Boots on the Ground - part 2 of 4
If you’ve just jumped in, start at the beginning here.
Pushing pain away, Baker took a deep breath and did took an inventory of her body. She lay flat on her back and wondered how far she fell. After clenching her fists and wriggling her toes, she determined she didn’t have serious injuries.
She opened her eyes. Bright light shone down on her from above. Blinking, she tried to make sense of her surroundings. Wasn’t the corridor dark? She bit her lip.
“I’m not a bloody rookie,” she told herself. “Focus on the situation.”
Outside of the ring of light where she lay, her eyes couldn’t make out anything in the darkness. She let out a long exhale, but her breath didn’t sound right.
“Wait, I’m not in my suit.”
Her armoured exoskeleton was gone leaving her feeling exposed. A shiver ran through her as she realized how vulnerable she was. She raised herself up to her elbows.
Debris covered her, small concrete chunks combined with flooring pieces. She wiped the bigger bits away, ignoring the dust, before pushing up to her feet. The hole above was too far to jump up to without a suit—she couldn’t even jump high enough to grab the rim.
“Where is my suit?” Her voice sounded small without her amplifiers. The surrounding darkness seemed to absorb it. Cursing her weakness, she surveyed the illuminated patch of floor around her.
Her mechanized suit of armour was nowhere to be seen. A biometric lock kept her securely inside—meaning an outsider wouldn’t have been able to remove it. Only she, or a member of her division, could remove it. She swallowed.
“Focus on the situation, Baker.”
The space she was in was roughly five metres tall, the extents she couldn’t determine because of the darkness. She guessed it was the same size as one of the hangar bays up on her home ship. The floor was bare concrete; the exception was the pile of debris from the caved in ceiling.
“Hello?” she shouted into the darkness. The Echo of her voice was the only response.
“How am I breathing?” The air smelled stale with a hint of ammonia, but she was breathing just fine. She glanced up again. There was no seal on the hole and the air above hadn’t been breathable.
“I’m up shits creek now.” She scratched the fuzz on the back of her head. “What the hell was I thinking, going all soft like that about some damn civi.” She shook her head. “Focus.”
Looking away from the light above, she peered into the surrounding darkness. Lit from above, waves of dust settled through the air. Stepping forward, she moved out of the pool of light to allow her ordinary biological eyes to adjust to the darkness.
It took a few minutes before she could make out any details in the shadows—it turned out there weren’t many details to see. Just like the floor and ceiling, the walls were also formed of rough concrete. No furniture of any kind littered the space. She circled through the shadows, hunting for anything that might help her.
Halfway through her transit, Baker stumbled upon a hallway that led off into deeper darkness. Keeping one hand on the wall, she slowly walked into it. As her surroundings became completely black, she started testing the ground with her foot before putting her weight down—she didn’t want to risk the floor giving away a second time.
The hall ended abruptly. She groped around and tried to make sense of what she felt. An airtight door, the kind with a metal wheel, blocked her path.
“Lefty loosey,” she whispered as she put both hands on the wheel and started turning it counterclockwise. It turned easily.
How long until I’m considered overdue? The thought of facing her lieutenant after failing in her mission didn’t sit well with her—even worse, she would have to write a loss report for her combat suit. A shiver ran up her spine. Knowing she needed to continue on even though she felt exposed and vulnerable, she opened the door.
The door slammed against a wall as the bright light in the space beyond blinded her. At first there were human voices, then silence—no one verbally challenged her. She pulled herself up into a defensive stance as she waited for her eyes to adjust. Slowly form to her visual world materialized.
She now stood in a wider corridor, similar to the one she’d been in when the floor gave way. A few paces ahead, it made a 90-degree bend. No one remained in sight.
“Hello?” Baker asked, wincing at how weak she sounded without her suit’s amplification.
“Who are you?” a female voice asked from behind the corner. The unseen woman’s voice rang out strong, like she was used to issuing orders.
“Corporal Baker. I need to get back to my unit.”
A matronly woman stepped into view. Her black hair was streaked with white, yet she held herself up tall. But it was the woman’s green skin tone, that struck Baker the most. Before her stood the first greenie she’d ever seen in person.
“The only way out is through our habitat.” The woman’s black eyes bore into Baker, like she knew Baker was hiding things.
Baker licked her lips to hide her discomfort. “Okay, show me the way.”
Even though she stood a head shorter than Baker, the woman seemed to look down her nose at the soldier. “Your presence is a risk to my people.”
“If I don’t report in on time, my superiors will send others to look for me.” Baker’s mouth went dry. She didn’t know if her words were true or not, and if they came and she didn’t have her armour, she’d been in deep shit.
“Fine, I’ll take you to the exit,” the woman said. “Call me Sun. This way.”
Sun turned and walked back around the corner she’d appeared from. Baker swallowed, wishing for her drinking tube of water and electrolytes. She was supposed to be on a routine mission, Lieutenant Oswiu would have her head if she failed. And she didn’t have her armour—the tech inside it was top secret.
“Are you coming?” Sun asked.
The story continues here.
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