Tania smiled as she flipped through the data presented on the device in her hand. "Ngca!" The clicking sound in the word drew the attention of Defensor, who was standing next to her. "All the values are beyond my expectations," she explained. "I should be able to double cell regeneration with the information from this thing!"
It had been two days since they had first discovered the obelisk at the bottom of one of the rivers flowing from Lemuria's mountain range. While on patrol, Sonya had noticed how all the wildlife was twice as big down from a specific point. To Tania, this was an extraordinary event because of the mysterious artifact causing the effect and because her ex had managed to pay enough attention.
The energies within the construction were similar to the regeneration field Tania herself had developed but enhanced somehow. But it was also damaged, and the toxic fumes still warranted it to be encased in a protective cocoon as it was placed on the transport. The weight of it made the hover-platform extremely slow, but it still worked.
"It's all good, yea?" Defensor gave the platform a push to help it up the slope from the river.
"Yes, we should be safe from it, and it should be safe from us." She patted the shiny black protection. "Still, keep nearby. I want this in my lab before I feel sure of anything."
"Sure thing!" Defensor's salute was probably intended as a sign of respect, but it came off a tad dismissive together with the casual response.
The collection of buildings of the WARD lab's outpost formed just a few blocks near the coast. Or cliff — Tania still couldn't get used to the idea of how Lemuria hovered above the ocean. She also wasn't a fan of how much the settlement imposed a very different life onto the island. It reminded her a little too much of how colonialism had affected her own home country. But the work it allowed her to do also made it possible to help thousands, including the team present here. Her own medical lab was located near the center, making it available for any emergencies that might arise. Unfortunately, the only path she could take the hover-platform wasn't a straightforward route from where they came.
"Tania!" Her comlink came online with Maya's voice. "We have a problem! I don't think the local spirits are very happy for us to have the thing!" She interrupted herself by firing a couple of bullets. "Somehow, Era and Anito found out and are trying to block your path."
"Biksem!" Tania swore under her breath. "We'll hurry up as best we can."
Luckily, the Defensor suit has some heavy motors on it and could give the platform some extra push to let them approach. Tania herself only turned more focused as she inspected the locks that held the obelisk to the transport, muttering to herself.
The windblast nearly knocked both of them to the ground, even if they had expected something like it. Tania quickly hid behind Defensor. "Maya!" she shouted, "if you're there, we could use some cover fire!"
A couple of shots could be heard in response, and the next blast hit the grass next to them instead as Era was clearly distracted. This was going to go bad fast.
"Hey!" Defensor detached his portable shield generator. "I keep this thing safe and you look after our sharpshooter, tá bom?"
Tania nodded in response, ready to run.
The next ball of hardened air was accompanied by a spectral hand, but both blocked just in time as Defensor's thrown shield projected upwards. At the same time, Tania activated her own gadget that would keep her ally intact while she wasn't there. At least for a little while.
Not wasting any time, the doctor ran towards a hiding spot between a couple of buildings, hoping to disappear into the darkness for cover. It worked for a couple of turns around corners until the familiar young-looking spirit of Anito stood before her.
"This is wrong! You know that — I can sense it!" Anito held back his frustration. "That artifact was buried for a reason. Your people shouldn't have it!"
"That obelisk can help save countless lives! You should understand the good in that!"
"It can also cause a lot of harm! You have no right to it!"
Again, Tania felt the unease of being the one exploiting someone else's homeland. But she still raised her gun. Anito just about had time to shake his head before flickering out of existence. A spectral duplicate of the original! It had cost Tania enough delay, and she rushed forwards.
Finding Maya wasn't difficult — it was just a matter of following the gunfire to a shack that was no longer used. Tania noticed the heavy bruising on the other woman and directed a rejuvenating beam before Maya even saw her.
"¡Hola! Much appreciated, chica!"
"Any time. Has Defensor gotten any further?"
"Yeah, I've managed to keep the others away. He's almost at your lab with the thing!" Maya pointed out the window where Tania could just about make out the transport disappearing around a corner. "Time to choose a better spot." Maya pulled out some bullets and started reloading her revolver even while heading out. All Tania could do was follow after just a moment's hesitation while looking towards where the obelisk was headed.
The detour didn't have to be that long, and thanks to some obscuring mist leaking from pipes, they were able to keep relatively hidden until they spotted Defensor, who had just managed to punch Anito away from the transport. Judging by the pained movements, Raphael wasn't doing so well in there, though.
Tania left Maya to provide cover fire while she headed to a different alley. She looked at the display on her arm, confirming that it was ready for another rejuvenation beam and targeted Defensor. The mech echoed with a laugh of restored confidence. Both Era and Anito, also heavily injured, were forced to retreat, fleeing from Defensor, who decided to pursue them.
That's when the blast happened. The transport exploded, first from one side, but the heat and force quickly burst through the whole thing, throwing pieces of metal far and wide. Everyone around took cover not to be hit by the shrapnel —Tania herself screaming as she threw herself behind a wall. When she dared to look at what remained of the prize of the expedition, she saw little more than rubble. The obelisk itself had been blown to dozens of pieces.
As if in a trance, she walked towards the debris, barely noticing Defensor and Maya joining up with her.
"Merda." Defensor slammed a heavy metallic fist into a wall in frustration. "...I'm sorry, Tania."
"It's..." She closed her eyes to not have to watch the wreckage. "I... I still got some..." She shook her head slowly before walking towards her now battered lab.
Tania leaned against the wall as she got inside, taking a deep breath. Outside, the other two were getting the perimeter secured. A tear made it down Tania's face before she could hold it back. She gripped the remote detonator in her pocket hard. "I still have data. Something good will come from this."