Chapter 2: The Drop
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As Krana ran, she wondered where it had all gone wrong.

 

When her older brother got accepted into the apprentice program at the Keraan Gate Research Facility, her family had been overjoyed. They know how big of an honor this was, and spared no haste in moving from their old family home to a new one in the big city to be there to support him.

 

And to be fair, everything had been going well at first. Krana’s new school was full of top-of-the-line tech, her teachers seemed to have real passion, and she made quite a few fast friends, though this may have been influenced by her brother’s position being a really easy conversation starter.

 

Now her brother was dead, and her parents as well, probably. She pushed away that thought. She had to focus on running. She could see it now, the edge of the city - you see, the region in which Keraan resided had always been famous for its beautiful rolling grasslands, and so when the city began expanding rapidly due to interest generated by the Gate, local policymakers had enacted a hard limit on outward expansion. This meant that at the city limit, it immediately became vacant of all construction apart from the roads used to connect the city with the rest of the world.

 

And as she broke the city limits, and was greeted with those beautiful rolling grasslands, she was hopeful. She’d made it!

 

The happy thoughts were cut short however, when an ear-splitting screech sounded out behind her.

 

It was one of them.

 

She turned around only long enough to see it was indeed locked onto her, the hulking mass of muscle, bones, and murderous rage, before she began running again.

 

She knew it was futile; she had only made it to the edge of the city by being sneaky, the things were incredibly fast and much more agile than they looked. But she still held out hope something would happen, and so she ran.

 

It was about this time when she noticed several silhouettes over the nearest hill, running towards the city, of all places.

 

Before she had much time to think about the strange sight, the screech sounded out again, this time there were three, and she could tell they were closing in by the volume.

 

==================================================================

 

Before the Drop

“Alright everyone, listen up,” spoke Roko to the strike team.

 

Everyone in the room looked up. They were all in various states of pre-battle prep, scattered around the large room fiddling with equipment.

 

“As you all know, Sensors discovered a Break happening in an uncontacted system a few hours ago. We’ve just arrived in-system, and the cap gave me the situation.” he began, pulling up a projection of the planet over the planning table in the middle of the room. “These guys are very lucky. Our close-rangers say this is probably the lowest threat-rating Break they’ve ever detected. It looks like the destruction is mostly contained to the city around the gate. Local military seems to have set up an F.O.B. over here, at the nearest small town. We’ll be dropping in between these, as it’s the most likely direction any monsters will be leaving the city. Our primary goal is the rescue of any civilians we can find, and to attempt to contain the monsters. If the situation allows for it, we close the gate. But no pushing ourselves, reinforcements should be here within the day. Any questions?”

 

He surveyed the room, but nobody said anything or even indicated reservations. They were ready.

 

“Alright. I want everyone suited up and in a drop pod in ten minutes. We’ve got people to save.”

 

And with that, the team went back to quickly gearing up.

 

When Roko entered the drop room precisely ten minutes later, he was unsurprised. Everyone was suited up and ready. Of course they were. Not only were they an elite strike team of the IGDC, they were his elite strike team. Each member had been hand-picked by him and molded into an efficient member of the team.

 

He got in his own pod, and the countdown began.

 

Strike Team Viper, confirmed ready for drop. Drop commencing in 3… 2… 1… drop. Have a nice trip.

 

With that, they were screaming into the atmosphere at high speed. For a normal person, this would be a terrifying experience. This was a terrifying experience for experienced soldiers. But the strike teams of the IGDC are specifically trained for this kind of thing. Dropping is much quicker than any other method of getting planetside, and allows the team to arrive anywhere they can land, rather than needing a spaceport or space elevator to be near where they want to end up.

 

Immediately after they hit land, the pods pop open, the team picks up their supplies, and they’re off, running towards Keraan.

 

At approximately 60 miles per hour.

 

This is thanks to their specialized living combat suits, integrated into their body through more permanent implants in certain areas of the body. The suits are designed to bridge the close-quarters skill gap between normal sentients and the monsters from the Gates, and speed was one of the most important factors in making that a reality.

 

As the squad came up towards a hill, nearing the city, Roko shouted orders through their comms.

 

“Allaria, wings out, get us some vision of the city.”

 

Allaria said only a quick “Roger, Captain,” before unfurling her suit’s wings and taking to the sky, looking towards the city with her suit-enhanced eyesight.

 

“We’re close, and I’m spotting what looks to be three standard variation Ravagers leaving the city, towards us.”

 

“That’s weird,” started Roko, “That’s not nearly en- “

 

“They’re chasing a native!” interrupted Allaria.

 

Roko’s eyes narrowed.

 

“TIme to intercept?”

 

“They’re close, look like 30 seconds tops before they reach the native.”

 

“Shit. Karn! Boost me!”

 

The massive Branion chimed in a “Roger, Captain!” before getting close to Roko and bracing his arms up. Roko then jumped, landing his feet in Karn’s arms, before Karn pushed forward and Roko jumped, the whole interaction boosted many times by the strength of the combat suits, shooting Roko forward like a rocket.

 

It worked, and soon he’d passed over the terrified fleeing native’s head, and was on course to pass through the group of Ravagers, had he not pulled out his two shortblades, dragging them through the side of one of the Ravagers to slow himself down. This had the convenient side-effect of nearly killing the Ravager, and so he quickly ran up its back and plunged the two blades into its skull.

 

Roko smiled as he saw the other two ravagers turn their ugly mugs towards him. He’d successfully distracted them from the native, who he now noticed was on the ground some distance away, seemingly collapsed from some combination of exhaustion and shock at what they’d just seen.

 

Turning his attention back to the ravagers, he flipped off the corpse he was standing on and high into the air as one of them attempted to impale him with a bone-spear. He shot off a mini-harpoon from his suit, sticking the Ravager and pulling him out of the air and onto its back. He ran up it, planning to execute this one the same way as the first, but was pleasantly surprised when the third ravager attacked him while he was reaching the head. Dodging with another large jump, the bone-spear plunged straight through where he was standing moments earlier and impaled number 2’s skull. Roko would have laughed out loud at the sight had there not been one more.

 

This time using two grapples, he pulled himself towards the last one at high speed, extending spikes from his suit’s feet and impaling its skull.

 

Jumping off and landing gracefully on the ground, he retracted his suit’s facemask to speak with his team, who had just reached him.

 

“Allaria, we clear?”

 

Allaria, still flying high above the team, did another close scan of their surroundings.

 

“For now, yeah. I can’t see too far into the city, too many obstructions, but nothing anywhere else.”

 

“That’s good,” he looked over to where the team’s medic, Arthur, was looking over the native, still on the ground. “How are they?”

 

“Well, this is an uncontacted species, so I don’t have any prior knowledge to go off, but I don’t see any of the obvious cross-species signs of injury, like breaks in the skin or leaking fluids, so they’re probably fine.”

 

“Wonderful,” he replied, before speaking into his suit comms.

 

Basilisk, this is Roko speaking. We’ve just about reached the city, and rescued a native who was being chased by three standard pattern Ravagers. How’s communication with the native governments coming?”

 

“Better than we expected, but it’s still a slow process. AIDRU is working overtime to create a functioning translation matrix, but we’ve got a few hours minimum until we can have understandable conversations. We’ve received word from HQ about ETA for reinforcements, they’ll be in-system within 15 hours and make planetfall soon after if our talks with the natives go smoothly.”

 

“Alright then. Moving into the city now. We’ll make a few cleanup rounds in the outskirts looking for survivors before trying to find the Gate. if it looks clean we’ll try and get it closed.”

 

“Copy that, Roko. Stay safe out there.”

“Alright everyone, it’s showtime. Allaria, since the density of the city interferes with your full potential, you’re on native escort duty. Fly them back to that base we landed near and then come back. Ock, you’re on forward scout duty while we’re in-city. Our main goal is to rescue any survivors we can, so keep an eye out. Let’s go!”

 

=========================================================

 

Krana had never thought much about death. Why would she? Her family was relatively well off, she had good friends, she was happy most of the time. Death was something ethereal, far off. She hadn’t even experienced much familial death, barring a few great-grandparents who died before she even truly understood the concept of death.

 

Recent events, however, had made her intimately familiar with the subject. She watched her brother die. She had seen hundreds of bodies on her way sneaking out of the city. And when her legs gave out running from those things, she had been coming to terms with her own imminent death.

 

Until something flashed above her head, and she heard a new ear-splitting shriek. Different than the ones she had heard previously, it almost sounded like it was in pain. But that made no sense, she herself had watched military and police try every weapon they had, and nothing so much as put a scratch on the monsters.

 

Curiosity eventually got the best of her, and she looked up.

 

Only to see a figure, covered in blood, standing on the corpse of one of the monsters. It seemed to look at her, though it was wearing something over its whole body including where she guessed the face was. She nearly screamed out when she saw one of the other monsters moving to stab the figure with an appendage, but the figure was one step ahead. It jumped impossibly high, before firing out a cord and pulling itself to the monster that had attacked it.

 

She then noticed there was another figure, in a similar body-covering, but this one had wings! It was flying above and seemed to be on the lookout. She then heard the sound of running, and turned around to see a whole group of what she now assumed to be aliens, wearing similar coverings.

 

A loud thump resounded out behind her and she turned around to see the original figure standing on a pile of bodies, before it jumped off and began talking to what she now assumed was its group. One of them approached her, hands up, slowly, in what she thought seemed to be an attempt to appear as non-threatening as possible. It then took out a strange device from a pouch on its hip, and shined some strange light over her.

 

After the first one finished speaking, the whole group seemed to form up and head towards the city, with the exception of the one with wings. That one landed close to her, and began trying to communicate something without speaking. It was gesturing in the direction of one of the roads, making some carrying gestures, before it seemed to give up, and just picked Krana up.

 

Krana was about to start protesting and trying to escape, but the mysterious alien flew straight up into the air, causing Krana’s self-preservation to kick in, and she clung on for dear life.

 

This seemed to get a reaction out of the offending flyer, but what that reaction was was completely unknown to Krana.

 

While being picked up by an alien you neither know nor can speak to and flown at high speeds is certainly terrifying, it was a lot less terrifying than being chased by those monsters. Plus, based on the gesturing from earlier, the alien was likely just bringing her to a nearby town. Even further, one of these people had killed three of the monsters by itself and that was apparently normal, judging by the lack of reaction from any of the other beings.

 

Her suspicions were confirmed when she saw the nearest town, Enuu, come into view. It looked like the military had set up some sort of camp in the outskirts of the town, and that’s where they were heading.

 

As the alien went to land, Krana could see people in the camp scrambling at the sight of them.

 

“It’s okay!” she shouted, “This, uh, person… I guess? Saved me!”

 

This seemed to calm the people down somewhat, but soldiers were still pointing their weapons until the alien had let Krana down and flown away.

 

She was quickly brought into a medical tent, and after they ascertained she was fine physically, barring minor exhaustion, a very important-looking person took a seat next to the bed she was in.

 

“Hello, Krana. I’m from the military. If it’s alright with you, could you describe your encounter with the being that saved you?”

 

“Uh, yeah. I was running out of the city, happy to finally have snuck to the edge without being seen by any of the… uh… monsters, when I heard a screech. Turns out my final mad dash had been seen by a few, and they chased me for a bit, before those beings showed up.”

 

“And, what happened next?”

 

“Well, one of them killed all three in about 30 seconds using swords.”

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