Only Human (working title) - Ch 1 by Ernie Stavros

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SUMMARY: This is a sci-fi action thriller with magic thrown into the mix. Please post your thoughts good and bad in the corresponding thread in the writers forum Thanks

A sudden jarring crash of metal gears slamming into motion startled him awake.

"Begin final check!" came a shout from somewhere to his right. The doors were opening now, and the noise was deafening as the outside air rushed through the compartment. Raiden could barely hear his commanding officer, even through the com-link in his ear. "Sixty seconds!"

He glanced to his lower right at the small green indicator blinking on the view screen of his visor. Motion trackers inside his helmet sensed the deliberate movement and projected a semi-transparent status screen in front of his eyes.

Oxygen: check.
Power: check.
Weapon: check.
Ammunition: check.
Boosters: check.
Radiation threshold: 15% and rising.

Fifteen percent! No wonder nobody found them out here. You'd have to be crazy or desperate to live in a place like this. It was still miles away from ground zero and already it was getting dangerous. If he wasn't wearing his power suit - best not to think about it. He'd seen first hand the horrors that came even from short-term exposure. Everything would be fine, as long as he kept his helmet on. One breath and that bad air would eat him up from the inside.

He glanced again at the indicator and the screen vanished. A quick survey of the surrounding compartment told him the other members of his squad were performing similar diagnostics. He could barely make out their eyes through the electronic haze of their personal readouts. They were the only human parts not covered by the black mechanical husks they all wore for protection.

A quick look at another icon in a different section of the screen and his multi-spec light activated. He deliberately shined it into the visor of the figure across from him, and could see a set of silvery eyes glaring back through the projection. They flashed annoyance at him.

"Quit messing around," growled the disembodied voice in his ear. With all of their com-links connected it could have come from anyone, but he knew those words belonged to the eyes in front of him.

Despite the strength of the beam emanating from his helmet, the armor across from him remained black as midnight. Imperial researchers had infused their battle-suits with a special coating that prevented light from interacting on any wavelength. It gave them a menacing look, designed to inspire fear as well as function. While the sinister appearance made it useful enough for a night mission, there were other threats outside the visible spectrum.

He flashed a grin, invisible behind his mask, and disabled the light. "Just making sure those rust buckets they bolted into your skull are working," he replied.

"Well, you're a lot uglier than I remember!" said Chunks in a feigned attempt at sarcasm. He was still coming to terms with the newest additions to his body, and it showed. A stray blast had penetrated his protective visor the last time they had been out, and taken his eyes from him, boiling them in their sockets. The replacements were made of a hideous mess of metal, composites, and microchips.

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