In this scene from Endgame, the heroes have just “escaped” a mountain cave where they’d spent two nights waiting out a blizzard. They have a destination in mind–probably the only inhabitant on the planet of P-75–but nobody knows what that structure or its owner means to five soldiers on the run from their wartime enemies, the Mitasterites. The ‘I’ in this is Captain June Vereeth.
“To the right,” I announced, and we got moving again. Prubius went on point and Esch took up the sled harness. We headed around the hills, as the lower trail appeared to be a dead-end of icy rock, anyway. A gentle descent lead to what, on other worlds, could’ve been a meadow above a beach. Ours was made of powdered sugar, with no flowers or surf in sight.
We’d progressed past the meadow and further across the valley floor when something happened. Prubius suddenly turned and kneeled.
With his rifle raised.
I was being hit by something. By someone.
Dhani was on top of me. My face was in snow.
Why is he on—?
The buzz of a weapon was quick, coupled with another sound.
Pressure. Vibrations. Heat.
I looked back, following everyone else’s wide eyes. Things were landing in the snow around me, around us, me and my protective Dhani. Small bits, metal.
A burst of smoke drifted toward us, coming down from a height. Three arms curled out, blue-gray, lengthening as they dissipated.
“By the gods!”
Struggling against Dhani’s weight across my torso, I fought to look at Prubius.
My friend was still kneeling with his rifle pointed up at the sky behind us. Eyes narrowed, face pinched. He could’ve been frozen in place. When he finally took a breath, I could hear it.
A piercing odor reached me. Burning. The warhead.
“How did you do that?” Esch whispered.
Dhani, looking stunned, let me up. On my feet, I faced the spot where a Mitasterite missile was destroyed—within three secs of its target. Only a hint of smoke was left, now.
“Sorry, Captain,” Dhani said quietly.
“No-no,” I said, “you’re fine. Thanks.”
Bohl nudged a smoking fragment with his boot. “Probably a Rosekiller,” he reported. “Fired from orbit.”
A Rosekiller. Standard bombardment weapon. Six-point-two legs in length. Thirty-one miles-per-min velocity from launch. Homing capabilities. Four hundred bars of explosive compound. Capable of flattening a residential building. They sent one after us.
“From orbit?” Esch asked. “So, they were watching the storm, waiting for it to end. Then they tracked the first thing moving out here afterward?”
“They could be watching us right now.”
The four of us looked up. Somewhere up beyond the green, the Enemy was scanning with his finger on a button. Less than three mins ago, he tried for us.
“Prubius?” I asked. “You all right?”
He blinked, looked at me and slowly rose to his feet. “Cheaters,” he muttered.
“Will they know why the missile detonated?”
“Unlikely, Captain,” Bohl said. “That would require an amazing piece of technology, considering the lack of historical precedent in shooting down a missile.
Dhani was practically staring at Prubius. He looked up again and brightened. “Clouds,” he exclaimed. “We may be in luck.”
Sure enough, wisps of white were thickening, rolling toward us in great puffs.
“Let’s not sit here and get shot at again!”
“Agreed,” I told Esch.
“Steady hands,” Bohl said to Prubius as we moved on.
Steady hands. The greatest of compliments among sharpies.