29. The Price of Failure

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 The little farmhouse smoldered, sending grayish whiffs of acrid smoke up into the eerily still atmosphere. Not much remained standing of the little house at this point; two of its walls were crumbling beneath the massive damage done to them, and the remainder of the building looked like it had been the center of brutal war.

Which, to be honest, it had.

Troit soldiers swarmed over the remains like ants, snapping photos and combing through the place for every detail they could find. One flyer stood off to the side - far enough to be out of the way, but close enough so that he could oversee everything that went on. He wore the blues of a River flyer, though his colours appeared faded almost to the point of being gray. It matched the gloomy expression on his face.

Further out of the way, Raith sat on the ground, his back leaning against the huge wheel of a large military truck. He clutched his left shoulder with a grimace, while his left arm hung limply in his lap. Traces of blood still remained at the corner of his mouth, standing out garishly against his sweaty, pale face.

He watched the soldiers rummaging around like it was a crime scene. If the situation had been any different, he would have scoffed. They weren't going to find anything that would help clarify the situation. There were no clues, no tidbits of information to find that would explain why the impossible had happened.

Their trap worked perfectly. The prey took the bait willingly. Everything had gone perfectly... for all of ten seconds.

He closed his eyes, suppressing a shiver that had nothing to do with the cold. The stasis field was supposed to be their secret weapon, their ace-in-the-hole against Ra'Skevvor. Their techs had been working on it for months, and although what they'd given him was only a prototype, he'd had high expectations.

He remembered how they'd waited, hidden, for what seemed like hours. Their trap lay dormant, though it was charged and ready to go. Even though the electrical impulses were currently minute enough to remain unseen, there still had been a faint hum, noticeable if one knew what to listen for.

Then the Kairg leader had dropped from the sky like a meteor, landing right in the center of their little trap. He had come alone, with no army of cannon fodder to throw at them. When and if they showed up for their master, it would have been far too late, for the stasis field had already burst into life.

Even now, Raith could still recall how the faint flashes of electric blue light danced over the ground, flickering briefly over Ra'Skevvor's formidable form. They would have played havoc with his body, numbing nerves, contracting muscles, deadening reflexes - in short, it would have stopped any ordinary man in his tracks as if he'd been hit by lightening. Ra'Skevvor however - they hoped it would just slow him down to a speed they could handle.

They had been right. It did slow him down.

Raith remembered seeing the Kairg flyer stiffen in place, briefly held immobile by the field. And when he moved towards them, it clearly had been a struggle, each step driven by sheer force of will. The man's persistence and determination was clearly formidable, one that Raith found himself grudgingly admiring. A trait that he's  passed down to his sons.

At that moment, seeing Ra'Skevvor struggle, Raith had allowed himself to hope. Perhaps this was it - perhaps the Kairg would fall this day. He wasn't the only one to have felt that way.

Yvan had laughed in triumph, the easy-going Mountain flyer eagerly launching forward to tangle with Ra'Skevvor. Since the three of them had taken measures to protect themselves from the effects of the stasis field, Yvan obviously felt himself to have the upper hand.

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