bck_merc_hq.jpg

Routine task

1by1.png

- Pest exited this way - the keeper pointed to a hole in the warehouse floor.

Semper Saganis and Torrento Enoeshi looked in that direction. Semper’s AlterBot scratched its chin. Luckily, the safety on kinetic launchers fitted in the forearms of the armor was on, otherwise he would have probably lost his head.

Just an hour ago everything was looking good. It was supposed to be a routine task. Easy job. Fucking standard mission.

***

“Today 4:30 USMT. 30 thousand tons of artificial fertilizer “Sanitaze Mechior EV2” was reported stolen from the warehouse of “Nature Grown, Martinez & Sons”. A 10,000 reward for determining, arresting or confirmed elimination of thieves. A 1.500,000 reward for retrieving 100% of the goods, paid out proportionally after delivery.”

It was a fucking sure-fire. Semper and Torrento made a quick decision. Semper green lit the mission, Torrento called his buddy Manolo Kozinsky, who owned a flying tip truck that could carry 500 tons. Also, he knew Gerard Buzdyga who would get off a whore in no time for five grand even if it was at 3 in the morning. He, in turn, knew whose hand had to be greased to “rent” a military orbital pusher. If there was even a million tons to push a military pusher would do the job, even if it took ages. Even though Buzdyga liked to get high, he’d push 30 tons where it needed to be pushed even while throwing up, with his eyes closed and his finger rummaging inside some plastic babe’s pussy.

Like always, Semper and Torrento took upon themselves to find the thieves and deal with a potential shitshow. They’ve been a good team for a few years now. Semper was always at the front in his pimped Taran KXP-22 and Torrento right behind him, above him or under him in a fine-tuned Wasp D-8k that weighed less than 200 kilos. Both AlterBots were, of course, fully loaded with improvements and alterations compared to a standard model. Muscle and Glide. Above all, the guys respected each other and they never argued about money, even after the most intense doping sessions. They were real friends, in love with their AlterBots. “Sempo and Torro, an eye for an eye, fifty-fifty and fuck mothrfuckers with a fucking anchor!” That’s what others were saying about them in shady bars, where mercenaries used to go.

For transport the boys offered to pay a bit above the average. Sixty percent of the reward was going to Manolo and his crew for nailing the logistics including the delivery of stolen goods. When Manolo heard “up to nine hundred” depending on “purcent of three hunds tons, just chems, no illegs” he was ready for action half an hour earlier, before Semper has even seen the mission.

This is the kind of crew Sempo and Torro were. They could track down dickheads and fight them but dragging goods wasn’t their thing. It just wasn’t worth ruining their hair. They’d rather give Manolo a tip. In return, he spread the word and told the legend of their duo. In this business you are what they say about you. Nobody cares about the number of zeros on your account.

***

1by1.png

- Any recordings? - Torrento asked the janitor.

- Everything was on screen. I was just scared to go out. Come with, misters - the keeper walked up to a ladder that was leading up to his closet.

Torrento didn’t follow the janitor. He launched his stepping motors and it took him a second to land on a platform at the height of four floors. He came inside and inserted his pin plug into the surveillance computer. After a few seconds he found the recording he was looking for and sent it to Semper.

They watched the recording in silence for a few minutes, rewinding images that showed a line of insects the size of a car entering the warehouse through a hole punched in the floor. The insects were carrying out stolen fertilizer four pallets at a time and disappearing in the hole again. They didn’t take anything else. They even left a few sealed pallets of firearms that were stacked close to their route. They didn’t touch shelves filled with “Aztor Queen dev.3” either, even though every little shit knew that there was less fucking with “Aztor” than with Mechior if you wanted to build a bomb. Fuck. They only took fucking Sanitaze Mechior and nothing else. They didn’t destroy surveillance cameras, they didn’t kill the keeper. Twenty-two minutes of a fucking video with a train of ants lugging pallets with some chemical shit. They went in, took the stuff, left, disappeared and didn’t even destroy the corridor behind them.

- We’re going in - said Torrento finally and jumped off the platform with the keeper’s booth.

The tunnel was oval shaped with a diameter of over 4 meters. It descended gently. As usual, Semper was leading, Torrento followed. All his detectors were switched on. Silence, emptiness, nothing. No trace of enemy or the goods.

Twenty one kilometers of an almost straight tunnel. First turn.

They automatically slowed down. Semper slowly came around that corner with all defense modules turned on. He was as prepared for the attack as it was possible.

He wasn’t, however, prepared for several hundreds of insects crouching around the corner ready to leap. The first one only made his AlterBot stand steadier on the ground but another attack pushed him in the tunnel wall. A line of insects at the back started jumping around and bumping into him and each other. Semper was up against the wall and in front of him there were hundreds of monsters that wanted to tear him apart. With his kinetic launcher, he blew a hole in the head of the one that slammed him against the wall and tried to bite him. He was firing blindly from his cannons fixed on his AlterBot’s forearms and hips.

Torrento wasn’t standing by idly either. He stepped back down the corridor they came through and was shelling the insects’ eyes from his needle gun. He also launched his grenades with sticky foam, which surrounded the space in front of Semper with grey goop. That bogged down the insects at least for a while.

Semper ran out of ammo two minutes later. The only weapons he had left were kinetic launchers and grenades. He’d rather not throw them in a tunnel. In their tandem he was the hammer, not the fencer.

Torrento pulled out his hypersonic titan blades from his forearms and started jumping at the insects cutting off their antennas, destroying their eyes, severing their jaws and limbs or cutting holes in their skulls.

Three minutes down the butchery, Semper’s screen was flashing red reporting yet another actuator’s overload and combat analysis kept indicating another hundreds of insects approaching. Torrento lost one of his blades. It got stuck in one of the insect’s skull when another one jumped on it and crushed it into the same wall Semper was rammed into. Vibration mode broke in the other blade.

- Run - Semper said to his partner. There was grief in his voice. - I’ll grenade the shit out of them. I won’t make it out of here but you just might.

- No way, I’m not leaving my Muscle out for those ticks! - Torrento screamed but he automatically looked back down the corridor they came and fell instantly silent.

1by1.png

There was a girl sitting on the floor of the tunnel dug out by the insects, fifteen meters away. When she saw that Torrento noticed her, she waved at him and smiled.

- I didn’t want to interfere, after all you came here first - they both heard her despite the fact that they were on a private coded channel with security measures impossible to breach.

- Who are you? - asked Semper at the same time swinging his arm and punching a hole in another insect’s head and breaking another one’s pincers as they were about to get near his head.

- My name is Hanna. It’s a pleasure to see Sempo and Torro in action - she replied and saluted. They noticed that her right hand was cybernetic.

- You’d better get out of here with Torrento. We can’t do this. There’s too many of those ticks. I’m about to launch grenades.

- Can I ask you not to do that? I don’t want to waste time building another tunnel if there’s one already.

The girl got up to her feet. She spinned herself in place like some ballerina and traced a circle in the air with her cybernetic arm. The corridor behind her glistened with a thousand colorful lights and came to life.

At this moment, Torrento’s combat screen showed thousands of new targets. Floors, walls and ceiling, everything on the length of several dozen meters was filled with small drones that moved in their direction all at once. A mechanical wave of tiny devices, that on their combat screens looked very similar to the wave of insects lunging at them, got past Torrento and Semper and flooded the corridor, where the insects were attacking from. A minute later the entire corridor behind the corner was covered in a bloody glop that contained tiny fragments of cut up insect bodies. It looked as if someone threw a large fistful of mantises in a blender.

Hanna walked up to Semper, who was stuck in the wall, and with a single gesture of her cybernetic arm she summoned a few of her drones. They got him out in a few seconds and flew inside the tunnel. In the meantime, remaining drones were raking corridors and rooms located in front of them.

So the three of them stood, two machines and one living woman with only delicate cybernetizations, ankles deep in bloody goop staring at each other.

- Guys - Hanna broke the silence - if you want to reclaim at least a bit of that fertilizer you came looking for, you should be able to make it in time to kill its processing plant that’s half a kilometer from here, before it turns it into hell knows what. Their entire security was here so even with the damage you took you should be able to do it. I didn’t come here for this mission. I wanted to have a chat with the hive queen. If it’s even possible to talk with this thing. Oh, now I know she’s not here so I’ll get going then.

- Thanks for your help - choked out Semper.

- It was nothing. I give you a hand today, and you help me out tomorrow. That’s how it works in my family.

And she walked off into the corridor through which they all got here. She was moving away from them surrounded with a swarm of gleaming drones that looked like an aureole.

When she vanished from their sight they turned and looked at each other.

- I don’t know about you brother - Sempo whispered rather than said in an inspired tone to Torro - but this is the kind of family I’d love to be a member of.