They were trained to march for hours at a time if necessary, but they had come a long way over this broken territory, and it had taken them almost an hour to break through the new walls that the paradigm squall had created, blocking their route. It would have been no joke even with a full clearing crew, and never mind the fact they had a captive to keep an eye on. Not just any captive, either, and there were still miles to go before she could radio ahead.

She was aware of her men’s weariness and thirst, almost more deeply than her own: one of the side effects to her mental abilities that her training had never quite managed to dull. Enough for now.

“Water break,” she called. “Fifteen minutes. You’ve earned it. Take a rest.”

There were sighs of relief as her men pulled off their face plates to breathe more easily, taking a seat on the ground to rest their feet. Still standing, she pulled off her own face plate and closed her eyes, enjoying the feel of the air without that suffocating mask.

Removing it revealed her grey eyes, and skin that would have been pale had it not been warmed by her dark auburn hair, her best feature. Today it was braided back neatly for the sake of the mission, but not even the sweat of a hard day’s work could dim its copper brilliance. Underneath her body armour, her shirt clung to a lean, petite body and was tucked in beneath a gun at her hip, in addition to the Garrick rifle she carried easily, like an extension of her own arm.

She was Adree Aeslin; daughter of the leader of the Evinthei and next in line to head it, commander, crack sniper and scout, and she looked it, every inch.

She surveyed Lailenus Street thoughtfully as she sipped from her canteen. It hadn’t suffered as much damage as she remembered. No doubt if they searched, they’d find Earthborn territory markers scattered all over the place. It would be worth cleaning them out if they could set up a staging post here. It wasn’t safe for a party to be out this deep into the ruins without somewhere to get fresh water and supplies.

“Commander Aeslin?”

She turned to see one of her men standing there, at attention. “Ma’am, what about him?” he asked, with a contemptuous jerk of his head.

Adree looked past his armoured shoulder to where Athellus was sitting – or rather, where his captors had dumped him, his hands still bound. He was watching them with a dark look on his face, sweat and dirt staining his face and his clothes. Under the dirt were the bruises and marks of his capture, including the bloody nose he had gained as a consequence of punching one of the soldiers. Adree had made no attempt to stop her men using more-than-necessary force to capture him. However complex her own feelings, duty was simple.

“I’ll handle it,” she replied, and walked across the street to her prisoner.



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