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Through The Ghost: Chapter 1

January 3, 2017

                   He walked in wearing blood red armor. Snow flew in behind him, eager to fill the newly exposed room. A ghostly visage was etched onto his mask like a nightmarish happy face. Three rounds burst from his rifle, burrowing into the skulls of two mercenaries. On the other side of the room, a massive Viashano brute charges him, a roar of rage bellowing from its crocodilian jaws. A quick sidestep allowed the intruder to effortlessly dodge the behemoth. Pirouetting, he dropped his allowing it to hang at his side. The alien warrior hastily redirected its attention.

                  As the reptilian mercenary began its second assault, the intruder returned his weapon to his hand and pulled the trigger. High velocity shells tore through armor and scales, knocking the alien off its feet. Disturbed snow danced around the fallen lizard-man like sadistic fairies.

                 The frozen wind whistled through the breached door. At the center of the room he noticed a woman restrained to a small steel chair. The intruder approached the hostage carefully, the display on his lenses calculated her heart and respiration rates. Bruises and scrapes adorned her wrists, though they appear to be self-inflicted.  Other marks, burns, and gashes can be seen on her bare arms and neck.

 Due to the dim lighting and disheveled nature of her appearance the facial recognition software takes a while to put a name to her. His eyes became instantly drawn to a faded scar along the left of her jaw. Emerald veins descended from beneath her jawline with similar veins along the underside of her arms.

                 The veins confirmed that like himself, she’s a member of Orothros. Though unlike him, her veins are darker with no noticeable glow to them. The fact that she's an operative was expected, she’d activated a recovery beacon on a channel intended for Orothros operatives. The scar though, that made him pause. His throat tightened, his heart rate spiked. Carefully, he reached up to brush the hair plastered to her face.

                  “Anna?” he whispered, unsure if what he was seeing was real.

                  While he processed the scene before him emerald eyes shot open, burning with rage. Her head launched forward, throwing him off balance. She followed the attack up with a swift knee to the gut that rendered him speechless. Doubled over on the ground, her shadow towered over him. He hastily tackled her to the ground. Hands gripped her shoulders, using his knee he managed to keep her pinned despite her ferocious struggles against his grasp.

                  “Anna!” he shouted above her feral screams. “Damn it! Calm Down! It’s me!”

She stopped, her eyes refocused on her opponent. Her humanity returned for moment before fading behind a hysterical laugh.

                   “Oh, well now that I know it’s you, why don’t you just let me go,” she responds with a sarcastic smile. There’s a twisted mix of desperation, and insanity to the way she looked at him. It was both heartbreaking and exciting.

                   Cautiously, his free hand reached up to grasp the mask on his face. The chill air immediately stung his eyes.

Her venomous glare immediately softened upon seeing his icy blue eyes, fiery red hair, and familiar self-assured grin.

                   “Tal?” The fear, anger, and adrenaline slowly fled her body at the sight of a familiar face. “What-?”

                   He breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing her regain her senses. His grip relaxed. Taking a knee behind her, he began work on removing the restraint that kept her hands bound behind her back. The miniature plasma cutter sliced through the link of the cuffs.

                    “I’ll have to get the cuffs off back at the ship,” he informed her.

                    “Sorry I attacked you,” she said as she rubbed her wrists.

                    “Its fine, I’ve had worse,” he answered, massaging his jaw. “How are you here?”

                    Before she could respond a feminine voice echoed inside his ear. Enemies are inbound on your position.

                    “Something wrong?” Anna asked seeing the concern on his face.

                    “Looks like we’re going to have to fight our way out,” he announced.

                     Anna rolled her eyes as she hurriedly snatched a weapon from one of the dead mercenaries. They rushed through the ajar entryway only to be confronted by five mercenaries.

                    One of them muttered something in an alien language. Tal held up his hands in surrender; his rifle hung loosely at his side, ready to be drawn.

                   “Typical,” Anna sighed.

                   “What?” Tal looked at her quizzically.

                   “You never plan an exit strategy.”

                   “Sure I do, I had a good one.”

                   “Then how do you explain this!” she pointed towards the now confused mercenaries.

                   “There must have been a secondary alarm on the door,” he explained.

                   “Which you didn’t check because you just had to make a grand entrance.”

                   “It saved you didn’t it.”

                   “What makes you think I needed to be saved?”

                   One of the mercs called out in their alien language. Both sides look at each other for a moment. A wave of snowflakes passes over them.

                  He wants to know why you two are arguing, the voice informed him.

                  “Oh, we’re stalling,” Tal replied dismissively. As soon as he said it, one of the mercs was sent flying backwards into the snow. Plasma vapors drifted off the dead mercenary’s helmet. The remaining mercs instantly scrambled for cover, as they do so another one is shot in the back by the unseen gunman.

                  Both operatives use their moment of distraction to get behind the cover of the building.

                  “That friend of yours have a name?” Anna inquired.

                  “Yeah, and I’ll introduce you, but let’s get out of here first,” he replied before firing on the bunkered guns-for-hire.

                   Tal’s finger flexed on the trigger of his rifle, a three-round burst struck the helmet of a curious merc. He continued to pull the trigger in an attempt to keep the mercenaries form regrouping. Suddenly, he’s met by a high-pitched whine; signaling the weapon is out of ammo. A combination of a snort and growl indicates one of the mercs noticed his predicament. Tal instantly dropped his rifle, swiped his hand past the pistol attached to his leg, and pulled the trigger. The offending merc collapsed to the ground.

                  One minute, the voice in his head informed him.

                   “Run!” He shouted towards Anna who’d begun firing back at the pinned mercenaries. The female operative immediately took off after him. Each crunch of snow beneath his feet emphasized the seconds that ticked by. They neared the edge of the encampment, dodging and firing at the attackers behind them.

                   5…4…3…2…

                  On one, a wave of heat nipped at the napes of their necks as Tal tackled Anna to the ground. When the cool air returned they climbed to their feet, brushing snow from their clothing and armor in the process.

                 “That wasn’t important to tell me?”

                 “I’m sorry, I got a little distracted.” he answered.

                 “Yeah, well,” she huffed. Her gaze drifted towards the demolished buildings. “Next time, inform me when a bomb is about to go off.”

                 Tal sighed. “Noted. Come on, let’s get to the ship.”

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