Sending the seeker ahead was almost a moot point.
Triumph was right, I knew it. Taking the ‘walnut’ brain bug down had been way too easy. Scourge directing intelligences very rarely showed themselves, let alone exposed themselves to a previously noted sniper.
“Sun,” I said over coms. “You need to get out of there, don’t panic, jump — don’t walk down. Now.”
“Acknow…. fuuuuuuuuuu,” Sunspear shouted in alarm as she leapt from the tower. I watched in horror as a pair of stalkers jumped after her, scything claws poised to strike. My heart seemed to stop. The stalkers closed, but Sunspear shot upwards, using her suit’s thrusters, and the stalker’s shot harmlessly under her, unable to change their momentum.
I set tactical to red, indicating an ambush, we were in deep trouble. Multiple contacts appeared near Quake and Nova almost as soon as I’d sounded the alarm. I heard weapons fire from that direction, the steady hiss of a streamer cannon, and the thrumming of a pulse beamer. Targets appeared in our vicinity. I saw movement at the end of the street, rippers and leapers, digging their way out of the rubble. Blaster bolts and Beams leapt from our position, scorching and melting insectoid forms. Triumph fired his mag rifle in controlled bursts, picking out the more dangerous forms, downing one every time he pulled the trigger. I envied him them, that calm under fire, the intuition.
A mortar drone boomed from behind me. Things were not looking good for Quake and Nova on tactical. Sunspear was on the tower again, on the roof this time. Her vitals were good: small miracles.
Malificent was firing at something coming in from behind us. Multiple contacts all around us, a noose of scourge forms tightening.
The scourge crawled over the broken bodies of their dead. It was an ugly sight. I’ve always felt that the bugs were more like drones than people, fearless in the face of death. Also shiny. The line of bugs got closer, closer, close enough for Shrike and Scorch to fire. I felt the heat of a flamer behind me. Saw the first wave in front of us disappear in a spray of broken bodies as the frag cannon erased them from existence.
A dropship from the Falcon appeared on tactical, our air support, finally. I marked targets. Explosions followed. Quake went status black on tactical, his position marked by a question mark. Nova moved a few units, and then she too went black. I cursed, lashing out with my tri-beam. I wanted to go to them, to help or to vent my rage upon their killers. But my own situation was dire.
The scourge were close now. The leapers started jumping at us. Triumph shot three out the air. A fourth hit him. Shrike’s razor drone cut it down before it could hurt him. We were getting overwhelmed. Shields were going down as hand to hand was joined. Bugs were everywhere. Leapers swarmed over Malificent and Scorch. They swatted at them, crushing the scourge forms with massive fists. My last blaster drone succumbed, I set it to detonate, but the explosion never came.
Rage flowed through me. The bunker. This was all about the bunker. I shouted, a battle-cry for myself, unheard through coms, and ploughed my way into the bugs. The paladin is all shield and armour and I fired my tri-beam as I ran. Leapers were all over me, and a pair of rippers clawed at my shields. Behind me my squad fought desperately, taking advantage of that momentary respite. My last seeker, the one I had sent ahead, I now willed it high in the air swiveling to look at the bunker. I saw a bipedal form surrounded by brutish looking Scourge hauling the Cryopod out. I marked the one I didn’t recognize, just before my drone went black, knocked out of the sky by some leaper or spitter.
“Sunspear!” I shouted over coms. A beam of white light shot down from the sky. I backhanded a ripper, sending it skittering. The whole horde seemed to shiver, as the organization of the directing intelligence failed. That momentary confusion was our last chance. I fired my tri-beam until the barrels glowed white, stomping bugs with the Paladin’s massive boots, as I killed, giving in to mad berserk rage. I let anger guide me then, venting my frustration over the deaths of good men and women on a mission gone bad. No salvage was worth the death of friends. I killed and I killed, and when the bugs started moving again I did not let it stop me.
“Raven!” Shrike voice cut through the red haze. I forced myself to be calm. Tactical was up. Most of the drones were down. Triumph, Sphinx, Shrike, Scorch, and Malificent were still online. I was actually status black on the display: my shields were almost flat, my armour had three critical punctures, and my vital signs were erratic. I flickered over to red as my suits systems started to take control. Quake and Nova remained down. I sent the seeker over to make sure, even though I knew they could not have survived. It was my fault. I should have sent another man with them. I resolved to resign after this mission. Triumph would make a better squad leader.
Sunspear was in the Green on her tower. Her visuals showed the remaining bugs backing off. I watched with satisfaction as she cut down the four robust looking scourge forms with beams of light from on high, while they struggled to carry the cryopod.
A second ship, a shuttle appeared on tactical.
“Okay Nomads,” I said. “Time to gather our dead, take our treasure, and get the hell off this rock. Stay sharp.”
My seeker found Nova and Quake, yards apart, surrounded by their fallen foes. I wish I could say they looked peaceful in death.