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Macerr Chapters 23-24
Posted By: Adam Stark, Amanda Rzucidlo, Nick Fiore, Joe Lord, Connor Sheppard, Dan, Da
Date: 19 September 2006, 4:24 am


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Chapter 23.Third Arrival

It had all the proper clearance as it entered the Star Port of Kalaa, situated at Blue Base Epsilon. In it came, all of the proper insignia of Blue Base Command, top brass possibly. Eliar would more than likely be able to note them from his spot at his personal craft. It looked like a Pelican Transport, similar in shape and size, but its rubbers seemed a bit sharper, its body more angled than the usual rounded appearance. It set down without any bump, its engines still running hot.

-The rear doors opened, and out walked one strikingly gorgeous woman. She was clad in a black flightsuit, deep brown hair slung back in a ponytail, held by a deep green ribbon. She looked young, maybe only her mid to late 20's, small thin hands working at a datapad, looking at a timepiece set on her right wrist. She seemed pressed, almost distressed, cursing and muttering under her breath-

-She motioned for a loadlifter, then to the Pelican's bay. Four heavily armored Blue soldiers walked off the transport, each hauling the corner of an incredibly large black crate of some sort. They set it down on the forks of the loadlifter, the woman hopping up to hold onto the crate, the soldiers following her as the crate was brought away.

"Hold" Eliar said as he walked out of one of the hangars holding a Longsword fighter. He made two quick motions and two mechanics pressed their hands on the box to make it stop.

"Welcome to Blue Epsilon Base" he said as he approached the woman. He was dressed in his mechanics uniform with his rank insignia and the various battle patches he had acquired from his fights. "I'll be needing records of the contents of what is in box, and everyones rank, registration number and so on and so forth" he offered in a dull voice. He had done it a hundred times over, with various clearance records, somedays he just didn't care, but he had to do it. He was put in charge of the Spaceport Imports along with his other duties to keep him occupied after he jury-rigged two Pelicans to a slave-program and did a couple dozen acrobatic maneuvers with two different control consoles to keep his senses sharp. He had brig time for the stunt, but it quickly passed when a mission needed going on.

"What's your name Ma'Am?" he questioned.

The woman looked even angrier than before, a glower on her lips that could freeze a man's blood in his veins. Almost a snarl from her lips before she waved to the soldiers guarding the crate. They stood between the aids Eliar had called and the cargo, preventing them from laying any further hands upon it. He'd then see the insignia upon her right breast. She'd looked top brass, but her rank was far higher. Blue Intelligence, Oni section. She took a moment to eyeball the scruffy looking man before speaking. A voice almost like the hiss of a cobra, yet a subtle, light feminine tone existed.-

"How about I ask you your name and have you deported to cleanup duty on whats left of Cairn? Registration is designated as Omega Nu Iota 7-1-7-4 Gamma. Thats all you need to report."

-She motioned forward, the guards pushing the loadlifter until it started on its way once again. No more interuptions, no more distractions. This one had to be put here now. It was the only way the project would still meet its deadline. The crate itself, when Eliar could get a good look at it was atleast 12ft tall, 6ft wide and the darkest shade of black imaginable. It had no discerning marks, save for a green holographic projection on its front labeled "GAMMA." They carted it away to the storage facilities, as far back as they could.

Eliar sighed. He hated Oni, always getting in the way of the military and always slipping in and out when they weren't wanted. He let the mechanics go back to their duties as he returned to his office. He walked in and eyed his armour he was working on. Fashioned from Diamonte Polymer, it was incredibly durable. More so then any other armour out there and was lighter then most of the alloys around. It cost him more then he wanted, but it had saved his life on more then one occasion. He walked over and eyed the forearm section of the armour before he picked it up and studied the extendable Sonic blade at the elbow tip. The blade snapped out and glowed a dull blue noting the power cell was fully charged. He deactivated the blade and it slid back into the housing.

"Gate, run a check on Omega Nu Iota 7-1-7-4 Gamma. I don't care about clearance. I want to know what the hell Oni is sticking on my base and what they are up too" he said aloud.

A holographic image of an AI dressed as a DragonSlayer of Ancient times appeared on his desk and folded his arms.

~ Since when did Epsilon become your base ~ the Artifical Unit asked.

Eliar glanced over as he peeled out of his mechanics uniform and adorned the combat suit and started to intergrate the armour sections and sealed them to his body. "You going to get me what I asked" he demanded as he fastened his shin armour with two snaps.

~ Registration Number Omega Nu Iota 7-1-7-4 Gamma is a Legitimate Project by Oni that was Sent from High Blue Command that's supposed to stay here until they arrive ~ the AI said.

"Who is they?"

~ Insufficient Clearance, and don't ask me to crack it. I can't ~

"Fine, whatever. Who is the woman?"

~ Insufficient Clearance ~

"Well don't you suck today" Eliar frowned. "Will you at least alert me to the location of whatever they are sticking that package?" he asked.

~ Insufficient Clearance ~

"Fine, I'll find it myself" he said as he grabbed his shotgun and pulled the power conduits from the armour ports and he felt the systems power up in the suit. He put his helmet on as he checked the seals and found he was secured. "Shut Down Program Delta-0-1-5" he said and Gate disappeared without a word as he exited his office.

Gate was standing beside the box as Eliar moved through the rows and stacks. It was shoved in a corner as far back as physically possible, despite its blatantly obvious appearance. So dark it seemed to drain what little light even reached the corner, so tall it was a monolith amongst the smaller crates and storage units around it. Gate was running one projected hand along the side of the box, eyes closed as he processed data inside that medieval armor. Perhaps he'd been able to dig a little bit into the contents, perhaps not.-

-Now that he had an even better look, Eliar could discern a large vertically-opening door infront of him, maybe even a removeable blast door. The crate looked more and more like an ODST orbital drop pod, just blow out of proportion and certainly much more reinforced. There was the slightest hesitation before the AI projection opened its eyes and looked to Eliar.-

~ I have been able to run a slight background check on this container. Apparently its designation is ONI Project GAMMA...its part three of a tridrop shipment. An ALPHA and a BETA are somewhere on Macerr, but I can't find those locations. Also, its got a subtitle, maybe a sort of name. "Rex." ~

Eliar looked over the box. "Can you run a tracer on Rex and see if any files or folders of Oni contain that word. Base your search around military projects and Offensive Deployments" he informed the AI, "Gate, run Override Protocol Zulu Tango 4-9-1, Codeword 'DragonWings', I want to know what the heck they are up too even if it costs me my position. Even if you skim the surface works for me" he said.

~ Processing......numerous weapons files, ballistics, nonconventional weapons, the list goes on and on. Armor notes and designs..well...their files...I can't get into any of them....but I can discern a few....one is for some sort of plasma-based perdition flamethrower, much like the M7057 Defoliant Projector, but smaller while retaining the same punch, even a longer range apparently...the only other one I can get is for a ballistic weapon....wow....its a gattling gun, an 5-barreled .50 caliber gattling gun...an ammo drum about as wide as your torso...CASE cellular ammunition to prevent cooking of the ammo in case the drum is severely damaged....my best guess is this is some sort of heavy weapons shipment. ~

"Alright, lock out, cover your tracks and erase memory banks C-32 to C-45" he told the AI before turning and heading out of the area, locking the entire section down with his command code and used his voice authorization.

"Fierfek, I hate Oni. They are up to something and I don't like how it is going" he thought to himself as he broke onto the Flight deck and surveyed the mechanics and pilots milling around, even a few soldiers checking in with friends. He was out of place, dressed in customized armour that no one had and the detail made him look like a mythological creature then anything. The joints and flexible sections of his armour were covered in talons and claws, sharpened points were across his body, and even his helmet had spikes facing forward on either side. He slowly shook his head as he unsealed his helmet and clipped it to his belt. He walked over to his Pelican and ran a clawed hand across the smooth armour hull.

Just what was happening on this rock.

Several days and nothing from the crate, no information to gather that couldn't be hacked or bought, and still it amounted to nothing. Midnight struck when it happened, the good doctor's activation codes beamed down to the monolith that was their 3rd black container. Steam hissed from seams that popped open from top to bottom, the entire front of the crate pushing forward and rising up. Electricity crackled across jade green armor, a deep rumble filled the box as it stretched, flexed its broad claws and toe pads. How long had it been asleep? How long had it been waiting dormant in its steel sanctuary?-

-Footfalls echoed through the storage chamber it had been placed in, its clawed toepads digging through the plates of the floor to leave holes about the width of popcans as it walked. Its mechanical tail curled behind it, aiding its balance as it hunched forward slightly. It was different from the others, its entire bodyshape only barely resembling a humanoid form. After that everything ended, what with the saurian bodyframe and the long tail extending from the back of its hips. Its jaws opened in a broad yawn, rows of serrated teeth rising from its lower jaw, dropping from the upper into place. As it stopped to shake the effects of its forced sleep from its mind.-

-System check, light after light turning green in its mind until it was full across the board. The 5-barreled air-cooled .50 caliber gattling gun attached to its right arm whirred for a moment, pulling the first links of the ammunition chain from the large drum over the mechanical monstrosities left shoulder. The first round clicked into place, the barrel ceasing its rotations as the right arm swung around, the line of optical sensors above the upper jaw scanning over the weapon. No damage, 100% nominal. Perdition plasma boiled through the suit like boiling blood, the pilot light inside the mouth of the beast clicking on and off to test the feed. Perfect. Its neck locked back down to its collar to protect the feed line.-

-Data flooded its mind, its mission set. Designated targets, defense protocols, limiting protocols, a very short list for that one...

Designated Targets:
Armed Personnel
Armed Citizens
Any and all equipment that may damage Unit Gamma
Any and all persons in immediate vicinity that may damage Unit Gamma


Defense Protocols:
Lethal Force Recommended for all situations

Primary Directive:
........Execute Command_Play

Secondary Directive:
Find and eliminate Units Alpha and Beta

A insistent beep woke Eliar up as movement was detected where the black crate was stored. No other working shifts were on duty which caused him to hit the alarm.

He pulled out of bed and grabbed his rifle, switching into his combat suit in under 5 minutes, closing clips across his body to seal himself within the armour. He moved into the hallway. He was only a pilot, but he was one of the top ranking officers. He had dealt with situations as he passed the medical station. His gut told him something bad was going down.

***

Outside on the main deck, soldiers cocked rifles, set up barricades as two snipers took up positions in the Control Tower. They set up and watched for movement. Eliar broke out onto the main area. Watching as a sargeant moved troops around he realized that Oni was messing with his base. That made things personal.

Footfalls shook the storage room as it plodded between and around boxes, crunching smaller ones under its saurian feet. Metallic talons left punctures in the floor, 3 facing forward with one smaller hole from a rear support toe. The massing Blue soldiers outside the storage facility could tell it was comming closer, the smashing of crates and the footfalls approaching at a slow, methodical rate. A low hiss began to rise in the air, comming from just out of view inside the storage room.-

-The first thing that came into view were barrels, 5 total linked with a circular attachment plate, each one reaching back almost 4ft in length. They were painted black and polished to a shine, a clawed mechanical hand gripping a vertical trigger system for the underslung armature. A 5-barreled gattling gun, just what the Blues needed to see, but what else came from that storage room could make men shit themselves. The fact that the barrels were almost 6 ft off the ground, at an almost perfect 180 degree angle.-

Those large saurian feet were now in view, wicked talons several inches in length crunching into the deck plates on the ground, a bowed double-kneed leg carrying each one as the beast heaved its bulk into view. It was just over 12 ft in height, dragging behind it a thick segmented tail 10 ft in length from the back of its waist. Its left hand was free, curling and uncurling 3 long fingers and a thumb, all hooked with the same wicked talons. Its entire body was a deep shade of jade green, mottled with black across its frame from its toes to a blade rising up from each shoulder. Its shoulders were 4ft across, a bulky triangular head hunched just below its shoulder line.-

-Mechanical jaws split the triangle, a thin lower jaw creaking open as pneumatic pistons hissed and let loose small puffs of CO2. Hundreds of small triangular teeth lined its jaws, serrated on their back edges to slice and tear through whatever was unfortunate enough to be trapped in those jaws. Its tail lashed the floor, denting in several plates beneath it as it spread its arms, swinging that gattling gun like it was nothing as its jaws spread a full 90 degrees. A bellowing roar shook the ground beneath it, sending tremors across the ground to the Blues.-



Blue soldiers shifted positions, finding better cover behind re-enforced barricades that were set up, guns were trained on the creature as the Sargeant moved forward with his weapon slung over his back.

"My name is Sargeant William Burke of Epsilon Base Defense Corp. What is your designation, rank" he said sternly before he shyed away slightly, "Are you friend or foe?"

Meanwhile, Eliar was on the other side of the hangar behind other troops with Rifles and Rocket launchers. Him being a pilot, he hated being on the ground, though he took hold of his rifle and zoomed in on the creature. "What the fierfek is that?" he thought before he waited for the creatures next move.

Nokamura picked his nose as he watched the countryside pass by the 'hog. he yelled on the radio to his entire squad.

"WHEN WE GET IN THERE, IF YOU ENCOUNTER THE TARGET, KEEP RETREATING TOWARDS THE DESIGNATED POINT CAPICHE? WHILE RETREATING KEEP UP A CONSTANT FRIGGIN FIRE ON THE DAMN THING. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES COMMENCE AGGRESSIVE ATTACKS ON THE TARGET, ALWAYS MOVE IN GROUPS. IF YOU EVEN THINK OF TRYING TO GET SOME DAMN MEDAL OR IMPRESSING SOME DAMN BARGIRL BY TRYING TO SHOW YOU GOT BIGGER CAJONES THAN THE REST OF YOUR SQUAD, I WILL FRY YOUR BALLS IF THEY REMAIN AND COURTMARTIAL THE REST OF YOU!"

Nokamura looked at the crate of pinches.

All Sargeant Burke would receive was another ear-piercing roar that sent another round of tremors under foot. Its head turned in a wide arc from side to side, unseen eyes scanning over every weapon in sight that was pointed at the brutish machine. Gamma began to run damage assessments, going over as many areas of himself and comparing the amount of punishment he'd absorb to what he could tolerate. Sufficient, he wouldn't have too much trouble from the standard BR-55. Some worry was brought to the M9 Rocket Launchers, but those would merely slow him. The machine of war was set into motion.-

-The next sound did not answer any of Sargeant Burke's question's either, a mechanical crip whirring noise filling the air as Gamma's right arm rose. The 5 long barrels of the chain gun attached to Gamma's forearm swung out to the far right, as far as targettable armed Blue soldiers were. The whirring rose to a fever pitch, the soldiers having 1....2.....3 seconds before the whirring was replaced with a shattering roar almost as loud as the monster's.-

-The chain gun spat hundreds of armor piercing rounds towards the Blues and their barricades, steam pooling up and away from the rotating barrels as wreaths of fire exploded outward with every shot. Red tracer rounds occassionally cut through the air, but for the most part it was white-hot depleted uranium burning through the air, raising the temperature drastically in the immediate area. If any Blues were still watching Gamma when he swung his arm to the left, arcing the ridiculous amount of spray across the Blue line they'd almost see the beast smiling with the sheer glory of the slaughter. The beast kept the spray even across the Blue line, swinging its weapon back to the right for one more pass before the weapon would stop its roar, returning to the dull whirr as it examined its first volley and just how much damage it had done.

Sargeant Burke was the first to die as another 26 Blue soldiers were dead before weapons could be fired, another 18 injured with missing ligaments as they tried to avoid the fire before those that were still alive aimed and fired. BR-55 rounds lanced towards the mammoth target as the two snipers squeezed off 8 shots at the joints of the beast.

Rockets flew past Eliar as he realized this thing was a tank. He shifted positions, knowing he would only have one chance if any, and that was to get in behind where that Gun couldn't catch him.

"Hold this Line" he demanded, knowing he was in charge again. "Keep up the fire, go for the joints and bring it down!" he yelled before the position he was in was filled up by two Blue soldiers and fired their rifles.

He pushed into his bunker, tearing components from his forearm armour and reattaching sections. He cursed and swore as he clipped his sword to his belt and ran out, forgetting his rifle as the adrenaline kicked in. He'd have to get in nice and close to kill the thing.
The monsters mass of metal and bullets turned its head to the incomming missiles, perhaps some sort of Point Defense System alerting it to the threats that streaked contrails through the air towards it. As Gamma turned its body towards the missiles its right arm let loose a blithering hail of armor piercing rounds and tracers towards the snipers posted in the control tower. At that range the accuracy of the chain gun was minimal at best, but with the number of rounds fired in the general direction he hoped to score a few hits to keep them from firing at his more sensitive joints.-

-The sniper volleys had managed to pick away at the armor covering the joints of the engine of destruction, but had failed to expose any mechanical servomotors or control surfaces. Whoever had built this thing had built it well, designed it to withstand whatever the Blues could throw at it while still remaining combat effective. Now Gamma had to deal with the missiles, and the advanced tactical algorithms in its harddrive mind calculated the best means of counter-offense.-

-The first rocket's trajectory was harder to track, and the mammoth machine's gattling gun was still in a cooling phase. Because of this Gamma feinted to the left before ducking forward, allowing the first rocket to pass above him, missing the beast by mere inches before exploding on the ground behind him. The second rocket was easier to follow, and Gamma planned to initiate his commands on this one as a show of force.-

-As the rocket approached Gamma would cant his body to the left, the rocket passing directly infront of him. He leaned out, his lower jaw dropping open before closing on the midsection of the rocket, holding it in place. He brought his open left hand up, snapping the warhead from the rocket to allow it to explode at his feet, adding scorched carbon to the dark color of his body. The mecha crunched the still-lit booster engine of the rocket in its jaws, looking as though it swallowed the smashed engine before receiving a green light on its gattling gun.-

-Gamma tracked back to where the rockets had originated using their contrails as a guide before unleashing all hell in the form of a bullet-storm on the Blue soldiers who had launched the rockets at him in the first place. He began to scan with his head, trying to gain an assessment on the surviving Blue forces.

hearing the distinctive whistling sound of a flying missle, the warthogs' drivers turned towards the sound. A flying missle is a truly unmistakeable sound. it is the herald of the apocalypse, trumpeting and fury from its steed of a gassy cylinder.

As the warthogs began to approach the mechanical beast, the rear gunners strafed the target with .50 caliber bullets, one aiming at the chain gun on the creatures arm.

The gunners on the hogs let loose their repetoire of ammunition, allowing the silver hawks of death streak through the sky. They fired at the creature which was covered by the black box, that great collasal impenetrable mass, which nullified the fury of the bullets.-

-Nokamura had ordered the driver off and himself taken the driver's seat. Nokamura revved the engine and drove straight for the monster, driving in a somewhat reckless zigzagged pattern that made Nokamura seem drunk. The gunner's name was Cynnear, a man who knew Nokamura's line of thinking, that crazy random ferocity which had earned him respect in other battles. Ordinarily in the maneuver Nokamura attempted, most sane men would jump off. The men in Nokamura's unit were veterans, trusting their sergeant to be able to pull of this maneuver. So instead of jumping off, he tried his best to fire at the monster hidden behind the crate, although his shots were entirely missing due to the erratic driving of the sergeant.-

-All this time, the other hogs and their respective passengers had maintained a constant fire on the creature, the drivers grabbing weapons and firing from above the windshield of the hog. the gunners from the side, and the rear gunners letting loose their weapons. The incoming crate was a shock to them. A huge immovable object now thrown with such ease. Maybe it was deer in the headlights syndrome, but the crate landed on one of the hogs, semi flattening it. the driver was crushed, the side gunner had the black box on his lower body, blood seeping from his forehead onto the ground, a pair of glasses shattered nearby. The rear gunner survived, luckily, he was blown off by the force of the box, suffering a minor concussion from the blow.-

-Nokamura looked in the rear view mirror and saw the wreckage of the hog. It was a pity to lose men. But he had lost better. He thought of the lessons he had learn in the officers academy. His teacher speaking in his gruff voice.-

-"Never lose your calm from a subordinate dying in battle. When you do so, you lose the fight. Don't make it personal. To die in battle is an honor. When one man falls, then another must respect this man's sacrifice by taking his place. Soldiers must go into battle prepared for their deaths or their determination will be lost easily through fear. A man who does not want to fight will not fight, he will run. Protecting one's men is important enough, but when it jeapordizes the"-

-Nokamura only remembered that much. He fell asleep the first 3 minutes of the lecture that day. Only thing else he remembered was seeing the hot chick in the row in front of and 4 seats to the left of him. Nokamura shrugged.-

When the hell have i ever listened to him anyways.. and that girl was hot.. i wonder if i got her number..

-Snapping back to reality, he glared at the creature and muttered to himself.-

-"Dont fuckin lose it my ass. That guys brains is all over the winshield! Yo! get off! gimme the fuckin wheel."-

-The driver complied with the order. Nokamura slid into the drivers seat and revved the engine and drove straight for the monster, driving in a somewhat reckless zigzagged pattern that made Nokamura seem drunk. The gunner's name was Cynnear, a man who knew Nokamura's line of thinking, that crazy random ferocity which had earned him respect in other battles. Ordinarily in the maneuver Nokamura attempted, most sane men would jump off. The men in Nokamura's unit were veterans, trusting their sergeant to be able to pull of this maneuver. So instead of jumping off, he tried his best to fire at the monster hidden behind the crate, although his shots were entirely missing due to the erratic driving of the sergeant.-

-Closing in on the monster, Nokamura looked like he was about to drive into the creature in a kamikaze attempt, but at the last moment, slammed the brakes, yanked the wheel left, initiated a spin around the creature, ending up facing the creatures back. Cynnear reached down into the crate of pinches on the hog, took one out, and primed it. Facing the back of the creature, Nokamura drove straight towards it, This time truly going to crash into the creature.-

-A bit before impact with the creature, nokamura jumped out of the vehicle, so did cynnear, who at the moment of jumping out, hurled the pinch at the creature.

Pistons let loose whisps of steam from special vents along the plates of armor around the monster's long, segmented tail. It ducked to the ground, its tail lancing up as the Hog approached from behind. It hooked the bottom of the hog's engine block, the long curved blade at the tip of its tail slicing up high into the Warthog's engine, almost shredding it in half. The pistons turned, bundles of mechanical muscle flexing or contracting to hurl the Warthog up and away from the creature. It was not at that moment tracking the lone pinch that Cynnear had thrown, and in the process brought the Warthog between itself and the pinch.-

-The detonation of the pinch set off the box in the Warthog which in turn caused the Warthog to explode violently, a hellish ball of flame erupting where the black and green mechanoid saurian stood. Smoke billowed up in the night sky, thick and oily from the Warthog's fuel and chemicals. Nothing moved but the dancing flames, a large crater filled with fire climbing towards the stars in the wake of the explosion. No sound but the crackling of the tongues of orange heat that licked at the ground, spreading black carbon burns as it spread.-

-Pieces of the Warthog had been spread everywhere from the explosion, the front right tire bouncing away past the remaining troops that had survived the monster's first volley, or had just arrived. A carbeurator here, a broken piston there, a break disk cracked in half sliding across the ground. Everything was red hot, some pieces molten slag boiling into silver puddles around the crater. Then...the flames seemed to flicker, burned a bit brighter...and something in that mess of destruction moved.-

-A low growl came first, announcing the beast's survival in that hellhole. Black, scarred metal slowly rose in the center of the flames, some plates melted and refused all across its body. It was pitted with cracks and holes in its armor, weakened or punctured by pieces of the Warthog fired at supersonic velocities from the explosion. Despite these wounds it was still alive, and it only looked more enraged than ever before. It spread its arms wide, its tail lashing the crater as it let loose a feral roar in the night, climbing above the crackling flames, louder than the explosion that seemed to not kill but rebirth this beast back into existance.

When Nokamura dived, he had grabbed his gun from the rack inbetween the seats. He hit the ground and ran while looking over his shoulder and seeing the creature get hit by the Hog, and then saw the pinch explode. From the dead body of a soldier near him, Nokamura grabbed a round of rocket ammunition, took 2 pinches from his pocket, his lighter and his "water" canteen which contained nothing but whiskey. He shoved the rocket into the ground and angled it at the creature. He opened the canteen and poured whiskey in a line as he ran starting from the missile in an arc to 60 degrees around the creature. There he yelled random amounts and kinds of profanity and fired gunshots at the creature. He then dove for another 8 degrees and threw a pinch. Before he dove, he lit the whiskey and it burned in an 60 degree arc until it met the rocket which it ignited.-

Meanwhile Nokamura's squad stood around in awe of the explosion, then in shock, then a few panicked and ran. One or two were grabbed and shoved back to their positions by the Corporals. The gunners reopened fire on the creature.

The gunshots and screams failed to draw the creature's attention. It had focused however on one thing, the rocket the Blue soldier had planted in the ground, aimed directly towards it. The beast began to leave the crater, its clawed toes digging into the ground. The pinch thrown towards it temporarily distracted it however, the explosion of the pinch and the resulting EMP released scrambling its already damaged sensory array. It faltered, collapsing back into the crater as the missile's engine burned a plume of exhaust right towards it.-

-Into the crater fell the monster, the rocket catching one of the blade-like protrusions that rose from its back and shoulders. The rocket was deflected upwards, exploding high over the beast as internal dampners began the work of scrubbing the effects of the EMP from its systems. A chrono ticked down in its mind, scrubbing complete after a 30 second cycle. It still had control of its body, one clawed hand gripping the lip of the crater.-

-It began to pull itself up from the deep hole in the ground, weathering the incomming fire from the Blue soldiers. Its navigational systems restored themselves first, angling the creature towards where it had stored its primary weapon, the gattling cannon. It would sustain too much damage at its current distance, its armor integrity already severely weakened by the successive explosions that had caked and cracked its armor. Secondary survival protocols were unlocked and accepted, several panels opening across the back and shoulders of the monster.-

-Cylindrical canisters roughly the size of pop cans launched on tiny rocket motors from special ports across the creature's frame, thrown far from the beast before detonating in a 360 degree arc angled towards the points of fire striking the monster's frame. Thin, metallic black fletchettes, anti-personnel rounds exploded from each canister, sent hurtling like ammunition from a Needler at the soldiers, though they were superior in both speed and penetrating power.-

-They rained down all around Gamma, several misfires pinging off its cracked and blackened armor or sticking roughly one inch in before striking its secondary protective plating. Hopefully this would clear some of the fire and give Gamma time to finish scrubbing its systems.

Nokamura quickly grabbed a dead soldiers body and hid under it as he saw the canisters launch. The needles flew out, one puncturing his left leg, 2 on his right.-

Chikuso!...

Nokamura quickly yanked the needles out of his legs, letting a flow of blood come out, luckily the wound was only semi deep, having gone through 3 layers of armor. He ran foward at the monster, wincing in pain at some of the steps, approaching the disabled monster, he took a mine out, set it, and dropped it by the monsters foot, then grabbed a grenade shoved it at the monsters mouth, and ran. He checked for any more pinches, but had only now his combat knife. He dived and threw the combat knife at the mine, setting off the trigger.

At this proximity Gamma could not help but notice Seiji. If he had been fully deactivated by the pinch perhaps the soldier would have succeeded in placing his armaments down at the creature's feet and in its mouth, but this was not the case with Gamma. A black arm slammed into the ground ahead of the mine, the knife pinging and ricocheting off the curved black plates of the monster's left arm. With its right it retrieved the grenade, its mouth having been closed so it had fallen to the ground. It picked the grenade up gingerly in its right hand, crushing the tiny incendiary device.-

-Light burst through the cracks between the monsters fingers, smoke following as it opened its hand. It was on full alert now, its system scrubbed as it stepped over the mine and approached Seiji. It bent forward, placing its hands on the ground ahead of it before letting loose another cacaphonating roar. Its jaws opened wide, a tiny piston pushing forward along its lower jaw towards Seiji. A hole irised open in the center of the piston, an orange light comming from within.-

-Seiji had just seconds to evade the tongue of sticky napalm that shot from the mouth of the beast towards him. It ignited in the air, a trail of flame leaping for the Blue soldier as the dragon's tail lashed the air behind it. Fire mirages appeared all around the creature from the intense heat, its black scorched, burned and corroded body glowing orange and neon green in the firey inferno that approached Seiji.

"ohh, crap ohh crap oh crap oh crap"

-Seiji jumped to the side immediately but before he got much farther, his foot kicked a rock. He fell rolled over a dead soldiers body and grabbed the rifle in the hands of the dead man. He fired a few rounds at the sensor of the mine and then got up and ran.
Gamma turned his head, trying to follow Seiji with the expanding plasma blue and orange flames expanding from the defoliator in the mouth of the beast. Seiji's bullets found their mark, a startled cry emanating from the monster as the mine detonated behind it. Fire erupted from beneath the creature's raised tail and stomach, propelling it forward as the ground beneath its claws cracked and splintered. It began to skid across the ground for several feet, its mutli-metric ton bulk however slowing it to a crawl as sparks fell around it.-

-Gamma's body was screaming as it remained motionless, several subsystems clicking off due to structural damage or internal damage from the hundreds of rounds and rockets thrown at it. Fire belched from its mouth however as its stalwart will caused its clawed fingers to dig into the ground. Pistons screamed in its frame as it pushed itself to its feet, forgetting about Seiji once again as it let another howl off in the night.-

-Its tail thrashed the asphalt behind it, cracking the ground and throwing sizeable chunks into the air as its optical sensors began to scan for targets. Power was rerouted, internal components scanned and rescanned, comming online once again as the beast shuddered. It was fighting at less than 50% structural integrity, and it wouldn't stop until that number passed far below 0.

Seiji had taken the time to dive behind some debris, next to the bodies of several deceased soldiers. It was maybe a 4 foot tall chunk of road which had been uprooted and stuck perpindicularly into the ground. It was a large gray scorched mass, with a crack down the center. Seiji held his back to the chunk of road, he saw that his squad survived, if barely, 100 degrees to his right.-

"What the fuck is that thing made out of!"

-He checked the inventory of one of the dead soldiers, picking up a few round grenades and a second pistol. The rest of the pinches were with the hogs, 2 crates remaining. One to a hog. He lobbed a several large chunks of rocks into the air letting them soar in diffrent directions, and throwing his 4 or 5 grenades he had left at the creature and with a flashbang that emitted a blinding flash of light followed by loud explosions near the creatures feet. He enabled the light shading function on his helmet letting the world darken several shades into a near dusk light color, the light from the flashbang made it seem but like day, and dashed for his squad. He tossed a second flash bang which exploded with another brilliant flash of color while running from the creature. Then turning and empying his pistol clip at the creatures head, with intent to pierce that damned optical unit, that eye in the sky which controlled the monstrosity.

Upon reaching the men, he ordered those who were in good condition to hop onto the hogs and enabled the flash shielding on their helmet visors. only 5 men were needed. Nokamura hopped into the back of the hog on the rear gunner position. The side gunner on the other hog held a rocket launcher. He had broken out the heavy armanent. Larger more powerful rockets capable of shredding tanks with a few shots. On Nokamura's hog were the two crates of pinches. The rocketeer fired initial shots which burst at the saurian with a fiery anger, screaming out of the launching tube. Then the other hog gunned its engines and drove straight for the saurian, Nokamuras hog directly behind. The first hog's rear gunner let loose its armanent of .50 caliber bullets and the side gunner managed to fire off two more rocket rounds. Upon reaching the saurian, out of range of its flamethrower, the first hog did braked hard and turned left, the gunner on nokamura's hog fired his shotgun, and leapt off, taking cover behind some rocks, Tossing a flashbang. The driver did a hard spin to the right, while Nokamura armed the pinches in the crate. from the left side, the rocketeer fired a round at the saurian and Nokamura threw the pinches out of the crate in one motion (5), the flashbang exploding in a bright flash of light before that.

Secondary protocol commands! This fight was bunk, a countdown chrono appearing in the righthand corner of Gamma's viewscreen as the flashbang and grenades thrown by the Blue soldier exploded around it. Scorched armor chipped or cracked off, all black top-layer armor exposing a second layer of hex-combed silver metal. Rounds from the Hog's LAAG's pounded through the pitted first layer of armor, stopping or ricocheting off the second however as Gamma actually turned to flee from the battle. Its tracking-systems had locked on the 5 incomming rockets, the rounds from the Hog's not a problem as rear-mounted sensors took over for its eyes.-

-Pinches seemed to have little or no effect as their EMPs washed over the silver armor, Gamma's scrubbers working at maximum capacity again to clean up and degauss his electrical components. Pistons screamed and discharged steam as they pushed the massive saurian away from the hogs, armor piercing rounds finding their marks through its damaged first layer but finding no penetration in the second.-

-On the way Gamma stooped to pick up a large chunk of asphalt, turning to hurl it behind him at the first of the incomming rockets. His trajectory was off by only a hairs however, striking the rocket and causing it to detonate safely away from him. He managed the second rocket in this manner as well. The remaining three rockets needed to be dealt with quickly. Gamma turned to face them, its lower jaw dropping open as a condensed ball of fire perdition plasma exploded from its mouth.-

-It turned as the fireball caught the first of the three rockets, detonating the rocket and causing the other 2 to fly through the firestorm caused by that rocket. All three however chalked up damage on Gamma's back however, blasting away the remains of its topmost layer of armor to reveal the pristine second layer of unknown metal. The explosion actually pushed the beast forward, accelerating it as it ran back into the warehouse from which it came. On the way it grabbed its gattling gun and the ammo drum, reattaching them as it tore through the warehouse.-

-Back outside the seemingly undamaged black crate that had ferried Gamma here began to audibly beep, louder than the roar of the Warthogs, rockets and LAAG's. It began to visibly shake, a chrono counting down from 20 on every side facing outward, bright green hololetters ticking away. Gamma had dissapeared out the other side of the warehouse, heading South towards its secondary protocol.

Secondary Protocol...exe. FINAL DESTINATION

Nokamura sighed, he had thought he was really going to kill the beast. He was about to take a rest for a second, when the crate's ominous noise caught his ear. He peered around a piece of concrete to see the crate counting down, now at 121110

Kuso!

"Run! Bomb!" Seiji tried to scramble away as the crate ticked down its chrono, second by second.

8.

Seiji kept up his sprinting pace, the rest following behind, even while his abdomen flared in pain.

7.

He hoped that the crate would not have too much explosive, as he kept running, possibly escaping the blast radius.

6.5.4.3.2.1.

The crate erupted into a ball for light and fire, engulfing everything within is 200 meter radius. It engulfed the corpses of Nunemaker, Erions, and Guillottes. It also engulfed Cynnear, who was wounded, and Galley. Nokamura was thrown forward, eating concrete as he landed helmet first, the concrete scraping away the paint of the helmet. Nokamura blacked out.

A Pelican was circling overhead as the blast erupted, knocking it off course a bit.
"Holy crap! Ladies and gentleman, a bomb just erupted at Blue Base Epsilon, the monster assaulting Blue forces has disspeared from view, oh my God, those blue soldiers were just destroyed! This is Darren Stines for the Kalaa New Network, and I'm circling overhead Blue Base Epsilon. The base has come under attack, and all flights to and from the Kalaa starports are now grounded by the UNSCMPs. We'll have more to come as we get it."

omething rather unusual arrived soon after at Epsilon. This wasn't any ordinary force, it was an ONI cleanup crew. Before any more Blue Forces had arrived, they'd already gone through the wreckage, cleaning out any evidence of that could've even remotely linked this to them. When the Blues arrived to pick up the pieces of the squads that defended Blue Base, most of what they found lie in and around the crater that originated from the few remaining pieces of the Storage Hangar. Sgt. Nokamura's squad had take 75% casualties, and he was badly wounded himself. The Blue Base itself was literally irreparable, but many of the civillian terminals and hangars were intact.


Too far, ONI had gone this time. Too far.


Chapter 24.The Truth

he 'Hog's engine revved one more time as Talitha coasted it to a stop next to her home, pulling out the keys and pocketing them as she hopped out of the vehicle, pulling out her newly acquired rocket launcher and the four extra rockets.

"Wait here, Private. Let me explain it to Riggs before you come in, alright? I don't think he's going to be overjoyed to see you."

She pressed her thumb to a pad next to the door, letting it read her biometrics before going inside. She checked the chrono on the wall - she had been gone for about six hours.

"John? Are you awake?"

No sound from inside. Perhaps he was finally getting some rest. He'd looked like he hadn't slept for months when she pulled him out of that armor, but from what little he had told her it was as though he was in a dream-like state, completely incapable of guiding himself.

Good, he's still asleep... he needs his rest... She popped her head back outside.

"You can come in now Sam, he's asleep. I'll set you up a bed on the couch, I only have two rooms up here, and Riggs is in the spare."

She headed back in, moving towards the small two seater, folding it out, trying to ignore the damage to her home and the blood on the floor from her and Riggs' struggle.

Most of the blood seemed cleaned up now, a roll of paper towels and a bottle of carpet cleaner Talitha had sitting close to the wall across from the stains. Riggs had done his best in his condition to clean up the mess he'd made, and after that had probably retired to the bed she'd brought him to earlier to rest.

Samantha hops down from the warthog after grabbing her belongings from the back.

This bag's heavier than I remember...Oh, right...That box of explosive sniper rounds the leuteniant put in there...I hope this guy's not as dangerous as he told me...

She shuffles into the house and drops her bag and sniper rifle next to the couch she was directed to. She drops her helmet on her bag and lets her hair down then cracks a slight smile as she looks around

"Well it's better then what i have to sleep on back at base. Thank you."

"Sure thing. There's not much, but help yourself to the fridge and the synthesizer."

Talitha threw a blanket and two pillows on the bed, starting to lay it all out for the PFC. The room was pretty sparse, only a few pieces of furniture, the couch and an armchair facing the viewscreen, two Purple Hearts in their boxes on a pedestal in the corner on either side of a framed Silver Star. Even though she had turned away from the military lifestyle, she still looked back on the good times and smiled, hoping the future on this planet would go better than the rest of her life had.

A curse from the spare bedroom where she'd put Riggs earlier, the sound of metal scratching metal. He was in there, what he was doing however was a mystery. A few clinks, a slight thunk, he was definitely at work on something at the moment, keeping himself as busy as he could.-

"Sonuva....damnit...come on...get out of there..........got it.."

Hmmm? "Make yourself at home, Private, give a holler if you need something."

Talitha headed back to the spare bedroom, knocking on the door lightly.

"Come in..."

His voice was shaky, several more pops and pings heard as he continued to toil at whatever he was doing. He didn't sound relaxed, didn't sound rested at all, his voice still gravely, hoarse, even trembling as he tried to keep just above a whisper.

"Whatcha working on?" Talitha popped her head in, smiling as she looked over to the bed, depressed that he hadn't gotten enough rest while she had been gone.

The shin guards of his armor were on his lap. He had a pair of tools in his hands, pliers and a small cutting laser. He was pulling the shot from the knees and shins, tossing the ball-bearing sized pieces into a bowl at the foot of the bed. He'd racked up quite a few, but still more had to be removed. Afterwards he'd superheat the armor around each hole or dent, watching as it would either seal or reform into its original appearance.-

"Just..getting some stuff out....um...whose with you...?"

"...umm... well... this is kinda hard to explain... but the long and the short of it is, Lenalli knows you're here. And he wants a chat, so he forced me to take that PFC along to make sure you didn't try to run...."

Her voice dropped as she explained, unable to bring her eyes to John's, the last few words almost a mumble.
".........what......?"

-He just looked up at her, dropping his tools as his jaw dropped open. His voice was lost as he stuttered for words. What had she done...? Who...? Had she...had she betrayed him to the Blues for something he couldn't even remember doing..? Why..? He looked ghostly pale, his eyes remaining on her, slightly glazed as he found himself unable to say anything in reply.

"I'm sorry... I didn't want to... but... dammit..."

Her shoulders slumped even further, wishing she had never taken that damn job, even though she hadn't had much of a choice... this whole thing was pushed on her... getting away from that was the whole reason she left the Reds in the first place! And now...

"I....I need to work on this...please close the door."

-What little emotion he had left in his voice had dropped away along with the color in his face. He looked back at the armor, picking up his tools to continue work on the knees. He had to fix these holes or it wouldn't fit right, it'd poke and prod him when he wore it. Where was his helmet?-

"Where is my helmet?"

"...it... I... Lenn... has it..."

Her voice was barely above a strained whisper before she pulled her head out, shutting the door quietly, heading back for her room, half hoping that he would tell her to stop, to come back and help him, but the other half of her knew it probably wouldn't come....

He didn't ask for her to come back, he wanted to, a part of him wanted her to be right by him, wanted her help, wanted to tell her it was all right. The other half just punched the good side in the face and told him he needed to get out of here, now. He worked at a feverish pace now, pulling shot, tossing the pieces off and fixing the holes and dents. He had to go...had to be safe...he thought he'd be safe here, he wasn't. He had to run.

After a few minutes had gone by, her footsteps moved back past Riggs' door, only pausing to slip a sheet of paper beneath it, before heading out to the kitchen, boiling water to prepare a cup of green tea, ready to take it out onto the porch for a long bout of soulsearching in that dark moonless night.

A stinging hiss as he stood, feeling his knees screaming beneath him as he walked to the door, extremely shakey at first. He bent down, almost collapsing from the pain before taking the note. He didn't immediately look at it, heading back to the bed to continue his work. He's picked all of the shot from the left kneepad, shin guard and thigh guard, now he just had to finish the right. He looked at the note as he situated himself.

It was even messier than her normal handwriting, her hand had been shaky as she started, but it grew clearer towards the end of the note.


"Lenalli gave me his word that he only wanted to talk, not to harm you, and I swear on all those people I lost at Epsilon Eridani that I wouldn't let him hurt you any more than this war already has. But if you don't trust him... or... or me... you have six days... the code on your window is 4686... the Leap is in a cave seven klicks south of here... you can get supplies from there before you head... wherever you wanna go...

...I'm sorry John... I tried to protect both of us, but I only ended up protecting myself.

Tal"


There was a tear at the bottom of the sheet, with some scribbles extending upwards. Maybe she had written something at the bottom of the sheet as a PS, then changed her mind about including it.

Goddamn Blues...


ohn folded the note, placing it into a pocket on the inside of his chestplate, just below his collar. He picked the last piece of shot from his right knee plate, only a few more visible in the shin guard. It looked as though he hadn't been hit at all, that would help quite a bit for his camofluage system...damnit...she gave his helmet to the Blues...the camo system wouldn't work for shit then even though the internal circuitry hadn't taken damage.-

"Vilg....this'll be harder than I thought....don't even have a damn helmet..."

The moon was low on the eastern horizon, rising almost visibly across the sky, at least to Talitha. Her tea had lost all of its heat to the chill in the night air, even though her glass was still mostly full. She rocked back and forth on the one person hammock she had set up, but no amount of thought could soothe the turmoil brewing through her mind. So as soon as she saw Samantha turn out her light above the couch, she looked down at her chrono. She closed her eyes, and breathed out. Then looked at it again after the moon had moved to just touch the trees bordering the Sea of Macerr.

Twenty minutes exactly... heh... still got it...

She rose, shutting the door silently, locking it with the faintest click, moving with all the stealth of a scout and now a mercenary, dumping the liquid into the sink before heading back for her room, closing her eyes, hoping that somehow this would all be resolved in the morning.

He waited a full three hours after hearing the click of the door lock. Time to go. Six days was a lie, at least from the Blues. He knew they'd be early, apparently he'd done something terrible. If he knew the Blues from his past, they'd be here the next day to take him. They'd pay Talitha off or not at all and take him, and he'd never see her again. He couldn't allow that, he couldn't. If he dissapeared, it wouldn't be her fault, especially if he left no evidence. -

-He opened his door with the utmost silence, seeing the guest room that must have been taken by the Blue closed and the light off. He padded across the house in his armor, making his way for Talitha's room. He had to say goodbye...he didn't know when he'd see her again. He entered her room, pushing the door open just enough so that his black armor didn't scrape against the walls or door frame. He saw her asleep, or at the least close to sleep on her bed. So many things he wanted to say, so many he couldn't...so many he had to keep silent for her safety.-

-He leaned down beside her, kissing her forehead as softly as he could, hopefully not waking her in the process.-

"E muja oui, Talitha.."

-He turned, leaving the room, closing the door behind him as silently as he had opened it. He went into the living room, taking a few moments before spotting just what he needed. He took her helmet off the shelf in its closet, placing it on his head before locking it into the system hardjacks on his jade collar. He'd have to work on it a little so it would display what he wanted, but this would do for now.-

-Back into his room, closing the door after entering. He headed for the window, keying in "4-6-8-6" on the internal lock. The window opened for him, but he thought that might have been too easy, too much of a hint. He scrolled around a bit using Talitha's HUD, finding rudimentary and horribly basic commands in place of the exact, precise directives his helmet had. They'd do, selecting the command to extend the retractable claws on each fingertip of his gloves. He pried off the access panel to the locking mechanism, cutting and splicing wires before retracting his claws. That would make it look exactly like he had hardwired it to open it. He even fused the wires with the heat-edges on the retractable blades on each wrist to further enhance the image of his un-aided escape.-

-Out the window, only making one light scrape as his right upper spine edged along the interior of the window frame. His knees were already causing moisture to bead at the edges of his eyes, but he had to go. He took one last look at Talitha's home, then the Orochi ran off into the night, joining the darkness once again.

The sun rose on a gorgeous spring day, not a single cloud in the sky. A gentle breeze wafted in through the crack at the bottom of the window in Talitha's room, her hand brushing away a blade of grass that came to rest on her cheek, then the moisture still left on her forehead. Was it just a dream?

She rose, taking a datapad as she headed out towards the kitchen, taking a moment to peer inside the guest room, her heart sinking as she saw the empty bed. It hadn't been a dream. He was gone, thinking she had betrayed him. And he was right. But she didn't intend to do so further, so she blinked a few extra times, a slight smile cracking her lips as she saw her helmet gone - she hated the damn thing anyway. She'd let the Blues and the PFC figure out that Riggs had run on their own. If she had to go and look for him, fine. But she wasn't bringing him back. Griddle on, time for some scrambled eggs. As the steam from the boiling water misted up into her face, she allowed herself one chuckle.

"Heh... I almost hope he does find Tuono in the lower bulkhead..."

Samantha rose slowly at the smell and sizzle of food. She put the few pieces of armor she'd taken off back on and akwardly wandered about, following the smell to the kitchen. "Hello, Ms. Richardson. I'm afraid i slept a little too long. The accomodations were quite cofortable, thank you."

She kind of shifts her weight uneasily and looks around. "...I uh...Would there be any chance of me getting to talk with this 'Mr. Riggs' that I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on today?"

"Sure. He should be awake by now, second door on your left."

Let's see how she reacts... hope she doesn't try anything stupid...

She turned back to the stove, lightly salting the eggs with a flick of her wrist, stirring them with a spatula, throwing a few slices of toast into the toaster.

amantha nods to talitha and walks over to the door she was directed to and knocks twice from which it creaks open. When she sees the empty room and the window that's been jimmied open she goes pale and her knees get weak.

She runs back to where she had stashed her belongings, muttering something about being trusted and someone being dissapointed. She quickly grabs her helmet and puts it on, activating the radio. She tries to keep her voice from cracking when someone at Rho finally answers.

"Warrent Officer Torrick? It's PFC Williams. I need to speak with the Leuteniant immediatly."

"Everything okay, Private?"

Talitha shouted over the noise of the water she was running into the slightly dented kettle, setting it on the stove to boil. Eggs were done, and she separated them onto two separate... better make that three separate plates. Towel from the handle on the door to the cellar, wiping her hands as she headed out into the living room.

"You look like you've just been scared out of your mind."

"Sorry, Private. He's got his radio turned off, can't reach him. Probably still asleep. Anything wrong?"

"Hold that thought."

Williams turned to Talitha, her fear slowly turning to anger, rage. Williams had one simple task, and she blew it. But she was going to find out why.

"Where is he?"

"He's not in his room?"

Long years of infiltration allowed her to mix the perfect amount of confusion into her voice, moving back towards his room, her eyes immediately drawn to the open window, the hacked wiring. Wow... I didn't think he'd take it that far... I thought he'd just run... leave me the blame...

Williams' mixed feelings of anger, fear, and confusion convulated her thoughts into a pool of murkiness.

"No, he...he isn't."

Damn, this isn't good. The Lieuteniants gonna have my ass.

Williams turned back to her belongings, extracting her gun belt from the bag, along with an M6C. She click the belt into place, sliding the M6 into the holster. Meanwhile, she spoke up.

"Damnit, I'm not sure if you know what happened or not, but Lennalli made it clear that if Riggs escaped, he was to be killed."

WHAT?! There was no disguising the surprise and horror crossing her face at this statement. She barely managed to control herself as she strode back into the living room.

"I think you're mistaken Private. Your commanding officer made it clear he only wanted conversation."

This is gonna get ugly. Man, karma is a BITCH.

Williams scoffed at Miss Richardson's reply.

"Yeah, well, that's not what he told me."

Williams clicked her radio back on, in contact with Warrant Officer Torrick.

"I'm sorry, but I'm calling for a support squad."
NO!"

She threw herself forward, hand reaching for that radio. She had to stop them, had to warn John... had to find him... had to apologize... had to do something to make up for what she had done... had to stop them!

Williams stood up and turned towards Talitha just as she dove for the radio. Talitha knocked the handheld from Williams grip, and knocked Williams into the pedestal holding Talitha's medals, then to the floor. The pedestal rocked back and forth, soon falling onto Williams ankle, cutting a large gash into it and fracturing her ankle.

A searing pain drove up William's left leg, not only from the gash but from the profuse amount of blood coming from it. Williams tried to contain her pain, looking up at Talitha.

"Shit....I need help, please, help me."

"Oh geez... shit... I'm sorry... I don't know what came over me..." She squatted down next to Sam, grabbing a roll of bandages left over from when she had helped patch up Riggs, applying pressure with her hand before beginning to patch the PFC up.

Crackles came from the handheld radio as Torrick tried to contact Williams.

"Williams? Williams? You there? Damnit, Samantha, answer me! I'm sending a squad..."

Williams was too busy with the wound to listen to Torrick, pushing away the bloodied pedestal, the glass cases of the medals shattered.

"Yeah, sorry bout the medals."

"It's alright... It's not the first time I've knocked that thing over... as soon as I got some extra money, I was gonna wall mount it... but I don't think that's gonna happen any time soon... I knew I was being used again..."

She looked over at the radio as she heard Torrick, sighing. She didn't know what to do now, for the first time in a while.

"I'd really prefer if they didn't show up here. Call them off and tell them everything's fine."

"I...I'm sorry. This is all my fault, but, I.....I'm obligated to my duty. I'm sorry. No."

"Please? I'm only going to ask once."

She picked up the radio, passing it to Samantha.

"Giving him a few more days isn't going to change anything. Lenalli still wants him there in five days, right?"


Samantha exhales heavily, taking the radio. The sounds eminating from it suggest the warrant officer is fumbling about trying to hastily gather a squad to send.

"I'm OK, Torrie, Hold on a minute."

As she sets the radio down an annoyed sigh comes out of it, Torrick noticing that she'd picked up on the leuteniant's nickname for him, and she looks hard at Talitha. A very uncharacteristic authority is in her voice.

"You can find him in 5 days?"

"I didn't say that. I don't care how much money you try to buy me off with, I'm not helping you find him. I was just asking if you would wait."

Even as she said it, it sounded stupid to her. The old hatred of the Blue faction was flaring up within her again, but she fought to keep it in check.

"If he's here, the army stays home and Jim will show up alone to speak with him in five days. If he's not here, he's got the entire blue army chasing him with a shoot-to-kill order. And if you're not gonna help get him here, then I'm not gonna buy him any extra time to get away."

With out even pausing for a response she reaches, none too slowly, for the radio.

Talitha's foot lanced out, kicking the radio away with a quick sweep of her sock, not caring this time what she hit in addition to it.

"My house, my rules."

"Fine."

Within seconds the gun barrel of her M6C is pointed between Talitha's eyes and the comm in samantha's helmet is active.

"Torrick, Riggs escaped and I'm injured. Send that squad and tell them to haul ass. Hopefully when they get here, I won't be dead. Get to finding that monster and tell Jimmy I'm sorry."

"Ain't your house for long, Bitch. And your boyfriends as good as dead."

With that and a million thoughs spinning through her head, She pulls the trigger.
Her eyes flew wide as she saw the pistol come up and level itself for between them. Talitha backed away into the counter as she heard the Blue give the order to find Riggs. She hadn't stopped them... she failed again... and she fell to her knees as Samantha pulled the trigger, but even this motion wasn't enough to save her from injury, gouging out a furrow through her scalp, scraping against the bone, even ploughing through the top layers of that. The shock ripped a scream from her lips as she fell forward, grasping fistfuls of the carpet with her hands as she tried to stave off the pain, her blood leaking down into her eyes. She managed to gasp out a few words as her consciousness started to fade.

"No... please... I'll... hellp..."

I'll help... so I can see him... one more time...

"Yeah, Now that you find I'm not just a scared little girl, you'll help."

Her own leg patched up enough, she gets up and hobbles over to the unconcious mercenary. She bandages Talitha's head up, enough to stop her from bleeding to death, restrains her with whatever she can find lying around, then reclines back to wait for assistance, keeping her gun ready, just in case.

Ugh... lay off the pulse hammer, alright...? Geez...

The pounding in her skull and the nausea from the biofoam so close to her nose were enough to bring her back out of the shock-induced lapse in consciousness, but the dried blood on the carpet she felt tickling her nostrils was enough to tell her she had been out for a while.

... can't believe she shot me... can't believe I'm not dead...

She went to reach a hand to wipe away the blood from her face, knowing better than to touch the wound, but the throbbing in her wrists was immediately explained when she found she couldn't move them far from the small of her back. A slight shuffle of her feet confirmed that the tightness around her ankles was from the same source.

Oh damn... hope she didn't just leave me here... then again... I kinda hope she did...

She held her breath as long as her screaming headache would allow, listening for the Private's breath. She thought she could hear it over the blood pounding in her ears, but even that was sketchy. Hell, maybe her hearing got damaged by that bullet. She exhaled slowly, squinching her eyes shut as another wave of that horrid smell assaulted her nostrils, concentrating now on not throwing up.

Okay Tal... I think you're in trouble now...

A crackle would suddenly come from Sam's radio, followed by a rather loud shriek of static. It fizzled out for a moment, grew once more, then finally dissapeared as a brooding, snarling voice filled the air around the Blue.-

"If that bullet so much as harmed a hair on Talitha's head, you'll be dead LONG before your reinforcements arrive. You're going to call off that order right now. You're going to call Lenalli personally and have him bring my helmet. I'll speak with him today. If you do not do this, the Blue team will be short another soldier, and my kill count will rise just a little bit higher. Understand?"

-The radio clicked off, but whoever had just spoken, assuming it was Riggs was listening for a reply. He had to have been close. How he tapped into the blue comm would be a mystery, unknown to the blue he had full access to his communication modulator, the Comm-Mod that was preventing him from reverting into a beast at the moment. He hoped the Blue would make the right decision.

Assuming she's still being watched, Sam starts shouting into the air.

"Trying to get me scared again are you, Johnny-boy? Well, I'm far past that ruse. Heh, I didn't think you'd be worth too much without that special helmet of yours, just like Jimmy said. And I'm sure without that and with the entire blue army chasing you for what you did to the CO's favorite private, you won't last long."

Sam then reaches into a pouch on her belt and readies a small, pressure-sensitive explosive device she'd brought just in case and sets it on the small of Talitha's back after arming it. She then straddles the helpless mercenary, activating the pressure device, then places her pistol barrel at the base of Talitha's skull.

"We're gonna play things my way now. You do something I don't like, and I kill your girlfriend. You try to take me down, and I just may fall off this pressure-sensitve bomb and blow us all to hell. Just in case you're thinking of something fancy, you know you can't kill me fast enough to stop me from pulling this trigger.

Now then, you ready to listen, Beasty-boy?"

"If you'd looked under the bed you might have noticed the big honking black armored bastard beneath it. Don't turn around. Were at a stalemate, and I don't want her harmed."

-The sound of Riggs's heavy footsteps echoed through the house, comming from his room and down the hall. He stopped, standing probably 9ft behind Sam. There was a click and an odd whirring sound, like a power conductor charging up to full capacity. Talitha had heard the sound before, few had and lived to know what it was.-

-Riggs was helmetless, holding the 5ft long experimental Linear Railgun Tuono Nero, the "Black Thunder" from Cairn. A sabot had just been loaded into the action, the twin rails of the cannon comming to life as a magnetic charge was brought between them. Any small metallic objects were suddenly being pulled in Riggs' direction.-

"Just so you know...mine's bigger."

Sam doesn't even acknowledge that there's someone else in the room. She chuckles and tightens her grip on her pistol.

"So what are you gonna do, Johnny? Blow me away, possibly killing the already fragile Talitha here, only to have the bomb go off and finish us all? Oh, no, Johnny. We don't have a stale mate. In case you hadn't noticed, I never called off that squad. It's been what, 15, 20 minutes since I called for them? At the rate they're prolly goin', I'd say you've got anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes before you're surrounded by alot more guns."

Talitha struggled to turn around and see, squinting now against the blinding light of the sun in her eyes, shifting to the side, moving her hands into a more comfortable position away from the bomb... No, Tal... it's too risky... John knows what he's doing...

She cracked her toes, really unable to do much more as she shifted the positioning of the muzzle in the back of her neck, no wisecracks coming to mind, shuddering slightly as she practically felt the Blue patrol breathing down their necks.

John... dammit... get out of here... just give me time to convince them... I shoulda taken that Warthog when I had the chance... gotten away on the pretense of searching for you...

"If what you say is true I slaughtered an entire base of you Blues without a firearm. I have a linear cannon in my hands right now. Imagine what I can do with that. You're one sadistic bitch for pulling this, I'll give you that, but you haven't thought of everything."

-Riggs could be heard moving again, actually sitting down in Talitha's arm chair. He still had his weapon trained on Sam, the hum remaining steady as Riggs kept the barrel pointed straight at the back of the Blue's head. He spoke up, his voice softer, actually more human then before.-

"Let me tell you a story Sam. A story from my past. I used to have a fiance. Her name was Jenna. When I was a kid I ran afoul with a gang, a gang who gunned down my parents. The day of my parents' funeral, rather than mourn their death I found that gang and I killed every member except for one. That one member came back with a vengeance, and he had every intent to make my life a living hell. He reassembled his gang and came back for me, but they found Jenna instead."

"I thought they killed her, that was what I saw, what I believed for the longest time, but you know something? I was wrong. My fiance, the love of my life, was part of that gang. Want to know what that gang's name was then and is now? Its ONI, Sam. Not only was my fiance NOT dead and a part of a group I thought killed her, she had her ONI goons, former FRIENDS OF MINE take me when Cairn was glassed. For an entire year my fiance experimented on me in ways that would make you kill yourself just thinking about. For one year the woman I loved turned me into a monster."

"Now I come back to sense, to the real world from my nightmare torment and I find that I've killed the entire standing presence of a blue base, and an old enemy wants a chat with me. I'm held up here with the one saving grace in my life, the woman you just shot AND are now prepared to shoot again, with a pressure bomb held between the two of you. You have to ask yourself Sam, do I care about anything right now? Is it possible that I'm in another stimmed-up stupor? I don't need the helmet to jack myself back into being a monster. I already am one."

"If I pulled this trigger, you'd be in hell long before you heard the thunder. I'd probably be joining you shortly after, I can't outrun a bomb. All I wanted was to rebuild my life. Now you have your blue squad comming to take me away for a crime I can't remember, for things I've done that I don't know I've done..."

-Riggs sighed, the hum diminishing, followed by several clanks and metal pings, two hisses of released pressure. The sizeable linear cannon landed in Sam's sight, a few feet to her left. Two large blocky devices, Riggs's arm blades followed. Several more clanks and pings. A chest plate, a back plate, spines several feet long tucked to the back tightly. The comm-mod was visible in the center, a small rectangular black block with a silver fan taking up most of its upper half. Shoulder pades, elbow guards, forearm plates, gloves, midsection plates, belt, thigh armor, knee pads, shin armor, boots, all of them were in sight.-

"Please....don't shoot her...turn the bomb off...you have me......please...don't hurt her...she hasn't done anything. I killed those Blues, even if I can't remember it...she just wanted to protect me....if you're going to point that gun somewhere, point it at me....please...she's all I have left..."

"John, NO! We'll figure this out, we'll work it out... it's not your fault!"

Talitha thrashed against her bonds, barely caring about anything, not the wound in her head, not the pistol at her neck, not even the pressure bomb. She couldn't stand seeing John like this... it tore at her worse than even Epsilon Eridani had... this couldn't be happening...!

Samantha watches as each peice of armor falls to her side, and for the first time, without it being with the intent of manipulation, she's speachless. She silently reaches underneath her and types four numbers into the exposed keypad on the pressure bomb. Her right hand moves to remove her helmet as she stands and turns around to look her "nemisis" in the eye.

Her mouth opens and closes a few times, as if the words were escaping just before they take shape, and tears start to well up in her eyes. Her head droops followed by a single brown braid snaking over her sholder. Her arms follow suit and hang limp at her sides, and the gun she was holding in her left hand clatters to the floor, just as 7 blue soldiers bust through the door and direct their weapons at the man in the chair.

It all seemed to be going in slow-motion for Samantha, as she tried to justify to herself what she'd done. She finally squeeks out two words, lost over the sound of the soldiers moving in to restrain their quarry. Even though she knows it was too quiet to be heard over the ruckuss, and chances he read her lips were slim, she doesn't repeat herself. She just slowly turns and hobbles out to one of the warthogs, sits in the passenger seat, and finally lets out the tears she'd been holding back since she'd first seen that open window.

"...I'm sorry..."

Rodrigues and Peterson are the first two to burst in, immediately surveying the situation.
The rest followed in suit, filing behind the two, then surrounding their target in the chair.

"Freeze, dirtbag!" shouted Rodrigues as he cocked his M90 shotgun, right in Rigg's face.
Private First Class Ried followed behind, lowering his weapon upon finding the bloodied stains on the carpet.
Just then, he noticed the shuffling behind him, the woman bound. He slid back a bit, eyeing the wound on her head. He further examined it, removing the bloodied bandage, finding a deep gash. He concluded his thoughts, and then stated to the squad,

"Shit. This girl here needs a hospital, fast."

Ried turned his back to the squad for a moment, who were still encircling Riggs, pointing their rifles at him, as Ried keyed his radio to contact Lennalli.

"Sir, do you copy? We have Riggs and a woman in custody. What do you want us to do?"

Riggs had a stoic expression on his face, but it was obviously drained of color long before the soldiers had even come into the house. He simply held his hands up, saying nothing, his eyes straight forward. He didn't flinch when the shotgun was level with his face, not when any weapon clicked or locked or prepared to put a bullet into his head if he so much as twitched an eyebrow in their direction. He just held his hands up...no more running.

Lennalli pauses in his lecture at the warrant officer to respond, now enraged at the fact that something had been happening with this situation and no one notified him.

"What do you mean 'what do I want you to do?' !? Get them the hell In here! Sonuvabitch, rookie, use that head on your shoulders!

How's Samantha? She's not answering her radio."

"OW! Be careful, you Neanderthal!" The pain almost caused her to pass out again as the Blue ripped the bandage from her head, letting all the old hatred for the Blues come to the forefront. She stared over at Riggs, trying to meet his eyes, not knowing when she'd see him again. She had something to say... and she wanted him to know... her lips moved, but no sound came out.

E muja oui, John...

"Get on the ground, sir." ordered Rodrigues to Riggs as he motioned his shotgun in a downward motion, indicating what he had just said. The squad knew what he was capable of, and they were taking no chances. Two members of the squad stepped back to collect the armor Riggs had thrown to the ground. The two muttered to themselves about how heavy all the gear was.

Ried drew back, due to the Lieuteniant's shouting through the radio.

"Err, sorry sir. As for Williams, there's a bad gash on her ankle thats been bandaged, but that's all I can see from here. Looks like she's got a concussion, also. Doesn't seem like shes conscious. We'll finish up here and bring the two captives back. This one needs a visit to the infirmary, though."

Ried turned his attention back to Richardson. He took out his combat knife and cut the bindings on her legs, allowing her to stand, if she had the strength to.

Riggs did as ordered, lying on his stomach with his hands behind him in the small of his back. He looked straight forward, his chin on the floor as he breathed easily. He was down to a white t-shirt and a pair of skin-tight black boxers. Thats all he was allowed so he could interface with his suit. Around his neck was a collar of jade crystal, a thin strip of metal sandwiched between two layers of jade. It had no visible locks or holding mechanisms, so removing it without breaking Riggs's neck off of his shoulders was impossible.

She wasn't sure herself if she could stand. Talitha scrunched her body back, getting to her knees first, keeping her head on the ground as long as she could before slowly putting one bare foot on the ground, then one socked foot, having kicked the other off as she tended to do while asleep. She staggered woozily, the blood rushing from her head, and she almost collapsed, managing to grab onto the counter. But her eyes were on Riggs the entire time.

You kept me safe... now I gotta return the favor... please don't send me to Kalaa... don't separate us...

Rodrigues motioned for two of the squad members to secure Riggs while he pulled out a a pair of flex cuffs to tie his wrists. Peterson and Kusman grabbed an arm of Riggs, while Rodrigues stood over him, and secured Riggs' wrists with the cuffs. Rodrigues moved back, as the 5 squad members stood around Riggs. Rodrigues paused for a second, and then spoke to the squad.

"Ok. We're leaving this place in one minute. Peterson, Kusman, you're in charge of prisoner control. Make sure he doesn't get a chance to pull anything. Ried, you're in charge of the wounded prisoner. One we arrive at Rho, take her to the infirmary. Pack up boys, we need to get this show on the road. Now lets move!"

The two soldiers carrying the armor and gear went outside and loaded it onto one of the M12T1s parked outside. Peterson and Kusman held onto Riggs, and lead him out to the waiting vehicle. Ried kneeled down, helping up Richardson, and leading her out to the waiting vehicles as well, putting her on a different Hog than Riggs, however. Ried checked the house. With it being clear, he locked it, loaded up into the Hog with Richardson and Williams, and the Hogs sped off towards Rho.


To Be Continued...

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