The plan was simple. Rick ran through it in his head one more time as he and Skie marched down the middle of the buildings towards the temple. This first part was the most nerve-wracking, since the reaction of the cultists was so important. Did they have long range weaponry? Would they run out to fight the heathens? A lot depended on their overconfidence and sense of self-importance.
“Y’know, Rick? I never would have agreed to a shitty plan like this.” Skie’s usually calm voice oozed smooth confidence. “If it wasn’t for the fact that we were stuck in a small house for the past two days, I probably wouldn’t have.”
“Yeah, we didn’t have much choice, did we?” They really didn’t. They had run out of rations, water was impossible to find, and honestly he was just tired as hell. Almost no sleep meant that everyone was at their wit’s end.
“Hey, listen.” Skie turned her head, fixing her gaze on Rick. “Before we do this, I wanted to say thanks.”
“For taking the job. You could have said no, and you’d be back upstairs, doing whatever you do.”
Rick chuckled. “For the amount of money the guy was offering, I was happy to take the job. Hey, and if we get through this, I’m asking for a raise.”
“Ha! I’m not even paying, so whatever Rick.” They were almost in their position to start, and nothing had gone wrong yet.
“If you’re looking for something to do once we get back up, I was thinking we make a good team.”
Skie stopped, staring at the temple ahead. “You’ve said that before.” A smile broke out on her face. “I’ll think about it.”
Rick brought up his rifle at the ready. “You got your arm workin’, Skie?”
“You bet. Been practicing this whole time. It wasn’t hard once I got the hang of it.” She flicked her mechanical wrist and a glow of blue green formed around her arm, before solidifying into a pointy end. “Time to make some noise.”
A sudden crack of gunfire was the signal for Cat and her teams to move in. They had settled inside the rubble that made the Lamb symbol about an hour before, which would normally have cause most people to panic; Cat concentrated, exuding confidence as hard as she could. She used her gift to keep the people around her calm and happy, and it had worked. Now that the signal had gone off, it was time to see what was going on.
Rick rushed towards the temple, his rifle cracking gunfire that lit the rocks and people he hit. Skie was right behind him, taking potshots at gun wielding Lamb members, causing massive damage to anyone she landed a shot on. When the Lamb started to muster a defense, they melted back behind some rubble on the far corner, and started to make their way around the side of the temple.
Just as planned, the Lamb wrapped around to defend against them.
Cat crouched back down. She stared at the community in front of her. It wasn’t large to begin with, and the recent troubles had seen it grow smaller and smaller. The past couple of days had been the worst; prisoners in their own homes, the unlucky ones dying in unholy ways as demons and Lamb alike did what they pleased with those inside. Some were dragged back to the temple. Anyone the demons got hold of, died horribly. These people were the survivors, and Cat was sad to think at how few there were.
“My friends, now is the time. If we are to survive, we must take the temple and make it our haven. Within it, we can be safe from the demons. Without, we are all damned to the suffering that the Lamb in their ungodly manner, or the hellspawn, would inflict on us. Are we in agreement?”
They all nodded as one. A feeling of power, of unity, and of responsibility filled her completely.
“Then God bless us, as we do what we must to survive.” With that, she and the entire group stood up, and quietly made their way to the temple. Cat had no time to fear what might happen should Skie and Rick fail: it was on them to create enough of a diversion that the community could come to grips with their foe.
Royce got out of his drop pod, and was pleased to see that it had been accurate. He had made sure that he landed close to the last known co-ordinates of the woman, and this filled him with confidence. He took a crate out from the storage compartment in the pod, and opened it.
Several small, round robots clambered from the lip of the crate before jumping down and setting to work gathering materials. Scrap, plastics, and metals were put in a large pile. In a couple of minutes, there’d be enough for the drones to reuse the materials to create new, useful shells and machinery. Royce double checked their programing, and was happy to see that they would be battle ready in about thirty minutes. Record time, as far as he was concerned. This might be an excellent field test.
After checking his maps, Royce determined that the best place to go was up the hill in front of him. After making sure that his robots were working correctly, he decided to scout out the area. As far as he’d read, hills were a great place to do this as they offered superior vision of the area.
As he progressed up the hill, odd sounds were coming from the other side. Cracking, shouting, and other muted noises filled the oddly coloured air around him.
Once he crested the hill, he could see what was causing the noise. Down in the valley below, there was a small settlement, with a stone building at the end. This building was currently under attack by a large force from the front, and two others off the side.
It wasn’t until he used his tech sight that he saw that one of those people had a completely mechanical arm. It glowed.
Royce scampered back down the hill to help speed up his droids. He had work to do.
Skie ducked under another barrage of bullets, before sprinting behind yet another piece of cover. She popped back up and took some shots at an open hole, satisfied when she heard another small explosions and angry shouting.
She saw Rick spraying slugfire into another opening while moving closer to the building. His calm, resourceful mood was in full swing, and every move he made was a calculated one. He ducked back down and waited a second. When nothing fired back at him, he signaled Skie to move in.
Hoisting her pistol, she vaulted over her cover and sprinted low to the ground, using their surprise to move right up against the wall. A couple of the faster Lamb had taken a potshot at her, but she moved too quickly for them and made it safely against the outer wall. Rick sprayed another salvo into the building, which she took as an opportunity to move closer to one of the holes.
She was close enough now to hear them. They shouted angrily, relaying ideas and rough orders, but to Skie it sounded like chaos in there. She turned on the light in her arm, their signal for her next move. Rick blasted the opening closest to her with his Rifle a couple of times, which hit only stone from what she heard. Still, she hoped that pinned her opponents enough for what she was about to do.
Breathe in, breathe out. Focus.
She sprung through the hole, fist first, catching one cultist by surprise on the end of the powerfield that flickered into a blade. It sank into his skull before it exploded into charred chunks. With that, she landed on her feet in the temple.
She spun around to see three other members of the Lamb scrambling to determine what just happened. She leveled her pistol at one on the left, fired, and burst forward to punch another one’s head, spraying skull fragments. The last one of the three tried to shoot, only to have her hand grab him by the throat violently. He choked as she hoisted him into the air, and dragged him into the open area of the church.
The room she stepped into was lit with lanterns of the chemical, an eerie glow bouncing off the walls. Light shone on a number of the Lamb, who were mostly facing the side of the building she had just entered. The choking, dying man in her grasp started going purple before she whipped him at the back of several of the Lamb firing out at Rick. His bones crunched as he slammed into the backs of three other cultists.
Her blood had been pumping before, but now her vision focussed to a point, turning red. The feeling of serene power she had back in the church so long ago came flooding her mind, and now nothing mattered except the extinction of the bastards in front of her.
She closed quickly with one cultist that heard the commotion, a using her sword arm to impale him. His blood hissed as it burned. A smattering of fire pinged just past her head from the left, and she darted behind a pillar, dropping the corpse where it fell.
Terse, panicked shouting echoed throughout the room, mixing with the sounds of gunfire and unsheathed weapons. She couldn’t stay behind the pillar forever as she’d be flanked in no time. She had to move.
Rolling out from behind the stone, she took a couple of shots at some of the silhouettes she saw standing in the candlelight. One found its mark, and the cultist fell with a yell, his shoulder having vanished in a burnt powdered spray. She fell behind a bench, which took several bullets intended for her. She heard angry cursing.
In a low crouch, she moved quickly among the shadows. When the cultists checked where she was, they lined up perfectly. She raised her arm as an orb formed from the palm of her hand and fired directly at them. She managed to hit the hand of the one in front, which erupted in flames before exploding from the sudden heat. The one behind him caught the blaster in the chest, and died before he hit the ground in a cloud of smoke.
She lept forward, her fist now enclosed in a power field, and punched the one with the missing hand in the chest. He flew backwards, knocking over the other two Lamb who had come before hitting his head hard enough to crack stone. The man’s skull squelched against the pillar, painting the wall in crimson paint.
She ducked into an alcove as people shot the dark from where the attacks had come from, but bumped into something. She turned her pistol expecting to see another cultist.
At the end of the levelled barrel sat Damien, crouched in a corner.
End of Part 23