Awen: Tongue of Flame

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The Rescue

'The Blackhawk bastards weren't the first people to show up here,' Julie commented. 'Yes, at least two hundred other survivors turned up before they did. The only people that were thrown out by the suits were those who opposed their theft of the ship.' she added.

'Isabella wouldn't have supported them.' Kelly remarked.

'No she wouldn't have, but she's not out here with us,' Julie agreed. Breaking down into tears, Julie rubbed fiercely against her stinging eyes, and her knuckles were already dripping wet. 'Let's hope that she's better off than the people they murdered. They didn't even flinch Hal. They butchered women and children as they tried to flee.'

Hal glanced over to the bodies sprawled across the stone paving.

'Not there, the others made it further away than that.' Julie pointed.

'We need a way inside. If they happen to look out of the ship's port side hatch and see us standing here, we will all be dead.' Hal commented.

'We can't get back in; I heard Griffin boasting about how they rigged all of the hatches with explosives!' Julie argued.

'Well, we can't stay here.' Kelly complained.

'You're right about that, the data which I collected before they threw us out, predicted that the solar storm which hit us was not as bad as it could have been.' Julie said.

Hal chuckled. 'I thought as much because we wouldn't be standing here talking otherwise.' he replied.

'There's more wise-ass. The last series of solar storms to hit this planet was around one hundred years ago.' Julie added.

'That alien creature.' Kelly replied.

Julie looked ready to pass out. 'An alien, on this planet?' she whispered, searching around for a sign.

'It's a long story. The point is that only one hundred years ago, another civilisation lived here.' Hal confirmed.

'And now they're all gone.' Kelly replied.

'We need a plan, Julie, any other thoughts on the matter?' Hal asked.

'I was getting to it before you mentioned aliens. Anyway, the Coronal Mass Ejection that was released from our sun...' she started to explain.

'A Coronal what?' Hal interrupted.

'This is important, Hal! As I was saying, the ejection has already hit us, causing this prolonged chaotic weather front. The storms could be with us for months, or even years, though. The aftermath is upon us, and it'll be ugly.' she admitted.

'I can't take much more of this weather.' Hal said.

Ignoring Hal's interruption, Julie bulled ahead. 'The scans which I took show that there's been a great climate shift, and most wildlife has either perished or has migrated toward the southern hemisphere.' she reported.

'From appearances, I'd have to guess that the flare hit almost the entire northern hemisphere of the planet.' Kelly said.

Looking impressed, Julie gasped, ready to speak again. 'Good guess, unfortunately, it'll become unbearable to live here within the weeks to come. Our plan Hal should be to head as far south as we can.' she finished.

Hal nodded. 'Then let's go south if we...' he started to say before the unmistakable sound of gunfire cut him off. There would be no hiding from whoever was inside of the ship now.

Looking around, Hal grasped for an answer which remained forever out of reach. 'Crap! Julie, how do we get out of here?' he asked.

'We have but one option. You see the ship's shields activated when the ejection hit. We were lucky because the system is ancient, built when our ancestors' set out from Earth. Essentially, it has run out of juice, and we didn't have a chance to explain it all to our captors before they locked themselves inside' she replied smugly.

Hearing the cracks, and whistles of gunfire again made Kelly jump, the shots were not close by though.

'You mentioned an option?' Hal asked, much like breathable air, his patience was running in short supply.

Immediately recognising the barb that was thrown at her, Julie swiftly made her point. ′Aspire, as you know, has two larger shuttles. We used these shuttles to help us with transporting building materials for the construction of our cities.′ she said.

'Julie, I own The Huntington Timber Group, and I've flown one of those shuttles. It was shortly after landfall, and the Captain needed rotational pilots.′ Hal replied.

'Oh, then you'll know what I am talking about.' she remarked.

'Whatever happened to all of the smaller shuttles which were onboard the mothership?' Kelly interrupted.

'They were all salvaged for parts remember? We needed the materials to build our colony.' Hal replied.

Kelly shook her head. 'I remember that many shuttle Captains' offered up their ships for the gargantuan construction effort, but I always thought that there were a few holdouts.'

'Well, they are of no use to us now anyway. Where are the two large vessels then?' Hal asked.

Hissing through gritted teeth, Julie forgot to deliver some unwelcome news. 'I should have said, we have only one shuttle left, the second one is toast.' she admitted.

'Where's the working shuttle?' Hal growled.

'Over there, approximately five hundred yards behind that hilltop.' Julie directed.

'Is it just the two of you?' Julie asked.

Slapping his forehead, Hal had almost forgotten about the others. 'There are ten... nine others.' he replied. There was still no sign of Jensen, only the hopeful sounds of distant gunfire.

Cowering beside the lower section of 'Aspire's' hull, terrified faces awaited guidance, as gunfire lashed out at the slightest sign of movement.

'I'm going to find my people. We'll meet you by the shuttle's rear hatch, Julie.' Hal said.

Running back towards Rachel and the others, his dirty jeans brushed up against the short stalks of yellow-tarnished grass. The dying stems of once flourishing farmland snapped with ease, as they broke off in clusters, tumbling wildly into the ravaging gale.

Running on ahead, Kelly overtook Hal without looking back. 'Come on!' he complained, unable to catch up.

Rachel saw Hal panting and started jogging over to meet him halfway; he was struggling to catch his breath as he tried to reach them.

'Hal, where the hell have you been?' she demanded.

Noticing Kelly relaxing up ahead, he fumed silently. 'She left me!' he replied, sobbing dramatically.

'Hal!' Rachel repeated.

'Sorry. There's a shuttle, but for us to reach it, we'll have to pass through a deadly gauntlet.' he replied.

With an amusing expression crossing her face, Rachel knelt to pick up one side of a stretcher. 'I was getting a little bored anyway. Hal, help me with this, will you?'

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