Date: Tuesday 20 November 2040ce 1132z
Location: Surprise, Arizona (-0700)
“Report, Two,” Wagner’s voice came over the headset.
“Two in position,” Lansing’s voice replied.
Dickson settled in next to the shell of a broken-down truck and looked to each side.
This should take the blasts just fine…
“Three in position,” Gupta answered. “Visual on two droogs, but there’s a major blind spot. Could easily hide one.”
…First four, at least. Maybe five.
She wasn’t that certain.
There were rumors that some hives had begun producing more advanced droogs; Better body shielding and stronger blasters, troopers at various outposts had said. But those troopers had been traveling west from Jagged Diamond, the war zone that stretched from Safford to Lordsburg containing twelve hives, six of them believed to be Class Four. The Phoenix cluster’s most advance hive was the complex hive itself, confirmed as a Class Three.
Trusting the data released by SciCorps regarding hive classifications, she could only hope that the new droogs, if real, were beyond the local hives’ production capabilities. That, however, was a question often remaining unanswered until it was answered the hard way.
“One nearing position,” Wagner’s voice spoke into her ear after several moments.
On paper, Dickson saw the wisdom in the strategy. And Wagner’s insistence that she’d used the same tactic since her days before joining Nevada Resistance made it sounds like child’s play.
Because she was a fucking child!
Now in the ruins of a Phoenix suburb, surrounded by buildings either half-collapsed or burned down completely, she realized how absolutely insane it was.
She saw Thatcher to one side, then Bruce on another, flanking her position from less shielded, though less obvious, hiding places.
Slightly up ahead, Martinez and Ball were down one street while Greening and Holmes were down the other. If everything went as planned, they wouldn’t have to fire a single round. Otherwise, they were the only chance Dickson’s team could survive.
Crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy…
“One has visual,” Wagner said. “Blind spot confirmed. Three droogs.”
Thatcher gave a thumbs up; Wagner claimed this tactic worked best if there were less than five.
Having only five RPGs might have something to do with that…
“Five, light it up,” Wagner finally ordered.
Four blocks to the west, Bivens and his team sat in relative safety.
From that location, a brilliant red flair flew into the sky.
“Droogs on the move,” Gupta reported.
At least they’re not sondmaskin.
They were two blocks away.
“Another day at the opera, troopers,” Dickson remarked off radio. “Stay alert.”
“A pack of droogs,” Thatcher replied. “Bet your ass I’m alert.”
It took a few moments, but then the motion could be seen: Tall bipedal things with thick blockish limbs standing nearly four meters in height.
How do they even keep their balance?
They appeared clumsy and their legs moved them slowly into the intersection. Dickson knew that was a deceptive observation, though; Their arms ended in energy weapons that could be aimed and fired quickly and with precision.
I’m going to die… This is the place. This is where I meet my end.
The second came into view, then the third.
“Wait for the first to almost vanish around the corner,” Dickson said, turning to her flanks to see Bruce and Thatcher both nodding.
The droogs continued to move towards the descending flair, finally reaching the position she specified.
“Now!” she shouted.
Their weapons churned out bullets. From this distance, they weren’t likely to penetrate the droog’s armor, but that wasn’t their goal.
The droogs turned and began firing back.
The burned-out truck took two hits; While it absorbed the blasts, sending metal shards flying on the other side, the force pushed the wreckage until it slammed Dickson’s shoulder.
“Damn!” she spat while slipping behind the wreckage, giving herself a meter of space.
That space quickly vanished as multiple blasts struck it.
Shit! Shit! Shit! Shit!
Then there was an explosion; Wagner’s team had fired their one RPG. Dickson looked around the wreck, seeing two of the droogs turning towards the direction they had come. The third was on the ground attempting to regain its footing.
That was when Lansing struck, the rpg soaring down from the near-right corner structure to strike between the three droogs. Fire, stone and steel scattered in every direction, the droogs all tossed aside.
And here we go…
There was a long pause, while only the droogs flailed about to get their legs beneath them again, and then three more rockets from another structure were launched.
Each droog took a direct hit.
Everyone remained motionless; They had used all of the RPGs, and if even one was still mostly operational, things were going to get ugly really fast.
“No motion here,” Lansing said.
“All still,” Gupta followed.
“Everyone stay where they are,” Wagner ordered.
Thatcher crept over to Dickson’s position.
“How’s the arm?” she asked.
“Not bad… No blood. Probably bruised to shit.”
“That’ll hurt. There they are.”
Three shadows appeared from the left, moving to each of the biomechs.
“Two-Nine-Seven,” Wagner spoke over the comm channel, “target neutralized. Stand down.”
Dickson took a deep breath to calm herself.
“She’s gonna get us killed one day,” Bruce grumbled while walking to their position.
“You’re still alive,” Thatcher replied.
“Until I’m not… Let me bitch about it while I can.”
“That’s all you ever do,” Dickson remarked as she led her team down the street.
They were met at the corner by their flankers.
“You take a beating?” Martinez asked.
“Not as much as that rig did,” Dickson replied.
“We’ll have to check it out,” Thatcher said.
“I’m okay, really.”
“Yeah, until you’re not… We’re checking you out. Hey, Carlson. Need the med kick.”
“Do I have to remind you that I’m the medic?”
“As the designated replacement medic, let me make sure I don’t have to replace you.”
She hadn’t realized how quickly they reached the rest of the squad; Lansing and Gupta had already climbed down from their perches, Lansing wearing the satcomm headset.
Did I just black out…
“I think you might be right,” Dickson said, sliding over to a pile of rubble to sit on.
Carlson came over with the medkit, and she watched numbly as Thatcher started retrieving instruments.
It was actually a datapad designed to use numerous peripherals; Thatcher attached the ultrasound sensor while Carlson lowered the left side of her shirt to expose the shoulder and upper arm.
“Eye reports all clear, Sarge,” Lansing said. “We’re standing by for orders.”
Don’t trust it.
“Understood. Everyone huddle up and eat while we can. Thatch?”
“Bones are fine,” Thatcher replied. “A lot of broken blood vessels, though. Steady supply of aspirin to prevent clotting, but she’s still going to bruise up. Arm might even be useless for a few days.”
“While marching,” Wagner replied as she squatted down and looked Dickson in the eye. “Adrenalin has a way of making that go away, though. Doesn’t it, trooper?”
“Tally ho,” Dickson said, feeling groggy.
“What did you give her?” Wagner asked.
“Mild sedative. If we hike out, someone will have to hold her leash. Don’t want her wandering off on us.”
“You gave me drugs?” Dickson asked slowly.
“Do you remember me giving them to you?”
“And that’s why you needed them… Here, drink this.”
“Definitely my last patrol,” she heard Bruce say. “Going local militia after this term. Settle down.”
“Ain’t it just like a trooper,” Christensen followed, “declaring retirement before signing a lifer.”
There were laughs, all echoing down into an audio kaleidoscope of cacophonous clamoring.
“Oh, shit no,” Holmes voice reverbed unnaturally. “Enough of this crap.”
Electronic tones issued from Lansing’s direction.
“Two-Nine-Seven,” he said.
As he listened, he shot Wagner an odd look.
He’s so in love with her…
Lansing put his hand beside the left headphone, turning the microphone off.
“We’re being ordered to Norterra,” he said.
“Two-Nine-Seven,” Lansing said after lowering his hand. “Orders understood. Out.”
“Where’s Norterra?” Martinez asked.
“Northernmost suburb,” Wagner answered.
“We’re leaving…?” Dickson asked Thatcher, watching her suddenly become very distant.
“Looks that way.”
Thank fucking god!
Her next, and last, memory of that night was of the ground flying up to hit her in a most malicious manner.
She had to later be told how Thatcher was stuck carrying her until sunrise.