The beginning of an epic tale, The Black Watch Chronicles series, has begun with Fred D. Shutts‘ Miya’s Assault.
The year is 4319 AD the age of Sorrow Earth. The mighty city-state of Sorovaste sends forth those implacable commandos of the Black Watch to uncover hidden secrets in forbidden Japan. However the European Empire has other ideas and launches an attack of their own to steal those secrets for themselves. While the two world super powers duke it out over Mt. Kenashi in deserted Japan, a squad of Black Watch troopers braves the depths under Mt. Kenashi. What they find is way more than they could have ever dreamed. Lieutenant Miya Harakuro one of the fabled Neko soldiers is woken up in an unfamiliar world. Even before she is able to adjust to this new reality she is flung into combat with an unfamiliar enemy, fighting for her right to live. And before the dust even settles, it’s once more into the breach. Miya is given command of the legendary double zero assault company and sent into battle with an alien menace. Lives hang in the balance as the Black Watch undertakes a dangerous rescue mission in the heart of a raging battle. Miya must overcome old prejudices, monstrous mutants, and alien horrors to find the source of this dangerous new enemy.
Chapter 1: A Rainy Night
June 4329 AE
Bridge of the Typhoon
Over the North American Niagara Sea
The bridge of the Typhoon was quiet except for the occasional radio transmission, and muffled sounds coming from a monitor in front of Colonel Miya Harakuro. She sat reviewing film footage and records from Operation Nest Egg; the very operation ten years ago that had found her. For the last few years she’d had a feeling something else had been going on during the Euro incursion during that operation.
The colonel had gone over the video and data literally dozens of times. Nekos were persistent; it was part of their nature. She stopped the recording and gave new orders to the crew. “Helm execute next step in evasion pattern, bring us to 90 knots,” the colonel said as she stretched, then added, “Abby, any radio activity yet?”
“Nothing yet, colonel. Our random course seems to be working. If they have even noticed us, they aren’t talking about it,” the AI said in a pleasant tone.
“That’s good news. We’ll continue as we’re till zero six and see if we can slip toward the Arctic Circle,” the colonel said. “Tight beam a message to the fleet; tell them to stay on their toes. The Euros may or may not get involved, so be ready for anything.” Miya frowned but continued, “All we need is to get hit by a major imperial attack and not be ready.”
Abby spoke mildly. “Colonel, I don’t think the Empire has the stomach for a fight yet. The fact that you were on to their shenanigans at the gate battle has them frozen like a deer in a spot light; at least according to the intelligence reports.”
Major Simmons spoke, smiling. “Hell, ma’am, we would kick their teeth in anyway.”
“I would like to think so, Major, but personally I would rather face one big scary monster at a time,” Miya chuckled.
“Colonel, the CAG wants to know if it’s a go on the reconnaissance flights; he has both TWACS ready to go if you call,” Abby said through the bridge speakers.
“No, not yet. If our ruse is working, I don’t want to turn on the open for business sign,” Miya chuckled.
Miya looked around at her displays. Nothing was awry, which was good, but she tended to be a busybody when she was bored. She forced that away and while yawning she said, “Major Simmons, you have the bridge. I’m going to my office; I have paperwork piling up.”
“Roger, ma’am. Abby will let you know if anything changes,” the major smiled. “Ma’am, try to get some sleep.”
The colonel smiled as she got up. “Major, if I can, I will. See you at 0500.”
“Roger, ma’am. I’ll make sure the kids are in by midnight and nobody sneaks out for a romp in the woods,” he chuckled.
Miya looked around the bridge and checked a number of the monitors. She laid her hand on each operator’s shoulders, speaking with them and smiling. She had an amazing bridge crew. Most would follow her through the gates of hell out of respect and admiration. She picked up her duty bag, which had her tablet, some folders full of papers, and a couple extra magazines for her 12mm service pistol she carried when not suited up for combat. She took a last look around and smiled. With that, Miya walked off the bridge and toward her office.
On her way, she looked through the door into the day room. It was dark, and all but one of the blackout shutters was closed, revealing an impressive thunderstorm. She had already known about the weather, and was just about to call the deck watch and inquire why a blackout shutter was open when lightning flashed outside. She was drawn toward the window and began to smile. She looked out; she had always been fascinated by thunderstorms.
Water streamed down the window. She could hear the thunder, although it was muted by the sound-deadening of the bulkheads. Lightning spread across the sky in beautiful colors. She remembered back to what amounted to her childhood, waiting for her training cycle to begin. She loved the thunderstorms outside Mt. Kenashi at night. Her eyes could pick up dull colors in the clouds and their outline, even when very dark outside.
Abby spoke. “Miya, Ruin is looking for you. Should I tell him where you are?”
“Sure, Abby. I’m not ready to go to my office yet,” Miya said.
“He is on his way; he wanted me to tell you he hopes you’re hungry.”
“Great, evidently I’m not eating enough again,” Miya chuckled.
Miya hit the button and closed the blackout shutter, and sat at a table facing the television monitor. She picked up the remote control and turned it on; the volume low. All that seemed to be on was a rerun of an outdoors show. It was noise, however, and that sometimes was all one needed. She liked the show and would look up and giggle as the host would often run around doing bird calls. Obviously, after twenty years running about in the bush, sometimes half-starved and sick, he had a screw loose somewhere.”
She sat with her tablet on the table. A fresh tactical report was flashing on the screen. She opened it and was pleasantly surprised to see that the armored units were already moving into position, having landed weeks before. This was really good news; she wouldn’t have to wait for the army to start the attack. If the Euro Imperial Military didn’t rear its unsightly face and interfere, this operation would go off without a hitch. She knew, however, it was just a matter of time before a conflict with the Empire exploded. But for now, it was one war at a time.
She was reading through the rest of the report when she heard a knock on the door and turned to look at the source. Ruin stood leaning against the door, her food tray in his hand. “Should have figured; Miya in the day room and still working. My gods, woman, do you ever sleep?” he chided.
Miya smiled as she turned. “Heya, Ruin, let me guess. Bren contacted the mess hall to make sure I ate?” Then continued, “And yes, I do sleep; but destroying what’s left of Red Tornado is more important than a catnap.” She wrinkled her nose at her own pun.
Ruin snorted over her comment. “Sort of; she did leave orders with the cooks to make sure you did,” he chuckled, “and to track you down and feed you if you didn’t. I happened to be eating late and they asked me to bring it to you.” Ruin smiled as he set the tray down in front of her. Then he sat down across from her at the table.
Miya happened to look down as he set it in front of her; it was meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, and an ice cream cup. She wrinkled her nose. She despised meat loaf; it was usually dry and tasteless. “Well, I suppose I should eat.”
“Yes, you should. I know it’s not a plate of nigiri, but if you’re going to be charging about smiting the enemies of Sorovaste, you shouldn’t do it on an empty stomach,” he chuckled.
“True, but you would think I’d be able to pull some strings and get some better food; I know it’s not the cooks’ fault. They do what they can with the materials at hand,” she said, examining a skewered piece of meatloaf on her fork with dread.
Ruin smiled and slid a big cup of coffee across to her. “I’m afraid, dear Colonel, not even you can magically make more money appear in the budget.” He spun his hands around like a magician.
Miya grimaced, knowing what he said was very true. Ruin turned around, grabbing the remote, and turned up the TV a bit. She ate silently and watched the outdoors program. The host was building a fire with a fire bow and actually having good luck, even though it was windy wherever he was. Ruin was chuckling, “Why would you start a fire with that thing? Carry a damn lighter!”
Miya chuckled lightly, “It’s a survival show, Ruin; he does it like he’s stranded with no supplies.”
As the show was ending was ending, Ruin turned to her, smiling gently. “What’s bothering you, Big Cat?”
“I’ve been going through the records from Nest Egg again. And before you start, I think I’m starting to zone in on whatever it is I can’t remember,” Miya said with a slight frown.
Ruin worked his jaw a few times; even if she was his commanding officer, she was his friend of a decade, and he didn’t want to hurt her. “Miya, I still think you feel guilty because you’re a lone survivor; it’s a tough burden to carry.”
“It’s not survivor’s guilt, Robert. Damn it, have a little more faith in me than that.” Miya only sounded a little annoyed.
Ruin knew he hadn’t crossed the line yet, so he would not push it.
“Why don’t you help me go through the data again?” she asked, looking hopeful.
“I really don’t want to, Miya. We’ve done this ten times or more, ending in you being disappointed every time,” Ruin said, smiling gently.
Miya rolled her eyes. “Come on, I need to get this out of my system, and until I figure it out it’s going to drive me crazy!”
“How about this; we go to the training room and spar. If I win, you forget about this till after the operation. If you win, I’ll stay up and help you. is that fair?” Ruin bargained.
“Fine, we can do that. I need a workout anyway.” She smiled at her friend. He nodded, and they both left the room toward their own quarters to change into Physical Training clothes.
Miya entered her quarters and the lights came on. She smiled, seeing her gear ready to go, sitting up against the bulkhead to her left. Moving to her locker, she pressed her palm against the lock pad and the door opened with a hiss. She stripped down to her skivvies and pulled out a set of PT shorts and tee shirt and pulled them on, then reached in and grabbed her tennis shoes. She walked over to her bed and put the shoes on. She looked up, seeing the pictures hung on the far wall, and a picture of Bren looked back at her. “Bren, I ate. Quit looking at me like that!” She wadded up a piece of paper and tossed it at the picture, laughing.
She got up and, setting her duty bag on the desk, moved to the locker and removed her sparring bag and closed the locker. She walked to the door, looked around again, and walked out into the hall meeting. She saw Ruin and began walking with him to the lift. The lift opened and two crew members walked out, saying good morning and moving along. Then Miya and Ruin entered, and the door closed behind them.
As the lift traveled down, Ruin smiled at Miya and asked, “Ready for a beat down, Colonel?”
“Never underestimate your enemy, Major, because she might very well kick your ass,” she said, not even looking at him as she rebound her ponytail; her ears twitched, and her tail snapped back and forth. They got out of the lift and began to walk down the hall toward Training Room Three and a fun brawl.
* * * * * * *
There were three training rooms aboard the Typhoon. Training Room One ran down the port side of the ship and ran two hundred meters, but was only fifteen feet wide. It had armored walls and a backstop, and was used as a small arms range. Chairs could be moved in to do classes as well. Training Room Two was a wide room that opened into the hangar, which could be converted into a tactics practice area.
Training Room Three was the smallest of the three training rooms. It measured thirty by thirty feet, and served as the physical combat training area. But it could be converted into a classroom like Training Room One. The walls and floors were covered by foam and rubber mats. The lighting was recessed into the ceiling and walls.
A short time later, Training Room Three’s lights flickered on, and two figures walked in with small duffle bags. Miya and Ruin left their bags against the wall by the door. They both stretched out while they talked about modifications that been done to their Powered Armor suits.
“I really think the ventral thruster modifications are going to make our quick maneuver tactics way better; we’ll be a lot harder to hit,” Miya said as she dropped into the splits, lying down on her chest.
Ruin smirked in his usual fashion. “Or crash us into a wall at high speed, and cause me a ton of paperwork.”
“Well, if you want to disable yours during the operation, I’ll test out the thrusters by myself,” she replied, as she was stretching her arms to her toes.
“No, I’ll test them as well, but answer me this; what’s with the flight package looking like wings?” He was stretching his arms behind his back.
Miya was up by now and had walked over, slipping on her fight gear, followed by Ruin. She smiled at him, ears twitching. “Well, I had a study done; it turns out when the Valkyries fight, their wings seem to scare the crap out of enemies.”
“Watch your power, you two. We can’t go to war if our chiefs take themselves out in a sparring match!” Abby said, giggling through the speakers in the wall; she would monitor the fight. “Twenty points or a knockout, usual rules.”
Ruin had strapped on his gloves as he walked across the room into the middle, followed by Miya. “Fair enough. I figured it was something like that. Anyway, are you ready?”
Miya dropped into the splits, her ears flat against her head. She slung her right foot out in a vicious sweep that Ruin jumped over and yelped, flipping backward in midair. “Damn you, Cat!” Abby cheerfully announced that Miya had made a point.
“I’m ready; how about you?” Miya smirked; as she flipped to her feet just blocking a lightning-fast punch at her face. Then she blocked another one, but the other three caught her in the jaw, lip, and the side of her head, folding an ear against her head. She grunted as blood trickled down her face from her split lip.
“Three points to Ruin. Better watch it, Miya, I don’t think Ruin wants to watch home movies tonight!” Abby giggled.
“Yes, I’m ready!” Ruin chuckled.
The pair squared off. Ruin’s power began to build, and Miya just grinned. She wasn’t as fast as he was, but she was fast enough, coupled with a cat’s almost preternatural senses. She could win, but it wouldn’t be easy. Her good friend and second in command was in fact a super soldier. He could move with blinding speed and he was strong enough to turn a steel hatch into an ash tray with his fist.
Ruin came forward so fast Miya didn’t catch it in time, and his right fist slammed into her stomach. It lifted her off her feet; it hurt, causing her tail to fling out straight behind her. Spit flew from her mouth with a loud grunt.
“Point goes to Ruin!” Abby seemed to actually be enjoying the fight.
But the angle of the punch and how it lifted her body were in her favor. As she was in midair she began to turn, and gripped his right arm with a death grip. Completing a full turn she landed facing away, with his arm firmly in both hands and yanked, yanking forward into a tumble, flinging Ruin at the wall. He hit the wall upside down, sliding comically to his head until he flipped over to a new surprise.
“Three points to Miya!” Abby said.
“I guess you’re ready to fight, huh, kitty— Crap!” His words were cut off abruptly with a painful grunt as she came down on him with a hammer fist; she had launched herself into the air as she came out of the roll. She came down like a bomb. It wasn’t the prettiest of attacks, but it worked, and hit home with a loud thud. The hammer fist had landed painfully on his head but he was far from beaten.
Abby chuckled, “Another point to Miya!”
Traveling at speeds no ordinary human ever could, he appeared behind her, landing blow after blow into her back. Miya knew he could hit a lot harder, but these blows were not in fact half hearted she was definitely in trouble. She yelped loudly and stumbled forward, trying to get her footing.
“You guessed it, another point to Ruin. I should televise this; I could make a bundle!” Abby was giggling.
“Can it, tin girl, before I have you downloaded into the Sorovaste sewer control!” Miya croaked out.
“Colonel, I’m wounded. My boundless intellect relegated to sewer control!” The mock hurt in Abby’s voice made Miya and Ruin chuckle.
Before Miya could get out of the way he had grabbed her and she felt herself sail into the air. She bounced off the ceiling then landed on the ground, flat on her back. She saw Ruin coming down from the air on the attack. She reacted by swinging her right leg up into a powerful side kick, catching him in the midsection.
Abby was still giggling. “I suppose sewer control would be okay, because this is totally worth it; point to both combatants!”
The kick took Ruin unaware and he folded over her foot with a loud grunt; at which point he fell forward and rolled onto his back. Miya didn’t hesitate; she was on her feet, and faintly surprised as she faced Ruin, who had a lopsided grin.
“Point to Miya,” Abby was giggling.
“Face it, Big Cat, I’m going to win. Let the research wait till after the operation!” he said, as he bolted at blinding speed to close the gap between them. But Miya wasn’t there, and he blinked in confusion; how could she do that?
Miya could feel the air currents from him as his power built through her monofilament whiskers; then it stopped. The current reversed, and she knew where he was going. Miya had dropped into the splits and slammed an open palm into his crotch, drawing a groan as he collapsed to his knees the floor.
“Seems a bit soon to declare victory, I would say.” Miya smiled her ears still flat against her head.
“Point to Miya!” Abby said.
“Sorry, Ruin, I’m rather spoiled!” Miya declared.
She slammed her forehead into his; Nekos were built rather solidly. The major fell backward, clutching at his nose, groaning, with blood dripping through his hands. They were both scuffed and bleeding as she helped him to his feet after he came to. Miya’s lip was bleeding, and she had bruises all over her upper body.
“Match goes to Miya by a knockout!” Abby chuckled. “Good fight, you two; wait, you have an encrypted communication, audio only; it’s Lord Taylor.”
Miya had grabbed a towel and was wiping some sweat off and spoke. “Please put him through, Abby.”
“Colonel, how are you?” Miya smiled as Lord Taylor spoke. “I hear you and Ruin were doing a late-night spar; I hope I’m not interrupting,” Lord Taylor said with a chuckle.
Miya laughed softly. “No, Your Lordship, we were just finishing up and planning on doing some data review before we try to get some rest; is something wrong?”
“No, not at all. I’m on my way there. I’d like to watch the bombardment firsthand.” He sounded excited.
Miya grimaced, Ruin’s face paling as well. She responded, “That’s wonderful, Your Lordship; I’ll make sure you have an honor guard flight to meet you. Any idea when you will be here?”
“My pilot tells me about four hours. I’ll see you then, Colonel.” Lord Taylor clicked off the connection; he sounded tired.
“Well, that kind of ruins the whole ‘stealth in and take them by surprise thing’ you wanted to do.” Ruin was grinning.
Miya chuckled, “We’ll still take them by surprise; and it’s okay, we need to stay up anyway. Abby, get the bridge for me.”
“Yes, Colonel. Wait one . . . you’re on with Major Simmons.” Abby had gone back to being polite.
“Colonel, I already set up an alert flight and escort for Lord Taylor. Anything else you would like me to do?” The major sounded confident, and Miya smiled.
“Major, I’d like the crew to give the ship a once-over; make sure it’s spic and span. Also, see if the officer’s mess has something better to cook than meat loaf.” Miya grimaced, and Ruin laughed.
“Got it, Colonel. I’ll send word a bit before we launch the fighters,” the major said.
“Thank you, Major.” Miya cut the connection. “Ruin, let’s hit the showers. Meet me in my office in about fifteen minutes?”
Ruin nodded. “I’ll be there.”
The two soldiers walked from the training room and shut out the lights, the door shutting behind them.
A bit later, Miya waited in her office. She had Abby route the footage to a big screen in her office and was making coffee as Ruin knocked on the door.
Miya turned to the door. “Come on in, Ruin.”
“Thanks, and that smells like coffee.” He grinned and walked over, snatching a cup from the counter and filling it before he sat down.
“Let’s start from the beginning.” Miya smiled, and Ruin groaned. With that footage our story started ten years ago, where a legendary commander’s journey began; Miya Harakuro.
Chapter 2: Typhoon
March 18, 4319
Bridge of the Typhoon
Near Mt. Kenashi
Out of the early morning sun, six Mako strike fighters screamed in over the coast of Japan’s largest island, Honshu. The Mako fighters rolled right and left, splitting up north and south, their powerful engines roaring defiance. Birds scattered in huge flocks looking like giant plumes of black smoke. The birds and animals of the dense forests below were the only ones to witness the arrival of the fighters, and the looming monster that was following.
Japan no longer supported civilization; the war had been devastating to the island nation. Chemical and biological weapons had been used by the Atroo, and those that had not fled died by the millions. All that was left there now were wild Otherfolk, mutants, and animals. Rumors of evil spirits, rampaging demons, and evil gods persisted from the time of the fall to this day. The Asian conclave declared the place off limits to their own people. Few expeditions had braved the unknown dangers of Japan. Even fewer had made it back.
Breaking through the cloud cover, dragging streamers of vapor with it, the Black Watch Battle Carrier Typhoon II gracefully lowered its altitude to just over five hundred feet. Typhoon was a Kilmer-class Battle Carrier, measuring one half-mile from bow to stern; one of the largest and most powerful ships built since the fall of earth. There were only three in the whole fleet, and the Typhoon was the pride of the Black Watch.
Its crew liked to think of it as thirty thousand tons of “Screw you!” The ship had lived up to that praise on many occasions. She sported four sets of tri- mounted, 500 terawatt pulse lasers; three forward facing, one rear facing. Under the bow, three spinal-mounted thirty millimeter Gauss cannons were housed. Eight vertical launch missile tubes lined her port and starboard sides. For defense she sported numerous mini guns, small lasers, Gauss guns, and a sensor array that could pick up anything not under an active stealth field. The ship had a large flight deck sporting four runways; two for launching two for recovery.
The Typhoon carried thirty fighters and twelve Golem drop ships. Below decks she carried up to fifty Dragon armors, between twenty and thirty Zoomies, and up to two battalions of troops. The Typhoon was the perfect ship for a tech expedition. Fully supplied she could support a mission for over a month before the need for resupply; that freed up the fleet to defend the home front.
The Black Watch didn’t have many air assets of its own; just the Typhoon, a few escort ships, eight total squadrons of fighters, and a few dozen drop ships. It was thought that for the Black Watch’s mission they didn’t need that much airpower, and high command refused to give more.
At this moment the scopes, sensors, and radar were clear for now, and the ship’s crew made ready to launch Operation Nest Egg. Both fighter launch decks were buzzing with activity; Gauss launchers were inspected, and fighters were fueled and armed. The lower utility launch deck was being readied. Dragon Armors moved toward the haul cradles on the drop ships, Zoomies rolled down the deck and up the ramps into waiting drop ships. Black Watch soldiers of First Battalion Alpha and Bravo Companies hauled their gear toward their waiting drop ships, preparing to load up.
The operation was called Nest Egg, one of hundreds undertaken in the centuries since the fall to recover the powerful technology of the past. Those missions were always the domain of the Black Watch. Almost all the tech they now used were versions of blueprints and reverse engineered machines that had been found. But even though they had great technology, fusion power still eluded scientists; the materials and physics were lost.
Fusion reactor technology had been replaced with cloned dragon reactors and fission reactors, so not much effort had ever been expended re-learning the physics for fusion technology. The Dragon reactors were cheap, but now the old tech seemed to be within reach. A trader had come to Sorovaste; a woman with white hair, one yellow eye and one blue eye; she bore some pre- war tech and the map on an old tablet. The tech was passed up through the system till the scientists realized what they were looking at. A search for the woman turned up nothing; her identity was faked, and she had disappeared.
Elevators rose, lifting fighters to launch positions. Deck personnel scrambled across all launch decks. Drop ships were moved over the drop hatches. From the bridge, Colonel Mike Silverton smiled, watching his monitors as crew moved, ready to launch. The colonel pressed a button on his chair and spoke. “Good morning, Black Watch. I won’t keep you long, just wanted to say; stay safe, follow your SOPs, and come back with the groceries in one piece.” You could hear a rousing “RAH!” down the hallways and everywhere on the ship.
“Air Boss, the launch is yours. Nest Egg force and escorts, you are free to drop as the Air Boss releases your aircraft. Good hunting!” Colonel Mike smiled as orders were given and his aircraft launched.
Mako fighters launched, big jet engines screaming. The Gauss launchers worked flawlessly with their loud, screech-bang sounds. On orders from the air boss, the carrier drop doors opened and the big Golem drop ships lowered into the yawning openings. Then, with a large metal popping sound, the aircraft dropped a hundred feet and blasted forward; huge jet engines roaring. Wildlife spooked from their hiding places scattered; flying, running, and swimming.
Fang looked out the portal next to her as they flew toward the target. “Looks very pretty down there, I might have even liked the trip if it wasn’t for the mutants, monsters, and worse down there.”
Doom chuckled next to her and poked her in the cheek gently with an armored finger. Both women had their helmets off because they knew it could be a while before they would have them off again. Both of them were part of Major Robert “Ruin” Choinard’s command squad. Ruin looked up and grinned at the young sergeants. “What do you want to do, have a picnic, Kelly?”
Doom chuckled, “I was thinking a trip back to the coast and a beach party myself.”
Fang’s face was a bit red and she was rolling her eyes. “Speaking of a picnic!” Fang peeled the wrapper from a candy bar and began to eat it.
By this time the whole command squad was chuckling; including Loki, who smiled over at Fang and patted her shoulder. “These guys are terrible, I know.” He faked a grimace. “I’ve put up with them for five years; don’t let them bother you.”
Fang wrinkled her nose. “Oh, I know; I can and do take care of myself.” She pointed at the small rubber ball Ruin was bouncing on the deck, then turned her fingers, pointing up, and it bounced off his chin.
“Fang, you little shit!” he laughed, catching the ball and tossing it her. She caught it, looked at the little ball and tossed it back, laughing.
The loadmaster came over the intercom announcing the coming landing. “Okay, boys and girls, we’re circling the landing zone now. Be ready to un-ass ship!” The Golems came screaming in, engines swiveling forward then down as they came in surprisingly gently. “We’re four green down and locked. Loadmaster, the ramp is yours,” the co-pilot said calmly.
The loadmaster had appeared in the troop compartment and responded, “Okay, lowering the ramp. Good hunting, Commander!”
Ruin smiled and spoke before he lowered his visor. “Just be sure you’re back to pick us up; I hate being stood up.” Ruin had loaded and locked his Raptor carbine, and was now locking his naginata into its sling on the back of the suit. He was on his feet, moving to the back of the compartment.
The soldiers locked their helmets on the neck ring of the breastplate, then lowered their visors with a collective hiss. Nine Raptor assault rifles were lifted and loaded and locked, the selectors turned to three-round bursts.
“Never, sir; we always pick up our dates on time!” He chuckled, slapping each of the soldiers on the back as they left the compartment. The soldiers moved quickly into the cargo bay and toward the ramp.
The Golem was not even close to capacity. Even the cargo bay was almost empty, only containing two Zoomies, one assault pattern armed with a mini gun, and one transport armed with a heavy Raptor. The walls had cargo nets strapped to them, and plastic crates were locked to the floor. The troopers followed Ruin as the door opened; sunlight streamed in, along with dust and loose vegetation. Ruin “thought” through his sensors, and they would appear on his HUD. The suits had remained one of the most advanced technologies the Black Watch had, aside from the vaunted Dragon Armors.
The troopers minus the two drivers ran down the ramp into a primordial forest, weapons at the ready. The other six drop ships were dropping off Alpha, Bravo, and Rattle Snake Companies. As the drop ships landed, their flaring engines blackened the ground and blew loose vegetation away. Then the ships with the armors slid their drop shields up, revealing their armor, which gleamed in the light.
As the armors dropped off their cradles, the ground shook. Servos whined as the big, powerful machines fanned out in a parameter with scout and assault Zoomies acting as a screen. Ruin called his people together as four researchers arrived through the brush; the men weren’t just scientists, they were in fact highly trained soldiers. They moved as easily as everyone else; but they would not be in front line combat. They were far too valuable.
Ruin “thought,” and the frequency switched to the battalion push. “Okay, folks, you know the drill. And if you stumble across anything in a Euro uniform, make it dead. Ruin out.”
The lead armor had stopped five hundred meters out, and their commander, Kim Gnell, spoke in her usual tones. “Okay, Rattle Snakes, this is Rattle Snake One Actual. Your waypoints and patrol patterns are uploaded to your HUDs; let me get a coms check.” The other eleven armors responded with a positive five by five.
“All right, reading you, all five by five. Let’s kick this in gear. I don’t want to hear Ruin bitch about us moving slow.” The armor leader chuckled, but was stifled a second later by a teasing voice on the coms.
Ruin was chuckling, “Rattle Snake One Actual, I can hear you. Why don’t you worry about the mission, not my bitchin’. Ruin out.”
“Yeah, sorry about that, Ruin. I owe you a beer at the Officer’s Club,” the woman laughed.
Most Dragon Armors were humanoid in construction; they were named for the cloned bioreactors that powered them. These Dragon Armors were mostly chrome black, with shoulder armor painted in lime green scales and the picture of a striking rattlesnake. They massed thirty tons and carried an impressive load out of weapons; everything from Gauss rifles, lasers, and large machine guns, to cannons, flame throwers, and missiles.
The humanoid structured Dragon Armors could wield tools and melee weapons; they carried whirring saws and thermal blades. With these they walked forward, hacking through the forest, and stomping everything else flat. Once they got to the edge of the forest close to the mountain that was their target, they would begin to speed up.
Back at the LZ, Ruin had everyone loaded up and was ready to leave. Doom was up behind the razor mini gun, swiveling at the top of the assault Zoomie; Fang operated the one on the transport.
“Okay, Nest Egg Task Force, let’s move out. I don’t want those leggers to get too far ahead. I would never, ever hear the end of it!” Ruin chuckled as both companies moved out in their Zoomies, engines roaring.
Most people on the expedition found it hard to believe that anyone ever lived here until they came to the ruins of the orbital Gauss launcher. Over the centuries, plants treated the collapsed on-ramps and roads like any other hill; so as a result, most of it was obscured unless you knew what you were looking at. To most it looked like a ruined roller coaster lying in the trees. Old buildings lay in various states of decay; the forest would claim even those structures.
The smell of sickly sweetness and rotten carrion hung heavily in the air. Ruin became concerned and contacted Loki on a private frequency. “Do you smell that?”
“Yes, any signs yet, other than the smell?” Kohari spoke in low tones.
“Nothing yet, so keep your eyes open.”
“Maybe we should tell the task force?”
“I’ll look for signs.”
Ruin was now scanning the forest for tracks or trees that were gnawed on. The smell was becoming worse, and a few troopers were complaining. Then he saw something that sent shivers up his spine.
“Nest Egg Task Force halt! Armors, stay loose in the perimeter. Zoomies, get ready to fire and maneuver with the Dragon Armors. Make it done yesterday, folks.” Ruin sounded very concerned; he was already out of the vehicle and was visually scanning. He zeroed in on what he had seen.
Dragons were creatures used by the Atroo as tank and artillery analogs; rather like a giant gecko that could project beams and streams of plasma from their mouths, among other things.
“Everyone on your toes, there’s a huge pile of Dragon scat about one hundred seventy-five yards northeast of me, and its fresh. There appears to be a large amount of it.” Ruin was ready to fight. “Everyone change to supplied air; not taking chances.”
Her armor swiveled on its torso. Sensors mounted on the head unit moved. She could see the piles Ruin saw, and was more than a little sick to her stomach. Nothing was moving that she could see, but dragons could be stealthy when stalking prey.
The Rattle Snake commander, Captain Kim Gnell, had moved within a hundred meters of them. She got on her radio and spoke to Ruin on his private frequency. “Boss, is that what I think it is?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know how many or what class; split up your forces. Send one platoon of your armors southwest and secure the road,” Ruin said as he scanned the forest.
“Roger, sir,” she said, switching frequencies. “Second Platoon, head up the south road; scout and secure.”
“Okay, let’s get ready to move, folks; we’re burning daylight.” Ruin motioned to mount up and jumped in his Zoomie.
The column moved slowly forward, ready to react. If there were a dragon, or multiple animals, it would get ugly quickly. Doom was scanning back and forth with her mini gun and noticed the small cave first. It wasn’t deep, but she could see over a dozen heat signatures in the cave. It didn’t take but a second to dawn on her what she was looking at.
“Sir, I think our day just got more complicated,” Doom said. She sounded spooked.
“I see it,” Ruin almost sighed, and spoke. “Okay, folks, I just marked a nest. Don’t even look at it harshly; be ready. I’m marking it for fire support.” Ruin brought up the local map and flagged the small cave. Whether they faced the dragon or dragons or not, the eggs would have to be destroyed. The eggs meant at least the female was Class Four; and who knew how many youngsters were about.
The force had only traveled another hundred meters past the nest. A roar cut through the forest noise, and it was close. Ruin was about to order the force to halt and close up when an azure beam cut through and destroyed an armor up off to his left.
“Dragons! At least six Class Twos and a Class Five!” Rattle Snake commander said, punctuated by fire from her big machine cannon.
“All task force elements pull back and form a defensive line; don’t waste your ammo or play hero!” Ruin watched the whole force turn and line up on his vehicle. By this time he was out of his vehicle again. The rest of his troops were out and finding cover to fire from.
The Dragon Armors were already occupied with a swarm of baby and adolescent dragons. Several Zoomies had wheeled around machine guns, helping to pick off the little ones.
“It’s gonna be a long day.” Ruin watched a giant head push itself through the trees ahead of him. “A really long day.” Ruin keyed his radio, the suit reading the impulse. “Typhoon fire control, be advised we have contact with an unknown number of feral dragons; stand by.”
Chapter 3: Dragons!
March 18, 4319
Mt. Kenashi, Japan
When the Atroo first attacked on the ground, the dragons had caused fear so primordial they’d caused panic even among trained soldiers. But in the first hours of the invasion, a brave Dragon Armor pilot engaged one of the largest known dragons to ever live. The creature weighed a staggering three hundred tons and measured thirty-six meters long, as large as a dinosaur from Terra’s distant past. The creature was killed after a lengthy battle. Its handler was the best the Atroo had, and he was killed with his animal.
After that battle, images of the fight showed the armor take the creature apart and then finish it off by taking its head with an energy blade. This bolstered the defenders and the public alike; the dragons could be killed, and the Atroo and their biotech were indeed stoppable. The truth was, however, that the pilot had later died; brave or not, the dragon had penetrated his suit with its claws. Venom had seeped in and it slowly killed the pilot. But he had given the Terran forces hope, and a ton of data on the dragons, and Atroo.
In this forest outside there was no fear. No one ran, and when the order was given, the volume of fire they unleashed shredded the first of the smaller dragons as they skittered toward the Black Watch troopers. The big dragon had gotten bogged down in the trees but it would not be long before she freed herself.
Colonel Silverton had contacted Ruin on his personal frequency. “Ruin, I am moving the Typhoon around, trying to get a shot, but I can’t. You’re in a bad spot. Can you move your forces?”
“Negative, sir, the female is fouled in the trees trying to get at us. If we move she will have a clear path to us, and we can’t move south, there’s a lake back there.” The sound of muted fire came through with Ruin’s calm voice.
Colonel Silverton sounded frustrated. “Damn, if anything changes, we’ll keep trying.”
“We have this, Colonel, hold tight. I will have a fire mission. I think I have a plan.”
“Roger, Ruin, Silverton out.”
Ruin moved forward, his servos whining as he did, and jumped down behind a downed tree as another beam lanced above his head, taking the top of a tree off behind him. Small dragons the size of adult alligators were swarming forward, and the soldiers were killing them wholesale. But now new roars came from the woods; big one’s mates had arrived.
Loki chuckled as he saw the big Class Threes rumbling into view. “Well, that’s unfortunate.”
“Well, at least it isn’t raining,” Ruin chuckled, but later would regret that statement.
Just then Ruin saw Doom and Fang slip off to the left of the line. They were moving with a purpose, fast and hunched over behind cover. The two trained Otherfolk would try to even the odds. Fang had her visor up, and motioned both her hands at the two male dragons; a soft blue glow radiated from her. The two dragons screeched and flip-flopped around as they were lifted by their necks into the air. By this time Doom had her helmet and gloves off, and she began to glow red; vegetation around her turned black and burned.
Fang twisted her hands and the dragons both screamed as their legs snapped. They were big, at least a thousand pounds apiece. Then Fang spoke in a strained voice, “Okay, Doom, do it! I can’t handle them any longer!” Fang was now screaming with effort.
“Got it! Hold on another second!” Doom held out her hands, pointing at the dragons with the palms. “Die!” she screamed, as twin beams of fire shot from her hands and hit the dragons, engulfing them in flames. As the dragons’ flesh bubbled and flashed into flames, boiling black smoke rose up from them as they screeched.
At that moment, Fang raised her hands and the dragons rose quickly into the air. She turned her hands over and made a slamming motion and both hit the ground with a sickening plop sound. Both creatures screeched as one and exploded, throwing up rocks and dirt. Doom and Fang collapsed with their effort, laughing.
Loki was yelling as he was moving, the servos in the big man’s armor whined as he ran, “Oh, holy shit! They exhausted themselves! Come on, we gotta drag them back!” Two other troopers followed him to grab their exhausted comrades. When they got there, one man went to a knee, firing his Raptor rifle and killed two adolescent dragons as they charged. Loki and the other soldier grabbed Doom and Fang and began to drag them back. Just then, several Class Two female dragons had joined the fight.
The third male dragon died as the armors pinned it with fire, having freed themselves from the hundreds of young ones. A Gauss cannon coughed a round into the ground below the brute. The near relativistic projectile hit the ground and blew the creature into the air, shearing off its tail. Large lasers reached out and torched the creature.
The big female had gotten itself loose from the trees and began to move east. She would soon make the clearing. Ruin’s plan would have to work or they were in trouble. He ran as he yelled, “The queen is trying to get behind us! I’m going for that nest! Loki, take charge!” Ruin had tapped a couple troopers on the shoulder and they ran behind him, weapons ready.
Loki replied as he blasted away at the other females, “Got it! Don’t do anything stupid!”
“Need you to start moving west, because in fact I am going to do something extremely stupid,” Ruin chuckled, as he rammed a fresh magazine into his Raptor.
“Blue Sword, Blue Sword, this is Nest Egg One Actual; fire mission over!” Ruin spoke as he ran, casually blasting a young dragon with his rifle.
Typhoon fire control came back, “Nest Egg One Actual, this Blue Sword fire control. Go ahead with coordinates. Over!”
“Blue Sword, popping a beacon. On my mark, three Gauss cannon rounds, spotter will adjust.” Ruin was now running for the nest; he already had the beacon out and ready.
“All right, you two, I want you to fall back and keep any smaller dragons off of me, but don’t play hero,” he said, slamming a fresh magazine home.
Both troopers replied, “Roger, sir!”
As Ruin ran toward the nest, he slung the big rifle behind him and set the beacon. Then a young dragon jumped from a thicket. Ruin turned in time to see its mouth open and its razor-sharp teeth. Before it could tear into Ruin, one of the troopers shot it in the throat, knocking it over backwards into the thicket it came from.
“Whoa, that would have sucked. Beer is on me after we get back,” Ruin chuckled, getting close to the nest.
The trooper replied, “Just kill that thing, sir!”
Ruin stood over the entrance to the nest. He started the beacon and dropped it in the opening, jumped forward, and ran. The two troopers were blasting the young dragons, keeping them off, but they were running out of time. If they could kill the queen, all the young ones would die from the psychic death scream of the queen. He triggered his radio. “Blue Sword, this is Nest Egg One Actual. Fire for effect!”
Blue Sword answered back, “Nest Egg One Actual, get some cover. The hammer is coming down!”
The Typhoon had pointed its bow at the nest, homing in on the beacon. A second later, three near relativistic slugs hit the nest, turning it into a yawning chasm. The big female dragon had just come into the clearing and saw the nest explode. She screeched and roared in fury. Then she saw Ruin jumping up and down, waving his hands.
“Come on, you ugly bitch! I’m over here! Come get me!” Ruin was already on the move.
He spoke to his two troopers. “You two get out of sight. No need to get us all fried!”
Reluctantly the two troopers obeyed and got under cover, slithering their bulky armor under some old plastacrete. Of course, the snouts of their Raptors protruded out and would bark if they saw a young dragon, and there were plenty of them.
Ruin ducked right before the big female dragon opened its mouth and a beam seared through the trees behind him, cutting them in two, setting the brush on fire. The big creature was now charging, roaring its fury. Ruin was back peddling; he wasn’t quite ready.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me!” He reached behind him and pulled his satchel charge loose, he was not going toe to toe with this thing.
Ruin ran forward, the servos in his suit whining, and jumped just to the right of the creature’s head as it roared. He pulled the cord on the charge and tossed it in the creature’s mouth’ trying to continue past.
Unfortunately’ however’ the dragon whipped its tail around and clipped him on the back’ sending him cartwheeling into the brush. “Damn it, that’ll leave a mark!” he grunted as he hit the ground, which was just in time for the satchel charge to explode.
The charge had gone halfway down the dragon’s throat, and blew the creature’s head completely from its body. The explosion tracked straight down the creature’s throat. Ruin felt himself lift off the ground and slammed back down as the creature’s bioreactor exploded. Fire rained down through the trees as the dragon’s volatile venom burned.
The remaining dragons fell, their nervous systems overcome as the big female died. Loki heard the explosion from his own position and was on the radio cheering almost immediately. “Ruin, this is Loki, are you there? You did it, Major!” By that time Ruin was staggering to his feet. He was a little beat up but he would recover quickly due to his suit and his bioengineered body.
“Yeah, I’m here, and yes, that was stupid.” Ruin laughed as he walked out and around the burning carcass. His two troopers were on their feet, ready to go.
Ruin spoke to the troopers suit to suit. “Good job, both of you. I’ll make sure you’re recognized for your good work.”
The one closest to him had raised his visor. “No need, sir, glad we could help. Great toss, by the way.” Ruin looked at the man’s name tag and grinned.
“Corporal Hathaway, you’re Shmoo’s kid, aren’t you?” Ruin had his visor up by now and was smiling.
The young man smiled and nodded. “Yes, wherever the hell he is.”
“He would be proud of you. You’re a fine soldier, and I’m sure he is just fine,” Ruin smiled genuinely, and patted the soldier on the back.
The other trooper stood there silently but smiling, his visor up. He wasn’t sure what to say. Ruin looked over at the dragon as it burned. “Well, at least the wind is blowing the stench toward the coast and not into our faces.”
Corporal Hathaway smiled. “True, sir. I hear they stink pretty badly when they burn up that way.”
“Oh, they do. So what do you say we head back before the wind shifts?” Ruin smiled and dropped his visor, the two troopers following suit.
As they trotted west to meet up with the rest of the task force, Colonel Silverton came over Ruin’s private frequency. “I hear you’re a bona fide dragon slayer. What do you have planned for an encore, Ruin?”
Ruin answered, “I think I’ll stick to an uneventful trip to an old research base, and bring in some old tech for the eggheads.”
“Good, the eggheads will be pleased.”
“As always, I serve Sorovaste.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, good job. Make sure you write up a report on the action. There are a lot of people down there that deserve medals for this.”
“You tell me I do a good job and then give me paperwork. How is that a reward? I was hoping for beer,” Ruin joked.
Colonel Silverton was chuckling now. “I know how you love it. Silverton out.” Ruin shook his head; obviously he did not in fact love paperwork at all.
Ruin and his troopers took off toward the west to catch up to the task force. The sound of gunfire from that direction warned that there was still a bit of bloody work to do.
There were hundreds of young dragons dead on the ground, everything from week-old hatchlings the size of a house cat to adolescents the size of crocodiles. Some had been shot to pieces, others stomped to death by annoyed Black Watch troopers. Across the fetid field of carnage troopers still marched around, finishing off dragons that were still hanging on to life. Once the task force had finished, they set up a temporary perimeter and were waiting for the drop ships to pick up the wounded. It would indeed be a long day.
The wounded had been gathered around the five Zoomie ambulances. Nearby one of them, Ruin and Loki stood over Doom and Fang. The young NCOs were recovering quickly. Otherfolk powers could exhaust the user, but Esper types could actually die, being thoroughly consumed by their powers. Both girls were on an IV drip and were leaning against the rear passenger tire of the Zoomie. Ruin didn’t look very happy, but that wasn’t anything new.
Ruin didn’t know whether to praise them as heroes or have them evaluated by mental hygiene. His voice sounded angry. “Are you two out of your minds? Always take backup with you!”
“Sir, with all due respect, every person in this task force was a little fucking busy!” Doom might have continued with a few more choice words about Ruin’s parentage, but Fang elbowed her hard, making a clang sound against the breastplate of her armor.
Fang smiled up at Ruin and spoke a bit more respectfully. “Sir, I think what Doom is trying to say is that we were caught up in the moment.” Fang let him digest that a second and continued, “As we were taught after selection, those with the power to act but fail to do so are worse than the enemies we fight.”
Knowing what Ruin was trying to do, Loki had stayed silent till the young soldier brought up that quote. Loki chuckled and thumped Ruin’s shoulder pauldron. “’If you can do something, don’t just sit there with your thumb in your ass.’ I believe those were the exact words of Sergeant Clemmons, right, Ruin?”
“Yeah, that is one of his famous ‘translations’ of the Watch manual.” Ruin’s face paled.
Fang looked at both the officers, wrinkling her brow. “He said that to you all, too?
“He has said that to everyone he’s helped train for the last twenty years.” Loki was chuckling.
Doom was giggling at Fang, and was helping her to her feet when Ruin spoke to them. “Although I stand by my previous statement, what you two pulled off was brave, and the power you unleashed was something to be proud of.” Ruin stood towering over both of them, an imposing sight, but he smiled at them. “I am glad I brought you two into my command section.”
Both women smiled and spoke at once: “Thank you, sir!”
“I was rather impressed by your powers; they have improved a lot. I’ll speak to coordinator Dawn about getting you retested when we get back.” Loki smiled.
By this time a Golem medical transport was landing a few hundred meters away and dropping its ramp. There were only a few wounded that needed transport; most had been treated for minor wounds and released back to duty. But one trooper had been unlucky enough to get caught in a plasma stream of one of the smaller female dragons; she had died instantly. Medics carried the other four, and the corpse of the dead trooper, to the ship.
Ruin switched to the task force push. “All right, Nest Egg task force, let’s mount up!” Engines roared to life, weapons came online, and the Dragon Armors powered up and took up positions a couple hundred meters out once again. “Okay, let’s move out. Rattle Snakes, you have the point.” Ruin smiled as he spoke, seeing the force begin to move. They drove down the southwestern road, maintaining about fifty kilometers per hour.
The Rattle Snake company commander spoke to Ruin on his private frequency. “Second Platoon reports it’s all clear up on their end, and they’re detecting large power sources at least one hundred feet underground. Seems consistent with an underground base of the era.”
“That’s good news. All right, once you reach the target area, spread out and cover the whole western approach the best you can.” Ruin grinned, hoping this was a good sign.
The Dragon Armor commander was moving around waypoints and markers on her HUD as she spoke. “Got it, sir. Rattle Snake One Actual out.”
As they traveled, they passed a dragon skeleton almost overgrown by trees. It was a big one. As the company passed, they saw a gigantic sword stuck through the top of its head, with two metal hands grasping it. The arms were broken from the body of a pre-war robotic armor, pieces of which were scattered over a small area in front of the skull, a sad testament to a hero who’d stood their ground against the invasion.
Ruin called a halt as the task force reached the tree line. What laid before them was indeed an old, pre-war base, its parking lots full of junk that was finally wasting away. Not even the tech of the era could stand forever against the ravages of time. Curiously, though, the vegetation in the area had not yet begun to take over.
Again Ruin spoke on the task force push. “Okay, dismount and form up, engineers first. Let’s not have the party cancelled by thousand-year-old sentry guns or land mines.” He furrowed his brow. “And keep an eye out for Zyants, they’re thick on this island.” Ruin had dismounted and was followed by his command unit. Not such a bad day after all, Ruin thought, but the world would change tomorrow.
My Name is Fred D. Shutts. I write in the science fiction and fantasy genres. I’ve been published in a college publication with a story called “Children of the Forge Lord”, and my new book “Miya’s Assault”. I have written many short stories for fan site’s and alike. When I’m not writing or working a real job I can most likely be found playing World of Warcraft.
Website and URLs for any social media
A link to where to buy the book (optional)