Vorcium, Chapter 2: Icelated (First Half)

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Vorcium, Chapter 2: Icelated (First Half)

Post by DEWM NINJA on Sat Aug 05, 2017 3:06 am


It has been almost two years since the Battle of Radio City. The Shield has only gotten worse as it has begun to fully fit together and form a full shield around Vorcium. Because of this, almost no heat from the sun reaches Vorcium anymore, and the planet has begun to freeze over. As estimated by Scar, Vorcium will continue to get colder to the point where Vorcium would be uninhabitable, and everyone living on the planet would die. Mac and Scar have set out to search for a device made by the Order of Technology that would help should Voricum have gotten that bad while the Order of Technology was still around. Because of Vorcium’s current state, gathering masses of armies is not easy, and many would lose lives before any conflict would ever begin. The war between the Order of Demons and the Order of Knights has been unofficially “postponed” because of this. Neither faction has made any moves against the other for a while.

Deep underground, in a frozen-over cave, Scar was looking at her hand. The synthetic skin had been taken off completely, leaving the robotic claw underneath. The fingers were sharp, thin and had a lot of revealed circuitry and wiring. She put a wool glove over the hand, the twin to the one on her other hand. At that moment, Mac walked up to her. “I’m all out of energy, but I think we’re getting close, the ice is thinning out.” Mac said, while breathing heavily. Scar nodded. “Alright, I’ll get to it.” She said as she walked slightly deeper into the cave, where they had been mining at the ice wall. Scar took out a pickaxe, and began swinging at the ice, loosening the wall piece by piece. Mac stood next to her, waiting, as he slowly regained his energy. Eventually, Scar had swung at the ice wall, and noticed a color behind the thin ice. She began swinging, faster and faster, until she had reached a wall, clearly manmade. “Holy shit. We found it.” Mac said. “Now we just need a way in.” Scar looked around, and looked at her hand. “We’ll just make a way in.” Scar said. She fiddled with some of the wires to her hand, then hooked up a sort of device to one of the fingers. She turned it on, and pressed her finger against the wall, essentially turning her hand into a blowtorch. She cut a narrow opening into the wall, then turned off the device hooked up to her hand and put it away, fitting her glove back on. She squeezed through the opening, and then fell to the floor, several feet below the opening she made. “I’m alright!” Scar shouted back to Mac. “Yeah, well, I’m not. I can’t fit through this damn hole!” Mac said, fitting his head through the opening and looking down at Scar. “Oh, I’m sorry, I’ll… try to figure a way to fix that!” Scar responded. She looked around. The room appeared to be some sort of server room. At that moment, loud mechanical footsteps began nearing Scar. She looked behind her, to see a large robot, tall enough to reach the ceiling, with some sort of axe-like weapon. The robot appeared to look down at her, though instead of having a head, it had two large sensors mounted on its shoulders. “THIS IS A RESTRICTED AREA. PRESENT YOUR IDENTIFICATION, OR BE ERADICATED.” The robot said. Scar reached into one of her coat’s pockets, pulling out her old identification card from VCT, and reaching upwards to show the robot. “PROCESSING. PROCESSING. PROCESSING. ERROR: CARD UNREADABLE. TIME TO KICK SOME ASS.” The robot said. It swung its weapon downwards, Scar jumped out of the way of the robot’s attack. It “looked” over to face scar again, when it was shot in the back with a laser pistol. It turned to face Mac, who was barely leaning through the opening. “Hey! Mister Roboto! Over here!” Mac yelled, while Scar got into cover. The robot slowly made its way up to Mac, and looked at him. “THIS IS A RESTRICTED AREA.” Mac sighed. “PRESENT YOUR IDENTIFICATION, OR BE ERADICATED.” The robot finished. Mac flipped the robot off. “PROCESSING. PROCESSING. PROCESSING. WOW. FUCK YOU TOO, ASSHOLE.” The robot said as it jabbed its weapon into the hole, widening it enough for Mac to enter, but the robot’s weapon was stuck. Mac looked around at the cave, and noticed it began to collapse around him. Mac ran over to the Robot’s weapon, helping to try and get it unstuck. At the last moment, Mac slipped through as the weapon was taken out, landing on top of the robot. “GET. OFF.” The robot said, as it backed up against the wall. Mac jumped off of the robot, saving himself from the fall damage by doing a roll. He looked back at the robot as the ice and snow began to pile into the room, crushing the robot in a small avalanche. Mac and Scar kept their distance as the snow began to pile in, but it stopped short of them. “Well. That could’ve got smoother.” Scar said. “It was still smooth enough. At least we’re in now.” Mac said. “Yeah, but even if we do find the device, how do we get out?” Scar asked. “That wasn’t exactly the front door we got through, there. There’s got to be some way out.” Mac said. “The Order of Technology was never fond with front doors, as I’m sure you know.” Scar said. “Damn, good point. There’s gotta be SOME way out, at least. We certainly won’t find it by sitting here, talking. Let’s go.” Mac said, as he took off, with Scar behind him.

Someone clad in a set of Recruit Knight’s armor was knocked down to the ground. They looked up, where a silhouette offered them their hand. The recruit reluctantly grabbed the figure’s hand, and the two looked each other in the eyes. “You’re getting better Max, ready for round, agh, what is it, five?” The man asked. The recruit took their helmet off, throwing it to the ground, revealing themselves to be a younger Maximus. “I told you, if we’re going with the whole Maximus thing, I want the full name. I don’t like the nickname.” Maximus said. “Ah, my apologies kiddo.” The person said. This person took off their helmet, revealing themselves to be Maximus’ foster father. “So, back to my question. Ready for round six? Er, five, was it?” He asked. Maximus shook his head. “I’m worn out. Maybe later.” Maximus said. “You told me you wanted to be a Knight. If so, don’t waste any time.” Maximus’ father said. “This is different, I just turned eighteen yesterday, I don’t have to become the ultimate warrior within a day.” Maximus said. His father was silent for a moment. “Suit yourself.” He said as he walked away. Maximus reached down to pick up his helmet again, fitting it on. He walked away, nearing a restaurant. Inside, he spotted a kid, about eight years old, grabbing a bag of chips and trying to stuff it into his coat pocket, when the clerk walked up to the kid and viciously grabbed the chips away from the him. The clerk began yelling at the kid, when Maximus walked up to the scene. “What’s going on here?” Maximus asked. “This brat tried stealing a bag of chips!” The clerk said. Maximus looked down at the kid, who looked frightened from the situation. “I know this kid, here, I’ll take him back to his mom, and put the chips back.” Maximus said. The clerk gave Maximus the chips and Maximus grabbed the kid’s arm, walking him out of the restaurant. “What the hell are you doing, Mac?” Maximus asked. “I wasn’t trying to steal anything, really!” Mac replied. Maximus shook his head. “Well, you tried your best. But a real thief pretends to be like a hero in the act.” Maximus said as he handed Mac the chips. “Just don’t tell anyone about this.” Maximus said. Mac lightened up, grabbing the chips. “Thanks Max.” Mac said. “It’s Maximus.” Maximus replied. Mac was silent for a moment. “Let’s go find your mom.” Maximus said, as the two walked away. “My teacher said we had to read a book without pictures today.” Mac said. “It all comes out in the end Mac. Whatever your teacher tells you to do is worth doing.” Maximus said. “Still. Who would read a book without pictures?” Mac asked. “I’m not much of a reader myself, so, I’m not sure who.” Maximus said. “A crazy person is who.” Mac said. “I suppose so.” Maximus said.

After navigating a bit of a maze, and destroying a few robots, Mac and Scar finally found a central area to the place they were in. Inside this central area was a colossal dome that had to have spanned several stories upwards, with glass bridges and railings being the only literal floors to these individual stories, allowing the duo to see all the way up to the top floor’s ceiling. Hundreds of robots moved about the place. Some were service robots while other were guards. A slim, lightly armored robot walked up to them. “Hello there! I am a Services and Management robot, designation 12. Or you can call me by my nickname, SaM-12. Some even call me Samis, because of the 12 designation. I am the local guide to the Museum of Technology, I have taken note of how you two haven’t been added to the visitor database, and must be new here.” The robot said. Mac and Scar looked at each other. “This must be the place.” Scar said. Mac returned his attention to the robot, SaM-12. “Uh, yeah. We’re new here.” “Excellent, and you know what that means?!” SaM-12 said. “What?” Scar asked. “YOU’RE OUR FIRST VISITORS!” SaM-12 yelled, overjoyed. All of the robots in the area turned their attention to Scar and Mac, gathering around them. They began to “clap” their hands together, making an obnoxious clanking noise. “Alright, alright enough, get out of here.” Mac said to the robots. They all went off to their duties, save for SaM-12. “So, if there’s anything you need help with, just let me know!” SaM-12 said. “Well, you can start by telling us where Hypothermal Regulation Device is.” Scar said. “Ah, that. It’s not quite finished yet, and we have yet to do a test, but it should be done by the estimated time of when Vorcium begins to freeze over!” Sam said. “Vorcium’s already frozen over. It’s a goddamn wasteland out there.” Mac said. “Well, that’s unpleasant. But unfortunately only an employee can take out the HRD and use it. Sorry. Is there anything else?” Sam asked. “How do we get out?” Mac asked. “Floor 1 contains the exit, currently you’re at the bottom floor, specifically Floor 15.” Sam said. “Alright, and lastly, could you tell me about these robots? What models they are and what their roles are?” Scar asked. “There’s a lot of robots. It could take a while for me to tell you about them all.” Sam said. “I’ve got time, go on I’m interested.” Scar said. “Uh, well, I’m not interested, so I’m going to go find a food court, or something.” Mac said, as he walked off. “Hm, very well, which robot should we start with?” Sam asked. “How about that one?” Scar asked, pointing towards one of the giant robots that Scar and Mac encountered earlier. “Ah, that would be a B-29 Colossus Rampager and Security Heavy Enforcer Robot, AKA the C.R.A.S.H.E.R.” Sam said. Scar and Sam continued conversing, while Mac entered a food court nearby, operated completely by robots. He walked up to one. “Hey, what are you selling?” Mac asked. The robot simply turned to look at Mac, responding with “Si vous lisez ceci, félicitations, vous avez trop de temps sur vos mains.” Mac looked at the robot for a couple of seconds. “Uh...” He said, trying to think of what he should respond with. The robot looked angrily at him. “Si vous lisez ceci, félicitations, vous avez trop de temps sur vos mains!” The robot said. Mac backed away from the robot carefully, trying not to make it angry. He walked up to another robot. “Hey, do you speak English?” Mac asked. The robot looked at him. “Nan-ni shimasho-ka?” Mac sighed, “Goddammit.” He whispered. “Nan-ni shimasho-ka?” The robot asked again. Mac looked at him. “Uh… yes?” He asked. The robot placed a small bowl filled with noodles on the counter. “Nan-ni shimasho-ka?” The robot asked. “So, do you take VISA?” Mac asked. The two looked at each other silently for a while. “Nan-ni shimasho-ka?” Mac responded by simply taking the noodles and walking away.

At New Aberdeen, a single person walked outside of the walls, wearing several layers of clothing, with a flamethrower strapped to their back, clearly a Cleanser. They attempted to light a cigarette, but to no avail. They stuffed it away, looking around. The ground was covered completely in about five or six inches of snow, many deserted vehicles lined the covered road, most likely didn’t even work anymore from the amount of snow on them. The cleanser saw movement a ways down the road, but he couldn’t tell as the wind began to pick up and blow directly in his face. He pulled down a pair of goggles strapped around his beanie, fitting them on to get a better view. He saw a figure, waving both hands, slowly making his way towards New Aberdeen. The Cleanser swung his flamethrower from off his back into his grasp, aiming it frontwards. He made his way towards the figure, who slowly came into view. The figure began yelling, “You, sir! I need to speak with you!” The figure yelled. The Cleanser got closer, not shouting back at the figure. Eventually the two reached a relatively close distance, the figure was a man, armed with a standard issue rifle. “Who are you?” The Cleanser asked. “Well, who are you?” The man responded with a question. “I am Matthew Miller, of the Cleanser’s division of the Order of Knights army. Now, who are you?” The Cleanser said. “Name’s Eric.” The man responded. “You got a last name, Eric?” Matthew asked. “Uh, why do you ask?” Eric asked. “Because in case you were to perhaps mortally wound me, the men at a pretty damn well concealed sniper’s tower would proceed to blow your head open, or get pretty close to doing that, and if you were to escape a medical team can swoop in and ask me the details on who you were and why you would want to try and kill me before I bled out. I can respond with your last name, therefore eliminating however many other Erics there are on Vorcium from being suspects of the murder of an employed soldier of the Order of Knights. That is, at least, one of many reasons as to why I want your last name. So can you just tell me your last name already?” Matthew asked. “Uh, my full name is Eric Douthitt. Never got a middle name.” Eric said. “Alright, so why do you feel the need to approach me on this fin-... er, uh, not fine evening?” Matthew asked. “I want to know if I can get into the city.” Eric asked. “Sure. If you can cough up five thousand bucks.” Matt said. “What?! Five thousand? Who’s running those prices?!” Eric exclaimed. “Look, if you couldn’t tell, we’re in the midst of a war right now, we’re already down one of our three main leaders, and if any Demon soldier thinks they can just waltz in here and off another leader, they’re wrong. Any Demon soldier that pays five thousand dollars is essentially giving us enough money to recover from whatever damage they do. We just have to take those precautions.” Matt said. “Alright, look. I know where I can get that much money, but could it hurt to ask for the protection to go and get it? No tricks or anything, I swear.” Eric said. “Fine, fine.” Matt said. He pulled out a radio from his pocket, “Command, this is Matt. I’ve got a civilian out here who wants a quick escort job. Since I’m already geared up I’m willing to do it. He’ll pay us back, too.” Matt said. “Alright, go for it. Just watch yourself out there, and return in case of a code orange.” A voice from the radio responded back. “Roger.” Matt responded, and he put the radio back. “Alright. Let’s go.” Matt said.

Mac sat silently, eating his own miniature buffet of food. Scar walked up to the table he sat at, crossing her arms at the sight of the amount of food he settled with. “What? It sure beats the MREs.” Mac said, with his mouth full. Scar sat down, sitting across from him. “I suppose I don’t blame you. A hot meal is hard to come by considering the odds out there.” She said. “What a bite of something?” Mac asked. “Er, wait… Nevermind.” Mac said, dismissing his previous question. “Yeah, I don’t exactly have a digestive track.” Scar said. She shook her head. “What’s up?” Mac asked. “Lately I’ve been thinking about the previous events. Maximus and all. I wondered that, maybe somehow if I didn’t get involved with you guys in the first place, something different would’ve happened. That things could have gone much better in Radio City. I’ve been calculating the odds and something must’ve gone wrong with my arrival in Aberdeen to have caused it. Because my involvement odds predict some unsatisfactory numbers.” Scar said. “Maybe something’s busted up, I couldn’t think of any reason why you turning up could’ve fucked us over in that battle.” Mac said. “Both of those conclusions unsettle me equally. I need to take my processors off of it.” Scar said. Suddenly, she lightened up. She reached into her coat pocket, pulling out a coin and placing it on the table. “Now there’s something interesting. Bet you’ve never seen anything like that before.” Scar said to Mac. Mac picked the coin up and looked at it, squinting his eyes. “I’ve never seen a coin like this.” Mac said. “It’s an American Quarter. They stopped making those back in 2098.” Scar said. “It’s basically a relic. I found it in the CEO office in VCT. That prick who was making all the rules about humans before robots had it. I stole it from him one day. He damn near hired a bounty hunter to find the thing. But he never did.” Scar said. “I’m surprised no one programmed a whole ‘stealing is bad’ thing into you. You’d think they would, at least.” Mac said. “Well they didn’t. Besides, stealing isn't always that bad when compared to other crimes. Like leaving someone to die because they’re different from you, for example.” Scar said. “A long time ago, when I was eight, I stole a bag of chips. Or, well, tried. I got caught, but Maximus stepped in, acted like he was going to talk me straight and put the chips back while we left. But he didn’t. He said something like, ‘It’s easiest to steal something when you look like a hero’. I don’t quite remember it all that well. Good times though, back then. Back when everyone was, alive...” Mac said. He looked around the food court, back at the exit, when he caught something from the corner of his eye. He darted up from the table, swallowing his last bites of food and fitting his helmet on, as he angrily stomped over to the exit. Scar got up and ran to catch up with him. “What’s wrong?” Scar asked. Mac didn’t respond. “Hello? Anyone home?” Scar asked, agitated. Mac stopped, and put his arm out to stop Scar. “Stay here.” Mac said. He continued walking, until he walked out of the food court. Scar tilted her head, but eventually walked back to the table, sitting down. She grabbed the quarter, fitting it back into her pocket. Suddenly, she looked to the exit, where she noticed someone falling down the stairs to the food court. The landed on their backs, and began pushing their way away from the staircase desperately. Mac stepped down the staircase, walking up to the person and grabbing them by their throat and lifting them up. Scar ran up to the scene, where she looked at Mac. “What the hell’s going on?!” She asked. She looked at the person, and noticed they were wearing a very worn and dusty set of Demon armor. “I see. Just, make it quick.” Scar said. “Gladly.” Mac said, throwing the person forwards and reaching for Pinaka. Suddenly, Mac felt the barrel of a rifle being pointed at the back of his neck. OOT Security Robots entered the scene, holding Mac at gunpoint. “Goddammit.” Mac said. He let go of Pinaka, and raised his hands up. Scar noticed she wasn’t acknowledged by the security team as a part of the fight, and she turned to one of the robots. “Excuse me, I work at VCT, specifically robotics. My friend here was only acting in self defense.” She said. The robot turned to look at her. “Identification card, please.” The robot said. She pulled out her card. “Here goes nothing.” She said as she held it up to the robot. The robot scanned it several times before returning it to Scar. “Identity confirmed. I suggest registering for a new card. I was hardly able to read it.” The robot said. It flashed several lights mounted on its head to its comrades, clearly speaking in morse code, and the security team walked away. Mac shook his head. “You’re one lucky son of a bitch.” Mac said. The Demon shakingly got up, looking at the two. “Uh… I know this may be hard to believe, but I’m not with the Demons.” The man said. “My ass.” Mac said. “N-no, no really, I’m not. I was but I’m not. I was with the Demons before they did their whole world domination thing. I was with them for a little longer after they went through that phase but I ran away. I wanted to fight for justice. There were a lot of us that left after that, but not as many as we thought. All my friends are dead now, mostly because the Knights always shoot first and ask questions later.” The man said. “Seems somewhat believable to me.” Scar said. “Well, I can’t kill him in here. Go on, run. Get out of here.” Mac said, signaling for him to go away. “What? No. I can’t leave.” The man said. “Why not?” Scar asked. “The elevator is under maintenance. I’m stuck here for now. Frankly I’d rather stay, too. I like the seclusion, I don’t have to worry about the Demons trying to hunt me down, and I don’t have to worry about Knights attacking on sight.” The man said. “Wait, if you’re so worried about Knights attacking on sight, then why not ditch the armor?” Mac asked. “I’ve been wearing this armor since I enlisted at sixteen. It’s my symbol of pride. I have an emotional attachment to it. I still stand for what the Demons stood for so long ago, and hopefully if they come back to reality, I can return with this armor, signifying my veteranship, instead of abandoning it.” The man said. “Well, fine, if you’re sticking with us you can at least tell us your name.” Mac said. “My name is Philip Yorke. Though I’d like to stick with my code name back before the war. Pyrus.” The man said. “Alright. Fine. But we’ll be leaving soon enough anyway.” Mac said. “Sure. At least I’ve got actual people to talk to for a change.” Pyrus said.

On a particularly cloudy day, the gates to New Aberdeen opened, three squads of knights stepped in, making their way back to the barracks. Maximus’ foster father, Magnus, appeared, inspecting the squads, when he focused on one of the squad leaders. He walked up to them, and the two greeted each other. “I trust all went well, Maximus?” Magnus asked. Maximus took off his helmet and shook his head. “No. We lost Chris.” Maximus responded. Magnus shook his head. “No...” He said. “Poor kid. That was his first mission. How is Mac going to take this?” Magnus asked. “We both know how.” Maximus said. “Who should tell him?” Magnus asked. “I will. I think Mac would take it better from someone he knows better.” Maximus said. “Do you, have his remains?” Magnus asked. “There was nothing left to bury.” Maximus said. “I see.” Magnus said. “Well… Good luck. I suppose we should prepare a funeral. I will tell Yuri and Ketch.” Magnus said, as he walked away. Maximus sought out Mac, walking up to the doorstep to the Slife household. He reluctantly knocked on the door, to which Mac’s mother answered. “Oh, hello Maximus. How did that mission go? W… Where’s Chris?” She asked, looking behind Maximus to see if Chris was with him. Maximus simply responded by pulling out a pair of dog tags and handing them to Mac’s mother.
The next day it was incredibly rainy. Many people gave their condolences to Mac’s family. Maximus simply sat in the background, alone, while his foster father Magnus prepared a group of seven knights with semi-auto rifles. Yuri sat next to Maximus. “Y’know… It’s not often that we lose a Knight. If I recall the last time we lost one was around the time you first arrived to New Aberdeen. I forgot how simply troubling it is. To see the life essence ripped out of another person. Perhaps I might be over exaggerating there. Maybe, as soldiers, we should be more used to death. Maybe we will in the future. But damn. The only thing worse than knowing someone is dead, is knowing someone is dead, and feeling nothing.” Yuri said. Maximus looked curiously at Yuri. “I can’t remember the last time I felt bad about someone’s death. Am I a psychopath? I suppose being a pyromaniac adds to that. Maybe it’s just because I didn’t know Chris that well.” Yuri said. “I feel like you’re the only person I can tell that to, as well. Other than Magnus and Ketch of course, but I don’t even know where Ketch is, and Magnus is a bit busy. I hardly even know what to say at this point but… I just had to let that out.” Yuri finished. He got up shortly afterwards, walking away. Maximus looked over at his foster father. “Present arms!” Magnus yelled. The seven soldiers readied their weapons, aiming them at the sky, and firing them three times.
Later that day, Maximus, Yuri, Magnus and the third High General, Ketch, as well as a few bodyguards, walked into the central command tower, where an unnamed Knight awaited. “Here, sirs, some drinks. In memory of Chris!” The knight said as he handed around a several glasses of beer. “Yeah, in honor of Chris.” Magnus said, as he quickly took a drink. He choked a bit on the drink, but he put his hand up to stop the confusion of the other Knights, assuring them he was OK. Maximus took a solid look at the drink, and shook his head. “I respect Chris and all, but I’m not thirsty.” He said. Yuri looked around as well. “I don’t feel right about it all either. I just… can’t. Not in the mood.” Yuri said. “Damn buzzkills.” Ketch said menacingly, as he took a slight sip of his drink, but before he could swallow it, he looked over at Magnus. Whose eyes were widened, coughing some more. “No...” Magnus silently said. He appeared dizzy. Ketch worryingly spat the drink back into the cup and set it down, walking up to Magnus. “What’s wrong?” Ketch asked to Magnus, who remained silent. Ketch looked at the drink, and narrowed his eyes. He walked up to the Knight who served them and grabbed him by the shoulders. “You better not have just done what I thought you’ve done.” Ketch said. By now, Yuri and Maximus moved to help Magnus. “I-I, I don’t know what I’ve done, I didn’t do anything I swear.” The Knight said. The bodyguards unsheathed their swords, aiming them at the Knight. Magnus collapsed, and Yuri kept him held up. Magnus looked Yuri in the eyes. “Maximus, he… must be my… successor.” Magnus uttered, before he began coughing up blood. One of the bodyguards spoke up, “Knight, you are under arrest for the murder of High General Magnus Jones!” The Knight broke free of Ketch’s grip and slowly began backing away. “Please, I swear, I didn’t do anything!” The Knight said. Ketch shook his head and grabbed his shotgun, aiming it at the knight and blasting him across the room. “There.” Ketch said. The bodyguards sheathed their blades, and everyone focused back to Magnus, who lied in Yuri’s arms, dead. “Now I really feel something...” Yuri said. Maximus looked around the room, terrified. He walked out into the rain, pulling off his helmet and throwing it. “Dammit, who did this?! I know you’re here, somewhere nearby, I swear to god I’ll fucking kill you!” Maximus screamed at the top of his lungs, pulling out his sword and looking frantically around. Yuri ran outside and grabbed Maximus’ shoulder. “Calm down. We’ll get to this one day. We just… need to… Do something.” Yuri said. “Fucking… Dammit. Who’s going to die next, huh?!” Maximus said, angered. “Hopefully, no one. But we can’t stand here and yell. We need to find the one who did this. C’mon. Let’s get out of the rain.” Yuri said, as the two walked back into the command tower.

Matt and Eric shuffled their way through the heavy snow. “This is it!” Eric yelled to Matt. The snow was getting violent. Eric picked up the pace, walking up to a building nearly completely covered in snow. He tried to open the door, but it was frozen shut. Matt caught up, taking note of Eric’s failed attempts to shoulder charged into the door. “Stop, let me show you how it’s done!” Matt yelled. He leaned his body back a bit, kicking just to the side of the door’s handle, smashing it open. Eric nodded at Matt, and the two proceeded into the building. They shut the door behind them, or tried, since the thing was smashed open. Matt grabbed a nearby board and leaned it against the door, closing it. Eric pulled out a flashlight, lighting up the dark area. “This place still have power?” Matt asked. “Of course not. Anything remote on this planet now hardly exists in the first place. I’m amazed the glass isn’t shattered.” Eric said. “The glass?” Matt asked. Eric shined the light towards a specific spot, revealing stained glass in the design of Jesus Christ. “This is a church?” Matt asked. “Was.” Eric replied. “Right… Still. Hard to believe anyone had any faith left over after the shit you see on this planet.” Matt said. “Well, not everyone has seen the worst of the war. People who live in remote towns that weren’t allied to either faction never saw any action.” Eric said. He made his way up to the back of the church, where he bumped into a coffin. “Here’s the jackpot.” Eric said. He lifted grabbed the lid to the coffin. “Hey, woah, hold on there!” Matt said, stopping Eric. He pulled out his flamethrower. “For one, robbing the dead isn’t exactly a moral way of getting money, especially in the house of God, no matter your beliefs anyone would be cautious of that shit. And for two, going corpse hunting isn’t like it used to be with the Malebranche running about.” Matt said. “I need the money regardless. Just, watch my back. If anyone in this casket came back I think they would’ve pounced us already.” Eric said. Matt hesitated, then nodded to Eric and looked away. Eric lifted the casket, revealing the corpse of an old woman. He grabbed the many pieces of jewelry from the casket, and shut the lid back down. “Alright, this should catch me a fair price.” Eric said. “That’s fucked.” Matt said. “I don’t see you stopping me.” Eric said. Matt lowered his eyebrows, turning to Eric. He aimed the flamethrower at him. “Y’know what. That just gave me an idea. I can arrest you right now for violating the laws of the Order of Knights.” Matt said. “Of piss off, I’m not even in your turf right now. Besides, most, if not, all this money I’m getting from this is going to YOUR cause.” Eric said. Matt sighed. “Fine. I guess I’m just more morally sane than you are because you’re getting off free for this one.” Matt said, as he swung his flamethrower back over his back. “Let’s get going.” Eric said, as he nodded to Matt. Matt walked back to the exit, with Eric behind him. They opened the door, and noticed that the snow and wind cleared up, they could see much better now, and that’s when Matt noticed it.

The two men were in a town, a ghost town more like it. Frozen corpses adorned the streets. The many buildings were covered in snow. “Damn.” Matt said. He looked around, closer at the bodies, one of them was of a younger woman, holding an infant. Both dead. “What the fuck happened here?” Matt asked, turning back to face Eric. “This was my home town. A lot of Malebranche came through here. We had little protection, most of the guards were devoured by the mass of the things. Eventually the town was separated, most died because of it, but those who made it to the safe side didn’t have to worry about the Malebranche anymore. They had to worry about a likely worse fate. Freezing. The power was cut off eventually and the snow consumed most. Me and a couple others made it out by blowing the wall that kept us trapped down, and running for it. They, too, froze to death eventually. I only survived because they left more layers of winter clothing to me.” The two were silent. “I have to take care of that.“ Matt said, pulling out his flamethrower, walking around the destroyed wall he missed when entering, and making his way around the wall perimeter, looking for an entrance. Eric ran up to him. “Hey, I’m with you on this but, I hope you know there’s no way we can kill them all. There’s at least a hundred.” Eric said. “I don’t care. These people deserve to be avenged. I’ll do that.” Matt said. Eric pulled out his rifle, and the two reached the town’s gate, completely covered by ice. Matt smashed the butt of his flamethrower against the frozen gate, chipping pieces off, until most of it came undone and shattered enough for the two to crawl through. At that moment, the corpses in view began growling, and getting up. Matt started his flame thrower, the heating coil just barely getting hot enough to ignite the gas. Light flames spewed forth from his flamethrower, Burning down a couple Malebranche that got near. Eric aimed his rifle, firing at the Malebranche, knocking a few down. Many more of the dead revealed themselves, slowly moving towards the two men, standing back to back between the herd, firing their weapons at the creatures. Matt burned down more of the creatures, Eric losing focus to the screaming and burning from their nearly lifeless, burning bodies. Eric turned to look at Matt. “Jesus, I don’t think I can do this anymore.” He said. Matt turned to look at him, confused. “What?” Matt asked. “The whole burning thing, and hearing them scream, it’s driving me mad, what’s worse is I recognize some of their faces. We need to go, I can’t kill anymore of them!” Eric said. “They’re lifeless monsters, not your friends!” Matt said. “I know but, it’s different for me… I’m not trained like you were, I’m, shit, behind you!” Eric screamed at Mat, aiming his rifle towards him and firing. Most of his bullets missed the Malebranche directly behind Matt, a couple landed, though didn’t do much. The Malebranche grabbed Matt from behind, widening its mouth and moving its head towards Matt’s neck. At that moment, Matt noticed the tubing connecting the gas to the flamethrower was torn by one of Eric’s bullets. “Shit, Eric, run!” Matt yelled. Eric took several steps desperately back. At that moment, Matt’s flamethrower moved towards the leaked gas in the air, igniting flames around the area, burning nearly everything in sight. “No!” Eric screamed. He looked around, before running back towards the gate exit, of which had several Malebranche entering. He was trapped. Eric fired more at the Malebranche, before screaming. They began closing in on him. Matt emerged from the flames, on fire, but still alive. The Malebranche focused on him decided to back away, turning their attention away from Matt and to Eric. Eric saw Matt patting off the flames from his fire retardant suit. “Run Matt, get out of here!” Eric yelled. Matt took the opportunity and ran for the gates, out of the town. In the distance, he heard Eric’s screams. Matt kept running, and running, in the direction to where he believed New Aberdeen was in, determined to get back and tell Yuri. To avenge the town, and Eric’s sacrifice.

Mac, Scar and Pyrus had exited a museum tour, Mac shaking his head. “That’s it. We’ve been to every single tour, nothing about the HRD.” He said. “It’ll turn up. This is only one of fifteen stories.” Scar said. “With that elevator out of service, what do we do now? Just, sit and wait?” Pyrus asked. “This isn’t your topic, Pyrus. Why do you care so much?” Mac said, angrily. “Mac, leave him alone. He’s trying to help, isn’t that enough?” Scar said. “Everything alright here, gang?” Sam approached the group, overjoyed as usual. “No, nothing’s ‘alright’. Why don’t you at least tell us where the damn HRD is already?” Mac said. “Error: Probability of theft of the Hypothermal Regulation Device: 100%. Secrecy is required at the moment. Sorry.” Sam said. “Hey, Sam, I work for the Order of Technology. You can tell me.” Scar said. “May I see your ID card?” Sam asked. Scar showed him the card, and all was silent for a moment. “Failed to confirm identity after fifteen retries. Sorry. You’d best get a replacement card.” Sam said. “You really do have to invest into that if we’re going to do a damn thing here.” Mac said. Scar sighed. “How can I get a replacement card then, Sam?” Scar asked. “Quite easy. In the Museum of Technology, there are many wall-mounted devices that allow you to make your own ID card. Free of charge for anyone who needs an Employee replacement card. They’re similar in appearance to an ATM if you have trouble finding any.” Sam said. “Where’s the nearest one of these things?” Scar asked. “Scanning… Floor Fifteen, Genetics entrance.” Sam said. “Thanks.” Scar said. “Alright, let’s just get the card and find out about the HRD already.” Scar said. The three made their way to the Genetics area, when a Crasher unit stepped in front of them. “HALT. GENETICS IS NOW OFF-LIMITS TO CIVILIANS. EMPLOYEES AND SECURITY TEAMS ONLY.” The Crasher said. “Fuck’s sake. We don’t ever get it easy, do we?” Mac said. Scar looked behind the robot, noticing the ID machine behind the robot, just before the doorway into Genetics. “Well, we’re not going to Genetics, we just need to get to the machine behind you.” Scar said. “ERROR: LIE PREDICTION: 78%. ACCESS IS STILL DENIED.” The Crasher said. “Well, I am an employee of the Order of Technology.” Scar said. “ARE YOU THE SECURITY TEAM SENT FROM VCT THAT WE REQUESTED FOR ASSISTANCE FOR THE SITUATION IN GENETICS?” The Crasher asked. “Uh, yes. Here’s my ID card.” Scar said, handing over the card. “SCANNING ERROR. SCANNING AGAIN. SCANNING ERROR. SCANNING AGAIN. SCANNING ERROR. SCANNING AGAIN. SCAN SUCCEEDED. HAVE A NICE DAY, SCAR.” The Crasher said, stepping aside a bit. “Let’s just do whatever needs doing, and come right back out, problem solved. We need to pass the time for the Elevator anyway.” Scar said. “Agreed.” Pyrus said. As the group entered, they took note of many wrecked robot bodies lying about the hall. They pushed through the halls, taking note of the containment for the genetically modified creatures was opened, with the creatures nowhere to be found. Eventually, a group of security robots were quickly pulling back, weapons out. They communicated through the same morse code-based light flashing communication from earlier. Mac was able to understand it, “Hold your ground, we can’t let them get out of genetics.”, the captain said. Its fellow robots responded with variants of “Yes sir”. At that moment, several cybernetic creatures turned the corner at the end of the hall, making loud, painful screeching sounds that were semi-cybernetic. Some of them were smaller and faster, while others were bigger, more armored and slower. The creatures had razor-sharp metal claws, as well as armor on most of their bodies, save for their legs and arms, the smaller ones at least. The bigger ones had much more armor, and had four small canisters mounted on their backs. The smaller ones rushed the robots, who opened fire on the creatures, a couple robots went down but the smaller ones were taken out quickly, and the robots focused their fire on the bigger ones. All but one going down, this final one stood still for a moment, as the mounted canisters on its back pushed their way inwards into its back, it made some agitated sounds, but eventually, the armor plates on its chest and stomach opened up, revealing its shrunken innards and cybernetic parts, and out from its opened stomach came a smaller variant, like the faster creatures from before. It charged forwards, and while all the robots missed their target, a laser projectile pierced through the creature, Mac aiming Pinaka at its corpse. The robots turned to look at him, not noticing the group at first. The larger creature screamed again, as the canisters re-emerged, vented heat, and reinserted themselves back into the creature. “Take that thing out already!” Scar said. Suddenly, five bullets burst outwards, making a distinctively loud and powerful firing sound, this time, Pyrus held his weapon outwards. It was at this moment Scar noticed through the dents and cracks of the armor covering Pyrus’ arm, was a cybernetic hand, very augmented compared to the average cybernetics. His weapon, a very large revolver, was a very unique design, and looked very heavy, the rounds loaded into it must be very large, they clearly and easily penetrated through the armor of the creature. Pyrus looked over at Mac. “There, now we both had our moments of badassery. Let’s move on.” Pyrus said. He stepped up to the creature, still alive, barely squirming. He fired one last shot through its skull, killing it. As he reloaded his weapon, Scar walked up to what appeared to be the commander of the robotic squad. “What are these things again?” She asked. “A unique species created by the Order of Technology. There isn’t any direct name to them, since there are two different subspecies to the species itself. Mothers and Hatchlings. Mothers are aesexual creatures capable of using enhanced DNA samples and cybernetic parts to create Hatchlings in quick succession, and Hatchlings are smaller, and are outfitted with cybernetics as well during their birthing process, of which make them faster yet weaker than their Mother alternatives. It’s very advanced tech.” The robot said. “Fascinating.” Scar said. “What, you don’t remember that from the tour?” Mac asked. “I wanted to be fully reminded, and to see if there was anything more that I could know from a combat perspective since these are actually combat bots as opposed to the tour guide we had.” Scar said. “Hm, fair point.” Mac said. The robot looked at Scar. “Y’know, there IS an advanced prototype robot that has been in the works for a few years. It’s not finished, but it certainly could use the field test. Perhaps you would care to take it for a spin?” It said. “Sure, where is it?” Scar asked. “Follow me.” The robot said. The group took a short walk to a corner, where the robot looked at the wall, and it begun making a few beeping sounds. At that moment, a chunk of the wall opened up, and inside was a lift setup, and a platform slowly descended to the level of the floor. On the platform was a large robot, about the size of a Crasher, but even more heavily armored, and an actual head instead of two sensors. The robot also had two shoulder-mounted weapons, as well as a wrist-mounted one on its left hand as well, and a large pack added onto its back. Its color scheme was also different, containing a solid red and silver scheme as opposed to the Crasher’s black and blue. Several lights on its head lit up and it looked around. “Assessment: Systems booting up. Diagnostic: Hull at 100%, CPU at 100%, AI Systems at 100%, initiating movement calibration.” The robot said. It looked up and down, then around, and moved its arms around, then looked at its right hand, opening and closing its hand. It spun its upper body around in a 360 degree motion, and finally walked out, into the hallway with the rest of them. “Full diagnostic complete. VANGUARD is online!” The robot said. “Hm. Well, it’s not as great as a robot T-Rex for example, but, it’ll do.” Mac said. “Scanning... Hello, SCAR. What is it you need?” Vanguard asked. “Wait, you recognize me?” Scar asked. “Of course, this unit has been updated with a unique, one-of-a-kind Facial Recognition Device. FRD operating at 100% efficiency. This unit is ready to serve. What is it you need, SCAR?” Vanguard asked again. “Well, all we need you to do, is kick some ass.” Scar said. “Roger. Initiating ‘ASS-KICKING’ subroutine.” Vanguard said. He reached his hand onto his back, and pulled out a massive sword. His mounted weapons powered up, and he took the lead. “Weapon Systems operating at 100%. Let’s proceed slowly!” Vanguard said, as he put his left hand outward, and a full-body shield outstretched itself from his arm. He began to move forwards. Scar, Mac and Pyrus stood behind Vanguard, proceeding along with him.

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