The Eighth Chapter
These people believe in nothing, it makes them so much easier to conquer. The godless have nothing to prove. – Deicide.
With each new sector of the city cleared, the 203rd Heavy Infantry were met with less and less opposition, brief skirmishes with injured soldiers left behind or outright deserters, clustered together to form small gangs for survival. They had even come across an abandoned Fossa baby factory that had become a source of food for the stranded soldiers, it was assumed that the tanks growing the fetuses had all been evacuated, but they had already seen how quickly war had come to this place.
Repeated dialogue with command simply told the women to push further into the city, none of them could fight the feeling that at any moment they would be caught in an elaborate ambush, but the tanks kept rolling. With her visor up Fawn craned her neck up to look at the sky, not a Helo, stray jet or a single bird for weeks. Not even a spy drone had been spotted since the tour began. She thumbed through her mission briefings on her handheld unit, not expecting to find anything useful, but it was always good habit to check. Then she looked back up to the sky, a dark gray, she could smell the water in the air. This place was so dry that a short time earlier your eyelids had to work overtime to keep your peepers moist. She turned back to Gazelle, and then pointed up.
“It’ll come eventually, just be thankful,” Gazelle said. Fawn shrugged and turned back to the front. It was then that a confused voice came over the open channel.
“We’re on the south quarter. There’s a bunch of mist. Thicker than hell,” a woman said on the comm. channel.
“There’s people coming out of it, might have refugees. Wait. I think we got weapons. What the fuck? Fucking swords. Holy shit! They cut barrel off a tank,” the voice said. There was machine gun fire heard on the open channel, and then it echoed from their position. Immediately the tanks rushed to the south quarter, screams and the sound of warping metal filled the comm. channel. As they approached the scene they fanned out and the tanks came from different side streets. Fawn and her fire team jumped from the tank and got in position. The clouds overhead looked like a churning black soup, then the rain came down, the moisture could not cover the smell of ozone in the air. Fawn assumed something must have been struck by lightning, she could feel an energy moving through the air, and muffled footsteps against the pavement. She peeked around the corner to find several men and women in black, form-fitting suits and shiny black faceplates, they were amazingly muscled. A few of them held black blades; each rain drop that hit the blades fizzled into vapor. With their strange equipment she could see that they were not Fossas, and wondered if they were human at all. Their huge back muscles and the mechanism running vertically down their spines made them appear slightly hunchback.
From the building behind them, more and more blade wielding soldiers began to spill into the street. She wondered what type of vehicle could hold so many personnel. Then down the alley that she was facing she saw the reality warp before her; revealing the insides of a massive ship. Men and woman in tight gray suits and transparent faceplates were being screamed at by a tall woman making hand signals to a man on the other side of the portal. Their gray suits became a sooty color and their faceplates blackened to the resemblance of smooth obsidian, giving them the look of black, soulless manikins. They raised their fingers above their heads and then dove into the hole in this reality. Fawn’s blood pressure shot up, her teeth began to ache as she raised her weapon.
“Engaging,” Gazelle said; hot brass began to spill out of the side of the turret. The Deathless she managed to hit seemed to shrug off the .50 caliber bullets. Fawn fired a grenade into the charging group; she watched as they all dispersed immediately, the outer most leapt laterally to walls of the buildings. Those behind vaulted over the explosive, while those in front immediately dove into a roll. The screams and the sound of gunfire kept Fawn from believing she was taking part of some extravagant ballet. Every movement of these dark soldiers looked rehearsed, Fawn watched as they unsheathed the black blades from the scabbards riding their spines. An electric buzz seared through the air and the smell of ozone became apparent once more. She watched as they sliced clean through her allies, weapons, ballistic vests and their cavities in between. Even the smallest of the soldiers overpowered the allies easily; Fawn witnessed a woman stiff arm a tank, stopping it outright as it tried to cross through the intersection. The tank could get no traction against the woman and was soon swarmed by other black manikins that quickly hacked it to pieces. The strength of these alien soldiers seemed to be wildly varied, most seemed to be incapable of running in a straight line, while others possessed the strength to bend steel like taffy. It seemed those that were superior had colored loops hanging at the sides of their waists.
Gazelle screamed from the turret. “They’re movin’ to fast!” she said. Fawn could see all of their movements clearly now, knowing just what they would do before they actually did it, she adjusted her aim accordingly. She lifted her Toy Box and began to lead her new found target. She watched as a grenade knocked back a man into the alley behind him. Then Flechette fired the Penny Black divorcing a man’s head from his shoulders. Fawn could see a black-clad woman was on a path to collide with her, with few quick movements the Toy Box became a laser saw. Fawn rammed it into the chest of their pursuer, bursting the top layer of the breastplate of the suit, black fluid splattered across Fawn’s face and her laser had been extinguished, unable to burn through the black ooze that covered the laser’s eye. The tank fired the main gun at the warp in reality, the shell exploded prematurely inside what looked to be some kind of cubical force field. Within this field was a figure that seemed to be looking directly at Fawn.
Flechette caused another head to be popped off one of the dark soldiers. Fawn had just noticed that Chital and Lechwe were screaming. Fawn converted the Toy Box into her machine gun, firing into the faceplate of the soldier that had leapt onto the tank. They watched as the bullets failed to pierce the surface of the smooth black mask, then the head of the black clad soldier vanished, removed by Flechette’s E.P. Rifle, seemingly the only weapon that was effective against the unknown force.
A woman not far from them opened her faceplate. “Recruit! Back on the ship!” the woman said. Her kinky, reddish brown hair framed her tan and freckled face. She walked forward and kicked the armless man in the rear as she scowled and screamed at the rest of the, apparently, junior personnel.
“Dearborne let’s go!” Gazelle yelled from the tank. A bedlam surrounded Fawn; she hopped onto the tank and grabbed hold as it immediately reversed. Her eyes were locked with the small, wild haired woman. She had a toothy grin on her face that Fawn wanted to carve out. As the tank soared backward they saw the rest of their division attempting a retreat, weaving in and out of tanks that had been split in half or twisted into abstract art. Fawn began firing on the soldiers who were in pursuit. The Penny Black went off again next to her and she looked over to Flechette’s mask of stone. An enemy had leapt from a side street and onto the tank; he brought the black blade down unto Gazelle’s head repeatedly and began to amateurishly hack at the rest of the tank in short ineffective chops. As Fawn rose up she dragged a knife from her hip and with impeccable strength she brought the blade up, into the Deathless soldier’s armpit unable to pierce the tough suit. She ducked underneath his wild swing, and then she pushed him from the tank. As Fawn tried to radio Command on her antlers, she saw that there were similar soldiers like the tiny woman she had just saw, all of them had colored ribbons hanging from their waists, all were not actively engaging in the battle, instead they were berating the soldiers that had no ribbons. Fawn was enraged. These are booters, she thought, watching the soldier she had just tried to gut shouted down by his superiors. She saw that the soldiers they actually could kill made no evasive maneuvers, they charged immediately without a thought for their own survival, as if they were mindless drones.
Fawn shot a look back to the Flechette. “Hit her,” Fawn said, pointing to the freckle faced soldier. “The rest of you get in inside,” she said. Lechwe quickly got down below. Gazelle’s body was pushed to the top of the tank where it hung between the turret and gear housing rising out of the top.
“Copy,” Flechette said, immediately zeroing in on the woman’s skull, her faceplate was up. The weapon fired, as soon as it had, the petite woman was on the tank kicking the barrel of the E.P. Rifle upward. Flechette rolled to the other side of the tank. The woman snatched the rifle as it twirled in mid-air and booted Chital off with a kick to the ribs. Fawn swung hard with her blade, but the woman was gone instantly, back into the street, eyeing the human E.P. Rifle. She fired the massive rifle with one hand at Chital, killing her instantly. She handed it to a subordinate and then sent another woman after them. She sprinted with amazing speed and leaped onto the tank. Fawn locked arms with her, then swept her off, beneath the treads of the tank, hurting more of pride than any physical damage. Fawn crouched low as they rode through an ally’s line of fire and commanded Flechette to cram inside the tank. She scrambled to the opening and stuck her head inside.
“Get us the fuck out of here!” Fawn said. The women inside the tank were packed tight, with an extra body inside a tank that was supposed to hold three, they were quite uncomfortable. As the tank finally cleared most of the carnage, they came to the edges of the city; Fawn could see that the dawn was coming soon, a horizontal beam of orange was creeping underneath the night’s purple. She heaved a sigh, just before more movement caught her eye. On the horizon, portals were bleeding men and women onto the planet’s surface, the soldiers hit the ground running, scrambling into the city. She looked to the rear once more and saw the red headed woman was following them. Fawn nodded, seething that she and her team had been singled out by this insane woman. An urgent message came on in Fawn’s antlers.
“We got a ship waiting on the beach. It’ll take us to the fleet near Arbaro. Get there Fawna!” Cari said. Fawn fired several grenades into her path, but the woman avoided them easily, vaulting over the blasts, while maintaining her inhuman speed; amazing stride for such tiny legs.
“Fire the gun!” Fawn said.
“Bearing?” the Crew Commander said.
“One. Eight. Zero. Peg that fucker,” Fawn said. A second later a blast was heard and a crater was made in the road behind them, from the dust she emerged, smiling an eater’s grin.
“Fuck,” Fawn said, seeing that more soldiers were following.
They rode onto the premises of the temporary camp where a ship was waiting to take them off planet. Fawn leapt from the tank and rolled backwards onto the sand. She quickly converted the Toy Box into the flame thrower, knowing that most of these soldiers were fresh they would be terrified of fire, even in their impenetrable armor. An orange flame shot out of her weapon like a dragon’s tongue, predictably keeping the soldiers at bay. Their redheaded leader circled her juniors.
“Fawn, come on!” Lechwe said on the comm. Channel. From further out, a portal which led back to the mysterious ship, continued to pour soldiers into the sea. Deathless troops were emerging from the sea, spilling onto the beaches like a black tide, separating Fawn from her comrades.
“Go!” Fawn said. Lechwe, unable to reach Fawn sprinted to the ship where the rest of their allies were waiting, they watched as the black clad soldiers circled the pink haired woman. The Deathless woman that had been pursuing them entered fearlessly into the flame throwers range, as the bright orange tongue lashed out at her, the igniter on the Toy Box was mysteriously extinguished as a strange invisible force was pushed against it. Fawn slammed the igniter trigger repeatedly, but nothing happened except the audible click. Fawn grimaced as she was surrounded by soldiers; her only relief was that she could see that the ship had taken off unhindered. Fawn threw the Toy Box in the sand and began removing her gear, revealing her chiseled arms; she squinted down at the little woman trying to read her nametape.
“Baby Sister,” she said, allowing Fawn see that she not only had fangs, but all of her teeth were sharp.
“You’re a Glebula,” Fawn said. “Is this some kind power grab? Which noble’s claiming this?”
“Lord Deicide, ruler of the Stratum of Aeolipile,” Baby Sister said in her raspy voice.
“I’ve never heard of that planet,” Fawn said, slamming her knuckles together.
“It’s a ship,” Baby Sister said as she retrieved a gun attached to her belt. She fired it at Fawn’s head, leaving a strange mark.
“What the fuck is this?” Fawn said.
“You’re a keeper, kind of cute too,” Baby Sister said.
“What?” Fawn said.
“Girls like you and me do real well in the Deathless,” Baby Sister said. “You’re brick shaped friend probably wouldn’t have made it passed the initial screening, the ones with low self-esteem drop out pretty quick.”
“Fuck you,” Fawn said, staring intently at the woman, hating every cell in her body.
“We can-“ Baby Sister said, immediately ducking Fawn’s punch. Quickly she threw another jab to where she thought Baby Sister would be and hit the woman directly in the mouth. Fawn felt as if she had just hit a block of marble stuffed inside a thin pillow. Baby Sister walked away, seemingly unconcerned with Fawn as a threat, her back was to Fawn.
“I’m gonna make this easier on you. Yeah, I want you to see me when I hit you. Breathe in the deep. Let that feeling spread all over your body,” Baby Sister said facing her opponent. Fawn was powerless as the homicidal rush came over her; she wanted to eat her breakfast out of this woman’s skull.
“You feel it?” Baby Sister said. Fawn nodded quickly as she rubbed her tongue against the backs of her teeth, her gums were sore, and she could not open her fists, even if she wanted to.
“Alright fuckers listen up. It’s not hate, it’s not anger. This is life. This is one animal struggling with another,” Baby Sister said. Fawn spit, then charged the woman. From the heavens Fawn threw an overhand right, only to have it find empty air, the woman had circled around her. Fawn whirled with a victimless elbow, and then faced Baby Sister. Fawn’s perception of time seemed insanely sluggish; it was as if they were moving in a vat of thick oil. Fawn watched as the woman’s tiny fists worked in a circular motion, her head seemed to be dancing between her shoulders. She could feel the rhythms layered within this space, but could not flow with them, like she was on a roller coaster screaming on the initial crawl upward. Then she watched helplessly as fists were thrown into her belly with no way to avoid them. She backpedaled and tried to shake away the drunken bedlam in her consciousness.
“Don’t do that. That’s the only thing keeping you alive,” Baby Sister said. Fawn heaved and watched the woman stalk before her like a tiger. She recovered and entered the hyper realized world once again. Baby Sister came at her, slower this time. Fawn aimed a knee at her head, but the woman caught it and shoved it downward, putting Fawn off balance. Then a punch to the gut folded her over the smaller woman’s fist, knocking her into the dust. Fawn collected a little sand in her hand as she stood up, then flung it as she spun around, finding no one. Her eyes set on Baby Sister again and Fawn rushed forward as Baby Sister stepped back and to left, the last thing Fawn saw was the students’ slacked faces as she was hit with a check hook, blindsided by the punch.