Mark “Coop” Cooper
Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Earth, United Commonwealth of Colonies
MOUNTs were not designed to be stealthy. Sure, they had cammo, but that was meant to hide them from artillery, land or shipboard. Trying to hide a MOUNT in a deserted city was next to impossible. Even if the cammo helped upset the mark-one eyeball, you could hear the big metal machine from a kilometer away. They were designed to be the ultimate weapon; big guns protected by thick armor, bigger shields, and a big ass sword as the cherry on top.
Coop traded stealth for speed for the first few kilometers. If the aliens sent fighter after him, he might be able to jump in a building again, or he might not. Shit had already hit and coated the fan into a thick sludge, so any plan was better than nothing right now.
He was out of line-of-sight from the grunts, which was a good thing. From what he’d seen so far, they’d get killed real quick doing what he was about to do. About a klick out he slowed his roll, and tried to creep closer to the shimmering shield.
<Fuck, it looks warm in there,> Coop cursed as he ducked his head down and peeked around buildings, checking his corners. He had 10mm plasma rounds locked and loaded to obliterate anything he came across.
At an intersection, he checked his route forward, and quickly pulled it back. A convoy of vehicles was rolling past about a hundred meters down the road.
“Can I get a count on those?” he asked his Battle AI.
“All military systems are still compromised,” the AI replied.
“What about civilian systems? Are traffic protocols still operational?” He remembered the cameras at every intersection back in the PHA. The pigs wanted to let the rats know they were always watching. Maybe, just maybe, he could use the Commonwealth’s obsession with surveillance to his advantage.
“Municipal traffic protocols are still active. Unable to connect, but if you can locate a node, I should be able to access the system. I’m highlighting the nearest node.” Coop was glad the AI was thinking ahead. He was also surprised that the system was up when much more important systems had been shut down by the enemy. However, he wasn’t one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
A waypoint highlighted past the intersection the vehicles had just rolled through. <Well at least it’s in the right direction,> he thought. He waited a minute to make sure the convoy was through before creeping down the street.
“Do a full workup on those vehicles,” he ordered the AI. “Anything that can help: weapons placement, propulsion, weak points. Give me something.”
“I will endeavor to provide,” the AI quipped.
“Holy shit, did you just make a funny?” Coop asked the silicon brain in his armor. He got no answer, which was confirmation enough for him.
He didn’t have any problems reaching the node. Various transmitters were on the roof, and after making sure there wasn’t any malicious code waiting to ambush them, they were able to get access to the traffic net. The data it provided was surprising.
First, everything inside the enemy’s shield was offline. The AI pinged the shield whenever it thought it was safe to do so, and the temperature was gradually rising.
<Slow is smooth and smooth is fast,> Coop reminded himself. He couldn’t help the people trapped in there if he was dead. And if he took on a superior force without planning out what to do, he’d get dead real quick.
He got his first good look at the ETs camping out around the outside of the shield. They’d set up a little HQ. It wasn’t a repurposed building, or hastily erected bunker. It looked like the ETs had literally made a small domed structure out of a shield. It wasn’t as translucent as the shields Coop usually saw, so he wondered if it affected its efficiency.
<I’ll figure that out sooner rather than later.> Whoever was in charge was probably in there, so that was a priority target.
It looked like three vehicles hovered a meter off the ground, lined up against the big shield. Lingering around them were under a dozen soldiers, or at least Coop assumed they were grunts. Half were small things, while the other half were some big motherfuckers hauling around some serious looking ordinance. He’d need to deal with the big ones first. The little cones he could crush with his boot.
<Eight aliens, three vehicles, one that looked like it has a heavy weapons system mounted on it, and a shielded HQ. I can deal with that,> Coop psyched himself up and laid out a plan.
“Slow is smooth and smooth his fast,” he breathed out a mantra older than the Commonwealth. This was what he’d been trained for. It was time to execute.
He reviewed his plan one last time, thought of the aliens’ counters to his actions, and his counter to their counter actions. His mind was a melting pot of tactics and the consequences of his decision making. <Fuck it,> he thought at last, before he overanalyzed the entire situation.
“Let’s get this party started,” he took a deep breath and braced himself.
If he was going to start this thing off with a bang, he needed to bring the biggest boom. That meant the next-gen accelerator. The MOUNT purred like the high-performance machine it was as a round was loaded into the cannon and it began to hum. As power built, he moved onto phase two of his self-planned op. As quietly as possible he ejected micromissiles from his chest.
The missiles themselves had been corrupted by the ET’s hack. Any connection to them would trigger their self-destruct. As far as cyber intrusion went, it was genius. What better way to take down a MOUNT then have the missiles cook off inside the shields? Even the extra-shielded womb wouldn’t be able to stand up to the cascading destruction.
Coop might not be able to fire them, but he could still use them. He stuck as many of them into his metal gauntlet as possible and prepared to chuck them into the enemy’s position. A quick pulse from his systems, that his AI terminated so no more malware could backtrack, would detonate the missiles. In effect, he was using them as grenades.
He was giving them a one-two punch, and then coming in to finish off the foot soldiers. The icon for his accelerator burned green, and he pulled the mental trigger. A shockwave expanded around him as his body bucked and tingled like he’d been kicked by a horse into an electric fence. Thankfully, he didn’t get tossed on his ass.
He hadn’t even started his next move when the accelerator’s round, a trail of burning atmosphere behind it, hit the enemy’s HQ. Whatever the shield was, it wasn’t strong enough to take that blast at close range. The construct exploded from the force of the round’s penetration, and then got hit by another wallop of energy as the explosion rebounded off the shield behind it to strike it a second time. There weren’t even the screams of the dying. Whatever was in there just ceased to exist.
Coop dug his metal boot into the ground and started moving. The trail of burning atmosphere was a dead give away for his position. As he moved, he cocked his arm back and tossed the four missiles in his palm. They arched over the buildings toward their intended target: the vehicle with the heavy weapon. The ETs were already communicating and responded to his attack, but they weren’t ready for the inbound missiles lobbed into their midst.
His AI initiated the burst and all four missiles exploded on target. The vehicles seemed to be powered down and unshielded, so all three went up like it was the Fourth of July. Any ETs near them were thrown on their faces or asses by the force of the blasts. A few even bit it for good.
“Now the hard part,” Coop turned ninety degrees and crashed into the nearest building.
He careened through it, probably destroyed tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise. He exited the back wall, and immediately proceeded into the next store. His foot caught on something, and he almost face planted, but kept going. Mid-stride he pulled his portable shield from its storage space and powered it up.
He went through two more buildings before he finally burst into his target area, executing a forward combat roll to throw off the enemies targeting. There was no way they hadn’t heard him coming.
“Shit,” a white beam of intense light blasted over his head as he came out of the roll. It was coming from one of the big ETs, so he leveled his graviton cannon at it and fired. The thing’s shield sparked as the ultra-dense round hit it, and the thing was thrown backward off its feet.
Coop scanned left pulling the trigger three more times in quick succession. Two hit the little fuckers and made them go splat, and the third decked another big one. By then, more white laser beams were converging on him and impacting his shields.
“Fuck . . . fuck . . . fuck,” he grunted as the shield gauges dropped precipitously.
With his portable shield nearly out of power, he decided it was worthless and chucked it at the nearest big one. The thing dived out of the way with more grace and agility than something that size should have, but Coop was pressing the initiative. Violence of action was the name of the game, and he could be very violent. Three more shots from his cannon targeted the thing before it came out of its twisting roll. The first struck its shield and slapped it hard into the ground. The second defeated its shield, and the third blew its chest out its back.
“That one’s for Earth, motherfucker!” Coop cheered as he spun to take on the next wave.
His rear shields had already dropped forty percent during the exchange, so it helped to put a new front to his enemy. By now, they’d spread out to engage him, and limit his targeting. Thankfully, he could focus on multiple things at once.
His AI automatically updated his vision and categorized his threats. The biggest ones were the identified as Echo-One and Two, while the two little ones still running around were Three and Four.
“Keep Two suppressed, I’m going after One,” he ordered his AI. The AI responded by engaging the second big ET with both of the MOUNT’S swatters. Sheer weight of firepower made the ET duck for cover.
Coop pressed against his target. They were in an open area, with only the shield behind them, and the destroyed HQ to the side. The thing didn’t have anywhere to hide, but that didn’t stop it from unloading on him with that white beam thing. It struck him directly in the chest shield, and zapped his shield strength. He fired back, but the thing ducked and rolled backward like some contortionist.
<Freaky,> he grimaced, and tagged its shield with a second hit.
His third and fourth shots missed as the enemy maneuvered, but he matched it step for step, and kept backing it towards the shield. He fired one last time, catching the creature in the shoulder, and spewing blood, bone, or whatever these things were made of against the energy barrier, but the thing wasn’t down for the count.
He knew he had to finish it quickly before he scurried away, so he lowered his shoulder and plowed right into it. Its skin smoked as the two energy barriers ground against it, but it wasn’t dying. Coop put more power into his legs, and pushed. A few seconds later the thing practically burst like a balloon.
“Ugh, that’ll put me off meat for a while,” he was thankful he couldn’t smell the thing. “Is one still . . .?” he started to query the AI when a something hard hit him, and picked his big metal ass off the ground.
“Fuck!” pain flooded his brain. It felt like his leg was on fire.
“Shield down,” ten seconds to reengage.
“What the fuck was that,” he tried to pick himself up, but the pain flared again. His swatters had stopped engaging the enemy when he got blasted on his ass, so he laid down some cover fire with his cannon.
“Echo-three self-destructed and the blast breached the outer shield. Armor integrity is holding at seventy-percent. Dispatching repair bots now. Synaptic recoil will stabilize shortly.”
“Whatsa recoil,” he grimaced. The pain was lessening, and he rolled to the opposite side before pushing himself to his feet. Not a moment too soon, another white beam stabbed out and melted the ground around where he’d been.
<Can’t let those little assholes sneak upon me again,” he scanned for the little ET, and found him doing just that; hauling what looked like a bomb half its own size.
“Fuck you!” he pointed his cannon at it and blew it to hell. “Three down, one to,” a blood-curdling roar ripped through the air as the last, lone ET broke free from where it was taking cover and charged him.
He tried to get to his feet, but the thing used the same move Coop had to kill its friend. It hit him right in the gun and drove him back to the ground. He was able to get a shot off, right into the thing’s gut, but its shield absorbed it. Now the ET was on top of him, and was able to pin its arms to his side.
“Just need a second,” he grunted He could tell he was stronger, he just needed to divert power.
Then he realized the thing had two extra sets of arms, and one was holding a wicked looking dagger.
“Fuck!” the arm shot forward and impacted his shield with a spark. As the ET pushed, it drove the dagger deeper and his shield drained faster.
Coop tried to buck it off. The thing rode him like a cowboy, but had to ease up on the pressure to keep its balance. It bought him a second. His mind whirled for a plan, and came up blank. The best he had was to eject and cook off another missile, but he’d fuck up himself in the process. By the time he disregarded that plan, the thing was back trying to impale him.
“Shield at ten percent . . . seven percent . . . five percent . . . recommend you take evasive action,” the AI informed.
“What the fuck do you think I’m trying to do,” Coop yelled back as he watched the tip of the dagger with fear. It was positioned right over his womb.
Like the universe was just waiting for its big moment, bursts of plasma struck the ET from behind. It lurched forward from the impact, as the grunt’s Coop had left behind flooded into the area and opened up on the ET. They were using their 40mm grenade attachments, and it looked like it was doing the trick. Coop bucked again, and the thing went careening off him and onto the ground.
It rolled out of it like a pro and grabbed a secondary weapon from its combat gear. It looked like a pistol, but the white blast it emitted, skewered the SSG like he was nothing. It gunned down the other grunt with similar ease, but as it turned back to Coop, he was ready. He had his graviton cannon up and pointed at the thing’s gut.
“Die asshole,” he pulled the trigger, bisecting the thing, and blew its stomach and intestines into the sky.
After the thing’s bottom half sloshed off him, he laid there for a few more moments. “Son of a bitch,” he turned his head to see where the SSG and the other grunt’s body were lying motionless. They were as dead as the ETs.
“Shit,” he helfted himself back to his feet. “what the fuck!” he looked down as he got up and saw the ET’s dagger sticking out of his armor.
“The interior shield around the womb stopped the blade, but I suggest removing it so the bots can perform battlefield repairs,” the AI informed.
“No shit,” he offered up a prayer to the engineer who thought another shield layer was a good idea. Then he turned to the shield and the whole reason he was here.
During the fight, the temperature had risen to over one-twenty Celsius. With all the ETs dead, there was no way of figuring out how to turn the thing off, or even where it was powered from. That left a single option.
“Let’s blow it,” he toggled to his weapons menu, and brought the accelerator cannon online. “Go big or go home.” He just hoped enough people had taken shelter and everyone hadn’t been cooked alive.