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Eight-Hundred and Fifty-Seven ABY.
Battle for Targonn | The Tidaris Pass
A flashing burn, trickles of what sunlight might've been danced across the black. Muscles of his cheek seemed to flinch, instinctive enough to feel pain but not yet cognisant. His half-alive psyche tried to figure out why he felt heat, he was underground after all. Nausea tugged at his skin, at his stomach or what remained of it. Something heavy replaced a feeling of self, something... on top of his chest. Sparks, it had to be sparks. Sparks, had the bunker been hit? Yes - he remembered now. He'd been a soldier for so many years, how could he forgot in a time like this?
Feeling came back, the air pulled into the Targonnian's lungs as he woke, one eye fully opening. The other was slick with blood and swelling, he couldn't quite make much of his surroundings. He was still in shock, even he could recognise that with his training kicking in without thought, he was a good soldier - knew what to do. His hands grasped at whatever lay on top of him, some sort of shelf. Even in the dark he could make out the familiar shape of a rifle's barrel. Memories kept flooding back, he was in the armoury when the lights went and the whole Bunker shook, something from the underground caused one hell of an earthquake. The burns stung, his avian skin was burnt and scorched. The smell of burnt feather and skin filled his nostrils, their spikes were dangerous. Theirs? More memories again, he pressed hard against the shelf, more weapons slid free and the weight gave, able to slide free of the metal shelves. He remembered now, their world had been attacked, he'd been made a Sergeant of the DEEP SPACE COALITION. He'd been fighting for months, and they'd been pushed back to the mountain bunkers in the Tidaris Pass. The avian crawled to the door sliding a small identity card over a tiny holo-screen. The machine seemed to read it fine, or so he hoped;
- SERGEANT FARADEL OOMANU -
The Avian groaned as he pulled himself to his feet, mind almost racing as it seemed Faradel was finally back with reality. Sweat trickled down his forward, it was humid - so humid. The life support must have been damaged, the heated was fluctuating from hot to cold every half a minute. The avian sergeant hefted up a repeater before sliding through the partially open door. The ground was wet, dented. Some pipes had burst. Faradel slowly made his way through the corridors, heading to the command centre. Upon arrival, the door was half open; no lights. Faradel clicked a small analogue switch on the side of his repeater, activating the flashlight. Shock and disgust ran over his features as the flashlight illuminated a severed arm, the body missing. Lost in the earthquake? How?
There was no doubt in his mind, it had been those monsters - they did something.
He had to get the Command centre back up and running, it would be the only way he'd figure out who was alive, if anyone else was. Caution and fear made his movements sluggish, anxious. But thankfully nothing living remained in the Command centre. Faradel cleaned rubble off of the holotable, his touch causing it to erupt, alive. It didn't matter how bad things were, he had to stand up for his planet. That was what a good soldier did. A small figure popped up on the bottom-left corner of the screen, the Valley's assistant artificial intelligence, Rhys.
- HELLO,SERGEANT OMANU -
The chipper AI spoke, offering its artificial smile. He didn't like half the tech the DSC had brought with them, AI's included; "Rhys, I need to see the vitals of everyone left in the valley." The AI didn't speak, but got to work almost immediately, pulling up a screen of one-hundred and twenty total remaining vital detections. Faradel dropped his rifle on the holotable. His eyes drifted, his mind drifted. Fifty. There used to be thousands of them. Only one-hundred and twenty now. Faradel filtered through the list, trying to find his superiors. Only Daniels was left, a human he'd only just met before the monsters dropped their bomb on them, or whatever the hell it was. His vitals were dropping fast. He was able to watch just as his heart stopped, the rest were dead... That meant..
- SERGEANT, MAJOR DANIELS IS DEAD. YOU ARE NOW THE HIGHEST RANKING OFFICER AT THIS OUTPOST -
Him in command? What were the chances of that... Damn. A hundred thoughts had ran through his mind just then, what was he supposed to do? They'd devastated thousands, butchered so many soldiers seemingly with little effort. It'd been a bloodbath, new mountains filled the valley, mountains made of corpses. Then he remembered why he'd been inside, not with his squad. Why had he been in the armoury? Those damn creatures, the bipedal ones had made it into the bunker. What happened after that, he wasn't sure. Checking the schematics, half of the bunker was just gone. He didn't understand it. If it had been a big enough explosive to destroy the bunker, it would've taken the whole thing. This was different.
Faradel activated the outposts distress beacon, it was only a few days into the fighting that they'd lost contact with the fleet. But he hoped, hoped someone up there or anywhere was listening. They needed a miracle. "Rhys, give me universal coms and exterior surveillance."
In a flash the exterior cameras were all shown to him, two of the main entrance cameras were active; a dozen of the listening posts were damaged or gone. The entrance cameras showed what he expected, droves of corpses. Both alien and his own avian kind, outfitted in Coalition armour alongside hundreds of theirs. Vehicles, terrifying creatures - so much destruction and at the edge of the mountain pass, that thing still lingered in the fog. He had no idea what it was, but it was nearly the size of a Destroyer. He'd never seen anything like it, and it was only shortly after that the monsters started attacking. Just the same as in the city, it was their dogs first and then what came wave after wave only got bigger and tougher. But now there was nothing, absolutely nothing. Nothing seemed to move, nothing at all. Had they pulled out - He didn't know. He had no idea. "This is Sergeant Omanu, I read life signs. Is anyone still alive out there?"
His eyes were drawn away from the cameras, seeing a flicker of light reflected in the holo-table. Faradel flinched, grabbing his rifle quickly as he spun around to face his attacker. He had no idea how they'd snuck inside without his notice or setting off the alarms. Ah, now he knew why. What came through the doorway was a Soldier, no enemy. He didn't recognise her, but he recognised the armour. Finally, a friendly face. The Soldier spotted Faradel, raising both of her hands over his head in a panic. "Wow, wow. Friendly!" Faradel lowered his rifle, sighing in relief. The stress was getting to him, bar getting knocked out by a shelf of weapons, he hadn't slept in days. "I'm sorry. Thought it was one of those.. things." The soldier seemed to nod, understanding. She lowered her hands slowly; "Its safe boys, one of ours." She called out, two more joined her. One was a Twi'lek, missing a lekku. He was being carried by another human, setting him down. They look exhausted, even more so than him. Though he had just taken an unexpected nap. He felt great shame in that moment, nearly losing control like some green boot. That wasn't what a good soldier did.
"Heavy Weapons Officer Baerla." The soldier spoke, walking up to the visibly shaken Sergeant. Before he could respond, replies started to come through the communications suite - several dozens of replies, warnings. One thing was certain, they were back. Faradel switched to the cameras, just beyond the fog at the edge of the valley was a small group of the larger ones, Brutes.
"Rhys, get moe a closer look." The camera was only able to magnify by four times, but it was a close enough look to confirm his suspicions. There was maybe twenty of them, but something had changed. Among them, a larger more grand-looking creature. It was huge, built like a tank covered in a red carapace. Some kind of melee weapon was attached to its back but he couldn't see from this far. "What is this? What're they doing?" There was a mix of anger and fear in him now, this seemed like just some kind of game to them. They were playthings to them, and now he couldn't help but wonder if all they'd fought for was for nothing. Beyond the smoke was a sky full of reds and blacks, fires from the cities.
"I've seen this before, well heard of it." Baerla admitted, seemingly clutching her rifle tightly. "Once the fighting is finished, they operate fewer in number - pick us off for sport." Faradel frowned deeply, looking back at the wounded Twi'lek and the other soldier. Then without warning the Brutes and their leader had moved, deeper into the valley. They could hear the gunfire through the cracks in the bunker, they had to get out there and hold out as long as they could. "Lets move! Gear up at the armoury."
Lifting asmuch gear as they could possibly carry on foot, the group of four headed outside and into the fray. Baerla fired off a blast from her rocket launcher, taking out one of the Brutes. There was only maybe a handful of their troops but they were tearing through their defences and remaining soldiers like they were nothing. Faradel levelled his sniper, looking for their leader. He singled out a Brute stabbing someone in the chest, fired. The bullet sped off toward the Brute, entering his head and scattering the right half of its face to the wind as the beast collapsed. Moving again, looking for the red one. Another shot, another kill. They had to hold out, help was coming. It had to.
But Faradel was wrong, his hope misplaced. Their numbers were dwindling, the man that had just been beside him was littered with spiker bullets, their forces were in full retreat - scattered, dying. It wasn't his fault, was it? This was inevitable, there was nothing he could of done. But he could try to save the Twi'lek and Baerla, they were Soldiers. They were in this together. "There's a UTV left in the vehicle bay, we can escape!" If either had said anything in protest, he hadn't heard it, his ears were ringing. But, they weren't far behind him when he moved. He felt guilty, leaving the others outside to fend for themselves. But, it was the only way.
All three reached the UTV in the vehicle bay as quickly as they could, the Twi'lek lagging behind slightly but now on his own feet, they'd found some stims in the medical bay on their way.The UTV was a Universal Traversal Vehicle, it had a turret placement on the back. Faradel hopped into the turret seat, Baerla in the passenger with a rocket launcher. The twi'lek jumped into the drivers seat. "Rhys, open the doors. Once we're out, set this place to blow. Take as many of them with you as you can!" The sound of spiker and blaster fire grew closer, they'd been pushed back to the main doors of the bunker.
- VEHICLE BAY DOORS LOCKED. MANUAL OVERRIDE REQUIRED -
Baerla leapt from the passenger seat, she was the closest to the vehicle bay control panel and Faradel knew next to nothing about these Coalition Bunkers, she was the best choice. Faradel reached for the lever under the triggers, a analogue latch; a hefty yank and it let the turret swivel; up again and the turret was set at the entrance. There was a rumble, a moment of silence - they were mowing through their numbers when Faradel had checked, he knew in his stomach this was desperate. He jumped when a few of their own came round the corridor running, one limping. Behind them, massive brutish creature clad in impossibly thick red and silver armour. The soldiers in the tunnel screamed, called for help. He couldn't do anything, the shooting angles were too tight, one or more would've been caught in the blast but if he didn't shoot, those Brutes would be on top of them. Before Faradel could make any decision, a rocket flew past his head, careening down the hallway. The explosion killed the soldiers and two of the large creatures, yet there were more; with bigger guns.
Faradel couldn't freeze not now, if he did and got them killed - it would make his own Soldiers deaths in vain. Especially the ones Baerla had just murdered, had she done the right thing? He didn't know, she was just trying to be a good soldier. But that got other good soldiers killed too. She was just doing what she had to, to survive. Maybe that was all the monsters were too, good soldiers. It was unfair to demonise them in his head, but he had to kill them all anyway. Better them than me, he thought. In that moment he realised he was no better than Baerla.
Above, the light from a hole in the ceiling darkened as some strange creature peered through; its face adorned with massive tusks, lined with excited red fumes. Faradel opened fire immediately, panicking as the Brutes inside drew closer. The beast seemed mildly irritated by the turret, but was forced to back down when Baerla fired a rocket right in its face. Faradel pulled the swivel again, turning the turret back on the Brutes in the hallway as he laid down fire with the turret; but it was too late, Baerla was hit, staggering and falling into the passenger seat with a massive spike in her stomach. He didn't even look at her, he just opened fire, the turret cut down one as they pulled away, outside. The daylight was a relief but also reminded him he was back outside, with them. He had to do this right, or they were both dead.
He didn't even know the Twi'lek soldier driving or Baerla, not really. But he'd do everything in his power to keep them both alive. Faradel didn't waste time opening fire on the Brutes outside, pulling down the anchor again to move from right to left as something hit them, a ray of red energy cut the transport in two. The UTV spun, tumbling multiple times across the mountain valley like a rolling ball of fire heading in a direction dangerously close to a cliff. Again, everything went black.
Faradel thought he was dead, no - maybe not. Everything hurt. When his eyes opened again, he was on solid ground, a few metres away from the wreckage. He could see parts of the twi'lek everywhere, Baerla's broken body half lodged between the seats. He'd failed. Not only himself but his whole planet had failed, everything everywhere was gone. The ground shook slightly, he felt it with his cheek firmly against the earth. Two massive feet, set in silver and gold boots. That damn Axe, reared its ugly head. Faradel pushed himself upright, getting a good look at what he assumed was their leader.
Every part of him screamed to fight back as long as the adrenaline was pumping through him. But, he wanted to know why. He couldn't help it, all this killing. Why did Soldiers of all kinds just have to die for nothing. Faradel pushed again, rising to his feet as he drew his combat knife. Their leader seemed to acknowledge it silently, shifting. Faradel saw it in his eyes, conscience, intelligence. They weren't monsters, they were good soldiers too - people.
"Why do you hate us?" He managed, weak and shaking. Their Chieftain didn't even look his way when it spoke, Faradel was surprised to hear his own language.
"I don't. I bear you no malice, but I offer no mercy. You have a role to play, as do I. And that means I must kill you all."
Those opaque golden eyes now stared right through him, like he wasn't even a person. Just a thing. Just a soldier..