Chapter 5:

Through Every Effort

2173: Second Akro-Mars Conflict

– 09:43 a.m., surface –

It was supposed to be your typical mafia headquarters, something the Special Police was used to deal with and infiltrate. The Secret Service's involvement wasn't any surprise, since it regarded the lost city of Akro, which is something unofficially under their jurisdiction. But time proved there was much more to this struggle. Several agents were trying to break through all the layers of reinforced titanium mechanical doors, where some of the supposed smugglers ran away and escaped to. These defenses put the operation in a rush: what stood at the end of those doors could completely change the tide of the critical conflict happening right now.

There is always something unexpected going on in these missions, and these complex, advanced structures could only mean this was not your average clandestine organization. After all, the so-called "Akro Dealers" are thought to be corporations of sorts that rescue Akro-made machines that are somehow vulnerable on the outskirts of the walls with the help of collectors like Myke. Then, they either scrap and sell these or study and sell the information that is understandable to whoever’s interested. Of course, the Federation prohibited these practices.

Myke, Bruce, Franklin, Claire, and all of the remaining rebels didn’t know it, but they were at quite the numeric disadvantage, something almost irrelevant in face of the complete chaos that was about to break out.

A small division of 10 soldiers was using explosives to get through the doors, as expected, those elite soldiers made good progress in the span of the few hours it took for those doors to be discovered. But as the fifth layer got cleared, the sixth was already half-destroyed; this material shouldn’t be something easily defeated, but yet, a corrosive liquid had no problems getting past it.
The 3 rebels behind those walls were already dead; the prototypes made using Akro technology were still not sophisticated enough to follow orders. The soldiers outside ultimately met the same end.
Over one hundred modified medusas. Ranging from four to eight legs proficient in running on every kind of surface and non-uniformly equipped with other weapons, such as firearms, poison, and even self-destruction mechanisms. Hard-coded to go after anything alive, the headquarters were quickly swarmed by them, the few soldiers still there meeting a cruel fate.

A long-run project by the organization now became their last resource.

– 09:49 a.m., underground -

Myke and some of his companions were familiar with shootouts taking place in these conditions; when fighting in such enclosed spaces, everyone is especially dependent on each other. Expecting a stalemate with the division of soldiers they came across, the group decided to try and cover the tunnels in all directions, attempting to flank the opponent while protecting themselves.

Franklin, used to stealthier operations, was running purely on adrenaline; this was a high-stress situation, even for him. Looking at his GPS to confirm the turn ahead was clear, he advanced, immediately shooting at a brief sign of movement in the distance and then quickly hiding back. An uncomfortable silence took over the whole area for some 10 seconds that felt more like an eternity.
Claire was the first to notice the presence of a third party, as dozens if not hundreds of dots suddenly appeared in the GPS. Immediately, the dots representing the fighters in the backline suddenly began moving deeper into the tunnel system. She quickly realized these were not reinforcements nor enemies, judging by the reaction on both sides.
Each dot run over by these sudden intruders was most likely another death; something Claire naturally assumed, though she couldn’t stop and reflect on it.

Soon, several retreat orders began being shouted through the radios and the tunnels' echoes, from which sides were indistinguishable. Hell was breaking loose and approaching deeper positions, so they had to move fast.

“We have to rush forward!” Claire shouted into the radio - “The backline is in disarray!”

The enemies ahead from before had already realized the same thing, and so they tried to flee, only to be precisely shot by Myke.

Equipped with bullet-proof full body armor, reminiscing about his days in the special forces, he wouldn’t let this chance go to waste. Rushing forward means getting to the range limit of Akro’s underground defenses, but taking a route to the left flank, away from the possible location of the point of entry and the enemy commanders. The other choice is to run in the same space as the new attackers entering the scene, practically alongside them.
There is a drug nicknamed Onyx the rebels used back in the day, when Myke and his companions were overworked by their commanders, with battles against the International Federation Army. This substance's purpose was to put the soldier into a frenzy, only used when every instance of planning was already thrown out the window and the battle formations were broken. But Myke’s reason to inject it was because doping is the only way he can run fast enough with his body armor, even with his mechanical leg, aging is not something to be underestimated. Since he plans to run straight into the enemy core, speed is essential.

“You guys get together on the left flank!” Myke shouted back - “Then try to advance further to the right, I’ll try to clean the place!”
“What do you mean?!” Claire had already met up with the others, except Myke - “What the hell are you trying to do?!”
“HEY!” Claire yelled at the radio, to no response

Myke took a larger than usual dose. That was only the third time he had to resort to Onyx, and it is more surprising that he survived through two situations that required such a resource than enduring its use itself. When using it, you lose your senses for a second; ears deaf, vision blurred, but almost immediately all your senses are sharpened and muscles potentialized; improved reflexes and physical capacities for the cost of a good portion of your cognitive abilities. The feeling of Myke's normal leg being as potent as his mechanical was strange, but it allowed him to run at a superhuman speed, passing through several hostile and allied fighter groups.

Myke met head-on with a pair of enemy soldiers, some fifteen meters ahead. He took one shot to the chest, which is normally very painful even with these protections. Immediately responding by shooting both enemies while continuing to run ahead, he took another shot, this time to the left side of his abdomen, close to where he was hit 8 years ago around these parts.
His superhuman reflexes almost resulted in the shooting of the two allied fighters that hit him by accident. With a modified HK-assault rifle pointed at them by what could only be described as a super-soldier, the terrified rebels were looking straight past Myke.

He stopped advancing for only a few seconds, and looking behind, he saw.

Desperate allies and enemies, followed by a swarm of deadly white machines.

- 09:59 a.m. -

The rest of Myke’s group was already on their way to the frontlines, together with some soldiers from other divisions. Even though their communication was efficient, many of the fighters on both sides were rapidly losing their lives to such chaos. Hundreds of soldiers of either side were no match for the let astray robots, such is their danger.
Even after the sudden departure of their merry group's non-official leader, Claire was unfazed. If anything, those new conditions are favorable for the challengers of the passage, she concluded.

“Who are our new guests, by the way?” shouted Franklin, trying to talk over the loud sound of their steps on the ground - “A terrorist group or something? How compromised was this location??”
“I heard through the radio someone say they are robots.” a soldier they met on the way responded - "Oh man, I think we're fucked for real..."
"They're attacking everyone," Claire says - "As long as we take the right way, this is winnable..."

The GPS suggested this as a very simple situation like Claire just said. But she could not stop thinking they were missing something. A key point about the events unfolding that could decide if anyone gets in the lost city at all today.

The battlefield configuration consisted of a line of several teams divided by the Federation on the limit of Akro's defenses range. The challengers thought these were the ones designated to make the decoy tunnels along with the real, just like was done years ago when Julian and Sasha managed to enter. On the west side of this line, sit the rest of the troops, spread out vertically from the drill team's depth to about 150 meters to the entrance's direction; the enemies, of course, came from the west.

The first thing that stood out to Claire was the same plan to invade the Ominous Megalopolis being used; if the defenses were down, why would they go through so much effort? As they got closer to the deepest point of the battlefield, she could see several tunnels drilled along the designed line, though all of them stopped at around the same depth. There was not a reported allied breakthrough, leaving her to wonder what the hell happened.
The other thing was how the supposed robots behaved. There was a clear indication they would blindly go after literally everyone, but how could she take advantage of this?

Already very close to the deepest position of their friendly troops, at this point surrounded by many other soldiers that avoided the medusas as they did, Claire decided to hold Franklin and stay behind for a moment. Just now, the GPS showed that all the tunnels to the city restarted advancing.

"What's up?" Franklin inquired - "Got a plan?"

Among many things on Claire's mind, a more emphatic worry: with this many people gathered together, will they be targeted?

While contemplating her options, a familiar voice turns up on the radio.

"It's time to charge all at once, boys. No other way left."


"Hey, Bruce! Can you hear me? Claire speaking!"
"...glad you're alive, kid. How-"
"Got any news from Myke?" Claire interrupted - "He got ahead all on his own!"
"I see. He sure did. Some guy is delaying those things, that must be him. That's why you have time." Bruce says - "And you better rush it!"

Just as Bruce finished speaking, the deafening sound of three explosions reverberated in sequence through the entire tunnel system, and while Claire and Franklin struggled to recover, they could see clearly on the GPS that the concentration of soldiers fighting on the limit of the city and the killer robots approaching still had space between each other. An opening, but a short one.

With luck, they could reach the entry point skipping the bloodshed.

Desperately running, sounds of bullets and explosions; screams and steps; where could Myke be now?

They, fortunately, got past the madness, with the critical moment of their mission still to come. Alone, Franklin and Claire had to challenge the entryway.

Common sense would dictate the first candidate would be the drill team in the middle, as eight years ago that was the one actually designated to reach the city. But Claire had a hunch that turned out right.
Approaching the second tunnel from west to east, which was like the others around 100 meters in depth and increasing, a free of acid ground indicated that the city's defenses were in fact on low guard. The existence of a trap ahead was clear, indicated by the lack of guards.

It all makes sense now: the decoy tunnels are made for them, not the medusas. If that's the case, what is ahead? Bombs? Does this mean they're sacrificing other people in the process?

There's only one way to find out.

Claire decides to use a small drone, equipped to transmit her captivated sounds through the radio.

The drone swiftly flew into the dark, and no longer than twenty seconds later, Franklin and Claire could hear something as he got to ten meters from the end.

"What is this sound?"
"Is something coming?"
"Hey! Is someone coming? Stand back!"

"Are those federal agents? Can't be..." Claire whispered

And before she could talk back to them, an explosion.

"This is hell..."