Helga opened her eyes. She didn’t know how long she had been out, but the large grey moon was now all that she could see.
“Armor on, check your gear, and let’s get ready to thype some lizard tails, Nighthawk!” Cage shouted. Helga gave him a look of surprise. The stoic Master Chief had been replaced with a rowdy, backslapping leader. His gusto was met with approval from the men as they pulled on their armor and checked their weapons.
Helga looked over at Cruser and he was gearing up too, but when their eyes met he frowned at her. “Did you not hear the Master Chief?” he said. “I have the bird in a descent, Ate. Stop sitting there looking dazed. You need to get up and get moving. Now.”
Helga realized that she was still in her seat and she jumped up to pull on her armor. It had been hours since cryo, but it felt a lot shorter, and now the reality of the mission was the looming grey in front of her.
Numb fingers fumbled with straps, but she did her best to keep moving. After what seemed like an hour, Cruser was on her side, pulling down her breastplate and locking it in. “You were a second class cadet, Helga. They prepared you for this,” he whispered. “Push that fear to the side and ready your thyping gear.”
She inhaled deeply to calm her nerves and then took command of her body. It didn’t take much; she was conditioned for this. She reached into the locker, grabbed her helmet, and then pulled it over her head.
Cruser adjusted it from behind and it snapped into place, and the HUD suddenly appeared before her eyes. It showed her heart rate at 108 bpm, and a green paper doll with the condition of her armor. An empty gauge floated at the bottom of her vision, and another gauge wrapped around it all, showing how much fuel was left in her booster.
This was the first time she’d seen the inside of a PAS, though she’d simulated wearing one no less than a hundred times. All the ESOs were in their armor as well, including Lamia Brafa, who wore something sleeker with red highlights.
“Strap yourselves in, this moon is not playing,” Cruser shouted, and Cage picked up his command and screamed at them to get strapped in.
Helga jumped into her seat and pulled her straps tight, then looked over at Cruser who was working the controls.
They began to vibrate, as if a giant had grabbed the dropship and was attempting to shake them out. Helga felt as if her guts were being pushed up into her throat and then they were past it and she could see the surface of the moon.
Suddenly her HUD began to scream in red text. She could make out “breech,” and atmosphere warnings, so she looked to Cruser for help. The chief was slumped over in his seat, with a hole in the place where his face used to be. Now she heard shouting from the men behind her.
“Thype me,” she whispered. “Adan, please don’t be dead.” She made to scream but caught herself. He would want her to be strong. Fumbling for the release on her arm restraints, she leaned forward to take over the controls. Two blast doors slammed down in front of Cruser, protecting the ship from the breech. Helga heard more shots against the hull, then cannons exploding everywhere.
“Ate, what are you doing? Put us down,” Wyatt yelled, and that was when her anger took over. Put us down? No, they had killed her friend. She wasn’t going to land without putting up a fight.
She righted the ship and found her attackers. They were Geralos zip-ships flying circles around the Britz. Helga thought back on her training, flying a Wyman into combat, and her muscle memory found the controls needed to arm the Britz.
When she activated hardpoints, an echo of cheers came to her ears, and she timed the flyby of one of the ships and let out a barrage of machine gun fire. Clipping the aft of the nearest ship, she watched it dip and then crash. The other ship disappeared so she scanned the radar, and was pleased to see that it was flying away.
Helga looked for a good place to land the Britz, somewhere safe enough to stave off an ambush. Her answer came by the way of a ravine which dipped deep into the moon’s surface.
When she flew into the chasm, she saw large rocks and outcroppings, no ground stable enough to set the bulky Britz down. “Land the thyping bird, rookie!” she heard Varnes shout. So she chose one of the clearest areas and put the dropship down.
She stared at Cruser for a very long time, ignoring the men as they rushed about the cockpit. The pilot’s face was now a vacant, bloody hole, and a part of her felt guilty, even though that made no sense. Looks like we may have gotten here a tad bit late, Helga thought, and she looked back to see what Cilas was doing.
She saw that the lieutenant was seated on the floor, with a hole in his armor from where he had been shot. Varnes and Brise Sol were tending to his wounds while the rest of the men were scrambling around. “Let us the thype out of this thing, Ate,” Wyatt said.
“Cool your jets,” said Varnes. “I need to patch up this hole.”
Shots rained down on them from above, and continued relentlessly as Helga struggled to release the door.
Cage Hem began unscrewing an airlock that he found on the floor of the Britz. “We’re going to be exposed if we don’t do something soon!” Varnes yelled, and as if on cue, Hem pulled up the giant lid to reveal the surface of the moon.
The big man jumped through and then motioned for them to hand him Cilas. “Give me the Lt, I need to get him secured. The rest of you hawks quit screwing around. Get out here and raise hell,” he shouted through the comms.
The gravity allowed for them to carefully drop Cilas’s body, and Cage laid him down behind a pair of rocks. One after another, the men jumped through the hatch, but when it was Helga’s turn she took one last look at Cruser. “I’ll make it count,” she said, after shutting off her comms.
She picked up her rifle, synced it to her suit, then stepped into the vacant hole and dropped.
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