Falling

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


Falling was always the best part. The moment they reached the planet's surface, that’s when everything always went to hell.

Submitted: December 15, 2017

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Submitted: December 15, 2017

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Falling was always the best part. There was a freedom of sorts that only came from the thrill of giving in to gravity’s irresistible embrace. For each mission, he would be released from the ship at a height where gravity’s fingers just barely brushed him. For what seemed like hours he would simply float among hundreds of others whose mission was the same as his. Then, slowly, gravity would close its fist, pulling everyone down to the planet. After that he would accelerate exponentially, falling through the layers of the atmosphere, watching the world coming up to meet him. He always loved seeing the flames dancing around the edges of his helmet, and this time was no exception. Something in this atmosphere caused the fire to burn blue and green as it tried to consume his fire-retardant drop-suit. He smiled.

“Nothing like falling hundreds of miles to the surface of an alien planet.” The voice of his friend came over his headset. He glanced at Blair, who had a wide smile plastered on her face. 

“Nothing else like it,” Kaleo said. He had reached terminal velocity and it felt like he was floating again. Now it seemed as if the entire planet—the vast terrain, the massive turquoise oceans, an entire world of countless civilizations—was hurtling toward him rather than the other way around. “Like a dream.”

“You got that right,” Blair said. She let out a squeal and flipped head over heels. Blair’s childlike delight of falling to her possible doom was almost infantile, yet it demonstrated an astonishing bravery and assuredness on her part. Many might call it arrogance; Kaleo would just call it Blair. If only he had such a positive attitude. 

Static filled Kaleo’s headset and a distorted voice came on. “You are nearing critical height. Prepare to deploy ‘chutes in ten . . . nine . . .” Kaleo counted down along with the commander. He always hated this part.

“You ready?” Blair said above the counting.

“Never.”

“One.” Kaleo yanked down on the deployment line and was jerked to an unpleasant stop as the parachute erupted out of his pack and caught the air. The parachutes had been calibrated to the gravity and air density of the planet, so Kaleo was not torn apart; it only felt like it. After falling so fast, lazily drifting to the surface seemed downright leisurely, and this mission was anything but.

Kaleo glanced over at his friend only to realize that Blair was gone. A moment of panic flooded through him, icing his veins and churning his stomach. That all passed when he looked down to see a parachute finally deploy some one-hundred yards below him. After so many years, Kaleo thought he’d be able to anticipate Blair’s antics. Perhaps she’d never stop surprising him. That woman would probably die young, but at least it would be a fun death.

“Your insanity is like to get you killed,” Kaleo said.

“You only live once.” She giggled.

The landscape below was now discernible. Towering mountains overshadowed the valley they were dropping into, and a wide river sliced through the plain. Tendrils of canals spread outward from the river, ostensibly as irrigation. Kaleo could just barely make out movement below, and large structures littered the valley. Slowly the large group descended, led by the enigmatic Blair. 

Falling was always the best part. The moment they reached the planet's surface, that’s when everything always went to hell. Before his feet even touched the ground he could hear the firing of weapons and the cries of fear and pain from the locals. When he touched down, Kaleo pulled another cord to release the ‘chute from his pack and drew his firearm. Experience had taught him how not to stumble when he hit the ground.

“What took you?” Blair said, and fired at a fleeing creature. 

“Coffee break.” Kaleo took a shot and watched one of the locals collapse as he tried to remember the last time he actually had coffee. “And I didn’t feel like being suicidal like you.” Another shot, another casualty. 

“Do I look dead to you?” Blair said, nailing an alien between what might have been the shoulder blades just before it could retreat to one of the structures. Up close, the structures were much more intricate than they seemed from the air. Made of wood and stone, the towering behemoths were a testament to the aliens’ ingenuity. Much like windmills—or, more accurately, like turbines—the large structures spun slowly in the wind as hundreds of metallic objects caught the light and reflected it back in an astonishing array of colors. Kaleo assumed that the structures were used for spiritual rather than practical purposes.

Another static-filled command came over the headset before Kaleo had a chance to respond to Blair’s rhetorical question. “Secure the valley, take minimal prisoners. I want this done before dark, these bastards are little terrors when the sun goes down. Over.” 

“Secure the valley by sundown,” Kaleo said. “Sure, that’ll be simple. There’s only twenty acres to secure.”

“Stop your whining,” Blair said. “It’ll be like taking candy from a baby. An alien baby, yes, but a baby nonetheless.” Blair raised her gun, ready to fire. “Now come on.” 

They both rushed forward, moving as one with the other soldiers, shooting as they went at everything nonhuman that moved. The screams that issued forth from each fallen alien pierced through Kaleo’s helmet and drilled down to the bone. Those screams would accompany the countless others in his nightmares for years to come.

“Kaleo,” came the voice of his platoon leader over his headset. “I need you to clear out that hut with the ferns by the door. Blair, you stand outside and make sure nobody enters the hut. Over.” 

“Yes, sir,” Kaleo said.

“Aye, aye, captain,” Blair said with a salute. 

The huts that were spread throughout the valley were simply made: mud bricks, thatched roof, nothing fancy. The door was made of some sort of redwood, which would’ve looked good were it not for the splatters of black alien blood covering it. “I’ll call out if I need assistance. Please don’t wander off,” Kaleo said. Then he pushed his way into the hut. 

The interior was simply furnished. A few straw beds, a hardwood table, even some sturdy-looking chairs. Kaleo could have fooled himself into thinking that this was a hut made on earth if it weren’t for the three aliens huddled in the middle of the floor. They stared at him with large grey eyes. Their skin had a pale orange hue and their noses were just vertical slits running down their faces, but other than that they had an appearance similar to humans. Kaleo raised his weapon.

 

The two smaller creatures huddled closer to the larger alien, and for the first time in his military career Kaleo saw . . . fear. Every other species that the human race had fought were so different anatomically that it was impossible to ascertain their emotions from their appearance. But these creatures had eyes and mouths and arms and legs just like a human’s. Their eyes were wide, their lips quivering, their arms and legs pulled close to protect their bodies. They were terrified. And defenseless.

Kaleo lowered his weapon and took half a step forward. The urge to help them was overwhelming, he just didn’t know how. To these aliens, he was the invader. He was trying to take these creatures’ home, forcing these creatures to face a power that they could not understand. Kaleo usually preferred not to think about it, but staring the stark reality in the face forced him to reconsider the humans’ presence on this planet. He could not comfort them; he was the reason they needed comforting in the first place.

His train of thought was cut off when a sharp pain shot through the back of his neck. Then darkness. 

 

He stood trembling, the hammer held tightly within his grasp, as the invader fell to the floor, unconscious. It had hesitated, lowered its device of destruction; that is the only reason he held back. He looked to his mate, who held both his offspring. They were terrified, as was he. Within just a few shadow lengths, the peach-skinned, small-eyed invaders had wreaked havoc over the entire village. How could they hope to win against the power that these invaders had?

“We must take him below,” Dorak said quietly. He knew the other invader was waiting just outside their door. His mate, Ashia, nodded and opened the secret opening in the floor. “Come, my progeny, help me move the invader.”

“Yes, sire,” Belian said, and Sorah followed. Together they dragged the limp invader to the below. By the time the other invader came to investigate, the hut would be completely void of life.



© Copyright 2018 J. R. Merrick. All rights reserved.

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