In this brief episode, our hero pushes through the fog of war to try and turn the tide of the battle. Read past episodes here. I was in
In this brief episode, our hero pushes through the fog of war to try and turn the tide of the battle. Read past episodes here.
I was in hell.
I stumbled through the tunnel, tripping over bodies, nearly choking on the dust and the iron scent of blood. My submachine gun shook in my trembling hand as I swept it back and forth across the tunnel’s width, expecting enemies to leap from the shadows.
I didn’t know which ambush took out my team, or how I survived. I was bleeding in several places from shrapnel or ricochets but nothing was spurting, and I couldn’t find any holes. My wounds had faded to a dull throb that rose and fell with the rhythm of my breathing.
Signals dropped, equipment failed, men were disoriented. Soldiers, lost in the tunnels, were cut down in Hypogean ambushes. Through the orb, I could feel the Hypogeans using some Ancestral artifact. Too late, I was able to generate some protection against it.
But all was not lost. Gunfire was plentiful, so our men still fought elsewhere in the vast warren. Through the orb, I felt the artifact trying to break through my unseen wall. I wasn’t sure how I’d done it. My use of the Inheritance was intuition, when it wasn’t trial and error. The buffeting energies of the artifact sent blows to my head. It took all I had just to hold back the signal.
I’d been able to track Aeliana through her orb before, but could I do it with this artifact? The orbs were control devices, designed to interface and communicate. But wasn’t this artifact just a weapon? How could I connect to it? Besides, how the hell would I cut through this signal?
The force of the signal was like a physical blow. It was all I could do to stay upright. I weaved down a side tunnel and struggled to keep my thoughts straight.
The signal seemed to rise and fall, like a…like a…ringing bell. The thought repeated in my half-stunned brain. It wasn’t a sound, but it felt like it through the orb. I wondered if there was more to that feeling, if I could sense a point of origin.
I put a hand to the tunnel wall to steady myself and gritted my teeth through wave after wave of the signal. I tried to find something under its sheer power.
And…there. Was it an illusion? No, I felt it. And there again. And again. I let the submachine gun drop on its sling and held up a shaking finger to point in the direction I sensed, just to take note of where it was.
I stumbled on, wincing each time the signal lashed at my mind, but knew I drew closer, following the ever-strengthening trace.
Where one tunnel split into two, there was a knot of bodies, Imperials and Hypogeans both. I recognized the Imperials as a team of sappers, sent forward to breach the tunnels for the regular infantry. One of them still had a satchel charge, blood-spattered and clutched in a death-frozen fist. It was the work of a moment to take it, but even that effort nearly broke my concentration.
Though I was sure only minutes had passed, I lost track of time, thinking only of the next step and the point that now burned bright in my brain.
The signal grew stronger the closer I came. My head was ready to split open. Then the Earth came crashing down on top of it and all went black.
To be continued…