Bri lands on the shoulders of the tall Pajonian man standing by the entrance to the underground cave, wrapping her legs around his neck. She throws her body weight forward, unbalancing the man below her. The man falls, ridden to the ground by the lady who fell from the sky. He catches himself on his hands, then falls and rolls, bringing his hands to his neck in an attempt to stop the flow of blood where Bri cut into him.
As soon as she hits the ground she redirects her downward momentum into a forward roll, coming to rest behind a second man. He barely had time to register that the first man had fallen before Bri’s knife slices through the tendons behind his knee. He collapses, dropping straight down to one knee. He opens his mouth to howl, but Bri’s blade immediately darts up between his teeth into the soft flesh at the roof of his mouth.
The Pajonian nearest Bri raises his gun, aims at Bri, and yells. She notes him, but darts to the side, away from him, unperturbed by his threat. She assaults another man, as a loud clap of thunder erupts from the woods across the clearing and the man with the gun’s head is thrown back. The action snaps the man’s neck, but since his head all but exploded with the impact of the bullet, he hardly noticed.
Ash pulls back the bolt of their rifle, loading the next round, and quickly takes aim again. They watch Bri for a brief second as she ducks behind a third collapsing body and dives at a fourth. The scope quickly finds another of the distant men as he raises his gun, and with another deafening crack, the man suddenly drops.
The small, hairless creatures begin screaming. Some of them duck, as others try to run back inside, and others still try to flee into the woods. The sudden rise of chaos around them has thrown them all into a panic. The Pajonian man holding their rope gives a hard yank, drawing all of their eyes to him.
“Inside!” The man yells. He turns and pulls the rope, all but dragging the group toward the entrance. The hairless ones begin to follow, but then the man’s head vanishes with another crack of thunder. A new wave of panic spreads through the bound beings as they turn away, running for the tree line in the opposite direction of the gunfire, away from Ash.
Ash decapitates another man as he takes aim at Bri, as Bri takes down another, then turns and throws her dagger. It spins through the air and lodges itself in the neck of another man just as he raises his rifle at the fleeing prisoners.
Then, there was one.
The last of the Pajonian men stands with his gun lowered. His eyes are almost as wide as his gaping mouth as he tries to wrap his mind around the last seven seconds. His gaze settles on Bri and he realizes that hers has settled on him in turn. His bladder releases its burden into his trousers.
A sudden scream of terror breaks the stare-down, drawing the attention of all involved to the trees where the humans had run off to. The first scream is followed by another, then a dozen. The screams continue for several seconds.
“Shit!” Bri declares. She raises a hand, pressing a finger to her ear to activate her radio’s mic. “Cub, do you have the Ancients?”
Her radio crackles in response.
“Cub?” Bri repeats. She glances sideways at the last Pajonian, who looks back at her, just as confused. He seems to realize he is armed, while she just threw away her only weapon, and he quickly raises his gun. The barrel doesn’t even raise high enough to face Bri before another loud crack severs his arm at the shoulder.
“Whoopsies!” Ash sings over the radio. “Hold on. gotta reload!”
Bri sighs, rolling her eyes. She turns her back to the man grasping at his shoulder. He drops to his knees, takes his arm off the ground and tries to put it back in place. She takes several steps away to get away from his screaming and presses the button for the mic again.
“Cub? Where in Meesha’s name are you?” Bri waits for a response, but it doesn’t come.
“Cub?” Another crack of thunders comes and the man screaming behind her falls silent.
“I’m here,” Cub finally says. “I got, uh… hung up.”
“Hung up?” Bri asks. “What is that supposed to mean? What could possibly be more important than helping your team in a gunfight?”
“I… uh,” Cub begins to explain but falls silent for several seconds. “I fell out of the tree. My belt is caught… Help me?”
Bri didn’t need the radio to hear Ash’s laughter.
“Can you see the Ancients?” Bri asks, ignoring his situation.
“Yep, I sure can,” Cub says. “Well, some of them. Most of them are just… pieces. They ran straight into a Domeeno nest.”
“Is it still there?” Bri asks.
Cub shifts, adjusting his head to look ‘up’ at the ground. Directly beneath him, a large, hairy, six-legged creature with a mouth that could swallow a man whole, stares back up at him. Its face is smeared with blood, and its tongue dangles from the side of its mouth as it seems to grin at him.
“Yep,” Cub says.
“I’m coming.” Bri stoops down to collect her dagger, pulling it from the dead man’s neck and using his cloak to wipe the blood away before sheathing it again. She turns and heads in the direction the humans fled.
“Ash, watch the opening for that last man. Shoot on sight.”