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Chapter Eight

The Underground Cemetery

The chasm was lined with lights in all directions, Illuminating the carved-out doorways and windows along the walls. Hundreds of Orc-kin droned in and out of these rooms going about their task of mining not only the bottom floor but also digging into the walls. With the majority of the Orc-kin, Sergeant, 16409 was easily spotted thanks to her uniform consisting of less fabric and more metallic. It was a powered armor version of their standard uniform but with a helmet that also protected the neck and face. It stood out from the crowd thanks to the white iron. Una had already started wadding into the sea of Orc-kin, headed straight for Sergeant 16409 who somehow seemed lost as she looked from left to right. Una made sure to load her Sib’s tranq rounds in both her pistol and rifle, the problem was how armor’s thickness.

“Sib, I see the target. She’s armored.”

“You’ll be fine. You just gotta make sure to shoot the same spot more than once to break through. Or you can wait for her to take off her helmet though you might be distracted by her smell. Orcs don’t smell very good.” Sib said

“How about a whole clip, point blank?” Una asked.

“Sure, just be careful, too much damage to the body could lead to a failed mission and you know… loss of your life… again. Hey, are you gonna ask her what she’s digging for?”

“Hmm… You remember the old saying. Shoot first, never ask questions later?” She said while giving her rifle a quick check-up. Popping the mag before smacking it back into place before doing the same to her pistol.

“Thaaat’s not how that goes.”

At the end of her check-up, she patted her thigh for her blade, quickly remembering it wasn’t there.

“Sib, I’m missing my blade.”

“Umm… and?” He whispered

“Make me one,” She said through gritted teeth.

“Oh! That’s what you wanted,” He chuckled. “You know, you’re really bad at using your words. Anywhooo…” He sang. “It’ll be a while.”

“I’m not engaging until I have my blade,” She said.

“Hey! Look at it this way, now you can practice using your words instead of going in guns blazing. I can’t really blame you, though. Your kind’s solution to a problem is to keep throwing bodies at it until the problem goes away. That’s how your mother almost won the war.” At the mention of her mother, Una’s blood began to boil and though she didn’t want to admit it, Sib spoke the truth. He went on to say, “The Captain did say survival was your priority. I bet because he knew you’d be tempted to do something stupid.”

Grinding her teeth, she snatched a pickaxe from one of the Orc-kin in mid-swing. The Orc-kin’s protest was short-lived as Una gave her a left hook to the jaw. The girl slumped to the ground as Una casually made her way over toward Sergeant 16409. The Sergeant still seemed lost as she walked aimlessly through the crowd. Without warning, Sib had moved her goggles over her face. “Oops, almost forgot Sergeants have facial recognition in their helmets.’

“Sib, if you get me killed I’m kicking your ass.”

“Start moving these damn rocks out of the way,” 16409 ordered.

“Good idea,” Una chimed before smacking one of the Orc-kin with the butt of her rifle, knocking her to the ground. The Orc-kin was tired from mining and now she had a broken bloody nose. “Call the damn demons down here to move this shit,” Una added.

The assaulted Orc-kin glanced from Una to the Sergeant for confirmation. Sergeant 16409 slipped her sidearm free in one smooth motion before firing a few rounds up.

“Move it!” The Sergeant‘s voice boomed from her helmet’s speakers, causing the blooded Orc-kin and a few others to race out of the tunnel. “That damn human makes Orcs lazy and soft,” She said while replacing her sidearm.

“And yet you’re wearing powered armor,” Sib whispered.

Sergeant 16409 stiffened when she thought she heard Sib’s snarky remark through her communicator.

“Sib?” 16409 asked.

“I asked, what are we digging for?” Una spoke up while moving closer, stopping when 16409 held up her massive gauntlet-covered hand that had enough servos to crush an arm if she wanted to. The Sergeant‘s helmet slowly rotated, scanning the crowd of Orcs still hard at work before snapping her attention towards Una.

“You, what the hell do you want, and why aren’t you digging?”

“What are we digging for?” Una repeated.

“… Digging?” She mumbled absentmindedly, before snapping her attention towards the massive tunneler, “Why isn’t that damn thing running?!”

“You said turn it off!” An Orc-kin said before getting shot at. The bullet missed and struck the rocky wall behind the flinching Orc-kin.

“No, I didn’t you useless fuck. Nobody eats until you shoot down that ship.” 16409 shouted.

Una stood there puzzled by the Sergeant not making much sense. Even more concerning was the fact the Orc-kin were a lot more docile. Sure 16409 was their commanding Sergeant but nobody seemed interested in telling her.

“Sib,” Una whispered. “Something’s… off.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, I was thinking the same thing,” He whispered. “You should try to eat healthier foods.”

“No, you little… I’m talking about her, uhh the Sergeant.”

“Let me check. I can backtrack everything she said while in her armor. Hmm… hey, what the heck?! She disabled her logs, she isn’t allowed to do that! More like… she shouldn’t be able to do that. I bet whoever did that must have something to do with the ship going offline. Someone’s in big trouble once this is over.” The rocky wall where Sergeant 16409 buried a 9mm bullet had started to crumble. The hole grew bigger and bigger stirring a panic as everyone scrambled to get away. For a moment Una worried that the mountain was gonna collapse on top of her. When the rock slide finally came to a stop, a massive set of dark Victorian wood doors could be seen to the right of the Tunneler. Sib, made a disgusted noise as if tasting something foul. “There’s like… a lot of nasty zombie air coming from that rock slide. Just like your butt!” He laughed. “Drink more water by the way!”

Una took a glance around her, even noticing the enslaved nuns being escorted from the surface.

“Does that mean,” Una paused to pop a few cold water pods. “Everyone here’s gonna get infected?”

“Hmm I… I don’t know. Ah, hay! I’m not here to answer life’s mysteries for you! Focus on the mission, Dummy!”

“Hm…” Una kept her eyes on Sergeant 16409 who started to shout orders.

“Gas Masks!” 16409 said.

“She must have a basic computer in her suit,” Una began. “Must be nice.”

“What am I, chopped liver?” Sib said.

“You’re not basic, Sib.”

Sergeant 16409 jabbed her index finger at three other Orc-kin before doing the same to Una.

“We’re going inside,” Said 16409.

“I don’t have a breather,” Una said.

“Well congratulations, Marine,” 16409 said while marching up to Una, “You get to lead the way.”

Sib supplied Una with a bandana to wrap around her face and neck. Like the rest of her clothing, Sib had also embodied it for added protection. She wanted to insult Sib for not doing this in the first place but now that she was in the limelight, she didn’t wanna get caught talking to the artificial little brother and because it was a little bit her fault for not coming up with the idea. Adjusting her goggles, Una carefully stepped up the fallen rocks and boulders leading up to the towering front doors. The right door handle was twisted and smashed, no doubt thanks to the rock slide. The left door handle was bent as well but still very much intact. She was gonna call to have it cut open but gave the handle a try. Giving it a squeeze and push, it surprisingly began to budge only for the whole door to fall inward, slamming on the floor inside. The sound reverberated around the cave as everyone stood watching to see if something was gonna pop from the darkness and snatch her inside.

“We don’t have all day, Marine,” Said Sergeant 16409

“Just let me get my damn flashlight,” Una grunted as she reached back and plucked an attachment from her backpack. She clipped the flashlight to her helmet and flicked it on. “Fuck!” Instinctively Una’s body jerked back when the flashlight illuminated a standing skeleton to her left. Behind her she could hear the rattling of rifles being aimed in her direction mixed with the sound of safeties being switched off. ”It’s just a skeleton.”

“Necromancy?” One of the Orc-kin asked.

“No, a manikin… I think,” Una said.

Straight ahead of her was a huge foyer with a large fireplace on the other side. Checking her right, she began to carefully step inside, followed by four others, including the Sergeant. Una stepped over to the fireplace.

“Why in the hell is there a house down here?” One of the Orc-kin asked.

“Why in the hell is there a fake skeleton at the front door?” Another asked before knocking over the manikin.

“Heads up,” Sib, whispered.

Una sidestepped right as a rod shot from the fireplace. It missed all five of them but kept going across the cave to spear an Orc-kin straight in her chest, sticking her to the rock behind her. The unlucky Orc-kin whimpered while slowly bleeding out.

“Someone got hit!” Sib gasped. “Go help her!”

“She’ll be fine, there’s already a medic injecting her.” Una said through gritted teeth “Don’t touch anything,” Una said out loud. “This place is rigged.”

Sergeant 16409 gave the unlucky Marine a glance before looking from left to right, trying to decide what way they should go. Two of the Orc-kin shined their lights to the left of the entrance, revealing a massive living room covered in dust and cobwebs, another fireplace with two massive sofas to the left and right of it. In between was a marble coffee table that was missing one of its four legs yet stayed balanced on the other three. The walls were covered in strange trinkets, statues, and paintings giving the place a deadly Victorian feel.

To the right of the foyer was a dining room with a long wood table with ten chairs. A candle chandelier of silver and diamonds hung from above the table which was covered in a neatly placed dining room set. Just like the other room, it was covered in dust and cobwebs.

“Damn spiders,” One of the Orc-kin said.

“If we crush one will their Queen feel it?” Another asked.

“Shut up,” Sergeant 16409 said before motioning Una to the dining room with a head nod.

Una gave her a cold stare before moving forward, through the dining room. Checking the dining room’s corner, she noticed a silver suit of armor at attention. Both hands gripping its sword pointed towards the ceiling. She gave it a small scan with her headlamp, not seeing any indication of the sword coming down to slice her in half. All the while keeping a steady pace through the dining room.

“What are we looking for?” Una asked.

“What part of shut up don’t you understand?” Sergeant 16409 asked, clearly uninterested in an answer.

“Sooo…” Sib began, taking this opportunity to speak without being told to shut up by Una. “It’s safe to say the Orc-kin aren’t zombies, given their ability to use their bio-coded weapons. Granted we’ve only seen the Sergeant discharge her gun but meh, close enough. But that leaves the question as to why she has not made any moves to shoot at the ship. One moment the radio channel was full of radio chatter and the next, dead silence. I truly think she’s gone crazy unless… UNLESS there’s another out here calling the shots; It’s all speculation really. Good idea to make sure the others stayed above ground to track the rail cannons. You’re a lot smarter than you look for a dummy.”

Una wanted nothing more than to tell Sib to shut the fuck up. But she had to admit, hearing his voice was comforting as she guided treasonous Orc-kin deeper into an underground mansion laced with traps. Her boots carefully stepped from the hardwood floor of the dining room to black carpet as she led them into a long hallway. Big enough to allow four people to stand side by side, the corridor walls were lined with empty candle holders and massive black picture frames that reached from floor to ceiling. Shining her light on a painting, before the next and the next, all of them were empty. Either someone had painted over each picture in black paint or the paintings were just missing. Reaching the other end of the corridor to the left was a flight of stairs while to the right was what appeared to be an empty void. Una gave the Sergeant a glance only to be given a nod to go left but with her boot pushing into the first step, she could feel the staircase shift.

“This,”

Una wanted to inform the Sergeant that her power armor might break the old wooden staircase. But she was cut off by the sound of a click and squeaky gears as the staircase lifted up and to show a dragon’s head, its mouth wide open. A small spark could be seen in the back of its throat before an explosion rocketed her off her feet in the opposite direction down the hallway. She braced for impact, anticipating a slide across the floor and maybe smacking into the side of the wall but instead, she kept falling.

“Uh,” Sib began. “This is gonna hurt, oh wait, maybe not.”

Una landed flat on her back with a frightening thump but was instantly surprised by how little it hurt. She at least thought it would hurt the back of her neck until she remembered Sib had also infused himself into the cloth she wrapped her face and neck.

“Damn,” She said, taking a moment to stare at the ceiling. “I didn’t feel a thing.”

“Well normally in traps like these, there are huge spikes to give you a few fashionable piercings. You got lucky.”

A flash of light came from high above as one of the Orc-kin asked, “You dead?!”

“… No!”

The Orc-kin chuckled as she mumbled something and pulled away from the hole.

“She said,” Sib began. “May as well be dead.”

“Sounds about right,” Una grunted while sitting up. She flinched as a rotten face covered in fungus could be seen staring up from between her legs at her. “Shit, shit, shit!” She repeated while scrambling to her feet only to find she was standing in the middle of a mass grave. The shock began to fade, after all, everyone was made to see photos of corpses and disfigured bodies to desensitize her and her sisters.

“If you need to use the bathroom just say so,” Sib said.

“This hole is full of corpses.”

“Then go somewhere else to do your business!”

“Sib shut the fuck up, I don’t need to go to the damn,” She was cut off by Sib shocking her, causing her body to lock up for a moment.

“Don’t tell me to shut up, you jerk. If you don’t wanna be in a mass grave then find a way out! Pretty freaking simple.”

She let him throw a fit while she scanned the rotting bodies.

“These look like humans,”

“Humans? That… doesn’t make much sense.”

“Neither does the mansion we’re inside of.”

“A mansion?!” Sib yelled. “But we’re underground! Hmm… HMM! Welp, I’ve no idea what’s going on.”

“Does that mean you’ll shut up?”

“Nnnnnope!” He sang followed by a chime from her backpack. “Done! I made myself a body!” Una looked back and over her shoulder, finding it a tad hard to see it in the dark. Something crawled over her left shoulder and down her forearm. Even though her light bathed the thing, no light seemed to bounce off it and thanks to her uniform having been inverted black to match the traitorous Orc-kin’s, it was extremely difficult to make out what it was. Little red eyes began to pop into view as he said, “I made a spider!” He said innocently. “See, I can dance!” He tapped on her forearm. “Sing, la la la! I can even do your taxes, are you married or single and have you moved recently?”

“I wanna move my single ass out of this hole.”

“Hmm, never satisfied, must be single. One moment.” He jumped down to her right boot, hanging off the edge to get a closer look at the bodies. “Eww! Hey, don’t look at me that way.” He laughed while talking to a corpse with one eye.

“With how much you throw a fit about others being hurt, I figured you’d be crying like a little bitch.”

“Nah, these are just big dummies. Little dummies are my concern,” Sib jabbed a spider leg into a corpse, making needle-like punctures all over the face. “These are human, they’ve been dead for about a year now.”

“Congratulations, now let’s get the hell,”

“Wait,” He said, interpreting Una while she squatted down for a jump. “I’m like… really sure there was no sign of intelligent life on this planet when we arrived in orbit.”

“So,” Una said, while still squatting.

“Sooo… Where did they come from? They have the same DNA as humans from your home world,” Sib explained.

“I was born in space,” She said.

“You know what I mean,” He whined. “The problem is, your world is far too undeveloped for space travel and Prince Adam became Captain just a little while ago. How did people from your planet get to this one?”

“Like I said, I was born on the ship,” Una said as Sib’s spider body crawled up her frame and stopped on her goggles.

“I think Sergeant 16409 knows but isn’t saying.”

Una plucked him from her face and slipped him into her empty knife pocket before finally launching herself back into the hallway.

“And how does any of that help me? What I need to do is capture her and wait for the ship to get their shit together. Stop telling me shit I don’t need.”

“Fine, you can just stay a big dummy.”

“Thank you,” Una said while making her way back to the staircase, and the hallway leading back towards the entrance. “I wonder if they went up.”

“I can check that!” Sib peaked from the pocket. “With my handy-dandy new eyes! Hehe… hmm… Yep! I can see traces of heated boot prints going up.”

Screaming and gunfire crashed through the silence. Una twitched her head to the side, pinpointing what direction it was coming from. Instead of risking being blown back, she hopped up, clearing the flight of stairs, just enough so she could peak around the corner. Down the hallway she could see a warm glow beaming from a doorway, mixed with flashes of light from the momentary gunfire. Una turned off her headlamp and snapped her rifle in that direction. Stepping on the edges of her boots, she moved closer and closer to the doorway but before she could try to peek inside, Sib crawled up her frame and tapped her goggles. A small transparent screen appeared slightly above her right eye, as Sib wordlessly began displaying what he was seeing through his spider before jumping off her body to cling to the doorframe. He scurried in and positioned himself exactly on the other side of the wall. Inside was a pretty large bedroom that gave off a black and gloomy look, like the rest of the mansion. Inside Sergeant 16409 stood holding one of the Orc-kin by the throat with her left powered gauntlet. She struggled to get free, stabbing her combat knife into the thick armor with no effect. On the floor the other Orc-kin lay dead, though, focusing her gaze, she could see a figure move on top of one of them. Sickening wet crunches and snaps of bones could be heard from whatever was feasting on the dead marine. When it sat up, gasping for air, Una could see what appeared to be a malnourished young human girl in a slim black dress. With how frail her body looked, the dress was barely hanging off her frame. Slowly the girl’s body began to change the more she ate, restoring her to her former glory. She had black hair and ponytails with blood all over her face. She seemed to lose interest in finishing her meal and by the looks of the other dead Orc-kin with a gaping hole in her stomach, the girl clearly had a problem with finishing before asking for more. She wore a tired gaze while glancing over at Sergeant 16409 who finally snapped the last Orc-kins neck.

“What are you wearing?” She asked in a tone that was both as soft as a succubus, while somehow demanding.

“It’s called powered armor, Your Majesty,” Sergeant 16409 said.

“Powered with what?”

“Electricity, Your Majesty.”

“What is electricity?”

Slipping two grenades from her backpack, Una had decided she was gonna play it safe by blowing up the room and taking 16409’s head.

“No!” Sib whispered. “That’s illegal! If the Captain finds out you blew up someone not proven to be a threat,”

She lightly grunted for him to shut up while throwing away the idea of blowing up the room. On the bright side, Sergeant 16409 was alone aside from the human-looking girl feasting on Una’s adopted sisters. She took a small step back from the wall while aiming her rifle in Sergeant 16409’s direction as if she was going to shoot her through it. Although she might have been able to, given how old the place was and using the video feed Sib was giving her, Una didn’t want to take any chances. She had tuned out the gloomy girl’s many questions before one of them piqued her interest.

“Why are you here?”

“My orders… are to destroy the Star Seeker,” Sergeant 16409 began sounding a bit lost with every word. “But… I was asked to find you.”

“What is a Star Seeker?” The girl began. “And who asked you to find me?”

Sergeant 16409 simply stood there, for some reason unable to reply to such a question. Una waited for a few more seconds before snapping her upper body into a left lean. Her finger squeezed the trigger and emptied half of her magazine straight into her helmet. A few of the rounds managed to dent while others broke through but the tranq rounds didn’t appear to be working as Sergeant 16409 quickly yanked her pistol free and skillfully placed three rounds between Una’s eyes. Una’s head snapped back three times, the first round cracking her goggles, the second round breaking through, and the third piercing her skull. She dropped to the floor, flat on her face. The sound of exchanged gunfire reverberated through the building before dying out as fast as it started.

“And who is that one?” The girl asked, seeming unfazed as she licked Orc-kin remains from her lips.

“A half-blood, rat,” Sergeant 16409 spat as she approached Una’s corpse. “There Are two more rats above ground, no doubt sabotaging our cannons,” She gave Una a kick to turn her over, noticing not only the hole in her head but also the grenade that rolled from Una and stopped between Sergeant 16409’s legs.

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Don't Cross The Bridge

A baby-faced little boy who's tougher than he looks with a smart mouth, and a pretty little girl with a mean right hook and a foul mouth.

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