Only 6 hours in.
Location: Trenoir District, Luminere
Related Scenes: None
Scene Number: 568
1:14 PM - Athenas Academy, the Trenoir District
The muscles in her legs burned, each weighted step up the monstrous flight of stairs sending a hot sear through her nerves. The child in her arms was just deadweight -- a twenty-two kilo anchor clinging to her through each rough step and turn.
The shadow of Jackin fell over her from ahead, the other marine bearing two other first year students in each arm with a third year holding onto his elbow as they climbed. Behind them, even more students and marines were scrambling up the stairs, trying to escape the carnage of the lower floor.
"Take a left," a tenth year gasped behind them as they neared the top of the stairs.
Jackin raised his fist, stopping the processional. He was winded despite being the largest of Rothschild's squad. He turned to her, slowly lowering down the children into her care. The six-year-olds huddled together, a mix of whimpers and tears coming from each.
"Gotta check," he murmured, and Rothschild looked up to nod as she took guardianship of his burden, drawing them in close. Her finger pressed to her lip, encouraging their quiet while Jackin eased forward, checking down the left-hand corridor.
"Nothing," he reported back in a hush. "No chrome, no red lights." He looked back to Rothschild, glancing just beyond her at the two dozen or so children they had in their group. "The library... you're sure?"
Eudora grimaced. "Yes. If it is like any other school library, there's going to be a bookroom in the back, and the library itself will provide us good lookouts." She glanced back behind her, speaking to the whole squad now. "Skyling got my call before the radio went out. Reinforcements are coming." She looked back to Jackin. "We just need to hold out."
Jackin nodded, though even he could see the small break in her otherwise cool demeanor. She was lying, and he knew it. The call never was received... because there was no one on the other side to receive it.
2:06 PM - School Library, Athenas Academy
The barricade was secured by bookshelves, and promises that they would be back for them. They had secured twenty-eight children in the end. She put Waller on guard duty with an explicit order: if no one comes back, he's to get his scrawny ass to the roof and make sure there's some signal that possible reinforcements could see, and then get himself behind that barricade.
She hoped he would eventually figure out to try to get as many as he could out, or they would probably starve to death if no one showed.
"I got it!" Frances called from the staggering shelves, hauling a large picture frame from somewhere back in the stacks. He dropped it heavily on a table. The afternoon sun glinted faintly off the glass, glaring across an old floor map of the school. It was Jackin who ended up breaking said grass, and wrestling the thick poster free of the backing.
Clearing the table of the broken frame and glass, Jackin spread the map out. "Alright," he grunted. "Library." His thick finger tapped hard against the spot on the map. "Cylons control the bottom floor, and the longer we waste in here, the sooner they'll have the next two floors and we're hemmed in."
"You're right." Rothschild pointed at the two library entrances. "We need to get those secured, and then -- "
"Wait," Waller started to interrupt. "You're not suggesting -- "
"Then we need to blockade the stairs." Rothschild taps the various stairwells leading up to the second floor. "I think that -- "
"Hold it!" Waller held up his hands. "Roths, you're not suggesting -- "
"That we need to make a show of force."
Jackin glanced between Rothschild and Waller before his paler gaze settled on the Sergeant. "Sarge, I'm not sure -- "
"We need to get the Cylons away from the library. The louder we are, the more they are going to be chasing after us and not trying to figure out why there's a bunch of bookcases shoved up against a doorway." Rothschild crossed her arms, staring down at the map. She could feel the eyes of her squad on her, but there was also a sense of resignation.
"Alright, Sarge," Jackin's voice murmured beside her. "What's the play?"
She could hear them -- their feet kind of shushed across the floor as bare metal glided across treaded carpets. They moved in small clusters, already creating small fire-teams, often with a Centurion at its lead.
Where did the Centurions come from? Her mind raced through all the nearest barracks. How many of them had Centurions?
She drew her feet even closer against her, tucking tightly against the expansive bannister at the top of the sweeping stairs. She hugged her SAW tight against her chest, feeling the cool metal against her cheek. The weight in her bandolier was a reminder of why she was there. It told her that this was only getting started.
She listened, hoping to detect where the doppler shifted -- when they hit point where they are neither approaching nor departing. Maybe her ears were filling with sweat, but each passing moment, all it sounded like was the constant approach of Cylons.
Then she heard the whimper. Low and slight -- like an animal just on the brink of giving up. Her entire body froze, hand gripping the small cylinder attached to her chest. With it came a thunk mixed in with the familiar shushing of feet. She closed her eyes tightly, thoughts now doubling in speed and heightening in anxiety.
She had to look. She had to know.
With a small rock in her tailbone, Rothschild peeked around the carvings of the bannister, glancing down the stairs to see a single Cylon. It lacked the hulk in its shoulders and looming height of a Centurion. In fact, she almost recognized the janitorial model. It was dragging the body of an adult human -- male by first glance. He whimpered like a small child when the Cylon gave his ankle another hard yank. Behind him was a ever-lengthening smear of blood.
It paused at the base of the stairs, sweeping its narrow head left and then right, and then... up the stairs. She ducked back quickly, pressing herself even tighter into the bannister. Maybe it didn't see her. But then she heard the fleshy thumps of the Cylon dragging the man up the stairs... almost like a small child letting their toy bear thump its head on each step while heading to bed.
The comparison gave Rothschild an unsettling shiver, and she closed her eyes again. How many steps? Could she guess? She started to count the thumps.
At the sixth step, she opened her eyes to stare straight ahead. "Gods," is all she murmured. Then she pulled out the grenade, activated it, and ducked back into sight long enough to send it bouncing down the steps toward the Cylon.
All it took was four bounces, and then the explosion. She had just enough time to cuff her hands over her ears, burying herself in low against her knees. The entire floor rattled beneath her, and she heard -- vaguely -- the sound of the stairs crashing.
She breathed slowly, opening her eyes to look up at the cracked visage of the stained-glass window across from her. Slowly, she started to unwind herself, pulling herself upright with the SAW still in hand.
The explosives had done what they needed to do: the stairs were in shambles. She would have liked to see a gaping hole between the landing and floor below, but a gaping hole taking up the entire middle third of the stairs would have to do. She saw the two bodies -- one Cylon, one human. He was already dead. You spared him.
Suddenly, Rothschild had that cold feeling of someone -- or something -- looking at her. She had lingered too long, staying back to see if it had been a success. Slowly, she lifted her eyes, meeting the red ocular across the expanse of broken stairs and stained flooring.
The Centurion on the lower level stared at her, and she back at it. Her breath slowed, and her shoulders drew back slightly, bringing herself into that precise poise. Her grip changed on the SAW as she brought it up into her shoulder, now looking down the iron-sights at the Cylon. Her fingers flexed near the trigger before one rested across it.
If the Cylons didn't know that there were humans upstairs... they certainly knew now.
To be continued...