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The Synthetic War

 
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Arlo Tomas
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 17, 2018 11:10 am    Post subject: The Synthetic War Reply with quote

9/5/17 The Outer Rim. Salin, NeoTarran Moon
The USM Hudson kept her lonely vigil over the purple marble that was Salin. Several decades ago, it had been the site of the genetically engineered humanoids’ great uprising. Throughout the galaxy, the massive, powerful laborers were inspired to remove their shackles and fight back against their creators. In a brutal war that spanned over 15 years, the Neos taking colony after colony in the Outer Rim territories. It hadn’t been until their hostile takeover of Vergus Station, an important spaceport, when the Guild finally took notice.
When the USM Battleship Regent arrived on the scene, negotiations began with the surprisingly thoughtful NeoTarran leaders. In the end, after the bloodshed and horror of war, it was decided that the NeoTarran people were to be granted their rights as sentient creatures and given their own colony to rule. In the 87 years since that day, they remained a rare sight in the universe, preferring to live, work, and thrive on their home planet.
The Hudson was stationed in orbit to make sure that peace was maintained, protecting the NeoTarrans should any attack occur upon the moon from raiders, pirates, or extremist groups.
Captain Seneca Arlo walked along the bridge of his ship. At this hour, a skeleton crew was all that was necessary in their constant vigil. When he was first given his orders, he’d resented being assigned to babysit a moon where nothing happened. But over time, he’d grown to enjoy it. He had forged a good relationship with the NeoTarran leadership. He’d go so far as to call Gallaus, the chosen figurehead of their government, a friend.
“What’s the story, Ensign Stills? What you hear?” he asked the woman seated at the Comms station.
Abigail Stills looked bored, a book pulled up on her datapad. “Same as usual, sir.”
“All nestled and snug in their beds?” He asked.
“Nothin’ but sugar plums, sir.” she responded with a grin.
Arlo was a fan of Earth customs, primitive as they could be. He’d made frequent trips to Rhy’Din before being given his current assignment. Some day, he’d make it back there, but for now...this was where he belonged.
The Captain gave her chair a pat and moved back toward the doorway. Suddenly the entire bridge was plunged into darkness, Arlo stopping dead in his tracks. Stills dropped her datapad and sat up straight.
“What the hell…”Arlo said in a hushed tone, just before, once again, the lights and systems came back on. “Stills, status report.”
Stills’ fingers moved over her interface, her eyes darting over the information. “All systems are up and functioning.”
“Well, what the hell just happened?” He pressed.
“I have no idea...wait.” She said, her brow furrowed. “Sir..every door of the crew deck just opened.”
Arlo came up behind her, looking down at the screen. The pair sharing a worried glance. It was then that the warning klaxon began to sound. The airlock doors on every section were going open.
Stills’ eyes went wide. “Oh my Gods…”
“Override it!” Arlo commanded.
Stills was working like mad, but it wasn’t working.
“I said-”
“Sir, I can’t! It’s not responding to my commands!” She said.
The computer’s feminine voice began. “Emergency Venting process commencing in 5.”
Some of the men and women had begun to step out of their quarters, confused. Was this some sort of drill.
“4.”
“Stills! Do something!”
“3.”
Stills was panicking, trying every trick she knew to no avail. “Sir, the ship is redirecting toward Salin.”
“2.”
“Weapons systems activating!” Stills cried out in horror. Arlo stared ahead, helpless to do anything about what was happening.
“Emergency Venting commencing.”
Arlo watched as the video feed showed the airlocks opening all at once, the entire crew being thrown, violently through the halls, banking off bulkheads and doorways as the explosive decompression ripped them out, and sent them drifting off into the infinite cold black. Arlo and Stills were spared only by the security protocols that prohibited a breached command center from functioning.
Arlo stood, numbly watching as his ship turned about, venting her crew and coming to bear on the moon before them. Their weapons were about to unleash an orbital bombardment so complete, it would burn the surface of Salin to glass. And Arlo could do nothing to stop it.
Stills spoke with a shaky voice. “Weapons...armed.”
“Gods forgive us.” Arlo said quietly. The dull thudding of their weapons opening fire rumbled through the ship, sending blue plasma blast after blast raining down over the unsuspecting NeoTarran’s below. They watched as the surface glowed blue for a long moment, and then was overtaken in a red blaze that swept across the face of the moon of Salin until it resembled a dying sun. They watched as every last trace of life was extinguished.
Tears rolled down Still’s cheeks as she stood, her mouth agape in disbelief. Arlo just stood in silence. The only sound to be heard was the steadily repeating klaxxon overhead. The only thought in Arlo’s head was that they had not only lost their crew, but witnessed the genocide of the very people they were there to protect.
“Security protocol override.” The computer system said. Stills was trembling as she looked up, unbridled terror in her eyes as she looked up to her captain. Arlo just looked defeated. “Emergency Ventilation of bridge in 5…”
The pair of them embraced, clutching to one another tightly.
“4.”
Arlo shut his eyes tightly, firmly something HAD to come along at the last minute. He couldn’t die here. Not like this.
“3.”
Stills thought of nothing but home. Her family. Her pretty, red haired mother sitting in the kitchen on late nights, working on cases for her law firm. She thought of her father, and his dumb jokes. Even her stupid little brother and how the last time she’d seen him, he was too busy playing a game on a datapad to say a proper goodbye. She thought of the times they’d played in the fields by their grandparents place. How they would tell each other scary stories around a campfire. She thought of home.
“2.”
Their grips tightened until the pair felt like they might crush each other’s bones if they gripped any harder. As the blast door pulled them out, they still clung hard, locked in an embrace they would never be able to escape. They floated through the endless abyss, clinging to each other, frozen in their last moments forever.
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Loren Metcalfe
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2018 7:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It had been two years since her forced retirement, and Loren still had not adjusted to civilian life. At 53, she’d found herself in a place she never thought she’d be: Obsolete. Days seemed to drag on endlessly without a purpose or a mission to adhere to. The closest vestige from that life she still possessed was her fitness regimen. There were says she asked herself why she even bothered.

She’d lost her career. Her sense of purpose. Hell, she’d even lost her apartment. The spacious, yet sparsely decorated penthouse overlooking the bright, sparkling lights of Century City was taken from her, reserved for some other big wig within the USM’s top brass. Now, she was in a crummy little 3 room apartment that looked out on the brick wall next door, and below that, a dirty alleyway.

More and more, the woman in the mirror was not the same, vital woman who had resigned at the orders of the USM tribunal. Grey hairs had continued their claim over the landscape of her dark hair. Wrinkles set a little deeper and found purchase on more of her face. This life was not for her, and, she thought, it was killing her by inches.

She fastened the last button of her dress uniform, her dark eyes taking in the woman staring back in the mirror. The crisp clean lines, precise tailoring, the silhouette...being in a uniform. It made her feel more alive than she’d felt since she’d been saddled with this mundane, unimportant life. In this uniform, she was home.

A knock came at the door of her apartment, drawing a startled gasp out of her. She took a moment to calm herself before calling out. “Be right there!”
Loren took one last look, making sure there weren’t any loose hairs escaping from the tight bun at the back of her head. Perfect as usual. The old soldier made her way to her door, thumb pressing to the pad. With a hydraulic whoosh, the door slid open, revealing the kindly, smiling face of Fleet Admiral Lanning. “Loren. Good to see you.”

“Sir.” She smiled warmly to him and wrapped her arms around him before letting him in.

“No need to rely on formality, Loren. Simon. Please.” He insisted, stepping by.

“Sir, I served under you for most of my adult life. I’d follow your orders to jump into hell and punch the devil in the face. But THAT...is an order I cannot follow.” She said with a grin.

Lanning looked to her with a charmed little smirk. “Stubborn to the last.” He said moving to take a seat upon a stool at her kitchen counter. “How’ve you been, my dear?”

Loren jaw tightened as she put on a strong face and canted her head to one side in a tight sort of nod. “I’m good.”

“Fitting into civilian life nicely?” He asked, though something in his voice said he knew she’d done anything but. She could read it in that tight little grin he wore. "Because you look miserable." He said, confirming her suspicions.

Loren sighed. "It's..."

"Not ideal?" Lanning offered after a moment of silence.

“No, sir.” She said simply. "I wake up every morning, exercise, check the cortex and then...there's nothing." She sighed, her proud shoulders sagging, a rare show of defeat in her posture. "I try to find ways to occupy my time, but at the end of the way it's all trivial bull ****. None of it matters."

"You could try taking up golf." he offered her, a teasing expression on his aged face. Loren shot him a weary look. "You've spent most of your life in the military, Loren. You've always been the soldier, the warrior. Now you've got to find out what it means to be Loren Metcalfe."

"That IS who I am. The USM is all I am, all I've ever been." She said firmly.

"No. It's a job."

"You know it isn't. Not to me." She said, catching sight of herself in the mirror, wearing that uniform like a shield. "I hate not being a part of something bigger anymore."

Lanning let out a little laugh. “I can’t say as I blame you. My time is rapidly coming...and I have no idea what I’m going to do when it does.”

Loren snorted bitterly. “Golf?” She joked, grabbing herself a coffee mug, remembering her manners and offering him one.

“Please.” he accepted with a chuckle. Loren went to work pouring him a cup. She still remembered how he liked it from back in the day. Two cream, one sugar.

“The day they ****-can you is the day Hell freezes over. The USM would crumble without you.” She said, sliding his cup to him.

He waved her off. “The USM was there before me, it’ll be there long after me.” He took his cup and sipped. “I’m an old man, Loren. There comes a time when old men need to step aside for the next generation.”

“You're more than some old man. You’re a legend.” She corrected him.

“Legend.” He said quietly. “It’s a nice word. You know how many 'legends' I've known in my time? You know what good it is to you when you’re staring at the end?”

Lanning shook his head. “Next to nothing.” He smiled softly. “Legends are for mythology. Heroes... are dead. When you’re looking at the end, you want to know that what you’ve done matters. More than accolades or vain idolatry...I want to know that the future I had a part in creating is in good hands.”

Loren nodded slowly. “I can understand that.”

“It should have been you.” He said. “I had always intended to pass it onto you, Loren. “

The retired major stared at her coffee bitterly. “Fate had other ideas, I suppose.” There was a sense of hopeless cynicism in her tone. Of all the injuries she’d sustained in the line of duty, her forced resignation was a disgraceful scar she’d never recover from. Not because of the way the galaxy would see her. As far as the public was concerned she was honorably discharged. It was the fact that SHE knew the truth. She lived the lie every day.

“Yes. I suppose.” Lanning reached out to her, taking her hand. “You’ll find your way. And one day... things will be better. I promise.”

“Really?” Loren asked. “CAN you promise that? Do you even believe it?”

Lanning smiled, those kind eyes upon her. “I have to.”
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"Your memories and choices are all you'll have left. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box. You have to decide what you're willing to sacrifice."
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 21, 2018 2:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

One hour later, they were standing at a cemetery. The face of Dr. Lia Clarke upon a placard, surrounded by flowers. Lillies. Her favorite, Loren remembered.

She’d slipped away in her sleep earlier in the week, the news devastating the retired Major. Going back decades, Lia had been Loren’s closest friend and confidant. For the past few days, it had felt like a piece of her had gone, leaving a gaping hole in her soul. Lanning’s words echoed in her head. The old guard was dying out.

Now, she stood there at the podium looking out over a sea of uniforms and mourners. Many of the higher ranking officials of the USM were present, a testament to the woman herself. Loren would be lying if she said it didn’t sting a little to be trotted out in front of the people who had put her in her current position and forced the make a speech. But today was not about her. It was about her friend. She sucked it up and spoke.

“Ladies and Gentlemen. Representatives of the Admiralty Board. I thank you for attending today. Looking out in this sea of faces, I see a lot of well known people. Power, Grace. Prestige. The stuff great stories are made of. But, with due respect, they pale in comparison to the life and achievements of my friend, Dr. Lia Clarke. Lia was brilliant scientist, psychologist, and a fierce, fierce friend.”

She looked out across the faces, and in her mind, felt resentment. Few, if any of them truly knew Lia. None of them had laughed with her, cried with her, shared a drink with her. When she’d been condemned to this living hell, the only visits or calls she received were from Lia. Yet these phonies wanted to come and offer their condolences like they gave a damn about her in life. How many of them would be at HER funeral, Loren wondered? Two faced cowards who damned her and turned their backs in life, posturing and pretending to mourn and celebrate her in death.

“With all of her accomplishments in life, it is difficult to choose what she should be remembered for. Her work counseling veterans? Sure. A worthy cause. Her help in advancing more radical and impressive special projects than I am legally allowed to mention here? Nice, but no. The most outstanding thing about Dr. Lia Clarke was this: She was loyal.” Loren fought hard to disguise the spite in her voice. “When the chips were down and no one else was there, you could always depend on Lia. That’s what I’ll remember most. When nobody stood beside me, she rose. Even if it was unpopular, even if-”

Loren caught herself. Her voice had begun to raise and her ability to hide her disdain faltered. “I will remember, who she was. And what she meant. Not just to me, but to us all. I was lucky to know her. I was lucky to call her my friend.”

With one last barely concealed glare over the crowd, Loren took her leave, taking a seat beside Lanning, the old man giving her arm a squeeze. “That was close.” he said so only she could hear.

“Screw them.” She said covertly.

Lanning couldn’t suppress the grin on his face. The old man peered up at something in the sky, his grin fading and brow furrowing. “What the hell is that.”

Loren glanced up spotting the craft in the distance. It was well below the no-fly zone...and she recognized the ship. A K-22 Razor Gunship. A devastating piece of machinery, capable of reducing a fortified bunker to a pile of smoldering rubble. “He’s flying low. Did they schedule a flyby for this?”

Before Lanning could respond the rapid fire repeaters went live. Dirt went flying up into the air in a trail heading toward the congregation as the fire ripped up through the ground and graves. Loren reacted immediately, tackling Lanning to one side and out of the path of the gunfire as it cut through the gathered mourners, spraying mists of red up with their screams and ripping apart the small stage they had been standing on. The honor guard moved to into the crowd after the gunship had passed and tried to move survivors, their rifles in-hand.

“What in the blue **** was that?!” Lanning snarled, looking after the ship.
Loren’s hair had come loose from it’s bun, that alert, wide eyed intensity returning to her. The soldier was back. “I’m not waiting to find out. We’re getting you out of here!” She grabbed him by the arm and pulled the old man to his feet.

“They’re coming back!” She heard yelled behind her.

“Move!” She ordered :Lanning, moving him as fast as he could go toward one of the vehicles. The honor guard opened up with their rifles on the gunship, knowing full well they couldn’t pierce the armor. Once again, those guns lit up, raining death down on the guard and the fleeing survivors.

Loren practically shoved Lanning into the hover car and climbed into the driver’s seat. They were lucky the Admiralty had been there or it might have been unarmored. Still, it wouldn’t stand a chance against the gunship. They had to run.

“Hold on!” Loren shouted and hit the accelerator.
_________________
"Your memories and choices are all you'll have left. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box. You have to decide what you're willing to sacrifice."
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Loren Metcalfe
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 27, 2018 7:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The further they went, the more Loren saw. There were explosions in the distance, chaos on the major streets. It seemed like the world had gone mad. She didn’t have time to dwell, though. She had gunship on her ass, shredding the pavement behind her as she weaved all over the road to avoid getting hit. She had to get Lanning to safety.

“My Gods…” Lanning said, taking in all the destruction. “What is this? Insurgents? An invasion?”

Loren was focused on the road ahead, her jaw clenched tight. “Whatever it is, we’re not sticking around to find out.”

She jerked the wheel and rounded a corner, the gunfire tracking them ripping the wall of a building apart in an explosion of dust and debris. Loren glanced in the rear view as the ship came around that corner. Persistent son of a bitch.

“LOREN!” Lanning shouted.

Loren turned her head forward just in time to see a truck in their path. Her heart jumped into her throat and instinct took over. The wheel was pulled to the left, the rear end of the car clipping the corner and spinning out and slamming up sidelong against the broadside of another vehicle, shattering the driver’s window. Loren shook out of her daze as quick as possible and checked on Lanning.

The old man rubbed his forehead, blood upon his fingers when he withdrew them. Loren’s eyes went wide with panic. “Sir?!”

“”I’m alright. Just knocked for a bit of a loop…”

The gunship roared past overhead, coming to a clumsy halt and looping back around to bear on the car. Loren threw it into reverse and slammed her foot on the accelerator. The gunship opened fire, chewing up the pavement with heavy blasterfire. Lanning’s voice sounded panicked as the bursts came closer and closer.

“Loren? Loren!”

“Hold on!” She shouted and jerked the wheel, sending them into a hard 180 and gunning it. The Gunship stayed on them, trying to catch up. Loren watched in the rearview. “Come on...come on you son of a bitch...eyes on me…”

She tried to will the car to go faster as the gunship gained ground. Closer and closer it came, but still she kept straight. The blasts were damn near on her rear bumper, but still, straight she went. Loren grit her teeth, desperation taking over as a blast hit the back of the car, the shielding minimizing the damage, but another hit would be a problem.

But before the gunship could land another shot, it slammed into a skybridge, an explosion of fire, metal and glass burst in mid-air and rained down. Loren slammed on the brakes, the car skidding sideways to a stop just as the wreckage crashed to the ground.

For a moment, she just panted, trying to slow her heart rate. Lanning slowly looked her way. “What the hell is going on?”

Loren shook her head slowly. Time was running out, they could worry about all of that later. Right now, getting to safety was the important thing. She reached down to shift the car into gear when there was a loud thwack from outside. And another. And another.

Suddenly, the car jolted as something solid landed on the hood. Loren looked ahead in horror as she saw the mangled body lying upon their vehicle...and beyond more raining down from above.

“My Gods…” Lanning said in a hushed, disbelieving tone. Loren hit the gas and dive on, dodging the falling bodies as they came plummeting to the pavement.

“Who the hell is doing this?!” Lanning shouted.

The car lurched forward as Loren hit the brakes, barely avoiding running over a woman who had come sprinting out from one of the buildings lining the street. She was bloody, battered and absolutely terrified.

“HELP ME!” She screamed, tears running down her blood-streaked face. Before Loren could do anything the woman heaved forward, the jagged end of torn metal bursting out through her chest with a spray of arterial red. Loren’s eyes travelled up to the figure at the other end...an Autons Inc. S-5 unit. This wasn’t possible. This COULDN’T happen. All machines were programmed with the laws. They were fool proof.

It’s glowing blue photoreceptor eyes slowly turned toward the occupants of the vehicle. It withdrew the jagged spear it had created, tossing aside the woman’s body with no effort, and raised it up to strike again.

The engine roared to life as Loren pushed the pedal to the metal. The car launched forward, throwing the robot off balance. It was sent rolling over the roof, arms scrambling for a hold on anything. Loren kept her eyes ahead, laser focused on anything in her way. She was so focused, she didn’t notice the machine pull itself up on the trunk.

“Get to the airfield.” Lanning said, drawing a sidearm and checking its charge. “We’re getting off-planet.”

“Roger that sir.” She nodded. The ear spilling sound of tearing metal came out of nowhere as that jagged blade pierced the roof in between them, slicing a tiny bit into her arm. Loren let out a shriek, but kept the vehicle.

Lanning gritted his teeth and leaned to one side, directing his pistol upward. He fired two shots where he figured the robot had to be. Silence followed.

“Did we lose it?” Loren asked.

Her answer came as the passenger window burst inward, a robotic hand grabbing at Lanning’s neck. The old man quickly leaned out of the way, the metal fingers tearing into his uniform. He let out a shout and turned to see the robot pull itself further in. In a flash, the pistol was redirected firing wildly into its face, the machine’s head jerking with every hit. But it didn’t back down. It reached in and grabbed onto the pistol, smashing it like a paper cup and throwing it out of the car. Lanning let out a pained grunt as it grabbed ahold of him.

Enough was enough. Loren drew her sidearm and took aim. “HEY!”

Those glowing eyes turned on her just in time to catch a single, well-placed shot to the positronic brain. The lights flickered and it went dead, tumbling out of the car when Lanning gave it a shove. He sat there panting, leaning up against the door, his thinning hair mussed by the whipping air.

“That was too close.” Loren said with a grin.

Lanning was silent.

“Sir?” She said, a hint of worry in her tone.

Lanning rolled back, his head against the headrest as he panted. A red stain bloomed at his stomach, bleeding freely. Loren’s heart dropped. “Oh no...oh no no no no no…” The car screeched to a halt as she looked in back. There was, thankfully, a coat there. She snatched it up and handed it to him.

“Keep pressure on it.” She told him. The old man weakly took the jacket and pressed it over his bleeding wound. He glanced at the rear view and lifted his head.

“Drive.”

Loren took a look for herself. They were everywhere and they were coming for them.
_________________
"Your memories and choices are all you'll have left. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box. You have to decide what you're willing to sacrifice."
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Loren Metcalfe
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 29, 2018 11:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The machines were rampaging, leaping off of buildings, cars like an army of metallic apes. Loren’s eyes traded attention between the mirror, the road and Lanning. The old man was fading fast, The jacket at his belly was rapidly absorbing the life leaving him. Loren could hear his breathing take on a rattle that did not at all sit well with her.
“Talk to me, Sir. Stay awake.” She said, maneuvering around another machine. Lanning glanced her way, a grim smirk on his face. The car broke out of the confines of the city, Winfield Air Base just across the plains.
“And what are we talking about?” He asked weakly.
“Anything. Tell me about your family.” She said.
“Never...never had one.” He wheezed. “Was….was an only child. Never married…”
“Come on…” Loren tried to affect a teasing tone. “Handsome buck like you? I bet you drove them all crazy.”
A laugh escaped the Admiral, followed by a wince. “Not...not as much as...as you’d think. Gangly...awkward kid with a mind for tactics and not much else? Not the biggest selling point for the girls in my day.”

“With respect, sir, sounds like the women in your day missed out.” She said, narrowly avoiding hitting another robot. Lanning shook his head.
“No...no. Led my life...the...the way I wanted. The fleet…”He wheezed. “The fleet was...was family.” His head lolled her way. “My children.”
Something inside of her ached then. She turned to him a moment, locking eyes. He was the closest thing she’d had to a father since her own had died when she was ten. She wanted to reach out and hug the old man...but now was not the time. His eyes began to slide shut, but she grabbed him with one hand and shook him.
“Hey! None of that! You stay awake! You hear me, Godsdammit?” She chided him.
Lanning’s eyes flickered back to life and he grunted and nodded. “Roger...roger that.”
She could see the Air Base ahead...but they were heavily fortified and in lockdown. She pulled up the vehicles comms system. “This is Loren Metcalfe. I am inbound with Admiral Lanning. We have hostiles on our six. Over.”

“Submit security clearance or stand down.” the voice came back.
“I don’t think you heard me, grunt. I’ve got the Fleet Admiral in the vehicle with me. Now open the ****ing gates!” She snarled.
“I repeat. Submit security clearance or we will be forced to fire upon you!”
“What the **** is this guy’s malfunction?” She said.
“He’s doing his job.” Lanning managed. “This is Lanning. Security Clearance Code Delta-One-Nine-Zero-Seven-Alpha-Two-Three-Bravo. Over.”
After a moment the voice returned. “Roger that, Fleet Admiral. Making a hole.”
It was not a moment too soon, the doors began to slide open. The army of machines were still behind them, moving as fast as they could, a relentless tide of metal. The moment Loren passed the threshold of the base walls, the defensive weapons opened up on the mob.
The gate shut behind them. Loren and Lanning were safe.
_________________
"Your memories and choices are all you'll have left. At the end of the game, the king and the pawn go into the same box. You have to decide what you're willing to sacrifice."
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Loren Metcalfe
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 30, 2018 2:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The car screeched to a stop in the bustling airfield. Loren threw open the car door, and stepped out. Dropships were scattered around, loading troops, taking off and heading into atmo. A flurry of activity and shouted orders filled the air along with the persistent heavy weapons fire at the gate.

“Medic!” she shouted. “I need a medic! The Admiral is wounded!”

Immediately, two of them ran up and immediately set upon the vehicle. An officer approached, the ships sending wind whipping all around, Loren rushed to meet him, shouting over the noise. “Who’s in charge here?!”

“I am. Captain Tristian, good to meet you, Major.” He shook her hand and directed her away from the dropships.

“You know me?” She responded.

“Major Loren Metcalfe, yeah? Not a lot of people who don’t know you, ma’am.” he called back.

“Retired.” Loren yelled a hint of forlornness in her shout.

“Yeah, well, given everything that just happened...we’ll see.”

She glanced up to him in confusion, a swell of hope swimming through her. Loren allowed herself that for only a second before she was back to business. “Admiral Lanning is hurt. We need to get him off-world now.”

Tristain directed her to a shuttle currently loading up with supplies. “That’s your ride, Ma’am. Last one out on this rotation.”

Loren glanced over and nodded. “Where to?”

“The Centurion.” He told her. “Might want to get moving. They’re taking off in 5.”

She gave his arm a squeeze and made her way over to the Admiral and his gurney. They were hooking him up to a portable life-support when she got there. The retired officer took his hand. “Ready to get out of here?”

Lanning took her hand, giving it a squeeze. A warm smile on his lips.

That was when they heard it.

“THEY’VE BREACHED THE WALL! FALL BACK! FALL BACK!”

Loren’s head shot upwards. The machines were crawling over the edge, swarming the sentry guns and hacking their systems. Soldiers were tossed like rag dolls, skewered, and ripped apart by the rampaging robot. She watched as they turned and aimed at the car. Her dark eyes went wide. “GET HIM OUT OF-”

It was all she managed. The guns fired and the car exploded. The impact threw Loren back, and the world spun wildly, complete chaos. And then, everything was quiet.

Everything went black.
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The dull thud of explosions shook her at the core of her body. All she could hear was the incessant ringing in her ears. Light poured into her eyes as Loren’s eyelids fluttered open. At first, she could see nothing but blurry silhouettes moving about. The figures were firing what had to be rifles, the whud-whud-whud of the rifle bursts muffled in her ringing ears. A trooper was in full retreat before he lurched forward, a blade cutting through his chest. The robot tossed his lifeless body aside before it was cut down itself. Loren brought her arm up to shield her eyes as one of the towers burst in an explosion of fire and debris.

Lanning.

Suddenly, her sense of purpose was renewed. Dazed, though she was, Loren pushed herself up. The entire world seemed to shift and waver around her. It was difficult to find her footing. A body bumped into her and she stumbled into a crate, barely able to keep from falling on her face. The retired Major shook it off and forged on, now dimly aware that she was bleeding from her temple. Her bleary eyes darted all around in search of the Admiral.

Finally, she found him. He lay on his side, crawling toward the dropship. What remained of Tristain lie on the ground, a mangled, bloody mess. Loren grit her teeth, grabbed a rifle from the crate, and hobbled as fast as she could. Pain was her entire existence at the moment, but she would not...could not fail.

The machines were inbound now, and heading for Lanning. It was as if they knew who he was and how important he was, Loren thought. She shouldered the rifle and dropped one after the other, making her way to the old man. Just as she got to him and leaned down to help, one of the machines landed beside her. Quickly, she whipped the butt of the gun around, hitting it in the face and making it stumble back. But the robot got a hold on the rifle, ripping it from her hands, planting a metallic foot in her chest and sending her to the ground.. Those glowing blue eyes stared at her viciously as it broke the weapon in half in a burst of blue sparks. She crawled backwards, seeking to protect Lanning.

The sound of a blaster firing came from over her shoulder and the robot’s head exploded, the body crumpling to the ground lifeless. She diverted her attention back to Lanning, a grin spreading across his features. Loren returned the little smirk and then wrapped her arm around him, taking his weapon with the free hand and supported his weight as they stood.

They limped as fast as possible toward the dropship, blasting all the way. Her engines were spooling up, ready to take off. Time was up.

“WAIT!” Loren screamed, her voice ragged and hoarse. “WAIT!”

The soldier at the ramp waved her on, shouting something she couldn’t hear in all the symphony of destruction. Blast bolts ripped through his chest and had the soldier banking off the struts. Another soldier came running out and waved them on, trading fire with the robots.

Loren finally managed to get Lanning to the ramp, setting one foot on. It was over. They were saved....

She so desperately wanted to believe that. But Lanning lurched forward with an “urk!” Her attention snapped to him. His eyes looked confused, pained, weak. They turned up to her a moment. Her’s lowered...a hook protruding from his abdomen. Loren’s eyes filled with panic. Lanning’s lips moved, but no sound came out. She wanted to say something, do something...but he was just suddenly ripped out of her grasp, pulled into a throng of machines. He was gone.

“CLOSE IT! WE NEED TO GET THE **** OUT OF HERE!” she heard behind her.

“NO!” Loren shrieked, moving to go after the Admiral until she was grabbed from behind. She struggled, crying out “No!” over and over again, calling for the Admiral, thought he was surely already dead. Little by little, the hatch closed and reality set in.

Simon Lanning was dead. Boros, the seat of the USM'S power was lost.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 2:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another day, another seedy den of ill repute. Ketbrae Station was a spaceport somewhere around the ass-end of nowhere. The ramp of the Dragon’s Tooth lowered to the deck, revealing the crew of the Dragon’s Tooth Kaila and Ian. Former Praetorian child warriors, genetically modified into the perfect killing machines given a second chance at a normal life. Nara, former bounty hunter. As ruthless as she was beautiful. Annikah, the spunky, sarcastic mechanic. And Garrick Page. Outlaw. Smuggler. Dashing scoundrel. They descended looking every bit the swaggering, heroic crew of mercenaries they were...until a sudden burst of steam from a blown line completely threw Page off his cool and had him stumbling into the hulking Praetorian man to his left.

“Oh, great.” Annikah sighed. “Another blown line.” She wasted no time in getting back to work.

“I thought you fixed that thing!” Page said, straightening himself out.

“No, you TOLD me to fix this thing, but you refuse to buy me new parts, you cheap-ass.” Annikah corrected him, with a glare over her shoulder.
Nara, crossed in between them. “Just patch it for now. We might need a quick exit.”

Page started to walk away, but Annikah grabbed him by the shirt. “Wait, wait.” She said, pulling him close. Her lips made contact with his, a long, warm kiss melted into him. They parted, but remained close, her eyes turned up at his. “Be careful.”

“Hey. It’s me.” He said.

“Exactly.”

The team moved out into the bustling main streets of the spaceport. Vendors hawked their wares from stalls, humans and aliens of all stretches were all about, going about their daily lives. Robots moved down the streets, focused on their programmed tasks. The scent of various types of food filled the air as hover cars passed by overhead. This sort of place was home for Page.

“Alright…” Nara said, glancing at her datapad. “Secara is meeting us in Hold 537. According to manifests, he showed up an hour ago...Not alone.”

“Good.” Page said. “I’m not alone either.”

“Yeah, well, let’s try to get out of this one without a fight for a change.” Nara chided him.

“They don’t *always* end in fights.” Page dismissed her.

“Ehhh….” Kaila said.

“I liked you better when you were robotic.” He said, dejected.

The girl and Ian smirked to each other as they moved through the crowd. Nara glanced over to Page.

“Alright. I’ll cover you guys from above. See you there.” she said with a nod before breaking off from the group and disappearing into the crowd.

The crew stepped through to doors to the massive cargo hold. They moved in through the stacks of crates and there they found their target.

Irvas Secara, local low-level D’niri dirtbag and smuggler stood across from them, chewing away at a toothpick as bulbous, violet eyes flicked from to the man before him, little hairs along his neck twitching in annoyance. His own muscle was standing with him, some big Buldari bastards, all tatted and armored up.

Kaila stepped up beside him, the towering, youthful girl eyeing their contact. “It looks like someone came ready for a fight.” she said. Her tight, brown bun had been given up in favor of a shoulder length cut. Something less rigid and severe. Though, those unnaturally blue eyes were impossible to miss.

“That makes two of us.” Ian, the male Praetorian said, glancing to her with a smirk. For the first time in his life, he was out of military control. He’d even chanced growing a beard, for all the good it did.

“Kids…” Page said taking on a tone of parental warning. “Play nice. Until he gives us a reason not to.”

“Over-under on the likelihood this guy tries to screw us?” Annikah chimed in on their private comm channel.

“Don’t worry, Annie.” He heard Nara’s voice in his earpiece. “Anybody gets fussy with your boyfriend, I’ll send ‘em to sleepy town.” The bounty hunter was stationed somewhere up in the rafters, out of sight with a sniper rifle trained below.

“Does nobody have faith that I can take care of myself?” Page muttered.

“No.” They all chimed in at once.

Page glanced around him. “Friends like these....” He grumbled and continued toward Secara. “Irvas!” He called out with open arms. “Long time no see!”

The D’niri smuggler cocked his head. “Garrick Page. You look spry for a washed up old cheat.”

Page put on a show of being offended. “Hey now. No need to get nasty. I’m in my prime.” That lopsided smirk crossed his lips.

“That why you brought the freak show?”

“Watch it, pal. They’re my crew. And they’re not as sweet and cuddly as I am.” Page warned. His eyes flicked to the men flanking the D’niri smuggler. “You got my stuff?”

Secara snapped his long, clawed fingers and another pair of Buldari rounded the corner pushing a huge crate on a hover cart. Ian and Kaila shared a wary look.

“You got anymore linebackers hiding out around here I should know about, Irv?” Page asked, his gun hand drifting subtly near his holster.

“I come prepared.”

“Seems to me you’re a touch paranoid. And when my associates hide their thugs, that makes me a little jumpy. I don’t like feeling jumpy.” Page eyed him waiting for the slightest indication something was about to go down.

“Yeah, we don’t like people who hide things.” Nara’s voice chirped in his ear. Page suppressed an urge to grin and kept focus on Irvas.

The alien’s hairs twitched in annoyance. “That’s the last of them.”

“He’s lying.” Nara reported. “I’ve got eyes on five more. Play it cool. They move and I drop them all.”

Page smirked and glanced back and up to the immense, blonde wall of a man behind him. Ian unhooked the bag from his person and tossed it toward Irvas.

The D’niri smuggler nodded, two of his goons moving forward to collect the bag of money. He and Page eyed each other like chess opponents, waiting for one another to make a move. One of the Buldari glanced back and nodded.

The corner of Page’s mouth upturned in cocky grin. “We good?”

Those hairs twitched again. “Where’s the rest?”

“There is no rest.” Page said firmly. “The agreement was 17.”

“Yeah. It *was*. That was before you had me dragging this junk through Guild space.” Irvas said. “You have any idea the kind of **** that could have been brought down on my head over transporting unregistered livestock? New price is 25.”

Page dropped the grin. “My ass, it’s 25.” His voice dropped ominously. “We had a deal. And you’re gonna honor it.”

“My men-“

“Your men are professionals and this ain’t your first rodeo with the Guild. You knew what you were doing when you took the job.” Page locked eyes. “So, I’ll say it again. We had a deal. Now give me what I came for.”

“You talk very tough for a man with no cards on the table.” Irvas said, those eyes narrowing.

“And you talk pretty tough for a man who’s starin’ death in the face.” Page countered.
“I’m the one staring death in the face? *I’M* the one?!” Irvas let out a whistle and rest of his men came out, armed to the teeth.

All at once, everyone drew their weapons, and the shouting began. Kaila, Ian and Page formed a triangle, shoulders to shoulders. “Great plan, boss. Real smooth.” Kaila said through a clenched jaw.
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PostPosted: Wed Feb 07, 2018 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“Son of a bitch.” Nara grit her teeth watching the proceedings, it seemed things just got complicated. The Buldari had converged on them, but nobody was shooting.

“What’s the plan, Boss? Want me to light ‘em up?” Nara asked into her comms.

Page gave a nigh imperceptible shake of the head, calling her off. It did nothing for her nerves, but if Page said he had it in control he had it in control. But the second she got the inkling a trigger was going to be pulled, she was going to light those big bastards up like the Smuggler’s Moon.

“Nara…”Annikah’s voice emitted from her earpiece. “Something weird’s going on…”

“Uh… kinda busy, Annie. What is it?” Nara asked, annoyed. She had an increasingly hostile negotiation to keep an eye on. She didn’t have time for this. Below, Page was talking, putting on a calm, cool facade. The implication of threat and placation in his voice as he tried to talk his aggressors down. Her crosshairs locked on the biggest, closest one to Page.

“I’m hearing over the cortex...multiple ship collisions in this sector…” Annikah responded.

Nara rolled her eyes. “You’re calling to tell me about *****y pilots?”

“No….no I don’t think that’s what this is.” Annika’s said. “There’s a massive power outage in the top levels...and it’s going lower throughout the station.”

“What?” Nara’s brow furrowed. That was a bit worse than a few space fender-benders. Something was up.

Back in the Dragon’s Tooth, Annikah was at the controls, hacked into the security cameras of the station as one by one, entire sectors went dark. Outside, she could see satellite footage of ships all over the place drifting lifeless, their debris scattered about. And one was drifting slowly toward them.

“Oh my gods…” she whispered. Annikah sprung into action, getting up and running up to the cockpit. “Nara, get them out of there and back to the ship.”

“What?” Nara responded. “We’re in the middle-”

“Nara, get them back to the ship!!”
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

“I am not going to say this again, Irvas. Lower your gods damned weapons!” Page stared down the sight of his pistol, sharp blue eyes narrowed.

“Yeah, you JUST said that..”

“Well...I- this time I mean it!” He stammered and tried to ignore the sigh that came from Kaila’s direction.

“You are out numbered. Out gunned. And you...are absolutely...out cl-“

Suddenly, there was a loud boom, and the entire station lurched. It was as if the world began to shift around them. It was one of the Buldari who fired first. A shot that went wide and missed any possible targets.

As the room around them continued its wild shifting, Page stumbled, letting off a wild shot into nothing and the Buldari and Praetorian charged each other. To the aliens’ surprise, the kids were tougher than they looked. Ian grappled with one of them, wheeling him around and throwing him damn near through the side of steel shipping container.

Kaila planted a foot and took the charging beast full force… and barely budged. The alien looked up in surprise, just to get an uppercut to its chin, sending him up through the air.

Page hit the ground and took aim, finally getting his bearings. Irvas was making a run for the door but the constant shifting wasn’t making it easy.

“PAGE!” He heard Kaila shout. His eyes flicked over to her and then up. A bunch of containers were beginning to tilt his way...and they were about to come down.

“Oh.” He muttered and immediately started scrambling away. The first container slammed to the ground mere feet behind him. He ran as fast as his legs could carry him, one after another the huge metal crates hitting, closer and closer as they tumbled to the deck. He knew if he didn’t do something drastic, the next would surely crush him. With every bit of a his might, he leapt forward, the container missing him by inches.

Page hit the ground rolling. For the moment he lay there panting. “I’m alive?” He gasped. “I”M ALIVE!”

Click.

Irvas stood over him with a pistol and sneer.

“Oh...COME ON!”

Before Irvas could even toss out a clip, one of the Buldari came sailing through the air, slamming into him and pancaking the D’niri smuggler against the wall. Ian stepped up and offered a hand down to him.

“Thanks for the assist.” Page smirked as he was pulled to his feet. “Where’s Delta?”

“Busy.”

Kaila was taking on two at once, one of the Buldari in a headlock and the other recovering from being thrown into a wall and drawing his firearm. She locked eyes, released the thug from her hold and leapt, spiralling in mid air as he fired, barely missing her. Even as she hit the floor, she was on the move, rising up toward the shooter, backhanding him across the face. Meanwhile the Buldari she’d released was charging for her. She went right for him, dropping under his grasp and hammering him in the groin with a vicious punch. Her body, however didn’t stop moving. She leapt upward, right fist cocking back and then, coming down in mid-air, bashing against the neck plate of the alien’s natural armor cracking the surface and sending him stumbling forth slightly. He whipped around just in time for her foot to connect with his chest, sending the Buldari flying into a wall and out of commission.

The shooter was getting up, shakily, but Kaila’s back was to him. He rose his weapon and aimed it at her. She heard the click, and whipped around, but the alien stood frozen, a hole in his head the edges glowing orange.

“Alright, boys and girls. Fun’s over, let’s get the hell out of here!” Nara’s voice came over their headsets.

Page looked around. “Not until we have what we came for.”

“Page, this isn’t the time. This station’s going bat****. We need to go NOW.” Nara told him.

“I didn’t come here to leave empty handed.” He said.

“Get to the ship! NOW!” Annikah’s voice burst through.

The Praetorian gathered the Buldari thugs’ weapons. Page hated leaving a job undone. But if the entire station took a hit, it might not be long before it went completely up. He grit his teeth. “God damn it…” He cursed to himself. “On our way.”
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