Dancing with Egopods

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, Adrift, Self Sacrifice, Crash Down, and The Lake House. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

Jamison froze for a minute, not sure what he could do. The egopod looked like a bear, but not furry, instead it was hard skinned. It was too close, and getting closer fast. He slipped around behind the tree he had been leaning on. The big critter tried to reach him around the left and he dodged to the right. As soon as he did this the critter tried to reach him around the right so he dodged back left. While this short dance was taking place he had reached into his holster for his weapon. He wasn’t sure what strength it was set on, and suddenly he wasn’t even sure the batteries were still fresh enough to work. But he wasn’t going to take his eyes off the egopod long enough to find out.

Instead he waited for the egopod to cut back left, and this time he didn’t dodge away. The shot hit the creature in the middle of the chest. A portion of the energy from the shot penetrated the hide, but about half of the energy bounced off, its path bounced backward, striking the tree just above Jamison. The animal stepped back roaring louder than he thought any animal could.

He glanced down at the settings of the gun, it was set to kill. Only two settings above that, small explosion and large explosion. Both took a lot of energy. Jamison bumped the gun all the way up and hoped the batteries would hold out a little while longer. He dropped back behind the next tree, a thicker one, and waited for the moment the egopod would come fully into view.  He again aimed for the middle of the chest.

This time an even smaller burst of energy came out of the gun. Again half the energy bounced off the skin and traveled over Jamison’s head into the trees. The problem was not just the egopods skin, but the batteries were also too old to power the gun. Jamison turned to run. He knew the egopod could keep up, but if he found a tree he could get into quickly then he might be able to climb out of reach.

Like a bear the egopod had longer legs on back than on front, this made them clumsy and somewhat slower running downhill. Gravity worked against them, but gravity worked on Jamison’s side. He was quickly going full speed and although he could hear the egopod chasing, it didn’t seem to be catching up.

He saw a spot where the hill dropped sharply down for about ten feet coming up.  Just beyond it was a tree that looked strong enough to hold him. He launched himself off the rock face and into the tree grabbing on with all his might and turning his head to see what would happen to the egopod.

The big animal was trying to stop because of the drop off. It failed and tumbled over the edge head first.  Landing on the ground it roared again, and Jamison took that as his signal to climb higher. The animal was about eight feet tall on its hind legs, so he was probably not out of reach yet.

As he climbed up what seemed to be a safe height he looked back to check the distance between him and the egopod.  His heart sank when he saw it climbing in after him.  It was very slow, but it was progressing.

The next few minutes was an awkward ballet where Jamison moved as high as he dared and then beyond in order to avoid the egopod. The egopod sounded angrier and angrier as it climbed to try and reach Jamison. Eventually it was obvious Jamison could go no higher. The egopod was still making steady progress behind him. It reached for his foot and he kicked it away, but this stale mate would be short lived.

Jamison was looking helplessly down at the enraged animal, when he saw a blueish cloud form beside it. A Kilkian materialized floating in the air right there beside the tree. The egopod noticed the Kilkian and swiped at with a massive arm, and razor claws. Apparently it didn’t know physical damage couldn’t hurt Kilkians, so when its blow passed harmlessly through instead of impacting flesh and bone, it through the animal off balance.

It landed on its head for a second time. And just like the first time it roared and started climbing back up the tree. The Kilkian floated down beside the animal and drew out its sword. Jamison twisted around to get a better view and saw Chambers running towards them with her weapon drawn. It was likely she did not have a view of the Kilkian yet behind the tree. As she approached the Kilkian drew its sword right down through the middle of the egopod. For Chambers this looked a little bit like the animal fell in half, but as she got closer she could see the cause.

Since the crisis was now over she attempted to slow her run down the slope, but gravity had her in its grasp. She was backpedaling for all her might in the loose detritus. Not being able to stop she mimicked the fall over the rock face the egopod had taken earlier. Jamison watching this and instinctively reaching out to help. This caused him to fall from the tree.

The Kilkian reached a hand out towards Chambers and then seeing Jamison falling reached his other hand toward him. Suddenly Chambers felt gravity loose its grip on him and instead of crashing through the branches and down against the hard rocky ground he was moved outside of the branches and set gently down on the ground. Chamber’s had the same experience being set down beside him.

The two of them looked at each other, hugged each other and then turned to the Kilkian.  Jamison spoke, “Welcome, and thanks.”

“You’re welcome.” The answer came into his head and he glanced at Chambers wanting to be sure she also heard him. The look on her face was perplexed, and Jamison guessed this meant she had heard it but was not accustomed to it. This was her first time meeting a Kilkian face to face and he remembered well how disorienting that could be.

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Self Sacrifice

The next episode for Jamison’s Battlefields. Here are the previous episodes in order. Zilkas Asteroid Belt, Jamison’s Rescue,  Dinner with an Alien, Dibolocos Attack, Departure Orders, Homecoming, Into the Darkness, The Family BusinessJewel’s Place, ShanghaiedFirst MarkThe Pirate’s Life, Defensive Position, and Adrift. Like any story you will get the most out of it by reading it in order.

 

They continued their drift, and their conversations for a couple more months. Both knew the rations were running out. Although they both knew they should be watching the long range scans and SOS transmissions, neither paid much attention to these details. Instead they simply set the computers to sound an alarm if anything significant came up and then ignored it for weeks at a time.

The normal speed of a pod of this type would never reach any place to land, nor would it reach a listening post to pick up on the distress calls. If either of these were possibilities, the pirates would have destroyed them. The certainty that it could not happen was the only reason they were still alive. But in reality neither the computers on the pirate ship nor the pirates themselves had considered the extra boost of speed given to the pod by the explosion of the CDF ship.

When the rations were reduced to a couple of weeks, their conversations took on a more somber tone. Chambers speculated more and more what it would be like to starve to death. She tried not to talk about it, but she couldn’t help herself. Jamison hated to see her despair in this way. His response was to begin skipping his rations at times, returning them to the stores. But it didn’t take long for her to catch on and reprimand him for this action.

Jamison was beginning to consider a more drastic action to keep from wasting rations on himself. He figured he couldn’t shoot himself because then she would have to live with the horror of the sight of his suicide and the nasty task of cleaning up. But what he could do was lock himself in the airlock used as the garbage disposal. Then he could launch himself into space. Instant death for him, and another couple of weeks of rations for her.

He knew it would be too cruel to leave her without saying goodbye or without any word of explanation. So one night he waited for her to fall asleep first, then he went to the computer log and asked it to open up a death resolution. To his surprise a file of this type already existed. He immediately suspected what it was, so he opened it up and read.

Dear Jamison,

In the past few months I have come to know you in a deeper way than I have ever known anyone before. I never expected to care like I do for you, much less while the world was in such a mess as it is today. I always thought it was more important to spend my life making the world a better place. I was willing to sacrifice my own life to give humanity a chance at survival.

Now the time has come to put this commitment into action. But instead of sacrificing myself for the sake of humanity, I choose to sacrifice myself for you. It is my highest hope, my wildest dream, for you to be rescued, giving you the opportunity to align yourself with the Kilkians.

I am sorry that the best I can give you is the slim chance of a couple more weeks. But this is all I have to offer, so I give it to you.

Goodbye.

Chambers.

Jamison read the letter to himself several times. He shuddered to think that if he had delayed his choice one more night he would have missed her, forever. He went to the bottom of the note and typed.

Chambers,

Ditto. Which is why we need to ride this out together.

Jamison.

He closed the file and then went over and sat on the floor, his back leaning against the door to the air lock.

A couple of hours later she woke him up and asked him why he was sleeping on the floor. He took her by the hand and led her to the computer console. He opened up the log and scrolled down to the addition he had put on the end. She closed it without saying a word.

When she finally turned around she was crying silently, but as she wrapped her arms around him, she began to wail. The two of them stayed in that position for a long time, at first Jamison was trying to console her, but eventually he gave up and joined her.

After a while they settled down to the floor, still arm in arm, still crying. They grieved for each other. They grieved for the lives they could have had in different circumstances. They grieved for humanity so wracked with turmoil that the simple, normal experience of love had become uncommon and difficult.

They might have fallen asleep together, right there on the floor. Neither was sure when they considered it later. But a couple more hours into the night a proximity alarm went off. Jamison didn’t startle, he didn’t strike out in fear, he simply roused, and went to the computer to deal with it.

The console described them approaching a galaxy. It had one planet capable of sustaining life. Although it had no current human activity on the planet, there were ruins of past colonization. Extensive knowledge of the landscape, climate and life forms was in the computer. If they wanted to land on the planet he had 25 seconds to decide. 24. 23. Jamison pressed in the response.

They both took their seats and outside the pod they could hear a device moving a single use thruster to just the right position to change their course, a slight change but just enough to make them enter the atmosphere and make a crash landing. These landings were rough and sometimes un-survivable. But the chances down there would be better than the chances up here.

A moment later they felt the push of the thruster redirecting them. It only lasted about 30 seconds. Then the main display had two countdowns added to it in the top right corner.

12:31 to the outer atmosphere.

13:13 to impact.