The team that simply went by the codename X was a well kept secret. So much that the team wasn’t known to the majority of the British Government, only a select few in MI5 and the Shadow Cabinet had even heard of the name. It was of course all for good reason, they were still in the testing phase where SS1 could hide any evidence of their existence if the project was deemed unreliable and it allowed the higher-ups to deny their involvement of any project they didn’t particularly know about.
The ten young men involved were being observed, going through the preparations needed to execute Phase 2 of Project Outsider.
The ten young men involved were being observed, going through the preparations needed to execute Phase 2 of Project Outsider.
For once everyone was silent.
“Energy levels at 95% and charging.” A technician at a computer announced.
Several men in white uniforms were at monitors and tapping away at the keyboards in front of their faces. Johnson was behind them, overseeing everything from a command post that gave him instant updates from everyone.
“Suits are optimized for post-apocalyptic territory simulations.”
The ten were fully dressed now, wearing what was known as Adaptive Personal Armour. Comprised of a helmet, chest piece, arm guards and boots, the armour boosted the natural abilities of its user, allowing them to perform feats that would usually be thought impossible.
The helmet not only protected the head from injury but provided visual information to the user, from commands sent by their superiors to targeting information in battle. It was equipped with low level liquid display screens that didn't hinder the user sight yet could filter out harsh light and avert the user's’ attention from visual attacks. The shell of the helmet was made of a special material that protected the user from sonic interference attacks and transcranial magnetic stimulation.
The body armour was made of a similar magnetic material that also housed the main computer behind the APA system. The computer chip ran on experimental energy that increased in speed and efficiency when brought into contact with the correct power source. The body armour allowed a soldier to place weapons or items of importance directly on the body itself, sticking to the metal because of its transmagnetic nature. Items could then be removed by those wearing an arm guard that is authorised or linked to the helmet of the user.
The boots were mostly made of a light carbon fibre coated with Flame retardants. Although the whole suit was covered with these chemicals the boots required extra layers because of their ability to propel wearers upwards. Embedded with the latest technology in rocket engines and propulsion mechanisms the boots could sustain flight for short periods in time, however it caused energy fluctuations that temporarily disabled most of the other components of the suit.
Under the APA, team X were required to wear a nerve suit. These were always worn by the members of the team as it were partially integrated with their bodies. The nerve suit provided real time information to the APA parts and lessened the force from physical impacts. This arrangement left the members of team X covered from head to toe, leaving no room for weak spots.
The leader of the ten men, known as Captain Shawn Hiltson was testing out the weapons system that was designed to be used with the APA’s. The Armatix Digital Revolver was first a digital handgun that required an authorised user’s fingerprint to fire. The APA version was linked to a user’s helmet, which provided authorisation and aiming reticules for the shooter which allowed the wielder to aim correctly thanks to the calibration signal sent between the devices. The other weapons used the same authorisation system as the hand gun, differentiating from sniper rifles and submachine guns to semi-automatic shotguns. The wielder could aim and the system would instantaneously provide correction for the predicted accuracy of the shot.
However if there was one thing that Shawn Hiltson knew it was that one couldn't rely on technology alone. It was his instance that made the armour light enough to move around in even when unpowered. It was lighter than the standard military pack yet provided more protection than state of the art combat armour. Shawn grimaced as he weighed the standard APA Revolver in his hand, although it was linked to his helmet to shoot only when he held it he disliked the idea that it was linked to the suit, of course with a bit of tinkering around he was able to bypass that feature, something he didn't plan on sharing anytime soon.
He looked up where he knew Johnson was monitoring them.
"Good, then you'll roll out in ten,"
Shawn heard the reply that sounded completely uninterested.
The team were dropped in silently, the plane hardly made a sound as it landed half a kick away from the Tower of London. Lt. Mark Jackson was the first to comment, providing his standard vulgar commentary about the abrupt change in the landscape.
“I’ve seen better maps in FPS games.”
“Except this isn’t a game, no one designed it.”
“That’s what they want you to think, I bet there’s a god-hand out here designing everything for his amusement.”
“You really need to lay-off the manga.”
Shawn grimaced as he continued to monitor his surroundings, the helmet he wore quickly scanning the horizon and looking for threats. He noted that several holes in the ground contained balls of metal that lined up with their objective. It irked him that Johnson had only briefly outlined what they needed to do and the fact that he called them test subjects was an insult he decided to keep to himself.
“We know! We all use the same helmet.”
“Heh, such a rookie.”
“Quite team, we’re moving out.”
Shawn led his men to the first crater that was near them, the whole time two scouts on three sides were ensuring that no threat came within their perimeter. The remaining four stepped into the shallow dip and started digging out the metal shards that littered the area. The captain picked up a larger piece and as advised used the augmented strength of the suit to compress the metal. If it wasn’t for the suit's ability to siphon energy from the metal this feat wouldn’t have been possible but by using an oxidation-reduction reaction method that worked at the atomic level this function was made possible.
Shawn nodded as he too witnessed the energy and efficiency levels in his suit rising due to contact with the strange metal. Once he’d flattened the piece he held in his hand enough he placed the contents in a small compartment in his suit that allowed it to continually draw power without manually holding the source.
“I hate this,”
I walked down the road with anticipation as we reached the central parts of London. For the past hour I had tried to get rid of the armour I wore but it stubbornly refused to go away. Having asked Judy about her bow she simply stated that it didn’t bother her to carry it before chiding me for being weak.
“So what now?”
I asked, looking towards Sam who had refused to look at me since then.
“Nothing’s changed since last time, we’re going to meet up with the others.”
Her voice was much colder than usual, enough to give me the chills.
Judy, who had been walking ahead of us suddenly stopped. Her face suddenly became extremely pale.
She was standing at the entrance to another road that we couldn’t see but when we reached her we too shared the same sentiment.
There were dead people everywhere.
Most were normal people, some wearing suits, regular clothing and a few in police uniforms. All were killed in the same way, their faces had been opened and skull removed. Their bodies were left sprawled about in a random fashion.
Sam was the first to react, moving out of sight where I could hear her retch in disgust. Judy had remained oddly quiet, her eyes studying each body carefully. I too wanted to know what had done this but couldn’t bear looking at any one person for too long.
Judy was the first to speak.
“We should move on,”
I agreed, nodding my head before walking towards Sam as she tried to clean herself up with the limited resources we had scavenged.
“Are you ok?”
Sam turned to face me, unable to speak due to her quick breathing but her eyes spoke leaps and bounds more than simple words could. I could almost feel her pain and anger yet I also saw something within her that was afraid, something I couldn’t comfort or help. After a few moments she did calm down and gave me a pained look that killed whatever happy thoughts I wanted to muster at that moment.
“You’re right, we need to go.”
She got up, finding the strength to keep on moving before walking up to Judy who still looked around with suspicion, her animal-like eyes scanning the area quicker than I could imagine. I found it hard to image these two acting accustomed to such a scene but I too was forced to endure as we prepared to depart.
We froze in place, perturbed by the horrific screams that came from further down the street of dead. The road itself leading towards a building which had half-collapsed but created an entrance much like a cave.
“Of course we’re going!”
Sam would insist and whether she was using her ability or not I found it hard to resist the idea of running towards the source of that voice. As a general rule of thumb if a person screams run. That was the kind of life I lived by but as chance would allow I couldn’t help but follow as Judy led us past the bodies into the heart of the ruined building.
I quickly noticed that there were dead here too. Not only normal people but I quickly spied one or two that wore leather hide, a third that once wore steel plating and a fourth that was surrounded by an absurd amount of daggers.
“Are these all special people?”
“I assume so.”
Query: Status of Deceased
Answer: Once were Humans
Previous Query: Spherical Meteorite Analysis
Answer: Still Pending
I almost swore at the thing in my head that couldn’t give me a straight answer yet calmed myself as I concluded that the area must be actively dangerous. If the thing that killed these people could take down police officers and more armed humans than their small group then they’d certainly need to be careful.
“Why did we split up from those other stuck up people?”
Judy asked a valid question to a certain degree but I had no answers and neither did Sam who looked about nervously as she stepped past furniture and walls that had fallen over. The voice that had called for help was silent but we didn’t call out either. It wasn’t that we didn’t care but deep down we all acknowledged that alerting the monster out there of our presence would be stupid.
Of course it didn’t help that I tripped over a metal pole, broke through a loose panel on the floor and fell right in front of a small child that looked at me dumbfounded.
“Hey are you ok!”
“What kind of question is that? Do you think I’d be ok?”
“Well you are wearing armour.”
Judy was technically right, again.
I looked away from the crack on the wall where I could barely see Sam and Judy’s faces and turned towards the small girl that almost looked like a doll, wearing an unusually clean white dress despite her surroundings. Her face, like that of an innocent angel, brought memories of the days I’d spend reading stories about comparably cute girls and their exploits. Sometimes oblivious, other times a little tongue and cheek but certainly something that’d bring a smile to anyone’s face. This girl in front of me with her red hair that spiralled to her shoulder tilted her head ever so slightly sideways before calling out to me again.
“Not to interrupt your stupidity, but if you’re going to kill that thing do it quickly!”
The girl, whom I thought to be like a sweet angel, suddenly bore an expression that rivalled Judy’s icy cold stare and pointed behind me. Turning dumbfounded I realised that there was indeed someone or rather something behind me, banging on the glass of a revolving door.
Although it stood like a man, its head was that of a Bull Frog and its hands seemed to resemble Bear heads themselves. Its lower body was a tangled mess, legs appearing from a round protrusion like a spider yet it's very feet were thick, deformed and crooked in places.
“What is that thing?”
“How the hell am I supposed to know!?”
Although I wasn’t asking her I agreed that such an abomination couldn’t possibly have a name.
Species: I don’t know.
“Useless piece of shit!”
Thankfully my insult came out barely louder than a whisper so the girl wouldn’t have thought I was speaking to her, but having lost my composure in front of the not so innocent girl I quickly collected myself and walked towards the monster. Before it its pounding was quite subtle, hardly enough to leave a dent in the thick glass that made up the doors but as I neared it the creature sensed my presence, it’s thrashing becoming more and more ferocious.
“You idiot, what are you doing?”
I ignored the small girl behind me and continued to approach the monster, my hands clenched tightly around the hilt of my sword.
“Hey, get back!”
“What’s he doing?”
The voices of my companions were seemingly concerned but I didn’t think to reassure them right now, all my attention focused on the monster ahead of me, my body unable to stop moving closer and closer towards it. In response to my almost hypnotic walk towards it the creature’s thrashing intensified, cracks appearing in the glass panel that separated it from me.
With a punch that used a lot more effort the glass broke, although not enough for the creature to force its way through. The revolving door appeared to be made out of bulletproof glass, a fact that the computer in my head finally decided to let me know. I continued watching as the monster starting using it’s toughened but deformed hands to pull away at the glass, estimating that in half a minute it would make a hole large enough to fit through.
“Hey, where are your parents?”
I turned slightly as I asked the small girl my question, remembering to keep an eye on the monster. For the first time the small red-haired girl seemed genuinely sad and shook her head, instantly making me feel guilty I asked.
I looked away and grimaced as I heard the small girl cry quietly, she must have been no more than 12 years old so it was a miracle in itself that she lasted this long.
“Don’t worry, I won’t let anything happen to you.”
Although I had just spoken it wasn’t me, instead the thing inside me that took over whenever it felt like spoke for me.
“Who said I wanted that!”
The small girl spoke without thinking of the current situation, her anger directed towards me. I decided to ignore her last comment as the creature starting trying to force its way into the room.
“At least let me know your name, I’ve been calling you ‘small girl’ in my mind all this time…”
“Hmm, I’m Lillian Kay McRodden or Miss McRodden to you.”
I didn’t have enough time to retort as the creature suddenly plunged through the hole it had made and swiped for my head, barely missing as I dodged backwards in time. Lillian let out a small shriek as I dodged every swipe of the open jaws that made up its hands. When this wouldn’t work it would use its spider-like legs to quickly move around me and charge, though my ability to turn on the stop exceeded its own as it coordinated its many legs.
“Watch out for its mouth!”
Lillian shouted out words of warning that I didn’t understand until it opened its large jaw and a razorblade shot out at a blinding speed, knocking the sword out of my hand and hitting me with the leathery skin of its lounge that knocked me into the ground.
“I told you!”
I seriously wanted to tell her to shut up at that moment but I wasn’t afforded the opportunity as the creature let out a horrified screech as an arrow found itself embedded into its head.
“Hey, are you ok?”
It was Sam who asked the question, skirting round the monster in pain to help me up, my sword in her left hand.
“Well I’m still alive,”
Giving me a confused expression I simply sighed before taking my sword back.
“What do we do?”
Judy was the one who asked this time as she also rushed to our side. Her bow ready to let loose another arrow. For a moment I worried what would happen once she used up her arrows as only 6 remained but she didn’t seem worried as she let lose another one which bounced off the monster thick skin and fell to the floor.
“We need a plan.”
Honestly I felt a bit useless. There was no need to test whether my blade could slice through the tough skin of the creature, we didn’t have enough arrows to sustain range and Sam didn’t have any offensive abilities that we knew of. I wanted to consider asking her to simply talk to it but the thought was too crazy to actually suggest. Fortunately it was Lillian who stepped up, her whole body seemingly glowing with a crimson intensity.
Sam and Judy turned to question me before also noticing that the girl was glowing. Her expression one between rage as she raised her hand and unwillingly let out a wave of red light that enveloped Judy and I. For a moment we were confused, looking between ourselves for an answer but then Judy noticed that the tip of her arrowheads were red and slightly powdery she understood what was happened.
Within seconds she let loose two arrows, each one creating a strange flame as they pierced the monster's skin, the smell of burning flesh quickly nauseating me as well as my companions who looked away in disgust. Mustering up what little courage was left in my body I leapt forwards and sliced off one of the hands the creature was using to claw out the flaming arrows. However it didn’t take too nicely to my attack and lashed out again with its tongue, but this time Judy pierced the area between the bladed tip and leathery length of it which resulted in the tip falling to the floor and the rest burning away.
The cries of the monster had then turned to that of confusion as it must have wondered why a small group were able to best it in combat. It quickly turned tail and ran off, back through the hole it had made and quickly out of sight. I thought of chasing after it but I was too exhausted to even try, the cumulative actions I had taken today more tiresome than anything I’d done in my entire life.
“Oi, what did you do?”
Judy had marched up to Lillian and asked, her expression a mixture of confusion and annoyance despite the fact that we’d just won the fight.
“Is that really necessary?”
I found myself nodding as Sam asked the question in Lillian’s defence although to the small girl’s credit she matched Judy’s icy glare before tilting her head upwards and letting out a small ‘hmn’ before walking towards me.
“Thank you. Despite your lack of common sense you did save me.”
I gave a small smile as she spoke, her words coming out more genuine than I thought possible but as she turned her head and finished her sentence I grimaced.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Don’t tell me that I need to explain myself to you?”
Although it was framed as a question I could clearly see the intent behind the insult. Normally I wouldn’t listen to those kind of words but given the situation and the way she occasionally eyed the scratches on my hand I decided to allow it for once.
“Anyway, we should get moving.”
I gave an awkward smirk as Lillian fumed silently, before looking back at the only exit to the room.
“I guess we need to go in that direction, hopefully it won’t come back.”
Sam and Judy gave me an odd look as they glanced towards Lillian. For a moment I didn’t understand their intentions until it occurred that I was essentially leading a 12 year old girl into an unknown situation. Quickly wanting to clear up any misconceptions I turned to the small girl who eyed me curiously.
“Is there anyone we can bring you to that you know?”
Lillian bit her lip, looking away momentarily before giving me a hurt look.
Judy has asked, her voice as icy as ever.
“Yes, there’s no one left alive that would take me in.”
I didn’t need to be a psychologist to tell that we were putting Lillian into distress but fortunately Sam did us all a favour by speaking up for her again.
“She has to come with us, it would be dangerous any other way. Not to mention what she did helped us defeat that thing. Do you really intend on leaving her behind?”
The last question was directed at Judy who gave a dismissive shrug but when Sam turned to face me I simply nodded, letting her know I agreed that taking Lillian with us was the best option. The small girl that was listening to us beamed when she heard Sam’s appreciation of her support and did a small bow towards her before standing beside her.
“I guess that’s that.”
I led us out. Fortunately we didn’t run into any hostile forces but I ran ahead of the group and moved any bodies out of the way before Lillian could see them with Judy’s help. It wouldn’t have set well with my conscious if I let her see such a horrific sight. By the time we were back on the street it was already late in the afternoon and coming up to evening. My fears that things in the night would find us heightened with every second, the faces of Sam and Judy also concerned as they would often glance at the setting sun.
But my fears were for nothing as Judy with her superior eyes spotted Angelica surrounded by several others, including the other guy that we had seen with her earlier. Upon arriving close to the small group, Angelica eased any suspicious the others has by approaching us with a friendly smile.
“I’m glad you guys could make it, although it seems you’ve picked up another?”
She looked at Lillian and gave a soft smile, her eyes seemed to say she knew what she had gone through.
“My name is Angelica Bedviel, might I know who you are?”
It was strange seeing this older and graceful person curtsy to the child but when Lillian herself returned the bow it was clear that they came from the same type of world.
“Lillian Kay McRodden, it’s a pleasure. Are you not from here?”
I too found myself wanting to ask that question. At first I hadn’t noticed it but when Angelica told use her last name I noticed that she did look more foreign than most people, although when living in London that wasn’t such a big deal.
“I’m surprised you asked but no I’m not British. I’m……or rather was a foreign exchange student. By mother Italian and my father American.”
“Didn’t you say your father works for the Ministry of Defence?”
Judy gave Angelica another sceptical look. I didn’t know what her problem with her was, especially as she’s been nothing but helpful so far.
“Yes, that’s indeed true. He used to work for an arms company in the States but was offered a job here when we moved a few years ago.”
The others around us nodded, taken in by her friendly and formal nature of the girl in front of us. The only person that seemed uninterested was the guy that has saved Sam during that fight, his body was turned away from us and he seemed to be monitoring our surroundings. Thinking nothing of it I approached him whilst the others were still talking.
“Hey…..um, do you have any idea what’s happening?”
The boy turned around and I got a good look at him. With hair cut short military style and a tanned face I couldn’t help but admit that he looked a lot more comfortable with this situation than I was.
“Why would I know anything?”
“I don’t know, sorry.”
“It’s nothing to be sorry about.”
It felt awkward talking to him, he didn’t seem like the sort of person to hold a conversation but something within me said I should try to speak with him.
“I can see things.”
For the first time the guy turned to face me properly with a confused expression.
“What do you mean you can see things……like ghosts?”
I shook my head, somewhat glad that he was interested in what I was saying.
“There’s this thing in my head that tell me things, like information of enemies and other things.”
He froze for a second, I could see his eyes boring down on me with intense suspicious as if he was contemplating whether I was a friend of foe. For several seconds I felt like walking away to the safety of my friends but I held his gaze, resulting in the guy smiling for the first time.
“Glad I’m not the only one then. Nice to meet you David, the names Zack, stop referring to me as guy ok?”
“How did you know my name? Wait….no, how’d you know I was thinking of that?”
Zack chuckled loudly, his voice catching Angelica’s attention as she started walking our way.
“This thing in our heads can communicate you know, I’ve been doing it all this time with Angel. Or at least ever since the light hit us.”
“So you’ve been getting information too?”
Zack’s face grew stiff, he regarded me with a grave expression before glancing at Angelica who stood beside him.
“Don’t worry about him, this guy is one paranoid weirdo. He would rather go in blind with his own instinct than rely on a system he doesn’t trust. In fact it took almost a year for him to trust me!”
She chuckled, resulting in Zack turning away in a soft grumble, I could swear he was stealing glances at the girl which made me wonder if the two were together in any way. Although, before I could say another word Angelica fiercely blushed, stepping away from Zack and coughing in embarrassment.
“You think too loudly.”
Zack regarded me with a straight expression, refusing to look at Angelica.
“Try to conceal your thoughts more, I swear I could hear you thinking every time you wear that armour of yours.”
Angelica sighed, regaining her composure as she glanced at the others who were all talking amongst themselves.
“If we concentrate our body gets enveloped with a metal armour right? It acts like a microphone, making any thoughts we think much easier for others to hear. Zack and I tested this a while back after meeting you guys. Your thoughts went on and off periodically so we assumed you were trying to take it off?”
“Yeah, I suppose I was……wait, you know how to take it off?”
I glanced down to my body, although I wasn’t wearing it now I could feel it ready to form at any second. No matter what I’d tried nothing would work so I just assumed it wasn’t possible.
“Did you try thinking the words armatura?
“Yes, it’s Latin for Armour. Thinking it with the intention of putting it on or off should be enough to do it. Why that word is the keyword I wouldn’t know but it works with us.”
I sighed, wondering just as Angelica had why someone in their right mind would use a dead language to active armour, but as she has suggested when I thought the Latin word I felt that familiar weight on my body again.
“Gold isn’t that bad, it’s better than the black armour I wear.”
Angelica sighed with a soft smile. Although she didn’t show off her armour my mind could help but imagine how it looked on her, the black plates of metal shaped around her slim yet curvy body. Her current attire, the uniform she wore, showed off her toned legs and her blazer fit more tightly than I thought possible around her body, showing off her figure in a way that some might see as lascivious.
I then thought about Sam. With my mind going into overdrive I couldn’t help but imagine what she would look like in armour too. Although she was perkier than Angelica in more ways than one I knew I wouldn’t mind, or rather I’d find it that much more attractive. Like any man finding out about a new fetish I mentally explored as many colours, types of armour or lack of armour as possible, not even noticing the expression that I held on my face.
All of that froze when I came back to my senses moments later. Angelica had taken several steps away, standing behind Zack with a worried look on her face. Zack on the other hand seemed to be holding in his laughter.
I made a note to start working on hiding my thoughts as soon as I could, the fact that they could listen in like that much scarier than I imagined and certainly more embarrassing than I could stand to say. I walked away from the two, not daring to look back as I approached Sam, Judy and Lillian. They, or rather Judy, seemed aware of my current state of mind as she gave me a terrifying sneer.
“Your face is all flushed, you were thinking about Sammy-Chan weren’t you?”
Sam looked at me with a flushed face, her eyes questioned whether it was true or not. Unfortunately I couldn’t deny it without lying.
“See, he’s not denying it!”
I mentally swore at Judy, as both Sam started trying to look inconspicuous and Lillian was simply confused.
“What do you mean by Sammy-Chan?”
Sam and I spoke at the same time, we glanced at each other for a split second but I was unable to hold that gaze, my embarrassment too high to look at her right now. My mind was so focused on looking away that I almost missed when Judy leant towards Lillian’s side and started whispering. Not one to use violence I couldn’t help but push Judy out of the way, willing to take any punishment she could dish out if it meant not corrupting Lillian’s mind.
“Hey, get off me!”
“Then quit it!”
“As if I’ll stop because you told me to.”
“Name your price.”
That seemed to work. Judy pulled away and gave me her most cruel smile to date, her eyes calculating all the ways she could mess with me. But unfortunately for her and the rest of us a large explosion took out a small building nearby and the sound of gunfire could be heard. Everyone froze, except for Angelica and Zack who ran in front of the group and tried to monitor the situation.
“Get everyone out of here now!”
Zack almost growled to Angelica but she understood his reasoning and dashed back, motioning for us to follow. Anyone with a right mind followed her immediately and those that felt a bit brave were quickly deterred by sound of a monster growling like a Lion.
Previous Chapter | Main Page | Next Chapter
Previous Chapter | Main Page | Next Chapter