The large alien shards buried themselves into the desert rock and now a swarm of strange creatures took to the air or ran towards the outpost in dark, undulating rivulets. Powerful hexapods with spiky backs scurried swiftly along the ground. Bringing up their rear were massive living tanks covered in spines, teeth, and armor plating. Flying over the ground troops were slimmer, bat-like versions of the hexapods, with long, barbed, tails. Rather than flap their wings, they flew almost like jets, using engines in their feet.
All of them were heavily augmented and modified, carrying what looked like machine guns built into their bodies. As they tried to swarm the valley leading to the outpost, red laser fire that seemed to come out of nowhere, and a shower of missiles rained down on their front line.
The cyborgs’ massive spherical drop ships slowed down and began to unlock. Their sides transformed into turrets carrying lasers and missile launchers, and their tops popped open to reveal pairs of glowing red eyes much like a cyborg’s. One of the unlocked drop ships slammed into the ground and almost instantly unleashed powerful death rays from its eyes, sending hexapods and body parts flying, as those who escaped the blast climbed to get around it.
Fliers were confronted with cyborg fighter jets which proved to be every bit as nimble, shredding them out of the air with rapid-fire bursts. High above, much larger bombers circled and dropped precision munitions which deftly navigated through the mess of fighting robots and aliens, split into powerful cluster bombs, and detonated, causing widespread damage to the areas they hit, turning two of the living tanks into a mist of yellow blood and guts that rained on the hexapods below.
In the middle of the stream of alien invaders, cyborg drop ships started unloading Octobots, which unlocked to reveal their eight tentacles and powering up the single large, complex eye taking up most of their faces. They quickly plunged into the action, using their tentacles to catch and tear hexapods, and their eyes to fire powerful lasers. They moved with extreme agility, throwing severed body parts and dead aliens out of their way, arcs of yellow blood splashing across them.
On the roof of a massive complex serving as the main gate to the city, Isabelle and Jake stood with human soldiers clad in heavily armored spacesuits, watching the fight approach them, lining up their powerful gauss rifles for a shot.
“Remember, their carapace is tough, but if you aim for the head and neck, you’ll have the best chance of taking them down,” drilled Jake. “Our weapons are very similar in principle so the tactics we typically use for them should work for you as well.”
“Try to let the heavier machines do as much of the work as possible,” added Isabelle. “You’re not trying to kill them all on your own, you’re trying to push them into artillery fire.”
The soldiers nodded and adjusted their rifles. In the distance, they heard a powerful thud. Then another. Then another. Soon, the thuds came in a pattern as the human soldiers prepared themselves for the worst. The hiss of the alien army coming for them grew more and more audible.
“Control, give them everything you’ve got!” ordered Isabelle.
As the hexapods approached the outpost, they fired lasers and high-speed kinetic rounds at the structures. The outpost was quick to return fire with powerful lasers and railguns that cut deep into the enemy formation. The lasers sliced through dozens of hexapods as a hail of hypersonic rounds tore dozens more to shreds with every hit. Overhead, quadcopters and fighters fired at the incoming fliers and tried to maneuver out of the way of incoming counter-attacks.
Lightning-fast drones followed, spreading out, then spiraling back in to hit their targets at awkward, high-speed angles, turning them into yellow mist and shards of scrap metal.
One of the fliers managed to grab a quadcopter and throw it into the side of a cliff, shattering it while another fired a round that directly hit its target, sending it tumbling just as a well-placed round from a drone sent it plummeting to the ground.
Fire from cyborg forces caught up to the hexapods from their rear flank. The base’s defenses, fighters, and drones worked in near-perfect unison with the cyborg forces, easily trapping the hexapods in an angled crossfire. Massive, sleek Walkers used their legs to climb over obstacles, unlocked their bodies to reveal massive cannons, and fired explosive rounds with loud thuds, carving through the insectoid swarm.
Heavily armored rovers with spherical wheels rammed hexapod formations with wild abandon, letting loose with projectile rounds and huge bolts of lightning, frying dozens of alien ground troops in an instant while breaking up their formations and halting their advance to put more of them in range of the outpost’s defenses for longer. In desperation, the alien fliers began grabbing hexapods and throwing them at the roof of the outpost while trying to dodge incoming fire.
One was shot down by the outpost’s guns, but another three managed to successfully deposit their payloads. Three large, menacing hexapods now rushed towards the human and cyborg soldiers. The soldiers quickly fired, hitting the first in the neck enough times to sever its head and holding back the other two. The second was quickly brought down by Jake as it tried to launch itself behind the defensive line. The third was sliced in half by a fighter passing overhead.
However, more and more hexapods were now making their way up the large roof, even with all the efforts to subdue them. They were being held at bay, but just barely as they climbed on top of each other to scale the walls, using corpses of their fallen siblings as shields.
“How many of these fucking things are there?!” yelled a soldier between bursts of fire.
“That’s what they do, they swarm,” replied Isabelle. “Stay calm and keep firing.”
Additional cyborg ships warped into orbit and quickly deployed more drop pods and a sleek, triangular spaceplane. Isabelle and Jake were immediately notified of their arrival as the humans and cyborgs kept the line, albeit with great difficulty.
“We need reinforcements!” pleaded a human solder.
“They’re on their way!” confirmed Jake.
Groups of Octobots and Berserkers made their way to the roof and used their lasers to help the humans and cyborgs, but the hexapods still kept coming even as they were being methodically picked off. By focusing on a single spot, they successfully limited the cyborg units’ suppressive fire because damaging the sealed city wasn’t an option. By concentrating on a single weak spot, it seemed they were hoping to break through and flood the outpost.
A large black blade on an extendable chain shot through the incoming hexapods and slammed into one of the tentacled robots. Picking it up like a toy, the chain-like tentacle shook it off as five other huge blades pushed the insectoids aside. The humans and cyborgs were now face-to-face with a four-meter-tall creature that looked like it was covered by a rusty head-to-toe cloak and hood revealing only three large, blue points of light, walking on blades suspended by tentacles peering out of the bottom of its cloak in the air.
“What the hell is that thing?!” a soldier growled.
“Oh come on... Not these fuckers...” groaned Isabelle.
A similar creature violently made its way onto the roof as well by chopping an Octobot in half with one swipe. It stretched its blades and aimed them at its next targets. The three cyborgs and their human allies were now surrounded. The powerful alien creatures menaced their prey with tiny motions of their large, jet-black blades, seemingly taking pleasure in taunting them.
As a triangular shadow of a spaceplane zoomed by and quicly disappeared with no notice from the alien horde, one of the Creatures finally attacked, shooting its blade to take down another Octobot and dodging all returned fire as its partner deflected some of the laser bursts with its weapons. It jumped upwards, moving so quickly, it warped out of view and came down right in the middle of the troop formation to slice through two Octobots in one sweep as the humans tried to dodge.
Isabelle and a soldier ducked another attack, landing on their knees and scrambling to aim their weapons. The first creature aimed right for her and released its blade. She flinched and ducked, pushing the soldier’s head down while using her rifle like an improvised shield as she did.
A cyborg’s knee collided with the side of the creature’s blade. As the blade drifted off its course, the hooded figure warped into focus, crackling with electric bolts. He made no sound or any further motion, but the surge of energy around him did all the necessary work of intimidating his opponents. This was just the kind of fight a Prototype was designed to tilt back into a battalion’s favor.
The second creature fired its weapon at the Prototype who batted it aside with the back of his right hand as if it was nothing more than a foam toy thrown by a child and confidently stepped toward the hesitating creatures. With his right hand, he subtly signaled for Isabelle and the soldier to get back, and she quickly dragged the soldier under her to a safer distance.
The eyes and activity indicators of just every machine on the rooftop and in close proximity lit up as their stances quickly changed. As if directed by an invisible snap of a finger, they assumed a new formation. Nothing about their appearances had changed, but somehow, they seemed more aggressive, determined, and confident.
In the city’s control room, the main screen showed the back of the glowing hooded figure from the perspective of the soldier now huddling with Isabelle.
“Who the hell is that?” asked Christine.
“And why is he sparking?” added Steve.
“Because unless my instruments are wrong, he’s surrounded by enough energy to power this whole building,” said Edwin without raising his head from the screens around him. “And he’s somehow powering up!”
At the city gate, the Prototype dug into a combat stance. An aura outlining his body detonated with menacing red electric bolts, triggering a shockwave that deformed the roof around him. In the darkness of his still lowered hood, he snarled, exposing a menacing fang.
“Let’s do this,” he almost growled.
In an instant, he exploded towards the first creature. His right palm slammed into its chest and they both warped out towards the cliffs in the distance. Panicked and angry, the remaining alien forces attempted to follow them, screeching, but the cyborgs’ robots gave chase, and a group of Octobots wrapped themselves around the second creature, dragging it down to give the Prototype enough space to do his job.
Nearly a kilometer away, the Prototype imprinted the Creature into a cliff with tremendous force, raising a huge cloud of dust and rocks in every direction as the shockwave visibly spread. He jumped back as a blade came shooting out of the dark cloud, missing him completely while the Creature shot blind.
Another blade came for him. He blocked it with the palm of his right hand. The blade went into his palm and started to angle upwards, shooting over him until his claws snapped shut around the chain like a trap. He stomped into the ground, turned, and pulled on the chain, launching the Creature out of the dust cloud and into a huge boulder which cracked in half as the alien splattered onto it.
With a growl, he sent a massive jolt of electricity down the chain. The alien shrieked in pain and rage and opened its “cloak” to reveal that it was a pair of massive, powerful wings wrapped around a relatively thin but tough body. Its “hood” fell away to reveal three eyes on individual stalks. Its fanged mouth with rows of teeth moved on an extendable trunk. Lurching forward, it fired three blades in rapid succession.
Two blades hit one after the other, raising a cloud of dust that obscured the Prototype. The third blade clanked as it hit what at first glance looked like a metal ball spinning into the air and bounced back.
The Creature fired another blade. The metal ball unlocked to reveal the Prototype and deflect the incoming weapon. Four dark structures formed an exoskeleton made from sleek, jet black, reinforced segments with red accents ran down his arms and the back of his legs. Four similarly built tentacles flexed from the top and middle of his back, electricity dancing on their sharp, menacing tips.
The Prototype surged forward. As he got within striking distance, the Creature used one of its blades and its chain as a whip to throw him up in the air. It tried to hit him again but the Prototype’s robotic tentacle deflected the blade as he landed on the Creature’s left wing with a powerful kick that was quickly absorbed. The alien threw him off and roared.
Landing on his hands and feet, with the tentacles digging into the ground to bring him to a screeching halt, the Prototype pushed off with all his limbs and warped out only to appear just above the Creature, which knocked him away and upwards with its sharp talons. Spreading his arms and tentacles, the Prototype regained control of his trajectory while the Creature curled itself to stab the cyborg from every side with its blades, then catch him with its wings as he fell towards it.
The main screen in the control room showed several distant, disjointed views of the fight, but just enough to see the Prototype about to be swallowed up by the Creature while its sibling flew towards the scene in its unfolded form, trying to shake off the tentacled machines still clinging to it and partially succeeding.
“Oh, no...” gasped Christine in horror.
“He’s a goner...” shuddered Steve.
Yet, the Prototype’s humanoid limbs curled into a defensive ball while his tentacles opened, the sharp, obsidian triangular blades on their ends surging with red and orange plasma and electricity that propagated along the extra appendages’ edges. Behind him, the air heated until it crackled as the structures supporting his limbs readied to propel him forward.
He warped out to bring the weaponized ends of two of the tentacles down into the Creature’s midsection as the other two tentacles protected his flanks. A deadly pulse of electricity shot down the appendages and a powerful blast tore the Creature in half, sending the Prototype flying backward. He confidently made a three-point landing and slid through the rock and sand before coming to a stop with the tentacles’ assistance.
The two burnt halves of the Creature plopped down into the ground. The top half twitched for only a moment before all its muscles went slack. Out of the corner of his eye, the Prototype spotted the incoming insectoids and two flyers along with the machines trying to stop them. Red bolts once again surged across his body, swarming towards his flexing tentacles.
A powerful wave of energy raced down the rocky passage, raising a cloud of rocks and dust. It crashed into the incoming alien insectoids like a runaway train, sending body parts, along with pieces of unfortunate robots that couldn’t get out of the way, flying. The passage was momentarily rendered impassible as the aftermath of the explosion slowly settled.
The second creature soared overhead, finally shaking off the last two robots trying to slow it down. It dove towards the Prototype, who braced for impact, moving his tentacles into a defensive stance, electric bolts once again traveling across his extra appendages. The creature roared, aiming its blades at the Prototype, and folded its massive wings to accelerate.
The Prototype extended his hand towards the incoming alien. The circular marking in the middle of his left palm began to glow. The sleek structure on his arm extended and expanded to support his hand as his left tentacles curved to a focal point around the marking on his palm. A dense, narrow, focused beam shot from that focal point towards the attacking alien for a moment. It vanished while seemingly detonating the air around it and generating a powerful shockwave.
Isabelle and several human soldiers looking out in the distance where the Prototype and the second creature were about to fight jumped as a massive blast rocked the ground underneath them and a burst of fire dissipated in the sky.
The felled alien, missing half its limbs, including one of its wings plummeted to the ground in agony, roaring and writhing in pain, burnt and clearly on the verge of death. In a last-ditch effort, it launched a blade at the Prototype, who was shot back by the recoil, carving a noticeable groove in the sand and rock where his feet dug in.
He dodged, grabbed the chain, spun around his axis, and with another growl and enormous effort warped out, then back in high enough to hurl the remains of the creature over himself towards jagged rocks below. The alien was impaled on a rocky spike with a violent spray of yellow blood as something inside it burst. It rattled while its legs tried to move for just a moment, twitching in agonizing pain before its entire body went limp. The Prototype landed nearby with the help of his tentacles.
On the main screen of the control room, a video feed from a drone hovering over the remains of the second alien was the main focus. The small shape of the Prootype warped out of view, raising a small cloud of dust.
“All enemy troops are eliminated,” Katja exhaled with relief, to cheers from the rest of the technicians and crew members watching the action.
“So, what’s next?” Steve asked turning to Ingrid.
“We start asking questions,” she replied. “A lot of them.”