Raist took a prone position in the clearing Ziko had cut through the forest with his CSW, while the two close range fighters fought back-to-back against the horde, standing right above Raist.
He was taking careful burst shots, squeezing a few rounds, gauging whether the creature needed more rounds to die, then either delivering, or moving on to a new target. The counter on the side of the rifle shot down rapidly.
He squeezed the final 30 into some creature hopping between the trees and as he rolled to his side to put a new magazine of 1,000 in. The magazine was in, and his hand was going to the ‘accept’ toggle when he saw a huge bird diving out of the sky right at their group.
“Up…!” he started, but it was too slow. Its mouth peeled open to reveal a tri-maw opening ready to consume one of them. The creature was closing on them when its large neck was separated from its body, liquid exploding out the backside as its head crashed to the ground not far from them, its body gliding into another dead creature.
Raist toggled the rifle back on, and saw a line of white tracers clearing the sides of part of the trees. He knew that weapon anywhere: it was Leio’s Sweep Rifle, but she was aiming horizontally. What killed the bird?
“It’s Agrest and Leio!” Philira shouted, another of her clips dumping out of her Plaz-Shot and hitting Raist in the head as she reloaded with robotic speed.
He didn’t need to tell the two he was with to not hit them, and he hoped the other two knew they were here.
Beasts continued advancing on them until all of them mysteriously stopped, turning and running as fast as they could. Death had not scared them before, so it was definitely something different.
“Phi?” Raist asked.
“Something’s coming…top of the trees.”
The strange silence had returned to the forest, though a few wounded screams still pierced the night. Raist hated killing animals, and hearing their moans as they were sawed apart by the grass hurt his soul.
“Drone!” Philira shouted, grabbing Ziko and diving to the shot-up ground. Above them a large floating disk hovered over the scene of their battle.
“Shoot it! Shoot it!” she yelled.
Raist was the only one of the three with the longer-range weapon and brought it to bear, and though he was giving it rapid bursts of ten sonic rounds that were undoubtedly flying straight through its hull, its size would not easily be brought down. The two he was with were each rapidly reaching for their longer-range weapons as a firing arm extended above the disk.
A loud whoosh reached them long after the rocket did, rending the ground apart as they were flung through the air. Raist crashed into one of the trees between two of the razor edges and escaped serious damage. He switched his weapon to packet mode, morphing the small rounds into larger slugs designed to pierce before blowing apart inside their target.
He aimed at the disk that was readying another rocket and started shooting, catching the white tracers of the Sweep Rifle also on target of the drone. The thin, fast spray of the Sweep rounds, and Raist’s exploding slugs were pounding away at the machine. It tilted to one side for a moment, but righted itself. Raist was sure it was going to fire again until its core exploded and it crashed somewhere into the trees above them.
He was breathing hard, his mind in combat mode, looking around everywhere for the next thing to kill, and with nothing moving for a long time he gradually began to come off his combat high.
Something was hurting his core and looking down, he saw a mat of the spiky grass imbedded into his chest after being propelled by the rocket. He pulled each out; feeling the distant pain of sucking out the semi-vacuum each projectile had created in his body.
He pushed himself out of the slight cove of his tree and staggered to the clearing. “Who is alive?”
“We are, but Ziko is hurt,” Philira’s voice had an edge he never heard before in it.
Raist ran over and saw Ziko slumped next to a tree almost exactly like where Raist had been blasted. The difference was he was moved slightly to one side, right into its sharp edge.
“Zi…ko?” Raist asked nervously.
“Yo, I’m alive, but shit…these plants are even worse than the creatures.”
Ziko’s words made it seem like he was okay, but Raist realized Ziko’s left arm had been cut cleanly off right by the shoulder. His nanites and suit sealed what was left of the arm to prevent any bleed off; it actually looked like he had a stub arm his entire life with how clean it was. The fact he could talk clearly was a result of their advanced training, and very tailored drugs to block pain and maintain combat efficiency.
“Your ar—” Philira started, Raist grabbed her and shook his head no.