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3 yrs ago
Y'all need some Omegavortex in your lives.


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The creature's digits clenched tighter, scraping armor and the first audible signs of wear and tear made themselves clear. The huge creature even with such injuries was pumped full of anger and adrenaline. Its eyeless attention turned to Salvator as it hesitated for a moment. It spoke but this time the words were not the swamp-murk rumbling of its native tongue but English, words fogged by the hazy intonations of its deep, frothing vocalization.

"You do not know my fight; OUR struggle," He paused to make a deep sound; sucking inwards with a flanging, mud-bubbling gargle. "If you think we expect such mercy from the enemy. Do you not know the value of a hostage of an enemy with an image to keep? Their sapient rights and sapientaraianism; the luxury of the oppressor to parade their righteousness. Empty words for burned down ghettos."

His grip loosened only slightly. Like worms his digits still coiled even if the pressure was far less bruising.

The footsteps of other tarrhaidim drew nearer, measured and careful as if approaching a potential landmine. He motioned over to the gathered Envenomed, stone-spire teeth clenching as his hands waved - he needed them to make some space but he was careful to keep his mouth shut. More voices were more fuel to the fire.

More human voices that was. The ZRF's squad leader looked to Ilshar and decided that whatever the fellow fungoid had on mind was good a guess as any, motioning his hand over his mouth as he looked at Echo. The enormous Unztadtlige alone was a walking death threat even if it was not actually expressing any aggression.

As Ilshar spoke the fingers slid off of Kleo's arms and it turned to face him, sliding back into the archaic tongue of his kind.

"My anger has been tended to well for over a decade of subjugation; countless habitations under the claw of suited barons and their lackeys' armored bootheels. You speak as one of similar sufferings. Similar hatreds."

His head turned to the fallen scielto, glaring from the corners of what one could presume were its eyes at the rifle barrel pointed at the side of its face. The soldier stopped as the ZRF squad leader's hands motioned him to stop his little escapade of anger, leaving promptly without a word to rejoin his comrades.

He turned to the rest of the squad, his own wounds less gruesome but his ballistic padding armor torn and multiple burns traveling up his sides and back. A part of his face bubbled from a residual energy burst of some sort and shapes squirmed beneath in torment or in desperation to repair badly damaged biomass.
"You fight well. That is noted," He paused to glance at Kleo, his teeth half-clenched with some sort of frustration, but turned then to the human informant while he addressed the rest. "But our mission ends here. Too many wounded, much already lost. You make your way wherever-to now."

It was not much but as he left, the informant was already clenching his teeth and lightly banging his forehead against a half-broken doorway. He did not hide well the curses uttered as whispers.

"Well, I was hoping that could be the backup but it seems you're on your own... but right, where was I huh... the mission. Well... you remember that massive blast from earlier? Not the one that unlucky scielto fellow made. The massive one, artillery blast, the one that shook the whole hillside."

He walked out and pointed off in the distance, along where the trees gradually sloped upwards, rustling in the wind and in the wake of massive blasts. Blurs through the air, slamming along the hillside, sending up clouds of dirt and mushroom clouds of flame.

Little more than the barks of hounds as the massive beast roaring in Hades' depths roared from off in the distance, a massive plume of blue-yellow fire erupting far off near the peak of the mountain they stood upon. Not long after, another massive blast off in the distance on the opposing hill, gouging out an enormous bite of an opposing mountainside. The very report of the weapon made trees tremble, the village shudder, and the ground quake beneath their feet.

"... Yeah, that? Artillery, off-world from the UCL. Some sort of test-run for it, multi-drone triangulation-targetting and live battlenet-feed coordination with on-ground elements. That opposing hillside? That's our artillery. As in 'Definitely-Not-Intransigence' artillery. Pathetic, yes, but that's what happens when you don't control the space around the world and have to rely on informal smuggler networks to sneak in anything that won't catch the actual regional League fleet's attention."

He put a hand on his chin, looking upwards for a bit before remembering something, immediately disappearing back into the house. A few bits of the ceiling were flaking off onto his head, making him curse as he disappeared inside. Something heavy dragged along the floor and the man audibly grunted as clips of some sort were undone, zippers opened, and contents rummaged.

Returning, he held a blocky square-like device with an antennae poking out one corner and various switches and buttons adorning its face. It was held in a sort of reinforced case and with clawed grasper-straps allowing for attachment to one's back. Currently it was open and he was pressing a few buttons.

With a bit of fidgeting, he managed to slide what appeared to be a button/switch/knob covered panel and reveal a screen, before fumbling some more to activate a quartet of small LED's. Immediately, a holographic projection emerged; four beams of light splintering into countless smaller ones, projecting an image of a video feed through a light blue filter.

A group of faces were visible; armored, sloping helmets, curving lines across the sides of their ridges and a rough, dense appearance. Augmented combat suits ("power armor" if one wanted to be blunt), Intranszjednota issue, early Reckoning of Empires period; a squad, bipedal and humanoid, showered with dirt and cautiously looking over their shoulder in whatever foxhole they were huddled in.

"Oi, before you start, yes, they're here! Look, just get going, I'll fill them in fast and it won't be long alright? Thank you."

Before any of them could respond with more than a flicker of motion and the loading of their mags, he closed it and handed it to Salvator.

"I'll be frank, there's not much to say but there's two things you gotta do. First, get to there-"

He pointed off in the distance where the massive blast from the artillery cannon had spouted out, also cursing as he fumbled around with a few more contents he'd extracted from the house.

"That fancy CivSec artillery canon? We need you to secure it. Not destroy it-" His eyes glanced at Ilshar and Echo. "Secure it. That device I handed you? Encrypted secure coms and a battlefield computer-suite. It's got a map and navigation program but really, it's a straight shot there; can probably make it there in the next hour or less if you get going soon."

The encased device was buzzing; any attempts to network with it via digital systems revealed that it was updating something related to thier current location and distance to the targeted area.

"Second? You actually should get going real soon because those guys you saw on the holo-feed? They're on the move and you're working with them. They're getting close to a target and fighting the UCL suckers in the valley at the same time. They're going to paint the target once they get close enough to them. Once they let you know, you guys get to help the League uh, test out their new product's accuracy when they do that. Assassination but with a knife you can level a mountain with."

He nodded before returning into their house, grunting as he pulled something heavy then returned with a backpack. Bits of fluid coloured its tough nylon like material in hues of blue and green. A slight odour wafted from it, one that was wet and slightly dirt-like, something he pretended he did not smell.

"That's my end of this deal held..." He muttered under his breath as he started to move. "Have fun, I'm getting off this clusterfuck."

As he left, the ZRF the squad had fought alongside began to take their leave. Many of them hobbled, some fashioning crutches from large branches or were held from under their arms by comrades. Their wounds were horrific but there were a number that in spite of that, seemed none the worse off. The tarrhaidim obviously, but they were occupied with their prisoner, now on a slow march back away from the frontlines of the conflict.

The informant joined them, exchanging a few words, before the Envenomed team were left with their task.

A spray of bullets shattered chest plating and the reinforced dermal layering beneath, turning torsos into spouting holes and dropping the fallen soldiers to the ground. The scielto commander jerked forward, a sound like a shriek being sucked inwards and reversed, trembling the air around itself before a booted foot kicked into a burn-wound. A gargling hiss replied as it curled up and clawed at the ground, dirt clumping between its lengthy fingers as a series of curses and warping, frothing noises emerged not from a seemingly absent mouth but the very space around itself.

The hatred the battered, bruised infantry human and tarrhaidimm alike however soon turned from their deceased captives to the sole human of the Envenomed team. Even before the first angry shouts broke, one of the fungoids stomped over her way, its gnarled hand swinging angrily to knock the lighter from her hand and grabbing her by the shoulder. Its fingers were long like straightened, bony roots easily long enough to wrap around one's biceps. Tarrhaidim were not considered particularly large but even an average one like this was at least half a head taller than considerably more powerful in its bulk.

The various holes in its body and even the trenches torn through its face, squirming with nerve-worm-things and twitching regenerative biomass, seemed to speak themselves not with anger but a squirting, hissing ambience.

The other tarrhaidim who had been driving the jeep earlier audibly cursed as he shouted at the others to cease their jeering and howling to focus on the still living scielto prisoner. Yet even as he made his way, his squadmate was already giving Kleo a piece of his mind.

"You thoughtless detritus of atrophied un-being, festering in your arrogance!" Its mouth was a cavern-grin, transparent membrane muscles closing over its stalactite-stalagmite 'teeth' yet the sound boomed seemingly out of its still bleeding wounds all over. Kleo could see the reinforce biometallic armor it was wearing twitching and recoiling around the holes blown through it. Worse, it was speaking its own language, not English or any other human tongue. "We had the oppressors in our grasp! We had leverage, an opportunity to force the sky-squirming scum to acquiesce to our demands, and this foreign joyrider denied us such a weapon!"

It said those words with a particular venom, enough that its skin seemed to quiver and tremble with some potentially volatile anger. Its head swivelled as it looked to its compatriots, the squad's leader before it turned back to Ilshar. It was difficult to recognize but this bloodied tarrhaidim was the same one who had blessed Ilshar earlier.

It would attempt to keep its grip on Kleo's shoulder/bicep area uncomfortably tight before it looked to its fellow fungoid in Ilshar.

Its grasp was tight enough that the partially revealed bone of its fingers were starting to constrict and bend the armor around that area.

Now what might that do to human bone if they got harder?

"HEY HEY HEY, hands off the backup, it's a fuck-up, I get it but please let's just-"

The informant was silenced as the angry soldier opened its mouth and spat not spittle but a clump of squirming brownish-yellow squirming. They resembled tubifex worms covered in a cloud of mucous, seemingly melting as they were exposed to an environment outside of their decomposing compatriot.

The rebel squad leader paused for a moment as if hesitant. It was not hard to *feel* the anger he felt, the way his eyeless face seemed to burn with all the restraint needed to barely contain how much the opportunity had not only been missed but taken fromthem.

The cries of their wounded could be heard not too far off as a few of the soldiers looked anxious; could they hold down a single scielto? Horribly wounded but its power had been well demonstrated. Someone had to tend to those nearly slaughtered by it... and there was no body count of how much they had lost yet.

Either way, the informant was not exactly in a position to spill any mission details yet. Not when they had all been thrust back into the fire.

I am definitely interested in this.

I'm denying this request.
The automata's body jerked and convulsed as light shone through the holes punched into its body. Gouts of sparks spat out of its wounds as systems faltered and its huge machine gun clattered to the ground, targeting devices mounted onto it blinking wildly as their signal to their wielder vanished. The duo of reinforcements had begun sprinting and by the sound of their clanking footsteps, they were of a similarly heavy and roboticized build.

One could almost think them human but their movements were rigid and strict, worse than any drill sergeant and even more deadly in their precision. Better AI than a supposedly independent post-Reckoning state should be able to afford; their eyes swept the rubbles and corners with their reinforced, modified rifles not necessarily following the exact center of their sight. Their central camera-eye might be looking in one direction but the weapon would always sweep around the periphery. A notably lesser calibre than the heavy gunner that Salvator had slain but given their more compact size, they could be swung considerably faster in a CQC situation and likely had a far higher rate of fire.

That is, if they saw the voidhanger. Even as the interference began to diminish, their rapidly cycling vision modules were forced to contend with a residual array of junk data and false positives. Both of them spread out, cautious not to joint their comrades immediately as they attempted to hunt down the now even deadlier, cloaked threat. One of them was near the body, sweeping its functionaly-an-LMG into the house and half crouching to diminish its presence.

The other looked over into the windows opposite of the house, suspecting Salvator had vanished within.

Meawhile, in front of the suspicious home with the partially ajar door (or what remained), the furious gun battle raged on. The submachine gun spat, its rounds slamming into multiple targets with vicious speed as the mag started to lower to near a quarter. One soldier staggered back as he caught a full spray, back pressing to the wall as he slumped forward seeping red into murky brown. The AP grenade fumbled out of his hands as life spilled into the filth, another shouting for cover.

The hostile was answered, just not the way he wanted to be.

Ilshar's ulvath responded and the human's body diminished in volume and mass. More rounds than his auagmented senses and digital systems could comprehend ripped into his body, stripping armor, biomesh, his entire left side, and chunks of flesh. A spurting, twitching mess of augmented cybernetics and reinforced bone emerged from 3/4 of a human body, petrified from shock and agony as another burst vanished the mutilated torso and the midsections of the two nearest CivSec troopers. The four remaining wisely dropped as energy beams seared out, digging into the neck of one, killing him with the shock of forced cauterization.

The other three were falling back, unwilling to commit to a fight against that much firepower after having been reduced to less than half their number. A grenade soared out - cylindrical and yellow-banded - and soon a grey smoke began to spew out as the remaining three shouted and fired a few tentative shots, scrambling away to regroup with the ethereal anomaly. Yet that left the pair of automata now to try and distract the rest of the Envenomed team as they changed their objective from hunting Salvator to spraying on the team. Firing from the same northwest position roughly as the first automata-gunner, a twin-barrel spray of automatic rifle fire ripped along walls and rubble, gouging out more cover as the two machines began to stride backwards, torsos twisting upon their robotic waists.

Back at the treeline, the now outnumbered scielto fired blasts of etheric beams at the approaching ZRF forces - luminiscent spears and blue tracer trails answering flickers of red-yellow bolts and greenish biospine rounds. As the ambush fell apart, the ether-dome field enveloping its user pulsed with anger, a wave of qillatu expelling and washing over the surrounding. Bark darkened as if shone by unseen lights, leaves curling as if in fear, the air itself darkening like burst vessels, and the ether-worm's connection to Ilshar diminishing for a brief but vital few moments. As if a cloud of murk had bustled into the tendril-like connections between the worm and its user, its sight was diminished and its very body would bristle; the radiation-like strain of ethereal byproduct (and etherealist rage) now inflicted onto the surroundings.

Unfortunately, rage is a poor substitute for competence. As in retaliation for the ether-glob fired like a howitzer, a lance of radiant light streaked across the sky in the gap between the treelines. Before the etherealist could even mutter what additional void-power it could, the beam slammed into its shield like a tidal wave concentrated into a horizontal pillar. Etheric colours of psychedelic variancy splashed and swirled outwards, bending to the unknown currents of a realm forced to clash with destructive forces of a more material domain. The blue and white melted the nucleus-like field, energy reacting to energy as an explosion erupted along the trees, sending foliage flying, wildlife scattering in flight, and vaporizing Ilshar's worm from the etheric blast.

As the dust settled, the sparking bodies of two gunner-automata twitching, a few rifle cracks disabled any residual fight left in the automata as a tall and charred body dragged itself across the crater where once stood trees and sloping hillside. A body that like Ilshar had guessed, was a scielto's. Etherically reactive membrane melted onto its rough, wood-like skin, its x-shaped planarian head stretching and convulsing, the tendril-wings turned into desiccated and burned stumps; a blasphemed parody of some divine nobility reduced to all cauterized fours.

Helpless before the sound of approaching footfalls and taunting shouts, angry grunts of pain and uttered curses of hate and defiance. While Ilshar's eye on the action had been practically evaporated, given by the trilling shrieks of pain and loud, vile dialogue it was clear that the leader of the squad was being taken care of with the hospitality of those they once ruled.

More shouts and weapons fire, warning shots as the tall alien was hoisted to its legs and a hot gun barrel pressed against the back of its head, drawing a reverberating, flanging scream as the three surviving humans yelled back. It was difficult to make out what exactly was being said but it was clear that the ambush hadn't just gone south but turned into the worst outcome possible for the security forces. More shouts and a something cracking audibly; human voices diminishing as something repulsive and in a tarrhaidim tongue was spoken out - screams as well, presumably the wounded from the ZRF as they tended to their own injuries, adding to the tension of the situation.

As if on command, the two remaining automata froze in place; systems still running but now inert.

From the bullet-ridden, partially destroyed house that had drawn them to the now ravaged settelement a voice creaked out.

"... I suppose there's no need for the signal now. A little hard to have done after I was separated and huddled up here, but alas, you have my thanks."

A com signal did pop up; the exact specific code, frequency, and phrasing meant for Echo and the others but so did an unarmed figure. A bandaged one, one eye and most of his head wrapped up in white threads (some sort of vrexul-derived biosilk likely). A human figure, male presumably, dressed in some sort of light ballistic kevlar and wearing a camo-patterned helmet, torn pants around the knees and thighs, and an empty holster on his side.

"Well, you don't look like the usual mercs they send. You got the signal and... well, best not to ask what happens when the planetary-national liberation movement gets to mete out poetic justice. So... the low down on the situation yes? Gather round, please? I'd like to be punctual here, the fact I'm still alive is a liability for more than just the Artelesian government. Your friends down in the valley are probably getting very impatient for that matter."

The reaper spat and its rounds flew, shattering the tatters of structure the hefty machine was silhouetted against before biting into armor. Ballistic padding met 10mm mullets, sputtering dust-like fragments as metal bit into layered protect and bit into the metal beneath. The machine shuddered and shook from the impact, it steel body lacking blood, flesh, and nerves as it swung its mag-accelerator gun and fired another burst, ignoring the human for the massive unztadtlige.

Bolts of light and flashing sparks pinged off of a glowing dome of light, flating up as glass would reflecting the rays of the sun. Echo's shield manifested in full sight as multiple rifles joined in, heavy duty armour piercing rounds shrouded in veils of energy slamming into it, sparking as they expended their power and shattered against it. The powerful device was holding but the cyberngetic organism was wise not to test it against the globule of ethereal power descending towards them.

Salvator had blinked away before the crushing impact, the unztadtlige slamming through multiple walls, Ilshar hunkering down; just in time for the angry globule to make landfall. For a flash of a moment the realspace blurring fields that contained it bulged and strained before they finally erupted open. The wild colours it contain expanded like gase and flame, space distorting momentarily as the laws of reality consumed those of beyond, transforming the burst of power partially into an blossom of force and matter-ripping ether. The entire front of the house, the stairs, most of its frontal wall, and a chunk of its roof were devoured.

The force of the blast washed the area in smoke and scan-jamming interference, momentarily turning most of the rifle fire into inaccurate sprays at last known locations. Kleo vanished first behind the voidfire then the smoke and debris in its wake, her cover shaking and trembling as a blast-wave rocked it to the core. The feeling of little chittering sounds, not heard via ears but against her thoughts, momentarily swarmed over her as realspace quivered in the wake of the hefty blast and the strange currents that flowed beyond it skirted the edge of mortal perception.

This artillery strike turned out to be a blessing.

The gunner-automata swivelled its head just in time for its camera and vertically-mounted PDW-barrels to see space itself morph and warp and a whole voidhanger trooper emerge. The magnum spoke a second faster than the twin barrels did, two bullets rupturing a camera on their flight path through vital systems and causing the machine to stagger. Its heavy weapons swung horizontally but its makeshift cudgel was no match for the trained movement of its opponent. Where Kleo's bullets had peppered his monofilament knife now dug, easily going through armor and feasting deep into the vital electronics beneath.

The newly made cavity erupted sparks as its arms twitched and head-guns spat wildly, peppering the house opposite of them. A shaky but resolute fist raised like a hammer, aiming to slam down on Salvator's skull. Brutish machine force that wielded its normally mounted heavy machine gun with ease now prepared to reduce the operative's braincase to pulp. The microform however could detect that it was not alone; there was movement down the street where the close-quarter fight was ongoing. Three bipeds, humanoid, armored, too distant to make out if they were more automata or organic, but it was clear they were hesitant to fire upon their ally.

Off in the treeline, more high-power automatic weapon fire shot out from a crossfire position; the same kind of machine gun wielded by the gunner-automata. Armor piercing rounds slammed against the warform's body, cutting through trees with ease as they focused on the bigger, lumbering threat. Rounds that might wound vrexul however pinged off its armor, burning it at best as AP rounds jacketed with energy sparked and burnt out. A flare of ethereal power kicked up as the yet unseen etherealist on the other side of the treeline, at the other side of the village, began to condense ambient ether around itself in response to sighting the walking tank.

In the meantime, their allies fired upon the now revealed enemy heavy gunners in the treeline, momentarily silencing them. Their allies were 3/4 of the distance to the threat, tying up any additional suppressing fire. They might have been guerillas but they were no less tenacious than the Envenomed squad.

With the sole heavy duty suppressing weapon taken out of commission, that left an even heavier weapon on the battlefield, one wielded in the endoform of Echo's massive arms. One that spoke with greater clarity and power than a mere mag-accelerator HMG, the very force of its firing shuddering the already damaged structure they stood in.

Where had once been a trio of houses to the south soon became impressionist ruins.

The first house's side-wall vanished into eruptions of smoke, shattered biomatter, and plasteel. A few loud sparking pings demonstrated where heavy duty rounds hammered against infantry armor, crushing through protection rated at best for rifles, not cannonfire. A body was visible, dancing in twitching and convulsing motions, human by way of form, bisected in a flash as its tattered torso disconnected from its lower one, a rifle wildly spraying in its single grasp as a spray of bluish-purple nutrient-fluid gushed out of two wounds.

The centre and then leftmost house were next as their rifles silenced to welcome the hellish cannnon tearing them open. The former house half collapsed, its bulk slouching towards the collapsing window as heavy duty rounds vaporized walls and supports, crushing whoever was unfortuante enough to be beneath. The latter house was a little more lucky as the soldier within tossed himself out of a side door, crashing through it hard enough to toss the hinges off and slamming into the mud with a practiced roll.

He stayed prone but crawled quickly, yelling something out back as his allies finally made it to the battlezone.

CivSec soldiers, at least eight of them in total, clad in a mixture of synthetic-ballistic biomesh layered over with what looked like recent generation UCL surplus armor. It was a far cry from the scavenged, lighter, mishmashed look of their rebel compatriots and based on their movement, they were hardly demoralized by the hellish display Echo had demonstrated. Many of them were already sliding into cover, target sensors scanning Echo and the others; any counter-electronic warfare suites the squad possessed would detect multiple waves washing over them. Echo was obviously made but they lacked a coherent read on the others.

The leftovers of the ether-artillery blast affected them just as much, but the smoke and heat-like blur was diminishing. As it did so, rifles firing energy jacketed rounds spat in staccato bursts as one of them began to unload his grenade launcher, sliding in a blue-tipped 40mm of some sort. The big autocannon bastard was the threat and the armour piercer was going to do the trick.

In their focus on the hulking unztadtlige however, they did not feel the shimmering in the air like fleshy mass sliding down a wet throat. The tingling on the flesh of augmented bodies from the ether-residue was diminishing but it was enough for them not to notice Ilshar summoning something foul and creeping from beyond the mortal plane. As rifles fired, the annelid entity snaked through the air amidst the smoke and the bullets.

It was easy to find its prey; Echo's warform might have seen it and most of the others probably felt it. Yet the worm itself would see the very area where space was now bleeding and gushing out ethereal power as a luminescent shield manifested dome-like around a tall, ominous figure lurking in the treeline.

They were smart; they'd sucked out the very light such a barrier might manifest but to the worm it was little more than slightly dimming a flashlight, turning the dial down just a little. And with the bullets and grenade-blasts this dome was resisting, it was hardly hidden. It was a strong barrier, one that was taking a large part of its users power but what specifically behind it was hard to detect.

Yet it clearly wasn't human; its body was large, tall, lanky almost yet rough and almost made of coiling, overlapping sinewy muscle and bark-like material. Its arms were quite long and ending in long almost tendril like figures, its legs digitigrade and with pointed hip-bones that stuck upwards past its waist. It looked almost skinny if only from that distance; it was not fully standing, its body seemingly covered in some kind of stretched, thin, yet glowing veiny membrane.

Its head was like a pair of wide, flattened shovels inserted into one another to form a symmetrical "X". Like those of a planarian, bending backwards as little dots glowed alongside them; eyes perhaps. It was hard to tell where it was looking from a glance but seeing as it was pulling backwards slowly (even if not leaving the battlefield), it was clearly not on the worm.

The annelid itself could feel just how densely concentrated the ether was around it; the sort of power possessed by a veteran etherealist. The guerilla team was likely the only reason it wasn't concentrating that power on more offensive means at the moment.
A discrepancy manifested on Echo's scans; a brief moment of ambiguity as the signal flickered and the ping distorted. Notes out of place on a melody, fingers tapping the keys a blink too late and the cohesion of a composition holding yet unintentionally altered.

It was for a flicker or two, the signal distorting as if by a fumble but that was all the sender needed. Electronic data interference manifested on the platform's HUD's and digital systems, crackling as an external presence attempted to tamper with their systems and processing capability. It was hardly the work of a digital warfare expert yet it was clear they weren't trying to cripple Echo.

If they peered past the veil of interference, they could trace the signal back to the very building the silhouetted figure was in along with another notable piece of information. The unknown entity was marking their direct location, painting them functionally.

Emanating from the opposite end of the settlement, an immense pulse reverberated not through the air but the flesh of realspace itself. Ilshar, Salvator, and Ahzahrizerahni would feel it; worming currents of power frenetic and wild as if running from the yet unseen threat, one that was near yet not immediately visible. It was not a pure ethereal current; it did not writhe and mold as a living thing mght but was rigid and logical in how it flowed and coalesced.

A triplet of THUD's emerged from the opposite end of the settlement, black football-shaped blurs shooting through the air, and slamming around the treeline where their local allies were located. While the squad was distanced sufficiently to avoid fragmentation and blast force, they could hear the buildings nearer to their allies shuddering fearfully before the explosive salvo.

Coms crackled but muted half-stutters and gargled tarrhaidim speech spilled out, too fragmented to discern. A few stray shots cracked out as their allies began to move, stumbling near the treeline as they attempted to circle around the right side, aiming at wherever the presumed grenades had been launched from.

Rapid footfalls, vegetation-hinge doors creaking, the sounds of wet dirt kicking up, the sounds subtle but not unheard amidst the longer distance engagement happening along the treeline edges. They neared, fast enough to be sprints, heavy enough to be armored.

Before they could manifest down the long, wide stretches of settlement their first glimpse of the enemy manifested in the windows. Through the curtains and the shadows, the bodies of rifles could be seen and the flat, unexpressive face-obscuring visors behind them. Three were visible, one in each the three houses facing the door they had seen the footprints on. One house directly opposite of it, another two off to its sides facing them diagonally - along with the building the silhouetted figure was in.

Immediately, they began to fire. Windows and transparent biofilters shattered and crackled as automatic rifle fire tore through. Multiple rounds slammed into Echo, violently pinging as they bounced off and flashed through the air, their energy-field generators shorting out. Even with the jacketing-fields on them, they were not enough to damage him. The others however might not be so lucky, even with the abundant cover around them.

From the house to the northwest where the silhouetted figure had been seen, another weapon joined into the symphony; this one too launching bullets. Heavy, loud, crackling suppression-sprays of bullets. The entire window and much of the surrounding walls were torn open in a spray of dust and fragments as a stream of heavier duty rounds ripped through the corner of another structure, the wall of the house they were facing, and right towards the squad.

It was enough that the bearer of the weapon could be seen, pausing to observe them after its hellish burst of heavy duty rounds.

As this hellish ambush continued, the ethereal pulse tangible to Ilshar, Salvator, and Ahzahrizerahni cased for a moment, the sensation draining as water seeping away into a hole. It was not dissipating; a flash of a second later and it flared like a ray of heat from a crackling fire. From the treeline opposite to where they had entered the settlement, a spiking burst of blue, pink, and white flared above the treeline, vomiting a massive glob of blue-white ethereal power high in the air...

Descending in a long arc of descent right towards Echo...
"Noted friends - have fun in there." The tarrhaidim soldier mused as he lay rooted in position, not before turning to Ilshar, his voice turning into a deep gurgle in a foreign, alien tongue far removed from English.

Ilshar, Echo, and Salvator were near the centre of the settlement.

It wasn't in the most wartorn state it could have been, hardly what one would use for a convincing charity pleading commercial. Visible trails half-obsured by the mud and what appeared to be some rain from the night before lined across the muddy paths. Some wheeled and others uniformly flattened - antigravitational hover vehicles for the latter. Most of houses had a sort of ramshackle approach to them; geometrical and sensible in their shape yet whatever symmetry or sense that might suggest interrupted by slightly-pulsing, stiffening biomass like a mixture of moss and wood.

A few bullet holds dotted them, shrapnel wounds, windows dotted with tiny holes - few signs of break in or entry. The boot-prints lead towards one partiular house in the middle, mud smeared on the front steps and the door slightly ajar. From the gap and nearby window, they could peek inside to see the light peering in from the windows further illumating the footsteps. A living room was visible off to the side yet the footsteps lead down the corridor adjacent, towards a closed door. A door large enough for the Endoform of Echo to move through; its inhabitants were clearly not human given the relative size of everything inside.

Around them, most of the windows had been tinted black, covered with bio-film from the other side, or boarded in a few cases when they could not afford glass. This was one of the few that lacked such and given by the fewer bullet-holes on it, perhaps it had simply bee a less appealing target for whatever stray fire had punctured its walls.

Off in the distance, something massive thudded and rumbled with the crackling roar of a massive artillery blast in the distance and the settlement quaked in response. Windows wobbled, doors rattled, and the door creaked against its hinge as if beckoning entry into the structure. As far back as where Kleo resided, the forest shuddered not merely in fear of the shockwave of force, but as if in fear of when the next one would fall.

Movement again; rapid shapes bestial and low to the ground, skirting around the edges of the woods opposite to the way they entered. Their allies' weapons followed; the ground they stood upon was higher in elevation.

As the reverberation diminished, a ping manifested upon Echo's comms - the signal was nearby and data-crunching combined with tracking situated it roughly 45 feet to the northwest of the house, roughly diagonally off to the left - somewhere near the front of another house. It was the faded grey-white one, a few muddy stains along its walls, patched up holes filled with tarrhaidim bio-mesh hardened in the case of blasts, and a silhouetted figure in the window who raised a hand then vanished back into the unlit, shadowed room.

The ping repeated - a series of bleeps and blips, roughly congruent with the ones the ZRF would use, though it was far away from the coms-code they were supposed to use to identify and reach out to the informant with.
IC is officially up! Edited into the OP.
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