The town of Randel was a coastal resort town. Once, it was a bustling town filled with lively tourists looking to be free of the dregs of everyday life. Now, it had been reduced to a battlefield between those who lived on the ground and those who lived on the ring around the moon. Both sides had planned to turn this once lively and beautiful city into a forward operating base for naval operations, and in their struggle to gain grounds, they turned this man-made paradise into a place of fire and bloodshed. As the battle was fought to a stalemate, the city was naturally divided into the east and west, both staking claims on roughly equal parts of the city as they continued to painstakingly push back and forth against one another.
To the southern end of the city, where the battle was not as intense, there was a barricade guarded by a small force. The guards were relaxed as reports had come in stating that the enemy was being pushed back and their allies were gaining ground by each passing minute. Unbeknownst to them, however, a small group of enemies was approaching them from behind, where they thought was safe and secured. They had believed that with their psionic sensors, the large radar-like device in the middle of the barricade, they could easily pick up any Psions that had gotten behind them. They had not accounted for the possibility that the said Psion who had gotten behind them had already exhausted her psionic abilities and were giving off weaker signals than what the sensors could pick up.
It began with an explosion, the force and heat of which destroyed the kinetic shields and steel plating of the Lunarians' armor. It was a plasma grenade, and a certain red-headed girl had snuck up close enough to toss it into their midst.
Having weaved through numerous ruined buildings, ducking into entryways and leaping in and out of countless windows, at times running across rooftops and at times heading into the sewers, Thirteen and Four were somehow able to lose their pursuers while steadily heading southward.
"You think we're there yet?"
"I... I think we might be close."
Performing her job as the vanguard vigilantly, Thirteen took the lead as Four timidly followed behind, the older woman's eyes scanning the narrow alleyways as they crept ever closer to their destination.
Though it had been getting quieter and quieter, the sounds of battle being left behind as they went south, out of nowhere, a sudden explosion caught their attention.
"I think it is. Let's go."
They quickened their pace, and though Thirteen wanted to hurry, Four had her slow down. If they were not careful and run in enemies or traps due to their negligence, it'll only be detrimental. For the longest time, while Thirteen had thought that Four was slowing them down, she was actually reining in the hotheads in their unit, namely Thirteen and the red-headed girl, and even Nine occasionally.
After the explosion came the gunfire, and as they traced the sounds to their source, they arrived at a barricade set up in the middle of a wide street. There was a firefight, not in front of the barricade, but instead, from behind it.
The fighting was intense, and every single one of the Lunarian soldiers stationed there had their focus drawn to the two mere foes raining hell upon them. Of the two, one was taking cover by an armored vehicle and in his hands, he held a once mounted gun that he tore from the vehicle that partially shields him. The mounted gun tore through the kinetic shields of the Lunarian soldiers, forcing them to take cover behind concrete walls and deployable cover. Meanwhile, the other one nimbly flung grenades from behind the armored vehicle without so much as sticking her head out to take proper aim, and though at first it appeared as though she's tossing them blindly, each explosive she had tossed had hit their mark, landing wherever they would deal the most damage. It was as if she could ascertain her enemy's location without looking.
It looked like they had the upper hand, but of course, there were only two of them and the Lunarian soldiers weren't fools either. They had been bidding their time. They knew that eventually, those two would run out of ammo and grenades. Once that happens, the Lunarians could easily overtake them.
Then, finally, the gunfire stopped, the heavy gunfire that came from the once mounted gun could only be maintained for so long. Eventually, either it would run out of ammo or its barrel would overheat, whichever happens first. It was then, the Lunarian soldiers made their move. It was over for those two, for the psionic soldiers who had decided to try their luck and failed. In the end, relying on mere luck could not save them...... Careful calculations, on the other hand, had come to the rescue.
Standing in formation amidst his comrades and friends, all of a sudden, one of the Lunarian soldiers bursts into flames. The fire was not on his armor, no, it came from within. The anti-psionic shields of his armor had failed him and he was being cooked alive within what he thought would protect him. Then, following the first poor soul, one after another, the rest of the Lunarian soldiers followed, their suit of amour turned into a blazing hot stove.
As they burned, a single woman approached them. Her light brown hair, like peeled chestnuts, wavered in the heated air, her olive eyes watched her surroundings with anxiety and fear, but regardless, she approached. As she drew closer, more and more of the Lunarians burned. With the circlet-like psionic dampeners installed on her head disabled, the older woman would cause those caught within her range to instantly combust into flames and have their blood boiled, each and every one of them, regardless of friend or foe. Without a telepath like Nine supporting her, she had no control over her powers once the psionic dampener had been turned off.
The Lunarians had not noticed her. Their psionic sensor had been destroyed in that first grenade blast. Whether it was intentional or by luck, when the red-headed girl tossed the first plasma grenade, it was close enough to the sensor to take it out, allowing Four to make her approach without detection.
South of the town of Randel was the coast. About twenty minutes prior, said coast was where the Psion known only as Seven was operating. As a powerful Psion who had the power of spatial manipulation, she was untouchable, and anything the enemy threw at her could be turned right back at them, literally. Space itself would bend to send anything flying at her back to its origin, even then beams fired off by the particle cannons.
Unfortunately, due to what was suspected to be some sort of an unknown defect within her, she was only able to operate for an hour at a time, requiring a two-hour 'cooldown' before she could be safely deployed again. This meant that she could not hold the south for long. She was sent down there as a distraction, a threat to draw attention from the enemies so that units such as Nine's could push into enemy territory from the northern side of the town. However, on the Lunarian's side, there apparently was someone who had seen through this ruse and immediately pulled back the bulk of the forces sent to deal with Seven and the units supporting her, leaving only a minimum amount required to hold the ground. As a result, Seven's operation ended up a failure and the battle on the northern side of the town became more intense than it was first expected to be. That was what Four had deducted from her observation of the situation.
Four was a timid woman, that much could not be denied. However, due to how timid she was, she's cautious and observant of her surroundings, and through such careful observations, she had arrived at the conclusion that towards the south, the battle had to be much less intense and the enemy defenses far laxer than it was on the north. She also had a hunch, one about the red-headed girl. Four was as watchful of those around her as her surroundings.
She knew that the red-headed girl had uncannily keen instincts and sharp wits, of which were paired with a rather aloof nature. Four had a feeling that rather than trying to pull back as the Lunarians were aggressively pushing onwards, the red-headed girl might use her abilities to get behind their lines to avoid them. Considering that she might have to escort the injured from Unit Five, who would most definitely slow her down, that may have been a sound plan. From there, in order to make the retreat back to the base camp, the red-headed girl will head southward, she would if she had recognized the situation as she had, that was what Four was hoping for.
Of course, those were merely deductions and guesses, not hard truths. If Four and Thirteen were to find nothing after going south, then they'd retreat and hope that Nine and the red-headed girl will somehow manage to get back to the base camp on their own.
Thankfully, Four's hunch turned out to be true, and the moment she heard the sounds of battle, she expected it to be her.
One by one, the Lunarian soldiers burned, any living creatures caught within her 'reach' would burn without fail, and not even the anti-psionic shields installed on the Lunarian's armor could stop it. Perhaps if they had the same output from the shields installed on tanks and armored vehicles, they might survive, if only for a little while as the batteries carried by the personnel could only power them for so long. Due to their psionic sensor being damaged and their focus drawn towards the red-headed girl and Fifteen, by the time the Lunarian soldiers stationed at the barricade realized it, they were already burning.
"Come, follow me. And follow right behind me, you hear?"
The red-headed girl led Fifteen who was carrying Fourteen on his back through a nearby building, to circle around Four, who would no doubt set them on fire should they get too close.
"Six, there you are! Have you any idea the troubles we got into because you ran off!"
"Won't happen again."
"That's what you always say."
"That aside... Thirteen, where's Nine?"
"There was a tank with a particle cannon. He stayed behind to let us get away. If you were there it wouldn't have been such a problem!"
The red-headed girl remained silent after hearing that. She was beginning to grasp what her actions had cost the others. However, she wasn't about to admit that she had been wrong. After all, if she hadn't left, Fifteen and Fourteen would have been long dead. In the end, she merely chose one over another, trusting that Nine could take care of the rest somehow as he had always done. However, she was beginning to realize that she may have been placing too much burden on him.
"You guys... you should get going..."
From a distance, Four called out to them, but due to her small voice, they couldn't quite hear her.
"I said... You should get going! We don't know when the battle will spread over this side! You should go when you can!"
"I'll follow behind, from a distance. Without Nine, I... I can't stop myself."
Once Four's abilities have been unleashed, even the dampeners could not stop the full force of her power on their own. The only way for them to work is for someone to put her wild power under control before activating them again. It had never been a problem, as Nine had always been there, but since Nine was absent at the moment, there was no way to stop Four from burning everything with a pulse around her.
Reluctantly, Thirteen could only nod re. She didn't like the idea of leaving Four on her own. The thought had come to mind, for sure, but she had never given in to it. She was beginning to understand her better too. If something happens to her now, it wouldn't sit well with her at all. However, right now, it's true that she can't even get close without the risk of instantaneously combusting.
The red-headed girl as well, being usually rather decisive in everything she does, was hesitant. Nine had once said that should anything happen to him, Four will take charge. That was how much he trusted and relied on her. With Nine missing, if something happens to Four, what will happen to the rest of them?
"Look at the trouble you've gone and gotten yourself into. I just can't take my eyes off of you, can I?"
His words were harsh, but at the same time, the voice that came out of him betrayed his weakened and tired state. Tugging an assault rifle that seemed heavy while in his hands, Nine calmly walked towards Four.
The moment he got close, the flames on the burning corpses of the Lunarian soldiers subsided. Eventually, he was close enough to reach his hand towards the circlet-like device on Four's head, and as if he's done it a thousand times, his fingers quickly found the button on the device and switched it on. Only then, did he finally breathed easy.
"In any case, looks like everybody's here. Fourteen and Fifteen as well."
Nine did a quick scan of everyone here. Aside from Fourteen, everyone seemed to be in relatively good shape, at least enough for them to walk back to base. For a brief moment, his eyes became scrutinizing as it fell upon the red-headed girl, but due to having dragged himself all the way to this place while having a pounding headache, he really had no energy to be doing any reprimanding.
"Alright, the mission was a failure, all hands re-"
But, before he could finish, another tremor shook through the town. A tremor that shook both the ground and the air, and even space itself, and this time, it was more powerful than ever before. Nine and the rest had to lower themselves to the ground to prevent falling while all around them, the ground began to crack and buildings started to come apart. As the tremor seemed as though it was about to stop, another followed, and then another, and another. It felt as if two titans were trading blows, and in fact, that was not so far from the truth.
End of Chapter 70