Chapter 12

Throughout the next month the four worked out together in the mornings, getting to understand one another on a more personal level. Their quirks, their ticks, their triggers, their humor — all of it wrapped up and absorbed as Terna found herself growing more and more fond of her new home.

And she learned a bit more about the system as well. People had credit levels that qualified them for loans and special deals the better and higher that they were. Affiliates had affiliate levels that cost money, time, and required good quarterly reports, but overall they gave the affiliates BuyMort membership perks that allowed a wide variety of seemingly supernatural powers on the face of things.

The Wizneber Affiliate, as one example, had an ENGINEERING DIVISION WHOLERSALER perk that allowed Horta, their head of mechanics, to buy pieces and parts in bulk at massive discounts over the items usually available on the main market. 

It didn’t change Terna’s overall opinion of the system, but she easily understood how good it would be to have that one.

BuyMort had other uses as well. Crawley and Zell had taken it upon themselves to not just teach her how to use their tank, but how to fight in close quarters as well.

She was skilled in the art of the spear and pole by the graces of her tribe. But this was different. Las-knives, rifles, handguns and grenades formed the basis of her training here, and she was given a bandolier of vials to consume during different aspects of combat.

Battle brews, they were called around the facility. No friend to hangovers was their other nickname, bandied about by those who kept longer nights. But whatever people called them, they were very useful in combat.

She remembered the BuyMort ad when she’d been first introduced to them. There was something raw and even humiliating about its claims.

SYSTONIC ACTION ENHANCERS by Cortell. ENHANCED PERFORMANCE ON THE BATTLEFIELD AND IN THE BEDROOM. SPEED. ENDURANCE. STRENGTH. VISION. STEADINESS. ACCURACY. WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF THE SAE, BRO. WELCOME TO SYSTONIC ACTION ENHANCERS. 700,000 ea, 4.2 stars.

And yet, they worked. Drink one of the SAE battle brew potions, and you’d find yourself in an increased state of being. The brews had stages to them, and with a stage one she could lift about twice as much as usual on the strength brew while on the vision brew she found that everything about her was more detailed and she could see farther.

She hadn’t had a chance to train with the stage two or threes yet, but the ones were quite the ride. Battling hand-to-hand with Zell, both of them amped on stage one Strength, Speed, and Endurance was an absolute mushroom trip. Zipping through the blue padded gym, seeing the ventilation fans cycling slower than ever before, being repeatedly launched into matts and bounced off the floor. 

It was a grand time.

And at the end of each day, she made sure to remember those who had fallen.

Until one night, the world tore open once again.

“Warning!” a mechanical voice grated, echoing through her bedroom. A never-before-seen red light had come out of the ceiling and was pulsing its message of emergency to her in eye-watering urgency. “Warning! Assault in progress. All affiliate personnel report to defensive positions.”

Casting eyes about the room, Terna sprinted over to the light panel and hit the switch. Her room came to full daylight mode in a second, and she shielded her eyes from the painful glare. The red light stopped flashing and receded back into the ceiling.

Hitting her now familiar comms, Terna directed an internal private message to Zell. 

What is going on? What is my defensive position?” she texted hopefully.

Stand fast,” Zell responded. 

Terna shook her head, pulling on her tracksuit and sneakers. She wasn’t going to stand fast. Not when there was a good chance that this was about her.

They’d talked in the gyms and battle rooms. She knew that she was a target. That all the NoMorts were.

And she wasn’t going to let people die over it. Not without her helping in her own defense.

Cranking open the door to her room, she saw that multiple doors were open, each of them with their own bright lights spilling out into the red-lit corridors. It seemed most had already geared up and left. But there was one, a shorter and older man, who walked with a limp. 

Darren, she thought.

Terna ran to his side. “What is going on? What are we going to do?”

“Armory,” he gasped, limping forward. “I gotta spot on the bench fixing weapons. Expecting a long battle we are. Wizneber doesn’t fall over at a breeze!”

He guffawed in a way that said his lungs were none too healthy. Terna looked over his frail and thin body, calculating numbers on logic the way she used to on the hunt.

“Come on,” she said. “I’ll take you there.”

She hunched in front of him and boosted him up onto her back in a fireman’s carry, then plodded forward, following his directions at each turn. 

They heard a soft hiss and a clunk of steel. It reverberated through the entire section of hallway walls.

“What was that?” Terna asked. “Should we be concerned?”

Darren coughed. 

“No. Level two moledrills, probably. Good tunneler-bots, worth every mortie spent on them. But a facility like this, they’d need something much higher level. Maybe a dozen level 5 mark 10s?”

Terna sighed, lost in the terminology. Levels, marks, grades. Everything in the hell of the BuyMort was numbers.

“Just over there, up those stairs and around the corner,” Darren wheezed. “We’re almost there.”

Terna’s comms beeped. With her hands occupied, she mentally urged it to go vocal.

“Where the hell are you?” Crawley’s voice asked gruffly over her commset. His voice echoed into the corridor and guilt rolled through Terna’s heart.

Luckily Darren came to the rescue.

“She’s helping me to her station,” he answered, cutting off any attempt on her part to respond. “A good lady, this one.”

There was a meaningful pause as they ran into sight of the armory, then a relenting sigh.

“Yeah. Alright. Go ahead and suit her up. She’s gotten Level 3 qualifications of rifle, Level 5 on electrogrades, but keep her away from grenades and other explosive auxiliaries. Even after drinking a stage one accuracy booster, her arm has a mind of its own.”

Terna chuckled at that, despite the gravity of the situation. The last time they’d trained her she’d about landed an active plasma grenade right on their heads. Would’ve been their last call had it not been a trainer. Instead of the deadly purifying mess of agitated ion soup, she was simply doused with burning hot water.

Still sucked, but was better than being dead.

“She’s pretty sturdy, Crawley. Gear her up with some armor too?” Darren asked. 

The double doors to the armorer facility slid open, and Terna entered, sliding him off of her back to the metal plates of the armory floor. A large contingent of older or disabled affiliate members was there, doing weapons checks and packing gear into capsules. Said capsules were then knocked into one of a dozen tubes on the far wall, presumably flying them up to whatever group or platoon was assigned to receive them. 

It was a chaotic and impressive mess.

“Yeah. She’s ranked Armor Class 1, haven’t had her on the more advanced stuff yet. But this lady here is Terna NoMort and she is top priority.”

Terna heard the old man suck in an impressed breath at the news and he regarded her with interested eyes.

“Yeah? Top we got is the AC5. Refurbished command model. It’s got a Dodge-and-Run AI, HP stats monitor, critical damage indicators and deflects most ballistic small arms. But if she’s in it, no one else is getting one. Unless you’d rather she borrow your AC6?” he asked, the last question more of a barbed joke than a real question.

Crawley laughed. “Yeah, put her in the AC5. Horta won’t be too happy, but unless I’m mistaken this is a wild weasel attack. A recon in force. He isn’t going to need it down in the garage. You know her weapons quals, so work her through the weapons process and give her whatever fits her fancy. I want that lady as confident and safe as possible. Worse comes to worse, I want her jumping through walls, mowing down opposition forces, and making it to the next facility.”

“Copy,” Darren said. He looked Terna up and down.

Terna did the same to him. 

“Ha, yeah. Sorry ‘bout that. Not trying to make you uncomfortable. Terna NoMort. As I live and breathe. Come on, let’s get you into that armor and run you through your weapons loadout. I got a feeling that maybe Crawley isn’t telling the whole matter of things. So make these choices important, okay?”

Terna nodded, regarding Darren’s suddenly outstretched hand. Grabbing a hold of it, he led her away, past benches filled with weapons, into a walk-in closet full of hanging mechanical suits.

Parting them left and right, out of their way, the two of them reached the dull-white scales of the AC5, their empty goggled eyes staring straight through them.

Terna gasped and reached out. She hated the system, but she wouldn’t begrudge scavenging its produce when necessary.

The Arcti-Cool Anti-Ballistic Scalesuit, Command edition from Deerkon Armoured. Features knock-out protection with the Arcti-cool designed Xavier grade Dodge-and-Run AI. Monitors self and squad armor health, physical health, and points out possible flaws in enemy defenses and protective materials. No hype, no claims, just facts. That’s Deerkon Armoured. Serving professional soldiers since the beginning of time. 4.6 stars, 7,000,000,000 morties.

That seemed like a lot of morties. Too many. She moved uncertain eyes to Darren, who simply nodded.

She was prepping for battle against those who had killed her tribe. And this armor was to be her destiny.

Published by Damien Lee Hanson

I am the founder of Damien Hanson Books. Come check out awesome authors right here at my website!

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