When the door blew off its hinges it glanced off of Gartner’s shoulder and sent him twisting through the air. The Shadows were inside the Temple. They crossed the chasm and shredded Gartner into wet leathery ribbons the color of plum wine before he hit the floor. Captain Erra didn’t need the quantum mind of a Hedron to tell him the whole squad would probably be dead in the next thirty seconds. Still, there was a job to do.
“Catacombs,” he ordered. “Protect the Hedron.”
Rently yanked the cords from the android’s head, severing its connection with the Temple. It assessed the situation and fell into the catacombs in an instant, leaving the marines to their gruesome and hopeless task of buying precious seconds. This mission was no longer about intelligence gathering; it was about intelligence protection. A Hedron in Shadow hands could bring a swift end to the war, but not the end they’d been fighting for.
Cassick and Voight were both already down by the time Erra made it into the tunnel entrance. Rently and Naut were on the Hedron’s heels providing cover—they would have to be enough. Erra pulled the hatch shut with a heavy thunk and spun the lock. He could still hear the shrieking of the Shadows through the thick hatch as they tore apart the rest of the squad. The Hedron would cast its memory out and detonate its shell, it just needed more time.
But the Shadows were already prying at the hatch.
Erra hung from the lock to add more weight, but he could feel the metal vibrate as the Shadows burrowed between the molecules. It was pointless to fight them on his own terms. He’d have to fight them on theirs. He pulled the phase grenade from his belt and twisted the detonator.
It may have been a hallucination as his mind went out, but Erra thought he watched from outside as his body sublimated, taking the Shadows with him. And after his body was gone, he saw the pure glow of an antimatter explosion. The Hedron had gotten out.