Wasteland Chronicles: Zero Blade

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#9

I am Zero. I am at war with the Mechanian Empire.

The Hogs consisted of around 200 men, mine had around 60, and the Salvager’s fortress consists of 500 people. Yet, we were still extremely outnumbered, I thought, cautiously leveling my rifle around, on the lookout for an enemy ambush.

All of a sudden, enemy fire rained down on us, and dodging it was as impossible as dodging raindrops on a stormy day. I quickly gestured to my teammates to take cover. I put my back to a rock and, peering to find a squad of 15 mechanian soldiers formed ranks. On a count of five, we emerged and fired. I quickly downed four soldiers with deadly accuracy and my teammates destroyed the rest. Retrieving the provisions of the fallen, I was surprised to see soldiers were carrying grenades, but now it is in our possession. As I obtained the explosives from what was previously a fully-armored mechanian soldier, another one spotted me and charged towards me with guns blazing. With a small twist in my hand, I tossed the grenade --- without its safety pin --- towards the charging soldier. Another soldier emerged and instinctively caught the flying sphere, while I duck behind a rock for cover. The massive explosion that rattled my eardrums even when I covered my ears almost made me feel sorry for the mechanians, as I know the exploding shrapnel would injure several more soldiers within the blast radius. My communication earpiece buzzer and Ziodius informed me that the Hogs had destroyed approximately 200 of the mechanian soldiers till now, and received only minor injuries. Thanking him, we continued to advance through the battlefield.

* * *

It was in the afternoon when we retreated and exchanged roles with another team of our men. The tanks made by Ned turned out to be super effective against the mechanians. Then there was a worried Danson who insisted on bringing people on the fighters and aid us in the air. According to our attack schedule, we will start bombing the mechanians at 5pm sharp. I called in all the teams to retreat as we began to hold defensive positions, reminding them once again that taking the battle head-on would be to our disadvantage. We updated our locations to the shared map, so the fighter pilots would know where we are and not bomb us by accident.

Sure enough, two fighters --- repainted in black instead of cloud blue of the mechanians, soared overhead and fired missiles towards clumps of mechanian troops below. Looking into the binoculars revealed unsuspecting enemies burning in fire as they slowly degrade into metal bits. Static pulse bombs were also used, creating an electromagnetic pulse on impact and incapacitating all mechanian troops within the radius.

The first wave of bombing has passed, and we surveyed our surroundings to find many mechanian casualties scattered about the battlefield. Approximately 300 mechanian troops were still in sight and we took down a few with our rifles.

Suddenly, the sound of fighter jets streaked through the sky and we immediately recognised it is not our own. The mechanians had their fighters deployed and were engaging our fighter pilots, their engines roaring with revenge. I grasped my rifle in frustration. Our advantage was starting to plummet and our men were in no shape to fight a long-lasting war.

All of a sudden, I remembered my last ace card: It is the one I had dreaded to use at most, but I couldn’t afford losing the factory or our controlled area to the mechanian empire. I had no choice but to call the HWD --- Human World Republic --- for help.

* * *

We spent the night scouting and anticipating an air attack, which may completely obliterate the area and destroy everything we strived to protect. When the sun finally came up, we were exhausted and running out of supplies. Just then, HWR troop carriers entered the area and fighter jets soared through the open sky. Lyord, the well known general of the HWR armies, emerged from the first troop carrier. I hid my disgust from his fancy uniform and signature look of superiority. He inspected the factory, which I lied as our hiding place, and luckily left without noticing the truth. The HWR troops marched into the forest, and the next wave of battle began.

* * *

We took the guard position in the factory. The tanks were positioned near the factory and the HWR troops were spread out hunting down mechanians. The number of ground forces deployed solely exceeds 3000 men and 500 tanks. It is impossible to deny that the HWR’s forces are sufficient and well-trained to defeat the expecting wave of mechanians. The weapons the troops wield are also powerful, and I have to admit that I was jealous.

After two hours, Lyord told me that the mechanian forces were all eliminated. My jaw dropped in shock as he continued, demanding all loot left on the battlefield to be theirs to claim as payment for their aid. I was forced to agree as there was no choice left. With an apathetic wave, Lyord left with his HWR troops.

We sprang into action as the HWR left, searching for any hidden cameras or recorders that the HWR could have installed on our base. Sure enough, one of our men, Leo, came holding a camera, and I was informed that it was found on a trolley in the factory. Extending my power-blade, I sliced it into two with intense anger. The remains of the camera smoked and sparked as I further crushed the interior, destroying every single circuit. Then we left 50 men guarding the factory and returned to the Zero fortress.

* * *

I told Miki that we won with the help of the HWR, and her eyebrows finally relaxed from her previous grimace. She had been worried about us for the past few days. My teammates slacked from their battle positions and changed out of their sweaty armor.

I privately talked with Leo. Among the men in the Zero fortress, excluding Miki, Gwen and other of my friends I escaped with, Leo is the one I trusted most. I told him my plans while Danson filled in the details. Miki had run to the kitchen to cook for our victory, and everything seemed the same as if we never left.

* * *

The next day, the transport hovercrafts begin to ship provisions between the factory and the fortress. By securing the area, we ensured a supply of wood, and Ned had already made some chainsaws to cut down the trees. Although the forest seems so thick and green after an extended period of human inactivity, we are aware not to deforestate the entire area. Trees could be cut down rapidly but growing them takes a long time. Soon, new furniture was produced from the newly cut-down wood, but Ned informed us that we were running low on metal. As a result, we spent the morning looking for fallen mechanian soldiers, whose metal scraps and computer components could be reused and their torsos could be melted to become the useful metal that we seek. Soon enough, the factory was encircled by a mechanian junkyard. After gathering enough resources, we started our plans to build a wall around our controlled area.

* * *

Soon I realised we were still short on hands. I wanted to perform operation jail-break again to increase our population, but Gwen shuddered and chickened out. It was only through Gwen’s reaction that I was able to recall that the last time this operation was pulled off, half of the escapee team sacrificed themselves whilst escaping from the mechanians, and surely the bad memory still lingers in Gwen. I turned to Ned, who searched for the least secure prison of the Mechanian Empire.

After a minute or so, the console carried out a scan and came up with one on an island. It seemed “perfect” to kill two birds with one stone, because we could strengthen our naval tactics and free prisoners simultaneously. Pressing the “enter” button on the keyboard, the mechanian naval base I was anticipating appeared on the screen, and the directions indicated that it was only 5 kilometers due west.

After a short while of preparation and force tally, I announced the operation to all friendly members. Making sure our equipment is ready to use, we are ready for another full-scaled battle.

But first, we all collapsed on our bunks to recharge our batteries after a long and weary day out in the sun.

* * *

The next morning went by so quickly that I didn’t notice time’s passing until the blazing afternoon sun pricked my eyes. It was 2pm when we loaded all our supplies and completed final preparations. We boarded the transporters and met with the rest of the squad of the operation. This mission was led by me as the operation commander, and Miki, Travis, Beckendorf, Anzo, Gonzo and Hadeson as their respective head of operations. We have a total of 200+ troops. Travis yanked the steering wheel back and our transport soared away in the bright afternoon sky.

* * *

Being attacked was no fun.

However for us, attacking was a lot of fun. Dominating the scene, we took whatever supplies we could salvage from the mechanians. Travis and Anzo led a team to load up the useful batteries, each one the size of a bookshelf due to it being used to power the mechanian ships and submarines. The rest of the 155 of us charged in. The ship was floating on the glittering sea. We boarded it and Beckendorf had no trouble figuring out how to pilot the thing, due to the Mechanian Empire using a universal piloting standard for all their vessels. Soon, we sailed away from the base. I jumped into the gunner console when we received the message that all teammates had left the island, and fired at what was left of the mechanian Naval Base. The building exploded as a flaming fireball rose up into the night sky, as if celebrating our victory with fireworks. This base was too far away from our triangle of control, and assuming control of it would only cause more trouble, thus it is better to be left destroyed.

Good things come in pairs. With the upgraded transport systems, Ned conducted a scan through the surroundings near the factory, and the ultrasound revealed a large vessel somewhere nearby. As guided by the navigation system, we found what appeared to be an abandoned HWR portable base. Scanning its surroundings revealed that this base could indeed be very useful to use, having the ability to hold 1000 people and more, plus it is portable. After an hour or so to familiarise its interior, we returned victorious to our fortress, and I actually felt relaxed because of the lack of real involvement in the mission.

* * *

The details of the next prison-break mission came out the next afternoon, and we prepared ourselves by stuffing ourselves with Miki’s meal, polishing and readjusting our weapons, recharging the batteries of our walkers, jets, tanks and most importantly our ships. Ten tanks were loaded onto the ship and the walkers were loaded on the transport hovercraft. Then we soared away before the mission started.

* * *

4:30am. I was in my full set of armor except my helmet and we were heading towards the prison island. 200 troops went separate ways, either by air or by water, towards our target. We are going to take this prison for sure. I pocketed some grenades, checked my rifle and then Beckendorf’s voice blared through the speakers: “15 minutes until arrival. Please get ready.” Hearing this, I hopped into the gunner’s console.

From the scope, I saw the guards patrolling the exterior of the prison in a distance. A minute later, the target cross turned green, indicating that the target is in firing range. Aiming and hitting the red button on my control panel, a column of fire erupted from the cannon and seconds later, the exterior wall collapsed. The guards were destroyed or damaged. I caught the chance and blasted a hole in the rooftop, enabling our paratroopers to land on the rooftop and infiltrate the prison from above. As the saying goes, the door opens from the inside.

* * *

50 men were left to guard our ship. The rest of us stormed the shore and marched towards the prison. From the hole in the wall we continuously broke in. I almost got my head shot down as I peered from the edge of a fallen piece of concrete. Guards were piled up, cleared anticipating an attack, as we returned fire. Then I remembered my grenade. See, blowing up things is surely a hobby of mine. I pulled out the safety pin and tossed the grenade over the large piece of concrete. Counting silently with “3, 2, 1”, an explosion dominated the cover where the mechanians were hiding. I busted out and fired at the surviving mechanians left behind. We continued our advance after reloading with the magazines the mechanians left behind, and waiting for us in the depths of the corridor is battle and the prisoners thirsty for freedom.

* * *

We freed prisoners from the 1st and 2nd floor, and Gwen led a team of 20 people, who broke away from our team to lead the prisoners to the ship. I led the remaining troops and we marched deeper. The directory of the 3rd floor read “Prisoners of War”, and I was overjoyed. I salvaged some rifles and weapons and readied to distribute them. We busted into the row of cells and startled two prison guards, who were trying to kill the prisoners. I shot them down without hesitation. Some dogs have to be downed, I thought as I pushed the release lever downwards. The prisoners swarmed out and realised we were humans when we removed our helmets. Using the key cards left behind from the deceased guards, we unlocked the cuffs of the prisoners. I tossed them the weapons, but it did not seem to be enough for the huge number of prisoners. Just then, Danson kicked the door open and found the stash of weapons that the mechanians planned to use during an emergency. Now most of the escapees were armed. We formed ranks and pushed higher to meet up with the landing team.

* * *

We did not realise that this was the main battle arena taking place until we walked straight into it. Our men were hiding behind sections of broken walls and out came a full squadron of mechanians. I fired at them as Danson tossed several grenades. It destroyed the mechanian formations and suddenly something rose from the center of the battle arena. A large mechanian, now I recognised as an enforcer, leapt into mid-air and into the immediate attention of all fighters on this battlefield, turning and revealed itself as a gigantic mech. The single eye on its forehead glowed in the wisps of sunlight through the holes on the ceiling. The mech howled as its hands rose and machine guns fired. Miki, at the last moment, dragged me out of the way as the bullets whiz passed my face, barely missing my flesh. Being simultaneously shocked and grateful for not dying, we realised the battle had just begun.

Danson fired with his heavy blaster towards the mech, but the mech’s armor was not even scratched, let alone damaged. “Must be anti-blast armor.” Ned whispered to me as we all shuddered. This was one of the highest-grade armor, resistant to all sorts of blasters and firearms, except ... the melee power-blade. Remembering my power-blade laying in my pocket, my hand shifted towards my back and the glowing hilts emerged in a humble lake-green. I stuck my rifle to my back and wielded my blade. Then I rushed to charge the mech.

* * *

Given the obvious fact that it is completely insane to charge a mech wielding a machine gun, you could perhaps infer how desperate the situation was, so extreme that this step must be taken. Nevertheless, I zig-zagged and weaved my way to the mech. It swung its massive arms, and I thrust my blade into its arm with great force and great difficulty. Slowly the crack widened as I hung on for dear life, trying my best to overcome the overwhelming g-force inflicted on me as the mech frantically swung me around in full circles, the velocity increasing after each revolution, making this the most precarious roller-coaster ride.

At last, the arm was cut clean off and I was flung off to the ground violently. Thanking my luck that I did not land on my head, it only took a short while for me to regain consciousness. On the other hand, the mech does not seem so affected despite his broken arm. Annoyed and frustrated, I found an opening in the enforcer, as if it is the opening of the barrel of a cannon, and tossed a grenade into it, flinging the safety pin upwards. Pushing backwards with my legs off the enforcer, I tumbled out of the area when Danson dragged me out of the way. The mech exploded into tiny fragments and the enforcer came flying out of the mess. It bumped into a falling piece of concrete and landed on the floor.

I was about to lop his head off with my power-blade when he spoke suddenly, in his metallic voice. “Please do not kill me, human. I beg you.” Unaware of the fact they are able to speak, I hesitated for a moment to process the information. At that moment, the enforcer plunged his power-dagger into my gut. Despite the protection of the armor, the tip sank into my flesh. Being dazed and bewildered for a moment, the last this I remembered before being engulfed by darkness was falling to the ground after lopping the twisted mechanian’s head off with my last bit of strength.

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