Rick had seconds to make a plan. They were in the middle of what they had for a town square: not a spec of cover in sight. To his left he saw a row of upturned tables and rocks that made a great place to advance. Not too far behind him, he remembered there being the stones that made the symbol of the Lamb, which would do in a pinch for picking stuff off from afar. With the citizenry safely inside the buildings, he thought that made the best plan; let the woman, Skie, do her thing on the front lines while he supported her from behind.
He pointed to the rocks next to the door. “You go there. Wait ‘til you’ve got their asses!” She nodded, and bolted for the cover and the hiding spot. Rick spotted Cat on the ground, still nursing her face where she was slapped. Rick ran forward and grabbed her by the arm, shaking Cat out of whatever place her mind was in.
“Rick, we have to go!” She cried, suddenly getting to her feet and running towards the town buildings. “They’re all in there in preparation for our arrival!”
Rick ran after her. “I can fucking hear that Cat, get to safety! Skie and I have this covered, you make sure everyone else is alright.” He broke off from her path to slide behind cover. He brought up his rifle and covered the door, waiting patiently for the first idiot to walk through.
It seemed like they were taking ages, which caused his mind to wander. Why on earth had he shot the man? Ora maybe? he thought. Still, he couldn’t remember why he suddenly lit him up, the sharp memory of the slugs hitting home replaying constantly. It wasn’t regret he felt, Ora was fucking bastard who didn’t really deserve to live. He could tell that much from the little bit that he had met the man. No, what he felt was confusion as to his own state of mind. Rick was used to knowing what he was thinking at almost all times, a job like his necessitated it really. But at the time he felt an overwhelming anger, like nothing else he’d ever felt.
Still, that didn’t matter right now. He had a situation that needed solving, with preferably less dead people this time. Granted, if it wasn’t for that kid…
A swell of heat rose in him and coloured his vision just as the first member of the Lamb ran out of the temple. His head completely overtook all Rick’s vision. Rick could hear his pulse slowly thump in his ear as he squeezed the trigger and saw the head in his sights explode in charred crimson, and topple out of his scope. Another two members took the place of the first, their weapons searching for the hunter.
The look of surprise on his target’s face when they realized where he was lasted a moment before it caved inwards in a plume of blood. The second ducked behind the pillars of the temple. Five more members spilled from the temple, their weapons firing. Rick ducked behind cover, and moved along to the right to get a better angle on his attackers. Bullets sang above where he was moments before, smashing into the dirt behind or the rubble in front. Rick heard several shouts, and the telltale sound of people running closer to him. Rick pulled out his repeater and vaulted over the wall, taking aim at the first two bodies he could see. Their robes caught fire as slug after slug tore into their unprotected chests. They fell over as Rick rolled from his landing and shot another one in the back as they tried to turn, sending the body toppling face first into the dirt.
Rick got up and leapt backwards over the stones, but not before taking a shot to the shoulder. The shot screwed up Rick’s momentum, and he landed hard on his now wounded shoulder. So much for that arm, he thought as he put his back to the rocks and waiting for the hail of fire to subside. Dull aches permeated his shoulder, but he could barely feel his arm at all. The bullet punched into his armor but didn’t make it through, which was a good sign.
He peeked to see the enemy, and was rewarded with another smattering of gunfire; still, he saw what he needed to. There were about ten of them outside the temple, and still more inside waiting to see what would happen out in the square. It was up to the woman, Skie, to do some work and divert their attention.
Skie listened carefully to the fight going on just beyond her meagre cover. A rattling of slugs, smashing stone, the thump of bodies hitting the floor. Rick was pissing them off, that much was for sure. He definitely knew how to fight when he needed to, she reckoned. Granted, that was his job, so she sure hoped he knew how to handle himself.
Still, it had been a couple of seconds since she’d heard slug fire. He was pinned, and that was her cue. She could try to take them by surprise from the side.
She booted up her wrist module and looked to the power field settings, her eyes skimming. None of the options looked super prevalent right now, she thought. Just as she was about to leave it well enough alone, she spied the ‘auto’ setting. “Royce said I would need practice with it, but what a better time than in an actual fight?” She hit the button, and starting moving behind her cover towards the temple.
Peeking out from the rocks, she saw a group of five of the bastards moving towards where Rick was. The remaining five close to where she was stood by the door, their backs to her, covering their comrades.
It was now or never.
Pulling out her hand cannon, she barreled forward, blasting the furthest enemy in their back, blowing a burnt crater in their lower spine. Before the nearest one could react, she reached out with her prosthesis to grab them by the neck. Her hand clenched, a sickening crunch ending their life. Skie threw the corpse at the nearest one, their reaction time being just too slow to doge the morbid missile. As they slammed to the ground, Skie brought her cannon to bear on another member.
A bullet tore into her left shoulder, lancing her mind with pain. Her vision went red with blazing agony, as she dropped her cannon, leaving her disarmed. Except… she brought her hand to bear on the attacker. She imagined her arm turning into a blaster, and tried to fire on her attacker.
Nothing happened. In that moment, that long agonizing moment, Skie was certain her life was over.
The front of the cultists face blew out in a gory mess, and the smell of burnt flesh filled the air in front of her. She didn’t hesitate, grabbed her cannon, and broke for her cover just as another bullet found its mark in her mechanical shoulder. The projectile flattened harmlessly and fell into the dirt. She dove and found safety just as several more bullets chipped stone and tore up the soil where she was.
She took a moment to look at her wound. Despite the pain, she was happy that her shoulder plating had taken the brunt of the attack, The bullet wasn’t too far in, and would come out easily later, when there was time to deal with the blood. For the moment, it was a better plug anything she had on hand. Still, it was a great deal of pain to raise her arm, making it impractical to rely on her left hand.
The blaster didn’t work as intended, so she decided that ‘auto’ needed more practice than maybe a couple of seconds of wishful thinking. She changed the settings, and her arm glowed a light blue with a point on the end. ‘Sword’ mode.
Her speed was her greatest asset. She could move faster than anyone, and so long as Rick kept up the pressure, she could cut through them like so much paper. The memory of the red hot stone fueled her morbid curiosity to see what would happen to someone struck with the blade.
Rick just managed to make out that Skie had made it safely behind cover again. The bodies of several more cultists littered the ground, and the rich blood had mixed into the soil in the square. It was a bloodbath.
He had never been in large fights like this before. Between all of his missions, he’s had to subdue maybe a couple bandits at a time, but this was something new. There was an adrenaline here that he had never experienced before. His veins hummed to the tune of the battle, and his mind was murky with fear, yet resolute knowing his ultimate goal. Every time he stood up and blasted another cultist he risked being shot, but every dead body was one step closer to intimidating them into stopping altogether. Or maybe just another dead body in another long line of them. He had no way of knowing for sure.
Rick knew that in the short term, though, he had to keep pressure off of Skie to give her the time she needed to recuperate and get back in the action. He brought up the repeater with a click, and burst out of cover.
He powered into a sprint, making for the archway of the temple. A spray of slug fire caught one cultist across the chest, and he slid underneath a volley of fire. Sliding to one knee, he took aim and blasted another cultist, sending them flailing back into the stones. Just when he was going to get to his feet, something heavy hit him in the back of the head.
The last thing Rick remembered was the feel and taste of sand in his mouth as he hit the ground hard.
Skie got up just in time to see one of the cultists slam a large rock across the back of Rick’s head. The shock of seeing him get taken out paled in comparison to the bloodlust that immediately flowed through her tired limbs.
“No.” She could no longer feel the pain in her shoulder as it was dulled by the serene anger she felt. Suddenly, all that was in her sight was the attacker, the rock in his hand. The tens of other cultists in the temple. Damien’s shitty little face. That was too much, she raged, to get to this point and have it be ended by that little fuckwit.
She broke into a run, leaping over a body, sliding underneath the clumsily thrown rock. Leaping out of the slide, she punched her hand into the man’s gut.
A sudden mess came out of him as his gut blew apart from the change in temperature and pressure caused by the power field blade. Skie spun around and swung again at his head. It split, sending vitae and skull fragments across the area. She was drenched, but had no mind to heed it. Sounds and cries came from the temple as more targets took positions around the area. One voice in particular, a high pitched boyish wail, caught her attention.
“You!” she shouted, bolting towards the temple. Shots flew by her, another one caught her prosthesis as she readied it, and none of it mattered. She plunged the sword into one exploding ribcage, leaping towards another fucker and shoving her fist directly into his mouth before the top of their head popped. Someone tried to bring a candlestick down on her, but it was caught by her arm, causing it to split into two slagged metal sticks.
Still, there were too many. Another one came from behind and threw a rock which slammed into her back. She fell forward, and caught the ground with her hands just as something else hit her in the side. She flipped over to see a ground of three of the bastards surrounding her, with more coming.
Just as they raised their weapons to finish her off, something blurred past them. In an instant of confusion, a large claw tore through one of their midsections, and split the fucker in half. Behind the toppling torso was a face, grotesque, with blaring pustules for eyes and bleeding gums for teeth. The other two cultists brought their weapons on the monster, but it leapt at them with a claw for an arm. She heard screams just above her head, and felt a warm spray of blood.
Shaking off the daze of her injuries, she got onto her knees. The battlefield was a butchery, and now the monsters were here to make the most of the carnage. She turned around to see gums-for-teeth trying to stuff half a person in its mouth, its slobbering gums drenching the robes of its meal in caustic blood. Screaming and shouting came from the temple.
She crawled away slowly, keeping the currently meal-happy monster in her sight. Just as she was about to run away, the temple door slammed to her right. She stopped, her heart skipped, and she couldn’t breathe. The monster turned around slowly, it’s large, round bulk rotating to see what caused the noise. It was staring directly at her.
Seconds passed, with her not breathing and the monster still staring. Sweat tickled down her brow, and her lungs screamed in pain as they begged for air. Still she wouldn’t dare take a breath. She was as good as dead should that happen.
A screech from in front of her pierced the air as a wiry creature with three long arms leapt up on the stone, and tried to grab one of the body parts near the rotund abomination, who turned around and neatly knocked it into the wall. The abomination then raised his sword arm up, and brought it down in a sickening crunch amidst the wails of the monster, who was still screaming. It went up and down over, and over, and the monster on the receiving end eventually stopped screaming after one sickening crunch.
Skie was so enthralled, and so scared, she hardly realized the opportunity she had. She got up, and took stock of her surroundings. There was the temple, which was full of murderers and assholes, or the open square and Rick… if he was even still alive.
Still, she couldn’t leave him out here. That would guarantee his death.
She broke into a dead run towards Rick’s body as if a horde of the monsters were behind her; for all she knew, that was the case. Once she got to Rick, she got down and grabbed him underneath the shoulder. A groan escaped his lips, and hope flared in Skie’s mind. A shout, like metal on metal mixed with thunder, came from the temple, and there was no doubt in Skie’s mind as to what was doing the shouting.
Dragging Rick like a heavy sack, she made for the nearest building as the monster lumbered towards her, the sound of its heavy club feet coming closer and closer. The distance between her and the building she was aiming for was seemingly getting longer and longer as the monster came closer and closer. She was running out of time. In her frantic get away, she suddenly came to a sobering conclusion; she wasn’t going to make it.
She dropped Rick, only a few feet from the door of the nearest building, and turned around to see the monster right in front of her. Its rank breath defied all sense of smell, a turbulent gut rotten smell of cadavers and corpses. Blood flew out of it’s diseased mouth as it jumped at her, mouth wide open, its pus filled eyes popping out in anticipation. Its dark abyss of a mouth promised a horrible death.
She brought her fist back, and let loose a haymaker towards the monster’s face. Just as her punch was about to land, it suddenly covered itself in the blue green glow of a power field.
The monster’s eyes popped as her fist literally blew apart its face. The combined power of her mechanical punch, the power field, and the momentum of the beast forced her punch through the back of the monster, causing an explosion of gore to completely surround her. Body parts simply flew away from the quickly expanding explosion, a blossom of bone and gristle, of blood and pus.
The sound of flesh ripping itself apart and of all the bones in its body breaking filled the air, and the world turned red. Just like that, the monster was no more.
Skie fell to her hands and knees as she blinked away the blood. Her fist hummed pleasantly in the silence afterwards, and was the only thing completely spotless in the carnage. Her heart pounded, her breathing was heavy, and she was incredibly aware that she was still very much alive.
A scrape of metal on stone came from her right as a doorway opened. She heard a voice call out to her, but she was numb to the sound. She collapsed and almost hit the ground before several hands stopped her from hitting the dirt. All at once, the pain in her left shoulder, the burn in every muscle in her body, and the recoil in the bone and tissue surrounding her prosthesis overcame her.
She passed out just as she felt someone dragging her through the doorway, and into darkness.
“Dr. Camrata, we will not negotiate with you. You have conducted a hostile takeover of a notional corporation! That is an act of treason, do you understand?” The vid screen showed a woman, purple in the face with fury and indignation.
“Minister, I did no such thing.” Royce slipped into his computer, dragged the necessary files to the front of his mind, and sent the found data over. “What you see here are all the illegal actions of my predecessor. In these files are detailed reports of hundreds of missions condoning illegal experimentation. Horrible, horrible things really. There’s an awful amount of genetic… rewiring, yes.”
Fury turned to disgust in the moments that followed. She spent several minutes looking over the reports, and her visage turned more dour with every passing moment.
“This is horrible, and had we been made aware of this… monstrous activity, we would have intervened.” The woman looked up from her other display with the reports. “That does not excuse your actions, doctor. You still are charged with treason, at the very least!”
Royce shook his head. “No, no. This… this is all wrong. I expected something of a different reaction. All I want to do is run this organization the way it is meant to be run, minister. The more I read about the imperfections and dirty nature of this place, the more I needed to fix and clean that. You do realize that’s true? That there was a need to clean the CBI of corruption?”
“Corruption is one thing. Terrorism is another, doctor.”
“Is it?” Royce sat forward in his chair and knit his fingers together. “Had I been acting under your instructions, we would not be having this conversation. Not at all. I would be praised right now, and the CBI would be moving forwards, upwards, to a better future without the empty threats and potential loss of life.”
“You have already killed several people, including the director!” The woman on the vid screen shook, from rage or fear Royce could not guess.
“Necessary. You would have done the same thing, I expect. Yes. You would need to. Unless…” His vision slipped into his computer world once more as he sifted through data. Eventually he found was he was looking for. “Oh, it seems you knew the director quite well. Too well.” He copied the data and sent a copy to the woman. As she opened the files, her face fell.
“How did you find these?”
“It’s no matter. What does matter is that you are implicated in all this. In fact…” Taking another look, he found a few more files, copied them, and sent a copy to her again. “You could be directly tied to all of the previous director’s wrongdoings. Turning a blind eye to his tests, his ugly and brutal tests. That’s no good, no good at all.”
She looked down, her shoulders slumped in defeat. “No one can no about this, doctor. It was supposed to help usher in our golden age, our rebirth.”
Royce did not smile. It was unfortunate he had to resort to this base form of convincing people to work with you, but it seemed easiest. “We can still do that. Let me continue to run the CBI, and we can build something better, safer, and cleaner for everyone. We can make the old city a new place for everyone to live.”
The minister sat in silence as the clock in Royce’s new office ticked on. After a long time, she nodded her head. Royce was disgusted with how low he had to strike a blow to make this work, but work it did.
“Alright. Thank you minister. This’ll turn out for the better, you’ll see. I’ll be sending hourly reports, as per our agreement.” Royce turned off the screen. Although the methods used were not to his liking, Royce had effectively kept the government off his back. Instead, they’d be working with him. This will make things much easier, he thought as he marched his way out of the office. As he stepped through the door, two tripodal robots flanked his sides an guarded him on his way down to his labs. Their porcelain white plates clicked along the floor, and their big, scanning eyes glowed blue from within as they searched the environs for dangers of any kind. Royce was quite pleased with how they turned out, to be honest.
Once in his lab, he sat down at his chair and let out a big sigh. It had been a long number of hours, and things had already changed for the better. Security detail was now completely controlled by him, a legion of machines. The scientists in the building were back to work, and now the government was off his back. He grabbed his cup of coffee and drank some before spitting it out.
It was glacially cold.
Unimpressed with his old coffee, he made himself a new cup and checked his messages for anything from the woman.
In the many, many hours he’d been away, no report. Worry crept into Royce’s mind, and he immediately began composing a message.
End of Parts 20, 21