Mendin walked toward the door of the artifact. Inagrin had set up a perch with four other Curtani to prevent any foe from taking the platform. There was no reason for him to remain there, he had complete confidence in her abil—.
An explosion knocked Mendin forward. He was flung through the air, flipping in midair, he landing on his back. Smoke filled his vision and his ears rang from the explosion. He heard the muffled sounds of soldiers screaming or yelling. Were his troops wounded or dying? What was that? The ceiling of the artifact’s landing platform began to hum and glow, lines of energy coursed through the crystalline walls.
“What . . . happened?” Good, Mendin could still hear his voice.
“Commander!” A Curtani dropped to his feet near Mendin.
Mendin flung his hand in the direction of the explosion. “Check . . . on . . . the . . . others.”
Two of his soldiers were now at his side. They nodded and moved toward the edge of the platform. Mass projectiles lit up the sky. The two Curtani soldiers crouched and pulled back.
Mendin rolled over and got to his knees. Three more of his men were approaching. “Stay there! We are under attack! Hold your position!”
They brought a missile launcher? These Terrans did not fool around. Mendin was beginning to learn some respect for them the his deeply embedded hate. Mendin hopped to his feet, barely keeping his balance. He turned to look at the wreckage. As the smoke cleared, Mendin saw only mangled bodies, some still peppered by the suppressive fire coming from the Terran position.
Inagrin. Mendin took a deep breath. She was done. Move on.
Mendin shouted to his men. “Fall back to the secondary position! We still have a fight on our hands.”
Inagrin had last told him that the Metamorph could fly. Trouble was on the way.
The troops sprinted over to Mendin, keeping their backs to him and their weapons trained in arcs around them.
The walls and ceiling of the artifact continued to pulse quickly. The pulses of light and the hum distracted and frightened his men. On top of losing three soldiers in one blast, they were looking to him for orders. He needed to give them something.
“They have struck the first blow. We deliver every blow hereafter. Use the pillars for cover and shoot the first creature you see come up from the edge of the platform.”
So, they waited.
It wasn’t long before several bursts from a mass repeater broke the windy silence on the platform. Mendin jumped behind a pillar as his troops rushed to cover. Mendin caught a glimpse of the flying Metamorph with two heavily armed Terrans in its claws. One of them was smiling and laughing as he fired. Mending had to admit, it was impressive
His troops opened fire, but their firepower was weak compared to the frantic automatic fire from the vulnerable Terrans. The Metamorph dropped the Terrans and opened fire with its rifle.
“They have us pinned down, Commander!”
The Metamorph flew the perimeter of the platform. Mendin’s team was trapped. The Curtani commander roared and charged the Metamorph. Mendin peppered the sky with a series of inaccurate projectiles. The Metamorph dove from the assault, uninjured. Mendin reached the edge of the platform and looked down, he couldn’t find the beast anywhere.
“Come back here, you coward!”
Reflexively, Mendin put his back against a pillar just as the Terrans shot at his position. He spun around to the opposite end of the pillar and fired back. One reckless Terrans took a shot to the arm. The upper shoulder splintered. Gravity was a terrible weapon. Mendin leaped to another pillar, firing occasionally as he regrouped with his team.
The firing ceased.
Mendin waited for one of the humans to show themselves, but there was nothing. Minutes passed. Mending had waited too long. He motioned three of his troops to follow him. Mendin crept toward the position the Terrans last held.
Then he heard the roll of a metal ball along the floor. It was rolling toward the door.
The blast shocked Mendin as he watched two of his troops engulfed by a concussive blast and ripped apart. He was down to three men. Two other Terrans dropped into position on the other side of the platform. The Metamorph was also there. Mendin launched his grenade at the last Terran position and ran across the platform toward the new arrivals. His troops opened fire. One Terran fell, bones shattered and organs burst. The second Terran, Mendin met personally, slamming the human’s forehead with the butt of his rifle and flinging the Terran over the side of the platform. The man screamed helplessly as he fell. Mendin aimed a shot and fired, turning the top of the falling man’s head into a canoe.
“Mercy.” Mendin grunted.
The sound of a pneumatic door opening distracted Mendin. The great door to the artifact was opening. Perhaps his team could find more cover. A barrage of fire came from the platform. A Terran still remained, running from position to position. He was a threat and more would still be coming.
Mendin looked to his men. “Through the door!”
The four Curtani ran for the door, firing at the last known position of the Terran. If only they could keep him occupied a little longer.
Mendin and his team made it through the door, but they found little cover. There was a long, self-illuminated bridge to a central pillar. The bridge that Mendin was standing on was one of three connecting to the central pillar. There was modest cover around the central pillar, maybe electronic equipment of some sort. And the bridge would mean distance between him and his foes.
“Across the bridge!”
He could still win the day and the artifact. It was alive, Mendin wanted to know why.
© 2017 C.J. Staryk. All Rights Reserved.