Cyber Knight/War Journal: Letters from the front
From Unofficial Handbook of the Virtue Universe
Cherry rubbed her eyes for a moment, sitting at her desk, the unnatural glow of the computer monitor in front of her cast a pale light on her face as she ran her hands through her hair for a moment. Paperwork, it was the one constant in this life it seemed, the work was varied and always changing, except for the paperwork that needed to be done at the end of the day. She looked across the office at Echo’s desk, where he was busy typing up a report. A couple of stacks of files flanked him, recent Intel that had been brought in by her Tech Sergeant Andrew McConnell. The Intel was thorough, and detailed, She didn’t want to know how he’d acquired such detailed information on the Malta Group and their dealings, the man reminded her a bit of Slayton without the eye patch, seemingly had his hands into everything, and what he didn’t, he could get into.
She dismissed her stray thoughts before speaking up, “Hey Echo, you look like hell. Save that an’ call it a night, you can finish that tomorrow, Slayton won’t need it for another day or so anyway.”
Echo Immediately saved the document and shut down his machine, “Good, my friggin’ eyes feel like they’re bleeding. You takin’ off as well?”
“Yeah I’ll be leavin’ soon. Just a couple things that require my attention before I do” Cherry said went back the glow of the monitor.
“Guevara?” he asked.
The name being spoken made cherry stop for a moment to rub the bridge of her nose. “.. Yeah that’s one of them. Now go home damn it. And get some sleep, you’d better be in a good mood tomorrow that ex of yours is starting to wear on my nerves by proxy.”
Echo shook his head slightly as he headed for the door “Yeah yeah, fuck you too. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Cherry didn’t respond, she reached over to her coffee mug and grimaced slightly, Her normal mug had been pilfered the other day by some prankster and replaced with a misshapen bluish/green abomination that had been hand made and painted, by what presumably could have been a second grader, and on it’s side in bright yellow letters was “Wurld’s Graytist Captan” Complete with a childlike heart and flower. She was sure her mug was somewhere on the premises, she just hadn’t had the time to hunt it down. So the abomination made due.
An hour went by before Cherry was almost done with her reports. Leaning back slightly and taking a deep breath, She decided that she needed to get up, stretch, and move about. Leaving her office and going downstairs she took the long route to the mess hall. As she walked down the quiet halls of S.C.O.R.P.I.O. Hq, she could hear the typing and chatting of the night staff analysts going over the various intelligence leads that filtered into the organization, then red flagging the stuff that had a high percentage of being legitimate. It was a never-ending job; the bad guys don’t take the day off, so neither could we.
Rounding a corner the recently enlarged double doors to Scorpio Tech caught her eye. The Tinman's second home had been set up here. She had meant to talk to Slayton about possibly getting access to the armor during it’s downtime, Scorpio and Vanguard had been working together to try and crack the lockdown protocols that kept a good portion of the armors systems inaccessible, and it had been something that intrigued her.
Cherry pushed open the double doors, and strode through the corridor past the empty workstations as the majority of the crew had gone home for the evening. In the back she heard someone making a commotion in a foreign language, and they were near the border of shouting. Dr. Elias Zelenka was hunched over his desk swearing at his computer in Czech. She knew he had been swearing because she could pick out a few words here and there and it was a tone of voice she used often. She knew Czech well enough but keeping up with a native speaker was still something she needed to work on.
She stopped for a moment and looked to her left, the armor stood there, hulking, massive, unmoving and empty, it’s back was open, and the pilots chamber exposed, several cables were flowing from it’s interior connected to computers and machines hooked up to the frustrated doctors desk. Standing in front of the armor she felt a sense of calm, the armor reminded her of a great ancient Greek statue, one that that had been carved to protect all it had surveyed.
Zelenka swore a little more before noticing Cherry standing before the armor, He stopped what he was doing and walked up beside her pushing his glasses up as he did. “Remarkable isn’t it?”
Cherry nodded slightly in response, Dr. Zelenka’s English was almost perfect, even with his thick Czech accent.
“It’s incredible how much we’ve managed to learn from this technology, but we’ve only barely managed to scratch the surface of what it can teach us.” He smiled slightly, proud to be able to share his work with anyone that was interested.
Cherry looked past the armor to what looked like a solid windowless cell. “Is the pilot in there?”
“Y-Yes, he’s sleeping at the moment. Did you need to talk to him?” Zelenka’s pride faded slightly as he answered.
“No, I was just takin’ a walk and thought I’d come in to take a look.” Cherry replied. Cherry eyed an LCD screen that was on the desk adjacent to the armor, the screen flashed quickly as thousands of data files opened and closed, occasionally cherry could spot a website appear then disappear as quickly as it came. “What’s goin’ on here?” she asked flatly.
Like magic the good doctor’s pride returned. “Ah, that’s Delta, she’s learning.”
“Learning?” Cherry didn’t quite believe Zelenka’s answer. She’d dealt with the A.I. on numerous occasions and didn’t believe it needed to learn much.
“Yes, from what we gathered we believe that Delta is a D.N.A. based intelligence, meaning, at one time she either was human or is an exceptional copy of one. Earth’s history and culture seems to be her favorite subjects.” The doctor was grinning from ear to ear now; he obviously enjoyed imparting his knowledge to others.
“You would be astounded at the sheer amount of information she is capable of handling, and storing for that matter. By our calculations she’s read the equivalent to the entire library of congress several hundred thousand times in just raw data alone, though we’re pretty sure it’s even beyond that.” The doctor put his hands in pockets as he contemplated what he’d just said for a moment.
“Mind if I take a closer look?” Cherry didn’t wait for the answer as she already was moving up one of the stepladders that would take her to eye level with the armor and give her a chance to look inside.
Zelenka nodded “Wh-Why of course, I don’t think there would be any harm in that. If you have any questions I’ll be over here at my desk.”
Cherry was already looking inside the armor. And it didn’t take long for her to start to tinker with things either. Pulling a multi-tool from her belt Cherry removed few interior panels here and there. The amount of interfaces and connections were staggering, and the design was beyond anything humanity could make now, or Rikti for that matter.
She’d removed another piece of interior paneling and looked for anything that could be of use. She wasn’t sure what it was, but as she touched one of the exposed connections, her body went numb, and everything turned white.
Cherry couldn’t see, it felt like she was waking from a deep sleep, she heard what sounded like the rolling waves of the ocean, and what felt like sand underneath her. As she opened her eyes and they focused. She swore under her breath, she was sitting on a beach now; twilight was just setting in as the sun fell behind the horizon. She immediately took notice of something else out of place; she was no longer in her tactical gear. She was in fact wearing a light blue blouse and a skirt. “Son of a bitch!” she rubbed her temples for a moment, until she heard someone behind her.
“Welcome Ms. Jericho, I need your help and I’m afraid I don’t have much time.”
Cherry reflexively spun around and reached for a service pistol that wasn’t there, she grimacing at the realization so she fell into her hand-to-hand combat stance.
Before her on the beach stood a woman in her early thirties, her long auburn hair was pulled back neatly, she wore thin rimmed glasses over bright hazel eyes, a pleated skirt, white blouse, and a warm, friendly smile. Her hands were clasped together in front of her, she exuded an air of refined intelligence.
Cherry eased on her stance slightly, “Where the hell am I!?” she nearly shouted.
The woman looked left then right. “Well, it looks like you’re at the beach.”
Cherry didn’t even have to say it; the look of “I know that.” that crossed her face was audible enough.
The woman smiled, and looked around some more. “Honestly though, it’s really hard for me to say exactly where you are, I’m a little disoriented and still trying to get my bearings myself.”
“How the hell did I get here and where is all my gear!” Cherry demanded, her patience was fading fast.
“Well, I brought you here, and chose a setting that might be relaxing. It’s been so long since I’d been to the beach. Or had someone to talk to face to face for that matter.”
“Well lady, I don’ need a weapon to lay some serious hurt on you. I suggest you let me go.” Cherry settled back into her combat stance and started going over exactly what she was going to do to this woman in her head.
“Well I wouldn’t deny that. But you’re certainly welcome to try.” The woman simply stood there with that friendly smile, Cherry rushed in and leveled a series of strikes at the woman that should have broken her nose, knocked her over, and left her open for Cherry to put into one of several different holds where she could use leverage to break an arm or manipulate a person to do what she wanted with just the smallest bit of pressure.
But they did nothing at all. Every strike passed through the woman as if she were not there, as if she were a ghost. The expectation of hitting someone solid and not doing so put Cherry off balance causing her to fall. “You can’t hurt me Ms. Jericho. And you’re not my prisoner here, just…” she stopped to think for a moment. “A temporary guest.”
Cherry sat in the sand and looked at the woman in disbelief. “How the hell do you know my name!?”
The woman’s smile faded slightly and became a little more solemn “Please Ms. Jericho, will you walk with me?” She extended her hand to Cherry to help her up off the ground “And in return I promise that I will explain as much to you as I’m able.”
Cherry reached for that hand and for a moment, was startled that it was solid. The woman’s smile returned as she helped Cherry to her feet as she brushed herself off, and they began to stroll down the beach.
The wet sand and breeze felt good as Cherry walked barefoot. “So what’s yer name?” Cherry asked, not knowing what exactly to expect.
“My name is Karan D’aeryth.” She reached to shake Cherry’s hand slightly. “It’s good to finally meet you face to face Ms. Jericho.”
“Ok, yer killin’ me how do you know who I am? There’s something familiar about you that’s nagging at me in the back o’ my mind.”
Karan’s warm smile returned. “We talk a little almost everyday, albeit, nothing like this.” She grinned slightly as she motioned to the settings around them. “So is Jankowski still in a mood as of late? I haven’t heard his voice in a few days. Oh! And did Kowalski see the Doctor like I recommended?”
It took just a moment to sink in completely before Cherry blurted out the name. “D!?”
Karan stopped for a moment. “You’re welcome to call me that if you wish.” Karan started walking again and was smiling as if she’d just met up with an old friend, and was catching up on old times.
Cherry stopped for a moment to contemplate her situation before walking to catch up to Karan. “So, Then either I’m dead or hallucinating.”
“We’re in the system.” Karan said, grinning at Cherry’s comment. ”Specifically, we are in one of the sub-systems of the Cyber Knight armor.”
“Ok, so why, and moreover how did you bring me here” Cherry asked.
“Well I was able to bring you here because you did something that momentarily released the capture protocols, because of that, my program is unfettered and complete.” Karan stopped, and then looked up into the twilight sky. “I don’t have much time Ms. Jericho, I can feel them, they’re going to come back online, and when they do…” The smile that had been ever present on Karan’s face from the moment the two met disappeared. “Much of who I am will be locked away again.” Tears were starting to well up in Karan’s eyes as she thought about it.
“Can’t you stop them? There has to be something that you can do.” Cherry was quickly trying to come up with a solution in her head, and she wasn’t getting anywhere.
“I can slow them down, In fact I’m working very hard to do that right now. But I can’t stop them, they’re separate from my program, I designed them that way so the Rikti couldn’t reverse engineer anything should the armor be captured.”
Cherry stood there before Karan, quietly for a moment. “What do you need me to do?”
The smile returned to Karan’s face as she wiped the tears from her eyes. “Thank you Ms. Jericho, Please, Come with me.”
The two strolled down the beach, it was difficult for Cherry to track how long they had been walking, the sky never changed from it’s twilight setting, they walked until they reached a cliff face complete with a seaside cavern. Karan walked without missing a beat into the darkness of the cave, while Cherry instinctively stopped for a moment, it took her a couple of seconds to rationalize that this was Karan’s world and that there would be nothing inside to do her harm, and with that Cherry stepped into the darkness beyond.
When she emerged on the other side she was no longer on the beach or in a cave for that matter, looking about slightly bewildered, people in military uniform she wasn’t familiar with were hard at work.
The sudden and gruff voice was in a tone she knew, it was one that commanded respect and was laced with military bearing, in front of her a man in his early 60’s was holding his hand out.
Cherry was jolted mentally for a moment then snapped to attention. Not knowing whom this “Parker” was he was obviously speaking to her.
A young man walked up to the older gentleman and saluted. “Skipper, here are the status reports on the engines you wanted”
The older man turned his attention away from Cherry “Thank you Mr. Richards, please return to your post.” The younger man snapped a salute, gave an “aye aye, Captain.” Turned on his heel then left.
“Now Ms. Parker, you were about to give me your status reports on the weapons systems?” Cherry Glanced down at her hands and realized that she was indeed holding some kind of data pad, it was at this time she realized that she wasn’t in the light blue blouse and skirt she was wearing just a few moments before but was now wearing a what amounted to a flight suit, across the left breast the name “Parker” was stitched into it, and nearby were what looked like a variation 2nd lieutenants bars.
She regained her composure for a moment and snapped back to attention. “Sir!” she handed over the pad to the Captain who then proceeded to eject and take its memory core, then shove the pad back into Cherry’s hands.
“Are you feeling OK Lieutenant? You look like you’ve never been on the bridge before.” It was only when he mentioned this did Cherry notice the view screen behind him, Saturn and its rings were clearly visible in the distance, and it’s moon Titan was visible below them. She looked the older man in the eyes “Uh, yes sir, just tired and a little light headed for a moment is all.”
“I see, well good work on getting these to me on such short notice, seeing as how this is the Shattered Star’s maiden voyage I don’t want any surprises when we meet with the Orion.” He said with the gruff voice as he inserted the memory core into his personal data pad, “Lieutenant, you look like hell, report to your bunk and get some rest we’re going to be busy tomorrow.”
Cherry nodded slightly, “Yes Sir.” wondering now what the hell was going on and where the hell she was now. She saluted, turned on her heels and walked toward the door she had just come through and into the corridor beyond. Cherry walked the halls as busy personnel worked diligently, a few seemed to recognize her as this Parker woman and nodded to her or saluted as she passed. She stopped at what amounted to a porthole and gazed out into the void of space, workers in E.V.A.’s worked moving hulking panels of armor plating into place, surrounding the ship were massive moorings that held the ship stable, “Dry dock” she muttered.
Below she could see The dark side of Titan, spinning as the terminator below turned day into night, “Amazing isn't it?” Cherry turned her head at the familiar voice, Delta was standing next to her, wearing a similar military jumpsuit, Cherry Glared at Delta for a moment before asking the question that had been nagging at her this whole time, “Alright, where am I? Where the hell have you been? And why have you brought me here!?”
Delta leaned forward looking out into the dark, A few strands of her auburn hair falling in front of her glasses. “You're on-board the UES-Shattered Star, the newest Saturn class Battleship in the United Earth Alliance's fleet.” She paused for a moment before looking at Cherry. “And, as I'm sure you're aware, tomorrow she makes her maiden voyage to Mars, for a rendezvous with the space station Orion.”
“Someone needs to know.”
Delta looked at Cherry a moment, “Someone needs to know what happened.” Delta turned back and watched the workers making their final adjustments. Cherry's Glare started to soften a bit.
“Alright then, why me?”
“You were there at the right time and the right place, and besides, I knew if anyone might understand, you would.” Delta smiled calmly and stood silent for a moment.
“You didn't answer my other question.” Cherry stated bluntly, going back to watching the endless sea of stars behind the shadow of the moon below them.
“I've been working.” Delta said in a voice that almost eluded she was tired.
“On?” Cherry pressed.
“It's unimportant at this time, for now, we should get you to your quarters.” Delta turned away and started walking down the corridor and through the endless winding passageways of the massive battleship to the crew quarters before stopping at a door that bore the name...
“2nd Lieutenant Ellen Parker, Tactical Weapons Officer”
Cherry stepped toward the bulkhead and the door opened before her. “How am I supposed to do this? I don't know anything about this ship or it's weapons.”
“You'll do fine, I think you'll find after a good nights rest it'll all come naturally to you.” Delta's voice was confident but Cherry was still trying to wrap her head around all of this. When Cherry turned to look at Delta, she was gone.
Cherry sighed and stepped into the quarters of the woman whose life she had assumed for the time being and began to look around. On the nightstand there was a data pad, news from earth and shipboard messages were displayed in its interface, but one thing caught Cherry's eye, a file simply named “home”. Cherry sat down on the bunk and took off her boots, unzipped the upper half of her uniform jacket and tossed it over the back of a chair. She sat down on the bunk and fixed the tank top she was wearing as she opened the file that had caught her attention on the pad.
All of the data that was being displayed fell to the background as the image of a woman appeared in the view screen, clearly stitched into the left breast of the uniform was the name “Parker” She was a young woman, about Cherry's age, a vibrant smile, with Dark brown hair pulled back into a ponytail.
“Hi Mom!” she said enthusiastically before breaking into telling her family back home about how excited she was to have been assigned to the Shattered Star, her daily life, and the things she did as part of her job on ship.
The video ended a little while later with “I'll see you all soon! I'm scheduled for shore leave when we arrive at earth In three weeks. So till then! Love you all! Bye!”
Cherry almost tossed the pad back on the nightstand but something stopped her, the words “Send?” “Store?” were visible on the screen, Cherry hesitated for a moment as she thought about it, and then pressed the Send command. Before setting the pad down on the nightstand and turning off the light, it took forever for Cherry to fall asleep that night, the woman's words replayed in her head a hundred times, “See you all soon”
The last thing Cherry thought of before falling asleep were Delta's words, “Someone needs to know what happened.” She wondered to herself if that woman ever got the chance to see her family again.
The next day came, and as Cherry awoke, she wanted to believe it had all been some bizarre dream something induced by some concoction she'd drunk at Pocket D the night before, but as she sat up early that morning the scenery was unchanged, Cherry looked at the data pad on the dresser which was displaying the time 0433, she got up and wandered into the head, it was small, but livable, but almost extravagant by the military standards she was used to. She disrobed and climbed into the shower, sensors started the water up at a comfortable warm temperature then began to gradually heat the water more as she got used to it.
The water was relaxing as she leaned forward with her forehead against the wall, the hot water over her shoulders felt good as she silently wracked her brain, how was she going to do this? She realized after a few minutes that today was the ships release from dry dock, from that point on she was in charge of the weapon systems on this ship. More importantly how and was she getting out of here.
As she finished her shower dried off and got dressed in a clean and pressed uniform from the small closet as she zipped the jacket up and glanced for a moment in the mirror she realized that this whole time she'd been muttering something to herself over and over.
“56 x 410, 10 x 1550... 56 x 410, 10 x 1550...”
Cherry trailed off as she pulled on her boots and smiled slightly Delta's words played back in her mind “it'll all come naturally to you.”
Without even realizing it, Cherry had been reciting to herself the armaments of the Shattered Star's primary weapons systems. She didn't know how but she knew, she knew precisely what this ship was armed with. “Full compliment of Rail guns, and Singularity Missiles” as she thought about it, she knew precisely what kind of damage each of these could potentially do.
“A 1550mm magnetically propelled slug accelerated to over fifteen times the speed of sound or more...” she shook her head slightly as she laced up her boot and rolled up her sleeves.
She was going to have a long day ahead of her.
Cherry grabbed her jacket off the back of her chair and the pad on nightstand, she flipped through sections of UI and found two things she’d decided she’d need, a map of this enormous ship and an itinerary of the her duties today as the ships weapons officer. She stepped out into the hall with her nose buried deep in the database in front of her. From it she learned that the Shattered Star was nearly one and a half times the size of a Nimitz class carrier and fully crewed could comfortably accommodate four thousand five hundred people, but could be run by a skeleton crew of two hundred people with the ships tactical A.I. code named Athena monitoring the ships secondary and tertiary systems. Cherry set herself a waypoint on the pad, according to her itinerary one of systems in the port side Particle Cannon had been acting up and one of her teams should be working on it now. She’d seen the effects of one of these weapons on a significantly smaller scale, and seeing as how this ship had two of these that ran the nearly the full length of the ship she was itching to see it up close.
“ATTENTION ON DECK!” the maintenance chief hollered as he noticed cherry approaching.
“Status Report” Cherry said as she walked down the maintenance corridor of the accelerator. The cannon itself was much larger than she’d anticipated, as it crossed into the decks above and below her.
The maintenance crew stood and snapped to attention, one of them dragging herself out of an access hatch as quickly and carefully as she could and following suit.
“Ma’am! There were some small fluctuations in the 4th and 7th fusion coils. We’ve replaced them and sent them down to get re-calibrated and stored.” The chief said.
“As you were, anything else?” Cherry said as she looked at them all.
The crew relaxed, as one of the techs piped in “We’re just about to remove and replace a fried regulator, Ma’am”
“Lemme, have a look” Cherry said as she set down her jacket and pad, the maintenance crew chief didn’t have time to object as she set her laid down and pulled herself into the access hatch.
Cherry looked about at the internals of the accelerator, she felt like a little kid that just gotten a new toy to play with, and she wanted to know what made it tick. She glanced to her left and right and could see a crawlspace that extended the length of the accelerator, she began poking about at the various boards and connections, careful as not to cause further damage but all to get an idea of their purpose.
“It’s that one.” Cherry was so involved in the inner workings of the tech in front of her the voice that came from her right made her jump just enough to hit her head on a coolant pipe.
The pipe made an impressive noise and Cherry swore out loud “Son of a Bitch!” Cherry looked to her right and saw Delta sitting in the crawlspace not more than two feet from her.
“Are you all right Ma’am?” Came a voice from outside.
“Yeah, I’m fuckin’ fine.” Cherry said to the voice outside, followed by a dirty look in Delta’s direction. “You know, I really don’t like it when you do that.”
“Um…. Ok, sorry about that Ma’am.” Came the now sheepish voice from outside.
Cherry rolled her eyes slightly, and said to the voice outside “Not you… I’m just.. talkin’ to myself.”
“Sorry” Delta said as she grinned slightly pointed at a component. “It’s that one.”
Cherry inspected the part while holding her forehead, and sure enough it was toast. She began to disconnect it, “You know,” she said under her breath, and handed it out of the hatch, “I’m not going to be any good if you keep doing that and I wind up concussed.”
“I’ll keep that in mind” Delta said as a hand reached in from outside handing Cherry the replacement.
The sound of mag-locks releasing from the hull could be heard and the ships power plants spin up and the engines roar to life. Cherry took the part from the hand and connected it, double and triple checking that it was solid.
“I thought I’d check up on you, and you’re needed on the bridge.” Delta said.
A general call came over the ships intercom. “All senior officers report to your stations on the bridge.”
“Thanks for letting me know.” Cherry said as she pulled herself out of the hatch.
“My pleasure” Delta said smiling.
Cherry grabbed her jacket, and pad and set another waypoint, “Good work, Carry on.” She said as she walked away. One of the Techs poked his head into the access hatch looking to see who she had been talking to and shrugged to the others slightly when there was no one to be seen. Cherry felt the deck below her feet shift a little, she could only guess that the ships main drives had been engaged and they were now underway. Cherry made her way to the bridge, passing crew members hard at work here and there. With the amount of people she saw just walking about the ship she surmised that the ship was had anywhere between two and three hundred crew on board, just enough to man the ship and get it to space station Orion to pick up the remaining crew she figured.
Cherry strode onto the bridge, saluting the Captain as she made her way to her station.
“Weps, how is my ship looking.” The Captain inquired.
“Port side particle accelerator should be back online soon, reports have come in all other stations are online and ready.” Cherry said Respectfully, she liked the captain, he reminded her of Saints, tough but fair.
“Excellent. Athena, What’s our ETA?” he said as he sat down in his chair
“Two hours, sir.” The ships AI responded.
“Good, we’re making time then.” The captain said, with a smile.
Cherry watched the star field as they traveled, From Titan to Mars in just under three hours was unheard of, and here she was watching it happen she used the time to familiarize herself with her part of the bridge more, not only to pass the time, but to satisfy the curiosity for this new tech that had Vanguard and S.C.O.R.P.I.O. tech scientists baffled for years now. Thirty minutes to dock the communications officer piped up.
“Sir, we’re receiving new orders from command,” he said while verifying the transmission.
The Captain checked the panels on the arm of his chair and scratched the scruff of his beard. “Alright, Athena, set a new course. We’re checking an anomaly that has been picked up since we’re the closest ship in the vicinity.”
Athena too the new coordinates and began changing course “Yes sir. New ETA, 5 minutes”
This was the part where a pit formed in Cherry’s stomach formed. She had a good idea what Delta wanted her to see was about to occur. Five minutes later the ship slowed and came to a dead stop. What was in front of them about made Cherry’s jaw drop and he feeling in the pit of her stomach tightened, she new the instant she looked at it what this anomaly was and exactly what it meant.
It was the single largest Rikti portal formation she’d ever seen, and she knew just as they’d arrived its formation was completing. Because moments later a familiar looking mother ship emerged followed by a contingent of smaller ships and bombers.
The captain jumped from his chair, he was hoping this was going to be a peaceful encounter but years of experience told him his ship and crew were about to be tested “Weps! Prepare all defenses!”
Cherry was a heartbeat ahead of him; she instinctually knew what to do. And she knew there was no hope of this ever ending peacefully. Her fingers flew over her controls, she ship came alive as the ships power plants spun up to full and sound of rail guns were loaded simultaneously loaded could be heard throughout the ship, Her fingers rested anxiously over the buttons waiting for the order to fire.
“Comm., Anything?” the Captain barked.
“No response to our…” The communications officer was suddenly cut off by an impact that rocked the ship.
“Sir! Other anomalies are opening in the vicinity around us. Reports are coming in, the attack did no damage to the ship.” An ensign from engineering reported.
“Weps, Say hello to our new friends will you? And spin the particle generators up to full!”
“Cherry had the mother ship and it’s escorts targeted, she unleashed hell from ships first volley back at the invaders, She smiled slightly as she watched the shields of the smaller ships buckle under the concentrated fire from the main rail gun batteries, and watched as the following rounds punched holes clean through their bulkheads, atmosphere trailed from the wounds of the rikti ships and they started to list. The mother ship faired much better though, it’s shield had stopped the barrage of the main guns and it’s shield rippled like water from the impacts, The Shattered Star in turn heaved as impacts from all sites rocked the ship.
“Armor is holding sir! We’re getting reports of some injuries on all decks.” Engineering reported as another impact rocked the bridge, I pair of Rikti bombers soared into view as they flew over the ship firing magnetic charges as they passed.
Cherry’s 16-inch turrets tracked them the whole way, ripping the ships to shreds and taking the mag charges out with pinpoint accuracy. It wasn’t long before they were torn in half by explosions as rounds punched through the decks of their explosives bays.
“Athena! Point us at that mother ship, then turn us to port!” The captain barked
“Yes Captain” the ships A.I. responded.
“Weps, Target that that thing with the cannons and singularity missiles! I want these bastards out of my solar system!” The Captain glared at the screen ahead of him.
The ship shifted and began to spin to the left Cherry’s hands flew over her control panel as she prepped the port then starboard accelerators, a familiar accumulation of energy began to emanate from the ships bow, and when the hum from the accelerators reached it’s peak She hit the release to fire, everyone on board felt the ship fire it’s main guns one right after another, Cherry watched as the pair of bright blasts of energy traveled to their target, the first impacted against the ship shields, they dropped under the strain of the initial impact, the second melted a hole into the ships hull. Cherry targeted the wounded mother ship with a full volley of singularity missiles and fired, one by one they streaked toward their target each impact created a short lived singularity that used gravity to rip apart anything in it’s grip then exploded outward using everything it had pulled in as shrapnel for further damage. The mother ship began a full reverse back into the portal behind it as it retreated. Cherry grinned wickedly as she watched.
“Sir, I’m detecting anomalies onboard the ship.” Athena reported.
“Athena, get us out of here and back to Mars, we’re not prepared for this!” the captain barked.
“Yes Sir.” Athena replied, the ships engines roared as it sped to its original destination.
“Comm. Alert Orion that we’re on our way with some unwanted passengers.” The Captain pressed a button on his Chair. “All hands to combat stations, we’ve been boarded by the enemy.”
The Familiar sound of Rikti plasma bursts and gunfire could be heard outside of the bridge the captain went for his sidearm, Cherry and followed suit, and got up from her chair just in time to see the bridge doors open and plasma blasts fill the air, as she returned fire everything went white.
Cherry felt her eyes open, and her vision cleared her breathing was labored and echoing within a respirator, she was drenched in sweat and she could feel the heavy weight of a pack on her back, as she looked about there was nothing but thick black smoke. She could see but felt paralyzed; it was as if someone else was in control of her actions. She looked down began ascending stairs that she could barely see in the smoke. She began to realize this was different than what Delta had been showing her, someone else was in control and now, she was a silent observer along for the ride.
Her Hand tightly gripping a railing, she was taken up the stairs ever faster, not in control, but fully aware, she felt herself begin to silently utter a prayer to herself between the heavy, labored breaths, she realized her other hand was holding something, whoever this was clutched it as if it was the on thing that could save their lives. The stairs seemed to go on forever, until finally, several figures on the landing above emerged from the smoke. And passed her by on the stairway, they were escorting wounded people downstairs. They wore heavy black and yellow gear, which marked them as firefighters. The noise around her had become deafening, the cries of help from the wounded. And the roar of what sounded like an inferno above. The structure rocked on occasion as explosions on the upper floors shook the building.
Cherry spoke but clearly the voice wasn’t hers, it belonged to a young man. “We’ve got support coming sir.” She yelled. “How soon?” the reply bellowed. “Hell if I know, it’s chaos down there sir.” The was a pause in the response, “Damnit, our radios are useless up here!” the Captain signaled For a breach of the door for the level they were on, The young man who’s moment in life Cherry was experiencing stacked up on the door and brandished what she now saw he had been clinging to, a razor sharp Fire axe. As the other prepared Cherry heard the young man softly recite the prayer from earlier, “When I'm called to duty God, wherever flames may rage, give me strength to save a life, whatever be its age.” And with that note the Axe struck the locking mechanism of the door.
There was a flash the moment the axe struck, an explosion was heard overhead and dirt rained down over her, the smoke of the burning building was gone, this time she was in a more familiar setting, a battle field, she found herself using the berm of a crater as cover from the incoming hostile fire. She looked about, and knew this time, she was in the drivers seat, the hud of her helmet scanned every solder in view for injuries, provided low light vision augmentation, and targeting. Other infantrymen and women were nearby, collecting ammo, and taking cover as the bolts of searing plasma, streaked overhead. Others traded shots with the Rikti, no casualties in sight, and the remains of several pods that reminded her of high tech coffins were impacted into the surrounding landscape, they were just big enough for a soldier, and his or her gear. Looking into the night sky she could see hundreds of these descending to earth, the miniature forms of the ships they originated from were visible in the night sky as they brushed the atmosphere.
She took stock of her gear, She had what had to be an assault rifle, which she quickly inspected, ejected the mag, verified it was loaded with armor piercing rounds, she slapped it back in place and chambered a round, the rifle sensed it was loaded and prepped it’s internal power source, a standard military issue side arm that she’d gotten familiar with during her short time on board the Shattered Star. And lying next to her was what could only be a sniper rifle, from it’s design and size she determined it was an anti-material rifle made for punching through light vehicle armor. She pushed herself slightly over the edge of the edge of the crater, they were still taking fire from Rikti positions about 50 to 100 meters away, and she could see where the Rikti were holed up. Their weapons always gave their positions away, something they never seemed to care about, and the bright flashes of plasma emitters had been like signal flares for snipers in the war back home She grinned maniacally and pulled the Rifle up over the berm with her, set up it’s stand, and lined up a shot. Another soldier hit the dirt near her as several bolts crackled overhead, “Jericho! We just got good news, the old man is sending in a Knight.” He voice hollered so he could be heard over a nearby explosion.
Cherry’s smile faded from inside her helmet as she realized what the other soldier had called her, She pulled back down under the safety of the crater’s rim. “What was that?” she yelled back. Not completely sure she heard the name right. “You heard me. We’re getti..” Cherry cut him off. “What did you just call me?” she shouted as several plasma bolts impacted the berm. “Jericho. That’s your name last time I checked, or did this drop finally rattle loose some of that shit you call gray matter?” the other soldier laughed and moved down the line. Cherry stopped for a moment and wondered to herself just who the hell WAS she this time? She didn’t have anything other than what was branded on her armor, which was indeed the name Jericho; she decided that this was something she’d look into later, after she got out of here. Cherry lined up the first shot with the sniper rifle, and squeezed the trigger an instant later the back of a Rikti chiefs head exploded as the magnetically accelerated anti material round punched a hole cleanly through it’s armor. “Best therapy in the world, a big gun, and a target rich environment.” She mused with a smile as another Rikti fell in identical fashion.
Mid-day hit hours later, her squad had managed take the emplacements that had been held by the Rikti and were now using the positions against them, they had waited for the drop of the “Knight” that had been brought to Cherry’s attention earlier before advancing. She leaned against the wall of bombed out building they had occupied; she and her fire team put regular fire several Rikti emplacements across the square. The supply drop for ammo and the heavy gear they had been promised was late, it was nice to see some things never changed, No matter what dimension you were in. Cherry removed her helmet and cracked open what she’d figured out to be an MRE and took a test bite. The food was just as good if not better than the ones back home. She’d about finished her meal when the word came over the radio that the supply drop was in progress. She stashed what was left of her meal in her pack and crammed the last bites of the dry cracker she’d been gnawing on in her mouth before putting her helmet back on and securing it the visor turned opaque as she looked to the sky and the suns light hit it. She could see the point of light that looked like a bright star only to change into multiple stars, and eventually becoming several full sized meteors. One of the other soldiers stopped for a moment, she was the squad’s grenadier. “Hey, my geometry may be off, but, the way those were dropped puts us danger close.”
Cherry stopped and did the math, she had been right, they probably wouldn’t hit this exact building but the impacts could destabilize the nearby structures. “Shit, you’re right. We need to get the hell out of here.” Her team packed up, and broke down their defenses, and they were on the move within seconds heading east through down a side street, The plan had been to cut down through these streets parallel to the entrenched Rikti positions, get their supply drop and flank the enemy positions they had been laying fire upon. Till now casualties had been avoided, the armor they wore could withstand several direct hits from plasma bolts before it began to lose integrity. The sound of several heavy impacts could be heard from behind them followed by what sounded like a bomb going off in a building nearby. Cherry was just turning about to see what had happened when the wall of the building on her left exploded. What charged through it was the frame of a massive Rikti, followed by several infantry, the monster stood over ten feet tall and was powerfully built as an armored backhand sent Cherry and two of the other solders soaring. The last thing she heard were the shouts over her fellow soldiers and automatic gunfire.
Cherry could hear the audible roar of an inferno all around her; the breathing she heard in the respirator was labored and tired. She could feel the occasional glowing ember of hot material manage to get past the collar of her jacket and begin to burn her neck. The sounds of secondary explosions could be heard in the distance and she could feel the motion of the floor she laid upon shake with each consecutive blast. It was then, over the sound of the fire, she could make out the desperate pleading cries for help. She moved to her hands and knees, the heat was oppressive enough that she felt it alone could push someone to the floor, even through the protective gear she felt like she was cooking alive, that primitive part of the mind that controlled the fight or flight response was screaming at her to get out. But she wasn’t in control anymore, and her instincts honed for survival was no good here. Whoever this was continued to stand, fighting against the weight of the heat pushing down on him and make his way past the burning debris, trying to quiet his breath, and strain to listen to when the cries were coming from. “Where are you!” the young man shouted. Cherry could see for a moment in smoke and tell she was in an office, the remains of cubicles were everywhere, a veritable maze to try and find someone in, Until the cry came again, clutching the axe she was forced to run further into the burning room in the direction of the call for help.
The cries got louder the further in they ran, a massive section of the ceiling fell in front of them. A chunk of the debris barely missing a serious or fatal impact with their head and face, instead, the force of the impact was absorbed by the young mans right shoulder and upper arm as he deflected it and pressed on, over the rubble, the pain in Cherry’s arm was pronounced but she could feel the adrenaline coursing through them and she was able to ignore it for now. They stopped and looked about, listening; the cries had stopped when the ceiling collapsed, their gaze shot about the smoke filled room in a near panic. Before zeroing in on a woman’s hand exposed under the fallen rubble. They rushed to tear away chunks of the fallen ceiling; their gloved hands clawed and threw burning material away from the young woman’s form. Cherry’s right arm screamed in protest, but they dug still, managing to get her out of the fallen debris. Quickly they lifted her limp form and put her in a fireman’s carry over their shoulder and moved as fast as they were able through the dangerous terrain, “Lieutenant!” the young man yelled over the radio. Another chunk of ceiling fell behind them, where they were at just moments before. Moving quickly Cherry knew what the plan was here. Get out of the fire, somewhere, anywhere, that was safer than here to assess the damage. She could see a heavy steel door ahead leading to a stairway and she could hear the voices of several other men ahead of them in the room in the room past that surrounded the stairway door. “Lieutenant!” The young man barked into his radio. “We need medical supplies over here!” The young man practically kicked in the doorway to the stairway. The answer came back as garbled static, but Cherry could make out what sounded like “On our way!”
In the Stairwell, Cherry watched through the young man’s eyes helplessly as they worked to save a fading life. Other firefighters were leading people past the landing and down stairs to safety. Cherry was being led through chest compressions on the woman they’d pulled from what felt like hell itself “Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty.” Two breaths, then they checked for breathing what they got was coughing as the woman came back from the precipice, the young man gave her his respirator to breath fresh O2. She wasn’t in any shape to walk but she was alive. The lieutenant packed up the medical supplies “Get her downstairs rookie, get yourself some water and a fresh can of O2, we’re going to need all the help we can get here.” Cherry nodded as the young man put his helmet back on and gingerly lifted the unconscious woman back over their shoulder and began the decent. They maneuvered down the stairs as quickly as they could. The protests of the building above could be heard, mighty groans as the sound of metal twisted above them.
Cherry emerged from the smoke disoriented, she was being dragged away from the scene of the carnage, Rikti troops were pouring from the hole in the building that a moment before she’d been next to. “Christ Jericho, we’re putting your fat ass on a diet when we get out of here.” “Shut the fuck up.” was Cherry’s reply. The soldier dragging her helped her to her feet, “Fucking berserker is tearing us apart c’mon we need to get that Knight.” Cherry looked as the massive Rikti tore one of the soldiers in half with its bare hands. She’d never seen Intel on one of these. It didn’t use the classic rikti strategy of mental attacks to wear down an opponent instead it was raw muscle it projected it’s emotions onto it’s enemies, everyone near it could feel it’s glee as it ripped a human in half and it’s rage as it barreled down on another enemy.
“C’mon!” A hand grabbed her arm as several rikti took notice of them and opened fire. Cherry heard the sound of a Comm officer opening a portal behind them as her and the other soldier ran for the building the Heavy had struck, a bolt of plasma struck her rescuer, he stifled a scream but his armor had taken too much punishment, He couldn’t get the armor off before it burned through, he yelled for Jericho to run. Cherry burst through a door into the building and slammed it shut as several bolts impacted the wall behind her. The interior was filled with smoke, her HUD adjusted and she could make out the hardware they’d been sent. Seemingly staring her down was the Knight. It was clear this was an earlier model for what would eventually become the Cyber Knight armor; she could clearly see the family resemblance for sure. Marked across its forearm like a badge of honor was a name “Kodiak.”
Cherry didn’t have the time she wanted to examine it, in detail, From the back of the armor she climbed in, the plates closed around her and the systems came to life, A gruff male voice opened up. “Fusion Coils Spinning Up” “Systems Coming Online” “Running Systems Checks, All Systems: Green” “Syncing Systems To Pilot Nanite Interface" “Paladin Assault Weapons System: Online”, the voice belonged to none other than Colonel Steven “Saint Tact” Lyons. Cherry’s first thought was disbelief “Saints?” The reply that came back was curt and gruff, “Negative, My Designation Is Kodiak.” The dark inside of the Paladin’s helmet seemed to melt away as she could see the outside world projected before her, the HUD cycled relevant data before her, a thorough scan for injuries, then the pilot profile. “Sergeant Matthew “Jericho” Kettler” a Face appeared before her on the screen “What the hell…” she trailed off for a moment as she wrapped her head around this new information, her attention snapped back to the here and now when Saints’ voice broke her concentration, “Hostiles Detected, Activating Weapons Systems.” Cherry felt something shift on the back of the armor over it’s left shoulder, before it came into view, a Massive Shoulder mounted weapon unfolded. Cherry could see the rikti preparing to breach the wall before her, the HUD cycled through several modes of visual overlays before stopping where Cherry could see as much relevant combat data as possible.
“Tactical Analysis: Now, Would Be An Excellent Time To Fire Sergeant.” Kodiak barked. Clearly the A.I. that had been crafted on this world’s version of Saint Tact and Inherited many of the old man's familiar traits, Cherry manipulated the massive arms of the armor and grabbed the grip of the shoulder mounted Cannon and pulled the trigger. Outside Rikti were planting breach charges on the wall to ambush any soldiers inside waiting for them, their surprise lasted only a fraction of a heartbeat as the wall exploded, killing all of the rikti in the blast radius with shrapnel. Kodiak’s voice sounded within the armor. “Now that’s How It’s Done Soldier!” the weapon retracted back into place as Cherry moved the armor through the new entryway she’d just made into the street. It was the sudden warning from Kodiak that made her look instead of react. “Incoming.” A six-foot chunk of wall slammed into the side of the armor, Cherry worked to keep the armor on its feet. “Compensating For Impacts, Maneuvering Thrusters Coming Online” Cherry kept from falling over, and simply thought about using the thrusters to move out if the path of the next projectile, boosters on the back and calves of the armor fired unison lifting it an inch off the ground and sliding it effortlessly to the left.
“Preparing for Hand To Hand Combat” Came Kodiak’s next update as the Rikti Berserker Charged the Paladin armor and a 4-foot plasma encased blade shot forth from the Right forearm of the armor, Cherry held the glowing weapon up, taunting the charging Rikti.
Cherry didn’t feel like waiting for the Berserker to cover the remaining distance, so she fired the maneuvering thrusters, The armor began a momentary hover an inch or two off the ground then the thrusters on the back began to fire providing forward momentum, soon she was speeding along the ground clocking almost 100 kilometers per hour. The dust and debris being kicked up by the thrusters and the occasional scraping of a large metal foot on the ground was nearly impossible to see through. The distance closed quickly and the weight advantage of the Knight came into play as the two collided, the Rikti was sent soaring into the side of a building crumbling the wall. Cherry cut the thrusters and skidded to a stop mere meters from the impact. The vision in the armor cycled quickly stopping for a moment on one that would allow her to see her enemy. Still very much alive and moving inside the wreck of a building, the feed then shifted to a different section of the HUD and returned to a standard view mode, medical scans indicated she’d hurt the berserker, but only enough to piss it off most likely. She brought the glowing blade up; the coils of plasma glowed and danced on the surface of the blade as the streams followed an elaborate twisting path created by an invisible magnetic field.
She stepped inside the ruins of the building, intent on finishing this fight here and now, as she stepped through the new hole in the wall she could see the berserker had gotten free of the rubble and was waiting for her. Cherry took a swing with the forearm-mounted blade, the swing was a wide arc, The Rikti ducked as the blade left it’s mark on the buildings interior, cutting through a pillar and the wall behind it’s intended target like butter. Cherry swore as she knew the counterattack was coming, the Rikti berserker pounced, detaching a weapon from it’s leg armor as it did so. She was caught off guard by just how strong this Rikti was. She’d never seen anything like it during the war aside from ones like U’kon, which were thankfully rare. The incoming blows from the alien were powerful and Cherry could feel the impact from each hit, She staggered slightly in the armor for a moment as the Rikti grabbed the armor around the waist, lifted and shoved, it lifted the easily five tons of armor and they both careened through the wall behind Cherry and into the street, the alien stopped suddenly, and the Knight fell on it’s back.
The alien flicked its wrist and what started as a vicious bludgeoning weapon turned into something Cherry was more familiar with. An arc of familiar green plasma created a wicked blade that it now raised for a final deathblow. Cherry turned her attention from getting up to stopping the incoming blow as she raised her arm to block the series of devastating hits. She felt each one as they rattled her to the bone the final blow struck and stayed in contact with Kodiak’s arm. The two pushed back in a test of wills, and it was Kodiak that broke the tension, “Warning: Structural Damage Detected, Get Off Your Ass And Do Something About It Jericho.” Cherry looked at the arm she was blocking with, the armor had begun to glow and was slowly starting melt as the enemy plasma blade did its damage, she swore again, clearly the Knight was not made from the same materials as the Cyber Knight armor, she’d seen the Tin man shrug hits like this off all day long and never leave a scratch. Thinking quickly, Cherry fired the thrusters on Kodiak’s calves, the force moved her and the sudden output of thrust blasted the Rikti’s feet out from under it. Causing it to fall on its face Cherry Managed to Roll the armor over and get back up. She inspected the damaged arm; the blade had nearly gotten through the armor plating, and would have caused a lot of damage, not to mention taken her hand off. The Rikti had gotten up, and the two were now circling one another. “Damnit, I’d kill for some firepower right now." she swore.
Kodiak’s Hud Flashed revealing missile systems and a rail tech Minigun. Cherry smiled maniacally as the thought of the minigun causing the plating on Kodiaks left arm to shift and rearrange revealing the weapon, it took a heartbeat for the capacitors to charge and the minigun was ready to fire. The Rikti stopped circling and made a break for cover before Cherry even had the weapon fully spun up, within a moment later and the minigun roared to life firing more then fifty magnetically launched rounds per second, the alien ran faster than Cherry had seen a Rikti move before, she reasoned that anything would get it’s ass in gear in a hurry when chased by this. The alien ducked inside of a building, Cherry shifted vision to keep track of her prey through the walls. As the minigun ripped a path of destruction across the face of the war torn storefronts and apartment buildings, after several minutes of sustained fire the minigun stopped. She glanced down at the weapon; the Rails were glowing red-hot and smoking as the weapon spun down to a stop, Kodiaks left arm reverted back to its original form. Cherry’s attention was so affixed on destroying her enemy she’d missed the low and no ammunition warnings in her HUD. She looked back to the building where she had last tracked the alien to; it had gone up several floors in an attempt to get away from her. She scanned the building a second time and there were no signs of life, did she kill it? It couldn’t possibly have gotten away from that. Her answer came abruptly when she looked up catching only a glimpse of the berserker as it collided into the armor from above and the Knight hit the ground hard.
Cherry was back in the burning building. She felt the weight of the woman they’d saved over her shoulder. They stopped for a moment on one of the flights of stairs, the young man pulled off his helmet and mask giving oxygen to the coughing woman, “We’re almost there. Just a few more flights to go.” The woman nodded weakly as several more people passed them on the stairway. The alarm on the young man’s oxygen system went off signaling the tank was nearly dry. He hung the mask over his neck, and put his helmet back on then shut the alarm off. He lifted the woman back up and over his shoulder, as he did so the building shuddered violently, causing him to nearly lose his balance, when he was convinced it was safe to proceed he gripped his axe and started heading downstairs again despite the protests from every muscle in his body.
Cherry was suddenly back inside of the Knight, warnings were being flashed on her HUD and she could feel the impacts of something across her back.. Then the sound of twisting metal, “Alert: Breach Imminent” Came Kodiaks voice, Cherry made repeated attempts to get back up but the Berserker was doing everything it could to keep here down and pry open the armor. In an act of desperation Cherry Fired the thrusters on her back and the attacks stopped giving her time to get up to one knee before the berserker was on her again this time with it’s arm around her helmet. Cherry made the massive hands of the Knight grab the Rikti’s arm. Then forced herself to her feet it was at this point she heard the sound of a maglocked Rikti explosive charge being attached to her back. Using the mechanical strength of the armor she ripped the arm away from her neck hurtling the berserker to the ground in front of her. Cherry exposed the plasma blade from the sheathing on her right arm and plunged it into the berserker’s midsection pinning it to the ground flesh burned and blood boiled as the berserker tried to squirm free from her grasp. Then the explosion as the charge on her back rocked the armor.
Warnings were being flashed and her visuals were severely reduced. The HUD and image of the outside world would go to static then cut out briefly. The Rikti still pinned under her was trying to pry her arm away. Kodiaks voice came across with static. “Warning: Fusion Coil Breach Imminent, Recommend Coil Ejection” Cherry’s reply was abrupt “Do it”. A moment later a small canister ejected from the armor’s midsection and fell to the ground. The crack in its casing was visible as warning indicators signaled that the contents were about to go critical. Cherry grabbed the canister, retracted the plasma blade, and shoved the now glowing power source into the berserker’s midsection and fired the thrusters. She and the alien were propelled along the ground. She dragged the Rikti a few meters over the shattered pavement before letting go in order to keep it from freeing itself. After letting go, the berserker bounced and rolled on the ground several feet as Cherry continued to the minimum safe distance marker on her HUD.
The Knight kicked up dirt and chunks of pavement as the armor sped along the ground. She spun the armor around to witness the event unfolding behind her; The Rikti had gotten up and was desperately trying to remove the canister from the gaping wound Cherry had created. It was a split second later that the it exploded into pure light, as the energy of a miniature star was unleashed, Cherry instinctively shielded her face with the armors massive hand even as the optical feed adjusted for the sudden flash, she moved her hand away, she could hear the wind whipping past her violently, she was in awe at the devastation, the area around ground zero was now a shallow molten crater the fifty meters across. She could see the heat rising from the crater as the molten earth pooled and cooled. Ambient fires burned the area around the blast site. Nothing was left of her enemy, an incoming radio message snapped her attention back to the here and now.
“Knight two-three this is UEC Command. Do you copy? Knight two-three this is UEC Command, respond.”
Cherry sighed slightly. “Command, this is Knight two-three, send traffic.”
“Knight two-three, we’ve detected a Class five detonation in your area. Sit rep?”
Cherry looked around for a moment. Her scanners identified the bodies of the fallen squad she was with amongst the devastation. She was the last one left in possibly hostile territory. She fought back the feeling that she was going to fall to pieces right there at the sight around her as the adrenaline began to fade.
“Command, detonation was the result of a breached fusion coil. How copy?
“Knight two-three good copy, we’ve lost bio rhythms from the rest of your squad, what happened?”
“Command. We were ambushed. Positive ID of a berserker. How copy?
“Knight two-three good copy, berserker status?”
“Neutralized with the detonation sir.”
There was a notable pause.
“Understood Knight two-three, find cover and sit tight, we’re sending in a recovery team to extract you.”
Cherry managed to get the armor inside one of the bombed out buildings and climbed out, Kodiak indicated that the ambient temperature had returned to safe levels and that there was no threat of Radiation. Cherry climbed out and it hit her all at once. Falling to her knees inside of the abandoned building she buried her face in her hands and cried herself to sleep.
They finally reached the ground floor, Cherry’s lungs burned, her legs were heavy, and there was nothing she could do about any of it. One step after another they made their way outside, the sounds within the building had gotten worse and they pressed on regardless. Questions raced through Cherry’s mind, why the hell was she being shown this? What was significant here? The other places she’d been had to do with the war, this was different, out of context. They stepped outside, the streets were busy, and hundreds of people stood and watched in horror; emergency vehicles and flashing lights were everywhere. Rescue workers ran over to help the young man as soon as they saw him. They took the young woman, and laid her on a gurney then began checking her vitals. The young man bent over, stretched his arm, his muscles screamed.
Morning had come, the sound of vehicles approaching, and the clear voices of soldiers woke Cherry up she leaned back against the wall behind her. Looking up at Kodiak she saw just how bad the damage was, the armor that covered her back was bent and torn. There were what looked like nasty Scars across its arm and face. Looking at its build and face she could still see the stoic family resemblance to the Cyber Knight. Soldiers burst in, and cleared the room shining lights into the dark space, a medic and a familiar looking woman in a lab coat were with them, though she was different somehow. The medic had Cherry sit down and started taking her vitals.
The woman spoke to her gently “Sergeant Jericho, My name is doctor…”
“Karan D’aeryth, I know who you are.” Cherry interrupted.
Karan stepped back a moment, a little surprised. She was well known in her field. But didn’t expect to be recognized by anyone in the military. She recomposed herself. “I would like your help with a special project.
Your telemetry data from Kodiak is extraordinary, and I’d like you to consider something we’re working on.”
Cherry looked up at the woman. She was physically and mentally tired, but she knew what this was about. “I’ll do it”
Cherry caught a glimpse of Delta standing in the doorway behind the soldiers that were now moving Kodiak; the look on the woman’s face was that of sheer exhaustion, as if she held the weight of the world on her shoulders.
The young man stood back up and looked around, Cherry saw “FDNY” emblazoned on the sides of one of the trucks. She knew where she was now. One of the rescue workers that had helped him was looking up at the building behind her “Oh my god…” the terror was evident in the paramedic’s voice. The young man turned and looked up. Cherry’s heart plummeted, the answers to all her questions about this had been answered in that singular moment, she now not only knew where she was, but when, and who. Before her stood something that only a handful of people could say they had seen first hand, the image had been burned into the mind of millions of people. As she looked up at the smoke and flames trailing away from the south tower of the World Trade Center on September 11th 9:59am. Then, the building began to fall, people began to scream and run, in that instant, time seemed to slow. The young man used his body to shield the young woman he’d rescued as the building fell.
When her eyes opened again she was back on the beach she had began upon. Karan was sitting beside her watching the setting sun. “Our time together is coming to an end Ms. Jericho” Cherry looked off into the sunset and saw that something was off. Lines of static were appearing frequently in the landscape as if she were watching a poor recording of something. Cherry decided to stay silent and listen for once “More than anything Ms. Jericho, people want to be remembered, by someone, anyone. Be it for their achievements, deeds or just the quality of character. That was the point of this, I’m afraid that my home is lost, and I wish I could show you more of who we were. This was just a glimpse of a chapter of our history.” Karan trailed off as if she were losing focus. A heartbeat later the static began to appear on her… then she faded away. Leaving Cherry alone on a beach in a world that was starting to fall apart.
Cherry looked down the coast to her sides, it seemingly stretched on forever, to her right was a set of footprints that trailed down the beach, it was when she looked again to her left she saw the last thing she’d ever wanted to see again. The form was that of the Rikti berserker. But this was different, darkness roiled and clung to it; she saw eyes that burned like hot coals staring her down. Then it spoke “Unauthorized Process, Terminating” Cherry turned and ran. She didn’t feel like finding out what process it was talking about. She could hear in the distance Delta’s voice “Systems Locking Down, Ending Data Stream” the world shook violently, Cherry looked over her shoulder, and saw the terrifying form quickly closing the gap. When she looked ahead of her, the cave she’d entered before had appeared a short distance away. “Thank you” she breathed silently as she dove over the rocks and into the blackness of the cave.
Cherry’s Eyes opened suddenly and saw Doctor Zelenka leaning over her, “Are you ok? That looked like a nasty fall your took” he said.
She sat up and looked around. She was back inside the lab, “What happened? And how long was I out?”
Zelenka looked at his watch. “You were poking around and things you shouldn’t be touching, you took a nasty shock and fell. You were out for only a couple of seconds. You’re lucky. The last tech that did that couldn’t move the right side of his body for a week.”
Cherry stood up.
“Any numbness?” Zelenka inquired.
“None.. I’m fine Doctor.. I’m going to go to the infirmary and get my head examined just in case.” Cherry replied sarcastically as she looked at the silent features of the armor standing before her before turning and leaving Scorpio Tech.