hallelujahpilot: (in uniform)
The trouble with Hell's Gate is that one cannot simply vanish on days off. The best Trudy has ever been able to manage is the time she got stranded at the Naukograd for four days thanks to a hurricane. The radio-silence was nice; other things...not so much. Scientists tend to get neurotic when left to their own devices for too long, and Trudy and Schidmt had been too worried about their Samson being damaged to really enjoy said radio silence. All in all, she does prefer being at Hell's Gate.

At least, this is what she is telling herself as she buttons up her uniform's shirt and finds the spikes for her boots (not all the Marines wear the spikes, but Trudy'll take the extra grip they offer over an obscure sense of pride any day).

(And she is aware that she shouldn't be this annoyed, given she just ran off to Carl's Earth for three months, but days off are days off.)

Trudy knows what Grace is doing. Mostly. A little of it might just be an unthinking, Queen of the Lab, people-do-as-I-ask. But most of it? Putting Trudy through her paces. And Trudy can't really say anything - and wouldn't, because she's a Marine, and she's been there and done that in bootcamp - but it is getting to be more than a little annoying.

(and oh yeah, does she ever cop grief for it as she stomps her way out of the barracks)

At least for her sense of pride, she knows her way to the Avatar compound without having to ask directions. This is both a result of having lived at Hell's Gate for three years, and because the SecOps Marines use the obstacle course. The fact that she's bringing along her sketchpad (in a bag slung over the top of the filter-pack on her back) is also partly to make her feel better about being summoned; if she's being summoned by the Queen Bee, she might as well bring along something she wants to do.

(fine, sure, Grace's comment that Trudy'll have a better understanding of transporting the Avatars if she actually spends time with them and observes them makes sense, but there are principles involved)

Adjusting her filter-mask slightly, Trudy moves out into the unpressurized part of the complex, and then outside. It'd be beyond Grace to mention where she'd be, wouldn't it? Sighing briefly, Trudy shakes her head in an effort to shake off her bad mood, straightens her shoulders, and sets off towards the longhouse.
hallelujahpilot: (Default)
after this:

Carl's room is getting to be quite familiar, Trudy reflects as she helps him through the door. This isn't, she thinks, a bad thing.

Still, thank god for elevators. Just because she could, if needed, carry him up the stairs doesn't mean she ever wants to. Besides, there was a promise of something down in the bar, made with a kiss and all their glances, and she doesn't want that promise to be broken.

"Here we go," Trudy says, shutting the door behind them (and locking it) and watching him carefully. Despite the cheer, there is a genuine edge of worry to her gaze.
hallelujahpilot: (always move forwards)
In retrospect, maybe she shouldn't have agreed to Carl and his 'one night wouldn't hurt'. She's certainly calmer, but also a trifle off-balance. Her sense of day and night and hours passing has been messed up - again - and, frankly, her mind is a little too full of things she could be doing. Like Carl, actually. That would be a far more productive use of her time instead of...this.

'This' consists of Trudy sitting in the bio-lab's conference room, as close to the door as she figures she can get away with. She's early, because she was raised to be punctual, and doodling, because she's bored. Given the temper-tantrums thrown this morning when she informed today's group that flights were cancelled due to the massive storm....

Well, she isn't holding out much hope for the scientists to play nice and pretend to be adults.
hallelujahpilot: (laughing with her hair down)
after this:

Let's rock )
hallelujahpilot: (but there's no war here)
previously


The hotel is nice enough, but she pays attention to windows, doorways, alcoves and exists rather than any nicety of architecture. The room is a hotel room – there is something about hotels and rooms that is, it seems, ageless – and she dumps her bag on the couch before going to claim the bathroom. A decent trip plus beer at lunch and, hey, she's only human and really has to pee.

She stays longer than necessary, her head in her hands as she concentrates on the even tiles.

She's inside.

Four walls, artificial light, no need to hunt for a filter-mask because she's inside.

Inside.

(she could pretend she was home, but in all honesty, Trudy has no idea what home is anymore)

Pull yourself together, Chacon.


She gets up, flushes the toilet (thank god the buttons are easy enough to work out) washes her hands, takes off her holster and lets it clunk against the bench. She pulls her hair free from its tangled ponytail, splashes cold water on her face and runs her wet fingers through her hair. By the time her curls are damp, and more curl than frizz, she feels calm enough to open the door and walk – holster in hand – back out into the hotel room.
hallelujahpilot: (yes. and then I will kill you. or laugh.)
Thanks to her long relationship with Dr Frieda Watson, Trudy is quite familiar with the geology lab and its residents; the BioLab, not so much. Given she’s early (Chacon, we're placing you on the science work, McKnight had told her last night, and then had pointedly not answered when she asked, this is because I made the quip about the margaritas, isn't it?), she’s taking the time to look around. One wall of the lab, near the front where she is standing, is made up almost entirely of observation windows. Beyond these windows are large terrariums holding some Pandoran flora and fauna. Trudy peers into the closest chamber, filled with fern-like plants. Much to her disappointment, she is unable to see if there is anything else in there – be nice to actually take a look at Pandoran biota without it trying to kill her.

The next chamber is an aquarium filled with murky water. The window is huge, but she can’t see anything in the gloom. Out of the corner of her eye, she can see the distinctive figure of Dr Grace Augustine, and straightens, turning to face her. With a shocking suddenness a dark shape, much bigger than Trudy, materializes out of the murk and slams against the glass.

Trudy whips around, taking a step back as she does so. Despite her lightening reflexes, her hand doesn’t go for the hand-gun in her thigh-holster – she’s inside, and you don’t shoot things up inside. She’s fast enough to see the huge jaws of some kind of armoured fish snapping shut, clacking razor-sharp teeth against the glass.

Trudy makes a bit of a face at the fish. “Now, that wasn’t very nice of you.”
hallelujahpilot: (this is my rifle. it is my life.)
"Rescue comin' in an hour, hour and a half, the Colonel says," Trudy tells them after Quaritch signs out.

“Good. But,” Wainfleet says, “the real question is, the margaritas any good?”

Trudy glances over and smirks. “Best damn margaritas in the whole of Pandora.”

“As long as Lieutenant Abdi doesn’t use the fuckin moonshine,” Walker points out, her breathy Georgia drawl made worse by her injuries.

“Now that’s the truth.” Trudy shifts slightly, wincing as the movement sends waves of pain shooting up and down her left leg. “But when she uses the proper stuff, damn she makes good margaritas.”

“Think she’ll shout us, Chief?” Walker asks, glancing down the length of the Samson at Trudy.

Trudy snorts. “She doesn’t, I’ll kick her ass.”

When they get back to base.

If they get back to base.

--

Nights on Pandora always fall slowly, when they fall at all. Some combination of the binary system, the gas giant Polyphemus and its other thirteen moons that Trudy doesn’t entirely understand the mathematics of. She understands the effects, though, and what time it is when which moon goes where. She might not be able to write a thesis on any part of Pandora, but she knows the moon.

She also knows that in about ten minutes, when the dusk finally gets swallowed by the night, she, Walker and Wainfleet are going to be deeply, deeply fucked.

“Wainfleet, go check the Scorp, see if you can salvage anythin.” The large man turns and stares down at her. She stares back. “We’ll cover you.”

He remains still.

“You’ll want to move before it gets any darker, Corporal.” And before I shoot you.

“…right, Chief,” he says at last, and grabs his rifle before hauling himself over the edge of the Samson.

--

“Shar, y’right?”

“Sure,” Walker says, shifting slightly and gasping. “Fuck, fuck, fuckity fuck.”

“Just think, margaritas and morphine.”

“That sounds real good, Chief.” The kid pauses, lifts her head slightly. “Hey, I think he’s got someone.”

“Huh?” Trudy looks back out; sure enough, there are two human figures out by the fallen gunship. “I’ll be. Command, this is Three One.”

Copy Three One, I read you.”

“Seems to be a survivor at Scorp Nine Seven, no ID as yet. Over.”

Status?

“Unknown, but able to walk.”

Roger that, keep us posted, Three One.”

“Roger, Three One out.”

--

The survivor (once he and Wainfleet make it back to the Samson, which requires Walker to fire that monster of a machine gun to scare off some Viperwolves) turns out to be Jesse Ruiz, bringing with him ammo, first aid supplies, and ten years as a combat medic.

(he’d found himself a hidey-hole, and had somehow managed to fold every inch of his lanky body into it, even with those deep scratches across his back and the broken bones in his foot)

“Damn, Ruiz, had to be you,” Trudy says with an overly long-suffering sigh. “Guess my leg’s gonna be splintered after all.”

“Admit it, you love it,” Ruiz says, hauling himself over the edge of the Samson and sliding down. He ends up near Walker, who gets a long whistle. “Jesus, babe, whatcha do to yourself, huh?” She offers him a wan, bloody grin as Trudy informs the COC of Ruiz’s (currently alive) status.

“Aw, I just like givin you opportunities to feel me up,” Walker says, curling her hand around Ruiz’s.

“You did good,” Trudy tells Wainfleet, who gives her a grin just as wan as Walker’s.

“This bush is wrong,” he informs Trudy, passing over the night-vision goggles.

Trudy just laughs her warm, snickery witch’s laugh. “Beats the hell out of crowd control in Venezuela,” she says, and goes to continue watching the clearing.

--

The Viperwolves come back.

Maybe a dozen of them, smart and hungry and determined. The night-vision goggles mean that the Marines can see them clearly, all the animals’ camouflage rendered useless as their body-masses become points of green light, but that doesn’t help with anything else.

It doesn’t help with Viperwolves’ agility, nor their opposable thumbs.

It doesn’t help with their speed.

It doesn’t help with how damn smart they are.

…come to think of it, night-goggles certainly don’t help with that high-pitched, cackling laugh, either. Like hyenas from the movies and old twentieth century documentaries.

The laughing is slowly but surely getting on Trudy’s nerves. She’s far better than most at dealing with the psychological strain of Pandora, and being surrounded by living trees with animals large and dangerous, with the lack of roads and buildings and hum of human life, with the animals that want to eat you. However, being ‘better than most’ does not equal ‘being immune’.

Carefully, she aims. Carefully, carefully, she pulls the trigger, and a Viperwolf falls to the ground to the startled yipping and hissing of its packmates, and the shockingly loud crack of Trudy’s rifle.

‘Liquid darkness’, her ass.

--

She takes the sentiment back half a minute later.

The Viperwolves are fast and, more dangerously, organized. Attack, attack, attack, attack – never en mass, but in teams of three and four, constantly. They yip and hiss at each other, split up and lunge towards the humans’ blind spots. They circle around and jump up and – mostly – dodge the bullets.

However, the Marines are just as organized, and they settle into a pattern. Trudy at one end of the Samson, Walker and Ruiz at the other, Wainfleet in the middle; each covering the others as they pause and call out ‘loading’, or just plain falter. As the Viperwolves test them, the humans aim and fire and fight back.

But the humans are injured, and operating in an environment they never evolved to cope with. The air drags at their limbs, slowing down their reflexes, and as the sweat burns and stings their eyes, they can’t brush it away due to the filter-masks they have to wear. And although all of them are fit, Ruiz and Trudy are used to working in pressurized cabins, or at the base, and Wainfleet is new. It’s Walker who is the most used to operating out in the raw elements, but Walker is faltering, fading fast.

She’s still a Marine, though, and it’s Walker who ends up saving them.

--

The Viperwolves break off. Yiping and hissing, the remaining members leap away and vanish into the forest, leaving the humans staring after them.

“...did we do that?” Wainfleet asks, glancing at Trudy.

Trudy’s instincts are screaming at her, and she shakes her head slightly in puzzlement. “I don’t-”

“WAINFLEET!” Walker suddenly screams, swinging her machine gun up, “DOWN!” He ducks down just as large paw swipes at where he’d been not a second before and Walker pulls the trigger. She shoots up, and behind them, and straight into a large mouth full of teeth. The humans are showered in blood, and other things, as the bullets from Walker’s machine gun blow out the back of the creature’s head. It collapses, ruined lower jaw hitting the edge of the Samson before falling against the outside of the now-mostly-vertical floor.

The jungle suddenly seems very, very silent.

“What,” Wainfleet asks with exaggerated calm, “the ever-lastin’ fuck was that?”

Thantor,” Walker gasps, “kinda…kinda like a cross between a, a tiger and a T-rex.”

“Fortunately, unlike T-rexes, they don’t hunt in packs,” Trudy says, pulling off her bloodied goggles in an effort to clean them. As the other three turn their heads to stare at her, she stares back. “What? Don’t tell me I was the only one who watched dino-documentaries as a kid.”

“…actually, I was just wonderin if that’d make them other things the raptors,” Wainfleet admits.

“…thank you, I so didn’t need that mental image of Viperwolves with large, stabby claws,” Trudy says, but then she grins at him.

“You guys are freaks,” Ruiz tells them after pause, and goes back to seeing what – if anything – he can do to fix Walker’s broken body.

--

The Viperwolves return. This time, they are wary, and concentrate their attention on the corpse of the Thantor. Wainfleet reloads the door-gun, but before he can aim and pull the trigger, Trudy says, “Hold your fire!”

“Huh?”

“Hold your fire,” she repeats. “I mean…they’re hungry, right? So…let’s just…let ‘em have the Thantor. And maybe then they’ll clear off.”

“…you’re the boss, Chief,” he says, slowly, and between the night-vision goggles and the lights in their masks, she can clearly see his disturbed, nauseated expression. She doesn’t blame him; as she listens to the sounds of feasting, of that haunting high laughter accompanied by the tearing of flesh, she feels more than a little disturbed and nauseated herself.

“This is just wrong,” Wainfleet mutters, and Trudy gives him a sharp, sick kind of grin.

“Welcome to Pandora.”
hallelujahpilot: (flipping switches)
It takes twenty minutes for the Dragons to decide there is nothing (and no one) left in the gunship to eat, and it’s one of the longest twenty minutes of Trudy’s life. She also waits another two, just to make sure the beasts have actually gone. Twenty-two minutes hanging in her downed Samson, in a cabin rapidly filling with the smell of Schmidt’s blood. This is the smell of war – blood, metal, dull smoke – and Trudy had thought she’d left it behind on Earth.

(then again, there is no war here, not really, not even with the wall back at base, etched with the names of the fallen.)

Schmidt herself – normally a striking woman with black skin and a bright smile – is looking grey, and dead.

(the sky is turning pink with the approaching sunset. Trudy’s trying not to let it bother her)

The process of getting herself out of the cabin is as awkward and painful as she fears. The high air density on Pandora makes it feel as if she is trying to push against a wind – an effect that isn’t entirely cancelled out by the lighter gravity, and is rarely mentioned in dispatches back home. Trudy cries out twice as the fractured bones in her right lower leg move and grind against each other, and nearly passes out as Wainfleet finally pulls her free and drags her to the back of the Samson. She swears for almost the entire time; in English, Spanish, and all the other bits and pieces of other languages she’s picked up over the years; low, under her breath, using whatever language best fits what she wants to spit out.

Finally, she drags herself across the ground to a gap between the side of the downed Samson and the dirt, her rifle next to her. The view from here is not as good as the cabin, but it’ll suffice. It’s a good enough view to fire anything coming, and that’s all she wants.

Wainfleet is braced against the floor of the Samson, trying to see how much the door-gun will swivel. Him, Trudy doesn’t really know – his first day with her crew, and she suspects his first day out of base. Big, typical Marine from Earth – seen shit, done shit, but all in cities. Hopefully he won’t flip on her. Charmaine Walker is in the opposite corner to Trudy. She’s been on the crew of Samson Three One for over a year; a delicate-seeming redhead who looks about thirteen and has, as per standard operating procedure, a weapon that almost dwarves her. Trudy really doesn’t like the laboured way the sergeant is breathing, nor that sheen to her pale skin that she can see even through the mask, but there’s fuck-all she can do about it at the moment.

Giving Jameson’s gunship another long look, she brings her hand up to the microphone.

“Command, this is Samson Three One reporting in, over.” Pause. “Command, this is Three One, do you copy?”
hallelujahpilot: (didn't sign up for this shit)
Chief?

The darkness is receding.

Chief, y’right?

Trudy swallows blood, and for a (brief, entirely selfish) moment, she really fucking wants the darkness to come back.

Her lower leg feels broken, and she is fairly certain that that isn’t sweat soaking her pant leg. Head heavy, neck aching, gravity pulling on the left si-

Oh.

Fuck.

“Chief!”

“Here,” Trudy says, dragging her eyes open. The window has fractures running through it, but the cabin isn’t leaking yet (she’d be dead if it was). The window and her view is sideways, never a good sign. Twisting her arm around to grab a handhold next to the window, she pulls herself straight as she can and peers up at Wainfleet. He’s covered in dirt, with blood running down his face, but if he got himself into the cabin’s back, he can’t be that hurt.

Still hanging onto the handhold, Trudy looks down to the other side of the cabin. Ingrid ‘Valkyrie’ Schmidt lies slumped in her seat, eyes open and blank. Even though she knows, she knows her co-pilot will never answer, she says, “Schmidt. Ing, c’mon, talk to me.”

But the Valkyrie doesn’t move, and her eyes keep staring.

“…Wainfleet, how’s everyone else?”

“Dislocated my shoulder. Walker’s fucked up, rest are dead.”

“...great. Okay, I’m gonna try and raise command, then I need you to help get me out. My leg’s broke-” Trudy stops, stares out the window. “-en,” she finishes, eyes wide.

Samson One Three had landed on the edge of a large field, and she still has an excellent view. This happens to be an excellent view of Jameson’s Scorpion, lying twisted on its side at the other end of the field. This also happens to be an excellent view of the Dragon presently tearing the gunship apart. As she watches, it picks up a squirming figure from the cabin with its mouth, throws it up in the air and eats it.

As she watches, a second Dragon circles and lands.

...holy mother of God,” Trudy breathes as Wainfleet swears, and with her spare hand, she touches the Bible locket around her neck.

That’s when the radio starts to crackle.

Samson Three One, do you copy? Samson Three One, do you copy?

“Shit, shit, shut up,” Trudy mutters, bringing her hand up to her mike. “Command, this is Three One. Be advised, I’ll talk to you after the Dragons have gone, over.”

Three One, did you mean plural? Over.

“Affirmative. Two Dragons, they’re…engaged with Scorp Nine Seven, but I don’t want them to notice us, over.”

Roger that.

Trudy keeps her hand on the mike. “Walker, Walker, y’hear me?”

Yeah, Chief.” Her voice sounds high and breathy even over the intercom, which Trudy doesn’t like at all.

“I need you to not make too much noise, the two Dragons are still out there.

Oh, shit. Yes, ma’am.

Trudy takes her hand away from the mike and goes to grab her filter-mask. But she doesn’t put it on, not just yet. The light’ll flash a warning if the Pandoran air starts to get in, and no sense in wasting what oxygen she has left.
hallelujahpilot: (you can't take the sky from me)
“Next time, I’m not bailing you out.”

“I owe you one, Trude.”

“I’m serious. Next time you find yourself a nice bit of tail and forget what time we’re bouncin, I’m lettin you explain.”

“Ah-huh. And Chacon?”

“Yeah?”

Ingrid Schmidt grins at her co-pilot. “Happy birthday.”

Trudy stops jogging and stares after her. “I always freaking forget. How do you remember?”

“What can I say, it entertains me how young you are.”

“Cute. Real cute, Schmidt.”

--

“Good morning and thank you for flying Air Pandora. I’m Ingrid Schmidt and this is Trudy Chacon, and we’ll be your pilots for the day. Emergency exits are to your left and right,” Trudy glances at her and snorts. Emergency exits her ass – both sides of the Samson are wide open. “And remember to claim your frequent flier points when we get back.”

Samson Three One, you are clear.”

“Roger,” Trudy says, reaching up to flip some switches.

Work, work, work.

--

“Hey, Ing?”

“Mm?” Schmidt glances over – talking to Trudy is far more interesting than watching cargo being unloaded.

“You ever…open a door at base and not end up where you expect?”

“How do you mean?”

“Like, end up somewhere completely different.”

“…not unless I’m really drunk. Why you ask?”

“…no reason, I guess.”

--

It starts when they are heading back to base; a shadow over them and then a large thump that shakes the whole craft. “Holy shit, what the fuck was that?” Schmidt automatically twists her head back.

“Instrumentation seems-” But before Trudy can finish, something grabs the tail of the Samson and swings. The two pilots scramble with their instruments, desperately (but it’s the controlled desperation of the highly trained) trying to pull themselves loose.

“Hang on!” Trudy shouts at the Marines in the back, hoping they’ll find something, anything.

Samson Three One, what’s your status?

“I don’t really wanna talk about it right now!” Schmidt snaps. “Jameson! Get your ass over here.”

Dragon on your tail,” Jameson radios back, flying in towards them. The Great Leonopteryx – Dragon – evidently doesn’t like being shot at, and lets them go to launch itself towards the gunship.

Samson Three One is sent flying, tumbling over and over in the air. Trudy can’t see the gunship attacked, she can’t see a second Dragon go after the third Samson in their convoy. All she can see is sky-ground-sky-ground-sky and the blurrings of the instruments in front of her as she fights to gain control.

“Samson Three One, going down,” Schmidt radios the COC, voice clipped. “Samson Three One going down.”

Somehow, they manage to bring the nose of their craft up – just in time for the Samson to crash into a tree, bouncing off it to be sent into the ground. The right of the nose hits the ground first, and the Samson slides along on its side before finally coming to stop.

Neither of the pilots see the gunship follow them down to the ground, spinning over and over in the air with one of the Marines flying out. Neither of them see the other Samson hit the ground and explode.

For a long time, neither of them see anything at all, and the only thing that moves is the blades on the remaining wing.

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hallelujahpilot: (Default)
Trudy Chacon

November 2011

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