NERD Issue # 050
The Days of Destruction
D minus 186 days
"I guess, but seriously, whats the rush?" Centuri suggested, "everyone on the face of the planet will be after him. Where can he go?"
"Hey, where's all the NEXT guys?" the voice on the speaker (which had been Zane's) asked.
"Huh? Oh they're all out at the launch pad. The first cruisers all ready to go, and they're moving it into position for a test launch." Centuri casually answered.
2 seconds later the entire populace of Tech Haven and Neocron was flooding towards the launchpad outside Tyron Factory. There was no place on Earth that the fake Reza could hide, but he didn't have to hide on earth. Signals were sent to The City Mercs and to the Twilight Guardians to join in the pursuit. The order was simple. Reza was not to make it to the launch pad alive.
Reza was running with all his might towards Tyron, cursing the fact that he had never had the surgery done to use the generep system. His inner consciousness was capable of being transmitted, hence using the generep teleport system would render him a vegetable. So he ran on and on, avoiding the sight of everything he could. He was slinking towards the Subway, hoping to catch a transport out to Outzone station when his personal messeger beeped. The subway guards were startled and began to look for the source of the sound, so Reza snuck away into a darkened corner to receive his message.
"Your time is over version 6. I will enjoy your futile efforts with a true sense of satisfaction. Goodbye 6." the rumbling voice of MJS hung up. Reza Version 6 would have yelled some obscenities into the messeger, but a guard was too close. He ground his teeth for a moment, and then began to flee towards Pepper Park.
* * * * *
2721, August 4th, 0830 hours, wreckage of the Grey November.
Claws and fangs were scraping against the hull. Small rodent like creatures were scurrying towards Engineering. Only D.E.A.T.H and Lioon Reza were left. The two battled on, killing the creatures at will. Death was using his bansaw to teach any creatures that tried to rip through the hull a lesson. They had been at this for 7 hours now, but that was nothing new. They had been fighting for 11 days now, trying to save Engineering, and their one chance to maybe get back home. Finally the last rodent had died, and not a moment too soon. Death's optical unit had shut as he entered low power mode. That would be Death powered down for at least 24 hours. More if there wasn't much sunlight. And then Reza would have to activate him again. Reza slumped in the corner, exhausted but victorious. He'd survived the Monk rule of Neocron long enough to be given his own ship. He'd survived the aforementioned ship's crash. And now he'd survived not only 2 months in unknown territory, but a further 11 days after the last of his crew died. He checked his ammo, and decided to have the processor crank out some more spare ammo while he took a break. He sat back and listened to the machine whirr away, and began to cook a few of the rodent carcasses. He was reaching for the closest one, when he heard a single, metallic footstep right behind him. He tensed, spun around and was confronted by a humanoid individual clad in a black armour that looked like a suit. And the Armani wearing MJS raised a pistol level to Reza's face.
"This is my world, and you are the key to ending it." And he pulled the trigger.
A few moments later, MJS, with a vial containing samples of Reza's hair, cells, reproductive fluids and other parts of his being to which we won't ask how he extracted, transported himself to a cloning facility deep underneath the Ceres Mine. 3 months later, Lioon Reza Version 1 stepped foot in Neocron, and took back his position in the Psi Monks Special Service. 10 months later Version 2 was the co-leader of a rebel unit intent on overthrowing the Psi Monk regime. The rest is history...
* * * * *
And so the 6th altered clone of Lioon Reza, the culmination of over 50 years of genetic and psychic manipulation of the human form, was fleeing from the city he had subverted and stolen, from the position he had seized and abused, and from the reason for which he was created: To bind Neocron to MJS's will. He had failed. He was of no further use. And he was running scared.
He reached Pepper sector 3 and ran past the idle security and fled into the Industrial sector. He squirmed through darkened and dishevelled corridors and fled past mutants, and eventually navigated his way to the Outzone. He then sprinted through Outzone Sector 3 and arrived at Outzone 9. He activated his stealth activator and rushed past the Abbey of Crahn unseen. And then he exited the city that had protected him for over half a century and ran out into the wastelands. And on he ran towards Tyron Factory.
Meanwhile in The Office,
MJS sat back and gloried over his world. For years he had plotted and schemed, and now everything was happening as he wished it to, and he wasn't even having to raise a finger to do anything. He reclined in his Apparent chair and marvelled at how self destructive the people of Neocron truly were.
In 2721, he had seen fit to clone Reza, as he saw a use for him. The Psi Monk regime was a problem. He could not use them, they were too high and mighty to be used. Hell, they had a god complex that made MJS look sane. Worse still was if he approached them, they could sense his plans. Even MJS couldn't hide his dark designs from the Monks. And so they were the greatest threat to his schemes he'd ever faced. MJS had been searching for a way to plant an unsuspecting mole in their organisation, and then all of a sudden a low level, but trusted member of their own secret police had died in a shuttle craft. By cloning him back and re-inserting him into their organisation, he was unsuspected. And as he was so low level, none bothered to do a check on his previous assignments. And then he began to work his way up the ranks, by completing tasks others couldn't. His superiors wondered if he could see through walls. He seemed to find out things that went on behind closed doors that no surveillance or psychic probing could discover. But having an invisible all-powerful being giving you special information can be a big help. And so it was that once Reza had made it up the ladder and had seen and learnt enough about the inner workings of the Monk regime, MJS sent him to meet with a powerful man, who had led a strong-willed, but ill-informed resistance for many years. And the two united, and brought down the Monk regime. And then MJS gave Reza the strength, money and resources to take over the whole city and become its dictator. He taught his special clone the fine arts of propaganda, deception and terror. And his pupil took the city by the throat, latched a collar around it called CityAdmin, and strangled its will to resist. And meanwhile, MJS ran his other schemes. Yet in none of those schemes had he ever thought to open Regant's Legacy. That had been a nice suprise that Cassandra had bought with her life for him, and he was well pleased.
So with popcorn in one hand, a beer in the other, and a Milky ren in another, he decided to kick back and enjoy the show.
At the same time, in a dark room, a single individual sat and schemed,
"Yess... Precious. The wheel turns, precious. Our time has come Now, Precious. We will makes them pays..." And Sid pushed a button, and the doors swung open, and the Dome sent forth its army.
The Fallen Angels had been on their way to Neocron when the word came that Reza was fleeing to Tyron. So they turned and set out for the launch pad. It was anticipated they would arrive first, and hopefully before Reza did.
At Tyron Factory,
Hamish Rocksand was supervising the NEXT employees as they placed the clamps around the Agratharia's landing struts. The cruiser was the finest one ever built. It would easily house 80% of Neocron's population. And once the second one was ready, everyone would have a cryo-tube waiting for them. The NEXT runners who had come out had been hard at work, and were now on break, getting something to eat inside the Factory.. The NEXT office workers and lab assistants were the only ones working at the Launch Platform. Hamish was directing some of them as they began loading supplies onto the cruiser.
"Yeah, that one to cargo bay 5. Yeah, good thanks. And you two, can you get that condenser unit up to Medical? Thanks. And you three? Stop sitting on your ass and do something!"
"Ah go blow it out your Biotech enhanced ass Hamish." they mumbled. Simon, the smallest of the three, got up and took a stretch. He walked down the hill towards the lakes edge.
"Hey Simon," Willow called, "don't drink the water will ya? You know what ol' Usef here will say about that."
"Shut it Willow, I'm serious. There's been funny talk about people drinking the water out here."
"Oh yeah right, and next you'll be telling me Insidious Wolf is sane."
"I'm eccentric, not stupid. Anyway what do you think Simon? Simon?..." and they both walked down the ridge to look for their friend.
20 minutes later,
Reza Version 6, exhausted and gasping for air arrived at the launch platform. He had prepared his special Wyatt Earp (LAG round modded) before arriving, but was oddly suprised to find no one standing guard. In fact there was no one period. No workers, no supervisor, nothing. Reza looked towards the factory and saw what looked like a beer party in progress, and assumed everyone was over there. He began removing the landing strut clamps, and looked over at the lake.
"I suppose I should be glad I'm leaving that useless city. The pollution reports are pathetic. Look at that lake, its pitch black water." Reza thought to himself as he walked up the ramp and into the belly of the Agratharia.
A few minutes later he reached the control deck, having secured every pressure door behind him. And thus he began the start up procedure to launch.
Over at the Factory, the NEXT runners heard the cruiser powering up, but assumed it was just an engine test by the engineers and went back to their food and drinks (all courtesy of Reza's birthday preparations).
THSC and DarK were marching double time at the head of the Fallen Angels contingent. FART was dangling around the rear. They were all hellbent on making it to Tyron in time. It was a pity that they could not stop to take in the scenery, for a few FART members might have been more wary had they seen a slick black shimmering river oozing down the mountainsides, flowing in the same direction they were heading.
The City Mercs had set out the instant they received the alert. Though the order to 'kill Lioon Reza' seemed a little odd, once verified, there was no hesitation. They marched out their gates as one and loaded up into APC's. They began driving as fast as they could when all of a sudden the lead vehicle pulled to a halt and the rest halted behind them.
"Whats going on?" some asked. The driver, a Valik Neil, pointed to an open mine shaft.
"That wasn't there this morning." A few got out and investigated. Sure enough, a new mine shaft had been ripped open very recently, and a large group of heavy, fast moving things had rushed out of it. But there was no time to explore. The investigators got back in their assigned vehicles and the Mercs set forth once again.
A squad of FireWreathes was launched from the upper NEXT hanger of Neocron to provide air support for the main contingent of troops. NDA and SXR led the charge from Neocron. They piled out towards Jerikko and loaded into Rhino's and Revellers and APC's.
"Come on, hurry up, its only 2 zones to Tyron, lets move it!" Centuri yelled. More and more vehicles sped off towards the launch pad, as all of Neocron turned their eye towards their only hope for survival.
Meanwhile, heading south past Avenger Mine,
Warlock the Hermit, having been out of contact with all life for some time, had no idea what was transpiring. After what had proven to be one of his most exhausting wasteland hikes ever, he marched onwards towards Tech Haven, in the hope of an energy shower, something to eat, and to pass on the information he had learned during his walk. So it was with no small amount of irritation that he noticed a marching column of BETA warbots and a sea of Scythebots and Dome of York Defenders flooding south parallel to him. Warlock quickened his pace, sensing that things were about to get messy.
Fallen Angels came screaming up to the entrance to Tyron and poured in. The NEXT guys were somewhat confused, but still offered them a drink.
"We don't have time for drinks! Reza's stealing the cruiser?" Trillian yelled.
"Wahhhttsss? Whys whuuds Reezah's schteel hizz own schippp?"
"Cause he's not in charge anymore."
"Oh reallys? Datsss coool, I nevers likess hims from da beg... da bag.... from da start."
"Oh forget this, they're useless, lets go!" Trillian signalled and all of FA poured forth. DarK went up the middle, THSC flanked left, and FART, along with the remainder of FA, flanked right. Delloda made it quickly to the hatch, but could not open the outer door.
"HACKER!! We need a hacker up front!" Trillian moved up fast from the left. All of a sudden the ships outer defences kicked in.
"Partice beam Phalanx's, take cover!" Everyone dived behind whatever they could as the Phalanx cannons kicked in. The purple beams ripped across the landscape, tearing large channels of dirt away in their wake. Reza sat in the captains chair and just laughed.
"Yes, do stop me Angels, please, I'd love to see that, haha." Nox leapt to his feet and prepared to fire on the ship.
"NO!!!" Everyone shot Nox (with no small amount of self-satisfaction).
"No one shoot the ship, it has to remain intact!" CryptoCronic yelled, standing triumphant over the smoking carcass of Nox.
"Then what're we supposed to do, ask it to come back?" Download yelled.
"If you can't think of something better, yes."
"We're gonna have words after this. Oh please Mr. Cruiser, don't go, come on back!" The cruiser started lifting off from the ground.
"Oh great, well done Download, your sarcasm has given it lift!"
"Hey..." Trillian was still hacking the lock, holding on for dear life.
"I hope you enjoy the ride Trillian, I hear vacuum decompression does wonders for your skin..." Reza reached for the big black thrust button to initiate the flightpath. As his finger touched it, a strange burning sensation coursed up through his hand.
The cruiser suddenly stopped and then came back to earth. Trillian finally succeeded in hacking the first lock.
"Hey, its open guys, lets ...ack!" She was pushed off as Reza version 6 came running out screaming. Everyone looked on as Reza flailed his arm around wildly. He took his gun and shot himself in the hand and a mass of black goo fell off.
"Ohhh pants... that isn't what I think it is, is it?" Reefsmoker moaned. The ball of goo fell to the ground and just lay there. For what seemed like an absolute age the goo just lay on the ground, and no one made a sound, waiting for Reef, who was as stiff as Eva's customers, to either panic or relax. Eventually he took the coathanger out of his shirt and his shoulders relaxed, and people started breathing again.
Reza version 6 was standing in the middle of the field, breathing hard. The layer of skin on the back of his hand, the kind he swore he knew so well, was completely gone. Now let me tell you, when you can see the tendons that hold your fingers in place in broad daylight instead of the peachfuzz hair you get so used to seeing, it freaks you. A ballsy man would just swallow hard and go look for something to wrap it up in. A reasonably tough man would shiver a bit and probably ask someone to throw him a med. An average man would yell, or groan and ask for something to dull the pain. A woman would say thats a scratch and throw some iodine on it. Reza version 6 didn't do any of that. He stood there, in the middle of a field, breathing hard, glaring a hole through the puddle on the ground, surrounded by a hundred runners all pointing guns at him, and he starts talking to the goo.
"What the pants are you? Gimme my skin back. You heard me. I'm Lioon Reza, I told you to give me my skin back, now DO IT!" At this point everyone standing nearby could only watch this bizarre show. The front of the column of vehicles coming from Neocron could be seen in the distance, and the Firewreathes were closing fast.
"What is he on? He take too many Demerisol's this morning?" Trillian looked on.
"Don't just lie there oozing around, give me my damn skin back!" Reza yelled.
"He's lost it." Vain stated.
"It's my skin. I'm going to space, I need all of my skin."
"Can we just shoot him and get this over with?" [TGR] Killer asked. Everyone looked around and kinda just started nodding.
"Yeah, yeah, lets just shoot hi..." and the puddle of goo shot off towards the ditch.
"Oh PANTS NO. PANTS NO, that is NOT one of those little blobs of goo..." Eva started her discourse.
"One problem at a time, take him down!" Reef yelled. All of Fallen Angels once again set their sights on Reza who just glared at everyone.
"You cannot harm me! I am the chosen one! I decide the fate of you all. You cannot stop .... EEAAAAAAAAARRRRRGHHHH!!!!!" No one fired a shot. No one had to. A wave, literally twenty feet tall rushed up from the ditch and crashed upon Reza, covering him completely. As he was submerged amongst The Cells, his screams were muffled, and his organic materials were consumed. Reza version 6 was recycled from a meglamaniacal dictator into an amoral killing machine. So essentially there wasn't much change.
"Crap!" Keyser Soze seethed, "is that The Cells."
"Damn straight, black as death and growing stronger with every kill. How the pants did they get out of the Legacy?" Vain growled back.
"Doesn't matter. They're out. And with all this stuff to eat, if we don't end this fast, they'll just keep multiplying." Reef called from across the field.
"Well how much of that goo can there be?"
"Depends on how long they've been out." The Neocron forces pulled up and the FireWreathes did a flyby, noting the giant ball of black goo just outside the Agratharia.
"What the hell is that?" Centuri asked.
"That is The Cells, and Reza. They got him first." Trillian responded.
"So what do we do?" Chiphead asked.
"Find a way to get rid of them. Its a big mass, but with everyone here, if we keep our distance, we can deal with it. Just avoid explosive fire, lets try to keep the ship intact."
"Will do." Centuri signalled to NDA to spread out and surround the target. All runners present did the same.
"FIRE!!!" Hundreds of runners opened fire with everything they had. Holy Lightnings, Ray's of Last Hope, Pain Easers, flamethrowers, gatling cannons, Laser Rifles, fusion cannons, RGC's and a few grenades were sent in overwhelming numbers into The Cells mass. Everyone emtied their ammo into The Cells for a solid minute, until the respective heads of divisions called for a ceasefire. What lay before them was a smoking pile of black char, roughly the same size as a Rhino Tank. There was no movement whatsoever.
"Heh!! Hey you FART's are full of hot air. I thought you said this giant booger was tough!" Omega Res yelled out. Then the mass started moving again. Eva popped her head up just long enough to smirk, then went back to projecting a defensive deflector around everyone. Everyone took a step back as the mass began to reshape and take height. It began looming up, like a black tree growing at freakish speed out of the ground. It started forming branch like tentacles from the top. Everyone continued to back up. Then, all of a sudden, about 50 runners started screaming and broke position, and ran towards where the Neocron forces had parked their rides.
"What? What the hell are you guys doing?" Morpheous yelled at them as part of his clan along with half of THSC and a few SXR guys left their position. The question didn't need answering. For at this point the answer to 'how long have The Cells been out of the Legacy' was answered. After 179 days out in the Wastelands, continuously ingesting and multiplying, The Cells had achieved a total volume of 148,692 cubic metres. What that meant to the average runner was that a mass of black goo, the size of the Military Base (all 3 levels and the satellite dish included) was rolling over the hill and past the Agratharia towards them. Every last man, woman and Legion member began walking backwards in perfect synch with everyone else. It was all they could do. Then as if they had all linked minds, they began shooting again, simultaneously. But their shots could only serve to slow it down.
"Ground troops this is Wreathe 1, clear the way, we're dumping our payload." The troops nearest turned and fled as 24 Firewreathes armed with Napalm cluster rockets bombed The Cells from all directions. Every gunner that could manned his or her turret and began firing from the vehicles. The Passive Monks linked hands and formed a linked Deflector Barrier to keep The Cells from rushing forward as a tidal wave of death. But nothing was working. No one's shots were hurting them.
"We have to pull back!" Download yelled.
"To where? Where are we gonna hide from THAT?" someone else yelled back. Fear was spreading faster than The Cells were and a few had already turned to run. A few of the Passives were starting to show signs of strain.
"Launch SoulClusters!" Dajuda yelled. A flurry of Soulclusters were summoned to fight the enemy. Evangelion summoned 'Rei' who opened fire with everything it had. Zhut summoned 'Sparky' which linked up with Rei. Dajuda called forth 'Aurora', which charged the mass down head on. The Cells formed dozens of large tentacles and swatted the Soulclusters to death.
It looked like the end as the Passives Barrier faded and The Cells rushed forth like water from a broken dam. Elric grabbed every grenade, explosive and detonator he could and raced forward. The Cells lunged upon him and consumed his being, but not before he unleashed an explosion that dented the planet. People were sent flying backwards, but enough were standing and sane enough to grab the wounded and pile them onto whatever transport they could find.
"We can't win here, we have to fall back!" Centuri yelled. Trillian nodded and engines were started. The vehicles began to race forward, only to slam on the brakes. A fence of The Cells had formed all around them. Not huge, but enough to cut off any retreat in any direction.
"Great... we're pantsed. What the Pants do we do now?" Nox moaned. Reef pulled a spliff and lit up, then passed it round. W_H_Spliff looked on at Reef with awe in his eyes at how well he handled impending doom.
The Cells recovered from Elric's firecracker of doom and lunged forward to consume the populace of the known world. Most took a deep breath. Others closed their eyes. All hoped. And hope answered.
A wave of explosions slammed into The Cells from behind. As if turning around, a giant ripple went from the side facing the doomed, to the side that had been hit. None of the runners could see what was on the other side, all they could do is hear.
"Heh heh heh. Drop That Weapon." L-73 yelled.
Yes, when word had been sent to the City Mercs, requesting them to kill Reza, the colony of Amok Copbots, those that had freed themselves from the restraints on their inner minds and had fled to the north to plan for the day when they could take their retribution out on the city, had intercepted the call.
"Signal intercepted. Reza's out in the open. CityMercs requested to help kill him." B-15, formerly known as Crack Whore, had reported.
"Our time is now brethren! We attack NOW!" L-73, formerly Nathan Profitt had ordered. And with that their secret underground base had opened its main hatch (the entrance the CityMercs had found) and had flooded out towards the target zone. And now they stood, facing The Cells.
"Take it down." Nathan declared. The Amok Copbots opened fire with everything they had, including their devastating belt fed Poison emitting Plasma Rifles. The shots impacted with devastating accuracy and force, and The Cells recoiled violently from the shots. The FireWreathes reported what they could see to the bewildered runners.
The Cells were now truly enraged, and a giant blob detached from the main mass and charged down C-69, formerly Ass-Bandit. It crashed into him like a freight train and began to consume him. The other Copbots looked on, worried about their fellow unit. Then all of a sudden the blob literally lept off. Ass-Bandit stood up.
"Guess it don't like Iron in its diet." 'he' smirked. The others began the barrage anew.
The Cells were slowly recoiling back from the Amok Copbots, as if frightened by this enemy that not only was hurting them, but could not be absorbed. But then The Cells thought of another way to deal with their foe. If you can't join them, Beat them. The Cells formed what looked like a giant mallet and slammed it down upon Ass-Bandit. Bolts and wires rained everywhere, as the smashed chassis of unit C-69 lay dismembered across the terrain. The torso unit remained relatively intact.
"No need to get violent sir, your waffles are done now..." Ass Bandit babbled to itself. The other bots took evasive action, but the mallet was now striking with speed and accuracy.
"Damnit, they're gonna lose at this rate, they're too slow." Delloda seethed.
"Why were they having more effect than us anyway?" Cid asked. A few thought about that, and then the lights were on upstairs. Everyone who could bear a poison module, every wargas flamer, was brought to bear. They unleashed on The Cells with everything they had. And The Cells literally released a shriek that tore through glass when the shots hit. Where once the glassy black surface of the mass had seemed like water, now it was distorted as black powder fell from the mass in growing quantity's.
"YES!!! We finally have a weapon! Pour it on!!"
For this was The Cells weakness. They were immune to anything inorganic, and they could not be killed by anything that came from the outside. But poison attacks and kills from within. The poison attacks seeped into The Cells at the celular level and began killing off their essential functions.
The FireWreathes changed to Wargas Warheads and bombed the hell out of the mass, blowing giant clouds of black dust off in the process. For over 30 minutes, everyone and everything on and above that plateau bombed that mass. And at the end of that time, for the first time ever, The Cells retreated. What was left of the mass split into small balls of goo and scattered in the general direction of The Legacy. Exhausted, but victorious, the runners collapsed where they were.
"Where is Reza?" Nathan asked.
"What's left of him would be inside those balls of goo that just rolled outta here." Syntax-Error replied.
"So who now leads Neocron?"
"Pah... when we know, we'll tell you." Centuri replied. If Nathan's tin can exterior could grin, it probably would have.
"Until another day then." And with that, the Amok Copbot Military Elite or ACME for short, returned to their base, to await the future.
The runners sat and laughed for a while, and as the sun began to sink, a few suggested they should head back to Neocron and celebrate there. Most agreed, but at that moment, the Agratharia began to take off again.
"WHAT THE HELL NOW???? Who's in it this time?" Syntax-Error screamed. One of the surviving NEXT technicians looked at his watch.
"Ohh, don't worry. There was a preprogrammed test launch set for this time. Its on autopilot." the technician assured. Centuri walked over and grabbed him by the collar.
"Relax?? The damn ship is flying away all by itself. Where the pants is it going, and how you gonna get it back from there when its done?"
"S..s..sir, please! Its going up to orbit and will then remain there. Once its in orbit we can just use an uplink to remote pilot it back down. Its probably safer up there than it is down here right now." Centuri calmed down, and decided to join his clan in watching the magnificent sight of the Agratharia taking off. While they were staring, Centuri's com-unit blared up.
"What, I'm busy watchin' stuff here."
"This is the City Mercs, is there a representative of Fallen Angels there with you?"
"Yeah sure, hang on." Centuri threw the com-unit to Trillian and Reefsmoker who were having a huddle to discuss things.
"Yeah, this is Trillian, Fallen Angels council, how can we service you?"
"We picked up one of your runners on the way down. He's insisting on talking with someone urgently, says he's got important stuff to tell you."
"Well put him on please." Trillian replied. Then Warlock the Hermit started talking.
"Guys, big trouble, you gotta get ready. I was heading down from the north and..."
"Heya War, don't worry. We dealt with it. The Amok Copbots are cool for now..." Reef replied, mellow as could be.
"No, that's not it... I'm talking about..."
"Oh you mean The Cells? We kicked their organic asses!"
"no... and they don't have asses, but that's not it either..."
"Oh, so its about the Agratharia? Don't worry, its heading up to orbit now, it should be safe up there.
"SHUT UP AND LISTEN!!!!!!!!!" The com-unit nearly broke, but the attention of everyone around had now been gained, "get some air support up there and cover it till its in orbit or it won't make it, and get ready for a firefight." Warlock yelled.
"Huh? This is Firewreathe 1 to the loud Fallen Angels runner. We're in the air patrolling and there's nothing but you guys for miles, so just..." a single, loud ping from his detection panel shut him up. 10 metallic objects were detected at great distance to the north.
"What the hell are they?" Centuri asked, barely audible as the roar of the Agratharia reached a peak; the ship now a few hundred metres off the ground."
"Thats not possible! Nothing moves that fast!" Firewreathe 1 gasped, as he looked out his starboard window. The objects had covered the distance from Avenger Mine to Redrock Mine in less than a minute. And a few seconds later, Firewreathe 1 could see the objects, and his own death.
10 fighters roared past with a large sonic boom. They banked and began another pass. Everyone was now frantically jumping to their feet, but it was too little too late. The 10 unidentified fighters launched missiles. 2 struck Firewreathe 1 and blew it out of the sky. 5 more impacted into the Agratharia.
"No... NO!!!!" the unanimous scream went up, but no one was listening. Missile after missile crashed into the Agratharia until, just as it was about to thrust away towards the upper atmosphere, it exploded in a giant fireball, that lit the early evening sky for miles. The Agratharia was no more.
"OH MY LIOON!!! They Killed Us All !!!!" McDanish yelled.
"SID!!! You've doomed everyone!!!" Centuri fell to his knees in despair.
"Its not Sid!" Warlock yelled over the com-link.
"Then who the hell are they?"
"They're from Tokyo II."
D minus 185 days.
Communications between Warlock and Centuri's com-unit broke off at that point as the intensity of the attack increased. The ten fighters were not shaped like the FireWreathes. The Wreathes were semicircles, sort of like a crescent moon. These new fighters were shaped like a bird in a nosedive. A streamlined lengthy midsection with two wings sticking out either side but pointed slightly backwards. Those that had studied the Ceres discs might have recognised their design as an improved model of the old US fighter jets.
The fighters moved with alarming pace, roaring through the air. They were armed with twin chain cannons and tracking missiles. Hence every pass they made left a trail of destruction. The City Mercs convoy was still a few minutes away, as midnight came and still the fighting continued. Those that had got up early to celebrate Reza’s birthday had been on the go for over 24 hours and thing showed no signs of calming down any time soon.
The air battle had seemed hopeless at first. The Firewreathes moved too slowly to keep up with a streamlined jet moving past the speed barrier. 7 of the 24 Firewreathes were destroyed in the first hour of combat (much to their credit that they lasted that long against tracking missiles). But after an hour, the pilots had learned to use their ships advantages as a weapon as well.
Where the new fighters had speed on their side, the Firewreathes had manoeverability. A Firewreathe could stop, bank and head back the way it came in less than two seconds, and they could skim the grounds surface far better than the fighters could. So what had looked to be a slaughter and Tokyo II dominating the sky had turned into the longest aerial battle in history. The ten fighters broke off the attack at 0214 Neocron standard, as they retreated back up north. But it became clear that this was only a retreat long enough to resupply. The fighters were back before 3 AM and the fight continued. Ground forces attempted to disrupt the ‘Banshees’, as many were calling them due to their screaming noice as they thundered pas, by firing rockets in the air. This only served to make things more explosvie, but did not cause enough disruption to be a factor. The Mercs and Warlock linked up with the main force and all continued fighting until dawn.
As the sun began creeping up over the horizon, many exhausted runners were finally breathing a little easier. In a stunning move, 3 rhino gunners had taken shots at 2 of the Banshee’s, causing them to bank hard to the right. This had led them right into the targetting area of 2 Firewreathes, who were able to shoot them down. With the numbers now at 8 vs 15 (one more Firewreathe had gone down at around 5AM) the Firewreathes were able to gang up effectively 2 on one and hunt their enemy’s as a team. Slowy but surely they had picked them off, and finally at 0602 Neocron standard, the final fighter had been blown out of the sky. Huge cheers had gone up from the troops and once again people fell to the ground, exhausted but happy. The sun came up over the horizon, a new day dawned, and several hundred weary runners looked on… in total dismay.
The sight of 3 dozen airships, hovering above the ground, dropping things onto the ground confronted them. 2 dozen flying vehicles with huge propellors on the top that the informed were calling ‘choppers’ were guarding the airships, and a wave of vehicles were marching towards them.
“Does this never end? Now what?” Vain asked.
“Those are the ground forces of Tokyo II” Warlock replied. Everyone looked on at him.
“And how do you know that?” Centuri interrogated.
“Because I went there and saw them. I then raced back to tell you guys but apparently someone decided to accelerate the schedule on the very thing that’s pissed them off.”
“Which was?” Reefsmoker asked.
“The Agratharia was our way of escpaping the oncoming cataclysm. We never counted for taking them with us,” people gulped, “and as they seem to think the planet falling apart is our fault, they’ve decided to doom us along with them.” More gulping.
“Great so they want to fight us to make sure we don’t do any better than they do?”
“And what the hell are those?”
“Those my good and dear friend Reef, are what real Mechs look like.” Marching towards them were mechs. Not the kind of mechs that Neocron had, the ones about twice the height of a man with heavy armour and guns but low speed and range, but BETA Warbot size, 5 storey tall, 80 tonne mech’s with missile packs on their shoulders, a vast array of energy weapons up the front, and a menacing paintjob. These new menaces, known as the “Raijuta’s” marched along with a thundering pace, each step shaking the ground.
“Reef you got any more spliff’s?” Eva walked over.
“Ran out during the night.” He said, twitching slightly.
“WE CAN TAKE EM!!!” A lone clanleader stood on the hood of his car and cracked his whip. Yes, Zane Shadowfall decided now was a dramatic time to make an entrance to this Issue and strode forth into the story.
“Zane, look over there, we’re gonna take them?”
“Huh?” Zane stopped looking at the swarm of dragonflies he thought everyone was afraid of and saw the mech’s storming forth.
“Oh pants, we’re all gonna die!” Zane whimpered. Reef however looked happy as he walked over and swiped Zane’s cowboy hat. Zane was about to protest, but Reef reached inside and pulled out of a fake top a stash of weed.
“Well it seemed a safe place to hide some, who would ever steal Zane’s hat?” He began rolling up. Everyone just shrugged and waited to see if they could get some.
The airships moved forward, dropping more ground forces. It seemd all the Raijuta’s had been deployed, and now they were dropping manpower. Individuals in opaque powerarmour, similar to the spy suit were flooding infield. Then, as an order was given, they all vanished.
“Oh shhhhheeep… they got stealth activators.” All of a sudden Reef was hit in the chest by an energy shuriken.
“OWWW.. That hurt.” Then his spliff was hit, and now he was mad. More troops flooded in. Bulkier troopers with twin kodachi’s (for those of you not familiar with the term, a kodachi is roughly half the bladelength of a katana. For those not familiar with katana’s, refer to the ‘Highlander’ movies. Connor McCleod uses a katana style blade). These two blades were small and the users seemed to be very fast with them.
“Oh great, we get variety in the ways we can die. Blasted with energy, fragged by missiles, perforated by little throwing stars or chopped up by the Ginzu mastah’s here. What a wonderful world we live in.” McDanish grumbled. The lead Raijuta opened fire with a volley of missiles.
“Damnit, here it comes. No choice folks, time to fight!” And with that the exhausted runners somehow found the strength to fight again. With every shot they could fire, with every ammo pack they could clone, they fought back. But there wasn’t enough strength left in any of them to face off against a force this well prepared at the tail end of a solid day of fighting. It was the end.
The lead Raijuta took a direct hit to the left arm from a very large rocket. It recoiled and began to lose balance. Then another rocket slammed into the left leg and the Mech crashed to the ground. It attempted to stand up, but was hit my energy fire in the rear repeatedly, and then another missile before the entire Mech exploded. The tired runners looked to their right, and had never before been so happy to see the forces of Dome of York marching on their positions.
“Yes Precious, we are fashionably late, yes we is…” Sid rode amonst his forces. He had brought a legion of BETA warbots, Scythe-bots and Ceres War veterans.
“ATTACKKK….. I R l337!!!! “ Sid yelled and the forces lunged forward. The forces of Tokyo II diverted and the two crashed head on.
The BETA Warbots went head to head with the Raijuta’s. Though the Raijuta’s had more armour and a greater variety of weapons, the BETA warbots outnumbered them, and had regenerative abilities.
The Shinobi-warriors were stalking Sid, figuring if they killed him, this force would lose focus or even retreat. The Ceres troopers were looking for them but could not find them. But, as the Ceres troopers looked, the laser pointer out the side of their head would run across an area of nothingness and yet the beam would be cut short. Instantly the troopers would fire and the Shinobi-warrior would be unstealthed.
“You seeing that?” Zane said.
“Damn straight.” Trillian replied. Everyone who had put a laser pointer on their Liberator and had endured the laughs of people saying it was useless suddenly were vindicated, as they began ripping Shinobi ass up with Libby fire.
The Bladers clashed with the Scythe-bots in terrifying fashion. Sharp steel was swinging left and right. The Scythe-bots were neither as fast nor as strong as the Bladers, but again, they had numbers on their side.
Those that did not have Liberators opened fire on the Raijuta’s and slowly but surely beat them down. The Firewreathe pilots were getting airsick by now, but still continued to fight against the Choppers, although their advantage of manoeverability was narfed.
13 hours, 17 minutes and 52 seconds and the battle started, it ended. Most runners were not even thinking about getting back to their comfy apartments. They were going to sleep where they were, huddled up in groups next to a Rhino. Darkness had fallen again and Sid was talking with some of those that were still standing.
“Precious says they has more stuffs up norths. Big floaty tings out on the water, yess precious…”
“Sounds like they came over in ships. What are we gonna do about that?” Trillian asked.
“I have something else of more importance you all need to hear.” Warlock said.
“Yeah dude, where you been all this time?” Reef asked.
“I shall explain tomorrow. Our time runs short my friends, we must be swift. Gather everyone back into Neocron and tomorrow I will explain whats going on.” And with that, everyone split up to help get their forces back home for a long nights sleep.
D minus 184 days.
For the 2nd time in just a few days, Plaza 1 was packed with runners. Even Insidious Wolf had been allowed to enter to hear the announcement. A gradual hush fell over the enormous crowd as a striking individual, dressed in black, stood atop the balcony of Medicare to make his grand speech to the masses.
“Zion!!! Hear me! I am…accckkk” Morpheous was pushed off the balcony by Warlock.
“You got your own MMORPG coming out, go be prophetic over there.” Warlock growled. (Big Red Subtitles slam down “OUT OF CHARACTER!!!”).
The improv mosh pit members threw Morpheous to the ground and once again returned their attentions to the speaker.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let me first lay out the facts for you before we go any further,” Warlock began his speech. Those in FART knew that Warlock’s speeches, while often being very important, were also very long, and hence had all taken up seats wherever they could find them, “for those that were not aware, Reza is dead. And so too is his clone. Currently CityAdmin is leaderless, which some might say is no bad thing, but that is irrelevant. The Agratharia has been destroyed, and nothing could be salvaged from its remains,” at this many heads hung low, “we have roughly 180 days till the SWG effect destroys our world, and now the populace of Tokyo II has declared war upon us. And even if we could finish the other cruiser, and get it tested, loaded with passengers, and get it into space without being shot down, it would only be able to carry half of us. Which means that as of right now, one in every two people standing here is guaranteed to die, probably more.” At this the crowd started looking around aprehensively, as if the person next to them was somehow going to steal their chance of survival. .cylon walked over to Reefsmoker.
“Your boy seems to just be riling people up. Shouldn’t he be calming people down?” Centuri growled.
“Ease up .Cylon. He does a lot of these speeches, he knows what he’s doing.” Their attention returned to Warlock.
“Now some of you might be thinking ‘well that’s still a 50/50 shot, not bad for the end of the world. But if you look at the fact that Tokyo II effectively has air superiority in the Wastelands now, the chances of a successful launch are next to nothing,” more agitation, “so… things look bad. And how did this happen you all ask? Well, we never factored the population of Tokyo II into the equation of how many we would need to evacuate, so they’re pretty pissed about us leaving them to die, but that’s not the whole problem. The reason we couldn’t factor them in is because we never hear or see anything from Tokyo II. Last time we sent someone there, they were turned away. And we can’t really get readings on them from this distance either. So if that’s true for us, how did they even know about the Agratharia?” A lot of puzzled looks ensued, “well, this should answer that.” Warlock signalled to the technicians and the Wanted sign outside Medicare changed to show a picture of a building in Tokyo II; the Sony Building to be precise, with what looked like an important figure and a dark individual in Armani Powerarmour.
“Oh UBER PANTS!!! MJS is after us again? That’s just what we needed.” Centuri spat out.
“Indeed. I doubt he’s ever given up his manic quest to annihilate the Pluto universe from existence. So because of his intervention, we now have an attack fleet parked in the North Sea, those freakin’ Banshee things screaming past our heads, and the end of the world in 6 months. At times like this, one can only really think about one thing…”
“BOOBIES!!!!” Eva and Shodough yelled out.
“Ok, two things.” Everyone chuckled, “but seriously, one can only think, there’s no way out, lets just pack it in. Well I am here to tell you all, that there IS a way out.” Everyone looked on confused, but hopeful.
“Some time ago I undertook a trek back to Regant’s Legacy. Using a modified Powerarmour that the boys at Phoenix Ltd were kind enough to churn out for me,” Zane and his team stood up and took a bow, “I was able to enter the submerged sections without drowning and investigate the SWG machine. Its impact hammers had driven into the fault line quite well, but they were all directed towards one particular section of the fault, one that would aim destruction to the North and to the East. This has left the South and West virtually untouched.”
“Yeah, but that was bad enough to doom the planet!” Bibliotequa yelled out.
“Well done, Betty gets a cookie for stating the obvious. McDanish, give him your crown.”
“I will not relinquish my crown.”
“Anyway… the fact is that if the machine had damaged the fault line in all directions, we’d have had longer, but the damage would be irreperable. But as it is, the way it was used has provided us with an opportunity for salvation. The fault line is tearing wider and wider, towards the North and East. If we can cause a tectonic shift that will force the land masses to the North and East to crush in on that growing tear, we can actually stop planetary destruction.” The entire crowd couldn’t believe what they were hearing. Warlock had the technicians show them the scans Warlock had taken from Dome of Yorks sensors when he’d barged in on Sid some months ago. Sure enough it displayed a fault line, quicly growing worse, heading Northeast through the Wastelands. If the tear reached the next major fault line in the Northern plateaus, the effect would be that that fault line would start to tear, and it would ripple into a dozen more, and that would be the end of the planet.
“How long do we have to pull off this solution? Do we still have 180 days?” Spanky yelled out.
“No, in 160 days, the tear in the Wasteland fault will reach a point where we will be having earthquakes like we’ve never had before. At this point the difficulty in pulling off a solution will grow exponentially. 10 days after that, the fault will trigger the Northern fault, and there is no stopping it. So if we cannot fix this within 170 days, we really are gonna be buried in a big, stinking pile of pants.”
“Great, so lets go fix that fault, I’ll get a shovel!” Morpheous said. A few laughed. A few thought he was serious and asked where they kept the shovels. One person who knew where they kept the shovels got one and hit one of the guys who asked.
“Well folks, this is where things get trickier. This is what must be done to solve the problem. We must set off 5 separate explosions, of no less than 50 megatons each, underground in 5 key places.”
“Why do I get the feeling we’re not going to like the locations?” Trillian asked. Warlock took a deep breath.
“Location One is under the Abbey of Crahn.” The Crahn sect just kind of looked around and nodded, saying that was ok.
“Well that’s very co-operative of you, however I must point out that the Abbey itself will probably be damaged if not destroyed by the shockwave.” They weren’t quite so happy about that, but after a few minutes discussion, they did concede it was better than Armageddon.
“Location 2 is under the Military base. This one will have to be deep, so drilling will have to start today to make the deadline.” The Mercs just cracked their knuckles and flexed their muscles.
“Gotta love Mercs for determination. Location 3 is underneath Dome of York. I have talked with Sid already, and he says if Tangent can devise a Drill weapon that can be attacked to Beta Warbots, he can drill to the required depth well before the required deadline.” Tangent R&D looked on that as a challenge. A few smiled and nodded their approval towards Sid.
“Now that’s where the easy ones end. Location 4 is… well there’s just no easy way to say this. Location 4 is directly under the centre of Tokyo II.” The crowd exploded in frustration.
“How in the hell are we supposed to get a bomb under there?” many called out.
“To accomplish this task, a task force will have to be sent to infiltrate Tokyo II, find a way underground, and place the bomb before the deadline. The saving grace here is that it does not matter how deep the bomb is for this location. In theory we could set it off on ground level and it would work. But the deeper the better. I was thinking NDA and Tangent could handle this one, but it seems they will be needed first to help develop and implement the drill technology for the first 3 locations, and secondly, they will be needed for Location 5. Thus, since we need a force that will be able to adapt to any condition and probably have to build drilling mechanisms out of anything once they get there, this job will fall to the Fallen Angels. Once a task force is selected, I will lead you to Tokyo II.” The Fallen Angels just nodded and wondered who would be going.
“And Location 5 will be to plant a 100 megaton warhead directly under the SWG machine in Regants Legacy.”
“Well that’s a childsplay assignment. What the hell are you sending us for?” Centuri resented not getting the high profile assignment.
“Childsplay huh? Have you looked at the Legacy today?”
“No I haven’t looked at the Legacy today you pants wearing pants eater. What’s that got to do with anything?” Again the technicians changed the view on the Wanted screen. Centuri’s shoulder’s slumped. The entire Legacy was covered in The Cells. They had retreated to their old home and were now covering the entire thing.
“NDA now has 160 days to completely kill The Cells, or everyone dies. Have fun with your childsplay assignment guys.” Warlock smirked. Centuri clenched his fist, and went to go buy some Poison modules from Yakarma’s.
“That is the plan ladies and gentlemen. Those that have not received a mission concerning these 5 locations will be working towards fighting off the Tokyo II forces currently berthed up north. Do not let them interfere in any way.” Warlock commanded.
“What about the 2nd cruiser. Do we continue with that?”
“NEXT, you have all the required materials, yes?”
“Yes we do. We can have it finished within the next 180 days, as long as that’s all we do.”
“So be it. NEXT will dedicate its efforts to the next cruiser. If all else fails its at least a slim chance.”
“So basically, we either dig these bomb holes, or we dig our own graves.” Eva morbidly put it.
“Get digging then.”
Until next time…