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by Matt Dempster
"How could this happen?"
"We're not sure on that, Michelle." Wes rubbed his eyes. "The armor has no mobile capability of it's own; we know that much. It needs a host of some sort. Karl, I want you to scan for the armor's driver as soon as we're in range. Mike, start prepping Jacob on what he'll need to know. Michelle, I want you to start coming up with some strategies to deal with this. Let's move, people. D.C. ain't gettin' any prettier."
"What about me?" asked Heather Chevalier. "I can help too..."
"Negative, Miss Chevalier. I'm already placing one of you at risk. Your brother is an Omega, and has a better chance of minimal damage. I want you to stay here, in contact with Jake." We raised his hand to forestall and protest. "Understood?"
Heather sighed. "Understood."
Wes sat back down and began to commune with his onboard systems. 'Computer, access duty logs, current Seekers operatives on station: Wash. D.C.'
<<Grogan, Patrick; CodeName Arctic>>
<<Walker William; CodeName Sonic>>
<<Hasseen, Carlos; CodeName Firedevil; Status: Offline>>
<<Lee, Susan; CodeName Hyper>>
<<Meridith, Tethya; CodeName Clamour; Status: Offline>>
'Vitals on Clamour and Firedevil?'
<<Agent: Firedevil: condition critical, med staff attending/ Agent: Clamour: condition serious, med staff attending>>
'Current Location: Harrakin Armor/Designate: Target one.'
<<Location: Mall/Target One moving northward>>
'Comm: Base one: Attn Sonic.'
A crackling filled Wes' ears, and Bill's voice came to him. :Sonic here. What happened, Wes?:
"Not sure yet, Bill. I want you and Pat to get to the Mall as fast as you can. Do NOT engage! Take as many agents as you need, but clear the area of civilians, ASAP. We're en route; ETA 15 Minutes. We're planning a chute drop, so watch for us. Also, I want to to grab my new shoulder launcher; we'll need all the firepower we can get."
:Roger that. Sonic out.:
'Computer: recall data on Harrakin armor studies/ Synthesize data: compress report.'
<<Harrakin Armor: Given to SIRECOM by Sharra (??), Earther Harrakin. Armor studies led by Kevin Marshall, Ph. D. Studies to date inconclusive: information given to SIRECOM states armor is made up of billions of nanites: Armor is virtually impenetrable: Armor is described as a bonding partner to Harrakin: Har>>
'Computer: Log remaining data/ Locate: Dr. Kevin Marshall.'
<<Dr. Marshall, Kevin: Location: Last logged in as inside Lab 16, Level 5, Miresco Bldg.>>
The lab where the armor was being studied. 'Vitals on Dr. Marshall?'
<<Dr. Marshall is not on site.>>
'What?' Where the hell was he? Either he was vaporized by whatever was piloting the armor, or..."Karl, come here for a second, would you?"
Karl almost ran up the aisle and stood at attention before his commander. Wes looked up at him and checked a sigh. "At ease, Karl. I need you to do something for me. Can you scan to D.C. from here?"
The junior agent thought for a second. "I'm not sure...I've never tried from this distance."
"I need you to scan and try to lock onto the armor's pilot. I have a really horrid feeling I know who it is, and I want you to confirm it for me."
Karl looked at his commander doubtfully. "I'll try, sir." He sat down in the seat across from Wes, and shut his eyes. Wes continued to sift thorugh the data his computer was feeding him on the armor. He snapped back as he saw Karl stir. The younger man's eyes opened, and he focused on his CO.
"What's the word, Karl?"
"Sir, I can only get a faint contact...but what I got was really confused. There's a heavy duty mental shield, but at the same time, I get this feeling like whatever's in there is trying to reach out and connect with something. Also, there's a sort of...well, FLAT quality to the pilot's mind. Almost like it's not real thought, just pictures and images."
"Did you sense any other presences in the armor?"
Karl shook his head. "No sir, but like I said, there was some heavy interference. I'll try again when we're closer."
Wes nodded. "You do that. Good work, Karl." He stood and moved towards the back of the plane. He stopped at Michelle's seat. "Michelle, I want you to keep an eye on Neuwraith. He's trained well, but I don't want him in direct combat unless absolutely necessary." Michelle nodded, and Wes moved on.
He sat down next to the armored form of Jacob Chevalier. Mike Miller was bringing Jacob up to speed on some basic team tactics, and trying to get a handle on how he could interact with the rest of the Seekers. Wes pulled out a visor from his omnipresent backpack. "Jacob, this is one of our link visors. It allows visual and audio transmissions between us, and allows me to see what you see, as well as keep track of you. Think you can fit it under your helmet?"
Jacob took the visor and turned it over in his hands. "Hmm...what frequency does the visual transmit work on?"
"ELF Band 420 KHz. Why?"
"Why don't I just do this?" A subtle motion of Jake's head, and suddenly, in his mind's eye, Wes could see himself. He shook his head and smiled. "Very nice, Mr. Chevalier. All right. Make sure you stay on this channel. I want you to hang back during this combat."
"But I.." began Jake heatedly.
"No buts." Wes looked into the featurless helmet. "You are NOT a Seeker. I know you've got some heavy artillery, but I won't risk you on a combat mission unless I absolutely have to. You are under MY command now, and I'm telling you, I want you to hang back until I give you the green light. Understood?"
A distorted sigh. "Yes, sir."
"Good. Reflex, get prepped. We hit the drop zone in seven minutes."
Pat looked out of the van at the hordes of frigntened people streaming away from the Mall. SIRECOM agents and D.C police stood everywhere, trying to prevent the flood from becoming a full-fledged stampede, with only marginal success. He looked over at Bill, who was shouting into the radio.
"Damn it, I don't care WHAT he said! I need another squad at K street! Get them mobilized! Sonic out."
"Bill, what are we supposed to do here? If we're not to engage.."
Bill set down the mike, and pulled out one of his batons. "We're supposed to make sure no one gets hurt till Wes and the others get here. And that's exactly what we're going to do. Pat, I want you to build a wall between the people and the armor. I'll run interference, try to distract it so it doesn't try to squish them or you. Are you ready?"
"Good man. Steady down, and play it by the numbers. Move out."
The two Seekers hopped out of the van, and ran upstream towards the Mall, Sonic's vibrational field gently nudging people out of their path. The scene that greeted them upon arrival was nightmarish. Police were strewn about the park, having tried to stop the black armor's rampage. The armor stood at the far end of the Mall, still as a statue. Sonic didn't know why. Nor did he care. "Arctic, get busy. Keep those people out of harm's way." As Arctic began to form the ice wall, Sonic loped forwards. The armor jerked, and the helmet swiveled towards him. A green light began to build in it's eyeslits. 'Maybe this wasn't such a hot idea...'
A bolt of green fire lanced towards the Seeker. Bill narrowly dodged, and the beam impacted the newly formed wall, melting a hole in it. The armor moved towards the barrier, green light still playing across it's faceplate.
Bill grimaced, and put his hands together. A beam of sonic force slammed into the advancing armor, knocking it to the ground. It sat for a moment, and then pointed it's arm at Bill. A telekinetic wall slammed the Seeker 20 yards back, into the reflecting pool. Bill stood and wiped the water out of his eyes. The armor had gone back to punching holes in Pat's wall with fire bolts. He waded out of the pool, but as he prepared to attack again, he heard a low droning sound. He looked up and saw several parachutes, as well as a pair or flying figures. His comlink sputtered to life. :You didn't start without us, did you, Bill?:
Bill waved. "No sir! Wouldn't think of it. Your shoulder launcher is in the van. Any ideas what to do about our friend here?"
:We're working on it. Arctic, come in.:
:Grab my launcher, and meet us at the reflecting pool. Interface out.:
Harra Sheel'Ka Harrakin noted the slowly descending figures, and dismissed them. They posed no threat. The wall of ice, on the other hand, was an annoyance. It prevented him from going where he chose in his hunt for the Wrexxakt. Also, he was curious about the tickling touch he had felt a few minutes ago, almost like a breeze against his mind. The sensation hadn't returned yet, and he wasn't sure if he wanted it to. It wasn't the Link, but it was familiar, and..
There. Again. What was that?
What WAS that? Not the Link. Not kin. An enemy?
The Harrakin mind reached out, and at the same time, pulled back from the gentle outside touch. For just a second, the shield dropped, and Harra Sheel'Ka Harrakin was exposed to the world. And just as quickly, the shield slammed back up. It could be a trick. It coould be a Wrexxakt trick to make him weak. He searched for the source of the mind touch. And focused on the group of black-clad figures at the far end of the open area he stood in.
They would not stop him.
Karl shook himself. "Sir, I made contact with the armor's host."
Wes looked steadily at Karl. "And what did you find out?"
"I only saw for a second, but I'm sure it's Dr. Marshall. but at the same time, it's not. I get this feeling of hate and rage that I've never felt before, against something called 'Wrexxakt'."
Wrexxakt. Wes' mind flashed back to the jungles of South America, the mechanical monsters that tried to kill him and his team. The Wrexxakt had built that base. They had killed that boy...
Bill spoke up. "So, basically, what you're saying is that there's an innocent human trapped in there, so we have to try and take this thing down nice and easy, no harm done?" He sighed. "Why is it never easy?"
Wes shook his head. "I don't think we're going to have to worry too much about harming Dr. Marshall. That armor was made to deal with almost any physical danger. What we have to do is find a hole in it's defenses. Ok, here's the plan. Michelle, you and Mike make a frontal assault, with Bill as backup. Jacob, you coordinate with Pat. You two are our long distance artillery. I want that thing distracted and confused. Karl, you stay in reserve with me. I want you to keep trying to break through that mental shield and make contact with Dr. Marshall. Clear?"
A chorus of assents met Wes' ears.
"Good. No heroes, people. Stick to the plan. Let's go."
Reflex and Armor ran towards the armored figure, as lasers and bolts of electricity peppered it from the sky. Green fire lashed out at the flying figure but it dodged gracefully and continued the aerial assault. A shimmering blue wave of sound hit the black figure and knocked it off balance. It was quickly followed by the hurtling form of Armor.
The two figures, one bright silver, the other matte black, rolled on the ground for a moment. The black armor got a foot up, and slammed it into Michelle, sending her flying. It got to it's feet, only to be met by the fists of Reflex. The impacts drove it back to the ground. Reflex closed in, and was grabbed by the armor. He stared into it's blank face for a moment, and then was flying through the air, courtesy of the Harrakin's pitching arm. He landed, rolled, and came to his feet.
:Interface to Reflex. Are you all right?:
"Aye. Just a little dirty."
:Stand clear. Armor is going to try something.:
Michelle moved in, circling the black armor. She had absorbed more metal from the cars she had landed on, and was bulked up. The two armored figures made for a strange ballet, and the earth was shaking with their footsteps. A feint, another, and suddenly, Michelle raced forward and grabbed her adversary. She concentrated, and started to absorb the metal of the Harrakin armor.
Fire raced up her arms. It was like plunging her hands into a lake of razor blades. The Harrakin armor spasmed, and a grating shriek emanated from it. The two staggered apart, Michelle sinking to her knees. Black strands writhed up and down her arms, looking like rivulets of oil. Mike ran towards the two, and skidded to a halt next to Michelle as ice and electricity rained down on the injured armor. As the Harrakin moved away, Mike could see a hole in the armor, that was slowly beginning to seal itself. Michelle sobbed in pain, as the strands started to move upward along her arms. Mike grabbed her and screamed, "Let go! Let it GO!" Michelle looked blankly at the Irish Omega, and cried out in pain again. Mike shook her and looked around for help. "Reflex to all Seekers, Armor is down repeat.."
:Neuwraith here. Stand by.:
Mike watched helplessly as the silver form quieted in his arms. Michelle's metal skin began to melt away, and the black strands receded like the tide. The woman collapsed bonelessly, and Mike carried back towards Wes and Karl. Karl ran to the pair, covered by bolts from Sonic. "She's just unconscious. I think she'll be okay...I had to calm her telepathically." Mike nodded, and set the limp form down behind his commander.
The Harrakin stopped and regarded the cluster of black-clothed figures. They were proving to be more of an impediment than he had thought, particularly the silver one. But she was done now, no longer a threat, and the rest of these creatures would be a mere annoyance.
If only that maddening tickling in his mind would go away.
No matter. The Wrexxakt. That was what was important. That was why he had escaped. It was time to be done with these puny things, and to hunt their masters.
The armor shook itself, and began moving northwest, towards the ice wall. Wes watched it, and without looking around, asked "How is she?"
Pat looked up, and spread his hands. "I'm not sure. The wounds are like burns from acid or something. They don't seem all that bad on the surface, but who knows what got into her system?"
Mike clenched his fists. "Let me at that thing, and I'll.."
"You'll do nothing. Yet." Wes looked up at the hovering form of Jake Chevalier. "Interface to Battery, any thoughts?"
:We need to crack that armor. If we knock out the guy inside, it should be just a motionless shell, right?:
:Armor managed to bore a hole in it, by absorbing the metal. I wonder if Sonic could do the same by shattering it?:
"Interface to Sonic, did you read that?"
:Loud and clear, sir...but my bolts don't seem to have any effect on the armor.:
:Sonic, I think you could disperse the armor for a short time if you could actually touch it.:
:All well and good, kid. How am I supposed to GET that close? The thing almost ripped Armor in half!:
Wes smiled. "We need a diversion."
Harra Sheel'Ka watched as the black figures spread out to surround him once again. What trickery did they plot now?
"Seekers! Deploy gas masks and fall back to safe distance!"
A glowing red circle sprang into being, targeting the glossy black armor in Wes' view. His shoulder cannon levered itself into place, and a smoke canister automatically loaded.
The smoke canister flung itself at the armor, a white plume trailing it. The armor looked up at the incoming projectile, and casually batted it away. On impact, the canister exploded, enshrouding the Harrakin armor and much of the surrounding area with smoke. A grating roar came from the billowing cloud, followed by bolts of green fire.
Wes nodded grimly. You liked that. You should LOVE this. Computer: Napalm. Target one. Fire on lock.
The rocket streaked into the cloud, and suddenly a gout of red fire erupted from its center. The ground shook as the armor staggered in pain, trying to scrape the burning jelly off. Battery flew over the scene, sending lightning into the swirling cloud of smoke.
:Sonic to Interface, I'm going in!:
"Roger, Sonic. Use extreme caution."
:Yes, Sir. I intend to.:
"Good. You're buying the beer tonight!"
Sonic began to run forward. Suddenly, just as he entered the cloud, the smoke exploded outward, pushed by an invisible wall. The wall slammed into the advancing Seeker, knocking him flat and actually pushing him into the ripped-up turf. The Armor turned and focussed on the fallen Seeker. Green light shone from the eyeslits as the advancing Harrakin zeroed in on Sonic's prostrate form.
All at once, a ball of ice cocooned the black figure's head, holding back the fiery bolts. "Over here, ya big goomba!" The armor shook it's head, fragments of half melted ice falling away. It turned and focussed on Arctic. A blast of fire arrowed towards the young Seeker, but Pat rolled under it, and quickly formed a wall of ice around the armored figure. Steam roiled from the newly formed ice chimney, and Arctic began to sweat with the strain of maintaining the wall. "A little help here, guys?"
Suddenly, the wall exploded, and the Harrakin armor fired a wrist-thick beam of plasma at the source of it's torment. Who was no longer there, having been whisked away a second before by Jake. Pat looked up at his rescuer. "Thanks!"
"Not a problem. I'll drop you by Col. Hickman, OK?"
Harra Sheel'Ka was angered beyond belief. These puny creatures had not only stood in his way, they had challenged him! And caused him pain! They fought with no honor, and they dared to stand in his path! He, the son of...the son of....they challenged HIM! He would burn them all where they stood!
If only the world would cease it's infernal spinning...
Wes was running out of ideas, and fast. Either they stopped this thing here, or a lot more than a few buildings were going to be pulped. They needed to shock the armor, shake it up, distract it....
Shake it up. Not a bad idea.
"Interface to Sonic. New plan. My position, fast as you can."
"Reflex, I'm displaying a schematic on your visor. New battle plan. See it?"
:Acknowledged. Moving to intercept position one.:
"Battery, Arctic, Artillery plan. Follow me?"
Wes turned to Bill as he arrived. "Bill, how would you like it if I slapped you around a little?"
Bill just stared for a moment, and then a broad grin broke across his face. "I'd be honored, sir."
Harra Sheel'Ka (was that his name? for some reason, Kevin kept drifting across his mind...) watched in amazement. The puny creatures must have gone mad with fear! The shiny-armed one was attacking one of it's kin!
Wes threw a final punch with all the not-inconsiderable force he could put behind it. Bill stood there and grinned as it took him in the chin. He stepped back, glowing a vibrant blue.
"Feel better, sir?"
Wes shook his head. "I'll feel a whole lot better after you put all that hard work to some good use."
"Roger that. Moving to Strike Zone one." With that, Bill ran west, flanking the armor. Ice and lightning continued to rain down on the black figure, along with the occasional street sign thrown in by Reflex. In Wes' mind, his Seekers appeared as icons, moving to encircle their adversary, Bill on one side, Mike on another, Jake and Pat constantly circling like wolves, harrying their prey.
"All Seekers, execute Battle Plan Gamma. Now!"
A particularly vicious bolt of electric power slammed into the armor. It turned to the sky, seeking it's tormentor. Bolts of green fire tore through the air, seeking the gleaming blue and black figure. The creature shrieked, and fired, and completely ignored the crouching figure of Sonic.
Who had been charged to his maximum limit by Wes's blows. A quick touch on the churned earth, a brow furrowed in concentration, and a pair of fists slammed into the ground, channeling all the vibratory energy into a single, directed wave of seismic force. A miniature earthquake, focused on one point; the Harrakin armor. A blue wave tracked the surge of power as it slammed into the armor. The ground erupted as if a bomb had exploded there, and the armor toppled.
In a flash, Reflex leaped high into the air, landing feet first on the prostrate armor, slamming it even deeper into the ground. As the hulking form began to rise, Reflex grabbed it from behind, forcing it's arms behind it's back, pinioning it. A roar, distorted with hate emanated from the featureless helmet, and suddenly, spikes sprouted from the arms of the black figure. They plunged into the grasping arms and hands of Mike Miller, and he threw back his head and screamed in pain. "Fuck you, you bastard! We're winning this time!"
Sonic shouted, "Damn right!", as he darted in, batons striking like vipers. "A second more, Mike!" Howls ripped from the armor filled the air, as Sonic's deadly batons struck again and again, shaking, searching for the right frequency....
And suddenly, it was there, so simple...a touch more bass, a little higher ultrasonic....the armor shivered, rippled...and then liquefied, dripping down and away from a gaping hole, revealing all to weak flesh underneath.
:Battery to Sonic! MOVE!:
Sonic leaped out of the way as a bolt of lightning found a home in the exposed human chest. The armor spasmed, an almost inaudible keening touched the ears of the Seekers...and then it slumped, unmoving. Bill moved in, helping Mike to pull his arms away from the motionless forms. Blood dripped onto the armor as Mike stood, hunched with pain. Already, the hole in the armor had begun to seal; Sonic carefully reached down and sent another pulse into it, dispersing it.
Wes walked up, shoulder cannons at port arms. He looked down at the armor, and then looked at Mike. "We need at get you to a hospital." Mike nodded, and shook as another bolt of pain hit him. "I've already called for a containment truck." He looked up at the floating form of Jake Chevalier. "Mr. Chevalier, do you think it's safe to try removing Dr. Marshall from the armor?"
:I've talked with Heather, sir, and I'd say no. I think we should wait till we have him fully confined.:
"All right, that's what I thought. Bill, you'll ride with the armor. Keep the hole opened. We'll inject Dr. Marshall with a heavy sedative as soon as the truck gets here. Ambulance ETA is 1.18 minutes." Reflex nodded. The blood had already stopped, and the shallow wounds were starting to close already.
The next few minutes were organized chaos. Repair crews moved in to begin cleanup work on the battleground. A fleet of ambulances and fire trucks moved in to treat the wounded and put out the small blazes from the Harrakin's green fire. The containment truck was loaded with it's insensate cargo, and took off, headed for the SIRECOM labs. Wes watched the whole show mutely. All he could think was, 'What a fucking mess we made. What a mess.' Jake Chevalier walked up to the Seeker commander, and stood beside him, looking at the workers. "Are you all right, Colonel?"
Wes nodded. "I'm fine. Just thinking."
Jake looked down at Wes. "So was I. I was thinking about why that armor chose NOW to get up and start tearing apart the city. I was thinking about what could have caused it."
Wes heard the note in Jake's voice, and looked up at the featurless helmet. "You have a theory?"
The helmet nodded. "Say your car has an alarm system. When you go out to the car, you push the button, the car beeps, and the alarm disarms. Maybe the car turns on. Right?"
Wes nodded. "Yeah...I don't think I see..."
"Think!" A note of urgency pushed it's way to the surface of Jake's distorted voice. "Who has the button for the ARMOR?"
Wes stared at Jake. "Oh. Shit."
Next: Seekers 14! And I ain't saying nothing else. Nyah! 8)
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