By Caleb Fast
The Bulwark, Allegra
“Just run!” Matthew commands when he notices Rav’ian slowing down slightly, “Don’t worry, I’m right behind you!”
Rav’ian heeds Matthew’s words and she quickens her pace. Matthew hopes against all hope that he and Rav’ian are still heading in the right direction. Unfortunately, he can’t be sure thanks to the thick cloud of smoke that he had deployed.
The sniper fire has intensified since Matthew first tossed the smoke grenades. He isn’t certain, but part of him wonders if the Beetle snipers knew that he and Rav’ian had just slaughtered so many of their friends.
One of the sniper beams hits the ground nearly a meter away from Matthew’s feet, snapping him back to the task at hand of running for his life. The ray cracks loudly, and the mud sizzles where it had been hit. Not in the mood to get shot again, Matthew ducks down slightly and surges ahead.
Another sniper bolt strikes the mule and burns a hole into its side. The mule continues lumbering ahead seemingly unfazed through the storm of sniper fire.
“You’re almost there, come on!” Matthew hears someone beckon from ahead of him.
“Ack!” Rav’ian screams as a sniper bolt cuts into her thigh. She quickly stumbles and falls to the ground where she clenches her leg and squirms around.
“I’ve got you,” Matthew calls out as he races over to Rav’ian’s side.
Matthew slides to a stop beside her and he stares as the scorched hole in her leg for a few moments. Another loud crack from a sniper makes Matthew flinch and he immediately scoops up Rav’ian. Scared for his, and Rav’ian’s life, Matthew carries her in his arms the rest of the way to the trenches.
Before Matthew realizes it, he is at the edge of the frontmost trench. He then carefully hops down, doing his best to not jostle Rav’ian, who had fallen silent. Now protected by the trench’s high walls, Matthew relaxes slightly and lets out a content sigh.
“Well, that’s a new one.” A nearby human remarks as they examine Matthew.
“Can one of you get Marie?” Matthew huffs, his arms still clenched around Rav’ian who is beginning to stir.
“Who’s Marie?” one of the Mudders inquires as they cock their head.
Sighing once more, Matthew levels a stare at the small gathering of human Mudders and asks, “Just track down a Toaz, they’ll know who she is. Tell them Rav’ian got shot.”
A few people scurry away in order to fulfill Matthew’s request, leaving just a handful of curious faces who continue ogling him. They remain silent, save the occasional whisper.
After a minute or two, one of the onlookers asks, “So, what’s a Toaz?”
“She’s a Toaz,” Matthew answers simply as he jerks his chin toward Rav’ian. Frowning, he prods, “Are you guys new?”
“Yeah, just shipped in from Galatia,” one of the men promptly replies. Smiling, he nods, “We were told that we’d be able to fight for our freedom.”
“Your freedom?” Matthew asks curiously as Rav’ian mumbles something.
“Galatia’s a prison world, mate,” another soldier with a strange accent informs Matthew as he kicks some mud off his boot. Likely seeing that Matthew isn’t following, he continues, “We gots ourselves in a mite of trouble few years ‘ack. Me frien’s and I are fixin’ to go straight af’er we done ‘ere.”
“So, they just left you guys here on the front?” Matthew asks, trying to conceal his worry.
As much as he liked the idea of having even more humans fighting by his side, Matthew is beginning to wonder if there were any other good humans out there in the galaxy. Between this lot of convicted criminals and all the Fulcrum guys with James, Matthew can’t help but feel out of place.
“Aye,” the man answers as he takes a few steps closer to Matthew. The man is stout, and he has a wild black goatee to match his equally wild eyebrows and hair. Nodding, he eventually introduces himself, “Name’s Reginald Greenfield, me frien’s call me Reggie.”
“Well, Reggie, I’m Matthew,” Matthew nods in return before he looks down to Rav’ian who appears to be on the verge of saying something.
“Good t’ meet ya,” Reggie smiles, revealing a mouthful of metallic teeth. He then motions to two other humans and continues, “This ‘ere be me crew… rather what’s ‘eft of ‘em at least.”
The first person Reggie motioned toward steps forward. She is short and her auburn hair is braided and secured to the back of her head with a length of wire. She examines Matthew a moment before she introduces herself with a smile, “I’m Louise, Louise Glendoveer.”
“And I’m Alois, Louise’s big brother.” A young man sounds as he steps forward. Alois is much taller than Louise and he looks far more rugged as well. To seal his menacing look, much of the right side of Alois’s face is scarred from severe burns.
“Are not,” Louise counters as she narrows her eyes and scowls at Alois. She quickly looks back over to Matthew to explain, “We’re twins—”
“—And I am five minutes older,” Alois finishes with a mocking laugh as he elbows his sister in the side.
Matthew chuckles at the twin’s teasing of one another, but his amusement is cut short as Rav’ian moans in pain. Worried for her sake, he says, “It’s great to meet you all, but I—”
“Move!” Rav’ian sounds, cutting Matthew off.
Rav’ian’s eyes are fixed on something above them, and Matthew’s blood runs cold when he realizes that it must be the mule. He quickly tosses Rav’ian’s form easily a meter from where he is sitting before rolling after her. As he rolls, he sees the various onlookers also diving for cover.
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