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The Nightmare Complex

Lex Williams

Distributed by Smashwords

Copyright 2018 Lex Williams

Thanks to my editor, Lee Cope, who I found through

Thanks to my cover artist, Pius Pranoto, who I found at under the username, telaga.

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The Nightmare Complex

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The Nightmare Complex

Small, silvery rocks crunched underfoot. Dust kicked up from the boot's heel and kept floating up, higher and higher. It rose to the height of the bulky spacesuit's helmet before floating back down to the surface of the moon.

She held her long rifle, which looked like a space harpoon, close to her chest as she glanced back at the other soldiers. This is what it had all come to. For reasons Evelyn wasn't even sure she remembered, war had broken out a few hundred years ago. The conflict had quickly escalated and enveloped the entire known universe.

It was that universe of conflict that Evelyn had been born into. Galaxy-wide parts of human civilisation were now just cogs in a military-industrial complex so enormous its continued existence was all but guaranteed by the very laws of physics; inertia is a son of a bitch to fight.

And, like most other people brought into these worlds, she was quickly placed where she would be most productive to the ever-lurching war machine. It just so happened that she was a bit of a rebel, but they had ways of dealing with dissent.

The training was hell, but it successfully turned her from a flimsy piece of cardboard into a thick block of wood. She was a Space Infantryman.

Evelyn eyed her fellow troops. She heard them talking recently about the advent of newer, better machines. Something that would somehow reduce the direct horrors experienced by soldiers, deal with prisoners and make all future battles proxies.

But that could just as easily have been propaganda. Right now, anyway, it was up to her and the troops around her.

She looked around. She saw the enemy force in the distance. They wore just as bulky armour, and carried very similar weapons.

When humanity had explored the stars, their imagination filled it with creatures of all kinds. But the universe was empty. Just a bunch of rocks and heat. Intelligent life was a one-time mistake - and it was working hard to correct that error.

There was a beep and a flash on her HUD. Evelyn leaped to the side, gliding over bumps and rocks. The round whizzed past her.

Her own troops fired back. She aimed and fired with them. "How's our support coming?"

She looked up at the starry sky. A number of lights flashed in the distance where a space battle raged.

A voice buzzed back. "Star fighters have got us covered. N-Project 317 will be there shortly."

Nobody really seemed to know the origin of the N-Project. There were a lot of rumours, talk about hush-hush government stuff. But all of the soldiers knew it under a better name.

The Nightmare Complex.

The enormous, pyramidal structure landed behind them with a wall of rolling dust. Evelyn imagined a resounding boom would've been appropriate, if it weren't for the almost atmosphereless surface of the moon.

It was more like a mountain than a pyramid, ending in a flat plateau.

Enemy fire bounced off its black shell. No amount of small arms was going to do anything against that monstrosity. Hell, it would take the core of a big, dense planet to wound the armour of a Nightmare Complex.

It aimed the turrets on its side and fired a flurry of tiny projectiles travelling at incredible speeds at the enemy troops. They tore through soldiers, leaving drifting corpses and trails of floating blood. Those that survived the first volley made haste to a nearby mountain.

Evelyn moved toward the mountain with the other soldiers, as the Nightmare Complex brought up the rear. Oh, the Nightmare Complex was formidable, but it was also very slow. It was a big weakness.

A Complex by itself needed support; air, to keep the enemy from just blowing up the entire planetary body, and ground, to discourage anyone from looking for any chinks in the slow-moving tank’s armour.

But a tough outer-shell and minigun turrets weren't why the soldiers referred to it as a Nightmare Complex. Those were just the bits that made it functional. No, the true terror came from inside.

As they headed toward the mountain, they passed by the floating corpses of their enemies. There was a light behind Evelyn. She glanced back.

A door opened had slid open, revealing a bright, white light. From within, spidery robots scampered out. They darted across the moon's surface with their inhuman locomotion and grabbed the floating pieces of the enemy in their little claws.

They weren't truly autonomous robots - they were very stupid. Stupid and hardy. They were designed around the typical structure of insects, specifically, the kind that might be able to lose many limbs and keep on moving toward a goal.

They dragged the pieces back inside the Complex. God only knew what the hell that machine was taking them for. Some suggested it disassembled the pieces to build more of those robots. Others thought that it used it for power. There were darker suggestions about literally feeding on souls.

Whatever the reason, Evelyn tried not to linger on it. She looked over at nearby soldier. He was staggering oddly across the surface. She pinged his helmet. "Hey, what's up?"

No response. The figure turned to her - she should've realised. The shield over the front of his helmet was smashed out by a bullet. The face inside was exploded outward like a fleshy flower in full bloom.

And still, the man kept on moving toward the enemy.

Or, to be more accurate, his suit did. It was the work of the Nightmare Complex. The other reason the soldiers gave it that name. The Complex would find the suits of dead allied soldiers and overtake their controls to make them keep on fighting.

Evelyn and her troops peeked around the mountain to find the enemy already regrouped. A flurry of bullets convinced her and the others to hang back.

The suits with the corpses of their allies still inside trudged into the firing line. Their undying bodies were ripped with holes from gunfire. But still, they kept on walking.

With that distraction, Evelyn and the other troops ascended the mountain; they'd flank the fuckers from above.

She peeked over the top to see an enemy freaking out and shooting at his own.

That was the another part of the Nightmare Complex's suit control. As soon as they were in range, enemy soldiers were in danger of having their suit hijacked, and forced to watch themselves mow down their own side before having their suit deactivate life-support functions.

Amidst the chaos, the scampering spider minions of the Complex came upon their prey and disassembled key components with the close precision of a machine; one jabbed a claw at one soldier and severed the oxygen hose, another limb grabbed another enemy's gun, reefing it from their hands and bashing open their suit's helmet with it.

They were screaming. She didn't need to hear them, she could see it in the expression through their helmets. The other troops climbed over the ridge, aimed down and fired at the routed enemy.

It was a massacre. Blood, flesh and plastic ripped to shreds.

Then all was calm and quiet, as it usually is in the void of space. The spidery drones went about their business, collecting bodies for the Nightmare Complex. More flesh to feed the war machine. An inevitable future for any soldier in this war.

Evelyn looked up at the stars. A distant light darkened. She saw it. For a brief moment, she saw everything for what it was; the all-consuming military-industrial complex growing hungrier and hungrier.

Until even the stars themselves were swallowed whole.


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