The short cycles of the planet had given way to day as they trudged forward with no resistance, back to walking on the razor grass sawing slowly in the sunlight. They marched forward with four of them still fully ‘armed’ in the limb sense of the word but at this point met no enemies.
Everyone knew what was coming before they actually rolled onto the bare ground, based on the loud roaring starting to filter through the trees. Though Leio and Ziko were both reduced in combat efficiency, their squad was still in fairly good fighting capacity. They made it through the surprise of the night, and still had four people capable of shooting larger weapons. However, this new challenge they were coming up to was going to prove trying.
“There is no way we are making it across that,” Ziko said. He knelt down to let Leio off of his shoulders as she sat down on the ground so he could better look over the edge of the cliff. They stood next to some rocks and a tree, using the light cover as they looked over the shear corner of the massive cliff to the rumbling water hardly visible through the mist below. On both sides of them the deep gorge was cut through the rock with no easy way down, and the height did not get any less extreme anywhere close that they could hike to make the descent easier.
“The two of them could not hope to swim across that water,” Agrest said, keeping his head turned upwards most of the time for any drones that might come flying over the tree tops.
“I have faith they could, but the risk is too great.” Raist looked up and down the escarpment they were located on. “It’d be better if the two of you stayed here to cover our escape.”
From where they were, the tip of the peak was barely visible against the tall trees of the other side of the river. Their goal was close, but in every way seemed farther with every step they took.
“From here you guys should be able to build a pretty good choke point in the rocks over there. The three of us are going to do a sprint to the target, and come back. There is a good chance we will need as much cover fire and a clear path as possible on our way back.”
Agrest pointed to the rocks. “It’s a good plan, since I’d hate trying to descend and climb back up with things shooting at us. If you two have this locked down, it should help our escape.”
Raist finished, “Ziko, I am going to need you well-rested because as soon as we get here, we are running back to the extraction zone. I do not want to be in the forest again for another night. The three of us should be able to handle AKRA, and I know you are strong, but we cannot be slowed even if you are carrying Leio.”
The problem was they had to make it back out of anti-air range to call their shuttle down. Even if it was capable of firing, with how defended their target was, calling it anywhere close was risking being trapped here.
The group worked for a bit, positioning rocks and checking sight patterns so that the two staying behind would have clear cover fire on the three advancing members, both on the descent, the swim, and the climb before they disappeared into the other side. Natural rock walls covered their backs, and a few shots through the rocks gave them some gun holes to fight anything that did come from the forest. The three advancing soldiers dropped all but one weapon here so they could move faster now that the mission had become one of a sprint.
“Goodbye, Raist,” Leio told him as they embraced. Raist was having to hold her up. “I hope I see you again. I really do.” Her foot was realigned, but the large section of meat missing from her calf was something he tried to not look at.
“I’ll be back soon.” He gave her butt a light squeeze as he turned away from her. They spiked their rappel systems into the rock and Agrest and Philira already jumped over the edge. Raist was preparing to do the same when a strange thought came to him.
‘Look at her one more time; it might be your last.’ He turned to face her, and she did a small wave, smiling at him, the normalcy making him think he was over-thinking again. He turned back towards the cliff and crouched and launched off.