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We Are Operators Episode 15: Separate Paths

2020.10.28 16:12 Stevenasaurus We Are Operators Episode 15: Separate Paths

Unknown Time
“Are they sending an envoy?” an operator asked. “I don't think so...”
Jay could sense the immense power in the woman approaching the defensive circle. Even the slightest movement from her like a blink shook Jay as if a raging torrent was assailing him. His legs were failing him and frankly he didn't know whether it was from fear or the constant running he had to do.
The air was thick with a suffocating warmth and the scent of burning all around. Even with the hundreds of Reunion around them, they stayed silent enough that all Jay could hear was heavy breathing from his fellow operators, the distant carnage of war, and the menacing footsteps of the lone woman.
Amiya was standing next to the Doctor and clasped her hands together.“She... According to our intel, she's...”
“There's something peculiar about her scent,” Nearl said as she stepped in front of Amiya.
“Nearl...” Dobermann called.
“I can't exactly put my finger on it, but... It's the smell of steel and sulfur. As if something was burning. If it really is fire, then...” Nearl said.
Amiya raised her hand high. “All operators... be on maximum alert... That person is...”
Amiya stopped speaking and looked like she was choking on her words.
“Reunion's ruler...” Dobermann interjected.
Amiya took a deep breath and adopted a stern expression. “Talulah.”
On the uttering of her name, Talulah stopped walking in the space between Rhodes Island and Reunion. She was still a few sword lengths away from the circle, but everyone as per Amiya's order stayed on high alert, especially since Talulah seemed to possess powerful Arts from just her presence alone.
“I reckon... her flames are powerful enough to swallow Terra entirely,” Nearl said.
With all due respect, shut up! I'm so scared!
Jay's gaze was so fixated on Talulah that he could see her tightening her grip on the hilt of her sword.
Nearl turned around to Amiya and the Doctor. “Amiya, take the Doctor with you. Go, now!”
Amiya let out a soft gasp. “No! I won't leave you...”
“Surely, you can feel it as well! She... If you don't leave, the entire rescue team will die here! That Talulah... She is a living monster! Amiya!” Nearl argued.
“We'll be fine, as long as we stick together!” Amiya yelled.
Jay could hear a slight crack in Amiya's voice when she yelled, as if she doubted what she was saying. Rhodes Island was barely holding on against the Reunion forces, to have their leader added into the mix would certainly be the factor that finally tipped the scales and Amiya had to have known that. Jay didn't know whether to appreciate her optimism or curse her for actually giving him a slight bit of hope he'd make it out.
Nearl looked to the Doctor. “What about the Doctor, then? Can you ensure the Doctor's safety?” Nearl asked.
“Hm...” Amiya said, taking a pause.
“Team E4, we will stay behind and hold the line!” Nearl commanded, not even giving Amiya a chance to think.
I'm going to die... At least the people that run away will make it.
Jay could feel the tears streaking down his face. It was so hot from the presence of Talulah that his tears almost felt like the warm finger of a seductress sliding along his cheeks.
Nearl raised her warhammer. “We must ensure that Amiya, the Doctor, and the Medic teams escape safely!”
“No,” Ace said while putting a hand on Nearl's shoulder. “My squad will handle this.”
Nearl grunted and brushed off Ace's hand. “Ace! Be rational, now's not the time to argue over this!”
“I am rational,” Ace said with a nod.
“Surely you can see it as well – everything around her is melting!” Nearl argued.
“I'm not going to leave you all here to fight alone. Rhodes Island... won't abandon you!” Amiya declared.
Dobermann primed her whip. “Amiya, time is of the essence! You have to escape!”
“You should trust me,” Ace said.
Amiya shook her head, tears of her own forming in her eyes. “I can't bear to see Rhodes Island sacrifice anyone!”
Dobermann took hold of Amiya and made sure they were staring at each other. “Think about our goal! Think about what we came here for!”
“This isn't the time to talk about that still!” Amiya roared back.
During the entire argument, Talulah and Reunion stayed still. Jay wondered why they weren't attacking, especially with much of the leadership in disarray arguing with each other. Although, Jay could see a smile on Talulah's face. At first he thought she was being smug, but her eyes spoke of a different type of pleasure: the sadistic kind.
Talulah soon took her hand off the hilt of her sword and held her hands out. Jay could feel the constricting heat around him begin to change. At first he thought the heat was dissipating, however... it felt like the heat was moving past him. With the direction the heat was headed, it looked like it was going straight for Talulah.
“The heat... is concentrating in her hands?” Nearl asked.
“Is she... distorting the space around her?” an operator asked.
Nearl shook her head and readied her shield. “No, that's the superheated air around her!”
“Watch out! She's getting ready to use her Arts...” Amiya warned.
Nearl stormed out of the defensive circle and stood directly in Talulah's path with her shield up.
“No... You can't! Nearl!!! Come back, now!!” Amiya screamed. “That's not her... You'll be killed if you--”
Talulah suddenly swiped the air in front of her with her hand. “Silence.”
Jay could feel a warm breeze come at him. As for Nearl, she held her shield up in front of her and groaned in great agony as pieces of her armour broke off or even melted at certain spots. It was a miracle she was still standing as Jay could feel himself weakening from the warm breeze.
“Nearl!” Dobermann called.
Nearl coughed while struggling to hold her shield up. “Stay back! Don't worry about me... It's just... a little warm...”
“What are you saying... don't worry?” Dobermann asked. “You don't have a single intact piece of armour on you, and you're telling me not to worry?! You mustn't fight her anymore!”
“I already said... Stay back!” Nearl yelled, much strain in her voice.
Dobermann stepped out of the defensive circle. “Nearl! You stubborn son of a...!”
Talulah held a hand out in front of her and had her fingers pointed at the defensive circle.
“Get down!” Ace yelled.
Everyone—Nearl included—either went prone or got on their knees while keeping their weapons at the ready. A wave of heat passed by above everyone's heads and it almost felt like being in an oven. As the heat passed, Jay looked around and could see the buildings of the block covered in pitch black from charred bricks while steel frames and foundations collapsed.
When enough of the supports fell, the buildings began to collapse causing dust and rubble to fly everywhere. The Reunion on the rooftops of the buildings surrounding the plaza were swallowed up in the destruction while those on the ground maintained their positions even with bricks and warm steel threatening them.
Nearl struggled to stand up while still in her coughing fit. “What is it this time!?”
“Invisible flames just swept over our head,” Ace answered. “Fall back. This entire block is melting... Don't sacrifice yourself in vain!”
Nearl was slowly stepping back to the defensive circle while still looking at Talulah. “Just what monstrosity am I fighting against?”
“We have to interrupt her casting somehow... Snipers, take aim at the enemy!” Ace ordered.
Every sniper from every squad rushed from the centre of the defensive circle and formed a firing line.
“Resistance will usher hope into this land. But resistance... will not change your fate,” Talulah said loudly.
Ace pointed at Talulah. “Fire!”
Bows, crossbows, and Eddron's pistol let out of a wall of projectiles that masterfully weaved through the gaps between the melee operators of the defensive circle. With all the things headed straight for her, there was no way she would be able to stop them all.
Talulah held out her hand as if she were trying to reach for the defensive circle, causing all the projectiles to stop in the air. “Chernobog has already attained liberation. Our work here is done, and your group has proven to be quite interesting.”
Everyone gasped at the sight of the projectiles being held up by Talulah.
“What...” Dobermann exclaimed.
“However, that is all you are worth. You have chosen poorly. Rhodes Island you should have stood firmly with the infected,” Talulah said before crushing her hand into a fist.
The ground shook viciously as a great wall of flame emerged in between Talulah and the defensive circle. After the display, the flames continued moving until it slinked around the entirety of the plaza causing everything to burn.
It was truly a vision of hell. Scorching flames that made Jay's skin feel like he had received a thousand slaps almost made him drop his spear while the air around him choked him as it almost felt like someone trying to ram a fist down his throat. He could hear groaning not just from his fellow operators, but also from the Reunion fighters around them reflexively voicing their displeasure amidst the constant metronome of crackling fire.
“What's going on?” the female Feline medic asked. “Why is the entire plaza... getting scorched? What... happened... just now... I... I can't breath... it burns...”
“Rocks, bolts, arrows. They're all gone. In a heartbeat... every object around her has been reduced to nothingness...” an operator remarked.
Talulah let out a sigh. “You have the resilience of liberators.”
Talulah started to make a speech but with everyone struggling to survive, her words were hard to make out.
“Not even ashes remain,” a guard from E1 said while struggling to stand up.
“Amiya. You know what must be done,” Nearl said.
Amiya stayed silent.
Nearl clutched her shoulder. “Someone... has to stop her.”
“But I grow... tired of this,” Talulah said as she raised her hand to do something again.
Amiya made her way to the edge of the defensive circle. She didn't storm out like Nearl did, but she was only a single layer of operators from being out in the open.
“Amiya!” Nearl called.
“This is the price you must pay for slaughtering your fellow infected. I shall grant you an ending I am quite fond of. Disappear,” Talulah said before swiping the air.
“Damn it! Run... hurry! That amount of heat, at such a scale... No, no! Protect Amiya and the Doctor! Quick!” Dobermann warned.
The defensive circle almost dissolved with conflicting actions taken by many operators. Some stood their ground while others began to move away.
Nearl joined in on those that stood their ground and held her shield up. “We won't make it! I'll block her!”
The air had become so thick that it was like being stuck in a wall. Operators choked and gasped while others swatted articles of clothing that began to spontaneously combust. Jay dropped his spear and could feel his chest tightening. He fell to his knees and soon laid on the ground as he couldn't smell anything anymore as his nose did everything it could to breathe.
It's over...
A bright white flash made the ground shake. Jay fought to stay conscious as the white light remained and formed a sphere around Rhodes Island. Thanks to the sphere, Jay could breathe again and he did his best to stay alive so he could suck in as much clear air as he could. Jay rolled over to lay on his back for a moment to rest and could feel his back drenched in sweat mesh with the undershirt under his jacket.
“Huh?” the Medic exclaimed. “A-Amiya?”
Jay turned his head over to see Amiya still standing while holding her hand out. As Jay's faculties returned to him, he could hear a loud crashing of energy coming from between Amiya and Talulah.
“You will not hurt them. I will never... allow you to do that!,” Amiya declared while presenting her palm to Talulah.
The ground shook again as the a series of loud rattling noises followed the expulsion of black energy from her palm. With all the chaos, Jay couldn't see how Talulah responded but with a clash of energy still happening in front of Amiya, it seemed like Talulah was holding her ground.
More loud clashes of energy preceded bright flashes of red and the embrace of pure darkness.
“Ngh...” Amiya panted. “I must... protect everyone!”
With Amiya giving everyone time to breathe, the defensive circle cautiously started to rebuild itself while a large majority of operators were back on their feet.
“Amiya is holding back the enemy's Arts... all by herself?” Dobermann asked.
“It's no good... That power is too tremendous! Even Amiya won't be able to... She won't be able to hold out for long!” Nearl warned.
“Amiya!” operators began calling.
“Don't worry... Don't worry about me... I can handle this! I want to... I must... protect you all!” Amiya declared, struggling to keep her arm straight.
Amiya let out another yell and soon the darkness surging from her palm began to envelop the encroaching Arts coming from Talulah. Jay tried to sit himself up but still lacked the strength to do so. However, he could see Aero approaching him.
“Jay! Are you okay?” Aero asked.
Jay did his best to nod. “Yeah... How's my squad?”
“Meeka's looking after Spark while Alabaster's helping Labcoat regain her bearings. Eddron's starting to come to as well,” Aero answered.
Jay held onto Aero and used him to help stand himself up. “Is Spark okay?”
“Meeka said she'll be fine,” Aero said with a reassuring tone.
“Thank god...” Jay said.
“Dark matter... is sealing the enemy's Arts within the plaza...” the Medic said.
Jay looked around and tried to see now that his vision had fully cleared. Amiya's Arts weren't just blocking Talulah from delivering the killing blow, it was also containing the flames of destruction Talulah brought about. He had thought he had seen his fair share of Arts after spending time with Spark and the casters of E4, but the power arrayed before him was on a scale he could've never imagined.
“Ngh... Argh... Ugh..!” Amiya exclaimed loudly, her arm shaking violently as she tried to maintain the stream of her Arts.
The barrier around the defensive circle began to catch alight, forming a prison of flames that trapped everyone inside. Despite this development, Amiya continued to maintain the barrier which prevented the defensive circle from suffering just as they did before.
“H-her barrier is catching on fire!” an operator remarked.
“Amiya, stop!” Dobermann screamed. “Your ring will--!”
“I don't care... even if...” Amiya struggled to say while turning her head around to look at someone. “Doctor I'm sorry... Even if this brings disaster, even if I...! I don't to lose... the person dearest to me... ever again...”
“Heh... Very good,” Talulah said with a laugh.
“Aghh.... Aaaaaahhh...!” Amiya screamed, her Arts intensifying to even more powerful levels.
Nearl took a few steps toward Amiya before hesitating. “Amiya! Damn it... We're going to lose her!”
Nearl took a deep breath before stepping forward once more, eventually ending up a few steps behind Amiya.
“What are you doing?” Dobermann called.
Nearl held her shield up and planted the head of her warhammer into the ground. “Destroying that she-dragon's Arts!”
“You...” Dobermann said.
“'O light of Kaizimierz, the Radiant Knight offers her body to thee,'” Nearl chanted, causing a golden light to emerge.
The light was just like the few times she had done during training. Jay felt reinvigorated just from seeing it and strength was returning to him at a greater pace.
“She's still the knight I worshipped all those years ago...” Aero said quietly.
A surge of heat entered the barrier. Jay looked behind him and could see Amiya's sphere weaken as a hole opened in the back.
“Doctor! Just go! We'll help Amiya, but you have to--!” Dobermann called to the Doctor who was still standing in the centre of the circle.
Amiya suddenly let out the loudest scream she ever produced. It was so ear-piercingly loud that many operators covered their ears as the ground shook violently once more. Another bout of massive clashes of energy emerged with a return of the bright flashes of red and blankets of darkness. The shockwaves from the clashes made Jay collapse to the ground again as he struggled to keep his hands over his ears. As he writhed on the ground, he could see a pair of boots defiantly walking past him toward Amiya.
Jay looked up to see Ace marching to Amiya's side while Nearl was still chanting.
Ace put a hand on Amiya's shoulder which made her pause, creating a massive shock that wiped away all Arts whether they belonged to Amiya or Talulah. When the dust settled, much of the Reunion that stood around had either fled or were killed in the destruction, only starting to trickle back in now that things had calmed.
“What?” Amiya asked, her legs barely keeping her standing as she started swaying.
“That's enough, Amiya,” Ace said as he helped ease Amiya to a sitting position. “You've done well. Let us share your burden.”
Dobermann ran to Amiya's side along with the Doctor. “Amiya!”
Ace stood up as Dobermann took over his spot of keeping Amiya sitting upright. “Dobermann, take her with you. I'll see you soon.”
“Ace...” Dobermann said.
“Ace... No... Ace!” Amiya struggled to cry. “Promise me that you'll...”
Amiya couldn't finish her sentence and soon lost consciousness in Dobermann's arms. Talulah stayed quiet during the entire conversation, keeping her head tilted up so she could look down at her opponents.
Ace sighed and readied his hammer. “I'm sorry, Doctor. You might not remember me. But I remember you, and I know what kind of person you are. There will come a day when you and Amiya will face this cruel land together. That is why... you must cherish her, Doctor.”
The Doctor clenched their fists and nodded which brought a smile to Ace's face. Ace raised his hand which prompted the operators from E3 to form up on him.
“Let's go. Godspeed,” Ace commanded.
Ace began walking forward toward Talulah with his team reluctantly marching with him.
“Ace! No!” Dobermann yelled.
“We're with you, Ace!” an operator yelled.
Operators from E2 began to join up in forming a battleline with E3. Soon, E1 and some from E0 also began to form with Ace.
“Get Amiya and the Doctor out of here!” an operator marching with Ace called back.
“E4... We're going to help Ace hold them back!” Nearl declared while following Ace.
Jay could see that Talulah was unfazed with the operators marching on her and Reunion's numbers were beginning to regain strength. To stand with Ace would certainly mean death.
I guess this is really it...
Soon, Nearl groaned and collapsed to her knees while clutching her shoulder. She tried to stand back up but was barely able to.
“Nearl, you're in no condition to fight,” Ace said, keeping his head facing Talulah as he gestured for the battleline to stop.
“I'm fine!” Nearl argued.
Ace shook his head. “You, Dobermann, and a couple of medics won't be enough to protect Amiya and the Doctor from what's still out there. You need an escort. E4, get your captain to safety. That's an order.”
Several of E4's operators immediately rushed to Nearl and began to pull her away. Nearl resisted at first, but eventually relented.
“E4! Escort Amiya and the Doctor to safety!” Nearl shouted as she brushed off the operators helping her and retreated on her own.
Jay looked around and could see his squad mates leaving with Nearl while C1 held up the rear as the Doctor carried Amiya away with Dobermann right behind them. With everyone that was leaving safe, Jay quickly followed the unit out as Ace and his fellow operators stared down Talulah.
“Nobody gets through!” Ace yelled.
“Yes, sir!” a chorus of operators acknowledged.
As E4 gained distance from the plaza, explosions, clashing steel, and a variety of screams lasted for a very short period of time before going silent. Jay could only imagine the worst had happened.
They didn't even stand a chance... That could've been us there too...
Nearl made a complete stop and stomped the ground. “Damn it!”
The outburst prompted everyone else to stop.
“We have to keep moving, Nearl,” Dobermann said.
“Damn it, Ace, you damn fool...” Nearl muttered to herself.
Dobermann sighed. “Do you really think you could've fought her off with all the injuries you've sustained? You almost broke your arm holding back that sniper's bolts and you stood right in the path of enemy Arts. You're built from some pretty sturdy stuff I'll give you that.”
“How's Amiya?” Nearl asked after taking a moment to regain her composure.
“Stable, if she doesn't wake up soon then we'll need to get her back to Rhodes Island ASAP,” Dobermann answered.
“With comms jammed, we can't call in for CASEVAC,” Nearl said.
Dobermann crossed her arms. “Even if we could, we can't risk it getting shot down; we don't have many aircraft to begin with.”
“As long as we keep going south, we'll be able to make it to the outskirts where the scouting team are,” Nearl said before walking ahead of the squad.
With Nearl resuming her advance, the entire squad followed behind her, picking up the pace to get away from the eerie silence they were leaving behind.
Unknown Time
Spark constantly kept a hand over her chest as she did her best to keep up with everyone. The encounter with Talulah had drained her of much of her strength as the effects of her arts had done quite a number on Spark's physical condition. Frankly, she couldn't believe she was still alive after everything that happened.
She didn't know whether to cry, cheer, or do any other form of expression. For the time being, she just stayed quiet and stared ahead at the ruins of Chernobog.
Beside her were Jay and Meeka who also seemed pretty worse for wear. Just like Spark, they stayed silent and kept facing forward. A few operators behind her were Alabaster and Labcoat walking together while Eddron was near the rear keeping watch with his pistol at the ready. Even though they were close to escaping, there were still signs of a Reunion presence in the area.
“I don't know what the first thing I'm gonna do once I get back to Rhodes Island is,” Jay said.
Spark sighed. “Just being back there is enough for me.”
“I wonder if I should've taken a job in the engineering department or something,” Meeka said.
“Why'd you even become an operator then?” Spark asked.
“It paid more. Needed it for gachas. Although, thanks to all this operator stuff, I only really have time to do my dailies,” Meeka answered.
Spark smiled. “You and your phone games.”
“And maybe I'd be more useful there anyways,” Meeka said while looking down.
“There you go again with the useless talk. You've helped out quite a bit today,” Spark argued.
Jay nodded. “Spark's right. Nearl's come to rely on your drone ever since we lost our comms. In exchange for your focus on giving us a clear view of the battlefield, we protect you. We're a team, Meeka.”
“Contact!” an operator at the front of the column yelled out as a crossbow bolt hit the street.
The street everyone was advancing down was stripped bare of cover as the civilians that previously lived in the area had taken their cars. Everyone dived behind a defender's shield or jumped into alleyways. Spark froze and looked around for cover but didn't know where to go.
Suddenly, a rough-feeling hand took her and pulled her behind Chaser's shield who was moving forward alongside the walls of the storefronts of the street.
“Jay you gotta stop saving me like this...” Spark said before looking up to see her saviour was actually Meeka.
Spark did a double take while Meeka looked confused.
“Meeka?! Why are your hands so rough?” Spark asked.
Meeka presented her palm and wiggled her fingers. “Daily missions.”
Spark smiled and scooted a bit to hide her legs behind Chaser's shield.
“Is Amiya and the Doctor safe?!” Dobermann called.
“They're in an alleyway with some operators!” an operator reported.
“Anybody have a visual?!” Nearl asked loudly.
“I think they're on the left side,” Eddron answered while taking a few shots at open windows.
Spark nudged Meeka with her elbow. “Come on, Lil' sis. Get that drone up.”
Meeka nodded and let out her drone. She flew it along the left side of the street and Spark peeked over at the drone feed to see three crossbowmen shooting from the second story of a residence above a store.
“They're in the second floor above that shoe store!” Meeka yelled.
“Nearest defender and guards! Form an entry team and take them!” Nearl ordered while pointing at the store.
The nearest defender was Stalwart—E4's male Forte defender—while the nearest guards were Lyric—a male Sarkaz from E4—and Labcoat who had dived ahead instead of staying with Alabaster. They formed up with Stalwart at the front and moved quickly to the door of the storefront before rushing in.
While the team waited for the entry team to dispatch the crossbowmen, they all stayed in cover and started to sigh in relief as the enemy fire had stopped.
Their relief was short-lived as a great battlecry made up of a large number of voices could be heard down the street and in the alleyways around them.
“Enemy reinforcements!” Nearl warned.
A mob of Reunion could be seen in the distance rushing down the street and blocking the way to the southern exit. As for the voices in the alleys, they immediately revealed themselves as Reunion began to surge out of the alleyways.
“Ambush! Form up! Get Amiya and the Doctor in the middle of us!” Nearl called as she raised her warhammer and stood in the middle of the street.
Spark stood up from hiding behind Chaser's shield and rushed to join Nearl's side so she could be in the middle of a new defensive circle. It was a lot smaller than before for obvious reasons but it was at least formidable as the first of the Reunion from the alleys began to clash with the melee operators.
Spark did her best to shoot her lightening between any gaps in the defences to avoid hitting her fellow operators while also giving them support. The circle held exceptionally well, it was only when the mob coming down from the street arrived that the odds started to even.
“Hold your ground! If we can make it through this group, we will have broken the Reunion encirclement in Chernobog!”
Spark continued fighting while still feeling some adverse effects from the previous encounter with Talulah. During the small breaks she took to make sure she didn't overexert herself, she checked up on Meeka who was watching her drone feed.
“Firebomb throwers! 12 o'clock!” Meeka called.
“Filthy Chernos! Have a cocktail on us!” a Reunion fighter shouted as he threw his firebomb.
More firebomb throwers let off their cocktails. Some landed in the middle of the circle but the flames didn't spread out much as the liquid moved along the street instead of splashing around while those that crashed against a defender's shield or on their fellow Reunion did more damage to them than it did to Rhodes Island.
However, there were a few that were launched at the surrounding buildings, including the store that Labcoat and her entry team stormed into.
“Miss Labcoat!” Alabaster called.
There was no response nor did the entry team come out. On the contrary, several Reunion even ran inside the store even with the flames starting to spread.
“There are still operators in that store!” Alabaster yelled.
Nearl swatted away several Reunion that tried to breach the circle. “We can't get to them right now! Keep holding! They'll be alright!”
“Miss Labcoat!” Alabaster called again while still holding his ground.
Spark was getting worried for Labcoat as well and began to fight even harder in the hopes of breaking through sooner so they could find Labcoat and the others that were with her.
The flames from the so called “Cherno cocktails” had spread among the buildings to the point that it began to look like a very familiar scene. Spark gritted her teeth as she almost started to choke reflexively even though nobody around her seemed to be struggling.
“We're getting pushed back!” an operator warned.
As most of the pressure against the circle was coming from the south, the circle started to shift north as the sheer mass of the onslaught forced the operators to give ground to avoid letting anyone in. This however meant that the circle was slowly being pushed away from the store Labcoat and her fellow operators were inside of.
“Miss Labcoat!” Alabaster yelled with desperation.
A loud crashing noise could be heard behind the buildings. Not that long after, the store the entry team stormed into began to collapse and left only a giant cloud of dust that extinguished the flames that engulfed the building.
“Miss Labcoat!” Alabaster screamed.
Unknown Time
“Keep me covered while I break this wall down,” Stalwart said as he ran his shoulder into the wall several times, eventually breaking it down.
Labcoat covered her mouth and nose as the dust from Stalwart crashing through the building's wall shot up from the rubble.
“This hole and the fire's not gonna let this building last any longer! Come on!” Stalwart called as he jumped down to the alleyway behind the building.
Labcoat and Lyric immediately followed and hopped down to be met with several Reunion in the alleyway coming to meet them. Stalwart blocked the first couple that tried to rush them while Labcoat and Lyric dispatched the rest in short order.
More Reunion began to rush in and threatened to surround them if they stayed.
“We gotta get out of here!” Lyric shouted as he ran down one of the alleyways.
“Wait! Our allies are back there!” Labcoat called while pointing north.
“We can't fight our way back to them, let's find a better defensive position to hold from and wait for them to clear the enemy!” Lyric argued.
“But...” Labcoat said.
“He's right!” Stalwart interjected while finishing off a Reunion fighter with his sword. “They'll come to us! We just gotta stay alive!”
“Miss Labcoat!” Alabaster's voice called, struggling to be heard among the yelling and chaos.
Labcoat hesitated before following Lyric with Stalwart closely behind her, taking the occasional swing at any pursuers that got a little too close. As they were leaving, the store they had stormed into began to collapse and leave a cloud of dust.
“This way!” Lyric called as he exited to the streets and crossed it to the next alleyway over.
Labcoat kept up and looked both ways while crossing the street to see more Reunion trickling in to attack the defensive circle. However, many of them noticed the three and called on more fighters to pursue.
“Lyric, you better have a good idea where to hold out! We got a bunch on our tails!” Stalwart shouted.
“We're getting too far from our allies!” Labcoat warned.
“Lyric, where we headed?!” Stalwart asked.
“No idea!” Lyric answered while still running.
“Son of a bitch! Alright! I'll hold them off while you and pink coat girl find a place to hold! You better come back for me!” Stalwart yelled while turning around to face the enemies chasing them through the alleyway.
Labcoat stopped and turned around to watch Stalwart hold up his shield so that it made it difficult for the Reunion pursuers to pass him.
“Pink coat girl, come on!” Lyric called.
Labcoat turned back around and followed Lyric as he made a left in a maze of alleys.
The two eventually reached a small parking lot on the side of the road where there were still a few burnt out cars parked. Lyric and Labcoat hid behind one of the cars and took a moment to catch their breath.
“This isn't a good place to hold out,” Lyric said, “but I'm worried we got a little too far from Stalwart. I'm gonna go back for him and bring him here so we can figure out where to hide until the main force is ready to look for us. Stay here.”
Labcoat nodded. “Okay.”
“Stay safe, rookie,” Lyric said as he took up his trident and rushed back the way the two came from.
Labcoat waited quietly for a moment as voices and yelling could be heard all around her. She maintained her hiding position, but she felt thumping in her chest as the voices got even closer.
“He ran back that way!” a voice yelled.
“There was a girl with him! Where'd she go?!” another voice asked.
A set of really close footsteps arrived at the entrance to the parking lot. It sounded like at least three different people. Labcoat held her breath to avoid making a sound while readying her clawed gauntlet in case she was found.
The footsteps got closer and closer and soon Labcoat could see a shadow creeping around the hood of the car she was hiding behind. She waited as long as she could, hoping the Reunion fighter would be satisfied and leave but hearing a gasp made her jump up and strike.
She was able to get the drop on the fighter but his yells alerted his companions who were still looking around.
“Shit! Parking lot! She's at the parking lot!” one of the other Reunion yelled.
Labcoat charged at the fighters and dug her claw into one of them before pulling it out and clashing with the sword of the other fighter. The first fighter collapsed to the ground groaning while the other tried to get his sword free of Labcoat's claw. Before the fighter could make his next move, Labcoat used her free hand to pull out the knife on her belt and stabbed the fighter in the gut, causing him to also collapse.
She didn't feel as bad as she did at the beginning of the mission for killing these Reunion. She had seen what they had done, the destruction they had brought, and not to mention the prejudice their actions would bring about to those infected that didn't rise up. Maybe she could sympathize with their plight to fight back against oppression, but was this really the way to do it?
“What parking lot?!” a voice in the distance yelled out.
“Just follow the voices!” another voice answered.
Labcoat knew she was compromised. As much as she didn't want to leave Lyric and Stalwart who were coming back for her, there was no way she was going to weather the storm alone. And so, Labcoat ran away from the voices.
She ran as much as her legs could take her before she stopped momentarily. A brief overview of her surroundings found that she was in a small slum that had seemed almost untouched by Reunion's fury and minimal damage from the Catastrophe.
“I think she ran that way!” a voice yelled.
Labcoat groaned and looked around. She saw a small apartment building and rushed inside before she could be spotted. The inside of the apartment building was a humble hallway with a stairway in the middle to lead to the higher floors with doors to the individual apartments on the left and right.
All of the doors were shut and Labcoat didn't dare knock on any lest the residents still living in the building had a connection to Reunion. The door to the outside was fully opaque so Labcoat didn't have to worry about being seen as she sat down on the stairs.
She took off her gauntlet and sighed as she tried to forget about everything that happened. Frankly, she needed to as she was getting increasingly worried that she wouldn't be able to rejoin the main force. After making it out of that engagement with Talulah on a stroke of fortune, it seemed like she would still end up like those that got left behind.
The thought of dying began to break her down. She knew her infection would kill her sooner than the non-infected, but she expected to at least get a few more years out of it before she reached that inevitability.
She had suffered for a long time before finally finding Rhodes Island and meeting the great people there. The friends she made, the experience she gained, and the fulfillment she had serving an organization, all of that would amount to nothing if she ended up getting knifed in the streets by a thug.
It didn't take long for her to cry, and frankly now that her mortality was becoming very apparent, she didn't care if the Reunion outside could hear her.
After a bit of crying, the apartment closest to her opened up and revealed a Vulpo girl with mildly long blonde hair. It was obvious she was infected and she looked like she was concerned.
“Are you okay?” The Vulpo girl asked.
Labcoat wiped her face and nodded. “Yeah... sorry for making noise.”
“Are those thugs after you?” the girl asked.
“Yeah, I'll leave after they're gone so I don't cause you any trouble,” Labcoat said.
The girl squinted at Labcoat. “You're infected aren't you?”
“Yeah,” Labcoat answered while taking her arm out of her labcoat sleeve and pulling down her shirt to reveal the Originium shards.
“Why are they after you?” the girl asked.
“It's a long story...” Labcoat said.
The girl opened her door more and gestured Labcoat to come. “Come in.”
“Are you sure?” Labcoat asked.
The girl nodded. “You'll be safe in here; my sister told me those guys can't make trouble in the infected slums.”
Labcoat reluctantly followed the girl inside her apartment. It was a very cramped space that was much smaller than the dorms back at Rhodes Island. The kitchen was a single counter covered in plates, utensils, and a microwave while the only other room in the apartment was the bathroom. For beds, there was a couch and sleeping bag that didn't look comfortable.
“It's not much, but it's safe,” the girl said with a smile.
“Thanks for letting me in. My name's Gelly, what's yours?” Labcoat asked.
“Andrea,” the girl answered.
Unknown Time
Eddron kept an eye out for any threats as he was at the rear of the column. He volunteered to help guard the rear when he saw Alabaster lagging behind everyone and Jay staying by him.
Alabaster had developed a very sour mood since the engagement in the streets not that long ago. Two of the three operators that stormed into that store, Lyric and Stalwart had made it back but had reported that they got separated from Labcoat and made it back without her. Instead of sending out a search party, Nearl and Dobermann agreed to keep moving forward.
The three were silent as Eddron focused on keeping watch while Jay probably just didn't know what to say. Eddron felt bad about leaving behind Labcoat as well, but there was a selfish side in him that at least felt happy he was going to make it out of Chernobog alive.
“Alabaster... if there's anything I can do,” Jay said.
“What can you do?” Alabaster asked.
Jay sighed. “I don't know, but I want to help you feel better about this.”
“You've written her off?” Alabaster asked, adopting a more menacing tone.
“Of course not. But Chernobog's big and there's Reunion everywhere. If Nearl's not gonna look for her, there isn't much I can do,” Jay argued.
“I had no idea you guys were so close,” Eddron interjected, wondering if he should've just left Jay and Alabaster alone.
“I have come to realize lately that Miss Labcoat is someone who I wish to protect. Those she trusted failed her and cast her out. If nobody will take the role of her guardian, then I will. She even started calling me 'Gramps,'” Alabaster explained, almost choking on the word “Gramps.”
Eddron regretted stepping into the conversation, not because he felt like breached etiquette or anything, but because now he kind of wanted to bring Labcoat back as well after hearing Alabaster's explanation.
“Alabaster... I'm so sorry... She must mean a lot to you,” Jay said.
“She does. Someone has to bring her back,” Alabaster declared.
“Don't even think about it,” Jay said.
Alabaster stopped walking and put down his halberd. Eddron and Jay turned around and approached him to see what was wrong. Without warning, Alabaster punched both of them in the gut. The two collapsed and groaned in great pain while Alabaster picked up his halberd and ran back in the direction the column came from.
Eddron pointed his pistol at Alabaster. “Don't go, Alabaster! I'll shoot!”
Alabaster ignored Eddron and continued on.
“Damn it!” Eddron yelled.
“Get up! We gotta tell Nearl!” Jay said while coughing.
submitted by Stevenasaurus to arknights [link] [comments]

2020.09.16 23:08 Stevenasaurus We Are Operators Episode 9: Element E4 Part 2

3:13 PM
Training Facility
Aero kept his eyes closed as the hustle and bustle of the other operators around him in the precinct went on. Conversations, people checking their equipment, and the occasional sound of a gunshot from Jay's squad mate Eddron coming from upstairs constantly droned on as everyone waited for the vanguards to return from their scouting mission.
“Captain,” Jinna's voice called.
Aero opened his eyes. “Yes?”
“Are you hungry?” Jinna asked as she brought out a ration bar from her pocket and presented it to Aero.
“I'm fine, Jinna,” Aero said. “But thanks for the offer.”
“Still, you should keep it,” Jinna said with a smile.
Aero took the ration bar and put it in his pocket. “Thank you.”
“So... Are you gonna tell us what's wrong?” Jinna asked.
“Leave the poor guy alone, Jinna!” Chaser's voice called.
Chaser came and wrapped her arm around Jinna's neck as if she were about to put her in a headlock. She left enough room for Jinna to breathe comfortably but definitely kept her tight enough so that her squirming couldn't get her out.
“The Captain's problems are on a need to know basis. If you don't need to know, then you don't get to know; that's how it is with a chain of command!” Chaser explained.
Aero was about to order Chaser to let Jinna go when he spotted Lukewarm and Yellow in the corner of his eye.
“Hey! Let her go!” Lukewarm yelled.
Lukewarm and Yellow arrived which prompted Chaser to turn to them with Jinna in tow.
Chaser smiled and let Jinna slide out of her grip. “Jinna wasn't in any danger. Right?”
“Yeah...” Jinna said while rubbing her neck.
“If she was, she certainly wouldn't be looking as pretty as she does now wouldn't she? Although you know a thing or two about how pretty she is don't ya Lukey boy?” Chaser asked with a mischievous grin.
“Shut up,” Lukewarm warned while pulling out his bow and swiftly readying an arrow, his cheeks starting to turn red.
“Belt's not around to give you a good smack on the head so now's the perfect time to take the shot,” Yellow joked.
Aero snickered. “Alright, guys, calm down. I'm fine if that's why you're checking up on me.”
“I know it's need to know and all, but are we eventually gonna get the run down on what's got you down?” Chaser asked.
“Eventually,” Aero answered.
Chaser shrugged. “Good enough for me.”
“Not for me,” Yellow said. “Come on, Captain. What's up?”
Aero stood up and picked up his greatsword that was leaning against the wall before walking around the precinct with his squad following him. Eventually he came across Nearl who was approaching him.
“Aero, I'd like to speak strategy with you for a moment,” Nearl called.
Aero nodded. “Yes, ma'am. Everyone, go back to your business while I speak with Nearl.”
Aero's squad bowed their heads and headed off in different directions while Nearl gestured Aero to follow her. He did as commanded and stayed behind her as she lead him to one of the interrogation rooms.
At first Aero grew nervous about having to go back inside the interrogation room, but his anxieties were alleviated when he saw that Nearl had laid out a map of the battlefield on the table in the centre of the room.
“With the guard precinct in our hands, I expect the enemy to form up all their remaining forces north to block our objective,” Nearl explained.
Aero put down his greatsword so he could sit down and discuss with Nearl. However, he noticed Nearl was keeping an eye on it very obviously.
Jay... you better have not...
“Are you planning to move along the major avenue northeast?” Aero asked, trying to ignore Nearl's interest in his equipment.
Nearl nodded. “The wide open space will allow our operators to move around freely. And if the enemy meets us, it will also provide a good space for our snipers and casters to attack the enemy.”
“A major roadway like that will likely have lots of civilians around,” Aero warned.
“We can only hope they flee the moment we approach. Although, that could mean the buildings on the flanks of the streets won't be an option if the civilians flee into them,” Nearl said.
“Without the buildings,” Aero started, “I don't expect there to be much cover for us on the avenue. We don't have enough defenders to keep everyone protected.”
“We'll know how much there is when the vanguards return,” Nearl said with a reassuring tone.
Aero kept his eyes down on the map and crossed his arms. In the peripheral of his vision, he could see Nearl leaning against the door, looking hesitant.
“I couldn't help but notice the initials on the crossguard of your sword don't match the name that was given to me when I was briefed on C1 and C2,” Nearl said.
From the distance she was at, there was no way Nearl could've seen the initials unless she knew about it in advance.
Aero gritted his teeth. “It belonged to someone else.”
“From the looks of the craftsmanship, it must've belonged to a Kaizimierzian Knight,” Nearl said.
She's leaning against the door so I can't leave... Jay... you bastard...
As much as he felt he wasn't ready, it actually felt somewhat reassuring that he was going to get it out of the way now. After taking a moment to calm his uneasiness, Aero looked straight at Nearl.
“Yes...” Aero said softly. “His name was Jaromir Antczak. You know him?”
Nearl shook her head. “I've vaguely heard the name but never had the pleasure.”
“He supported you all those years ago, before you were ousted,” Aero said.
Nearl lowered her head and sighed. Her arms were crossed and her eyes fluttered for a moment before shutting completely. She stood silent for some time before raising her head back up and looking at Aero.
“I can't imagine what happened after I left. The fact that you have his sword tells me he didn't make it out of the purges,” Nearl said with a solemn tone.
Aero nodded, tears welling up in his eyes. “He was one of the few that didn't shut up when you left. He was sent on a suicide mission and was killed.”
“What was he to you?” Nearl asked, giving off an impression that showed she knew the answer.
“I was his squire,” Aero muttered.
“I'm sorry,” Nearl said softly.
Aero clenched his fists. “I never went back to the knighthood after that day. I just ran.”
“It wouldn't have done you any good going back; they knew who you were and would never let you get knighted,” Nearl said.
“The knighthood's only gotten worse ever since I left. No one wants to say anything now,” Aero said with a slight whimper.
Nearl scratched her forehead. “Maybe it isn't worth saving in its current state.”
“How can you say that?!” Aero yelled abruptly. “From the age of seven I devoted myself to the knighthood! It can still be saved!”
Nearl held her hand out in front of her, staying Aero's rage. “Or it can be rebuilt.”
“Rebuilt?” Aero asked.
“My time travelling and being here at Rhodes Island have only strengthened my resolve for moving forward. There must be a new knighthood, one that fights for true chivalric ideals and for the rights of all, even the infected,” Nearl explained passionately.
Could it be done?
“Why not reclaim the knighthood and rebuild it from the inside?” Aero asked.
Nearl sighed. “The Grandmaster and his senior knights have spent decades securing their positions; they will not give it up willingly. From a moral and strategic standpoint, it would be best to found a new order based on righteous ideals and rally the disgruntled people to overthrow the corrupt.”
After all the years that passed, Nearl was still the knight Aero remembered her to be. It was common to hear to never meet one's heroes, but seeing her passion and sincerity still remain intact moved Aero to even more tears.
Master, you didn't die for nothing after all...
“If there was such an order... would you consider coming back to join it?” Aero asked reluctantly.
Nearl paused to think about it for a moment before shaking her head. Aero looked down at the table and felt crushed at the reply.
“Why not?” Aero asked.
“I fight for all infected now,” Nearl declared. “A new knighthood may protect the infected in Kaizimierz, but what about the ones in Ursus or any other nation? There are people who need help everywhere and it's from Rhodes Island that we can reach out to all of them.”
“That's noble... It was selfish of me to want you to come back. I was just... so nostalgic for those days,” Aero said, averting his eyes from Nearl.
“Not entirely selfish,” Nearl interjected, “rebuilding the knighthood would save many others and help our people.”
“Thank you for that,” Aero said, looking back at Nearl.
Nearl smiled. “Those days, huh? Did you ever fight under my banner?”
“When you rallied the knights to fight the rebel barons, Jaromir moved to answer your call. We were there when you avenged that slaughtered Elafian village and when you finally captured Casimir's fortress,” Aero answered, a brief smile returning to him.
“You and your master have been around then. I'm sure he'll approve of where you are now wherever he's watching from,” Nearl said.
“I think he does,” Aero said while wiping his eyes with his arm. “Just one more thing, did Jay tell you about this?”
Nearl paused for a moment before nodding. “He did.”
Aero grumbled to himself and clenched his fists.
“He also told me to not go to you about this and wait for you to be ready to talk. He wanted me to know why you were so shy around me but also wanted you to speak to me when you were ready yourself,” Nearl said quickly.
“Why'd you come to me then?” Aero asked, calming himself.
“Because while this is only training, we're still in an active combat zone and I need all my operators on their highest effectiveness. You best be done dwelling on the past and be ready to fight now,” Nearl answered sternly.
Aero stood up and clutched his chest where his heart was with his right hand, a standard salute for the Kaizimierzian Knights.
“Like I said before: there's no need to salute. Get your squad ready to move; Fast Lane and Hoop have returned and I expect Jay and Belt to soon,” Nearl said.
“Yes ma'am. Thank you... Nearl,” Aero said softly.
3:19 PM
Training Facility
Jay could feel his lungs imploding on themselves as he kept running with Belt right next to him. A crossbow bolt flew right past him and bounced off a newspaper box on the sidewalk of the avenue they were running down.
Behind the two were several pursuing animatronics with crossbows that had suddenly moved to engage them when Jay was busy making a sketch of the enemy position. They had only recently caught up and began shooting as Jay and Belt were slowing down from exhaustion.
“How much farther?!” Jay yelled, catching his breath between syllables.
“Not that far! I can see the precinct!” Belt answered, looking unfazed.
A crossbow bolt flew between the two of them.
“Ah shit!” Jay yelled as he began running in a serpentine fashion.
Belt continued to run straight and soon gained some distance while Jay maintained his evasive manoeuvres.
“Jay! Just run straight! They're not accurate when they're running!” Belt warned.
Jay did as suggested and ran straight but was unable to catch up to Belt as he still maintained his own pace. The suggestion however was good as the crossbow bolts were missing him or missing him just enough that he could feel the air of it whizzing by.
“They don't lead their shots that good! When they're about to shoot, get a burst of speed and they'll miss!” Belt yelled back.
“Easy... for you... to say!” Jay struggled to yell back.
Belt began waving his arms in the air frantically. “Hey! Friendlies headed your way! We're being chased here!”
Jay looked forward and could see the vague movement in the windows of the precinct. As he got closer, the vague movements became silhouettes which soon became familiar faces of snipers and casters pointing their weapons out the windows. On the second floor, he spotted Eddron pointing his pistol out of the window with a face that showed he was eager to pull the trigger.
Jay immediately dived for cover in front of a car as a few shots from Eddron's pistol preceded the arrival of a barrage of arrows that all precisely struck at their targets.
“Clear! Cease fire!” a voice called.
Jay stayed down while his breathing regulated and his chest wasn't as pained. Before he could stand up, Belt's legs were in front of him and he looked up to see Belt offering a hand.
“You can't run for shit, Jay,” Belt said while laughing.
Jay took Belt's hand and stood up. “I'm not a marathon runner, I'm a sprinter.”
“Come on, we only ran a few blocks,” Belt argued.
“How many city blocks do they run in a 100 metre dash? Like one?” Jay argued with a smile.
“Ah stop whining and let's go tell Nearl what we saw!” Belt said while slapping Jay on the back and leading him back to the precinct.
As the two approached the door at the corner of the block the precinct was on, Nearl stepped out followed by several operators.
Jay reached into his pocket and pulled out the sketch he made of the enemy formation. He unfolded it and presented it to Nearl when he stood in front of her.
“The objective is a tunnel at the very far north. Just like you said, the avenue northeast and then heading north at the major intersection is the best way there. But it looks like every last animatronic still standing has formed up to stop us. It's a really good thing we dealt with this precinct now instead of later,” Jay reported.
Nearl took the sketch and looked at it. “And what about the civilian animatronics?”
“Most of them fled when we got chased by those crossbow bots. The way's pretty clear for now but they'll come back if things stay quiet for a bit,” Belt answered.
“How did you get such an in-depth view of their formation?” Nearl asked.
“I stood on a car and looked over the shieldwall. That's kinda how Belt and I got spotted,” Jay sheepishly answered.
“Judging by how close their crossbows are to the shieldwall, I expect them to use a standard tactic in opening up gaps in their wall for the crossbows to fire through,” Nearl said.
“We've got the firepower, but cover's not that good in the middle of the avenue. All we got are cars, lampposts, newspaper boxes, and other things on the sides,” Jay warned.
Nearl nodded. “Then we'll have to split into two columns when we arrive at the intersection and advance along the sides in cover. Take a moment to catch your breath, but don't take long, I've already ordered everyone to move out.”
Jay and Belt nodded as Nearl walked off to oversee a few other things. The next group of people to come out of the precinct was everyone in C1 lead by Aero. Jay looked away and pretended he was scouting something else as he could feel Aero's eyes on him.
“Captain,” Belt called while saluting.
“Everyone, move on ahead, I need to speak with Jay for a moment,” Aero said.
Jay watched the operators in C1 walk by him while still feeling Aero's gaze on him. Knowing there was no escape, Jay turned around and faced Aero. The man's right hand was gripped tightly around the hilt of his greatsword as he approached Jay which only made him squirm.
Oh god I regret everything!
Aero gently placed his left hand on Jay's shoulder and nodded. “Thank you.”
Jay didn't even get a chance to respond before Aero walked past him and joined his squad. He scratched his chin before looking at his hand and noticing it was shaking. Although, with the threat of an angry Aero gone, his hand eventually stopped.
“Uh... You're welcome?” Jay whispered.
“Jay!” Spark's voice called.
Jay looked at the door to the precinct and spotted his squad leaving the building with their equipment.
“Are you alright? You look terrible,” Spark asked with concern.
Jay smiled and scratched the back of his head. “Oh I'm fine. Were you worried about me while I was out there?”
“Of course I was worried!” Spark answered.
She cares about me!
“What would we do without our captain?” Spark asked abruptly.
Aww man...
“I totally saved your ass back there, Jay,” Eddron said with a smug grin.
“You didn't hit a single thing; you're lucky you didn't hit Jay,” Meeka argued.
“Whether you hit something or not, thanks for the covering fire at least, Eddron,” Jay said.
“We're on the final stretch right? I can't wait for this to be over, I'm getting a little hungry,” Labcoat whined.
Alabaster leaned his halberd against his chest and pulled out a ration bar from his pocket. “Miss Labcoat, you had two whole bars over the break. But if you're still hungry, you can have mine.”
The last of the operators stepped out of the precinct which prompted Nearl to raise her hand for everyone to see.
“We're all ready. Move out! Advance formations!” Nearl yelled.
3:28 PM
Training Facility
Jay tapped Alabaster on the back to halt him when he saw Nearl gesture for the captains to get to her position. Nearl's squad was positioned at the end of the wall of a building on the corner of the intersection of the avenue that lead north to the objective.
Once his squad was halted and took a defensive position, Jay moved forward past C1 to Nearl who was kneeling with Aero.
“The enemy's shieldwall is strong. We'll split up into two groups and advance on both sides of the street. With our advantage in snipers and casters, we can afford to engage at range to soften the enemy formation,” Nearl explained.
“I can take my squad across the street,” Jay said.
Nearl nodded. “I'll split my squad to take positions on both sides. Wave, Fast Lane, and Lyric, you're with Jay's squad for now. We open fire on my order.”
Jay nodded and gestured Alabaster to come to him. After a doing the gesture a few times to get Alabaster to come, he eventually arrived with the rest of the squad.
“Alright guys, here's the plan: we're gonna cross the street with some of Nearl's squad and move into range of the enemy shieldwall. From there, we hit them with everything we got to soften them up. Got it?” Jay explained.
“Yep!” Labcoat acknowledged.
“That avenue is too wide and open for us to just cross without being seen. The fighting will probably start as soon as we move,” Spark warned.
“Yeah, you're right. With those shields, it's gonna be hard to see what the enemy's got going on behind them once things get going. Meeka, I want your drone in the air and getting a good view of the entire enemy formation,” Jay said.
Meeka nodded and unfolded her drone that she was carrying like a football. “Got it.”
“Alright, Alabaster, let's get moving,” Jay said while tapping Alabaster's back.
Alabaster started moving up along the sidewalk and stopped once he was right next to Nearl. With two taps in quick succession from Jay, Alabaster started to sprint across the street. The rest of the squad along with several of Nearl's operators sprinted across the street to the right side of the avenue and took up cover positions behind cars, newspaper boxes, or Alabaster.
Once the team was secure and Nearl was beginning to move on the other side of the avenue, Meeka let her drone fly in the air as high as it could.
“They're moving a lot now. Crossbows are lining up behind the shieldwall,” Meeka reported.
“They've spotted us. Move up along the cars,” Jay said while pointing forward.
The operators stayed low along the cars as they moved forward. Ranged operators readied their weapons or primed their arts as the response from the enemy shieldwall was still silence. Suddenly, the shieldwall opened up with the animatronics tilting their shields forward, exposing animatronics with crossbows aiming them straight down the street.
“Take cover!” Nearl yelled.
Jay immediately got as low as he could as crossbow bolts either whizzed by or made loud thuds when they embedded themselves into cars.
“Return fire! Hit the crossbows while they're exposed!” Nearl yelled.
On Jay's side of the street, Spark, Eddron, and E4's caster Wave—a female Cautus—engaged the shieldwall. Bullets, strands of lightening, and crescent waves of destructive arts energy shot down the street from the right.
Jay kept low but slowly made his way up to Alabaster who was standing at the final car of the line before a large gap between it and the next parked car.
“Jay,” Alabaster called. “These are Ursus tactics, more specifically the guard regiments that handle domestic security. I know them well.”
Training to fight an actual military seems above our paygrade. Why Ursus soldiers of all things?
“Alright then, what's next after this?” Jay asked, not hiding the worry in his voice.
“If they either take enough of us out or feel their crossbow fire isn't enough, they'll begin moving down the street to engage us in hand-to-hand combat. They'll advance in an orderly fashion with their shields which will make it hard for us to hit them,” Alabaster answered.
Jay looked down the street and could see the ranged barrage barely making a dent in the shieldwall. Even after a few of the animatronics went down when a lucky shot got through the exposed portions, another animatronic immediately took its place.
“My bullets aren't doing shit to those shields!” Eddron whined.
“Well you're using rubber bullets!” Jay yelled.
Eddron ducked down and reloaded his pistol. “Even if I was using real ones, I still think they wouldn't do shit!”
“My lightening arts aren't doing much to those shields either!” Spark called.
“Wave! What about you?” Jay asked loudly through the sounds of Eddron's gunshots.
Wave was swaying her staff left and right, creating the crescent waves of her arts. “I can knock them over but I need direct hits for a kill!”
“Nearl!” Jay called.
Nearl didn't respond and was busy directing fire with Lukewarm and several of E4's ranged operators. Even after several attempts, the sounds of gunshots and arts drowned out his voice. He contemplated using his receiver to communicate, but even after being compromised, Nearl never gave the order to break radio silence.
Labcoat pulled Meeka down when a crossbow bolt smashed the window of a car she was hiding near. “Watch yourself!”
“Jay! They're bringing up a lot of guys with shields now!” Meeka reported as she regained her bearings.
“Alabaster,” Jay called, “do you think they're gonna start moving on us now?”
Alabaster closed his eyes whenever his shield shook from getting hit by bolts. “With us in two segments instead of taking up the whole street, the Ursus guards would exploit their numbers and advance straight through the middle and then surround both segments.”
“That's not good! We have to warn Nearl!” Jay yelled.
Jay contemplated running across the street but there were still a significant number of enemy crossbows still active. Biting the bullet, Jay put his finger to the receiver in his ear and tried to get as far as he could from Eddron, Spark, and Wave.
“Nearl! I know you didn't give the order to break radio silence yet, but we're in combat! The enemy's getting ready to advance on us! Alabaster says they're using Ursus tactics and will rush straight between us to cut us off from each other!” Jay warned.
“All operators! Begin falling back! Defenders cover the retreat!” Nearl replied.
Alabaster took a prominent position at the front while everyone began moving back. The enemy crossbows immediately rushed out of the shieldwall and formed up into two firing lines with two rows each on both sidewalks, letting out a suppressing barrage by alternating fire between the rows.
With the operators suppressed, Jay took a peek above the hood of a car he was hiding behind to see many of the shield and spear animatronics running forward down the avenue toward them.
Jay looked back at Eddron, Spark, and Wave. “Aim for the shields! Forget the crossbows for now! We can't get cut off!”
The ranged operators did as commanded and turned their fire on the shields who were already taking fire from Nearl's side of the street. As their flanks were exposed, many more animatronics fell from the ranged assault than before. However, there were simply too many and a large number of them managed to run past the defensive positions and begin wrapping around until everyone was surrounded. In a menacing display, the shield animatronics lowered their spears so a wall of thorns preceded their shieldwall.
Everyone stayed still for a moment as the animatronics didn't move, simply waiting with their spears pointed out. Eddron, Spark, and Wave resumed shooting at the animatronics, but there were fewer gaps in the enemy formation and the ones that did fall were easily replaced by another.
“We need someone that can make explosions or something!” Eddron called while shooting his pistol.
Wave and Eddron began to adopt a new tactic where Wave would use her arts to knock down shields or enemies to expose gaps in the shieldwall so Eddron could shoot through. Spark also quickly got in on the action which took down a sizeable portion of the enemy. However, the animatronics adapted and reinforced their line and had the ones at the back row support the ones at the front, preventing them from falling from the force of Wave's arts.
Alabaster started taking several steps back while Fast Lane and Lyric—E4's male Sarkaz guard—fell back to Jay's position.
Jay in a panic tapped Alabaster's shoulder. “What happens now?!”
“They'll choose which side to attack and crush them while keeping the other busy before finishing off the other side with everything,” Alabaster warned, a hint of fear in his voice.
“Meeka! Which side are they focusing on?!” Jay called desperately.
Meeka looked at her drone feed. “They're bringing up lots of shield guys for the other side of the street!”
“Meeka! Where are the enemy crossbows?!” Spark yelled.
“Still where they were! They're not doing anything!” Meeka answered.
“What're you planning,” Jay asked.
Spark climbed up onto a car and immediately shot out a great strand of lightening and let it run along the backs of the enemy shieldwall on Nearl's side of the street. Jay rushed to Meeka's side to see the damage Spark was causing with her rear attack. On the drone feed, plenty of animatronics collapsed which alleviated the pressure as Jay could see Nearl, Aero, and Belt putting in the most effort to hold back the encroaching mob while Chaser and several other E4 operators stayed back to protect the medics.
Jay could see some of the animatronics in the shieldwall on his side of the street moving forward and readying their spears. He rushed to the car Spark was standing on and grabbed her to pull her down. In his haste, he wasn't careful and she ended up falling on him, causing her to land on his stomach which made him groan in pain as it felt like a really bad punch to the gut.
Spark immediately got up and looked back at the five spears that thrust forward at where she was previously standing. After taking stock of herself, she helped Jay sit up while keeping his head low.
“Thanks,” Spark said.
Jay coughed while keeping his hands over his stomach. “No problem.”
“Jay!” Nearl's voice called on his receiver. “Are you in danger of being overrun?!”
Jay put his finger on his receiver. “No, ma'am!”
“Break out of your encirclement and open us an escape route!” Nearl commanded.
“Yes, ma'am!” Jay replied.
Jay looked around at the shieldwall surrounding his side of the street. After their attempt on Spark, the enemy was beginning to advance on them, favouring the sidewalk as the parked cars provided a makeshift wall.
“We gotta break out somehow,” Spark said.
“They don't have that many on us, maybe we could try to rush out and break their line,” Jay said.
Meeka crawled over and showed Jay the drone feed. “It doesn't look good on Nearl's side. They're running out of space with all those spears pointed at them and closing in.”
“If we focus everything on those guys blocking the way behind us, we could break the encirclement and encircle them back!” Spark suggested.
Jay nodded. “Sounds good. But how do we do that?”
“We get Labcoat mad,” Spark said.
“Are you kidding?” Jay asked. “We haven't used that in a long time. How do we know she won't turn around and kill us?”
“Think you can break through on your own?” Spark asked.
Jay reluctantly shook his head. “Alright, but I'm gonna ask Labcoat if it's okay first. Labcoat!”
Labcoat crawled over to Jay, dragging the claws of her gauntlet along the sidewalk.
“What do you need me to do?” Labcoat asked.
“We need you to get mad,” Jay answered bluntly.
Labcoat's eyes widened. “What?”
“We can't break out of here. We need you to do what you do best,” Spark said.
“I dunno guys, I've been working on getting a handle on being angry lately, but it still might not be enough; I might turn on you guys,” Labcoat warned.
“We'll give you a good ol' slap and then quickly get behind you so the first thing you see is the enemy. Will that work?” Spark asked.
Labcoat shrugged. “I don't know.”
“No time to waste, Nearl needs our help now!” Jay called as he stood up and rushed over to the part of the shieldwall blocking their rear.
“Everyone form up on Jay!” Spark called.
Wave and Eddron stopped engaging for a moment and joined Jay while Alabaster covered Fast Lane and Lyric as they retreated to Jay's position.
Labcoat walked to the front of the spearhead the operators were forming and took a deep breath as the spears from the enemy shieldwall got closer. Jay got in front of Labcoat and looked at her, receiving a reluctant nod from her.
“Let me stand behind her, if Miss Labcoat cannot control herself and turns on us, I will use my shield to protect you,” Alabaster declared.
Jay smiled. “That's real brave of you, Alabaster.”
Jay raised his hand to give Labcoat a slap but hesitated, even with the tips of the enemy spears getting dangerously close.
Damn it! I can't bring myself to hit a girl, especially when she's got a deadly weapon that could kill me really quickly!
Suddenly, Spark stepped in front of Jay and gave Labcoat two slaps in quick succession before pulling Jay behind Alabaster.
“Ah! Bitch!” Labcoat exclaimed. “I thought Jay was going to do it?!”
Labcoat immediately turned around and raised her gauntlet at Alabaster's shield, prompting a whimper from him. However, she immediately stepped out of the way of an incoming spear and let out a ferocious battlecry at the animatronics before turning to them and charging them instead.
“Oh thank god she's fighting the enemy! Move forward!” Jay called.
Labcoat grabbed a shield and pulled it away from her so she could claw the exposed animatronic. Taking advantage of the gap before it could be filled, she dived in and mercilessly dug her claws into anything around her, making an even bigger gap.
Jay charged forward with his spear and dug it straight into an animatronic that was turning to respond to Labcoat. Other melee operators joined in and soon the encirclement was broken with Eddron, Spark, Wave, and Meeka rushing away from the fighting to set up a firing line.
Jay looked behind him and saw the animatronics advancing on him from the other side of the sidewalk were charging forward.
“Go! I will handle them!” Alabaster yelled while he turned around and stuck the shaft of his halberd into the slot of his shield and planted it on the ground.
With Alabaster holding the enemies trying to advance along the sidewalk, everyone spread out along the avenue and formed a new battle line while a way out opened for Nearl's team thanks to ranged fire.
Operators from C1 and E4 poured out of the gap while Nearl was the last to leave, swatting away spears and shields alike with her warhammer. Without the enemy encirclement, it was an actual battle between two sides instead of a trap. It was hard to move around with the dozens upon dozens of shattered animatronics laying on the ground; operators and animatronics alike almost tripped over the wreckage of the once formidable enemy shieldwall.
The enemy animatronics started to fall back and form a new line from one side of the street to the other. Labcoat tried to run after them alone but Jay was able to catch up with her and get a few pats to the back of her head.
“Did we win?” Labcoat asked as she turned around and inspected the wreckage.
“Almost,” Jay said while pointing at the remaining enemies and catching his breath.
With the enemy shieldwall rebuilt, everyone hesitated and waited as they watched the massive wall of shields and spears. Even if they wanted to move, many of the operators looked tired from the sudden burst of fighting and were catching their breath or covering others that needed to.
“Ranged operators! Get on the cars!” Nearl yelled.
The enemy had gave enough ground that they were a respectable distance away from the closest cars to the operators' battle line. Spark, Eddron, Lukewarm, and E4's ranged operators climbed onto cars and started shooting at the shieldwall or crossbows still holding back.
“There's not that many of them left! We get these guys and the crossbows and we're clear!” Meeka called after looking up from her drone feed.
Arts, arrows, bolts, and bullets thrashed the enemy line. While the shields held well, the few shots that shot over the shields were able to hit the animatronics standing behind the front row.
“Watch for crossbow return fire!” Jay warned.
The ranged operators immediately got on their knees or moved onto the hoods of the cars they stood on to prevent the enemy crossbows from getting a good shot on them. As more and more spears dropped, Jay could see Chaser rolling her shield on wheels to the front of the operator battle line.
“Captain! I think it's about time we do that thing I wanted to try!” Chaser yelled.
Aero ran up to Chaser. “Now?”
“Come on, Captain, you always said in training we didn't need it but I think we need it now,” Chaser argued.
“What's your plan?” Nearl asked as she approached.
“We take my shield on wheels and push it as hard as we can right into that shieldwall like a wrecking ball,” Chaser explained with a smile on her face.
Jay watched the enemy animatronics attempt to have the ones at the rear hold their shields up high to protect against ranged attacks. Their inability to have a shield up along the entire line was a good sign.
“The enemy line's gotten really small. I think it could work,” Jay said.
Nearl nodded. “Clear a path through the wreckage for Chaser's shield!”
Defenders moved forward while the ranged operators continued shooting so everyone else could start dragging away the destroyed animatronics. Within minutes, a lane had been cleared to the enemy shieldwall.
“I need some really strong operators to get this thing moving!” Chaser called as she readied herself on the little platform behind her shield.
“Belt! You're up!” Aero yelled.
Jay waved at Alabaster. “Alabaster! You too!”
“Everyone be ready to move as soon as Chaser's shield launches at the enemy,” Nearl commanded.
Alabaster and Belt put down their weapons and each grabbed a side of Chaser's shield.
“On my command,” Nearl said as she raised her shield.
A sudden golden light burst out of her which almost blinded Jay and forced him to close his eyes and cover his face. Even before he could open his eyes, he felt reinvigorated, not needing to catch his breath anymore and the aches in his arms from all the fighting he did had dissipated.
Nearl pointed her warhammer at the enemy. “Now!”
Alabaster and Belt ran forward with Chaser's shield in tow. As they gained more speed, Chaser's shield began to lag behind the two of them which started to make their ensemble look like a slingshot. When they were close enough, Belt yelled something which made him and Alabaster immediately stop and push Chaser's shield forward to launch it at the enemy.
“Charge!” Nearl yelled as she ran ahead.
Jay went after her followed by everyone else. Just as planned, Chaser's shield smashed through the shieldwall and created a large gap that was immediately exploited by the snipers and casters. The enemy began falling back to reform a new line but had become disorderly due to their lack of numbers. More and more gaps formed that were also shot through by the ranged operators.
“Snipers and casters! Focus your fire on the enemy crossbows now!” Nearl ordered as she was the first to arrive at the enemy line and engage.
Jay let out a yell as he charged forward with his spear. He was only able to run it into an enemy shield but kept the animatronic busy enough for Labcoat to run past and claw it in the side. The enemy battle line had finally collapsed completely and the snipers and casters were finishing with mopping up the crossbows. Soon, the battlefield was clear as the remaining animatronics either retreated or were a pile of scrap metal at the feet of the operators.
“To the objective! Advance formations!” Nearl called as she moved forward with her squad.
Jay hastily gathered his team back into their advancing formation and followed E4 and C1 to the tunnel at the end of the avenue that lead to the other side of the battlefield. The moment Eddron—who was at the rear of the formation—stepped into the tunnel, a buzzer sounded which signalled the end of the exercise. Along with the buzzer was a green light that turned on above a door at the end of the tunnel.
Everyone began clapping, cheering, and patting each other on the backs. Jay collapsed his spear back into a baton and put it in his pocket before wiping the sweat off his brow. He looked around at his team who were all relieved the exercise was over.
“I definitely got more than you,” Eddron boasted to Spark.
I doubt it, but you've definitely gotten a lot better at shooting, Eddron.
Spark rolled her eyes. “You really think so? I defi- You know what? I'll let you have this one.”
Atta girl. Way to deal with those competitive impulses of yours.
“That was actually quite exciting,” Alabaster said, “I'm glad we made it through.”
You definitely got a little scared throughout this whole thing, but you've definitely come a long way, big guy.
Jay looked at Meeka and smiled. “Your drone was very helpful. You did a good job.”
“Thanks,” Meeka said softly as she hovered her drone in front of her so she could take it and fold it back up, her cheeks starting to turn red.
Looks like she's starting to care.
Labcoat took off her gauntlet and sighed from exhaustion. “I wonder what they've got in the cafeteria tonight.”
Heh, always thinking about food. At least she's taking the junk food restrictions well now.
Jay couldn't help but smile. Today's exercise was the most intense and difficult mission they ever took part in, especially since both sides used actual weapons and yet they prevailed. As a bonus, they most definitely made a great impression on Nearl and her squad. Still, he did have a strange feeling about having to go up against tactics employed by actual armed forces.
He wanted to wave it off as some sort of challenge mode in training, but the regulation of diets and formation of Element E4 gave him the sneaking suspicion this wouldn't be the last time he would encounter military tactics.
“Hey, Jay,” Spark called.
Jay turned to Spark. “Yeah?”
“Thanks for saving me back there,” Spark said with a smile.
Jay shrugged while adopting the coolest expression he could muster. “Anytime.”
There's a chance!
A softer-sounding buzzer caught everyone's attention as the door at the end of the tunnel opened to reveal Dobermann stepping out with a clipboard.
“Impressive for a first run,” Dobermann started, looking over a few sheets of paper on her clipboard. “You took a bit longer than I would've liked but I am satisfied with how the element worked together to overcome the odds we put against you. I want you all to run the operation again, this time, take a different route.”
Ah shit, here we go again.
Groans of displeasure came mostly from the reserve operators.
“No complaints! Let's get back to the starting area!” Nearl yelled.
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2017.01.27 00:59 HailCorporateRobot Ads for 2017-01-26 (1 / 2)

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