… the Vex Timeshifter predictably evaded Ragashingo’s grenade, but again placed itself in perfect view of the other two Guardians that were hunting it. The sound of orange tinted Venusian waves crashing ashore against the nearby dark rocks was briefly drowned out by echoing cracks of gunfire. The robot’s shields shattered, falling to the ground more like curved panes of glass than the strange energy they were actually formed from. With no cover the enemy unit’s light armor took a hit, and then another, a few more would do it but then… everything stopped.
Ragashingo buried his chin into his chest and clutched at his stomach as a moderately sized bubble of space-time surrounding the Timeshifter reversed… again. The effect was like being dizzy with your eyes closed, combined with that awful moment just before you vomit. It was all Ragashingo could do to keep from filling his sealed helmet. His second in command wasn’t so lucky, Ragashingo learned, as a string of profanity flowed over their comm link.
“Keep it together…” Ragashingo cautioned, but his voice held no conviction. The truth was he, and the two remaining Guardians in his squad, were stuck. Timeshifters, with their ability to literally turn back the clock, were usually the first targets taken down. It was policy, if not outright doctrine, to kill them first. Though lightly armed and armored, the units could have devastating effects on the battlefield. Movements were undone. Spent shots reappeared back in clips. Enemies dead and gone were once again alive and threatening. But the memories, the memories of your past actions, and those before them, and those before them… for as many times as you repeated the same moment of time, somehow remained. You could usually learn from them, your previous actions, and come up with a way out. Maybe you’d retreat, or order everyone to focus their fire. But sometimes there was nothing you could do.
Ragashingo watched in silence as his unit’s lone Warlock, the only one of them with the firepower to quickly end this awful loop, was cut down for the seventh time by a now fully expected burst of enemy fire. He’d yelled warnings the first few times but to no effect. There simply wasn’t enough time for anyone to react. Ragashingo again primed his grenade and threw it at the tight formation of Vex that came into view. He could have held off, tried something different, but it was their only chance. The rest of them would be just as dead if the two Vex flanking the Timeshifter were able to train their powerful rifles at his squad. He prayed that something would be different with his toss, or the explosion, or that one of his fellow Guardians would come up with something new, but it wasn’t to be. Like before two of the Vex were torn apart, but the Vex Timeshifter predictably evaded his grenade. Its shield shattered and it took hits but then everything stopped and the loop started again.
Only one of the heavily armed Vex was destroyed in the blast this time as Ragashingo’s grenade nearly missed. Fortunately the other was damaged enough that its return shots missed wide allowing Ragashingo to cut it down with a burst from his gun. Unfortunately, the Vex Timeshifter predictably evaded, but as before it was caught in a crossfire and nearly downed before it ripped time backwards yet again.
This was how you lost against a Timeshifter, Ragashingo knew. You’d get caught in a loop and your mind, not your body or weapon, would be worn down by having to experience the same events over and over. The Vex’s programing loops didn’t care. For them it was the simple repetition of stimulus and response, a million billion times a second. That it was occasionally the exact same stimuluses and responses didn’t much matter to them. But you, you’d eventually make a mistake, or just collapse out of exhaustion, or desperation, and it would be over. You’d be killed.
“It…” Warlock Greenly begged over the course of four consecutive loops before the two shots he knew were coming sent his body crashing lifelessly into the waves each time. Ragashingo’s grenade leapt from his hand almost on its own accord, far more an automatic response, this time, than a planned tactical decision. It wouldn’t be long now he knew. His mind was at the breaking point. The Vex Timeshifter predictably evaded his grenade, and just as predictably reset their ten second encounter.
Somehow despite the shaking of his hand Ragashingo managed to deliver his grenade relatively on target for the thirteenth time, but it would be his last. He didn’t even get the small satisfaction of seeing the two Vex marksmen fragment as he fell onto all fours as soon as the explosive took flight. The Vex Timeshifter predictably evaded the blast, and distorted time for the last time.
Ragashingo let go. He just stood there, waiting for his friend to die, and for the Vex to turn their guns on him. He jerked up and alert, however, when the two shots he expected to hear turned out to be a series of a dozen or more!
Out of nowhere a Pike driven by a gold and brown caped Hunter charged the enemy, guns blazing. Greenly was saved as the two Vex that had killed him the previous thirteen times were torn apart by the hoverbike’s guns. He crumpled to the ground out of reflex, not entire sure he hadn’t been shot and killed again. With fresh determination, Ragashingo threw his grenade at the remaining enemy.
The Vex Timeshifter predictably evaded Ragashingo’s grenade, but again placed itself in perfect view of the Guardians that were hunting it. The sound of orange tinted Venusian waves crashing ashore against the nearby dark rocks was briefly drowned out by echoing cracks of gunfire and the roar of the approaching Pike. The robot’s shields shattered, falling to the ground more like curved panes of glass than the strange energy they were actually formed from. With no cover the enemy unit’s light armor took a hit, and then another, a few more would do it but then… its iron colored body was crushed as the Pike turned into a power slide and slammed into it. Ragashingo fell to his knees as faint, breathless laughter spilled from his wide open mouth.
“You guys looked like you could use a helping hand. Sorry it took so long,” the newly arrived Guardian apologized smugly, “I saw you in the distance but had to wait until just the right moment. No sense in letting your Warlock get killed again!”
“Thanks, seriously,” Greenly said, still coming to grips with not being dead.
“Don’t mention it,” the Pike’s rider replied. He revved his bike’s engine twice then sped away leaving Ragashingo and his unit unsure how exactly they were going to file their kill reports.