Better Angels, Part 1 - A story from the Crixa Universe

Ronyn

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Jul 26, 2016
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This month’s Monthly Patron skin is about Russel, a man and his ride. He’s got a job to do, and we wrote a little short story to go along with it. This is part 1. Next month’s skin will feature part 2 of the story!




If you are interested in Russel, who pairs well with last month’s mount, you can become a Monthly Patron for Em-8ER on our website which includes access to Em-8ER game dev demos!

We also have a Memorial Day Sale of 25% off on select skins in the general store, as well as all Newcomer and M3 packs and upgrades through June 4!



Better Angels, Part 1

“You sure you want to do this?”

The comment didn’t merit an answer, and so I gave none. The kid didn’t know what he was talking about, anyway. Kids never do.

He worried at his lower lip and stared at me when he thought I couldn’t see him. I wished he wouldn’t. The kid was sweet. That sweetness would get him killed. The only things that kept you alive out here were your instincts and your trigger finger. The kid had little either.

“Stop it.”

He flinched like I’d hit him. Weak.

“Stop what?” He said, pretending not to know.

“Tapping your foot. You’re throwing off my sights.”

The kid stopped tapping, and I went back to staring through the sights of my rifle. I didn’t want to use the damn thing, but the job required precision. Not my strong suit, but I would manage.

The reticle of my sights slid back into focus onto a steel door poking out of the side of a bunker buried in the side of a hunk of solidified lava. No security that I could see. Not even a sentry prowling around the perimeter. Strange, for a target so valuable.

“You sure this is the place?” I asked, though I knew the answer already.

“Yeah, yeah, man. I saw them bring it through here last week.”

“And you kept watch like I told you to?”

I wasn’t looking at him, but the kid’s nervousness seeped through his pores like sweat. “Yeah, yeah. They didn’t move it, man. It’s in there.”

I grunted and frowned through my sights. They built the bunker into an air pocket formed by red-hot magma meeting the frozen air of the surface. The magma flash froze into a half dome shape. EM8-ER’s unique nature allowed for extreme variations in temperatures, making things like this common.

Assuming the kid was reliable, which I didn’t, and if I assumed the target was in there, I wasn’t, the lack of security was alarming. On my right, Swayer picked up some of my unease. He nudged my shoulder, as if to reassure me.

Absently, I stroked the horse’s flank. Swayer was about the only thing on this godforsaken planet that I could rely on. He was getting on in years, but he still did the job better than any of those new models could. I had the benchmarks to prove it. I lowered my rifle and gazed across the hellscape in front of me. Maybe two hundred yards between us and the door. Simple work for Swayer, even if that two hundred yards comprised molten rock and treacherous ice. Though I’d have to replace his feet after the job was done.

Didn’t matter. When the money hits, I’d be able to buy all the parts I could ever want. And a real mechanic to install them. Swayer would be good as new.

Out of my pocket, I drew out a small plastic card and handed it to the kid. “Alright, you’ve done your work. Get back home. Keep that card safe. I won’t give you a new one if you lose it.” The kid took the card and slipped it into a pocket. When he moved, his shirt pulled tight against his body, exposing the outline of ribs.

He’s half starved. Damn kid’s going to die if he doesn’t eat more.

He stared up at me with hollowed out eyes.

I took another card out of my pocket and handed it to him. “Take this. Eat. Eat more than you’ve ever eaten in your life.”

He hesitated for a fraction of a second, then the second card vanished with the first. “Thanks. Listen, are you sure? Like really sure? Them things are dangerous. Alien. I’ve heard stories. A lot of people have died.”

I looked down at the kid. He didn’t say it, but I knew his mother had been one of them. Orphanages on EM8-ER are not kind places. They can’t afford to be. I knew it better than anyone.

If I was honest with myself, he had a point. Doing this job wasn’t smart. I knew it when I took it. Stealing the remains of alien monsters from a Gatestrider morgue was not my typical job. A year ago, even six months ago, I would’ve passed on it without a second thought.

I glanced at Swayer. Once upon a time he’d been shiny and new, top of the line, with hell-colored eyes, and a shiny black exoskeleton. Now one of those eyes sat dark in its socket, and if he still moved quickly enough, he did it with a limp. He hadn’t been so beat up back then. Neither of us had.

“I’m sure, kid. Now get out of here.”

He nodded at me, opened his mouth as if to speak, but then turned away and dashed off back toward his hab. I didn’t watch him go.

“Shouldn’t have given him the extra credits.” I muttered to myself, “He’ll be dead in weeks.” Swayer was silent, as he always was, but he nudged my shoulder again. Right. Eye on the prize.

I turned back toward the target, and as I did, a sudden roar of sound crashed down around me. I spun around and looked up just in time to see a small, sleek ship flash overhead, moving low and fast enough to nearly blow me over.

The ship came to a hover above the bunker. A small hatch opened up in the bottom, and a lone figure dropped to the ground. From here, the newcomers' movements looked strangely fluid and powerful. I swung my rifle up and examined the newcomer through my site.

I noted details mechanically. Female, long blond hair, a brand new light frame painted to blend in with the lava bed. A pair of pistols hung low on her thighs, and she moved with practiced ease. The frame seemed to be part of her. She dashed over to the door and began fiddling with something that I couldn’t see.

“Annabelle.” I growled. I knew her, of course. By reputation and personally. The single biggest thorn in my side, always trying to muscle in on my jobs, and always looking for an advantage.

Swayer stamped his feet, irritated. She’d tried to steal him once, and in the process, caused severe damage to several of his systems. I still owed her for that.

She finished what she was doing, and the bunker door began sliding up. As soon as it did, alarms blared through the air, nearly deafening even from this far away.

I slung my rifle onto my back and climbed onto Swayer’s back. The horse moved uneasily, sensing my turmoil. No time to do a last check of my gear, no time to think. She was going after the target.

I kicked my heels, and Swayer lurched into motion, building up speed.

My eyes never left the target.







Come back next month and read part two of Better Angels!