The day was lost. The enemy had routed our forces to nothing, crushing us in an ambush. Despite a valiant effort, there was no other option left to us now other than retreating. One of my arms had been blown off at the elbow, the hinge destroyed and wires sparking and hissing angrily.
I ran across the wall, dodging bullets as they flew my way. With a vault and a scrambling climb, I'm on the roof, still sprinting for dear life.
"Head to the extraction point, Corporal," buzzes in my ear.
Safety lay dead ahead of me, twenty meters. All I must do is keep my momentum, just keep running across rooftops and defying death.
"Anderson," I hear over the comms. "I need some back-up!"
"What's your situation?"
Now's not the best time for a rescue operation. The clock's ticking and the pursuer on my tail means the candle is burning at both ends for me.
"Two Atlas-class hardsuits on my six. Both have particle cannons and both are out for blood." The sound of said particle cannons discharging followed through the transmission, punctuating his sentence.
I slide down a broken skylight, rolling under a set of stairs, away from any open windows or door frames. I check the mini-map on my HUD for Anderson's position. He's not too far away, a klick and a half to the east and heading toward the LZ. I check the time. Only forty seconds before takeoff. Gotta think quick. Three pissed off hardsuits toting weapons that could vaporize both us in one hit are closing in on us.
"Is your hardsuit ready for deployment?" I ask him, an idea slowly forming in my mind.
"Yeah," Anderson replies. "You got an idea?"
"A stupid one. More like something Dominguez would cook up. Just keep running towards the dropship and stay alive. Once you're at the ship, deploy your hardsuit."
"Acknowledged, see you then, Walker."
A sigh escapes my lips. Well, escapes my voice box. I haven't had lips for almost two years. Having a metal body has its advantages. Not having lips is not one of those advantages. Not having to sweat, however, is. If I were still flesh and bone, I'd be sweating bullets and pissing myself. Probably would have earlier come to think of it.
Twenty seconds, time to up that stupid idea of mine into effect.
I make a mad dash for the dropship, painting a dropzone for my hardsuit in front of the blown-out building I was using for cover. I don't bother to look back as the familiar boom of my hardsuit's entrance into the planet's atmosphere.
An explosion goes off behind me as the hardsuit impacts the dirt below. A moment later, another explosion sounds as Anderson's hardsuit makes its own appearance.
“Greetings, Corporal Walker,” the hardsuit’s AI says in my head. “How may I kill your enemies today?” Their voice is monotone, but carries a strange kind of cadence to it, all wrapped up in a vaguely English sounding accent.
“I’m sorry,” I reply.
I set the hardsuit's AI to auto-pilot.
“Initiating auto-pilot mode,” the Atlas-class AI says.
I can't help but feel like I'm betraying a friend, leaving them to die while I run away. I’ve been with that stupid machine for more than two years, keeping merc scum off our worlds and looking good while doing it. Leaving him to die here seems wrong.
But I shake away those feelings. People die, machines break. The grinding wheels of war turn ever onward. Anderson's hardsuit unleashes a hail of bullets, tearing into the two Atlases that were chasing him.
Five seconds left. Anderson is already on the ship and I'm just a yard away. If I still had a nose, I bet I could smell exhaust fumes and the heat given off from the EM Drive as it cycles for jump sequence. Anderson hangs out of the ship, arm outstretched, calling for me to take it.
I lead into the air, the jumpkit strapped to me letting me jump farther than I could unaided. I grab onto his wrist and he pulls me in. The doors snap closed behind me and the ship rises into the air. I can't help but look down.
Sure enough, our hardsuits are being torn to shreds by particle cannon fire and rotary gun bullets. They give them hell though, fighting until their reactors give out and go out in explosive glory. Anderson's suit tackles one of the ones that were pursuing him and detonates while mine hacks away with its sword, cutting limbs from bodies and reliving pilots of their lives. The image remains in my mind even after the jump.
Anderson slaps me on the back, a grin on his face. "Quick thinking there, Walker."
"Had to think of something. Figured throwing away our mechanical buddies was better than dying on some backwater planet battlefield."
"In any case," he says, taking his helmet off. "We're alive."
"Yeah." I slump back into a seat, thoroughly exhausted. "At least we're alive."