George held his arm up in front of his eyes, but it didn't seem to do much.
The closer he got to the ship, the worse it got.
The ship's automated systems were already hard at working deploying fire-foam and many of the flames were extinguished with undignified slurps as the foam bubbled up from the damaged hull. Still, while the fire wasn't out of control, he felt himself glancing nervously back at the edge of his fields and the dried out stalks.
He didn't have much of his crop left. It would be a damn shame to lose it to this.
George shook his head at the thought.
He tried to push forward again, to get closer to the dying spacecraft, but still found that it was too hot. More and more fires were going out, but he just couldn't progress into the wall of heat without feeling sick and dizzy.
So he waited.
The ship in front of him was relatively small. It didn't really look like it was space worthy even before it took a nose dive through the atmosphere. It was circular, and bulky, with a blunt nose and heat shields just about everywhere he could see. The thing was built like a bullet. No windows, no wings, and, from what little George knew about ships, some pretty weak looking engines.
Honestly, it would surprise him if something like this could get off the ground.
Plus, it was small. For all the fire and damage it had wrought, it looked to only be slightly bigger than his truck. He wouldn't expect more than a dozen people could be sardined into that thing at one time.
Where'd you come from? he thought to himself, staring at the blocky chunk of metal.
Maybe he could get a better idea if he could see some of the decals or logos on the ship's hull, however that was a moot point. The fire suppressant system continued to belch out foam all over the surface of the craft, putting out progressively more and more of the inferno that covered it. The foam, coupled with the dirt, grime, and ash from the ship's crash-landing obscured just about any finer details there were to see.
He stood there for another long minute, just watching the craft, when he started to notice the waves of heat that had been coming off of the thing seemed to be diminishing. It was still sweltering, but he didn't feel like he was standing in hell itself.
George stepped closer. And, as he did, the ship let out a long, dying hiiiiiiiiiiisssssssssssssss.
He stopped short, trying to find the source of the sound. A moment later, a cloud of white gas burst from the crater and the edges of a door appeared on the outer edge.
The door hissed again and tried to open, only to get stuck after a few inches. George started to move forward again only to catch himself.
Who's ship was this? Why was it here?
A resounding BANG echoed on the door, as if someone hit it with a sledgehammer, and the metal frame buckled. The door fell forward and slammed into the dirt and the thing behind it went with it.
At first, George thought it might have been some kind of robot. Easily 7 to 8 feet tall, the thing laying on the door had two arms, two legs, and a head, but that was the only thing 'human' about it. Everything else was hard metal, whirring gears, and flashing lights.
It was also covered in blood and had massive gouges carves out of it here and there.
It wasn't until George really thought about what he was seeing that he was able to put his thoughts together. This thing was a military hardskin. An exoskeleton that soldiers wore in combat. The massive armor could stop pretty much all small arms fire and make it so the men and women wearing them could literally walk through hell and back again without a scratch on them.
So why did this one look like he'd been through a meat grinder?
"Hello?" he yelled at the hardskin. "You ok?"
There was no response.
George couldn't move any closer to the ship. It was still far too hot and, even being as close as he was, he felt sick and like his skin was going to start blistering just standing there. So instead, he circled slightly to see inside.
He immediately wished he hadn't.
Even just moving to the side, he saw that the downed soldier was one of several. He could make out at least four others shoved into the tiny compartment. There might have been more, but George couldn't make it out through the blood.
It looked as if a mad-man with a chainsaw had been doing ballet in the closed space. Every soldier that he could make out had been torn apart. They lay here and there in pools of their own viscera. Broken faceplates, shredded armor, missing limbs. And all of it had been sprayed around the inside of the cabin.
George, who prided himself on being a strong redback who busted his ass outdoors everyday and being better than any of those 'slickers' in the core worlds, promptly fell to his knees and threw up right there in the field.
His stomach was still heaving when he heard the noise. He tried to look up, only to vomit some more.
Spittle still on his lips and tears in his eyes, George glanced back to the ship and realized there was something moving inside. He had missed it at first, mistaking it for a pile of gore in the back of the darkened ship. However, now, plain as day, he saw something pulling itself up from the far end of the craft.
And it was like a monster out of a madman's worst nightmares. A thing of teeth and claws and glowing eyes and armor. A thing of sharp edges, pain, and death. A thing that easily stood taller than the hardskinned soldiers and filled the far end of the cabin.
A thing that was softly hissing and staring him dead in the eyes.
"George?" he heard Lelena calling from somewhere behind him.
He did not call back.