Olsin leads the motley crew of escapees through gleaming corridors towards one of the many tower hangars. As they approach a corner she places a hand on the Anvil’s groin and whispers “Wait, sugar.” Her hand lingers for an uncomfortably long time, then waves them onwards. Olsin’s carbine is at her shoulder, eye to sight, darting the weapon back and forth as she aims and walks.
The building rocks to the sound of a muffled explosion. “What the holy was that?” says Big Jimmy, glancing up as several hovering glowglobes flicker above.
“Of course, it sounds like Bester’s men have found this place,” says Granny Chun. “We need those weapons now, Olsin.”
Olsin grimaces as the building rocks again to the sound of numerous distant thuds. “This way,” she says. “And move it.”
Shi-Cho watches with satisfaction from the cockpit of his interceptor as Lady Chao’s Triad headquarters is pummelled and pounded by a succession of missiles and plasma beams. Gun emplacements erupt, hangars spew flame and debris, communications arrays splinter and fall. He’s surprised the building is so robust—obviously internal armour and a strengthened superstructure—it didn’t look like much to begin with, but outward appearances can be deceiving.
He addresses his commanders in the concealed fleet by com. “One carrier to each entry port or hangar, another two carriers at ocean-level to prevent any boats leaving. External assault will be over soon and internal opposition may be high. I want Lady Chao taken alive. Anyone else can be terminated.”
A hologram of Bester appears on the console, his face livid. “Shi-Cho! I thought I told you I didn’t want to make enemies of the Triads. I’m informed that your fleet has assaulted Lady Chao’s tower. Is this your version of diplomacy?”
Shi-Cho smiles, but keeps his attention on the attack. “Listen boss, do you want your daughter back or not?”
“Of course, I do, but—”
“Then let me do the job you’re paying me for.” Shi-Cho flicks the holo off.
Guards run left and right, rushing to defend demolished hangars and other entry points. Smoke fills the corridors as Olsin leads the group to an armoury. Her palmchip opens the sliding door and she ushers everyone in as she keeps watch. “Grab what you need and make it fast,” she says.
The external attack appears to have ceased; the building no longer stutters and shakes, the occasional electrical failure and cry of wounded echoing through haze-filled corridors denote its passing.
The walls of the armoury are filled with gun racks. The Anvil watches as Chun and Jimmy seize flechette carbines and plasma pistols, flashcans and frag grenades. Chun takes a pumpgun for good measure. Both strap on armoured vests.
The Anvil activates her MWEs, popping them out of their forearm housings. Her sensors are on full alert, scanning the surrounds, sensing body heat through walls, calculating movement vectors and intercept algorithms. “Ready?” she says.
Chun cocks the pumpgun for effect. “Of course. Feels good to be armed again.”
Big Jimmy pouts. “I’d rather have my Magnum any day. Let’s go get it back.”
The Anvil raises an eyebrow. “And Violet.”
“Yeah, yeah, her too.”
They meet up with Olsin outside, who eyes the MWEs cautiously. “Don’t even think about using those on me, sugar,” she says.
The Anvil frowns. “I gave you my word.”
“Yeah, well you can walk in front from now on.” Olsin nudges the Anvil with her carbine barrel. “Straight down here, then turn left. There’s a hangar about twenty-five metres down that corridor.”
Chun and Jimmy hold their carbines at the ready, covering the rear as the party moves forward through the smoke.
Lady Chao clutches the armrest of her ornate throne, crushing the antique wood with durasteel fingers. The hologram in the air before her plays out the battle, showing the de-cloaked carriers and interceptors surrounding and docking with her tower. Separate views show firefights and skirmishes between her guards and assault teams on various levels.
“Should have known not to trust Bester,” she says, sighing.
The tall aide-de-camp standing beside Chao shivers and self-consciously straightens her uniform. Her shoulder length blonde hair glimmers with biocrystal highlights in the glowglobe light. “It appears the battle is not in our favour, Lady Chao,” she says nervously.
“You have a wonderful capacity for stating the obvious.”
Chao rises and the aide cringes, expecting a physical rebuke. “What’s your name?” says Chao.
The girl stammers in response. “Alida.”
“I’m going to need you to accompany me to my orbiter, Alida,” says Chao.
Alida’s face brightens and she bows. “Thank you, Lady Chao. I am most honoured you feel me worthy to continue as your assistant.”
“I may need a human shield,” says Chao, exiting the room with Alida close on her heels.
Shi-Cho strides through wreckage and torn and bloody bodies. Assault troops in blue exo-armour on each side of him cover his entrance. He addresses a nearby Captain. “Update?”
“Ground resistance at all entry points has been neutralised,” says the Captain, standing to attention. “Sporadic skirmishes further into the superstructure. We should have a retrieval team at Chao’s inner sanctum within minutes.”
Shi-Cho smiles. “Good. Anything else?”
“We have a fireteam at the cellblock reporting that one of the guards was found dead and the cells empty.”
“Continue with sweeps. The synthetic and its companions are on the loose. Advise your men to be cautious when approaching—the armature is dangerous and its companions are probably armed by now.”
The air erupts with gunfire as flechette rounds ricochet and burst. Armour and limbs are shredded as frag grenades detonate. MWE blasts take out the remaining guards, heads erupting in pulpy masses. Shi-Cho stands amongst the detritus, dust and a few scratches marring his otherwise perfect countenance. The captain lies sprawled on the floor beside him, his skull flowering like a bloody rose.
“Of course, this may be a good time to surrender,” says Chun, appearing through the smoke, her pumpgun raised expectantly. Olsin, Jimmy and the Anvil appear beside her, cannons bristling.
Shi-Cho rubs his palms together gleefully. “You’re the armature that’s given everyone so much trouble,” he says, nodding to the Anvil. “Remember me? You tossed me through a wall.”
The Anvil grins, shrugs. “I’m sure you deserved it at the time.”
Shi-Cho laughs. It’s a creepy, grating laugh that sets all on edge. “I’ve been looking forward to a rematch.” He clenches his fists, which glow with a pale, internal light. “You’re not the only one with hidden surprises.”
The Anvil scans the big man in front of her. The previously ‘human-elementary’ reading is now lighting up with all sorts of emergency vectors and warnings. “Let’s get this over with, then,” she says.
To be continued…
Missed earlier instalments? Click here.
What is ANVIL?
ANVIL is a deliberately unplanned, multi-part short story I’ve created to challenge myself as a writer (I’ve done this before with The Sale – check it out). My intention is to write an episode as often as possible, generally (but not always) ending with a cliff hanger, then work out how to solve the dilemma and continue the story. I have no idea how the story will progress, no idea what it’s about until I get there.
Only you can tell me if it’s successful, or not. I hope you enjoy my continuing experiment.