A/N

So, this is a multi-chaptered story for a game that isn't even released yet, and probably won't be for many more years. And even then, its links to the game are limited at best. In actual fact, this a dream adaptation story that I tailored to fit IM. Still, hopefully it'll be relatively decent.


Interstellar Marines: Predators

Chapter 1: Smuggler's Den

"If men were meant to fly, they'd have wings. And if they were meant to go into space...well, they'd need rockets, oxygen and the type of dedication I expect from all of you."

Doctor Shenton Cower didn't expect many of the new scientists to laugh at his joke. Heck, he wasn't even sure whether he truly meant the words as a joke or whether he was simply being authoritarian for the sake of it. But what he also didn't expect was the lack of interest displayed in all the newbies' eyes. Blank, unimpressed...except for the one currently fiddling with her sPhone. Apparently reception was good over 400km above the Earth, in a sterile lab that was part of an international space station.

"But we are in space," Shenton continued. "And your employers will need much more than the three things I just mentioned from each and every one of you. Because while it's a long trip back to Earth, it's a trip that will be made if you don't observe protocol and etiquette."

Doctor "I-like-to-wear-short-skirts" put her sPhone away at this point. Good. He was getting through to them...sort of. It was clear that the graduates were listening only because Cower's word was ITO's word, not out of any great need or desire to listen to whatever the elderly scientist had to say.. With glasses that had been made redundant by eye surgery and wisps of white hair that could have been rectified by a hair growth formula, Cower was the epitome of an old timer. Someone stuck in the 21st century. Someone who belonged to the 2070s baby boomer generation rather than Generation Y. Someone who was still resolved to carry out his welcome speech.

"This is Orbital Research Station Xeno-Thirteen," Cower continued. "It's not Valhalla, but you can at least breathe easy knowing that it isn't Phobos...yes, miss..."

"McEntire," answered one of the scientists. "And...um, just wondering...since this is labelled Xeno-Thirteen..."

"No, I'm not at liberty to discuss whether there are twelve other similar stations," Cower interrupted. "And no, you're not researching aliens." He put on a smile that he hoped was endearing. "You're going to be researching something much better."

Something that was hidden behind a blast shield. A blast shield that with the press of a button at one of the benches in the lab, began to rise.

That'll keep the little bastards quiet for a few seconds...

Taking the time to wipe his glasses, Cower briefly wished that more detail had been provided to the newcomers back on Earth...or Luna, or Mars, or wherever else they might have originated from in the solar system. Xeno-13 wasn't exactly a secret facility-not when it was in Earth orbit at the least. Nor was it partaking in research that existed outside the boundaries of its charter. Still, it wasn't advertised all that widely either. It was more a case of ITO's Research and Technology branch making the offers to rising stars in fields of science, rather than those stars making the applications themselves. Cower had been no different back in his day, before Xeno-13's current focus had even taken shape. Unlike the youths however, his reaction was quite different...

"Sharks..."

Cower glanced at the youth who'd spoken for the group. "Yes, Mister..."

"Robinson," he answered. "Doctor, Robinson. And again...sharks."

"Yes, mister, sharks," Cower answered. He stepped to one side, letting the misters and misuses get a full look at the main tank of the research lab. "Great whites to be exact. Or, as some people like to call them, Carcharodon carcharias."

"But...sharks..." one of the so-called scientists murmured.

"Yes. Like I said, sharks," Cower said firmly. "Creatures that were nearly hunted to extinction in the 21st century, but are now protected by all signatories to the Interplanetary Treaty Organization. Creatures that have more than three-hundred million years of evolution behind them. A genetic treasure-trove of information."

"But why research them in space?" Robinson asked. "I mean...well..."

"Because everything's better in space, dear boy," Cower answered. "And 'space sharks' sounds cool."

A few sniggers rippled through the group, but not as many as the elderly scientist was hoping for. Still, it was a disappointment he could live with. He'd done his part, what with providing a brief pep talk and a look at some of ITO's chief specimens. And as Doctor Suzuki came into the lab, it seemed like he could take an intermission while she prepared the new recruits for the second act.

"Cower..." the middle-aged woman murmured. "Been ruffling some feathers have you?"

"Just my job, ma'am," the old man answered. "Nothing more."

"I bet," the scientist said as she made a note on her data-pad before focusing her gaze on the recent graduates. "Still, most of their feathers seem to be in place, so I guess I'll have no trouble continuing their orientation."

Someone muttered something about sharks and chickens, but it was dissention that didn't last long under Suzuki's withering gaze. That was the beauty of eyes that were free of glasses and instead equipped with ocular implants that shone red at times.

"Well, follow me, lowly peons," Suzuki said eventually. "I'll leave the good doctor to clear up after you."

Cower scowled. The lab was meant to have been cleared up yesterday, to be immaculate when the new employees arrived. It wasn't meant to fall to him. Still, if Suzuki knew this, she clearly didn't care, briskly heading out of the room. And following her as if they'd got a "get out of Hell card," the scientists followed her. Followed her without question...without a glance back at the old man behind them...

Followed her so attentively that they didn't see the old man's artificial scowl be replaced with a genuine smirk.

"Sanctimonious bitch," the scientist murmured as he began "clearing up" the lab. "You're welcome to the little bastards..."

Cower had been born in a different century, but there were some things that never changed. Acting...deception...ensuring that he'd have to clear up the lab today, being left alone to do it...deception was a human trait that not even the glamour of the 22nd century could remove. Could do nothing to hinder any more than the non-existent security in the lab right now. Security so bereft of existence that there was nothing to stop Cower from making his way to one of the room's smaller water tanks, one containing infant sharks. Offspring of the ones in the main tank.

Would they miss their children? Probably not. But Cower didn't care anyway.

Right now, as he carefully moved the tank into a biohazard box and activated its stasis function, all he cared about was getting off this damn station.


Bored bored bored bored...

Ian Holmes was bored. So bored that he was reflecting on how bored he actually was, along with having a brief flashback to being brought before the board of his boarding school in regards to...well, nothing to do with a surfboard at least, but still...

Bored bored bored bored...

...he was bored.

People on Earth, or even on a lunar or Martian colony might have expressed surprise at this. True, being a security guard wasn't exactly the most glamorous profession in the solar system, but hey, he was in space. And while not exactly the final frontier if researchers of zero-point energy had anything to say, it was still the latest and greatest aspect of human exploration. And additionally, the young man had agreed with them. Not only would he be working in space, he'd be stationed on Orbital Research Station Xeno-13. A place that, judging by the name, would be very interesting to work at.

Shuttle will be departing in twenty minutes. Please present yourself to officials before boarding the craft.

Boarding...there's that word again.

At first, working on a space station had been interesting. But it was interest that wore off as quickly as the muscles around his bones. Holmes was effectively restricted to the station's docking bay, his job boiled down to screening the few people that came on and off the station. Spaceflight had come a long way since the 20th century, but leaving Earth was still no laughing matter, and coupled with the secrecy surrounding the station, visits were few and far between. Shore leave was even rarer. So while Holmes was bored as he gazed at the line of scientists and lucky grunts that were headed for the shuttle, he was envious as well.

"You're clear...have a nice flight," the security guard murmured as he scanned the ID of a doctor whose name he'd forgotten, if he'd even bothered to learn it in the first place. "Next please..."

And so it continued. Two shuttle hatches, two guards including himself, and one line for each of them to deal with. A break from the usual monotony of standing around doing nothing, but it was still monotony in itself. And the wispy-haired scientist approaching him was no exception.

"ID please..." Holmes murmured.

Fumbling around for his ID, the scientist looked agitated, even worried. Probably just trepidation about the shuttle ride.

"Shenton Cower..." Holmes murmured as the details registered on his data-pad, taking the time to actually glance at the man's name. "Shore leave, or retirement?"

The man didn't react to the joke. No loss there though. Maintaining silence for the rest of the sequence, Holmes handed back the ID, taking note of one wrinkled hand taking the device, another clutching a biohazard-marked box.

Probably nothing...the guard reflected as he gestured Cower to move ahead as he came face to face with a scientist that had the virtue of being younger and also female. It's been cleared...

In actual fact, it was his job to clear such devices. Nothing more than a formality really, considering that he wasn't equipped to study bio-hazardous material. Still, as far as Holmes was concerned, it was monotony that he wasn't willing to put up with. Cower wasn't a danger. Heck, by the time Doctor "I-like-tossing-my-hair-in-a-seductive-manner" passed by, he'd already forgotten about the old geezer.

And as Holmes headed out of the bay for the de-pressurization sequence to begin, he knew that within a few hours, he'd have forgotten everything about this departure sequence, period.


Shuttle 2 is now ready to depart. Our point of call is the Darwin Space Elevator, ETA, ninety-eight minutes. Please ensure that your seatbelts are fastened, as you will experience weightlessness during this flight. If you find yourself in discomfort, please use the plastic bag attached to the seat in front of you, and seal tightly after use. Thank you, and enjoy your flight.

Listening to the pilot's voice, Shenton Cower couldn't believe his luck. The short travel time, that Darwin was the destination, that the shuttle had the virtue of not smelling like floating half-digested food from previous trips...it was the best he could have hoped for.

Oh, and by the way, we shall be playing a short film for your pleasure, This Side of Deimos.

...alright, maybe not the best. He could have done better than a B-grade shot that had only been shown at the 2149 Cleveland Film Festival.

Clutching the biohazard box close to his chest, Cower hoped that apart from the pilot's selection of film, things wouldn't deviate from their lucky streak. He'd inserted a bio-dampener into the biohazard box that would mask the bio-signs of the specimens he'd smuggled out, but anyone willing to expend time and energy on the device would easily get past it. He'd got it off the space station due to the laziness of the guard who'd cleared him, but the way he saw it, he had a 50/50 chance of getting it through the two sets of customs he'd be heading through. And that was assuming that no-one from the station alerted groundside staff of his disappearance and/or theft.

Yet in a way, it didn't matter. He was off the station.

And whether he succeeded or failed in his little scheme, he wasn't coming back.


Update (09/03/12): Corrected grammar errors.

Update (06/04/12): Made some grammar corrections and altered some wording. Also, in regards to some points raised concerning ch. 1 specifically:

-Ian Holmes, if anything, would be a reference to Iam Holm, who played Bilbo (not Frodo) Baggins in Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. However, I'm afraid that it's very much a coincidence-my M.O. for developing names for characters varies (e.g. if I want a fantasy race or alien name, there's often certain 'rules' I have to abide by to make sure it sounds right, conforms to their culture, etc.) but for the average human in the average setting, it's a case of going to Wikipedia, keep clicking the random article tab until I get a name...but the names have to be from completely different articles. So while I did get a name similar to Ian Holm, I never actually touched his article in this process.

-I haven't settled on a year in which this actually takes place in. From what little is known about the game's story/canon, the game can occur no earlier than 2156, but probably awhile afterwards. So while the use of 2149 is indicative of the century this story takes place in, it shouldn't be taken as a declaration of an exact year.