The sounds of metal groaning vibrated in his ears. The tearing. The warping. The noise. To him felt as if the entire pod would rip apart.
Lietenant Jonah Savoy fought back the fear that threatened to grip him. He wasn’t trained to be afraid, he told himself. But still. He fought to keep his heart from braking out of his chest and maintain control of his breathing.
As the pod rolled again, he risked a glance up to the on the hatch in front of him.
Fire. Nothing but fire and burning metal.
Had the ship exploded? Or was it falling with him towards Mars?
He was the only one left. His entire team killed. His brother was killed with them.
Those bastards did this. The ones who fired the missiles from the surface.
But who were they?
He couldn’t dwell in that. Not now.
He had to focus on the here and now.
Jonah was tumbling. The pod’s retro rockets weren’t stopping it. The onboard computers couldn’t seem to calculate a way to stop the tumble and thus, couldn’t guarantee him a safe reentry. He was going to die if he didn’t do something.
The Lieutenant grabbed the joystick protruding from the console in front of him and pulled it gently towards him. He heard the pod’s rockets engage and fight to veer the craft in the direction his motion commanded.
Alarm klaxons went off as the computer warned him that temperatures outside were entering critical levels. Jonah knew why. The way the cone shaped pod was oriented, all the heat generated on reentry was being directed on the unprotected top where the fuel tanks and the hatch was. In order to make a safe atmospheric entry, it had to be oriented bottom down where the heat shield was. And that needed to happen now.
The pod protested as Jonah pulled harder on the joystick. The engines fought again to correct the tumble. He eyed the monitor that tracked the orientation and cursed as the image of his pod continued to tumble helplessly.
Come on piece of crap, work!
He pulled the joystick to it’s farthest level. Alarms of a different kind immediately sounded as a computerized and eerily calm female voice said, “Fuel levels are critically low.”
Jonah ignored the warnings and prayed as the tumbling animation began to slow considerably. He began to ease up on the joystick just as the pod corrected itself and the heat shield settled where it was suppose to be aimed.
He fell back into his seat and gripped its edges. There was nothing he could do now. Nothing except enjoy the ride down.
He let his gaze go up towards the window on the hatch. The view was completely obstructed by the superheated plasma. It was as if he was descending into the pits of hell.
It was a sight that only a lunatic could appreciate. He couldn’t help but wonder how he had ended up here. In this moment plummeting at terminal velocity towards Mars. He replayed the most recent years of his life. His childhood. His enlistment. His accomplishments. His hopes and regrets. He saw his girlfriend smiling at him as the main chute popped and the fire disappeared. Out the hatch window, one could could see the ground rushing up towards him. Yet Jonah just closed his eyes bracing himself.
Boom! Pop! Crack!
I paused as I gazed up into the sky. Were those explosions? It wasn’t too uncommon to hear such things on Mars. Usually, I figured the typical warlords or syndicates were going at it from time to time. After all, they did have the arsenals militaries from the old world once had. At least that’s what i heard. But this...
This was different.
The fireballs arched overhead, raining down like meteors across the the nearby mountains. Most burned up but a number seemed to disappear over the horizon. I was sure they hit the ground because of the low but pronounced booms and flashes that lit up the dawn horizon.
“Well that’s new,” I heard a voice say behind me.
I turned to see my friend Skye standing behind me. His actual name was Luke Walker but given his name’s apparent comparison to the ironic character from star wars, he quickly earned the nickname Skye in between them. I particularly enjoyed calling him Luke “Skye” Walker from time to time.
“Yeah,” I replied in agreement as my friend came up behind me, binoculars raised, “You think its Khan or Grimm? Lucius?”
“Maybe,” Skye replied lowering the binos as the last of the fireballs disappeared.
“Whatcha thinkin?” I pried.
“Doubt it’s any of the big dogs. None of them got aircraft,” Skye said still gazing up into the dawn Martian sky.
“Those look like they came from orbit. Like a ship.” I countered. Turning my head towards Skye, I added, “Besides, last time I checked, I don’t think the blockade would allow anything to leave the surface.”
Skye nodded. I studied him. An idea was forming in his head, that I knew.
“You think FISK lost a ship?” he quizzed, “I find that hard to believe. They don’t ever get close to Mars much less close enough to crash.”
“Maybe those rumors were true.” I said turning back to the sky watching the smoke that trailed the fireballs begin to dissapate.
I saw Skye narrow his blue eyes and then run a hand through his spikey blonde hair.
“You think one of the Big Dogs actually developed a anti-ship missile?” he asked, skepticism dripping from his tone.
“Maybe,” I said putting my hands in my pockets as a gust of chilly martian air blew past us, “We’re not the only ones who want off this rock.”
“But what would FISK be doing here?” Skye asked. His tone more or less suggesting he was mostly asking himself the question versus me.
“You wanna check it out, don’t you?” I stated plainly not making eye contact with him.
Skye didn’t budge nor did he even flinch. The 19 year old was one of the calmest and shrewdest kids in the group and it suited that he was their leader by default. It was hard for just anybody to read him. I was sure that skill was built by years upon years of hardening and pain. I was the only one who had known him long enough to read even the slightest shifts in stance or facial expression. He was making some quick but deliberate calculations that was for sure.
“You seriously want to try and snatch FISK tech? I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” I said in protest.
Neither Skye’s face or stance flinched. I knew what that meant.
“Hey, I made a promise to you guys years ago,right?” He said calmly looking at me, “I said I’d get us off this rock and to a place our group could be happy right?”
I nodded but only cautiously.
“Well, this may be it. If we manage to grab some serious FISK tech and sell it to a good vendor, we’d be rich,” He said calmly, though some excitement escaped in his voice.
“Yeah, but you know it won’t be long before FISK is going to swarm the impact site.” I said scratching may nappy curly hair out of frustration, “Besides, I know we arne’t the only one’s who saw this. Someone from Argyre or some of the Enclaves had to have seen this.”
At that moment, Skye turned and started for their nearby vehicle saying, “Then we need to get a move on.”
I sighed from exasperation.
It wasn’t like I wasn’t use to this. At least in some form or another. Skye often put a lot of pressure on the whole team to succeed really. Every job we took was important to our survival, I knew. He was right though. We were kids. We had to be on top if we were going to survive in this harsh world. I knew where my friend was coming from here.
I had started my life as a Salvager when my parents, who were successful farmers, died three years ago to a cholera outbreak in my settlement. Even then, at the age of thirteen, I understood risk and the desire to escape poverty. With three sisters and a brother to take care of, and a farm that was failing, I alone took up the only high paying job someone like me could back then. But becoming a Salvager meant more than the money. It was also about risk.
FISK possessed advanced tech, very advanced. Advanced enough to the point of which that they had basically solidified themselves as superior to most coporate organizations on earth. Even amongst governments. They led the way in just about every industry, including space colonization. They weren’t so much a company but organization with the self-appointed task of advancing human evolution. They did that by allucating funding to various industries that served their cause. They were a conglomerate if you will. And whatever group was fortunate enough to be in good enough standing with them and their leader was given contracts that paid lucratively. I only knew that becasue the salvaging company Skye and I work for once sought to get one from them.
But as we and many other children here saw it, the technology and FISK itself, were the reason why there was so much despair in the former colony worlds. It was the reason why we were here. It was the reason why we were now stuck here. It was the cause of our suffering. But, should we get our hands on it, the tech would also be what freed us.
At least thats how I figured Skye saw it. I felt the problems on Mars were far more complicated than that.
But, it was an opportunity for sure; even I couldn’t deny that.
I blinked as Skye’s voice broke me from my thoughts.
“Yeah?” I asked in response looking at my friend and leader.
“Are you with me?” he asked eyebrow raised.
I paused as I looked out over the valley one more time before looking back at him.
“Yeah, I’m with you.”
“Good. Then let’s get to work!”
With that Skye turned and started jogging back to the dune buggie.
I just sighed and shifted the cap on my head forward. Time to get to work.