Chapter 19: LAST STAND
The survivors reached the end of the tunnel, with a ladder going up to the mech yard.
“Alright,” Stuart said, “This is it. We go up and get the mechs.”
Brad and Quinn followed Stuart up to a manhole like door that slid open to allow the men through.
The mech yard was actually a very large, gigantic warehouse filled with various mechs, tanks and transports on wheels.
“Brad,” Stuart called, “Over here. This is a good one, it has eight weapon mounts. Four autocannons, two heavy class lasers and two missile racks.”
“Autocannons?” Brad asked.
Stuart climbed the mech to rotate one of the autocannons by hand, “They’re like miniguns, but these have a very large caliber. They should shred those AFU soldiers to bits.”
Brad climbed to enter the mech in its comfortable reclined seat.
Stuart helped Brad put a helmet and gauntlets on, “The helmet is for the neural interface,” he said, “These gauntlets will let you interact with the virtual or holographic controls.”
Brad nodded as the controls came to life and appeared in front of him, “Where are you going to be in all this?” he asked.
“I’m going to be in that smaller one,” Stuart answered, “Its only got four lasers but, it’s got a cloak. The cloak is only temporary but, wait for me to get into position. These things have radios like our helmets so, you just talk. I’ll let you know when to move in.”
Quinn waited by the hatch and looked down at the survivors. It did cross his mind if the signal scrambler had failed whether or not they would all be detected.
“How do I turn this thing on?” Brad asked.
Stuart pointed, “Touch this.” he answered, pressing a button to close the cockpit and climb down. He ran over to another mech and got in.
“Alright, Brad,” Stuart radioed, “Fire her up. Don’t worry, the signal is masked in here so, you can practice a little.”
Brad touched the button to activate his mech.
It came to life, standing upright as its numerous lights turned on.
Stuart did the same thing with his mech, “You can use your neural interface for just about everything,” he said, “I just don’t recommend it to minimize any negative feedback. You can do everything with the virtual controls. I use the neural interface just for aiming to where I look.”
Brad knew everything about the mech automatically from the neural interface. So, there was little training to do, he just needed to test this new knowledge. He interacted with a control, throttling it forward to start walking. He then pulled the throttle back causing it to stop.
“Easy, isn’t it,” Stuart said, “Cloaking and moving into position.”
Quinn watched in amazement as Stuart’s mech became invisible and looked up at Brad’s towering mech.
“Move into a flanking position.” Brad said.
“Affirmative,” Stuart replied, “We’ll get them in a crossfire.”
Stuart had even disappeared from Brad’s radar on his mech, “Stuart,” Brad called, “You there?”
“I’m moving into position,” Stuart answered, “Start moving out and then stop short of revealing yourself.”
Brad throttled his mech forward till he stood alongside the building just short of exposing himself. The radar showed the AFU camp just around the corner.
Stuart settled into position on the far side of the camp, “Your energy signature must be getting their attention,” he said, “Move in now and start attacking.’
As Quinn had predicted, Orox was sitting in a chair reading the latest reports when the bulkheads around him suddenly exploded. He took cover as sparks and debris flew everywhere.
Brad fired round after round into the camp. He found he could either link his weapons together or have them fire consecutively. He could activate specific ones or deactivate them. He used the missiles at first when he struck the gunship. Now, he mainly used the autocannons and lasers, firing the missiles sporadically.
“Now,” Quinn ordered, “Come on now!’
Gina, carrying Lilly, were the first ones out. As more and more people emerged they helped others get out.
Quinn looked around for the transports, “This way.” he said running into a transport.
The transport had wheels and thick armor plating.
“Have a seat,” Quinn said, “This will do nicely. We can fit everyone inside.”
Gina placed Lilly down in the passenger seat as she sat in the driver’s seat, “It has wheels,” she said, “How do I control this thing?”
Quinn pointed, “I assume that’s the on button. It says ‘IGNITION’.” he replied
Gina pressed the button and started the transport right up.
Quinn examined the controls more closely, “I can’t be sure but,” he said, “It looks like it controls like a cruzer.”
Gina looked, “Seems like it,” she replied, “I can figure this out then.”
The transport inched forward as Gina gave it some gas, then quickly hit the brake.
“You know where the CC is, right?” Quinn asked.
Gina looked in disbelief, “You’re not coming?” she responded.
Quinn shook his head, “Sorry,” he said, “I’ll have to take another transport. At the CC is a metal cover sealing a door. Use this transport’s communication equipment to let them know you’re there. They’re expecting us anyway.”
Outside, Quinn joined Kimberly and Stacy.
Right then in space, UED/NAFU ships began to rapidly appear one after another. The AFU ships broke orbit to focus their attention on the incoming ships. The counter fleet didn’t try sneaking up from behind as they had lost that advantage and this time it was the AFU who found themselves outnumbered and outgunned as numerous UED/NAFU ships kept coming in.
The firefight between both sides was furious but, it certainly was one-sided for the UED/NAFU vessels, who pressed forward in sheer numbers among the shooting.
The AFU attempted setting up a blockade which was quickly overrun by the incoming UED/NAFU ships, who took orbit and then began to launch their own starfighters.
Brad and Stuart were unleashing hell on the camp. With their aiming connected to their eyes, they looked everywhere feverishly.
Orox crawled into the gunship’s cockpit amid sparks, “What hit us?” he asked.
“A missile of sorts,” the pilot answered, “There is a giant robot out there firing on us.”
“Can we take off?” Orox asked.
“We can’t go interstellar,” the pilot replied, “We can barely fly. I can get us a few feet off the ground.”
“Do it then,” Orox ordered, “Go after that thing.”
AFU soldiers had begun filling the camp, from inside the building, and take up defensive positions. They couldn’t see Stuart, only that his lasers seemed to be coming from different directions, glimpses of him appeared if they were lucky enough to strike him. Much of their focus turned to Brad, who was in a bigger, more powerful mech.
Stuart was in a smaller mech and more mobile, he kept strafing to keep the AFU from figuring out his exact location.
Brad was more stationary and began to focus his eyes more, targeting defenses and blowing them up. He caused much destruction as more AFU soldiers came from the building. When he noticed he was starting to take more damage than he would like, he began to back up around the building and noticed the gunship coming after him guns blazing.
As Brad returned fire, one of the bullets pierced the cockpit and struck the pilot, killing him instantly, and causing him to go forward on his controls. Orox saw this and ran back as the gunship collided with the mech in a huge explosion. The mech fell back with the gunship on top of it.
After a few seconds, amid the flaming wreckage, Brad emerged with his suit on. He was fine but, he couldn’t find his footing. A piece of the wreckage came loose and trapped his leg temporarily. He kneeled over to lift the wreckage when a high-powered blast suddenly struck his trapped leg. Brad collapsed to the ground, writhing in pain.
“Trying to get away,” Orox said, pointing the rifle at him, “This is an XA-1 rifle, or as your pathetic species calls it ‘a one hitter quitter’. That means your stupid suit isn’t going to protect you. Now, take off your mask, I know you can. Phase it off, now!”
Brad didn’t want to reveal his identity, especially to Orox. He didn’t want him to know he’d lost to him but, the pain in his leg was great and he didn’t want to get shot again.
As Orox took aim with his weapon, Brad raised a hand in surrender and phased off his helmet.
“You,” Orox said surprised, “I thought I recognized that suit. Brad was it? Today must be my lucky day, I need a prisoner.”
Just then a loud bang rang out and Orox dropped his rifle as he was struck in the shoulder by a bullet, he didn’t know what it was or where it came from, except that it hurt.
The rifle had fallen near Brad, who quickly picked it up and pointed it toward Orox. Both looked to see it was Quinn who’d fired one of his .38s.
“Like I said before,” Quinn began, “You’re under arrest.”
Brad freed his foot and limped along as he escorted Orox down to Quinn. There, he was met by Kimberly and Stacy.
Kimberly examined Brad’s leg, “Are you going to be alright?” she asked.
“What do you think,” Brad answered, “I’m shot in the leg. Sorry, that’s the pain talking, the nanites should patch me up some. I’ll be fine.”
Stacy went to go look around for another transport as Stuart’s mech decloaked and powered down.
“Hey, Brad,” Stuart called, “I had come back when you did. Funny thing, the AFU stopped when I did and retreated back into the SI. Not one giving chase!”
“I found one,” Stacy said, “Let’s get in and head to the CC.”
Everyone entered the transport, with Brad getting some help from Kimberly. Quinn escorted Orox and Stuart sat in the driver’s seat.
The transport started up and began its journey to the CC. The trip was uneventful, Stuart noticed on its radar AFU soldiers had all retreated into buildings. They reached the CC in several minutes, no resistance.
Kimber walked up front and worked the communications pad, “Gina and the rest made it several minutes ago,” she said, “Signaling our arrival now.”
Stuart fully stopped the transport and opened its massive exit door. He began to climb out of the driver’s seat, “Alright,” he said, “We’re here. Everyone out!”
As they exited, sparks rained from the metal covering as it was beginning to be cut open again.
Brad limped to the front when he saw what looked like an AFU shuttle on approach for their location, “Everyone,” he yelled, “Get into cover!”
The group scrambled back into the transport.
Quinn forcefully sat Orox down.
“Don’t get any ideas,” Brad said, phasing on his suit with Stuart, “You’re our ticket outta this.”
“I don’t get it,” Stuart said, “My radar isn’t picking up anything.”
“Neither is mine,” Brad replied, “Maybe the AFU found a way to hack the sensors. Kim, radio the survivors to stop opening that door.”
Kimberly ran to the radio up front.
Brad and Stuart peeked out to see the shuttle land. Its doors opened to let out a mix of what looked like AFU soldiers and humans.
Brad stepped out in front of them and phased off his suit, “That’s why they didn’t register as foe,” he said, “They’re UED and NAFU. They got our message!”
The UED/NAFU personnel approached the survivors as they filed out of the transport.
“Now that I’ve reconfigured my radar,” Stuart said, “I’m reading a bunch of you guys everywhere.” The radars could detect everything from friend, non-hostel, just hostel or any combination. It was to help weed out cluter.
Brad pointed, “There’s more survivor’s right under that metal panel.” he said.
A human dressed as an officer approached Brad, “Is Stacy here?” he asked.
Stacy stepped forward. “I’m right here.” she answered.
“Please,” the officer said, “Come with us. This is important.”