With a sudden bang the weakened airlock door burst outward, slamming into the cutter and knocking the tech over on the tarmac. Someone screamed as something large and armored shot out of the opening, slamming into the other exosuit and driving it into the ground, claws digging deep through the metal.
“You think we’ll make it?”
“Break course!” Anna shouted, her hand snapping to the side of her helmet. “Now!”
“All of us?”
Jake pushed himself back an instant before another tendril slammed point-first into the metal in front of him, the spike at its end punching cleanly through whatever the path was made of.
“I don’t know.”
Anna crashed into the water behind the creatures, spinning and lashing out with her hard-light blades to cut two of them in half. The remaining two, caught between them, died moments later, just before Ngata slammed into the water, tumbling before righting herself and shooting along after them.
“We’ve lost six colony worlds.”
Tentacles, so large that even at a distance Sweets could see them slamming down atop the pathway and wrapping it, utterly annihilating the Sha’o drones.
Micro-missiles swarmed out of the thinning haze, close enough that Jake could make out the individual fins on a few of them as they shot just past and detonated further back. Sand and gravel sprayed over him, sliding down his visor.
Towering walls of water rose miles into the air. Free-floating orbs of ocean the size of mountains, their surfaces sculpted into geometric shapes and lines, linked to the seas below sometimes by thin passageways of water, sometimes not at all.
The marine pounded on ahead, throwing himself into a slide that shrieked of metal-on-metal to pass under the small opening in the door. He kicked himself back up with a single movement, rising to his feet—
And something slammed into the marine from the side, bowling him over and out of sight with a yell.
“Contacts! All vessels!” Comms said, a tone of panic in their voice. “Appear to be fighting unknowns. Total count over one thousand!”
The sky was alight with flames now, some of them, Anna noted, almost uncomfortably near the team’s position. Some of the earlier flames had burned out, leaving long trails of smoke instead that made the horizon look like a painter had slapped a brush covered in charcoal across it.
The tail was whipping back, the razor-edged scythes at the end sweeping through the air. Roen ducked beneath the attack, as did Ngata—only she fired a shot straight up with her phoenix cannon as she did so, the shot slamming into the tail and almost severing it.
“We end this.”
A sickening, metallic squeal rent the air, new alarms flashing across his controls, vying for Sweets’ attention as the Sparrowhawk shot past overhead.
The force of the explosion hit Jake like a wall, blasting him from his feet even as he felt sharp twinges of pain erupt across his front.
Something bit into Anna’s back, slicing through muscle and for a moment feeling as though it touched bone.
“And those who refuse?”
Syrah Eidre stared down at Earth, the planet twisting in the black.
“They made their choice, and will suffer the consequences.”
THE END ARRIVES