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July 11, 2018

7:26 AM

 

With venerable trees reaching out to provide shade over sidewalks and expensive landscaping framing driveways Kingston had been one of the greener neighbourhoods of the city proper. Now all of that was simply more tinder for the fires indiscriminately gutting once proud estates and nouveau riche concept homes. Even as the sun rose of the second day of the Annihilist occupation its light was choked off by plumes of smoke, leaving the streets cast in flickering reds and oranges.

 

That ominous light would have still been preferable to the deep crimson pocked with dark spots rising from the crumbling remains of one of the larger homes. With violent thumping impacts a Terminus machine the size of a city bus turned on its end dug deep into the foundation while gangly metal arms long enough to reach across the street's cracked pavements ripped free chunks of brick and metal and glass and stone to construct something unseen. The unearthly energy lashed out in unpredictable directions like tap water diffused over the back of a spoon, causing small explosions anywhere it stuck something solid.

 

Meanwhile Omegadrones with wickedly barbed pikes were gathering another sort of raw materials: dozens of people, beaten and bloody, being marched single file toward the terrible pit.

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Cannonade wanted to rush them.

 

He wanted to do more than that, in fact. He wanted to grab the first of them and use it as a club, beating the others until they were faint smears. He wanted to rip his fingers into the armor and pull until the drone's spinal column came apart like string cheese. He wanted to show them what annihilation was like, up close and personal.

 

But there was no room for suicide. He had to think about Asli. He had to think about the League. He had to think about his family.

 

His family...

 

Most importantly, he had to think about the people in front of him. If he got reduced to a smoking, noble crater by leaping in, then there went the plan.

 

He looked to the others. "They wouldn't bring 'em here if they didn't have a reason to be here - and given everything that machine's doing, I doubt they're here for slave labor. We're going to need to get the people out, but we also need to make sure that machine's crippled so they can't bring the next wave of cannon fodder around. How do we do that?" 

 

 

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This was not how she had predicted the day would have gone.

 

Even with all the statistical data available on the planet there was no way she could have predicted this. Villains attempting to crash the anniversary was a 62.56% likelihood she had calculated. That's why she had taken the day off from ASTRO Labs and instead went on patrol. But she couldn't not have seen this coming.This level of assault was beyond the pail and Replica's processors was having a hard time even calculating the possibly hundreds of variables than lead to this nightmare. But she had to stay focused. Getting lost in the data would make her useless and right now the android had to help her compatriots and the people of Freedom. 

 

She turned away from the doomforge, so she would respond to Cannonade. 

 

"I would suggest the use of stealth in this scenario. Our main objectives should be the destruction of this facility and the rescue of any possible survivors within. Taking on the omegadrones in a frontal assault will leave us open to attack from reinforcements and potentially put the survivors in danger. By going in covertly though we can avoid some of the omegadrones and have the element of surprise when we free the survivors inside. Furthermore, it gives us more time to gain intel on the facility without the omegadrones knowing, which will likely be vital when we attempt to disarm or destroy the site."

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Black Mamba's mask hid many things, not least of which was the cold sweat beading down his face as he looked at the Omegadrones. There was a reason he had only one eye, there were a number of those reasons gathering humanity like so much lumber or cattle. His fists clenched and unclenched, servos in his power armor whining as he turned up the power with each opening and closing of his hand. His single eye turned on the pair of them, golden glow through the metallic slit that covered as an eye in his helmet,"Stealth would be preferable, but the sooner the better. Who knows how long before that machine starts building defenses of one sort or another?"

 

He glanced again at the two 'heroes' he was fighting along, the one in jeans, a t-shirt, suspenders and a metal helmet from ancient Greece. And a pretty blonde girl who claimed to be able to fight, he'd learned much since join the Auxiliary but he still was put off by outward appearances to some degree,"Can either of you actually sneak? I used to hunt in the wilds of Africa, but someone who thinks they know how to sneak is worse than someone who is able to admit they can't.....and can either of you fly?"

 

He glanced over at the bus annihilating large chucks of city sidewalk or building with random blasts of energy and tearing the rest of the landscape up with it's claws,"And then we have to figure out how to stop that thing, you guys no much about machines?"

 

Thinking about machines had his brain whirling as he toggled his speakers off for a moment and spoke to his wife,"Akhona, can you see this far? It's just like last time but they got some kind of factory and they are gathering prisoners, tell me the kids are safe? You got any ideas?"

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Ducked behind an overturned car with a price tag that didn't bear thinking about the trio was able to count around two dozen people in the marching column, though the uniform brown and grey of the dirt and debris smeared over them made it harder to differentiate faces at a distance. The Omegadrones themselves were far harder to mistake despite their identical armour; one at the rear of the column, one following alongside and jabbing its pike at anyone making too much noise and a third hovering overhead and keeping watch. There was no good way to say whether the lumbering construction equipment was a vehicle with operators inside or a single robot of some kind. Either way its long arms and their attachments looked to be designed for destruction in equal measure.

 

Remotely Akhona was able to provide slightly more details. As an affluent neighbourhood Kingston had had more privately owned security cameras and smart home technology than most anywhere else in the city and the high speed infrastructure to support them. Most of that was now useless; no amount of technological acumen could access a video feed from a twisted heap of rubble, after all. Even so she was able to confirm a headcount of twenty-five civilians, all adults. WiFi enabled thermostats and air quality sensors told her that whatever was being built was giving off tremendous amounts of heat and leaving a palpable static charge in the air.

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Various targeting frames and information lit up Black Mamba's HUD, filling him in on the information that his wife had discovered and he frowned,"We have 25 civilians, 3 Omegadrones and a machine that is giving off a ton of heat and static....Let's act quickly, this is going to require timing so the Omegadrones can't hurt their captives. Blondie..." He pointed at Replica,"You take the one at the front, Lumberjack..." His finger shifted to Cannonade and he saw the design on his shirt,"Sorry, Cannonball, you take the one at the back. I'll take the flying one out. The quicker the better then we can focus on the machine and getting it down before backup arrives. Does that sound good?"

 

Black Mamba knew he was not the leader, but he was likely the oldest of the three at least from physical appearances and he figured someone needed to take charge. Frowning he toggled his internal speaker again,"Akhona, we're about to go active, keep an eye out on the surroundings and make sure we don't get surprised by backup, thank you!"

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Cannonade nodded. "I'm not really the sneaking type, anyway," he said, "and while I can leap, it's definitely not the same thing as flying." He looked out over the range. He considered the possibility of a distraction - of leaping across the range, drawing fire from the Omegadrones while the others took advantage of the chaos. But then there were all the civilians. And a plan like this hinged on the possibility that the Omegadrones would consider the civilians too valuable to shoot through - and he knew the odds of that were slim, at best. 

 

"We ready?"

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Replica ran the variables of Black Mamba's plan through her processors. With all three omegadrones guarding the front entrance of the facility it seemed likely that his approach would be successful if all three heroes were able to use the element of the surprise and defeat the omegadrones before they could call for help or flee to the interior of their base. It was risky, yes, but given the circumstances it was likely their best tactic.

 

"Affirmative. I am ready." 

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With all three of them agreeing on the plan Black Mamba nodded and then raised three fingers,"On the count of three..."

 

The bottom of his boots started to glow, pulsing golden light lifting him off the floor,"One."

 

Slots in the arms of his suit slid back with a soft hiss,"Two."

 

Silver mechanical snakes slid their heads out of those slots, electrical charge running along their length as he prepped his weapons,"Three!"

 

And with that he launched into the air like a spear, golden waves of power slamming into the Omegadrone, silver snakes slithering out to grab the drone, their electrical charged length trying to wrap around the drone so that Black Mamba could immobilize and neutralize it as rapidly as possible and free the humans before anyone got hurt.

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Replica ran at the omegadrone that was closest to her. Her postronic brain's strategic matrix flared to life and started to unleash a spew of tactical data on how best to incapacitate her target as efficiently as possible. 

 

<Run> <Strategic Analysis> # of Primary Threats [1]: Assessment: [Omegadrone] Strengths: Hardened Battle Carapace and Enhacned Physical Attributes. Other Strengths Currently Unknown. Weaknesses: Physical Damage. Other Weaknesses Currently Unknown. Likely Danger to Replica Unit: Medium to High. Final Assessment: Prevent Omegadrone From Using Strength to its Advantage. Incapacitate Omegadrone Using Submission Techniques That Will Render it Immobile. During Immobilization Continue to Damage Omedgadrone Until its No Longer Functional. <Strategic Analysis> <End>

 

And so, Replica did just that. The omegadrone saw her but was to slow to react, its reflexes apparently inferior to the android's. With the omegadrone incapable of reacting in time Replica was able to take a jump in the air and uppercut the invader on the chin. Not missing a beat after her feet hit the ground again, she saw that the omegadrone was reeling from her blow. Replica saw the opportunity and took it. Quickly grabbing the disoriented omegadrone by the arms the android began to strike its undefended torso with her legs, using the full power of her combat frame to make every strike count. 

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The Silver snakes slithered around the Omegadrone, wrapping it firmly as Black Mamba immobilized it and started hovering lower and lower till his feet touched the ground, he kept the Omegadrone up in the air preparing to start to beat it into unconsciousness even as he looked around to see the others. He had several advantages for this kind of combat, not least of all he only took one of his arms out of commission while he restrained the Omegadrone. His servos whined as the snakes tightened as he landed, power being redistributed to them as he no longer required the flight.

 

++Akhona, we're going to need a way out of here for the civilians, can you see anything?++

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Cannonade saw the others tearing into the Omegadrones. There was nothing he wanted to do more than join them, to just set aside every restraint and just reduce these bastards to red paste. But he knew who he was. The fury, the rage... okay, that was him. Before, the restraints had been the idea of being a better citizen, of living up to a legacy... of not disappointing his father and his family. 

 

It all seemed so brittle now.

 

But there was still that last restraint. That thin strand of steel that kept him for letting loose the inferno. The very fact of who he was. He knew that so well, it seemed strange that he had forgotten it.

 

The fury seemed to bleed. But he knew where to throw himself.

 

He landed among the hordes, trying to draw the attention of the Omegadrones that hadn't been engaged - namely, drawing them away from the civilians who they might take potshots at as they ran. He cracked his knuckles, speaking loud enough that it qualified as a shout. 

 

"Been a while for you guys, hasn't it?" He cracked his knuckles. "I've got no idea what your hellpit of a homeworld's like, but there are things that a lot worse. Let me show you f----ers how we do things in Freedom..." 

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The Omegadrones paused for a beat as Cannonade landed among them, though whether they were caught off-guard or simply processing new instructions was impossible to know. Either way the moment passed and blow after blow began to rain down on the hero from all sides. The entropic pikes crashed against Joe's back and his crossed arms held in front of his face, ringing out as they struck the metal of his helmet. Despite it all Cannonade weathered the onslaught, holding the drones' attention while Replica and Black Mamba each pitted their metal muscle against that of the invaders, locking another pair of drones in place.

 

Outnumbered two-to-one the heroes were fighting a holding action at best but shouts rose from the ragged civilians being marched toward the forge. Helping the more injured along they made good on the distraction and began running for what meagre cover they could find among the rubble. Behind them the massive construction armature stopped what it was doing before swinging back around the other way toward the fighting with the teeth rattling sound of great engines grinding.

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Good, Replica thought. The civilians were using their attack to make their escape. If they were lucky they'd be able to use the rubble as cover and slowly make their way from the battlefield without being scene by the Omegadrones. Estimating that the best way she could ensure that would happen was by making herself so much of a threat that the surrounding Omegadrones would be forced to focus all their efforts on her and her compatriots, Replica readied her combat computer for another attack on the Omegadrone she was facing. 

 

With the Omegadrone still disoriented and bound by her steely grasp, Replica delivered another kick its torso. She them let him go from her grasp, but only for a second, so she could slam the full force of her artificial body into the creature. Now prone and the ground, Replica put her elbow into its chest to keep him there while she reeled back and started to land a series of punch on the downed monster while on top of him. 

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Black Mamba lifted the Omegadrone over his head, its struggles against the silver snakes wrapped around it futile as he arched forwards hurling it towards the crane type construct. With a massive clang the two collided, sparks flying as Mamba's armor whirred quietly, the silver snakes slithering into the gauntlets of his battlesuit. There were too many of them, and they were not just stock Omegadrones that could be handled easily this was a much tougher fight than he had initially imagined.

 

Fortunately his partner always had a plan, and that meant he always had a toy that would work to even the odds.

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Cannonade didn't just want to punch the drone before him. He wanted to do so much more. He wished that his blow would break it in half. He wished that it would cause every organ to rupture, causing the enslaved mockery of a soldier to bleed for all its most precious orifices. He wished to make it cry to whatever darkness it held as master and commander, feeling some sort of regret as it asked for meaning for oblivion.

 

He wished he could hurt it half as much as its armies had hurt him.

 

The slow glanced off of its armor, however, catching off of whatever hell-forged plate it was wearing. However, Cannonade was able to travel with the deflection, taking advantage of the gap to wrap his arms around the Omegadrone and draw it close.

 

"Well, whaddaya know..."

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