This is a chunk of something from a WIP. I may not include it when the actual thing comes together (everything else is in first person) so this was just what the prompt popped into my head.
Mac leaned over Chimwemwe’s shoulder, resting his hand on the shock chair rather than the alien’s rubbery body.
“Chim? I thought there were no inhabitants?”
The SEAL shrugged, a movement that made all his chins ripple. The nose located in the thick bristles atop his head snorted.
“One, should be.” His squeaky voice was quiet, though, as if he shared Mac’s concerns.
They had all known when they dropped the single inhabitant of the planet they might never see her again. When they returned to emplace the weather satellites six months later, they had been unable to reach her. Chim had made unhappy noises about the weather system over where her homestead was supposed to be, and they didn’t have time to do more than record a broadcast for her, hoping it was only the storm that kept her from responding.
Now, though, they had ridden the turbulence through the atmosphere in a shuttle, looking for her. People wanted to get reports, it seemed, and they had the funds to send the Belly, her crew, and the wherewithal to search for Ione MacGowan. Or whatever remained of her.
Mac’s stomach dropped.
“Three on thermals.” He toggled his comm. Captain Dalraida, high above in orbit, would be wondering what was going on, although he was good enough not to joggle their elbow while they dealt with it. “We are landing near a structure.”
There was a gentle bump as they grounded, and Mac had ignored Chim’s protestations of sitting down and fastening in. He was at the ramp when it lowered, and ready for anything. Down in the dark, with dawn just peeking over the horizon, might not have been the best plan. Still, waiting another few hours would have been torture.
The ramp grounded, and Mac waited. The thermal signatures had been spread out, holding the shuttle in an interlocking field of fire. She’d run into enemy action here once before, in a war that had been declared over. If that had flared back up…
The sky was faintly pink. He couldn’t see any movement across the meadow they’d landed in.
“We should go out.” Chimwemwe made Mac jump, his voice coming from just under the big human’s elbow. “She may be there.”
Mac looked down at his pilot. “There are three of them.”
“So?” The SEAL sqeaked in laughter. “I’m good for two…”
Mac snorted and rolled his shoulders, loosening them. “No one’s shot at us. That’s a good sign.”
“Then let us go.” The SEAL didn’t wait any longer.
Mac caught up with him halfway down the ramp. There was a flicker of motion in his peripheral, and he spun, dropping to a knee and pulling the plasma rifle to his shoulder in a smooth motion.
Then he lowered it again.
The hulking armor walking toward him was familiar. Mac stood, blinking in disbelief.
“My friend!” Chimwemwe shouted, his tubby body bounding forward. “You are alive!”
Mac turned, and saw that the three signatures were the three suits of armor they had dropped with Ione. Where had the people come from, though?
“Chim! Mac!” The helmet on her armor popped open and retracted. She looked thinner, brown with sun, but she was smiling. “You came.”
Her eyes met Mac’s over Chim’s head, and he saw in the glow of the rising sun how the tears rose in them.
“Who’s in the armor?” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “And don’t tell me you decompressed your ghosts.”
She blinked, and the tears receded. He’d always been able to make her laugh. She gurgled a little now in amusement. “No, I can set them to auto. It’s only me down here still.”
I was prompted this week by Becky Jones with “As your shuttle set down on the planet’s surface you noticed a group of locals coming toward you. Funny…there was no mention of inhabitants in the briefing info…”
I prompted Fiona Grey with “The old truck blasted a stream of flames from where its headlights ought to be.”
You can read all the reponses, and find instruction on how to take part in the challenge yourself, over at More Odds than Ends. Come on in, the group is a fine on and no-one bites.
Ok, we’re Odds… what did you expect?