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The Main Six - A Story about Reckless Ladies in Power Armor

Discussion in 'FanFic' started by DaRedOne, Mar 20, 2018.

  1. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher
    Warcor

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    My name is Legion - part 03

    The Secondary Hab Dome was secondary in name only. It was a massive superstructure about as big as some of the largest metropolis of NeoTerra. It was a marvel of human engineering, and it was such a perfect imitation of how living on a planet’s surface would be, that the high rise vaulted dome often caused a strong vertigo sense on any nomad stepping on it for the first time.

    It was described as ‘falling upwards’ by several of them, a sensation of dizziness and confusion that came with the sudden addition of an actual sky above their head. Twilight felt that way when she drove out of the Vaudeville tunnel and into the hab dome, taking a moment to let her brain adjust and her eyes settle in as she looked at the artificial sky. Blue with great, fluffy clouds like some painting she had seen in a museum back at Beauvoir, the sky was the one thing that always gave Twilight a foreboding sense, the feeling of being vulnerable and in the open.

    Jewel was perfectly fine with it, though. She rode shotgun on Twilight’s compact grav-car, her Comlog open in front of her as she double-checked the lists her friend had pulled out of Virtualspace. Twilight’s dive had rendered so much information that they hadn’t had the time to sort through all of it, and Jewel was still combing through while the hacker drove on.

    “Focus on the stuff about the Nakatomi building.”

    Twilight said before nodding once. A nod of her head was all it took to make Jewel’s Comlog switch pages to show what the hacker wanted her to see. That sudden switch made the diva yelp and shake her hands.

    “Twi! Privacy, darling.”

    She huffed while scrolling through the information floating in front of her, her eyes scanning the text faster than most people could. Twilight might be better at writing code and bypassing security protocols, but the former PanO countess was a better reader, and her analytic eye picked up some details that her friends often missed.

    “Here. There’s a haqqislamite lady staying in the twentieth floor. Legion had a contact with a haqqislamite mercenary company, right? This might be it.”

    “Probably.”

    Twilight nodded. She raised one hand from the steering wheel and began swirling it in the air as she spoke, causing a series of holographic displays to form around her fingers as she manipulated the codes without looking at them. After a few seconds, Jewel’s Comlog changed again, showing a camera feed for the Nakatomi Offices’ twentieth floor.

    “See if you can find any suspicious movement. I’m going to shut their vigilance down in ten. Giving all control to your suit, Jewel.”

    “Okay” Jewel sighed loudly, shaking her head as her friend forgot about personal space “This is odd. Kind of… Empty for an office building in the middle of a day cycle, don’t you think? There should be a lot of people coming and going.”

    Jewel put a finger to her lips as she switched from camera feed to camera feed. She quickly noticed there was a room she couldn’t access, and it wasn’t the toilets. The absence of something often meant the presence of trouble, she thought as she tapped the missing camera, then opened up a schematic of the building to make sure she was not making things up.

    “This is it, Twi. Twentieth floor, room 2017. It’s a huge void, I can get nothing there, just the name of a tenant and that’s it. If this isn’t the one we want, I’ll dye my hair green and call myself the Jokerette.”

    “Joker’s Daughter.”

    “What?”

    “The green haired clown girl related to the Joker, she’s his daughter… Well, sort of, she’s actually-”

    “Darling, it was hyperbole. I’m not going to dye my glorious hair green.”

    Twilight chuckled and drove on, hands on the wheel as she smirked back at the haughty diva. They took less than ten minutes to get to the Nakatomi Offices, and by then Jewel had been granted full control of its security protocols, thanks to her hacker friend. Twilight parked the grav-car a block away from the building, and they finished the distance on foot.

    Riot Grrls weren’t an uncommon sight in the Secondary Hab Dome, but they weren’t common either. It was just the kind of unremarkable thing to ensure the receptionist wouldn’t bat an eye at the two women when they passed by him, the man seemingly completely enraptured by whatever he was watching on a solid screen monitor.

    Twilight noted the solid screen and raised an eyebrow as the elevator doors closed. Odd. Then, as the last sliver of the door closed, the man raised his head and she caught sight of his eyes: they were jet black, completely empty as if she had looked into the void of space within his head.

    “Oh. Fuck.”

    Jewel perked up, her hand moving instantly to the rifle locked to her back. She drew her gun and racked a bullet into the chamber in a single, fluid motion that could have been on a movie. Her stance was perfectly still as she turned to Twilight.

    “What’s wrong?”

    Twilight’s hands shook as she reached back and pulled her shotgun off the mag-lock too, pumping it once to feel the reassuring click of a shell into the firing chamber. The elevator moved slowly, lights blinking around them as the purple haired woman lowered her visor too, motioning for Jewel to do the same. Her hands shook, that familiar tremble adding to the tension on her words.

    “The receptionist. Did you see his eyes?”

    “Nope. What about them?”

    “They were… Black. Like, completely black, like a pair of charcoal stones. Really… Do you remember those sepsitorized Ghulams we ran into back in Alfundaq?”

    Jewel shuddered. She remembered the near destruction of the asteroid all too well. Those frantic moments when no one knew who they were fighting, the panic as friends turned their weapons against friends… The ability to corrupt Cubes was the Combined Army’s greatest weapon. The diva’s next word bellied the fear in her voice.

    “Yes.”

    She said before the doors of the elevator opened up. A quick look at the LED display above them showed they were not on the twentieth floor, but on the seventeenth. They didn’t step out of the metal box, not daring to brave the dark corridor in front of them.

    Twilight’s grip got a little tighter around her shotgun as she lowered it, raising her left hand to open her hacking interface. A disk of purple symbols and neon images formed around her hand as she tried to manipulate the building’s security system again… It took about a second for her to get slapped with a negative warning so hard she actually reeled in pain from the red klaxons as they replaced the usual purple glow around her hand.

    “It’s a trap.”

    “Oh, really? I thought it was just an electrical failure, darling.” Jewel snarked as she stepped out of the elevator. “Come on, get out of that box before it falls.”

    “It has analog safety locks.” Twilight said as she stepped out of the elevator anyways, bringing her shotgun up again. “But yeah, I guess they figured out I was snooping around. Couldn’t shunt me out, so they set a trap.”

    “And we walked right into it.” Jewel huffed, leading the way with her gun at the ready, her visor making the lack of lights on the corridor completely irrelevant.

    “Can we blame Rhona for being too reckless and forcing us to act without fully considering the consequences?” Twilight followed behind the white armored diva, shotgun at the ready too.

    “No. But let’s do that anyways. If we get out of this alive, that is.”

    Twilight had the building schematics showing at the corner of her visor, serving as a map for them as they moved in the dark, covering each other. The silence was so strong they could hear their own sensors pinging out, and the occasional tap of their heels on the metal floor.

    “It’s too quiet…”

    A burst of gunfire shredded the wall next to them, the gunshots coming from inside the wall as a pair of heavy machineguns opened up in a perfect crossfire. If their warmor were a bit bigger, a bit slower, the two girls would have been cut down. But their lighter suits moved fast enough to dive back into cover as the corridor around them erupted in a violent storm of bullets and shrapnel.

    “You had to jinx it, Twilight!”

    Jewel called over the roar of gunfire as they huddled down, trying to keep a low profile. They could hear the whine of the heavy guns coming off the next two rooms, and the only thing keeping them safe was the corridor being too dark to allow the shooters to see them well. It was still a dire situation, with the two women pinned down by the heavy gunfire raining down on them.

    “Flashbangs!”

    Twilight called out as she tossed a grenade over her shoulder, not caring much for aiming it. Jewel echoed the movement, sending a second grenade over towards the shooters to ensure they’d be caught in the blast. There was a pair of muffled explosions behind the two of them before they spun around, breaking cover to rush their shooters before they recovered.

    The corridor had been tight once, but it had been shredded open wide by the two guns, their heavy power tearing down the walls and chewing up the supports and office cubicles. It looked like a large room peppered with waist high, half molten walls now. At opposite corners of the now open room stood two Reaction Zonds, the four legged drones cycling their guns as they tried to reset their sensors after the flash grenades.

    Twilight rushed the one on the right. She leapt over the wreckage of a wall and ran on top of several office tables, jumping from one to the next before leaping on top of the Zond and crouching down onto it. She touched her hand to the smooth, domed chassis, next to where the processor should be.

    “Go to sleep.” Twilight’s hand shone bright purple, slivers of light sinking into the smooth dome before the drone went still, its guns slowing down and its body slumping as if dead.

    Jewel raised herself up and thumbed the E/M launcher of her combi-rifle on. She aimed calmly, letting her suit align her hands with the iron sights on her gun before squeezing the trigger with all the calmness of the world. There was a little ‘fhwump’ out of her gun, and the drone went dead on its tracks.

    “I didn’t jinx it!” Twilight finally said as she got down off the drone. “These things must have been set to react to sound”

    “So? You’re saying you talking triggered the ambush. That is the meaning of jinxing.”

    The dark skinned hacker rolled her eyes before nodding at the emergency staircase.

    “Come on. This way. We need to get to the twentieth floor before Legion escapes.”

    They rushed upstairs, Twilight leading the way with her shotgun pressed to her chest and her suit’s sensors at full power. No more ambushes now, it was clear they were on the right track, and their prey was trying their best to keep the Main Six from finding them. However, Twilight couldn’t shake the feeling it was still too easy.

    The whole building was dark now, and Twilight led the way to make full use of her shotgun in the enclosed spaces. She set it to roomclearer rounds, the wide blasts perfect to shred anything that decided to come against the purple armored Riot in the dark.

    She kicked the door to the Twentieth Floor open and strode into the main corridor, a ping on her HUD telling her Jewel was behind her and she didn’t need to worry about her back. The two women advanced fast, moving with practiced cadence as Twilight came up to the room 2017 door and pressed her side to it.

    Jewel flanked the door too, pulling a small breaching charge from her thigh compartment and planting the disc sized explosive on the door. They had done this so many times before, they didn’t have to talk. Both women knew to wait the three seconds to let the charge arm up, and they waited in silence, their suits’ lights dimming down in the dark.

    Three seconds. Three clicks of the small breaching charge before it blew up the door, ripping a hole the size of a football on it. Twilight kicked it open and rushed in, suit powering up again to glow bright neon purple. Jewel rushed in after her, adding her own neon blue glow to the dark room.

    It felt so familiar, the dark room with many monitors, bathed in green light and echoing with the sound of a dozen processors running at full power. It was like they were standing inside a much larger version of Twilight’s own room back home. It even felt as empty, as their suits’ sensors picked no signatures, no living beings inside the room.

    “Well… This looks like the place.” Jewel said when her suit confirmed they were alone.

    “They must have left several automatic protocols running from here as a decoy.” Twilight said out loud, putting one hand to the nearest terminal as she tried to connect with it “If Pinkie hadn’t thought of going to-”

    Something clicked to her side, and Twilight threw herself back to barely dodge the burst of a combi-rifle that had been less than a metre away from her. Thermo Optical camouflage could fool most sensors unless they were actively searching for it, and Jewel had been lulled into overconfidence by the idea Pinkie had already found this ‘Legion’.

    Well, now the diva felt silly. She saw the blur of a camouflaged person move about in the dimly lit room and instantly figured out what was going on, now it was a matter of flushing out that camouflage.

    “Cover me, Twi! I’m gonna mark him!”

    Twilight nodded as she tumbled across the floor, raising her gun to fire back at the source of the shots. Not even with her visor’s heat sensors she could see through the highly advanced PanOceanian camouflage tech, and so she trusted her eyes, firing at what she hoped was not just a bundle of cables shaped like a person.

    There were many ways to fight a ghost, but Jewel preferred the technological one. She ducked under a computer monitor and opened up her comlog, groaning when she heard the rattle of gunfire behind her. Faster, she had to be faster. It was a simple matter of echolocation, her suit sending out several subsonic pings that reflected off the walls around her, bouncing over every surface in the room.

    All those signals came back to Jewel’s suit and she just had to collate them together, then use all the information to build a VR map of the room, then transmit that to Twilight’s visor… It took less than twenty seconds to do that.

    Twenty seconds felt like an eternity as Twilight weaved and dodged the blasts sent her way. She felt a bullet graze her shoulder plate and the high impact sent her tumbling again, rolling on her side against the cables on the floor. She could hear the steps of her shooter, but all she could see was a barely there blur…

    And then, like magic, the blur became a person, or at least the shape of a person. Twilight’s visor projected on her eyes, showing the feminine shape of the Hexaedron operative in front of her.

    “Now I see you, bitch.”

    The purple hacker raised her shotgun one handed and squeezed the trigger, her arm bucking with the force, but the searing blast took out one of the Hexa’s legs, shearing her shin in half and practically obliterating her left foot. The woman, Legion, could this be her? She was soon laying on the ground, wheezing and drifting into unconsciousness from the bloodloss.

    Twilight scrambled to her feet, crawling over to grab the woman’s face. Jewel came over too, still pointing with her rifle as if the Hexa could somehow shrug off having a limb blown off.

    “Fuck. She’s going into shock. I’m going to try and-”

    “No.” The camouflage turned off and Twilight saw herself face to face with a pale skinned, green haired and green eyed woman. “You’re not gonna take my Cube, you Nomad whore.”

    Legion spat at her face, but the blood stopped on Twilight’s visor, leaving a red blotch over it as the former Hexaedron operative held one of Twilight’s hands, keeping the hacker from touching the cube port behind Legion’s jaw.

    “You’re already dead.” Twilight answered “You can’t stop me.” Her tone was grim, even a little sad, as the young woman realized just how many laws and ethical beliefs she was about to break, again.

    Legion, the pathetic, pale, malnourished thing under Twilight’s grip, smirked and showed her bloody teeth, playfully raising her other hand even as it shook from the pain and blood loss. She pointed at the door behind the two Riots.

    “I’m just the distraction, you dumb bitch.”

    There were people at the door. People wearing office clothes and looking pale and emaciated, people with black, empty eyes that looked like the void of space…

    The creation of the Cube had been one of Humanity’s greatest advancement, the ability to interface human brain with machine to create a seamless connection. But the best and most common use of the Cube was as a storage unit for a person’s memories and personality, thus allowing those memories to be accessed and downloaded into a new body later. It was the closest to immortality one person could get, and technological advancements meant nearly every human in the Human Sphere had one implanted.

    Then the Combined Army had appeared and some of its agents employed the Sepsitor. The Sepsitor was a piece of Voodootech that corrupted a person’s Cube, overloading their brains and overriding all functions to transform the person into a secondary host for the Sepsitor’s mind. It turned human beings into husks, empty and enthralled to some bizarre alien AI from the depths of space.

    Twilight saw the eyes before her and realized those people were lost. They were all under the command of a single entity, and as she turned look down at the woman beneath her, she saw green eyes slowly turn into black voids too.

    “My name is Legion… For we… Are… Many.”

    Jewel raised her rifle, swallowing her breath as she looked at the people arrayed at the door. There were Thirty floors on the Nakatomi building, and each one had Eight offices in it… At best there would be a couple thousand people in the building, there should be a couple thousand people. If only a third of those had been sepsitorized, if only a fourth… The Diva suddenly felt a deep sense of dread as those people began shambling in.

    Twilight stood up, dropping the dying body and forgetting the cube. No way she’d let a- Oh, sweet Mary mother of God. Legion had been connected to the Social Energy! There was no knowing how deep her tendrils could be!

    The dark skinned woman looked at the dead eyed people in front of the door, but Jewel was the one who broke the silence:

    “Why aren’t they attacking? They’re just standing there.”

    “There’s no EI Aspect to command them.” Twilight breathed a sigh of relief. “They’re stuck. That… That thing back there… She was the control node… I think.”

    The people at the door suddenly lurched forward, coming at the two women in erratic, jerking movements as if they had forgotten how to walk. Their hindbrains were the only thing working now, the most basic impulses left as their human minds had been utterly burned out. One of them stumbled on a computer table and fell face first on the floor, a sickening crack meaning he had broken his neck.

    The next one was slightly less unresponsive in her movements, and she lunged at Jewel, trying to grab at the diva and pull her down. Jewel swung a fist at the woman’s temple and knocked her down with a single punch, her enhanced strength making short work of the shambling husk of a person.

    “Just like Alfundaq again…” She sucked the air in through her teeth “They’re going feral.”

    She sounded calm, but Twilight could feel the diva’s voice breaking as she pulled her gun up, pointing at what should have been just a group of Bakunin citizens as they slowly but surely advanced towards the two of them.

    “How many outside?”

    Twilight asked as she turned to the computer behind her, trying to regain control of the building. But more importantly, she had to purge everything Legion had done in the Social Energy, to erase any traces of the Combined Army influence. It was easier said than done.

    “I don’t know. My sensor’s picking a couple hundred, but that’s just this floor.”

    Twilight had her back to the diva when she answered. The hacker couldn’t see it, but the burst she heard followed by a loud, damp thud meant Jewel had decided to put those people out of their misery. The loud sound was bound to agitate the husks. Soon they’d break out into a frenzy.

    “Can we break through?”

    “That depends. Do you have a tank in your pocket?”

    Jewel’s snark was cold, but her attempt at humor was just to mask the growing dread in her voice as she fired off another burst. Her sensor was turned off, as she didn’t need it to tell the passage in front of them was blocked. She knew what Twilight was doing, she knew the importance of minimizing the damage that creature had made to the Social Energy…

    Jewel just didn’t know if she was willing to give her life for that.

    “Twi! They’re starting to rush!”

    The diva called out as a larger man wearing a janitor’s uniform came through the door threshold, running at her before being stopped by a quick burst of rifle fire. At least the small door made for a natural bottleneck. But ammunition was a problem.

    Twilight managed to get in contact with Spike and set up an automated sweep routine, trying to find and isolate any traces of Legion’s corrupted AI in the Social Energy. She also sent the information and the code for her sweeps to Celeste’s office. It would be almost impossible to completely ensure the net was clean of external influence, but at least they’d be able to contain it. Or so she hoped.

    “Well… I have an idea.”

    Twilight said as she closed the window, finally looking at where her friend had been holding the feral people at bay with short, controlled bursts. They weren’t coming en masse yet, probably because Legion hadn’t had time to get as many of them as she wanted up to the Twentieth floor. There was the distinct possibility of the whole building being infested with husks, though.

    “Well, darling, I am all ears.” Jewel snarked back, while unleashing another burst. The diva was quick to reload, sliding one empty clip off and slotting a new one into her rifle in a short, efficient move. “What I am not is made of ammo.”

    “Think we can get to the elevator shaft? We could climb down from there.”

    “You want to break through? That’s impossible! They’ll overrun us the moment we step out! They’ll overrun us if we stay here too, for that matter.”

    Twilight allowed herself to grin as she raised a hand, opening her fingers up to bring up her hacking interface. The purple circle around her hand swirled and swirled, clicking into place like a virtual, projected clock.

    “O woman of little faith.”

    The hacker smiled, fighting her shakes back as she commanded something to scuttle up the stairs, slow and ponderous. It was followed by the sound of cycling ammo belts and the very characteristic powering up of actuators.

    Then the corridor erupted in heavy machinegun fire. Twilight directed the Reaktion Zond with one hand, guiding it to cut down the husks and attract their attention. With her other hand, the young woman crossed herself and asked Saint Mary for forgiveness as she consigned so many innocent people to oblivion.

    “Oh. I really didn’t see that coming.”

    Jewel didn’t admit it, but she was dumbstruck for half a second as the zond drew out the husks, its loud, flashing gun causing so much noise the smaller women were completely ignored in favor of the buzzing heavy machinegun.

    The lull in the attack was enough to allow the two women to dash down the corridor towards the elevator. They reached it just as the husks got to the drone and overwhelmed it, tearing the machine apart even as it continued to fire into the horde.

    It took both of them to pry open the elevator doors, their suits’ enhanced strength allowing them to overpower the safety locks. Once open, the doors only revealed the deep, seemingly endless black shaft of the elevator, but it was either braving the darkness or fighting the horde, and Jewel had done her fair share of shooting for a day.

    The diva leapt at the elevator steel cables, wrapping herself around them and starting to climb down as if it was a rope in high school. Twilight followed suit, taking a moment to bid the hapless drone goodbye and thank it for saving her bacon before she too began descending.

    It would be long, dark and tiresome, but at least now they were safe. Twilight only hoped the same could be said of the rest of the ship.
    ________________________________________________________________

    Scooter heard gunshots coming from outside and perked up, somehow grinning despite her mouth being taped shut. She could hear the very characteristic popping sound of a Vulkanja made MULTI-Rifle being fired in full auto mode.

    Her guards had the same reaction, the two men turning and going for cover at each side of the only door to their room, each of them holding a compact rifle on their hands. They looked ready for action, their dark glasses streaming with information as they waited for the door to be breached.

    Then an armored, orange fist burst out of the wall next to one of them, grabbing the man by the neck before pulling him through the wall, his screams muffled as more shots were heard.

    Scooter was vibrating as she watched it all happen in front of her. The door swung open and the final guard brought his gun up to shoot at the head of the invader. However, a cyan armored body fell in through the door, and the guard barely had time to look down and see the rainbow haired woman pointing her gun at him before his chest was riddled with high powered bullets.

    Butterfly rushed into the room, going straight for the tied down girl in the center of it. She quickly untied and pulled off the tape from Scooter’s mouth, allowing the little girl to squeal so loudly one would think she had been in a roller coaster.

    “Rhona! I knew you’d come!” Scooter tried to get up, but Butterfly held her down while checking her for any kind of damage.

    “Hey squirt!” RD stowed her rifle on her back as she approached her sister, leaving Jack as a guard at the now broken down door. “You okay? They didn’t hurt you, right?”

    As her sister ruffled her hair, Scooter finally had enough strength in her arms to jump up and hug the armored Riot Grrl. Hugging armor plate was nowhere near as good as hugging a real person, but at the moment it felt perfect.

    “I’m fine. I’m fine. Glad to see you. I promise I wasn’t skipping classes! These guys got me right as I left the Van Dorp!”

    The punk looked at the doctor, who nodded to confirm the teenager was fine. RD finally released a breath she had been holding all day, her body relaxing and unleashing all the tension that had built up. Everything hurt, from her neck, to her feet, to the very broken bones on her hand… And still it felt so good! No amount of pain could keep her from running her throbbing fingers along her sister’s hair.

    “It’s okay, squirt. I know.” She smiled, then put a hand across Scooter’s shoulders “Let’s get you back home, Scoots.”

    As the three of them left, Rhona reached for her visor and sent a message to Pinkie and Twilight. She was so glad it was all over now.
    ____________________________________________________

    Luna stomped down in front of the smirking thing in front of her. She refused to call the hybrid a woman, or even a person, as her shifting skin seemed to writhe and move as if to mock Luna’s perfectly sculptured face.

    “Where’s the girl? You better start talking before the technicians come in to ask questions, woman…”

    Legion smirked at the SWAST Lieutenant, loving how the artificial woman in front of her seemed angered by her mere presence. She could smell it in Luna’s blood: the enhancements, the changes, the minute ways she had been improved over a normal human. But more than anything, Legion could smell the rage, the anger, the boiling of the black haired woman’s blood.

    “You’re ridiculous. You’ve got nothing I can fear. Nothing to bargain with, nothing to threaten with. Haven’t felt this powerless in a while, have you, princess?”

    Luna straightened up, knowing full well not to answer the questions of a captive, but it was hard not to get angry at the green haired woman. It was hard to hold back the impulse to snap her neck with the flick of a finger.

    They were in a room, an isolated interrogation room within the Van Dorp Center. That didn’t surprise Luna in the least, as it was a place run by the Riot Grrl Corps after all. Thankfully the local security had deferred to her authority and the only other person in the room with her was the pink armored girl sulking in a corner.

    Pinkie had her arms folded and was staring at Legion with nothing but hatred in her eyes. She wanted to kill the woman, but couldn’t do so until they were sure Scooter was safe. And so far, it had been a back and forth of Luna and the former Hexa trading insults and nothing else.

    It was hard to interrogate someone who literally had nothing to lose. She wasn’t a Pan Oceanian agent anymore, so there was no Patriotism to appeal to. And it seemed she was barely human, so even the idea of prison or execution seemed trivial to the hybrid woman.

    “Oh, I have one thing.” Luna turned around. straightening herself up and putting her hands to her back “I could send you back to the Hexaedron. Would you enjoy that, ‘Legion’? Or should I call you Christina Ackerman? Hexaedron operative number TH-097?”

    The SWAST officer allowed her quarry to absorb the information, looking at the green haired woman for any reaction. There was none.

    “I know who you are. I know who you betrayed to get here. Would you enjoy being sent back? I’m pretty sure whatever the Hexaedron does to you will make the Black Labs feel like a sunny vacation.”

    Pinkie rolled her eyes. She could tell the hybrid wasn’t going to crack, it was on her stance, her shoulders, her eyes… Legion, or Christina, or whatever the fuck this woman’s name was, she was gone. It only made Pinkie feel more and more worried about Scooter, about her sister…

    The pink armored girl giggled to herself. Scooter was RD’s sister, but by this point she was pretty much everyone’s mascot. No, that was not right. Scooter was family. She was Pinkie’s sister as much as she was RD’s…

    RAINBOWTRASH: I got her!

    Pinkie nearly leapt from her chair as the message popped up at the corner of her visor. She felt her heart jump to her mouth and she wanted to scream so loud! But she kept her cool, standing up and reaching for the holster on her thigh.

    “Hey, Legion? Christina? Alien bitch?”

    Pinkie’s perky, high pitched voice cut the air like a knife as both the other women in the room stopped talking to look at her. There was a sense of bewilderment to them, as they had been so immersed in their fruitless discussion that they had forgotten the girl was right there in the room with them.

    “What?”

    “You just became expendable.”

    Pinkie shot the woman between the eyes. Her hand moved too fast for Luna to stop, and as the lifeless body of the hybrid woman dropped to the floor, Luna backhanded the pink armored Riot Grrl hard enough to hurt her even with the visor in the way.

    The slap hurt, but it hurt good. Yeah, she was going to get chewed out for this. Hard. Twilight was going to go crazy, and so would Celeste later. But this Legion, she had messed with Pinkie’s family. Nobody messed with Pinkie’s family.
    ____________________________________________________________

    Legion leapt up from her chair as she felt the feedback of another body dying. She had lost two bodies in a single day, more than she had lost in the last few months. It hurt so much, her leg, her head, her arms… She had to repeat to herself several times.

    “It’s not my leg. It’s not my head. It’s not my leg. It’s not my head.”

    Her voice droned on in the dark as she looked up at the ship’s control node. All of this mess, all the dead bodies she had to leave behind, they were all decoys. It was a shame she hadn’t been able to corrupt much of the Social Energy, but the few pockets she had managed to subvert would cause so much trouble for this wretched, horrible, tainted…

    She stopped herself. That was her human side thinking. Her human side, the one called Christina… Or was it Christian? Carina, maybe? Or perhaps Coran? She didn’t remember anymore. Not with all the bodies, all the minds inside her head.

    She wasn’t human anymore. She was an extension of the Evolved Intelligence. She was above human pettiness, above such silly notions of Allegiance, be it to a Flag, an Organization or a Family.

    So it didn’t matter that she had lost so many bodies. It didn’t matter that her progress had been halted. She was still alive, or at least one of her host bodies was, and she had a ship, a small freighter that she was about to launch out of Bakunin, out into the void where she could meet up with her beloved Mother…

    It didn’t matter. The pain didn’t matter, the sacrifices didn’t matter. She did not feel rage or frustration. Her work of two years for the Mother had been undone, but she was not angry. Her host bodies were dead, but she was not frustrated. She had had to organize a wild goose chase that spanned half of Bakunin just as a ruse to escape…

    She was not angry.

    It was done now. She had her escape, all she had to do was press the button to launch her ship… But her fingers hurt so much!

    “It’s not my hand. It’s not my hand”

    She repeated to herself as she finally pressed the launch button. Her ship had been programmed to follow a route deep into Human Edge, away from Bakunin, away from human interlopers… Away from all this nauseating, annoying…

    She was not angry.

    Legion, or the woman that called herself Legion, managed to wobble up to a bed and lay down on it, her body shaking to the point she more fell on the bed than laid on it. The embryo inside her would take some time to get used to this new host. Some time to establish a new prime host. It was okay. Soon she would see the Mother again.

    And all of humanity would soon understand how much better the Mother was.

    END
     
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  2. stevenart74

    stevenart74 Well-Known Member

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    Awesome stuff as always, @DaRedOne . . .

    In particular I felt excellent the descriptive parts of the "Fish Hunt" of Twilight on the Bakunin Arachne-Sphere and the alieness of the Hybride Speculo-Hexa mindset. . .

    I have to finish a lot of commissioned works and some urgent stuff for My R.P.G. Infinity Game, but be sure that the rough works that I sketched for the "Main Six" art will be finished as soon as possible in AT LEAST Basic Colours. . .

    Keep Up that Good Work !!!
     
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  3. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher
    Warcor

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  4. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher
    Warcor

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    This is a few weeks late, but I got a new job in these weeks, so this ended up sitting on my HD until I had time to go over it again. I enjoyed writing it, and it serves as a backdrop to how my girls ended up in Kurage. Also, I will probably write a few more chapters taking place IN Kurage as well. Cheers and enjoy it, folks!

    Call to Arms

    Jack stretched her arms and legs, bending her back and relaxing to allow her spine to pop into place. Bakunin’s artificial sun was not the same as the real thing, but at least it was better than the neon lights of Beauvoir. What she missed wasn’t the light, though, it was the warmth, the feeling of her limbs being heated up by the gentle caress of sunlight, and no artificial sun could reproduce that yet.

    The Varvara Park was in the Primary Hab Dome, the monolithic superstructure that capped one of Bakunin’s twin drive-pillars. The park itself was a marvel of human engineering, with real grass, real trees and real water, all somehow cultivated and kept alive despite the metal and plastic that made up most of the Mothership. It felt fantastic for most of Bakunin’s citizens to even have a place to sit down and enjoy a sunny day, but for Jack it felt… Fake.

    She had other issues to think about than how plastic the grass felt against her legs. Mainly the fact she was really second-guessing the reason why she was at the park, and the reason was limbering up a couple yards away from her: Rhona fucking Dmitry. Jack liked RD as much as she liked any of her friends, which was a lot, but moments like this made her wonder exactly why.

    The two of them were preparing to run a hundred meters dash. They had betted something silly on it: if Jack won RD would have to wear a frilly dress every day for the next three months, but if RD won Jack would have to get an eye color change. She wanted to remember how they started the bet, but the idea eluded her. It was still a fun idea.

    RD was a well oiled machine, all lean muscle and confidence wrapped up in a tattooed body toughened by living in the streets of Vaudeville, solving problems with her fists and wits. Jack was a buffed up, well fed, somewhat naive farmgirl from a planet that didn’t have AI ghosts talking to people’s heads, or power armored punk soldiers…

    They couldn’t be more different from each other, even their personalities, with Rhona’s loud, boisterous style clashing hard with Jacqueline's oftentimes shy, silent and sullen behavior. However, their love for physicality was what made the two women friends, and Jack remembered that as they both touched their fingers to the race track, the two of them kneeling side by side to prepare for their competition.

    “You still have time to call it quits, Jack.” RD chuckled as she lowered her head, throwing her rainbow colored hair back.

    “Well, why don’tcha do it, then?” The farmgirl huffed and adjusted her long ponytail against her shoulder. She looked up at the pink haired girl standing between the two competitors, and grinned “Call it, Pinkie.”

    Pinkie loved to watch her friends compete, but wasn’t a competitive girl herself. She held an air gun on one hand, and adjusted her dress to make sure her skirt wouldn’t be buffeted by the winds on the park. Pinkie’s frilly, feminine pink dress clashed with the tomboyish shorts and tops of her two friends, marking out why she wasn’t competing with them.

    It was still fun to watch them run, and the poofy haired girl raised her gun to the air, covering her ear with the other hand. The gun made a loud ‘pop!’ when she squeezed the trigger, sending confetti and streamers to the air as both the Bakunin born punk and the Dawn born amazon broke into a powerful run.

    Jack was one hundred and eighty pounds of pure muscle, her thighs exploding with strength as she propelled herself across the track, bounding and leaping like an Ariadnan deer in the wild. Her bronzed skin quickly gained a sheen of sweat as she kept running, pushing her legs to their breaking point. Before the first second, she had already gained a good distance from her rainbow haired friend.

    That sudden explosion hurt the legs, it burned the muscles as she pushed on, running at top speed. For those precious few seconds, the mere hundred meters of their dash, everything ceased to exist. It was the track, the finishing line, and the wind on her face. Even the pain on her legs and the burn on her lungs were gone, replaced by the sudden realization she was winning it all so easily.

    Then fatigue settled in, the pain on her muscles slowing her down from breakneck speed to merely fast. It hadn’t been even six seconds. For a moment she looked to the side and saw Rhona coming, the smaller girl saving energy with shorter steps, her body lowered to suffer less wind resistance. The punk moved like like a great feline, bounding closer to her prey as Jack’s bigger body tired down.

    At the seventh second, Jack was overtaken. She watched wide eyed as her smaller friend passed by her in a blur of rainbow colors, and as much as she pushed herself, forcing her burning legs to go faster, she couldn’t keep up with the punk. All the blonde could do was chase the smaller girl, watching as the intricate wing tattoo on RD’s back moved with her running, making the illusion of beating wings as the girl pretty much flew over the race track, hitting the finish line a half second before Jack herself stepped on it.

    It was over in ten, maybe eleven seconds. So fast, yet it felt like an eternity. Jack was left panting, her shirt matted with sweat as she stopped to catch her breath. Next to her, the punk was doing the same, fanning herself as she grinned at what had been a very hard earned victory.

    “Holy fuck, that was scary.” RD chuckled between her breaths “For a moment I thought I’d never catch up.”

    “Yeah, says tha girl that moves like a fuckin’ jet.” Jack managed to pant out as an answer “Ah guess Ah lost, then? Horseapples.”

    The two of them shared a chuckle as Pinkie caught up at the finish line. She came jogging at them, her hair and the hem of her dress bobbing at an almost comical rate, their bounce matching Pinkie’s own skip on her step.

    “So, Jackie’s lost? Does that mean she’s finally coming with us to the Armored Heels?”

    As Pinkie approached, Jack groaned at her, already questioning if the idea of taking that stupid bet had been a good one. She had agreed to getting a Comlog and a Cube implanted on her a few years ago, and her neck still itched every time she remembered there was a microchip in there, recording her every memory until the day she died.

    “Yeah. Let’s go do it, then. You sure this ain’t gonna mess up mah eyes, right?”

    “Ah, relax, big girl!” RD punched her in the shoulder, hitting the USAriadnan flag the amazon had tattooed there “You’re gonna like it.”

    She had a lingering feeling that was not true, but Jack followed the two girls anyways. They only stopped so she could retrieve the hat she had left on a park bench, and it was off to Vaudeville and those cramped, artificially lit tunnels again.
    ________________________________________

    Luna sunk into her chair, groaning loudly at the pile of reports in front of her. There was no physical pile, but she could see it in her mind, almost as if her Comlog was projecting a sample of the many, many pages the SWAST officer had to fill and type down after another operation.

    “Holy Mary Mother of God, I hate paperwork.” She grumbled to no one in particular as she opened one of the files and began typing down. Same old shit: double check dates, double check witness reports, double check casualties numbers, double check arrest numbers.... It was such a bore.

    The long haired officer grunted to herself as she finished the first report, tapping her holographic screen to save the file, then open a new one. Just for curiosity, she pulled up her communications node and called up a familiar, pixie-like face.

    “Hi Puckie!”

    “Luna, ma’am” The communications officer offered a quick salute.

    “Say, are there any occurrences at the moment? Any shootouts? Hostage situations? Anything?”

    Puckie sighed and shook her head as she looked down from the screen, checking something out.

    “I’m sorry, lieutenant.” She managed a weak smile that made her elvish features curl up “Nothing that requires a super heavy suit is going on at the moment. But I can put you on the waiting queue.”

    Luna shook her head, suddenly realizing the universe was telling her to just do the damn paperwork already.

    “Nah. Thanks, Puckie.” She smiled back at the pink faced communications officer before closing the link and opening the screen to see her pile of reports again. It would be a long day.

    She had been immersed in those reports for two hours when a voice from behind her made the enhanced woman stop.

    “Bored, aren’t we?”

    Luna turned around, swivelling in her chair and drawing her oversized sidearm in the same movement. Nobody should come up behind her like that in the middle of Jurisdictional Command HQ. Soon she was face to face with an old woman, an aged, white haired lady with a dark complexion and a fancy, gold and black tattoo around and under one of her eyes.

    “Wadjet? What the fuck? I almost shot you, nana.”

    Amanda ‘Wadjet’ Amari was somewhere between a Corregidor Intruder and a Tunguska Spektr commando, a freelancer stealth specialist that worked for the Nomad Nations as a whole instead of any specific ship. She wore long robes that were tinted blue and masked the highly technological nature of her operations. Even her rifle looked older and heavier than the sleek MULTI-Snipers favored by the rest of the Nomad nations.

    “Language, dear.”

    Wadjet grinned as she sat on a table, taking a packet of cigars out of her coat pocket and pulling one out with her teeth. The older woman offered one of the cigars to the younger one, and waited until Luna had lit them up before she continued talking.

    “I wanted to talk to you, but if that’s how you say hello to your granny, I think I should have gone and bothered Eleanor instead.”

    Luna tried to fight back the blushing on her cheeks as she pushed her big gun away from her. She had to admit, doing desk job was boring, and the boredom was driving her insane. Maybe that was why she was so jumpy.

    “Sorry, nana. It’s just I’ve been on desk duty for a week and I can feel my nerves atrophy every time I type a new report.”

    “You were always the most dramatic of the two.” Wadjet chuckled while blowing smoke “However, you’re also the most active. Which is why I came to you first.”

    “I knew it wasn’t to bring cookies and a hug.” Luna smirked “What’s the issue this time? You want me to bring down another Hashashin outpost? Or is it an ALEPH one this time?”

    “Oh, it’s none of that, dear. Although now that you mention it, I should have brought cookies. You look like you haven’t been eating well.”

    The older woman suddenly pinched Luna’s cheeks, as if to check how fat they were. She squeezed once, then turned them from side to side, inspecting the SWAST Officer’s perfectly symmetrical face.

    “It looks like you aren’t getting three meals a day, Lulu. Are you forgetting to eat again?”

    “Nana!” Luna pouted as she tried to push the older woman away “I’m perfectly healthy. Just because I’m not fat like Elly doesn’t mean I’m not eating.”

    That made Wadjet laugh out loud. The older woman wasn’t very tall, standing at about 1,65m, she looked small and frail, and yet her hands were still firm and never lost their grip. She let Luna’s face go and pulled back, still chuckling.

    “Fine fine. Anyways, I’m not here for you. Well, not just for you. I want those six little troublemakers your sister has taken under her wing.”

    “The ‘Main Six’?” Luna raised an eyebrow “Fuck, Elly can barely control them. And after the whole thing with Legion, I’m not sure they’re eager to do her dirty work again.”

    There was a moment of silence as both women took a drag from their cigars again. The smoke around them was growing thick, and someone was about to get called in for a violation of the ‘no smoking indoors’ policy.

    “Yeah, well, that’s because your sister is a bitch.” Wadjet smiled “Which is why I came to you, Lulu. I need you to come with me to talk to this Twilight girl. I’m sure she’s gonna listen to you after you helped them out.”

    Luna rolled her eyes and turned to her monitor, thinking about all the paperwork she was not going to do now. She should be happy about it, but somehow she could only think about the fact she’d have to come back to it eventually.

    “Ugh. Why does everyone want me as their bouncer now? I’m not even as big as Elly is.”

    “Well, first, you like to beat up perps; second, you have that jagged scar on your face; Third, you do that thing where you insult people in their mother language.”

    “Tozz fiik, jida” Luna groaned.

    “See?” Both women chuckled “You just proved my point.”

    Luna rolled her eyes again “Fine!” she slammed her hands down on her table “What the hell is the mission anyways?”

    “Oh, you’re gonna like it.” Said the old woman as the two of them stood up, Luna closing her monitor again. “have you ever heard about ‘Novyy Cimmeria’?”
    ___________________________________________

    The ‘Tactical Armored Heel’ was not, in fact, an armor workshop, despite the misleading name. What it was was a body modification Salon, one of the best in Vaudeville too. It had a large, neon pink sign on the front door, big and shiny showing an armored boot in a rather risqué pose. It was a very in demand place, and most people had to wait for days before they could get their appointment.

    Pinkie was not most people. She waltzed up to the door and flat out knocked on it, not bothering with electronic handshakes or anything more complex than her knuckles. The door opened with the characteristic pressurized hiss of a Bakunin door, and the person behind it hugged the small, pink haired girl tightly.

    “Pinkie! My darling dearest, how are you?” The man hugging her was abnormally tall and slender, to the point he had to bend forward to hug the smaller girl “And Rhonnie too! And who’s the buff lady?”

    “What’s up, Fingers? This is Jackie, she’s here for her first eye color change.” Pinkie stepped to the side,allowing the strange man to have a closer look at the Ariadnan Amazon.

    Jack pulled back, still not quite at ease with those modified people from her new home, even though Fingers’ smile was quite honest and friendly when he first tried to hug her. Once he realized how intimidated the big girl was, though, he switched to a handshake, which was accepted much more eagerly.

    “Ah, I see now.” he nodded at the flag tattooed on Jack’s arm “You’re not from these parts, huh? Don’t sorry, sweetheart, we have the best tech, the best pigments, and I would never hurt a friend of a friend, right Pinkie? Rhonnie?”

    RD rolled her eyes at that, but nodded and pushed past the tall man, groaning and wagging her finger at him.

    “Yeah, he’s good. But enough chatter, I need my hair done up. Where’s Colors?”

    Fingers watched the punk walk past him and frowned when she didn’t accept his silent request for a hug. It was his turn to roll his eyes when RD asked about another worker of the Armored Heels.

    “Oh, she’s not working today, Rhonnie. And I’m going to remind you she’s very much in a relationship, you naughty woman.”

    “Heh” RD shrugged, making the rainbow colored wings on tattooed on her back flutter along with her shoulders “I’m not jealous.”

    The inside of the Tactical Armored Heels looked more like the Bay of a TAG control center than what Jack remembered a Salon looking like. The first room had a reception table and several pod-like beds arrayed in a circle around it, several of those pods closed down and being monitored by Salon workers.

    The tall blonde followed Fingers along with her two friends, the slender man pointing at a trio of empty beds for them and snapping his overly long fingers to call for some assistants.

    “Jamila, Fuentes, come over here you two. I want these girls given the very best!”

    He clapped his hands as the two assistants began setting up the pods, opening them and showing they were filled with some kind of amniotic fluid. The sight of that watery gooeyness made Jack flinch, but her friends seemed eager for it.

    “Jamilla, Rhonnie likes her hair loose and smooth, and be careful with the colors, don’t get them too dark but not too bright too, and-oh!” He made a flourish as he turned to look at the much smaller punk Riot “Rhonnie, dear, we have a new eye pigmentation change, it allows you to choose the iris color yourself! Would you like to try it?”

    “Yeah, that sounds cool!”

    RD nodded as she smiled at the much taller man. She was quick to climb into the pod, only stopping to blow a kiss at the assistant and pick the seven different shades for her own hair before the heavy lid closed on top of her.

    “Fuentes.” Fingers called out for an overly muscular, shirtless man that looked right out of an underwear commercial “For Pinkie, you have to take care of her curls. Keep the volume but don’t let the hair strands break, okay? And make it bright, colorful, cheerful!”

    Fingers clapped his hands again. finally turning to Jack and nodding at her while the pink haired girl climbed into her own pod.

    “Alright darling, I know you’re new to this, so would you like me to walk you through the process?”

    “Yeah, that sounds like a good idea” Jack nodded as she approached one of the pods, allowing Fingers to guide her towards a viewscreen on the side of it.

    “Look here, dear.” He pointed out as a scheme of a human face was shown to her. “It’s very simple. A quick injection of pigments and nanotech directly into the eyes, the microscopic needles cause absolutely no damage to the Irises, as you can see.”

    Indeed it seemed to be quite simple and straightforward, and Jack nodded at the images she was being shown. There were a few questions, though.

    “Does it hurt? And will Ah have to spend some time blind or somethin’?” She pointed at the screen, specifically at the image of two barely visible needles pushing into the model’s eyes.

    “Oh, no!” Fingers shook his head several times to emphasize it “It’s absolutely painless, the needles are too small and too sharp to cause any pain, and the pigmentation is made to feel natural. There is a possibility your body will reject it, but it is small, and we have medical staff ready for it. Your beautiful eyes are safe with us, darling.”

    Jack felt only a little bit more confident at those words, but she nodded and touched the viewscreen to choose a color. She was presented with a slider, and adjusted it until she had a bright, vivid shade of green. It was just a bit more bright than natural, enough that most people wouldn’t even notice it wasn’t her natural born eye color.

    “Okay. Le’s do this, Mistah Fingers.”

    Fingers chuckled and waved a hand as he opened the pod and allowed the tall blonde woman to climb in. He seemed very confident and had a natural charm about him, his perfectly made, curly hair and his bright white teeth inspired trust, and his dark complexion was quite charming to look at. In the end, Jack felt safe, even if a little nervous.

    Jack pulled off her hat and left it on a hanger next to the pod. She tested the highly nutritious amniotic fluid lining the pod bed, feeling it smush around her fingers yet not quite adhering to them. It was odd, like sitting on a bed of jell-o. Eventually she felt comfortable enough to lay back on it, and watched as the pod closed around her, turning her world into a blue tinted cocoon.

    The process took about thirty minutes, and she really didn’t feel anything except a slight discomfort when the pod locked around her eyes. She was asked to focus her vision on the image of a pretty kitten, and after a while the still image became a video of a small cat playing the piano. It was cute.

    Jack got distracted watching cats, and didn’t see the time pass by. Eventually even the metal around her face felt acceptable, and floating in that gooey warm water was quite relaxing, making the amazon forget about the world around her for a while. There was a faint thrum on the background, but she preferred to watch the kittens than think about it.

    When the pod hissed open, Jack sat up the moment she was able to, blinking to adjust her eyes to the light. Indeed there was no change, and she turned to see her friends coming out of their own pods, looking pretty much the same. RD had her hair down for a change, looking like someone had splashed her with several different buckets of paint, while Pinkie still had her huge, poofy and unruly mane.

    “And there she is!” Fingers clapped excitedly “Here, have a look!”

    He held up a mirror and she looked at it, gasping when she saw the bright green of her own eyes. Covering her mouth, Jack blinked a few more times, and even raised her hand to touch her own cheeks, as if to check if it was really herself.

    “Wow. They do look good.”

    She had a shy, but honest smile on her face, a little marveled at the technology, until she got glomped by a punk half her size. When someone saw RD, they seldom realized how the rainbow haired girl was all lean, taut muscle, but getting glomped by her made Jack feel as if she had been hit by a baseball bat.

    “OH! You really did it! Awesome!” The punk looked at the mirror, her eyes a bright shade of red “Ah, you picked green? That’s lame!”

    RD laughed as she blinked a few times, her eyes slowly going from red to orange, then becoming green until they matched Jack’s own hue. Seeing it happen made the Dawn born woman gasp again, but then she giggled at it.

    “See?” Rhona said “This is how you do it!”

    Pinkie came up from behind, slapping the back of RD’s bright haired head and adding herself to the hug, pushing her face to fit into the mirror just like the other two.

    “Shush, Rhonnie. This is Jackie’s moment, and she looks nice!” the pink haired girl smiled wide, and her contagious energy soon had all three of them smiling “Take a picture, Fingers!”

    Fingers complied. He just had to tap the mirror and it took a picture of their smiling faces, sending it to Pinkie’s comlog right away. They all seemed quite cheerful, and Jack was finding herself enjoying the new look more and more.

    “Yeah, Ah like this. I’d rather look like a real person than some ALEPH robot.” She mock punched the punk snuggling her. “Thanks fer it anyways, Rhona.”

    They picked themselves up, and RD paid for her procedure and Jack’s. Not that the blonde couldn’t do it, but it had been part of their bet after all. Pinkie paid for her own, sharing a kiss on each cheek with Fingers before they all left the place.

    Jack felt oddly happy. She still caressed her own face every now and then, but every passing moment had her more used to the idea of her new eyes. It was such a small thing, but looking around, seeing Pinkie’s pink eyes and RD’s changed to yellow, it made sense. Besides, Twilight had hers purple, Jewel had blue and Butterfly had a lighter pink, so her green eyes would still stick out. It felt more and more like she was part of the team.

    By the time they got back to Beauvoir, Jack was very happy.
    _______________________________

    Twilight closed her fingers into a fist, smiling when her suit’s artificial muscles shone bright purple at her. She raised her balled hand and then opened it, watching as her hacking interface formed around it, a circle of symbols and pre-written programs. All it took was moving a finger or flicking her wrist to activate one, and merely closing her hand again made the interface go away.

    “How does it feel?” Jewel asked from her spot sitting on a computer a couple meters away from the purple haired hacker.

    “It feels… Right.” She grinned. “All actuators are good, and the hacking interface is smooth again. I feel like I can run through a wall and still have enough juice left to brick a Father Knight.”

    Jewel chuckled, shaking her head at those words. She turned to the computer screen in front of her and began typing on it.

    “Alright, darling, I’m going to upload the latest suite of programs and we can call it a day. I want to catch Las Flores today.”

    Twilight nodded and took a step back. They were in the armor workshop built into their own house, a smaller than usual place but still fully equipped to maintain and upgrade their armored suits. Twilight stepped into what was called ‘The Wrapper’, a coffin-like apparatus that allowed them to remove or put on the suits in only a few seconds.

    The young hacker closed her eyes as many hydraulic arms came around her, grabbing pieces of her suit and pulling them off. The armor plates came out first, unhooking the vambraces, chest plate, shoulder plates, her visor… Everything came out in a series of high powered hisses as the machine arms did their job.

    Eventually she was reduced to just the glowing, enhanced artificial musculature armorweave. That was peeled open, making a rubbery sound as Twilight’s toned, dark skinned body was revealed beneath the suit. She wore simple workout clothes under the armor, stepping forward barefoot and suddenly feeling very cold.

    “Who cranked up the AC?” She called out as she raised her hand, opening her Comlog to increase the temperature.

    “I did it!” called out a voice from the living room that Twilight recognized as Butterfly’s.

    “Hey, Butterball, darling, you can’t do that when we’re doing armor maintenance!”

    Jewel called out as she stepped into the Wrapper herself, getting her own suit removed. Unlike Twilight’s practical clothing, the Diva was only on her undies under the suit, so she got hit even harder by the sudden cold. Shivering on her legs, the gorgeous, blue haired woman came out of the workshop hugging her own arms, rubbing them to keep herself warm.

    Butterfly perked up from the couch where she was watching a show about Black Labs and Chimera productions. Her pastel pink hair was smoothed down and she had a comfy sweater on, looking the extreme opposite of Jewel’s barely there clothes.

    “Oh?” She widened her eyes “Sorry, I totally forgot you don’t put on clothes under your armor” She stuck her tongue out, playfully ribbing her friend while Twilight was already adjusting the temperature.

    Jewel fumed, but before she could say something, the doorbell rang. Twilight walked over to the large sliding doors and waved them open, gasping when she saw a tall, dark haired woman flanked by a silver haired elderly lady carrying a large, ancient looking MULTI-Sniper rifle on her back.

    “Luna?”

    “No, the easter bunny.” The SWAST lieutenant chuckled “This is Wadjet, an old friend of mine. May we come in?”

    Twilight nodded and took a step back, prompting a gasp from the underwear clad diva when she realized they had visitors and she was very much not presentable. As Jewel ran upstairs to get dressed, giving the two older women a glimpse of her pale buttocks, Luna smirked and snickered at it.

    “You know, I really thought the rumors about you Riot Grrls were just rumors. You girls are not doing yourself any favors.”

    That made the elder lady with the big gun slap the taller woman’s shoulder. There was something about the way Wadjet carried herself that made Twilight instantly respect the old woman, maybe because of her posture and the air of wizened authority she projected around herself. And her voice was aged too, rough as if she had smoked too many cigars in her life.

    “You’re one to talk, missy. I know what you do when you’re not putting criminal’s faces against the pavement.”

    That made the SWAST lieutenant blush and shut up while the elderly sniper extended her hand towards Twilight. Wadjet wore white gloves, and Twilight had a hunch the reason for those gloves was hiding battle scars.

    “Nice to meet you, miss Twilight. I’m here on behalf of the Nomad Nations High Command. Can we have a seat?”

    “Oh. Sure”

    Twilight widened her eyes and pointed at their dinner table, walking over it to pull two chairs for the women. Thankfully Luna was just wearing a dress uniform, so the chairs could support her enhanced weight. If the Taskmaster had been in full powered armor, nothing in that house would have been able to support the weight of her suit

    Butterfly joined them at the table just as Wadjet was taking out her packet of cigars. The pink haired doctor grabbed the packet and yanked it out of the old woman’s hands, clutching it firmly as she stared down the elderly sniper.

    “This is a no smoking house.”

    Wadjet and Butterfly stared at each other, glaring so intensely the whole room seemed to drop to sub-arctic temperatures. The two women had a long, wordless discussion where they talked about the impolite way Butterfly had acted, they discussed how Wadjet was being a bad guest by questioning their customs, and then they came into an agreement. All of that without a single word spoken between the two women.

    “Sorry.”

    The doctor returned the cigar packet to the elderly sniper, but Wadjet just tucked it back into her coat. She waited until Jewel came back wearing a more conservative dress, and only started to speak when all women were properly sat at the table.

    “So, girls, what do you know about Novvy Cimmeria?”

    “Novyy Cimmeria...” Twilight nodded “It was taken by some of the Japanese refugees after the Uprising. We were there when they escaped the State Empire.”

    The young hacker’s pride was not lost on Wadjet as she nodded back. The wizened woman gestured with one hand, emphasizing her every word.

    “Well, it’s about to blow up. The Japanese have found some rich mining fields in what was supposed to be an abandoned settlement and now everyone wants a piece of those untapped resources. Rodina is sending forces to secure what they say is their land, Pan Oceania is claiming commercial rights, and the State Empire just wants to kill more Japanese.”

    Jewel scoffed at those words, shaking her head several times.

    “That sounds like Wotan again”

    “It’s much worse than Wotan” Wadjet shook her head as well, pointing down at the table to call the women’s attention “In Wotan we had the threat of the Combine to keep people from going at each other’s throats. This is deep in the Human Sphere, just humans being horrible to each other. People killing people for money, a tale as old as humanity.”

    There was a moment of grim silence across the table, with each woman nodding in solemn agreement. Butterfly was the first to break the silence, putting her own white gloved hands to the table as she spoke.

    “Let me guess, the Nomad Nations are going in too? That’s why you’re here, right? You aren’t looking to chat about the nature of human conflict, you want soldiers.”

    Wadjet nodded, her mouth a flat, grim line as she spoke.

    “Yes. We have already established a transmissions node, the Johnny 5, and are trying to coordinate with Haqqislamite allies and the JSA forces on the local to ensure they have backup in their fight against the Hyperpowers. However… There’s a catch.”

    “ALEPH.” Twilight spoke grimly, already figuring out what was going on.

    “She’s smart.” Wadjet nodded at Luna, who smiled back with some pride at the dark skinned elder. “Can you tell me how you figured that out, dear?”

    “It’s simple. We have a Nomad Nations broadcast station in the middle of a budding Human Sphere planet. Of course She will want to silence us before we can gain influence. I’m betting She will hit us with everything She’s got while we’re busy fighting the JSA’s fight.”

    Wadjet nodded, a sly grin growing in her lips. She was not disappointed in these ladies.

    “You’re right. And that’s where you and your power armored friends come in. I know you girls defended the Dong from both the Combine and ALEPH back at Wotan. I bet just handling ALEPH in the cold is going to be a walk in the park.”

    It was hard to suppress a chuckle at seeing an old lady call the Don Peyotte by its fabled nickname. Someone had noticed the odd shape of the Nomad Frigate and quickly nicknamed it the 'Dong Peyotte'. It had stuck amongst the rank and file, but seeing someone with connections to the high command say it in such a nonchalant way was beyond hilarious.

    After suppressing her fit of giggles, Twilight was about to say something when Butterfly raised a hand.

    “There’s one issue, though. We’re talking about Dawn. We can’t ask Jack to go back to her home planet and shoot at her own people!”

    Wadjet put a hand to her chin, pondering and wishing she had a smoke right now. She looked up, sighing as she remembered not all of those girls were Bakunin born. Jewel clearly had no love for Neoterra or Pan Oceania, but Jack could be very homesick, at least that was what their profiles had said.

    “I’m asking you guys to fight ALEPH, not the Rodina forces. We’ll do our best to ensure you don’t get deployed in any conflict involving Ariadnan troops.”

    Butterfly and Jewel both huffed. They had heard talk like that before and were not convinced. Jewel in particular was always wary of promises from authority figures.

    “I call bullshit.” She stated flatly, her high class accent only making her harsh words harsher “We all know you can’t control what’s happening in a battlefield. Specially not one with Seven different nations, each one with their own interests. If we get down there, we’ll end up shooting at Ariadnans at some moment. It’s a fact. Don’t sugar coat it.”

    Once more Wadjet found herself respecting these girls. They weren’t just reckless gunfire and half naked beauties. Although she should have seen it coming, as people had a tendency to underestimate Bakunin forces for their unorthodox tactics and eccentric looks.

    “You’re right.” Wadjet drew in a long breath that quickly turned into a sigh ‘We still need you. All of you.” She looked around the table, pointing out that only half of the group was present. “I see you’re missing some members, so I’ll let you girls think about it. You have Luna’s number, so you can call her when you make up your mind. The Nomad Nations need you, ladies.”

    Wadjet stood up, finally taking her cigar packet out of her pocket again and starting to light one of the aromatic cheroots from it as she made her way out of the house, only stopping to bow politely at the three women before leaving. The elderly woman left without further words, but Luna waited for a moment before she spoke.

    “I’m going. I promise I’ll be there with you girls if you decide to touch down. It’s not much, but I’ll do anything I can to help.”

    The tall Taskmaster nodded and left too, letting the three ladies talk it over amongst themselves as she left with her elderly friend.
    _________________________

    “Ah’m going.”

    “Are you sure?”

    Butterfly seemed the most worried of all of them, but all eyes were on Jack as she sat on the table, straight and stiff as a rock. They were all sitting at the living room table, barely having time to look at Jack’s new eyes with the sudden news coming at them. There was a grim atmosphere all around, with the women speaking in lower voices and hushed tones.

    “Yes.” She nodded “Ah know y’all are worried about me, but Ah have to. Ah can’t leave mah homeworld hangin’ like this. If there’s goin’ ta be a war in there, Ah want to be in.”

    “But-” Butterfly tried to say something but was interrupted again.

    “This ain’t yer decision, Jane. Ah know yer worried about me, and Ah’m thankful fer that. But Ah’ve made up my mind. Ah’ll fight. Y’all coming with me?”

    “Hell yeah, I am.” RD nodded, standing up to wrap one arm around the amazon’s shoulder “Always at your six, big girl.”

    “I’m in too.” Pinkie said “You’ll need someone to keep you girls happy.” She giggled, standing up as well.

    “I can’t let you do this on your own.” Twilight said “And ALEPH will be there, I have to fight Her. You can leave the Observance, but the Observance doesn’t leave you.”

    There was a round of weak chuckles as Jewel rose up too.

    “Someone needs to keep your suits working. And I can only imagine the havoc all that snow and cold is going to wreak on the circuits.”

    Butterfly sighed and stood up too, sulking her shoulders.

    “We do it together, then.”

    They joined in a group hug, and Jack closed her eyes. This wasn’t what she had envisioned about going home. In fact, she had never thought about the possibility of stepping her feet in Dawn again. It hurt some places she never thought were going to hurt again, but wounds could heal, and pain could be endured.

    She had her friends with her, and felt ready for it. Defending the Johnny 5 wouldn’t be easy, but it would be done.

    END
     
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  5. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher
    Warcor

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    Hi guys! This took me way longer than I'd like, but part of the reason is that with that new job came a lot of other stuff. I intend on following up on a little Kurage Crisis based arc, so this isn't the end yet. Hope you enjoy:

    Attack on the Node - Part 1:

    From a distance, Novvy Cimmeria didn’t look like a battlefield. At least it didn’t look like the kind of battlefield that would be shown in Holo-casts or those ancient films from the time Earth was still relevant. It definitely looked inhospitable, with the extreme cold winds that buffeted the high rise mountains, and the blankets of snow tall enough to swallow a grown man in some places. But it looked calm, at least from a distance.

    One of those high mountains, a flat and stable surface where the snow hadn’t built up so much, was the home of the Johnny-5 Communications Node. Most of the node was built underground, making use of a honeycomb of mine shafts and bunkers that hadn’t been used since Novvy Cimmeria had been vacated many years ago, but even from a distance it was possible to see the main communications tower rising amongst the antenna arrays.

    Above ground most of what could be seen of the node was a seemingly endless array of Antenna. Each blinking, twinkling pillar of metal and plastic stood about six meters tall, arrayed in X shaped groups of five that dotted the flat, snowy mesa which housed the Johnny-5. Some of these Antenna had been built into ancient, abandoned settlements, adding a splash of electronic life to the decrepit and bucolic houses that hadn’t seen their builders for such a long time, their names were all forgotten by now.

    Hector was neither a builder, nor a settler, but he was glad that those old, run down houses were still standing. He was inside a large room that had been emptied of its original contents. There was a sink and a built-in stove on the back wall that made him think it had once been a kitchen, but now it was his command center. Several computer monitors, solid and armored screens that could be used as cover in a firefight, lined the center of the room, and all around him there were tactical bots watching the screens and feeding him information.

    He was the only living person inside that room, everything else was automated. A bot was connected directly to the local net to serve as his communications officer, and several others were busy collating information from all across the battlefield. The machine efficiency multiplied Hector’s natural affinity for war, and he felt as if from that room he could direct the entire war effort on his own.

    With a movement of his hand he could order a maniple of tacbots to advance on the enemy from one side, while at the same time a single Garuda dropped from the sky to flank a heavy weapons emplacement. A flick of his wrist and a stocky, blocky Daleth rebot advanced forward, its chained wheels negotiating the snow easier than human feet could. The bot was equipped with an enhanced sensor array, used to detect camouflaged enemies. Hector wanted it to sweep for emplaced mines and traps, but as soon as it began moving it was shot down by a high powered sniper blast that felt as if it had come out of the empty snow.

    Hector cursed under his breath, one hand rubbing his magnificent, bushy beard as he pondered his next course of action. His armored suit was pristine looking, unmarked by battle as he had been inside the makeshift command post for the best of three days now. It was a stalemate, and he knew he could grind his way to victory if given time, but every hour he spent without a decisive push meant the enemy could get reinforcements and the situation would tip in their favor.

    “Having trouble, are we?”

    A feminine, deep contralto cut the air like a gunshot and Hector turned on his armored heels to greet his only human visitor. Hector wore heavy powered armor, bulky and blocky, with blinking lights and artificial musculature that enhanced his already formidable physique. The woman who had suddenly appeared behind him wore skintight, flexible weave that showed off her stupendously generous curves, and her long, perfectly flowing hair was loose on her shoulders, somehow unmarred by the snow.

    “Not trouble. We’re just advancing slower than expected.” He answered like the professional soldier he was. “The anarchists are dug in and resisting fiercely. They’ve lain down a dense minefield and are focusing on taking out sensor and flanker bots. Soon I’ll have no choice but to walk the tacbots into the mines and let them blow.”

    “Wasting the resources of the Mother?” The woman smirked as she approached, walking past Hector and pointing at one of the monitors “What about this field here? It looks long and empty for me. Just charge in with the bots.”

    Hector took a deep breath, reminding himself not to curse at an Aspect of the Mother even if right now he wanted to strangle the woman. Of course, he knew even trying to do so would be dumb, as despite looking like an overly curvaceous holo actress the blue haired woman was festooned with the best technology the Human Sphere could offer. She could kill him seven times before he even drew his sword.

    “Eris, it isn’t that simple. An open field charge like that would get most of our forces annihilated. The anarchists have dug in well, and they have a Taskmaster and an Intruder in their ranks.”

    “Blue Death?”

    Eris smirked. She pulled her own rifle to her chest and held it in a combat ready stance as if she wanted to go out in the snow and fight. Hector would have liked that, as he knew the woman’s eyes could see better than any of his bots, and her enhanced eyesight would allow her to finally pick off that damn invisible sniper.

    “I don’t think that’s how they call him, but yes.” Hector rubbed his beard again “Most of their forces are still some baseline infantry and skirmishers, I’m yet to see the real big guns show up, which makes me think they are still en route. However, I don’t want to commit to a charge only to find out they had a Szalamandra on reserve.”

    Eris shook her head. She pointed at one of the monitors and overrode Hector’s control of it with a flick of her wrist. The screen changed to a recording of the last things one of the Garuda tacbots had seen. It was a first person view, landing on the snow before running up and firing its gun at a trench that had been camouflaged by the glare of sunlight reflected on the bone white snow. A man in white armor tried to shoot at the bot, but was gunned down with machine precision.

    Hector watched the rampage he had already seen before, trying to figure out what was the point of it. The bot moved on, shooting at three more people in snow white body armor, before finally getting hit from an unseen angle and falling sideways. The last image on the feed was of a woman in blue robes and a hood, wearing a complex visor over her face and racking another bolt into an ancient, oversized rifle.

    “It’s a she.” Eris finally said “Blue Death is a woman. Not that it matters.”

    It mattered. Hector knew the woman next to him had a certain pride at fighting other women, a desire to prove herself and the forces she commanded as superior. Maybe it was the Mother herself speaking through Eris, projecting her hatred for these anarchists against their leader figures. Or perhaps Hector was reading too much into it. He had been made to fight after all, not to consider the philosophical ramifications of his fighting.

    “Well, I stand by my last point. Her gender changes nothing of my evaluation.”

    He pointed at the monitor and it took a second to flicker back into the image he wanted Eris to see, which was of a row of ancient shacks and houses, the location itself not very far from their command center.

    “This is the best place for an offensive. Lots of cover, nice fire lanes, it’s perfect for a push, or it would be if they hadn’t booby trapped every other house in it.”

    Eris nodded, finally accepting that as an elite infiltrator she had less understanding of battle tactics than the seasoned commander next to her. However, her smirk returned, cheeky and wide as her perfect face curled into a killer visage.

    “Well, go ahead and push some of the Dakinis into their booby traps then. But do it quickly, I’m pulling out all OSS assets you have. Effective immediately.”

    “What?”

    Hector’s eyes were wide in disbelief as he turned to look at the still smirking woman. His eyes met hers, his hazel, human looking eyes meeting with the enhanced, whirring purple of the artificially perfected woman. Then he noticed she was still smirking and sighed loudly as he realized he was being hoodwinked into an emotional response.

    “Oh, don’t worry. I have reinforcements for you. I’m bringing your battle brothers to the fight.”

    Hector hated how oblique the woman could be, but at least the news was good. He allowed himself a sigh of relief before turning to her again.

    “That’s a relief. Which ones are you bringing?”

    “All of them.”

    Now it was his turn to smirk. That was some very good news. Commanding bots was one thing, but commanding the best fighting force in the Human Sphere was what he had been made for.

    “Does that mean even him?” He had to check, realizing he might not actually be in command though.

    “Yes. Play nice, Hector. You know he’s Her favorite. They arrive in one hour, you better clean those traps by then.”

    Eris turned to leave, showing off her generous behind as if she were a model on a catwalk. Hector didn’t look, his eyes were fixated on the back of her head as if he could bore through her skull with just a look. Eventually she turned on her camouflage, vanishing into nothing and leaving him alone with his bots again.

    Hector caressed his beard one more time before looking down to see the small, pudgy shape of his adjutant tinbot offering him his armored helmet. Hector took the helm from his bot and locked it in place, letting his armor connect and seal around it, his nostrils filling with recycled air as his suit became fully pressurized. It was time to lead from the front, and he would make sure his brothers and sisters would have a good example to follow.
    _______________________________

    The cold didn’t bother her as much as she thought it would. But then again, she was wearing superheavy armor, with just her head exposed to the buffeting winds. Her long, blonde hair had been curled up and tied in a bun over her head, but strands were popping out with the wind as she walked along the cold trench.

    The lines were holding, but the latest incursion of jetpack equipped tacbots had punched a hole through them, and she was bringing another squad of moderators to plug it. If reinforcements didn’t arrive soon, ALEPH would overrun the Communications Node and move forward into the actual Johnny-5 installation.

    She saw the wreckage of one of the Garudas still laying on the floor of the trench and stomped on it with her oversized metal boot. It made a satisfying crunch under her ironshod foot, the metal screeching almost as if in pain.

    “Don’t leave the bots’ heads intact. Their cameras might still be working.” She said to one of the moderators.

    “Yes ma’am”

    The green skinned man snapped a salute at her, and she took hold of his hand, pulling it down to his side.

    “And don’t salute me, Dellanes! They’re already gunning for me for my heavy weapons, we don’t want them to know I’m the acting commander.”

    Dellanes was just a moderator, a civilian police officer not trained or suited for protracted combat. Of all the Nomad forces arrayed at the Johnny-5, the Bakunin Moderators were the most out of place. They weren’t battle hardened mercenaries like the Corregidor Algualciles or iron willed veterans with top tech gear like the Tunguska Securitates. These men and women were way out of their depth, and the commander knew so.

    The moderator nodded at her again and moved on to clean the wreck off the trench, leaving the heavily armored commander to watch and coordinate the defensive emplacements. Inside her oversized suit, she stood almost three meters tall, her shoulders broad and heavily armored, the right one sporting a complex armature to support her rocket launcher, while the left had a raised pauldron adorned with the stylized image of a bright sun.

    “Shouldn’t you be ducking under the wall?”

    A wizened voice asked from behind her, sounding very much like someone who had been smoking five packs a day since she learned how to talk. The heavily armored commander turned around to see a blue robed woman come out of camouflage, the flickering effect making it look like she was stepping out of thin air.

    “Oh, you know officers don’t duck. It never helps anything and the men don’t like it.” The blonde commander answered with a chuckle.

    The robed woman lifted her visor, showing a leathery, dark skinned face that had seen better years. She had a curious tattoo around her right eye, an inky black design that made it look as if she had exaggerated on her eyeliner.

    “Well, at least put the helmet on, Eleanor. This is still a battle, even if the ALEPH forces seem to have quit it earlier.”

    Captain Eleanor Vega, also known as Celeste, shook her head. She knew better than to think the Great Lie would just let Her chance of shutting the Nomad Nations up go. However, she did agree on something.

    “Well, they did slow down. I think they’re massing for an attack, we just need to figure out where.”

    “And that’s why you’re exposing your pretty head?” The elderly sniper chuckled “You’re just a showoff.”

    The older woman pulled out a cigar from her pocket, putting it to her lips and taking a little too long to light it up. The cold made it harder to light a flame, but once the cigar began burning it stayed so, the tiny ember at the tip of the prime tobacco roll making a nice contrast against the white all around the two women.

    “Well, that-" Celeste pointed at the cigar perched on the old woman’s mouth. "- is going to kill you and you don’t see me complaining about it, nana”

    “Oh, grow up.”

    Amanda ‘Wadjet’ Amari snarled as she took a drag. The elderly woman was a Nomad Operative that worked for the Nations, not for a single ship. It allowed her a lot of freedom to work as she saw fit, and was the reason her equipment was fairly unique, matching gear that came from all three Motherships into a deadly package complemented by more than fifty years of combat and espionage experience.

    “People like us?” the elderly sniper gesticulated between them with her cigar “We’re fighters. We don’t get to die in bed, or of something silly like cancer. We’re going to meet our end in a place like this, when we finally meet our betters.”

    Celeste shook her head, turning to look out into the snow, scanning for movement. She saw a flicker to her side, a blur moving against the snow. It was almost imperceptible but Celeste had grown wary of the air itself by now. Thermo-Optical Camouflage could render a person nearly invisible, and it took specialized gear to deal with it. Gear that the superheavy suit lacked.

    However, Wadjet’s visor array was made to pierce through any kind of camouflage, and Celeste nodded at her before pointing at small pocket of pine trees to their side, trying to make it seem like she was just waving casually so the enemy wouldn’t figure out she had sighted them.

    “Grim, aren't you, nana?” She nodded towards the left “I see a blimp. Left flank, near the pine trees.”

    The elderly sniper pulled her oversized gun from her back and rested it against the snow. She lowered her visor onto her wizened face and allowed it to adjust for the bright glare of the sun and its reflection on the snow. The visor only allowed her to see the unseen, but the real skill, the real aiming, came from her steady hands as she trailed her gun.

    “You got me wrong, Elly. I’m gonna die the day I meet a sniper better than me. But that day is not today. And that sniper hasn’t been born yet.”

    She squeezed the trigger and a dead body appeared against the pine trees a good three hundred meters away. It looked like some grim magic, as suddenly a man slumped against one of the pines, about half of his head missing where the high explosive shot had taken his brains away.

    The loud report of the sniper shot woke up the battlefield, gunfire erupting everywhere around them. Celeste grinned as she saw the moving bots, their white painted chassis almost impossible to see in the snow until they opened fire. The whole snowy plains were ablaze all of a sudden, and now it looked like a battle, with heavy weapons fire sounding out over the swirling winds.

    “We’re gonna need reinforcements!”

    Celeste called out as her armor whirred, the servomotors on her shoulder turning and pulling her rocket launcher from her back. The long, oversized support weapon spun on its axis before locking onto a rail on her shoulder, clicking into position to allow her to fire the heavy weapon one handed. She sent several high powered blasts downrange, not really aiming, just looking to melt the snow in a conflagration that left the advancing bots easier to pick up for her troops.

    “I’ve got a Tunguskan frigate bringing in some troops, and a Bakunin transport is on the way.” The elderly sniper, the one the ALEPH forces were calling Blue Death, was already picking off priority targets with her big gun.

    “Please tell me you got Luna.”

    “Is this place colder than hell?”

    Celeste smirked as she stood up, firing her big gun some more. She saw a group of Dakini tactical bots go down under her rockets, and a cheer rocked her trenches when it seemed the enemy was finally running out of troops.

    And then they saw an image that would be seared into their minds forever: Jumping through the fire, flickering and leaving afterimages on their wake, the new warriors came. They wore light armorweave that enhanced their already superhuman physique, their suits glowed with purple neon lights and their helmets were dark visages reminiscent of the ancient greeks.

    The Steel Phalanx had arrived, the myrmidons wading through fire and gunshots, almost ignoring them as they bounded forward over the snow.

    “It’s the myrmidons! We’re all going to die!”

    Celeste slapped the trooper next to her before his panicked cries could be heard over the dim of battle. She stood up, rocket launcher in one hand as her helmet closed around her face. The battle helm locked on, a featureless white face adorned with a golden stripe down the middle, followed by her horns unfolding at the back of her head, each horn glowing with the shimmer of the Aurora Borealis.

    She was a shining beacon as she stood up, daring the ALEPH forces to come at her. She called out, her voice enhanced by her suit’s booming speakers until she had the thunderous call of a goddess.

    “Rise up! Rise up and fight! ALEPH wants our silence, we’ll give them our loudest roar! ALEPH wants our blood, we’ll give them bullets! They want our lives, but we will give them nothing but death! Nothing but death!”

    She aimed down and fired, her rocket streaking down to impact the lead myrmidon and obliterate him in a conflagration of superheated flames so intense it left glazed ground on its wake.

    “Nothing but death!”

    The cry echoed as the Nomad Nations resisted the assault. Firing on as smoke and fire licked the snow, turning the white plains black and red. Celeste could feel her armored suit whir and tremble around her, her body shaking in anticipation. They didn’t have to win, they just had to hold until reinforcements arrived.

    The question was whether they could hold that long.

    Continues...
     
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  6. DaRedOne

    DaRedOne Morat Warrior Philosopher
    Warcor

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    Attack on the Node - Part 2:

    The dropship rattled. There was a nagging in the back of Twilight’s mind that told her dropships weren’t supposed to rattle like that, but she wouldn’t know. She had never hot dropped before, never ridden a metal box hurling itself against the atmosphere of a planet in a meteoric descent that felt as if it was completely uncontrolled. And to make matters worse, they were going to one of the hottest spots of the vast planet below: Novvy Cimmeria was exploding with conflict.

    She couldn’t tell if it was supposed to rattle, but she didn’t like it even if it was. She closed her eyes, but couldn’t keep them shut, especially not when the excited hollering of her friends around her made it even harder. She frowned as she looked around the hold, noticing only two of the five women sitting with her were actually screaming like it was a roller coaster.

    Pinkie and RD. She was not surprised. If anything, seeing the two wide grins on her friends’ faces made Twilight smile despite her worries.

    “Can you two pipe down?”

    “Ah, relax, Twi!” Pinkie called out, her voice somehow sounding even more high pitched than usual as she spoke. “It’s just a hot drop. Come on, this is fun!”

    As the pink armored woman shrugged, the purple armored hacker tilted her head to the side. She cast a quick glance around the hold, seeing the situation of the rest of the squad. Jack was frozen in what could only be described as silent, reluctant terror, and Jewel was sitting elegantly with her hands on her lap, timing her breath so she’d not be affected by the extreme g-forces. Butterfly seemed calm too, even closing her eyes and smiling as if she were dreaming.

    “How the hell do you girls know it’s just a hot drop? We could be taking fire for all you know!”

    “Oh, chill!” RD joined in, screaming to be heard over the rattling around them “We’re not taking fire!”

    “We are taking fire.”

    Another voice joined them and suddenly the hold felt cramped. It was not made to carry the bulk of a superheavy suit, and the black and blue armor felt even bigger as it was hard to tell where it ended and the ship began under the dimmed lights in the hold. Luna wasn’t wearing her helmet yet, and she had just stepped out of the pilot’s cabin to come relay the news personally.

    “ALEPH has set a few gun emplacements around the main battle theatre. Nothing dangerous, but we’re going to change our original plans. Get ready for combat, we’re coming down right on top of them.”

    It was as if something had roused the six women out of their stupor, as the two hollering ones stopped their racket while the other three blinked, forcing themselves to focus and get ready for a fight. The five armored women and their unarmored doctor leaned forward, at least as much as their crash harnesses would allow, trying to form the semblance of a circle around their leader. Twilight could feel her hands shaking as Luna turned around, returning to the pilot’s cabin as quickly as she had come into the hold.

    In the end, the purple haired hacker was left with her friends, closing her eyes to immerse herself into the ship’s local net. She needed information, and her mind was quick to gather all sensory input, every communications transmission she hadn’t paid attention to so far and bring it together. They didn’t have a holographic display, but the enhanced reality suites on the Riot Grrls’ armors and the doctor’s eye implants made the lack of such equipment completely irrelevant.

    They could see a map form in front of their eyes, showing a not perfect image of the battlefield they were about to join. It was some ancient settlement, destroyed by lack of use and the merciless snow. Red blips over the ruined houses showed possible enemy positions, and blue blips indicated the retreating allied forces. The Nomads were taking a pounding, as every few seconds a blue blip flickered and vanished, dead.

    “Alright girls, this is gonna suck” Twilight said flatly “We’re coming down in the middle of the Steel Phalanx’ assembly area.” freeing her right arm, the dark skinned woman pointed at the image they were all seeing, but was not actually there. “Right here.” A big blue box representing their dropship appeared on the rightmost flank, near a larger, two story building. “The Phalanx is pushing forward, so we’re going to take them from behind.”

    There was a snicker amongst the girls as RD spoke up.

    “So the Steel Dick is pushing forward and we’re coming in from behind? I didn’t think you were into butt stuff, Tabbi, but I like it.”

    Twilight blushed, but tried to ignore her friend’s crass joke even though a few of the assembled women giggled at it.

    “Ahem, we need to watch out for three things: First, snipers.” Several red exclamation points appeared on the image as she spoke “They have the Agema Maskmen which will probably be bringing heavy MK12 rifles or missile launchers, but the real dangers are Teucer and Atalanta.”

    As she spoke, two pictures showed up on the Augmented Reality display, one young, smooth faced man and a gorgeous blonde woman. Neither of them looked like soldiers, they even smiled like models on a photoshoot.

    “We know Atalanta is hunting Wadjet on a nearby field, so she shouldn't be an issue for us. But this guy.” The picture of Teucer was surrounded by a red border “This guy has to die. Teucer always brings heavy anti-armor gear, and his Feuerbach is made to kill stuff three times heavier than our suits.”

    “So he likes his loads big, hard and heavy? Okay, we got it.”

    Now it was Jewel with the double entendres. That made Twilight sigh and groan as another round of chuckles racked the women. The blue haired diva raised her nose, almost as if she hadn’t intended on making a joke, but only making the situation even funnier with her false indignation.

    “Okay, are there any more dick jokes in you girls? Let them out now.” Twilight groaned again.

    “Nope. No dicks in us.” Said Pinkie “I think Rhona left her little helper back at Bakunin.”

    “Actually, it’s in my duffel bag.” RD shrugged “But I don’t think we’ll need it with all the Steel Phallus around”

    “heh, Did yer just admit you’d pork a Myrmidon, RD?”

    “In my defense, there are lady Myrmidons.”

    “Who probably are bigger Steel Phalluses than the men. I mean, look at that babyface!” Jewel pointed at the image of Teucer on the AR feed. “He’s more ladylike than you, Rhona.”

    “It’s not- It’s not like being more ladylike than Rhona is hard. My mom- my mom thought she was a guy once.” Butterfly giggled. “but- let’s not focus on RD, okay?”

    “Thank you, Jane.” Twilight sighed in relief “As I was saying, snipers are our first problem. I have installed a White Noise protocol to blind them, but if I do that we’ll have to turn off our own visors too, so make sure you’re not blinding yourselves with it.”

    There was a row of nods across the women as they bounced from playful to serious with the kind of ease only being around each other for years of fighting could allow. Twilight was smiling as she kept talking and gesturing, laying out their attack plan.

    “Okay, second issue: The enemy commander.” Now the AR feed showed a question mark floating over the battlefield “We have no idea where he is, but we’re sure he’s hanging back to have a better view of his men.”

    “So he’s hangin’ on their backs an’ watching their butts? That’s a very Steel Phallus thing ta do. Ah bet he’s lovin’ tha view.”

    Another burst of chuckles had Twilight sighing and sulking her shoulders. The worst part was there was a feeling in her gut that she wanted to join in the chuckling too. Especially since even Jewel and Butterfly were clearly having their fun.

    “Aw, come on! I mean, just because these guys are a bunch of macho men covered in baby oil and bulging muscles doesn’t mean we have to make these jokes, okay? They’re hard warriors, they’re stiff, tumescent and powerful.”

    Butterfly covered her mouth as she blushed. There was a moment of stunned silence before the rest of the women burst out laughing loudly.

    “And now we finally know who ordered those porny books last week.” RD snickered “God damn, Twiggy, we gotta hang out.”

    Twilight narrowed her eyes at the punk and raised a hand to make the rest of the women stop. She was worried their time was running out, and there was still some things she wanted to talk about.

    “Alright, shut up. All of you. If you have any more dick jokes you can shove them and hold them in like grown women.” She glared at every one of them in turn, making sure they’d not interrupt anymore. “Achilles is down there, girls. There’s plenty of reason to believe he’s coming at us, and the guy isn’t called a person of mass destruction for nothing. If he shows up, I want you to throw everything at him. If he dies this early it might break their spirit.”

    “So we kill the biggest dick to make the rest of them go soft?”

    “Pinkie!”

    The round of laughter this time was a lot more nervous than before. There was an unspoken tension in the air as they considered their options, they laughed as much as they could, perhaps even more than they should, and then silence, deathly and cold, fell over all six of them.

    Twilight nodded to herself and finished her tactical preparations, giving out the roles and trying to psych up the girls. Her hands were trembling again, so she put them to her lap to make sure the others wouldn’t see her purple armored fingers twitch as she spoke.

    “RD, Pinkie, you’re on point, the moment we touch down I want you two to unleash hell on them. If it moves, kill it. Jack, you’re our escort, look out for snipers and take them out with extreme prejudice.”

    The attention was all on her, and the AR feed showed a possible path out of the dropship, hugging cover next to the larger of the old buildings and a small grove of frozen pines. It was perfect for the kind of short ranged, brutal close quarters fighting that both the Riot Grrls and Myrmidons thrived in.

    “Jewel, Butterfly, stick with me. We’re going for their commander. We need to find him and either kill him or incapacitate him as soon as possible. If we do that we can try to break through their lines back to ours in the ensuing chaos. It’s not going to be easy, but if it were it wouldn’t be us doing it. Let’s get down there and show these vat grown goons what real humans fight like. Sound off.”

    “I’m ready”

    “Ready.”

    “Ah’m ready.”

    “Yeah! Let’s do this!”

    “Let’s party!”

    The ship seemed to rattle less now. Maybe it was just because her body was shaking too. It didn’t matter, as she had a mission to focus on. Twilight closed her eyes for a second, taking a deep breath and saying a silent prayer to Saint Mary of the Knife. She even crossed herself, and didn’t notice her hands weren’t shaking anymore.
    _________________________________

    Teucer crouched against the half destroyed wall of the house he had been using for cover. Concealment was the right word, as the flimsy, ancient wood wouldn’t do much to stop bullets once people started firing for effect at it. He figured he had one or two shots left before his position was made clear to the enemy. Better make them count.

    His visor array was already adjusted to the smoke and glare of the battle, and despite the poor visibility he could see as clear as a sunny, windless day. The humongous anti-tank gun on his shoulder should have been mounted on a Tactical Armored Gear or Superheavy Infantry frame, but his enhanced physique allowed him to wield it as if it were just a longer rifle. Let Atalanta have her dinky sniper gun and cute robot buddy, he’d take superior firepower over increased aiming ability any day of the week.

    Scanning the battlefield, he saw his target: An Observance Nun clad in white robes that aided her Optical Disruptor Device in making her almost invisible to the naked eye. However, on his visor she lit up like a videogame, a bright purple outline marking her as his target. Well, the real target wasn’t the woman so much as her heavy machinegun, the high powered weapon was keeping a squad of his brothers pinned down in a nearby shack.

    “Hey there.”

    He smiled before squeezing the trigger. Gentle but firm, the gun on his shoulder barely even moved despite the tremendous force of the shot. A stream of particles was propelled at supersonic speeds across the battlefield, leaving a searing afterblast on its wake as it left his gun and connected with the target before his breath had left his lungs.

    The nun evaporated under the overpowered shot, but the Nomads were quicker than he expected them. He saw a Wildcat commando bring up a heavy rocket launcher, aiming at his position with all the calmness of the world. The commando’s smooth, completely featureless helmet betrayed no emotion as he fired off a pair of arcing shots, the heavy, slow moving rockets trailing smoke as they came his way.

    Teucer whirled on his heels and brought his pistol up, moving with the grace of a dancer. He shot at the two rockets, destroying the first one before it could hit his emplacement, but the second he hit a few moments too late, and the rocket exploded in a fiery conflagration that engulfed his emplacement in fire.

    “Teucer! Are you okay, sugarbun?”

    A gruff voice sounded in his ear as he landed on the first floor of the building, taking a moment to pat a burning patch off his shoulder pad. His gun had fallen a couple metres away from him, but neither it nor himself were actually damaged. As he stood up and walked over to retrieve his oversized weapon, he casually touched his ear to reply.

    “Oh, unclench, big guy. I’m fine. These Nomads can’t shoot straight.”

    “I’m worried about you, dear.” The voice came again “Don’t expose yourself like that again. Let us pop smoke first.”

    He shook his head as he adjusted his huge gun onto his shoulder again. There was a satisfied smirk on his lips when he noticed the aiming sights hadn’t lost their alignment even with the sudden impact. The Mother made her weapons sturdy.

    “heh. I just took out that Moira HMG for you, by the way. You can thank me later, big guy.”

    “Oh, thank you, sugarbun. Now stay put and cover us, we’re going to break over their lines and go for the Wildcats. You be safe, dear.”

    As the ALEPH sniper nodded and looked for a new position, a group of his battle brothers was preparing for an assault. They had taken cover in one of the largest buildings on their left flank, waiting for the sniper to clear the more immediate threats first. They were four men, one of them an elegant officer carrying a rocket launcher; a medic; a hacker and the humongous beast in superheavy armor carrying an equally massive hammer that was Ajax.

    “Sugarbun? By the Mother, you guys are adorable.”

    Ajax groaned and rolled his eyes, pushing the shoulder of his officer and making the much smaller man stagger on his feet.

    “You’re just jealous, Phoenix. Now pop some smoke for my boy, will ya?”

    Phoenix nodded as he prepared a smoke grenade, priming it with his thumb and nodding at the two other Myrmidons to follow his lead. They weren’t Morat monks, but the Myrmidons were good enough with their tossing arms to blanket an engagement zone in smoke if they had to.

    “Damn right I am.” He said as he eyeballed the distance between their shack and the trench the enemy had taken cover in “I’m the one who’s gonna be alone in his bunker when we win this. You guys are lucky. Smoke out, boys! Let’s flush these rats out!”

    The three men threw their smoke grenades over their shoulders, the tiny metal cylinders trailing dark grey vapour as they flew through the air. Each grenade landed on a different section of the snowy trench, effectively covering the closest section to them in dark, oily smoke. As it rose into the air, Phoenix stowed his rocket launcher on his shoulder and drew his short sword, turning it on so it vibrated with dark purple energy.

    “Wanna do the honors, big guy?” he gestured to the massive, heavily armored man next to him.

    “Thought you’d never ask”

    Ajax locked his massive hammer to his back and drew two compact rifles. Most men would need two hands to hold those, but the humongous ALEPH warrior could hold each weapon in one hand as if they were mere pistols. He charged ahead, followed closely by his brothers as they managed to keep up with his superheavy suit even though they weren’t armored.

    The gigantic man landed with a heavy thud that shook the ground of the trench, cutting down the rocket launcher carrying Wildcat commando first in a flurry of bullets. “That’s for hurting my sugarbun” he growled as he kept firing, moving like the behemoth he was. Inside the trench, there was nowhere the Nomad forces could run fast enough before they were overtaken by his wall of gunfire.

    “Come on, boys! Don’t let the big lug have all the fun!”

    Phoenix called out as he used Ajax’ shoulders as a springboard, running up over his armored back and leaping over him. Pistol in one hand, sword in the other, the Myrmidon officer cut down foes left and right, shooting and parrying with practiced ease.

    A Zero came out of cover and tried to shotgun the officer’s face off, but as soon as he revealed himself he was shot down by Ajax’s twin rifles. A Corregidor Bandit turned a corner and brought his Adhesive Launcher up, the exotic gun firing fast acting glue that was made to stop massive monsters like Ajax.

    The Bandit fired, and with his huge bulk made slower by the trench, Ajax had no way to get off the firing line. He didn’t need to, as Phoenix jumped in front of the large man, his coat billowing in the cold air as he cut the projectile in half, rendering it useless before it could deliver its sticky payload. Seconds later a high powered particle shot took the Bandit’s head off.

    “I’m watching you, big guy.” Teucer’s voice buzzed on his comms. “That trench is almost clean. You guys should move down the left after that, I’ve got a dropship landing behind the heavier shacks on our backline. Looks like the Anarchists have reinforcements.”

    “Thank you sugarbun.” Ajax returned as he began climbing out of the trench just as the smoke started to die off “Come on, you apes! For the Mother!”

    “For the Mother!” Phoenix echoed the cry as he followed his massive friend, once more wielding his rocket launcher as they were going for more open spaces again. Wherever they passed, the Myrmidons left dead Nomads and terror. It felt as if the battle was about to end, and they would take the Johnny-5 node from the Nomad Nations anytime now.
    __________________

    Luna was the first one to come out of the dropship, her large suit looking like a giant black metal beast as it plodded on the icy white all around. Her feet trundled into the snow, kicking up ice as she moved on, running fast and kicking up a trail of churned ice and earth behind her.

    “You have your objectives, ladies. I’m going to find that blonde bastard before he can do any damage to our forces. You go and cut off the assault team before they wreak havoc on that trench.”

    She moved like a prowling great feline, bounding and dashing from cover to cover while her Red Fury light machinegun spat high powered death at the ALEPH forces. Speed was the biggest factor, as even though her massive suit afforded a lot of protection, the Steel Phalanx had plenty of ways of annihilating heavily armored foes like Luna.

    “Yes, Ma’am. Jack, Pinkie, cover her!”

    Twilight barked on their coms as the Main six rushed out of the loading ramp, fanning out in a pattern that kept Butterfly, the most vulnerable of the group, protected at the center of their formation. They hugged the cover of the large, two story building the transport had landed behind, Jack on point and tracking Luna’s moving bulk as the heavily armored officer crossed the battlefield.

    “Sniper!”

    Jewel called out as a high powered particle shot traced a bright, actinic flash across the ice covered, smoking hamlet. There was a moment of soundless tension as it felt like time had slowed down to a fraction of its speed. The particle shot hit a wall, the cover Luna had been using a mere microsecond ago turned into subatomic mist as the huge armor banked and spun out of sight.

    “Hot damn! She shouldn’t move that fast!”

    RD brought her rifle up and let loose a burst at the position that shot had come from, noticing the searing trail led to a high window a good hundred meters away. However, her shots only hit old, frozen over wood, as she noticed the shooter had already relocated, and she had a split second to dive for cover before another of those high powered particle beams blew a small crater on the spot she had been occupying.

    “That motherfucker is good.”

    “He’s also blind.” Twilight growled “Visors up! White noise!”

    On his cover spot, Teucer couldn’t keep a grin from his lips. First the huge black taskmaster had dodged his shot like a star dogbowl player, then the cyan armored one nearly pulped him. Now it was a fight! His blood was pumping, and he was relishing the change of pace. These were the Nomad forces that had repelled the Mother’s attempts at Wotan! The good ones had finally arrived.

    They were good, but he was better. He kept moving, firing and ducking out of sight to come out at a different spot. There were five armored women, each one wearing a suit that was superficially similar but each clearly had changes, the most obvious customization being their bright colors. Running out of the house, he threw himself against a large pine tree, drawing line of sight to the yellow armored one, the one with the missile launcher.

    A bright flash blinded him, his eyes burning as the multispectral implants burned up from the sudden quantronic flare. It hurt, tears welling up as he backed off, blinking and shutting his eyes, willing the implants to turn off before his eyes were rendered useless. It took him exactly twenty three milliseconds to reset his eye implants.

    It was too late. By the time he recovered his vision, all he could do was leap backwards as a missile impacted the tree next to him, exploding in shrapnel and splintered wood. The pain wasn’t as bad as the shame of allowing himself to be caught like that, and when he realized he wasn’t dead, he almost thanked the Mother for a second chance.

    “Teucer! Are you okay? Report, sugarbun”

    He tried to raise his arm to his ear, then realized his left arm ended at a bloody stump just below his elbow. Cursing the situation, he had to activate the internal communications, blinking once to clear the flashing lights from his eyes.

    “I’m fine. Just a wound. Relax, Ajax, I’m-”

    He never finished his words. Another missile hit his position, bringing the tree he had been using for cover down on him and crushing his neck, the favored sniper laying dead on the snow.

    While the Steel Phalanx and the Nomad Nations fought for control of the Johnny-5, their roving command base, the Applekton, stood silent several kilometers away, near the eastern coast of Novvy Cimmeria. Inside the darkened, silent base, a new body was being created and new memories were being downloaded into it. Another Teucer would be born before the day was over, another perfect warrior that now had more experience to call on.

    Even though he knew the blessings of the Mother made them virtually immortal, Ajax still felt his heart skip a beat when the voice died in his ear. He could see the explosion a few blocks down from his position, and looking up he saw the jet wash of the enemy transport as it kicked its afterburners on, trying to pull away from the fight.

    “They killed him!” the huge man was on the verge of tears, his voice breaking “Those Nomad bastards killed him!”

    “Calm down, big guy” Phoenix put a hand to the humongous, armored shoulder of his friend, trying to comfort the bawling man “We need to win this, then-”

    Ajax shoved his hand off, groaning and brandishing his twin rifles to emphasize his words. His eyes were red and bloodshot, and his enhanced armor musculature suddenly glowed bright neon purple as he kicked the actuators to maximum power.

    “I WILL KILL THEM WHERE THEY STAND!”

    He roared to the skies and charged on, plodding out of the bloody trench and leaving red footprints in the snow. His oversized bulk rolled across the snow, crashing and breaking, punching through the wooden walls of the shacks as he tore a way through, not bothering with such silly concepts like cover or even the mere idea he could be stopped.

    Across the battlefield, the Main Six stalked towards the position where the enemy leader should be. Twilight led the way, flanked by Jewel and Jack, while Pinkie and RD watched their rear. The fighting had moved on, further into the Nomad lines. They could hear the reports on their ears, the death and the killing, it was unsettling, but they moved on, Jewel’s sensor tracking the enemy transmissions.

    When the ground started to rumble, the first thought was that it was some artillery shelling, which would be something rare, but not impossible. However, any thoughts of artillery were dashed when a wall burst next to them, ancient, frozen over wood splintering and showering the women in icy shards as Ajax tore out of a shack, still roaring and foaming at the mouth.

    “Goodness gracious! That’s a big one.”

    Jewel rolled back, scattering as the huge man came shooting at them, followed behind by the trailing, flickering images of three myrmidons. They came in a closely knit group, thrusting into the middle of the Bakunin women and splitting the group in all directions. Jack grabbed Butterfly’s shoulder, pulling the girl into cover while Jewel and Twilight leapt over a rocky outcrop, diving out of sight of the giant man.

    “Heh. That’s what she said!”

    Rhona and Pinkie hadn’t leapt for cover. They stood back to back, guns raised as they cut down the two myrmidons further back in a precise, violent burst of weapons fire. Their armors glowed neon pink and neon green, lighting up like flares in the snow as they started to back away from their friends, shooting at the huge man in a steady, controlled staccato of gunfire that did absolutely nothing against Ajax’ armor.

    “Over here, you big lug! Come at me! I’m gonna rip that bush off your face and use it as a dishwasher!”

    RD cried out, screaming to be heard, projecting her voice as loud as she could, even straining her suit’s speakers to make sure her voice was heard over the loud report of so many guns firing at once. Next to her, Pinkie quickly sent a text message to her friends.

    PINKIE: Well distract them. run.

    Twilight nodded, waving at the other women as they beat a hasty retreat towards the direction Jewel’s sensor was pointing at. Phoenix saw them run, and even tried a couple shots with his rocket launcher, but the armored women dodged his blasts in a display of high speed acrobatics that left him feeling as if they were high on combat drugs. He turned and saw Ajax bank, shoulder checking a tree to stop his own momentum before charging at the rainbow haired one.

    “This is gonna suck.” The officer said to himself as he chased after his friend.

    They were left in a broken down, smoking street. One of the old shacks was already demolished where Ajax had broken through the wall to surprise the women, and a second one looked about to fall down too, its support beams chewed up by errant gunfire. Ajax charged down the icy street like a braying bull, dropping his guns when they ran out of ammo.

    The hammer came out, humming with power as he charged at Rhona, swinging the weapon in a low, horizontal arc. She dropped back, bending her knees and falling on her back, the humongous mallet swinging so close to her face she could feel the gravitational pull of its mass as it passed by her.

    One hit from that thing and she would be toast. One hit. She swallowed her fear and rolled to the side, thumbing her MULTI-rifle to make the weapon shorten up, the muzzle retracting into carbine mode to allow her to use it in close quarters. Ajax was massive, his bulk casting a dark shadow over the punk as she stood up, firing her gun point blank on his chest.

    The bullets smashed on his heavy chest plate, failing to do anything but scratch the super heavy suit. Rhona cursed and sidestepped as the hammer came down, hitting the ground next to her with enough force she felt every bone in her body shake as if they were going to shatter. She stepped on the weapon’s haft, running up along it to leap over Ajax’ shoulders. While soaring through the air, she switched her shots from hollow point to high explosive, hearing the familiar whine of her rifle switching ammo types.

    As she landed behind the big man, ready to shove the shortened gun muzzle down his neck, RD came face to face with Phoenix’ pistol, the Myrmidon officer firing point blank on her visor and shattering the armored glass. Another shot and she’d be dead, but Phoenix had to fall back as Pinkie came shooting, one pistol on each hand.

    Pinkie had dropped her light machinegun, the large weapon useless in such close quarters fight. Instead she used two assault pistols, the Corregidor models sporting axe-like combat blades under their muzzles.

    “Come on! Let’s dance!”

    She laughed at the officer, shooting at him in a hail of unaimed fire that didn’t do much but tear at Phoenix’ cape and armor. Phoenix drew his sword, holding the pistol on the left and the blade on the right. Pinkie was a hardened warrior who learned how to fight growing up in the mean streets of Bakunin. Phoenix was a perfect specimen of human being, vat grown and made with the sole function of being the best warrior humanly possible.

    Pinkie knew she didn’t stand a chance unless she played dirty, so her fingers squeezed the triggers and kept firing on, even if she couldn’t aim, forcing the officer to dodge, weave and leap, taking fire in his armorweave, some bullets biting through and hurting his enhanced body beneath. Phoenix threw a smoke grenade at his own feet, blanketing the street in oily, grey smoke as he tried to clear away from Pinkie’s relentless fire.

    Less than ten meters away from their deadly dance, RD and Ajax fought their own duel. The huge man swung his hammer in wide arcs, each blow leaving a small crater or bringing down a wall whenever it landed. The punk was always one inch away, always close, but not too close. However, even the high explosive shots failed to penetrate the superheavy suit, and Ajax looked tireless as he came on, swinging over and and over.

    “Stay still so I can kill you quick!” He snarled, slamming the hammer down again.

    “Fuck you!”

    Rhona answered without mirth, her every ounce of brainpower focused on staying away from the big weapon, yet close enough to find a chink on that suit. She tried to step on the hammer again, but this time Ajax was smart to her tricks, and brought the hammer back in a swinging backblow.

    The haft of the hammer hit her on her side, and that was the sole reason she survived the blow. Even then, she was thrown several meters down the street, three ribs broken and blood foaming at her mouth. Ajax came in for a final swing, bringing his hammer down over the punk’s head. That moment, when death stared at her in the eyes, Rhona saw her way out.

    Under the arm plates the weave wasn’t so strong, and she pulled her shortened gun up, aiming at where the artificial muscles met the plate under the huge man’s armpit. One high explosive shot and Ajax’ arm bulged out, nerves, tendons and muscle tearing as the explosion was still not strong enough to destroy the armor plate, but the projectile wreaked havoc inside the suit, tearing through and rendering his arm useless.

    The hammer dropped without force, allowing the wounded Riot to roll to the side and stand up, her bloodshot eyes meeting his as she brought her gun up and took his head off with two more explosive shots.

    Standing in the middle of the smoke, Pinkie couldn’t see her friend struggle. She couldn’t see a thing. But she could hear, she could feel the ground move as the myrmidon officer charged at her, swinging his sword in a downwards arc. Pinkie raised her hand just in time, the blade biting through the armor, cutting between her middle and ring fingers and splitting her hand in half until it stopped at her wrist, stuck.

    She had one chance and she took it, stabbing her remaining pistol into Phoenix’ gut and firing on, holding the trigger until the weapon clicked dry. By the time the smoke cleared, the Riot Grrl was holding her now useless arm with one hand, the armor working to seal the wound and keep it from being fatal.

    The two women looked at each other, both of them wounded but standing. They leaned on each other and began trekking back to the Johnny-5 Installation, hoping their friends would be able to accomplish the mission without them.
    ____________________________________________

    Hector could see the battle unfold before him on the monitors. He was worried, not if the Steel Phalanx would win, but about the cost of the victory. He watched myrmidons die, watched them gain ground, but the Nomads sold their lives at a very high price. It hurt his heart.

    And as he watched the monitors, he saw him. Achilles, devil take him, was an awesome warrior in all senses of the word. Fearless, peerless, he led on without an ounce of fear or trepidation. Hector watched the blonde juggernaut cleave through an entire fireteam of Corregidor Wildcats, then duel an Intruder until he cut off the man’s head.

    Nothing could stop that man, but nothing could keep up with him either. As Achilles advanced, his battle brothers were killed around him, but he forged on, inspiring a suicidal confidence that terrified Hector as much as it terrified the enemy.

    Hector didn’t know if he was horrified or jealous.

    He didn’t have time to ponder his thoughts, though. His armor suddenly started blaring alarm klaxons, he was being hacked! Automatic defense matrixes activated and ran counter hacking programs, but that wasn’t what made Hector shocked, it was the fact an enemy hacker had come close enough to even try that!

    He turned on his heels the moment his suits’ communications went dark. The hacker had changed tactics: instead of rendering his suit inert, the enemy had cut him off from the ALEPH tacnet. He was blind to his brothers’ plight now, it was time to focus on the task at hand.

    He caught movement at the corner of his sight. Whirling around without looking, he unleashed a hailfire of green, burning plasma from his rifle. Hector had the only functioning plasma rifle ever produced in the Human Sphere, and the fearsome weapon melted a hole in the wall of his improvised command center as he tracked his assailant, wondering who it was that had the courage to attack him.

    He was answered when a grenade rolled out of the kitchen door, and he barely had time to cover his eyes before the searing, bright blast nearly blinded him. He didn’t need his eyes to fight, and he could sense the footsteps coming at him, someone tall and large charging at his left.

    Turning around, Hector drew his sword to parry an attack from a large, dull grey blade. He recognized the teseum weapon before the superior metal chopped through his glowing xiphos sword, and pulled back to sock the woman attacking him in the face. She was an amazon, taller than him and clad in yellow armor of the Bakunin Riot Grrls. And she wasn’t alone.

    They came at him from all sides, he punched the amazon back, then kneeled her in the gut before turning around and seeing a white armored woman pull up an EMP launcher. Without thinking, he grabbed one of the monitors and pulled it down in front of him, the energy blast hitting the monitor and frying its circuits, but allowing Hector to bring his plasma rifle up and…

    The teseum blade chopped it in half in a clean motion. That big woman wasn’t going down easily, and neither were her friends. Out of a wall came a purple armored one, her hand raised and showing the telltale glow of a hacking device being used. Hector wasn’t giving up just because he was outnumbered, though.

    He activated an emergency system on his suit and the hacker reeled back from the sudden feedback, her head pulsing with pain. But even though she couldn't keep hampering his suit, he still had to deal with the other two women, and the big amazon was strong enough to pick him off the floor when she kicked him between the legs, sending him tumbling along the makeshift command center.

    Picking himself up, he drew his pistol and fired at the three women, the heavy weapon barking loudly in the cramped space as he shot at them, their heavy suits bearing the impact. Six shots. He put three in the big amazon and she reeled back, clutching her chest; two in the white armored diva and she fell behind cover; and the last shot he saved for the hacker as she was recovering from her feedback loop.

    His world suddenly went slow. He realized his arm wasn’t responding, and looked down at his body to see the fast acting foam covering it. Someone silent and sneaky had nailed him with an adhesive grenade, and his battered suit couldn’t fight the hyperactive epoxy as it covered his arm, then crawled down his chest, locking his legs into place. He ended a statue, frozen solid and falling on his side, not even able to see who had hit him.

    “Nice shot, Butterfly.” The hacker said to someone behind him “Let’s see what we can salvage from this center and hightail out of here. It won’t take long before they notice their commander is missing.”

    Hector couldn’t even voice his anger, as the epoxy had covered his mouth. Thankfully these women weren’t savages, as one of them cleaned his face to allow him to at least breathe. However, it was still a huge shame: he had been captured.

    END