"A breathing apperatus is unnecessary. Any perceived breathing is simply a subroutine to make me appear more human, and thus approachable."
BETH simply adjusted a large, rectangular... something on her back, hooked there seemingly with nothing. It looks like a big irregular box wrapped in cloth.
Keal slipped the helmet over his head and everything went black for a moment, then lit up when his display shot on. This helmet clipped down onto his armour, with a filter just below a straight strip of dark, protected glass he could see out of. He quickly flicked through his systems, checking everything. The gauntlet had just cooled down to operational levels, so he locked it in.
He walked up and said to Grash, "No safe places huh? We dropping right in?" Keal didn't mind that, but that meant Angel had to stay. "Alright, Angel, you go home. Go home. Home!" Angel whimpered, but after Keal sat down and gave her a pat she scampered off. "Well, that's dealt with. So, who's ready?"
Kabreeg checked he had his equipment: sword, machinegun, pistol, ammo, recharger unit...yep, he was all set.
This news that his own kind were responsible was not unexpected, but still...they were his flesh and blood, in a way. Kabreeg felt uneasy about the prospect of killing those just like himself: oppressed, ex-slaves just trying to be heard.
He shook himself. Weakness. Such thoughts shouldn't enter his mind. The clan leader had given his orders and he would obey. If other Kraxex were the enemies, so be it, they'd do the same as him in his position, as he would in theirs. there was nothing to forgive or feel guilty about. As long as he didn't think about it too hard that is, but he'd become used to that.
"Ready, willing and able sir." He stated calmly
Grash grabbed his grenade belt from a table as they walked out in single file through the narrow entrance, no light at the end of this tunnel, reaching the end Grash slammed a fist into a faintly glowing pad on the wall, with a stoney woosh the wall in front of them slid apart, opening up onto the third-ring market district.
Walking through the clammer of the market Grash smiled to himself as people of all sizes gasped and moved out of their way, the two hulking Kraxex walking at the lead, the sun at their backs, the rays glinting off the metal plating of the androids and Keal. They slowly made their way out of the fleshy congestion, the paths getting narrower, less people, more dirt. After a few minutes they turned round one sharp corner out onto a platform overlooking the massive dock below, contrastingly clean and sturdy compared to the streets above, floating cylindrical tanker ships returning with shipments, solar-kiters docking to return full batteries. The dock was huge, several thick steel piers jutting out into the air with space in between of varying sizes, some large enough to contain a destroyer.
Standing in awe, more a sense of intrigue for the robots Grash gestured for them to continue, down the stairs they went and over to the furthest right pier which was cleared of all traffic, for them of course. Reaching the end a set of military pods were placed along either side.
"In your pods people, these are your rides, just hit the two buttons, one to close and lock, one to go, the coordinates have been punched in already." Grash said loudly to the group behind him as he neared his own pod.
BETH walked calmly along behind Grash, seemingly paying little mind to the people as she strided by. In reality, she was scanning every inch of every face she could. Just in case there was a convict hiding among them.
Finding none, when they arrived at the dock, she scanned that, too, and made a "mental" note of its location by marking it down on a built-in GPS system.
The white android removed her large rectangle from her back and set it into the pod, then climbed in herself and locked the door. "Awaiting signal."
Calia trotted along with the group. Usually she hated being in the market, constantly being shoved around because people didn't notice her. It was nice to be in a group, for these situations.
Grash led them to the docks, they were very grand in scale being one of the few truly open areas. Calia put on her mask and pulled a hood over that would bond onto her under suit. It seemed a rather flimsy defense against the acidic environment below but her gear was highly advanced and very resilient to the environment down there. She'd last a long while before her gear failed. The real threat was the baddies down there. Her shield was the only line of defense, plus a few pieces of armor, between living and a bullet or something to the face.
Calia stepped in her pod, taking a deep breath before sealing the door. "Ready to drop".
Keal walked along through the market place, glad of his armour. Normally when he walked through here, he would be in his normal clothing and would have to squeeze through, but in his bulky armour the path cleared for him. When he walked into the hanger, Keal stood in awe of the huge hanger. He decided that he might as well have some fun, and gunned his jet pack.
It was linked directly to the suits display, so he could control it without the handles and buttons of regular jet packs. He hovered just over the top of the group and the jet pack roared as it pushed the bulk of him and his armour up. He spun around a bit and then swooped back down to follow the group, jet pack flaring.
He switched it off as they came to some pods, and he walked up to one. He had to fold back some armour and slip his assault rifle in the side, but soon he was locked in. He hit the button and the pod slipped down and closed. He keyed his in built radio, "Ready to jump into hell, Grash."
Theran watched it all in silence, as his systems made the necessary changes for hostile environment work. The walk through the markets drew little attention from the scientist, he had no need of whatever the vendors where selling, thus they were unimportant. The dock on the other hand did interest him...he had a remote mini-lab built there, and it housed his latest experiment.
Walking a dozen paces away from where the pods where docked, he stopped, crouched down and removed a large floor panel. Under the panel was a large, bullet-nosed, cylinder sitting on magnetic guide rails that pointed out into the sky. Opening a hatch on the cylinder, Theran used some of his manipulators to make final adjustments to the device in side, before closing the hatch, and replacing the floor panel. He then returned to where Grash was standing. "PLEASE DELAY LAUNCH FOR A MOMENT GRASH."
Seconds later there was a thunderous bang, as the cylinder was fired horizontally at nearly seven times the speed of sound. Theran stood stock still facing in the direction of the launch for a minute, before there was a bright glow on the horizon followed eventually by a shockwave that made the whole city rumble. "THAT WAS...UNFORTUNATE. I AM NOW READY TO PROCEDE." He said, climbing into a waiting pod.
Keal was sitting back waiting when the pod shook and a huge shock wave and bang shook him around. He squeezed back into place and keyed his radio again, "What the hell was that? Are we under attack? Answer me Grash!"
He punched the close pod button and this time his pod slip open. He looked around, "What the hell?" He saw the Hroge cyborg climbing into his pod. "Oi, Clanker! Do you know what the hell was that?!"
"THE SHOCKWAVE YOU FELT WAS THE AFTEREFFECT OF AN EXPERIMENT FAILURE." Theran replied as he checked the pod over. "I WAS ATTEMPTING TO CREATE A ZERO POINT ENERGY DEVICE, FOR USE AS A POWER SUPPLY. AS A SAFTEY MEASURE I INSTALLED THE PROTOTYPE IN A CAPSULE, AND LAUNCHED IT AT SEVEN TIMES THE SPEED OF SOUND. UNFORTUNATLY THE DEVICE SUFFERED A CATASTROPHIC CASCADE FAILURE UPON ACTIVATION, CAUSING A ZERO POINT ENERGY DETONATION 8 567.4 KILOMETERS AWAY FROM OUR CURRENT LOCATION. THERE WAS NEVER ANY DANGER TO YOURSELF OR THE CITY."
Keal climbed back into his pod, "Friggin' crazy robots..." He got back in, looked around to make sure the cyborg wasn't blowing anything else up and then hit the close pod button. It locked in and once Keal did a check of all his weapons, keyed his radio for the third time.
"Ready to jump into hell, again, Grash."
Kabreeg grumbled to himself as he clambered into the pod. It was almost like the damned machine was showing off!
"If you've quite finished toying with powers that could atomise this entire city, perhapse we could get on with the mission?"
The Kraxex placed his main gun on the seat beside him and strapped himself into the pod. He hated these claustraphobic drops. Kabreeg drew his sword and started spinning the handle around in his hands, taking care not to press the "Extend" switch, it would be awkward if he skewerd the pod before it had even launched.
He pressed the close button and waited for conformation to begin the drop.
William Looked at the pod and sighed. The entrance to it was slightly too thin to enter on his hover tripod. He folded them inwards, then pushed them up inside himself. The Hover function disabled, causing him to clank to the floor. He crawled into his pod and made himself comfortable.
"Ready for Launch Sir"
Theran couldn't understand that everyone was so worked up about. I deliberately launched the device, so in case of failure it would not harm anyone. There was only a 10.965 percent chance of a failure causing any harm to the city. Well within acceptable safety margins. Secured within the drop pod, he made final preparations, then commed Grash. "I AM READY FOR DEPLOYMENT."
Grash gave a signal to drop over the radios and slammed his button, the clamps holding his pod snapping open, after a few seconds of free-fall the thrusters activated and the pod swerved away from the dock, soon after the rest of the team did likewise a flurry of pods hurtling down towards the smog.
The pods dipped into the smog and all light was gone, only a perpetual gloom, a few seconds later they saw ground before the thrusters blasted under them slowing them almost to stop before they thumped into the ground one by one. The pods were all within a dozen feet of each other in a small clearing surrounded by black barbed trees, they looked sick. With one loud simultaneous hiss of air then a crack the pod doors flew off, Grash stepped out into the clearing and took a deep breath of the thick air then removed his massive revolver from his waist and turned off the safety.
"Ready yourselves," He said to the group as he scanned the clearing and popped his HUD down over his eye to get his bearings.
Stepping from his pod, Theran probed the area with his on board passive sensors. Their range was severly hampered by the smog, but at least it was something. Satisfied they weren't under immediate threat he readied his mass driver, and plasma torch. "GRASH I AM UNFAMILIAR WITH THE NATURE OF THE KRAXEX ON THE SURFACE. ASIDE FROM WHATEVER WAS USED TO BRING DOWN THE SHIPS, WHAT LEVEL OF WEAPONRY WILL WE BE FACING?"
BETH stepped calmly from her pod and pulled the large, covered rectangle from her back with an audible metallic *clunk*, but kept its cloth cover on it. She let out every sort of detection system she had: Echolocation, visual scanning, night-vison, and infra-red.
"I am certain we will be able to handle what comes our way, Theran. As long as we remain rational and decisive, we have a small armory with us and know well how to use it."
She added silently, "I hope."
Keal hopped out of his pod, pulling his assault rifle with him. He looked around, his display telling him that the air was toxic. Like he didn't know that, he thought.
His filter kicked in and started giving him fresh air to breath. I just hope it doesn't corrode while I'm down here, he thought.
He swung his rifle around, hunting. The clearing was dead quiet, apart from the other team members getting out. "Oi Rusty, you picking anything up on your radar?"
He looked over at Grash holding a revolver. "Nice gun," Keal said, smiling at it, "how much of a punch does it pack?"
Clambering out of his pod Kabreeg moved straight for the tree-line. Being the sole survivor of countless battles that had seen him dropped in a similar, if less comfortable manner than this, to the battlefield had taught him one thing: get out of the drop-zone asap. The others didn't seem too bothered about this however. Kabreeg was probably over-reacting, he knew, but instinct got the better of him.
Once he had his back to a poisoned tree-trunk Kabreeg felt safer. Calmer. He took a deep lungful of the poisoned air. And coughed hard. Just because his kind could breath this stuff didn't mean they liked to. Years of the recycled, "pure" air up above had made him soft. Kabreeg grumbled to himself at that prospect, then raised the machine-gun to his eye-level. He scanned the trees beyond. Visability was poor, but that worked both ways. He doubted any Kraxex opposition would have thermal sights.
Listening to the rest of the squad talking Kabreeg addressed the robot called BETH briefly:
"Yep, rational and decisive sounds good. Or failing that, you can hide behind me if you want."
Grash too took a few steps forward, checking his direction was perfect, south, "This way, stay close and quiet," he said starting off in the direction of the crash. Then turning to Keal he said
"It may look pre-smog era but it fires pressurised slugs which upon leaving the barrel and expanding are the equivalent of the infamous 0.700 caliber overkill," he smiled and swirled the weapon in his hand then answering Theran's question to the whole group said "I don't know for sure but I can guess it will be whatever they can make from the trees or whatever they can salvage from our crashed ships, but what they lack in firepower they make up for with sheer numbers and surprise, be wary, they're not as dumb as the churchlings above would have you believe."
The group began to make their way through the forest, slipping through the trees, the light now nearly non-existant, he occasionally thought he say a sliver of movement of a far of clank of metal on metal but every time he checked with his scanners her saw nothing, they continued.
BETH turned to Kabreeg and cocked an eyebrow. If nothing else, whoever programmed her emotional responses and expressions did his homework.
"I have an onboard top-of-the-line, redundant, self-renewing energy shield system. Failing that, the nanites that my exterior consists of can self-replicate rapidly. I daresay it would be safer for you to hide behind me."
Her coat-tails swished about behind her as she walked forward.
Kabreeg snorted derisivly. He doubted a top-of-the-shield self renewing redundant energy line thing would make much difference to four feet of titanium packing an emp charge. The fact that he'd just been back-chatted by a can opener irritated him. It was hard to argue with a circuit board, so Kabreeg didn't bother, it just encouraged them.
Still, this was going to be an interesting mission.
"Remind me sir," Kabreeg began "what exactly are we going to DO with the ship once we've wiped out the scavengers?"
As they walked through the woods Grash turned slightly and gestured to Kabreeg to keep his voice down then replied in a whisper "Take whatever they're using to bring down our ships and kill the bastards."
Walking a bit behind Grash and Kabreeg, Theran spoke up. "SHOULD SAID WEAPON BE TO LARGE FOR US TO EASILY TRANSOPRT AND REMOVE I SHOULD BE ABLE TO CONVERT IT'S POWER SOURCE INTO A RUIMENTARY DESTRUCTIVE DEVICE WITH WHICH WE CAN DESTROY IT." His piece said, he went back to sweeping the area with his sensors. They all show nothing, but I can't help shake the feeling that we're being watched. He thought. Guess no matter how much you change the body, those organic 'gut' instincts still remain.
"Well whatever they're using it has to be big to take out whole ships". Calia jumped over a rotten tree root. Everything on the surface was to at least a plus five disgusting on her scale. "Least when we do blow whatever it is up I can outrun you all from the resulting explosion". The cheeryness of her comment certainly wouldn't help anyone else's resolve. It did make her feel better though knowing it would probably hold true.
"I can fly," BETH said bluntly.
"I can fly faster," Keal shot back, "how could a hunk of metal beat me?"
"I FIND ALL YOUR POSTULATING HIGHLY UNLIKELY." Theran said, addressing the two humans and the android. "THE BLASTWAVE FROM EVEN A CRUSE FISSION DEVICE WOULD STILL BE TRAVELLING AT SEVERAL THOUSAND METERS PER SECOND. IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO MOVE TO A SAFE DISTANCE ON FOOT. ALSO THE ELECTROMAGNETIC PULSE THAT SUCH A DETONATION WOULD GENERATE WOULD MAKE FLIGHT A RISKY AND NEAR SUICIDAL ENDEVOR IN THESE ATMOPHERIC CONDITIONS. SHOULD IT BE NECESSARY TO TAKE SUCH ACTIONS I PLAN ON BEING WELL OUT SIDE THE AFFECTED AREA BEFORE TIGGERING SUCH A DETONATION."
Inside his own mind Theran grumbled. I suspect the two humans may suffer from watching too many action videos, but the android should know better...unless such information was left out of its programming.
"You just had to ruin our fun, Clanky, didn't you?" Keal shook his head, Stupid robots always over thinking it. He looked around in the smog, everything dark. It was like the exact opposite of Aetheros. He kept swinging his gun around. Keal wasn't sure why, as much as he made fun of the androids and cyborgs, he still had trust that they would detect anything coming.
But still his gun swung left and right. "Oi, robots, do me a favour and warn me if we start getting shot at." Keal lowered his gun and tried to calm down.
Despite his usual 'machine-like' attitude, Theran did from time to time let some of his emotions slip to the surface. "DO NOT WORRY KEAL YOU WILL BE THE FIRST TO KNOW IF WE START TAKING ENEMY FIRE...I PLAN ON USING YOU AS A SHIELD WHILE I ENGAGE." If he could've still smiled, he would've been grinning ear-to-ear.
Keal looked at the cyborg and laughed, "Damn, did Clanky just make a joke? But don't worry, you can use me as a shield. I'll just get Big Ol' BETH here to stand in front of me. You can take a couple of hits, right Rusty?"
"Calm down ladies. You'll get your panties and pantie circuitries in a knot if you keep arguing". Calia snickered. "Besides, I said I could outrun any of you. I didn't say anything about flying did I"?
Keal looked down at the short rouge, "Really? You could outrun us with short little stubs like that? Come on! I could beat you with my armour on!" For a second Keal wished Angel was here, she loved to race. "Heh, when we get back to Aetheros, you race my dog. I have $50 on Angel."
Keal laughed, Come on! We are sitting here making bets and talking about how fast we could run. Damn, looks like this expedition won't be so hard after all.