“Aw… crap…,” says Jazz over the radio in my ear, “Incoming!”
Suddenly the dark skies are taken over from the white flash of an explosion. I didn’t see immediately where it lands, and am tossed aside like a leaf on the wind. Just faster. And with a semi hard stop at the end. At least packed snow isn’t concrete. I spring back to my feet, noticing immediately that one of the Ares Dragon cargo helicopters is an inferno. Damn. There goes the gas to go home. “Hey Jazz,” I call out over the radio, “how about more than a two second warning next time?”
“Yeah, yeah,” she grumbles back.
“Hey Crazies,” I call to the gang, " do something about those visitors south."
A bunch of chatter suddenly floods the radio, with calls like “What was that?”, “Where’s those troops”, “I got somethin’ for y’all,” but most is nonsense.
“If you see anybody, and it ain’t us, kill ‘em. It’s what we’re paying you for!” I shout over the radio. I know they aren’t making it out, but they don’t know that yet. Expenses are getting cheaper by the body. “Spitfire, get those guys some orders. I’m on my way.”
“The Gwich’en Alaskans have no part of this fight,” Runs with Caribou says coldly. “You hit my town or it’s civilians, and we might have some problems!”
“Yeah, got it,” I shout back as I run south.
Gunfire erupts south as I close in. In the darkness, I can’t tell who is who, but the muzzle flashes tell the tale. I can see the short, focused bursts of the assailants in stark contrast to the wild, long bursts from the gangers.
“Hey Spitfire,” I call, “Let’s show ’em your little friend.” This should be good, I think, but then remember something. “Um, and Spitfire, try to avoid any of the town’s buildings and people.” I roll my eyes, though no one can see it.
Suddenly the battlefield to the south is illuminated by a vaguely man shaped living fire. Fire elementals definitely are handy. I can see bodies in the snow, many wearing the combat armor I supplied to the gangers. More importantly, I can clearly see the organized troopers advancing in a standard tactical formation. Predictable. Always handy. I change direction to flank them while the fire elemental has their undivided attention.
“This thing can’t bank worth a damn!” I see the flare countermeasures from the helicopter Jazz is in and a missile tracking towards her. “There’s a second bogey out there fellas,” Jazz says. “Katai, get in the game guy! Oh, I got something for ya…” The familiar whine of Jazz’s rotary autocannon is followed by the flashes of tracers in the dark sky, with the sound and sparks flying off the target it hits.
Don’t have time for Jazz. I’ve got my own problems. I open up with my pair of Guardian submachine guns, downing two of the enemy as I advance. The fire elemental throws flames from it “arms” incinerating two more. The enemy splits up to get more space, but with me on one side, the elemental on the other, and the hapless gang directly in front of them, they have limited options. They spread out, focusing their attentions to me and the elemental. So much the better, I think to myself with a smile.
A rocket takes off from the shoulder launched surface to air missile Katai picked up from the supply chopper. I can see it track into the night sky above me, but better to thin out the heard of security personnel on the ground. I take down two more troopers as the sentry guns begin firing. They’re programmed to attack aircraft in range, though can target individuals on the ground. The familiar boom, boom, boom can be heard followed by the exploding shells as they hit their mark.
“Sounds like the automated Katai’s are in business,” I say into the microphone. An assault cannon shell every half second can wreck anybody’s day, let alone two of them simultaneously.
“Splash one Banshee,” Jazz says. “Good shootin’ down there!”
A ball of flame cast by an opposing mage gains my attention as it engulfs Spitfire, the snow immediately melting around her. As the fire dissipates, I see Spitfire standing on top of a mound of snow with a crackling field of light protecting her and where she stands, all surrounded by wet, semi-frozen, ashen dirt. “Ah, sugah, you gonna have to take me to dinner before you can have your way with me,” Spitfire says calmly.
“Aw, now there’s my bitch,” the deep bass of Katai’s voice sounds almost cheerful.
I figure I should help Spitfire out. With one gun I take down another trooper, as I leap outstretched, holstering the gun in my right hand. I plow into the enemy mage, my right hand around his neck, my gun in his face, and my feet on his chest. But the mage doesn’t crumple as I expect, instead absorbing all of my momentum, leaving me in an awkward position: feet on chest, right hand gripping his throat, which keeps me from touching the ground. “Oops,” I say out loud.
I hear the loud boom of a nearby Panther Assault Cannon and watch the shell blow the lower part of the mage’s left leg completely off leaving a bloody stump and bits of bone and tissue embedded in the melting snow. “Hey Laz,” Katai calls, “look out!” Not surprisingly, the mage falls over, but I catch myself and keep standing.
“Surrender!” I demand of the mage. We need to know who these guys are, and this now legless wage mage would likely have the answers I’m looking for. But before he can answer, his head explodes right in front me, spraying my face with blood, chunks of flesh, and bone fragments. “KATAI!” I shout.
“Woah,” says Katai, “my bad. You needed him, didn’t you?”
“Forget him,” I yell. “You almost blew my leg off!”
“Hey, no worries,” Katai replies, “I can blow the wings off a fly with this thing.”
“Grrr…” I growl.
“Incoming!” Jazz yells again. An air to ground missile impacts and explodes right at Katai’s feet, blowing him backwards and off his feet. He lands in a snow bank, bits of his armor on fire. At that same moment, Spitfire’s magical protection sets off another missile sent her way. The explosion throws her back, shoving her deep into the snow around her.
“Jazz,” I order, “do something about that, will ya?”
“On it,” she replies.
I see the last of the gangers fall, being chopped to bits by a cybernetically enhanced soldier, who is making short work of them with a set of metal blades extending from his forearms. However, his team is fairing no better, with the fire elemental taking its rage out on them. I figure I’ll give the cyberguy someone else to worry about, and shoot him in the back twice from my submachine guns. That definitely catches his attention. He turns and leaps towards me, closing the distance in one long leap. Cyberlegs? Really? Who does that?
“Banshee number two is breaking off and heading north,” Jazz says. “Pursue?”
“No,” I say as I duck the blades thrust at me by cyberguy. “We need to protect our base, and losing air cover ain’t an option.” I grunt as I block one of cyberguy’s arms, but I let loose a burst from one of my submachine guns in a soft spot of his armor, in the arm pit. He screams out in pain. An explosion happens behind him, pushing him into me, but I manage to keep my feet. Apparently, Katai recovered from the missile.
“Look out Laz,” Katai says.
“Warn, THEN shoot,” I yell, “not the other way around!”
Cyberguy’s body goes limp. Damn. Lost another interrogation. I run over to Spitfire while Katai blows the legs off of the remaining troopers. “Stop playing with them Katai,” I say, shaking my head. Katai switches to heads instead of legs.
“Spitfire, you okay?” I ask.
“Hell no!” she yells, then coughs up some blood in her mouth. “Are you stupid or something?” She starts casting a spell, and her wounds begin to heal.
“Hey Spitfire,” Katai says as he walks over to us, “when you’re done with yourself, I could use a little of your attention, if you know what I mean.” Winking, he takes out a drinking straw from his pocket and starts to chew on it. Odd habit, but I suppose it’s better than smoking.
Jazz brings in the chopper for a landing. Everything returns to the silent night.