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The Insurgency 18: War Returns (GC)
My entry to the group wide Crossover, explaining why my characters are in the tunnel.
About this creation

05 September, 2096

Dustin Vorn sighed gently as he and Risa entered the small café, a small electronic jingle sounding as the door shut behind them. The building was awash with delightful smells and delicate aromas of freshly ground coffee, brewing tea leaves and baked muffins resting behind glass screens. It truly was a wonderful place, igniting all the senses at once.

However, despite the niceties, Risa couldn't help but feel awfully exposed. This was the third time in four months that she'd actually entered a store. Her face was solid, but her skin crawled with nervousness. Anyone here could recognise her, turn her in, throw her back into Uek's scheming hands. And now that she was on the global watchlist, her nerves were at their peak. Which made it even stranger that Dustin himself had invited her.

She rolled her shoulders and repositioned her feet. Her training hadn't ceased since she'd broken through Dustin's defence. In fact, it had only gotten tougher as Dustin pushed her to new limits in melee combat. But it had surprised her when, instead of their normal morning spar, Dustin had asked her out to tea and coffee. He'd said she needed a break, otherwise she'd push herself too far.

Risa had chuckled at that. Back when her life had been simpler, she would have thought it almost a date. But times had changed.

As they joined the queue, Risa couldn't help but feel as though someone was watching her. She'd felt it before, in combat, the moment you know when all isn't quite right. So she voiced her concern to Dustin, keeping her voice low.

Risa: "Are you sure about this? Me being out in public?"
Dustin: "Usually no, but you do need a rest Risa. Come on, smoko can't be too bad."
Risa: "Still, someone's watching us. I can feel it."
Dustin: "I wouldn't doubt it. This place does attract a certain...clientele."
Risa: "Clientele? What kind of clientele?"
Dustin: "Ex-assassins, thieves, mercenaries, you know the lot."
Risa: "What! And just how is that supposed to help?"
Dustin: "Well, this place is a safe haven for them, for those who can't usually show themselves, a place to discuss business and such. The only rule is no violence or reporting on anyone else within these walls. Heck, some guys here are on Beta Squad's hit list, but this shop is good at keeping secrets."

Risa gulped at that, but couldn't say she was overly surprised. After all, she was a wanted criminal now. And the only place for a criminal was with other criminals.

Eventually, the line thinned out and the pair reached the counter. Behind it was a young woman in her mid-thirties, with curled brown locks falling down her back and circular glasses on her face. She had one of those smilies that could improve any situation, not so indifferent from Dustin's smile. Risa grinned as Dustin spoke.

Dustin: "Good morning Mady, how are you going?"
Mady: "Oh you know, same old routine Dusts, no better, no worse."
Dustin: "Yeah, that's about right, isn't it?"
Mady: "Ha, yep. Alrighty, what'll you and your pretty young friend have this fine morning?"

Dustin gestured to the barista and turned to speak, but Risa held up her hand, her smile almost painted on as she spoke, anger seeping into her words.

Risa: "You told her your name? You idiot, that could get us killed!"
Dustin: "Who, Mady? Mady was Adam Ferris secretary, I've known her for ages."
Risa: "Wait...she's ex-Core?"

Dustin was about to reply before Mady interrupted, her hands steady on the keyboard, ready to receive the order.

Mady: "Yep, for eleven years or so. Administrative duties though. Nothing flashy like Dusts over here."
Dustin: "Ha ha, don't sell yourself short. You're the fastest hacker I've ever met."
Mady: "Well, I'm a fast typer, so that helps. Left a couple years back, moved here after the Shift and got a job at this place. I know the clientele, you see. So, what'll it be dear? Dusts'll have his usual, but for yourself? Espresso? Mocha-"

Dustin stepped back as Risa made her order, uneasy under her surface, but still her usual stoic self. Dustin grinned. Mady had been a highlight at the Core, a sly tongue and an optimistic smile behind the filing cabinet. Good to see she hasn't changed he thought to herself.

He spun smoothly to face the overhanging TV, currently on standby. Curiosity mixing with boredom, he reached over the counter for the remote he knew was hiding there and switched it on.

The picture flickered for a moment before settling on a news reader with a stunned facial expression. Dustin hesitated. News readers trained to maintain their expressions, so it seemed odd that this woman would be so shocked. He turned up the volume, a deep sense of urgency filling his movements.

Newsreader: "-have just received word that several True Aurelian cruisers have entered Qoter's atmosphere and are currently hovering over the southern metropolis of Knightborn."

Dustin faltered and stumbled slightly. True Aurelia was back? And in Knightborn? Why on earth would they be going there? Could it be Uek's doing? Was he starting his plan?

The program cut to an out of planet shot, showing three cruisers in all their might. Whatever had caused Corvin to send out such an armada would have to be vital to the war effort. Or perhaps, vital to Uek's conquest. Dustin gathered himself and listened in, taking note of the nervous Newsreader's voice.

Newsreader: "Several fighters have just been dispatched from the ship and are on their way to the surface. Viewers currently in Knightborn are recommended to take immediate shelter and to vacate the Astarine suburb immediately. Commander Uek Ferris is on the ground with a small number of troops moving to intercept the units that have already landed. We wish him well as war returns to the sys-"

Dustin switched off the TV, visibly stunned by the news. Uek...Uek was on the ground. On a battlefield, surrounded by men. Surrounded by war. And True Aurelia had returned, clearly desperate for...something. What had caused Corvin to return? What could it possibly be? Curiosity and anxiousness bubbled inside him like steambound water. He turned to Risa, currently saying goodbye to Mady and carrying the drinks.

Dustin: "Risa, did you hear that?"
Risa: "What? What's the matter?"
Dustin: "True Aurelia have returned, in force. Three cruisers, all over Knightborn, clearly after...something. Uek's there, preparing to fend them off. What do you think?"

Risa locked up, all emotion draining from her face as the possibilities flowed through her mind. So many questions, so many possible outcomes. Thoughts of revenge galloped through her mind. Uek on a battlefield, defending something important yes, but surrounded by death itself.

She could end it, right then, right there. She could take him down before the fight began. And besides that, the desire to know what was worth risking that many lives invoked a deep thirst for knowledge within her. All that possibility couldn't go to waste.

And besides all of that...Knightborn was her home. And she'd die before she let it get trampled by war anymore than Uek already had.

Dustin: "Got your gun?"
Risa: "Always."
Dustin: "When's the next flight to Knightborn?"
Risa: "About an hour, I'd guess. It's a fifty-five minute flight in a fighter."
Dustin: "Well we'll get a cruiser. Let's go."

Dustin threw a few coins over the counter, which stooped with a whumpf as Mady caught them. Risa nodded and left the drinks behind as the pair turned and walked out of the shop, determination on each face, one calm, one solid. Curiosity, anxiousness, revenge, so many motivations. And who would waste up an opportunity like that?

Two Hours later.

The abandoned demolition sight reeked with the smell of dust, grease and smoke, despite the lack of machinery. Uek had had men haul away a wrecked digger and wrecking ball, as well as many of the destroyed robots that had been littered across the sight, most of which now lay in heaps along the sides of the yard. If there was going to be a fight, Uek wanted as little distraction as possible on the battlefield.

He sighed as he surveyed the area that would soon ring with war. The Governor and the Council had ordered him here, gave him instructions to repel the True Aureli soldiers that had taken up residence in the remnants of a hotel, at all costs, without asking any questions over what he was trying to take back. Uek had grimaced at that. He hated not knowing things, not having the answers that he wanted, that he needed. But he wasn't stupid enough to argue against the Council. He wasn't about to usurp his current position by succumbing to curiosity.

Still, it would have been nice to have some direction as to how important the hotel was, and why True Aurelia had thrown such a large amount of men into it. Uek had met Corvin before, asking for candidates for his...experiment. He'd admired the man's ambition, though he hadn't liked him. But Corvin was intelligent. What was worth such a large chunk of the military?

Uek's thoughts were interrupted as Sergeant Robb marched up to him, a message on his lips.

Robb: "Commander, sir!"
Uek: "Yes yes Robb, go ahead."
Robb: "We've just received confirmation that the first wave of True's have left the hotel defences and plan to meet us on the battlefield. The main force from Regentis is on its way, as well as a few other squads from various GI bases, but they won't get here in time to repel the initial attack. What are your orders sir?"
Uek: "Inform the men I selected before to get ready, we're going to fight. Get the remaining troops to dig in, pull in cover, all that jazz. We're going to need it if this battle goes on. Understood?"
Robb: "Yes Sir."

Robb turned and marched away, whispering Uek's words under his breath. Uek pivoted and faced the horizon. He could see the first wave approaching, maybe thirty men. After all, Uek had mobilised quickly, not giving the True's much time to build a defence, or to let more fighters descend. The only downside was that the force he could mobilise was also very small; troops that had been stationed at headquarters and already armoured up.

His mind clicked over into a planning mode, his thoughts switching to the best possible way to win the fight. True Aurelia wasn't giving them much prep time either, but at least they'd had some warning. The True's hadn't held the hotel for long, so the first wave would probably charge in, trying to overwhelm the small initial Imperial defence, rather than wait it out.

Which was good. Uek preferred hand to hand fighting. If just didn't feel the same if a machine did all your work for you. The men he had picked for his strike team were all crack shots and experienced in firing in close proximity to the enemy.

Still, True had the numbers. It was going to be close.

Uek turned again, flicking his knife from under his tunic. The cloth was stiff, reinforced with a graphite, Kevlar weave. Still, Uek felt relatively safe without it. He'd learnt to dodge bullets eons ago. Casually, he pushed his earplugs into his ears. This place would be nothing but noise soon enough, and Uek wasn't about to lose his hearing over that.

He slowly rotated the blade in his hand, allowing it to catch the light as it spun. The dagger, nor its twin, wasn't fancy. They were simple designs, hilts made from sturdy material and smooth to the touch. But the real secret was in the blades themselves. They were incredibly sharp, strong and well maintained. They'd served Uek well for many years, and hopefully they'd serve him for many more to come.

Pulling out the second blade he called for his strike team to assemble. The men and women grumbled but stood and moved into a loose formation. Emotions of nervousness, anxiety, determination and excitement filled a number of faces, which Uek picked up in a moment. He hesitated as he gathered his words before speaking, his voice loud yet sincere.

Uek: "Soldiers of Knightborn! Today, True Aurelia has decided to return to the system it once laid waste to! They've returned in force, aiming to overtake us, to annihilate all of us! They wish to burn and kill every last man, woman and child in this city! Corvin and his lackeys are ignorant of the ways of peace; those of you here with Pax will know this more than most. They crave only one thing...war."

Uek: "But we stand before them! If they want a war, we will bring it to them!! Are we going to let these ignorant raiders burn our city?!"

Soldiers: "No."

Uek: "Are we going to stand ideally by while they butcher and conquer?!"

Soldiers: "NO."

Uek: "Will we run in terror for our lives?!"

Soldiers: "NO!!"

Uek: "Then with me soldiers!! Push back these invaders! Make them rue the day they thought to come to Knightborn!! Fight, Fight FIGHT!"

The soldiers screamed in one voice, a wall of muscles and sound. Weapons were raised and loaded, boots began rolling forward to meet the force streaming towards them.

Uek gripped his weapons, spinning them both in each hand. The True's were charging full pelt, no proper formation. They simply wanted to destroy the initial defence and go back to guarding their hidden treasure, whatever on Qoter it was.

Uek smiled. His men were running now, he at the head of the rush. A few stray shots were fired, but adrenaline kept each side moving together. The screams of battle echoed throughout the yard as the two beasts neared the point of collision.

The knifes spun like tiny whirlwinds, eager for blood. Uek had missed this thrill of the battlefield, were nothing was predetermined. Only a man's skill and endurance kept him alive in the chaos.

The ground rumbled with the sound of hundreds of footfalls, rifles were discharged into the air, voices screamed and the air itself seemed to tear apart. There was only ten metres between the two, then five, then two then-


The collision was instantaneous. The fray followed soon after, where there was nothing but noise and motion and the stench of death. Rifle cracks were followed by spurts of crimson and orange sparks. Men fought using whatever they could, a brutal wash of smoke and dust. It was a place of nothing but carnage and death.

And Uek loved it.

The battle raged below in the ruins of the demolition sight. The Galactic Imperium and Aurelia, the war that never ended. From their position on the entrance of the yard, Risa could see it all. The True Aurelians, desperate to keep their hands on the hotel, had rushed out in force. Tactically, it wasn't the best move. But tactics and plans often fell apart when the enemy was on the doorstep.

And the enemy was everywhere. Even from here, Risa caught Uek's movement. A smug grin filled his face as his twin knifes sliced through any and all that got to close to him. But the chaos was still churning, with no clear winner emerging from the fray.

And in the heat of all that Risa felt...nothing. She wanted so badly to walk down and end it, end the man that had caused so much ruin in her life, and the man that would cause so much chaos in the days to come. But...she didn't. She couldn't, even if she wanted to. The rage that had fuelled her, even hours before, seemed overcome by the sheer ferocity of humanity laid bare before her, men fighting tooth and nail to survive.

No. If the pair of them were to go in, they'd both die. She was used to firefights, but a full on war like this...she had no idea what would happen. In the end, fear overcame rage and Risa, usually so angry and serious, calmed down.

She turned to Dustin, who stood there with his neutral smile. But she had trained with him long enough to see emotions brewing beneath the surface. What those emotions, or memories, were she couldn't guess. But they were there.

Risa: "We're not going in."
Dustin: "Well, you could try snipi-"
Risa: "No Dustin, we're not. That right there is not our fight, and if we get stuck in, Uek wins either way. If we kill him, we go to prison. If we don't, he'll know we're here and we're as good as dead. The possibilities were ripe perhaps, but we can't go in."

Dustin slowly turned his head and nodded, his smile widening a fraction. He didn't speak for awhile, the thoughts in his head realigning themselves, and when he did, his voice was surprisingly calm.

Dustin: "Well, I sense no flaw in your logic Miss Donovan."
Risa: "Like you said, attacks powered by rage alone do nothing."
Dustin: "Yeah...Uek's positioned himself well. He's surrounded by GI, and we've got no way into the fight. Well, I'd say we risked our necks for no reward. Can't say I'm pleased, but I guess we were both a bit...clouded in our judgements."
Risa: "Ha, yeah. Can't disagree there. But..."
Dustin: "Hmm?"

Risa: "The defenders have fled what they're defending, and reinforcements are awhile away, for both sides..."
Dustin: "Hmm, I see what you're thinking. Yes, curiosity is a powerful one, and it must be something important for Corvin to commit to many forces, and even to drag Uek here, away from his own agenda...what do you say?"

Risa responded to his words with a small smile and a nod of the head. Dustin saw beneath that simple exterior though, she didn't want this trip to amount to nothing more than a glance at the man that had stolen her life. He knew what that felt like, better than most. He also knew that she was right in her conclusion. She'd come a long way from the toned down shock trooper.

With the nod, the pair turned and sprinted down the side of the yard, crossing rubble, debris and machinery as the battle waged behind them. Dustin moved like water, barely a whisper of noise, Risa trailing in his wake, her pistol loaded and ready.

Eventually they reached the ruined hotel, a massive mouth of an opening baring its jaws. It was empty, the defenders fighting a battle and leaving the place unguarded. They probably hadn't expected an assassin and an ex-soldier to barge in. The pair stood briefly, awestruck by the damage, before moving forward again, into the darkness. Dustin quickly removed his tie, throwing it behind him. It would only be a hindrance if something bad went down inside.

Moving into the half-demolished building, the pair found the route to what the waging conflict beyond was being fought over. It was a tunnel, with an ancient, ageing door sitting ideally at its entrance. The door was open, an invitation to whatever lay beyond.

Risa spoke first, all thoughts of revenge gone from her mind. Only innate human curiosity drove her on.

Risa: "So they're fighting over a tunnel?"
Dustin: "Wouldn't that be a great war story? 'The fight for the depths'."
Risa: "Very funny. But what do you think it is? And who would hide the entrance here?"
Dustin: "Only one way to find out. Ladies first?"
Risa: "I was thinking more 'age before beauty'."

Dustin: "Suit yourself. Be ready though, we don't know what's in there."
Risa: "You don't have to tell me, I'm set."

Dustin nodded and the duo set of into the tunnel, the dark grey walls soon consuming the exterior light. But the two kept going, into the vast unknown.

Thanks to R.K. Blast for the two end photos!


 I like it 
  January 28, 2017
Ha ha ha! I like Nick's comment. Another excellent episode. I can't believe they left their coffees behind. :-( once again you left us with quite a cliffhanger. Excellent work!
 I like it 
  November 9, 2016
Ahh, where have I been? This is great stuff! Moving on to the next episode...
 I like it 
  September 20, 2016
Uek's quite the risk-taker, he'll come unstuck soon enough... great episode!
 I made it 
  September 17, 2016
Quoting Isaac AD Ayyy, what an awesome episode! Really enjoying this crossover! :D And actually, yeah, Dustin does look a bit like Mulder! [IAD]
Thanks IAD! Yes, it was unintentional I swear!
 I made it 
  September 17, 2016
Quoting Marley Mac Awesome! Really nice story. I love how you described the battle, I could really imagine it in my head (even if there weren't pictures). This will fit in perfectly with my story! :D Looking forward to seeing what Risa and Dustin encounter down there. :) P.S. Have you seen a show called the x-files, because in this episode Dustin looks a bit like a character named Mulder who's in that show. :)
Thanks Marley, glad you enjoyed it and that it will fit in well with your story! And no, I haven't seen the x-files but I Googled the character and yeah, the similarities are...evident :)
 I like it 
  September 16, 2016
Great job! Nicely tied in! (Speaking of ties, nice way of molding yours into mine! haha) One little thing though, in my big cross-over episode, Iv;e said that the wrecking ball is still there, but here you've said it's been moved. Also, I loved your recreation of the entrance to the building! And I also liked the Beta Squad name drop and the similarities between your cafe and mine! Awesome all around! Good luck in the GC! --Blast--
 I like it 
  September 16, 2016
Ayyy, what an awesome episode! Really enjoying this crossover! :D And actually, yeah, Dustin does look a bit like Mulder! [IAD]
 I like it 
  September 16, 2016
Awesome! Really nice story. I love how you described the battle, I could really imagine it in my head (even if there weren't pictures). This will fit in perfectly with my story! :D Looking forward to seeing what Risa and Dustin encounter down there. :) P.S. Have you seen a show called the x-files, because in this episode Dustin looks a bit like a character named Mulder who's in that show. :)
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