“Deb…. Deb! DEB GODDAMMIT!”
The Lieutenant’s shout shook me out of my reverie, as well as my abysmal attempt to keep Zeke’s bowels on the inside where they belonged. Zeke was gone, the Lieutenant knew it, I knew it, and by Zeke’s whimpering he knew it too.
The Company was in service to the Legate Zef’indi of Arkazi 2, and things were not going well. We were brought in to quash an uprising against the Legate’s rule of Arkazi, a little known dustball in the Outer Rim that no civilized being had paid any attention to in centuries. The contract seemed to go perfectly fine for months until the rebel made an alliance with the Ri’Cha, exchanging support of the Ri’Cha’s small but vicious military for what we figured were economic concessions once the coup was successful and the Arkazi rebels were in control of the planet.
Since the Ri’Cha’s arrival and our subsequent loss of orbital superiority, things had gone badly. Our forces had been decimated in bombardments, leaving little more than a few stragglers and the headquarters group, who was retreating through the streets of the capital, trying to get to the Legate’s Manse and the transport the Captain had sent down to pick up survivors.
“What?” I screamed back at the Lieutenant above the din of blaster fire.
“There’s a sniper crawling up the side of that tower to the Northwest, don’t let him get to the top.”
We were across the street from the Legate’s Manse, but there was a squad of Ri’Cha up the street with a few repeaters on tripods that were real interested in cutting us to tatters. Failing that, they seemed to be content chipping away at the husk of the ground car we were huddling behind until they could resume their previous activity – which had, incidentally, sliced poor Zeke, our standardbearer of 5 years, nearly in half. I swung my rifle up and sighted in on the lone sniper trying to flank us and took his head off. The Lieutenant was shouting at the Captain over his comlink trying to get word of how things were going in orbit, but the comlink didn’t seem to have much to say.
“We really need to keep moving,” muttered the Lieutenant, “Who do we still have out there?”
“Not a clue,” I said, going for my comlink, “Badger, you still alive?” Silence. “Morrin? You out there?” The comlink remained stubbornly silent. “Cylea?”
“Yeah what?” came a whispered response.
“Who’s with you?”
“Just Leomeh, the rest bought it when we tripped a mine on Setvar Street. You boys enjoying your nap behind that car?”
“Not really, you got any suggestions?”
“Yah, hang tight.”
The crackling sound of lightning cannons erupted behind the gun nest our Ri’Cha tormenters were skulking in. The street got real quiet.
“I am so going to kiss you, let’s get the hell out of here.”
Cylea, Leomeh, the Sarge, and a few others who had been dug in across the block all converged with us and we charged into the Legate’s Manse guns blazing. We found the man himself in his bedroom in about five pieces, along with the two bloody whittlers that were responsible. There was a flurry of blaster-fire and the two went down. When I turned back to the door I noticed the Lieutenant leaning lazily against the wall, a smoking ruin where his face had been moments before.
Those of us that were left made it to the roof and the transport with little trouble. Of the six hundred brothers who had stepped onto Arkazi 2, only nine stepped off.
We broke orbit just in time to see Khevoran’s Pride, the ancient cruiser that had carried and homed the Company for centuries on its trek through the galaxy, beleaguered by a swarm of Ri’Cha interceptors, break up and begin its fiery descent towards the surface.
We aimed coreward and jumped to hyperspace, the hordes of hell nipping at our heels.