Chapter 7:

Chapter 7: The First Mission

SynchroNyk


Nyk rocked back and forth as the trailer rolled over the sand, shaking just enough to keep him from getting comfortable. Not that he could ever feel comfortable in the Synchro Suit. The last time he’d been in a truck was with Mysha’s team on the way to the Towers.

He had a different team, different equipment, and a different truck, but the apprehension he felt was the same.

The truck jerked to a stop and he looked around, surprised. There was no way they were here already, right? Then the back of the trailer cracked open and light streamed in, nearly blinding his suit’s sensors. It was the first time he’d seen the sun in who knows how long.

“We’re here, Slum Boy!” Lulu sang from outside, and he begrudgingly stepped out to meet her. Indeed, they were standing beneath the Towers.

“How did we get here so fast?!” Nyk marveled. It had taken all morning last time.

“If you want to haul some cargo across the wasteland in a jiffy, then Number 5: Boosted Carrier is the one for you!” Lulu proudly declared, rapping her knuckles against the large “5” emblazoned on the side of the trailer. “But enough about my genius! Are you ready for your first mission?”

Nyk swallowed. “I-I…”

“We’ll be testing your suit in real combat today, so prioritize engaging Sentinels, not recovering artifacts,” Lulu said, placing her headset on. “It’s important to see how you handle yourself in an actual fight, when Aud isn’t taking it easy on you.”

“I’m not sure I’m ready for this…” he admitted.

Lulu paused, raising her eyebrow. Then she smiled, skipping over to him and patting his chest. “I get it, you’re nervous. Last time you were here, it didn’t end well.”

“That’s one way to say it…”

“Well just think about it like this! You’ve already died. The moment you met me you were already dead, and everything after that is just time you’ve been borrowing! See? Doesn’t sound so bad when you think about it like that, right?”

No, it still sounded fucking horrible.

She sighed.

“You’re ready. As ready as you can be, anyway. We’ve provided you with all the weapons you could ever need. Guns, ammunition, grenades, everything short of heavy artillery. We’re a bit… light on that, at the moment,” she said, flashing a cryptic smile. He didn’t even want to know.

She was right about that at least, Nyk was far better equipped than the last time he’d entered the Towers. He’d gotten much better with the MX-Scorpion 7, and he had an M40-J Long-Range and an AK-C55 Armor-Piercer strapped to his back. Two MPK-10 submachine guns on waist-mounts along with the Synchro Suit’s integrated weapons systems meant he had more firepower than most any Scavenging team combined.

So why did he still shake when he looked at that ruined tower.

“Oh, I almost forgot! I have a present for you,” Lulu added, snapping her fingers. Aud walked up with another rifle in her hands.

It was his old M16-X5.

“We recovered this when we found you. You can use it if you like.”

“…Thanks,” he mumbled. The last time he’d held the rifle, he’d barely been able to point it straight. But in the Synchro Suit it was as light as a twig. That should have made him feel better, but it didn’t.

“ Now then, standing out in this heat is rather tiring, so I’ll be monitoring your progress from here.” She walked over to the cab and opened the door, a blast of cold air smacking him in the face. Number 5 was equipped with something called an “air-conditioner”.

“Good luck out there, Slum Boy!” She waved from the window.

Nyy sighed and slung the M16-X5 over his shoulder, giving one last wary look up at the looming Tower before heading inside.

The rooms were smaller than Nyk remembered. But then, everything was.

“Slum Boy, do you read me?” Lulu’s voice came through the earpiece.

“Read you? What?”

She groaned.

“Okay, I’ll take that as a yes. You forgot to turn on your tactical scanner.”

“Why do I need that? There aren’t any enemies!”

“I knew slum rats were stupid but wow…” she mumbled under her breath, before saying a little louder “how do you know that if your tactical scanner isn’t on?”

He got her point. With a mental command he switched over to the tactical scanner, and his vision shifted to show glowing outlines of everything in the room.

“Still not seeing anything,” he reported.

“Yeah. I know. I’m watching the same feed you are, Slum Boy, don’t need your worthless commentary to go with it.” He heard a crinkle of foil and then a crunching sound. Was she eating snacks?!

He moved from room to room, looking for Sentinels. His scanner gave him a limited ability to see through walls, meaning he could see things up to three rooms away. In the corner of his eye was something called “radar”, a flat green disk with him at the center.

“Ignore the rooms for now and look for the stairs to the next level. The higher you climb the more likely you are to encounter Sentinels. We’re not scrounging for trinkets on the bottom floors after all. Oh, also…”

Nyk heard a beep, and then the words “SIGNAL ACTIVATED” flashed in front of his eyes. But since he didn’t know how to read, he had no idea what it said.

“What just happened?”

“I turned on your position signal. It’s sort of like a sonar broadcast that- wait, you don’t know what that is. Um… it’s like a big flashing sign that says ‘delicious human right over here’.”

“WHAT?!”

“We’re here to hunt Sentinels, stealth mode sort of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? It’s fine, it only has a range of like two or three floors.”

“Are you saying every Sentinel on the next three floors now knows that I’m here?!”

“…Maaaaaaybe four. I’m kinda really good at what I do after all.”

This was insane. Absolutely insane. She made such a big deal about how vital it was for him to succeed, and she was doing shit like this?!

It didn’t take long for the scanner to start working. It was picking up movement now, a lot of movement.

An amount of movement that made Nyk feel like having a movement of his own in his pants.

“Why are there so many of them?! They just appeared out of nowhere!”

“On your scanner a Sentinel will just appear like another piece of rubbish, like a table or a rock or something. Unfortunately we can’t tell the difference until it starts moving.”

A bunch of stuff that Nyk thought was just rubble was now moving right towards him, and more was swarming into the edge of his range. His radar signal went a lot farther than three rooms, showing big flashing dots in a circle all around him.

And the circle was shrinking.

“On your left!” Lulu shouted in his ear, and he turned to see the first Sentinel burst through the wall, fangs bared and eyes burning red.

He pointed the barrel of his rifle and pulled the trigger, firing off three shots that tore open the creature’s face. Its lifeless body crashed to the ground in front of him, a twitching mass of crackling electronics and black sludge.

It was just the first of many more to come. There were three exits to the room, and Sentinels were flooding in through all of them. He grabbed his M16 and pointed it at one doorway while his Scorpion covered the other. But he only had two hands.

“Time for the shoulder missiles.”

“I KNOW!”

The metal over his shoulders slid back to reveal two silos for compress missiles. Two of the tiny rockets fired at the third door. Lacking the destructive power of a full-sized artillery shell, they struck the top of the doorway and exploded, burying the advancing Sentinels in a mountain of rubble. But three had managed to slip through before then.

“You missed a few.”

“I CAN SEE THAT!”

Shit. Both rifles were out of ammo and he didn’t have time to reload. He dropped his guns and his hands shot to his sides, raising the waist-mounted submachine guns. With his first action he finished off the three still coming at him from the front, then turned the barrels outward to target the rest. Unfortunately, they lacked the power of his rifles, so it took a lot more shots to finish one of them off.

“They’re starting to flood the room. If they surround you then-“

“NOT helpful, you are NOT helpful!”

The room was ablaze with gunfire as Nyk tried to keep the wave of Sentinels at bay. He backed up against the wall as he found himself losing ground very quickly.

The monsters were relentless, snarling and clawing over the bodies of their felled brethren, ignoring their wounds as they closed in with single-minded purpose. Fuck! These guns didn’t have much life left in them, either. He deployed more missiles, hoping to thin out the crowd more now that they’d been bunched together.

“We’ve moved past the ‘gun’ portion of our morning Slum Boy, time for the bigger stuff. How about the small bombs?” Her voice had all the concern of someone making a drink order when it was HIS FUCKING LIFE she was talking about!

Nyk let the submachine guns fall back to his waist, sending out another batch of shoulder missiles. He didn’t know how many he’d fired at this point, but he guessed he was starting to run low. The panels on his stomach and chest slid back to reveal move explosives, these designed for wide-dispersion instead of range.

He fired. The chain of explosions nearly brought the room down on his head. The whole tower shook and the shockwave slammed him back into the wall as rubble rained down around him.

“Are you fucking kidding me?! Small bombs?!”

“…I mean, relatively…”

“In what fucking world is that small?!”

“You’re still breathing aren’t you? Quit whining Slum Boy, you didn’t get all of them with that last barrage.”

As much as he hated to admit it, he didn’t have the energy to waste yelling at her. His heart hadn’t stopped screaming since the assault began, and even though he’d taken out almost all of the Sentinels with that blast (along with most of the back wall) more were quickly coming to take their place, swarming in through the newly-punched holes.

He fired more missiles to clear the heard, taking the lull to pick his M16 back up and reload. Not enough time for the Scorpion though.

Glowing red words flashed in front of his eyes. “Lulu, what’s that mean?!”

“Geez, do I have to spell everything out for you?”

“That would be nice, yeah, you know I can’t read, right?!”

“Fine, it says ‘missiles empty’. Good thing we’re almost clear.”

Nyk had no idea how he was handling this so well. His gaze jumped from Sentinel to Sentinel as he kept changing his aim, while also keeping an eye on the scanner to see how many more were coming. Fortunately, it looked like he’d exhausted the reserves; nothing new was showing up on the edges of the radar.

Great, now he just had to take care of the 20 or 30 still in range and he could call it good. Fucking perfect.

“Don’t forget the arm-“

“I know about the arm gun!” He snapped, raising his other hand. While he fired the M16 with his right, a thin barrel emerged from a mount on his left, falling over his wrist.

“You’ve only got 8 shots with that, so you better make ‘em count.”

“I know!”

His eyes kept darting back to the scanner, watching the numbers drop.

20 left.

15 left. The arm gun was out of ammo. He tossed the M16 to his other hand and deployed the arm gun on his right.

10 left. The M16 was out of ammo too.

7 left. They were all in the room. He pulled his arm from Sentinel to Sentinel so fast he thought he’d rip it out of his socket.

3 left, the arm gun was out of ammo as well. He picked up the submachine guns.

“Greeaaargh!” A Sentinel leapt over the fallen body of another, sickening blades ripping out of its forelegs, oozing blood from its wounds.

1 left.

Nyk grabbed his rifle with both hands and pushed it into the creature’s mouth, holding it at bay. The monstrous Sentinel chewed on barrel of the gun, slashing helplessly at him as he slowly overpowered it, pushing it further and further back. It was astounding how much raw strength the Synchro Suit gave him, to the point where he was actually gaining ground over the mechanical beast!

With a surge of strength he knocked the Sentinel to the ground, straddling the creature as it gagged on the barrel. Holding its head down with one hand, he ripped into its chest with the other. In the heat of the moment he ignored the sickening feeling of the creature’s oozing innards and the noxious stench emanating from its burning rot, tearing into it until it stopped moving.

Then it was quiet. Nyk could finally think again. He slumped back and gasped for breath, wondering if his heart was ever going to stop beating.

“Not bad at all, Slum Boy!” Lulu applauded in his ear. “Now gather your equipment and report back.”

“Right…” He sighed, relief flooding through him. It was done. He could rest now. He stood up and gathered his weapons, looking at the carnage surrounding him. Twisted, misshapen chunks of metal and flesh strewn across the rubble, some of it burning, some of it crackling, some of it struggling to move.

“…Oh, and you’d better reload and restock pretty soon,” she added. “The signal’s still broadcasting and if you get ambushed by another swarm that’s probably it for you.”

“Then turn the fucking thing off!”