Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Two

Notes: Back to Jonah, because he needs some love. I don't give him the love he needs, poor thing, but them's the breaks. Enjoy!

Title: Reformation: Chapter Thirty-Two


Chapter Thirty-Two

It felt odd, to be watching a battle from so far away. The scope Jonah’d pulled out from a cabinet wasn’t great—it could get through the atmospheric pollution but the ships were still too far away to get a real bead on. All he could make out clearly was the light, light streaming through space from one cluster of ships to another. A light in the dark, each bright beam carrying death and destruction with it.

“What the hell is happening?” he muttered to himself. That Pandora was under attack, well—he already knew that, having been a casualty. But who specifically was doing the attacking? And who were they fighting? It had to be Federation forces of some kind, there was no other fleet out there to bring this kind of firepower. That meant politics had gotten involved, which meant Garrett’s hand was in this somehow. Probably propelling the fleet forward, honestly, given how the president felt about the colonies these days, especially ones under the aegis of whomever he considered his “rivals.”

But Garrett had mustered a fleet and sent out. Of course he had. Jonah smiled for a second before pushing the thought of his husband away. Garrett had to be fucking frantic, and just thinking about it would be enough to push Jonah over the edge if he wasn’t careful. He couldn’t dwell on what was going on in his husband’s mind, and he couldn’t bear to think about Cody or, worse, Lacey, so he stared at the sky and let the distant violence quietly fill his mind. It was almost meditative, in a horrible way. So much so that he barely noticed one of those bursts of light getting bigger. Definitely brighter. So bright that—

Jonah pulled the scope away from his eye and watched, transfixed, as what looked like an escape pod hurtled through the atmosphere, limned in fire. The farther it descended, the brighter the fire became, until all of a sudden some sort of threshold was passed, and the blaze went out in less than a second. Jonah tried to track the pod then, but it was too dark out, and he lost it to the building clouds in moments. He didn’t have time to wonder about its fate, though; seconds later another pod began glowing in the sky, then another, until the stars themselves were overshadowed by the glory of a hundred human meteors hurtling through the darkness, each one lighting its own way.

They covered the sky from horizon to horizon, it seemed, spread out so far that he had no hope of keeping track of them all. A few seemed on track to come down fairly close to him, though. Those ones he managed to follow in the darkness, watching but more hearing the moment their chutes opened, the ancient method of slowing their speed boosted by anti-grav units. Two of them drifted down into the water, and Jonah pursed his lips and prayed that whoever was in those pods had the sense to keep the anti-grav going as long as they could, to help keep the pods on the surface of the angry sea. The water was tough to navigate with a fully-functional ship, it would be hell on those awkward, egg-shaped pods.

A gentle movement caught his attention, and Jonah turned to watch one of those pods float down no more than a kilometer away from him, hitting the ground with a crunch he could hear even though the landing had been relatively calm. He shuffled around to his knees and bit his lip. He could go and investigate it. He probably should; it would be good to gather some intelligence, and maybe whoever was in the pod could tell him something about what was happening up there. On the other hand, it was entirely possible that whoever was in that pod was an enemy fighter. If Jonah went to spy on them and got caught, or followed back to the bunker, then he’d be giving them Lacey. That was the last thing he wanted.

In the end his curiosity won; he had to know more. He could be quiet, bring the scope and watch from a distance until he was sure it was a friend instead of an enemy. If it was a friend, he could offer his own aid, poor as it was. And if it was an enemy, well…he could avoid them. Come back to the bunker and lock himself in, and hope they didn’t look around too hard.

Yeah. That sounded like a great plan.

Wonderful, now he was hearing Garrett in his head. He must be goin’ crazy. “You don’t get a say when you’re not here, darlin’,” he whispered before getting to his feet. He was going to check it out. He’d be careful.

A kilometer in the dark was hard going, even though it was a lot easier without the rain making every step a peril. Jonah used his light as little as possible, moving slow and mostly stopping himself from stumbling. He pulled himself over sharp-edged knolls and finally hunkered down in a crevice about a hundred yards out, reconfiguring the scope for the close distance and lifting it to his eyes.

The pod’s paint was charred from its entry, making identifying it by its markings impossible. The hatch was open but he couldn’t see anyone moving around, no evidence that anyone had emerged from it yet. Disoriented? Injured? He couldn’t know without moving closer, and he wasn’t going to do that until he had a better idea of what was happening here. Despite the way it tugged at his impatience, Jonah settled in and waited for whoever was in the pod to reveal himself.

In the end, it ended up being herself. A young woman eventually emerged from the hatch, moving slowly and groaning loud enough for him to hear over the wind. She was moving like a hundred-year-old natural; right, she’d probably been banged up good inside that little thing, even if she’d strapped in. He watched her rub her left shoulder with her right hand, wincing before letting it go, then touch her ear, as though she was speaking into a comm. A military comm unit, in fact. And even in the dark, Jonah could see the insignia on her shoulder. This girl was Federation. A lieutenant, it looked like; a young one.

He moved before he’d made a conscious decision, stepping out of the rocks and onto the small shelf where the pod had lodged. The girl looked his way instantly, tension filling her frame. “Who’s there?” she shouted. “Who are you?”

“I’m a friendly,” he replied. “Resident of the Box.”

She didn’t relax. “What are you doing out here, then?”

Jonah sighed. “My ship was shot down a while back. I’ve been out here since long before you fight began.”

“What’s your name?”

“Jonah Helms.”

She went still for a moment, before a little of the wariness bled out of her posture. “Cody Helms’ father?”

“Yes!” Oh shit, had Cody been on that ship? Was he out here in a pod somewhere, bobbing like a cut flower on the water? “Was he with you?”

She shook her head. “No, but his quadmate was my shadow for a while. Cadet Parrish.”

Darrel. If Darrel had been on board, then Grennson surely was as well. “Is he all right?”

“Last I knew.” She finally relaxed, and Jonah made his way over to her side, making sure she could see his hands the whole time. “The ship was being evacuated. Darren was one of the last to leave the bridge, I think he stayed there to make sure the General came with him.”

General? What was a general doing being in command of a ship? “You mean admiral?”

“No. General Caractacus was charged with leading the fleet here from Olympus. He’s…” Gradually it dawned on the lieutenant that this news might be more than a little revelatory for Jonah, and her voice trailed off. “Oh.”

“Oh.” Miles was commanding the fleet? That made no sense, unless, again, politics had come into play. Miles was retired; it was a big deal for him to be reinstated, and Garrett would have fought it every step of the way. Holy hell. His husband had to be going out of his mind.

“I’m Lieutenant Agnieszka Reyes,” she offered by way of distraction. “It’s…nice to meet you, but...not really like this, you know?”

“I do.” Jonah replied on autopilot, his mind working at lightspeed. He had to make sure. “You’re sure my son wasn’t on your ship?”

“He wasn’t assigned to the fleet, from what I know. It’s possible that—” Whatever she was going to say next was cut off with the pain of her gasp, and the sudden burst of darkness on her arm that could only be blood.

Jonah moved without thinking, tackling Reyes to the ground and hauling both of them behind the pod as more gunfire broke the peace of the night. Actual gunfire, with—hell, were those bullets? Who in the universe still used actual bullets?

“Come out, come out, poor little Olympians!” A shot rang off the top of the pod. “Come out and I’ll make it quick, I promise.”

Well, fuck.

Turned out that space pirates had escape pods too.

1 comment: