“There are no dangerous weapons; there are only dangerous men.”
― Robert A. Heinlein,
“Ammo!” I threw down yet another grenade and the bolts of Arc light chained through the crowd of Thrall. The bodies tumbled into the ring of corpses piled all around us, and bought me a few precious seconds to reload once more.
“That’s it! We’re out!” said Ebony as I chained the clip into the machine gun.
“What?” I cried, raising the weapon to mow down another wave of Thrall.
“That was the last pack! I have nothing left to transmat!”
I shoved the bore of the machine gun into a Thrall’s gut and pushed it back before firing a round into it. “You have to be kidding! What about Drake’s?
“Charlemagne?” I heard Ebony ask as over the sound of my weapon.
“We have a few special packs left.”
I kicked a Thrall that got too close in the knee and clubbed it with the barrel of my weapon. It collapsed as another sprang over it, and I speared that with its own weight on the barrel, then tossed both aside. Ebony dropped my shotgun into my hands and I spun in a rapidly shrinking circle. All the while Drake chanted on, and I had to dance around him. Then the gun ran dry. I brained another Hive beast with the stock, then dropped that as well, freeing my sax knife with my left hand and pulling my sword over my shoulder with my right. I channeled Arc light through both, and lightning grounded off the weapons with a crack of thunder.
Slice. Cut. Kick. Another grenade. I could feel my Light pouring out through the blades like conduits, but nothing refreshed it. The cold and //sluggishness began to creep in again in spite of Drake’s chant.
Then the Hive stopped. The Thrall crouched on the corpses of their comrades, dozens…maybe hundreds…like wingless vultures, their eyes glowing in the dim light. They clicked and chattered, but none entered Drake’s circle.
“C’mon!” I shouted at them, flourishing my blades. “Come get some!” In the relative silence I could hear the susurrus again, still assaulting us. Then a laugh, and the Wizard floated to the edge of the circle.
The Wizard looked much like I remembered her, if more ragged and bloodied. A chunk of her crest was missing over the right side of her brow, as if something large had attempted to bite her. “Hunter,” she purred, if she spoke at all, although nothing of her maw moved with the word; I heard it all the same.
“Wizard,” I taunted, and gestured her forward with my blades. “C’mon. I am here.”
“And how fortunate for me,” she replied. She began to circle Drake’s casting area, still sparking where her sorcery met his Light. “I had thought that it would take longer to bring you here. When your precious humans fell to the Dreadnought it was too good to be true. I brought them here, and your Warlock there,” she gestured at Drake with a claw, “followed their signal. How lucky that you picked them up so quickly.”
“Liar. Drake said nothing about them.”
“Oh, doubtless he thought them dead when he saw I killed the male. That 1 was…troublesome.” She laughed, and this was an audible sound. “And your little female, she is yet here.”
“Show her to me,” I demanded.
The Wizard hissed. “You are in no position to order me, child of Light.”
I flipped the knife in my hand and hefted it as if to hurl the weapon at her. “I am going to kill you today, Wizard. The only thing you can change is how quickly.”
She shrieked and brought her claws together, as if applauding, still floating in a circle around us. “Such worship! Our King’s tribute flows ever upward, and you, in His place of power, you obey His laws! For this I will be rewarded!”
“Shut up!” I shouted at her.
“Your friends die in numbers not seen since our princely god laid waste to your Moon! I can hear their screams. Your Tower hurls more and more at the Dreadnought and still they die, feeding our King!”
I called the last of my Light, and the glow of the blades cast an aura of Arc heat all around. I braced myself for the leap.
The rifle crack was so loud I thought the stone beneath my feet had broken. The Wizard crumpled to the ground with an angry shriek, sparks and fluid leaping from the wound. The whispered chant ceased. Drake’s own prayer rose into a shout, and he whipped his hands apart and thrust them, palms out, in opposite directions. The globe of Light expanded outward in a wash of power, vaporizing the crouching Thrall into atoms.
The Wizard screamed and crabbed away on the ground, burning all over with violet Light. Another rifle shot skipped off the stone near her head and she scuttled away from it.
“Hold still, you bitch,” snarled Emma, limping into the glow with an ancient sniper rifle pointed at the Hive monster. She cycled another round into the chamber.
“Mine!” I shouted, and stalked over to the wounded Wizard. I raised the sword overhead.
“We are not finished Hunter!” The words were screamed into my mind as the Wizard curled on the ground, her eyes glowing with hate as she glared at me, jerking like a wounded spider.
“Just DIE!” I shouted, and brought the sword down.
The Blight opened up with a howl and the Wizard was sucked away into the Darkness. My sword struck the now empty space and shattered into a half-dozen pieces. The glow faded, and I sank to my knees, staring at the smear where the Hive monster had been Taken from me.