Chapter Three: The Hunt
Josaf, designated “Chaos 3”, crouched low in a thick patch of the white fungi. Already his armour was slick with the oil after only a few minutes of hiding and waiting. The lack of motion made him a bit cold, even under his temperature-regulating armour, and his toes and fingers felt as though they were freezing, only kept warm by flexing them from time to time.
Ten minutes passed since they had first taken up positions around their smoldering ship. Ten minutes of silence, odd for what looked like a winter forest. Everything was perfectly still, the tree-like fungus projecting meters up into up into the air never moved, except for the occasional gust of wind. The piles of ground fungus, soft and porous stuff, mounded up to a meter high and seemed like piles of snow.
The only sound now was the shallow noises of his breathing inside his helmet, and the incredibly faint sound of his armour humming. Just before they’d set up positions, Josaf and the rest of Chaos team had activated their suits energy shields, at least they still worked. The plate wide, two inch thick generator imbedded deeply within their back armour emitted a self-forming field of hardened energy capable of reflecting both kinetic rounds and energy blasts.
If only their stealth packages hadn’t failed. Without stealth capability they were not hard to see. Black combat armour in a white forest made Josaf think of black bears trying to hide in the arctic wastelands of Earth.
By the time fifteen minutes passed, Josaf was getting a tad impatient. He’d have thought something would’ve happened by now; that they would have attacked or been attacked. But nothing happened. The air itself seemed to stop moving in the sheer lack of motion. Shifting on his squatted legs, Josaf tried to reposition some weight to help his blood flow better. As he did so, he quickly increased his external sound receptors to the maximum, trying to hear any solitary decibel of any sound which may be a danger.
Suddenly, he was nearly knocked flat by a massive burst of sound. An explosion! He whipped around, stealth somewhat forgotten as he looked for the source. There, twenty yards ahead of him, a blazing orange ball of fire mushroomed into the air. His speakers quickly dampened the blaring sound; bring it back to more sensitive levels, but Josaf’s ears were still ringing. The next noise he heard was Jancy’s, excited and concerned.
“Guys, don’t move. It’s probably a diversion, or a cover for an attack. Eyes open and check for any hostiles, stay careful.” Josaf started a quick and methodical search of his surroundings with renewed vigor. Still, nothing! Nothing but white trees and white bushes, just all white! An idea then occurred to him, an idea which then quickly blossomed. He franticly opened up an open COM to his whole team, urgently speaking.
“Guys, what if they have white armour?” There was a moment of silence, the other two sheer dumbfounded that the concept of white armour on a white world hadn’t occurred to them. Jancy broke the silence, rapping out orders.
“Thermals on now! Check the area and shoot anything you see!” Without a response, Josaf turned on his thermal vision with a rush of excitement growing in him, countering the anxiety and dread he’d just been feeling earlier. Immediately his vision changed, the white world became immediately drowned out in a sea of dark grey shapes, cold and lacking heat for the thermals to read. He moved, scanning the area and avoiding the explosion site which would mess up the vision. No, nothing. His smile and heart both began to sink, when he saw something.
Nine bright white figures only thirty yards away.
With a blast of adrenaline and excitement, Josaf whipped up his rifle, yelling into his mike.
“Contact! Hostiles sighted thirty yards north!” Safety off, He settled an aiming reticule projected on his visor onto the head of the nearest target, started to squeeze the trigger, and…
BAM! The fenton-base round flashed out from their midst and hit him dead in the head. Head snapping back, the massive kinetic force blew him head over heels, not an easy feat for such a heavily armoured man, and blasted the wind from him. Josaf saw the air pop around him, heard the internal whine as his shield collapsed, and found himself staring up at the white sky, trying to make sense of things.
He woke up, coming back to the thunderous sound of Pyro and Jancy’s ARG-20s firing quick bursts. Blinking rapidly, he regained his senses and, down low, he dashed forward, rifle in hand. Ducking behind a fungi-enveloped rock, he stood up, quick as a flash, and opened fire. The roar of the gun shook his teeth and after a second of firing, stopped and checked the results. The white, heat-radiating figures were moving, very quickly. One had a limp; Josaf zeroed in and fired just as they did.
His target collapsed, its leg spraying blood. Before Josaf’s enhanced reflexes could do anything, three rounds of fenton slammed into his chest. With a scream, Josaf fell like a load of bricks. White hot fire burned at his torso, his shields were gone and so was his chest plate. Looking down, he saw a bloody hole in his chest, and he could feel a punctured lung. Coughing out blood, he staggered up on reflex, level his gun and opened up again, emptying his clip.
Josaf turned, stumbled, and started to run forward, barely staying up. He made it five feet before volley of rounds tore into his exposed back, ripping apart his spine and causing massive damage. Daggers of white fire tore into his back, causing another scream of pain to rip from his throat. He collapsed, not feeling his legs. The pain screamed at him, shredding his nerves. He yelled, and then the pain died to more manageable proportions.
But not for long, he heard the sound of approaching boots, then the all-too familiar sound of metal leaving metal. An incredibly strong arm, grabbed his neck, and like he was a sock, lifted his limp form into the air. Josaf found himself glaring into the golden visor of his enemy; he thought he could see mocking eyes glaring at him through it. Before he could say a thing, a wicked-looking barbed knife flashed forward, stabbing into his stomach. Josaf didn’t say a thing; he could no longer feel from below his severed spine. The last thing he did feel was the sharp pain of the knife ripping upwards, through his heart and into his neck.
Pyro ran. Motivated by the flight of his commander, he half-wanted to turn back and tear the enemy to shreds.
Josaf was dead!
Killed! Brought down by a volley of rounds, and when he retreated, shot in the back by the cowards! Rare tears streaked the soldier’s hidden face, stinging in his eyes and making it hard to see as he charged through the white forest. Jancy was about ten yards ahead of him, running full out at a speed of about thirty kilometers an hour. They dashed like this for about twenty minutes before slowing to a halt.
Jancy turned to face his companion, visor depolarized, exposing his red, angry face. Pyro did likewise, his emotion-wracked feelings seething through the helmet, mixing with Jancy’s and permeating the air with a feeling of hatred. Jancy glared in his eyes and spoke in a curt voice hot with anger.
“Don’t say a thing right now. We’ve lost Josaf. We’re not busting ourselves on some fury-fueled mission to get his body and revive him, he’s gone. Get it through your head and make daje sure it doesn’t interfere with your orders soldier! A man is down, and friend or not, we’ve got a mission to do and we’re going to do it. Our new orders are to go back and slaughter everyone one of those killers, take their ship and torch this whole bloody planet, are we clear?” Pyro stared into his eyes, burning a hole into his soul and feeding it compressed, barely-controlled fiery rage. Jancy met this with his own before Pyro replied in a low, thick voice full of fire.
“Yes sir. And when we head back there, I’m going to kill all of them, every single one.” He polarized his helmet to the maximum and turned around, rifle ready and started to move forward. Jancy’s voice stopped him.
“Pyro.” Turning, Pyro looked at him for an order. Jancy shoved him aside, gun up. As he moved forward his head turned around and said plainly.
“You wanna kill all of them? Well, you’re gonna have to be faster than me. Now let’s move!”
A cold, terrible grin grew across Pyro’s mouth as he silently obeyed the order, dashing forward in front of his leader.
Moving at full speed, the two avengers dashed off into the white abyss.
Back at the ship, Cirel was not prepared for this. Not in the least.
He was a pilot, daje it! He was trained to fly around in all forms of ships, drop off the troops, and fly back to the safety of orbit as quick as his thrusters could carry him, and if needed provide a little bit of cover-fire.
His job did NOT involve a sudden explosion, crashing on a minus eighty degree planet, and getting stuck in the middle of a firefight between Cortalan terrorists and Seaportians NGTs (Next Generation Troopers.)
It was even worse when the NGT’s lost in their first encounter with the enemy, one of them died, and other others took off. Now, hiding in the sealed cockpit with his friend and copilot, Miachen, clutching his head in hands he moaned about how this couldn’t be happening, it wasn’t happening. The cold, stark naked fear in his heart he felt a little of when he flew over a hot LZ was hitting him in full force now, terrifying him!
He felt like crying, like curling up in a ball and whimpering helplessly. This, couldn’t, happen! Not on his ship! Not with him! And not on his ship with him! He let loose a small, quavering sigh which sounded more like a pathetic cry. He stuck his head up then to see what his companion was doing.
To his utter and complete surprise, Miachen was not wailing or looking defeated at all! While he definately looked nervous, scared even, he didn’t surrender to fate. Instead, he tapped a symbol and popped open a small compartment beside his seat. He dipped his hand into it, and pulled out a small metal device. Cirel realized that it was a pistol!
Miachen pulled out an ailon handgun, capable of firing a high-energy beam which, on setting six, could vaporize an unarmored man. He casually checked the power reading, then switched off the safety. Cirel looked at him like he was man possessed, then cried out in shock and horror.
“Are you a mad man? Are you going to try and fight them? If an NGT unit couldn’t beat them, what chance do you think you have?” Shrugging, Miachen looked at him and answered in a determined, quivering voice.
“They want to break this ship; they’re going to have to buy it.” Rolling his eyes in exasperation, Cirel hissed.
“Well then it looks like they’re going to pay a very cheap price for it! Are you out of your mind? You want to live, you should just surrender now!” Shaking his head, Miachen popped open the door and stepped out. As he did, he said his last words to Cirel.
“Well, I gotta do something.” With that, he shut and sealed the door, leaving Cirel to his fate. A sudden volley of shots shattered the canopy, throwing duraglass everywhere. As the stasis fields kicked in, halting the movement of air around the ship and stopping any cold air from getting in, Cirel curled up and whimpered; sure he would never see his friends or family again.
Miachen stood a meter in front of the entry door, ailon pistol steadied in both hands before him on maximum power. His cold, sweaty hands shook slightly in apprehension of what was to come, but he kept the wobbling weapon pointed at the point of entry, waiting for the Cortalan’s to break in. He did not have to wait long.
The door flew open, the center of it crumpled where it had been kicked. Like a nightmare, in marched his tormentor. The armour worn by him was small and flexible looking. Around the wrists there was an impressive amount of tools and weapons matched by the tools and weapons on his waist. The armour was gray and trimmed with gold and had a black cape hanging off the left shoulder. The helmet looked like a grey and gold sugarloaf helmet with a few exposed tools on it.
Before the stunned Miachen, who had never fought before, could do anything, the figure saw him and reacted immediately. Moving like greased lightning, he snapped forward and snatched the gun, wrenching it away from the co-pilots hands and breaking his finger in the process. Miachen yelled in pain as his finger snapped, and at the same time pressed the trigger.
There was a burning sound, a brilliant light, and a white hot sizzling beam of energy fire from the barrel, raising the room temperature a good ten degrees and blowing a very clean hole through the top of the ship, stabbing through a break in the hanging fungus and into the sky. Stumbling back and cradling his wounded hand, Miachen suddenly found himself on the deck with the armoured assasilant kneeling on his chest and pressing a knife to his neck. He tried to swallow, he couldn’t. Trembling in fear, Miachen shivered despite the heat of the room.
When the man spoke, it was very calm, plain and deadly serious.
“Where are the soldiers going?” Managing to finally gulp, Miachen stared, transfixed, into the searing golden gaze of his foes visor and with his last scrap of courage, managed to croak out.
“I don’t know.”
“Really?” The man asked and started to push down the blade, drawing a trickle of blood. Miachens nerve broke and he suddenly erupted with a blabbering stream of everything he knew, including the size and dimensions of the ship. He finished talking and lay there, quivering and bleeding. Again, the soldier asked, more sternly this time. “Do you know where the soldiers are going?”
In a low, completely terrified voice, Miachen whispered, “No.”
“Is that your final answer?” Miachen barely managed a faint nod.
With a shrug, the man said simply, “Ok then.” Then he shoved down and the last thing Miachen felt was the knife applying pressure as it sliced through his neck, killing him instantly.
Cirel decided it was now or never. He’d heard the ailon fire, he’d heard the brief interrogation followed by Miachen’s burst of information, followed by his silence. Cirel decided it didn’t take a genius to figure out what happened and decided that it was best to run for it, maybe link up with the NGT squad, or what remained of it.
Wrapping himself up in a thermal suit and helmet, he gingerly climbed out of the shattered canopy and scrambled across the oily and crushed crash site. He got into the thicker ‘trees’ without a hitch, and started to run at a quicker pace. He shivered, even in the thermal suit it was freezing! He stopped checked behind him, saw no one, and started to run forward again when he was tackled.
A figure dressed in white armour slammed into him, throwing him into a nearby bush. His breath left him with a whoosh, as did a curse of “Daje it!” He landed on his back, finding himself effortlessly pinned down by the elegant, white armoured man. Terrified, he stared into the eyeless visor, wordless and just getting his breath back. Moving like an oiled snake, his captor whipped out cords and bound him tightly before wrapping him a white blanket, wrapped him up too tight to escape, and then called out.
“Where are you going?” Cirel was shocked. A girl? Girl or not, her voiced sounded like one who wouldn’t hesitate to kill him in a heartbeat, if ordered to. Laying there, shivering in cold, he waited as several more Cortalan’s lightly dashed over to his position. So tightly bound, he couldn’t turn around to see anything which was slightly embarrassing. Still, as he heard the following conversation, embarrassment became the farthest thing from his mind.
It started off with Miachen’s killer who spoke in an annoyed voice, “You look awfully pleased with yourself.”
His capturer then whipped off the white blanket, exposing him shivering from the cold which was now numbing his toes and fingers. Then the newcomer spoke again, talking into a communicator of some sort, “Ferin, can you hear me?”
Ferin obviously could because then the man responded, “We’re going to stay here until the soldiers show up.” Then turning to the girl, “Tarlish you can start talking again anytime you feel like it.”
Her cold, slightly amused voice replied, “Hmm, you’re just upset because you didn’t catch him.”
“Just because that’s true doesn’t mean you’re right.” That was the last voice Cirel heard for about twenty minutes. Unnoticed, he just lay there, shivering silently, teeth chattering inside his helmet. He was getting worried now, while his thermal suit retained his body heat, it worked best when he moved to generate such heat. Here, in such freezing conditions, he was worrying he might just freeze to death!
His fears were, however, eluded when apparently after hearing some radio chatter, the man spoke up again.
“Quit complaining! How far could they possibly go with no ship? Just start following their tracks.” Then, apparently turning to him, said. “Or maybe our friend has an idea of where they are going.” He crawled over to a now petrified Cirel, flipped him over and stared him in the eyes.
“Do you know where they are?” Cirel, now too terrified to say anything, rolled his head in the direction of the original target. The man questioned him. “Is there a village that way?” This time the girl, Tarlish, nodded solemnly. Turning back to Cirel, the man stood up and said in a decent voice. “You’ve been very helpful.” With that he pointed his rifle at Cirel’s chest.
Now to terrify to do anything but let out a horrified moan, Cirel closed his eyes and hoped it would be quick! Nothing happened though, prompting the poor pilot to open his eyes and look at what was happening. Tarlish, the girl, was half-yelling at his executioner, “What are you doing!?!”
In a matter-of-fact voice, the man turned his head and plainly stated, “Well we can’t take him with us.”
In an equally statement tone of voice, Tarlish corrected him, “Yes we can.” With that, she pulled out a rather long needle from in her armour somewhere, and in one fluid movement, stabbed it into the shocked pilot’s heart. Cirel felt the jab of pain, followed by the sudden wave of numbness and exhaustion which spread through his body as the sedative went to work. As he sunk into a sea of blackness and silence, he heard only muted mumbling as he wondered if he would ever see home again?
Jancy and Pyro had ran for a shot distance, then started creeping on their bellies towards the ship, minds set on vengeance. No longer blazing with fiery fury, but now the icy, cold, calculating minds of professional killers. They had gotten forty yards closer to the ship before stopping, staying utterly still. Ahead they had heard the voices of the terrorists, heard them chase down and capture Cirel, and heard them knock him out with sedatives. Watching as they decided to start moving again, Jancy vanished into the white undergrowth.
Stay fifty meters from the party at all times, they stayed silent as wraiths, tracking them down. Finally, after an hour of crawling and creeping, they finally got a good shot sighted. Pyro opted to take it and lay flat on his stomach, leveling the ARG-20 on a flat rock. Breathing slow, deep breaths, he shut one eye and aimed down the iron sights, lining up the W shape with the targeting reticule on his visor. He waited for the end of his exhale, waited for the brief pause between heart beats, he squeezed the trigger and fired.
The gun exploded like a bomb, the high-velocity round screaming as it blew through the sound barrier at the blistering speeds of over four thousand feet per second. His target, the one in the lead, dropped like a rock, missing a large portion of his head. All the others dropped two and began taking up defensive positions and returning fire in the general direction of the two NGTs.
Jancy smiled with an evil joy as his adrenaline began pumping with battle joining. This is what he loved! A shoot out with the enemy! A shoot-out with a friend at his side! Shooting with a friend for a friend, to avenge a friend! Soon the entire area with thick with fire. The super-dense rounds from the NGTs ripping through foliage, blowing patches of fungus to piles of mush, while the eerie green base-fenton rounds of the Cortalan terrorists plowed trails through the solid white landscape.
This is what Jancy and Pyro loved! What the excelled at! Chaos! The enemy couldn’t see more than twenty feet in front of them, while the NGT’s thermal vision picked up their radiating body heat and zeroed in on their targets. Soon one fell, a spray of steaming blood splashing from his side and across the ground. Another one just fell, riddled with a half-clip from Pyro.
Laying there, Jancy was relatively untouched. Though some shots landed close, none of them had hit him ye-
Wham! Three rounds clustered together and rammed into his chest, popping the shields and knocking him backwards. He lay there for a moment dazed, and then began crawling backwards, away from the fight. He made it ten feet, took cover behind a particularly large fungal growth, then sat up and reloaded, ejecting the spent clip and sliding in a full one with a satisfying click.
Grinning, he peeked around the corner and checked the targets. He spotted about four more, still spraying the area and moving quickly and professionally. Now, they retreated. He opened a COM to Pyro, giving out the order.
“Ok, job’ done. Now we pull back, tail ‘em for an hour, then hit them again! Actually, no, head for the village! They’ll follow us there, then we shoot them down from the buildings ok?” No response, but a green confirmation light blinked. Jancy smiled, then took off running, bent down low. Making a lot of noise, he checked to see if he was being followed. Seeing the white figures chase after his noises, he planted Josaf’s mine, revenge for his fallen comrade, and armed it.
Taking off at a much more silent and stealthier pace, he gained ground quickly, then dashed ahead a hundred yards, then stopped and waited for Pyro.
He didn’t wait long, his friend reached him in thirteen seconds. Jancy held up a hand and ordered him quiet. “Now, be quiet and listen.” They stood still and silent for a few minutes, then heard the resounding bang of the mine and the scream of a victim. Pyro’s mouth turned up in a cruel smile before saying.
“And our comrade is avenged.” Jancy replied curtly.
“Not yet, but he will be soon. Now let’s go!” Turning around, he and his friend sprinted off for the village.