"Humanity can survive, my friends. But it will take effort and it will take sacrifice. But first, we must rebuild the wheel to study these assailants from beyond. Any piece, any fragment of the Deus Pinnae that rears its head will be ours. Yamata 16 can no longer afford to linger in the shadows. If we must, we will take all of Bastion space in our grasps and ravage it until every metal sliver of the Pinnae is revealed... By any means necessary."
_date:August 2515 _location:Aeon System, Magnus II, Hepstrom
Mid-day, in orbit around Magnus II
“The resort where Agent Lilburn is going to be located is fifty-two kilometers south of Hepstrom. It is only accessible by shuttle, most of which go out to see before coming back to the resort in order to avoid pissing off any local wildlife. The resort has similar walls and security to Hepstrom, though no where near the size. Same tech and security service though,” James said, sitting across from Iradell and looking at her through a holographic map of the resort. “Not just anyone goes to this place. Only people with money and government official types vacation here.”
Iradell nodded and then stood, walking around to the same side as where James was sitting. She pointed down at the map and then rotated it with her finger. She looked at him and then asked, “What's this?”
“Drainage for when a storm pops up. Can't have the walls water tight or the resort would flood, is what I reckon. Lots of storms hit that part of the coast, at least one a day with as humid as it is. Not a good access point. You'd have to get outside of Hepstrom's walls and then hump it those fifty-two kilometers to even get to that spot. Then there are cameras and anti-native wildlife defences. Mostly sounds set off by motion detectors to scare 'em off. But there are weapon systems if they decide to keep coming. Doubt they are used very often,” James explained.
“So my choice is either a shuttle or to hump in at night? One of those will make me seen by quite a few people,” Iradell said, moving her fingers so the drain enlarged. “I would need a torch. If these blueprints are correct, the bars are only three inches apart, so I would have to cut through at least three of them to get in. If I got just one side, I could probably bend them up and then put them back down when I left.”
“Sounds good. I can have the shuttle drop you any closer though, Hepstrom would wonder why our shuttle is out that way and we really can't afford to piss off Rastor any more than we already have. Now, for hiding that face of yours, Mary picked up this spray that will temporarily fill in the seams on your face. Then she said with a little makeup, you'd pass just fine as an ordinary rich fucker at the resort. Well, when you put on some nicer clothes,” James said.”
“Why is that important?” Iradell asked, tilting her head. “It will be night. I could find his room and wait for him... or simply find him and deal with him.”
“There are usually around two-hundred guests and another hundred or so staff at this place. And it has the same security measures as the upper floors of some of Hepstrom's nicer towers. Once a person is cleared inside, according to Rastor anyways, they don't go through security again until they are boarding the shuttle. But getting into the resort's systems, getting room information? That isn't really a possibility, even for you. One of their synthetics will spot you immediately and we don't want a repeat of that Red-Shift debacle. Look, just do it the clean way. We aren't in a big hurry, it is going to take a couple of days to unload the Irad one shuttle at a time from orbit, so time isn't a big consideration.”
“Okay. But how am I to pass as a guest if I have no room?” Iradell asked, just knowing she stumped James this time.
“These people party all night and day... you shouldn't need a room,” he answered with a smirk. “Look, get in there at night, find a lady's room and fix yourself up, hide your gear, and then spend a few days making sure you got the right guy. Then find a way to eliminate him, all accident like. You'll be back here in a few days and you can chill, Rastor will be happy, and we can be on our way.”
Outside of Hepstrom, Mid-night of the same day
Iradell paused in the absolute darkness of the night, pausing for a moment to gain her bearings and to look up at the shadowed-out Magnus Prim. It's left side glistened with light from Phorus, but none of that light was currently being cast down on Magnus II. The jungle around her was alive with noise. The temperature had dropped quite a bit, but it was not cold enough to freeze. Somewhere far off to her left, a thunderstorm raged over the ocean, occasionally gracing her with a flicker of light but mostly just the rumble of thunder.
She took a knee and held up her left arm. A violet light erupted from the wrist mounted computer that she wore, projecting a topographic map of her location. She had already went thirty-seven kilometers in just three hours. It was a dazzling pace, but she was not exactly human. Ira reached back to her hard shelled backpack, pulling it around her in order to check it's contents. It was more out of habit than necessity, she knew she had everything. But on her travels, she just wanted to make sure.
A laser torch, primed and ready to go in order to get in through the drainage system. Guaponese leaves in a plastic container. When soaked in hot liquid, the leaves would make a deadly poison that would shut down a living creature's vital systems in minutes if ingested. Worst yet, it tasted similarly to tea and was extremely hard to pinpoint in a dead person's system. There was also a make-up kit and the cosmetic spray that Mary had acquired, in order to cover the fact that Ira was a Hephaesti. Hopefully no one got a good look at her body, but Mary had thought of that too, packing three of her own nice outfits that covered the body well, but also looked nice enough to fit in at a resort.
Slipping the pack onto her back, she reached to her hip to do a weapon check. Her trusty .45 caliber laser fired pistol was there. The projectiles were lead, just like in the old days, but they were fired twice as fast with no recoil thanks to the laser propulsion system. On her back, mounted onto her body vertically so that the barrel pointed towards the ground and the handle was at her right shoulder, was a sound wave shotgun. It was convertible though, able to be loaded with .50 caliber lead(or other metal) slugs, in the case of long range engagements. On her left hip was an 11 inch knife which resembled a bowie knife, but it was made of titanium-meshed steel and sharped to a razors edge with laser processing. She had grown quite deadly with just that.
Her plan, so far, was to infiltrate the resort and to come up with a way to kill the ITC Agent named Ronald Lilburn. It was to look like an accident, if at all possible and there are to be no witnesses. So far, so good.
Iradell stood up from where she had knelt down and turned her head to the right, towards the jungle, as a limb snapped somewhere in the darkness. Her eyes switched between scan modes and came up empty, but something was there. Unfortunately, it was going to have to catch her. Looking straight ahead again, her eyes carved a route through the jungle terrain and her body immediately leaped into action, rapidly moving through the dangerous trees towards her destination.
Coming to a sliding stop, Iradell paused to look down at her wrist mounted computer once again. She was about five miles out from the resort. Due to the lack of any other artificial light, the lights of the resort made a faint glow appear in the cloudy sky. The temperature had dropped a few more degrees, but it wasn't too bad. Luckily for her, fatigue and the need for a rest was not an issue.
Behind her, something came to a sliding stop and an odd clicking noise was heard. Iradell immediately turned and held her pistol in her right hand, aiming it in that direction. Her vision flipped between night vision and thermal imaging, attempting to get a glimpse of what had been following her. She was able to make out a faint outline of a creature on two legs. It was perfectly still and as her eyes traced the outline of it's body, she was able to make out an eye looking back at her. The creature breathed out, it's warm breath becoming visible enough to give it away.
“I see you there,” Iradell whispered to the predator. No doubt an overgrown avian or reptile that was used to hunting in this area. Perhaps she had passed through it's territory and pissed it off. Perhaps it was hungry and wanted to see what she tasted like. It would not be happy with what it found. Still, the creature looked to stand about seven feet tall, not including a six foot long tail, and would probably be a bitch to deal with. Keeping the pistol aimed at the creature, her other hand moved slowly to the knife on her waist and she gripped it in case she had to use it.
The creature snapped it's head towards her which caused her to fire. The suppressed pistol clinked as it's bolt moved, but with a lack of gun powder, it was silent other wise except for the bullet whizzing through the air. The bullet hit the creature and she was pretty sure she saw it ricochet off into the jungle, but before she had the chance to fire again, the creature retreated into the trees and overgrown brush that surrounded her.
“Maybe that scared it away,” Iradell said, turning back towards the direction she had been heading. She looked that way for only a moment until her attention was drawn back behind her again, when a loud barking noise was heard somewhere close by. The barking was answered throughout the area around her and Iradell realized that she had a bigger problem than she thought on her hands. “Mary,” Iradell said, raising her communicator up.
“Ira? I thought you were going to maintain radio silence,” Mary responded after a few seconds. The barking grew louder around Iradell.
“I'm sending you a scan of what I just saw and audio of what I'm hearing,” Ira said. “Can you tell me what this is? Because I think there are at least seven of them around me.” She estimated seven, based on the barking noises.
“Give me a second,” Mary said. Iradell took that time to holster her pistol and take the shotgun off of her back. She turned so that her back was towards the ocean and remained low to the ground. After a short amount of time, Mary's voice rippled back into her ear. “You aren't going to like this. Those are varnicores. Extremely territorial pack hunters, meat eating... and pretty smart. Hedstrom tried to keep three of them in their zoo but they were too violent and too smart to contain. Their face sheets say they can move up to 20 km per hour through the brush and they have some pretty big ass talons.”
“Explains why they could keep up with me,” Iradell commented while listening to Mary.
“How far out are you?” Mary asked.
“About five kilometers, give or take,” Ira said.
“Maybe you can outrun them, once you make it a few hundred meters from the wall, the defenses on the wall will deal with them,” Mary said.
“Not a bad idea. I'll let you know if I make it. If you don't hear from me soon, consider me a disappointing meal for the local wildlife,” Ira replied, staying low and moving towards the resort. The barking around her stopped, but she knew that she was not alone.
”Two kilometers left,” Ira thought to herself, jumping a fallen tree and continuing to run on the other side. Much to her surprise, the loud footsteps of a large beast landed not far behind her and it was only then that she noticed the sound of it running along, matching her stride. These animals were fast and very clever. No doubt they were excellent predators in the wild. But she was not their usual prey. Despite the fact that she probably gave no scent, her intrusion was enough for her to be hunted down and killed.
Tucking her right shoulder, Iradell rolled forward. While she did, her right hand went to her hip and drew her pistol. As she came back up to stand, she fired several shots at the creature and caused it to veer right into the overgrown bush. If she was fearful, her robotic expression did not show it. Instead, her intense purple eyes glowed as she peered into the pitch black. Overhead, the sky rumbled as it began to rain.
”That's not good,” she thought, knowing that it would make their movements even more. Just as she turned back to the resort, a strong tail hit her in the legs from the way she had been traveling. Another one had flanked her. Iradell was quick to react, but the beast was on top of her, it's reptilian maw bearing down towards her neck immediately. It wasn't these creature's first run in with humanoids, they knew right where to strike.
Keeping the pistol in her right hand, she raised her left up to grip the creature's throat in order to hold it at bay. It had surprising strength and it pushed itself upon her even though her own strength was more mechanical. Iradell's body shook as her left arm struggled to hold the beast back and finally she raised her right hand up, pulling the trigger on her pistol several times at point blank range. Luckily, she caught the beast with one shot right in the left eye. The creature thrashed and then swiped her away with one of it's massive legs, sending her tumbling across the ground and into a tree.
The beast let out an awful cry that was immediately answered by a larger creature, which came out of nowhere to stand beside the injured one. The larger beast sniffed at it's brother (or maybe offspring?) and then growled, a vibrating clicking being heard in it's throat as it leveled it's gaze at Iradell. She recovered quicker than most and got her feet under her, staying low in a crouch. Her left hand touched the ground between her legs and her right lay across her knees, holding tight to the pistol that she carried.
Another cry by the larger beast and out of Iradell's peripheral, she caught the sight of jaws coming in. Reacting out of instinct and because she was faster than most, Iradell rolled to her right to avoid the bite. The third creature took a huge chunk out of the tree that she had been in front of and then roared in what she assumed was frustration. With a robotic precision, Iradell came back to her feet and stood, the soundwave shotgun now in her left hand. She held it out as if it were weightless and her thumb flipped a switch that made it fire slugs. With a silence similar to her pistol, the .50 caliber bullet slung itself into the third creature's skull, penetrating the beast's hide and killing it.
The larger beast, who must have been the alpha, let out a cry that echoed through the jungle. Somehow, this creature knew exactly what had happened. It's brother was dead. Even the blinded beast howled, despite it's own pain. The trees all around her moved and suddenly six more of those creatures sprang into sight, all of them converging on her location and moving at full speed.
“Oh shit,” Iradell said, turning and getting up to a full sprint as quickly as she could manage. Leaping over bushes, trees, and other things, she weaved through the trees at 15 kilometers per hour, with eight large beasts right on her ass. One slip and she this wasn't going to end well.
”Keep running,” Iradell thought, ignoring the feeling to look behind her as she sprinted through the jungle. Ducking under a branch, she finally reached a large clearing. It looked to be a human made clearing as flat as it was, perhaps it was an expansion or another resort. Either way, it looked to be several hundred meters across before another woodline was reached. Beyond those trees, the lights of the resort were even brighter.
Taking advantage of the lack of trees, bushes and other obstacles, Iradell really opened up and pumped her legs forward. Dirt flew behind her with each step as her feet grabbed at each foothold. Unfortunately, it seemed as if the pursuing creatures were able to speed up as well. Even though she was capable of reaching great speeds, these animals did not seem to have issues with keeping up. A glance to her left and she saw one of them running along beside her. On her right, another did the same. Both of the animals screeched in unison which was followed by the answer of the others behind her. They were closer than she thought.
The two bird-like lizards on either side of her then launched their diabolical plan, suddenly turning in towards Iradell at the same time. They intended on squeezing against each other with Iradell in between, slowing her so that the pack could catch up to her. Iradell reacted by taking several long strides to maintain her speed and then she planted both feet, launching herself upwards in a jump. She came down just as the two creatures came together and she put most of her weight on her right foot, landing more squarely on the right one's back. Her left hand came down and put the barrel of the sonic shotgun on the base of the left creature's skull and Iradell pulled the trigger.
This resulted in a car wreck of bodies behind her as another one of the pack died and collapsed into two of the pursuing animals. The animal she landed on slowed and then thrashed, feeling her weight on it's back, and Iradell unintentionally dropped down onto it's back and straddled it like a horse. Too close to use her shotgun, Iradell robotically snapped it into the holster on her back and then brought her pistol up, firing several rounds into the animal's head. Unfortunately, those rounds were not enough to penetrate it's hide. As it bucked and thrashed, Iradell moved her left arm around the creature's throat and held on tight.
As she attempted to shoot and choke the animal she was on, the alpha reacted by grabbing her left leg in it's jaw. It's teeth sank in until it met metal and then it pulled, yanking Iradell from her perch. The might alpha slung her around a few times and then released her, causing Ira to land about fifty feet away. She landed in wet mud, freshly dug up by land movers for whatever was to be built here. The momentum of her impact caused her to sink in several inches, but she immediately scrambled to get back up, despite the warnings she was receiving about her damaged leg.
The alpha barked and growled, rallying the others back to their feet around him. It was almost as if they could sense that their prey was wounded. It was then that the clouds really opened up and began to pour down torrential rain.
Iradell worked her injured leg. The joints still moved properly, but coolant was leaking and would need to be patched immediately. Without it, her core chanced overheating, especially with the amount of exertion she had been putting out the past few hours. At the moment, she had no choice in the matter. It was either deal with overheating or die now, ripped to shreds by these animals until they figured out that she was not a tasty meal.
Turning suddenly, Iradell made a break for the woodline and towards the resort. She slipped as her feet failed to find traction in the mud, but she did not fall and after a few haphazard steps she began to run. The animals had the same issues, thankfully, but they spread out in a formation and began to run towards her yet again.
”Make it through these trees,” Iradell thought to herself as she entered the woodline. There was a narrow patch of jungle before she reached another clearing and from there, she should see the twenty foot walls that protected the resort. With the animals right on her heels, Iradell got herself back up to speed and sprinted for the next clearing.
A mighty cry came from behind her from the alpha and once again, two creatures ran along on either side of her. This time she was protected by trees, at least until she reached the clearing. Hopefully James was right about this, that the walls automated defenses would target the creatures immediately. The bad thing was, she never had time to think about how she was going to get past them herself. Since they were set off by motion, however, she could possibly enter stealth mode and slip by while they were distracted by the animals. Not to mention the storm could cover her entrance.
Iradell sprinted into the clearing and as she had hoped, the massive wall that protected the resort rose up before her. She initiated her stealth mode, causing a blanket of near invisibility to cover her front. However, the animals behind her still were tracking her quite well. Lights sprang on along the wall and red lasers traced along the ground in her general direction, looking for targets. One laser found it's mark and locked onto one of the animals beside her, and a buzzing noise was heard as a phalanx was fired. The beast collapsed into a pile of bones and blood.
Ducking as a laser passed over her head, the next one locked onto the animal to her right. Again, the automated defenses did their job. One after another, the animals fell as Iradell ran through the storm towards the wall. Finally, all that was left was the alpha male as it drew closer to her from behind. The sound of teeth rattling together was heard as it snapped at her heels. Apparently, they were running so fast that they ran inside the perimeter of the wall's defenses before they could take down the formation of animals, and unbeknownst to Iradell, security soldiers were scrambling in order to put hand held weapon fire onto the alpha.
Reaching the wall, Iradell lowered herself and slid through the mud until she came to a stop against it. The alpha roared and then slid too, colliding against the wall with it's massive body. The entire wall shook and for the first time, Iradell could hear the voices of the soldiers yelling about it. Iradell stood back up just as the alpha swung at her with it's massive rear legs, causing her to duck. Again, the animal struck the wall. The alpha turned and swung it's tail and Iradell jumped, causing the animal to bash the wall again. She landed on it's lower back and ran up it a few steps, simultaneously holstering her pistol while drawing her knife with her other hand.
“Shoot that thing!” a voice came from above.
Iradell leaped forward and extended her entire body, coming down onto the back of the alpha's neck with both hands on the knife so that she stabbed it there. The leathery skin was tough, the knife was sharp enough to pierce it's flesh. The alpha looked upwards and cried out in pain and anger, causing the soldiers it looked up at to think that it was just fucking insane. Iradell slid off to one side of the alpha's neck and took the knife with her, carving through it's flesh as she fell.
Above, the soldiers had finally unlocked their weapons and brought them to the wall, and they opened fire on the alpha. A volley of gunfire struck the alpha creature, causing it to roar in pain. But ultimately it was the massive wound on it's neck that did it in. The creature slowly collapsed and then fell directly on top of Iradell, looking her in the eye as it passed on.
“Ha, got 'em!” a soldier called out, raising his weapon. Cheers were heard and then the security of the wall slowly went back to sleep.
Several minutes passed after the security had settled down. The rain continued to pour and the longer Iradell laid there underneath of the creature, the more she sank into the ground. After what she thought was a reasonable time, she pushed the massive head off of her own face and then slowly worked herself out from under it, careful to be quiet and stick close to the wall.
“Mary, I'm okay,” Iradell whispered into her communicator, sitting on the wet ground next to the alpha beast. The rain continued to pour and thunder intermittently rumbled above.
“Good to hear. Be careful, see you in a couple of days,” Mary came back after a few moments of silence.
With that confirmation, Iradell moved over the top of the beast, which was partially against the wall, and then crawled on all fours towards an outflow of water from the base of the wall. It was a hole about four foot wide. When she looked inside, she saw the metal bars that James had explained to her. It would take only a few minutes for a laser torch to go through. This wall was meant to keep the wildlife out, it wasn't exactly high security against intruders. Water was pouring out of the drain pipe at a pretty intense rate and Iradell was considering waiting until the storm passed before entering, but that thought was cut short when the headlights of a land rover rounded the corner of the wall. Probably a clean up crew to deal with the dead carcasses. She quickly moved into the gushing water and crawled several feet inside before she reached the metal bars, then she turned and sat down on her backside to look back towards the entrance of the drain.
“Never seen one charge at the wall like that,” a soldier said, walking over to the dead body. He fired several more shots into the beast's head, causing Iradell's eyes to widen in surprise at the noise. For some reason, she expected them to come over and check the drain.
“Nah, me neither. That thing had a crazed look in it's eyes. Think it was chasing something?” another guard said.
“Maybe. It probably died out there with the others before it got close to the wall... then it was just pissed because it was shot at.”
“Yea, makes sense. Let's get these things moved, it is cold and raining out here,” the first guard said, then Iradell could hear the hum of the rover as it attached a wench to the dead body of the animal. After several minutes, the rover dragged the beast away towards the treeline. If she could exhale a sigh of relief, she would have.
The good thing about the amount of water coming through the drain was that it provided her an opportunity to wash the mud from her body and equipment. The bag she wore was waterproof, but the outside of it was filthy. Her hair, weapons, and the rest of her body was covered in mud though. No doubt she would draw unwanted attention if she tried to walk into the resort looking like this. For several minutes, Iradell washed herself with the water. It wasn't necessarily the cleanest water, since it was a drain, but it was better than what she was covered with.
After she was satisfied with the amount of mud she had washed off, Iradell removed the pack from her back and went to work with the laser torch. The laser was a faint red in color, adjustable so that it could be used to burn through different objects, and it worked rather quickly. She held it in place along the top of the bars, burning through each one in just a few minutes time. Once they were broken through, Iradell shifted in the drain and put her feet against the bars while bracing herself with her hands. Then with a push of her powerful legs, she bent the bars backwards one at a time. Iradell then slipped inside the resort, turning around to repeat the process, bending the bars back up again so that if anyone happened to look inside the drain it would be hard to spot anything unusual.
Almost an hour had passed since she had entered the drain until the time that she emerged on the other side. This led her into a series of tunnels that went beneath the resort, a drainage sewer, and she quickly made her way up to one of the ladders that would lead her up to street level. Thankfully it was still raining and that made it much easier to emerge unseen. Figuring this a good place to stash her shotgun, she hung it on the ladder by it's sling and then climbed out, sliding the lid closed again once she was on a path that led through the resort.
It was quite the contrast to what she had just went through. Across a small yard of grass, she saw a building with windows on all sides. A party was taking place inside and music played loudly. They appeared oblivious to the gunfire that had just taken down the animals outside. Iradell stood and she looked down the slope behind her, which led to a fence and on the other side of that, a beach. The walls of the resort extended out into the ocean for a ways and she was sure there were precautions underwater as well. There were several pools, several bar areas that had roofs with patrons still lingering in them, and many deck chairs for guests to relax and lay out. She turned back towards the party room and beyond that was a massive hotel, which was lit up brightly. At the very top was a sign that read “Sunny Breezes Ocean Resort.”
“This will be interesting,” Iradell said to herself, moving down the path towards the party room. Hopefully the crowd would let her go unnoticed and she would be able to find a bathroom quickly.
With only a few hours left until sunrise, Iradell looked at herself in the mirror of the bathroom she had found. It had taken her quite a while to prepare herself, dressing herself in Mary's clothing and then putting on her disguise in the mirror. “Disguise.” It was really just a cheap way of concealing the seams on her face and then covering her face in makeup, just as her friend had showed her how to do. Luckily Iradell was a fast learner and had a perfect memory – it looked just like when Mary had done it earlier.
Iradell emerged from the bathroom, dressed in a long sleeved white shirt. She wore two layers, a white t-shirt with the long sleeve over it, in order to better conceal her black body. Iradell also had on a pair of orange pants and white sandals, which felt odd for her to walk in. Her hair hung loosely down either side of her face, the synthetic fibers so realistic that it would be hard to distinguish whether it was real hair or not, even upon close inspection. Mary had recommended keeping it natural and to just let it hang, to give her the appearance of someone who had been in and out of the pool or swimming in the ocean. The only thing that might make her stand out was her eyes, but even that was not something that was so uncommon that it would draw unwanted attention. Overall, she blended in extremely well with the others here.
Moving out of the bathroom area, she found that the party was still continuing, even in the early hours of the morning. The crowd was mostly younger people, at least in appearance, who had the stamina to stay up all night drinking and dancing. Iradell approached the first person she saw, a young woman who looked to be intoxicated, and tapped her on the shoulder.
“Have you seen a man named Ronald Lilburn?” Iradell asked.
“What?” the girl called out over the music.
“Roger Lilburn!” Iradell said louder.
The girl rolled her eyes at Iradell and turned away, continuing to dance with her partner. Iradell frowned, not liking the girl's reaction but not really knowing how to respond to it. Outside of breaking the girl's neck, anyways... but she couldn't do that. She walked through the crowd and towards one of the windows, looking out towards the beach and at horizon. It was glowing faintly as the sun was preparing to show it's face. Her mind raced as she tried to figure out how she was going to find Agent Lilburn while she appreciated the view.
“It's beautiful isn't it?”
Iradell turned her head towards the male voice that was suddenly right beside her. She looked at the man, who stood with his arms crossed. He looked at her and grinned before looking back towards the horizon with her. Iradell froze for a long moment and then she remember to smile and nod. She looked out the window again.
“My name is Terrell,” he said, extending his right hand out to her. “Don't think I've seen you here.”
“Mary,” Iradell answered, fibbing her name. She looked at his hand cautiously, then looked Terrell in the eye before reaching out and shaking his hand. “I have spent a lot of time in my room until this evening.”
“Right,” Terrell said as if he didn't believe that. “You're probably one of the richer folks that stay up on the second level. I can tell by your eyes. Not just anyone can get a job like that done.”
“You are observant,” she replied.
“They're beautiful eyes. Hell, you are-”
Terrell was interrupted by one of his friends slapping him on the back. Iradell looked back towards the friend, who was in a group of guys who looked like they had been busy. They took a moment to give Terrell hell, then disappeared into the dancing crowd again. She raised a brow at Terrell and then looked back towards the horizon. The sun had just began to show and the sky turned a fiery pink.
“Sorry about them,” Terrell apologized, a goofy grin staying on his face. He was a handsome guy, Iradell noted. By human standards anyways. “You probably just woke up or something, didn't you? I would have noticed if you had been at this party with us all night. Can I get you a drink? We can go outside and chill in one of those lounge chairs... it rained all night so it is probably pretty cool and nice out.”
“You make it sound wonderful,” Iradell said, glancing at him. She hoped that maybe this guy could help her find her man. “Yes, I will sit with you. I am not thirsty though.”
“Hey, that's fine. Let's go,” Terrell said, reaching down to take Iradell's hand. He laced his fingers within her's and Iradell was thankful that her body was usually warm due to it's internal workings. Otherwise he might think something was odd. As they walked towards the door, Terrell flashed that grin towards his group of friends, who all gave him positive hand signals or laughs.
“What was that?” Iradell asked once they walked outside. She made a face as the ocean breeze blew her hair around. She raised a hand up to wipe it from her eyes.
“The guys?” Terrell said, leading them down the small hill towards a row of lounge chairs. They had to weave their way through a couple of levels full of tables, where people had already began coming out and eating. The music in the club had quieted down and it seemed that crowd was starting to thin out. “They are just being stupid. See me walking out with a pretty girl and they get all worked up.”
It took Iradell a moment to realize that he was referring to her. The thought made her smile. It made her want to continue getting her upgrades so that she could one day look like this all of the time. For some reason, it gave her confidence. Not in her abilities or anything like that, she already felt confident there, but in herself and who she was.
“You don't hear that often enough do you?” Terrell asked.
“That you're beautiful.”
Again, Iradell didn't know how to respond. Her thoughts went to wondering how she ended up in this situation. She was here on a mission, not for personal enjoyment. But then again, there wasn't anything wrong with getting some enjoyment out of it. Iradell didn't know what else to say, so she shook her head at him.
Anything she would have said was interrupted by a sudden burst of gunfire. Her eyes shot towards the wall, which was about fifty yards away, and she watched as security forces opened fire on some unseen threat. They all looked concerned, but they were well trained and continued to fire. Iradell looked past Terrell towards the wall, her hand moving behind her back so that it was within reach of the pistol that was tucked into her waistband.
“Don't worry,” Terrell said, pulling Iradell's attention briefly away from the wall. “I heard the guards saying that they killed some of those creatures outside last night. Apparently those things are smart enough that they don't forget. They were being put on high alert, expecting those things to keep testing the wall's defenses. Smart animals, who would have thought?”
“They are very fast, too,” Iradell said, then shot Terrell a look. “So I have heard.”
“Hm, I wouldn't know. But those things aren't going to make it through a wall of bullets,” he said, laughing. But it was nervous laughter.
Iradell spoke with Terrell for several hours. He told her all about where he was from and the job that her performed in Hedstrom. He was a cook at a nice restaurant and he and his friends had went in together in order to afford this vacation. They had been here for a week and had another week left to spend before they had to take the shuttles in. Iradell said little about herself, but Terrell seemed content with that.
Only one other time did the security forces on the wall open fire again. They scrambled to the north flank and shot towards the beach outside the wall. Iradell looked past Terrell during these exchanges, watching the movements of the guard. Automated turrets that sat along the top of the wall swiveled quickly to the left and the right, firing with precision at targets that it detected. Was it the same creatures as the ones she tangled with last night?
When the action finally stopped and Iradell focused back to Terrell, he was staring at her with a strange expression on his face. He whispered something about protecting her if it came down to it and then he leaned over, putting his lips against her's. Iradell quickly turned her head away, the sensation of a person's mouth on her own feeling incredibly strange. Terrell must have thought something similar, perhaps due to the lack of moisture or some other abnormality, because he looked away too.
“You can't do that,” Iradell said, standing up from the bench that they had been sharing.
“Sorry... eh, are you alright?” Terrel asked, standing too.
“Do you know an ITC Agent named Roger Lilburn?” Iradell asked after an awkward moment of silence. For once, she felt the awkwardness.
“I try to kiss you and you pull away, then ask me about another dude? What's wrong with you?” Terrell asked. Iradell believed it hurt his feelings.
“No... I only ask because he is my friend and he is supposed to be here. I wanted to see him before I leave,” Iradell lied, trying to think of the best thing to say.
“You're full of shit, too. Damn, just when I started liking you. Anyone who has been here for more than a day knows that all the ITC and government types stay on the second level. They usually don't come out here until late afternoon and nightfall, when it is cooler. What are you, his mistress or something? Get flown out here so he can sneak off to your room to bang while the family splashes in the ocean?” Terrell said accusingly.
“Yes,” Iradell said after another moment of silence. She couldn't look him in the eye.
“That's fucked up. I see why you were so quiet now. Have a great time bitch,” Terrell said, turning and walking away in a huff. It was obvious that the words were said due to being hurt more than really thinking those things about her. But still, Iradell spent several quiet moments listening to the waves hit the beach before she regained her composure.
Iradell found a lounge chair after her exchange with Terrell and she spent most of the day looking out at the ocean. She could feel the warmth on her hands, feet, and face and wished for that sensation all over. But she didn't just sit there and enjoy herself. She spent most of the day watching as the security forces scrambled around the wall, shifting their fire in different direction as the intelligent creatures outside tried to find a weak point. Did no one else notice that but her? It didn't seem like they did.
As Terrell predicted, once the sun started getting low, more people came out to enjoy the beach. There were several families that could fit Lilburn's description. However, Iradell locked onto one particular man who fit the bill exactly. He was a tall man, looking to be middle aged, with blonde hair and blue eyes. He and his wife sat together in the sand, occasionally laughing and kissing each other, while their kids ran back and forth between the water and where they sat. The man had worn and ITC t-shirt down to the beach, but he had taken it off. It was as good a guess as any, but she had to come up with a way to confirm it.
After almost an hour of wondering how she was going to approach them, Iradell slid out of her seat and made her way down towards the water. The closer she got, the stronger the wind seemed. It was a beautiful place to vacation, even with the walls on either side. Her plan was a stupid one, but she was sure it would work.
“Roger!” Iradell called out, walking up behind the happy couple. As she expected, the man turned around and looked at her. She continued to look towards the water and waved her hand at one of the children who were playing. “Roger!” again she called out, and finally one of the kids looked her way and waved back. Iradell laughed and put her hands on her hips, then looked down to the couple sitting in the sand in front of her. “I'm sorry, I didn't mean to yell over the top of you. Is your name Roger, too?” Iradell asked, maintaining a happy disposition that she assumed most people on vacation would have.
“Actually, it is,” Roger said with a friendly smile. “I was like – whaaa, who is calling me?” he paused to laugh. “But it was just you. You have a family member out there?”
“More like a family friend,” Iradell answered, lowering herself to her knees in the sand just behind them. The couple shifted a little so they could look back at her more easily. “I have been looking for him and was glad to see him out there on the beach. I'm Mary.” Iradell extended a hand out to them.
“Roger,” he said, laughing again while shaking her hand. “This is my wife Meryl.”
“What a beautiful name,” Iradell said, reaching across to shake her hand too. Her eyes went towards Roger's shirt, which had been set on a chair nearby. “You're an ITC agent?”
“Yea, there are quite a few of us here together actually,” Roger said, glancing at his wife. It was unusual that someone approached and was this nice. He figured it was just her nature though, some people were outgoing like that.
“Roger Lilburn?” she asked.
“Uh... yea. How'd you..”
“Your bag,” Iradell smiled and pointed. “Well, it was very nice to meet the both of you. Have a wonderful vacation.”
She got up and walked back the way she came, leaving the couple to exchange looks at one another.
Iradell had kept her eye on Roger for a while, letting the darkness settle in a bit more. There were lights coming from the walls on either side of the beach, about 250 yards from each other, but it was enough to give the vacationing families plenty of light to enjoy themselves. There were even lights under the water, shooting out towards the depths and illuminating the clear waters like a swimming pool. Now that it wasn't pouring rain, Iradell could see how beautiful of a resort this was.
Still, gunfire sounded off every now and then. The animals outside the wall seemed to be testing the walls defenses at a more steady pace now. But the walls would not give in. The automated turrets were too precise and they shredded anything unauthorized that tried to get close. She was pretty lucky that she had been mixed up in a large group of animals when she came in, or she would have been laying out there in that field too.
Once everything seemed set, Iradell got up from where she was sitting and made her way towards the wall. There was very little between her and the ten foot wall. On the outside, the wall was twenty feet tall. Once within the resort they were only about ten foot high because of the drainage system built underneath. Iradell got to the wall and jumped, her powerful mechanical legs propelling her upwards, and she reached out with one hand and gripped the wall with an iron grasp. She then hoisted herself upwards, her other hand swinging around to assist her once she was able. A limber lift of her leg and she was on top of the wall, crouching down in the darkness between the spotlights.
Her eyes flickered between different settings, looking out into the darkness beyond the wall. With her thermal vision and night vision, she was able to pick up the warm bodies of the creatures, moving in the treeline. There appeared to be close to fifty of them, moving together in a pack from one end of the treeline to the other, as if they were getting ready for something. It also appeared that they had learned the safe distance of the turrets, because none of them moved any closer than where they were now.
“Eyes up! There are ten of those things on the left flank. Three of you come with me, the other two stay here and reload the turrets as needed,” a security soldier hollered. He was closer to her than she realized, but the darkness hid her pretty well. Iradell moved closer to the outside edge of the wall, using the brightness of the spotlight to hide her even better in the darkness. Three soldiers ran by on the wall, making their way around to the other side.
Iradell took a moment to look down on the “good” side of the wall. The people down there looked to be enjoying themselves, unaware that the soldiers up here were fighting hard to keep them safe. It was only a moment before she went back to the task at hand and moved along the wall until she came to a turret. Even in the darkness, her eyes allowed her to see perfectly well, and she went to work unplugging several cables that looked like they went to the security servers. Once hooked in, it was relatively easy for her to find and override the turrets. She shut them down completely and then removed their programming from the servers, rendering them permanently useless. She then flooded the system with a virus, making it have critical error to the point that it began deleting certain portions of itself.
Unintentionally, the server chose to delete the program that controlled the lights in the resort. The entire resort powered down, causing everything to go completely silent.
A loud cry was heard in the night, followed by the answering of beasts all around the resort. Somehow, the lights going out was a signal to these creatures that their time to approach was at hand. Iradell stood up on the wall, her hair blowing hard to her left from the ocean breeze, and looked out into the darkness to see many of the predators that had chased her into this place approaching the resort. She imagined that it was a similar scene on all sides, judging by the sound of the cries. The soldiers on the wall scrambled, the two near her running right past her towards their squadmates. If they had saw her, they said nothing.
RA-GOK!, a creature called out as it leaped the twenty feet into the air as if it was nothing. Iradell looked over at it in the darkness, still unseen in the dark, taking a moment to study it as it landed nearby. The creature was about twenty feet from her, perched on the wall with it's head looking upwards, crying out fanatically to it's brethren. It had massive legs with sharp claws coming from each of it's toes. There were four arms on it's torso, each one curled up against itself like a dying insect. The tail made up for most of it's length, which was about fifteen to twenty foot long. It was the biggest animal she had ever seen. It was twice the size of the ones that had chased her in. She had no doubt that if there was an alpha, this was it.
Iradell's eyes moved back towards the families on the beach as screams began to cry out. Fathers and mothers screaming for their kids, kids screaming for their parents, lovers screaming for each other, it appeared like a disaster scene as the crowd of people began herding up the hill towards the safety of the building. She walked to the edge of the wall, looking in towards the resort, watching as the animals climbed the wall all over the resort and made their way into it's interior. The security guards fired wildly, but they were quickly swarmed. There appeared to be a hundred or more creatures. There were about twenty close to the same size as the one near her, but they came in all shapes and sizes, with some of them as small as the human children.
“What did I do?” Iradell wondered out loud, having not considered this happening. She simply wanted to let a few of the creatures in and lead them to Roger. This was going to be a massacre. Before she had much time to feel sorry for what she had done, something hit her in the back that sent her flying off the wall. It her with such force that she did not know what it was and never saw it coming, but the next thing she knew she was rolling rapidly down a set of stairs and into the sand, bowling through several retreating people.
She didn't know how long it took her to recover, but when Iradell sat up there were people screaming all around her. A young girl, appearing to be about the age of five, was sitting on the ground next to her shaking. Iradell got to her feet rapidly and surveyed the scene. More security had come from within the resort, firing on the creatures that were killing and feasting indiscriminately. If there was anything good to come from this, it looked as if most of the adults had sacrificed themselves to get their children to safety... she didn't see many little bodies on the ground.
“Come with me, little one,” Iradell said, bending at the knees to scoop up the child at her feet. She then began to make her way up the hill, holding the little girl close with one hand as she took her pistol out with the other. Flicking the selector switch on her pistol, Iradell fired several rounds off as she walked, tagging the creatures with exploding rounds and turning them into paste. She aimed mostly at the larger ones, attempting to help the soldiers thin the crowd.
“Lara!” a man screamed out, running back down the hill towards Iradell. It was Roger. “Mary... thank you for finding my girl.”
Iradell was slightly disappointed to see him alive with so many dead on the ground. This was way more horrible than she intended. How was she to know that so many creatures were lurking in wait?
“Did you see a boy with brown hair? About 12?” Roger asked, taking the girl from her.
“I think I might have,” Iradell answered. It was a lie. “Let's get your daughter to safety and then we will go get him, together.”
Roger nodded and Iradell escorted him through the crowd of people fighting with creatures, shooting like mad in order to clear a path and save as many as she could. By the time Iradell made it up to the main building, she had a small group tagging along with her.
“Meryl!” Roger called out as they moved into a safe area in the building. His wife came running through the crowd to retrieve Lara from him. “Mary said she things she saw Brenton out there... I'm going back out.”
“I have a gun,” Iradell said, holding it up.
“You can't do that! Please, just stay, I heard that the guards were going to be calling in air support,” Meryl said, hysterical.
Roger shook his head and looked back to Iradell. “I'm going.”
“Then I'm going with you,” Iradell said, then turned to follow him back out into the fray.
It took them several minutes to head back down the beach. Iradell killed at least ten more big ones and several more small ones, carving them a path and making a way for others to escape. As bad as she felt, she did not have the time to think on it very much. She concerned herself with saving those that she could. Again, she had no idea of knowing this would happen like this.
“Where did you see him?” Roger asked as they got onto the beach, which was surprisingly clear of both people and creatures.
“He was there, where I was waving to that boy earlier,” Iradell lied again, not really knowing what else to say. As she turned to look back in the direction that most of the creatures were, the massive tail of the alpha-male hit her again and sent her back several feet, landing flat on her back in the sand. She was stunned for a moment by the impact, her vision going fuzzy for several seconds. When it came clear again, she saw the foot of the beast coming down towards her in a ferocious stomp.
At the last second, Roger yanked her out of the way, dragging her several more feet to make sure she was clear. He bent down and took up Iradell's pistol, firing several rounds at the large alpha male. This attracted it's full attention away from Iradell and then the creature spun around rapidly, whipping Roger with it's tail. Roger flew back and landed on a large jagged rock, a loud cracking sounding off as he hit. His back was probably broken. But even so, Roger rolled himself over with his arms and aimed the pistol again.
“Use the red!” Iradell called out, struggling to get back up.
Roger somehow heard her and flicked the selector switch. He fired several rounds into the large creature and a high pitch tone sounded off. The alpha-male ran towards him and grabbed him by the legs, lifting him and swinging him back and forth several times like a rag doll before releasing him and sending his body bouncing across the beach. The high pitched tones reached their apex and then simultaneously the exploding rounds blew, blowing massive chunks out of the alpha-male. The creature managed to take a few more steps towards Roger and then it fell, bleeding out on the sand.
“Roger!” Iradell said, getting up from her spot in the sand and running across the beach towards the man. She rolled him over and to her surprise, he was still alive.
“I need... a doctor...” Roger said, showing a bloody smile. “But you go... find my son.”
“I will,” Iradell said quietly. “You saved me.”
Roger nodded. “Yea... in the resort is a doctor named,” he paused, wincing as he breathed. “Named Solomon. He can help me. Go find Brenton and then Solomon. I'll make it.”
“I'm sorry,” Iradell said quietly, looking towards the main building that was a couple hundred yards up the hill. The creatures appeared to be thinning and the security guards were wiping up what was left. Iradell took out the blade that was strapped to her thigh and held it in her right hand. “Know that I will find your son and see him to safety, Roger. Know that, okay?”
Roger's eyes widened a bit, bewildered and full of pain. Iradell slowly inserted the blade into his throat and as he died, she dragged him over to the downed alpha-male. Carefully, she placed the giant creature's massive claw into the wound and then stomped it in, both finishing Roger off and making it look as if he had died in combat with the creature. She then proceeded to kick the sand around, removing the drag marks from one spot to the other.
A few hours later and Iradell sat quietly in the safe area with the rest of the refugees. She would have to slip out when they were being evacuated in order to make it back to her extrication spot. Of all the missions she had completed, this was the toughest and the one that had went wrong the most.
It was a little girl's voice. Iradell looked up to see Lara standing next to her. Roger's daughter.
“Thank you for saving my brother and trying to save my daddy,” Lara said, reaching out to touch Iradell on the hand. “And saving me, too.”
“Your daddy saved me, little one,” Iradell responded coldly, her emotions numb. “He saved me.”
Lara forced a smile and then went back across the room, taking a seat next to Meryl. Brenton was on the other side of them. Apparently he had made it in when Iradell had cleared a path, but she nor Roger had ever saw her.
Iradell felt like the lowest person in the galaxy.