I hurled myself backwards, away from the grenade flipping over trench wall. I probably could have used my Air powers to throw it right back where it had come from, but I was a bit distracted. Being targeted by every sniper out there tends to do that to you.
The grenade went off with a muffled thud. My helmet spared me the noise, while my armor spared me the shrapnel. I paused for a moment to praise my apparently amnesiastic self for designing such good gear before scooping up my plasma rifle and poking my head back over the top of the trench.
The advancing troops, confident that they had cleared their one remaining obstacle out of the way, were streaming towards the trench that I was the sole occupier of. They were apparently not aware that a Warrior was that occupier. I opened fire, managing to take down seven of the 15-person squad and shoot two more grenades out of the air before they retreated.
“Dangit, Ryan, didn’t you hear the retreat order?”
I glanced sideways as Hyatt rolled into the trench next to me. Like me, he was wearing a full battlesuit; unlike me, his spells were nearly gone. I saw burn marks across his arms and chest.
“Yeah, I did, but if we lose this trench, it’s gonna take us months to get it back,” I warned, snapping off another few shots without really aiming. “When did Command say reinforcements were coming?”
“They’re not warping in until mid-cycle,” Hyatt snorted, wrist gun spinning as he launched his own attack. “That’s 12 hours from now. We can’t hold the trench that long, especially not with the air support arriving.”
I stared down Serenity Valley, which seemed to me to be most unfortunately named at this point in time. “Air strike? Why didn’t I hear about this?”
“They just got wind of it,” Hyatt grunted.
“Was that a pun?” I didn’t wait for his reply, flipping through the menus in on my visor screen until I found what I was looking for. “Command, this is Stormwalker Ryan from Trench Oh-Seven-Seven-Five. What’s this about an airstrike?”
Devonius’s voice filled my headset, causing me to grit my teeth with hatred. “Soldier, that information does not concern you. Pull out now.”
“With all due respect, General, it does concern me. Can you get the reinforcements here if the air is cleared?”
“Soldier, that was an order. Pull out now!”
“That’s a stupid order, sir. Answer my question!”
I snarled and cut the link, turning to Hyatt. “Get on the horn to our captain, let him know that the anti-aircraft batteries have been taken and the strike is being held back.”
Hyatt shot a jet of water out of his palm to knock away an incoming grenade. “You want me to lie? I can see their anti-aircraft batteries from here! They’re still under enemy control!”
“Knowing your communications array, they won’t be by the time you raise the captain. Do it!”
I vaulted out of the trench before Hyatt could fully understand what I meant and charged across the three hundred or so feet separating me from my goal. Under normal circumstances, and for a normal soldier, this would be a suicide mission. But these were not normal circumstances.
And I was a Warrior. Not that anyone else needed to know that.
My shield spiraled out on my left arm just in time to block two plasma blasts coming in from the sentries, who were clearly not ready for this. I located their box and leapt, reaching over my right shoulder for one of my blades. One midair flip and quick strike later, and their heads were no longer in company with their bodies.
I landed in the enemy trench and channeled fire down my blade. The spear of pure plasma leapt off the tip to punch straight through spells, chestplates, and torsos. All the soldiers down one side of the trench collapsed, dead. I spun and whipped my blade through two more soldiers before I found who I was looking for. The leader of the group was firing at me, guns in all four of his hands, when I batted the bolts aside with my shield and smashed him right in his helmeted face with it. He flew backwards, right towards the heavily armored doors of the anti-aircraft battery…
…and sailed right through as they slid open automatically for him.
As I’d expected, he had the key for the doors somewhere in his body. I hurled my shield at the quickly-closing doors, wedging them open. Running forward, I threw my legs forward into a slide underneath the shield, reaching up with one hand to catch the edge of my shield to both yank it free and arrest my forward progress into the room.
Good thing too; plasma fire blew out the deck where I would have skidded. I spun up my wrist gun and opened fire, covering myself with my shield. I also folded out the minigun in my powerpack on my back and flipped it over my shoulder to help rake the interior with plasma fire, visor aiding me in targeting opponents.
Fifteen seconds later, it was all over. I stepped over the charred alien corpses to the controls, visor lighting up with translations and schematics as it scanned the interior of the room. A few more seconds, and I had set the computer to fire back up the valley at its own aircraft.
The fighters were caught completely flat-footed, the squadron decimated in seconds. I activated my comm., to find Captain Rodgers giving Hyatt heck over the channel for drinking on duty.
“Ryan here, sir, and Hyatt wasn’t drinking,” I cut in. “I ordered him to call in with those reports.”
“Ryan, why the heck are you still out there? I ordered a retreat!” Rodgers shouted.
“Musta missed that call,” I shrugged.
“I was in the middle of a counter-attack,” I shot back. “The anti-aircraft gun has been captured and reprogrammed to blast Scoric fighters into little-bitty pieces and we now own Trench Oh-Seven-Seven-Six. Got any backup coming, as per my request?”
I knew I would never get tired of getting those shocked silences from my commanding officers, even though that usually ended with my butt getting transferred to another unit. “Three squads are coming your way,” Rodgers finally came back. There was a pause, and I waited for the inevitable transfer orders.
It was his turn to catch me by surprise. “Unit Three has orders to report to you for command. Congratulations on your promotion, Squad Leader.”