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“This is not good.”
Corporal Korl examined his assault rifle’s ammo counter. Both the distant explosions rocking the desert ground beneath his feet and the acrid smoke billowing from the base behind him were highly distracting, but not so much so to obscure the fact that he was on his last mag.
He sighed. “This is really not good.”
Peering up from behind the steel barricade of his, Korl saw the status of his situation. A horde of Chiiralans slowly advanced on his position. Their multiple crustaceous legs splintered the sunbaked ground, and the sun glanced off their glossy shells. Directly behind each Chiiralan was a group of three or four lanky, four-eyed, mostly-humanoid Villivu, every one clutching a death-distributing pulse rifle. Korl fired off a burst at the nearest extraterrestrial squad. The Chiiralan immediately retracted into its impenetrable carapace, immovable and indestructible. Its resident Villivu took cover and swiftly returned fire. Other squads noticed the disturbance and concentrated fire on the barricade, the Villivu from their rifles and the Chiiralans from the pulse bursters hard-wired into their chitinous claws.
Korl ducked behind cover as white hot bolts sizzled against his ever-weakening cover.
The corporal whipped his head around. Crouched behind the barricade with him was a young private, absorbed in the holo-watch projecting from the multi-purpose tactical pad on his forearm.
Korl choked on his disbelief. “Where… Who are you??”
The private’s eyes were glued to his watch. “Private Jakob. I was chillin’ like a villain in the mess hall, gettin’ some grub before I decided to kick it out here with you, broski.”
Jakob’s Eastern European inflection only enhanced the indifferent personality he effused. Corporal Korl took a deep breath. “You were in the mess hall this whole time?”
“And you never thought it would be a good idea to come outside and help prevent us all from dying?”
Jakob snorted. “Oh, da. I’m sure I would’ve made all the difference.” He squinted at his watch. “Five minutes late. He’s five minutes late.”
Pulse bolts whizzed over the barricade. Korl peeked over, blasted back, then hit the dirt as more lanced of energy flew his way.
“Who,” coughed Korl, picking himself up, “who could possibly be late?”
Jakob snorted in derision. Again. “What, you don’t know?”
The private chuckled. “You’re in for a surprise, mi compadre.”
Corporal Korl turned away and rolled his eyes. He was going to die here, on a desert world, with only an insanely sarcastic and also insanely insane Russian for company. Great.
“Look, if you’re not gonna fight,” Korl turned back, “could you at least give me your weapon? I’m out.”
“I don’t have bullets, bro,” the private snickered. “This gun’s just for show.”
“What about your handgun?” the corporal asked, pointing out the sidearm at the private’s hip. “Can I use that?”
“It’s for a special occasion, my man. So that’s a no.”
In a normal setting, the other man would have decked the Slav, no questions asked. But never before had he met someone so disconnected with his own mortality. In fact, Korl wasn’t even irritated--actually, he was fascinated.
“How… Do you…. You know we’re going to die out here, right?” the corporal stated, panic creeping into his voice.
Jakob smirked and shook his head, still enveloped in his time-keeping device.
Korl didn’t have time for this. He stuck his head out from around the barricade. The vanguard of the extraterrestrial advance was only ten meters away. He checked his assault rifle. Still empty.
The Corporal sank behind his cover, bouncing a bit on the coarse, arid ground. He sighed and shucked off his helmet, tossing it aside. Yeup. He was gonna die.
Private Jakob glanced up from his on-going temporal observation and raised an eyebrow.
“You may want to re-slip your brain bucket back on, buddy. It’s about to get hot in here.”
“Jesus. Does anything you say ever make sense?” Korl pinched the bridge of his nose. “Where the hell did you learn Eng--”
Korl immediately straightened up. Was that…
“A sonic boom…” he muttered.
He scrabbled for his helmet. Sonic booms, characteristic of atmospheric re-entry, usually by a vessel of considerable size. And all the good guy ships had either been blown to bits or skeddadled out of the system. Which meant that whatever was bearing down on their position was probably really, really bad.
“Look sharp,” he ordered to Jakob, his voice taking on an iron tone. “We’re--”
“Sit down, Corporal,” the Eastern European finally looked up from his watch. “And watch the show.”
Korl had just about had enough. This guy was clearly gone, bonko, nuts. He may have phoned it in, but dammit, Korl wanted to live.
He was just about to leap out from behind the barricade and make a dash for better cover when a crimson streak arced from the heavens and collided with the planet, only a few meters from the Corporal’s position.
A rush of dirt and scrub and sundry crap tossed Korl back like a slap, knocking him into the partially-melted wall of his former base. He saw stars and stripes and stars and stripes and red and white and blue and…
This wasn’t a result of his collision with a steel wall. Several meters in front of him stood a sight he’d never thought he’d see, mostly because he had never wanted to.
Shrugging off the dirt and detritus was an armored scarlet titan, a bio-mechanical monstrosity of metal and blood and bone and circuitry and patriotism. This last detail was especially notable--the thing was decked in stars and stripes, Old Glory protruding from a pole on it’s back, with FREEDOM embossed on each fist, and, the icing on the cake, the head of a shrieking bald eagle protruding from its midsection amidst the crimson fury of this war machine.
Korl could barely believe it. Here, in the flesh, kind of… a Jingo.
Washington Harvard straightened up, the rest of the debris coating his beautiful, beautiful suit cascading down his bodice with the fury of Niagara Falls--the better part, on the New York side.
His suit COMM System crackled to life. “You’re late.”
Washington traced the origin of the signal to directly behind him. And, as he turned, he saw, directly behind him, standing behind puny cover, arms folded like a miffed Babushka, Jakob Sutin.
“Where were you, Harvard?” Washington’s helmet magnification detected a raised eyebrow. “Your drop date was almost ten minutes ago.”
Harvard rolled his eyes, wishing Sutin could see the exasperated act. “Oh my God, I was ten minutes late? Are you gonna ground me? You’re my Handler, Jakob. Not my Mom.”
“With you the roles are often indistinguishable.” Sutin smirked.
“Screw you. Where the hell are the bad guys?”
A rapport of pulse fire from behind answered in the inquiry. Washington slowly turned back around. Up until now, the alien freaks had been in a stupor, not believing what their sense of sight was conveying. But now they were definitely snapping out of it.
“Oh. Found ‘em.”
Washington surveyed his quarry like a child looking over tonight’s homework: bored, irritated, and just wanting to get it over with. And also totally willing to break all the rules.
“Alright, let’s see…”
He cycled through a roster of potential ranged weapons to thin out the ranks before he really got dirty. Guided Missiles(Freedom Bolts), RPG’s(Rocket Propelled GFreedom’s), a wide assortment of grenades(Freedom Balls), and even Sonic-Propelled Sniper Rounds(Sonic-Propelled Sniper Rounds).
Meanwhile, the extraterrestrials unleashed volley after volley of energy blast at him. The deadly light glanced harmlessly off his glossy suit.
The super soldier scanned the roster… So many choices…
“Ah, screw it. Let’s just get dirty.”
He exited the roster. With his vision fully clear, Washington noted a particularly dense cluster of baddies just ten meters ahead and to the left. The hulk of man and metal shifted his feet, aiming directly for his pulse-spewing target. He licked his lips. This… This was gonna be fun.
With the force of an incredibly masculine cannon, Washington dented the ground with his push-off and streaked towards his prey. The non-humans barely registered the crimson flash that decimated their ranks with a flurry of FREEDOM punches, caving in skulls, whole ribcages, blood spattering in glorious fountains, satiating the parched ground. Washington loved it, the feel of supreme power. He was a God among the weak.
“I’m a God!” he bellowed, his mirth as prolific as the viscera coating his suit.
Cracking the last Chiiralan shell over his knee, the titan selected his next batch of mortalities.
“Take it easy, Harvard,” Jakob cautioned. “Keep in control.”
“I am in control,” Washington panted, “totally, completely in control. So in control it’s ridicka-dicka-donculous.”
“You’re very convincing.”
Washington honed in on the next target. “Fine. I’ll actually use weapons this time. How’s that, Mom? Can I come out of my room now?”
“I’d like nothing more.”
He could practically taste Jakob’s snarky smirk.
Twin compartments on the suit’s legs decompressed and released, relieving two jumbo-size Spitfire Assault Rifles of their cramped quarters and propelling them into Washington’s hands. Their targeting reticles automatically transferred to the helmet’s display, as did their ammo-counters and various other statuses.
Washington remotely deactivated the safeties. These babies were now hot.
He wasted no time, charging into the fray, a virtual tempest of bullets and gore and fury, all while Old Glory stood stridently upon his back, waving in the heat of battle. He laughed and slaughtered with a fervor that would have terrified most human beings, much less the extraterrestrial foes being torn to smoking bits by his hand.
“Harvard. You need to maintain composure.”
Washington let loose all of his ranged weapons and a veritable garden of pyrotechnic thunder blossomed around him. Boiling gas and licking flames rolled over the suit like a fiery tide. Scraps of former alien rained down, grilled to perfection.
“You worry way too much, Jakob. I’m beginning to think you really ARE my Mom!”
The super soldier let loose a cannon barrage of laughter as he pummeled more and more extraterrestrials into the dirt.
“Besides, why would I quit now when I’m having so much fun!”
A hint of animalistic fervor leaked its way into Washington’s voice. His radio sounded again.
“You are not in control, Harvard. You need to--”
Washington cut the line. Screw Jakob. He was fine. Fine. In control. All he wanted was to have some fun. Was that too much to ask?
The scarlet titan blasted his way through more and more of the extraterrestrial line. He felt good. Better than good--fantastic. This was awesome, so good, so natural to kill. This was what he was borne to do. He was destined to become a God of War, a supreme master of every battle he entered into. He was designed to dominate. To win. To eliminate all traces of the enemy from his sight, to pulverize and vaporize and terrorize them into oblivion. That’s what he had to do. That’s what he wanted to do.
Washington sprayed the last of his mags at the remaining baddies. He looked around, panting, sweating, excited, pumping with brutal energy. Was that it? Were they all gone?
No. NO, there were two more. Two more near the base. Right where Jakob and that other soldier had been. They were right on top of them, trying to kill human beings, his friends. He couldn’t let that happen.
The man of metal quickly affixed his sights on the barricade. He’d have to charge it, catch them by surprise. A little voice in his head started to sound. Do not engage, Harvard, it said. Stand down. Stand down immediately.
How could he stand down? His friends were in danger. He had to help. He had to kill. It was his purpose. It was what he had been made for.
He tensed up, ready to launch himself at the barricade, ready to save his men. Gods weren’t Gods unless they gave life to the mortals. That’s what he would do. He would give them life by saving them.
The little voice was still there, but he ignored it. There was no time to listen. He had to act.
Washington charged the barricade.
And then the remote chip implanted in his brain to prevent this exact occurrence activated, releasing a fast-acting neurotoxin that killed him instantly.
He toppled to the ground, skidding forward a meter before coming to a grisly stop.
A few seconds passed.
And then his suit exploded.
Jakob took his finger off the kill switch. He looked out onto the battlefield. Where Harvard’s corpse should have been now there was simply a three meter-wide crater and dark black scorch marks. The only evidence of the man’s existence, outside of the heaps of alien bodies he had disposed of.
Korl staggered to his feet. His mouth opened by a tiny fraction, just enough to let “Oh my God,” whisper out.
Jakob looked to the other man. He gave a sad smile.
“Looks like the special occasion I’ve been waiting for.”
He unholstered his sidearm and shot the corporal once in the head. Then again in the heart.
The sun shone on the Slav as he brought the pistol to his own head.