“What the fuck is that?” Grant questioned, binoculars pressed to his face.
Tanner squinted his eyes and did his best to focus on the distant, grainy black dots on the horizon, but through the sandstorm, even his augmented sight couldn’t make out who or what was out there.
Wind and sand whipped past the pair and buffeted them relentlessly. Tanner shook his head in irritation before marching down the ramparts from where they held watch.
“Where you goin?” Grant called after him. He was greeted with silence. He nearly stalked after his friend when Tanner came, half-jogging, back up with his rifle in hand.
“Scopes a little better than binoculars here,” Tanner shrugged. He took one last squint eyed look before raising his scope to his eye and spotted what was coming. “Get Virus.”
Grant felt his skin crawl at the fear in Tanner’s voice.
“Wh-,” Grant was cut off by the explosion of Tanner’s rifle firing. Tanner drew back the bolt and jammed another round into the barrel before shouting over at Grant.
“Get Virus now!”
Grant nodded, turned and came face to face with Virus who had already arrived.
“I heard your shot. Is it her?” Virus asked stoically.
Tanner shook his head, “I can’t tell. I’m seeing about thirty transport vehicles.” Tanner fired another round. “I’ve disabled two.”
“How much time do we have?” Virus asked.
“Five for the ones I don’t slow down,” Tanner answered before chambering, letting out a slow breath and firing another round.
“Keep it up, I’m headed to see about a man about girl. Grant, get everyone geared up.”
Grant grunted his understanding and bolted away. Virus followed suit and swiftly made his way to Petrovich’s shack. He couldn’t hear any screams from outside. That was a good sign. She was getting close. Virus pushed the door open and found Zaria’s twitching form on the table.
“It should only be a matter of a few hours. What’s the commotion outside? I heard gunshots,” Petrovich asked from his desk across the room. He was nose-deep in a textbook on biofuels and didn’t bother to look up. Virus peeled his eyes away from Zaria to look at him.
“An invasion force is headed our way. Could be Seraph, could be someone else. We need her, Virus urged. Petrovich was uncertain, but he thought he could see a hint of fear in Virus’ eyes.
“Impossible. She isn’t done,” Petrovich denied. Virus groaned and paced over to where Zaria lay. He placed a hand on her arm whose muscles spasmed and flexed inhumanly. Beneath her skin Virus could feel the heat that radiated from the work of the microscopic machines.
“Virus...” Petrovich started. Virus met his gaze questioningly.
“Yeah?” He asked. Petrovich held up a small syringe of silver fluid that glinted in the light. Silver fluid that seemed to move with an energy and mind of its own.
“The fuck is that?” Virus asked, walking over and taking it from Petrovich’s outstretched hand.
“Anti-Syrum. It should, emphasis on should, shut down the nanites in Seraph’s body. I’ve been working all night with the leftover machines from Zaria’s injection,” Petrovich explained. Virus gawked at the elderly man. He lifted the syringe to eye level and peered at it closely.
“I didn’t think it was possible...” Virus muttered.
“If Zaria doesn’t wake up in time... you have to inject him with it. You’re the only one fast enough to catch him off guard,” Petrovich urged.
“Yeah, tell that to the me a few decades ago,” Virus snorted and tucked the syringe into his pocket. Petrovich laid a tentative hand on Virus’ shoulder. His shoulder stiffened but he didn’t shrug away the hand.
“Don’t let Seraph win,” Petrovich pleaded.
“We’ll try and hold them until she wakes,” Virus promised. He turned and stepped out of the door.
Looking up, Virus realized that Grant had already gotten the men and women falling into line. Many of the soldiers were forming into squadrons and preparing to head into their practiced formations and positions. Grant paced through the street barking orders like a hardened captain, no sense of fear showing in his massive and powerful frame.
“Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, get your asses to the barricade and start laying down ordinance! Fire at your own discretion. Delta through Hotel take firing positions on the fortifications! If you see Yellow-Eyes, alert myself, Tanner or Virus and then you are authorized to kill if you can! India and Juliet... get the civilians down to the bomb shelter,” Grant bellowed. An explosion of “Yessir!” followed his order and the town became a flurry of controlled chaos. Grant spotted Virus walking toward him and breathed a sigh of distress.
“I’m going out there,” Virus stated. Grant bit back his urge to argue. He knew it would be fruitless. Instead he raised a forearm toward the old Operative.
“For those we’ve lost,” Grant offered. Virus in turn knocked his own against it.
“For those still here,” Virus returned. In a blink he was gone with no more than a scuff in the dirt where he stood. Grant bowed his head and peered sidelong at Petrovich’s shack.
“Wake up shorty. Please?” he whispered.
Back on the ramparts, Tanner was unloading round after round into the oncoming vehicles when something dashed into his perifery. He pulled his head from his scope and looked down at the lone figure at the head of the ramparts. Virus was adjusting the straps of his Kevlar vest with a black AR slung over his shoulder. He had a knife strapped to each arm and leg, one on his chest and another on the back of his belt. A pistol was holstered on one thigh and a pair of grenades were strapped to the other.
“Hot date?” Tanner called out.
“There’s a bevy out there just askin for a taste of this sweetness,” Virus called back with a smirk, “You gonna keep playing support or you gonna double lane this shit with me?”
Tanner looked back out at the enemy caravan nearly on their doorstep and the dozen vehicles disabled and smoking behind them. Nearly sixty soldiers were advancing toward them on foot and even more were moving in by vehicle. Tanner couldn’t help the laugh that bubbles from his lips. Beside him, several squadrons had taken position with him and they eyed him worryingly.
“You know there’s about a hundred and fifty of them right?” Tanner asked as he straightened up and walked toward Virus along the edge of the rampart.
Virus smiled and pointed at the three squadrons now barreling toward a razorwire lined pair of foxholes that lined the road with mortars and launchers in hand.
“‘Bout to be a lot less. Might almost be a fair fight,” he haggled as he took a standing position by his oldest friend.
“And Rogue?” Tanner asked, reaching over and taking Virus’ pistol from its holster. Virus shrugged and brought his rifle to the ready.
“If she’s here then we’ll have to sit her down and have a nice chat,” Virus supposed.
Tanner smiled as the first mortar round screamed through the air and annihilated a transport vehicle into jagged sheet metal and smoke.
“It feels weird,” Tanner muttered. Virus nodded his agreement.
“We win or we lose, there’s a bitter serenity to that,” Virus said. Tanner chuckled.
“Serenity? Been using that calendar I got you?” He asked.
“Incontrovertibly,” Virus beamed humorously. Tanner chuckled.
“Well you’re right. I better see you on the other side of this,” Tanner urged.
“Sing your death song.”
“Like a soldier going home,” Tanner finished. Virus grinned a toothy smile and hoisted his rifle into the air.
“Alright fellas, no time for a fancy speech. Lets give’m hell!” Virus roared.
Battlecries bellowed out around the sounds of gunfire and ordinance erupting into the skies.