A green blinding plasma beam went through a column like a hot knife through butter, leaving behind a puddle of molten concrete. Etienne was late for just a moment. The beam passed above his shoulder, but this was close enough to evaporate half of his body. Crippled remnants fell helplessly on the floor. One moment, and the man was gone.
“Move!” cried Cossack, crawling and pulling Zulu with him, “Do not stop!”
There was no need to rush people with commands, desire to live did it better. Like cockroaches in light, humans dashed in different directions. Well, at least the raptors stayed back, afraid to get in front of the tank’s devastating cannons.
“Keep moving, don’t stop!” submitting to his instincts the commander exclaimed, “Move! But do not spread out too far! Lizards will rip you apart!”
“And here we’ll get deep-fried!” snapped Joker.
The enemy walker tank fired again. Oleg pulled with all force dragging an unconscious comrade. Breaking through the showcase, they rolled into the empty store, toppling a bunch of mannequins. Luckily, the enemy fired in a different direction. Accelerated gas melted another column and destroyed an elevator, turning surrounding flowerbeds into bright fires. The plastic shaft could not withstand the temperature and exploded, shards flying across the store.
One of those shards struck Cossack’s visor. He flinched and saw Oles jumped under the enemy cannon’s beam and slid on his back below the stairs next to the exit. The decision came immediately, but a lump in the throat did not let him voice it.
“Few for the sake of many,” repeated Cossack to himself: “Few for the sake of many.” Seconds passed tardily and a handful of humans inside the store tried to survive.
“Oles!” exhaled the commander finally.
“We’re on the same mind, eh?” asked Joker.
“Can you distract the bastard?” asked the commander, trying to raise wounded Zulu on his shoulder.
“Well, it already stares at me like a schoolboy at a naked girl!”
“Are you both out of your minds?” Jackfish exclaimed, but nobody paid attention.
“Gunpowder, do you read?” asked Oleg, switching to the soldier’s camera to quickly guide him.
“Yeah, got it,” Gunpowder replied maliciously. “I’ll fry that son of a bitch!”
“Roger that,” said the commander, switching back to his own helmet cam, “Oles, once you’ll be in the street, run to the parking lot on the other side of the supermarket.”
Their glances met, they, nodded to each other and Oles launched directly to the enemy. The only thing the humans did not consider was the drone’s ability to fire in several directions simultaneously. Its heavy beamer opened fire, but the Astroborne rifleman was not an easy target. High-power rays crumbled concrete and struck sparks out of it, but Oles continued to run. The commander managed to issue an order, but there was no relief. On the contrary, it got even worse. He kept his eyes on the loader and repeated to himself: “Run, run!”
The trooper ran out into the street and zigzagged away from the enemy vehicle, trying to avoid the deadly fire of its lasers. Noticing that new persecutors approached him, Oles cursed and accelerated.
“A correct decision,” coldly commented Cossack’s conscience amidst the dark depths of madness. And then some kind of foreboding struck him, and Oleg exclaimed:
The human troopers who stood still and watched the fearless daredevil, immediately realized they were still in danger. Just in time. The enemy drone recharged its main gun.
Another plasma beam lashed through the building. Ceilings and plasterboard walls melted like ice. Glass shards from exploding shop-fronts filled the air.
At the same time Gunpowder jumped out into the hall, lowered down on one knee and aimed his missile launcher. He knew there would be only one shot. And not because there was one missile left. The monster will not give a second chance to hit it. His hands were sweaty, he breathed heavily and shallowly while the software locked the missile on target. First and last chance.
“I’m gonna make it,” repeated the soldier to himself like a prayer, and then said it out loud: “I’m gonna make it!”
And at that very moment the enemy spotted Gunpowder. Time froze as if it ran into an invisible wall, to the missileman it seemed that minutes passed between heartbeats. The drone began to turn its coaxial cannons, but Joker managed to win enough time. The sight frame of the missile launcher glowed red. The astroborne’s armor sent a signal and the missile, gracefully rode a torch of jet fire towards its target.
Time broke into gallop again.
“I made it,” Bohdan breathed out with relief, “And you didn’t.”