Under cover of a storm of liquid rust, the forward drop ships landed. Verra led the way once the platform was on the ground, Thendria close behind with Jattig and Unaona covering the rear behind Aramathea, the team's Psion. A small platoon of armored troopers followed a distance behind from the other ships while the mechanized units were being brought in.
Unlike most other missions, Thendria, Unaona, Aramathea and Verra were wearing full-body environment suits to protect them from the harmful effects of the iron-laced rain, as well as visored helmets like the others', but not as outfitted with special sensors. In Verra's case, hers was significantly more advanced, but specialized for her sniping role.
Ugh, the Iron Oxide in this rain is going to ruin my armor's actuators, Jatiig said annoyed, setting down her plasma sprayer and giving a firm shake in her powered armor. While the others didn't have powered armor, there were nods of agreement from a number of them, including Unaona, who was making sure her case of explosives was sealed.
Deal with it, Jatiig. This human facility has been a hub of activity, ships going in and out so frequently Intelligence believes it to be a weapon's manufacturer, Verra explained before turning to the other three from her group, Unaona and Aramathea, you'll take out the power grids. Thendria, you'll infiltrate their hangar bay and spread out the charges you have, she relayed, pointing to the pack on the dervish's back.
Meanwhile, Jatiig will stay back with me while our units provide cover fire until they are disabled. We'll move in, take out the assemblies, and round up survivors. Now move out! With that, everyone scrambled, Una, Ara, and Thendria dashing off into the rain towards the base as pinpointed on the topographical map in their HUD since their sensors and communications would be full of interference from the metal in the air.
Even with the map, it took them some time to spot the base, seeing as it was built into the side of a mountain. With gestures of luck and nods all around, the three of them separated to perform their individual tasks.
Thendria stayed close to the rock-face, ducking under or climbing over installations. At last she found a massive door, almost three times her height at the least and a number of times wider than that. Staying away from the edge, she contemplated on how to get in, whether to use one of her charges or trick them into opening it some how. She wished Aramathea was with her since she could have gotten the door to open itself with her powers.
It must have been her lucky day, because the doors started to open, lines of runway lights coming to life for a good distance into the maroon tinged darkness. Greasy orange light poured from the opening hangar doors and she felt the roar of a ship's engine in her stomach, watching as the mangled-looking craft pulled out. In a split-second decision she ducked inside, planning to use the ship as cover and catch their crew by surprise. At the last second she looked up to spot a piece of the ship jutting out right in front of her.
In a haze, Thendria found herself in total darkness, her forehead hot with pain. Her arms and legs felt heavy and it took all of her strength just to open her eyes. There were distant booms and she could hear some of the walls shudder slightly from a distant attack. Her eyes fluttered open and right away Thendria realized her helmet was missing, and that she wasn't alone.
Her vision cleared, but the occasionally flickering lights didn't speed anything up. Eventually the shapes she could point out changed into armed humans, ugly ones at that. Unimaginative and flashy mechanical augmentations sticking out from where limbs should have been, and seemingly pointless devices attached to heads, shoulders, and torsos. Their weapons looked clunky, but a few held relatively long tube-shaped weapons, likely holding the rocket propelled explosives they were so fond of raining down on alaerin troops.
With some effort, and heaps of caution, Thendria carefully eased herself up, right away finding her arms and legs locked to the ground by heavy cables. It took some doing, but she managed into a kneeling position, not a comfortable one, but something told her they weren't concerned with that.
Surveying her surroundings told her she was still in the hangar, being watched by no less than a dozen humans. A second look around told her this wasn't like any human style she'd seen yet, with complete lack of symmetry and structure, random bits forced together until they functioned the way they wanted them to, and over all, very, very ugly to look at. The ships being the worst travesties of them all.
After a few moments of exchanging less than friendly looks with her guards, she looked up to the distant sound of a hobbled sliding door and the approaching footsteps of a group of humans. In they marched, six of them, four male and two female, most of them amused. None of them pleasant to look at.
With a wave of his hand, the male in front, wearing a tattered dark gray coat and skin colored like rich soil, dismissed the dozen or so 'guards'. Next to him was a lighter skinned male, almost pale by comparison, wearing a white and red outfit with an all but shaved head save for a squared trail of hair leading to the back and metallic attachments from his neck reaching up to his left eye. Those two stood out most, but the remaining four were just as unlikable as these two at a glance.
The dark skinned human took a step forward, a smug grin on his face like he knew something she didn't. He said something aloud, but didn't seem to be talking to her, though he did say something like 'alarian' and she straightened slightly. The five of them discussed amongst themselves, watching her intently as she looked to each one speaking up.
There was sudden derisive laughter as the almost shaven bald imitated something, looking away as his hand came at his head and looking back just before bopping his forehead. It took her a moment but her last memory before waking up returned, and putting two and two together, she had been knocked out by a piece of the ship when she had tried to sneak in. These humans had apparently found her mistake hilarious.
She glowered down at them, but they merely pointed and seemed amused that she had figured out what they were doing. One of the females, an unattractive woman with features so sharp her skin looked taught on her face, spoke up to the others, her comment bringing grins to the others faces as they all looked up to her. The one-sided conversation was driving her crazy, so Thendria decided to participate herself.
Are you the officers here? Are you in charge? she asked, looking to each of them. She doubted they picked up on what she was asking, but they could tell it was a question. The dark skinned human stepped forward, a smug look on his face that seemed only too at home. It infuriated Thendria for some reason she couldn't explain.
All of their attention was diverted from each other when a door opened and slammed closed. A lone human soldier, from what Then could gather, was apparently cutting across the hangar to get to his station. His attention was immediately grabbed at first by the group of leaders, but then halted his movements in such a way that he toppled over and rolled on his side. The soldier scrambled to his feet, stammering something with such fear and panic in his voice Thendria almost winced, thinking 'Is this how all their soldiers felt about me?'
She shook her head as to not dwell on it, her sight catching the dark skinned male approaching the soldier. He spoke to the soldier in a calming manner, placing his hands on the soldier's shoulders, speaking softly and reassuringly, almost like a parent. It actually took Thendria by surprise, having fought them for more than a year, she never really thought too much about how they looked out for each other. It really made her think about all the missions she had taken part in, seeing them only as enemies. Respecting their tenacity and 'damn the odds' confidence some of them displayed, but never really thinking about them as a people, as families and friends. It was a solemn moment for her.
The human in the dark gray coat had apparently lifted the soldiers spirits, as they both stood up straight. He patted the soldier on the back and turned him towards another door, sending him off with one last reinforcing remark. Thendria watched human soldier dash off, knowing full well he'd be shooting on her comrades, but finding herself hoping that he survived.
As soon as the human had left the hangar, closing the double-door behind him, the remaining leaders burst into riotous laughter. Some of them commented about something and the dark-skinned man took a bow, as though he had just finished a performance. Thendria was appalled at their mind-games, returning their allies confidence only to send him in to battle on empty assurance. This was the first time she truly furious and enraged at the actions of individual humans. These people were disgusting.
This time she tried with all her strength to pull herself free, finding the heavy cables more than capable of keeping her there. Despite her best efforts, the dark skinned male just laughed, then said something to her in a 'You're not going anywhere' tone of voice. She gave him an outright livid gaze as the mechanical voice of the nearly bald male inquired something.
His superior gave a response that led into him telling her something as though she were a child. She retaliated, tugging at the chains, Let me out of these right now and I promise my boot won't give you a one way ticket to this system's star,
The other female, with hair the color of dried blood and a mechanical left arm said something, her tone amused but rigid. The human female's fake arm shifted some and a horrible screeching sound filled the alaerin's hearing, sending her into pained struggles, trying to muffle one ear, then the other against her shoulders. She gave small cries of pain, grunting as she tugged at the cables, trying to protect her sensitive hearing.
Just as Thendria thought her eardrums were going to burst, it stopped to her bottomless relief. Her ears were still ringing as the leader of this group stepped closer, but still out of range of clipping him with a knee. He started talking, but even with the ringing in her ears, and the different languages, there was something about the way he spoke, and without even knowing what he had said, it pissed her off. With a quick hock, she spat onto the man after he had turned away, splattering over his shoulders and neck, and seeing him wince as it likely slid down his collar brought a satisfying smirk to her face.
The others gave amused sounds of disgust and laughed, the one with the mechanical neck talking to the leader as he removed his coat and started to dab himself dry with it. He responded with a statement that had a note of finality, but that was immediately overridden when a group of humans charged into the hangar, firing their weapons on the group in front of her. A few stray bullets impacted or twanged off her leg armor, but the whole scenario before her unfolded so suddenly she could barely react.
The attackers were pale, like they hadn't received necessary light for a long time. Most seemed undernourished, but they were all fairly fit as though they had undergone lots of hard work with insufficient meals between. The group that had been in the hangar had apparently been too preoccupied and complacent with her that some of them froze up at the surprise attack, while others yelled defiantly, only one of the other males that hadn't spoken up actually made an attempt to run.
Very quickly, though not necessarily efficiently, the assailants shot down all six of the men and women, taking a breath of satisfaction. Many of them froze and stared at her for a time, some seemingly between thoughts of raising their weapons or keeping them down, and when one of them with a robotic arm called to where they entered from, another group started to enter, stopping and gawking at her. One of them said something with light panic attached to his voice and raised his weapon, hesitantly enticing others to do the same.
Thendria tensed some, her armor didn't have the coverage to protect against that many weapons when she was effectively immobile, but fortunately, the one that had led the charge seemed to calm them down enough to leave her alone. She watched most of them start off towards one of the cargo, but noticed a young human wordlessly staring at the body of the dark skinned male that had taunted her so, and quickly after, a human child, wearing clothes much to large for him with lightish brown hair. She curiously exchanged stares with him as he slowly approached her.
She had never seen a human child before, something she was instantly thankful for, but despite her hardened demeanor and its worn and dirty clothes, she couldn't help but think of him as adorable. She tilted her head curiously when he smiled and chirped something in a cheery out-of-place tone, bringing the attention of the older, but still young human. He darted over to the child and pulled him back a bit, and able to compare them, she figured they were related, though the proper word for male siblings escaped her. They spoke between each other briefly, but Thendria's attention had shifted over to the older sibling's long hair, to which she found herself a little jealous at how long it was relative to him, hers only just reaching the base of her spine while his to the base of his legs.
The older sibling slowly started backing them up, carefully making for the ship the others had retreated to, his gaze fearful and intense. It was disheartening to her to see this young human fear her so, relatively speaking she didn't think the two of them were too different in development age. She was barely thirty-four, probably would have still been living with her parents if they were still alive.
Her sadness must have been apparent, because the young child started egging on his sibling about something, turning to her and giving a bright smile and wave. She blinked at how complacent the little boy was with her, but managed to relax her face, offering back a calm smile. It was enough to send the child dashing towards her before the older stopped him, looking up to her gaugingly.
He started speaking and moving his hands around, trying to pantomime his message. It took her a minute, but she figured he wanted her to stay put until the ship left, and in exchange for her cooperation, he seemed to be willing to remove the cables. She looked right at him, gesturing with her head and hands, If you get these off, I promise I won't move from this spot, Thendria announced as she shifted her position and plopped her seat onto the floor, leaving her a little uncomfortable, but she was trying to get this humans trust.
He quickly undid each cable, but hesitated before moving on to the next until she was freed entirely, only moving to pull in her limbs and get a bit more comfortable. She kept still and held her hands together behind her back once the last cable was removed. Once he was done, he darted to the younger one and led him away, barely sparing her a glance back.
She watched them run up the scaffolding, making for the entrance when a a power blow outside rocked the hangar enough to knock the two young humans to the ground. It was pure reflex when Thendria found herself about to dive and make to catch the child as he almost fell what she thought could have been a fatal distance. His sibling had managed to catch him though, and return him to the platform, giving her one last regarding look before disappearing into the hatch.
Thendria patiently honored her end of the deal, staying still and listening as the ship underwent its preparation for take off. She looked around the hangar and spotted her helmet, crumpled and broken from the impact, but still having held its shape. More than likely removed when they tied her down.
She jumped when she heard the massive doors behind her starting to pull apart, but staying put until she watched a missile sail past and crash into one of the smaller ships, tearing it up a good bit. A quick glance told her that those aboard were readying the weapons on the ill-suited ship, and if she didn't do something fast, that child and the others on board weren't going to get past the artillery, let alone the ship in orbit.
Moving quickly, Thendria darted for her helmet, flipping on the radio and yelling into it to cease fire on that hangar, informing their were children aboard. She ran outside, past the doors into the orange-brown rain, waving her arms at the troopers outside the door. It took some doing, and it wasn't comfortable at all, but she got her helmet back on before the hangar doors had finished opening.
There were four soldiers outside, one heavily armored with a shoulder mounted missile launcher, the others in standard issue suits. She contacted Verra and simply informed her that civilians were aboard the out-going ship, no military presence at all. Her team leader confirmed and broke off, likely contacting the command ship to inform them of the same. Thendria quickly ordered the troops to lower their weapon and stay out of the ships way as it pulled out, the guns jerkily aiming left and right in case they made a move.
Thendria watched it move past, swallowing lightly and hoping they'd be alright...especially that bright and hopeful human child that their future needed.