|1937 Hours, June 8th, 2558
Aleria, Elduros System
The battle outside the makeshift bunker was winding down now, with brief exchanges of rifle fire and the odd explosion sounding out over the sun-scorched rocks. Sat with her back to the wall in a room filled with corpses, Aila Jokela clutched the old MA37 to her chest and sighed, closing her eyes. Since a near-miss from a mortar shell had knocked out their generator, the only source of light in came from the numerous bullet holes perforating the corrugated iron walls ahead of her. Half a dozen men had been caught in a spray of machine gun fire as they rushed out to defend their encampment. Most had died instantly, though a couple still groaned, quietly bleeding to death.
Aila opened her eyes, looking down at the dark stain across the left leg of her cargo trousers. Heading out at the rear of the group, she'd been hit by a ricocheting bullet and dropped almost instantly. While she'd immediately injected a combat stim to numb the pain and prevent her from going into shock and had hastily wrapped a bandage around the injury - thankfully the bullet had gone right through - it wouldn't be enough to halt the bleeding forever, and without the ability to walk she was stuck here for the time being.
"Somebody's got to come," Aila whispered to reassure herself. "People know we're out here."
It was a comforting thought, to believe that help was coming, but in reality few cared about some no-name courier guild members, caught out here in the desert. Outside the bunker, shouts went up from their attackers as they regrouped, checking their numbers as they yelled for others to begin searching the nearby buildings. Aila's group had been lucky enough to steal a sizeable shipment of water meant for crop irrigation on some far-off colony a few weeks back, and news had spread quickly of their find. On this drought-scourged planet, fresh water could sell for a ridiculously high price. It could have been any guild that had attacked them, or even multiple groups looking for a cut of whatever they could salvage. Single shots now rang out in the distance; they were executing survivors.
"Aila," a voice came wheezing out of the darkness as a body stirred. "You alive?"
He grunted in acknowledgement, having his body across the sandy floor towards her. Illuminated for the briefest of moments as he moved through a shaft of light, Aila saw his face, pale and soaked through with sweat and blood that dripped down into his sodden beard from a wound on the side of his temple. With great difficulty, Mustafa reached into a pouch by his belt and fished out a small, palm-sized device, pushing it towards Aila with a shaking hand.
"You, you've got to-"
As she reached out to receive it, the older man suddenly slumped forward, either dead or passed out from blood loss. Aila grabbed the device, turning it over in her hand before she realised what it was: a detonator. She felt a lump form in her throat as she realised what he wanted her to do. As a contingency against an attacking force, Mustafa had set up a bomb in the rocks by their base, cobbled together from an array of old explosives meant for mining asteroids. It wasn't nuclear by any means, but certainly had the power to take out this base and anyone around for a good few miles. Aila flipped up the switch, revealing a bright red detonator.
"Why me?" she moaned, feeling the pain creeping back into her leg as the stimulant wore off.
The enemy smugglers would be here soon. By the sound of things, they had already pillaged the old barns where they kept spare supplies for their salvaging vessels, and were heading straight for the bunker. If she was lucky, they'd just shoot her and keep on going. That wasn't going to happen. Aila was no stranger to death, having been under fire on numerous occasions and having shot a few people in her time, but it was another matter entirely to take your own life. Perhaps one of the others could have done it without hesitation, but all of her instincts went against pressing that button and obliterating everything around her. Suddenly cries echoed down towards the bunker's entrance. Among them Aila could make out one word.
Whatever happened next seemed to pass by in an instant. The ground trembled as missile after missile landed outside, blowing apart their attackers as they scrambled back towards their vehicles, taken by surprised after a surprisingly easy raid. A second volley struck, then a third. After that, all was quiet, save for the sound of ship engines drawing ever closer. Aila tried to stand, now feeling rather shaky as she tried to raise her rifle. A shadow moved down into the entranceway, and she immediately squeezed the trigger as someone came into view.
The gun jammed.
At the end of the corridor stood an incredibly large man, clad in dark combat armour. Over his left forearm, exactly where Aila would have shot him, shone a Kig-Yar energy shield. A flashlight winked on, falling on Aila after looking over the corpses of her team. She could only stare back at him as he towered over her.
"You with Mustafa's group?" the man called. "We're with the URF."
She nodded, taken aback by his appearance. "Yeah."
"Good. We're here to help. I'm Magnus."