“That was easier than I thought it would be.” Isis mutters quietly, her voice is almost a whisper as she ducks behind the landing gear of The Perish transport they used to reach the orbital platform.

Isis had been forced to admit that the platform was massive when she had first caught site of it. Ross had informed her that it is more than three miles long and fitted with more than four hundred hypervelocity cannons that fire huge spheres of metal that are spun up to incredibly high revolutions per minute before being unleashed. The explanation had struck Isis as being very similar to those of railguns except much larger and probably far more destructive.

“And sadly that was the easy part.” Ross replies with an even tone. He is trying to keep emotion out of his voice as he speaks. He hopes it will help the situation they are in. Though, it is not for his benefit but for Isis’ and he has no way of being sure that it is helping in any way, unless he asks her. There is no way he is going to do that as he adds, “We need to find a schematic of this installation.”

“Any ideas on how we can do that?” Isis queries hoping that he has an answer, as she certainly doesn’t. Her planning for this suicide mission had got as far as reach the platform and then do whatever is necessary to take this place offline, preferably for good. So in truth, she didn’t really have a plan. It was more an idea. She does have to admit however, that it is going well so far.

“Insertion into a data port should suffice.” Ross returns.

“And where am I going to find one of those?” Isis questions hoping she will get more than a verbal shrug. Especially as she hasn’t a clue what a Perish data port may even look like.

“There’s one on the bulkhead twenty metres ahead of you.” Ross advises much to Isis’ relief.

“Great.” Isis says with a roll of her eyes seeing as that is nowhere near as simple as Ross has made it sound. Especially as the room they are in is more than twenty metres high and at least a couple hundred metres long. Plus there are at the very least five dozen Perish and very little to act as cover between her current position and the goal that Ross has now set for her. Still, it’s not like she can stay where she is. She has a job to do and that is why with Heaven’s Wake in her hand she rolls out from under the transport she used to reach this orbital platform and then with her head on a swivel slowly rises to a squat. Isis makes sure to stay as silent as possible. She can’t afford to draw attention to her presence. If she does that she is sure she won’t survive. And on top of that she definitely does not have enough bullets to take out all of The Perish she can see, let alone the extra that will almost certainly pour into what she has settled on calling the hangar. She can’t think of a more appropriate name for the space that has a shimmering pink deck and curved purple walls. Isis has no clue if there is a purpose for the choice of the bold colours and if there is what it can be. But that is of little concern to her right now as she makes a low break to one of the few stacks of crates that are present in the hangar.

The transport she and Ross had requisitioned is one of five total that are aligned perfectly near the open gaping maw beyond which lies space. Ross had informed her that the atmosphere of the hangar is being held in place by an invisible energy barrier. Isis had asked what would happen if it failed. Ross had assured her that she would still be able to breathe because of her armour, but that the artificial gravity would cease. Isis hopes that doesn’t happen as she can well imagine that by cease Ross means sudden and violent decompression. And though she has no prior memory of witnessing such a tragedy she can well imagine that it would result in her being sucked out into space to drift and die.

However, that isn’t the situation she finds herself in. Instead, she is now nestled behind the stack of crates, listening. She could rely entirely on Ross but she has no plan to. That is for no other reason than there may come a day when she may be without him, so has settled on not becoming entirely dependant on him.

A quick survey of the area around her reveals nothing and so, without an interjection from Ross as well to alert her to something she has missed, Isis makes another break from cover. She continues to keep low as she crosses from her previous cover position diagonally across the room to a support beam that seems to simply disappear somewhere high above her head. It’s black in colour, meaning that it is in stark contrast to the walls and decking around her. Isis has to admit it’s a welcome change of tone and just wide enough to conceal her. But she makes no attempt to break from cover again as she instead waits. Something tells her she needs to and then once the feeling has passed she hesitantly risks glancing to check the immediate surrounding area.

“There are no targets within visible range of you Isis.” Ross assures her. He thinks he understands why she has not asked but seeing as time is of the essence he feels the need to hurry this along. Neither of them know how much time it will take them to sabotage this platform. In fact, they don’t even know how they are going to sabotage this platform, so Ross sees no reason to waste time that they can’t be sure they won’t need at a later point.

Isis takes note of Ross’ words but still performs her check. Though, she questions as to why she is even bothering after being point blank informed that the coast is clear and that she can make a break to cover the final eight metres to the data port, which is ringed by what Isis guesses is a console array. She can’t be sure though as all she can see are boxy grey metal frames, but she can’t imagine it can be much else. Its purpose though she has no inclination as to what that might possibly be, so she breaks from cover and swiftly covers the eight metres and then ducks behind the bank of what really are consoles.

“Pull the chip in the base of your helmet and slide me in.” Ross announces with a chipper note to his voice.

Isis feel at the back of her head with her right hand and soon finds the thin slot as well as indentations just large enough for her to get the bulky fingers of her gauntlet in and then effortlessly slide the two millimetre thick chip out of its housing.

Isis stares at the chip for a couple seconds studying its angular surface lines and impossibly smooth edges while it emits a faint green light. Then she slides the chip into the data port. The opening is wider than the chip and thicker but the chip has no issue sliding two thirds of the way in and then flashing once. Isis recoils in shock terrified that the flash might have drawn the attention of Perish, but after the second flash she realises that the flashes of yellow were only present in her HUD and not visible to anyone else. Isis shakes her head at her own panic and then takes several deep breaths to calm herself.

Ross floods the system with false positives, trackers, tracers, rings, decoys and strains. He knows he can’t break through the enormous system that governs this orbital platform, but he can at least temporarily overwhelm it. Or at least he can force a small section of it to become overwhelmed as part of a distraction. It works and the system takes the bait. It isn’t quite an artificial intelligence but it does have incredible capabilities. The kind of capabilities that Ross wishes he had at his own disposable. Yet he still manages to reach and extract the schematic before flashing an orange light that he hopes Isis will understand is the retraction command. He should have detailed that to her but in the heat of the moment he hadn’t. That is entirely his own failing but still Isis guesses the message Ross is trying to relate and pulls the chip from the port. However, not before the platform system locates the subversion retry point and a blaring double hoot alarm begins to screech.

Isis feels the pain the sound is causing her ears until she slides the data chip that houses Ross back into the slot in the base of her helmet.

Ross immediately alters the acoustic levels to the point that the blaring double hoot is almost entirely gone from Isis’ ears. She could kiss the AI for that, if he had a body that is.

Isis prepares herself for the impending assault that there can be no doubt is about to come, and is about to ask if Ross got the schematic when he throws it up on the right half of her HUD. Isis smiles and then a Perish comes lumbering toward her. The alien hasn’t got a weapon in hand, let alone raised. But as soon as it catches sight of her armoured form it freezes on the spot and them begins to fumble with a small u-shaped object that is hanging from its belt. Isis can’t be sure that it’s a weapon but isn’t about to take the chance, so pulls the trigger of her heavy pistol as soon as it is levelled at the armourless Perish’s chest, which is covered in a navy blue tunic of some form. The round explodes out the barrel of the pistol before a blink of an eye later punching a sizable hole in the Perish’s chest. The force of the impact is enough to throw the Perish backward, taking it clear off its feet and sending it sailing a half metre through the air before the artificial gravity takes over and the body comes thudding to the pink decking of the hangar. The crash of the body is far greater than Isis would have dreamed and results in a hail of projectiles of all shapes and sizes being hurled in her direction a couple seconds later.

Most of the projectiles cut into the frame of the bank of consoles serving as her cover. As a result the consoles soon fuse and spark in response to the damage being inflicted upon them, while the purple plating on the walls suffers only small dark scuffs. Isis is impressed and worried by the sight as it seems as though even the interior of this platform is armoured to the point of almost being indestructible. She hopes she’s wrong about that, though she can’t shake the nagging feeling that she isn’t.

“We have to get to the generators.” Ross explains while highlighting their location on the map in her HUD. Then a route appears plotting the path Isis will have to take from where she is now to her goal. The calculation in the very bottom right of her HUD says the distance between there and here is more than twelve hundred metres. It doesn’t surprise Isis but she sure as hell isn’t looking forward to the slog she is going to have to go through to get there. And she knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that it will be a slog. She just hopes her armour will be able to hold out against whatever The Perish throw at her and wonders if she should query Ross about the possibilities. However, she incredibly quickly decides against it. The armoured woman doesn’t want to know her odds. She can guess that they are low at best and getting lower the longer she doesn’t move.

Suddenly there seems to be a break in the tidal wave of incoming weapons fire and Isis takes the chance to leap to her feet and fire off four rounds. Each hits its intended target but only three of The Perish go down. The fourth that she put a round into absorbed the brunt of the impact because it is clad in armour, unlike the other three.

The only positives she can take are that at least she got a glimpse at what she is facing, which is not looking good, and managed to slightly reduce her enemies numbers, and it is only a very slight reduction.

“Thirty three targets. Twenty are armoured. All armed with projectile based weaponry.” Ross advises as though having read her mind as he makes sure that she is perfectly clear on what is between her and the route out of the hangar.

Isis is both overjoyed by the information provided and crushed by it. Still, she can’t argue that it at least gives her something to work with.

“Any chance you can mark those without armour?” Isis asks expecting the answer to come back as negative.

“Done. Though, I might suggest shooting the large blue canister to the right.” Ross advises with a casual and calm yet knowing tone.

Isis has no idea what Ross is talking about but she isn’t about to argue and so when the next break, a dozen seconds or more later, comes she pops up and then fires a further four shots. Each bullet claims the life of a Perish that is without armour. Isis smiles at her progress and then catches sight of the canister Ross mentioned. At this point she turns to take aim and then fire. However, her movements are a little too slow and she is hit all down the right side. Each projectile forces her to suppress a scream of pain, but somehow she manages to keep her aim and fire off a single bullet and then immediately drop back behind her significantly eroded cover. The bullet hits the canister which erupts into a huge sphere of fog that quickly envelopes the nearby Perish. The aliens begin to cough and choke as they fight for air. Isis takes the risk of glancing over the upper edge of her cover to see the sight of the fog-like substance. Her eyes go wide and she recognises it but she swiftly ducks back behind cover just before several rounds pepper the edge she dared to peer over.

“What is that stuff?” Isis asks while looking down at the nearly twenty bloody gashes in her right side. She can’t feel pain from the wounds anymore and had she not been in this armour she knows that they would have sealed her fate. But here in this armour with Ross she knows that it means he is patching her up. She considers asking how long it’ll take to seal the wounds but sees little point.

“Its name has no translation. But let’s just say its description makes the end result it produces very clear.” Ross replies sounding busy.

“And that is?”

“Cloud that kills.”

“Bit simplistic.” Isis has to admit.

“It worked, didn’t it?” Ross retorts.

“Yeah.” Isis agrees a moment before she springs back to her feet and then fires the last of the bullets loaded into her Heaven’s Wake. Another three of the Perish go down and never get up again. But her cover is seconds away from being overwhelmed as nine Perish push her position. Isis curses as she reloads her heavy pistol and manages to bring it to bear just in time to put a round right through the face of the closest Perish. The alien had been about to smash her head in with the butt of some large heavy looking rifle it had in its hands. Instead, most of its head is missing and blue blood is oozing down the body from the remnants of its skull. It’s a sickening sight and Isis can imagine that an equally vile stench likely accompanies it. She can’t smell one and is thankful for that as she uses the headless corpse of The Perish to block seven incoming shots. Some projectiles cut deep into the flesh they make contact with but don’t tear straight through. While the few of the projectiles that meet armour meanwhile simply ping and ricochet the projectiles away harmlessly. Isis counts her lucky stars that the Perish who tried to club her to death had been armoured.

Isis releases her grip on the headless Perish. The lifeless body topples to the decking as she closes the gap between her and the eight remaining Perish. Two of the aliens swing for Isis, but she drops to her knees and slides under their swings before turning her body while still sliding and firing two rounds. Each takes the life of the melee leaning Perish. But as Isis steps back to her feet and brings her pistol around she is slammed in the gut by an enormous force that takes her off her feet and sends her backward and into the hull of a resting transport ship some eleven metres away.

Isis having dented the hull of the transport slides out of the crater her body has made and to the floor with a dull heavy crunch. Isis rolls over onto her back and lifts her head just enough to inspect the damage. Immediately she wishes that she hadn’t as there is a lake of dark red blood where her abdomen had been moments earlier. She can’t feel any pain. That means Ross has released aerosol suppressants and is more than likely working to stem the blood loss and repair the damage. She hopes that it will be enough.

Isis tries to move, her head starting to feel light, but is slammed back to the decking by a heavy wide three toed foot. Isis groans as The Perish begins to lean more of its impressive weight onto her chest. Isis winces but refuses to cry in pain. She doesn’t know if that is the response the alien is looking for but she imagines that it is, and she has no intention of giving it that satisfaction.

“Borin hosinpora fein benda.” The Perish says, or at least that is what it sounds like to Isis’ ears. If it is then its gobbledegook and she has no idea what it is supposed to mean and that makes her wonder whether The Perish understand her language, English, or any other language spoken by the members of humanity. She doesn’t know yet it strikes her that there may be no one left to speak some or most of those languages because of what The Perish have done to her species and that both saddens and angers her.

“You’re losing a lot of blood.” Ross advises.

“Not by choice.” Isis retorts with a mutter while feeling her energy reserves reach new lows.

“You have to end this. Then I’ll be able to enact extra procedures.” Ross informs.

Isis says nothing in response. She isn’t sure what to say. It’s not like she doesn’t want this fight to be over. She does wonder however, what extra procedures are. She contemplates querying but instead manages to heft her heavy arm up so that her elbow is pressed against the deck. The movement draws the attention of The Perish who had been calling to its fellow aliens in the previous moments. Before it can react however, Isis fires a single shot upward. The round pierces through the right thigh of The Perish and then explodes out of its shoulder about a second later. The Perish staggers back releasing the pressure on Isis’ chest. Sadly she feels too weak to fight her body so instead lets her head fall to her left so she has a clear view of The Perish that are still alive. She lifts her arm, a feat which takes far more effort than she finds to be healthy, and fires the remaining ten bullets in her Heaven’s Wake. A couple of the bullets go wide due to her double vision, but the rest hit their targets killing them immediately. One bullet even manages to claim two of the hulking aliens.

The injured Perish is still moving. Its blue blood is burbling from the entry and exit wounds of the bullet Isis fired though it and the alien she managed to drag itself back over to Isis. The massive alien raises its two fists, which are tightly clenched, and gets ready to bring them down with all the force it can muster. Isis groans again and then flipping the empty heavy pistol in her left hand. The manoeuvre draws the attention of The Perish just long enough for her to wrench her lifeless right arm round and slam her fist into the face of the alien. Her strike is just about strong enough to throw The Perish off balance. It crashes off of her and to the deck giving Isis the chance to roll on top of it and then straddle its wide chest. The alien roars defiantly but Isis ignores it as she throws her head back as far as it will go and then whips it forward with all the strength she has left. The impact of her helmet crushes The Perish’s skull and smears Isis’ polarised visor with thick blue blood as she succumbs to her wounds.

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