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The Sixth Invasion

Chapter Text

Drops of water puddle onto mounds of ice crusted snow. They dribble down over grass and foliage, frozen in crystallized prisons. The sunset shimmers through their fractals dusting over the understory of the forest canopy, as the rays of light stream between the breadth of the trees. Winter birds flit through the silver birch leaves and a large five point stag struts along the riverside nibbling at strips of bark and long grass blades that have broken through the snow. The forest held a tranquility today, as if it had given up its gifts of life during the summer, and now receded back into its frigid yet peaceful state of reserve.

It was the dead of winter, and hunting was a necessity. She had saved enough from her last kill to make it through the next week, but she would need more soon. Taking the given opportunity of good whether she started her hunt across the frozen over lake and into the forest. Her celestial eyes search the landscape for any signs of movement and tufts of whitetails. She creeps through the snow, puncturing the frozen ground below her advancing in steady strides. Her fur boots muffling her steps, her eyes forward, her manifested bow drawn and her arrow knocked. Tracing the tip over the area she stops as it lands on a corpulent five point. A tiny smile tugs at her cheeks as she crouches down keeping her sight on its temple. She draws back on the string and the stag twitches its ears to the left and right. It can hear something in the distance. Her breath hitches.

She lowers her bow and connects to her senses searching for danger. Her kind, have evolutionary senses more tenacious than any creatures around her. She pulls back on the right side of her hood with one hand exposing her ear to the crisp air. Low dense pants and growls pierce her ears and she realizes she is not alone out there in the woods. In the distance footsteps puncture the snow circling around her and her prey. Sudden movement ahead, the stag jerks it hind legs preparing them for takeoff. She lets her manifested bow disappear into the air. Then a daunting howl petrifies her mind and she is as frozen as the ice around her. The beating of her heart, the pulsing of blood through her veins, the static in her ears, reaction is out of her reach. It wasn’t until adrenaline rushed in sweeping away her shock that she was able to move again, and just as the stag, she prepares for takeoff.

She springs to her feet in pursuit of the stag, as their predators close in. Short barks and yips startle her, taking her breath, pounding at her heart. She runs with the speed of a full grown mountain lion, bounding over fallen birch trees and shrubs. But with the snow being as thick as it was, it was difficult to maneuver in and she was finding herself slowing down as the canines catch up to her. If she could get to the lake through the tree line before the sun slips under the horizon she might be able to escape their jaws.

She follows the path marked by her prey, in hopes its scent will mask part of hers. But try as she might her footing was failing and she quickly found herself thigh deep in a thick snow pack. Her strides slow to a walk as she presses on.

An abrupt yip and bark to her right, then a flash of blackened fur darts by. It moves quickly, light enough to run the tops of the snowpack taking the advantage. It’s ember eyes smile at her with greedy hunger. She whimpers at the sight of it, a demonic mutation of wolf and bear, she draws a dagger from her belt ready for the attack. It barrels in towards her snapping its jaws, then pouncing on her forcing her onto her back. She shields herself with her thick white coat allowing it to chew on her forearm, fracturing bones, until she can steady her blade. Taking her dagger in her right, she grips the hilt and forces it into the side of its skull, it yelps, then falls on top of her motionless. Lying their limp bleeding black fluid from its wound, she pulls out the dagger and pushes the beast to the side with all her might. She rises to her feet, replacing her dagger back into its sheath, and carries on as quick footed as possible.

Blood is seeping through her sleeve onto the snow but her adrenaline has reached its peak and pain is a sense she cannot feel anymore, in this moment she feels only the crunch of snow beneath her feet, the extra beats of her heart, and her survival instincts that are pushing her forward.

Behind her, a low growls tears through the silence, she picks up her pace as the snowpack thins away to the ice covered lake ahead. She had made it to the tree line where her horse Artemis waits. He whinnies from the howls closing in behind her and she takes his bridal and mounts him with a simple leap into his saddle.

“Hya!” She snaps, and Atermis reigns then takes off galloping over the ice. It was dusk now and the sun had set, the snow and stars contrast the darkness creeping in, making her predators barely visible in the shadows. As she speeds across the ice, they dart out of the forest after her, nine snarling beasts fan out in uniform preparing for a flank.

“I need more speed” she thinks.

Closing her eyes, she pictures her core power, the center of her life tree. She speaks in the language of old times, a language lost to the world many years ago...in Gaelic she calls her “crann saoil” her source of life on this earth...

“tabhair mo am riachtanais”
(Give me speed in this time of need.)

Her voice sends a wave of white energy out into the darkness, and Artemis whinnies once more as his body fills with light. His legs pick up speed tearing through the thin layer of snow. But before they could gain any leeway they are attacked from the left. A beast snaps at the hind leg of Artemis, tearing flesh from his ankle. He kicks and bucks, throwing her off his back and she hits the icy floor tumbling to a stop, face buried into the snow. Turning over quickly and drawing her blade, she is just in time for the beast to leap on top of her. As it lands, shoving her shoulders into the snow, she thrusts her dagger into its heart, pulls it out and stabs into its neck. It falls to her side twitching and convulsing, as high pitched whimpers seep from its lungs.

The rest of her predators approach slowly, circling around her, each bearing sharp fangs and long claws. Some lunge forward, testing their victim as they skulk around her. She rises to her feet sobbing, taking in long painful cold breaths. It was the end for her, the hunter was now the hunted, and they have succeeded in their capture. Saying one last prayer to the god of Arawn to take her soul to its proper place, she touches the tips of her fingers to each chakra in a traditional symbolic gesture for one whose life is no longer theirs.

And she waits for their next move...

Chapter Text

“Captain! We have arrived! We are approaching the atmosphere”. The navigation officer says while he broadcasts the earth's grid on the translucent screen. He expands the screen and zooms in on, what used to be, Alaska. “Looks like Alaska is still covered in ice sir.”

“Hmm...Any life forms in that section?”.

“Yes, but they are weak and scattered fair distances away, some places only have one life signature and others are small groupings.”

The captain strokes the bottom of his chin while he thinks of the proper placement for his troops. If the enemy is scattered and weak, this mission won’t be too challenging.

“I want two units, one on each side, here.” He points to the left side of the state. “And here.” He points to the right. “The enemy is weak, therefore smaller units of five should be sufficient and send them out with Domed Pod Cruisers, they will need to stay warm out there.”

“Yes sir, Which units are we sending?”

The captain paused for a minute, he could send the rookie units but that may take longer than he would like. Sending one rookie unit and his best unit would make things go more quickly, and if there is trouble they would have a solid team as a back up.

“Send Rush and his team, and...Gina and her team.”

“So rookie and corporal units?”

 

“That’s right, I want to spend the least amount of time in this area. We have other places to conquer, but if we can hold Alaska, we can expand easily over the continent and across the ocean.”

“Yes sir, I will put tags out to Rush and Gina.” Says the navigator, he picks up his tablet and sends in their soldier codes. A few seconds go by and they receive a response accepting their missions.

“Good! I will be in my office preparing for our next mission. Tell me when they land.” Captain says.

Everyone in the control room stands and salutes their captain as he makes his leave.

—————————————

“Gina! You’re looking fine today.” Says Corporal Briggs, specialist in tracking and explosives and swooning the ladies, so he thinks. He sits down, slamming his tray, beside her. She winces at the sound and his demeaning comment.

Gina, a beautiful woman, fierce, and witty. She came into her rank as a corporal early. Within months of joining the Neo Defense Fleet she had proven herself to be a great leader and she fits in perfectly with the Buster Squadron.

She rolls her eyes, pushing her tray of rations aside in disgust.

“Don’t even start Briggs! I’m not in the mood for your shitty one liners today.” She replies.

“Aww come on sweetheart, they’re not that bad!” He sweeps an arm around her waist and pulls her in close. She glares back at him until he removes it.

“Briggs! Leave the poor girl alone! She’s not interested.” Sergeant Rush says taking his seat in front of them at the cafeteria table. He sits down and begins organizing his plate of food making sure everything is evenly separated and not touching the other.

“I’m just messing around…” He replies, watching him with an uncanny stare.

Rush rolls his eyes and takes a few bites from his plate.

“Did you see earth yet? It’s as beautiful as they said it would be.” Gina asks.

Rush looks up at her and smiles. Her excitement was refreshing to see, something that everyone here had been lacking. They have all been in a glum state moping around the ship waiting for something to happen and finally they are here. Everyone has been itching to get out on the battlefield and do something.

“Yeah, I did see it. I wonder what it’s like down there. I mean, stories and pictures just don’t do it justice. Can’t wait to get started ” Rush replies grinning wide.

“I can’t wait to blow some shit up!” Briggs claps his hands and rubs them together.

Gina glances at him shaking her head.
“It’s not always about destroying things Briggs and besides we don’t know what we’re walking into. Headquarters says there are new life forms on earth now, and we are treating them as enemies until told otherwise.”

“Yeah, the last mission General Lightman was on said they are weird looking things. Sort of human but not. They wear masks on their faces and the skins of animals. Like primitive beasts or something.” Briggs laughs.

This intrigues Rush, wondering how after five hundred years the earth had recovered so quickly from what man had done to it and what these beings are. It was almost as if mankind had left earth to find salvation and these beings moved in to fix the world turmoil.

“Well, we are here to take our planet back and nothing is going to stop that, those things can suck it.” Gina says.

“I wonder when we will be called out.” Rush says.

Just as he finished his sentence both him and Gina’s tablets alarm. They look at each other and grin.

“In coming mission. Please read carefully.” The tablets say in unison.

Mission #015: Sergeant Rush Emberdawn

Alaskan Subjugate

Enemy weak, scattered in various locations.

Capture or destroy if necessary

Do you accept?

 

Rush eagerly smashes the accept button on his screen and Gina does the same.

“Looks like we got ourselves a mission!” Gina shouts.

“Yeah! I’ll gather the rest of my team and meet you both at the bridge for debriefing.” Rush says.

“Sounds good.” Briggs replies.

Chapter Text

“This mission is going to be short and sweet!” Commanding officer Greg Williams says while pacing back and forth in front of his line up of restless soldiers. Beside him, is his lead in command, Rush, who stands patiently with his hands clasped behind his back. He is the best of the best, there wasn't anyone close to his skill level in combat or stealth. Rush was a first-rate sniper, and could handle almost any mission he was presented without any trouble. He was a born leader and everyone followed him without a questionable doubt. His greatest skill, would be his focus, once on a mission Rush stays on track and is never led astray.

“We’re splitting you into two groups, I want rookies to follow your corporals, this is the experience you need, so listen to Rush and Gina, and watch closely.” Commander says.

“Yes sir!” Everyone says in unison.

“Now, there are ten of you in total, we are placing you in two groups of five and splitting you up. I want you all to keep an eye on your temperatures. It is minus twenty degrees out there and if you’re not careful hypothermia can kick in pretty quickly. Hands and feet warmers are mandatory, and head armor or insulated balaclavas will be given to you with goggles. You’re taking the domed pod cruisers this time to keep warm while traveling and each one of you will have one. The enemy we are facing...well...the last group didn’t do so well, it would seem they are more powerful than we thought, so take caution and use fire power if necessary. Headquarters wants to see us take hostages not lives, but I say, do what you need to do to survive. Any questions?”

“Who’s leading?” Gina asks.

“Gina you have your own squad, take your pick. Rush will do the same. Gear up and get in your pods we launch in thirty minutes, at 1500hours.” Commander Greg salutes and makes his leave.

Chapter Text

My eyes scan its blue horizon. I’m not going to lie, I was unsettled by this mission. Sometimes you get a feeling in the pit of your stomach that isn’t right.

It seems strange that man is back here on earth, the very place we destroyed five hundred years ago, the very place that killed over half of our entire race. Once the world was evacuated, our ships took us through our galaxies’ “supermassive” black hole for the first time. Our theories were correct in that a black hole is actually a portal opened in the middle of another galaxy. This is where we found the planet Sotiras. We conquered the planet within two years, destroying anything that stood in our way and settled into our new world. It was sickening the way we did it, we left nothing native to the territory and wiped it clean of any opposing life forms other than our own. Our race had become invaders and pillagers, I guess this is the way we have always been and this is what we do. Our very existence is that and here we are back at the planet where it all began. We don’t deserve such a beautiful place.

“You ready?” Gina asks walking up behind me. She places a hand on my lower back and looks out over the earth.

She has been trying to get closer to me, and yeah, I took her to bed with me a few times. I was drunk and arroused, and she was willing at the time...I care for her, but not in the way she wants me to. Gina is beautiful, but for some reason, my heart just isn’t into it, I can’t find any love for her even when I try, and I’m not sure of the reason for that. I step away from her and turn towards the door.

“Let’s get going.” I say, I can hear her choke, knowing that I’ve hurt her with how cold I’m being. I glance back at her, and the look in her eyes warms the cold.

“Gina, be careful out there. I’d like to see you again.”

She lets out her breath and smiles at me. “You too Rush.”

———————————-

I buckle into my pod connecting my vitals and thoughts to it by placing my hand on the palm scanner. The engines start up and my seat adjusts to fit my size. To my surprise my pod speaks to me.

“Sergeant Rush Emberdawn, how nice it is to see you, where can I take you?” The pod asks in a female voice with a slight accent. It would seem our engineers has tweaked the pods to have more personality than before.

“We are headed to earth.” I reply setting the coordinates.

“Earth it is! You have an incoming call from Commander Williams. Should I decline?” My pod asks.

I laugh.
“I’ll accept, but thank you pod.”

“No problem Sergeant.” And with a beep my commander is online.

“Rush, is everyone ready?” He asks.

“Yes sir. Everyone is geared up and ready for your commands.” I reply.

“Good, I want a full report once you land. The captain is asking.”

“I’ll send one once we are situated and settled.”

“Alright, careful out there. And stay warm.” And with another beep the call is dropped.

“Are you ready sergeant?” My pod asks.

“As ready as I’ll ever be.” I reply.

“Good, keep your arms and legs inside the pod please, and hang on tight.”

Looks like they’ve added some humor to its A.I.
“What kind of ride are you taking me on pod?”

“The ride of your life sergeant.” She replies seductively. I chuckle. “Launching in 3...2...1…”

The ship doors open up to the stars and the thrusters explode. I am jolted forward, through the door out of the ship and into space, Earth bound with our squadron following behind me.

“Woohoo! Let’s go kill some shit!” Briggs yells through the intercom.

“That’s not our mission Briggs. Capture first! and if not, we do what we need to do…or I’ll make you sit in the pod until the mission is over!” Gina snaps back.

“Alright, alright, you’re no fun!” He replies.

We soar into the earth's atmosphere, between the prismatic layers of atmosphere. I turn on our shields preventing my pod from melting into the exosphere and thermosphere. It wasn’t until we hit the mesosphere when things started to go wrong. As we reach the stratosphere there is a sudden flash of light in the distance. I shield my eyes from it barely able to see.

“Do you see that?” Gina asks over the intercom.

“Yeah! But it’s not showing up on our radar!” Briggs yells. “It’s headed right towards you Serg!”

I look to my right below us and see a bright electric orb heading straight towards my pod.

“Get out of the way Ru…” Gina calls to me then static takes over her voice.

A humming noise that vibrates through my chest closes in, along with the feeling of static electricity. It makes contact with the side of my pod, sending a shock wave through me and I’m jerked into a spiral in the wrong direction away from my squadron.

I’m spinning in circles, as my pod attempts to regain stability. My thrusters are bursting on and off as we tumble towards the earth. Every siren and alarm in the damn thing is going off and I frantically search for something to stabilize me.

“Pod! Diagnostics!” I shout.

“Sergeant, we are off track and have taken extensive damage on our right side, our shields are at ten percent, I am not able to stop our rotation.”

“Shit.” I only have one trick up my sleeve for this. I switch the pod to manual, and take the joy stick in my right hand. I time our rotation focusing on the incoming snow packed earth. If I don’t fix this now, I will be landing upside down and backwards. I count the spins, and on the third rotation I boost my thrusters to the left, the explosion causes enough force to even out my flight and flip us upright. I pray to god for my successful attempt. But now I’m facing a landing I may not survive.

“Pod! Slow us down as much as you can, and stabilize the landing. Hold our shields!” I yell.

“Yes sir.” And just as the wings trip their windbreakers, I hit the snowpack hard, skidding across a frozen valley and into a tree line, our shields taking the brunt of it. My wings hit the trees and tear off, I spin once again hitting everything in my path. We come to a slow stop against a tree and it jolts me forward in my seat, I hit my head on the dome roof cracking it.

I can see the stars now, and not the kind you find in outer space, it’s those little white stars behind your eyelids after you have suffered a concussion. I can feel the cold air seeping through the crack in the dome bringing me back to reality. I blink trying to regain my vision, as whiplash sets in, and pain shoots through my chest. I must have cracked some ribs from the electrical orb that hit me as I flew in. I gasp and cry out in pain, as a drop of blood from my forehead slips down my temple and over my cheek.

“Shit..Pod, damage... report.” I grunt and moan through my words, any breath I take aches.

“P-p...od...d..a mage..” is all the response I get, then the power surges and fails.

“Fuck.” I whisper and release my buckle not realizing we have landed sideways leaned up against a tree. I fall out of my seat upside down onto the broken dome. With my size, the dome wasn’t able to support my weight and I smash through it landing in the depths of a freezing hell. Cold instantly nips every part of my skin that is exposed and the air I breathe freezes my throat. My breath hitches again from the shock of it.

“Goddamnit! Why fucking Alaska?” I curse.

I quickly pick myself up and search for supplies in the pod. Behind my seat is a bag with everything I need to survive this weather. I pull out the pack, and open it then take off my open faced helmet and put on my insulated balaclava, goggles, gloves and jacket. My pants and boots were already made from insulated material so the last thing I need is my guns. I grab two pulse pistols, holstering them in my thigh straps and my Plasma Burst rifle, I throw over my back along with my survival pack.

“Rush! Are you there?” Gina calls over the intercom.

“Yeah, I’m here.” I reply.

“Oh thank god...where are you? Are you ok?” She asks, I can hear the panic in her voice although she is trying to stay calm.

“I have no idea where I am, my pod is trashed. But I’m ok, minor injuries, possibly some broken ribs and a concussion. But I’ll be fine.” I reply.

“Jesus Rush! What the hell was that?... It doesn’t matter, send me your gps coordinates. We will come get you.”

“Alright.” I open the screen on my intercom and push the signal button sending out my location and wait a few seconds.

“You got it?” I ask.

“Not yet...wait...yes..you’re on my radar, but you’ve landed by a lake about three days away from our drop zone . At least that’s what it says. We will come get you so… I guess... just hang tight? You got your gear on?”

“Fuck sake...yeah. I guess I’ll be huddling around a fire for the next three days.” I reply.

“Ok, stay safe and keep warm. I’m having the commander send out another pod to follow us to your location.”

“Thanks Gina.”

“Don’t worry, I'm coming to get you no matter what.”

“I know.” I reply and hang up.

“Fuck.” I curse.

I take a look around at the scenery, the trees were enormous. Like I have never seen before, back home our trees were much different than these. Ours were bendable and thin, with thick bushy tops. Earth's trees were gigantic, hard and strong. No wonder we used them for so many resources, you could build structures that would last centuries with them. I bring my eyes to the sun, which is setting in the distance and the wind is starting to pick up. Goddamn it’s cold. I need to get to an open area, some place more visible.

I head towards the tree line, following my path of destruction. There are trees sparking flames from my pods’ thrusters and the wings had cleared path towards the lake from here making my trek through the snow easy. It had crashed a fair distance into the forest and it wasn’t until darkness had fallen that I had reached the frozen lake shore. It stretched for miles, covered in a four foot blanket of snow. I decided to set up camp near the shoreline, there are dried up branches I could use for a fire and some clear spots under the tree canopy.

I gather some branches and sticks forming a teepee like structure with them, then I take some fuel from my pack and a small torch and light it. It doesn’t take long for the fire to erupt and the flames to eat away at the dry wood. Pleased with myself I sit down and begin my wait. I take my intercom tablet and start some diagnostics on myself, my chest and back are killing me and it would be nice to know what I’ve broken. My skeletal image comes up showing two fractured ribs and a small fracture in my collar bone, but no severe breaks. I’m pretty lucky really, I believe my pod may have saved my life.

I sigh and lean back against a large tree I had propped myself up against and look out over the landscape. It was odd seeing the stars from here, I feel so foreign on this planet, as if I was an alien not supposed to be here. Maybe that was somewhat true. Maybe we aren’t supposed to come back to earth… my thoughts are suddenly interrupted by the whinnie of a … horse? echoing across the lake.

I jump to my feet and look around, I hear short barks and yips, then out of the corner of my eye I see a white figure moving fast across the snow on my left.

“What the…”

I look closer and see a rider on a white glowing horse galloping through the snow and it looks as if they are running from something. Then I see them dart out of the trees. Nine large, wolves of some kind are right on their heels catching up. I know this rider is supposed to be my enemy right now, but it was clear they are running for their lives. If there is life here, they may have a place to stay that’s warm until I rendezvous with my squadron.

Suddenly a wolf bites at the heel of the horse and bucks the rider off, they land on the ground hard and a beasts pounces on them. They quickly take the animal down but are left hurt as they stand with the rest of the pack circling. This is predators at the end of their hunt, swarming their prey, I need to make a decision and fast. I can either let this being die and possibly be next if those beasts find me. Or I can take advantage of the beasts not knowing I’m here to take them out before they can even get close. The obvious answer is to take them out.

I raise my sniper rifle and search for the beasts in my scope, they are testing the rider now snapping and lunging. As one charges forward it leaps into the air and I shoot, putting a bullet through its temple. My shot echoes through the distance sending the pack into a frenzy. I search for the next and take it down quickly. Another pounces on the being ripping at their shoulder, blood is now spilling down the front of their coat. I sight the beast in and shoot killing it instantly, but the bullet must have ricocheted into the beings left shoulder and a female scream fills the air.

A...female?

Then the wolves turn towards me, they have found me now and are tearing my way at speeds I’ve never seen before. I throw my rifle over my back and pull out my pistols, and within seconds they are in firing distance. I kneel and shoot with marked precision, even in the darkness, my pulse shots exploding upon impact and one by one they fall until they are nothing but lifeless piles of bloody fur in the snow.

As the last shot makes contact with a growling skull the rider and I are left in silence. I stand slowly taking caution not to frighten her. She stares in my direction holding her shoulder. She stands ready to bound away at any chance of a threat.

An echoing whisper cascades over the lake and she raises a hand. Then the Winnie of her horse and the steed is back by her side.

She’s leaving me...Damnit!

I charge out of the tree line after her as she mounts the horse and kicks its side. As fast as possible I intercept her stopping directly in front of them. This was frightening, for a moment I didn’t think the horse was going to stop. But as I hold up my guns to her, she pulls on the reins, the horse reigns and screeches. I can see her now in full view, just like we were told the foreign life forms here wear masks over their faces, her coat was made of white fur and what looks like half of a silver fox’s head skinned and sewn on the top of her hood. She wears bleached hide pants and white fur boots. She is bleeding from two different places, her forearm and shoulder. I can tell immediately she is growing weak, her breaths look labored and her back is hunched over.

“Please! I need your help!” I shout.

She makes no sound.

“Please!” I beg and I put my gun away raising my hands in surrender. She stares at me.

Then more howls echo into the distance. I look around.
“Shit.” I curse.

She looks back behind her then back at me and reaches out a hand. I take it eagerly, not wanting to confront anymore of those beasts and she is in no position to help. I climb up into the saddle behind her, it was made of an odd material I have never seen before, it glistened colors of silvers and blues with a rubbery texture. I press myself against her and wrap a hand around her waist to hold on and she pulls me in closer.

“hang ar daingean.” She whispers. In a language I have never heard before.
(Hang on tight.)

She kicks the side of her horse and we take off into a gallop with growls and barks closing in behind.

Chapter Text

They are close, and from the countless yelps and howls there were too many for us to handle on our own. We tear into the tree line across from my crash site, dodging trees and shrubs, gliding through the snow. The girl points ahead suddenly and I strain my eyes to see what she is showing me. Half way into the thick was a small light in the distance, and what looks like the outline of a house... Thank god...But from the snarls closing in behind us I realize we aren't going to make it there in time. I tap her arm.

“We’re not going to make it!”. I shout.

She pulls back on her hood to listen as white wisps of silky hair slip out into the air. A few seconds go by and she pushes my arm away from her waist, she stands up on the galloping horse and flips around to face me straddling my lap. She grabs the back of my head and pulls me into her injured shoulder with one arm.

She gasps in pain then whispers…
“hang ar.”
(Hang on)
I clutch her body tight, bracing myself for whatever it is coming next.

She holds on to me and speaks slowly.

“tabhair dom stoirm, cuir solas orm!”
(give me a storm, light me!)
She calls and her voice, like a song, shatters the night making the trees sway back and forth. She holds out a hand behind me and it begins to glow white, pulsing with electrical energy similar to what hit me and my pod earlier. The beasts are upon us now, I can see their red eyes glowing beside us. Her hand charges itself as dusty particles stream into it and then explodes into lightning, shooting out into the air shocking anything living around us. The beasts explode into bits of flesh and carnage, and with one last howl the they were gone. She lets her power die out and suddenly collapses in my arms causing us to lose our balance.

Holding her close with one hand I frantically search for the reins to keep our stability against her limp body. We are closing in on the cabin and I need to slow us down so I grip the reins, and pull back just as we approach the front porch. The horse stops abruptly and we tumble out of the saddle onto the snow. Still holding onto her tightly against my chest, I open my palm resting the back of her head on it and hold her out. I give her a slight shake to see if I can rouse her.

“Wake up!” I shake her again. A strained moan escapes her covered mouth and she moves her head slightly but nothing more than that. Panic strikes me, the more I try to shake life into her motionless body the more lifeless she becomes.

I curse out loud, praying that she holds on long enough for me to heal her wounds. I need to get her inside quickly, so I pick her up, thankfully she is extremely light, and throw her over my left shoulder wincing from my own wounds. I begin to trudge through thick snow until I reached the cabin door and like a sudden blast of heat, warmth rushes over us, it hummed through my skin giving me goosebumps and making my little hairs stand on end.

What the hell was that? I think..

I unlatch the door and swing it open, I’m immediately hit with the heat from a fire and the smell of something sweet. I close the door behind me and find a place to lay her down. There was an odd looking dining area to my right with a large table made from the entire section of a tree, bark and all. The legs were carved out and it had four chairs situated around it. I kick one of the chairs aside to make room and place her on the table. I pause taking a deep breath, from what I know of my enemy, is that they are hideous vicious creatures so I keep my gloves on and place my rifle on the floor beside me and my pistol on the table, close enough to grab it if I need to.

I come to her side mid waist and examine her clothing, her coat was thick made of white hide and lined with silver fur. Down the middle we’re ties made of some sort of twine. I begin to untie each one starting from the top down. Once I have done that I pull open the coat...my breath catches. This is not what I had expected at all. Underneath is a fully developed human, she wears a tight wide necked shirt made of some type of breathable tan material, it comes down to her upper thighs with small slits cut up the sides. She wore nothing underneath which was obvious from the perk of her breasts and the shadow of her nipples protruding through the fabric.

I reluctantly take my eyes from her breasts and move them up to her hood, giving it my best attempt to be a gentleman about all of this. I pull back on her fur lined hood and tuck it underneath her head for comfort. She had white hair that shon with iridescence, almost as if it were dipped in oil, it was so smooth I couldn’t resist the urge to touch it. I take a lock and let it slip through my gloved fingers.

Her skin was just as soft and smooth, flawless and crystal clear. Her eyes were, otherworldly, even closed they were large and wisped with thick lashes. I lower my eyes to the mask covering the rest of her face and I unbutton it from the right side, sliding it down to reveal a combination of features that held so much beauty my heart nearly stopped. She was like no woman I’ve ever seen, there were no words to describe her perfection. I run the tips of my fingers over her smooth full lips, she begins to stir, and I realize I have gotten off track. I take a step back to let her wake herself up. Her eyes squint and her lips retract as she can now feel the pain from her wounds.

“Cá bhfuil mé…” She says in strained voice.
(Where am I)
I wait not moving an inch, I don’t want to startle a woman who can shoot lightning from her hands. She places a hand over her injured shoulder and groans.

I take my pistol off the table and hold it behind my back making sure she can’t see it. Then she opens her eyes… they were violet in color with specs of blues and deep greens, it was as if they held their own galaxies in them. They pierced my heart, sending waves of mixed emotions through me, ones that both feared and desired her, each with an overbearing strength. I step back further as if she was too beautiful to look at in close distance.

She sits up and cries out in pain again, then searches the room. it was a few seconds before those celestial orbs found me, I grip my pistol in my one hand praying to god not to have to use it and she speaks in her foreign tongue, her voice full of panic and despair, but I cannot understand her, so I blankly stare as she tries to talk to me.

“tóg mé chuig mo chrann sao!”
(Take me to my life tree!)
She shouts through tears.

I put my pistol away and raise my hands to show I mean her no harm.

“I’m sorry I don’t understand.” I reply shaking my head.

She falls back on the table and I catch her in one arm by her neck just before she hits the back of her head. She repeats her words over and over and all I can do is shake my head. She points over in a direction down a long hallway beside me on my right. There is a strange green fluorescent light aglow which I hadn’t noticed before. I look back at her and she nods. Our first successful exchange of communication, and I pick her up hastily taking her down the hallway. As we walk the wooden planked floor, the green light fills the room, and the closer we get, the more prominent it becomes. We approach a set of short stairs leading down to a door. I stop and look at her, she nods again then lays her head on my shoulder in exhaustion.

I hold her up with one hand propping the rest of her body up on my knee as I struggle with the latch. After a few tries it finally opens and the green light pours into the hallway. I push my way through the door, inside was a pool of water situated in the middle of a small rock reservoir. It was almost as if someone had built this cabin surrounding it, and it buzzed with enchantment. There was an odd looking tree centered in the pool, made of blood red bark and deep green leaves and the serene sound of rushing water in the distance. The room was just as beautiful as the creature in my arms. She lifts her lips towards my ear.

“glac liom ansin.”
(Take me there)
She whispers and points to the water. I take a deep breath and hesitate, as my conscience tells me this may not be a good idea. But the grip around my shoulder and the labored breath against my neck pushes me onwards.

Not evening bothering to take off my boots, I walk into the water with the girl now limp in my arms. The water seemed to drop lower near the tree in the middle and once I’ve reached a depth waist deep, I let her body sink in supporting her back so she doesn’t go under completely.

She hums something sweet and the green glow begins to sweep through the water towards her body and mine. It was then that I felt it, a sudden rush of euphoria wash over me, as if every inch of my body was being rejuvenated. I freeze in place unable to move. The feeling was so intense that my mind was slipping in and out of consciousness; in my unconscious state I begin to relive the earth's past, it’s slow death and destruction caused by mankind. In my conscious state I am staring into the celestial eyes of a beautiful woman. We’re these memories only a figment of my imagination...or was this...I lose consciousness again, floating through the earths’ past.

This lasted for what seemed like hours, as the memories of earth embed themselves into my my own and my body becomes fully healed. The last memory before I wake, was of her, how she got here and where she has been. The memories spanned over an immense amount of time given to me in pieces. It was hard to combine it all logically, leaving me confused as to who she is or what she is and how old she really is. Then a shallow voice calls.

“Open your eyes.” The voice says.

My mind comes back down from its flood of knowledge and I open my eyes.

“Hello Sergeant.”

She takes my hands on hers. I snap out of my trance to look at her... all of her. She was much younger than I had originally thought, although the memories given told me she was decades older than I am. Her body is well developed and has an untouched innocence to her. Her entire presence holds a purity to it like she hasn’t seen emotional pain, or heartbreak before.

“Are you ok?” She asks in a thick accent.

I can understand her now? How is that possible?

“You speak English?” I ask.

“No... you speak Gaelic.” She laughs. “Thank you for restoring me, if not for you I would have passed on into the earth.”

“Gaelic?” I whisper to myself.

Before I can ask anymore questions, she has moved to my right side, sloshing through the water behind me towards the door. On her way I watch her unclip her boots and slide them off, then she takes her pants off slowly. Or maybe it was just myself slowing it all down.

She clutches the sides of her pants, and with a slight arch of her back she pulls the fabric down over her round cheeks and lets them drop to the floor. Her shirt covers just enough of her body to tease and torment my sexual desires. Although, her being soaking wet, has caused the shirt to stick to her smooth skin letting my eyes indulge in the outline of perfectly voluptuous shapes. I shiver, as she looks back at me. Hair slicked down her back to her mid waist, drops of water stream down her legs and disappear between the gap between her thighs. I have never wanted a woman so badly in my life.

“Come with me, we need to talk.” She says in a silvery voice, reaching a hand towards me.

I do as she says not hesitating a second to follow her wherever she wants me to go. I swish through the water in full gear, feeling much heavier than before and the minute I step out of the pool I feel sick with flu like symptoms. I stumble holding my head and groan.

“You are sick from my life trees’ purity. Do you not have them on your planet?” She asks.

“...no…” I grunt. She takes my arm and swings it over her shoulder and helps me out of the room. This was a little embarrassing for me, I’m supposed to be a strong man in front of her, but the nausea is so bad I can barely see straight. She helps me up the stairs and down the hallway to a plush chair by the fire and sits me down carefully. I lean back in the chair and close my eyes, as my head begins to spin.

“This is horrible.” I complain.

She giggles. “Well maybe to one who has not experienced absolute divinity before. You’re soaking wet, let’s get you dried off, I have something else you can wear.”

I am only half listening as she begins to take my boots off for me. The small jerks of movement don’t help my nausea any, but she manages to get them off without making me sick.

“Give me a minute?” I ask.

“Of course.” She replies.

I can hear her stand, then walk away. Now I’m cursing myself for making her leave my side. It was a few minutes before I heard her footsteps approaching me.

“Slow breaths Sergeant, and stop resisting, the more you resist the worse you will feel. You are being cleansed, let it happen.” She calls from a fair distance away.

Let it in? How do I do that?
I start to breath slowly, taking in long drawn out breaths. My shoulders relax and the tension in my core loosens. I begin to feel better immediately, and the spin in my vision fades away. Then fingertips run from the top of my head down to my jaw line and over my neck. I hum, feeling tiny sparks of pleasure through them.

“I would like to see your face, may I take your eye covers and mask off?”

“Yeah…” I whisper.

With her thumb and pointer she lifts my balaclava off revealing myself, taking my goggles with it. She sighs then continues to run her fingers through my hair.

“Does man always cut their hair this short?” She asks.

I look up at her as she massages my temples.

“Hmm...some don’t, military personnel have to.”

“Do you feel better now?” She asks.

“Much better, thank you.”

She laughs softly.

Her smile was so warm, and calming. She lowers her hands and I watch her walk towards clothes she has laid out for me on the dining table.

“ I have clothes for you. Put them on, I will wash and dry your clothes tomorrow. But I must rest now, I have to hunt in the morning.” She says and walks towards the hallway abruptly ending our conversation.

I lean forward in my chair trying to understand why she would want to risk her life again like that.
“You’re going out there again?”

She stops.
“Yes I have no choice.”

“I don’t recommend that, It’s too dangerous!” I protest.

“Like I have said, I have no choice. Either I die by Lupus Beast or I die from starvation. Starvation takes much longer.” She says so casually.

There is no way she is going back out there. Even the thought of it frightens me, recalling the size and speed of those things, the way they bled and the hunger in their eyes.

“I forbid it. I will hunt for you.” I reply.

She stares at me for what seems like minutes, before breaking the silence.
“You do not know this place, I cannot let you hunt without me!” She protests.

“Then I will hunt with you.”

She watches me cautiously, I meet her stern glare equally and we pause again.

“Very well, I will wake you in the morning.” She replies coldly and walks down the hallway to her room leaving me alone by the fire.

That was too easy, most women I know wouldn’t take commands like that from a man without more protest, I hope I haven’t insulted her in some way. I decide not to push my luck and wait until morning to talk further.

I change into the clothes she has provided for me, a long soft brown tunic that was tight over my muscular shoulders, baggy pants and fur lined socks then I hang my wet gear off of anything I can that is close to the fire to dry. I check my pistols which are water logged and completely useless now. Damn. Fighting anything in close quarters will be challenging. I throw my pistols onto the table in frustration then put some more wood on the fire and take my seat again propping my legs up onto a stool I have found.

It is time I check in with my unit to update them on my whereabouts and check my wounds. I unlock the screen and do a vitals scan, everything seems to be fine, in fact my heart rate as never been so good. My fractured ribs were completely healed and any underlying condition I have ever had was gone. I flick through the screens and stop on my gps signal, it is very weak inside this cabin. Maybe the life tree has something to do with it. I open up my messaging app and send a quick update to Gina.

“Hey, I had to relocate. Be careful out there, the wild life is much more dangerous than what we have ever encountered on Sotiras and the cold is another kind of animal.”

I press send and wait a few seconds for a response. My tablet beeps.

Hey, hang in there we are on our way, your new pod has made it through the atmosphere and we’ve picked it up. We are on route now. Hope you’re safe and warm. I miss you.

She replies. I sigh, thinking about the last time we had lied in bed together. She had asked me if I could ever love her. Gina was always like that, to the point and held nothing back, she says exactly what she was thinking at the time and doesn't care about the repercussions even if they hurt her. I replied with a maybe, and changed the subject. But I after that, I knew I would never love her.

Thanks Gina. I reply and no response after that.

I lay my head back on the chair and close my eyes. My thoughts of Gina are quickly replaced by thoughts of a white snow colored hair, soft skin, and dripping wet thighs. She set me on fire in an instant and I don’t even know her name. I daydream of kissing her soft lips before drifting off to sleep....