“Wow, great job, Raven.” said Sphinx. Although her voice came from a com, my sensors made it seem as if she was speaking to me. I’d even set my visuals to superimpose representations of the heads of my squad over their helmets; it feels more personal to me. Sphinx was a golden haired woman with large, heavy lidded eyes. She was the newest nomad among squad Bright Sword, still careless with her drones, but otherwise flawless. “Killing two stalkers by yourself? wow.”
“Negative, Sphinx,” I said. “These two sacrificed themselves to push me into a trap. It almost worked. If you and Triumph hadn’t chased it off, I might have joined Jessup on the casualty list.”
“Oh,” said Sphinx, her features falling for a moment. I felt like a real bastard for reminding her about Jessup. I could see the effort of will as she put away her grief.
“The last Stalker has gone dark to seekers and scans,” said Triumph. “I’ve marked its last location.”
“Shall we call down a sniffer?” asked Sphinx. Triumph looked at me as she spoke. With his close cropped blonde hair, he almost looked like her brother. I read an urgency in his gaze. Whatever Jessup had found before his mad dash, Triumph and Shrike were worried about it.
“No,” I said. “I don’t think it is wise to expand our mission parameters.”
In truth, I was getting worried. The Stalker attack spooked me. Maybe I just didn’t like the forest, or not having my shield drone up. The uniformity of the trees suggested that they were first generation; this was a recent seed. Yet the ruins were old, very old. I made up my mind. My seekers picked up my mood; the more sensitive models can do that, and began scanning wildly, darting about like a nervous man’s eyes. I reined them in, focusing on the task at hand.
“Sphinx, I want you to help secure the perimeter.” I said. “Triumph, you’re with me. Everyone else, keep to your assigned tasks but be vigilant. Stalkers are a bad sign; I’ll be calling for a dropship soon. Stay paired up, I mean it.”
A quick scan showed me that the remaining members of squad Bright Sword were all accounted for. The only chatter was between Malevolant and Scorch, private coms. They were likely egging each other on, making a game of the battle. I let it pass. Everyone else was quiet, trying to focus on their tasks, pointedly ignoring our dead team-mate and whatever it was he’d found. Looping through Shrike’s visual did nothing for me, she was slowly scanning the street outside the ruined building she was in. I saw a spitter carcass, mostly shredded by a shotgun, but otherwise her area seemed clear.
“You have to see this to believe it, Raven,” said Triumph.
“Any hints?” I asked. The joke sounded leaden. Triumph gave a half smile and a shake of his head, starting off towards the ruined complex. I followed, curiosity growing, wondering if this would make our day worse.
Nomad Triumph wears an Ares class suit, tactical weight. The Ares is one of the suits that springs to mind when an average fleetsperson thinks of a Nomad. Roughly human shaped, but taller and thick with armour, the Ares is a workhorse suit. It can wield a wide variety of weapons and can adapt to nearly any combat situation. Triumph usually runs with a heavy Mag rifle and boosted shields. While it masses high for its class, the Ares is quite swift, especially compared to larger suits like mine. He hopped more than ran, covering great distances with each bound. I had to run hot to keep up with him. I was tempted to tell him to slow down, but let it pass. Part of command is knowing when to let your people lead you.
Triumph slowed as we reached the ruins. I hadn’t really had time to examine the what was left of the complex. It looked like a colony outpost now that I saw it, nice square streets, spaceport and coms towers. Of course many of the buildings were unfamiliar to me, alien architecture despite a possible human origin. We approached the building where Shrike was holding. I glanced a my suit through her visual, it did not look badly damaged. Thank the founders for small miracles. Getting a fatal Scourge bio-infection through a damaged suit was not on my list of way’s I’d like to die.
The building was squat, octagonal, and made out of a tough metallic substance. The windows were thin and well protected; combat grade glass. It was an armoury or a bunker. Looked like a fortune in salvage, but Shrike seemed too jumpy for that. She pointed at the remains of the door,
Scourge aren’t that smart unless they have an overseer. What they lack in intellect, however, they make up for in persistence. I could see the different marks on the tough armoured door. Claws, acid, even projectiles had been used. They’d just attacked the door. It must have taken them quite a bit of energy, just to get through. I stepped inside. The ceiling was high enough for even a large suit like man to strand straight. I looked around.
The floor was littered with the dead. It took me a moment to sort it all out. I saw one of Jessup’s drones, a razor raptor, lying in a pool of dismembered bug corpses. I saw several that had take beamer and blaster hits. Jessup used a blaster. I spotted the wreckage of something that came up on my weapons analysis as a beamer buried under scorched chitin. The bunker had some sort of internal defence system. Nomad leopard must have seen it go off and come to investigate. But why had he left his deadliest drone here while trying to draw the bugs away?
i looked around puzzled. It took me a moment to spot it. Cryopods are easily overlooked when you’ve lived your whole life in the fleet. But when I reached out, interfacing with the pod, my systems reading and translating its data, I noticed that it was occupied and that whatever was in it had steady vital signs.
There was someone inside that pod.