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Central Europe

© 1999-2001 Imminent Storm of NEWST.

Chapter Seventeen: Clash of the Titans

Paladin paused for a moment; he could have sworn he just saw a faint radar contact close-by to his left. It disappeared after a second or two, so he just assumed it was another anomaly. He continued on down the street until he reached a "T" intersection.

The enemy was waiting, watching from the rooftops above. This enemy U-Borg was a medium-weight model not too dissimilar from Paladin's design. As Paladin stopped again to look down the intersecting street, it saw its opportunity. It fired up its plasma blade and leaped down a little behind Paladin, hoping to cripple him before he could react.

Paladin's radar system set off a proximity alarm as it detected the enemy, now above him and not hidden behind radar shadow of the buildings. Almost instinctively, Paladin used his thrusters to kick sideways, down the intersecting street, right as the enemy came crashing down. The enemy's plasma blade clipped Paladin's upper left arm and cut a gash in the armor.

Paladin spun around and faced the direction he had just come, waiting for the enemy to approach around the corner after him with guns blazing. But nothing happened. He approached the intersection cautiously. Facing the direction the enemy had come from, he turned the corner and fired a positron blast from the PPC. The blue beam shot down the street and hit nothing but air. Paladin was confused, "where the hell'd it go?!"

Then, over the standard communications frequency came an oddly familiar sounding voice. "Ha ha ha... not bad. I didn't think you would be able to react that quickly. But still, you'll have to do better than that...."

Paladin immediately recognized the perilous situation he was in. He went back down the same intersection again, then randomly started turning corners and changing streets, a maneuver intended not so much to find the enemy but rather to confuse him. Paladin opened his comm lines as well. "So, who the hell are you?" It would be impossible for the enemy to ascertain his exact location from his radio transmittions; he'd need three or four receivers and triangulate between them to do that, but at least he could tell the general direction. And still, that voice was familiar but he couldn't pin down exactly where he had heard it before.

The enemy responded with a chuckle. "Heh heh... nice move. So a game of cat and mouse it is then? And as for who I am, I'll let you guess on that one."

Now it clicked -- Paladin remembered where he heard that voice before, and he couldn't believe it. He decided to guess and see if his suspicions were correct. "Doctor Boot, I presume?"

"Well well, so you [i]do[/i] know about me. You aren't as dumb as I thought. So you recognize my voice from that little speech I sent you not too long ago. But you are only partially correct. I am merely a copy of Dr. Boot's mind, without such inconveniences as 'emotions' and the like. This mech is merely a toy."

Paladin was shocked; he had never expected this. Not only was Dr. Boot the entity behind the Dominion, as he suspected, but he had managed to make copies of himself. This changed everything about what they thought their enemy was capable of. "So are all of your 'mechs' like you?"

Paladin started backtracking. It would be best for him to stay on the ground where it was easier to hide. He knew the general direction that the enemy's signals were coming from, but not the exact location. He had to keep the U-Borg version of Dr. Boot talking.

"Ha! So full of questions are we now? But I will tell you, No. This is only a prototype mobile unit; but I do have many more copies of myself performing other tasks. Dr. Reed never realized the full potential of this technology. Always needing others to do his dirty work, that is what made him weak. But in the end, he did prove useful."

He was getting close, the signal strength was increasing. "So you were using Dr. Reed!?"

"You catch on quickly. Dr. Reed was a pawn, even though he thought otherwise. He thought I was helping him, when in fact, just the opposite was happening. I needed him because his position in the US military gave him access to the NASDA System, a key ingredient in staging the 'Collapse.' But your interference was unexpected. Now let's step this game up a bit...shall we?"

Just then a bright blue beam came blasting through a building nearby to his rear. It seemed that this enemy U-Borg had a PPC as well. But it was just what Paladin needed: Firing that shot gave away Dr. Boot's position. While a brilliant researcher (albeit a madman), Dr. Boot was apparently a poor tactician. Paladin moved in the direction of the shot when another pierced through a building in front of him, and then a third. Dr. Boot was firing blind, in the hopes of scoring a hit by luck. As Paladin came to another intersection, he saw the refection of the enemy U-Borg's back in the windows of a glass-walled office tower. He sent one last message to the enemy. "This game was fun, but I'm going to destroy your little toy now."

All the copy of Dr. Boot could get out was "What?!" before Paladin turned the corner, lined up the shot, and fired an anti-proton beam straight down the center of the enemy's torso. The beam hit the coolant system, the power storage pack, and a plasma feed pack for one of its shoulder weapons. The enemy U-Borg's torso exploded violently, significantly damaging the nearby buildings. When the smoke cleared, the ground was littered with debris. Half of its arm was buried in the collapsed portion of a building; its head landed at Paladin's feet, and its left leg was still standing. Paladin crushed the remains of the head under his foot and kicked over the remaining leg. Doing so was oddly satisfying. He sent a message to the rest of the group. "Second enemy U-Borg downed."

Fires were raging in the buildings around him, then he heard the sound of a large explosion nearby. Fenrir came over the comm, "Bird of Prey is being engaged by two enemy U-Borgs. Anyone in the area move to assist. I'll give you his location." The location was not very far away, so Paladin took off in that direction.

Bird of Prey dodged another shot fired from one enemy, attacking from the tops of the buildings. Its weapon was some kind of cannon firing rocket-powered, high explosive shells. It reminded him somewhat of a weapon called a 'bazooka' from old military history books. Luckily, such shells are slower than normal ballistic cannons, making them easier to track and avoid. The second enemy U-Borg was chasing Bird of Prey through the streets, using Gauss weaponry that he would have to watch out for. He could see that Rapier and Paladin were nearby and coming in fast. Fenrir was some distance away but coming as well. Longbow and Bahamut were even further away, and it was not likely that they would be able to help at all. Bird of Prey had to stay alive in the meantime.

The buildings in this part of the city were smaller and shorter than in the center of the city; while this allowed him to have a good view of the guy attacking him from the buildings, it also made it near-impossible to hide. The enemy on the ground appeared in front of him and fired a Gauss round. It hit the shoulder area of his right arm, but missed his torso and back weapons. Bird of Prey fired two Gauss rounds of his own as he tried to duck around another building for cover. One shot missed, but the other hit the enemy in the leg. The second enemy fired another one of its 'bazooka' rounds; Bird of Prey barely managed to dodge it. The shell slammed into building he was just next to and exploded. The explosion demolished half the structure and set the area ablaze. Two missiles flew over his head and hit the enemy, knocking him off balance. The enemy crashed to the ground out of view. Rapier landed beside Bird of Prey. "Need any help?"

"Yeah, sure. These guys were starting to annoy me."

The enemy U-Borg on ground approached from behind the smashed building. Rapier turned and fired a long burst from his light machine gun. He did almost no damage, and the enemy fired back at him. A round pierced the through his torso for some internal damage, but no critical systems were hit. Bird of Prey fired two more Gauss rounds, scoring a hit on the enemy torso and upper left arm. Rapier dropped his useless machine gun, which was only good against conventional units, and fired up his plasma sword. He also removed the hand-held emitter from his back shoulder mounted plasma pack and held it in his right hand. With two blades of super-hot plasma, he could do some serious damage. Rapier leaped into the air with a little push from his thrusters. The enemy was now distracted and Bird of prey fired several Gauss rounds that scored significant hits on the enemy.

Rapier landed right in front of the enemy and slashed down with his left forearm blade at the same time. The plasma blade was perfectly positioned and cut clean through the joint holding the enemy's right arm on. There was a large enough gap between the arm and torso that the blade could cut through the unprotected joint components. The enemy's arm fell off and the enemy stood stunned, either from damage or shock. A swift upward slash from Rapier's hand-held emitter took care of the other arm. Just then, the other enemy re-appeared and fired another round. This time, Bird of prey was not fast enough and the shell hit his right Gauss arm. The explosion shattered his arm and blew the cannon section clear off.

Just as Rapier was about to attack the new threat, Paladin arrived and intervened by firing a volley of laser blasts from his hand and back weapons that burned holes in the enemy's 'bazooka' weapon. The enemy prudently threw it away, and it exploded a few seconds later. Rapier now turned back to the dismembered enemy and thrust his left plasma blade deep into its torso. He did the same with his right blade. After removing the plasma blades he jumped up, and using his thrusters for balance and control, he kicked the critically damaged enemy with both feet. The enemy stumbled backwards but stayed on its feet. The other enemy, now without its primary weapon, turned to face Paladin. Bird of Prey was severely damaged on the right side and the shock had caused problems in his left Gauss arm. He could do little more than watch.

The still-functional enemy activated two identical shoulder weapons, quite large and of unknown design. It took off in Paladin's direction and fired from its shoulder weapons. Twin wide bright blue beams shot from the weapons towards Paladin. He managed to jump off the building roof he was on just in time. The beams hit the building and crushed the impact site. But more than that, the entire building burst into flames. Paladin noticed that the effect was not unlike the plasma cannons the Project sometimes used for tank turrets. This enemy was fast. Paladin barely had time to get his weapon ready to fire before the enemy U-Borg was literally on top of him. The enemy slammed hard into Paladin taking them both off the roof and down to the street below. They smashed together into the building across the street. The impact crushed both of Paladin's Back weapons, luckily not armed at this time.

Meanwhile, the critically-damaged enemy was now in imminent danger of exploding. Its emergency eject system engaged, blowing the head off and ejecting the pilot compartment. The U-Borg, seconds later, exploded. The heat and concussion from the blast threw Rapier completely through a building, causing joint damage and paralyzing him for a few minutes, while the internal repair systems went to work. Already damaged, Bird of Prey suffered even more from flying debris. Fenrir, who was very close by at the time, saw the pilot capsule eject and went after it.

Paladin kicked the enemy away and got up out of the rubble. The enemy fired again from its plasma cannons scoring a hit and melting some of the first layer of Paladin's torso armor. Paladin fired a positron beam that cut through the enemy's mid right torso area. The enemy attempted to fire again, but only one of the two cannons fired. The other had containment failure and exploded, blasting the entire area behind it with super-heated plasma. The entire city block was on fire. The plasma burst that did fire caught Paladin in the leg as he tried to jump. The heat caused thermal expansion in his knee joint and fried some control wiring, causing the knee to lock up. When he landed, he couldn't keep balance and fell back, unable to get up. The enemy could still move, but now without any ranged weapons. It activated its own plasma cutter and prepared to charge the wounded Paladin and destroy him.

But then, a large dark shape flew in overhead and right towards the enemy. It swept by the enemy U-B and a bight beam sliced the enemy's left arm off. The object landed behind the enemy and was silhouetted by the flames engulfing the street. The newcomer was a large humanoid machine, not unlike the Ultra Cyborgs, but its design was far different. It raised its right arm, which was holding a large rifle-like weapon. It fired, and a searing beam of light and heat blasted right through the enemy U-Borg, which detonated only seconds later. The blast pushed Paladin down the street and showered him with debris. Paladin got an emergency warning from his weapon about imminent anti-matter containment failure. Quickly, he detached the anti-matter fuel pack from his PPC and threw it away over the line of buildings as far as he could. A loud explosion and a vibration of the ground signaled the containment failure. The unidentified machine approached Paladin as he was standing up, joint systems auto-repaired.

A message came in on the general communications channels. "I am a soldier and representative of the Mediterranean Coalition. I was sent this far north to try and make contact with the unknown force fighting the Dominion. I trust you are them?"