“Helmets on!” Re’shi thundered over the roar of the Orca transport’s engines. The shas’ui of Shadow Hunter locked his helm lenses onto the holographic image provided by a nearby data drone. “Be advised, shas’la, one Rai’kor until atmosphere entry. Brace yourselves, the journey to our deployment zone could get rough.”
The fire warriors strapped into their seats reached for their helms latched onto their weapon lockers. M’yen slammed on his ebony helm in the same moment a wave of turbulence slammed into the Orca. The world vanished beneath a dark filter that lingered for long moments. Crimson data soon streamed upward onto his screen as the lenses in his helmet powered on and provided real-time information on his surroundings. The rest of team Shadow Hunter and the interior of the Orca hangar bay flashed into brilliant life. M’yen assessed the vital life signs and thermal readings that his comrades possessed – and he knew they were also reading his own.
“Re’shi.” Tel’kyse spoke into Shadow Hunter’s personal communication link channel rather than shout over the roaring flames of an atmosphere being breached. “How many Orcas are being deployed on our mission?”
“Tel’kyse!” The Shas’ui scolded sharply. “How many times do I have to tell you? Remember your briefings! It could mean the difference between life or death.”
“Forgive me, shas’ui.” Tel’kyse muttered and M’yen was certain that beneath her helmet was a flustered expression. “But how many?”
“Two, precisely.” The shas’ui stated. “Ours and another carrying pathfinder and strike teams.”
“Ethereal’s blood,” Or’es moaned over the channel. “I am going to be sick! Can’t this pilot enter atmosphere any faster?”
Tel’kyse stretched out her open hand in offer. “Take my hand, Or’es. We’ll make it.”
Or’es nodded weakly, his trembling hand taking Tel’kyse’s own. “This will end soon… This will end soon…”
An explosion rocked the Orca transport so abruptly that M’yen scarcely had time to blink before swathes of the metallic interior imploded inwards. Shrapnel scythed through the chamber amidst a secondary explosion of rubble, acrid smoke, and blue gore. When the hangar bay halted its violent trembling and his vision clarified, it was only then that he saw that an inferno had broken loose. A gaping wound in the Orca gunship existed where several members of squad Patient Hunter had been seated. Survivors that had not been shredded screamed in agony as they were consumed by the licking flames.
One of the Shas’ui thundered over the chaos at a shas’la attempting to detach his harness. “Ye’Kais, stay in your harness! The Drones will put the fire out!”
If the Fire Warrior had heard the plea of his superior, then he did not deign to show it. Amidst the white-hot flames, Ye’Kais bellowed in agony as they charred his armor. With a solid click and whir of machinery, the safety harness came off of the shas’la. M’yen looked away before Ye’Kais was lifted into the air with such force that he became crushed into the ceiling. Maintenance Drones whirred by moments later and began to douse the flames with flames retardant chemicals.
The violent pressure of the atmosphere suddenly fell away from the Orca ship as it broke into the skies in a free fall. A sense of vertigo slammed M’yen squarely in the gut as thrusters blazed into life and slowed the descent. M’yen gazed into the crystal blue sky beyond the massive breach in the Orca’s flank, where a handful of Patient Hunter had once been. The remaining survivors of that squad remained in their harnasses, beside the pulverized corpses of their comrades.
“Out of my way!” J’karra’s voice echoed over the hissing of dying flames. A squadron of maintenance drones cleared from her battlesuit’s path. “My team, prepare for deployment.”
Several hatches in the Orca’s hangar bay detached their locking mechanisms and buckled open to allow a gust of whipping wind into the gunship. M’yen could scarcely see any of J’karra’s stealth team – their stealth camoflauge fields no doubt activated. One moment, there was only a glimmer of light against a transparent hexagonal field and in the next, the contained flames of jet packs blazed into life. Then almost as quickly as they had come, J’karra’s team had vanished onto the surface of Aloh Fio.