Chapter 24: Aftershock

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Men scrambled among the rocks to secure a position of safety. They all knew the proper procedures under sniper fire, though none expected the attack. Even Sarah, who often preached the resourcefulness of her former allies, was astonished when Haverion keeled over and the sounds of gunfire filled the camp.

"Stay here, ma'am. They may try for another shot at you," Jacobs said to her. Then he shouted, "I want eyes out there! Where is it coming from?"

"One o'clock!" Michael Creed yelled. "It's gotta be the seekers, but they're over two miles long."

"Bullshit!" another soldier said.

"It's true, sir," Brooker said. "I had them on surveillance forty minutes ago. Maybe there's another shooter hiding out there somewhere."

"Or maybe you miscalculated. I told you they were clever," Sarah said.

Jacobs shook his head. "Brooker is the best com and surveillance specialist in the business. If he says he had eyes on 'em, I trust him."

Jornell pulled himself back to his feet, groaning in pain. He staggered behind a large rock and jammed his fingers into his chest, gritting teeth and struggling. A moment later, he pulled out a large, black, misshapen bullet covered in blood. "It's them!"

"Liam. Dammit, son, you'll only make them angrier," Sarah said to herself, though Jacobs overheard and turned his head toward her. "What now?" she asked.

Before anyone could answer, Wu'laujan bolted from the camp, bounding over the rocks and hills faster than the swiftest gazelle. Each step traversed twenty feet or more. In seconds, she faded into the distance, lost among the hills.


*****


The golden archon raced over the hillside toward her prey, though she made sure to stagger her path in order to discourage their sniper from gaining a steady read on her. Despite her unparalleled agility, more than once, she struck the uneven terrain with force enough to crush her ankle, but beneath her flesh Wu'laujan was a being of pure light, and such impacts were minor inconveniences to her.

When a high peak loomed to her right, she began her ascent to gain a favorable vantage point. As she landed on a southward-facing ledge near the summit, she spied four humanoid silhouettes in the distance moving away from her. They were much too far for any human to perceive, but they were just visible to her mana-enhanced sight.

For a long moment, she contemplated pursuing them alone, though such a venture presented no small amount of danger, even for her. They were powerful and armed with weapons proven deadly to an archon. Plus, she could never sneak up on two seekers. As she watched, one of the figures turned and stared right at her. Though she couldn't make out any details from this distance, she knew who spied her.

Amber Walker.

Wu'laujan and Amber locked gazes for several seconds before one of her companions pulled her away and they continued their retreat into the wilderness. Wu'laujan watched her go.

Soon enough, my flower.

She returned to the camp, just as the others were coming to realize they needn't fear another attack. Sarah and her top agents stood in a sheltered area of the valley with Jornell, discussing amongst each other while the remaining mercenaries secured the camp. Small, unmanned vehicles buzzed and ascended into the air to scout their surroundings. Jornell looked steady on his feet, but Wu'laujan recognized his pain beneath the surface. Haverion lay where he fell, his body showing no signs of life.

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