Free Fiction Friday – Separation Anxiety

Fiction written by Jeremy C Kester
©2019 Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved.
Please do not replicate or use without written permission. Linking to this page is permitted.

Separation Anxiety
by Jeremy C Kester

Panting. Her heart was pumping. Each step seemed to be followed by impact waves. Ionized waves of energy hitting the ground from blasts from that damn ship.

A patch of cover laid ahead. Rocks. Large ones. Should at least shield her from the sensors until she could get her bearings.

She slid, slamming into the wall of stone that laid before her.

No more impact waves hit, the vessel continuing to float beyond her position.

Those fuckers. Alien bastards.

They were a tough race for certain. They were intelligent too. Whatever recent development they made on their ships made it nearly impossible for weapons to damage them. And none of them were coming down to the surface to confront them head on. Rather, they scattered all of the forces to hell.

She was left alone.

Unable to raise any of her allies, she threw her radio to the side as she tried to assess what supplies that she had available. Signal blocking technology was common. A lot of care was taken to avoid it. Given the aliens having found a technology to block weapons, it was likely that they also were able to bypass any tricks humanity had to communicate.

Gazing to the sky, there was a lull in the aircraft flying over her position. Either they had given up on her or they were just distracted by another target. Opportunity to move was there. She had to take it.

Standing, she trained her weapon, scanning the landscape for any signs of movement. For being in the center of a battle, it was quiet. Serene. Had the battle been won that swiftly?

She knew nothing of it though, having been cut off. Only deadly silence.

Being alone on a strange planet. It was enough to raise her heart rate to levels she had not experienced since that first lashing she received in boot camp. Those first days where she believed herself to be nearest to death.

“Calm,” she reminded herself. “Breath and move.” The mantra was repeated, a gentle reminder to keep calm when the stressors threaten her.

First on her mind was trying to reunite with her squad. Or any of her own forces. Anyone familiar was better than being alone. Being a part of an army meant interreliance. She was not fit to fight by herself. That hadn’t been her training.

Rigidness to training had always been one of her pratfalls, however. When situations appeared that were outside of the standards to which she abode by, she found it difficult to adapt. It scored her low marks on combat aptitude. In the increasingly hectic nature of the combat that the aliens had been providing them, she became stuck at her low rank for far too long.

She was an anomaly in a force that was increasingly dynamic.

Stress had followed her whenever something became abnormal. When something stepped out of the assigned rigidity. In boot camp, everything had appeared to be wonderful. Discipline was only being doled out into the minds of everyone there. Static, rigid schedules had to be maintained.

She shook her head, trying to recall back to the number of lessons she had been given on individual combat.

Getting back to her fellow soldiers was all that was on her mind. Survival was a must.

A low thrumming sound came from the left horizon. She scanned it as she stepped away from the security of the large stones. Open air would not be her friend in this situation. With little tree cover, she would be easy to spot. That was also assuming that they didn’t have other means of seeing her. Heat sensors alone would put her out in the open no matter the security she would find in overhead coverage.

Her muscles ached. Lactic acid remained from her having to sprint to her cover. But there was no time to relax. Rest was over; she had to move.

Sounds came from over the side as she moved. Just beyond the treeline, a small gathering of fir trees that she was more interested in avoiding.

By her estimate, going back the way she had come was her best option. Any other direction would be putting her away from the possibility of her regiments.

But it was also where the aliens would be gathering.

Cowardice did not fit her well. She would have to fight through the lines to make it back.

Each step was even more laborious than the las as she moved forward. Having no squad to watch her back was unnerving. She struggled to remain grounded in her thoughts, reviewing all the trainings that she could, paging through mountains of memories to find anything she could that would help.

Her instinct wasn’t as reliable when she was alone.

She froze, watching as in the distance she saw one of the alien ships float in the air before settling on the ground, disappearing behind the trees. They were landing. Fuck. They were landing. Those nasty aliens were landing.

Right in the direction she wanted to go. No. That she needed to go.

By her guess, they weren’t planning on heading her way. They were likely setting up to pursue all her comrades. And she would be trying to rush right into them.

Again, her heart began pounding through her chest. All her stresses and anxieties were hitting her hard.

“Breath. Breath and move,” she reminded herself once again, trying to muster the courage to push herself in the direction she needed to go. Having no one there to watch over her, or for her to watch over, was unnerving. Over and over she wished to have that. It was easier to justify protecting someone else than it was protecting herself.

Instead, she was going to have to move, keeping an eye on all angles, on her rear, her flanks, all around her. Any one of those damned creatures would be able to sneak up on her.

At least she probably would be able to smell them before they got close to her. They were terribly scented. A putrid, stinging odor.

They were large aliens. Small ones were nearly twice the mass of a strong, male human. They stood about 2 and a half meters tall. And they loved the flavor of human meat.

When they had first attacked, looking to expand their world, they came to see the planet as too polluted for their own settlements. However, they understood the value of human flesh, realizing that the planet could make a good farming colony.

The very idea of it repulsed her as she moved over the rocky terrain.

Step by step she got closer to the line where she was separated from her squad. As she did so, the smell became nearly unbearable. Taking her fatigues, she covered her face under her helmet as best as she was able to. It blunted the repugnant nature of the scent only a little.

As she approached, she crawled against the rock, trying to imagine others nearby. She raised her hand instinctively to halt anyone following her. Then she shook her head, forgetting that she was alone.

If they were looking for her, they would have been able to spot her. They had either given up on her or thought her dead. Either case, the damn beasts were gathering the bodies of all the men and women that she had just fought next to. Those humans that she had been entrusted as kin to watch over them, as they had been for her.

They completed their mission; she failed at hers.

Little could be done. They were all dead. And though she wished that she could charge over the barrier she hid behind, doing so would have only given herself up as fresh meat for the aliens to have.

“Breathe and move,” she reminded herself again, focusing to keep her anxiety in check. Being alone was only growing the black cloud around her. It was growing more difficult to keep it together. Watching those she loved, those she was sworn to protect, being harvested for food, it was difficult to stand idly by.

Focusing on her breathing, she calmed down enough to move to the side. It was to get around their position to the other side. It would take her longer. It would also keep her alive.

There was a small ditch that followed along to the side of her. It looked as though it was an old irrigation channel, a ditch made to help channel water into a certain direction. It now gave her the cover she needed to move with less chance to be seen. Not that it would help. If they knew to look for her, or if they wanted to, her heat signature would stick out glaringly against the backdrop.

Finally she was at a part that the trees should have blocked her from being seen. She looked up from her position just to be sure. Nothing was there that she could see. A breath of relief swept over her as he took the moment to check her weapon once again. Being alone, that weapon was her only friend. The only thing that would watch her back if she was attacked. Until she was able to make it back to humanity’s next line.

Once satisfied, she stood, deciding to take the longer strides. To get back to the line as fast as she could.

In that moment, four of the aliens moved out from behind the treeline. Or did they? It was as though they materialized in front of her.

“Enemy at 9 o’clock!” she yelled instinctively. She dove for cover after once again understanding that she had no one but herself.

Her heart pounded as she spun around, firing her weapon. Flashes of light blew out from the end of her rifle, landing sporadically across three of the targets. One landed true, causing the alien to fall, floundering on the ground before it fell still.

She ran.

Impact hits slammed the ground around her, sending shockwaves to push her off balance. Non-lethal energy blasts. They knew what they were doing: incapacitate the prey. Live humans were of the kind of delicacy they really craved.

Being alone made not killing her less of a threat.

She ran, not sure of what was pushing her forward. Not sure if she would make it another step.

Before her, another natural cover presented itself. She looked back, the slow moving creatures intending little to expend too much energy to capture her.

If they could knock her down, then they could hit knock her out. Without the rush.

Sliding into the cover, she adjusted herself, turning her rifle back towards her targets. Three aliens.

Though she was never a sniper, she had enough skill to land good hits on her targets. The first landed, taking out one of the three remaining pursuers. Two others deflected off the armor, only knocking the alien back a step. Then it hit, taking out the second.

Seeing that two more of its comrades were killed, the last of the party took a pause. Debate likely raged in its mind. Was the meal worth the chase? Could it risk its own life to capture or kill a human that proved lethal.

As it froze, she took the opportunity to zero her target and fire. The last of them fell. Motionless.

She stood, letting herself become exposed again. Hiding gave her no view of the world. It would remain hostile unless she could prove it otherwise.

The pause that the alien gave though made her think.

Much like she had been, the alien froze, unable to move as soon as no other of its allies were around to support it. Were it in a different situation, would it have behaved like her?

It gave a sense of… of well… humanity to the creature. Until that moment, it had been easier to discount them as beasts. Ignorant beasts. Subhuman. Incapable of emotion.

It made them easier to kill.

Given that she was fighting for her life, she failed to see any means that she could avoid killing them. Unless they showed mercy, there was no chance of her showing mercy. Still, the feeling lingered. Had it been thinking of its family prior to losing its life?

Her next step was to go over to the bodies, finish them off and take some of their gear.

The weapons worked well enough. She had trained with them before. Exercises meant to prepare them all for the possibility of losing their own weapons in battle and having to use what was available.

The armor would do her little good. It was biologically bonded to the particular alien that wore it. Though humans had tried, the armor does not work with human DNA. But the scanner attachment was easily removed. It gave her the positions of all other aliens around there.

An alien tracking system.

It would also show her position to them when they figured out she had the unit.

Quickly, she decided it best to leave that behind. To take her chances. She took only the weapons. They didn’t have any tracing technology. That made them OK.

As best she could, she strapped them to her back. The sack that she had been carrying as part of her normal duty was flat, having lost most of the supplies in a few of the attacks.

Then, she got up to start moving again.

As she pressed forward, the smell of death continued to pursue her. Likely more vehemently than that of the aliens. It hung in her nose. Stuck to her throat. It smelled of burning flesh. It was either from the dead in battle.

Or they were cooking people.

It made her sick even considering the possibility of it.

She followed a worn path, likely from years of others moving through the area, taking her away from where the conflict was. It was a longer way to get to where the human forces were likely at, but it was also away from where she was certain the others were.

Night was pursuing her as well. The sun was near the edge of the horizon casting a long shadow in front of her. It gave her a small window of warning if something was approaching her.

By nightfall, she opted to find a good spot to hide so that she could sleep. Off on the horizon, lights continued to flash. War continued without her. It was the direction she was heading. Only she was too tired to continue forward.

When she awoke the next day, there was little sound. The night had afforded her little quality sleep. That what she did have was enough to introduce her to a world void of conflict. Fighting had stopped, or moved on. Nature was there. Only nature.

It worried her. There should have been something sounding. Somewhere.

Grabbing everything, she got back to her feet. Then, with as much speed as she could be reliable with, she took back off towards the last place she knew her comrades to be.

As she got closer, there were signs of battle everywhere. Trees were downed. Fires were still smoking. And the bodies of both human and alien were all around her.

Cautiously, she stepped up to the bodies, trying to reach for the dogtags. It was then she heard the rustling.

Quickly, she laid down next to the cadaver. It was all to remain undiscovered.

As was expected, another pair of those aliens came out, pulling with them another body. Dead. She was sure that they were probably as disappointed with the dead body as she was, only for differing reasons.

Where she had laid was right in the same line that they were pulling the bodies to. It was her only chance. She planned to wait until they were away again before running off. Being next to the dead should afford her time.

Another group of aliens came out. Each drug with them floating carts. They were going to stack the bodies up to take them back to the preparation chambers on the ships. For the feasts.

Their victory was going to have to be celebrated of course.

Had they only known that there was still a living creature there for them.

Were they to come over, she had no idea what she was going to do. Being alone when you are trained to be in a group was not holding well for her.

And they did.

Unwittingly, she had chosen the end that was going to be carted away first. It meant that they were going to find out her being alive very soon. Sooner than she would have wanted.

As the first one reached down to inspect her, she reached up her rifle and pulled the trigger.

Blood from the alien sprayed out into the air, creating a fine mist of bluish hanging over head.

The other aliens froze as their comrade fell, surprised by the sudden appearance of a living human.

Weapons were drawn as she pushed the other one out of the way before taking her own weapon to aim it at the others there. Blasts came from the end of her rifle, hitting one of the aliens as she turned to run. Towards home. Towards where her comrades should still be.

Once again, however, she was running as impact blasts were littered around her.

She wished that she was back at her base. Back in the protection of her squads. Her platoons.

Why she hadn’t found them yet was grinding on her anxieties. Even during training, when they were testing her ability to operate alone, she was never separated from her teams this long.

A blast knocked her off her feet, sending her rolling off to the side.

Her head struck the rocky earth beneath her, sending sparkles into her vision. She struggled up, knowing that there were creatures after her. Death followed. Now from an execution or later by feeding those monsters. Though her mind knew that such things were going to happen, she found herself unable to get up.

Even as the armor of the creature presented itself in front of her as it began to drag her off. She was alive at least.

It was how they liked humans.

And at least soon she would be among her comrades.

 

Fiction written by Jeremy C Kester
©2019 Jeremy C Kester – All Rights Reserved.
Please do not replicate or use without written permission. Linking to this page is permitted.

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