From Hell's Heart, I Stab at Thee
The drop pod detached and began its freefall to the planet's surface. The twelve man squad would be on the ground soon. Assuming the intelligence was correct, a success on this mission would end the war. Both sides were incredibly advanced, but evenly matched, so the casualties over the years had been astronomical.
Captain Fennig's eyes checked faces to determine their mental status. Most of the squad looked anxious but alert. Sergeant Dufort was a veteran and was completely asleep. There was one cherry with the squad today; Private Jake Rinehart. Some fear was to be expected, but Rinehart had his harness in a white knuckle death grip.
“Rinehart,” said the Captain.
Rinehart stared down at the ground.
“Private Rinehart?” The Captain raised his voice, “Jake!”
The tone snapped Rinehart back to the present and he looked up.
“You with me, son?”
“I'm okay, sir. Just nerves.”
“Give me an ammo check!”
Rinehart began touching each vest pocket and counting aloud. The Captain knew forcing him to move would loosen the fear that gripped him. The roar of splitting atmosphere began to enter the cabin and the glowing lights of the pod turned red.
“Get ready boys! We're going to land in the courtyard and the Snails ain’t gonna like it!”
The landing rockets fired hard, slowing the craft just enough to land safely. The rockets had set the landscape ablaze and dead enemy, burned alive, littered the ground.
“Give me a perimeter,” said the Captain.
The men spread out in all directions and threw themselves down on their bellies. Rinehart landed with his face next to a dead Snail. The Snail's long eye stalks had burned off, leaving short nubs protruding from its lumpy exoskeletal skull.
The Captain examined his map as the enemy fire became more and more accurate. “That building over there! Move!”
They ran for the front of the building just fifty yards away as the enemy fire bore down on them. Only six of the twelve made it inside. Photon beams didn't leave wounds, they dissolved the forces that held an object's atoms together, scattering the particles. The dead men never felt a thing.
The squad took up defensive positions and exchanged fire with the approaching enemy. A group of Snails burst through a doorway just to the left of Rinehart, but the scared look he had in the pod had changed to one of determination out here on the battlefield. His rifle pulsed hot plasma and cut all the assaulting Snails down. Captain Fennig exchanged a dark smile with him as they moved forward.
The Snails had been unprepared for a direct assault on their homeworld, thinking it remained hidden from the humans. Fennig and his men were mercilessly dispatching every Snail they encountered with fiery blasts. They fought their way to a room with a deep shaft leading downward, but the Snails were here in force. Photon blasts mingled with plasma bursts and then a series of huge explosions rocked the building, throwing everyone aside. All was quiet for a second.
Ears ringing, Rinehart clapped his hand on the Captain's shoulder and helped him to his feet. Doof was already up and killing the stunned and wounded Snails.
The squad was down to three: Doof, Rinehart, and the Captain. They rappelled down the shaft in the center of the room.
“This should drop us right into the brain room,” said the Captain as they descended. “Doof, plant the charges. Rinehart and I will keep the room quiet.”
The trio dropped into a room filled with surprised Snail scientists. The walls of the room were covered with computers and monitors and the monitors were covered with maps detailing the various raging battles. The men opened fire, killing most.
“We got this,” shouted the Captain over the sound of his plasma rifle. “Doof! Get it done!”
Doof began attaching electronics to the system. One of the monitors was now translated into English. Doof stood before it and stared.
Rinehart had given himself over to the flow of battle. With a cruel smile, he leapt and tumbled and fired, burning dozens of Snails to crispy shreds. With a laugh, he pounded a fist on the door panel controls which dropped the heavy blast doors, sealing them inside the room. “I don't know how long that will hold,” he said as he reloaded his weapon. “But let them come!” That's when he noticed that Doof and the Captain were staring at one of the monitors.
On the screen, a blue planet was slowly turning white as beams from multiple orbiting ships fired down at it.
“Is that Earth?” asked Rinehart. “What are they doing?”
Doof kept staring at the screen, but answered, “They're boiling the oceans. The surface is already one hundred fifty degrees Celsius.”
“One fifty?” questioned Rinehart.
“They melted the ice caps, the Earth is under water and the atmosphere is filling with steam.”
“I still don't underst-”
Doof had tears streaming down his face, “THEY'RE ALL DEAD! OKAY? EVERYONE ON EARTH IS DEAD! DO YOU GET IT NOW?”
“Oh,” said Rinehart softly.
“We done here?” asked the Captain.
Doof turned back to the equipment he had attached to the computer system and flicked a few switches. “It's done. Their planetary core is magnetizing. In a few hours, the gravity on this planet will be several hundred times greater. It's an unstoppable process, all the Snails are going to die. We win.”
“We win,” stated the Captain.
Doof activated the final switch. A timer appeared and began counting down. He saluted the Captain, placed his sidearm under his chin, and pulled the trigger.
Rinehart's jaw dropped and he stared at Doof's body. “This is a win?”
“Our mission was a success and the enemy is defeated,” replied the Captain. “What would you call it?”
“Really stupid,” was Rinehart's reply.