“MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!” shouted Octavius. Obediently, the surviving members of the platoon followed, abandoning their positions. Every man and woman of the Cadian 401st that had joined this defense force had done so voluntarily, knowing it was suicide. Their survival was simply an unexpected bonus.
Unexpected, at least, for them, thought Octavius, who spread crudely printed maps onto his adjutant’s back as soldiers crammed their bodies into the few Valkyrie transports he had been able to muster. The ground had stopped shaking after the Omega Station’s engines had ceased. However, the rumbling had been replaced by screams and the din of battle, punctuated by the artillery barrage Octavius had called in to cover their retreat.
“Octavius to all defense forces.” He said over the Gold channels. “Mission Accomplished. Fall back to site Alpha.”
“ConfSSHHRRRRRRRRRR” Octavius barely heard Edgard say over the roar of the engines of a Thunderhawk gunship. All around, the sky was alive with the movement of aircraft designed to lift the survivors and end the siege. Octavius’ reverie was interrupted as a guardsman literally climbed over him to embark.
“Watch it!” Octavius snapped. The soldier tumbled to the deck, stuttering apologies.
“What’s the matter, sir?” Jaffy asked in the crisp accent of a man born and bred on the homeworld.
“Nothing to be done about it.” Octavius mumbled, spreading the maps over Jaffy’s back. Octavius unconsciously reached down to pat the custom Groxhide leather holster that, until half an hour ago, held Ruby Red, the ancient plasma pistol that had been his prize possession. Made on a forge world halfway across the galaxy which was no longer there anymore, Ruby Red had never overheated once. His hand unconsciously ran over the expensive leather of the custom-made holster, twitching in regret as he caressed the huge tear that had caused Ruby Red to fall out at some point. Octavius’ stomach did a flip as the Valkyrie gunship lifted off, whisking them away from any hope of finding the lost pistol.
“But everything went just as planned, didn’t it?” Jaffy asked, sounding worried.
“No.” Octavius hammered. “The plan is always to annihilate the enemy utterly. Any other option is a fallback. And, while this fallback has been executed flawlessly, the fact that any enemy remains alive means that it is not going just as planned.”
“Then, perhaps, you’re upset about this…” Jaffy said as he shifted upwards. Octavius initially felt annoyance as his maps showing the redeployment of the Cadian 401st became crumpled. However, his irritation evaporated as he beheld what Jaffy was awkwardly dangling over his shoulder.
The plasma core was cracked and the main power source was drained, but that was a matter of simple maintenance. Octavius gasped in surprise and delight.
“I saw some shrapnel tear the holster when you were knocked down.” Jaffy explained. “You looked too busy so I just took care of it.”
“Jaffy, I don’t deserve you.” Octavius beamed. “Now bend back down. I need to see these maps.”
“Yes sir.” Jaffy said, complying. Octavius smoothed the maps again and shouted directions into the handset for the vox, directing the Valkyrie flight to drop what remained of his forces at the rendezvous point. Now the Omega Station’s Command Tower would be under siege by the forces that had been defending it only hours ago. Octavius smiled as he glanced out of the side hatch of the Valkyrie.
Looming ominously near the northern horizon, an irregular bright white shape was visible.
And it was growing.