The crashing waves against the stony shore of a decrepit beach was the only sound that can be heard for miles away. The sun waning in the distance cast an orange glow across the last remaining free city of humanity.
Here you could find all walks of life. From different religious views, political standing and varying ages from infants to elders. All coming in peace together to fight off an enemy that humanity itself created.
It's funny, everyone assumed that it would be global warming or nuclear holocaust that would destroy the human world. But instead it had been the advancement of technology.
But that story, is a long an arduous journey of self-destruction. As much as, Keys wanted to think about it. He shunned it away from his thoughts. All that was on his mind now was the future. Or the possibility of a future.
His helmet tucked beneath his arm, Keys turned away from the sunset and headed towards his mech.
Gridlock Fox I. It was a bruiser built heavy mech. It stood merely three stories tall, but it packed a heavy payload. Rotary miniguns on either arm and a set of phase beam shoulder mounts. It was a mid range mix, meant to serve as a grunt in the formation.
The paint design on his gridlock was a mix of grey, greens and golds. It had a city skyline camouflage that served to keep it hidden on lower altitudes than the enemy. The green, grey and gold allowed it to blend in with the autumn forests as well. Serving both purposes.
"Lieutenant... The Captain is requesting your presence at the base. Over." Came a communications officer through he's headpiece on his helmet. Keys, barely sixteen now, put his helmet on and allowed the HUD display to load up. Before him was the view city, in all its glory, shining defiantly against the setting sun. There weren't any tall high rises like those present in the old city south of here. But it still was magnificent to behold.
"This is Lieutenant Youssef, over. On route back to base, ETA 20mins. Please advise the Captain that I was simply on furlough. Over." Replied Kyle "Keys" Youssef.
"Roger that, Lieutenant. End of transmission." Static sound followed as Keys ran preflight checks on his mech. The engines were green, thrusters fully fueled and all electronics were a go.
"Keys, do you wish me to jump drive my way to your location?" Requested his AI.
"No need, Locke. Just keep the engines warm. I just want to walk for now, enjoy the sights. It may be the last, I see of this place, you know."
"Unfortunately, I don't understand the sentiment, but I do have all preparations made for your return trip. Would you like me to hail, Audrey for landing permissions?"
"Yah, that'd be great Locke." He had programmed his AI himself. It was curt, responsible and kept things on a lockdown. He was a bit of security freak and wouldn't allow anyone else to tamper with his mech, so they nicknamed named him 'Keys;. Cause he was the only one allowed access to his mech.
Unlike all the the others on his flight crew, Keys was the only one sans a mechanic. He took everything under his own wings regarding his piloting and maintaining the mech.
"Audrey has given you a go ahead, Bay 3, City Center right off the main channel. The rest of the flight crew is there Lieutenant."
"That's good to know, I'm the only one going to be late. Not that it matters now." He realized as he turned on his own jump jets and launched himself hurtling through the air towards his mech. It took two leaps but he covered the ground hurriedly.
"Locke, can you open the hatch to the cockpit."
Ahead, kneeling in the faint light of the evening was his mech. Its head was firmly pressed into the center of its shoulders barely protruding from its bulky chassis. Gridlock was heavily armored and flew like a rock threw the sky. But that didn't matter, war wasn't about grace. It was about efficiency. And everything about his machine was well oiled and well tested.
The side panels of his cockpit slid open to either side creating a slit where he landed gracefully into with his thrusters only having to burn through a bit of fuel to guide him in.
Smoke emanated from either side as he landed. He looked up at the night sky making out the north star, before pressing the button to seal the hatch once more. Once it did everything went black.
"This is Gridlock Fox I. On route, to the Nest. Over."
"Gridlock Fox I, this is the Nest. You're green for arrival. Skies clear, pad available. Over and out."
Smiling to himself, with the whole routine of it all, he grasped onto his controls. He chose glove guidance over a jet fighter stick. Two circular holograms in glowing green light hovered over his clenched hands at either side of him. He punched, turned and pulled to ignite his thrusters. The jump from here to the city was nearly 50 clicks. The pressure of the g-force knocked him deep into his seat as he took off. The dark cockpit suddenly lit up all around him. Giving him a full circular view of the entire surroundings of his mech.
He could see the smoke trail he left beneath him and he reoriented himself to line up with the channel. It was a long path way landing pad that allowed a mech to jump through and land. It was wide enough to allow 100 such landings and 100 such take offs. Another genuine feat of construction.
"Keys, all engines ready for the punch." His AI advised.
"Well let's get home then, before were late for supper."
He punched forward with both hands, and hurtled backwards into his seat as the mech dug into its nitric reserves launching him through the air like a comet.
As he quickly came to approaching landing he kicked down into his seat and green lights shone once again around his boots. As the mech slammed into the runway, sparks flew in all directions as it zipped by like a bullet entering the channel. The lights around his feet flashed yellow as tensions between his break pads were trying to slow him down.
Slowly, the yellow light faded and returned to a calm green. His mech sliding now against the surface as he expertly maneuvered with his torso and feet like one would carve into snow as a skier. The mech turned expertly down a corridor towards the several thousand bay holds. Where other mechs were being serviced, resting or preparing to take off.
"Bay 3, City Center" Was lighted in huge letters above his hold. He slid into the bay and lined up his cockpit with the iron catwalk that ran along the top of the bay so he could make his way to the rest of his crew.
"All heads up display on standby, mech entering rest mode, Lieutenant."
"Thanks, Locke." He stated calmly as he removed his helmet and brush back his dark black hair. "This shouldn't take long."
The artificial white light shone brightly above him as the cockpit opened up to the open air. It was a cold evening and thankfully with his heavy jacket on, Keys lifted himself from Gridlock on to the catwalk. Surprised, he saw that Kit was waiting for him.
"Capt. being a bit impatient with me is she?" He asked Kit. The thirteen year old girl, with auburn red hair smiled at him with a toothy grin.
"You're always late, she sent me because she knows you can't tarry long in my company."
Keys smiled at her. They hated each other because both of them were vying to be Captain. On paper, Kitsune Yakamura was the 1st Lieutenant and should take priority. But favoritism was still a factor, and it was known that the Captain had a soft spot for him.
No offense to Kit, but she was just too smart, snarky and self-centered to be promoted to such a position. He'd said as much to the Captain, but whose to say if she believed him or not.
Kit stuck a tongue out at him and pulled down one of her eyelids in such a kawaii way that it disgusted him.
"We aren't in an anime you know, Kit."
"Whose to say we aren't tight ass, now lets get a move on before the Captain discharges us both for desertion."
He scoffed. "She'd more likely just give us another stupid assignment like the last time you escorted me."
"Latrine duty is the worst," She said as she paced before him with arms at her back, leaning forward. "I can almost still smell the shit off that stupid jacket of yours."
Keys faked giving his armpit a sniff .
"Nope, I don't smell a thing."
"That's cause of your allergies, moron."
"That may true, but it doesn't change the fact that I don't smell anything." He said with a smirk.
"Smart ass." She said as she twirled around and skipped ahead down the corridors towards the briefing rooms.
"Look who is talking, calling the kettle black." He said as tried to keep pace with her. She was short but moved deceptively fast.
Once the both of them were in front of double door entry they straightened out their uniforms and pressed forward simultaneously.
All of his crew members were standing at attention listening keenly to the Captain as she was debriefing them. Midway stopping to address the late attendees.
"Glad you can finally join us, Keys."
He nodded apologetically and stepped through to the front row alongside Kit. The crew company numbered at twenty five. Five combat pilots, five support pilots, nine mechanics and five engineer. The last position was that of intelligence officer. Who was standing beside the Captain.
Carl Rus. A pessimist and a man who would put any of them to shame when it came to anything regarding cybernetics. Their enemies had augmented themselves beyond any recognition that they were once human. More machine than people now. Their enemy was a byproduct of human advancement gone incredibly right. So much so, that humanity itself, in their eyes, was obsolete.
Captain O'Hare continued her debriefing.
"As you may have all heard, Operation Verdant Fall was a success. However, during the operation, New Vancouver's location had been revealed to the enemy and according to our intelligence division a large scale attack is being sent our way as we speak."
"So today, I'm imploring you to put aside any petty squabbles, any doubts and any fears to follow through with this latest mission assigned to Dog Company."
Stepping forward, Keys lifted his chin and spoke assuredly.
"You are to assist in Bravo Company's escape from the city. And are to rendezvous with reinforcements immediately."
"Yes, Mam." He replied half-heartedly.
"Yes Captain," Responded Kitsune who was visibly upset that she was called in second.
"You are to lead, Dog Company from here on out as leading Captain. You are to assign two new lieutenants. Then you are all to report to the core for the last line of defense of the city." She said with a stern look. Kits' eyes beamed, for moment with triumphant, quickly followed by defeat realizing what sentence she was given.
Addressing the rest of the crew. Captain Lidia O'Hare gave them one last order as the Captain of Dog Company.
"I have been reassigned to security protocol with Head of National Defense Audrey Wu. And so, as my last order as Captain is stay safe out there and don't get yourselves killed." She saluted the lot of them and started to gathering her things as the rest of them looked on in disbelief.
That was it.
Dog Company would be left in the care of Kits. And he had to help a completely different crew. Why was he chosen to leave while the rest were assigned to stay and defend.
"This doesn't feel right," He muttered to himself as he looked to the others. Some of his brothers and sisters he'd grown up with for as long as he'd lived were congratulating him and wishing him the best. He grabbed on to hands and felt palms rest on his shoulders. The older generation boys and girls rubbed at his head and punched at his chest.
"Don't you die out there." Said Matty who had also been a joker. He slipped something into his hands. He looked down into his palm and there rested was a simple key. The meaning of it nearly floored him, but he choked back tears and smiled up at Matty.
"I won't, I promise."
"That's what I like to hear."
He couldn't say anything back. What would he say.
"Keys!" Yelled out another older crew member. This time it was Hawkens. "Bravo's waiting for you. You have 10 minutes to gather you're stuff."
"It's urgent boys and girls." He yelled out as a bit of worry shone through his eyes. "Arm up and get ready."
Kits approached him last. The two of them look into each others eyes. Rivals since the beginning of time. Hated each others guts, couldn't stand one another. Yet here they were nearly going to breakdown. She smiled up at him and gave him a hug.
He hugged her back.
"Fuck you, Keys..."
"You too, Kits." He said brushing he curly hair away from her green eyes. "Fuck you too."
"Don't forget about us." She said with a half-smile. He returned the sentiment and nodded.
"I won't." They slowly backed away from one another awkwardly. But it wasn't until the cities alarms started to blare that everyone went into adrenaline action mode.
"KKKhhhCh This is City Center requesting all military personnel to man their stations. I repeat this is City Center requesting all military personnel to man their stations. Identified enemy targets on fast approach. Interception estimated at T-minus five minutes. KKkkhhchHH."
And again the same messaged blared through loud speakers across the city.
Keys booked it through crowds of crewman as he rushed to Bravo's take off point. He hadn't had time to make it to his own quarters to gather his things.
He burst into the briefing room, but no one was there. Panicking he, ran down the way he came toward his mech.
"Locke, location of B company."
"Lt. They are at our door step." Replied his AI matter-of-factly.
"Corporal Davies and company are awaiting your command."
"Where's B companies, Captain." He asked hurriedly as he began to make out a large aircraft sitting in front of his bay.
"I am not sure, Lt. But I believe that position is now resting on your shoulders."
"What!?" He was starting to repeat himself, but he didn't care.
"Yes, it seems. According to the update 2.3.445.1 to the status of B company's roster. You are now active Captain. You must assign two lieutenants and two more corporals as your first duty."
"And how are they, expecting me to do that when I don't know any of them at all."
"Perhaps talking with Davies will help," Replied his AI. " Would you like me to hail her."
"Yes... NO!" He replied as he tried to think quickly. "I mean yes, Locke patch me through to her."
"It's good to hear from you Captain. B company at the ready for your orders."
"Yes, yes, um Corporal." Breaking through the script and thinking quickly he was not debriefed. He had just been assigned this entire company. What the fuck was his first order of business.
"What had happened to your previous Captain."
"KIA during our mission at Verdant Fall."
"Why wasn't I debriefed."
"Due to the circumstances of the mission. The less officers know the better." She replied cryptically.
"Fine, I hereby assign you as first lieutenant. Who would you recommend for your second?" He asked quickly as he boarded his mech. A throng of people rushing along catwalks now were boarding their mechs. Air raid sirens were beginning to blare.
"I recommend Ben Hildebrand, Sir."
"Very well, inform the Corporal."
Keys nodded as if she could see him and started to move his mech into the combat shuttle. It was a Harrier. A large vessel with 100 member crew. Life support, long distance travel, combat ready and fully staffed. It was a sight to behold. Dog company was a primarily hit and run company. They never strayed too far from an outpost. So, this sorta luxury wasn't one he was accustomed to.
"Captain Youssef, it is a honor that he have decided to promote me as your second lieutenant. I'd just like to say..."
"Ben," Keys said a bit annoyed. "Now's not the time for pleasantries. I need you and Davies to explain to me what my mission is so that I can lead us out of here in one piece. Understood. Over.
"Why... you are to lead the Resistance..."
Under his breadth, Keys mouthed the words "The Fuck."
As he was loaded into the cargo bay. The doors slowly began to raise shut. And all he could think about was the key in his pocket.