Lilly leans against a tree, eyes warily fixed on where the scantid crawled away into the rocks lining the swamp. She cannot hear anything of the marines pursuing her over the sound of her own pulse throbbing in her ears. That hit from the scantid tail hurt, but at least she does not feel the burn of any poison. Lilly realizes that what she did was dumb—all of it, including not telling anyone where she was going. But she cannot just sit here and wait. Waiting is what gets you killed.
She levers herself to standing and starts wading further into the swamp. She just needs to make sure she is not where the marines think she is, and then she will be fine. Once she is confident she has lost them, then she can worry about circling back to Saffron. Each step is a sucking trial, though, as her feet sink deep into mud. With the swamp gasses this is even less pleasant than moving on creep. The effort required, combined with the wounds she has recently suffered, are beginning to exhaust her. The burst of adrenaline she gets when bullets start flying around her again is actually welcome.
The situation has gotten a little out of hand, what with the turret set ablaze and his partner shot, but the Lamprey Unit marine takes a deep breath and steels himself. Their quarry has got to be down there in the swamp somewhere. “We gotta play this one by the book,” he tells his wounded partner. He scans the area and lets off a spray of shots as soon as he sees movement. Then the two marines fan out, staying in line of sight of each other but giving the enemy a harder time to target them both. She throws herself into the swampy thickets, and the chase is on again.
Ah, the doubledecker swamp formation, Lilly thinks in recognition as a quick glance over her shoulder shows the marines carefully entering the muck much closer than she would like. Spread out as they are, they have increased their chances of finding more solid footing through the quagmire. What she has going for her, though, is her comparable lightness. She is not wearing a hundred kilos of power armor. Unfortunately, that means she does not have access to the same drug cocktails as they do. At any moment, they could choose to stim themselves, temporarily increasing their strength, speed, and endurance.
So much for hiding, Lilly decides. She fires Sweetpea back behind her, knowing that she cannot take the marines out with just one beam. She can, however, make life a bit harder for them. Despite the moist environment, the laser ignites one of the trees.
“Think back on our training,” the uninjured marine encourages his partner over their short-range comms. “We’ve got to move better here.” With a unit name like lamprey, they should be able to handle this moist environment.
“This wasn’t covered in training!” the other soldier pants back.
“I thought you said you served on Aiur.”
“What? No. I thought that was you. I got certified for lava planets. What, were you deserts?”
“This was supposed to be a desert. Who knew there was going to be a swamp pocket in this wasteland?”
The marines’ banter is disrupted when a tree explodes into flame between them and their quarry. It must have already been rotten to the core, because it falls over as they approach. They abandon their spread-out formation to help each other past that obstacle and then find that the target has somehow managed to find an even more disgusting part of the swamp for this ridiculously slow slog of a chase. Algae clings at their power armor with each sloshing step they take. The water seems to be interfering with the circuitry in the legs, too. The injured marine struggles even more against the muddy suction.
“We’ll catch this terrorist together!” his partner encourages him. “C’mon! We saw this terrain from above. Well, a glance at it, anyway. Where is she going to come out of here? Maybe we can cut her off there.”
The wounded marine falls into the muck with the next step and just cannot force his way up again. He sinks lower, disappearing under the surface. His partner sloshes over, frantically looking around, but there is no sign of him now. “Lamprey 3, this is Lamprey 2, come in!” he screams into his comm. Nothing. With a growl, he dials up the stims on his suit. Fueled now by rage and chemicals, he charges forward, following the blood trail of the wounded saboteur.
Lilly has made her way out the other side of the swamp and is partway up the rocky scree when she hears the clomp of power armor on stone. She throws a look over her shoulder and sees just one marine still in pursuit. Maybe a scantid got the other. She fires another salvo with Sweetpea, which has had plenty of time to cool down since she took out that one tree. She misses now, though. The speed he is moving is inhuman. Lilly groans to herself and resumes her climb in a hurry; she recognizes a stimmed soldier when she sees one.
The stim is all well and good for the charge across flat ground at the base of the incline. Once the marine hits the loose rocks on the slope though, his lack of precise control costs him his quarry. She is too far ahead, and he cannot think clearly enough to choose his footing as carefully as she does. When the rush of the stim wears off, he is left drained, defeated, and alone. “Base! Base!” he pants into his comm, shaking from the withdrawal as he looks up the steep hill. “Lamprey 2…” He cannot finish. The target has cleared the ridgeline and could be anywhere.