"Keep firing! Keep firing! Don’t stop for anything!" Nichols shouted over the staccato riiiiiiiiiiip of the rifles and single machine gun. "How much longer, shuttle?"
"Twenty seconds!" answered the shuttle pilot.
Dagger squad had crossed the empty hangar to enter the adjoining one, housing the rescue shuttle. As they waited for the shuttle to finish warming up, they had been attacked by the things again. The shuttle was armed with a large caliber machine gun, which they were now using to the fullest extent, along with the guarding squad that had been sent as well. They were behind knocked down crates, using them for cover as they blasted away hostile after hostile.
The machine gun opened up again. Braaaaaap!
"Damn! New belt! New belt!" shouted the gunner. The man next to him dropped his rifle on the crate he was leaning against and helped him reload frantically. The chamber opened, the empty belt was ripped out, the new one picked up and shoved into place, and the chamber was closed again.
"Last belt!" the helping soldier shouted. The gunner nodded, then cocked the gun and pulled the trigger.
Clunk! The gun had jammed. Nichols turned to cover their zone while they worked, and fired as fast as he could. They kept coming, despite the fact that the bodies were beginning to pile up and hinder their advance. But the bodies were also starting to act as cover for the current waves. And the defenders were running out of ammunition.
"Five seconds! Get aboard NOW!" the pilot called. Both the guard squad and Dagger squad turned around and ran toward the shuttle.
As they ran, a steel grate fell, several of the things on top. The two squads quickly eliminated the threat and kept running forward. More of the steel grates fell, with the hostiles riding them down. A horde behind them, and safety in front of them, the humans ran like madmen, firing their guns backward without looking, but almost sure to hit something at this point.
As they sprinted up the boarding ramp, the last man was tackled. He fell, but the rest of humans kept running to safety. The next to last man started running up the ramp just as it started rising. The humans turned and fired on the advancing horde, their ceramic bullets tearing through flesh and bone. Suddenly, a grenade went off in the center of the advancing horde, blasting two of the monsters into the shuttle. The rest halted, disoriented and on the ground, letting the ramp close completely.
Cole calmly walked toward the two bodies and put a bullet in each head.
The shuttle lifted off and turned toward the outer door, where it warmed up its weapons and fired a railgun round into them. The door buckled, but didn’t break. The shuttle fired a second round, this time at the joint between the door and the wall, and the door let go completely, flying into the vacuum, taking shuttle and horde with it.
The shuttle maxed the throttle and shot away from the Korigul, turning toward the Normandy. It maneuvered into a small hangar, where it promptly landed. Dagger squad gladly left the rescue shuttle and stumbled onto the deck as a Major walked forward to lead them to a debriefing room.
"Daggers, you’re going to have to come with me," the Major said.
"There’re two bodies in the shuttle. Have them examined," Nichols said.
"We will. Now, I need you and your team to come with me. We need to debrief you."
"Yes, sir," Nichols replied as he followed the Major. The other two living members of Dagger fell into step behind Nichols.
They left the hangar and walked to an elevator, which took them up to the tactical operations level of the battleship – their normal home when it came to briefings and lectures.
They walked down the hall, the bulkheads a bare military grey. They stopped at a hatch bearing the Trader Emergency Coalition Seal. The Major palmed a handprint scanner, and then typed a password into a keypad. The door slid open and they walked into the room. Inside the room, the walls were also a dull military grey and there was a large conference table centered on the deck.
Sitting at the table was Admiral Kol.
The three Dagger squad members immediately saluted and Kol returned the salute.
"Sit down, please," the aging admiral said, and the soldiers complied.
"Now, what happened in there?"
"When we boarded, we were met with an empty ship. We only found one survivor who, however, was part of the marine guard and was insane and could not be dealt with at the time. In the same room, there were several bodies. We continued, but found no research team survivors.
"What did happen was that we were ambushed by a grayish humanoid alien, with extreme mobility. They appeared to have overwhelmed the research team and done away with the bodies." Nichols continued to give the report of his and the teams actions, Cole and Doyle giving their separate, uneventful accounts of in the comms room.
Nichols paused, then said with conviction, "Sir, we have a new problem. We aren’t just fighting the Advent and Vasari anymore. I think whatever was chasing the Vasari has caught up with them, and is now set to attack us. I don’t know what the hell they are, or where they come from, but they’re here. And they sure as hell don’t want to leave."
"I agree. This new threat could ruin us, though. We need to find their weak point. Their Achilles heel," Kol said.
"Their what, sir?" Doyle asked
"Nevermind. But we absolutely need to make sure that they never get far enough into our territory to-"
"Sir, the results of the tests are coming in. You may want to see this," the intercom announced.
"We’re on our way," Kol replied.
Both the admiral and Dagger got up from the table and headed for the medical labs.
There, they were met by the sight of two bodies, lying on operating tables and surrounded by testing equipment. Kol, nodding toward one of the bodies, asked, "What is this thing?"
A scientist manning the testing equipment walked over and stuttered, "Sir, they’re… they’re…"
"Spit it out already!" Kol exclaimed.