Chapter 3: Up from the Ashes

This archive contains the original story as it appeared on gaia, This is our main story, and what BHotR as a whole started from and builds off of. The setting has gone through many changes, and so the story has many inconsistencies. You can, in this forum, see the evolution of the story and its players as we went from a simple roleplay began in 2006.
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Kai
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Chapter 3: Up from the Ashes

Post by Kai » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:26 pm

Red alerts began blaring as the troop transports Disconnected from the Hymn, and in a few minutes, a rumbling could be felt and heard as the spacecraft re-entered the atmosphere, from the ground they appeared like two fireballs descending upon the planet in wrath. These fireballs were soon met with artillery fire, and began duking and dodging, attempting to not get hit, thrashing the soldiers inside around. After a seemimgly long 30 seconds, the ships descended to tree level, and found a clearing to land in. As soon as they were down, a hail of gunfire from the trees greeted them, and was answered with suppressing fire from the transports' defensive weapons, silencing most as the drathonians ran to regroup. Inside, officers were yelling at soldiers, gettting them grouped and ready to go, as the bay doors on all sides lowered, creating a ramp for soldiers, tanks and other fighting vehicles to descend to the surface on. In ten seconds, the transports were empty, the doors coming up, and the engines spooling, waiting for their previous cargo to get safely far enough away for them to launch. For the Hymn's marines, the ground war had begun.

Up above the turmoil on the ground, the sky was alive lights. Scourges and scimitars wove in and out of each others formations, trying to shoot the other out of the air while avoiding anti-air fire from the ground and suppressing fire from space. In orbit, the squad of shamshirs awaited the signal that would let them know that it was their turn to go. Every pilot was on edge for the upcoming battle, after all, it wasn't everyday that they fought within the confines of an atmosphere, but everyone was looking forward to the challenge. Their anticipation could also be credited to the fact that every pilot there was flying a new shamshir and not the scimitars that they were so accustomed to.
Steven looked around at the faces of his friends and fellow pilots. Some of them were smoking, a few were just gossiping, and one of them was praying. That last one puzzled Steven, but he quickly brushed away the thought as something caught his eye. "When did they let you out of the infirmary?" Steven called out to a man who was walking over to him.
"They finally said that I was well enough to fly again. So I thought I would stop by and see what you were doing," Green 1 replied with a laugh, "And it looks like I came just in time, for it appears that you have no secondary gunner."
"It is good to have ya back on the team buddy," Steven said with a nod.

Captain Hendlow stood in one of the transports looking solemn. The smoke slowly swirling from the tip of cigarette only added to the cinematic effect. And much like one would expect, his mind was elsewhere: namely, the upcoming battle. They were going planetside. That meant explosives would require entirely different applications. While he had once worked on a planet, he was not accustomed to it. His load-out was the best he could think of, but he still worried that there was some situation for which he had not accounted. He couldn't worry over it all day, however, so he had forced himself to toss the backpack full of dangerous gear beneath one of the restraining seats.

And there was more to it. Although he had been a Captain for quite some time, never before had he been requested to command a squad. Now they were pushing onto him the responsibility of the lives of others. Jack was on the roster along with eight others: a team of ten. Still, one familiar face was not consolation enough. The others were all green, having been recruited only in the last year. Only four of them had participated in a battle previously, and only one of those four had experienced another before that. Two of the four, including the "veteran," had experienced the loss of body parts. That was something of a relief. They knew what to expect. Still, four of his ten-man team knew nothing of battle.

He sighed as the cigarette burned out and tossed it in a small bin. He could hear the steady plodding of boots: his team was on its way.

Twenty minutes later, he was sitting in a restraint chair, the harness hugging him with a death snare. A few quiet murmurs and moans could be heard: Hendlow wondered why they ever thought it okay to recruit men prone to motion sickness. As the thought finished, he heard someone's stomach give way, and watched the noon lunch float by to his left. Slowly, he shook his head.

Five minutes later, they were on the ground, and the hatches were opening. He slung on his backpack, buckled it, and snatched up a bro on his way out the back. "Get cover, keep your head down, and wait for further commands!"

Game on.

Jack trundled out of his seat as the craft landed, his brain still whirring from the replacement of half his body that had taken place not half an hour ago. Stumbling up behind Hendlow, his vision blurred. Jack shook his head vigorously at the four Hendlows that stood before him, closing his eyes tight in a strained blink. Chemicals, phsychosis, and foreign body parts combined in a nauseating daze.

Nothing he could do about that, though. The overworked doctors in the infirmary had seen it fit to release every body that was still warm to fight in whatever battle he was about to step into. Jack had no concept of what it really was; the fog surrounding his brain only allowed him to comprehend that he had to shoot some lizards. The basic concept was simple enough, he probably didn't have to know much more, anyway.

Jack didn't know when it had happened, but now he was wearing his combat armor, and his sugar was in hand. His tiger was also strapped to his back, though Jack hardly noticed its presence. As he followed Hendlow out the hatch, he could faintly make out the captain's shouted words. It was like he was hearing it from underwater; Jack knew he had said something but hardly knew what. It didn't matter, really. In his aching mind, Jack formulated his simple plan: follow Hendlow, shoot every lizard you see, don't lose any more limbs.

Jumping through the hatch, Jack had a feeling that today would have been better spent in a hospital bed. His foot coming down with a squish on the head of a fallen Drathonian, Jack could hardly imagine why. An enormous, dumb smile crossed his face. With a suck, he dislodged his foot from the crushed head and strolled into the awaiting battlefield. Butcher to the slaughter.

Hendlow sensed faint laughter coming from behind him.

Hendlow was crouching behind a portable, makeshift metal barrier with room for five; six if you were looking for a few good men to take with you when the grenade rolls by. Currently, though, he and Jack were the only ones. He glanced only briefly at the sound of laughter. Jack hadn't been quite himself since they landed, and he didn't think too much of it at the moment. He sighed and sat on his heels, back to the barrier.

The area was rather bland; they were in the midst of an open plain. To their back was a series of rocky hills, smothered with Terran snipers. Ahead of them were thick forests of lush greens and reds and other vibrant colors not typically found on Earthen flora. That's where the Drathonians were coming from, and they had managed to dig in some ditches in the plains, but they hadn't made much ground since. The Terrans were repelling attackers quite well, and the higher levels of command had their own series of ditches near the base of the hills, a low-profile ops center.

Garrett glanced at Jack again. The man was far gone. He sighed and tapped his extremely small earpiece. He spoke quietly. "Can anyone hear me?" He received seven replies. "Who are we missing?"

Bad news already. The private whom had seen two previous battles had lost his head to a Drathonian sniper rifle. So much for that "veteran" status. Hendlow sighed for a third time. "Status and location," he asked his men. Slowly, and according to alphabetical order, each responded, giving good reports on their personal health and their locations relative to Hendlow's.

"Good, good," he murmured to no one in particular. There was a pause for a few seconds as he began planning. "Griever, Kwon, you're left pincer. Harvard, Rutthinger, you're right pincer. The rest of us will be providing cover fire until you're in position. Then we'll move up the center, and blow the hell out of those Drathonians attempting to set up barricades."

The plan was for a two-man team on either side to pin the Drathonian "engineers," if they could be called that, in the foxhole they'd dug out. Then, with them unable to return fire, the remainder of Hendlow's team could come up the middle and lay waste to them.

"In posit-- AGH! Goddamnit!" It was Griever. Kwon spoke next.

"He took a shot to the thigh. Nothing too serious." Kwon was as calm as ever; that was his truly redeeming quality. Then there was a faintly audible click; Kwon had activated Griever's EMR (Emergency Medical Requisition), or "doctor!", signal on his vest.

"Guttemeier, I want you up left with Kwon. Griever will be covering from hereon." He received two positive responses. Everyone was in line, and Hendlow was pleased thus far with his team.

Jack grunted at Hendlow's orders. He hadn't really heard the plan. Strolling a ways up the hill behind the LZ, Jack turned back towards the battle. "Sorry, cap'n... but I'll just hang back and shoot $#!†. Not feeling so hot." That was putting it mildly. Jack felt like he had a stake shoved through the side of his head. He dropped onto his back on the slope, pulling off his helmet. He coughed in the less-than-fresh air of the foreign atmosphere. He propped his sugar between his knees and lined the scope up with an eye. Laying back on the hill, Jack delivered the gift of death to unsuspecting lizards miles away.

Within a few moments, though, concentration slipped from him. His vision was blurring from pain, both neural and physical. Dropping his gun, Jack remembered his gear. Shoving his hand into his pack, he soon produced a thick hypodermic needle. Impatiently biting off the cap, Jack shoved it into his neck and emptied the entire load of pain killers.

Immediately the effects were felt. The misalignment in his vision came back together, focusing seemingly so much that his vision started to glow with the saturation of colors. An overpowering metallic taste came to his mouth, and his stomach lurched sickeningly. Jack's blood boiled with heat, yet at the same time felt icy cold. Slowly, his mind cleared, until it became hyperfocused, like his vision. Jack looked at the needle in his hand. Whatever this stuff was, it worked pretty damn good. He dropped the needle to the ground, not even considering the fact that he'd used way too much. Rising, Jack took up his gun and visor again and sprinted back down the hill.

"Sorry for the lag, Hendlow... feeling better now." Jack said with a grin as he came up behind the captain. Everything seemed to be moving in slightly slower motion, and he felt almost giddy in his new perception of reality. As he sniggered, Jack replaced his visor. "So... what needs killing?" he asked gleefully, tearing up with joy at the prospect of beating the life out of Drathonians.

Still on board the Hymn, Steven and the other pilots stood around chewing the butts of spent cigarettes as they anxiously waited. Finally, a voice came on over the loud speaker giving the group the signal they had been expecting. "Alright! You all heard that, so get to your bombers!" Steven shouted to the pilots, whom were scrambling to there ship even before Steven spoke. Making sure everyone was in, Steven went to his own shamshir and got on board.
Green One was already in the gunner seat when Steven sat in the pilot seat. "So, do you think this thing will hold up when we get out there?" the man asked jokingly.
"We will just have to wait and see, now wont we?" Steven joked in reply. But he then quickly turned his attention to downloading the target coordinates on to the NAV computer, and once that was finished he transmitted the same coordinates to the other pilots.
"System check. This is squadron leader Steven Kerning. Blink if you read me," he said over the squad comm channel. Six pilot confirmation lights winked to life on his HUD. "Get ready for launch."
After a few moments of silence the seven shamshirs shot out of the hanger.

Hendlow had merely sighed at the loss of Jack. The man was definitely not in his right man. After a few moments of silence, he regathered his thoughts and was about to begin ordering the next set of movements when Jack returned. He looked like shit still, but he was up and about, and in the old swing of things. That would be better than nothing, and the Captain smirked.

"Alright, Left Team, Right Team, advance. Keep a kill count, and estimated total lizards." Four clicks; the teams were on the move. Gunfire nearby erupted, and every few seconds a voice would come up declaring another one or two lizards down.

"Alright, keep gunfire suppressive only. Center Team, we're advancing." Three clicks. Hendlow looked at Jack for the "ready" confirmation before swinging out from cover and sprinting to the next defensive position. He dove into the hard-packed soil just behind the low-set barrier and sat against it, regaining his composure. Then he leaned around the side to add his own bullets to the suppression.

"What's your count, Left Team?"

"We have an estimated eight still living, six dead."

"Right Team?"

"We count ten still dug in, and we took four dead."

"Alright, we play it safe. There are twelve Drathonians in that pit. If you find fewer, center team, start putting bullets in skulls. Left, Right, suppress! We're moving!"

Once the gunfire started, Garrett came around the barrier and sprinted toward the Drathonian foxhole, Hachim and Donnell not far behind. Garrett only hoped Jack was short on their tails. Halfway between safety and the enemy, the Captain pulled a grenade and lobbed it in the hole. Immediately, four Drathonians began scrambling from the hole, trying to make a mad dash for safety. Garrett didn't even raise his bro; the pincer teams dropped the runners like flies. Then the grenade went off, and quite a few body parts went flying with a chorus of agonized shouts to mark their departure.

Then Garrett was at the lip of the hole, sliding down before the few living could figure out what was going on. He was in a crouch, the bro raised, and he unleashed a barrage of bullets. In these close quarters, the inaccuracy of the short rifle was nothing. He tore up both the living and the dead in a matter of seconds. Hachim and Donnell slid into the foxhole mere seconds later. Hendlow looked up to the lip of the hole, awaiting Jack's face. At the same time, he reported to the pincer teams, "Foxhole cleared. Hold position, and keep cover fire. We're going to try and put these barriers up the right way." Five clicks of acknowledgment. So far, so good.

Jack trotted up to the edge of the foxhole as the smoke cleared. He frowned. It appeared Hendlow had taken out all of the lizards on his own. What a hog. "What a shame... I was planning on having some fun with them." he muttered to noone in particular. Walking up to the captain, he spoke with a drawn out yawn. "So what's our next objective?" Jack fidgeted with his rifle a little boredly. He'd been here at least five minutes and barely killed anything. "Can't we just call up some engineer corpsmen to mess with these barriers?" Jack muttered as an indirect question to the captain.

Looking skyward, Jack saw a bomber formation streak across the sky. He half-wished he was a pilot right then... but then quickly remembered his poor piloting skills, along with the fact that it's much more satisfying to be up close and personal with your opponent. He was a little jealous that airmen didn't have to do so much sitting around all the time, however.

Jack's gaze followed the formation as it disappeared into the horizon, where his eyes met the earth. Even from this distance, the weapons fire and explosions could be seen peppering the edges of the forests and plains before him. He shifted a little uncomfortably, impatient with this false start against such easy targets... the real fighting was yet to be had. Jack looked expectantly at Hendlow, ready for his word.

Hendlow nodded with a smirk. "Exactly. And while we wait for them to get here, we're going to give them a headstart. Guttemeier, Donnell, get a start on the barriers, we'll keep the return fire up. Get to work!" Then he crouched in the foxhole and pressed a hand to either ear: to cover the one from interference, and the other to keep out excess noise while he spoke. "Command, we've got an advanced placement out here that needs some slight alterations. Get a small engineer team to my location ASAP. Tell the west flank to start moving forward as well, we've got a strong heading over here." There was a brief and fuzzy response, but he heard the confirmation and agreeance to his request.

He stood up again, and moved to the western side of the foxhole, using the level ground as a balancing surface for his bro. "It seems the only issue we'll be having is entering the woods. They're setting up makeshift bunkers and such amidst the trees. We might get a chance to go a little old school; if only we had bayonets, eh?" The Captain smirked, and let off a series of rounds whenever he saw some Drathonian stick his neck out.


Jack Gallagher followed his captain's lead, standing on the edge of the pit and firing out into the fields filled with crawling lizards. Frankly it was dull stuff, and Jack went about it with little pleasure. He could probably average about 50 kills a minute, but where was the fun in that? After a few minutes' work, the team of engineers arrived. Rushing along at their work, they made quick headway in restoring the fortifications. "Okay cappy, can we go kill kill now?" Jack gave a fantastically sincere grin to Hendlow, shouting his words like an enthusiastic child eager to get a new toy. "Plleeeeaaase? I saw lots of lizards over that way!" Jack pointed in the direction of the woods, adding a bit of a sly look to his grin. He was way too pumped full of god-knows-what to just sit around sniping. He needed some face smashing, and he needed it now.

After explaining to the engineers what they needed to happen, Garrett turned his attention to the over-stimulated Jack Gallagher standing beside him. With an awkward smirk, he nodded. "Yes, we're going to go do some heavy damage now." He looked around at his team. "This is the plan. Donnell, you're going to hang back with Griever. When we clear the next vantage point, move up. The rest of you, follow my lead. Jack's taking point. Cover his ass, and keep constant updates running. I want to know when you see them, when you kill them, hell I want to know when they shit themselves because you jumped out of the bush like Rambo. Everything. Got it?"

Garrett knew the reference to an age-old cinema probably wouldn't strike home with everyone, but he thought it gave them a clear message.


The shamshirs skimmed over the landscape as they went from one target to the next and leave nothing smoking craters behind. All in all their operation was going well. The pilots had encountered little trouble from enemy fighter, the vast majority of them already fighting other terran scimitars. And the squadron was doing quite well at avoid anti-aircraft fire from enemy flak guns by staying low.
Through the speakers of his headset, as well as over the squad comm channel, Steven displayed his innate ability to find odd songs to play at odd times. The song being a classic piece from one of Steven’s favorite composers; the time being just after the bomber squadron had drop one of its payloads on a target.
“Squad Lead, do you usually do this when your team flies missions?” one of the other pilots asked.
“No. Usually I play either rock or techno, but I thought a change would be good for our the Sigma Squadron,” Steven reply nonchalantly as he multi-tasked checking coordinates and entering in commands.
“Sigma? Sir, did you just make that up off of the top of your head or is ‘Sigma’ our actual call sign?” a different pilot interjected.
“Actually, it is a combination of both. We didn’t have a call sign, so I took it upon myself being the Squad leader and all to think up a sign,” he explained. “That is not a problem is it?”
No one replied, but several red flashes showed up on Steven’s HUD.
“Does that mean ‘No, I don’t like it’ or ‘No, there is no problem’?” Green 1 called to him from the rear gunner’s seat. Both he and Steven had a good laugh, but were brought back to reality as one of the other pilots came on over the comm channel,
“Squad Lead, several groups of Terran ground forces are requesting our assistance. How should we respond?” they asked.
“Tell them that assistance is on the way,” Steven replied as he began entering in the new coordinates into the navigation computer.

Jack's eyes shot wide at Hendlow's words. His eyes welling up with tears of joy, he snapped into position. "Ready go!" he shouted as he leapt out of the pit. He sprinted towards the nearest line of fortifications dotting a nearby hillside, his teammates firing a barrage of green all about him. Wild shouts filled his squad com. He could tell he had them more than a little panicked. The few Drathonians dumb enough to stick their necks out before Jack reached the barriers met a quick end at the hands of his teammates.

Moments later, Jack was to the walls. Deftly leaping in a fantastic arc, Jack came down expertly on top of the barrier. Startled, three Drathonians looked up from the trench below. Grinning, Jack was already in the air when they saw him. The two to his left quickly went down as he swung his sugar past them, pounding the rounds straight through them at point blank range. As he reached his target, the third lizard in the line, he brought the side of his rifle pounding into the side of the helpless creature's head. "HOME RUN!!" The weak alien skull was nearly rent from its body as the head jerked in a loud 'crunch' with Jack's rifle. Landing in a rough pile on his latest victim, Jack was quickly up and moving through the trench in search of more playthings. "Hey captain, you were right," he chuckled into the com, "I really wish I had a bayonet right now." Gleefully, Jack grabbed the neck of the lone Drathonian he had snuck up behind and brought it's head slamming down into the muzzle of his Tiger. "Bye bye." he whispered in its ear as its face splattered on the earthen wall in front of them.

After approximately five minutes of waiting at the landing site, Kai's squad was ordered to move out. Apparently the first wave had been successful at securing a few advanced positions, and were ready to move out. Kai's squad was to fill in the holes left by their initial push. " Allright, men, Let's move it!" He yelled, the body-armor clad group setting off at a trot from the base of the hill towards the front.


The Shamshir bombers had broken off into groups so that they could run several bombing runs to help the marines down on the ground. Steven's bomber and two other bombers were skimming along just above the tree line going towards the next bombing location. For the most part bombing runs were a boring way to fly and Steven was much more interested in flying scimitars. The groups had encountered little anti-air so far except for around the larger targets, and Steven had yawned several times so far at the sight of empty skies in front of them. The silence was finally broken by the voice of one of the other pilots just off Steven's left wing.
"Squad leader, we are approaching the next target zone. It will be in sight shortly off to our right," said a crisp sounding female voice.
"Understood. Adjusting course on my mark," Steven replied.
The bombers turned and were soon able to see the next target zone. From a cursory scan it looked to be a fortified Drathorian bunker. "Sir, there is no sign of any anti-air position," said the female pilot.
"Hm, it appears so, but don't let your guard down. Considering the level of fortifications in the area it seems odd that there would be no defence against an air strike. There might be hidden flak guns hidden within the trees and undergrowth," Steven advised the other pilots in the group. "And secondary gunners remain on the lookout for enemy fighters."
As the bombers approached the pilots discovered that there were in fact flak guns within the trees and were prepared for them. The bombers swerved and spun to avoid in coming fire. All went well and the pilots were quickly approaching the drop location, and Steven was about to give the signal to drop commence the barrage of ballistics when one of the secondary gunners abruptly reported that there were several scourge fighters coming in on the group's six o'clock. This last piece of information surprised Steven, for he had not expected to see such a large group of reserve enemy fighters. He at once opened the comm channel with the Hymn and requested immediate assistance from any scimitar squadrons in the area. Presented with the current situation Steven called off the bombing run and ordered the group to initiate evasive maneuvers. The three bombers began to split and execute one of the basic maneuvers, but what normally would be a very effective and quick tactic in a scimitar, was now sluggish and excruciatingly dull in the less maneuverable shamshir.
While focusing on avoiding enemy fire and keeping an eye on the rest of his group, Steven momentarily lost sight of how close the trees were getting. He looked back just in time to pull up sharply and sighed as he heard the tops of the trees scrape the underside of the bomber. Relief, however, turned quickly to frustration and a sense of failure. Somewhere along the line he had made a tactical error. Why he felt this way was unclear to him, but soon understood when his secondary gunner let out an excited yell. "Ballistic missiles gaining on our six!" And sure enough Steven's NAV computer emitted a shrill siren signifying that missiles were locked on to him.
"Sigma squadron, this is squad leader. I have missiles closing on me. I am going to try and shake them," Steven said over the squad's comm channel. With that having been said he began to drift the bomber wistfully to the left. With the touch of a button he released a shower of anti-ballistic flak from a rear compartment on the bomber. Several of the missiles either detonated or collided and exploded in a ball of fire, but through the smoke yet more missiles came. This time to close and to quick for the ship's defense mechanisms. Two of the missiles overshot him as he dropped his altitude but the other three followed and connected with Steven's left wing. After that everything happened in a confusing blurr.
Alarms were blaring. Smoke was filling the compartment. A fire on the control counsel. Steven chanced a look up and he saw trees above him. The shamshir was spinning, that meant his wing was blown off. He reached for the eject button on the counsel, but wondered if it would be safe when he was just a hundred feet or so off the ground, and when the bomber was rolling. no time. He pushed the button when he saw sky above him. He was now flying through the air along with the secondary gunner. And the last thing he remembered before hitting the trees was his parachute deploying trying desperately to slow the two men, and the sight of the shamshir crashing into the ground. Upon reaching the ground and the parachute getting tangled in a tree, Steven blacked out.

Through the lens on her electrically magnified scope, Clarissa watched the situation unfold in the skies above the trees and the ground. Curious about how it would play out she watched the Terran shamshir work desperately to try and shake the homing missile that were trailing close behind. She looked away almost right after she started to watch, for she did have a job to do and flying was the pilot's job not hers. Looking back down the long barrel of her standard issue sniper rifle she scanned for enemy movement within and around the Drathonian fortifications. Aside from the occasional explosion and sound of gun fire, the wooded area she occupied was vacant of any sound what-so-ever. She was just about to increase the zoom on her scope when an loud blast rang out from over head, and without even shifting her eyes she concluded that the fighter had been struck by the pursuing missiles. Her attention was however diverted when the previous blast was followed by an earth shaking explosion. Glancing up from the scope for a half second she saw a large plume of smoke rising probably a two miles away. The explosive it was carrying must have blown she thought. Just before looking away she saw two parachutes out of the corner of her eye. At least they are alive she thought as the two drifted down into the trees. But she also saw some of the scourge fighters that had pursued the bomber touch down a mile off to her right and about a half mile from where the two pilot has drifted.
"At least now there is something to shoot at," she whispered to the air next to her. Slowly and precisely she shifted the angle of the rifle and trained it on the mid point between the pilots and the lizards. Then she waited.

When he woke, Steven saw the world around him as if he were looking at it from a great distance. Kind of like he were looking through the wrong end of a pair of binoculars. He was unsure of just how long he just stared at the ground as it gently swayed back and forth beneath him. But when he finally woke up the will power to try and move his body it felt as if he had just been on the wrong end of an ass kicking. Ever muscle in his body screamed in protest as he lifted his head to look at his surroundings and gauge just what had happened. He was oddly surprised to first find out that it was not the ground that was moving, but that it was in fact he that was the one moving. Now looking up he saw his parachute deeply tangled in a gnarled old tree.
"Well that answers one question," he groaned as he rubbed his aching muscles. Another question was answered soon after. He spyed his compatriot lying about a hundred feet away on the ground in a heap on broken tree limbs and shredded parachute. From what Steven could see the man was either unconscious or dead, but he greatly hoped that it was the first one.
The next order of business was for Steven to get himself out of the tree he was in. He pulled a small knife out of his pocket and began to saw through the tangled chords. After almost ten minutes of cutting he was done with the last cable and he dropped from the tree. Although, as he fell, he realized he had not tried to find out just how high off the ground he was, and after plummeting roughly fifteen or twenty feet he landed with a audible thunk on the hard ground. "Well, that was graceful," he joked as he stood up and brushed himself off. When he had checked himself for any injuries or broken bones he walked over to the collapsed pilot. Everything was fine with the pilot except for the fact that he was unconscious, and Steven began dragging the man out of the clearing and over to the base of the tree he himself had fallen from.
Shortly thereafter, Steven finished doing everything the military survival book said to do in the event of a crash landing. He had treated the minor wounds on both himself and the other pilot, who was still unconscious, and had gathered together all the emergency survival packs that had come with them during the ejection from the bomber. Now all he had to do was sit tight and wait for either a nearby marine brigade to come and rescue him or a band of drathonians to come and kill him. And perhaps half an hour later Steven heard movement coming. Curious he stood up and cautiously made his way around the clearing, keeping to the trees, to where he could see who was approaching, praying to himself that it was the marines he had been waiting for. But to his dismay it was a group of three drathonians pilots. Immediately he pressed himself against a tree as a wave of intense fear washed through him. In the air he was eager to face any challenge, but on the ground he felt like he was a frightened child. And then he realized that the survival guide never told what to do in the event that you were being approached by three hostile drathonians.

Clarissa was used to waiting a long time to get a perfect shot at an enemy, so this wait was no trouble at all. She had been watching the progress of the drathonians as they moved hastily over the terrain, and she would have shot already for there were several chances to take out the drathonians but there was enough cover around the lizards that killing one would send the others into hiding. And she could only help the two stranded Terran pilots if she knew where the enemy was. But she still planned on taking down all three soon enough, for close to where the two pilots were was a good sized clearing. That was where she would take her shot.
When the three lizards finally neared the clearing she readied her gun to fire. She steadied the gun so that it pointed just out past the edge of the clearing, but there was one problem. One of the pilots had moved to almost the same spot the three lizards would come through.
Clarissa held her breath as the drathonians entered the clearing, as they walked right past the Terran pilot who look as if he were trying to get under the tree by how much he was pushing himself against it.

Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. Steven no longer knew if the pounding he was hearing was the sound of the drathonians as they walked past him or if the sound was his heart beating in his ears. He didn't really care either. All he could think about was trying to be as invisible as possible. Whether it was working or not had yet to be seen. For the most part two of the three drathonians past by him and entered the clearing, and he didn't know where the third one had gone. Sooner or later the beasts would notice him, or stumble on the still unconscious pilot. In a rush of desperation Steven reach to his belt and slowly lifted the small side arm pistol that all pilots carried just for the hell of it, and then he carefully lifted it so that it was pointing at the back of the head of one of the drathonians. Although he knew that the small side arm would most like do very little to the drathonian, he still aimed it so he would feel just a little less hopeless. His finger tightened on the trigger and he prepared to fire.

Almost immediately after Steven's Shamshir went down, A squad got the order to go and rescue the two pilots, approximately four miles away from their current position. Linked to their HUD's were maps and locator beacons giving the approximate locations of the two pilots, as well as the nearest units who could be called for backup.

***

"Let's move out boys!" yelled Kai, his yellow hair sticking out of the back of his helmet, the body armour making the normally lanky young man look like he was average in bulk. The young captain then informed the squad he had previously been backing up of the situation. "Garret? this is Kai, we've got a crashed Shamshir about five miles from here, command has sent my squad to get them back, so we'll have to leave you for a while, think your boys can handle it?" With that, he took the Sugar rifle from his shoulder and ordered his squad to do the same. the small group of men complied before moving off into the forest. At first, the forest was quiet, but something was there, waiting, and Kai could feel his spine tingle, but didn't know why.

The job down in the trench was done within a few minutes. It was nothing more than a long series of ditches that curved along several hillsides as it made its way to the edge of the forest. Jack was with Kwon and Rutthinger, clearing out the east end. Shortly after reaching the end of the trenches, a wretched screach pierced the sky. The men covered their ears as a burning Shamshir went hurtling over their heads. Moments later the horizon directly ahead was alight as the vessel was ripped asunder, flaming debris floating down into the trees in the aftermath. A pair of parachutes disappeared into the trees in the distance.

Gallagher turned to the other two, still feeling the unnatural buzz of the painkillers. Damn those things worked good. "Yo Kwon, did you freaking see that? Looks like there's some stranded pilots out there. Better check it out." Rutthinger cut in as Jack turned towards the forest. "Orko, don't you think we should radio Hendlow before heading in? We should keep the squad together." Jack laughed at the remark. "Yeah, yeah, yeah... whatever." Reluctantly, and against the buzz of the drugs, Jack mellowed a bit. Hopping back into the ditch, Jack linked up to his squad com. "Yo yo! Hendlow, you there? It's Jack. We've spotted a Shamshir crash about 2 clicks east of our position. What should we do? Over." Nothing but static greeted Jack Gallagher's message.

"Guys, I can't get through to Hendlow, can you?" The others met similar failure. Jack tried the Hymn, patching through to a maneuvers op. "Hymn, over. This is Private Gallagher. I've located a downed Shamshir, and the pilots seem to have ejected safely. I can't seem to reach my captain. Privates Kwon, Rutthinger and I are approximately 2 clicks from the position. Requesting orders, over." The lieutenant on the other end took a moment, apparently looking at the information on the crash. "Roger that, Private Gallagher. I'm reading Shamshir Alpha downed near your coordinates. Don't bother waiting for your captain, he's probably down. Dispatch gave orders to a squadron to extract them, but they seem to be about 8 clicks out. Proceed to grid 798-431, my sensors are indicating the pilots landed there. Be careful... I'm picking up a Drathonian battalion headed in that direction from the north. Extract them and fall back on the other squadron's position. I'll try relaying your coordinates to the rest of your squad. Over and out."

Jack turned to the other two as the orders ended. What the hell did he mean by the captain probably being down? The vice slowly pressing in on his brain didn't give him the time to think about it. He hoped to hell Hendlow was alright, though. He relayed the news to the others. "A battalion?!," Rutthinger asked, dumbfounded. "Isn't that like, a thousand units?" Jack shrugged. "I have no freaking idea. All I know is we need to get to those pilots before the lizards do." Nodding to the other two men, Jack hopped out of the ditch and sprinted through the short barren stretch between the trench and the forest. Kwon and Ruth (Rutthinger's name had to be abbreviated, you can get shot in combat while trying to yell the guys name.)were at his heels. Fortunately, they all made it across without anyone being shot in the head by a sniper.

Once in the slightly denser region of the woods, Jack slowed. He plugged the coordinates the maneuvers op had relayed to him into his HUD. A topographic map displayed their destination as well as their location. "Okay, guys, looks like we've got a 30 minute jog to get to the coordinates. You'd better hope I see some lizards on the way, because my trigger finger is getting itchy already." Jack's eye gave a noticable twitch. He was being serious. The three shouldered their rifles and began their trudge.

~~~~~~

Thirty minutes later, the group had reached its destination. The map showed a likely stretch of about 1/4 of a square kilometer ahead of them in which the pilots could have landed. Jack palmed his gun and whispered to the other two simply, "This is it." The painkillers were already starting to lose their edge, and Jack could feel himself on the verge of a crash. There was no telling what would happen when the numb feeling went away. Although he couldn't feel a damn thing, there was a distinguishable pressure crushing in on his brain, making it difficult to focus.

They were on their guard here, with a good chance of an entire battalion of Drathonians popping out at any given moment. Cautiously, they fanned out a little, and proceeded forward slowly. It didn't take long to find what they were looking for: the shredded remains of a parachute in pile of broken branches. Apprehensively, they looked around for its owner. He wasn't in sight, but Jack quickly spotted something equally rewarding: a pair of Drathonian pilots with their backs turned on the other edge of the clearing. Ever-so-silently, Jack alerted his two squadmates, who vanished into the undergrowth to cover him. Jack shouldered his sugar once more, instead taking up his Tiger rifle. Stepping behind a tree, he aimed and fired. The only sign of the shot was the low whimper of the first pilot as he fell forward. The second one was dead before he realized what was going on. Cautiously, Jack turned on his heat vision. There was no doubt more lizards to shoot... and he intended to find them. He just hoped their battalion wasn't getting close...

Steven's whole world was silent and empty and he was unable to see anything except the drathonian in front of him. It reflected his thoughts, as the only thing his mind could comprehend was 'shoot'. As his adrenaline levels peaked his finger squeezed the trigger as hard as he could manage. The silence never changed. As Steven collapsed back against the tree again he realized that he had not taken the gun off of safety. This made him remember the fact that he had never actually shot anything before, he had shot down enemy fighters more times than he could recall, but he had never pulled a trigger.
Cursing himself he flicked the safety switch so that it was ready to fire. Looking back at the drathonians he saw that they were slowly getting closer to the unconscious pilot. Choosing from severely limited options, he lifted the gun again, aimed at the back of one of the drathonian's head, and pulled the trigger. Needless to say, the silence was gone.

Clarissa watched as the two lizards fell and heard the gun fire. She didn't even need to look to see what had ruined her shot. "Marines," she growled through grinding teeth, "They always manage to screw up a shot!" After uttering a few other 'choice' words, she swung the Sugar to the right located the third lizard and lined up the sights, but to her surprise where there had once been one there were now four lizards. Calculating the variables needed for the shot, she pulled the trigger. Once. Twice. Three times.
Three shots, and three dead lizards. The fourth had ducked back into the trees and out of her line of sight. She was once again fuming, for she was being forced to do what snipers were trained not to do. She got up and started running in the direction of the target.

Jack swore as a squad of lizards coming into the clearing were disrupted by a barrage of fire. Bright green streaks flew through their skulls, dropping three of the four. Jack could only assume he had some kind of support... by the looks of it the shots were so angular that they had to have been taken from a high, distant point. Another sniper had beaten him to the kill. Cursing, he charged the clearing, flicking the semi-automatic setting on his Tiger rifle. He peppered the brush the survivor had leapt into, hearing the death throes of a Drathonian that had been shot a dozen times. Kwon and Ruth remained hidden, and Jack knew the other two were no doubt awaiting the army of lizards about to descend on their position. Jack yelled the first thing that came to mind. "Pilots! If you're alive get yer butts out here, there's a whole damn army of lizards headed straight for us!" The hoarse shout pierced the clearing, and Jack crouched apprehensively, praying he wasn't in the sights of some hidden Drathonian. "Come on!" he yelled, a bit louder than before.

Steven had curled up at the base of the tree as more shots were fired. This was getting to be to much. But the shots stopped almost as soon as they started, and then they were replaced by the sound of someone shouting. He cautiously lifted his head from behind one of the large roots he used for cover and saw a group of marines and some dead lizards. Still a bit shaken he stood up and ran past the marines to where he had hid the unconscious pilot. "Hey! one of you guys give me a hand here!" he said as he began lifting the man.

Jack followed after Steven to his unconscious comrade. "Kwon! Help carry this guy. Ruth, you're point. I'll take up the rear and cover you. Pilot guy, we'll be beating a hard retreat to an incoming support squad that should get you to safety. Okay guys, get a move on! I'll hang back a ways and make sure the lizards don't run up your butts." Kwon and Ruth obediently followed his orders. Despite being practically out of his mind, Jack was capable of commanding the situation.

As the other four men hustled towards the south, Jack hung back for a minute, making sure they had a good margin of safety behind them. Shortly thereafter, an alert pinged in on his HUD from the Hymn. Sensors were showing the column of Drathonians had entered his grid. Already he could hear the hum of tanks in the distance and shouted orders. Cussing, Jack ran out of the clearing, wishing he could do more. If worst came to worst, he'd have to slow down the lizards if they gained too much on the others.

Clarissa sprinted almost a good mile and a half over uneven ground before slowing down and stopping. Dropping to the ground and looking through her scope she did another survey of the area. The marines had successfully evacuated the two pilots out of the clearing, but for some reason one of the marines was hanging back. This little piece of information became even more confusing when she saw a fairly large group of drathonians approaching the clearing. She quickly made up her mind to stay were she was, which was about a mile to Jack's right, instead of making her way back to Terran field outpost. Snipers were trained as scouts and they were not trained to engage large groups of hostiles, but this was where her options conflicted each other. For it was also the obligation of a sniper to support the marines if it was required. And, to make matters worse, Clarissa recognized the lone marine, and he wasn't her favorite person to say the least.
Quieting her thoughts, she took aim at one of the several drathonians and waited for the time to take the shot.

She walked alongside the Drake responsible for the next group of Grunts, discussing the tactics to be used in this battle, ”You will utilize the soldiers given you and spare no-one in your path.” he ordered grimly. She nodded silently, knowing that such orders would never be followed.

Still was disguised as a Sauran, having taken the appearance and voice of the one she killed earlier. The disguise tech was uncomfortable, yes, but it did its job well, fooling all the Drathonian she had come in contact with. She thought about how getting used to the tail was hard, but it did have its advantages. Such as better balance and an extra weapon for close combat.
Her thoughts were interrupted by their arrival. The hangar bay was ready for the departure of the 4 Scourge fighters she would be ‘commanding’.

The Drake dismissed her, and she headed towards the four Scourge pilots waiting for her orders. ”You will follow my orders with no other thought. Understood?” Her reptilian company nodded, knowing that if they disobeyed higher orders they would not be spared. In a race where there were so many, death was considered trivial. ”We will fly to the coordinates pre-programmed into the autopilot, and deviations will not be accepted. Only shoot on my command. If your ship is compromised in any way, you must self-destruct.” She was confident that the Grunts understood, and ordered them to their ships.

She entered the Scourge with ease, thanks to the long tail aiding her balance. She closed the Hull and flicked a switch, starting the energy flow in the ship. ”Grunts, lift-off in 3-2-...“, She started to raise her ship off the ground, “1.” They took off into the air, keeping a relative distance from the ground, and heading to the set coordinates. She smiled slyly to herself, and opened a separate comm. link to the Hymn. “Int.(stands for ‘intelligence’, done for speed) Officer S. Reporting mission status to the Hymn. I am currently in air with 4 Grunts in following. They have orders to obey me completely. Over. She waited for a response, keeping an eye on the other Scourge fighters. They still had about ten minutes until they reached the fighting. ”We have received transmission. It is good to hear from you again S. Your mission status has been recorded and continuation of mission has been approved. Over.” The reply came in with a crackle. She acknowledged and broke the transmission, then opened one to her Grunts. ”Shields should now be placed at o%.” she ordered. She received and outraged shriek from one, ”But then we will have no protection!”
”I am your Suaran, yes? You shall obey me or termination will be deemed necessary.” She had expected as such, but her statement rendered the Grunt silent, and she monitored as each turned shields to 0%. She kept hers up, knowing that only her Scourge had the equipment to monitor shielding. They were now about 4 minutes from the fighting, and she made up her mind to begin ‘termination’, as the Drathonians would put it. She slowed her Scourge abruptly, causing it to screech backwards behind the others. Cries of confusion echoed in the comm. link as she did so. She then aimed and fired, each bullet going to its mark. The howling of torn ship surrounded her, and she raised her altitude to survey the destruction, one of the Scourge fighters following. She grinned with satisfaction and looked to the other ship. ”Good work!” She grinned through the comm. link, which now had only one other recipient. “”Indeed.” Her partner confirmed.

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Kai
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Re: Chapter 3: Up from the Ashes

Post by Kai » Wed Dec 29, 2010 4:27 pm

Jack had sprinted back to the others within a few minutes. They were making poor headway, the incapacitated pilot was slowing down Kwon and the other pilot more than he'd anticipated. He cussed a little under his breath when he noticed this. Sweating more than he usually would in this situation, Jack finally realized the toll everything was taking on his body. Already he could feel a slight pressure building up behind his heart and lungs, giving a strange sensation when he breathed. His blood went cold as he was reminded of his own mortality, and he slowed to a halt. He'd be supremely disappointed if he was the one responsible for killing himself. At least let him do it with a nuke strapped to his chest in the middle of Lizardland...

The vice around his brain slowly tightened as they stumbled on. It was less than 2 clicks to Captain Kai and the reinforcement squadron... Suddenly, shots were flying all about him. Swearing, Jack dropped to the ground, reacting fantastically slower than the rest of the soldiers. The damn lizards must have sent forerunners ahead of the main division... the tell-tale hum of tanks was not distinguishable as before. Dragging himself up behind a tree, Jack peered around the edge of it, shoving his eye into the scope of his Tiger.

There were at least 50 Drathonians closing in from just over the horizon, perhaps about a click off. He could probably take out 20 before they pinpointed his location and could pin him down. And no way could Jack take out 30 Drathonians in close quarters. The others weren't fantastic marksmen in his opinion... Kwon and Ruth could probably account for 3 each... especially with their much more obvious Sugar rifles, they'd get spotted relatively fast. Well... unless the pilot is a star sniper, we're probably screwed. The best they could hope for was to hold out for as long as possible while waiting for backup to arrive.

Jack whispered over the com. "Okay, Kwon... Ruth... Our only shot here is to keep them at bay while we wait for support. Kwon... I'm throwing my Sugar over, give it to the pilot." Jack looked to his rear, spotting Kwon and the pilot peeking out of a nearby ditch. He pulled his sugar rifle off of his shoulder and slid it over with a sharp kick. "Alright guys... hold your fire until I say so. If we're lucky I can knock off a good number of them before they reach us." Sliding back around the edge of the tree, Jack planted himself prone on the ground. The tree was useless defensive cover; it would be torn to shreds within seconds from weapons fire. His best hope at not getting hit was to provide as small a target as possible.

Jack switched on his infrared scope and quickly began offing Drathonians, staring on the far left to avoid being flanked. By the time he'd sniped about 25 the rest of the dimwits had a general lock on his location. A hail of fire flew at him, quickly knocking over the tree next to him. Shimmying back, Jack pushed himself off into the ditch that Kwon and the pilots were in. It was short, just barely long enough to fit all of them in it, but at least it was deep enough to give them complete cover. Ruth was somewhere off to their far left, laying in wait. Jack's intent was to wait for the fire to die down, but several minutes passed by with no signs of it slowing. These dumb lumps certainly were thorough.

Jack shoved the end of his rifle out of the ditch, using the scope display on his visor to keep an eye on the progress of the lizards. They had closed in even more, only about half a click off now. The hum of the tanks could now be heard in the distance again... Jack and the others had maybe 5 minutes before the entire Drathonian battalion was on top of them. He turned to the pilot sitting next to him in the ditch. "So are you any good at using a rifle? We may be needing some help when everything goes to $#!T in about 2 minutes. By the way... what's your name? I feel weird just calling you pilot dude."

Steven was starting to feel more confident now that he was with a group of marines. Unfortunatly though, the confidence was broken again shortly thereafter as more shot flew over his head. The best he could do now was to keep holding on to his unconscious friend and to keep running as fast as he could.
With his adrenaline pumping, Steven barely noticed that they had slowed and gone down into a small ditch. Collapsing to the ground, his feelings of helplessness returned. He found it almost funny to think that after all his time fighting dogfights, that he would be killed on the ground.
His thoughts were broken as the last of the marines entered the ditch and spoke to him. "I'm Steven Kerning, and I have never so much as held a rifle in my life," he responded calmly to the question. Now he felt worse.

Through her scope she watched the marines and pilots try futilely to make headway against the drathonians who steadily were closing in on them. She remained where she was and let the drathonians pass a mile in front of her. When the lizards were a good distance away and the marines had taken cover, she opened up fire on the drathonians from behind. She went quickly through rounds as she began to pick them off. By doing so she was hoping for either one or two things to happen. One, she wanted to reduce the number of hostiles facing the marines. And two, she hoped some would turn and come towards her.

She re-opened the comm. link to the Hymn, ”The Other Scourge fighters have been shot down. Is assistance needed? Over.” She waited for the familiar crackling of a reply. ”Good job agents. Yes, you are needed. Some marines have been put in a...shall we say sticky situation. An entire battalion of Drathonians are headed toward them and your help could be useful. Over.” She nodded, and began uploading the co-ordinates into their computers. "Affirmative, we will assist. Over." She closed the link. ”You hear that?” she asked her partner, knowing full well that he did. ”Mhhhm...” was his only reply. She shrugged and lowered their altitude slowly, falling back to where they were before, and continuing onwards towards the Drathonian battalion.

They reached the battalion in a short time, and she scanned the area, spotting the large mass of Drathonians. She could not spy the Marines yet, and figured they were hiding in the trees. They split, and approached the Drathonians from behind. ”Shall we begin?” she inquired of the other. ”I’m ready when you are.” he replied. She nodded and flicked some switches, then abruptly dropped altitude; the scourge fell with a screeching noise, and then she sped backwards while shooting at the first rows, taking them out easily.

As the energy blasts pounded down on the Drathonian column, the lizards broke and scattered. There was no longer any fire coming down on Jack's position, and the Drathonians within range were in the direct line of fire of two very angry, traitorous pilots. This was their chance! "Move, move, move! Kwon, Ruth, Steven, let's get the hell out of here!" Not bothering to wait for anyone to pick up the incapacitated pilot, Jack bent down and slung him over his shoulder. The man weighed almost as much as he did, but Jack was getting an energizing wave of adrenaline that allowed him to carry the man with relative ease.

Kwon was already out of the ditch, and Jack grabbed an outstretched arm to pull himself out of the pit. Ruth was waiting for them, turned towards them to provide supporting fire. Without looking back, Jack charged away from the Drathonian line, giving his partners a difficult time keeping up. He was seeing double, no longer even sweating ( a more sinister symptom than you would think... when you're no longer sweating it means your body is completely out of spare fluids and going into heat stroke. People can die if not treated quickly enough. ), and felt like his guts were going to crawl out his mouth, but still Jack's hardened muscles refused to buckle under the increasingly torturous situation his body was going through.

Steven didn't need to be told twice. Almost right as Jack spoke Steven started sprinting out of the ditch. Purely out of curiosity he looked back over his shoulder to see the scourges firing on the drathonians. Seeing this made him once again long to be in the cockpit of some sort of ship, and at the moment he didn't care what kind of ship. But he quickly looked back and focused on putting on foot in front of the other and keeping Jack in sight.
As he ran he couldn't help but think about what had happened to him today. He was shot down, fell from a tree, came within five feet of a drathonian, and now being chased by a surprisingly large number of hostiles.
It was times like this that made Steven remember why he hated being planet-side.

The firefight left somewhat behind, Jack and the others cleared the horizon, escaping from the line of sight of the lizard legion. Still holding everyone to a swift forced march, Jack pressed on, ignoring the aches and pains of his body as the extreme strain he was putting himself through grew exponentially worse. They were getting close to help: any minute now they would rendezvous with Kai's evac squad. Grunting and biting his tongue, he pressed on.

The group came to a fair-sized river, slicing through the forest like a small wound. It was down a short ravine, perhaps 5 meters deep to the surface of the water, and was moving fairly rapidly. Looking upriver, Jack spotted a shallower section where the cliff narrowed enough to get a boost up on the other side. Jogging upstream, Jack sloshed into the knee-deep river. The crossing was filled with massive boulders and fallen trees, creating a maze-like path to the other side. At the very least, this broke the current of the river somewhat, and made it easy to walk across.

Barely halfway through, apprehension kicked in to the back of Jack's mind. Eyes darting upriver, he caught the source of the sensation: a dozen Drathonians were charging along the bank behind them, shouting and pointing at the group. Jack had just enough time to hop roughly behind a nearby boulder before they began opening fire. He was reaching the end of his fuse; a man could only put up with being shot at so much in one day. As the adrenaline began kicking in, Jack set the unconscious man he was carrying down against the boulder.

Immediately, Jack could tell something was wrong. The adrenaline pumped through him, bringing a burning sensation to every nerve in his body. He tried to disregard it, to grab for his rifle, but his arms wouldn't budge. His muscles locked, and a harsh ringing broke out in his ears. His vision blurred, and he fell hopelessly to his knees in the water. The final thread was tugging free: the vice on his brain was reaching critical. Jack released a cry of agonizing pain, but when noise would have come out, all he could do was cough up blood. Completely destabilized, Jack passed out in the river, collapsing with his face down in the water.

Steven, like Jack, was dangerously close to collapsing, and being a pilot he lacked the physical and mental strength that the marines had. Despite all the adrenaline in his system and his mind urging him to continue, he found out quickly enough that his body just wasn't up for it. As more and more time passed he fell farther and farther behind.
As they neared the river, Steven's body simply gave up and his legs buckled under him. Falling to his hands and knees he stared at the ground. It was spinning like when he was back in the tree, but this time it was just his mind that was spinning. Giving into his exhaustion, he heaved and threw up on the ground. "Sigh, what a boring way to die," he said to the air around him. He knew that he was becoming delirious, and he knew that he was going to die either by a heat related illness, or by the drathonians that were closing in around him.
Then he began to hallucinate again as he felt himself rise off of the ground and into the air. But he was confused when he stopped rising and started to move towards the river again. With what strength he had he turned his head from side to side. Kwon and Ruth were supporting his arms and half carrying half dragging him to the river.
"We are not going through all of this trouble for you to die on us," Kwon said with a grunt.
"Yeah. And besides it wouldn't look good on us if we return short one pilot," Ruth added.
Steven wasn't really sure if he wanted to live or not, but at least the river water felt good.

The scourge whipped through the air, hitting top speed for the vehicle, and confusing the hell out of the Drathonians below. She shot down many, taking no heed to their cries of outrage. Her partner was also achieving the same, and together they were starting to shrink the battalion rapidly.

She was circling back for another round of shooting, when her scourge was hailed. She presumed that the Drathonian commander was the one hailing her, and prepared herself for the verbal attack about to come. She opened the channel, ”WHAT ON DRATHONIA ARE YOU DOING, YOU WORTHLESS TRAITOR!” was all that came through amidst the swearing and screeching. ”YOU SHALL BE ELIMINATED!” the commander yelled fiercely, and the comms. Link was broken. She turned the comms. Link to her partner, ”I think we will be having some company soon...” , she sighed into the link, and then disconnected.

She shot down a whole row of Drathonians with a hail of bullets, and flew around again for another go. A few Drathonians were aiming shots at her ship, but shielding was too strong for such a small weapon as a Dross or Beater could penetrate. Then a few bullets came that could rock her ship, and she knew that the ‘company’ had arrived. She activated evasive manoeuvres and put shields at maximum, turning sharply to the right in efforts to avoid the bullets now spearing their way towards her scourge. The ship shook violently; it wasn’t built to withstand such sharp turns. She grimaced and dropped altitude abruptly, causing the ship to veer backwards and end up behind her enemy. She rose again, and let loose a rain of bullets upon the Scourges heavy shields. She watched with satisfaction as it shook violently, and flicked a switch to her left. The ship adjusted to a slightly higher position, and the scraping of metal announced that the small rocket had done just as she had commanded. The heat seeking rocket immediately locked on target and sped towards the Scourge. The blue shimmer of cracking energy filled the air as the rocket exploded, and a heat wave passed through her Scourge. She cursed under her breath for not moving farther away, as the explosion shook her ship violently. But her goal had been achieved, as the other Scourge was hurtling towards a conveniently Drathonian covered patch of land.

Warning lights flashed in the cockpit and high pitched whining erupted from the dash. Shields have been weakened to 81%. She flicked some switches and turned off the computer warnings almost as soon as they had begun.

She looked for her partner, and spotted his Scourge performing only what could be described as a clumsy dogfight with the other fighter. She veered towards him and unleashed bullets upon the offending enemy, wincing as her ship shook yet again with the loss of more shielding. The enemy Scourge began to smoke and she knew they had him. Her partner unleashed a hail of thick rounds upon the enemy, and the Scourge began losing altitude, bullet holes piercing the ship in various areas. Eventually it landed with a dull thud, and then but a moment later an explosion rented the ground around it into pieces.

About 30 seconds after Jack fell face first, Another stream of weapons fire erupted on the edge of the stream, but this time it was the opposite side, and comprised of the bright green energy bolts of the Terran Sugar and Bro rifles.Drathonian after drathonian fell, some tumbling down the cliff, as a squad of marines poured fire into the unexpecting lizards. There was a reason why Terrans wore green, and Drathonians were red.

Kai jumped down just in time to pull the unconscious Jack out of the water, hefting him into better cover. He yelled for Kwon and Ruth to bring Steven over, which they did immediately. Soon as they were safe, kai noticed the problems with all five of the soldiers before him. Aside from the unconscious pilot, every one of them had been at the very least grazed with a bullet. Jack was severely overheated, and Steven was going into shock. "just in time" thought Kai, calling back to command to report that they had made contact with the downed pilots and were pulling out.

Lugging the group up the side of the river was no easy task, but was accomplished just in time for more lizards to show up. Those tanks had been APC's, each carrying ten Drathonians, of various types; drakes, brawlers, shooters, the works. They now flung themselves full force upon the squad, who were in the process of retreating into the undergrowth. The marines weren't quite fast enough, and soon a firefight began anew, drathonians dropping quite quickly, due to their obvious colorings. Their numbers, however, were simply astounding, and they kept on coming. "Dang it! We need back up! send a platoon! we're being swamped" Kai shouted angrily over the radio, dodging a few incoming rounds. His men were barely hanging on, the only reason none had died yet was due to the full body armor that had been slowing them down. they were now quite thankful for it.

Clarissa was mentally yelling at herself, tell her body to keep moving. While rushing to a new vantage point so as to continue to be of use to the marines, she saw that she was gaining on them. They were slowing down. Confused by this she stopped and kneeled down to look through her scope. One of the marines had collapsed into the water, the unconscious pilot with him, while the other two marines hauled the other pilot towards the river. She also saw more drathonians approaching from down river, but there was little she could do about the lizards from where she was. So she began sprinting once more across the rocky slope.
Clarissa had almost reached a spot she had pre-designated as a snipe point when three gun shots broke her concentration and when three rounds flew past her head. Cursing under her breath she kept running without looking to see where the shots came from, for she already knew that the shots were from lizards and she would only slow herself down by trying to pinpoint them. The best she could do now was to scrub the snipe point and try to get to either a new snipe point or back to Terran controlled territory. Judging by how many rounds were now flying past her, she decided that the second option sounded the most sane.
Without further delay she picked up her speed and bolted in the same direction the marine company was going. Already aware that she would face a similar problem that the marines did, she was prepared when she came to the river. Behind her she was being pursued by a group of lizards, just down river from her was a twenty foot waterfall, and beyond that there was more lizards. Left with one option she ran up river a ways until the water became less deep and much less rough. That, however, didn’t say much for the water, even at only about six inches deep, was still moving swiftly towards the waterfall. She began to move carefully across the river. Stumbling only a few times she was almost across when another enemy round flew past her. Picking up the pace, she made it to the other side and wasted no time before renewing her sprint

Unfortunately for Clarissa, Drathonians are unfazed by water less than a foot or so deep, and splashed through at high speed, gaining on her as she stepped carefully across. Seeing it's opportunity, a Smasher leapt at her, the powerful burst of speed easily overcoming the smaller human's sprint. landing next to her, it kept running and swung a huge bladed weapon towards her legs, hoping to cut them off. the only good thing for the terran was that the smasher's buddies stopped firing at her, and were now behind, cheering him on.

***

The retreating squad of marines took note of the struggle going on just upriver of them, but were too preoccupied to do much to help Clarissa. Even so, Kai made a hand signal and two marines plunged sideways through the undergrowth to make the half mile sprint to her aid. Powerful and long ranged as they were, Sugar rifles were at a disadvantage in overgrown forests with no clear spots to fire through.

Clarissa felt as if she were watching herself through a small window. Seeing the blade arcing towards her legs, and seeing herself try desperately to avoid it. She saw herself leap to the side and somersault away from the drathonian but not quick enough to keep the blade from slicing through the skin and muscle of her left leg.
As she pulled out of the somersault she winced as she tried to stand. Thinking as quickly as her mind would let her she thought of how in the world she would get away now. Almost unwillingly she looked up at the Smasher, making eye contact. Almost as if it were laughing the smasher grinned, showing off its jagged teeth and making a sort of low growling noise. For one of the few times in her life, Clarissa found herself panicking for she was thinking that if this little duel turned into a hand-to-hand match she would be done for.
All she could do right now was to keep slowly circling the smasher while carefully moving towards the forest. She kept her gun ready

No. I'm not done here, yet. Get back up you worthless sack of flesh.

At length, Jack slowly came to. His head hurt like there was a pipe sticking through it and his entire body was feeling strangely numb. Stupid fool. You're probably dying. Pushing away from the marine holding him up, Jack caught Kai's gaze. "I'll hold them off. Get these men out of here." His words were low and deadly serious. There would be no arguing. Hobbling slowly back to the edge of the river, Jack could barely stand. His world was swaying like a ship at sea.

Dropping to a knee in the bushes, Jack brought his rifle up. He was seeing double, but was still aware enough to be able to hit between the two images of a lizard. The riverbank was taking fire from three directions, but that wasn't what caught his attention. Just up the river a ways, a small woman was trying to hold her own against a hulking Smasher. He was aware of the two marines heading up at his 9, but knew they wouldn't make it in time. He waited until they circled away from each other so he wouldn't risk shooting the girl, and let out a fully automatic spread against the lizard. The hail of blasts caught the thing in the side, sending it flopping sideways, being carried off in a pool of its own blood down the river.

Before he could turn to its comrades, Jack felt a lurching gag. Eyes going wide, he held himself back for a split second as he frantically pulled off his visor. Throwing it aside, Jack fell to all fours and vomited, spasms wracking his body.

Kai was busy with the battle at hand, firing as well as he could through the undergrowth as his squad made it's way back to safety with the rescuees in tow. He turned around to check just in time to catch Jack's eyes before he shouted something and ran off, firing somewhat wildly. Obviously the man had lost his wits, due to stress and exhaustion. As soon as Jack crouched and began vomiting, a medic was on him, quickly injecting him with a calming medicine that kept him alert, and slapping a nutrient supplement patch onto an exposed area of skin. Once jack stopped vomiting, the Medic helped him to his feet and pulled him back to the group, which had had to halt, allowing the Drathonians to move a bit closer to the group, the wild shots coming ever closer to the men with every second.

Jack shoved the medic away as he tried to ease him back towards the group. Whatever the guy had shoved into his body, it sure as hell wasn't making his brain hurt any less... although his vision was pulling a bit into focus now. The adrenaline was pumping hard through his veins once again. "I said get the hell out of here! I'll cover your @$$es." he yelled furiously, enunciating every word with harsh vigor, ensuring he would be heard clearly. He gave the medic another shove in the right direction. Turning back around, he found an unpleasant sight before him.

Namely a Drathonian trying to scale the ledge behind him. Firing wildly, a shot went through its throat and sent it tumbling back down, into what must have been half a dozen more lizards. As angry, gutteral shouts rang out below, Jack's gaze was once again drawn upstream...

In the moments he'd wasted with the medic, the rest of the squad of Drathonians after the unfortunate sniper had broken out in a full charge. There were four of them, just splashing into the river about 20 meters away from Clarissa. He swore under his breath as he swung up his gun and fired. He'd have to cover her and the marines still closing in on her as well. Within a fraction of a few seconds, the two charging Drathonians in front went plummeting to the ground. Their comrades, unhindered by the crumpling bodies, leapt cleanly over them, now just a few steps away from Clarissa.

He froze before he could fire the last shots, hearing a harsh grunt from right next to him. Without even turning, Jack knew what was coming at him. He dove backwards as the heavily muscled Smasher came careening into the spot Jack had just been standing. It threw its weight sideways, bringing it to an abrupt halt... but not before bringing its blade around in a swift and deadly arc. It struck home, plowing into the leg of Jack's body armor. In a cough of sickly smoke, the leg jittered for a moment. No doubt the assisting hydraulic had just been cleaved in half. Immediately afterwards Jack felt the sting of the blade biting into the flesh of his calf. It wasn't very deep - the armor had done its job - but Jack still felt a slackening in his foot as the muscle holding it up was practically cut in half.

Jack came crashing to the ground, being pulled down by the blade lodged in his leg. The lizard gave a grunt, trying to tug it free of his victim. The first pull failed, and before he could have another go, Jack's good leg had come around the side of its ugly, contorted face. About two dozen energy bolts came blasting up behind it, turning the face into an indistinguishable mosh of craters and blood (definitely an improvement). Forced to leave Clarissa to fend for herself, Jack kicked the still-standing corpse down, shuffle-crawling away as the rest of the Drathonians hopped over the precipice. Jack met them with a hail of bullets, knocking the unprepared lizards to their deaths.

Jack struggled to his feet, swaying precariously as he did so. His left leg felt stiff as lead, and refused to budge. He was forced to move his entire leg, armor and all, with the strength of his thigh. He clomped awkwardly over to the edge of the riverbank, leaning against a tree for support. Immediately greeted by a hail of fire, Jack fell back on his butt, firing back feverishly at the source. The rest of the battalion of Drathonians had finally reached the river, and the bank directly adjacent from him was now swarming with them.

As at least 50 Drathonians fired, charged, or took aim at Jack, he was forced backward along the lip. With a deafening rumble, a Drathonian tank came pushing through the trees, knocking them aside without prejudice like twigs. Swearing yet again, Jack let loose a barrage of fire at the connective plating of the tank, to no avail. He swore once more. His tiger rifle couldn't pierce heavy armor, and he didn't have time right this second to switch to his sugar. With a growl of total frustration, Jack shoved himself farther backwards, knowing he had at most 20 seconds to get back to a more defensible position before half the Drathonian army was on his side of the river. All the while his headache was in full swing, practically punching him back every time he made a tactical decision.

She saw a few Marines stumbling about near the riverbank, Drathonians fast approaching. She cleared a row with hurled gunfire, and veered the ship in the direction of the riverbank. An ominous creaking sound rushed from the cockpit, notifying her that the scourge was not built to handle such manoeuvres. She grimaced and scanned the situation, realizing that with the scourges manoeuvrability and accuracy she would not be able to approach much closer to the Marines without putting them in danger.

She lowered her altitude and sped forward, shooting as many enemies down as she could. She sped past the riverbank and shot as accurately towards the Drathonians closest to the Marines as she could. Water sprayed out of the river as bullets penetrated the surface and corpses fell to the banks.

She pulled upwards and away, and veered back towards the still approaching battalion, shooting down more lizards. A loud beeping erupted inside the cockpit, and she almost gave herself whiplash the way she moved to the scanners. Five blinking lights signalled the arrival of more Scourge fighters in her area, and she saw them approaching on the horizon. ”There’s more? Goddamnit, can we take this many?” her partner crackled through the comm., the sounds of gunfire pouring through both links. ”Should we try evasive manoeuvres?” she questioned, ”I think so...” he replied grimly and closed the link, moving his ship to a higher altitude. She followed suit, checking various switches, levels, and shields on the way up.

A warning shot from the head Scourge whizzed past their ships. She ignored the hail from them, and instead fired a round back, knowing full well that it would just anger them. She hoped that in their anger they would become confused, but also knew that it was against the odds that they would be able to defeat all five of them. The five enemies split up and headed for them from all directions, aiming weapons with precision that only a lifetime of training for battle in these machines could achieve.

She swerved to the right and sped downwards, screeching filling her ears. Gunshots whizzed past, a few clipping the tip of a wing and shaking the whole ship. Warnings were already sounding, yelling to her overworked ears that the shields were weakened. She ignored the noises approaching her, and focused on keeping the ship steady as it twisted through the air away from the triangular formation. She rose again, her ship steadying for but a moment as the followers changed direction as fast as they could. She heard, and felt, a rough explosion, and quickly looked back to see the remains of one of the enemy spiralling towards the ground as her partner sped away. She took the distraction of the moment to shoot back a few large explosive shells, two of them hitting the tip of a scourge and seriously damaging the shielding. Her enemies’ screams of anguish could almost be heard by looking at their expressions as they glared at her through the glass of their cockpits.

The heavy fire from the scourges bought Jack some time, enough to get himself back a good 50 meters and switch over to his sugar rifle. He flinched a bit at the arrival of the attacking ships, their engines screeching over his head. Moments later, a heavy explosion rang out overhead, and a scourge came plummeting down just over 30 meters away. It came down like a meteor, throwing chunks of tree, stone, and earth all about. The cloud of dust it threw up blinded everything nearby for a good minute. Jack used the opportunity to switch to heat vision on his scope and blast away the few Drathonians that had made it across the river in the confusion.

The ship was burning heavily, it's gas reserves leaking out in small explosions. The fire had spread to the nearby plant life, and within the time that the dust was settling, the smoky fire had been kicked up by the wind, throwing flames all along the river bank. Jack had the tactical advantage for the moment, but now more Drathonians were crawling swiftly up the ledge, undetectable in the raging flames. Their tough scales granted them a fair level of protection from the fire, and soon enough at least a dozen lizards were charging past the wreckage of the downed fighter.

Presently, a sudden barrage of fire came at both Jack and the marine squad from the east flank. A large segment of the Drathonian battalion had swung around in a pincer formation, putting heavy fire on them from the side. At least 100 Drathonians and a dozen tanks were swinging down from upriver.

Soon the two soldiers reached clarissa, and in the relative openness of the area above the waterfall, easily downed the remaining 3 or four lizards, grabbing clarissa and hauling her up in a two-man carry, the marines hurriedly added another to the list of rescued.

Now Kai himself was getting miffed by Jack's brazen stubbornness, and ran to get the man, grabbing him by the collar of his jacket sticling up above the top of his armored suit, and pulling him bodily away from the fast approaching enemies "No-one gets left behind Dumb@$$!!" The captain yelled at Jack, ignoring the weapons fire, trusting the armor to take care of any of it at this range.

With the addition of a second flank being fired upon, the squad had do divide it's duties, and with so many helping the wounded, only about seven men could be utilised to fire in each direction at a time. The retreat changed directions again, heading in as opposite a direction from both groups as possible. If backup didn't arrive soon, it was going to be a hard five miles back to base.

***

In the sky, a sudden barrage of green flashed across, hitting another scourge fighter, causing the shields to crackle before finally going out to let more green energy bolts in, frying the ship and it's pilot, the thing came tumbling down, landing atop a tank, hitting about five or six lizards as it came to rest. More Scimitars had come to the aid of Still, and rushed past in a multicolored blur, the military's lax policy on paint scemes making the craft all the more phantasmic as they rushed by in the atmosphere.

***

The drathonians, now on the Marines' side of the gully, continued after the small group, whom they outnumbered almost twenty-to one. Not bad odds for a terran marine in most cases, but right now, with injured pilots and marines, plus the ones needed to carry them out, the group was slowed and shorthanded. Lizards surged ahead, firing wildly, hoping to catch a terran by surprise. Unfortunately for the Drathonians, Dross and Beater rifles just didn't have the power to kill an armored foe at that range without a really luck shot, and were so inaccurate that that shot was nigh impossible for all but the mostly skilled marksman. Most of those Drathonian marksmen were now dead, their bodies forming a barrier to protect the now-entrenched terrans from an onslaught of scaly madness.

A few Drathonians, mostly Smashers, were running ahead of the group, zig-zagging through the undergrowth, attempting to pinpoint the group of terrans. Getting closer each time, every single one was shot down as it ran. though it did much to thin out the drathonian ranks, it gave them a clear path towards their prey, allowing the tanks to point in the correct direction. These metal behemoths now came rumbling forth, firing wildly into the trees, knowing their chance wasn't in hitting a Terran, but in crushing them with fallen trees.

Jack grinned wildly at Kai, keeping up his suppressive fire as the other soldier dragged him away. With the number of Drathonians coming up their butts, they needed it. "Kiddo, just wait till I can pull rank on you, I'd still be back there soloing the whole damn Drathonian army." The devilish grin he gave Kai was priceless. Hobbling along with Kai in a kind of 3 1/2 legged walk, Jack was back to the group within the next minute.

Looking up to see the new ships in the sky, Jack turned to Kai. "We can't outrun them at this rate. Our best bet is to buckle down and let air support give us some cover fire while we wait for help." Jack may have only been a private, but he was smarter than the average person.

"If you keep acting up like this, you'll never pull rank on me" Kai joked back, noting how Jack was coming back to his old self, the nutrients being absorbed by his bloodstream were reinvigorating him and allowing him to keep moving better than he had when he had 'crashed'. Kai saw the blood dripping out of Jack's leg, and the nasty hole in his armor. "You're definitely getting sent back up when we reach the LZ, buddy" The captain said.

Gazing up at the passing Scimitars and Scourges, Kai could only comment "They're pretty busy up there i think, the lizards sent up another wave of ships, and once those are down, the Scimmy's can only take out Tanks decently, not soldiers" Hobbling along in such an odd manner carrying jack, Kai still managed to hip-fire a few Drathonians into oblivion, the optical sight uplinked to his HUD.

***

Overall the group was making pretty good time, seemingly approaching the main force of Terrans twice as fast as they were moving. Then one guy realized that the main force was moving towards them, in a major push, as several troop transports had landed nearby and were offloading a few thousand Terran marines. The drathonians kept following the squad of rescuers, not noticing they were chasing the bacon right into the frying pan.

She was frantically steering the Scourge through the sky, unleashing bullet after bullet to lose her enemies, when a number of beeps appeared on her screen. She looked over to see a multi-coloured blur of Scimitars soaring through the air past her. She almost screamed with joy. She hoped the pilots would recognize her as a Terran, she figured they would, as her signals had been set to appear as ‘friendly’ on their screens.

She flew upwards and made a turn, so that she was facing the same direction as the Scimitars. She unleashed a hailing of bullets towards one of the damaged Scourges which now, thanks to the Scimitars, was on the defensive. The enemy ship shook violently and started losing altitude.

Steven regained consciousness to find himself being carried on the back of a marine and he was welcomed with a throbbing headache. He gazed around trying to shake his disorientation. He still heard gunshots and explosions, so he knew he was still in the field. Much to his dismay he heard shouting close by, which agitated his already painful headache. Looking over his shoulder to find the source he saw Kai and one of the marines that had rescued him, so to speak. For the most part he could not understand a single word, but eventually he could hear well enough to make out the dilemma. "Hey Captain," he said quietly. Aware of how quietly he had spoken he said it again, this time louder. "Hey Captain! If scimitars wont work I can always call my squadron of shamshirs bombers to lend a hand."

Even yelling, Kai couldn't hear Steven over the din of battle. lucky for him, the mike of the marine who was carrying him picked it up and sent the message to Kai anyway. Scooting over there, still holding Jack up, Kai yelled back "Bombers? i think that could be more effective than what we have now. How close in can they drop without hitting us?" The captain asked, wanting as much slack as possible as they made their way towards the main Terran force.

Jack grunted as Kai talked to Steven about the bombers, a little preoccupied with the platoon of angry Drathonians with swords getting close enough for him to smell their rank breath before he shot each one down. "I think the risk of getting blown up is worth taking to avoid the risk of getting shot. Kai, radio the Hymn for bomber support -- oh $#!T!" As he spoke, his reflexes were fractionally slowed, and a Smasher sidestepped his shot and tried to sideswipe him. Jack shoved Kai forward a little, and the giant blade came arcing dangerously past Jack's chest. The sword ever-so-slightly scraped against the chest plate, making a fingernails on chalk sound. As his walking partner regained his composure, Jack dropped a pace to kick the lizard in the shin before making a broad sweeping of fully automatic fire across it's body. The creature fell dead, but the one behind it was going to come even closer to decapitating him with all the time it had taken to kill the first.

"--and do it quick!" Jack growled. He unleashed an indiscriminate wave of rounds out of his sugar, shooting straight through the trunk of a tree and delivering fatal shots to 3 more Drathonians. With a fatal click, a chill went down Jack's spine. He needed to reload. One of the nearest Drathonians had made it all the way to him, and obviously heard the sound. It grinned sadistically as it lunged, sweeping it's sword straight towards Jack's head with perfect accuracy. Jack swore out loud, and did the first thing he could think of: shove his sugar between the sword and his face. He closed his eyes, cringing, unsure how good of a shield the gun would be. With a very dull thud, Jack was pushed backwards into Kai by the heavy blow. Opening his eyes, Jack was relieved to find the sword had sliced through the gun but was lodged in his chest armor. The gun had been strong enough to absorb most of the blow, and redirecting it just far enough to send it into his armor, just inches below the neckline. In the back of his mind, Jack thanked whichever god was looking out for him as he kicked the filthy lizard in the crotch.

"Well Sir, my shamshir bombers are equipped with explosives ranging in power from about the size of a standard grenade to bombs big enough to take out 7 city blocks," Steven said slowly, still trying to shake his headache. "If I could get a radio I could hail one of the groups and give them coordinates."
Finally Steven's head had cleared well enough so that he was able to think straight. Feeling much better than before, he felt that he was able to walk on his own. Signaling to the marine, he got down and started moving at the pace set by the group.

Doing two things at once was usually no trouble for Kai. Right now, Paying attention to Steven AND Jack was a bit much, especially when jack was trying to use a sugar like a Bro. Hearing the click, then the swift thunking sound, he looked back to see jack holding half a Sugar, with a sword stuck to his chest. Kai turned around and blew the attacking drathonian's head off before turning back to Steven, Taking off his helmet and throwing it to the pilot. "The HUD should give you all the info you need, talk into the mike, someone at HQ's gotta be listening, right now, i have something else to worry about." Turning back around, Kai yanked hard on the Sword in Jack's armor, pulling it out, then handed it to him saying "This is what you get for breaking one of our guns", in a half sarcastic tone of voice. Jack would also hear a couple of clicks, as Kai reloaded the Bro for him.

Jack was feeling maniacally giddy now. He cackled like a madman when Kai handed him the sword. "It's just what I've always wanted, papa!" Awkwardly, he let go of Kai's shoulder and wielded the massive scimitar with both hands. He still had to half-run backwards to keep pace with the rest of the group, so he was hobbling along like some kind of retarded crab. Another Smasher made it all the way to him, and seemed to think that a human wielding a sword was some kind of joke. The savagely bemused grin on it's face was cut short as it moved to swing at him. With a quick jilt, Jack flung the sword around, almost cleaving it's exposed chest in half. The lizard gagged in surprise, toppling to the ground as Jack dislodged the sword. Grabbing the reloaded Bro out of Kai's hands, he grinned even harder, a demonic gleam in his eye. "I really want to use this sword right now, but necessity dictates that I need to kill these lizards as quickly as possible." He cocked the gun and mowed down another group of charging Drathonians. "How disappointing." He said, frowning a little. He redoubled his pace, grabbing back onto Kai's handy shoulder for support.

She shot a heated flare towards the slowly sinking enemy Scourge, and watched as it shuddered with the impact and fell to the planet’s surface in a fiery ball. She smirked at the crushed Drathonians below, and looked to her radar, seeing that there were now only two of the enemy Scourges left. One of them was smoking from its right wing-tip as it sped in ‘terror’ from two following Scimitars. The Scimitars were hailing it with clouds of bullets; most missing their target, but some hitting the wings and leaving scorch marks. She could tell even from this distance that the Scourge would be losing the engine shielding soon, and hoped that not soon after the bullets would pierce the engine core and ignite the fluids inside. She quickly turned to see if the Marines had traversed any farther away, and was pleased to note that hordes of Terran Marines were approaching the battlefield. She wasn’t sure what to make of the brush fire now scorching the ground, as it could turn out to either help or hinder the Terrans. She hoped it wasn’t the latter; she had a hunch that the fire had been started by her gunfire.

She saw the Other Scourge approaching from behind a grove of trees, it seemed the pilot had hidden until the ‘proper’ time, and she grimaced as a few bullets pinged off her shields. Warning. Warning... her computer chimed tonelessly. She ignored the warnings and instead began shooting at the Scourge, and sped up in chase. The pilot grinned evilly, figuring that he would win, and sped away. She kept chase, and shot bullet after bullet after her ‘prey’. She grimaced again as a stray bullet from the other Scourge scraped the surface of hers, and the shielding was brought down to 68%. Her ship was shaking slightly from going too fast, but she knew that the enemy was probably suffering the same thing. She flicked a switch and heard the scrape of metal and releasing of hatches as the last two of her heat-seeking rockets sped towards the enemy. She raised altitude and went as far away as she could, signalling to Scimitars near to follow suit. One rocket hit the left wing and blew it straight off, the metal hurling through the air and into the forest. The other rocket hit the undercarriage and blew it almost completely apart, pieces of ship flying to the ground and the sounds of tearing metal causing the Drathonians to look up in alarm.

She pondered the victory momentarily, then turned the Scourge around to join the Scimitars, only to see that the last enemy was about to be blown to smithereens by the combined forces of four Scimitars. She gave the Scimitar pilots a thumbs-up as she passed them and flew over the Drathonian crowds. She threw bullets down onto their forces, following the lead of the Scimitars.

Clarissa remained silent the entire time she was with the marines. Mainly it was because of her pride, and partially it was because she did not like marines all that much. So as she kept pace with the group, thanks to the support from two ruff looking marines, she was content to remain the observer.
For the most part she didn't even notice what was going on around her anyway. She was to busy scolding herself for letting herself get caught up in such a mess, to busy thinking of the things she could have done to avoid the thing entirely. She made a mental note that the instant the opportunity came up, she would make sure all of the appropriate disciplinary actions were taken.

Suddenly, Still would notice a small continuous, whining beep, growing ever louder. Soon, In Drathonian toungue, a warning began playing in her cockpit, which translated to this: "Warning, Incoming Cruise missile" From the direction of the main drathonian force, the missile soared, locked dead on it's target, moving fast enough to intercept even a scimitar in the atmosphere. there was no avoiding it, only trying to get hit in a way which didn't kill her.

***

"You Really need to get your head checked, Soldier" Was all Kai could say, to the fairly deranged Jack Ghallager hanging from his shoulder. "hey, check your HUD, How far to the main force, Five minutes or so, right?" he asked, somewhat clumsily reloading his Sugar, as it was a bit awkward with Jack on one shoulder. Bringing the thing up to firing level, he began to take potshots at unsuspecting lizards, and, in a couple minutes, the green bursts of Sugars in sniper mode began flying over the group's heads as Terran snipers began throwing covering fire over their comrades. It seemed that, against the odds, the rescue party would come out intact, with all of the downed pilots. one thing was for sure. Every single soldier would need to see the medics, and every single soldier would need a new suit of body armor.

Jack could only grin back at his comrade as he hobbled onward, hanging onto him for dear life. He grunted confusedly at the question about the main force. Jack had left his HUD on the ground back near the river, and had no idea what was going on. The two marines lugging the injured sniper along finally made it back to the squad. It was a miracle they were still alive, having carried the casualty while avoiding fire and laying down their own.

Jack looked at the girl's injured leg with a wicked grin, patting his own. "I see I'm not the only one who's good at stepping knee deep in Drathonian pie. So vicious it bites back, yeh?" He bellowed over the screech of weapons fire, spraying a hail of green discharge from his little Bro.

"Sir! Shamshirs inbound! ETA 45 seconds and counting!" Steven shouted to Kai. He had just finished the antagonizing process of authority checks and rechecks that was required to access the locked channel, and to top it off he had to deal with his squadron's insistent questions about what had happened. "We might want to hurry home. It is gonna rain!" he chided as he ran with the marines. He even managed to get a laugh in between his heavy breathing. But his spur of humor quickly died out as he became once again aware of his limitations compared to these marines, and he had also become aware that he had been hit on his right shoulder blade. "I will never understand how in the marines do it" he thought to himself casually.
"10 seconds and counting!" Steven shouted as more time had passed. Out of anticipation he glanced back over his shoulder and up to the skies. Off in the distance he spotted a glint of light bouncing off of an unpainted fuselage, followed by two more similar glints of light. He grinned proudly as he watched the approaching ships for a few more seconds before looking forward again, but he also felt envious of them. He wanted to be flying again.

The shamshirs approached the drop coordinates that they had received from Steven and prepared to let loose the desired payload. As requested by Steven, they had prepared two salvos of missiles strong enough to level three city blocks. They were going to make two passes to be sure the entire area was enveloped. "Drop coordinates approaching. Release locks and drop on my command," said the lead pilot. A few moments later six objects, each the size of a grown man, began plummeting down into the center of a mass of drathonians who only now began scrambling for cover.

Kai Nodded in recognition of Steven's yell, seeing the same objects in the sky, he followed them with his eyes, momentarily stopping firing. Just before the bombs made impact, Kai felt something hot and powerful impact on his chest armor, The 'Savior' armor the only thing preventing the hit from being fatal. He was blown backwards, taking Jack down with him, then, while still flying from the beater rifle's blast, a second blast hit the group, this time the shock wave from the bombs dropped by the Shamshirs, just too close, but not close enough to be fatal. Being closest to the blast, Jack got the worst of it, being scorched and whipped about by a ragdoll, shielding the already stunned Kai a bit, Though both were sent flying still. Steven, and the part of the squad with him were hit almost as bad, knocked straight to the ground, and past that everyone would lose balance and be very hot very suddenly.

The Drathonians, Obviously, fared a lot worse. Those within 100 yards of the impact point were obliterated, 100 past that dead, 50 past that mortally wounded, and beyond to about the distance of Kai's squad, Knocked unconscious and overheating.

***

The Terran force watched as the destructive power unleashed by three small aircraft devastated the mass of lizards. Many wondered why they hadn't just done this in the first place, glass the planet and such. Well, The planet was important, not only for resources, but also for one other thing, which they would discover soon enough, the real reason that they had invaded the planet.

But for now, a platoon was dispatched to grab the now disoriented and damaged rescue team, and secure their extraction from the battlefield. Day one for the Hymn's marines would soon come to a close, but tomorrow wasn't going to be any easier.

Jack went careening through the air, blasting over Kai like a freaking rocket. He went slamming into the next marine in front of him, having just enough time to throw up an arm to protect his head from being crushed like a melon by the force of the impact. Instead, a searing arc of pain shot through the arm for a split second before going completely numb. His armor gave a small grinding noise from within, and the nauseated Jack suspected it was broken bones rubbing against it. The marine he landed on was relatively fine - the lucky b$#%&rd just got pushed to the ground by Jack. How many mortal wounds had Jack sustained already today? The number seemed absolutely ridiculous. He was glad his medical costs weren't subtracted from his paycheck. He tried to sit up, but all that would move was his neck. "Hey, Kai, looks like you're gonna have to freaking carry me now. Hahahahaha." Despite the feeling that he was going to pass out, Jack couldn't help but laughing. Oh, wait, there it goes. He passed out.

Aurelia dragged her head up out of her pillow. Yawning heavily, she glanced tiredly at her clock. She sat there blinking for a few moments before the time registered in her mind. Leaping out of bed, she screamed, "Oh, $#!T! I slept through the freaking battle again!" In a flash she was changed into her (less-than-standard-issue) uniform, grabbing up her com sleeves and pulling them on. An entire column of missed messages flashed on the interface. "Oh, shoot shoot shoot. I've probably screwed up the whole battle with all the calls I've missed!"

Charging out of her room, it was a mad dash down several abandoned corridors to get to the personnel lift. The entire time she was furiously tapping at her arm-mounted computer, trying to make up for lost time. Coming to a sudden halt at the door, she popped into the lift as soon as it opened and slammed on the starred button that read 'primary operations'. Moments later she was dashing down yet another hallway, this one filled with other people who were in a bit less of a hurry than her. Weaving her way past all the officers that filled the hall, she finally came to a large double door that bluntly stated 'bridge'.

She was through the instant the doors parted, unfortunately enough the momentum pushed her along before she even realized someone was standing right in front of it. Aurelia slammed face-first into the back of the ship's avatar, knocking herself back on her rear after impacting the rocklike weight of the android. Knowing this was probably the worst possible way she could have gotten caught, Aurelia simply sat there, a hand to her head where it hurt conveniently covering the embarrassment on her face. "Shoot..." she groaned to herself.

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Kai
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Re: Chapter 3: Up from the Ashes

Post by Kai » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:01 pm

The annoying beep caused her attention to turn back to the scanners, and she immediately noticed the rapidly approaching missile. She scowled darkly at the offensive scanner, and quickly looked back. The missile was approaching fast, and she had to figure out what she was going to do; it was way too fast for her to avoid. It seemed her only choice would be to drop right into the battle, but that also presented the problems of being a Drathonian ‘traitor’ and, well, looking like a Drathonian to the Terrans who hated them so much.

She broke from the crowd of Scimitars and sped towards the forest, hoping to get as far away as she could. She only got about 400 feet away from the Scimitars, and knew that she had to escape or she would be blown to smithereens by the missile. She flicked a switch or two, and her cockpit opened, shooting her out into the sky with a loud whooshing noise. She descended rapidly, even with the parachute. The missile crashed into the ship, and a moment of utter silence followed before a huge explosion shook her whole body, and the ship exploded into little flaming bits. She was propelled forwards, almost down into the trees now. She covered her head as best she could as smoke surrounded her and the noise of the explosion drowned the battle out. A shard of sharp, thick cockpit glass suddenly slammed into her right arm, and she almost didn’t feel it for a moment until the dull, burning pain began to seep through her. She bit her lip to keep from crying out, knowing that if the Drathonians or un-informed Terran marines were to find her it would not be pretty. She crashed into a tree now, and slid through the branches smoothly. Her parachute wasn’t tangled too badly, and she managed to touch ground and release her harness. She collapsed in pain, and curled herself against the trunk.

Over the din of battle, Yeling could be heard, in english, not Drathonian, which was fairly new to this planet, for now. Just as (the now unconcious) Kai had predicted, the main force made their way down to the squad, effectively rescuing the rescuers. Amid shouts of orders and rushing soldiers, the tired marines and numerous casualties were carted back to the Landing zone to be rested and patched up to be sent out as soon as they were ready. Sure, to some that may seem harsh on the men, but with so few against so many, sacrifices must be made, corners must be cut, and men (and women) must show the whole universe what they're made of.

***

Meanwhile, back in orbit

Evelyn stood on the bridge, in standby mode. Being a ship's avatar, designed, built, and programmed to coordinate interstellar warships in battle, she wasn't any use unless the ship itself was doing something. So now, she stood, eyes closed, seemingly asleep, except for the fact that she didn't appear to be breathing (this was due to the simulated breathing, that made her appear more lifelike when on, being not needed when in standby) Shortly, a Thump would be heard soon after the opening of a door, and Evelyn switched back to active mode, turning around to look at the young girl whom had just impacted on her backside and say " Oh dear! I'm sorry, was I in your way?" With a warm smile and an outstretched hand, she bent down to help Aurelia up.

Steven, expecting to feel the shock-wave from the explosion he had requested, braced himself and tried to cover the parts of his body that weren't covered. But even when he braced himself he was still knocked off of his feet by the backlash of the bombs. Out of instinct he tucked his head down as he flew through the air next to two other marines. All that he could remember of what happened next was that he collided with a tree and got the wind knocked out of him, and then the lights went out again.

When the wave reached the group of marines it easily knocked Clarissa off of her feet along with the marine that was helping her along. She stumbled forward a bit before being thrown forward and coming to a rough landing. She shouted in pain as she landed on her already wounded leg. Looking around she saw a gruesome scene. All but three or four of the rescue group were still even conscious, the other lying scattered all over the place, but there were not just marines here there was also several drathonians lying close by as well. And past the drathonians smoke was rising from where the bombs impacted. It was an awesome and terrifying sight. Large scale destruction. Partially out of impulse and partially out of a need to do something she began to drag herself over to the nearest person to see if they were alright. "Are you alright?" she asked insistently to a man lying against a tree. "Are you alright?"

Steven woke up to the sight of a woman talking to him. "I must either be delirious or dead because I think I just saw an angel," he mumbled the cliche pick up line. Clearing his head he sat up with groan and got a good look at the surrounding area. "I am not used to seeing the explosions from this angle," he said wiping the last bit of haze from his eyes. He then felt something warm on his hand. Looking down he saw blood, and after some looking he found that he was bleeding from a reopened wound. "Sorry about the pick up line," he said to the woman as he stood up. "I am fine. Are you okay?" He grimaced as he looked at what the explosion had done.

Jack remained conscious all the way back to the LZ, where a disorganized medical corps was frantically trying to deal with the massive casualties coming in from the front lines. Portable facilities had been made last-minute for a ground campaign, and it was obvious that the sheer volumes of injured soldiers coming in were too much for the haphazard field hospital. Jack lay on a stretcher with all manner of painkillers pumping into him as two officers argued nearby on whether his injuries were too severe to transport him, or if the facilities here weren't sufficient enough to fix the amount of internal bleeding he had. He lay there in a haze, the pain of a few minutes ago being replaced by a deep fog over his thoughts caused by all the drugs going through his system. Within a few seconds he'd passed out.

-----

Meanwhile, back in orbit


Aurelia cringed a bit at the fact that the admiral hadn't taken any notice to the fact that the girl should have been on the bridge hours ago. A nervous chuckle escaped her lips. "Eheh... not at all ma'am. All my fault..." Uncomfortably, she edged towards her station, curtly nodding to her commanding officer. Finally reaching it, she turned and wirelessly interfaced her com sleeve with the computer station. A complete display of all troop movements on status reports appeared on the greatly enlarged world map before her. She could clearly tell that the level of organization had degraded without her present: she was the top support unit coordinator, and she could tell immediately that her subordinate had done a terrible job in arranging LZ and field operations bases. Immediately, she set out in setting up a more effective infrastructure behind the front lines. All that was left was to complete troop movement coordinations based on the Admiral's battle plan... Turning back to the avatar, Aurelia spoke hesitantly. "Uhm, excuse me, Admiral? What exactly is our objective...?"

In Orbit

Evelyn walked over to Aurelia, pointed at a rather large, green outlined area of the map and said "That's our objective, An Antique battleship, one which still has the power to fight the drathonians. Be glad it is too complex for them to figure out how to fly. Your job is to get our Marines there so we can get it back into working order." She patted Aurelia on the shoulder, saying "I'm counting on you"

***
Back on the battlefield, the hurried medics rushed the wounded off the field, unconcious first, delirious second. Clarissa and Steven were injected with painkillers and carted off to the medivac center, unable to finish their conversation. in a few short minutes, the operation had been completed, and all wounded marines were either suck on the ground, or awaiting shuttles to orbiting medical ships.

The Marines dug in, readying themselves for the coming night, which might be full of lizards. The drathonians, however, were retreating to more defensible positions, due to their extreme losses, which included all air support and most of their armored vehicles. they seemed beaten, but no one would know for sure till the next morning.

***
Back on the Hymn

Evelyn studied the map a few more minutes, zooming in and out on various spots, knowing everything about those spots and their contents except how to coordinate it for an attack. suddenly, she stopped on a spot behind the enemy lines with a purple dot on it. "Aurelia, This dot is one Private Sehene, she's wounded and in disguise, we need someone to go and get her, and bring her back. Can you do that for us?" within a millisecond, all the information Aurelia needed to know about the soldier was loaded onto her comm sleeve, ready to help her decision-making.

Up in orbit...

Aurelia looked at the admiral a bit funny, questioning her military knowledge. "Uhm... ma'am... I'm just a support systems coordinator... I handle reinforcements and field positions and such. I think you might want to talk to a marine about how to coordinate a battle like that."

She glanced over the information on the downed spy, noting the position. "However, ma'am... if I didn't know better, I'd say that soldier is in a prime position to sabotage the Drathonian infantry somehow. She's very close to one of their mobile command stations. I bet if we distracted them, we'd be able to slip a battalion past their main force and take those underground drydocks." The girl babbled off her idea, complete oblivious to whether it was appropriate to point any of it out

Garrett stood in the smoking area, which was designated by nothing more than four reflective orange markers. Within their "boundaries" stood three men, Garrett included. Unfortunately, Garrett was also the only one with a lighter at the moment, having tucked it away securely in one of his pockets long before this mini-campaign began. Now and then, another soldier would wander over and ask for a smoke and a light. Every time, he was forced to decline. "This is my last cigarette," he'd say, which was true, and every time they would walk away dejectedly. It was a shame that something so small got to them; it was a sign of lowering morale, which was also a shame.

Once his cigarette burned out, he crushed it beneath one boot, hefted his recently acquired backpack onto his shoulders, and went to look for his squadmates. After they'd returned, almost half his team had required medical attention. Two of them were dead. And yet they just kept on going. War was such a crazy thing, he thought. And then he spotted Jack, laid out on a stretcher. As a medic came by, he grabbed the man's arm. "What's his status?" he asked, gesturing with his free hand toward Jack. The man took a moment to glance at his datapad.

"He's going to make a full recovery. Had some internal bleeding, and quite a few minor injuries going on, but when he comes to he should just be feeling groggy."

"Thanks." The medic nodded, and went about his business. Garrett wished he had another cigarette and sighed. He sure could use some relaxation. He wished he was the kind of guy to get by with meditation, but whenever he tried, it only frustrated him more. Go figure.

He mumbled quietly under his breath, "When the hell am I gonna get new orders?" And then a sigh. "I can't sit here forever, damnit." A nightstrike would be beautiful, he thought. Get behind enemy lines, plant some explosives to fuck up their defences, and then get the hell out just in time to watch it all go up in flames. "And that was the day we saw Paris in flames..." He smirked to himself at the idea, and gazed off into the darkness.

Kai awoke on a stretcher, in the dream like state induced by painkillers. everything around was blurry, even sounds were. He shook his head, clearing it a little, and looked down at himself, noticing that the Saviour armor was in the process of being torn off, too damaged as it was to be removed normally. His eyes kept going in and out of focus, and he looked at the Terran Marine uniform he was wearing, spiderwebbed with scorch marks from the explosion, which had made their way into cracks and weak spots cased by battle damage. "What a novel phenomenon' He thought, shaking his head again to be gently pushed back down by a medic, who quickly said something that sounded like "You're going to die" but was actually "You'll be just fine" Damn. Eardrums were busted. As if reading his mind, another medic put some odd sort of headest on him, filled with a soothing, cooling liquid, which would help speed up his natural healing process to make his ears work again. Also in the headset were tiny grapple arms which would guide the regrowing membrane into the correct shape. An hour or two and he would be hearing again, better than before, even, because it would be healing the years of minor damage as well as the current catastrophic failure of his eardrums. Similar devices would be put on all the soldiers who had taken off or lost their helmets before the explosion, which had been just a bit too close.

***

In orbit

Evelyn stared at Aurelia, wondering how she had been rated so high. Of course, Evelyn herself had limits, wheras the human mind was a quantum computer so complex even she could never understand it. Instead she said "That sounds like a plan, but how is she supposed to do that with injuries? Surely even drathonians have medics, and care for the wounded" Of course, she didn't know she was wrong, The hymn's databases, however, said nothing to the contrary, so she would roll with it, for now. "They would check her over and see through the disguse, wouldn't they?" B now, evelyn had just reverted to some of the safeties in her programming, one which sought to preserve human life rather than continue the mission. A good safety, in all, but sometimes unnecesary. However, Evelyn herself was a quantum computer, meaning she had the capability to learn and adapt, as humans did, maybe not to quite as effective of a degree, but certainly a degree that would help out her creators, the terrans. she began running scenarios in her mind, nothing like what a marine would come up with, but still, it was something she hadn't been initially programmed to do. Ultimately, she decided that her scenarios wouldn't work, as she was running space tactics for ground attacks... and none worked. Then something clicked in her head, literally, an audible click, and she shut down, a technician walking up to her mumbling something along the lines of "Interesting" tapping a small device to her head, which beeped, gathering data, before he walked away, then the click was heard again, and she turned back on, looking around and saying " What happened?"

Up in orbit...

Aurelia stared bluntly at the computer as she slumped a little with an audible click. As the technician left, she said, "Uh... you, er... turned off. Listen, ma'am, I'll try to contact that unit, and see what her status is. You just, um... focus on running things up here." She gave an uncomfortable chuckle off at her bizarre CO, then turned back to her station. Pulling back up the personnel file on the wounded Intelligence Agent, Aurelia noted the emergency com frequency for her camo suit. Fortunately, the systems were bulky enough that a compact radio could be thrown right in.

"Private... Saheen(?) Do you copy? This is Fleet Command. What's your status, over?" The system was getting a little bit of feedback because of the small storm system moving into the grid. If the fleet hadn't blown down every single satellite in orbit, the coms would probably be working perfectly right now.

Sehene’s unpleasant haze was interrupted by the sudden beeping coming from her comm.. She glared towards the direction of the unpleasant noise, and shifted her position to grab it. She turned the device on and heard the message amidst a low crackling sound. “Fleet command, this is private Sehene, I copy. It’s nice to hear from ya’.” She sighed lightly, and looked to her useless arm, “I seem to have...damaged...my right arm, and it’s basically useless at the moment, and I have various other cuts and bruises. I’m in the forest right now, although I’m not particularly sure where.” She shifted uncomfortably; her arm was really hurting.

After investigating Jack, Garrett went to check on his remaining squad mates. Another had died on his way back to the tents, a medic told him, and a second had died in the midst of operation. He had taken a sizable piece of shrapnel into a prominent blood vessel; removing it would have been death by blood loss; leaving it in would also have been death by blood loss, so they put him down and out of his misery. What a bitch: all this technology and there were still times when they could do nothing about it.

"F@*#." He was getting really antsy, and all the bad news wasn't helping Garrett out any. He was down to five healthy and functioning men (himself included) and three injured. They weren't pretty numbers, having started with twelve. Maybe he should have applied to that black ops squad when he'd had the chance. At least then lives wouldn't be on his head. He swore under his breath again, and strolled away from the medical tents toward the front trenches, hoping for something to happen, someone to tell him he was headed out immediately. He couldn't take all this waiting around.

On the ground...

Jack lay on the stretcher, in a deep catatonic state. The medical officer had been exaggerating considerably when he told Hendlow what his condition was. Well, more like straight out making it up.

Jack had at least a couple dozen broken bones, varying in severity from hairline fractures across half his ribs to a giant wedge of bone cleaved out of his fibula. The internal bleeding was immense to say the least, and he had some spinal damage to boot. All in all, the only reason Jack was still alive was because he was to frustratingly stubborn to die.

A couple minutes after the idiot medical officer made a visual diagnosis, the real doctors showed up. With the overflowing numbers of casualties, it was taking them forever just to properly assess people for triage. A quick catscan with a handheld system immediately revealed the bad news. "Dear God, how is this guy still alive...?" one of them muttered under his breath. Within a couple more minutes Jack had synthetic nanofibers in his system, adhering to the numerous breaks in his blood vessels. He was looking to need a new leg and intensive reconstructive surgery on several difficult-to-reach bones, however. In the end they decided they didn't have the resources on the ground to do it all, and so he was quickly shuttled up to one of the medical support vessels in orbit.

----------

Up in orbit...

Aurelia cringed a bit at the status report. A one-armed soldier wasn't incredibly useful. Still, if she had the drive to do it, Aurelia would give her the mission. "Copy that, private Sehene. You're 3 clicks north-by-northwest of the UTR frontal defensive positions. Our scans indicate you're deep behind enemy lines. It's going to be difficult to get you out, although if you're still capable of fighting, I have a job for you. Our primary concern is getting you out of there, however. Can you move alright? Over."

On the Ground

In the command bunker, A comms officer was listening to the exchange between Aurelia and Still. Quickly, she wrote down a few details, and handed the slip of paper to a nearby commander. Quickly seeing what he had, a grand idea popped into his mind. Pulling up a computer window mid-air from seemingly nowhere, he typed i a few commands and a 3-D model of the battlefield appeared. he ran several tests, set up several scenarios, chose one, And sent it to be approved by the brass. Within a couple seconds, an approval was sent back to him. Exiting the command center, he walked to the nearest Marine Captain, just so happening to be one Captain Garrett Hendlow. "Soldier, you up for some black ops?" He asked, holding out a small data-card containing the battle plan which he could load onto Garrett's HUD.

***

In Orbit

A light flashed by Aurelia, Signaling communications from the ground. As soon As The comms officer would acknowledge it, a message from her counterpart on the ground was waiting, saying "We have a proposition to run by your Soldier, if she's up for it

She took in the information thoughtfully. It would be quite hard to get her out as she was quite far behind the lines, but also, if she recalled, rather close to an underground Drathonian posting. She figured the ‘job’ mentioned probably had something to do with that. ”I can move just fine. My legs and other arm are perfect. She transmitted in an almost defiant tone; she didn’t want to be thought of as someone who would quit because of one injury. She sat up straighter against the trunk, almost excited at the prospect of being able to help further. ”I believe I can handle it. Over."

Garrett turned around at the sound of footsteps.

"Soldier, you up for some black ops?" So maybe there is a God after all, he thought. With a smirk on his face, he nodded.

"Ready, willing, and able, sir," was Garrett's reply. "Just one question, and it has absolutely nothing to do with any mission whatsoever," he paused for the CO to take that mouthful in and register, then, "Do you have cigarette?" Garrett couldn't help but smile half-assed to himself at the... seemingly random timing.

Up in orbit...

Aurelia smirked a little at the determined tone the woman on the other end of her com was using. Before she could reply, she noticed the flashing message directed to her from the ground com officer transmitting the message. Squinting at the text readout of her verbal message, she nodded in confirmation. "Right, private Sehene, I'm patching in the ground com officer to brief you. Your mission has just been approved by the brass." With that she tapped in a few interlink commands, connecting the two of them with the other com officer. "Ground com, this is Orbital Command. I have private Sehene on the line with you, awaiting commands. Over."

Still's Communications equipment would beep before the connection to ground command. Soon, A simple file was sent over, containing audio and text files detailing her mission:

Code: Select all

There are two objectives. Objective A must be completed, Objective B Should only be attempted if Private Sehene is up to the task. 

Objective A: 
Locate and rescue Private Still Sehene. Re-arm her and do any minor first-aid possible. 

This will be done by having a strike team in night camoflauge penetrate enemy lines and meet up with the injured soldier. Infiltration should be fairly easy; there are several openings in the front lines near Private Sehene, and no patrols behind the lines, except near bases. 

If Private sehene is unable or unwilling to continue, extract her and the team. Mission ends. 

Expected casualties:0 

Objective B: 
Should private Sehene be willing, there is an Underground Drathonian Communications and logistics hub nearby for her to infiltrate and destroy. She will destroy it using explosives prepared and controlled by Garret Hendlow, the top Demo expert on the field. 

Sehene, Using her disguise, will infiltrate the complex and place explosives on key locations: Generators, support columns, heavy equipment, Etc. If possible, the team may find an entrance point and provide cover for Private sehene, should it be required. 

Once the charges are in place, the team must extract themselves and Private Sehene, return to Terran lines, and then set off the explosives. Next comes fireworks. 

Expected casualties:1-2 injured, 0 dead  
She would now have to wait for the extraction team to come and get her. Currently, a group of some of the best soldiers were being selected and outfitted to infiltrate the Drathonian lines and meet up with Still Sehene.

Garrett took a moment to take in the information as well, and go over its contents. First, he needed to put together a four-man team. Next, arm them. Last, move them to the infiltration specialist's current location. Simple enough. He took a moment to consider what skills would be needed. They already had demolitions and an expert in their usage: Captain Hendlow. He'd also need a medic, seeing as how the specialist was listed as handi-capable. Then he'd need two men he trusted to go in covertly and drop enemies like flies. Immediately his mind whizzed back to the previous battle and his own troops. Most had been incapacitated; he would have chosen Jack for certain, but the man was down for the count. Jack had been one hell of a bruiser, though, and he wanted a man that could play that role too. Kwon, he thought, and smirked. The Asiatic soldier had proven to be a solid and consistent fighter with a tendency toward the heavy munitions and close quarters combat. It was almost exactly reminiscent of Jack. To even out the field, he wanted someone good with a long-ranged rifle, but capable of handling himself in tight situations too. Ruth. The man hadn't been very steady under pressure, but when he had distance and the element of surprise, he was as unmoveable as a mountain; a crackshot and as reliable as gravity. He seemed to thrive on keeping his presence unknown for there had been times when even Garrett had lost track of him and figured him dead, only to find the soldier come marching up after the heat had died down. Who else had been solid? Griever. The man had taken a hit, but he had the perseverance and stubbornness of a bull. Even when Garrett had put him at the back and had him laying cover fire only, the man had been at the forefront of the assaults somehow. His consistency and persistence were enough to make him highly desirable.

Garrett turned to the CO. "Contact Privates Kwon and Ruth, ex-members of Collapsible Infantry Unit 212, and a medic-ready Black Ops."

"Consider it done, Captain," the man replied, and continued on with his duties. A few short moments later, a brief moment of static buzzed over his intercom and was followed by the same CO's voice. "Captain Hendlow, you are now on your own private channel, EC-14. Your team is also on the line. Privates Kwon, Ruth, Mortego, and Sehene. Mortego is a certified field-medic and foot soldier. We will be sending you regular updates should the situation with the Drathonians change. Henceforth, your team is known as Flare Element, or Flare. That's all for now. We'll be sending you a more detailed synopsis as soon as you make contact with Sehene. Flare Element is currently advised to rendezvous on Captain Hendlow's current position. We've got some new products we'd like you to try."

"Copied and understood. Awaiting the--" Garrett cut himself off when two men approached him, carrying a weapons crate between them. Slowly, they set it down and unlatched it, revealing the contents. "--Package received... Flare Element, move quickly. We have some very special presents." Garrett smirked and pulled one of the TOR-S from the crate, slowly examining it. As he looked it over, one of the men began to explain to him the weapon's details.

Kwon sat beside Rutthinger on the infirmary tent floor as they were handed their orders, and reconnected with Hendlow. Kwon was a quiet guy, but he'd found Ruth to be a reliable guy. Neither of them had worse injuries than a few nicks and bruises. At Hendlow's command, he shoved himself to his feet and nodded for Ruth to follow. Hendlow was close by, standing outside the tent with a goofy look on his face, staring down into a large crate.

Kwon strolled up alongside him, looking down into the crate. He let out a sharp whistle. He hadn't seen these guns before, but they looked pretty nice. By the emblems printed on the butts of the rifles, these were Special Ops weapons. He picked one up, hefting it in his hands. It was heavier than his Sugar, but still not a heavy load. The strange under-barrel drew his attention, and he immediately recognized the shotgun attached to the bottom. He raised his eyebrows in interest, but rather than ask any questions about the gun, he simply grabbed up an ammunition pack and loaded himself up. Kwon wasn't one for words... he'd test the gun in combat.

Ruth soon walked up to the crate, as well, and hefted one of the rifles to his shoulder, checking out the sights and weight, how well it was balanced, the works. Seeming satisfied, he slung it over his shoulder and grabbed a few ammunition packs. He shouldn't need many, and if it came down to it, he had his EV-47's in thigh holsters.

"This a black pajamas mission or we going in armor?" He asked, knowing that the servos in a Savior had the tendency to make whirring noises during slower movements, and Drathonians had excellent hearing. "I got some grease pens if you want to hide your face" The man added, pulling a few of the sappy sticks out of a jacket pocket and holding them out.

The beep assured her of the connection, and another alerted her of the received file. She looked it over, pleased with how good it was. She stored it, and nodded to herself. ”Private Sehene here. I think this plan is great. I’ll be waiting and ready for the ops. Over.” She shifted position again, leaning a bit straighter against the tree, and prepared herself for the wait.


Steven sat on his cot in the medical tent with nothing better to do than watch the medics treat the injured. He had already been treated for his injuries, some of which included gun wounds to his left shoulder and left leg. At one point he tried to strike up a conversation with one of the medics but he was barely even acknowledged, so he gave up on that little endeavor. With few options left he began tapping his fingers and thought about everything that had happened to him today. Most of the things were inadvertently tied to him and he made a mental note to properly thank the marines who had saved him and his co-pilot.

Clarissa woke up from a very unpleasant sleep to find herself in a hospital tent. She wiped the sleep from her eyes and tried to stretch, but stopped when a sharp pain shot up her leg. Accepting the fact that she was bed ridden she resigned herself to looking around the tent from her bed. Right away her she spotted the pilot from earlier in the bed next to her's. "Hey pilot," she said. "I don't think we were properly introduced back in the field. My name is Private Clarissa Rose."

Steven looked over at Clarissa. "Finally awake huh?" he said. "My name is Petty Officer First Class Steven Kerning, and it is my pleasure to meet you Miss Rose." Now with the pleasantries out of the way Steven searched through his mind to find some small chatty thing to say to get rid of slightly awkward silence. "So what happened to your leg? I myself to two gun shots and I survived a crash landing."

Clarissa all but missed the cheesy small talk from Steven. "Do you have any relation to a man named Mark Kerning." She was starting to get a little excited. Catching herself she took some deep breaths to calm down. "I can't get my hopes up to much. I mean there is a good chance that this man isn't the related to my dad's friend," she began thinking. "I was just wondering because my dad was good friends with a man named Mark."

"Yeah, Mark Kerning was my father," he replied with a raised eyebrow. The surprise soon faded and Steven felt that this topic was more interesting then the one he had presented. "And you are Jacob Rose's daughter, right? He was a good pilot and he flew for Green Squadron for ages. How is retirement treating him?" Now that he thought of it, Clarissa did look almost like her father but without a beard.

Now Clarissa was almost dumb-struck, but she managed to maintain her composure thanks to sheer strength off will. It was almost as if she were look at Steven in a new light and felt like hugging him. "No, if I am to up front I may only scare him off," she thought to herself, "This is like sniping. I have to wait for the best moment to reveal my true intent."
"My dad is doing just fine, and from what I hear he is working part time as a mechanic for a shipping company." All Clarissa had to do now is lay down a subtle trail of hints.

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Kai
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Re: Chapter 3: Up from the Ashes

Post by Kai » Wed Dec 29, 2010 5:01 pm

Kwon rolled his eyes a little at Ruth. He wondered why on earth the man would be walking around with grease pens. Probably just for the hell of it, given what he knew of the man already. As Kwon contemplated this, a dull hum could be heard overhead. He looked skyward to see an impressive sight. Hovering in the air not 10 meters above their heads was a great black dropship, smoothly edged and bearing a dulled hull, no metallic sheen. It looked almost like plastic.

Anyway, the relatively small dropship eased itself down beside the men, carefully putting down before them. After a few moments, the ship powered down, and four airmen came strolling out of the bay. The man at the head of the group, obviously the captain, spoke. "You guys Flare Element? We've got orders to transport you for Operation Leapfrog. You boys ready to go?" Kwon looked over them to the dark, slate-like vessel that sat behind them. He raised an eyebrow. It looked like a pretty sweet ride.

"Well it is good to know he is staying active," Steven said with a sigh. He began to shift around anxiously on his cot. "Gr, I can't stand being bed ridden. I want to be back in the pilot's seat of a fighter!" he said as he fidgeted around some more. "Do you ever feel that way about being in the field, Clarissa?" Even while he was talking all he could keep his mind on was the sky outside.

"Seems to be black pajamas, then" Ruth said, more to himself than anyone else. Immediately he colored his face black with a grease pen, and took off the standard green jacket given every soldier upon enlistment, revealing a simple black outfit, all long sleeved, ready for some night action. He tightened the straps on his black gloves, shouldered the black rifle, and ran his hands through black hair. Yeah. He was going to be hard to see. Making sure he did have some modern conveniences though, he fished through a pocket of the jacket and pulled out a small HUD/radio set, fitted it over his ear, checked the lens, and was ready. With that, the man hopped on the similarly black vehicle and said "When we leaving?" as if he wasn't nervous at all about going behind enemy lines, at night, without armor. Which, truthfully, he wasn't.

About half a mile away from Flare Element was a female figure whom seemed to be struggling with something while running in their direction. She was holding two EV 47 laser pistols in her left hand while unzipping her white suit with her right, revealing and equally snug black one.

Damn, I'm going to be too late She thought, slowing down a bit to get her legs out of the suit. She folded it up with her one free hand and threw it to a random marine that was walking by, whom caught it and looked at the girl, confused. "Keep that safe for me until I get back," she called as she ran past him. The marine just gave her a small nod, not knowing what just happened or who the girl was. She then strapped the two EV 47s to her thighs and started sprinting.

"Captain Hendlow," She called, flailing her arms frantically to get his attention as she got closer, "Don't leave without me!". As she reached her destination and slowed down her feet lost traction with the ground and she fell backwards on her backside. But she quickly got back up and shook the captain's hand, pretending nothing just happened. "Hi," she gasped, vigorously trying to regain her lost breath from all the running "My name...Is private Meigan....Eevane." She stopped for another deep intake of oxygen. Her blonde hair was all awry from the running, and her face red from the blood cells rushing to return the lost oxygen to her brain. Then she spoke once more, "I was just wondering if I could possibly join Flare Element on your black ops mission?".

Kwon simply shook his head at the shenanigans of Ruth and Meigan. Ruth seemed to be perfectly fine with running around in pajamas, but Kwon left his chest plating on. He did, however, follow Ruth into the back of the sleek new Herring, where he took a seat and began to remove his leg armor. The mission briefing he was reading over on his HUD now said something about the assistive gyros being too loud for black ops. It wasn't that he thought Ruth was slightly insane... it was just that Kwon was the one who always got stuck running into the heat behind Gallagher (the REAL maniac). Chest plating had proven quite resourceful for protecting his fairly important internal organs from harm while being shot, stabbed, pummeled, and, on quite a few occasions now, exploded.

The ship's captain simply looked awkwardly at the strange girl, then turned back to Hendlow. "Err, anyway, sir... We're ready when you are. I'll go get the ship fired up." He elbowed his copilot in the ribs, and his squad shuffled back into the dropship.
Up in orbit...

Aurelia, now done with catching up on her troop coordinations, looked over her view screen. "Flare Element! Get a move on! We need you deployed within 10 minutes!"

"Yeah, I feel that way sometimes about being in the field," Clarissa said in reply, "But the is mainly because I get anxious when I am around a lot of people, so when I am in the field I feel very calm." Even now, part of her was wanting to be back in the field and away from the turmoil that was this medical tent and this camp. The only reason the other part of her wanted to stay was because of Steven. "Well, how about we not think about things that are, at the moment, out of our reach," she said, giggling a bit, "What thing do you do for fun when you are not around your fighter?

"Now that is a trick question," Steven said with a coy smile, "I don't do much besides taking care of my fighter." He sat and thought about things for a bit, and after a few seconds he corrected himself. "Actually, before I joined the Terran Navy, I was pretty good at billiards. A bit odd, yes, but I was quite the pool shark back home." His coy grin returned as he thought about his experiences back home. "That must have made me sound like a hustler," he said as he began to laugh, "How about you, huh? What do you do for fun, Miss Sniper?"

Garret nodded in compliance with Meigan's query, and hopped onto the waiting drop ship. Soon, All of flare element had followed suit, and the Ship took off, heading towards a weak locator signal that was Still Sehene. they would arrive in about ten minutes, and a small beep warned them that they were passing enemy lines. Several tense minutes passed as everyone held their breath, waiting for artillery and anti-air to start pounding them, but it never came, the stealth worked, and on they flew. Up ahead, they could see the glimmer of the Drathonian stronghold just above the treetops. Their target location several clicks before that. As the signal of the Spy's location drew nearer, it became clearer. Soon, Still would be able to notice a small noise as the Drop ship hovered overhead, confirming the location with several different people before hovering around to find a suitable landing spot.

Still looked up as a low humming became audible. She squinted into the darkness; she could barely notice the drop ship hovering above. She stood up, pushing back against the tree with her useful arm. The stars were being obscured by the drop ship, and she watched as it nearly brushed the tops of the trees looking for a landing area.

Being in the middle of the forest, there weren't any landing spots in the immediate area. No worries, of course. It was a hovercraft, after all. As the bay door opened, Private Kwon tethered himself onto his repelling line. They were brushing against the treetops now, and it seemed so easy to just jump into their branches. The lights in the ship faded down, indicating that the cloaking device had been engaged. The squad's HUDs clicked as the captain spoke over it. "Alright, Flare Element. This is your drop zone. Maintain radio silence until you need extraction. We'll set up a rendezvous point. Unless you call early, we'll be back at 2300. Don't be late."

Next down the line came Rutthinger, followed close by Hendlow and Griever. As the three light thuds sounded on the ground, the lines retreated up into the dropship, and it powered down to the lowest setting, no more than a whisper in the breeze.

"Copy that" Replied Ruth to the hovercraft, before checking his weapon once again. "We should find our spy now, shouldn't we?" he whispered, beginning to search the area for signs of a person.

Once on the ground, Hendlow smirked and hefted his TOR-S. He was going to enjoy this weapon and he was definitely looking forward to blowing the hell out of some Drathonians. It was just a matter of time. "Alright, this is how we go: Kwon, Ruth, Sehene, Mortego, Eevane, and I have the rear. We move quick and quiet-like. If you see lizards, you call it. We kill anything on sight while en-route to the first bomb site. I'll say the word if that changes. Keep silencers on. Understood?"
After the round of, 'yes sir's, he turned to Sehene. "If you have any medical needs, talk to Mortego," he gestured to the medic. "We don't move until you're ready."

Meigan swiftly decended to the ground, surprisingly keeping her balance. She made a quick glance around to survey the area, it was dark, easy to trip over things you can't see.

Meigan glanced over at the Captain as he shifted his TOR-S.
Oh s***! I forgot to get one of those... Her thoughts then trailed off into a mess of light swear words. She then glanced down at her two laser pistols. Be thankful your not totally unarmed and-- Meigan's thought was interrupted by the Captain's orders. "Yessir." She responded immediatley.

Meigan turned her head to Still and gave a big, warm and quick greeting smile.

She squinted to see the five marines land on the ground, and stood ready to greet them. She nodded with what she hoped was a smile towards them; the Drathonian skin was rather thick, and emotions barely registered. She listened to the captain’s orders, and was extremely pleased to hear of a medic. She turned to the medic ‘Mortego’ and grimaced. “My arms been hurt...” She said, looking to the bloody appendage. The wound was rather obvious. She shuffled a few steps towards them, her tail dragging across the ground and nearly hitting one of the marines. “Ah! Sorry!” She turned to him and apologized profusely.

Mortego nodded, noting the obvious wound across her arm. He set down his medpack and reached down the side where a simple double-ended tube was wrapped in light gauze. With one nozzle, he sprayed the wound with disinfectant, and with the other he covered it with with re-gel--regenerative gel--to stimulate the healing process. One layer of light gauze was applied and then he smiled. "There you go ma'am," he said with a slight southern drawl that Hendlow for one had not been expecting. It didn't matter though. Just another example of the diversity of his team. Always changing, too.

"Anything else, private?" There was the slightest undertone of impatience in the Captain's voice

She cringed lightly as the gauze rubbed against the tender skin, but sighed as the gel seemed to 'cool' the stinging. It still smarted quite a bit, but she was glad to have to have it covered and on it's way to health. "Thank-you very much." She smiled as she thanked Mortego quickly, and then turned to the Captain. "No thank-you sir, I am ready to continue with the mission as soon as possible." She nodded briskly.

"Alright, then we continue. Let's get moving. Kwon, you've got point and I've got rear. Sehene is our guide, and we don't go anywhere she says not to. Sehene, any words? If not, I suggest we get on the move before the lizards do." He hefted his weapon, and readied himself mentally to move out. His trigger finger was itching, and his button finger was on fire.

Kwon checked the barrel of his shotgun attachment one more time before nodding and taking up point. He was wearing his infrared goggles with their built-in HUD and had taken off all but his chest armor. He was a little uncomfortable with so little protection, but he figured Gallagher could take point naked and still come out alive, so why not him?

Their route lit up on his HUD map. Their target was on the other end of several small Drathonian encampments. He could already make out the faint light of their fires from there. He hesitated for a moment, than started forward, crouching a bit and walking very carefully, his eyes darting about as the wind blew through the forest about him, rustling leaves and scraping branches.

Sehene nodded to the captain, "No words from me sir." She moved off into the dark bushes, the others near. The night was stifling and quiet, and perfect for a black ops mission of this sort. The Drathonians at the camps were either asleep or so drunk that they wouldn't have noticed, and the whole trek to the bunker went smoothly.

She signaled the others to crouch walk and quieten their steps even further as they approached a clearing that was to give way to their final destination; the bunker. She stopped at the near edge of the forest, peering through the bushes at the square entrance to the underground area. It was lit all around, and a guard at the entrance was accompanied by another walking around the building; both equipped with powerful machine-gun-like weaponry designed to instantly kill anyone who approached the area. She grimaced slightly, but figured that it could be worse, considering the protection around other places.

Captain Hendlow surveyed the area before whispering to his team, "Ruth, see the drath on patrol? He's a dead lizard walking, make sure of it. I've got the other. Then we move quick-like to get those bodies out of sight. On the count of three..." He lifted his rifle and took aim at the lizard's skull. "One..." He took a deep breath to steady his aim. "Two..." Dead silence, as even the wind settled. "Three..." The sound of gunfire was hardly louder than a whisper. Hendlow had pegged his target dead-on.

Kwon didn't even wait for the lizards to fall down dead. As soon as the deadly whispers of the shots went past him, Kwon was sprinting across the field. He caught the faceless wreck of flesh while it was still hovering halfway between standing and falling. With his momentum, he had the lizard halfway to the shadows on the opposite side before he started grunting under the weight.

Hendlow himself collected the second body and pulled it back into the woods to be hidden beneath the brush. Once he had the body hidden, he quickly examined all of his soldiers to make sure nothing was out of the ordinary, and that everyone was still there. "Before we continue to the first point," he whispered, "Are there any advisory warnings you'd like to give us, Sehene? I don't like lizards, and I certainly don't like the places they like to hole up, especially when they're still hanging around."

Ruth Had pulled the trigger almost the exact moment that Hendlow had, But instead of collecting the body he stayed alert to provide cover for his comrades. Quiet as usual, He listened intently as Hendlow asked Sehene about the area.

"We will be docking with the Errant Venture shortly," a voice said over the intercom of the small transport shuttle as it left the planet's atmosphere. Clarissa let out an annoyed grunt and looked around the small ship at the other passengers. She and the others, who had also been injured planet side, were being moved to the cruiser Errant Venture for it had more advanced medical facilities. Looking out a viewing window, Clarissa saw the fast approaching ship. The Errant Venture was roughly a third the size of the Hymn and had very few weapon systems, which was why it had been specialized for behind-the-front-lines medical purposes during this campaign, and the only reason Clarissa was looking forward to arriving was that Steven had gotten there an hour earlier. She wanted to see him again.
"We are now boarding the Errant Venture. Please wait until the departure ramp is completely down before leaving," the voice said.
As Clarissa left the shuttle she went right to looking for Steven.

"Yes Captain. The higher officers will check with these scouts every 40 minutes, depending on when the last check was, sometime in the near future they will not get a response and send back-up. The usual contingent is 3 lizards, so you should be able to handle them. They will come up through the door in the entrance; you will have the tactical advantage." She whispered , while bracing herself in the crouched position with a clawed hand. The heavy body and odd make-up of the Drathonian physique was making it difficult for her to balance.

Clarissa did not have to look far for Steven, like always, was hanging around in the hanger watching the empty space outside the hanger doors. The incoming ship was able to hold Steven's attention just long enough for him to see Clarissa among the passengers. "Hey Clarissa! Over here!" he called from across the hanger. He was eager to speak with her again.

"Right" Ruth said simply, nodding at the spy. he turned to hendlow and asked in a voice just above a whisper. "Sir, What formation? Shall I protect the package or the backdoor?" as confusing as the jargon might seem to a normal person, he was simply asking if he should cover Sehene or act as a sort of rearguard for the small group.

***
Kai awoke to the sight of an unfamiliar Medical bay. Apparently they had moved him after he had dozed off, and the Hymn must be on some sort of patrol. It didn't matter, This ship being an actual medical frigate, it had better facilities than even the Hymn. He felt his head, realizing that the odd medical device had been removed, replaced by some sort of earplugs. Feeling the material, the captain attempted taking them out, to no avail. A passing nurse did notice his efforts, however, and checked a chart, nodding before pressing a few buttons on a small device she carried, and the earplugs opened up, allowing the Blond man to remove them. He was greeted with an at once familiar and disturbing sensation: Sound. It hurt his ears. Forgetting how the medicine worked, Kai hadn't realized it would give him the same hearing as a young child. Mentally he could stand it, but the physical strain of a loud bustling room was bothersome. he would have to get used to the feeling over again. Grabbing the nurse before she could leave, he asked her two questions: "Am I free to go?" And "where are the soldiers from the rescue teams?"

Clarissa's face lit up when she heard Steven calling out to her. "He called to me! Does that mean that he is interested in visiting with me again?" she thought to herself as she reached the bottom of the ramp. Right away she started to head towards Steven, but she was stopped by a medical technician. "Pardon me miss, but all passenger must go through a medical examination first," the technician said to her.
"But I just came from a hospital tent planet side. I've had the check up," she said quickly.
"I am sorry, but you still must go through the examination," the technician said again before gesturing down a hallway, in the opposite direction of Steven.
"Fine," she said dejectedly. Give Steven was last look she followed after the technician.

Hendlow nodded to Sehene and evaluated the information. He was encountering his first difficult tactical decision. Stay here and take the three out, and they'd just make it more obvious that something was happening. If they all went in, they could be attacked from the rear once within the facility. If he left just one behind... There wasn't a single soldier he could sacrifice. Well, dammit all to Hell.

"We go in," he said. "Kwon on point, Sehene, Mortego, Ruth, and I've got the rear. If a firefight erupts, Sehene and Mortego, I want you both to find cover and sit tight. Keep the voices down and footsteps quiet. Don't ever be seen, if you can help it. Now, let's move. Kwon!" He raised his gun and surveyed the front wall, wary of any possible new targets while his team crossed the open space and entered the facility.

Medical 'Friggit'

The nurse gave a surprised jerk as Kai grabbed her. She was a bit flustered from the overflowing masses of injured soldiers coming in. She gave him a quick once-over, and made her decision. Maybe not the complete truth, but anyone not in danger of dying was better off out of the way. "You're fine, just be careful about loud noises. You might want to hold onto those earplugs." She looked around the room, spotting at least half a dozen patients that needed her immediate attention. "Listen, I'm busy, go ask someone else." she muttered, hurrying away.

***

Kwon nodded obediently, stalking up to the perimeter wall. Looking through the entrance, he rolled his eyes at the negligible security in the compound. A small group of Drathonians huddled around a poorly made campfire, roasting dead rodents. The compound was otherwise barren except for the small building that led to the bunker below. Kwon pulled his rifle up, fired a quick barrage of fire into the group, then charged the compound. The two that were still alive and squirming on the ground he swiftly executed.

Leading the others to the door, it was clearly well fortified. It looked like it could survive an atomic blast. Turning to Hendlow, Kwon simply muttered, "I believe this is your specialty."

She flinched slightly as the guns fired and eliminated the enemy Drathonians; the noise was slightly jarring in the silence of the hangar. She glanced around quickly, confirming to herself that she did indeed know the layout of this place, and could destruct it easily. "Captain, after we make it through this door, we'll have to enter the programmer room to the right, and I can set up the self destruct sequence. We will have only 7 minutes to get out of the building once it's activated." She whispered to Hendlow, "There will probably be a specialist in there running things, so we might have to eliminate him as well."

Quietly again, ruth nodded, Taking his place in the group. He shook his head at Kwon's eagerness, but kept silent about it. he waited patiently while those 'above' him discussed the next step of the mission. "Can't we just blow the place already?" he thought, impatiently.

They had moved ahead and cleared the preliminary bunker without incident. Perfect. So far, so good...
And then they told him that he had to blow a door open, and risk alerting the enemy to their presence.
"Well then, I would imagine that patrols will be the least of our worries," he sighed. He set the duffel down and rummaged through a side pocket quickly. He stood again and attached three metal cylinders each three inches in diameters around the door lock. Then he covered each one with a small amount of putty.
Another deep breath. "When it blows open, Kwon and Ruth, you need to rush in there. Ruth, head right and clear out the programmer room. Kwon, I want you to cover him and make sure he doesn't take any bullets in the back. I'll be right behind you. Once it's clear, everyone moves in."
He stepped back three paces and pressed the button. A muffled trio of minute explosions went off, and the door popped open.
Game on.

"Sir" Ruth responded quietly, Kicking the door in before the smoke cleared (quite a feat as plastic explosives don't smoke much) and rushing through the door, turning a corner into a room that looked like it could be a blackroom aside from all the displays on the walls. He made an effort not to shoot any, as they might be needed to start the countdown sequence, and proceeded to shoot onbe very shocked looking lizard several times in the stomach before kicking the bottom of it's jaw to reveal the soft flesh of it's neck, which subsequently recieved some lead surgery, and the Drathonian's brain evacuated it's skull. Within two seconds, he made sure there was no one else in the room, and proceeded to look down the corridor that it had opened on.

Kwon followed after Ruth, keeping him covered, though he was easily dispatching the light resistance

The Demolitions Expert was right behind the two soldiers, aiding Kwon in keeping Ruth safe while he cleared the computer room. Once it was clear, Hendlow ushered the medic and spy into the computer room. "Do your work, and let's get out of here," he said in an urgent tone. He knew there'd be other Drathonians on the way, and he really didn't want to have another gunfight; every time it happened, he worried he'd lose another soldier. It wasn't that he didn't trust their skills-- he trusted these men and women more than anyone else thus far-- but he didn't trust the chances of everyone escaping unscathed.

Sehene jogged into the computer room, looking around to make sure she went to the right console. She scanned the screen quickly; the interface was a jade green shade with black Drathonian script spread across it. The keyboard had rather large buttons, compared to the small, touch-screen interfaces of the Terran tech. She tapped a button and the screen 'morphed' to a pine colour, and a space appeared for the pass code. She tapped the 6 symbol code into the computer, and waited for the confirmation. It beeped in acceptance, and turned back to the jade colour. She started typing rapidly, the long Drathonian nails clacking on the plastic keys. Code appeared on the screen, and then it turned a crimson red. "Confirmation. Self Destruct code to activate. 7 minute countdown. Confirm?" She pressed a key, "Confirmed, self destruct in 7:00, minutes." The Drathonian computer chimed off in their language. She turned to the Captain, "We have just under 7 minutes until self destruct sir."

Garrett should have knocked on wood. Just as the thought passed through his head, the nightmare came true, and a huddle of Drathonians appeared at the end of the hallway, this time, however, their shapes were distorted; they had shields. Not fancy shields mind you, but still, enough to stop a bullet, if not a Sugar. Good thing all Flare element had was projectiles (not including the one EV-47 someone had) Soon, the shielded Blasters started, well, blasting down the hallway, filling the air with angry red charged plasma. Good thing the enemies numbers only matched their own.

Getting out of Sehene's way, Ruth noted the enemies coming down, and tried his best to hide in the door Jamb. Firing a few test rounds, he quickly decided that the shields were, in fact, bulletproof, and voiced his findings. "We can't get 'em through those shields, we have to go for head shots" He yelled, adjusting his aim and pulling the trigger, watching the bullet fly and then bounce off a scaly plate on the animal's skull. "shoot. We'd need eye shots at this rate" he thought, adjusting his aim again.

As soon as Sehene spoke, he heard the tapping of Drathonian claws on the solid floor, moving quickly. "Cover!" he shouted, as he took up a spot on the other side of the door. As his back struck the wall, he heard Ruth say that the shields were deflecting bullets. He nodded. "Hold on." His voice was strangely calm. He crouched and brought his pack around. He reached in, and when his hand emerged, it was holding a metallic sphere. He smirked. "Built these bad boys myself," he told Ruth, before clicking a small button and rolling it down the hall. As his arm came around the door jamb, a Drathonian happened to get a lucky shot straight through Hendlow's elbow.

He collapsed on his side in shock, but quickly scooted himself out of sight. "Fuck!" It had shot clean through his forearm bones, tearing asunder the muscle connections; he had no control of his arm below the elbow.

The metallic device had rolled short due to the lucky shot, but when it dispersed it's electrical shot, one Drathonian went down, one was knocked unconscious, and a third had weapon malfunctions. Not bad for fucked up throw.

Sehene heard the Drathonians coming down the hallway, and turned with a slightly panicked look on her face. Not sure what to do, she just moved slightly to the side, in order to allow the others more room. She heard Hendlow’s remark, and rushed to his side, looking grimly upon the already bloody wound. She went to help him, but then pulled back with hesitation; the clawed fingers of her disguise would most likely hurt him more.

Mortego knelt at Captain Hendlow's side, and gently took his arm in both hands to better analyze the wound. The beam itself had cauterized the wound, so there would be no chance of bleeding out, but it still needed to be covered, disinfected, and receive proper medical attention quickly. He drew a medigel applier and a gauze wrapping. Holding the back of Garrison's elbow with the gauze, Mortego filled the gaping hole with the 'gel and then wrapped it up.

The Captain was taking deep breaths to keep himself from groaning or shouting or swearing vehemently. It took all of his will power to do so, but through clenched teeth, he muttered, "Thanks, Mortego."

"No problem, Captain." The man smiled reassuringly. "Drink some water, and let the other men take care of this. You're still in shock."

Hendlow just nodded and remained sitting against the wall, sipping at his canteen, and listening to the sounds of battle.

Taking advantage of the situation Captain Hendlow had caused, Ruth made sure that both the downed lizards were dead (several shots to the center of mass on each) before turning back to the remaining three Drathonians, the one whom had had malfunctions was hunkered down behind his shield, creeping forward to get within melee range. In such a small space, that would be deadly for the group of soft fleshy Terrans

As soon as Meigan was aware of the approaching Drathonians she got on the ground and looked around to locate them. A shock from Hendlow and a couple killing shots from Ruth and only three were left advancing. Meigan immediately unlatched her two EVs and aimed.

She looked over the one that had the weapon malfunction, looking for an opportunity to shoot, and she found one. The Drathonian had shifted it's shield ever so slightly, exposing its foot for a couple seconds. Meigan squinted, aimed and shot within the few seconds. The Drathonian was caught off guard and it stumbled a bit, revealing it's neck long enough for Meigan to aim with her other EV and shoot.

The Drathonian fell to the ground gasping for a few seconds but falling silent as Meigan gave it a final shot to the head. She smirked a bit and looked at the other Drathonians, one of which had perfect aim at her, and it took the shot as soon as she noticed. Meigan swiftly planted her feet on the ground and pushed forward and out of the way, but she was just a bit too late.

Though it wasn't a serious blow, the beam scrapped the back of her leg. She moved towards a wall and sat up against it doing this in seconds. She was biting down on her tongue hard to distract her from the pain in her leg, which was now bleeding all over the place. In another few seconds she had sucked it up enough to hold her EVs back up and shot a couple more times at the Drathonians so that they held their shields up and didn't have another chance to shoot her while she pushed off the wall with her good leg and hobbled back into the control room, where she collapsed back down against another wall.

"Damn," she said to herself, closing her eyes and leaning her head up in pain, also trying not to look at the blood.

Kwon grumbled in discontent. If they were going to be pinned down like this, the exploding bunker would kill them before the lizards. Figuring his life was worth risking for the team, he peered out into the hallway. Halfway down it, the fallen lizard that had been advancing lay, his energy shield slumped against his side.

Kwon took a step back, braced himself, and dove out the doorway to it. Swerving from side to side, he managed to avoid most of the hailstorm of fire aimed at him. By the time he reached the shield, however, he had nasty burn marks on his left shoulder, right flank, and right thigh. With a pained grunt he pulled the shield up in front of him. He drew back towards the control room as the Drathonians cursed. Overhead, the com announced the 5 minute warning.

Mortego moved quickly, seeing Meigan and her wound. He knelt beside her, offering the same reassuring smile he gave the Captain. "Just take deep breaths, and keep yourself calm. We don't want you going into severe shock." He took out the gauze roll and the medigel applier a second time, and covered the wound quickly. As a matter of habit, he patted her knee gently. "You'll be alright. Just relax."

Garrett had positioned himself near the doorway again, having seen Kwon make his way out the door. Peeking out, he saw that Kwon was still alive and had managed to collect the shield of a fallen Drathonian. Then the five-minute warning blared.

"Fuck. Kwon, get back here, and hold yourself in the doorway!" He grimaced as he brought his backpack around again, and reached for another explosive. "We're gonna grenade spam these motherfuckers if we don't have any other option. I just worry about the structural integrity of this passageway... FLASHBANGS!" He smirked briefly, and dug out two cylindrical canisters painted a deep navy blue and marked in white: FB-07.

Hendlow looked around at his team. "Alright, we HAVE to get out of here. There will certainly be more Drathonians on the way. Sehene, contact the dropship and let them know we're headed to the rendezvous NOW, and it's probably going to be a hot pick-up. I'm going to toss these and blind those Drathonians. Then Kwon's going to move forward and cover our escape to the door. We've got to go NOW."

He took a deep breath. "On three, I'm lobbing the flashes. One..." he pulled the pins, but held the levers down. "Two..." He pulled back his good arm and aimed over the shield. "Cover your ears-- Three!" He lobbed the flashbangs and covered his ears as best he could.

Three seconds later, there came a BANG!

Time to go.

With the string of sudden injuries, and Kwon's insane rush out the door, Ruth had to hold back for fear of hurting his squad mate. But with Garret's instructions, he silently nodded and covered his ears, closing his eyes as tight as he could. Once the bang set off, he was out the door and flanking it, covering their escape route, unable to see much through the haze from the flash-bangs. he hoped everyone would get out, and waited for the signal to move his butt out of there. the farther away from these damn lizards, the better.

Kwon cringed backwards and covered his ears, shutting his eyes tight. A shrieking explosion shot past him, and a flash of red pierced his eyelids. Opening them again, he hopped out the door and bum-rushed the group of completely disoriented lizards. Smashing his energy shield into their own, he sent them reeling back as he threw up his rifle to mow them down. "Clear! Let's move it!" he yelled, half-running up the hallway with his injured leg. There must have been a whole lot more of the facility beneath of them, because the sounds of shrieking Drathonians and running, clawed feet clicking against metal floors was all around him.

Amidst all the chaos, all Sehene could do was stay as low and out of the way as possible. She heard the order and turned away from the noise as much as possible, hailing the transport. She had to almost scream into the comm to get through. “Transport. This is Sehene, we will be heading to the rendezvous now, and it’s most likely going to be a hot pick-up, so be prepared.” She looked around a moment, seeing Hendlow toss the bombs. “Sehene out!” She ducked and covered her ears, trying to avoid the ringing that would inevitably come after the harsh explosion. The room seemed to shake slightly, and a moment of utter silence fell before chaos resumed; Drathonian shouts, and the marching of soldiers. She got up swiftly and ran with the others into the hallway, drawing her small energy rifle from the side of her armor and preparing it for firing if need be. She almost slipped and fell over the Drathonian bodies in the hall, but ignored them, focusing solely on getting out of there.

Meigan smiled weakly and rolled her eyes, As if relaxing in this situation is easy, she thought. She thanked Mortego quickly and stood up, making sure to put her weight on her uninjured leg. It didn't hurt too much, At least I still have my legs... she smiled a bit but then looked over as Hendlow gave his instructions to the others.

Meigan took a couple seconds to process what the captain was doing and covered her ears a split second before the muffled bang came, she felt a slight vibration that went from her toes all the way up her spine. She uncovered her ears and a wave of silence swept through for a fraction of a second, it felt nice amidst all the noise, but it was gone almost in the same moment it arrived and she was back to reality.

The Drathonians, not expecting flash-bangs, had hidden behind their shields for protection, and were now dazed. Though not quite blind, borth were very deaf and disoriented, and had stopped shooting for a moment to try and recover. Now was the time for Flare element to get moving if they were going to go.

Kwon had operated beautifully; he'd have to remember to recommend the man at the end of this mission. The Captain took a quick glance at all his soldiers and silently prayed to whatever existed above that they'd all come out alive; it was about to get really hectic. He rose and ran out the door, letting his injured arm dangle rather wildly. In his free hand, he clutched his gun, holding on for dear life.

In the computer room, Mortego looked at Meigan with a worried expression. "Can you run?" he asked loudly, his ears ringing from the flashbangs. If she couldn't, he'd have to carry her; not that he minded, but it could be pretty risky. He was just trying to keep himself calm, trying to keep his breathing in a slow and steady rhythm. He'd never been in a situation this intense.

Ruth watched as Kwon sort of limped past, and stayed behind a few moments to make sure the way out was safe for Mortego, Sehene and Meigan. Just in the nick of time, a few drathonians rounded the corner, to be peppered with lead from Ruth's rifle. The trio of lizards ducked behind the corner in suprise. Ruth kept up his fire, allowing for the others to escape.

Outside, Garrett was greeted with quite a bit more light than there had been when they went inside, not in the form of sunlight, but instead spotlights. pointed at him. oh, and these angry red lances of light peppering the ground near his feet from every direction. Apparently there were multiple entrances to the compound and more guards than originally thought.

Kwon hobbled after Hendlow as he went out the door. At the sight and sound of the fire going off around his captain, Kwon was out the door and in front of him in an instant. The handy Drathonian shield was flung forth, shielding them from harm. A spray of fire bounced harmlessly off. Kwon squinted back at Hendlow in the bright glare of the spotlights. "Captain... if we don't get a safe distance away, we're toast. We need to do something." he whispered hoarsely.

"Damnit!" he breathed and made his way into the woods where he could take cover. "Go back, and make sure they all get out, preferably alive." He smirked stupidly at his own miserable joke. "I trust you to get it done, Kwon." He patted the soldier on the shoulder and slumped against a tree, taking a deep breath. There was nothing he could do.

Still stumbled out the door, in a hurry to escape the bunker before its' imminent destruction. Her tail scraped against the metal loudly, and she looked down as she passed, startled when as she looked up she saw lights and the red beams of guns. She would have sworn, but maybe her Drathonian disguise could get her out of this? She couldn't think of anything at the moment, but perhaps... She backed into the doorway, not sure of what to do. Her little handgun was fine in close quarters or combat, but not here.

Watching Kwon's mad dash and Sehene stumbling out the door, Ruth got an idea. Jumping from the door, he re-loaded his rifle and ran down the hallway to where the two remaining shields were lying, unused by their dead owners. Keeping up his suppressive fire, the Marine snatched up the shields and ran down the hallway, back to the room, and yelled to Sehene "Hey, Take this before you leave, and try coming out after the rest of us, I think you'll have a better chance of surviving if you do" And with that, he threw the Spy the extra shield, before going back to the computer room wich still contained Mortego and the injured Meigan. He was making sure they could leave before too long, seeing as the countdown had lost two minutes since he had last checked... it would go 'BOOM' quite soon.

"Alright, here we go!" Mortego picked Meigan up bridal-style and nodded to Ruth. "Let's get out of here." Under the cover of Ruth's shield, the medic and private made it out of the facility unscathed and regrouped with the Captain. When everyone had made their way into the woods, he rose and began running for the rendezvous point. Mortego carried Meigan the whole way, and never straying far from the cover of Ruth and Kwon. The ship was lowering itself as they entered the clearing and the Drathonians were pressing into the woods.

Garrett leaped onto the open bay before the ship was even four feet from the ground. Putting his gun down, he offered his good hand to help Meigan and then Mortego into the ship. Then he picked his gun up again and began firing over Kwon, Sehene, and Ruth. Talk about a hot pick-up...

Meigan was a very independent person and didn't like being helpless, but she knew she wouldn't have made it out of there alive if it wasn't for Mortego. She clung to him as she started to hear shots around them, she still gripped her two EVs in her hands, at least she wasn't totally defenseless.

Meigan smiled weakly as Mortego helped her up into the ship where she immediately flopped down into a seated position on the nearest spot.

Knowing he was just about the only uninjured one, Ruth stuck to the end of the line to get on the dropship, holding the shield out facing towards the enemy base to find whatever kind of coverage he could. A timer display he had assigned be put up as he was running noted that there was about a minute left before the place went Boom, and thay they were still in the blast radius.

"Hurry up morons" he thought, glancing back for a moment before looking back to see a few lizards emerging from the brush near the edge of his vision. he fired a few rounds from his rifle before looking back again, making sure everyone else was on board before he would jump on as well.

Kwon threw an arm over Sehene's shoulder and dragged her out the door with him. Now was NOT the time to be dawdling. He reached the ship a little ways before Ruth, leaving Sehene to get on. He turned to Ruth, who was standing in front of the bay, firing at the oncoming Drathonians. "Done playing hero, kid?" he said, giving him a tug in the direction of the ship by the lip of his armor.

He backed himself towards the ship, firing at the now swarming Drathonians. He jumped up into the bay of the dropship and hopped into the gunner seat for the aft laser array. Bringing it online, he began shooting off a hailstorm of fire that mowed down the very forest itself.

She blinked, confused about what was going on. It all was happening so very fast, and she felt horrible for stumbling over herself. She could become a danger to the team, and should have been less clumsy. She inwardly cursed herself and then swallowed the horrid feeling in her stomach, focusing on the fact that she was now being dragged out the door. She scuttled to the dropship and hopped on, glad to be out of the almost ready to explode bunker.

Wit the Tug, Ruth knew it was time to scoot, and hopped onto the Dropship, Shouting "All here!" to the pilot, who nodded and lifted off the ground, heading up at full bore before switching to forward movement and straking towards the Terran base, full speed ahead, not bothering for stealth as it didn't matter by now. The team would be safe at home within a few minutes.

A few moments after Ruth's HUD noted they had left the danger zone, Flare element would note a humongous explosion behind them, as the supply base blew to shreds, effectively crippling the Drathonian defensive on Saratar.

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