Once they disembarked the pilots moved the shuttle to their pick up point. They synchronized their watches after checking the latest intel. There was little difference from the original plans but Jorja made some adjustments. ‘The Marquis will be entertaining about now. All we need to do is avoid the bastards and get the packages out.’
Zeft leaned in close, ‘Not that I mind roughing up the packages but…’
‘Don’t even think about it. Zeft, Krud, Margel and Drax will carry the packages. Do whatever it takes to keep them quiet bar killing them. Tya and Pretty Max will watch your six. Skink, you’ll need to collect the computer docs from the Marquis Gerard’s room. Scalice, you’ll need to take out the five guards…’
Drax whined, ‘Why does he get to kill?’
Zeft grabbed the orux. ‘Because he’s the boss.’
‘…Maris will be just outside the perimeter to check the packages and I’ll be in the shuttle.’
Before anyone could shut Drax up he asked, ‘Why are you telling us what to do?’
Jorja smiled and said unexpectedly, ‘Because my dear, I used to be friends with the enemy. Now go to it.’
Pretty Max whispered to her quickly, ‘Step one in the right direction.’
Tya had his say too, ‘You should have joined the marines, Jorja.’ He left before she could respond.
She took a deep breath. Despite their confidences she had felt sick the whole time. Her underclothes were saturated and she knew she stank. But she was getting through and the tablets helped her. Zeft put away his knives and watched as Maris left for his position. He had spoken to Margel earlier and muttered quietly so that no one could hear him, ‘Babe, I’ll look after you.’
As Tya crept along with Scalice and Skink, who would head in to the temporary complex from above, he asked them quietly as they surveyed the complex at the bottom of the hill. ‘So, Krud. What do I need to do to be made an honorary member of the orux, some kind of battle test?’
He leaned in so close that Tya could make out the pores in Krud’s black skin, ‘Easy, you’ve got ta pin a tail on a Skelf and take a visit to the breeding grounds.’
Tya gave a half laugh and thought, that’s why no-one’s actually became an honorary member yet. Some managed to pin a tail on a Skelf but none had mentioned the visit to the breeding grounds. Orux women! Jorja had mentioned that the ladies had even shorter legs than hers. And while Jorja, for all her experience, was still sexy sweet looking he loved long, long legs. He’d need to think on it, he didn’t just want to have a position within the battalion. He wanted to be an honorary orux, the first one. He was signalled and left with his patrol. Back to business.
Scalice scratched his balls and watched the patrol leave. Even his orux ears only picked up the usual sounds of the forest around him. His teams were the best and Krud was the balance for Drax. They all had explosives but it was for emergency use only. Time to leave. He would have preferred a battle than all this creeping around but at least he would get to make a few kills. Lesser Marquis Guards in key positions needed taking out and since no one ever had tried to take anything from the Marquis before, Jorja was confident the guards wouldn’t be in communication. In fact, by the time Scalice slit the throat of the first guard he noticed the meticulously dressed Marquis didn’t even have a com. The Marquis, in real life, looked a little like ethereals and after perusing the computer logs on the Xenica II he agreed the ethereals looked a lot like mythical elves of Earth.
He made it to the second guard who was snoozing in the sun. Scalice killed him and went to find the third. By the time Scalice killed the last guard, who at least had been alert enough to battle for a few seconds, dark rain clouds swept over and covered the sky.
Zeft, Margel, and Pretty Max parted ways with Skink within one of the large buildings in the complex. Laughter could be heard a few building away, as could screams. They stayed focused and entered the facility where the packages waited. Two bodies were found and they met up with Krud, Drax and Tya. The packages were already unconscious and bleeding.
Krud barked softly, ‘Get ‘em wrapped. Can’t have blood dripping everywhere.’
‘Why did ya hit them so hard?’ Drax whined.
Margel closed his eyes momentarily and then upon opening them immediately took the sheets off the beds and began to wrap his limp package. He was already heading off and whispered to explain to Zeft, ‘I’ve got a bad feeling. I’m not waiting. See you back at the shuttle.’ Pretty Max watched as the person he was supposed to watch his six disappeared out of the room. He shrugged at Tya. He would make more noise trying to keep them all together. Besides, neither he nor Tya were conventional marines. Both had come out of a specialized division.
Zeft wanted to follow suit but had to wait for some Marquis who passed by a nearby corridor. Pretty Max had placed a firm hand over Zeft’s arm and ignored the murderous look. He handed the orux a silencer. He mouthed, ‘Quiet and subversive.’ Zeft relaxed and tucked the silencer away into his uniform. It wasn’t standard issue. Margel was never wrong about his bad feelings and Zeft was sure it had something to do with Jorja. Margel never ran from trouble, he usually headed into it. Zeft headed off, shortly followed by the others. Scalice joined them at the base of the hill. So far, so good. Except for Margel, who was disappearing over the crest of the hill, and for the darkening sky with increasing wind and rain.
Jorja was tense. She couldn’t see the complex from her position and kept an eye on the monitors in the small control room behind the pilots’ cabin. The rain was now pelting down and the sky was darkening with cloud and nightfall. The pilots remained ready at their stations. A small light went on to indicate Maris needed something. She notified the pilots and headed out of the shuttle. He was at the top of hill waiting, drenched. She could only just make out his form in the dark. As she ducked down beside him she missed his expression just before a sharp pain hit her within her mind. He was forcing an entry. Neither saw the approaching lights.
As she staggered back trying to ward off his penetration she used every ounce of energy trying to prevent him from learning anything. A sudden gasp and Jorja fell to the wet ground injuring her knee on a rock. The pain shot up her leg and she saw Maris’s body topple. A smooth disappointed female voice said, ‘You’ve killed him too quickly.’
‘I know. But look who we have instead. It was because of Maris we came, sitting up on this hill building up energy. It was only fair we reward him with a quick death.’
Five tall figures moved closer to Jorja who was now struggling to get up. A male hand helped her and she shoved it away. Fear was now over-ridden by a more insidious emotion.
‘Don’t be like that, my love. You’ve come back to us.’
One male looked around, ‘Whatever are you doing here? Never mind, my lovely. We’ve missed your company. Come with us. Join with me…’
Jorja began to feel the sinister pull of his charms and unnatural desire making her reel with pleasure. She lifted her arms to him and he ran a hand over her wet face. It was too hard to fight, too hard to refuse his beautiful voice. His fingers brushed against her breast and she closed her eyes. Just as he began to wrap his coat around her he grunted in surprise. Jorja was pushed back and the Marquis turned around. He had an axe in his back. Margel rushed passed him and grabbed Jorja and his axe. He slung her over his shoulder and ran. Screams of anger and frustration followed them and the orux knew they were being followed.
Margel had just made it over the hill in time when he saw Maris’s body. He dumped his package where Zeft would see it and threw his axe into the Marquis seducing Jorja. He had to get the Marquis away from their escape route. And Jorja was the bait. He had one major advantage. He could see in the dark and while the rain presented a problem it also helped their escape. He planned to go far enough and then cut back, giving the others time to get to the shuttle.
Margel was not a big orux but he was fast. He heard Jorja be sick. The rain would wash off any debris. He stopped for a moment and heard the ocean to his right. There were cliffs there. He’d gone too far. He’d have to go left and hope the others waited. They might have to leave and get the packages safe but he knew Scalice wouldn’t leave them behind. He checked and saw glimpses of lights. They were still chasing them.