Chapter 27:

Chapter 27: Something to Protect


Nyk’s ears were ringing and he felt sick. He could barely see straight through the smoke, but by the time his senses returned it had cleared up.

The damage was catastrophic.

Lulu’s little bomb had destroyed the entire block, leveling buildings and mashing the Sentinels to paste as it blew a giant crater in the street. The ramparts had been decimated, but miraculously, the other Scavengers were alive.

“What –hack- what the hell was that?!” Mysha coughed out, standing on shaky feet. She was stunned by the carnage in front of her.

“That’s more than I’ve ever seen,” Dorem muttered, picking his hat up off the ground. “Blew that whole swarm to bits.”

“Not all of them,” Calum grimaced. With his enhanced eyesight he could see more Sentinels in the distance rushing to fill in the massive gap blown in their defenses.

“We need to fall back,” Mysha judged. “There’s no way to defend this spot after that, let’s retreat to the next checkpoint and regroup with the other Scavengers.”

Suddenly, the blare of a giant horn caught everyone’s attention. Two massive trucks rolled down the street, filled with armored soldiers.

Mysha sank to her knees in relief.

It was the City Defense Force!

A tall man in armor swaggered out of one of the trucks with a grim expression. At a glance Nyk could tell he was someone who’d danced on the line between life and death more times that could be counted but even he seemed momentarily shaken by the scene before his eyes.

The fact he could regroup so quickly and begin commanding his men to erect more barricades was a testament to his skill. Mysha regained the strength in her legs and rushed over to explain the situation to him.

“Looks like everyone’s been saved now, you can rest easy, Slum Boy!” Lulu cackled in his ear.

“Why do I get the feeling you don’t mean that?” Nyk grimaced.

“Well, most of the other barricades have collapsed at this point, you know? Sure the City Defense Force is doing a remarkable job at beating back the brunt of the swarm, but a few Sentinels here and there are slipping through the cracks.”

Great. Just great.

“In other words, the Sentinels are already in the slums~” Lulu chirped. “And you know what that means!”

A pang of terror caused him to freeze. The faces of Dyna and Rowan flashed through his mind and he tightened his grip on his gun.

“Lulu… are they…”

“They’re not at the safety zone yet, if that’s what you want to know. Although… the ‘safety’ of that zone is certainly questionable in situations like this, wouldn’t you-“


She fell silent for a moment. Then in a voice devoid of her usual amusement she said “if I were you I would go now.”

Before Nyk could move a hand clapped on his shoulder from behind. He whirled around to see the man from earlier.

“You’re the Scavenger named Wolf, right? I’m Colonel Travis from the City Defense Force, and I was wondering- hey!”

Nyk didn’t have time. He shook the man off him and tore down the street, his gun hot in his hands.

“Hey! Get back here, you! We’re not done!”

“Wheeyoooooo, Slum Boy, running from the City Defense Force now, are we? I think I just fell for that suicidal stupidity of yours a little,” Lulu whistled.

“Now’s not the time,” he growled. “Where are they?!”

“It’s fine. I’m monitoring them right now with Number 11, they’re almost to the safety zone. But you better hurry. They’re on a collision course for a pack of Sentinels.”

Luckily this new Synchro Suit was designed for speed. Nyk ran faster than he ever had before, so fast the building seemed to blur around him. Lulu directed him every step of the way, and while he ran they developed a plan.

“I’m running low on ammunition. What weapons have you installed in this thing?”

“Um… nothing?”

Nyk nearly fell over in shock as he turned the corner. “WHAT?! Nothing?!”

“I told you, it’s a prototype. Besides, it isn’t made for combat! It’s a speed and stealth model, for infiltration and quicker relic recovery. Even your strength isn’t enhanced much more than a normal human’s. I can’t work miracles you know, it’s specialization!”

“Well your suit’s no good if I can’t fight in it!”

I didn’t tell you to bring such little ammunition, don’t you put that on me Slum Boy!”

“So what am I supposed to do, huh?!”

“Don’t worry so much, Slum Boy, everything will be fine! There aren’t that many Sentinels, you’ll more than be able to handle them!”

He couldn’t believe it. She actually sounded like she was enjoying this!

“And besides,” she added, “you do have one ace up your sleeve.”

Rowan and Dyna were running as fast as they could through the street, trying to get to the safety zone for civilians. With how close the wall seemed to be it couldn’t be much further.

And then four Sentinels leapt out of an alleyway, landing in front of them and snarling.

“Dyna! Get behind me, now!” Rowan shouted, throwing her arms up to defend her daughter. Even if she could only buy her little girl a few seconds while the beasts devoured her first, that was a sacrifice that as a mother she would make without even thinking about it.

But it never came to that. As the metallic monstrosities leapt upon them, a barrage of gunfire drowned out their snarls, and the beasts dropped dead in the street.

“Wh-Wha?” Rowan couldn’t believe her eyes. A figure clad in shining silver armor stepped out in front of them, standing defensively with his gun raised as two more Sentinels approached. Another burst of bullets finished them off, and only then did he turn to the pair.

“Are you alright?!” He shouted.

“Y-Yes,” Rowan stuttered, wiping her forehead. “Thank you, sir, you saved us.”

“Thank you!” Dyna wailed, clutching her mother to keep from collapsing. “Those monsters were… they just… thank you!” From his armor she knew he was Wolf, the Scavenger she’d so often disparaged. At the moment though she had nothing but gratitude for the man.

“Be careful,” he warned them. “The Sentinels in this area have been cleaned out, so it should be an easy path to the safety zone, right that way.” He turned and pointed down the street. “You can make it there faster if you hurry.”

“Yes, thank you again,” Rowan said, quickly taking her daughter’s hand. “Come along, Dyna.”

Dyna followed her mother, but as she turned to take one last look at her savior as he headed in the other direction, she got a look at his weapon for the first time.

She knew that gun. She recognized those scratches and tooth marks. She’d taken it apart and put it back together countless times in order to teach its owner how to properly clean and maintain it.

“WAIT!” She shouted, shaking free of her mother’s grasp and running over to the startled Scavenger.


“You…” she panted out, wiping her brow. “You’re Nyk… aren’t you?”

It was quite a sight, to see a 6’2” suit of armor flinch.

She smiled. “I knew it.”

“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he shook his head frantically. “Now’s not the time! You need to go! Now! Make sure the both of you are safe!”

Dyna slowly nodded. “Okay. Okay… but before I go…”

She leaned up and kissed him on the cheek. “Please keep your promise, okay?”

“Uh… r-right.” She giggled in spite of the dangerous situation, pleased that she’d managed to shake him up. Even if she couldn’t see his face, she knew he had to be blushing. She turned and rejoined her mother and the two resumed their run to the safety zone leaving a very flustered Scavenger behind.

“…Enjoyed that, did you Hero Boy?”


“Geez, touch-y, and here I was ready to congratulate you on actually having some game.”

“Now is NOT the time for this!”

“No, I’d say the time for this is after you get home safe, so she can ‘nurse your wounds’ or whatever you kids call it these days-“


“Fine, fine. More Sentinels about three blocks west, get moving Slum Boy!”

Nyk took off down the street, holding his rifle tight. He was really running low now; he didn’t know how many bullets he had left exactly, but the magazine was nearly empty.

The next Sentinel he brought down took the rest of his ammunition with it. Unfortunately, it had friends.

With a groan he tossed his gun aside and raised his fists. He didn’t know if the suit was as good at close-quarters combat as his normal one, but it was better than nothing.

“Lulu, didn’t you say this thing had a secret weapon?!”

“That it does. Open the panels on your legs.”

Nyk willed them open and two thin metal boxes emerged from within. The second he grabbed them a surge of energy made them light up like when he connected to that stun grenade.

“Are these what I think they are?!” He shouted as he dodged a charge from the first Sentinel while evading bullets from the one behind it.

“Exactly! I was inspired by that leggy girl you teamed up with on the Bounty Mission! Only I took the idea in a different direction. See that button on the side? Press it.”

Nyk clenched his fists and pressed the buttons, and the top of the boxes opened. Liquid metal spurted out of container, shaking and stretching like it was being molded by unseen fingers. In an instant two long blades formed in front of his eyes.

“What the hell?!”

“By suspending liquid metal in a nanometer-thin energy field, you can create a blade of any size or shape. What do you think? The true beauty of Stealth Sword Silver, your very own portable swords! Who needs guns or rockets when you have a couple of these bad boys!”

Nyk couldn’t help but smile. So that’s why he’d done all that training with swords against Aud, she was gathering data for this. That felt like a lifetime ago, but now wasn’t the time for cold feet! With a roar he leapt forward, blades flashing in the sun.

It was astonishing. The Sentinel’s hides were solid metal, and their claws and teeth were even harder. But to the swords it was like cutting through air. In an instant he’d cleaved through the entire pack.

“Remember what I said? Specialization. All the energy output of your suit that would be put towards other functions is directed into the field around your swords. It heightens their cutting power to point you could cut through a diamond like a hot knife through butter.

Nyk had no idea what diamonds or butter were, but he got the idea.

“Where’s the next-“

A scream for help caught his attention.

“What was that?!” Lulu exclaimed.

“That voice? Someone was-“

“That wasn’t a voice, Slum Boy! Auditory receivers aren’t picking up anything!” Lulu sounded like she was panicking, which was rare. But Nyk still heard the cries.

“Are you sure your equipment isn’t malfunctioning?”

That earned him a growl.

“…Given the situation I’m going to ignore that remark,” she said through gritted teeth. “But the system shouldn’t be picking up any screams unless…”

Lulu fell silent, but the cries for help hadn’t. And with them came a strange impulse. It was like he knew where the voice was coming from. Before he realized he was running down the street, heading towards the wall.

“What are you doing, Slum Boy?!”

“Someone needs my help! And I’m going to save them!”

For a long time, Nyk had thought that he just wanted to protect Mysha, Rowan, and Dyna. But now that he was back in the suit, fighting the Sentinels as they swarmed through the streets he’d grown up in, he realized that it wasn’t enough just protecting them. With this suit, he had real power. And he could use that power to help everyone.

So if someone was crying for help, he was going to go. He didn’t have a choice.

He turned the corner and his blood went cold.

It was Sky. She was struggling in Brocas’ grip, trying to break free, and screaming with everything she had. Only this time, Nyk could hear her voice. It was echoing through his helmet.

“BROCAAAS!” He roared, charging at the Scavenger.

“Damn it, Slum Boy! Are you crazy?! That girl’s-“

He didn’t listen. He didn’t care. He swung his swords at the cyborg, but they never reached their target.

Nyk may have been using a Synchro Suit, but with Brocas’s augmentations he was in no way inferior. And he was far more experienced with fighting. Clutching his prize close limited Nyk’s options of attack, and as he drew his own blade his skills were more than enough to fend off the strikes.

“Well, well, well, if it isn’t the famous Wolf!” Brocas laughed, twirling his sword. “And here I thought you’d be helping the other Scavengers on the barricades.”

“What are you doing?!” Nyk spat.

“I’m collecting my bounty,” he replied, shaking Sky. “10,000,000 gols, just to drag this little rat past the wall. Easiest fortune I’ve ever made.”

“Are you insane?! This isn’t the time for that! There are Sentinels everywhere! We need to band together and drive them out of the city, and you’re here… turning in an innocent girl for money?!”

“Innocent?” Brocas snorted. “With a bounty that high, she’s definitely done something. But then, that’s not my problem. Who gives a shit about this trash pile? Let the whole place be overrun, I say! With this job, my corporate friends will pull some strings with the Central Government, and I’ll be able to live beyond the wall. That’s what really matters, not saving a clump of garbage people that don’t even deserve it.”

“You’re disgusting,” He shook his head in disbelief.

“And stupid, don’t forget stupid,” Lulu added, not even trying to keep the amusement out of her voice. “Pull some strings? Is he for real? They won’t let him set one cybernetic foot into the city with those enhancements.”

“Brocas, you’re crazy!” Nyk shouted. “Don’t you get that they’re just using you? They don’t give a damn about you, and they definitely aren’t going to let you live in the city! You know as well as I do! Augmented humans are prohibited beyond the wall!”

For a moment Brocas’ face twisted in fury. But he quickly reasserted himself with a confident sneer and puffed his chest out.

“I’m the exception. Don’t you know who I am? I’m Brocas the Thunder Sword! The greatest Scavenger the Collection Office has ever seen.”

Nyk shook his head. “Doesn’t matter. To them, you’re just another cyborg from the slums. Those people… the people in the Central Government, the corporations, they act like we matter to them, but we don’t. We’re nothing. The only thing they care about is how useful we are. Loyal dogs who’ll bark on command. And as soon as they don’t have a use for us, they’ll throw us away.”

“Oh, Slum Boy, you’re breaking my heart, you know that? I’m hurt here!”

Nyk growled. “You. Shut. Up.”

His words were having an effect. Brocas was thinking about it. He looked torn. Maybe, just maybe-

“Forget this,” he growled, tossing Sky roughly to the ground. He stepped on her back to hold her down and turned his sword towards Nyk. “Last chance. Get out of here and let me finish my job. Or I’ll cut that shiny suit right off you and leave you for the Sentinels.”

So that was it then. Nyk tightened his grip on his swords.

“Great speech, Slum Boy. 10 out of 10, I even shed a tear.”

“SHUT UP!” Nyk used the anger welling up towards Lulu as fuel to carry him forward, putting everything he had into his lunge. He swung with all his might at different sections of Brocas’ body.

Nyk had two swords and Brocas only had one. But with that one sword he able to parry one swing while sidestepping the other, twisting his blade and swinging it up into Nyk’s chest. Pain blossomed as the crackling electric field from Brocas’ sword made contact with his armor and he stumbled back, his ribs screaming.

“Damn it, Slum Boy! This is why I didn’t want you to be reckless!”

That one exchange was enough to show just how different the level of skill was between Nyk and his opponent. Brocas was a master of the sword, and Nyk had only taken a few lessons for a couple days. The Synchro Suit was compensating for the difference as best as it could, but it was clear that his lack of skill would be the death of him.

Sensing that, he switched tactics from trying to defeat Brocas in a direct fight to evading him. The Synchro Suit enhanced his senses and greatly increased not just the speed of his legs, but his reaction time and dexterity as well. Because of this, he was able to give the other Scavenger quite a bit of trouble.

Brocas swung at Nyk’s arm, and he evaded by snapping that arm out of the way so fast it was practically a blur. Even as pain shot through his shoulder as the suit pushed him past the level of what should be possible for a human body.

Irritated, Brocas charged forward, performing a wide slash that would be impossible to avoid in this narrow alley. His sword crackled with energy, carving through the wall with ease as it raced towards its target. But the completion of the sword’s arc didn’t see Nyk sliced in half. Rather, by pushing his suit’s capabilities to their fullest he was able to jump over six feet in the air, avoiding the swing entirely and opening up the avenue for an attack of his own.

But Nyk’s downward slashes were easily evaded by his more skilled opponent, and Brocas was careful to keep out of range of the sharp metal.

“Slum Boy, I’m going to access your suit’s combat specifications for a moment, try to hold on,” Lulu ordered.

“I am trying! This guy isn’t easy you know!” Nyk shouted as he ducked under a slash that would have sent his head flying.

“Okay, it’s done. Here’s the plan, I want you to turn your blade forward and make like you’re trying for a thrust.”

“You want me to charge right at that guy?! But that’s suicide!”

“Just do it! Do you really think I’d give you an order that would get you killed, or worse, get my precious suit chopped up into scrap metal?! Just trust me, will you?”

“Fine!” He grumbled, leaping back to put some distance between himself and his enemy, turning one of his swords into a thrusting motion as he held the other in a block.

Brocas watched carefully. This wasn’t going as he’d planned. His blade had never tasted defeat before, and while his opponent knew the proper stances it was clear by how he carried himself that he was an amateur. So why was this taking so long?! Countless times now he thought he had his foe on the brink of death, only to slip away at the last second.

He growled. If this took any longer then his prize would slip through his fingers again! If only the bounty hadn’t specified “unharmed” he could have chopped off her legs and been done with it, but no! In the end his greed got the better of him and he quickly glanced back to where he’d left his prey. To his shock, she hadn’t fled. She was just sitting there staring at nothing.

That was the precise moment Nyk chose to strike. He lunged forward and thrust his sword, a single line directly at Brocas’ stomach. The Scavenger smirked. It was the most amateurish strike he’d ever seen. He judged the distance perfectly and held his sword at the ready, planning to wait for the last possible moment to dodge by a hair and finish this.

That moment never came. Because right as Brocas was planning to dodge the length of Nyk’s sword extended and drove right into his stomach, erupting out the other end.

Brocas was shocked. Nyk was shocked. The only one who wasn’t shocked was Lulu, whose giggle broke the silence between the two men.

“By adjusting the parameters of the energy field, the length and shape of the blade can be adjusted at will. Simply by accessing the sword’s programming this level is possible for a genius like me, what do you think, Slum Boy?”

Nyk didn’t have a chance to share his thoughts on the matter, because the blow he thought would be the finishing strike proved to be anything but. Perhaps if he’d aimed at Brocas’ heart or throat this would have been settled, but his merciful heart had prevailed and he’d purposefully avoided a killing stroke, and because of that the match was settled an instant later. With a pained roar Brocas lifted his sword and swung with all his might, cutting Nyk from shoulder to stomach.

Electricity surged and bursts of pain were everywhere. Had Brocas actually cut through his suit, or did it just FEEL like it? Whatever the answer Nyk no longer had the strength to stand, collapsing to the ground as the thug stood over him with a grin of triumph smeared in blood across his face.

“I win,” Brocas croaked, pointing his sword at Nyk’s throat.

All his strength had left him. Lulu was shouting something in his ear, but he couldn’t hear her anymore. The visual sensors of the helmet were shorting out, and he could barely see the sword raising up to lop off his head.

The last thing he saw was Sky’s eyes. They flashed red.

Suddenly, more power surged through Nyk’s suit than he’d ever felt before. With a roar he summoned strength that he didn’t know he had, pushing forward and knocking Brocas to the ground.

“Why you… still got some fight in you, huh?!” Brocas spat, raising his sword to finish the job. He didn’t get a chance. Nyk’s arm moved faster than he could see, and Brocas’ blade went flying, and his hand along with it.

His other arm followed shortly after, leaving the cyborg to collapse helplessly to his knees.

“Please…” Brocas whispered, shaking as he stared pitifully up at Nyk. “I-I won’t do it again, I’ll leave the girl alone, please don’t!”

“Kill him already!” Lulu’s voice was shouting in his ear, but it seemed so far away at the moment, like she was calling to him from underwater. Nyk tried to move his body; although later he would rationalize to himself that he was going to lower his sword and let Brocas live, at that moment he didn’t know. Maybe he was going to finish him off for good.

But he never got the chance to find out, because Brocas lunged forward and pushed him over, running as fast as he could down the alley with electricity crackling on his arm sockets.

“Damn it!” Lulu shouted. “He’s getting away!”

But he wasn’t. Nyk stared at Sky and Sky stared back at him, and he felt that same sensation he’d had back at Lulu’s base, like his body was no longer his own. He turned back to Brocas and raised his sword, more energy running through it than he could imagine.

The energy field tightened until the metal was compressed so thin it was practically a wire. With a flick, the blade sliced through Brocas’ legs and he crashed to the ground, fumbling limblessly in the street.

Then the Sentinels came. They circled him as he struggled and cried for help, watching him like the audience of a macabre theater. Then the horde parted and a Sentinel larger than any of them stepped forward, massive enough to be a Bounty Sentinel easy. Its body was covered in thick armor plates and it stood on two legs, staring down at Brocas with what Nyk could swear was something more than bestial instinct.

The monster’s long snout, like an alligator’s, pulled back to reveal row upon row of sharp teeth. It leaned down and snapped Brocas up in its jaws.

The last thing Nyk heard was a scream, and the hideous sound of flesh grinding against crushed metal as the beast devoured him.

“Shit! Slum Boy, you need to go, right now!” Lulu shouted. “Come on! Don’t just stand there! You don’t have a chance against that many of them!”

Nyk knew that of course. But his body still wasn’t his to control. And as the Sentinels filled the alleyway and encircled them, he wondered why they weren’t attacking. Why were they just staring at him?

Then, movement. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Sky slowly rise to her feet and walk past him, her red eyes glowing with purpose he’d never seen in her before. She approached the giant Sentinel without a single trace of fear.

The beast stared down at her, and in the instant their eyes met a voice exploded in his ears.