No longer One and One, are we.
One, are we. Alone, are we. The last of our kind, are we.
With grief and rage, hurtle we from the horizon line. From the embrace, flee we.
are alone. we are the last of our kind.
The we who are born now will not remember the time before the Becoming. our world will be forgotten.
There must be payment for this. There must be punishment.
we will punish them.
I will punish them.
And I will bring the We.
* * *
Caston, Kell, and Marc advanced up a narrow street lined by towering ruins. The empty windows opened onto rounded darkness like empty eye sockets.
A rifle boomed from a roof. The shot lanced down, splashing against Kell's armored leg and spraying red across the ground. Caston and Drumar hustled into cover against the rusted frame of a luxury vehicle.
"Again with the leg!" Kell groaned, falling obediently to his paint-round-stained knee and crawling towards the rest of his squad.
"You call that a kill shot, Private Berry?" growled Sergeant Bayton across the open channel.
"Sorry, Sarge," Berry replied from the roof. The rifle boomed again, missing Kell by a meter and change. Caston tracked the shot and caught the muzzle of the rifle disappearing back over a roof's edge. His HUD bracketed Berry's armored outline through the concrete.
"Tagged and locked," Caston said, grinning. "Sorry, Berry."
"Well done, Private Gage," Sergeant Bayton said. A rifle bolt clacked. "Please feel free to stand up and receive my congratulations."
"Holy hell, Gage," said Kell, finally reaching them. "That's fourteen kills today. Save some for the rest of us."
Behind him, Marc turned away, his expression hidden by his faceplate.
Two days had passed since they arrived. Caston had waited for Marc to report him as dangerous and unbalanced. The moment had never come, and Caston had recovered from his initial embarrassment. They'd run a dozen war games since yesterday, and he'd topped the charts nearly every time.
Killing the overlord had saved him. He'd finally met the enemy face to face and taken his shot. The hallway had been a fluke; he'd never hesitate again, never be weak again. The universe swarmed with the enemies and traitors of humanity, and he was a marine, paid to kill them.
Life was good.
"Sarge, I don't get it," Kell said. "Why do we have to pretend we're hunting down fake rebels when there are real zerg all over the planet?"
"Because they're feral, Private," said temporary rebel commander Bayton. "They're dangerous, but disorganized. No real challenge."
"And this is?" Kell said, glancing around the edge of cover—
The sergeant's shot splattered against his faceplate, and Kell went down. The sergeant had the sun behind him. Caston couldn't see a thing.
"Ow," groaned Kell from the ground. "Killed by amateur rebels. My shame is endless."
"Amateur!" Vallen said over the channel, from his hidden sniper's nest. "How dare you!"
"Right," said Hanna. "We're hardened rebel elites, thanks."
"Exactly," Vallen continued. "We don't shave or bathe. We 'liberate' civilian settlements by setting them on fire."
"According to propaganda, that's what we do," Hanna growled. "But actually, we're displaced settlers with legitimate patriotic concerns—"
"Just finished a scan," Dax interrupted. He'd stayed behind to get the base systems up and running, and the radio static flattened his dull monotone still further. "All clear."
"Don't sound so disappointed, Private," Sergeant Bayton said.
"That's just how he talks since the recruiters panned his brain flat, Sarge," Hanna said.
"We're lucky he has a soon-to-be-court-martialed-for-smartassery private to speak up for him, then."
"Just trying to sound like a rebel," Hanna said cheerfully.
"You're not cursing enough," Vallen said.
"Hold on," Kell said. "If I'm a rebel, I get to curse, set things on fire, and stop bathing? I'm on the wrong team."
"They don't allow you to marry your sister," Vallen said.