It was supposed to be a milk run. Escort the seller to the location, look intimidating while she finished her business with the buyer, escort her back. Nothing they hadn’t done before. A seller of her level always had enemies, but nobody got to hire Praesidia without paying for the extra margins.
Just one last milk run. Then he was off.
Yet here he was, in a full-blown firefight with the seller’s mercs, taking cover behind a crate next to Ziva while their colleague at another crate closer to the wall was trying to tend to his bleeding leg. The Praesidia crew had managed to remove the client from the scene when things started to go down the hole, but the people covering the escape had been locked in when the doors were shut.
The gun jammed, and Haylen squatted down and pressed his back against the crate to pry the stuck clip out before any of the mercenaries decided it was safe to advance. Don was firing at them on occasion, but his injured leg was apparently bad off. Ziva muttered something impatiently and fired another burst to the north end.
“How’s it going, Shiner?” Ziva asked, her voice urging him to hurry the fuck up.
“Can’t get the clip out”, he answered shortly, giving up on it. “They movin’?”
“Not yet. You up for-”
She was cut off when something exploded to their left, at the crates at the other end of the wall.
“Shit…!” Ziva hissed, staring at the smoke, looking for a sign of life, pushing her comm button. “Don?”
After a short while, they heard a click on the comm indicating that he was at least alive.
“If that was a grenade, you have to pull out, now”, their group leader, Nolan, buzzed in.
“The hell do you think we’re doing in here? Open the fucking doors, dumbass!” Ziva’s fury was crystal clear, even when she kept her voice down. None of them liked Nolan much, and the thought of him sitting on a safe distance in the transporter, tapping his tablet with fingers greasy from snacks, didn’t exactly raise the mood.
“I’m working on the doors, but there’s noone to send in to help you. We’re trying to…- Hang on.” The comm went silent again.
Haylen and Ziva looked at each other.
“Seems your little galaxy cruise won’t happen after all, Shiner.”
Haylen gave the clip a final punch, but to no use. Then a signal went off at the south end, and they saw the large doors to the storage hall begin to open. It wasn’t a long distance. But long enough to make them easy targets.
Hushed shouts were heard from the north end, quick footsteps in heavy boots tapping against the concrete floor. They didn’t have long.
“Hey pals?” they heard Don’s weak voice on the comm. “You’re not leaving me here, are you?”
Haylen thought fast. There were at least six mercs left and they were not short on ammo. He could probably take out two, maybe three mercs with a couple of leap attacks, but that would leave him drained on amp force for a while and he wouldn’t be able to keep up a barrier neither during nor after the leaps. His gun was jammed, Don could probably not use his, and Ziva had two clips left, tops. Only one option left then.
“We grab Don an’ get out. I’ll shield you”. He quickly shortened the sling to his weapon so it wouldn’t be hindering him.
“What? Fuck’s sake, Shiner, no!” Ziva snapped but took a better grip of her gun and secured her foothold. “You’re gonna fry whatever’s left of your sorry brain if you do that!”
He could understand her worry. The shield, or formally the extended barrier, was a T9 upgrade to the usual Tyrian Tanks abilities. It could withstand projectiles and energy blasts up to fifty centimeter from the user’s body, and the user should be able to uphold it at least one hour. Most of the soldiers had been able to make it work for at least ten minutes before they were forced to quit due to severe discomfort. The training was cancelled after the third soldier had dropped on the floor, screaming and spasming, after only twenty minutes sim fighting.
So yes, he could definitely understand her worry.
“You get to say ‘told you so’ then.”
“Ready?” He started building up his amp force. This wasn’t going to take more than three minutes. Tops.
“I’m ready.” She held her gun up in fire position and pressed the comm. “Don, be ready to move, cover us.”
They heard the click, Haylen activated his barrier and they started to run over to the other side. Haylen extended the barriers as much as he could without losing grip completely, covering Ziva with his body and arms as she fired her gun at the mercs.
They had a short breather at the other side, but Haylen didn’t let go of the barrier, even if he already felt a dull pressure above his eye. Don had pulled himself up, and Ziva now hauled his arm over her shoulders. The sloppy bandage on his leg was soaked with blood, and the grenade had caused him burns and cuts over most of his face and upper body. Still, he held the gun by himself.
Ziva looked at Haylen. “So what’re you waiting for, eh? Get us out of here.”
He extended the barrier again. It was much harder to keep it steady now. He shoved the other two in behind him and started to walk backwards with his arms spread out, facing the north end and the mercs. He lowered his head enough to get some extra protection from the helmet but still be able to see where his attackers were, and his eyes started to ache even more.
The mercenaries first seemed surprised by the turn of actions and hesitated, exchanging some confused words, until they were forced to take cover when Ziva and Don started shooting at them. After some moments, they gathered their wits enough to fire back. Haylen’s barriers soaked the few bullets that hit, but for each hit, the ripples grew bigger and lingered longer.
They closed the distance to the door as fast as they could in this awkward movement. The sudden increase of amp energy demands made Haylen’s heart rate and breathing speed up, and he began to feel light-headed. Shadows danced before his eyes. Only a few meters now.
One bullet pierced the extended barrier and let out a groan as it hit him in the chest, burying itself in his armor.
“Fuck, you okay?” he heard Ziva ask behind him.
“Mm”, was the only response he managed to give her. The barrier required all his focus now. Keep it together.
“Grenade!” shouted Ziva, and fired a shot slightly upwards.
And hit it. He should remember to get her a diploma. The grenade exploded and he turned his face away out of reflex but resisted the urge to dive into cover. Fortunately, the explosion was far enough from them not to knock them back, and close enough to the mercs to make them jump backwards. Haylen felt something hit him in the face, but ignored it.
Nolan’s voice crackled on the comm. “Transporter is waiting outside the door, eastern side. You have to hurry!”
“Gonna fucking murder that wax job when we get back to the base”, Ziva snarled and fired another shot.
The reached the door just as Don passed out. Outside, out of the line of fire, the transporter waited for them, side hatch open. Before the mercenaries inside caught up on them, Haylen and Ziva dragged Don over to the transporter and climbed up. The hatch was barely shut before the transporter took off.
Haylen let go of the barrier, faster than he should but he just couldn’t hold it any longer.
“Hey, Shiner” he heard Ziva’s voice through the dense fog in his head, “you okay?”
He couldn’t answer at first, mouth wouldn’t obey him. His right arm was twitching slightly, irregularly. Above his eye, the pain was drilling it’s way into his head. He lifted his other hand, that arm too unsteady and weak, and pressed his palm to his eye and forehead.
“Might’ve fried somethin’…” he mumbled at last.
Ziva snorted, but it was the relieved kind. “Told you so.”