A transparent bubble protects the crash site from the harsh Martian air. We’re clutching an old human rifle. Puncturing the wall of the bubble with the weak guns we have won’t work. It’s composed of woven carbon polymers—stronger than steel and capable of self-repair thanks to the capillaries that lace its surface. Eyes sees them shimmer like spiderwebs. We’d at least need a tank to puncture it.
Zephyr looks at You. There’s a high probability that she’s scared and hiding it. She asks what You intend to do.
A bomb might work if placed at an airlock. We’d break the seal and let the pressure difference kill the outsiders. We ask Zephyr if her team has any high-impact explosives.
She confirms that they can manufacture some.
We tell her to get started, and to not worry.
Heart emphasizes that her survival is important. We remind Heart that all of us, and the humans, are in danger. Heart petitions to examine the possibility of creating a Mate self for Zephyr but is quickly overruled by the rest of us. We put Heart into stasis to reduce distractions. It is time to kill aliens.
Eyes zooms in to inspect the contents of the bubble. The ship is half buried from the crash, and has been largely dismantled to construct a wall at the perimeter. Wherever there was dirt, there are now navy-blue leaves. Wiki notes that the stalks appear to be capable of thriving on Mars, at least given sufficient supplies. We wonder about where they’re getting their water. We notice one of the walkers! It appears to be using a tool on the leaves. We suspect that it’s gardening. More will certainly be nested out of sight.
Nameless aren’t particularly violent most of the time, perhaps because they’re part plant. No, that makes no sense—plants aren’t nonviolent on principle, they’re nonviolent because they’re inanimate. Ivy still chokes the host tree to death. Regardless, the aliens don’t often use weapons themselves. Typical tactics involve reliance on automatic turrets, and we already know how to deal with those.
We look back at the humans, crouching low behind the hill because they lack our camouflage. Zephyr, James, Dartook, Min, David, Alara, Yetri, Ceasar, Tom, Jerimia, and Sif are the only ones left. Their body language indicates nervousness, and rightly so. Their team started at more than four times their current number. Like the nameless, they cover themselves in pockets of their own atmosphere so they can breathe. It reminds us of how weak they are. It isn’t surprising that so many have been lost.
We adjust our grip on the rifle in Your hands and slide back from the hilltop to check on the team’s progress. Face vetoes the use of camouflage here, and we return to normal form. It is important for the team to see You as at least somewhat human. Staying in camouflage would “weird them out”.
Caesar is using the chem-replicator. We ask him if it’s functioning.
He tells You not to worry; You’ll get those explosives.
We assure him that “those freaks” will pay for what they’ve done to his family. We believe that this comment increased his confidence, determination, hatred of the nameless, and trust of You. We anticipate that such comments may have detrimental effects if peace is to be made later, but this is mitigated by the low probability of Caesar surviving that long. Advocate petitions to either cease making plans involving the deaths of others or to bring Heart out of stasis. We agree to focus more on the task at hand.
Caesar agrees that they will pay and includes some emphasizing profanity.
Zephyr approaches and says that the detonators are almost built. She asks if there’s any sign of trouble at the ship.
We reassure her that the aliens still have no idea that You and the humans are here. We point out that there is a small probability of “being lucky” and killing the walkers before they can even signal the mothership. We still believe Zephyr is scared.
She asks if You’ll need any help applying or detonating the explosives. She says that if You were human that she’d never send You in [to a dangerous situation] alone.
We assure her that You’re very capable, even by Yourself, and that sending a human would simply add risk. Advocate, emulating Heart, awards strength to Face, refilling what was lost for vetoing the camouflage earlier. Some of us believe that Face may be exploiting Heart’s stasis, and those of us manage to end the conversation with Zephyr. Face has us do “brooding” body language to communicate that You are feeling serious, and wish to be alone.
After a short while, Zephyr seeks You out to present You with the bomb they’ve built. It has to be placed by hand to ensure the blast opens the airlock instead of simply hitting it and making a dent. We place it inside the storage area inside Your chest and mention that we’ll need a T.O.R.T.O.I.S.E. shield. The young commander nods and hurries off to get one from the mule. Moments later we’re ready to go.
As we cross the crest of the barren hill we brace the thick, curved shield in front of us for safety. Seconds later it’s is bombarded with a stream of bullets from the turrets on the aliens’ makeshift fortress. The noise is deafening! Eyes shuts off Your microphones to prevent overload. The irregular pressure from the bullets bounding off the carbon-mesh shield makes it hard to walk, but we’re making progress.
Only fifty meters remain to the wall now. Wiki notes that our movement has been significantly slowed by the turrets. We conclude that there is virtually no chance that we’ll be able to kill the nameless before they can warn the others of their species. We schedule an event to more deeply consider the mothership’s response.
We believe we’re within twenty meters of the airlock. We see movement on the periphery! We snap Your head to search for it, but cannot see anything. Eyes presents two possibilities: a turret error caused some bullets to be fired far to the side… or there’s something new nearby that wasn’t anticipated. We see it again! It’s behind us! Eyes forces us to stop our advance and address the anomaly.
The shield pounds suddenly, and we feel a flash of heat from an explosion. It is probable that one of the walkers has managed to quickly arm itself, as we did not see any rocket capabilities on the turrets. Eyes has spotted the anomaly behind us: it’s a winged shape, similar to a bat, and almost certainly a robot controlled by the nameless. It’s ducking and weaving, but headed for You. We suspect it’s a weapon.
Safety forces an executive suppression of all non-combat selves. Before being shut down, Wiki remembers a mention of flying suicide-drones in the datalogs of the attack on Progress Colony.
With the extra thought-space freed from our other selves, we carefully consider the situation. Behind us is a (probably explosive) suicide robot and in front of us are two fully-automatic turrets and presumably a nameless walker with a rocket-launcher. The T.O.R.T.O.I.S.E. Shield can protect us from only one side, and we have a rifle on Your back and an incredibly deadly bomb stored inside Your chest cavity.
In less than a second we’ve decided on a course of action. We crouch and begin to compress the fluid in Your legs. Eyes tracks the drone diligently. It’s less than four meters away. The turrets have ceased firing, probably to avoid hitting the drone and causing a premature explosion. The extra processing power makes time slow, and we write a dedicated self for what we’re about to attempt. When the drone is two meters away we stasis all of ourselves except the new self: Leap.
I release the fluid compressors in my legs, and they extend with maximum force.
I’m flying now, like the drone.
I disconnect my arms from their normal, humanoid positions.
I raise my shield above me as I ascend.
I see the walker with my rear cameras.
I note that it’s wearing a few extra rockets for reloading its weapon.
I watch the turrets, but they’re too slow to track my sudden jump.
I tuck my legs.
I swing my arms behind me in a motion that no human could emulate.
I watch my shield swing down with them; a giant paddle.
The drone is within reach.
I hit the drone.
The drone’s flight ability is crippled with the impact.
The trajectory is clean.
The drone tumbles awkwardly through the air.
It hits the walker.
The few extra rockets on the walker explode in a chain-reaction.
I’m pushed backward through the air from the shockwave.
Heat swirls up around me.
I begin to fall.
I brace for landing, and reposition my shield.
I hit the dust.
I am not injured.
I am safe.
Advocate terminates Leap and we unanimously agree to destroy it. It did its job. We stand up and return to running towards the airlock. We’re still many meters away. Only when we step over the long, dismembered legs of the walker do the turrets resume firing. It’s too late for them to do anything, though. Within seconds we’re below them at the airlock and out of their range of fire.
We open Your chest and take out the humans’ bomb. We pack the explosives into a crevice in the door and run to the side, along the wall of the fort. The turrets begin firing again, but it only lasts for a second. We activate the bomb.
The blast is a hundred times more intense than the nameless’s rockets. We’re knocked down as the shield takes the brunt of the impact. The heat is unlike anything we’ve experienced before, and overwhelms many systems, including Your primary cameras and LIDAR. This would be a good time to have eyelids. We sit still for a moment, physically stunned, and mentally preoccupied with assessing damage.
After a few moments we reactivate Your microphones and are greeted with the sound of the high-pressure atmosphere from the bubble venting out the hole we’d made. Strange screams fill the air as whatever walkers were inside begin to panic. It seems that they did not have the foresight to put on breathing apparatuses.
As we restore Your cameras to minimum functionality, we can see the humans charging down from the hilltop. The turrets have been destroyed, and there is only a small probability of resistance from inside the base. They’re coming to burn the stalks. They’re coming for vengeance.