Flames cascaded over the torn remains of several men. Hook’s eyes ripped open to the sound of screams, he rolled onto his side and coughed a mix of blood and dirt. “Slake!” he called, but there was no response. He got back to his feet, slowly and painfully. A medic ran to him. “Are you okay Sir?”
“I… I think so.”
“The shock wave might have done internal damage we need…”
“No. He was in front of me… SLAKE!”
The medic moved on as Silas approached. “Slake’s dead” he stated coldly. “Half there” he pointed to a flaming pile of rags and flesh, “and half over there” he pointed to a broken pair of legs amidst twisted chunks of metal.
Hook thought about smashing Silas’ face to pulp, but before he could make a fist Silas had shoved a repeater into his hands. “Cowards” Silas spat, “They dragged the traitor north. I know the area and how we can get eyes on them.”
“What?” Hook begged, stunned. “They took Steiner?”
“Must be a spy” Silas grinned, his mind filling with thoughts of gunning down his former squad mate.
Hook remembered the twisted body of Private Anders and now Slake. He gripped the repeater tightly.
As they crested the ridge they saw more blackheads moving in the distance. Silas barked orders: “First squad take and hold the centre, second we’ll get high ground on the right. Hook you’re with me!”
Silas excitedly ran ahead and scaled the ladder up to the catwalk. Second squad followed as did AD Hook. The Sun and the planet Kannis hung above in the sky, bright and ancient. Hook hadn’t noticed either of them before, but now as he ascended the ladder they we nearly all he could see. It was like a god was crouching down to watch them, their eyes piercing and brilliant. The shapes of the world felt uneasy, flimsy, like you could tear them open and expose a void within. “What is happening?” Hook thought. Had the explosion scrambled his mind? His vision came in and out of focus, but still he pressed on.
The squad reached the top and Hook became aware of what had excited Silas so much. A simple small patch of open ground Mortan’s Men and Steiner would have to cross to escape. “It’s a turkey shoot!” Silas squealed, “Everybody get a spot, least kills buys the first round!”
It was too easy to take them down, flashes of red and dust, crumpled uniforms and cooked meat, bodies strewn like autumn leaves, haunting, savage, exhilarating. All but two had perished in the volley of repeater fire: Steiner and one other.
Silas signalled first squad to take up position in the building below, giving them eyes on the escapees.
It was then rifle fire cracked from a building on the other side of the road. Shards of rusted metal splintered off of the catwalk and flew like daggers…
… but in the midst of it Silas kept up the fire on Steiner’s position. The remaining heavy repeater fell silent, and they watched as Steiner stumbled and fell.
The cost to Silas’ squad was great though. Two brothers fell. Hook looked down at them remorsefully. Silas glanced and spat in anger, “Less firepower now!”
It was then they noticed Steiner had left the trench. “He still alive?” Silas asked, “Couldn’t be!” Rifles still sounded from the building ahead making further advancement impossible for now. Pinned, Hook and Silas watched as Steiner’s body was dragged out of sight by a blackhead.
PL Dax screeched through their ear pieces “Silas! Get my men back here now!”
Hook fell to his knees breathless and broken. He looked up and the eyes were still watching.
Private Josef Steiner. Legion of Kharthion. No. 332143246.
I woke up in a dark room. The walls were grey and featureless. I could sense someone else with me, above me. Where am I? I tried to sit up by couldn’t, it was if my body was still asleep. I could see my uniform was torn by gunfire.
“Do not resist it” they said, “The drug we gave you makes your body comply with our instructions.”
“What?” I thought, unable to open my mouth.
“Do not worry, it will wear off soon.”
A figure dressed in white came to my side, their face obscured by a surgeons mask. They stuck a needle in my arm, and I watched as my blood drained out into a bag.
“All will be explained at the right time” they stated calmly. “You are special to us Joseph.”