Despite the danger that mecha scale weapons posed and the even worse danger of revealing his abilities, Alex had to admit that he had not had this much fun in decades. Picking up a combat trooper and hurling him hard enough to shear off and engine mount was particularly hilarious, especially when the other men on the ground started to run like little bitches after that. The Blackwatch troopers sneered and the Marines gave a contemptuous ‘Oorah!’, although all admitted that running when confronted with Alex Mercer was probably an intelligent decision. Of course, the field out front of the estate had quickly filled with tendrils that ripped men to shreds to keep them from getting away to spill the secret.
Then the transport loaded with powered armour showed up and Alex indulged in his favourite activity: skyjacking. There was no joy quite like reeling himself up on to an aircraft that thought itself safe from him, to see the shock and terror on the pilot’s face as he ripped open the cockpit hatch like a farmer husking corn just before he was hurled screaming into the air. The panic that followed from the co-pilot as he realized that he had a murder machine sitting where a former comrade had been was like a fine wine to wash it all down just before plunging in the feeder tendrils. Even the endless choir of screaming voices found the experience kind of funny, even if a large number of them had been on the receiving end at one point.
His joyride did not last terribly long, even though he managed to blow two of the power armour suits already on the ground to scrap with the nose mounted cannons of the transport, as the powered armour responded to his attack with a sustained volley of laser and plasma fire that caused his aircraft to quite literally melt. Bailing out, Alex found that he was not the only survivor from the fiery wreckage, for a suit of powered armour that had still been in the transport was also tumbling through the air. Unable to grin but inordinately pleased with himself, Alex shot out a tentacle so that he could grab on to the falling war machine.
Alex could guess from intimate experience the thoughts going through the pilot’s head as he latched on to the powered armour around the waist and flipped it over so that it was pointed head down. Altering his mass in physics defying ways while opening up flight panels, Alex shot out a stream of highly pressurized blood that propelled him and the armour straight down. Punching through numerous floors and into the basement, Alex delivered an absolutely beautiful and impossible pile driver. Not one to take chances, Alex morphed his arm into an anti-armour blade and neatly killed the pilot.
Glancing about, he saw Elizabeth wide eyed and panicked near him, looking rather worse for wear but still more or less intact. He could tell that she was going into psychological shock, but there would be time for treatment later. His priority right now was to keep her safe and that meant neutralizing the power armour. Once that was taken care of he could get her out of here to a safe place before going through the messy task of eliminating anyone who knew about him. A task that would be considerably easier now that he had mecha grade weapons to steal.
“Such wonderful toys,” Alex stated with glee as he picked up the enormous weapon with the adroit skill of a mortal handling an assault rifle.
“Oh bollocks,” Alex heard Ellie mutter from the room she had run in to, and he turned to the door just in time to see ominous red light flare from within. Moving to investigate while covering the approaches around him with the heavy weapon, Alex arrived just in time to see a blood drenched skeleton burst out of a massive accumulation of chains, everything in the room glowing with baleful crimson light, all while Ellie watched on in terror from the floor of the room.
Alex had eaten enough occult scholars to know that this situation was a Bad Thing, and thus he did not hesitate to begin operating the firing mechanism of the laser cannon. The backscatter would probably blind Elizabeth, but there were treatments for that sort of thing where there were no treatments for being ripped apart by an Outsider. The air ripped apart as the coherent light of weapon pumped unholy amounts of energy into the room. The shadows flickered insanely and the temperature rose to dangerous levels, but Alex did not let up until the weapon was forced into an emergency cool-down cycle.
Elizabeth stared at the empty patch of air where the Outsider had once been and then looked in stunned horror at Alex. Incredibly intelligent, Alex was fast enough to note that the shadows should have not just flickered but been banished entirely by the intense light and that Elizabeth’s corneas should have burnt out. That just meant that when the darkness that had coiled about his great-great-niece leapt at him and transformed in to a young woman with her fist coming at him with a velocity measured in Mach numbers.
The uppercut she delivered would have taken his head off if he did not have his armour active, and as it was Alex found himself hurled through the air so hard he punched a new hole through the mansion with the passage of his body. Bursting out of the outer stone walls and rolling with extra momentum until he came to a stop at the feet of a brute that looked like the baby brother of a Hunter, but with only one eye.
Not even having to consider very hard on his next move, Alex grabbed the ankle of the creature and crushed down, pulping flesh and bone between his fingers. The beast screamed and tumbled even as the feeder tendrils erupted and began to punch into now much closer vital organs. Much to Alex’s delighted surprise, the creature’s flesh was mostly human so he could easily absorb and infect the biomass instead of having to actually digest it. He always hated that about most Outsiders, way too chewy and not enough nutrition.
Flipping to his feet in a fraction of a second, Alex found other fresh sacks of biomass milling about in terror, and while he did not have the time to examine the memories all that well, Alex quickly realized that he had actually just eaten one of the secondary commanders for this mission. There would be time for eliminating the riff-raff later. Right now he needed guns. Big guns.
The MV-16 Broadsword Main Battle Mech that air dropped behind Alex was probably a bit too convenient and overkill, even though he knew that it had been requested to deal with him, but he was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth. Dodging to the side as a much larger laser than the one he had previously stolen burned a neat line in the ground, turning soil to boiling clumps of glass Alex knew he had to act fast. The trouble with D-Engine combat vehicles, mecha especially, was that if you had sufficient balls you could kamikaze with a reactor overload, something that could prove fatal even for Alex. Fortunately he had left no one alive who could tell other people that if he got on to their war machines that was a death sentence, but he had made sure to keep ahead of the curve.
Flesh flowed and distorted, his right arm becoming a solid mass of muscle with oddly sculpted bones for bracing, while his hand transformed into a deadly sharp point with the same armour piercing properties as his sword. A modification of his whipfist morph, the harpoon was a very narrow purpose tool that excelled at one thing and one thing only. Dodging and weaving as the massive war machine tried to shoot and/or stomp him flat, Alex built up incredible hydraulic pressure within his arm as inhuman muscles squeezed together, pressurizing fluid in ways that it did not like. Finally, with a set of muscular releases that would have had Freud raise an eyebrow, Alex released his harpoon, sending the armour piercing projectile flying off at multiples of the speed of sound, trailing a thin but incredible strong line behind it.
Broadsword armour was amongst the toughest in the inventory of any mecha force, so by the time the harpoon reached the cockpit it was travelling at a relatively sedate thirty kilometres an hour. That meant that it was thus insufficient to kill the pilot instantly, even though getting a spike driven from his stomach through to his back was most certainly fatal. Alex knew that the giant battle machine jerking and faltering after he shot it must have devastated enemy morale, but the best was yet to come. A simple nerve impulse caused the harpoon to begin consumption of the pilot, tendrils loaded with viral assimilators spreading through the man’s body.
Then Alex reeled in the line, drawing his body to the mech, and then into it, squeezing his biomass through the hole he punched to the cockpit. In less than two heartbeats he was within the cockpit, full knowledge of all necessary codes granted to him by the pilot. Thumbing the radio control, Alex growled over the emergency broadcast channel so everyone would hear him, “Now I have a mech, ho ho ho.”
Firing up the charge beam, Alex drew a casual bead on the TACWAS gunship flying command and control two kilometres above in the air. An impossible shot, Alex still put the relativistic particle beam through the cockpit of the plane, vaporizing the mission commander and destroying the tactical network the enemy had been using to coordinate. Of course, it took a few centuries worth of experience with mecha combat to make such an insane shot look so easy, which meant that it was impossible from the perspective of someone who had not eaten enough mecha pilots to have accumulated that equivalent experience.
When Alex moved his machine, the Operator Effect had a rather unusual effect. The D-Engine wanted to create conformation between the motions of the machine to the structure of Alex’s soul, but he had no set self-image, no set body type. Instead of forcing either the machine to be humanoid or requiring efficiency damaging buffers, whenever Alex got in a D-Engine equipped machine he made it dance, made it flow like a fluid across the battlefield. The things he did with hover tanks were particularly traumatizing to those that thought mecha were hot shit. This combined with his vast collection of experiences made the fact that there were twenty suits of powered armour already deployed a completely unfair match.
Somewhat fortunately for the pilots of the powered armour, Alex was much more interested in retrieving Elizabeth from the hideously strong Outsider, and he had already left her alone for a good twenty to thirty seconds while he dealt with the morons who had started this mess in the first place. Much more unfortunate was the fact that the creature had exited the mansion from the hole Alex had made and was carrying the stolen laser cannon with the same ease Alex had. The creature targeted one of the inhuman creatures running about with this group and vaporized it with a single pull of the trigger.
Alex could swear that he heard her give out a girlish squeal of delight at the power of the weapon, so he flicked on the broadcast system and announced over his external speakers, “Mine’s bigger,” just before he bracketed her with a trio of shots from his laser cannon. Amazingly, she seemed to melt around the beams, flexing and twisting her body impossibly fast to dodge the shots.
It took Alex a second to put together her movements before he cried out, “Oh, you cheeky bitch!” It had been many decades since he had seen a Matrix reference, let alone one in combat.
“There is no spoon!” She shouted out while returning fire with her laser, which scattered off the Broadsword’s armour without doing any damage.
“Get a bigger gun!” Alex taunted while blowing apart the ground around the female creature, who responded by whipping across the battlefield faster than Alex could track the broadsword’s guns, perching on an Mk-5 Crusader armed with a plasma cannon and tearing the weapon out of the power armour’s grip so that she was now, in fact, armed with a bigger gun.
“Thanks for the advice!” The woman declared as she dual wielded the plasma and laser weapons, which was ridiculous looking even for Alex. The fact that she could fire them both simultaneously and keep them on target enough that both could pound into the same place repeatedly kept him from giving her further advice.
Fortunately, the third participant in the current fight decided that they had weapons better able to deal with the target not in the mech, so a storm of metal impacted into the inhuman girl, splattering half her body across the landscape. Instead of keeling over dead, the damage just seemed to annoy her, and amorphous shadows and blood wrapped around the plasma cannon, keeping it supported.
Blowing up an Mk-10 Centurion armed with a charge beam before it could sneak up on his rear, Alex taunted, “Your bloody arm’s off!”
“‘Tis but a scratch!” The girl replied.
“Scratch this,” Alex retorted as he leapt his Broadsword across the battlefield, next to a trio of surprised Crusaders armed with rocket pods. While firing his laser cannon to keep her pinned down he spun and kicked one of the smaller war machines in her direction. She easily sidestepped the crude projectile, but that was not Alex’s objective. His charge beam was back to full power, and his target was the powered armour tumbling through the air. His shot was true and cooked off the rockets and several other volatile systems, which also dumped the energy of the beam into the local atmosphere, turning a volume of space that included the girl into a ball of superheated plasma. A second later the D-Cells powering her weapons also overloaded, triggering secondary explosions.
In an instant, the girl was on Alex’s mech, pummelling its front plate with her fists and causing dents in the dense, strong material. Her whole body looked charred, but shadows and droplets of blood floating around her were already regenerating the damage. Somewhere in between her insanely strong punches she managed to get out. “I liked those bloody guns you ass!”
Pressing a few buttons that had rather large ‘Do Not Touch’ warnings on them, Alex prepared the sort of attack that he hoped would put this bitch down. Extending a hyper edged blade from one of the arms of his hijacked Broadsword and punched his torso with it, pinning the girl like a stuck butterfly, even though she looked more annoyed than hurt.
“Was that supposed to do anything?” She asked mockingly.
“No,” Alex replied just as he pressed two buttons simultaneously. The first was the ejector system that fired the entire cockpit out as an environmentally sealed whole. The second was the final button in the sequence that overrode all of the safety features that kept the D-Engine from overloading and triggering a Horizon Event.
Alex missed the days of internal combustion because when vehicles blew up these days they rarely caught fire afterward, but a battlefield Horizon Event was always spectacular to see. Reality twisted and buckled, alien energies pouring out from the ruptured D-Engine and converting regular matter into oddly-excited plasma that expanded through bent time in slow motion. Normal physics soon reasserted itself, but for a horrible moment the monstrosity of the cosmos was exposed for all to see in its sanity blasting glory.
Mercer could look at that sort of thing all day it was so beautiful.
Then time snapped back to normal and the Broadsword was ground zero for a rather incredible, and equally beautiful in Alex’s opinion, explosion. The overpressure wave knocked the escape pod out of the air, and had Alex been mortal he would have been killed either by the shockwave or by his pod’s impact with the ground and subsequent disintegration. Climbing out of the wreckage, his right arm morphing into a blade, he immediately advanced towards the still glowing tear in reality. Sometimes things could crawl out after a Horizon Event and the Chrysalis troops would still be on their asses so the biggest threat to Elizabeth was…
Alex paused at the edge of the crater where the girl lay sprawled on the sickly melted ground, bits and pieces of her body reassembling itself from nothing at all. Alex glared at her for a long time before he said, “Bull. Shit.”
Rising erect like a vampire from a bad movie a century ago, the girl replied, “I could say the same about that last attack.”
“What does it take to kill you?” Alex demanded.
“A lady never tells,” the girl replied as her face warped into a shark toothed smile. It took barely any time at all for her to be upon him, but Alex was quicker on foot than in a giant mech and he managed to keep up with her, his sword flashing and dancing between them, warding away her clawing strikes. Her skills were phenomenal and were backed up by strength and speed greater than his own, but the moves were very similar to his own claw attacks and he had clearly practiced them a great deal more than she had. She pushed him back, but also had to keep regenerating her fingers as he loped them off while parrying her strikes.
Finally fed up with not being able to tear him apart properly, the girl withdrew a fist and lashed out with one of her anti-material punches. Alex caught it along the flat of his sword in such a way that his entire body was braced against the blow, which sent him flying. This however was part of his plan and just before impact he tagged her with his left hand, which had morphed into a set of grasping claws set at the end of a long tentacle. Alex flew about a hundred metres, at which point the line went taut and the girl grunted as she kept her ground.
Then, like an elastic band, Alex’s tentacle snapped him back. Sword held in front of him like an executioner’s axe, he plummeted back to the girl faster than he had left, on a guided track for her. The girl had just enough time to say “Oh,” before Alex hit her like the fist of an angry god, the physical blow digging the crater deeper while his sword punched straight through her heart. The feeder tendrils came out…
…and found dead flesh. Whatever the thing was made of, she was not biomass, even as the squirming, razor sharp tentacles tried to rip her to shreds from the inside out to feed. The sensation was even more disconcerting than the first time Alex had tried to feed on a Migou and discovered just how different they were from Earth life, because he got the distinct impression that he should have been able to subvert whatever it was that she was made of.
The girl looked at him with a weird mixture of horror, annoyance, and respect before she exclaimed, “Naughty tentacle monster!” Then, instead of hurling him off, she stretched her jaws wide and wrapped her teeth around his neck, punching through his armour as she sought blood. What she got was a slurry of viral matter and fluid, which she spat out in disgust as Alex withdrew his tentacles.
Stepping away from each other, the girl spitting in disgust while Alex shook out his tentacles in a manner only describable via a metaphor that induces ocular bleeding in humans, they both could tell that neither would be trying to eat the other again anytime soon. They both asked in unison, “What are you?”
“Ahem, if I might interrupt?” A voice over a speaker said, and both Alex and the girl turned their head to find a suit of power armour pointing a plasma cannon at Elizabeth’s head.
“Mistress!” The girl cried out, but she did not move.
“Wait what?” Alex demanded, snapping his head back around to the girl. He saw the look on her face and then said, “Cease fire?”