Thirty-Three: Rocket Science

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Report: Quinn
The Annamite Mountain Range.
Vietnam.
Abandoned TCC facility.
Former designation: "Alpha Gamma"

Our Sentinels neared the bottom of the crater, our mechanical legs pounding into the sheer cliff face. I had mentioned seeing signs of a dropship to Dan and Lucas, but we had decided to pretend like nothing was wrong. We had to act as though we hadn't seen the dropship hovering above us like an axe ready to fall.

"You ready?" I asked. There was such a pause that I assumed he hadn't heard the question, but Martin responded with a sigh.

"I guess we have to be. There goes our chance for a stealthy mission."

We were not far from the bottom now, and I could see every building in clear detail. Despite the new building we'd seen, Alpha Gamma was still abandoned.

Vines thatched every open surface, covering the walls in green veins. The buildings looked to be mostly stone and large chunks had broken off, falling to the crater floor. A massive, geometrical building dominated the middle of the compound, surrounded by smaller buildings. At the far end a large steel tower rose up the crater wall, supporting a massive cone of steel.

The nuclear warhead.

Rust caked it's once-shiny surface, a by-product of exposure to the elements, but it remained untouched by vegetation. Dan had assured me it would still launch. The TCC hadn't touched it since occupying and abandoning the base, too financially oriented to consider it worthwhile to dismantle. It was left to rust, a relic from a terrible time.

Telbus' Sentinel slid to a stop next to me, gleaming black heavy shotguns catching the sunlight and reflecting it.

"No sign of enemy activity," he said, voice sounding muffled over the comms. "If Jax was correct about seeing a dropship above us they haven't noticed us yet."

"Or they're waiting," I responded pointedly.

I took another step forward, staring down into the crater. At that moment glowing sparks lit up my HUD, startling me. Bullets from multiple sources traced across the outside of my Sentinel, ricocheting off the heavy armor with a sound like thunder. My first instinct was to lower my heavy shield and bring my Sentinel into it's armored turret mode, but I quickly noticed that I was taking no damage from the attack.

The bullets weren't made to pierce mechs, instead fired by automatic anti-aircraft guns that dotted the rooftops of the facility. They made a lot of noise but were antiquated by the Sentinel's thick shell. The guns were designed to shoot down lightweight drones of a bygone war, not mechanical monstrosities.

"We triggered the defense systems you mentioned, Dan," Telbus grunted.

His Sentinel edged forward, sparks flying off it like a live wire. I imagined that I looked the same, bullets flying every which way as we moved closer to our target.

"The command centre for the turrets should be inside the central building," Dan responded."I'm surprised they're all working so well after all this time."

"That's it," I said, "I can take the express route from here."

Without a second thought I lifted my Sentinel's legs off the crater wall and into empty space, feeling a rush of elation as my Sentinel's legs outstretched like a spider descending on it's prey.

THUMP.

The mech's heavy joints easily absorbed the impact. Mechs could be dropped from nearly nine-thousand feet and still function nominally, so the short fall was a walk in the park. We'd made it to the crater's bottom without alerting the antiaircraft cannons to the dropship. Now the fun began.

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