“Found it,” Sunspear’s excited shout came out over vocals. I started moving towards her; Sunspear only sounds that excited on mission when she’s got a good kill lined up.
“Found what?” asked Scorch, using coms.
“The other CI bug,” said Sunspear. “You have to see this, Raven.”
“Alright,” I said. “Scorch, Malificent, take the cryopod over to the shuttle before Otumo bursts a blood vessel. Triumph and Shrike cover them. We’ll meet you at the dropship. Sphinx, you’re with me.”
Tactical buzzed with affirmatives.
Sphinx and I made our way through the rubble, little more than scorched stone decorated with chunks of chitin at this point. I’m told that the smells of the battlefield, particularly scourge remains, were one of the worst aspects of fighting. Thank Fleet for Nomad air systems, I suppose. Sunspear was standing a little beyond thechunks of the Wallbreaker we had cut up to get at the cryopod. She was looking at one of the brutes, the tough thick-bodied scourge forms that were cut down trying to escape with the pod.
Sunspear wears a medium class Nomad suit, a heavy modified Shiva type. The Shiva has the distinction of being the only suit to have stealth systems that is not a light. Although it is too heavy to move silently it has full camouflage capabilities. With decent ECM support it can go virtually undetected. Being a medium class allows it to carry heavier weapons. Usually, a single heavy energy weapon, held in the hands. The Shiva suit is mediocre in most performance categories: speed, armour, shields, jump, and such. It does stand out in one other respect — the generator is second to none. Even heavier suits cannot match the Shiva’s reactor performance. All of this extra energy means that this little suit can power some serious energy weapons. Shiva users are superstitious about their reactors, attributing odd properties to them such as making the beamers hotter or plasma bolts more accurate. I never too stick in these, but the mystique of the suit is well deserved, all efforts to replicate that exceptional reactor design have ended in disappointment.
Sunspear’s modifications sacrificed some armour, for better jets. This, coupled with the powerful reactor, allowed her a great deal of additional mobility, even limited flight.
“Well?” I asked Sunspear as we came up beside her.
“I recognize this one,” said Sunspear. “After I shot the CI, this brute tried to cover it up. I recognize it from the killshot — clear through the head without taking it off. I can see something underneath. Pretty sure that it is the Ci.”
“I see how it is,” I said. “Leave the lifting to the heavies. I want you two to stand back and cover me. If anything moves scorch it — my shields will be at max.”
I shifted extra energy to my shields and moved in. Energy crackled against chitin as I grabbed one of the brutes legs with one hand and then found another handhold on a ridge on its back. I heaved. For a moment I thought that I wouldn’t be able to lift it, but with a jerk it shifted off the ground. Readings showed just over five tonnes. I heaved upwards and tossed it to the side. Hopefully the ladies would be impressed.
“What the fuck!?!” said Sphinx.
“That’s just…” said Sunspear.
I turned. The thing at my feet, Sunspear’s IC, looked like a cross between a human being and a scourge form. Like a man it had two legs, two arms, and a human-like head — the top of which had been blown off. However instead of skin it was covered in purple chitin with sharp mandibles for a mouth. I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rising as primitive, instinctual revulsion took hold. This thing looked like something out of pre-diapora folklore, a nightmare given life.
“Sphinx, take some pictures and check them against all available data, including unverified and speculative; see if anyone has seen anything like this before.” I said, burying my feelings. “Sunspear, its your turn to get up close and personal. Get some good samples for analysis. You’re sure this is it?”
“Yeah…,” she said, shaking her head. “It was definitely bipedal, I’m just shocked at how… human, but not human it looks… if that makes any sense.”
“It does,” I said. “But if anyone else asks, I’m just going to claim it was noetic.”
Sunspear knelt beside the broken body of the CI. She took a small sample kit from one of her drones and began to make incisions and fill syringes with fluid. Any data from a controlling intelligence is valuable to fleet, this was doubly so because it was from some new form.
“I have a few data hits.” said Sphinx. “Two unconfirmed sightings. One by refugees from colony TauZerg9KX, who give a verbal description that is a 95% match. Another is from a Nomad Kill cam during a hive breach five years ago. 93% match. They sighted it just before they set charges — the Nomad in question popped it without even realizing what he was shooting at. Both reports also contain reference to these brute things. Apparently they act as bodyguards.”
“Tie them to our report,” I said, I heard a rumble in the distance and watched as the shuttle took wing. “Fleet will want to hear about this. You done Sunspear.”
“I have as much as I can get from this specimen,” she said.
“Alright, lets head to the dropship,” I said. “Triumph, are the bodies loaded?”
“Roger Raven,” said Triumph. “All Nomads accounted for. Who was last on Dropship logistics duty?”
“Jessup, I think,” I said. “Why?”
Triumph chuckled. “I hate to speak ill of the dead, Raven, but that lazy bastard didn’t restock the drones.”
We all laughed then, a much needed easing of tension. But, something bothered me about the drones.