Shattered Dawn

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Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Mon Jan 25, 2016 2:13 pm

In the year twenty thirty nine, the United Nations yielded to worldwide demands to ban the use, storage, and creation of nuclear weapons. They only did so, however, when presented with a more efficient means of mass murdering their fellow humans. Before delegates of every nation, an enterprising scientist made his ascent from theoretical physicist to world renowned arms dealer in a single speech. He proposed the creation of large scale plasma based weaponry and offered to sell the base schematics for such a weapon to the UN’s members. Twenty six nations bought without hesitation.

By the year Twenty forty one, all of the world’s self-proclaimed most important nations had adapted plasma technology for large scale military use. Most of these weapons were mounted to unmanned single use drones. On New Year’s Eve of that year, every plasma drone produced simultaneously activated and positioned themselves above the world’s most populated cities. Within seconds hundreds of cities melted around their terrified and burning citizens. In the following weeks relief agencies were looted, Government officials were killed, and riots ran rampant among the panicked and desperate survivors. All the pieces fell in place for society to crumble into the ashes of the old world.

It has been seventy eight years since what came to be known as the Final Great War. Human civilization has struggled to rebuild itself at dramatically varying rates. Tribal settlements, bandit camps, and scientific colonies alike dot the North American continent, but above them all towers the silver walls of the Azure Empire. The Empire stands as the last bastion of pre-war civilization amidst the chaos of the jungle that has overtaken the continent in humanity’s absence. Some see it as a beacon of hope, others a symbol of looming danger, and some believe the silver city to be a mere myth. Yet, no matter what the individual believes, everyone within the jungle know the penalties of meddling in the Empire’s dealings.


The Emperor leaned casually on the balcony railing as he looked over the gleaming city sprawled beneath his estate. His dark brown eyes scanned over the whites and blues of the spires, eventually lowering his gaze to the green streets below and the seemingly eternally moving masses of people living their lives in a carefully controlled mixture of fear and comfort. A grin crept across the man’s face as he looked into the world he and his wife had forged from the ashes of the failed nations that had preceded it. The Emperor’s gaze shifted to his right, where a youth with blue highlights darting down his black hair and brown eyes that matched the Emperor’s also gazed over the city. “You look like you’ve got an interesting thought bouncing around inside your brain.” The Emperor commented. “What’s on your mind, Aaric?”

The self-titled prince shrugged. “Nothing particularly interesting father. I was merely wondering… is it truly as bad as mother’s propaganda campaign says it is beyond the wall?”

The Emperor’s grin faded slightly as he looked out toward the horizon. “Celine is merely trying to remind people of the dangers Aaric, beyond our borders is a nearly endless jungle concealing nothing but scavengers, murderers, and vicious wildlife. The few places the trees don’t cover are little more than slag filled craters, scars of the old world’s violent fall, and there are worse things hiding in those places.”

Aaric nodded slowly, but raised his brow questioningly. “And yet we occasionally take colonies from the jungle for citizenship?”

The Emperor chuckled. “Yes, we do. That’s why we have the reconnaissance regiment after all. On the rare occasion we do find an intelligent and civilized community, it is our duty to take them in so that they can help us expand the Empire and preserve humanity.”

Aaric nodded again, almost visibly processing the information through his mind in some calculation the Emperor couldn’t guess the nature of. Aaric began to ask another question, but was interrupted as the door to the room gave a soft chime and slid open. A dark skinned woman with graying hair and the long coat of a scientist entered with what the Emperor was beginning to assume was an eternal look of sadistic amusement to match the name the Emperor had always severely hoped she had given herself rather than been born with. “Emperor Than, sorry to interrupt but I need to speak with you for a moment.”

The Emperor sighed. “Very well, Dr. Lazuran.” He turned to Aaric and rested a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Go find your mother. It’s nearly time for your combat training anyway.” The boy rolled his eyes and quietly left the room.

Lazuran waited until the door slid closed again before holding up her slim datapad. “I need authorization to have a reconnaissance team collect a tribal community from outside the wall.”

Than raised a brow as he took the datapad from her, giving the form on the glass screen only a cursory glance. “Why this tribe, and for what purpose?”

Lazuran smirked as she replied. “Well I assumed you didn’t want me performing potentially dangerous cybernetics research on your loyal soldiers. This tribe meets the physical requirements for study and their village would be crushed the next time the wall advanced anyway.”

Emperor Than gave a brief nod. “And you’re sure they’re not intelligent enough to become potential citizens?”

To Than’s annoyance, Lazuran actually started to lightly laugh at the question. “You did hear me use the term ‘tribal’ a half dozen times, yes?”

The Emperor sighed a bit as he moved his finger across the datapad’s surface to sign the authorization form. “Merely doublechecking, Melantha. Just because the Empire is strong now does not mean we can afford to accidently kill off potential assets.”

Lazuran rolled her eyes again. “Don’t worry, Than. I’ll make sure these… people provide a greater benefit to humanity in my labs than they would in your city.”

***

Aaric wound his way through the twisting walls of his family’s estate. Aaric snickered to himself idly for a moment. He’d always thought that “Estate” was such a nice word for what was more realistically a military compound with the central area prettied up for living in. Sure, the central parts of the structure were a beautiful living area, kitchen, bedrooms, and all the other form over function areas of a pre-war mansion, but all it took was one doorway and everything went grey metal and blue banners. Wherever the mansion ended in the estate the military began. To the east and west were barracks and armories for the two branches of the Imperial Honor Guard. A motor pool was fastened onto the building’s south wall, and yet another armory focused on training. Aaric glanced upwards at a skylight as he walked the hall. Anyone who had spent more than a few minutes beneath the city’s towering skyscrapers knew Imperial architects were anything but lateral thinkers, and the mansion was no different. Aaric had never been to the estate’s third floor more than a few minutes, but he had plenty of theories for the room’s purpose, and all of them were different versions of city wide information monitoring conducted by his mother. The floors below ground on the other hand, Aaric knew what that was even if he wasn’t entirely supposed to yet. The lower levels resembled a bunker that Aaric had always suspected was there when the Empire settled, and had since been converted into laboratories that stretched into several of the city’s other districts. Down there medicine and weapons were built side by side. Solar technology and prototype cybernetics were built, tested, deployed, or scrapped daily alongside each other in those halls.

Aaric’s thoughts were interrupted as he stumbled into the back of one of the patrolling honor guard. Being incased in the sleek amalgamation of silver, steel, and circuitry that made up Imperial Power Armor, the guard barely even registered the impact, only turning around after hearing the metal clang behind him, and the less musical impact of the prince’s sudden introduction to the floor. The joints in the guard’s armor made a mechanical buzzing as they leaned over and extended a hand to the prince. “You may wish to keep your head out of the clouds and closer to the ground when you’re trying to navigate these halls, sir. Are you injured?”

Aaric rolled his eyes and stood back up on his own. “I’ll take it under advisement Guardsmen. And of course I’m fine.”

The Guard straightened and nodded. “Good. The Empress is looking for you by the way.”

Once again Aaric’s eyes were rolling as he pulled a thin glass tablet from his pocket and checked the time. “I’m two minutes late. The world is hardly facing a second apocalypse.” Aaric grumbled as he continued down the hall towards the northern armory.

***

Akija groaned slightly as the morning sun began to stab through the edges of the leather tent that served as her residence. She threw an arm over her eyes in an attempt to ward off the day for a few more moments, but was startled as a loud crashing noise erupted through the small space. Akija bolted upright as he eyes darted about before fixing on her brother, who stopped banging the metal pots in his hands and grinned. Akija threw her pillow at her brother. “Damn it Vizo, That’s a quick way to get yourself injured!”

Vizo laughed. “You were taking too long to get up, and it’s our day to hunt. So get some food and grab your gear.” He then gave her a quick nod and headed outside the tent to wait for her.

Akija grumbled some more under her breath and dragged herself out of the bed. She quickly through on her camouflage jeans and jacket, as well as the red scarf she wore to keep the local insects away from her neck. A few in the tribe had questioned the slight clash of colors, but she didn’t see it as any more of a problem than the red mohawks she and the other hunters of her tribe all maintained. She sat down at the table in the center of her tent and began reloading the spare magazines to her rifle. When she finished she dropped the magazines and some fresh jerky into a leather satchel, then slung both the satchel and her old rifle over opposing shoulders and headed outside. Akija took a moment after exiting the tent to look around the camp. Her tribe was settled atop the concrete skeleton of what she’d been told was a parking garage before the war, back when everyone had their own vehicles and the forests didn’t dominate the landscape. She located her brother sitting next to the fire and gave him a light smack over the back of the head as she approached. “I’m assuming you have a plan for the day all thought up and ready to go?”

Vizo rubbed the back of his head. “I was figuring we’d head north toward the edge of the city’s bones. None of the other hunters have been out that way recently, but a few foragers said there’ve been a lot of predators out that way lately.”

Akija nodded with a smirk. “And the predators wouldn’t be gathering unless there’s prey.”

Vizo returned the nod. “Yeah, as long as we can beat them to it without getting bit in the process.”

Akija laughed. “Hey, I’ll be fine. You’re the one that’s been bitten before out of the two of us.”

Vizo held up a finger defensively. “Hey, it was a big dog, okay!”

Akija laughed some more as she began to head for the structure’s edge. “I’m sure it was a very vicious puppy…” The two climbed up onto the railing and made the short jump to the nearest of the tree branches that served as the primary method of entrance and exit to the parking structure. The building’s intended stairways had eroded away and collapsed long ago, making it inaccessible to most animals and thus a relatively safe place for the tribe to camp. It also meant anyone with a fear of heights didn’t advance far in tribal society.

Vizo took a quick stock of their surroundings and unslung his own rifle when they reached the ground. “The foragers said the predators had gathered about an hour’s walk down Milborne street.” Vizo said has he pointed to the street sign above the indicated road. Akija nodded as she unslung her own rifle, and the two started off down the road.

Akija found her eyes drawn to the towering concrete and steel structures around them as they walked and tried to imagine what they had looked like before the world had been burned. Since the war, nature had reclaimed much of the world, and many of the structures had vines and other plan life crawling up, around, and through their surfaces. Trees chaotically burst from the patterned streets and sidewalks seemingly in defiance of the old world’s imposed symmetry. Akija’s eyes settled on a building who’s front walls were entirely glass, granting a view of the rows of tables inside. Her eyes turned to the various signs and advertisements covering the building’s front. “To think people used to be able to just walk here and have food handed to them..”

Vizo paused when he noticed his sister had stopped and turned. “How do you know that’s what this place was?”

Akija pointed to the words across the windows. “That’s what it’s saying it was for.”

Vizo raised a brow. “You can read the old world’s language?”

Akija nodded a bit tentatively. “Yeah, one of the elders has been teaching me. It’s kind of a backwards language though. I’m not really sure how anyone used that craziness in everyday life.”

Vizo laughed. “Maybe that’s what drove them all to blow each other up.”

Akija chuckled. “Killing off most of the planet over words? Come on, Vizo.”

Vizo shrugged. “Hey, just because they had really complex camps doesn’t mean they weren’t still barbarians.”

Akija gestured to the city around them. “I’m pretty sure a society doesn’t build shit like this by shooting each other over stupid idealistic stuff.”

Vizo laughed a bit in reply. “And yet they just about set the whole damn planet on fire.”

Akija started to reply but froze as a mixture of rumbling and crunching began to echo from down the road. “What the hell is that?” The only reply she received was her brother pulling her inside the abandoned restraunt she had been inspecting moments ago. The two ducked behind the counter and watched the store windows as the sound grew louder and closer. A large vehicle rolled past the shop, then another. Each held four large wheels on either side. Their armored hulls were flat, wide, and seemed to be coated in shining silver. There were four of the vehicles in total, and each was cleaner than anything Akija had seen in her life. The small convoy sped past the window and continued its obnoxious path down the road in the direction the two hunters had come from. When Akija was certain there were no more coming she turned to her brother. “Were those working vehicles? Who the hell has vehicles?”

Vizo stood with a grim look. “You know who, the Azure Empire.”

Akija gave him an unamused look. “The Empire’s a myth, Vizo.

“No it isn’t! Tokaro said he saw the wall!” Vizo responded defencively.

Akija threw her arms up. “Tokaro also said he saw a dragon and was inducted into a clan of pixies. I’m pretty sure the guy snorts half the medicines he makes.”

Vizo shook his head in frustration. “Well whoever they are, they were heading for our home.”

Akija stared blankly out the window as that realization sank in. She suddenly vaulted over the counter and ran out the door. “We need to head back!” Vizo knew better than to try to stop his sister and simply attempted to keep up. They heard the gunshots long before their home came into view again. Smoke rose from the top of the parking structure, and each of the four vehicles were parked on a different side of the structure. Akija’s eyes fixed on a row of silver armored soldiers lined up at the base of the structure. They raised their left arms in unison, and grapple hooks shot out from their bulky bracers. The hooks dug into the side of the top floor’s railing and began towing the soldiers up. One of the tribe’s warriors leaned over the edge with an axe and attempted to cut the rope, but the soldier below him raised a pistol and fired once, puncturing a hole through the tribal’s skull with expert precision. “We have to help them!” Akija whispered.

Vizo’s eyes darted around the scene appraisingly. “I’ll move around the left side and see if I can hit them from behind. Can you get them looking anywhere else?” Akija nodded and he took off. She scanned the area quickly, and then climbed a nearby rubble pile at a run. She jumped toward one of the buildings, kicked off its wall, and grabbed a low hanging tree branch. Akija pulled herself up onto the branch and quickly braced herself against the tree’s trunk. She pulled up her rifle and sighted in on the nearest of the soldiers. After a quick examination of the man’s armor, she adjusted her aim to just below the back of the soldier’s helmet and fired. Blood spurted outwards from the front of the man’s neck as the bullet punctured a clean hole. Several nearby soldiers shouted in the Old World’s language and turned to aim at her. Akija ran along the length of the branch and jumped to another nearby tree as bullets began to whiz past her. Several shots echoed from the left and two more soldiers fell to the floor clutching their necks as Vizo apparently followed her example.

Akija came to a slight skid along the branch as she stopped and braced herself against the trunk again to fire, but paused as one of the soldiers raised a bulky metal cylinder towards the tree she stood on. A metal object shot out from the cylinder and blazed a trail of smoke as it spiraled into the trunk of the tree she stood on and let out a small explosion. The tree groaned, cracked, and eventually fell with Akija still on it. She slammed against the ground hard and lost her grip on the rifle. The world was a blur of greens and reds as she struggled to get back to her feet. The sun above her was blocked out by a figure standing above her. She tried to locate her rifle through the haze, but the figure moved faster. Akija barely had time to make out the image of the soldier’s gun speeding towards her face before pain flared through her temple and the world went dark.


Last edited by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:25 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Mon Jan 25, 2016 2:21 pm

The metal door to the cybernetics laboratory gave a soft chime as it slid open. For reasons the Empress never bothered to guess at the laboratories always seemed to be more dimly lit than the rest of the estate interior. The fact that they were underground likely didn’t help the matter. The Empress brushed a stray strand of jet black hair from her face as she scanned the lab for its owner. After a few seconds of trying to differentiate scientists from the chaos of the various automated machines and surgical equipments, she merely grabbed one of the passing scientists by the shoulder. “Where is lead scientist Lazuran?”

The scientist started to give an annoyed retort before realizing just who it was that had grabbed him. He pointed towards one of the many doors in the lab as the color drained from his face. “Testing chamber three, ma’am.”

“Thank you.” She said as she released the man and started off towards the indicated doorway. The door gave its typical chime as it registered her approach and slid open. The room beyond was divided down its center by a single, long pane of glass.

Melantha looked up from her station at a terminal built at the center of the glass divider as the Empress entered. “Ah, good evening, Celine. What brings you down to my little world today?”

“I was merely curious just what test subject were so important as to lose a fourth of a reconnaissance team over.” The Empress replied in a less than amused tone.

Lazuran rolled her eyes. “Of course. I underestimated these particular tribals, but that merely makes them better candidates.” Melantha started turning back towards her computer. “And…” She said, deliberately speaking before Celine could respond. “…This particular project will prevent the scenario that caused the casualties from ever occurring again.”

The other scientists and technicians in the room stood frozen in a mixture of fear and awe. For reasons none of them could quite pinpoint, Lazuran seemed to be the only person capable of so blatantly antagonizing the royal family without mysteriously disappearing within a few days. Celine gave a slight glare in reply. “And just what is it you’ve built?”

Lazuran pressed a few more keys and one of the tribals was brought into the room on the opposing side of the glass. The tribal woman’s limp form was held up by a pair of mechanical arms reaching down from the rooms ceiling with her back facing the science team. “Something the Emperor came up with, actually. Seeing as we have no means of producing aircraft at the current time.” She pressed a few more keys and the window turned a dark orange, showing an x-rayed view of the tribal’s bone structure as well as a wire framed view of the machines. “Attaching prototype.” Lazuran commented as she keyed a few more commands into the consol. A third robotic arm reached down from the ceiling, opened a small delivery cabinet in the side wall, and retrieved long silver cylinder from inside. As the cylinder was opened, it revealed a device comprising of a long, segmented oval shaped metal piece, with two robotic arms branching outwards to the left and right, then straight down from the main piece.

Celine watched as the device was lined up with the tribal’s spine and several smaller arms unfolded from the main arm to position themselves over a series of bolts along the segments of the device’s central piece. “You’ll be able to take that off again once testing is done I hope?”

Melantha nodded. “Of course, miss Than.”

Celine raised a brow as the arms prepared to forcibly attach the device to the woman’s spine. “…And the tribal?”

Lazuran chuckled a bit to herself. “I doubt she’ll be quite as intact after the removal.”

***

There was the dull echo of metal striking metal, then pain. The process repeated several times as Akija struggle to wake up. The sound seemed so distant, but the sharp pain lancing through her back and neck focused her consciousness with every repetition. Her body felt like it was going into shock as her mind fought off whatever was keeping her in its imposed slumber. She tried to yell, to scream, but barely heard herself whisper. The noise came again, then the pain. Her vision began to blur into a haze of light and shapes moving around her. “The subject’s waking up.” She thought she heard a voice say. It too, seemed distant and mechanical.

“You were supposed to have sedated her!” A woman’s voice growled.

“She was sedated! Her adrenal levels are off the charts!” The first voice replied. The hammer sounded again. “Should we abort?”

“Not until she’s dead. If anything the brain scans will help us prepare the next subject.” The woman replied coldly. The hammer struck again, and Akija felt pain flare through every inch of her nervous system. Her vision sharpened for a split second, there was the image of white shelves, blue trays, and silver instruments. All of which seemed too clean to be in the jungle. Her vision hazed once more, but Akija’s mind was beginning to race.

“Final connection point puncturing in two...” The voice trailed off as the hammer sounded again, the pain flared, and Akija screamed. Everything around her sharpened. The world seemed unbearably bright for what felt like minuets before normal colors returned. She struggled against the mechanical bindings that held her. Akija focused all her will into attempting to move her arms free, but they didn’t budge. Something else did, however. From somewhere behind Akija a pair of metallic blurs flew over her shoulders, denting the mechanical arms inwards and causing them to release her.

Akija fell hard against the floor face first. “Gas the chamber!” The woman’s voice echoed. A few seconds later several of the floor panels opened in the floor, revealing grates beneath that began to hiss. Akija struggle to stand, feeling both heavier and lighter at the same time. She began to cough as she spun in place, searching the room for an exit. The door she had apparently been brought in through had sealed, and a metal plate was already sliding over top of it. Behind her was a single mirror that ran the entire length of the room and stretched from the floor to the ceiling. Seeing it as the only possible structural weakness in the room, she charged the mirror and began attempting to bash her fists against it.

A second woman’s voice calmly joined the others. “Can she get through?”

“No. The glass is over an inch thick. She’s not even going to crack it with her fists.” The first woman responded. Akija suspected they didn’t realize she knew enough of the old language to understand them, but all it really did was give her false hope. She gave one last defiant shout as she slammed her fist against the glass with all her strength. Once again, the motion was accompanied by something robotic speeding over her shoulder to stab into the glass only a foot above where her first had hit. Akija blinked as the metal withdrew from the hole and began to take a few steps back. “Breach! Stop the gas and vent this wing of the lab!” Akija stopped listening to the voice as she stared at her reflection in the mirror. Robotic arms of gleaming silver extended outwards from her spine with an almost skeletal look. What would have been the fingers elongated and stretch downwards at varying angles, connected by black webbing that formed the full shape of the cybernetic wings. Akija’s surprise was interrupted as alarms began to sound through the laboratory. Akija quickly charged toward the glass again, mimicking her actions from before. As her fists slammed into the glass, the tips of her new wings stabbed into the glass. Pain shot through Akija’s spine as the glass began to form a spider web of fractures that stretched to the floor. Akija slowly backed up to the opposing wall of the room and braced herself in a running stance.

The male’s voice echoed over the speakers again. “Miss, Lazuran! She’s about to-“ Akija broke into a sprint, cutting the man’s words off as she tackled the fractured mirror. The glass shattered inwards in a cascade of glittering orange shards. Akija quickly scanned the room she had emerged in. There were three others in the room. The two closest to her wore some kind of white uniform; the third was a dark haired woman in a blue and crimson dress that seemed far more aesthetic than practical. The woman in the dress however, was also the first one in the room with a gun in her hand. Akija took off towards the door at a sprint, jumping up and kicking off one of the counters to move over the male as she dodged the gunfire from the other woman’s pistol. Akija heard a click and a swear from behind her as she made it out the doorway.

Akija followed the emergency exit signs that had been lit up as a result of the gas leak. She could hear footsteps behind her but managed to keep ahead of them. She reached the facility exit and prepared to tackle the doorway open. The door then gave its usual slight chime and slid open, sending Akija stumbling into the street outside. It took her several moments to get her bearings as she surveyed the area around her. It was night now, and the moon’s glow faintly reflected off the glimmering towers of the city around her. There was noise, vehicles, and people everywhere. The latter of which stopped to regard her with curiosity and confusion. Knowing only that standing in one spot wouldn’t be the best of plans, she pushed through the crowd and took off down the street.

Akija could hear sirens nearby and took a sudden turn into a side alley between two of the larger towers. She ducked behind an outcropping in the structure and waited until she heard the sirens pass her position. She was startled by a voice nearby. “You’re not going to get far staying street level.”

Akija spun in place, locating and facing the speaker, who turned out to be a man sitting in the alley wearing a long coat with an old world baseball cap pulled low over his eyes. “Who da ‘ell are you?” Akija replied as best she could with her knowledge of the old language.

“A friend who was informed of your situation, but would rather not talk much while we’re in range of a half dozen Celnet cameras and listening devices.” The man replied as he slowly rose to a standing position.

Akija looked around franticly, locating a few of the mechanical eyes scanning the area nailed to the walls and corners of nearby buildings. “Celnet?”

“An A.I. the Empress programmed to monitor the citizenry. Now listen, unless you think you can learn to fly after having those things bolted to you for less than an hour, you’re going to need a place to hide.” The man explained. “There are safe places in the city, but we can’t exactly travel together while you’re flailing high end cybernetics around. Head left down the street two blocks, then turn right and run one block. Duck in the alley between the two shortest towers. I’ll be there to open the tunnels when you arrive.”

Akija glanced back out towards the street, then back to the man. “Why should I trust you?”

The man turned and started walking towards the exit at the other side of the alley. “Honestly, you’ve got no reason to, but you also don’t have that many options. I won’t wait long.” Akija swore in her native language as the man faded from view. She looked hesitantly towards the street again, but the sound of approaching sirens hastened her decision. She took off down the street in the indicated direction. The origin of the sirens was closer than she had expected, and a black coated man on a silver and blue motorcycle began weaving through the civilian vehicles in pursuit. Akija vaulted over one of the civilian vehicles as she crossed the street. Her destination came into view as the pursuing motorcycle began to close.

Akija made a sharp and sudden turn into the alley to find the man from earlier waiting above a long metal trap door built into the concrete. The Soldier behind her dismounted his bike and ran up to the alley’s entrance, raising a rifle to aim at them. Before the soldier could fire, the other man drew a long black revolver pistol from his coat and fired two shots into the soldier’s chest. Akija looked between the soldier and the other man. “Thanks.”

“We need to get going. Gunshots make the whole damn system go crazy.” The man said as he opened the hatch in the floor and gestured for her to go down. Akija paused for a moment, but a fresh set of alarms began to sound throughout the area. Akija swore under her breath again and dropped down the hatch.

***

Emperor Cole Than was less than pleased. “Not only did a subject escape your labs with experimental cybernetics, but you lost her in the maintenance shafts?”

Lazuran sighed more out of annoyance than any admission of guilt. “She wasn’t supposed to be able to control the cybernetics yet. It was likely something unique to her brain chemistry or a divergent trait among her tribe.”

“I was under the impression your subjects weren’t even supposed to be twitching!” Than interrupted. “…And before you even think about progressing that last line, you most certainly are not allowed to hook any prototypes up to the other tribals.”

Lazuran rolled her eyes. “Naturally, sir. As for her escape, she was aided by a member of the rebellion the military has yet to fully put down.”

“You are very fortunate your other project is so valuable, miss Lazuran.” The Emperor growled. “Now, I recommend you return to your work. Thanks to you I have a search to organize.”

Melantha gave a short mock bow. “Of course, Emperor Than.” She said as she turned to leave the room.


Akija’s heartbeat was finally beginning to slow as the man she’d met in the streets led her through the service tunnels of the city above. The tunnel’s dark and cramped spaces were a stark contrast to the bright and open terrain of the Imperial landscape she had left, and the sense of confinement made her uneasy. “Where are we goin’ anyway?”

“These tunnels span the entirety of the Azure City. Right now we’re three streets south of the largest maintenance hub, where the bulk of the resistance is currently camped.” The man responded without slowing pace or looking back. Akija started to respond but froze as she saw one of the wall mounted mechanical eyes ahead. The man stopped and looked between Akija and the camera. He casually walked up to the device and tapped it on the side a few times. “The cameras down here are dead. Whenever the resistance moves anywhere, we send scouts ahead to disable the cameras so Celnet can’t track our numbers or supplies.”

Akija gave a nod of understanding and the two started walking again. “So what do I call ya?” Akija asked.

“John Kagran. And you?” The man replied.

“Akija. No offence, but why are ya helpin’ me anyway?” Akija replied as she attempted to study Kagran. She hadn’t been able to get a proper look at his face, but something about the way he walked and the fact his hand hadn’t left the top of his holster since they’d entered the tunnels told her he’d been fighting for some time.

“We were actually hoping you’d help us.” Kagran said as he came to a stop in front of a large square metallic door. He gave a short series of light taps on the rusted metal and shouted “Password!” A few seconds later there was a series of clicks from the other side, and the door slid open.

Akija couldn’t help snickering slightly. “Dat’s a ridiculous password.”

Kagran merely grinned back. “That just means the Imps are less likely to guess it.” Kagran motioned for her to follow and headed inside the doorway. The room inside proved to be a large circular area with a low ceiling. Terminals, heavy metal doorways, and more of the deactivated cameras lined the room’s perimeter. At one end of the room sat a row of tables lined with food, water, weapons, ammunition, and a few computer terminals. The remainder of the room’s space was dedicated to the mass of people either sleeping on the floor or playing various games to pass the time. Most of which looked up in curiosity when the two entered. Akija paused as she attempted to take in her surroundings. Kagran, however, began moving his way through the crowd towards the array of tables.

“What exactly do ya t’ink I can help wit’?” Akija asked as she moved to follow the man.

“This isn’t our full strength, but that doesn’t mean there are a lot of us. We’re not taking the Empire down by ourselves.” Kagran said as he gestured to the group. “One of our people thinks he’s found someone who can help though.”

“And?” Akija asked hesitantly.

“And they’re outside the wall, and he’s still in the Imperial Estate.” Kagran explained as he reached one of the terminals. “We’re going to need your help reaching either.”

“What about da rest o’ my tribe?” Akija interjected.

“We don’t know where they are or how many of them are still alive. Our man in the estate will know, but we need your knowledge of the labs to be able to get him out.” Kagran explained as he pulled up a picture of a young male with blond hair tied back into a ponytail and glasses. Akija immediately recognized him as the technician that had been in the lab when she escaped. “His name’s Quan Thach. He’s the one that swapped out your last round of sedatives with adrenaline.”

Akija remained silent for a while. “You want me to go back in there?”

Kagran nodded. “Yeah. For the guy who saved your life and can help you get your people back.”

“Right. I just…” Akija shook her head and sighed. “When are ya plannin’ to do dis?”

“Tomorrow.” Kagran replied. “We’ll hit in the morning about a half hour before the guard’s shift change. That way we catch most of them half asleep or distracted.”

“How do you know when da shift change is?” Akija asked.

Kagran chuckled slightly. “I used to be military, back when I was a gullible kid that thought any of this was about anything more than the Imperial family’s power trip.” Kagran switched off the computer terminal and moved down the tables towards the firearms. “Anyway, one last thing. I don’t suppose you’ve used a gun before?”

Akija smirked slightly as she walked over to the table, subtly hooking her toe under one of the rifles on the floor. “Well obviously we tribals prefer to wave sharp sticks at t’ings and shun technology but…” Akija quickly kicked the rifle upwards into her waitng hands, grabbed a magazine from the table, loaded the rifle, and cycled the action once before slinging the weapon on her back, all in about ten seconds. “…I might have used one once or twice.”

Kagran gave a slight laugh and grinned. “Wasn’t trying to offend you ma’am. Just try to keep in mind, all our knowledge of the outside world comes from Imperial propaganda, and they don’t really say the nicest things about the folks out there.”

Akija shrugged. “Fair enough. Is dere a safe way to get up high? I’d kinda like to get a look at da city if it’s not any trouble.”

Kagran nodded and started heading towards one of the exits. “Yeah, the service tunnels open up into the elevator shafts for most of the taller towers. Long as you don’t mind climbing a hell of a long ways, you can get to the roof through there.” Kagran pushed the exit open and proceeded to lead Akija through another series of tunnels. He stopped at one of the hatches in the ceiling and climbed up it. Akija followed him up into what seemed like another metal tunnel that had merely been flipped on its back. She stared upwards trying to find the ceiling, but couldn’t seem to locate it. Kagran followed her gaze. “Like I said, it’s a long way up. Ladder’s over here.” Kagran motioned to a row of metal rungs built into a small alcove in the wall and began climbing. Akija followed and the two spent the next several minuets climbing.

The cool night air rushed to greet Akija as they finally reached the top. The two emerged from a hatch in the tower’s roof. Now that she finally had a chance to stop and look at the city, it struck her with a certain sense of awe. The pristine silver towers that covered the city’s landscape all seemed to catch the moonlight and reflect it off one another. In the streets below vehicles moved back and forth like small luminescent insects even this late at night. Akija watched it all in silence for several minuets before slowly turning back to Kagran. “Is dis what the world was like? Before every’ting burned?”

Kagran shrugged. “More or less, at least as far as I’ve been told.”

Akija’s attention was snatched away as several groups of windows on most of the towers lit up to form large glowing rectangles on most of the tower’s surfaces about halfway up their length from the street. The glow of the rectangles dimmed slightly to reveal a moving image of a man with slicked back hair sitting behind a silver desk in a blue room. After a few moments the man in the image smiled and began talking with a voice that seemingly echoed outwards from all the towers at once. “Good evening Azure City, this is Media Network One! Your source for news within our great Empire!”

Kagran scoffed a bit. “Oh good. I was just thinking about how my day was a little short on bullshit.”

Akija chuckled a bit as the reporter on the screen continued. “To start us off tonight, news drones outside the wall last night confirmed that Daniel Smith, a man recently exiled from our great Empire for rebellion, has died today. His tenacity however, has made him the new record holder at six whole days survived outside the wall!” The video shifted to a lower quality view of a man running from a pack of dogs, only to topple to the ground when one latched onto his leg. The video switched back to the reporter a few seconds after one of the dogs tore the man’s arm from its socket. “Wow. I sure am glad I’m not out there!” The reporter commented with what Akija thought might have been the most fake sense of enthusiasm she had ever heard. The view of the report shifted slightly to the right of the man as a picture of Akija’s face filled the right half of the screen. “In more serious news however, the military has learned that rebel forces have smuggled in a dangerous tribal murderer from the outer forests today. It is believed that the rebels may have outfitted this savage with advanced cybernetics. If you see this woman, you are strongly encouraged to report her location to your district’s Azure City Police barracks and flee the area. She is highly dangerous and has already caused the deaths of several innocent people.”

Kagran chuckled. “Smuggling in cyborg murderers. We get blamed for the coolest shit sometimes.”

Akija turned to Kagran. “Do people actually believe dis shit?”

“The Empire’s got a lot more loyalists than anyone wants to believe wrapped around their fingers.” Kagran admitted. He shook his head briefly at some silent though before heading back towards the service hatch. “Come on, we should all be getting some sleep before tomorrow.”

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Mon Jan 25, 2016 2:23 pm

“Everyone ready?” The rebel asked as he flipped open the safety cap on the detonator’s trigger.

“It’s a bit too late if someone isn’t. There’s no way Celnet hasn’t picked us up yet and we aren’t exactly geared for a stealth op.” Kagran said as he cycled the action on his assault rifle. He was quite a different picture from when Akija had met him the previous day. He wore the same long brown jacket, but there was now a bullet resistant vest and a bandoleer of spare magazines partially hidden beneath it. His messy brown hair and beard were uncovered, and Akija could see a grim determination in his pale blue eyes. The other rebel nodded once and triggered the detonator. There was a loud bang and a burst of smoke from the laboratory exit’s hinges as the door itself was blasted inwards. “Let’s move!” Kagran shouted as he raised his rifle and led the five man team inside.

Akija quickly followed the rebels inside with her rifle raised. Her heart rate began to rise as she stepped inside. She began breathing quicker as the world seemed to slow and the walls began to feel as if they were pressing in around her. In the next room, a trio of thin blue visors embedded in dark black air filtration helmets turned towards her. The three soldier’s black trench coats spun about their silver and blue armored forms as they raised rifles in carefully disciplined unison. Akija felt paralyzed as she watched the barrel of one rifle line up perfectly with her eyes. Gunfire erupted around her as the rebels fired first. The world seemed to suddenly snap back into normality as the three soldiers twitched and fell to the floor in a spray of blood.

Kagran lowered his rifle and turned to Akija. “You alright?”

Akija fought to control her breathing. “I don’t know, I just froze up…”

“Are you going to be able to do this?” Kagran asked with more concern than Akija had been expecting from the hardened rebel.

Akija tried to force herself to focus on the task at hand as she nodded in reply. “I’m fine. Let’s just get moving.” Akija mumbled as she pushed ahead of the rebels and began leading them through the facility. Some of the rebels picked up the extra weapons and ammo from the fallen soldiers as they passed. Akija struggled to retrace her route as she led the rebels through the winding hallways of the laboratory. She came to a halt at a four way intersection.

“Why are we stopping?” Kagran asked.

Akija’s eyes frantically darted down the various hallways. “I don’t remember which way it was.” She replied.

Before Kagran could respond a series of bullets peppered the area. The group quickly dashed down the hall to their right, opening a door and taking cover in one of the offices. Two of the rebels took up firing positions at the door and began suppressing the advancing soldiers. Kagran pulled out a then glass tablet and tapped on it a few times before holding it up to his mouth. “Quan, we’re pinned down in…” He quickly checked the writing on the walls outside the door. “Sub-lab two. What’s the fastest way to your location?” There was a frantic burst of chatter from the other end of the line and Kagran nodded. “Alright, on our way.”

“What’s da plan for t’ose soldiers?” Akija asked.

Kagran chuckled as he plucked a small metal cylinder from his bandoleer. “Well, I was kind of hoping to not have to use explosives in here but since every soldier and their dog is apparently circling in on us...” Kagran began walking towards the doorway. The two rebels at the door ducked back inside and began reloading as Kagran tossed the cylinder down the hallway. A few seconds later there was an explosion form down the hall. Kagran turned and waved for everyone to follow. “Alright, let’s get our hacker out before they recover!”

Akija followed the rebels as they moved back into the hallway. The hall’s pristine white walls were now darkened at the far end by blood and scorch marks. One of the soldiers who’d managed to take cover reached for a gun, but Akija quickly put a bullet through his visor. The group followed Kagran through the halls at a sprint. The rebel leader occasionally glanced down at the glass device to check his route, but otherwise said nothing as they ran. Akija glanced around the seemingly abandoned corridors and rooms they passed as they ran. “Shouldn’t we ‘ave run into more guards by now?”

Kagran shook his head. “At this point they’re probably sealing off the exits. At most there will probably be a team outside Quan’s offi-“ His sentence was cut off as they rounded the last corner to find a full five man squad of soldiers waiting outside their destination. The soldiers immediately opened fire on the rebels, forcing them back into cover. “I really hate being right sometimes.”

Akija briefly glanced around the corner. One of the soldiers was occupied attempting to cut through the door with a blow torch. The other four were positioned behind overturned furniture facing the hallway they had come down. There was another office entrance between the rebels and soldiers, and a small pile of knocked over cabinets across the hall from it. Akija turned back toward the rebels. “If I do somet’in’ stupid can you cover me?”

Kagran looked over towards Akija. “How stupid are we talking?”

“Just cover me when I shout!” Akija shouted as she made a dash for the office. The rebels fired as she ran, causing the soldiers to briefly duck behind cover. Akija took a few shots at the soldiers as she ran, ducking into the office as the rebels stopped firing to reload. Akija leaned against the doorway so that she could see the rebels. “Ya ready?”

“We’re all set down here.” Kagran replied as he cycled the action on his rifle.

“Fire!” Akija shouted. She waited a few seconds until the soldiers took cover, then dashed for the cabinets down the hall. She quickly skipped up the pile, and kicked off the wall to vault herself behind one of the large laboratory tables to the right of the soldier’s position. She let herself fall into a controlled collapse as she landed, skidding on her side across the floor as she released a hail of bullets towards the soldier with the cutting torch. The man began to flail as the bullets peppered his armor and the gas canister on his back. The canister began hissing as several of the bullets punctured holes in the metal cylinder. Everyone present stopped to look at the canister, then the soldiers slowly turned to look at Akija. “Um… I was really expectin’ dat to explode.” Akija scrambled for cover as the soldiers began shooting again.

A faint buzzing noise caught Akija’s attention between the bursts of gunfire. She looked down the hallway to see a small robotic drone rolling towards the area on small treads. It buzzed right up to the dead soldier and extended a small arm, which it then used to pick up the still lit cutting torch. The small robot then rolled around to the back of the soldier and slowly stuck the flame in front of one of the hissing holes in the gas tank. The tank ignited in a nova of flame that spread outwards across the room. Akija curled up to make herself as small as possible behind her cover as the flames rolled past. The four soldiers began screaming as the flames bit into their clothes. As the soldiers flailed the rebels advanced and quickly put the guards out of their misery with precise rifle shots. The door to the office gave a broken chime and the door opened, revealing the rebel’s contact on the other side. “I’m surprised that actually worked!” Quan shouted as he trotted over to Akija. “Are you alright?”

Akija gave a nod and began to stand as Kagran ran up to the group chuckling. “Nice work.” The rebels quickly began salvaging weapons and ammo from the soldiers as Kagran tossed one of the fallen guns to Quan.

The scientist barely managed to catch the weapon and stared in confusion at the metal death tube in his hands. “Would this be a bad time to mention I haven’t used a gun before?”

Kagran couldn’t help laughing.  “A bit, yeah! Whatever, just stay close and don’t get yourself shot. How’re you holding up, Kija?” Kagran asked somewhat abruptly.

“A bit crispy but I’ll live.” Akija replied as she began reloading her rifle.

“Fair enough. Let’s get moving.” Kagran took off back down the hallway and the rest of the group hurried to follow him.

“Wait!” Quan shouted. “They’ve set up a full military barricade at the entrance you used. We need to get out one of the other emergency exits.”

Kagran swore under his breath and turned back towards Quan. “Is there another one nearby?”

Quan nodded as he ran across the room to one of the fire alarms and activated it. “Follow me!” He shouted as the floor lit up with a series of red arrows indicating the routs to various exits. The group ran after the scientist as he darted down one of the highlighted paths. He skidded to a stop in front of the large door that would serve as their escape. “They’re probably still going to have troops outside.”

Kagran moved to the front of the group and turned to face the others. “Alright, when we get out there I want you to take as many down in the initial surprise as you can, then scatter. Everyone will need to run a different direction so no one has to deal with the full force of the pursuit. We’ll all meet up at junction twelve when this is over.” Kagran turned back to the doorway and kicked it open. Outside was a ring of military police motorcycles each with a military officer clutching a silver pistol behind them. The rebels charged outside quickly, taking shots at any exposed points in the soldier’s cover they could find. Akija felt warmth on her face as crimson filled her vision. The rebel next to her fell to the floor with two large holes in his chest and neck. “Disperse!” Kagran shouted.

Akija followed the rebel leader as he grabbed Quan by the caller of his lab coat and yanked him towards the nearest alley. She turned to give the other two covering fire as they descended the hatch into the service tunnels. Once she saw the pursuing soldiers begin to advance she turned and followed the other two down. Kagran quickly locked the hatch behind her as Quan leaned against the wall and attempted to regain control of his breathing. “Well…” The hacker said. “That was an adventure.”

Kagran shook his head as he walked past the other two. “Adventure’s just starting, kid.”

***

Akija glanced around the dozen or so faces gathered around the small table. What she assumed was the leadership for the resistance had been gathered in the relative privacy of a secondary hub room in the service tunnels. Of the attendants that had arrived so far, she only recognized Kagran and Quan. Quan stood at the end of the long table manipulating a holographic map projected by a small portable device on the table in front of him. The hacker brought the map into an overhead view if the Imperial City as well as several miles of the surrounding area. Quan looked up from the display and quickly scanned the room. “So, uh… are we ready to go then?” he asked with a hint of nervousness in his tone.

Kagran conducted a quick check of the room’s attendants and gave Quan a nod. “Looks like we’re ready enough whenever you are, Mister Thach.”

Quan nodded in reply stood up straight. “Oookay.  So my little adventure yielded a few more interesting results than we expected, the most obvious being our new associate here.” He began, gesturing to Akija. “However I was also able to dig through a merry amount of Imperial databases and located several groups outside the wall who could be of assistance to us.”

One of the rebels in attendance interrupted. “Outside the wall? And how would that be at all helpful?”

Kagran responded before Quan had the chance to. “Well I had myself a little idea, so I had Quan look into its plausibility while he was in there.” He then gestured to Akija. “Our new friend here is an experienced fighter who grew up outside the wall, she knows the land and has the skills to last out there.” Kagran turned to look at Akija directly. “It was my hope that you would be willing to lead a team outside the wall to recruit potential allies for a unified push on the Imperial palace.” The room erupted into a mixture of voices conveying various levels of speculation and surprise. “Oh, quite down and let me finish!” Kagran shouted above the chatter. “As it stands we don’t have the numbers to win this fight, and we aren’t going to have the numbers anytime soon. If the away team can gather a large enough army, our cells inside can perform a simultaneous hit on multiple gates and blow open enough holes for the invasion force to pour in, putting the fight in our favor faster than any propaganda campaign, and it’s the last thing the dear old Emperor’s going to be expecting out of us.”

Another of the rebels raised their hand as an annoyed expression overtook their face. “And how exactly are you proposing we get people outside the wall in the first place?”

This time it was Quan who spoke. “The Imperial military has scheduled an expansion of the wall in three days. During that time the majority of the perimeter guard will be relocated to the temporary openings in the wall itself. During that time our team can incapacitate the reduced guard detail at one of the gates and slip out before the alarms are raised.”

The leader from before spoke up again. “That’s suicide. Celnet would be all over their asses the moment they popped out of the tunnels with any kind of firearm tough enough to puncture a recon soldier’s armor.”

Kagran sighed. “Maybe, but unless you have a better plan, the only other option is to continue sitting on our asses and wish our way to victory.”

Akija slowly raised her hand. “Um, question.” The others turned to look at her expectantly. “How, exactly, do dey expand da wall?”

Quan tapped a few controls on the projector and the image of the map distorted and reformed into the image of a large vertical rectangle with a railed walkway along the top. At the press of a button on the console, six legs folded out from the bottom of the rectangle.  “The wall itself is made of several massive interlocking machines capable of marching to pre-programmed coordinates. It takes roughly six months for the Empire to produce enough of them to expand the wall outwards.”

“And where do dey produce dese segments?” Akija asked as an idea began to form.

Quan raised a brow in curiosity as he visibly attempted to follow the thought pattern. “Massive factories near the center of the city. Once completed the segments march themselves out to their new location, accompanied by a vehicle escort.”

Akija smirked a bit. “So, what if someone were to climb to da roof of one of da taller spires, and jump on top of a wall segment while it was walkin’?”

A wide grin began to creep across Kagran’s face. “They’d have a free ride to the outside above the cameras.”

A resistance leader laughed towards the back of the table. “This nutjob idea of yours just might have a chance.”

Kagran laughed. “You say that like anything we do has a guaranteed outcome.” He then turned to Akija again. “This plan means we’ll need to have a smaller team. How many people will you need out there?”

“How many people ya got dat have been outside da wall?” Akija replied.

Kagran shrugged. “None. That’s why we need your help.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “Den I’ll go alone. Dere isn’t gonna be time to teach a half dozen kids how to survive in da wild. I’ll recruit da rest o’ my team as I move.”

Kagran shook his head and raised a finger. “You’re taking atleast one. I want Quan going with you.”

The hacker, as well as several other rebels, all replied with a unified “What?” to varying degrees of surprise.

Kagran gestured to Quan “You’ve got the maps and the tech skills…” he gestured to Akija. “She’s got the survival knowledge and combat training.” Kagran leaned back in the chair and crossed his arms. “And besides, we’re not going to be able to hide you from Celnet forever. Pulling you out of that lab generated way more attention than we expected.”

Akija sighed. “Fine.”

“Fine?” Quan replied franticly. “Weren’t you the one that didn’t want to deal with people who didn’t know how to survive?”

“Quan…” Kagran began in a voice that reminded Akija of an annoyed parent. “It’s for your own safety as much as ours. But if you really want to stay here, you’ll need to hand her your tablet so she has the maps.”

The hacker looked down at his computer, then looked over to the tribal woman. Akija held her hand out for the computer. Quan sighed and mumbled something that was probably swearing in a language no one else seemed to know. He looked back up at the group. “Fine. I’ll go.”

Kagran nodded with a satisfied smirk. “Good. You two have three days to prepare, then we’re going to go rodeo ourselves a giant robot wall.”

***

“Have I mentioned before that I don’t like this plan!?” Quan commented as they watched the massive silver wall segment lumber towards them.

Kagran laughed. “Only four or five times in the last hour.”

Akija stood on the ledge of the tower in awe as she watched the massive robot’s legs rise and fall on the street, causing minor tremors with each step that the group could feel vibrating the tower beneath them. The wall segment was larger than anything she had seen before, and was flanked on all sides by the same vehicles she and Vizo had seen before their village was attacked. From their high vantage point, the vehicles looked like small ants carefully buzzing around the base of the marching structure. She turned back to the other two. “Ya sure we’re at da right height for dis?”

Quan hesitantly nodded. “I couldn’t sleep last night because I kept rechecking the math. I’m pretty sure the jump won’t injure us… you know, unless we miss.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “Dat’s real reassuring.”

“You’ll be fine.” Kagran interrupted.

Quan threw up his arms. “Says the one not jumping a four to five foot gap with a several thousand foot drop!”

“We’ll be fine.” Akija commented as the segment began to get close to their tower. “Get ready. It’s about here.”

Akija began lining herself up for the jump as Quan walked over to the edge to look down at the massive robot that would soon be only a few feet from the tower’s ledge. “Hey, can we maybe talk about this a bit more. Maybe we can find a plank, or a flat chunk of metal or somethi-“ His speech was interrupted as Akija tackled him off the roof of the tower. The hacker flailed and screamed as the two flew before landing hard on the flat metal of the wall’s top. Quan immediately stood up. “Why would you do that?”

Akija shrugged as she stood up. “I t’ought ya weren’t going to jump.”

Kagran ran to the tower’s edge and waved to the two. “Good luck! Stay in frequent contact!”

“Right…” Quan mumbled. “It’ll be an adventure! So much fun. We’re gonna die.”

Akija sat down towards the front of the wall and watched as they marched through the city. “Calm down captain pessimism. I’ll make sure no big bad critters eat you in your sleep.”

“Yeah, and what do we do when you’re sleeping?” Quan asked.

Akija shrugged. “You got a gun, right?”

“Um…” Quan partially responded.

“…Right?” Akija asked. The hacker continued to not respond and Akija swore in her native language. “Well… dis will be an adventure, indeed.” She crossed her arms in frustration as she continued starring ahead. In the distance she could see the other segments of the wall rise and step forward the exact amount needed to let the new segment into the formation, knocking over trees and pre-war buildings as they did so. As their improvised mount closed in on its new spot in the wall, Akija saw a familiar structure in the opening. Akija’s eyes widened as she looked down on the concrete parking structure that used to be her home.

“What’s wrong?” Quan asked.

Akija pointed to the seemingly small building. “Dat used to be my tribe’s home. Da wall’s going to trample it in a minuet…”

Quan sighed. “That’s probably why they took your tribe. In a sick sort of way they saved your lives. Granted they saved them from the Empire’s own devices but still…”

Akija glared over the edge of the wall as she watched its front legs dig into her home. “How fuckin’ nice of dem…” She stood up as the wall began to lower itself onto it’s new resting place. “Let’s go. We got friends to make.”

Quan leaned over the edge of the railing. “How exactly are we getting down, again?”

Akija rolled her eyes as she took a roll of rope from her pack with a metal hook at one end. “One of us is at least prepared for dis shit.”


Last edited by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:32 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Wed Mar 16, 2016 1:04 pm

Quan tapped a few buttons on the touch screen of the thin tablet, a few seconds later Kagran’s face appeared on the screen. “You two made it out alright then?”

Akija looked down at the small screen. “We managed.”

Kagran nodded. “Good. Stay in contact and try to report in as often as it’s safe to.”

Quan nodded back. “Will do, Kag. Try not to burn down the city without us.”

Kagran chuckled a bit. “Where’s the fun in that?” The screen returned to normal as the call was ended.

Akija turned to Quan. “So where we off to first?”

The hacker tapped on the screen several more times, brigning up a large regional map. Several areas on the map were shaded over in varying degrees of red. Quan pointed to the red regions. “These are settlements the Empire has flagged as socially incompatible for citizenship.”

Akija raised a brow. “Socialy incompatable?”

Quan nodded. “Too independent, too violent, or people who enjoy the wasteland too much.” He slid the map off the screen with the swipe of a finger to reveal the report’s associated document beneath. “There’s also mention of something called ‘The Redbolt’ but most of the information on it was deleted by the Empress herself. We’ve also got a few pre-war sites that seemed to hold high value to the Empire.”

“Sounds like a party.” Akija commented. “Where we gettin’ started?”

Quan brought the map back into the screen and began adjusting it to better show their position. “There’s a small town to the northeast of our position. It’s not one flagged for us to try recruiting, but I figured we could buy some supplies and-“

“Ya got money for dat?” Akija interrupted.

Quan shrugged. “Well I’ve got a few Imperial Dollars.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “We’re burning t’ose as soon as we got a chance.”

“What? Why?” Quan asked.

“You’ll get ya ass shot off carrying around old world t’ings out here, I don’t even want to know da grief we’ll get carrying too much Imperial shit around.” Akija explained. “We’ll do some huntin’ on da way to town and trade da pelts.” Akija turned and began walking into the jungle.

Quan’s eyes widened. “Wait, We’re going looking for the wild predatory animals?”

Akija yelled over her shoulder. “Yes Quan! Dat’s kinda how hunting works. Unless ya wanna adobt a vegetarian lifestyle out ‘ere.”

***

Anthony traced the footprint on the ground with his finger as he glanced over the tracks. A grin began to spread across the bald man’s features. “One barefoot, one with civilian shoes. Looks like Celnet’s put us on the right trail, kiddies.” Anthony said as he stood and turned back to the rest of the reconnaissance squad.

The other five members stood with the hoods of their jungle camouflage longcoats lowered as they surveyed the area. One of the unit’s members, a man with blond hair and a three taloned scar down his face from a close call with a dog a few years back, rose his voice to speak. “Orders sergeant Grax?”

Anthony Grax turned to the man who spoke, but looked between the faces of everyone in his squad as he replied. “We track by night in teams of two. I want minimal radio contact. If you get a visual on the targets you radio your position, their position, then tail them until the rest of the team arrives. The hacker shouldn’t be a threat, but the tribal is reportedly an experienced fighter with stolen Imperial cybernetics. I don’t want any chances taken.” He pointed down towards the tracks next to him, then traced his hand out towards the direction the tracks went. “Now, it looks like they were headed north for-“ A single gunshot echoed through the trees, causing a flock of birds to rise from the treetops in the direction Grax was currently pointing. Anthony lowered his hand and laughed. “Well shit, kids. Looks like they’re going to make it easy on us!” He said as the other squad members gave a few slight laughs of their own. “Let’s get moving.” Grax ordered as he pulled the hood of his camouflage longcoat over his head. The other squad members pulled their own hoods up and followed Anthony into the jungle.

***

Quan vomited as Akija began skinning the elk. She rolled her eyes and turned back to look at him. “If you’re gonna do dis every time ya see blood dis is gonna be a long trip.”

Quan looked over at Akija in annoyance. “Well excuse me for not having dissected a living creature before.”

Akija rolled her eyes as she returned to her work. “Whatever, just keep an eye out for dogs. Damn t’ings can smell blood a mile off.”

Quan turned a bit paler. “They what?” He sighed. “Why did I agree to come out here?”

“’Cause dogs are cuddlier den Imperials? Besides, at least no one’s seen a bear around here in a while. And da cat attacks have gone way down dis year.” Akija commented without looking up from the carcass.

“That’s really not helping.” Quan commented. He took his eyes off the dead animal and began looking around at the jungle around them. Something shifted at the edge of his vision and he spun to look at it. His eyes scanned the dense foliage for what had caught his eye. A branch snapped to his right and he turned to find a bush shaking as if it was recently disturbed. He pointed to the area and whispered. “Akija, there’s something over there.”

Akija picked up the rifle and aimed at the area Quan indicated. She took quiet and slow steps as she advanced toward the area. She heard something scratch against the bark of a nearby tree and turned to face the tree. She took a slow breath, then jumped around the side of the tree to face the source of the sound. A squirrel hugging the tree’s side gave a startled squeak and sprinted up the tree’s surface. Akija lowered her weapon with an annoyed groan. “It’s a damn squirrel Quan.”

“Are they dangerous?” Quan asked.

Akija threw her head back in frustration and rolled her eyes. “Holy hell, Q. No. Dey are not.” She walked back to the animal carcass and laid out the animal’s pelt with the skin up, then pilled the meat she’d removed onto its center and folded the pelt over it. She picked up the pelt and began walking off. “Let’s go.”

“Wait, that’s all the food we’re taking?” Quan asked.

Akija turned around. “Ya got a way to keep it from goin’ bad for more den a day? Dis is just to keep us fed tell we hit town and can buy somet’in’ dat keeps longer. Besides, da leftover meat will keep da local critters here instead of tryin’ to munch on us.”

“Oh… I guess that makes sense.” Quan mumbled.

“Ya comin’?” Akija shouted as Quan noticed she was wandering off into the forest without him.

“Whoa, hey, wait!” Quan shouted as he began running to catch up.

***

Anthony slowly rose from his cover as he watched the hacker run off. He raised his arm up to his face and pulled back the sleeve of his longcoat to reveal the communication device on the underside of his wrist. “Targets are heading for the village to the north east. Connor and Simmons go to civilian clothes and get set up in the town. The rest of you converge on my position. We’ll follow the targets in.”


Last edited by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:33 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Wed Mar 16, 2016 1:07 pm

“Ya really not budgin’ on dis are you?” Akija asked in annoyance. The merchant behind the stall shook his head. “Fine.” She said as she picked up a pair of water bottles and a large bag from the stand and walked back to where Quan was waiting.

“So trading didn’t go well?” Quan asked.

Akija shook her head and grinned. “Nah it went great, we’re good for a week.”

Quan blinked a few times. “But… you two were arguing for ten minuets.”

“Yeah…” Akija replied. “Dat’s how trading works out here.”

Quan looked around the crowd a bit as people routinely stopped to stare at the pair. “It likely helps that you seem to scare the people around here.”

Akija shrugged. “Yeah well, my tribe kinda had a reputation as a group ya didn’t mess wit’. And well…” She pointed over her shoulder at the metallic wings bolted to her spine. “…Dere’s dat shit.” She started moving through the crowd again.

Quan turned and hurried to follow. “Have you tried getting any independent movement out of the cybernetics? I mean I doubt you’ll be flying anytime soon but you did kind of puncture the lab’s observation window like it was nothing.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “I was kinda hopped up on adrenaline at da time. Besides, da t’ings seemed like dey were just mimicking my arms anyway.”

“Maybe that’s a way to do it?” Quan commented. “I mean, I’m not really a prosthetics specialist, and I guess those aren’t technically prosthetics, but maybe if you just mess around trying to get them to do something you might actually make some progress? I mean anything’s possi-“ Quan stopped his talking as he turned the corner to exit the alley they were currently in to find himself starring into the barrel of a far too clean imperial pistol.

Akija quickly raised her weapon as a tall dark haired man stepped into the alley with a pistol pressed against Quan’s head. The Imperial grinned. “Now, now, tribal. Let’s not get trigger happy and make a mess of this… nice, town.”

Quan’s wide eyes darted between Akija and the Imperial. “He’s stalling for his backup.”

The Imperial pressed the gun against Quan’s temple with slightly more pressure. “You know it’s really rude to tell people someone’s cards when you’re already out of the game.”

Akija adjusted her aim in an attempt to find a place to fire that wouldn’t permanently injure Quan. “Only person about to be outa da game is you, asshole. Put da kid down and I might only cripple y-“ Her words were cut off as the Imperial shouted in pain. The pistol fell from his hand as he toppled to the floor and began twitching violently. Both Akija and Quan starred down at the man in sheer confusion for several moments before he finaly stopped moving.

Quan looked over at Akija. “What the hell was that?”

Akija carefully rolled the man over to find a crudely constructed syringe planted in the man’s back. “Okay… not sure what I expected.”

“KIJA!” A voice shouted from behind them.

Akija spun to find a young man with poorly dyed green hair waving from one of the rooftops above them. “Tokaro!” She shouted as she slid back into her native language and pointed towards the dead Imperial. “What was that all about?”

Tokaro gave an eccentric shrug before launching into his excessively rapid form of speech. “Saving you maybe?”

“You made him scream and flop around like a fish!” Akija shouted back.

Tokaro’s eyes widened. “I gave him a sedative! He’s going to be asleep…. Possibly several days. I may have panicked with the dosage.”

Akija looked back at the Imperial. “Well he’s sure as ‘ell not movin’ much now.”

Quan sort of cautiously raised his hand. “Um, question, who is this?”

Akija looked back and responded in the Old World language. “Tokaro. He was da tribe’s doctor.”

Quan looked back down at the paralyzed Imperial. “I think I’d rather deal with the illness.”

Akija looked back up at Tokaro and returned to her native language. “Do you know if any others made it out?” Tokaro shook his head quickly. “Alright, well get down here! We’re gathering people to help us get the Tribe back from the Empire. We could use your help.”

Tokaro dropped into a cross-legged position on his corner of the roof and leaned down towards the two with a raised brow. “My help? I’m not a warrior though.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “Where we’re going, people are going to get injured. A doctor would be a big help.”

Tokaro grinned. “And you’d let me be the group’s doctor?”

Akija nodded. “You’re kind of the only one here with medical trai-“

“Then Doctor Tokaro shall aid you in your quest!” Tokaro shouted as he climbed down from the rooftop.

Akija rolled her eyes. “It’s not a quest Toka-“

“It is now a quest!” Tokaro interrupted again.

Quan leaned over to Akija. “Translation please?”

Akija looked at Quan and responded in the Old World Language. “He’s agreed to ‘elp us wit’ any medical problems dat come up.”

Quan raised a brow as he glanced at the paralyzed Imperial again. “And he finished medical school, right?”

Akija shrugged. “He was still bein’ trained by our tribe’s old doctor when da Blues hit.”

Quan mumbled mostly to himself. “That’s not exactly medical school.”

Akija began wandering off down the alley and waved for the two to follow. “Let’s go. Someone’s probably missing dis fellow and we don’ wanna be here when dey show up.”

***

Connor raised his arm and pulled back his sleeve to talk into the communication device underneath as he watched the targets leave the ambush site. “Simmons was downed by a third individual before I could get to them. He may still be alive. It looks like the new target used some kind of paralytic. Tall Hispanic male with green hair. Doesn’t appear to speak English. Likely another tribal. He’s leaving with the targets now. How copy?”

Grax’s annoyed voice emitted from the device. “Understood. Follow them from a safe distance. We’ll pick up the pace to catch up to you. Do not move on them without backup.”

“Understood Seargent. Maintaining radio silence with a bi-hourly check in until I have visual contact with the unit.” Connor replied before setting his backpack down and retrieving his camouflage longcoat. He quickly threw the coat over his form and began heading into the forest after his targets.

***

Akija paused as she heard a low rumbling seemingly roll over the treetops above them. She turned back to the other two and held up her hand. “Wait here.” She ran towards the nearest tree and quickly darted upwards between its branches until she could bring her head above the tree’s canopy. Wind rolled toward her in visible waves across the leaves. The clouds above her were a light grey, with far darker clouds visible in the direction the wind was coming from. Akija swore under her breath in her native language and dropped back below the leaves to climb back to the ground. She landed a short distance from Quan and Tokaro. “We’ve got a storm comin’ our way. We should find shelter.”

“How long do we have?” Quan asked.

Akija shrugged. “Probobly a few minuets.”

Quan raised a brow. “A few minuets? It’s not even that windy right now.”

Akija just rolled her eyes and turned to Tokaro, switching back to her native language. “Storm’s on its way. We’ve got maybe ten minuets. Know any shelter in the area?”

Tokaro nodded. “There’s a cave to the east. I’ve been making medicine there!”

Akija nodded. “Lead on then.” She then turned to Quan and switched languages again. “Doc’s got a cave not far off. We’ll probably make it there before the storm hits.

Quan shrugged as he began following the other two. “I still don’t see how clouds are going to move all that fast.” A few minuets later the group was running at a full sprint through the darkness of the heavy cloud cover as rain hammered against their skin. “Have I ever mentioned I really hate when you’re right about things?” Akija merely laughed in response as she dashed across the rocky terrain.

Tokaro pointed to an opening in the nearby hills. “There it is!”

The group quickly ducked inside the cave and sat down to catch their breath. “Well…” Akija said. “Dat was a fun jog.”

Quan gave a sarcastic laugh between panting. “Oh, yeah, so much fun. Can we get a fire going or something? I’m freezing.”

Akija stood back up. “Yeah, I’ll get it.”

***

Connor quietly ducked into the ruin of an old roadside motel and quickly shed his longcoat. He hung the coat on one of the remaining rungs by the entrance and pulled his sidearm. After a quick scan of the dining area he quietly proceeded toward the stairwell. He cautiously opened the door to the second floor. There were only four rooms to check, and none of them held any occupants, human or otherwise. Satisfied the building was secure, he holstered his pistol and set his backpack down in one of the rooms with an east facing window. He withdrew a pair of binoculars and peered out the window. A grin crossed the man’s face as an orange glow illuminated the interior of a cave in the nearby hills. He pulled back his sleeve and talked into the communicator. “Connor reporting in. I’ve set up in a pre-war structure to wait out the storm. The targets are currently about one mile east of my position in a cave in the hillside. I’ve got visual contact with the entrance and will radio in if I see anything or have to move out. How copy?”

Grax’s voice echoed in the small room. “Understood Connor. The rest of the unit is still a few miles behind you. We had to ship Simmons back to the city for treatment. We’ll push through the storm as long as we can safely do so, but don’t expect us there anytime soon. Maintain a safe follow.”

“Will do, sir.” Connor replied before dropping his sleeve back down and checking on the cave through his binoculars once more.

***

Quan shivered by the campfire as Akija calmly looked over the pistol she’d taken from the paralyzed Imperial. Tokaro sat a bit away from the group with a smaller fire of his own. He had a small tripod over the top of it holding a smaller kettle which the doctor occasionally dropped various plants into. The doctor leaned over the kettle and waved the smoke rising from its interior toward his face. “Hmm… Yes, yes.” The doctor mumbled. He suddenly recoiled back from the pot. “NO!” Tokaro shouted. Then leaned forward again slightly hesitantly with a confused look on his face. “Maybe…”

The other two starred blankly at Tokaro. “Is he okay?” Quan asked slowly.

“Ya know, I’m not really sure.” Akija responded before looking down at the pistol. She looked up at Quan and pointed to the firearm. “Ya ever used one of dese?”

Quan shook his head. “No. Why?”

Akija stood and loaded the clip back into the pistol. “Get up, you’re learning.”

Quan hesitantly stood. “Um… What?”

Akija pointed over her shoulder. “Ya want me to give Tokaro da gun?”

Quan looked over her shoulder at the doctor, who was now flailing his arms at some unknown foe and making buzzing noises. Quan sighed. “Alright, fine.” He said as he took the pistol from Akija.

Akija took the empty bag from their previous shopping trip and set it up just inside the mouth of the cave entrance. She walked back next to Quan. “Alright, don’t fire yet. Just try to aim at it.” Quan immediately held up the pistol at arm’s length with one hand. “Okay, captain action hero. You gonna fix your hair wit ya free hand, or ya gonna actually hold da gun stable?” Akija asked with a smirk. Quan grumbled something to himself as his second hand moved to hold the pistol more stable. “Better. Ya know how da sights work?”

Quan rolled his eyes. “You line the post up between the brackets. It’s not that complex of a device.”

Akija chuckled. “Den take a shot.” The gun gave a slight click as Quan flinched and yanked the gun upwards. Akija tried her best not to laugh. “Alright, now dis time let’s try it with a bullet in da chamber, and try not to be so scared of da t’ing. Your arms are gonna control where da gun goes when it fires. Hold them steady and da gun will stay steady. Now pull da slide on da top back to put da first bullet in da berral.” Quan nodded a bit and pulled the pistol’s slide. He raised the gun again and fired, causing the pistol to emit a sharp bark that echoed through the confined space.

Quan clutch his ears and shouted. “Ow!”

Akija chuckled a bit. “Yeah, it’s gonna be loud. You get used to it.”

“Get used to it?” Quan asked with a raised brow. “My ears are ringing. I’m pretty sire getting used to that is called hearing loss.”

“Well hopefully you won’t have to use that gun much.” Akija replied. “But hey…” She pointed to the bag that now sat outside the cave with a hole in it. “Ya hit da t’ing on ya first try. Not a lot o’ folks get dat lucky.”

“Lucky?” Quan asked.

“Lucky.” Akija replied with a smirk. “We’ll work on it some more later. Press da little button next to da trigger to turn da safety on.” Akija said as she tossed the pistol’s holster to Quan.

“Alright…” Quan replied as he fiddled with the safety. He flinched a bit as the holster hit his shoulder. “Maybe we can work on establishing eye contact when we throw things too?”

Akija laughed. “Where’s da fun in dat?”

Quan rolled his eyes. “Anyway…” He gestured to the pistol. “Um… thanks, Kija.”

Akija nodded. “No problem. Now get some sleep. We want to be moving as soon as da storm clears.”

Emperor Than looked down on the map the officer had loaded onto the screen of the table before him. The officer pointed to one of the hilly regions near an old highway. “This is where Grax’s team has the targets pinned at the moment. They appear to be heading for this settlement.” The officer panned the screen over to one of the red zones. A town sat at the zone’s center. “Among other things, the hacker that escaped lifted our most recent list of communities denied for citizenship. It’s our belief the targets may be trying to recruit these communities for their rebellion.”

The Emperor nodded slowly. “Send unit twelve to the town. Give them heavy equipment and vehicles.”

The officer looked up at the Emperor hesitantly. “Sir?”

A grin crept across the Emperor’s face. “They’re going to be forced out or crushed the next time the wall advanced anyway. We might as well make an example of them for our little friends. And if they happen to catch these rebels in the process, we’ll have ended the rebellion’s little plot for aid on the same blow.”

The officer gave a brief nod. “As you say, sir.” He gave a brief salute and left the room.

The Emperor ran his hand across the map, zooming the image out to a world view and panning it towards the east. “We’ve gained too many spectators, and I won’t let them see weakness.”

***

“Come on, we’re moving.” Akija said as she nudged Quan with a foot.

Quan groaned. “We’ve bearly slept.”

“I said we move when da storm broke. Da Storm broke.” Akija replied. She looked over her shoulder towards the other member of their group. “Tokaro!” The doctor flailed and sat upright. Akija spun her finger in a series of circles, a common gesture among her tribe that indicated the group was moving. Tokaro nodded and began packing up his various items. “See, Tokaro gets it.”

“Tokaro’s nuts.” Quan responded as he slowly crawled to a sitting position and began stuffing his belongings into his pack.

Akija chuckled a bit and wandered toward the mouth of the cave. Outside rays of sunlight were piercing the clouds, causing areas of the forest to glitter where the light hit the freshly fallen rain. With the storm cleared she could take a better stock of their surroundings. She could see their destination, a collection of rough structures poking through the canopy, not far from their location. She could just make out the traces of a pre-war road through the trees that appeared to head to the town they were seeking. A single pre-war structure that looked almost like an oversized house sat on the road in clear view of the cave. Akija titled her head a bit, examining the house. Something glistened in the building’s second floor window. After a few seconds the object emitted a short flash. Less than a second later a bullet ricocheted off the rock merely an inch away from her head as the bark of a distant rifle finally reached her ears. “Get down!” She shouted as she dashed back inside the cave.


Connor swore as the shot missed. He quickly pulled up his communicator. “Can’t confirm the shot connected but they’re pinned down inside the cave. Maintaining suppressing fire until you get here.

Grax’s voice responded quickly. “Understood. We’re not too far out now, but try not to blow all your ammo too quickly. And by all means, feel free to actually kill one of them if you get a shot.”

“Will do.” Connor responded. He steadied his rifle and took another shot as one of the rebels poked their head out of the cave entrance.

***

Akija yanked Tokaro back by his shirt collar as another bullet impacted the rocks. “Get back in here!”

“Is it the Empire?” Quan asked.

Akija threw her arms up. “I don’t really care at da moment. Right now he’s stalling for ‘is buddies and I don’t wanna be ‘ere when dey show up, no matter who dey are.”

“What’re we going to do then?” Quan asked.

Tokaro began jabbering frantically as he dug through his own backpack. He quickly pulled out what looked like a fruit with a pair of holes carved into it. The faint traces of various leaves were visible sticking out of the top hole in the fruit. Akija stared blankly at Tokaro for a few seconds before shaking her head. “I don’t even know what you said dere.”

Tokaro spoke a bit slower in their native language. “Smoke screen. Run through when he can’t see.” He said while excitedly gesturing between the fruit and the cave entrance.

Akija shrugged and nodded. “Well unless anyone else has a better idea…”

Quan raised a brow. “Better idea than what?”

Akija turned back to Quan. “He’s gonna make a smoke cover for us to run through.”

Before anyone else could contribute to the conversation, Tokaro lit a match and began burning the contents of either hole in the fruit, then rolled the fruit towards the entrance. The cave entrance began to quickly fill with thick grey smoke. Tokaro breathed in deeply and laughed as the other two began coughing. Quan pulled the collar of his shirt up over his nose. “What the hell is he even burning?”

Akija shook her head. “Don’t ask questions ya probably don’t want to know da answers to. Let’s go while we got da chance. Run for da forest edge!”

***

Connor swore again as his view of the cave became obscured. He periodically took blind shots into the smoke. When the smoke did finally clear, there was no further movement within the cave. Connor sighed and reloaded his rifle. “They covered their escape with a smoke grenade of some kind. I’ve lost visual contact.”

Grax’s voice was less than pleased. “Damn it. Hold position until we regroup with you. It’s unit twelve’s problem now.”

Connor raised a brow. “How so, sir?”

Grax chuckled slightly. “Seems the Emperor’s not taking any chances with this bunch. That or command really doesn’t like them.”

Connor grinned slightly. “Fair enough. Holding position until you arrive.”

***

Akija held a finger over her mouth to indicate silence as they crept up to the building she’d seen the shots come from. She slowly reached up to push the door open. Akija winced a bit as the door creaked and stepped inside. The moment she was fully inside the door closed behind her and was quickly locked. She turned to face the door only to have her gun kicked away by a man in black clothing and a camouflage longcoat. A rapid banging sounded from outside the door. “Akija! What’s happening?” Quan shouted from outside.

The soldier swung at Akija’s face with a knife. She quickly leaned out of his reach and let out a quick jab at the man’s side. The soldier stumbled back slightly and took up a more defensive fighting stance. “I made a friend!” Akija shouted back. She reached for the skinning knife strapped to her leg and brought the blade up horizontally in front of her face. “Ya went to quite a bit of work to set up dis little one on one.” Akija growled as she swung the knife at the soldier’s neck.

The soldier used his free hand to knock her arm away while swinging his own knife at her face again. He chuckled as the knife bit into her cheek and left a long red line across her face. “You’re the only one that’s a threat here.”

Akija recoiled back and wiped some of the blood from her face. “Fair enough, asshole.” She made a short dash forward with the knife raised above her head. The soldier almost laughed as he began to move to block what he expected to be a crude overhead slash. Akija dropped into a low slide across the floor mid step and slashed at his leg as she skid past.

The soldier yelled in pain and dropped his own knife. He kicked at Akija, rolling her onto her back, and then stomped on the wrist of the hand holding her knife.  He raised his foot again, bringing it down on her throat. Acting almost by instinct, Akija partially closed her fist with her finger knuckles facing outwards and slammed it into the side of the man’s knee. The soldier reflexively recoiled back and Akija jumped to her feet. She balled her fist completely and jabbed at the man’s side again, but this time focusing more on repeating a familiar motion. As her fist connected with the man’s side, the tip of her right wing dug into the soldier’s shoulder.  The man shouted in pain, but his cry was cut short as Akija spun, throwing her arm outwards as she did so. The wing followed suit, sending the man flying across the room and out one of the diner’s windows.

The glass shattered loudly as the soldier slammed against the dirt outside. The soldier quickly got up to his feet, swearing profusely under his breath. Akija quickly attempted to scan the area for either of her weapons. A pair of sharp barks emitted from outside and the soldier flew to the side in a spray of crimson fluid. Akija paused as she starred at the window where the soldier had been standing. Quan leaned into view of the window. Smoke faintly rose from the barrel of the pistol in his hand. “I think I got him!”

Akija couldn’t help laughing as she recovered her weapons. She climbed out the window and crouched over the soldier’s corpse. “Nice work.”

Quan held his fist over his mouth as he looked down at the corpse, which was already beginning to attract a few insects. “I think I’m gonna be sick again.”

Akija chuckled and shook her head. She held the handle of the soldier’s knife out to Tokaro. “’Ey, souvenir.” Tokaro nodded a bit as he took the knife and Akija began checking the soldier over for anything useful.  She reached into one of the inner pockets of the longcoat and retrieved a pair of grenades. “Well, it’s a party now.” She said as she dropped each of the grenades into a different pockets. “Check da house for any ot’er goodies.” Akija commented over her shoulder. She pulled the longcoat off the soldier’s corpse and paused as she looked down at the device strapped to the soldier’s wrist. A small blue light blinked between a button and a speaker on the device. She cautiously reached down and pressed the button.

A voice immediately sounded over the device. “Connor, what’s your status?”

Akija grinned a bit. “Connor’s a bit dead at da moment. Can I take a message?”

“So you’re the tribal taking out my boys.” The officer responded.

Akija chuckled. “Well to be fair, my friends got the last hits on both of da Imps we downed. So I can’t really take all da credit.”

“Laugh it up, Tribal.” The voice growled. “From what I can tell, you’ve pissed in some important people’s pools. You won’t be able to outrun the Empire for long.” The line cut out after that.

“Well…” Quan said from behind her. “He seems like a charming individual.”

Akija laughed. “I just have a knack for making friends wherever I go.”

Quan rolled his eyes and held up the soldier’s scoped rifle. “What do you want done with this?”

Akija shrugged. “Keep it. Ya might just end up bein’ good wit’ it.”

Quan shrugged back and slung the rifle over his shoulder. “I guess.”

Akija nodded as Tokaro came back outside with his backpack looking a bit bulkier than before. “Alright, let’s get moving before anyone else decides to try to take a piece outa us.”


Last edited by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:35 pm; edited 1 time in total

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Wed Mar 16, 2016 1:18 pm

The door to the main room of the royal family’s estate gave a slight chime, but did not open immediately. A guard, resplendent in silver power armor with a glowing blue visor and red sash across his chest, activated a small display next to the doorway. The display flickered a few times before bursting into a view of the opposite side of the door. The guard wordlessly identified the visitor’s identity as well as the contents of the tray she carried via a quick scan from the camera’s Celnet uplink. Emperor Than leaned on the railing of the second floor as he watched the guard work. “I assume that would be Miss Lazuran?” He asked. The guard merely turned to face the emperor and gave a silent nod. Than turned his head towards the direction of one of the estate’s many rooms. “Celine, it’s time for this year’s injection.” He called towards the open doorway.

The Empress emerged from the room a few moments later and the two proceeded down the short spiral staircase to the living room’s main floor. The two calmly sat down on a couch at the room’s center as the guard let Lazuran in. Melantha made her way to the center of the room and laid down a tray containing a pair of syringes in front of the two Imperial leaders. The Scientist had a faint smile on her face as she pulled on a pair of gloves and her two subjects began rolling up their left sleeves. “Is there a reason your son isn’t receiving the serum yet?”

Celine was quick to respond as her face began to show traces of a glare. “When our son possesses actual maturity he can make that decision for himself, and I’d like to be certain there are no side effects before then as well.”

Lazuran raised a brow as she lifted the first syringe from the tray. “Side effects? It’s been sixty years. I should think we would have seen any potential side effects by now.” She commented as she dug the syringe into Cole’s arm and injected the fluid inside.

The Emperor pulled his sleeve back down as he watched Lazuran repeat the injection process on Celine with the second syringe. “And yet you can’t seem to make a stable single use variant of the compound.” He commented.

Lazuran rolled her eyes slightly as she set the second syringe back on the tray. “As I’ve said before, both the human body and this compound are highly delicate things. The slightest deviation in either could be the solution I’ve been searching for, or it could make your white blood cells dissolve your eyes from the inside out.”

“And that Ms. Lazuran…” Celine interrupted. “…Is why we are not forcing this serum on our son.”

***

Akija looked between the large metal gate and Quan several times. “Ya sure dese folks are the helpful kind?”

Quan brought up his tablet and read through the stolen report again. “It says the town used to be a camp for bandits who captured slaves and forced them to work the factory. The town’s current leader came in with his wife a few years ago. Cleared out the bandits in a single night and freed all the slaves. Now it’s a haven for anyone on the run.” Quan explained.

“Sounds like our kind o’ place.” Akija mumbled as she started walking towards the gate. She banged a fist against the gate a few times and waited for a response.

A small window at about eye level opened up in the gate and a man with a dirt covered face stared out at Akija. “Good afternoon.” The man stated.

Akija ducked a bit to bring her face down level with the window. “Afternoon. What’s da process for coming inside da town? We need to talk to ya leader.”

The gate guard’s head bobbed in what Akija assumed was a shrug. “Just keep your weapons outa your hands and don’t start shit. We’ve got every kind of gun under the sun in this place and plenty of people who know how to use them if you try to mess with us.”

Akija nodded. “Fair enough.” The guard nodded in reply and closed the window. A few seconds later the gate let out a loud screeching noise as it began to slide open.

The group proceeded through and the gate began screeching again as it closed behind them. The gate guard paused a few seconds as he looked over the unusual group before pointing down the street. “Mayor’s office is a bit of a ways down main street on the left.”

Akija nodded. “Thank you.”

The gate guard gave a slight wave. “You folks enjoy your stay in Daedalus.”

Quan mumbled mostly to himself as the group started walking down the street. “Bit of an odd name for a town…”

Akija turned her head towards Quan and raised a brow. “Why’s that?”

Quan shrugged slightly. “It’s from the stories of one of the really early civilizations. Daedalus was supposedly a masterful craftsmen and engineer, but all his greatest works did more harm than good in the long run.”

“Kind of a pessimistic view to have of your town.” Akija commented.

Quan shrugged again. “Maybe he was trying to say something about humanity in general.”

Akija frowned a bit at the thought. The group continued down the street for a while before noticing a larger building on the left side. The sign had been less than masterfully repainted to read “Daedalus Administration Office.” And the building looked like it had held a similar use before the war. As the three entered the office a man behind the main desk looked up at them with vivid green eyes partialy hidden beneath his messy black hair. “Anyone ever tell you three you look like the beginning of a bad joke? A tribal, a city kid, and a cybernetic walk into a bar…”

Akija rolled her eyes. “Funny. Ya know where da mayor for dis town is?”

The short man behind the desk sighed and stood up. “That would be me. Name’s Johnathan Nukenson. Now whatever it is you need, can we talk about it on the move? ‘Cause it’s like…” Johnathan stopped to check his watch. “…Almost thirteen o’clock, I haven’t eaten anything all day, and there’s a roast venison sandwich down at Marty’s that’s just calling my name.”

Akija nodded and motioned towards the door. “Fair enough. Lead on.”

***

The radio built into the holo-table buzzed as Than watched the blue markers on the map that indicated Unit Twelve’s position close in on the red zone on the map. “Ranger Twelve-One reporting for final assault authorization.”

Than leaned forward and pressed the button for the communicator’s microphone. “This is Emperor Than. You are authorized to purge the town. Eliminate all potential threats but leave survivors and wounded. This is largely a psychological attack, so ensure there’s plenty of collateral damage. Try to keep the factory intact if you can, we might be able to use it once the city expands to this area.”

“Understood, Emperor. ETA twenty minuets to target.” The unit leader responded.

***

“No” Johnathan said between sandwich bites.

“No?” Akija replied.

“That would be what I said.” Johnathan responded.

Quan started digging out his tablet. “But you haven’t even heard us out yet!”

“Kid, are you familiar with the concept of not kicking hornet nests? ‘Cause the Empire’s a pretty damn big hornet nest.” Johnathan explained.

“Ya sure ya ‘aven’t already done a bit o’ kickin’?” Akija asked. “Because da report Q lifted off da Imp’s computers has ya town listed as a potential threat. Dat’s why we’re ‘ere.”

Johnathan paused his lunch and stared at the other three. “I’m sorry, run that by me again?”

Akija was interrupted as another woman entered the diner. She wasn’t much taller than Johnathan but equally pale with dark green eyes and dark red hair tied up in a lose ponytail. The woman sat down next to the Mayor and looked over the trio across the table from him. “Who’re your guests?”

“Bunch o’ rebels trying to recruit us to fight the Azure Empire.” Johnathan idley pointed to each of them. “The kids a hacker from inside the city, the cyborg amazon’s a tribal who got scienced upon by the Empire, and the green haired guy is…” He paused for a while and stared at Tokaro. Tokaro in turn happily replied with a flurry of words in his native language. Johnthan blinked a few times in confusion. “…Yeah I have no idea what his story is.” Johnathan leaned back and pointed between the trio and the newcomer. “Anyway, crazy rebels. This is my wife, Meridia. Also, still not helping you. We might have found something of yours though.”

Akija raised a brow. “What do you mean?”

“Giant mohawked guy with a bullet in his side and nasty bite marks on his leg limped his way into town a few days ago. We patched him up best we could and he’s been helping out around town.” Johnathan explained, then pointed at Akija. “And he looks a hell of a lot like you.”

Akija’s eyes widened. “Can we go see him?”

Meridia nodded. “I can show you where the town’s clinic is.”

Johnathan shook his head a bit. “You’re supposed to be taking it easy. I can take care of it.”

Meridia gave Johnathan a mildly annoyed look. “I’m tired of sitting still. A little walk isn’t going to hurt anything. Besides, you need to finish eating and get back to the office. I’m pretty sure I saw Mitch pacing outside the doors again.”

Johnathan sighed. “Crazy bastard probably shorted out his solar panels again. Alright, you folks have fun I guess.”

Meridia nodded and smirked. “Oooh, walking down the street. Exciting.” She stood and turned toward the trio. “Follow me.”

The group stood up and followed Meridia out of the diner. Akija glanced over Meridia for a few moments. “Ya husband seemed a bit worried. Did ya get injured?”

Meridia chuckled and shook her head. “Nope. Just pregnant. At least that’s what the doc said. You’d think after the first two kids came out alright he’d lighten up. On a loosely related note, you’ll have to forgive Johnathan. He’s made it this far in life by taking very little seriously.” Meridia held out her hand towards Quan. “May I see that report you were talking about?”

Quan nodded and handed her the tablet. “It should already have the file opened. Just hit the button on the-“

Meridia rolled her eyes as she turned the screen on and began flipping through the pages. “Thanks, but I’ve become quite familiar with pre-war tech in my lifetime.”

Quan mumbled. “That tablet’s only a few months old actually…”

Meridia mostly ignored him, her face turning to a frown as she read the section on Daedalus. “This is pretty detailed information. How long have they been watching us?”

“No real way to tell.” Quan commented.

“Wonderful…” Meridia replied. She pointed towards a white building on their right. “Here’s the clinic.”

The group went inside to be immediately greeted by a small elderly woman in a stark white outfit scolding a man who had to duck to avoid hitting his head on the room’s low ceiling. “I didn’t take that bullet out of your side so you could tear the stitches open every five minuets, you know. So you need to lay down and let the wound heal.” The nurse scolded as she waved a finger in the taller man’s face.

A wide grin spread across Akija’s face. “Sorry miss, my brot’er’s just happens to be da most stubborn little shit on da planet.”

Vizo immediately turned towards the group. “Kija!? How’d you escape da Imperials?”

Akija merely pointed over her shoulder to the wings bolted onto her spine. “It’s a really long story.”

“Vizo!” Came a shout from Tokaro as he ran past the group to hug the recovering Tribal.

The reunion was interrupted by a loud crash from the direction of the gate. Several seconds later the familiar sounds of distant gunfire began to echo through the streets. “Shit we’re too late.”

Meridia pulled a pistol from her side and clicked the slide back. “We’re not dead yet, and if you want our help you better give us a hand fighting these assholes off.” She pointed at Quan. “You. Take that rifle of yours and have the nurse show you where the roof access is. You should have a clear line of sight to the gate from the top of this building.”

Akija turned to Tokaro and began speaking their native language. “Stay here and help the other doctors however they ask you to.” Tokaro nodded several times.

Vizo pulled a small firearm from his back pocket and looked down at the nurse. “I’m gonna ‘ave to apologise in advance miss. ‘Cause I’m pretty sure I’m about to mess up da stitches again.”

The nurse threw up her arms in frustration and pointed at everyone in the room. “None of you die.” She then pointed specifically at Meridia. “And you’re staying here. The clinic needs a guard and you need to take it easy.”

“But-“ Meridia began, but the nurse merely narrowed her eyes as if challenging Meridia to disagree. Meridia sighed. “Fine.” She looked up at Vizo and Akija. “You two get going. Find Johnathan, he’ll have an idea how to fend them off.”

The two siblings nodded in unison and began running for the administration office. They quickly located Johnathan taking cover behind the administration office’s sign. Johnathan looked at Akija as the two crouched down next to him. “So this is probably the part where you say you told me so, right?”

“Ya don’t say?” Akija replied. “What’s ya plan for getting’ da Imps out of da town?”

Johnathan peeked over the sign, then immediately ducked back down as a hail of gunfire peppered the metal sign. “Well we can’t do shit until the two vehicles they all showed up in are taken care of.”

Akija tried to get a look for herself. The two vehicles sat just inside the recently toppled gate. Each one was of similar design to the vehicles that had attacked her tribe, and both had a gunner sticking out of the roof who operated a large machinegun. Akija’s gaze turned toward the various rooftops as she judged the distance of the gaps between them. “Is dere a way up to da rooftops?”

Johnathan nodded. “There’s ladders on every building for working on the solar panels.”

Akija looked around to locate the nearest ladder. “Alright. Vizo and I will jump between the rooftops and get behind da majority of da Imps, den drop grenades inside da vehicles.” She pulled one of the grenades she’d taken from the dead Recon soldier and tossed it to Vizo. “When da vehicles blow, you better be ready to send in some backup. We’ll start takin’ shots at da soldiers from behind.”

Johnthan nodded. “Will do. You kids have fun!”

Akija chuckled slightly as she darted off towards the ladder. She un-slung her rifle as she reached the roof and turned toward Vizo, switching to their native language as she spoke. “You get the one on the left. I’ll get the right one. Take out the gunner, then drop the grenade in the opening.”

Vizo nodded with a grin. “Sounds fun.” Vizo took a running leap to the rooftops on the opposing side of the street and began making his way to the vehicles.

Akija turned to begin running but froze as one of the Imperial soldiers climbed up the next building in line. The soldier quickly aimed their rifle at Akija, but staggered back as a bullet ricocheted off his armor. Two more bullets impacted the soldier, but failed to pierce their armor.

***

Tokaro franticly yelled into Quan’s ear as he tried to aim the rifle. The doctor pointed to the soldier about to shoot Akija as he ranted. “I know! I know!” Quan responded as he fired again. This time the bullet pierced the armor and sent the soldier falling into the street below. Quan quickly turned to Tokaro. “Stop. Helping.” Tokaro quieted down for a few moments.

Then someone in the street below shouted a muffled cry of “Sniper!” Immediately afterwards one of the vehicle’s large machineguns swiveled to aim at Quan and Tokaro.

Quan began shoving Tokaro to the floor as he shouted. “Down!” Bullets hammered the window they had been aiming out of as the two crawled towards the stairwell. The two scrambled back down to the main floor. “We only got a few shots off before the Imperials cranked on the bullet hose and started spraying our window.” Quan explained to Meridia.

“Damn…” Meridia mumbled. The door gave a loud bang as it was kicked in. Meridia quickly shoved Quan back while simultaneously taking the rifle from him. She turned towards the door and fired three shots. Quan looked toward the doorway in delayed fear as three imperial soldiers slumped against the wall with fresh holes in their visors. Meridia handed Quan the rifle back. “Sorry about that.”

Quan shook his head as he took the rifle back. “No ma’am, I’m perfectly okay with still being alive.”

***

Vizo dropped into a slide down the slanted roof. He turned as he fell off the side to grab the roof’s edge and stop his momentum. After a few seconds he let go and rolled a few feet as he landed. The freshly healed bite in his leg gave a burst of pain as he landed but Vizo fought to ignore it. The heavy stomping of an individual with more armor than subtlety began to faintly sound from the alley behind Vizo and he took cover out of sight. The stomping grew closer until a soldier covered head to toe in gleaming silver plates passed by his position. Vizo tried to peek over the edge, but ducked back down as the soldier began firing the light machinegun it carried into the street beyond. After several seconds the gun emitted a click and a faint swear could be heard under the soldier’s mask. Vizo grinned and rose from his hiding spot, aiming the pistol at the soldier’s head. The soldier froze, his head turning to look between his empty weapon and Vizo’s pistol. Vizo fired a single bullet, which caused the soldier to flinch slightly as the round ricocheted off his helmet. Vizo blinked several times. “Oh… shit.” Vizo swore in his native language.

The soldier began hastily attempting to reload the large weapon as Vizo charged forward. Vizo tackled the soldier with his shoulder, knocking the heavier man to the ground. Vizo dropped his knee on the soldier’s chest plate and gripped under the front of the soldier’s helmet. There was a faint creaking noise before the helmet finally tore away from the rest of the armor. The exposed soldier punched Vizo in the side to knock him off the other man. Vizo rolled back into a crouched position next to the soldier and quickly brought the helmet he still held down on the soldier’s face. There was an audible crack as the soldier’s nose broke. Vizo dropped the helmet and drew his pistol again, firing once into the soldier’s face before he could recover. Vizo fell back into a sitting position and panted as he reached over to pick up the soldier’s machinegun. He found the spare magazine and fumbled to reload the weapon before standing and turning towards the street where the vehicles were parked.

***

Akija skidded across the roof to slow her momentum and jumped to the roof of the closest vehicle. The surprised gunner reached down presumably to pull out a sidearm. Akija didn’t give the soldier a chance. She threw an overarching punch into the man’s nose and one of her wings followed. The wing dug into the soldier’s shoulder, and then Akija yanked her fist back, causing the wing to toss the soldier aside. She quickly took the grenade from her pocket, glancing to the left to ensure Vizo had also made it to his target. Her brother stood atop the other vehicle, spraying bullets into the interior with a bulky machinegun. She chuckled a bit to herself and pulled the pin off the grenade before dropping it inside the gunner’s opening. She made a quick jump from the vehicle and rolled into a sprint to propel her as far away from the vehicle as she could carry herself.

The grenade exploded a few seconds later, causing flames to burst from the gunner’s opening and out the windshield. The majority of the vehicle’s hull remained intact from the blast, but the black smoke billowing out of the vehicle’s openings gave clear indication that it was decommissioned. A few moments later the second vehicle was engulfed by a similar explosion. Akija grinned as the fight turned in their favor and raised her rifle towards the street to cover the approach of the town’s citizens.

***

Johnathan laughed as the vehicles exploded. “Those crazy rebels actually pulled it off!” He looked to the nearest gathering of defenders. “That’s our queue folks! Let get these Imps out of our town!” The townsfolk cheered as Johnathan charged forward with his shotgun. He braced the weapon against his shoulder with practiced precision as one of the soldiers rose from cover to his right. A quick blast sent a multitude of shot pellets through the soldier’s exposed neck and parts of his visor.

Another soldier emerged from the alley with an apparently empty gun, which he attempted to swing at Johnathan’s face. Johnathan quickly ducked the swing and spun his own shotgun to knock the gun away from the soldier, then spun the weapon the other direction to build momentum before bringing the shotgun’s nearly foot long bayonet down on the soldier’s neck.

The remaining soldiers began running for the town gates, but were ambushed by a hail from automatic gunfire from either side of the gate. The two tribal siblings stepped out into the street as the last of the soldiers fell. The town citizens cheered once more at their victory. Johnathan grinned a bit as he gave a respectful nod towards Akija. “Alright, folks! Lets get this mess cleaned up!” Johnathan pointed towards Akija. “You. Gather up your friends. Seems like we need to continue that little chat.”

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:43 pm

Johnathan shook his head. “Daedalus can’t help you right now.”

Akija raised a brow as she looked between the two Nukensons sitting across the table from her group. “We just bailed ya town out of an Imperial raid.”

Meridia spoke up quickly. “And we’re thankful for that, but fear and anger alone aren’t enough to get us to fight a force like that.”

Johnathan cut off Akija’s response before she could start it. “And I didn’t say we wouldn’t help. We just want to make sure we have an extra card up our sleeve first.”

Akija gave the two questioning looks. “And what would dat card be, exactly?”

Johnathan leaned back in his chair with a smirk and pointed at Quan. “City boy’s a hacker, right?”

Quan gave Johnathan an annoyed glare. “I have an actual name you know. And yes, I’m a computer software specialist.”

“A hacker. Great.” Johnathan replied. “We need a door opened. That door happens to be a foot thick, made of metal, and controlled by a computer. Also, there’s a bandit camp sitting on top of the building the door lets us into, so the rest of you might want to come on this adventure too.”

Akija looked between Vizo, Tokaro, and Quan in a silent request for input. Her brother gave a shrug in response. Tokaro began nodding quickly, but seemed to be looking at some imaginary entity in the room’s corner rather than Akija. Quan however, turned to Johnathan. “And what are you hoping to find behind a door like that?”

Meridia pulled what looked like an older and far more worn version of Quan’s tablet out of her jacket pocket and began sifting through files. “About a month ago one of the scavengers in town came to us to sell a hard drive he picked up while sifting through a military outpost. Took a bit of tweaking to get it working with our computer but the thing turned out to belong to the regional quartermaster.” Meridia opened one of the files on her tablet and set it down on the table facing the rebels. “The drive had an unfinished report the quartermaster was writing. At the time of the bombings that bunker held over thirty tanks waiting for a war that was over before they could be shipped out, as well as enough fuel to run the engines for a year.”

Vizo grinned. “And you want da tanks to keep da Imps from rollin’ anymore APCs up to ya door.”

Johnathan nodded. “That’s the plan. It’ll take us a while to figure out how the damn things work, then to get the rest of the town trained as well, but it’d give us a huge defensive edge, and your attack on Azure City a pretty nice offensive advantage.”

“What about ammo?” Quan asked.

Johnathan casually pointed out the window toward the factory that stood at the town’s center. “Once Meridia and I work out the math on the tank’s loading systems we should be able to get the old munitions factory pumping out shells.”

Meridia pulled her tablet back and slid it into her jacket again. “The bunker would have held a sizable amount of shells as well. As long as there’s at least one shell actually in there though, we’ll be able to replicate it.”

“And what about da bandits?” Akija asked.

Johnathan shrugged. “They’re a small time group new to the area. They occasionally try to kidnap scavenging townsfolk, but more often than not that ends up getting one of the bandits shot.”

Akija nodded. “So go in, clear da bandits, get da door open. Any chance dey can be convinced to help us? Dey sound like dey’re kinda shitty at bein’ bandits.”

Meridia shrugged. “I suppose anything’s possible, but don’t get your hopes up too high.”

Quan quietly chuckled to himself and mumbled. “The only thing that stays high around this group is Tokaro.”

Akija casualy smacked Quan over the back of the head and nodded to the Nukensons. “Sounds like a plan. We’ll head out soon as we can.”

Johnathan nodded. “One more thing, I’m coming with.”

Akija shrugged. “Fair enough.”

***

Grax sighed as he surveyed Daedelus’ gate and the wrecked vehicles the town’s citizens were actively scavenging. “Well that assault went just fuckin’ grand.”

“What now, sergeant?” one of the other scouts asked.

Grax pocketed his binoculars and turned to the squad. “Well if the Emperor’s done trying to solve his problems with a hammer the precision instruments can get back to work. We take shifts watching the town gate. When the targets leave we follow. If they take longer than three days we send someone inside undercover to figure what the hell they’re up to. I’ll take first watch.” Grax pointed towards the wrecked vehicles at the gate. “And if that wasn’t a clear enough message, none of you are to engage the targets alone. We need to catch them off guard and hit them as a group. No more lone wolf shit unless you want to go back to Azure City in a box.”

The other three surviving squad members nodded in unison. “Yes, sir.”

***

“Did you really have to blow up both of the vehicles? Having to walk everywhere is getting painfull.” Quan whined from the back of the group.

“We could get ya some duct tape and ‘ave Vizo carry ya around like a backpack if ya want.” Akija replied with a smirk.

“Don’t you dare, Kij!” Vizo shouted back despite his grin.

Akija laughed. “Right, ya mobility’s already gonna be messed up enough wit’ dat armor.”

Vizo grinned and lightly banged a fist against the armor and machinegun he’d taken from the Imperial Heavy Trooper he killed in the previous day’s fighting, now repainted in a crude green and brown camouflage pattern. “I may be slow, but I’m difficult to injure.”

“Story of ya life, Vizo.” Akija shouted back.

“’Ey now, dat almost hurts.” Vizo commented through a smirk.

“Maybe ya shoulda brought da helmet too den.” Akija replied.

Vizo shrugged. “It kinda got a bit messed up when da gun was transferring ownership.”

“I don’t mean to interrupt…” Johnathan cut into the conversation. “…But we’re almost there. Might not want to let the kind folks know we’re coming.” The group quieted down and turned serious again as the pace of their movements picked up slightly.

The group froze suddenly however when a team of armed individuals in light armor rose from cover in a circle around them. The group’s weapons were poorly maintained and their armor was clearly scavenged. The bandit with the most metal strapped to his form grinned as he aimed at Johnathan. “You’re loud.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “Ya don’t say?”

The bandit leader turned to Akija. “Who are you and what’re you doin’ on our territory.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “Oh you know, just some rebels from da Imperial City on our way to pick up some tanks to kill da Emperor wit’. You?”

The bandit laughed. “You people better share whatever drugs you’re on ‘cause they sound interesting.” Tokaro began quickly speaking in his native language until Akija smacked him over the back of the head. The bandit raised a questioning brow. “What’s his problem?”

Akija rolled her eyes. “He’s da one actually on drugs outa dis group.”

“Ya don’t say?” The Bandit replied in his best mimicry of Akija’s accent. “You said you were here for tanks. Is that what’s behind the door?”

Akija crossed her arms. “Let us open it and you’ll find out. Then maybe you can help us take down the empire while we’re at it.”

The bandit laughed and pointed towards Tokaro. “You sure he’s the only one on drugs here? ‘Cause you sound pretty damn mental.”

Akija sighed. “Look, you’re facing down a cybernetic, a living tank, a tribal doctor, a combat engineer, and a sniper from da Imperial city. Are ya gonna help us or are we gonna kill da lot of ya and open da door anyway.”

The Bandit chuckled a bit. “That was almost impressive until you tried to sell the asian kid off as a badass.”

Quan responded with a low voice and a grin without missing a beat in the conversation. “Rebel soldiers are trained to present themselves as unintimidating as possible to take opponents by surprise.” The rest of the group gave mildly surprised and confused looks toward Quan.

The bandit paused for a moment in apparent surprise, then glanced at Akija. “You really think you can get that door open?”

Akija crossed her arms and smirked. “If we can will you help us?”

“Possibly.” The bandit replied.

Akija’s smirk shifted to a grin. “Den dere’s only one way to find out.”

The bandit slowly lowered his gun. “Fine. Try anything and we’ll shoot though.”

Akija chuckled. “You try anything and da forest will get a little redder.”

***

Than smiled as Celine and Aaric sat down at the dinner table. The Emperor nodded to his wife. “And how was your day, Celine?”

The Empress shrugged as one of the house servants set a plate down in front of her. “I had to pay a visit to the media network today, but it went more pleasantly than I was expecting.”

Than chuckled slightly. “Well that’s always nice.” He turned his gaze towards his son. “And how was school today?”

Aaric rolled his eyes as he delicately cut the steak on his plate. “Boring, naturally.” The boy commented. “Though, I must admit. I’m quite concerned over something.”

Than raised a brow. “What’s bothering you?”

“The rebels you’ve failed to apprehend and the apparent army they’re trying to form.” Aaric casually responded.

Both parents froze for a moment. Celine’s head slowly turned towards Aaric. “And how would you know about that?”

Aaric grinned slightly as he took a bite of his steak. “This Empire will be mine one day. Should a future Emperor not know of the potential dangers his predecessors may or may not leave for him?” Aaric quietly took a drink from the glass in front of him as he tried to not let on just how amused he was by the expressions on his parent’s faces. “Assuming, of course, that you ever intend to stop taking Miss Lazuran’s serum injections.”

“And how exactly did you come across any of this knowledge?” Celine quietly asked.

Aaric chuckled. “I’m sorry, mother, but what exactly were you expecting me to do with the computer you got me?”

“School work.” Celine replied with an increasingly annoyed tone.

Aaric scoffed slightly “Oh please, as if that was going to be challenging enough to take up the entirety of my time.”

“Well since you have so much free time, you can use it to help the servants clean the estate.” Than growled.

Aaric recoiled as if he’d just had something thrown at him. “Excuse me?”

“And while you’re doing that…” Than continued. “Your mother and I can program a few extra firewalls for your computer so that you can learn to stay out of your parent’s affairs. We have been running this city for quite some time now. You should trust that we will keep it in excellent order for many years to come.” Than narrowed his eyes slightly at his son. “Are we understood?”

Aaric rolled his eyes and sighed. “Yes, father.”

Than nodded. “Good.” He looked towards Celine. “Would you like to add anything?” Celine shook her head. “Very well then.” The three returned to their meals and continued the dinner in silence.

***

The door to the bunker was no less impressive than Johnathan had described. From a distance the bunker looked like little more than another hill in the ground with a worn down and out of place road leading past it. The front end of the hill however, was a completely flat vertical surface with the large metal door built into the front of it. Just to the right of the door was a large terminal built into the wall of the bunker’s exterior. Quan quickly moved toward the terminal as the group arrived at the bandit’s camp, which turned out to be a loose collection of tents on and around the bunker. The young hacker reached into his jacket, but froze as the bandits simultaneously reached for their guns. The leader slowly walked up next to Quan. “Remember, kid. Don’t try anything funny.”

Quan rolled his eyes. “I’m getting my equipment. Unless you didn’t actually want the door open after all?” The bandits slowly lowered their weapons again and the bandit leader backed off a few steps. Quan shook his head and mumbled something to himself that no one quite caught. He took out his tablet and plugged a pair of cables into some ports on the device’s side, then powered up the wall terminal. Once the terminal fully activated Quan took out a screwdriver and carefully pried the keyboard up. He then took the other end of the cords attached to his tablet and plugged them into various points in the circuitry beneath the keyboard.

The bandit leader watched in curiosity as the left side of Quan’s tablet began showing a map of the internal hardware and circuitry for both the terminal and the door, while the right side of the screen showed a long list of various line of code that were presumably what controlled the various functions of the terminal. “You sure you can get this open?”

Quan grinned as he began changing words and numbers within the code on the right, causing the image of the door to show the door’s locks opening one by one. “I may not be the greatest fighter, or the most socially adept individual…” Quan commented as the last of the door’s locks opened, causing a metallic snap to echo from the other side of the door. “But weather its old world secrets or Imperial data, there’s always a puzzle to solve, always a code to crack...” A message box popped up in the center of the screen and Quan typed in a simple three letter combination. As he pressed the enter button the tablet image began to show the gears inside the door begin to spin and the door itself began to open. “…And I’m the one who always cracks it.” A series of lights began to turn on one by one behind the door, illuminating a concrete tunnel downwards into the ground. At the end of the tunnel the group could see a large warehouse like room, and the rows of dusty pre-war military tanks lined up neatly on either side of the main path.

Johnathan leaned over to Akija as the two watched the bunker doors open. “He’s kind of a dramatic kid isn’t he?”

Akija tried to stop herself from snickering as she turned to the bandit leader. “So, da door’s open. What’s ya plan now?”

The Bandit looked between the faces of his crew for a few moments before raising his voice. “Well boys? Who wants to drive a tank through the Imperial city?” The rest of the camp proceeded to raise their weapons above their heads and cheer. The leader turned back to Akija with a grin on his face. “Guess we’ll be helping you out after all.”

Johnathan raised a brow. “That was easy.”

The bandit leader laughed. “You never bothered to ask who we were, did ya?” The leader shook his head. “The name’s Nash by the way, and this lot of crazies.” He turned to gesture to his crew of easily twenty people. “We’re the people who got exiled from Azure City and managed to survive.”

Akija chuckled slightly. “Well I’m glad we ran into ya, Nash. I’m Akija by da way.” She pointed to each of her fellow rebels in turn. “Da big guy’s my brother, Vizo. Da city kid’s Quan Thach. Our green haired doctor is Tokaro.” She gestured to Johnathan. “And it sounds like at least a few of you might have had a chat wit’ Nukenson a time or two.”

Nash chuckled. “So you’re Nukenson. You’re shorter than I was expecting.”

Johnathan shrugged. “I get that a lot.”

Akija turned to Quan. “So should we call up ya boss? I figure da rebels could use some good news about now.”

Quan nodded and started tapping on the surface of his tablet as he walked up to the others. Quan held up the tablet so that its built in camera could have a clear view of everyone gathered. After a few moment’s Kagran’s face poped up on the screen. “Oh, good evening. Looks like you’ve been making friends.” The rebel leader said with some surprise as he looked between the various faces.

Akija grinned. “Ya rebellion just got a bit bigger. Dis is Johnathan Nukenson. He’s da mayor of an engineering town wit’ a munitions factory called Daedalus, and da other fellow’s Nash. He leads a group of survivors who were exiled from da City. His group’s also da ones camped out on da entrance to da storage space for our new tank division.”

Kagran blinked a few times. “Run that last bit by me again.”

Quan turned the tablet to show the bunker’s interior. “I rewrote a bit of code and opened the door to a pre-war military storage depot. The rebels will have tank support once Nukenson and Nash’s people can learn how to operate them.”

Kagran laughed. “Holy shit, you kids are turning this fight around pretty quick.”

Johnathan reached out and turned Quan’s hands so that the tablet was facing the group again. “So what’s the name for this rebellion of yours anyway mister…?”

“Kagran.” Kagran replied. “And we don’t really have a name at the moment, so if you’ve got any suggestions…” The group stood quietly and looked between each other for a few moments. Tokaro quickly shouted something to the group and raised his hands into the air triumphantly. Kagran raised a brow. “What’d he say?” Akija and Vizo both shrugged in unison.

“What about Icarus?” Johnathan asked.

Quan gave Johnathan a confused look. “Isn’t that the kid who tried to fly into the sun?”

Johnathan chuckled. “It’s the story of a kid who was willing to risk his life to attempt the impossible. Someone who wouldn’t let others tell him what his limits were until he discovered them for himself. Sounds to me like we’re about to go do what a hell of a lot of folks are going to tell us is impossible.”

Quan shrugged. “I’m still not sure that’s quite-“

“Sounds good to me.” Kagran interrupted.

Johnathan chuckled. “So that’s what we’re going with?”

Kagran shrugged. “I haven’t heard anything better. Icarian Rebellion has a nice ring to it anyway.”

“So dat’s us den.” Akija said as she looked around the faces of the other rebels. “Da Icarian Rebels.”

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:47 pm

Akija closed her eyes and leaned back against the trunk of the tree she sat in, thankful for the rare moment of quiet as the others ran through the military bunker like excited children. A snap below her drew her attention towards the ground, where Vizo laid flat on his back with a freshly broken branch still in his hands. Akija snickered a bit. “Regretting that new armor yet?” she asked through her smirk in their native language.

Vizo shoved the tree limb off of him and stood as he shook his head. “Ask me again after a fight.”

Akija chuckled a bit more and stood. She began weaving her way back through the branches as she made her way back down to the ground. “So what’s up?”

Vizo shugged and sat down next to the tree’s base. “Just wanted to ask what the hell’s been going on since… that whole mess with our village.”

Akija sighed and set down next to him. “I’m not sure what to tell you Vizo, I blacked out in the fight, then woke up in some scientist’s funhouse with this shit being bolted to my spine.” She pointed over her shoulder towards her metallic wings. “Quan helped me escape, except I didn’t know him at the time. Then the rebels asked me for help and it seemed like the best way to try getting our people back… So here I am.”

Vizo nodded. “Fair enough. I was just curious how you got tied up in this mess.”

The crunch of nearby footsteps on the jungle floor caught Akija’s attention and she turned to find Johnathan approaching the two. “I’m not interrupting much, am I?”

Akija shrugged and returned to using the old world’s language. “Just story time… sort of.”

Johnathan chuckled. “Well maybe I’ll contribute a few sometime if you two get bored.”

Vizo shrugged. “Well I think it’s safe to assume we’re all a bit curious how someone ends up wit’ a name like Nukenson.”

Johnathan chuckled. “Well that’s actually an easy one. I had less than grand relations with my family when I left California, and it’s not like anyone’s kept a census for the last sixty years, so I gave myself a name I liked better. Aucoin was a bitch to say anyway.”

Akija chuckled and shook her head. “Not really sure what I was expectin’ from dat story, but I somehow doubt dat was ya reason for coming over here.”

Johnathan shrugged. “Well no, I just figured you’d like to know what some of your folks were up to.”

Akija raised a brow. “What do ya mean?”

“That twitchy guy, with the green hair, Tokyo?” Johnathan tried to explain.

“Tokaro” Akija corrected.

“Him. He’s had the town’s courier service send a letter to the middle of nowhere every day since you arrived. I’m sure it’s harmless. I mean, the first day you folks were there he straight up asked me where the delivery pixies lived.” Johnathan explained.

Akija shrugged. “Alright I guess I’ll ask him about it sometime. You still planning on coming with us, by da way?”

Johnathan nodded. “Meridia can keep the town managed, and you folks seem like you could use all the help you can get.”

Akija nodded back. “Alright. And t’anks.” She looked between the other two for a few moments. “You two should be getting’ some sleep t’ough. I wana get movin’ as soon as it’s light enough. We’ll go over our next destination tomorrow mornin’.” The other two nodded and headed back towards Daedalus. Akija waited a few moments, then made her own way back to the town. She found Tokaro in the town clinic. Akija waited by the doorway as she watched Tokaro finish wrapping the bandage on a brown haired child’s arm. Tokaro patted the child on her shoulder and give her an enthusiastic thumbs up before shooing her off. Akija chuckled as the girl jumped off the table and ran past her.

Tokaro finally noticed Akija and gave an enthusiastic wave. “Akija! How are you?” he shouted in his native language.

Akija shrugged and responded in kind. “Well enough, all things considered. I did have a curiosity though.”

Tokaro tilted his head in confusion and wandered over. “What’s up?”

“Johnathan says you’ve been sending a lot of letters to somewhere in the jungle. I was just curious who.” Akija asked.

“My family.” Tokaro responded quickly.

Akija blinked. “They’re alive?”

Tokaro glanced off to the side a bit. “They’re in a safe place. And I can’t try to bring them with us. I send the letters because… I kind of like bragging about our adventures.”

Akija nodded slowly. “Fair enough. I won’t bring it up again then. Thanks.”

Tokaro tilted his head again. “Are you okay?”

Akija shrugged. “I’ll live. Why?”

“Where do you want to start?” Tokaro asked. “You’ve had a machine forcibly bolted to your spine, you’ve had non-stop physical stress since I found you two, and you tense up whenever we enter any kind of cramped space.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “I’m fine Tokaro.”

Tokaro shrugged. “Okay then.” He said as he turned to head back into the clinic. He paused and looked out the window. “The world’s going grey again, I need fresh colors soon.”

Akija raised a brow. “What?”

Tokaro blinked several times before looking back at Akija. “Nothing. Good night, Akija.” He gave another wave and disappeared back into the clinic. Akija sighed and headed back towards Daedalus’ inn.

***

Grax swore under his breath as he stared through the binoculars at the camp atop the old bunker. One of the other recon soldiers raised a brow. “Should we report the tanks, sir?”

“Yes, but I’m more annoyed by the big guy guarding the bunker.” He passed the binoculars to his squadmate. “You know who that is right?”

The other reconnaissance soldier focused the binoculars on the dark skinnged individual seemingly leading the others in the camp. “Short hair, scars, athletic build. Looks like the poster boy of banditry, sir.”

Grax chuckled. “If only it was that simple, boy. But aparantly our little mission’s going to be a long and overly dramatic line of ridiculous complications and horrible inter-department communication.” Grax sighed and took the binoculars back. “Have the others ready to move by sun up. We don’t want to miss the show.”

***

Quan brought up the region map on his tablet as the other four gathered around the small screen. “It looks like our next best bet in reasonable walking distance will be a small town about two day’s walk from here called Gambit. Not really sure what’s up with the name, but the leader’s apparently been a major thorn in the reconnaissance division’s side despite his lack of forces.”

Johnathan raised a brow. “If they’re a problem, why didn’t the Empire send in the sparkle cavalry like they tried to do to Daedalus?”

Quan panned through the empire’s report a bit. “Aparantly they did. They lost contact with the unit three miles out from the city. They haven’t tried again since.”

Akija nodded. “Sounds like fun folks. Let’s get packed up and ready to move within da hour.” The others nodded in reply and headed to their respective areas to gather last minuet supplies.

Quan stopped Akija when she tried to turn away. “Hey Akija, one other thing…”

“What is it?” She asked.

Quan pulled up another document on his tablet. “I’ve been talking to Nash and the rest of his men, and none of their names are on the Empire’s list of exiled citizens.”

Akija scanned over the document Quan had pulled up and raised a brow. “So… dey’re lying about dier origins. Whatcha t’ink’s dier reasoning for dat?”

Quan shrugged. “I don’t know, but he’s got a computer in his tent that might have some answers if you can get him away from it for a few minuets.”

“I don’t want to go pissin’ off our potential allies because of a hunch, Q.” Akija replied.

Quan sighed. “It’s not just a hunch, Akija. It’s the way he caries himself. Johnathan said these guys were pretty terrible, and that they tried to kidnap a few of his people when they first showed up, but look at them. Every last one of them moves with precision, and they all keep a hand near their weapons. When they sit down, it’s always in a spot where they can see all the exits and entrances to the area.”

Akija glanced back towards the direction of the camp, replaying her encounter with the exiles in her mind. “Maybe dier just paranoid?”

Quan gave her an annoyed look. “Akija, there’s only one other person I’ve seen with these kind of habits, and that’s Kagran. And I’m assuming he told you where he got his training?”

Akija turned back to Quan. “You t’ink dey’re Imperial?”

“I can’t say for sure without getting a look at that computer.” Quan admitted.

Akija swore under her breath. “Fine. We’ll swing by da bunker on our way out. Let’s all just hope you find some touching story about a reformed merc group, right?”

Quan rolled his eyes. “Oh sure. Because this has been a grand adventure in optimism so far…”

Akija shook her head. “I’ll get da others.” She turned away from Quan and began the process of rounding up the rest of the group. They reached the bunker within a few hours. Akija told the others to wait before entering the camp.

Nash quickly looked out from his tent. “Whatcha need, Kija? You folks heading out already?”

Akija nodded. “We are. Ya got a minuet? I figured you’d be interested in da plan.”

Nash stood and wandered out towards her. “Sure. It’ll probably make communicating a bit esier if we know where ya heading.”

***

Quan waited until Akija firmly had the bandit’s attention before weaving through the camp towards Nash’s tent. He slipped through the tent flaps as subtly as possible and looked around the small space. It was surprisingly clean, and everything seemed to have its own place within the room. A small cot sat even with the tent’s wall, and a scavenged night stand sat next to it. A pistol and spare magazine sat on top of the night stand, both perfectly parallel to the night stand’s edge. On the opposite wall was the table that held the computer, which was plugged into a small portable generator that hummed quietly beneath the table. In the tent’s corner next to the table was a large wooden box with an obscenely out of place electronic padlock hung on the latch. Quan quickly moved towards the computer and attempted to boot it up. The computer screen flashed a few times before finalizing on a black screen with a password request at its center. Quan rolled his eyes and removed his tablet from his pocket. He quickly connected his tablet to the computer and began running an override. The screens of both the computer and tablet flickered black for a second before reigniting with the image of a silver mechanical eye with a blue lens at its center. Quan froze as the eye fixed on him. “Celnet.” He whispered as the computer and tablet both began emitting a high pitched noise. Quan cried out as the noise pierced his ears and quickly unplugged his tablet from the computer.

The noise cut out suddenly as the Tent flap was thrown open. Nash stood in the doorway with an Imperial issue tazer in his hand. “See now, I really wish you hadn’t done that.” Nash commented in a low voice as his guttural accent seemingly disintegrated along with the rest of his façade. Quan reached for his pistol but Nash was faster, firing the tazer into his chest. Nash calmly crouched over Quan as he spasmed on the floor from the electrical shock. “I really would have preferred the entire head of the beast, but I guess I can settle for taking its eyes…” Quan caught only a passing glimps of more of Nash’s men dragging Akija’s unconscious form past Nash’s tent. “… and its fangs.” The last image Quan registered was Nash raising a boot above his face before the world suddenly went black.

***

Johnathan peered into the suddenly active camp as he slowly reached for his shotgun. “Is it just me, or did that noise seem a tad bit on the not good side?”

“Sounded like an alarm, didn’t come from the bunker though.” Vizo observed.

Johnathan suddenly looked around the small space. “Hey… where’s Tok-“ Tokaro jumped down from a nearby tree branch shouting and flailing his arms excitedly. “Holy hell, kid! What’s his problem?”

Vizo swore as he cycled the action on his machinegun. “Nash and his men took Kij and Quan.”

Johnathan threw his arms in the air. “Just once, I want to have something be easy and not turn out to be a trap.” He retrieved a bulky radio from his belt and pressed down the talk button. “Meridia, the Exiles are Imperials. We’ll need backup as soon as you can send it!”

Meridia’s voice immediately barked back over the radio. “Johnathan Nukenson if you go into that camp without support I swear I will-“

“Love you honey, see ya soon!” Johnathan interrupted before clipping the radio to his belt again. He pumped his shotgun once and looked up at Vizo. “Come on, let’s try to save your friends before my wife kills me. Maybe even before those assholes can get their real gear if we’re fast enough!”

Vizo nodded and took the lead as the three charged into the camp.

***

Nash stopped his movement and turned back towards the approaching sounds of gunfire. “Deception is over, guardsmen! Kill the Icarians and dissipate into the jungle! Rendezvous at gate seven and ensure no equipment is left behind for them to salvage!” He turned to the other three Imperials around him and lowered his voice. “We make for the APC. Ensure the cybernetic stays unconscious and that she reaches the city. All other objectives are secondary.” The others gave quick acknowledgements and began moving ahead of Nash. Nash adjusted his grip on the young hacker slung over his shoulder so that he could draw his pistol and followed the others.

***

The rhythmic thundering of Vizo’s machinegun echoed through the camp as Johnathan wove his way through the tents as he searched for Nash’s personal tent. A woman who had only managed to equip a few scattered pieces of her silver Imperial armor jumped from one of the tents with a glistening sword held before her. Johnathan fired off a quick blast from his shotgun at the first patch of exposed flesh he could locate, causing one of her legs to detach at the knee and bounce a short distance away. He quickly sank the speartip of his shotgun into the back of her head as she fell and continued on. He reached Nash’s tent and quickly slashed down one of the walls. The interior was empty of people and personal possessions. Johnathan barely had time to get out a swear before a hail of bullets rained around him. Johnathan ducked into the tent and dove behind the table inside. He looked down to find a fresh hole in the lower part of his trench coat that lined up perfectly with the new gash along the side of his left leg. “This was my favorite coat, asshole!”

“I’m sure the Empire will reimburse you, savage!” The Imperial’s seemingly mechanical voice called back. Johnathan looked over his cover to see his opponent standing out in the open. This one was actually wearing their full armor, which amounted to an overly elegant series of interlocking silver plates and reinforced joints that gave off a slight whine as the soldier moved. The helmet seemed locked into place and somewhat resembled the pictures Johnathan had managed to dig up of Roman helmets, except that this helm showed no skin and held a single lone blue visor over the eyes in an almost T shape. In the soldier’s hands was an elegant looking assault rifle whose stock seemed to be formed entirely from the same silver alloy as the armor. Smoke rose slowly from vents at the end of the rifle’s barrel.

Johnathan quickly dropped back down behind his cover as the soldier fired a second burst of bullets at him. “So is that power armor? That looks like power armor. That’s not standard issue is it?”

“You’re quite inquisitive for a dead man. It is the armor of an Imperial Honor Guard.” The soldier responded. Johnathan heard the whirring joints and heavy footfalls as the guardsman began moving towards his cover.

Johnathan laughed. “Hey now, I know my curiosity usually gets me in trouble, but this time…” Johnathan looked over his cover again just in time to see Vizo charge out from a nearby tent and knock the guardsmen to the ground. “…I was kinda just stalling.” Johnathan hopped over his cover and advanced forward, firing his shotgun at the joints in the downed guardsman’s armor. To his surprise the shot pellets merely ricocheted off the joint plates to tear into a nearby tent. Vizo kicked the guardsman’s face as he tried to stand and clamped a foot down on the soldier’s chest. He quickly began firing his machinegun into the neck of the soldier’s armor but had little more success. “The visor!” Johnathan shouted quickly. Vizo quickly pressed the barrel of his machinegun against the glass of the guardsmen’s helmet and began firing. There was the distinct noise of glass shattering, and then the guardsmen began spasming. The soldier quickly went limp afterwards. “Hey, hey! I think you got him!” Johnathan tried to shout over the gunfire. Vizo stopped and took a few steps back before silently starting to reload his weapon. “Holy hell. Now I get why you can never find a working helmet.”

Johnathan’s radio began emitting a faint burst of static before Meridia’s voice came shouting over it. “Johnathan! We’re here! You better still be alive and in one piece!”

Johnathan laughed as he picked up the radio. “Nice of you to come by! We already got three of them for you! Some of these assholes have power armor so go for the visors if any of them have the full suit!”

The tone in Meridia’s voice shifted rather suddenly. “Oh! They have working power armor? What energy source do they use?”

Vizo walked over and held the talk button down on Johnathan’s radio while it was still in his hand. “Figure out how it works after the fight!”

“Right. Let’s go find-“ Johnthan started to say but was interrupted by the noise of mechanical gears activating nearby as a flat segment of the forest floor was lifted from beneath by powerful pistons. Johnathan held out his hand towards the hidden exit. “How long has that been there? How did we fucking miss that?” A few seconds later there was the distinct roar of a vehicle engine as an Imperial APC leapt from the hidden exit. It landed with a heavy crunch on the forest floor before quickly speeding away through the trees. Johnathan raised his radio to his mouth again. “They got away. Bastards hid an APC in an emergency exit to the bunker that we didn’t know about.”

“Dammit.” Meridia responded. “Alright, I’ll call up that Kagran guy. It’s up to the Rebels inside the city now.”

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:48 pm

“Ya know…” Akija began as she struggled against her restraints. “I really expected Imperial vehicles to have more interior space, seein’ as deir entire purpose involves carrying around giant dicks.”

Nash, now wearing his full Imperial armor with the exception of his helmet, looked back from the driver’s seat with an unamused expression. “Cute. Did it take you the whole ride to think that one up?”

Akija shrugged. “To be fair, I wasn’t awake for da first half of da ride.” Akija looked around the black interior of the Imperial APC for a few moments. “Now dat I t’ink about it, t’ough… Dere sure are a lot of empty seats in here. Looks kinda like your merry little band o’ buddies got real small real fast, and since da only other fellow here is Quan I’d say you missed quite a few targets.”

“We got the important ones.” Nash responded through a grin. “The head scientist wants her cybernetics back, the Empress wants her documents back, and the Emperor’s probably going to turn your hides into a new welcome mat for his estate.”

Quan lifted his head to look at Nash. Unlike Akija, who was chained to the floor of the APC in a kneeling position so that her wings could be restrained, Quan was merely handcuffed at the wrists and feet. “None of those three seem to require us alive, so why go through all the effort of transporting us?”

Nash chuckled. “Those cybernetics are easier to transport attached to your friend. And she’s easier to transport when I have one of her friends to shoot anytime she tries something stupid.”

“But you’re going to kill us anyway.” Quan commented dryly.

Nash laughed in response. “Despite all the dramatics, a public execution is far less painful then having the entire circumference of your wrist cut right before all the skin on your hand is yanked off like a glove.” Nash slowed the vehicle as they approached a particularly flat portion of the Empire’s silver wall. “Now let’s pause the twenty questions game for a moment. I’d rather not have to repeat myself twenty times because you’re screaming like idiots and the gate officer’s ears are bleeding from the background noise.” He tapped the interior of the windshield once to bring up a holographic display across its surface, then input a series of digits into one of the spaces in the display. “This is Alexander Nash, identifying as Reaper One One requesting entry to Gate Twelve.”

A seemingly nervous voice from the other end of the radio responded quickly. “Affirmative Guardsmen, welcome home.”

Nash grinned as the gate began to slide upwards into the rest of the wall, revealing the paved streets and silver spires of the Azure city beyond it. “Welcome home indeed.” Nash said as he looked to the other Guardsmen in the passenger seat. The woman, who had been silently tapping a tune on the assault rifle next to her the entire ride, snickered slightly in response. Nash began moving the vehicle into the city, but was forced to stop a few blocks in as the vehicle rolled to a halt in front of an expansive road repair project. Nash slowly reached for his helmet and put it on as a bearded man with faded grey eyes and a far too clean work crew uniform ran up to the driver’s side window and gave a courteous wave. Nash pressed the button to lower the window and looked down at the other man. “Is there a particular reason I was not told this street was under maintenance?”

The other man gave a quick bow. “Apologies officer, the problem didn’t arise until just this morning. One of the sewer lines built up too much pressure and exploded upwards through the street. Real shitty mess.” The man chuckled a bit before realizing the Nash was less than amused.

Nash slowly turned back to his windshield and tapped one of the holographic buttons. “Celnet, confirm this man’s story.”

A holographic image of a robot modeled to look similar to the Empress appeared on the vehicle’s dashboard. “A maintenance report was filed and processed twelve minuets ago. It should be noted however, that district ten’s maintenance station reported thirteen missing uniforms last night, and that the voice profile of the civilian currently speaking matches that of the rebel leader John Kagran. Officers have already been dispatched to your position.”

Nash slowly turned his head back to look at Kagran. Kagran gave a slight chuckle. “Right… I hate computers.” Kagran quickly removed his hand from his pocket, drawing his revolver and firing at Nash’s helmet. The bullet ricocheted off the helmet almost immediately, cracking the interior of the vehicle’s windshield. Kagran began a backwards run as he fired several more times over the Guardsmen’s shoulder and into the vehicle’s windshield. “Highrise! The passenger’s got no helmet and the windshield’s weakened!”

Nash kicked open the driver side door and leapt onto the pavement. He quickly drew a roughly foot long chromatic blue shaft with an elegant silver triangular blade at the top and pressed a button on the shaft’s surface. The weapon extended outwards in either direction into a full sized spear, which Nash immediately used to jab at the throat of the nearest rebel.

A bullet slammed against the windshield of the APC, causing the weakened glass to fracture inwards and send the guardsmen in the passenger seat leaping into the back of the vehicle for cover. Akija quickly clamped one of her knees down on the other woman’s throat. “Q! Keys!” Quan struggled to get over to the other two and snatch the keys from the guardsmen’s belt as she tried to swing punches at Akija. He quickly undid the bindings on his wrists, then feet. Akija took a punch to the face, causing her to rock back a bit, but used the momentum to drop her knee back down on the woman’s throat with enough force to cause a loud snap to echo through the confined space as the woman suddenly went limp. Quan quickly released the restraints on Akija, who immediately grabbed the guardsmen’s rifle. Quan opened the lockbox behind the passenger seat and took back his tablet and rifle before punching the button to lower the rear ramp of the APC.

Nash grabbed at the throat of the nearest rebel and quickly slammed the man headfirst into the ground. He drove the spear tip into the man’s face and used the weapon to vault himself through the air to kick the next nearest rebel to the floor. All around him bullets rained, many of which ricocheted harmlessly off his armor. He ducked as a missile arched past, only to find that he wasn’t the intended target when the explosive detonated in the surface of the city gate. His two prisoners began running for the opening almost immediately. Nash quickly turned and began running, his pace quickened by the mechanized components of his armor. He paused only briefly at a familiar voice to his right. “Hey asshole!” Kagran shouted.

Only then did he take note of the approaching noise of a maintenance vehicle’s engine. “Vehicle incoming.” Celnet commented inside his helmet. Nash’s gaze snapped to his right just in time to see the grill of the truck slam into his visor.

Akija laughed as the Guardsmen sailed through the glass doors of a nearby building. She gave Kagran a quick thumbs up before resuming her run to the gate. Quan was crouched down next to the gate tapping something into his tablet. “No time!” Akija shouted as she reached forward and dug her wings into the opening made by the rebel’s rocket. She yanked her fists outwards and the wings groaned in response as they peeled the metal gate outwards just far enough for a person to fit through. She quickly jumped through the opening. Quan rolled his eyes and scrambled through the crude opening as quickly as he could.

The two began running as soon as their feet met the warm soil outside the gate. They only made it a few feet outside the gate before the metal barrier began to slide upwards again. The door stopped rising just before it would have gotten stuck on the torn metal and a pair of Imperial motorcycles shot out in pursuit of the fleeing rebels. Akija dropped to her knees and turned, raising the rifle to aim at the closest of the motorcycles. A beam of red energy lanced over her shoulder, slicing the first motorcycle and its rider cleanly in half. A second beam lanced out to strike the other motorcycle, this time striking its gas tank and causing the entire vehicle to burst into flames. Akija and Quan slowly turned away from the wreckage towards the source of the beams. A massive rectangular vehicle painted entirely white sat lengthwise in the road behind them. On its roof was a massive weapon whose barrel was still smoking from recent use. A segment of the vehicle’s side wall was slid back to reveal the interior as well as a man in white formal clothing with layered chromatic red armor worn over his chest and shoulders. The man rested his oversized rifle on his shoulder, which seemed to have tubing running from where the magazine would be on a normal firearm to a white backpack on the man’s back. He looked appraisingly between the two. “Mister Crane would like to speak with you. Your companions are twelve miles up the road. We can pick them up on the way.”

Akija tightened her grip on the rifle. “And who da hell is Crane?”

The crimson soldier chuckled slightly. “An interested party willing to offer aid to your rebellion. You can either choose to hear him out, or you can wait for the next Imperial vehicle unit to race out that gate after you.”

Quan crossed his arms. “How nice of you to wait until we were short on options.”

“It was more a matter of waiting to see if you were worth Mister Crane’s time. Time which, you are now wasting. Now, are we leaving with or without you?” The crimson soldier asked.

Akija swore in her native language a few times. “Fine. We’ll hear him out. Let’s just get movin’. And we’re grabbin’ da others on da way.”

The crimson soldier grinned and nodded. “Understood. I’m sure Mister Crane will be delighted to meet you.”

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:50 pm

Johnathan hadn’t sat still the entire ride. None of them had really, but while the rest of the group was in their seats checking weapons or just generally fidgeting as they tried to discern anything they could about their mysterious new hosts, Johnathan was bouncing around the vehicle’s interior asking the driver a seemingly endless series of questions. “How did you get the laser weapons to not overheat?”

The driver sighed for what was easily the tenth time during their trip. “I don’t know.”

Johnathan nodded as he looked around some more before leaning over the driver’s chair. “How’s the vehicle so quiet? Is it electric powered? How do you power something this sized that way?”

“Micro-fusion generator.” The driver commented.

Johnathan’s eyes widened. “Aren’t those dangerous and horribly unstable?”

“It’s encased inside a lead containment unit.” The driver commented again in his continued tired monotone.

Johnathan raised a brow. “But if that casing gets ruptured we’re back to the dangerous and horribly unstable thing again.”

The driver threw his arms up. “Look, sir, I just drive the fucking things. So can you please just sit down and wait to ask the people who actually care about the science stuff?”

Johnathan blinked a few times. “Well… Alright then I guess.” Johnathan began moving back to his seat before pausing as he looked at the weapon rack in the vehicle’s interior wall. “One more question?”

The driver almost visibly twitched. “Yes, Mister Nukenson?”

Johnathan pointed to one of the laser weapons. “Can I have a laser rifle?”

The vehicle’s gunner immediately shouted down from his place in the turret. “No!”

Johnathan shrugged and continued to his seat. Akija snickered as Johnathan finally sat down. “Well now we know just how far deir patience goes.”

Johnathan rolled his eyes and sighed. “I was just curious how all this worked. It’s the most advanced post-war technology I’ve seen.” He paused for a moment before looking towards the driver and raising his voice slightly. “It is post war, right?”

The driver threw his hands up. “I’m done with the questions!”

Johnathan shrugged. “Wonder who pissed in his coffee this morning.”

Akija laughed. “Maybe ya should ask him. He’d probably say you did at dis point.” She turned her attention towards Quan, who had been digging through the files on his tablet the entire ride. “Findin’ anything on our new friends?”

Quan shook his head. “No, and that’s sort of what’s worrying me.”

Akija tilted her head. “What do you mean?”

Quan gestured around the vehicle. “I mean there’s no way someone with technology like this goes under the Empire’s radar, and yet there isn’t even the faintest mention of this group in any of their reports.” Quan continued frustratedly flipping through files on the tablet. “I mean, with how extensive these maps are you’d have to be hiding in a slag crater to-“ Quan stopped suddenly as he and everyone else glanced out one of the windows at the grey skies and jagged black rock of the terrain around them. He slowly turned towards the driver. “Are we in a slag crater?”

“The slag’s been cleaned out.” The driver commented.

Quan blinked several times in panic. “How exactly do you just clean out a dead melted city?”

The driver threw up his hands again. “I don’t know!”

Johnathan raised his hand. “Question! Can you fit a person in one of those lead containment units?” Johnathan turned to the others. “How would you guys feel about carrying a maybe hundred and fifty pound box around while we’re here?”

Both the Crane Industries personnel and the Icarians gave a unified “No!”

Johnathan slouched a bit in his seat. “Just trying to avoid radiation sickness…”

The gunner shouted down from his turret again. “You’ll be fine. We’ve been here a while and no one’s died yet.” The man paused a moment. “Plasma isn’t even radioactive!”

Quan rolled his eyes and grumbled. “Sure you people don’t care. From the sound of it you folks probably use plutonium rods for night lights.”

Johnthan held a finger up. “That wouldn’t work.”

Quan facepalmed. “It wasn’t a question.”

Tokaro leaned over to Akija as he looked out the window and quietly spoke in their native language. “This is a bad place.”

Akija blinked at Tokaro. “Ya don’t say?”

Tokaro shook his head. “Being serious. Place has no color, even after I took extra colors. This place leaks darkness from the rocks and sky.”

Akija rolled her eyes. “It’s just shitty weather Tokaro.”

The vehicle gave a slight lurch as it came to a halt. The driver looked back at the group as the vehicle door opened. “We’re here. Welcome to Crane Industries.”

The Icarians stood and moved towards the opening door to find an individual already waiting outside to greet them. The figure wore what appeared to be a red bodysuit with white composite armor layered over top of the suit. Their strangely angular helmet attached seamlessly to the rest of their armor and was made almost entirely of the white composite material with the exception of the reflective red visor stretching across the helmet’s surface. On the officer’s chestplate and helmet was a unique symbol depicting a red omega symbol arcing over the white silhouette of a bird that Akija assumed was a Crane. The officer’s gender wasn’t readily obvious until a male voice mechanically echoed out of the helmet. “Follow me. Mister Crane is waiting for you at the top floor of the tower.”

Akija nodded. “Lead on.”

The officer gave a polite bow and turned, waving for them to follow as he did so. Johnathan leaned over to Akija. “Can we take a moment to appreciate the various meanings of the Omega symbol on that guy’s armor? It’s typically used as an indicator of an end to all things, most commonly the world.”

Akija blinked a few times as she looked around at the various vehicles and other soldiers they passed who also bore the symbol. “Ya t’ink dey’re apocalypse worshipers?”

Johnathan shrugged. “It would explain the whole living in a crater and disliking the Empire focused on rebuilding pre-war society thing.”

“And how would crazy people end up with all this stuff?” Akija asked.

“It’d take a pretty crazy person to think strapping micro fusion generators to everything is a good idea, and an even crazier person to actually use the things.” Johnathan replied.

“Look we don’t have to stay long. Let’s just-“ Akija paused as they rounded one of the corners of jagged rock and the previously mentioned tower came into view. The Crane Industries tower sat somewhat at odds with its surroundings. The massive white structure shot skyward from the center of the black stone crater at a rate that almost seemed as if it scraped the clouds. The four corners of the building were encased in the same reflective red metal that had formed the apparently lower ranking soldier’s body armor.

Johnathan leaned over again as he pointed towards the top floor. “Sure hope we don’t have to take the stairs.”

“We’ll be taking the elevator.” The officer replied. “And we’re not apocalypse worshipers. We merely have a greater appreciation for the world’s situation than most.”

Johnathan blinked several time before nodding. “Fair enough.” The group moved relatively wordlessly as they entered the stark white interior of the building. The officer led the Icarians past the front desk and into an elevator that barely fit the six individuals.

Akija shifted uncomfortably in the confined space. “How long we gonna be in here?”

“The ride up is only about a minuet long.” The officer replied as he pressed the button for the top floor.

“Great…” Akija mumbled as she starred out the glass backing of the elevator. They quickly shot upwards from the ground. The world seemingly fell away from them as the full scope of the valley came into view. Several long and jagged canyons had apparently torn outwards from the initial crater, creating a chaotic maze through the ground through which the various white vehicles and buildings below had expanded.

The elevator gave a soft ding as it reached its destination and the doors slid open to reveal a large room with the majority of its walls replaced by massive panes of glass that allowed the occupants to survey the crater below. The room had a red tiled floor and was populated by various pieces of white and black furniture. At the room’s right wall was a lowered circular area where a dark haired woman with a white suit, red tie, and swallow-tail jacket sat quietly playing a viola to an oddly catchy tune. Directly ahead of the group was another individual with a more traditional white suite. The man stood facing away from the group as he looked out the window. He looked a bit taller than average height and his hair was a slicked back light brown. “Mister Crane…” The officer began. “We’ve brought the Icarian representatives to see you as you requested.”

“Thank you, Officer. Please wait in the lobby.” The man said as he slowly turned. His eyes were hidden behind a pair of circular framed glasses but his mouth instantly formed a grin as he gave the group an appraising look. The officer bowed once and returned to the elevator. “So, you’re the group causing the dear Than family so much trouble. I must say I’m quite impressed so far. A pity we couldn’t get the official leader here for a chat as well. But I suppose if I was going to talk to anyone in the Icarian Rebellion…” He gestured towards Akija. “…It should be the one with wings.”

Akija took a tentative step forward. “It’s safe to assume you’re Mister Crane then?”

Crane chuckled. “How observant. I am indeed Darian Crane. Welcome to my home, such as it is.”

“And what exactly do you want with us?” Akija asked a bit more aggressively than she intended.

“Untrusting and to the point.” Crane commented through his grin. “I suppose I could understand your mentality given your history with technologically advanced groups. Fear not though, I want the same thing you want, the toppling of an Empire a bit too obsessed with blue.”

Akija looked around the red and white room. “No offence, Crane, but I’m not really sure you can knock anyone for bein’ obsessed wit’ a color scheme.”

Crane chuckled lightly. “What’s the phrase among the jungle folk these days? Fair enough? Regardless, I believe we can help each other.”

“And what exactly do you want us to do to help you?” Akija asked again, this time letting a bit of annoyance slip into her voice on purpose.

Crane casually walked over to a chair and sat down, tenting his fingers in front of him. He turned to look at the woman playing the viola. “Bobayu, the schematics if you would?” The woman set her instrument down and picked up a tablet similar to the one Quan carried. She tapped the glass surface a few times and the window behind Crane darkened before illuminating with a red wireframe view of a five sided building. “This creatively named structure, was called the Pentagon. It was the center of North American military might before the war, now its purpose is unknown, but the Empire maintains a standing guard force there.”

Akija crossed her arms as she looked over the structure. “And you want us to figure out what dey’re doin’ there?”

“Well yes.” Crane replied. “But more specifically, the building has a closed network connection to the Emperor’s estate that is active at all times. I want your hacker to go to the source and open it for me.”

“And what’s goin’ to happen when we do dat?” Akija asked.

“If my theories are correct, it’ll allow us to dramatically reduce the defensive capabilities of the Azure City.” Crane pointed towards Johnathan. “Which should make it a great deal easier for the good Mister Nukenson here to roll his Abrahms tanks through the gates.”

Akija narrowed her eyes. “And why exactly am I supposed to trust dat that’s all you’d be doin’?”

Crane chuckled. “There’s an old pre-war saying. The enemy of my enemy is my friend. You don’t have to trust me. Hell, once the Thans are dead you don’t even have to speak to me again. But for now we share a common goal, and there’s no reason for us to not work together. Alone nethier of us have a chance of stopping the Empire’s domination of the continent, but with your ability to rally the denizens of the Jungle and my technology, we can end their rule here and now.”

Akija stayed silent for several moments as she thought over the information. She looked between Crane, his assistant, and the structural schematics several times. “Give us the coordinates for dis Pentagon. I want to visit a few more towns before we hit da place, and we’re not patching you in until I know exactly what da Imperials are usin’ it for.”

Crane’s grin widened as he nodded. “I would expect no less. Take whatever time you need. I’ve already waited a long time for this opportunity, I can maintain my patience a little longer.”

“Well I’m not as patient a person…” Akija replied. “So if dat’s all I’d like to get moving again.”

Crane chuckled as the image on the window faded and his assistant returned to playing her instrument. “Very well. The elevator will return you to the lobby. Once the officer there has returned you to the vehicle simply inform Michael where you would like to be dropped off. I hope we’ll be speaking again soon.”

Akija nodded and turned back towards the elevator. The rest of the group wordlessly followed her back. As soon as the elevator doors closed Quan spoke up. “So… Did we just make a deal with the devil?”

Johnathan snickered. “Depending on the religion I think I’d be less creeped out by the devil.”

Vizo glanced out the window at the scarred terrain. “Dependin’ on the religion that guy might be a devil.”

Akija shifted in the small space again as she looked between the others. “Well at least we all agree he’s creepy as fuck.” The others all gave partial laughs in response except for Tokaro, who was humming the tune Crane’s assistant had been playing.

The conversation stopped again once they reached the ground floor. The group stayed relatively wordless as they were led back to the vehicle. Quan immediately pulled out his tablet and approached the driver. “We’re going to Gambit Fort next. How close can you get us?”

The driver looked over the map for a few seconds before nodding. “About two miles out. I’d roll you right up to the door but that settlement’s known to be a bit crazy.”

Quan nodded. “Fair enough.”

Johnathan paused as the others began boarding the vehicle. “Question.”

The driver’s eyes went wide as he spun to face Johnathan. “Start that shit again and I’ll make you walk the whole way there!”

Johnathan shrugged. “Alright then…”

The driver sighed as he climbed into his seat in the vehicle once more and began the group’s journey back into the jungle.

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Re: Shattered Dawn

Post by Nukenson on Tue Sep 06, 2016 12:51 pm

Aaric groaned with a newfound hatred for the multitude of windows in his parent’s estate as he dragged the polishing cloth across the glass in front of him. “This is quite possibly the single largest waste of my time I’ve endured thus far.”

The Janitor Aaric had been assigned to assist laughed slightly. “We’re only on the fifth window. If you can’t appreciate the work we’re doing I’d suggest not pissing off your parents.”

Aaric rolled his eyes. “And what is there to appreciate about this work? You can’t possibly be pleased to have this job?”

The Janitor shrugged. “The way I see it, it’s a matter of morale. The things this city stands for would lose meaning if it looked as shitty and overgrown as the rest of the Jungle.”

Aaric rolled his eyes again. “Now I see the ploy. My father stuck me with some bleeding heart nationalist to try and make me equally nationalized. How… fun.”

“I think your father stuck you with me ‘cause he knew you’d hate it and he wants you to not pull whatever shit you pulled to get you sent here.” The Janitor replied with a smirk. “From the sound of it, you could probably use a little more appreciation for your parent’s work. They keep a lot of people safe.”

Aaric outright laughed. “Well they’re doing a splendid job so far. An army forming beyond the walls and rebels chewing on his doorframe. How safe we are indeed.”

The Janitor paused for a moment as his face leaked fleeting signs of concern. “The fact that we’ve made it seventy eight years without a major incident is not something to mock. Especially given all the monsters that have been lurking beyond the walls all that time.”

Aaric rolled his eyes yet again. “Oh please. What’s next? A story of the time mother slew a dragon?”

The Janitor shook his head. “Not all monsters are beasts, kid.” He turned, showing his amputated right arm. “How do you think I lost this?”

Aaric crossed his arms and leaned against the glass. “Casual carelessness?”

The Janitor’s expression grew far more annoyed. “I used to be a squad leader in the reconnaissance division. While we were undercover surveying a settlement, one of the newer members got us discovered. The locals locked us up in a gladiatorial ring. At first we fought beasts, then the town’s veteran gladiators. I was the only one to make it out, but not before an opponent tore my arm up with a chainsaw.” The Janitor rubbed his shoulder where his arm used to be connected and sighed. “When I won, they let me go. I walked back to the city gates with my mangled arm wrapped up in the torn up remnants of my reconnaissance jacket. By then there was no way to save it and the nerves were too damaged for cybernetics. Obviously I couldn’t serve in the military anymore, so I was offered this job, and you know what? I like it here. It’s easy work, important work, and work that keeps me far out of sight of that psychopath infested jungle.”

Aaric yawned. “So nice that it all worked out in the end. What exactly was the moral of that story?”

The Janitor glared. “The moral was that your father keeps your royal ass safe from shit you can’t even dream of, kid.”

“Lovely.” Aaric replied sarcastically. “I’ll be sure to thank him sometime.” Aaric calmly took out his tablet and started tapping away at the screen.

The Janitor raised a brow. “And what are you doing now?”

Aaric grinned as he opened the security feed to his parent’s office. “Checking in on just what horrible monsters of the forest I’m being protected from.”

The feed was blurred for a moment before becoming clear. The Thans sat behind a desk seemingly appraising a report. Standing before them was a veteran looking reconiasance officer and a helmetless Imperial Honor Guard whose armor had clearly seen better days. “You’re absolutely certain of what you saw?” The Emperor asked as he leaned forward in his seat.

Grax nodded and pointed to Nash. “After the Guardsmen took the hacker and cybernetic, my unit followed the remaining three. As we were preparing to attack, a large vehicle painted white and red picked them up and drove northeast.” Grax pulled out a tablet of his own and tapped the screen a few times. “Our spotter managed a few pictures of the vehicle.” The room’s primary screen lit up with images of the Crane Industries transport and the Icarians boarding it.

Celine looked between the images and Nash. “What do we know of this rebel group? Was there any indication these rebels might be working for Crane when you encountered them?”

Nash shook his head. “No, ma’am. The group calls itself the Icarian Rebellion. At the time we encountered them they had only recruited one city state to the Rebel’s cause, but were actively seeking more. They claimed their next target for recruitment was the Gambit settlement. It’s possible Crane reached out to them of his own accord.”

Grax looked between the other three. “So energy weapons and vehicles aside, can someone please explain to me why everyone’s acting like I just brought back a report about the damned devil himself crawling out o’ the ground?”

Celine looked towards Grax. “Information on Crane Industries will be supplied on a need to know basis, Sergeant.”

Grax shook his head. “Ma’am, it is with the highest respect that I call bullshit on that policy. If you want these people caught and killed I need to know who they’re working with and what recourses they might bring to bear.”

The room went deathly silent for several seconds. The two Thans looked between each other for a moment before finally turning back towards Grax. “Very well, Sergeant…” The Emperor began. “…But this information is to be regarded with the utmost secrecy.”

The Empress began to add something, but paused as her attention turned to her computer. Almost immediately afterwards the screen of Aaric’s tablet changed to that of a silver mechanical eye with a blue lens at its center. “Oh you have got to be kidding.”

The image faded after a moment to show his screen opened to the tablet’s messaging system, where one new voice message was waiting. Aaric reluctantly opened it. His mother’s voice immediately began playing from the tablet’s speaker. “We’ll be talking about this when you’re done with today’s work.”

Aaric groaned. “I’m never going to hear the end of this.” Aaric looked back up to find the Janitor slowly and sarcastically clapping at him. “Oh, shut up.”

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Re: Shattered Dawn

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