The other marines all started shouting, and I could hear Private Delme calling to the lieutenant. Something about “losing another quack to suicide,” and I had to smile at her tender concern. Hey, if the pattern held true, the next attack wouldn’t come until tomorrow morning at the soonest.
The lieutenant had reached the top of the wall and was yelling by the time my feet hit the sand. I ignored him and got to work, collecting samples from carcasses. The attenuated surgical lasers on my armor made quick work of this, and I kept my C-7 at the ready in case the zerglings weren’t as dead as they seemed.
By the time I had gathered a good sampling, Lieutenant Orran had raised the gate and was standing just inside, fuming.
What was he going to do? Shoot the only medic on the planet? I was shouted at for a good hour and then confined to quarters. The moment my door was shut I set to work, turning the room into a miser’s laboratory. Most of the equipment I needed could be adapted from the instrumentation in my armor, and within the hour I was doing comparative analysis on the flesh of our attackers.
You built a lab out of your armor? Again, I’m impressed, Private.
You higher-ups think we grunts are all a bunch of brain-dead apes, don’t you? Didn’t really expect us to see what was going on?
“Going on”? I don’t know what you’re implying, Private, but I suggest you continue with your report.
Uh-huh. The lab was nothing fancy – just enough to run some basic tests. It didn’t take long to locate the mutation, even with my rusty training. You know how human transplant surgery is all about fighting the host’s bodily rejection of the foreign new flesh? Well, imagine the reaction if the new cells are from an entirely different species.
The zerglings’ connective tissue – the tough, leathery stuff that binds the hardened zerg exoskeleton to muscle tissue – was blistering. Every sample that I collected showed some level of swelling and agitation due to the bulbous pustules clustered across it.
My next discovery took me completely by surprise. The agitated flesh had a unique peppery smell. A smell I’d grown accustomed to at every meal since we’d arrived on Sorona.
The same smell as the –
Why the zerg would want to absorb a local mold into their potpourri of genetic features was beyond me.
Maybe this wasn’t deliberate. An alien infection caused by some?? insidious algae? Ha. I doubted that anything could get through the bio-defenses of these monsters, but it was possible. I decided to dissect one of the smaller blisters, an angry green specimen the size of my fingertip. I charged up the med-laser and made a small incision.
And I woke up two hours later in the med-bay with my skin burning. Lieutenant Orran was standing over my gurney, his face sick with worry. He told me how the grenade had brought him running, how he had found me underneath a collapsed wall in the next room. That’s when I glanced down and saw the remnants of my suit. The entire right side looked like a candle that had been held to a flame: the armored plates had been fused together. The lieutenant told me that, the next time I wanted to “off” myself, I should remove my armor first. Yeah, he’s a funny guy.
I asked him to take me to my quarters. Either Lieutenant Orran was feeling pity or he had just given up fighting me, because he ducked under my arm and half dragged, half carried me from the med-bay. My room had been flattened, with the walls blown out in all directions. I was lucky to have survived.
“This wasn’t a grenade,” I told the lieutenant. “It was a blister.”
He laughed, convinced that I’d gone insane. I asked him to explain how I had managed to find an acid grenade in my quarters. He supposed that I’d cobbled it together from parts of my suit: they’d found pieces of my makeshift lab scattered throughout the wreckage. I could hardly fault him, you know. Who would believe my story about vicious alien pustules?
In the end, I was confined to another room with Private Delme on constant watch. My skin blistered, cracked, and then started peeling; you can still see the patches on my hand here. I told the private about my worries, about the need to broadcast what was happening here. I told her that maybe news of a new zerg mutation would get somebody to listen to us.
She only nodded, smiled, and then focused on cleaning her sidearm. Delme must have cleaned that stupid thing a dozen times over the next few days.