Jump to content
Sophistemon

[IC] A Heavy Metal Christmas

Recommended Posts

Upgrade's food stomped down, shaking the earth with its impact, and the sensory array that capped the AMP swiveled to take in Warne. The other agent could almost feel the emotions pouring off the pilot within: worry, anger, indecision. There was a moment's pause, but only one, before duty won out. "Fine," he said. "I'll take care of it. You... check on the civilians. Let them know Stone is all right and on his way back from the base. Let them know I have everything under control." Upgrade turned, then strode with heavy steps toward the prostrate body of the Pangolin. As daintily as possible, the enormous machine reached down and lifted the defeated assailant. Upgrade looked up into the sky, at the horizon and the sea. "Agent Warne," he said. "Do what you can to comfort the girl; she's lost her home on Christmas Eve." And then he activated his thrusters and was gone, like a silver bullet, into the starry, snow-flecked blackness of the night.

 

Once airborne and focused on the flight, it took Ethan a moment to register Pangolin shifting in the AMP's unbreakable grip. When he did, he felt his blood boil. "Stay still!" he barked. "You're under arrest; I'm taking you somewhere you can't hurt anyone."

 

The cyborg hacked a coughing laugh. "You have made improvements to the design," he noted. "I can't imagine... he approves of that..." He drew a ragged breath, pulling air into damaged mechanical lungs. "But you are wrong, Stone; I can still hurt you."

Edited by Sophistemon

Share this post


Link to post

Upgrade was gone before Adept could reply, which was probably for the best, as he wasn't sure what to say.  What if you don't come back?  How do I comfort your family?  I don't do grief counseling--I cause it.

 

Feeling like his partner got the easier job, Warne watched the direction he flew in for a moment longer, waiting for a blinding flash that would render the whole problem moot.  When it didn't come, he told himself that he should be thankful.  And he was relieved that they saved Lonely Point, although thinking about how close of a call this was, made him tilt back toward fury at their mysterious enemies.  Cowards, all of them, to repeatedly strike at civilians either for strategic purposes or sheer carelessness. 

 

We will see that justice is done.  But first...

 

Grudgingly, the agent flew back across the snow to what was left of the Stone house.  He located the entrance to the basement, obscured by rubble, and swept it aside with his mind.  "It's Warne," he announced himself clearly.  "The assailant is gone.  I'm coming down; don't shoot."  Of course, maintaining his force field was just prudent; he wouldn't blame Meryl for being jumpy, although he would if she hadn't armed herself by now.

Share this post


Link to post

Meryl Stone lowered the shotgun -- Buck -- and breathed a sigh of relief. Warne could tell by the smudging of her lipstick that she'd been chewing on her bottom lip for a while now; she was lucky she hadn't drawn blood. Peering past her, Warne could see that the basement had been largely undisturbed by the turmoil above. Lilly sat cross-legged in the corner, building a tower out of interconnecting plastic bricks that seemed impossibly tall. She looked up, saw Warne, and smiled. "I told you it'd be okay," she told her mother.

 

"Where's my husband?" asked Meryl. "Where's Ethan? What happened out there?"

 

Ethan tightened the AMP's grip on Pangolin, digging metal fingers into the cyborg's body. One of them pressed against a crack in the assassin's armor, digging it open and eliciting a thin and rattling screech. "Shut up," he ordered. "I don't want to hear another word out of you." In response, Pangolin laughed. It was a weak, wheezing chuckle marred by pain and lack of breath, but still it set Ethan's teeth on edge.

 

"What is your plan?" asked the villain. "Do you really think to turn me in? Or will you throw me to the sea?" He paused a moment. "Perhaps you'll tear me in half?" Upgrade was silent, thinking. "If I were you," continued Pangolin, "I would not let me live. I am too dangerous to you, to your family. Killing me would take a weapon from the hands of your enemies."

 

"I don't kill," countered Upgrade, and the Pangolin huffed another laugh.

 

"You have been a fighter pilot," said the cyborg. "You've fired bullets, dropped bombs. I have been shown your files. I've seen the craters, the bodies."

 

"That was war," Ethan protested, his voice restricted to mechanical flatness by the systems of the AMP.

 

"Do you think this isn't?"

Share this post


Link to post

...Well, points to you, Lilly, Warne thought, mildly impressed.  I'm not sure if you're brave or foolish, but either way, your lack of panic makes my life a lot simpler.  Not sure what I would've done if you were down here crying.

 

"Agent Stone went for help," he told Meryl.  This wasn't really even a lie, although Warne had little issue with misleading either of the women in this case.  "There was a dangerous assailant on the base, and while I believe he has been dealt with, we still need to relocate in case there are more.  I want to take you both to an AEGIS safehouse; there should be at least one not too far away in Port Regal, and once you're secure, I can come back to finish assessing the threat.  I'll tell your husband where to meet you."

Share this post


Link to post

Meryl nodded, then blinked the tears from her eyes and turned away. After clearing her throat, she called out to her daughter. "Lilly!" she said, and the girl's head whipped around, eyes wide. "Pack up your things, honey; we're going with mister Warne." The child bit her lip and shook her head.

 

"Going where?" she asked. "What about daddy? What about Christmas?"

 

=-=-=-=

 

Ethan remained silent, but the AMP's speed gradually slowed to a stop so that he and his captive were hovering roughly one-thousand feet above the gently churning waters of the ocean. "Why me?" he asked, and tightened his grip so as to elicit an audible sound of pain from the injured Pangolin. "Why my family? Who sent you?"

 

The Pangolin coughed, then hacked a wet laugh. "Because he hates you, mister Stone. Because he hates all of you, and he wants to see you suffer before you die."

 

Stone pondered, then responded. "Why? What did we do to deserve this?"

 

"You stole from him," explained the Pangolin. "Everything you are, you stole from him."

Share this post


Link to post

Warne swallowed all his doubts and worries and told the girl, "Don't you remember?  It's more than just ribbons and tags.  And your father can take care of himself."  He was more grim than reassuring, but maybe the agent's stern determination conveyed its own conviction. 

 

He flew back up the stairs ahead of them to watch for trouble as the women emerged.  Using his telekinesis, he tried to at least shield them from the falling snow, if not the cold itself, on the way to the family car.  "This will be faster than carrying you through the air," he raised his voice above the wind.  "You drive," he told Meryl, "and I'll keep us safe.  Quickly, now!"

Share this post


Link to post

Lilly nodded, sniffling, and gathered her things. "I know," she said. "I just wish he didn't have to."

 

Once they were loaded into the car and on the road, Warne flying above to keep them safe from the storm, the agent almost felt himself relax. His partner, Stone, could take care of himself. The Upgrade suit looked to have received some improvements since its previous battle, and the Pangolin was on his last legs, practically comatose. So, Adept felt a laurel of peace settle over his brow, an unexpected calm. It was Christmas and, despite the loss of a home and some no-doubt overpriced presents, things had worked out in the end. That was, of course, until a beam of superheated plasma lanced out of the night and sliced through the air beside him.

 

=-=-=-=

 

Ethan had enough. "Who?" he demanded, and gave Pangolin a shake. "Who? Who has it out for me, for Warne, for AEGIS? Who are we up against?" But Pangolin only laughed, his wheezing breath escaping from damaged respirators.

 

"Too late," he said. "It's too late. They've triggered the countdown."

Share this post


Link to post

Damn!

 

Warne's initial fear was that Pangolin's nuclear core had gone off despite all their efforts, but he quickly recognized the precision attack for what it was.  The cyborg hadn't displayed such a weapon during their fight, so at least he probably hadn't taken out Stone and returned for his other targets; on the other hand, this meant that a new enemy had joined in.  Warne was still tired from his last duel.  Could he manage another?

 

If I can't, then I'll at least buy time...

 

He pulled back sharply from shadowing the car; Meryl would just have to navigate through the wind and snow on her own.  Adept shot higher in the air and struggled to see through the falling flakes, searching for his attacker.  He only had to establish a line of sight to be effective.  That, and hope. 

Share this post


Link to post

A metallic sphere, only slightly larger than a softball, hovers in midair. It defies the wind of the storm, its swiveling back and forth noticeable only for the movement of the recessed camera lenses embedded in its chassis and the glowing red emitter that had launched the beam in Warne's direction. Adepts gets the distinct, creeping feeling that the sphere was thinking as its gaze darted between Meryl's care and himself -- as thought it was weighing its options. Finally, the sphere made its choice and, launching itself upwards, fired another bolt of energy at the psionic super-agent.

 

=-=-=-=

"No," Upgrade boomed. He shook the Pangolin again, again, again, so that the cyborg's head whipped back and forth from the shaking like that of a child's doll. "Tell me!" he shouted, in an augmented voice that could shatter windows and drive dogs deaf. "Who's after my family? Tell me! Spit it out!" But the Pangolin remained silent, either reticent, unconscious, or rendered unable to speak by whatever mysterious handlers had equipped him with his deadly enhancements. But then, someone did speak, and the voice emerged from Pangolin's sparking speakers, it was not the Pangolin that spoke.

 

"Ethan Stone, Upgrade. Before you die, I just want you to know that while this is business... it's also personal. Merry Christmas -- there'll be no happy New Year." The cyborg's chest began to emit a high-pitched, climbing whine that increased in potency with every passing second. Thinking quickly, Ethan kicked the thrusters and began to spin the AMP like a top, around and around, faster and faster while the whine climbed to a climactic crescendo. Finally, after reaching maximum speed he released the AMP's grip on the Pangolin and threw him, spinning like a spread-eagle Frisbee, out to sea. Seconds passed. Pangolin rose, rose, rose -- then fell. Moments before the cyborg struck the water there was a tremendous flash and then a distantly roaring shockwave. Disgusted, Ethan turned the AMP around and heading back inland, to his friend and family.

Share this post


Link to post

This time, he barely escaped: the bolt slashed right through his force field and would've carved Adept like a Christmas ham, but at the last possible second, he twisted aside by reflex.  It was so close a call that he felt the heat of the attack, even slashed through his coat and jacket, setting both on fire.  Warne slapped at himself to beat down the flames before they could spread; his thoughts flashed back to his fight with Mantis, and he told himself, Not again!

 

Snarling, exhausted, and desperate to at least give the Stones a chance to escape, he shot higher in the air to pursue this dangerous drone.  Pain began to throb behind Adept's eyes, but he tensed his mind anyway and swung again with psychic force.  Ideally, he would want to capture the sphere and study it--they already lost Pangolin--for any possible clues about this well-funded conspiracy arrayed against Upgrade and himself, but first, he just had to survive.

Share this post


Link to post

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


×