This was not good news, whatever way I looked at it. If help had indeed been called for, it would arrive faster than rescue did, and we did not know the network on tunnels underground.
“Let’s get to the surface,” said Andrews as he walked out of the communications room, “you go first. I’ll see if there’s anything useful here.”
I walked over to the spot with the hatch directly above it, took one look at the wall-rung ladder, and in one swift jump, reached the surface. The first thing I felt was the cool air on my face and the immediate darkening of the surroundings. There were no lights outside; just the cool silver of the starlight on the barren wasteland.
This tiny dark room was comforting. It seemed to have a cosy feel to it. The black walls, the small holes in the walls for windows, the shutterless door; it all seemed very protective, very warm.
“Scout around. Don’t relax.”
I didn’t reply. Walking out, I looked around. It was serene. Nothing seemed out of place.
Just the way it seemed when I’d first seen it.
Another swift leap and I was atop the roof of the one-storeyed building. I looked around in a full circle.
“I’ve got nothing coming. Should we be worried?” I was curious.
“Electronic fog. Just keep an eye out. I’m coming up. We’ve got ourselves new toys, Isaac,” Andrews replied.
I never had a chance to understand the last part. I was more worried about the two lighted figures racing at us.
“They’re here. Take these.” Andrews had already come up beside me. He handed me three small cubes. They had two electrodes on one side.
“Plug to the spinal lock.”
I did. The spinal lock was a small bracket on the nape of my neck, used to link data lines. Nevertheless, I plugged in the cube. A small panel came up on my visor.
“WARP” was what it said.
“I have a decent idea of what that warp option does. But don’t use it unless you’re facing almost certain death. Power up. If we survive this, our names will go down in the history leading up to TechGenesis. Kill the enemy. Kill them all,” he said, coldly.
I knew that voice. I’d heard it once before when our base had been under attack from Conservative strike teams. At the base, we used to say, ‘Death’s come over. Make him feel comfortable.’
The enemy was less than 200 metres away. Andrews walked up to the edge of the building.
I saw, heard, even felt, two opposing cannons strike against each other, the force of the impact sending a small shockwave through the air.
An instant later, I saw the second figure, pointing a right arm at me. His palm curled up into a fist, exposing a locked gun barrel on his outer lower arm. I lunged to the right, and I saw a flash of light from the nozzle. An instant later, I saw a quick streak of white light, and a crater in concrete behind me.
Burst bullets. These were bullets which exploded on impact. Like a tiny Jihadi bee.
I leapt up.
In that instant, I saw the vast stretch of land in all directions. There was something wrong with this place. What could have possibly happened here that had turned so many square kilometres of land into a barren waste? Radiation was normal, so no nuclear disaster. Everything else seemed perfectly normal.
The enemy, with the same suit variant as the Wolf, landed on the spot where I was, and lunged up, tracing my path.
I turned in the air, aiming my foot at the hardplate of the enemy.
And just at that moment, even with my foot, and possibly half a tonne of force behind it, he fired again. I tilted my head back, hoping the bullet would miss.
But I felt the hot trail of air behind it, and I saw it rising more than half a mile into the black sky. A small white glow that was capable of shredding any armoured unit.
I felt him finally moving in the direction of the kick.
This time it whizzed past my visor, maybe an inch or two away from my face.
This time it wasn’t my enemy. I turned, and I saw the other enemy figure, his right arm pointing at Andrews.
Both whizzed past.
I was beginning to fall back to the roof, and I saw the enemy I had hit, perfectly balanced, mid-air, and ready to land on the wall of the building across the thin excuse of a street.
We both landed together.
Less than 100 milliseconds in the air, and I saw his right arm extending.
I flung myself to one side.
I could see the hot, distorted air behind the bullet.
Half a second later, I landed on the building’s side and he landed beside the crater.
We repeated the same move, lunging at each other.
500 milliseconds more.
I was at point blank range. And he had his arm locked onto my face.
If this didn’t work, I was dead.
And at that moment, movement became almost impossible. It was like I’d been dipped into thick sludge.
Nothing was moving. Or even if it was, it wasn’t moving fast.
Everything had slowed down.
Time had warped.
I saw the milliseconds tick away at 1/100th of the speed I normally saw them.
I could see every millisecond tick by, and the warp counter counting down.
The enemy fired.
The badge worked. I caught the bullet mid-flight.
67% warp remaining.
With my entire body feeling immovable, I forced as much strength as I could, into the bullet, towards the enemy’s face. I felt supreme. I could barely move, but I could see everything a hundred times slower than they actually were. I felt no gravity, no wind; I heard nothing, no wind rushing past me, no limbs through the air, no gunshot.
No fear meant no reason.
I head no reason to not rip the person in front of me, apart.
It was easier not to.
The bullet had already begun moving towards him. I rapid change of direction had heated it to a point where it could probably melt the suit’s fibres.
2% warp remaining.
Everything was back to normal.
I felt time. I felt the wind. I felt the adrenaline.
I heard an explosion.
200 milliseconds and I landed softly onto the roof, just beside the crater in the concrete.
As the enemy’s body hit the wall of the building across the street, I saw the final sight that a victorious warrior always wants to see.
A headless corpse, limply falling to the ground, and a large smear of blood on the wall.
A defeated enemy.
“We’re safe.” I heard Andrews’ voice.
I turned around; facing the direction I’d last seen him.
He was standing there, with an absolutely innocent, even childlike grin on his face.
With a head hanging from his right hand, dripping blood.