E1M1: Fight Like Hell
“Pray not for God’s word, but for His silence.
Pray not for God’s grace, but for His apathy.
Pray not for God’s blessing, but for His abandon.
Above all, fear. Fear His contempt. Fear His disgust. Fear His wrath.
Pray, plead, and beg, with every fiber of your soul, that God’s wrath does not find you.”
- Book of Corrax, chapter 16
Red. Bright flashing red. A siren loudly blared as the strobing light pierced the darkness.
A glowing crimson mark burned overhead. A flaming sword, crowned by Four Sigils of Ascension, striking down the fires of Hell.
He remembered the violence, the carnage, the chaos. The Black Mountains, the Blood Temple, the world crumbling at his feet and the very sky crashing down on him, trapping him in a dark stone prison.
But that was over.
The Marine was awake, and he was very much alive. His heart beat strong and steady in his chest, his breaths deep and invigorating. He lay bound on his back by thick metal chains, the top of his sarcophagus lifted and his slumber at long last broken.
A new sound drew the Marine’s attention. A harsh guttural groaning coming from his right side, accompanied by the unmistakable smell of putrefied flesh. Things he knew all too well. He turned his head to find a zombified human standing only a few meters away. Its flesh hung off its bones in thick, sloughy folds, a deep gaping hole in its skull where the eyes should have been. The tattered white clothes it wore identified it as a former scientist, not a grave threat but still capable of injuring the chained Marine. With a fresh surge of determination, the Marine tore his right arm free of its restraints and smashed it into the creature’s face, feeling blood roar in his ears as he grabbed the zombie’s head and crushed it against the edge of the coffin.
The Marine tore his remaining arm free as well only to hear the same grotesque groaning continue. There were another three zombies in the room, all facing him and shambling in his direction. In a fraction of a second he leapt at the nearest one and tore its head off its shoulders. Balling his hands into fists he swiftly dispatched another one, quick precise blows crushing its skull and breaking its spine. The last zombie on the other side of the room never saw the Marine leap over the sarcophagus and kick it down, caving in its head with a single furious stomp.
If there were zombies here, there would be other demons as well. Bigger and stronger. The Marine was bare and carried nothing but his now bloody fists, and within his bones he could feel a great weariness. He had slept for too long, his forced repose and whatever enchantments cast upon him having drained his strength. If he was to push on he’d need tools. He needed his armor, and he needed-
A hard irregular object beneath the Marine’s foot caught his attention. He looked down to find himself stepping on a green-and-black handgun. The Marine picked it up. It was an old weapon, the metal dull and the plastic grip scratched. There were five bullets in the magazine. Too light and weak to worry anything past small fry, but it was all he had.
Loading the pistol, the Marine walked up to a placard on the wall. It was a simple diagram describing the layout of the outpost he found himself in, a certain Site 03. There was the sarcophagus room, comms room, loading dock, Praetor research room-
There it was. Memorizing the diagram, the Marine turned to the door. It was a simple glass-and-metal barrier, the access pad glowing faintly on the wall beside, but the Marine needed to prove something. With a strong kick the metal bars broke and the reinforced glass went flying. The Marine smirked. So his strength wasn’t entirely gone.
Setting off into the pitch-black corridor, the Marine kept his gaze keen and his weapon ready. He didn’t know the extent of this demonic incursion and needed to take the necessary steps as quickly as possible, but before that he needed his suit. He passed various dim hallways and locked rooms, his eyes constantly darting on the search for any potential threat. Blood splatters stained the walls, occasionally streaking off beneath some door or into some dark recess.
The Marine turned a corner to find a group of zombies huddled along the corridor. Alerted to his presence, the Marine sprung to action.
Seven heads, five bullets.
PEW PEW! Two zombies slumped to the floor, the holes in their heads faintly smoking.
PEW! The bullet entered another’s skull but at a shallow angle, and the creature was still standing. PEW! A second shot finally dropped it.
BANG! The Marine grimaced as buckshot tore his flesh. The zombie at the far end was a former soldier, decked in white body armor and a long shotgun in its hands. But it was not like the other zombies around it; its posture was sharp and focused, its red eyes glowing with knowing malice. As the soldier reloaded its firearm, the Marine took aim.
PEW! But the soldier dodged the shot, rolling out of the way at the very last second and raising its shotgun.
Quick as lightning, the Marine grabbed the nearest zombie by the neck and held it aloft. The soldier fired and the Marine’s meat shield blocked the shot, but it wouldn’t last much longer. The Marine charged as the soldier reloaded his weapon and took aim.
BANG! The zombie’s guts blew out in a sloughy mess. BANG! The legs fell off as its spine was severed. One more shot and the Marine’s meat shield would be done for.
BANG! The zombie crumbled apart in the Marine’s hands, and he was left holding nothing but a bloody head. Close enough to attack, he lobbed the head at the soldier before it could fire again. The soldier faltered as the head struck it, and the Marine shifted his grip on his handgun. He struck the soldier with the pistol butt before finishing it off with a quick uppercut.
Momentarily dropping his guard, the Marine saw the soldier’s shotgun was directly fused with its arm, fleshy tendrils snaking all along the weapon’s casing and components. It was clearly far too corrupted to remove, but surely there would be a suitable replacement nearby. He noted a pistol magazine attached to the soldier’s belt. A piquing idea forming in his mind, the Marine discarded the empty clip from his handgun and focused on the fresh one on the floor.
In the blink of an eye, the clip leapt from the floor to the Marine’s waiting pistol, smoothly sliding in with a satisfying click. The Marine cracked a smile. Some things are never forgotten.
A painful blow to the back shattered the Marine’s moment. He’d forgotten about the last two zombies, who had finally caught up to him. His anger resurging, he tore one’s arm off and struck the creature down with it before kicking in the other’s knee and twisting its head off. As they crumbled into putrid heaps on the floor, thin wisps of scarlet energy rose from the corpses and were absorbed by the Marine, his wounds closing in a faint red glow. The Marine let out a sigh as his vitality was restored.
Turning his sight down the corridor he found he’d arrived at his destination, the object of his search on the other side of a glass-and-steel door. The door slid up as he approached, and he took a moment to admire his most prized possession.
There, embedded within an ancient stone altar, was the Praetor Suit. Nicked and scarred with the marks of a thousand battles, its joints encrusted with countless layers of dried blood and dirt, but still in one piece and seemingly functional. He approached the suit and placed his hand on it.
Before his eyes passed countless nightmarish visions, each one more terrible than the last.
A masked figure in crimson cloak. A flaming sword. A towering monstrosity born of flesh and metal. The Key Holder becoming one with the Master. The Deagic Council of Three. A golden being of a thousand faces. The Blasphemous One, with four burnt wings and in its head a-
The Marine cleared his mind and forced his eyes to open. Only a few seconds had passed, but to him they felt an eternity. The curse had worn off, and he noticed the small red bulb on the Praetor Suit’s breastplate blinking to life. Electricity sparked across the suit’s exterior as its systems activated, and with a single thrust it broke free from the stone altar, setting loose a cascade of pebbles on the hard floor. Holding its arms out, the suit unfolded in anticipation of its wearer’s arrival. After the briefest pause, the Marine set his pistol down on a nearby monitor and walked up to the suit, placing himself inside. He couldn’t help but feel a wave of warm familiarity wash over him as the armor closed itself around him, its parts sealing shut to leave not the slightest seam behind. The helmet came down over his head as the suit’s neural interface linked with him, and the augmented reality visor came online.
…RESTORING SYSTEM…SYSTEM PARTIALLY RESTORED
SEVERAL MODULES ARE DAMAGED AND/OR NON-OPERATIONAL
The Marine stared in grim silence. His Praetor Suit was damaged too? With weakened body and disabled equipment, stopping the infernal legions would be much more difficult. A counter come to view on the lower-left corner of his HUD:
ARMOR – 0
HEALTH – 100
A clean bill of health, but that didn’t worry him. With mental commands, he accessed his suit’s directory and brought up his weapon cache. After ages of fighting demons across worlds and realms, he’d accumulated a veritable armory of strange and powerful weapons. Hopefully he could use them.
To his dismay, the cache was unresponsive. The weapon files remained in the directory, but selecting them produced an error message:
ERROR: STORAGE MATRIX HAS BEEN CORRUPTED – REPAIR IS REQUIRED
PRESENT ARSENAL IS CURRENTLY UNAVAILABLE
He couldn’t access his arsenal? This human facility wouldn’t offer more than meager armaments, hardly fit for slaying demonic hordes, and he didn’t have the time or means to repair his Praetor Suit here. How was he supposed to stop the invasion?
Concerned, the Marine ran a system diagnostic and studied the results. Fortunately, the fabrication modules were fully operational, which meant a dependable supply of munitions, armor, and equipment. He’d even be able to construct new tools and incorporate them into his system, if he found the right resources.
But the Vanguard Gauntlet was disabled, the Equipment Launcher was destroyed, the Paragon Shield was gone. The Marine sighed. This complicated matters.
He stared at the pistol still lying on the terminal. He picked it up and stared as thin blue bolts arced from his hand to the weapon, just as its schematics and operation data appeared displayed on his HUD. The suit was scanning the pistol at the molecular level, reverse-engineering it, improving it.
UAC .45 STANDARD ISSUE HANDGUN ACQUIRED
SYNCHRONIZATION TO AUTOMATIC FEED AND STORAGE MATRIX COMPLETE
MUNITION TYPE – BULLETS
SECONDARY FIRING MODE – RAPID FIRE
A second counter appeared on his HUD’s lower-right corner, displaying his current ammo count and the handgun’s silhouette as a small icon beside it. The Marine blew air out his nose in displeasure. At least he could add new items to his repository, but it didn’t mean much if he couldn’t get his hands on bigger and better tools.
Putting the pistol away for the time being – which seemed to suddenly vanish into thin air – he turned his attention to the monitor he’d placed it on.
DEMONIC INVASION IN PROGRESS
If nothing else, these people were certainly observant. The Marine noticed the date displayed in the screen’s corner: October 2149. Had it been so long already? Or perhaps, so little? He sighed. It didn’t matter. Time didn’t mean what it used to.
Returning to the task at hand, he pressed a button labeled STATUS REPORT and waited for the command for load.
…INITIATING SCAN…SCAN INCOMPLETE
SATELLITE DISH ARRAY: OFFLINE
The Marine wouldn’t be able to determine the cause of the invasion until the array malfunction was corrected, which the network placed at a Resource Operations facility. He traced the position of the faulty satellite dish, downloading the geographic data to his suit’s operating system when an incoming voice comm appeared on the screen.
“Welcome.” It was a robotic voice, deep and resonating. “I’m Dr. Samuel Hayden, I’m the head of this facility. I think we can work together-” And that’s as far as the voice went before the Marine punched the monitor, the screen shattering and the whole terminal crashing loudly against the wall.
The Marine turned back where he came from and set off towards the outpost’s exit. His stride was slightly more confident navigating the dark halls wearing full armor as opposed to nothing at all, and he allowed his posture to relax somewhat.
As he approached an access port he noticed a bloodied figure lying outstretched beneath said door. It was the corpse of a soldier in white armor, its torso cleanly severed by the downward force of the door above it. But what drew the Marine’s attention was the object still clenched in its hands, a long silvery pump-action shotgun. The Marine pried it from the corpse’s fingers and turned it over, admiring its craftsmanship and simple but sturdy design.
DS-117 COMBAT SHOTGUN ACQUIRED
SYNCHRONIZATION TO AUTOMATIC FEED AND STORAGE MATRIX COMPLETE
MUNITION TYPE – SHELLS
SECONDARY FIRING MODE – SHRAPNEL SHOT
The Marine’s brow furrowed in irritation. The Praetor Suit’s reboot clearly reset its system configurations, these HUD notifications intruding on his field of view. Through the suit’s neural interface, he accessed its HUD settings and deactivated notifications for redundant information.
…SAVING CHANGES…CHANGES COMPLETE
The Marine humphed as he stooped to pry the door open, immediately noticing the harsh ardent smell reminiscent of burning sulfur. His shotgun was cocked and ready by the time the nimble figure jumped down from pipes hanging from the ceiling. It was a pathetic creature: brown and hunched, with exposed teeth, smoking claws, and pale spikes protruding from its body. The intention to open its mouth to roar briefly crossed the imp’s brain before it was splattered across the wall by 12-gauge buckshot.
The Marine was about to take off without a second thought before he noticed the shotgun was almost empty, holding only five shells in storage. His anger spiking, the Marine turned to kick the bottom half of the soldier’s corpse to pick up any additional ammo it might have carried. Sure enough three shotgun clips flew out, raising his shell count from five to twenty. The Marine turned to leave with a vein still throbbing in his temple.
He was in the loading dock, a long empty chamber with ramps and doors leading to other parts of the facility, a few red barrels scattered atop pallet jacks. In the center stood a large gaping organic construct, its mouth sparking with glowing red portal and a small crowd of huddled figures prostrated around it. He recognized the scene but had no time for the Gore Nest or the zombies worshipping it, rather sidestepping them to head for the bulkhead door at the far end of the room. It was sealed though, a bright red holographic display reading ACCESS DENIED.
“Demonic presence at unsafe levels,” the facility’s automated voice system announced. “Lockdown in effect.”
The Marine promptly punched the door but it would not open, the thick metal denting but not breaking. His rage surging past its breaking point, he tore off back where the Gore Nest and zombies still kneeled in unholy adoration. With a flying kick he broke the Nest apart and crushed its heart beneath his feet just as he drew his pistol. The zombies fell with single well-placed shots as the dying Gore Nest released a hellish screech, its death cry a call for reinforcement. The Marine had already dispatched all the zombies and had just equipped his shotgun when, in swirls of bright red flame, the swarm of imps and possessed soldiers materialized.
BANG BANG! Two soldiers fell as their chests were reduced to little more than shredded meat. An imp leapt up to the ceiling and hung upside down, a fireball forming in one hand. BANG! The imp fell lifelessly and its fireball dissipated into nothing. Other imps darted across the room, quickly jumping onto walls and lobbing burning fireballs at the Marine, trails of acrid smoke in their wake. The Marine rolled out of their way as he switched to his pistol. PEW PEW PEW! He fired off a flurry of shots in their direction, some missing but a few managing to kill the speedy pests.
A burst of rifle fire struck the Marine’s back, his HEALTH counter dropping to 95. He turned to find a zombieman pointing an assault rifle in his direction, its beady eyes casting a sinister red glare. Eyeing two imps approaching from his backside, the Marine had an idea. He rolled out of the way of the soldier’s attack just as the imps pounced, causing the soldier to shoot the imps instead. With furious screeches the imps turned on the zombieman, clawing and tearing at it just as the soldier himself returned fire.
The Marine left the three to finish each other off when a stream of bright blue spheres hit his chest, spreading waves of searing heat that felt as if penetrating his whole torso. A former soldier in white armor stood behind a support column holding a plasma rifle. The Marine shot at it but it rolled out of the way, dropping down to one knee and raising its weapon as its muzzle began to glow and whir. The Marine attempted to run behind another column when the soldier struck him with a wave of searing heat discharged from its rifle, bringing his HEALTH down to 89.
Snarling in pain and anger, the Marine grabbed a nearby zombie scientist and threw it at the soldier as it prepared to release another heat blast. The zombie hit the soldier just as it pulled the trigger, setting the two on fire. The zombie crumbled into ash and the soldier clawed at itself in desperation, which the Marine finished with a precise shotgun blast.
He was running low on shells. He glanced at a group of zombies as the imps got closer.
The Marine charged as he switched to the .45. PEW PEW! Imp down. Another leapt at the Marine with outstretched claws. PEW PEW PEW! Down and out. The Marine approached the zombies and raised his fists. Left hook, a zombie fell. Right hook, uppercut, the second crumbled as the third one’s head splattered the ceiling. All the while the Marine noted their viscera and energy being absorbed into him, producing fresh munitions just as his HEALTH slowly ticked up. A strong kick sent the last zombie flying at two soldiers, all three exploding in a mess of gore and organs.
The Marine withdrew his restocked shotgun and raised it once more, this time not aiming at any demon but rather at a jack loaded with red barrels. Taking careful aim, he shot the jack and watched as the barrels toppled over and rolled throughout the room. Eyeing the remaining imps and soldiers darting across the chamber, the Marine loaded a shrapnel shot and fired. At once the entire room exploded, bright swells of flame and shards of metal soaring through the air.
When the smoke cleared the Marine stood in an empty room, blood splatters and bits of flesh the only indication that other life had once been present. He checked his HEALTH: 99.
He was too slow, his senses dulled by his long rest. He needed to get his strength back, and fast.
“Demonic presence eliminated. Lockdown disengaged.”
The flashing sirens turned green and the red hologram over the exit vanished. Faintly satisfied, the Marine made his way to the exit.
As he passed through the gate a holographic recording appeared in his path, depicting some standing figure in seeming deep thought but he paid it no mind. Passing straight through it, he heard the figure indistinctly start to speak as he entered the access elevator and the doors sealed behind him. There was a touchscreen on the elevator wall, an upward arrow softly pulsing. The pad was stained with bloody handprints from a man’s corpse lying on the floor. He pressed it and immediately afterward a voice comm appeared on the screen.
“I’m willing to take full responsibility for the horrible events of the last twenty-four hours but you must understand…” It was the same droning voice. “Our interest in their world was purely for the betterment of mankind .”
The Marine looked down at the corpse at his feet. A victim of this voice’s “betterment.” The Marine cracked his knuckles in barely contained fury as the voice continued.
“Everything has clearly gotten out of hand now, yes, but it was worth the ri- Please don’t smash the panel.” The Marine smashed the panel, which exploded in a shower of glass and sparks. Moments later, the elevator stopped and the doors opened onto a familiar orange landscape.
Freezing cold temperature. Thin dry atmosphere. Reddish-brown dirt. The Marine was on Mars. He stopped a moment to take in the sight: dusty air currents rushed past the windswept terrain as distant towers contrasted darkly against the backlit cloud cover. It was evening, the sun hanging low on the amber Martian sky. A crashed shuttle lay not too far away, its engines still smoking and far too damaged to be of any use.
The Marine neurally signaled his suit to mark the Resource Ops facility on his HUD. Roughly a kilometer away, past some industrial refineries and archaeological excavation sites. He cocked his shotgun and set off across the Martian surface.
The Marine jogged in silence across the otherwise uneventful landscape. The outpost he had just left was built underground, the access elevator descending and sealing shut in an uninteresting metal hatch when he exited. At least for the time being, there seemed to be nothing that demanded the Marine’s attention, and he was fine with that. He allowed himself a few moments of relaxation as he ran at an acceptable pace, even comfortable in the low Martian gravity.
He reached the first of the excavation sites, a small shallow basin spreading out beneath him. Here lied the first signs of civilization since the outpost and shuttle, despite being empty of life itself.
Although to what civilization these belonged to was another question.
Littering the site were clearly man-made objects. Flood lamps, tool boxes, and environment suits were obvious examples, along with the odd human corpse that never seemed too far away. But the very site seemed built for the purpose of unearthing other, more enigmatic artifacts. The Marine jumped down, landing softly despite the imposing height of the ledge he’d just been on.
There were four low stone columns built symmetrically within the basin, constructed in some grand architectural style of ages past. Large engraved symbols glowed faintly on their surfaces, but these weren’t the arcane runes of Hell. The Marine could recognize better than anyone the writing and architecture of the ancient Martian people. Well, Martian beings, for they certainly hadn’t been human.
The columns were built in front of passageways leading deeper into the rusty surface, flood lamps and cables leading into the darkness. The cavern archways were of the same architecture as the columns before them, and the Marine knew the caverns continued deeper below, long abandoned by their original habitants. He noted that the columns and caverns pointed in three of the basin’s cardinal directions, the fourth column in front of an open channel that led south, in the direction of the Res Ops facility.
He headed in that direction. There was no insight the Marine could gleam from these crumbling ruins that he did not already know, and he had more pressing matters to attend to.
After a few minutes the Marine reached a point where the narrow channel split into a junction. Narrow passages spread out on either side, leading to industrial refineries but eventually converging back at Res Ops. The way forward was more direct but was blocked by a metal gate.
ACCESS DENIED, the blue holographic display read. LEVEL 1 ACCESS REQUIRED
give key?, the Marine hopefully input into his suit’s interface.
ERROR: SECURITY BYPASS MODULE OFFL-
A swift punch sent the flimsy metal door flying, and the Marine felt his irritation subside with the loud and satisfying CRUNCH it made as he walked over it.
The narrow channel opened onto a flat stretch of land on which Resource Operations lay. The Marine felt dwarfed by the imposing size of the facility in front of him, which was only part of a larger colony that sprawled across the Martian surface. The base was built on the edge of a great valley, distant cliffs barely visible through the amber haze.
His HUD marked the only functional entrance to the facility past some low installations, at the end of an elevated tramway that once crossed a nearby ravine. The Marine could see a few scattered zombies and soldiers leading up to the entrance, and he guessed there were more hidden among the structures. He was stocked on ammo, but this was no time to get ambushed by a crowd.
The Marine dejectedly exhaled. Only one thing to do.
He pulled out his handgun and charged.
Most of the zombies hit the ground long before they had a chance to react. By the time the soldiers noticed the Marine he had already pulled out his shotgun. BANG! Soldier turned to red fleshy paste. BANG! Another fell before it could fire a heat blast. The Marine noticed swells of scarlet flame out of the corner of his eye and prepared to fight the next wave.
A swarm of imps warped in but these were different. Larger, more muscular, and leering wickedly at the Marine. A greater number of spikes extruded from their body, and their skin was a deep black.
When he saw them casting green fireballs in their hands, the Marine wisely decided to run for cover.
The fireballs flamed through the space where the Marine had just been, striking at his heels as he rolled behind a piece of machinery. Those green fireballs were faster than the ones thrown by normal imps, and the Marine guessed they hit harder too. But he couldn’t stay hunkered down. The environment was too open and unsuitable for defense, and imps never stayed put. Steeling himself, he switched to his shotgun and leapt out of cover.
BANG BANG! He dropped two dark imps with cold determination. A squad of soldiers approached on the left, from which the Marine distanced himself to focus on the imps. BANG! He shot another but it was still standing, a blue fireball forming in its hand. The Marine reloaded his shotgun as the imp threw the fireball. He swerved out of the ball’s trajectory but to his surprise it changed direction mid-air and struck him in the arm, his HEALTH dropping to 87. Angered, the Marine finished the imp off with a shotgun blast as the soldiers drew nearer. Having grown frustrated with the monsters and his own lack of combat options, the Marine decided to just run for the entrance.
He left the soldiers behind and dodged the imps’ fireballs as he jumped from ledge to ledge, climbing up to where the tramway led into the Res Ops facility. Despite his efforts he was struck by several fireballs and plasma bolts, his HEALTH dropping to 28 but he wasn’t concerned. There would certainly be medical supplies in the facility, what was crucial was him getting inside.
He made the last jump and climbed up to the tramway. Looking down to see if the imps or soldiers had followed, he didn’t even check if he was alone. All he heard was the whirr of a minigun spinning up, and a flash of red light before a hail of bullets tore him apart and the world went black.
The Marine woke up. He stood at the entrance to the channel that led back to the excavation site. Resource Ops loomed ominously in front of him. From his position he could still see zombies and soldiers dispersed across the rusty Martian expanse.
Infuriated, the Marine punched the rock walls beside him. His fists sunk deep into the stone, cracks spreading out and a shower of pebbles tumbling down to the dirt.
He’d been killed. A momentary lapse of judgement had caused him to miss the soldier hidden in the shadows by the facility entrance, and he had paid for that mistake.
Not that he was any worse for the wear. He was in one piece and still had all his tools. His HEALTH was even back at 100.
But that wasn’t the point. There was an invasion here, and it needed to be stopped as quickly as possible. Dying costed time. Precious time that he did not have.
The sound of pebbles striking metal jarred him from his thoughts. There was a small beige box at his feet, hidden almost invisibly besides the dirt and rock. He crouched to open it.
It was a grenade box. Neatly stored inside were five green fragmentation grenades, their silver handles gleaming dimly in the light. The Marine picked one up.
UAC FRAG GRENADE ACQUIRED
IDENTIFIED AS EQUIPMENT – SYNCHRONIZED TO EQUIPMENT MODULE
NOTICE: EQUIPMENT LAUNCHER IS DAMAGED
MANUAL LAUNCH OF SECONDARY ITEMS IS REQUIRED
His equipment launcher was destroyed, but the Marine didn’t care. These frag grenades suited him just fine. He grabbed the rest – which seemed to vanish into thin air – and stared back towards the Res Ops entrance.
The corpses of the demons he’d killed still lay on the Martian dirt, but more had arrived to take their place. The Marine groaned in disgust. Demons were a pest, the only way to eliminate them was to slaughter every last one.
He loaded a shrapnel shot into his shotgun. And that was exactly what he was going to do. He charged.
A mob of zombies blew apart as the shrapnel shot exploded in their midst, sending burning shrapnel tearing through their flesh. The soldiers turned around and roared in aggression, but a second shrapnel shot shut them up. By the time the dark imps warped in, the Marine was ready.
BANG! A dark imp took a shrapnel shot straight in the chest and flew off in eight different directions. BANG! The headless corpse of another tumbled down after a shrapnel shot exploded in its roaring mouth. All the while the Marine constantly strafed to avoid their attacks, being mindful of the fast green fireballs and the homing blue ones.
Eyeing the soldiers approaching from his flank, the Marine strafed in their direction rather than retreating. As some soldiers fell to the dark imps’ fireballs, he took care of the rest. BANG! BANG! BANG! With liberal use of shrapnel shots he swiftly eliminated their ranks. Noting his shells were running low, he ran up to a soldier and swiftly dispatched him with a quick punch. Five shells. A normal imp leapt beside him and slashed at him with burning claws. Punch, six bullets. He climbed the ledges up to where a dark imp was lobbing fireballs at him. Left, right, uppercut. The Marine exulted as his ammo returned and the small health boosts topped his counter to 107.
The second wave of soldiers stormed in from the shadows. In a single move, the Marine withdrew a grenade, coolly flicked the safety mechanism off, and threw it at the crowd.
POW! Half of the soldiers exploded in bits of flesh and guts. The Marine threw a second grenade and climbed towards the entrance. POW! He didn’t see the explosion, but the wet splashes and following silence indicated all the soldiers were dead. He glanced at the last of the dark imps leaping about the structures. With precise shrapnel shots he finished them off and prepared himself for the final enemy hidden by the facility entrance.
The Marine jumped onto the tramway and glanced at the shadowy recess where the tramway ended. There, almost invisibly, stood the hulking figure of a heavy weapons commando. It wore red body armor and carried an enormous minigun in its hands. Its body was grotesquely swollen, however. So much that the grey bodysuit under its red armor had torn in several places, the sleeves having long since fallen off its grossly muscled arms. Its only clearly visible parts where the two red lights that brightly shone from its armor, one in the center of its helmet and the other in its chest.
As soon as the Marine climbed onto the tramway, the commando turned and yelled “ENEMY SIGHTED!” The Marine loaded and fired a shrapnel shot at the soldier. The shot hit but did not falter its target, which remained standing and charged up its minigun.
The Marine ran as the commando started firing. He did his best to dodge its fire but had limited space on the narrow tramway, wincing as the slugs ripped through his body.
Falling back to put some space between himself and the monster, the Marine threw a grenade at it. But it was too low, and the grenade exploded harmlessly on the floor. He grabbed another and threw it higher, but a stray slug hit his arm, and the grenade flew to the side and off the tramway.
With 54 HEALTH left, the Marine crouched behind a cart still parked on the rail. But the bullets kept coming, and the commando was drawing closer.
“YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE!” He heard it shout.
The Marine peered from behind cover to fire a shrapnel shot, only to have a bullet strike his face. He quickly ducked back with 42 HEALTH.
“HELL AWAITS YOU!”
The Marine breathed heavy. He only had one grenade, he was low on ammo, and his luck was running out. He couldn’t die again. Not now. Every moment he wasted was another demon breaking through to this universe. Another chance for Hell to reach Earth.
With gritted teeth, the Marine cocked his shotgun and leapt from cover, charging at the commando.
Taking careful aim, the Marine threw his last grenade at the monster. The grenade bounced some distance away but it was close enough, and the commando faltered by the blast. Taking advantage of the monster’s lapse in aggression, the Marine loaded a shrapnel shot and fired it at the commando’s head. The shot hit its mark but the commando did not fall, its helmet breaking to reveal a bald man with a circle beard and bloody mouth. His red eyes cast an evil, reproachful glare.
The commando spun up its weapon once more, but with no options left the Marine kept charging. The storm of bullets returned, and the Marine couldn’t help but watch as they pierced through his armor and hacked away at his HEALTH.
At that moment the Marine was overwhelmed with rage. A bright, swelling, incendiary surge of rage that seemed to set his blood ablaze.
He was furious.
Furious that he’d been forced to sleep for God-knows-how-long, furious that his strength and powers had been drained, furious that his arsenal was gone and he was forced to stop this invasion with no tools, furious that demons had invaded his universe and placed humanity in danger.
But most of all, he thought as he balled his hand into a fist, he was furious that this commando even existed.
With all his strength, the Marine slammed his fist against the commando’s chest. At once the monster seemed to explode in a fountain of blood, body parts and armor flying in every direction. The minigun it held dropped loudly on the floor, powering down and smoking heavily.
The Marine breathed heavily, his armor covered in blood, standing above a pile of gore that had once been the commando. He took a moment to absorb the monster’s energy and heal his wounds. He stared at his fist which dripped with thick red blood. It seemed to even be smoking from the force of the impact.
As he stared, though, his arm really did set afire, bright scarlet flames reaching from elbow to fingertips. The flames suddenly vanished as quickly as they appeared, and a message appeared on his HUD:
BLOOD RAGE RESTORED – CRITICAL HEALTH WILL BOOST MELEE DAMAGE
BLOOD PUNCH RESTORED – FOCUS POWER INTO PUNCH TO UNLEASH A DEVASTATING BLOW WITH A SECONDARY WAVE ON IMPACT
The Marine’s breathing eased. His heart felt to be beating stronger, the fight must have returned some of his strength. But it wouldn’t help much if he didn’t have-
A glint of silver amidst the gore caught his eye. He stooped and picked up a gleaming black-and-silver pistol from the remains of the commando, far larger than the .45in his possession. The edges of the barrel were painted a deep red, and on the side he could read a “BFP” etched on the metal. He chuckled as the notification appeared on his HUD:
EMG MARK V PISTOL ACQUIRED
MUNITION TYPE – BULLETS
SECONDARY FIRING MODE – CHARGED SHOT
He weighed the pistol in his hand. It was certainly heavier than the .45. Probably not as strong as he would have preferred, but it would do.
The Marine turned to the smoking minigun at his feet. It was permeated with throbbing fleshy tissue, too infected to be of use, but its ammo belt seemed functional. The Marine extracted the belt and added it to his storage matrix, grinning when he saw his bullet count rocket from 20 to 200.
With a new weapon and full ammo, the Marine entered the loading bay at the end of the tramway, which led into Resource Ops. There were toolboxes, supply crates, carts parked along the rail, even two medikits lying by the airlock. They were small white boxes with a blue cross on their lids. The Marine crouched and opened one. There were two bottles of translucent blue gel inside, along with application utensils and instructions. The Marine took both bottles in one hand, briefly contemplated, and crushed them. He felt immediate relief as the gels soaked into his suit and were absorbed by his body, raising his HEALTH to 38. He stood and crushed the other medikit with his boot, which brought his HEALTH up to 63.
Even with reduced health, the Marine stepped into the airlock with resolute focus and pressed a glowing pad that read ENTER FACILITY. As he did, a holographic recording of a young woman appeared by the gate.
“Welcome to the Union Aerospace Corporation, also known as the UAC,” she exclaimed in a bright and peppy voice. “Now 221 accident-free days.”
As the gate closed and the airlock cycled, the Marine hoped he wouldn’t have to hear her chirpy voice throughout his journey.
KILLS - 23%
SECRETS - 1
TIME - 15:00