hallelujahpilot: (mech in a green world)
[personal profile] hallelujahpilot


In the hangar is a blackboard. Not the kind with chalk, but the kind that is a screen. Log on, log off, names and dates and times shifting so it's fairly easy to see who is in, who is out, and who hasn't come back.

The names of those who don't come back are left up for a day or so in memorial, crossed out and glowing against the black. If a person or a crew has been out of radio-contact for forty-eight hours, their status changes to presumed dead, and their names are crossed out.

Today, Trudy walks in and finds McKnight crossing off the names of the crews of Scorp Seven Eight and Samson One Two, and the Marines who had been in the Samson.

Trudy keeps walking. She has work to do, scientists to collect: she can go and feel the burn of grief and anger once she's clocked off.

(She hates days that start like this.)

– –

She's back within three hours, and is just doing post-flight checks on Maya when she notices Selfridge. Even wearing the filter-mask, he looks more impatient than normal. Frowning, Trudy jumps down from her Samson's cargo-hold.

“Sir?”

“Chacon. When can you fly out again?”

“As soon as the tank's full, sir.”

“Good. I need you to go and look for Falco.”

“...sir?”

The explanation doesn't make much sense – Falco just tearing off with a platoon? - but she doesn't ask for a clarification. It's not really her business, and Selfridge's movements are sharp, quick, ten-seconds-away-from-exploding. She just nods, says 'sir' when needed, and then runs off calling orders (fuel for Maya, Wainfleet and Onozuki for the guns, see who else is being scrambled).

She knew she wasn't going to like today.

– –

Samson One Six isn't the only bird out. Hell, she's not even the only Samson – Selfridge ordered the Scorpions out as extra eyes and as back-up. Between losing Weepu and Carson's birds, and now this...

They can't afford to lose anyone else today. Trudy's pretty sure that the only reason the Dragon gunship isn't out is because it's undergoing maintenance.

Samson One Six, three o'clock.” Captain Izanami Dakura calls over the radio from her Scorpion.

Scorp Four, I see it.”

Think it's them, Chacon?

Could be,” Trudy answers, “I'll circle down, over. Wainfleet, Onozuki, keep a look out.

Roger, Chief,” her gunners reply, in unison, and Trudy smiles a little grimly. She circles down through the air, slowly and carefully.

Fuck! Yeah, it's them,” Onozuki reports.

Hey, Chief, set us down?” Sergeant Ewan Harbinson asks. He's not on the guns, but with his chalk in Maya's cargo-hold.

Yeah, that's what I was thinkin'.

She flies down to the edge of a wide jungle clearing, hovering above the ground while the Marines pile out. They fan out and set up something of a defensive perimeter. asdfsadf

Chacon, you better turn it off. We're gonna be here for a while,” Harbinson says, and even over the intercom, his voice is all too neutral.

Roger that. Need back-up?

“Affirmative.”

Samson One Six, requesting back-up. Need another chalk down here. Over.

One Eight, go,” McKnight says from back at Operations.

Trudy hears Farzan say, “Roger that.

...Chacon?

Roger, Harb?

You're the science pilot. Check this out.

Silently cursing Augustine and all her ilk, Trudy grabs her filter-mask and opens her cockpit. She clambers out onto the step, and scans the ground before jumping.

Then she doesn't jump.

From her position on the Samson's footstep, she has an all-too-clear view of the clearing. A better view than those on the ground, but her eyes aren't making sense of what she is seeing. Some kind of protection, maybe, given how out of practice she is at deciphering carnage. Her vision jerks from a rifle to a boot to a crushed mask, and tries to ignore the red, red, still red, why is it still red blood.

There's a lot of blood.

“Hey, I think I found the Major!” Someone – Smith, Smithy – calls out, sounding almost cheerful.

“Yeah, I think I found him, too,” only D'Haken's voice is thin.

Trudy doesn't really want to think abut the fact that the private is roughly a dozen meters from Smith, but tough titty said the kitty. She shuts her eyes, takes as deep a breath as she can, and opens her eyes again to start assessing the damage.

The clearing is a fucking mess. There are saplings eagerly growing, reaching towards the sunlight (they can do this because the tree that had previously been hoarding it all has been knocked down, probably in that storm that grounded everyone at Hell's Gate. It's not that big a tree – if Trudy could stand on her own shoulders twice, she'd be able to scramble to the top of the downed truck, which makes the tree on the small side for Pandora and she needs to stop thinking about the goddam tree.) and grasses growing. Some flowers.

Body parts everywhere.

And that's what they are, body parts. Which belong to bodies.

(Bodies, not people.)

“Well, this is a clusterfuck,” is what she says.

“Anythin' more scientific?” Harbinson asks.

“...hang on,” Trudy says, jumping down onto the ground. She makes her slow, careful way through the clearing, eyes scanning the surrounds as she ignores the sound of Farzan's Samson as her friend flies back into the sky after the Marines onboard pile out.

She's looking at body parts.

Not Marines.

Not people she knows, worked with, lived with, for the past three years. That isn't Corporal Tommy Baker, that isn't Lance Corporal Renate Petrone who owes her a card deck, that isn't Gibson's head, that isn't -

(She used to be better than this)

(what is wrong with her?)


Trudy crouches down by a body she can't even recognise the gender of (let alone anything else) and peers at it.

(D'Haken is talking in the background, the kid's voice far too blank as she says, “You know, massacre is originally a French word. Came over with the French refugees in the sixteenth century. Means what's on the ground at the butcher's, all the meat and guts and shit. And they were describing people. Just reduced to-”

“Leslie?” Harbinson says.

“Yes, Sergeant?”

“Shut up. And go stand on perimeter.”

“Yes, Sergeant.”)

“Ripped apart, bitten, but not all of them been ate,” Trudy says at last. “Thanators.”

“Plural?”

“Yeah. If just one....there'd be folk left.”

“Thought they were solitary.”

“Could be a mom and puppies,” points out Emerson, who has been pulling out body-bags.

“Puppies did this?” Murphy sounds highly skeptical.

“Thanator puppies, bro.”

“I agree with Emerson,” Trudy cuts in. “Look, there's a stream here, it's kinda hard to get to with all the damn shrubs...Momma sets up her pups here, and she'd be pretty pissed if a bunch of humans came marching in. So, she goes all Mama Bear mode, and the pups could be big enough to handle themselves, so they join in. They eat what they can, and then Momma takes 'em somewhere else.”

“...how sure are you that they left-left? As in, they ain't comin' back?”

Sounding both serene and a hundred miles from it, “I'm not.”

There is silence, and then someone whispers, “Fuck.”

“Okay, people!” Harbinson shouts. “Lets bag 'em up, and get outta here 'fore Mommy comes back.”

“Ewan,” Trudy says, standing up. “I'll take the bodies back. Shut up the cargo-hold so the smell doesn't carry so much on the wind. But I'm gonna have to leave Wainfleet and Onozuki here.” She glances the pair.

“Aw, c'mon, Chief,” Wainfleet says before Onozuki gives him a shove with the butt of his rifle.

“We can handle it,” Onozuki says.

“Lets get to work then,” she says, and moves towards Maya to report the situation: She's going to need a Scorp escort back to base if she doesn't want to get eaten herself. That done, Trudy moves to help. More hands will make this go faster. She's got nothing else to do. And those are her brothers and her sisters lying there in broken-off pieces.

She can wash the blood off later.

Oorah.

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Trudy Chacon

November 2011

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