Abandoned Outskirts, Free City of Foundry
Thursday, February 23, 2051
The Amur flies through the war-torn, bombed-out suburb at nearly seventy miles per hour, the old, unmaintained road’s potholes only the least of the Lazarus team’s worries. Seranya is holding up her broken arm, staring down at the wrecked mess of a mechanical appendage and shivering as if in shock. Eris, leaning forwards towards the front seats, keeps yelling directions. “Move it, move it! We’ve got to get the fuck out of here!”
The bots above continue their aerial battle, streams of tracers battling with the cold gray sky for attention. The rapid-fire gunshots of their machineguns can barely be heard through the racket down at the surface, but Pacoy suddenly gives a shout when something happens – and ahead of the speeding Amur, a bot falls to the ground, the plasma discharge of its energy cells marking where it struck the Earth. The sky suddenly goes quiet as the remaining bots turn towards the fleeing Lazarus Team, their barrels turned upon the Amur, glinting in the light of the dust-hidden sun.
The noise at ground level goes quiet for a moment, just long enough for Wormwood to notice a noise coming up from beneath him – a simple, electronic ‘beeeep’ from right on the Amur’s undercarriage. He barely has time to identify the sound, much less react, before the Lazarus team’s world suddenly spins upside down as the loudest sound any of them can remember – fighting with the BLEVE back at the hospital for dominance – suddenly blasts their ears and gravity itself decides to take a leave of absence. The Amur flips end-over-end as the explosive sends the heavy SUV skyward, and the daylight suddenly goes black.
One Hour Earlier,
The Road to Foundry
The Amur keeps moving, the Lazarus team happy to finally escape the stampede in Rising. Seranya seems particularly pleased, happily looking up at Pacoy as she sits in the back seat and plays with a metal pipe she seems to have picked up somewhere along the way. “Hey, where are we going? Are there going to be more moo-snacks there? Can we take one with us when we go back to my master?”
Mac stares at the road ahead, thoughts tumbling around in his head like a canine chasing after a cat. “Be nice to eat fresh again, that’s for sure. We’re headed out for this TV show that the lovely Eris is putting on the air – bit more travel this way. Should be easy going, considering what we’ve been through.”
Pitbull changes the song in the Amur as he cruises the Amur down the road, after having swapped the driver’s seat with Mac. Megadeth’s “Psychotron”, though still thrashy and loud, is a nice reprieve from the grind and growl of some of what he’s been playing. At least you can understand what’s being sung… He lights another smoke as he turns to Seranya. “With any luck, little’un!” He grates through his smoke stained teeth, clutching his cigarette with a joker-esque smile.
Wormwood finishes reassembling one of his Prowler pistols and turns around in his seat to look at Mac, “Yeah, it’s been an interesting trip. Should make for some good ratings, eh, Eris?” He looks past Mac at the DreamCorps executive. “What would you have done if our trip had been boringly easy?” “That can be fixed in editing” Pacoy says without looking up from his tinkering
Mac looks at Wormwood. “Likely edited it to make us seem like villains on the run from the law – she seems the type, on occasion,” he broadcasts silently to his mates.
Eris smiles at Mac, batting her lashes at him as she touches him lightly on the shoulder after his little comment, then looks over at Wormwood and deadpans, “When has the Lazarus Group ever done anything that’s boringly easy?”
Mac looks up at the ceiling with a wistful smile on his face, fiddling with the vents. “Well, one time, Pitbull and I were staking out a high-rise, and it was damn near the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I think Pitbull might have fallen asleep while we were casing the joint.”
Wormwood grins, “You’re missing out the important bits, Mac” Mac grins sheepishly, “What, we had a lovely talk with the neighborhood toughs, and it wasn’t half a slice of cake, but it was a bit easier than facing off against a herd of Gnox.”
Eris raises an eyebrow at Mac. “Was that the one with the trapeze-artist assassin?” Wormwood laughs, “No Eris, I think he means the one with the crazed terrorists and a cyborg war machine.” Mac taps his nose, lost in thought. “Tumbler?” He squints. “No, no tumbler when Pit and I were there. Tumbler was a different time altogether. Yeah, that’s the one, Worm. Damn near thought Pitbull bought it that time…”
“Nah, Mac! Don’t you ’member? I fell asleep at the auction, not the high rise.” Pitbull adds, as he swerves to avoid a twist of metal that might have been guard railing in a better time. “But yeah. It was easy enough. Those ganger thugs were a bunch o’ bitches. Still had that headache from when the Sarge hit me, though, and I think that was the hardest part.” Wormwood laughs again, “I viewed the vid archive for that one. Pit beat that booster like a red-headed stepchild.”
Pitbull laughs, as he watches something small and furry narrowly avoid the Amur’s path. “Ah, Worm! That old euphemism never gets old, eh? My mom used to say it, my gang boss used to say it, my drill sarge used to say it…” Pitbull prattles on, his voice losing audibility as he fall into his thought. Eris raises an eyebrow, “…and your stepdad used to do it?” Mac nods at Eris, then up front, saying in hushed but audible conspiratorial tones. “That’s why he shaves his head…”
Mac rubs at his chest. “My father always told me, ’there’s truth in repetition’…” He throws a smile up front at no-one in particular. “Still, all that was better than our first outing when I almost bit the big one when some mutant came at me with a crowbar.”
Pacoy idly wonders what the color of Pit’s hair is before he shaves it, and the status of his step father. Pitbull grumbles to anyone who will listen. “Ain’t got no step-dad. My real dad said it. And I’m actually brown haired. I just shave it to leave as little DNA as I can, y’know? That and hair just gets in the way. Saw some poor lil’ sumbitch get shot ’cause he had to get his long girly hair out of his gunsight.” Pitbull replies, blowing out a miasma of smoke.
Wormwood turns back around in his seat and scans the horizon with his teleoptic augment as he texts Mac, "Next stop, let’s see how many of Eris’ bugs we can find between us, m’kay?” Mac nods at no-one in particular, looking over at Seranya, sending a mental note back to Pitbull. “You’re on. Want to put a bet on it?” He takes another look at the young ‘bot. "Why’d you pick up that pipe, anyhow?"
Seranya shrugs her head, taking the pipe in her gripper-claw. She squeezes down on it, easily crushing and twisting the metal in her hand, clamping it down into a flat surface. “Dunno. Thought it made a good barrel.” She holds the pipe out, pointing it at Mac’s head like a gun. “Maybe gonna make a new toy, better’n my last one.” Wormwood winces, remembering Siri’s last toy, “Mac, you better buy your girlfriend a real gun at the next stop, my friend.”
“Did ya’ cobble that gun together yourself, Seran-yah? Looks pretty patchy but sturdy.” Pitbull grates to her, his first words to her for the duration of her time there. Seranya smiles at Pitbull. “Yeah. Made it from some old car parts I found in’d junk yard they put me in. When they saw it, they ’cided to put me to work in the shop, so I could modify their buggies.”
Mac stares down the barrel of the pipe, butterflies stirring in his stomach. Last time I was looking down the barrel of a gun like that… He starts, shaking his head to clear it, wondering where the memory went. “I’ve got no doubt you could do that, darling.” He looks up at Wormwood. “You’re lucky Anita’s not here, pal, or you’d be in for another broken nose. But yeah, I’ll make sure she’s got the means to take care of herself.”
Pitbull feels a sudden twinge in his thoughts, grimacing as he knows that it’s the closest thing he has felt to pity for her. Pitbull sighs as he does what, to him at least, is unthinkable. “In my bag and shit back there, is an M16X Assault Rifle. It has served me faithfully since my last one was snapped by some Mescan with some nasty cyberwork and some real combat drugs. You can use it, Seran-yah, until you can get a decent weapon. The barrel points a a bit to the right, and I’m counting the ammo. Bar that, that’s all ya need to know.” Pitbull growls through another healthy drag on his cigarette.
“Wow, Pits, I’m impressed, dude. Giving up an arm for the robo-lady.” Wormwood mutters to his friend. “Yeah, well, I wouldn’t get used to it. I wasn’t lyin’. I’ll want it back, and I’ll refurbish it with the parts from her metal arm if it gets destroyed.” Pitbull growls half to himself as he makes the turn around a chunk of rusty wreckage.
Hmmm, Pacoy considers, it was programmed with serviceable skill at improvised fabrication. I really need to make some time to investigate those subroutines. “What other skills did your master program you with Siri? And While we’re talking about it, what kind of skills have you picked up since being separated?” Pacoy asks, curious about the advancement of the droid’s AI.
Wormwood sits bolt upright suddenly. “Drone! Three o’clock high and jinking like buggery! I don’t think its one of ours, is it?” “Not mine,” Pacoy confirms, “Not one the Eris’s that I’ve seen either.” Mac sticks his head out the window to take a look. “Not one of mine, that’s for sure.” Eris frowns, looking up through the sunroof. “That’s not one of mine, either.”
Wormwood draws one of his pistols. “Pitbull, gun it – I can see the outskirts of Foundry up ahead, maybe we can lose it in the ruins there.”
Pitbull grits his teeth as he sees what Wormwood’s taking about. “Take no chances Wormwood. We are officially no longer in friendly territory. Shoot that fucker down, if ya can.” Pitbull guns the engine, itself roaring in reply to his sudden mashing of the accelerator. Mac grumbles at the sudden acceleration. “You really don’t know how to make an engine purr, do you, hoss?” Mac throws his eyes ahead to the rubble ahead, hoping that it provides safety and refuge."
Pitbull’s eyes widen. “Well shit, brahs. Looks like the Lone Star Country is all up in our shit, today. That’s a Scuttlebutt if I ever saw it!” Pitbull’s teeth grit on his cigarette harder, sheering it to it’s core as he applies even more pressure to the already floored accelerator. Wormwood tries to draw a bead on the jinking drone, “That’s Texan? Is it armored? Can it shoot back? Should I drive and you shoot?” He sounds worried.
“Well, you should drive and I shoot, but the speed we’re doin’ makes that too dangerous for me to risk the switchout.” Pitbull growls, foot not relenting from the pedal. Mac looks at Wormwood, pivoting his head from outside the car. “Have you ever known a Texan that can shoot straight, Worm? We’re perfectly safe. We’d be in more danger dating a mafioso’s daughter than we are right now.”
Pitbull laughs hollowly at Mac’s words. “Hilarious but so wrong. Those things have kept whole crowds of bastards from swarming our strongpoints many times. And now we’re about to see what it’s like to be on the crowd side.” Mac swallows, finding that he’s been holding his breath for quite some time. He ducks his head back in the car. “Ladies, I believe it’s time for you to make yourselves small.” He takes his trenchcoat and attempts to cover the two of them the best he can with it, checking his pistol afterwards. “I really need to get something that’s better at dealing with things at range, don’t I…”
Wormwood desperately squeezes off three shots with his Prowler pistol, missing each time and wasting precious Aphex rounds. “Fuck this, I’m taking over driving by cyberlink, Pits. Switch places and you try to hit the damned thing!” Wormwood’s mind and visual field fill with schematics and controls for the car as he engages with the Amur’s cyberlink flawlessly, over-riding Pitbull’s manual control. “I’ve got the car, now switch places!” Wormwood continues to drive the car from the passenger seat, by cyber-linked remote control.
Pitbull yanks his Reaper up from the designated space next to his seat and rears up to poke his head out of the sun roof. He sights his target immediately and lets off a full-auto cascade. As the switch-up in the car occurs, the Scuttlebutt reacts to the shots fired upon it; they went awful wide, but not enough for it not to notice them. The sleek drone almost disappears from view as an active camouflage system activates and it jinks even more madly than before.
Pitbull watches the Scuttlebutt approach the Amur, its surface camouflage not doing much to hide it from the IR spectrum; as he sights in, he notices its radar-bleeding belly open up, the stubby barrel of its machine gun pointing out beginning to rev up. Pitbull’s rush of rounds frame the Drone as it’s machine gun revs into power, but a single chance round manages to rip into it’s stabilizer, ruining it instantly and bringing the Drone down in an chaotic and helpless spiral.
Pacoy looks wistfully as the Amur drives past the downed bot, wishing there was time to stop and salvage the still smoking wreck. As the drone meets the ground, its radio jammer gives out a single, almost-solid blast of static. It very briefly interrupts all radio communication in the Amur – both between the team, and between Wormwood and the SUV itself. “Shit, dudes, that shit was close. That was a Spec. Ops. Drone, and those things come with radio ja- shit!” Pitbull roars as the Amur jerks violently to the right.
“Oh shiiiit!…Got it again!” Wormwood yells as he manages to bring the hurtling five ton SUV back under control. Mac throws a mock glare up front. “Would you two stop clowning around up there? There are ladies in the car!”
“Do you want to fucking drive, Grandma?" Wormwood yells back at Mac, agitated as he re-establishes his linkage with the car. Pacoy looks at Siri with interest, curious to see what kind of effect the jamming had one her.
Pitbull ducks back inside, face white and grim. “Dudes, that crash will also signal to the drones and their operators if they got ‘em, that it were fell’d and where.” He growls, before spitting the now ruined stump of his cigarette into the wind. Mac grumbles aloud, “At least when I’ve been driving we haven’t had an incident! I say we get out of dodge as quick as a bunny driving an Amur, yeah?”
Wormwood grates out, “Well, I figured one of those way out here meant your Sarge wasn’t running alone, Pits. Any guess on how many in his team?” He keeps the Amur running hard for cover, while weaving slightly from side to side.
Seranya looks down at her ‘robotic’ arm, still gripping the metal pipe. She looks up at Pacoy, frowning. “I can’t drop it. Why won’t it drop?” “One second, Siri…” Pacoy says calmly as he deactivates and reboots the android.
Pitbull swaps out his woefully dwindling APHEX ammo with his standard ammo on his Reaper while gives the best statistical knowledge he could bring to bear. “I’ll bet there’s four Spec. Ops. fuckers out there, and one of them controllin’ the shits. My guess would be that there are at least four of ’em, possibly even a dozen.” Wormwood tries to gun some more speed out of the Amur, “Then I’d guess we are screwed. It’s been real, gentlemen.”
Mac cocks his head to the side. “Surely we’re not done for – there’s noone even around here yet!” Pitbull growls to himself before finally grating. “I ain’t dyin’ against these lil’ shits and their toys. Mark my words, I tell you h-what…”
Wormie has a thought, “Pacoy, can you maybe rig a scan for control channels? We’d not be able to hack their crypto but at least we’d know how many drones and how close.”
“I can do better than that: I brought I marmalade bot along. I was really hoping to save it for when we get into the Dead Zone, but it’s built for this kind of stuff.” Pacoy explains.
Eris leans forwards, touching Pacoy’s shoulder. “This sounds like an excellent time to bring her out, Pacoy. I’ll send some drones up to get a look around, too. We’ll get through this – Lazarus Group always does.”
The Amur speeds forwards, reaching the suburban outskirts of Foundry in near-record time for such a lumbering beast, covering the last few miles at quite a high clip. The abandoned buildings seem to hang around, hunched in the shadow of the great urban hive that sprang up in downtown Foundry during the Militia Wars, when these suburbs were evacuated and turned into a warzone. The remnants of the war still hang around to this day, bullet holes in hastily-erected barricades and craters dug out by artillery fire speaking volumes of this areas history.
Wormwood frantically looks around for a defensible place to go to ground, one with good overhead cover and open fields of fire. Mac lets out a low whistle. “This place. This place has seen some days – worse days than any of us can imagine.”
“D’you think we should try to make Foundry proper or find a place to make a stand?” Wormwood asks as he steers the Amur between ruins at the best speed possible.
Taking a look up ahead, Mac thinks aloud. “If we make a stand, they can gun us down at their leisure – I say we head Foundryward. Maybe we still can lose them!” "We need to find cover. We are in what professionals call a “kill spot”. Things go here to die, so let’s get somewhere where those toys gotta stoop to our level." Pitbull growls as he starts muttering to himself and paranoidly scanning the horizons. You can just barely make out the word “Juarez” in his mumblings.
Wormwood guns the engine again, “OK, Pits, keep an eye peeled for a good spot to stand and I’ll try to keep us between high ruins so we’ve got some cover as we go.” He guides the Amur between ruined walls at its best speed as he heads onwards towards Foundry. Pitbull’s eyes lock onto an ideal location almost immediately. “There! That clover-leaf overpass! We’ll have plenty of cover beneath it, but the only running we’ll be doing is either through these ass-biters’ corpses, or on our way to St. Peters, after we’re under that!” Pitbull yells, pointing his meaty slab of a hand in the direction for emphasis.
Wormwood mentally commands the big SUV to turn in the indicated direction. “Got ya! At least I’ll get to shoot back! Hóka-héy!” As the Amur purrs forwards, Wormwood angles her between two of the taller buildings in the ruins. A small armada of camera drones emerges from the trailer behind the Amur, floating out from Eris’s motorcycle. The drones rise up and up, scaling the tall buildings as the Amur passes underneath. Suddenly, Eris yells out, “Oh, shit!”
Moments after her exclamation, the bullet-resistant glass at the rear of the Amur shatters and something heavy hits the floor with a metallic ‘thud’. Seranya screams out wordlessly, looking down at the stump of her arm, the metallic gripper conspicuously absent – and the hydraulic fluid leaking out at a prodigious rate. The sound of the gunshot that arrives moments later is almost unheard over the noise of the detonations coming from the western building, the entire eastern wall – and the structural supports within it – blowing outwards. The building begins to fall, almost majestically collapsing in upon itself – and down upon the roadway that the Amur is still driving through.“Damn!” Pacoy shouts, rushing over and shutting down Siri as he cybernetically boots the marmalade up. Mac’s jaw drops open. “блин! Damn, damn, damn! This is no good! We weren’t prepared for them to come at us with buildings! We can’t be here!”
Pacoy looks at Siri, searching for the quickest way to perform a temporary patch, and remotely boots up a pair of Buzzbots. Pitbull hisses to himself as he readies himself to poke his head out the window. It doesn’t take him long to decide to switch back to the last of his APHEX rounds. “Eh. Fuck-it. As my peepaw used to say: YOLO…”
Deactivating Siri has left her stuck in a position of shock, staring at her arm – but the good news is it also shut off the pump for her hydraulic systems, meaning no more leaking fluid all over the place. Wormwood grits his teeth in concentration as he negotiates the falling rubble, swerving and jinking the big car and trailer around the biggest chunks and over the smaller ones. A couple of HUD schematics fuzz for a moment as the car jolts, and a chunk of brick puts a dent in the trailer, but somehow he makes it through the chaos.
Mac attempts to help staunch the leaking of the hydraulic fluid, mostly managing to get it all over himself, even after she’s been shut down. “What’s that mean, Pitbull? Is it some military thing?” “It’s an acronyne- acronya- acro- ugh- acro-some-shit-you-say-to-make-a-sentence-into-one-word. Means ’you only live once.” Pitbull shouts as he readies himself, grasping for the courage to push his head into the storm.
Wormwood steers the Amur into the open, accelerating towards the overpass Pitbull had pointed out. “What’s going on, what do you see Eris?”
The noise is catastrophic as the seven-story building meets the roadway, hundreds of tons crushing the street the Amur had just been speeding through. The building on the other side of the road begins to suffer a similar collapse in a domino effect, not able to withstand a larger building slamming into it like a sumowrestler on PCP. Mac grumbles. “What is it with the two of you being so fatalistic today?!” He looks at Eris, making sure she’s okay before looking up ahead past the building collapsing.
Eris screams out over the din of the collapse of ruined civilizations around her. “Multiple drones in the air. Sniper back on that building, zip lined out of there to some big black thing, looked like a goddamned tank.” “This ain’t the Hunger Games, Mac. The odds are barely ever in our favor!” Pitbull yells, a grim chuckle coating his voice.
Wormwood’s voice goes up half an octave, “Tank?!!” Mac spits out the window. “Never tell me the odds! They have a tank? I tell ’em to bring it on! We just dodged a BUILDING!”
Pitbull curses. “Well shit. This is sooooo much worse than I’d guessed. Double that number of drones I think we’ve got zooming around our asses!”
Wormwood does some quick calculations before exclaiming, “OK, fuck stopping, Pits…we’ve nothing to use against a tank in a stand. We get away or nothing.” Wormwood turns back towards Foundry City and again accelerates. Mac smiles. “Smartest damn thing I’ve heard all day – I don’t want to see the tank – can you get some more gas into that giant engine?”
Pitbull takes a moment to think on the information playing about this, the logistics of warfare being no stranger to him. “Actually, dudes, thas’ probably an APC, and a light one at that. Their still pretty dangerous, but now we don’t have to improvise a tank-breaker.”
Eris seems to be finally, genuinely freaking out. She leans forwards into the front seats. “Come on, let’s go! I don’t wanna fucking die out here with you crazy people! Move it, move it! We’ve got to get the fuck out of here!”
“You know, we’re gonna need bigger guns.” Wormwood muses as the Amur speeds up. Pacoy deactivates the Buzzbots, which would be little more than gnats on an ox, but keeps the Marmalade on standby as he patches up Siri.
“If any of us were a bit more hand-to-hand, we could rip the doors off of that fucker, and butcher the occupants like fish inna barrel…” Pitbull growls almost to himself, his brain moving faster than it has needed to in a while.
Eris’s camera drones keep flying in the sky as the first of the Texan recon drones move into the area, opening fire immediately. The aerial battle is relatively short-lived, the unarmed drones trying to play hide and seek while the Scuttlebutts play seek and destroy; the sound of the chainguns on the drones reaches down into the Amur even amid the other chaos. Up ahead, one of the camera drones falls to the ground, its power cell detonating in a shower of plasma upon striking the Earth.
Mac looks at Pitbull. “I like Wormwood’s suggestion more. Can we get a cannon? I want a cannon, for situations like this. That cyborg wouldn’t have stood a chance if we had a cannon…”
“Mac, y’say cannon one more time, Imma smack the Noir so hard outa you that frankly, Scarlet, I wouldn’t give a fuck. We ain’ got one.” Pitbull growls fiercely, panic at the thought of being this out matched in odds pushing out the fact that he mangled a quote far into the back of his mind. “Shut up and shoot those drones, Pits!” Wormwood yells as he tries to gun a little more speed from the howling engine.
Pitbull huffs and pokes his head out and roars wordlessly as he lets off a full-auto volley on the first drone he sights. Mac snorts at Pitbull with a smile crossing his face, leaning out the window in an attempt to bring his pistol to bear on one of the drones.
The Amur experiences one quiet moment just after Pitbull’s burst, while the outcome is still in doubt. A moment, just long enough, for Wormwood to hear a quiet, electronic noise from almost directly below him, a quiet electronic ‘beep’ humming up from beneath the Amur’s undercarriage. Wormwood has barely enough time to connect the sound to explosives planted in old, cheesy sensies before the whole world seems to go topsy-turvey.
A noise the likes of which the Lazarus team hasn’t heard since Hartnell General Hospital went up in flames pierces through that moment of silence like an APHEX round through Gnox hide, easily cutting through the outer edges before fucking up everything inside like nothing that came before. Pit almost reflexively grabs his crashweb, pulling him back into the vehicle as everything goes to heaven in a hellbasket. The Amur seems to enter microgravity for just a moment, the team experiencing what it’s like to launch into space – and then come crashing back to the ground, all in the blink of an eye. Mac, already hanging out the window, takes flight as the Amur begins its crash to the ground, escaping the confines of the vehicle like an escape pod bailing a failed launch. He slams into the overpass wall at speed, crumpling to the ground, not moving. The Amur completely flips over as the explosive lifts one side of the SUV over the other, and when it comes down the bright noon light, already dulled to gray by the dust in the air, completely goes out, and the Lazarus team experiences the pure darkness of lost consciousness.