Chummy’s battle with the mercenaries continues after the image…
Clarence “Chance” Baugh sagged as he reviewed his sensor pad.
“Whaddya mean, screwed, Chance?” Asked Ezekiel Jacinto, the leader of Jacinto’s Jets mercenary group. The men just called the former Master Sergeant, ‘Top.’ “So we lost a shuttle. We just steal another one.”
The Jets’ tech geek glared with bloodshot eyes and said, “Don’t you know what killed our shuttle?” He held up his scanner. “Only one thing uses sonic attack frequencies like this.”
Jacinto listened absently as he stared at the awesome destruction to one of his dead mercs. “Basic infantry support drone, I guess, though armed like a friggin’ tank.”
“No! This is a Cerberus-class Wardog. A totally independent AI. And now one of them is after us.” He tossed the sensor pad down. “We’d be better off with the devil chasing us.”
“A Cerberus?” Chimed in Thomas “Bolo” Yeung. “I heard one of those took on a platoon of Main Battle Tanks, and won. Are you sure about this?”
“Serious as certain death.”
“Settle down, ladies,” growled Jacinto. “I’ve heard of this. It’s a legend. Just a load of bullshit.”
“It’s no legend,” said Bolo. “I’ve seen a Cerberus in action myself. You can’t believe it until you see one.”
“Doesn’t matter. It’s dead! You both saw the recordings from the sensors. A chunk of shuttle the size of a house landed on it and blew up. Nothing could survive that.”
“You don’t get it. They can’t be killed,” said Chance. “Of the nine ever deployed, not one has been destroyed. They always come back.”
“What a crock! Anything made by man can be destroyed.”
“That’s the thing,” whined Chance. “Nobody knows who builds them! No known company knows how they’re made. There’s nothing else like them in the arsenal.”
Jacinto rolled his eyes. “Now that your panties are in a wad…”
“Top. We gotta get out of here,” said Bolo.
Jacinto stared into the nervous eyes of the usually level-headed Yeung. Contrary to his words, he trusted the instincts of his men. “That’s the first thing you monkeys have said that makes sense. Somebody already took off with the little girl, who would’ve been a nice hostage. Whoever grabbed her knows we’re here now. It’s time to skedaddle.” He keyed his radio. “Polawski. You in position?”
The general rule is that the people most physically fit recover the fastest from a sonic attack. Few people are more fit than TCW* Marines. Then again, they weren’t raised on the Ojibwa ranch. Daphne awoke before the mercs, and deeply considered slashing their throats while they slept, but she knew her Baba would probably frown on that. ‘Give them an even chance first, then rip their throats out,’ he would say.
She ran off and hid inside a chunk debris until the mercs were picked up by a hovertank. She began searching the area, looking for Chummy. If soldiers and hovertanks have shown up, the colony of New Hope needed him more than ever. After an hour, she surmised that Chummy must have been damaged and slunk off. It was the only reason the mercs were alive at all.
By chance, she came across a large crater with two tons of debris still in it. Sticking out from beneath the heavy metal scrap, was one large, silky-furred paw. Chummy’s paw.
Daphne fell to her knees, sobbing. “No Chummy!” She screeched. “You can’t be gone. We need you now. Dammit Chummy, no!”
She lay down beside the paw and petted it. She’d only known Chummy for two years, but he had emerged as a sign of stability and normalcy in an uncertain world. She always knew that the faithful wardog would keep her family, and all the families, safe. There could be no more reliable a friend and neighbor than Chummy. A world without him would be a dangerous one, constantly under threat. A part of her was angry that he’d left her when she needed him. Another part knew the truth. She would miss her friend.
Still sobbing, Daphne fell alseep, her hand on the paw. Had she been awake, she might have noticed the small egg ejected by Chummy earlier had returned, and that it opened by itself. She might have seen how machines far tinier than aphids emerged from it, forming a moving blanket, and that their numbers grew, rapidly.
Daphne dreamed that her ma’a was washing her face, and wouldn’t stop. She thrashed until she awoke from the vivid dream, and saw the debris-covered field again. And then Chummy licked her face once more. She leaned and stared at the over-sized canine head and whispered, “Chummy?”
He folded his ears back, and winked.
“Chummy!” Daphne launched herself at the horse-sized dog, her collision carefully cushioned by his dense fur. She squeezed tight, knowing she could never hurt him. She sobbed some more as Chummy squirmed happily and licked. At last, she pulled back, and looked at the paw still laying on the ground. “Chummy? How?”
*** To be continued ***