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 Post subject: Operation Sniper Wolf
Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:50 pm
  

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Knight

Joined: Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:20 pm
Posts: 4922
Location: Right behind you.
Comment: Don't waste your time gloating over a wounded enemy. Pull the damn trigger.
Alright, here's a follow up from Operation Dead Lift. If you've read that one, you can guess what the surprise is by the title. :D

Spoiler:
OPERATION SNIPER WOLF

Do you believe love can bloom, even on a battlefield?


PART ONE

“On your left!” the ‘borg growls.

Like an angry fire god, his NE-700 howls the song of war, lighting up the rotten darkness of this ruined city with white-hot plasma. In the inferno, spider drones turn into molten puddles.

“Easy job, bucket head.”

When a big business like Titan Robotics sends out a general call to rifles, it’s for one reason: they need meat for the grinder. That’s me, Alrik, they call me a lot of things. Arstad, big red ‘borg, covering me from behind as we hop-skip the ghost streets of this forgotten place. Slags and meat all around us, some pros but most are corpses waiting to happen.

Duck behind the husk of a ground car, waiting for the Naruni camo armor to do its thing. Drones, don’t know the type, four legged spiders with climbing cables, pulse lasers and grenade launchers run up the walls and through the streets. Lobbing high explosive party favors and ambushing mercs from above and below. Hell of a party.

Arstad puts rounds down range, slides to a stop next to me. “Gotta keep movin’, kid. These slags are beatin’ feet.”

“Let’m. Street ahead’s a d-bee shoot.”

Town square, high skeletal buildings, not enough cover. Drones are falling back. Look left, look right. Trickle of slags heading into the alleys. NE C-20 finally melded, optic camouflage active. Time to move.

Bucket head and I bolt east, find a collapsed parking garage, drones break out the welcome matt. Grenade volley coming for Arstad, they ignore me, just a ghost signature. Break as he drops to cover, bring up the NG R-50, aim the shots. Decompression flash as the hyper-density rounds leave the barrel. Drones get a black eye, fire wild. K-hex grenade of the underslung finishes the job.

“Stubborn, eh?”

“Just as dumb”, I tell him. “Wonder when Black Knight’s gonna show.”

“Ain’t sure I buy that one”, the borg grunts. “Lot of legends out there ain’t true.”

This one I want to believe though. Black painted G-10 Boy, bristling with mods and weapons, say the boom gun is silent, that the guy sneaks up on you in nearly three meters of chromium mega-steel and slits your throat with a rune-carved vibro-blade. Hell of a challenge.

Wouldn’t you want to know the truth?

“…’sides, not why we’re here, kid. TR wants the AI core from the city underground. We’re gonna get there first.”

“And if we don’t, we’ll take out whoever beat us there.”

“Damn straight.”


***

I ghost ahead along the way, spotting drones in the dark before they activate. Better to conserve ammo, avoid the ones we can, first strike the rest. Find a giant hole in the street, leads to the underground. According to the Titan rep, the core’s in the tunnels near an old power relay. Spot the lines and descend.

Hear the thunder of battle above as we snake through. Hell of a party going on up there. Gotta be a lot of meat bleeding out. Slags, Alrik. All they are. Get deeper, things look newer, undisturbed. Big door, the way is shut. Flanked by spider drone’s big brothers. Dual auto cannons, larger optics suite, smoke poppers, 35mm grenade auto-launchers. Big bads.

Work it out, got a plan. Arstad flicks on his force field. Me peekin’ around the corner, see the spiders twitch, reading the power sig. Go time. Bucket head strafes out, crossing the line of fire as the NE-700 rumbles plasma rounds down the hallway. Auto cannons belch from thirty feet, spark the force field, flashes out just as he clears the hall.

NG Inferno charge armed, give it the slide as they’re pumping Arstad’s shield. Duck back to cover as he crosses. Plasma cataclysm, rock the shack. Hallway melts, supports bend but don’t break, heat and over pressure send fiery death down the hall, becomes a sloppy tunnel of molten red.

Peek around. Big-S bros are a memory, door sagging but still in place, cooling fast. Signal Arstad, move in. Careful footing, don’t get stuck in the molten floor. ‘Borg arms give the door a shove, no joy.

“Give it another knock”, I say.

Fusion block from the bag of tricks, step back around the corner, farther away this time, hope we don’t collapse the whole hallway. 3, 2, 1, boom time. Shards of metal from the ceiling, the house shakes but I stay up. Go back around, roof met the floor, sagging slag. Pick our way through, opening is big enough to duck through for the big guy, but I go first.

***

Hightailing, ten minutes later, maybe two kilometers. Breath is coming ragged, sustained sprint, need to quit smoking.

“Gotta lose these guys!” the borg yells.

Twenty drones on our tail. Arstad’s back armor is hot, force field still hasn’t cycled, bad time for a malfunction. Mine’s a multi-color ripple waiting to say goodbye as we round another corner. No clue where we’re going.

“Seems bad. Lay’m out, bucket head!”

“No way, we’ll get trapped!”

“We’ll be trapped if we’re dead too, get to it!”

Sparks on the metal floor as Arstad stops and turns. Covers on his shoulder missile tubes recede. I’m running for cover. Mini-frags scream and whistle through the hallway, shock wave passes through me, rattles my teeth. A hail of junk exchanges across the corridor, flame licking right behind them and I manage to find my balance.

Peek around, Arstad’s scorched but standing. The hallway’s a mangled mess, like a popped metal blister. Pieces of spider drones litter the area and the big guy wipes dirt off his metal hands, job well done.

Step out, nod approval. “See? The hall held, so cut the crying when men are talkin’ from now on, alright dear?”

“You son of a…”

Then his force field kicks back on, charge complete, ‘borg grumble.

I had to laugh, but it didn’t last long. Someone shot a howitzer inside the hallway.

Air pressure from the passing round turns me into a kite, ragdoll and slam into a wall. Lose sight of Arstad, lose my rifle. Sound rips and tears, sonic boom and my teeth rattle.

Okay, not a howitzer. Boom gun. The Two Hundred Slugs of Death. How it missed me, how I’m still alive, I don’t know. The hallway shudders and shakes again, second round. The house comes down hard, curtain fall and I’m trapped under a pile of rockcrete and girders.

Light flashes, NE-700 answering back down the hall. Try to get free, boom-boom fires again, fragment shower as I crawl out from under the mess. Chunk of debris, whack upside the head like an angry mother. Last thing I remember.


PART TWO

Shake-wake, bouncing like a rodeo clown, legs and arms flailing. Get some sense, carried by the ‘borg like a baby. Dignified-like. Hallway’s dark, no power. Raise my aching head, multi-optics pop, clear hall flying by. Arstad’s gotta be pumping full speed, denting the deck at 100.

Tap the borg arm. “Slow the train, bucket head.”

Spark around a corner, puts me on shaky legs, no support and I almost fall down.

“Glad I wasn’t carrying a corpse, woulda been a let down.”

Crack the neck, clear the head. “What happened?”

“Glitter Boy, ‘the hell do you think?”

Knock the metal dome. “Told you he was real. You get’m?”

“Wouldn’t be scratchin’ the deck if I had.” Shakes an imaginary right arm at me, just a stump of wires with no NE-700. Problem.

I got the NE-4 with spare mags, .45, knife, magic pig sticker, a frag, force field and my armor’s in good shape. Packing a surprise too, woulda been useful back there if I hadn't been tossed. Lost my rifle and bag of boom under the rubble though. Arstad’s got two mini missiles, both frag, the pulse laser and ripper blade in his left arm, no more explosive charges unless you count the Buster Knuckles in his left. Says his force field is still being flaky and he took a direct hit aside the one that made his arm wave goodbye, not doing hot on armor.

All we had to worry about was a stealth G-10. Maybe a few hundred spider drones.

Coulda been worse.

So he says it. “We could beat feet. Rewards pretty good, but we ain’t got the tools for the job.”

“We got this. Time for OSP.” I start walking.

“Pick off the dead?” he follows.

“Only if they resist.”


***


Can’t go back yet, keep moving away from Boom Sniper the Great. Tunnels get weird, like they don’t know where they’re going. Realize it’s not all metal, some rocky, some soft like dirt, flesh. Armor pick-ups tell me the air’s changing, rebreather and oxygen kick in, poisonous. Wind from ahead. Think about turning back and trying again, hear a gurgle in the darkness.

Spider drones don’t gurgle. That one’s for free.

“Pound deck!” Arstad yells and options for his pulse laser. Snub barrel weapon flips out his arm and into firing position. Red-purple light flashes, melts the wall as we book it. Look over my shoulder and realize the wall isn’t melting, being ripped open by the charming company on the other side. Purple-black tentacles and green bile spill through the hole, the groaning more like a song of despair.

What is it with ancient evils and tentacles?

“No one said anything about this!” the borg shouts.

“They never do! Drones, sure, even Glitter Boys, fine! Ancient whatever that is, like hell! Had my fill of demons!”

Slithering purple fills the tunnel behind and I ditch my frag. Shrapnel in my mesh weave coat but I stay on my feet. Slippery evil squeals like rage, just wants to give us a hug. Catch a glimpse of red eyes, yellow teeth, Swirling Devourer of Souls. Or whatever. I hate this part.

Arstad, running backwards, keeping easy pace with me, lights up the tunnel with laser fire. Beast’s still gaining, angry, but gaining. Good work, bucket head.

“I’ll try mine”, growl and skid to a halt. NE-4. Eat plasma cartridges.

Chunks of tentacle flesh burn away, pop like a zit. Still coming, keep shooting. Tendrils flare out as it closes in, mouth full of yellow, dripping rippers. Give it a beat to aim for the mouth, then a crack from behind and our nightmare ends in a splatter of gore and brain matter painting the tunnel behind our friend.

He flops a bit, tentacle twitch. Hear feet padding behind us, whip around and a dark shape leaps over us. We roll away, back on our feet, looks like a giant dog, big as a horse. Jaws tear at slick monster flesh, muzzle covered in blood, creature stops gibbering.

Lupine eyes shine at us through night vision, then a wolf tail wags, tongue sags. Someone’s happy to see us. Other way around.

“Uh…good doggie”, Arstad chuffs. Not sure if he should shoot.

“Friendlies”, I tell him. He stands down.

Aaragh, spirit of the hunt, something from a rift or maybe just leftover from a simpler time. He pads his giant wolf hide over to me, puts his nose against the faceplate of my armor. Giant yellow eyes, supernatural intellect there. He snorts.

“You didn’t used to stink like that”, the wolf says.

Talking wolf. Yeah. Could be weirder.

“Stink like what?”

“Like innocent blood”, says the pair of hips in body armor and camo-cloak emerging from the darkness of the tunnel. She’s slinging a huge rifle, looks more like a relic than hardware. Don’t see the face under the helmet, but the voice is unmistakable, would know the walk anywhere.

“Meg?”*
(*See Operation Deadlift)

Aaragh bounds next to the dead girl, circles her once and goes back to staring at us.

“You’ve changed”, is her only answer. “I hear they call you a Devil now.”

“Uh…kid. What the hell is going on?” Arstad nudges me, real subtle like.

“Do you remember what Sahrala, the nymph said?” she asks. I can feel her eyes on me.

“Not here to get a lecture, dig lady? Next round’s on me*, but we got a job to do.” Start walking past them.

(*CS army vernacular: a beer and a single discharge from most energy rifles cost about the same in Chi-Town, either is common payment for saving a comrade’s life in battle. Much like I owe you one.)

“Uh…nice to meet you...”, bucket head mumbles and stumbles after me.

Walk a few dozen meters, they don’t talk, don’t follow. Arstad asks me about it, pretend I can’t hear him. Dead girls rising from the grave to tell me I don’t meet their standards. I got enough nightmares.

“The Soul Drinker’s hive is that way”, Aaragh’s voice echoes through the poisonous air. “Do you even know where you’re going, lad?”

Stop walking, look at Arstad. “Not a word about me taking help from the Girl Scouts, got it?”

Robo-shrug, “No problem, chief.”

Turn and join the troop.

***

Lone Wolf and Sniper lead the way, Arstad covers the rear and I spend my time wondering why I feel lower than dirt. The hell does this lady get off telling me I’ve changed? She probably just didn’t understand me from the start. Yeah, I could have ditched out back then, not helped that CS squad when they were getting pounded, not saved that slag Tom, but I didn’t stick around because I’m a nice guy. People need to survive crap somehow. Having extra targets around helps.

The hell am I thinking?

Ask Meg why they’re here. Soul Drinkers, tentacle beasties from another dimension, servants of some slippery-when-wet god wannabe are making a nest for their lord. Unrelated to the job issued by Titan. I’ve got money to make, she’s cleaning up the messes of the megaverse. Some kind of white knight, complete with a trusty steed. What a joke.

Seems backward, though. They’re here to kill the drinkers but they lead us away from the hive. Air’s getting cleaner, walls are looking more metal. Figure I’ll ask.

“What’s the plan?”

“We’re taking you to safety”, Meg says.

She thinks I might skin my knee without her help, cute. “Then get lost”, I snarl. “We can handle ourselves.”

Snort from up ahead. Aaragh’s gettin’ funny with me now? Then I get the itch, tells me to move or die. I hear bucket head shift behind me, Meg hits the deck and I flick on my force field as I jump on top of her. Just in front, lights flare to an angry red, sensor pods on a dozen or more spider drones as grenade rounds fill the hallway.

Great timing boys.


PART THREE

The explosion throws Meg and me into the air. Force field sparks, gives out, the floor waves goodbye just after, it’s the open maw of a beast now. Keep my grip on her and fall through, hit a pipe, feel my ribs compress. Knock my head on something hard in the dark, lose perception for a moment until pain brings me back. Clip my leg on something and we free tumble tumble into the darkness. Shoulder meets another set of piping and we break right through it, feel the joint separate. A second later I don’t feel anything.

(Best Roll with Impact Ever)

Bad dream. Laughing skullheads, zombie juicer wants to brawl. Shifter throws his silvered vibro-blade through Megan’s chest, nothing I could do. The wolf leaps into the fire and I get dragged away screaming. Sit up, eyes open and it’s the same story.

Helmet’s off, not dead. Air smells fresh. Meg’s here. Green eyes, freckles and red curls force me back down. Her gloved hand on my chest, pain’s dulled, the auto-doc, IRMSS, sticking out of my right arm, nanites clocking in for work.

“The other’s alive?”

“Aaragh’s alive, but he isn’t nearby.” Shake of the curls. “I can sense him. I don’t know about your friend, I’m sorry.”

“Takes a lot to slow him down”, give her a confident look and sit up again. Auto-doc’s giving me the business. Feel the bones mending, could just be the drugs. “So.”

“So…”

“Why are you alive?”

“Aaragh, he…took me back to Sahrala. She revived me. I guess.” She shrugged. There was a much bigger story behind those green eyes and freckles, but she prodded my side. Crippling strike. “You rest, I know how hard it is for you think, you’ll strain yourself.”

“Fine, play it like a sneak. Just help me with my gear.”

After some protest she helps me back into my armor. Hurts like hell, feel sluggish, easy days. Force field is fried, game over, everything else checks out. Finish a cig before fitting my helmet. We’re pretty far down, hundred or more meters, hell of a dive. Pool to our left, broken water pipes above like a waterfall, cold mist freshens the air. Closed off on three ends, only way is west, but it looks like a blown out butthole, not sewage, Soul Drinker slick. Good times.

No way to climb up, closest pipe thick enough for the job is sixty meters up. Lucky as hell we landed in the water.

“You hurt?”

“I’ll be fine”, she says and puts her own helmet back on.

“Where’d you get the rifle?”

“Old family heirloom, had it tooled up in Lazlo a while back. Better than a JA-12 for hunting demons.”

“Lazlo, huh? TW?”

She shrugs. “We can talk about it later. How about you try your friend on the radio?”

One-two-over. No joy. Interference, assume Black Knight and his army of Nope. Path is clear, West. Last I could tell that would take us closer to the relay station. Don’t get your hopes up slag, survive first. You’re more turned around than psi-stalker at a nexus, focus on getting out of here.

We get to creeping.

***

Meg gives me her NG LP25, pulse laser, tells me to watch her back. She takes point, I’m still working on a new shoulder and knee. Ankle deep in drinker-juice, slosh our way ahead. Try the radio from time to time, static response. Find a half dozen junked spider drone, eviscerated mercs melting in acid-saliva. Love where this is going…can’t wait to be a Drinker snack.

Air’s poisonous again, walls of the tunnels look like a cancerous canal, as if death was born here. Creepers slither around our ankles, ground feels soft, poor footing. Half a klick in the place growls like a thousand angry bellies. Still no branch offs, if we need to bolt its 500m of sprinting on a bad knee.

“Picked a hell of a place for our first date, lady.”

She holds up a hand and crouches down. Ultra-ear picks up the bad news. Dripping fluid ahead, slick slithering, heavy breathing. Getting closer. I creep next to her, pop multi-optics and see the heat coming our way along the ceiling.

“Seven, huh? You bag’m all before they get to us?”

She lays down in the muck, chambers a round. “Easy job, slag.”

Boneriffic. I cover our rear, LP25 hot.

Squeals and shrieks come from behind me, armor registers the blowback, but no flash, no noise other than the action cycling rounds. Same mod our Black Knight has on his Boom Stick. Distracted, almost don’t spot movement on my side.

“Contact rear!”

The walls blister open, like a blooming flower of ichor and the tunnel’s flooded with drinker-juice as the hentai beasts come out of every hole. Gotta be a dozen of them.

Good times.

Start dumping J’s, controlled pulses. Hard to make the mark with all the gibbering, but I’m no slag. Sustained fire sends squid-1 backing away without eyes or teeth. Squid-2 hesitates like a beta, give him the same as I fight the stream of sludge filling the hallway.

Waist-deep now. Looks like these guys are good swimmers, waiting for it to fill entirely. Okay. I got a surprise for these guys.

Meg’s behind me, taps my shoulder for a clear line of fire and turns squid-3 into a pool floatie. Only about nine more. No big. Break out my climbing cord with a vibro-active grappling hook while she puts rounds into the critters. Wrap it around her once, grab the line in my left just as the juice comes to chest level.

“Hold on!” I yell, then reach into the inseam of my mesh-coat, drawing an M94. Breech loading mini-missile launcher. Would have been great to use this earlier, but I keep getting jumped, glad I hadn’t yet. Mark 3 high explosive, aim it for the floor thirty meters away, right where the bastards are coming out and give the lady a squeeze. Mini-missiles streaks, leaving a boiling trail of froth. Slight deviation, but hit close enough.

Slime wave, shock of the explosive blows us back, sucks us back in and the toilet flushes. Vibro-grapple sinks into the tunnel flesh, dig in deep and come to a stop. Meg comes loose from my arm but the line holds and she tethers as slithering tentacle darkness goes for a ride down the hole.

***

Twenty minutes later, haven’t said much. Dripping drinker-juice, trudging down the flesh tunnel, hating life. At least my shoulder and knee feel better. Nanites working overtime. Finally come to a fork, Meg leads us right, I don’t bother asking how she knows. Gotta be the edge of the place, see bare metallic hallway for a time, then back into pulsing, purple-grey matter.

Then the tunnel goes straight down. Just a hole, seems to twitch, like we’re tickling the back of something’s throat.

“There’s a fetish for this, somewhere in the megaverse.”

“Can you make contact yet?” she’s great at ignoring my charm.

“Bucket head, Devil. You copy?” Try again, nothing. “Starting to think I rattled my head too hard on that fall, might have broken the radio in my jaw.”

“Your head’s too hard for that.”

Roll the eyes, Alrik. Just means she digs you.

“We backpedal now, or go down?”

She doesn’t answer.

“You even know where we are?”

Still nothing.

“Hey, lady…”

She turns, zombie slow. “You feel that?”

Could be me that’s hungry, but I hear another growl. Louder this time, the echo rattles my chompers. Came from just below. Temperature’s up a few degrees down there, humidity up by another third and all kinds of toxic gas is wafting up from this thing’s bowels. The growl comes again and my night vision is blinded for a split second, crack of lightning.

Grumble and take the last Mk3 from the case in my coat, load the M94 again. Check the charge on the LP25, about half down. She gave me two long-mags, 30 pulses left. Hardly enough to kill anything that moves. I feel like I’ll be killing demons with my bare hands by the end of this.

“Looks like the party’s starting”, I say.

Her head bows. “You don’t need to come with me. You’re not here for this.”

“If these things summon their entry into Lord of the Deep look-a-like contest I’m a merc-shake anyway. Let’s get this over with.”

***

Use my grappling line, descend into the belly of the beast. Everything gets horrorshow pretty fast. Worms crawl over our armor, feel air rush up at us like the breath of an slumbering god. Pick-ups telling me the plates of my suit are starting to decay. It’s a slow death.

Get near the bottom, the line snaps and we free-tumble for about six meters before splashing in a puddle. Everything drips here, it’s loud, the smack of slime rain. Get out of the puddle, Meg’s camo-cloak is tatters, a lot of my rig is falling apart, the C-20’s optic stealth is non-op. No breeches in our armor yet, could be worse.

About to make appropriate comment, hear the slither of incoming Drinkers, all around us. Then the rumble comes, lightning flashes, blinding night vision. Multi-optics clear, look deeper into the chamber, see a sliver of blue-white light, a massive tendril surging about, leaving a slime trail longer than Prosek’s war crimes. A single eye peeks out of the dimensional gate, red ringed, bloodshot, permeates malice like it was evil before evil was a thing.

Feel my guts shake, thinking this was a bad idea.

“Incoming”, Meg’s all business. Rifle up and ready to party as she moves toward the mass of slithering flesh coming at us.

Can’t let the lady show me up, fall in.


PART FOUR

Silent as the reaper, Meg puts rounds down range. Nothing flashy, can barely make out the bodies as they pile up. I cover our rear, lay down fire. Take turns reloading. Hear her call Fire in the Hole and duck behind a rock. Frag grenade clears our left. Pop up, suppress the ones on our right. She’s up, rifle over a hunk of dead beast flesh, pounds one in two shots. She’s dry, ten closing.

“Run ahead!” I yell and empty my mag into our slithering friends.

She breaks and I drop the ’25, draw the M94 and let her go. Four drinkers caught in the blast, pieces of tenacles fly past me. The others regroup and I chuck my flash at them, draw my sword and Crazy Knife*, get to the butchery. Flash goes off, ultra-ear suppresses the thunder-crack, multi-optics polarize. First critter loses a tentacle, then an eye to the chopper, vibro-kukri. Jump and step off its body, bring the sword down at the next one. The magic edge rends tentacle flesh, green-purple bile belches from the wound, rip the sword up and out, send brain matter out to lunch. Get grappled around the leg, knife chops it clear, take a slam to the back and tumble, ribs screaming for a smoke break.
(*See Operation Reload)

Roll up and I’m surrounded. Throw the knife, gets batted away by a tentacle, NE-4 clears my drop rig before the motion’s complete but the holster snaps, lose my reloads. Screw it. Put plasma into the critter’s face as I run right at it. The other three close in, keep moving, Alrik. Run up and leap off the melting corpse, see Meg hole one with her rifle, got ten more closing in. Dance card’s full, can’t get to her.

Pair of mini’s scream in from above, frag and chunky tentacle bits for dinner. Meg’s clear. Dodge a swipe from my dance partners, catch the dumbest crap you’ve ever seen.

Big red ‘borg, sporting pulse lasers in the dark, riding a wolf the size of a horse. ‘Borg-wolf cavalry. I think there’s an explicit rule against that, somewhere…has to be.

They come charging down the gullet and Aaragh howls, hair stands up, heart beats strong, unafraid. This suddenly seems like a great idea. Empty the NE-4, double swipe the blade, covered in Drinker-juice but I’m clear. Wolf-Borg charges into the mix, finds a new column of ripper teeth and red eyes to mess with. It’s a rush of laughing, howling, vibro-blades and fangs. Catch up to Meg, run in to support.

Get to the press, cutting in. Straight-edge makes a blood bloom, draw the tentacles aside like a curtain.

“Nice of you to show up, bucket head!”

Arstad and Aaragh separate and tentacle terror latches onto the borg. A swift rip, one armed, slam it to the ground, vibro-blade like a jackhammer through the brain. The pooch is eating them alive.

“Humor, at a time like this”, the wolf snarls, spitting Drinker meat.

“What else is there, really?” Arstad shoves his arm elbow deep into a mouth, teeth sparking on his armor, finds something valuable to life and tears it out, kicks the body into two others.

“More to kill than I have in ammunition”, Meg adds. “We need to close that rift before it opens all the way.”

“We’ve been talkin’ about that”, Arstad says, nudging the wolf as it bites the eyes out of a Drinker. “We went the long way to find our friends.”

I cut a Drinker but it doesn’t die, poor form, busted ribs will do that. If the auto-doc wasn’t moving me, wouldn’t be moving at all. Back away from its attack, run into Meg, swap positions. Her rifle goes off, I bury my sword hilt deep into the Drinker behind her. Swap again and more are incoming. There’s no end.

“Whatever you’re going to do, make it happen!”

“Soon”, Aaragh snarls.

"Now, actually", Arstad adds.

Dropping from the opening above comes an army big bro spider drones on thick cables, the chamber is saturated with grenade rounds and auto cannon fire. Splits the ears, shakes the ground, rattles my armor. Arstad’s over me, his force field active. The initial blast of grenades overloads it, his body takes continuous auto cannon fire, but he stays on his feet, stays between the rounds, me and Meg.

The dakka stops and there’s a mess of corpses, steaming pieces, melting bodies and smoke filling the chamber. The Rift crackles with energy, pulses bright, the eye within looks…pleased. I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

“It…devoured their souls…”, Megan says.

“Wait. You mean killing them helped it?”

“tH4t’zzz lAm3…”, Arstad crackles. Voice box was damaged. Looks like a 55mm round went right though his neck. “CraaAAAaap.”

The rift shines bright, a foul wind rushes over us and I lose my footing, fall back down the rise. Aaragh dives down for me, he looks about as bad as I do, guess he was too big for Arstad to shield. Looks more meat than fur. Picks me up by the scruff like I’m a puppy.

“We must escape! This is not a fight we can win!” the wolf growls above the soul-shatter of the opening rift.

Not a bad idea. Problem being we’re blocked by a small army of drones and quickly appearing god-tentacles.

Easy days.

The uterus of reality rips again, stretching like a labor of evil and the head of this thing passes the threshold. Slick-scaled flesh writhing in the darkness, teeth like ripper vibros. The tendrils lash, knock into spider drones and send them into a tangle. A shoulder comes forward, flabby arms with rotting yellow claws. Yeah, I’m over that sort of thing. Just never meet their eyes. That’s where you’ll find every excuse to lose bowel control and run like a scared monkey. Deep in the red-rings of its eyes you see everything you aren’t, it’s a vastness of power, something that stretches beyond your imagination, makes you feel…human. All your illusions about how bad you are drain away and you realize you’re not even lunch to a creature like this. That kind of inadequacy really makes a guy want to pack it in for the day, maybe just sit there and throw his arms up, come what may.

Well, I’m tired of that. I could die here, sure, but I’m not going to let Monster-of-the-Week here push me around. I shouldn’t even be here, this is stupid, I have another job to do, but looking at Splynncryth’s pet soul-sucker rise from the dog house well…the fear boiled and rotted, rising back up as rage. The world’s a screwed up place, I stab people in the back, leave slags for dead and don’t give it a second thought, but that’s just the rat race, competition between peers. This thing, the wannabe God coming into my backyard, he wasn’t invited. He doesn’t get to play.

I’m a human, this is my planet. To hell with this guy and his tentacles.

(That’s what we call roleplaying to get out of failing a HF check, ladies and gentlemen)

“We’re not going anywhere”, I yell to the others. “He’s the one who’s leaving!”

“Get some!” Arstad roars, coming in five by five on his busted vox.

Aaragh howls again, throat raw, but the feeling’s the same. Surge of courage and we start advancing through the muck.

The tendrils of Big-Mucky-Muck are half a meter at the thinnest, three at the thickest. A guy could throw out his back cutting into something like that, but my magic cleaver sings it’s so happy to rend dimension-hopping flesh. Feels like I’m hacking dry branches as I race toward the beast’s vitals. Good times.

Arstad joins me on my right, Aaragh on my left, Meg pumps rounds to distract our enemy’s attacks. Eventually the drones get in on it. They aren’t firing at us anymore, they’re focusing fire on Big-Bad. Cut a tentacle, hop over the chunk of flesh as it tumbles past me. Arstad sees the fat, dripping arm coming for us, tosses me onto Aaragh’s back, faces the giant hand and Big-B gets to take Buster Knuckles to the palm. Three pounds of shape-charge NG mark 5 high explosive bursts out of the ‘borg’s hand, ripping god-flesh and sending a blood-bone spatter across everything within ten feet. I ride past on the wolf as a shroud of writhing darkness envelopes my friend.

No time to worry. Go for the kill.

Aaragh moves with frightening grace, flowing around, over and under attacks, covering ground like a Jump Bike. Takes serious effort to stay on, gripping fur and flesh, keep my head down. Haven’t ridden a horse since I was twelve. Grenade rounds explode on Big-B’s back, we take some frag but the legs keep pumping with a snarl. The god-beast rears up to smash the drones and Aaragh leaps like champ to stay with our target. Exposed chest as it’s torso emerges entirely from the rift. Massive body, thing has to be thirty meters long, arms outstretch nearly to the ceiling. This is it. Aragh finds purchase on a lashing tentacle, I crouch on his back as he catapults us back into the air. Ready my strike, feel a rush, the blade is hungry.

Leap off Aaragh and put a meter of razor blade into Big-B, ride down his gut like a pirate on a sail. Hear a god scream in pain, ultra-ear filter’s no good, bleeding ears, hammering in my head and I fall to the ground covered in entrails.
(Leap attack, double damage from magic sword, rolled critical, coulda gone worse)

Hit the soft tissue on the ground, roll through the muck, think maybe my shoulder separated again, muscles in my back screaming, at least I can feel them still. Vision rattling as I try to find my feet, wonder why I haven’t been crushed by a falling beast corpse.

Look up, it’s clutching the wound, howling still but it calms down, slows, in control. The wound is sealing. …great.

Meg is near, grabs my arm and pulls me away but I’m screaming every curse of the sea for a second go at it. When you disembowel something, it falls over and dies. Mullligan.

Lady’s giving orders, but I’m fighting to get back in there. She trips me, headlock and drags my sorry carcass. Finally hear what she’s saying.

“Another volley, we have to get to cover!”

The spider drones have consolidated again, grouped in a formation. Multi-optics gives me a bad reading in the center, no joy. Then it hits me. Sensor masking. What the hell could be up there…oh, wait.

Auto cannons and grenades thunder in the hall, ultra-ear filters the spike but can’t spare me the rattle. Meg and I get behind a chunk of tentacle as Big-B takes a hammering. Flesh coming off in chunks, exposed bone on its flabby face, teeth shattering, the hand Arstad wounded becomes gory memory. Most of the fire concentrates on his bulk, the beast’s back is a lake of blood, vitals and powdered spine. Big-B hits the floor, thunder crash, sends blood and pieces flying.

Then the big gun joins the party.

Twenty shots in succession, each one like a primal force, the inexorable march of time that brings death to us all. Four thousand slugs that make the Geiger counter in my armor spike. Uranium rounds. Good night, sucker. Big-B’s a broken husk, a ruin of torn flesh, shattered bone and pooling blood. The dead god twitches and a final shot shatters its skull, brain matter rains down on us.

Peek above our cover, see a dark shape falling from the ceiling. Light flares from it, thrust from the recoil-suppression system and it slows just enough to make a soft landing on the Soul Drinker god’s carcass. Glossy-black G-10, not a Shadow Boy, that’s a real-deal Boom Stick. Grenade launcher on an arm mount, high powered laser slung under the other arm. Out of the laser arm comes a glowing blade, six feet of rune-etched vibro-blade. It cleaves into the body, reaches a clawed hand in and lifts an organ the size of Aaragh from the body, veins and arteries tearing free as it rises.

Black Knight hurls the heart of the beast into the air and his recoil thrusters kick again, the rail gun fires in eerie silence and turns it into particles.

Then he turns to us, a blank, glossy slate.

Crap.


PART FIVE

Found Arstad buried beneath Big-B’s carcass. His legs were crushed so we had to use my grappling line to tie him to Aaragh. The wolf had grown most of his fur back quickly and his wounds were healing. He’s a tough bastard, but he was barely strong enough to carry bucket head until he’d taken a rest. Meg and I were having issues. Our armor wasn’t holding up well, but after the big bad died, the rift started to close and the corrosion in the air began to fade.

The real problem was the fifty or so big bro spider drones aiming their 55mm’s at us, not to mention their leader with the mass accelerator.

That wasn’t as bad as we thought though.

“Your greed drew the Drinker Lord here”, the Black Knight said. His voice echoed through the chamber, amped by the armor’s PA.

“We came here seeking to kill him”, Meg explained flatly.

“Not all of you…” it said, and the drones twitched, which made me jump like a cat. Aaragh leapt between us all before something bad happened.

“They’re with us, allies. They mean you and yours no harm”, the wolf growled.

The knight held an arm out and the drones stood down. “You drew it here, and now it is finally dead. They have plagued me here for three hundred years as I have guarded this place. As thanks, I will allow you to leave.”

“…uCH apPr3shadive, pAL”, Arstad managed.

A drone descended next to the armor and it grasped the ascension line, planting an armored leg on it’s back. “Then leave this place.”

“Wait”, I told him. His glossy faceplate turned toward me. “You’ve been here three hundred years?”

He nodded.

“Then, are you human? Do you remember…before…you know?”

The faceplate opened, showing a human face that looked stupidly small. It was apparent that cables and life-support tubing was connected to the ageless features. He was a ‘borg, the power armor was his body.

“I was a man once, yes”, he said. “I as well knew the world of our people, but it’s time has passed. As has your stay here. Do not return to this place, our business is concluded.” With a tug of the line he and his drones ascended back into the darkness above.

The city didn’t have an AI, it had a man. A human defended this place. What would Titan Robotics want with that?

***

Much later, we’d found our way out. It felt like days, a second IRMSS helped, drugs do that. I was torn. I wanted to explore this place more and more as I thought about it. The money you could make from the secrets here was one thing, I couldn’t ignore that, but the truth could be here. The truth of three hundred years ago, and that grasped my mind harder than any amount of credits could.
Titan’s staff was gone from the operational area, seemed they’d retreated and did it in a hurry. It looked like there’d been a hell of a party. Broken ‘bots, spent rifles, smashed spider drones. The one thing that bothered me was the TR rep, she was still there, but not completely. Arms and legs pulled from the body, probably drawn and quartered by drones, body shredded by the Two Hundred Slugs of Death. The mess was oil, not blood, circuits instead of torn muscle, steel rather than bone.

An android. But why?

When we found a working vehicle in the mess, a different Big Boss than the one we’d brought, Aaragh and Meg helped me load Arstad inside.

“This where we part ways?”

Meg laughed, shaking out her curls. “I don’t know, you okay to drive?”

Shrug, wince at the pain. “Easy job.”

She smiled, it suited her.

I felt the moment there, like if I’d leapt forward and shoved my tongue down her throat, she’d have been the first to cheer me on. I was about to go for it but a giant wolf nose came between us.

“Then we shall take our leave. Live honorably and fight bravely, Alrik”, the lupine eyes met my gaze steadily. I gave him a nod.

Meg mounted up, smiled at me again and they turned to trot off.

“I’ll get you next time”, I said. She waved without looking back and then Aaragh poured on the speed, leaving us in their dust.

Now what?

***

Now. Titan Robotics is up to something, I’m gonna figure it out one day, but for now I’ve got another rift to open. Now I’m driving across country, getting us back to the ‘burbs to get bucket head fixed and both of us rearmed. Hell of a job back there for no money.

“…kuLDa gonnn bet-t-t-rrr”, Arstad rattles.

“Yeah, checks out, bucket head.”

“Ya g…et thah LadIEs nUMber thzzz t-t-tiiiime?”

I smirk from behind the cigarette I’m working on. At least one of us is thinking straight.

END

_________________
Mark Hall wrote:
Y'all seem to assume that Palladium books are written with the same exacting precision with which they are analyzed. I think that is... ambitious.

Talk from the Edge: Operation Dead Lift, Operation Reload, Operation Human Devil, Operation Handshake, Operation Windfall 1, Operation Windfall 2, Operation Sniper Wolf, Operation Natural 20


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 8:52 pm
  

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Knight

Joined: Sun Aug 06, 2006 3:52 pm
Posts: 5785
Location: Using Shini's bake goods to take over the freelancers minds!!
Comment: Goodbye Cruel world.... Wait, I'm back.
Not On Topic but when I saw the name of te topic I started humming the metal gear solid one theme.

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taalismn wrote:

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Member of the Cabal of 24.


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Unread postPosted: Thu Jul 31, 2014 10:42 pm
  

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Knight

Joined: Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:20 pm
Posts: 4922
Location: Right behind you.
Comment: Don't waste your time gloating over a wounded enemy. Pull the damn trigger.
Yeah, was being cheeky with the title. :ok:

More importantly, ya give it a read?

_________________
Mark Hall wrote:
Y'all seem to assume that Palladium books are written with the same exacting precision with which they are analyzed. I think that is... ambitious.

Talk from the Edge: Operation Dead Lift, Operation Reload, Operation Human Devil, Operation Handshake, Operation Windfall 1, Operation Windfall 2, Operation Sniper Wolf, Operation Natural 20


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Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 01, 2014 1:32 pm
  

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Explorer

Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 5:40 pm
Posts: 145
As always man, great story. You should write for Palladium, or, at the very least check out this:
https://kindleworlds.amazon.com/


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Unread postPosted: Fri Aug 01, 2014 7:57 pm
  

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Knight

Joined: Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:20 pm
Posts: 4922
Location: Right behind you.
Comment: Don't waste your time gloating over a wounded enemy. Pull the damn trigger.
Thanks Lao. I've been considering a Rifter submission. Need to pick the right one and so some draft work, though.

_________________
Mark Hall wrote:
Y'all seem to assume that Palladium books are written with the same exacting precision with which they are analyzed. I think that is... ambitious.

Talk from the Edge: Operation Dead Lift, Operation Reload, Operation Human Devil, Operation Handshake, Operation Windfall 1, Operation Windfall 2, Operation Sniper Wolf, Operation Natural 20


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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 9:22 am
  

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Wanderer

Joined: Mon May 05, 2014 7:44 am
Posts: 50
always enjoy your game posts. I wish I could do the same. Mine sound so...clinical.

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No one is against you, they are for themselves.


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Unread postPosted: Sat Aug 02, 2014 10:57 am
  

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Knight

Joined: Tue Mar 19, 2013 8:20 pm
Posts: 4922
Location: Right behind you.
Comment: Don't waste your time gloating over a wounded enemy. Pull the damn trigger.
Well, these aren't "up to date", honestly they're games that happened...uh...about a decade or more ago, in some cases.

So there's a little artistic liberty. Mostly because memories get a little fuzzy here and there. But there are things i remember clearly, like critting the crap out of that giant...thing...many of my old GM's just kind of made stuff up. I have no idea what the "Soul Drinkers" actually were, for instance. Also the awesome roll with impact that literally saved my butt. I was pretty much in HP after that one.

_________________
Mark Hall wrote:
Y'all seem to assume that Palladium books are written with the same exacting precision with which they are analyzed. I think that is... ambitious.

Talk from the Edge: Operation Dead Lift, Operation Reload, Operation Human Devil, Operation Handshake, Operation Windfall 1, Operation Windfall 2, Operation Sniper Wolf, Operation Natural 20


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