-X! Zero has visual confirmation of an incoming Maverick plane! It's not showing on our scanners, so be careful.-
X paused mid-step, startled. Shoving aside a sinking feeling in his gut, X slapped his com fully on just long enough to ask, "Alia, ETA?"
-Unknown. Mantle's visual estimate from his position to your south is less than three minutes. Zero reports ten.-
"Understood." X fell silent for a few seconds, running all the variables through various emulators, just standing there. "Relay to Mantle that he is to return to Hunter Base, A.S.A.P. Mugs and his squad have one minute to figure out which trips are still active, and which routes are safe. Both are to be reported at the end of the minute. X on standby." Slapping the com back to recieve-only, X hurried up to point position, rushing past a startled Plant and Enker. His lead didn't last long, as Enker quickly matched his pace, pulling up alongside and running with consideribly greater ease through the underbrush.
-Nine minutes. Transmitting new information now.-
X slapped his radio on just long enough to transmit: "Mugs and Doogle squads are to pull back into the compound and take cover. Main door is to be secured if possible. X on standby."
"What's the situation?" Enker's cool, take-command tone was pitched just loud enough to be heard. Stifling his immediate response, X picked up the pace, firmly placing himself in the front of their little dash. Most of his attention was on his feet and on the underbrush. The fact that Enker was moving so swiftly and with such ease was a bit irritating.
"Incoming plane, no ID, and no scanner signature. Mavericks." X snapped out, casting a quick glance behind when they hit a good-sized meadow, checking to see if Sheer was still keeping up. The field tech was managing to stay only a few feet behind, managing to hold her own more or less, even though she wouldn't be winning any prizes on stealth anytime soon. X allowed himself a brief bit of pride for how well she was doing.
"What are Mavericks?" Plant's voice, nearly whipped away by the wind of their passage, was an unwelcome reminder of the seriousness of the situation. Turning his gaze back to the front as they hit the treeline again, X said, "Too much to explain. But they'd want the technology you have, and wouldn't care if you're dead or alive."
-All teams in place. Auxiliary scan confirmation on estimated time of arrival, seven minutes remaining.-
Leaping a fallen tree, X slapped the radio on again. "Alia, any more information on the incoming bogie?" Landing on the other side, he ignored the sounds coming from behind him as he trod on more of the underbrush, waiting for Alia's response.
-Mantle reports it looked like a hunter-class equipped with a drop pod when it went past his position.- Alia's voice reported over the com just a minute later.
"Damn, this is going to get messy. X on standby!" Slapping the headset back to recieve-only mode, X ducked under a branch to turn, remembering the path from earlier. Only a few minutes to the doorway, although it wouldn't even be a minute if all the plant life wasn't in the way, or if Sheer wasn't along.
"Commander! Look!" Sheer's shrill cry echoed out from behind them even as X was skidding to a stop. The door to the rest of the compound from the garden was closed. Before Enker had had managed to draw to a stop without dropping or throwing Plant off his back, X had already tried to pry open the doors. They were surprisingly resistant, internals clinking in a way that suggested heavy use of gearwork.
-ETA in three minutes.-
"Something must have triggered the perimeter alarms." Enker mused, half-turning to drop Plant into Sheer's arms as the field tech's arms as she staggered up. Ignoring Plant's yelp at the sudden transfer, he stepped up to the central panel of the left side, quickly popping it open to pull free a manual control handle. Unfolding it to full size, Enker placed his hands securely before trying to turn it. The handle resisted, moving in jerks and starts, screeching as parts rubbed against each other in ways not intended. "Rusted."
Despite the rust, the doors were opening. X positioned him just to the left of the opening gap, sweeping what he could see through it from ceiling to floor over and over again as he charged his buster. Experience stated that Mavericks could come in a very wide variety of appearances, abilities, and behaviors, after all. Taking a deep breath, he aimed his blaster on the widening crack, ready to fire. With his free hand, he briefly switched on his radio for a final time. "Alia, relay. Zero, I know you're not going to listen to anything I say, so just come back one piece. X on standby."
-ETA in one point five minutes.-
Sheer groaned, wondering what she had done to deserve having an android tossed at her. She had fallen under the sudden weight, and had landed in an awkward sprawl with Plant halfway trapped under her, dirt already finding small cracks in her armor. The android was fidgeting, trying to pull free of Sheer's weight. Grunting with the discomfort of it, Sheer pulled herself up enough on her elbows to let Plant pull its legs out from under her.
Awkwardly scrambling to the side, Plant stared about, tempted for a few seconds to try standing again. To see if it could walk to the secondary control room, rather than needing to be carried. Having an elbow give out quickly erased that plan. Pulling itself around, it grabbed onto Sheer's shoulder, nodding towards the side and away from the door. "There's another control room this way."
A sharp, grating sound shrilled through the air as the doors ground to a halt, only half a foot apart. Enker heaved a few more times, but something snapped and the handle swung loosely. He broke it off with a quick jerk of his wrist. Without a word he scooped up Plant under one arm, tossing the handle aside, and started running down alongside the wall. X was after them before Enker reached the first tree.
Swatting a tuft of Plant's hair as it streamed behind the gold and blue android out of his face, X shouted, "Where are you going?! And what's this of a second control room?"
"Back when I still had usable hands, I used a different room in order to-EEP!" Plant's reply broke off in a yelp as Enker abruptly tossed the androgyne up onto his shoulder like a lumpy sack of potatos. The weight re-distributed, he abruptly sped up, nearly leaving X behind. Gritting his teeth, X began applying his boost jets, trying his best to avoid setting anything on fire.
"Waiiit!" Forgotten for the moment, caught completely off-guard, Sheer wailed forlornly behind them. The cry faded quickly, and with a determined look, she set off after them.
Leaping a fallen log, X nearly overshot Enker, sailing over the blonde android and his burden as Enker slid to a controlled stop. Giving X only a sharp glance, the ancient moved quickly to a door nearly hidden by the curve of the wall, the cracks outlining fitting seamlessly with the surrounding plates. Pushing aside a panel , Enker spoke with crisply controlled tones, "This is my duty." The numberpad beneath the panel was yellowed and cracked with age, obviously cheaply made when it was new, and worn past legibility now. This didn't stop Enker at all, his fingers flashing quickly across the keys.
X bit down on the urge to swear as he stepped up behind the two Ancients. The helpless look Plant gave him didn't help his rising annoyance and frustration at all.
One of the plastic plates covering the numberpad keys cracked under Enker's finger, crumbling to dust.
A sharp beep snapped through the air, punctuated by the rest of the numberpad falling away from the electronics underneath. Unconcerned with it, Enker stepped back, turning just enough to bar X from being the first in.
The door hissed open, releasing a puff of rank, stale air.
- Contact. The Mavericks have landed. Visual confirmation relayed by Private Rippington, three Mavericks, seven drones.-
X's eyes went wide at that, and he promptly switched his com to transmit. "Alia, confirm that. And tell Rippington to get his butt under cover!" In the few seconds before Alia's response, Enker had disappeared into the open door, Plant still slung over one shoulder.
Plant's voice was just loud enough to be heard. "I wondered where that koala went." X missed Enker's reply, but he noted the vague annoyance he could pick up in the blonde's tone.
-Three Mavericks, seven drones. Rippington is hiding in corridor three, in one of the pit traps. Take care of yourself too, X.-
The counts echoed in X's thoughts as he stepped into the control room, noting immediately that Enker was sitting in the only chair with Plant next to him on the floor. The floor was covered with a thick layer of dust, the dust disturbed and hanging in the air over one corner, where a small pile of bones, old cybernetics, and armor plates lay. The combination made for a disturbing sight, and X hastily pulled his gaze from it.
Screens covered the entirity of one wall, one per camera, most somehow still operative. There were many with flickering or distorted images, some with a sprinkling of dead pixels, and a handful that showed only static. From the views that still worked, X easily picked out where the two squads remaining had hidden, Mugs in the nearest corridor to the garden, and Doogles' forces scattered throughout. None of the cameras had a view of the outside. "Any way to see what's going on outside, Plant?"
Dust, dirt, and shrapnel quickly cleared from the air, the normal 'graaaugh' of Maverick drones filling the lull of silence after the crash landing. Zero grinned, one hand absently stroking the hilt of his saber. After all the unpleasant news inside, having the chance to beat the crap out of a legitimate target felt wonderful. The first of the drones roared into sight, and his grin widened. Absolutely nothing better than taking on this particular type of drone. Fast, vicious . . . and dumber than rocks.
A split second before contact, Zero stepped out of the path of the first one, letting it charge harmlessly by while taking out the next one with a casual swipe of his saber. Continuing the swing, he twirled around to get the first one in the back, neatly slicing it in two. Crouching as he spun, Zero lunged forwards, taking out the next one at the knees before falling to the ground and rolling out of the way of the next. Weaving through the clumsy attacks, Zero took out the rest one by one, finding the rush over far too soon.
Growling a little, the beserker rose to his feet from a crouch, glancing around. And spotted what he had missed in the initial rush of combat. Zero's eyes went wide in sheer surprise, before narrowing warily. "What is this?" The beserker snapped out, staring at the three Mavericks perched on the capsule they had arrived in. Three Mavericks, waiting for the drones to finish rather than rushing in.
The one in the middle smiled mildly, his long tongue briefly flicking out to sieze and throw a drone's arm at Zero, and didn't seem at all upset when Zero batted the impromptu weapon away with his sabre. "So nice to see you again, Zero. Did you enjoy killing me?" Sting Chameleon hissed, crouching low on the capsule.
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