The lieutenant nodded and signaled to some of the other men. Cameron witnessed a handful of men ready their weapons, anticipating the attack. This wasn’t a wise move, as Cameron thought he saw movement from the downed ship out of the corner of his eye. He went to put his arm on the general to get his attention. It was too late.
“Go!” said General Williams.
All at once, the men charged for the opening in the ship. Cameron had seen movement. Lasers shot from three obscured positions on the side of the ship, and in the blink of an eye, most of the group of men were gone. The remaining men dove for cover as the lasers continued to fire. Cameron holstered his 9mm with disgust.
“Sir, Echo One here.” General Williams brought his portable radio closer to his ear. “We have a few missiles left. I’ll try to take out those cannons for you.”
There was still a large population of Ferus spread throughout the planet, and quite possible some Ferus fighter craft left. With the loss of the Stinson and the crash landing of the Legacy, they might not be able to resupply the Talons. Cameron pulled the radio down from the general, but it was too late, Williams had already keyed the transmitter twice, giving the go ahead.
“What?” said General Williams.
“We don’t want to waste their missiles. It’s their only defense if there’re more Ferus fighters out there.”
The look on the general’s face told Cameron he was right. Two of the Talons circled around and came in low. Both fighters fired a single missile each, dead on target. This left only one cannon for them to deal with. Cameron searched for a way to get near the turret. It would be close, the laser shots were hitting all around but one little area, which must be out of its area of fire.
Cameron didn’t have much for firepower. His pistol was useless against the turret. He needed more; a grenade might do the trick. He ran with his head down to the nearest piece of debris. A lieutenant was taking up protection there. Cameron looked him over and started to grab for one of his grenades.
“Hey-” the lieutenant started to protest.
Cameron shot him a look, and the lieutenant rapidly unclipped the grenade for him. Cameron rechecked his intended path and ran for the side of the ship. Laser blasts landed closer than he had anticipated.
Pressed up against the side of the ship, Cameron started inching towards the cannon. The laser blasts were flying just feet in front of him. As long as he stayed flat against the skin of the ship, he hoped they couldn’t get the proper firing angle on him.
The turret was in range for a gentle lob. Cameron didn’t want to take any chances on missing this shot. He pulled the pin and chucked the grenade towards his target. The grenade clanked off the side of the ship and landed almost exactly where he had aimed. Cameron ran for cover. The grenade exploded as Cameron dove behind the nearest piece of protection.
The zaps of the laser blasts could still be heard. Cameron peaked his head around the barrier. The grenade didn’t take out the turret completely, but it had hindered the movement of the cannon greatly. Cameron motioned to the closest man for more grenades. The man quickly tossed him a few and Cameron pulled the pins and flung them at the turret as fast and accurately as he could. The third grenade did the trick.
As soon as the last laser was put out of commission, the rest of the men rushed towards the crack in the side of the ship. Cameron pulled out his pistol and followed them in. Taking prisoners was going to be the key in the long-term battle against the Ferus. They would need the aliens alive to learn as much as they could as fast as they could.
The ship was lit only as far as light could shine into the crack. There appeared to be no interior lighting, at least here in this part of the downed ship. Cameron pulled a flashlight from his pocket and twisted it on. He held it under the butt of his 9mm to help him illuminate any target he may have to shoot. Some of the other men already had flashlights out as well.
The walls in the interior of the ship were smooth, very similar to the external skin of the Ferus fighter. Once inside the crack, there was only one direction to go. Cameron was the last man in, and most of the attack force had headed down the corridor, out of his sight. He stayed close behind the person in front of him, not wanting to get left behind in this foreign territory. With the exception of some basic training, Cameron was not skilled in assault maneuvers.
T he corridor traveled for quite some distance. Cameron turned to check the rear and could not see where they had entered the ship any longer. The line of men halted. Cameron squatted down and checked the rear again. All clear. The rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire could be heard faintly up ahead, but was over as quickly as it had started.
The attack squad started moving as the “all clear” message traveled down the line. Cameron could see a faint blue glow coming from up ahead. As he got closer, he could tell it was coming from a large opening at the end of the corridor. Cameron was the last to enter. The glow reminded him of the instrument panel of the Ferus fighter.
The attack squad was spread out among the room, weapons drawn on the bodies of Ferus lying on the deck. Some of the bodies were riddled with bullet holes in the head, clear liquid oozed out like thick goo. Three of the bodies looked as if they were undamaged, but they were not moving.
This was the first time Cameron, or any of the men for that matter, had seen a Ferus. Their jellyfish-like skin had a slight iridescent quality that reflected the light. At first, Cameron found it remarkable how human he thought they appeared; two arms, two legs. He soon realized the likeness ended there. Their heads were pear shaped, with no visible openings for a nose or mouth. The eyes sat low, near where the neck met the head.
“We’re in some sort of control room,” said the lieutenant into his radio.
The break in silence snapped Cameron’s focus away from studying the Ferus bodies. He began to look around the room they were in. It was definitely some kind of control room for the ship; the similarities to the Ferus fighter were too close.
“Sergeant,” said the lieutenant, calling out to one of the larger men, “take a small group down that passage, and make sure it is secure.”
The sergeant chose three men with assault rifles and Cameron from the group. Even though Cameron outranked everyone in the small squad, he knew better than to assume command of the group; attack squads were not his field of expertise.
The five men moved down the corridor in a two-one-two pattern, covering each other as they went. Cameron was in the rear once again. The only sound was the men’s boots hitting the deck with each step. The sergeant held up his hand in the air, made a fist, and the squad stopped. They were at the end of the passageway, though there seemed like there should be a door here.
The sergeant picked up his radio. “We’ve hit a dead end, Lieutenant.”
“Can you find any way past?”
Cameron approached the dead end and ran his hand down the center of the wall, with the same motion he would use to open the cockpit of the Ferus fighter.
“Negative, sir. There doesn’t-” the sergeant stopped himself and pointed to two smooth circles intertwined on the edge of the wall.
“Sergeant?” said the lieutenant over the radio.
“Hold, sir, we might have found something.” The sergeant inspected the circles with the tips of his fingers. One circle could rotate around the other. He looked back at the rest of the squad. “Get ready.”
The doors parted with Cameron still standing up in front. He squatted down to get into a better firing position, which also allowed the men behind him to have a better shot if needed. Their flashlights shined through the opening, but they weren’t bright enough to illuminate the other side, the compartment had to be huge. The men cautiously entered.
As the squad spread out and lit up more of the compartment, the true size became evident. It was just a large, empty room, approximately two hundred and fifty feet long.
“Lieutenant,” the sergeant radioed.
“It’s just a massive room,” said the sergeant. “It’s completely empty. Good chance this is the cargo hold.”
“Roger that. Sit tight, I’ve got word that General Fobbs is sending reinforcements to the area. They should be here shortly.”
“Roger, sir.” The sergeant placed his radio on his belt clip. “Make sure there’s no other entrance into this hold, we don’t need to get ambushed.”
Cameron walked along one of the walls of the hold, searching for any sign of a door. He kept his gun at the ready. All the walls were smooth, without any line or markings.
“Sergeant,” called one of the men, “I think I found another doorway.”
The squad gathered as the man pointed out two circles on the wall, intertwined just like before. He put his hand on the circle as the rest of the squad took up a defensive position; Cameron followed suit by dropping to one knee and pointing his 9mm at the doors. The doors parted, and a brilliant light flooded the cargo hold. The men had to shield their eyes, which had become dilated due to the relative darkness of the ship.
“Hold your fire!” said someone in the distance. It sounded like General Williams.
Slowly, Cameron’s eyes grew accustomed to the light as his pupils constricted. The doors that had opened were large and lead to the outside of the ship. A ramp had extended down to the ground. General Williams and a few troops started to board the ship via the ramp.
“Good work,” said General Williams as he reached the top of the ramp. “General Fobbs has more troops entering the other side of the ship now.”
Cameron holstered his pistol and started to breathe easier for the first time in a while. His adrenaline had been pumping so fast, he hadn’t noticed how fatigued he was. He rubbed his neck to try to help ease the tension that had built up.
“General Williams?” The general’s radio cracked to life, it was General Fobbs.
Williams took the radio from his belt. “Williams here.”
“My men report that the ship is secure and we’ve taken two Ferus alive. They’re unconscious, but should make it.”
“That’s great news, General.”
“It’s better,” said Fobbs. “We’ve found two humans on board! They’re barely alive, but alive nonetheless!”
Cameron smiled. After all the losses they endured, it was nice to get some good news. He couldn’t imagine what they had gone through.
“Roger that!” said General Williams, nodding his head and slightly smiling.
The general stowed his radio and motioned for Steele to come over. Cameron swiftly made his way over to the general and attempted to come to attention. Williams waved his hands out in front of him, stopping short his attempt at showing respect. Cameron was half-glad, he was beat.
“I know you’re tired, Steele, but I have one last mission for you.”
Cameron flexed his hands, working the tension out. He was drained, but would push on with whatever the general ordered.
“I’m ready, sir,” said Cameron. “Do you need me on another assault team?”
“No, Steele, it’s nothing like that. Fobbs’ men are handling the attacks on the human farms.” Williams pulled out a pair of silver oak leaves from his pocket. “These were for Major Gonzalez. I wanted to promote him to Lieutenant Colonel, but never got the time. Now it is too late.”
“Sir?” Cameron wasn’t sure where he was going with this.
“I need you to fly me to Gonzalez’s family. I want to present these to them,” Williams placed the leaves back in his pocket, “and make sure they know what an exceptional officer he was. How none of this could have happened without him.”
“Roger, sir.” Cameron took a deep breath. “No disrespect, but won’t you be needed here?”
“This is General Fobbs’ fight. He and his men have been planning this out for many years. They have forces spread throughout the entire planet. I’d only get in the way.” Williams placed his hand on Cameron’s shoulder. “Come, let’s go. There’s a Scout waiting for us.”