Kira Zo peered through the heavy smoke that filled the space station’s corridor, the last explosion still ringing in her ears. She could make out three dead on the floor just ahead - two blue hybrids and one Elayan. But it was hard to see clearly. The attack had knocked out the main lighting on the station, and only the overhead emergency beams were on. The portal to the Operations center was at the end of the corridor.
Crouching behind a bullet-riddled bulkhead for cover, she pulled a hyper-grenade from her combat suit, then cradled the assault rifle on her lap.
Acrid fumes filled her lungs and she began to cough. An enemy round had shattered her visor, letting in the smoke.
"Where are you now?" Daniel Baker’s voice came over her headset.
Gasping for breath, Kira spoke into her helmet’s mike. "Outside the Ops room."
"Where’s the rest of your squad?"
"Two of my hybrids are dead," she replied. "The others are wounded, back by the shuttle dock."
There was a pause, then Baker came back. "Hold your position. Shon-Ford is on his way to you. Find any aliens?"
"There’s a dead Elayan here - and we killed four on the way up. The rest must be holed up in the Ops center. What’s your location, Dan?"
"They got me pinned down inside the Comm area. Can’t get to you right now."
The sound of gunfire came over the headset and she heard him curse.
"Got to go, Kira! Over and out!"
She pulled the safety off the grenade and trained her rifle in front of her as she began to move toward the door. Stepping over the corpses, she hugged the wall as she walked. It seemed like she was the only one in the corridor, although she assumed the aliens were scanning her from inside the center.
Twenty feet from the portal, she stopped and took cover in an alcove. The smoke was clearing and she could see the massive metal door just ahead. A yellow electrical defense shield radiated from the door.
Just then an object dropped from the ceiling ten feet in front of her and hit the floor with a thud. Realizing what it was, she crouched deep in the alcove and shielded her face with her arm. A deafening explosion filled the hallway and the blast threw her on the floor, sending her rifle flying.
The concussion from the bomb left her dazed, but she knew she only had seconds before the Elayans set off another explosion. Her heart pounding with adrenaline, she shook her head, trying to clear it from the effects of the blast.
Still clutching the grenade tightly, Kira rose and picked up her weapon. Then she ran headlong toward the portal, lobbed the grenade and ducked into another alcove along the wall. The grenade exploded, blowing through the yellow force field and blasting a large, jagged opening in the metal door. Pointing the assault rifle at the portal, she fired on full-auto, the fusillade of heavy-caliber bullets hitting inside the room.
Wasting no time, she pulled another grenade from her suit, released the safety and heaved it inside the door. As the explosive went off, she slung the rifle over her shoulder and threw herself through the ragged opening, landing on the floor inside the Ops center. Rolling her body to the left, she felt a stabbing pain in her leg - must have sprained it, she thought.
Taking cover behind a computer console, she peered over it, only to see a blinding flash from the other side of the room. The laser blast hit the wall behind her, scorching a black hole into the white surface.
Damn that was close!She unzipped another pocket of her suit and pulled out the last grenade. Got to make it count.
Kira glanced over the console again, trying to get a feel for the room. The Ops center was large, filled with consoles, screens, and other strange-looking equipment whose function was unclear to her. Some of it was damaged, the metal crumpled, and a small fire had broken out. At least five dead Elayans were lying on the floor, and several more were wounded, their cries for help going unanswered. The hyper-grenade had been effective.
The laser fire had come from a cluster of workstations on the far wall. Pulling the safety, she lobbed the grenade with all her strength, then aimed her weapon and fired, riddling the workstations with her rounds.
The explosive went off, the earsplitting blast echoing in the room. There were screams, then the room went silent.
Waiting for return fire, she remained behind the console. She reloaded her weapon, then looked over the console and scanned the room. The grenade had destroyed the workstation area and the aliens there. Their bizarre body parts lay scattered on the floor and on the damaged equipment. Swatches of dark green ooze, the aliens’ blood, was splattered on the walls. A second fire had broken out and plumes of black smoke began to fill the area.
Kira got up and, with her weapon trained in front of her, limped toward the back of the room, the pain in her leg severe.
Halfway there she found a wounded Elayan on the floor, groaning. The skin on their humanoid bodies was composed of bright, multi-colored strands of light. But on this one, probably because it was badly hurt, the lights were dim. She scanned the room quickly, making sure there was no other threat, then turned her attention back to the alien.
It moaned again, and spoke in their unintelligible dialect. She tapped the translator on the lapel of her suit and listened closely.
"Help me," it whispered, the lights of its body flickering some more.
"I’m sorry," she replied. "I’m no doctor. And you’re the enemy."
The alien’s lights brightened briefly. "I’m in pain... help me!"
Raising her rifle, she fired once, the round striking its temple.
Its head snapped to the other side and the body shuddered. Seconds later it ceased moving and its lights went dark. Rancid-smelling green ooze began to pool under the body.
She moved on, inspecting the bodies of the other Elayans, making sure they were dead. Finding two others wounded, she shot them to put them out of their misery.
Satisfied there were no more alive, she made her way out of the room, just as the fires intensified - the place was thick with black smoke. She limped away quickly, glad to escape the overpowering stench of burning plastic, metal and dead aliens that filled the room.