Eighty breaths. We cleared the embattled tiers, slid into purely opposition territory. Eleven, twelve, thirteen. Fortunately, the ramp does not connect to any of the tiers except when lain flat, otherwise one must traverse the narrow lip at the edge. Redeployment is slow across that kind of terrain, though the Auger officers had had, now, the space of seventy breaths to put together some kind of action. You could see the thin lines of infantry forming up ahead, light shining between black forms blurred by distance. I accelerated. They weren’t the problem. They were the distraction.
Came the hiss and whine of artillery disks otherwise unoccupied. Seventy breaths is worlds enough for them, and time. Time to pivot toward the ramp suddenly ascended. Time to send out a few men to the open surface of the incline to try to slow us down. Time to power up and wait and coordinate your fire for that precise moment and angle when a formation of valkyries is quartering away and could not, would not, turn to charge you. The blurred figures of the Augers on the open ramp lurched closer, became real men.
My flying wedge met them just as all hell broke loose. I beheaded one, bellowed “Forward! Keep moving!” because there was nothing else to do. The world turned gold, and I was staring ahead. Came the stench of burned metal and the whine of swift emergency measures, all the energy shells of everyone hit dumping the overcharge into the ground, into each other. I held my breath. I’d spread everyone as wide as I could upon the narrow ramp.
Then it came, the sound every cavalry officer dreads. Boom, as someone’s shell collapsed under the energy from the artillery disk and its bearer’s bones and organs liquefied. And their valkyrie slammed into the hard metal of the ramp, expending all the furor of its drive. Boom, as the energy of that collision cascaded into others. Boom and crash and the shrieking of Profusionist metal destroying itself at high velocities. Boom and boom and boom. Each explosion a death, a real death, as sure as if I stood there driving my quicksword into each unguarded brain. Boom and boom and boom and boom and boom, the teeth-shaking furor coming faster and faster until it became a constant roar and the heat of the wall of the explosions pressed against my back, my own shell straining against the roiling inferno now devouring the very air behind me.