‘No one’s here…’ Tobias muttered to himself.
His footsteps practically echoed off of the ground, despite the pandemonium outside of this outpost.
They were in a hallway of sorts, leading to the main building ahead. It was only lit by the windows to either side of them. On one side was the barren landscape, and it was too dark to make out much detail if there was any. On the other side, the windows overlooked the outpost’s courtyard as he marched forward, weapon aimed.
Despite his bullpup glaring forwards, Tobias couldn’t keep his eyes off the soulless courtyard. It looked like there were stacks of empty supply crates in various places, a dimly lit comms station perhaps, and a couple of tall but currently dormant anti-aircraft towers. Across the ground below, he could see the eerily stretched shadows of Aegis quad-guns and interceptor las-cannons.
Behind him was something even more ghostly. His heart beat heavy when he turned around for the first time in minutes after leading the way forward.
A large, groaning figure that reeked of blood and engine fuel walked behind him, like a ghoul that was too big for its own frame. The shadows blended Jacques’ body into his brother’s. Jacques’ muffled agony was ceaseless. A trickled path of his blood was splatter-painted along the length of hallway behind Elias, glistening somewhat in the light from the windows, as his older sibling struggled with the weight in his arms.
‘No one’s here!’ He said this time, louder and actually to his brother.
'Because it looks like no one is here,' Elias groaned back. 'That doesn't mean it's true.'
An orange glare caught their eyes in the distance, beyond the main building. It lit up the edges and faded, but did not quite disappear. A couple of rumbling vibrations shook their way through them, after.
‘Maybe there just weren’t...many people here. I would have thought Prolial Prime would be all hands on deck, though.’
'People run, people hide, people die,'
With Elias’s staggered response, Tobias caught himself. This was no time to start a conversation. He realized, normally the others would be there. Someone would be helping Elias, someone would be watching the rear, and there would still be at least one more to speak with about the mission at large. He took a hand off of his lasgun for a moment to try the handle on the door in front of him. Locked.
Anger flared in him again. Flee from their homeworld…
He kicked the door with full force. The handle and hinges clanged but didn’t give in.
He put a hand on the butt of his shotgun but thought better of it, turning to Elias.
‘Think he’ll live if you set him down for a moment?’
'Perhaps,' Elias said, examining the door. 'Perhaps not. We have to get through, either way.'
Elias adjusted his weight, and lowered Jacques gently against the wall in an upright position.
‘Pale as the clouds.’ said Tobias, repeating an old Elysian phrase.
Without another word, and not needing to count to get their timing synchronized, they hammered at the door with their boots until finally they heard a small chime of a nail or screw hitting the floor inside. Once the first fell, the rest gave in together.
The door swung open, flushing out the stale air as they both entered through it, guns raised and panning. Tobias had one hand around the handle of his lasgun and the other on the polished wood at his leg while doing so.
'Not all clouds are pale,' Elias grunted, picking Jaques back up. 'But the grass is always greener.'
‘No matter where he goes, I imagine it will better…’ replied Tobias, hoping Jacques’ pain helped him not hear the words.
This time, Tobias helped Elias move the man onto a table. A few small objects were swatted out of the way, falling onto the floor. The started on opposite sides of the room, searching for medical supplies of any kind.
They returned to the table with some gauze and wrappings, but nothing close to what Jacques truly needed. They took out their knives and split apart his webbing, and removed the top half of his uniform. He couldn’t recall if Jacques had thrown his own helmet off after hitting the ground, or if Elias had done so. Either way, it was already gone along with their grav-chutes.
As Elias went to work the best he could with what he had, Tobias brought his lasgun back to bare. He scanned the room again looking at the entrances.
The slowly swinging door they came through, creaking quietly. Another just like it opposite, but still locked and shut. A larger one in the middle...he figured this one led out to the courtyard.
He breathed steady. The darkness, the quiet, filled only by Jacques’ torture. It began to make his skin crawl, and he noticed some sweat forming beneath his helmet and uniform. He reached up a gloved hand to detach his rebreather.
He heard something.
His hand shot straight back to its place, his rebreather half-way unclipped.
Jacques was almost yelling as Elias tried to pat his body with gauze so he could at least see the wound better. The temporary spray Elias had applied had already been pushed past its limits.
The sounds got louder.
‘Elias.’ he said again, louder, urgent.
What did an Ork sound like on the ground? Hell, the only one he’d seen was a green hulk in the cockpit of a plane.
He moved close to the main door to hear better. Some shouting.
Footsteps. Shuffling. Voices that were…. not shouting.
Tobias hustled away from the door, yanking his shotgun from its place and pointing all three barrels toward it.
‘Damn it, Elias! Main fugging door!'
His brother finally looked up, and stained his own barrels with bloody hands a heartbeat later.
Who knew what was coming through. Tobias’ eyes were unblinking, but he saw more than just the blank metal doorway in front of him. He pictured Elysian sparrows and jays, battling each other in what looked like a game.
The doors burst open, and it took all of his training to not immediately open fire. They were human figures, shouting and scared.
‘Stand down!’ he yelled. He became increasingly enraged by the second, that these men did not yet recognise them as allies. Each time his heart beat with guns still pointed at Elias, his teeth ground harder and his fingers squeezed tighter.
But, before he could make a mistake, they were all forced to the ground as a shock wave took the room.
You can never be prepared for the unexpected