Thanks for the feedback, and my apologies for any fallacies or mistakes in my writing. While I'm more than able to lead a conversation and get my point across in writing, some finer elements of large-block writing elude me, as English isnt't my native tongue. I try and find myself a lector to work out the kinks as I go along. Prolog, Part III.
When he jumped down from the smokestack, Patricks boots threw up dust and pebbles - and he was quickly reminded of his current state of health. Sharp pain taunted him, and for a split second he almost keeled over. One step, stumbling, a second step, firmer, a third step, stabilised. Shaking it off like a bad hangover, he trodded on, towards the smoke rising from the battlesite on the right flank. His mouth felt awfully dry, and the taste of his own blood made him nauseous. Patrick spat out and saw his saliva paint the light grey concrete rubble with a dark, brown tone. Fiddling around in his mouth with his tongue, he quickly tallied up what had transpired. One tooth was lose and he had bitten his inner left cheek. His tongue felt also a bit numb, probably squeezed it too hard when the beam impacted. He had worse.
Climbing over a pile of concrete smithereens, walking around burnt out cars, he made his way to the explosion site. As he navigated his way through the rubble, the concert of his unit and the Ijad trading fire became more dull, lower in frequency. From the sounds of it, and from the radio traffic he overheard, it was going well for them. Just as expected. They chose the site for that exact reason - lots of cover, open field in front, multiple lines to fall back to. Pretty much a perfect location to defend. He was pretty sure that the Ijad knew that, too. They might have lunatic visions and smoke alot of herbs, dance naked around fires when they weren't praying to their god, but they could fight - and those energy weapons of theirs packed a punch. Ijad weren't dumb. So why did they come here?
Thoughts like this normally did not cross his mind. Usually, he would simply get order to attack, defend, search, subdue or destroy something, concentrate on the fight, take the targets down and report back to HQ. But usually, he wouldn't walk around in his jumpsuit, all banged up, unable to take part in the fight that went on. Patrick detested this impression of being powerless. "Auntie K, status?" - "We got it, Pat. Will contact you when needed. Cousin T is out of shells, he is moving up to support midra- ... Howard, Lancer charging, aiming at you, head low!"
He waited one eternal second, as Kimberley's replay was interrupted by her warning. The unmistakeable crack of a supersonic projectile piercig the air followed shortly after. "Pat, stay low, can't talk right now. Auntie K out."
And she was right. Even though they felt powerful, invincible, they were not. And even though he always tried to play things cool, this was serious.
Alone with his thoughts again, scolding himself for breaking radio discipline, he walked around the corner. There it was - the crater of Cliffords blown-up 'Frame. Small fires guided him towards the spot, and thrown-over cars, 'Frame pieces, molten plastics told of the explosion. He also saw the two Conscript 'Frames, gone with the blastwave. Like puppets, thrown against a wall, the 'Frames leaned against two buildings, smoldering, their front armor pierced by shrapnel and the cockpits mangled. Those rebels were dead and down for sure. The Scrambler was visible, too. Blue arks of electricity popped up here and there, and one of its four legs was still moving, erratically. The image of a spider that he would smush as a child popped into his mind. Just like the spider, it would twitch and still appear to be alive, despite the tremendous structural damage.
Ijad 'Frames were alien to him; the way they moved, their weaponry, their striking black and white colour scheme in complete disregard of camouflage. Out of necessity for comfort, he drew his sidearm and marched towards the machine. Fascinated, appalled, afraid and curious at the same time. Patrick forgot about Clifford, not because he wasn't important, but because his mind couldn't process all these emotions at once. Cliff had been filtered out, put on the backburner. With his gun up and both hands at the grip, he approached the downed 'Frame, looking for any survivors. Those Scramblers were resilient, with redundant systems and a lot of stuff around the center torso, they usually broke down before one could just kill the pilot. Headshots were not the way to go with these. There was no head to go for, in a way.
As he came closer, the bottom hatch of the Scrambler popped open. A hiss, faint smoke emerging, pressure equalizing, and something - or someone - fell out of the machine. Instinctively, his hand rose, bringing the pistol to bear. It was another human, a woman in her mid-thirties, he would guess. Nevertheless, that was his enemy, right? He moved closer and raised his voice. "You there, no sudden movements, or a bullet it is!"
He got closer, licked his lips. Maybe he could interrogate her. Find out what these attacks were all about, solve the puzzle. A tap on his radio, and the channel to his unit opened. But then, he hesitated. Patrick saw her curl up, her own jumpsuit cut in several places, blood flowing from the wounds. He closed the channel again, for no reason he could name. But he knew it would be better this way.
The closer he got, the more he could make out. She was in pain, and her muffled groans reached his ears, despite the ringing tone of his overtaxed eardrums he still heard. With a low sigh, Patrick holstered his pistol. It was so easy to shoot a 'Frame, but to heartlessly execute a wounded soldier, it took a certain amount of malice he just couldn't muster. Patrick was a soldier himself. He expected mercy when he surrendered, and he expected mercy when he was defenseless. Despite the years with the Terran Expeditionaries, he hadn't gotten addicted to the fighting. And it was never about killing the others. His ideal was there - defending what belongs to the Union, subdueing the rebels, drive away the fanatics. He was no agressor. He radioed Kim again. "Auntie K, ETA on that Medevac?" - "Control said T-10. Anything happen?" - "Nah, just curious. So T-3 left?" - "Roger that, Uncle P." - "Copy. Uncle P out."
Just in case.
Patrick knelt down next to her, and took a quick glance. Her eyes were fluttering, her breathing was shallow, her body was obviously weak. "Hey, can you hear me? I am Lieutenant Decker, Terran Expeditionary Marines. You will be taken in for interrogation. A medevac is on its way."
She looked up to him, through blooshot eyes, her left hand seeking his right. Dumbfounded, he almost jerked his hand out of her reach, but he fought his repulsion down. her slender fingers wrapped themselves around his hand. "Why do we have to die, Patrick Decker? Why can't we live in peace, be ..."
Her voice broke, and she gasped for air. "... be free. Be one. Why do you hate us? Why do you offend, hurt and insult us?"
Patrick blinked. Apparently, this shroomie was delusional. He blamed the shock for it. Clearly, this was all wrong, and it was the Ijad attacking them.
He cleared his throat, checked he body briefly for any major broken bones, then he shoved his arms underneath her and lifted her up. It hurt, but he needed to get her away from all these 'Frames and the former battle site. "Hang tight, lady, you best not die, because we have a lot of questions."
He said to her, as he carried her back through the rubble. She was already passed out - but breathing.