Chapter 3: Out Of The Frying Pan
The words had barely left his mouth when the first blast hit. Even hundreds of feet underground, with reinforced steel walls, the vault shook as if it was taking a direct hit. Injured men screamed in pain as they were jolted around, but no one paid much attention. We were too focused on the other screams, the ones coming from outside. The lizard creatures, the invaders, were emitting the loudest, most distressing screams anyone had ever heard. They shouldn't even have been audible through those walls, but we heard them as if they were dying right next to us.
I opened my mouth to yell out orders... and paused. What the hell was I going to say? Don't worry about the giant explosions? Ignore the death screams of our enemies? Each of these men were hardened soldiers. They had watched men die, and taken more lives than anyone ever should have to. These soldiers weren't scared of death. But they were scared of this. And so was I.
The blasts went on longer than we would have thought possible. One hour, two hours, three hours, they just kept coming. And so did the screams. One by one, each of us broke. Sergeant McDaniels--a veteran of 15 years who'd once lost three fingers in a battle and not even noticed until it was over--was the first to go. He didn't say anything, he didn't do anything, he just crumpled to the ground in tears, and after that no one could reach him. He wouldn't respond to anyone's questions or move in any way.
One by one, the rest of the soldiers broke down just as McDaniels had. Their minds, not capable of dealing with the horror they heard outside, just shut down. Techie was the last to go, after seven hours. If the clock wasn't there to remind me, I would have sworn it had been at least a month. With no one else holding with me, I felt my own mind starting to break. It sounded so nice, just escaping from the screams, retreating into my own little world. My knees began to buckle and hands began to shake...
And then it stopped. As quickly as it had come, it ended. The screams cut out, the blasts ceased, and only silence remained. Silence, and the cries of the 30 soldiers around me. I couldn't hear them before, over the blasts, but now I could. And it was even worse. Knowing I had failed them, had led them into this trap, let their friends get killed. I had to help them.
With great reluctance, I made for the door. We certainly couldn't stay in the vault much longer, and I had to know where those blasts had come from. I opened the door a
crack, and then shut it again with a start. The smell, of rotting and burned flesh, was stronger than anything I'd ever experienced. But I had to keep going, so I composed myself, pulled my shirt up over my nose, and stepped out again.
This time I made it two paces out the door before getting overwhelmed. Even down here, in the underground passageway, bodies littered the floor. It looked as though they had been turned inside out and then exposed to the plague. I forced myself to keep moving.
When I reached the surface, expecting to come up inside the base, I found myself staring into the sunlight. The base was gone. Not just destroyed, but gone, as if no structure had ever stood there before. Then, all of a sudden, everything around me passed into shadow. I looked up to see a massive spaceship blocking out the sun. It landed with a great thud just a few feet away from me.
Out of the ship came the most beautiful people I'd ever seen. At least, I thought they were people at first, but when I looked closer something was wrong. They were all too tall, over seven feet each. Their proportions were all slightly off. Their necks were too long for their bodies, their fingers too thin, their shoulders too broad. And their eyes. Their eyes even glowed faintly. When one passed into the shadow I could see the glow on his cheeks.
"Who are you?" one of them asked.
"I am the Supreme Commander of Geo-Kurus, in charge of the defense of the planet."
"We are the inhabitants of Old Earth. We have come to retake our home."
"What do you mean. Who were those lizard things?"
"They tried to beat us here and take the planet for themselves."
"Well thank you for saving us from them."
"Of course we saved you. We will need slaves to rebuild this world."