A shiver ran down my back as my molecules reconstituted on the destination portal, and feeling returned to my finger tips. As if by instinct my hand reached down and withdrew the 38-caliber Mitre Special Issue sidearm nestled at my hip, taking comfort in the well-worn knurled leather grip and the weight of the ferro-titanium alloy. I was in a narrow, claustrophobic chamber where the air had the sickly-sweet odor of death and decay. It was gloomy, with a solitary switch set into the stone.
Great! I thought. It's fitting that the swine down in Teleport Control have dropped me right into a vertical coffin. That bastard Jeng Hon-Su has had it out for me ever since I mixed those daemon livers into his meal rations. Should have arranged for him to have an extended stay in the infirmary before he got assigned to this infernal mission.
I took a deep breath and reached out to press the switch. A low hum indicated the generation of a low frequency electro-magnetic field, followed by the dull, rhythmic clanking that signified the turnover of a motor's armature. The wall began to drop and a dark, circular room with a nukage pit in the center came into view. Open barrels of radioactive waste cast a greenish glow about the place, but I had eyes only for the shadowy shapes that were scattered about the room. Those foul yellow eyes and well-muscled forms could only mean one thing - Daemons!!!
They saw me a split second after I saw them, and with a unified roar they charged me. Sweet God Almighty! There are so many of them! I thought frantically, as I raised my sidearm and fired wildly, my training just about forgotten. A few coughed in pain as stray bullets struck them, but on they came, urged on by the pain, the hatred burning in their eyes. As the first set of jaws clamped down on my arm and the rush of blood caused a film of red to spread over my eyes, I dimly noted the fiery inferno caused by the explosion of a barrel in the background. An exploding barrel! Something in my mind churned into gear, as I fought off the ugly hordes that milled around me. Shoot the barrels, dammit! Shoot the barrels!
One of the pink monsters had me by the arm and was relentlessly shaking me, throwing off my aim. I let off a hurried volley in the general direction of another barrel but the gun was waving about too wildly, and the bullets splattered harmlessly off the wall. I could feel my consciousness draining from me, like the blood that I knew was seeping from my arm. I turned my attention to the hideous thing that had me cornered, and fired point blank into its face. Die! Damn you! Die! I mouthed incoherently, and watched with grim satisfaction as it fell in a bloody heap at my feet. But my hope was short-lived, as one of its monstrous companions stepped in to take its place. I dodged as best as I could, seeking for some room to maneuver but my reflexes had been dulled by the pain and loss of blood, and I only succeeded in backing into another daemon. I was pumping that trigger furiously now, almost in a panic, and all it got me was grunts and squeals from a mindless mob intent on my utter destruction. In as painful a manner as possible. A veil of blackness began to descend over my eyes.
Suddenly I felt the floor shake and a concussive wave wrapped in an envelope of searing heat slammed me back against the wall. The blackness receded for an instant and I looked up to see masses of charred flesh writhing on the floor. The best I could figure was that a couple of stray bullets had hit a nearby barrel of nukage and had created a chain reaction that wiped out my relentless opponents. I closed my eyes and sank to the floor, my head slumped on my chest in near utter defeat. Goddamn Marines! Goddamn UAC! my mind spat out vituperatively, before darkness closed over it.
I'm not sure for how long I was under, but when I awoke it was to a burning pain on one side of my face and a dull, pounding ache that originated in my left forearm and permeated my entire body. Slowly the scene swam into focus revealing the grisly remains of once-living creatures littering the chamber like corpses in a charnel house, filling the room with an ungodly reek. I closed my eyes again, as if by so doing I would be delivered from this Hell that was once named Phobos. The urge to sink into sweet oblivion was overpowering, but the small voice in the back of my brain sneered at my weakness, prodding me into wakefulness. With a heavy sigh I struggled to my feet and staggered to where my Mitre Special had fallen from my nerveless fingers. The heft of the weapon reassured me, but I knew that I would not survive for long without heavier firepower. And some health. I felt as if someone had stuck a tube into my innards and sucked the life out of me.
Across the room I saw a ledge with rows of stimpaks, and I stumbled towards it. A rising platform carried me to the ledge and I hungrily grabbed the first pak, fumbling as I tried to fit the cartridge into the hypo before shoving it against my neck and pressing the trigger. I felt the life-giving chemical brew course through my veins, sealing ruptured blood vessels, repairing damaged tissue, rejuvenating my heart and lungs. On hands and knees I crawled to the next stimpak and the next stimpak until I had pumped every last drop of that magic potion into my system, feeling my strength and my resolve return with every shot. I leaned against the wall and threw my head back in satisfaction, eyes shut like a sated lover who knows that all is right with the world. With a final sigh I opened my eyes and reached for the box of ammunition in the corner. It was time to make someone pay.
I jumped off the ledge and made my way to the stairway leading down to a door. With bated breath and back pressed against the wall I edged, almost sidled, down those stairs. I was near the bottom when I felt the wall move behind me. Heart pounding, I whirled around and pumped three rounds into the rising stone before I realized that it wasn't a trap. My weight against the wall must have sprung the hidden trigger, causing the wall to rise and reveal a secret chamber. My eyes widened when I saw the pulsing blue artifact within. It was a fabled soul sphere, a reservoir that doubled the life energy of a person in full health and even completely restored the life energy of a person at death's door. I immersed myself in it, feeling the surging power within, letting the sensations wash over me. Then I strode confidently towards the door.
Beyond the door I could see a room in the shape of a Maltese Cross, with a Kevlar vest on the floor and four torches burning in recesses. To the East and West were doorways to dark chambers that hid nameless terrors. To the North was a long corridor that extended into the distance, dimly lit by two torches. As I stepped into the room I heard twin coughs of recognition, one from each dark chamber, and a hunched shape emerged from each side. Damn! I must have a sign on my ass that says "Kick me"! I groaned, as I sought for a way out. I decided to wait for the charging daemons, and just when they were upon me I sidestepped and darted into the chamber to the East. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness a gleaming object in the back slowly took shape. I felt a jolt in my chest when I recognized the familiar thing, and eagerly reached for it as a child would reach for cotton candy at a carnival. I was unaccustomed to its weight, but I hefted it joyously with both hands before turning around.
The eerie silence was shattered by the staccato thunder of multiple chambers of the Gatling gun slowly churning around and spitting out lead. And by the sound of maniacal laughter that rose to the ceiling in raucous waves. The two advancing shapes were stopped in their tracks, performing a macabre dance as the life was torn from them by the hot, piercing metal. The sound of gunfire and laughter continued long after the lifeless forms of the daemons had collapsed onto the floor, their entrails hanging out. A disembodied voice filtered through my head and I recognized the gruff tone of Wen Zhiyang, my weapons instructor, echoing from the depths of time. The Gatling gun, Lieutenant Wu-Shien, is like a lover that wants to do its own thing. Willful, wanton, savage. But like every lover that's handled right, she'll give you all that you can ask for and more. So hold her tight and treat her right, and I guarantee you an experience you'll never forget. The truth of his words brought a grim smile to my lips.
I donned the Kevlar vest on my way to the other chamber, which held another treasure in the form of a 12-gauge pump action shotgun. I slung the Gatling across my back and picked up the 12-gauge, pumping a shell into the chamber. Then I gathered up all the shells that I could carry and made my way up the corridor that went North. I was immediately struck by a vile, sulfurous reek that cautioned me to proceed with care. I reached the end and pressed the switch in the wall. A platform lowered, and for a moment I hesitated. Then I gritted my teeth and stepped on, rising to a scene that was surreal as it was spooky. The platform opened to a set of stairs that led up to two massive brown pillars that seemed to support a ceiling of radioactive liquid waste. The area itself was shaped like a pentacle, the floor made of what appeared to be dully glowing embers of coal. A gap in the ceiling revealed the sky and the hills beyond. Then I stepped off the platform and unleashed chaos, the likes of which I had had never before known.
The pillars were inset with doors, which flew open revealing twin monstrosities that haunt my dreams to this day. I am a veteran of the Phobos Campaigns but when I saw those creatures, half Man half Beast, I almost soiled myself. Red eyes gleamed with hatred from the depths of the dark recesses that made up the eye sockets in their skull-like heads. Horns curved obscenely from their crests, and they walked upon hoofed legs; their skin was the color of burnished leather, their chests and arms hugely muscled. They stepped down towards me, and I stood frozen in my tracks, like a mouse at the approach of the viper. Then one of them raised an arm and a green glow appeared in its palm. Before I knew it a ball of plasma was hurtling towards me. My Guardian Angel must have been working overtime that morning, because the green plasma ball fell short of me, seeming to be stopped in midair. The snarl of pain that erupted in front of me had me confused for a second, and then I saw the hazy outline of a specter-like being. Shock and confusion reigned for supremacy in my befuddled brain but I had no time to sort through the fog - several more of the spectral creatures had appeared out of nowhere and were swarming around me. My shotgun was working overtime and the green plasma balls were taking their toll from the rear, but still the seething mass of translucent flesh milled around. One of them bit a chunk out of my Kevlar vest and was going for my ribs before I blasted it at point-blank range between those beady yellow eyes. It fell away with a grunt, but another grabbed my elbow while I was reloading and I felt the fangs sinking through my flesh. I swung the shotgun butt at its head, smashing wood against bone, but it wouldn't let go. Meanwhile, a large shadow loomed over me from the left. I saw the arc of green a split second before it seared a burning path into my shoulder. One of the red devils had come up around me while I struggled with the specters, and had hurled a ball of plasma at me. It towered above me, intent on ripping me limb from limb. With a supreme effort I yanked my elbow free from the marauding specter to my right, and blasted shot right into the red beast. With a bellow that could have been from pain or from contempt, it swung a clawed hand at me. I ducked, but I was not quick enough and it hit me on the side of the head, sending me sprawling. Perhaps that is what saved me, for as I rolled on the ground desperate to get away I saw the other red monstrosity converge on me from the right, slashing as it advanced. I scrambled to get out of the way, shooting wildly as I retreated, but the lead just seemed to bounce off their hides. My shoulder was burning, my head was throbbing, my elbow was bleeding, and I could feel myself slowing down. I needed a booster shot.
I practically fell off the platform, expecting to be seared by the glowing coal-like floor. But I seemed to have caught one more of those lucky breaks that were keeping me alive, because the floor was no more of a furnace than the rest of this infernal planet. I limped away desperate to find any exit, but there was none in sight. At the corner of one of the pentacle's points I saw a glimpse of white and my pulse pounded with anticipation. As the steroid-amphetamine mixture from the medipak jolted my heart back into action and brought focus back into my eyes, I stood up and slung the shotgun across my back while simultaneously swinging the heavy chaingun into my hands. I heard the sizzle of a plasma ball behind me and sidestepped as best as I could, but I was boxed into a corner and had no room to maneuver. The hot green sphere grazed the side of my face, leaving a slimy residue on my helmet. I turned to see that one of the red monsters had stepped off the platform and was headed straight for me. I let loose against the advancing beast with my Gatling, cursing it from the darkest recesses of my soul. But still it came.
Die you bastard! Die I hissed through gritted teeth. My faith in the power of the mighty Gatling was rapidly diminishing, and I had but moments before the creature would be upon me. Survival is a powerful force that lends wings to the feet of mortals. And survival coupled with fear is like a turbine-powered jet. I sped past the hoofed monster, which was a red blur along my peripheral vision, when I noticed its twin descending the steps and advancing on me. Oh, great! I thought. Two of these bastards at the same time. I swung my gun towards this new threat and fired off a rapid burst, which the skull-faced creature just shrugged off before slinging a ball of slime in my direction. The other fiend was coming up on me now, and caught between the crossfire of two assaults I was forced to retreat. I found myself edging backwards along a cluster of barrels, each glowing with the sickly green of radioactive waste. Damn! I thought. They've got me backed into a corner with just one way out. But I had a plan.
I put as much distance as I could from the barrels, which meant wedging myself into the point of the pentacle. A ball of green slime whizzed past my face, and I watched one of the demonic twins approach the gap between the barrels and the wall. Closer, now. Just a little closer! I intoned, keeping my fingers crossed over the trigger of the chaingun. I dodged another blast of green slime, watching as the beast narrowed the distance to me, and let my gun rip. The first of the bullets found the barrel nearest to me, pushing it back before making it erupt in a magnificent blaze of orange and red. I turned my gun on the red demon as the explosion reverberated through the confines of the closed pentacle. Followed by another. And another, as each exploding barrel enveloped the next one and ignited a new blast. My bullets ripped through its hide while the explosions formed a ghastly shroud around the creature. As if in slow motion I saw it disintegrate, its chest splitting open, its jaw splintering into a dozen pieces. And then it was down, twitching its last gasp of breath as the smoke of the explosion cleared.
I cheered and spit and cursed all at once, but the sound from my throat was more animal-like than human. But my celebration was short-lived as the other monster appeared around the corner and swung its arm back in a manner with which I was becoming very well acquainted. Wearily I sidestepped and pressed down on the trigger, only to hear the click of a hammer on an empty chamber. I flung the chaingun aside and clumsily reached around for the shotgun, scanning the way ahead for an escape route. With all the barrels gone I had no more tricks up my sleeve, and I was learning that staying in the point of the pentacle was a quick way to a dusty death. I darted out of there like a hare with a fox on its tail, turning just enough to loose a shot at my adversary. How much more punishment can these things take? I wondered. When I had enough room to maneuver I turned and blasted away again. Too far, dammit! I groaned. The shot is just scattering. At this rate, Wu-Shien, Hell will freeze over and that red swine will still be trying to sling slime balls up your ass. I advanced on the monster, dodging its attacks, until I was at point blank range. I aimed for its face, intent on maiming, punishing, gouging. It bellowed, this time in pain, and swung its clawed hand at me, sending me sprawling on the dirt. It loomed over me, raining searing slime down on my exhausted form. As I felt my life draining away from me I looked up at its leering grin and gloating eyes, and felt a hatred rise up in me like bile burning my insides and turning everything red. I raised my weapon and squeezed the trigger. I saw the creature's head jerk back, and I fired again. This time its entire body convulsed, and I fired again, and again. With a final shudder the ghastly thing keeled over backwards and crashed to the ground.
As I lay back, spent and drained, I saw with amazement that the walls of the five-pointed star were lowering, revealing a parched and dry compound and the hills of Phobos beyond. I waited for the next assault to come, unable to muster the strength to get up and face it, but it never came. Wearily I crawled to the lip of the star-shaped platform to see what other devilry awaited me, but all I saw was a stone edifice with a switch on one side. I fell to the ground and reached for the switch, noting the rising stairway before ascending it. At the top was a floor pad decorated with the grinning skull of Baphomet, seeming to beckon to me obscenely. Obligingly, I stepped on it only to be hurled into a dark inferno, surrounded by all the foes that I had bested during my long and tortuous trip through Phobos, biting me, clawing me, shooting at me. I felt myself sinking into the abyss. Damn you, Jeng Hon-Su was my final thought before I descended into the blackness.