Fanfic Challenge #2 : Shadow Courier

Discussion in 'Roleplay' started by FrostedBranFlakes, May 20, 2014.

  1. FrostedBranFlakes Lead Community Manager

    #1
    >
    Hello ARES Pilots, and welcome to our second 'Fanfic Challenge'!

    As mentioned in our first challenge, we've got a great RP community here, so we wanted to create an officially-sponsored space outside of the game where our fiction enthusiasts with a talent for writing (or at least the desire to write) are given a background to a story every other week (or so). During that time, authors can continue the story and decide what happens to their character.

    Be as creative as you'd like, and write as little or as much as you'd like! There are no wrong entries, but please only submit one, and the background story just serves as a starting point -- change up the background as much as you wish so it fits with your tale. Also, please do continue to RP in the other threads outside of this challenge that can be found in the 'Roleplay' subforum. :)

    Fanfic Challenge #2 runs from now until June 3rd, at which point a new one will be posted. Have an idea for a future Fanfic background story? Let us know via PM! We'll make sure to credit you with the background story if it's selected, and we'd love to rotate through fan-submitted challenges and those we come up with.

    The discussion of this challenge can be found here, and we ask that the only replies to this thread are fanfic entries. Authors can use the discussion thread to talk about their stories, including how they came up with them, and provide constructive feedback to other authors about their entries. Don't beat each other up, but help each other grow.

    So, without further ado, we present: Fanfic Challenge #2 : Shadow Courier
    ((This challenge's background story was submitted by Juno! Thanks, Juno!))


    Have fun, authors!
    • Like x 3
  2. terricon4 Fan Site MVP

    #2
    After securing the package I head to the garage where I find my LGV parked among others, its got some wear and tear but it's the fastest bike you'll find in New Eden that can handle all the local terrains. As I get on and start the ignition I think that this was probably part of why I was chosen for the job, since roads are apparently considered dangerous for this gig your average grunt would probably have a hard time making it all the way to Trans Hub without using the normal routes.

    As the engine finishes starting up I ride my bike slowly, working my way out of the garage complex and out to the exit. As I leave the facility and get on the dirt road just outside I quickly hit the gas and take off down the road to the left towards some trees. As I enter the light forest and look around to make sure I'm not being followed I pull off to the side. After riding past some trees I come to a slight clearing in the trees and stop here. Quickly looking around I don't see anyone nearby and decide this spot looks safe enough for now.

    With the way that man was so worried about official channels being insecure to the point that even sending the package on one of the accords armored dropships wasn't an option, I figure it's best if I go silent for the remainder of this run. I pull up part of my SIN interface and head to some of the system commands and settings. Suddenly I hear a slight sound behind me, like a heavy object touching the ground, though heavily muffled. I twist my head around in an instant, my hand reaching for my sidearm. I scan the area behind me, but don't see anything. There's a slight rise off about 20 meters that someone could be hiding on top of, but at this distance and with the trees between me and it I doubt anyone could get a clean shot off let alone see me through the tree cover. Quickly deciding that it's best that I finish what I was doing I re-focus on my SIN, finding the commands that I need, I quickly cut my feed to the outside network. After that I enable activate a custom solo operating system that I picked up through some questionable connections awhile back. With this I'll now have officially disappeared on SIN, no one will be able to locate me. Be it a member of the Accord with full access to SIN, or a Chosen party scanning for transmission signals I'm as good as gone.

    After a few seconds my operating system finishes restarting with the modified version, I glance around again taking my eyes off of the rise for just a moment. Seeing that the area off to my left side will allow for me to move fairly safely on my bike, and without getting too exposed from anyone still hiding up on the rise I decide it's the direction to go in. I reach down and start my LGVs engine, as I listen to it start up I notice that it sounds slightly funny. As the engine stabilizes at it's idle RPM, the oddity that was accompanying it continues to grow in volume. Once again I look around rapidly, however I can't tell what direction the noise is coming from, at the last moment I frantically glance upwards only for a pit of despair to form itself in my gut. Had I noticed what it was earlier I could have gotten away, but at this point there's no time.

    The large metal construct smashes into him and his bike, completely destroying it and embedding itself a foot into the ground. Several sections near the bottom of the machine slowly move away from it's center and rotate down towards the ground, helping to hold the machine upright. As the thumper begins boring into the ground with it's tell tale sound, the remnants of the courier and his bike are torn into even more pieces and pushed to the side, flung away with bits of dirt that is in the machines way. Up on a nearby rise, a lone ARES pilot is lying down face up on the ground snickering to himself, barely containing his laughter. After a few moments he wipes away a tear from his eye and stands up, turning around he glances down into the trees and spots the tail section of his thumper poking out amongst the foliage. "Heh, was thinking that guy might get away in time at the end there."

    Raising his right wrist in front of his face, he inputs some commands with his other hand, a few moments later the large boring device that has been busily desecrating a poor mans body grinds to a halt. It's stabilizing panels slowly retracting while the engines at the top move out into an a ready position, gyros loudly screaming as they try to hold up the large metal monstrosity while it's left balancing precariously on it's nose until the engines shudder to life and begin to pull it slowly from the ground. The ARES pilot looks at it as it begins to rapidly increase it's speed, soon disappearing from view entirely. "Dammit boss, another one almost empty? You should really try for more next time, these tiny loads don't pay the bills." Activating the mike for his radio, the pilot makes a snide retort before jumping down into the trees. As he walks up to the small crater in the ground, he examines his handiwork with bit's of broken bike and body strewn all around. Turning off his mike he reaches the edge of the crater and bends down retrieving a black box with red markings on it. As he stands there staring at it, a smile slowly returns to his face. "It's gonna be time for a hardware upgrade after this job." As a he lets out another loud laugh, he turns and walks off into the trees, another easy job done.
    • Like x 5
  3. McFini Skullbane

    #3
    "Sure thing." That was all Jimmy said as he grasped the briefcase by the handle unwaveringly. As he started to pull it, the officer slammed his hand down on the case and fixed the battleframe pilot with a gaze that could melt the Arclight itself.

    "The case stays closed," the Accord Lieutenant hissed, "No matter the cost." It wasn't the first time he said something to that effect, which usually went one of two ways: it was either the most dire of warnings or a means to trigger one's curiosity and wonderment of how bad it could be. If it was the latter, Jimmy concluded, then the officer was putting on a really good facade to convince him otherwise.

    "Don't open the box, got it." The hand lifted and Jimmy pulled the case towards him, the small little box seeming even smaller next to the bulky plates of the rhino armour he wore. It was even smaller than the head of his scanhammer, even the handle itself barely fit in his gauntlet covered hand. Turning, he walked away from the officer and the Omnidyne display. He could feel the officer's gaze follow him into town until he disappeared past the double archways where a familiar face was waiting patiently.

    "Everything okay?" came a gentle question, blue eyes flitting from Jimmy and the mysterious case over to where the Accord officer and his cadre of guards were before looking back and focusing on the case that gave off an eerie red glow.

    Jimmy raised his shoulders a little, the servos in his battleframe whirring an instant before a voice boomed over the PA system announcing the next Holmgang event. "Nothing to worry about Aquila, just a simple delivery for the Accord." He continued walking and the young woman fell into step beside him, her eyes not once straying from the briefcase.

    "Okay," she began, pausing as she searched for the right words to try and prompt him to elaborate a little more. As it turns out, it wasn't necessary as Jimmy wasn't about to keep his earstwhile companion in the dark, she had a right to know what she was getting herself into after all. As they crossed over to the west side of Sunken Harbor, he explained the job and the emphasis the officer had stressed about not opening the case and staying off the main roads and remain grounded during their trip to Trans Hub. When he was done, she blinked once, before glancing back in the direction they had just come from as though searching for the officer who gave the assignment. "They don't even know what it is?" she asked, astonishment and fear riding in her voice.

    "They know its Chosen tech so..." Jimmy shrugged again as he trailed off. What did anyone know of Chosen technology, really? It was just as mysterious as the Chosen who wielded it. "Odds are, they'll want it back too. Probably why the Accord would rather spend crystite than actually take the proper effort to transport it." His words seemed to rattle the woman who snapped her head to look at him fearfully, her long blonde hair whipping with the sudden movement.

    "Wait, you mean it's just us guarding this thing?"

    Jimmy nodded slowly and raised a hand to start counting off each person part of their rag tag army, to use the term in the loosest of senses. "Khione is back in Antarctica, Tsushima is still recouping from the last job- damn melded monstrosities- and Carter is probably over at Shanty Town, too busy drinking himself into a Melded haze to answer all the calls I sent him." Though he sounded indifferent, the subtle disappointment and brief slouch in his posture hinted he was anything but, however Aquila was either didn't notice or was too polite to ask.

    "Oh," was all she managed in response as they walked onto the sandy shores outside the harbor. She wasn't much of a conversationalist, a fact made all the more evident during the hike as neither one of them talked much beyond the odd remark about recent events or pointing out a distant creature and suggesting an alternate route. Traveling by foot was a lot harder when one had gotten accustomed to the convenience of a jetpack, scaling cliffs or sheer elevations was a trivial matter but now the two of them were forced to find alternate routes whenever an obstacle appeared.

    "I'm thinking I picked the wrong battleframe for this," Jimmy began, exhaling a deep breath. He stopped, sweat dripping down his face as the mid-day sun continued to beam down on them.

    "Maybe it'd help too if you didn't carry so much," Aquila suggested as she calmly checked him over for any other signs of heat fatigue. He still held onto the briefcase as though his very life were tied to it while the laser machine gun, scanhammer and other bits and pieces of gear festooned to his armour probably doubled its weight. Sure, the servos built into the armour compensated, but Aquila's legs already felt like giving out just looking at him.

    Laughing, Jimmy shook his head. "If I could shed more weight, I would, believe me. And, furthermore-"

    "Ahoy!" a new voice called out, rudely interrupting their conversation of nothing in particular. Looking over, the two of them watched as a man approached, the faded yellow bodysuit and armour that covered the one shoulder looking worse for wear. Despite the obvious damage to his battleframe, he seemed to be in good spirits about something, or, at the very least, happy to see someone who's first reaction wasn't to level their weapons and start firing. "Any of you have a medkit by chance?"

    Aquila immediately activated her battleframe's computer and started hunting through the long list of available items she could have arcported in at a moments notice. "I think I've got one handy," she began. Jimmy, meanwhile, reached to his hip and grabbed one he had strapped to the armour plate there, offering it to the stranger as he used the gesture to slightly twist his body to try and conceal the briefcase behind the bulk of his battleframe. "Oh, guess you got one already..."

    "I try to keep them a bit more handy then to rely on the Arclight all the time." He chuckled, "Though I guess that's why I'm the one feeling winded and you're not." As he spoke, he kept his eyes fixed on the stranger who approached, hands visible to the pair before stopping and reaching for the medkit. "Trouble?" Jimmy asked, probing the man for some details while Aquila took a step to the side to try and examine the man for any signs of injuries.

    "Trouble?" he repeated, looking back as though the very idea that New Eden was teeming with lifeforms determine to kill every human alive was simply preposterous. He paused, glancing at the biotech who wore both a concerned and confused expression on her face. "Oh, I don't need this for me," he replied, tucking the pack under his right arm. "At least, not yet."

    "'Not yet?'" Now it was Jimmy's turn to repeat the last statement as he became consciously aware that his now free hand was retreating back to find the comforting grip around the scanhammer, though with a great deal more subtly than he would have given himself credit for as the stranger didn't even seem to notice. "Someone chasing you?"

    "Well, no, I mean, sortof, at least..." He began stammering and Jimmy glanced over at Aquila, unable to help briefly if the two were related. "It's hard to explain but I was told something is going to happen soon, in this area."

    "What's going to happen?" Aquila asked, looking around quickly in panic. Only the empty forest near the since abandoned biosphere research facility greeted them.

    "I don't know actually. I just heard whisperings that this area would be significant in the next couple of minutes."

    Aquila glanced at Jimmy and he read her like a book. "What's your name stranger?" Jimmy asked before she could ask anything in reference to the package the Accord wanted delivered to Trans Hub.

    "Huh? Me? Dalton."

    "And who'd you hear this from?"

    There was a long pause, the man shifted his weight and looked away. "The Melding."

    The coin dropped and both Jimmy and Aquila stared back blankly. Jimmy took a tighter grip on the case he was holding, as though that were possible, while Aquila took a half pace back. The accounts of people hearing strange voices were numerous though the Accord usually dismissed it as someone hacking SIN and sending messages to anyone affected. He opened his mouth, about to ask for clarification, a glimmer of movement caught his eye in the distance behind Dalton. Without skipping a beat, he thew out a gravity field grenade and, in the same fluid motion, grasped his scanhammer, shouting, "Get back!"

    A shrill cry of panic escaped the biotech as she stumbled backwards, drawing the bioneedler in a less elaborate fashion than Jimmy got his own weapons out, but then again, her forte wasn't combat but something else entirely as the black sinkhole appeared, drawing in a flurry of bullets that erupted from nothingness. "Stealth field generator," Jimmy muttered, having only encountered the devices a couple times before. Were they waiting this whole time? A large rock nearby, along with the dense foliage around the research facility wouldn't have made it all that difficult to sneak up on them, and it was probably dumb luck he had caught sight of anything at all.

    Dalton, meanwhile, had spun around in surprise and wasted no time throwing out an automated turret. The shots that flew past were evidently not meant for him though a couple flew past him a little too close for comfort as he threw out a shield between himself and the Chosen that were now emerging from out of thin air, a move that completely negated the gravity field grenade though Jimmy wouldn't lose much sleep from it. A thin red beam flashed and struck the shield mere moments after it formed and Jimmy grimaced before rushing forward, swinging his hammer back as the glowing shield protecting him flickered from a stray shot from his left.

    "To your right!" Aquila's voice said between bursts of bioneedler fire. They had been flanked and before anyone could wonder how, the sound of a laser machine gun charging up revealed that an executioner was already in close proximity.

    "How in the-" Jimmy growled just before he found himself being sprayed by a barrage of laser fire. He just had enough time to glance over to see a bunch of small needles strike against the thickly armoured hulk, the red armour standing out in stark contrast to the blacks usually favored by the rest of the Chosen. With all his forward momentum, it would be difficult to shift direction and not find himself riddled with one too many holes, but he didn't have to as the executioner activated a gravity field of his own, pulling the three battleframe pilots towards him. Activating his jumpjets, he smirked as he accelerated towards him, swinging his hammer at just the right moment while Aquila, having activated her own jumpjets, soared overhead, more focused on not flying into any of the Chosen than fighting them if the lack of gunfire was indication of anything. He didn't have the luxury of checking to see where Dalton was going but he first wanted to deal with the immediate threat and would deal with him later.

    The blow knocked the executioner off his feet, shattering several spiky plates on his left side from the sheer impact force. Landing on his feet, he was about to spin around and press his attack against his staggering foe when his ears finally became alerted to another familiar sound, like a wind blowing through a long tunnel. He had just enough time to glance up when a drop pod came slamming down onto the ground right next to him, the force of the landing knocking him away and against a tree several meters away.

    Slumping to the ground, he felt the world spin around him, the deep throated sounds of triumphant laughter filling his ears, mixed with the occasional cries of his name from his partner who was now receiving the brunt of incoming fire. It was only now he became aware that, as he tried to tighten his grip and redouble his efforts at butchering the lot of them, he had nothing in either hand. That sent a rush of adrenaline through him as he scanned the ground frantically for the case. He saw it, right next to the drop pod that had slammed into the ground, in the hands of, not the Chosen, but Dalton who sought shelter behind another one of his deployable shields, his hands working the latches.

    "The voices seem to think this is important." He could just barely hear Dalton's voice over the din of gunfire. Before Jimmy could yell anything, the small latches on the case flipped up and the lid started to rise...
    • Like x 3
  4. Naihlya Commander

    #4
    The Accord officer set down a strange metal box on a table, the size of a briefcase with bizarre glowing red markings, and looking like it's seen better days. I'd heard chatter over SIN about a salvage crew south of Sunken Harbor finding a Chosen device on the shore that the Accord can't make heads or tails of, they're calling it the Enigma Box. Details are scarce, but the officer didn't sound like he was joking when he said to not even try opening it. I'm just supposed to deliver it to a cryptographer in Trans Hub for further study without attracting attention, Chosen or otherwise. The officer insists I avoid traveling by air and staying off the roads, he's convinced that anyone who wants the contents of the Enigma Box has eyes and ears on any official transit routes. Still sounds like easy money to me.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    - "I heard you might need some help with that... so I brought some friends along" the voice came from my left as I left the building.
    -"Hey Mike, I know I reached out for you to help me with this 'small' task but... how many did you bring again?" I asked.
    - "Oh you know... the 'guys'." He said with his casual smirk, when he'd gone all out with something without letting me in in what he was thinking. "I have this gut feeling, y'know..."
    I instantly knew what he meant - and usually his "feels" were hitting bullseye when it came down to it.
    - "Yeah..." I sighed. "Well let's get the show on the road... but... how many are we really?"
    - "Oh just the dozen with the two of us."
    I grimaced at the size of the squad.
    - "A dozen... well I guess me might actually get away with it this time. It's not like we've not done things this size before."
    - "Yeah, just like that squad thumper triangle we did some months ago!" he said with a wicked grin.
    It brought back some horrible memories of the sheer chaos we made. Aero had been screaming at us for an hour after that incindent... apparenly the whole SIN zone had lit up like a christmas-tree with high-priority warnings, alerting half the ACCORD in the area that something bad was going down - I vaguely remember the description as "Something the size of a large invasion!". I never did get any hint on wether they spun up the Arclight's main guns or not...
    Not to mention Oilspill's rant... Three thumper class S3's just about holding together when they hit Thump Dump's gravity nets.
    Aero told us a week after that he was still crying over how we had topped them all off and sent them all back at once... all heavily damaged and they needed the repairs to be done first before they could extract the resources from them. As far as I know, he might still be trying to fix them.
    - "So... where we going?" Mike asked.
    - "We are going to Trans Hub but we're going off-road and we're 'grounded' for the duration of the mission."
    - "Ooh.. sounds like fun! Jim is going to loooove this."
    - "You brought JIM???" I went high pitched but Mike had already bolted with his high performance afterburners and left me in the usual cloud of dust.
    Glaring at the jets going off in the distance towards the parkinglot I decided to follow his example, with less success.
    - "HEEEEY!!! JIIIIIM!!!" Mark was screaming louder than his jets as he came crashing down on the tarmac - always seemed to get everyones attention.
    - "Dammit Mark, you're always so damn loud. How the hell can you cream louder than those jets of yours?" Jim burst out with annoyance.
    - "Oh you know me... 'in it to win it' and if I can't call out over my jets, then I'd have to switch out them for the PoS stuff the ACCORD usually tries to sell me.
    Oh and YOU are going to LOVE this - we're going off-road!"
    - "Kewl! This is going to be so rad....! Eum... we're we headed?"
    "Trans Hub, and we're going west towards Shanty then north." I said from behind Jim.
    I swear, Jim jumped nearly two metres straight up when he heard my voice. The rest of the squad took a surprise step back.
    - "Are you trying to kill me???" Jim blurted out.
    - "Nope, just informing you about the situation" I calmly replied.
    - "Boss... when the hell did you get here? I left you in a pile of dust only ten seconds ago. There's no way you can cross that distance in that tin can of yours." Mark sounded a bit sour over my early arrival.
    - "I just got here and while you can burn fuel like nothing else and fly like a shooting star, my Mammoth can move through space and time."
    - "I'll call bullshit on that one!" that was Remi, our 'Science officer' in his Electron. "You're not bending time, you're just bending space to the point where your existance and the target location intersect and the 'magic' happens. You're just translocating at the blink of an eye. Cause if you'd travel through time then you would appear at the target location of a living target 5 seconds before you'd actually translocate... killing your future-self that killed your target when your computer finally manages to cycle through the algorithms used to pinpoint the exact 'stream' it should use when you move through space."
    - "Thank you, Remi. That was actually informative - for once" I said with a slight approval. Usually he just rants what we call 'science bull' since he's actually got a grasp of things and... well...
    - "I think I nearly understood that through all my brain-aches just listening to him. So good job in not killing yourself before you end upp dead, boss." Shira blurted out with a grin so wide you'd think you were just looking at a ray of light.
    - "Thanks, Firefly." I replied with a slight bitter tone.
    - "I told you not to call me that!" she said turning her back to me in a slight hump and moping expression.
    - "Sweetie, I know you don't like it but dammit girl... why the hell did you pick the Blood Falcons paint job? You're all black and deep red with orange tints on your lanterns and canisters. When you're up in the air, saving our raggedy butts with your well placed pillars, waves and balls of healing - especially at night it looks like a huge orange Firefly bolting around and it's our saving grace a lot of the times."
    - "It's because you make that paintjob look so damn cool and not one is givin' you any flack or heat for it." she replied with a lot of heat and a bit of mope in her voice.
    'I cannot wrap my head around this girl' I thought to myself.
    - "And what's with you always lookin' like a woman... we all know you're a guy under that disguise!" she continued.
    In the middle of the gathering we heard som hacking and coughing and a frame hit the ground. Everyones eyes went to the kneefallen Rhino and his spilt Tiki Wacker, coughing up his drink.
    - "You okey there, Miles?" Rodrigues asked while dropping down to his side trying to help with some back-pats.
    The contrast of the huge Rhino on his knees, hacking and coughing while getting some moral support from our Nighthawk, just shy of 155 in height - I made sure to take a quick SIN snapshot, for... future uses.
    - "You mean 'She' is a 'He'?" Miles managed to wheeze between the coughs. "Bloody hell, mate, I've taken you for a hard-arse lass. If I knew back then... I'd not... eum... well.... you know" he trailed off with an embarased cough looking away in shame.
    - "How could you have known, it happened before you joined in. I guess some things are kept under the lid after all. And no hard feelings either, alcohol does the strangest things to you... just take a look at me." I said ending the discussion with a innoscent smile and a smug wink.
    The air was filled with laughter as we started mounting up on the bikes. As usual, Shira's bike was at the right-hand side of mine.
    I tucked the case into the box compartment under the seat. Sometimes you can tell which are the most reliable allies, cause not one in the squad asked what it was or pryed for information. It was just the 'object' in transit to the main objective of the mission.
    I hit the SIN map and marked Shanty as a waypoint and then hit the ignition on the Locust. I still have no clue what Reg did to it the last time around but as the engine roared up and I gave him a quick glance, there he was, flashing his big grin and winked in recognition. Somehow he managed to get the Locust to sound more RAW and powerful instead of the classic spluttering of the rare breed of Locusts left.
    I still couldn't figure out what his idea was with the Bastion in ACCORD colors but the Anti-Personel Turret HKM had saved us a lot of work during the incident a month ago. During 30 seconds he had slaughtered more critters than the rest of us had during the entire thump-session but it also gave us the breathing room needed to focus on the pile of Terrorclaws and Massive Culex' that were drawn to the 'epicenter' of the triangle.
    We left the parking-lot and headed towards Shanty, following the dodgy ILS-pathing without any cause for precision driving.
    - "Nai... I'm getting some interesting Comm's from Shanty, gonna see what I can see from here." Shin called out. I looked back to the right to see this acrobat stand up on his Crimson Cobra and scout through the scope of his Charge Rifle.
    "Yeah... looks like there's a gunfight alright. Some stray bullets are going high and... hold on... there's a half a dozen drop-pods bearing down on the place. I'd call Shanty a no-go." He continued as he sat back down.
    - "Well that's not going to be a problem, we weren't really supposed to go there anyway. Just follow my directions and hopefully we'll get to the Hub in once piece.
    I just managed to end the sentence when I heard the screaming of windshears, something ripping through the air in the most brutal of manners and my eyes were drawn to Stonewall's tower half a click away only to see another half a dozen pods bearing down on the tower.

    - "Going hard right!" I called out the split second before I banked hard right up on a smaller ridge that would lead us straight down into the Devil's Hand crater.
    I always managed to call it a crater because it was just a big patch of dead rocky area of a spheric form, as if something big had struck down some time ago.
    - "We're not going to jump off the ridge down into that... hole, are we?" Shira sounded a bit nervous and cautious.
    - "Yes, we are. I'm sorry, I know you're really careful with that Omni-Dyne LGV of yours but if you'd rather risk going past that watchtower, be my guest."
    - "I think I'm going to risk driving it off here... no need to get bulletholes in the bike" she said sounding a bit sullen.
    - "I'd rather you'd not get any holes yourself. Bikes can be bought and repaired. You're a bit harder to replace. A lot harder to be precise."
    She was just about to reply when two complete nutcases came blasting past with their Cobras. Without even having to think I knew it was Jim and Mike - each racing to be the 'fastest assault frame in New Eden'.
    Getting a quick good look, they had both laid themselves on their bellies, thrusters back and punched the afterburners hard. I could tell Mike was 'cheating' a little since is also fired off his Firey Afterburner, leaving a trail or fire in his wake. He got a goot 3 second airtime above the ridge until he dropped down below the edge.
    Jim... well he had his own 'cheat'. He had modified his afterburner into a Searing Afterburner. We all saw him getting some 6 seconds of airtime until the small dragonfly wings buckled under the sheer weight of the Cobra. It was glorious in it's own way.
    As I reached the edge I aimed for a small slope upwards and as I hit it I sis my best to pull the nose up of the Locust. Mid air I could see that Mikes Firecat and Jim's Tigerclaw race... they had landed the same distance away from the ledge which meant they both went eaqually as far... so the race was still on.
    As I hit the ground I felt an odd chill running upwards through my spine, making all hair stand on it's end.
    Seeing Mike slowing down and circling around which made Jim turn around got my direct attention. Something was off and I could not shake the feeling.
    Shira drove up on my right hand side, just keeping a 2 metre gap put her hand to her right ear, hitting her short wave.
    - "What's wrong? I see your adrenaline levels are rising and your hormone levels are indicating distress." Shiras voice came over the short-wave.
    - "I have no idea, I've got a bad feeling and I can't shake it. Hit me as I hit the ground." I replied
    - "Okey, well keep your wits about you, sometimes a bad feeling could just be that or it could be something else."
    - "I will, thanks for keeping tabs on me."
    - "Not a problem." she said with a glimmering smile. "What should we do after we're done? Maybe we could hit up a bar and"

    Shira's LGV was covered in a firey explosion mid sentense, sending it's parts flying all over the place and sending a badly wounded Shira flying face forward.
    Without a thought, I aimed for her with my Teleport Shot and hit the trigger.
    Those five seconds were the longest I've ever experienced, seeing Shira getting closer to the ground.
    Then the translocation kicked in and placed me at her back. My arms wrapped around her hip and chest while my thrusters kicked my frame 180 degrees mid air just the second before we struck ground.
    My back slammed hard into a rock-pillar kicking my head back into it making me collapse completely for a couple of seconds.
    My ears were ringing and head was screaming in pain, vision clouded and fuzzy. Trying to stand up wasn't even something to consider.
    The automatic brakes on the Locust had activated and it stood at a standstill 20 metres away.
    I quickly scanned Shira visually, she looked badly hurt but she was still breathing. Her frame had kicked into 'critical' alert, telling me that it was a lot worse that it seemed to be and had starting it's emergency regenerative module, injecting nanites into her body to stabilize her condition.
    I couldn't move the rest of my body, not matter how much I tried.
    Close to my Locust, a black-blue sphere came out of nowhere and when it was gone, there was a humanoid standing there, looking at the price.
    Quickly getting his bearings he realized he was soon going to be in a lot of trouble with 10 ARES pilots bearing down on him, and with the touch of one button he called in reinforcements... a lot of them.
    The ringing of my ears had dampened and I was hearing my battleframe computer talking but I could not make out the words.
    Looking at Shira I noted that her lifesigns were stabilizing gradually but it was still critical, her breathing had gotten stronger, even if ever so slight.
    - "Well now... here's a price. You two cutes are quite the price. I wonder what price your heads would fetch me." a cold and callous voice said, although muffled by the ringing and 'water-in-ear' sensation I was having.
    I looked up to find myself being trained by a HMG with not markings and no SIN tags. That bandit had somehow procured an Accord Dreadnaught frame.
    Slowly the HMG spun up and as it reached it's peak, the dread-bandit was yanked right out of position by a blue LGV that blast past, engines screaming at full RPM.
    The HMG managed to get one shot off but not until the dread had been hit, missing my head by mere centimeters and suddenly I could hear again.
    - "Core at critical levles - need user confirmation for bypass with ARES authorization code" the frame's computer stated.
    It took a couple of seconds to collect my thoughts and recite the autorization code.
    - "Core bypass stabilization process initiated, ARES authoriziation confirmed. Rerouting couplings. Rebooting frame in 5 seconds."

    For 5 seconds I lay there being thankful for Reg's mods to the Teleport Shot so I could fire it from a 'dart gun' in the frame's gloves rather than having to rely on the HMG all the time. It limited the range but in this case, the range hadn't mattered - the accessability had mattered as Shira's impact on the ground would have most certainly killed her.
    Turning my head to the Locust, there was heaving fighting and both Mike and Jim were taking turns in geurilla tactics of pushing in, setting the area ablaze and leaving in a rain of plasma projectiles.
    The intensive bursts of 'jittering' fire gave a fair indication that Mile's, the 2,2m behemoth were doing his outmost in his Rhino while in turret-mode.
    A desperate cry for there not being any place to hide was a fair indicaion that Mitsu was using her heavy caliber LMG AP-rounds to get people out of hiding. She was culling them.
    There were a lot of turret bursts on the field. Heavy and multi turrets and they seemed to be located in the same area.
    A bandit came into view, stumbling out from a big rock, clawing his face and chest while making a mute scream - only to die in a fountain of blood from his mouth.
    Boris... a good man at his core but I still have my doubts when it comes to his choice of frame.

    - "Frame reboot complete, internal systems check complete, recalibrations needed. Activating frame powergrid" the computer blurted and my frame came back to life.
    A quick look over to the dread that was sent flying told me he was getting back up, but was badly injured.
    There was only one weapon to use and so I grabbed Shira's Biotic Rifle and opened fire.
    The recoil wasn't really what I expected, it had a lot more kick in it that it seemed when she was using it.
    - "Incompatible hardware, recalibration invalid" the computer added.
    - "Computer, lock left arm into a straight extended arm with only shoulder servo-pivot unlocked to micro adjustments."
    - "Complying." The arm became stiff and steady as a rock and with a lot of effort I started to zero in on my target. SIN gave me a RED indication and I squeezed the trigger.
    The bandit-dread had just gotten back on his feet and was spinning up his HMG when the shot hit his forehead.
    His entire body and frame went limp, Where there was once a head, there was only a smoking smoldering neckline. The HMG was still spinning as the now headless frame fell to it's knees and fell chest first down onto the ground.
    - "Computer, unlock the arm and revert to previous settings."
    - "Complying" and the arm wen't limp. I put down the Biotic Rifle and checked on Shira.
    Still alive, good. Better yet - she had gone from 'critical' to 'heavily injured' but that also meant that her recovery would take a bit longer.
    - "CAS! I need you here ASAP. Shira's badly wounded."
    - "On it. Mitsu, clear the path!"
    There was no confirmation on that other than the sudden rain of Mitsu's rocket artillery barrage.
    A split second after Cas came like shot out of a cannon right over the rock that blocked the most of the view.
    - "Much obliged Mitsu, Miles" Cas called.
    - "Any time" they both replied in unison.

    Cas could use her thrusters like none I've ever seen. I had tried to mimic her a couple of times and she had taught me a bit of it but doing in in a Mammoth frame... it needs a bit of finesse and I wasn't quite there yet.
    As she was comming down on the opposide side of the stone, just before she hit the slanted side, she hit her thrusters, jetting her with increased momentum forward essentially getting to us in just a second instead of the 7secs it should have taken.
    - "Oh man... she's banged up pretty bad. What the hell happened?"
    - "I think she hit a consealed mine, burried beneath the surface. There was no way any of us could have know."
    - "And you don't look so good either. Your frame took a hard hit and judging by the traces in the dirt... you're the only reason she's still alive. You used the frame to shield her. Quick thinking."
    - "Yeah... almost knocked me out cold too"
    - "Well I'm not the expert she is and my frame has a lot of limitation but I'll see what I can do."

    The battle raged as Cas started her treatment of Shira but the bad feel still hadn't gone away. I finally got back on my feet and started to move around for a quick calibration of the systems and powercontrol. I was down 30% in power and mobility but good fortune had it that weapons systems were unaffected.
    I quick shimmer cause the right side of my eye, it was close - too close for comfort. The crimson tint told me everything I needed to know and with a quick thrustercontrolled kick I hit something mid-air - consealed.
    Half a second after that and explosion shook me and bloodsplatter showered over me as I saw a collapsing headless Juggernaught toppling over. The blast and splatter revealed that he wasn't alone and that there was a small contraption that shorted out.
    Staring dumbstruck at a one less than half dozen Chosen that were equally as dumbstruck. A hail of needles cut down a chosen engineer and that was all I needed to snap back into reality.
    I raised my Plasma HMG and hit the alternative fire. I hail of ten superheated plasma projectiles burried into a chosen shocktrooper, and as the projectiles collided inside and exploded he was ripped apart from the inside and out.
    The next shower of needles took out the next trooper, all neatly gathered in the head. Cas didn't do that much when it came to damage but she made up for that with precision strikes that rivaled Rodrigues.
    A third trooper had seen the opportunity to catch me blindsided but for all his luck and planning, it ended with a throatshot from a Nighthawk bullet.
    The last chosen had retreated, a sniper standing too far away for me to hit him with the alternate and he'd fire before I got my HMG revved up.
    There was only one choice.
    The snipers shot charged up, and they were instant when fired. But when the sniper fired, he found himself aiming for the clouds.
    In the blink of an eye and dumb luck I had translocated next to him, lifted the rifle straight up in a split second. The chosen was confused as to his situation and the last thing he'd ever see was the barrel of my gun.

    - "Holy shit you look like hell!!!" Mike exclaimed "Nice to see you joining the fight though. We could use your help."
    - "Keep your eyes peeled, we have chosen hiding with some sort of cloaking-fields" I replied with a bit of distress. "and things are about to get a bit more nasty - switch to shortwave, we're loosing SIN" and just as I said it, we were isolated from SIN.
    Next thing was the howling of drop-pods crashing down all around the craters north side and some significantly larger threats... They had brought a Warbringer.
    - "CAS!!! Get her out of there, I'll cover you best I can but you got to get the hell outta there!"
    - "You don't have to tell me twice!" she grabbed Shira and lifted her up onto her shoulders and started to run up to our engineers and their well entrenched positions of turrets.

    She was provided for with covering fire from everyone and most bandits either took cover or fell to the hail of bullets that filled the field.
    I tried to keep up but it was impossible, I was moving slower than ever and the Teleport Shot was still recharging which told me that my module system also had taken substantial damage.
    A bullet grazed the side-plating on the lower left ribcage. Reacting to this new threat I turned around while backing up towards the entrenchment too see what we were facing.
    Some 50metres away Chosen appeared from thin air. First there were just the five of them, then ten, then 25... and they just kept growing in numbers.
    The exchange of fire that ensued from both sides ended the bandit threat but we knew this was not going to end well. My Locust was 20 metres away from our entrenched poistion and it seemed to be the main focus of the Chosen all while they were trying to keep us focusing and spreading the fire across the wide line of Chosen.
    Rodrigues tossed a SIN-beacon which bounced and rolled into the main body of the Chosen forces and he saw an opportunity.
    He found a second mine and he took a shot. The blast ripped a big hole in the forces and threw several chosen into the air and to the sides, either killing them or crippling them.
    The victory was shortlived though when a Siegebreaker decloaked.
    The Chosen pressed hard and no matter how hard we tried to push them back it didn't help. They just kept on coming, with no end in sight.
    Cas had kept trying to patch up Shira best she could and she was just about to start her third round when a sniper hit her straight through the right shoulder.
    Reg threw down a powershield to fend off incoming fire while he picked her up and carried her over to a nearby rock to tend to her wound.
    - "I don't think Cas will be joining the fight or patching up Shira anytime soon, Nai."
    - "Noted. Keep hosing them down but give the chosen some breathing room. They want my Locust, they want the box - let them have it..."
    - "But boss!" Miles burst out "We're supposed to"
    - "CAN IT MILES!" I roared I will NOT have my people die here for a damned box that the ACCORD isn't willing to provide any escort for. They pay us to get the job done but that box ain't worth losing people over."
    - "Then what would you have us do?" Remi asked.
    - "Find a good cover position where you can drop down fast" I said while moving towards Shira to pick her up and find a smaller stone to put her behind with myself as a cussion between her and the stone. "and Mitsu, here's a module you're going to need for what I have in mind. Quote for the day people - 'give it you best shot'. Give it all you got."
    Mitsu took the module mid-air as I threw it to her and hooked it up to her frame.

    The Chosen drew closer to the Locust as we backed into easily defendable position to hide behind. When the Siegebreaker got close to the Locust, he ripped open the seat and grabbed the box and stopped a few seconds to stare at it's 'splendor'.
    - "NOW! HIT IT WITH YOUR BEST SHOT!" I barked.

    Shin, Rodrigues, Jim and Mitsu lined up to fire on the box. Too late we noticed that Mitsu had stepped out from behind cover into the open and activated my turret-mode module along with her particle cannon.
    The shots hit the box within miliseconds of each other and it fractured.
    The Siegebreaker screamed in fury as it cracked open only to be drawn into it as it formed a vortex.
    Mitsu felt the full force of the vortex and tried he best to brace against it, but it failed. The module overheated and the security protocol triggered, ending the turretmode.
    She didn't fly more than a couple of meters before Miles came crashing down on her in full force, hitting his turret mode and hunkering down while pressing her down.
    The module vented the overheat and Mitsu powered it up once again.
    Seeing those two hunkered down like that... it seemed like their modules were going to overheat but then the vortex stopped.
    Miles and Mitsu drew a quick breath of relief and laughed nervously to one another. Then I heard the chaff of a Chosen Probe.
    It shorted the frames power circuitry and shut down the turretmode on both frames as well as the jumpjets.
    Then the shockwave hit with a bang, sending them both flying over the small crest like ragdolls.
    I looked over to Cas where she was taking cover along with the others and I realized that I was along with Shira closest to the blast.
    She looked in horror at me with her left hand over her mouth and shook her head in disbelief.
    Jim, the man who never respected authority - gave a quick salute before he ducked behind cover again while pressing down Cas into cover.

    The roar of the expanding explosion shook my body numb, there was much force... so much power.
    A sharp bleep took me back to Shira and apparently she too had heard it because she looked up to me with weary eyes and smiled.
    - "Nai..." she wearily said.
    The sound drowned out everything else but from the movement of her lips I knew the words she said to me.
    Everything was clear now.



    I finally understood.

    (edits for spelling)
    • Like x 1
  5. #5
    The enigma box sat before me on the table. I was alone now, though there were four Accord guards outside the room. That's what people were expecting, I suppose. Mysterious, high-value Chosen tech would presumably be guarded by a giant convoy. Rumors and whispers had been flitting around SIN for a few days on unsecured channels. People,bad people I wouldn't want to deal with on any day that ended in the letter Y would at the very least have a good idea where this box was and when it would be moving. The accord officer that "Volunteered" me let me know that intelligence operators were doing their best to sow seeds of misinformation, but that didn't make me feel any better. Lastly, she had given me a few pieces of advice. No roads, no LGVs, no dropships, be equipped for trouble. I figured I could follow about three of those.

    The more extravagant the package, the humbler the case and the courier. If you're in the center of a convoy with a silver briefcase handcuffed to your wrist, even the most casual observer will know you've got something worth stealing. Nobody's going to notice a single Raptor out in the wilderness. That happens all the time. Sure, dreadnaughts or assaults are tougher in a fight, but I wanted this done sneaky, and no frame does sneaky like a recon.

    I walked up to the closest Accord guard, a big guy in a Mammoth frame. He looked at my own light brown suit and long rifle and frowned.
    "What do you want?" like another battelframe, probably.
    "I need a strong polymer bag I can carry the tech in."
    "That's a dumb request."
    I felt a little heat in my face at his derision. "Look, buddy. The Accord hired me to carry this one out. You might not know me, but I have a reputation for not attracting attention to myself. If you want the mission to go smoothly, then you'll fetch me a polymer bag to carry the package."
    the mammoth shook his head, but he sent the request out on SIN. Accord and ARES teams are always buddy-buddy in the PR, and Nostromo and the other higher ups in the accord seem to generally feel the warm and fuzzies about the ARES program, but the soldiers on the ground don't always approve of us mercs running around.

    Once the bag was delivered and strapped onto my Raptor frame, I checked my map on SIN. There were reports of Chosen along the coast, and Tanken in Stonewall. It never rains but it pours. There's a third option to leave Sunken Harbor to Trans Hub, but the first half mile is through a narrow canyon with a well-traveled road going through it. That smelled like a big fat ambush. Even if it wasn't, a thresher or a pack of aranha would mess me up as a sniper in there.

    Chosen or Tanken? It wasn't really that hard of a question to answer.

    Right outside of Sunken Harbor, it would attract more attention if I jumpjetted up the cliff face instead of taking the road, so I set my servos to sprinting me up the hill to the East end of Stonewall valley. The wide open valley was perfect for sighting enemies a long way away. If I got ambushed there, it would be because I'm stupid, which I'd like to think I'm not. As soon as I hit the valley, I left the road, and climbed up a hill. Through my scope, I could see the Tanken camped out close to the road, but not so close that they'd pose a threat to the watchtower. I headed south, to get close to the cliffs that gave the valley its name. Finally, I had a straight line to the tower, but there were raiders scanning the stretch I wanted to cross. They didn't know it was me they were looking for, but sometimes they'd get bored and shoot at ARES operators anyways.

    I looked around the Tanken detachment to see if there was any chance I could survive picking the sentinels off. There were four or five raiders all looking about my position with fifteen total bandits in the group. Five of those were outfitted with stolen assault and dreadnaught frames. Fortunately, close to the camp, there were a few Aranha nests. Lines had been painted in SIN to caution passerby how close they could get before alarming the bugs. Some of those lines were conveniently close to the waiting bandits.

    I inspected each nest, and settled on one to open up. I swapped out my charge rifle for my SMG. It was accurate enough to get the job done, and quiet enough that I might, just might, not alert the bandits or the Aranha to my presence. I jetted up the cliff I was hiding behind to the top of the anomalous mound close to the watchtower, found my target again and steadied my gun.

    Stationary targets are easy with a rifle. With the compact little SMG, I took an extra amount of time to relax my breathing, check my aiming, and finally, I exhaled and squeezed the trigger for a moment.

    Three precise little gunshots split the air and three little bullets hit the nest. It swelled for a second, and burst open, spewing angry aliens out on the unsuspecting Tanken.

    It got messy quickly. Four Tanken died in the toxic gas left by the first fallen aranha. The other two nests opened up in the chaos, and that's when I took my chance. I jumped off the cheer face of the hill and sprinted towards the watchtower and gave myself boosts of speed with my jets when I could. I ran up the ramp of the watchtower, up to the top floor, and stepped on a glider pad. I didn't get a second glance from any of the Accord guard, this happens often enough.

    The beginning of any glide is chaotic. The quick launch is supported by stiffening layers in the battleframes, but for a few moments of terror, there's a chance that the wings won't deploy, that you'd come out heels up and jet into the ground. It's an experience that leaves me jittery and breathless, which makes the actual gliding a bit difficult.

    Fortunately, and predictably, the wings deployed and the frame pulled me into the flight form. I angled for speed, just to get out of sight from the Tanken who were still fighting the aranha.

    I shallowed out my descent as my SIN overlay told me I was in Sigu's Sanctuary. I waved to a small team of archaeologists who were inspecting the devil's hand, and eventually touched down in the trees on the other side. I quickly scanned for the mountains that sheltered Trans Hub from the ocean, and re-oriented myself. I checked SIN for another look at enemy movements. Nothing showed, but outside of the SIN sensors, the information could get dicey. The rock wall to my left, a small steep mountain of stone, looked climbable. My first jump took me up to a steady rock above the treetops, where I could survey the forest. The trees were spaced widely enough that I could get a good glimpse of a few storm kestrels. I was about to make the next jump when I saw a red ball of light arc over the trees and a thousand whispering voices slowly drowned out my SIN feed. The Chosen had found me.

    I jetted straight up, and rode the concussion wave from the Juggernaut's plasma slug. My battleframe OS warned me of damage and nanites scrambled to repair the minor tears in the suit. The boost upward mean that I made it to the top of the mound in one jump, instead of the two I had planned for. I threw down another glider pad. I didn't want to, it could get traced back to me if it was recovered before it self-destructed in two minutes, but the options for my survival were limited. I braced myself mentally before hopping onto the pad. The launch was smooth, and I glided off again.

    I stayed over the trees for as long as I could, but eventually, I descended through the trees southeast of Transhub. I checked my map again. The chosen squad was still continuing slowly in my direction, and another squad had been spotted coming to head me off from the front, but they were being attacked by ARES teams. I sprinted North, and came to the base of a mountain. I started up it as another slug of plasma blew apart the ground behind me. I jetted up a small cliff, and sprinted past the turn for a watchtower. Bullets whizzed by me as I continued pounding up the hill. A red hot flash of pain lanced through my right thigh, and blood splashed out onto the grass in front of me. I could feel my frame compensating and injecting painkillers and repair nanites into my bloodstream. I took a small orb out of it's holster and threw it up over the last cliff, my last true obstacle to Trans Hub. I could hear another incoming ball of plasma, and through SIN, I signaled an activation code that teleported me to the top of the cliff just before I would have been struck down.

    I stumbled away from the edge of the cliff and collapsed to the ground. I slowly pulled myself back onto my feet and stared at the glider pad at the other end of the pass. "I could walk," I told myself. "You're that close to Trans Hub. You could jump down the mountain, bit by bit, and be collected by the Accord. This could be done without flying."

    There are some sounds that are unmistakeable. The voice of a loved one, a brontodon's death scream, a thumper taking off, and the keening of an incoming Chosen drop pod. I'll give you six guesses to figure out which one I heard. Hint, the Chosen wanted this piece of tech back badly. The sound, paired with the sight of the dark pod careening through the sky trailing smoke was enough to get me running to the glider pad. One last jump was all it would take. The drop pod hit the dirt, the doors opening when I was still thirty yards away from the pad. The Chosen were out and aiming at me when the force pushed me up, sending a sharp stab of pain through my wounded leg. I pointed as steeply down as I could, and I leveled out about halfway down the mountain, letting my velocity take me out over Trans Hub. I circled down, and landed on one leg outside the Accord offices. An assault raised his gun at me, and I dropped my rifle.

    "Delivery for your crypto-doohickey," I reported.

    The assault nodded, took the bag from me, and sent out a SIN message to the inside of the offices. "Operation Shadow Courier: complete."

    The guard reached for my bag, but I backed off. "Nope, I take it straight to your specialist." He backed off, and opened the door for me. "Last door on your right," he told me. I walked, ever steadier, down the sterile hallway. The last door on the right was open, and a woman with an austere brown ponytail and a lab coat was waiting for me. She took the bag, thanked me, and a message blinked up on SIN. It was a notice of funds transferred. Easy money, right.
    • Like x 1
  6. PetraBlaze Mentor

    #6
    ~Reserved for Incoming Transmission~
  7. RainDreamer Black Cats

    #7
    The Accord officer set down a strange metal box on a table, the size of a briefcase with bizarre glowing red markings, and looking like it's seen better days. I'd heard chatter over SIN about a salvage crew south of Sunken Harbor finding a Chosen device on the shore that the Accord can't make heads or tails of, they're calling it the Enigma Box. Details are scarce, but the officer didn't sound like he was joking when he said to not even try opening it. I'm just supposed to deliver it to a cryptographer in Trans Hub for further study without attracting attention, Chosen or otherwise. The officer insists I avoid traveling by air and staying off the roads, he's convinced that anyone who wants the contents of the Enigma Box has eyes and ears on any official transit routes. Still sounds like easy money to me.

    - Shadow Courier’s Log 2233-182

    Stepping out of the shack, she glanced toward Transhub, watching the dropships carrying her client flew away into the distance. From Shanty Town, her destination seems only a short distance away, either by air or by ground. But only an amateur would made such a mistake of taking an exposed route. She was a pro. She was the Shadow Courier.

    Linking up with SIN, she made a call down request. Within seconds, the sky screeched above her head, and a crate neatly landed near her. Her delivery had just arrived. The SIN-locked crate obediently opened as she approached, recognizing her SIN signature. From within, comes a crystite core, suspended in air. She took it and made a jump down to the bowels of Shanty Town.

    It was quite peaceful in the lower levels of Shanty Town. A desolate place, filled with trashes and filths and the occasional stray dog, but perhaps the most distinguishing feature here was that, there was no human in sight. Of course, there were people living here, within the shambling walls of their shacks, inside the sewers tunnels, hidden from daylight. They don’t like to be seen. The residents of Shanty Town were the bottom feeders of society, people rejected by accord, and too weak to join the bandits. And so they scraped by with their lives by salvaging and pilfering, neglected by the world, their existence, forgotten. With the world going to hell around New Eden, not many pay attention to the little trash dump that was Shanty Town. Which was why it made a perfect hideout for people like the Shadow Courier, and Vic the Crow, a merchant of “forgotten and found items”.

    In a corner of Shanty Town, hidden behind some twist and turns of the roads, several shacks, and a winding tunnel, lies Vic’s “establishment” as he liked to call it. The Shadow Courier called it a hole. A very well-furbished hole, in the standards of Shanty Town, but a hole nonetheless. But it was not meant to be insulting, not that much anyway, because through that rabbit hole, is where she does her business.

    Vic looked up from behind his counter as she walked in, the rusty metal flooring creaks under the weight of her battleframe. “Just got this as bonus payment last week.” She tossed him the crystite core, which Vic quickly caught and started a thorough inspection. “A very well-purified crystite. And the core...” He scanned it in SIN “...is generating an excellent amount of power. Accord-certified, and the latest model too. Would fetch quite a nice price.” He commented. “So I suspect you are not giving me an early birthday gift. What do you need?”

    “Get ‘it’ ready for me.”

    “On a business trip?” Vic asked, his head nodded toward the large metal box across her back, suspended by a gravity belt.

    “Don’t ask.” She cut him off before he could ask anymore unnecessary questions.

    “Fine.” Vic shrugged, and started tapping into his SIN. “You know, that is what I like about you: professional, tight lipped, and no question asked. I got a few more jobs for you after this, if you don’t mind.”

    “If this is about the raiders that took your crystite core, then no. You know I don’t do those kinds of jobs anymore. Only deliveries now.”

    “Aww, but you were good at it. But anyway, I already got someone else did that for me. I just have some things that I need to send to some of my clients, quietly.”

    “You know my usual rates then.”

    “Sure, sure. Aaand, it’s ready.” A hidden panel slided away behind the Luau Larry terminal in Vic’s room. “Good luck.”

    “I don’t need luck.” The Shadow Courier smirked as she disappeared behind the hidden entrance.

    Lights lit up around her as her step echoes in the large room ahead. At the center, her LGV awaited. The Shadowmere, as she would have never called it, due to how awfully cliche that would sounds, was a fully custom-built LGV, equipped with the best tech she could afford from Vic, made for travelling in extremely high-risk locations, such as the place she was about to go. After checking her equipment one last time, she switched SIN to Local OS mode, ensuring she won’t be traced. She revved up her LGV, as a ramp before her drop down, revealing a tunnel engulfed in total darkness. Taking in a deep breath, she launched herself into the unknown.

    ---

    Long ago, when the Crystite fever was at its peak, and the thumper technology with its environmentally-friendly sonic mining technology was still in its early stages, various corporations, their contractors, and other interested parties did what they do best for millennia - dig holes in the ground to exploit the richness within the Earth. But it was not any tiny holes - as the finding of crystite starting to power more and more powerful equipment, so did the scale of the mining.

    The Shadow Courier could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel - the unmistakable blue lights of bioluminescent mushroom that is native to the underground of New Eden. She squeeze hard on the brake handles as soon as she exited the tunnel, and her LGV came to a complete stop, just before a cliff edge, and a straight drop into a massive underground lake below. The Shadow Courier took a moment to behold the breath-taking sight before her.

    An enormous underground world open ahead of her. From the bottom where the lake lies, to the rocky ceiling littered with scores and scores of little glowing mushroom like stars in the night sky, it would be high enough to fit a skyscraper. Across her field of view, giant pillars of crystite protrude from any surface large enough for them, crisscrossing from bottom to the ceiling and from the ceiling to bottom, precariously holding everything together in a delicate balance of physics. “How ironic,” the Shadow Courier thought, as the mostly unsuccessful attempts to find crystite underground of the past made room for such grandiose displays of the valuable crystals today. Most of these attempts were illegal due to Omnidyne controlling most of the crystite mining operations, and so they were undocumented, unknown by history. Few know of these places, and those who does, dare not re-entering the maze of tunnels decades in disuse. Well, disuse until the Shadow Courier found it, and made a name for herself by navigating through it, allowing her to transport items with utmost secrecy.

    Despite death ravaging above the surface, life here thrived with all its splendor. Plant life are abundance, from the various kinds of glowing mushroom, to multitude species of algae, underwater weeds, and even a curiously unique type of vines that has somehow fused with crystite, growing beautiful blue crystalline flower chains, that would break apart at the slightest touch. The Shadow Courier carefully reached toward one, and slowly encasing it inside a special electromagnetic box used to protect highly volatile munition that she had modified with a glass exterior, then with a sharp movement, snapped it off along with a bit of the vines. A swarm of colourful glowing insect flies past her as she inspect the crystal flower inside the box, leaving behind tiny gusts of wind.

    The Shadow Courier returned to her LGV after putting away her newly harvested souvenir on the gravity belt, her hand dextrously navigated the holo-panel that appeared between the LGV handles. Moments later, an ultrasonic wave emanated from the LGV sonar module, sweeping across the complex systems of tunnels and caves scattered everywhere as far as her eyes could see. Soon enough, an updated map arrive to her SIN, brimming with myriad of bright red dots - Aranhas, little alien insects that has an insatiable appetite. The only other lifeforms than plants down here are Aranhas, and things they don’t considered as food - which is not much. Perhaps a reason that Aranhas were able to proliferate so quickly after arriving on Earth from their distant planet, Alpha Prime, is because human already made a home for them with these tunnels. She inspected the map. Many tunnels had collapsed, many other has been overrunned by Aranhas. Some lacked oxygen, some were flooded, some were full of dangerous, toxic plants that would kill her if she even so much as brushed by them. She drew out from her memory the locations of those dangers that couldn’t be detected by sonar, and added them to the map.

    After a few minutes of planning, she found a path to Trans hub, connected to an old abandoned highway tunnel through a mountain, mostly intact with only light Aranhas activity. It was time to work. The Shadow Courier hopped onto her LGV, and began her journey to the depth.

    ---

    Fifteen minutes later, she arrived near an unavoidable Aranhas nest. She decelerated, avoiding agitating the Aranhas with the sound of the engine, and activated the Cloaking module on her LGV. Quickly, the Shadow Courier and the LGV disappeared from sight, leaving only the disembodied humming noise. She moved slowly, but steadily, as swarms of Aranhas workers skittering about a small distance away. Strings of Aranhas eggs extended from the ground all the way to the ceiling above, with the most matured ones will being carried to near the surface, before popping up above ground, ready to hatch and release terror. As she made a turn around some pulsing, warm eggs, she felt a slight bump on her back wheel. Hoping it was just a rock, she quickly turned back. Unfortunately, it was an Aranha. Even more unfortunately, it was a hissing, exploding variant of the Aranhas.

    Without a moment to exclaim an expletive for the situation, she revved the LGV to maximum speed. An explosion soon happened behind her, and following it was the deafening screech of a few thousand angry Aranhas echoing across the tunnels. Praying her Cloaking module holds up, she sped through the descending armies of Aranhas from all around, dodging eggs sacks left and right, and running over a few non-exploding Aranhas. Reaching into the storage compartment of her LGV, she took out a frozen slide of Brontodon meat, and tossed it at an Aranhas jumping toward her in an attempt to attack an unknown sound, knocking it off the air. The slide of meat promptly disappeared within a mass of Aranhas. After several more slides of Brontodon meat and a cryo bomb, she managed to run away from the horde after ten more minutes of non-stop running. She slowed down to a stop, turning off the Cloaking module, and let out a sigh of relief.

    The Shadow Courier looked at her surrounding. A large cave, semi-flooded, with a few centimeter of water above her feet. Not really a place she wanted to be in. Her tech does not work well with water. She checked her location on map. She had deviated from her original course a few kilometers, and it would take her another thirty minutes to get back on track. “Maybe I should have just said ‘Thank’ when Vic wished me luck,” she grumbled as she extracted a crystite core from the fuel compartment of her LGV. It was super heated, and the water sizzled into steam around it as she dropped it on the flooded floor. The Cloaking module had just wasted it. “At least,” she thought to herself, installing a spare crystite core back to her LGV, “I already got through the worst of it.”

    Just then she noticed water splashing around her. She looked up. Small pieces of rocks and stalagmites were breaking off the ceiling and falling down, and she felt a slight vibration under her feet. The Shadow Courier quickly got back on her LGV, thinking about the possibility that her little run in with the Aranhas had just triggered some kind of cave-in. She was speeding up while the vibration intensify, attempting to run away before the cave-in may caught up to her, when suddenly a pillar of red light pierce through the ceiling, blocking her path. She quickly kicked in reverse mode on her LGV and moved out of the way, but the red pillar of light chases after her, ripping apart the rock ceiling and evaporating everything in its path. In midst of the falling debris and steam, she caught a glimpse of the darken sky above, and an imposing gigantic Chosen structure, beaming down the red pillar of light.

    Wasting no time, the Shadow Courier run into the steam mist and made for the nearest exit, as the gigantic chosen drilling laser trained on her. On every side of her, rocks were falling, and after a few seconds, she realized there were more than just rocks, as the sky screeched above and the shapes of Chosen drop pods crashed through the ceiling. If she had the leisure of time, the Shadow Courier would have pondered how the Chosen found her, or the reason why they had just throw everything they had after her. But she didn't have that luxury. All that was in her mind at the moment, was thinking of how to survive.

    She evaded a particularly large rock that was sent flying toward her, and ducked into a nearby tunnel leading deeper underground, where the laser would take longer to reach her. But that was not the end. The cave-in she anticipated earlier had just became reality because of the Chosen, and the Shadow Courier had just realized running into a tunnel during a cave-in was, indeed, not a very bright idea. The ceiling fell, the ground gave away, and the walls broke apart, everything around her was attempting to bury her alive. Before her, she could see an exit. And also before her, she could see a slab of rock already blocking her way. Her only possible route, was a tiny opening between the rock and the ground where it leans against the collapsing wall. Ignoring the impossibility of it all, she took it. She leaned her LGV side way, and slid right through the opening.

    The Shadow Courier tumbled to a stop as her LGV skid along without her. She could felt the cold and wet stone floor as she lay there, still reeling from the impact. She struggled to stand up, trying to regain her balance. Gasping for breath, she examined her surrounding. The first thing she noticed, is that, she had no idea where this location was - not good at all. It was just another generic cave - but not on her map, with some scattered stalks of glowing mushroom, and a bunch of stone pillars. Secondly, her LGV is lodged in one of those pillars near the center, its front smashed in - very not good. Thirdly, there were only two entrances to this cave: one where she came in, which has already been filled with a few ton of rubble and dirt where water from above is spilling in, and the other one is echoing sounds of heavy footsteps and grunts of the Chosen - she had a feeling she should ask Vic for good luck wishes when she get back. If she get back. The ground was shaking periodically - she didn’t know how long this cave would last before it collapse. Hopefully before the Chosen laser drill above reach her. Her only way out is full of enemies, and her vehicle is useless by this point. She was all alone deep underground, out of SIN range, far from any reinforcement. Not that there would be any reinforcement - the Accord will just cut their losses instead of sending anyone after her alone, especially not against this many Chosen.

    She quietly checked her equipment. Everything was intact, the metal box from her client was still suspended behind her back, and even the crystite flower she found still remained with her in its box. She held the flower close to her chest, and with her other hand, lit up a flare before tossing it next to her LGV. The probability of her surviving this was virtually non-existent. But she didn’t know that. Nor did she care anymore. She was about to show them why they call her the Shadow Courier.
    ---

    When the Chosen first rushed in the cave, they could only see a lone stick of flare on the ground ahead of them next to a crashed LGV, its flickering light casted an array of shadows upon the cave walls. Darkness and light blended together, forming eerie shapes and forms on every surface. The Chosen squad cautiously spreaded out, checking their corners and searching for their target amongst the dancing shadows. As he sniffed around for clues, a Chosen Grunt noticed a woman that was hiding behind a nearby rock pillar, her rifle aimed toward the chosen group, her flank vulnerable. He creeped behind her without so much as making a sound, his muscle tensed, his red eyes focused on the prey. With superhuman speed, he suddenly pounced on his target, his arm-claws glistened in the red light of the flare. He swiped, and witnessed his hands moves harmlessly through the woman, before his face smashed into the pillar. The holo-decoy promptly detonated.

    The Chosen instantly diverted their attention to the explosion. But as soon as they turned their head, another explosion rang in the cave, and one of them fell down, half his head missing. It was the sound of a sniper rifle discharge. They immediately scrambled for cover, some of them, anyway. Some were shot right when they started turning to run, some other had bullets pierced their legs, attempting to crawl to safety before another shot finished them off. The Chosen started to return fire. They shot back, at something, anything. Flashes of light shined within the darkness, and with every flash, another chosen fall. They tried to shoot back at the light, but their shots were silently swallowed by the darkness. There were times they saw a silhouette of a recon battleframe somewhere in the shadow, sometimes near them, sometimes far from them, waving between shadows and the light of the flare, of hot leads and energy bolts, in such an elegant, mysterious way that it almost seemed like a dance. A dance of shadows and death.

    As their number dwindled, the Chosen slowly retreated into a crevice. There were only a few left, huddled together, their back to the wall. Their eyes peered deep into the darkness, trying to detect any kind of movement at all, trying to see their unseen enemy. Then, there was a sound of metal clanged on the stone floor near their feet. Before they could react, a veil of smoke swiftly enveloped them all, along with a death scream of a chosen. A crescent-shape stream of light gleamed within the smoke. Another scream. Even more lights. Even more screams. Shots were fired. War cry were shouted. But eventually, silence take over as the smoke dissipated. And stood there alone, surrounded by a field of corpses, a SIN blade in one hand, was the Shadow Courier.

    ---

    Kicking aside a Chosen corpse, the Shadow Courier sat down, exhausted, leaning on the bloodied wall for a brief respite. She ejected the magazine of her rifle and looked at it. Completely empty. She loaded the empty magazine back in and tossed the rifle aside. She got nothing left. She tried touching a Chosen rifle nearby. It deconstructed itself on her touch, as she expected. She glanced at the entrance. Nothing yet. Seemed like the Chosen were still regrouping after her little stunt. But they are there, waiting to finish her off. She knew it.

    She reached around her back and disengaged the metal box from her gravity belt. The sudden return of the box’s weight almost made her dropped it. She scan the box carefully on SIN. There were no sign of any kind of signals emitted from it. Nonetheless, whatever this is, it is the only explanation on how the chosen were able to locate her. But it still doesn’t answer why they sent such a massive force after her for a single object. The Enigma Box. What a mystery it held. She turned it around, looked at it from different angle, tracing the red markings on the box with her hand, but nothing she did could tell her the purpose of this box, nor how to open it, or if it was even meant to be opened.

    With a sigh, she took out her SIN blade and raised it high, preparing to cut the box open. After all, if she was about to die, might as well try opening the box and see what she were going to die for, the client be damned. Then she dropped her blade. Her head felt like it was hit by a thousand thumpers. She held her head in her hands, curling herself in, trying to contain the pain somehow. And the whispers came. Quietly,distantly, nearly inaudibly, but she could hear them, somewhere deep within her mind. She struggled to suppress it, and when that yield no results, she then attempted to listen to it. It was a cacophony of sounds, a storm of voices, each were saying something incomprehensible, to someone...or something. And then, amidst all of them, one voice reached out to her. She knew that the voice was calling to her. She just knew. That voice spoke to her in a language she never heard before, but for some reasons, she could understand it perfectly. The voice was pleading her, over and over:

    “Save me”

    The Shadow Courier woke up to the approaching sounds of footsteps. It took her a second before she remembered where she was, and the situation she got herself in. She glanced to her side. The box was still there where she last placed it. There wasn’t anything that seemed different about it, but something felt different about it. She wondered what exactly had just happened to her, but her thought was cut short as the footsteps came nearer. Without thinking, she grabbed the box and headed to cover as she put it back on her gravity belt.

    She listened carefully. Only the footsteps of one Chosen could be heard. It was strange, she thought, why the Chosen only send in one, when she had just completely wiped out a whole squad of them? Carefully, she peeked out of her cover, making sure she won’t be seen. Then she realized, they only need this one.

    Even though the regular Chosen troopers are already brutes themselves, much taller and muscular than normal human, the one that was standing at the center of the cave towered over all of them. An Elite Siege Breaker class Chosen. Armed with a rapid-fire Nova cannon and battleframe armour as tough as a tank, these units could mow down a whole platoon of Accord soldiers and get only so much as a scratch. And she was only one person with a single SIN blade.

    “Human, I know you are here.” The Chosen’s voice rumbled within the cave.

    She didn’t answer.

    “Return the Cradle to us, and I will give you a painless death” He continued, his voice emotionless.

    At last she finally knew what the Chosen called the box. But she doubt that would help her situation. She need a plan. A plan to defeat this powerful enemy before her. A plan to get out of here alive. She remembered the voice that was calling her. There was something about that voice that drew her to it, something that changed her, something that reignited her will to survive. No matter what, she plan to live through this ordeal.

    The Shadow Courier stepped out of her hiding place, her hands raised high, slowly walking toward her enemy. “Can you at least tell me what this ‘Cradle’ is?”

    “You don’t need to know that when you are going to die.”

    She cursed under her breath about how untalkative bad guys in real life are as she took out the Cradle. "Take it!" She said, throwing the box to the Chosen.

    The Siege Breaker extended his hand, preparing to catch. Then he saw a glint of blue light on the side of the box. He tried to dodge, but it was too late. The cyro bomb attached to the box detonated, flash freezing the chosen and the air around him, encased him in a shell of ice. The Cradle fell to the ground before the Siege Breaker, unharmed.

    Wasting no time, The Shadow Courier lunged forward. She knew the layer of ice will only last a few seconds, and this is her only chance to take down the Siege Breaker before he can retaliate. Her SIN blade swiftly cut through the ice as if it was air, slipping between armour plates into the joint under his arm, straight to the heart. But even then, the blade barely penetrated through the inner layers, not even cutting flesh. The Shadow Courier changed her tactic, and made a long cut through the machineries inside the battleframe. However, as soon as she drew out her blade for a second strike, the ice cracked. She instinctively jumped back, just as the ice shattered and the fist of the Chosen swung at her. Having no time to dodge, she raised her arms, braced for impact. She was swatted out of the air by the giant like an insect, her body smashed to a rock pillar a distance away.

    The Shadow Courier felt the wind knocked out of her. The bones in her arms were shattered, and the nano machines in her body were frantically working on patching them up. She looked up to her enemy, trying to catch her breath. Staring back at her was the barrel of the chosen Nova cannon, glowing red with energy, moments away from turning her to dust. Then suddenly, the cannon was dropped.

    A sly smile appeared on the Shadow Courier’s face. The Chosen looked down at his arm, hanging uselessly, unpowered. She managed to cut the power supply of his battleframe’s arm, and it became no more than a hunk of metal. But then the Siege Breaker grabbed it with his other arm, and in one quick movement, ripped it away like taking a glove off his hand. The disposed arm of his battleframe crashed onto the stone floor, revealing the grey skin of the Chosen where it previously covered. He picked up his cannon and searched for his target. The Shadow Courier had already disappeared from sight for quite a while.

    Hiding behind one of numerous pillars of stone within the cave, she took out a stimpack and jammed it into a slot on her battle frame. The chemicals quickly coursed through her system, speeding up her healing process. She felt strength returned to her grip as she held up her SIN blade. Her eyes tracked the Chosen’s movement under the dim ambient glow of the cave mushrooms. The flare she threw earlier had been spent long ago, and she no longer had the element of surprise - this had turned out to be an equal playing field against an unequal opponent. Not the best odds she had faced. The Shadow Courier skillfully spun the hilt of the unpowered SIN blade along her fingers, before gripping it tight. Confirming that her arms had fully healed, she began to move.

    The Siege Breaker detected something moving in the darkness. Without hesitation, he let loose a barrage of giant Nova orbs upon the area. Red energy lit up the cave for a fraction of a second before the orbs exploded, disintegrated whatever unlucky enough to came in contact with them and their blasts, leaving behind only sizzling craters where things used to be. There was no such thing as cover for this weapon. He charged up for another barrage as he walked over to inspect the damage. There were no remains of a battleframe. Then he caught more movement at the corner of his eye. Another barrage was fired. But once again, there were no sign of the Shadow Courier. The Chosen gritted his teeth. She was playing a game of cat and mouse with him. But he was no mere cat, he was a lion. Setting his cannon to overdrive, he sprayed chains of energy orbs across the whole area. It was highly inaccurate, but he didn’t need them to hit. In between the red flashes of light and explosion, he saw glimpses of a human battleframe running from the wave of destruction he just unleashed. The Siege Breaker activated his jet modules and instantly charged at that direction with incredible speed, smashing through rock pillars without even slowing down. He rapidly caught up with the Shadow Courier and launched a jet-powered punch toward her when she suddenly turned around and appeared to be standing still. The Chosen has seen many human frozen in fear as he deliver their killing blow, despair in their eyes, but this one, she was staring back at him, staring back at death, defiantly. It was then that he felt a slight tug under his armoured arm as something passed through under him, and his fist was met with only air as it reached its human target. The holo-decoy exploded uselessly against his armour. He quickly turned around and tried to aim his cannon at the uncloaking Shadow Courier behind him, but his arm wouldn’t move. A warming pop up on his visor - the remaining arm of his battleframe is losing power rapidly. His target disappeared into the darkness once more in his view. He roared.

    The Shadow Courier covered her ears as the chosen’s roar echoed in the cave. Her heart rapidly beat as if it wanted to burst. She had just angered a very dangerous enemy. But she was not afraid. Her feet nimbly carried her closer to the Chosen as he ripped out the useless battleframe arm with his bare hand. Two arms down, and the only target left for her was the crystite reactor behind the chosen’s back - the most difficult to reach. If she could get to it and cut off its link with the body armour, the whole battleframe would came apart, and the chosen would be exposed at last. But that was something easier said than done. She carefully sneaked a peek at the Chosen. He was on high alert, checking every angle of his surrounding for her. She had no way to get close to him without being caught in his field of vision and blasted to oblivion. Just then, the sounds of energy charging crackled through the air as the barrel of the Nova cannon glowed red in the dark. The Chosen wanted to flush her out once more. She evacuate from the area with haste right when the energy orbs started to blew away her hiding spots. As she ran, she heard the high pitched noise of jet engine behind her and looked back. The chosen had found her again and is ramming ahead at full speed, despite losing the armour on both his arms. Fragments of rocks and stone scratched and pierced his grey skin as he ran right through his obstacles, unflinching. “This is getting old,” the Shadow Courier thought, as she turn on her decoy system again, leaving behind a holo-decoy while cloaking herself, and rolled into cover, waiting to ambush the Chosen. But the Siege Breaker suddenly stop mid way when he noticed the unmoving decoy, and cautiously check the area around him. He wasn’t going to fall for that again. The Shadow Courier silently swore as she tried to find another way to get close to her target. Even if she is cloaked, her movement would be seen if the Chosen wasn’t going to be distracted by her decoy, and her enemy was already aware of her tricks. She had to think up something new, something that the Siege Breaker won’t ever expect his prey will do. Then an idea came to her mind. A very dangerous idea. One that made she wondered if she was even sane anymore. It would be a gamble with her life, she thought, but it would be one she will have to try.

    She ran toward the Chosen.

    The Nova cannon was immediately pointed toward her, but she did not dodge. Instead, she stood still in mid-motion. All her instincts was screaming for her body to move away from danger, but she ignore them all and force herself to stay still, her breath stopped, her battleframe locked in place, so that not even a miniscule motion would be seen outside. Her eyes met with the intense glare of the Chosen as he inspected her, and she tried, with all her willpower, not to blink. Every second that passed by felt like an eternity for her, and she started feeling dizzy from being unable to breathe, but she steadfastly held still despite everything. After what seemed to be forever, the Chosen started to check his corners for attacks. He believed she was just a decoy. But she couldn’t breathe just yet. She waited, and waited, and waited, for the one opportune moment when he turned around and took his eyes off her. Her mind started going blank from the lack of oxygen, her knee felt weak. She might have collapsed if not for the battleframe holding her up, its system going red on her SIN, warning her of the incredibly suicidal thing she were doing. Then it came. The moment. The Siege breaker turned around, looking for threat from behind.

    With a large gasp of air, she latched on to his back. Like a wild beast, she viciously attacked the reactor’s links to his armour. Strikes after strikes, slashes after slashes, stabs after stabs, she chipped and cracked her way through the reinforced links, sparks flares up where her energy blade met metal. The chosen stumbled around, trying to catch her, but his large frame worked against him as she evaded his grabs to where he could not easily reach behind. Her assault continued relentlessly, and the links came off, one after another until finally, she plunged her blade through the last link, splitting it apart. She was ready to take off and deliver the final blow once the armour came apart, when suddenly she found herself crushed between the stone floor and the chosen on top of her. The chosen had just deliberately fell backward, taking her along with him.

    The Shadow Courier coughed up blood, her vision blurred. Her SIN indicated various internal damage across her body by having a battleframe a few tons heavy thrown upon her. Then she felt the weight upon her lifted. Her opponent had just stood up to finish her off. She tried to crawl away, but her legs was grabbed. And then she felt herself dragged on to the air, before crashing at full speed on to the ground. Again. And again. Repeatedly. The Chosen was throwing her around like a toy. He didn’t intend to kill her by just shooting her with his cannon. He wanted her to suffer. The Siege Breaker, an elite unit of the Chosen, who massacred thousands of human, had his battleframe completely destroyed by a single person. That was an insult he could not ignore.
    She lost count of the amount of times she were smashed around after the sixth or seventh time, and lost her sensations a few times before that, probably because her body was dying and it shut itself down to dull the pain, or likely the battleframe was attempting to keeping her conscious by pumping in painkiller. Either way, there was nothing she could do at that point but hoped it could be over quickly, when suddenly, she was dropped to the ground. She wanted to move, but no longer had the strength to. The Chosen picked her up, his gigantic hand easily grasped around her waist. He could easily end this by snapping her in half like a twig. But instead, he slowly tighten his grip, crushing her steadily. The Shadow Courier let out a piercing scream of pain as her battleframe gave away, and her bones cracked under the enormous pressure.

    “Scream!” She could barely heard the Siege Breaker shouted at her in middle of what seemed like laughter of joy. “Scream more, you pathetic human!Beg for mercy! Cry your last words! Realize how powerless you are before the Chosen!”

    Through her bloodied eyes, she could see her situation. The chosen’s armour was falling apart, but she were in no position to attack him. Her blade was lost from her hand when she were tossed around. Her rifle were empty, and was nowhere in sight. Her battleframe was currently being slowly crushed in by the Chosen along with her inside. Her LGV had its front smashed in and embedded itself in a stone pillar behind the Chosen, its engine still running, humming quietly. She had no other choice.

    Mustering whatever energy left within her, the Shadow Courier spoke with strained voice:

    “Goodbye...Shadowmere.”

    For a moment, the Siege Breaker looked at her, puzzled. Then he heard the shriek of an overloading crystite core behind him, meltdown imminent. He couldn’t even turn back. Light quickly engulfed both of them as the core exploded.

    ---

    The Shadow Courier didn’t know how much time had already passed before she came to. When she opened her eyes, she saw flickering light reflected on the cave ceiling. She tried to move, but her body barely responded. SIN suddenly popped up, and reported two critical puncture wound on her. With difficulty, she turned her head to look at herself, and found them. Fragments of her own LGV were pinning her down, a small one through her shoulder, and a massive one through her stomach. For once after everything that had happened, she found herself lucky - if this piece landed just at a slightly different angle, it would have bisected her, and no battleframe would be able to keep her alive. Slowly and carefully, she pulled the fragments out of her. Then, searching for a pair non-broken stimpack in her pouch, she injected it directly into the open wounds. Her body trembled in pain as she screamed, while a layer of nano-skin spread over the wounds and seal them up.

    After a few minutes of resting, allowing the stimpack and the nano machine in her doing their job, she stood up and looked around. In middle of everything, was her former LGV, which has became a smoldering, burning heap of junk. Not so far from it was the dead chosen, laying face down, his back burnt and pincushioned with hundreds of LGV and rocks fragment. He took the full effect of the explosion. She never thought that she would need a self destruct feature on her LGV, but she felt glad that she did installed it. The Shadow Courier found her SIN blade lying on the floor as she walked over the wreckage, and she was not hesitate to use it to add another hole onto the head of the dead chosen. “For good measure,”she thought.

    Just then, she heard whispers. Distant, but noticeable. She put her full attention to listening. Step by step, she traced back to the source as the whispers intensified when she came nearer to it. And within the myriad of voices that she heard, she could catch that voice again, the voice that was calling for her, but this time so faintly, so weakly. The Shadow Courier quicken her steps. And soon enough, she found it, the source. The Engima Box. The Cradle. It was slightly damaged by the explosion, and from within the crack, a purple mist leaked out, swirling, sparkled with energy, moving around and forming strange shapes, as if it had a mind of its own. She had seen this before, in the far reaches of New Eden where it encircled the remnant of humanity as walls, reaching all the way to space - the Melding. Where the Chosen came from.

    She cautiously approached it, when suddenly, her head felt like it was split open once again. The whispers became louder and louder, before becoming screams in her head, and she felt they growing ever more hostile the closer she came to the box. It was clear that they were trying to prevent her from reaching the box. Yet, despite all the voices in her mind trying to stop her, she could still hear a different voice calling for her help. She didn’t even know why she was doing this. Why she endure all this pain just for some voice she wasn’t even sure if it wasn’t hallucinations. But something in her couldn’t leave that voice alone. As she came closer, she could hear the voice even more clearly. It was the voice of a girl. Lonely, afraid, trapped, hurt. “Save me. Save me. Save me,” She kept calling to the only one who could hear her. The Shadow Courier clenched her teeth. Never before she felt such determination in her as she moved forward. She want to free this girl. Slowly, she fell down to the ground from the pain. But she didn’t stop. Dragging herself toward the box with the SIN blade, she came within striking distance and raised her blade. In one decisive move, she plunged it into the box and rip it open.

    The voices stopped. Purple mist burst out from the opening, spreading everywhere but around the Shadow Courier as if avoiding to hurt her. Then all of the sudden, it converged, condensed, coming together , energy sparkled within it like a mini-storm. Gradually, it form a circular shape where in the center, something seemed to open up - a portal. Before her, a figure emerged from the portal, floating in mid air. A little girl, no more than twelve in appearance, dressed in a simple white dress. Her skin was grey, her long hair white, and her eyes a piercing red. She was, unmistakably, a Chosen. The little girl look into the Shadow Courier’s eyes, and one voice returned in her head : “Thank you.”

    Before the Shadow Courier could make sense of anything, chains of explosion breakout ahead somewhere in the exit tunnel and a few chosens ran into the cave. As soon as they saw the Shadow Courier and the girl, however, they tried to fire at them. But trying was all they could do, because their guns were quickly dropped, their hand held over their head, and they fell down, curling in with what seemed to be extreme pain just as the little girl glared at them. “Just a little taste of what they did to us” the Shadow Courier heard the voice in her head spoke as the girl turned back to her. She suddenly understand why the Chosen was so insistent in trying to get the Cradle back - this girl is extremely dangerous for them.

    But she couldn’t stay for long and think anymore about the implications of all that just happened - all around them, the remaining stone pillars were breaking apart, and the cave trembled along with the explosions that seems to happen somewhere ahead. It wouldn’t take long before the whole thing would come down on them. The Shadow Courier quickly carried the little girl in her arms - to the girl’s surprise, but she soon held on to the Shadow courier as she dashed out of the cave as fast as her battleframe servos could carry them. On their way through the tunnel, there were Chosens’ entrenchments all the way, but they were not facing them, instead, they were facing the otherway, preparing for some kind of attack from that direction. And so the duo caught them completely by surprise, and they all quickly fell down, either by the girl’s gaze, or the Shadow Courier’s blade.

    Before long, they reached the surface, an old abandoned outpost, and the Shadow Courier found out what had been causing all the commotions. Dozens of ARES team were battling the chosen, and they were winning. The Chosens were being pushed back, retreating, and pulling out of the location. Far away, the gigantic Chosen laser drill structure was laying in pieces, burned in plasma fires. Seemed like the Chosen had attracted too much attention to themselves, and it alerted all the surrounding ARES team hunting chosen for reward from Accord. The Shadow Courier chuckled. Just not long ago she were just like them, doing a job for easy money. “And now...”She looked at the sleeping girl in her arms, seemingly exhausted from using her power. “I wonder what will happen to us now...” She thought as exhaustion also slowly caught up to her, and she fell down, asleep upon the green grass, the girl held tight in her arms, as an ARES operator in medic frame came to her from afar.
    • Like x 2
  8. FrostedBranFlakes Lead Community Manager

    #8
    Thank you to everyone who participated in our second Fanfic challenge. Loved the entries, nice work, and thanks again Juno! :)

    While I'll be unsticking this so the next one can be posted up, please feel free to still add an entry if you were still planning to. Also, the discussion on the above entries, as well as any others made after this post, can continue in the discussion thread that is linked in the OP.

    Cheers,

    Brandon