Into the Fray
Echo-1: Part 39
We rounded the corner and I experienced another of the longest seconds of my life. The hall was completely filled with smoke from a downed Vedma fighter burning on the ground. We came to a stop at the top of a ramp leading down the huge hallway to central computer rooms. From our position, we could take in the entire scene.
There were two Vedma pulse cannon tanks surrounded by battle robots. The robots were humanoid shaped, two meters tall, with bulky reinforced metal bodies, helmeted round heads, with no neck and chunky arms carrying various types of assault weaponry. They were all facing away from us and they were all firing forward. Between them and the entrance to the rust reinforced control room stood four Zero-G grunt soldiers holding huge metal body shields. I think they were actually exterior blast doors. They were made of the white Banga metal, but scorched and burned from the continued blasts they were absorbing.
Behind the four was Punchy open firing with two of the shields on each side. They were backed all the way up to the rusty metal door. And standing in the middle of the hall next to them was Dr. Death, taking on an enormous amount of fire, blasting back, and ripping through the ranks of oncoming battle robots. Intermixed with the robots were the wolves, taking cover behind their metal counterparts. Where the two lines met the ground was littered with dead Zero-G commandos and broken robots. There were probably a thousand battle robots, all the same, all marching forward. Most somehow firing forward. It looked unreal.
The front line of robots was slowly being cut down, but then another row would step over the fallen bodies and continue to move forward. They were about to overrun our last holdouts.
There was a huge fiery explosion down the hall beyond them that reminded me of a napalm strike from a Vietnam war movie. Out of the fire came a Vedma fighter and hanging onto the fighter was Yaba, wearing Forklist’s Rust-robo-combat suit. The fighter let loose two rockets that went straight into the backs of the four soldiers shielding Punchy. The shields were blown forward and ripped through the next two rows of oncoming robots. The four were killed on impact and Punchy fired wildly into the air, his body engulfed in flames.
Death turned around firing up at the fighter, his rust cannon tore right through its armor, killing the pilot. Yaba spotted him and dropped off the fighter crashing right into Death. In the Rust-robo-suit, she had strength equal to his. The fighter burst into flames and flew over the advancing troops and crashed not a hundred meters from our position.
X screamed in horror over Punchy.
Then out of the napalm fire came the Chieftains of Woad. All seven of them with licking flames clinging to the outside of their stone shelled bodies. They passed the now wrestling Death and Yaba and ran full force into the robots. They crushed and smashed them, bashing their way through with huge stone fists. The sound of all this destruction echoed through the halls of the Banga.
The Woad continued to punch their way through the masses of robots and the intermixed wolf soldiers ran for their lives. Firing at the stone covered giants did nothing to slow them. The Woad towered over the advancing troops and were flattening them in droves.
The tanks fired electric pulses at them. They connected with two hits and two warriors went down, stunned or possibly killed. The main Chieftain signaled to the others. Then he picked up battle robots and threw them at the tanks. The others did the same. The five remaining all started to throw robots. The tanks fired again, right into their own troops. The Woad dove out of the way as best they could. The top of the hall was filled with lightning and battle robots being used as projectiles.
I got on the cannon and started to fire at the back of the tanks. X raced down the ramp and Uzi was right with us. The robots at the back of the line turned and started to fire at us. I ducked down but kept firing. Two wolves stepped out from next to the tanks, both armed with some kind of rocket launcher. They fired at us simultaneously. X braked and I curled in a ball in the sidecar. The first rocket hit Uzi’s Rust-a-gogo head on and he drove right through it. The other exploded in front of our bike and the force knocked me out of the sidecar. I was blasted back several meters and violently thrown to the floor. The rust cannon went skidding across the ground, luckily missing me.
After a moment of feeling stunned, I sat up. I looked down the ramp and saw the diamond and rust gogos plow into the rear ranks of the enemy troops. The tanks were firing again at the Woad giants and another two went down. Uzi ripped along the side of one tank doing only cosmetic damage. He left a rusty rainbow of scratches in its outer plating.
Two Vedma fighters coming off the main highway system flew right over my head, immediately followed by the Varan women in their diamond scout. The fighters unloaded everything they had on the last three giants. The hall lit up in a blinding series of explosions. The scout targeted one of the tanks with a missile and destroyed it. All that was left was a big hole in its outer chassis. They kept racing down the hall pursuing the fighters. There was another explosion and I assumed one of the Vedma fighters was hit.
The last three Woad warriors rushed the last tank. It fired and missed and fired again blasting a whole division of their own troops. The Woad picked up the tank and flipped it. Then broke the turret in two. With the major threat out of the way, they turned their attention back to crushing the robot troops.
The two wolves with the rocket launchers both fired at the leader of the Woad. Both rockets hit home on his upper thigh. The stone covering was ripped away. Underneath was a bright pink muscle packed leg. The first two Woad who went down had come back to life. They took up a position in front of the entrance to the control room and held the line.
X and Uzi had blasted through and made it to the door entrance. Punchy was leaning against the rust door, putting his body weight on his rust cannon. He didn’t look good. His entire body was burned. X stopped her bike and got out. She ran over to Punchy and I could see her reaching out to help him. Mox got out as well and casually walked over toward Yaba and Death, who were still in a stalemate wrestling match on the ground.
Mox broadcast to all of us.
“Sergeant, if you will be so kind as to let the lady go.” He stood there, waiting.
Uzi pulled his gogo up provide some cover for Mox who was right in the line of fire, though most of the enemy troops were dealing with the Woad, and by dealing with, I mean being ruthlessly pummeled.
Death released his grip on Yaba and stood up. I saw her rust suit swing its leg back and punt Death down the hall. His diamond armor sparked as he crashed to a stop some distance away. Yaba turned toward Mox and meant to destroy him. Mox simply played with his necklace, looking calm as ever. Yaba stopped and the front of her suit opened. Mox quick drew his stun gun and zapped her. She fell out of the suit on the ground in front of him.
“I don’t like when people take my things.”
He walked up to her and zapped her again for good measure. Her body convulsed and changed shape. She went from being a beautiful human female to being a cuttlefish looking squid creature, just like Professor Mildabbar.
The wolves in the hall went wild. The howling from the ones that saw what happened sent the others into a frenzy. They all charged toward Mox. He casually stepped over Yaba’s body and climbed into the Rust-combat suit. He closed it down and turned toward the charging wolves. He grabbed the first one that made it to him and threw it towards the crushing hands of the Woad.
Uzi lurched forward into the rushing wolves, running two down in the process. I saw Yaba stand up. She was a woman again. Death was coming toward her at a full run. He stopped dead in his tracks.
I tried to get everyone’s attention at once. “Death get out of here! She’s trying to control him! Get him out of here!”
There was a pile of wolves on top of Mox. They were all clawing and biting at his armor and managed to knock him over.
Death opened the front of his suit.
Uzi screamed over the communications. “Sergeant you get the fuck out of this area. That is an order mister. Close that armor now!”
Death stepped out of his suit. Yaba was right in front of him. I could hear her whispering to him through his suits communication system. There was a huge gatling blast from their side. Punchy had picked up his rust cannon and fired with his back to the wall. The shots cut Yaba to pieces. She changed shape from a human to a giant wolf, to Varan, then into her actual cuttlefish squid shape. Punchy kept firing. Death screamed. Yaba fell to the ground her body hardly hanging together. She did not move.
Death knelt down over her. The Mega Therion that had gang tackled Mox, all charged toward Punchy. X dove back in her diamond cycle. The wolves got to the two Woad Chieftains and did their best to make it past them. Several were killed at the hands of the rock giants.
X backed her gogo up to Punchy. He struggled to climb on the sidecar. As soon as he was on she floored it, tearing off down the hall. Punchy was sitting backward in the sidecar. One of his legs hanging off the back. He fired at the wolves that gave chase. He killed three with point-blank shots. Two more jumped onto the bike. He shot the first one in the chest blowing it into the air and showering them with blood. The other bit into his neck with the full force of his jaws. He jumped dragging Punchy off the sidecar into a tumbling spin onto the roadway.
Punchy didn’t get up right away. He lost his cannon. It came scratching to a stop some meters away from him. The other wolves were on him.
X screamed over the intercom. “Punchy!”
She whipped her gogo around in a perfect 180-degree turn and drove off half the wolves attacking him. Mox was there now. He grabbed wolves the threw them. Tearing them all away. He electrified his suit and it stunned them. In a matter of moments, they all were on the ground. The two Woad Chieftains ran over and started stomping them to death.
Mox pointed to the rust door entrance to the control room. Several robots had now taken up position there and were attempting to cut through the door with high powered welding devices. The Woad charged back to them and smashed them. One was hurt by a welding beam. I could see him holding his arm after the last robot was destroyed. Thick pink blood was globbing out of the stone.
Death climbed back in his diamond suit, he picked up the rust cannon, and jetted above the remaining battle. He started firing from above and continued until there was nothing left standing except the five Woad Chieftains. He fired and fired and fired. The shots rang through the air. Robots exploded. Wolves tried to run and were mowed down in their tracks. The head Chief of Woad got ahold of the two wolves with the rocket launchers. He picked them up and ground their heads together until they crushed each other to a disgusting bloody end. Then he threw them on the floor and ground their bodies to pulp under his foot.
Death continued to fire at anything that moved. When the last robot fell, there was still several wolves left and Death chased them down and shot each and every last one of them. He hovered over the corpse of Yaba for a moment, then Death rocketed away in the direction the diamond scout had gone chasing after Vedma fighters.
The hall quietly burned.
It was a good thing that Death had left. I knew once again that she was there before I even turned around. I heard the door of my scout open behind me. I turned slowly. The scout was hovering less than a meter off the floor. Faye was standing in the doorway.
“It’s a very sad scene down there,” she said.
I turned away from her and looked. The Woad were helping the two from their group who had fallen. X and Uzi were out of their gogos and giving all their attention to Punchy, who was a burnt and bloody mess on the floor. He wasn’t moving. Two of the Woad stood guard around them. Yaba’s body lay in pieces not far from them. The great hallway was full of smoke and fire and littered with countless bodies and endless trashed machines. I turned back to Faye.
“What is the point to all of this?”
She smiled at me. Her purple eyes locked on mine. “First it was revenge, now it is survival.”
I guess I understood, but it all felt really wrong. She looked indifferent.
“Let’s go see Jonas.”
I walked over to the scout. Abednego lowered it closer to the floor. I noticed that the front was still melting and there was a large hole in the nose, I could see clear into the cockpit. My scout’s space-traveling days were over. I stepped aboard and just as the door was closing I heard Mox yell.