"Where are they? Did you call for them?"
"Yes, Master Chief. They should be on their way. It's not even reveille yet."
Ray and the others burst through the doors.
"Unit *AE-Z reporting, Master Chief!"
"Good. We need-"
Master Chief Petty Officer looked at Ray. "What the fuck are you wearing, Hadron?"
Glenn jumped in before Ray could say anything. "Pardon my associate, Master Chief. He isn't the sharpest tool in the shed."
Master Chief continued. "Very well. The problem has been a very small scale alien outbreak in the base's underground Energy Core. While it's hardly a real 'problem' we need them dealt with. I saw this as an opportunity for you to gain some real field experience. Guardia, stick close in case your needed."
Ashe nodded. "Aye-aye, Master Chief."
"I see we have an understanding, then. Now stop wasting time." Master Chief flicked his hand as if to shoo them off. "Go away."
The unit descended into the Energy Core as quickly as possible. Once they reached the final *ladderwell, they readied their weapons and slowed their pace. Nothing was in immediate sight, but they could hear noises.
"Ray, I told you not to wear that stupid thing." Glenn whispered angrily.
"Relax. I got this." Ray smirked, occasionally moving his legs awkwardly. “Though it does give me this itch in my crotch.”
Ashe shook her head. "As long as he doesn't get me killed I don't care what he wears. I could care-less if it's a Santa suit."
Jace frowned. "Despite the seasonal and rather goofy appearance I'd say that suit is rather functional. Unlike Ray's crappy option..."
"Who asked you?"
"Well, I told you when you found it that it was a mining suit meant for maximum protection against natural hazards, not for mobility. I think Glenn did too. Not smart."
"Whatever. Maybe I should-"
Glenn raised his fist. "Shhhhh."
Everyone halted and held up their weapons at ready. A moment passed and they relaxed a little. Glenn dropped his blades right as a panther sprang onto him from the shadows. Everyone else jumped in surprise. Glenn rolled backwards and managed to kick off the attacker. It got back to its feet and leaped out of the way of a red-needle like projectile that had been fired at it. The red nail passed, but oddly circled back around and pegged the panther from behind before it could attack again.
Glenn looked back at Ashe. She held the White Drill upright with faint smoke arising from its barrel.
"I would say nice shot, but it seems like the shot aimed for you."
"And I'm glad you beat Jace to it. He would have killed me, too."
Jace looked down. He condensed his RPG and drew out his Plasma shot.
They continued through the underground occasionally bumping into small groups of speedlings and scorpions. They circled several times to make sure they had rid the Energy Core of the pests.
Glenn sheathed his blades. "Time to report, I suppose."
Ray nodded. "Yeah."
The group turned and walked toward the ladderwell. Ray had just laid his hand on the banister when a faint roar echoed in the distance. He shuddered.
"Looks like we aren't through, yet."
A large, hulking beast made itself visible. It was twice if not three times as large as a panther. It stopped and it began to paw at the ground.
"Is that some kind of rhino?!" Jace stared in surprise.
The beast charged. The unit scattered and managed to avoid getting hit, but it rammed the ladderwell and snapped it in half.
Ray shrugged. "I don't know, that looks more like a bull to me. Anyone want to ride it?"
Ashe slapped him on the back of his head. "I'll tell you what's bullshit is that smart mouth of yours. If you want a rodeo go be the clown you are and distract it!"
Taking it literally, Ray ran in front of the rhino-bull (whatever it is, I think it looks like a bull) taunting it. It roared with rage as he stayed on its backside stabbing and slashing with his cutter. He only made it angrier, as well as his teammates, who couldn't get a clearing with his moving around. It charged when it got the opportunity, but Ray sidestepped.
"Olé!" He shouted, as if he were a matador.
"Ray, stop toying around and let us get a clear shot!" Glenn yelled at him.
"You idiot, I didn't mean literally!" Ashe held her Energy Glove up, now fully charged.
Jace held his R-700 at ready, waiting for his shot.
"Relax, I got thi- OOOOF!"
With the restrictions of his armor, Ray failed to get out of the way. He avoided the horns, but it swung its head as he tried to sidestep and threw him backward. Ceasing the opportunity, the other three fired upon the bull. Jace's bolt hit first. Glenn's shotgun immediately after. The bull roared with rage and charged once more. Ashe released her charge and fired a blast almost as large as the bull itself. The energy parted as it made contact and the creature fell on its side. A small glowing fragment dropped from its mouth. Jace proceeded cautiously and nudged it with the rails on the end of his barrel.
Ray walked back over clutching his arm. Ashe grabbed the bruised area forcefully.
"Ouch, hey. Don't do that!"
"Then don't pull a stunt like that again."
It hurt at first, but a blue aura clouded Ashe's hand and the pain began to cease.
"Thanks for that. But I still could have gone without a death grip."
"Do something like that again, and you'll wish it had been a real death grip."
Glenn shook his head. "Ok, then. Anyway, they must have been after this."
Glenn pointed at the blue shard the bull had dropped. Jace's eyes widened.
"Looks like it. Don't touch it. Who knows what it'll do to your mind."
Ashe looked puzzled. "But aren't our armors resistant to its effects."
Jace tried to scratch his head, suddenly remembering he was wearing a helmet. "To an extent. But I'd rather not take a chance."
Glenn looked up from the jewel. "No, but Ray can."
Ray exchanged looks with him. "Say what?"
"Your suit was made to handle mithril. Take it. The petty officers need to know about this."
Ray smirked. “And you said wearing this was a stupid idea.” He walked over to the piece of mithril and picked it up. He dropped it and begin to fall backwards. Glenn intercepted and held him up.
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah, just a bit faint. But I'm ok. Like I got high for a second or something." He picked up the shard again.
As he regained his balance, an electromagnetic beam flew from nowhere and stuck his pack. The STK-06-ZZ took the full blast and shattered. The shot pierced through Ray and flew off in the distance. He fell over, with whitish blue electricity surrounding his body.
Jace aimed his own railgun in the direction the shot came from. Glenn and Ashe turned Ray over and helped him to his feet; he seemed to show no signs of physical damage.
Glenn was taken aback. "How did you live through that? And your suit. It's...glowing!"
Glenn was right; Ray's suit in certain spots now shown bright with its own light, like the inner glow of the other armors. Mainly on places like his chest and forehead. They shown with a blue light that complimented the suit's purple hue. The suit also felt much lighter. An unknown energy pulsed through him.
Ashe stared at him. "Are you radioactive or something?"
Jace noticed what had happened, but he remained vigilant with his sniper up. "Do you think that railgun bolt could have somehow tied into it? It must have caused some sort of atomic reaction with the mithril he was holding."
Glenn remained emotionless. "Looks like you're an atom bomb, Ray."
Jace lowered his weapon. "Whoever or whatever that was, it's gone now."
Ray snickered. "Atom, huh? Not bad..."
Ashe rolled her eyes and brought up the fact that they needed to find a way out; as the bull had snapped the ladderwell. They managed to find some rope, and a roll of duct tape (Ray ensured he kept his distance while Ashe held onto the tape). Ashe took the rope and activated the twin thrusters on her F.L.O.A.T.. She gave a mighty leap and was propelled skyward. She grabbed the end of the ladderwell and hoisted herself up. She tied a large knot into the rope every foot of length and lowered it. The others climbed up and left the underground. Glenn held onto Ray's damaged cutter while Ray carried his NOVA27 in one hand and the mithril shard in the other.
They greeted Master Chief appropriately as they entered his office. He sat in deep thought as the unit explained what had happened.
"Well, Hadron. Consider yourself a VERY lucky man. I'm not sure why anyone here would attempt to assassinate someone else on base, though it doesn’t surprise me it’s you, but we will scout the area. As for the mithril shard, we will safeguard it here in our vaults. Good work on your success. Now go away."
Ray replaced his STK-06-ZZ with a new one. Instead of purchasing a new cutter, he attempted to reforge it. He copied the larger side of the sword onto the other, resulting in a double edge. The hilt was lengthened slightly, to allow more comfort for a two-handed grip. It was custom in design, but was no less effective than the standard. After some practice, he managed to balance it better than before. He dubbed his new custom light sword "Collision".
Before taps was called that night, an announcement was made:
"Unit AE-Z report to the director room, Unit AE-Z report to the director room."
No one knew what to think. Ray tried to keep spirits up, but Glenn had a bad feeling...
- AE-Z: read as "Alpha Echo tach Zulu".
- Ladderwell: Stairs.