Derrick easily batted down the incoming strike with his right axe and countered with a blow that even left-handed would have taken off the creature's grinning head.
The Agent deftly shuffled back to avoid it, dirk quickly returning to guard position. Derrick took the opportunity to follow through and swing with his right, forcing the agent to block with both hands on the dirk.
The Agent was moving backwards, so Derrick's forward momentum let him send the Agent stumbling back. It kept its own weapon raised, desperate to block Derrick's next blow. Which turned out to be a feint to the neck that left the Agent totally unprepared for the kick that violently shattered its knee.
The mutated human didn't flinch, managing to throw himself onto Derrick instead of just falling.
Derrick dropped an axe to catch the lunging Agent's weapon arm. His other axe bit into the Agent's good calf. That didn't seem to bother it much. Pain didn't faze Agents and it was already leaning on him.
To Derrick's mild surprise, they were about the same strength-wise. Which was interesting. Was the method the System used to strengthen Users similar to what agents underwent?
As he struggled to keep the others weapon away from himself, Derrick tightened his grip on his remaining axe. Timed with a shove he used to make a little distance, he pulled it clear and used the bottom point of the axe to cut the creature's throat.
There was no time for celebration though. The third Agent was almost to the top of the ramp and Derrick was out in the open. A dozen scenarios ran through his mind to deal with that little problem. All of them ended with him getting shot. His instinct was to retreat, but he felt himself preparing to charge. Mere logical thought was overridden as a phantom hand pushed him gleefully forward.
Leaving his one axe behind and attaching the other to his coat, he grabbed the still bleeding out agent with both hands. Actually, he was moving so fast it was more like he body checked it. Carrying the downed agent, he ran full speed over the lip of the ramp and barely flinched as a series of sharp pains made themselves known.
The impacts didn't even slow him down as - still carrying the agent - he slammed into the last immediate enemy. Three bodies went down in a heap as two living fighters and a corpse rolled down the ramp together. Derrick himself went head over heels before he could stop himself.
Right behind him, the active agent had thrown away the body and was reaching for his gun, which had fallen in the fight. Derrick turned and threw himself on the agent's back, slamming him into the slanted pavement. Taking one of the dirks from his vest, he stabbed the crawling agent in the ribs until it stopped moving. It took more than a few attempts. The angle made the strikes weak and he kept hitting bones that he was pretty sure wouldn't be there in a person.
Derrick rolled off the agent and took a deep breath. Or at least he tried. Air refused to enter his lungs. Why, was pretty obvious, he felt a small sliver sticking an inch out of his neck. Shit, his throat was paralyzed, a needle must have gone right through the Agent he'd been using as a shield. Wasn't the entire point of the paralysation to keep him alive!
It wasn't alone either, a half dozen places on his body had been hit. He began ripping them out of his calves, arms, and neck; where they had just barely penetrated the thinner spots on his armor. He probably had Curative Blood to thank for the fact that none of limbs were completly frozen. The second he'd pulled out every invading splinter, he activated regeneration.
The feeling soon returned to his throat and he breathed in, with surprisingly little urgency. Oh right, Breathless.
Had Breathless already saved his life? No, not really. It'd been what, twenty seconds before regeneration and Curative Blood ended the paralysis? He would have been fine without it. All it had done was make the experience more pleasant. Which was almost worth the one hundred and twenty points he'd paid for it.
It was also probably responsible for his new sprinting powers though, which had come in handy twice already. So maybe it had saved his life?
A few more gunshots broke him out of his thoughts, coming from further in the yard. Staying in the same spot was a bad idea, he scrambled off to the side of the yard, where everything wouldn't immediately look for him.
Crouching between two cars of the countless cars that filled the yard, he let his auril refill and then fired off a pulse.
Three targets up on the next shelf, all Agents and... retreating? Or at least manoeuvring to the side of the lot he was on, so that they weren't between where Derrick had been and whoever else they were fighting. Which was smart, it made the chances of his climbing up to the next level without them noticing much smaller. Behind them would be the barbed wire fence surrounding the yard and the large rocky drainage ditch behind it.
If he was going to help out anymore, it would be just staying here to put pressure on them or circling around the enemy and joining the people up top.
There was an exchange of gunfire and then after a moment of pregnant silence, a small explosion rang out.
A single, singed Grey Agent tumbled over the concrete lip of the shelf. It quickly came to a stop and stared at Derrick from two car lengths and a road width away. Derrick stared back, this development catching him entirely by suprise.
It raised its weapon just in time to catch an axe with its face.
Errgh yuck, thought Derrick as he gazed at the corpse. He'd kind of panicked with that throw. Well it had worked, the Agent was definitely dead.
Feeling exposed, he retreated without taking his axe. He still had a solid minute before he could auril pulse and didn't want any more surprises, so he backed off. Putting another row of cars between himself and next shelf.
“Hello?” a deep voice called from nearby. “Any Users out there forget an axe?”
Huddled behind a car, Derrick responded but didn't show himself.
“Yes,” he replied and stayed sitting out of sight, half out of embarrassment at being caught skulking. “Thanks for asking.”
“Ok,” a voice answered and then a few seconds later continued. “Can we talk?”
“One second,” Derrick replied and sent out an auril pulse.
His auril mastery told him that the area was clear of Grey Legion. The Users were more numerous than he'd have thought though. He'd made the assumption that Users would be operating in groups the same size as his own. A group of six Users was chilling on top of the final shelf, three were positioned on the ground in such a way that they were clearly unconscious or at least very paralyzed. The other three were positioned on the lip, looking out over his hiding spot.
One of the wounded even burned bright enough to his auril sense that they must have auril themselves. Derrick decided to just introduce himself. He stood up and waved, ignored the guns pointed his way and moved forwards to grab his axe. The guns were quickly dropped after a second of taking in his obvious humanity. One good thing about the Scourges was that none of them tried to pass themselves off as human. At least none he'd run into did. Derrick atatched his axe to his side and looked up to find two men and a woman considering him from above.
“You by yourself?” a masculine voice asked. He sounded both surprised and interested.
“Yes,” said Derrick. “I'm doing a little scouting mission. I'm between teams.”
“Well thanks for the help,” said the large black man who stood slightly closer than his two allies. He offered his hand an Derrick took it. He was lifted over the waist high concrete wall with embarrassing ease. “We were almost overrun. Was a hell of a close thing.”
“I'm Gerald,” the older man said and Derrick felt a hand pat him on the back. It reminded him uncomfortably of Bruce, a little like the other party was holding back so as not to hurt him.
It made his eye twitch, that assumption of fragility. He'd fucking fought his way here against a half dozen superhuman aliens, armed with nothing but sharp objects and sharper wits. Not much he could do about it though, besides the other man no doubt meant well.
“Derrick,” he of that name replied tersely. “It was no trouble, really.”
Once up on the final shelf, he got a good look at the Users and their surroundings.
All the Users wore what must be standard Soldier Coats from the System, like his but a navy blue and without the pentagons grouped around the one shoulder. Small objects hung in easy to reach places, grenades, a few of which he didn't recognize.
Completely unlike him, they all seemed to be wielding heavy firepower. Especially Gerald, the guy he assumed was the leader and who'd lifted Derrick up to join them. Not only did he have what looked like an Esthisium cleaver but he held a familiar weapon in his hands.
A railgun rifle designed by the System for use by humans with built in security functions. An improved version of their most common weapon type, it could last for hundreds of years without the need for repairs. Grenade Launcher attached.
Accurate at extreme ranges due to advanced aiming functions and capable of short bursts.
Designed to allow weak projectile enhancement using Manna or Auril.
It was the most uniform group of Users he'd come across yet. At least as far as equipment went, they were still a random selection of genders, ethnicities and ages.
One of them was a kinda chubby blond kid who looked a little familiar. Derrick couldn't place him exactly though... something about stairs...
“Nice mask,” the chubby man, about Derrick's age commented as the group examined him in turn. “Expensive?”
Was that hints of jealousy that he heard? Something about this guy just made Derrick think the worst of him.
“It was a gift,” the axe wielding User replied and continued to examine the surroundings.
Apparently, the group had been made of eight people originally, two bodies hadn't shown on his auril sense, no doubt due to their complete lack of life. These upgraded agents hadn't gone down easy, their weapons weren't just for show. They made a real mess of human flesh when they hit.
Not that the Users didn't have a lot of fight in them. From this elevation, Derrick could make out a dozen grey bodies scattered around smoking craters and parked vehicles that looked like Swiss Cheese.
He doubted his recently disbanded team could have done half as well against so many well armed Agents.
“Do you need help moving your wounded?” asked Derrick. “I can give you a hand.”
“We'll just hotwire a truck and drive out of here” Gerald replied. “Wouldn't be the first time.”
“You fight the Grey Legion a lot?” Derrick asked. They seemed to have a very specific toolkit. Railguns would be of very limited use against Spore Tyrants. Except for the one with the grenade launcher attachment. They were also much more organized and military than most Users. Derrick felt a little silly standing next to them, having only melee weapons himself.
He could tell the group weren't actual military though, unless Gerald, their leader, was very good at hiding a military bearing. He seemed more like a football coach to Derrick, a really competent one. He had to be be a pretty good leader though, if he could keep a team of eight Users working smoothly.
“Constantly,” a redheaded User replied proudly. “We're probably the most experienced group in the city when it come to clearing out the bastards. The System sends us wherever they hide.”
She was heavyset with freckles and her hair tied back in a thick ponytail. She had an attractive confidence to her, backed up by powerful shoulders with a railgun hanging off the back of them.
“Not that that means much,” the young chubby blond added darkly. “They change for the worse every day. It was brutal when we fought our first Vanguard. We just got ourselves equipped to deal with those when these better armed Agents show up and kill our friends.”
“They didn't go down easy,” Gerald said. “I doubt the Greys are happier than us about how this fight went down.”
All of a sudden, Derrick felt alien thoughts invade his brain.
Sensor Web Hub Update
One hostile object approaching at approximately seventy eight kilometres per hour. Five hundred and forty pounds estimated weight. Dense surface materials and ambient Manna detected.
ETA: Approximately one minute forty three seconds.
Along with the notification came a whole bunch of raw data. Three dimensional shapes and light defractions? Something about ambient manna density across Fold layers? It was all very confusing.
Derrick shook his head until the strange feeling of alien knowledge being crammed into his skull dissipated. Well, fuck. A deep frown took over his face.
“We need to be out of here in under a minute,” Derrick said seriously to is new friends. “We have incoming, something big and fast.”
Gerald, a mass of muscle, competence and leadership, considered this proclamation with complete seriousness.
“That doesn't seem possible,” he informed truthfully. “We can't all escape that quickly and we won't leave anyone behind.”
Derrick respected that. He really did. In fact, he had to resist the urge to offer a fist bump.
“Well bye,” Derrick replied. He'd tried, he really had. He'd reached out to help people and it wasn't his fault they weren't mobile enough.
With both the stealth elements of Red Law and his new sprinting power, he was pretty sure he would succeed in making a run for it if he started now.
He let out a deep sigh. They seemed like decent people too. Except for that one guy, the chubby one. Derrick got a weird negative vibe from him.
He moved towards the drainage ditch, the best current exit considering where the enemy was coming from.
“What's going on?” the last standing female member of the group asked.
“Derrick says something is coming,” Gerald answered his teammate. “Sensors?”
“Ya, they're telling me over four hundred pounds of space magic fuelled killing machine is coming,” Derrick elaborated as he slowly made his exit. “All these Agents were just a delaying action. Whatever this is, it wins just by showing up before you guys escape.”
“So, you’re leaving,” the women asked, as if no possible answer would surprise her. Derrick watched her check her weapon with scathing indifference.
Somehow, that was worse than if she'd been disappointed in him.
It reminded him of Kate. Which brought up more complicated emotions. Few of which were positive.
“We're not his team, Lizzy.” Gerald explained with superhuman understanding and confidence almost as solid as his muscles. “We can't expect him to put them at risk by risking himself for us.”
Even the chubby one nodded at that and steeled himself, as if some universal truth had been spoken.
Derrick opened and closed his mouth several times. No words came out though. Not until a very dramatic moment had passed anyway.
“I'll stay and see what shows up,” Derrick informed them. He didn't need to outrun the bear and recently he'd gotten a lot better at running.
They didn't have to wait long.
A grey monstrosity skittered down the street and into the car lot, a smooth tower of blurred limbs and overlapping carapace. Once in the yard, it slowed down and allowed the Users a better view of it.
It was a giant, grey and heavily armored spider.
Well, not technically.
Spiders had eight legs and two body segments Derrick knew.
This thing was seven feet tall and about as wide, with most of that width coming from six legs and two smaller 'arms' on the front of it. Its body was a single vertical oval of organic overlapping plates and a protuberance near the top of one side that could only be some kind of cannon.
Universal Support System
Trial Update: New Target Found
Warning: Threat level high. Recommend level is 2.7
Grey Legion Combat Support Drone
An armored construct created to provide a variety of support to Grey Legion Forces.
It is capable of providing long range support, protection and field medicine. They can field a variety of different heavy weapons, depending on the situation.
Can be upgraded from Injection Drones, allowing limited early deployment.
Uses both Manna and Auril.
The four Users watched it enter the yard fearlessly, blocking the only exit they could possibly evacuate the casualties out of.
Gerald pointed his gun in the air and fired it. A small round object flew hundreds of metres in a shallow arc, directly towards the spiderlike thing.
The grenade flew unerringly, right up until it got about a half dozen metres from the target and impacted on some kind of circular opaque barrier that appeared in front of the projectile. The grenade detonated against the almost transparent shield and shrapnel flew away from the Grey Legion construct with a bang.
Yup, that was a force field, if nothing like the kind he'd seen before. The fact that it exploded instead of falling to the ground showed it was completely different than Jenny's.
“Well that's not great,” Gerald admitted with a frown. “Anyone got any ideas? Could we lead it away from the wounded?”
Derrick felt a sensation like a hot damp wind blow over him and recognized an auril pulse. One, more like what his bracelet produced than what the Spore Tyrants used. Very long range too, considering the creature was almost two thousand feet away. Easily twice his own range.
What he didn't feel was his Quantum Awareness warning him he'd been found. Apparently, the Red Law's stealth aspect had held up.
“You guys were just scanned with auril,” Derrick announced as he put another few feet between them. Considering one of their downed teammates could use it, they probably knew how that worked.
Hmmm, powerful scanning and free moving guns... Ya, he was willing to bet this was a mobile artillery platform. Which meant it was already too late to get away if you could be tracked with auril.
How the fuck were you supposed to fight something like this? It had heavy armor, some kind of Manna shield, powerful scanners, and a field gun strapped to it.
If it didn't have the Grey Legion's obsession with taking people alive, it would have probably scorched the earth they stood on.
“At least there's only one,” proclaimed chubs. Who Derrick was willing to bet was the slowest of the group.
The enemy construct bowed down next to a corpse that Derrick had left by the entrance. The shorter front limbs picked it up and held it in front of its body. The corpse blocked line of sight and prevented them from seeing exactly what it was doing.
“What's it doing?” asked Gerald with clear concern.
Using his mask's zoom feature, Derrick saw a thick fluid flow out of the fallen agent's horrible neck wound, as if the giant spider thing was trying to fill the corpse up like a water balloon.
A second later he realized the stuff was hardening, turning into a plate of grey carapace that covered the wound like an armored band aid. Unable to look away, Derrick watched as the dead face came to life with a slow smile.
The spider dropped the Agent, letting it fall back onto its feet. The now somewhat more armored Agent rolled its neck and picked its gun up off the ground.
Field medicine? It was a damned resurrection engine! No wonder it had thrown away all these Agents to keep them pinned down. The User's hard earned victory had never mattered in the slightest.
The spider thing picked up the other corpse by the entrance and ignoring the Users, began rebuilding the forces it would use to capture them.