I never would have expected to miss that desert. Back then all I had to deal with was one slightly touchy maniac with a sword. And at least it was only me at risk. This new job was certainly not working out like I thought it would. To say things were going badly would be quite the understatement. Like saying, oh well the generator only overloaded a little bit, it wasn't that big of an explosion....
The new rift had opened only 2 days ago, so close it might as well have been in our front yard. All the undead pouring though it made a beeline straight for us. Usually when the zeds came through there was nothing close by and they tended to spread out. It made them easy to isolate and pick off, but time consuming to wipe out. In this case.. I guess they could smell us right from the gate, and they had no where else to be apparently.
Some idiot in the field decided to lead his whole platoon straight at the whole mess of them before I had even been told. They didn't even wait for air support. The poor fool must have been out for glory.. I guess he didn't know much about the Sleepers.. They were routed in less than an hour and by the time I got onto the coms, I realized I had no control on the field at all. The returning survivors we not careful at all. There were several small outbreaks inside the walls in the first few hours, and a barely contained panic. Even if I had all my resources at my disposal and standing by, our little outpost didn't stand much of a chance.
I made the decision to pull all the drillers and mining bots and send them into the field along with whatever combat drones we could get going on short notice. The complaints were just short of mutiny at first, but even the loudest shut up when I showed them the sat. images of the hoard coming our way. The cost of losing those drills meant my little colony was essentially a multimillion dollar waste. Still it was the only way we stood any chance at all. It was that or watch the civilian population get torn apart and turned into more of those... things... There was no chance of a quick evacuation even if I got authorization for it. Not that I really had the authority to do it.
I used low flying scouting drones to pull as much of the hoard off as I could and had my troops dig in for the long siege. I pulled as much of my remaining air support as I dared to start a limited evacuation, but our only real hope was getting the word out. We needed reinforcements, and we needed them immediately. The trouble was comms kept going down and no one on the other end seemed to be taking the situation seriously. The trouble was the early outbreaks.. As soon as the nanites from the undead got on one of our computers, it started flooding every network it could get to with viruses. We had problems across the board as half the computers in the compound started malfunctioning or shutting down. That's the other serious problem fighting with the Sleepers. It's not just the dead they infect and raise, its also anything electronic. We could contain the infection in the people, but not the computers.
"No you don't understand, we are getting pushed back across the board. We are fighting our own fallen bots as much as them.... It's a mining outpost we weren't outfitted for combat.. No I don't care that he's busy tell him right the hell now." I gritted my teeth while I tried to reason with the secretary on the line. In my other ear I had the unfiltered feed from the battlefield. It wasn't going well and every so often I could hear a burst of static when someone started screaming into their headset and the auto cut-off kicked in. When the static on the outside line cleared again I yelled into the receiver, "We are getting killed here! We need the cavalry NOW."
One of the com officers jumped up from up from his desk and rushed over to me. "Sir! urgent report coming in. Something just tore half our destroyers out of the air. Channel 6."
"That can't be right...", I grumbled as I reset my connection. The outside line was dead again anyway. Though the interference I caught the word Dragon. The shock on my face would have been comical in any other situation I'm sure. "You're certain? It's a dragon?" The reports started pouring in. What was left of my air support was shredded. Definitely a dragon but what the hell. Whose?
"Sir confirmed dragon...", the voice wavered, "It's heading this way."
Before the outside lines were cut we had confirmed locations on all the Flame's dragons and Ao Shun. There were no Verore for a hundred miles assuming no other rifts had opened. Who the hell would attack us at a time like this? We were already being overrun by the Sleepers and that was bad for everyone, even our other enemies. It was a rouge dragon, it had to be. A wild one we didn't know about. At the time I hadn't even considered the possibility that the Sleepers had killed one. It just seemed laughable. Dragons can just fly out of the way, why would they have to worry about the undead? A few minutes later I got the pictures from the drones. The thing was dripping and drooling with the same orange stuff that all the undead did. The virus. It was a dead dragon.
I asked about its exact location. "Sir, it just cleared the wall."
A moment later an explosion rocked the whole base and I was knocked off my feet. Sparks few and the whole command room went dark. We could hear the thing roaring outside. Everyone was jumping up around me and rushing around trying to get the backups running. My armband was still fine and I got the word out. Full retreat. I called back all the air we had left and got online with what ground transport we had. Full evacuation immediately, priority on the scientists and civilians. When the lights came back on, I found out the first of the undead on the ground had just hit our front gate and it wasn't going to last another ten minutes. I sent the word out on the main coms across the base. Get the hell out now, however you can.
My second grabbed my shoulder as more explosions rocked the base. "Sir, we have to go."
"Hell of a promotion huh..", was all I could manage as I followed him out of the room. We barely made it down the hall before the dragon hit the building again. All I remember was the deafening bang and everything going dark again. I probably blacked out again for a moment. When I came around everything hurt, expect for my right arm which was numb. Two of my staff were digging me out. Part of the hallway had collapsed on me. I looked down at my arm and realized there was a metal bar going straight though it. I suppose on some level I expected. After all, the other me I had seen through the rift so long ago... he only had one arm. I had thought it wasn't me, some alternate version of my life, but it was. It was me, just not me... yet. Still it meant I would seem my old friend the Herald again at some point. Wont that be fun.
(My second story, I'm on a roll lately. This time, the demise of an ill fated Genesis outpost. Hope you enjoyed, and comments are very welcome.)