I ran past the group from the elevator, pain spiking through my leg with each step. I couldn’t bring myself to look at anyone’s faces. The woman was crying, embracing two of the other scientists. The others were talking quietly. I wanted to apologize to her. I wanted to say something, but I couldn’t. I’d already wasted enough time, and I knew nothing I could say would help.
My eyes were beginning to water. I tried not to think about it, clenching my fists as I ran through the station. Tears started streaming down my face. I rubbed them away.
I had no weapon. I scanned the halls ahead until I found another soldier’s body, and took his carbine. I was shaking, but I kept going, limping through the facility.
My thoughts turned to K. Was she safe? The control room was probably crawling with valicorr, otherwise it likely would have been reclaimed by now.
I thought about Joëlle, pausing to listen in on her headset, hearing the screams from her squad. She’d said they were like her family.
I stopped moving, and shook my head fiercely. I had to get that image out of my mind.
I imagined K and Joëlle’s bodies on the floor of the control room.
I picked myself back up, and wiped away my tears. With my injured arm I braced myself on the wall, and trekked down the hallway. Another explosion shook the floor, and I paused to catch myself before continuing. I wouldn’t let them die. I had to save them.
I turned a corner to another long hallway, lined with large windows. I stared outside, and noticed a dark, massive shape, gliding down from the sky. It was dotted with orange lights, and the shape was hard to make out, but it looked long, with thick protruding limbs all along the sides and bottom like some kind of gargantuan insect. I couldn’t tell how close it was or how large it was, but its giant hull covered the station like an umbrella. A low growling sound pierced the air like thunder, coming from the ship. This could only have been the mothership.
As I continued to run, staring out the window at the massive thing, I was having difficulty swallowing. I was like a pebble and it was like a mountain, but somehow, I knew I couldn’t give up. There was a way out of this.
The signs of battle and destruction grew ever more present as I neared the control room. I could hear gunshots just beyond the door, and I burst into the room on the top ring. Bodies were strewn about, and some of the computer terminals were smoking from laser damage. I gripped the marine’s carbine tightly, and began charging a blast as I scanned the room, lit only by emergency lights. Arcs of light sped around the room causing mini explosions. Several valicorr, I couldn’t count them all, and TAU troopers were spread across the room, exchanging bullets. My ears lifted when I saw K, standing on the far side of the circular balcony. She was engaged in melee with a valicorr.
Energy bolts shot toward me and I ducked down behind the railing of the upper circular balcony that ringed the room. I noticed Waylon, hiding there beside me, breathing heavily, clutching his pistol.
“Waylon!” I yelled over the sounds of gunfire.
He spun his head toward me and aimed at me, panting. “Oh!” He lowered his gun.
“What are you doing in here?! Why aren’t you outside?!”
“I- I wanted to help! Damn bastards killed my buddies.” He shook his head and grimaced. “If I’m gonna die, I’m gonna do it fightin’!”
I hesitated, then simply nodded. I peered over the edge of the railing, and noticed that a few of the window blinds had been lifted. I could see the dark shape of the mothership, getting closer to the station. Flames erupted from a computer terminal beside us that had just been shot. I looked around at the chaos, and tightened my grip on the carbine as it continued to charge. Director Aali’s body was lying on the central platform, beneath the hanging computer armature. I couldn’t tell if he was alive.
I put my hand on Waylon’s shoulder. “Look, you’re not going to die!”
“How can you say that?!”
“No one else has to die!” I shook him with my arm, and he just looked at me bewildered. I knew I wasn’t making sense, but a fire ignited within me. I leaned over the railing and aimed my gun, firing at some valicorr on the lower level. My bolts connected, and two of them fell to the ground. I turned away from the ledge.
I found the wind suddenly knocked out of me. A valicorr had snuck around the upper level, and jumped me, thrusting its fist into my chest. I met its black eyes, and it opened its mouth wide. Its wrist gun was aimed directly at my heart.
Before it could fire, Waylon let out a cry, and let his weapon loose. Smoke rose from the space pirate’s body as it was cast to the side from the impact.
“Thank you.” I lowered my ears in gratitude.
“Yeah,” was all he said in response.
I leaned over the railing and took a few more shots. I noticed Joëlle on the lower level finish off another valicorr. I heard K’s voice exclaim, “Osax!”
The sounds of combat ceased.
K and I ran to each other, meeting at the central platform with the director’s body. K looked relieved. Without warning, I was wrapped up in her blue arms, gasping for breath.
She let go, and stared at me, her face apologetic.
I rubbed my right shoulder and squinted. “Glad you’re okay.”
Joëlle and the other marines looked up to us.
K nodded, her face hardening. “Yeah. You’re not dead, I’m impressed.”
One of the marines spoke first through his helmet. “Is the Director alive?”
I took a deep breath. I knelt down beside him and pressed my fingers to his wrist, then his neck. He had a wide, charred black hole in his uniform about his chest.
I stood up slowly and shook my head. “There’s no pulse.”
Everyone remained silent, exchanging glances for a few seconds. Waylon stood up from behind the railing and looked at us.
The Director was dead. I’d never get to learn the secrets of this station after all... at least not from him, and I didn’t know who else to ask, or who would tell me. I looked down at his face. His eyes were closed peacefully. I wasn’t sure what to feel. What was going on here? Why was the station’s true purpose classified? Perhaps the valicorr knew, and they wanted something from the station. Something secret. Perhaps that’s why they attacked in such force.
“Osax, what about my squad?” Joëlle stepped forward, gazing up at me. I felt my palms beginning to sweat.
I shook my head slowly, feeling my heart pounding.
“I lost contact with them…” She gestured weakly toward me. I was glad I couldn’t see her face through the helmet from up here.
I trembled. “They- The tower was destroyed.”
She lowered her head, and stood, motionless. I wanted to reach out to her, to say something to help, but I was frozen too.
One of the marines climbed up the ladder and removed his helmet, placing it on the platform. “Let’s get the power back online. We should be able to reboot the station from this control console.” I stepped aside and let him use the computer hanging from the ceiling. K picked up the Director’s body and carried it to the edge of the room before coming back.
The marine shook his head. “Dammit! This isn’t going to work.”
K stepped forward. “What the hell do you mean it’s not going to work? Wasn’t the plan, ‘get to the control room and restore the power’?” She crossed her arms, which were cut up pretty badly.
The marine’s face was stern. “The assumption was, the invaders broke into the control room and manually shut down all power to the rest of the station. Apparently, even though they took control of this room, the real problem is they somehow broke through security to the generator, and disconnected the powerlines. There isn’t any power for the control room to use, aside from the auxiliary power the emergency lines have been using.”
“They broke through the rest of the station’s security, it can’t be that surprising that they made it into the generator,” I said.
K replied, “The generator is so essential to the station, it’s probably the most well guarded room in the whole place. It’s got three shielded doors, and if an unauthorized breach is detected in any one of them, then the Director is immediately notified. If they attacked there first-”
“That would explain how the station was caught so unawares,” I mused. Another mystery. “All they needed to do was somehow deactivate the power undetected, and they could take out scanners, elevators, shields…”
“And our biggest anti-aircraft guns, apparently,” said K.
The marine responded, “The cannons need to draw power from the station, or else they wouldn’t be able to fire. Those guns are strong, but they take too much energy to operate on individual power cells.”
I felt a flash of selfish hope. “So, even the defense cannons run on station power?”
He shook his head. “No, those weapons are much smaller. They’re fitted with their own power supplies. If only we’d had more warning, we could have had those in operation.”
So it was my fault. I could have taken out the gunship before it destroyed the tower. If I had just left the people in the elevator…
I looked at Joëlle. She hadn’t moved. I felt hollow.
But those people were stuck in the elevator. I needed to help them. I needed to try. Right?
K shot the marine a sarcastic glance. “Well, that was well designed. Let’s make all our essential systems linked to one power source, with no backups.”
The marine shook his head. “They shouldn’t have even known about the base. But that’s not important right now; we need to secure the generator, assuming it’s undamaged.”
“If they were going to raid this station, why would they leave the generators undamaged?” I asked. “Wouldn’t it be better for them if we had no way to restore power without conducting repairs?”
K brushed past, saying, “I don’t know, Osax. But who cares. Let’s hope they just disengaged the power cells, cause then we still have a chance to restore power.”
One of the marines on the lower level spoke up. “Captain Orion, I’ll head to the western tower. I’ll wait at the cannon until you restore power to the station.”
The marine put his helmet back on. “Good. Karl and Tweezer, you two watch her back. I know none of us were expecting action today, but that’s why we’re here!”
“Yes sir!” The three marines saluted, before rushing out of the room, the sound of their boots fading into the distance.
“Everyone else, with me. That includes you K, we could use your brute strength.” K nodded.
The marine turned to leave, then paused. “Actually, we need someone to reboot the control room once we restore power.”
“I’ll stay behind,” said Waylon, and the marine spun to face him.
“So will I.” Joëlle spoke up, but didn’t move. I felt my voice suppressed by something. I didn’t know what to say.
“Alright,” said the captain. “Move out!”
Everyone filed out of the room, except for Waylon, Joëlle and I. K lingered for a moment, and I reassured her I’d be right behind them.
Waylon looked between the two of us.
“Just go!” She whipped her head up at me. “We’ve got this. You’re needed elsewhere.”
“I’m… I’m sorry.” I felt a tear run down my cheek.
“Go!” Her voice was breaking.
I trembled. I nodded at Waylon as I passed him, trying to present an air of composure as I limped out the door.