Flowered Metal | 19

Fighting the spotty connections that linked Opal to the Comanche, she’d already pulled several Spider-Drones to assemble a total of 4 Relay Nodes to span across the north-western side of the lake. The UAV was operating purely via its LLAI, accepting tidbits of orders here and there when it could. Anything order that required more than several lines had to be accepted at 2-bar strength or higher. Which, unfortunately, meant most of them.

Per her scouting protocols, mandated by the UA’s council and so on, she needed a detailed scan of each hostile. Adjusting each threat level and whether they were High Valued Targets or someone she could ignore. Had the connection been crystal clear, she could have done it with five minutes. That said, an LLAI wasn’t as smart as one would be led to believe. It could process information like a secretary, sort, and file before sending it to the proper subsystems where its operator was stationed.

They were not equipped to process that information themselves, least the technology would fall into enemy hands. That wasn’t a concern as of now. From what she’d seen, Opal didn’t think they’re technology levels had even begun to conceptualize computers.

As of right now, all she’d seen was a primitive native population nearby along with a medieval-age town. No comparable threats as of yet, but that didn’t completely mitigate the need to be wary with each encounter. It just meant she didn’t need to approach each one with gigs of encryptions and anti-reverse engineering tech. Of which, were currently taking up too much operation space within each drone.

Opal’s processors dumped the thought train as the Hikari began to sneak up on the hostiles. Syfa was immediately pinged as a VIP – a Green diamond with a purple star inside of it – on the outskirts of the village.

[Relays completed.]

The system notified her as she sent a simple order “Return to Base” to the UAV. Opal sent a battle-net wide arming order.

[ALERT: HIGH COUNCILOR OF THE UNITED AMERICAS HAS DECLARED A STATE OF EMERGENCY;

ALL COMBAT UNITS ARE TO BE ARM AND PREPARE FOR FURTHER ORDERS.

ALL NON-COMBAT UNITS ARE TO RETURN TO THEIR STATIONS AND FOLLOW PROTOCOL “ARES”.]

Opal looked at the alert she’d sent out, then looked down to the option she’d clicked. They didn’t match what—

[Alert: Errors had been dumped. Rebooting server 34.]

She glared at the automatic process alert, then begrudgingly thanked it for freeing up her thoughts. The labeling could be fixed later and right now, it’d served its purpose. She switched over to her BD. She found it walking briskly down the hall, and sat back to let it follow out its protocols. She hadn’t explored it fully, such things would come later – as she found herself thinking more often than not. That would have to be rectified after this emergency.

It turned into a newly build side passage that lea to where all the munitions had been stored to keep it well away from anything important. Opal’s curiosity was piqued, but while that happened, several Spider-Drones crawled out of the Ark before crossing onto the northern bank with two Relay Nodes. Just as they were doing so, the Comanche was landing in the clearing outside.

The ISDs marched off towards it while the BD walked into one of the storage rooms for the small arms. It scanned the room before it found a completely white glossy locker. It was slightly dusty from crossing several work-sites until it found its way there. It’d only been marked as Private Property “323982” and D. Manswell. Via the old crew log, that was one CEO of SquareNode Inc. – A defense company that manufactured all of the ammunition used in the UA’s small arms.

The BD stood in front before a faint yellow glow appeared around where handles should have been, and it clicked. The light turned green and it opened up, and inside was a score of weapons. Several pistols, rifles, and shotguns. Their frames painted matte white with SNI’s logo of two dancing lions with a large .50 BMG round between them. The Battle-Drone hummed before it’s battle indicators turned on and switched to Yellow.

Its midriff opened up and empty metal compartments were revealed; even more opened on its outer thighs as well. It shoved a Glock 19 into its right leg before four standard magazines into a compart on its other thigh. Instead of opting for a rifle, it took an M4 Benelli. Aside from having no stock and its paint being white, it was all factory-stock.

It turned the shotgun upward and brought it to its chest where it attached itself to its right breastplate. The pistol grip faced inward and it began to filled one compartment of 50 00-buckshot and another with steel slugs. Rounds for robots and rounds for humans. Opal gave a digital node of approval. She wasn’t designed for anything outside being the captain’s steward. Well, officially. Dr. Vizimer saw that she could grow outside these bounds. She could learn well from the other LLAIs.

That is if she didn’t need to constantly guide them like children to their next jobs.

[Battle-Drone ready for battle. Please select a VIP to guard.]

Opal didn’t hesitate when the prompt appeared and immediately selected Syfa. She then sent the BD to join the ISDs with the Commanche. Overall loading time had taken less than five minutes. That was Opal’s joy of keeping everything relatively close to the Main-Bay.

By the time the BD had joined the others, the ISDs were clinging to the top of the UAV’s tail. Their guns neatly tucked down. The BD clung to the thickest part of the tail before it’s impromptu taxi took off.

The Hikari needed reinforcements within the minute. She also couldn’t spare the IFV, nor would it even arrive quick enough. The Spider-drones weren’t combat units and would set up RNs to boost Opal’s operational range.

[Alert: UAV load exceeding maximum load. Battery levels depleting faster – Expected depletion of charge: 20 minutes.]

Opal swatted it away. She didn’t need it to tell her what she probably knew. Right now, the Comanche was the only way she could even get some reinforcements to the Hikari.

The flight back to the village was only two minutes and some change before she could get an accurate read. By now, the village was already covered in the 2-bar territory. She’d also dropped all encryption protocols to allow operational controls to be forwarded to her.

Opal’s heart dropped as she saw the hostiles pushing an assault on the village. The VIP diamond popped up before she could even find her, so she must have the datapad still. The Comanche’s battle-indicators turned on and yellow along with her HUD. So did the ISDs as they prepared for a hot drop. Syfa was trying to flee deeper into the village, but a hostile was on her tail. As they came into view, he’d just finished off a few villagers and charged her.

[ALERT: VIP SYFA PANIC BUTTON ACTIVATED – PROTOCOL “VALKYRIE” ENABLED.]

Before Opal could do anything, her HUD and all the indicators turned crimson red. Syfa’s Diamond flickered like a strode. The targeting system began to feed Opal targeting solutions and possible points of attack. Everything was listed as “Distractions”; Nothing for effect as a VIP was in too close proximity to her attack.

[Recommending “Low pass” attack via chaingun.]

The combat sub-system recommended on its own violation. Opal didn’t question, and the information of what it meant was given to her. The helicopter dove fast and hard.

[PITCH. PITCH. PITCH–]

The helicopter’s onboard warning system screamed at Opal in an annoying synthesized female voice. Of that, it was annoying since no sound was fed to her besides that. The LLAI provided support and marked out a  route of dim disjointed squares to fly through to assist in the maneuver. It was more help than the woman in this regard.

The nose veered upward as the village tried to meet her, but the system had miscalculated all the variables. To Opal’s fear, the aircraft veered down out of the mapped guides and a new project appeared – straight into the fighting at the front of the village.

Opal gunned the throttle and engaged the chaingun. The systems hadn’t taken in mind who was piloting it. The throttled opened up and all the warnings that came rushing in were cut off as opal devoted everything she into saving the craft; while also laying down hell.

The earth around her erupted in fire and smoke as the 12.7mm HE rounds rocked the thick of the fighting. Against every system’s protest, she disregarded the wounded and dying of below her before managing to drag her tail inbetween the dirt homes and down the main road. She missed the ground by several feet. It wasn’t enough to avoid crashing though.

As the hull began to right itself, she passed over the hostile and Syfa. The drones she taxied dismounted and threw themselves overboard. Opal engaged landing gears just in time to hit the slop, the helicopter bounced violently before it rolled upward and gained some air before the propels crashed into the rocky hillside. The feed grew grey with rocks before it cut

[Alert: Feed lost.]

Opal raged that she hadn’t been able to save her UAV, but hindsight proved she should have played it safe rather than reckless. She had attempted to do something humans knew was impossible. She’d been doing a lot of that, and she’d lost this game of chicken.

The BD’s feed came up just as debris, a few propellers and hull pieces, flew across the village. The ISDs had landed wrong, but thanks to the dirt landscape of the village, they only had to right themselves. The Battle-drone’s M4 was already in its hand as it locked onto the large brute that’d thrown himself behind a dirt hut for cover.

BOOM!

The muzzle blossomed fire and smoke, and the jerk barely jerked in its possession. The pellets crossed the 20ft gap without caught the man off guard. None of the center-aimed shot broke his thick plate armor, yet it certainly startled him as he jerked back from the impact. The tight spread left several scratches. BD didn’t let up. Once its LLAI registered the shot trajectory, it unloaded the rest of its 7 rounds into the man who’s death it desired.

One after another, the pellets bounced off the knight but a few found chinks. A few even found the man’s visor. He roared as his head flung back and his plated forearm covered the opening. When the onslaught of buckshot was finished, BD began to load in the steel Armor-piercing rounds (AP).

As the drone racked the weapon before getting back on point. The knight had taken that opening to try and retreat. The air around the man shimmered, thousands of small intricate etchings glowed on the armor.

BOOM!

The slug crashed into the dirt by his feet, and the glowing lines dimmed. The BD could not adjust for the strange occurrence. It had no data on why or how it happened, and instead, continued to fire for effect. One after another, the slugs ripped into the dirt until the lines died on the sixth shot as the man barreled down the round. Once the shimmer faded, the 7th round ripped into the man’s upper back, punching a hole in his right shoulder.

His pained screams were lost upon the drones as the ISDs finally recovered and began hunting their targets with extreme prejudice. Since the threat to Syfa’s life had been chased off, the Battle-Drone stayed by the curled vixen. Her head was tucked down to her knees and her fluffed tail tried to press itself between her closed legs as if it meant to rejoin her body at its tip.

“Remain calm,” The deep and synthesized voice rumbled over its small voice mud “Your safety is paramount to High Councilor Opal, be assured.” It didn’t look over its shoulder as its angular head scanned for more hostiles. As of right now, Opal had given the controls over to their respective LLAIs – a hard thing to do for someone who felt she needed to do everything herself when she could. She decided to sit it out and let them do their jobs.

The ISDs were less efficient in their attacks, but none the less deadly.

The villagers were already retreating and knights were chasing them deeper into the village as they were all converging on Syfa’s position. The main road was the only way up or down the narrow chokepoint to the cave above. Opal assumed it was their fallback point.

The three feeds for the ISDs were thick with fire and smoke, their barrels rattled as they gunned down their targets until they stopped moving. Five knights had fallen already with their armor riddled with holes. With 30rds each, they were just pouring a magazine into each target and with 20 magazines onboard each ISD, they were just burning resources. She sent them a converse order before they switched to semi-auto and their accuracy went up.

However, they were spread too far apart. Knights were beginning to slip between them as they charged. The ISD closest to Syfa on her left just finished off its fourth hostile when a sword chopped down on the barrel. It managed to bend it slightly near the flash hider. The ISD turned its turret on the attack, switched to full auto, and unloaded. The barrel’s tip exploded, sending shrapnel everywhere. The barrel split open, but rounds continued to unload. Fire and unburnt powder filled the air.

The firing only stopped when another knight skewered the drone’s head and it slumped down in a quickly forming pool of blood. Its last kill fell over it before. Sharper gunshots filled the air as the standing knight jerked backward. He fell dead a few seconds later. BD noted how many rounds were spent before it returned to loading AP shells into its Benelli.

A warcry sounded out to its right and the drone barely had time to react as a sword came down towards its head. BD sidestepped the strike before spartan kicking the man to the ground. It quickly angled the shotgun to the man’s head before squeezing the trigger. A hole formed in the metal helm as it jerked. Brain matter and blood splattered out the back.

Another rounded the hut ahead of him and the Battle-drone racked before firing two into his chest. The knight hadn’t fully rounded the corner before he dropped lifeless to the ground, sliding a few feet before he rolled over to stop face down.

Opal ordered the ISDs to move back and station themselves on the high ground. They abandoned their assumed half-circle formation for an arrow formation. Syfa hadn’t moved an inch and instead continued to tighten her curled body in more. Her hands covered her ears as the Battle-drone assumed its guard again. The attacking force began to recede from the village, their armor painted red in Hikari blood.

The AI sent an ISD scurrying over them and positioned the IFV off the pier and into the lake until the water came up to its nose gun. The turret angled itself upward. Using the map the UAV had built, it calculated its drop and awaited the ISD to move into position.

The modified spider-drone climbed over several dead Hikari and knights alike. Most of the beast-folk than the armored attacks dotted the barricade. A few of them moaned their death throes while the rest remained grave still.

After a minute, the ISD found itself on the edge of the village. The knights were trying to quickly back their wagons up. Steel and blood shimmered in the sunlight as the ISD confirmed the targets. Shouts and curses filled the air below as they spotted the drone on the edge watching them. The middle wagon’s armored top open at the top and a large ballista rose out as knights pulled its rope tight. A large thick metal rod was quickly loaded.

The hill beside them erupted with fire as a 120mm round landed high off-target. Dirt and rocks clouded the knights below and the ballista fired. The rod flew off high over the mountain as the knight recoiled from the blast. The largest knight of them all turned and fled and so did those who weren’t throw off their mounts.

A moment later, a 120mm round landed on the ballista and it was engulfed in flames. Splinters danced wildly in every direction before another landed several feet back. Then another, and another. The IFV moved in small increments to line up its bright orange rounds burned through the air over the trees.

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