"What the fuck happened here?" Mike Thompson asked.
They looked at the naked body of Karl Steer. They'd found him in the middle of the cavern, illuminated by one of the shafts of blue light shining down from the strange crystal formations in the ceiling. He was on his knees and staring up at the lights with an expression of rapture.
He was quite dead.
Thompson prodded him with the butt of his rifle to make sure.
"Is that a smile?" Thompson asked.
Damn creepy, Bill Willets thought. Steer looked like he'd been frozen in an act of prayer. His eyes were turned upwards and a wide grin was carved on his lips. He looked completely at peace, like some kind of Buddhist Zen master.
Steer was a vicious bastard who used to get his jollies from pissing on Iraqi prisoners and wiring them up to the mains.
"I've found Amott," Bench called out.
"Walker is over here."
Six men, scattered throughout a large cavern, all dead, all without a mark on their body and all looking like they'd just glimpsed heaven. Fucked up, Willets thought. The squad was spooked. They stood in pensive silence, lit up by the soft blue glow that bathed the cavern. An underground breeze gusted through the crystal formations and caused them to tinkle with an eerie melody.
"We have found the remains of Squad Alpha, over," Squad Leader Dan Ward spoke into his radio.
"What killed him?" Thompson asked Ken Whale. The other man was on his knees and examining Steer's corpse.
"Not a fucking clue," Whale replied. "There's nothing on his body I can see. I wouldn't be surprised if he suddenly started breathing again." He jabbed a hypodermic into the corpse's arm and withdrew a blood sample. "Maybe the lab boys can make something of it."
Willets stared around the cavern. The glowing crystalline rock formations provided a kind of natural light. Stronger shafts shone down from larger structures in the ceiling like spotlights. Willets scanned the stalagmites and rock formations with a practised eye, making a mental note of the possible hiding places and ambush spots.
Ward finished talking on the radio.
"Control are going to send down a science team to examine the area and retrieve the bodies," he said. "Our orders are to secure the area and await their arrival."
"Fuck!" Thompson said, punching the air in frustration.
It had taken them four hours of travelling through the tunnels to reach this cavern. It would take the other team at least as long to reach here, maybe longer depending on the general fitness of the scientists.
"With all due respect sir, I'm not sure that's a good idea," Whale said. "We don't know what killed these men. There could be a toxin or radiation in the air we're exposing ourselves to right now."
"Those are our orders," Ward said.
Willets wasn't too impressed with their squad leader. He was another in the production line of brash kids straight out of academy, smart but too sure of themselves. He knew the theory, sure, but Willets didn't think Ward had the experience to make the correct decisions if the situation went totally fubar.
In hell-space the situations always ended up going fubar. This new dimension the scientists had discovered was the very definition of fucked up.
"Thompson, Willets, secure the entrance," Ward ordered. "Bench, Ingram, take the left. Whale, you take the right with me. Maintain sight contact at all times. Secure a perimeter around the cavern floor encompassing the bodies of Squad Alpha."
Willets didn't think that was possible. Their team was too small and the terrain too broken. Even the best vantage points would still have too many blind spots, especially in the poor light. He and Thompson took up positions on either side of the entrance into the cavern.
"We should get the fuck out of here," Thompson said.
Willets scanned the floor of the cavern, peering into the shadows for any sign of movement. Right in the centre, where the light was strongest, Steer continued to kneel, frozen in a perpetual pose of worship.
To what, was Willets's thought.
"And I mean right the fuck out of this dimension," Thompson continued. "We don't belong here. We're only here because some old fucks think they can add a couple of extra zeros to their bank balance. It's just like Iraq, only a million times worse."
Movement caught Willets's eye. He tightened his grip on his M16 and then relaxed when he saw it was Ingram.
"At least in Iraq we had an edge," Thompson said. "Here we've got fucking nothing. The things we're fighting aren't even human."
Willets scanned across to the right, watching Whale as he scaled a small rise.
"Command calls it hostile fauna, like it's some kind of dumb animal that's in the way. Fucking bullshit."
Willets switched his attentions to the tunnel entrance. Veins of crystal running through the rock lit up the walls with a dim phosphoresce. He could see down the tunnel maybe forty metres before it turned to the left. A cable ran along the floor. Alpha had rolled it out to both find their way back and relay signals back up to the surface.
"I heard a story from a friend out in G-Division," Thompson started. "His squad ran into some kind of monster. Had the bottom half of a giant spider and the top half of a beautiful girl. She had them all wrapped up in silk before they could do anything and then proceeded to eat them one by one.
"She didn't just eat them, she fucked them first. He hung there and watched as she made each of his squad mates fuck her over and over until they couldn't anymore. Then she bit their head off and moved onto the next. She was about to start on him when backup arrived with flame throwers to drive her off.
"The worst thing, he said, was that the top half, the female half, was the hottest girl he'd ever seen in his life. He said he even jacks off to the memory of her. Can't help himself. How fucked up is that?"
Willets looked back into the cavern, seeing again the frozen form of Steer kneeling in the blue light.
"Fucking fauna. Bullshit. This place is some kind of living nightmare."
Willets looked to the left and right. None of the rest of the squad was in view. He didn't like that at all.
"I got two daughters back home," Thompson said. "I can face dying, even out here, but the thought of something getting back into our world keeps me up at night."
Willets thought he saw movement in the corner of his eye, a flash of something pale rather than the dull tan of their uniforms. When he turned there was nothing there.
Willets gripped his rifle tighter.
"If you ask me we should get the fuck out of here, close the gate and throw away the key," Thompson continued. "There's nothing for us here but madness and death."
Willets was getting steadily more concerned, but then he picked out Whale on the other side of the cavern. The medic flashed him the okay sign and Willets signalled back.
"What do you think?" Thompson asked.
"You talk too much," Willets replied.
"Well ... yeah ... and you smile too much," Thompson retorted.
The corner of Willets's lip twisted upwards. That was about as much of a smile as he permitted himself nowadays.
A cry rang out from the left hand side of the cave. Both soldiers immediately turned to the noise.
Strange, didn't sound like a cry of pain, Willets thought. More like—
"Did that just sound like someone spunking the biggest load ever?" Thompson asked. There was no humour in his voice.
"Watch my back," Willets said.
Thompson nodded, serious now. He raised his rifle and sidestepped into cover behind a rock cluster next to the entrance. He motioned Willets on.
Willets dropped to a crouch and cautiously moved out across the cavern floor. He hoped Ward and Whale were doing the same from the right. He picked his way through the forest of stalagmites, surrounded by the weird blue glow of the crystals littering the cavern. The breeze played a haunting melody above his head.
The cry had stopped. Instead Willets heard low liquid sounds, like water quietly sloshing through a pipe.
A rattle from back near the entrance caused him to spin around sharply. Thompson was no longer covering him. Willets couldn't even see him.
Willets heard a noise behind him. He turned back and found himself looking at a young woman. She hung upside down in front of him.
No, not a girl, something alien. She was naked and her exposed breasts seemed too large in relation to her slender body, like the impossibly perfect images peddled by disreputable plastic surgeons. They held their shape in defiance of gravity as she hung upside down. Her skin betrayed her as truly not human. It was translucent grey in colour and flecked with streaks of white and pink. A long mane of silky white hair cascaded down beneath her.
Her eyes opened, revealing two multi-faceted blue orbs. Her bloodless lips curled up in a hungry smile.
Light splintered and reflected off the glittering facets of her eyes. Willets's gaze was drawn in and trapped within a maze of sapphire mirrors. His gun fell from nerveless fingers. He didn't even hear it clatter against the floor. He stood transfixed like a statue as soft grey coils descended from above and looped around his body.
Willets blinked uncertainly.
What had happened?
He'd been holding his gun and staring at an alien creature that had the face and breasts of a centrefold model. Then her eyes had flashed blue and...
.... There is more of this story ...