A gravity-powered projectile slammed into the ground behind Eric. Surprise nearly knocked the doctor to the ground. Jenson grabbed Eric with one hand and tossed the doctor out of the line of fire. Within seconds, another blast erupted the ground where Eric had been standing. Jensen spit grains of rock out his mouth from the blast.
“They’re firing from the artifact!” Lieutenant Stephens bellowed.
Behind his rocky cover Stephens peered through his binoculars. Another blast landed behind their cover, blasting splinters of rock over him and Eric.
Jenson, still standing in the open, shouted, “Well, I suppose now is as good as time as any to return fire!”
He pulled his heavy mass repeater from his back. It whirled to life as he flipped it on. Another shot from the artifact dug through the rocky plateau a meter before him.
Jenson raised an eyebrow. “So, your plan is to play. I don’t play.”
Then silence. Except for the wind through the valley and whirl of Jensen’s weapon, the ground was silent. No more shots were fired.
“Jenson! You fool! Get over here!” The lieutenant said in an enraged whisper.
Still gazing at the artifact, Jenson strolled over and took cover near Eric and Emb.
“What are you doing?”
“Sorry, Lieutenant, but whoever was firing is just playing with us. I’m not certain they think we are coming.”
Lieutenant Stephens peered up at the artifact through his binoculars. “No excuses; I’m not looking to have one of my heavy weapons experts get taken out by a sniper.”
Jenson laughed and smacked Eric on the back. “Bound to happen someday. Or I retire.”
Stephens continued. “Jenson, I’ll need you on the first wave to take the artifact. You and Minsk are going up there with Emb.”
Jenson smiled. “Yes, Lieutenant.”
Eric eyes shot glances between the two. “Are you sure that is wise now? They are holding the position with snipers, surely three troops will be no match for whatever is up there.”
“Ha!” Jenson exclaimed. “I’m worth ten of them!”
“Well,” Lieutenant Stephen said, engrossed with his binoculars, “We can use the artifact to our advantage. It’s shaped like a diamond or a vertically resting spindle, so we can advance from the bottom to the landing platform the Curtani have taken. They wouldn’t be able to see us coming from below until we are right on top of them. With heavy weapons going in first, Jenson and Minsk can just open fire as soon as they approach the corner.”
Jenson kept smiling.
“The six of us are going to distract them with suppressive fire while the advancing team moves out.” The lieutenant turned to another trooper next to him. “Swanson, I need you to prep your rocket launcher. For a big, initial surprise.”
Swanson, a man almost shorter than the shoulder-mounted missile launcher on his back smiled and nodded. “My pleasure, Lieutenant.”
“This is insane, Lieutenant!” Eric said in an excited whisper.
Lieutenant Stephens casually went back to his binoculars. “That it is, doc. But our job is to get you on that artifact. And that is exactly what I plan to do.”
Eric felt the powerful arm of the new Emb touch is shoulder. “Trust us.”
“It’s quiet up there, I see no movement,” the lieutenant continued. “Minsk, Jenson, Emb, whenever you’re ready.”
The lieutenant pressed a button on the top of his binoculars. “The rest of you set your vision to my frequency and follow my laser line to the target.”
Swanson was the first to acknowledge as he crept up the rocky cover, and peered through the site on his launcher.
Eric, curious, mentally followed the lieutenant’s command. The vision in his eyes flickered for a moment as his combat lenses focused in on a light blue beam, probably ultraviolet, crossing the distance from Stephen’s binoculars to the artifact’s platform the Curtani were holding.
Emb leaped off the ground and caught the wind in the valley. She spun in wild circles and dips to increase her speed or to practice flight. She had never done it before, the technology could change her form, instinct was still evolutionary. Eric gulped, she was too vulnerable.
Lieutenant Stephens let out a low whisper. “There you are.”
“You want me to fire?” asked Swanson.
“Not yet, I don’t see a firearm.”
Eric’s head was filled with frightening possibilities, his rational mind was crumbling under the stress. “We are going to lose any surprise, Lieutenant.”
“Go, Emb.” Stephens ordered.
“Good luck, doc,” saluted Jenson.
Emb ascended into the sky and dove, grabbing Jenson and Minsk in her large talons. She flew along the ground, aiming for the bottom point of the artifact. Emb’s mass rifle was firmly in its hands.
“Shit! Swanson, fire!” shouted Stephens.
Swanson hit the trigger before the lieutenant finished the order. A blast of plasma and smoke blew from the exhaust, and the missile hurtled toward the platform of the artifact. It exploded on impact in a cloud of black smoke.
“Did I get it?” asked Swanson.
“I can’t tell, visibility is shit. Everyone, suppressive fire!”
Eric kept his head down, watching Emb and Jenson fly to the bottom of the hovering artifact with one eye peering just below his protective arm. Was it all worth this?
© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.