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Current The lengths you guys will go to in order to avoid talking to girls...
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*Ties tourniquet and injects CBS: Tooning out the News*
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For those bitching about Christmas I give you the Candy Cane Martini:…
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And so we come to the end of another cyber Monday...
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Noir Narrator Voice: Like the aftermath of one bourbon too many in a lifetime that has encompasses far, far too many.


Early 30's. I know just enough about everything to be dangerous.

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The next morning dawned clear after the nights heavy rains. True to the watchman's prediction the body was gone when Amal and Emmaline mounted their horses and rode out of the southern gate into the brilliant sunshine of the early morning. Neither of the pair were particularly early risers, but the possibility that some of Vandershute's ill fated posse might be searching for them didn't encourage them to tarry. Given the events of the previous night they had debated attempting to rouse the carpet, but had agreed that the situation wasn't that dire yet. They were also uncertain on what to do with the strange box they had inherited from the dead thief. Truthfully, Emmaline felt it might have been better just to toss it in the street, but Amal had pointed out that having something always put you in a better bargaining position than not having it.

The road was a sluice of mud and progress was slow. Emmaline regretted not attempting to find a boat, never having been much of a fan or horses. There were enough travellers on the road to churn the mud to a slippery muck and they were frequently forced to press their horses close to the trees to maintain any kind of a pace. She was just about to suggest they halt and eat some lunch when Amal reigned his horse in beside her. She envied him his seat, he might be a thief from the streets but he obviously had the blood of desert horsemen somewhere in his background.

"I think there are riders coming up behind us," he said in Arabyian. Emmaline instinctively glanced over her shoulder before Amal could grab her to prevent it. There was a shout from behind her as several hundred yards back she saw horsemen forcing thier steeds into muddy gallops. Sunlight glittered of blades and the tips of arrows.

"Sorry," Emmaline blushed and glanced back to the road ahead an idea occurring to her.

"Follow me!" she called and pushed her horse into a clumsy charge that carried them around the curve. The stretch of road beyond was deserted. Whispering quietly to herself she lifted her hand and the mud infront of them began to congeal and dry as she wrung the water from it with her spell. Their steeds stepped up onto the dry road and their speed increased dramatically. Behind them water seemed to return to the road, restoring the quagmire a few feet behind them. Emmaline grinned as their pursuers rounded the corner to find their prey several hundred meters ahead with no apparent explanation.

"We can out run them easily this way," Amal snickered. Emmaline nodded, a mischievous grin tugging at her lips.

"We could," she admitted, "but I have a better idea."

It must have been an extremely frustrating hour for their pursuers. They seemed to gain on their prey until they were almost in bow range, and then the pair would round a corner, and suddenly be several hundred yards ahead, their horses apparently not even tired from the leisurely pace. Somehow their horses didn't appeared to be coated in mud either, nor were they gasping for air having been driven through the mud. Emmaline was enjoying herself immensely.
Emmaline frowned and passed the pendant over to Amal, she had considered herself a follower of Ranald once, but she wasn't sure if Asaph was approve, and if there was one thing that Ranald would approve of, it was covering ones rather shapely ass. Instead she reached into the drawer where she had concealed the odd metal cylinder. It was made of blackened steel and fitted so finely together that the seams in it were almost invisible. There was a stud at the top which she tried to depress with a finger but nothing happened. Pursing her lips she began to rotate the sections against each other, imagining some kind of code. Amal placed his hand over hers.

"If it is some kind of thieves codex, there may well be traps," he cautioned her. Emmaline froze and then set the cylinder down on the table. There was a knock at the door and the innkeeper, who had vanished while Amal was outside, appeared with an officer of the watch, dressed in a rain slicked leather coat and some indifferently maintained mail. He took one look at the corpse and then a rather longer look at Emmaline, restraining himself from licking his lips with an obvious effort of will.

"Nah, its like the others, crossbow bolt, black quarrels, not this lot," he said sourly. Emmaline glanced at the corpse and saw that the feathers of the quarrel had been dyed black. The watchman scratched his armpit absently.

"I'll send a couple of boys to toss it out in the street, watch will sweep it up in the morning, if the damn barber surgeons dont get it first," he told the innkeeper and then turned and stomped out of the room. The innkeeper, clearly relieved his well paying if eccentric patrons weren't going to be carted of to the town jail, bowed obsequiously.

"I have another room for you mine Herr, Frauline, not quite as fine, though it has a nicer window," he dared to joke. Emmaline rewarded the effort with a snicker and followed him out.

Five minutes later they were drying infront of a peat fire in a smaller room that was still better than Emmaline had seen before she had been taken away to Araby. She wiggled her toes in front of the blaze pondering events. Amal was turning the odd black cylinder over in his hands, considering it.

"You know," Emmaline ventured, "this might not have anything to do with us at all. It looked to me like we maybe just..." she paused for dramatic effect. "Got in the way of a quarrel between the two of them." Amal didn't laugh, the nuisances of Riekspiel apparently not yet sufficiently absorbed to allow for puns. She pressed on.

"Maybe he was just fleeing across the roof tops and was shot at an unfortunate time. I wonder what it was about? Some schism in the local guild of thieves perhaps? Some enemy of the temple of Ranald?" That was harder to figure, Ranald was not exactly a popular god, but he wasn't hated either. Theologically on the Shyallan's had a quarrel with Ranald, and somehow Emmaline doubted the local Shyallan convent was turning out master archers.
Sabatine felt her stomach lurch as she stood up from her station. Things were rapidly getting out of control but she didn't see a way to deescalate them that wouldn't be seen as cowardice in her own eyes if no one else, and whatever else Sabatine Hickoring was, she was no coward.

"Can I take it then sir, that you are refusing Lieutenant Caladwarden's plan to return to station and re-engage the Alliance," she spoke firmly and distinctly, despite a quivering in her bowels at the thought of what was coming. Micha's eyes, almost impossibly bulged further and his face flushed with anger. The bridge sensors would record what she was saying for posterity.

"Are you out of your mind Hickoring?!" he exploded, "It is a miracle we survived the first time, and this yahoo wants to take us back into the lions den?!" Micha was right in that it was a miracle, by an enormous stroke of good luck they had extracted at precisely the right position, any closer to the destroyers and they would have been destroyed before they could either escape into the matrix or inflict significant damage. Watching Micha's throbbing temple Sabatine hoped he might have a stroke, that would make all of this easier.

"Of course I am refusing, our duty is to get back to Herculaenum as soon as possible and report this disaster!" Micha screamed, spittle literally forming on his lips. The bridge crew and probably numerous men and women in the hallway stood silent.

"So you are refusing to engage the enemy sir," Sabatine pressed, drawing close to the knife edge that would put her and Kaiden's life on the line.

"I just said so didn't I, Boson Higgs, get your men out and set the rig for transit to Herculaenum! And I want these two taken into custody!" Still no one moved. Helenna Graving looked like she might be about to throw up and everyone else looked panicked.

"Lieutenant Micha," She began formally, "In the face of your repeated refusal to engage the enemies of the Republic in wartime I am left with but with no choice but to relieve you of command of RCS Viceroy until such time as a court martial can be convened in accordance with the Code of Military Justice." Her guts tried to crawl up her throat as she spoke.

"This is mutiny! You will swing for this Hickoring, both of you will!" Micha shouted, his eyes so wide they were completely ringed with white, "Arrest these mutineers!" An able spacer caught in the wrong place at the wrong time took a step towards Sabatine but, surprisingly, Tilda stepped in front of him, denying him the ability to pass without making a confrontation out of it. Evidently the ground was too shaky for him to risk that and perhaps he recognized the way the reporter set her body, obviously she knew a thing or two about hand to hand fighting.

"Lieutenant Caladwarden will assume command until a courtmartial can be convened," she continued, amazed at how steady her voice was under the stress.

"Bosun Higgs, Bosun's mate Klave, you will confine the captain in his quarters until that can be arranged," she directed.

"Touch me and you are mutineers too," Micha warned, backing up as the two big riggers stepped towards him.

"Don't worry lads, its me that is for the High Jump if I'm wrong," Sabatine called, but neither of the spacers showed any hesitation in seizing the screaming captain and dragging him bodily but effortlessly from the room. A silence decended over the bridge that was as absolute as one could be on the deck of a working starship.

"Excuse me," Sabatine managed before grabbing a rigging helmet from a hook and vomiting into it noisily, her entire body trembling with shock.
"Its a mess part of ventral A carried away, ripped through some of the mizzen on B before the lines snubbed it. Might be best to take the A ring of the sail plan and re-rig with B. I think we can get 90 percent efficiency within about an hour that way, vs eight hours to put ventral A to rights," Sabatine replied. Kaiden said something to her but her mind had wandered back to the engagement they had just survived.

"Sorry, sorry sir what was that?" she asked.

"I said go ahead and re-rig, hours count here, but obviously your mind was somewhere else?" he asked. Sabatine tried to look at Kaiden, the motion momentarily breaking the contact of their helmets, but all she could see was the mirrored reflection of the matrix in his visor. She was wrung out, as much by adrenaline as by the short action they had just fought.

"I keep thinking about that cruiser, I mean she is stuck on the ground, it will take three days at least for her crew to lift her," she explained, replaying the images of Graving's gunnery display in her mind, seeing the fittings and the outriggers struts burn under the hammering of plasma.

"We crippled her but she isn't finished, a couple weeks and she will be back in action. And while we are at it... I mean I shouldn't be saying this but what was with the Captain, he just froze up, never known him to suffer that badly from extractions, and that was only a few hours in the matrix." She thought back to the strange conversation she had shared with Commodore Welkins the night before they had lifted. The memory of how she had acted that night embarrassed her but she swallowed it down.

"I don't know, just don't know what to think," she admitted.
Annika gazed around the manor house as they were escorted to the guest wing. It was a handsome place, made of warm stone with russet accents. Here and there the walk ways open up to reveal lush carefully tended gardens centered on elaborate fountains, some of men on horseback, others of modestly clad women who might have either been saints or mythological figures. Soft floral scents wafted from carefully tended beds of roses, and the subtle perfume of orange trees and purple profusions of bougainvillea blossoms lay heavy on the air. Servants and other members of the extended family of the duke were glanced from time to time, a lady reading from a book of hours by a portico, a gardener tending to some pruning, but it seemed the guest wing itself was empty. Like previous areas they had visited this two was scentered around an open air garden, the entrance way opening onto the garden which was surrounded on three sides by the enclosing structure. Carved balustrades of dark polished wood, separated the raised wings from the garden proper, allowing anyone resting on one of the many benches a view of the garden while permitting them to remain in the shade. To Annika, raised in the deserts of Istkar it seemed very lush, though there might be a slight tinge of aridity to the air to any who had not grown up in so extreme an environment.

"Please, make yourselves comfortable, there are servants here to fetch whatever you should desire. The Duke will expect your for the feast at Vespers, that is three hours hence, I will have servants fetch you when the time is right," Aldego said in his polished Hazat accent. Annika was slightly surprised by the use of the canonical hour.

"The Duke is a devout man then?" she inquired. Aldego immediately stiffened.

"All Hazat are faithful servants of the Church," he declared loftily.

"We here on Aragon have not forgotten our duty to the Pancreator and his holy mission," Aldego added. Annika wasn't sure whether the veiled slight was directed at her or at Orion as a member of the now reigning House of Hawkwood though she supposed it didn't much matter.

"To that end, would you like me to escort you to the chapel, the proper place of the clergy?" he added. Annika smiled a wintery smile.

"As a layman Sieur Shazrin, you cannot be expected to know this, but those of my order find our communion with the Pancreator wherever we go," she made a guesture to the beautiful garden.

"This shall serve just fine as a chapel for me," she said with a serene guesture.

"And if I may offer one so faithful in the Pancreator's service some advice Sieur, a layman ought not presume to know the 'proper' place for a member of the clergy," she advised, enjoying the way the servants face darkened as she spoke.

"There are those who would consider such a thing improper, possibly even heretical," she added sweetly. Shazrin opened his mouth to retort but glanced at Orion and clearly thought better of it. Instead he bowed and retreated back into the house proper.

"Charming fellow," she observed, and Ragnar guffawed as he leaned forward his meaty fists encircling the ballistrade.

"You should have blasted him with your magic, jumped up bondsman," he snickered in his own tongue.

"Among my people its considered rude to break every bone in a mans body," she replied in Vuldruk, "the host might take offense after all."
I bet Neil is having more fun than I am Sayeeda thought to herself as she was marched down the street and through the chainlink fence that surrounded the old cannery. Like the Scorpion's base, pillboxes of sandbags and courgated iron had been errected so heavy weapons could be pointed back towards town. Improvised towers, made of structural girders from the long derelict factory stood at the corners with watchers mounted in look outs. They two had heavy weapons, but Junebug suspected that firing them from such precarious perches was far more dangerous to the shooters than the enemy. Given the fact that the thugs had bothered to cut the grass around the fence, and the care they took not to touch it, Sayeeda had to assume it was electrified. They had taken her weapons belt and her side arm, which was smart, but they hadn't conducted a proper search or made her remove her body armor, which was very stupid.

"Love what you have done with the place," Sayeeda commented ironically, guesturing to the dilapidated cannery. Sections of roofing had been torn away to reveal girdirs within and improvised electric lights hung from strings. Rust was everywhere giving the place a stink of decay and old steel which offended Sayeeda's tankers soul. Talin guffawed as though it were a hilarious joke and slapped his belly.

"Hey, its not much to look at, but it is a fortress! The Scorpions don't dare even think about attacking it," he boasted. Unless of course they had a half dozen good snipers, or mortars, or even some half decent machine gunners to knock out the towers Sayeeda thought, but she was being unduly pessimistic, the odds of the Scorpions having such skilled people, or even the imagination to try such an assault were low which mean Talin was probably correct. They walked passed the check point and Sayeeda ignored the chorus of cat calls and improbable sexual suggestions from the half drunk half stoned gang toughs. Talin waved three of them over as an escort and took her through the front doors of the place. The interior was a maze of girders, conduits, gangways and other industrial fittings, many of them had deep bright scuffs in the steel as though cut by the claws of some vast animal.

"Just so you know we done playing games, you lie to the boss, we shoot you dead," Talin said, his voice now carrying a hint of nerves. Sayeeda wondered what would happen to Talin if she didn't play along and if he were in more trouble than she was. She wished Neil was with her, an extra pair of eyes would have been welcome and his smart ass witicisims would have bouyed her spirits. Well, she thought with a grin, she would just have to be be obnoxious enough for both of them.

"Wha..." Talin gasped, clearly taken aback by her sudden smile.

"Just thinking about something funny," she said smoothing her face with some effort.

"Care to let us in on the joke?" he demanded. Junebug shrugged.

"Maybe later."

Further conversatoin was interupted as a dark shape dropped from the ceiling. There were a seires of deafening clangs and sprays of sparks as the thing fell, striking gangways and and girdirs as it came, sending showers of orange sparks flying into the air. It hit the ground in a spray of concrete chips, one of which scored a line across Sayeeda's chestplate. A creature stood in the center of the room, not a creature exactly a cyborg with the torso and head of a man, but with its legs replaced by eight augmentic limbs that hissed and popped with hydraulic pistons. Each limb was nearly two meters long and tapped the floor with a decidedly arachnid affect. They were tipped with sharpened wedges of metal. The man atop the thing was fat, rolls of flab hanging down and concealing the augmetic joints of his body and cybernetic legs. The legs made his arms look rather stubby and he was completely bald his skin shining with oil. Sven would have been disgusted by such a crude union of man and machine. Of course he might have shot the thing for offending his sensibilities or offered to help fix it.

"The Spider, I presume," Junebug said with a slight bow, making a show of not being impressed. The Spider scowled clearly used to his guest recoiling in horror.

"You presume correctly mercenary," he said in a voice that was probably meant to be intimidating, but had a slightly breathy edge which robbed it of gravitas. Sayeeda wondered if his diaphram had been damaged in whatever accident had left him in his current state.

"Well I wish I could say it was a pleasure to meet you, but your goons here," she made a gesture to encompass the four guards, "didn't give me much of a choice."

"We don't take kindling to the Scorpion's hirelings wondering into our territory," he threatened. Junebug snickered and the Spider's eyes blazed with fury.

"Something amusing mercenary?" he half snarled.

"If you really thought I was working for the Scorps you would have had your boys kill me rather than drag me in here to suffer your overly dramatic theatrics right?" she asked. The Spider lurched forward, one of his legs, equiped with a gripping pincer seized her around the chest. The armor creaked but didn't give way.

"Watch your mouth, you think you are the first off planet big shot to wind up in a shallow grave?" he demanded. Junebug resisted the urge to go for a concealed pistol with an effort.

"Probably not, but I'm the first to drop 12 of the scorpions in one without so much as a scratch," she responded levelly. The Spider snarled and let her go.

"You have an awfully large opinion of yourself for a freighter captain," the Gang boss growled.

"Look if we are just going to talk about me, Id just as soon go back to getting drunk," Sayeeda replied levelly.

"If you are going to try to kill me, go ahead, if not say whatever it is you are going to say and let me get on with my evening," she said, her tone that of a teacher who has been asked a stupid question one too many times.

"Is there a good reason I shouldn't kill you? Just to be on the safe side?" he asked, eyes narrowing dangerously at the emphasis she had placed on the word 'try'.

"Plenty, starting with that trying to kill me definitely wouldn't be on the safe side, but more importantly would cost you millions of credits," she returned levelly. The Spider gave her a slit eyed glower but predictably the mention of money caught his interest. He clattered eratically on his legs, his torso remaning steady but the limbs adjusting to balance some problem in weight distribution.

"Millions of credits, what are you talking about?" he demanded.

"Before I killed those Scorpions they tried to recruit me on a raid, targeting your drug storage facility." That did get his attention and he reared back on his limbs as though about to strike her, the guards around her edged back gasping and muttering.

"What nonsense those fools don't even know here it is!" the Spider all bout screamed.

"You mean they don't know its in the old quarry west of town?" she asked sweetly. That drew definite gasps of shock from all concerned. Truth be told the Scorpions hadn't know before Neil had told them. It had taken her all of ten minutes and nothing more sophisticated than the sensor reading from the Highlander on approach, but even that basic piece of intelligence gatherings was probably beyond these dim wits.

"When is this raid happening?" he demanded, stalking back and forth, two legs half climbing a network of pipes, ripping one of them open to spill foul smelling steam by accident.

"Tonight I heard," Junebug responded with a shrug.

"If you are lying to me I will feed your your own..." the Spider began but Junebug burst into action. She drove her booted foot into the instep of the nearest guard with a crunch of bone, in the same motion she ripped a stun baton from his belt and hurled his body into Talin sending them both down in a pile. She whipped around in a snap kick that caught a second guard in the stomach, sending him tumbling back, vomiting bile and gasping for breath. Letting her momentum carry her around she smashed the stun baton into the face of the final guard with an electric crackle that filled the room with the smell of burning hair. Before the fellow collapesed she snatched a heavy chemical pistol from his belt and pointed it at the Spider, tossing the still arcing baton onto Talin and the first guard she had assulted absently, sending them both to the ground in spasming heaps.

"Lets keep the threats to the woman who just gave you invaluable intel to a minimum shall we?" she asked, thumbing back the hammer of the pistol for dramatic effect. The Spider was pale, obviously caught between striking and cowering from the gun that was suddenly pointed at his face. Boots thundered as men rushed into the room from outside carrying weapons. Junebugs pistol didn't waver so much as an inch. The Spider began to laugh.

"You have some balls, Ill give you that," he rumbled and the tension in the room eased.

"In exchange for this information, you are free to go, my men wont stop you. Ill have men in place to make them wish they had never been born," he rumbled ominasly. Junebug snorted a laugh.

"Something funny mercenary?" the spider asked, his eyes narrowed with rage. Sayeeda kept her face calm but inwardly was worried she might be pushing the mobster too far.

"Look you want to be in the bush leagues forever, that isn't my problem," she replied, holing up her free hand in a theatrical shrug.

"What are you talking about?" he demanded.

"Look you know where a good portion of the Spiders are going to be, great, but then you also know where a good portion of them aren't going to be right?" she explained, wincing at the obviousness of what she was doing, but then these weren't exactly people for whom subtle had an appeal. The Spider seemed to consider it for a moment and then a broad nasty smile spread across his face.

"You mean they won't be at the mansion defending the Stinger?" he asked in dawning realization. Junebug nodded.

"Why are you doing me this favor mercenary, you clearly believe you could get out of here even if I told my men to kill you." Junebug shrugged, she certainly could have gotten out before all these thugs came running, now even with her Terran enhanced reflexes, she would be pushing her luck.

"Look I've met the Stinger and the bitch gets what she deserves for hitting on my boyfriend," she admitted, lowering the pistol. The Spider gazed at her incredulously for a moment, and then began to laugh.

Sabatine's hands flew across the controls as she tried to control too many things at once. The hull screamed as the rig, still deployed for the transit, screamed as masts and spars carried away under the harsh maneuvering. Sabatine was pleased that they had bought the riggers inside before they extracted, or they would be losing men right now.

"Hickoring I am taking control," Micha declared, having finally snapped out of whatever fugue he had been stuck in. The ship handling board blinked out of existance as Micha's higher command grade took control. Her hands hammered on the virtual keyboard pulling up the attack board and flying over the preset launch sequences. Each attack computer had a standard set of attack solutions, though they were extremely unlikely to succeed without modifications from a human missilier.

"Launch one!" Sabatine shouted and the ship rocked as a gout of steam shoved the multi-ton missile out into space. The ship began to pitch downward as Micha angled the ship towards the ecliptic of the planet. Sabatine held back a curse and slapped her second launch sequence. It was too soon after the first launch to be really safe but Micha's maneuver would spoil her angle in the next few seconds. A second metallic clang indicated her second missile separation had been successful. The missiles streaked away at nearly ten Gs of acceleration.

"Good shooting Hickoring," Micha approved as the missile tracks appeared on his PPI. The Halifax was already falling away, nearly perpendicular to the grav assisted dive the Vickie had undertaken. Valuable seconds were wasted countering momentum, it must have frustrated the Halifax's captain because he opened fire with his plasma cannons, the bolts dissipated a thousand kilometers short of the Vickie doing little more then burning out their own barrels. Both of Sabatine's missiles had been aimed at K-12, leading the ship by a considerable margin and giving the destroyers guns a poor, high deflection shot. K-12 opened fire attempting to nudge the missiles aside, but she had no choice but to haul off, burning her high drives to avoid the spread as the missiles reached their terminal velocities and separated into three sections to spread the footprint. That opened the angle, allowing the Vickie to slip around the ecliptic, Micha employing the planet as a shield from further missile attack.

"Inserting," Micha announced, cutting the high drive for the ten seconds it took to equalize the charge across the ship. The ship shuddered into the matrix. For a moment it felt like sand was scoured across eyeballs, and then they were safe in the infinite bubble universes of the matrix. Sabatine took her hands from the controls flexing her palms. The bridge erupted in cheers, which spread into the corridors and throughout the ship. Sabatine smiled tightly and reached across to slap Helenna Graving on the arm, but the words of congratulations died on her lips as Micha turned in his chair to glare at her like a thundercloud. For a change he shared the same dark look with Kaiden.

"Hickoring, Caladwarden, get out on the hull and clear up the ruin you just made of my rig," he said icily.
Opportunity raised her rifle then lowered it a moment later uncertainly. Scores of the things were thrusting their way through their entombments, bony hands clawing the air and filling the mist with the smell of gravedust.

"Uhhh..." Opportunity wavered, looking to James, "any clues in the ancient Ettas or whatever?"

"Yeah, run for it!" They ran, leaping over coffins and running between worm eaten ships. One of the creatures reached for her with yellowish talons. She drove the butt of her rifle down against the things shoulder with a crack that its ancient tendons and flesh cushioning the blow only slightly. The bone beneath crumbled and the arm fell limp as she skipped past its other grasping arm. At first she assumed James had simply been running, but the stonework tended upwards towards a great arch beyond which the rippling aurora let the sky.

"What is the plan!" Opportunity shouted as the reached the arch.

"Plan?!" James shouted glancing back over his shoulder at the horde of restless shambling dead as they pulled themselves to their feet. Opportunity had expected to find themselves back on the island, instead the stones fell away down towards a natural declivity. Great fires burned around the vast circular space, beside which men hung from gibbets, each dressed in Wehrmacht uniform. Low bushes and scrub covered the ground, carved away into an elaborate spiral that reminded Opportunity of a labyrinth. A dozen other arches opened in the cliff face at regular intervals, their mouths dark and foreboding. At the center of the space stood a low hump in the earth, around which ranks of German soldiers stood, gazing at an an SS officer dressed in some kind or robes. The colors of the aurora washed the officer whos face was set in rapturous glee as chanted. Opportunity threw her rifle to her shoulder, sighted down the barrel and fired. The officer flew backwards in a burst of rainbow light, screaming in rage. Opportunity worked the bolt in a quick clack clack and fired again center punching an NCO who collapsed to the ground with no such theatricality.

"This is your plan?" James demanded, glancing back at the onrushing dead and firing to quick shots back into the darkness.

"I did ask!" Opportunity snapped back. James grabbed her and threw the pair of them down into the rocky bowl, moments before bursts of gun fire swept the arch in sparkling ricochets. They rolled into the brush out of immediate line of sight. Above them the dead shambled into the gun fire, paying as little attention to it as they did the wind.
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