Chapter 04: The Man in Black Armor

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Allan kept surveying the area as he left the comms tower and began to make for the front gate and, subsequently, the jump ship. It was still where it was supposed to be, though the back ramp was open, which wasn't standard protocol. Had the pilot just been lazy and left it down? It was possible, Allan had seen such occurrences before. It suddenly occurred to him that he should have more directly warned the pilot that there was something wrong, that they had actually found signs of conflict and dead bodies. The radio link had been left open and he should have heard the entire conversation anyway, unless he'd turned off the radio for some reason.

Too many possibilities.

Allan reached the gate and moved through it. He paused briefly, scanning the area around him once more. Buildings to his back, the jump ship ahead of him, nothing but infinite dirt wastelands in every other direction. He made himself keep going, unable to shake the growing sense of unease that was welling within him. This was supposed to be a fucking milk run, and now he had three corpses and a ruined relay on his hands.

Allan reached the back ramp and stared long into the interior. It was darkened, powered down, the only light coming from the sun. The door to the cockpit was closed. Bringing his rifle up against his shoulder, finger sliding inside the trigger guard, Allan moved slowly up the ramp. He felt a nervous tension bearing down on him as he stared at the closed door. There'd been too many instances in his life where such a sight always revealed something that was better left unknown, hidden in the darkness. Allan reached the door.

Slowly, he extended his left hand and hit the activation button. The door began sliding open and he brought his hand back, grasping the barrel of the rifle, staring down the sights. He hoped he'd just scare the crap out of the pilot, which would be a welcome anticlimax to the situation. But as the door to the cockpit finished opening, Allan knew there would be no such thing. For a few seconds, he stared in dumb incomprehension.

The cockpit had been ruined.

Several of the screens were cracked, registering only static, and had blood on them. One of the control panels was smashed. If Allan had been approaching from the opposite side he would have immediately noticed something was wrong. Not only was there blood all over the inside of the windows, but the pilot's head had been smashed directly through the glass. Allan stared at the awkwardly hanging, broken body and marveled that not only had the pilot's skull survived enough to be forced through glass, but that someone was strong enough to do it. Something seemed to click on inside of him, then.

"Squad, we've got a hostile-"

But he was cut off as another voice came onto the radio. "Contact! We've got a contact-" It had been Mitchell, and she was cut off abruptly. Almost simultaneously, Allan could hear the sound of automatic gunfire nearby.

His heart racing, he turned and ran out of the cockpit. His foot caught on something and he tripped, sprawling out on the floor of the holding area, his suit banging on the metal deckplates. He looked up and spied the staccato flashes of gunfire. Out the back of the ship, through the chainlink, Allan could see an immense figure in black walking slowly towards the comms tower. Someone inside was firing. The figure was holding someone.

Allan rose to his feet and began sprinting. He bounded out the ship and down the ramp, then barreled across the wasteland towards the fence. The dark-armored figure held whoever it was holding high over its head, then threw it directly into the comms tower, towards the source of the gunfire. There was the sound of shattering glass.

"Don't fucking move!" Allan screamed as he shoved through the gate.

The figure stopped and turned to face him slowly. The gunfire fell away.

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