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.
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.
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.
This raw, missile-like power on par with meteorites is what made demon cyborgs like 01 known as the ultimate weapons.
“...Karen, where are ya? KAREN...!”
The hulking nuclear reactor that once powered the entire island loomed before him. Long since sealed off, the core still actively pulsed with energy.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This was now a fight against time. There was no stopping him now that he had arrived at their doorstep.
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.
“F-Freeze! You are not-ARGH?!”
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.
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.
“-No, Dren... YOU BAAASTARD!!”
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.
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.
“For the pride of the pack-!”
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.
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.
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.
One of them sliced through the cyborg’s brain, killing him instantly. However, death would not stop the imminent explosion.
“Here, ya can have ’im!”
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.
An explosion was the ultimate distraction. 01 found his target window.
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.
“...An arbiter, eh?”
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.
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.
However, those seconds were invaluable to the arbiter’s allies. A volley was now locked onto 01, now nothing more than target practice.
“Now, Lester! Fuck him up!!”
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.
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.
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.
01’s skin-like coverings were gouged beyond recognition by the resulting shrapnel, but it was nothing close to critical damage. Just pain.
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.
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.
It was more than enough to inflict sporadic damage, but insufficient to kill a cyborg or an arbiter.
However, that was not a problem. 01’s intention was elsewhere.
His local scanners found an enemy within the fiery rubble. A biologic reading, which meant this target - the arbiter - took priority.
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.
Now, there was only one left.
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.
“Ya’ll hafta...do better ’an that-!!”
And, a technique that only worked on run-of-the-mill cyborgs.
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.
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.
It was the right decision from a strategic standpoint, abandoning the gatling gun for a more potent alternative.
“What the hell?!”
The blade shattered on impact with 01’s fist.
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.
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.
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.
“...Damage... Nothin’ to worry about.”
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.
“...Good. The brain’s still tickin’.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
“-ID, personal data match confirmed. Being visual transfer and download.”
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.
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.
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.
“-Yo, partner. Can you believe the war’s over?”
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.
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.
“...Nah, not for a damn second.”
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.
“Nah, this ain’t it.”
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.
He needed recent memories, nothing else mattered.
Forcing his way up the current, 01 cornered his quarry.
A transmission from not one hour earlier revealed his daughter’s location.
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.
Terrorists harboring refugees was nothing out of the ordinary. Securing human resources also made economic sense from their prospective.
However, something was a little different about this one.
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.
Based on this record alone, the Resistance was more humane than the Federation itself.
“Nah, that’s got nothin’ to do with it.”
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.
However, he still had time. The enemy would need a few seconds to prepare, that would be enough. The problem was-
“-Are you looking for someone?”
“My missing daughter, yeah.”
How to eliminate the enemy in front of him.