Overpowered

“Black Spectrum’s training style must have improved.” Teknight grumbled, soaring through the sky dodging gunfire and energy blasts from the cybernetically-enhanced soldier. Building up the energy charge destined for the blasters, the hero shot back down with gauntlets glowing brightly. The first shot blazed incandescent, and following behind the light got the drop on Lieutenant Glay.

So concerned with blasting back the shot fired at him, he didn’t see the suit drop down from behind. With fists roaring with power a single punch sent him hurtling back. The pursuit after Simon was cut short. Skidding along the ground, the soldier’s feet lashed back. The massive boots collided with the shielding around Teknight’s head, jolting the hero back.

Simon rolled to his feet and darted back, striking with solid blows from his armoured fists, knees, and the ends of his cybernetic arms. It only took a moment for Teknight to get their bearings, then the pair were brawling against the backdrop of the Eighth Creek Nuclear Power Plant.

“Not much you can do up close, Teknight!” He chuckled, snaring the wrists of both arms with his hands as the arms of his OGRE suit began a flurry of beatdowns on his foe.

A single thought shifted the configuration of the Teknight suit’s shields, then both were consumed in the sphere of blue fire scorching out like a supernova.

 

The sound of gunfire made Sophie flinch in her hiding place. Something had been shot, she wasn’t sure what, but peeking out let her see the soldiers in their sleek uniforms fiddling with some device. The amber lights above the arms started to flash as the system reactivated.

“Hurry up.” One of the soldiers said, his accent a little thick. “The suits give us some protection, but we shouldn’t risk overexposure.”

All in a row, the remaining rods started their descent into their protective shielding units. The apparent leader of the team tapped something on the device he was carrying. “Two of you per rod, and I want four of you on guard.”

The building shook suddenly as an explosion detonated outside. Sophie grabbed on tight to avoid falling out of cover. Even a few of the soldiers stumbled.

“Make that six of you on guard.” The order came.

 

“Simon, do you require air support?” The pilot of the Black Spectrum ship’s soft voice sounded in his mind.

Picking himself up from where he had been flung back, Simon Glay dusted himself down. “No. Land behind the plant and change the route out for the men, Ciel.”

“Moving in now. Take care.” The message ended with a feeling of warmth and encouragement sweeping over him. Grinning under his helmet, he whipped one of the glue grenades from his belt and loaded it into his rifle’s launcher. A blast of power from where Teknight had landed slammed against one of his cybernetic arms, sending warning messages scrolling along his visor. But tracking the trajectory back was easy. With a pull of the trigger, the grenade sailed over to burst over the hero.

Simon’s free hand worked quickly, loading and firing another, then his third and final one for luck. He spared Teknight a quick glance, the suited superhero straining against the viscous goo, before bolting for the power plant.

“Glay to strike team, get as many rods as you can now. We’re leaving before our enemy’s reinforcements arrive.” He sent the order over his command network.

“Lieutenant, we were asked to clear out the-“

Simon quickly cut his subordinate off. “Some is better than none. Double time.” The power readings his suit was picking up from behind told him without needing to look that it wouldn’t take Teknight long to burn through the special ordinance.

 

“You heard the Lieutenant! Double time, let’s clear out!” Sophie heard the order issued.

“Sergeant? What about the motorized cart there?” A young man called out. “We could use it to get more.”

“Check it out.”

Pushing herself back into cover as far as she could as she heard the footsteps approaching, every nerve in her body felt chilled with fear.

“It’s got a key in it, Sergeant!” The younger soldier stated, heading to the seat. From what Sophie could see of it, it reminded her of those ride-on mowers her dad was always talking about getting.

As the soldier looked around to back the cart up, it was almost like their eyes met through their helmets. The man tilted his head quizzically at the shadow he saw. His entire body tensed up. Yelling in shock, his finger squeezed the trigger to send a hail of bullets her way. The sound was awful, loud as it clattered against the cover she was cringing against. Something warm flooded through her after a brief, sharp sting. A gloved hand patted her abdomen, coming up glistening with red.

“Contact, contact!” The soldier called, trying to free his legs from the cart he sat on. The next thing he saw was a burst of blue, his mouth filling with the taste of metal and his body arching back like he’d been hit by lightning as radiation burned its way through him.

Every warning light and siren in the room went off as Sophie staggered out from her hiding place, her stomach leaking ionizing rays and blood in equal measure. The last words she recognized was the Sergeant screaming for his troops to evacuate as her knees gave way and her legs collapsed.

 

OGRE Lieutenant Simon Glay, 2nd Order, bolted towards his subordinate. The tactical overlay on his command network display showed one two dead soldiers, one rapidly approaching that state, and another soon likely to go that way. Eight were on the ship, leaving just him and the Sergeant in there.

“What happened?” He asked as he hauled the junior officer clear.

“Sanders… shot someone who was hiding, Lieutenant.” The Sergeant gasped, struggling to find their footing as they made their escape. “Next thing every warning is going off and the others are dropping like lead sacks.”

Procuring a syringe from his belt, Simon drove it into the drug administration port on the man’s thigh. “Get to the ship and finish the mission. I have something important to attend to.” He ordered, tapping into the command network to force the Sergeant into following the order. Some Black Spectrum officers relied heavily on that function. Simon knew when and where to use it.

Sending his thoughts out, his mind touched against Ciel’s. A flurry of information was quickly exchanged, thoughts coloured by feelings and feelings clarified by thoughts. With everything that needed to be conferred done, Simon pushed the Sergeant onwards and ran back towards where he last left Teknight.

 

With a full burn of the suit’s thrusters, Teknight was free and rocketing towards the power plant. There had been a brief warning message about Sophie’s condition before the signal had been interrupted, and a sick feeling had settled into the hero’s stomach.

“I’d proceed with caution, Teknight.” Simon stated as he came into view in the main hall. “Your comrade is injured, and has taken out three… ah, four of my men.”

“Then get out of my way!” Teknight’s modulated voice roared.

The Lieutenant simply lifted his arms. “I will, and shall even offer you my assistance in treating them. This suit is capable of some medical functionality that could stabilize the patient. You also get to stop this place from becoming even more of an environmental hazard.”

Landing to avoid overheating the thrusters, the hero looked at the soldier. “And what do you get in return?”

“Four lead-lined coffins and a ship to fly my fallen comrades back home with.”

Advertisements

The Hot Zone

“Teknight, we have a situation developing.” The computer-generated voice of VIGIL’s command AI, B-VOS, sounded in the helmet of the hero. “I am detecting spatial disturbances occurring within the vicinity of the exclusion zone put in place.”

Teknight stopped the work on trying to restore the computer control functions of the facility and looked over to where Becquerel was. The teenage metahuman was up amidst the array of arms exposing the spent fuel rods to the atmosphere, carefully working as instructed to manually release the arms and lower the rods back into their containment system.

“Withdraw our Vigilwing to a safe distance and dispatch some backup.” Teknight ordered over comms, mindful of the creeping count up on the suit’s radiation shielding tolerance levels. Unclipping a module from the waist of the armour, it was soon attached to the computer console to try and continue the restoration work in their absence. “Becquerel?”

Sophie looked over, ineffectually wiping at the visor on her head. Temperature readings in her vicinity were decidedly uncomfortable. “What’s wrong?”

“There are enemies approaching this facility. I will do my best to hold them off until reinforcements arrive. I need to you to stay here and continue your work.” When Sophie raised a hand in protest, Teknight cut her off. “If the lights around you start flashing amber, get out of there.”

“Okay…” Nodding, the young woman got back to work. There was a slight pause before she called out “Good luck!”

With a wave, Teknight primed the flight system in the armour and took off down the hallways, switching the suit’s profile from support to combat mode. Power surged to the gauntlet-mounted energy emitters, and once clear from the hastily opened and shutting doors the shielding systems switched over from environmental hazards to defensive mode.

An angry flash of red rippled out above one of the watchtowers on site, shattering a hole through reality. As space warped, a curved black ship in a scarab beetle-inspired design emerged to land. The weapons systems were already locking onto Teknight. Ports opened on the bottom to dispatch helmeted soldiers in sleek, dark armour, each clutching an assault rifle.

There was a moment of indecision as they leveled their weapons at the hero before something spurred them on towards the power plant. Any attempt to halt their passage would have to wait as the ship they arrived on opened fire at Teknight. Barrelling left and right to avoid the volleys of crimson plasma streaking forth, the hero’s answering blasts of blue tore through one of the cannons firing in their direction.

Another blast skittered across Teknight’s shields. Looking down, the source was a lone soldier. The dark armour he wore was much bulkier, suggesting an exoframe component for additional strength and defense. Instead of the smooth helmets the lower ranks wore, his bore an ornate, if ugly, monstrous design of a fanged face. A pair of additional cybernetic arms bearing heavy blaster units jutted out from the unit on his back. With a wave of his hand, the enemy ship shot skywards out of the hot zone.

“Teknight, correct?” The soldier spoke, an urbane tone to his voice. “A pleasure to meet one of VIGIL’s greats.”

“And you are?” The hero called out, a raised gauntlet firing towards the soldiers heading towards the plant.

There was a flash from the soldier’s back, a burst of energy cancelling out the shot heading for his comrades. “OGRE Lieutenant Glay, of Black Spectrum’s 2nd Order.” He spread his arms in greeting, the ones on his back mimicking the pose. “But please. Call me Simon.”

“Becquerel, you have armed soldiers heading your way. Hide somewhere safe.” Teknight quickly sent the message into the plant. “Pull your troops back, Lieutenant. I will not let Black Spectrum take those fuel rods.”

“I’m a sporting man, Teknight, and an officer looking to make a name for myself. If you defeat me, you will have ample time to stop my fellows.” Simon called back.

“Back-up will arrive in ten minutes.” The voice of B-VOS chimed up, along with a visual indicator for the arrival of a reserve team.

“And if you beat me?” Teknight replied, leveling a hand towards the OGRE.

“Infamy and fortune will come my way.” Simon replied. “Though… not if.” With a scream of power his cybernetic arms let loose a barrage of shots while plucking an assault rifle from behind his back. “When!” With a solid thunk sound, the grenade launcher underneath the barrel launched its payload.

Dodging and deflecting the beams of red light surging past, a plume of fire erupted around Teknight as the grenade struck true.

The Call

“Sophie, you have a visitor.” Doctor Spiner said over the speaker system connected to her apartment. There was a note of unease to the Doctor’s voice, but the sixteen year old girl was more hung up on the visitor part to question the way it was said.

“What do you mean I have a visitor!?” She demanded, quickly scrabbling around to find her comb and run it through her length of pale hair.

“Teknight, one of VIGIL’s senior members, has requested an urgent meeting with you about a breaking event. They will be at your room in about five minutes time.” The disembodied voice of the doctor responsible for her care stated.

In a flurry of activity, Sophie Reynolds dashed about her secure apartment suite at the Raven Ridge Nuclear Technology Facility. Once her long hair was tamed and tied up, she was checking her paper clothing for dirt or damage and looking through her small collection of make-up she had been gifted by staff at the facility to brighten her grey features with a touch of hot pink lip gloss and some lilac eyeshadow. The rush to get ready dulled the anxiety building in her stomach. It had been four years since she had anyone in the same room with her. Now Teknight, the power armour-clad hero, wanted to see her?

The knock at the door sent a jolt of shock through her, almost causing the lipgloss to streak across her face. “Just a minute!” She called, her hands trembling as she crossed the floor. “Uh… I don’t actually know how to open this. Doctor?”

“We’re opening it now, Sophie.”

Stepping back as the door hissed open, the first thing she saw was not the containment corridor behind but a mass of high-tech metal shaped into a tall, large suit of armour. Teknight. The armour was comprised of plates of white and black metal, a soft blue glow from the orb in the chest plate and the visor spreading all across the suit. The hero actually had to duck their head and turn sideways to get through into the room. Warning klaxons faded away as the door sealed shut again, leaving the teenager and the technical titan alone.

“Miss Reynolds, I am Teknight.” The hero spoke in a modulated voice emitting from speakers on the suit, the tone a blend of male and female. “I have read about you in great detail, and looked over our records on you on my way over to Raven Ridge.” A glowing blue gauntlet was offered, and there was no way Sophie could steady her hand’s tremble as she reached out to shake it in greeting.

“I’ve… I’ve seen you on the TV. Are you going to be okay in here, I mean, I’m in here and… no, you wouldn’t come in if you wouldn’t be all right. Sorry, it’s just… someone’s in here with me, after years of…” Teeth sunk into the hot pink gloss on her lips to try and stop the tears from forming in the corners of her eyes.

“I appreciate your concern, nonetheless.” Teknight replied. “I have a proposition for you. It is dangerous, but your participation would aid things considerably and have other benefits.”

There was no way Sophie could get a read on Teknight, their expression was hidden fully by the visor and their helmet. “Doctor Spiner said there was a breaking event? I’ve not watched TV today. What’s happening?”

Teknight headed for the two-seater table in the corner of the main room of the apartment, motioning for Sophie to sit. The hero did not take the other chair, the weight and size of the suit likely exceeding the limits on the little stainless steel and black leather chair. “Forty-five minutes ago, there was a radiological incident at the Eighth Creek Nuclear Power Plant in Washington. A number of plant operators are trapped in a nuclear shelter within the facility. While the design of the plant is containing the radiation, the plant operators inside are at risk and the situation needs to be resolved.”

“I don’t know much about nuclear plants. I’m not sure what help I could be.”

“While I can enter the facility like this, I am limited in how long I can spend inside by a number of factors. You are immune to the effects of radiation, and with some protective equipment will be able to work in there for far longer.” The hero explained. “We can transport you over to Eighth Creek safely, and your assistance would go a long way towards countering comments made in the media lately.” Teknight paused to look as thoughtful as a giant, robot-looking suit could be. “If it went well, there could be other opportunities for work for you across the world.”

It took a few moments before Sophie answered. “Do I get to wear something other than paper clothes?”

Teknight actually laughed at that. “We have your measurements and have something waiting for you in the transport unit, Miss Reynolds.”

The teenager shot up out of her chair with an excited gleam in her eyes. “Where do I sign!?”

Work And Play

After another day at the Admiral’s villa Jena, Zircon and Natasha had been dropped back off in Asrat City to resume the rest of their shore leave. As a result of the events on the Herne, they would be planetside longer to allow Armitage Technologies to give the Herne a thorough rundown and service. It meant Jena had more time to catch up on the studies she missed in any case.

As a new week began the soldier was already looking forwards to the weekend. If nothing major cropped up, Handler would be visiting. Natasha had kindly offered to let Zircon stop with her for the weekend to give them some space. There was an alternate reason there of course, but Jena wouldn’t bring that up given the plans she had made with her lover.

Her mood had improved greatly after a good fight, several good talks and some recuperating. It made her studies easier to grasp. The bonus she had gotten from going up a rank sitting in her bank account was also a welcome boost to her good mood.

Seeing Commander Romanov waiting for her outside her class on a Thursday afternoon did cause a spike in her blood pressure and heart rate, though.

“Commander, what’s wrong?” Jena asked, already feeling herself slip into that soldier mindset. It was only then that she noticed the half-Trogadek woman wasn’t in her uniform and instead was in jeans and a hoodie, pretty similar to how Jena was dressed.

“Nothing’s wrong, Sergeant. I just wanted to sort some things out now.” She procured a laser measuring device from a pocket. “I need to run some final calibration checks before we start work on an exoframe for you.”

Jena’s worried expression quickly shifted to one of excitement. Those of rank Sergeant and above on the Herne got access to an exoframe. The suits of powered armour not only amplified strength and traversal abilities. They also provided a soldier with better armour, NBC and hazardous environmental protection, and information warfare capabilities. Flying in a Servitor was one thing. Flying in an exoframe?

“We can head back to my apartment. Zircon’s at the restaurant.” Jena started for the exit, getting halfway down the corridor before looking to Treshka. “If you don’t mind my asking, Commander. Why are you doing this, and why now in your time off?”

Treshka laughed. “The children wanted to do some shopping in the city, my husband is out buying fruit. I’d rather not see how the kids spend their allowance, and farmers tend to worry I might make off with their livestock.”

Jena thought back on her galactic history. “The Trogadek raiding parties were centuries ago.”

“Old fears die hard. Give it three centuries and I am sure farmers on Farringdon Three will still worry about Volsta dropships.”

Thoughts of her days in the Resistance flashed back to her. “… Yeah. I see your point, Commander.”

In the quad, the pair were getting some looks. Jena’s reputation had spread from the mugging incident and news of the attempted theft she helped to thwart. Treshka always got looks, the statuesque warrior towering above the others. Some were looking a bit appreciative of the way her jeans hugged her muscular legs.

“On a similar note, I am sure the Volsta will tell their children that if they don’t behave, a blonde falcon will swoop in and steal them away.” She commented quietly, having to crouch down a little to whisper it. On seeing the Sergeant’s demeanor shift, she patted her on the back. “Perhaps I went a little far in my praise.”

“I did what I had to do, Commander. Now I prefer to take pride in my military record.”

“Fair enough.” Commander Romanov then veered off towards a street vendor just outside the Academy to buy a bag of hot, freshly sliced Asrati Sandsnake. “Mmh, can’t get enough of this stuff.”

Eager for a change of conversation and a distraction from the sticky carvings of meat her Commander was lowering into her mouth, Jena asked about the Romanov children.

“Four of them.” Treshka said after a lick of her lips. “Three daughters. Zeshka, Malhka and Torhka. All of them studying at the Psi Research Institute on Ural Two.”

“That’s where Simeon works, right?” Jena had done some reading up. That institute had helped train some of the most talented psi users in the military.

Romanov nodded. “That’s where I studied, and where I met him.”

“And your son?”

“Dorheon. He will be attending there full time, once his schooling has finished.” Treshka lowered another slice of sandsnake into her mouth as they reached the apartment building.

“All psi-talented? You must be proud.” The cyborg swiped her hand over the entrance panel and quickly used her internal implant to assign Treshka as her guest.

“I’d be proud even if they weren’t, but as it stands they’re even better than I was at that age.”

When they got to the apartment, the Commander nodded in approval at the neatness. “All right, Sergeant.” She said, brandishing her measuring device. “Strip.”

 

 

“She made you strip completely?” Handler laughed, her spoon clattering from her hand into her bowl of ice cream. They were at a little cafe near one of the shopping complexes, bags safely stowed under the table. Jena had dipped into her promotion money to buy some new outfits.

“She did. Apparently these exoframes are skin-tight and everything needs to line up for various internal connections.” Jena groaned. “What have I gotten myself in for?”

“When is your first training session in one?”

“Two weeks time on a Thursday. She wanted Saturday, but…” Jena glanced to Young-ae meaningfully. “She seemed to get that I had other arrangements.”

The intelligence officer was looking particularly lovely. Her hair was artfully done up. Designer sunglasses helped her deal with the bright sun that day. Her light and airy sundress bore a swirling sand pattern on. Jena herself was in denim shorts and a tank top, eager to soak up the sun.

“I suppose training up now will save time once you are back on duty.” Handler said.

“Plus I get to fly.” Jena added eagerly.

“Plus you get to fly.” She smiled. “Are you nervous?”

“I’m fully flight-certified in all three Servitor classes, how different can it be?”

 

 

Flying in an exoframe was a lot different to flying in a Servitor. Jena had lifed her feet off the ground and promptly drove herself back-first into the sand. She could hear Treshka laughing through her commslink.

“Rookie error, Sergeant! Servitors, you push out with your back. Exoframes, you push up with your feet! Get up and try again!”

Moving in an exoframe was more ungainly than she thought it would be. The heavy black armour was soaking up heat from the sun and she had to shake herself several times to dislodge all the sand from her joints. The connections to her various machine interface ports let her fully integrate with the system, feeding its sensor systems directly to her brain. Not that it was helping much with flying as her next attempt had her skidding face-first for a few feet.

“Get up and try again, Sergeant! You think it’s bad rattling about in there? I can tell you some stories that will make your eyes water and your legs cross!”

That was one small advantage to losing most of her body on Farringdon III. All bodily waste extraction was handled by a single port designed for connection to systems like the ones in exoframes. She didn’t have to deal with any catheters. There was nothing left to do but dust herself down for another go.

 

 

Even as micromachines worked to heal her bruises, Jena still felt the need to lay on the sofa of their apartment with an ice pack on her face while Zircon and Natasha cooked.

“It’s a shame the Commander couldn’t stay for dinner.” Natasha called out as her hand jostled the contents of her pan about. “I think she’d like a nice stuffed pressbread.”

“I think she has plans with her family tonight” Jena called back.

“Will you be fine on your own, Sergeant?” Zircon asked, bringing her a glass of water fizzing away from a pain relief tab dropped into it.

Hauling herself up, Jena moved the ice pack to gulp down the concoction. “I won’t let me hitting a tree mess up anyone’s evening plans.” She spoke after swallowing and pulling a face. “Looking forwards to the concert, Natasha?”

“Definitely, and it’s nice that Zircon’s coming with me.” The chef quickly portioned out the contents of her pan into the sliced pockets of flatbread. “What about your evening?”

“Ancient Earth History.” Jena held up her dataslate, then tucked it safely out of the way as the food arrived. “We’re on the Annexation Wars. A bit of a bloody subject, but reading about early Servitor units and the first cybernetic soldiers is pretty interesting.”

“I’ll stick with the loud music and the handsome company.” Natasha said before sinking her teeth into her dinner.

 

 

Jena felt Young-ae stir, a lithe arm wrapping around her waist. The soldier had risen early to make some coffee for the pair, then sat in bed alternating between sipping and checking over her essay on early full-immersion control systems for Servitors. As a head nestled against her lap, she set her mug aside and used her now free hand to tousle the dark hair brushing against her stomach.

The intelligence officer didn’t get to visit every weekend, or sometimes only for a day or less. Jena tried to make the most of the time they had, knowing in the back of her mind at some point they would need to have a talk. The talk. The one about what will happen when the Herne and the Shuck go their separate ways.

A soft laugh escaped Jena’s lips as Young-ae planted little kisses on her stomach. She kept reading a while longer before a discontent sound came from her lover, a pair of dark eyes peering up at her.

“All work and no play makes Jena a dull girl.” The officer teased.

“I must have imagined last night then. There was a lot of play involved there. The amusement park. Karaoke. Here.” Jena smiled, still stroking her lover’s hair. “Wasn’t that enough?”

Young-ae contemplated that for a moment. Jena was amazed at how much younger the intelligence officer seemed when they were on their dates or alone like this, compared to the all-business commander of the Shuck she met years ago.

“No.” Young-ae shook her head. “Never enough.”