Chapter 15:


Burned Out Heroes

Nothing was going to stand in his way this time. No stopping to smell the roses or securing a vehicle was necessary. Thanks to a Ryusei-kai armory that he raided on the way, he was now armed to the teeth. All that was left was to unleash hell.
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He sprinited at full power. The sound barrier shattered with the same ferocity as the concrete beneath his feet as he bound his way through Inside, streaking through the air like a comet. A path of cinders was carved through the city center and out of the suburbs in a matter of minutes.Bookmark here

“-!!”Bookmark here

Rubble rained down in his wake as he charged at breakneck speed. The resulting shockwaves shattered buildings unfortunate enough to be located between him and his destination.Bookmark here

This raw, missile-like power on par with meteorites is what made demon cyborgs like 01 known as the ultimate weapons.Bookmark here

“...Karen, where are ya? KAREN...!”Bookmark here

The hulking nuclear reactor that once powered the entire island loomed before him. Long since sealed off, the core still actively pulsed with energy.Bookmark here

Enough energy, in fact, to interfere with his sensors. There was no choice but to search for his daughter the old fashioned way: on foot.Bookmark here

01’s mind was set the moment Berkov’s information appeared on his visor. The enemy was a terrorist cell. Experience had taught him exactly how to handle them.Bookmark here

There would be no point in killing Karen if they wanted a hostage. 01 was certain the enemy would not move against him without a sound strategy in place. Even if he were racing into a trap, a surprise attack on their base provided him with a sufficient opportunity to rescue his daughter.Bookmark here

01’s sensors were down, but he did not need them to notice the three demon cyborgs taking up position around him. Scouts or look-outs, most likely. The enemy base was close.Bookmark here

This was now a fight against time. There was no stopping him now that he had arrived at their doorstep.Bookmark here

The nuclear core was of no concern. Not only was this district constructed to take more punishment that all the others, it was deserted. No one would care if abandoned barracks or power grid facilities went up in smoke.Bookmark here

“F-Freeze! You are not-ARGH?!”Bookmark here

“-RAH!!”Bookmark here

The first cyborg went down with a single blow. Years of dust went up in a cloud as his black frame shattered on impact. 01’s fist tore right through the nuclear core in the cyborg’s chest. Death came instantly.Bookmark here

Only a second had passed from identifying the enemy to eliminating the threat. A few hundred meters of distance may as well not exist in 01’s eyes.Bookmark here

“-No, Dren... YOU BAAASTARD!!”Bookmark here

“HF!!”Bookmark here

Fury alone guided the incoming volley of bullets, which 01 avoided by arching through the air towards his next target. Efficiently was of the utmost importance, even if it meant leaving himself open. The enemy needed to be dealt with immediately.Bookmark here

“Damn!”Bookmark here

“Too slow!”Bookmark here

Shifting to close-quarters combat, 01 crushed the plasma knife thrust up at him along with the hand holding it. He then shifted his weight to land on the enemy’s left knee, effectively turning the entire limb into scrap.Bookmark here

“For the pride of the pack-!”Bookmark here

Even passed their prime, the enemy once belonged to special ops. Being disarmed was no excuse for giving up. If the trigger finger would not pull, there was always the last resort.Bookmark here

A hot, white glow came from the cyborg’s mangled body that matched the suicide bombers’ perfectly. The enemy had resigned himself to death, but was set on having company.Bookmark here

“Takahata!!”Bookmark here

“Ngh?!”Bookmark here

Coverfire from the flank. 01 thrust the self-destructing cyborg out as a shield. Even if the light-speed bullets could not destroy metallic armor, they were able to cut through artificial skin covering like tissue paper.Bookmark here

One of them sliced through the cyborg’s brain, killing him instantly. However, death would not stop the imminent explosion.Bookmark here

“Here, ya can have ’im!”Bookmark here

01 hurled the corpse toward the remaining enemy just before detonation. Searing heat burst forth from the lifeless body, taking the roof off a nearby building in the process. 01 was not foolish enough to believe the last one got caught up in the explosion, even for a second.Bookmark here

An explosion was the ultimate distraction. 01 found his target window.Bookmark here

“There-?!”Bookmark here

Just when his legs bent to lunge forward, 01 realized he could not move. In fact, time seemed to stand still as he was now frozen in place.Bookmark here

“...Too strong...!”Bookmark here

“...An arbiter, eh?”Bookmark here

This was no ordinary attack. The anamnesis used to power his limbs was being stifled. Only an arbiter was capable of doing that. They must have been waiting for the best chance to strike but stepped in to save their ally from certain death.Bookmark here

That being said, they had their hands full keeping a demon cyborg of 01’s caliber stationary. An ability which would normally have crushed its target under the very air it breathed struggled to slow 01 down for mere seconds.Bookmark here

However, those seconds were invaluable to the arbiter’s allies. A volley was now locked onto 01, now nothing more than target practice.Bookmark here

“Now, Lester! Fuck him up!!”Bookmark here

“YAHHHH!!”Bookmark here

 A soldier on another rooftop responded to the arbiter’s call. He was standing behind an anti-aircraft gatling railgun as tall as himself which had been retro-fitted for land-based defense.Bookmark here

Powerful enough to put craters into reinforced concrete, it was nothing like the puny plasma assault rifles 01 had faced up to this point. Even 01 could not emerge from a hail of electromagnetic warheads unscathed.Bookmark here

“-RRAAAAGHHH!!”Bookmark here

“Shit!”Bookmark here

01 raised his output limiter as the projectiles hurtled toward him. Temporarily removing the restraint that allowed him to function safely within cities boosted his physical output to the point that he could break free of the arbiter’s hold with brute force.Bookmark here

01’s skin-like coverings were gouged beyond recognition by the resulting shrapnel, but it was nothing close to critical damage. Just pain.Bookmark here

“First off-!”Bookmark here

01 channeled the surplus energy into his right hand. The short charge required a tenth of a second and had a range of a few hundred meters. That was plenty.Bookmark here

“-Eat this!”Bookmark here

The black hole engine in his chest roared to life, launching the mass of energy out of his palm. A sudden flash of searing light and the entire building crumbled beneath the soldier’s feet.Bookmark here

It was more than enough to inflict sporadic damage, but insufficient to kill a cyborg or an arbiter. Bookmark here

However, that was not a problem. 01’s intention was elsewhere.Bookmark here

“-Found ya!”Bookmark here

His local scanners found an enemy within the fiery rubble. A biologic reading, which meant this target - the arbiter - took priority.Bookmark here

“Ngh?!”Bookmark here

Harnessing every sense other than sight, 01 pinpointed his quarry and struck with merciless abandon. The simple knife-hand strike sliced the man in half with the efficiency of a high-frequency energy blade.Bookmark here

Now, there was only one left.Bookmark here

“You monster!”Bookmark here

Another volley of bullets hit with another flash of light. Coverfire to keep a cyborg at a distance, a technique covered in the first chapter of any book on military strategy.Bookmark here

“Ya’ll better ’an that-!!”Bookmark here

And, a technique that only worked on run-of-the-mill cyborgs.Bookmark here

01 pressed forward through the barrage. Demon cyborgs equipped with biologic armor were basically mobile fortresses to begin with. The unhindered anamnesis reinforcing it was enough to momentarily repel the gatling railgun rounds.Bookmark here

“DAMMIT!!”Bookmark here

Seeing that the weapon was ineffective, the last remaining soldier chose to charge in to face 01 in hand-to-hand combat. His arm opened to reveal a high-frequency blade as he lunged forward.Bookmark here

It was the right decision from a strategic standpoint, abandoning the gatling gun for a more potent alternative.Bookmark here

“Stay-”Bookmark here

“What the hell?!”Bookmark here

The blade shattered on impact with 01’s fist.Bookmark here

It’s cutting edge was not sharp enough to reach him. The cyborg made the right call, but 01 was too much for him to handle.Bookmark here

“DOWN!”Bookmark here

An overwhelming sense of impending doom overtook the soldier. However, his final thoughts were far from panic or regret, but of quiet acceptance and relief.Bookmark here

Nuclear core ripped from his chest, the soldier collapsed to the ground. Unlike at the gate, this one did not initiate an auto-self destruct sequence. The cyborg’s cognition had malfunctioned because the core was still active.Bookmark here

“...Damage... Nothin’ to worry about.”Bookmark here

01 numerically processed the physical pain he was experiencing as he analyzed his condition. His armor had been pierced in many areas, but not to the extent the injuries would affect his movements. Unleashing his more powerful techniques would surely exasperate the damage, but now was not the time to worry about it. His priorities lay elsewhere.Bookmark here

 “...Good. The brain’s still tickin’.”Bookmark here

01 then inspected the cyborg he had just slane. Bio-status mode had activated to preserve the soldier’s brain, just the result he was aiming for.Bookmark here

In the event the core was active when bio-status mode was triggered, the cyborg’s brain would live on for several minutes. The feature was intended to give the fallen soldier’s allies time to retrieve vital information before it was literally taken to the grave. Now, 01 had found another use for it.Bookmark here

They, the Resistance, once belonged to the Federation military. So long as the old passcodes were intact, they should match 01’s. There was, of course, a very good chance they had been changed, but it was still worth checking.Bookmark here

What 01 needed to rescue his daughter now was not thinning enemy numbers, but information. Wiping them out meant nothing if he lost Karen forever.Bookmark here

“-ID, personal data match confirmed. Being visual transfer and download.”Bookmark here

Came the system’s voice a few seconds after 01 touched the cyborg’s terminal. The ID Karen had prepared for him cut through the layered, high-spec security program locks like a hot knife through butter.Bookmark here

 “...!”Bookmark here

Download commencing, digitized memories flowed into 01’s mind like a torrent of light. The very ground beneath his feet disappeared as 01 was swept up in the current.Bookmark here

Once he was aware of dream-like weightlessness, 01 felt the parched embrace of dry air on his skin. Suddenly, he realized he was standing in a vast desert with an artificial sun burning bright overhead.Bookmark here

 “-Yo, partner. Can you believe the war’s over?”Bookmark here

Said his brother in arms next to him. Biological weaponry spread out before them as far as the eye could see. The recreation of a ferocious, green beast stunk to high heaven under the sun’s rays behind them.Bookmark here

Even if the politicians had signed the papers, it’d take time for the new laws to kick in. It was their job to flush out and eliminate any interference.Bookmark here

“...Nah, not for a damn second.”Bookmark here

Said the memory’s owner after taking a moment to mull it over. And how could he after the war had raged for 50 years. He could not envision how to live a peaceful life.Bookmark here

“Nah, this ain’t it.”Bookmark here

01 came back to himself just as the scenery started to warp again. That was too close for comfort. Had he stayed in the flow any longer, there would have been no return for the foreseeable future.Bookmark here

He needed recent memories, nothing else mattered.Bookmark here

“-There.”Bookmark here

Forcing his way up the current, 01 cornered his quarry.Bookmark here

A transmission from not one hour earlier revealed his daughter’s location.Bookmark here

His sights were now set on an underground residential facility. Rather than being a terrorist group’s base of operation, it more closely resembled a refugee camp.Bookmark here

Terrorists harboring refugees was nothing out of the ordinary. Securing human resources also made economic sense from their prospective.Bookmark here

“...The hell?”Bookmark here

However, something was a little different about this one.Bookmark here

The refugees in this soldier’s memory were all women and children, not a single male of fighting age in sight. What’s more, the Resistance thought of themselves as “sheltering” these refugees. At the very least, 01 could not find any evidence of exploiting them in this cyborg’s memory banks.Bookmark here

Based on this record alone, the Resistance was more humane than the Federation itself.Bookmark here

“Nah, that’s got nothin’ to do with it.”Bookmark here

01 dismissed the idea before giving it too much thought. His daughter’s location was more important. There was no point in picking the mind of a terrorist.Bookmark here

However, he still had time. The enemy would need a few seconds to prepare, that would be enough. The problem was-Bookmark here

“-Are you looking for someone?”Bookmark here

“My missing daughter, yeah.”Bookmark here

How to eliminate the enemy in front of him.Bookmark here

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