Hanson rushed to Ramsey’s side. She began checking for any extensive damage to his suit. In that moment she assumed the role of a instinctive mother running to her child’s aid. ”Oh my God. What were you thinking taking on that thing? It almost killed you!”
“Yeah? I didn’t notice, I guess I was too busy trying to cover your ass,” Ramsey grimaced. She could hear the pain grating his voice. She nursed her hand on his chest “Stay down, don’t try to get up too fast.” He ached all over and swallowed more of his own blood. She knew he feigned sarcasm because there was appreciation in the way he held her concerned glance with his. Vince and Jason also hurried to their supine friend’s side.
“Holy shit man, I can’t believe you just did that. You should have run,” Vince said. His voice was stricken with panic.
“Thank God PYRATE was there to save you.” Jason added reassuringly. ” That was quite the display of misplaced bravery. How you’re feeling?”
“Great, now can you guys stop bitching and help me up? It’s bad enough that I got smacked worthless by a big-ass tentacle,”
Vince and Jason carefully put their Ramsey’s arms around their shoulders and eased him up on his feet. He staggered before retaining any balance. Ramsey took another deep breathe. Fortunately, the density of his ViroSuit protected his body from any fractures at impact of his fall. His visual display from his helmet reported he was slowly regaining vitality and strength. He turned to the rest of the remaining squad. PYRATE the mech stood at attention. Ready to protect his personnel at all costs. Hanson still had worry in her eyes but she started to relax knowing that everybody- well, everybody here was ok.
Vince started to pace uneasily, “Okay, it’s pretty clear this in and out mission just went to hell. We have to get back and report to the Conglomerate. Shit. I-I thought the Kyra couldn’t reach this Sector. Alura is classified as a non-threat Sector . How could something like this happen? We’re non-essential combatants for God’s sake!”
“None of this makes any sense, if Alura is an inhabitable planet, how come we just got attacked by this thing from the surface?” Jason pondered as well. Ramsey turned to Hanson, she looked over to her CONTECH as it projected images of the Kyra in scientific detail. With the wave of her fingertips, she highlighted a specific area of the alien’s anatomy on the holographic image. “As far as my studies show, Kyra are known to adapt to various environments. Though they’re primitive creatures, their respiratory system can store and reprocess oxygen for months. I have a bad feeling there are more of those things. Kyra tend to travel in packs.” She swiped the horrifying images away. As if she didn’t want to know anymore about the aliens.
“That still doesn’t explain how they got here Hanson,” Vince countered nervously.
“Well, I can’t explain that Vince, I really can’t.” Hanson shook her head with frustration.
Ramsey stood there unmoved by the uncertainty surrounding his team. He could see it in their eyes. The three of them gripped by a tremendous realization of something way beyond them. All that they had known to be sacred and safe- the comfort of space travel, the stability of work and the security of mental health was suddenly marred by the coming darkness. Despite being the youngest, Ramsey could see they were lost and misguided. He looked at Vince as a a distraught child that had lost his innocence. It was as if Vince had realized that a favorite bedtime story told by loving parents turned out to be a fabled lie once he grew up. Vince slumped over. The look of doom welling in his ocean colored eyes.
“I thought I’d never have to see those things,” He said half-whispering. “I heard the stories of what happened in Amet. A whole settlement of children, families and friends massacred. An ECOM platoon was deployed over there to respond but they never stood a chance. They were massacred. They had never fought anything like them. I thought that would never happen to us because we were here,” His head hanged over with despair. “Now, I had to see it kill my best friend like he was nothing,”
It hurt for Hanson to see Vince like this but she couldn’t explain why he looked so broken. For Ramsey, his silent depression was worst than that of violent winds racing in this haunting storm. Ramsey finally got tired of the dreariness and pulled out his rifle. “Nothing’s going to happen to us if we keep fighting. The Kyra are quick but if you just aim for their tentacles, it weakens them serverely. That’s what my friend back in the ECOM told me.” He hoisted his weapon in front him naturally as if he was a true ECOM soldier. His confidence was like an umbrella of assurance that fell on the others. He pulled out more Pyro-clips from his suit. “I know these are only spec’d for mining but our drill launchers are effective enough against those things. Just fuse the drill bits with these clips. It will heat up the drills fast and we can use them as incendiary rounds- it packs more of a punch.”
“How did you manage that?” Jason asked. He was astonished at Ramsey’s resourcefulness but more confused by this sudden surge of leadership. Jason was the one used to being knowledgeable about such tech.
“After all the complaining and bitching at Mila, I decided to learn how to research and utilize Pyro for weaponization and ammo. Well, I kinda hacked the data from her CONTECH so I wouldn’t have to start from scratch. I wanted to learn how she created ECOM tech and I couldn’t get over the fact that we were restricted to it. It just wasn’t fa-”
“Damn it! Ramsey, you can’t do that! We are-
“YES! non-essential combatants Vince! I know! And we’ll be non-existent if we don’t find ways to survive. That’s what I’m trying to do. Somehow or some way. I knew we were never safe from those things but you all thought I was crazy and paranoid. Delusional for thinking that even though we were in ‘Non-Threat’ sectors and space, that we could possibly come under attack. Now here we are , trekking on a pisshole planet with our friend dead. Yeah, Vince, that about sounds really non-essential to me.”
“Ramsey, what you did is a Superior violation and I’d have to report you when we get back.” Jason said with calculating precision.
Ramsey scoffed. Frustrated beyond belief that all he could do was spurt maddening fits of laughter. He walked up to Jason now mocking him. “That is if we get back Jason! How are we going to survive if you don’t realize what the situation is here. Yes, I went behind my superior’s back. But are you telling me, you won’t mod your Gs-5 to have a fighting chance? You can go ahead and list all the procedures I’ve violated but that won’t stop them Jason. They are here.”
Hanson turned to Jason and Vince. She saw that the indignant and legal righteousness were suddenly wiped from their eyes and that no answers left their mouths. At first she stood there confused but was now motivated- not to represent one’s title and carry out just a simple role but to make one’s own choice. Ramsey’s defiance had inspired her. She brushed by Vince and Jason and left them to their reproach.
“He’s right Jason. We have to do whatever it takes. The way I see it, we don’t have much of a choice,” She said standing by Ramsey’s side holding her own weapon with the infectious confidence he put in her. With the Pyro-clips she converted her mining tool into a weapon that would be her last stand. Ramsey then turned to Vince and Jason. His outstretched hand to them with the cartridges glowing in his palm. His silence pleading with them to take a stand, to make a decision. It was now or never.
“I guess we fight,” Jason said not with the defeat of losing a debate or argument but with enlightenment. He took the clips and loaded them into his rifle. Vince did the same.
“Okay, now that we’re all fired up. Remember! Shoot them in the tentacles first,” Ramsey said to his new-found squad and he saw them nod their heads thankfully. Then there was static. Everyone’s CONTECH lit up and a voice gripped with urgerncy buzzed through their audio feed.
“COME IN TEAM! WE ARE PINNED DOWN HERE BY THE KYRA! CASSIDY IS DOWN! I REPEAT! CASSIDY IS DOWN! I NEED YOU TO DOUBLE BACK TO THE SHUTTLE ASAP! THIS MISSION IS ABORT! THEY ARE CLOSING IN FROM ALL ANGLES! I DON’T KNOW IF I CAN HOLD THEM OFF MU– ” it was Commander Tyrus before he got cut off. Even in the midst of alien screams and gun shots. He still sounded authoritative and in control but Ramsey didn’t wait a second longer. “C’mon!” He shouted urgently to the team. PYRATE the mech followed.
They charged through the storm not wanting to lose another one of their own. Hanson was praying for Tyrus to hold on.