by Gregory Williams
The air lock broke and the door slipped open. Captain Truman stepped onto the rust-colored soil of Mars. His squad mates were right behind him, Gauss rifles ready. The drop ship’s pilot came over the com. link.
“Good luck, Captain.”
Truman didn’t respond, but waved towards the cockpit. The ship’s thrusters screamed back to life as it ascended back into the atmosphere. The glowing exhaust reflected in Truman’s tinted visor.
The marine turned his attention to the complex building before him. A large sign read Genetics Laboratory of Mars. It was colloquially known as Gen Lab. It was a fairly new complex, but it looked deserted, with no sign of life anywhere.
“What are you thinking, Nate?” asked Chris Gerhard.
“Nothing,” Truman said. “We better get started.”
The marines of Alpha squad, a group of crack soldiers from the National Organization of Emergency Response Teams were on Mars because a distress signal had been received by the Gen Lab in Washington, D.C. When a response was sent, nobody answered to describe the situation. That had been three weeks ago. At that point the government had assumed the worst. Gen Lab Mars had been built because the experiments carried out there had been deemed too dangerous to conduct on Earth.
The Mars staff had been experimenting with the human genomes in an attempt to make a super soldier, a type of human bio-weapon. But after about two years of research, things started to happen to the employees of Gen Lab Mars. Scientists began to go missing or quit the project in masses. None of the quitters would ever say why, and none of the missing scientists were ever found.
The marines trudged through the howling winds and whirling dust. There were three other marines besides Truman and Gerhard. Jack Long was the squad demolition expert. He always carried some form of explosive with him. His favorite was a tiny pack of C-4 with adhesive on the bottom, which he called a Sticky Bang. “They pack the boom without the bulk,” he would always say. His nickname was Boom. Alex Michaels was an outstanding marine who did whatever it took to complete a mission. He had several wounds to testify to his determination, including a fully mechanical-left arm. His friends called him the Mule to annoy him, because of his stubbornness. The last man was George Peterson. He was the squad’s E.E.L. man. His Electrical Emissions Lance suit cause him to stand a full head over the rest of the squad, but it was well worth its bulk. It had two EMF generators that could be used as a force field against certain weapons, and could send out minor shockwaves that could disrupt the nervous system of any living thing, firing bolts of electricity as strong as any bolt of lightning. The guys referred to Peterson as Thor.
Truman opened the door to the compound and stepped inside. Thor had to duck to avoid hitting the doorframe. Inside was dark and dusty. It looked as if nobody had been there for ages. Truman activated the flashlight on the muzzle of his gun and the one on the right shoulder pad of his battle armor. The other marines followed suit. Thor’s E.E.L. gave off a dull blue glow as the static generators slowly rotated.
“This way,” Truman said, pointing to a door that was labeled ‘CAUTION: Authorized Personnel Only in Testing Facility.’
The door slid open and the stench of decaying flesh filled the air.
“Sweet Jesus, what it that?” asked Boom.
Truman said nothing. He waved his hand to quiet the rowdy marine and stepped into the lab.
In the center was a large pit with a low wall around it. Truman could make out something draped over the wall. He stepped closer and discovered it was a body dressed in a white lab coat. The coat was stained with blood, and the body was missing an arm and half a leg. A noise came from the back of the room and all the flashlights turned towards it.
Truman turned back to the body, but it was gone. He peered into the pit, but it wasn’t there. There was, however, what appeared to be the corpse of a failed experiment. It was humanoid, but its arms were unnaturally long, and its hands ended in sharp razors. It had legs that bent the wrong way and feet similar to those of a carnivorous dinosaur.
“What the hell?” said Michaels.
“Get used to it,” said Truman. “There’s bound to be a lot more where this came from.”
“Hey, Nate!” came Gerhard’s voice. “Look at this!”
Truman motioned for the other three marines to stand guard and walked over to Gerhard who was standing over a computer. On the screen was the profile of some huge beast. It had long horns and a great distended maw filled with teeth. The computer said that it stood nine feet tall and weighed almost a ton. As the image rotated it became apparent that there was a shell on the thing’s back.
“You think this is the main project?” Gerhard asked.
“I think this is what we’re looking for,” Truman replied.
“Well, something that size shouldn’t be too hard to find.”
“I wouldn’t say that. This compound is huge and there’s more than enough space for something like this to hide. Plus, read this. ‘Subject is surprisingly stealthy for its size. Prefers to stalk its prey. Will only resort to brute force when no other option is offered. Tracks prey and then will grab them with prehensile tail. Tail is kept hidden under carapace until needed.’ Any other information on what was going on up here?”
“Let me see.”
Gerhard scrolled through several screens, scanning each for any pertinent information.
“Here we go,” he said at last. “This thing’s called Goliath. It’s the main project up here, but there are several minor side projects. For example, our friend in the pit over there. They call him the Razor Beast. They’re apparently several more of him around here. They’re lightning fast and can jump high as hell. They like to travel in packs.”
“That bothers me,” Truman said.
“There’s only one in the pit.”
“This place is twisted,” said Truman looking round the room.
“Yeah. I’ll never understand what goes on in the heads of politicians.”
“That’s why you and I are soldiers, my friend.”
He turned back to the rest of the squad.
“Alright, listen up! Looks like our job up here just got slightly more dangerous. Our buddy in the pit has relatives somewhere in this place and there is a giant monster known as the Goliath on the loose. It likes to se stealth so I want everybody on 300% alertness. Got me?”
The marines moved into a dimly lit hallway. There appeared to be only one way out and that was at the far end. Thor went first down the hallway, followed by the other four men. They had reached the other side to find it sealed by an iron door.
“Boom, looks like you’re up,” said Truman.
“I’m going to need some room.”
The squad moved back down the hallway. Boom pulled out a Sticky Bang and slapped it on the door. Then he retreated back down the hallway and rejoined his team. He pulled out a remote and press a button. The iron door blew open, sending a concussive shockwave echoing through the lab.
“Let’s hope there are enough loud bangs around here for anything that hears that to ignore it,” said Michaels.
The squad went through the door and entered a large room with cages hanging from the ceiling.
“Those cages are all open,” said Boom. “Does that worry anyone else?”
“Yeah, a little,” said Thor.
Suddenly, there was a high pitched scream in the rafters. Every gun immediately aimed at the source, torches revealing a creature that looked almost exactly like the one in the pit. The screech was followed by several more.
“Oh shit,” cursed Michaels.
The squad opened up with their Gausses. Thor’s E.E.L. picked up speed and fired a bolt of energy, catching on of the Razor Beasts right in the chest. The rest of the Beasts jumped and sprang through the air, intent on closing the distance between them and their prey. Two sprang at Michaels. The marine panicked and sprayed widely at the threat. He missed. He lashed out with his left arm, grabbing one beast by the neck. He pulled as hard as he could, the gears and servos in his arm whining with the effort, and tore its head off. He grabbed another and ripped its arm off, but there were too many of them. The Beasts landed on him and in not time their claws had ripped him to shreds.
“Michaels! God damn it! Thor, EMP, now!” yelled Truman.
A bright blue light flashed through the room, colliding with all of the Razor Beasts. They fell to the ground twitching as the EMP shocked the creatures’ nerves. Boom, Gerhard, and Truman ran around and shot each Beast through the head.
“Jesus, do you think there will be anything else like-holy shit!”
Gerhard flew into the air, dragged by a long tentacle-like thing.
“Thor, blast the ceiling!”
The iron supports in the ceiling glowed with electricity, illuminating the gargantuan form of the Goliath, with Gerhard still struggling in its tail. The lightning seemed to have no effect on the beast as it raised a massive hand adorned with two foot talons and ripped Gerhard’s chest open. It then dropped down from the rafters, landing on Thor and driving its barbed tail into the joint between his helmet and chest plate. Thor raised his E.E.L. in a last attempt to smite his foe and jammed it into the Goliath’s gut, pulling the trigger as he did so. Nothing happened, and Thor’s life vanished.
Suddenly Boom was on the thing’s back. He planted several Sticky Bangs there and linked them together.
“What the hell are you doing, Boom?” asked Truman. “Let’s get the hell out of here!”
Boom shook his head.
“You go. I’ll make sure this bastard goes down for good, to give you some time. When you get back to Earth, punch Gen Lab where it hurts for me.”
Truman couldn’t say anything. He had seen his squad die in a matter of minutes. He saluted Boom and ran back into the hallway. The lab rumbled as the mines went off. He couldn’t help himself. Truman turned around and peered back into the room. Through the smoke he could see a pile of rubble on the ground where Boom and the Goliath used to be. It looked like the ceiling had collapsed. He could see a giant clawed hand protruding from the mess. Well, that was that.
Truman turned and walked back down the hallway. He entered the other room, but was halfway across it when he realized that this wasn’t the room he had come through. He looked around. There was no other way out of the room. On the far wall was a large screen, apparently a computer monitor. The screen flashed ‘MESSAGE SAVED’ over and over again. There was a glowing red button on the dashboard. Truman walked over to the dashboard and pressed the button. The screen changed to read ‘PLAY.’ A man appeared on the screen. He looked panicked and out of breath. He began to speak.
“This is Dr. Gustav Xavier, supervisor of Gen Lab Mars. I am sending this message as a cry for help and as a warning. I have to hurry. Goliath’s loose in the lab, and it’s only a matter of time before it hunts us all down. As you know we at Gen Lab have been searching to create the ultimate bio-weapon. We have spent several months researching human DNA and ways to alter it. Well, our research was not futile, but our success was not without a price. At first things were going as planned, but then something happened. We succeeded in creating...”
Suddenly the screen flickered and the picture evaporated into static. Truman continued to stare at the screen. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his gut. He looked down and saw four claws protruding from his stomach. He looked back at the screen and could see a badly burned face in the reflection. It had horns and monstrous teeth. Truman’s vision blurred and his hearing became full of echoes.
He barely registered the old scientist’s face reappearing on the screen, and he could barely hear Xavier’s words as he started to speak again.
“...a beast that is lethal, and indestructible.”