“We gonna survive this ma’am?” one of the young soldiers asked.
Caprice couldn’t see the young man’s face through his helmet and didn’t really care to. For most people, life on Charon was short, violent and nightmarish.
For Caprice it was just another day.
“Listen up!” she barked, turning toward the fifteen soldiers that were packed in the troop transport. “You’re training until now was useless! Got it!?”
She waited a moment for a response. None came.
“Am I understood!?” she yelled again.
“Yes sir!” the soldiers responded in unison.
Shaking her head Caprice sighed. They were dead. Like so many times before she would be the only survivor.
“You will be flanked, you’ll be attacked from behind. This is not a ‘keep moving forward’ situation!” Caprice continued as the transport rumbled across the barren land. “This is a hive of skrill! Skrill only do two things; eat and mate! Listen to my orders and follow my lead and you’ll stay alive.”
Caprice took a moment to look out the front of the transport, the computers were adjusting nicely. They would reach the hive soon.
Blowing her platinum bangs out of her eyes Caprice sighed, “You ladies keep firing until there’s nothing left. If you don’t, you’ll get butt-fucked to death.”
Behind her, she heard a chuckle.
“Think that’s funny kid?” she asked without turning around. The mound that was the entrance to the hive was just ahead.
“Just wondering ma’am, who’s gonna be doing the ..?” the man started to say as Caprice patted the driver on the shoulder letting him know to stop.
“I just told you, skrill eat and mate,” she grabbed the automatic plasma rifle the military had given her. “While one is eating your face, another will be fucking you like a two credit whore.”
The back gate dropped and Caprice walked past the soldiers. Pausing at the exit to the transport, she looked up at the sky. Whatever had happened, something had killed the sky. It looked like it was rotten and it undulated like it was filled with parasitic worms. The death of the sky had put the entire planet into a perpetual twilight and the shadows seemed longer than usual.
“Ma’am?” she heard a voice over the communicator.
“Yes?” Caprice sighed.
“Why do you have swords ma’am?” the voice asked. She wasn’t even concerned with who asked the question.
Raising her rifle to her shoulder, Caprice began moving deliberately toward the mound, “Because rifles run out of ammunition. Before you ask, the katana has a molecular edge, they don’t make them anymore. It takes technique to use it. The wakazashi is for me.”
The soldiers followed as she lead them to the entrance of the hive, “For you ma’am?”
“To kill myself with before they rape me to death,” she sighed, stopping at the entrance.
Where were the skrill? They should have been flooding out of the entrance the minute the soldiers disembarked.
Leaning over the edge, her rifle at her shoulder, the platinum blond waited for her helmet to pick up some kind of movement inside the hive. Where were they? It was silent all around them except for the rumble.
Shit! The skrill were waiting for the Bardo!
“Three cover the back! Don’t let anything behind us,” Caprice ordered, moving into the hive, “Two on each side, watch the walls!”
Pushing into the tunnels, she heard the thunder of a thousand storms roll over and Charon went black behind them. Shrieks issued through the tunnels and the sounds of scampering echoed through the hive.
Taking a deep breath, Caprice pointed her rifle around a bend to see a horde of skrill scampering toward them. Bigger than a man with four back legs, two arms and an insect-like carapace, the creatures charged toward them. Caprice squeezed the trigger, firing round after round of plasma into the insect-like creatures.
“Behind us!” someone yelled. The electronic sounds of plasma rounds being fired echoed from behind the veteran bioweapon.
“Don’t stop until they quit twitching!” Caprice yelled.
The male skrill were easy to identify. They were rushing toward her with their over-sized and armored genitalia erect and ready for mating. Ignoring the disgusting display, Caprice kept firing, blasting holes into every skrill she saw.
Noting her plasma battery, Caprice yelled, “Second row!” and stepped back into the middle of the group.
The soldiers in the middle stepped up and began firing while Caprice and the other front row soldiers grabbed magazines off their belts. Slamming the next battery into her rifle, Caprice turned to a new set of screams behind her.
One skrill had gotten through. It was on top of a soldier, chewing on his face and trying to tear off his armor. It was trying to rape him, driving its erect penis into his armor.
“He’s dead!” Caprice yelled, firing into the skull of the skrill.
Taking the fallen soldier’s position, she quickly fired into the man’s head, ending his life. The remaining skrill would have eaten him alive. Caprice had watched it happen numerous times, one of the worst ways to die possible on Charon.
“Get moving!” she yelled.
The group kept pushing through the hive, deeper and deeper into the tunnels. The corpses of the skrill were piling up like leaves. Blood formed rivers, flowing down to the heart of the lair and soldier after soldier felt the fangs of the rabid beasts.
Seven soldiers had been killed by the time they reached the heart of the hive, “Where’d they go!” the lead soldier yelled as the skrill withdrew.
“The queen is ahead!” Caprice yelled over her shoulder. “Kill her and you kill the hive!”
Wiping blood off her visor, Caprice moved to the front just as they entered the egg chamber. The walls and floor were covered with white, leathery eggs and a layer of slime coated the dirt room. In the center was a huge female skrill attached to a massive abdomen. Egg after egg poured out of the queen and she turned to the soldiers, shrieking at them.
Pushing through the stunned soldiers, Caprice began firing at the twenty-foot tall monster, “Shoot you idiots! Shoot!!”
But the woman quickly saw that plasma rounds were the wrong answer. One after another, they bounced off the glistening armor of the queen as she continued laying eggs.
“Fuck it!” Caprice yelled, tossing her rifle to the ground and drawing her katana.
Made from Charon steel and laced in black hyper-alloy, the molecular blade gleamed in the darkness. An elegant weapon, the katana relied on technique and sharpness as opposed to the traditional weight and technology that the normal swords and axes relied on.
While the soldiers continued firing, Caprice charged forward, slicing into the queen’s belly. The beast screamed and thrashed, shocked to be injured. It snatched out at Caprice, but she twisted, slashing off one of its limbs. Before the twitching arm had hit the ground, the blond woman drove her blade into the beast and carved upward.
Shrieking in pain, the queen lashed out, hitting Caprice in the chest. The bioweapon could hear her ribs break as she was flung across the room. With a thud, she hit the wall of the cavern, the impact knocking the wind out of her.
As she hit the ground, Caprice looked up to see the soldiers moving up on the queen. They were getting too close!
“Get back!” she yelled through the pain of her shattered ribs, but the queen grabbed one in her maw.
Chewing and grinding, the queen crunched the soldier into a pulp as if he were a simple kernel of popcorn. The man’s screams were cut short as his head fell to the ground.
Limping and trying to catch her breath, Caprice closed the distance to the queen while the soldiers fell back, “Aim for her eyes!”
Her injuries were slowing her. Caprice couldn’t react like she had to. The queen knew who the real threat was and grabbed her in a taloned hand. The beast squeezed the thrashing woman, collapsing her broken bones. The platinum woman’s breath left her again as the broken ribs punctured her lungs. Her vision was fading and stars were flashing in her line of sight.
But it was only a moment before Caprice had her chance. The queen brought the bioweapon to her maw and Caprice drove her blade up through the creature’s bottom jaw. One simple shudder as the sword entered its brain and the monster fell, dropping Caprice to the ground.
“You got it ma’am!” Caprice heard someone say as she struggled to grab a syringe on her belt.
“I got you ma’am,” she heard as warmth poured through her body. Someone had given her a shot of regen injection.
Her ribs were moving back into place and her breath returned as she smiled through her helmet, “Sergeant?”
A voice responded through the communicator, “Yes ma’am?”
“Let’s get out of here,” she sighed. Only fifty percent casualties … a pretty good day actually.