(Written by Kokuten; re-posted February 10, 2007)
Rock'n'Roll, Hephaestus Style
The gravplates in the bottom of the pod couldn't entirely dampen the increasingly violent vibration and bouncing we felt as soon as we breached atmosphere. The green glow of the 'go-light' on the top of the pod burnt reassuringly steadily, as we hurtled through the atmosphere of Earth towards a desolate chunk of Africa. I hunched a little deeper into the crash restraints, riding out a particularily harsh jolt.
"All green. Ten. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five. Four. Three. Two." V cut off after two, and two seconds later, we slammed into the arid desert of the Libyan highlands. The gravplates burnt out keeping us from squishing, and the sides and lid of the pod blew off. The shattering crash of battle steel plates blowing out and hitting concrete hard enough to dig chunks out was the first sound we heard.
"Status and paint?" I asked V, starting the 'waved ATV I was strapped over. As the motor caught, the ATV's electrical system blew the crash straps. I glanced left and right, Sparky and Raven were running and clean. My helmet chimed as V painted a mark on my HUD, and I hit first and dropped some throttle.
Some throttle became full throttle as I whomped over the edge of the pod-floor onto one of the ramps, breaking traction to avoid half of an Escalade at the foot of the ramp I was on. I rode out the drop over the side of the ramp and slewed the back end around again. As I came straight and level, I surveyed the flat expanse of the... parking... lot...
"V, sitrep?" I managed to choke out, completely boggled.
"Operative camoflauge - site appears to be a shopping mall. No civilians."
"Roger!" I shook my head, bemused, and went full throttle again. The mark on my HUD led me through a thin alley between two buildings, and I juked to the side as soon as I cleared the end of it, backing off the speed and letting Sparky pass me, blowing nitrous as he shot towards the garage-type door of the hangar.
Sparky hunched behind his shield and shot towards the door, tucked into the custom armor of his machine's front end, the beefy thousand-cc motor of his extensively modified Yamaha Kodiak Maxx screaming like a banshe in a blender. He hit the door like the proverbial ton of bricks, but the shield worked perfectly, and the door flew off its hinges and crumpled to the ground behind him.
I was just far enough behind him, with Raven right on my tail, that we hit the remains of the garage door and shot into the air, one on either side of the rapidly slowing Sparky. We screeched to a halt in a nicely dynamic 'action pose' line, and I was clambering off of my 'wheeler when the dust cleared enough to reveal the shape of the Reaver assault shuttle we had come for.
I bailed off and unracked a rifle from the front of my machine, sweeping to clear the entirety of the hangar while Raven bailed off near one of the landing struts, and swarmed up the ladder. Raven double-clicked the radio once she was in, and clicked again when she was clear. When the second double-click hit, I dropped throttle again and blew back outside of the building, following Sparky as he headed through the back alley into the parking area and swung left. Sparky followed one of V's markers into the glass side of a storefront and I followed through the falling glass. Sparky blasted down a set of stairs inside, taking out several internal doors without slowing.
He skidded to a stop in a basement hallway near a steel door. I stopped behind him and bailed off my machine. I kicked the door, nearly ending up on my rear from the bounceback. Sparky stepped in front of me and grasped the handle in one gauntleted hand, twisted slightly, and pushed the door open.
I shook my head as I followed him in, a heavy pack from Sparky's machine in each hand. Inside the room were multiple racks of server equipment, the temperature low and controlled. I dropped the bags and began unpacking, handing bricks to Sparky as he setup each of the racks for detonation.
Sparky finished up the explosives and clapped me on the back on his way out the door, handing me a 'clicker' and mounting his machine. We motored off, and as we cleared the perimeter of the building, I pushed the button. The explosion was almost entirely swallowed up by the structure of the building, but some smoke boiled out of the top.
We motored back towards the hangar, confident and cheerful. As I turned the last corner, a burst of gunfire blew me cleanly out of my saddle. I sprawled on my back and Sparky dodged around me. I got back to my feet stiffly, grateful for the armored suits we'd been in since our insertion. I sprinted towards my machine, cursing and huffing. As I reached it, I pulled the rifle off the front clip and immediately returned fire. My aim sucked, as expected, but I was able to put enough lead downrange to 'keep their heads down'. There were about a dozen scrubby figures in mismatched military-style outfits, with a wide variety of weapons.
I dropped one with a lucky shot, and kept sending three round bursts at them. It didn't appear that any of them had gotten into the hangar, and my fire was keeping them behind what little cover could be found. I glanced at Sparky, and increased my rate of fire, grinning. Bits and pieces of cover and Reavers started flying, and I slacked off the trigger. Sparky had pulled out the Piece of Resistance - a GAU-9 Avenger 'gatling gun' pushing around 1,800 rounds a minute of depleted uranium and HE out the barrels.
The Piece was a GOTH item, there if things had really GOne To Hell, and I think this qualified. The rain of fire coming from Sparky tapered off, and there was no response from the Reavers. I mounted my machine and scooted forward through the position the Reavers had held, scanning side to side with rifle at the ready.
Sparky tailed in behind me, and we bumped back into the hangar, parking our machines and arming their scuttling charges. As we approached the shuttle, Raven came on the radio.
"We're ready, let's get out of here"
We climbed into the assault shuttle and hoofed through the short connecting corridor to the command area. Strapping into the two seats behind Raven's, we double-clicked our radios to signify readiness. Raven rolled one of the controls forward, and we felt the greasy feeling of the ship coming off the ground. She flipped a switch, causing a section of the control panel to change from red to green, and grasped a joystick. Giggling madly, she squeezed a trigger, and the ship shook as cannon fire spewed out the front of it, heavier and thicker than the Piece of Resistance we had abandoned on the 'wheelers. The cannon fire handily shredded the wall in front of us, and Raven rolled another control to its stop.
The ship bolted forward and shot into the sky. We'd pulled it off, with only minor difficulties. Raven threw up a rear view on a screen, and we watched the four wheelers slag themselves behind us as we sped out of the atmosphere.