Pariahs and Peacemakers

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Twenty Three

Isaac and Lau emerged from a small hatch high in the rafters which allowed them to enter the building’s data centre. Isaac dropped to the suspended walkway without looking and soon found himself tumbling toward the top of a computer console at the foot of the room. He landed with a loud crash and found himself tangled up in wire that seemed to dart in a number of indecisive directions. The Votheen over him said no words but the grimace on its face was dark and merciless. It raised its upper right arm but the blow never came. Its eyes rolled into the back of its head as it toppled to one side lifeless, Lau stood over it with his sidearm still smoking from the round that had saved Isaac’s life. “I owe you one,” he managed as he wriggled comically trying to break free of his rapidly tightening tomb. Lau removed his rather large blade from its sheath and cut his companion free, all red faced and embarrassed. As he brushed himself down and Lau went to work pulling data from the computers the alarm sounded and immediately their tracking beacons signalled that the team was bugging out. “What about Winter?!” Isaac screamed furious by the audacity of his commanding officer. “If we grab him we can end this shit now! Humanity is in deep if he doesn’t answer for his crimes.” The Caliterrian studied the human unsure on what to say, what would rile him and what would comfort him.

“If we stay we will likely die. You think Larik will hold the ship for you? What good will that do you and your people?”

“If he has any shed of humanity left in him he would.”

“Then you do not know the man,” the Caliterrian snubbed.

Isaac had listened to orders. Defeated and angry he followed Lau and managed to clear the structure before half the Votheen population stormed the place to investigate. Dull thuds shook dust free from the cavern roof as the Votheen tripped the booby traps Lau had left behind. They managed to climb a rocky outcrop before their stealth packages gave out completely and without warning. Isaac’s heart forgot to beat for a fraction of a second as the pair instinctively dropped to their chests thankfully unnoticed. “I guess they don’t last forever,” Lau mused seemingly unaffected by the sudden lapse in their equipment’s reliability. As the Votheen poured in, Isaac noticed one determined looking one striding out. It moved across the uneven ground to where a Human was stood next to one of the armoured vehicles. Isaac swore as Lau assured him that the gods must have been on his side to allow Isaac a chance at Winter on the way out. Isaac zoomed in with the scope on his assault rifle to get a better look at what was happening. The alien seemed incredibly annoyed and began to beat on the not so innocent victim. As the Votheen attempted to crush the traitor’s windpipe Isaac let off a round and opened up its own. As it choked on its own blood Leon Winter saw his opportunity and attempted to flee. He didn’t get far before his left leg evaporated from the shin down. He hit the ground and as he spun about in agony dust kicked up all around him so he could no longer be seen. “Great shot,” Lau managed, supremely impressed by the Human’s accuracy at the range they were.

“Cover me.” Isaac jumped from cover just before return fire flung up chunks of rock right where he had been hiding a moment ago. Isaac sprinted quicker than he knew he could as adrenalin forced his legs to keep up momentum pounding down harder each time, his feet biting into the crust. He broke pace and began to drag the disgraced politician to cover as crimson plasma fire danced around him in all directions. He thanked his good graces that the cloud prevented him from knowing how vastly outnumbered they were and also for breaking up his outline, making him harder to hit. As they dropped into a ditch that had been excavated to house the extremely thick power cables, Lau joined them, armour dashed in burns from shots that had been far too close for comfort. “I’ll have your heads for this!” Leon boomed as Isaac hit him in the temple with the butt of his rifle.

“Who needs stun rounds.” He smiled deadpan.

He kept forgetting himself as he signalled for his men to hold up, only to realise the hand signal was now lost to his stump. It felt strange, like it should still be at the end of his forearm. Like a numb pain from sleeping on it. He knew so far he had gotten off lightly, the things he’d lived through didn’t bear to think about and often haunted his dreams. He shook the thoughts from his head as his unit funnelled out using the work pallets as cover. They met no resistance on their way out but saw exactly why when they crested into the main staging area of the cavern. The Votheen seemed to have Isaac Jericho and Lau pinned from all angles. “He’s bagged Winter.” Seretta gasped as Larik noticed the third head poking out of the trench. He didn’t look like he was moving at all, Larik hoped he was unconscious and not dead. He wouldn’t have blamed Isaac for it but the Commander knew better, this went above them all now. “Take the heat off of them now! Drop ship’s expecting a hot extraction so let’s surprise them,” Larik ordered as his unit re-cloaked and began to scale the exterior superstructure in the hopes of storming the sentry posts unseen. The Colonel keyed the frequency of the distraction team outside in the square but only static responded. He hoped it was technical trouble or that the radio couldn’t penetrate the cave walls but he was worried. If they fought their way out of here was an army waiting for them outside?

The fire upon Isaac’s position subsided as Senate Security clashed with the Votheen from behind their own lines. The element of surprise had caught them completely off balance as they began firing upon their own positions. Larik rattled rounds off from below and popped the shields of a rampaging foe just in time for Seretta to pull the trigger, sending the creature from its nest down through the masonry. The cracks from its bones turned Larik’s stomach but it still twitched as it hit the ground in front of him. Hard to kill. He stood over it and took its head clean off with one bullet. Not impossible. Covered by the Votheen infighting and the work of his team, Larik managed to slide into cover alongside Isaac who looked extremely pleased to see him. “He’s not dead, is he?” asked Larik forcefully without a hint of appreciation as he looked the politician over.

“Unfortunately not, no.” Isaac regarded with a spiteful bite. “Good to see you too.” A roar shuck the cavern and large chunks of rock began to rain down from the ceiling, the bombers had come in to clear the LZ and would be clueless that friendlies were underneath them. Larik handed the vials over to Lau who stashed them in his hidden pouch in his armour. The blast door dropped away as friendly personnel began to funnel down the tunnel. At the lip, the broadside of the drop ship opened up. Its chain gun unleashed a hail of bullets upon the Votheen foolish enough to charge. Using the chaos to their advantage, the Senate Security survivors began to sprint toward the tunnel as the drop ship turned its attention to the face of the building. It disintegrated Votheen as soon as it touched them but the horde seemed without end. Lau threw the still fully unconscious Human over his bulky shoulders and took off at an alarming rate despite the burden of the extra weight. Red hot flares strobed past them, clipping at their heels as Votheen put themselves in harm’s way to prevent the black operation team’s escape. Larik reached the crest of the tunnel as the first drop ship took to the clouds fully loaded up. The square they had left was a massacre now, body parts and rubble littered every spare bit of the roads and walkways.

Lau hefted Leon roughly onto the cold hard floor of the second drop ship as Isaac and Larik covered him. The Votheen began to clear the tunnel and pressed the drop ship’s location. Isaac began to back toward the beckoning hatch and was well onboard, up and over the skirts, before he realised Larik hadn’t followed. As the Colonel covered their escape a plasma round had struck him on the chest knocking him off his feet. “Fuck!” yelled Isaac as he subconsciously attempted to jump off in support but Lau’s giant arm prevented it. The drop ship banked upwards sharply as a Votheen fighter sprayed the area they had been placed not seconds before. Fire peppered the cockpit as the vehicle kept ascending. “What are you doing? We have to go back!” Isaac ordered as he pounded on the head rest of the pilot’s seat.

“We go back, we all die. Sit down, soldier,” he cut off without turning back to meet the empty judging eyes staring a hole in the back of his head. Isaac punched the inner hull. He knew he was right but it didn’t make it feel any less raw. The drop ship slowed ever so slightly as it passed the largest building the distraction team had used for overwatch, just long enough to allow a wounded Iyin to limp aboard with the aid of a Human and a Caliterrian. As he settled into a crew seat and clutched at his weeping wound he surveyed the faces around him. “Where’s the Colonel?” The dead eyes of the surviving crew answered his question without any more words having to be spoken.

Larik smiled through the pain as he watched the extraction team disappear through the clouds. Someone somewhere had made the correct decision not to come back for him. The hole in his chest burned deeper than he ever knew a wound could. The pungent smell of charred flesh and death clung to him like a smothering blanket. He never saw the alien approach, he assumed he was struggling to stay conscious or alive. It bared sharp angular teeth and Larik assumed it would have gotten much satisfaction from killing or torturing him if it itself had lived much longer. The Colonel couldn’t contain his smile much longer and when it surfaced the alien looked what Larik assumed passed as confused. “Always have a plan B.” His one good hand waved a detonator suggestively at the Votheen who tried to pounce long after Larik had already pushed the button. The tunnel began to implode and the building on top of the cavern with it. Larik had made sure that he’d gotten one of his demolition experts to sabotage their fusion core. The expert hadn’t returned and Larik hadn’t even been sure he’d carried out his mission successfully before he’d pressed the button hopeful regardless. He was owed some good luck. The ruptured core would act like a black hole before reaching critical mass and releasing its energy like an atomic bomb. By his math the secret city of the Votheen would be a smouldering crater along with most of the continent. A Votheen warship broke through the atmosphere. Guests, and right on time. The last thing Larik saw was the brilliant flash of blinding white light that ended it all.

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