What was taking them so long?
Fillon peered through her scope yet again, playing it around the moonlit plaza. The area was still clear. Reports had come through on long-range comms that they might not be the only ones moving for the med-station, and the longer Zek and Uro took retrieving the package the more chance they had of enemy contact. If a secure line was even remotely possible she would have pinged her team by now, but on Nexus Psi that was a laughable notion. Comms were grakked planetwide.
She sighed and shifted her weight, rolling her shoulders. Yes, she’d seen some awful missions in her time, from the massacre at Uraxia City to the Cerno uprising, but this one was a new low. No backup, no heavy support, and no comms. It was a sweep-and-keep, cutting in under the Corp’s noses and picking their well-stocked facilities clean under cover of a global panic, and it should have been easy. Okay, there was the Plague to contend with, but they’d found what had looked like an isolated continent far away from the action. They just hadn’t realised how fast it could spread.
And it wasn’t like the Infected were their only problem. Sure, the Enforcers generally had bigger game to chase, but they still took a dim view of looters, especially ones on the payroll of the Rebellion. They were terrifying to stand up against. Fast, deadly, almost impossible to kill. And jet packs! Belwin’s standard topic of conversation when he’d been drinking had always been easy life would be with one of those suits; now he’d dealt with Enforcers face to face, she doubted he’d have the stomach to bring it up again.
Then there were the Marauders.
OTR-9 had already fallen foul of the Orx once since coming planetside. They’d walked into an ambush that had turned into a fighting retreat against overwhelming odds. She’d lost five of her squad that day; Rhodd and Brel had been the first, cut down in the crossfire that sprang the trap, and Radna and Nolan had died in the furious close-quarters battle at the end of the engagement. Gonak had died like a true hero, fighting a trio of battlesuits. She fought with the cunning of a seasoned brawler, spinning to let blows clatter off her armoured shell before turning back to smash armour open with wide swings of her ceremonial blades. Fillon suspected the Teraton had known it was a losing battle, but had held on long enough for the remaining members of the squad to break away.
They’d learned a lot that day. The Orx were neither savage not stupid, and they’d paid the price for thinking they were. That’s why they were taking no chances. If someone else was making a run on the Mazon Labs station, it was likely to be a Marauder team. If it had been another Rebs unit they would have known about it, and it was unlikely the Enforcers or Plague would be interested in black-market medical supplies. That’s why she was watching from up here, with H’ryk waiting on a nearby rooftop to get the drop on any would-be attackers, and Ryla was waiting just inside the med-station door. The Sorak was a vicious blade fighter, deadly in confined spaces, and he was ready to jump on anything that got inside. Belwin was watching the Zees as they searched crates for their objective.
Fillon raised her scope and made another sweep of the plaza. Her heart jumped as she caught a flash of movement in the shadows. It took her a moment to focus, but then she saw the running figure and her heart leapt. She felt a mixture of tension and vindication as she recognised the long arms, loping stride and crocodilian jaw. If it hadn’t been for the twin rifles, he would have looked for all the world like a DreadBall player making a sprint for the endzone. Still, the creature was stealthy; if she hadn’t looked at that precise moment she would have missed him. Once again she found herself questioning what she thought she knew about these alien raiders.
The running Orx came to the watchtower behind the med-station and slung his rifles, swinging up onto the ladder with a grace that looked out of place on such a muscular creature. She nodded absently; when they’d arrived here, that was the first place she’d checked, too. It was an obvious location for a sniper, which is why she’d left it clear and plumped for the first-storey window instead. The warrior made it to the top of the tower, looking almost disappointed at the lack of enemies. Fillon watched as he took a small device from a pouch at his belt and lifted it. It flashed three times; a signalling device. He wasn’t alone.
She swung the rifle back in the direction he’d come from, searching for targets. It took her two passes before she spotted them: three Orx and one of their malformed hunting dogs, crouched in the cover of a burnt-out Habtainer. There could have been more of them waiting in cover. Radio silence suddenly became less important than warning her troops, and she opened a broad-burst channel.
“Fillon here. We’ve got incoming. One in the watchtower, four to the south, maybe more. Things are gonna get messy.”
The first acknowledgement to snap back was H’ryk. The Kraaw had probably already seen them, just hadn’t thought to let the others know. Typical lone wolf. Before she could give an order, she heard his ear-splitting screech and knew that the element of surprise was gone.
She lifted her rifle, feeling the cool of the stock against her cheek as she slowed her breathing, and picked a target…