Sirens scream, red and yellow lights flashing in her face, Maris blinked to consciousness. She rolled off her cot and hit the floor hard, knocking the air out of her lungs in surprise. “Shit!” she shouted scrambling to her feet and staggering to her desk. She began grabbing paperwork off the desk as the ground shook, knocking her again off her feet. “Shit! Shit! Shit! I don’t have an answer yet you bastards!” she screamed at the ceiling.  “Bastards!” Jumping across the small room she reached, out grabbed a photo off of a set of shelves and ducked out of the room and into the chaos of the hallway.

‘Need to get out, need to get out, need to get out’ she thought as she scurried through the hall, into the press of bodies rushing in every direction. Eyes wide, the ground continued to shake, the smell of gas hit her nose and she realized one of the mains must have cracked. She grabbed the shoulder of a woman running by, ‘Leesa’ she realizes, and asks, “What’s going on? I’ve got a guess, but do you know anything for sure?”

“C.A.W, I think. It sounds like a dozen or so ships. I don’t, I’m not. There’s been no announcement, nothing. I need to get to my lab. I need to, I need to go.” She yanked free Maris’ hands and dashed disappearing down another corridor.

“Bastards! I’m working on something!” She shouted again at the now cracked ceiling, as racing toward her own lab. A littany of curses spewed from her mouth as she ran; she cursed the size of the complex, the C.A.W. for interrupting her study, and her own insistence on taking a lab so far away from her room. As she cut across the open green between two buildings, she notices two massive grey and green ships descending through the stratosphere. “Fuck!”

Breathing heavy, side aching, she leaned against the doorway into the next building. The tremors in the ground grew into full waves of motion as the invading vessels reach the ground. Peeking around the door, she saw smoke and dirt raising into the air hundreds of yards away from the complex. With a sigh and snort of annoyance Maris continued running through quieter hallways of the lab building. Sirens continued to scream, instead of red and yellow flashing the blue and red signaling an attack.  ‘Thanks for that.’ she thought to the sirens ‘You couldn’t have signalled that before they hit the ground?’

        As she rounded the final corner she grinned slightly as she saw the door. The quick smile was replaced with a grimace of annoyance and she rolled her eyes as she recognized the man leaning against it. Dieter Von Rauch shook his head watching her walking up panting. “I figured it would be easier to find you here than wading through the chaos. I cleared out most of what we’ll be able to carry as far as the research goes. We need to leave.” He grabs her shoulder and begins to lead her away from the door.

        “No, you idiot. Let me in there. You don’t know what I need. You have no idea what I was even working on. You’re an asshole. Let me go!” Flailing her arms she hit him repeatedly in the arms and chest. His seven foot frame dwarfed her barely five feet and he easily ignored her dragging her down the hall in ground eating strides. The building shuddered around them and and threw an arm out pushing Maris into the wall.

         “Oh hell,” he murmured clapping a hand over her mouth. “Shut up tiny. Look, rumor has it that they are taking prisoners.” He nodded curtly to the outer wall of the building, gesturing toward the ships presumably landing around them “As many prisoners as they can. Interesting don’t you think? The C.A.W. doesn’t hit research plants or vessels. Ever. It has never happened in nearly the hundred years they have been fighting the Empire. Sabotage sure, and sending in their own spies of course, but never once in a hundred years have the launched an all out attack and invade force against an Empire research vessel or station.”  He glanced quickly around them and began pulling her down the hall again. “Why? Because it would be insane. Empire research areas are incredibly heavily guarded. The only thing more heavily guarded are military bases and that’s debatable. However,” he stopped again, grabbing Maris as she the floor dropped beneath her. “However, the one time there are rumors of some new and unnamed allies, they launch a full scale invasion with the intent on taking prisoners. You’re so smart, so shut up for a moment and think about this.”

He stopped at the next corner and listened intently. Maris leaned back against the wall glaring at him. She agreed, begrudgingly with the possibility, ‘near-certainty’ she corrected  herself, the two of them were being hunted. Her people had been hesitant to send anyone outside their own system and it was only her insistence, her rank, and Dieter’s presence, that convinced the elders to allow her to visit this outpost. It lasted only a few weeks.

With a quick nod of his head, Dieter motioned for her to follow. “We need to get out of here. We need to get out of here alone. If we don’t, well,” he trailed off with a grim smile and a snort.

“Any ideas then, bodyguard?’ Maris replied jogging to keep up with his steps.

“Of course. You might be the smart one, but there is a reason that I was sent here to make sure you stay safe. Now shut up and keep up.” Dieter took off at a run, occasionally glancing back to make sure that Maris stayed in range.

Maris’ eyes grew wide as she watched the madness around her. She froze halfway through the courtyard as two massive grey and green marked battlecruisers edged over the highest building 100 yards behind her. Glancing backwards again, Dieter growled. Switching direction he backtracked across the green and tossed her over his shoulder.  “You. Are. Such. An. Idiot. Why. Am. I. Doing. This,” Dieter groans as he dodges his way across the opening. He drops her hard on the ground when they reach the safety of the next building.

“We have a ship. Its small. It’s not even made to make it out of orbit, just to get us away. Any ideas on where we are going?” He asked her. Her eyes are still glazed, staring into the middle distance and he curses. “Wake up you lump. We have an issue,” he demanded squeezing and shaking her shoulders. “You are the only one who can operate the damn ship, it’s programed to respond to telepathy and I, luckily, don’t have that gift. Now get up.”  He forced her into the wall, the shock of her head smacking the stonework, causing her to blink and shake her head.

“I’m fine. I’m sorry, I was, I’ve never seen, I’m fine. I’m fine,” with a giant inhalation of breath Maris smiles and glances around, keeping her eyes angled toward the ground. “I’m fine. We need to get to the ship. I know where it is and I have a decent idea on where to go.”

“Wait, how, you read my mind didn’t you? You’re a shit.” He starts moving again, breaking into a run with Maris following behind. The air begins to thicken, an oily acidic taste filling their lungs as the run. An explosion ripped the air and both, in spite of themselves turn to see the building they left in flames Coughing, wheezing and staggering they move toward another building loomed before them. Ships dart by the handful up out of the open roof of the massive building.  Dozens of different ships took off, many freezing mid-air, as barely visible waverings of light, holding beams, explode forward stopping the flights.

Heads down they raced between statues and fountains toward the looming building and screaming ships above it. Grabbing the door Dieter paused, cursing and groaned. “They’ve got the doors blocked. Stay close, and, just, stay close.” He grabbed her by shoulder again and begins to drag her  behind him. Moving quickly, keeping his body tucked around hers to the best of his ability he moved them behind a clump bushes and  trees. “I’m going to try and get us through the door. Stay here, ok?” Maris nods, hands shaking at her side as she watches him once again dart off away from her.

Maris watched as Dieter’s body begins to stretch, grow, enlarge. Where once stood a man more than a foot taller than her now stood a thirteen-foot-tall hulking man creature. He raced toward the 5 men guarding the door. Guns raised and a wave of pulsing hot, glowing green plasma screams towards him. The bolts hit him, arms and chest searing and burning and Dieter hit the line at a run. He grabbed one of the men and threw him into another, floundering like a ragdoll through the air. A third man continued shooting, the green glowing light hitting Dieter in the shoulder earning a scream from Dieter and a second later a grunt from the man as Dieter’s massive, boulder sized hand, crashed into the shooters face. Bleeding and broken the third man fell to the ground. The final two backed away, racing into the hallway yelling for reinforcements. He motioned curtly for Maris to follow him, and as she ran up he grabbed his arm, cradling it,  and began limping forward. “Smokes, that hurts,” he grumbled as she squeezed past him and they made their way through the building.

Dozens of hallways lead into dozen of bays, most empty, some quickly emptying as people scurried around vessels trying to ready them to flee. She pushed him, ineffectually, ahead of her. They ran for another fifteen minutes, both breathing hard, lungs aching after nearly an hour of mad dashes through the various buildings and across open spaces, breathing acid and gas tinged air. Finally, reaching an a closed and sealed door, half hidden next to a series of shelves, they slowed down and Dieter pushed Maris forward. “Ok, boss,” he said coldly, “get the door open.”

Maris closed her eyes and tried to quell the rising panic choking her. She focused her mind at the door and a small wave of telepathic energy grabbed her attention. She mentally grabbed at it. She felts it reading her and in moments a small snap sounded in her head. “Come on,” she whispered grabbing his good arm and dragging him through the door. Inside was a small ship, barely large enough to hold the two of them in normal circumstances and it dawned on them, that in his enlarged size Dieter wouldn’t fit.

“I’m going to lose my smokes-cursed arm, aren’t I? ” he grumbled as he begins to relax the hold on his form. As his body begins to deflate he looked at Maris and grinned, “Oh and, fair warning, I’m probably going to pass out once I reach my normal size. Sorry doc.”

Maris grabbed him by the waist and began to lead him forward towards the ship. Even at his normal size, looking from herself to him she realized the ship would still be snug. As he finished shrinking, she caught a quick look at the arm. As she had feared the green light meant the weapons were shooting more than superheated plasma, likely they had been laced with some sort of necrotising biological matter encased to exploded on impact. Her quick glance confirmed that his assessment had been correct, he mostly likely would lose the arm.

Loaded up and as comfortable as they were going to get, she locked her mind into the ship and began her escape. As the ship lifted from the ground the bottom disappeared in her mind and the snub nose of the ship seemed to turn translucent, ‘Where am I going? Where am I going?’ As she asked a map overlay appeared, listing nearby cities and passages there.  “Ok, stay low, treeline, harder to hit.” Maneuvering the ships out of the bay she shot quickly out of the area. She felt moments of fear each time a ray would shoot out at her ship, being small in this case was a blessing and she was able to dodge out of the way of the vicious beams shot out of the larger ships. An eternity passed in a matter of minutes as she skimmed the treeline. The last of the massive sky covering ships disappeared from her view, as Dieter shifted behind her, groaning. “It’ll be alright. We need to get out of here Dieter. We’ll head to Poldunna and get a transport, somewhere, and we can figure things out from there.”