Just Another Mining Trip

NOTE: In my world of Mars Mission, Vissers are the race of aliens that took over Mars and wiped out the Martians, so don't get confused when you read this. The Astros found this out after recording some captured aliens speak and using the same kind of signal-to-math-to-translated-speech technique they used in the movie "Contact", if anyone's ever seen that.

One day like any other, Falcon Command Base sent out its Crystal Reaper on a short mining expedition. The crew on board were Dave, the pilot, Hank, the rover driver, and Eric, the Astro who took care of the crystal containment, item scanning, and everything else that happened on the lower section of the Reaper. Dave was Eric’s longtime friend, and had been since he and Eric were drafted into the Mars Defense Army. When Eric and Dave were assigned to their Reaper, they met and befriended Hank the miner. The three became great friends and had fun times together on mining trips and battles with the Vissers. Today was just another day on the job for the crew. After driving about seven miles, the Reaper reached a cave. Caves were the favorite hiding place for the Aliens- their deep mazework of tunnels were excellent for making bases in, plus the Visser could see in the dark almost as well as a cat. The Astros didn't have any dynamite to collapse the cave, so they drove on by and Eric kept a lookout for any Vissers that should emerge from the cave with binoculars, so he could see it even when it was distant- the Vissers could come out at any time. Eventually the cave became a tiny speck on the binoculars- or was that even the cave?- so Eric put them down and decided they were in the clear, so he took a nap. Dave was manning the weapons and driving, so Hank took a nap as well, failing to notice the Visser attack craft that was gaining on the Reaper.

Eric awoke to a loud explosion, and was instantly alert. He looked around and saw a small alien craft firing at the Reaper. He grabbed his rifle and aimed for the cockpit, and fired a few shots. The first missed, the second looked as though it hit dead on, and the third hit a joint on the craft. Yes- the second and third did hit, for the pilot slumped over and the craft fell, and the wing snapped off on impact. Eric always had been a great shot. But what about that explosion that woke him up? Uh oh. The fuel tank had been hit, and was gushing out fuel. Eric opened his utility pocket and took out a roll of duct tape. His father had told him about how this amazing material patched up and held together all sorts of things for more than a century, and told Eric “If you ever bring anything in case of emergency, bring duct tape.” Eric took several strips of the legendary material and covered the hole in the fuel tank. In seconds, the flow of fuel was reduced to a few drips. Eric looked at the fuel gauge. Bad news- more than a third of the fuel had been lost. Damned aliens. He got on the radio and told Hank and Dave about the fuel situation. Dave replied, “I’ll have to fly back to Falcon and pick up some tanks. For now, we’ll have to stay here. Oh! We could drive a little ways more. I can see a small crystal patch on the radar.”

Eric thought for a moment. “We just encountered a Visser attack craft- it could be one of many more defensive scouts for that patch. Plus you hold our only weapons besides our rifles, so it’s too dangerous. We should stay here.”
“You’re right. Hold out here until I get back- and if an alien comes, just take the crystals we have in the E-F converter (Energy to Fuel) and run.”

And with that, Dave separated the jet craft from the lower portion of the Reaper and began the journey to Falcon Command. Now it was just a rover and a semi-mobile platform, and two astronauts to defend it. Ten minutes of watching passes, and Eric realized he’d see little unless he checked the radar. He got up from sitting on a bucket, climbed over the hydraulics and mechanics, walked over to the hologram projector, pressed a button, and said “Bring up the satellite-radar.” The projector glowed a bright blue and showed a grid with a white square in the middle, representing the Reaper. A small white blip was moving in a straight line away from the Reaper- Dave. Two green blips were to the far right of the Reaper, and were slowly moving towards it- aliens. Eric looked over his shoulder off the right side of the Reaper and saw a hill about a football field away. The hill took up most of the horizon, so he couldn't see anything past it. And if he couldn't see anything, Eric realized, then neither could the aliens. He left the hologram up so he could check it again later. Now he would sit and listen to the radio. He turned it on to his favorite station, and sat back and listened to Wake Me Up Inside. He liked this song. It had great music and the lyrics were original.

He nodded his head in time to the beat, and right when it got to the climax, Hank yelled “Hey Eric!” Eric got up and switched off the radio. “What?” he grumpily replied. “While we’re sitting here, I think I should go up to that crystal patch Dave told us about and do a quick bit of mining. I won’t be long.”
“How long will it take to go, mine, and get back?

“A little more than twenty minutes.”

“...Alright. Be careful.”

“You know I will.”

Hank started up the rover and motioned for Eric to lower the ramp. Eric went over to the controls and did so. Hank drove down and went off towards the crystal patch. Eric wondered if he made the right decision to let him go. He tried to shrug off the feeling that something was about to happen. He checked the radar to reassure himself- the aliens were closer now, but walking parallel to the Reaper, and were about 60 yards in front of it.

Satisfied that he and Hank were safe for the time being, he sat down and leaned against the guardrail and turned the radio back on.

Eric awoke to an alarm sound. He sat up, and realized that it was only the hologram telling him that he had an incoming transmission. He made a note to himself saying that he’d change the notification ringtone later. He said “Accept transmission”, and heard the voice of Dave on the other end.

“Hey Eric, I’m at Falcon and the guys are getting the fuel tanks filled up. I’ll be back soon. I take it everything’s going alright?

“Yeah. I told Hank he could go and do a quick mine at the crystal patch. He said it won’t take very long.”

“I thought you said that you should stay where you are.”

“Yeah, I know. I’m checking the radar every now and then for any nearby aliens, and there’s nothing to worry about.”

“Okay… remember, if any trouble comes, just grab the crystals on board the Reaper and run.”

“Got it.”

“Alright. See you soon.”

“You too.”

And with that, Eric pressed “END TRANSMISSION” and brought up the radar. The aliens had stopped moving. Maybe they were communicating with other aliens? Maybe they were lost? Maybe they were looking at something up ahead? Or maybe they've found you, Eric thought. No. They’d be racing towards him by now. Eric looked to the northwest of the Reaper, and saw that Hank was almost at the patch. A little ways away from the site, there was a lone green blip. It was the smallest size, so that meant it was a single foot soldier. Hank had his rifle with him, and Eric knew he’d be watchful. He checked the blips to his north. A feeling of dread came over him- they were moving back towards the Reaper now. Eric walked over to get his rifle. He returned to the radar and waited until the satellite that was assigned to his radar was able to identify exactly what unit the aliens were- two footsoldiers. Eric relaxed a little. That’s good, but they’re still able to kill me, Eric thought. He checked Hank again. The footsoldier was moving directly towards him now. Eric put his finger on Hank’s blip and said, “Zoom in. Video.”

The grid zoomed in to the square Hank and the alien were in, and the image turned to video footage. Hank had dropped the jackhammer he was using and was walking rather briskly to the rover. He picked up his rifle that was leaning against the side of the rover and knelt down, using the large wheel and the cockpit of the rover as cover. Eric looked at the alien, who was running towards Hank. Hank raised his rifle, and just as he fired, the alien dropped to the ground. He raised his laser staff and fired. The bolt hit the wheel, and Hank scooted back a little. The alien got up and sprinted to the rover.

Hank leaned around the corner of the vehicle and fired at the alien. The shot missed. The alien fired his staff twice. One shot hit the ground, and the other hit the cockpit canopy, putting a hole in it. Hank tried to fire the gun it seemed, but nothing happened. He looked at a charge indicator on the side, and opened a small hatch on the gun, took out an empty charge canister (Eric thought he had told Hank to make sure his gun was fully loaded!) and threw it in the alien’s direction. The alien stopped and aimed once more at Hank, who saw this and ducked around the corner and resumed putting a new energy canister in the ammo slot. Once he had done so and slid close the hatch, he whipped around the corner and fired two shots. The alien ducked as one bolt luckily hit the ground, and the other flew over him. The alien was now about 20 feet from the rover. It fired a quick volley to force Hank into cover then got up and ran closer. Hank turned stood up and darted behind the rover as the alien reached the vehicle. The alien aimed right where Hank would poke around the corner. Hank crouched, quickly leaned around the corner and fired at the alien. Hank ducked back around the corner, not hanging around to see what happened. The alien was hit, but in the hip. It bent over with the force of the laser, then walked forwards. It was now right at the corner of the vehicle that Hank was hiding behind. Before Hank could do anything, the alien kicked dust around the corner, which startled Hank and disconcerted him. The alien swiftly stepped around the corner and fired in one fluid motion. Hank fell to the ground, dead. “No!”, Eric shouted.

After a moment he got ahold of himself and turned off the video mode and zoomed back out. The aliens were now at the top of the hill to his right, and were close enough that Eric didn't need the radar anymore. He turned, pulled out his binoculars, and looked at the ridge of the hill.

He saw two green heads staring back at him, saying things to each other. They were laying down and observing him, but now they had been caught. The aliens must have realized it by now, for they scooted back out of sight. Eric zoomed in and brought up the satellite footage of what was going on above him. He saw that the aliens had a small rectangular object, and seemed to be speaking to it. It must be a radio, Eric thought. Uh-oh. He quickly sent a transmission to Dave. Dave answered.

“Hey Eric! What’s going on?”

“Hank’s dead, and aliens have spotted me and are calling for backup.”

“Oh, crap. I’m going to activate the reserves to get here faster. Hang on!”

Dave hung up. Now it was just Eric versus the aliens. He watched the aliens, who had finished talking and were now looking behind them. Eric positioned the satellite view to see what they were looking at- a craft designated by the Astros as a PAV-1. It stood for Personal Attack Vehicle and was the first class of attack craft. It was a small vehicle with four lasers, two on each outrigger gun emplacement. Two pole-looking things extended out from each. One was stubby at the end and was the equivalent of a laser staff, and the other underneath it was a slightly larger laser cannon. That and another drone were coming to reinforce the first two drones. They’d kill Eric in seconds! He hoped he was wrong. The reinforcements met up with the two drones and slowly went down the hill. Eric wasted no time. He raised his rifle, aimed, and fired at the PAV. It hit the vehicle, but not the pilot. Now the aliens rushed down the hill. When the PAV leveled out, it fired its cannons at the Reaper. Eric ducked just in time behind the tiny wall that held the guardrails. He heard and saw small explosions around him. One hit the hologram, blowing it to pieces. The shattered glass went everywhere, some pieces hitting and landing near Eric.

When the explosions stopped, Eric peeked up and fired at the cockpit of the PAV. The pilot was hit, and the craft slammed down onto the ground. The drones had used the PAV’s fire as cover to advance, and were now about 15 feet away. They fired at Eric, and one bolt grazed the side of his helmet. Fortunately it was thick enough to not put an opening in the helmet, which would cause him to lose oxygen. Eric ducked once more. He looked through a hole in the wall and saw the aliens climbing aboard the Reaper via the buckets. Eric turned around just as one made it over the top of the buckets and shot it straight through the head.

The alien fell off, and the other one fired his staff, hitting Eric in the knee. He fell, and fired at the other drone, hitting it in the chest. It fell off, leaving only one more. The last one had ran around the Reaper and was lifting himself up onto the platform. Eric ducked behind the E-F converter and leaned around the right side. The alien was now on board the Reaper, and was walking around to the right side of the E-F converter. Eric whipped around the corner and shot it in the head, putting a hole in its face and spewing Visser organic material out the back.

Eric, sickened though he was, had beaten the Vissers. He felt exhausted. He also was beginning to feel the excruciating pain in his knee. He sat up and stretched out his leg.

He pulled the medical kit off of his utility belt, took out the scissors, and cut a larger hole in the knee. He then cleaned up the wound, put some anesthetic goo on it, and put a large, square bandage on it. He then took out his trusty duct tape and resealed his suit. Eric looked at the oxygen gauge inside his helmet- he had acted quickly enough and hadn't lost too much air, although the duct tape probably had some tiny leaks in it, and would need to get into the air-locked medical bay back at Falcon Command soon. He took out his walkie talkie and signaled Dave. Dave responded “Are you okay?”

“Yeah… I- I did it. I beat the aliens.”

“By yourself?”

“Yes. No time to chat. I need you to land and pick me up when you get here. Forget the fuel. I’ll salvage our crystals and we’ll head back to Falcon Command. But hurry, though, I was hit. I’ll make it for now, but you have to hurry. Over and out.”

He turned the walkie-talkie off and waited for Dave. When Dave finally arrived, he landed the jet and got out. He helped Eric up and carried him over to the back of the jet. He helped Eric in, and got back into the cockpit, and took off with Eric and the only crystals they managed to get- the crystals they had from the E-F converter in the Reaper.

When they arrived at Falcon Command, Dave got out and immediately shouted for a medic to bring a gurney. The medic was alerted, and rushed out with the gurney. He and Dave placed Eric on it, and rolled him into the medical bay. It was during this point that Eric blacked out.

When he awoke, Eric was sitting upright in a hospital bed. The medic was looking at him. “Eric. How do you feel?”, he asked.

“Ohh… I feel really groggy.”

“That’s ok. You’re knee was fine. The bolt went in at an upwards angle, so it passed through just missing your knee itself. You should be able to walk sometime this week.”

“Good. How’s Dave?”

“I’ll call him in.”

The medic opened the door to the waiting room, and Dave walked in. His helmet was off, for the medical bay was airtight. His brown eyes showed concern and anxiety. Dave asked, “How’s your leg?” The medic told him what he had told Eric. Dave visibly relaxed.

“This war is terrible. I don’t want to fight for some damned radioactive diamonds on a planet thousands of miles away from my family.” He sighed, and sat down at the edge of the bed.

“Don’t worry Dave. I’ll be by your side till the end. We’ll make it through, and we’ll get to go back home, and this whole thing will be just a bad dream.”

Dave looked out the window and stared off into the bleak Martian landscape.

“I hope so.”