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"Cutting through the door" By Thomas Stewart

“Come on Private, get this damn thing open!” Pvt. Edmund almost didn’t hear his commander. His focus was trained solely on the door in front of him. The NitroCutter was almost halfway through the thick steel door of the ship’s eastern sector. He almost couldn’t even hear it, despite being usually an alarmingly loud device.

Behind him was a cacophonous mixture of beastial growling and the rapid discharging of the commander’s plasma rifle. The growling was getting closer and closer. “Edmund, Goddamn it, how long till we’re through the door?!”

“It’s breaching, sir!” shouted Pvt. Edmund. He could hear one of the growling beasts bound through the air, primed to pounce the both of them. Fortune hadn’t run out, though, as Commander Rathburne would be damned if any of these rabid “Scale fucks”, as he so often loved calling them, was going to make it past him without being barbecued by his rifle. “It’s cut through!”

“Okay, now how long’s it gonna take for you to get the damn thing open!”

“I don’t know, Sir!”

“Not good enough, Private! I’m gettin’ low and I only got one more battery after this one!”

“I’m trying, sir!”

“Well try harder!” Pvt. Edmund rolled his eyes and gritted his teeth.

“Try harder”, yeah, okay…

Even putting the full force of his weight on the drill, the lazer was still only gradually penetrating through the layers in the door. It was likely going to be at least a further minute and a half; maybe even two, God forbid, before they’d have a hole carved out large enough for the two of them to be able to access the escape pod on the other side. Unfortunately, from the sound of things going on behind him, the scaly warriors from the planet Ra’aptar weren’t planning to give him said minute and a half.

He almost dropped the drill altogether when one of the beasts from behind him blasted the most earsplitting screech possible. He was of course quickly silenced by Commander Rathburne’s fury of plasma fire. “Edmund!” he shouted, “I’m on my last battery here, how’s that door coming?”

“I’m reaching the halfway point! I need another 30 seconds, tops. Just give me 30 more seconds!”

“Tell them that.” replied the commander anxiously as he turned and resumed firing a fresh hailstorm of plasma upon the hulking “Scale fucks” charging at him at ramming speed. One after another, reptilian bodies started dropping dead, piling atop each other to the point where a wall was starting to form out of them. Yet even still, they charged unimpeded, unintimidated, and more ravenous than ever.

Each one he dropped, Commander Rathburne saw the red, beady eyes of another immediately take its place. Some of them, he could see, were still covered in spatters of blood, blood of who else, but his platoon. One of which, was his son.

God, Ryan… I’m so sorry…

One after another, Rathburne stood firm, spraying plasma fire as if it were water from a sprinkler, showering and frying anything he saw; which wasn’t much, to his credit, outside of large scaly bodies. He’d fry the entire ship, with he and everyone else alive (Which of course really meant himself and Pvt. Edmund), so long as each and every “Scale fuck” was dragged straight to Hell with him so he could get another piece of them there.

One of them, a rather nimble beast compared to his herculean brethren, was able to bob and weave past the commander’s line of fire until finally, he was within range to pounce him. Commander Rathburne had just the time to see the scaly creature charge at him from the right before he was tackled and pinned to the ground. The weapon was thrown from his hands.

On the ground, Commander Rathburne’s strength was completely occupied with keeping the beasts jaws from tearing his head from his shoulders. Pvt. Edmund saw this and saw that the rifle was only a foot and a half away from him. The bad news was, it took at least two hands and full strength to maintain the progress he’d been making cutting through the door. If he let go now, It’d be almost impossible to prime the drill back up in time before another wave of beasts would barrage them. He could hear the second wave charging down the halls, snarling and blood drunk.

Commander Rathburne’s strength was quickly failing him and it wasn’t long before the beast’s jaws found themselves fastened around his shoulder, making sure in a way that his brachial artery was where the most damage was dealt. Commander Rathburne’s wail of agony echoed above even the roars and snarls of the approaching onslaught.

“Commander!” cried Pvt. Edmund. The scaly beast looked up from his prey to regard the Private. Pvt. Edmund’s eyes went white as his heart froze. What could he do? He had no weapon and he couldn’t make for the discarded plasma rifle. He was a goner.

Just as the beast reared back to spearhead the Private however, it found, to its shock, that Commander Rathburne, though bleeding profusely and with virtually no strength in any of his limbs, he still had the clout to hold the beast back from ambushing the young Private. He grappled with the beast until his arms were fastened around its throat and his legs were around his waist before throwing himself backward, taking them both back to the floor. For another moment, Pvt. Edmund remained frozen, petrified with shock.

The dying commander regarded him with his eyes. He couldn’t speak, but all the same, Pvt. Edmund could hear the voice of his leather lunged commander telling him, “Do it! Get your ass to the escape pods and get the hell out of here! That’s an order!”

The beast was bucking and fighting wildly and it wasn’t long before it became clear that he wasn’t going to be able to keep hold much longer. At last, though, the drill had completed its circuit, forming a sort of hatch, which Pvt. Edmund quickly made a break through down to the end of the corridor ahead. There, he all but hurled himself inside the open pod before mashing every button in front of him on the control panel until the damn thing finally launched. The hatch dropped down just before a large scaly beast could leap for him and in another two seconds, the pod was ejected from port, spewed to roam the stars until either it ran out of power or was picked up by another cruiser.

After taking a brief moment to let the adrenaline wear down, he relaxed in his seat. It was over. He’d made it.

Whatever would come now, it would at least be peaceful. Quiet.

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