Solus [Chapter 3]A Chapter by KeanesPark
Jake waits anxiously for Kat's recovery, trusting the judgment of the recently met mechanical engineer and medic, Jamie.
Kat’s arms swinging side to side over his shoulder, Jake didn’t bother to check for survivors. He strained to keep the girl balanced while pushing aside heaps of scrap metal and an enormous, translucent rock from the entryway. It took effort to clear an even climbing path; the rocks were almost twice as heavy as the ones on Earth. It took strength he didn’t have, but he shook off the thought. I say how far this body takes me. Jake trudged on.
A sharp spike in his heart rate sent his vision reeling. His bootlace was seized abruptly by the end of a metal stake protruding from the concrete - he tripped forward with stunning speed as his right leg was held back, his weary mind not caring much about the fall itself. Then remembering the limp body on his shoulder, Jake violently swiveled his side towards the floor, hefting Katherine above him and using his hands to cushion the fall of her head. The weight of two bodies and their suits of Kevlar and titanium coming down onto the floor with the force of a wrist snap caused a supporting beam to collapse.
The mosaic roof above cracked.
Dust fisting down with sundered splits of tile was the only warning before -- Crash!
There were only nanoseconds open for reaction. An island shaped section of the ceiling broke off and shot for the ground like a lightning bolt at their heads. Jake scrambled in a flash for a hold on the neck of Katherine’s suit. A sharp yell parted from his lips. Groaning with great effort, he wrenched both himself and Kat up into a sitting position, the concrete slab plummeting down without reservation. The jagged end crushed, brutally, the hand Jake was using to shield Katherine’s helmet. The glove’s material barely held, but bones were shattered, broken. His breaths turned to sharp hisses; he battled to keep his mouth stitched.
Furious, labored breaths tore through him, the sound coming through his mask like a man breaking surface for air.
Jake inched his right hand off of her helmet, not daring to try and move the fingers. He reached over with his left hand to the dial on his glove. “Unit 016, Unit 016,” he panted, heavy breathing breaking in between every other word, “This is Lieutenant Browder; please respond, over.”
No response. Not even static.
Jake let Katherine down slowly onto the slab. Resting his right hand on his thigh, he felt for the wires on the back of his helmet. Still intact. He let his hand slide down the exposed wires on his spine. Cut through. “This isn’t working out well,” he breathed wearily.
Through the padded glove, he could sense the texture of his back plates. The gashes were deeper than an inch. He continued to check his other systems. Oxygen tank… half full. Kat’s reserve tank… almost empty. “Need help…”
Jake discovered his weapon under the fallen ceiling, its outstretched nozzle trying to crawl away from the section of metal that kept in place like adhesive. Katherine’s rifle, on the other hand, was still in order. It rested on the wall, snickering from the opposite side of the room where it came from.
He left Katherine propped up near the door and went to retrieve the gun.
Cubes, chunks, fragments of the injured building littered the ground like prairie grass and invading weeds. Jake was careful not to cause any breaks, to tread lightly the twenty feet to the other end. The aqua and emerald mosaic tiles above no longer looked safely glued to the ceiling, but seemed to hang down like a carnivorous set of teeth. He kept a tentative eye on it and strained for sounds, for any premonition of it collapsing.
The sole source of light in the building came from the high-intensity beams of Jake’s and Katherine’s suits. Tiptoeing through the freely shifting pebbles and concrete, his light had to plunge through the room’s dense volume of settling dust before it reached the floor; it made more sense just to keep his head down on the terrain before him. His knees were doing frog bends to climb over the mounds, his right hand out for balance and- “…!” The rock set under Jake’s foot slid back, propelling him forward. His right hand shot out instinctively to catch himself. “Damn!” he promptly retracted it, forcing his left hand under the opposite side. But the angles for weight placement went awry; he was sent flying into a roll to his left.
Luckily, he didn’t have far to fall, just crude ends to tumble over. Ten points of impact every half second. The heavy titanium and increased gravity kept him in contact with the loose masses all the way down, a deep rumbling sounding from concrete masses sliding and tumbling together. He gasped and grunted with each revolution over the stone. He preserved his right hand in the nook between his chest armor and a forward bend in his mask, letting himself roll. Jake came to an aching halt at a five foot depression in the room.
“D****t, Katherine!” he shouted forcefully to the ground right in front of his mask. Why’d you have to make the switch? Strenuous breathing. “Always worrying about others… D****t!” He struck the ground with an exasperated fist, yet to recover from his self-loathing.
His broken hand didn’t absorb much of the fall, but it seemed to have found a pointed piece of concrete or metal. Just above his wrist, he could feel a half of his back hand throbbing from the result of broken blood vessels. He was afraid to turn on his back, worried that it might puncture an already abraded oxygen tank.
Under his breath, he was glorifying the Axis Corps for doing something right: Putting knee pads on the suit.
Jake came back with the KS92, now ready to face any Tnechents possibly lurking outside the shelter. He dragged Katherine outside the building, using his left hand and right elbow to pull under her arms. Putting her outside, he reasoned, would dismiss the threat of the entire structure crumbling down on the girl from the next mishap.
Taking a quick breath, he stretched and paced before the doorway. What to do now? He debated with himself. Get help or try to bring Kat to the base? He stared at his broken hand.
There was an option, but it required that he give his position away to the Tnechents as well. He grunted and brought Kat around to a small alleyway, out of view from the wider street. The only sound as he looked down the winding road was the slow wind passing through. He unhooked a flare from his suit and was about ready to pop it against his knee when-
“The f**k are you doing?” Eli came up from behind and snarled. He took the flare from Jake’s hand and threw it on the ground. “Don’t tell me you’re as stupid as I think you are.” He gave Jake a parental stare. “The others got separated on the other side of the city. We’re going to see if we can request backup from the other units; until then, we’re stayin’ put right where we f*****g feel like ‘cause I know for a fact that I’m not here to fill a suicide mission.”
Jake nodded and pointed to the alleyway, “Kat’s wounded. We can’t leave her here.”
Eli growled. To Jake’s surprise, Eli took Katherine from the ground and carried the girl himself. He jogged ahead of him, effortlessly moving across the sand even with the added weight. As he had said before, he was definitely the soldier type. Jake struggled to keep up. They found themselves at the front of the control center ten minutes later.
“Open up, you fuckers!” Eli roared, pounding a gloved fist against the metal frame.
Growing more and more irritated, he was about to slam the door again when the tumbler on the front of the door spun gradually to the right before stopping in place, setting itself into the recess that it sat over. The door divided in two, shifting to opposite sides. Eli squeezed himself in, Jake following after uncomfortably. The two walked side by side through the gray halls, both forcing their way through rather impatiently. Eli was in a worse mood than usual.
“This f****r’s tank is busted,” he said, tossing Kat onto the floor at Lucille’s feet, who, for some reason, did not seem surprised at all. Content, actually.
“Don’t put her down like that!” Jake raised his voice, tightening his hand into a fist, shyly leaving his injured hand out of view. There were certain things that shouldn’t be done. Jake made sure Eli’s behavior towards Kat wasn’t acceptable.
“Huh?” Eli muttered, turning around to face him. His tall, sinewy figure was enough to frighten someone into running out the nearest airlock for cover. “What, you gonna f****n’ do something about it?” he boomed. Jake kept silent, venting out his frustration in his head. “Tch,” Eli turned away in disgust, taking a seat at the table as Lucille watched with apparent satisfaction.
“We don’t want any infighting around here,” she said casually, as if reprimanding school children. “Eli, could you take Kat into the med center? If you know how to read, you won’t get lost.”
“I don’t want to hear that from someone who keeps her a*s cooped up in here for the entirety of the mission,” Eli sighed, cradling the girl in his arms. “I’ll be back whenever.” Jake watched him disappear into the hall with apprehension. If anything were to happen, there’d be no way he could…he shook his head, deciding against it; he had to be there with her.
Eli quickly noticed a second set of footsteps behind him. He didn’t make it aware that he’d noticed, though. A third pair. Turning around, he found Lucille and Jake walking steadily behind him. “The f**k do you guys want?”
“Would you stop swearing so much?” the director sighed, “You’re not in high school anymore.”
“Yeah, and you’re not on vacation, either; if you can’t find anything better do, why don’t you pick up a f*****g gun and try helping out for once?”
“I just hope we remember who’s in charge here.”
“It’s definitely not some dumb b***h with a leather fetish,” he retorted, taking a right after glancing at one of the green arrows. One could feel the Director’s eyes rolling behind him.
“Browder,” Lucille called up to him, changing the subject, “What happened to your suit?”
“Encountered some falling ceilings, Ma’am.” It was too late to try and cover his chagrin.
“We’ll get Jamie to fix that right up for you before you head out again,” she told him. “You injured?”
He was silent for a second. “No, Ma’am.”
Eli glanced around after setting Kat down on the floor, slumped against the wall. It was devoid of any extravagance; a simple workbench by the door, some lockers, medical instruments, and a couple half-opened repair kits lying around with tools spilling out. And a twelve year old girl climbing a foot ladder to operate on a partially built Kobra. The copter was modified to be flown at extremely low altitudes and fitted with dual machine guns along with a grenade launcher under the thick, sand-colored chassis.
“So who’s the brat?” Eli said, leaning against the wall. The girl stopped herself, the torch in her hand trembling a bit as her grip tightened. Jake could easily imagine the flustered look on her face as she heard the phrase cycling through her head over and over.
“That’s your engineer,” Lucille said, taking a seat on a bench with one leg folded over the other, unwrapping a stick of gum before popping it in her mouth. She chewed vigorously, shooting a sideways glance at Eli. “Treat her nicely; you don’t want to find your gun mysteriously firing a flag with the word ‘bang’ printed it on it during the middle of a firefight.” Eli had sense not to reply.
“Let’s take a look here,” the girl mused, laying Katherine out on one of the larger tables after having removed her armor. Kat’s wine red hair was let down over pastel shoulders. “She’s been without oxygen for five minutes.” The engineer knelt down, unfastening bolts on either end of the table. She dragged out a large, metal slab curved into an arc, leaving the slot empty. Briskly walking over to the other side, she pulled it all the way down at the opposite end, forming a hollow dome with Kat underneath. Her actions looked precise, as if she knew what she was doing, but her ability to handle everything seemed a bit off, considering her size.
Jake watched attentively, absorbed in the girl’s work, noticing that she went around barefoot. He couldn’t help but have a grand sense of admiration bloom from within. A medic. I should’ve been a medic. Restlessly, he tapped his foot in wait, occasionally taking a peek at the constantly bickering pair that was Director Lucille and Lance-Corporal Eli.
“This is a no smoking area,” she said crossly, noticeably irritated by Eli’s inability to follow orders. Obviously she had been prone to defiant soldiers in the past.
“Put a sign up, then,” he muttered, a cigarette wedged between his teeth as he took a few clicks to light the end, his head slightly lowered as he cupped his hands over the flame for a moment. “Not like I’m killing anyone here.”
“Do whatever you want,” she said. “Personally, I think your skull would find better use as tank armor.” She had had given up, at least for now. Eli raised his head, blowing out a stream of smoke as he lowered his cigarette hand. He glanced over at the chamber Kat was lying under. Vivid green light shone radiantly onto specific areas on her body, bathing it in a matching shade.
“The f**k is that s**t?” he muttered, setting one hand under the light. He turned his hand over slowly, his eyes fixed on the jade hue it was given.
“Wouldn’t do that if I were you,” the girl said busily, changing some settings at the back of the table. “That light you see there rapidly gathers cells in that specific area, so leave your hand there long enough and it’ll explode.” Eli instantly withdrew his hand from the light as if it were fire, taking an anxious look at it; of course, he couldn’t see it through the metal gauntlet. “I was kidding,” the girl rolled her eyes, closing the doors on both end of the station. “Oh yeah; the name’s Jamie. Please do not call me a brat or a kid. Yes, I’m younger than you, but I’d rather be treated with equal respect.”
“Kids don’t need any f*****g respect,” he spat, inhaling a grayish cloud. Evident in his tone, he was still incensed by her little joke. Jamie frowned, but said nothing, getting back to her work.
“When…” Jake found it difficult to find the nerve to speak, even to a child. He took a light breath and tried again. “How long will it take?”
“Eight seconds,” she said offhandedly, opening up the chamber. Kat’s eyes fluttered open, taking a sharp, yet silent breath as her consciousness returned, the metal hood drawing back into its recess. Bewildered, she took in her surroundings.
“Looks like you aren’t useless after all,” Eli said, impressed. He dropped his cigarette and grinded it into the steel flooring with the heel of his metal boot. Gradually, she sat up, coughing as Jake attended to her.
“Are you alright?” he asked, trying to conceal his excitement.
“Did you bring me in?” she questioned weakly, coughing a bit more before regaining her voice. “I feel pretty fine.” He nodded. Smiling, she patted him on the back. “Thanks. You were a real hero out there.” He felt his face go a little red, which vanished instantly when Eli butted in.
“Let’s go already,” he snapped, throwing his arms up in the air as he left the room. “This place smells like s**t.” Jamie stuck out her tongue behind his back, her hands planted on the table as she raised herself on her toes. Lowering herself, she saw Jake glancing in her direction with thankful eyes.
“Thank you,” he said warmly with utmost sincerity. “Thank you for saving her.”
“It’s no biggie, really,” she said, laughing nervously as her eyes drifted over to the ship she was working on earlier. “Just a simple ‘thanks’ is fine. Sometimes, I don’t even get a ‘thank you.’” Inside, she was grateful that he did not seem to take her work for granted. At that moment, her assumption that soldiers were terrible people quickly dissipated, at least for a while.
“Future reference,” Kat said lightly, pushing herself off of the station and landing neatly on both feet. “These things would be a lot more comfortable with some kind of padding. Definitely would not want to be hospitalized on that thing.” Jake looked back at her at her and greeted her with an affectionate smile.
“I need a rest,” Eli groaned, stretching himself over the circular table as he followed up with a yawn. “This place is such a f*****g turn off.” He rolled his head to one side to look at the blank wall behind him. “All the chicks are wearing those damned suits and the Director doesn’t know how to give a guy a good time.”
“Is there a problem?” a female voice said from the opposite side of the room. He turned his head again to see Lucille leaning against the wall by the hallway with her arms crossed.
“Nope, everything’s just f*****g perfect, thank you.”
“Can’t find anything else to complain about? Or are you just tired of repeating yourself?”
“F**k me or f**k off,” he muttered indifferently, turning his head away from her. If he wasn’t so tired, he’d have been sure to teach her a lesson.
“Men really are basic, aren’t they?” she smiled; he could feel her gaze burning into his back.
“The f**k?” he said incredulously, raising his tone. “You want to start a fight?”
“Have fun on Solus,” she said, ignoring his last comment as she left the room. “Just remember there are plenty of soldiers standing by waiting to replace you.”
© 2012 KeanesPark
Added on May 3, 2012
Last Updated on May 3, 2012
AboutI write stories, draw, animate, listen to music, and not much more than that. I occasionally play video games. Anything with more than one part will have its own book. Otherwise, they'll usually b.. more..
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