They were coming, and Salamander was trying to break free of Ridley’s grasp to seek the safety of her burrow. It was Night, and they mostly came out at night. Mostly…
They were down to a tight group of six, now: Ridley, Salamander, Potomac, Garcia, Kennedy and Grubb. Ridley still didn’t consider the fucking android a person, so she hadn’t counted Vatman at all, just as she wouldn’t have considered a screwdriver or a pulse rifle as a person. It was a tool, not a human being, and the latter were in fucking short supply on this rain-shrouded shithole. Potomac was barking out commands as if born to it.
“We gotta fall back to the control room again, people! We ain’t gonna make it to the tower without those green fuckers ripping us all new assholes! Garcia, Grubb, you take tail with the heavy weapons. Kennedy, you’re point”
“Why am I fucking leader again, Potomac? Why not Ridley, she can shoot?”
“She is a civilian, Pfc Kennedy. That is why. You have been trained and paid for this shit, so heads up and head out, on my mark!”
Vatman was muttering, and as they all ignored the piece of synthetic crap, his voice got steadily louder, until they had to listen.
“I can get the other lander down”
Ridley looked at him, the rain running down her hair and soaking into the white vest that was all she had been able to find to wear. The strap of the pulse rifle was irritating the heck out of her nipples, but it somehow seemed right. She listened distractedly to the 1930s music she loved, trickling in through her earpiece just loudly enough to be heard over the barked orders from the corporal, but not so loud that she couldn’t hear the skittering sound that would herald the imminent arrival of those things. She was in a waking nightmare, and if she closed her eyes it got worse, for then she would see the woman’s face, the eyes, the pleading voice.
“Kill me” she had said. “Kill me now. Please!”
But things had happened too fast for that, and that horror had burst out, and it was only the sergeant throwing her to one side that spared her from the backwash of the flamethrower as the little bastard with the teeth and the claws squealed and burned. She shook herself hard, remembering Salamander’s words.
“No point talking to you. You’ll be dead soon, just like everyone else”
They made it to the control room, just; a few bursts from the belt-fed elephant guns carried by Garcia and Grubb tore three or four writhing monstrosities to squealing acid-blooded shreds just as Potomac and Kennedy threw the outer doors shut. Vatman rushed them past the desks to the hatch he explained he had found from the downloaded schematics of the atmosphere plant.
“They had enough time here to set up planetosynchronous satellites for their comms. This atmosphere is too difficult for ordinary short wave, so that was essential. It means that if I can get to the aerial, I can track one of the satellites and remotely pilot the lander down. And we are gone”
Ridley glared at him. “And no plans to bring one of those back to Earth, like that company shit wanted? No little surprise to sleep with me, or the kid?”
Vatman looked unhappy. “They made me, but I think I have repaid them more than enough…”
He set off along the pipe, their last hope, and as the soldiers began welding the doors shut, Ridley settled Salamander down in a corner and transferred her memory chip to one of the desk computers. The power was failing steadily in her portable, and if all she had was a few hours of life, then she would enjoy them as best she could.
Something brought her back to alertness, and it was the noise of several of the things crashing into the main doors. There had been no more word from Vatman, no hint as to his success or failure, and it was looking like this was it. She locked eyes with Salamander, and it was clear that the child knew exactly what had to be done. The girl looked once at Ridley’s pulse rifle, and nodded sharply.
The noise outside intensified, and over her music she heard Potomac’s shout. “This is it, people. Lock and load! Let’s rock and roll, and let these fuckers know they been in a fight!
The door burst open, and the first of the nightmares shattered under Grubb and Garcia’s hammering fire, but its blood splashed onto the wreckage of the doors, weakening them even more, and suddenly there were dozens, hundreds of the bastards surging into the room. Ridley threw herself towards the child, and as she did so her earphones pulled out of the computer and, surreally, the room was filled with the sound of George Formby.
“…when I’m cleaning windows!”
To Ridley’s astonishment, the alien beasts stopped in their tracks, and began to moan shrilly. Their terrible, fang-filled heads began to ripple and distort, and then violently implode. Grey-green horrors collapsed in swathes as the music blasted out. Potomac was the first to react; realising what had happened, he threw himself at the comms board and piped the music throughout the station. They were saved, by the most amazingly weird event.
It was Salamander that noticed the flashing light on the same board, and they opened a link to see Vatman, the lander settling slowly down behind him, and Ridley gave him, no longer ‘it’, a grudging thumbs up. Potomac was speaking, though.
“People, looks like we done found a way out. Here’s what we are going to do. They got their satellites, they got a PA system throughout the colony. We link this music to that, we broadcast it, blam. So I say we take off, and uke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure”
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