Asta slammed up against the concrete panting hard, his heart was pounding in his throat and his mouth was dry, concrete dust stuck to the blood that was dripping from his Deathsuit turning him into a grey ghost. The suit massaged him, held him, cooed soothing emotions, trying to keep him on an even, sensible keel, but it was a losing battle.
The roar of the Thresher cannon wasn’t a sound, it was more raw, physical. It was like being clubbed in the ears with a baton even with deathsuit blunting the worst of it. Chunks of concrete the size of Asta’s head were being blown out of his cover, piece by piece and the air was filled with clouds of grey particulates. His deathsuit wrinkled and puckered as the depleted uranium in the air settled on its surface, making it blister and sizzle.
There was no time, no chance but one chance. Asta gritted his teeth and leapt, plunging through the smoke, running as fast as he could over red hot shards of broken armour, rubble and the slippery remains of what had once been people, friends.
The suit hadn’t seen him, too much dust in the air. He grasped his flintlock as tight as he could and edged quietly around another pillar as the cannon’s roar punched him in the ears again. He had the drop on the fucker. That great armoured back to him, shell casings piling on the ground beside it like drifting snow. He levelled the flintlock and concentrated, his suit drawing the glyphs in the air before his perception, the two of them as one, formulating and channelling the ebb, storing the power until…
Heat and cold struck the suit as one and it burst asunder like an egg in a microwave, ceramic and metal flying in all directions, exposing a yolk of wiring and amniotic oil.
But it was empty.
There was a double bark of a heavy pistol and time slowed down. Asta span, desperately, trying to throw himself to one side but there was no escaping it. The Thresher pilot, clad only in the interface suit, had fled the armour and set a trap.
It had worked.
He was aware of the bullets, twin black-holes in the ebb, laced with DPU, streaking towards him and he braced himself for pain. He’d seen Deathsuits flee their owners, move out of the way of such bullets and he didn’t expect…
His suit moved in that fraction of a second, not fleeing but gathering itself at the point of impact, stripping itself from the rest of him to absorb that blow.
A double hammer, but he didn’t feel the impact. He only heard the scream as the bullets smashed into the suit and bored deep, fragmenting, burning, burrowing, corrupting. The suit howled on a frequency that only he could feel and that he could not endure. It sloughed from his flesh like burned skin, bubbling and ulcerated, smoking and evaporating as he tried to hold it in his hands and it dissolved away.
He was left, naked, crying, helpless, cutting himself on the rubble, clawing at the dirt, the ichorous remnants of the dead suit under his fingernails, smearing what was left it it against his bare chest as tears coursed down from his burnt-black eyes.
He didn’t hear the crunch of the Thresher pilot stepping closer. He couldn’t sense or feel anything but a profound sense of loss, as though he himself had died, as though part of his mind had decayed, as though he had gone mad, was not himself any longer. He was lessened, diminished, unloved, never to be understood again. He’d lost his lover, his child, his parent, his confidante, his world.
He didn’t even feel the barrel of the pistol smack against the back of his skull. He just choked out “Ayee’shala” the name of the suit, nameless until now, known only when it was gone.
And then they were together again.