The war hadn’t stopped. It was only getting started.
She’d just heard a report from Earth. Eight heavy cruisers had appeared around it. A contingent of the Coalition fleet was there, ready for them. The resulting battle would be a hard one.
In every other battle with the Scarax Galaxy Lara had fought, she’d always had an ace up her sleeve. Two soldiers who were out there, fighting for her cause, beyond the Scarax Galaxy’s control. And even though she had that right now, Sally and Joseph weren’t fighting for this battle, but another. At any moment, the King could rise and render all of this useless. But until and unless he did, Lara had to fight this war for everyone. She had to do it alone. There would be no sudden miracles. There would only be hard work that came from continuous sacrifice.
She suddenly thrust to the side, rolling hard, her black and silver armor churning up the dirt as she shoved behind one of the demountables in the main settlement.
There were now cracks in the Hendari shield. It simply couldn’t withstand the continuous attacks from the empress’s vessel above. Another one blasted down. Lara felt her heart stop, her muscles contract, and her body wait for death, but the shield didn’t crack. Yet. A few little blasts of energy pushed through, though, widening the micron gap they’d already created.
That was all the Scarax Galaxy needed.
“Prepare for contact,” Lara barked, her voice echoing out in the real world and connecting to every single soldier who still had a functioning helmet.
Nobody questioned her, even though there were no contacts yet. A second later as transport beams sliced down like glowing swords, her premature order was vindicated. She shoved a hand to the side and plucked up her gun, her fingers locking around it with a death grip.
As a massive Scarax guard appeared right in front of her, she shot the guy in the stomach, twisted around him, then smashed the butt of her heavy, large gun into his neck.
They were all solid blows, but they didn’t count. Some kind of flickering energetic shield chased around his form. It wasn’t a standard force field, though. It was far too thick. It was almost as if he’d been covered in electric jelly. Jelly that distributed the force of any impact.
The guy didn’t even bother to growl. He wasn’t wearing a full helmet – just a visor that covered his eyes and a shield that protected his mouth. It meant she could see his lips as they yanked over his pointed blue teeth. Slicks of glistening saliva covered them, and they caught the dying rays of dusk above.
He shoved a hand to his side and grabbed up some kind of weapon.
Lara froze – for a fraction of a second as she recognized what it was.
“Gravity guns. Don’t let them fire off a single round,” she barked. Then she jumped to it to comply with her own order.
You’d think there’d be nothing she could do. She’d already proven her every attack was useless against this guard, but Lara Forest never stopped.
Jerking toward him, she practically offered herself up as bait. She knew guards like this. They much preferred to bodily attack their victims. Guns were too impersonal. Sure enough, as she came within range, the guard didn’t lock his finger against the gravity gun and send out a continuous blast of pure chaos. Instead, he just grabbed her throat. Lara was in the most sophisticated solid armor the Coalition could currently produce. It was still weaker than this guard’s force. She felt a section of her neck buckle in, pressing perilously close to her throat. Her onboard computer blared a needless warning.
She brought her knee up, ready to kick the guy in the stomach, but he acted preemptively. He jolted forward, twisted around, then smashed her down. As soon as she struck the ground, force ricocheted through her, and her mouth opened in a silent gape. Then the guy brought his foot up. Why shoot her when he could crush her with his unstoppable force?
Lara waited until the foot was right there, just above her.
She heard some of her soldiers screaming her name. Their desperation wasn’t justified. Not yet.
Lara played a game of brinkmanship with the guard, not acting until his foot was almost upon her armor.
Her armor had already assessed what would happen. It wouldn’t be able to withstand a single blow.
She still watched until that foot almost touched her. Then she connected with the crystals. She’d managed to link them with her wrist device. It was enough to control the Hendari shield but nothing else. She’d already pointed out that the crystals had become increasingly temperamental. It was clear there were things they would do to protect the Coalition and things they would not do.
Lara didn’t need them to rise to her defense right now. She just needed a little gift from the empress.
Without a single scream, and without ever breaking her eye contact with the guard, she switched the shield off momentarily. It was just for a pulse, and just in a small section, and it was perfectly timed as the empress sent another blast lancing down toward the settlement from her cruiser.
As it struck the shields, its energetic discharge played along them, and as Lara opened a fraction of the shield, that energy pulsed in. It was directly above the guard. He didn’t have a chance. It powered down and hit him on his back.
Lara didn’t wait to see him atomized, didn’t wait for the force to rip right through him, as unstoppable as eternity. She rolled to the side, quickly clutching up a discarded personal shield that’d been abandoned and erecting it in front of her. It was just enough to stop the resulting explosion from affecting her.
The guard was… no more. Perhaps a forensic team would be able to find some evidence of him splattered around the demountables and the scorched grass and broken ground. But that wasn’t the point. One down. Hundreds to go.
Lara tilted her head up. Sure enough, she could see more of those single-person transports blasting down from above. Coalition assets were trying to pluck them out of the air before they reached the settlement. Some of them would be destroyed. Some wouldn’t. Lara would be ready.