Two Worlds – Chapter 318

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Smokey Mountains, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“Ow . . . ow . . . easy there, watch the goods,” Coop groaned as the team of techs attempted to gently extract him from his MOUNT. “Remind me again why I signed up for this?”

The question was directed at Eve, who was going through the same painful process. “I don’t know,” she grimaced, “maybe because if you hadn’t, you’d be dead by now.”

“Good point,” he couldn’t fault her logic.

The large hanger protected by the might of the mountain surrounding it, plus layer upon layer of shield generators was bustling with activity. Vehicles hovered and rolled by carrying soldiers, supplies, and refugees. Spyders lay parked wingtip to wingtip, all grounded because the Commonwealth no longer had air superiority. At the moment, they didn’t have anything in the air at all. All of the atmospheric fighters had been destroyed in the aliens’ landing. They’d been able to down some of the alien fighters, but nowhere near enough to be effective. The brass were holding aircraft back now for when they really needed them. The only thing Coop could think of that would warrant that was another breakout.

His current experience with breaking out of a besieged position was not good. He and Eve had been able to take down the shield generator that was boxing the hospital in and turning the area into a microwave. As far as he could tell from their actions, the ETs normally had four such shield generators per their SOP when conducting the human BBQ. The one bright side was that it took all four to sustain the operation, and keep people like him and Eve from engineering a breakout. With one of the four shields down, their swords with the shield breaker bits embedded in them were able to cut through the emergency containment shield the ETs threw up with ease, and shepherd the battalion out. Of course, that didn’t mean the ETs didn’t try to stop them.

Engaging in a running battle for some two hundred miles was possibly the worst experience in Coop’s entire military career. Mostly because when shit hit the fan, the BN needed the MOUNTS everywhere, and there weren’t enough of them to go around. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d slept, or felt so sore.

“We’ll get her fixed up, sir,” a SSG in oil-stained overalls reassured Coop when he finally reached the ground.

This was the first time in more than a week – way beyond the tolerance level of the armor and pilot – that Coop had seen his MOUNT from the outside. It looked like it had gone through the meatgrinder and come out some patchwork monstrosity.

The running battle to the mountains had inflicted enough damage that the repair bots had run out of material. From head to foot, battlefield repair jobs were evident by the off-colored duro-steel replacements from his original, stronger armor. Once the materials were gone, Coop was forced to redesign his shield’s deployment methodology to cover the weak spots. That didn’t always work as well as he’d hoped because the aliens’ blades could cut through shields with enough force just like his sword could.

As he looked at his home for the last week, he saw several gaping holes and exposed wires. An electrician growled and cursed as something finally overloaded and showered him in sparks before going dark.

“Yeah, we had one hell of a party,” Coop ignored the man’s glare, and gave him the finger for good measure. He wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone else’s shit. He was having trouble dealing with his own.

To start, he needed someone’s assistance to walk. He’d been curled up in a ball for so long that his body refused to start working again. Everything was cramped beyond the worst cramp a human being had ever experienced. His muscles protested the most normal range of motions. When they pulled him out of his womb, he’d been placed on the ground until he could straighten his spine, legs, and arms enough to support his own weight. As a proud, powerfully built, top-tier ass kicker, Coop felt completely useless when two of the techs helped pick him up and carry him over to a bench with waiting medics.

Thankfully, Eve was similarly afflicted. Coop’s ego couldn’t handle any more hits at the moment. The medics spent some time looking them over. Running them through a multitude of scans, and shooting them full of medical nanites while attaching them to standard IV drips of nutritious materials. About half an hour after arriving in their battered and broken MOUNTs, Coop and Eve were clear to report into the base commander.

They limped into the command center, and he winced at the amount of external stimuli assaulting his senses. The base clearly wasn’t wired with the new IOR technology in mind. Everything was out-of-date hardware: large screens dominating the walls, stations where soldiers and spacers were hard at work, and one large holo-tank projecting from a large table with seats around it. That table was crowded with officers looking over a tactical map of the area.

Coop knew things weren’t good when he saw the person at the head of the table. The woman only had Commander bars on her uniform. CDRs commanded a few thousand troops at most. Not the tens of thousands of personnel and civilians that had been stuffed into the mountain complex.

“Warrant officers,” the words sounded strange on the CDRs tongue. She clearly wasn’t used to the new rank structure. “Thank you for getting those companies here safely.” It was meant as a compliment, but Eve and Coop involuntarily winced.

The thousand-soldier-strong battalion had lost thirty percent of its strength in the defense of the hospital, but they completed their mission. They held their ground and allowed the doctors, patients, and mission critical materials to be evacuated to the mountains. They would live, while the doctors and materials continued to save lives; not to mention the embryos from the OBGYN department had successfully made the trip. The next generation of Earth’s babies would be born underground during an occupation.

The fighting retreat had taken another four hundred lives. Fire and maneuver, the backbone of modern warfare tactics was difficult in enemy territory, when you were moving as fast as possible to get the hell out of there. When elements broke off in flanking maneuvers, or dug in quickly to provide fire support so the main column could keep running, they usually didn’t come back. The former battalion had entered the mountain bunker with just over three hundred soldiers left, not including the BN commander who’d died during the last leg of the trip.

It was more accurate to call the surviving units companies, but when taking into account what they had started as – a crack frontline infantry battalion – the end result could only be looked at as a failure. As the big guns designed to protect the more vulnerable grunts, Eve and Coop felt a lot of that regret land on their shoulders.

The CDR seemed to realized her mistake, and uncomfortably cleared her throat. “You did all you could,” she reassured, but that was all she could offer. “Let me bring you up-to-date,” she quickly moved on for all their sakes.

The holo-tank reformed to show the entirety of North America. “They hit us from both coasts,” she began as red icons swooped down from orbit and hit major metropolises along both stretches. “They quickly established secure landing zones and began pushing inward.” The timestamp on the bottom of the holo-tank sped up and slowly the lands on the coast faded to red of enemy controlled territory, and the dark crimson started to move inward. “Those are verified dead zones.” She pointed at black blotches that were popping up all over the place. “The aliens seem intent on killing as many of us as possible, and their shielded microwave method is incredibly effective.” Casualty projections also accompanied the presentation, and the numbers were staggering. Tens of millions were already dead on the coasts alone.

“We intended to marshal troops from our reserves in the Midwest, but secondary landings in the Yucatan and Canada put the enemy in perfect position for a pincer movement. We moved as quick as we could, but only got about half our forces out of the midwestern FOBs before the enemy bisected the country and cut us off.” The holo-tank showed the brilliantly executed maneuver, and the growing spread of black encompassing the continent.

“Sure, everything looks brilliantly executed when you have overwhelming technological superiority,” Coop grimaced as he saw his old metropolis go dark. “I could have been stuck there.” Being stranded in the PHA with Eve and Hailey felt like it was years ago. “Hailey!” he had no idea if his ex was still alive. Looking at the holo-tank, and knowing what he did about the fleet’s failure, those odds weren’t good.

“We’ve got no coms or intel from the Blockies or Euros, with all the satellites shot out of orbit, but we expect it’s probably the same as it is here,” the CDR shrugged. Coop agreed, he could care less what was going on in Europe or Asia when his own backyard was on fire.

“How do you know all of this?” Eve asked as she circled the holo-tank with a critical eye.

“The brass spent the last few hours before the invasion laying hardlines to the frontlines. Whenever the enemy finds a buried line, they break it, but more of the undersea cables are untouched.” The CDR’s face grew frustrated. “Of course, every time some private trips over a cord we lose all comms with the west coast, but that’s just the suck we’ve got to push through.”

Intelligence and communication were the backbone of warfare. Without it, they might as well bust out swords and shields and line up nice and neat for the ETs to mow them down. <Well . . .> Coop corrected himself. He’d killed a fair number of BAMFs with his sword and shield routine.

Eve nodded along with the CDR’s explanation. “What’s the plan?” was her next question.

It was an obvious one, but the CDR just stood there with a thoughtful look on her face. “We’ve got some . . . deliberation going on about the appropriate course of action,” she answered diplomatically.

“Translation: you don’t know, or people are swinging their dicks to get their plan approved.” Coop scoffed, which got a glare from both women.

“The remaining brass are considering two possibilities: stay sheltered in place and repel enemy advances until the cavalry arrived, or take the fight to the enemy.”

Typical infantry doctrine favored violence of action and taking the fight to the enemy. Coop was all for that. He loved to kill him some ETs, but in this case . . . “I like living more.” It had taken two MOUNTs to stand up to any significant number of BAMFs. A brigade of grunts with HI support would last an hour against a company of BAMFs and those fucking roaches running around. He had no doubt the commanders arguing for the shelter in place were being called cowards, but Coop had to agree with them. Having fought his way through hundreds of miles of ET controlled territory, waiting might be the best course of action. It was hard to admit that, and the wave of exhaustion that coupled the revelation nearly put him on his ass.

“You two look like shit,” the CDR concluded. “Go get some shuteye. If I know anything about the infantry, it’s that it’ll be a bit before the brass agree on anything. I’ll make sure you’re there for the FRAGO.” She dismissed them with a wave, and Coop was more than happy to comply.

He didn’t even pay attention as some PVT led Eve and him to quarters. He didn’t even ogle as she stripped down to nothing and crawled into bed. His pants had barely hit the floor, and his head the pillow, when he was out cold.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 317

Benjamin Gold

Location: Gold Island, Aurum, Gold Technologies Corporate Territory, United Commonwealth of Colonies

 

Ben groaned as consciousness gripped his mind. He heard the soft lapping of waves against the distant shore, the cry of gulls as they coasted on the thermals, and the murmuring of voices as the house’s staff went about their daily routine. He rolled from one side to the other and looked into the mess of hair that was his fiancé. Her arm was draped over him, and her lithe body was tangled in the sheets. The tangle wasn’t even from crazy monkey sex, she just tossed and turned a lot in her sleep. It was one of the many things he had to get used to with her.

They were both still coping with galactic jetlag. That was a bitch. Ships operated on standard twenty-four hour Earth schedules; but going from being stationed on Earth for months, and then a ship’s schedule since The Disaster – which was what everyone was calling the shitstorm in the Sol system now-a-days – adjusting to a new planet’s solar rotation was tough. If there was anything bad about coming to Aurum that he could think of, it was its planetary rotation: a twenty-eight hour day. It played hell on one’s circadian rhythm when you arrived, but a lot of people swore by it when they adjusted. The planet had a nine-hour standard work-day, but that left three hours for additional activities. At the moment, that meant sleep for the newly arrived Gold family.

They’d flown down from orbit to the family estate, which happened to sit on a private island the size of Massachusetts. Even better, the island was man-made by Thomas Gold himself right off the coast of the capitol city. Even better than that, it was big enough to require a delegate to the planetary governing body. Guess who that was?

The compound itself was a palace in everything but name. In reality, it was more like several palaces as there were homes and staff scattered across the island to take advantage of its great views and minor seasonal changes. This afternoon, which felt like morning, they were at the main compound that surrounded the end of the ten-kilometer bridge that lead to the capitol.

Instead of bedding down in the golden monstrosity, Ben and Jacobi had opted for a smaller guest house, that was still three times larger than anything either of them had ever lived it. By the time they arrived, it was already prepped by the staff and ready to receive them. They ended up just passing out, but now that the room’s sensors were detecting their stirring, things were starting to come alive. A holoscreen popped up with a local morning news station on mute. The scurrying of the staff became more pronounced as they hurried to finish whatever they were doing to prepare for Ben’s awakening.

To the locals, the Gold Family was legendary. They were the people who’d sculpted this paradise from nothing. They owned whole systems, spent GPDs of entire system’s economies on frivolities: although the last one was his half-sister Lillian, who was most likely dead now. Nevertheless, her itchy trigger finger with the family checkbook added to the family’s mystery. All of that was on top of the enhanced genome, and the golden sheen to their skin and hair that made them stand out just a bit from normal people.

As far as he knew, Thomas hadn’t used Gold Island – a stupid name if there ever was one – in years, and now it was the sight of some big conference set to go down today. To say the staff was a little panicked was an understatement.

“What . . . where . . .?” Jacobi groaned into the pillow as her hand felt around for him.

“I’m going to hit the shower,” Ben informed her as he entered the space large enough to hold a family of four.

The autowash setting on the shower felt like a million tiny hands massaging the weariness and dirty out of him. It was better than a massage, and he emerged clean and invigorated. He gave Jacobi’s protruding ass a quick slap to get her moving. Her cursing followed him as he walked down the hallway to the kitchen and dining room.

The staff practically tripped over themselves when he appeared. “Good morning, sir . . . hello, Master Gold . . .” were the common forms of address. He just told them to call him Ben. The look they gave him made it sound like he was the crazy one, but they quickly nodded and laid out a spread fit for a king – or in this case a prince.

“Native and imported fruit, pastries, pancakes, waffles, cereal, oatmeal, four different types of juices, and even a bottle of champagne if we want to start this party early,” Jacobi tried to keep her jaw from dropping as she appeared ten minutes later and plopped down next to him. The staff didn’t defer to her the same way they did Ben, if anything they worshipped the ground she walked on. She was the woman who’d bagged a Gold. That was the dream. Jealousy hid in the eyes of every woman that laid eyes on her.

“They must be used to Liliana staying here,” Ben waved and a person took away the bottle. Both of them wanted their wits about them.

He had already linked his IOR to the island’s net and was busy running a sorting algorithm for anything important he thought he needed to know about. The number of hits he was getting would take him days to go through, so he further filtered to things happening today.

“We’ve got the morning to ourselves,” he informed her as she plowed into the pastries. Her own enhancements were begging for calories after being imprisoned on the carrier. “Prep for the party from 1400 until 1800 . . .”

“Four hours to prep. I already showered,” she replied as some red jelly leaked down her chin.

“I’m not even going to touch that one. You’ll be with mom and Hope for those four hours, they’ll fill you in. There’s a family meeting from 1800 until whenever we’re done, and the party starts at 2000 and goes until it stops. Knowing these things, it will be sometime around sunrise.” He skimmed the guest list, which was a who’s who of corporate elite from all over the Commonwealth. “We should just stay out of the way this morning. It’ll be a logistical operation on par with a division landing on a hostile world for the next eight hours, so the farther away we are the better.”

And that was what they did. They went down and walked the beach for kilometers. Ben carried lunch in a basket, and they had a picnic away from civilization, followed by some pretty mind-blowing sex on the beach; and that didn’t refer to the drink. They returned just in time for an army of fashion experts to descend on them. They were unceremoniously yanked apart and sent to different buildings to prepare. Ben’s transformation from sand-covered-man to heir of the galaxy’s largest corporation took only half the allotted time, so he spent the rest of it digging into what his father might be planning. He knew some type of corporate takeover was coming. Companies were weak after the loss of so many tangible assets on Earth. That made them ripe for the taking. Since it might not be a hundred percent legal to seize things lost by your competitors during an unprecedented invasion of humanity’s home system, his father was going to move with speed and strength to take what he could. Possession was still nine-tenths of the law, and if a company no longer existed when the dust settled, they couldn’t try to get back what had been taken from them at a steal.

Ben guessed dozens of men and women were walking into this party like lambs to a slaughter, and judging by the RADM’s statements two days ago, the fleet was going to back Thomas’s play because they were bought and paid for.

<I wish I was anywhere else,> he realized how condescending that sounded as he sat in a suit that felt like he was wearing a cloud of happiness, reading away on his next-gen IOR, on his family’s private island, on a planet his family owned – and the cherry on top – when his gorgeous fiancé entered looking fucking incredible.

“Wow,” was all he could say as she stepped into the room. He wanted to marry her right here, right now.

The dress the army of stylists had dressed her in was an off-white cream that made her flawless skin shine, and her luscious hair look like it was blazing with life. They’d grown it out until it was damn near waist-length, and then done some artful, complicated bun-hairdo thing that must be all the rage right now. She looked perfect, there was no other way to describe it. Then she stumbled and he had to catch her. He smelled the champagne on her breath as he scooped her up.

“Had a little too much to drink,” he chuckled as he placed her in a chair in one of the many dens in the big house. Staff was busy decorating everything else in whatever theme his father had planned, but this den seemed to be safe for the moment.

“Oh yeah,” she half shouted as she ran her hands over his chest. “Damn you look good.”

“And you look absolutely perfect,” he replied, only to be surprised when she frowned.

“Yep, got to look perfect,” she hiccupped. “Can’t be looking anything less than the best.”

“I’m sorry,” he replied, unsure what to say. “Did something happen?”

“Did something happen?” her eyes swiveled to track him like point defense lasers. “Ha . . . you don’t know. This is going to be fun,” she reached for the table and swiped at nothing but air, as if she was expecting a flute full of bubbly to be present. “Don’t worry hot stuff, you’ll see at this family meeting.”

<What the hell is going on?> he scratched his head, and he accessed his IOR to get his fiancé a pill to sober her up.

A minute later the doors flew open and Thomas, Miranda, and Hope entered all looking exquisite, if not troubled. The last expression was only for the women, if anything, his father looked hungry; and not in the “I need a good steak” kind of way.

“Good, you’re both here,” Thomas stepped to the front of them as Miranda and Hope closed in protectively around Jacobi. “Here’s the plan . . .”

“Yeah, what the hell is going on?” Ben interrupted. His anger flared a bit. “Did someone do something to Jacobi?”

“Not at all. In fact, I’ve spared no expense for this to be the best day of her life,” Thomas replied, with a bit of bite to his tone.

“Yeah, she looks fantastic,” Ben rolled his eyes. He looked over his shoulder and saw her wiping away tears.

“I don’t know what that’s about,” Thomas waved that off. “I hit everything on her wish list: sleeping in, a breakfast with pastries all the way from New Paris, time alone with her fiancé, a picnic on the beach, a little extra on the beach . . .” Ben blushed when his father mentioned that, “ then she wanted to look like a princess. As you can see, she looks extraordinary, and to add to that, the most important and wealthy people in the galaxy are here to bear witness. Not to mention her own parents, who I had flown in last night.”

“Your parents are here?” Ben had yet to meet the Wentworth’s for logistical reasons.

“Of course they are,” Thomas snapped.

“Wait for it,” Jacobi stated.

“Why wouldn’t they be here for their daughter’s wedding.”

Ben just stood there speechless for a few seconds. “Wedding?” he finally asked, stupidly.

“Yep, we’re getting married today,” somehow Jacobi had a flute of champagne in her hand. “Congratulations!” she raised it, and drained it in one gulp.

<Well shit,> Ben plopped down on the couch next to her as his mind went blank.

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Two Worlds – Chapter 316

Eve Berg

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Bethesda Naval Hospital, United Commonwealth of Colonies

Eve sliced at the shield with her sword. It wasn’t like cutting butter. The shield felt like a living, breathing thing. It resisted her attempt to punch through it, and when it felt like she was gaining ground, it would twist like a snake and rebound. <Fucking hell,> she grumbled as she continued to work at it.

The shield buster fragments in the sword were undoubtedly helping, but at the moment she wished she had the whole sword, or at least a full edge, of the shield-defeating material.

She worked the tip up and down, back and forth, fighting the torrent of energy until finally . . . something gave way and the sword slipped through. She twisted the blade, trying to make more room, and tried to push her accelerator through. It took a few minutes of finagling, but she got it.

“Initiate,” she ordered.

The sonic boom of Coop firing his accelerator cracked the world open, and was followed by the ground-shaking explosion as his round hit the target. When the shield didn’t flicker and die, she knew her assumption had been right. The enemy, much like the Commonwealth infantry’s own tactics, had layered shields around the main shield generator. That made it harder to kill, even for the Commonwealth’s best weapons.

Eve didn’t waste any time in adding her firepower to the attack. Her MOUNT bucked from the backblast, and the weapon slid out of the opening she’d created.

<Shit,> she cursed. She got her sword back out and started cutting. <I wish this had a chainsaw function.> She’d bring that up in the giant AAR the Commonwealth was going to have for this gigantic failure of a military operation.

Seconds mattered as she heard the aliens do their weird, sorrowful moaning. She knew that sound only meant trouble. They’d fucked up the little roaches and the BAMFs would be in rampage mode. Not a few seconds later, she heard the roar of a rampaging BAMF and the sound of battle.

<Come on . . . come on . . .> she was sweating inside her womb despite all the climate controls.

After what felt like an eternity, she felt the slip as she sword sank into the shield and she twisted it to make a larger hole. Once it was big enough, she slipped her metal gauntlet through the hole. Two shields sparked against each other a she leveraged her strength to pry open the shield. It resisted every centimeter, but she kept pushing.

When her arms were fully extended, she brought a foot up and stepped on the glowing edge. She almost fell over from the effort. It looked like she was a burglar trying to sneak in through someone’s window. She hoped an ET didn’t walk up and see her looking like this. She’d be an easy target.

With her stronger legs, she was able to make quicker progress. Soon the opening was big enough that she was able to duck and slip in. <Just like sneaking back into the house after a night out drinking,> she remembered her rebellious years after her father’s death and her mother’s constant absence. She’d never actually gotten away with sneaking out. Derrick always found out, but it looked like this time it was going to work.

As she slipped through, the shield snapped shut behind her, resuming its integrity. She didn’t give it a backwards glance as she raced off into the dust-filled air. The sounds of battle were ahead.

 

***

 

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Bethesda Naval Hospital, United Commonwealth of Colonies

“Fuck!” Coop tried to bring his shield back up as the BAMF fell toward him. He thought he had the asshole. He had the thing pinned against the building, and all it would take was a few good stabs to turn the ET into Shish Kabob.

Now, the thing crashed into him like an armed tornado. It landed on his shield and used its two central arms to pull it down. Technically, it wasn’t as much pulling it down as it was just hanging on as gravity and the thing’s body weight did the real work. While the center arms made his shield a liability, the two, strong outer arms went to work. Both were armed with the daggers, and both stabbed at Coop.

One stabbed at the center of his chest, right where the womb was located. The repair bots had patched him up after the last fight, but there was a slight discoloration to the metal, and the ET had zeroed in on that like a heat-seeking missile. The other blade went for his face.

His shields screamed warnings at him as the blades made contact. Coop did the only thing he could think of; he dropped his portable shield and went to grab the ET’s arms. He got the one aimed at his womb just in time. The blade was just about to penetrate when his hand wrapped around the ET’s digits and squeezed. He expected to hear bones break, but the ET just roared in pain and tried that much harder to score a killing blow.

He wasn’t fast enough to get to the other arm, but he did instinctually move his head away from the blade as it penetrated his shield and slashed in a downward arc. Reports of damaged sensors flooded his vision, but he immediately dismissed them. The ET had overextended with the slash to try and take off his head. Now, he had the ET’s arm pinned across its body while they struggled for control of the second blade.

“Fuck you!” he activated his external speakers right before he bashed his damaged head into the ET’s armored helmet. The shock rocked the alien back, but it didn’t let up. “I said, fuck you!” Coop snarled as he bashed his head into the alien’s again.

Their shields sparked against each other, until Coop felt a slight give in the ET’s position. He was stronger, and in a grapple like this, he had the advantage. The ET tried to improve its angle of attack, and Coop countered. He twisted, catching the alien by surprise, and pitched it over his hip. It crashed to the ground and was too slow to get up. Coop jumped on top of it, passing its guard, pinning its stronger, outer arms, and started raining down blows into its head.

The shield sparked from the impacts as the ET tried to buck him off, but eventually he got through. One . . . two . . . three, the ET’s armored helm cracked under the power of his hammer fists. He grabbed the edge of the cracked helmet and yanked. It split like an egg he wanted to scramble and revealed the ET’s face for the first time.

“Ugh, you ugly motherfucker!” Coop cursed.

Its head was oval shape, with a trio of eyes, cords hanging from the back of its head like dark green dreadlocks, and a maw that opened up like some sea creature’s from a nightmare. What started as a normal-looking mouth split open three ways to show rows of jagged teeth, and a central beak-like thing that snapped as the BAMF sat up and tried to take a chunk out of his metal face. All it hit was shield, and it screamed in agony.

“Time to die,” Coop grinned and was about to bash the fucker’s face in when something hit him from the side. “You’ve got to be . . .” he rolled with the blow, and more blade strikes registered against his shields. A new BAMF was trying to stab him in the heart . . . again.

“Where are you all coming from?” he yelled to no one in particular, as he kicked up, caught the BAMF in the chest, and sent it flying.

The creature twisted in the air, pulled out a beamer like a kung-fu action star, and shot Coop in the face. His shield saved him, but it was down into the single digits. He struggled to his feet to face the new foe, and the ET, whose bucket he’d ripped off, tackled him from behind, driving him to his knees. Then the thing grabbed his arms from behind and pried them open. The hydraulics protested as they fought the pull, but these fuckers were strong. The other ET got up, shook itself off, and hefted its blade and stalked back over to Coop.

<Fuck . . . fuck . . . fuck . . .,> Coop frantically tried to do something, but the ET was already on top of him, and plunging the dagger into his chest.

His shield sparked in resistance, but it only held for a few seconds, before it slipped through and into his armor.

{Warning. Outer shield and armor penetration. Inner shield integrity at eighty-seven . . . sixty-six percent. Recommend evasive actions.} His AI deadpanned.

Coop didn’t have time to respond before a heavy presence shot past his head, and the feedback pierced his mind like the worst hangover ever. He looked forward as his vision wavered and saw the BAMF stumbling back as it was rocked by more strikes. The thing tried to raise its beamer, but a chunk of it got blasted apart as its shield failed in a swirl of lights. A second later, its bleeding carcass was on the ground twitching. Both the ET behind him, and Coop, were too surprised to react, but then the moment caught up with them. Coop surged forward and tried to roll away. The ET abandoned the hold on his arms and went for the throat. Coop let it, because he didn’t need it to breath. He concentrated on driving elbows into the BAMF’s sides until it let up enough for him to wiggle free.

Coop rolled away ready to fight, but Eve shot the BAMF dead on the ground as she approached. Green gore splattered all over him as the kill shot sprayed its unarmored head across half a city block. The black beak-pincer thing clattered against his shield as it was blown clear out of the ET.

Coop bent down and picked it up. The appendaged was still shivering and clicking because the nerves in it didn’t know it was dead yet.

“About time,” he called out to Eve, more than a little irritated. He’d been up to his ass in BAMFs.

“Um, Coop,” she pointed at his chest.

“Damnit!” Coop cursed as he pulled the alien dagger from his chest for the second time in as many days.

{Dispatching repair bots,} his AI informed. {We are running low on supplies, so in the future please refrain from getting stabbed.}

“Hahaha, you’ve got jokes now,” Coop wasn’t in the mood, as he mag-locked the ET’s weapon to his side, and went to grab his own sword and shield he’d dropped when the BAMF jumped him.

“You good?” Eve asked, concern thick in her tone.

“Nothing a beer won’t fix,” he replied. “Now let’s finish this thing,” he activated his accelerator and turned it on the location of the shield generator. “I think if we give it a good one-two punch, we should be able to overwhelm the generator’s shielding.”

Eve didn’t reply, she just activated her own accelerator, anchored her position, and waited for his go. They let their AIs work out the timing, and then the battlefield ripped apart by duel accelerator blasts.

One salvo ended up not being enough, but a rapid reload and second did the trick. The generator went up in a respectable ball of flames, and the shield it was powering flickered and died.

“Let’s move,” Eve ordered as she led the way. “We get to escort the remains of the battalion out of here. If we can make it to the mountains, we should have a fighting chance.”

Coop didn’t know about that, but he did know that was where his baby girl was, so that’s where he wanted to be. <If there’s any place to make a last stand. It’s there.>

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Two Worlds – Chapter 315

Mark “Coop” Cooper

Location: North American Eastern Seaboard, Bethesda Naval Hospital, United Commonwealth of Colonies

 

“Initiate,” Eve’s voice whispered in his ear.

Neither was sure the tight beam laser they were using for comms was secure this close to an enemy position. They knew the enemy’s cyber capabilities were vastly superior, and being cut off from any other Commonwealth forces, they didn’t know if their cyber geeks had discovered any work-arounds.

With a sense of urgency, Coop toggled to his next gen magnetic accelerator and hit the brace button. His right foot was in the air, and a meter-long spiked drill bit shot out right before he stomped down. There was a whine as the drill activated and bit into the earth. A second later a green light appeared on his HUD, indicating he was braced. The cannon hummed as it rotated position, and then came the calm before the storm; a split second where everything was silent before it tore a hole in the world.

Even braced, Coop was rocked back by the force of the blow. Thankfully, he didn’t fall on his ass. The round ignited the air as it drew a line to the target: the administration building the ETs had stolen from the Commonwealth. The round flew so quickly it looked like it detonated simultaneously when fired. Smoke, debris, and bits of alien body parts leapt into the air and came down in a destructive downpour.

Then Eve hit it. Her round came streaming in with its own fiery trail, and smashed into the target. Roars went up from the defenders as they realized they were under attack.

“Shield is still up,” Eve announced. “I’ll try to get through. Hold them off.”

<On to Plan B,> Coop felt his blood sing as he retracted his drill spike and sprinted into the growing dust cloud.

Plan A was to hit the enemies shield cone, take it down, and book it. Their scouting returned no fewer than twenty-four of the aliens in the immediate area; twelve being BAMFs. They were confident their initial strike would take down four, maybe five, but it all depended how many were in the actual building. They’d only seen sentries on the walls, and extrapolated from there.

They still had no idea what the military organizational structure of the enemy was. So far, no one had seen ground forces other than the BAMFs and the little roaches. They hadn’t seen any formations, seen any officer insignia, or even seen ones giving orders to another. The closest thing was when Coop took down the ETs trying to BBQ the small town on his way to Bethesda, and that had only been an BAMF in a shield construct that Coop assumed was some type of commander. He had no way of knowing. Hell, that BAMF could have been taking a human-sized dump, and the command shack could have been a shitter. In the long run it didn’t matter because he’d killed them all, but the amount of intel on the enemy was concerning. You couldn’t defeat them if you didn’t know anything about them.

With Plan A being a bust, Plan B involved an attack on the defenders, the destruction of the shield cone so the battalion could break out of the sauna the hospital was becoming, and they could all beat a hasty retreat toward the mountain fortifications. That all sounded well and good, but Plan B also meant Coop had to hold off all the enemies until Eve could get there to help. She had the shield standing between her and the enemy’s position, and while she’d been able to cut a hole so her super dense, super accelerated round could get through the shield and hit the target, to make a cut big enough to fit her big metal ass through would be much more difficult.

The flecks of the shield buster round forged into their blades made all that possible, but it was going to be slow going. It took time and muscles to make a six-meter hole, and then squeezing through it was a whole different story. It was not the intended purpose of the MOUNT to contort like that, but when you were neck deep in shit you, learned how to doggy paddle or you died.

The cloud swallowed Coop as he sprinted into it, his massive legs carrying him half a dozen meters with each step. It made visibility shit, but if he couldn’t see, then neither could the enemy. Thankfully, his Battle AI was running algorithms to help that.

{On your right.} An outline appeared in his vision. I was one of the roaches, probably on a scouting mission to find out what the hell just brought the hammer of Thor down on their asses.

<Easy,> Coop grinned in his womb as he pointed and clicked with his graviton cannon, turning the roach into roach soup . . . which of course made one of the remaining BAMFs go ape-shit. Coop moved away and laid an ambush, ejecting one of his corrupted missiles to use as a high-powered grenade.

The BAMF walked right into his kill zone. The cloud exploded outward as the three-meter monster skidded to a stop at the fallen roach. It seemed to wail in sorrow and agony at the sight of its fallen kin, and then Coop hit it in the face with a fastball. He pulsed a data transmission at the missile at just the right moment so it exploded in the ugly fucker’s face. It didn’t break through the BAMFs shield, but it succeeded in stunning it, and knocking it on its ass. That let Coop jump into the fray, cannon blazing, and pounding it while it tried to get up.

The third ball of hyper-dense gravity knocked out the shield, the fourth punched into its chest, making a concave portion of its armor break bones and god knew what else in the alien’s biology. The fifth hit the thing’s head hard enough to kill it, but just to be sure, Coop put another round into its chest. He was going to triple-tap it to make sure the thing was dead. The last thing he needed was it getting back up and . . .

Something big and heavy hit him from behind. He was knocked down onto his face, and instinctively rolled. Thankfully he did, because a one of those big-ass knives drove pommel deep into the ground where he’d been. As the BAMF that had ambushed him tried to retrieve its blade, Coop just punched the ET in the head. Apparently, it hadn’t been prepared for that, and got propelled into the air. Coop got to his feet, reached down, and yanked the ET’s knife out of the ground.

“I’m going to kill you with your own knife, asshole,” he taunted, although, the way the ET just looked at him, it was clear it didn’t speak English. It did however, not like its shit stolen, so it charged him.

Blade in one hand, and cannon in the other, Coop shot it down as it approached. He knocked out the shield and shattered a leg, so it was easy to grab the thing by the head and slit its throat; fulfilling the promise he’d made to it.

“ETA?” Coop asked as he slinked back into the debris. The enemy would send out more scouts and know it had a fight on its hands. If they had any indirect fire, or orbital bombardment options, he wanted to be somewhere else.

“Almost there,” Eve’s voice sounded strained.

“That’s what she said,” Coop joked as he rounded a corner, and his shield sizzled as a bream of white light punched into it. “Fuck!” he threw himself back behind the cover of the buildings, which didn’t last long under the beam’s assault.

He replayed the sensors and caught sight of two BAMFS walking down the boulevard toward him. <Well that sucks.> He told himself as he laid out his options. <Fuck it.> he toggled to the accelerator.

It took five seconds to get everything set and power up. <No time to brace,> that would make him too big of a target. He just hoped he didn’t break anything. He jumped out into the intersection, lined up the shot, and fired.

The back blast shot him into a nearby building, completely destroying the small shopping center, but it was better than one of the BAMFs, who basically exploded on impact when hit with the shell. Its shield didn’t do shit.

<Glad to know the tech difference isn’t that extreme,> he mentally patted himself on the back as he extracted himself from the ruins. He scanned the battlefield. <Shit,> the other BAMF was nowhere in sight. Leading with his grav-cannon, he advanced toward its last known position.

“Come out come out wherever you are,” he did his best impression of a serial killer on the prowl.

In response, a beamer engaged from his right, smacking into one of his directional shields. Its power level dropped precipitously before he was able to get out of the way and put two graviton shots into the location. He rolled out of the dive, and fired as quickly as he could as he advanced on the target. Afterall, that’s what you did when ambushed: fight through it.

The beamer fire died out, and Coop smashed through the building the enemy was inhabiting. A final graviton shot pounded the two-story building before he burst in with the ET knife ready to skewer him some BAMF. Only problem was there was nothing there. Just the shattered remains of a beamer.

“What the fuck?” Coop backed out of the store and scanned the area. He saw movement a moment too late, and the BAMF slide in under him and jabbed upward. Its blade hit Coop’s already depleted shield, and punched through with minimal resistance. His armor held a little longer, but the blade was able to punch through and hit something vital.

Red warning icons flashed in Coop’s vision.

{Power conduits to graviton cannon severed,} the AI informed. {Dispatching repair bots.}

<Well that’s great,> Coop grimaced as he turned to face the BAMF.

Instead of worrying about how the enemy had lured him to the store with a decoy, weakened his shields, and then stabbed him at just the right angle to do the most damage in a quick strike, Coop detached his portable shield and faced the enemy with blade laying against the top. Slowly, he advanced.

<I really wish we had more close quarter’s combat training in these,> he grumbled as he moved forward.

His plan was to get in close where the BAMF couldn’t maneuver. If it could maneuver, it could dodge, dip, duck, and dive around like a fucking ballerina. This wasn’t a time to extend and slash like he was using a rapier. It was time to get in close while jabbing and stabbing like he was armed with a gladius.

He stomped closer to the BAMF, angling toward it with his shield to try and box it in. The BAMF looked at the blade of its fallen friend in Coop’s hand, and Coop was sure it was growling, clucking, cackling, and snorting in whatever passed for being pissed off with these aliens. It lashed out with renewed vigor, and it was fast. Coop caught them all on his shield, and then using it as cover, jabbed forward. The BAMF dodged around it, trying to counter, but Coop withdrew and had his shield back in place. He continued to force the BAMF back towards the buildings. They were blocks over from the target structure, but that didn’t matter. He had to deal with this threat before they could take the shield down.

<Maybe Eve will get it down,> he could hope, as he continued to push forward.

The BAMF tried to get around him, but he cut it off and reoriented, continuing to push it back. His shield sparked and sizzled as the BAMF furiously counterattacked, but his shield stayed strong, and Coop bought it time to recover by jabbing at the big alien, forcing it back until its back was to a wall.

<Got you now, fucker,> Coop pushed forward with his shield, trying to smash it against the wall so he could run it through, but the BAMF had other plans.

As Coop tried to slam it against the wall, it leapt up, used its two longer arms for leverage to push back on the shield. Coop’s push actually gave it the momentum it needed to spring up and onto the roof of the building he’s been trying to pin it against.

“Son of a . . .” Coop growled, just before the BAMF jumped down on top of him.

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