BEACON #10

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Tamar then turned on her thrusters and lifted up through the hole she had created, firing expanding rounds into the hallway. The shots started as pea-sized until they were fired, starting a chemical reaction that enlarged them to the size of a fist in seconds. The tiny cannonballs not only ripped through the Neighbors close to Tamar, they went through their bodies and ripped through those standing behind them.

Come on!” she screamed. “Is that all you have?! Ahahahaha!” Tamar fired round after round in both directions, turning the hallway into a killing floor. All the while, she laughed like a hyena as five, ten, fifteen xenos fell dead.

Herod grabbed Zabda and flew up after the colonel, diving through the open doorway to avoid Tamar’s wild gunfire. The Neighbors tried to mount a defense, firing their spears at the gigantic woman- but while the bolts of superhot plasma were enough to melt through the Gawain, they sizzled against the reinforced plate of the Beowulf.

Nothing!” Tamar screamed. “You can’t hurt me! You have nothing! Ahahaha!

Tamar ducked her head like a linebacker and ran forward, grabbing a Neighbor by the snout and effortlessly crushing its skull into jelly. She stopped and threw her weight to the side, sandwiching a Neighbor between herself and the wall and obliterating its body. A few Neighbors went to flee in the opposite direction, but Tamar pivoted and killed all three with a trio of expanding shots.

In less than ten seconds, Tamar had reduced around two dozen Neighbor warriors to piles of meat, entrails, and viscera. “So?” she asked Herod breathlessly. “How does that stack up to your best, private?”

Herod considered the question. “You could kill me with precious little effort,” she said finally. “There really is no substitute for experience, colonel. Would you teach me some of your techniques sometime?”

“I host advanced combat seminars sometime,” Tamar replied. “Would love to see you there. Centurion, how’s it going with the fan?”

Zabda turned around from the faintly pulsating mass of flesh in the corner of the room- a Neighbor biocomputer. “It’s… something is strange here,” Zabda murmured. “I don’t understand.”

“What?” asked Tamar.

“This citadel… I’m trying to parse the readouts… if I’m reading this right, they narrowly fended off our attack but are in bad shape. Another hit will finish them.”

“Rather over-optimistic,” Herod commented. “…Hold on. Fended off? We landed here earlier today.”

Zabda nodded. “I can’t read any of the Neighbors language, but there are some numbers here. Just about the only thing I can figure out is that these Neighbors were in bad shape long before we arrived…”

The one who had grabbed Herod outside, like he had something to tell her. Something urgent. A black pit formed in Herod’s stomach. “But-“

“Look, this is really interesting, but we gotta go,” barked Tamar. “Reinforcements will be here soon, we didn’t exactly come in quietly.”

Herod chose not to mention that it was Tamar who had come in screaming. They left the way they came, and before they were out, the shooting abruptly stopped. The tailored virus had worked its awful magic on their enemies.

The trio rejoined Amalek at the launching ground. “I saw everything through Zabda’s display,” he said, removing his helmet. “Not bad, private. An adequate performance considering your lack of experience.”

“Aw, be nice to the kid. She’s got a bright future.” Tamar mussed Herod’s hair with one of her skillet-sized hands. “Say, why don’t you transfer her to my cohort? She’d fit right in with the vanguard.”

“No can do. She’s all mine.” Amalek put a hand on his chin. “Where’d you learn to fight like that, private? Advanced hand-to-hand, complex martial arts, all applied with butter smoothness. Let me guess, you picked it up in your classified assignment?”

Herod sighed. She was already tired of this line of questioning. “Something like that. Was my performance to your satisfaction, colonel?”

“Hmph.” Amalek’s eyes were dark, almost insectoid as he scrutinized her. “For now. I’ll be keeping an eye on you. Welcome to the 119th… corporal.”

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