Darkness, Ogrut knew, was relative. His unit’s last contract had taken them to Draven, a planet at the edge of the Arklyte cluster, where the sun hardly graced the sky. They’d carved through Corporation Army and Secessionist troops alike for six days straight as they made for their objective, all under cover of total darkness. Now they found themselves bound to a new contract, this one on Nexus Psi, where midnight didn’t look much different to dusk. It made their job more challenging, but if there was one thing Orx were good at it was overcoming long odds.

There were twelve of them currently planetside, but only four on this patrol. Five, if you counted Yagh, the vicious mawbeast Khurza insisted on taking everywhere he went. To the creature’s credit, she could hunt with the best of them. Khurza had raised her from a pup, and Ogrut suspected he prized her almost as highly as the battered flame unit he carried.

Now Yagh led the group, padding along silently next to her handler as they stalked through the deserted streets of Outpost T9. Ogrut followed them, and behind him came Ragnak, hands held loosely at his sides. Countless enemies had taken the Sergeant’s relaxed posture as a sign of weakness, but Ogrut knew that he could draw his blades in less than a heartbeat. Ragnak was a brawler at heart, despite his decades of military service, and was always happiest wielding nothing more high tech than a hrunka. Lurking at the back of the pack, turning to sweep his paired rifles behind them every few steps, was Morkul. The tall, broad warrior had parted ways with the unit some time ago and taken his chances on the professional DreadBall circuit, where his particular brand of deranged violence was much more appreciated than it had ever been on the battlefield. Ogrut didn’t know how Ragnak had tempted him back for this mission, but he suspected it had been financial. The payout for this mission would definitely have been big enough to grab his attention.

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Ahead of him, Khurza ducked into the cover of an old storefront and raised a hand, signalling for the group to close up. Up ahead was their objective: an abandoned med-station. Mazon Labs were at the cutting edge of medical research, and it had come as no surprise to discover that they had a station all the way out here on the frontier, where regulations were a little less strict than the Core. Of course, the moment Containment Protocol was called, none of it mattered; anything on the surface was forfeit, to be written off as a loss by order of the Council. Officially, the corporations didn’t have any options, but that didn’t stop them hiring contractors to retrieve their valuables.

The outpost wasn’t much to look at from the outside. A squat building with frontier-standard Habtainer walls, it was hardly bigger than the shuttle they’d come down in. A lone watchtower loomed behind it, a common sight in the more isolated settlements, and it was flanked by taller buildings, probably warehouses or vehicle sheds. Ragnak made several sharp gestures with one hand, instructing Morkul to circle around towards the watchtower.

Less than a minute later three flashes came from the tower, signalling that their brother-in-arms had scaled it and found it clear. Ragnak drew his pistol and gave the signal to advance cautiously. They broke cover in a staggered line, Khurza on the left flank and Ragnak on the right. They were halfway across the open ground that stood between them and the station when an ungodly screech broke the silence.

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Ogrut dropped into a crouch, rifle swinging up as he tried to see the source of the noise. He swung his head to the left just in time to see a winged creature drop onto Yagh, stabbing frantically at the beast’s flank with a heavy blade. Khurza roared in fury and raised his incinerator.

Before he could pull the trigger, a shot rang out. High calibre, suppressed, but still audible across the open plaza. Khurza’s head snapped back, dark blood spraying from a ragged hole at his temple. Ragnak shouted an order at Ogrut, and the two Orx threw themselves into the scant cover of an overturned supply pallet. Over to the left, they saw that Yagh was not out of the fight. Her winged attacker was scrabbling backwards, one arm dragging limply, trying to fend off the wounded beast with its knife as she lunged again and again.

From the other side of the plaza, they heard the satisfying tunk-tunk, tunk-tunk of Morkul’s rifles. Eager to make use of covering fire while it lasted, Ragnak clapped Ogrut on the arm, and they rose from cover to sprint for the med-station. They threw their backs up against the wall either side of the open door and paused to take stock of the situation. As they’d broken cover the twin flares of Morkul’s rifles had marking the sniper as somewhere in an elevated position off to the left, and the mawbeast was still pinning their other attacker. Of course, there could be any number of enemy inside the building, waiting in ambush, probably chasing the same objective they were.

Ragnak holstered his pistol and drew his knives. If they were going in, things were going to get messy very quickly…

The special pre-release of Deadzone has now sold out – we have no stock left! The full release of the game is coming in February but we’ll include the special pre-release The Survivor mercenary free of charge if you pre-order a copy before the 31st December. Happy Holidays!

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