Crewmen scrambled around the deck, alarms blaring in the distance somewhere. Jacob could feel vibrations around his pod, and his eyes opened. Sharp cold pain stung his eyes, and his first intake of breath since cryo-sleep was like a stab in the chest. He tried to swallow, but his mouth was dry and his throat was failing to produce any other noise besides a low weak wheeze. There were shadows moving around the frosted glass panel on his pod, and the cradle lights on either side of him began to strobe rapidly.
Suddenly, the panel popped open, a loud hissing sound in his eyes. For a moment, everything went bright and blurry, and his surroundings were obscured by a white fog. A pair of hands took hold of him by his shoulders, and pulled him from the casket. However, his feet flailed madly, and he collided with the cold steel floor. He tried moving his limbs, but they were unresponsive. His lungs felt like they were being squeezed in someone's fist, and he tried to call out for help, but his voice failed him. He was flipped onto his back, his eyes staring up at shapes that were too blurred to discern. Suddenly, a long sharp needle was plunged into his chest, a pain in his heart.
Within moments, the fog disappeared, and his limbs responded finally. Shooting up in panic, he grabbed the closest object towards him, and waited for his vision to clear. As his eyes began to refocus, he started to make out what seemed to be a face, and he was pulling it extremely close to his own. Blue eyes managed to come into sight, and they stared directly into his own. His face was scarred in some areas, one running down his left cheek, but his smile hid it quite well.
"While I do enjoy making friends, I believe constricting your saviour might not be the way to go,"
Jacob pushed the man away, his eyes scanning the floor in front of him. He tried to analyze the patterns in the grating to stop the spinning sensation in his head. A deep chuckle caught his attention, and he looked back up to his 'saviour'. Seeing the soldier stare at him, the man smiled,
"Do not worry friend. It is only Cryo-sickness. Everyone gets it, but some get used to it faster,"
The man ran a hand through his grey hair, and turned to look at the other crew members awakening in the chamber. Now free from the Cryo-pod, the alarm that was sounding off was more audible, and quite annoying. Jacob looked back at the man in time to see him walk away, but something was off about him. His white jumpsuit was missing a sleeve, and the arm that should have been there was missing.
Jacob tried to get up and thank the man, but his balance was off, and he collided with the slanted surface of his Cryo-pod. The swirling sensation returned, and he held the edges of the pod tightly. Focusing his breathing, he closed his eyes and tried to calm himself. However, when he opened his eyes, a small little reflective container was held out in front of him, a cheery orange straw pointing out of a little hole the top. His eyes followed the hand that held the container, up the arms, and eventually, to the eyes of the man who had helped him out of his pod.
"Here, drink this, it will help you get back on your feet and it'll clear up your throat,"
Jacob nodded in thanks, and greedily sucked out of the orange straw, a mildly sweet liquid going into his mouth. Jacob did not take anytime to ponder the flavor of the liquid, and drank the juice in large gulps. The cooling sensation travelled down his throat, and he stood up straighter, now holding the container in his own hands.
"Easy there, you will be disoriented for a few, but you will be fine in the next five minutes," The man said.
Jacob pulled the straw from his mouth, "Who are you?"
The man simply smiled, and walked away.
'Odd,' Jacob thought.
Jacob looked out to the rest of the massive room, and he could see that a thin layer of dust coated almost every surface, and multiple pods had been shutdown, shadows of people still trapped inside. A grim realization dawned upon him; they wouldn't wake up. A woman had been hunched over, clutching one of the darkened compartments tightly, sobbing. Body bags were being escorted out of the room, and several crew members were accompanying them. Jacob felt a guilty sense of luck for not having joined them, and a frown found itself upon his face.
Abruptly, the alarm cut off, all of the hustle and bustle of the crew suddenly freezing. With everyone curious as to what was happening, a couple of technicians in grey jumpsuits with black shoulder-pads walked through the crowd and toward the hallway at the end of the room. A voice rang out over the speakers after the disappearance of the grey clad men,
"Rise and shine, people. We've got bad news. Our techies here in the bridge have identified several system crashes, and multiple reroutings in the Nav-Base. Basically; our computers glitched, and sent us back,"
Silence reigned over the chamber.
"Alright, this is Captain Sullivan speaking, we're going to need to make a stop for a moment. Protocol states that if situations become dire, we are to await advising from the other ships, and we're only picking up one other bird out there. We've lost the drones,"
Jacob looked around uneasily, and expressions of panic and scowls were scattered across the members on deck.
"Alright, we're patching through to the U.T.C Hunter, and we'll update you on the game plan as soon as possible. In the meantime, all engineering teams report to the core reactor rooms and the thruster engine rooms, all medical staff get to helping any crew members going through cryo-sickness, and all military personnel, report to the barracks immediately,"
"We've just gotten confirmation that 0.3% of the U.T.C Hunter's population died during cryo-sleep, which is a pretty good outcome is comparison to what could've happened, but still grim. We have lost 0.4% of our own crew, and those who have been lost will be remembered. That is a certainty. But that is not why you soldiers have been called to the barracks today,"
The officer said, pushing himself off of the desk in front of him. He struck a board behind him with a long metal pole, a loud snap resounding across the room.
"This," he began, "is why you've been called here,"
On the board, a diagram of Europa was being displayed, but there was something odd about the picture; the moon was no longer an icy wasteland. A large spot of green covered a portion of the moon, and in the center there was a small silver dot. The officer pointed at the dot once again. Jacob rolled his head and cracked his neck, the joints bathing in relief as they had just been freed from restless strain.
"That, is the U.T.C Gladius,"
A collective wave of murmurs and whispers erupted amongst the crowd of commanding officers, Jacob himself being present as a specialist of a different type of warfare. The whispers died down as the officer raised his hand above the chattering, and he went on.
"On our next pass, we'll be using Jupiter as a slingshot to the Mars colonization site. Before we do so, we will go into orbit and send down a team of scouts to report back to us the status of the operation, and if there are any living souls down there. Our attempts at communication were met with static, but a distress beacon has been transmitting on low frequency,
"Gentlemen, we do not know what is down there. We do not know if they managed to successfully terraform the planet and start anew, or if they had wiped out each other... or worse. That is why we need to verify the status of that colony before we return to Earth, and the same goes for Mars. We've been gone for twenty million fucking years,
"Is this understood?"
The unit leaders all responded with positive replies, and the mission briefing was over.
"Get sleep, guys, tomorrow will be full of surprises."
"Ahhhh... shit," Jacob groaned as he lifted himself from his bunk. It had been a week, and that meant they were in range for the reconnaissance operation. Jacob groggily picked up his PDA from the counter-top next to the bed, and the time read "06:00".
Right on time.
Jacob stumbled out of bed and across his small cabin, nearing the closet. Pulling the closet doors open, a number of the same colored jumpsuits greeted him. It was pale, dark green on the bottom half of the uniform, then the upper chest and shoulders were padded and black colored. The U.T.C logo was emblazoned on the right chest area of the clothing, and a zipper ran down the front of the jumpsuit.
Pulling the jumpsuit on over his underwear, he zipped up and readied himself for what lie ahead. Brush hair, eat, brush teeth, floss, rinse, mouthwash, rinse, shave, shampoo. The daily routine. The boring routine. He pulled on his boots, and strapped unused knee-guards and shin-guards over the leggings, the black matte pads fitting on nicely.
Running a hand through his short dark brown hair, Jacob sat down in front of his personal data console and began to type down an entry, setting his coffee mug to the side.
Lets face the facts; we've been gone a long time. I mean, a LONG fucking time. Its a damn miracle our reactors and generators still work. But that means that this luck will come at a cost. I don't believe in a higher power, and neither am I superstitious, but every time good things happen, a bad thing will happen as well. Murphy's Law; "Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong." Even if we manage to find some remnants left of the Human race, we'll probably have problems with the populous. Who knows if some sort of deadly pathogen is rampantly spreading down there, and they are immune, but we aren't?
Ah... fuck me. I probably just jinxed myself.
Well, if I die, and some U.T.C moderator is reading this, tell everyone aboard the ship I hate them all. Except this one guy with grey hair, seems like the only dude around here who doesn't have a stick in his ass. Don't remember his name... anyway, he's missing an arm, so its not really hard to identify him. (I'm a bit of a prick, aren't I?)
Well, this is Jacob Wynes, signing off for possibly the last time.
Jacob walked over to the cabin door and paused for a moment, a thought on his mind.
He could not find an answer. Jacob grabbed his PDA from the countertop next to the door, and left, a trail of steam pouring from the cup left alone on the surface. The lights in his room shut off, and the ambient humming of his computer slowly faded out as it shutdown.
Jacob looked nervously around the room of the drop pod, and saw that his four other squadmates that were assigned to Alpha Squad were too busy fiddling with their own equipment to pay him any mind. It looked like they had done this before. Jacob had not. Jacob was an Exo-suit pilot, not a damn flyboy, the way he thought about it. His gut tossed and turned when the pod started moving down the monorail. The pod jolted, and all of the heads of those present rocked back and forth in sync with the motions.
A monotonous drone rang out from the headset strapped to his helmet, the somewhat boring operator soothing his terrible nerves somewhat.
"Drop teams, prepare for the recon-op. Launch in T-Minus ten,"
Jacob wringed his sweaty hands together. His teeth were clenched in anxiety. He felt as if he were on a rollercoaster. But this would not be fun.
"This is Alpha-1, we're about to drop, see you surface-side, assholes!" Roared the Captain of the Squad with a grin, punching the launch button.
"Sons of bitches! Bravo Team, we're fucking racing these assholes!" Came a roar from the same headset.
Jacobs organs jumped into his throat, and his fingernails dug deep into the arm-guards and chest-guards holding him down. His eyes wide with terror, a continuous groan managed to escape his throat.
"This is Charlie, kiss my ass, Alpha! We're getting to the ship first!" Came a female voice, joined by other excited special-ops units.
The pod was falling, and the other spec-ops were hollering and roaring in laughter. Suddenly, the pod shook violently, sending little items flying around the room. The Captain was whooping and the shaking grew worse and worse.
Looking out of his window next to him, he could see the planet approaching. Fast.
The violent trembling rocked the craft once more, the occupants shaking with the craft. A woman sitting on the right-hand side of him began to frown, and slapped a hand to her mouth, her face turning pale. Jacob looked across from him, and saw that the terrible turbulence was not exactly helping the other people as well. They needed to stop this, or the pod would fall apart from the stress.
"Deploy the chute!" Jacob cried, worry evident in his voice.
"Not yet!" Yelled the Captain. "We deploy here and we won't make the landing zone!"
The ground was approaching faster, but they were rocketing over a large jungle of sorts, the vegetation passing faster past them as they neared it.
"Deploy the chute, damn it!"
The ground was getting closer, and when they were only a mile up, the Captain deployed the parachute. The entire craft shook, and jolted violently, then, began falling sideways. Everyone began to panick now. One of the soldiers beside Jacob vomitted, sending flying food bits around the cabin. Jacob could feel bile rising in his throat, and fought to keep it back down. Everything was spinning. From his spot near one of the windows, he could see they were soaring over the strange jungle, but at a much greater speed. Screaming filled the cabin.
The Captain looked out of the window and roared,
"CHUTE'S LOST! CHUTE'S LOST!"
Jacob gripped the guard-rail as tight as possible, and started yelling at the top of his lungs.
Jacobs stomach lurched, and gravity began to twist and turn around him. Terrible vibrations shook the entire structure, the small overhead light cracking from the physical stress.
Everything went black.