Snow Angel: Chapter 49

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Chapter 49: Best Laid Plans

Snow's whole life changes when the winter solstice arrives.

 

“Autumn, make it harder for it to jump around! Lisbet, pulse blast the legs!” I shouted.

 


 
Author's Note: Hey, everyone. I was hoping to have this and Red posted on Monday, but my week has been really busy and exhausting. As always, thanks to Big Closet and to all my readers for your support. I hope you all enjoy. Further chapters are available on Patreon. ~Amethyst.
 


 
Chapter 49: Best Laid Plans

Before we set out once again toward the tower, I quickly issued orders. “Risha and Marti, I want a full spread of micro-drones on sentry duty and keep your particle beam weapons at the ready. I know it’s dark and these woods are pretty thick, but those drones should at least give us a little bit of notice when something gets close and tell us what direction it’s coming from. Everyone else, stick close together and keep your weapons in long range mode unless something gets in close. If you don’t think that your primary weapons are practical here, then switch to your holdout weapons and machetes. This forest is going to make close quarters combat annoying so let’s stop them from getting close in the first place if we can.”

Everyone was all business as they responded, “Yes, Wing Commander!” and immediately switched their weapons to long range mode. The exceptions were Marti and Risha who were sending out micro-drones and keeping their onboard weapons hot and ready, and Karina and I, who needed to keep our holdout weapons at hand. Then, as we used our machetes to hack and slash our way through the thick brush of the forest as quickly as possible in an attempt to get close enough to the tower for Risha to send out a micro-drone, I had Connie patch a call through to my grandmother to apprise her of our current situation.

-= Connecting call. =-

It took a moment for my grandmother to answer, a long moment where I was scanning the forest around us for danger with every sense I had. Finally, her comforting and familiar voice responded to the call. -= Snow, you’re checking in earlier than scheduled, what’s your situation? =-

“We’ve run into a bit of a snag, Wingleader,” I quickly replied. “One of the Demons here has a sonic attack that has everything in this forest converging on our position. We’re closer to the central spire than our MIST so we’re going to try and make it there if Risha can get us access. Hopefully we can make a stand there or get inside and let the automated defenses do the job for us. Phantom Wing and Shadow Wing are going to try and thin their numbers a bit to take some of the pressure off us.”

There as a long sigh on the other end before my grandmother spoke again. -= This was supposed to be a scouting mission, Snow. You were supposed to gather intel about the terrain and Demons in the area in preparation for the main operation next week. =-

“We were also supposed to get the access codes, so the main operation stood a chance in hell, Wingleader,” I countered. “We tried to keep it quick and quiet, but the tower is surrounded by thick rainforest, and we needed to approach from the ground. Risha said that, even while cloaked, the MISTs have an active IFF transponder. The Demons can’t detect it, but the tower’s security system will if we enter their airspace and will attempt to shoot us down without proper access codes. Also, our unfamiliarity with the terrain and the Demons here was bound to cause problems. How were we supposed to know that the stupid drop bear would have a sonic attack that burst all our eardrums and sounded the alarm for every Demon in the area?”

Another sigh was followed by the First Angel’s answer. -= You’re right, Snow. We knew going in that there was the potential for even a scouting mission to go horribly wrong. Sira calculated only a seven percent chance that the scouting mission would go smoothly and as planned. We were hoping that if things went to hell you could retreat to your MISTs and scrub the mission. Given what you just told me though, it looks like you’ll have to go with the contingency plan. If you think that that you’re better off trying to gain access to the tower now, do it. Keep us posted on your progress, Snow. I’ll let Her Majesty, Sira, and our contacts in Ashburn know about the possibility of the comms system going down soon. =-

“Yes, Wingleader,” I replied.

-= Call terminated. =-

We continued to hack and slash our way through the brush in the direction of the central spire as quickly as possible. Both of our sister wings had deployed and were fighting off Demons to keep them from reaching us, but they were pretty far out while finishing their scans of the area and there were still plenty of Demons in the woods between them and us. By the time that we got to a position where Risha could send one of her micro-drones into the tower, we already had to count on Risha and Marti to warn us of six Demons attacking from both the brush and the treetops.

Except for a sole drop bear, the Demons were all unfamiliar to us and our holdout weapons only had enough penetration to do serious damage to the drop bear. For the others we had to count on the Avatars’ particle beam weapons, Lisbet’s pulse cannon, and Autumn’s Light Foil to take care of them. It was frustrating that the Demons, and hacking through brush, were slowing us down so much.

Under better circumstances we could have run that mile in three minutes or less, but it took us over twenty minutes to get close enough to the tower for Risha to send out her little spy. At least in full armor mode, our HESS armor was able to protect us from that damn sonic attack. They also had cooling and air circulation systems to keep us from overheating and running out of air, or I probably would have fainted from the heat, and the sun wasn’t even due to rise for another couple of hours yet.

Finally, Risha called out, “I am in range to send a micro-drone and attempt to infiltrate the tower’s security systems and there is a small clearing ahead where we can make a stand. This may take several minutes, so I will need you to keep the heat off me until I am finished. Speaking of heat, Demons are approaching from our left and to our rear.”

She had barely gotten the words out before turning to the left and using her particle beam to blow the head off a massive demonic snake that leaped at us from an overhanging branch. A moment later, something huge and furry leaped at us from behind, covering a good thirty feet in a single bound. It was at least nine feet tall and seemed to balance on its hind legs, using its long tail to keep it balanced. Its forelegs were shorter and ended in vicious claws and its mouth full of razor-sharp teeth almost found their way around Karina’s throat before she teleported behind the Demon and thrust both of her punch daggers into its back.

The black-furred Demon screamed in pain and fury and attempted to buck the Devilkin off its back, preventing her from doing anything but digging those blades in further and holding on tight. It’s bucking and jumping around was making it difficult for us to aim properly for any weak spots without risking Karina. “Autumn, make it harder for it to jump around! Lisbet, pulse blast the legs!” I shouted.

Autumn focused on the Demon, a look of concentration on her face as she increased gravity’s influence on it. Mid-jump the Demon hit the ground with a booming impact and Lisbet, who had stumbled to the ground while trying to avoid the Demon’s erratic jumping and slashing, rolled to her feet and fired her pulse cannon at its legs as it fought to stand under the increased gravity. A cracking sound emanated from its right leg as the Demon’s screams intensified and I moved in close with my machete.

Karina was able to use the opportunity to free one of her blades and, using the other as an anchor and her wings to steady her, the Devilkin thrust the freed punch dagger deep into the side of the creature’s neck, causing an eruption of blood. The Demon fell to the ground, spasming as its life left it and Karina rolled off its back looking a little bit queasy. “Are you okay, Karina?” I asked.

“Yeah, I just need a minute to catch my breath and let my stomach settle,” she replied. Then she closed her eyes and took several deep breaths before getting to her feet and giving me a thumbs-up.

Once all of us were back on our feet and back on guard, I had Risha lead the way in blazing a trail toward the clearing that her micro-drones had spotted up ahead. Fortunately, it wasn’t that far away. Unfortunately, it was not the ideal location for making a stand against the Demons that Risha and Marti’s micro-drones detected approaching from nearly every direction.

The clearing was barely forty by fifty feet by and was only a clearing because nothing except moss would grow on the pile of rocks that passed for ground alongside the stream that ran through it. Between the very uneven terrain, moss, and loose stone, the footing was going to be treacherous and even if we had been able to get the MIST this close without setting off the tower’s air defenses, I wouldn’t have tried to land it there. It certainly wasn’t a place that I would choose for a fight when surrounded by Demons unless I had no other choices, which I unfortunately did not.

The only real advantages that this site gave us were the water, the fact that we could see anything coming at us from upstream or downstream, and that we would all have space to use our weapons slightly more effectively than in the dense trees and brush. Heather was going to use her Glaive mode though because I couldn’t see anything that she could use as a sniper’s perch. There was no high ground except for the trees around us and she would not have the time to set up shots in such a constrained space and, even if she did, she would be leaving her back potentially open while we were effectively surrounded. It was far better for her to be mobile in this situation.

As soon as we reached the center of the small clearing and Risha had taken direct control over one of her micro-drones to pilot it to the tower, and hopefully inside so she could access the security systems, I directed the others. I knew that Risha could multitask with the best of them, but her top priority was going to be getting that tiny drone inside the tower and accessing the right computer. She would still be able to contribute to the fight, but I wanted her to focus on her task unless she was in direct danger and needed to defend herself.

“Everyone, form a defensive circle around Risha until she’s finished what she’s doing, but we’re going to try to let her work unless something big comes up and we need her Minimax. The only place that we’re going to have a clear view of enemies is upstream or downstream, everywhere else we’re not going to get much notice before they hit us. Risha and Marti are going to try to let us know if their drones see anything that will come at us from the brush, but keep your senses peeled too, we know far too little about this terrain, or the Demons that live here,” I explained.

Then, once everyone had formed a tight circle around Risha, I added, “If something is coming that you’re not sure you can handle with your weapon, call it out so someone else can cover you. That’s the best we can do if they come at us in ones in twos, and we should be able to handle things that way. Lisbet and I will be our heavy hitters for anything big or if we start dealing with groups, but if that happens the fight is going to be chaos, so just try to keep one another covered. Marti, if anyone gets hurt and needs medical attention, let us know so we can cover your position.”

With that done, I had everyone perform a quick weapons check. Heather and Autumn also took a moment to check on the injured sugar gliders, who seemed to be napping in the protective pouches that they had formed for the tiny critters on the right hips of their HESS armor. It was a far too short reprieve before Risha’s voice called out, “Lisbet, something big coming your way!” This was quickly followed by the sound of Lisbet’s weapon firing, and then explosions and inhuman screams rang out behind me.

As tempted as I was to check on whatever the Harekin had fired upon, and whether it was still moving, I stifled the urge and kept my eyes on the brush and trees in front of me. I had my own area to cover and Lisbet would call out if she needed support. No more explosions or screams followed the first batch though, so I had to assume that she had finished off her target.

I had already switched my weapon to Gatling mode, so I was prepared when my turn came a moment later. Marti called it out, but I had already heard it coming and a moment later something big and scaly emerged from the brush, shaking the ground like thunder with every stride. It was some sort of huge lizard thing, and the brush that we had been having trouble wading and hacking our way through barely reached the thing’s knees, if it had them. It moved on all fours, most of its torso and parts of its head and neck were covered in some sort of natural armor plates, and it didn’t so much move through the trees as uproot and knock aside any that were in its way.

I only had a moment to assess the damn thing because it was moving fast for something so big. Letting loose with my pulse gatling, I tried to concentrate my fire on the less protected scaly underside of its neck. Fortunately for me, it was a large target. Blood sprayed as my pulse blasts pulverized its chest and lower neck and it fell to the ground with a crash, its momentum bringing it to a stop just a few feet shy of my position. The problem was that now it was blocking my view, until I jumped up onto the Demon corpse’s armored back to turn the disadvantage into an advantage.

For several minutes, things almost fell into a pattern of brief silences followed by one of the Avatars calling out a position, and then an eruption of fire to take down the approaching Demon. That didn’t last long before we started getting hit by waves of multiple Demons at once and despite our best efforts, some were getting too close for comfort. It got to the point where Lisbet and I couldn’t risk using the full destructive potential of our weapons for fear of injuring our teammates with stray shots or shrapnel.

Now, this had become a pitched battle, and it was complete and utter chaos. It was all that we could do to keep one another covered as we dodged each other and the mounting number of Demon corpses in the clearing. We moved from fighting one Demon after another, only avoiding those that were fighting one another so that they could weaken and or kill one another and save us some work. These Demons weren’t converging on us because they were working together, that went against the Demon nature of eat or be eaten, they were here and pissed off because of something in that drop bear’s sonic attack.

Risha later theorized that there was something about the sound frequency that not only drew the local Demons toward the drop bears, but also sent them into a frenzy, and each time one of those damn Demons screamed it was exacerbating things by keeping the forest’s Demon population in that frenzy and drawing them toward us. In fact, there were probably Demons duking it out all over the forest with whatever they ran into first that would make a good meal. Not that any of that mattered right then, not when we were trying to keep ourselves, and each other, alive.

Any strategy beyond the fastest way to take down whatever Demon we were currently fighting was thrown out the window. This was a brawl, pure and simple. It was only because of my heightened senses, especially my ears and nose, that I was able to keep track of my teammates in the chaos that this fight had become and keep Risha covered while she did her work. All the same, I could occasionally see one of her throwing knives flashing through the air to embed itself in a Demon’s throat or eye, or a particle beam from either her or Marti to finish off something that was giving one of our teammates a little too much trouble.

The only good thing about this was that none of the other Demons appearing were near as big as that lizard thing I had taken down earlier. Lisbet and Heather quickly took advantage of that by following my earlier example and jumping up onto its back, giving themselves a perch to shoot anything coming from the brush, upstream, or downstream with high powered pulse blasts and sniper fire. Heather was also using the position to watch our backs and call out targets, and if anything got too close to their perch, she switched her weapon to glaive mode to impale them with its long reach.

That left Karina, Autumn, and me in the thick of it. The Devilkin was using her wings to hover above the battle, and her chain scythes were whipping all over the clearing, reaping the lives of Demons. Autumn gracefully avoided whipping chains and Demons alike to strike at weak spots with her rapier or laser pistol mode. Failing that, she would draw them into someone else’s line of fire and pin them with gravity, or just toss them into another Demon and get them to take care of one another for us.

I was currently engaged with an eight-foot-tall monstrosity that stood on its hind legs and resembled a human in general body shape. Its muscular arms and legs were covered in patchy black fur, it had hooves rather than feet, and hands that resembled bird feet with long and wickedly sharp talons that it was trying really hard to slice me to ribbons with. It was covered in blue-black scales in spots where it wasn’t covered in fur and had a somewhat flat and reptilian face with large horns sprouting from where the ears would have been on a human.

When it wasn’t trying to slash me with its talons, it was trying to gore me with those horns, and those scales were hard to penetrate, especially while dodging Demon corpses and the creature’s blows. The general terrain was making it hard to get any momentum in my swings too, which meant that I was leaving shallow gashes at the best. I was also in the wrong part of the battlefield for Risha or Marti to get clear shots at it with their particle beam weapons. Lisbet had tried shooting it with her pulse cannon, but that only seemed to piss it off and Heather was facing the other direction while fending off a pair of Demons that were trying to assail their perch with her glaive.

I positioned my sword to block yet another blow from those talons, sparing a glance and a moment’s concentration on the stream to my left as I used my gift to freeze some of that precious water. This thing was nearly as strong as me and I was straining to keep my sword between it and me as it continued to push downward. At least its attention was on me rather than the large icicle that I was forming. “Snow! Behind you!” Lisbet’s voice called out.

I quickly moved aside, taking my sword with me. Without us there holding him back, the Demon fell forward, crashing into a massive snake Demon that had been about to strike at me from behind. Instead, the serpent coiled tightly around my opponent, squeezing him tightly and forcing the air from his lungs until I impaled him from behind with my spike of ice and then cut the head off the serpent to ensure that neither of them would be causing us anymore grief.

As I looked around for another opponent, one of Karina’s chain scythes whipped past me to eviscerate something that vaguely resembled the tree kangaroos that Risha had pointed out early on during our walk through the unfamiliar rainforest. Shit. We were killing Demons on the way here and had no time to properly destroy the bodies, so the local animals who investigated those corpses were starting to turn. At this rate, we were going to be at this all day, and the sun hadn’t even risen yet.

We were extremely fortunate not to have received any debilitating injuries yet with this deluge of Demons, but that luck couldn’t hold out much longer. As if summoned by my thoughts, Autumn’s scream had me turn toward her once I finished splitting a vicious little Demon in half with my massive blade. Some sort of huge demonic dog had managed to get in close while she was finishing off another Demon and sank its teeth into her left shoulder, piercing her HESS armor. Gritting her teeth, she stabbed the Demon with her rapier, but while the pain encouraged the large canine to let go, it was still standing and circling her warily.

Autumn sent the Demon flying toward one of the larger trees by changing its personal gravity, and it crashed hard enough to splinter the wood. Fury boiled up in me and I didn’t give it time to get up. Even as I called out to Marti to take care of the injured Fay, I rushed in to separate the beast’s head from its body. I had had enough of this; these Demons were going to pay for hurting my Autumn.

Seeing that Marti was already at Autumn’s side and looking her over I leaped up to join Heather and Lisbet atop the downed giant, armored lizard’s back. I couldn’t use my gatling mode here, there was too much chance of hitting one of the others as they attempted to finish off the two dozen or so Demons left alive in the clearing. As I leaped back up to the high ground to get a better look at the battlefield, I reached out again with my gift for the water in the stream, freezing every single drop that passed through the clearing and moving the resulting ice to target those closest to the downed Fay.

Spears of ice shot from the ground to impale nine of them, clearing that half of the battlefield and allowing us to focus on eliminating the remainder. A shot from Heather caused one’s head to explode, while Lisbet’s pulse cannon turned one of the smaller Demons that was going after Risha into paste. The blonde Avatar was already focused on another as the light of a particle beam erupted from her hand to blow a hole through its chest. Karina’s chain scythes flew outward to slice through a drop bear’s throat, its attempted scream only emerging as a dying gurgle as her other scythe blade finished off the smaller Demon that the drop bear had been pummeling.

I leapt from my position, bringing all of the weight and momentum that I could muster as I intercepted upon one of those large, black-furred leaping Demons that had been coming straight at our perch. It turned its head causing my blade to narrowly miss its skull, but I carved a deep wound through its torso from shoulder to foreleg as blood gushed out the opening. It was dead before it hit the ground and I landed on my feet to search for my next target. It wasn’t until Heather called, “All clear!” that I realized that we had taken them all down.

“Lisbet, stay up there and keep your eyes and ears peeled for any more company! We’ll leave as soon as we know Autumn can be moved,” I ordered as the rest of us rushed to check on Marti and her patient. I wasn’t the only one who was worried about her, even Heather was worried enough to not try to act tough about it as we knelt on the ground beside her.

“How is she doing Marti?” the pink-haired Fay asked in obvious worry. Autumn didn’t look good; her face was pale, and she was in obvious pain. From the appearance of the tiny sugar glider that was curled up on the injured Fay’s chest, it looked like her little friend had at least come out unscathed from its protective pocket on her right hip.

The medical Avatar looked up from her patient and tried to give us all one of her usually cheery smiles. “She got some nasty wounds from that thing’s teeth, but I have bandaged them up and she hasn’t lost much blood. It had some serious jaw strength though, Snow, she’s lucky that she didn’t lose the arm, but Autumn’s shoulder is practically shattered. Her nanites are already repairing the damage, but this could take even them a while to repair completely. I would suggest two days with no strenuous activity.”

I frowned at that news, but two days was a lot better than how long it would take her nanites to completely regrow her arm and it could have been far worse. “Can she be carried? Risha what’s your status on accessing the tower?” I asked the pair of AI in turn.

“It’s my shoulder, not one of my legs, Snowy, I can walk just fine,” Autumn protested weakly.

I allowed my love and concern for her to show on my face as I insisted, “You’re being carried, if you can even be moved at all. Please don’t make me have to make that an order, Autumn.” That, and a good look at the expressions of the other concerned faces surrounding her, stifled any further protest from the Fay.

Her silence allowed Marti to answer, “She can be carried, so long as she isn’t jostled too much, Snow. I would suggest that I do it, I won’t get tired, and we might need you and Risha for combat.”

I had been planning on carrying her myself, but Marti was right. She wouldn’t tire, and if I really wanted to keep her safe then I needed to be ready to fight at a moment’s notice. I silently nodded and turned to Risha expectantly.

“I’ve managed to get my little friend inside, and I’ve got access to the security computer now. I’ll be able to send airspace access codes to our sister teams whenever you’re ready and we’ll be able to access the tower safely and disarm the security from ground level,” she explained. Then she quickly offered with a concerned look at our future mate, “I can remotely pilot our MIST here now that I have the airspace access codes. I might not be able to land it here, but I can keep it in a low enough hover that we can get onboard without too much trouble. Autumn can rest in a cozy cot that way instead of being carried around and we can get to the central spire faster.”

I took one look at Autumn and muttered, “Do it, Risha.”

© 2021-2024 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.

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Amethyst's picture

But let's keep in mind that this story has been going for almost fifty chapters now.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

lucky

Amethyst's picture

Yep, things could have gone a lot worse, and they were fortunate to have only one team member suffer serious injuries.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3

Glad to see you active again.

Glad to see you active again. Hope there wasn't much going wrong.

Well, it looks like we found the sheep. And crocodiles - mixed into the upright demon with hooves.

There has to be a point of diminishing returns on the 'consuming demon makes you demon', or there wouldn't be any animal life on the planet that wasn't a demon.


I'll get a life when it's proven and substantiated to be better than what I'm currently experiencing.

Thanks

Amethyst's picture

It's good to be at least trying to get back into a regular posting schedule. I was mostly being kept busy with work and getting my First Aid and CPR certification. I'm certified now though and hours at work seem to be lightening up too.

Yup, there are some nasty Demons down under.

You're right on that point. The parasites can only survive for so long outside of a living body and will die off rapidly once their current host is killed. Most wildlife have learned to be cautious when Demons are around and won't approach bodies unless desperate for food too. Plus and Demons that are born that way (like the Seed-borne) can build up an immunity of sorts which is why many Seed-borne don't have the parasites in their systems, it's been many generations since their ancestors were infected. Only more recently infected, like the twins via their mother, tend to be carriers.

*big hugs*

Amethyst

ChibiMaker1.jpg

Don't take me too seriously. I'm just kitten around. :3