“Home … finally home.” Galon smiled as he stood at the gate, he could feel the tears rising in his eyes. He took a deep breath and forced them back, “Not yet.” He took another deep breath, smelled the sweet fruit hanging off the trees, the crisp freshness of the tea flowers. The trees surrounding the house looked more like a forest. The new trees from last year were growing fast. “Only eight months.” he whispered. He looked at their grey stone brick house, his lips automatically curled into a smile. The door was still white. “She wanted to paint it red like the deck.”
Mira opened the door and stepped onto the deck, closed her eyes and took a deep breath of the cool morning air. She looked to the gate and saw Galon, standing outside, waiting, smartly dressed in his uniform, the buttons shiny, white gloves covering his big hands. The white trim of his beret and collar giving perfect contrast to his dark face and black uniform.
They caught each others eye, stared. The smiles started slowly. Maybe this was just another dream.
Mira blanked back tears, took a couple of deep breaths, and couldn't stop breathing hard. Her hesitant smile turned broad and beaming. She started running. Barefoot, it didn't matter. Her red skirt flying too high, her white blouse only half buttoned, her hair still a mess from the night's restless sleep, none of it mattered.
Galon stood frozen, “Is it real this time?”
He reached for the latch, pulled it and pushed the gate open.
Mira slammed into Galon at full run. Her head barely came up to his chest, her arms hardly reached around his large torso, but she hugged him so hard he couldn't breathe.
A little girl, Khloe, eight years old, still wearing her pajamas, stepped out onto the porch. She wiped a sleepy eye and looked to the flower garden, then to the gate.
“DADDY!”, she squealed, and began running to the gate, laughing and screaming, “DADDY! DADDY! DADDY!”, all the way. She wrapped her little arms around her parents.
Galon bent, picked her up, tossed her in the air “HO hooo I missed you.” he held her in his arms, kissed her cheek, hugged her and put her back on the ground. He hugged Mira again.
“I thought you weren't coming until tomorrow!” she laughed.
Galon laughed and held her hand as they walked the path back to the house. “I still got a good poker face sometimes.”
“What did you do Daddy!?”
“Ha haha, I won a seat on the first ship down in a poker game.”
“With a pair of kings.”
“Heehaha, I don't care I'm just glad you're home.”
Khloe let go of Galon's hand, ran the last couple of steps and opened the door. “Hurry Daddy, we got sweet oatmeal pancakes for breakfast.” she held the door while Galon and Mira went inside.
After breakfast Khloe attended class, while Mira and Galon enjoyed tea sitting on a bench on the deck.
“Nothing we can do out there.” Galon said.
“Those pirates got more firepower than us. No way we can win in a straight fight against 'em.”
“We need the new destroyers.” Mira sighed.
Galon sipped his tea, sighed, “Yeah. Those Goldenrod cruisers, they might be good scouts, but they're not warships.”
Mira finished her tea, got up with her cup, walked to the end of the deck, stepped off into the flower garden. “You want another?”
Galon finished his tea “Yeah, have you tried those purple ones?”
“Dark Orchid Bark?” Mira smiled “The ones you planted before you left? No.”
“They were ready a month ago. You haven't tried them yet?”
Mira picked several petals of a dark purple flower and dropped them in her cup. She picked several more, walked back to the bench and dropped them in Galon's cup. She picked up the kettle off the small table on her end and filled both cups with steaming water.
Galon raised his cup to take a sip as Mira sat. “Can't believe you haven't tried this yet.” He grinned “You ready.”
Mira grinned as she raised her cup and they took the first sip of a new tea together.
After a morning, and early afternoon of linking with old friends and finishing reports from the his mission, Galon waited nervously with Mira and Khloe.
Galon checked the translucent display showing in the left side of his vision, a map with a moving blue dot. “Just around the turn now.”
He looked out to the stone paved road winding through the forest. A car came around the turn on the left and stopped near the gate. One of the doors slid open and a dark skinned boy got out. About twelve, he was dressed in dirty overalls, rubber boots and a red checkered shirt. He carried a shovel in one hand and a bag in the other.
As the car sped away he walked slowly, head down to the gate, opened it, and then looked toward the house. “DAD!” He dropped the shovel and bag and ran to the deck, knocking his father back a step when they slammed together for a hug.
“Ho haha … You grew a lot, gotta lift my chin over your head when I hug you now.”
“You said you weren't coming until tomorrow!” Cai said laughing, and then hugged his father again.
“I know. But I managed to get a seat on the first ship down, and ...”
“He won it in a poker game!” Khloe interrupted excitedly.
Cai laughed, “Yo Dad!” and gave Galon an arm bump.
“Well you gonna tells us about your trip? How was it planting trees around Poison Lake?”
“My trip! What about your trip. I wanna know what it was like fightin' pirates for real!”
Galon laughed heartily. “Not even close to what its like in game. We spent most of our time waitin' for nothin' to happen.”
“Most of the time. What about the rest of the time.”
“Sleeping … and missing all o' you.”
The next morning Mira was sipping tea on the deck with Galon, “Cai and Khloe have classes all morning. I have to link with Command.”
Galon sighed, sipped his tea, smiled “Gonna go meet Jimmy, do some fishin', maybe catch enough trout for lunch.”
Mira smiled “Ugh … I'm so jealous. But after six months being on duty every day ...”
Galon laughed “Oh yeah, been lookin' forward to this. And more fishin' with Cai this afternoon.”
After Galon left Mira refilled her cup “PAL-Mira link with Command, Lutetia Defense Regiment morning briefing, three sixty video.”
A PAL, Personal Assistant and Library, was a computer and network connection, usually worn as an article of clothing, jewelry, or other accessory. Its connection to the nervous system allowed speech and images to be transmitted directly to appropriate organs. Images and videos could be shown in a display in the users field of vision, usually to one side and translucent so as not to block vision. Speech can be transmitted directly, and silently, to the ear. Its network connection allowed it access to planetary and interstellar cyberspace, and allowed communication with anyone else using a PAL.
Mira saw her video display fully enclose her field of vision. The, normally translucent images, became fully opaque. She was sitting in a large room with hundreds of other soldiers, all linked with their PAL.
Near the front of the room a Human male walked into view from the side. “Good morning everyone.”
A chorus of 'Good Mornings' sounded from the room.
“This morning I've got some great news. We've been contacted by a group of Monks from Beautiful Mountain, the two stars that orbit Lutetia. They live in a planet side hab near the equator. I'll send details on the planet, hab and monastery to your PALs. Recently some pirates threatened to take over their hab unless the Monks gave them the spices they grow, the Monks only source of income. They've been granted protected status by the Empire and we've agreed to send a defense force.”
The Human paused, drank from a cup “We'll be splitting the Regiment into the first and second Regiments. The Second Lutetia Defense Regiment will stay here for defense, training and recruitment. The First Lutetia Defense Regiment will go to Beautiful Mountain and form the initial defense force there.”
Mira sat leaned against the back of her bench, murmured “Oh wow.” as did many others in the room.
“Who's going in the First and Second Regiments?” someone asked.
“Yeah. How's that being decided?”
The Human male smiled “That's one of the things we'll be discussing today.”
During lunch Mira updated Galon.
“I shouldn't have taken the morning off, shoulda went to that briefing.” Galon shook his head and stabbed a piece of trout “We'll have to make sure we're not both in the First Regiment. One of us has to stay with the children.”
“You mean you're leaving again Daddy?” Khloe asked sadly.
“I don't know yet. We'll see.”
After lunch Galon was sitting on a log by the river with Cai. Fishing rods were stuck in the river bank, extending over the river, the lines dragged downstream as they waited for a bite. Three trout lay across the log between them.
What is that. Galon thought as he noticed a heat source behind a bush a little further upstream. For military service his eyes had been upgraded. Cybernetic receptors were embedded in his eyes expanded his vision to infrared and ultra violet.
He lowered his arm on the side away from Cai and dropped a fly bot from his sleeve.
Just hold there a minute, wait for the flies. When another horde of flies buzzed close, Galon used the noise to mask the launch of the fly bot. The dragon fly shaped bot snapped its wings out, took off, flew close the ground behind Galon and Cai and toward the bush. Galon watched its video feed on the left side of his vision. The fly bot flew over the bush. A young, light skinned girl with long red hair was sitting behind it, a back pack on the ground beside her. The fly bot detected a transmission from her, then one from Cai. Several more transmissions were exchanged.
She doesn't look familiar Galon thought, then asked “Any new families moved in?”
“Uh, yeah.” Cai replied “Human family down by the bend.”
“Have you met them?”
“Yeah, ahm … they have two daughters, older one same age as me.”
Galon smiled, the fly bot continued to detect transmissions, alternating between Cai and the girl. “What's her name?”
When Cai spoke the girl picked up the backpack and walked the few steps to the log.
“Hi.” she said and smiled broadly.
Cai said “Hi.” and smiled nervously while he stared at her.
The fly bot detected several transmissions between Cai and the girl, then Galon sent Cai a silent message “Shouldn't you introduce us?”
Cai nervously spoke “Ah yeah. Dad this is Derina. Derina this is my Dad, Galon.”
Galon stood and nodded in Derina's direction “A pleasure to meet you miss.”
Derina nodded toward Galon “And you sir.”
“Uh, yeah, we've been meeting here … fishing, for a couple of months.” Cai said.
Derina propped her backpack against the log and sat beside Cai.
“No fishing rod Derina?” Galon asked.
“Ah … no ...”
“We just use mine.” Cai answered.
The backpack fell over and the top fell open, revealing the contents, a small tent and blankets.
Galon laughed internally, picked up the trout “I'll get these to the fridge, make sure they don't spoil in the heat. Derina, could you please watch my line until I get back?”
“I would be happy to.”
“Thank you. I shouldn't be more than an hour or so.”
Galon walked home, to the kitchen, and put the trout in a bowl. He was about to clean them when Mira walked in.
“Done fishing already?”
“One of Cai's friends stopped by. I thought they might want some time together.”
Mira smiled “Derina?”
“Oh you know about her?”
“Not officially.” Mira chuckled “I've met her parents. They got the orchard down by the bend … and Derina is just as secretive as Cai.”
“And you didn't tell me yesterday?”
“I thought Cai might tell you today.”
Mira smiled and hugged Galon.
He chuckled as he hugged her back “Yeah, they were all set. Little tent barely big enough for one, couple of blankets ...” Galon sighed “Remember when we used to go fishin' like that?”
Mira's expression changed quickly, shock, fear, horror “YES! And you left them alone?”
Galon chuckled “Yeah. I thought they might ...”
Mira walked quickly to the door “Will you stop laughing and come with me!”
Early the next morning Galon learned he had been assigned to he Second Regiment, and Mira to the First.
“I just want to know who made this decision. I've been out there, I've got experience, you can't send ...”
Galon's video was in three sixty mode showing him standing in front of another soldier in the Regimental Command Centre. The soldier he was speaking to interrupted “I know, and some of you are going and some of you have to stay and share your experiences with the new people.”
Galon sighed in frustration, rubbed his forehead with his hand “Henry, you can't send Mira, what if something happens, what if ...”
Again Henry interrupted “And what if something happens to you?”
Mira tried to interrupt, Galon ignored it.
Mira sent Henry a link request, he granted permission and Mira appeared standing beside him.
She stood beside Henry, arms folded and glared at Galon “Thank you for your time Corporal Noonan. We're happy with your assignment decision.”
“Well it wasn't my ...”
“I'll discuss it later with the Lieutenant!” Galon interrupted and cut the video feed. He was standing in the living room, beside the window looking out to the road. A few minutes later Mira entered and stood beside him.
Galon looked at her “What if something happens to you!”
“Do you think I didn't feel the same when you went. And you left on a combat mission, you went looking for a fight! I'm just going to set a communications system and build defenses.”
They stood silently for a few seconds, then slowly embraced, hugging harder every second.
Supper that evening was a picnic by the river with freshly picked juice pears and meal pods.
Khloe picked one of the long brown meal pods from a plate and a juice pear from a basket “You went all the way to the lake to get juice pears?”
The small, pear shaped fruit fit snugly in her hand, she bit the top off, crushed the soft flesh against the roof of her mouth with her tongue and swallowed it. She put the top in her mouth, tilted her head back and let the delicious juice drain into her mouth.
“That is soooo delicious. Aren't you going to have one Cai?”
“I'm not hungry.”
“It's juice. It's for thirst.”
“Don't you remember the last time we had a picnic like this?”
“Last month for your thirteenth birthday.”
“No! With all four of us … was when Dad told us he was going away for six months. So I guess you're leavin' again?”
Galon cleared his throat “No … no. I won't be going anywhere.”
“I'll be going ...” Mira said “... for a while.”
“What!” Khloe threw her juice pear the the ground “You can't! Dad just got home, you can't leave now.”
“Honey, I know how you feel.”
Khloe jumped to her feet “You don't know, Nan and Pop never left you. How could you know how I feel?” and she ran down the path leading home.
“KHLOE!” Mira yelled and got up.
“Hold on Mira. Give her a minute.” Galon said.
Mira ignored him and followed Khloe down the path “Khloe! Khloe wait for me.”
Galon sighed, looked at Cai sitting across from him on the blanket. He picked a juice pear from the basket and bit off the top. Cai did the same. They drank some of the juice.
“How long will Mom be gone?”
“They're still working out the details, about a year.”
Galon drank the rest of his juice, picked a meal pod from the plate, the taste of sizzling meat oozed over his tongue.
When Mira got home she found Khloe in her bedroom. Mira sat on the bed beside her.
“You can't go. Who's going to braid my hair?”
Mira smiled “Daddy knows how to braid your hair.”
“Yeah but he pulls on it.”
Mira smiled and hugged her “I'll teach him how to do it right.”
Khloe hugged her mom back “That's not all I'm going to miss about you.”
“I know, and I'm going to miss you too. A lot.”
Tears started to roll down Khloe's cheeks. She sniffed a few sobs “You're going to stop the pirates from taking everything again … I guess you being gone for a while is better than another hungry dry season.”
Nine days later, the night before leaving, the First Lutetia Defense Regiment had gathered at a warehouse near Military Command. The warehouse, across the street from the barracks they'd been assigned for the night, was being used as a mess hall and pub by the Regiment. All eight hundred had gathered for a last drink before leaving.
“No drinkin' on board a warship. What kinda bloody rule is that.” Complained Corporal Skanes, and he drank several gulps from a large stein.
“No intoxicating substances.”
“What's the worry. Our new med bots can take care of it. Got to personally see 'em at work the last few days … can stop bleeding no matter how bad, stop disease before it gets a chance to start, and, give it a med pack over a wound, can heal anything in a day or two.” Corporal Skanes took another gulp.
Mira sipped from her glass of red wine, looked about the warehouse turned pub. A long line of crates had been set up to serve as a bar, the beer was served room temperature from kegs. Steins and glasses were still packed in boxes, being taken out when needed. There were no chairs, crates were stacked on end randomly around the floor and were being used as tables. The entire First Regiment was there … eight hundred … the warehouse was nearly full. Many were meeting in person for the first time. They came from small towns all over southern Rodinia, the single, large continent on their home planet, Lutetia. Most were farmers, or worked in a related industry. When the Imperial Republic had offered to help form a military defense force, volunteers were many. The planet had been raided by pirates for years. Pirates who took not only harvest, but also kidnapped occasionally. What happened to those who were kidnapped was unknown, but rumours of many horrible fates were told as real life horror stories.
Twelve hours later Mira was aboard a ship approaching the new Currie class destroyer, Rainbow, the first real warship of the Imperial Defense Force.
“Whoa. That thing is huge.” she said. Along with most of the passengers she watched the approach on three sixty video.
“Yeah. Remember when we used that asteroid moon for cover?” asked the Human male sitting next to Mira, Private Brake was the ID his PAL broadcast.
Sitting beside him, broadcasting Private Mooney as ID, was another Human male, he chuckled “Yeah, this one's bigger'en that little moon.”
“The Goldenrods we've been using were built for scouting. This is a warship, built to fight.” Mira added.
Rainbow had a spherical middle, with a disk on each end. On the outer side of each disk four large pylons projected, angled to meet, forming triangles, the point held a magnetic containment field for the fusion reactors. Light from the reactors, one on each end, glowed brightly in the spaces between the pylons.
The shuttle coasted to dock with one of the enclosed hangars around the outer edge of one of the disks.
Mira felt the bump as the shuttle docked, then the return of weight. The Currie destroyers provided the comfort of spin gravity.
Quarters was a bunk set in an alcove in the wall, a long line of them along a hall. The bunk could fold back in half and be used as a seat, but she had to get out and stand in the hall while it folded, there was no space between the edges of the bunk and the walls. The head of the bunk was also against a wall. The foot bumped into a locker. With the bunk folded as a seat there was plenty of room to stand, the bunk over hers was unoccupied and folded against the wall. A table could fold down from the wall. The door was a curtain that could be pulled across, one at the head and one at the foot.
Mira folded her bed back and stowed her belongings in the locker. Then sat on the folded bed and leaned back.
“PAL-Mira link with Galon.”
“We can't link with anyone outside the ship without authorization.”
“Oh, ok … ahm, how do I get authorization?”
“I can send the request now if you like.”
“Yes.” Mira sighed.
Morning briefing in fifteen minutes.
Mira got the voice broadcast “Are we ready to link PAL-Mira?”
“We're ready. Your request to link with Galon was not approved. No off ship communications until boarding and loading is complete.”
When the briefing began Mira switched to three sixty mode. Her view transformed to a large meeting room, with the Regiment sitting in rows of chairs. Mira was in the front row. At the front, a Human male, the First Regiment's commanding officer, Captain McPherson, stood in front of a star map.
He started without introduction “We'll be going to Lutetia's companion star system.” The map zoomed in on two orange stars. “Its two stars orbiting each other, the brighter one ...” the map zoomed in on a planet orbiting one of the stars “... has a single planet with a habitat." The image zoomed in on a mountain near the equator with a black dome joined to the foothills. "The settlers were a group of spiritual Gainists. The planet's atmosphere is thin, only about ten percent of one bar. The monks trade spices grown in their habitat, their only source of income. A few months ago a pirate ship visited, and declared they would be the only trade ship the monks would deal with. The monks would turn over their entire harvest and in return they would be allowed to live. The pirates left, but promised to return with a garrison and collect this years harvest. If they stick to their schedule, we'll get there about a month before them.”
Captain McPherson paused, walked to a table on the right and drank from a glass.
He returned to the map “We'll take up orbit, deploy a satellite communication and navigation swarm, and then use the drop pods to go to the surface and set up ground defenses while Rainbow builds orbital defenses.”
“Will orbital defenses be ready before the pirates come back?”
On the left side of Mira's vision PAL-Mira indicated, with text, Private Driscoll was asking the question.
“Probably not, but they have cruisers, small scout ships, they're armed and armoured, but not built for battle. This is a destroyer, built for combat. They can out gun our Goldenrods, but Rainbow's got over a hundred times their firepower, and our armour can take hits from anything they can throw at us. When they see us in orbit, they won't come close. They'll run.”
“Are we gonna chase 'em down?”
'Private Brazil' text flashed momentarily in Mira's vision.
“If there's only one ship. If there's two they might split up and if we chase one the other will attack the planet.”
“What are we taking to da planet for defense? Pirates coulda left a few battle bots last time. Could be a nasty surprise waitin' fer us.”
'Private Payne' text flashed momentarily in Mira's view.
“Could be. It's five months to get there, this ship has full virch training facilities, we'll be doing exercises on the way. We'll be ready, no matter what their plan.”
The inexperienced regiment kept busy during the journey, formulating and testing battle plans and construction methods.
A briefing near the end of the trip summarized some of the results.
“We won't be able to use tanks, or any of the tracked vehicles near the hab. The terrain is covered in loose boulders and pebbles, and the atmosphere is too thin to use hover skirts. We'll be restricted to using the Lokai with large tires for transport and artillery support. We've been able to adapt the fly bots by adding more lift area, but we haven't space for physically testing larger aircraft. There will be no air support for a while, we have to wait until we're set up on the planet to finish developing them. And when we do have them, their payload will be small, only a few small, short range missiles, or a machine gun, or a laser and power supply, we won't be able to put everything on one ship. They'll have to operate in groups all the time.”
“The Lokai won't give much artillery support.”
“No, but we shouldn't be attacked, and if we are, the pirates will have to fight with the same restrictions as us. And we'll be entrenched in defensive positions with heavier artillery available.”
A week later Rainbow was nearing the planet Beautiful Mountain. Mira watched the live feed from Rainbow's sensors.
“Something's coming around ... two heat sources ...” Rainbow broadcast “... both in orbit … two ships … receiving transmissions from the ship's Cybernetic Intelligence … bringing all lasers and mass drivers online, all reactors to full power, launching RavenHawks.”
“Did the pirates beat us here?” the ID showed as Private Mooney.
There was a brief pause before Rainbow replied “Looks like it. Energy signatures from those ships match the ones we encountered around the outer planet in the Lutetia system. They claim the planet and have ordered us to change course. On target for orbital insertion in seventy minutes, no communication from the hab … ships are powering up their engines … accelerating out of orbit.”
“Comin' after us?” the ID showed as Corporal Skanes.
“No.” Rainbow drew a red line to show the projected trajectory of the ships, to the right. “Acceleration is high, three point one, they're running.”
Mira hadn't realized she was holding her breath. She took a few quick breaths while laughing. She heard many on the open channel laughing and cheering.
“The RavenHawks will go ahead of us, do an initial scan and drop some fly bots near the hab.” Rainbow broadcast “If everything looks good we'll drop on the first orbit. Estimated time to drop, two hours. Pre drop briefing in ten minutes.”
Mira felt butterflies in her stomach “This is it.” she messaged PAL-Mira.
“You're ready.” PAL Mira messaged back “Five months preparing for this day. You are ready.”
“I sure hope so.” Mira took a deep breath and sat back on her folded bed “Open the link for the briefing. Bring up the map of the hab again.”
A map of the habitat on Beautiful Mountain appeared in the left side of Mira's vision as the view around her changed to the briefing room.
Captain McPherson smiled nervously “Well. This is it. We're here. First real drop for most of us, but we've all done lot's of simulations, so … we should be fine. I've been ordered to stay on board Rainbow, direct from Command, but I'll be your eyes up here. Ahh … you all have your list of equipment, so let's get everything together and go to our assigned pods.”
“You have a message from Captain McPherson.” PAL Mira messaged silently. “You met all requirements and have been promoted to Corporal.”
Two hours later Mira was sitting in a Lokai with Corporal Skanes, and Privates Brake, French, Mooney, Andrews, Etheridge and Driscoll. The Lokai was sealed in an egg shaped drop pod, resting in its nacelle on the outer hull of Rainbow.
“Corporal Skanes? Weren't you Sargent Skanes before we left?” Private Andrews asked.
Private Brake laughed “He was. Til he snuck outta barracks three nights fore we left.”
“Why'd you have ta sneak outta barracks?” asked Private Andrews.
“Live exercises got a little too live. Got hit when a shell exploded too close, had to rest for a few days to recover, med order to stay in barracks. But I was already fine, new med bots had me fixed up good, doc said I still had to stay in barracks one more night. But there was a live band at the Warehouse that night, so … I got out.”
“Yep. We woulda been fine too, shoulda got away with it.” Brake said “Til about midnight ...”
“Yeah yeah.” Skanes said “Somebody had ta step up and tell that guy to start acting like a gentleman.”
“By breaking he's nose!?” Brake chuckled.
“Woulda been fine if he'd just started behavin' himself, but noooo, he had to go and start fightin'. Then the Guards showed up ...”
“... and we all spent a night in barracks.” Brake finished.
“Command took a stripe from me the next day.” Skanes added.
“Seven minutes to drop.” Rainbow broadcast “We are getting a video feed from the fly bots we dropped earlier.”
Mira opened the video link. She was able to select the video from any of the twenty fly bots dropped with the reconnaissance pod. She selected one and the video played on the left of her vision. There was no movement outside the habitat. Pebbles and boulders covered the ground. The landing strip and its hangars looked abandoned.
“No contact from the hab.” Rainbow announced.
“Place looks abandon … and no contact.” Private Driscoll said “Sure the monks are still here.”
“We're here to set up their communication system.” Rainbow answered “And there is no mining, or any other activity that usually happens outside the hab. This is what we should expect everything to look like … we could send down a pod with bots for a closer look, go around for another orbit before the rest of us drop.”
“And we'd have to sit here for another two hours.” Skanes complained.
Numerous murmurs of agreement sounded over the open channel.
“If the pirates had dropped and set up defenses, we'd see 'em.” Captain McPherson reasoned.
Many in the Regiment voiced their agreement. "Let's go." many shouted.
There was a pause. Mira felt the butterflies in her stomaching dancing. She looked at the video again … no sign of movement. She switched between several of the fly bots. Not even dust blowing in the wind. She looked at everyone's face, all were staring ahead blankly, apparently watching the video feed.
“One minute to drop.” Captain McPherson announced.
Everyone now looked nervous, the butterflies in Mira's stomach began dancing again. “First real drop?”
Privates French, Mooney, Andrews, Etheridge and Driscoll all nodded yes.
“Second.” Skanes answered.
“Third.” said Brake.
“Second for me.” Mira said.
“Don't worry guys.” Said Skanes, and he chuckled “We'll just be a ball of fire streakin' across the sky.”
They pulled the helmet forming hoods of their armour over their heads and pulled down the goggles from the top of the helmet. A mask extended from the lower part of the hood to cover their mouths and complete the seal over their face by joining with the goggles.
“How good's this armour?” asked Driscoll.
“Good enough to stop one of these.” Skanes held up his weapon, the sub machine gun they were all armed with. Two barrels protruded at the front. The top firing a laser, the bottom, bullets from the magazine in the pistol grip. “And give you twelve hours of air.”
There was a bump when the magnetic launchers pushed the drop pod out of its nacelle. A few seconds later rockets fired to adjust their trajectory. A few minutes later atmospheric friction caused some shaking.
Mira turned off the video simulation. Don't wanna watch myself falling in a ball of fire.
The shaking grew more intense as the pod went deeper into the atmosphere.
“Shaking is not as bad as on Lutetia.” Skanes observed.
“Thinner atmosphere” Brake said.
The atmosphere slowed the pod and there was another bump when the parachute deployed. The egg shaped pod glided length wise under the parachute, quickly losing altitude. Near the surface rockets fired to slow their descent and forward speed. Just before hitting the ground a large airbag ballooned under the pod, absorbing the shock of the hit. The top of the pod popped off and the Lokai bounced out onto the gravel surface.
“Something hit us!” Andrews yelled.
The machine gun bolted on top of the Lokai started firing.
“We're under attack!” Skanes shouted.
“From where?” Mira asked.
CrackCrackCrackCrack The familiar sound of bullets hitting the Lokai was followed by two rockets exploding nearby.
“I don't know. Small arms and missiles … light missiles, ah, don't know where they're comin' from.”
“PAL-Mira. Get a fly bot link.” Mira said aloud.
“Nothing available.” PAL-Mira replied aloud.
“I got one.” Driscoll pulled a fly bot from his breast pocket and stood to put it in the roof slot. The moving Lokai made standing difficult, Andrews and Etheridge had to hold him. He put the fly bot in its slot and flipped the roof panel over, putting the fly bot outside.
About the Creator
Currently living in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada with my son Mark and cat Sprite. Grew up in historic, picturesque Newfoundland with many, interesting, friendly people, inspiring adventures, songs, stories, and wonderous beauty of nature.