The King – Chapter 14

Chapter 14.1 – Teeth Baring? Energy Siphoners!

“I don’t get this, there isn’t anything down here.” The Special Forces soldier in the back says. Roark looks back at the soldier before ducking through the hole in the rock face.

“A Ling impatient, call me surprised.” The Draia commander at the front says, his gruff voice echoing lightly off the rock and dirt walls of the tunnel. Though he was the commander of the Special Forces team he played secondary this time to Roark who was in charge per the Supreme Commanders orders.

“Seriously Orin, shut your mouth. Are you intentionally going three for three at being wrong huh?” The female Draia Special Forces soldier says following the commander through the hole in the wall.

“We haven’t found our objective, have we?” Orin replies a bit smug. Standing there with his heavy rifle slung under his crossed arms.

“We found something didn’t we? Next time you want to make a bet or statement and actually be right, here’s a tip. Don’t include the words anything, or nothing. Idiot” The Eiris Special Forces soldier says before following the others through the hole in the wall. The two Black Guards of the Supreme Commander chuckle as they reach the hole.

“Sighing, scoffing, laughing and yet no words. Do either of you even have a voice, or perhaps you have no soul?” Orin goads the two Black Guards, focusing on them instead of the comments the others made. The two Black Guards look at each other. Finally one waves the other through the opening before turning and facing Orin. Flipping a button on his glove the person’s breathing is instantly audible.

“Listen boy, this is the third planet we’ve taken this shit from you so I’m going to say it once. If you hear us talk again, you can be very sure we are standing chin deep in an ocean of trouble that threatens to drown us at any second.” The Black Guard soldier says his voice giving away that he was an older Farasha. In an instant Orin is given flash backs of looking up at the teachers on his first day of school as a young Ling. The extolling of experience in the voice made him feel so inadequate but reverent to the man. He lowers his head to the man mumbling an apology. The Black Guard chuckles lightly, he needed to give no other response, the good natured acceptance in the chuckle needed no words to impart the message that everything was alright between the two. The Black Guard climbs through the hole and walks down the tunnel to catch up. Orin follows him quickly keeping his mouth shut.

“If all I’d need to do to shut up Orin is ask one of the Black Guards to say a few words to him I’d have begged for it three seconds into this assignment.” The commander whispers to Roark at the front.

“How is he even in this squad?” Roark asks almost indignant due to how important this mission was.

“I wish I knew. Half his file is blank.” The commander responds.

“Are you serious?” Roark responds stopping in the tunnel angry he was just hearing about this. The commander nearly runs into him but sighs and cocks his head to the side slightly with a pained expression and a pleading in his eyes as Roark stares at him. He nods a bit looking at Roark. Roark turns and continues to walk shaking his head. After a few steps Roark continues. “Can he even shoot that cannon around his neck?”

“About as well as he runs his mouth.” The commander responds a bit thankful the squad rookie had a silver lining to him. Roark laughs a bit but muffles it. The column of soldiers looks to the left and right to look at him to see what was going on but soon give up as their path narrows preventing anyone from seeing past the commander who had a more imposing body shape. Roark holds up his hand stopping the column. Bending down he moves a broken clear tube near the wall inspecting each piece for clues.

“Another couple broken ration tubes. Probably within the last couple years, but the ration date is visible this time. 283 cycles ago.” Roark says uncertain if what he found was good or bad for their mission.

“That would be after the war.” The commander points out.

“Perhaps slavers or salvagers got here first.” One of the Special Forces members can be heard.

“Or it’s an old cycle date?” The female Draia asks. Several of the group turns to look at her. A little indignation about the attention, she continues in a more hostile tone. “It’s what they used to use as a date to cycle out old ration supplies to prevent too much contamination from radioactive and chemical war zones. Sorry I was the only person here who got stuck growing up in a boring providence filled with farm towns. I was lucky I even got historian vids growing up.” Roark sighs and rolls his eyes before standing back up and continuing down the tunnel with the group close behind.

“Whoa whoa!” Orin yells out as they pass through another entry to a tunnel. He shines his light on the wall where a metal support had melded into the rock face. Just past the tunnel support was a crystal map partially melded into the wall. The group stops to look back waiting for Orin to say something else. Looking forward he realizes he didn’t give any details. “Sorry it looks like a map of the tunnels. It’s partially encased into some mud or rock.” He looks down at his rifle realizing that a few rounds from his heavy rifle would cause the surface of the rock to become hot enough to swallow anything that pressed against it like the map had.

“Yeah, there was a battle down here. It’s a dead world kid. The original habitants were bombed into extinction. It’s possible a fight down here was what set it all off, who really knows anymore.” The commander says.

“Jira, can you cleanly pull it out?” Roark asks looking at the female Draia.

“I will try.” She responds. Orin backs off letting Jira get to the wall. Concentrating greatly she pushes her gate open creating a shield around her left hand and flame with the other. As she slowly pushes more heat into the rock surface she pushes pieces of molten rock onto the floor. After a few clumps of rock fall away she is able to force her hand around the other end of the map and break it away from the wall.

“It’s in good shape!” Orin exclaims, a sense of pride in his voice of Jira’s accomplishment. The attention startles her a bit uncertain why Orin would change his tone so quickly after the disagreement just moments earlier.

“Now we have a good idea of where to go.” She says passing it forward to Roark. Roark nods happy that the team had finally gotten some good luck. The commander holds the map as he and Roark study it.

“I can’t believe it. There are five or six entrances to this main cavern ahead. Why was the previous planet so particular about where the entrance was? Why even have those entrances if all the security at the front research capsules was so tight.” Roark says displeased but also highly suspicious as he studies the map.

“Also after this small section that we’re coming up to there is another tunnel that curves all the way around that cavern with the entrances. Something tells me we should use that and avoid that cavern.” The leader says pointing to a thin tunnel on the map.

“I’m worried about that cavern as well, plus the smaller tunnel has less chance of us getting lost.” Roark responds. The group makes it through the next two tunnels quickly finding the last smaller research capsule in the complex. The group pauses briefly at the capsule seeing what information they could find.

“What do you have over there Jira?” The Eiris yells out.

“It’s some genetic research on the native species.” Jira responds.

“This console is on evolutionary progress of an unnamed species.” Orin says slowly very confused by it.

“This is an analysis of over two dozen dead species.” Roark whispers wishing Siszero had been there to see it. He hoped they would be able to come here one day to mine it for the data, it looked immensely intricate and something told him there was something hidden in all of this that would bring about a lot of revelations in the Coalition. He wonders how so many treasures could have been forgotten by the Coalition like this.

“Roark, we still have our mission.” The commander says touching Roark’s shoulder.

You’re right. Let keep moving.” Roark says waving for the group to continue. Pausing for a second Roark becomes suspicious of the Black Guard in the back together. He had suspected they had special communication devices that were undetectable but he wasn’t able to find any evidence. He sighs lightly stepping into the middle of the line of soldiers heading down the curved tunnel to their final destination. The group was five minutes into the tunnel when they come to a cave in. The commander looks at the rocks and ceiling and realizes that even if they manage to clear it out it was certain to collapse again and could do it while a non-gate user was attempting to pass the area.

“It looks like that main cavern is the only way.” The commander says back down the ranks. The group sighs as they turn and head back. The Black Guard acting a bit more agitated and jumpy now that they are leading the group out of the tunnel to the research capsule. Once in the capsule they step aside to let Roark and the commander take the front of the column. Roark stares at the two giving an obviously dissatisfied face as he passes. The tunnels become significantly larger the closer they get to the main cavern. It was easy to tell the tunnels have been well traveled as the center of them was often worn down from use.

The group becomes more paranoid as they come in to view of the center cavern. Talking echoes lightly into the tunnel. Roark orders the group to split and creep up to the exit of the tunnel. Roark and the commander peer into the cavern after pulling on their tactical masks. The masks eliminate the sound of their breathing and talking. Roark looks down at the representation of the cavern on the map then up at the actual which was at least 60 feet in diameter. The cavern was filled with square stones, making the group wonder what they were used for.

“Four Vino.” the commander says

“A treasure if we were mercenaries.” Orin adds.

“Five Vino actually.” Roark responds

“Possibly six, I can’t see the ground well but there looks to be a body in the center. They seem to be discussing something.” The commander says as a few of the Vino give very exaggerated movements.

“It could be a mercenary. Maybe they came here to hide or ambush them.” Orin says.

“Those are the tunnels up, they aren’t very big. Perhaps he fell into one and struck his head when he exited into the center chamber.” Roark says pointing the attention upward to the multitude of tunnels that feed onto a circular shelf at the top, some 15 feet above the cavern floor.

“The proportions of that map are way off, this chamber is gigantic, but those tunnels to the surface wouldn’t be useable except for maybe emergency exits from the surface.” The commander says.

“Perhaps. With the rock formation it would be possible for them to ambush anyone that followed them.” Roark says analyzing the two and a half foot tall stone slabs arranged around the room.

“We have clear cover to sneak up on them to the left we can get into a very advantageous position they’ll have no choice but to surrender or be slaughtered.” Jira says as she looks around Roark on the right side.

“She’s right Roark, whatever we think of this we have to take them out of the situation and get to our destination on the other side.” The commander says.

“Something troubles me about this. They have different uniforms then normal Vino, you can see rank insignias. They are talking out loud. I’ve never heard of two or more Vino talking openly when they can use coded energy waves.”

“They think they’re alone, why put in the effort.” Orin says a bit confused by the apparent ease of figuring it out.

“If they did that, there’d be a lot less Vino in the galaxy.” The commander replies looking back at Orin. He shuts his mouth in embarrassment.

“Alright, hook to the left here and sneak to the furthest position. When you are ready Jira and I will pop out drawing their attention to the right allowing you to pop up and get a good shot at their backs. We’ll give them one chance to surrender. Be prepared to fire if they don’t. You will only have a moment to open fire before they can defend at that range.” Roark says laying out the ambush.

“You shouldn’t give them any chance.” One of the Black Guard says.

“If we ambush them right out they could unleash their most powerful abilities on us which would almost certainly lead to collapse parts of the cavern.” Roark says. The group realizes this battle could end up with all of them dead if the Vino overreacts to the threat. The commander waves for the Eiris, Orin, and two Black Guards to follow him. They slowly make their way from stone to stone along the back of the room.

“Jira, I know it’d be better to have Orin here for shielding, being a Ling.” Roark starts to say but is cut off as Jira scoffs and butts in.

“That man can’t generate a proper shield or barrier strong enough to stop a pebble.” Jira replies.

“Well then, I guess I am glad I had his rifle with the other squad. It’s just the two of us shielding.” Roark says, the annoyance with Orin coming through his voice.

“Short of Urjo Hocdin I can’t imagine another Draia I’d rather be fighting side by side with.” Jira says preparing her rifle.

“You know Urjo?” Roark asks a bit surprised by her comment.

“In position. Your turn.” The commander says through the headset.

“He was my combat teacher.” She smiles looking back at Roark.

“Well we wouldn’t be here if he had rejoined the Coalition.”

“If you had heard the stories I have, you’d know that Urjo would never have rejoined the Coalition after what he suffered.” Jira replies a bit of sadness in her eyes.

“Are you two going to join us out here eventually?” The commander comes through the headset again.

“Here we come.” Roark replies stepping through the door. Standing straight he walks into the room his energy rifle trained on the group. Jira quickly steps through the door to catch up with Roark. She matches his pace staying close to his left side. Both ready to shield themselves from enemy fire at any point. The two barely make it more than 10 steps into the room before the Vino start shouting. They turn pointing their guns at the two. Jira and Roark take a couple more steps moving to the right before they stop. They tell the Vino to surrender. The Vino yell back for them to surrender. The Vino leader looks around a bit before realizing there was another group of soldiers behind them. The commander and his group pop out from behind rocks holding their rifles ready to open fire on the back of the Vino group.

“Stop.” The Vino leader commands.

“Put your weapons down and surrender.” Roark yells over. The Vino leader nods and puts his pistol down on the nearest stone but his underlings refuse. As the Vino group fragments among heated conversation Roark begins to doubt they will comply.

“Activate defenses and put more pressure on them to comply.” The commander says. Jira and Roark agree it is a good idea and put up barriers in front sticking their rifles around the edge pointing them at the Vino. The commander puts up his own shield in front of the Black Guards and himself. Orin feebly puts up a barrier in front of himself and partially in front of the Eiris soldier.

“You are so weak Orin.” The Eiris says shaking his head. The Vino leader turns to face Roark, his eyes wide and troubled.

“Oh no, something is wrong.” Roark barely gets out before high pitched yelps echo through the top passages.

“What was that?” Orin says, but no one is able to answer before a hairy four leg beast pops out of each of the entrances on the shelf above them.

“Energy Siphoners, how did they even get on this planet?” The commander says.

“Now we’re in trouble kid.” The Black Guard says to Orin.

14.2 – Uncommon Allies.

The groups stand still, the energy Siphoners clicking between each other. Their intelligence was not what was considered sentient but they were smart enough to coordinate advanced attacks. With the Vino and Coalition still pointing guns at each other it was a stale mate of which enemy was the more dangerous. As the clicks of communication between the Siphoners slows, the commander knows things are about to go badly. Raising his rifle to the Siphoners that were standing on the shelf opposite he opens fire. As the rounds fly over the Vino’s heads and into the pack of Siphoners they realize that regardless of what would happen between them and the Coalition after this was over the Siphoners were a much larger threat. The commander’s rounds rip through the head of one and shoulder of the other next to it.

The rest of the Siphoners are startled into jumping into combat early. Several of the beasts jump down onto the same targets causing them to run into each other and miss their marks creating chaos in the cavern. As Roark turns to secure the tunnel they had come through he sees four more Siphoners fighting to get through the tunnel entrance. He refines a beam of heat and water sending it into the group of Siphoners. The water vaporizes quickly burning the hair and flesh off of three of them. The fourth Siphoner backs away from the entrance as the three remaining Siphoners cry out in pain and flee from the scalding attack. Roark takes a step toward the tunnel to deal with the fourth Siphoner but he can hear more yipping from other Siphoners coming to reinforce that path.

Roark turns shooting another Siphoner lunging at Jira’s left side. Another Siphoner charges out from behind a rock plunging its claw through Jira’s right side and biting deeply into her thigh. She cries out in pain before firing off a few more rounds killing another Siphoner that was charging her. The claws dig deeper into her side as the Siphoner tries to kill her quicker. Roark pulls a pistol and puts an energy round through the Siphoner’s head. Roark grabs Jira as she is about to fall over. Placing her right arm over his shoulder she continues to fire at the pack of Siphoners keeping them away. Roark pulls the dead Siphoner’s jaw off of her leg then the claws out of her stomach. Roark slowly moves towards the other Coalition group dragging Jira with him. The Siphoners were beginning to thin when another group of Siphoners make their way to the shelf from the tunnels above.

“This tunnel behind us is a dead end but we’ll be able to shield the door way and figure out a plan.” The commander yells out as Roark gets to their firing line. Looking at the center Roark realizes the Vino had gotten it worse than they did. The Vino leader and one other now stand back to back a pistol in one hand a sword in the other as the rest of the Vino lie dead on the floor around them. Being natural gate users and in the center Roark knew they would have been a bigger target for the Siphoners. Roark waves for Orin to take Jira. Orin puts the Eiris soldier down and grabs Jira. Roark grabs the Eiris soldier and drags him into the tunnel. The commander follows them into the tunnel and pulls shielding equipment out. The Vino leader sees the Coalition group retreating and makes the call to follow them into the tunnel or easily be overwhelmed by the remaining Siphoners.

The two Vino make their way to the tunnel entrance keeping the Vino away giving the Coalition time to prepare the shielding. They jump onto the top of the stones as a group of Siphoners charge them. Using the stone they use wind abilities to propel themselves to the tunnel entrance. As the two Black Guard duck into the tunnel three Siphoners charge them now that their backs were exposed. The Vino cut through the Siphoners opening the way for them to slip into the tunnel. The commander activates the shield and drops the battery pack on the floor. Angry at the loss he screams wildly firing into the Siphoners that hit the shield suddenly.

“Stop! The more bodies in the way the more strain on the shield when we have to push them out of the way to leave.” A Black Guard says. The rest of the group looks at them, noticing them pointing their guns at the Vino and the Vino back at them. The only thing that broke the tension was the sound of Orin’s sobs as Jira’s head lay limp on his lap.

“I pulled her in here but she won’t say anything.” He chokes out between sobs and coughs.

“Jun is gone too.” The commander says.

“I didn’t even know his name before.” Roark says the sorrow deep in his voice.

“We must form a plan.” The Vino leader says.

“We will, after you are dead.” The older Black Guard replies.

“You kill us and you won’t make it out of these tunnels. We were lucky we only lost one soldier before you idiots showed up flashing your gates about with no regards to your surroundings!” The Vino leader yells back obviously angry.

“I am the lead of this mission, I make the calls.” Roark says as he walks up to the older Black Guard and shoves his rifle away from pointing at the Vino leader. A tense moment goes by as the Black Guard stares at Roark but he eventually complies knowing things would go badly for him and his colleague if they had to fight every other person in his cave

“You made the right call, we have been fighting the Siphoners for tens of thousands of cycles and you have only a few hundred cycles of experience with them.” The Vino leader says. Roark looks back at the man, anger filling him greatly. He turns to face the two before responding.

“Let’s clear this up quick. I’ve lost over twenty friends and family to Vino attacks and terrorism. If you even make a motion of betrayal I will unleash a fury that will make those beasts run in terror. I will collapse half this continent to kill you two.” Roark says the anger and hatred so potent that the others in the group were shocked.

“Why did you fire first?” The younger Black Guard asks, her voice surprisingly sweet. The commander and Roark both turn to look at her their eyebrows raised. They look at each other but can’t seem to find any words. After a few seconds Roark shakes his head and waves for the commander to explain. The commander looks down at the ground clearing his throat for a moment as Roark goes to look out of the shield.

“I was leader of a group on another dead world 17 cycles ago. The Siphoners got onto our ship ripping up much of the circuitry. They tracked us, ambushing us numerous times over the course of six milli-cycles. By the last few ambushes I had gotten so good at reading their clicks that I knew when the most vulnerable times to strike were. Earlier if I had waited more than a few moments longer their coordination would have been significantly better and they likely would have killed more of us, if not all of us.”

“You lost two, we lost four.” The Vino leader says.

“Does he speak?” Roark asks pointing to the other Vino as he turns stepping back into the middle of the cave.

“She doesn’t. Siphoners held her down as a child and drank from her energy, when she went to scream one of the Siphoners bit her tongue and ripped it out. The cry still saved her life but she paid dearly for it.” The Vino leader answers. Roark feels bad about the story but pushes it aside.

“You said you fought them more?” The Black Guard says showing cooperation to placate Roark. The leader nods lightly before breathing in.

“After its been calm for a bit, a much larger Siphoner will lower itself down from the larger exit at the center. That will be the mother, it likely nests in the brush above the cavern. The strongest half of the surviving Siphoners will go above ground to guard the newborns in the nest. The mother will consume the energy from the largest sources while the weakest of the Siphoners down here will sneak in nibbles. If there is another female down here it will be masquerading as a male. The weakest Siphoners will protect her instead of the mother since she is the only way for them to start a new nest and become dominate. Once done eating the mother will jump back up and climb up to her nest. The rest of the Siphoners up top will come down and fight over the remaining energy.” The Vino leader explains.

“So we wait till all of them are gone?” Roark asks pacing in the confined area.

“No, I have been keeping my gate open to a large amount. The larger Siphoners will get used to it and leave to guard believing that it is just background noise. When the mother comes down, we will be able to push the shield out and attack her. My soldier and I will provide shields while the rest of you can fire and kill any Siphoner attacking us and the mother directly.” The Vino explains.

“Killing her gets us what though?” The commander asks hesitant to believe such a plan.

“With the mother dead the majority of the strongest Siphoners will flee to find another nest and plant itself among that nests hierarchy. Maybe 25% of the Siphoners will come down for revenge. If there is another female out there who has a following, the weakest ones will start to move in on us but will betray the others and kill them to eat their energy. We could kill the mother and not have to fight another Siphoner. If things go badly, the mother could escape and we’d have to fight all of the Siphoners.” The Vino says. The group thinks it through as the two Vino stare out of the shield.

“What did she say?” The older Black Guard says pointing at the Vino woman. The Vino leader turns to face the Black Guard angry at him. With a bit of joy in his voice the Black Guard continues. “You can fool them but not us. What did she tell you?” The Vino bites his lip in anger that the two had seen their communications.

“She saw the attack on our first soldier, there is already a division between the Siphoners. The nest is large enough to have two females. The other was in the pack that attacked us now. She has been watching out the shield since we came in and believes the other female is still alive.” The Vino leader responds.

“Why do you seem so angry about that then?” Roark asks suspicious and readying himself for a fight.

“It wasn’t that information I was unhappy about.” The Vino Leader responds not giving anything else away.

“I caught them talking through their skin. It is hard to do I’ve heard. Also carries with it a great deal of side effects.” The Black Guard explains his voice becoming a bit more punctuated with each word. Roark sighs a bit letting the tension die off. He realizes that any moment of silence could lead to more problems between the groups so he continues to push the plan forward.

“So you provide shields, the commander and I can fortify them through you. We shoot everything that attacks and kill the mother. After everything calms we head to the doorway to the left.” Roark says changing the topic.

“We kill the mother and split up. We are going to the right.” The Vino Leader says sowing distrust.

“How are we expected to trust you now?” The commander asks obviously unhappy at their response.

“We kill the mother and take our chances. We betray you before then, and we don’t survive. After that we will flee with great haste. It should be obvious we are already fairly tired and will still have to put up a large shield for such a time as to deal with the mother and her followers. If there is any betrayal among us it is certain that the other mother will prod her warriors to strike us to make her stronger.” The vino leader replies, his response hitting closer to the truth then Roark or the Commander likes. The two also remember that their mission was more important than dealing with the Vino. If the two Vino get the group to its target Roark has no complaints about them leaving their own way. Roark looks at the odds so far and knows military command will still give high praise for the loss of two soldiers for the deaths of four Vino.

“Very well it will have to be that way. We do not have any more time to debate it. I just saw a few of the larger Siphoners climb up the walls to the exits.” Roark says pushing himself away from the entrance.

“She will be down any moment.” The Vino says. Everyone stands up ensuring their weapons are ready and fully charged. The commander turns seeing Orin still sitting there next to Jun and Jira.

“Come on soldier.” The commander says looking down at Orin.

“I couldn’t protect him commander.” Orin says looking up at the commander.

“Listen Orin, you can’t protect everyone. I couldn’t protect him either, or Jira. We need you firing your gun.” The commander says putting his hand on Orin’s shoulder.

“Where were you raised boy?” The older Black Guard soldier asks him as he walks past.

“Hok’tu province.” Orin responds. The Black Guard nods a bit.

“Get up and be a soldier. Mourn them with the lives of those beasts that took theirs. Be happy that you can do such a thing. Not everyone is given the chance to avenge their comrades.” The older Black Guard adds standing behind the Vino.

“A touching speech, was that pointed at us?” The Vino whispers. The older Black Guard scoffs.

“No, my comrade died from the hands of the most power Draia alive.” The Black Guard answers back. The Vino woman swings to stare at the Vino leader with wide eyes. The statement had triggered some recognition for them.

“I met a powerful Draia just the other day. That is why we were six and not eight, you should thank him otherwise this exchange may have gone very different.” The Vino responds.

“Really? Where might that have been?” He asks wondering if he would truly get an honest answer back. The Vino doesn’t answer right away and the Black Guard begins to wonder if he will get one at all.

“I guess I see no reason not to tell you. He was on Sornin, in an abandoned base. Now a partially destroyed base because of him.” The Vino responds.

“I see.” The Black Guard says the joy obvious in his voice. In the distance the body of the Siphoner mother lowers its legs to the rock slabs before letting go of the tunnel. The six foot long legs and foot long claws were shocking to all but the Vino. Lowering its head it sniffs the Vino bodies and begins to pull energy from them.

“Push.” Roark orders resolved to carry out the plan regardless of how large the beast is. Roark and the commander unhook the shield generators from the walls and push forward. The Siphoner bodies pile up in front of the shield making it hard for Roark and the commander to push them. The Two Vino put their hands on the back of Roark and the commander and starts pushing them forward to keep the momentum. Pushing the mound of bodies out of the tunnel causes blood to spill out making the floor slick. Roark and the commander drop the shield emitters and step to the side letting the two Vino move ahead to generate the shield. The Vino join hands as they step between Roark and the commander. As they pass they generate a large dome shield. Roark and the commander step behind the two Vino putting their hands on the backs of the two and adding their own power to the two Vino.

“Hit her tongue first.” The Vino leader says. His words startle the mother causing her to spring her head up. She opens her mouth ready to sound an alarm but is unable to as the two Black Guards come around the group and opening fire destroying her tongue and part of her right cheek. She yelps in pain but only some of the Siphoners down in the cavern run to protect her. With only some of the smaller Siphoners coming to protect the Mother, she grunts in anger at the pack that was huddled against the far wall. The smaller group stays at the edge of the cavern moving away from the Coalition and Vino soldiers but won’t go near the mother either.

“The other female is there, kill the mother quickly!” Roark orders. Orin and the Black Guard open fire on the mother and her supporters. She dashes from side to side trying to get away to call the others down from the surface but the two Vino had moved the group towards the center blocking her only escape from the cavern. The smaller Siphoners that had stayed loyal attack the shield but Orin quickly pulverize each one with only a single energy round from his heavy rifle. The Black Guard focuses on hitting weak spots on the mother. As she realizes she can’t escape or depend on the smaller helpers she lashes forward. Even with a reinforced field the sharp claws cut into the field and hit one of the Black Guard’s in the arm. Orin spins his rifle around unleashing it on the attacking leg. The mother recoils but is unable to withdraw before Orin severs the paw from her leg. She grunts and hunches back on her rear feet to strike with her other paw but the posture gives the group a chance to end her with their combined firepower. The three concentrate their fire as the commander and Roark both pull their pistols adding it to the others. The rounds cut deep into the body of the mother until one finally rips through her secondary heart. Her body convulses for a second before falling to the floor in a lump.

On queue of the mother’s death a group of larger Siphoners charge out of ceiling entrances dropping down around the mother’s body. They snarl at the group for a bit. With no clear leader the group clicks back and forth deciding what to do. The Coalition and Vino watch the smaller Siphoners that were pledged to the female weave into the group of larger Siphoners.

“We will have to kill some but not many.” The Vino says. A small Siphoner comes up to the first row of larger Siphoners it yelps and clicks loudly. A few moments later the first row of larger Siphoners charges the group but with so few attacking they are easily put down. With the numbers better for the female and her followers the smaller Siphoners turn on the remaining large ones killing them easily. Now that their immediate foe was dispatched and plenty of food the smaller Siphoners snarls at the Coalition and Vino. The Coalition and Vino back up from them ensuring there was as much room as possible.

“Farewell.” The Vino leader says letting the shield down. Both Vino release a sphere of compressed air pushing them across the cavern with remarkable ease. Both Black Guard aim at them but don’t fire.

“I think we missed a good opportunity with this.” The older Black Guard says feigning the thought that he still wished to kill or capture the Vino.

“Maybe, but our mission is first. Let’s go before these little ones think themselves bigger than they are.” Roark says leading them to the entrance at the left. The victory cackle of the Siphoners fills the room as the other female jumps onto the rock near the old mother. She reaches down pulling some of the flesh from the carcass before opening her mouth and pulling vast amount of energy from the dead body.

“So much energy.” Orin says looking back.

“Quiet.”