"It is important to understand that while Frayan technology is increasingly advanced, it is vulnerable to certain natural phenomena that we have taken for granted across Terran history. And therein lies more than the capacity to form resistance, but to understand the inherent seed of their civilization."
The concrete ceiling overhead rumbled, dust smattering down on Sienna's head. She brushed it off her keyboard, continuing to pound away. What an inconvenient time for the baddies to show up.
"Doctor! We're losing defensive lines on the south perimeter!"
Sienna ignored the GCOM trooper on duty to protect her. Of course they were losing their defensive lines. Their enemy was unstoppable. Really, the only reason they hadn't raided the bunker yet was because something else held their attention. Something Sienna desperately wished she could be top side to observe, but time and obligation weren't stopping her. Being vaporized on sight by the enemy was a good reason.
She tried not to think of the men and women burning to hold this position.
"The research and metrics exist within our grasp," she typed. "We haven't pursued the science of nebulon simply because it's expensive and serves only an academic curiosity. This should come as no surprise from a scientist disinterested in economics and invested in knowledge for the sake of knowledge. With no way of knowing the depth of our ignorance, we are wholly unprepared for the crisis before us."
Sienna exhaled loudly, spinning around in her chair to face the trooper. "If I don't get these messages out, it won't matter whether or not we escape alive."
The trooper's lip quivered. A pity. These men and women were supposed to be duty bound. Ready to lay their lives down for the greater good. Was there any greater good than delivering game-changing information to her superiors? They could all burn, but if this information turned the tide of the war, their sacrifice mattered.
Truth be told, Sienna didn't intend to sacrifice herself today. She was more interested in reminding the trooper of his responsibility. And playing a hunch that the Fraya weren't going to vaporize their little bunker just yet. Not while their interest led them elsewhere. But like hell she would let a cowardly trooper ruin it all.
Sienna spun back, resuming her message. "Time is regrettably short, so let me brief you on one last matter: the talismen."
Oh, if only the war could have waited another six months. By then, Sienna would've finished the work of her life, published in every major scientific journal. Maybe it would've done the Terran race some good when the invasion finally came, but more than likely it would have satisfied the insatiable hunger Sienna found as an undergrad. Many came before her, but none would see the fruit the way she had.
And if she had her way, this war would end because of her contributions to the field. That was certain arrogance on her part, especially considering the brain trusts of scientists around the world who lent her writings credence. They would probably see this thing won while Sienna lingered here to write a soliloquy on her career.
"Their relation to the Fraya cannot be overstated. They know it, and they fear that we know it. The only question remains how we can link that and our studies of nebulon to form a proper rebuttal."
The room shuddered, cracks spiking across the ceiling. A large block of concrete dropped, smashing her phone. Damn. They were out of time. Sienna hadn't gambled well after all.
"My colleagues, I have attached to this message the finer points of my supposition. As it now stands, it seems my best bet is on the Algoli Plateau. It's unlikely we'll be in touch again. Do what you can with my findings and try to make the difference. Though if my thesis is correct, what I'm going to find will truly make the difference. It's a shame you won't be there to see it."
Sienna tried not to let the smile show as she sent the message. A split-second later, the system acknowledged a stable connection. Her work was done. And she had let them know she would be the one to probably make the biggest difference. Though she would gratefully accept the humble pie if any of the other trusts found a talisman in their parts of the world. She doubted it, but it would be a mercy to the whole world.
Guess it's up to me to save the day.
Sienna gathered the shattered case of her phone, grimacing. Thank the Overmakers it was cloud backed, but it would be a nightmare finding a strong enough signal to download her notes again. Or a working hand terminal she could use. But she was with the GCOM, so they'd no doubt have tools at her disposal.
Sienna stood, stumbling as the room shook again. This time a steel beam collapsed, smashing the terminal where she'd sat moments before. Her gambles were all failing today. She should have saved the snarky letter and sent the attachment as is. Never mind her pride; never mind her doubts that the others would form the necessary conclusions. She had to spell it out and be a pain in the ass while doing it. That would probably do more harm, but at least they knew to expect it from her.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" she snapped at the trooper. "Weren't you saying our defenses were overwhelmed?"
The trooper sputtered on unsaid words, leading them back through the tunnel to the surface. Sienna smiled again. Gods, she loved putting little people in their place. It had a way of opening doors. Speaking of which…
A Frayan attack craft hovered half a mile outside the tunnel, spinning gracefully in the air as it zeroed on their defensive perimeter. Lances of orange plasma erupted from the thing's turrets, vaporizing tanks and APCs alike. It left an ugly mess where it took out ground infantry. There was only the one attack craft that Sienna could see, and it remained unmoved at a solitary position about twenty yards above the ground. It's crisp, white outer shell reminded her of a beetle.
A rough hand yanked Sienna to the side, facing her towards the tree line surrounding the communications bunker.
"This way, Doctor," said a female trooper. Someone waiting for them outside, apparently. Over the sound of plasma fire in the distance, Sienna could hear the whir of dropship engines somewhere ahead of them. She ran with the troopers, pushing across a path through the tree line and to a landing platform on the other side. The black drop ship waited here, side doors open as her guardians leading the way leapt in first.
The female trooper placed a firm hand on Sienna's back, shoving her inside the drop ship. Sienna turned to thank her, blinking as the girl exploded in a burst of orange and red light. The heat wave threw Sienna back, burning her skin and nearly propelling her back out the other side. The dropship lurched on the pad. Then hard Gs pushed Sienna down against the floor, the aircraft rising into the air.
"DOCTOR, STAY DOWN!" Several arms and hands pinned her in place. Sienna wanted to groan; they wouldn't get far. The Fraya would shoot them down, either vaporizing them in the sky or leaving them to crash painfully back in the forest. But Sienna was out of breath and aching in several places.
Her stomach clenched, and she counted down in her head three separate times waiting for the end. But the kill strike never came. She heard the flight crew yelling; heard the wailing of alarms all over the damn ship. She definitely heard the plasma explosions and gunfire below. But that grew fainter.
After five minutes, Sienna decided to push herself up. If they weren't dead now, she wanted to at least get in a respectable position to see the end when it did come. A quick glance out the open bay door revealed that they were quite the distance from the comms bunker. She could see the single Frayan ship out there, unmoved, but lobbing plasma in all directions. Whatever nearly took them out on the ground, it wasn't targeted at them specifically.
We never knew our enemy, she mused silently. We don't know how they organize their attacks, why they focus where they focus, and what the hell they actually want.
It seemed so simple in the beginning. The Fraya looked an awful lot like Terrans. They moved and spoke like Terrans. But they were not Terrans. Perhaps they saw themselves as something higher, because they did not open lines of communication. All they did was…destroy.
Sienna gripped her chair harness, the sight behind them holding her gaze. Eventually the dropship was too far to make out the details properly, and Sienna dropped into her seat, facing forward. Feeling empty inside.
A trooper leaned over, holding a headset. Sienna mechanically put it on, the trooper's voice filtering in over the rush of dropship engines. "Doctor, you've been burnt. First degree, but we should still treat it."
He handed her a medkit, which Sienna held limply in her lap. She couldn't find herself to move or do much of anything.
Shock. She was in shock. The logical, scientific part of her mind understood this. She saw a person explode in front of her. She witnessed alien invaders kill and destroy. All of these things she knew and understood…but could hardly process emotionally.
Maybe there would be nightmares. Flashbacks. A host of other symptoms. But right now Sienna couldn't be bothered by that.
They had a world to save.
A/N: Welcome to my prompt writing adventures!
This particular entry is a piece taken from a novel I've tried developing over the last year. I'm satisfied with the world building, but I haven't got a grasp yet on the characters. This piece was an attempt to flesh someone out. Hopefully it's not the last from this idea.