One week after the Sinking of JacintoEdit
Colin Davis stepped out into the sunlight, his eyepieces darkening as they adjusted to the increased light level. He turned back towards the house he had exited from, the third one he had searched on that street, and frowned. It didn't feel right going through people's houses, even if they were long gone, abandoned or dead, this was someone's home and he shouldn't be violating it. As had become the norm in recent years; however, morality had been cast out to make room for survival and this was no exception, especially in a time like this.
And it's only been a week, he thought as he turned back towards the road and towards the next house. Just one week prior, the Coalition had been forced to give up, to sink, their last stronghold in this world in some attempt to drown the Locust and Lambent Hordes in their tunnels. It wasn't any emotional attachment to the city that caused his despair, his home had long since been destroyed and he had refused to make a new one. It was the horrible predicament that it left humanity in, as without the capital, any survivors would become easy prey if the Locust survived. There wasn't even any guarantee that the plan had worked, that all the Grubs were dead and gone, for all they knew, they could have built homes in the towns and cities they had captured during the war, they did have fifteen years after all.
As he continued, his mind drifted to the events that had followed, the hasty, haphazard evacuation with Gears grabbing everyone and everything they could and throwing them onto any ships left, most of the Navy having abandoned the mainland months before, after Tollen and Montevado were sunk. A day after the "fleet" had left the harbor, a massive storm rolled in and disrupted communications between the ships and made it almost impossible to see any of the others. After it had dissipated, to their surprise and horror, more than half of the ships had disappeared, leading everyone to the conclusion that they had either been sunk or had been separated and were now too far away to contact via conventional radio, with satellite communication being a cruel joke due to the fact that most of the satellites had degraded to a point of inoperability.
They had continued along the coast for almost a week when, as if by chance, they came upon an intact harbor. With the ships all anchored to give people a chance to walk on dry ground again, the newly minted Lieutenant Colonel Berkeley decided to send a group of Gears further inland to see what supplies they could scavenge, which is why he and his platoon had been digging through abandoned houses and convenience stores for the past hour with nothing of importance to report. No food or water, no weapons or ammunition, no fuel, absolutely nothing.
He frowned as he opened the door to the next house, hoping this string of nothing would end soon so he could get back to the ship. As soon as he stepped inside, he realized two things; he would have preferred that the nothing would have gone on just a little longer and that he was glad his helmet had a filter. Laying before him were pieces of what he assumed were once people, tattered and torn cloth littered the ground almost as much as the blood, which was truly everywhere. He bent down slightly to get a better look, quickly realizing that it helped little as he couldn't make out what they had looked like, or even what gender they were as they were so thoroughly mauled, he was even having a hard time figuring out what was wound and what was decomposition.
Quickly identifying that there was nothing of value in the living room and wanting to get away from the carnage, he moved into the kitchen only to be meet with more bodies. This time; however, they were the hunchbacked corpses of Wretches, lying in piles by the backdoor and window, where they must have gained entrance through. As he looked around, he noticed another body in the corner, different from both the Wretches and the people in the living room, as through the thick blood covering it, he could see the semi-reflective blue paint of standard issue COG body armor, showing that the corpse he was looking at was of a fellow Gear, his Lancer lying on the floor nearby.
Colin managed to pick some of the dried blood off the armor, checking for any damage to it. After a moment, he found the cause of death; a large gash at the waist line, where what was left of his intestines lay hanging out. He sighed as the picture came together in his head; the Gear was defending these people from a Wretch pack when one must have gotten close enough to claw his innards out, allowing the rest to maul and eat the others. Colin took out a small radio beacon and placed it on the kitchen counter, activating it and his COM simultaneously.
"CNV Jolyon Iver, this is Lieutenant Davis. I've located COG casualties, armor and weapons still intact. Can you send someone out here in one of the trucks to pick it up. Also be aware of possible Wretch activity in the area." He waited a moment before a reply in the form of Colonel Berkeley's voice crackled in his ear.
"Roger that Lieutenant, anything else?" He sounded impatient, which probably meant that no one else had found anything important either.
"Negative." With that, he closed the channel.
Colin took one last look at the Gear, bending down to grab the man's COG tags. He'd run the CSID number through the backup COG database on the ship, see if he could figure out something about who he was and why he was here. After grabbing the tags, he stood up and walked out the backdoor, not wanting to go through the living room again. People always assumed that because he had been a soldier for so long that he would have gotten used to the mangled and desiccated bodies of soldiers and civilians alike, and while he may have gotten use to the sight, it didn't make him comfortable with it. It reminded him of her, of Corinne, but of course there was no corpse left, not after a Hammer strike.
He pushed the thought out of his head as he exited the house and walked back to the front. When he did, he noticed something different, it wasn't anything visually different, everything appeared the same as it had a few minutes before, only it felt different, wrong. As a twenty three year veteran, he, like many others, had developed a sort of sixth sense that alerted him when something was wrong, and right now it was subtly ringing in the back of his head. Colin raised his Lancer in preparation for an attack he could almost feel coming, his body changing gears and switching to a combat state of mind, resulting in everything seeming clearer. It was because of this that he noticed the soft thuds coming from several different directions just before the blood curdling scream pierced the air.
The first Wretch lunged at him from behind, hoping to take him by surprise, only to be meet with the cold steel teeth of his Lancer's chainsaw bayonet as he spun around and swung at it, hitting it in the neck, its own momentum carrying it the rest of the way, sawing it in two. He then took aim and fired at the others following behind it, taking several down before shifting to another side to engage. As he was firing, one of them threw itself at him, not so much clawing at him as using its weight to knock him to the ground. It was partially successful as it made Colin stumble for a brief moment before he turned around and kicked at it, his large boot connecting with its head, causing a loud snapping sound to be heard as its neck broke, killing it instantly.
As they kept charging at him, another attempted to leap at him, but he managed to roll out of the way and bring his Lancer to bear, firing a burst into its chest and shredding its innards. It wasn't long until all of the Wretches lay dead, either perforated by gunfire or mangled by his chainsaw. As he surveyed his handiwork, he instinctively reloaded his Lancer in preparation for another attack which, thankfully, did not come. Colin reached up to his helmet's ear piece again to turn on his COM.
"This is Lieutenant Davis, confirmed Wretch presence in my area, be careful everyone." He took his finger off of the transmitter without waiting for a response and continued walking, hoping the rest of the day would turn out better than it had been. As he continued, he wondered if this was all that was left for them, digging through the remains of their civilization until there was nothing left, then quickly did away with it. No, he had fought for twenty three years in order to give people a better future and that hadn't changed now. They would rebuild as many times as possible until there was nothing left on this world left to tear them down.
"Salazar, you got anything on scope?" Sergeant Alphonso Martinez glanced over to the two Gears in the alley across the street before cautiously peering around the corner.
Ahmed Salazar's voice came through the COMs a second later, "Negative, Sergeant. I thought I may have seen something, but whatever it was got out of the way really quickly."
"Well we sure as hell weren't shot at by a ghost. Find it, Specialist."
"Yes, sir." The COM went dead, presumably as Salazar looked back through the scope of his Longshot, scanning for whatever just opened fire on his squad. He called over to the others in a hushed tone.
"Hays, what about you? Did you see anything?" Allan Hays looked over to him and shook his head.
"Caught a glimpse of it, but that's about it. Whatever it is, its holed up in that shop." Hays said. The smaller of the two Gears, Abe Moreno, took the large, brutish, and all too big for him, Boomshot off of his back.
"Want me to lob a few rounds downrange, Sergeant?"
"Negative, Abe. There might be valuable shit in there that we could use, why else would they shoot at us?"
Hays spoke up again, "Well, there's no way to flank them from our position and they've got the entire road covered, what do you suggest we do?"
Martinez peeked back down the road towards the tiny store where the burst of gunfire had come from when they initially turned the corner, "Salazar, how much of the building can you cover?"
"I can see the right side of the store and a bit of the middle, but everything to the left is covered."
Martinez thought for a moment, "Hays, can you get up on the roof and overlay your fire with Salazar?"
Hays nodded and began climbing up a nearby fire, soon reaching the top and aiming down his Lancer towards the store. Alphonso looked back towards Moreno, "When I give the word, those two are going to start suppressing the building and we're going to move up until we reach that bastard, got it?"
The Private nodded, returning the Boomshot to the magnetic holster on his back and retrieving his Lancer. Martinez took one more glance before giving the signal and bolting forward. When a dark figure approached the window, it was met with a hail of automatic fire from Hays, causing it to switch to the right side for a moment before its head was blown apart by a shot from Salazar. As they ran up to the building, a voice came over the COM.
"Sergeant, you're not going to believe what that was."
Salazar didn't answer as Alphonso walked up to the window and peered in. Even though its head had been reduced to paste a splattered all over the floor, he could still see the scale-like formations on its pale white skin and the large muscled arms and legs ending it clawed hands. As he stared at the dead Drone, his anger kept growing as he realized how futile the past weeks had been. He had to back away from the window lest he dump his entire magazine into the corpse, instead he threw his Lancer on the ground, yelling.
"Son of a bitch! What the fuck is that thing doing here?!"
Moreno looked down towards the body to see what had caused his Sergeant such distress, when he saw it, he tilted his head in confusion, "A grub? What the hell is he doing here?"
"I have no fucking idea! According to Prescott and Hoffman and Berkeley, they're all supposed to be dead, drowned in their tunnels. That's the whole reason we sank Jacinto, was to take them all out, and here they are! God dammit!"
As soon as the anger had subsided and he stopped yelling, he realized his mistake. Locust never operated by themselves, which meant that the Drone probably had friends and more than likely nearby. His fears were soon confirmed as a deep, guttural howl echoed through the empty city, which he had a feeling was about to get a whole lot more populated.
He turned to Moreno, "In the store. Now."
Just as the two Gears leaped through the broken window, a hail of gunfire flew through the air, smacking into the back wall of the store. He peeked his head over cover to a large group of Drones, at least thirty of them, heading down the street towards the store, Hammerbursts blazing. A few of them went done as Salazar and Hays fired from the rooftops, but the rest took cover and continued firing. Alphonso looked over to Abe, who was already taking his grenade launcher back out, aiming towards the largest concentration of grubs.
"How many rounds do you have?"
He quickly glanced down to his belt, "Three, Sergeant."
"Save them, we might need them for something big."
He sighed but did as he was told, taking his Lancer out and began firing in bursts at the nearest Locust, Martinez joining him a moment later. When one would stand in order to shoot, he's unload into it, shredding it. As time went on, the gunfire became an almost rhythmic noise, the occasional scream as a grub fell being the only thing able to break up the staccato. While this was all going on, the Gears failed to notice the subtle thumping reverberating through the ground. It was only after the deep utterance of Boom! that got their attention, allowing them just enough time to duck as the grenade flew through the window frame and landed in the back of the store, blowing a large hole in the back wall. When they looked up, they could see five creatures that looked like Drones, but were twice the size of regular grubs. Instead of Hammerbursts, three of them held the same Boomshot grenade launchers that Moreno had on his back, while the other two carried the large COG-made Mulcher portable machine guns, Grinders, named so for their tendency to yell Grind! before firing.
"Salazar, do you have eyes on? We need those Boomers taken care of!"
"Negative, Sarge. Too many Drones think it's funny to suppress the sniper."
Martinez swore, "Goddammit. Hays, what about you?"
From his position, Martinez could see Hays making his way to the edge of the roof, prone, "I'm on it, Alphonso. Going to waste some grubs for Salaz-" He could hear the sound of a door being kicked open and a call of Groundwalkers! before gunfire started.
"Allan, what's going on up there?!"
The reply came a moment later, audible over the sound of the fire, "Fucking grubs got up on the roof! Sorry, Sarge!"
Alphonso sighed and hung his head slightly, "This day is not going well for me."
Moreno looked over to him, "Permission to use my grenade launcher now?"
Martinez nodded and he could tell that Abe was grinning as he placed his Lancer on his back and retrieved his Boomshot. He moved over to the wall and looked out, quickly taking aim at the nearest Boomer and fired, the grenade striking it dead center in the chest, blowing it to pieces. He ducked back behind the wall to reload, dropping the spent magazine and slamming another of the massive drum mags into the receiver and sliding the barrel back into place to chamber it. He repeated the process twice more, both times eliminating another group of Drones, then he swore out loud.
"Shit! I'm out of grenades!"
Martinez fired another burst blindly, "It's alright, I think we've thinned them out enough to-"
He was cut off by the sudden eruption of gunfire coming from down the road. He lifted his head above cover ever so slightly to see the source of this new noise, and was treated to the sight of five Gears gunning down the last of the Locust. He slowly stood up, motioning for Moreno to do the same, then he called out.
"Nice of you to finally join us, Craig!"
The lead Gear shouted back, "Just giving you a chance to actually do something for once, Al!"
He frowned at the use of that nickname, Al made him seem like some kind of used car salesman. He looked over to Salazar's position and activated his COM.
"We all clear, Ahmed?"
After a moment of silence while Salazar scanned the area, "Looks like it, sir."
"Alright everyone, all clear."
At the sound of all clear, Alphonso stepped over the bullet scarred wall he had just been using as cover and walked over to Craig Randall and the other Gears of Yankee-Two. They had been sent to scout out the city's harbor facilities to see if they were clear and in good enough condition for the ships.
"How did the harbor look, Craig? Good enough for the ships to make port?"
"Which one? There's over half a dozen different ports here, and that's not even counting the shipyards that we found. This place must've been some kind of massive shipping city before it was abandoned. There are cargo ships all over the damn place."
"At least someone found something good, all we found were these assholes." He gestures to the large group of now dead Locust.
"Yeah, who'd have thought we'd find them so soon after we sank the city. Bastards are built to last."
"Glad you're taking this better than I am. All that effort and lives lost during Hollow Storm and we didn't get anything done."
"These are probably just Grubs that were on the surface when we sank the city, stragglers. We'll mop them all up in time. Even if we don't, I doubt there's enough left to maintain the species, Berserkers were already pretty rare, can't imagine there are many left now."
"I hope you're right, Craig."
It was at that moment that their coms came to life, the familiar voice of Elijah Simms on the other end, "Hey guys? We got a bit of a problem over here. Wouldn't mind if someone could lend a hand."
Randall responded, "Simms, we're on our way, where are you?"
He received no response, "Simms, this isn't funny, where the fuck are you guys?"
Again, no response. This time, he switched his frequency to that of the Combat Information Center onboard the CNV Jolyon Iver, "Control, this is Yankee-Two, do you read?"
Colonel Berkeley's voice barked over the COM, "We read you, Sergeant. What's the situation?"
"We need to know the last known location of Golf-Fourteen. We believe they may have encountered hostile forces and need backup."
"Hostiles, you mean Stranded?"
"It's possible, but we believe it may be Locust, we just engaged a large group of them in the center of the city."
There was a long pause, just as Randall was about to check to make sure they were still there, Berkeley came back over, "Goddammit, Sergeant. Golf-Fourteen was sent to the western outskirts of the city. I'm dispatching a Raven to take you there."
"Roger that, Randall out."
With that, the Gears gathered together and waited for their helicopter.
"Goddammit, Ragsdale." Elijah Simms sighed as he dropped his Lancer to the ground in as non-threatening a way he could manage, given the current circumstances.
Surrounding the Gears of Golf-Fourteen were twenty plus Stranded armed with various different weapons, all pointed at them. He barely had enough time to send out his distress signal before one of the trigger happy bastards had fired their equivalent to a warning shot, the round whizzing by his head, missing it by mere inches. Despite Ragsdale and Wetzel's suggestions to "drive their guns the wrong way up main street," Simms had elected to follow the more diplomatic route, complying with their demands that they drop their weapons and raise their hands. It wasn't until a particularly large man approached him from behind, knocked him to the ground, and began tying his hands together that he realized this might have been a bad idea. From behind him, he could hear Wetzel yelling.
"Get the fuck offa me! I ain't rollin' like that!"
"Calm down, Wetzel, they ain't gonna rape us, they'z gonna eat us more 'n likely." Replied Ragsdale, seemingly attempting to calm him friend and failing miserably.
The ever morose and pessimistic Thane Polstaff sighed, "Great, I survived all this just to get killed by our own kind. Fantastic."
One of the Stranded walked up to them, "We ain't yer people, COG. Now get up."