For rookie Spaceman Harold Douglas, the mission sounded simple enough. Take the squad of Space Marines out, discover why the outpost had gone offline, and bring them back home in one piece. That was before the transport suddenly vanished, stranding them all on an alien planet. Now, they are fighting for their lives against the greatest threat humanity has ever seen. Rating: MEDIUM controversy.
Like a plague they descended, dropping into the midst of the unprepared and frightened soldiers as dozens of bouncing, pummeling cannonballs. Plasma fire whines across the battlefield as skittish fingers pump on smoothly gliding triggers, hitting the alien creatures’ hard shells and deflecting the lethal beams in all directions, including back among our own troops. Howls of pain erupt from the mouths of mortally wounded men, only slightly eclipsed by the orders from their commanding officers.
Through it all, the balled-up insects roll toward where the concentration of soldiers is at its thickest. Then, displaying an uncanny and unnerving sense of synchronicity, the tumbling balls halt all at once and begin to unfurl. Their trademark clicking commences, a combination of sharp screeches and disconcerting snaps that causes involuntary winces and fuels an instinct of panic in some of the young Marines. This noise, of course, serves to briefly stun the troops, as half a dozen jet-black limbs telescope from the rising monstrous bodies. Their two thick and thorny legs lift them to nearly an equal height as the men. Two pairs of arms simultaneously uncurl and clasp together, as if the creatures were uttering some dark prayer. For a brief moment, a split second, it seems as if nothing is happening, until the first shock waves hit.
Death comes quickly to the innermost circle of gawking and gaping spectators, as invisible beams of intense heat immediately incinerate or explode their bodies. The after-effects of the assaults consume a second row of the tightly grouped soldiers, bursting their hair and clothes into flames, and melting their hard polymer weapons in their grips. A high percentage of the front line infantry, whether through panic or injury, or even simple confusion, is rendered ineffective…
(Partial notes recovered during the aftermath of the War on Betelren Six, Space Corps Outpost 02-27. The author’s identity is not known. The date is Tuesday, January 20, 2060. This is the date of first contact.)