Chapter Twenty Three

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"We are claiming that cylinder!" shouted a man's voice, harsh, grating and amplified by the helmet.

Gaylen pushed himself up and peered over the covering wall. Some of the Brecke Browns seemed to have been thrown off the bridge by the blast. Those remaining had already been cut down. Some pistol shots came from the ruins, targeting the mercs, and they fired right back, making ample use of their superior position.

Gaylen took a shot. The mercenaries were out of easy pistol range, but still he either hit the one with the officer's pauldrons or struck close enough to make him flinch. The merc turned and Gaylen ducked back down, throwing himself flat. A blast hit the wall just above him. But it had come from his side of it.

He flipped over, leading with his pistol and caught sight of a single moving dot up in the higher walkways. He threw himself to the side, a moment before another blast hit the ground where's he'd been.

"SNIPER!" he shouted and pressed himself against a half-standing pillar. "LET'S GO!"

Herdis ran over in a low crouch, shooting towards the bridge with her giant pirate pistol. Kiris was next and a blast from some direction or other hit near her feet.

Bers chose that moment to roar and vault over the wall, pistol in one hand and knife in the other.

As Jaquan and Ayna ran to join them Gaylen got going, hurrying out of cover in a crouch.

Up above were the two mercs, higher up was the sniper, and down among them were the Browns. They had to get out of here, but the only real cover to be had led through the Browns.

A blast from the bridge hit a corner as Gaylen passed it by, running from one ruined cabin to another. He turned at the sound of a nearby shot, seeing one of Eldin's hired losers fall to Herdis's gun. Another one fired at Bers as the man appeared out of a doorway, howling like a frenzied beast. The rushed, panicked shot flew past fringer's head, and Bers plunged his knife home in the man's gut.

Gaylen caught glimpses of the overall fighting. He saw one of the mercs take two hits, but an energy shield crackled around him. The Browns and their help were firing wildly from here and there, scattered about the ruins. The mercs were picking their shot, landing most of them.

A relatively broad street was the only way to reach more cover. A Brown crouched behind some more leftover machinery, wearing an armoured variation on the signature jacket. He and Gaylen noticed each other in the same instant, but a shot from the sniper took the man's head apart.

Gaylen seized the opportunity, and before the rifle could cool for another shot he darted across to the Brown's cover.

"WAIT!" he shouted to his crew, and let himself drop down flatter than the dead man had, hoping the sniper couldn't target him.

Something changed in the fighting between the Browns and the Blues. It sounded like more of the former had come from somewhere, attacking the mercs from behind. Eldin had kept men in reserve.

Herdis watched him from that last bit of cover between her, Kiris, Ayna and Jaquan and that sniper.

"Ready!" he shouted, and lifted the dead man up into a sitting position. "Now!"

Using the corpse as a shield he fired towards the sniper. The mercenary fired back. The bolt burned through the front of the jacket, but not the back, sparing Gaylen. Herdis added her pistol fire to Gaylen's, in faint hope of a lucky shot. Jaquan, Ayna and Kiris darted across and into cover.

Some instinct caused Gaylen to drop himself backwards, and the next shot flew near where his head had been. He rolled over to his feet and ran. Herdis ran as well. There was the hiss of a bolt and sparks flew from her back. The woman gasped, and stumbled for a moment, but kept on running and made it behind a wall a moment after Gaylen. He took it to mean her suit had held.

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