Last Ride of the Blood Letters Part 2: 5

5.

Jek always enjoyed equipping the crew for their missions–it was a chance to show off the things he was constantly working on his workshop. Members of the crew would sometimes come and and see what Jek was working on out of curiosity, but they were never as captive an audience as when they needed to be prepared for a mission.

Cress and Jek would not be going planet-side—they would stay on the Horizon and be prepared to come in for a quick escape. Anka, per her usual, preferred to stick to her own equipment. Jek could not make T-12 any more prepared for Oomtpa than he already was.

So Reese, Rab, Trig, and Grox stood across the workshop from Jek, the worktable separating them. The items they’d be taking on their mission sat in front of Jek.

“There is no reason to expect that anything beyond your standard armament will be necessary for this mission. However, because of the climate and vegetation of the planet, Jek is including a few extra tools.”

Jek grasped a machete on the table—there was a light humming sound as the blade’s edge began to glow a bright white.

“This is a super-heated machete. While it would certainly be useful in combat situations, its true intention is for getting through the vegetation of Oomtpa. Jek expects it to be incredibly dense at some parts. This should help. There is a button in the handle—the blade is only heated while it is depressed.”

Jek pointed at the googles strapped around Jek’s head, sitting on Jek’s massive forehead.

“Thermal goggles—standard issue. A bit boring, but they’ll do the job.”

Jek nodded to a small metal box to Jek’s right.

“A trip-mine—instead of fragmentation, this mine fires a series of layers that will flash-freeze the surrounding area’s water.”

“And since the humidity on this planet is basically 110 percent…”

“Precisely, Rab—any nearby sentients would immediately be blasted by that same freezing. They would experience immediate pain, frostbite, temporary (If not permanent) blindness and Jek expects that at least some weapons would be rendered useless.”

Jek picked up a grenade with a white pin instead of the customary black. Jek held it out in front of Jek so as to make the pin obvious.

“We know what grenades are, Jek.”

“Jek knows that you have used grenades before. What you need to be aware of, Grox, is that this grenade is not of the fragmentation variety. Jek has developed a small white phosphorous grenade.”

“That stuff has been illegal for over four centuries.”

“That is true, Reese. If you feel that Jek has committed a wrong by developing this weapon, Jek will destroy the collection and Jek’s schematics for production. As it is, those schematics are heavily encrypted. Jek has no intention to sell or distribute them.”

“What did you make them for?”

“For situations such as this. Oomtpa is a planet full of lush jungle life—in a worst-case scenario, just one of these would set the jungle ablaze. If the enemy is not prepared for such a possibility, you will have effectively created another front of attack.”

“But that’s not what this stuff is usually used for.”

From the unflinching look in Jek’s silver eyes, Reese could see Jek was aware of this but hadn’t thought Jek needed to say it. Reese sometimes made the mistake of forgetting just how analytical, and therefore unsympathetic, Jek could be. In Jek’s mind, these weapons were to protect Jek’s friends—the fact that they could also inflict unimaginable pain and disfigurement on others did not enter the equation except as a plus.

“Yes. White phosphorus will burn at approximately 3,000 degrees Celsius—in most sentients, it will have no difficulty melting through skin and muscle, reaching the bone in seconds. As long as it is exposed to oxygen, it will continue to burn. The smoke is both toxic and heated, which can quickly render a being incapacitated as their eyes, mucous membranes and respiratory systems are assaulted.”

Reese, Rab, Grox, and Trig couldn’t help but look at each other as they thought of the implications of this weapon. The Blood Letters had never hesitated in killing an enemy—hesitation just meant that they would be the ones killed. But this…it almost didn’t feel fair.

“We’ll use it if we have to. A last resort.”

“Jek would not suggest it be used otherwise. Jek has placed your mission packs in the loading area.”

“Thanks, Jek.”

“Jek is pleased to be of assistance, little Trig.”

The radio behind Jek crackled alive. The simultaneously croaking and high-pitched voice of Cress emitted from it.

“Hey there, crew—Jek got you all set up? We’re approaching atmosphere and it’d smart for everyone to be in position to disembark. We can’t get very close in case they’ve got a radar system or anti-aircraft weapons set up.”

Jek reached to the radio and depressed the TALK button.

“Jek just finished—they will be in position momentarily.”

Reese stepped forward.

“Tell him to call Anka as well.”

“And just in case Rab or Reese is worried about it, I’ve already called Anka! And I’m sending T-12 down right now.”

Rab playfully punched Reese’s arm.

“Ya hear, Reese? He’s got it taken care of.”

“I’ll never doubt the little Chig again.”

“I will.”

“Grox, I don’t think Cress has saved anyone’s ass more than yours.”

“Maybe—but only because I let him. Little guy needs the self-esteem boost.”

“Keep telling yourself that, quill boy.”

“For the last time—they’re called splee.”

“Yeah, I’m never gonna call ‘em that.”

“Reese, permission to show your Second why they’re called splee?”

“Ya know, I always wondered that…”

Jek was left alone in his workshop, listening to the jocular back and forth of the team. One of Jek’s six-fingered hands tightly gripped the edges of Jek’s worktable until the gray skin turned nearly white from the pressure.

Jek knew his apparent attitude could be off-putting for Jek’s comrades. The Quintarians were not a people of strong-displays of emotion. While Jek differed from them in some significant areas, Jek was still a product of the Quintarian culture.

And so Jek didn’t tell them how much Jek cared for them. Didn’t explain that Jek detested making the white phosphorous grenades because Jek knew precisely how much damage they could do, but that Jek did it anyway because Jek would never want them to go into a situation with anything less than everything Jek could provide them.

To fellow Quintarians, all of this would have been obvious from Jek’s actions alone. But while most sentients in the galaxy (and certainly the ones aboard the Downed Horizon) did their best to understand other cultures and peoples, the Quintarian culture and worldview was still mostly obfuscated by their appearance and withheld emotions.

Jek hated to think the crew thought of Jek coldblooded but Jek also had zero preparation for expressing Jek’s self further than Jek did now—with logic and actions Jek believed should be self-explanatory.

Jek was worried for them. Jek always was before missions.

Partly because they never seemed worried at all.

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