By: Devron Zal
As my fingers lightly touched the keypad to unlock the door to the armory, I turned my head to catch a glimpse of the clock. It was 8:23 p.m., and time to stock up. I keyed in my six-digit access code. In response to the code I entered, the thick metal door of the armory slid into its niche in the wall, and lights inside the armory lit up, displaying rows of shelves, all stocked with deadly weapons. At the back of the wall, a large skull with lightning crossing in an "X" behind it was illuminated. It seemed to smile at me, as if it knew what I was doing inside the armory.
I walked to the third row of shelves. A sign hung about 7 feet above the floor there, suspended by dull gray chains lashed to the ceiling. I didn't glance at the sign as I started down the row; I knew what I was doing there. In my four years in the Coalition as a cyborg, I had been in the armory many times, stocking up on deadly toys for missions like this one. My mission tonight was to infiltrate a base building for a particularly bad bunch of outlaws that called themselves the Inner Sphere. I was to go in the building and kill everyone, taking no prisoners. After that objective was accomplished, I was to call in a Panther attack helicopter, which would carry me and the souvenirs I got back to this Coalition base.
After I was properly outfitted with the weapons I wanted, I headed toward the airbase, which was on the other side of the base. As I was walking, the pilot of my Panther noticed me and turned to walk by my side, keeping pace with me. As we were walking, he said to me, "Sir, the Panther has been fully refueled and rearmed. My orders are to insert a mile from the--"
"Ensign, I know your orders," I told him. "You're gonna speed me to a mile from the place, drop me off, and bug out until I call you back. Then, you get to pick me and my newfound stuff up, assuming I don't draw the ace."
He apparently caught the inflection in my voice, because he snapped me a hasty salute, spun on his heel, and retreated away from me.
10 minutes later, I was ready to move. I strode out of the base building toward the Panther waiting on the helipad. I didn't spend any time examining it; after all, that's a flyboy job. My job was to go out and kill people, not to ogle a flying chunk of steel. I slammed a hand against the side of the Panther. The side door slid open, and the copilot peered out at me. I unslung my bag of weapons from my back and slid it across the floor to a vacant seat. I then climbed into the chopper, took the vacant seat, and informed the copilot that I was ready to move. He nodded and slammed the door to the cockpit closed, leaving me to my thoughts...and my weapons.
I unzipped the bag and pulled out one of my choices; an HW-MA7 magnetic accelerator rifle. I slapped a fresh E-clip into the weapon, and a green light flashed on, indicating that it was ready. I deactivated the light; after all, I was supposed to be operating under the cover of darkness. Reaching into the bag again, I pulled out another of my choices; an HW-BR9 pistol, complete with depleted uranium rounds and a silencer. After it checked out okay, I set it down next to my rifle. After a bit of digging around in the bag, I tugged out a belt that had a pouch for supplies I might need, such as syntherope, an E-clip pouch, a pouch for bullet clips, and six baradium grenades. I stood up and wrapped the belt around my waist, pulling it snug to make sure it wouldn't slip off. I then slid the pistol into my right hip holster, and strapped the magnetic accelerator rifle to my back. I then sat back down in the chair, leaned back, and caught a combat nap.
When I woke up, we were just landing. I unclipped my crash webbing and stood up. It was time to move. I walked over to the door, opened it, and slid it over to the right side. After I was out of the chopper and clear of it, I toggled my comlink on to talk to the chopper pilot. "Slot and run, Ensign," I said, telling him to get out and head back. "See you when it's over."
As the chopper pulled out and away, I started toward the criminals' base. As I walked, I switched on my infrared vision; this allowed me to see the building I was to shoot and loot. I kept my eyes open for ambushes as I trudged toward the building.
When I came within 1000 feet of the building, I noticed sentries on the roof. By the looks of it, they were smoking cigarettes and swapping stories. I used my magnification cybernetic implant to zoom in on them. By the looks of it, they were about to go to sleep. But, it was not the case. One of the sentries turned his head my way. I froze in place, and hoped he wouldn't have IR or LI -- infrared or light-intensification -- goggles on. He did. As his head turned my way, he obviously saw me, because he turned around and started talking (or screaming) to his sentry buddy, his arms flailing in alarm. One of his arms pointed my way.
Bad juju. I instinctively dove right, doing a tuck and roll to end up behind a rock. I started to unhook one of my grenades, then I realized I would need to get closer. So, I jumped up from my position and bolted to the nearest bush. From there, I sprinted to another rock. I continued in this manner until I was about 100 feet from the building, where I crouched behind a rock. I unhooked a baradium grenade from my belt. Activating it, I raised up to throw it on the roof. As I did so, automatic weapons fire came at me from my left side. I spun on my knee, tossed the grenade toward that window, and hugged the ground. Three seconds later, the grenade exploded. I could hear screams as the people who were caught in the blast got incinerated.
Screw keeping quiet. I unstrapped my magnetic accelerator rifle from my back, jumped up, and charged to the front door. Kicking it open, I slipped in and turned to my right. I picked up movement in my field of vision. One guy, coming around the corner. I snapped my rifle up to firing position, acquired the tango in my sights, and pressed the trigger. A blue bolt of energy streaked out toward the guy. As it did so, I noticed he was unarmored. As the shot turned the tango into lunchmeat, I spun on my heel to check my back end. Nothing was behind me, so I charged around the corner where I turned the first one into hamburger. As I did so, bullets flew past me to stitch a ragged line in the wall. I acquired the shooter in my sights and tugged on the trigger. As the resulting bolt of energy hit him, I decided to steal his weapon. Kneeling down, I picked up the weapon he dropped. It was a nice find, too; a Wellington Industries caseless SMG, with a silencer. Strapping my magnetic accelerator to my back again, I spun to face a closed door. I kicked it open with my right foot, and it busted inward to reveal some guy in a bed. The loud noise of my kicking in the door startled him out of his sleep, and he started to prop himself up on his right arm. Surprise, sucker; I leveled the barrel of my weapon with his forehead and double-tapped the trigger. Two bullets sliced through his forehead, and blood oozed out of the wounds. His body fell back onto its side again. Sweet dreams, I thought as I retreated out of that room.
To my left was a staircase leading up. I ran up it, and was greeted by a particularly ferocious-looking guardian dog that looked like it was on steroids. It growled at me, and started forward. As I moved my gun into firing position, he lunged for my chest, foam flying out of his mouth. One bullet in the chest took him down. I looked down the hallway. All was quiet. Six doors lined the hall; three on each side. At the end was a staircase leading to the third floor; the last floor I had to clear before the rooftop. I opened the first door on my right, and slipped in. This was the room I had tossed a grenade into. Burned bodies and equipment lay scattered. To my right was a magazine that had somehow survived, although it was badly burnt. I picked it up and leafed through it. It was the current edition of a fraggin' girls magazine. Funny how tangos spend their time.
The second floor cleared, I started up the staircase. I never considered how it was odd that there was nobody on the second floor until I got on the third floor. Even then, I never thought it was strange. Doom on me.
As I stepped forward, all the doors opened at once, and about 10 men emerged, their weapons trained on me. Agh. I dived down the staircase just as they opened fire. As I recovered from my awkward fall, I heard a door slam, and I noticed that the trapdoor over the third-floor staircase was shut, leaving me shut in. Now, there was no way to get on the third floor.
As I thought this, I remembered the syntherope in my belt pouch. Digging into the pouch with one finger, I pulled out the coil of syntherope, with a grappling hook at the end. I walked into one of the rooms, poked my head out of the window, and looked up. There, about 7 feet up, was another window. I uncoiled the syntherope, grabbed the hook, and tossed it at the window. No luck. As I caught the hook, I considered how to throw it again. I threw the hook up at the window again. This time, it caught hold, but as I tugged on it, it fell away. Screw it; I threw the hook so it would land inside the window, not on the windowsill. This time, it caught hold. I climbed out the window, still holding onto the rope, and precariously made my way upward.
A small child poked his head out of the window, looking around. What are children doing here? I asked myself, as I kept still, hoping he wouldn't look down. At the same time, my left hand gripped the rope tighter, while my right hand slipped down to my right hip. As my hand gripped the butt of the pistol I knew was there, the kid peered down at me, his small eyes inquisitive. He opened his mouth, started to scream. I snapped my pistol up and clicked off two shots. His tiny skull shattered in the front from the impact of the silenced rounds, and his body fell forward, out of the window. I turned my head to watch as it plummeted three stories, until it fell on a particularly sharp rock. His head smashed on the rocks like a ripe fruit. I continued my climb, and finally crawled into the room.
It was the child's room. One bed; either he was an only child, or each had his/her own room. I glanced around at the toys, then strode over to the door and opened it.
Stepping out, I looked down the hallway. It was empty, except for four guys playing cards, their weapons under their chairs. They all looked over at me. One said "Taln, what are you doing up? You're supposed to be in bed...." His voice trailed off as he saw that I was not the five-year-old boy. As one, all the men went for their weapons.
Not tonight. I unhooked a baradium grenade, activated it, and rolled it toward the men. As it rolled, I dived into Taln the child's room. The grenade went off, roasting the men and creating chaos. As I came out of the room, the door in front of me opened, and a man charged out of it. As he saw me, his gun snapped to firing position. He snapped off two rounds at my chest. They ricocheted off of my metallic cyborg chest, and his eyes widened. By then, my gun was leveled at his throat, and my finger tightened on the trigger. A single round pierced his throat. He fell to his knees, gurgling. A minimal amount of blood oozed through the hole, but most of it was flowing into his lungs. He looked up at me as if to ask, WTF? He then fell on his face.
I looked down at the dead body with disdain, then kicked it to one side and continued my job. One by one, I checked the remaining rooms. Nobody. As I checked the final room, though, I saw a computer workstation. I sat down at it and typed in a command: Access Parent File
An interrogative sentence came up: Input Password:
Uh-oh. I typed in: outlaw
Incorrect. Input password:
My mind flashed back to the small child I killed. I typed: Taln
Password correct. Parent file accessed.
I browsed the parent file for about a half an hour. Everything I found of importance, I stored on a disk. Eventually, with four disks full of information and a desire to get back home, I made my way to the roof, where I grabbed my comlink. I spoke into it. "Panther, this is Cyborg One-One-Three-Eight. Get your flyboy quakers over here, cuz I wanna go home."
About two hours later, the Panther arrived. It touched down on the rooftop, keeping its rotors going. The copilot opened the door and motioned me in frantically. I sprinted to the chopper, climbed inside, and shut the door. The copilot started to ask me, "What in the name of the Emperor took you so lo--"
"Stuffit," I told him. "Blow this building to shreds and get me home."
The pilot of the Panther flew about 1000 feet away from the building. He then activated his medium-range missile launchers, acquired a target sight, and thumbed the trigger. Two missiles shot out toward the building. As they impacted, the building was enclosed in a blossoming red-yellow fireball. The landscape around the building was lit up as if it was 2 in the afternoon. I sat back in the seat of the Panther and fixed my crash webbing. As the Panther started flying back toward base, I leaned back in the seat and gazed out the window, replaying the events in my mind. I then lapsed into sleep.
I was awakened somewhat violently by the copilot, who was agitated. I sat up, still sleepy. "What do you want now? I was sleeping, you kn--"
He pointed out the window. I peered out. In the dawning light, I could just make out a large pack of creatures. I used my magnification vision to look closer. I didn't like what I saw, and I turned to the copilot and told him so. "What are Xiticix doing here? We're in Chi-town."
"I don't know," he said, "but they don't look very nice."
This reply agitated me. "Would they be? They probably had a long trip. The nearest known Xiticix hive is in Minnesota. Maybe if we treat them to a bed and breakfast, they'll be more cooperative." My right hand gripped the door handle. I pushed it open, and peered out over the Xiticix again. "How far are they down, Ensign?"
The copilot checked his instruments. "About 1200 feet, sir."
"Good. Keep pace with them." I armed the baradium grenade to explode on impact. Holding the grenade out over the mass of creatures, I yelled a warning into the wind. "I don't know about bedding," I told them, "but here's breakfast." After I dropped the grenade, I watched out of the window. The small metallic sphere fell, getting smaller and smaller, until it impacted on the ground. The resulting fireball took out about half of the creatures. As I watched, though, more of them swelled out of the trees into the clearing. Before too long, their mass had nearly doubled. "Ensign, we got problems. It's time for a bug hunt."
I grabbed my last three remaining baradium grenades, armed them all to go off on impact, and threw them down at the cluster of creatures. The explosion incinerated almost all of them, but the same thing happened before, with more of them pouring out of the surroundings to join the force. I turned to the pilot. "How fast can this bucket of bolts go? How far are we from base? When are we gonna get there?"
"Sir, we're flying below half speed. If I pump the throttle to full speed, we should be there in about 15 minutes."
"Good. Do it." I started to go to my seat, but stopped. "Ensign..."
"You got any good weapons on board?"
"Yeah. Back compartment has three weapons lockers. Go find you some toys."
Without replying, I walked over to the back compartment. Yep -- three weapons lockers, clearly marked. I opened all the doors. Reaching in, I picked a grenade launcher and a tripod out. I examined the grenade launcher. Ooh -- it was a Havoc Weaponry-made automatic grenade launcher, with two belts for dual fire. I liked this, but it wasn't going to do what I wanted it to. Reaching into the second locker, I discovered three Northern Gun NG-LG6 laser rifle/grenade launchers. My kind of weapons. I pulled one out, strapped it to my back along with my magnetic accelerator. That's when I noticed the big locker marked "Armor." I opened the door, and discovered a nice find; a set of armor that looked like a better version of a Coalition SAMAS' armor painted silver. Without getting permission from the pilots -- who needs permission, anyway? -- I slipped into the armor. Securing the helmet, I examined the controls. Goody, goody; this thing could do what I wanted it to do. I snatched up my NG-LG6, gripped it in both hands, and toggled on my ever-present comlink. Switching it for the Coalition base, I asked for my commanding officer, General Secrest.
A groggy voice answered me. "Yeah?"
"General, you have bugs coming your way, ETA around an hour," I told him.
His sleepy mind did not understand, and he told me so... "Wha?"
I decided to put it in words he could understand. "General, you had best get your whole fraggin' platoon of killers, because Xiticix are speeding toward Coalition base, and it's gonna be one heck of a bug hunt starting in about an hour."
This got his attention. "Where are you?"
"I'm in the Panther, and we're getting ready to land, but the pilots wanna take it too slow, so I'm dropping in on you. Out." I switched off the comlink.
I marched quickly to the open door. Looking out, I estimated we were about 100 feet up. The copilot saw what I was doing, and tried to stop me. "What are you doing? We didn't give you permission to wear that armor! I'll have you--"
I tossed him the bird and stepped out of the open door. As I fell, my hands went to my waist, pressed a red button there. I was jerked into the air by the sudden rush of fire streaming out of the jet nozzles at my waist. Surprise. After a few seconds, I got the hang of the armor, and piloted it down. The General was waiting for me. As I landed, he didn't bother with formalities. "Where are they, Lieutenant?"
I pointed back the way we had came. "That-a-way. Now, if you'll show me to my little post, we'll prepare for our carnival of fun."
After stopping by the armory to snatch up about seven long E-clips, I was ready to roll. I headed down to the ground, where others were suiting up in armor, watching the horizon, gripping their respective weapons, stuff like that. I turned to General Secrest. "Sir, I forgot to tell you. I broke into a computer during the 'fumigation' of that outlaw place, and found a load of information." I handed him the disks. "If it asks for a password, it's 'Taln.'"
"Thank you, Lieutenant," he said. He then walked off, leaving us to our preparations.
A voice shouted, "Incoming!" I turned to look. The Xiticix were swarming over the hills.
"The wall's not gonna stop 'em for long," I shouted. "We gotta get over there and fight!"
I fired up my jet nozzles and flew to the wall. As I reached it, the Xiticix were already starting to swarm over. I lined one up in my sight picture and pulled the trigger. The laser bolt sliced into his chest, but the thing kept moving. "Frag it..." I flipped a little switch on the handle. That switched the rifle's firing over to firing a grenade. There were four baradium grenades in the rifle. I activated my jet nozzles again. When I was about 10 feet away from the bug, I leveled my rifle with his head and snapped back the trigger. A single grenade launched towards it. The idiotic thing thought it was food; he reared up and caught it in his mouth, just as I was flying away from it.
The grenade exploded as it was being swallowed. The resulting explosion splattered the bug out, not to mention roasting about 20 others.
The men had caught up with me by now, and were blasting away at the creatures. But for every one they blasted to shreds, two more appeared to take its place. Soon, they had reached the top of the wall. One of the creatures leaped up, over the wall, its mandibles clacking. It attacked a man about 3 feet away from me. I spun on my heel, leveled my rifle with the bug, flipped the switch to "bolts," and blasted away at it. The torso of the thing took about three shots before it bursted. Green ichor from the dead animal splattered all over me, the guy who I had helped, and everyone else near us.
Within a few minutes, the Xiticix presence was so strong that we had to retreat. At about this time, I got an idea. Leaving the men to fight the bugs, I flipped on my jet nozzles and flew back toward base. When I reached base, I ran straight for the armory. Some people looked like they were about ready to stop me, but I sprinted past them.
When I reached the armory, I keyed in my access code. The door slid open, and I bolted in. I ran to the back, where there w as a transportation forklift. I climbed in that, started it up, and drove to Aisle 2. There, on the top row, were two boxes marked:
6 Dual Belt-Fed Automatic Grenade Launchers
Good. I raised the forklift's platform up to the shelf, slid it under the pallet that had those two boxes, and pulled the boxes out. I then lowered the platform and drove out of the armory. As I exited, the tinny metallic voice of the armory singsonged to me, "Have a nice day!"
I drove the forklift outside, where I saw that the Xiticix were constantly driving us back. Bad juju. I set the boxes down, hopped out of the forklift, and smashed the boxes open. Pulling out the grenade launchers and tripods, I set it all up. After the 12 were set up, I stuffed the belts of 20 anti-vehicle grenades into the correct spots. Soon after, when every grenade launcher had 1 belt of grenades in each barrel, making two in all, and four more replacements, I yelled to the men. "Fall back, people, I got us some better weapons!"
The men fell back. 11 of them took the remaining launchers, I was manning the middle one, and the men who didn't have launchers flanked us.
"Fire at will!" I yelled. As one, we all opened fire on the Xiticix. The grenades -- made for stopping vehicles like heavily armored tanks -- did their jobs. Within about half an hour, dead bodies of the Xiticix were lying everywhere, and the creatures had been driven back to the wall.
That's when we ran out of grenades. I sent someone back for more grenades, while the rest of the men and I charged forward. The Xiticix responded to our challenge, and boiled forward. I leveled my rifle at one of the creatures and double-tapped the trigger. Two laser bolts shot out of the barrel toward the creature's neck. They decapitated it, and the head rolled around. I made a mental note to mount that head on my wall, if it was still there when the battle was over, and acquired another creature in my sights. Snapping off two more bolts at it, I got curious to how many Xiticix were left. I started up my jet nozzles and shot upwards. As I did so, I noticed that the last of the line of Xiticix was about a mile away. Great.
I switched my rifle's firing to grenades and tapped the trigger. As one grenade shot out, I reaimed at another spot, hit the trigger. That grenade shot out toward a different spot, as the first one detonated, throwing the bodies every which way. As the second one detonated, I launched my final grenade at a different spot. That did its job too, exploding in the middle of the bug mass.
As I did so, I noticed grenades being launched toward the Xiticix presence in the base. Good; that meant that the man had returned from the armory with belts. I stayed in the air, switched my rifle setting for shooting laser bolts, and started firing discreetly into the Xiticix. When my clip ran out, I ejected it and threw it toward the seemingly endless mass of Xiticix, idly hoping one of them would eat the fraggin' thing and choke to death.
Within an hour, it was over. Five Coalition officers dead, three wounded. As I walked through the dead Xiticix bodies, I found the head of the one I had decapitated. I picked the head up and looked at it. I then tucked it under my arm. Starting off toward the base, I wondered if there was a taxidermist inside.
DevronZal.php -- Revised: January 27, 2021.