Chapter 149: Pinned Down
The projectile punched through the warehouse’s walls from the side and came at them like the wrath of a falling meteor. Forewarned by his Sixth Sense, Ves barely ducked in time, allowing the flaming projectile to impact against against the ground, throwing up a momentous amount of cement.
The large amount of debris pelted the Larkinsons, causing no small amount of minor injuries. Ves managed to stay unscathed due to his shield generator, which lost another percent of charge.
“We’ve got to pull back!” Melkor gritted his teeth, giving up on trying to borrow Raella’s pistol. “As long as that sniper is lurking around, it’s not safe to leave the center.”
Raella nodded her head as she gripped her own weapon with an iron grip. “We’re mech pilots without a mech in sight. We’re sitting ducks out here!”
Losing the initiative never went well, but they all agreed and ran back towards the deepest section of the warehouse. All of them tried to find a way out of their predicament but could think of nothing except to wait for help. With the amount of noise the BLM had stirred, the police or Planetary Guard should be arriving at any moment now.
“It’s a monster! It’s AAAHHH!”
“Some kind of drone is killing us all!”
“I never signed up to this! Let’s get out of here!”
The discordant group of rebels broke apart due to the terror in their midst. Lucky reaped a toll on their sanity as he slowly constantly clawed out their throats. At a certain point, the survivors forgot about their mission and fled like rats.
Raella looked at Ves as if he had done the killing himself. “Did you upgrade your cat or something?”
“My father gave him to me as a gift.” Ves replied, bringing up his standard excuse whenever someone asked about Lucky’s peculiarities. “He’s a product of the New Rubarth Empire.”
Everything that came from a first-rate superstate might as well be magic. The yokels out in the galactic rim had no cognition of the level of technology employed by most powerful human states. Ves found it to be a convenient prop whenever he had to misdirect the origin of his System’s rewards.
“Are you sure you’re comfortable with keeping a mechanical pet by your side? They’re getting out of vogue because they’re prone to hacking.”
“I trust Lucky.” Ves replied emphatically. In fact, he trusted in the System. “He’s a unique pet who’s hiding quite a few surprises. I don’t believe anyone from this star sector can compromise his programming.”
Moments later, the star of the show appeared in their midst. The tired-looking cat had dropped down from above and meowed with less enthusiasm than before. This time, Ves felt an ache in his heart when he saw that Lucky hadn’t come out of fight unscathed. His left side had been scorched by a passing laser beam that blackened his shimmering bronze surface.
“Lucky!” Ves called out and picked up his companion. “Are you okay?”
He tried to interpret his cat’s attempts to answer his question. Lucky appeared to have a lot of energy to spare due to the opposition’s lack of armor. A simple swipe of his energy claws at their lowest power setting easily took care of the untrained rabble.
Instead, the heat damage partially crippled Lucky’s capabilities. A significant part of his flexible shell had fused together into slag. The laser also transferred a lot of heat into Lucky’s internals.
Over time, his gem cat could recover from the damage by eating special minerals and letting his advanced self-repair do all of the work. Unfortunately, time was in short supply today.
“So we can’t rely on your pet anymore?”
“Seems so. We’re on our own.”
The news disheartened the Larkinsons. Their best weapon had been taken out of what must have been a stray shot from a panicking rebel.
After some crunching, Melkor finally spoke up. “We’re going to have to come up with another plan. The only thing I can’t figure out is whether our opponents are committed to investing more assets.”
“What do you mean by that, cousin?” The only woman in their midst asked with a reluctant voice. “From all the smoke and fire, the BLM must have blown up an entire refinery or something!”
“Which anyone can do as long as they are smart enough! Only a small cell of terrorists working together with some insiders are required. Think, Raella. How much does this operation cost in their perspective?”
Not much. Besides funding the weapons and explosives, the BLM mainly sacrificed their worthless footmen. The real pros who supplied the weapons along with the expertise to set up a facility to blow were long gone by now.
Melkor turned his ominous red visor to Ves. “Are you certain it’s just the BLM who’s after us. I’m not doubting your judgement, because everything we’ve experienced so far matches up with your guess. Only the railgun specialist doesn’t fit. His weapon is too sophisticated and his aim is spot on. You already died twice, you know.”
It hadn’t really set in, but Ves knew he brushed past certain death. He mentally thanked his master for her very timely gift.
“I know what you’re talking about. To be honest, I’ve provoked other enemies besides the BLM. All of them are incredibly wealthy.”
“That’s great.” Raella sarcastically remarked. “It might have been nice to tell us how many people you pissed off BEFORE we get shot at!”
Before the argument escalated, Melkor held out his hand. “Stop. More men are approaching. There are fewer steps, but they’re heavier than the last wave.”
“Is it the police?”
“I don’t know yet. I’m not familiar with Dorum’s fast response force.”
Everyone readied their weapons for another fight. If the newcomers came with ill intent, they’d fight tooth and nail to save their lives. Ves petted Lucky’s head. “Can you take a peek? Just tell us if it’s friendly or not.”
The cat meowed softly before patting away with a much less slinkier gait. While Lucky scouted out the approaching group, Ves looked around the warehouse and tried to spot anything that might help in turning the tables.
Sadly, the shelves only held low-value bulk materials that wouldn’t be of much help. Ves found nothing remotely volatile or flammable, and he couldn’t even find an industrial loader mech that normally carried heavy loads.
With nothing at hand, Ves hesitated in bringing up his comm. He could still resort to the System if nothing else. With almost 10,000 DP in reserve, he could buy a gadget from the stingy Store and hold on for a couple more minutes.
Lucky quickly returned and yowled with panic. Melkor also finished parsing his visor’s readings. “We’re dealing with armored mercenaries or the like. We won’t be able to overcome their armor with our pistols.”
Laser pistols worked extremely well against soft targets, but had difficulty penetrating past a solid layer of armor. As long as the armor was thick enough, it diffused the heat among its surrounding portions.
“This is ridiculous!” Raella cursed and held her weapon ready. “Where’s our help? We’ve been under fire for over ten minutes now.”
While Melkor tried to form a plan, Ves turned his body and discretely activated his comm. While the BLM disabled communications, they couldn’t do anything to his apps. He tapped the System’s icon and entered its Store.
Millions of items flashed by in a blink as the Store came into being. Ves tried to figure out the best way to spend his DP. He didn’t ask for much, just a way to survive. The life-threatening situation disrupted his thoughts, making it harder for him to think. He couldn’t employ his logic when all of his primal instincts activated his fight or flight response.
“Come on, System! Please help me out. Give me a suggestion of what I should buy!”
[The Mech Designer System is not meant to replace the user’s own judgement. Please treasure your autonomy and make your own decisions in life.]
Ves felt the urge to scream. This stubborn System still stuck to its stupid principles when his life was at danger. He couldn’t rely on anyone but himself it seemed. He quickly considered where he should spend his points.
“A weapon is no good. They’ll kill me before I can kill them. Armor will only delay the inevitable.”
He quickly concluded that he should obtain some means to avoid the enemy entirely. He first thought of teleporting, but he quickly balked at the prices the various teleportation items offered. Unless he accumulated more than a million DP, he shouldn’t be thinking about teleporting himself and his cousins.
“What about a way to hide?”
A permanent or durable way to hide still cost way too much, but the Store offered several one-use alternatives. For example, he could spend 5.000 DP for a temporary augment of his Privacy Shield.
[Comm Upgrade – Privacy Shield – Level 1 – One-time Augment – Full Stealth]
Price: 5.000 DP
Duration: 10 Minutes
Temporarily upgrades a level 1 Privacy Shield to emit an overpowering field that disrupts any means of observation. It is capable of obfuscating every possible means of observation that is known to the Mech Designer System.
The simple description didn’t do the augment justice. It blocked both electronic and biological means of detection. As long as no one bumped into their bodies, they could sneak off under the noses of their hunters.
Heavy footsteps started to become audible. The mercenaries entered the warehouse and started to fan out into two seperate groups.
Ves gritted his teeth and purchased the augment. “Everyone, come close to me. Best to hold on to my body, front and back. I’ve got a gadget here that can hide us from their view.”
His cousins didn’t doubt his words witnessing his shield generator. They knew he visited Leemar and returned with a lot of high-tech gifts. Melkor stood in front while Raella pressed against his back. Lucky on the other hand jump on his owner’s shoulders.
“How long will it last?” Melkor asked in a whisper.
“It’s supposed to be no more than ten minutes.”
Both of his cousins were taken aback. Full stealth for an entire hour? Such a powerful piece of technology shouldn’t even be available in this backwater star sector! Ves didn’t try to convince them any further and activated both his Privacy Shield and his newly purchased augment.
He felt sick at the thought of bidding farewell to 5.000 DP. He could have upgraded a lot of skills with those precious points!
At least he saved them up beforehand. If he had already splurged his entire savings beforehand, he wouldn’t be able to avoid the approaching killers.
Melkor and Raella both tried to say something, but the Privacy Shield dampened every sound. They could still see each other but those outside the bubble would see nothing but empty space. Seeing that they couldn’t talk, Melkor tugged Ves into moving away from their current hideout.
They had started moving just in time, as ten seconds later a grenade landed where they had just been standing. The strange metal cilinder exploded in a white-hot glow of plasma that instantly scorched the fleeing Larkinsons with a flash of excruciating heat. It was a good thing the Privacy Shield dampened all of their sounds, because everyone except Ves released a cry.
Raella had it worst as she stood behind Ves. Her skin started to well up in red as they desperately fled the scene before the mercs decided to throw some more grenades.
In their frantic flight, they almost managed to collide with a squad of professional-looking mercenaries. They quickly pushed to the side and let the menacing squad trudge forward with their deadly rifles aimed at various angles.
Even as they stood mere meters away, the Larkinsons hadn’t been spotted by the mercs. Ves released a breath. The System hadn’t swindled him. The one-time augment worked like a charm.
With little more than eight minutes left to go, they quickly resumed their awkward run. No one knew how long they had to hold out, but anywhere was better than here.