Friday, March 11, 2022

Road to Chequn Part 5

 Winter Landscape, Sunset, Twilight, Winter, Snow, Cold

Hit and Run

They were being hunted. Outnumbered, outgunned, there was only one thing they could do. And it would take everything they had to do it.

“Do you sense the enemy?” Wai Kit whispered.

No response.

Wai Kit glanced over his shoulder.

Wai! Still with me?”

Gam Fong compressed his arms into himself, visibly quaking. But he still held his weapon in both hands.

“Cold,” Gam Fong whispered.

The suit kept a man’s body warm. It could not insulate the soul.

“The Outsiders are making their push. It’s time to hit and run.”

Gam Fong stared at him numbly.

“Stay with me! We’ve got to do this!” Wai Kit said.

Gam Fong sucked in a breath and nodded.

Doubling back, the Protectors headed to a copse of trees and lay prone side-by-side.

“I’ll spot. You’re on security,” Wai Kit said.

“Okay,” Gam Fong muttered.

Wai Kit swept left to right, right to left. More figures of black hei entered his field of awareness. But on his display, he saw only unending forests and grim hills. Icy doubt crept into his heart, staining his soul. He knew he had sensed them. Hadn’t he? Or was it another cruel trick of the Abomination?

It didn’t matter. Here was a good place to lay in ambush.

So he waited, and watched, and waited some more.

Something caught his eye. He wasn’t quite sure what it was. But his brain demanded that he look at it. It seemed to be a simple patch of snow. Perfectly ordinary. But…

A depression appeared in the snow.

He blinked.

Another depression.

A third.

A trail.

Keeping as still as he dared, he scanned his entire frontage.

Eight shallow trails snaked across the snow, moving from tree to tree. Watching them in his peripheral vision, he caught traces of movement, but no shape or form.

He peeked at the other side of the river. He thought he saw movement, but there was neither trail nor silhouette to confirm his suspicions.

They were sending out scouts, Wai Kit decided. Their shamans must have bestowed invisibility on a contingent of warriors, and sent them forth to hunt the intruders. If there was a squad of eight on this side of the river, there was probably another squad on the other side. Mentally he doubled that number, coming up with a full platoon.

A platoon of hunter-killers sounded right. They would be the vanguard, leading the way for the rest of the horde. Once the Protectors were eliminated, the Abomination would commit its forces.

Two Protectors couldn’t stop the tide.

But they could slow it.

“Prepare four grenade-mines,” Wai Kit whispered.

Right before the rest of the convoy had departed, the Protectors had given the pair all the grenade-mines they could spare. Each man had eight, four in their kangaroo pouches, four more mounted on their backpacks. Gam Fong crawled over to Wai Kit and emptied the munition pouches on his pack.

“Set them to mine mode,” Wai Kit said.

Gam Fong took a munition in both hands, then gingerly twisted the setting wheel clockwise. As he continued to prime the other bombs, Wai Kit continued to speak.

“I want you to take two grenade-mines. I’ll take the other two.”

“Okay.”

“When I give the word, I want you to throw your bombs at the edge of the wood to our front. One to the left, one to the right.”

“One to the left, one to the right, got it.”

“I’ll deploy mine along the river bank. After that, we’ll fall back to the patch of woods far behind us. Then we’ll swap roles.”

“Understood.”

“Let’s do this.”

Gam Fong placed two grenade-mines next to Wai Kit. The senior Protector double-checked that the kid hadn’t accidentally pulled the safety pins, that the bombs were indeed set to mine mode, then scanned the forest.

The scouts continued their infiltration. They were now on the verge of crossing a fifty-meter stretch of open land. Wai Kit scanned the woods beyond them, looking for the rest of their comrades. It was a long shot, but you’d never know.

He came up with nothing. No shamans, no high value targets. Just as well. They were coming too close for comfort.

“Stand by, stand by…” Wai Kit whispered.

He rested the crosshair on the leading hunter-killer.

Exhaled.

Fired.

A high-energy bolt struck the invisibility cloak. It seemed to split in half and bend around the monster. But that was merely the visible light of its payload. The rest it bored into the beast in a blast of heat and light, stripping the cloak.

Hot on the heels of the first shot, Wai Kit fired again. The Outsiders responded immediately, deluging the woods in a hail of spikes.

“Toss the mines!” Wai Kit yelled.

The kid flowed into action. He pulled the pin on a mine and threw it to the left, primed the other and tossed it to the right.

“Fall back!” Wai Kit ordered.

The kid ran.

Wai Kit covered him, blasting away at movement, at trails, at anything that presented a target. Spikes screamed all around him, smashing into trees and branches and snow. They were coming closer, closer, pinning him down for the final kill.

Wai Kit maintained a steady cadence of fire, riding the delicate balance between volume and sustainment. His hei points ran down by the hundreds, then the thousands. Thirty thousand, twenty nine thousand, twenty eight…

“Set!” Gam Fong called.

“Moving!”

Wai Kit scooped up the other two grenade-mines and ran like a rooster.

Munitions pressed against his pecs, he sprinted for the second-tallest tree in view. He crooked his right finger and pulled the pin on the mine in his left hand. He mirrored the process for the other hand. Then:

“Suit: Bear, Bear, Bear!”

Suddenly energized, his arms felt weightless and free. He dropped the pins behind him, twisted his body, and threw the right-hand mine in the direction of the river. He torqued the other way, then flung the other munition at the river bank.

“Suit, terminate Bear!”

He skidded to a halt by the tree. Spikes whistled through the air. Snow exploded. Branches collapsed. Trees groaned.

“Gam Fong!” Wai Kit yelled.

“Here!” the kid shouted.

Off to the left, a reflective strip floated in mid-air. It was the only piece of the kid’s suit that the helmet goggles could see.

As the Outsiders continued to lay down suppressive fire, Wai Kit scooted over.

“Give me your mines!”

Gam Fong turned his back to Wai Kit. Wai Kit hurriedly pulled all four grenade-mines off the backpack. As he worked, soft pops awoke in the forest.

The munitions had awoken.

Sixty seconds after deployment, the outer case of the grenade-mine would pop open, unfolding into four sections, like the petals of a flower. The force flung the munition into the air. Then it would land upright, stabilized by its petals. Moments later, it would fire four tripwires in every direction. Anything that tripped the wire would receive a faceful of frag.

Dialing the munitions to mine mode, Wai Kit sent a flurry of thoughts towards the Outsiders.

Come on, chase us, you know you want to, come and destroy us—

A terrible psychic roar blasted from the Abomination. His brain shook. His eyes watered. The world trembled before it.

And a mine detonated.

It was one of the mines he had thrown in the direction of the river. The enemy had tried to flank them. Now they were paying the price.

“They’re getting close,” Wai Kit said. “Same drill as before. You initiate with a shot. I’ll toss the mines to cover our front. Then you throw the mines at the river, and we fall back.”

Gam Fong said nothing.

Wai! Still here?”

Gam Fong shook his head.

“Yeah, yeah. What the devil was that?”

“The Abomination is angry.”

“Look. Isn’t it closer?”

Wai Kit looked up.

A black pyramid overshadowed the valley. The enormous edifice towered over the surrounding hills, casting them in deep shadows. He couldn’t help but imagine that it was swallowing up the very stars, slowly but inexorably eating up all light in the universe. Deep inside he knew he’d only seen a tiny component of the colossal creature, and already he felt his nerves unwinding, his thoughts disintegrating. It was a thing too enormous to ever be understood by man, and to see it in its entirety is to be shattered forever under the weight of such knowledge.

“The enemy is coming. Pay attention,” Wai Kit urged.

Another mine detonated. Then another. The scouts had reached the woods. In moments, they would overrun the Protectors’ former position. Then they would expose themselves again.

“I see a trail,” Gam Fong said. “Eleven o’clock, ninety meters, near the tall tree.”

A shallow trough appeared in the snow.

“That’s one. Keep an eye on it,” Wai Kit said.

He swept the tree line. But all he saw was the steadily encroaching warrior. The Outsiders were becoming more cautious, keeping their forces behind cover.

“Light it up,” Wai Kit ordered.

Gam Fong fired.

The first shot stripped away its cloak. The second burned it down. The third attracted a hailstorm of return fire.

Gam Fong screamed.

Wai Kit flung a mine to his left. Then turned and tossed it to his right.

It bounced off a tree.

It landed next to him.

He held his breath.

His mind blanked.

“I’m hit!” Gam Fong yelled.

Reason rushed into Wai Kit’s brain.

“Can you move?” Wai Kit shouted.

“I— Yes!”

“MOVE! NOW! I’LL GET THE MINES!”

Gam Fong rushed into the darkness, his gait unsteady. Wai Kit picked up the remaining two grenade-mines and followed.

The primed mines popped.

Wai Kit didn’t dare to think of the death in his midst. He simply pulled the pins on the two munitions in his hands, powered up his suit muscles, and threw them in the direction of the river.

Hypervelocity spikes chased the Protectors to the next concentration of trees. Gam Fong dove behind a bunch of roots and gasped in pain. Wai Kit slid down next to him.

“How bad is it?” Wai Kit asked.

“Got my right shoulder,” Gam Fong hissed. “Feels like the bone is broken.”

“What about your left arm? Is it any good?”

Gam Fong gasped in pain. “Yeah.”

“Get your mines ready. All of them.”

Warning chimes sounded in his helmet. The heat gauge flashed red. Soon, the suit would go into emergency mode and expose the radiators fully. At that point, stealth would be severely degraded.

But every last bit helps.

“Switch to combat mode,” Wai Kit said.

The capacitors discharged. Power flowed into his artificial muscles once more. The cooling fins extended, now blowing off heat. Snow melted all around him. The combat software activated, his IFF beacon sparked up, a blue outline appeared around Gam Fong’s silhouette.

As Wai Kit scanned, Gam Fong prepared his grenade-mines. Awkwardly he fished them one by one from his pouches, then dialed them to mine mode.

Trees rustled. Wind howled. Another mine went off. Cosmic hate roiled off the Abomination, the rage of a god seeing its creations despoiled by some insect. Black hei scourged the world. Wai Kit swore it was sending orders, casting magic, marshaling its forces for a final charge.

The Protectors couldn’t kill all of them. But they could bleed them white. And maybe, just maybe, delay them long enough for the relief convoy to arrive.

Gam Fong set the last grenade-mine down. Then he twisted around and reached into a pouch.

“What are you doing?” Wai Kit whispered.

Gam Fong held up an Outsider core.

And squeezed.

“You sure you want to do this?” Wai Kit asked.

“We don’t have a choice!”

“What do you think it will do?”

“Supercharge my prisms. Top off my cores. Heal my wound.”

“And permanently stain your soul.”

“We’re in grave danger. How can I not use it?”

“Is the situation hopeless?”

“We’ve got an Abomination bearing down on us, we’re outnumbered, we’re—”

“Is the situation hopeless? Yes or no?”

“And if I say yes?”

“Then consuming the core won’t help. If you must die, then die with a clean soul, lest you suffer a worse fate than death.”

“What if I say no?”

“Then why consume the core? You don’t need it.”

Chuckling, Gam Fong shook his head.

“Unbelievable.”

“It’s how I survived for so long,” Wai Kit said.

“Leopard Two to Leopard Three, come in,” Sam Yung interrupted.

“Leopard Three here. Go ahead.”

“Leopard Three, we have returned to the village, and we’re loading up the civilians.”

Wai Kit blinked, then looked at the clock at the upper right corner of his display.

“You’re over three hours early!” Wai Kit exclaimed.

“I radioed ahead before we left. Chungfa City mobilized a relief convoy. We met them halfway down the road. We swapped drivers with them, then headed back to Chequn.”

A pang of relief escaped Wai Kit’s lips.

Zetin zedei,” he whispered. “How long do you need to load the civilians?”

“Ten minutes, maybe less. We’re stuffing everyone aboard now.”

“The Outsiders are committing their forces. We’re harassing them, but we’re outnumbered. We’re pulling back after ten minutes.”

“Got it.”

Wai Kit tapped Gam Fong. “You heard that? Ten minutes. That’s all. You can hold out for ten minutes, right?”

Cold invaded Wai Kit’s chest. Shivers ran down his spine. Ten thousand voices gnawed at the edges of his hearing. He couldn’t begin to imagine what the kid was experiencing.

Gam Fong nodded.

“Ten minutes? I can hold for ten hours if I have to.”

“That’s the spirit. Now put the core away.”

The junior Protector obeyed, his movements increasingly stiff and jerky. Wai Kit hoped he could continue to hold out. At least, long enough to survive this.

Snow crunched. Twigs snapped. Heavy feet shuffled. Scanning the world before him, Wai Kit saw footsteps in the snow, shadows flitting among the trees, darkness spreading across the sky.

The Outsiders were coming.

“I’m going to draw them towards the river,” Wai Kit whispered. “Once you hear the shooting, throw the mines forward. Then fall back.”

“Roger.”

Wai Kit slunk off to the southeast. He still had four grenade-mines remaining, and he wanted to make the most of them. Keeping to cover and concealment, he moved from tree to tree, seeking where the forest was densest. He picked a thick tree to make his stand, then oriented himself towards the enemy.

More trails appeared in the snow. A full squad of warriors. They were moving parallel to the tracks he and Gam Fong had left behind, following their trail yet wary of more traps. Wai Kit steadied himself, his breathing deep and regular.

A fresh footstep appeared. He aimed slightly ahead of it and fired.

The bolt caught the scout in the lower leg. Its foot flew off in a bloody spray. The monster toppled over, hollering at the top of its lungs, then aimed its left arm in his general direction and sprayed down the trees a volley of spikes.

Wai Kit was already in motion. As projectiles ripped into the tree, he headed towards the river, hopping over roots, ducking under branches. He rounded a tree trunk and snapped off a couple of shots towards the Outsiders. A fresh fusillade followed. He scooted away, making his way to the river bank.

And on the other side, a squad of Outsiders unleashed hell.

Storms of high-velocity spikes screamed around him. Dropping to the snow, he cursed under his breath. He thought he was drawing them into an ambush. They’d been ready for him. Keeping low, he crawled back, back, away from the fire—

Tongues of white flame arced across the river and fell among the forest.

Snow exploded into steam. Branches ignited. Flames leapt from tree to tree. Burning liquid dripped from the branches, melting through the snow, igniting the ancient undergrowth.

Wai Kit fired a quick burst, hosing down the general direction of the shaman. He picked himself up again, scooted to the rear, found a tree, sprayed them down again.

Soft pops echoed in the woods ahead of him.

“Mines deployed! Moving out!” Gam Fong shouted.

The junior Protector’s weapon shouted also, drawing attention to him. A blizzard of spikes fell his way. Red swatches appeared in his display, the suit computer suggesting the enemy’s location. Wai Kit shifted left, then loosed a fusillade of suppressive fire.

He fell into a rhythm. Five shots in one direction, fall back, another five shots, fall back again. When he ran out of forest, he held in place and ripped off a few more shots. His hei points fell rapidly, now breaching the 19000 mark.

“Set!” Gam Fong shouted.

“Moving!” Wai Kit yelled.

And ran.

Spikes nipped at his feet. Fireballs burst around him. Invisible warriors gave tongue to battle cries. He switched to Rooster mode, becoming a blur.

And a spike slammed into his chest.

The spike punched through the suit’s outer camouflage layer. The inner layer hardened, becoming as strong as diamond. The spike shattered, but so did the defensive shell. The kinetic energy bowled him over, knocking him facedown into the snow.

What the devil was that? He’d been shot from the front?

No time for that. Ignoring the pain in his chest, he rolled to the left. Snow geysered where he’d once lay.

“The enemy has flanked us! They’re boxing us in!” Gam Fong shouted.

His weapon screamed defiance into the dark. Warriors roared in reply. Ice water flowed through Wai Kit’s veins.

Not here. Not now. Not when they were so close.

“Leopard Three, Leopard Two! We’re on the walls and we are providing fire support! Keep your IFF on!”

Heavy guns roared. Bolts slashed the darkness. Wai Kit propped himself up on his belly. His suit computer identified a blurry mass as a warrior, aiming off to Wai Kit’s right, at Gam Fong’s position.

Wai Kit fired, blasting its extended arm. The warrior howled in pain. He fired a short burst, drilling through the tree, hoping to score a vital hit. Then he got up and ran.

A second spike struck him in the back.

An explosion rocked his helmet. Alarms rang. A cold, wet sensation covered his lumbar region.

But he was still on his feet. He could still fight.

Glancing at the side, he checked his suit readout. Armor at 83%. Penetration in the suit pack. The suit’s defensive nanofluids were flowing to the hole, trying to patch the opening.

The water bladder must have been punctured. Over time, the spilled water would freeze. That would complicate things. But it didn’t matter. Either he survived long enough to fix it in safety, or soon it wouldn’t be a problem.

He stumbled past the tree line. Instinctively he sought cover behind a tree. A thick one. Nearby, a volley of spikes sawed down a weak tree. A blurry mass peeked around a tree off to his left. A red silhouette appeared around it. Without thought, without hesitation, he lifted his weapon and blasted it one two three four times and it fell.

Gam Fong screamed.

Wai Kit spun to his right.

A warrior pinned Gam Fong to the ground, mounting him in a full guard. Right fist holding down his good arm, it raised its left hand, ready to pulverize him. Gam Fong bucked and threshed, but he couldn’t throw off the beast.

Wai Kit shot it in the side.

It turned to him.

He shot it in the head.

It fell.

Gam Fong threw it off.

An Outsider screamed. Wood crunched. Feet thundered. Instinctively Wai Kit threw himself forward.

A colossal monster bulled through the dark. Arms shielding its head, it bashed aside a flurry of branches and kept going, roaring at the top of its lungs. Wai Kit dodged it by a hair and stumbled against a root. He caught himself with his hands, spun around, and pressed the trigger.

BEEP

Insufficient power.

The warrior crashed into a tree. Hurriedly Wai Kit fixed his bayonet, moving towards Gam Fong. Howling, the Outsider turned to face him and retracted its forearm plates. Wicked claws shot out, extending well past the length of its knuckles. Charging at Wai Kit, it raised its left fist, preparing for the killer blow.

Wai Kit counter charged.

“Suit: Dragon, Dragon, Dragon!”

Power poured from the three fields, energizing the suit’s entire body. His right foot rushed in with a powerful rooster step. His Type 77 raised high, pointing at the sky, covering his right side. His lift knee shot up, protecting his low line. The weapons collided, human steel against alien bone, deflecting the blow.

And he paused.

Glaring at the Outsider, his gaze bored into its face. He blasted it with his intent, his hei, the essence of wrath manifest. Anticipating a high line attack, the Outsider raised its right arm, covering its head.

And now Wai Kit struck, dropping low and bursting in with his left foot, an eagle diving on its prey, thrusting his bayonet into its right kua, into the fold that joined the pelvis to the leg.

The warrior folded around the blow. The spike bayonet sank deep, forcing it down. Unbalanced, the warrior fell onto his back. He retracted the blade, then thrust into its exposed throat and fired.

The blast obliterated its head.

Stepping down from Dragon mode, Wai Kit rushed over to Gam Fong. Lying on the ground, the kid moaned, completely insensate. The hei around his head was blackened and incoherent. He must have taken a blow to the head. At least the innermost layers of the suit had sealed off the wound, stopping the bleeding.

“Gam Fong! Can you hear me?”

Gam Fong groaned.

Firelight rushed behind Wai Kit. Hypersonic cracks thundered anew. The Outsiders were renewing their assault. Now that the Protectors had destroyed the blocking force, they no longer feared friendly fire.

“Leopard Two, Leopard Three. We are pulling back to the village. I am bringing back a casualty. We need all the suppressing fire you can deliver.”

“Understood. Suppressing now.”

A storm of light screamed overhead. Blizzards of spikes answered. Heavy bolts pounded the earth, interspaced with lighter bolts. Wai Kit dug into a thigh pouch and drew a rescue tether. He clipped one end to a D-ring on the top of Gam Fong’s backpack. He lifted a flap over his pelvis, revealing another D-ring, and attached the other end of the tether. Weapon in both hands, he backed up, heading towards the walls.

“It’s almost over,” Wai Kit said. “Just hang in there!”

Groaning, Gam Fong reached around, taking his weapon in his left hand.

“Can you hear me?” Wai Kit pressed.

“Yeah,” Gam Fong muttered.

“We’re going to get out of this! Stay awake!”

Gunners dueled in the dark. Spikes blasted into rammed earth. Fireballs traced deadly arcs across the river. As he walked backwards, Wai Kit blasted away at red patches in his field of view. Now and then, Gam Fong blasted away too, awkwardly aiming with one hand.

Wai Kit glanced over his shoulder, avoiding the trees. He released his weapon and drew a grenade-mine. He set the munition to mine mode and tossed it at the river. He threw his second at the forest ahead. The third he picked a random angle between the woods and the water and tossed it.

“Open the gates!” someone shouted.

The gates swung open. Guardsmen stepped out, shooting into the dark. Wai Kit took control of his weapon and backed up into the village. 

A long line of trucks filled the main road. Some were Shepherds, others a mishmash of civilian trucks thrown haphazardly together. The front of the queue was already moving off. The final Shepherd in line waited for them, the doors thrown wide open.

Sam Yung rushed over to Wai Kit, then looked down at Gam Fong.

“How bad is it?” Sam Yung asked.

“I’ll… live…” Gam Fong muttered.

Wai Kit detached Gam Fong and stowed the tether. Sam Yung picked up the wounded man and carried him to the last Shepherd.

The last militiamen on the walls fell back. First the guardsmen, rushing for the trucks. Then a team of Protectors leapt down from the walls, cradling heavy guns to their chest. Fireballs and spikes pounded the walls, chasing off the humans. Searing light flashed, and the gates caught fire.

“Come on!” Sam Yung called. “We’ve got to go!”

“Wait!” Wai Kit replied.

He drew his final grenade-mine. Rotating the selector wheel, he ran for the gate. In the distance, other munitions detonated. Every blast brought a fresh wave of alien scorn, pounding his brain with renewed violence. He sucked down a breath, fighting through the pain, and dropped to his knees.

He scooped out a handful of snow from the ground. Placed the munition at the bottom of hole.

Pulled the pin and the safety lever.

And ran.

“Let’s go!” Sam Yung yelled.

The wounded man stood by the final Shepherd, beckoning Wai Kit over. Wai Kit sprinted as fast as his augmented legs would take him. Behind him, past the battered walls, monsters howled in rage and triumph. Cold winds blasted through the roads, seeping through his suit to freeze his soul.

Wai Kit clambered aboard the Shepherd, squashing himself among his brother Protectors.

“Last man!” he yelled.

Sam Yung returned to the vehicle commander seat.

“Move out!” Sam Yung ordered.

The driver hit the accelerator. The Shepherd shot forth, following in the tracks of the trucks ahead.

Deep booms carried down the street. Fireballs arced over the walls, exploding among houses. Through the window, Wai Kit saw Elder Che’s home burn. The firelight illuminated the piles of supplies they’d been forced to leave behind.

Another town gone, Wai Kit thought. Another light extinguished.

The man next to him moaned in pain. It was Gam Fong, he realized.

“Gam Fong, still alive?” Wai Kit asked.

Gam Fong nodded. “Yeah. I blacked out for a bit, I think. What happened?”

“We’re evacuating.”

The northern gate collapsed with a loud crash. The howls of warriors filled the town.

The final mine exploded.

Chew on that, he thought.

The convoy headed south. Through the gates, down the valley, to warmth and safety and civilization.

“Pretty dramatic for a first job,” Wai Kit remarked.

Gam Fong shuddered. And chuckled.

Too much drama.”

“If you want to stay in the Protectors, you’ve got to be prepared for this.”

“Not sure if my heart can take much more of this.”

“Strengthen your heart hei.”

This time, everyone in the truck laughed. Then Gam Fong sighed.

“Was this worth it?” he wondered.

“What is?”

Gam Fong gestured with his good hand.

“What’s the point of fighting if the Abominations are going to win anyway?”

“Every day humanity survives is a victory.”

“We can’t fight them. They’re going to wipe us all out. We barely survived this time. What about—”

“We survived. That’s what matters.”

“But—”

“No buts. We lived. We won. Now go rest. You’re going to need it.”

Gam Fong fell into a sullen silence.

Wai Kit sighed. He hoped he believed at least half of his words. Steeling himself with a breath, he looked out the rear window.

The Abomination was there.

Where Chequn once was, the Abomination now stood. All traces of human settlement had been utterly erased, absorbed into the immensity of the thing. It wasn’t a pyramid, he realized, but a… a shape. That was the only word he could find. Its upper half had the pointed tip and angular sides of a pyramid, but its lower half was a chaotic sea of alien angles and fractal branches and rotating facets and other things that pained his eyes just to look at. And it was huge, higher than the mountains, reaching forever into the sky, swallowing all that was into itself. There was no resisting it, there was no fighting it, there was only death or flight.

Unbidden memories rushed through his mind. Many-angled things floating through the sky. Hordes of monsters overwhelming soft humans. Objects, buildings, people falling apart and disappearing under the gaze of cosmic gods. Desperate chants of holy scriptures in a futile bid to hold them back.

He shook his head. Cleared his thoughts. And extended his awareness.

Rage emanated from the Abomination, so hot it could flash snow to steam and melt steel in an instant. Hate poured off every square inch of its being. It greedily consumed all around it, yet it could not have what it truly wanted: the flesh and bones and souls of living men. Behind its enmity, Wai Kit sensed an incredible, inexpressible, undeniable frustration.

What emotions he sensed, he knew it was but the tiniest drop in the ocean that was the Abomination’s emotions—if indeed an Abomination could be said to feel anything at all. Its sheer psychic mass would crush the soul of any man who got too close, then drown it forever in an abyss of never-ending torment.

But it did not pursue the humans.

It could not pursue them.

Which meant that, for all its immense power, it was still limited.

One day, humanity would discover the limits of the Abominations and take the war to them.

One day, humanity would reclaim the world.

One day.

And maybe, just maybe, he would live long enough to see that day.

He leaned back, closed his eyes, and allowed himself to dream.

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