The four men ran for the gate. They carried packs, but not very heavy ones. The heaviest things they carried were the 50 caliber guns and the grenade launcher. The suits they wore were more restricting than the weight. They hadn't really noticed before this point, but the suits and life support systems had not been designed for combat.
Lt Max “Action” Jackson first felt something tear in the groin area, the suit loosened up noticeably. Sgt Frank Gore felt something like that under his right arm, his armpit felt aired out. Thankfully the helmets were sealed completely separate from the rest of the suits. The bulky alien armor shell that had been sewed into the suits was being felt.
They also saw presumably confused faces of the aliens looking out windows and doorways at them as they ran past. There were loud noises behind them, enemy soldiers that had entered a bunker for safety during the launch were now coming back out. That put them between the humans and the closing gate.
Lt Kim Lu-Hyun out of habit checked the view from the drone above them. He was the first to notice the approach of one of the large robotic tanks. It was obviously trying to reach the gate before they did.
Sgt Frank Gore yelled a growling noise as he opened up on the stunned aliens with his heavy machine gun, hardly slowing down in the process. The belt-fed gun did some damage before the aliens scattered for cover and began returning fire. Lt Jackson fired off some grenades toward those hiding places.
Click, click, click... Sgt Gore's gun ran out of ammunition while a cursing Lt Jackson noted that he had also emptied the M-32 launcher. Lt Peter Lowery fired off several 50 caliber rounds from his lighter rifle while the four of them took cover behind a rock wall between what looked like two shops.
“Timing is everything!” A sweaty and worried-looking Lt Jackson joked, digging into his pack for spare grenades. They hadn't been prepared for this. There had been no time, of course, for a proper briefing but they should have sent more ammunition.
“We're not going to make it.” Lowery said, “The gate is closed.”
Then again, it wasn't completely closed. That would help explain why everyone headed into the columns and bunkers at launch time.
“We might be able to squeeze out.” Kim Lu-Hyun told them, “We just need to get out before that robotic tank gets here.”
“No rest for the weary.” Sgt Gore lamented already rising back into a crouch, readying to run again. “This is my last belt of ammo.”
They were less than fifty yards from being outside. The suit-less, armor-less soldiers or reserves hadn't put up much fight but the numbers were still on the home teams side.
The unspoken plan was just to run and shoot and get out before the walking tank arrived. It was slower than they had first thought and the pilot or driver seemed unsure of getting through the shanty-type area. Of course that had been overcome and it was now crushing the huts in the way.
“Go!” Lowery shouted and the four of them took off from behind their protective wall. Jackson and Gore firing in the general area of the enemy before them. Enemy rounds were swooshing past them, sometimes glancing off the alien armor shells they wore.
After the first few seconds Kim Lu-Hyun got his hopes up. To him it looked like they might actually make it out intact. That was when one of the enemy shells smashed into his helmet and threw him off balance. His little HUD screen was gone, the faceplate was cracked like a spiderweb and he could hardly see anything as he climbed back to his feet as more shots seemed to target him, some deflected by the alien armor.
A round tore through his right forearm, he felt something kick him in the ribs behind here the armor protected him. Still he saw the slight opening in the gate and the three other humans in front of him who were almost there.
Gore turned and sprayed rounds at the enemy to Lu-Hyun's left while Jackson threw down the grenade launcher and unslung his own machine gun. The two Americans had stopped and were firing instead of trying to get out as fast as possible. Then he saw the Englishman tearing the armored carapace from the front of his suit.
The opening was too narrow to slide through with the armor. “Aish,” he thought to himself, not another complication. Somewhere in the back of his mind he remembered there was a nuclear device about to explode in the vicinity. He needed to be outside and away from the gate when that detonated with a wall of rock between them.
Lt Kim Lu-Hyun hit the gate and bounced off. Lowery had shed his armored piece, tearing parts of the suit where it had been sewed on. Then Peter Lowery turned to help the Korean and paused. Lu-Hyun knew that was caused by the surprise Lowery must have had from seeing his condition. After a moments hesitation Lowery worked quickly to tear off the armor from Lu-Hyun's suit.
Somewhere in his mind Kim Lu-Hyun noted that somehow the suits had only been sewed three ayers deep in the five layer suit. The possibility of them needing to be pulled off must have occurred to someone along the line. Or maybe it was coincidence.
Lu-Hyun felt himself pulled and then pushed. He was being pushed sideways through the narrow gap, but it was a tight fit until Lowery put a boot on Lu-Hyun's hip and kicked him through. Kim Lu-Hyun was outside, on the ground staring at the dirt for a long moment before trying to push himself into a sitting position.
Instead of seeing an empty expanse of dirt, rocks and mountains he was dwarfed by the towering rockets arrayed before him. Suddenly he wondered if it was just as dangerous outside than inside, thinking of twenty Saturn rockets launching at the same time. He was just way too close.
He turned back to see Lowery and Sgt Gore pulling Lt Jackson through. Lt Max Jackson was the biggest amongst them and the life support pack, although small, made the difference. He would have to take it off from its mount. They were reasonably sure the air was safe to breathe. It was likely that germs and whatever else were dead on the surface after being frozen while basically exposed to space for so long.
They had also decided not to risk it unless they had to.
Once it was off they had to move away from the gate. They wanted to get as much wall between themselves and the explosion as they could. The compact nuclear device they had brought was comparable to the one used on Nagasaki that pretty much ended the Second World War. In an enclosed space it should kill anything whether by the explosion or radiation. It might be like a microwave oven in there.
“Out of time.” James Arlen breathlessly said to himself repeatedly as he ran. Making tracks across the top of the plateau that concealed an alien city, the slightly acrid air. Arlen considered throwing off the suit, but decided it would take too much time. He had to reach the ship. James had to get there before the explosion. The plateau could collapse inward because of the detonation. His hope was that the ship would be pushed off the side of the plateau and the para-glider wing would cushion the impact onto the valley below.
It felt like he was in a frozen desert as he ran. Being able to feel the air on his face and hear the wind with his own ears made this all real. He stopped near a large boulder, as big as a diesel big rig waiting for a trailer, and got his breath. Some little voice in the back of his mind was continuously assuring him that there were no bad germs and he would be okay. Lt Arlen laughed out loud that he hadn't noticed this particular little voice's running commentary in his head before.
The ship was right there. Not even the length of a football field away. Some other part of his mind tried to tell him that this was pointless. That even if the ship was thrown into the air and the para-wing worked, there was still a good chance it'd plummet down with the top of the plateau should it all collapse. He didn't care. That ship was built on Earth and it felt like he was safer there. If he was going to die in the nuclear detonation, let it be in a human-built coffin.
Yes, they had known it was a suicide mission when they signed up. Earth was being devastated by aliens and this was a chance to hit back. It was normal that even in the most dire situation humans would cling to a thread that they might be saved, even when surrendering to the end. The afterlife, reincarnation, Valhalla, heaven were all manifestations of this. How many dead heroes, soldiers, cops, firefighters and the like thought they would live through an impossible situation? Would they have rushed in otherwise?
Sgt Frank Gore had gotten out of the underground city, he and the others moved away from it by following the wall of rock that made up the outside of the plateau. Getting away from the blast was the hope of this. When atomic bombs had dropped on Japan at the end of the Second World War, there were people who survived through the protection of much flimsier stuff. Even while people were turned into shadows on the concrete outside, being behind or underneath a thin layer of dirt or wood had saved others.
Now that he had probably escaped death by the nuclear detonation Frank Gore was looking out at a small forest of giant rockets, each as big as the Saturn-V. Each of them full of explosive fuel and he was protected from them by nothing.
“Out of the frying pan...” he told himself. The others were probably having the same thoughts and nobody said anything. The nuclear weapon would explode at any time, assuming the aliens had not taken it apart or rendered it moot somehow.
“The blast doors will keep those from being knocked over, right?” Lt Lowery asked their resident nerd.
Kim Lu-Hyun sort of nodded. “I think so. The radiation should ruin their electronics so they can't be launched.”
“Those rockets are carrying the next wave, we don't even know who or what's in them.” Lt Jackson said, “Could be carrying their best soldiers for all we know. The guards in the city could be their Barney Fife's, while their real terminators are out here with us.”
Kim Lu-Hyun sat down, his back to the plateau wall. “If the city is destroyed they won't have anyone who can pull them back in and get them down. Those final stages might be designed with a pad abort system but the electronics on those are probably fried too. Probably.”
Lt Peter Lowery began looking around for the best way out of the area, should they stay on the low ground or climb up one of the mountains? If there were alien soldiers in those ships and they were able to dismount the rockets, the four of them would not stand much of a chance.
Fighting was out, they had no more ammunition. The “backpack” nuke had been their real weapon, everything else had been a rush because the robot swarm had been closing in on the launchpad. The team of six escaped from that to reach Nemesis, now there were four. Arlen was on the top of the Plateau, but his death was almost certain, Lowery thought.
“I'd like to eat some real food one more time.” Jackson said.
“I didn't get the chance to say bye to my ex-girl. I wanted to rub it in.” Gore told them with a laugh at the end. “I'm not exactly very romantic.”
“If there had been time, I would have visited my parents graves.” Kim Lu-Hyun said, looking at his knees pulled up to his face.
Peter Lowery suddenly realized he did have a regret. “I never went to an amusement park. I would have gone to Blackpool. I heard it was destroyed by a swarm.”
“You came here in the biggest roller coaster ever!” Lt Jackson said, slapping Lowery's shoulder, “After this, no amusement park is going to work.”
To their left a blinding light erupted through the tiny faults in the blast doors, the ground shook enough that all of them sat on the ground. The noise of the blast and the rumbling was deafening. The air pressure changed and everything suddenly felt very warm.
Sgt Gore peeked out to watch the nearest alien rocket gently swaying high above them.
-----------------To Be Continued
New Arrivals - sci-fi adventure ($2.99 or read it free with a Kindle Unlimited subscription)