Chapter 3

Drawing my pistol, I scanned the fire fight, attempting to find a place to help. Our perimeter was ten meters in front of me. Four of our barriers made a rough semicircle twenty meters wide. Behind my back was to a large stone wall. The building was long and wide, and I mused that it was likely some sort of gathering space during poor weather. To my right and front, several squat buildings stood at random intervals and distances. It was nearly impossible to see anything coming from that direction.

My left side was open to the town square. The barriers had a rather large gap between them and building, offering absolutely no protection whatsoever. The far side of the square seemed to be coming to life. Any forces that had survived the Apache’s onslaught would be coming from that direction. They were smart enough not to charge across the open square, but buildings surrounded the square, giving them plenty of ways to advance.

The burning wreckage of the unfortunate helicopter was spewing smoke into the sky. Its black column rose up from theother side of the building we had our backs to. I could smell the fire, so it had to be somewhat nearby.

As I turned back to Jones, he began to move, walking in a crouch to ensure his head didn’t get blown off over the top of the barriers. He moved down his line of soldiers, taking inventory of supplies and power packs. After this was complete, he returned to the wall, frowning through his faceplate.

“We only have a dozen barriers left and air support is still ten minutes out,” he explained, gruffly.

“We should clear and occupy this building behind us. It’s not ideal, but it could buy us a few minutes.” I said. Jones thought about the idea for a few long moments before shaking his head.

“Too risky. We’d be trapped.”

“I’m not sure we have much other choice…”

No sooner had I finished that sentence, a purple flash exploded in the gap of our defenses. Dirt and small rocks erupted, spraying the area with a mist of soil and debris. Corporal Samantha Dartson, the closest to the blast, rolled away from the crater, sputtering. She came to rest a short distance away and looked down her sights, attempting to find the culprit. I tapped a button on the left side of my helmet. The view onthe inside of my faceplate zoomed in and I searched the far end of the square. I couldn’t see any Cobrhan.

Though I couldn’t hear what was said, Private First Class Gweneth Astrola’s name appeared in my HUD. Knowing she was on the far end of the line, I whirled around. With my view still zoomed in, I was afflicted with momentary vertigo. I changed my view back to normal as my vision cleared. What I saw made me raise my weapon and start firing as quickly as I could.

Five or six Cobrhan were slithering around the corner, swinging axes. There were two of the snake-men in the back, slinging magic.

Christ! They purposely aimed for the far gap so that we’d turn that way. Sneaky bastards… I thought.

Astrola and Solomon were firing at first several Cobrhan, taking two down. As I added my blasts to the fray, another fell and Astrola reloaded. One of the remaining Cobrhan threw her axe at Solomon. I watched him raise his rifle, somehow managing to stop the weapon. However, it knocked therifle from his hands. The unarmed Cobrhan breached our line and slashed her talons through the air, just inches from Solomon’s stomach.

As I rushed forward, changing power packs, there was an eruption before my feet. I went down hard, grunting as the air flew from my lungs. Another explosion sounded off to my left, spraying rock from the nearby building. I covered my neck, feeling pebbles bounce off my armor. As the debris cleared, I gasped painfully. Two dozen warriors and ten magi rounded the corner.

I watched the next several moments pass in a blur. Astrola began firing as quickly as she could, killing several as they surged forward. Solomon retreated several paces, bringing his sidearm to bear and wounding the unarmed female. Recruit Erica Piefar swiveled, took five steps to clear her line of fire, and unloaded her machine gun into the oncoming hoard. With her post now unmanned position, the Cobrhan they had first engaged surged forward. At the same time, the far end of the square began teeming with activity. Seconds later small explosions began to sound behind me.

Sergeant Jones’ name appeared. When it vanished, everyone began holding up their hands and putting down their weapons. The Cobrhan quickly surrounded our squad and began gesturing to one another. Before any ofthe Cobrhan could enact whatever plan, they had discussed, a large grey male made his way through the through the crowd. When he stopped, all eyes watched him. He spoke in his native language gesturing first to the weapons, then toward me. Without any hesitation, the Cobrhan obeyed. As two large males picked me up and began ushering me away, three others gathered our weapons. The rest of my squad was prodded forward by axes.

Well, at least we’re still alive. For now…

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