“Oh, Iah. The blinkin’ red light is on!” Driver said pointing at the console.
“What?,” Iyo said. The red light only ever lit as an emergency alarm. Sometimes a yellow light blinked if sensors detected motion. But the red light never blinked.
“What does it mean?” Driver asked.
Iyo scanned the surface images from the periscope. A young woman sprinted through the ruins, hefting a bundle in her arms.
“She’s got a baby,” Iyo said.
“That’s no baby. It’s too big. Must be a wounded soldier,” Driver replied.
Iyo frowned at his little brother and nodded. “You’re right. Let’s signal her.”
“What’s she running from?”
Iyo examined the screen. “I dunno.” He twisted the knobs. The woman wore hard to identify desert coverings.
“She’s marathoned wearing desert clothes,” Iyo muttered, “–from way past the desert ledge.”
An enormous robotic monster burst through the crumbling wall behind her. Old stone crumbled to the ground. The young woman curled her body around her bundle. Small shards of rubble danced across her back.
“Oh man,” Iyo breathed. “Driver, you see her braids?”
Driver was silent.
“The mark of a royal bodyguard,” Iyo thought. The mechanical beast stopped. The statuesque girl stood resolute and still. Flawless. The girl stared up like a boxer at the machine’s pilot. The spindly vehicle stood twenty Imperial units above the ground.
“Robot’s royal origin, too – from the markings,” Iyo said.
Behind the deadly machine, the crumbling wall cracked and broke again. A small troop of Queen’s Bloodguard poured out with bayonet rifles gleaming
The bodyguard lowered her held bundle to the ground. The Bloodguard’s rifles raised up. Her palms went up in surrender. The enemy weapons trained on her. A Bloodguard tossed a pair of shackles toward her. They clanked on the hard surface.
“Shoot the mechanical,” Driver said pointing at the robot.
“OK,” Iyo said. The defense guns up top swiveled under his command. He targeted the large machine beast. His steady hand squeezed the trigger. Iyo anticipated an explosion.
The projectile ricocheted off the wall behind The Bloodguard.
“Direct miss,” breathed Iyo.
The braided bodyguard seized the nearest distracted man. She whipped him in front of her pushing him as a shield while charging the rest. Her rapid punches and kicks toppled armored guards like limp dolls. Seven lay on the surface. The fight was over fast.
“Whoa,” Driver exclaimed — saying what Iyo was thinking. The girl tore away her desert disguise, revealing a blue officer’s uniform. Blue like the flag of Shiloh. As the loose material fell, it caught on the golden hilt of a hidden sword. She drew the sword from its scabbard – and rushed the vehicle. The robot scuttled away from her crab-like on four multi-jointed legs. The girl pounced forward with new energy slicing through a metal robot limb.
“Whoa!” Driver repeated. The walker’s automatic guns fired spasmodically. The rounds getting closer to the bodyguard. She rolled underneath the machine and skewered the front end. Black lubricant spilled out like gored blood. The frantic pilot maneuvered the mechanical beast. In one slice, she hacked off the front two legs and slid back to her bundle. The mechanical beast toppled forward cracking onto its head. A puff of vapor filed the pilot chamber. Then flamed.
“Driver, give her a signal,” Iyo barked. Driver flicked a switch and looked into the periscope. A laser dot blipped to life in front of the bodyguard. She froze. But then relaxed, if the laser light was hostile she knew she’d already be dead. She scooped up her protected bundle. Driver spun the dot – a Scarab rebel-militia signal. The sign said, friend. Her shoulders relaxed as she sheathed her sword. She looked for the unseen source.
“Show her where we are,” Iyo said. Driver moved the joystick in a more jagged movement meaning underground. The bodyguard furrowed her eyebrows and looked around again.
“I don’t think she’s Scarab,” Driver muttered.
“Yeah,” Iyo said. “Try something more public.”
Driver signed for food then pointed at a maintenance cover. The young woman didn’t hesitate. She pulled the lid cover off with little difficulty. Tired, but strong. Something only years of training could do to you.
“Ok, she’s coming,” Iyo stood up, hands sweaty. “It’s OK. Driver, run to the mess hall. Get people prepping the medics station.”
“Yes-sir!” Driver grabbed his bag and ran down a short hallway to an elevator. Iyo headed in the opposite direction towards the entrance of their hidden bunker. Dim lights and creeping wall moisture gave the hallway a green other-world color. He sputtered to a halt as he reached the ladder. The bodyguard dropped to the ground, bundle held in one hand, long five-barrel pistol in the other. Iyo suspected she was a blonde on the night vision screen. But standing before him in living-color was a redhead. A tall muscular redhead holding a gun.
“State your name and rank,” She said and cocked the pistol hammer. And that’s when Iyo felt deep trouble. Her beautiful voice sent his heart into a flurry. He cleared his throat.
“Forward Scout Iyo of the Scarab militia,” He said, straightening up. “Also an enemy of Queen Lamia and the Bloodguard.”
“I know what the Scarab militia is,” The bodyguard said, not lowering her gun.
“I sent another scout to prep the med room,” Iyo said embarrassed. Of course, she knew what the Scarab militia was.
“Lead the way… Iyo.”
“I’m unarmed,” He said raising his hands in surrender. “You don’t have to point that thing at me.”
“I saw you take down seventeen guys and a giant robot, you don’t need a gun. You could kill me with your ankles,” Iyo said.
She smirked then released the hammer and stuffed the pistol into a holster at her back. “Does that intimidate you?” she said.
He was silent – love struck.
She wrinkled her nose. And sneered.