For those curious, chapter 3 was available on the site since last friday. I'll post it here and those curious about the rest of the story will have to visit the site once in a while Chapter 3
Rage of the Mondo
The Wraith straightened slowly while holding Rosh into the air, its thin seven foot frame only fitting into the home because of its open two stories design. At a glance, the only sign of damage from the truck impact was the sparks that were flying from a module, most likely a stealth generator, on the Wraith’s back. Aside from that, it appeared as though the barrage of machinegun fire had barely caused a few dents in its head. Had Rosh been using a heavy caliber armor piercing rifle then maybe it could have caused some damage, but his machinegun had only been designed to overcome light armor. Facing a Wraith had apparently not been part of Grey’s plan.
Rumor had it that some humans saw their whole lives flash before their eyes when their death was upon them, but if that was the case then it did not happen to Rosh. Instead, the armored giant reacted purely on instinct and threw an earth shaking punch at the Wraith’s head with enough strength to snap a normal man’s spine in half. The blow forced the machine’s head aside, but it caused no other apparent damage.
Another electronic growl escaped the Wraith as it used its right arm to slam Rosh on top of the truck’s hood, the vehicle’s suspension creaking in protest. It then struck with its left arm, clearly intent on crushing Rosh’s skull, but the giant would not fall so easily. Both of his hands flashed out, catching the Wraith’s arm and holding it at bay.
For a moment, the Wraith appeared confused, almost as if it could not believe that its blow had been stopped. It then leaned forward aggressively, putting its whole weight behind the attack. Its clawed hand inched forward, one finger even scratching a lens from Rosh’s helmet, but it would go no further.
A bestial roar suddenly erupted from Rosh as adrenaline and battle rage took over. Muscles bulged underneath his armor as he pushed back the Wraith’s arm and even started twisting it away from his face. For a moment, it seemed as though his unnatural strength would allow him to prevail, but that was until the Wraith let go of his armor with its right arm and slammed it forward.
Only the best honed instincts allowed Rosh to let go with his left hand and catch that attack as well, but he realized his mistake as soon as he did so. While he might have stood a chance at overpowering one of the Wraith’s limbs, his position on top of the truck’s hood simply did not leave him with enough leverage to ward off both. Now two sets of clawed hands were closing in on him and all of his efforts merely seemed to delay the inevitable. The claws eventually closed around his helmet and started to squeeze, filling the home with the sound of twisting metal.
Ambassador Grey had been standing outside the settlement’s granary when he had heard the explosion from the control center followed by Rosh’s urgent call. He was still pondering how he could possibly explain the gravity of the situation when the land factory that their pilot had built suddenly went into motion. A soft curse escaped Grey, but there was nothing that he could do. The mission had been under his command for as long as diplomacy had been involved, but now it was a military operation and their pilot’s new priority was to fortify his position according to HQ’s commands.
The other three pilots who had been deployed to the planet would no doubt come to their aid, but they had been sent to different continents. It would take them hours to reach this position with their armies even in the best of scenarios.
In the meantime, newly assembled tanks were rolling out of the factory even as the settlement’s Elder frowned in consternation: “What is happening? What are your people doing?”
The citizens of Sanctum were murmuring their concerns while casting worried glances towards their distant control center and Grey knew that he had to quickly take charge of the situation: “Gather everyone that you can and head towards our gate; the dome-shaped structure in the distance. I’ll order the construction of a large escape pod.”
“We do not – “ said the Elder, but his words were cut off by the sounds of jets flying overhead. A second later, a bomb landed not far away, sending a hot gust of wind over the villagers. The citizens turned towards the south only to see the flaming wreckage of a newly built tank. The fire quickly spread to the surrounding field, filling the air with smoke. A woman immediately scrambled back towards the settlement, but Grey raised his hands to stop the rest.
“You are under attack,” shouted Grey loudly, his words punctuated by additional explosions in the distance. He then gestured towards their base: “If we can’t push back the aggressors then everyone that remains on this world will die.”
Grey’s gaze ran over the crowd as he added: “Please trust me when I say that escape is your only option.”
Unknown to either fighter locked in a mortal combat, the fourteen year old girl called Judith Callaway sat huddled against the rail on the second floor of the small home. She had woken up as soon as the truck had crashed through the wall of her home. She had then stepped out of her room only to see a horrible machine and an armored clad giant trying to kill each other.
Judith’s instincts screamed for her to escape, but she dared not jump down the shattered stairs, not while both combatants were fighting. The mechanical monster was now moments away from crushing the giant’s skull and Judith feared that she would be next. With that in mind, she stood up, intent on going back to her room and hide under her bed, but she made the mistake of leaning against the rail as she did so. A weakened section of it suddenly broke off and fell to the first floor right next to the truck.
The Wraith looked up in an instant, the purple narrow slit which acted as its eyes focusing straight towards Judith. Unimaginable terror suddenly filled the girl and she did the only thing that a fourteen year old child could do: she screamed.
One of the two lenses along Rosh’s helmet cracked under the pressure, an indication that the protective gear would not hold for much longer, but then the attack stopped as a shrill scream rang through the air. Rosh did not understand why the Wraith had not finished him off nor did he care to. His mind instead focused on an apparent week spot along the machine’s armor; a junction between its face plate and its neck.
Reacting on instinct, Rosh let go of both of the Wraith’s arms, his right hand unclasping his helmet while his left drew a long combat knife from his belt. He then struck, plunging the blade in the weaker section of the armor and sending purple fluid gushing everywhere. An electronic shriek filled the air, but the Wraith did not fall and its head turned back towards Rosh. The giant moved at the last second, letting go of the knife and slipping out of his helmet even as the Wraith crushed it. He then kept going, sliding between the Wraith’s legs even as it brought a fist crashing down, breaking through the truck’s hood and striking the engine underneath.
Rosh landed on the floor and rolled away before coming back to his feet in perfect balance a few meters away. A normal human would have run away screaming for his life right about now, but Rosh was a Mondo. Without his helmet, the bald head, bloodshot eyes, square jaw and olive colored skin that was part of his heritage was plainly visible. Those that would make fun of his looks only had to remember that like others of his kind, Rosh was a descendant of a genetically engineered race designed to survive on worlds where gravity was up to three times that of Earth. A Mondo’s bone density and muscle structure allowed him to thrive under conditions that would leave other humans crawling on the ground like pitiful slugs.
As such, Rosh’s gaze was not filled with fear as he looked at the Wraith, but rather with a strange form of battle lust at the prospect of finally meeting a worthy opponent. The Wraith eventually wrenched its hand free from the truck’s engine and half stumbled to the side as it turned towards the giant. It then clumsily pulled the knife from its neck and threw it away along with a spray of purple fluid. Rosh noted the lack of balance, convinced that his knife had apparently struck something vital under there. He therefore stretched his arms to the side and sneered contemptibly: “Come on then.”
The Wraith required no further prompting and it rushed forward, but Rosh was ready. He caught both of the machine’s outstretched arms while rolling on his back and planting his feet against its chest. The move allowed the giant to use the Wraith’s speed against it, sending it crashing through a door leading to the home’s garage.
Rosh came after the Wraith a moment later only to find it tangled in a large fishing net alongside a wooden boat. The giant’s gaze ran across the garage and a smile appeared on his face as he spotted a sledge hammer in a nearby corner. He picked it up in an instant and took a running step towards the Wraith before slamming it down on the machine’s head with all of his strength.
“How do you like that?” shouted Rosh even as an electronic wail resounded through the air. He brought his hammer back up and struck again: “Not so much fun when you’re not picking on a puny Earth bred now is it?”
The next blow also found its mark, drawing another electronic wail from the Wraith. Rosh smiled viciously as he reared for another blow, this time positioning himself so that he could put all of his body into it: “This is what’s it’s like to face a Mondo!”
The blow connected with a loud crack, but it was not the Wraith’s head which had broken. Rosh’s eyes widened in disbelief as the sledge hammer’s head went flying, the wooden handle having snapped in half under his incredible strength. The giant looked at the broken weapon with contempt: “Stupid piece of…”
The Wraith reacted before Rosh could finish his sentence, tearing the net apart and delivering a powerful kick straight into the Mondo’s chest plate. The blow sent him flying backwards through the garage’s thin outer door and into the street outside. Rosh grunted away the pain, ignoring the buckled chest plate as he got back to his feet. The Wraith appeared through the broken garage door a moment later, stepping slowly as though it had gained a new appreciation for its opponent.
“I am Rosh, son of Kaleb,” said the Mondo while thumping his chest proudly. He then grimaced as he fell in a battle stance: “Come at me if you dare, but know that before the night is through I will rip off your head and thrust it on a spike for all to see!”
The Wraith took a step forward, apparently challenging that claim, but then stopped and turned its head as if to listen to something. A fierce grin appeared on Rosh’s face as he too recognized the sound of tracked tanks; the workhorse of the Earth Core’s army. A few land factories were probably operational by now and their pilot had no doubt sent a few tanks their way to deal with the Wraith. Rosh doubted that he could win using brute strength alone, but if he could delay the Wraith long enough then surely the tanks would finish it off before it could escape. Time was on his side.
The giant’s grin disappeared as the sound of an air transport suddenly reached him and he looked up just as a large shape blocked out the night’s sky. Something disconnected from the air transport and fell towards the ground a second later. Rosh dodged behind a nearby tree, thinking that the impact alone would send him flying away, but the enemy unit slowed down at the last minute and touched the ground with a light thud. When he looked up, Rosh suddenly realized that he was in the presence of the enemy commander.
The SCP, or Strategic Command Platform, was the defining weapon of this war. Transporting an army to different worlds was simply too costly in terms of resources, but a single SCP pilot could be deployed anywhere. It would build mineral extractors and power generators to fuel its economy before deploying factories to produce land, air and sea units. A newly deployed SCP could fortify a position in a few minutes, perform light skirmishes soon afterwards and lead an army composed of hundreds of units in less than an hour.
Standing thirty-eight meters tall, the enemy SCP was an entirely different design from the Earth Core’s bulkier model. Its limbs were sleek yet nimble, covered in the same shiny armor as the Wraith. A wing-like array of force field generators covered its back and a large rifle-shaped weapon was grafted to its right arm. A tank shell suddenly connected with the enemy SCP, but the projectile disintegrated as soon as it touched its force field. The giant robot lifted its particle rifle and fired back, the yellow beam finding its target and pulverizing it in seconds.
A curse escaped Rosh when he realized the sudden turn of events and he glared back at the Wraith. The machine was walking towards him, clawed hands extended to the side even as purple fluid leaked from its neck. The war had escalated, reaching a point where neither the influence of either combatant could change the outcome. That still did not mean that their duel was over, however.
The Wraith took another step forward even as Rosh fell back into his battle stance, but stopped and turned its head towards the enemy SCP. For a moment, it almost seemed as though the Wraith was hesitating, its fingers clenching in frustration as it looked towards Rosh briefly. The moment of indecision lasted a few seconds longer before the Wraith abandoned their confrontation and rushed towards the SCP. Rosh cried out in protest, but the Wraith was too fast, climbing along the SCP’s leg and entering some kind of small hatch along its back.
Without warning, the enemy SCP’s field generators activated, lifting it a few meters off the ground and allowing it to hover away from the battle quickly while firing its particle rifle at any pursuing unit. A colorful curse escaped Rosh, but there was nothing more that he could do. The battle was over as far as he was concerned and he had been lucky to survive his encounter with the Wraith. There were still mission objectives to complete, however, and he turned towards the settlement’s control center.
A cough wracked Liam’s body, sending waves of stabbing pain along his side. For a moment, he was surprised to realize that he was still alive even as he opened his eyes. His vision was blurry at first, but he soon realized that the command chair had fallen on top of him and provided the necessary cover from the explosion. He had always grumbled about the unnecessarily heavy piece of furniture in the past, but now he was actually glad that those who had originally built the control center had made it to last.
Scrambling out from under the chair proved more arduous than Liam cared to admit and the first sight that greeted him was the bodies of the two soldiers sprawled in the corner. Neither of them moved and the pool of blood surrounding them was all the indication that Liam needed to realize that they were dead.
Seeing the bodies suddenly sent Liam’s blood pumping and he looked around frantically for Kaylee. She was still in the exact spot where he had pushed her, but the explosion had knocked over the server racks which had served as her cover and the only thing that he could see was a leg sticking out from underneath.
“No, no, no!” cried Liam as he scrambled on all four towards Kaylee. A groan escaped the wreckage as soon as Liam reached it, filling him with hope. He tugged against the toppled server rack on impulse, but a gasp escaped him as pain flared in his wounded side. It was only then that he realized that he was bleeding and that he most likely had a few bruised or broken ribs. Liam turned back towards the servers and frowned in despair, aware that he would have a hard time lifting those alone even if he was in peak condition, never mind now that he was injured. He was still wondering if there was something that he could use as leverage when the sound of heavy footsteps reached him.
Liam turned around only to see the giant that had escorted them step in the control center. His helmet was gone, his armor ruined and there was no trace of his weapons. Liam was momentarily stunned by the giant’s strange appearance, but he shook those questions away and gestured desperately towards him: “Please help me!”
Rosh noticed Liam, but chose to ignore him, his gaze instead settling on the nearby corpses. Both soldiers were dead, that much was certain, and he took step towards the body of the technician. A casual observation showed that he had been the closest one to the blast and his wrist computer had been completely destroyed in the explosion. A curse in an unknown language escaped Rosh, but there was no point wasting time here anymore if there was nothing to salvage. With that in mind, he made his way back towards the exit, ignoring Liam’s pleading gaze.
In that specific instant, Liam realized that the giant would leave them here to die. Despair clutched at him, but was set aside as a survival instinct suddenly kicked into place: “There’s an offline backup!”
The giant stopped in the doorway and slowly turned his head to gaze behind him. Liam knew that he had hit his mark and pressed on: “The magnetic constraints should have shielded it from the explosion. I can help you get it.”
“Where is it?” growled the giant in a voice that sent Liam’s heart racing. Looking into those bloodshot eyes was like looking at the heart of a storm, but Liam still held his ground and gestured towards Kaylee: “Help me save her!”
His plea did not have the desired effect and the giant closed the distance between them in two long strides.
“Tell me where it is!” shouted the giant, his hand closing around Liam’s neck. He then lifted him off the ground with barely any effort: “You will tell me where it is or you will hear your frail bones snap as I break your jaw with my bare hands!”
“Which is easiest?” croaked Liam, his hands clutching the arm that held him in vain. He could feel the giant’s steel-like muscles and he knew that no effort on his part would get him loose even as he offered his ultimatum: “Guessing where the backup is and extracting it or getting her out of there?”
For a moment, Liam feared that he had overstepped his bounds and that the giant would carry out his threat. Both of them stared into each other’s eyes for what felt like an eternity despite the fact that it was only a few short seconds. The giant finally grunted in frustration before moving Liam to the side and dropping him to the ground. He then leaned down, took a hold of the server rack and lifted it with a single heave. Pieces of equipment fell everywhere, but when he was done, Kaylee’s unconscious body lay in the open.
Liam smiled in relief and was about to rush forward, but the Giant was faster. He held the server rack up with one hand while he reached down, took a hold of Kaylee and lifted her into his arms. He then stepped aside and allowed the server rack to crash back down. The giant cradled Kaylee into his arms, his size making it appear as though he was carrying a child, even as he fixed Liam with a near murderous glare: “The backup!”
With no alternative left, Liam took a few steps towards the main control console and started unbolting a panel in the floor. Smoke slowly started filling the control center as an electrical fire sparked elsewhere. Liam coughed even as he worked to release the backup and save all of their lives.
Rosh blinked away the smoke even as he observed the colony bred do his work. The boy, Liam if he had heard the settlement’s Elder correctly, was working quickly despite a war outside, a bleeding injury, smoke clouding his vision and the threat of imminent death. The feat was not one to be dismissed casually and Rosh would have given it some more thought when the woman in his arms groaned.
The giant looked down even as Liam turned towards him: “At least take her towards the exit so she can breathe a little easier! I’ll be done in a minute.”
For a moment, Rosh considered reminding Liam of his promise to break his jaw, but decided against it and took a few steps towards the exit. Like it or not, Liam had stood up against a Mondo and held his ground. Whether it had been done out of courage or stupidity was beside the point. In doing so, he was entitled to a modest amount of respect… even if he was puny by Mondo standards. Besides, they had more important problems now.
Rosh gazed in the distance, the flames from the battle being reflected in his eyes. A few minutes ago, he could have probably dashed all the way back to their base and board the transport leaving the planet. Now, the fire had spread across the fields and part of the settlement, thick smoke covering everything. Even if the fire did not kill him then the smoke surely would now that his helmet had been crushed by the Wraith.
The giant was still pondering their predicament when Liam stepped next to him with a large data core in hand: “There, that’s everything we have.”
Liam smiled triumphantly, but the giant made no move to hand Kaylee over. He presented the data core insistently, aware that the fire was creeping closer to them: “Here, take it!”
Rosh offered no reaction, his eyes desperately searching the area for a means of escape. His gaze finally settled on the house where he had crashed the truck and he nodded to himself in determination. Rosh secured the woman in his left arm before reaching out with his right one. He did not grab the data core, but instead took a hold of the back of Liam’s shirt and dragged him along.
“What are you doing?” shouted Liam, struggling helplessly as he was half carried away. He noticed the direction that they were going and shook his head insistently: “We have to escape towards Mount Tuli!”
The door to the small home opened as they reached it and a woman bearing a small child appeared. She gazed at Rosh in horror before fleeing, her course taking her away from the approaching inferno. Liam gestured towards her even as he was dragged into the house: “We have to follow her! We have to get to safety!”
“I am carrying you to safety!” shouted the giant back, silencing Liam’s protest as he did so. Rosh placed Kaylee and the data core safely in the rear seats of the truck before hauling Liam off his feet and dumping him in the front seat. The giant did not step inside, but instead shifted the truck into neutral.
“I doubt that more than one transport will make it off this world,” explained Rosh even as he inspected the damage to the truck: “All of those that stay behind will be dead within the hour.”
“What?” asked Liam in surprise. He knew next to nothing about the giant, but something told him that he was not lying. Liam’s mind suddenly replayed the image of Judith and her mother fleeing and he leaned forward urgently: “Judith and the others!”
“No time,” said Rosh stubbornly while shoving Liam further inside the truck. A sharp pain along Liam’s side shut him up and he gasped for breath for a few seconds even as Rosh made his way towards the front of the vehicle.
“The engine’s fried,” croaked Liam, his eyes widening when he realized that that none of the controls were lighting up. There was no response from the giant and Liam straightened into his seat: “Do you understand the gravity of the situation? The engine is destroyed and I can’t fix it!”
“Don’t worry about that,” said Rosh as he took a hold of the front of the truck. The giant shouted loudly as he pushed, slowly forcing the truck out of the destroyed house. He changed his hold as soon as they were clear and started pushing from the side even as he used the steering wheel to turn the vehicle.
Once they were aligned correctly, Rosh started pushing the truck forward, letting it gain some momentum before jumping inside. They started rolling downhill even as Rosh slammed the door shut: “If there’s one thing that I clearly understand, its gravity.”
The vehicle picked up speed quickly, its course taking it straight towards the inferno. Liam shrunk in his seat even as the giant grinned sadistically: “If I were you, I’d be more worried about whether the breaks are still functioning when we get to the bottom.”
“Departure in three minutes, hurry sir!” shouted one of the soldiers in his helmet’s transmitter, his gaze never leaving the timer on the wall even as he ushered the last of the colony’s civilians inside the large escape pod. A brief look inside was all it took to confirm the magnitude of the tragedy. The pod had enough seats for two hundred people, but four hundred could fit in if they were crammed up all over each other. Despite their best efforts, only half the seats were taken, the rest of the civilians preferring to flee on foot. Out of Sanctum’s seventy-five thousand civilians, only a fraction would make it off world.
The soldier was still thinking about that when a crashing sound suddenly caught his attention. He turned around and gasped when he saw that a truck had somehow crossed the burning fields and crashed into one of their power generators. Flames were still licking at the roof and what was left of its tires even as Rosh kicked the door open and stepped outside. The soldier stood open mouthed even as the giant reached inside the vehicle, pulled out its occupants and then made his way towards the pod.
Rosh had strapped a data core to his back while carrying a woman in his left arm and dragging an unconscious man with the other. The giant made his way towards the pod and barked a set of orders as soon as he reached it: “Don’t just stand there, help me strap them in!”
The soldier snapped back to reality and did as instructed, taking the woman and securing her in the closest chair before turning around. He was about to reach for the unconscious man next, but was instead met by Rosh’s angry glare: “Where’s Grey?”
A shrug was all that the soldier managed to do before Rosh caught him by the neck, dragged him within an inch of his face and screamed at the top of lungs: “Grey! Where the hell are you?”
The soldier screamed in terror, not realizing that the Mondo was shouting that way so that the transmitter in his helmet would relay the message. Just then, a voice came from behind the giant: “Right behind you.”
Rosh whirled around in surprise only to see the Ambassador step inside the escape pod with a large sac on his back. The giant handed over Liam’s unconscious body to the soldier even as his gazed towards the timer on the wall. Only fifty seconds remained and he raised an eyebrow before turning back to Grey: “Cutting it a little close, aren’t you?”
“Look who’s talking,” observed Grey even as he dumped the sack on the ground, a few stray seeds rolling off as he did so. The Ambassador strapped himself to a seat and was hardly surprise to see the Mondo take the one right next to him. The giant crossed his arms when he was done and snorted in contempt: “Light weapons only, huh?”
“I’m not going to hear the end of it any time soon, am I?” said Grey with a sigh, not bothering to turn towards the giant. Rosh merely sneered back and shook his head: “You owe me a bonus.”
The beginning of a protest appeared on Grey’s lips just as the countdown reached zero. The escape pod was filled with a bright light before it disappeared, launched across the galaxy and into Earth Core territory.