Offut Air Force Base
Underground Bunker Complex
Sunday, February 26, 2051
The air is still for a moment as the blackout spreads from the computer room outwards, hitting the rest of the base in a wave of darkness. The constant sound of bombardment – both inbound from the oribtal attackers and outbound from the base’s defense systems – that’s been in the background through the entire fight suddenly ceases, leaving a silent chasm where the near-unnoticed noise once resided.
And then the power jumps back on, automated systems kicking in now that the central command link has been severed and the facility has already registered an attack in place. The noise of ground-to-space artillery once again resumes, the giant cannons and laser weapon systems humming in the background while the hundreds of androids in the room continue the onslaught against the power armored troopers. The troopers, massively outnumbered but not quite outgunned, begin turning their weapons fire on the robots and the manufacturing facilities rather than focusing upon the computer core. The entire room explodes in a shower of bullets and frags – and there’s little chance the Lazarus team can escape without some damage.
Wormwood grabs Eris by the shoulder, pulling hard. “Come on, we need to move!” He frantically scans for an exit from the corridor they are in, behind the main room. Mac ducks his shoulder as a frag flies past, burying itself in the stomach of one of his unfinished compatriots – he slips to the side as it explodes, shrapnel catching in his trenchcoat but leaving him unscathed. He stumbles forward towards the exit, keeping himself between Pacoy, Pitbull and their respective cargos. Pitbull just manages to duck under a screaming frag missile as he makes a dash for Wormwood’s position with Siri slung over his shoulder. Urging Mac to leave the AI, Pacoy almost doesn’t notice the rain of metal flying towards him until the last minute, twisting out of the way as shrapnel flashes past his face close enough that he could feel the heat, still clutching the partial Mac-bot. Mac winces as he moves. “Pacoy, go! Make like one of your pinbots and fly towards the exit!”
Wormwood hears a beep in his ear, the sign that limited communications have been re-established with his team. Subvocally, he calls “This way, there’s a door leading away from those suited creeps!” Pacoy activates a pinbot, letting the tiny bot flutter out of his jacket and scout ahead of Wormwood, relaying data back to the team commlink. Pitbull skids to halt next to Wormwood to unsling his rifle from Seranya’s shoulder, and drops it on his lap with all the grace that carrying a body and urgency grants him. Wormwood grabs his rifle and chambers a round, nodding thanks to Pitbull. It may be entirely ineffectual against battlesuited troopers, but it makes him feel better and it might give one a headache at least. Next he sends to Mac, “Did Mama Dearest give you any useful data dumpage, like a map of this place?”
The pinbot soon relays back an image of a figure in a suit of armor, covered in black-and-gray urban camouflage, standing in front of a doorway to the computer room. He’s carrying a heavy rifle of an unfamiliar design, very similar to one of those electron beam cutters the robots were using to slice up cars. The armor is a rigid, full-body design that looks at once futuristic and retro, as if it’s an evolution of an older design. As the pinbot moves forwards, it sees three more figures in identical armor stacked up by the door in the standard formation of a SWAT team ready to breach.
“Crap…” Pacoy mutters, “Plan, guys?” Mac sighs once he gets into the relative security of the hallway. “No map. No printouts. Can we get around those guys? Go past them?” “Mac, Siri, either of you communicating with the maybe-Macs and get some interference for us with that lot?” Wormwood sends. “Can we get some Mac-Bots here to help us? Don’t we want to stop these gus?” Pacoy asks, having had the same idea.
Mac looks back into the central room, crying out to his brothers again, “Brothers – the doorway over there! They are coming after our Mother!” He subvocalizes, feeling somewhat embarassed, “Sorry, I’m kind of making this up as I go along.”
The Macs don’t seem to answer – which may be because the nose level in the room is such that they simply could not hear the command.
Wormwood does a double-take, “I think those are mac-bots, warrior ones! Mac, see if you can talk to them. If I’m wrong, you get shot to shreds, but if I’m right we have an armed escort.” Mac shrugs. “Only live once, right?” He runs down the corridor towards the breaching team. “Brothers, brothers, I call for your aid! I am bearing Mother out of this place!” He searches his gut for a set of familiar numbers and broadcasts the same message, coupled with a set of friendly IFF tags for his friends.
Pacoy takes a deep breath and mutters to himself, “_worth a shot_…”. With a quick metal command, The pinbot begins flashing in a series of long and short pulses of light.
Two helmets turn towards Mac, giving him a once-over before turning their lights upon Siri, carried upon the shoulders of Pitbull. Both faceplates separate down the middle, then slide up into recesses at the top of the helmets. Two identical faces look out, staring at their mirror image. The one closest speaks first. “S/I-2. You shouldn’t be here.” The second one continues speaking, as if in one thought. “Mother has need of you elsewhere. You weren’t to return until she called for you.” Wormwood slumps in relief slightly and breathes, “I was right, about time!”.
“Well, we’re here. And we’re leaving.” Pitbull grates tersely. They turn to each then, then back at Mac and speak in unison. “You must be exfiltrated immediately. The base is under attack.” “We can see that.” Pitbull grates back. “And we wholeheartedly agree.” Mac looks frustrated. “No shit, Sherlocks! I was in there when this all started! I know she didn’t call, but if I hadn’t come, all would have been lost by now! Come on, get my friends out of here. We have severe movement impairments. Can you get us out safely?”
The two robots turn to one another again, a conversation passing by at dizzying speeds over the radio waves whispered between them, before they turn back. “An escort can be provided, but the assault can not be diminished significantly. This one will ensure your safety.” One of the Macs steps forwards, his faceplate slamming down as he moves towards the door at the head of the curve. The other three robots turn back to the door and, in one fluid motion, breach it. The door slams back and their odd weapons open fire, spitting long bursts of electrons and energy out – looking like nothing more than bolts of lightning. The crackle-zap of their weapons sounds for just a few moments before they move away and the door closes behind them, shutting out the noise.
Mac looks on in jaw-slackened awe. “So, brother, can I get my hands on some of that gear? Lets talk on the go. Show us the way out of here!” as the pinbot’s strobe shuts off, and it takes it’s place at the point of the group, scouting ahead. The somewhat-mechanical sound of the android within the armor comes out of a small speaker at the base of the helmet as he jogs fowards, leading the group deeper into the base. “Your mission is not to bring the weapons of our Mother to the Unknowing. If you are able, you will leave as you came – unencumbered by the warfare of our past.” Wormwood grimaces, “OK, how about any spare diamonds or gold or the like lying around?” Eris smacks Wormwood on the side after that comment, her scared face momentarily turning to a smile. The android, on the other hand, remains silent and doesn’t even acknowledge Wormwood exists.
Mac nods at his brother, laughing at Wormwood. “That is understood, but there is not much I have to remember home by.” As they jog, he scribbles a note in his pocket notepad and tosses the whole thing to Wormwood. The note reads: Not trusting this message to comms, don’t want to offend my brother. Make like this is turn of the century America and you’re in an assisted scooter in a megastore – grab everything that isn’t nailed down. Tell the others. Wormwood nods and hands off the note to Pitbull. Pitbull chuckles, as he passes it along to Pacoy. He yanks out and lights another cigarette, and offers one to Mac. “Bionic lungs don’t get cancer, last I heard” Pitbull growls with a smile. Mac laughs and takes a drag on a cigarette, puffing out a perfectly formed smoke ring before running through it. “There’s bound to be advantages. You want a butt, brother?”
The robot leads the group on a merry chase, running through the base’s corridors. There are no signs or other indications of where they’re going or what they’re passing, but numerous hallways and doors branch off from the twisting path the group follows. The hallway itself is bare, with slim pickings for any would-be thief. Several doors remain open, showing offices – one with a rather familiar seal on the blue carpet floor and an expensive-looking chair, desk, and other accoutrements. Most of the open rooms, however, contain something much less inviting – the sound of gunfire, with the occasional figure in sleak black or urban camouflage armor. The entire facility seems to shake occasionally, the artificial earthquakes the result of the continued bombardment of the surface.
Mac looks back at his friends, cigarette clenched in his perfectly white teeth. “Got to say, never thought I’d be in an orbital bombardment. Kind of exciting, isn’t it? Say, brother, what was that room back there?” The mechanical voice seems entirely comfortable with the pace it’s setting – as befits a robot without a proper cardiovascular system. “This facility used to be an alternative command and control bunker for the North American super-state to be used in the event of a nuclear war. That room was one of multiple seats of power; the office of the chief executive of that nation. Further down, the legislative bodies have chambers as well, as do their individual staffs.” Pitbull takes on the air of his namesake animal, and stares around in blank curiosity as he trots along with everyone. Weird place. Looks like a fort, but missing something. “Can we grab some souvenirs, maybe?” Wormwood asks, before asking a bigger question. “So, who is attacking this complex, exactly?”
Mac nods. “My question exactly. Maybe a pen? Whom wants Mother dead?” The android replies just as they hit an intersection. “The strike force did not announce their affiliation or intentions prior to the assault, and our sensing and communicating capabilities have been temporarily crippled. The working assumption is that they are the forces of the Brother.” Mac looks each way at the intersection. “Do you have any files you can share with me via datajack about the Brother? I need to know what to be wary of when we leave here.”
The robot looks down at him – Mac can just feel in his blank stare that he has a superior look upon his face. “You are an obsolete model designed for infiltration. Your datajack is multiple generations behind my own. I do not believe we could successfully interface even if I wished to.” He shakes his head – a very human gesture. “Besides which, you were sent into the world with limited knowledge, and with that knowledge you shall return. I have not been given instructions to provide you more, so I shall not.”
Wormwood snickers some at ‘successfully interface’ but keeps looking for gee-gaws to pick up, without success so far. Pacoy leans down to whisper in Wormwood’s ear, “Man, Macbots are kinda Dicks, huh?” Wormwood grins, “All different kinds of interface, apparently.”
Mac rolls his eyes. “Just ‘cos it’s newer don’t mean it’s better, pal. How long is it to the surface? And on the off-chance our ride got clocked by one of them orbital shells, you got an exfil vehicle for us?” Pitbull growls at the Mac-bot stubbornly. “Do you not give a rat’s ass about the outcome of this, ‘tard? The more we know, the more than likely we can beat the Brother’s ass and make it home for steaks and beer. I was in the Texas Free State Army, and I know what it’s like to have limited info and how we ain’t supposed to share it without permission, but we still need something to go by.”
The robot ignores Pitbull entirely as it smoothly answers Mac’s questions, coming to a stop. “We’ve reached the exit. There are multiple hostiles within the foyer; please exit as fast as you can. I will draw their fire and provide cover; do not slow down or stop, just keep moving. Your vehicle should be seven miles to the north-east of here in a lightly-shelled area; by the time you arrive the fighting should be over and it shall be safe to retire to the location of your choice.”“Pits, I’m gonna need a push. Stick Siri on the shopping cart!” Wormwood grumps. “She can sit on your lap like you’re Santa.” Pitbull smiles before turning to the Mac-Bot. “Thanks, fucker.”
Mac stares at his brother, then looks at his comrades. “Retire? Are you guys planning to retire on me?” He sighs and offers a hand to the robot. “It’s been a pleasure serving with you. Look me up in Night City if you ever make it out that way, yeah? Or at least send a post card. E-mail? I hope you guys can re-build… I’d hate for the last of us to be an outdated infiltration unit.”
The robot’s faceplate opens up as he turns to Mac, gripping his hand in a firm handshake. Mac can just make out the beginnings of a tear forming on the robot’s left eye before the faceplate snaps back in place and the mechanical man slams open the door, firing his lightning-bolt like weapon and shouting “Go, go, go!”
Pitbull drops Siri on Wormwood’s lap and rushes forward with his wheelchair, with no intent to slow down for anything less than a wall. Mac slips out behind the other robot, tears streaming down his face as he runs between his friends and the resistance, hoping to intercept any stray rounds that find themselves traveling in their direction.
As the Lazarus group run forwards, they see three figures in powered armor firing upon the lone robot. The electron beams surge outwards from the heavy rifle, blasting holes in the armored figures – but nowhere near fast enough. Bullets large enough to take down a charging rhino through a concrete barricade punch holes in the robot’s armor almost immediately, but he doesn’t go down quite yet. Eris is one of the first out the door and into the starlight beyond, but it isn’t until Mac, taking up the rear, is through the door that the robot finally falls, his mission complete.
Mac stumbles through the door as he slams it shut behind them, a single tear falling from his left eye. “Did we all make it? Are we all okay? I know I’m not, but… I might have lost one family when the sky broke open, but I’m glad that the rest of you made it through.” He shakes a little before leaning back against the door with a melancholy smile on his face as his gaze drifts upwards, following the columns of smoke.
The stars of the night sky weep with Mac, the tears falling slowly – ever so slowly – to the Earth, and the Earth cries back with blazes of white angry fire. The tears strike the Earth past the horizon, each strike punctuated by a rumble from deep within the ground as if the Earth itself grieves along with Mac for the family that seems irrevocably lost.