“We’re heading straight for a shitstorm!” Guy Fawkes shouted over the roar of the tank’s engine. Horsehead beat twice on the hull to acknowledge him.
“Aku,” I said low, hand to my ear, “shitstorm is lacking, what’s ahead?”
“From what the anarchists know, a major conflict involving two Anarchist professors, O’Reilly, and Ali, against two Technicists and professor Cobb. Students, of course, make up the bulk of the combatants.”
“Thank you.” I withdrew my hand and sat up on the tank, readying my gun. “ETA!?”
“Take a guess,” one of the other students on the tank said, alluding to the ever closer noises of fire and screams. We took to the air, ascending quickly through the thickened cloud layer. For a moment, the wind and mixture of fog and smoke it carried, was too heavy, and I braced for our rise through the mire.
All at once the sun hit me, a blinding first glimpse. In an instant though my eyes focused, seeing the shadows which cast over me, as people and projectiles came between me and the light. Immediately the tumultuous insanity of my surroundings became clear. Fire and black smoke dotted the intersection, where barriers of earth and metal cut through the massive clearing. Almost every eye turned to the big green tank which had just shot up out of the fog bank, to hang in the air like a sitting duck.
“BAIL!” someone shouted.
I pried my eyes from the shitstorm, and without contemplation, jumped away and off the side of the tank.
There was a brief terrible moment when I realized I was so far to the pavement.
That terrible moment was followed by an eternity of free-fall, and a sudden stop.
I crashed into the concrete, landing feet first, and rolling forward, my hood falling back in the process. I had executed the landing well, but the damage was done. I staggered up and felt a shock of pain. I had to keep moving, and ran regardless, towards the nearest cover. I could hear the impacts of others behind me, but didn’t stop to see who’d made it off.
Ignore the pain.
I was nearing a raised wall of ice, which must have been magically erected when I heard the explosion behind me. I jumped behind cover, twisting as I went, to land and look back.
The Tank had dropped like a rock and landed in a ball of fire and molten metal. Odessa was alive, running her own way, as was Hasami. Anna was still airborne, which seemed like a bad idea.
“Drop the gun!” I threw my rifle aside, and keeping my hands in the air, pushed with my legs until I was up against the ice wall, and further out of fire.
There were magus behind the wall, three, each with a style of their own, and two of them aiming at me with sword and scepter, respectively.
“Guys,” I said. “We’re the cavalry.” I was confident.
Statistically, actually not fifty, fifty, I thought. Good thing we’re not wearing uniforms.
“Cavalry for who?” Whom.
“Utopian,” I lied. Safest.
He hesitated, but bought it.”Get shooting then,” the sword wielder said.
I had my gun in a flash and didn’t waste time in turning to shoot him. He seized up for the duration of the flash and dropped fast enough that I knew he was dead. The scepter guy reacted much faster than I had anticipated and jabbed his weapon in my direction. I backstepped around the corner of the frozen barrier as a new wall of ice formed out of thin air, trailing like a train across the battlefield.
I’d dodged the ice, but I was now standing in the open.
Anna, Ash, Odessa, and Hasami were on their own, as was I.
This was all me.
Let’s be unexpected.
The ice wall was just slightly inclined, and dry. My gun had a sling, so I let it hang as I bit the bullet and looked for the right place to start climbing. Scaling the twelve or so foot tall wall, I threw myself over and landed right behind the backs of the two magus, scepter guy and a girl holding fire.
They were quickly reacting, but I went straight for the scepter wielder, wrapping him in a choke hold, and taking hold of his weapon.
The fire Elementalist couldn’t hit me, and scepter guy couldn’t budge my arm enough to break free. With my hand on the scepter, I closed my eyes.
Ice. Conceptually. Energy. Will. Change. Unnatural…
I could feel my white knuckle grip on the scepter intercepting his control. The weapon began to glow bright, and both he and she realized what I was doing.
He fought, but it was too late. I’d figured him out.
A weak blast of ice turned her a rigid white. I broke his grasp and threw his implement aside. Putting my all into the headlock, I raised him off the ground as he squirmed. He slowly stopped resisting, and I threw him off. Before he could recover, I pulled up my rifle and shot him. Done.
My heart was beating loudly in my ears.
I had to find the others, couldn’t keep up this solo game. I stooped down to retrieve the earpiece from the scepter guy but found that it was fried. Probably wouldn’t have worked for me anyway.
I stayed down when a laser beam tore through the buildings and pavement to the edge of the battleground. The constant assault carried on everywhere.
I wasn’t safe here.
Deciding to huff it, I threw my gun over my shoulder and made a dash for the buildings. Different buildings, than the one’s that had been decimated.
The one up ahead was glass fronted. I hurdled into it… but bounced off. I laid on the ground, panting and aching. Smart.
When everything is matter printed, it’s made strong as it can be.
I wasn’t dead yet, so I went ahead and put a call through the coms while I was laying down. “Anybody else alive?”
There was nothing for a moment, then, “I’m safe. Kind of lost, though.” It was Anna. “I jumped when the tank was going down and went further than I meant to. Somewhere west, I think. Almost got taken down by freaking swords.”
“Language Missy,” a voice on the channel mocked. Ash?
“-Bloody hell. We’re pinned down,” Odessa said. “Hasami and I found the middle of this. We’ve picked the weaker off, but neither of us can put Cobb down.”
“Bloody irony,” Ash said, “Kendall hates that fag.”
“I do and he is,” Kendall had been eavesdropping, apparently. “Our summon is being a bitch about terms, but I can send help soon. Doran, get in there.”
That’s a really bad idea.
My connection to him tightened, though. It was an order.
I pulled myself up and got running. It became apparent that I was on the wrong side of this battlefield, though, when I spotted a grouping of androids congregated around a girl behind a metal wall.
She spotted me running through the open. Dozens of androids raised guns, unhesitatingly opening fire. I cursed my luck a pulled up my cloak. It went stiff as the blasts hit, each breaking against my side and threatening to knock me down. I reached safety behind a fallen mech and took a second to center myself. The mech laid out across the battlefield, some dozen or so feet long. I leaned back against its knees.
I decided to pop out and shoot off a bolt. When I did, it stopped dead at the force field surrounding her, her androids, and nearby magus. I aborted when they returned fire, had to retreat further to behind the mech’s torso when they blew half of my cover away.
“Update me Odessa.”
“Hasami was felled! My armor isn’t holding. It’s down to me, Cobb, and a damned robot,” she said. Her exhaustion was coming through.
I had to move before the Technicist closed in.
Throwing up my hood, I ordered: “show me Odessa.” Her silhouette was alighted through augmentation. I could get to her, but she was exposed.
I went for a mad sprint, and coming around a pillar of fire, found her, helmet missing, armor beaten and dented, facing down a man in a dazzling white cloak, and a six-legged robot. The robot was smooth, with no hard angles. When Odessa’s swing hit it, her sword bounced off with seemingly more energy than before. When she went with that deflection to swing even harder at the old man, he simply swatted the blade away with one hand. She carried the momentum even further into a flip. She spun upwards, violently, but came down right towards her mark.
I took aim and fired. The wizard shook with the shock and took a spinning slab of steel to the face. There was almost nothing left of him.
The machine jumped on Odessa in the time it was taking to dig her sword out of the ground. I fired at it, but the shock bounced. Electricity lanced out in every direction, thundering. It ignored me and carried on pounding two of its legs into the crater where Odessa had been.
Shit. What? What can I do? I couldn’t help. I’m useless.
There wasn’t a trick I could use or a thing I could do.
Sorry Odessa. I had to keep moving. I couldn’t hesitate.
Just then a two story tall demon came tearing through the ground, fire rolling off its back. He, gender disturbingly obvious, grabbed and crushed the robot in his hand, his gnarled and burned face twisting with satisfaction.
Well okay then. Nevermind.
Kendall was a ways off behind the demon, walking briskly with his hands behind his back. I radioed him. “Some people are impressed with what you do now.”
“Thank you. You’re all magnificent by the way. Cobb is going to be pissed.”
“Let’s not celebrate quite yet,” Ash cut in. “Just got word, you’re officially at the center of the orgy. Everybody wants you. Run, before you get it up the butt.”
“Intel is appreciated, Ash,” Kendall said. “Odessa?”
Out from the crater rose Odessa, looking beaten and bruised. “…Alive.”
“Good. Converge on me. I’ll send the demon off for now to play.”
“Weep for us,” the demon said, his bass voice shaking the world, crawling under my skin. Then he stomped away, having been given his orders.
I jogged up to Kendall, with Odessa ahead of me.
“Anna?” Kendall radioed. “Sound off….”
A horrid and shrill scream blared over the radio.
“Gods,” Odessa swore.
I rubbed my face and tried not to think about it. Kendall would be predictable. I couldn’t help myself and asked anyway. “We going after her?”
He scowled. “We don’t have time. It’s just pain.”
“Pain stays with you,” I replied, meeting his scowl with a glare.
A whistling marked the incoming ball of fire, which missed us three by a good distance, but was clearly not a warning shot. That was the end of that. Wordlessly we agreed and started fleeing the area.
We came to a field of diamond spikes and huddled down. Keeping low we moved around until an exit road came close. I didn’t know what Kendall was planning, but I was along for the ride. Anna was a consideration, but we had to be practical.
One way or another, we’d see her again.