|Real Name||Stephen Miller|
|Factions||Safety Net, The Crusaders|
|Bliss remake edition|
While Stephan cannot deny the benefits of the new suit of armor, it has turned his life upside down. Not surprising- from what he understands everyone who has encountered a pod is going through the same exact thing. After encountering one in the family backyard, nearby helicopters encouraged the young man to go ahead and input his choices. The surprise at his new form, and companion, turned to fright at the barrage of news stories regarding armed conflicts and the government crackdown. It would no longer be safe for him to stay home with his folks- so Stephen has left home, setting out for the less populated Rocky Mountains states. Supposedly the Safety Net can grant him and his AI, Brooke, a place to crash or work, both of which he would be grateful for. Once everything is sorted out Stephen plans on turning around and helping others in return.
Stephan has a strong sense of empathy and desires to help others- having been pretty down in his life on occasion, the man knows how much of a difference one person can make. With this in mind he tries to lay low as much as possible, minimizing the dangers that might be placed on friends, family, or allies. He is easy going and quiet, preferring to distance himself from conflicts or arguments. During periods of relative peace he will lounge about mostly nude, blast terrible electronic/industrial music, and dive the Internet.
While fairly average looking before, the Progenitor Nanites have done a number on Stephen. Now a slightly short, straight-limbed elf, he's not quite sure if he should be disgusted and alarmed or just roll with it. In addition to the more nubile form, his eyes are slightly larger and green, and slanted, almost like those of a Persian. Between the dark lashes, silly long ears, and black mop of hair, he's about as elf as you can get. He's gotten a few rings and small studs in each ear because why the hell not?
Stephen's suit is a lighter model of power armor. It has a helmet nearly made up of a single large plate with two pairs of optic units along the front. Much of the thing appears like framework with raised hydraulics and artificial muscles, though it does fully enclose him. Stephen has taken to wearing a thick hooded jacket along with the suit to try and be more inconspicuous. For the most part the armor is matte black or dark gray. Arm and leg mounted thrusters allow it to gain flight.
It should have been impossible, with the number of concrete buildings, but some bastard had found a way to make it work. Already fires were spreading through much of the city, consuming everything they touched.
A small cache of pods had turned up out of the blue, concealed in Northeastern Jordan. Some locals must had been fearful to use them or otherwise were seeking to sell them off. Or something. I had no way of knowing the motive but the important thing was how the city had turned into a war-zone. Suits were still going at it, fighting over what they no doubt considered their prize. The fighting was easily heard over the roar of flame- near-constant detonations and claps of sound, explosions that rocked the earth. It didn't matter how many suits were battling, the issue was the massive collateral damage that any one could cause. That they /were/ causing.
Fortunately for me some of the Jordanians spoke English. It made the job easier.
Another explosion rocked the building I was in- a massive, steady pressure wave that set my teeth on edge. Dust and pieces of concrete fell from the roof above me, the sub-par structure quickly losing integrity as the battle went on. Though not up to first-worlds standards the concrete housing looked like it would be comfortable and serviceable enough. Small plants and shelves were once loaded up on the adobe-colored walls. Pictures, trinkets, the clutter of a home, full of life. Flames crept up the inside of the walls, and parts of the ceiling, burning everything black. The smoke and dust made it hard to see but I was suitably equip. Once every few seconds I flicked between my enhanced and thermal imaging. It took no button-hit, no verbal command, but simply thought. My armor protecting me was effectively a second skin plugged right into my nervous system. This same suit of armor protected me from the flames. A sphere of blue-hexagons floated around me, a barrier of pure energy that kept out both heat and rubble. Though the energy reserves were tried and running low it was invaluable. While it held, at least.
"Stephen," a pleasant, girly voice called directly into my head. "The ceiling is going to give. Hurry."
Brooke was my closest pal. She had been since I'd left home after getting the suit. Technically she was sort of the suit's artificial intelligence, but was also far more than that. Her electronic dust was currently outside, projecting her appearance to direct others away from the conflict.
"Woman and child, the man said," she repeated.
I grunted, not trusting my voice to sound calm.
The apartment wasn't too large but the rubble was beginning to be a problem. Walls collapsing inward. Huge pieces of the ceiling. Very soon it wouldn't be navigable, shield or not. This turned out to be the case with the narrow hallway- the right part of it had collapsed inward, blocking off the side doorway. Off, ahead, was some sort of bedroom.
I launched forward, assisted by the thrusters of my suit, and poked my head into the room.
There was nothing inside but flames. I flipped through my vision types quickly, just to be sure, and then spun back around fast enough to make my neck throb. All that was left was the side doorway.
Rubble was piled up to my neck in the way and spilled into the room and outward. Just over the lip of it I could make out two figures, cooler than the ambient air. Both were standing in a bathtub, one sheltering the other.
I dropped my energy shield. Right away I felt the change in temperature and smoke billowed inward to make up for new space.
The largest chunk of the barrier was a big piece of concrete resting at the top. I grabbed onto either side of it, my armored fingers clacking against it. Fire-fighters would have been hard pressed to move it at all, even working with a team. In the narrow confines of the hallway only one person could really get at the massive chunk. Unlike them, my equipment supported its own weight. /And/ amplified my strength. Having the power of ten men in a much smaller frame was very useful.
Though it weighed a bunch the piece shifted. I just had to put my back into it and suddenly it slid on backwards. A quick few swipes dislodged a little more of the rubble, clearing enough of it. I then scampered over the pile, squeezing my shoulders and head through the available space.
Waiting within was the woman and child. Youngish gal, black locks, green t-shirt. The young boy only wore pajama bottoms, looking terrified and his face blotched from crying. Must had been sleeping. The woman regarded me apprehensively.
Different language, words were likely pointless. I lunged at both of them. Ignoring the flinching, I wrapped my arms around the woman and child. My energy shield came back up an instant later, just in time for the ceiling to collapse on us.
The kid screamed and the woman making a similar noise.
Countless hundreds of pounds of concrete, possibly tons, settled on top of my shield. The rounded shape probably helped somewhat, directing it outward and away, but it still flickered violently. I'd been using it so much already. The sound of rock settling over us was nearly overwhelming.
"Hold. Please, god, hold. Stay."
The words never left my helmet. An awkward beat later I reminded myself that I was non-religious and should stop asking god for anything.
Brooke's voice sounded loud and clear into my head, full of concern.
"Stephen, straight ahead. Through the shower wall. There should only be a single one to get through after that."
Sounds of alarm and terror turned into confusion. The woman said a few questioning words to me that I didn't understand. Rock and concrete surrounded us in every direction, piled up, only held back by the flickering blue field.
Options. I had to consider options. I couldn't press my way forward since that would probably make the shield fail. And I might not be strong enough anyway. Concrete was kind of heavy.
I looked down at the floor, the same floor that wasn't meant to hold up all this rubble. Around us the shield flickered more wildly, dimming. I licked my lips and made an unamused noise.
"Hold on," I broadcast, out of my helmet. My voice was more melodic than it was in the past.
A quick pull brought both woman and child closer to my chest. I then brought up my left knee- up as high as it can go, with them somewhat in the way. After my foot came down, waist twisting, me putting every last bit of strength I had into the motion. The last instant before my foot connected with the floor I cut the shield.
The already strained floor cracked and broke beneath us. Rather than waiting on everything to squish us I twisted wildly, assisted by the suit's flight capabilities, and surged downward. The motion was absolutely gut-wrenching, both civvies whipping around too fast for my comfort. My one free arm shoved some of the collapsing floor out of the way and suddenly we were once more in smoke and burning flames. I didn't slow down- giving the thrusters more speed, continuing towards the way Brooke had directed. Once more I activated the shield.
It sputtered and cut out, but only after the three of us blew on through the exterior wall of the building. Pieces of concrete and plaster exploded outward in front of us, hopefully not hitting anyone in the process.
Outside Zarqa was lit up surprisingly bright. Our immediate area had some light cast from the nearest flames, and other adjacent burning structures. Other additional sources lit up the sky. Tracer fire, bolts of plasma, you name it. A steady stream of machine-gun fire beat away in intervals, scything through the night air in many directions.
Waiting in the street was Brooke and the man from before. From what she had told me the guy was a neighbor. He'd hung back to make sure I got them free. Good man.
I floated on down to the street and set the woman and child down. The later was crying again, no doubt from being flipped around like a rag-doll. The lady also clearly looked to be in pain. She'd acquired a wide cut over one cheek which was still bleeding.
They'd both live, though. That was the important thing.
My AI regarded me. Other than her holographic blue color Brooke looked a normal, appreciably shaped lady. Medium-length, straight locks of hair, wide hips, you name it. She gave me a nod and a smile. Our last companion, the male, looked to be fairly typical, himself- short black hair, short beard and mustache. He'd managed to pull on more than minimal clothing before going out the door.
Ms.Jordanian woman turned to me and began to let out a long stream of presumably Jordanian words.
"She says she doesn't know how to thank you enough," guy translated, his voice thickly accented. "That you are an angel."
I laughed. I couldn't help it. I probably sounded insane, what with the adrenaline and everything.
"Me? Not really."
Definitely not an angel.
"And thank me by getting out of here," I continued, pointing away. "Go!"
Further down the street other civilians were continuing to leave the area. A handful of flashlights were helping things along. Every now and then a new person would appear out of a non-burning structure and join the others. While I had been spelunking through the burning buildings Brooke had been rounding up the people in the street and getting them in a steady, moving stream. We had a good idea of the safe route to take after the flight in. With the assistance of the English-speakers and wild gesticulating Brooke had been herding them in that direction. Any asshole suiters would be more interested in beating the shit out of each-other than attacking packs of civvies, too. I hoped.
Another suiter was actually responsible for getting me in this mess. A post on the Safety Net, the worldwide network of suits, had mentioned how fighting was starting in Zarqa. By no means were they staying in the area but a second person confirmed that yes, in fact, there was shit going down. I informed my Sentinel, my superior, and was then on my way. The newly-minted Crusaders HQ wasn't too distant from Jordan- a bunch of teleports and a flight took me all the way, destroying my power in the process. Other flight-capable Crusaders would be arriving soon after, distances permitting.
"Need an updated visual," Brook urged.
I took on up to the air being careful to hug the side of a building. Flying up too high would be a bad idea- begging any number of present suits to try and blow me to pieces. I went on up, nearly to the roof of a large complex, and glanced over the surrounding buildings.
Fire. Adobe-colored concrete buildings. More fire.
"Got it?" I asked.
"Yes, thank you. Given current wind conditions, or lack thereof, the flames will continue to spread in every direction. Maybe slightly North-east, your left. That nearest building to the left- yes, that one- is a combination of business so you don't need to check it."
I glanced over the other, closest buildings. The immediate nearby ones I'd hit already and the others farther back were burning wreckages, the chances of survivors slim. Which to hit next?
"We also have wounded," Brooke reported.
That settled what was next.
I flipped on over to thermal imaging. At the same time Brooke placed a circle in my vision around a small group of people farther down the route. I took off that way, hovering twenty feet up. Dozens and dozens of civilians passed beneath my feet, many of them turning and watching my thrusters pass. Language barrier or not they seemed to be content with me.
It only took a moment to reach the wounded Brooke had indicated and give them a look-over. A handful of people were layed out on the ground or sitting. Some were bleeding from scrapes and cuts, or serious looking burns, but the man on the ground looked to be in agony. His left leg clearly visibly broken. The man looked older in age, his full beard and moustache mostly grey. Despite his obvious pain he was putting on a good stoic facade.
"Brooke, can you round up any-"
I never got to finish.
Suddenly the ground erupted around me, chunks of asphalt and stone pulverized. Puffs of red, civilians no longer moving. A beat later the sound of heavy caliber machine-gun fire reached me.
"FUCK," I cursed, spinning to face that way. "GOD DAMMIT!"
Right after I was flung through the air and the wind was knocked out of my lungs. The ground smashed into me, hard. A quick look confirmed that a large divot had been made in my chest armor, a lattice of cracks spreading outward from it.
Before my lungs went back into working order I engaged my thrusters and took to the air. Those nearest to me wouldn't have made it. The sooner I could get away from the others the better. I forced the sour taste out of my mouth and tried to get my brain moving.
I flicked to thermal imaging, unholstering the grenade launcher from my back. The gunfire continued, Brooke painting the bullet trajectories as lines across my vision. Each sounded like a big, angry bee from hell. I wheezed inside my suit.
"Stephen, careful. You are low on power and can't take more hits like that."
The numerous optics on my helmet filtered to thermal and magnified. Up on one of the distant buildings was a large monster of a suit. Blocky and armored, overlooking the nearby area. With the straight matte-black coloration it would be very difficult to spot normally. It was a good distance away too, something like half a mile, but that didn't matter for heavy machine-guns. Or cannons. Or whatever the hell it was shooting. A long, multi-barreled something was held in both its hands. Two large, black boxes sat on its shoulders, hopefully not containing missiles.
I spun off to one side, hard, trying to put distance between myself and the civilians. My heart pounded, the pace more painful now. Suffice to say this was not good. I couldn't teleport with the low battery and getting too far from Brooke would bounce her back to my suit. The current civilians would be fine but she was still helping direct them around and checking the inside of buildings.
Gently curving lines continued to appear in my vision, shooting past me on all sides. Each was a round, 20mm or something, capable of punching me out of the air.
My circling off to the left continued up and over the well-burning ruins. I still didn't dare go too high- that would just invite more attacks. Instead I skimmed over the top of the buildings, almost in the flames, at a proximity that made me feel even sicker.
I flipped on my communicator and targeted the asshole.
"Over here, faggot!"
The irony of a knife-ear calling someone else a faggot wasn't lost on them. The gun fire halted, the suit lurching and teetering at the edge of the roof. A moment later it began to hover into the air, the thrusters slowly beginning to accelerate its large mass.
Brooke's voice came loud and urgent.
"I'm contacting Cerebrus. Hold on, Stephen."
Despite my suit being stupid, crazy, alien tech, I wasn't exactly spoiled for options. Invisibility was not doable with the fire and bullet damage. Weapons were non-existent. I hadn't put any on my suit, really. When I'd first opened my pod I'd had the intention of just hiding from everything.
A warning on my HUD announced I was getting too far from Brooke. I continued turning hard left to circle back around. My right ear popped painfully at the motion, my suit still accelerating despite the banking motion.
"Where is he?!" I asked. "Where are the o-"
For an instant everything turned white and my comms crackled with static. The light faded slowly, revealing a growing mushroom cloud off in the distance, towering over the buildings. Blue electricity danced within, casting a sick fey light on the surroundings. The pressure wave shook me a few seconds later and rattled my teeth. Someone in the city was cutting loose.
"-cyon is almost there," Brooke responded through the noise.
My attacker was quickly picking up speed and taking advantage of my circling motion to cut distance. A straight line. Still, I was almost happy, giddy even, at the lack of gunfire. This stopped when the top of their suit lit up with thermal activity.
"Inbound missiles!" my AI sounded.
"Fuck!" I cursed.
I spun around and put my back to the ground. Instead of circling I straightened out. Turning to the right ever so slightly, I continued accelerating hard. Didn't care about seeing where I was going. My vision began to blacken from blood leaving my head.
Because of the laying-on-my-back thing I was treated to the sight of seven or eight thermal objects zooming towards my feet, corkscrewing wildly.
"Fuck!" I repeated. "Fuck, fuck! Brooke, help!"
I raised my grenade launcher and tryed my best to hold it steady. A water tower or something roared past my body, nearly within arms reach. Numbers and lines began to fill up my screen as Brooke calculated trajectories on the incoming devices.
The nearest missile was suddenly circled on my HUD and flashed. I was already aiming towards that one and immediately pulled the trigger. The recoil was non-existent thanks to my suit. A beat later the EMP grenade detonated, the quick pulse playing havoc with my sensors. Where the grenade had gone off a small, dancing mist of light remained- a miniature aurora borealis, courtesy of my alien grenade.
That left me with many other missiles. Hardly aiming I pointed the end of my gun from one to another, wildly firing. Each time, the next missile fizzled and began to lose speed, shorted out by the pulses.
At least one got through.
What came next was absolute stillness and quiet. And pain. I could vaguely feel the result of a crushing blow along every inch of my body, and hard forces jerking me around in the air. Brooke or myself activated the energy shield after the fact. It lasted through two more smaller impacts before giving out. The impact after that was just more pain.
Brooke shouted something or another at me. What was more concerning, at least to me, was the giant ball of agony that my body had turned into. Despite being a second skin my suit filtered pain and sensations that might inhibbit my ability to act. This was all internal, which it couldn't do a thing about.
My fingers twitched a little and something tasted of blood and vomit. Presumably blood and vomit. My vision came back, slowly. When it did I realized the lenses of my helmet were shot through with cracks. I was inside yet another burning building. It looked much more spacious inside, much of it taken up by barrels or wooden palettes loaded up with boxes. Naturally more than a few were aflame, the plastic covering crinkling and bending away from the heat as it progressed.
I lay there for a few seconds or an hour. Eventually a big, black shape came through the ceiling in a puff of flaming wood and concrete. It touched down a little after the clatter of rubble.
From up close I was able to get a better look. Eight or nine feet tall, and plenty thick, the suit was the kind clearly meant for surviving battles. Seeking them out. Other than the bipedal shape it hardly resembled a man- the chest extending outward several feet with sloped armor plating. The shoulders were broad like a linebacker, the helmet a hammer-head looking thing sunk into the torso. I couldn't tell if the pilots arms and legs were going actually partly into the corresponding limbs or simply curled up in the torso. The same rotary cannon was held in one big hand, though several other suspicious devices littered the front of it. Also the mono-black paint. The suiter had done an excellent job looking like a tacky, shoot-on-sight asshole.
"Stephen, get up."
I couldn't. The suit began to approach, broad shoulders and missile pods shifting to and fro. Each footstep rung out loudly across the room, a solid boom.
Now would have been a good time for my EMP grenades if I had any left. Which I didn't. For that matter I wasn't sure where the launcher was. It was no longer in my hands.
I felt like I should say something, taunt it, show some defiance. No words came. I was too out of it or too frightened to form any.
At least I didn't have to keep waiting. Once it was close enough the big-ass suited picked up speed and dashed a couple of steps, reaching down as it went. One big, taloned hand wrapped entirely around my torso and pulled me off the ground. The suit then took another step, revolving at the waist, and flung me towards the nearest wall.
Naturally I went through that one, too. More pain.
After the rolling stopped I found myself back out in the street. My head was left facing towards the exit-hole I had made. Rather than find a door the suit simply walked on through that, the wall further collapsing around its bulky frame.
It came over and picked me up a second time. Naturally being manhandled wasn't all too comfortable.
Brooke activated my taser. Electricity began to dance along the surface of my suit, crackling and popping viciously.
The other suit couldn't care less. It shifted its grip to my ankle and lifted me up, bringing my helmet more or less level with its own, but up-side down. I could feel blood beginning to pool in my beaten-up head, the sensation not exactly pleasant. As an afterthought it also shook me around like a little rag-doll.
Once my taser stopped it likewise stopped shaking me around. The four big lenses continued peering at me, four lenses in a line. The asshole extended their gun out and up, the hand's pinky extended, and flicked at one of my helmets ears with it. Naturally I wasn't one to disappoint or unamused. I formed my right fingers into a pick shape and drove them into one of the lenses. It cracked and broke excellently.
They reared their head back, surprised, and lifted me farther up. Reaching up, and behind, it brought me behind its back, and then swung me back down into the ground like a club. A sharp pain shot through my chest.
When my vision returned I was treated to the sight of a very-big gun barrel pressed to the front of my helmet. My body spasmed slightly, refusing to get up or really do anything. The fingers on my left hand twitched in what I had intended to be a flicking motion. That was the best I could do.
"Do it, faggot," I slurred.
Nothing against homosexuals, being an elf, but calling hostiles faggots seemed a good way to irritate them.
Another explosion off in the distance was the only response. The suit let their gun barrel lazily wander from my head, across my body. It ended up resting on my left elbow.
A beat later my suit made a chirping sound, followed by a masculine voice.
"Eyes, this is Halcyon. Report."
I blinked and looked off towards the air. There was nothing to be seen but sporadic machine-gun fire and tracer fire.
"Urghhrr," was my vague response.
The asshole poked at me with the gun a few times. What a fucking idiot. Playing with your food and all that.
"That you down there!?" Halcyon asked, his words taut and rapid. "Big suit and little guy with the ears?"
My body was suddenly flung off, backwards, in a way that made me feel for the woman and child. More pain lanced through my chest. All around me was noise, the terrible noise of something moving past at many, many hundreds of miles per hour. What windows remained around me in the streets shattered to pieces. A great big cloud of dust rose up from the ground, leading back into the burning building. Several more crashes sounded out, of walls being smashed through and broken. With a start I realized a new entry hole had been made into the warehouse and that large suit was no longer there.
"Eyes," he called. "Get up if you can and scatter! I've got- Christ this guy is strong."
I murmured something of an affirmative and weakly rolled over. Fractionally. The same gunfire from earlier chattered, this time closer and much more deep. My suit's communications crackled with a bit of static and then Brooke's voice took form.
"He's right- you need to get up. Now. Find your grenade launcher, run, hide, anything. Move!"
That encouraged me to roll over the rest of the way onto my stomach. My hands reached on out and rest to either side in a push-up position. I gave that a go and tried to pull myself up. It didn't exactly happen, my arms shaking wildly. I felt way heavier than I should have been, as if my arms were made of lead.
Something within the warehouse exploded and shook it to its foundations. The sound was painfully loud this close. Now that I thought of it I hadn't really heard the one that went off on me.
I gave the ground another push. Nothing.
"Can't," I slurred. "Fucker."
I lay there and considered how nice and comfy the street felt beneath me. Almost comfy enough to sleep on. My eyelids felt heavy.
My helmet chirped after an indeterminate amount of time.
"Guardian," Halcyon sounded, his voice a growl. "Confirm you're alive."
A short moment passed.
The man sounded busy. It was something of a relief.
Unlike myself, most of the Crusaders were built with heavy combat in mind. The Crusaders were the only faction that fought purely to protect the innocents and dampen the harm caused by Suitfall. Among all the other factions, even the Safety Net, their mission had struck a cord within me. After seeing their efforts and hearing the words of the Steel Centurion I'd realized that it was time to work for something greater than myself. By then I'd already configured my suit for coward-run-from-everything-mode. Make no mistake, I wouldn't be much of a warrior even with a big-ass suit, but I kind of yearned for it.
As I lay here on the ground, apoplectic, Halcyon was fighting for his and my life. And many more besides.
I lay there uselessly and gathered my strength.
Some time later something glinted and shined in my eyes.
I stirred and then watched as the shining became more prominent, something bright and reflective appearing in the warehouse entry-hole.
A new suit approached. The most striking feature was the color- bronzed, golden armor that caught the light of the flames and reflected it. Those and the wings. Large, outward swept blade-things extended from the back of the suit in something of an imitation of bird wings. One of them had the tip snapped off part-way down. The suit was pretty large- seven or more feet tall and strongly built. Rather than some monster-looking thing it resembled a heroic individual in armor. Carried in its left hand was a long-shafted spear, the haft silver-gray in color. At its tip a blue lance of plasma hummed free, though it deactivated a moment later.
There was no right hand because his arm had been torn off at the shoulder. Much of the front of the suit was bathed in slick, crimson fluids, starkly contrasting with the bronzed armor. Despite this Halcyon held his head high and proud, apparently unbothered by it. A bit of bone and flesh hung on free. On his opposite shoulder was a golden sword over a stripe, the insignia of a Guardian. The line signified the line that must be held between aggressive armors and the defenseless masses. The sword, the necessity and willingness to defend that line. I bore the same sigil. All Crusaders that went on at least one mission did.
But this? This was a real Crusader. Though the wings took up a considerable amount of the suits mass, Halcyon's suit was built to defend and protect and fight properly. Fast, armored, strong, clad in the same iconic colors as most of the organization. Guardians like him were a thousand times more an angel than me. Wings and everything, this guy.
He let go of his spear and let it drop to the ground, extending his one hand to me.
I accepted it, and the man pulled me up to my feet effortlessly. Once I was up he steadied me.
"Cutting it a little fine, you think?" Halcyon asked.
My mouth moved but no sound came out. I continued staring at the bloody lump of a shoulder. Halcyon glanced at my lenses and then what I was looking at.
"I'll be fine," he said, something light and amused in his voice. "Most of us chose Hydra Nanites over looking pretty."
"You doing okay?" he asked.
I considered that for a moment.
"I, uh," I said. "Yes. I... I'm fine. I'm not dead."
He released his hand from my side and carefully watched my for a few seconds. Satisfied that I didn't fall over, or something, he then reached on down and retrieved the spear.
"You're also doing an excellent job," he said. "Your AI's been keeping things moving during all this, and I saw what you've done so far. Great work getting those people in motion. You saved plenty of lives tonight."
"Good," I answered, weakly.
I glanced back towards the warehouse.
"That suit was loaded up on ranged weapons," Halcyon explained, answering my unsaid question. "I stayed close, never gave him a chance to back off. It didn't seem like I should."
/Was/ loaded up on weapons. Past-tense. Excellent.
"I'm holding back vomit and fainting," I admitted.
"You're not used to this by now?"
I shook my head gingerly. "First mission I hung back, ran intel and vision."
"There's nothing wrong with that," Halcyon said, giving me an appreciate slap on the back, spear and all. The gesture almost knocked me over. "We should get back to that civilian line. Neither of us are in much of a shape to fight- some more than other- but we can look out for the Jordanians."
"Sounds good to me."
He stepped up to my rear and wrapped an arm around my back, partially supporting me. Both of us activated our thrusters and began to teeter back towards where I had started.
"I came out here as fast as I could," he apologized. "The others shouldn't-"
Both our HUDS chirped and Halcyon quieted at once.
There was silence for several seconds, before a familiar voice sounded out. Presumably broadcast to every suit in the city. It was full of wizened passion and determination, the kind that men would obey and follow into hell without hesitation.
//"Pilots, all those able to hear this message. This bloodbath ends /now/. The people of Al Zarqa will no longer have their lives and livelihoods destroyed by your hate and greed. The Crusaders demand that you stand down /at once/. If you do not, if you continue to harm the Jordanian people, you will be dealt with immediately and harshly."//
Off, on the horizon, I could make out more than a dozen heat signatures closing in fast. A bunch of Guardians and some Paladins. Zooming revealed a wide variety of large angelic wings, silver, and gold. Even more would be coming on foot.
I tried to not squee. Halcyon made another amused noise.
//"-This is your one and only chance to leave. Listen to your conscience, take this opportunity, and let it save you this day."//
The transmission ended. A longer speech wasn't necessary.
On cue the ambient gunfire, and explosions, slowed down. Soon after they stopped entirely.
Brooke waved Halcyon and myself down to where the civilians were still fleeing from the fires. We still had plenty of work ahead of us, presuming I didn't kick over.
Still. Despite the agony in my chest, and my body, I felt amazing.
We were doing the right thing- it always did.