Sharoma Frontierverse Why Did The Groigan Dance? Chapter 15

Why Did The Groigan Dance?

Chapter 15

Hazards at the Office

"Come on, get up," Bush said, kicking Redfield in the ribs gently. At least he stayed down like he was supposed to, unlike the excitable Anthony, whom Bush had found laying down, put peering around the landscape like a kid in a candy store. Not that he had much to look at: Enayess 4 was a desert planet, totally inhospitable for life. Even if by some miracle the various components for life were able to pull together, the sun's rays would burn down through the light atmosphere, instantly destroying even the smallest amoebae. Bush thanked the Emperor for his spacesuit.

"I'm up already, quit kicking me," Redfield grunted, pushing himself up with his small arms. Of course Bush didn't actually "hear" the Count say this: inside the spacesuit, it was impossible to hear the outside world - speakers built into the helmets of the suits created a realistic audio impression of one's surroundings, so you "heard" the wind blow across the open dunes, and you could communicate to the other members of your squad by simply talking out loud. One on one conversations were also possible.

At the moment, Bush turned to look at Redfield again, and said: "All right, lead us to the promised land, Ian." Now on the ground, it was essential to maintain their assumed identities, in case the enemy knew they were here and were eavesdropping on radio communications, though be necessity radio frequencies were on short-range and encrypted.

"One moment." Red's voice was grim; he was all business now. Depressing a small red button on the back of his left glove, the visor on the front of his helmet turned a bright blue and began to emit a beeping noise. Bush and Anthony stood by patiently for a second (after seeing Bush and Redfield's professional demeanor, Anthony had seemed to quiet down) and were rewarded when "Ian's" visor abruptly turned back to the normal light gray hue. Redfield whirled and pointed southwards.

"Readings show an abnormally large amount of hydrogen coming from that direction, in levels coinciding with those of a small spaceport," Redfield informed the other two. "There is probably atmospheric shielding as well."

"Well, Jaquai said there would be," Bush said. Redfield and Anthony looked at him, confused. Bush just shook his head. They couldn't know who he was talking about, and it was going to stay that way.

"Well, no point in standing around here," Anthony said, his innate energy returning to him. "Lets go catch us some Feds." They didn't know about the Thargoids, either, at least not yet - and, if the mission went as planned (find the location of the base, don't get noticed), they wouldn't ever know about the humanoid insects. Bush just nodded acceptance and began the trek south across the desert.

The spacesuits were equipped with built-in water supplies (supplied by the natural stores in the human body, drawing in the sweat from the skin and urine from the catheters, distilling and recycling them), so they were able to walk for more than thirteen hours before having to set up camp to rest. After they put up their tent in the morning, they began once again to head south, strength never waning because of vitamin supplements included in the water.

"How big is this godforsaken planet?" an exasperated Anthony gasped. "We've been heading south for over a standard day now."

"Pretty big planet, actually," Bush replied.

"Don't worry, we should be coming in visual distance soon," Redfield added.

An hour later his words proved prophetic, as a blue disturbance became visible in the air two or three miles away, the tell-tale sign of atmospheric shielding.

"Bingo, boys," Redfield said.

"Finally," a voice whispered over the voice network. Bush had a guess who it was.

In the next twenty minutes, they slowly came upon the small outpost, selecting a deep recession in a cave near the base to hide in and spy from. It was small from the outside, plain of style and made of duralium in the typical Fed design, but readings from Redfield's nifty device showed that it had an extremely high power output for such a small complex, suggesting that there were levels built into the ground. A large launching bay was stationed outside of the base, though all you could see was the heavy metal doors at the moment. A large number of people dressed in Federal uniforms were milling in a small terraformed picnic area beside the main building.

"I can't believe it, Feds in a Independent system. Interpol would have a hernia if they heard about this," Anthony whispered. He had his helmet off now that they were inside the protection of the shielding.

"They sure would," Redfield replied, in awe as much as Anthony.

Bush remained silent, knowing the danger that this base held, and wondering if this was the spot Jaquai hid in so many months ago.

And so they stayed in the shadows and watched for a week and a day, sustained by the water and vitamins provided by their spacesuits, observing, recording, and relaying all they could about the hidden Federal base; the regular shifts of the people inside, the ship registrations of the various craft that entered and exited the base, anything and everything they noticed. On the final day, as they packed up to leave, the cargo bay doors opened a final time, and the most momentous event of their brief tenure occurred.

The event began with the now-familiar sound of the huge cargo bay doors slowly opening. Bush was the only one to look up from his gear, and he only gave the doors a cursory glance before turning back. Then a terrible sound filled the helmets of the three, a horrible sound that caused Bush to grab his laser rifle in fear, a terrifying sound pulled straight from his nightmares.

The clicking language of the Thargoids.

"Clear area for launching, worms!" the translators in each helmet translated. Redfield and Anthony whirled around, joining Bush to stare. dumbfounded, at the open launching bay doors, which now were glowing with an eerie, purple light.

The Federals suddenly whipped into a frenzy of action, some running around picking up loose objects from the area, some picking up the picnic tables and carrying them inside the complex, most flat-out sprinting for cover. A skinny young redhead who reminded Bush of Jaquai's daughter hopped into an armored hovercraft.

"Sir? What the hell is going on?" Redfield asked, staring down at the site with bulging eyes.

"You don't want to know," whispered Bush. He was surprised to discover one hand wrapped around the cross on his chest.

The air was becoming hot now, the purple light brighter in the chasm that was the ship hold. Anthony tittered nervously from Bush's left, and Redfield's jaw hung in amazement. Both were of considerably more "book" intelligence than the Baron, and though Bush knew that it must be hot down there for the heat to reach this far-away cave, his companions realized the incredible amount needed.

"It has to be over two thousand degrees down there," Redfield stammered. "What kind of ship has an energy output like that?"

Bush gulped, but the Thargoid answered the question for him. A large pink and white octagon slowly rose from the launching bay, twirling silently in the night sky. The heat was unbearable now. Bush looked to his left when Anthony yelped out a strangled profanity, hurriedly sliding on his gloves, the hair on the back of his hands beginning emit a foul smelling smoke.

A low, deep rumbling began to come from the Thargoid, growing louder with each passing second until finally Bush had to deactivate the audio inside of his helmet. The dirt around the ship began to ripple, pushing outward, away from the ship as fast as it possibly could.

Bush knew what was coming next. He grabbed his laser and began to fire frantically at the ship, gesturing for his friends to do the same. His laser soon grew warm in his hands from all the use (or was it simply the heat from the ship?) but the other two caught on, launching beam and rocket, but to no avail. Bush doubted the Feds or the Thargoids even realized they were there.

The purple light began pulsating, and a resounding boom filled Bush's ears. He fell to the ground, clutching the sides of his helmet, already feeling blood running down his neck, screaming silently at the searing pain in his head, sensing the others do the same at his sides. Knowing he was deaf. Blinking away tears, he struggled to look up at the ship, but a brilliant light filled his eyes (he felt them pop and begin to ooze down his cheeks) and then the hurt came, a violent wave of unimaginable heat, and he thought he felt his flesh burn as he fell on his face, unconscious.

Continue the story with Chapter 16