Project ORION – The Rise of the Spartans

This month for the continuation of the Halo series, I decided to focus on the SPARTANS and their origins as a unit.  Starting out in the early years of the United Earth Government (UEG), Project ORION is where it all began.

SPARTAN-II logo

PROJECT ORION

Project ORION was launched in the early years of the 23rd century shortly after the unification of the Earth into the UEG and the formation of the United Nations Space Command (UNSC). The project was started in an attempt to biochemically alter soldiers to create super soldiers for use in the field. While ORION would eventually be shut down, the concept was taken and utilized as the basis for future SPARTAN programs and certain advancements were used for field kits following the Insurrectionist Civil War.

In 2390, the UEG had formally established the Inner Colonies of the Earth Empire. For the next hundred years, humanity began to expand into the Sol system establishing dozens of colonies on habitable worlds. As the expansion continued, the power and influence of the UEG began the wane to the point that political independence was the hot topic among the colonists. Colonies began to separate themselves from UEG control and the UNSC took steps to maintain a grip on the Outer colonies that were trying to secede from the UEG. In preparation for conflict, the UNSC enacted Project: ORION on April 13, 2321, as a means of developing tougher, faster and stronger soldiers. Of the original 5 candidates selected, none were deemed a success and the candidates were returned to their respective units. Each of these candidates would die within a year of being returned to their unit for reasons  undisclosed by the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).

Insurrectionist

As the Civil Wars on the Outer colonies intensified, Project: ORION was relaunched in secret on January 29, 2491, to combat insurgent attacks. The project was opened with 65 candidates, with a future 100 volunteers being accepted following initial training. On January 12, 2496, the first ORION soldiers were deployed as part of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE to recover a sub-orbital transit station over Eridanus II. The mission was successful without any casualties and without detection, this was also the only time in the program’s history that a full unit of its operators would ever be deployed.

With the success of Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, the tales of super soldiers being deployed by the UNSC spread like wildfire, causing conspiracy theories to be born. ONI used the leaked knowledge in a very aggressive propaganda run in the following decades to incite compliance from the outer colonies. During the same year as Operation: CHARLEMAGNE, ORION operatives were deployed as part of Operation: VERITAS, where they apprehended several Secessionist Union operatives who were employed in various high-level offices in the Colonial Military Administration (CMA).

As the Insurrectionist War began to heat up, the UNSC escalated their counter-insurgent activities with Operation: TREBUCHET. This operation was put into immediate action following the defection of UNSC Marine Colonel Robert Watts. ORION operatives were deployed to combat the insurgent threat and were very effective for a time. As the conflict dragged on, the insurgents became harder and harder to root out. The Insurgents adapted to the tactics of the ORION operatives very quickly and became increasingly harder to combat. While the bombings and flashpoint scenarios between Insurrectionists and the UNSC continued to increase, more civilians were caught in the crossfire, and were killed as a result. These civilian deaths added to the growing resentment for the UNSC on the outer colonies forcing more to join the Insurrectionist fight. In response to the growing Insurrectionist threat, the UNSC recruited more operatives into the ORION program, culminating in 300 active duty personnel.

As Operation: TREBUCHET continued, some of the older members of ORION began to exhibit PTSD and sympathy towards the Insurrectionists. Some operatives refused to participate in the program post-augmentation and were incarcerated as a result. Despite the success the ORION soldiers were having, the results were far below what the scientists expected. Due to the age of most candidates and the inadequate genetic screening performed during recruitment.; the genetic modifications led to minimal improvement and the immunosuppressants failed in many candidates. These issues led to irreversible genetic fragmentation and degenerative conditions in most of the ORION personnel.

In 2502, Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was put in to action. KALEIDOSCOPE was a multi pronged approach by the UNSC to pacify the Insurrectionist threat. ORION operatives were deployed to neutralize key insurgent strongholds and eliminate insurgent personnel. The main goal was to eliminate Jerald Mulkey Ander, the leader of the Secessionist Union.

KALEIDOSCOPE

On March 13, 2502, Jerald Ander was assassinated by ORION operative, Corporal Avery Johnson. With Ander’s death, the Secessionist Union was easily dismantled; however, it did not deter those from seeking independent control from the UEG, it actually served to strengthen the Insurrectionist movement on several planets. While KALEIDOSCOPE dealt a massive blow to the insurgents, it failed to pacify the planets as had been originally intended and was declared a failure as the result. As Operation: KALEIDOSCOPE was wrapping up, it became apparent that some of the ORION operatives were beginning to develop severe side effects from the augmentations. These side effects ranged from physical anomalies to mental illness.

The ORION project began to decline in performance due to the ineffective strategies used by the UNSC. Operation: TANGLEWOOD was the final operation that ORION operatives participated in.

In 2506, project ORION was quietly terminated with the remaining 165 members being reassigned to various special forces elements in the UNSC. Some of the former ORION operatives began to exhibit mental instabilities and were discharged from the UNSC as a result. ONI concocted a plan to cover up the ailments being exhibited by the former ORION members as a medical ailment called Boren’s Syndrome. As many of the ORION soldiers began to retire and have families, the children of the former operatives required specially formulated injections to ensure they suffered no health defects. While some ORION members were discharged, others like Avery Johnson, were able to serve well past what is normally expected of human service. Johnson served for a continued four decades after the project was shut down.

*Johnson was dosed with an abnormally high amount of radiation emanating from a crate of plasma grenades on Paris IV; as a result, he was immune to Flood infection.*

THE FUTURE OF PROJECT ORION

Following the shuttering of Project ORION many of the augmentations and advancements were incorporated into the SPARTAN-II program and its successors. The failures of project ORION were blamed on the age of the recruits. Being adults, the recruits bodies rejected many of the augmentations, giving a less than expected result. The SPARTAN-II and SPARTAN-III programs were therefore forced to use prepubescent recruits so that their genetic information and physicality would allow for the augmentations to take hold. The SPARTAN-IV program overcame this obstacle, but that was not until after the end of the Human-Covenant War on March 3, 2553.

Due to the combat effectiveness of the ORION operatives the UNSC utilized project ORION and its operators as the model for a reorganization of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers (ODSTs).

In the years following the closure of Project: ORION in 2506, the small amount of special forces in the UNSC were not able to effectively combat the rising Insurrectionist threat. Around 2510, ONI began to re-examine the Carver Findings (A set of theories published by Dr. Elias Carver in 2491, predicting the outbreak of an insurrection) to determine if there was a solution within Carver’s predictions to their current Insurrectionist issue. The findings stated that the instability would continue to grow unless drastic military action was taken. ONI had conducted it’s own research and came to the same conclusion as Dr. Carver; if the threat was not subdued, by 2525 there would be an open war between the inner and outer colonies.

Dr. Catherine Halsey had taken Carver’s findings and built on them herself. Halsey’s findings predicted that if UNSC inaction against rebel leadership continued, there would be a 35 year war with over 5 billion dead or a conflict of indeterminate length that would lead to the downfall of human civilization.  Halsey presented her findings to Vice Admiral Stanforth and ONI Section III, who had come to their own similar conclusions. In order to avoid this grim future, Halsey agreed to work for ONI under Section III’s Special Projects Division to develop a solution.

Halsey

Dr. Halsey took the data from the initial Project ORION and made drastic changes. The candidates would be selected based on age, and genetic markers that would increase the success of the augmentations. The candidates would have to exhibit physical strength and mental attributes as well as being under the age of 10. The age limit also helped with instilling core military values and the understanding of War; which could not be taught to already enlisted individuals. In addition to the more selective candidate pool, one of the other major changes involved the creation of powered exoskeletons for use by the operatives. The drawback of this new armor is its requirement for augmenting the subject, effectively turning the participants into human guinea pigs. Despite the obvious danger to recruits and the unethical means to which they would be treated, ORION-II was permitted.

In 2511, Generation II of Project ORION was initiated to combat the Insurrectionist threat.  By 2517, 150 suitable candidates had been selected for the program, though funding only allowed for half that number. Thus the top 75 candidates were selected from all planets across UNSC controlled space. The selection pool included both male and female candidates as well as various ethnic backgrounds to ensure diversity. The candidates all were around the age of six years old and most lived on the outer planets. ONI operatives kidnapped the candidates in the night and replaced them with flash clones. These flash clones were grown from the DNA acquired by the Outer Colony Vaccination Program. The clones would die after roughly a year due to medical complications resulting from flash cloning an entire human being.

Halsey was not fond of the original name for the project, Project ORION Generation II, so she renamed the project out of personal preference and desire to distance it from the failures of the first Project: ORION. Halsey centered on the SPARTAN-II program as a homage to the name of ORION.

With the subsequent success of the SPARTAN-II program, Project ORION was retroactively renamed as SPARTAN-I.

spartan_evolution_by_tdspiral-d6m3nfi

 

There you have it, the story of how the SPARTAN program came to be. While the most popular iteration of the SPARTAN program is the SPARTAN-IIs and the face of Halo, the Master Chief; none of that would be possible without Project: ORION. Next month I will breakdown the SPARTAN-II program along with its various victories and defeats. See you next week!

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Venom – A History

With the release of the Venom teaser starring Tom Hardy, I decided to focus this week’s post on the villain turned anti-hero, Venom. I for one am very excited about the film, and despite the backlash surrounding the teaser think it will turn out great. There has been a lot of controversy online about them not showing the suit or even the symbiote. One thing that keeps getting forgotten is that it was a TEASER for the trailer. Not only that, but filming only wrapped shortly before Christmas and so the CGI is probably not finished on the film. Okay, now that that’s out of the way, we can move on to the character himself!

Originally the idea for a new costume for Spider-Man was created by a Marvel Comics reader named Randy Schueller. The idea was purchased from him in 1982 for a total of $220.00.

Venom first appeared as the  black costume or “alien costume” form in December of 1984 during the Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars event. It attached itself to Spider-Man when his suit was ripped and torn in battle. Because Spider-Man was the first host, all subsequent hosts gain some of the abilities of Spider-Man such as: Web slinging, wall crawling, super strength, and speed.

Several artists and creators at Marvel had a hand in creating the “alien suit”; the creators involved were: Roger Stern, Tom DeFalco, Mike Zeck and Ron Frenz.

The official character of Venom was created by David Michelinie and Todd McFarlane in 1988 and first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #299 in May of that year, having received a cameo in the April issue of the same run.

 

HISTORY

The Venom symbiote is actually a sentient creature hatched on the planet Klyntar. The symbiotes of Klyntar were part of an organization called the Agents of the Cosmos. As agents, they were tasked with finding suitable hosts in order to create a force of noble warriors to maintain peace across the universe. The Venom symbiote chose poorly for its first host and was forced to carry out a genocide on the host’s planet. This genocide twisted the symbiote into a hate-filled and rage addicted being. Despite being twisted, it wanted to bond with all future hosts and protect them rather than dominate them. Due to this desire and the twisted nature of the symbiote, it was imprisoned by the other Agents of the Cosmos who feared it would contaminate the gene pool. When the Beyonder was creating Battleworld, he inadvertently incorporated the prison for the Venom symbiote into the Battleworld.

Contrary to what most readers think, Spider-Man was not the first superhero to don the alien suit. That honour fell to none other than the Merc with the Mouth, Deadpool. Deadpool found the prison and allowed the symbiote to attach itself to his costume (which had been damaged in battle). When he felt the symbiote begin to interface with his mind, Deadpool removed the symbiote and placed it back in its prison for fear that his own insanity would adversely affect it. Moments later, Spider-Man showed up and released the symbiote and allowed it to bond with him. This provided Spider-Man with a suit that could mimic street clothes, provided stronger webbing and took the colour scheme of the second Spider-Woman ( Julia Carpenter).

Spider-Man

Back on Earth Spider-Man used the suit for months before realizing it was exerting control. He removed the suit in the bell tower of a church with the help of the sonic waves created by the ringing bell. The suit then returned to Peter’s apartment and took the form of a regular blue and red Spider-Man suit and waited for him to put it on. After realizing the suit had returned and he had bonded with it again, Spider-Man needed help. He went to the Fantastic Four to get help and they aided him in removing the suit. After Spider-Man got rid of the suit, the symbiote fled before trying to return to both him and Deadpool. Both men rejected it after it bit the arm off a bounty hunter sent to capture it by the Collector (Benicio Del Torro from GotG). The symbiote fled to the church where Spider-Man had removed it earlier, Our Lady of Saints Church, and  found a new host in the form of disgraced journalist, Eddie Brock.

Eddie had been having a rough go of things… He lost his job as a journalist, he had been diagnosed with adrenal cancer, he had been disowned by his father and his wife had left him. He was contemplating suicide when he went to the Our Lady of Saints church to pray for forgiveness. It was there that the symbiote was drawn to him. His hatred with Spider-Man for ruining his journalism career was amplified by the symbiote and turned into a fixation of either reclaim Spider-Man or killing him.

Over several years Venom and Spider-Man would fight. Eddie believed the symbiote wanted to return to Spider-Man and would leave him if given the chance, so Eddie resolved the only way to keep the symbiote was to kill Spider-Man. During a battle with Styx and Stone, in which Eddie had become a vigilante and was assisting Spider-Man, the symbiote appeared to have been killed by Styx’s deathly touch. When the symbiote healed it found Eddie in prison and broke him out. The symbiote reproduced asexually and it’s offspring bonded with Eddie’s cellmate Cletus Kasady creating Carnage.

The symbiote then left Eddie Brock and bonded with Mac Gargan (the Scorpion) a low level villain that agreed to satiate its blood lust and kill Spider-Man. Gargan would go onto be a member of the Thunderbolts and Sinister 12. He was nearly killed when he tracked down a former host and it was revealed to be Eddie Brock. Brock had the remnants of the Venom symbiote in his blood mutated and became Anti-Venom. Gargan barely escaped alive and the symbiote was badly damaged during the fight when it tried to leave Gargan and bond with Brock. Following the events of Siege, the US Military took possession of the symbiote.

Venom 2

Flash Thompson was a war hero who had lost his legs in combat. He was recruited by the military to become Agent Venom. Agent venom worked with Flash and was sent on covert mission around the globe. The time it took for the symbiote to completely bond with its host was 48 hours, and as such Flash was only allowed to wear the symbiote for missions. He was able to remain in control of the symbiote until he got mad in which case the symbiote was able to take over regardless of the suppressant drugs the military was pumping into the symbiote. Flash participated in many Avengers mission as a Secret Avenger and was even a member of the Thunderbolts. He was asked by Steve Rogers to take Iron Man’s place as liaison with the Guardians of the Galaxy. During his tenure with the Guardians, the Klyntar Hive Mind attempted to reconnect with the symbiote which caused the symbiote to go berserk. The symbiote took over each member of the Guardians until it at last found Drax, who was able to pilot the ship to the symbiote home world of Klyntar. There the symbiote voluntarily re-integrated with the Hive Mind and was cleansed of its blood lust and hatred before being re-bonded with Flash.

Agent Venom

Upon return to Earth after the second Civil War, Flash was hunting down Mania and was attacked by an FBI task force equipped with Anti-symbiote weaponry. The symbiote left Flash and ran, due to it’s shame for reverting to its bloodthirsty ways. It happened upon a former Army Ranger, Lee Price,  who was about to be gunned down in a botched arms deal between two rival gangs. The symbiote bonded with him to protect him but was quickly dominated by the soldier’s will. Price quickly went on to massacre both sides in the gang conflict and used traumatic childhood memories to shut the symbiote up when it rejected his commands. Price would further use the symbiote as a means of crime and vigilantism until two FBI agents discovered his identity. These agents told Price they would expose him as Venom if he did not comply and return to the FBI. When Price refused to go (obviously), Eddie Brock and his anti-symbiote task force, along with Spider-Man managed to separate Price from the symbiote.  Price was arrested by the NYPD before being broken out by Maniac. While the symbiote was en route to the FBI headquarters in New York to be handed over to Alpha Flight; Brock broke the symbiote out of captivity reuniting with it once more. With the symbiote bonding to Brock again, Venom has become the Lethal Protector he once was.

SYMBIOTE

While the symbiote itself bonds with another being to reach its full potential, it does itself have it’s own personality and thoughts. The first host it bonded with was corrupt and thus corrupted the symbiote to the point that it was addicted to rage and hatred. As previously stated it was because of this that it was captured and imprisoned by the Agents of the Cosmos. Prior to being bonded with Spider-Man the symbiote was only able to understand simple emotions like sadness, happiness and anger. The symbiote viewed Peter Parker as his ideal host and was able to understand more complex emotions when bonded with him. When Peter rejected the symbiote it’s admiration for him was replaced with hatred and anger. It never truly liked any of its subsequent hosts believing them all to be inferior to Peter Parker.

The symbiote is adverse to lying and will be brutally honest if given the time to speak. It will normally say the things it knows will get you to lose control and give into the rage that it feeds on.

Venom Symbiote

Prior to it being cleansed, the symbiote’s blood lust was insatiable. Eddie Brock described it as ” an ocean of darkness trying to drown him with its rage and hunger, reducing his mind to a “red ruin” at its most intense”. This blood lust only increased as time went on until when it was bonded with Mac Gargan, it forced Mac to bend to its will. Mac became overwhelmed by the symbiote’s blood lust and resorted to cannibalism as a means to satiate it’s desire for blood. When it was bonded with Flash, he took suppressant drugs to keep the symbiote under control, but if Flash ever lost control and gave into his rage, the symbiote would take over. After abandoning Gargan, the symbiote attempted to find itself a permanent host. The symbiote wished to find the strongest host and as such would bond with an individual while still searching for a stronger host. This led to the symbiote attempting to abandon Eddie and Flash while in various conflicts. The symbiote tried to abandon Flash to bond with Kaine (a clone of Peter Parker) but Flash was able to stop the symbiote through sheer force of will.

Once it was cleansed of it’s rage and blood lust, the symbiote became docile repentant and subservient to its host (Flash Thompson at the time) in essence, what it was intended to be all along. When Flash expressed concern that his own hot headedness might affect the symbiote and change it again; the symbiote spoke to Flash saying it preferred him as a host and called Flash its friend.

Because it’s comics and the symbiote can never just be at peace it slowly reverted back to its old ways until it was forcibly removed from Flash. After the ordeal with Lee Price, being captured by the FBI and being re-bonded to Eddie,  the symbiote became re-corrupted but still wanted to be a hero. The blood lust returned and Eddie was forced to seek help from Alchemex which cured the issue and returned the symbiote to its benevolent state post cleansing.

The symbiote is very possessive and as such will violently defend its wearer if attacked. This has led to several brutal fights between Venom and others throughout his comic run.

POWERS GRANTED BY THE SYMBIOTE

The symbiote is able to act on its own without a host body. It is able to controls its tendrils and tentacles and can even assume a humanoid shape briefly. When bonded with a host, it takes on a black and white coloured suit with large white eyes and a large mouth filled with sharp teeth.  Due to having been bonded with Spider-Man for an extended period of time it gained access to his genetic code and can bestow similar powers onto any being that becomes its host. In addition to Spider-Manlike powers, it also enhances all the physical attributes of its host to superhuman levels.

Venomverse

Some of the powers it grants are as follows:

  • Superhuman Strength
  • Superhuman Durability
  • Superhuman Stamina
  • Healing Factor – Able to cure ailments and injuries human beings cannot ie. Cancer.
  • Genetic Memory
  • Offspring Detection
  • Wall Crawling
  • Webbing Generation
  • Constituent Matter Generation
  • Constituent Matter Manipulation
  • Spider Sense
  • Immunity to Spider Sense – Venom is one of the few characters in Marvel comics that cannot be picked up by Spider-Man’s Spider Sense. Ben Reilly who was cloned prior to Peter becoming host to Venom, is still able to detect Venom with his Spider Sense.
  • Camouflage – Able to mimic clothing, and surroundings
  • Poisonous Fangs
  • Parasitic Inheritance – Able to copy the abilities of hosts it had been bonded to
  • Shapeshifting

The Symbiote does not have many weaknesses other than sonic attacks and intense heat. Since it first bonded with Spider-Man, these attacks have become less effective as the symbiote has built up an immunity.

Venom is one of the best Spider-Man villains specifically for his belief that if the symbiote can’t bond with Spider-Man then he has to die. With everything that happened to the symbiote it’s no wonder that it turned out the way it did (a murderous cannibalistic rage monster). The journey that the symbiote went on after being bonded with Eddie has shown that while something might start off as evil there is always the room for growth. Venom went from being a genocidal symbiote, to a villain, to a hero, back to villain, and back to hero. Now, in Marvel publications, he has been termed as an anti-hero (Awe YEAH) and I think this is a great arc for the character to go through.

spider-man-carnage-vs-venom

I’m super excited for the movie starring Tom Hardy and I think if done right (knock on wood) it could be a great film. I understand the trouble with having a Venom movie without have a black suit Spider-Man; however, sometimes you just have to accept that not everything can be done. We got a black suit Spider-man in the terrible Spider-Man 3 from 2007 and the fans were not impressed… mostly due to the dancing and Topher Grace. The suit when on Spider-Man looked good, but the skinny emo Venom we were given was just a travesty. I am really hoping for a redemption of the character by Tom Hardy. Hardy is a great actor and I’ve never seen a role that he didn’t perform well. One of his greatest performances for me has to be in Inception. Just his general badassery in that movie was top notch. If he can channel that energy into his role as Eddie Brock, we may finally get the lethal protector comic fans have been waiting for.

Well there you have it, a breakdown of Venom before the Venom movie comes out. Any questions or comments feel free to post. as always, See you next week!

Top 5 Psychopaths in Mainstream Comics

This week I decided to take all of the villains  that I know from Marvel and DC Comics and pick the top 5 that I think are the worst psychopaths. To clarify I was not looking for body count alone but for unhinged behaviours and sadistic actions. Without further ado, here are the top 5 psychopaths in mainstream comics.

#5 – Bullseye

Bullseye

Coming in at no. 5 is none other than the (arguable) arch nemesis of the Man Without Fear, Bullseye. His first appearance was in Daredevil #131 of March 1976, and since then he has come to cause nothing but torment and mayhem for Daredevil. Not much is known about him except that he grew up in the Bronx with an abusive father and an older brother. He was a gifted marksman and as such entered the minor leagues as a pitcher, being called up for his first and last ever major league game. After having pitched a perfect game he grew bored and asked to be taken out, but the coach refused telling him to finish the game. When the batter taunted him for being a coward Bullseye threw the final pitch of the game which struck the batter in the head killing him. He was hired as an assassin by the NSA but quickly defected and joined various Cartel’s as a gun for hire. He began his costumed criminal career as a hitman for hire being know for never missing. After being defeated by Daredevil twice his reputation was ruined and he began his crusade against Daredevil to reclaim it. Over his comic career he has killed Elektra ( Daredevil’s lover) with her own sai, Karen Page (Daredevil’s girlfriend) with one of Daredevil’s Billy Clubs, and used explosives to drop a tenement building killing hundreds.  He later joins the Thunderbolts as an “as necessary member” and eventually joins Osborn’s Dark Avengers. In Shadowland he is impaled by one of his sais by Daredevil (at this point possessed by the beast) after breaking both of Bullseye’s arms in a fight.  He has since been resurrected and continues his crusade against Daredevil.

#4 – Hunter Zolomon/Zoom

Zoom

Ranking in at No.4 is the Time manipulator himself, Zoom. The interesting thing about Zoom is that he didn’t start out on  a bad path. he was an expert investigator and profiler.  He studied both criminology and psychology before enlisting in the FBI, along with his then girlfriend Ashley. Ashley’s father was killed during a case when Hunter made a bad call, Ashley left him and he was injured to the point of needing a cane to walk. He took a job in Keystone City as a profiler which is where he met Flash (Wally West) and the two became friends. During an attack on Iron Heights by Gorilla Grodd, Hunter was paralyzed from the waist down. He asked Wally to use the cosmic treadmill to reverse time and fix it but Wally refused. Hunter then broke into the Flash museum to use the treadmill, the resulting explosion destroyed the museum but gave Hunter the use of his legs and “derailed” him from the time stream giving him super speed. Zolomon came to the realization that the reason Wally refused to help him was because he had never experienced great tragedy as the previous Flash (Barry Allen) had. He attacked Flash and caused Wally’s wife (Linda) to miscarry the twins. Believing his work was not done he proceeded to make it his mission to kill Linda so that Wally would know true loss. In Final Crisis: Rogues’ Revenge, Zoom cures Inertia of his paralysis and begins teaching him to “better” the lives of other by inflicting tragedies upon them. Inertia grew jealous and paranoid of Zoom and unraveled Zoom’s personal timeline to the point where Zolomon lost his powers and became a cripple again. Zolomon has since approached Eobard Thawne (Reverse Flash) in Iron Heights, with a way to “benefit them both”.

#3 – Superboy Prime

Superboy Prime

Superboy Prime takes No. 3 and rightfully so. As the list progresses each member gets a little more unhinged. The sad thing is that this entry on the list, like Hunter Zolomon actually started out as a good guy. During the Crisis on Infinite Earths storyline Superboy Prime helped the combined heroes of the DC multiverse to defeat the Anti-Monitor. After they beat the Anti-Monitor, Earth-2 Superman and his wife Lois, Earth-3 Lex Luthor Jr., and Superboy Prime were hidden in a “paradise” dimension. It was here that Superboy Prime’s mind began to unravel. He begins pounding on he walls of reality causing many alterations to main continuity, one of these was Jason Todd’s resurrection. Alexander Luthor Jr. from Earth-3 informs Superboy Prime that his powers are returning and then combine forces with him causing the dimension to shatter and starting Infinite crisis.  Driven jealous by Superboy of Earth-1 (Connor Kent) and his life with Ma and Pa Kent, he challenges Superboy to a fight. Superboy activates his Titans homing beacon and several other heroes show up to assist. When Superboy Prime kills Pantha by punching her head off, Bart Allen, Wally West and Jay Garrick grab Superboy Prime and imprison him in an alternate world where he is kept in a prison cell under red sunlight for 4 years. He escapes during the fight between Earth-3  Alexander Luthor Jr. and is covered in a version of the anti-monitor’s armour that constantly feeds yellow sunlight into him boosting his power levels. When he attempted to kill Wonder Girl, Connor Kent (Earth-1 Superboy) grew enraged and attempted to take him out. Connor was killed when the two Superboys smashed into Earth-3 Lex Luthor Jr.’s device. In probably his most unhinged idea, Superboy Prime decides to fly into Oa and smash it causing anew Big Bang which will kill everything else leaving him as the sole hero. He is slowed by a 300 mile thick wall of Willpower generated by the entire Green Lantern corps, but he breaks through it and slaughters 32 Green Lanterns before the two Supermen stop him, with Kal-L (Earth-2 Superman) dying in the process. He is imprisoned by the Guardians of the Universe and placed in a Quantum containment cell which is blasted with red sunlight and guarded by 50 Green Lanterns at all times, it’s during his imprisonment in this cell that he carves the Superman symbol into this chest while stating “I’ve escaped from worse prisons than this…”.

#2 – Joker

JohnDouglas_Killing-Joke_4

Coming in at No.2 is none other than the Clown Prince of Crime himself, the Joker. Most people would ask how Joker doesn’t take the top spot and who could oust him for maniacal acts. Read on and you will see. The Joker really doesn’t need any explanation why he is up here but one example of his psychopathy comes from the Killing Joke story line by Alan Moore. In this story Joker has taken it upon himself to prove that anybody can turn into him if they have one bad day. The entire story is based around the fact that you could take the sanest person alive and give them one bad enough day, and they would turn into the Joker. During this story, Joker decides to target (arguably) Batman’s greatest ally, Commissioner Jim Gordon. When the Commissioner is at his daughter’s house for their weekly Sunday meal, Joker arrives and knocks on the door. When Barbara opens the door, Joker proceeds to shoot her through the abdomen and sever her spine, paralyzing her form the waist down. His goons assault and knock out Commissioner Gordon, and as they’re dragging him away the Joker really sets to work. In the story Joker strips Barbara naked while she continues to bleed on the ground and photographs her. I know myself and many others believed an assault to have taken place during this scene as well; however, writer Alan Moore has since clarified that nothing of that nature takes place. Regardless, he photographs her and she lies helpless in her own blood and leaves her. He takes the Commissioner to an abandoned amusement park where he strips him and forces him to crawl on the ground as he continually shows him the photos of his brutalized daughter. Batman ends up arriving in time to save Jim and Jim tells Batman to “…bring him in by the book”, showing that the Joker had failed. This comic also has one of the most controversial endings of all time with enough ambiguity to imply several different interpretations. This isn’t one of Joker’s most brutal examples with a high body count but it goes to show just how unhinged the Joker really is as a villain. For some truly despicable acts, Joker by Brian Azzarello, is the graphic novel you need to read.

#1 – Carnage

Carnage_(2)

Ranking in at No.1 is none other than Carnage, the “Child” of the Venom symbiote that bonded with notorious serial killer Cletus Kasady. Kasady exhibited his psychopathic tendancies from an early age. His first human kill was when he was 6 and he purposefully tripped his grandmother so she would fall down the stairs. He goes on to say that the resounding crack of her neck snapping was one of the happiest moments of his life, and that his only regret was that he had to wait five hours for his mother to get home and cook him dinner. He graduated to watching his mother get beat within an inch of her life, torturing the family dog in the tub with a power drill, attempting to murder his mom by throwing a hair dryer into the tub while she was bathing and killing the disciplinarian of the boys home he was in. From there he burnt down the boys home (possibly killing dozens) and pushing a girl in front of a bus after she laughed at him for asking her on a date. By the time he was caught and put in Ryker’s he was convicted of 11 murders and bragged about dozens more. Then he became Carnage when his cell mate, Eddie Brock broke out when his symbiote returned to him. Brock’s symbiote left a piece behind which bonded with Kasady making him Carnage. Not only is Kasady a complete psychopath and a mass murderer but he also has grossed out the Joker with his ideals. In a crossover with Spider-Man, Joker and Carnage stumble upon each other and begin to fight. Carnage ridicules Joker for his ridiculously complex plans and tells him he knows nothing about killing.  Carnage goes on to say ” … slow and horrible deaths! What a monumental waste of time! The fun of killing, you moron, is in the immediacy! In hearing them beg for mercy as you stand over their bloody bodies…peeling off their skin!” The Joker is disgusted by this and actually says “BLECCHH! How utterly distasteful and gross too!” This also doesn’t even count when in Carnage USA Carnage forcibly took over an entire town and murdered several people including a little girl before taking control of the Avengers.

Carnage grosses out Joker

 

There you have it, those are my top 5 psychopaths in mainstream comics. Don’t agree with my list, let me know who you think deserves a spot in the top 5. See you next week!

Life Lessons to be Learned from Superheroes

I want to start this off by saying I love superheroes. I think that is a little obvious given my topic choice for the blog, but the main reason I care so much for superheroes and their stories, are the lessons they can teach. Whether it’s about standing by your friends, standing up for the weak, taking responsibility for your actions, or even just admitting when you’re wrong; superheroes can deliver these lessons time and time again.  Batman, Captain America, Spider-Man, Vision, Superman, Aquaman, Moon Knight, Ghost Rider, Wolverine, they all can demonstrate important values that should be emulated in everyday life. Take for example Steve Rogers aka Captain America, the scrawny kid from Brooklyn who became a household name around the world.

When Steve Rogers decided to enlist all he wanted to do was serve his country. He was rejected. Time and time again he would try and he got rejected every time based on his size and medical conditions. He persevered, until one last try when he met Dr. Erskine; and his whole world changed. In Captain America: The Fist Avenger, Dr. Erskine takes an interest in Rogers for the super soldier project due to his commitment. He asks him if he wants to enlist to kill Nazis, Steve responds with ” I don’t want to kill anybody, I don’t like bullies, I don’t care where they’re from”. Dr. Erskine gave Rogers a chance and beyond everyone else’s wildest dreams he was chosen for the project. The reasoning, ” A strong man who has always known power will lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows compassion”, this quote was delivered by Dr. Erskine when he was asked by Steve why he had chosen him. Captain America has carried this with him his entire life and it continues to be a large part of his character (up until he is revealed to be a secret hydra agent?) we’ll just forget about that part. Another great lesson that Captain America has taught us is to never give up. You could argue that every hero embodies this trait but hear me out first. During Infinity War, Thanos got the infinity gauntlet. Thanos is powerful enough as is, but give him the gauntlet with all the infinity stones and he become unstoppable. This is shown when all the heroes across the universe band together to stop him… and he mops the floor with them in 30 seconds flat. With the heroes strewn across the ground Thanos triumphantly declares himself the victor, and then something happened. Despite the loss of his shield, his team mates laid out on the ground before him, defeat staring him in the face, Captain America stood up. He stood in front of Thanos and declared that “as long as one man stands against you, you’ll never claim victory”.  Thanos mocks him by saying “Noble sentiments from one who is about to die”. Captain America stands, resolute, staring Thanos in the eyes and replies with ” I’ve lived my life by those words. They’re well worth dying for”. Bottom line is that Captain America stands for the impact one good man can have on history regardless of the odds stacked against him. Captain America is just one of many that stand as an inspiration for many, Peter Parker aka Spider-Man is another great example.

Peter Parker, brilliant, determined, courageous, nerd. Peter grew up in Queens and lived with his Aunt May and Uncle Ben due to the death of his parents at a very young age. He was very gifted in science but not so much in the athletic department. One day while on a trip to a science lab he was bitten by a radioactive spider. This spider bite re-wrote sections of his DNA giving him amazing spider like powers.  His origin is tragic and remains as one of the best backstories in comics today. Once bitten by the spider he was performing in a circus as an act to earn some extra cash (some relaunches change this to fighting in a wrestling ring to earn money). One night after performing, a criminal was racing towards the elevator located behind Peter and a security officer shouted for Peter to stop the criminal. Peter side stepped allowing the criminal to pass and told the security that it wasn’t his problem. The criminal then went on to shoot Peter’s uncle Ben, the closest thing he had to a father after his natural father’s death. Peter arrived just in time to witness his uncle’s death. He vowed to hunt down the man responsible for Ben’s death and to make him pay. One of the last things his uncle had said to him was “With great power, comes great responsibility”, this mantra is known by every Spider-Man fan and is uttered by the character many times over his run in comics and mass media. When Peter hunts down the man responsible for killing his uncle Ben he hesitates and ends up letting the criminal go because he knew vengeance was not the answer. He decided at that moment to don the Spider-Man persona and fight crime so that what happened to his uncle would never happen to anyone else. One of the worst tragedies to befall Peter was during Amazing Spider-man #121, when Green Goblin had kidnapped Peter’s girlfriend Gwen Stacy. In an effort to force Spider-Man to make a difficult decision, to stop Goblin or save Gwen, Goblin throws Gwen off of a bridge. Peter quickly shoots a web line catching Gwen around her middle and pulls to stop her fall. When Peter pulls Gwen up he realizes that the force from him pulling her to stop her fall had snapped her neck. Peter is distraught over the whole ordeal and it stands as his single greatest failure. Peter blames himself for what happened to Gwen, which further cements what his uncle Ben told him, with great power comes great responsibility. Peter is a shining example that if you have the ability to do something you have the responsibility to do it and to own it if it doesn’t work out. Moving over to the DC comics side of things, a hero who stands as a symbol for many, Batman.

Bruce Wayne was born into one of the richest families in the world, the Waynes. Their fortune was made primarily on various technological innovations along with some weapon and medical advancement. When he was 8 years old he and his parents had gone to see the Mark of Zorro at the Monarch Theater in Park Row, also known as Crime Alley. It started to rain so the family decided to cut through an alley and everything changed. A man (later revealed to be Joe Chill) was waiting in the alley and shot Thomas and Martha Wayne over a wallet and a pearl necklace. Young Bruce watched his parents die in front of him forever scarring him and changing him into the boy who would eventually become Batman. Bruce travels the world for many years learning every form of martial arts and detective skills. He returns to Gotham taking up the mantle of Batman and beginning his crusade against the criminals of the city. One of the coolest aspects of Batman is that he stands as an ideal rather than a physical person. Yes, he is a physical person in the sense of someone has to be out there in the skin tight armour fighting the good fight, but it doesn’t always have to be Bruce. In both, Battle for the Cowl and Knightfall, Bruce was incapacitated in one form or another. This opened the gates for other worthy successors to become Batman. Azrael took the mantle up in Knightfall while Bruce healed, and while he fought his way back through time after Final Crisis, Dick had taken up the cowl because there always has to be a Batman in Gotham.  One of the reasons Batman is so relatable is that while he is considered a superhero, he has no actual powers to speak of. For all intents and purposes Batman is just a man, a man with billions of dollars of gadgets and gear, and trained to peak human perfection, but just a man none the less. He stands as a testament to what you can become if you set your mind to something and are determined to see it through.

Batman
Never Give Up

These heroes remain as some of the greatest teaching utensils of core values and consequences. Whether it’s being a good person, taking responsibility for your abilities or becoming who you want to be through determination, I (and many others) have learned plenty from our heroes. I would wager that for most people aged 18 -30, we learned more about being a good person from fictional characters than we ever did in a classroom.

Ethically/Morally Difficult Choices In Comics

Comic books, whether they be DC or Marvel or any imprint in between, have been utilizing their ability to discuss hot button topics to the greater population. From DC comics tackling drug habits with the Green Lantern/Green Arrow story arc of Snowbirds Don’t Fly, to Iron Man’s Demon In A Bottle story arc from Marvel which tackles alcoholism  and its effects, to the most recent Marvel event Civil War 2; comics have brought everyday struggles to the forefront.  Probably the most recurring theme in comics, besides the struggle between good and evil, is the making of ethically and morally grey choices. Each company has made characters that toe this line as a profession: Red Hood, Punisher, Rorschach, Deadpool, Moon Knight, and Wolverine to just name a few.

One of the most prevalent examples of this kind of choice comes from the Remender run on Uncanny X-Force. In this run the X-Force is tasked with killing the reincarnated version of Apocalypse, one of their big bads. The problem with this mission, the reincarnated Apocalypse is just a small boy named Evan. When the team finally learns all of the facts surrounding their mission it divides them down the middle. Half of them believe that the child has done nothing wrong and therefore doesn’t deserve death, the other half believe that the mere fact he is capable of such evil is enough to warrant the hit. An argument breaks out between Deadpool and Wolverine on what should be done. During the argument, team member Fantomex, “takes care of the problem” as he puts it so nobody else would have to deal with that on their conscience. Deadpool is understandably upset and admits that he is a soulless, money hungry, good for nothing mercenary but he also adds ” I’ve never killed a kid”.

The guilt weighs on Fantomex so much that without the team knowing he clones Evan and raises him on a secret farm. When Fantomex dies on  a mission the team finds the farm and the reincarnated Evan.  While Evan did have some close calls with the darkness within him he ultimately held on to the teachings of his “father”, enough so to earn him an acceptance to the School for Gifted Mutants.  Deadpool visits Evan in his dorm room and they have a very heart to heart chat. Deadpool tells Evan to stop referring to himself as Apocalypse because that’s not who is. Evan thanks Deadpool and tells him that ” at my lowest point.. you were the hero that showed up to save me”, this comment leaves Deadpool at a loss for words because nobody has ever called him a hero before. Deadpool ends the encounter in a fashion that only he could, by stealing the meditation book recommended by Wolverine and leaving porno mags as he shouts ” I left you something you’ll get more use out of!”

This type of dilemma is becoming more and more mainstream in comics as more and more laws are being questioned in our own societies. The arc from Civil War 2 by Marvel deals with preemptive strikes as well as their consequences. A brief rundown of the Bendis run is as follows: A new Inhuman named Ulysses is given the power of foresight. Nobody knows how accurate his visions are but Ms. Marvel and a group of fellow Avengers don’t want to take that chance, so they use the visions to launch a counter attack. Their first strike puts them against Thanos, the big bad that the MCU has been alluding to for the past 5 years, and it does not go the way they want it to. It ends with She-Hulk taking a rocket to the chest and ending up in a coma and War Machine getting punched full force by Thanos and severing his spine. Despite the casualties the team prevails and defeats Thanos. This doesn’t bode well with Iron Man as his best friend has been murdered on an unsanctioned mission. The entire event comes out of the statement Steve Rogers made when shown project Insight in the Winter Soldier movie “I thought the punishment came after the crime”. Iron Man and his side believe that Ulysses powers are too untested to use as a preemptive strike tool and Ms. Marvel and her side don’t want to risk innocent lives if something can be stopped before it starts.

An example of a dilemma experienced by a singular character would be the instance where Daredevil had the choice to shoot Punisher in the head or let the Punisher kill a gang of criminals. This hit hard for Daredevil because, as one of the most religious and conflicted characters in comics, he has a strict policy of no killing. To say he is a little messed up is an understatement, he is devoutly catholic but runs around in a red devil themed suit beating on criminals… Putting that aside, this stands as one of the biggest moments for the character of Daredevil. He has the chance to stop the Punisher with one pull of a trigger, but it would compromise everything he has come to know and believe in his entire life. Netflix’s Daredevil show did a great job of illustrating this interaction in Season 2. The interaction from the show comes with a line that will echo with Daredevil for the rest of his career through his numerous moments of doubting whether he is making a difference and if he should give in like the Punisher has. The line is delivered by the Punisher as he is preparing for an assault on the Dogs of Hell, he says ” …the difference between you and me is that when you hit them they get back up; when I hit them they stay down!”; to add insult to injury he then sits down and stares at Daredevil saying ” You’re one bad day away from being me”.  This alone causes Daredevil to questions his methods and his impact on the city he so much loves and is willing to die to protect.

There are so many examples of ethically ambiguous choices in comics that I can’t hope to mention them all, but rest assured that most of them causing some sort of title wide event that will change their respective universes at its conclusion.

Is my Smart TV Spying on Me?

First guest post!

This post comes from Kyle Helm, from the Royal Military College of Canada. Kyle is currently working on his Master’s in Computer Engineering with particular emphasis on Computer and Network Security.

 

Is my Smart TV Spying on me?

 

The answer is probably not, let me explain…recent headlines have naturally been full of doom and gloom but one that caught my eye (and many others) was the most recent WikiLeaks publication under the title of “Vault 7”, this leak while certainly substantial may not be the earth-shattering news that some seem to think it is.

 

What you may have heard or read already are things like “The CIA has bugged all Samsung Smart-TVs” or “The CIA is spying on Americans everywhere” or some such headline that makes it sound like everything with an electrical current may be watching you. I think it is important to say right now that you can ignore all of these headlines, or YouTube videos etc because well frankly they are bull-shit.

 

So what did get leaked? Well it amounts to essentially part of (a large part) of the CIA’s toolbox in the field commonly referred to as “hacking”. Tools, exploits, and other content that is used to (a) compromise a target, (b) solidify control of that target, (c) Maintain command and control of that target and a variety of helper tasks that all boil down to gaining intel from a target which is somehow networked or computerized whether that be a one time exfil of files, using that device to monitor the physical world, using that device as a stepping stone to another device, damaging a device or operation, or simply setting up a way in for later if they do decide they want something. Now all of this may sound scary to those that do not have real exposure to Computer and Network Security, but really it is all pretty standard fare and no need to panic.

 

So “hacking” what is it? Well it sure as shit isn’t what you see in the movies and on TV with someone on either side and whoever can type faster wins (what it is not http://www.hackertyper.com/ ). Really it is hundreds of hours of careful study of software, networks and systems looking for vulnerabilities. A vulnerability being a way in which is a result of someone not setting something up properly (you should really not keep default passwords on things), or it may be something wrong with a piece of software (say some server software such as a web-server) that can potentially be exploited. These vulnerabilities when found vary in their value depending on what they are, do they let us take complete control of the box, or just maybe let us crash the box, or even just the vulnerable component? or anywhere in between. This means that when you find a vulnerability in a piece of current software (for example let us say you found a vulnerability in the latest version of Windows 10 that lets you steal Administrator privileges from being a simple user) that knowledge both of it’s existence and how to exploit it is worth more than gold. You cannot simply tell everyone because then Microsoft finds out and they patch it, now your exploit is near worthless. What all this boils down to is teams of people that work in this domain hoard these things for their own use (or sell them to the highest bidder), they want to find their own vulnerabilities, build their own exploits and their own specialized set of tools. This toolbox is what was leaked, which in essence shows us a list of capabilities that the CIA has within this domain. If you dove into any intelligence agency (Canada’s CSE for example) or even some of the more sophisticated organized crime groups you would find much of the same.
So back to the original question, am I being watched? Well to be honest I cannot answer that for certain, I don’t know who you are, what you have done, where you are, etc. What I can say is that this leak is comprised of a list of capabilities and no indication of how, when, or where those capabilities have been or will be employed. What I can also say is that the CIA is focused in foreign intelligence, and is not permitted to conduct operations on American soil. By that mandate yes they can have assets in the US, and servers which they employ as they reach out to conduct operations but they cannot bring those capabilities to bear against targets in the US. So to the question of am I being watched, well I do not know for sure but unless you are living outside of the US and could reasonably pose a threat to the US, its interests or its allies then probably not. At least not by the CIA.

Prologue

The elevator hummed as it neared the top floor.

The General took a deep breath; the future of humanity in the intergalactic conclave rested on his ability to persuade the council. The door slid open and the aide to senator Galian stood waiting for him.

“Good evening General, Are you ready to enter the chamber?”

“May I have a moment please?” the general asked quietly.

“Certainly, but I caution you don’t take too long, the council does not like to be kept waiting.” The aide said as he turned and walked into the council chamber. The general turned to look out of the window. The conclave’s council chamber was located on the top of the tallest spire in the massive citadel. The citadel spanned what seemed like the entire horizon, but in reality it was only 200 km2. Which is still massive compared to anything on earth, but then again they weren’t on earth.

The citadel was built by the Carians, a race of space travelers whose physiology closely resembles that of a lion.  Each Carian stands roughly nine feet tall, they have muscular arms and legs, their hands and feet end in sharp retractable claws and their mane of hair flows down to their shoulders. Their body is covered in a very fine fur that keeps them warm even on the coldest planets.  The Carians are considered to be the bravest warriors in the entire galaxy. In battle they fight to the last man, they will never give up and they will never surrender, in schools the children are taught to equate them with the Spartans of ancient Earth. As the general stared out over the citadel, he recalled the battle that brought humanity to the grim realization that they were not alone in the galaxy.

He was just a sergeant at the time, in charge of training the new recruits, on Beta Earth, in extravehicular combat in zero gravity; they were in the middle of a training exercise when the first ship appeared. They were sleek and black in colour, very metallic looking, which gave credence to their origin as synthetic species. The ships began shooting at the orbital defense canons and the fighter launch hangars of the training grounds of the facility. They demolished with very little opposition. They used an unknown form of technology to make a subspace jump into the atmosphere of the planet, thus rendering the satellite defense platforms useless. They started with the major defensible positions and then moved to the barracks. They used underground, aerial and land assaults to overwhelm the defenders before they even had an idea of what was going on. The attackers looked like machines, but their bodies appeared to be a liquid. They moved with a grace equated to deer as they bound through the woods, and their shape never stayed the same. The only thing that was constant in their form was a large metallic weapon that looked to be, somehow, grafted to their liquid frame. He and his men were returning from a field training exercise when they stumbled upon the attack.  They watched as their friends were cut down in front of their eyes by an overwhelming force, like a dark metallic wave was washing the base clean. He grabbed his men and hid behind the mess hall. They all looked at him wondering what was going on. Their eyes were filled with sadness and confusion; they looked to him for guidance.

“I don’t know who or what is attacking us boys, but I do know this, they picked the wrong planet! They think that we’ll just lay down and let them wash us clean off the face of this planet? I say we show them what humans are made of”! He hissed as he hefted his weapon.

“But Sarge, the only weapons we have are training rifles with blanks, we don’t have anything that can hurt…whatever they are…” the medic said meekly.

“First thing’s first, we can’t kick ass without our ass kicking gear. Wolfe, I want you Michaels and Brown to get to the armory and bring us back all the weapons, ammo and ordinance you can find.”

“HOO RAH SARGE!” they whispered as they skirted around the mess hall building and bee lined it for the armory.

“We need to find out where these things are weakest so we can kill them”. He told his men as they peered around the corner looking to find a dying alien.

“Got one Sarge! He’s still kicking, but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere” the rookie said as he and the corporal dragged the alien over. As they dragged the invader, over they could finally get a good look at them. Their body was indeed liquid, but they appeared to be encased in some sort of armour that held them in a solid form and allowed for the attachment of the weapon to the right forearm. The face is what intrigued the sergeant the most, it didn’t have any features. It was a swirling blob of metal, no eyes or nose or mouth. He pulled his knife out of its sheath with a click; it would appear the creature heard the click because it started flailing it’s arms and writhing on the ground.

“Hold it down boys”! The sarge hissed at the men watching the alien writhe on the ground. Four of them jumped forward and held the alien down, one on each appendage as the sergeant approached. The sergeant used the tip of his knife to poke the armour that held the creature together; he discovered his knife slipped right through it as if he was slicing through butter at Thanksgiving dinner. As the tip of the blade touched the swirling metallic liquid inside the armour, the creature let out a very high pitched screech. “SHUT IT UP BEFORE IT ATTRACTS MORE”! The sergeant hissed at his men. His men looked at each other confused; the creature had no mouth so they had no idea where the screech was coming from.  Eventually, Jenkins, the one holding the arm with the weapon attached to it, held his hand on the face where the mouth should have been and the screeching quieted but it did not stop. The sergeant pulled the knife out of the alien’s armour and the screeching stopped altogether. “We can hurt them boys! Get in close if you have to and use your knife, but they bleed when you cut them! Which means they can die!” he pointed down as he said this, the metallic looking liquid was oozing out of the hole and onto the ground.  The liquid appeared to shimmer with ever colour but when looked at it directly it appeared a very dark grey. Jenkins stood up and looked at the alien as it lay on the ground bleeding from the wound the sergeant had made, he stepped over it letting the sweat drip off his chin. As some of his sweat hit the ground a drop of it landed on what was oozing out of the alien, there was a sizzling sound and some foul smelling smoke as the ooze bubbled until it was gone.

“What did you do Jenkins?!” Sarge asked astonished.

“Nothing Sarge! I swear! I just stepped over it!” Jenkins said defensively.

“You didn’t put anything on it or drop anything on it?!” Sarge inquired.

“I mean, maybe some of my sweat dripped onto it, but that’s it” Jenkins said.

“Rollins!”

“Sarge!” Rollins replied

“Give me your canteen!”

“Sure thing Sarge” Rollins said as he handed over his canteen. The sergeant unscrewed the top of the canteen and poured some water over the wound he had caused with his knife. To his amazement, the creature began to writhe on the ground with its limbs flailing. The weapon that was attached to its arm started to fire as the creature flailed.

“Jenkins! Stop that arm from moving…” the sarge yelled but even as the words left his mouth he saw the weapon point at him. He could feel the shot hit him, it seared through him, like a hot coal through ice; clean cut no shrapnel. The shot imbedded into the wall behind him for a couple of seconds and then disintegrated into dust. He dropped to his knees and keeled over onto his face. Blood began pumping out of his body at an alarming rate; with every heartbeat he could feel it leaving his body. He was rolled over onto his back by Jenkins, he yelled for the medic; as he tried to stifle the bleeding, but the Sarge knew it was no good. He had sent the medic to the armoury to grab them weapons and he could feel he wouldn’t last much longer. Jenkins tried to stop the bleeding as much as he could, but it seemed to do as much good as trying to stop a colander with your hands. The blackness was clouding his vision, he rolled his head to see Rollins taking the knife to the alien and tearing into it like a rabid dog. The alien finally stopped flailing and layed still, Rollins emptied the rest of his canteen onto the corpse and watched as it sizzled and bubbled. Sarge was snapped back into alertness by Jenkins, who had injected him with a shot of adrenaline out of his field pack. This brought pain, pain he had never experienced before, a white searing pain that was non diminishing, that seemed to intensify as pressure was applied to the wound.

“Stop Jenkins!” the Sarge managed to say. “Just stop, help is not coming; you’re going to have to find a way to do this without me.”

“Don’t say that! Michaels will be back soon and he’ll patch you up, just you wait.” Jenkins promised.

“I’m done son, I’m tired of fighting, I’ve fought all my life, and it’s time I let go.” He could feel the darkness coming back with a vengeance his vision clouded; he could feel cold hands gripping him. He looked up and he could see a doorway covered in a curtain emerge out of the black. He tried to get a bearing of his surroundings, but it was just pitch black, no light except for the glow the doorway gave off. He began to walk towards the doorway, each step he took he could hear different moments from his past. He heard his parents calling him for dinner on his sixth birthday, he heard his older sister saying her graduation speech and he even heard his grandfather telling him how proud he was of him for enlisting.  As he got closer and closer to the doorway it got colder and colder, he could see his breath rising in the air before him and he felt like he was suffocating under ice. As he neared the doorway a hand reached through to grab him. When it made contact with his skin he felt a sharp pain and the sound of an aerosol can, he looked around and the hand retreated back into the veil. Suddenly, everything came back, all the light, the colour, the smell of blood and dirt and the pain. That unbearable pain that he felt; when Jenkins was putting pressure on his wound. He felt a sharp sting in his leg and the pain started to leave, like the ocean tide as it retreats back into the vast sea. He turned his head to see Michaels standing above him, a can of quick clot foam in his hand.

“Please tell me you didn’t waste the quick clot and morphine on me, Michaels…” Sarge whispered as he layed on the ground.

“We need you Sarge, more than you know.” Michaels replied in a quiet tone. “Let me finish patching you up before we do anything stupid” he added as the Sarge attempted to stand. Michaels went to work with his med kit. He stuffed the wound with extra quick clot powder, covered it in a waterproof bandage and then wrapped it in gauze. It wasn’t pretty, but it would do. As Michaels finished patching the sarge up he stood up and faced his men.

“What do we do now sarge?” Rollins asked as he stared at him

“We are going to take back this base! We are going to break these aliens here and now. We will send them back to where ever they came from and WE WILL BE VICTORIOUS!” The Sarge stated

“But there are so many of them! They’re unstoppable. They took out the entire corps, what are we going to be able to do?” Jenkins said defeated as the rest of them murmured in agreement.

Sarge sighed as he looked at their faces. “I’m not going to lie to you; it’s not going to be easy. We are outmanned and we have no knowledge of the enemy. We will fight, we are the only ones standing on this rock to stop them from conquering, and we might not make it. But we will not give an inch, we will stand where the others have fallen, I have faith in you men, I have faith that we will prevail. And as long as we have faith in each other, we can win.” His men looked at him again, the defeat on their faces replaced with cold hard resolve. Even in the face of certain death, they never lost their faith in him. “Alright boys, what kind of ordnance are we looking at?”

“We grabbed everything we could Sarge, a lot of it was untouched. It didn’t look like anyone had been there. They must’ve been killed before they knew what was going on.” Brown stated. “We got a rifle, two pistols, 6 extra mags, 4 grenades and a tactical knife apiece. We have 2 shotguns between the 5 of us as well as 2 grenade launchers with 12 rounds each. We have a Kevlar vest each as well as optics and radios.”

“Alright boys… Let’s go to war!” Sarge stated as he racked the slide on a pistol.

“HOO RAH!” was the resounding cry as they all suited up. Sarge gave the sign for radio silence as they moved out around the side of the building. He peeked around the corner to see what they were dealing with. Most of the aliens had disappeared, there were at least 30 still picking through the carnage around the base. He spied an overturned supply truck and motioned for everyone to follow him. They moved swift but with very little sound, it only took 15 seconds for all 5 of them to cover the open ground between them and the truck.

“Alright, we know that knives hurt them and water really messes with their shit, so put your bayonets on and keep your knives close. We’re going to go with 2 squads, one squad to my left and one to my right; I’ll go straight up the middle.  Each squad takes a shotgun and a grenade launcher. Use the launcher sparingly; make sure there is at least 2 in the kill zone before you fire. Ill head over to the water tower and drop that son of a bitch on their heads. Standard attack procedure, staggered fire and when you have to reload drop to the ground. Only use the shotguns if they get close, they’re loaded with 12 gauge buckshot, so they should punch a nice hole right through them. Don’t get hit by their weapons, you saw what one shot did to me; DO NOT get caught in the open, use the bodies as cover if you have to. We know they can feel pain and we know they can bleed, this means that they can die.” He paused as he looked at each of them individually and nodded. “I want you all to know that it has been an honour to have trained you men and to fight by your side.” He put his hand into the center of the circle. Each of them put their hand on top of his in turn. “Through Blood and Sand…” he whispered to them.

“We will prevail!” they all replied in unison. With that, they broke into their squads and spread out across the battlefield taking cover behind overturned vehicles.

“Radio check!” Sarge barked over the radio.

“One good! Two good!” was the reply from Jenkins and Michaels.

“Three good! Four good!” came the reply from Rollins and Brown.

“Comms are reading five by five” Sarge replied. “Everyone grab a target make sure there’s no overlapping, but hold your fire. Two clicks of the comm when you have a target.” eight clicks resonated through the comm link and the Sarge knew the men were ready. “I’ll start this off; wait till you hear my shot before you open up.” Sarge warned as he hefted his rifle. He picked his target; he could see it clearly in his scope. It was beside a blown out barracks picking through the corpses of his fallen brothers and tossing them aside looking for something. He took a breath in to center his crosshair on the alien’s head, or what would’ve been the head if it had a face, and squeezed the trigger. He felt the recoil of the rifle and watched as the round tore through the alien’s head. There was a scream and the alien fell to the ground and began flailing. He heard 4 distinct other shots and saw 4 other aliens drop. “Weapons free! Let ‘em have it!” he shouted. He started forward at a jog, popping rounds off at any alien he could see. As he ducked to reload he heard his men opening up and shouting “GET SOME!” as alien after alien dropped. As knelt to reload he couldn’t help but think that this battle sounded an awful lot like the great displays of fireworks they used to have in the U.S.A of the old earth. He’d seen video recordings of them in school, but nobody had celebrated like that for a long time. He popped back up and started running towards the water tower, he could see three aliens in front of him and they had turned to face him, he grabbed a grenade from the back of the vest where he had tucked them. He pulled the pin and pushed the primer button, then he threw it at their feet as he continued running forward firing his rifle. One of the aliens looked down at the grenade and a screeched in anger. The grenade exploded and rendered them into a silvery grey mist. Sarge reached the water tower and turned around to see the last of the aliens fall to the ground.

“Looks like we don’t need to water after all Sarge!” Rollins shouted from his position at the blown out barracks. As Rollins turned to check that there were none sneaking up on him, the one that Sarge had tagged to start the fray off stood up and pointed its weapon at Rollins.

“GUN!” was all the Sarge had time to say before he watched Rollins get ripped to shreds by the mysterious rounds from the rifle. The rest of them emptied their mags into the resurrected alien just to be sure it was actually dead. Michaels was sprinting over to Rollins to check on his status. The sarge dropped the emptied mag out of his rifle and watched it hit the ground. As he saw it fall into the dirt he noticed some of the silvery grey liquid the aliens were made of sliding across the ground to one of the dead ones. It filled the bullet hole in the chest and it began to move and get up.

“They aren’t dead! Blow them up! Sarge yelled as he fumbled for a new mag on his vest. He spun his rifle around so the bayonet was pointed at the alien and drive the bayonet through its face. He looked up and to his horror all the aliens they thought were dead began to move and start to rise. He loaded a fresh mag and began shooting them as they started to stagger up to their feet. “MICHAELS! DROP THE WATER TOWER WITH THE GRENADE LAUNCHER! NOW!” Sarge shouted over the comms.

“But Sarge you’re in the blast radius!” Michaels warned.

“DO IT NOW OR WE ALL DIE!” Sarge barked back.

Michaels Raised the grenade launcher and squeezed off two rounds at the support beams of the water tower. Sarge felt the intense heat from the high explosive rounds and was thrown from his feet into the bushes 15 meters away. The water tower tipped and then collapsed, causing a veritable tsunami of water onto the battlefield. The water washed over all the bodies, human and alien alike. There was an ear splitting screech that pierced the air as the aliens began to bubble and sizzle. Michaels, Brown and Jenkins were knocked from their feet and the force of the water knocked the sergeant unconscious as he was thrown around like a rag doll. The men stood up and coughed over the smell the aliens made as they dissolved; then splashed through the water until they found the sergeant face down in the water. Michales flipped him over immediately and checked to make sure he was breathing. To his astonishment the sergeant opened his eyes and smiled.

“Good thing there’s no brass left on the base.” The Sarge said with a wry smile. “They’d have your ass for hesitating to follow a superior’s orders.”

“I think you have a concussion…” Michaels laughed as he sat the sarge up.

“Well one thing is for sure” sarge said as he plugged his nose. “They’re definitely dead now.” They all laughed in unison until they heard a noise in the buses behind them. They all whipped around, Sarge having lost his weapon when he was thrown quickly drew his knife, and aimed at the source of the noise.

“We know you’re there! Come out now!” Sarge shouted towards the bushes. They were amazed to see a giant lion like creature walk out of the bushes and face them.

“I mean you no harm.” The creature said to the team

“What the fuck are you?!” Michaels shouted.

“I am a scout from the Carian battle cruiser Pride and Justice. I was sent to scout the battlefield before our combat force arrived.”

“So you’re an alien too?!” Brown asked as he moved is finger onto the trigger.

“My species is at war with this affliction and has been for quite some time.”

“Affliction? Are these aliens that we killed today a disease?” Sarge asked.

“They are not of my species’ creation” the scout replied. “They are from the blackness that births all other darkness.”

“Very poetic… wait a minute. If you’re alien how can we understand you?” Jenkins asked.

“We have a tiny machine that is implanted in our throat that acts as a universal translator. This allows us to communicate with all forms of life.” The scout replied.

“Alright then. One last question… Can we trust you?” Sarge asked.

“You have nothing to fear from me.” The Scout replied.

“Stand down men. He’s obviously not here to kill us; he could’ve done that when we were all standing in the water.” Sarge said.

“Are you the only scout here?” Brown asked.

“Yes I am.” The Carian replied.

“You’re a huge space faring civilization and you only send one scout to an entire planet? Seems like you guys need to learn some things…” Brown laughed.

“You misunderstand me; I tracked your radio signal from orbit and found you.”

“Our radios are encrypted against every type of signal we know of.” Brown stated.

“But not every signal my people know of.” The Scout replied.

“That still doesn’t explain why you would only send one scout to an entire planet.” Brown replied snidely.

“ Yours was the only signal I detected that was not of their origin.” The scout stated pointing at one of the dead aliens.

“You mean to tell me that we’re the only people with radios on the entire planet?!” Jenkins inquired.

“No, I mean to tell you that you’re the only life form on this planet that is not of their creation.” The scout replied. The team all looked at one another; they all had a look of horror on their faces. The sarge was the one to ask the question that none of them would.

“Are we the only ones alive on the planet?”

“Yes.” The Carian responded. “Come with me to my ship and you will get the answers you seek. You will also be able to contact your people to let them know what happened here. My commander will want to speak with the leader of your planet immediately.” The sergeant looked at the men, they all looked right back at him and nodded. He turned to the Carian and with conviction he said.

“Lead the way my friend.”