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The Insurgency: S4 #8 Roads Through the Darkness (FB)
Here is part 8 in Season 4 of my Insurgency series. A freebuild for the Marauders. Sorry for the delay on this one - real life is rather hectic atm. I did try to upload it the other day but my internet crash mid-way through so I've had to start again. Anyway, here it is! Please comment, rate and enjoy!
About this creation
Corresponding text underneath each picture.

30th January 2098: Present Day

Deryn: "...and they may be small, but maaan, do they pack a punch!"
Alonso: "That they do Deryn! I certainly wouldn't want to come across a pack at night, let me tell you!"

Deryn Markle and Alonso Terrian, the two co-presenters of 'Live Escape!' joked from their cosy studio set, where they commentated on the events as they unfolded for the contestants of the game show.

Deryn: "Well, it's funny you should say that Al', because that looks to be exactly what some of our contestants are about to experience!"
Al': "Oh no!" The wacky-haired presenter exclaimed with overly-exaggerated shock.
Deryn: "That's right Al'! There seems to be a pack of Wolts coming up on the shelter where TJ, Mar-Iat and Cooper are spending the night! I hope they left somebody on guard!" He grinned to the camera.

It turned out that they hadn't.

As the show cut to first a drone cam to show us the pack animals approaching the shack and then to pre-placed cameras set inside, I watched on as the short, furry and toothy beasts stalked into the rooms and pounced on the unsuspecting, sleeping contestants.

The alarmed cry of the first to be attacked woke the others, but it was already too late and in just a couple of short minutes, it was all over.
As the Wolts finished off their meals, the show cut back to Deryn and Al' in the studio. Both wore over-the-top shocked expressions and Al' had a hand over his mouth.
Al': "That was not pleasant." He muttered.

Deryn: "Definitely not." He agreed. "Okay folks, we're going to leave it there for now, but be sure to keep up to date with all the latest online. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow, but for now, all that remains is to light the beacons I memory of those we lost today. TJ, Mar-Iat and Cooper. Goodnight."
Al': "Goodnight."

As the camera faded to a view over the jungle canopy, a massive light lit up the sky, once, twice, thrice, each time accompanied by a loud 'Boom', letting the remaining competitors know how many people had passed away so that they could in turn work out how many remained and how close they were to winning.

It was pretty vile when you stopped to think about it. Making a competition, a sport, out of people dying. But that's why I didn't stop to think about it!

As the production credits started scrolling up my screen, I turned the TV off and with a yawn, stood up to stretched. As I did, over on the table my comlink began to beep. Wondering who was calling, I ambled over and turned it on.
Mr. Grey: "Good morning Tank."
Tank: "Morning." I greeted Mr. Grey, The Brain's ever mysterious messenger, in return.
Mr. Grey: "I trust you are well?"
Tank: "Well enough, thanks. What is it?" I prompted, earning a slight smile from the other.
Mr. Grey: "Always straight to business." He remarked. "Very well. The Brain has a potential lead on your mercenary fiend, Darkblade."
That piqued my attention.
Tank: "Where is he?"
Mr. Grey: "Now, now. You know better than that. You work for The Brain and he provides information. In that order."

I groaned in frustration. I should have known that he wasn't going to simply tell me.
Mr. Grey: "That's what you agreed to when I broke you out of prison."
Tank: "Yes, I know." I sighed. "What does he want me to do?"

Mr. Grey: "The Imperium have sealed off a small area of land in Tela'sant, on Soateria. The Brain's informants are telling us that a mysterious object has crash landed there from space."
Tank: "Let me guess, The Brain wants the item?"
Mr. Grey smiled.
Mr. Grey: "You know him so well." I practically rolled my eyes in response.
Tank: "But if the area is sealed off, how am I meant to get in?"

Mr. Grey: "Don't worry about getting in. I can provide you with the security clearance necessary to get inside. All you need to do is get the object and get out again, without being caught."
Tank: "Sounds like a walk in the park." I commented dryly. "And info on what this oh-so-mysterious object is? Or at least what it looks like?"
Mr. Grey: "Unfortunately not. Although one would imagine that it will be fairly obvious when you find it."
I nodded in acceptance.
Tank: "Okay, fine. You want me to bring it to you when I have it?"
Mr. Grey: "I would be most grateful." He smiled.

A little over a day later and I was guiding the Viper through the jungle planet's upper atmosphere. There was a slight judder as we met some resistance, but then it was plain sailing all the way down. Cat and Tracks were both with me, although as Mr. Grey had only provided me with one false ID, they weren't going to be able to accompany me on the mission. However, on the journey here, we'd come up with a plan, so now all we had to do was actually get there!

I put us down at the spaceport nearest to where the GI had secured this mysterious object, located in a large town set by the edge of the jungle, at the foot of some large hills. After paying the relevant fees and undergoing the relevant checks, the three of us were allowed to proceed into the town proper. There, we began the job of shopping for the equipment we were going to need.

The idea was that we would hire a landspeeder and the three of us would go to an area near the site that we'd marked as the drop-off point and from there, I would proceed alone. I'd flash my ID at whatever security the Imperium had thrown together, which would likely be a cobbled-together band of local police and maybe an officer or two. Meanwhile, Tracks would be dropped off at another point on the opposite side of the sealed-off area and begin to create a diversion to draw attention away from me. I'd grab the item and head to our rendezvous point. All the while, Cat would be watching over us both using a remote-controlled droid drone. From her position, waiting in the landspeeder at the rendezvous point, she'd be piloting the drone and using a camera we'd attach to warn me of any incoming danger and hopefully help me to avoid the guards on my way out. Then, in theory, it would be back to the spaceport and away.

In theory.

As we wandered through a tech store, Tracks burbled and indicated to a set of in-ear com units.
Tank: "Yup, those'll do nicely." I replied and tossed two packets into our shopping basket.
Cat: "Is it weird that I feel like we're a family?" She joked, to which tracks whirred and babbled indignantly.
Tank: "Yes buddy, that makes you the child." I smirked and I was sure that he blew a raspberry, which made us both laugh.

We continued browsing the store for some time, collecting everything we would need. When it came to picking out a model of drone for Cat to use, we spent quite a while discussing the advantages and disadvantages of the various types available, but in the end, settled on a Cryber E series; a small, dome-topped make with three arms hanging beneath it and a built-in infrared camera.

Tank: "Well, there goes my bank account." I remarked dryly as the cashier scanned everything through at the checkout.
Cat: "Honey, you're rich." Cat whispered in my ear, and giving me a peck on the cheek, making me smile. "You'll manage."

From there, now that we had everything, I hired us a landspeeder to take us where we needed to get to and after getting changed into my suit and pinning the fake ID badge to my lapel, we were off.

According to the navi-computer, it was only going to take about an hour to get to our destination and as I piloted, Cat and Tracks spent the trip preparing our new equipment.

When we grew close to the drop-off point, I began to notice a bright light on the horizon. From here I couldn't see what it was, but it was eerily bright and, worryingly, was coming from the direction we needed to go in.
As we reached our first drop-off point, we pulled over and sat in the car for a minute. The lights were coming from just around the corner now. I still couldn't see what exactly they were, but it had to be the crash site.
Cat: "I don't like this." She muttered, concerned.
Tank: "Well, we're here now. We may as well carry on as planned." I assured her, placing a reassuring hand on her knee.
Cat: "Tank, it's brighter than the desert side of Iapra over there!"
Tank: "No it isn't!" I argued. "Trust me; I should know!"

With a warm smile to accompany my comforting hand, I leant over and kissed Cat on the cheek.
Tank: "Everyone ready?"
Cat nodded and Tracks made an affirmative whir.
Tank: "Alright. Here goes then."
Cat: "Tank; be careful." Cat warned. I flashed my best smile at her again and we shared a quick kiss before I jumped out of the speeder, straightened my suit and began the short walk to the crash site.

Cat piloted the landspeeder past me and together, her and Tracks continued on to the second drop-off point, where Tracks would begin his distraction. Or should I say 'dis-tracks-tion'!

I chuckled at my own un-voiced joke, but as I rounded the corner, all fun and games vanished as I took in the sight before me.
I had expected a small cordoned off area; Maybe a few meters squared with a few local police as guards.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

There in front of me was some sort of massive white tent - about the size of a soccer pitch. Surrounding that was an area of ground covered in military vehicles of varying kinds and encompassing it all was a 10-foot tall metal fence. Giant spotlights illuminated the entire area and from what I could see there was a single entry point through the fence, protected by a security checkpoint and constantly patrolling guards.

Tank: "Well... scrim." I muttered to myself as I realised how badly I'd underestimated the situation.

Within the perimeter fence, inside one of the outbuildings that were dotted around the compound, Wing Commander Nicholas Rocksholme, head of the crack Imperial legion of winged fighters, known as the Wasps, was in the middle of a discussion with a man of an indeterminate age, who was dressed in fancy black robes and had slicked back, equally black hair.

Rocksholme: “And if it does turn out to be of Collective origin then the next step will be to determine where exactly it has come from.” He was saying as the other man nodded slowly. The second man was Count Tyrus Evazorn, leader of The Collective’s Deja’s Screamers. The Screamers were highly skilled Collective individuals who acted as special forces within the race’s army, but for now, the Count had been sent to work alongside Rocksholme and oversee the operation here on Soateria. Evazorn himself had piercingly blue eyes and an angular, harsh-looking face. Having been raised as part of a wealthy family, he had spent his life being accustomed to the finer things and every detail about him showed this; From the expensive clasp on his robes to the perfectly slicked hair on his head and the way he held himself, tall and imposing.

Rocksholme had been assigned to this operation from the start, but Count Evazorn had only arrived earlier this same evening and the leader of the Wasps was preparing to show the mage around.

Count Evazorn: “If this object is indeed of Collective origin, I will be able to tell.” He insisted in a deep, carefully controlled tone, every word enunciated properly and to fullest effect. “I personally doubt that whatever this item is, it has come from anything belonging to The Collective.”
Rocksholme: “We’ll soon find out.” He declared, opening the door and leading the Count outside into the fresh evening air.

As the pair made their way across the gravely ground in the direction of the nearest entrance to the tent, what they had no way of seeing was the lone stranger on the opposite side of the compound, making his way towards the entrance gate…

Taking and letting out a deep breath, I steeled myself for the task ahead and began to march as confidently as I could towards the checkpoint.

As I got close, the guards noticed me and all turned to face me, weapons prominently positioned across their bodies.
Tank: "Evening." I greeted politely as they moved to intercept me. "Deputy chief Turner." I introduced myself using my fake ID. Without a word, one of the guards gestured using his head towards the checkpoint and guided me towards it. There, I was made to pass my ID card through a scanner and I mentally crossed everything that it would pass.

Thankfully, the screen turned green and the barrier unlocked.
Guard: "Have a good evening." He grunted. Now satisfied that I was supposed to be there, he turned and went to re-join his companion on patrol, leaving me to pass through the barrier alone.

Once through, I took a moment to look around and try to figure out the best way of proceeding. My plan hadn't accounted for the possibility that the entire area would have been turned into a military crime scene of some sort. A short distance away, I spotted a couple of men descending a flight of metal stairs that led up into the tent and decided that that was probably the best place for me to start.

Assuming that the item I was here for was in fact still inside and hadn't already been taken away, I was going to have to make my way right into the heart of this operation, I realised as I ascended the stairs and pushed aside the hanging, white flaps that were the entrance to the enormous tent.

Inside, a metal walkway extended to both my left and right, as well as well as straight ahead. There were no signs anywhere, of course, so I had no idea which way I needed to be going in, however, everybody I could see was heading in my direction. It was probable that, as it was evening, everybody was finishing work for the day and were heading home. That was good, I reflected as I started walking up the walkway directly ahead of me. Less workers meant less people who might catch me. It did also mean less people for me to blend in with, but that was just something that I would have to put up with.

On the far side of the compound, now coming up on the second drop-off point, Cat pulled the landspeeder over to the side of the road and Tracks hopped out.
Cat: “Okay; you know where you’re going?” she double checked and Tracks nodded his head with a lolling motion, almost rolling his eyes. Yes. He knew what he was doing, just as he had done the previous umpteen times Cat had asked him.
Cat: “Okay. Go on then. Get going. Good luck.”

Tracks whirred an affirmative reply and with that, Cat was away again, leaving Tracks alone to make his way to the perimeter fence.

I had spent a good five minutes wandering around the brightly-lit, white-walled corridors without the slightest clue about which direction to take, when I finally arrived at a corridor with some windows set into the wall. I say ‘windows’ and ‘wall’. They were transparent sections of the tent material, but they acted as windows and overlooked an area I assumed was the centre of the massive tent. Curious, I made my way over and looked through one.

There, on the other side of the tent wall was a small area of open ground. Surrounded on all sides by window-filled walls like the one I looked through, it was almost a courtyard. There was a drop of a couple of meters down to it, but on the right-hand side of the square was another flight of metal stairs, accessible via a corridor the appeared to adjoin the one I currently stood in.

But all of that was superfluous information. What instantly captivated my interest was the crater in the very middle of the courtyard. A couple of meters squared in diameter, at the very centre sat some strange looking lump of… something. From this distance, I couldn’t tell what it was, but it shined slightly under the artificial lights in the tent, so I assumed it was metal.

There was one way to find out for certain though and so I moved on from my window position and made my way around the square in the direction I’d seen the entrance. A couple of technicians were just leaving the area as I approached and they paid me no mind as I passed them, heading for the door. Trying the handle, I found it locked, but after swiping my fake security badge, the light blinked green and I was allowed access.

Trotting down the metal stairs, I glanced casually around the area, just in case there was anybody else about that I hadn’t seen, but thankfully there wasn’t, so I headed straight over to the crater.
Tank: “Okay. I have the package in sight.” I muttered into my wrist-mounted com.
Cat: “Copy that.” The voice came back in my earpiece.
Standing on the edge of it, looking down at the shiny lump of space debris, I was a little confused, as I still couldn’t tell what it was made of, even from this closer of a distance. Frowning slightly, I dropped the last foot or so into the crater itself until I was stood right beside the lump. It wasn’t very big. Smaller, in fact, up close than it had seemed from further away. It was almost perfectly spherical and had a shimmering texture to it that glinted in the light.
Tank: “What is that?” I wondered aloud.
Cat: “I don’t know. You tell me.”
Tank: “I have no idea what I’m looking at.” I replied honestly.

Taking a last protective glance around, I reached out and tentatively touched the object. I wasn’t sure whether it would be hot, freezing or simply indifferent, so I test-touched it a couple of times first, but thankfully, it was cool enough for me to lay my entire hand on it. The metal, for that was all it could be, although it was like nothing I’d ever come across before, was perfectly smooth under my palm and, placing my other hand on the opposite side of the sphere, I attempted to lift it to test the weight. If I was going to get this thing out of here, I was going to have to carry it.

Praying that it wouldn’t be too heavy, I was again, pleased to learn that the lump was about the weight of a large bowling ball; Weighty, but certainly carry-able. If I’d had my satchel with me, I could have easily slipped it in there, but unfortunately, my satchel wouldn’t have matched my suit and tie, so I’d had to leave it behind with the rest of my clothes in the speeder with Cat.

I examined the object a little closer and found that despite it’s almost perfect roundness on top, the underside appeared to have been flattened in the crash and was torn and scratched up pretty badly. I wondered what on Earth it could be. It didn’t seem to be natural – it was almost certainly man, or alien, made. But what was it? Was this the entire thing or had it broken off of something larger? Where had it come from? I had a myriad of questions, but no time to think on them and no way of finding any possible answers. All I had to do was get it safely out of here and deliver it to Mr. Grey for The Brain. What The Brain was going to do with it, I had no idea, but again, that wasn’t my place to ask. I deliver the… orb. The Brain delivers the information on Darkblade’s sighting. Simple.

Tank: “Okay. I have the package.”
Cat: “Copy. Standby.”
I looked around again, checking that nobody was watching and was grateful that nobody was. Now all I had to do was wait for…

Somewhere in the distance came a muffled explosion, followed seconds later by the sounding of a siren.

‘That’ll be Tracks!’ I thought with a smirk as I swiped the ball up and climbed out of the crater.
Cat: “Okay, go!”

Wing Commander Rocksholme was in the middle of giving Count Evazorn a tour of the facility when the alarms started to sound.
Count Evazorn: “What is that?” he demanded, fury in his blue eyes.
Rocksholme: “We’re under attack!” he explained and turned to run off in the direction of the nearest exit.
Count Evazorn: “Wait.” He instructed, his already naturally strong voice magnified to get the Commander’s attention. As Rocksholme stopped to impatiently look back at the Mage, he continued;
Count Evazorn: “Why would insurgents attack the compound?”
Rocksholme: “How should I know? Let’s go and ask them.” He prompted and began to turn again, before Evazorn spoke again.
Count Evazorn: “Wait and think. There is only one item of worth here and they are unlikely to be able to procure it by attacking the outskirts of the compound. By the time they have made their way through your security and gotten to their goal, it would either have been taken away for safety or be so heavily guarded that they would be unable to break through.”
Rocksholme: “Your point?” he argued, eager to stop chatting and go and protect what he had been tasked with defending.

Count Evazorn: “My point;” he started, before with a wave of his hand, the pair were transported to the very centre of the tent – the crater where the mysterious orb had landed. Except, where the orb had been, now sat only an empty crater.

Rocksholme’s initial shock and wooziness at having portalled for the first time in his life soon vanished when he realised what had happened. The Count finished his sentence;
Count Evazorn: “Is that they already have what they came for and are now trying to fight their way back out.”

As I made my way back through the maze of a tent, I kept my head on a swivel, knowing that if I were to run into anybody, this would all be over. I knew that Cat was watching over me using the drone, but that would only help if the Imperials clocked me. As long as I blended in, knowing where everybody else was wasn’t going to help. But to stop them from detecting me, I desperately needed something to put the orb in; something that would help to conceal it. The room I was currently in was filled with research equipment. Everything from syringes to computers and probing technology. Nearby I spotted a large metal case, sat open atop a desk and dashed over. I emptied the case of it’s contents, a selection of metal science instruments I didn’t recognise, and testingly placed the orb inside. With a mental sigh of gratitude at the near perfect fit, I closed the case up and in moments was back on my way.

Tank: “Okay, I’m on my way out.”
Cat: “Two ahead. Don’t look suspicious.” I was informed.
Tank: “Great advice. Thanks for that.” I muttered sarcastically in reply as I rounded a corner and found two burly guards jogging towards me. I stepped to one side and let them pass before continuing on at an increased rate.
Announcement: “All security personnel to the rear perimeter. That’s all security to the rear perimeter.” A voice came over speakers built into the corridor.

Tank: “How’s he doing?”
Cat: “Tracks is holding up fine. He’s got it c…”

Suddenly, Cat was cut off with a loud electronic squeal in my head that hurt my head.
Tank: “Cat? Cat?!” I asked urgently, concerned, but there was no reply. What had happened? I could still hear gunfire in the distance, but could no longer communicate with Cat.
Something had gone wrong. Something had happened! I started to worry as my pace sped up. I needed to get out as quickly as possible. I had to get to the rendezvous point and make sure that Cat was okay and help her out if she wasn’t.

Picking up my pace to a fast jog, I made my way up the rest of that corridor and rounded the corner…

Running straight into two security guards as I did so.

Guard #1: “Whoa! Watch it!”
Guard #2: “Careful!”

Tank: “Oh! Sorry!” I exclaimed, trying not to sound panicked.
Guard #1: “Where are you going?”
Guard #2: “The facility is on lockdown!”
Tank: “Uhh… I’m just leaving.” I lied badly. “I was just finishing up some research.”
Guard #1: “Everyone else left ages ago.” He frowned suspiciously and I noticed his grip tighten on his weapon.
Tank: “Uh…”

My cover blown, my pistol was in my free hand in moments and I’d shot them both in the leg. From afar their armour would have protected them but point blank, they stood no chance. As they both crumpled with cries of alarm, I smacked them both in the head with the heavy case, knocking them out. I had hoped that would be the end of it, but a cry from behind me warned me otherwise.
Voice: “Hey!”

Firing a wild shot behind me to cover myself, I broke into a full-on run. I knew my shot hadn’t hit anybody when bullets began striking the tent walls and walkway around me. Diving down a left-hand corridor, I sprinted as fast as I could with the case in my hand and pelted my way back towards the entrance.

Tank: “Cat? Cat?” I tried again urgently, but there was still no reply. “God damnit!” I cursed. Thankfully, just a few seconds later, I came up on the entry point and dashed through the hanging flaps back into the outside world.

Nobody had spotted me just yet, and the sound of gunfire had grown more sporadic, meaning that Tracks had begun to make his way to the rendezvous point also.

There was nothing I could really do now except stick to the plan and hope the others would do the same. As I jogged across the compound, heading past the military vehicles back towards the security gate I'd entered through, I saw several more guards running in my direction. Did they know I was an intruder? Or were they running to help their colleagues deal with Tracks? Hoping for the latter, I put on my best scared face and clutched the case to my chest.

Tank: "It nearly killed me!" I exclaimed. "That... thing almost killed me!"
Guard: "It's okay." He assured me, placing a firm hand on my arm. "Escort him out of here." He instructed one of his companions, who replied,
Guard #2: "Yes sir."
Tank: "Oh, thank you!" I exclaimed as the second guard began to lead me towards the checkpoint. I had to try hard not to smirk at the irony as I was helped off of the premises by one of their own. Once past the checkpoint, I thanked the guard earnestly and began to jog away in the direction of the rendezvous point.

Once I was out of sight of the checkpoint, I broke into a run once more. I was worried sick about Cat now and had to get there as soon as possible. After Judas had had Cat kidnapped, I'd felt even more protective over her, so this wasn't helping matters.

It took about ten minutes for me to come up on our agreed meeting point, but as I got closer, the sound of gunfire increased again. I rounded a corner and ahead, spotted the landspeeder, both Cat and Tracks inside, exchanging shots with the security forces on the far side.

Tank: "Go!" I screamed as I ran. "I'm here! Get going!"
Tracks' audio sensors picked up my shouts before Cat's human ears did and he nudged her, pointing me out. Cat hopped into the pilot's seat and started up the repulsors as I vaulted over the side and landed in the back.
Tank: "Go!" I shouted again and this time, we were off.

As the speeder veered away, the lasers and bullets kept coming. Some 'pinged' off of our vehicle's hull, while others narrowly missed us.
Tank: "What happened?!" I shouted to my girlfriend, who from her facial expression was concentrating hard.
Cat: "They shot down the drone and jammed all communications!" She replied as she piloted the speeder away from the compound as fast as it would go, making our way back around to the road we'd come in on earlier in the evening. However, we didn't get far before we realised that we weren't alone.

Tracks shouted something that very much sounded like "Uh-oh!" and I spun around in my seat to find an Imperial Hovertank charging after us.

Tank: "Oh scrim!"

Moments later, there was a massive 'boom' and an explosion blasted a chunk out of the road ahead of us.
Both Cat and I cried out as we had to swerve around the newly-made pothole and flew through a hail of gravel and debris.
Tank: "Keep going! We can out-run them!" I yelled encouragingly, as if Cat needed telling. She pushed the speeder to full throttle but somehow, the tank managed to keep up.

Ahead of us, another section of road exploded under fire from the tank and Cat was forced to go off-road to dodge the now vertical lump of tarmac. The three of us were all jolted around in our seats as the speeder zoomed over the uneven ground, before Cat managed to pilot us back on course.

Cat: "Didn't you blow one of those up once?" She shouted over both the rush of the wind and the sound of another section of road blowing up.
Tank: "Yeah! But from up close! Not this distance!" I retorted as Tracks and I both opened fire out of the back of our vehicle. Numerous of our shots hit the armoured lump that was chasing us, but none seemed to have any effect.

To make matters worse, the tank was no longer our only follower.
Tank: "Wasps!" I yelled, alerting the others.

Over the top of the tank came a squad of Wasps - the Galactic Imperium's winged legion. With backpack-mounted metal wings, the soldiers began to close the distance between us fast and as they grew closer, I squinted at their leader, wondering if it was who I thought it was.
Sure enough, I recognised the distinctive helmet design.
Tank: "Rocksholme..." I muttered aloud. I had wondered if I was ever going to bump into him again. The leader of the Wasps, the Wing Commander was not far behind the one-eyed Colonel Ramson on my list of least favourite people. He had killed Brataan and crushed Tracks, so he wasn't somebody I was planning on getting to know any time soon.

Tracks had already moved his aim to fire at the Wasps rather than the tank and I joined suit, attempting to knock them out of the sky, but because their wings made them so agile, it was almost impossible.

The tank fired again, this time hitting the road just beside our back right repulsor, causing the whole vehicle to lurch violently into the air, almost bucking Tracks and I out of our seats.

I had to grab onto the headrest to stop myself from going flying and when I looked up, found one of the Wasps right above me, dropping down onto the rear of our speeder.

With a cry of alarm, I dodged to one side, narrowly avoiding the bullet he fired at me. I jumped to my feet, now standing on the chair and swung at him, but he easily avoided my punch and threw a couple of his own back at me, although thankfully, both missed. I tried again, just as the tank fired once more and the speeder swerved beneath us, making me almost lose my balance. Luckily, the Wasp was also caught off-guard and as he glanced at his feet to secure his footing, Tracks shot him in the side and he tumbled away, off the back of our speeder and onto the road behind.

Inside the tank, Count Evazorn urged the vehicle to go faster. Not by shouting at the driver, but by placing his hands on the consoles and physically willing the vehicle to pick up speed. With the powerful mage's magic causing the tank to surge forward, the driver had to fight to remain in control.

Count Evazorn: "Stay on course." He demanded as he closed his eyes to focus.

As the Wasp tumbled away into the darkness, Tracks and I both had to duck for cover as we came under fire from the remaining flying pests in a hail of bullets. This was easier said than done inside an open-topped speeder but Tracks grabbed onto me and shielded me with his own metal body. I heard him grunt a couple of times as bullets found their mark but he seemed okay.

I glanced out from under his arm and to my horror found the tank closing the gap between us. How the hell was that thing going so fast? It fired again, narrowly missing us and taking yet another lump out of the road. As I looked back at it, Rocksholme dropped from the air and landed on the tank's turret, grabbing ahold and hitching a ride to save wing power, now that the massive hunk of metal was travelling faster than their wing packs could carry them.

Tank: "We've got to outrun them!" I yelled to Cat who was still concentrating furiously.
Cat: "What do you think I'm trying to do?!" She shouted back.

I knew she was doing everything she could but it simply wasn't enough; that tank was still gaining ground. Although, now that I watched it, it did seem unstable. Were they testing some sort of new fuel? Well, whatever it was, the huge vehicle seemed to be shuddering as it rumbled along over the rocky terrain.

Could we still outrun them? And if we could, could we dodge the cannon blasts as well? I looked out the forward viewscreen and my hopes spiked as, on the horizon, I spotted the faintest of faint lights - the town. If we could make it back to town, we could sneak back to the airport and escape! But that was a big IF.

To puncture my hopeful wishes, the tank behind us fired once more and Cat had to swerve violently to avoid us being blown to oblivion.

Count Evazorn Ground his teeth in concentration, his blue eyes still closed and his hands outstretched, his palms on the main control panel for the massive vehicle. Suddenly, his eyes flew open, an expression of deep frustration on his face.
Count Evazorn: "Keep us steady." He demanded of the pilot who acknowledged and then, releasing his safety harness, the Mage climbed out of his seat and opened the access hatch built into the top of the turret. Rocksholme, still holding onto the tank with one hand, while firing at the fugitives with his other, glanced at the Count as he emerged.
Steadying himself, Evazorn fixed his sights on the escaping landspeeder and took a deep breath...

I fired off another couple of shots out of the back of the speeder, aiming at the ever-evasive Wasps, who were still prancing around in the sky, taking shots at us, but yet again, none found their mark. However, my attention was then drawn to the top of the tank, as a figure emerged. They were dressed in black robes and didn't appear to be Imperial, so I briefly wondered who this newcomer was, before his mouth opened wide and he began to scream.

As in, a literal scream. Despite the rushing of the wind and the sound of both our speeder and the tank's engines, the sound still pierced me to my soul. It was a scraping, vibrating sound that echoed, almost like a wave of sonar, billowing through the air. But it wasn't just a noise - there was a physical force behind it too. I saw the air shimmer, almost wobble, as it burst from his lips and expanded, growing ever larger as it headed in our direction. It all happened in barely three seconds. From his mouth moving to the shockwave striking our speeder.

All three of us cried out as we were flung against our seats and the speeder began to careen out of control. We started to spin. At first we were facing forward, then for a moment we were facing the tank before being back the other way around again. We spun around several times, Cat furiously wrestling with the controls, before she finally managed to regain steering and point us in the right direction.

Cat: "What the hell was that?!" She cried, but I didn't have time to reply properly before the banshee in the tank opened his mouth again. Instead, all I could do was yell;
Tank: "Hold on!"

A second scream hit us and sent the speeder flying. The front end clipped the ground and we almost flipped over, but thankfully the momentum from the attack also drove the back end around, so we ended up spinning again. The rear end crashed into the ground, the force too much for the repulsors to counteract and jolted us all around. For a moment I feared that the impact had damaged the speeder too much for it to carry on, but thankfully it still seemed to be running on just the three repulsors. We were slower than before, but at least we were still moving.

Glancing back furiously at the tank, I saw it wobbling even more violently than before, it's speed combined with that weird guy's shouts making it unstable. It had to brake momentarily for the pilot to bring it back under control.

But it had still given me an idea.

Tank: "Tracks! Pass me the drone!" I yelled over the racket. He cocked his head with a frown, clearly wondering why the heck I'd want the partially destroyed drone right now, but still he grabbed it and passed it over to me.

Tank: "Keep us in a straight line!" I called to Cat and then began to line up my shot. I would only get one shot at this.

Satisfied with my aim, all I had to do now was wait for that Mage to take a deep breath again and sure enough, moments later, I saw him inhale deeply...

And I shoved the drone out the back of the speeder.

It clattered along the road, even as the speeding tank came barrelling towards it and then, just seconds after I had released it, the tank ran over it.

The drone got caught up underneath the unstable vehicle and that was all it took. The nose dipped down and hit the road, even as Evazorn let loose his scream. The force of the impact, combined with the magic shout, now directed into the ground, was enough to flip the tank rear over front.

Rocksholme let go as soon as it began to tip and let gravity and the momentum of the speed they were travelling at pull him clear of the crash, before his wing pack kicked in and he hovered back safely.

Count Evazorn barely had time to mutter a few words before the ground rushed up to meet him, slamming him face-first into the gravelly road and crushing him beneath the massive vehicle.

Tank: "YES!" I cheered, pumping the air with my fist as the tank came crashing down and we continued speeding away. I clapped Tracks on the shoulder and leant over to kiss Cat on the head in celebration of our narrow escape. The Wasps, following the destruction of the tank, appeared to decide to give up the chase and finally, our battered landspeeder was free to carry us back to town and to safety.

A little while later, at the site of the crashed tank, a recovery team had begun to try and salvage the situation. Wing Commander Rocksholme was overseeing the men, women and aliens who were all frantically attempting to right the vehicle and see if there had been any survivors and now, as he watched on with his singular eye, a shout went up from one of the workers - somebody was still alive.

Rocksholme dashed over to help and when he saw who the survivor was, shoved the worker out of
the way and did it himself. There, lying motionless on his front in the mud, was Count Evazorn.
Worker: "He's still breathing." The worker who had discovered him announced and Rocksholme dived in to haul him from the wreckage. The Collective Mage's legs were virtually non-existent they had been crushed that badly and the lower half of his torso wasn't much better. His arms were almost as bad, and when the Wing Commander rolled him onto his back, he almost threw up at the sight of the Count's disfigured face. It had been ripped to shreds on the ground, strips of flesh now hanging from the bone and gravel was embedded deep into his wounds. There was, of course, blood everywhere and most of it seemed to have come from a gash in the Count's neck, where a long shard of metal had sliced his throat.

Rocksholme had to check for a pulse he was so certain that nobody could have survived such an incident, but sure enough, the man's heart was still beating.

Rocksholme: "Call the medics!"

The following day, The Viper touched down on the rooftop of Trinity tower, where Mr. Grey had his office. The tower was covered in scaffolding and there were people in overalls everywhere carrying out building work; what they were doing, I had no idea, but the rooftop had completely changed since I was last here. Most of the landing pads had given way to a vast glass ceiling with a singular walkway stretching over it from the remaining pads to the main elevator down. I paid the workers little attention as I made my way alone over the walkway, trying my hardest not to look at the imposing view straight down and then into the elevator. Briefcase in hand, I reached level 205 and exited the lift onto Mr. Grey's floor. As I approached the office, the entrance doors swung open automatically and allowed me in.

Tank: "Building works?" I queried, skipping any pleasantries, as I approached Mr. Grey sat at his desk, situated in front of the giant tapestry of two silhouettes shaking hands.

Mr. Grey: "The Brain decided that some renovation was in order." He replied, not looking up from his computer screen.
Tank: "Does the Brain have say over everything?"
Mr. Grey: "Well, he does own the building." He replied, finally looking up at me. "Do you have the item?"
Tank: "I do." I declared, lifting up the metal case and placing it on the desk before him.

Without hesitation, Mr. Grey flicked the catches and lifted the lid on the case, revealing the mysterious orb within. A pleased smile appeared on his face – a rare sight!
Mr. Grey: “You’ve done well, Chain.” He congratulated before closing the case and sliding it to one side. “Now, for your information.”

I took a step closer and listened intently, waiting for the news that I’d gone through all of this to hear.

Mr. Grey: “A contact on Toliv reported seeing a person matching the description of Darkblade at Obri-Tone space port there. Now, the Obri-Tone space port purely handles out-of-system transports, so it is likely that your mercenary is headed to System 55.”
I wasn’t sure how to take this information. On the one hand it was great because I had run out of leads, hunting Darkblade down, but on the other hand, he was no longer in the system, that meant that if I was going to go after him, I would have to travel all the way to System 55.

Mr. Grey: “Now, bearing in mind that this is only a potential sighting, not confirmed, it might not be worth your following up, however, The Brain’s contact said that he had only just arrived, so if you do decide on pursuing him, now is the time. If you leave it too late, his trail will have gone cold once you reach the new System.”

He made a fair point. Both points in fact. But, in my heart, I knew I only had one option. If Darkblade wasn’t here, then it was pointless for me to remain here looking for him.

I would have to go to System 55.

After a few moments of thought, I nodded, more to myself than Mr. Grey. Before adding;
Tank: “Okay. Thank you.”
Mr. Grey: “You work, the Brain provides – as always.” He replied in what I supposed was his way of saying ‘You’re welcome.’ I nodded to him again, this time before turning to leave, before curiosity got the better of me and I paused to ask;
Tank: “What does The Brain want with that object from space?”

Mr. Grey responded simply;
Mr. Grey: “He has a buyer lined up. Some people are simply interested in the unknown.”


Sat at a dingy bar, somewhere in the fire pits of Rerador, Avorax Wolfhide swollen the last remnants of his spicy drink around in his glass before downing the orange-coloured liquid.

The bar TV had just been reporting on a theft from a GI facility on Soateria. They had shown some grainy CCTV footage of the suspect and what would you know, it was only Tank Rockwell.

Wolfhide glowered at the screen for a few moments more, before demanding another drink from the bar woman. If only Governor Boan had let him kill him there and then. Rockwell had pissed him off the past few years now and Wolfhide was growing tired of it. The Governor was an idiot. He should have just let him shoot him in the head and be done with it. Why the hell Tank was still alive, he had no idea.

But, he supposed, as his latest drink arrived, that's what he got for being a Bounty Hunter - Always working for someone else and following orders. It was annoying really. He had enjoyed being in charge during his brief tenure as the head of Beta Squad. He'd been the one giving orders and telling everybody else what to do, not the other way around. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he realised he missed it.

And then he had an idea.

Beta Squad had fallen apart because of the people in it. Whilst individually they were good at what they did, together, they could never get on. The unit had been plagued by petty squabbles and bickering and nothing had ever gotten done. But, with the right people and with him in charge, maybe, just maybe, a new squad could work...


The Wolts.

The checkout set.

The security checkpoint set.

The crater set.

The chase set.

An alternative image for the tank flipping over.

The crash set.

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.



--R.K. Blast--
 I like it 
Grandson Fifticinco
  February 16, 2018
Awesome episode, RK! I loved the compound scene and the chase scene. Nice work, and great writing!
 I like it 
  February 16, 2018
Great! I love the pics and escpically I liked the ending!
 I made it 
  February 16, 2018
Quoting Traykar Pawfoot Good episode, and I liked the Imperium compound, but I feel like Tank is making to many enemies to be considered as a neutral citizen in the conflict.
Thank you! Tank has always had a lot of enemies though. Haha! --Blast--
 I made it 
  February 16, 2018
Quoting Toa Jaton Great episode!The whole compound scene reminds me of the first Thor movie.
Thanks Jaton! Yeah, that's the kind of vibe I was going for with it, so I'm glad it worked! --Blast--
 I made it 
  February 16, 2018
Quoting Werewolff . Loved this episode! Great start at hinting at the new Beta squad, and Tank in System 55? Fantastic stuff! The chase scene with the hover tank was very well written and built as well, though I do feel the actual tank design was a tad simplistic when compared to the speeder. Nevertheless, a great episode! I think the only thing I have left to say is...what's in the (orb) box?!
Thanks 'Wolff. The tank is actually the same one featured in season 1 of my series! It's just had a couple of upgrades. I agree it's not all that great but I suppose I got lazy. Haha. As for the orb, all will be revealed in time. --Blast--
 I like it 
  February 15, 2018
Good episode, and I liked the Imperium compound, but I feel like Tank is making to many enemies to be considered as a neutral citizen in the conflict.
 I like it 
  February 15, 2018
Great episode!The whole compound scene reminds me of the first Thor movie.
 I like it 
  February 15, 2018
Loved this episode! Great start at hinting at the new Beta squad, and Tank in System 55? Fantastic stuff! The chase scene with the hover tank was very well written and built as well, though I do feel the actual tank design was a tad simplistic when compared to the speeder. Nevertheless, a great episode! I think the only thing I have left to say is...what's in the (orb) box?!
 I like it 
  February 15, 2018
Very cool, the story felt fresh, a little different from the usual. And I like the Live Escape show wasn't expecting more of that
  February 15, 2018
Oh boy, things are getting interesting here! I really liked the story as a whole. The premise totally hooked me, and you executed it very well. I'm looking forward to seeing Tank in System 55, too, and the whole thing with Wolfhide thinking to put together a new version of Beta squad, I like it! Can't wait to see what happens next in your story! Keep it up!
By --R.K. Blast--
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