Creeping Death

“This thing just will not fucking budge!” Cyrus roars as he half-heartedly puts his weight into making it look as though he wants to crack the pod. Then he gives up entirely, putting on a show of how he’s exhausted even though Marius is sure he isn’t even remotely close. How can he be? He’s been too busy standing in a spot that keeps him out of the now howling icy wind that is bringing snowflakes in through the ragged wound. For that reason alone Marius would like to punch Cyrus’ head in, but resists the urge having noticed Jed is looking to him for direction.

Marius takes charge, not that there was ever a moment when he wasn’t in charge, and following a series of nods he orders. “Jed you take over leverage. Cyrus, see if you can find something to cover at least some of that fucking hole.”

“You said ten minutes!” Cyrus screams defiantly over the roar of the angry wind.

“It’s been seven. Now just fucking do it or the cold will be the least of your worries, I promise you that.” Marius growls through gritted teeth that only help to accentuate his furrowed brow of angry disappointment.

“Fine, fine, fine; there’s no need to get your, whatever it is you wear under all that gear, in a twist, jeez.” Cyrus mouths. His voice barely audible over a particularly vicious blast of wind that shoots into the ruined cryo suite as if to suggest Cyrus should quit whining before Marius loses his patience.

The merc rolls his eyes, Jed chuckles because of the eye roll, and then both of them get to work. Jed levers the section of metal in his hands. Not the same one he’d used previously as that finally sheered two minutes into this ten minute bout of attempts.

If he said what was on his mind and was frank, Jed would point out that this section, chosen funnily enough by Cyrus, is nowhere near as effective as the piece that sheered. He doesn’t however and for no other reason than it wouldn’t help the situation they’re in as the limited times continues to tick by. That is especially true when you consider that it took Jed fifteen minutes to locate and then a further two to dig that piece free from the scrap it had been among.

“This is one hell of a…” Jed says literally putting all his weight onto the metal section, so that his feet are off the floor.

While Jed does that Marius attempts to pry the hinges on the other side of the lid of the cryo pod. It isn’t what they had been trying originally, but seeing as their prior attempts haven’t worked Marius had settled on trying something different. This was that something different and while not a great distance away from their initial idea it’s about the only possibility that was available to them with the limited time they have.

Suddenly the metal section in Jed’s hands sheers. Jed exclaims in surprise but somehow manages to get his feet back on ‘ground’ without causing himself injury. Though, a long bout of expletives do leap from the back of his throat in frustration and anger until he finally burns out of options, at which point the merc asks if he’s hurt. Jed assures he isn’t. Marius gives him a look that suggests he better not be lying. In response Jed promises that he isn’t and then resorts to showing Marius his hands, which are totally unmarked but worryingly red from the cold.

“Now what we going to do?” Jed asks deflated and frustrated as he scans about for a second replacement section feeling pessimistic of his chances.

Marius checks a timer on his wrist, snarls and then after a short debate where he seriously considers going against his better judgement, declares, “We’re out of time. We need to get moving.”

“One last try, please.” Jed begs.

“With what? Your pry broke.” Marius counters the plea offered to him.

“What about this?” Jed says hauling; from seemingly out of nowhere, a piece of decidedly pointed scrap. Marius would have to admit that if it holds it might just be able to do the job.

“And to think it was here all along, huh. Why not. One last go. Then we get before…” Marius begins but suddenly stops as he realises that the room is emptier than it should be. The mercs head spins on a swivel as he searches in vain for Cyrus.

“What?” Jed asks having not noticed the third man’s disappearance.

“Cyrus is gone.” Marius sighs.

“Cyrus! Cyrus can you hear me? Where are you?” Jed calls out loudly into the lethal cold as it whistles and groans.

“He’s gone.” Marius admits.

“As in dead?”

“I don’t know. But he sure as hell isn’t close enough to hear your yelling Jed, sorry.” Marius feels a very out of character pang of guilt and remorse at having to utter those words.

“Huh.” Jed sinks physically for a few moments prior to him straightening his back and then saying, “One last try.”

Marius catches sight of a steely determination in the other man’s eyes as if saving the soul within will counteract the loss of Cyrus. It won’t, even if whoever is inside the cryo pod is still alive, but Jed will learn that soon enough no matter what happens next. Though, the merc makes no attempt to dissuade the bespectacled guy vaguely opposite him in the moments before they try one last time to pry the pod open.

Both men growl and scream with effort as they use every ounce of energy still in their possession. The metal sections in both their hands straining and groaning as if they are about to break and while they feel their bodies turn even colder than they already were. How neither has a clue, but they are just about to give up and admit defeat when suddenly three loud snaps ring out, filling the air.

Jed looks at Marius who snorts impressed by their combined efforts. Unfortunately, the elation is brief because as soon as Marius begins to lift the lid of the cryo tomb he catches a whiff of the unmistakable smell of death. In that moment he hesitates. Not because he wishes to spare himself any of the gruesome sight that will lay within, no its far too late in his blood soaked life for that, but because he’s trying to spare Jed. Sadly, Jed is blissfully unaware and queries, “Why you stopped?”

“You don’t want me to continue.” Marius promises.

“Sure I do. We cracked the pod. We have to check on whoever’s…” Jed trails off as Marius shakes his head from side to side.

“You can’t be serious!” Jed exclaims close to tears now that he is aware all their efforts have been in vain.

Marius doesn’t say a word. Rather, he stands there motionless. As a merc he isn’t good at this sort of thing, comfort. So he elects to keep quiet and say nothing.

“I want to see, regardless.” Jed assures, his fists now clenched as they hang down at his sides. Though, whether his fists are balled up due to determination or the cold, Marius cannot say. Yet, the merc makes no attempts to argue and so lifts the lid free exposing the gruesome sight of a woman whose torso is near enough inside-out. Immediately, Jed retches and turns away from the horrific sight, while Marius simply nods having expected when he caught a whiff of the stench roughly what they’ve found. However, there is no need to prolong this, and they have already stayed longer than they should have, so Marius drops the lid of the tomb, grabs a hold of Jed and half drags him back toward Eris, Yelena and Marine. He hopes they’ve fared better. Though, there is no reason to suggest they would not have. The merc just hopes they’ve managed to keep that fire going, because it they haven’t then they’ll all die in the next couple hours. Of that there is no doubt in his mind.

Such concerns are dispelled however when Marius catches sight of the fire and its roaring blaze. It’s comforting to see that everything, for the three women at least, has gone exactly it is should have. Unsurprisingly, the questions are hurled at Marius almost immediately once he and Jed are in sight but there is no sign of Cyrus.

“He…disappeared. I don’t know. I told him to find something to maybe help cover up some of that breach in the cryo suite. Next thing we know he’s just gone.” Marius admits now that he is around the fire.

Jed had been barely conscious when they returned, which is why Marius made sure to put him as close to the fire as was possible without him being literally on it before answering any questions fired his way.

Thankfully, it seems like he’ll be OK and make it out the other side. At least physically that will be the case. Whether he will make it out the other side of this, which Marius guesses will be when dawn comes to banish this debilitating cold, mentally the merc cannot say.

“And the pod?” Marine asks curious, even though it is clear that whoever was inside didn’t make it seeing as only Marius and Jed came back.

“Already dead. Not a pretty sight. Jed saw it too. Not sure how he’s going to cope with that.” We might need to watch him.” Marius admits without giving details as to why Jed saw what he did. It doesn’t matter why he saw it; just that he saw it and it’s affected him.

“I told you! I fucking told you! Had you listened to me instead of trying to play heroes Cyrus would still be alive!” Yelena roars angrily and yet something about her tone suggests she is revelling in the fact that she’s been proven right. It’s really not the time or place for such things. Even Marius balks at what comes across as an overly cold-hearted, I told you so.

“Just zip it. It’s getting colder and the last thing we need is to start fighting.” The merc rumbles.

He’s attempting to head-off an issue before it escalates further. However, he does glare at Yelena in a way that informs her she needs to shut up before she does something that could see her cast out and left to die in the freezing weather.

“I don’t’ think the fires going to be enough.” Eris states following a remarkable vocal absence that Marius would never have considered was possible for her.

Her silence suggests she’s been doing some thinking, maybe calculations. After all, he doesn’t know why they were chosen for this mission. Calculations might be her background. What he can say is that her conclusion must be that things are much worse than she originally thought. She’s right, they are because no one could have anticipated the temperature drop and the severe change in weather.

“We need to huddle to conserve body heat.” Marius replies bluntly in the seconds prior to him beginning to move so that they can do exactly that.

To his surprise no one argues. Rather, they follow suit and get into positions so that they are huddled together. Those positions are around Jed who stays where he is seeing as he still hasn’t said a word or even moved since they returned. He is definitely alive and in the land of the conscious and the living however. Probably, Marius guesses, still processing what he saw in that pod when they cracked it open.

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