A bedraggled pair of moth-eaten rodents, each no bigger than a man's fist, scurried their way along the dark passage way. Pickings were poorer than usual; many of their fellows seemed to have disappeared, mysteriously and without a trace, not even a last desperate scent, while more and more recently the ground would shake, and the hot living breath of nature would claim more victims for its pyre. It was getting so that all they could find to eat were their own ashes.
And now, something new clattered along in the darkness. Sounds; voices. Giants! The giants were back - yes, definitely them, not the others. In the small minds of each rat, millions of years of evolution snapped into action and pressed the large red button in their minds that carried a very simple instruction; run!
As they scampered into a nearby crack in the wall, the sounds behind them drew closer, the clumsy shambling and hushed voices of the larger creatures reverberating down the passage way.
"Look, you are sure this is the right way, yes?"
"Scanner says its up ahead," came the reply. "There's a stairwell right there; we also, " the terse voice continued, "have a second passage that seems to lead north; should be a... maintenance chute that leads up into one of the buildings next to where those artillery tanks are sitting".
"Maintenance chute"? Said a third voice, incredulously.
"He means a drain. Honestly, these people have ways that'd make a kroot blush".
"I guess you didn't see what that Shaper did in the back of the Orca last ro'taa, then?" Piped up a fourth voice.
Above them, the ground shuddered with the tremor of a heavy impact far above them. Dust fell from the shadow-laden ceiling, clouding what little light they had.
The first voice hissed, as if talking through clenched teeth. "Belt up, Saal! This isn't the academy anymore - you're on The Line now; the least you could do is try and act like it!"
In the darkness a figure that had, up until now, said nothing, merely shook it's head in quiet bemusement.
"Right, listen up! Archer One, with me - move on the stairwell. Archer Two? With La'rellia. See if you can take out those missile tanks and ease the pressure off of the Xor'vesa teams. All clear?"
There was a chorus of static-laden clicks.
"Good. Tau'va Shi!"
The figures moved into action, one line heading straight down the tunnel, the other peeling off to follow the course north. At the corner of the junction, the last two figures paused opposite each other.
"Were we ever that young?"
"Technically, yes. A drain???"
"That'll just happen to smell worse than a Krootox with a gastric problem".
The other shadow rolled his head resignedly. "Probably, so don't take your helmet off. Have fun".
"We'll try. Keep your head down, Laâ€˜bryn".
"You, too, Rell".
As the two figures hurried off after their teams, neither noticed the two muffled squeaks in the darkness, nor the sickly, wet and very organic suckling sound that then retreated back into the darkness.
The other would bide it's time.
Firestorm - Shoot lots and watch what drops...