“Wars are never fought for one reason,” he said. “They are fought for dozens of reasons, in a muddle.”
― T.H. White,
“Music?” I demanded incredulously as shanks closed in on us. I shot a couple as they came too close.
“Sure,” Arianna replied, her rifle snapping in reply to Fallen weapons. “You have to have fun at this job.”
I stared at her for a moment, and she laughed when she saw me. “Aw, c’mon Morc, what’s the worst that can happen, we die? Been there, done that.”
Dregs attacked, swinging shock-daggers, and I countered with a few strikes from my own blade, leaving ether in the brown grass.
“So, pick a song,” said Arianna. I heard her gun snap again.
“Uh…” I said, wittily.
“Pick, or I will,” she promised.
“Thunderstruck,” I said hastily.
The music started to play, a distant buildup that mirrored the sound of pounding Fallen boots and machines.
“Don’t stand too close together – a single explosion might put us both down and that will bring this to a quick end.” She put words to action and skipped a couple meters away.
“…I was caught in the middle of a railroad track…”
“Dregs on the left,” warned Ebony. I rolled that way and came up with my shotgun in hand. The Dregs swarmed in, trying to circle me.
“…I looked round, and I knew there was no turning back…”
3 shots put down the attacking cluster and I whirled as a Vandal closed in from around the corner of a hut.
“…my mind raced, and I thought, what could I do…”
A strike put him down. I heard Arianna laughing as her sidearm barked out a series of rapid shots and shanks crashed into the Earth. “If we see Servitors, we put them down, get a signal to the Tower,” I said.
“Agreed,” she replied.
“…there was no help, no help from you…”
Wire rifle shots kicked up dust and dry grass near my feet. I sprinted a few meters aside, putting a hut between me and the source of the shots. A boom sounded in the distance, and the hut exploded into a ball of fire.
“…the thunder of guns tore me apart…”
“Walker is moving in!” For the first time I could remember, Ebony actually sounded a little panicked. Before I could answer I heard a loud snap and saw a flash of Light in my peripherals.
Arianna shot off 3 rounds of Solar Light at the approaching walker. All 3 shots struck the front left leg, shattering it. The machine staggered forward, its nose plowing into the dirt and exposing its core.
“Hit it!” she shouted as her sparrow appeared and she raced toward the vulnerable machine. Already the walker’s back legs were adjusting, and what I took to be stoppage gel was coalescing around the exposed wiring of the damaged leg in a super-heated cloud. I held out my hands for my machine gun and leaped to the top of another hut to get an angle as the weapon transmatted into my waiting hands. I was at least 25 meters from the walker and had mere seconds to make an impact before the snipers took me down. I wasn’t likely to make a real dent in it from here.
So I turned my weapon on the swarming Fallen that Arianna had left in the wake of her sparrow and cut down as many as I could in the space of a few seconds. The elevation and heavy rounds were enough to kill or scatter them.
“…Went through to Texas, yeah Texas, and we had some fun…”
What happened next required Ebony to play it back for me later to see it. Arianna raced her sparrow at the exposed left side of the walker, and just before impact, jumped clear of the bike. Midway through her somersault over the walker she flipped a knife sheathed in Solar fire into the walker’s brain and caught the side-mounted gun on the opposite side with 1 hand to stop her fall. She coalesced Solar Light into a grenade and thrust it into the barrel of the smaller gun, then kicked off to the ground as Chatterbox transmatted her sparrow back into existence under her feet. She landed on the bike and sped away as the grenade went off, taking the side-mounted weapon with it and staggering the walker a second time just as it recovered.
“…Yeah yeah, they, they, they blew our minds…”
For my part I was ducking between buildings and using my machine gun liberally: M’s advice to “pack” had not gone unheeded. A Dreg charged in, a knife in each hand, and I rattled off fire in its direction.
To my surprise, the Dreg bore up under the rounds and continued to close. It was wearing heavy armor and was within striking range in a flash. I redirected the first slash of the knives with the barrel of the gun, then dropped it in favor of my own blade. Arc energy sparked and burned as the blades met. I dropped low to the ground and tried to sweep the Dreg’s feet from beneath it; it somersaulted over me and whirled to rush back in.
The Dreg’s head disappeared in a shower of ether and Arianna bumped into me in her rush. “Knife to a gun fight, really?” she asked.
“You’re right,” I said. “I need a bigger blade.”
She barked out a laugh.
“Arianna!” I pointed with my knife at the central hut as a gold cloak disappeared inside, several of the heavily armored Dregs following quickly behind it. “The King!”
Arianna shot another Shank down. “We go down there we might not get out!”
“We let them go, and they get whatever they were after!” I countered. “And we won’t last out here forever!”
More Fallen were swarming in.
“Oh…fine! Go, go, go!” she shouted. We turned and raced for the hut.
There was a distant boom, and then-
“…You’ve been Thunderstruuuuck!…”