Cthulhutech: Smoke & Mirrors
"Form up on me. Keep your scanners wide and stay frosty." Lt. Coccio signaled and the other mecha gathered around him, save for Zephyr still in his pod. “Greyhawk, how many rockets do you have?”
“I don’t have any left,” Ritz added.
“Alright, let’s ration our rockets.” That didn’t comfort Akita. Fighting the Migou took all of Ritz’s rockets and cost them Zephyr’s mech. What hope did they have now?
"Stand watch. I have a transmission coming in from base." He didn't sound too pleased. After a minute, Zymani heard his voice again.
"Shit! We got incoming. Set up a perimeter. Shit, we don’t have stealth. Everyone who can fly keep watch. You’ll see a friendly ETA 10 minutes." Zymani wondered if it would be a NEG operative that would tell her what the hell was happening and give the next set of orders. She rose with Ritz and Moody into the sky.
Exactly 10 minutes later Zymani got a blip on her scanner for a transport, not a mech. A man in a black suit came out. He looked like he was part of the President of New Earth's government, but Zymani could tell the President wasn't in that transport. A NEG reporter stepped out instead. She quickly surveyed the battlefield in front of them, hurrying her camera crew along.
"Quick Tim, get my mic up. Oh, this is a good shot." She smoothed out her shirt and took a breath. “Another great victory over the Migou by Captain Chip Savage! Led by Captain Savage, NEG forces were able to repel a Migou invasion force heading for Camp Juneau. There must be over 30 mecha here from both Nazzadi loyalists and Migou invaders. Tim! Come get some footage of the debris. This is good." The reporter and her camera crew walked back into the transport followed by the suit.
"Alright, you three can come down." Coccio couldn't see Zymani barring her fangs. If she wasn't fond enough of the NEG newscasts already, this encounter with the Division of Propaganda strengthened her opinion. As she descended, she noticed a faint blip on her AR display. It disappeared the instant it came up.
“Did anyone see that?”
“What is it RoseRage?”
“Wait, I saw it too.” Ritz’s response assured Zymani that she wasn’t completely crazy yet.
“Hm, whatever it was, we shouldn’t stay here long enough to meet it. We’re heading back to Camp Juneau. Moody, stay half a click behind and scan for bugs. If anything comes up on radar, get back here as fast as you can."
“Yes sir." his mech was gone in almost an instant.
"Greyhawk, make some room in your cockpit for Zephyr. I know it'll be cramped, but he needs better shielding than a pod."
"Understood sir." Gir lowered the pod and Nasala made his way from his pod to the opening in the Claymore.
Nasala fist bumped Grayson. "Best friends!" he sat close to Wright to make sure he didn't hit anything that could detonate.
"Let's move out." The squad moved forward, matching speed with the lumbering Claymore. Akita kept watch behind the group. One blip. Three blips. Ten blips. They were swarming up, chasing the small squad. Soon the blips had almost caught up with him. They saw flashes of Dragonfly wings in the distance.
“Sir! There’s a shitload of Locusts coming!"
"Shit. Come up Moody. We need to get to base. Form a perimeter with Greyhawk." Akita moved his mech forward and caught up with the squad. The ghost blips were coming up closer and more frequently now. A large four legged mecha came skittering into view.
“Come in Juneau, we need air support!” The urgency in Coccio’s voice put Zymani on edge. Chatter filled the radio waves between them and the base.
“I gotta save the newbies’ asses again?” Chopper’s familiar gruff voice came over the comm. His mech was a welcome relief as he lead his squadron of mechs into range of the fleeing group.
The Locusts pulled away as Camp Juneau came into sight. The pilots guided their mecha into the maintenance bay and emerged from their mecha as repair crews rushed out to meet them.
"You are all dismissed. I need to find out what's going on from Captain Boomhouser." Lt. Coccio rushed off.
"Ugh, first thing I'm gonna do is get a shower," Wendell brushed the Engel fluid off his mecha suit.
"Where's my mech?!" Sergeant Wynn looked to Nasala. Nasala outranked him, but he still seemed a bit intimidated.
"The bugs tore it. Do you think you could get me something sturdier?"
"...Sure. Twelfth one this month..." Sergeant Wynn grumbled as he went to check for any more missing mechs.
Even though none of the Engel fluid actually touched him, Wendell made sure to scrub every last bit of the goo off his skin. He headed back to his room for a change of clothes. Luckily Chopper wasn't there. He leaned over Chopper's bed and mussed up his sheets for good measure. Wendell liked Akita's idea of going straight to the bar and headed there for some fun.
Zymani let the cool water hit her face and drip off her bobbed scarlet hair. It was refreshing but it wasn't as warm as the fluid in the cockpit of her Engel. Sitting in the Engel was like sitting in the warm Spanish sunshine back at the Barcelona arcology. However comfortable it was, the cockpit wasn’t exactly the safest place to be. You can still feel chill in the summer, thought Zymani.
After she was washed and clothed, Zymani headed down to the rec room. She saw Greyson there with Panic and Lt. Allen. She slowly crept up and grabbed Panic’s shoulders.
“Saved your life!” She giggled as Panic jumped.
“Not funny! D-don’t do that!” Panic scowled at her. “I’m gonna head to the bar. You coming Allen?” Allen shrugged.
“Eh, I’ll just watch over these rookies. What are you guys playing?”
“Just a round of pool or something.” Wright racked up the balls and Zymani grabbed some cues.
“So I heard you guys ran into some trouble.”
“Nothing we couldn’t handle,” Zymani replied absently, focusing on her shot. The two ball sank neatly in the corner pocket.
“I heard there were some news crews too.”
Zymani paused for a moment. “That was definitely an…interesting encounter.” She lined up her next shot.”Five, side pocket.”
“Yeah…?” She stopped again and looked up at Allen, gauging his reaction as much as he was gauging hers. She figured the only way through this conversation would be to finally give an opinion. “…I love how Chip Savage was so kind and convenient to help us win the fight.” She banked the one ball so hard it almost flew off the table and missed the side pocket.
“I know what you mean. You know what? In all my years of service, I have never seen the guy? I wonder if he’s even real. Hell, we’re not even near Juneau.” Wright and Zymani’s heads snapped up.
“…We’re not?” Zymani didn’t care how stupid she sounded. “Did they name it to throw enemies off? Like some sort of misdirection?” But the Migou had still found the base.
“Almost. They named it Juneau because they don’t want the public to know the truth. The Migou invasion has pushed farther inwards than they know. Juneau fell a while ago.”
Zymani’s angry shell shattered. Chip, the news reports, and now Juneau. What did the NEG tell her that wasn’t a lie? And how were they supposed to win a war if the people fighting didn’t know the truth half the time? Her grip on the cue tightened. How was this different from the Migou feeding her people lies and treating them like pawns? No, she would not share the pawn’s fate!
“Barcelona? It’s your turn…” Zymani blinked at Wright who looked at her as if she had bug wings. She looked down at her knuckles, almost white with rage around the cue. She shook the thoughts out of her head. She was an Engel pilot, not some Migou slave.
“Sorry guys. Here, Allen, you can finish the game.” She handed the cue to Allen and brushed her bangs away from her face. “I’m kinda tired. I’m going to go to my room. Buenas noches.”
Wendell walked into the bar. He spied Akita trying to chat up Honey. The old Ritz charm would probably work better.
"So...you come here often?" Honey looked at Akita. That was seriously the best he could muster.
"...Yeah. We're stationed here."
Wendell interrupted their conversation with a slap on Akita’s back. "Hello there sweet Honey." He gave her the famous Haversham eyebrow wiggle. "Can I get you a drink?"
"I'll always have a drink with a comrade." She didn't seem too fazed by the Haversham eyebrows.
"Can I get you two drinks?" Akita piped in. Honey smirked at him.
"Sure. Oh hey Panic!" Honey motioned to Panic as he entered the bar. Bensen sighed as he walked over to join them.
"Hey Honey," he sat down at the bar and ordered a beer.
"Well I gotta go catch up with someone. You'll remember me later." Wendell gave Honey the Haversham brows again before leaving.
"What do you need?" Cookie leaned back in his chair and put his feet up on his desk.
"Please, call me Cookie."
"Okay, Cookie..." Why was he doing this again? Right, cause he might as well have some fun and make some low friends in high places while he was here. "Is there a corner of the office that we could talk in with nobody hearing?"
"This is my office. No one can hear us."
"Alright then...Have you heard of the Havershams or Ryan Orwell?" He gave Cookie a small wink.
"I may have. Why?"
"They might have some profitable business offers for you in the future."
"I see. And what would they want in return?"
"Some kickbacks, mostly in the form of goods."
"Of course. Anything else?"
"One more thing. Roses and chocolates delivered to this room." Cookie raised a brow.
"I see. Well, thank you for your business."
"And you for yours." Wendell closed the door behind him.
The bar got louder and friendlier as the night went on. Panic leaned closer to Akita, the alcohol heavy on his breath.
"Y'know, you...you're a pretty good guy Akita. I didn't think I'd find anyone here that saw things like I do. I-I mean it's not great here, but it's better than the other option."
"I know what you mean." Akita gave him a light pat on the shoulder.
"Hey Akita, can I talk to you for a sec?" He perked up as Honey called him over.
"What do you need?"
"Nothing, it just looked like you needed rescuing," she gave him a warm smile.
Wendell walked back into the bar, wondering what else he could accomplish on this oh so productive day. He saw Akita talking with Honey again. Wendell hung back this time, looking cool and unconcerned. He saw out of the corner of his eye a woman fluttering her eyelashes at him. His chances with her were better but ugh, Nazzadi. Oh well. He walked over to the bar and ordered her a drink. She giggled as she took the glass.
“My name’s Kitia.” She leaned in close, looking up at him with big red eyes.
“…I’ll call you Kitty.” She giggled again, not taking those damned red eyes off him. “So, your place?”
“Um, I dunno about that. My roommate might not like me bringing back a guy again. But I do know one place…” She pulled him by the shirt and led him out of the bar.
Honey stretched and looked at her PCPU on her wrist.
“Oh, it’s getting kinda late. I should get back to my room.” She started to get up, but Akita was already helping her with her chair.
“Do you want me to walk you to your room?”
“Akita,” she put a hand on his shoulder, “You’re sweet, but you’re not my type. Thanks anyways.”
“Oh, alright…” Akita watched her walk out, then sat in her stool and ordered another drink.
Zymani knocked loudly on her door, in case her roommate had any male company.
“Gregs? It’s Barcelona.”
“Come in.” She found Lt. Gregs alone, changing into pajamas. “And you don’t have to worry about knocking, but I expect the same of you.”
“Understood,” Zymani gave her a quick nod.
“Don’t have to be so formal either…” Honey crawled into the bed and pulled the sheets over herself. “Goodnight Barcelona.”
“…Night Gregs.” Zymani changed into her pajamas and slipped under her covers.
Kitia leaned against the door, panting.
“That was-“ Wendell hit her head against the wall and she slumped, unconscious. He buckled his belt and put his shirt back on. He waited and her eyes flickered back open. “Wha…?”
“That just happened.” He tried not to look smug.
“Woah…but why does my head hurt?”
“Oh, um, blood pressure, heart rate…that stuff.” He slipped away before he had to answer any more questions.
Wendell was surprised not to find Chopper in their room yet. The sheets were still mussed. He shrugged and went to sleep.
It seemed like he had just fallen asleep when an intense pain rocked him out of his sleep. Then realization hit him.
“I owed you that one,” Chopper slurred.
Wendell pulled the sheets over his face and turned away from Chopper.
“If you’re gonna kiss me, cuddle first.”
“Get up you sonnofa bitch!” Wendell tiredly rose from the bed. Chopper was swaying in the middle of the room, whiskey bottle in hand.
“Hey, before this goes any farther…” He paused, and then punched Chopper in the face.
“You bastard!” Chopper swung, but he stumbled and missed. Wendell jumped behind him and held his arms.
“Cool it McBane!” Chopper started shaking as Wendell realized that he was sobbing and let go.
“My…he was my best friend…” Wendell locked the door, sat next to Chopper, and patted him on the back. McBane tilted the bottle to him and Wendell took a sip. “You…you smell like Nazzadi…” Wendell was not amused, but Chopper seemed to ignore it and took a swig of the whiskey. “I wasn’t crying…” Chopper wiped his nose on his arm. Wendell took the bottle back and finished it off.
“No, you weren’t.”
The sun was excruciatingly bright for Akita. He had just woken up and it was already a terrible day. He was gonna be late if he didn’t get to the Captain faster, but everything wouldn’t stop moving. Captain Boomhouser glared at him as he stumbled into line.
“Those Locusts from yesterday are pressing our borders. Lt. Wright, you’re going to head a scouting mission covering six waypoints. The route will be loaded into your HUD. Do not stray too far from the route and do not pursue the enemy. We c an’t afford to lose any more mecha. Good luck, soldiers. Dismissed.”
Greyhawk grabbed a bagel before climbing into his mech. Moody couldn’t keep his breakfast down. He decided to just go with coffee. Ritz found a surprise in his mech: flowers and chocolates.
“No! This isn’t where they’re supposed to be!” Ritz sighed with exasperation. “Guess I’ll just deliver it myself.”
The mecha moved through the forest in a pack. Moody scouted up ahead with Zymani between him and the group. They made it to the first waypoint without a problem. Then a ghost blip popped up on Moody’s scanner, out of the way of the route.
“Greyhawk, we’ve got a ghost.”
“Alright. Moody, investigate the last location of the ghost. RoseRage, stay between us.” This time the ghost popped up between Zymani and the main group.
“I saw it, transmitting coordinates.” Gir tensed up around her. She didn’t like this.
“Everyone, form up at the last known location of the ghost.” The hair on the back of Akita’s neck rose. Something gave him a feeling that he was being watched.
“I think I see a shimmer.” He switched to thermal and then x ray scanners. Two Dragonflies stood cloaked in front of a tree, two more were in the air. “There’s two pairs of cloaked Dragonflies.”
“Moody, relay the coordinates and come back to us. Don’t let them know you saw them.”
“Permission to drop a grav bomb, sir?”
“…Permission granted.” Zymani held her breath. Two Dragonflies popped up in front of her where she guessed the bomb landed. She fired her plasma cannon at them, but somehow they still managed to dodge. Zephyr turned and let his shiny new Blizzard’s rockets loose. A Dragonfly appeared with a chunk missing from its left side. Shrapnel shimmered over the other Dragonfly. Greyhawk’s rockets turned it into shimmering confetti. Ritz shot a laser and cut its friend in half.
Moody’s laser missed the Dragonflies near the trees. They fired back him, but he stumbled and moved out of the way of one blast. The other glanced off his armor. Zephyr’s mech held out its palm and an arc of lightning jumped back and forth between the two Dragonflies. Smoke rose from their shells as their circuits fried. Greyhawk shot a laser at one, shaving off its armor before it exploded. Before Zymani realized what she was doing, her Engel crouched and then lept at the last Dragonfly.
Its wings buzzed as it struggled in Gir’s claws. She wanted to kill it quickly, just as the Migou would if they caught her. Then she heard another voice. Yes, it would be fun to see now a Dragonfly fluttered with its wings pulled off one by one. Ritz’s Cherub landed nearby. Its tail whipped around, twirled, and bashed the Dragonfly in half. Gir’s head snapped to look at Ritz. Zymani’s cockpit rumbled as Gir let out a low, ominous growl.
Something else grabbed their attention. A Migou fluttered up from the wreckage in Gir’s claws.
“Oh god, what the f-“ Moody’s comm was cut off. Zymani stared at it with morbid fascination. Maybe now she could pick it apart and play with it, find what made these flies such a difficult foe. Before she could reach out to touch it, the Migou started to melt and imploded. Damnit.
“Moody? Moody you there?” Ritz’s Cherub moved towards Moody. His mech was slowly drifting towards the ground.
“W-what? What happened? Why is there puke in my helmet?” Moody’s mech righted itself.
“Moody, do you see anything else on the scanners?” Greyhawk hadn’t been close enough to see the Migou like Zymani did.
“Negative, I don’t see anything else.”
“Alright, let’s continue on.”
This was only the second waypoint, Zymani thought.
"I love Kirby!" "That's lame, all you do is spam rock attack." "But you just got rocked."