Episode 6 (part 2) in Season 4 of my Insurgency series! A freebuild for the Marauders and the final part in 2017's Group Cross- Over event! Please comment, rate and enjoy!
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13th December 2097: Present Day
Voice: "Tank? Tank?" I was vaguely aware of a concerned voice calling my name, but my head was still so fuzzy that I couldn't focus on it.
Voice: "Come on mate. Come on." The voice, a man's, became clearer now and I felt my eyes flutter open momentarily before closing again. I'd not seen much in that brief moment of awareness, but it had been enough to remind me of where I was.
In a hanger bay on The Spire.
Tank: "Tracks!" I gasped, snapping fully back into consciousness.
Dustin: "Easy mate! Easy." He soothed from where he knelt beside me, placing a kind but firm hand on my chest as I tried to sit bolt upright.
Tank: "Where is he?" I gasped urgently as everything came flooding back to me.
Dustin: "Mate; that's not Tracks. I'm sorry, but... it just wasn't. Tracks is gone."
I wanted to argue, to refute the claim, but in my heart I knew it was true. There was no denying it now, not after what he'd done. With a heavy sigh, I collapsed back down again. As I did, I realised that somebody was knelt behind me, their knees cushioning my head. Looking up, I found Cat, her eyes red from crying, smiling softly down at me.
I knew it was a forced smile, but just seeing her managed to comfort me somewhat. Not much, but a little. Taking a moment to breathe and settle my aching head, I realised I had no idea how long I'd been out of it for.
Tank: "What time is it?" I asked.
Cat: "You've been out for about half an hour." She explained.
Tank: "What happened? Where is Tr.... One?" I asked, forcing myself to call him by his real name.
Jakor: "He ran off - we all collapsed." The masked Aurelian announced as he walked up to us from behind me.
Wondering what had happened to the battle, I looked around; anything could have happened in the time I'd been unconscious.
About ten meters to my right, Eris was laying on her back surrounded by the Vindicators, with Jay kneeling at her side, holding her hand and talking to her. The Archmage had clearly only just woken up as well, and she was definitely injured.
Caesar saw me awake, bent and muttered something to her. Eris turned her head to face me and shakily pushed herself into a sitting position. I couldn't fire out what the look on her face was, it was such a mixture of emotions. And rightly so, I supposed.
Eris: "Now do you believe me?" She demanded. Her voice was hoarse but somehow the sound carried. "This is on you, Tank."
The words pierced my heart because I knew they were true.
Eris: "This is all you."
Tank: "Eris..." I whispered, not really knowing what I was going to say. "I... I'm so sorry." I began, but the words sounded weak, hollow even. Nothing I could ever do was going to make this better.
Tank: "I... you were right." I conceded sorrowfully, trying my hardest not to burst into tears. "You were right." I repeated myself with a shaky breath. "I..."
Eris: "There will be time for apologies and penances later." The Archmage interrupted, carefully getting to her feet. "Right now, we need to find One. Find him and stop whatever it is he has planned."
I nodded in agreement, unable to speak.
Eris: "Lashka. Find him." She ordered and the sharp-faced mage nodded obediently. Lashka closed her eyes and I could see the focus on her face. I briefly wondered why Eris hadn't done it herself, but from the way Jay was supporting her, it was fairly obvious that she was in no fit state to put any kind of drain on her powers.
Lashka gasped, her eyes snapping open.
Lashka: "He's in the central beam control room."
I had no idea where that was but from Eris and the soldiers' reactions, I guessed it wasn't good.
Cat: "What's that?" Cat asked my own un-voiced question.
Jay: "The Spire has a central laser cannon; it's the primary weapon. It runs throughout the entirety of the vertical axis - the whole station is built around it."
Dustin: "That must be pretty powerful." He uttered as, with a wince, I pushed myself up again so that I was sitting.
Jay: "It is. Powerful enough to..." he broke off mid-sentence as One's plan became obvious to him. Apparently it had struck Eris too, as she finished the sentence for him,
Eris: "To destroy a planet." She breathed.
Caesar: "Qoter..." he whispered and the gravity of the situation struck me. The Spire was in space over Qoter, it's long axis conveniently pointing directly at the planet below.
The planet that One was going to destroy.
Eris: "We need to stop him." She declared and I quickly hobbled to my feet. "I'm going to destroy him."
Tank: "Wait! You can't!" I protested, limping over to Eris. He may have been corrupted by the ancient drone, but that robot was still Tracks at heart. I couldn't let Eris destroy him - not after I'd gone through so much to get him back.
But Eris' mind was set. With visible effort, the Archmage swirled her hand in the air and opened a portal.
And everything happened at once.
Basher: "Wait! You're in no shape to..."
Basher grabbed Eris' right arm.
Tank: "There must be another w...!"
I placed my hand on Eris' left shoulder.
And together, the three of us were sucked through the portal.
My initial feeling was that of nausea. Everything swam before my eyes - whether from the portalling itself or because I was still injured, I wasn't sure. Probably both. But as everything steadied around me, I found myself stood on a metal walkway, suspended in a room so large that I couldn't see the walls. Eris was beside me and to her right was Basher, looking just as ill as I felt. Clearly it was his first time portalling too.
In almost an echo to the last time we had fought One, there were giant power coils surrounding us, stretching from somewhere below our catwalk all the way up to the ceiling high above and they were all linked together by conduits as thick as my torso.
But I observed all of that in my peripheral vision, as my immediate attention was drawn to a large central control unit directly in front of us and the droid stood operating it.
Eris: "It's over One." She announced and One glanced back over his shoulder at us, unconcerned by our sudden appearance.
One: "No. No, One doesn't think so." He replied, turning back to the console and continuing the priming sequence.
Tank: "Tracks. Buddy, I know you're in there." I begged, taking a couple of steps closer to him. "Please... Snap out of it. Fight him off, you're strong enough."
One: "He can't hear you." The ancient being responded without even turning to face me. "One has overridden the personality circuits in this body. Your 'Tracks' has been subdued."
So he WAS still in there! Tracks did still exist! I turned to Eris with hope in my eyes, but she was entirely focussed on the robot at the control station.
Eris: "Final chance, One."
One: "No, Archmage, this is yours." The ancient drone retorted, flicking a large activation switch. As he did, warning sirens began to wail and a targeting array appeared on one monitor.
Announcement: "3 minutes until alignment." A warning message stated, repeating itself over and over.
One turned to face the three of us.
One: "Your last chance to turn tail and flee. Run. Run and hide as One's enemies always have. Just know that no matter how far you go, One will find you. One's sole purpose is to destroy the Collective and their allies and that is precisely what One shall do; Starting with the beings on your planet 'Qoter'."
Basher: "Talking's over." He grunted and charged at One.
One took a swing at him, but Basher ducked beneath the blow and landed several power-enhanced punches of his own on One's torso.
I saw a bow appear in Eris' hands and she immediately drew back the string, a glowing bolt of green plasma forming in place of an arrow. She fired three bolts in quick succession, all three striking One in the chest. Parts of the plating I'd welded on flew off under the barrage and Basher, spotting the opening, leapt at the opportunity.
He grabbed hold of one of the newly buckled pieces of armour and pulled as hard as he could, twisting the metal away and leaving a small area of internals exposed.
One, realising what he had done, struck out and sent Basher flying. He crashed into the control unit headfirst and lay motionless on the ground.
Announcement: "2 minutes until alignment." The warning trilled as Eris fired a well-aimed plasma bolt into the exposed area of One's chest. He cried out in robotic alarm, clutching at the damaged area, one arm now hanging limp at his side.
Tank: "Tracks, I don't want to do this." I told him, drawing my pistols.
One: "Then don't. Submit to a quick death and forgo the fighting."
Tank: "Not going to happen." I opened fire on the droid I'd worked so hard to create. The first few shots struck his upper chest and shoulder, before he raised his working arm in defence and I saw his shoulder cannon appear.
Tank: "Look out!" I exclaimed and was about to run for cover when, with a cry of effort, Eris created a shield between the two of us and One. One's shoulder gun rattled away, but the bullets were simply absorbed by Eris' shield. Eris was struggling to maintain the defence though. I could see the shield beginning to falter and her face was contorted with the strain.
I was in the process of deciding what to do next when Eris' shield gave way. I ducked as we came under fire, but didn't get a chance to choose what to do next, as a stray bullet from the shoulder gun struck something flammable behind me and Eris and I were caught at the edge of an explosion.
I was thrown towards One, crashing into the deck at his feet and Eris was even more unlucky, being thrown through the air, as she came down, her head hit one of the guard railings around the nearest power coil and she lay groaning on the ground.
Announcement: "1 minute until alignment." The warning came as I attempted to shake the fuzzy edges away from my vision.
I pushed myself to my hands and knees, but a cold, metal boot to my back squashed me back to the catwalk again with a groan.
One: "Stay down." He warned and despite my every wish to get back up and fight him off, to stop him from destroying an entire planet, I couldn't. I was on the edge of passing out again. It was all I could do to lay there and watch as One returned to the control centre and continued his preparations.
Announcement: "30 seconds until alignment."
Tank: "Tracks... please." I begged, looking up at him. "Stop this."
I didn't even get a response. Instead, a new visual popped up on the largest monitor - a targeting system.
At the foot of the console, Basher stirred.
One: "One planet down, nine to go. The Collective will see the beginning of their end this day." He declared, using his universal droid jack to connect himself directly to the console.
Tank: "Tracks..." I pleaded desperately, tears flooding my face. "TRAAAAAACKS!!!!!" but, plugged in, he could no longer hear me.
Announcement: "10. 9. 8..."
Qoter was doomed.
Announcement: "5. 4. 3..."
With a defiant roar, Basher heaved himself up to the console and used his own jack to connect himself to the system.
A bright red button began to flash on the console. The firing switch.
Announcement: "Core aligned. Ready to fire. Core aligned. Ready to fire." The message repeated.
One raised his working arm and moved it to hover over the button. After a second's pause, he moved to press it.
And abruptly collapsed.
One fell to the deck with a metallic clatter and Basher likewise slid limply down the console and off onto the floor.
My heart in my mouth, I lay there wondering what had happened, as the announcement continued to inform us that the laser was still aligned with Qoter.
Tank: "Basher? Basher!" I shouted but there was no response, so, my whole body screaming at me, I pushed myself back to my hands and knees. "Eris!" I yelled and succeeded in rousing her. She stirred, placing a hand on her injured head. "Eris!" I shouted again, making sure she didn't fall unconscious again.
Groaning, I forced myself to my feet and staggered over to Basher.
Tank: "Basher?" I checked his neck for a pulse, but found nothing.
Tank: "Eris, what's happened?" I asked desperately as the Archmage slowly sat up, her hand still on her head. With visible effort, she stood up, her eyes now focussed on her friend lying motionless by my feet. Eris staggered towards us, her legs not quite working properly, and with a flick of a few switches, disarmed the activation sequence, the laser now de-activated.
I checked Basher's wrist, still trying to find some hint of life, but as with his neck, there was none.
Eris dropped to her knees beside me, placed three fingers on his forehead and closed her eyes momentarily.
A few seconds passed and I realised that I was holding my breath, hoping, silently praying for a miracle. But after another couple, Eris opened her glistening eyes, her lip trembling and I knew it wasn't good news.
Taking a shaky breath, I stood up and then almost jumped out of my skin as a metallic groan came from behind me.
I spun to look down at One, prepared for a fight, but the stirring robot on the floor made no attempt to attack us.
Tank: "Eris... I muttered. "Is that One... or Tracks?"
Eris didn't respond verbally. Without moving from her position now cradling Basher's limp head, she reached out towards Tracks. Tracks' head turned slightly to face her and simply watched as she performed whatever probing she was doing.
As Eris lowered her arm, tears began to roll down her cheeks and carefully, making it obvious that he meant no harm, Tracks pushed himself into a sitting position. He opened his mouth to speak, but instead of the deep, threatening voice of One, the only sound that came out was a sorrowful, metallic whir.
Was it? ... Could it be?...
Tracks tried to speak again, but for the second time, all that he managed to do was produce a robotic grinding sound.
Just as Tracks had done before I repaired his voice module.
It wasn't much, but in my heart I started to hope again and a small smile creased the corner of my lips. Tracks looked up at me, saw my smile and began to smile himself. Despite his metal body, it was a warm smile. A genuine one that reassured me.
I turned to smile at Eris. One had gone! Tracks was back and everything was as it should have been. But when I saw her sobbing over Basher's corpse, the words caught in my throat. In my excitement at getting Tracks back, I had momentarily forgotten Basher's sacrifice.
What exactly had happened, I had no idea. All that I knew was Basher had sacrificed himself to bring Tracks back to me and stop One from destroying the planet.
His gears groaning, Tracks stood and carefully approached Basher. Eris glared up at him, her eyes burning with hatred and I mentally prepared myself for another fight.
But it wasn't necessary. Tracks held his hands out, palms open and moved incredibly slowly, making his every move plainly obvious and emphasising his honest intentions.
Eris' eyes never left him as he grew closer to her fallen comrade. I didn't think it possible, but, even more slowly than he had already been moving, Tracks reached down and gently removed the beanie hat from Basher's head.
Eris looked as if she were about to protest, but an idea had suddenly come to me.
Tank: "No, wait..." I urged quietly as Tracks studied the hat carefully. It was a long shot, but the idea in my mind would make sense. Both One and Basher had been plugged into the same system before they had collapsed...
Tracks seemed fascinated by Basher's hat. A few moments later, he reached up and removed the black Fedora that I had given him and carefully slipped the beanie onto his head.
He adjusted the fit slightly and then looked to me expectantly.
Tank: "Basher?" I asked softly and a moment later, Tracks nodded.
I spun to face Eris and could see from her expression that she had finally understood as well.
Basher had used his own consciousness to overwrite One's and stop him, but at the sacrifice of his own body, leaving both Tracks and Basher to inhabit Tracks' shell.
Tank: "Basher, are you in there?"
Tracks nodded, glad that I was able to understand what had happened.
Tank: "Eris..." I began, unsure of what to say. One of her best friends had given his life to save mine. "Eris, I'm so sorry. About everything. You were right. From the very beginning. I..."
The whisper was so quiet that I almost missed it, but it made me shiver nevertheless. Eris' face was stony and emotionless, despite the tears still rolling from her eyes and she was staring at Basher's body.
Eris: "Just take him and go."
For a moment, I contemplated staying. Staying and begging for forgiveness, but I knew that at the moment, it would do me no good.
So with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes, I turned my back on Eris and Basher and, with Tracks by my side, began the journey back through The Spire to re-join the men and women I'd dragged along on this fool’s errand and leave.
The set for the majority of this episode - the control centre for the central laser.
As my series is going to be jumping around though time, I will include a date on each episode and add it to the timeline at the end of each episode so that you can follow it.
Spectacular episode Blast! I thought the spire looked suspiciously like a giant laser. (Guess I was right.) And Honestly I half expected for qoter to be blown to bits. I mean. The only downside to it I can see (other than the death of millions of innocents) is my ship is there. It'd take out quite a few of the group's villains. Ha ha.
Beat me to the punch on a giant laser... Had some similar plans for later on lol :p I think maybe an "internal" scene showing Tracks fighting One physically or something could've been interesting but still a good conclusion. Wonder what's next for Tank and Eris' relationship
A great episode indeed, and a fitting end to the Crossover. I will say that I agree with Traykar, and that the fight seemed a little too short, but I'm digging the whole Trasher concept! Great work all round my friend!