With only 30 seconds to spare, he reached the crest of the ridge and looked down. His eyes widened with excitement. In a wide clearing he could see the last of the injured soldiers boarding the med ship. The crew was going through the final preps for takeoff.
“Hey,” Smith screamed out. “I’m up here!”
Knowing he would get reprimanded if a higher-up saw him carrying the damaged suit leg, Smith hastily reattached it to his exo-suit. It was too bent up to actually cover his leg normally, so he only connected half of the top latches and let the piece dangle.
“Wait for me!”
Even though the ridge wasn’t that high up, the soldiers surrounding the med ship couldn’t hear him over the distant fighting. He would have to get down there as fast as possible. Meaning running with the broken suit leg attached was out of the question. But there was another option.
Steeling his nerves, he looked down the steep grade leading to the clearing and knew what he had to do. Closing his eyes, Smith hurled himself over the ridge and hoped for the best. He tumbled side-over-side, kicking up loose rocks and dirt along the way. As expected, it didn’t take long to reach the bottom.
“Are you okay?”
Smith looked up to see the concerned face of one of the medics.
He groaned in pain. “Yeah, I think so,” Smith said with a grimace.
The medic helped him to his feet while some soldiers paused their takeoff preparations to see what all the commotion was about.
“Damn, looks like the fall busted the leg of your exo-suit.” The medic gently tugged on the loose leg and watched it swing. “That’ll cost a good bit to fix. Don’t think I’ve ever seen one of these break like that before.”
“Oh,” Smith couldn’t help but smile. “Yeah, I slipped when I was rushing down and must’ve hit a rock or something. Didn’t want to miss the takeoff, you know?”
“I hear that. You definitely don’t want to get stranded on this God-forsaken rock.”
Smith looked around and watched the remaining soldiers get back to work. “Did O’Brien make it back yet?”
The medic shook his head and said, “It looks like we have to leave without him. We have a whole ship full of wounded soldiers.”
The two walked toward the ship. A smoke-like fog helped conceal the pick-up zone which gave the crew extra time to tend to the wounded. But even so, the ship needed to take off while they still could. There was no telling when the enemy would find them.
Smith and the medic made it to the ramp and were about to board the med ship when loud hollering stopped them. O’Brien came charging through the fog.
“Go!” O’Brien motioned for them to get on the ship. “Now!”
A group of ten other men followed him through the fog. Unfortunately, they also had company. There was a small band of enemy soldiers trailing close behind. Smith feared they wouldn’t be able to take off.
O’Brien stayed at the opening of the clearing for a few moments while the rest of the group continued to the ship. Smith couldn’t see what O’Brien was doing but he heard a distinctive series of pops. By the time O’Brien made it to the ship everyone else had boarded, except for Smith who was waiting for him on the ramp.
O’Brien cupped a hand on Smith’s shoulder. “Let’s get out of here,” he said as he walked past.
“But what about them?” Smith asked pointing to the remaining enemy soldiers rushing down the ridge.
“Oh, don’t worry about them.”
The ship roared to life and was airborne within seconds. Smith looked out the bay window and watched the enemy soldiers enter the clearing. They appeared to set up for a long-range attack, but as they prepared to fire, a string of explosions went off and wiped out the whole group.
Thanks to O’Brian’s quick thinking, the ship was able to take off without a hitch. It wouldn’t take long for the ship to breach the moon’s atmosphere and make it to the space station where the wounded could finally rest and get their injuries from this senseless war treated.
Once they were safely out of the moon’s orbit, Smith dropped to the floor in a seated position. He leaned against the wall under the window. After checking on the survivors aboard, O’Brian made his way over to where Smith was sitting and took a seat next to him.
“You know, I was worried that you weren’t going to make it. I thought that I was going to have to go find your ass in a ditch somewhere and drag it back myself,” O’Brien chuckled.
“Well, I wished I knew that was an option. I barely made it back before you did,” Smith said, not opening his eyes.
“So what’s the story with that?” O’Brien pointed to the leg part of Smith’s suit. Smith had unlatched it and it was now lying on the floor next to him.
“I’ll tell you about that later. But I did want to ask you why it was such a big deal to make it on this ship?”
“I have it on good authority that the bosses are done fighting for this moon, so they’re just going to destroy it and move on to the next one. I guess the locals turned out to be more of a headache than they had anticipated.” O’Brien flashed a sly grin. “But you should consider yourself lucky, buddy. There are only so many rides out of that Hellhole before the whole thing goes bye-bye. And you just so happened to get on one of the last ones.”
As if on cue, an announcement blared through the loudspeaker that the station is setting off the Planet Killer. Both O’Brien and Smith got to their feet and looked out the bay window. A fiery ball of red energy sped through silent space towards the moon. In a blink of an eye, the energy beam obliterated the moon and everything in its path.
By the time the beam had made contact, the med ship they were on had docked onto the station, cutting them off from seeing the rest of the mayhem and carnage that now littered the space where the moon had once occupied. That space would now be forever empty.