"You cannot achieve greatness without some sacrifice," High Emperor of Garis, outer rim planet.

Or, at least, that's what the Garans think. The Garens used to be one of the mightiest empires in the universe, and they did find greatness with sacrifice, at least until they ran into us. Earthlings, humans, disgusting maggots that inhabit the Blue Orb, whatever they called us, we had something worse for them. Like the all too popular Slit-Face.

The Garans society and civilization was largely reminiscent of the Japanese feudal era, and Aztec religious ideals. Sacrifices were made annually to appease their sun god, Gara. Their favored weapons were their Honor blades, which are sharp enough to cut through two inches of solid iron like butter. Armor wise, they used metal plates welded onto each other to provide maximum protection from metal slugs and other small arms fire. They looked like samurai in their armor, and their helmets sometimes adorned horrifying masks made to strike fear into their enemies.

The Garans themselves were humanoid with paper white skin, long blond hair, and purple almond eyes. Their noses were merely slits in their face and they had high pronounced cheek bones, but shallow cheeks.

Now the year is 2988, we were supposed to be accepted into a federation of planets about a hundred years back after we had reached interstellar travel through technology invented by an Asian fellow named Higachi Masatama, we were very close to be accepted in actually, when we ran into the Garans. As I said before, the Garans were the mightiest empires in the universe, so naturally we had to challenge them to a brawl. It's out nature, being the most destructive race second only to the Garans, who are known to kill each other just for looking at someone funny.

The long, fifty year war with the Garens ended in the loss of colonies on Mars, Venus, and a very recent research center on Neptune. About one billion humans were dead by the end of the war, our colonies were destroyed, but we didn't lose.

We fought back with massive power-armored soldiers, dressed in matte black steel armor, ringed with flame retardant, protected by a plasma shield, and powered by a nuclear energy cell. The armor was resistant to the bladed weapons the Garans, used, their alien blades bounced off without even a scratch.

The only advantage the Garans had that we didn't were their energy weapons.

While the shields would deflect melee attacks, lasers and plasma based weaponry burned right through the shield and the steel armor. Only in rare cases did the wearer survive when they were struck with these weapons. Sure, we had lasers too, but plasma based projectiles were still far off from us. Every trooper learned to fear the slow moving bolts of plasma, that would melt through the armor and any flesh, organs, tissue, beneath it.

I'm sorry, I should probably introduce myself, my name is Roland Festus, ex-soldier, and this is my story during ten years of those fifty years of warfare.


Roland sat alone in the mess hall. His hair was cut short, as was protocol for a marine stationed aboard the S.S. Atlas. He was heavily muscled, you got to be when you were lugging around the heavy MK IV Combat armor. Roland's skin was tan, his eyes were heavy with the lack of sleep, and his hands were shaking. They wouldn't be shaking long, they calmed themselves when they had to, and they did their job without hesitation.

The S.S. Atlas was a destroyer class ship built with seven atomic reactors all on different levels of the ship to keep it moving in case one of the reactors was destroyed. It was one of the most heavily armored vessels in the Earth Military Defense Force. Huge auto cannons lined the side of the ship. The Drop room was the biggest room in the entire ship and was centered in the bottom-center of the Atlas. It would send soldiers down to the ground without having to risk transport ships, all it took was a single beacon for the troopers armor to lock onto, and they were off. Dropped, literally, onto the destination. Aside from the basics, the Atlas had a few special qualities to it, such as the hologram room, and the zero-G gym.

Behind him sat a rowdy table of marines, all eating and joking, laughing and yelling, they didn't know better. The green coloring of their uniform showed they were recruits, they hadn't seen any action outside of their RealSim Battle Simulations, which they had undoubtedly cheated on to get into the Marines.

At the front of the mess hall sat the higher officers, Roland, being a corporeal, wore the dark blue uniform. Grunts wore green, sergeants wore solid grey, and commanders wore black. The higher officers were given better food and better bunks than the grunts because, well, it was a miracle to survive an encounter with a Garan soldier.

Roland stared at the tray of food in front of him. He'd gotten something solid for once; bread, a real specialty on a the Atlas for anyone under the rank of commander. The rest of it was flavored paste that was hard to swallow. The commanders were eating turkey and ham, the smell wafted to him from where they sat. Roland was instantly jealous, but didn't show it.

A fellow officer strolled over to him, his tag read "Isaac" and Roland doubted he'd remember his name if the tag hadn't been there. The red cross strapped to his forearm meant Isaac was a field medic, the worst job you could get in the war.

"Hey Roland,"

"Hey yourself."

"You doin' alright here? You seem a little... well alone."

"I'm doing fine, sit if you want."

"Alright, thanks."

Isaac sat down, his metal tray made a loud clang that rang in Roland's ears.

"You want something, Isaac?"

"Just to provide a bit of company to an old friend. How many fights have you seen so far, Roland?"

"Six, seven, maybe eight."

"******** man, you've got it rough. Maybe the brass is trying to kill your a**."

"Personally, I think they should just shoot me while I'm eating. At least the lead would taste better than this s**t."

Roland stood up, dumped the paste in a can, and put the tray up in the cleaning station at the front of the mess hall. Isaac did the same, all the while trying to make idol conversation that Roland attempted to avoid at all costs.

When they sat down again, the intercom came on. The entire mess hall became intensely quiet, the rowdy marines suddenly lost their voices, and brave faces, too. Everyone listened.

"This is captain Benjamin Streak, your captain, speaking. High Command has ordered us to the swamp planet of Muno to destroy a Garan encampment there, we're 0600 away from the planet, so get some rest then go to the Drop room. Captain Streak, out."

The intercom went silent, but the gusto of all the marines who had been the bravest and loudest soldiers before, were now dead silent. Unable to retrieve their voices that were lost on them. Some soldiers got up and left, others stayed and tried to talk to their friends, no doubt telling them what to do if they died. Roland left the mess hall. Isaac stayed behind, still trying to comprehend the thought of another drop.

It would be the sixth drop this month, and nobody had heard of that. It was just another sign that the war was getting more intense, and the end was far from over. Some soldiers were serving a ten year term, only about fifteen percent of the men serving the term now would survive until it was up. Others had picked the life-long term, they would serve until they died, or until they were too old or too sick to do the army any good. Isaac was one of the life servers, he believed that the military was the best thing for him even his chances of survival were slim.

In all, only about half the soldiers living aboard the Atlas would survive until the end of the war, and by then they would only be soldiers and not really people. War had a habit of ripping the humanity out of people, and though some said humanity hadn't been ripped from war, the power suits proved that it had. The suits were brutal, only made for killing and nothing else.

Roland sat in his cubical room on his bed. The desk next to it was full of old books, movies, and TV shows which were now obsolete because of holo-tape technology. Roland's armor stood at the head of the room. It was about three inches taller than Roland, who was 6'2. The visor of the armor was a thin T shape, two tubes ran along the sides of the "face" for oxygen in a vacuum. The shoulder plates were wide with the ships logo being stamped on the right shoulder plate. Roland stared into the black visor for a long time before falling asleep.

When Roland awoke, it was time. The drop room was open, some of the eager troopers were already there, but the smart ones were still resting. Roland took off his clothing and put on his black undersuit, then the rest of his armor came. In a half hour, the suit was complete, the helmet was all that remained. When Roland put it on, the visor came to life in a flashy display of color.

His HUD showed his life signs, ammunition, current weapon, a navigation compass in the top left corner, and a list of his current objective which sat at the very top of the visor. Any of this he could wave away with just a thought, the helmet tapped into his brain and would do whatever his brain told it to. After his HUD was setup, he made sure the on-board A.I. system was working.

"Eve, still functioning?"

"Aye, Roland, full one hundred percent," Eve's hologram popped up in the center of the screen. She took the form of a woman wearing punk clothing, covered in data streams that looked like tattoos, and long bangs that covered her right eye. "We have two hundred hours of power, that's about eight-point-three days, Roland."

"Good, we have a drop today. Bring the shields up as soon as we enter the drop bay."

"Why not now?"

"We don't need them now, we'll save some energy."

Roland was glad to have Eve as his on-board A.I., she was rebellious and a strict take-no-s**t kind of attitude that matched up with Roland's perfectly. Roland had heard of marines arguing with their A.I.'s in many instances, sometimes life threatening cases were reported. But Roland never argued with Eve, he followed her orders because he knew she had already run the numbers.

A.I. were not the emotionless monotone voices they had been way back when, they were built in with personalities now, sometimes it was for the best. Sometimes for the worst. The military didn't seem the realize this, and would simply toss the A.I.'s out and see who got what. Eve had been the last remaining A.I. on the table, so Roland didn't get to pick his choice, but still he was glad he had Eve instead of any other A.I.

Roland was standing in the drop room, his feet were planted securely on the floor, waiting to be dropped. The soldiers in front of him were nervous, shifting constantly from one foot to the other. Roland was armed with a battery powered laser assault rifle, a magnum strapped to his thigh, and three Inferno grenades which were strapped to his belt.

The captain of the ship arrived at the front, his hands were folded behind his back and his eyes were stern. The captain's grey uniform, dressed in all sorts of medals that were supposedly won in the heat of battle, lined his shirt from top to toe. Roland didn't believe he won all of those medals, at least not in battle. Maybe from gambling, that was the popular theory amongst some of the marines. The captain spoke in a deep monotone voice that emitted power. It rang off the walls, the floor, and in the ears of every marine standing in the drop room.

"Troops, this is going to be one helluva fight. HQ had reason to believe the slit-faces are housing arms and ammunition on Muno, and we're going to take them out. It's going to be heavily guarded, and the Atlas cannot provide too much support when we get there. We'll be too busy fighting off their war ships to send a lot of supplies, but we'll try to get it to you boys as quick as possible. The war is getting harder and harder to fight, I think most of you boys know it and, by God, I know it too. But fight hard, fight dirty, and, above all else, fight to survive. Good luck out there. Our prayers will be with you."

Roland's objective was updated at the top of his screen, each group of soldiers got their own set of personalized orders, each from a different CO. His orders read: "Destroy enemy munitions supply located at the far east corner of the Muno facility." Vague orders, but orders none-the-less. Roland checked the power level of his rifle and was satisfied to see it was a hundred and ten percent.

After about thirty seconds of silence, the order was issued to go to your positions, Roland followed his map marker to a squad of fellow marines. The field medic issued to this squad also happened to be Isaac, the marine from the mess hall. Isaac was too nervous to say anything, instead he simply nodded as Roland. The names of his squad mates drifted across the top of his HUD.

Jones Merdoc -Squad leader
Isaac Steele -Medic
Bobby Hull -Demolitions
Jeremy Max -Comm Unit
Louis Schmidt -Sniper
Roland Festus -Rifleman
Jericho White -Rifleman

Roland synced his com systems to his fellow squad mates and heard nothing. He knew it would change, though, when they got into battle. Orders would be shouted, screams would tear into their speakers, and death throes would be issued. But for now, silence.

After a minute, the drop bell was rung, and their suits were synchronized with their beacons.

A minute after that, they were dropped.


Intense heat attacked the suits, some burned up in the atmosphere before they even had a chance to fire their weapons, others were blasted way off course. Roland always feared the drop just like the rest of his fellow marines. All it took was a single mistake, a single centimeter our of place for your life to end in a great ball of fire, or be blasted into an ocean and slowly drown.

Roland's arms were down by his sides, straight, and his legs were the same. He'd have to bend them slightly to absorb the blow of landing. If he didn't, his legs would shatter or break even with his armor on. It took about two minutes of falling for his legs to reach solid ground. He did as his instincts told him, and bent his knee slightly just before impact. He absorbed the blow, rolled onto his side. He ripped his rifle from his back and assumed a ready firing position.

Behind him, his other five squad mates landed safely. The sniper was standing tall in the back of the group, demo man in the middle, the other rifleman covered the back, and Isaac had his own rifle up beside Roland.

They waited for ten seconds for the squad leader, Merdoc, but when he didn't arrived, they announced him KIA. Merdoc had, in fact, been blasted far off from their position and landed at the bottom of a lake where he would drown. Never to be found.

The squad looked on ahead of them. Low trees and high waters awaited them. Luckily they had landed on a dry patch of land, at least the very edge of it. Roland flicked his hand up, and made a "follow me" gesture with his fingers. He edged slowly into the swamp, watching his footing. He heard Schmidt say something to him via com.

"Who made you in charge, rifleman?"

"This is no time to argue, watch your six, and listen for any sounds."

"It's a desolate swamp, we didn't even land in their damned complex."

Max responded for Roland. "Doesn't matter, they could have patrols looking for us. They no doubt saw us falling from the ********' sky."

Schmidt grumbled something the com's didn't pick up, but Roland didn't take it as argument. The swamp water was up to their waists. Roland didn't hear any sounds, he'd thought he'd hear gunfire by now, or maybe a message from other squads that were supposed to land closer to the Garan complex. Roland had a bad feeling. Something wasn't right, it was too damned quiet.

The squad traveled about twenty miles forward through marshy swamps, low trees, and fog. The days on Muno lasted only fourteen hours, and while they were moving as fast as they could, the squad still couldn't beat the moon, which rose overhead as a silent guardian to the chaos that would unleash itself in only a few moments.

Schmidt remained ahead of them, his sniper rifle was under his arms and he was relaxed. He didn't notice the shadows moving across the canopy. Roland and the others were like he was, they hadn't encountered anything in over five hours so they were convinced they were too far off from the complex.

Suddenly, and without warning, the shadows that had been jumping to and fro in the trees jumped from their cover, their swords were swinging wildly, and the Earth troopers arms were up and ready. The com's were alight with chatter.

"Move, move! Oh ********!"

"I can't, there's no ******** room!"

"They're behind us!"

"Help me, that one's got me pinned!"

"I got 'im, I got 'im!"

The shadows charged the group, getting as close as they could for melee combat. The armored soldiers fired wildly at them, their laser rounds caught one assassin in the shoulder, knocking him down to his knees before another blasted it's head clean off. One managed to get close to Roland, they brought their honor sword down on him in one wild swing. Roland knocked the blade aside and kicked the armored soldier square in the chest. They fell back, but regained their composure and went in for another cut across his chest, Roland caught the blade with his forearm, -the shield absorbed most of the blow- and brought his armored fist across the assassins head, knocking them aside long enough for Roland to bring up his rifle. He fired two shots into the assassins chest, melting the armor and any flesh underneath. Despite the filters in his helmet, Roland could still smell the charred flesh beneath.

Schmidt was using his sniper rifle's long barrel as a spear, keeping the assassin away. When the assassin got close enough, Schmidt fired one round into their shoulder, the power was enough to blow their entire arm off at the shoulder.

The others were doing their best in fending off the assassins in the trees, who were firing their own plasma based weapons at them. The plasma bolts were slow, but more powerful than anything humanity had invented. Max was caught in the chest with a plasma bolt while firing at a different target, and the bolt traveled through the armor and out the other end, dropping and killing him in ten seconds but to him felt like an eternity. Max screamed, and the sound was enough to send chills down Roland's -and the rest of the squad's- spine.

Across the visor, Max's name read KIA. His body dropped into the murky waters.

Roland fired seven more shots into the trees, killing one more assassin. Schmidt had taken his pistol out and was firing beside him, screaming the whole time. A plasma bolt arced past Roland's head, and Schmidt's screams were cut off suddenly. Roland didn't have to turn to see that a headless corpse was all that remained of Schmidt.

Schmidt's name read KIA across the visor.

Finally, Roland cut down the last assassin with a single shot from his rifle. The corpse fell out of a tree. Roland couldn't help but grin at the sickening crack the body made when it hit the ground.

In all, the firefight only lasted ten minutes, but that was enough to kill about ten assassins, and two troopers. Roland retrieved the holotags of his fallen comrades, and went to inspect the dead Garan soldiers.

Isaac inspected the corpses, and noted the lightness of their armor.

"They're scouts. Scouts, and they still took down two of our guys. They weren't even heavily armed."

"They had surprise."

"We weren't paying attention, they had our stupidity to thank for taking down Max and Schmidt."

"We'll learn."

Roland retrieved three plasma grenades from the Garan soldiers, the rifle had an almost full charge, and Roland's only had seventy percent left. Roland ripped the battery from the core of the gun and placed it in his belt's ammo bag. He had four other cells in that bag, but you could never have too much ammo. Roland asked Eve what his armor charge was at.

"Ninety-eight percent, Roland. And, might I add, good fight."

"Thanks Eve."

Isaac looted one of the honor swords from a dead Garan soldier and tied it to his own belt. Roland thought about doing the same when the demo expert spoke up. He had a heavy southern accent, something Roland hadn't heard in a long while. He must have been straight from Earth instead of one of her colonies.

"Don't want to take those, doc,"

"Why not?"

"They shoot the ones with their swords first, it's taking the honor away from their dead. I suggest you put it back where you found it."

Isaac, hesitantly, threw the sword back somewhere into the swamp. In his mind, these people didn't deserve honor. What was honorable about attacking from the shadows anyway?


Roland and the rest of the squad were more careful about proceeding through the swamp. They still hadn't heard anything from the Atlas, and they were very sure they were on their own when they heard a distress call being issued to all soldiers withing a two mile radius.

"This is Sergeant Cole of D company, assault team one. Come in, over, come in!"

"Roger that," Roland said, "this is Roland, C company responding. What is it Cole?"

"We need assistance about two hundred klicks south of your position! Marking it on your map, and hurry! They've got artillery!"

"On our way," Roland flicked his hand up in a follow me gesture then tuned off the distress beacon. "Everyone, let's haul a**!"

The team sprinted into the marshland, covering ground faster thanks to their power armor. Roland lead the way, he was the fastest. The team heard fire before they saw it. A squad, assault team one, was pinned down by a plasma mortar and laser turret that was strapped down to a fallen tree branch. The turret's operator spotted Roland and his team and swung the massive turret in their direction.

"********, move! Out of range! Behind that rock there!"

The team ducked under, Isaac tossed one of his Inferno grenades at the turret but it landed just shy of the target! Roland clasped their demolitions specialist, Bobby Hull, who was armed with a Helios grenade launcher, he pointed at the turret and Hull. nodded. He angled the gun, peered through the sights, but just as he was about to fire a sniper round cut through his shoulder. Bobby Hull fell over, stunned, into the murky waters. Roland had no time to pull him out, instead he grabbed the launcher himself. He ordered Isaac to cover him, which the field medic hesitantly did. Roland fired twice at the position, the first shot landed just next to them and some of the shrapnel from the grenade caught the gunner, the second shot landed in the gunners chest, blowing them into a mess of pale white flesh and black blood.

D company rose from their cover and began to charge the enemy emplacement, firing their laser rifles into the trees and everywhere around them. The Garan soldiers didn't notice them and reacted too late, they tried to retreat, but one soldier had tossed an inferno grenade into a tree, which caught fire instantly along with any trees near it. Soon, a huge forest fire had erupted and the Garan's favored option of escape was cut off entirely, forcing them to trudge through the water. The troopers cut them down mercilessly.

When the Garan's were dead, Roland had Isaac clean up Bobby Hull. The sniper round had missed anything important in his right arm, and all it needed was bandages. The armor administered pain killers per the medic's demand. While Isaac cleaned up Hull, Roland went to meet with the other squad's leader.

They shook hands and introduced himself, the sergeant's name was Joseph Miller, who complimented Roland's squad and his marksmanship.

"Thank you, sir, I was just helping out."

"Well, thanks. We've got two other squads coming over to help us, so stay awhile so we can all regroup."

"Yes sir," a pause, "have you heard anything from the Atlas yet, sir?"

"No, no I haven't. We think our communications are being blocked."

"********. We're going to need supplies soon sir, we're a shock force here to take a complex not an invasion force."

"I know."

Roland and his team waited while the other teams arrived. Both of them had lost three troops each and were melded together to form a single squad. Roland and his men restocked on ammunition from the dead Garan soldiers, taking energy cells for their armor and arms. They all together had about one hundred cells between them. Eve popped up on Roland's screen, brushing away her long bangs.

"It's unusual we haven't run into the complex," she said, "maybe intel was wrong?"

"It can't be, they check it hundreds of times and send scouts."

"Corruption is found everywhere, Roland."

"But even if it was wrong, don't you think the Atlas would be here to pick us up?"

"Maybe, then again communications are blocked and we have no way to tell them, so maybe they don't even know we're having trouble."

"I'm sure they're keeping an eye on us."

"Unless your lack of communication means your dead, and the ship's jumped."

"Don't say that, they wouldn't leave us all behind without checking, Eve."

"We'll see, Roland."

After only an hour Earth troopers had amassed a small army of about fifty soldiers. They were all well armed, but some were as green as grass when it came down to it. Roland could hardly stand most of them, they went on and on about their fearsome victories, bragging was natural when you came close to death. But Roland knew that they were all afraid of their enemy. Some of them wouldn't sleep nights for years after Muno, and Roland would be with them all the way. Because it didn't matter how long you'd served, how many battles you'd fought, and how many Garans you kill, in the end you would stay up at night imaging the explosions, the blood, and the gore that followed with it all. Roland was already experiencing nightmares, but he pushed on knowing that they weren't real, that no matter how afraid he was they weren't real. It was his only solace on the matter.

The group had set up camp and synchronized their com-units together so they would all talk to each other at once. Immediately afterword, everyone was talking all at once and it was hard to discern what people were saying. Roland saw that Isaac was getting well enough along with a woman who had been in the squad they'd saved. The only way to tell she was even a woman under the alien armor they wore were her smooth curves and extended chest plating. From what he could tell, she was busty and young. She moved fluidly though, she knew the armor they wore well and was going to use all of the advantages it had, -much like Roland- she was a natural born warrior.

Roland moved away from the group and faced the opposite direction, facing the trees and the bog before them all. They'd have to travel it, and they'd be sitting ducks if they were packed together too tight. A single well aimed plasma bolt would melt through three soldiers before it dissipated. Roland saw shadows spread across the trees and brought his rifle up. The shadows flew away, and Roland breathed a heavy sigh of relief. They were just birds.

The group moved away from where they'd all met, and found a cave not far from their position. They set up their things, ammo, weapons scavenged from dead Garan scouts, and battery re-chargers. Roland took the first watch along with three other troopers, one female, the other two male. Everyone else caught some rest.

That night, a low fog drifted in covering Roland's feet. Visibility was low, and he was worried about a sneak attack. He didn't know that the others were thinking the same, they were edgy. They were nervous. Roland held his rifle closer, ready to bring it up and destroy whatever got too close. His armor was starting to get heavier, and he checked with Eve what his power supply was.

"Due to all the action we've seen, your armor's charge is at seventy-point-five percent and dropping. The weather here sucks doesn't it?"

Roland looked at the other guards stationed around him. He told them he had to get a charge for his armor and they nodded. They were too nervous to say anything, it seemed, but in reality they were afraid the Garans were going to hear them, even though the armor was muted from the outside, and only the person you were talking to could hear you.

Roland walked over to the charge station, scout soldiers were exploring the rest of the cave and as far as he knew it went down about a mile. Many passages were hollowed out in the cave, huge gaping holes dotted the inside. Some of the troopers thought this used to be a Garan outpost, others said it was some home for a giant bug.

The charge station had been brought in by a tech unit, the only surviving one, named Thomas Bachman. Thomas' armor was a dark shade of blue rather than matte black, his helmet was taller and thinner, the visor was frost instead of black. Bachman was a talkative man and tried to make conversation with Roland numerous times.

"So, what's going on?"

"You're joking, right?"

"********, that's right. Well, er... what's the charge at?"

"Eighty percent."

"Cool, cool. Well, how many battles have you seen Rolo?"

"Roland," he corrected, "and this would be my eight drop so far."

Thomas apologized for calling him "Rolo" and said: "Well, at least you've got some experience. This is my first drop and already I'm the only tech trooper living," Thomas pulled the plug of the charge station. "If we could find the bodies of the others, we could take the charge stations off their armor and bring 'em here. We'd last longer that's for sure."

"Longer, maybe. We're surrounded."

"I heard the Atlas is gone,"

"Who said that?"


Roland left the charge station, his mind was swirling with thoughts about the Atlas. Why would they leave without sending a scouting party? Or at least try to contact them? Roland looked up into the sky in a vain attempt to try to catch a glimpse of the Atlas. If it were gone, then they were doomed. The water here was poisonous, they had no food, and didn't know what was poisonous and what wasn't. If they were going to survive, they'd end up losing at least a third of their force, which would weaken them to the Garan soldiers. God, it was a mess here. It'd only been a day and they were dead. The charge station would function for at least another week before it crashed. Roland looked at the rest of the troopers in the cave, some had their helmets off and were breathing freely, running hands through their short hair, or just staring into space, shocked. They were all scared, Roland was no exception.

Roland was on his way to the front of the cave when he heard a loud bang! Followed by three screams. Roland ripped the rifle from his back and sprinted to the front of the cave, the source of the screams. He was sweating heavily inside his helmet. What hit them? Artillery? He reached the front of the cave, and crouched. A plasma bolt whipped past his head and he saw the corpses of the three soldiers who were stationed here. Their armor was shredded to pieces, the female soldier was nothing but gore and pieces of metal. He fired three times into the trees before falling back deeper into the cave, narrowly escaping another explosion from whatever it was the Garan's were using. Five troopers met up with him and began firing back. He joined them, lobbing an inferno grenade at the cave entrance. Three Garan soldiers rushed forward, aflame from the inferno grenade but still coming with a frenzy the likes of which Roland hadn't seen. The troopers cut them down, but four more took their place. The troopers were starting to laugh, actually enjoying this slaughter because they weren't on the receiving end of it. Lasers decapitated heads, melted limbs, burnt through armor, and the smell of crisp, charred, flesh was present all throughout the fight. Before long, a massive wall of dead bodies blocked the cave entrance, with only a small hole at the top that was too small to fit any of the heavily armored troopers.

"******** morons, they must've lost a hundred men just now."

"And we've got more cover than before."

"What about the guards? Shouldn't we try to get their tags?"

"They're ******** lost, Donny. Dead bodies are probably being lifted for supplies as we speak. No need to worry, the suits atomic batteries will go off once the life signs are flat for a half hour."

Roland left their conversation, going deeper into the cave. He needed to rest. He'd spent days without sleeping, and felt like he'd earned it around this time. When he made it back to the "base" camp of the cave (which was actually just the biggest area in the middle of the cave) he found a nice spot to lay down. At first, he was afraid that if he fell asleep the Garan's would burst in and kill him, but his tired eyes won over his paranoia, he slept.

He was woken up by a tender hand shaking him awake. He looked up and saw the grey armor of a scout. The scout armor was lighter than Roland's warrior class armor. It's shoulder plates were smaller, for one. The chest armor was thinner, the shielding was weaker, but the lightweight meant they could move quickly. Improved by the suits enhanced strength, a scout could outrun a car going 30 mph. This scout had black blood covering the left chest plate of the armor. The visor was darkened but Roland couldn't tell if that was purposely or from the blood too.

"Hey," the voice was light, womanly, but had a sense of authority about it. "Get up, I've got a job for you."

Roland stood himself up straight. "Yes, ma'am?"

"Cut the bullshit," she said flatly. "I need a soldier to escort me and the other four scouts down deeper into the cave. We need a way out."

"What happened to the front entrance?"

"Sealed up by concrete of something, I don't know. We pulled those bodies aside and found a huge wall blocking the way out."

Eve piped up from inside Roland's helmet, broadcasting her voice to the scout. "Couldn't we blow the wall away? We have demolitions experts here."

"We can't, the walls too ******** thick. Any more stupid questions?"

"Yeah," Eve didn't take that well, she demanded a certain amount of respect. "When did you become such a b***h?"

"When I was born, what about you?"

"I was created with special b***h technology, scout."

Roland sighed and put his hand up to the scout. "Don't argue with her, just tell me where you want me."