Project: AKRA pt 13

(They are down to three people, assaulting the base soon, will they be able to save AKRA?)

 

Raist spread his arms out while he was falling through the sky, seeing the two of them further down through clearings in the clouds of mist close to the bottom of the river.  He enjoyed the quick freedom of the descent when the small cord he was tied on began providing a counter to gravity as he rapidly slowed down, controlling the final length of his descent with a button on his suit.

Spinning around slowly, he lowered himself the final few body lengths to the small rock platform the other two were at.

Agrest took their three cords, pressing them into the wall and triggering their camouflage system, which caused them to fade into the rock color.

“What’s the likelihood of hostile creatures in this water?” Raist asked.

Philira shook her head rapidly.  “No way, this water is too fast.  Even if there are creatures, the water should hide our thermal signature with the outside of our suit being cold.  I’ll wave when I have the system set up on the other side.”

She knelt down, spiked another rod into the ground and dove into the water without waiting for any command from Raist.  Her body moved up and down in a rhythm as the wave started by her head swept through her whole body over and over as she flew across the rapids.  Scouts…good at everything.

“I am glad she is such a good swimmer,” Raist said.

“Yeah, never got good at that style.  Luckily I could pass all my tests doing the side-stroke.”

Raist was spiking his safety system, hooking it up to the line Philira was establishing when Agrest put his hand on his shoulder.

“Something doesn’t feel right.”

Raist didn’t like the pit in his stomach hearing Agrest say that, but evenly responded, “Why, what’s wrong?”

Agrest shook his head.  “I don’t know, can’t explain it.  But call it a Sniper’s intuition.”  Raist was ready to dive into the water having seen Philira’s pink hair emerge from the other side and waved the two of them over when Agrest interrupted him.

“If I don’t make it out alive, can you deliver a letter I have in my room back on the ship?” Agrest asked coldly.  His joking demeanor was totally gone, replaced by a dim realism.  “It’s to that girl we saved last time on Azure 2.  I was always scared to write her back.  But at least let her know that I died, but was thinking about her, okay?”

Raist turned around, and pushed him hard.  “Don’t you dare say that!  What is everyone’s problem?!  We have been through way worse shit than this.  Border-Action 9, the assault on Klattu, being stranded on Kilo?  Come on, Ziko’s arm?  I lost both of mine on Kilo.”  Raist lifted both of his arms as he went on.  “These are bio-synths!  We sustained a few injuries early and everyone is thinking this is the end?”

“Heh.” Agrest pushed Raist’s hand away as his lip rose in a slight grin. “You feel it too, then?”

Raist turned around, mad Agrest had basically gotten him to admit his unease, and dove into the water.  He started swimming with all his might against the harsh current.  Memories of the drownings he sustained during swim ‘training’ came back to him, but only focused his mind as he crashed through the waves and rocks.  He felt a strong pull that was Philira’s line dragging him to the other shore.  He felt his back legs sweep to the right, pulling away from him, and suddenly went spinning into the water as he got trapped in a whirlpool.

Underwater, he tried kicking off a huge rock he was trapped next to, but the whirlpool was too strong.  He stopped struggling and went limp, conserving his oxygen.  His nanites would keep him conscious for a much longer time than even the best breath-holders on Terra were capable of before nanites, but still knew anything could happen.

He protected his head with his arms as he hit the rock over and over with every spin of the water.  Feeling the line on his suit finally tighten, it forcefully ripped him out of the whirlpool and back to the surface.  He turned on his back, took a breath, and continued covering his head as Philira dragged him to the other side.

“Brings back bad memories of water survival school!” he shouted over the din, standing up and shaking the water off his face and hair as he backed away from the spraying mist the river was generating.

“Haha, yeah,” she agreed as she smiled. “Lot of memories is for sure.”

He suddenly remembered that as much as he went through, while he was in tactics and strategy classes, she was probably still out there swimming and running.  He felt bad for even thinking about his hardship; he had no doubt the ‘expendable’ Scouts were trained far more cruelly than the Leaders.  She had swum through those rapids that likely would have killed Raist had he not had assistance.

Agrest was dragged to the shore and Philira hid the line across the river.  Now that this line and the descent line were established, on the return trip all they would need  to do is hook up to it.  The mechanism could pull them across the river, or up the cliff.

Project: AKRA pt 12

***

The short cycles of the planet had given way to day as they trudged forward with no resistance, back to walking on the razor grass sawing slowly in the sunlight.  They marched forward with four of them still fully ‘armed’ in the limb sense of the word but at this point met no enemies.

Everyone knew what was coming before they actually rolled onto the bare ground, based on the loud roaring starting to filter through the trees.  Though Leio and Ziko were both reduced in combat efficiency, their squad was still in fairly good fighting capacity.  They made it through the surprise of the night, and still had four people capable of shooting larger weapons.  However, this new challenge they were coming up to was going to prove trying.

“There is no way we are making it across that,” Ziko said.  He knelt down to let Leio off of his shoulders as she sat down on the ground so he could better look over the edge of the cliff.  They stood next to some rocks and a tree, using the light cover as they looked over the shear corner of the massive cliff to the rumbling water hardly visible through the mist below.  On both sides of them the deep gorge was cut through the rock with no easy way down, and the height did not get any less extreme anywhere close that they could hike to make the descent easier.

“The two of them could not hope to swim across that water,” Agrest said, keeping his head turned upwards most of the time for any drones that might come flying over the tree tops.

“I have faith they could, but the risk is too great.”  Raist looked up and down the escarpment they were located on.  “It’d be better if the two of you stayed here to cover our escape.”

From where they were, the tip of the peak was barely visible against the tall trees of the other side of the river.  Their goal was close, but in every way seemed farther with every step they took.

“From here you guys should be able to build a pretty good choke point in the rocks over there.  The three of us are going to do a sprint to the target, and come back.  There is a good chance we will need as much cover fire and a clear path as possible on our way back.”

Agrest pointed to the rocks.  “It’s a good plan, since I’d hate trying to descend and climb back up with things shooting at us.  If you two have this locked down, it should help our escape.”

Raist finished, “Ziko, I am going to need you well-rested because as soon as we get here, we are running back to the extraction zone. I do not want to be in the forest again for another night.  The three of us should be able to handle AKRA, and I know you are strong, but we cannot be slowed even if you are carrying Leio.”

The problem was they had to make it back out of anti-air range to call their shuttle down.  Even if it was capable of firing, with how defended their target was, calling it anywhere close was risking being trapped here.

The group worked for a bit, positioning rocks and checking sight patterns so that the two staying behind would have clear cover fire on the three advancing members, both on the descent, the swim, and the climb before they disappeared into the other side.  Natural rock walls covered their backs, and a few shots through the rocks gave them some gun holes to fight anything that did come from the forest.  The three advancing soldiers dropped all but one weapon here so they could move faster now that the mission had become one of a sprint.

“Goodbye, Raist,” Leio told him as they embraced.  Raist was having to hold her up.  “I hope I see you again.  I really do.”  Her foot was realigned, but the large section of meat missing from her calf was something he tried to not look at.

“I’ll be back soon.”  He gave her butt a light squeeze as he turned away from her.  They spiked their rappel systems into the rock and Agrest and Philira already jumped over the edge.  Raist was preparing to do the same when a strange thought came to him.

‘Look at her one more time; it might be your last.’  He turned to face her, and she did a small wave, smiling at him, the normalcy making him think he was over-thinking again.  He turned back towards the cliff and crouched and launched off.

Project: AKRA pt 11

“It’s okay…I know.  I can get a bio amp replacement if we make it through this.”

“Hey, you guys over there?”  Agrest’s voice shouted.  “Get over here now!”

Ziko pushed himself off the tree, they all grimly watched for a moment as what remained of his arm was quickly chopped and consumed by the blade grass and its acid once the suit’s structural integrity had been broken down.  “I hate this fucking place.” It seemed to be an understatement from Ziko as he watched his arm get eaten by the grass.

The three walked over to Agrest, his huge sniper rifle leaning against the tree.  Raist realized it was Agrest’s shot that killed the diving bird before it killed them.

Leio was sitting on the ground, her knee looked crushed, and everything under it was gone.  Her other ankle was broken, bent back up to her calf.

“What are you going to do with me?” she asked, looking straight at Raist.  He felt his stomach drop a bit with the implication of one entirely real option he could take to save the rest of the group time.  This was a woman he was intimate with, yet the mission was now at risk of being compromised due to both her legs.

“What happened?” he asked, trying to buy some time to think this through.

“The ankle was from the fall, and this,” she pointed to her missing calf and the crushed knee, “was from that bastard over there.”  She indicated a large dead beast.  “Heh, damn.  I’ve never seen such a hostile fauna before.”  She leaned back while they crouched down to inspect her damage.  Even with her mutilated legs, she still was amazingly lusty, along with a slight independence still obvious in her countenance.  “No wonder they put their fortress here.  Secure the skies, and let the planet take care of the ground.”

Raist could feel everyone waiting for him to decide what they were going to do with the obvious change in plans the injuries and the planet presented to them.  Maybe they were especially waiting to wonder if he would leave Leio, or kill her.  The latter might be humane.

He stood up.  “We are not leaving anyone behind.”  He looked to Ziko before continuing, “I am taking you off Assault-role.  It’s too dangerous to not have a combat-able person not firing, so because of your injury you are the one who will carry her.  Leio, you are staying on the Sweep.  The rest of us are changing our weapon configuration.  Agrest, switch to your Silvershot for faster shots, I’m moving down to the ‘Saw and Leio you go with whatever you can shoot while still staying on Ziko.  Z, you can either go weaponless or take a one-hander.”

“And me?” Philira asked.

“Stay with the Plaz-Shot.  It is obvious to us now most of the fighting is going to be close range.  I need Agrest and Leio to be on drone watch out.  We are not that far in raw distance to our target so we are going to press on.  I do not think resting is a wise decision.”

He walked over to Leio. “You know what we have to do right?” he asked.

“Of course, get it done already.”

They dragged her to an area devoid of the grass where it looked shot up from the battle.  He handed her the handle of the SSAW with its softer grip, pressing it towards her mouth, she opened it and bit down on the handle.

“Hold her,” he commanded.  Philira and Agrest knelt down and held her body and arms down.

“Heh,” she muttered out of her jammed mouth, turning her head towards the sky.  “Never…get used…to this.”

Raist knelt down by her foot, grabbing the misplaced foot, and, without waiting for any okay or any delay, pulled downward and backward.  Immediately her leg started flailing while the other two struggled to hold her down, letting out a painful ‘guuuaaaaa!’ through her gritting mouth.  It was clear she was trying to maintain control despite the massive pain and compared to a scream most would have let out, her moan was fairly benign.

He continued pulling back until it was straight, and pushed it softly back into the semi-correct position.  He held her foot still for a moment while she stopped moving; she spit the gun handle out.  “I’m okay…”

All three of them let her go as she sat there.  “Should be walk-able in about a cycle.  I feel my nanites reforming the bone already.” It was quiet for a moment before she continued. “Well, stop staring at me already!  As much as you guys like to do it, let’s get this going.”  He reluctantly managed a smile at her pride hiding her shame of slowing the group down.

She lifted an arm up and Raist grabbed it, hauling her body over his shoulder then transferring her to Ziko where she sat on his shoulders.  She used her one leg to wrap under his shoulder to his back and was using her hips to hold onto his head.

“Not pretty, but it will work.  Z, can you still function?” Raist asked, handing him a pistol for his one remaining arm.  The chemicals in them and their advanced nanites could keep them functioning at conditions worse than this, but still wanted to make sure.

“You mean with that hot ass wild woman riding him all night?” Agrest joked.

“I think his head is facing the wrong direction for anything wild,” Leio said, giving Ziko a tight squeeze.

“Damn Raist, no wonder you like her.  I can tell she’s probably into bondage,” Agrest responded.

“Don’t make me squeeze his head off.”

“Why would you punish me for your two perverted minds?” Ziko said while he practiced moving around a bit with Leio on his shoulders.

“I think he’d like that.” Agrest added, “Either getting his head squeezed off, or your ‘punishment’ that is.”

At least their spirits…and chemicals… were still high enough to joke.  Raist looked at the Spreading Squad Assault Weapon he was holding in his hands, its neon blue lines pulsing an incredible power just waiting to be unleashed.  He was practicing drawing his knife out of the SSAW Philira had hidden in it in the event of a surprise.  Raist was glad their spirits were still good for now though.  He knew how bad missions could get.

Project: AKRA pt 10

Raist took a prone position in the clearing Ziko had cut through the forest with his CSW, while the two close range fighters fought back-to-back against the horde, standing right above Raist.

He was taking careful burst shots, squeezing a few rounds, gauging whether the creature needed more rounds to die, then either delivering, or moving on to a new target.  The counter on the side of the rifle shot down rapidly.

He squeezed the final 30 into some creature hopping between the trees and as he rolled to his side to put a new magazine of 1,000 in.  The magazine was in, and his hand was going to the ‘accept’ toggle when he saw a huge bird diving out of the sky right at their group.

“Up…!” he started, but it was too slow.  Its mouth peeled open to reveal a tri-maw opening ready to consume one of them.  The creature was closing on them when its large neck was separated from its body, liquid exploding out the backside as its head crashed to the ground not far from them, its body gliding into another dead creature.

“What?”

Raist toggled the rifle back on, and saw a line of white tracers clearing the sides of part of the trees.  He knew that weapon anywhere: it was Leio’s Sweep Rifle, but she was aiming horizontally.  What killed the bird?

“It’s Agrest and Leio!” Philira shouted, another of her clips dumping out of her Plaz-Shot and hitting Raist in the head as she reloaded with robotic speed.

He didn’t need to tell the two he was with to not hit them, and he hoped the other two knew they were here.

Beasts continued advancing on them until all of them mysteriously stopped, turning and running as fast as they could.  Death had not scared them before, so it was definitely something different.

“Phi?”  Raist asked.

“Something’s coming…top of the trees.”

The strange silence had returned to the forest, though a few wounded screams still pierced the night.  Raist hated killing animals, and hearing their moans as they were sawed apart by the grass hurt his soul.

“Drone!”  Philira shouted, grabbing Ziko and diving to the shot-up ground.  Above them a large floating disk hovered over the scene of their battle.

“Shoot it!  Shoot it!” she yelled.

Raist was the only one of the three with the longer-range weapon and brought it to bear, and though he was giving it rapid bursts of ten sonic rounds that were undoubtedly flying straight through its hull, its size would not easily be brought down.  The two he was with were each rapidly reaching for their longer-range weapons as a firing arm extended above the disk.

A loud whoosh reached them long after the rocket did, rending the ground apart as they were flung through the air.  Raist crashed into one of the trees between two of the razor edges and escaped serious damage.  He switched his weapon to packet mode, morphing the small rounds into larger slugs designed to pierce before blowing apart inside their target.

He aimed at the disk that was readying another rocket and started shooting, catching the white tracers of the Sweep Rifle also on target of the drone.  The thin, fast spray of the Sweep rounds, and Raist’s exploding slugs were pounding away at the machine.  It tilted to one side for a moment, but righted itself.  Raist was sure it was going to fire again until its core exploded and it crashed somewhere into the trees above them.

He was breathing hard, his mind in combat mode, looking around everywhere for the next thing to kill, and with nothing moving for a long time he gradually began to come off his combat high.

Something was hurting his core and looking down, he saw a mat of the spiky grass imbedded into his chest after being propelled by the rocket.  He pulled each out; feeling the distant pain of sucking out the semi-vacuum each projectile had created in his body.

He pushed himself out of the slight cove of his tree and staggered to the clearing.  “Who is alive?”

“We are, but Ziko is hurt,” Philira’s voice had an edge he never heard before in it.

Raist ran over and saw Ziko slumped next to a tree almost exactly like where Raist had been blasted.  The difference was he was moved slightly to one side, right into its sharp edge.

“Zi…ko?” Raist asked nervously.

“Yo, I’m alive, but shit…these plants are even worse than the creatures.”

Ziko’s words made it seem like he was okay, but Raist realized Ziko’s left arm had been cut cleanly off right by the shoulder.  His nanites and suit sealed what was left of the arm to prevent any bleed off; it actually looked like he had a stub arm his entire life with how clean it was.  The fact he could talk clearly was a result of their advanced training, and very tailored drugs to block pain and maintain combat efficiency.

“Your ar—” Philira started, Raist grabbed her and shook his head no.

Project: AKRA pt 9

(The team has landed but due to a malfunction were all separated and trying to find each other)

“How the hell can they see us!?” Raist shouted over the burst of gunfire.  Another Plaz-Shot shell from Philira’s weapon exploded the creature apart as the remnants of the super heated bolts tore through parts of the forest.

The silence of the forest during the day was a complete juxtaposition of the chaos of night with its endless howls, shadows, and attacks.

One beast that had finished goring another swung its huge tusked head towards the two of them and started charging.  Raist lifted the Limiter rifle to it, and the soft ‘zzzt’ sound hid the fact that hundreds of sonic rounds were electro-magnetically being discharged out of the rifle.  The spray tore into the creature, rendering its millions of generations of evolution for naught as the rounds blasted through it and the trees beyond.  It skidded to a stop not far from the two of them, and was rapidly being cut down by the strange ground under it.

“They have to be sensing us some other way…thermally possibly,” Philira suggested as she rapidly rotated her head around every side of them, pumping a round into things Raist didn’t even know was there, only occasionally seeing the burning creature falling out of a tree or fall over from behind an alcove.  She danced in front of him always making sure to stay between him and any danger.

‘DADADA!’ A loud, fast retort of a Close-Support-Weapon came from somewhere fairly close to them; they knew they were closing in on the other member of their group.  But every step was a battle.  Even the ‘grass’ had become even more alive, slicing back and forth greedily for something to fall onto the cleaving surface.

“How close?!” he shouted to Philira.

“Not far.”  She quickly bent down, her hands rapidly flying over the Scatter gun as she threw the empty energy clip to the ground, reaching to her hip for another, slapping it in and triggering the toggle.  The green neon lights on the transductor rails came back on as she jumped backwards shooting a creature that had closed on her quickly in that short time.

“It has to be thermally!”  Raist shouted.  It made sense why everything was out at night: heat would show up better.  Unfortunately, their advanced weaponry probably was a beacon in the night with the hot barrels and explosive plasma blasts.

“Get down.”  Philira dashed backwards, tackling Raist to the ground.  In front of them the huge tree was sawed through by a barrage of rounds as it swayed in one direction, its structure cracking.  Its mass swayed the other direction as its crystal structure started breaking, falling towards them as the base exploded apart.  The razor branches came crashing down around them.  They scrambled to their feet, pausing for only a moment as the tree grew closer and closer.  They escaped being crushed, but not all damage as the sharp crystals shot-gunning around them as the branches of the tree fell everywhere.

“Gaaaa…!” Raist let out a groan as he felt something slip right through his right side, passing through the armor like nothing.  The tree had come to a crashing end and Philira jumped up.  Raist was slower and she grabbed his wrist and hauled him up.

He put a glove on his right side and it came back red; he had been sliced through by one of the branches of the tree that had crashed around them.

“Shit, I’m hit.”  Philira looked at him with her cold eyes, trying to decide what she was going to do.

“I’m going for whoever that is.  We need to unify our force immediately,” she started leaving.

Raist grabbed her wrist, pulling her back.  “No, I am going with you.  This is nothing.”  A warning in the corner of his eye warned that the expected healing would reduce his total combat healing potential down to 73%.

The first few steps were painful until the chemicals were sufficiently pumping through him and he forgot about the pain completely, focused on gunning down the further away creatures while Philira focused on those close ones.

‘Dadada!’ Shots boomed across the forest, drowning out anything else.

“Ziko!”  Philira tried yelling between the fire.  “Ziko!”

“Holy shit, Philira!?  Raist!?” The three of them ran closer to each other, but the reunion was short-lived as the battle was far from over.  Ziko had racked up a large amount of kills as the forest had been cut through here.  Even the razor grass had been blown away, leaving much safer soft rock under them.

 

Project: AKRA pt 8

Keep a ping going so we can find the range of the ICS here – he sent to her, but when she didn’t respond he felt alone again.  He backed up a bit as small bits of the plant fell out of the sky from her ascent, turning his own cloaking field back on.  He picked one of the branches up, from where it had broken off was a liquid leaking out from the middle.  Though the branch was colored purple, he thought the similarity to obsidian was strong.  Was this really a plant, or maybe a symbiotic amalgamation of plant and geologic processes?  They looked a lot like Daijin Star plants, if they had plants.  Hmm…did they have plants?

‘Thinking too much…’

He shook his head and pulled the Gauss-Limiter up to his shoulder and looked around at the silent forest around him.  Really the forest was rather beautiful with its soft reflections of the light far above.  There appeared to only be two major life forms: the huge trees and the sharp ‘grass’ underneath.

The terrain wasn’t that hard to cross; compared to some the going would have been fairly fast.  But the problem was the extreme diligence required of being aware where every hand and every foot was going to ensure no slipping into a razor tree happened.  Strengthening just the feet or hands as Philira suggested was a good way to save suit material, but at the risk of injury in an accident.

The visibility was fairly good. Sight lines were about average, blocked only by the big pyramidal trunks or the eventual even dispersion of the trees filling in every sight line.

“Haaaauuuuuuu!” a strange call from somewhere up in the air came, making Raist realize how close to dusk it was now becoming.  The call also indicated there was something here other than the two plants types.  In the setting sun the purple color of the plants was even more obvious, and that made him remember the fact that from space the landscape looked green.  But from here, there was definitely nothing green around.

The branches falling off the tree then took on a different touch from their completely purple obsidian nature beforehand.  They were the crystal branches, but with leaves on them.  Green leaves.

“What?”  He picked up one from the pile forming and sure enough the leaves looked similar enough to Terrestrial leaves, barring the strange branch.  Something else caught his eye even more though, and it was that this pile was softly moving.  He backed up out of caution and slowly watched it vibrate.

‘This grass is alive…’ He looked down at his boots, grateful the advanced alloy was protecting him from this alien world.  He dropped the leafed branch to the grass, in which the razor grass slowly swayed back and forth.  It cleaved the glass-like branch apart and leaving a strange liquid inside the crystal branch similar to sap that was dripping out, as well as the valuable, soft leaves.  Raist knelt down to see that between the blades of grass was a small pool of liquid, which the remnants of the sliced branch fell into and were systematically dissolved in what appeared to be an acid.

This was a hostile planet, and with each step he took he could imagine the alien grass trying to cleave bits of his boot off to get to his own ‘juices’ inside.  It disgusted him imagining the grass as millions of worms swaying back and forth to eat him.  He wanted to shoot them for a moment if it would have at all mattered.

“Raist?” a soft female voice called to him.

“Philira?”

“Yeah.”  She jumped out of the tree and turned off her cloak.  Her cold eyes and bright hair still affected Raist every time; Scouts were a very enigmatic class of soldier.  Given his past with Laiun, the previous Scout he had fallen for, added to the forced distance in his heart he had to maintain with Philira.

“Four things,” she started.  “One, there appears to be creatures that live here and only come out at night, and they put this plant life to shame in terms of danger.  Two, that way,” she pointed, “is the way towards our goal.  Three, there are robot sentries in the air, possibly of Daijin Star origin, but heavily armed.  Lastly, there is at least one person alive, and they are that way.”

“Well, then we are going that way,” pointing towards the unknown team member.

“Of course, Leader.”

“Raist is fine, don’t talk differently just because we are on a mission now.”

“Of course, Raist.”  He liked the way she said his name.

***

Project: AKRA PT 7

***

Ist…

Raist!  He shook his head slowly as his eyes focused on some light coming down from the trees above him.

He shook his head, thinking about that girl – spilled out on some planet in his past, serving her fatalistic destiny without complaint.  In time his bleeding wounds would heal, but there were some wounds that never healed, those that were too deep to see.

Anyone there!?  A desperate female voice came through on his ICS, but there was no identification marker or avatar associated with it.  What was going on?  ICS was nearly flawless, local range could reach substantial portions of the planet.

Yeah, I’m here.  I can’t get an ID on you.  I took a pretty hard fall and was out for a while there. – Raist

Philira speaking.  I ended up on the ground okay, but I worry about everyone else.  I’m glad at least one person is still alive. – Philira

Well, we need to meet.  Unfortunately, this foliage is way too dense to get a vantage point on. – Raist

Raist put his hand behind him and pushed himself to a sitting position, but just doing that hurt his hand.  He lifted his hand to find small cuts over it, and rapidly realized the ground he was on was composed of a grass-like plant that its sharp edges literally were serrated.  He grabbed a blade of the plant and realized it was structured so that it would stab inwards deeper and deeper, but had small anchors that prevented it from easily coming back out.

In the corner of his eye his system was pinging a warning, and he activated it.  His system told him that medical and suit synth capabilities have been reduced to 84% after healing him from the fall.

Normally that wasn’t too bad, but his system also warned that given the harsh condition of travel, expect high levels of loss while maintaining suit integrity as it increased thickness to stop the plants from getting at him.

He unrolled the suit off his hand to touch the plants without the armor protecting him, gently rolling his finger over it.  Just the soft touch left a thin line of blood on his fingertip before his internal nanites quickly sealed the cut and recycled the blood.

Philira, be careful of the terrain.  The area I found myself in is composed of extremely sharp objects.  We should be okay with our suits, but if those break down we are in for a lot of pain getting through here. – Raist

Shout a few times, if you would. – Philira

“Philira!  Hey!  Anyone out there?!  Phil—” He heard some crashing behind him, and shot up into a crouch, pulling out his Gauss-Limiter rifle.

There were many weapons that were used by individuals that were also used on ships, only in changed capacities.  Agrest’s Rail Rifle was based on the ship weapon of same name that was a long-range rail gun designed to pound out space stations, and with very good tracking and computers could blow smaller ships apart.  Raist’s Gauss-Limiter was similar to the ship’s in that it launched huge numbers of tiny projectiles at hyper velocities.

“It’s me,” her voice came through.  He didn’t even see her; the camo was still working completely.

He disengaged his own cloaking slightly, and she followed suit so they could see each other.  They ran up to each other and gave a quick hug, grateful to see someone after the crash.  Even though he was dating Leio, he had a soft spot in his heart for Philira.  He never pursued it meaningfully because of emotional scars he had over Laiun, the last Scout whom he seriously liked, that selflessly gave her life away for him.  They were vastly different in many ways, beyond that they were both completely sacrificial for the Leader.  He shook his head to get off the dark train of thought he was on.

“How lucky that the Scout was the one that crashed close to me,” he smiled warily.

“You were actually pretty far away, but this forest is strangely quiet right now.”

“You ran here?  Isn’t that risky with all these plants?”  Raist asked the young Scout.

“Just reinforce your boots, and the rest is just being careful where your body is.”  She held his eyes for only a moment longer before going back to scanning the forest, holding her Plaz-Shot down by her hips.

“Yeah, already on it.  Was I the only one you heard from, on ICS or sound?”

“Unfortunately, yes.  I couldn’t imagine we are particularly dispersed, but I should definitely be able to hear them, regardless of the ICS malfunction.”

Raist was completing a quick check to make sure none of his gear had fallen out on the crash.  “Has to either be something with the planet, which I doubt, or our enemy has an interference device.  That had to be what caused the crash.  If we get you up that tree, any chance it might help?” He was pointing to the biggest ‘tree’, if you could call a starburst-shaped trunk a tree.

“Completely.  It might take a bit to climb though.”

“Let’s do it. I’ll guard down here.”

The two of them made their way over to the spiked ridge.  He crouched down, ready to boost her up to one of the knife-branches, when she shook her head ‘no’.

He raised an eyebrow at her, but then she showed him her gloves which had taken on hooked appearances while slightly spreading out.

‘Scout trick,’ he thought.  She jumped at the ridge, slamming her hands into the strange object, punching her hooked claws through the tree as her spiked boots likewise punched their way through with slight ‘tings’ as she flew up the tree, crystal fragments falling down as she ascended.  She cloaked herself fully once more once she was actually climbing upwards.  If somehow the ‘tree’ had resisted the repulsion field in her climbing tools, the microscopic suction cups would have propelled her up anyway.

Project: AKRA pt 6

Hey guys its been a while, I was on the road for a long time but finally back here.

The story last was Raist falling out of the sky, and getting knocking out.  This is a flashback.

 

***

Raist was younger, in the second stage of his training, looking upwards at the girl that had just pinned him.  The dirt in his eyes and the sun silhouetting the female figure made it impossible for him to look at her.

“You think too much Raist!” she said giddily, jumping off of him and hauling him up back to his feet.  He was holding his stomach from where she had side kicked him before taking him down, rubbing his eyes with his other hand.  “Combat needs to be intuitive, you just can’t think about every option you have.”

“Easy for you to say, Laiun; they made you to be good at fighting.”  He coughed and spat out some blood from his mouth.  “I’m supposed to think of alternatives.”

“Don’t make excuses, it doesn’t suit you.  Just focus.  But still, I’m pretty impressed by you.  For a Leader-type you’re pretty good at holding your own.  You’re the one that’s supposed to think, and I’m the one that is supposed to do the fighting, but there are times when even thinking is bad.”

Her point made no sense.  “If you do not think, you are going to get killed.”

“I’m not scared,” the girl said as she shrugged, as if they were talking about nothing important.  It was Raist’s first time realizing how fatalistic Scouts were; their mentality kind of hurt him.  “I know my role in things.  I was engineered to be a Scout-type soldier, and will I die fighting?  Probably.  Then I go to the Line, right?”  Her sarcasm told Raist she didn’t believe in the concept of what came after life.  “Though I’m a better fighter than you, it’s just our roles that you plan and lead the battles, and we execute them. I’ll probably die either saving you, or someone like you.”

“Don’t say it like that.”

“What, don’t like the truth?  That doesn’t seem like you at all.”

“Hey.” Raist nodded his head past the girl, indicating something was behind her.

She turned around and he launched at her, kicking the back of her knees.  As she was going down, he flung his arm around her throat, wrapping his hand in the other arm’s bicep.  They crashed to the ground rolling but he held tight to his choke.  He held her there, wondering if he could maintain this grip against her wild thrashing for long, but before his grip failed, she tapped him twice on the leg and he let go.  They rolled through the dirt a bit before they faced each other again.

“Damn Raist, now that’s what I am talking about!  Nothing like being dirty to make you feel wild huh?!”  She grabbed some dirt and rubbed it in her bright pink hair while she slapped her face a few times, looking a bit crazed before she launched back at him.  Why was he paired with the crazy one for his close combat training?

Later the two of them were sitting on a cliff watching the star set, the two of them holding hands as she gently swung her legs off the edge.  “Laiun, do you ever think there is anything beyond this reality?” he asked her.

“Like gods or something?” She lifted her face to look at him, but his eyes were distant, looking past the horizon.  “Or you just mean the Line?  I know you have spiritual inclinations, but it’s hard for me to think there is anything after I die.  Ironic, given my role in life, but…” she shrugged sadly

He tried to frame it carefully that he wouldn’t sound too crazy, but also wanted her to understand what he was trying to get at.  “Kind of.  It’s a bit tough, but like there is this reality, and we think it is entirely explainable by physics and science, and I am not saying it’s not, but that there is a higher level of things that we are almost incapable of thinking about.  Maybe think about it that this is almost a game, and that there is a higher reality beyond.  Like what if we are affected by things we can just barely explain?”

She laughed a little, gripping his hand tighter.  “They used to have movies like that back on Terra all the time.  Reality was fake and all that.  Never liked them much; reality is too real to be fake, if that makes any sense.”

“Ha, no I agree with that,” he answered as he laughed.  “But that’s not what I’m really talking about.  Like what if what some call gods are nothing more than ‘reality administrator’ or something that ran things on a more local level? I am not saying we live in a video game, but that what we call gods might not be anything more than just a more advanced being helping maintain systems like whole planets.”

She smiled at him. “You’re talking ‘reality administrators’, and I’m having a hard time believing in the Line.”

Raist didn’t say anything.  He was close to Laiun but she didn’t really get esoteric stuff like this.  She wasn’t even sure she had a spiritual or life essence and that it would be recycled in the Line; somewhat impressive in a weird way, given a Classed Soldier had to overcome her spiritual schooling on the matter.

He turned away from her. “I’m not sure how you cannot care about any of this stuff, and just think when you die you are dead, and be so willing to die.”

“You know what I’m going to say?”

“Yes, I do, but I get the feeling you actually do care about this stuff.  But I’ll say it anyway: I think too much?”

“Haha, yep!  I actually do care, but still you think way too much.”  She leaned over to kiss him.

***

Project: AKRA pt 5

They are doing an orbital insertion down to the planet…here we go!

 

At this distance the descent suit did not block out the visual yet, and each prepared differently for what was coming.  For Raist he was always struck by the strange sensation of his appreciation of beauty in nature, even as his job was often to kill without remorse.  There was just something in the divine perfection of how color and motion came together.  He sounded stupid when he talked about it, so he tended to keep that part of his thoughts to himself.  It was easier to joke or swear than to be philosophical, or far easier to talk about banging Philira than wonder about reality with those around him.

All five of them had small micro tethers that kept them connected for the duration of the drop, and within the tether was an advanced processor that regulated each motion of their descent suits to keep it descending evenly and without problems.  With no warning the visual went black as spheres enclosed each of them, protecting them as they first hit the atmosphere and to prevent them from catching fire.

He hated this part the most, as nanites were blocking out the sound ever since he launched out of the ship, and now the black provided no distraction for his mind.  It was the questions that bothered him the most.  It was never doubt because he didn’t have any.  More like if his life could have been different, if it should have been different.  Unlike a lot of classes like Scouts, he had choices many of them never did.  With choices came responsibility, and the weights of deaths were weighing on him even if he did not overtly show it.

Did he think too much about things?  His previous Scout, Laiun, told him as much.

He knew above him the descent suit would have streamers deployed to slow their velocity, whipping violently based on the speed they were coming in with.  He knew underneath him the landscapes might now start to be visible, but all that was around him right now was darkness.

Light filled the void as the surrounding sphere melted away above and beyond him.  The planet had changed a lot since he last saw it from space: he could see clouds, the green/purple of plants, even mountains in the distance.  The melting of the sphere reformed into parachutes that variously reformed themselves with the synchronization orders of the rest to ensure the perfect descent of the team onto the planet.

Get through one jungle, a river, more jungle, and then the base of the mountain.  Sounds simple in premise.  Not too far to cross at all.  That mountain didn’t look too far away; he could get there by a single planet cycle.  This was going to be the easiest ‘hard’ mission they ever took.  He could ‘retire’ pretty quick, as he was burning out as a result of the destruction he caused.

That was before something went wrong with their descent system and Ziko suddenly fell out of the pentagon formation.  The rest of them went crashing into the strange upper-story plant life that ripped their advanced suits apart as if they were paper.

As Raist went tumbling to the dark forest floor, his only thought was that he had never felt this much pain this early in a mission before.  He had never lost someone before it even started.

“Ziko!”  He screamed before his head impacted something hard and he blacked out, still falling farther down.