The dull hum of the S.E.T.I shuttle droned in her ears as Saara checked her gear. Around her, the soldiers of the heavy unit assigned to her went over the weapons and servos of their exoskeletons. Mini guns were oiled and primed, heavy lasers and targeting systems powered up and sighted in. They called themselves ‘tankers’ reminiscent of the old military hardware from centuries ago, even though their force fields are stronger than several inches of steel plate. She counted the gravity bombs on the bandolier around her waist. As the booster of the unit, her job was not to do the heavy fighting, but in scouting and acting as mobile ordinance for this squad of Reclaimers.
Her count was disrupted as the holo-unit flares to life in the centre of the prepping cabin. The face of the Ship Regent appears in ghostly blue light. The hologram divided so that there are multiple heads, each one facing a different member of her team.
“Good day troops.” The Ship Regent began, “Your mission today is to retrieve a power core from an old super generation plant in what was once Labrador Canada. Salvager elements have put the power station back online several days ago and are augmenting the dark energy core with the power generated from the old dam. Troops from the Alpha-Omega Corporation assaulted the facility fifteen minutes ago, trying to get the power core for themselves. You are to attack using them as a buffer against the enemy and complete the mission before other Salvager units are created to counter attack. The S.E.T.I will touch town a kilometer from the facility. E.T.A, two minutes. That is all.”
The light winked out and Saara is left blinded for a moment while her eyes adjust. The rest of the team went back to checking their exoskeletons, some for the third time. There are many things that can happen to a Reclaimer unit in the field the booster thought, but if their exoskeleton fails, they won’t have the strength to walk let along fight. To many, their exo-suit is more important than the air they breathe.
A red light comes on and a large soldier of the ‘Tankers’, Durn by the look of him, opens his visor and shouts. “Touchdown in thirty seconds people, power up! Wedge formation! Wait for the Boosters’ order.”
The bay doors opened and the light of the day explodes into the dark cabin. Saara lowers her visor and the all light bleeds to yellow. H.E.D. registered the members of the unit and scanned the operational capacity of the air exo-suits. If any one of them got damaged, she will know instantly, and be able to order them back from the line when necessary.
“Move out!” she yelled while the shuttle was still a metre from the ground. The heavy unit hit the ground with soft clanks as the force fields absorbed the shocks of impact.
They immediately moved into wedge formation and lowered their weapons. The heavy lasers on their shoulders automatically targeted the tree line while the tankers manually aimed their miniguns, sweeping the area in front and to the sides of the landing zone. Saara waited for the S.E.T.I to lift back into the sky and jumped out at fifty meters.
She plummeted toward the ground the weight of her reinforced legs sucking her down at a tremendous speed. She uses the second she has before she hits to engage the telescopic sight in her visor. The old road they landed on had nothing of note, but it led to a bridge which connected to the rim of the dam. The power plant stood beyond. A huge structure, twelve stores high and easily a half mile wide, the power core is sure to be deep inside.
Saara activated the dark energy matrix in her boosters. Mini rockets burst to life and mere inches from the ground she was hurtled up and away in front of her team. She lands a hundred and fifty metres ahead of them on top of an old building. Her visor indicated that the structural integrity of the rough is good for one boost- jump at approximately fifty percent power. Saara crouched down to use the lip of the building as cover and surveys the area.
The old road leading to the dam was covered in wreckage. It looks like an A.O.C. transport was blown apart by some type of Salvager static defense system. Probably a crab mine the booster mused. Saara saw those in action at the old New York ruin. They crawled in during the night, and when the Reclaimer squads tried to move out in the morning, boom!
Shooting from the road on the dam took her attention away from the wreckage. Another A.O.C. transport laid on its side the victim of another crab mine. Saara activates the telescopic sensors of her visor and counts twenty A.O.C. troopers, know to the Reclaimers as ‘wagers’ because they fought for pay, piled out of the vehicle.
“Move up!” Saara orders into her voice-caster. The tankers reply and double time up to her position. She used the time to unholster and charge her pulse pistol, fingering her bandoliers as she surveys the situation.
The tankers got to within five meters of her position when she noticed the danger. The overturned transport shook and massive organo-metallic limbs burst forth from the sides. It righted itself and the tankers miniguns let loose. The former transport shifted its metal to the front, solidifying it into meters thick metal culminating in a long horn similar to earth species that died out in Africa centuries ago. The torrent of miniguns fire chewed into the top layer of metal sending shards of metal and sparks everywhere, but it is not enough.
“Charger!” Durn yelled, “Evasive maneuvers!” The tankers stopped firing and moved as fast as they could to the sides of the road. The charger barreled into the ground mere seconds after they left it, creating a long furrow of ripped asphalt.
The heavy lasers mounted on the shoulders of the Tankers’ exo-suits target the charger and let loose with a volley. The rapidly grown muscle of the charger charred under the heat of the beams and Saara caught the scent of cooked meat from her position. Despite the damage the Salvager war machine turned fast and reared its head to one side, catching a Tanker with the side of its horn.
The Tanker’s force field flared to life under the sudden impact, but the force of the blow sent him high into the air and far off into the trees. Saara could see the force field sputter and fail after the initial impact and knew the trooper wouldn’t survive reunification with the earth. She put the unfortunate man out of her mind and reaches for a grav-grenade on her belt.
Durn ordered his men to regroup but the beast turned to face them, so their mini gun fire was of minimal use against the heavy frontal armor of the Charger. Saara engaged her boosters and leapt off the roof towards the charger and the roof behind her collapsed in a roar of thunder and dust.
Saara threw a grav-grenade at the feet of the Charger. For an instant, it swivels its massive head in her direction, the metal horn scythed through the air, creating a loud thrum. Boosters engaged she jumped over the beast as her grenade activated. Localized gravity inverts and the charger was thrown thousands of feet into the air and quickly disappeared to a mere flash in the distance.
Durn wasted no time and moved his unit up and onto the road of the dam. In the distance the Reclaimers can make out A.O.C. troopers pinned down in a heavy firefight. Saara landed beside Durn and activated the telescopic sight of her visor. Salvager drones, about the size and shape of attack dogs reinforced with metal plating and hydraulic jaws, tried to swarm the corporate troops. Those that had fallen to the beasts were savaged and then dragged back to Salvager lines so that the fixer-bugs, little portable containers of nano-tech, could be inserted to turn the dead into new soldiers or break them down to be salvaged for their component parts.
“Phalanx formation!” Durn yelled over the vox, and the remaining Tankers formed a line of four and engaged their force fields. Drones moving to attack the flanks and rear of the A.O.C. troops saw them and rush forward. Mini-gun fire chewed them to pieces before they get close. Saara used the shield of Tankers to prepare a boost-jump straight up. At two hundred metres high she engaged them again at lesser strength to allow for a few seconds of hovering.
The remaining A.O.C. troopers were the standard company men, flak jackets, helmets and pulse rifles, probably only with three of four power cells apiece. Any more would not be ‘cost-efficient’ she mused. Despite their circumstances they had good discipline, holding their position from drones but able to advance. The fact that they hadn’t broken and ran for their lives could be seen behind them in heavier body armor and carrying an energy baton. The dark energy power core allows for the element within the rod thicken and spread, becoming either a sword or spear primed with dark energy. The exec was currently swiping the baton back and forth, switching forms with each strike and parry.
On her descent, Saara activated another grenade and keyed it to her palm. For a moment, the polarization of the activation sequence created a magnetic field that held the disc close to her palm. Saara takes the time to aim, when the sequence ended the grav grenade shot toward the A.O.C. troopers and drones on the dam.
The grenade hit and went off. Dark energy disrupted local gravity, giving everything in twenty metre radius weightlessness. Troopers and drones hovered in the air. The exec shouted an order and those troopers still able to aim, fired pulse rounds into every drone held helpless in the air. The phalanx of Tankers moved up to the edge of the field and laser fire finished off the drones.
The exec shouts something and the troopers held their fire while they eyed the Tankers with equal expressions of fear and anger. Saara landed next to Durn and he orders the others to stay their weapons. Saara gestured to the exec and she told her forces to hold fast.
“You speaka Terran erwa?” the exec said clinching her baton, Saara could already see the weapon slowly elongating into a spear.
Durn looked to Saara and shrugged, she moved to the edge of the field and tried to make herself understood.
“We.” She indicates all survivors in both groups “need. To. Work. Together. If not,” she indicates the drones lifeless bodies hanging in the air “ all dead. Understand?”
The exec smiles and nods. “Lolz homes. We posse up! Glam on, sure-ting! For now.”
Saara smiled. She was told the A.O.C. preserved many films from centuries worth of pop culture and a language developed out of it, but she never imagined it would be like that. She hit the execute code on her wrist pad and the grenade powers down the gravity field. The troopers fall groans and grunts to the blood slicked road. The exec uses the elongated baton to pole vault close to Saara. The Tankers fumble to power up their miniguns, but the woman is already too close. One end of the baton funnels into a spike mere inch from Saara’s eye. She motions for the Tankers to hold their fire.
“Change up homes. We duo, the rest hold perimeter, Savvy?” Saara nods her head.
“Durn. I will go in with the A.O.C. member and retrieve the core. You stay here and hold the perimeter.”
The exec nods and looks over her men. “Teetee-effein, bee-arr-bee boys. Stay put.” There was a general clamour of agreement but Saara could not decipher any of it.
Everyone moved up to near the wall of the dams’ main structure. The booster jumped up and placed a magnetic grenade from her belt on the wall, then ushered everyone back. In the distance she could hear more shouts and roars of Salavagers in the tree line.
A moment later there was a loud explosion as the grav-grenade activated. Material of the building in a twenty metre radius imploded on a singularity created by the gravity grenade, leaving behind a perfectly round and smooth hole. The Booster grabbed the exec and launched up and into the opening. Behind her, she could hear Durn shout an order and firing commences.
The interior of the building was filled with darkness and yawning space. Ancient metal staircases and catwalks spiraled into the murk of the structure. Deep below them, a sparkling blue light indicating their objective thrummed. The pounding of metal feet on iron echoed from the lower stairwells announcing the impending arrival of Salavger reinforcements. The Exec transformed her baton into a sword and activates a device on her wrist that looked to Saara like an old fashioned time keeping device. The Booster heard the familiar hum of dark energy and a force shield projected out from the device.
Saara tapped the exec on the shoulder and shook her head. She pointed to the deep chasm between the stairs. The exec’s eyes widen when realization hit, then set her face to an expression of grim determination. The Booster moved to the rail, the exec clinging to her back. Salavger defenders moved up the staircase to the level of the breach. Human shaped this time, part flesh, part metal they scanned the gloom, pointing their energy and projectile weapons at the intruders.
Then they jumped.
The plummet through the void was nothing new to Saara, but she was surprised the exec was willing to do it, let along hold such composure in free fall, mere metres from metal structures that would mean her death. Fifty metres from the bottom, Saara activated her anti grav grenade and the timer ticked down, two…one…
The anti-gravity grenade activated and the Booster and Exec hovered mere feet above the ground. The chamber was filled with the static electricity residue from the dark energy generator. The Salvager guards, two hefty looking creatures with long serrated claws and bodies of what to Saara looked like the white bears of the north were held helpless in the aura of the gravity grenade. The exec on the other hand had already mastered how to position herself in zero gravity. Taking aim with her baton, she elongated it into a long thin spike then retracted it, once, twice.
The spear like baton slipped into the chinks of the metal plates bolted to the heads of the creatures and slipped easily into their brains. The Booster’s breath caught with just how deadly the exec was with that baton. The sound of boots on metal stairs far above broke her out of her thoughts and she deactivated the grenade.
They dropped to the ground with ease, while the corpses of the Salavager guardians hit with a thick thud. They moved to the generator housing and Saara activated her wrist -computer to analyse the machine, looking for the way to best remove the energy core when she felt the hand of the exec shove her out of the way.
“No, no, Booster-girl. I got old codes shud be aw-ight.” She punched in a long series of numbers and letters on the ancient keypad.
The Booster looked to the exec and she shrugged, turning her baton into a sword. Two precise slices and the housing to the core fell away. Another and the power converter assembly was destroyed allowing them to remove the core without a backlash of energy. Saara moved forward and scooped up the power core. Straightening, she felt the cold point of the sword on her neck and froze.
“Give it.” The exec ordered.
Saara realized that if she did she is dead. “I thought we were in this together. This is stupid.”
“Tik-Tok. Give it.”
Saara turned slowly and saw the exec smile slightly, her triumph assured. The sound of the approaching Salvagers made the exec turn her head for just an instant. The booster activated her thrusters and jumps straight up. The exec swears something Saara didn’t understand as she was set upon but Salvager troops, her attention turns to survival.
The Booster had to make three jumps to get back to the breach she made. The scene revealed total carnage. Scores of drones and other Salvager creations attacked the breach in the perimeter. The Tankers took the flanks and the remaining corporation troops held the centre. None seemed to be left alive. The booster could see interspersed between the corpses of the enemy the remains of her soldiers and allies. She powered up her exo-suit and jumped away, forcing thoughts of Durn and her unit from her mind. This was war after all, and thoughts of loss had no place when on a mission.
* * * *
Below her, Durn stirred under the corpses of the fallen. His exo-suit heavily damaged he was not able to move very far under the weight of his weapons. Sounds of Salvager troops picking through the dead and looking for Dark Energy power cells to instigate new transformations were getting closer. A shadow loomed over him, and he turned the see what had come to claim him. Soon Durn would see the tip of a baton, behind that the face of the exec, but it was not really her anymore.
A quick thrust, then he saw nothing at all.
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