“Sir our starboard landing gear hasn’t released,” Captain Marissa Vanson yelled over the alarms that were sounding.
“We’ll need someone to release them manually,” Colonel Liam Hunter yelled back turning to the two crew members that weren’t at a control panel. The two of them simultaneously pointed to themselves and raised their eyebrows. They each tried to convince the other that they should do it and in the end played a quick game of paper scissors rock to decide who the lucky one would be. When Dr Simon Grey’s rock trumped Lt. Rhys Shepard he grinned and leaned back in his chair.
“You will still need to help him,” Colonel Hunter ordered. The siren continued to sound while the two of them raced to lower the landing gear. The ship pitched forward suddenly and Colonel Hunter was thrown off balance. He caught himself with one hand on the back of Marissa’s chair and the other was over the top of her resting on the windshield. He admired the way the flashing red light that accompanied the siren reflected in her glossy black hair. He’d intended to right himself straight away but couldn’t tear himself away from her.
“Sir, are you okay?” asked Marissa’s co-pilot Captain Steve Walker.
“I’m fine,” Liam snapped as he stole one last glance and stood upright.
“Sir the atmosphere on this planet is a lot denser than ours,” Marissa announced. “We are stuck in its gravitational pull.”
The words washed over Liam as he was distracted by her mesmerizing azure gaze.
“Sir, we are being sucked onto the planets surface,” Marissa rephrased in words that her boss might understand. “We need to abandon the mission or we may not be able to take off.”
“Whatever you think is best Captain,” he replied. Marissa gave Walker the signal to start pulling out of the atmosphere but found it impossible to lift the control column.
“It’s too strong sir,” she cried as she took hold of the column with both hands to try and stop the craft nosediving into the surface of the planet. She glanced over to see Walker struggling as well.
“Is that landing gear down yet?” Colonel Hunter yelled. Before there was any chance for them to reply Marissa took over the aircrafts announcement system.
“Attention all crew brace for impact. Repeat. Brace for…” The craft hit the ground with an almighty crash and slid through the open field that they had luckily landed in. The impact threw the crew around. Marissa’s head hit the control panel knocking her out. Hunter was thrown forward landing over the top of Marissa, while Grey and Shepard who had luckily lowered the landing gear were thrown straight through the aircraft landing in a heap near the rest of the crew. The emergency siren continued blaring through the craft until Walker reached over and switched it off.
“Is everyone okay?” Hunter asked as he found his feet. There were a few groans from the rest of the crew except Marissa. He took hold of her shoulders and gently pulled her back. The blood was pouring down her face. “Doctor you need to help her.”
“For the thousandth time I am a doctor in archaeology,” groaned Simon shaking his head but helping him anyway. After checking her over the two of them eased her out of the chair and lay her gently on the ground. Lt Shepard returned with the first aid kit.
“Is she going to be alright?” Hunter asked.
“I’m not sure,” Simon replied.
“There is so much blood.”
“Head wounds bleed more than others I’m sure it’s just a graze.”
“Guys,” Walker called. “Guys you might want to see this.” Simon looked up to see what had him so panicked.
“Colonel Hunter,” Simon snapped dragging Hunter’s attention away from Marissa and followed where Simon was pointing through the windshield. Coming across the field in front of them was a few hundred soldiers.
“Oh shit,” Hunter grumbled.
“What are our readings for outside the craft?” Simon asked Walker.
“Everything looks normal. Oxygen and CO2 levels are fine. Pressure is a lot lighter than we experienced on the descent and no sign of radiation. This planet is inhabitable for us,” Walker responded.
“I guess we should go say hello,” Simon announced as he fastened a bandage around Marissa’s head and got to his feet.
Walker opened the door and Simon inhaled deeply as he and Shepard stepped out onto the ramp.
“This air is cleaner than Earth’s,” he announced.
“Earth seems like a lifetime ago for me,” Shepard announced. Their craft had launched from one of six bases set up around the universe. Each one thousands of light-years from Earth and acted as a halfway point for crews sourcing planets further away. Earth as they had known it had become vastly overpopulated and had depleted all its resources. The search for other inhabitable planets had become a priority.
“I’ve only been allowed back to Earth twice since my posting to base 4,” Simon admitted. He stepped off the ramp onto the planet’s surprisingly spongy surface. Before he could say a word the leaders of the army were in front of them.
“We come in peace,” Simon announced. Shepard laughed at the all famous movie line but quickly closed his mouth when he saw the planets inhabitants. They were all at least seven feet tall, very broad across the shoulders and arms like small tree trunks. Their skin ranged through many shades of green in the younger soldiers through to shades of grey on the older ones. The soldiers stared blankly at them.
“Does anyone speak English?” Simon asked.
“English,” came a response from one of the younger soldiers. “Language commonly spoken on Earth. Known to us as the wasteland. Downloading English.”
The language through some sort of technology was downloaded into the entire race.
“You may not inhabit our planet,” one of the other soldiers told them.
“Kill them,” ordered one of the grey soldiers.
“Wait. If we don’t return to base they will send more craft…” Simon started.
“And we will continue to kill them,” the grey soldier replied.
“Please we mean no harm we are just explorers,” Simon said.
“We have heard that before,” the grey one added.
“Please one of our people is injured. We need help. We are on a friendly mission and we don’t want any harm to come to anyone.”
The grey skinned one conversed with the green skinned one that had been speaking to them. The argument went back and forth for some time. One of them wanted to kill the intruders and the other was happy to help them out and send them on their way. Suddenly Walker came racing down the ramp.
“She’s still losing a lot of blood,” he whispered to Simon. Simon turned to the natives of the planet and tried the pleading angle.
“One of our pilots has been severely injured in the landing and if we don’t get help…” he started.
“Fine,” the grey skinned native growled as he turned to the rest of the army. With a few grunts and howl unlike any creature on Earth he gave the order to return home. A few curious onlookers stayed to help out along with the green skinned leader.
“Follow us and we will get your pilot some help,” he told them. Hunter appeared at the door at the top of the ramp with Marissa in his arms. Without a word of warning all the weapons carried by the natives were aimed directly at him.
“You did not say it was a woman,” growled the native.
“We didn’t think it would matter,” Simon explained.
“If anyone should ask she is your prisoner.”
They all nodded and followed the natives away from the spacecraft introducing themselves on the way.
“Our native names would be too difficult for you to pronounce you may call me Shamrock,” the green leader announced. He introduced Lime, Olive and Teal as his closest soldiers. “My father Slate is the King of our land and is very passionate about keeping our planet as unharmed as possible.”
“We understand that and we are not here to cause any harm,” Simon told them.
Ahead of them were miles of bushland and open plains.
“I don’t think she will make such a journey,” Hunter announced.
“Luckily we are here,” Shamrock told them as he held his hand up in the air. Then a door opened out of nowhere. Those from Earth gasped in shock. They were ushered through the door into what felt like a whole other world. The city was covered by a dome shaped force field. The buildings were mostly green and glittered like emeralds.
“I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore,” Hunter joked. The door shut behind them and Hunters first priority was to get Marissa the medical attention she needed. Shamrock led the way and the group split up. Simon was taken by Lime to explore the buildings and history. Olive took Shepard to check out the armoury and training grounds and the Walker was led off to search for anything that would help repair the ship.
As soon as Hunter lay Marissa down on the table in their hospital a bright light appeared over the table and then she disappeared.
“Where did she go?” Hunter demanded clawing at the table.
“Our powers that be work their magic elsewhere. She will be returned to you healed. Now you should come and speak to the king about your planet,” Shamrock told him as he led him away. Hunter was taken to the largest building in the city. They had only just got to the door of the main throne room when Slate’s booming voice cut through the air.
“They brought a female with them on a mission,” he yelled.
“She’s our prisoner,” Hunter lied.
“Then why do you care so much if she lives?” Slate demanded.
“She holds vital information that we need to extract from her,” Hunter added.
When Marissa came through she was in a cold dark cell surrounded by moss coloured walls. The throbbing pain in her head made her just want to close her eyes and go back to sleep but she knew she had to find the rest of her crew. She groaned as she sat up and came face to face with a few curious looking purple beings. One of them was extremely close to her. Their craniums were large and not covered by any hair. The main thing that took her attention were the eyes. They were large and brown like a seals and when the creature blinked she noticed they had transparent vertical eyelids much like an alligator. Marissa rubbed her own eyes to make sure she wasn’t dreaming. The other creatures made some clicking and chirping sounds and stared at her as though waiting for a response.
“Where am I?” she asked. They stared at her a while longer and then seemed to understand what she had asked.
“This is where we live,” one of them told her. The women told her how they were not considered to amount to anything in their society.
“That’s garbage. You should stand up for yourselves,” she protested.
“That only gets you killed,” explained the one who gave herself the English name of Indigo.
“We don’t have a choice,” added Cerise. “We are merely a vessel to bring the new males into our world and when we are no longer competent breeders we are discarded.”
“What do you mean discarded?” Marissa asked.
“Like rubbish. Then taken to the furnace,” Indigo explained.
“That’s awful,” Marissa cried. She searched the cell for a way out but couldn’t find any exit.
“Where have you taken her?” Hunter demanded. “We have been here over a week now and everything is repaired we are ready to leave.”
“She is still being healed,” Shamrock told him.
“Why don’t I believe you?” Hunter growled. Slate ordered the Earthlings to their temporary quarters. As soon as they were out of earshot he turned to his son.
“You make sure they get off this planet before dawn or I will have them executed. Tell them their woman is dead,” Slate ordered.
“Yes father,” Shamrock nodded as he headed to his own luxurious quarters. He lay down on his bed for a moment and stared at the ceiling. When he knew that his father and the soldiers would be asleep he made his way to the servant’s quarters that had been set up for their guests and opened the door quietly.
“You need to go,” he whispered as he entered the room. The four Earthlings opened were on their feet in seconds.
“What’s going on?” Hunter asked.
“Harbouring a female is punishable by death in our society. So you must leave,” Shamrock explained.
“Where is Marissa?” Hunter asked.
“I’ve been told to evacuate you and tell you that she is dead,” Shamrock stammered.
“And the truth is?” Simon asked.
“She is with the rest of our prisoners,” Shamrock replied staring at the ground. “This way.”
He led the four of them through the castle out through a tunnel at the back of the castle and across the courtyard before taking them through another tunnel in a deep dark corner of the city. The stench from the uncared for prisoners made them gag. Shamrock showed them a tunnel where the cell Marissa was being kept in was. He held Hunter back as the rest of them went ahead.
“You really like your female don’t you?” Shamrock asked. Hunter tried shaking his head to deny it.
“The military would not allow it,” he explained.
“What’s it feel like to like someone like that?” Shamrock pushed.
“We’ve never been allowed to associate with the females.”
“Everyone experiences it differently but when I look at her everything else goes out of focus. My heart skips a beat and my stomach feels like someone has kicked me in it,” Hunter explained. “But it’s not allowed in my society for one officer to date another.”
The others are waiting patiently for Shamrock to open the cell door. When it swings open they see Marissa on the floor crouched over the body of the emaciated Cerise. Hunter dives forward to hug Marissa.
“Baby I am so happy to see you,” Hunter announced and went in for a kiss. Marissa turned her head to the side.
“You have to go now,” Shamrock ordered. Heavy footsteps could be heard at the top of the tunnel. “We have to go out the back way.”
“We have to take Indigo with us,” Marissa announced.
“That will not go over well,” Shamrock growled.
“If we leave her here she is dead,” Marissa cried. Indigo stood up from the corner she was crouched in. She took hold of Marissas hand.
“You need to get yourself home,” Indigo whispered.
“I’m not leaving you,” Marissa retorted.
“Marissa we have to go now,” Hunter ordered as the footsteps got closer.
“Both of us or none of us,” Marissa growled.
“Fine both,” Hunter grumbled. Shamrock led them to a back exit out of the tunnel. When they reached the surface he raced them through the city to the exit of the dome. Small explosions started going off around them as the soldiers that were chasing them started launching small grenade style weapons at them. One of the spears being thrown pierced Walker through the chest. Marissa tried to run to his aid but another explosion blew his body to pieces.
“Steve,” Marissa cried. Hunter stopped her from lunging forward as another spear whizzed past.
“I must leave you here,” Shamrock announced.
“Thank you,” Hunter replied.
They run for their spacecraft and hear Shamrock holding off the soldiers. They managed to roll through the door with only a few minor injuries and no more loss of life. Marissa set to work on the controls. Lt. Shepard was able to help out a little but he was still only in the early stages of his pilot training. After a few moments they were in the air. The spacecraft rocked around as the planet natives continued to fire at them. Hunter glanced out the window just in time to see Shamrock decapitated execution style.
“Thank you,” he whispered. They ascended outside the planet’s atmosphere and jumped into hyperspace within moments. When Hunter turned from the window to take up his usual gaze on Marissa his vision was blocked by the creature they had rescued.
“What will happen when we arrive at your planet?” Indigo asked.
“We are going to a safe place between your planet and mine. My planet has an issue with accepting those that are different,” Marissa explained.
“Can I stay with you?” Indigo asked.
Marissa could feel herself blushing. She looked over her shoulder and saw Hunter was staring at her. It hadn’t been until he had tried to kiss her in the cell that she realised how big his crush was on her.
“They will probably keep you on base for a little while to make sure that you are not a threat,” Marissa told her.
“I could never be a threat,” Indigo explained. Marissa looked up when a scarlet drip landed on her hand. She expected to find Indigo was bleeding but found her to be crying.
“It’s ok we will make sure that they know that.”
“It’s not that I just wish we could have helped more of my people.”
Shepard put a hand on her shoulder.
“I’m sure if we speak to the boss he might be able to plan a rescue mission,” he said.
“Don’t make promises we can’t keep,” Hunter cut in.
“We could try,” Marissa growled.
“The last thing we need is a war on our hands,” Hunter snapped.
“Like we haven’t had that before,” Marissa grumbled referring to the excessive amount of planets that had not been happy with them. She turned her attention to the controls and plotted a course for home.
Word Count- 2997