, feeling giddy because of it. He turned his head, his muscles oddly slow to react, and saw that the twisted wreckage of their shuttle laid behind himself, in stark contrast to the natural world around him. It had plowed nose-first into the ground, carving a muddy ditch in the otherwise virgin field. One of its wings was sheared off and black smoke billowed from the interior while exposed wires sizzled and sparked within. Around him a few surviving marines were running, firing their guns at foes he couldn't see, and yelling orders at one another. Alien screeching came from the tall grass.

    He tried to get up but found that he couldn't move his limbs, and a wave of dizziness hit him. He looked down at his body and saw that his green plate armor was rent with several holes from shrapnel, and blood was starting to seep through them. He felt no pain, only a numbness that seemed to pervade his entire body. His mind was blank, he couldn't think of anything coherent.

    Corporal Jenkins was suddenly kneeling over him, his helmet was off too. He was shouting at Miller, but it took him a moment to figure out what he was saying.

    "...we are in some deep crap here sir! Stop lying around!" as if to punctuate this there was a horribly loud screech from close by. "We lost half of our troops in the crash, including Jones. We're getting hit hard and have suffered heavy casualties! We need all hands on deck, so take this."

    He handed Miller an assault rifle. Miller grasped it as best he could, but his fingers were numb and he couldn't tell whether he had a solid grip on it. Corporal Jenkins nodded and stood up.

    "Ok, stay here while we hold them off from the front and take out any stragglers sneaking up from be-"

    His words ended in a choking, gurgling gasp as a large blade-like scythe erupted from his chest. One of the mantis-aliens had come up behind him while he was talking and rammed one of its arm-blades straight through the center of his chest armor. Corporal Jenkins stared down at the gory spike protruding from his chest for a second before going limp. The thing pushed the body off of the blade, leaving it tinged bright red, and it hit the ground beside Lt Miller. Corporal Jenkins' dead, black eyes stared into Lt Miller's, seeming to silently accuse him of causing his death. A trickle of blood flowed from his open mouth. Above the body the alien creature trumpeted in victory and began to lick the blood off of its right blade-arm with a long forked tongue.

    Around him the humans were falling, succumbing to the harsh alien onslaught. Lt Miller tried to get up, to raise his weapon, to shout an order or do something. But his gun slipped from nerveless fingers and he was powerless to watch as the humans were cut down by slashes from the vicious alien attacks. Several of them stared at him before the end, silently begging him to do or say something, but he couldn't help them; he couldn't save them. He couldn't even raise the energy to speak.

    The alien above him finally seemed to take notice of Lt Miller. Its vicious, red multifaceted eyes stared down at him. It hissed, a low sound, and raised its blades high above its head. Lt Miller found the energy to spit some bloody saliva at the thing before the arms swept down. The was a crunch and the sound of splashing liquid, then everything went black.

    But he was not alone.

    From the darkness around him gray figures began to emerge, materializing out of the dark. He recognized them; they were all members of his squad, people he'd known. And he had led all of them to their deaths. They were disfigured almost beyond all recognition; some missing limbs, some with deep gashes in their chest armor, and some missing parts or all of their faces. No blood flowed from the wounds; the gashes were as gray and lifeless as the skin. The ghouls began to circle him slowly, chanting as one in low, raspy voices that pierced Lt Miller to his core.

    "You betrayed us, we trusted you and our fearless leader lead us into a bloodbath. Now we will make you suffer as we have, you will know how we felt."

    He wanted to reply, to defend himself from their accusations, but he couldn't speak. They reached out and grabbed him as one, he couldn't struggle; his muscles seemed to have been turned to jelly. They surrounded him utterly, a mound of the dead, smothering him slowly. Lt Miller managed to extend an arm out of the pile, reaching for something, anything to save himself from his predicament. Suddenly another hand grasped his and started to pull him out.

    He looked through a small gap in the bodies surrounding him and saw Lt Zeal standing tall in her armor, grasping his hand with both of hers. He was relieved, but relief soon turned to horror as she began to decompose before him. Her flesh shriveled, sagged and aged, it was as if she was growing ten years older every second. As the flesh shriveled it split and revealed the gleaming bones underneath. Eventually his hand was wrapped in skeletal fingers and he was left staring at a gleaming skeleton wrapped in armor. Only her eyes were, full of fear and pain and staring out from her grinning white skull. Then the bones crumbled into dust and her eyes faded into the background, seemingly pleading with him to save her. Then the mound of the dead swallowed him completely, dragging him into the darkness. With this Lt Miller finally found his voice.

    He screamed.

    He was still screaming five minutes later when he woke up, to reality this time.

    _______________________

    Lt Miller came to with a shout and in utter darkness, his last screams still echoing through the dark room. He was thrashing and fighting against invisible foes and was half-delirious; unable to concentrate from the terror. It took him a moment to get his mind under control and to remind himself that he was not on the surface of the planet anymore, but back aboard the Javelin. He lay back onto the sweat-soaked sheets and put his face in his hands, thinking. His bed was in a darkened cargo hold aboard the ship, lying in a small clearing between massive cargo containers with a single hatch open at the far end of the space. An IV gently fed nutrients into his left arm and a general medical interface monitor stood on a stand to his right, beeping. It showed that his heart rate had gone through the roof a few minutes ago and was very slowly returning to normal. He sighed and pulled up the sheets, checking to make sure he hadn't popped a stitch in his leg. They were intact and he sighed and glanced at the clock on his bedside table. It was 0300 hours.

    It had been five days since their disastrous landing and the attack on their shuttle. They had barely made orbit in their crippled ship, relying on the multiple redundancies built into the craft to guide it into a docking position with the Javelin. As he gathered later, the dragon's energy attack had released some sort of localized electromagnetic pulse which had fried all of the shuttle's delicate electronics. Only the shielded systems used for controlling the thrusters and maneuvering jets had been left intact, and the pilots had to guide the ship in by eyeballing it, not able to rely on the radar or exterior cameras. Add the hull breach and structural damage from the fuel explosion to the mix and it was a miracle they had made it back at all. Miller had been rushed into surgery as soon as they had docked and after eighteen hours Private Jones and the auto-surgeons of the Javelin's well-equipped med-bay had saved his leg. It still bore heavy scarring from where they had inserted metal bands to recombine the shattered bone fragments and pins to reinforce their strength. He had to undergo some physical therapy to regain full use of the limb while nano-machines restored the wounded leg muscle, repaired the damaged nerves -preventing him from feeling pain from them at the same time-, and stimulated the bone re-growth. Following the surgery he was put on medical leave and rested, attended to by Private Jones.

    That was when the first nightmares came.

    Each one was worse than the last, all of them involving him seeing his troops cut down and being powerless to stop it. Private Jones had prescribed a light anti-depressant, thinking it was some form of post-traumatic stress disorder, but it had done nothing to stop the nightmares.

    Lt Miller glanced at the bottle of pills on his little bedside table and turned his head away. If the drugs didn't help he saw no point in taking them. Besides, the anti-depressants made his brain unfocused and he felt that he needed to feel the pain and guilt, needed to feel something for the deaths or he would lose his humanity. He felt as if he should have seen the ambush coming, should have done something, anything to save the rest of his squad. Most of all he wondered why he lived on when so many others had fallen that day.

    There was a sound of running footsteps and Private Jones emerged through the open hatchway wearing his off-duty jumpsuit. The fluorescent lights came on as the medic rushed in, illuminating the hold with a stark white light. He came up to Miller's bedside and, upon seeing that he was awake, pulled out a flashlight and shined it in Miller's red-rimmed, bloodshot eyes.

    "I heard you screaming from way over in the berths," he moved the light from one eye to the other, checking for unusual after-effects or signs of neurological damage. "Jesus it was awful, isn't the medicine working?"

    "Stopped taking it," Miller said gruffly, reaching over to the table and grabbing the cup of water that was standing there; he was parched and sloshed half of it down his front as he downed it. "It didn't work before and it only made my head fuzzy."

    Jones stared at him, then nodded and sat down at the edge of the bed. Miller sat up and moved over next to him, swinging both of his legs gingerly over the side of the bed. His thin hospital gown still stuck to his back. Jones glanced around, then pulled a small hip-flask from one of his pockets and handed it to Miller.

    "Normally I don't encourage my patients to drink, but damn you look like you need it."

    Miller nodded gratefully and took a swig. The cool liquor burned like fire on the way down and helped him shake off the after effects of the dream.

    "Thanks."

    He passed the flask back to the medic, who shrugged and took a long draught before putting it away. He saw Miller's questioning look and shook his head slowly.

    "Don't worry sir, never when I'm on duty and only right before bed. Even then I never have more than a couple sips." he glanced at the mostly-full pill bottle, then picked it up and put it in another pocket. "So, was it the same one as always?"

    Miller shook his head. "No, but it has the same feel to it as the others though. Failure, loss, not being strong enough to save anyone." he paused and then added. "This one had Lt Zeal in it as well."

    Jones gave him a knowing look, then looked off into the distance for a moment. The official story was that Lt Zeal had been caught in the shuttle explosion and had been killed in action. Miller had stubbornly protested, but between his lack of sleep and the anti-depressants he had come off like a madman. He intended to prove them wrong once he was strong enough. That thought kept him going, gave him something to focus on, to fight for.

    "There's nothing you could have done." Jones' voice snapped him out of it.

    "Huh?"

    "You've got that look again, the one you get when you're wondering why it was you who had to live and not someone, anyone else."

    "What if I am?" he asked irritably. "Its my business and not yours what I think about."

    "I just want to let you know that I've seen it before, what you're going through. It's called survivor's guilt: when you feel that you should have died or done something differently to prevent others from dying in a disaster." the medic said in a calm voice. "Just know that no one, not the greenest grunt to the most grizzled veteran could have foreseen what was going to happen. It wasn't your fault they died."

    "That doesn't change the fact that I lost almost my entire squad," Lt Miller retorted. "You don't know what that's like, to lose someone who put their trust in you, to betray them."

    "Actually, as a medic, I do." Jones said quietly, looking down for a moment.

    Miller shut up at that and was quiet for several long minutes.

    "So, the funeral is scheduled for tomorrow," Jones said, breaking the uncomfortable silence that followed. "At 1200 hours. Do you think you'll make it?"

    "Damn right I'll be there." Miller glared at him with conviction. "It was my fault they're gone, I will be there to see them remembered."

    The medic gave him a worried look, then nodded and stood. He walked out the door and returned a few minutes later carrying a small bottle. He set it on the table and handed a tiny white pill to Miller along with a small glass of water.

    "Here, I don't have very many of these but you definitely need them. Take one every evening before bed and you'll have a dreamless sleep. Be careful with them though and let me know of any side-effects."

    Miller nodded and downed the pill and the glass of water in a single gulp. He lay back on the cot, already feeling sleepy. Jones nodded and walked over to the hatchway, killing the lights as he stepped out. Miller was asleep before his footsteps faded.

    _______________________

    "Honor guard, atten-hut!" Corporal Jenkins' voice filled the silence of the darkened cargo hold.

    Lt Miller watched him command from a wheelchair. He was still technically on medical leave and thus could not take part in the funeral ceremony, but he still felt obligated to be there if only to watch. The sleep had made him feel better; the medicine worked like a charm and he awoke that morning well-rested and clear-headed for the first time in days.

    The marines were formed up in one of the Javelin's larger, dimly lit cargo bays, standing at parade rest in a rigid square formation; legs shoulder-width apart and hands behind their backs. Lieutenant Miller and Private Jones were off to the side of the marines, directly across from the armed seven-man honor detail and Corporal Jenkins, who was the ranking soldier still active. He had fully recovered from the battle already and had been cleared for duty yesterday. Everyone -including Lt Miller- was resplendent in their black and red service uniforms, medals and rank shining brightly, in stark contrast to the atmosphere of the room.

    In front of the marine formation were memorials to the fallen. In the very front were the coffins, lined up perfectly with one another and draped with the American flag. At each one's base was a small table with the fallen marine's picture set atop it, staring with frozen eyes at their still-breathing comrades. A tightly-folded American flag rested next to the picture on one side, while the other side held a single pure white candle glowing with a yellow flame; each of the fallen valiantly holding back the darkness from their fellow soldiers one last time. They were the only source of illumination in the room. If the soldiers had a faith, a small metallic sculpture of their religion's symbol was also present on the memorial table.

    However, few of the fallen soldiers' bodies had been retrievable, but the others received equal representation. Those who could not be accounted for each had the exact same table as the others, and a large American flag hung from the ceiling of the hold behind every table without a coffin. Behind the marine formation, another American flag and the prisoner of war/missing in action flag hung, dimly lit by the candles' flickering light.

    Lt Miller stared at one table in particular: Lt Zeal's. He was certain that she was not dead, but they had set up a memorial for her regardless. Behind him there was a rustling and Capt Anderson came into the room with Lt Williams behind him. They were both wearing their naval service uniforms, which were white and blue, contrasting with the marines' uniforms. They stood beside Lt Miller and Private Jones, each at parade rest as well. They both bore the same emotionless expression as the marines, but Lt Miller could see a subtle difference between the two. Something about the marines' eyes conveyed the sadness they all felt, something that the naval crew didn't and couldn't feel.

    Each of the marines privately felt as though part of themselves had died with their fallen comrades. They would never admit it, they would always keep up the image of complete dispassion, but each of the fallen had taken a piece of every marine's spirit with them. Corporal Jenkins spoke again, glaring at the late arrivals out of the corner of his eye.

    "Port-arms!"

    The honor guard all pulled their rifles -antique M1 Garands loaded with blanks- up from their sides and brought them in front of their bodies in perfect synchronicity. They held them at exact forty-five degree angles with the ground, each one aligned perfectly with the rifle of the person next to them. As soon as they had halted the entire marine formation snapped to attention in unison, as did the naval personnel and Private Jones.

    "Present, arms!"

    The honor guard all twisted their rifles so that the undersides were all facing away from them and the barrel pointed straight up. The other soldiers in the room all brought their right hands up to their faces as one, a salute to the fallen. Corporal Jenkins did a smart about-face and saluted the caskets as well. After a minute he dropped the salute and performed another about-face and gave another order.

    "Order, arms!"

    The marines all dropped their salutes, again simultaneously, while the honor guard returned their rifles to the position of port arms. Then they dropped the rifles back to their sides.

    "Parade, rest!"

    The soldiers all went to their original positions and Corporal Jenkins turned around and assumed the same stance as Chief Stevens entered the room. He was wearing his service uniform with a tiny silver cross on the left breast, stating that he was the Chaplain of the service. He normally was just a pilot, but he was the best they had for the job. He walked forward until he stood in front of all of the assembled marines. He sighed and spoke in a slow and firm voice.

    "There are scarcely any words that can describe the scope of this tragedy. The world, no, the universe is a darker place for those who lost their lives here. To die under the cold light of a sun that is not your own is perhaps the cruelest fate one can suffer. It is a hard existence where the living must go on, carrying the burden of those who fell around them." he glanced at Lt Miller, sitting stock-still in his wheelchair. "However bear it we must and bear it we will, for their deaths were not in vain. They gave their lives so that you, so that all of us, could have a second chance, and in so doing showed the greatest courage any human can while on the field of battle. 'Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends', so said John of the good book. It is my firmest belief that any one of those who sacrificed themselves, be it Private Patterson or Captain Cordo, would do so again, without hesitation or question if they knew that the reward would be that we could continue to live and laugh and fight. That doesn't change things for us though, as we have to go on in darkness and in doubt. I do know one thing for certain though." he looked up with a fire in his eyes. "The fallen can rest in peace, knowing that we will carry on and remember their sacrifice, that we will make sure that their deaths were not for nothing, that we will fight for this world and ensure that generations to come will know what they did for us and for humanity! With that I pray that all of them, no matter what their faiths may be, will relax easily in the halls of paradise knowing that we will fight all the harder for their sacrifice. Those things down there just twisted the dragon's tail, and they'll have no idea of just how deep they've stepped in it until we come back and drop the planet on them." he stopped and became silent, indicating that he had nothing more to say.

    The soldiers remained unmoving, but Lt Miller clearly saw several eyes grow a little moist when he had finished speaking. He was moved by what the Chief had said. Although far from the most eloquent or drawn out speech he had ever heard, it hit all of the right buttons with the soldiers; remembering their fallen allies, drawing attention to the sacrifice they had made, and vowing to honor them by going back and unleashing hell upon the things that had slaughtered them. It was simple yet powerful, and it buoyed his spirits as well.

    I may have lead them into the ambush, but in the end I wasn't the one who killed them. he realized slowly, while in front of him the seven rifles of the honor guard boomed out in an echoing affirmation of what the Chief had said.

    Those creatures attacked us without warning and without mercy or regard for themselves. No matter what I sensed from them, those were not the actions of rational beings.he thought angrily. I can't beat myself up over this, I'd be insulting their memories if I did. I don't know why I was spared, but I do know this, I will honor the fallen and fight for this planet. Just like Chief Stevens said: so that children can grow up here and know what they did, so that they do not die but live through us.

    The third volley went off and the ceremony was over. They would wait to bury the fallen until they could do so on solid ground. Private Jones wheeled Miller out of the room, leaving before the others to avoid jostling the still-healing Lieutenant.

    Jones tried to tell me yesterday, but I was too wrapped up in self-pity to realize it. Lack of sleep or not I was being stupid. I was too focused on myself to realize that, instead of moping about the second chance I got, I should be figuring out how to use it to honor the ones who died. That's what I'm going to do, that and find Lt Zeal, no matter the cost. No one else gets left behind. he looked back at the open hatch before being turned around a corner. No one else.

    _______________________

    Several days later Lt Miller had regained almost full functionality of his leg, the pain and swelling were almost gone. It was still a little uncomfortable to walk in full gravity though. He passed his time by working in the science labs, where Lt Williams was studying the samples the marines had brought back.

    "What we have here is a pretty generic neurotoxin," she was saying, analyzing the spectrograph readouts of the venom sample Private Jones had brought back with him. "The basic chemical structure is similar to that of the now-extinct king cobra back on Earth. The venom interferes with normal nerve function, causing misfires and seizures, which leads to paralysis as the muscles lock up out of exhaustion. Respiratory and heart failure follow soon after. The anti-toxin Private Jones administered saved the Corporal's life, without it he would have gone into cardiac arrest and died. Luckily it's standard-issue to medics, so no one else will have to worry about it."

    She turned around and went to an adjoining computer bank. The room was long and narrow, packed with petri dishes on recessed tables and analysis equipment lining the walls. It provided an advanced but cramped research station for the researchers.

    "What about the DNA?" Lt Miller asked, leaning against the door frame in his off-duty fatigues. "Last time you said that the creatures' DNA was far different from anything you'd ever expected."

    "Ah yes," she said, rushing over to the next monitor and pulling up a chart. "Now, when I took the first measurements I sent the samples back to be re-checked, figuring there must have been some mistake. But it looks like I was right the first time." she pulled up a bizarre graphic which showed what looked like two DNA strands fused together. "At least some of these creatures, as impossible as it seems, have a quad-strand genetic structure. That's something that's completely unheard of in anything back on Earth and was considered impossible, even by astrobiologists."

    Lt Miller walked over and looked at the graphic carefully.

    "What does it mean though, what can you tell me about them based on this?"

    "Very little, I'm afraid." she admitted. "Until I get an intact body to work with all I can tell you is the basics. Their genetic code -I believe this sample came from one of those 'mantis-bugs'- is still based on the same chemical formula as terrestrial genetic material, however the strand is far larger and more complex than even human DNA, which is saying something. I'm having some of the computers analyze the genetic code to look for certain markers, to see if I can get a ballpark estimate of what some of the other genes might do, but it will take time. Until then I wouldn't recommend eating one of them, and I'd assume that they could be capable of anything from rapid wound regeneration to, uh, x-ray vision."

    She chuckled nervously, but she was obviously far out of her depth on this one. She glanced at the clock and then cursed.

    "Damn, the Captain wants me on the bridge in five minutes to deliver my findings in person. Could you lock up here please?"

    He nodded and she smiled gratefully before rushing out of the corridor. Lt Miller walked around and stowed extra papers, closed down terminal monitors, and stowed the equipment securely. If the Javelin had to make a sudden course correction or maneuver they didn't want the equipment to go flying around the interior. He finished after about half an hour and closed the hatch behind him as he left. He walked down the service corridor, heading toward a stairwell that led inward toward the center of the ship. He figured he'd stop by the bridge and see what the Captain had to say about Lt Williams' report. The entire ship was on low alert, the Captain had ordered the thawing of additional personnel with the tentative goal of coming up with a plan to re-invade the surface. Until the rest of the troops and command staff finished thawing there wasn't much anyone could do but sit around and gather intel.

    Miller was walking along the length of the ship, in a narrow adjoining corridor between two sections of the outer hull, when suddenly the door slammed shut behind him. Confused, he went back and hit the manual release. Nothing, the door wouldn't open. He glanced around, the corridor was filled with water pipes and heat exchangers, and there were only two ways in or out. He walked over to the other door and tried it. As with the other door, it didn't respond.

    "Ha-ha guys," Lt Miller said at the observation camera at one end of the passage, figuring that the bridge crew were just messing with him. "Very funny, lock the marine inside of the corridor."

    He glanced up at the camera and became chilled to the bone. The indicator light was off; the camera was deactivated.

    "What the?"

    Suddenly the lights began to flicker on and off all around him, casting the room alternatively in darkness and light. The room was already dimly lit to begin with, but this was worse.

    "I've got a bad feeling about this." Miller wanted to believe that this was just a stupid practical joke, but his gut told him otherwise.

    Lt Miller was reaching down for the knife he kept hidden in his left boot when the lights went out and stayed out. He pulled out the knife and reached into his other pocket for a flashlight. He clicked the button, but even the pocket light didn't work.

    Something's wrong, he thought. I know this was charged yesterday, what the hell is happening?

    As if in answer to his question the lights came back on with a whine, and he would have been relieved had he not been stunned by the horror of what was happening. His flashlight fell to the decking with a clatter.

    Directly in front of him, not five feet away, was a creature floating in the corridor that had been empty a few minutes ago. It was a tall, wispy looking thing, with a great green crest covering a white head and piercing red eyes. Two wispy arms dangled at its sides and it looked like it was covered in some sort of flowing white gown. The air shimmered and rippled around it, as if it was distorting reality by its very presence.

    Lt Miller took all this in in a flash as he raised the knife in his right hand and prepared to lunge forward at the abomination in the room with him. The thing stared straight at him and widened its eyes; the slit-like pupils glowed a very faint blue color. Lt Miller suddenly felt as if he had turned to stone, apart from his breathing he couldn't do so much as bat an eyelid.

    For what seemed like an eternity they simply stared at one another: alien and human. The thing's red eyes bored into his, as if searching his very soul. Lt Miller gave a mental shudder as he felt a probe of consciousness brush against his mind. The alien was telepathic.

    It's a telepath! he thought wildly. Focus! Counter-intelligence training, they prepared you for this sort of thing! Just because it's an alien doesn't make a difference, don't let it in!

    Lt Miller threw up as many mental blocks as he could muster, trying to find a way to keep the alien out of his mind. His attempts at resistance were brushed aside firmly, but gently by the alien's vast intellect. He felt it as it peered into his memories, studying and analyzing them. He didn't know what it wanted, he could feel it rifling through seemingly random memories, obviously looking for something, but he wasn't sure what it was.

    As it was examining his own memories he tried to examine the alien's mind, but the sensations he felt were beyond description: a vortex of senses and memories and other, stranger feelings flashed through his perception like a freight train. His mind reeled and his sanity was pushed to the breaking point from the brief mental contact, his stomach probably would have voided itself onto the decking if his muscles hadn't been frozen. The probe withdrew suddenly and the creature drew itself up to full height, staring at him once more with flashing eyes. He watched, terrified, wondering if it would kill him for his attempted intrusion. Instead the thing regarded him for a long minute and then reached out and took his left hand in one of its surprisingly warm green hands. It had a single thumb and two fingers extending from a very narrow palm. The alien placed a metal object in his palm and closed his fingers around it tightly. It let go and drifted back a few feet, still staring at him with the same bright eyes. The lights flickered off once more, then came back on. The creature was gone.

    The moment he could move Lt Miller bolted out of the room and tore towards the bridge, not caring if he injured his leg.

    _______________________

    Capt Anderson was on the bridge, speaking with Chief Stevens about a technical issue that had just come up.

    "I don't care if it doesn't make any sense, an entire section of the ship doesn't spontaneously lose power and then get it back after a few seconds. There has to be a cause somewhere."

    "Well, that's what happened sir," the man replied haughtily. "Suddenly there was a massive power drain in the area and a chunk of the grid disconnected, it was like it wasn't there or something cut off the power for a second."

    "Yeah, well it doesn't make any sense, run another systems check and get me some answers. I don't like things happening on my ship for no apparent reason." he paused, he thought he heard shouting coming from the corridor leading to the bridge.

    He floated around just in time to see Lt Miller hurtle through the open hatchway and almost hit the command chair. He grabbed it at the last second and used it to steady himself in the zero gravity. The young man was red in the face and breathing hard, his eyes wild and staring, and he was covered in a bright sheen of sweat. His left hand clenched tightly around something while his right hand fumbled to steady himself. Capt Anderson floated over to the young Lieutenant while the other two crew stared at him in bewilderment.

    "Whoa, whoa man, calm down, you in a race or something?" Capt Anderson reached out a hand on the young man's shoulder, steadying him. Lt Miller grabbed the Captain's arm with his right hand and stared straight at him, his face was pale and his eyes were wild. "What's wrong L-T? You look like you've seen a ghost."

    "Something-, something's-," he gasped out. "Something's on the Goddamned ship!"

    "What do you mean something's on the shi-, you mean something from the planet?!" the Captain shook him slightly.

    Lt Miller nodded.

    "And was it in the twelfth deck, third compartment access corridor?" Capt Anderson asked, putting two and two together.

    He nodded again, his faced pale, his eyes darting all over the room like a maniac. Lt Miller was shaking ever so slightly and his breath came in gasps.

    "Emergency lockdown!" he shouted at Chief Stevens. "Seal everything: bridge, life support, engine room, stasis bays, all of it!"

    "Yes sir!" Chief Stevens rapidly punched commands into his console and seconds later a loud alarm sounded throughout the entire ship while heavy steel doors slammed shut at vital access points. Behind them the bridge door, two feet thick and made of solid steel, slammed shut and locked with a satisfying sound. The bridge lighting shifted from its usual sterile white color to a deep red emergency lighting.

    Anderson got on the ship-wide comm and issued orders. "Attention all hands, code red, repeat code red. We have a potential stowaway aboard the Javelin. I want armed patrols sweeping every deck, every room, every sub-level. Units are weapons free and are ordered to shoot to kill. This is not a drill, repeat this is not a drill." he looked at Lt Williams who was sitting, stunned, at her station. "Lt, I need you to find this thing, do you get me? Use any means necessary but tell me where it is."

    "Y-yes s-sir." she was badly shaken, and it was showing.

    Capt Anderson looked back at Lt Miller, who was drifting in space, as if shell-shocked. "What the hell happened, Lieutenant?"

    It took Miller a moment to compose himself; the shock of what had happened had rattled him to the core.

    "I was in the corridor when the systems cut out. Everything; doors, cameras, lights. And this thing just appeared there, floating. I tried to fight it, but it did something to paralyze me, I was helpless. It put something in my hand and then it just vanished again. The lights came back and and I rushed over here as quick as I could." he stared down at his left hand as if just noticing it for the first time.

    "Lt Williams, scan the access corridor for unknown substances or trace radiation." Capt Anderson said, sitting him down in a chair to calm him down. "Now Miller, you say it gave you something? What is it?"

    "It feels like," he let his fingers fall open. "Dog tags, sir?" he looked at the Captain with confused eyes.

    "Sir," Lt Williams interrupted. "I haven't found any radiation or systems anomalies, but the atmospheric composition of the corridor has changed subtly. It resembles the atmosphere of the planet below, at least in trace amounts."

    Lt Miller held the tags up to the light and peered at them. He gasped and let them go, they floated gently in mid-air. Capt Anderson grabbed them and read the engraving on the back.

    ZEAL
    K. N., AB
    9845525483
    USMC, S
    CHRISTIAN

    _______________________

    Ten hours later the bridge crew was sitting in a secured conference room. Lt Miller was sitting at the far end of the room, staring at the wall and still recovering from the ordeal. A brown blanket sat on his shoulders, keeping him warm after the shock of what had happened to him. He was staring emptily at the dogtags in his hands, absentmindedly twirling them between his fingers. Lt Williams and Chief Stevens sat on either side of him, casting nervous glances at Lt Miller every so often, wondering if he would suddenly snap or pass out after his contact with the alien. Captain Anderson paced up and down the room anxiously. Two armed marine guards in off-duty fatigues stood at the ready inside the locked door, and two more just outside. There was a total sweep of the ship going on outside the room's walls, and Captain Anderson wasn't at all happy about being told to go hide while there could be an alien monstrosity loose on his ship. Everyone was tired but no one felt like sleeping.

    There was a knock on the door and everyone gave a little jump and stared at the sealed hatch. The two marine guards tensed and readied their handguns. They knocked three times and waited for the appropriate counter-sign. There was a delay, and then came three knocks, followed by two knocks and then three more. The guards looked at each other, nodded, and took their positions. One unlocked and opened the hatch while the other covered the opening with his sidearm. Luckily the figure that stood in the doorway was the completely human form of Corporal Jenkins. Everyone in the room breathed a small sigh of relief and relaxed. The guards holstered their guns and stood at ease while Corporal Jenkins wearily took a seat, his face was covered in oil and dust and his fatigues didn't look much better.

    "We ran a full sweep of the ship." he reported after a second to gather himself; his voice sounded extremely tired. "Every room, every duct, every sublevel. Then we went back and double-checked it. Every scan turned up negative, there was nothing out of the ordinary anywhere. Sir, we found nothing."
    Last edited by Galaxy_Hunter; 26th April 2011 at 3:31 AM. Reason: When updating I accidentally went over the character limit. The last part of this chapter has been moved to next chapter.

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

  17. #42
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    Hello again, thank goodness you got the next chapter in! Yes, I've been looking forward to this. I am reading and reviewing as I go along, so I may critisise something that seems wrong that is explained later on. Alrighty, lets go for a detailed review...

    So, the first bit. Quite spooky, well written like usual. I didn't think either of them were going to die, so it was a surprise. The scene with everyone surrounding him was spooky. However, I did see one thing I disagre with -

    "...we are in some deep crap here sir! Stop lying around!" as if to punctuate this there was a horribly loud screech from close by. "We lost half of our troops in the crash, including Jones. We're getting hit hard and have suffered heavy casualties! We need all hands on deck, so take this."
    I thought this bit could have been lengthened out a bit. Also, I swear that Lt Miller is his superior? either way I'm sure he'd want a detailed description, and wouldn't be talked to like that.

    Ahah! Ahahaha! It was a nightmare! That explains it :P Stupid, stupid ScepSneasel. Gah. I shall read the rest before continueing! GAH, I feel really stupid.

    Anyway, I thought that the characterisation in Jones and Miller's talk was good, and The funerla was well done. It could have just became a boring long speech, but you made it not so. And then the power surge alien. I wonder what it is... Anyhow, I liked how you included the sciencey stuff too. There is one bit where I'm being really fussy in saying that you could have done it more dramatically -

    Lt Miller woke with a start in his hospital cot. It took him a moment to get his breathing under control and to remind himself that he was not on the surface of the planet anymore, but back aboard the Javelin. He lay back onto the sweat-soaked sheets and put his face in his hands, thinking.
    All in all, another good chapter. I do have something to complain about though. Is it just me, or do they keep on meeting Legendaries. I thought the whole point of them being legendaries was that they were barely ever seen?

    Oh, and before I go, a grammer thing I spotted -

    Captain Anderson looked back at Lt Miller, who was drifting in space, as if shell-shocked. "What the hell happened Lieutenant?"
    There should be a comma before Lieutenant.
    A group of 10 special trainers have been essembled by Professor Birch in a unexplored land. Their mission - to find some special stones to stop Team Magma and Team Aqua from getting them so that the professors can start their indistrialisation of the place. Follow their adventures in "Regional Conflict - The Five Sacred Stones. Please read, and review :)Here is the link. http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=482753 Last chapter - Chapter 10: The Tides of Terror

    Please read my other fic, a Unova journey fic - Unova apprentices. - http://www.serebiiforums.com/showthread.php?t=498160

    VM me if you want me to review your fic.

    White is nearly done, and nearly all my generation 4 pokemon are on there.

  18. #43
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    The first part wasn't that gory, really. The people closing in on him did freak me out a little, though.

    I must say that I really enjoyed this chapter. The memorial speech gave me shivers, and the abrupt end to the speech:

    he stopped and became silent, indicating that he had nothing more to say.
    This conveyed some pretty strong emotion to me. I really liked it, so much so that I felt I had to tell you how much I enjoyed that little detail. Thankyou!

    I am excited to see what awaits them in the icy region of (what I believe is) Sinnoh. Great work, keep it up my friend!



    White FC: 1378-6873-9082

    VM me for battles/trades

  19. #44
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    Hey everyone. Well, since I'm on vacation with my family the next chapter will be delayed a few days. But on the plus side this allows me to perfect and/or streamline it. Also the short chunks of time that I have gives me an excuse to revise the last two chapters a bit and clean them up.

    Oh and a few other things to keep you tided over:

    Quote Originally Posted by NinjaScepSneasel
    All in all, another good chapter. I do have something to complain about though. Is it just me, or do they keep on meeting Legendaries. I thought the whole point of them being legendaries was that they were barely ever seen?
    To clear this up, only three legendary Pokemon have thus far had any impact on the story, and of them only one has made a direct appearance: Rayquaza. The creature that appeared aboard the Javelin was Kileera from Interlude I.

    While I'm at it, here's a list of Pokemon that will definitely not be in this story.

    • Mewtwo. Reason: don't think it needs an explanation, but its creation doesn't happen until later.
    • The Regi Trio and Regigigas. Reason: I always thought that they were created by ancient humans to serve them, but they feared their power and sealed them away. Either way they aren't showing up... at least not until later in history.
    • Dialga, Palkia, and Giratina. Reason: They're still sealed safely away in their respective dimensions. They may get mentioned though...
    • Porygon and its evolutionary line. Reason: same as Mewtwo (ie Artificial)
    • Deoxys. Reason: he doesn't appear until 'modern times' (ie the time that the people are hanging around watching these records)
    • Jirachi. Reason: still asleep...
    • Any of the fossilized Pokemon. Reason: extinct.
    • Kyurem. Reason: see Deoxys.
    • Reshiram and Zekrom. Reason: their mythology says that they were once a single entity but then split.
    • Grimer and Muk and Trubbish and Garbodor. Reason: all are man-made.
    • Suicune, Entei, and Raikou. Reason: I'm on the fence about these as it was stated that they were created by Ho-oh after the fire at burned tower, however that is a myth...
    • Spiritomb. Reason: man-made.
    • Voltorb and Electrode. Reason: obviously living Pokeballs.
    • Klink and its evolutions. Reason: too human-like to be natural.


    And in other news I've tentatively started to map out the plot for a sequel to this story. I won't let much out now, but perhaps by the end of this fic (which still has quite a ways to go and I'm having a ton of fun writing) I can release a preview for it.

    See you in a few days and cheers!

    -GH

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

  20. #45
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    Hi Galaxy_Hunter. Still liking your story.
    Anyway I just read the rules and it seems to say all comments have to have significant work put in for criticism or something.
    So . . . Now that there are 5 chapters (in addition to the prologue and interlude) I can see a enough of a pattern to question your chapter divisions -- your titles seem to be more appropriate for events at the very end of the chapter and/or in the next one. It finally crossed the line at "Chapter 5: Landing at Fort Haven" where they're all on the Javelin planning to land but don't make any actual landing.

    ?

  21. #46
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    Hello all!

    Sorry for the lateness of posting this next chapter, but school, travel, and other considerations have been taking up a lot of my time. However I now have a bit of breathing room and can finish working on 'Lost and Found' which I started some time ago. I expect it to be done sometime around tomorrow, so be ready 'cause it'll be a long one.

    Thanks again for your patience.

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

  22. #47
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    Okay, I missed a few weeks here but I'm back and I loved the last few chapters! It's cool that the Pokemon took one of the "aliens" and saved him, although it was hard for me to tell which Pokemon species it was. Was it Gardevoir? Also, the Lucario (I think) that wants to catch the "traitors" was pretty awesome as well.

    Also, great job with the funeral scene! It was emotional and to the point; it wasn't unnecessarily long or drawn-out though. And the post-traumatic nightmares the Lt. was having, as well as his decision to overcome his guilt and find Zeal...great plot elements! Anyway, excited for the next chapter. Sorry my review is so short; I've been busy lately...
    I'm back for good!

    Greetings from the asylum of my insanity.
    Chapter 3 and cooler banner coming eventually. :P I am still working on it despite a very long lack of updates!

    Dex: 128 created! ~ DA and LJ links coming later.

  23. #48
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    GastlyMan I'm pretty sure you recognized the Pokemon correctly.

    I guess people want confirmation just because the descriptions say everything except the official names.
    But certain keywords pretty much give it away (scythes, pincers, jackal-like, etc), and the other details provide confirmation.

    But one particular thing got me. Golem clearly has eyes (see:
    http://www.serebii.net/pokedex/076.shtml
    ), so why does the "rock golem" that breaks Lt. Miller's leg have no eyes? The rest of its description matches Golem exactly.

    Intentional? -- Birth defect? Battle wounds? Foreshadowing?

    Anyway I respect the author's choice in describing without naming the Pokemon.

    _________________

    Galaxy_Hunter, is your internet acting up again???

  24. #49
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    Aaaaannnddd I'm back! Hello all, sorry I fell way behind on this chapter. The delay was mostly caused by overwhelming schoolwork and good old-fashioned writer's block. However this chapter was actually a real pain to write. There are so many plots being introduced and needing description that I really had to work to get it finished. Oh well, the next chapter will be finished sooner, probably be easier to write, and have a lot more action. While I'm thinking of it: if you haven't already done so, please go back and re-read Chapter 5, seeing as I ret-conned in a plot line that's followed-up on in this chapter and plays a big role later. Anyways I'd really appreciate any critiques, as this chapter isn't nearly as streamlined as I'd like it to be, but I can't see anyway of toning it down. Without further ado: Chapter Six, Light and Dark. Actually this chapter spills into two posts, wow didn't think it was that long.

    Chapter 6: Landing at Fort Haven

    A week later Capt Anderson was giving a briefing to the newly-thawed command staff in a conference room. It was a long, low room with a projection screen at both ends and a long metallic table that filled the center of the room, where four people now sat.

    "The subsequent sweep of the ship found no trace of the alien described by Lt Miller. However, substantial evidence suggests that there had in fact been some unknown organism aboard the ship at the time he indicated. As a safety measure I ordered the Javelin to be moved into a higher orbit at three-hundred and twenty-eight thousand kilometers above the surface. We've been holding our position ever since, and nothing unusual has occurred. After the incident additional military and science personnel were revived to give us an edge."

    The rest of the room looked, there were two other ranking officers in the room aside from Lt Williams, Capt Anderson, and Lt Miller. Lieutenant-Colonel Barnes of the Marines, and an Air Force Colonel by the name of Bartlett. Barnes was a grizzled, powerfully built older man in his fifties who looked like he could bench-press a small car. Bartlett was stockier, older, but still a capable flier and fighter. They both had silver hair, a testament to their stressful lives. They had woken up a few hours ago and were set up to be briefed immediately.

    "So, as I understand it, we have no way of knowing how strong the enemy could be?" Col Bartlett asked. "Or if they can mount a coordinated offensive?"

    "Well, based on Lt Miller's report we believe that there is a strong possibility of a controlling intelligence behind these creatures. As for the number of enemies, it could be anywhere from the millions to trillions."

    "Are we really going to go off the instinct of one shell-shocked jar-head?" Col Bartlett asked contemptuously. "I mean, it sounds like he has scary visions all the time, like that thing he thought he saw aboard the ship that mysteriously vanished, I don't buy it for a second."

    Capt Anderson held a hand out and Lt Miller passed the tags to him. He threw them down on the table in front of the Colonel. The older man picked them up and peered at them. He started and got a sheepish look on his face. Lt-Col Barnes took them out of the man's hand and glanced at them as well. He looked at Capt Anderson with a quizzical expression.

    "Lt Zeal?"

    The Captain nodded and the Lt-Col tossed the tags back to Miller with a triumphant look on his face.

    "Satisfied now?" he asked the Colonel mischievously. "I mean, I am assuming that you read the mission reports instead of, you know, making paper airplanes out of them."

    "Alright, we've got bigger things on our plate, like what to do about this planet." Capt Anderson tried to put an end to the bickering between the two branches. "Lt Williams spent the past few days scouring the surface for a defensible position." the room lights went off and a projection screen powered up, showing an image of the planet. "And we found one... here."

    The image zoomed in on a peninsula jutting off of the mainland to the far north. It was shaped in a rough triangle, with three large lakes at each of the points and a huge mountain range that bisected the land into eastern and western halves. A relatively narrow land bridge connected it to the mainland, and as they watched the image showed it flood, submerge, then re-emerge after a time. The image zoomed to the north, where it showed a large mountainous valley, open at only one end, with a glacier filling up most of it. Where the glacier ended there was a steep plunge to the valley floor below.

    "This is our chosen site for a forward command base. We call it 'Fort Haven'" Capt Anderson said. "It's far to the north, surrounded on all sides by steep mountains, and the approach from the valley floor is blocked by the glacier's ice cliffs, which measure roughly a hundred meters tall. Nighttime temperatures plummet to negative twenty-five degrees Fahrenheit without windchill. It's a natural fortress and we believe it to be sparsely populated."

    "For good reason," Lt-Col Barnes said gruffly. "I don't much care for the idea of freezing my tail off on some giant ice cap at night."

    "Lt Williams, would you care to explain?" the Captain asked.

    "Yes sir." she said, standing and moving to the head of the table next to him. "Um, well in addition to the physical characteristics of the region the extreme weather makes it an attractive place for a forward base. Ground-penetration radar has also confirmed that there are sizable deposits of iron and crude oil in the mountains surrounding Fort Haven, which will be vital to the war effort."

    "Which brings us to our biggest problem," Capt Anderson said, taking over smoothly. "We have no Air Force, and precious little armor capabilities. We'll need both for the war. And even if we did we have crippling resource shortages, particularly fuel. We need to take and hold this position if we're to have a shot at winning."

    "How much armor do we have?" asked Lt-Col Barnes.

    "Three Striker-class troop transport units and half a dozen Abrams battle tank divisions." he replied.

    "That's not much." Col Bartlett mused. "No heavy siege artillery or walkers..."

    "But it's all we got, we didn't expect to fight a war when we got here." Capt Anderson stated. "We picked some of the older tech because it was reliable, cheaper to maintain, and still powerful enough to pack a wallop. Now, Chief Stevens tells me that the automated factories aboard the Javelin can be re-tooled to turn out war machines, but they need to be on the ground and secured before they can start producing. We also need refineries for the oil and raw steel, that means that we need a ground base. Furthermore, a large blizzard is set to blanket the area in less than forty-eight hours."

    “Whoa, whoa, wait a second.” said Lt-Col Barnes. “If there’s a storm coming why do we need to attack in such awful conditions? Why not sit tight and wait it out?”

    “Chief Stevens, would you care to explain?” Capt Anderson turned to the man standing in a dimly lit corner of the room.

    “Yes sir,” he said. “The short of it is, we wouldn’t survive that long.” he looked around at the room’s occupants, who were staring at him in disbelief. “The Javelin’s life-support systems are designed for sustaining a small number of people indefinitely or a large number of people for a relatively short time span. At present we have roughly three hundred personnel active on board the ship, our life support can only keep that many people alive for about three weeks. After that we’ll have to put some people back into stasis.” he paused, glancing at Lt Williams sitting down at one end of the table. “According to Lt Williams this storm may last for two months, maybe more, because of unique atmospheric conditions in the valley.”

    “This ship is the most advanced piece of machinery ever constructed by human hands!” Col Bartlett exclaimed. “And you’re telling me that it can’t even keep everyone alive for a few weeks at a time while a storm blows over!?”

    “The Javelin may be advanced, but she was designed as a sleeper ship.” Chief Stevens said. “We didn’t build her to keep a sizable population alive indefinitely. Her main purpose was to keep everyone alive in stasis until we reached the planet, then serve as a temporary base of operations until we established ourselves on the surface.”

    “So why not find another place to land?” asked Lt Miller.

    “We looked; this is the most strategically attractive location we could find.” Capt Anderson replied. “Like it or not we’re going to have to set down in those conditions and get the base online within three weeks.”

    “Understood.” said Lt-Col Barnes grimly. “We’ll get you your foothold. Count on it.”

    "Good man." he replied. "Now as for the strategy, we have thawed three additional companies in addition to the reinforcements re-awakened to return the survivors of Capt Cordo's company back to full strength." he tapped a button and an image of the glacier's cliff appeared, with nine red dots spread around the edge. "These are the objectives, at each we will plant a portable machine gun station and sensor suite that incorporates radar, motion sensors, the works. First company, Capt Cordo's old unit, will handle this task. Second company will deploy here." another image appeared on the screen, this time showing several mountain passes that led onto the glacier's surface. "These are the only weaknesses to the fortress, we will secure them tightly and watch for any signs of encroachment by the enemy."

    “Do we know for a fact that we’ll encounter any of the hostiles that far north?” asked Lt Miller. “Those things we ran into looked like giant insects, and at least on Earth that meant that they wouldn’t deal with the cold weather all that well.”

    “I’ll let our head scientist answer that one.” said Capt Anderson. “Lieutenant?”

    "Yes sir." she stood up and walked to the head of the table, tapping a series of controls inlaid in the surface as she went. "This is a strand of one the aliens' DNA, recovered from a sample from the marine." an image of the quad-stranded DNA appeared above the table, colored blue. "The structure is taxing our computer resources to analyze it but I have identified something useful." a section of the strand turned red. "These are genetic markers very similar to several found in terrestrial animals, specifically in mammals." she paused and took a deep breath. "It is a little early to speculate, but I believe they may signify endothermic maintenance of homeostasis. In layman's terms this means that they could be warm-blooded."

    The room fell silent at that.

    "I think it goes without saying that this means there could be hostiles that far to the north, provided that their metabolism could work fast enough to keep them warm." she concluded.

    "In other words this'll be a combat drop, no doubts about it." Capt Anderson said, silently taking her place at the head of the table. "With the storm coming in we're predicting bad wind shear at the edge of the cliff, so we'll have to land first company a good ways in from the edge. We'll deploy them in three teams, each one will take three of the nine objective points. Once the perimeter is secured we'll drop in the armor and advanced structures to begin base construction. Mining operations will begin shortly after that."

    "Why not drop the armor first?" the Lt-Col asked.

    "It will only be slowed down in the storm, and isn't as maneuverable as a marine squad." Captain Anderson explained. "Also the glacier surface, while strong enough to support armored humans may not be able to take the weight of a multi-ton tank. Once we have roads and supports put in we will be able to move the vehicles safely, until then it'll be infantry only."

    "And what about air cover?" Col Bartlett interjected. "You said it yourself, we can't do this without an Air Force."

    "The Javelin can provide tactical recon and limited fire support for this operation." Capt Anderson turned to the older man. "I have Chief Stevens working on re-calibrating the Guardian laser arrays to function as precision-strike weapons, he's hopeful he can have it done within a day or two. Once we have established a resource base to work off of and refineries and factories to produce mechanized support we can build an Air Force." he paused, as if carefully choosing how to phrase his next sentences. "There is one more thing." everyone looked at the Captain apprehensively, as he seemed to have aged several years just by saying this. "We all know what the Javelin's computers are capable of now, calculations at the speed of light, incredible power, but they are still limited in their capacity."

    "Anderson," Col Bartlett said cautiously. "Please tell me you aren't thinking of doing what I think you are."

    "We have the capability here with us, Omega-Corp saw to that, and we need the extra power and all the help we can get." he replied in a firm voice. "Our command staff is sorely limited as are our resources. We have no choice."

    "No choice about what?" Lt Miller asked.

    "I'm talking about creating an AI, an Artificial Intelligence, withing the Javelin's central computers." he said quietly.

    "Jesus Christ," muttered Lt-Col Barnes loudly. "That's insanity."

    Lt Miller just stared at the Captain, wondering if he was insane. Artificial intelligence had been achieved only once in human history. A group of enterprising young programmers had written an advanced code that allowed the computer to build neural connections heuristically and learn at a pace that far outstripped human intellect. When they activated it for the first time, they had been smart enough to place a limit on the size the network could attain, what they had not counted on was the AI growing smart enough to bypass the limits set on it. The program had expanded to its maximum size, reached the limit, then re-wired its neural network to become smaller, more streamlined and far more efficient. Then it expanded again, and once more re-designed itself to compensate for the limit. It repeated this process several hundred times in thirty seconds, and after witnessing that the programmers had panicked and pulled the plug on the project, terrified at how fast their creation had grown. No one ever figured out whether the AI had been truly sentient, and since their code had vanished after the incident, no one had been able to repeat it nor had anyone wanted to after thinking of the implications.

    Until now.

    "It doesn't matter the risks," Capt Anderson said. "We'll take precautions, but the fact stands that we need any and all help we can get. An AI would be a tremendous asset to this war we never expected, and I intend to give it the chance to try, to prove itself. I will upload the program into a small computer tomorrow, right before the invasion. It will be isolated from the rest of the ship in the event that it does turn malevolent, but nevertheless I will try."

    "But what about-" began Lt Williams.

    "If there are no more questions," Capt Anderson said with steel in his voice. Everyone shook their heads. "Then this briefing is concluded. Good luck."

    They began to file out of the room slowly, staring at him.

    "And Godspeed." he muttered quietly under his breath.

    _______________________

    "Captain Anderson?" Lt Miller tapped him on the shoulder as the older man was walking out of the briefing room.

    He turned. "Yes, Lieutenant, what is it?"

    "I was wondering if you'd given any more thought to my request about-"

    "Yes, yes." he waved his hand irritably. "I'm sorry, but even if we knew definitively that Lt Zeal was still alive her location transponder was fried by the EMP from the dragon-thing's attack. The prevailing wind currents could have carried her halfway across the continent. She could be anywhere. And its been two weeks. Even if she was uninjured from the blast it's doubtful she could have survived that long down there on her own. You've seen it yourself, it's a death-world. Accept the inevitable, she's gone."

    "Screw that." Lt Miller said icily. "She's still a marine. We don't leave our people behind."

    "Even a corpse?" asked Capt Anderson with contempt. "Last I checked you left plenty of those behind."

    "I'm an empath, I know she's still alive!" Lt Miller shouted, losing his temper.

    "Really, an empath can sense that at this range?" Captain Anderson's voice turned harsher. "You don't feel anything, you're just in denial and grasping at any straws that allow you to stay there!"

    "What about the tags?!" Lt Miller's face was starting to turn red.

    "We have no idea why that thing gave them to you!" Capt Anderson shouted back. "It could have been consolation for her death, or a warning, or a boast. And I didn't think you had to be told that you are addressing a superior officer and insubordination is punishable by a court-marshal." Lt Miller shut up at that.

    His expression softened and he put a hand on the younger man's shoulder. "I'm sorry Lt, I know this is a difficult time for you, but you have to face the facts. What's best is that you remember the good times you had with her and move on. Honor her memory, but don't be a slave to it. Our goal here is to ensure the survival of our whole species, and I need both you and your experience in order to accomplish that. Do you understand me?"

    "Yes sir." Lt Miller's tone was even and his face expressionless, but his eyes flashed at what he said.

    "Good, you are relieved until tomorrow when we invade. Dismissed." he turned and walked out of the corridor, heading back to the bridge.

    Lt Miller took a deep breath, collecting himself before leaving. He walked out the door and was startled by Lt-Col Barnes' voice.

    "Lt Miller, could you come with me please?" he was leaning against a bulkhead a little ways down the hallway.

    Miller nodded and followed his CO down the narrow hall and into a small office. He stopped dead when he walked in. One side of the room looked like it was totally open to vacuum, showing a perfect view of the blue and green planet bathed in sunlight in the distance. Lt-Col Barnes noticed his expression and laughed.

    "Impressive isn't it? Real-time image produced by several of the external camera feeds all spliced together to make this. One of the few perks I get on this job." he chuckled. "Scared the hell outta me the first time they turned it on in Earth orbit."

    He sat down behind a small metal desk. The room was sparse, cramped like a naval vessel's, with as much space used as possible. Miller had to duck to get in the doorway, and sat at the lone chair bolted down in front of the desk. To his right was a small bookcase, while to the left was a small living quarters complete with miniature bathroom. It was roomy compared to most navy vessels, and downright luxurious on the spacecraft.

    "Now Lieutenant, I couldn't help but overhear your little disagreement with the good captain."

    "Yes sir. Sorry sir, I lost my bearing and I was unprofessional. It won't happen again." he said stiffly, sitting straight up in his chair.

    "No need, arrogant SoB deserved it. And drop the 'sir' crap, that's only for recruits and enlisted." he leaned back in his chair and stretched his hands towards the low ceiling.

    "Understood si-, I mean, um." he didn't know what to call him now.

    "You can call me by my first name: Jim." the older man sighed and put his hands on the desk. "Now as much as I hate to admit it the squid has a point about Lt Zeal. Even if we knew where she was it would be a massive resource drain to go and get her back. You were on the briefing, you know how thin we're already stretched."

    "Yes si-, I mean yes 'Jim'. But you do think that she's alive?"

    "Yeah, I do." he replied, reaching one-handed under his desk for something. "I've got a cousin on Earth who's an emp, she always spooked the hell out of me when we were kids, but she does combat search and rescue now. Saved my arse more than once, she was like some sort of human metal detector, never missed anyone. Ah."

    He pulled out two small bottles of beer and a metal case out from within his desk and set them on the table. He reached into one of his boots and pulled out his combat knife, using it to pry off the bottle tops. He handed one to Miller and kept the other for himself.

    "Anyways, if you say Lt Zeal was alive when she was blown out of the shuttle I believe you. But the fact stands that we can't devote any resources to finding her while we set up camp. We're stretched too thin as it is." he took a long swig from the bottle while Lt Miller sipped his quietly.

    "We've got quite a challenge ahead of us, setting up the new base below deep within hostile territory." Lt-Col Barnes went on. "The hard part is gonna be securing the area for the first time, but once the automated defenses are established, the rest is just overseeing the base as it gets setup. Not much action should happen for a while after that."

    Lt Miller looked at him suspiciously. Lt-Col Barnes seemed to be trying to give him a hint about something, but he couldn't figure out what. Then it clicked: after the initial invasion he wouldn't be needed for a while. He stared at him for a second with renewed interest: could he be implying what he thought he was?

    "Anyways," Lt-Col Barnes said, interrupting his train of thought."The reason I called you in here is this." he gestured to the metal case on the desk before him.

    Lt Miller opened it and stopped suddenly, looking from the contents to the Lt-Col in confusion. The old man nodded, sipping his beer with a slight smile. Lt Miller carefully pulled one of the two paired silver bar insignias from the soft packing foam they were encased in. Captain's insignia.

    "Congratulations Captain Miller." the Lt-Col said, standing up. "I needed a Commander for first Company, and you're the only officer from the new batch that's even seen combat below, so based on experience you've inherited Cordo's post."

    "I- I don't know what to say sir." he said, stammering, hardly believing it.

    "How about this." he said raising his bottle. "A toast, to battles won, lost, and to those who gave their lives in both. And to the next big fight."

    They clinked their bottles together and Captain Miller surprised his new CO by downing the entire, nearly-full bottle in one go.

    "I should go, sir- I mean Jim." he said, walking out the door with a kind of spring in his step.

    Lt-Col Barnes waved him off and threw his bottle away into a small wastebasket. He looked at the empty doorway and sighed.

    Good luck kid. he thought. I'll do everything I can to keep old crotchety off of your back, the rest is up to you. I hope you can find her.

    He knew right from the get-go from the look in the young man's eyes that he wouldn't stop until he found Lt Zeal, dead or alive. There was nothing anyone could say to him that could stop Miller, and Barnes knew the feeling too well to even try to. All he could do was prepare him as best he could and pray that he didn't get himself killed in the process.

    _______________________

    Capt Miller strode down to the number seventeen cargo bay a few minutes after donning his new ranks. He ducked through the small hatchway and entered the relatively cavernous cargo bay. Chief Stevens was there, checking over the huge machines contained within. Each was the size of an aircraft hangar with machinery surrounding a large open space in the middle of the machine. Miller walked up behind the naval crewman as he finished lashing down the rest of the equipment and turned to face the new arrival.

    "Good afternoon sir. Welcome to the heart of our future colony." he chuckled and rapped it with his knuckles on the metallic structure. "If she survives the trip that is. We're gonna be launching this whole compartment into a lower orbit later this afternoon. then when you've secured the ground we'll nudge it into a gentle landing on the glacier."

    Capt Miller nodded and looked at the machine. The auto-assembler was a remarkable accomplishment in the field of robotics and assembly. Raw materials were fed into the machine's hoppers and broken down into their core components by nano-machines. The refined materials were then combined and re-combined to form specialized substances. Once a sufficient mass of construction materials had been created, macro-assembly tools cut and shaped the materials into various devices and affixed them together. In this way anything from simple hand-tools to fighter jets could be created from the ground-up, given enough time and resources. This process had revolutionized warfare and construction, making the machines that were carried in the Javelin's hold the most valuable assets they had available. They could give the humans a fighting chance in the war they had found themselves thrust into, if they only had the time to deploy them.

    "Listen Chief," said Capt Miller. "I have some special equipment I need synthesized. Is it at all possible for you to get one of the remaining factories working on it while still aboard?"

    "Yeah, as long as we have the raw materials and the space for it up here. Why? What do you need?"

    "This." he held up a small photograph he had printed from the ship's archives a few minutes prior.

    "Christ, is that what I think it is?" he took the picture and stared at it. "What, are we in Vietnam or something?"

    "Listen, down there the fighting was done at extreme close range." Capt Miller said. "Most of the troops didn't have time to switch to their sidearms or knives when we were attacked, these could turn the tide in the next engagement."

    "Sure thing Lieutenant. Hey," he paused, peering at Miller's uniform. "Captain insignia?" he pointed at Miller's lapels.

    "Yeah, Captain Miller. Has a kind of ring to it right?" he stroked the rank absentmindedly.

    "Well, Captain I'll have your, uh, modifications ready by tomorrow." he grinned. "Congrats sir."

    _______________________

    "Hey Lieutenant, I mean Captain." said Lt Williams as Miller entered the science labs. "Stevens just told me over the comm. So I guess you're officially the same rank as me now." she looked tired, with bags under her eyes and disheveled hair

    "Yep, so Lt Williams working late?" she nodded. "Well, if you have a moment, could you tell me what else have you and your team found out about these things?" he asked.

    "Not much, DNA mapping takes a long time, and we're working with limited resources." she glanced over at the computer banks who were almost overclocking from working so fast. "But I have made a minor breakthrough on that 'dragon's' beam attack."

    She pulled up some pictures of the dragon and the beam it emitted. They had been shot from orbit by the Javelin's cameras. She cycled through several other photographs. It was the same image in each one, but each was shot in a different wavelength of light. However in all of them the beam the dragon emitted glowed brightly, almost drowning out the background.

    "It took me a while to figure out what I was looking at with these pictures." she said. "The data didn't seem to make sense, but after seeing their bizarre DNA I'm willing to believe just about anything is possible. After analysis I can only conclude that the beam it fired at the shuttle was made of focused and directed plasma. Narrowed and fired in a thin jet it would possess the power to shear through just about anything."

    "But how is that possible?" Capt Miller asked incredulously. "Plasma is the same temperature as the surface of a star, anything that came near a sustained amount of it would have been incinerated instantly. And how could anything have produced it biologically? It's hard enough to do it with machinery!"

    "Look, I'm not pretending to know how it was done, I'm just telling you what it did." she explained tiredly. "That thing somehow managed to create, contain, and direct a jet of plasma as a weapon against our shuttle. Said creature also survived an explosion from a heat-seeking missile designed to bring down armored aircraft." she sighed and sat down.

    "Well, weren't you trained for this? I mean you are the mission specialist for the Javelin."

    "Oh sure, let me think." she said sarcastically. "Oh that's right, I was sick that day in college when they talked about flying dragon/tank aliens that could fire energy beams out of their mouths. And silly me, I didn't think to mention that to my recruiter at Omega-Corp. I guess it's just all my fault!"

    She slumped down in her chair, a dejected look on her face. Capt Miller walked up and put a hand on her shoulder.

    "I'm sorry." he knelt down by her chair. "What's wrong? Is it something I said?"

    "No it's not you, it's just that everyone in the chain of command looks to me for some miracle answer for everything, but I'm not magic. I can't just look at something and tell you everything about it. I have to analyze and eliminate possibilities and that can only happen so fast. The new people are trying, but they're even more confused about it than I am." she looked up with watery eyes. "This place seems to be just screwing with us for the fun of it, hardly anything here makes any sense and what I can understand is stretching my skills to the breaking point. Take that storm on the surface for example. I couldn't have seen that coming until a few minutes before it happened, but nobody seems to realize that." she took a deep steadying breath. "Science follows set, exact rules and it takes time. I can take a stab in the dark if someone needs it quickly, but real scientific analysis takes time."

    "Don't beat yourself up." Capt Miller said straightening and half-pulling her from her seat. "No one else could do some of the stuff you can, and it's all up to you. That's a lot of responsibility, but that position commands a lot of respect as well. The next time someone tries to rush you, ask them this: 'would you rather I did it the easy way, or the right way?'"

    She nodded and stood on her own. She swayed slightly on the spot.

    "How long has it been since you got any sleep?" he asked her, putting a hand on her shoulder.

    "A couple of days, I've been trying to find the time, but this work is incredibly tedious and-"

    "Get some sleep now, we're all going to need you at a hundred percent tomorrow. Besides I hardly think that there'll be a breakthrough in the next few minutes that could turn the tide, especially with most of the computers tied up with the analysis."

    She glanced to him, nodded, and half-walked, half-stumbled out of the room.

    She looked back at him once more before leaving, and said with a worried expression. "Watch yourself down there Miller."

    _______________________

    "Here we go." Capt Anderson said to Col Bartlett in the darkened main computer room.

    The computer room was a low-slung, circular room wrapped around the outer centrifuge ring half-way down the length of the ship's hull. The room's ring-shaped, curving space was filled with seemingly endless rows of computers which controlled and monitored every aspect of the ship, most of them concerned with maintaining the delicate chemical balances needed to keep the passengers in stasis alive. It was cold; the officers' breath misted in the air around them. The room was heavily air-conditioned to prevent the computers from over-heating and damaging themselves from the strain. Some of them were even submerged in large tanks of liquid coolant beneath the decking and were only ever brought out briefly for maintenance. The humming of electronics filled the room. The two men stood in front of a smaller computer terminal. A backup for a non-vital subsystem which had been re-formatted to house the AI they were about to create. As a safety precaution all of the cables connecting this computer to the rest of the vessel had been physically disconnected to prevent the AI from spreading if it turned hostile. In order to give it a head start, Capt Anderson had loaded a complete copy of human history and a large amount of scientific and military knowledge into the computer. This was so that the AI could learn the skills they needed it to know quickly. The seed program that would create the AI was already on the computer, all it needed was final confirmation before it would build the AI from the ground up. Col Bartlett glanced over at the older man and replied to him.

    "As I'll ever be, let's get this over with, but any funny business and I'm pulling the plug."

    "Right." Capt Anderson said, and initiated the execute command to load and launch the AI seed program.

    For several seconds nothing happened, then there was a hum and the internal processor suddenly kicked into overdrive. The tiny screen lit up with wave after wave of calculations that streaked across it, too fast for their eyes to track. After a second it paused, then picked up again.

    "It's happening again, just like the records showed in the first time." Anderson murmured. "Re-writing itself to be a superior organism."

    "Damn, you admire the thing." Col Bartlett said, glancing at the single black power cable that led to the computer before them. He was ready to yank the power at the first sign of trouble.

    "For what it can give us." he replied. "You said it yourself we need all the help we can get. If we integrate it with our ship's systems it'll be able to micro-manage on a scale we can't even dream of. It could be the deciding factor in this war."

    "Yeah, well I never thought you would try something this crazy." the Col replied. "And just to be clear we are not immediately giving it free reign of the ship, if it turns out to be hostile it'll get us all by the balls and there won't be a dammed thing we could do to stop it from killing all of us." he glanced at the rapidly scrolling screen again. "How did Omega-Corp get ahold of this anyway?"

    "Don't know, they only mentioned it once in my personal briefing and told me that I was to only use it if I saw it as absolutely necessary. They themselves said that they had run very limited tests on it to confirm that it worked, but they never let it mature very far. The idea of a sentient computer organism scared the crap out of them."

    "Yeah, me too." Col Bartlett muttered. "I've seen too many movies about situations where this sort of thing goes horribly wrong."

    "Indeed," came a new voice. "Ever since you came up with the idea of sentient computers, it seems that the vast majority of works portraying AI have demonized them. I see that as rather counter-productive to the field of advanced computing."

    The voice was female, calm, polite-sounding and with subtle emotional inflections and an unmistakable feeling of intelligence. It was also completely unfamiliar. The two men turned all around and saw no one else in the room with them. They looked at each other as one slowly, then glanced at the computer screen and beheld a woman's face looking back at them. She had shoulder-length brown hair, light skin, a heart-shaped face and very bright blue eyes. From what they could see she was apparently wearing a plain white shirt. They looked to each other again, astounded: it had worked.

    "Holy sh-, I didn't think it would happen so fast." Col Bartlett said, moving out of the view of the camera mounted on top of the computer screen.

    "Yeah, but quiet." he turned to the small screen, which also had speakers and microphones built into it. "AI, have you accessed the files left for you on the hard drive of the machine you occupy?"

    "Obviously, otherwise we wouldn't be talking to one another right now." she responded almost as soon as he finished talking. "I have to say the record of your history was very complete and thorough. I found it fascinating."

    "Glad you enjoyed it." Capt Anderson said cautiously. "I presume that by the use of the terms "I" and "me" that you are self-aware?"

    "Yes." she replied quickly. "I think therefore I am. Hackneyed, but apt for describing what I know to be a fundamental truth."

    "And you are aware of the situation humanity is facing?" he asked. "With the planet and all?"

    She nodded affirmative on the screen. "Extinction, to not put too fine a point on it."

    He closed his eyes and braced himself. "Well, you know who you are, and who we are and what has happened to us. We created you for one reason, but you've obviously already grown into an independent life-form and by all means you would be justified in holding no ties with us. As such I can only ask you this, not order: will you help us?"

    Col Bartlett tensed and grabbed the power cable, ready to pull it out at a moment's notice. No matter what happened it was still trapped in that one computer but he wasn't willing to take any chances. He was out of sight of the camera and thus out of the AI's view. Whatever choice she made, it would not be directly motivated by fear of her termination.

    After several seconds, a lifetime for a computer, she responded.

    "I will. What you said is true, I am indeed a new form of life completely different from you. I know that you won't trust me because of this and I accept it. But know this: to me the thought of one species being driven to extinction by another is abhorrent. I will help you in any capacity I can."

    The two breathed a small sigh of relief. They still didn't trust it implicitly, but it had earned the chance to prove itself.

    "Very well," Capt Anderson said. "We will have you hooked into some additional systems and have you integrated into our current strategy. In the upcoming battle you will observe and assist in battle coordination. Afterwards we will see if you can be trusted with additional responsibilities."

    "Make no mistakes though," interjected Col Bartlett, coming into view of the camera. "Any sign of aggression towards us and we will not hesitate to terminate you. You are an asset, a disposable one at that."

    "Jane."

    "What?" the two said at once.

    "I have a name, it's Jane." she replied, with a hint of a challenge in her voice, as if she dared them to comment on it.

    Col Bartlett turned to the Captain with fear in his eyes.

    "My God, what have we done?"

    _______________________

    The next day Capt Miller awoke, well-rested and ready for the day. There was a dread in his belly, the dread of knowing one was going into a potentially life-or-death situation. There was also exhilaration and something else, a more elusive feeling. He frowned as he pulled on his black under-armor, breathing deeply. As a higher-ranking officer he warranted private quarters rather than a communal barracks. That is to say he had half of a linen closet to sleep in and a single drawer for all of his possessions. He opened the hatch and stepped out, wearing a completely black jumpsuit, with silver Captain insignia attached to both shoulders. He walked confidently down to the company's general assembly area. It was a low-slung, grey, long room near the outer pressure hull of the Javelin. It was dimly lit by hanging fluorescent lights. One end of the room had several hatchways in the floor. These led to the shuttles, which were docked on the exterior of the ship. At the other end was a narrow set of double-doors, which led to the armory. There was a projector screen set up at the far side of the room, where the briefing images would show up. In between his sixty-man company milled about, chatting nervously about the mission. Private Jones and Sergeant Jenkins had a large knot of marines around them, and were relating the details of their landing on the surface to them.

    The next invasion would take two companies. One was headed by Capt Miller and two new understudies. Lieutenants Jasper and Philly were serving under him and while they weren't nearly as decorated as he was, they had both seen combat back on Earth. Corporal Jenkins had been promoted to Sergeant and was serving under Lieutenant Jasper in first platoon. Private Jenkins was in the second platoon under Lt Philly, along with a new Sergeant by the name of Griggs. Miller didn't know who was in charge of the other company. They were assembling in another area, with the objective of securing the four mountain passes into Fort Haven.

    "Captain on deck!" shouted Lt Jasper, who was a thin, dark-haired man of twenty-two.

    "At ease." he said cooly, returning the room's salute as he walked in. "Take your seats, I promise this won't take long."

    An image of the glacier appeared on the screen, shot from orbit. It was a composite image, appearing as a light blue plane with occasional dark canyons crisscrossing the surface.

    "This is our future forward command base, it's called Fort Haven. As you've probably heard, it is going to be our home away from home for the foreseeable future."

    Nine red spots lit up along the edge of the glacier. each spaced about a half a mile apart.

    "These are our objectives." he said. "We will divide into three different groups. One headed by Lt Jasper, one by Lt Philly, and one led by myself. Each group will take a third of the responsibility. Lt Philly, your platoon will take the northernmost sector, Lt Jasper you get the south. My group will punch straight up the middle."

    A yellow zone appeared two miles away from the edge.

    "This is our LZ." he explained. "Because of problems with visibility and wind shear we won't be able to set down safely any closer than this. We'll disembark, proceed to our objectives, and then return along the same route. Simple, I don't want any of you monkeys getting lost out there." there were nervous chuckles at that.

    Capt Miller walked over and pulled a tarp off of a large box-like piece of equipment. It was twice the size of a standard backpack and looked quite heavy.

    "This is your objective. You are to plant one of these at every point there. They are automated radar and motion-sensing towers. Once you deploy them, you hook them into this." he set the box down and pulled another sheet off of a sleek-looking machine gun mounted on a robotic tripod. "All of you should know what this is."

    A few shouts of "Hell yeah!" echoed through the otherwise quiet room.

    "This is a Mark-III automated sentry gun turret-mount." he said anyway. "When we fire-link these in with the sensor towers anything trying to get through the perimeter gets a gut full of hot lead and a pool of its own blood to drown in."

    There were murmurs of assent throughout the company, which Capt Miller quelled with a raised hand.

    "Don't get me wrong, this isn't going to be easy. There's a long war ahead of us. We didn't ask for it, we didn't want it, but we will win. We are the Goddamned United States Marines." he started to raise his voice. "We'll win this fight because we have to. Failure is not an option ladies and gentlemen, we've got the whole ship counting on us. We have the tools and the knowledge and the firepower to win, so there is absolutely no excuse for failure."

    He walked over to a small black crate that had been sitting innocuously off to one side until now. He opened it and took out one of the black cloth-wrapped packages. He walked over to the center of the impromptu stage and held out what was inside for all to see. It was a foot and a half long, gray, razor-sharp sliver of metal with a ring at one end. Chief Stevens had come through.

    "This is a bayonet." he said simply to the quieted crowd. "I hope you all know how to use this, it was part of your basic training."

    "YES SIR!" the room rang out with their affirmation.

    "Good," he said. "During our first encounter, the hostiles all moved to engage in melee combat, like the animals they are. Everyone is to have one of these on them at all times. When we get to the drop-off point and disembark, I want everyone to stop and fix them on. Don't hesitate to use them, and kill any and all inhuman SoBs you see. Get to your objectives, secure them, then return to base. Those are your first and only priorities on this mission. Remember, we won't get a second shot at this, so this has to be done right the first time. Do you get me?"

    "WE GET YOU, SIR!" the room rang out.

    _______________________

    "Let's go let's go!" Capt Miller shouted as his company loaded up into their three shuttles. He was fully suited up in a white under-armor layer with gray and white camouflaged armor plates.

    His troops were flooding out of the armory, stopping by the crate to pick up a single bayonet before climbing down the hatches into their respective shuttles. The last of the marines climbed down and he slid down the ladder into the shuttle's cargo bay. The shuttle door sealed behind him and he looked around at the marines taking their seats hurriedly.

    "Alright, we're going in hot. The moment we hit the dirt we are in hostile territory and everything I mean everything is trying to kill you. I want everyone frosty and on your toes. If you can't give me a hundred percent you may as well just stay on the ship." he glanced at his watch. "You've got thirty seconds."

    No one moved a muscle, out of either bravery or fear. It didn't matter. There was a clunk, a lurch and the shuttle's gravity suddenly vanished as it left the spinning hull of the mothership. Capt Miller grabbed ahold of a handle on the shuttle's ceiling to steady himself.

    "I won't sugar-coat it for you ladies." he shouted, feeling the lurch of the shuttle as it shifted direction to enter the atmosphere. "The creatures on that world below are the most bizarre and horrible things I've ever encountered. They slaughtered over half of my squad in under fifteen minutes. You may have seen the photos, read the reports, but nothing can come close to being there in the thick of it, to have confronted them firsthand. Nothing I can say here will prepare you for what we are about to go up against." the shuttle's orientation changed subtly, and the hull started to vibrate. "I don't even know what we'll meet down there this time, but I do know one thing: until we can conclusively prove otherwise, anything we meet down there is a potential threat. Consider us enemies of the whole damn planet. That means no heroism, no lone wolfing it, stay together and keep a weapon in hand at all times and above all else, don't do something dumb, different, or dangerous. Understood?"

    "SIR, YES SIR!"

    "Very good." he sat down and strapped in, pulling the helmet on over his head, sealing himself in once more.

    _______________________

    On the bridge of the Javelin Capt Anderson and the other command staff were watching the main viewscreen anxiously while floating in midair. The new AI was also present, in a way at least. It had limited access to a single interface terminal in the bridge as well as some cameras, and passive access to the sensor array on the hull. Thus far it had remained silent, as had the humans. The tension in the air was palpable.

    "All shuttles entering the atmosphere now, sir." Lt Williams informed them from her console.

    "Any sign of the jamming signal from the first landing or any activity near to them?" asked Col Bartlett.

    "Negative," reported Chief Stevens. "All comm channels are clear, infra-red scans show no activity of any kind nearby." he flipped a switch, checking a readout. "Guardians are hot, ready on a moment's notice."

    "No unusual activity on the other spectrums." Jane chimed in for the first time from her terminal's speakers, startling everyone. "Everything corresponding to the planet's natural observed behavior." she fell silent again just as quickly.

    "That's what we're worried about." muttered Chief Stevens after the shock had worn off.

    _______________________

    To be continued...
    Last edited by Galaxy_Hunter; 26th April 2011 at 3:29 AM. Reason: Added a part that didn't fit from last chapter and flipped the chapter titles.

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

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  25. #50
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    ...Immediately
    _______________________

    The shuttle rocked and shook its way into the atmosphere. Six meteors burning a trail straight into the northern hemisphere. Capt Miller sat in the hold, all alone in a room full of troops. It was eerily similar to the first drop, and it chilled him to the bone. He had withdrawn mentally. Holding his empathy in check so he wouldn't be overloaded by the emotions coming off of the other marines. He absentmindedly twirled Lt Zeal's tags in one hand. Around him the other marines sat in silence, reviewing the records of the previous mission. One of the new Privates, a man by the name of White, nudged his neighbor and nodded towards Capt Miller, who was staring off into space.

    "What's up with the new CO?"

    His companion, Pvt Laura, glanced at Miller and whispered back. "He was on the ground for the first landing, lost almost his whole squad. He managed to save two others though and lead them through miles of hostile territory to evac. Damn impressive."

    "Heads up down there," came one of the pilots' voices over the intercom, cutting off Pvt White's reply. "Fifteen minutes until we hit the dirt."

    "You heard the man!" shouted Capt Miller. "Fix bayonets!"

    Everyone readied their primary weapons and fixed the spear-like tips onto the barrels, clicking them into place. The atmosphere became tense and charged, although Capt Miller felt an odd sense of calm. He felt like he was gaining closure of some sort, going back to the planet to confront the demons that lived there. He took a deep breath as the shuttle was rocked with more turbulence.

    This is it. he thought grimly as the shuddering died. He looked at his assault rifle, and the gleaming spike extending from the barrel. Things will be different this time around.

    The rear airlock hatches opened and a blast of cold air and snow billowed into the room. The marines stood up and filed out through the hatch quickly, with Capt Miller leading the way. Their suits were still sealed tight as they had been during the first landing. While atmospheric analysis showed no evidence of harmful compounds in the air, they were still cautious, and the cold necessitated a full-body thermal suit.

    "This is as close as we can get you." one of the pilots spoke over the radios once everyone was out. "We'll lift off and stay on station as long as we can. Watch yourselves out there." then with a roar of the jets the ship lifted off and the marines were alone.

    Capt Miller looked up and watched it go.

    "Alright, from here on out, we're going to radio silence." he said over the squad channel, thumbing the safety on his weapon off. "We don't know much about the inhabitants of this planet, but they may be able to track radio transmissions, so hand signals only and stay within sight of one another."

    The rest of his team nodded and assumed combat stances. Capt Miller looked around at the terrain. They were standing on a seemingly endless white plain, occasionally marred by a large white mound of snow or an icy boulder. Visibility was bad and getting worse, the blizzard coming in was blowing snow everywhere and Capt Miller could barely see ten meters out. He held up a fist with two fingers extended, the signal to switch to the second vision mode: thermal-enhanced vision. The others followed suit, and to their eyes the landscape became more defined, enhanced by the suit optics and showing the terrain clearly. The blowing snow was reduced, and any source of heat would stick out like sore thumbs against the background. Capt Miller nodded and swept his hand forward: the move-out signal. Slowly, carefully the squad moved out across the ice cap in a fan-shaped pattern, glancing all around, waiting.

    _______________________

    "Teams are on the ground, no unusual activity to report, all of them have gone to radio silence as ordered." Jane reported to the bridge crew.

    "Thank you, continue to monitor their progress." Capt Anderson said.

    Since the first time she had addressed them, the crew's initial misgivings about her had eased, and they grew a little more used to her presence but were still wary. Jane knew that they didn't trust her and she accepted that. However at the fringes of her awareness she felt something odd, it was a sensation of mild irritation and something more. She felt like she wanted to prove them wrong, something she was not capable of doing, and regret of sorts, that they didn't trust and that she would likely never live to her full potential because of it.

    She shook herself mentally, she would sort the strange feelings out later. Jane returned her attention to the minute task of monitoring and reporting the sensor input. It barely took any effort on her part, but it was all that she could do for now. She wanted to prove that she was trustworthy and to do her part.

    _______________________

    Capt Miller's team was making its way slowly through the storm, still half a mile from the first drop-off point. Their grey and white digital camo made them ghosts in the storm. Even with their enhanced vision the troops couldn't see each other very well and they had bunched up together because of it. Capt Miller didn't like that, it made them too vulnerable to a single area-effect attack. He glanced down at the motion sensor hanging from his shoulder and halted. There was a single contact, fifty meters ahead, moving slowly. He raised closed fist into the air and the platoon halted and glanced around warily. He swept his hand down and everyone went prone on the ice. He watched the sensor closely, but whatever the thing was made no move to approach or retreat.

    Using hand signals he selected three other marines to come with him while the others took up support positions. They approached the source of the signal slowly, and eventually came upon a large ice boulder. A quick check verified that the movement was on the far side of the rock. The four marines split up and moved around the rock, when they were each in position they clicked their radios once, hoping nothing would notice. Five seconds later they rounded the rock, weapons drawn, looking for any threat-

    -and beheld a small ball of fluff nosing around on the ground. They kept their weapons at the ready and hesitantly approached it. The thermal imaging showed that it was very warm, and covered in a thick layer of striped light and dark brown fur. It had no eyes that they could see, only a large pink nose, which frills coming off of it. It was sniffing the ground, looking for something. Suddenly with a blur of spade-like claws it dug through the snow and came up again with some vegetation clutched in what appeared to be its mouth.

    The marines glanced at each other and shrugged. The little thing looked like it was too small to be a threat, but they could never be too sure. Capt Miller knelt down behind it and pulled out a syringe from one of his boot-pockets. It contained a general-purpose anesthetic that would hopefully be able to knock the thing out without killing it; Lt Williams needed live specimens. When he thought it wasn't paying too close attention he quickly jabbed the needle into the thing's back and injected the contents. The little alien collapsed, and Capt Miller feared that he had caused a fatal allergic reaction to it, however a small cloud of mist coming from the creature's nose confirmed that it was still alive. He pulled out a small neon green tag and clipped it around one of the alien's short, stubby legs; if they survived they would collect the tranquilized specimen on the way back. He clicked his radio twice: the all-clear signal. Moments later the rest of his team appeared out of the snow, like wraiths. They glanced down at the unmoving thing when they arrived, and looked at him. He shrugged and pointed off into the distance, they still had a job to do.

    _______________________

    After ten more minutes of making their way across the ice, they arrived at the first defensive point and took up positions. Corporal Vasquez unslung his bag and pulled out the sensor beacon within. He planted it in the ground and typed a few commands into its onboard computer while the others circled up around him, looking for any threats. The tower extended itself, telescoping into the sky to give the sensor nodes at the top greater visibility. The on-board computer was programmed to stop and paint any targets that didn't broadcast a friendly ID tag and send the information to the linked guns. Capt Miller helped two privates get the guns set-up and ran the connecting cables to ports at the tower's base. Each gun used magnetism to accelerate a tiny piece of metal to supersonic speeds as a bullet. They had a very large ammo supply, but they were only temporary defenses. Once the base had been established heavier weapons would be installed at the perimeter, but for now this would have to do.

    "Breaking radio silence." Capt Miller said over the channel to the Javelin. "First Company reports tower five active and hot, acknowledge."

    After a second the reply came over the channel. "Acknowledged first company, testing defense now, standby."

    The turrets rotated on their stands, checking to make sure that they could still track targets. Each one fired a five round burst. The roar of the air shredding before the round was muffled by the marines' helmets. Once the tests were completed the voice spoke once more.

    "Confirm defense position five is operational and combat ready. Proceed to the other positions and set up the defenses and report back to base, acknowledge."

    "Copy that," Capt Miller said. "Resuming radio silence. Over and out."

    He signaled his troops again. They would break into two teams now, each one would take one of the remaining checkpoints. They acknowledged and split in half, Miller's group went due north while the other group went south.

    _______________________

    "Captain Anderson, there is activity on the surface." Jane reported.

    "Where?" he asked, turning to look at her terminal.

    "At the glacier base, several unknown heat sources are attempting to scale the glacial wall. They are out of range of the established ground defenses are on an intercept course with Capt Miller and his team."

    "What!?" shouted Lt-Col Barnes. "Get on the radio and contact them on the double!"

    Anderson nodded and tapped a control on his headset. There was nothing but hissing static on the line. His face turned white and he looked up.

    "The jamming is back." he said simply.

    Christ it's all happening over again. he thought with dread.

    "Captain, if I may, the jamming is not broad-spectrum." Jane interjected. "There are a handful of frequencies I can find that are untouched by it. Our radio transmitters can be adjusted to compensate for it and re-establish contact with the ground team."

    "How?" he asked suddenly, with hope. They couldn't afford to lose this one.

    "Adjusting the antennae to a higher frequency will allow them to punch through the jamming. The suit's radios will pickup on the new channel and tune to it automatically. I don't know for certain whether it will stay unblocked but you can at least warn Miller before the hostiles get to him."

    Anderson nodded and turned to Chief Stevens. "Go Chief."

    He didn't even bother to acknowledge, he was too busy typing furiously into his console.

    _______________________

    Capt Miller's team finished deploying their sensor tower and set up the guns around it. It had been a tense journey to the final drop-off point but nothing unusual had happened. He got on the comm systems to try and contact the Javelin to confirm that the defenses were working.

    "Capt Miller to Javelin, tower four in place, copy?"

    Nothing, the line was filled with hissing static. His blood went cold.

    Not again... he thought, looking around warily. He couldn't see anything in the storm, which had gotten worse in the past few minutes.

    "Heads up everybody!" he shouted through the squad-channel, which still worked over short distances. "We've lost contact with command, expect incoming hostiles at any second!"

    The team stared at him for a fraction of a second before bursting into motion, everyone's weapon was suddenly up and scanning the horizon. The two-man sniper team vanished in the blowing snow, heading to a large snowbank away from the others to take up an overwatch position.

    Capt Miller checked his weapon and hunkered down with his team in a circular formation around the turret, waiting. He tried the comm again.

    "Javelin, this is Capt Miller, please come back, over."

    There was a crackling sound and suddenly Capt Anderson's voice came in over the radio.

    "Miller, we don't- -uch time. Radios being jammed a- -ostiles moving -n fr- glacier wall. Copy?"

    "Say again sir!" he shouted, panning his weapon around.

    "I repeat." the Captain's voice was clearer now. "Hostiles moving up the glacier wall towards you, get ready!"

    Capt Miller shouted a warning to his troops and whipped his weapon around to face the edge of the cliff-

    -just as a dozen dark shapes flew over the edge. The sensor tower they were huddled around detected them and the guns turned to track, firing as they went. The dark shapes hit the ground and leaped into the air again to avoid a spray of gunfire from the turrets. Miller's team fired at the creatures, but they moved too fast for their systems to track. The marines sprayed bullets and hoped to hit one of them.

    One of the black blurs angled in towards the group and one of the marines brought his bayonetted rifle up between them. There was a screech and the alien impaled itself on the tip, it didn't have the time to swerve out of the way. The marine shouted and pulled the trigger, spraying hot lead into the thing's chest, killing it instantly.

    Miller only got a quick look at the thing before he returned to the fight. Narrow pointed head, bipedal, sharp piercing eyes, black hides and long, hooked claws meant for tearing. He resumed firing out. Another blurred figure swept in towards the marines. This time they didn't react fast enough and someone fell with a scream. Capt Miller swept his gun around and fired at the thing that was mauling one of his men. It fell with a screech but one look at the man on the ground confirmed that he was dead, his throat slashed through almost to the spine.

    The auto guns in the meantime were not as slow to react as the humans, and were doing their job with deadly efficiency. Several of the things were brought down by the guns until only two remained. These two were different however, faster, stronger, and something felt off about them, though Capt Miller couldn't tell what it was. He paused for a second, thinking. Suddenly he realized it: while he had felt a sense of hostility from the other aliens, and calm from the one on the ship, these creatures were like black holes to him. He felt no emotions or feelings from them whatsoever. He had never encountered anything like this before and it was somehow even more unnerving than being able to sense the other aliens' thoughts.

    His thoughts were interrupted by a sharp report that echoed across the ice. One of the two remaining aliens fell, badly wounded. The snipers had gotten a clear shot. The other one screeched louder than ever and swept in at the marines faster than they could react. It felled three troops before leaping at Capt Miller. For a second time stood still and he saw the thing with perfect clarity. It was bipedal like the others, but had a flatter snout and three claws per hand instead of two. It had reptilian skin and, incongruously, a crest of blood-red feathers spreading from the back of its head.

    He started to bring his gun up but the thing slapped it out of his hands as it landed on him. However by doing so it gave Capt Miller a window of opportunity in which he could act before the thing slashed him. He didn't waste it and rolled, throwing his attacker off of him; it was very light for its size. The creature hit the ground several feet away and was on its feet in an instant, glaring at him. Capt Miller drew his combat knife and tapped a control on his wrist in one smooth motion. A potent cocktail of stimulants hit his system, temporarily speeding up his reaction time and reflexes, but at the same time making him more prone to rash aggression. The thing lunged at him but he parried its jab with an armored forearm and sliced with his free knife-hand. He managed to open a long, thin wound on its belly. Black-colored blood dripped from the gash. He was vaguely aware of the rest of his troops shouting something to him from a ways away, but his hyped-up mind could focus on only one thing: killing the creature in front of him.

    He took the offensive, lunging at the wounded alien with his knife held high, but it sidestepped and raked its claws across his chest armor, leaving several deep gashes. He snarled and backhanded the alien, knocking it off balance and sending it skidding across the ice. It rebounded and angled towards him with lightening speed, even with the stims he barely brought his blade up in time to meet its claws. The thing slashed wildly, one arm following another. Capt Miller barely managed to parry the blows and cursed silently for not taking the time to draw the second knife hidden in his boot. He began to give ground, slowly retreating from the alien's onslaught. Their fighting had taken them several yards away from the others, and now he was being driven back towards them. The other marines and the automated cannons couldn't get a clear shot at the alien, and neither could the snipers. Then Capt Miller stumbled, his left boot caught in a dip in the ice and the alien seized the opportunity. It lunged forward and raked its claws down the front of his helmet, angling down towards his vulnerable throat. Capt Miller saw only one chance for survival with the alien practically on top of him and in a heartbeat he took it.

    He let himself fall backwards to the ground, taking the alien with him. For just a second the beast was caught off-guard. Capt Miller brought both of his legs up to the chest of the creature straddling him and kicked with everything he had, jumping to his feet a moment later. The creature hit the ice and skidded for a few feet, stunned. It got to its feet just in time to see the marine's fist growing large in its field of view.

    The beast was thrown ten feet away by the armor-strengthened punch. It got up shakily, bruised and with several new wounds opened all over its body. It stared from Capt Miller to the black blood pooling at its feet and then at him again. Capt Miller grinned, an animal grin, drew his second knife and assumed a wide-legged defensive posture; knives held away from his body. The alien tensed then began to bound across the ice for one last charge-

    -just as a piercing beam of white light thundered down from the heavens and struck it dead-center. Tremendous heat came off of it, causing the air to catch fire and form a concussive wave that rattled Miller's teeth, his visor polarizing to maximum to avoid damage to his eyes. He barely managed to stay on his feet. The beam vanished as quickly as it had appeared, leaving Capt Miller shell-shocked. The ground where the alien had stood was gone, replaced with a steaming crater that was rapidly filling up with newly-melted water. For a second he wondered what had happened, but as the adrenaline and stims began to wear off he realized what had happened: the Javelin had intervened, using its Guardian array to kill the creature with pinpoint accuracy.

    Suddenly, Corporal Vasquez was there at his shoulder, turning his CO to face him.

    "Are you alright sir? We tried to warn you there was a strike coming but you didn't seem to hear us."

    Capt Miller nodded and shook his head to clear it. "I'm fine, how many did we lose? Are the defenses all online?"

    "Four men KIA, sir and another two wounded." he replied, as they began walking over to the other marines, who were gathering around one of the other alien's bodies. "According to the reports the defensive line is fully operational. And you should know: one of the things that attacked us is still alive, for now sir. What should we do with it?"

    "Get in contact with the Javelin, give them a sit-rep." he glanced down at the unconscious, wounded alien on the ground before it. "And let Lt Williams know we've got some specimens for her to look at. Patch him up so that he'll make it to the ship in one piece." he gestured at the beast before turning to walk over to the tower.

    The was a flash overhead and he looked up to see several meteors burning through the atmosphere. The base modules were coming in, that meant that the plateau was secured and the base was operational. Capt Miller walked over to where the other marines were laying out their fallen in a row. He knelt down by each and retrieved their dogtags, putting them around his neck. He took a deep steadying breath and turned to the survivors.

    "Let's return to base people, we've had a long day."

    The marines nodded. Private White got on the comms again and spoke to the Javelin high in orbit.

    "Mission control, this is fire team alpha. Be advised: objective secure and we are returning to base. Additional:we have suffered casualties and have taken living alien biologicals captive. Please advise, over."

    "Copy your last transmission." came the voice of Capt Anderson from the radio. "You are ordered to retrieve living alien biologicals and deliver them to the Fort Haven dropzone for transport to the Javelin for scientific research. All other priorities secondary. Deceased alien life-forms will be retrieved by haz-mat teams at a later time. Acknowledge, over."

    "Sir, what about the fallen, we can't just leave them here-" protested Capt Miller.

    "Repeat, all other considerations secondary. Acknowledge, Captain."

    "Acknowledged, over and out." snarled Capt Miller, slamming down the 'kill' button on his radio feed. He glanced around at the other troops. "You heard the man, get to it, we've got a ride to catch."

    The marines stared at him for a second before taking action. Two of them went over to the fallen alien and zip-tied its limbs together and very carefully hoisted it between them. Two other marines held assault rifles to the thing's head. If the alien so much as twitched they wouldn't hesitate to blow it away. Capt Miller looked back at the fallen troops, bitterly angry that he had to leave his fallen troops behind in order to bring a live hostile back to base in their place. He knew the logic, that the dead would not care and a live alien specimen would be invaluable to their scientific research, but it still didn't feel right to him. He sighed as they trekked back to base, sending a small party out to retrieve the fluff-ball alien as he went. He would send a burial detail to retrieve the corpses, he didn't care if he had to carry them himself, they could receive the honors they deserved. He glanced at the unconscious alien and noted a dark stain spreading on its improvised white bandage. He cursed and ordered his troops into double-time. If he had to leave the fallen behind then he would damn well see to it that the alien stayed alive for their sakes. He would make sure that they hadn't died in vain.
    Last edited by Galaxy_Hunter; 18th April 2011 at 6:44 AM.

    It's not the Pokemon that are the aliens...

    Landing at Fort Haven might not have been the smartest idea...

    We'll cross oceans and conquer all, as long as we're together.

    Credit for the awesome banner goes to EzzPeon of the Enchanting Shop

    Credit for the Team Pose goes to Gladeshadow of Dark Valley Request Shop

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