Good weather today; moderate temperature, recent rainfall but nothing too severe, only a slight breeze…perhaps a little cool, but that wasn’t a concern. Even as sensitive as its wearer had become, the skinsuit was as protective against the elements as it was in combat. Tightly woven like the wet-suits that were so popular on beaches back home, it was set flush against the skin and made to move with its wearer, expanding and contracting as necessary but only enough to allow for the body to “breathe” without actually hampering the wearer or decreasing its protection. It was state-of-the-art and had kept Specialist Tristan Phoenix alive and in relative good health for a very long time.
Unseen behind the helmet he wore, Tris’ lips shifted into a small smile. He had been following the local herds for some time now, but most of them simply consisted of small families like this one. There seemed to be a kind of tribal mentality to the animals, as though they were more intelligent than the herbivores back home but not quite smart enough to master their surroundings and develop them as mankind often did. After years of scouting hostile locations for various military reasons, it was nice to look upon something that didn’t immediately want him dead - something that honestly didn’t want anyone dead. They were just trying to survive - much like Tris.
They also had far keener senses than those of the horses, deer, and the like back home. When Ella came over the comm, Tris’ smile had faded before she had even started speaking. He hadn’t been contacted much on this planet when he was in the field unless his expertise was needed, either in linguistics or with his pistols. But it sounded like this was far more pressing a matter.
+Tris, where the heck are you?+
Still, he was sad to see the creatures go. He had been as startled as the creature before him, almost losing a tracer but pulling his trigger finger away just in time. The leader of the family before him wasn’t at all pleased by the interruption, and to be honest, neither was Tris. For a second, the male fixed him with its glowing eyes, almost daring him to do anything, before it too and turned and followed its family at a more stately pace. Tris stared right back, his eyes locking onto those of the male, a steadfast and calm gazed matching a fierce and intimidating one. Then Tris quickly drew in a breath and let it out in a soft sigh. He activated the comm only briefly following her next message.
+Tris, there has been a serious development. Get your ass back to base camp now.+
+Copy,+ was all he said, his voice just high and soft enough to sound like a girl’s to those who didn’t know him, especially in the loud whisper he was currently using to avoid startling any other nearby wildlife.
It was a wonder he hadn’t been born a girl, though gender expression had always been a fluid thing for him. Certainly, he had taken the more submissive role in his relationship with Ryan, for that’s what had come naturally; and he enjoyed wearing earrings and the choker that he never took off. But on the other hand, there was something distinctly masculine about firing off a shit-ton of rounds of ammo from the perspective of others. He had felt the power of his pistols many times and even enjoyed it; they were comfortable, they were familiar, and they often became an extension of himself in a fight. But he had never really seriously considered his own gender beyond wondering what the hell he actually was. Ryan had never seemed to care much, either.
And in the military, it didn’t matter at all. The current situation, for example, was clearly bigger than him. If Ella was calling him back without telling him what was going on, it must have been big. A brief explanation had been completely left out, which meant that this wasn’t something that could be explained quickly over the radio. No, something was definitely going on. He shook his head slightly and sighed again, calling back the drone. He could go over the recording later (what little of it there was).
The return journey took a while even for Tris, who had grown accustomed to moving quickly across the landscape here. He wasn’t exactly just across the river; he was across a couple of rivers, over several hills, and just on the other side of a small mountain. It was a bit more than a quick jaunt. But when he got back, he shut off the now-nearly-empty O2 #4 canister and disconnected the coil; it was a simple twist-and-pull with a click that was as much felt as it was heard, though Tris’ helmet blocked out most ambient sound unless he wanted to hear it. He popped the latches on his helmet, slipped it off, and ran a hand through his hair.
The briefing was short, and to the point. Not only had survivors come down from the Elcano but one of the crazy-ass scientists had struck some kind of deal with Chronus, bonding deeply with the aliens tech and being given the tools for a plan to deal with the monster in orbit.
Tris was floored. The situation in orbit had been one of the worst that he’d ever been in. Those things, the way they moved…it was like being in a massive spiders’ nest, and he hated spiders almost as much as he hated bees and wasps. These things, though, were so much worse. And now they had a way to deal with them…because Chronus had bonded with someone? That meant that the others had awoken…and survived. This was definitely big.
”And we're sending you back with the first team. You are our resident expert on this planet, and they'll need your insight back in the milky way. Pack your gear, and get ready for a shuttle ride.”
He was going back…the dismay probably showed in his baby blues, if not in the down-turning of his lips in a deep frown. But he schooled his features quickly and gave a curt nod. He had to get ready. He had already showered this morning, so there was only a need to change. He did so quickly, slipping into his black outfit. The mottled dark-green and gray was good for the wilderness, but black would help conceal him better in the darkness off-world. They would have to move quickly and quietly, and his pistols would be ready when it came time to not be quiet.
He gathered his few possessions, checked his gear, and donned his helmet once more. He took several extra canisters of O2 this time, all full, but opened the cycling vents for now to avoid wasting oxygen unnecessarily. He would need all the O2 he could carry when he ascended once more, and despite his load, that was quite a lot; the O2 canisters were compact by design to prevent encumbering their carrier without sacrificing a significant quantity of oxygen. They would last for some time, so as soon as he was ready, he moved out. Time to go meet the survivors.