Chapter 16:

Weapons Free

Code: Zero Defect

"Strider, are you in position?" Holiday asked through the comms.

"Give me a minute," I said.

I rushed around a corner with my dagger loosely hanging from my fingers. Two soldiers were cautiously making their way through the empty hallway. As much as the darkness was able to hide my arrival, the echoing footsteps were all that could be heard.

"Halt!" one of them shouted, but that was all he could do because I stabbed him deep in his chest before pulling the blade all the way across his torso.

The other one pointed his gun at me and began unloading the clip. I sprinted towards a concrete palisade while the soldier kept firing at it from behind.

From my belt, I pulled out a smoke bomb and tossed it to the side. As soon as it popped, I ran out, careful to stick to the walls as the bullets zipped past me.

The second that the bullets stopped coming, I knew I had my chance. I flew out of the cloud to see the soldier desperately attempting to reload.

He blocked my initial strike using his rifle, and that sent it flying across the air. With a left hook, he perfectly parried it and flung his other arm at me. I jerked my head out of the way just in time, grabbing a hold of that arm and pulling him over my head.

With a thud, his body slammed onto the ground. I gave him no time to recover, as I plunged my dagger right at his heart. Augmented, sure, but everybody has a beating heart, even if it's artificial.

I reached towards my earpiece. "Clear."

"Messy, sloppy, and just a complete failure in its own right, Strider," Astrid suddenly gave her critique. "You allowed the enemy to fire shots, essentially giving away your position."

"Tsk, why the hell are you watching me?"

"Why would I watch anyone else? You're the most likely to fail with those human limbs of yours."

I can't even argue with that. Out of everyone here, I'm the most unreliable by a considerably wide margin. Still, it's not like I can't get the job done.

"Give me a break," I sighed. "This is my first time going up against the army. Unlike the coatsmen, they're actually putting up a fight."

"No excuses, kid," Loki snickered. "But I guess you were able to hold your own against me. I'll give you a bit of credit for that."

"Gee, thanks."

"Focus on the mission," Zephyr muttered.

"You ain't my boss, Zephy," Loki said.

"Loki," Holiday grumbled.

"Yes, boss!"

I guess Holiday isn't the captain for no reason. Even someone like Loki has to listen to her.

I ran across the hallway and up a set of stairs towards the second floor. Looks like this building was never finished, as the entire outer wall was nonexistent. From here, I had a perfect view of the abandoned dig site.

A massive crater sat dead in the center of a dirt field. Ruined machinery was left to rust amidst the foggy wasteland, and the perimeters were marked by a series of deconstructed buildings. Several flickering lamp posts were set up in many different corners. It's surprising they're still functional.

Dotting the entire area were squads of soldiers carefully moving around, their flashlights pointing in every direction. Astrid wasn't joking. Allowing that soldier to fire shots gave me away, as they were steadily moving closer.

"I'm here," I said.

"What do you see?" asked Holiday.

"Multiple hostiles scattered all across the field in squads of no more than five. Looks to be about a hundred total, all converging on my position."

"You reading this, Minerva?"

"Loud and clear," Minerva responded. "Strider, approaching from the rear."

I turned my head to see her quietly moving up the staircase. In her arms was a scout rifle, hanging on her shoulder was a grenade launcher, wrapping around the back of her waist was a plasma rifle, and strapped to her legs were two pistols. All of them had silencers attached, perfect for this kind of setting. Well... except for the grenade launcher.

"It can't be conventional to carry that many weapons," I said.

"What can I say? I like having options," she smiled playfully. "Minerva to all stations, steer clear. It's about to get dark."

"Zephyr, are you ready?" Holiday asked.

"Affirmative," Zephyr replied.

"And remember, Loki. Clean kills."

"Tsk, fine," Loki grumbled.


"One second..." Astrid mumbled. "And... Done. EMP field is a go."

"Be advised, Calypso, once that EMP goes off, our comms will be cut off for the next ten minutes," Holiday said. "Make the most of your time, and don't let a single one of them escape. On your count, Minerva."

Minerva lifted her scout rifle. For some reason, I can't seem to get rid of the chilling feeling that's washing over me. I've never worked with others before. I never had the chance to. Even if I did, I wouldn't want to.

This, however, was different. The way they talk and operate is like something out of the video games I used to play in the past. These guys are professionals, and it's exhilarating that I get to be a part of it.

Three... Two... One..." Minerva counted down. "... Lights out."

With a rapid succession of shots, the many lamp posts all across the dig site shattered, plunging the area into absolute darkness. Already, the soldiers in the field were disoriented. They dragged their flashlights everywhere as if to signal their distress. Among the commotion, a series of gunshots and screams could be heard far in the distance.

"That's our cue," Minerva said. "Stick close to me. If you get in trouble, just... uh... Shout my name or something."

I nodded my head. "Understood."

We ran down the stairs and met a panicked squad rushing through the hallway.

"Stop right there!" they shouted as they lifted their guns.

"Oopsies," Minerva said, pulling us back behind a corner.

She reached into her pocket and threw out a flashbang. After it went off, she peeked out and fired her scout rifle a total of five times.

"Clear," she said. "Move up to the foyer."

As we bolted past the bodies, I counted a total of five corpses. That's amazing. One shot, one kill, and she executed it perfectly.

A minute later, we reached the front entrance to which Minerva slammed the doors open.

"Oh," she said.

Standing in front of us was a particularly large group of soldiers. They stood dumbfounded for a good second before they lifted their rifles and shouted for us to surrender.

Minerva dropped her scout rifle and lifted her arms, but I neglected to do the same. Letting go of one's weapon on the battlefield is a sure-fire way to the afterlife.

"Ah, I think there's been a misunderstanding here, guys," she grinned. "We're just two friendly undercity dwellers who got lost. Ain't that right, Str... uh, friend?"

"Y-yeah...?" I gulped.

"Shut it, Minerva!" one of them demanded. "On your knees, now!"

"Whoa, sorry, sorry, but let's not be so hasty," Minerva continued to blunder. "Oh! How about this? Why don't we... Wait... S-Sigastiris?!"

Immediately, the heads of every soldier in the vicinity turned around. I took that opportunity to pop a smoke bomb while Minerva pulled out her plasma rifle. Before they could react in time, a storm of plasma bolts took out half of them while Minerva's cheerful remarks splintered their ears.

As they began aimlessly firing back, I pulled Minerva to the side and ducked behind a pile of scrap metal.

"Shit, where did they go?!" a man shouted.

"Find them!" another one screamed. "Tsk, the fuck happened to our comms?!"

Now comes the hard part. The remaining seven will be on high alert. The moment we peek out, they're sure to land a couple of shots on us. I need to think fast. It won't be long before they find us here.

Suddenly, Minerva tapped my shoulder. I turned around to see her with a huge smile as she held a finger to her lips.

Gently, she rested her plasma rifle on the ground and pulled out her dual pistols. I could only shake my head when she handed one of them to me.

I never imagined I'd be playing charades in a situation like this, but here we are. Minerva jerked her hand upwards. She seems to be implying that I should toss it up. I'm not too sure how that's gonna help us, but she must have a plan.

She peeked over the scrap pile and took a deep, quiet breath. Her confident eyes met mine as if to ask if I was ready. With a restrained gulp, I nodded.

She pulled up three fingers and slowly began retracting them one by one.

Three. Two. One, and I sent the pistol hurling above us.

Minerva aimed hers at it, and after the longest second of my life, she fired three deafening shots. The bullets raced up and slammed the trigger of that gun, sending forth separate bullets that accurately struck three of the soldiers behind.

Immediately after, we both dashed out of cover. Minerva slid on the ground, emptying out the entire clip before pulling out her grenade launcher and razing the field with it.

I dashed at an unsuspecting soldier, surprised that he even bothered to notice me in this chaos. He swung the butt of his gun at me, but I quickly ducked and stabbed him in the hip. Another soldier turned his gun at me, so I quickly pulled the dagger out and hurled it at his forehead.

With the other body still in my arms, I retrieved my dagger and let go. I took heavy breaths as I thanked the gods above for another day of evading death.

"Nice job, Strider," Minerva giggled.

"Me?" I scoffed. "I didn't do anything."

"Nonsense! Couldn't have done it without ya. Anyway-"

"Hold it right there, defects!" shouted an angry voice.

We turned our heads to see an even larger squad of soldiers gathering around us. I've never been on the other end of so many barrels before, but this is just overkill.

"So... What's the plan this time?" I whispered.

She perked up with a wide grin. "Follow my lead."

"What are you two whispering to each other?!" the same soldier shouted. "Don't you see the situation you're in?! Surrender yourself!"

"Listen, guys~, this isn't what it seems. Your friends are just... napping! Yeah, that's it. We were playing around for a bit, and I think my friend here hit em' a bit too hard."


And that was exactly my reaction as well. Even in the darkness, you can see the blood flowing out of each body very clearly. Chances are, Minerva doesn't even know that.

"Enough with the bullshit," the soldier growled. "This is your last chance. You Calypsos ain't as tough as you think you are. Your era has ended. Fucking waste of resources, especially that captain of yours."

A looming pressure began weighing down on me. I tilted over to Minerva, who was no longer smiling.

"Well... That went from zero to a hundred real quick," she scoffed.

A subtle smirk appeared under her usual bright face. She then lifted her head, the lucent diamond in her eyes radiating brightly in the darkness.

"Talking shit to me is one thing. Talking shit about my captain? Hah... You’re lucky that it’s me and not Loki right now," she smiled dangerously. "Code: Trojan Horse."

"Fuck... Light her up!" the soldier screamed.

However, nothing came out. Just a bunch of clicks from hundreds of pulled triggers.

"W-what the..." he gasped.

Suddenly, the guns that were once used by the dead soldiers on the ground began glowing with a faint blue aura. They slowly lifted themselves off the ground and formed a line behind Minerva.

She stretched an arm high above her head, and, with a snap of her fingers, muttered a single word. "Bang."

The rifles began firing on their own, unloading their entire clips until not a single soldier was left standing.

It's that word again. 'Code.' Zephyr said something similar when she was fighting Sigastiris, and just like before, those diamonds in her eyes are glowing.

After a deep breath, Minerva tilted back with a new smile on her face. "You okay?"

"... Yeah."

"Hm? You don't sound okay."

"N-no... I was just surprised. That's all."

"Ah, I see," she grinned. "We Calypsos have that effect. Anyway, onward! The others are waiting for us!"