UnderCurrent - Can You break the Cycle?
"Magnetic Clamps Now!!" Someone called.
The pressure was almighty, dust bins and lampposts flew past the monitor screen, the other mechs we're all clearly burned and damaged, the roller-shutter door was fully open - Inside lay the city, being torn apart by the hurling, churning storm of air behind them.
Sabban had acted just barely fast enough, using his own machine to push Kolme's to the ground - This in turn had spooked Una who's machine had literally stumbled backwards to safety. Hoki had been the least lucky, the fourth of the deadly green blasts destroying her mech's right arm.
"Move it, use the buildings for cover, quickly!!" The voice shouted again - Kolme realised the words were his own.
Thanks to Sabban's fast acting the enemy attack had mostly missed, all four members of the squad had survived what had seemed like certain death - In the seconds that followed however new problems arose.
The roller door, now pierced in four locations had finished opening, exposing the city - And as three of the enemy's energy blasts had only grazed the Neo's they had continued on forward, colliding with the exterior door of the Nation-State, tearing open parts of the outer airlock - Now the entire city was being sucked out, slowly for now but as projectile after projectile struck against the damaged outer wall, Kolme knew it'd only be a short time until the battered wall shattered and the Neo squadron would find themselves and the entire city being sucked out into space.
He glanced desperately between his monitors, to his right was Sabban who's left arm although intact was clearly worse for wear and his shield no where to be seen.
To his right Una and Hoki, their mechs supporting each other as all four painedly hunched forward made one painful step after another into the city, the magnetic clamps of the Neo's feet having to work overtime to overcome the pull of the rapidly depressurising port behind them.
It took what felt like a life time, periodically having to step aside some heavier piece of airborne debris or needing to re-right the mech's course when it stumbled - But eventually all four made it, with backs pressed against two separate rows of buildings, a long main street in between them.
Kolme ran everything through his mind, trying to understand what was happening.
One moment they were waiting for the door to open, the next the four neon-green beams had come straight at them.
Once inside the city he had only caught the briefest glance of the enemy, miles deeper into the settlement and up above the tallest buildings was an odd black-rhombus looking shape - Kolme could only presume that was what had attacked them.
Moving further into the city had been a snap decision, his thinking being that had the squad retreated back into space or further into the dock they would be sitting ducks for this powerfully foe - Heading into the cover of buildings had seemed logical but in truth Kolme now realised that they had been just as open to attack during their crawl inwards as at any other time - So why hadn't the enemy let lose a second volley?
Had he messed up, did the enemy weapon have a cooldown?
Had they just missed their one opportunity to retreat back out to space and the safety of the Fluchtig?
On his monitors Kolme watched as a pavement flagstone loosened by the Neo's clamping down, began to lift up into the air before flying out the airlock and slamming against the partially pierced exterior-door, adding yet another dent.
'It won't last much longer'.
Vocalising his thoughts Sabban cut in, "Old-man, why the hell isn't the station repairing itself?!" He shouted over the din of the wind surrounding their machines.
"We've been hacked or something lad, my access to the dock is gone - It refuses to seal!" Kolme shouted back, before another idea came to mind - He rapidly started inputting into one of his keyboards before opening the radio link again with excitement;
"Wait-up maybe not all the doors! Sabban be ready with sealant, on my count!"
A few seconds later, while the airlock door continued to leak pressure, the roller shutter door began to descend - Taking his que Sabban's mech released a rubber-black substance from one hand which quickly glided through the air and filled in the four holes of the roller-door.
The battered, bruised and blackened surface of the metal gate finally landed back home again and with it the city began to return to normal.
Even from with-in their mechs the squad listened as dozens of heavy thuds and clunks echoed around the city as vehicles, bins and other detritus that had began to get dragged out, set back down onto the ground.
Kolme slumped into his chair with relief at overcoming one crises, though he knew that would be short lived.
Turning to his machine's radar array, he quickly attempted to tap back into the station's systems - Something was indeed blocking him from full control but he could atleast still get up a map, looking at it almost filled him with a sense of nostalgia in amongst the deadly tension of the last few minutes.
The layout of the city was near identical to one's he had entered before - He always found being in a Nation-State to be an odd experience;
'Well less odd then this one is turning out to be, but still odd...'
One almost expected them to be drab settlements, being under the direct command of TSU (With the exception of a few private ones) you couldn't help but have an image of them as full of lifeless tower blocks, corporate skyscrapers and social inequality - But that was far from the truth.
For all their many faults, TSU had been the dominant power for around 500 years - So regardless of their tyrannical policies, even IAFS members had to admit they knew how to build an efficient and comfortable city.
With Nation States being constructed from scratch, they were the ideal places for highly designed settlements. Everyone of them worked in circular layers - To the very centre was a larger park green, not so large you got lost but big enough for festivals and the like.
Around this square you would find government buildings and public services - In the next layers were various types of housing and commerce.
To the edges of the city were the most discrepancies - Some states would have large production facilities on their outskirts, others recreational facilities, or the mansions of the most wealthy.
Station 9 had clearly been of the most common variety with an assortment of warehouses along its rims, the very type of building the squad was now crouched behind.
The cities were designed with wellbeing in mind, the roads laid out to be around the edges of the whole place, with two main roads going through the settlement in the middle - In-between were more narrow streets, mostly for pedestrians.
The main mode of commuting being cycleways and the extensive tram network rather then individual vehicles.
The architecture was also surprisingly pleasing. Houses generally didn't go much above five stories and the buildings were allowed a fair degree of flair.
Every street had to conform to certain widths and lengths to maintain the symmetrical pattern of the place, however on any one row all the houses would have different flourishes - An ornate set of windows here, some little balcony outcrops there.
All round, the cities Kolme had seen always seemed reminiscent of Heartland states, just more organised.
[Author's Note; It's believed Kolme here is refereeing to the 'Heartland States of Central Bhaile' (Where TSU has its main headquarters). He being supposedly from Ivernia would explain his familiarity with this style of architecture - By Earth standards this would be most comparable to old European type cities.]
Of course cynicism soon found its way back to Kolme - After all, though they had very much so learned today that Station 9 had been near compilation when it was 'Abandoned', no one had ever officially lived here.
And yet it was all done.
The streets already had plants, the buildings had different colour schemes, their was even instants of the homely characterisation a building only gets after being lived in for a while, like plants growing down off a balcony, or areas of exposed brickwork.
Yes indeed, Station 9 was an ideal looking city to live in, without ever having seen residents;
'TSU are definitely good at making cities, down to them being lived in before anyone even moves in...'
Kolme allowed all this knowledge of the Nation-States to flow through him as he attempted to decide the group's next move - A part of him really didn't like the plan he was currently coming up with, it involved, alot of assumptions.
"Kolme what now?" Sabban said, his voice clearly still angry over their earlier fight, "Why doesn't it fire at us again?"
Kolme sighed, they'd been holding still a few minutes now since sealing the breech, it was time to act - Haunches or not.
He grabbed his Neo's control levers and picked up a piece of lose paving stone.
"Sir?" Hoki asked cautiously across the radio.
In an instant Kolme's machine threw the flagstone into the air, up above the roof of the warehouses - A second later a familiar green line of lighting crossed the sky in front of them and a shower of stone dust rained down.
"That settles it then..." Kolme mumbled.
"I... i don't follow Sir?"
Una stuttered, her voice was the shakiest of them all Kolme noted.
"It's broken... I hope. I recon' that thing in the sky shootin' at us fecked up, no idea why but I think it intended to take us all out in one shoot. Since it failed its now confused at a guess.
It'll shoot at us if we reveal ourselves, but its, I dunno, conflicted?
Conflicted about trusting its power, ya know?"
There was silence over the radio as Sabban, Una and Hoki tried to piece together Kolme's gibberish.
"Power? Your not saying that's a Magi shooting at us?!"
Sabban spat with distain after a few moments.
"It would explain how it hit us before seeing us." Hoki mused.
"Wait now hold on, you ain't really expecting me to believe they've got some sort of wizard who can predict the future?!"
"No, otherwise we would be dead already Sab-lad, I recon' it can sense 'stuff' a radar can't is all."
"Then why doesn't it shoot us right now?!"
"It missed, that or it's got a cooldown but tell that to the rock I just threw up."
Kolme said back flatly.
There was the audible sound of Sabban slamming a fist against his chair;
"Your saying because this, hypothetical 'Magi' missed, it won't trust its 'power' anymore and will only shoot when it can see us?"
"Maybe?" Kolme said back earnestly.
Sabban did not reply.
"But that means we're stuck here right Lt. Sir?"
"Oh God no, It'll probably get over it pretty soon and blast us to pieces while we sit here - I've seen stuff like this before, It's like a confused AI, working out a problem...maybe.." Kolme said back bitterly.
"Oh fucking brilliant!" Sabban interjected.
"--That's why I have a plan. Have a look at those coordinates I sent ya'"
Kolme intrusted accompanied by the sound of keyboard tapping - "If we make it to those points, And make sure Not to shot, then perhaps we can freak it out even more."
"And then what, lieutenant-Sir?"
"Good question Hoki-lass, I'll think of something on the way.
But before that there's one more part to the plan, when we split up I want you to dive across the road and take a shot at that thing before going back to cover - We need to know if our weapons are even strong enough to touch its armour."
"Ummm, lieutenant Sir--"
"Don't worry, I'm sure you can pull that off easy!"
"No but Sir--"
"My arm Sir, I only have one left - The medium range rifle needs two to operate, I could use the regular rifle but we're pretty far from the target..."
Hoki finally finished.
"L-let me go!" Una suddenly spoke up before Kolme could voice a reply, "Sabban's arm is beat up bad too, and you have to co-ordinate us.. right. I'm undamaged so I should do it..."
"I guess your right, very well Una will take the shot, rest of us get running - Follow the map, got it?" Kolme said uncomfortably.
'This is way too many risks, the hell have we gotten into now....'