Chapter 15: Something in the Mist

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This was it. The end.

The final mission that would decide everything.

They'd dropped out of FTL flight twenty minutes ago. Everyone had memorized their data on the way there and Greg had made sure the pilots were both suited up with armor and guns. They were going to be the only backup he'd have on this mission besides Keron, a Japanese Spec Ops heavy weapons expert. He was a squat, bulky man with a black crewcut, calm gray eyes, and an air of easy death. He didn't say much. Greg supposed the man subscribed to the philosophy of speak softly (or rarely) and carry a big fucking gun. That he did. A custom-made, long-barreled machine gun with an underslung grenade launcher. It also took hundred round magazines. The two pilots, Hoyt and Morrow, were a bit more easygoing.

Hoyt was very laid back. She was tall and thin with a shaved head and an easy smile. Greg had been glad to learn that she had once been a sniper before deciding she enjoyed piloting ships more. Morrow as fidgety and morose, a tall man built like a bodybuilder, with olive skin, his mouth seemed caught in a permanent frown. He seemed to grumble about everything and Hoyt explained that his main fuel in life was bitterness but that he was surprisingly good at his job. Greg figured he'd have to be, given that he'd made it to Spec Ops.

Now Greg stood on the bridge between the two pilots. Everyone was ready to go. All that was left was to actually land. They were burning through the atmosphere right now, running every sensor and scanner they could, seeing what kind of hell was waiting for them on the surface. Greg shifted uncomfortably in his armor.

A sharp chime filled the bridge.

"What's that?" he asked.

"Scan is done," Morrow replied. He heaved a sigh. "I'm reading tons of life signs down there...though only about a third of them are human. No idea what the rest of them are but they're definitely alive and I'm sure they're going to try and kill us."

"Wouldn't be the first time," Greg replied. "How close can you get us?"

"It looks like everything is centered around a mountain, which is where the primary objective should be. There's a handful of encampments scattered around...I should be able to put us down on a flat patch of ground about a half-mile from the outermost encampment. The terrain is mostly forest all around the mountain..."

A sharp, rapid beeping began to fill the cockpit.

Greg didn't even have to ask what that one was. He was all too familiar with it. He stumbled as the pilots jerked the ship to the right, trying to get out of the way of the missile that had been launched towards them, but a tremendous explosion ripped through the ship. Greg was thrown to the floor. A confusion of voices suddenly sprang into existence on the general comms.

"What the fuck was that!?" Drake demanded.

"Are we going down?" Keron, calm as ever.

"Everyone shut up!" Morrow snapped. "A missile has hit us. We're going down. Get to the fucking pods quick as you can!"

Everyone responded affirmatively. Greg got to his feet and saw Hoyt standing up to join him, but not Morrow. "Aren't you coming?" Hoyt asked.

"No! They're launching more missiles. I've got to keep us dancing in the wind so everyone can get to the pods in time. Another hit will probably destroy us complete now go! I'll join you as soon as everyone is out!"

Neither argued. Greg stumbled into the main corridor and raced down it, towards the pod bay. All around him the ship trembled as it made a nosedive for the ground. With no way to know how much longer they had until they hit dirt or until another missile turned them into a giant fireball, Greg could feel the press of time. As he came into the pod bay, he saw one of them launch. Three were gone altogether. Perfect: Keron, Eve, and Drake had made it out. The pods were single-person, so Greg climbed into one and Hoyt into the other. He quickly strapped himself in. The pod was little more than a metal shell with very slight maneuvering capabilities, meant to survive a hard landing. As soon as the door was closed and he was strapped in, Greg hit the launch button. The pod shot out of the crashing vessel, towards the ground.

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