Snow was falling. Althir-Ka ran. No ordered retreat, no firing-on-the-move fall-back. This was flight, with fear-bile welling in the throat. The dark and the snow and the fear narrowed Althir-Ka’s vision into a tunnel, winding onward between the trees. Somewhere he could hear the crude roar of Mon-Keigh firearms.
His reflexes blunted by exhaustion, Althir-Ka tripped over a fallen branch, rolled, and couldn’t get up. Reasserting control over his panic, he pulled the chameleonic cloak around himself. Was he hurt? No. Just the fatigue draining his muscles. Was he in danger? No. The suit would keep him warm and the cloak would keep him hidden. What had happened?
First the rank smell of sweat, then the bellows of the Ogryns. Somehow, they had flanked the Pathfinders’ position, just minutes after the human Colonel had died with a toxic sliver lodged in his heart. The stinking mutant Mon-Keigh had come crashing through the ruined building, the lead brute smashing Aliandras helmet open with a backhand blow.
The memory struck Althir-Ka like a lightning bolt. Aliandra had cried out and fallen. The Ogryns trampled her. Her body stomped to nothingness. That’s when Althir-Ka had started running and stopped remembering.
He forced himself into meditation as grief threatened to overwhelm him. Fight the feelings, his logical mind told him. Fight the grief and the cold and the snow and avenge her.
“Her stone. I have to secure her after-life. I owe you that, my love. To let your body be consumed on the pyre and take your spirit home to Alaitoc.”
Althir-Ka stood up on trembling legs, shaking the snow from his cloak. Hatred warmed his limbs as he checked the ammo counter on his needle rifle. His vision was a tunnel with a single goal before him. Vengeance.