Authors: Joseph Anderson
Bounty Hunter – Into The Swarm
The Bounty Hunter – Into The Swarm
2012 by Joseph Anderson
Also by Joseph Anderson:
Bounty Hunter Series
Bounty Hunter stories are a series of novellas. Each story is intended to be
self-contained, like an episode of a television series. Although some names and
references are made to prior events, each story can be enjoyed on its own.
however, you prefer to read things in order, the series begins with The Bounty
you for your time and I hope you enjoy the story.
Jack Porter was killed the same day that humans gave up on
reclaiming Earth. He had been fighting a losing battle for years, against an
enemy that seemed to only grow and expand no matter how many he stopped and
killed. The aliens were like savage animals, too primitive to communicate or
make demands. They simply spread over the planet with ceaselessly growing
numbers, devouring everything in their path.
The dross moved on four legs and were longer than they were tall.
The size of each individual varied, but most had colossal claws at the end of
each leg that looked almost too big for the rest of their bodies. In the early
days of the war, they were covered in hairless, green skin that clung tightly
to their flesh. Over time, some had mutated tufts of hair and other shades of
pale skin. Some had heads that resembled a lizard while others were closer to
that of a lion, a long extinct creature that Jack learned about in school. He
knew now that the same thing could be said for any of Earth’s animals. Anything
that didn’t live in the ocean had been wiped out.
The aliens tunnelled massive underground networks, a trait that had
made them exceedingly difficult to exterminate. Over the years, Jack had
collapsed dozens of those tunnels. He had been the bait for those operations: a
lure for the dross to follow while the tunnels were breached and nuked,
cracking open the earth but destroying its invaders. The victories had never
been enough. They reproduced too quickly and attacked without regard of their
own well-being. There was no morale to crush or leadership to assassinate; no
population centres to eradicate. There were only the swarming hordes that
avalanched over the planet’s surface.
There were scarce few strongholds left on the planet. Most of the
human’s forces were deployed from space, where ships constantly bombarded Earth
wherever there was nothing left to save. Most of the surface bases were on
remote islands where the alien tunnellers had yet to reach, but rare
fortifications scraped by in North America, Africa, and Europe. Australia was
the only remaining place with a civilian presence, and it was on the day that
the dross broke into the continent that humans gave up on the planet that
The alarm wailed through the ship and Jack ran through its corridors
along with every other marine on board. They rushed through the ship’s
armories, scrambling to equip themselves before cramming into drop pods. Orders
echoed through the ship and squad leaders lectured along with them. It didn’t
matter. Each marine that was still alive had been through an emergency drop
many times before. It had been months since they received reinforcements. They
were the last of the dwindling remains of Earth’s defense.
The drop pods jettisoned from the ship and fell down toward the
planet. There were no windows or displays for the marines inside and for good
reason. Although he had been launched down to the planet many times, Jack’s
stomach still heaved as he plummeted down with the handful of other warriors in
his pod. A window would have given him a reference point to look at, to know
how the pod spiralled and rolled during its descent.
Five kilometers above Australia, the pod began burning through its
small tank of fuel to stabilize and land safely. The process took a few minutes
and the marines inside knew how valuable that time was: when the pod’s doors
dropped open they needed to be ready. They needed to unfasten themselves from
the interior walls of the pod, arm their rifles, and be steady enough to fight
their way out if the pod landed next to a group of dross.
Jack felt the pod shudder as it hit the ground. He tore away from
the wall and brought his rifle up to his shoulder. There were eight other
marines around him doing the same. The doors opened and their senses were
assaulted by the light, heat, and noise. The pod had been dark and their eyes
ached in the outside light, but none of them dared to look away. It was late
December on the planet, and the Australian summer heat rushed in to smother
them. The noise was the worst. Gunfire was already filling the air, mingling
with the howls of the dross. They always screamed when they fought. Whether
they were killing or being killed, they never stopped screaming.
He ran out to see how far they
from the evacuation site. The walled base was on the horizon and he knew he
would have to run to make it there safely. The sky above it was alive with
descending ships and drop pods, leaving streaks of fire and smokey trails
behind them. From every direction he both felt and heard the deep percussion of
pods slamming into the earth, temporarily drowning out the screams and gunfire.
He knew there were dozens of such evacuation sites spread over the continent.
The one he had been assigned to was far away from major cities but was closer
to the dross breach. He had landed on the front line of the alien’s advance.
Other marines, fresh out of pods that had landed before his, were
already in formation and prepared to fire on the encroaching dross. Jack and
his squad had been given the task of securing as many people as possible and
then fortifying the nearest evacuation site. As other groups stopped and began
to fire, he rushed with his marines to the site’s walls in the distance. They
looked for each new squad as it landed, ready to help if they landed in the
middle of a group of enemies.
The sound of gunfire rattled closer behind them as they ran, the
dross seemingly pressing on unperturbed by the humans blocking them. Someone
roared out in pain from nearby and was cut short with the sound of splattering
blood and tearing flesh. Jack stopped and whipped around with his squad to face
the three aliens that had slaughtered their way through a gap in the marine’s
line behind them. He shouldered his rifle and fired.
He had lost count of how many he had killed over the years when he
reached the thousands. He was one of the few remaining soldiers that had been
on Earth since the start of the infestation. Despite his experience, even in
his last battle the appearance of the dross still horrified him. They had too
many teeth and eyes that were uniform red, with the barest dots for pupils.
Their tails were a combined writhing mass of thin, sharply pointed whips that
lashed anything that attacked them from behind. To Jack they never looked like
aliens. They always looked like monsters.
He centered his rifle’s sights on the alien’s heads. Their legs were
too thick and protected with their claws to slow them down. Their bodies could
take nearly a whole magazine’s worth of rounds to kill and a few less to stop.
Head shots were best, and he had fought enough dross to anticipate their
movements. The sound of his squad’s rifles made the aliens flatten to the
ground and then pounce forward. Jack followed his target smoothly with the
rifle and killed it before it left the ground. He switched quickly to the other
beside it and sent three shots into its ribcage before it hit the floor.
The rest of his squad finished off the others without casualties but
they had no time to celebrate. The ships above them were closer now and
dominated the sky. They were firing as they descended, blasting quick flashes
of light as their artillery cannons shelled the battlefield. The thundering
booms from the ships reached them as the shock waves from the impacts did,
coming together as a louder crackling explosion. Jack knew that if they were
firing so quickly that the situation was desperate.
They resumed their run and quickly saw the reason for the ship’s
early bombardment. The ground opened up in scattered places a few seconds after
the artillery made contact. The force of the impact on the ground was
disturbing the dross underneath it, and they quickly came to surface and were
met by the marines that they were attempting to tunnel passed. Jack readied his
rifle as a hole emerged near them. Their tails came first, as they always did,
slapping around the rim of the opening, checking to see if it was safe. When
the first dross popped its head up he made it a bloodied pulp and sent it
limply falling back underground.
A pod fell near another open tunnel and was swarmed with five of the
aliens before the doors could open. Jack and his squad were a few minutes from
the walls of the evacuation site but they stopped, firing as they spread out
and surrounded the ambushed pod. The dross clawed at the outside of it as they
were fired upon, shaving layers of the reinforced metal away but not fast
enough to get inside before they were filled with bullets. The pod doors fell
open and flattened one of the alien’s corpses. The marines inside met Jack’s
stare with brief nods of their heads and then joined with his squad behind him.
They reached the wall and were let inside by shaken civilians that
had been herded into the center of the site. They were the people that had
volunteered to stay behind and help with the fight. The evacuation sites had
been set up as a precaution: smaller fortified positions near settlements that
could be defended temporarily until rescue ships could reach them. Others were
in cities where abandoned homes had been demolished for such sites. Jack had
been assigned to one of the sites on the outskirts of those cities, where
people thought they were safer away from major population clusters. Now that
they were one of the closest to the advancing dross, the people were panicked
Jack saw that he was the first to reach the site and assigned his
marines to secure it. He put a man and a woman on the gate to watch for other
soldiers and let them in. He directed two others to round up the civilians near
the landing pad in the middle of the site and away from the walls. By the end
of the fight he didn’t know how long they could hold the site and a few extra
seconds worth of space might mean a few lives. He knew if the transport ships
saw too many attackers and too much disarray on the ground that they would pass
over them. He had no intention of letting that happen to the people he had been
told to save.
At the top of the wall he faced back over the battlefield he had run
through. More pods were still dropping as the ships continued blasting craters
into the landscape. He could see groups of soldiers firing at the front runners
of the dross but he felt his skin crawl when he saw the masses of the alien
army in the distance. They made the ground look like it was alive and squirming
to life to smother the human defenders. The ships were firing into the heart of
that group, smashing the dead bodies of aliens through the air on impact.
Infernos were left in the wake of the artillery blasts, pockets of fire that
the dross were too tightly packed to avoid as they were swept up in the surge
of the entire force.
Jack saw immediately that it wouldn’t be enough. The aliens pushed
on into a wave that was ready to crash through the line of marines like they
were nothing. There was a moment when the ships above them went quiet as they
received new coordinates from the marines below. They were dead and they knew
it. They used their own communication signals as a stronger target for the
artillery cannons, and raised their rifles in the air as if they beckoned the
wrath of the ships down on them.