Derrick eyed the two women with guns silently. He had questions but wasn't sure he wanted to share the answers with Greta. Better just to be quiet and see how things played out.
“What is going on here?” asked an angry Jenny. Damn, he was glad to see her. What was she doing here? Last he'd heard she was a miles away, herding non Users to safety.
Greta gave Jenny a long and speculative look before dropping her gun.
“These are very dangerous men,” said Greta. “Do not let your guard down, officer.”
Dangerous? Blake was in a coma. Did she really think that was going to work?
“What the fuck is she talking about Derrick?” Jenny asked with grim curiosity. Derrick couldn't help but notice concern in her voice.
Did she actually think he might be the bad guy here?
“I'm glad you asked,” the male User answered dryly, wincing as he spoke. Bullets hurt, even when you were wearign System armor. “Apparently, she's all that's stopping a group of super villains from uniting under Blake's leadership and using the System to achieve world domination. Naturally, some mysterious entity has offered to trade my death for Blake's.”
Wasn't life grand. A few days ago, what seemed like a dozen alien races had invaded the planet at the same time, yet today he found himself in an almost more absurd situation involving petty human politics.
Greta didn't appear happy that they knew each other, or with his explanation of her motives. It seemed like a pretty accurate description to him though.
United Support System Implant
Warning: Local area security protocols have been reset.
Full Obedience protocols now active.
Please put away all weapons and refrain from violence in the medical facility.
At the same time as the message appeared to him, he saw both Greta and Jenny's eyes move and Greta took out her phone. Ignoring them both, she began typing.
“Can we trust it?” he asked Jenny. “The System doesn't seem to love me.”
First the Fighter role, then the whole auril sample debacle. Now this.
“It sent me here,” Jenny replied and holstered her gun, she was still obviously wary of Greta however. “It sent me from across town for a mission to patrol the hospital area.”
That was nice to hear, did wonders for his life expectancy. Odd that the System was working against itself. That implied it was more than just the soulless machine it came off as. God, he hoped in wasn't an insane AI. The last thing he and humanity needed, was for Earths only real ally to have multiple personality disorder.
“Why are you really here,” Jenny asked Greta.
“While he embellished the details, Derrick summarized my issues with Blake.”
Jenny looked to Derrick and then back to Greta.
“Really,” Jenny said, in the careful tone one uses to speak to crazies. “Super villains.”
“I didn't say super villains.” Greta said with obvious exasperation. The small women seemed out of her element, probably not used to explaining herself. Derrick was enjoying her obvious discomfort.
“You think a group of criminals are as much or even greater a threat than the Scourges. That makes them super villains.” Derrick said mercilessly.
“Dangerous criminals?” the ex-police officer said skeptically, her head cocked to the side. “From West Hills?”
Greta didn't reply. In fact, the silence stretched on for awhile until she spoke again.
“Fine, I admit defeat.” she said. “I can see this has been one huge waste of time. I promise not to threaten the remaining Demnols' lives from this point on.”
Was he supposed to just believe that? Or any if this nonsense. There was a larger issue too.
“Also, me,” demanded Derrick. He really wanted to be able to forget this whole thing but he doubted he could talk Jenny into killing her. “No threatening my life either.”
“Of course,” replied Greta calmly. “I'd much prefer to have nothing whatsoever to do with whatever System politics we've stumbled upon here. It would be beyond foolish, as I know nothing about the players involved.”
Well that seemed like the truth anyway. Which was good because he could think of no way to stop her from leaving or doing whatever she wanted. He doubted she'd leave them alone entirely, no doubt she'd take every opportunity to make their lives difficult out of spite if nothing else.
How much power did the Administrator Role actually grant?
The three of them stood around for a second.
“Were waiting for you to leave,” said Jenny to Greta.
“We are busy people,” Derrick added, brave now that he had backup. “Fighting real threats. Not shadowy conspiracies.”
There was a ping from Greta's phone and after glancing at it, she quickly made her way outside with aloof dignity.
“I take you don't know of any shadowy criminal conspiracy related to the Demnols,” Derrick asked Jenny once Greta had made her way outside the tent.
“The Demnols owned half a dozen landscaping companies in as many cities,” Jenny said. “They might have also owned a few golf courses? I might be thinking of some other family.”
“So, she's probably just crazy then?” Derrick mused aloud. Greta seemed like a super competent and highly strung woman, perhaps the arrival of the Scourges had broken her a little? Did some grudge against the Demnols, who were total shits from what he'd heard from both Greta and Blake, blossom into madness?
His brunette ally just shrugged.
“Who knows,” she replied. “Wouldn't be the craziest thing to happen lately.”
“Speaking of crazy,” Derrick said gleefully and with a smile on his face. “You have a force field.”
He was so very jealous and not only because he was just shot.
Finally, a real piece of advanced tech. Not a better pistol or sword but something ripped from the pages of a science fiction story.
“It's technically a 'Guardian Kinetic Controller',” she said. “Uses manna to stop small objects from reaching anything I set to be protected in a range of about ten feet.”
“You set it to protect me?” he asked, touched by the gesture. She's only gotten the device after they split.
“I set it to protect everyone,” Jenny said slowly.
“Of course you did,” he said. “Why are you looking at me like that?”
“You're freaking me out,” the ex cop said. “Why are you so happy, you're never this... smiley.”
“I'm... just happy to be alive.” he lied and tried but failed to wrestle his smile off his face. It wasn't at all the cool device that made him so ecstatic. If he could get one of those, it would take so much worry off his shoulders.
From what Derrick saw of her face, she clearly didn't believe him.
“Fine, I'm just glad to see some real sci fi stuff,” he admitted.
“Don't you have like, psychic powers,” she rebutted. “That's pretty sci fi.”
Oh. That was true. Wow, somehow he'd never really made that connection before. It wasn't a perfect way to describe auril energy but it was the closest comparison. Well, maybe Chi or Ki was better.
“How many bullets could you stop, anyway?” he asked.
“Around five every few minutes, depending on the speed and size of the bullets.” Jenny answered. “Obviously more as I add manna to my new manna gate and it only works in the city.”
Well, there went his smile. That all but guaranteed she wouldn't be joining him if he was forced to join the mission to take back the countryside. It also dashed his hopes of getting one for himself. What would be the point if it failed when he actually needed it.
Lastly, with that hard limit she still set it to protect everyone?
They were very different people.
“Hmmmm,” he said and made his way up to Jenny with his hand out. “Here you go. A gift for saving my life. I think these are special bullets of some kind.”
He passed her the bullets that had been stuck in his undershirt and on the floor. They were dented but her Scavenger's pistol would fix them easily enough.
“As a psychic, I predict you will need to you use them quickly if you get in a fight with anyone.” He added. “So your puny force field doesn't get overwhelmed.”
“I'm hoping to avoid shooting any people.” Jenny replied with a tired sigh. “I already miss working with you clowns, when the worst thing I had to deal with was the Scourges. You'd think people would be coming together in the face of crisis. Half of the people I deal with don't seem to realize anythings changed because the lights are still on and the other half keep trying to bribe me into letting them become a User. As if being a User was somekind of superhero game.”
“Meh, Guard problems.” Derrick said with a shrug and went to pick up his bag from where he'd dropped it. He immediately began to rifle through it.
He pulled out his new fancy red shirt and threw away the tattered shirt he was wearing.
“What are you doing?” asked Jenny as she watched him partially strip.
“Making myself as bulletproof as possible,” he replied as he pulled his latest fashion accessory over his head. “It's not that I don't trust Greta or the System... no wait, It's exactly that.”
Once he had it on, there was a weird sensation as the shirt adjusted itself to fit him perfectly. Perfectly. It was outputtingly intimate but undeniably comfortable. Solid yet the material breathed. That Tailor did good work.
“How do I look?” he asked Jenny and donned his mask.
“Like one of those hobby survivalists with too much money,” Jenny replied dryly. “Military style clothing is not supposed to be red.”
“The only Scourges we've seen that even have eyes are the normal Grey Legion Agents.” He defended, even though the color was more her fault than his. It was the same color as the mask she'd gotten him. “And the dogs are color blind anyway.”
“It does look like it would stop bullets,” Jenny admitted after a second.
“I had it made from the bones of my enemies,” he casually added as he attached his axes to his back. Which was true, assuming Vanguard armor was a kind of exoskeleton. Which it probably was.
Jenny just rolled her eyes.
“Well, lets get out of here.” She said and the two of them made their way out of the hospital zone.
“Well, good luck with guarding stuff,” Derrick said as they arrived at Jenny's new car. It was another, identical to the last, police cruiser.
“Be careful with that scouting mission,” she returned. “Even if you can avoid detection, that whole area is dangerous and you're not actually trained for this. Don't get cocky.”
Ah yes, he'd told the little white lie that he was just going to be doing that bonus scouting mission. Just so people wouldn't try to talk him out of hunting down any Vanguard he could find.
He nodded and smiled as Jenny drove off.
All right, he thought and took a deep breathe. Time for action.
He grabbed one of the many vehicles just siting in lots and drove to the quarantined zone once more. Once inside, he drove another couple kilometres, about halfway to the mysterious injection site, before pulling over and mentally summoning the mission notification.
Bonus Mission Details
Investigate Unknown Injection
The United Support Station has detected an unauthorized Injection into the nearby area at 11:32:29 yesterday. Its source appears to originate from System controlled space. All unauthorized Injections pose a risk to native life and should be investigated.
Requirements: Lv 1.5
Advanced Scouting Proficiency
Good, the mission was still available He needed the experience and this was the only mission available to him other than babysitting people back in West Hills.
If only there was a mission to kill Vanguard. That would be super conv...
Universal Support System
Bonus Mission: Investigate Unknown Injection
Trial: Predation (ITRS)
New Mission Details
Trial of Predation (ITRS)
System Authority ITRS has announced a trial to earn his favour fo those Users on Earth that meet his requirements.
This is a unique opportunity to earn rewards not available to most Users.
Objectives: Prove that Earthlings are not yet the bottom of the food chain. Find, defeat and scavenge the resources of advanced enemies.
Beacons representing the location of known targets will be provided.
Participating Users will be monitored and judged by Authority ITRS.
The most successful Users will earn disciple status under ITRS. All participators that make a successful kill will earn rewards.
Participation Requirements: Lv 1.6 or above, Scrappy Title
Join Trial? Y/N
Hoo, boy. This was suspicious. Not just the timing but the fact it seemed like it was designed with him in mind. Maybe that was just him being paranoid. If it truly was a global contest...
What had the Authority that had tried to kill him been called? GazGr, or something? That would make this the one that had sent Jenny?
If not, was he being lured into another trap? If so, it was working. He lost nothing for accepting the mission and at least got some possible clues to the location of creatures he was already hunting.
While he had no chance of winning any kind of global badass contest, he should be able to get something out of it.
It wouldn't even change his plans. It wasn't like he could only do one mission at a time.
He was going join the trial, but slow and careful. The scouting mission was way outside the city, probably why no one had completed it. Rushing out here, where he was at a disadvantage, was stupid. Even if the Red Law was supposed to make him somewhat hard to detect using Auril, he could still be seen, smelled and heard by the no doubt superhuman senses of whatever was out here. Despite being a little stronger and tougher, he still had normal human senses.
So, he bought some things help with that.
Sensor Web Hub (35 USSP)
Four small passive sensors and a signal hub. Capable of identifying Scourge units and natives and reporting location through mental beacon. Gathered info will be shared with the System.
Red Scout's Mask
A custom face shield, designed to attach to basic breather masks. Provides more protection than an advanced breather mask.
Has the ability to view distant objects through zoom and a night vision mode.
Has basic self repair and security features.
He continued towards his objective on foot. A car would be faster but also, too loud and obvious. Not to mention far more likely to get him ambushed as he'd be going too fast for Auril Pulse to do much good.
So in the name of stealth, he ended up skulking through abandoned stripmalls, parking lots and industrial yards. The new reinforced axes made it easier but not quite easy to cut his way through the doors and fences that stood in his way.
Each one was quick to bring down, taking just one or two swings but there were so many of them. Just as he was considering giving up stealth and just walking down the road, he came across a group of Grey Legion Agents.
First, he only saw one from a distance, in the window of a large office building, while he made his way through yet another private parking lot. After watching from cover for a minute, he picked out three more Agents exploring the area.
His mask's new zoom feature let him make out details. Too bad he didn't have a sniper rifle, they were kinda outside axe throwing range.
They were slightly different from the Grey Agents he'd seen up to now.
They were still creepy grey skinned living zombies but now they were shirtless and had guns. All the agent's, male or female, had what looked like thin scales covering their chests instead of clothing. Also, like the brute from the apartment building, he could make out parts of their bone structure that looked padded, like they had too many bones under their skin.
It was not a great look. Especially with the perpetual half smile they walked around wearing.
But that was not the worst part. The worst part was that they were all heavily armed, with weapons that had obviously not been looted from anywhere on Earth.
Long knives, made of a familiar ceramic material with jagged edges and bulbous short Uzi or shotgun looking guns. He couldn't even guess what those did but was willing to bet it was dangerous.
Universal Support System
New Mission: Locate Grey Legion Weapons Facility.
Already undergoing Trial.
Assigning as Bonus Mission.
Bonus Mission: Investigate Unknown Injection
Bonus Mission: Locate Grey Legion Weapons Facility
Trial: Predation (ITRS)
New Mission Details
Locate Grey Legion Weapons Facility
A Legion Injection Drone has managed to produce a weapons facility capable of producing more advanced Legion tools in the area.
Such a facility is a significant threat to the nearby Enclave of West Hills and should be destroyed as soon as possible.
Hmm, another scouting mission. His first instinct when he considered the Agent 2.0's had been to avoid them altogether. They were too dangerous to fight for no reward.
Could he follow them back too their base somehow though? These guys didn't seem any more aware of their surroundings than the average person would be. None of them had Auril either.
Undecided, he spent another fifteen minutes just watching them search the building through its windows.
Suddenly, the two he could see stopped. Freezing in place for a second before quickly moving out of sight and into the depths of the building. .
Had they spotted him? Were they circling around to...
Nope. There they were, five of them coming out the front door in a hurry. As soon as they made it out onto the street, all five of them broke into a run, ignoring the hidden Derrick and moving down the street.
Derrick watched them go and considered following.
They were moving back towards the city and seemed to be in hurry, so he doubted they were headed back to base. Unless is was very well hidden, but not so well hidden it didn't just come under attack.
Well, whatever. Something was happening and he wanted to check it out.
He would probably head back this way and this was as good a spot as any to set up some sensors. So hiding the hub on the bottom of a black pickup, he stashed sensors on all for corners of the intersection before moving to follow.
Luckily, they were moving basically in the direction he came from, so he could move through the irregular 'path' he'd cut earlier. He didn't get far before he heard the sound of gunshots. Not just a few either, a slow but steady rhythm involving different sounding weapons.
From his new position in a plumbing supply storage yard, he saw the Agents march up to a huge car lot, one containing thousands of cars and enter through the front with their weapons at the ready.
Two of the Agent's stayed at the entrance while the others went deeper in and soon were lost from view. The lot was built on an upwards slope, limiting vision of the deeper areas. Large rows of concrete blocks broke up the different elevations.
Each elevation was basically a shelf about eight cars deep and forty wide, with a single car wide road running up the middle.
The gunshots were definitely coming from inside there. This honestly seemed like the sort of thing that he hated most. A violent and uncertain melee. Exactly the sort of thing he didn't want to get involved in.
On the other hand, people might need his help? Did he care about that. He'd spent as much time fighting people as helping them since the Scourges had arrived. What did he owe strangers? He certainly wasn't going to run into this fight just because some idiots got overambitious and pinned down. They might even have the situation under control....
Well, just going in and taking out the two door guards would be doable. They were just sitting there, with their backs turned to him.
Derrick easily scrambled up the front of a plumbing van and jumped over the yard's barbed wire fence. He landed in the drainage ditch beside the road and still unnoticed, drew his axes.
An auril pulse showed just one more agent in range, deeper in the yard, so he broke into a sprint.
He found a grin breaking out on his face as he started moving faster than he had ever before. He'd always been a decent sprinter and endurance runner but now he devoured the distance in what felt like a single second. Even with an axe in both hand, he had to be moving at Olympic levels of speed.
At twenty metres from his targets, two axes flew, their flight separated by a single second.
An agent turned at exactly the right moment to catch the axe with his collarbone, instantly going down as the Admantium edge cut deep into it.
The second managed to to twist themselves out of the way but as a consequence was totally defenceless when a second later, Derrick slammed into him and drove a knife down into his neck. He stabbed them both a few more times too be sure and collected his axes.
Panting, Derrick looked down at the fallen Agents. They were still as grey fluid poured out of their wounds. Wow, that had been almost too easy.
He turned his gaze to their weapons.
United Support System Implant
Grey Legion Venom Dirk
A mass produced weapon used by soldiers of the Grey Legion.
It posses an edge sharp and strong enough to cut through most light armor, assuming the User has enhanced strength. This weapon produces a venom that causes paralysis.
This weapon contains no security features and can be looted by Users, though it stops producing venom.
A short range weapon that can either fire a single powerful projectile or a cloud of needle like fragments. The Spike is powerful enough to pierce cover and light vehicle armor, at least at close range. The needles can be counted on piercing all but the heaviest infantry armor, delivering a chemical paralyzing agent.
Warning: Explodes into poisonous shrapnel when tampered with.
So his new armor was basically worthless already. Well, it seemed like it would protect him at range. He just couldn't let them fire right in his face... Also, enough of his skin showed that a cloud of needles would hit some of that anyway.
Kneeling down and keeping away from the gun, he picked a Venom Dirk. It seemed at least as good as the standard Esthisium knife. So, he grabbed both of them and they disappeared into two of the many pockets/sheaths of his vest.
No other Agents were in sight but despite how quick he'd killed these guys, he probably hadn't gotten away murder. The legion tended to move as if following common command. They could probably communicate instantly if they felt it was important enough. He could tell they weren't using auril but all it would take was a radio chip in their heads or something more advanced.
So what now? It felt wrong to just stop now.
Keeping low, he scrambled a few cars deeper and after recovering his auril let off another pulse. On the lowest 'shelf' only a single agent remained and it was slowly moving to join two allies on the next of the yards four 'shelves'.
Wow, Auril Pulse was really coming in handy here. The information it gave out almost felt like cheating.
After a second of consideration he sprinted away from the loner Agent, and stealthily up the side of the blocks that separated each shelf. The two other agent's he'd detected where clearly guarding the ramp cars took between levels, so he just didn't use them.
These guys were warier than the last bunch, so instead of a mad charge they'd probably notice, Derrick snuck about twenty feet away, dove out and hit them with a well aimed tangler grenade, hoping to disable both at once.
He wasn't that lucky. A tall female Agent was instantly turned into a mummy as she was overwhelmed by an explosion of clingy white ribbon. The other agent, a stock man of medium height, was almost disabled but managed to quickly drop their gun and use his dirk to cut the few tendrils that had caught him.
That was fine, he could handle one Agent.
Derrick moved in for the kill and fearlessly, the Agent turned to meet him with a smile.
It didn't try for its gun, just raised its guard. Which was shame, as it would have been the perfect opportunity for either another grenade or a thrown axe.
Instead, Derick opened with a wild swing towards the Agent's chest area.
“Submission is Salvation,” the Agent said and taking a step forward, jabbed his dirk to cut along the inside of Derricks arm.
Derrick smiled at the familiar words.
“I have an axe,” he replied, fondly remembering the first time he'd heard that. Without any hesitation, he pressed forward.