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The Insurgency: S4 #1 Pick Me Up (FB)
Here it is! The season premiere for Season 4 of my Insurgency series! A freedbuild for the Marauders. Please comment, rate and enjoy!
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26th September 2097: Present Day


The darkness swirled around me. Ink-like. As if drifting in water.


The tendrils of black swooped and twirled in the air until they became all-encompassing and I could not see.


I was alone.



Then, through the darkness ahead, a figure emerged, the ink parting before it, allowing it passage towards me. The figure increased in size until it loomed large over me, bigger in size than any person should be and then and only then did colour begin to creep into the image. But not just any colour.


Red.



Blood red began seeping out from the figure’s body and started to trickle down its front. At first, just a trickle, but the blood kept coming. It poured until the red had formed two beating lungs on the outside of the body – lungs that then solidified into chest plates and blood that had been dripping from the figure’s head became two vertical stripes down the centre of the figure’s face and formed a mask.


The mask of my nightmares.


The mask of Darkblade.



Darkblade began to laugh, the inky darkness still swirling all around.
Darkblade: “Everyone you love will die!” he taunted, before continuing to laugh – a booming echo of a sound that reverberated around my head longer than it should have done.


I tried to get away but couldn’t. I was rooted to the spot. Tiny and insignificant compared to the towering power and might of my former friend.


I tried to speak, but found I couldn’t. I had been silenced. All I could do was watch on in horror as Darkblade, still laughing, raised his long, black sword high over his head and then, everything moving at half-speed, brought it swinging down towards me.


Inside I was screaming. Outside – silence, as the dark blade of death sliced through me…





Screaming for real, I sat bolt upright in bed, my hair wet with sweat and panting as if my life depended on it.


Beside me, I knew I’d woken Cat, as she quickly rolled to face me.
Cat: “It’s okay. It’s okay.” She comforted, placing a hand on my knee.


For a good couple of minutes, I sat there panting, trying to calm myself and get my breath back. I’d been having nightmares for the past four months; ever since I’d discovered Darkblade, the armour-clad mercenary who’d been hunting me for the better part of the last year, was really my old friend Jarred Zeal.


I had originally thought Jarred to be dead, but that turned out not to be the case. However, after he’d kidnapped both Cat, my girlfriend and Aurora, a good friend and Priestess warrior from Fuyoria, we had fought and he’d been killed by a high-speed train.



At least, that’s what I had assumed.


Glancing aside at Cat, who’s eyes had shut and was breathing softly again, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep any time soon, so I slid out of bed, slipped on a gown and made my way towards the living room. The laminated floor plates were cool under my feet as I gently padded my way through my apartment. But despite the change of scenery, I still had Darkblade on my mind. I had done every day since that night in May.


The thing was, I still had no proof that he was alive. It may just have been paranoia. I saw him being electrocuted and then the trains rushing by. I didn’t actually SEE him getting hit by the train – I wasn’t brave enough to watch that, and once the trains had passed there was also no body left behind, but there was no way he could have avoided being hit. So if he was in fact alive, he somehow would have had to have survived being severely electrocuted AND being struck by a high-speed train.



Rubbing my face with a sigh, I walked into the living room. The thing was, I had no proof either way. I didn’t know if he was dead or alive. If he was dead – great! If not, I would have preferred to simply know! If I knew he was still alive, I could prepare myself. But I didn’t know either way.


And what made it worse was the fact that I didn’t know if the prophecy about us both had been fulfilled or not!


‘One as a brother, blamed and chained. One as an enemy, enslaved once again. One to know truth with their final breath. By the other’s own hand, they bring their death.’


That was the prophecy read to me by an ancient Namorian in Mìilswán, on Fuyoria. I had figured out that it was about me and Jarred, and that if he was in fact dead, then the prophecy had been fulfilled. But if he was alive…


I slumped down onto my sofa and keyed for the TV to turn on.



Not knowing if Jarred was alive or not had been driving me crazy, so I’d spent the past four months trying to find him, trying to track him down. If he was alive of course.


There hadn’t been any reports of bodies being found anywhere along the route that the train had taken, but that didn’t necessarily mean that there wasn’t one. I’d followed up on every lead I could think of but – nothing! He’d vanished.


The past four months had turned up nothing. Alongside searching for Jarred, I’d also been attempting to re-build Tracks. Using whatever parts I could find laying around but again, I’d gotten nowhere. Whatever I tried, it simply wouldn’t work.


As I flicked through the TV channels, I came across an interesting looking gameshow. I’d seen it advertised recently. It was a show that had been running in System 55 for a while now, but had recently begun broadcasting over here as well.


‘Live Escape!’ it was called. I think the premise was that a bunch of ordinary people got shipped off to an exotic jungle planet somewhere and had to survive against a selection of wild animals and monsters. The last contestant standing was crowned the winner and received a large sum of money.



On the one hand it sounded barbaric, but on the other it actually looked quite exciting! I’d not managed to catch an episode yet and this seemed to be a replay of the previous evening’s episode, but there was nothing else on so I decided to give it a go. I wasn’t sure how much attention I’d be paying anyway, I was too busy thinking. I just needed something on in the background to keep me occupied.


After my fight against Darkblade and his subsequent ‘death’, I had told Mr. Grey everything in the hope that he and The Brain could help me track down Jarred, if in fact he was still alive. I’d told him that Jarred was really Darkblade and also that Jarred had been the one who’d killed my parents. Mr. Grey had been surprised at that news, but I explained that even though Zeth Stripe had been hired to kill them, he had swapped with his best friend, Jarred, at the last minute.


That was yet another issue playing on my mind. If Jarred was in fact dead, I would never find out who hired him to kill my Mom and Dad. I had spent my life wondering who had killed them and now I knew. But the issue was, Jarred had only been a hired hand. I still had no idea who had hired him to do the job or why. And if he was dead… I would never know.



Mr. Grey had assured me that he would get The Brain to look into it and see if they could find any trace of Jarred – any hint that he may still be alive. But that had been four months ago now and in that time, I’d heard nothing.


I was beginning to go insane.


On the TV, the show had been focussed on three contestants who had banded together and were sitting around a campfire, when a human-sized bipedal lizard had burst through the brush and attacked them.


It was grizzly and didn’t make for pleasant viewing, but for some reason I found it captivating my attention. I was beginning to understand why it was such a hit show in System 55! The beast tore through two of the competitors, the third having vanished back into the jungle. Then the camera cut away to a couple of fancily-dressed presenters in a studio somewhere overlooking the jungle and they gave an update on the current status of all the remaining competitors.



With a sigh, I turned the TV off again. I could feel my eyes beginning to droop again so decided that maybe it was time to give sleep another go.



Elsewhere…


The Followers of the Universe; A religion worshipping the very universe itself. Not as a God or deity, but for exactly what it is: all-encompassing.


The Followers of the Universe originated on Earth, arising in the wake of the Shift. Until that date, humans believed themselves to be alone in the universe. No other intelligent life had been found. Some said that it was out there, waiting to be discovered. Others said that humans were all there was.



The Shift had proved the latter of those groups wrong and the former incredibly correct. The 'shifting' of Earth into a new star system shook Earth's understanding of the universe and everything it stood for.


There were greater forces at play than originally imagined. The cause for the Shift was, even now, unknown, at least as far as everyone was aware, but what the public did know, was that the Shift was an incredible feat - natural occurrence or otherwise.


Human's understanding of everything they thought they knew changed overnight and so it was only a matter of time before a group sprung up who believed that the universe itself, something tangible, but still beyond comprehension, should be worshipped, rather than a God of one description or another, who may or may not exist.



The self-appointed High Reverend Joseph Mayer, from South Carolina, founded the religion, after he moved from his home in America to a small colony on Fuyoria, just weeks after the Shift. Soon, others began to come to him. Not just humans, but aliens too. Of every species imaginable. Every colour, creed, gender, height, species - all coming together I peace and the joint agreement that the Universe was beyond belief and deserved to be worshipped.


The first being to join Mayer was a red-skinned being from Zarus. A Hasat. A curios species, famed for their ferocity, the Hasats were also known to be very sociable among their own kind, so to find one, especially a red-skin, who was wise enough and peaceful enough to join a religion, was highly unusual. Yellow-skinned Hasats also exist and these are far less ferocious than their rouge-coloured brethren, but it was a red-skin by the name of Eldwar Regus who joined Mayer and garnered respect from all who heard tell.


The religion grew at great speed and began to spread across the system. The emergence of The Collective proved awe-inspiring to the Followers - to them, it was just another example of how unexpected and truly gracious the Universe could be.



However, with The Collective war came doubt in Mayer's mind. Was the Universe truly the benevolent master he had thought it to be? It had now brought forth a truly great destructive force. Beings who could harness and wield great powers. Yes, it was an incredible feat and a sight to behold, but in the midst of a war that ravaged the system, power such as theirs, being used against the weak and the innocent, was terrifying.


Mayer could not comprehend the sudden change in circumstances. His beliefs were too slow to adapt and he fell into paranoia. When the war ended, his condition improved somewhat, but the discovery of System 55, another inhabited system not all that far away, proved too much for his mind and Mayer took his own life, leaving Eldwar Regus, Mayer's first follower, in charge.



Taking over the mantle of High Reverend of the religion, Regus led The Followers of the Universe into their greatest period of belief yet. More flocked to the new religion and the Followers grew in number, flourishing to this day. Despite the acceptance of the Collective into society, following the end of the Collective war, thanks to Mayer's initial reservations about them, combined with Eldwar Regus', albeit controlled, violent and suspicious nature, even now The Followers of the Universe hold a deep-seated distrust of The Collective. In the past, they have even protested against The Collective and their God, Deja, however, to date, the two religions simply remain at odds with each other.


It was, in fact, thoughts of The Collective and their false God, Deja, that filled High Reverend Regus' mind, as he pottered about in the Grand Citadel late this night.



The Grand Citadel was located on Qoter and was the heart of the Followers of the Universe. The original Grand Citadel had been built on Fuyoria, but after being destroyed during the Collective War, their new temple was created on the system’s capital planet. Whilst there were other, smaller houses of prayer now dotted around the system, the Grand Citadel was by far the biggest and most impressive of them all. The place where Followers came to get closer to the Universe, the Grand Citadel's spire stretched high into the air, a stone finger pointing to the sky, the stars and everything else that lay in the dark of space.


High Reverend Regus had just finished preparing for the morning service and was now just tidying the place up, straightening the prayer mats and adjusting the readings books. Humming quietly to himself, he went about his business accompanied by three of his most devoted Followers, the rest of the Citadel being empty, as it usually was at this time of night. Outside, the air was quiet and still, a great change from the hustle and bustle of the daytime.



The High Reverend sighed, contented and gave one last look over his work, before they prepared to leave and turn in for the night.


HR Regus: "Excellent." He commented, pleased with their work. "Followers, you do well." He smiled and they all bowed their heads to him in appreciation.
HR Regus: "Now, let us rest."



But as he turned, a tear appeared in the very air before him. In barely a second it had expanded to a swirling, pitch black hole and Regus, along with his Followers froze, both mesmerized and terrified. No sooner had the hole appeared than a man had stepped through it.


Dressed in black robes, he simply looked at the High Reverend for a few seconds.
HR Regus: "Who are you?" He demanded, his awe now replaced with suspicion and a growing anger. "I demand that you leave this sacred house at once!"



The second man smirked and then, grabbing the red-skinned being by the shoulder, threw him through the portal. High Reverend Regus' cry of shock was silenced the moment he vanished into the darkness.



The Followers all cried out in alarm. Two attempted to flee whilst the third charged at the newcomer, however, the man in black twisted his hand in the air and sent the attacking Follower crashing hard into a pew, killing his instantly.



With a chant, the murder brought the other two Followers back towards him, making them fly through the air. They crashed onto the flagstone floor, crying in pain, before, with a single swipe of his hand, the mysterious man decapitated them both.



As the Followers' blood spilled onto the cold, hard floor, the man simply stepped back into the black void from whence he had come and disappeared, the swirling hole itself, closing in on itself altogether just moments later, leaving the Grand Citadel truly empty...


The Following Day:



Regentis. The sprawling capital of Qoter, which itself was simply a planet-wide city, was a complex mess of buildings. The big, the small, the thick, the thin and everything in-between. The only common ground shared between them all was that they were all modern, fitted with the very latest in technology and appeared shiny and sleek on the outside.


And at the heart of it all stood the Senate building. A true work of art, the building, shaped almost like an old-fashioned spinning top, towered over everything around it, it's top 'disc', the Senate's main section, almost appearing to float, thanks to the building's impressive design.



High up in the tower, the Governor of Qoter, Judas Boan, sat behind his desk, ready for his next meeting of the day. A terse smile on his scarred face, he was tired, stressed and running low on patience, but nevertheless remained as polite as possible, as a trio of beings entered the room.
Woman: "Governor." The woman leading the three greeted politely as they stopped on the other side of the desk to Judas.



Judas: "Please." He indicated to the chairs opposite and with a thankful smile, the woman sat, leaving her two male companions standing.


Woman: "I am Hhruuk-Te. Vice Reverend of The Followers of the Universe." She introduced, her voice containing a slight purr. "It is indeed an honour and a privilege to finally meet you in person, Governor. May the Universe watch over you and bestow upon you all that you deserve..."



Manerre: "Oh please, Reverend..." the smooth voice came from the corner of the room, making all three Followers jump in surprise and turn to find the speaker. Manerre Boan, the Governor's cripple brother and personal Aide, stood, leaning heavily on his cane, in the shadows, preferring to remain unseen and out of the way until a time such as this when he chose otherwise.


Manerre: "Enough of the pleasantries." He chided as he limped forwards into the room and made his way around to stand beside his brother. "The Governor is a very busy man and so would very much appreciate it if you could get to the point."



For a moment, the Vice Reverend looked between the two men opposite her, as if to check with Judas that what his Aide had said was correct, but when she received no response, The Governor's scarred face remaining stony, she inclined her head slightly in acknowledgement.
VR Hhruuk-Te: "My apologies. Governor, we are here today to ask you to act as judge and jury against our enemies. Last night, his honour the High Reverend Regus and three of our brothers and sisters were brutally murdered in our most sacred of palaces - the Grand Citadel."


Judas: "And what would you like me to do about it? This is surely a matter for the police. Why have you come before me?" He interjected.
VR Hhruuk-Te: "Because the innocent were murdered by The Collective."



Judas rolled his eyes, his patience wearing thin. He was fully aware of the Followers of the Universe's dislike of The Collective.
Judas: "Reverend..." he began, about to close the matter, but the Vice Reverend spoke over him. It was a bold move to speak over a planetary Governor, but it worked and got his attention.
VR Hhruuk-Te: "Governor, this man, this Collective 'Mage', beheaded two innocent beings, crushed another and threw the leader of our religion, the man appointed by our founder, High Reverend Mayer himself, into a black hole. This man is a murderer and needs to be brought to justice."
Judas: "And so I refer you to my previous statement - this is a matter for the police. Go before a judge, I recommend His Imperial Judge Gae Fiest for the matter." He concluded, rubbing his eyes with tiredness.



VR Hhruuk-Te: "The Collective have caused only trouble since they arrived in this system! Have you forgotten the war they brought with them?"
Judas: "Of course I haven't!" He snapped back. "But The Collective are a fully-integrated part of society and will be treated as such, not as a minority group to be targeted by religions looking for somewhere to place blame. Good day Vice Reverend."



The Governor stood, the meeting clearly adjourned. Vice Reverend Hhruuk-Te uncertainty followed suit, clearly not happy to be leaving without the result she had wanted. Nevertheless, she turned to leave, the other Followers also making their way to the door. Then Hhruuk-Te paused and turned back to face the Governor.
VR Hhruuk-Te: "This city is still rebuilding. Not to mention the other war-torn worlds around the system. A re-birth from the carnage The Collective caused. The violent protests, the rise in crime - it all comes down to The Collective. Something needs to be done about them, Governor. It will only get worse from here."



Judas: "Thank you, Vice Reverend. Good day." The Governor dismissed and together the trio of Followers exited the room, leaving the two brothers alone.
With a weary sigh, Judas slumped back into his chair. The last few months had been testing for him. In fact, his entire time in office had been fraught with catastrophes that had pushed him to his limits and ever since Riley Rinse, his old assistant, had scarred him, turning him down in favour of his best friend, Tank, he had been at his limit. Now, he was wearing out.


Manerre: "You sound tired, brother." He commented, ambling forwards to stand closer to the desk. "Maybe it is time for a break?"
Judas: "No. There is too much to be done." He replied. It was the answer Manerre had known full well that he would give, otherwise, Manerre wouldn't have asked.


The deformed Aide was glad that his brother was wearing down. After all, the weaker the Governor was, both physically and mentally, the easier it would be to replace him when the time came. Manerre had had a deal with the mercenary, Darkblade and that deal was for Judas' death. Darkblade would kill the Governor so that Manerre could take his place and in return, Manerre would give Darkblade anything he wanted. But now Darkblade was dead, so until such a time came as Manerre could find another suitable assassin, all he could do was work away at the Governor's politics, advising him - badly, and wearing him out.



And that's exactly what he had been doing for the last four months. And it was starting to work.


Manerre: "Do you plan on doing anything with regards to the Vice Reverend’s plea?"
Judas: "What can be done?" He asked, exasperated, throwing his hands out. "All we've heard from the FotU since The Collective arrived is how much of a nuisance they are!"
Manerre: "Yes, but the thing is; the more the popularity of the Followers grows, the more the public listens to them. They have long been a recognised religion and people have a habit of listening to religion. More and more people are becoming disenchanted with the fairy-tale idea of The Collective and their 'magic'."


Judas: "What would you have me do?" He asked, sounding almost defeated. "The Archmage and her forces are an incredible asset to the Imperium and we've all seen what they can do if they are an enemy."



Manerre: "I don't talk of making them enemies, but I may agree with the Vice Reverend that something should be done. It's only a matter of time before a member of the Collective does something regrettable and causes an outcry. We might as well beat them to the punch and show the public that we're on their side."
Judas: "You have an idea?"
Manerre: "Just some scattered thoughts." He lied. In fact, he'd had such a plan in mind for some time now and had been waiting for an opportunity like this to bring it up.


Manerre: "We know both from experience and from what we have been taught by The Collective themselves that they have varying degrees of power. Some can merely stir a bowl of cereal using their powers, whereas others, such as the Archmage, can bend the very reality around us. Can warp space and time to meet their wishes. We can only be thankful that her grace is on 'our side'. But what if she were not? The system saw what her predecessor, Azgoth, was capable of. And the rogue Ambassador on Etrion. The pure evil he could summon to do his bidding. If another such as they were to arise... it could prove disastrous. We even have a Collective training academy now; Right here in this system. We need a way of monitoring the powers of members of the Collective." Manerre explained. "So that we know who to keep an eye on. We know who the most powerful is and who could possibly be a threat."



Judas: "I really don't think that will go down very well... He began, but Manerre cut him off.
Manerre: "Oh, nonsense." Of course, Judas was probably right, but that's what Manerre was counting on. "Get The Collective to register their powers. Create an index of these powered beings. Not only will it make the public feel safe, but it could potentially help to foil any evil-doers who arise. And, of course, it gets the FotU to stop whining."


Judas was silent in thought.
Manerre: "Yes, The Collective may complain for a while, but I'm sure that after you've spoken with the Archmage, and she has agreed, they will come around. It's a win-win situation for us."



Judas sighed.
Judas: "I still don't know." He admitted. "I'm not sure if the public..."
Manerre: "Fine! So put it out to the public! Write the bill and put it out to the public for their approval. When the results are in, then you will see that I was right and you can pass it in the Senate; put it into effect."
Judas took a deep breath and nodded.
Judas: "Okay. Make the arrangements. I'll begin work on the bill tomorrow."
Manerre: "Certainly, Governor." He responded, a triumphant grin on his mangled face, hidden behind the Governor's back.




Cat: "I've got it!" Cat exclaimed from where she lay on the couch, across the room from where I sat at the dining table, attempting to solder together a couple of small pieces of metal that would form an elbow joint for Tracks. "I found out where the junk droid parts were sent!"


Tank: "Where?" I asked excitedly, leaping up and rushing across to join Cat in looking at her laptop.


No matter how hard I'd been trying, 'new' Tracks simply wasn't coming together. Welded parts would fall apart, sections that should have slotted together simply wouldn't... it just wasn't happening. So Cat and I had begun trying to find out where the parts that had made up the junk robots and Collective drones, controlled by One, the ancient, evil, drone, had been stored. Eris had forbidden me from using any of those parts, for fear that some of the evil from One's consciousness could have an effect on Tracks if I managed to re-build him, but I had to try. Before One destroyed him, Tracks had been hooked into One's conscious network - Tracks' memories, thoughts, personality - it would all have become part of the larger system controlling all the robots. Which meant that if I could use some of those parts to re-build my friend, then hopefully some of his old self would be saved.



But first, we'd had to find out where the scrap had been taken. Now, it seemed Cat had done some
digging and found the answer.
Cat: "It isn't just one location." She explained, reading the information on the screen. "There was so much junk, it had to be spread out. Most of it was shipped to various industrial furnaces around the system."
Tank: "Furnaces?" I checked, concerned. Had my last chance for restoring Tracks been melted away already?!
Cat: "Yeah, that's what it says."
Tank: "Are there any facilities that haven't finished melting the scrap yet?"
Cat: "Give me a sec..." She replied scrolling down the screen. "Yeah, there's a couple." Cat confirmed and my racing heart slowed.
Tank: "Thank God." I muttered. "Where?"
Cat: "There's one gas mining platform orbiting Tirunei and one ironworks factory on Rerador."



Tank: "Just the two?"
Cat: "Just the two." She nodded.
I rubbed my chin in thought.
Tank: "Is it a reliable source?"
Cat: "Well, it's from a report published by the IIA, so I should think so."
I nodded, happy with the answer.
Tank: "Looks like we're taking a trip!"



1st October 2097: Present Day


Gamoth City wasn't a particularly nice place. Dark, dirty, hot and full of undesirables, it was the sort of place that nobody went to unless they had to.


And Cat and I had to!



We were currently both on the roof of the Shockshaw Ironworks factory, crouched beside a ventilation shaft.
Tank: "You sure you want to come too? It might get dangerous..." I started, just wanting to protect my girlfriend, but she put her hand on my mouth, shutting me up.
Cat: "I've been an assassin for far longer than you've been a... whatever you are!" She replied, her face obscured by a stylish new helmet. "If anyone should be staying behind, it's you!"


I couldn't help but smirk then leant forward and quickly kissed her helmet before reaching aside and removing the grate from the ventilation shaft opening.


One by one, we both entered the shaft and began the climb down. Thankfully the shaft wasn't as long as it could have been and pretty soon, I was kicking open the grate at the other end.



I checked that the room below was empty and then dropped onto the floor below, staggering as I touched down. Moments later, Cat landed beside me with more grace than I could ever dream of possessing!


Tank: "This way." I urged in a hushed tone and together we made our way towards a door, which opened automatically, and we began the search for the junk droid parts


We spent a good half an hour sneaking around the facility, so far avoiding detection, but we'd also failed to find what we'd come for.
Hidden in the shadows of a corner, as a worker passed the junction ahead of us, Cat began to grumble.
Cat: "This is pointless."



Tank: "Patience!" I urged, but too late. Cat leapt out, grabbed the startled worker and pulled him back into our little alcove.


Cat: "Scream and you're dead." She whispered in his ear, her gloved hand over his mouth. The worker nodded, his eyes wide as he looked up at me in shock. "Where are the junk droid parts kept?" Slowly, Cat removed her hand from his mouth.
Worker: "Floor 5." He replied in a quiet voice. "Area 2 - in storage unit 1."
Cat: "Thank you." She replied, before pinching a nerve somewhere in his neck and knocking him unconscious.
Tank: "Smooth." I commented. "Remind me to learn that move someday."
Cat: "Come on. Let's go."



We made our way through the facility, keeping to the shadows and doing our best to avoid being spotted and eventually found our way to floor 5. Once there, we proceeded to area 2, as directed by the helpful worker, and began searching for the relevant storage unit.


It didn't take us long to find the right door, but when we got there, we found it locked.
Tank: "Cover me." I instructed and moved in to begin working on the key card access pad. Carefully dismantling the panel, I took a close look at the internals, before breaking two signal wires and then hot wiring them.


The door 'swooshed' open and the pair of us entered the room. The whole unit was piled top to bottom with junk, most, if not all, of it appearing to be the remains of junk droids and corrupted Collective drones.



Tank: "Grab as much as you can." I ordered, producing a couple of sacks from an inside pocket and handing one to Cat. She nodded and we got to work.


I knew what I was looking for - the parts that I needed and the mechanisms that would work together. Cat didn't have that electrical knowledge, but the more stuff she grabbed, the more parts I had to play with and the better my chances were for getting Tracks back.


I began rummaging through the piles of scrap metal, searching for anything that could possibly be of use to me. As I dug, I was reminded of the first time I had done this, over three years ago, on Iapra. Digging through piles of scrap for the very first parts that would eventually become my best, mechanical buddy.


I shoved an inhibitor chip into my sack and reflected on the past few months, since Tracks had been destroyed by One. As much as I loved Cat, my life didn't feel quite the same without Tracks in it. I'd gotten used to him always being there. Whether it was in a fight, watching my back, or just around the apartment, he was a part of me and I needed him back.



I stuffed a couple of servo motors into my steadily-filling bag and then jumped out of my skin as an alarm began blaring out loud.
I looked to Cat, who was already looking at me.
Tank: "Guess that nerve pinch didn't knock him out for as long as you'd hoped!"
Cat: "Time to go!" She confirmed.


I grabbed a last armful of gadgetry and deposited them in my sack, before hastily tying the knot and tossing it over my shoulder. Cat and I dashed out of the door and began retracing our steps, back to where we'd entered the facility.
However, we hadn't gotten far before a pair of security guards rounded a corner ahead of us.



Guard #1: "Hey!" One exclaimed, spotting us. Without giving them a chance to react, Cat was on them. Dropping her sack, she leapt at the first, kicking him in the stomach and using the momentum from the move to push off and rotate through the air towards the second guard. As she came down, her fist connected with the man's face, knocking him to the floor, and as Cat landed, she thrust the heel of her palm into the back of the first guard's head, even before he'd recovered from the initial kick, and just like his companion, he hit the deck.


Cat: "Come on." She urged, grabbing her sack again and looking back at me as I stood dumbfounded. It had been eight months now since I'd found out that Cat was an assassin, trained by an ex-Core member, but in all that time, I'd only seen her fight once, and that was against One and his forces, just after Tracks had been destroyed, so I hadn't really been paying that much attention. Now, seeing her in action for the first time was quite a shock!
Tank: "Damn, you're flexible!" I laughed as I ran to catch up and we proceeded along the corridor.
Cat: "Don't get any ideas!"



We continued through the facility, getting closer and closer to our exit point, but before we reached it, a security hatch slid down in front of us, blocking the way.
Cat: "Damn!" She cursed as we skidded to a stop. "I guess this is where Tracks would have come in handy?" She joked semi-seriously.
Tank: "I've got it." I replied, darting to the wall panel and beginning to hotwire it. But before I could...
Cat: "Incoming!" She warned and a backwards glance informed me that several guards were heading our way.


I turned my attention back to the panel, trusting Cat to watch my back, and continued taking apart the controls. I heard several shots and knew Cat was firing up the corridor at the guards and when a cry came, knew she'd hit one.



With a load hiss, the door released and, frustratingly slowly, started to raise back up again.


Now the door was sorted, I drew my own pistols and joined Cat in fending off our attackers. Stood side by side, our backs to the slowly-raising door, we fired up the corridor to where the two remaining guards were using the corner of a junction as cover.


One of my shots clipped a guard in the leg and he toppled over with a shout of pain. I glanced behind us, as the door reached halfway open - plenty of space for us to get through. The cost beyond was clear, so I gave the word.
Tank: "Let's go!"
I covered Cat as she dived underneath the door and then threw my sack after her, before firing one last shot at the control panel.



As the door started to free fall closed again, I dived underneath and cleared it just in time, before the metal slab slammed shut.


Tank: "That was close!" I muttered, picking up my sack again. "Okay, let's move."


I didn't take much longer for us to get back to the room where we'd entered the facility and, thankfully, we encountered no more guards along the way. I gave Cat a boost back up into the ceiling vent and then she heaved me up after her.



Minutes later, we were back on the roof. Taking a moment to breathe, I couldn't help but laugh at the entire situation. Cat joined in as she removed her helmet and for the first time in quite some time, I realised that I'd actually had fun! I'd enjoyed myself! Maybe not the best thing to admit to - breaking and entering and stealing stuff made me feel good - but hey-ho. It was what it was and it made me smile. Besides, hopefully now I stood a better chance of remaking my mechanical best friend.



The howl of a night creature echoed up from the depths of the cavernous mass of ruins that was Old Qoter. Knightborn, along with parts of neighbouring Illbliss and Tarhaven, lay in rubble, largely untouched since the bombs that brought it all crumbling down had detonated. Relief workers had done their part, scouring the ruins for any survivors, but the results had been mostly negative. Since then, the authorities had cordoned everything off and pretty much left it alone, unsure what to do with it.



Re-building works had begun in some areas, but for the most part, the region remained a no-man's land of death and destruction, buildings either totally destroyed, or if they were lucky, simply now abandoned.


One such abandoned building was the Knightborn West Rail Shuttle station. Having mostly survived the bombs, it sat unused amid the wreckage. Trains and shuttles still passed through every now and then, on their way to destinations elsewhere, but nobody had set foot inside the station for some time now.



Except for an armour-clad mercenary, who had kidnapped two women and then fought another man over them.


But that had been four months ago and had resulted in the mercenary's death. Since then, all had been quiet…







BONUS PICTURES




An alternative picture of Tank waking up, screaming.



The set for the scrap heap.



An alternative shot of Cat taking out the guards in the corridor.



N.B. Har'buc created by Isaac AD.



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.



TIMELINE





Comments

 I like it 
  October 19, 2017
Amaizng!
 I like it 
  October 2, 2017
A stunning opener! I'd actually forgotten about Har'Buc so that was nice to see, and the break-in scenes were good too. The final shots were done really well. [IAD]
 I like it 
  October 2, 2017
Well, the premier certainly lived up to the hype! A fantastic start to the new season, nicely done. The warehouse scene was very well built, and it's good to finally see Cat's fighting skills as well! Looking forward to the next one already!
 I like it 
  October 2, 2017
And the wait is over! Great start to the season, very much enjoyed reading it. The Gamoth city builds were really good also
 I like it 
  October 2, 2017
Fantastic! Long, but a great start to the season!
  October 2, 2017
Fantastic start for your seasonď The warehouse was well built, as was the forced perspective city builds.
 
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