I watched the slight bendiness of the brush as Darrian eased his way up close. It really was the only way I could track him.
He was using as much of the brush to break up his thermal outline as he could, so he was going all over the place while still moving forward. He said he'd been a thief, so he had probably ended up in this business the same way another friend of mine had been recruited. He'd been caught.
I saw the brush movey bits stop and quickly scanned for whatever had made him freeze. There was the blurriness. Up a tree as usual. I drew my pistol and made sure the suppressor was on tightly. My target was about twenty feet up, same as me. It was frozen and was obviously watching and waiting. The shot was about thirty meters. Pretty easy from a stable firing point , but I took my time and braced carefully; lining up on where the head would be. I wasn't sure my pistol rounds would penetrate the helmet, but I was fairly certain all its thoughts would be on something other than Darrian.
I watched calmly as it changed its position slightly. It was obviously trying to figure out what it was looking at when it was looking at Darrian's funky thermal signature. It was going to come to a decision soon, and I really didn't want my new bud with a plasma ball provided heart removal, so I took the shot.
I was down in a dryish stream bed when I felt eyes on me again. Turning my head slightly I saw a reddish blob perched in the tree above me. As it was adjusting position, I heard two loud snaps followed by two rapid thuds and then it was falling to the ground next to me.
It was as big as the first one and less than two feet away, so I did the only thing I could think of; I grabbed its helmet and Quicksilvered to cool it as much and as fast as I could.
The reaction was fairly impressive even by my jaded standards. It roared and thrashed and started clawing at its helmet. Hot climate creatures obviously don't like freezing metal applied to their faces. I got clear and retreated back towards Buffy's tree while it was still thrashing. Then I heard a few more roars.
"I think company is coming!"
I couldn't see what Darrian did, but it was of the impressive. I had gotten two aimed shots off fairly quickly and had obviously startled or stunned the hunter from hanging on so he took a two story header towards the ground. Right after he had hit there was a roar like he was being flayed alive and a blur rushing towards me yelling about "Company coming!"
I re-holstered my pistol and scanned the trees. Soon enough there was a blur. I didn't wait, just started hosing it down with Baby. Baby is a Degtyaryova-Shpagina Krupnokaliberny M (for Modernized) Soviet heavy machine gun. She fires bullets bigger than my thumb out of cartridges as long as my hand. She was originally built in 1952 and I rescued her from a nasty Soviet era bunker under Moscow where she had been forgotten for fifty years or more.
Normally the DShKM is mounted on a vehicle or a fixed position because she weighs some 35 kilos...unloaded. But to a Slayer...
Even at her slow rate of fire, Baby puts a LOT of lead down range and unfortunately the hunter that was approaching caught at least five rounds of 12.7 x 108mm Armor Piercing Incendiary and super alien or not, that had to hurt.
I heard Boyer's PKM open up and then the sound of an M4. Then came the whine and slam of the hunter plasma weapons. Luckily they were firing fairly blind as well. I started laying down suppressive fire towards some of the blue flashes and was rewarded with a pretty good roar for my work. I was about to change targets when I realized I had used up the whole belt and had to reload. Rolling off the branch I landed in a crouch next to Claire and Bobby just as Darian scrambled up and became visible.
I dodged and weaved through the brush heading back towards the tree when it sounded like a thunderstorm had started above me. Soon I realized it was that cannon that Buffy had been lugging around. There were roars and explosions and even more gunfire, so I stayed low and arrived just as the woman herself jumped down from her perch.
"Time to go?" I asked.
"Yup!" Buffy replied popping the 'P'. "They have the advantage in the woods, we need to get them out in the open. Darrian; You, Claire, and Bobby get moving with the body. Boyer!" she called out.
"On the move!" came a yell.
"Leap frog time! Go prone till I burn off this belt!" she started firing that huge gun of hers in a slightly up-angled pattern. Trees were being set on fire and the noise was deafening. I took the opportunity to grab one arm of the alien she had killed while Bobby grabbed the other. Then the pair of us followed Claire back towards the vehicles while heavy gunfire continued behind us.
Boyer got to my position and past it, while the hunters were hopefully still keeping their heads down from Baby's long burst of suppressive fire. Then he took position and fired while I moved to and past him. His PKM is a lot smaller than Baby, but he has 250 round belts and it has a higher rate of shootiness. It balances out in the long runny thing.
"Status?" I called over our comms.
"One, three-quarters. You?" Boyer replied
"One, three-fifths," we were both uninjured so far and down on ammunition but not critically so. We could do this. I made a decision.
"Okay, slow fall back. Give our guys a chance to get clear.So let's lay down some smoke," I started pulling a white smoke grenade from my MOLLE gear.
AN-M8 smoke grenades have been the US Army standard forever. They're actually pretty neat in that they can put out a huge amount of smoke in a stupidly short amount of time. Also they burn pretty hot so the smoke screws up thermal vision. Soon there was billowing white clouds surrounding us and we could start moving back. We would take turns firing short bursts at various angles and drop our remaining smokes as we went to keep up the cloud.
"What is it?"
"If they were smart they'd circle to do a hammer and anvil."
"Yeah, I'm counting on it."
Basically what Boyer was worried about was that they would have a couple of guys behind us making a racket while their buddies tried to move around the sides and get in front of us. I slung Baby and drew my sword.
"What's the plan?"
"I'm going to hammer their anvil. Keep making noise and moving forward. I'll make a hole."
Taking off at a slow-ish quiet trot I moved parallel to our path and swung wide to get into an angle they would not be expecting. These guys were stalkers and hunters, not soldiers, that was obvious. If we could keep them in our area of expertishness...I was pretty sure we could kick their trespassing butts.
They liked trees and height so I looked for them up high. They were spottable if you knew what you were looking for and where to search. Look up by branches and that tell-tale blurry rainbow effect gave them away. Of course Slayer-sharp eyes helped.
"Gotcha..." I whispered