Writing in Public: Story 4: Chapter 21
The dust kicked up from the weapons fire from Kangjun still floated in the air, along with the acrid stretch of burnt sand. Brooks pulled the jeep in front of the scientists’ tents, cut the engine. The silence was startling.
Jian hopped out of the jeep. The gunny was already doing a range walk in her direction, stopping with a crisp salute. Jian returned it.
“Anyone hurt?” she asked.
“No, ma’am. But Ms. Hagen is unhappy.”
“Well, she’ll be even more unhappy. Got the official word from the skipper. We evacuate everyone. Pack it up. All scientific equipment and notes. Leave the tents, cots, and the jeeps.”
The gunny was gone, just like a lightning bolt, off to accomplish the task.
Behind Jian, Hope struggled to get out of the jeep. “What do you want me to do?”
“Come with me to talk to Ms. Hagen. Sergeant, report to the gunny. See what he needs.”
“On it.” Brooks dashed off, his devil blaster rattling in the holster.
Jian was ready to launch into her range walk, then reminded herself to slow down so Hope could keep up. Mel met them before they had gone far. Her face was set with a mulish tension.
“We are not evacuating,” Mel said. “I just need to go back in town and talk to the 49ers. I can smooth things out.”
“No.” Jian ticked off the reasons this was a bad idea off on her fingers. “One: We have no capabilities for defensive positions if you can’t do that, and they already came after us with weapons. Two: We’re out in the open. We don’t have place we can run to if something does happen. Three: Kangjun’s orbit will take it out of position to help us if we run into trouble.”
Hope said, “Mel, no matter what you think, I can’t do what the aliens want. I’m not even sure it’s possible. But if it was, I’m not going off killing anything. That’s just plain not right.”
Mel gave Hope a look like she hadn’t gotten with the program. “Hope, translation is always tricky. We probably misinterpreted what they said.”
Hope stepped up to Mel, which was hardly intimidating, given Mel was so tall and Hope was so short. “I did not misinterpret the way they looked at me. I did not misinterpret how angry they were that they couldn’t taste me.”
Jian toned down the harshness in her voice. “All we need to do is get out of their sight for a little while. That should calm things down. Otherwise, we’d put you in danger and the translators.”
She knew that was a negotiation technique—call for a break for everyone to cool down. Granted, it was a break with a long distance.
Mel paced, tight, quick steps.
“Damn him,” she finally said. “Opening fire on the aliens.”
“Colonel Graul did not open fire on the aliens,” Jian said.
Hope added, “He just cooked the sand. Mel, the aliens fired their guns at me. They don’t need to be close to kill any of us. And I don’t want to ever be telling Colonel Graul that I talked to your ghost.”
Writer’s note: Because I’m pantsing this, I hit this chapter and realized that I needed to add some POV scenes with this character earlier in the story. The nature of the beast.