“Move it!” Talia shouted to the young man in front of her.
The wind whipped through her hair as she ran; the sound of her pounding heart all that Talia heard. Around her brave men and women were dying and there wasn’t a damn thing she could do to prevent it. All the warrior could do was to try and get herself and whoever survived out of the hellish situation.
A chopped off scream signaled the death of another soldier and it took every bit of the warrior’s self-control to keep running. These kids were brave and trusted her and it’d gotten so many killed because she’d miscalculated. How many times had Methos told her to slow down and not leap headfirst into any situation?
And like a fool I did it again, she thought bitterly.
The two of them raced towards an alley and a shell struck the wall beside Talia’s head when she raced around the corner. Small pieces of the feracrete went flying and several struck her in the check, cutting it open and a blossom of pain erupted in her mind.
Once out of range of the Dragus warriors, she stopped and then leaned against the wall. Sweat poured down Talia’s face as she looked at the only other soldier to survive the ambush.
“Mom, are you okay?” Dirrnyg asked. “You’re bleeding.”
Talia touched her face and then looked at the blood on her glove. “Yeah, I got winged. It won’t kill me though.”
“I guess you were right.”
“Basic isn’t anything like this.”
She dabbed at her cheek. “Doesn’t matter now. Now let’s see if we can get out of here.”
“This place is crawling with Dragus.”
“Yeah, the gearheads were pretty damn smart,” she said. “I figured they had more troops, but who knew!”
“That was intense!”
Talia made her way to the far end of the alley. “Yeah, try doing this for nine thousand years. I’m on my sixth lifetime you know.”
“What are we going to do?”
“That’s vague, Mom.”
“No, it’s not.” Talia said. “That’s all we can worry about right now. Nothing we can do for the others.”
“For what? They don’t teach this shit in basic.”
“It was a dumb question is all.”
“The only dumb question is the one never asked,” she said.
The reality of the situation started to sink in, taking Talia’s mind off the conversation. There was a distinct possibility that she would die again on another backwater planet. While she’d wake up in another cloned body, Dirrnyg wouldn’t, which gave her pause about what to do next.
I don’t know what the hell to do, she thought.
“Mom, I’m down to three magazines.”
“Please tell me you’re joking.”
“Shit, let me check mine. Damn, I’ve only got four! Just great!”
Wispy smoke still rose from the suppressor at the end of the rifle’s barrel as she ejected its empty magazine. Two miles of mostly urban area stood between the two of them and the landing zone, and that presented a problem. The multitude of buildings, cars and alleys gave the advantage of the Dragus and she still needed to worry about Dirrnyg.
“What’s the plan?” He asked.
“Avoid contact at all cost.”
The headset burst into life. “Talia, can you hear me?”
She dabbed at the blood again. “Yeah, Methos, please tell me you’ve got some good news.”
“Not really,” Methos said. “They’ve spread throughout the city. It’s going to be a bitch to get back to the LZ.”
“I’ve lost my team.”
“Told you to be careful.”
“Yeah, I should’ve listened.”
“Did they get Dirrnyg?”
“Nope, he’s with me.”
“That’s a relief,” Methos said. “Crios and I are moving around the southern edge of the city. You can’t join back up with us unless you run through the center of town.”
“That’s a no-go. It’ll be crawling with Dragus.”
Methos chuckled, a cold and humorless sound. “Looks like I’m going to have to save your ass again.”
“No you’re not! We’ll make it to you. I don’t want any more lives thrown away.”
“You sure? I can get there.”
“I’ll meet you at the LZ.”
She killed the com and then looked around the corner. “Great…”
“They’ve got two soldiers and a tank to the north three more and another tank to the south.”
“Yeah, they’ve got us cut off from the LZ.”
“What are were going to do?”
“That’s a good question.”
A large park lay on the far side of the street, it’s peaceful and tree covered area stretching several hundred yards into the distance. She looked at it for a second before tapping a button on her wrist computer and bringing up the city map.
“We’re going to use that park as our escape route,” she said. “It’s large enough to skip ten blocks and more than likely not covered.”
“I hope you’re right.”
She shrugged. “If not, you’ll die and I’ll be onto my seventh life.”
His eyes grew wide.
“I told you this wasn’t a game. Now do you see why I wanted you with me?” She thumbed on the com unit again. “Methos, I’m going to work my way towards you and Crios. How long before you reach the LZ?”
“Twenty minutes minimum.”
A brilliant flash cast shadows everywhere and she raised a hand to protect her eyes. On its heel came a deep, rolling sound as the buildings around Talia swayed in rhythm. Windows blew out as a small mushroom cloud grew in the distance.
Talia saw only the bluish white smoke that followed the cloud before leaning against the wall and then sliding down to land on her buttocks. Chalk up another thirty lives on her hands due to her arrogant miscalculation.
“Was that what I think it was?” Methos asked.
“Great…that means we’re well and totally fucked.”
“Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Please say you’ve got a plan or is this one of your ‘can’t miss’ schemes that’s totally backfiring again.”
“I’ll get back with you on that one.”
“Sometimes I wish you’d use that damn brain of yours!”
Crios jumped in. “Then why are we in this situation?”
“They surprised me.”
“Right…” Methos said. “Face it: you were outsmarted again.”
“Can you do better?”
“I thought so, now pipe down.”
“I’m going to pipe you when we get back.”
“That’s if we get back,” Crios said. “Talia, are you sure you can make it to us?”
“Am I sure? No. Will I try? Yes.”
“Just remember that Dirrnyg is with you.”
Talia sighed. “Don’t remind me, please. It’s stressing enough to get both of us out of this jam without you adding to it.”
“Had to make sure you understood,” Crios said.
“Hang on a second, ok?” Talia took on last look around. “Come on Dirrnyg, and don’t drag behind either.”
He sounded like a chastised child. “Yes, Mom.”
The wind whipped her silver hair up and it flowed behind her like a cape as she sprinted across the street and then leapt over the short wall. Tops of shrubs and low lying limbs scraped against her armor and one opened up her cut more before Talia slammed into the ground. She absorbed the impact with her forearms and then forwards rolled to end up in a runner’s crouch. A second later Dirrnyg landed beside her.
Luckily for both of them the biomechanical monstrosities hadn’t spotted them, which lead to Talia letting out a sigh of relief. She motioned to Dirrnyg and then started to sprint from tree to tree, moving deeper into the foliage and away from the Dragus shock troops.
“Hey!” Methos snapped. “Are you there?”
Talia skidded to a stop behind a boulder and then sat down. “Yeah, just needed to concentrate for a second.”
“Where are you now?”
“Great. I’m over here working my ass off and she’s goofing off. Cheikra, what did I do to deserve this?”
“If it’ll make you happy, I could just walk up to the Dragus and let them blow me away.”
“Please don’t,” Methos was silent for a second. “How are you on ammo?”
Talia chuckled, the sound cold and without humor. “I’m down to four full mags.”
“This just keeps getting better and better.”
Once again Methos was putting things mildly and Talia found it borderline amusing. If there was anything in the galaxy she could be certain of, it was her sister’s reactions to things. The day Methos stopped loving the three of them would be the day the universe itself died.
And I can’t believe I said “yes” to Dirrnyg either, she thought.
“Talia,” Methos said softly.
“I’m sorry for snapping at you. It’s not your fault.”
“Forget about it, you needed to blow off steam.”
“They got us this time. Have to admit I didn’t see it coming.”
Talia raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t like Methos to be apologetic after an outburst. “Something up?”
“They’re moving to seal the city,” Methos said. “We won’t be able to make it to a LZ.”
“I’ll find a way. Just hang on until I get there.”
“Do you want me to meet up with you?”
She crawled over and then peered around the edge of the boulder. Two Dragus soldiers stood at the entrance of the park but didn’t enter, which puzzled Talia. If they knew where she and Dirrnyg were then they’d be approaching but they weren’t.
What are the up to? She thought. It’s almost as…
“Cut off your com unit!” She snapped as she closed the system down.
“The bastards are using our com transmissions to track us,” she muttered. “They’re going to be looking for us. Come on, we’ve got to keep moving.”
The only thing Talia could think of was how the gearheads were getting smarter. Why it took the networked computers that served as their leadership so long to think of using communications to triangulate on their target amazed her. It would’ve been the first thing she went after, but then that’s something that always separated Gahl from machine.
She sprinted across a small opening and then baseball slid to a stop inside a large grouping of trees. For several seconds all Talia could see was darkness before her eyes started to adjust.
Please, please, please, she thought, let them think we moved on!
Beside her Dirrnyg fidgeted and she resisted the urge to snap at him. It wasn’t his fault; he was learning what combat was like. With any luck he’d survive to tell the tale to other soldiers.
Talia resisted the impulse to slap him before settling on tapping his armor and then putting a finger to her lips.
For several seconds she stared at the Dragus warriors, too frightened to move, as they moved deeper into the park. Right now the gearheads only suspected someone might’ve survived their dragnet but without the com signal to lock in on they’d be hard pressed to track her. A couple seconds longer though and she and Dirrnyg would’ve joined the others who’d died and it would’ve been due to her stupidity.
“Get behind a tree,” she whispered. “And don’t move until I tell you do.”
She moved across the grass and then ducked into safety before leaning back and closing her eyes.
Nothing to do now but sit and wait, she thought.