The drop to the planet was more-or-less uneventful. The capsule that held us and the mechs didn’t encounter any obstacles or hostile creatures. We had a clear view of the jungle planet below us, at least, until we dipped below the enormous trees. A pea-soup fog obstructed our view and we were stuck looking at grey void, and perhaps the occasional leaf or branch that was close enough to be seen.
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We were a team of three, scouts checking the temple before the main force arrived. It was Victoria, our emergency medic, to my right. She was the calmest of all of us, most likely due to her training for her role. Of all roles in a military force, the one you want most of all to be calm is the doctor.
To my left was Ryan, our soldier-boy. Young and naive, but in our outfit, he was one of the best soldiers in the whole star system. We don’t train our soldiers part-way, we make them into full warriors or kick them out if they somehow survive the trials. With their training, I could not ask for two more dependable teammates.
Yet, their skills made it easy for me to slip into slight insecurity. I was an expert on the old giants and their culture, but this information didn’t help in an emergency. If I were to be attacked by some hostile flora, I could count on Ryan to defend me and Victoria to patch me up despite the pressures of an attack.
I then reminded myself that such a situation was considered. I need only play my role in the mission and we would get our next assignment, most likely going our separate ways. Most likely I would return to the academy to report any findings and then a return mission with the main force to provide any input. I could not say where the other two would go.
Yet, despite my acceptance of this fact, I didn’t want that professional social distance between me and them. I would rather have a friendly environment to work in, so against my better judgement, I decided to make conversation.
“Drops in two minutes,” I began. “Have you two been on a planet like this before?”
“The labcoat’s nervous,” Ryan murmured robotically.
“It’s his first mission,” Victoria replied in a similar bored, monotone voice.
I looked between the two. A second or two later they looked at each other with straight faces, but a twinkle in their eyes that said they were only teasing me.
“Your name’s Oscar?” Ryan asked and I nodded. “Don’t let this place fool you. Low visibility only matters if there is a threat to worry about. Planets like these rarely have any fauna and it’s even rarer for them to be predators.”
“But it does happen,” Victoria added.
“Real comfort you two are,” I muttered. There was a familiarity between the two.
For a moment, I thought they were an item, but upon closer inspection, I could see similarities in their faces. The structure of their faces, the colour of their eyes. Their last names were different, which means Victoria was married.
“Siblings?” I asked.
“Twins actually,” Victoria said. Her slight pause before speaking told me she was impressed I saw it so quickly. “We usually get assigned together. Someone must think we work well together.”
I realised who they were after that comment. Ryan Nova, they were the Nova Twins. Talk of their efforts in the battlefield and on expeditions such as this had reached even the science department, even my humble division on the Fallen.
I almost felt comforted to be joined by the famous Nova Twins, but then the capsule lurched dramatically and came to a halt. I couldn’t help but let out a small, frightened gasp. I had done drops before, but this one’s landing wasn’t exactly the best.
We held there for a moment, expecting something, then we heard a cracking sound. It was wood snapping and then we continued our drop. We must have been caught on some branches, I could even see some slip past the small window in front of me. When next the capsule stopped, it was a sure, solid landing.
“The temple is a fifteen-minute walk away,” Victoria read off her side monitor. Unimpressed with the successful landing. “Listen, Oscar, I know this isn’t your first run, but I need to understand the standard protocol. What Ryan says, goes. If he says we leave right now, we leave right now. Don’t linger, no matter what you find, because you might not live long enough to regret your hesitation.”
“I understand, don’t worry,” I replied. “I’m not so high-and-mighty that I’m gonna let my rank get me killed.”
“Glad to hear it,” Ryan said straight-faced. “Let’s get these mechs moving.”
With a push of a button, our seats descended below. The capsule had a small station for the passengers, the bulk of it containing the mechs below. It was necessary for planets such as this one to use mechs to traverse the environment. In the land of giants, were ants to be drowned by rain or crushed by leaves.
The mechs provided us not only with the size to endure such an environment but other life-saving features. If any of us were trapped or physically injured, the mechs could send us back into orbit with a miniature capsule. If it wasn’t clear enough for that, a distress signal and tracking device to help the rescue team find you.
Finally, the mechs themselves were powerful machines that could combat larger threats that are usually found on such a planet. Although, I only hoped that Ryan’s words held true and that we would not encounter such creatures. If it came down to fighting, I would be less than useless. I might even take us all out in a panic.
A thought that made the hum of the mech coming to life all the more nerve-wracking.
The jungle environment waiting. Large roots spiralled and twisted in every direction. The fog didn’t ease back enough to see further than the foliage, but I sensed that would change as the sun slowly rose. The monitors adjusted until I saw things like a giant on a giant planet.
It almost felt normal.
Ryan and Victoria moved ahead of me. I could see Ryan’s mech was well-armed. The arms of the mech contained large guns and standard rockets. Although, the bullets were as large as cars and the rockets were the size of ships. A fortune was spent on these mechs. I could only imagine the bill for mechs when the war was still going on. It must have been astronomical.
On all our monitors a virtual guide for us appeared, highlighting the best path to our destination. Ryan took the lead.
“Stay close, Oscar,” Ryan’s voice buzzed in my ear. The comms link was a little fuzzy, but that would pass as the mechs warmed up. “As long as you are close, we will be back on station in time for dinner.”
“Gotcha… let’s go.”