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Tom Grier pushed himself up, the armor was feeling more natural to him now. He didn't know where the shooter was yet, with the old implants he would have access to information that would let him know immediately. Information from drones, counter-battery radar and many other things would have let him “see” the entire field of battle.
Now he was running from behind one building to another trying not to get hit by a very powerful sniper weapon. It had to be some kind of rail-gun, he knew that snipers in his Marine group carried some very long guns strapped to the back of their suits.
“The sniper knows exactly where we are!” He said into his local radio to the others, “We need to find better cover and take out whatever drones he has up.”
Sandy stopped and threw an explosive in the middle of the street. It created a crater that reached down into the sewage system, which was as much cover as they were going to get. They all climbed down into it.
Sandy began sending some messages that he could not hear. One of the other men set up a small sensor pod that quickly identified two drones flying overhead.
Tom Grier laid down in the muck and aimed his QBR-44 at one of the drones and fired a seven-round burst. At least three of the 18mm rounds homed in and took out the drone. The others exploded harmlessly at higher altitude.
“That other drone is taking a wider arc. It'll be back in about 6 seconds,” someone reported, and there it was, as predicted. It peeked over at them and then moved out of visual range before anyone could get shots off.
“We've been made!” someone said, “Everybody out!”
The armored-clad soldier began leaping out of the crater and Tom was about to join them when he noticed that Sandy was deep in conversation and hadn't heard. He grabbed her from behind and tossed her out of the crater just as shells began to land all around him.
Tom fired his quad-barrel rifle into the sky after switching to 'intercept'. Some of the incoming mortar rounds were taken out as his gun blared away. Several explosions pushed him around like a rag doll in the crater, but it didn't seem to do a lot of damage to the suit.
Finally there was a break and he leaped over the lip of the crater and ran towards what looked like a small stadium.
“I've located the sniper!” one of the team members reported.
“About time!” Tom yelled as he arrived at the location. He noticed that one of the armored soldiers was laid out on the ground, a large gaping hole in the suits abdomen. The humans too.
“Rex Reilly is dead,” someone told him, not that he was really familiar with these guys yet.
“On the roof of the tallest building, center of town,” Sandy said, “Can you hit that from here?”
The building in question rose much higher than the other buildings, it became quite narrow by the time it became a flat roof.
“You need to contact your father! Tell them to cancel the conference and get into hiding!” Tom said, although he knew that communications systems had probably all been jammed. The rebels had been able to break through that sometimes, he had seen since being captured, maybe she could get through.
Shots started breaking through the wall of the stadium, in rapid succession. Pang! Pang! Pang!
“You need to move to another spot, just keep moving,” Tom told them, “I'm going to go the other way, but as long as he is shooting at us, he isn't shooting at your father. No run.”
As soon as they reached the far end of the stadium Tom ran toward the tall building. The powered legs weren't yet as responsive as they had been with his enhancements, but they'd do. He heard shots hitting behind him and beside him as he ran. He also moved from side to side and then made abrupt turns down alleys and through at least parking garage.
Lieutenant Blade was frustrated as he adjusted the large gun again, moving it closer to the edge of the building. Someone down there in Free Republic Marine armor was running fast and trying to get close to his platform. That person had been with the rebels, Blade knew he had to take that suit out, “Traitor!” he muttered.
In his ear he heard from one of his team members near the conference hall, “No sign of the meeting coming together yet, they're all late!”
Then from his spotter, Bolton, across the street from the hotel, “They left the hotel room several minutes ago, they should be reaching the street level soon. Are you ready Blade?”
“Blast it!” He said, “We have rebels moving up on our six!”
“Our mission is to take out the rebel leaders!”
Lieutenant Blade threw the headset against the roof. He grabbed the gun assembly and swung the whole thing to the other side of the roof. Then he peered down at the entry of the hotel and saw nobody there.
“They aren't there! We've been given the slip, they must have found a back way out. Get down there and find them Bolton!” Blade ordered, then he swung it back to the other side and tried to find the rebel in the Free Republic Marine armor. “Bloody hell, this whole gig is going to crap!”
“Blade, I don't think the meeting is going to happen! They must have suspected something.”
“We need to pull out, get the Admiral to send down some shuttles!” Blade told the men surrounding the conference hall. He gave up on the traitor and went back panning to look for the rebels, his last drone was on the far side of the city. Soon enough he found them, lying low in a revetment. He wondered if these rebels planned to meet up with some of the runaway rebel leaders.
“What's the ETA on those shuttles?” He asked as he sighted in the big gun on the rebel position. If anyone showed up to meet them, that person was going to become soup.
A vehicle stopped near where the rebels were holding position. Blade focused in on the people exiting the vehicle. The gray-haired, bearded man looked familiar. It was “Jonah”, the man who had become a hero to all of Sync for standing against the Free Republic. The authorities had hunted him for years to no avail.
Blade grinned and decided to take out the leader of the rebellion.
Suddenly the gun swerved as if it had been pushed and Lieutenant Blade found himself thrown to the ground, he rolled once and stood up. The traitor in armor was on the roof with him. He spit.
“You're going to die here, traitor!” Blade yelled and pulled a handgun from the pocket on the side of his leg. The traitor rolled to the side faster than Blade could aim, then from a position on all four the armored figure launched directly at him. The tackle threw Blade onto his back, his handgun disappeared and the faceplate of the traitor was right in his face.
“Who are you?” The armored suit demanded.
“I was going to ask the same thing, traitor!” Blade said, trying to kick the rebel scum off, but the suit was too heavy. Blade relaxed as if he had spent all of his energy resisting the armored rebel.
“Listen to me, you must work for Admiral Robinson, the man is insane! The people of Sync just want to be left alone, they don't want to be at war against the Free Republic. They just want out,” Tom Grier tried to explain.
“There is no escaping from the Free Republic, traitor scum.”
“Nobody has to die, just some reasonable accommodation...” Tom was saying before he noticed that the sniper was twirling a finger on a hand Grier was holding against the roof. With a bad feeling he looked back to see the sniper rail gun swinging around to aim directly at him.
“Wrong. You have to die!” The sniper screamed just as Tom Grier rolled forward over the edge of the building and the loud blast splintered the whole edge of the rooftop and top floor. Grier had fallen two floors before the building moved outward and he crashed through a glass ceiling.
He looked up to see the sniper gun itself fall over the rooftop as well. Tom didn't see any sign of the sniper himself. Grier moved through the empty office and crashed through the door into the corridor and wondered briefly if the lifts would be working.
Tom Grier began descending the stairs but when he reached the tenth floor landing that oversaw the grand lobby below, he became the target of two armored figures. He hadn't had time to use his QBR-44 on the roof but it was still attached to the back of his armored suit. He pulled it forward.
The glass partitioned had been shattered by the firing from below. Many of the rounds were coming up through the floor and they were often too accurate. Again Tom missed the enhancements that would let him take out those enemies without even having to see them.
Instead he rolled toward the edge peered over with the gun at the ready and let go a twenty-round burst that shattered furniture and desks all around the two enemy soldiers. They had moved away behind a thick pillar and this gave Tom time to move down two more floors.
The glass partition had already been shattered when he arrived. Again the two armored figures opened fire on his position, forcing him to retreat toward the far wall. He selected explosive rounds on his battle rifle, he was running out of other ammunition. He walked up to the edge and fired a dozen explosive rounds downward.
The two figures tried to find cover behind a pillar and a low wall, but the explosive rounds were able to track and change course. The resulting explosions left a gaping hole to outside in the corner of the building, but the load-bearing pillar seemed mostly intact.
After reaching the ground floor Tom Grier didn't bother looking at the two armored suits that had been torn apart as he walked through the hole he had made. His battle rifle was nearly out of ammunition and he was tired. The suit required a lot more work without the enhancements that the rebels had removed from his head.
He found two men in civilian clothes on their knees with their hands behind their heads. They were surrounded by a half-dozen well-armed men without armor. When they saw Tom, two of them aimed their guns in his direction.
Suddenly a familiar face walked in front of him. General Gallant, who carried no weapon.
“This battle is over! Just leave,” The General told him. Tom would have taken him up on that quickly if Maggie Anders hadn't entered his field of vision.
“Maggie?” He asked, immediately realizing it was a mistake.
She looked surprised and then shocked. Her hand soon covered her mouth.
“You know each other?” The General asked, seeming amused, then to Tom, “The shuttles, our shuttles, will be here in a minute. You might want to become scarce. Unless you're coming back with us, that is. Which side are you on?”
“Tom!” Maggie said, “Come back. Come back to the ship with us.”
Tom opened the faceplate shield so they could see him. Maggie gasped. “I didn't defect, I was captured. They removed my implants.”
General Gallant made a face, “We can repair the damage.”
Tom tightened his jaw. “This war is wrong, General. These people just want to be left alone,” He said.
The General was impatient, “You and I don't make those decisions, soldier. We just follow them.”
Tom shook his head, Maggie stepped back. “I can think and feel for myself without the interface with the system, you know. The implants were the damage to my face. I think I know which side I belong to now.”
“Tom, no, no...” He heard Maggie cry as he turned and ran away at top speed.
Lieutenant Blade had crawled to the edge of the city where the Fleet shuttles had landed. A trail of blood was left behind him. Then Bolton had found him and helped him climb aboard. His legs and left forearm were pretty useless.
“They didn't make it, three are dead I think. some were taken into custody by the Marines,” Bolton reported. Admiral Robinson was going to be furious.
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