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The ancient ice stretched into the horizon with no sign of cracks or fissures. Sergeant Charlie Weller knew better. She heard it first. A low hum deep in her ears, creating pressure behind her eyes and in her sinuses.
"Three o'clock." Theo Maigny drew her attention to the right of their glider. A tall figure loomed over the ice, its silhouette twisted, its head too large for its body, its arms almost touching the ground. They were too far awayand the sun was too brightto make out the details, but Charlie didn't need them. Regardless of what the thing looked like, she only had one objective.
Their sentry had warned of two heat signatures. That meant two creatures on the ice, but visible or not, she didn't worry about a second monster shooting off in a new direction. Soren would have told them. They each had a job. None of them slacked. Right now, hers was to get the state-of-the-art glider close enough for Theo to take a shot.
Thirty yards away, they rocked hard to the left. Her hand tightened convulsively on the sidestick, and she righted them almost immediately, but her pulse raced in time with the glider's engine.
She decelerated to better navigate through the shock waves. "What was that?"
"We were hit. I don't think we took any damage, but I think that big fucker up ahead is meant to serve as a distraction. I can't find the second creature."
"Soren!" She jerked hard on the stick, banking toward where the shot had to originate from. They needed to be able to see the enemy. "What's going on? We only see one creature!"
The connection crackled in her ear. "It's there. It has to be."
"With the other one."
"No, it's not."
"The sensors say"
"I don't care what the sensors say! My eyes are telling me something different!"
The glider rocked again. Theo's growl of frustration rumbled in her earpiece, and they shifted slightly as he brought the gun up to his shoulder. Her shoulders and neck ached from additional strain as she braced herself for the shot. They practiced this as much as they couldwhich wasn't much since every bullet was precious. But no amount of preparation could ever be enough.
When he fired, she wrestled with the glider, stopping it from going into a spin from the force of the bullet exiting the barrel.
The rear jackknifed over the ice. Her fingers flew along the trim, compensating for their speed, while she tried not to yank the sidestick and flip them over. Even with the glider's high sides, a roll was the surest path to death. The force against the ice upon impact would either snap their necks or decapitate them, and she liked her head exactly where it was.
Though it took seconds to straighten them out, it felt like an eternity. "Tell me you got it, Theo."
"Pretty sure I hit it but the bastard didn't even flinch. You got to bring me closer."
As soon as Theo finished speaking, the glider lurched again. For a brief, horrible second, she knew they were going to flip. She wasn't strong enough. She wasn't fast enough. She couldn't fight the basic laws of physics. Her shoulders screamed in protest and a part of her recognized she wouldn't even be able to move the next day. If they survived at all. It may have been nothing more than sheer force of will that straightened the glider, but she wasn't going to question it.
"Come on, come on, come on...you fucker." The gun's report exploded over the ice.