THE GUARDIANS / Chapter 20: Siege / (Violence + Mild Language)
Posted August 8th, 2017 by Codename-X12
in a secret bunker finishing the Guardians
PREVIOUSLY ON THE GUARDIANS...
I couldn't see. The only thing I could hear was the echoing of the explosion. Was that burning flesh I could smell? I tried to move, but couldn't. Everything around me was hot, unbearably hot. Could someone please shove me in a freezer, were the first coherent thoughts that popped into my head. Then my rational side kicked in a few seconds later.
Okay, you're alive, so that means you're gonna be okay, I told myself. I opened my eyes, and was staring directly as the steel floor of the laboratory. Ow. I had slammed my nose on the ground pretty hard. It wasn't broken, however. I moved my hand in front of my face to check it. It seemed to move slower than usual, seemed more sluggish.
Yikes. I stared for a second at the blacked and wither five fingers and arm. Looked like I had taken a dip in a lava bath. I flexed my fingers and some ash broke off between them. It was a third degree burn alright. Well, no problem. I had survived worse than this.
I sat up and stared around me at the destruction. Flames licked up almost every surface like they were trying to eat the hallways alive. Giant gouges had been torn out of the reinforced steel waves and were blackened and charred. Sparks still spewed from the many severed electrical cords. Every light had been shattered and broken glass joined the chaos and debris spread everywhere.
I stared at a limp form wearing black a few yards away before my pounding brain remembered that it was my companion. I crawled over, still feeling my legs and hands heal under me, and turned him over so his faced the ceiling. It wasn't pretty.
His face was charred and bloodied but fortunately not as bad as my hands. It looked like the blast had hit him in the back, so his face had been shielded. I hoped desperately that it wasn't a broken spine. You couldn't really recover after an injury like that. I rolled him over again and felt his spine, and sighed with relief when I found it undamaged.
When I felt Brandon's hand to check for a pulse, I found his hand was cold amidst the scalding heat of the hallway that still burned into me from every angle. I realized that the only way he could have survived this unharmed was to have projected a darkmatter force field around himself at the last second to absorb the majority of damage from the explosion. But where had it come from?
A piercing sound near me severed my thoughts like a machete. A gunshot. I sat paralyzed, straining to hear past the crackling flames and the hissing electrical cords. More gunshots. In fast succession. Whoever was shooting was shooting some pretty exotic fully-automatic weaponry.
I heard some return fire, bursts of shots from several M16s. Was someone daring to attack the facility? It was foolhardy, it had been a huge risk just to sneak two people into the lab and get them out alive. Well, it was time to leave. I wasn't going to stay around while the place erupted into a warzone.
The gunshots continued to rattle as I stood up and stepped over to Brandon.
"Get up, man," I whispered. We needed to hurry. Brandon moaned softly and his eyelids drifted lazily open. They suddenly widened as he took in the roaring flames and destruction that had almost taken both of our lives. He sat up, gritting his teeth as he shifted his painfully aching body. "You okay?" I asked. He nodded wordlessly.
An especially loud burst of gunfire crackled nearby. It sounded like fighting was raging in the next hallway down from us. A savage scream of pain echoed through the smoky air, and I saw a dark body collapse, shuddering, at the end of the hall.
"Crap!" I muttered as four other soldiers sprinted around the corner, holding their M16s in shaking hands. I slammed myself to the floor as a spray of rapid bullets fired from the opposite end of the hallway shrieked through the air and thrashed into the four men. They crashed to the floor as blood splattered the wall.
Keeping myself perfectly still, I squinted through the haze of smoke and shadows to see who had ambushed the few guards. Dark shapes were moving at the end of the corridor, weapons glimmering in the light of the fires. I waited anxiously as they paced a few steps closer until I could see them more clearly, the firelight playing and dancing across their figures.
The first man wore a heavy suit of body armor, a flowing black cape, and a dark red metal helmet. A hulking, grey chestplate made of thick carbon fiber, armored steel boots, and reinforced gloves gave him an imposing, knight-like appearance. More carbon fiber protected his arms and two massive black shoulder guards almost a foot wide were mounted on his shoulders like crags jutting from a hilltop.He wore extra shotgun shells on a belt around his waist.
The six men behind him wore all black hoods, silver grey gas masks that covered their mouths and noses, and tactical vests. Floodlights on their gas masks sprayed out streams of bright light that cut through the haze of churning smoke. These soldiers clutched powerful-looked modded AK-47s with machetes attached to their barrels as they stalked forward down the hall. The helmeted man in the armor strode before them with the confident footfalls of one who I knew must be their leader.
"Find the information!" he barked, voice mechanically distorted through his maroon-colored helmet. "They're in one of these rooms around here somewhere. Move it!" I watched from the floor as the squad of soldiers began picking their way through the flaming and smoking rubble.
"Those imbeciles not even bother to aim?" one snarled as he kicked an especially large chunk of debris out of his path. Letting them think I had perished in the explosion, I scanned my surroundings trying to find the Uzi I had dropped when the blast tore through the hallway. Dang. It was out of reach a few yards away.
The soldiers were getting closer. One of them stared malevolently down at me, blinding lights from his helmet glaring down at me. Then he kicked me viciously in the chest with a steel boot. I forced myself to remain limp as I was tossed over on my side by the blow. No pain surged through me, but I felt a fractured rib strengthening and healing within me.
"This one's not getting up," the soldier grunted. Fortunately, he didn't notice Brandon's splayed form lying in the dirt as he paced toward one of the rooms that led off of the hallway. The door had been blasted off its hinges by the explosion, so he simply stepped through the gaping hole and into the dark room.
The lights of the men's helmets glared and swivelled through the smoky haze as they searched every room along the hallway. I heard glass beakers shatter, objects tossed carelessly to the floor, and the sound of drawers and storage boxes being ripped open. The leader of the squad stayed out in the hall. As I watched him, waiting for the right moment to strike, I noticed him touch the side of his helmet.
"Not yet. I know, but isn't it more important to take the helis and tanks?" he asked, like he was talking to someone over the comm. "Why don't those screwed contractors do their own dirty work? They could certainly take care of it with all those freaky toys they got. Yeah, yeah, don't remind me. I'm on it, okay?" He let go of the side of his helmet. "Screw those dang sons of -," he cursed.
He was off guard. He would never see it coming. Now.
I rolled forward across the ground, grabbed the Uzi in one fluid motion, then snapped up and began pumping lead toward the armored man. He snarled in surprised rage, spewing profanities as he drew a large combat shotgun from a bandolier over his cloak. I continued spraying bullets as I leapt backward.
The crack of the shotgun seemed to vibrate the very air. The blast hit me like a solid wall, sending me sprawling backwards into the dirt. Dozens of razor-sharp projectiles stung and bit at me where they had hit as I crawled and scrabbled through the dust, blood leaking out onto the floor.
"You think you're invincible, you little -," he howled. "I know about you. They want you all. Already got one of your little god-forsaken friends. Hopefully they want you dead, 'cause I ain't letting you off any other way, you little freak."
Just then a blinding light shone in my eyes as the other soldiers rushed out of the room, assault rifles pointed, at the sound of the thundering gunshot. I hadn't dropped the Uzi this time. I turned, the fully-automatic weapon gripped in my hands. Before they even had a chance to react, I cut down all six of the soldiers with four shots. They fell to the ground almost in the same instant, without even enough time to scream.
I stood up. "Headshot."
"The Black Scythe never passes up a kill." The armored leader raised his shotgun again but as he pulled back the hammer to load in another shell, a blazing energy blade of swirling purple and black matter darted out of his chest, right where his heart was.
The terrorist dropped the shotgun instantly, standing rigid for a second as the blade stuck through his chest. Then he dropped with a crash, facedown in the dust and in the blood of the other dead soldiers. Brandon stood behind him, the dagger of shadows disappearing from his hand.
"They were after something," I breathed, standing up and reloading the Uzi. "Some information or something." Brandon nodded, face white as a ghost. "Easy now," I muttered. "You've lost a lot of blood."
"They-they are the Black Scythe," Brandon snarled. "They captured Luna. They killed Shadow! I'll send those devils to hell!" I watched him anxiously for a moment as his enraged face flickered in the light of the resilient fires. Suddenly the hallway rattled as another explosion roared outside. Then another. And a crackle of gunshots added to the devilish symphony.
"They're taking the weapons! Let's go!" I cried. We sprinted down the ruined corridor, weaving around the chaotic piles of rubble and the crackling patches of flames. In a few minutes we halted upon reaching the heavy steel blast door that led out of the lab and out onto the helicopter pad on the roof.
"You ready for this?" Brandon asked me as I slammed a button next to the door and it began to slowly slide open.
"I was born ready." We strode out onto the helipad, and the cool night breeze on my face and through my hair felt unbelievably refreshing after the smoky, smothering haze of the hall. Then a sudden red glare played off our faces and across the helipad as yet another explosion flared to life in the courtyard below. Even from up here on the roof I could feel the immense power of the blast; it felt like a hot gale of wind. The gunshots crackled like an intense and disorderly drum track, while a few screams rose through the night air.
Brandon and I crossed the helipad and stood for a moment at the edge, staring out on the raging scene below. The expansive courtyard was a blur of motion as soldiers sprinted out through the maze of parked tanks and helicopters, and walkers to confront the enemy. I could see a gigantic gaping breach in the wall surrounding the base. Men in black were pouring through it like they were charging out of a giant creature's jagged mouth.
Guns crackled and roared as the two groups of soldiers sent deadly waves of murderous steel flying into each other at nearly point-blank range. Soldiers from both sides staggered and collapsed as bullets ripped into them. In a few moments the first thirty terrorists charging through the breach had been shredded down by furious fire and lay in mangled piles.
But more continued to sprint through the breach, fully-automatic guns crackling and sending the guards falling to the ground. A tank erupted in a raging ball of flames and dozens of shapes were thrown violently through the air around it, darkly silhouetted against the flame. A walker exploded nearby and its smoking remains were thrown over, crushing three fleeing men.
The massive turret that dominated much of the courtyard suddenly took its first shot, and the entire facility rumbled as the huge weapon poured out a massive stream of pure destructive force. The cloud of red-shot shells poured down like raining hellfire on the terrorists advancing through the breach, and they were pulverized like they were made of butter. The two huge barrels of the turret extended back into firing position, but before the giant turret could take another shot, dozens of explosions burst out along it.
I noticed for the first time the ghostly shapes of five dark helicopters, hovering above the courtyard like evil spirits. Bullets rattled out of spinning minigun turrets mounted on the sides of the aircraft, cutting through walkers and men down below. Brandon gasped, and I knew that he had realized one of the helicopters was exactly the same as the one that had attacked him during the raid on PalaTech. It was twice as large as any of the others and was kept up in the air by two thrashing rotors. A gatling gun roared on the bottom of it too, but every few seconds a missile would soar out of a rocket cannon attached to the side.
Shapes of men holding rocket launchers and RPGs were barely visible inside the helicopters. More explosions rocked the massive siege turret as explosives spattered it from above. A second later the turret tried to let off another cataclysmic shot, but it burst into a blinding fireball that singed my eyebrows and belched a huge cloud of black smoke and embers into the air.
The first line of defenders had been cut down and lay, dead and dying, as yet more terrorists streamed through the breach in the wall. A few of the mechanical walkers fired powerful machine guns on the invaders, ripping through dozens of men in seconds, before they were blown up with rocket launchers or taken down by rapid fire. A tank roared to life and sped forward, crushing a squad of terrorists under its churning treads.
The tank's main turret boomed, once, twice, while the secondary machine guns sprayed out ferocious rounds of bullets. The war vehicle sped toward the unorganized ranks of the raiders, churning over the rubble and corpses. Bullets pinged off the thick armor as it thrashed over more of the terrorists. Scrambling backward, several soldiers were dragged underneath the spinning threads.
The retreating guardians seized the distraction to regroup outside the main blast doors of the base. Several of them scrambled to climb into nearby walkers and hop up on the back of two massive tanks. With a snarl of engines, the two enormous vehicles lurched forward, treads whirring to life, to aid the lone tank pushing the front line.
A grenade was tossed through the air by one of the fleeing terrorists. It bounced off the hull of the first tank and bounced into the dirt, detonating a second later. As the invading soldiers charged back to the breach in the whole to regroup and were shot unforgivingly in the back by the advancing guards, it looked like the tide had turned.
The other two tanks, their hulls scraping and spraying sparks off other parked vehicles, surged forward like a gale of cranking hydraulics and roaring motors. The squads of defenders charged along behind the war machines, dozens of rifles glinting in the light of the fires. I heard their crazed war cry echo above the roar of the tanks and the crackling of guns.
As the lead tank neared the breach in the wall, forcing the throngs of raiders to retreat before it, it suddenly exploded in a flash of blinding light that left dancing spots on my vision. I gasped in shock as the glowing remains of the tank were sent toppling and rolling backward, settling half-way into flaming crater caused by one of the missiles.
As more invaders poured through the breach, seemingly kept in reserve until this very moment, a single figure among them stood motionless, wrist extended in front of him. He swiveled his wrist as the two other tanks approached, and in another moment both tanks flared into a massive inferno so hot I could feel it from where we stood.
I had never seen the destructive power of the pyro-atomizer in person before.
"Hellfist!" Brandon gaped. As he said it, one more piece of the puzzle dropped into place in my mind. The man who had stolen the pyro-atomizer and helped send in the Vespers to kidnap Luna from the emergency room and take us as well. He was with the Black Scythe. "I'll kill him!"
He sprang for the edge of the platform.
"You won't last three seconds down there!" I replied, grabbing his arm and holding him back. Brandon struggled for a few seconds before nodding. I let go. "Let's just hope they didn't shoot down my hovercraft."
Down below, I watched as the surviving defenders were running for their lives. Jumping over piles of flaming rubble and darting around the undamaged war machines, they charged back toward the lab. A few short screams filled the air as bullets slashed through the back of their heads or through their backs. They dropped almost instantly.
With another burst of the pyro-atomizer, Hellfist scorched through five retreating guards. Then suddenly two glowing red energy shields materialized over his armored gauntlets, appearing to be projected from them. The small circular shields fluidly followed his movements, and the armored terrorist held them together to deflect a retaliatory spray of incoming rounds. Then there was a scream of bloodcurdling pain as a nearby gunman took down with a few rapid gunshots the guard who had dared to attack Hellfist.
The terrorists stalked forward, weapons aimed just in case a few surviving guards had taken refuge behind a tank or a helicopter. I watched the invaders climb into undamaged walkers and tanks. As the war machines' engines growled to life, walkers began plodding toward the breach in the wal. Steel legs cranking mechanically, several of them were the first to disappear through the jagged hole, followed by the rumbling tanks.
"They must need weapons for a bigger assault," Brandon realized. Suddenly the rotors of one of the helicopters began churning and whirring, and the helicopter drifted slowly, uncertainly into the air. Other helicopters nearby roared to life as well. One by one, they rose into the air above the ruins of the courtyard and joined the small fleet of black helicopters blending in with the ominous night sky.
"We need to get out of here," I muttered, placing my finger onto the tiny control key strapped to my wrist. I tapped another key to make sure the lights were off and my aircraft was in stealth mode. A half-inch screen on the top of the controller read the distance from me to the hovercraft. 1,563 feet above us.
"C'mon," I muttered. The squads of terrorists were marching closer to the facility, confident that all resistance had been eliminated. We couldn't leave the helipad if we wanted to get out of here alive, and any moment we would be spotted. I knew I could take a lot of bullets before one found its mark in my skull, but surviving the pyro-atomizer was another thing altogether. 952 feet above us now.
I thought I could see a ghostly shape in the clouds, but it was just the last of the helicopters rising out of sight. They wouldn't be able to detect the hovercraft with radar or sonar, but even in stealth mode my craft couldn't repel good old eyesight. 581 feet above us and dropping fast.
"There it is!" Brandon cried out. And now I could see a shape descending from the clouds, and a flood of relief swept through my heart. I desperately tapped another button on the controller, knowing that now even the most imperceptive of the terrorists would have no problem seeing it now. The hatch opened and out plunged the steel rope.
"Let's get out of here." I smiled to Brandon as the rope dropped within reach. Then I gritted my teeth as a surprised shout from the courtyard reached my ears.
"Crap," was all Brandon said as the terrorists opened fire on the descending hovercraft. Bullets pinged and sparked off the armor, but the craft wasn't designed to take much damage. It was a stealth hovercraft, after all. I firmly grabbed the rope and was dragged roughly into the air.
Brandon latched his hands onto it as well and was tugged up after me. Bullets shrieked and whistled past us and we darted up into the air, some missing by merely a few feet or inches. Come on. Come on! I could see the inviting hatchway open only a few dozen feet above my head.
Suddenly I felt a surging blast of heat below that burned my feet through my steel boots. Glancing down, I saw Brandon yelp in shock as a foot of the rope was holding on began glowing and melting before his eyes. Down in the courtyard, Hellfist raised his arm, trying to line up a kill shot on the two moving targets.
Brandon loosened one of his hands from its death grip around the rope and grabbed the section of rope above the rapidly disintegrating patch of rope. Just in time two, because a second later it dissolved completely into ash that trailed away in the wind. The length of metal rope underneath it dropped away and plummeted through the air.
And then it was over, and I was being pulled through the hatchway. I gasped with relief and drew air into my frantic lungs, realizing I had been holding my breath for a portion of the escape. In another second Brandon appeared through the hatchway and it closed with a mechanical hiss behind him.
I darted to the cockpit and seized the waiting controls. Yanking back the steering mechanism, I felt the aircraft jolt backward as it twisted into a steep ascend through the night sky. Dark masses rushed past the cockpit windows as I pulled the hovercraft up into the concealing cloak of clouds.
I sighed in relief as I lay back in the leather pilot's chair, letting out the pent-up tension within me with my emptying lungs. Reaching into a pouch on my bandolier, I removed the notebook. We had risk our lives for the information inside, but the risk had been successful. With the information inside, we now stood a chance.
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