They roam among us, human, but not not quite. Healers on the one hand and Ravagers on the other, a Yin and Yang bound to each other in an eternal war. When Kat is ordered to assist the Russian government suppress a Ravager-backed uprising in St. Petersburg, she uncovers a secret that will change how the world sees her kind, forever.
Chapter 3: A New Kind of Warfare
Maybe it’s just my nerves, but it feels like we’ve been in this truck forever. It should have only taken us fifteen minutes or so to get there. Hasn’t it already been that long? I look at the map on my phone. We’re close to the bridge. No more than three or four hundred yards off. It should just be around the bend, and—
“Pull off, pull off!”
The driver slams us into a sharp left turn, forcing me to spread my legs to keep from flying forward off my seat. The tires screech in protest, but we manage to remain upright and make our escape down an adjacent alleyway. No sooner have turned the corner when a tremendous blast rocks the road behind us. The shockwave ripples down the length of our vehicle, and I feel the rear wheels lift up off the pavement. We spin out of control for a moment, then crash into a light post that cracks and collapses to the ground in a spray of sparks.
"Get out! Keep going on foot!" the Sergeant commands.
I grab my pack and follow the others out the back entrance, emerging into a cloud of pungent, acrid smoke that burns my eyes and sends me into a fit of uncontrollable coughing. I look up the road. The bridge is right there, but we’re cut off by a pair of rebel tanks, marked by the trademark red lion logo spray painted on their sides. There’s no going around. We’ll have to cut through them if we want to cross. I turn to the road behind us and find the burning remains of the second transport in our convoy. Our Russian counterparts were in that transport.
So was Cody.
I’m denied the opportunity to dwell on this when the edge of the building beside me glows bright white, then detonates outwards, spraying concrete and brick outwards in all directions. We drop to the ground and take cover, but a sharp, guttural cry to my left tells me not all of us avoided the debris in time. I look over and see one of the soldiers writhing around, pinned down by a piece of the wall. Two specialists hurry to lift the rubble off of her, but the damage is done. Her leg is little more than a mangled mess of blood, bone, and muscle now.
“What in the hell was that?” the Sergeant barks as I skid down onto the pavement beside the injured soldier.
I place my hand on her upper thigh and try my best to settle my stomach. Her head is tilted back in agony, and streams of tears cut paths through the dirt caked onto her face, but she’s alive, for now. “Hold on. You’re good, you’re good,” I lie, unsuccessfully mitigating the tremor in my tone.
With a deep breath in, I close my eyes and focus my thoughts on channeling energy through my hands into her body, using it to shape the reconstruction of her cellular structures. It’s one of the most serious wounds I’ve ever had to treat before. I can feel myself weakening by the second, and by the time her leg is back in one piece, I feel like eating a Thanksgiving meal and taking a day-long nap at the same time.
“Let’s move!” the Sergeant shouts once I’m finished.
I’m gasping from exhaustion, but I comply and pick myself up. I then help the soldier to her feet and escape down the alleyway with the rest of the squad.
We’ve managed to escape detection so far, but who knows how long that will last. And we still have to get across that bridge. We’re in a building right across the street from it—an art museum from the look of things—but it might as well be a thousand miles away if we can’t figure out a plan to get past those tanks.
The Sergeant gestures for us to advance through a viewing gallery and over to the hallway on the other side. The décor in this room is archaic but elegantly designed, and the interior is filled with marble sculptures of sphynxes and mythological goddesses. It seems a shame to pass by so quickly without even taking notice, but the steady rumble of bombs outside reminds me of why we’re here.
I peer out the hallway window and see the two tanks flanking either side of the near entrance to the bridge, but they’re not alone. They’re accompanied by nearly two dozen infantry, all bunkered down behind thick lines of defenses. Clearly, the Ravager isn't alone anymore.
I groan thinking of all the obstacles blocking the path between us and the courthouse. I already feel like I’ve run a marathon, and who knows how more many people I’ll be expected to heal over the next few hours. Not to mention the fact that there’s the Ravager out there somewhere, and I still have to fight him, alone. He could be dressed in plainclothes, though that wouldn’t make for a very effective disguise, seeing as most civilians have fled the streets of St. Petersburg. More likely than not he’s dressed like one of the radicals. In any case, I’ll know exactly who he is the first time he uses his powers out in the open.
I munch on an energy bar, feeling the calories ever so slowly build my strength back up. It’s not your average energy bar; each one packs about a thousand calories and contains nutrients that are specifically designed to be directly broken down into pure energy. It tastes like mud, but I've never had anything else that fills me up so quickly.
It's built for combat conditions, built for me.
The Sergeant comes to the head of our squad and swings his rifle around his back. “Okay, so I know this isn't how we planned on doing things, but we've still got a mission to carry out," he says. "Now, I'm not asking anyone to go farther than they want. This isn't our war, and no one will judge you if you want to hold back, but in five minutes I'm walking across that bridge even if I'm by myself."
He pauses for several moments, waiting for anyone to speak up—I'm ashamed to admit I'm tempted for a brief second—but no one does, and he continues on. "They're on alert, so we'll only get one shot at this. Healer, I hope you’ve got some magic ace up your sleeve, because we’ll need it.”
I twist my face in disapproval, but then take another look at the sandbag bunkers and machine gun nests set up around the bridge. He has a point.
“Harvey, how's that Javelin you're packing?”
A specialist steps forward and pulls a tube off of his back. “Ready to pull the pin.”
"Okay, set yourself up here and lock in a firing solution on the far tank. When I call it, you press the big button and haul yourself out as fast as you can. Team one, on me. We'll take the charge out front and try to draw out the Ravager. Grenadier, eyes on that other tank. Hit it with what you can. Team two, head around back and flank them as they pull in. Healer, you just need to get us close enough for us to do our job. Good?"
We all nod our understanding and then break up into teams.