Summary: On a simple mission to a distant colony a young marine encounters an unexpected adversary. Her cushy plans for the future are about to change.
Rated M for inappropriate language, possible violance, themes and who knows what else. If you feel offended it was not my intention. Also, I separated the text into sections to make it easier to read.
I don't own anything, don't make money off of anything. I'm just playing puppets and make them dance. Dance Puppets! Dance!
What Happens Tomorrow
Chapter 1: XOXO
"I think they got to close for comfort" said a young woman while her eyes wildly surveyed the surroundings of a cool compartment that housed the control center of the LH 742.
This area monitored the dynamics of the entire colony. From transports that came from the outside to the movement of those that were already here. This large enclosed area was the center of communication's relay. It was a nerve hub for all security alarms and surveillance equipment located at this site. All activity was electronically monitored and appropriate responses were directed as soon as any incident or potential crisis was detected. This room accommodated the backup response unit and primary detection unit. All sensors that monitored efficiency of the plant's heating, cooling, chemical levels, power grid, outside conditions, optimum capacities projected their readings to this room. The operator, a highly trained individual, would supervise the readings, and in case of any irregularities would contact the appropriate sector to test, verify, adjust or fix the problem.
Beyond the standard scrutiny, this room also provided information on potential dangers, which could affect the colony's safety; courtesy of outside threat. By outside threat, all colonies were focused on the activity of raiders. If there are places to build and explore, there are also places to invade and foray. Weyland Co. got a tutorial a few years back when a group of armed outlaws attacked Ambitus; a science base that sat at an end of a cluster system. Ambitus got its Latin name due to its location that implied a limit or boundary. Apparently something that sat on the outskirts of a group of anything should have been well armed or observed. Ambitus was neither. Raiders ransacked the colony's multimillion dollar medical supply, killing 54 workers in the process. Ever since, large companies and countries installed early detection systems and antiaircraft missals. All this was done for increased security and sense of relieve for the petrified colonists.
LH 742, labeled Peninsula, was located in an exceedingly remote location. It was a pioneer in prospect expansions. It was here to prepare the unexplored universe for future journeying. Serve as a transit station, which provided food, shelter and technical support. The Peninsula was still in its early years of development. The temporary station was built for the workers that prepared this colony's habitable condition such as atmosphere processing. LH 742 was in itself a good starting point. It had mild temperatures, infertile yet promising soil and diminutive reservoirs of water. If not for the lack of oxygen, meager native flora and occasional sandstorm it would have been ..."dreamy". Peninsula was also a polite name, but to the female currently mulling over her surroundings, this place should have been called Bumfuck Egypt. The directions to this place were something like "if you get to the end of the known universe, take a right."
This colony was supposed to be filled with hectic workers yet none were visible. The present team's transport cruiser should have been cleared for landing, yet it wasn't. The control center should have had someone on duty and once again missed human presence. It appeared as if the colony was attacked, but the defense systems recorded no outside threat. The shortage of human activity, or for that matter bodies, as well as recent events made the entire situation puzzling.
The female was still chewing on the inside of her cheek and pondering the circumstances in which the control center of this wasteland, or as she decided to name it Bumfuck Egypt, was decorated with strange lifeless creatures and acid burned holes.
"they should have first proposed dinner and a movie" she continued and snorted as her expression changed from confusion and shock to genuine amusement.
For an unexplained reason she felt giddy. She should have been petrified, but since she was still alive among the bodies of the dead intruders, she felt a tinge of accomplishment. The sudden flood of glee was not shared by the other seven people in the room. Especially did not sit well with the woman's Captain. These white "spider-things" tried to tear her a new one and nearly choked her to death. If not for the military helmet they would have probably succeeded.
You could have called Joanna Keizer a survivalist. She was never particularly talented at anything, but she could learn and adapt just well enough to survive or on the threshold of not enough to completely suck; Except for shooting. Guns were the one little military knick-knack that fit her well. Joanna was a great shooter. She was even admitted to the sniper training. Unfortunately she failed miserably. Apparently to be a sniper you need patients and stealth, and she had neither. The fidgeting, occasional snoozing and hyperactive teeth clattering did not go well with the gig. So they gave her the slip, which really was quite OK with her. She did not see a future in the highly stressful and no questions ask environment. Not that the military had a Q&A atmosphere. A professional marksman often had secret security classification and required high level of secrecy. In case of Lieutenant Keizer it was like asking a fat kid not to touch the cookie jar.
Joanna liked guns and not because she was an enthusiast, but rather for a different, yet very simple reason. Guns kept her deadly self at a safe enough distance to keep her scared ass out of harm's way; at least for the most part. Speed shooting was her mean of reaching a retirement age. And, once again it proved useful. When these bizarro creatures came at her in full swing she had just enough swiftness to take them one or two at a time with her two pistols. She kept the P2-35 pistols in thigh holsters. Many soldiers claimed she's crazy for carrying a weapon (not to mention two) that was outdated, but Joanna didn't care. The bullets were easy to get hold of and the guns comfortable in her small grasp. She also carried her standard army-issued rifle with all the fancy embellishments. Sure the rifle was extremely accurate and useful with visual options, motion tracking, night vision, and so on, but the fucker was still heavy to a female with a small frame like her, and way too big for quick maneuvering. It worked better at a longer distance or prolonged "sit in" combats. The rifle was not Joanna's weapon of choice. Come to think of it now, it was definitely a good decision not to discard her archaic P2-35s.
"...did you have to kill them all?" asked Captain Weiss pulling the females thoughts back into the present
...as if she had a choice ...
Joanna tapped the forefinger on top of her chin in a sarcastic show of contemplation.
"Wellllll...hm... letmethink ..."... "the fucker tried to rip my face off. Look what it did to my helmet"
For the protective headgear the army issued standard full face helmets with a built-in bulletproof riot shield in place of the eye slits. As an old movie buff she often made jokes about impersonating a robot or yelling "I am the law". Despite the fact that her petite physic made her look more like a Power Ranger rather than a tough law-keeper. The two characters were not the same, but most of her fellow soldiers couldn't tell the difference. The movies were from old earth and hardly any of quick to become citizens of the army had seen.
Joanna crouched down to the floor and picked up her battered helmet by the scruff that connected to her nape. One of the few spots that was left untouched. The appendages of the crab slash scorpion-like creature have left dents and scratches on both sides of the head-covering and the acid has melted solid chunks out of the protective headpiece.
"And, this small thing did this much damage huh..." once again Weiss probed in disbelieve. He took the helmet from the Lieutenant's hands and did a double take at the creatures scatter all over the ground burning holes into the flooring; As if he just noticed. What else did he need to let it go? They've been at it for fifteen minutes now. She thought and answered with a sneer:
"Yyess ... like I said before ...the little bastard got very affectionate squeezed my head in a bear-hug and licking away at the eye-slits"
"Love at first sight eh ...Marvel" said Wallace in his stupid accent. He sounded like a retarded leprechaun. In general, she quite enjoyed the old distinct pronunciation, but Wallace's grinning mug just made her insides churn. Sometimes when someone just rubs you the wrong way everything about them becomes irritating. Wallace for sure "rubbed" Joanna the wrong way. Guess he didn't get the sexual harassment memo. The thought of the many awkward passes the man made, made Joanna grimace. Marvel; that's what most that knew her in the military called her. It became her handle after one of her superiors said that "it's a marvel she is still alive". And in this situation it really was. She was sure Wallace by using her handle in such a pronounced manner was aiming at her elusiveness of death as well.
Normally she hated the protective headpiece. She felt confined and a bit dumbstruck while wearing it. It was like having a large armadillo enfold around your head with just enough space in the lens room to not walk into walls. She never wore an armadillo on her head, but assumed that is what it would feel like if she had. In every situation she would have long taken it off, but today she was given her best Darth Vader interpretation with the classic "Luke I am your father" to the amusement of Evans, and she just didn't get a chance to take it off after being left alone in the command center when this crab thing latched on. She didn't even see it coming. One minute everything was peachy and the next something really disturbingly ugly was squeezing the creaking helmet and wrapping itself around her neck.
To add to her dumb luck, the protective neck collar in her jacket has offered enough breathing room so she could regain some composure, shrug off the initial shock and actually think her way out of the predicament. At first she tried to grab the crab and its legs, but she couldn't get any of the appendages to pry open. Afterwards, Joanna tried pawing at the bugger's tail, but it just squeezed tighter; thankfully, still not tight enough for her to suffocate. At that moment she grumbled some of her usual "...goddameit... just my luck..." and "get off, you're not my type..." At this point she actually laughed, totally oblivious to the seriousness of her fucked up situation. The view from inside her helmet was quite gruesome and when the insanity passed she decided that she is just going to bang her head face first on some solid surface until the face-lover has had enough and gets the message. The site of her bashing her cranium on a nearby wall would make top five list of ridiculous things you do on active duty, and if anyone with a camera would have seen her, then she would never hear the end of it because the video would spread like wildfire. She might even get a new alias. However, the persistent whacking proved effective. The creature's resolute softened enough for her to slip her hands between her neck and the tail and force the leech's tail off. She held the tail in her right hand. With her left she garbed the back of her helmet and with a quick motion she pulled it off and tossed the helmet with the still attached hugger. She didn't waste any more time and pulled the gun from her right thigh holster and shot the thing three times just to make sure it did not get up and try any more monkey business. That's when Joanna noticed that the blood was eating away at the metal. This entire encounter definitely fit the rationale behind her moniker.
"... thwitt ..." was the entire comeback she had for Wallace at this very moment. Most of the time she had some creative riposte, but right now she was staring at her helmet, held in her Captain's hands. This piece of protective gear has certainly seen better days. All jokes aside, this could have been her face. The though made her physically shiver, close her elbows near her ribs and place her small closed fist pressed against her mouth, gaping with wide open eyes. She snorted and thought that she must look like a Japanese cartoon character.
"well Lieutenant Keizer... gather a sample and stay here. We're going back to engineering."... Concluded her captain after finishing the helmet inspection. This statement even to a minion like Keizer seemed completely ludicrous.
"Am I having a déjà vu here? Did you just say that I'm to stay while you go investigate engineering?" Joanna is not one to question orders, but the last time she was left alone in Controls it didn't go very well. To say she was skeptical about staying behind again would have been an understatement.
"Yes Marvel ... we didn't even get half way when we heard your frantic shooting. We need to find somebody in this colony to take in the transport so we can all go back to base". Weiss said with a look of contempt at the only female in the group. "Now grow a pair and stop being such a girl..."
"but...I...III am a girl "
...this statement has not improved her hardiness in the Captain's eyes, and served only to prove her feminine vulnerability. It was actually so stupid it made even herself question her own refusal to stay alone in the control room again. Maybe she was overreacting. These things did not seem so terrifying right now. They had no teeth, no really sharp claws, didn't carry a gun and were only the size of a big cat. On the other hand, they had no fur a wickedly flexible tail, were very strong, bled acid and seemed to have developed an unnatural liking for her.
"Sir have you seen these things. I mean they don't really look like jungle cats." Joanna tried reasoning not only with her Captain, but also with herself. "They bleed acid and jump like fucking kangaroos" she continued "it's not logical for these things to be inside the facility. I mean if they're part of the local fauna I would understand one might have got in, but six. They are rapacious creatures. Only those attack in groups. I mean seriously they came at me like some banshee groupies".
Her further account was interrupted by Captain's raised open palm in a classic shut the hell up manner and followed by:
"I don't wanna to hear any of this. I am not a wildlife enthusiast. I'm your Captain. Whatever these things are. They obviously dead." He said gesturing to the display of dead creatures scattered on the floor "Gather one in some plastic container and let some science dope deal with it. All I want to hear from you is yes sir... Is that clear soldier ..?"
All she could say in this situation even if it held no conviction.
Obviously the things were dead and maybe this was the end of it, and in fact she was overreacting. But, she still could not pass the unnerving feeling that these might just be a taste of something much worse. She was a good and quick shot, but what if there were more of these? She no longer had her head protection and now she was open to a head-on collision with a face-hugger. Even though she would keep on her toes and was much better tuned into her surroundings; what if these things came in larger groups? Would she still be able to take them on jumping at her from different directions? That is exactly what happened the last time. As soon as she took the one attached to her helmet the other jumped. After she killed three in mid air, the next two jumped simultaneously. They either did not coordinate their attack or adapted based on what happened to the other four. One might have just served as a decoy, a sacrifice, while the other compressed her head. The buggers didn't account for her shooting in multiple directions with both her guns.
"what is their problem anyway...?" she questioned the creatures' obsession with her face: The same question that also her Captain asked multiple times as if she had a conversation with the thing and had time to ask. Maybe that is why he wanted at least one alive... to interrogate it.
"I'll be back" said Evans with a crooked smile obviously aiming at an attempt of a joke. Then, he turned leaving the room and Joanna once again stood alone in the same dreadful control room.