The squealing of machines and the roar of their oil spewing motors filled his ears. The screaming of hydraulic breaks and the smell of burnt rubber was all that he could sense. With a sudden burst of energy he managed to throw his weight into the robot attacking him, he gripped the edge of a broken beam and swung his boot into the robot, impaling it on the other half of the broken beam. Up allowed himself to fall into the carnage that lay underfoot, a mix of human and robot entrails, and rested for a few precious moments. The carnage that lay before him was nothing new; weakly, he struggled out of the pile of smoking robots and human remains. The impaled robot was still functioning, Up dug around for a zapper, found one off a dead comrade and used it to kill the robot. The overpowering stench of the battlefield made him sneeze. He grimly looked over his battlefield, cursing silently, where did those goddamned autobots retreat to? With difficulty, he slid down the pile of broken robots he had managed to defeat. It looked like the main battalion had given him up for dead. He furrowed his forehead, where could they have headed? There were no big cities nearby... His crackling radio brought his attention to the mission he had probably failed.
"Shit!" angrily he spat on the ground, trying to get the taste of motor oil and copper wires out of his mouth before answering, "Lieutenant Up. Out." There was a moment of static then," UP!" the voice at the other end screeched, "You're alive!" He held the radio away from his face, grimacing, "The only one alive. The rest of my squad was... murdered. Or in pursuit of the autobots."
Shakily, the voice on the other side responded," Well, the good news is that someone from your squad managed to place a tracer on the autobot leading the main attack. Your squad managed to decimate more than two-thirds of the original group. The Commander wants you to head back to base. There's nothing more you can do Lieutenant."
"Got it," heavily, Lieutenant Up turned back, snagging the discarded zapper from the ground again. He should have been exhausted, he probably had several broken ribs and a fractured leg but with the adrenaline pumping through him, all he could discern from his surroundings was the blood and motor oil mixing at his soles as he started his trek back to base.
Up propped himself against half a wall and tried to figure out where he was headed. The standard issue tracker was still functional according to the static pinch he felt when he touched the nape of his neck. GLEE would hopefully send someone out to retrieve him…
Ten minutes later he began seeing medics converging on the battlefield behind him. Some offered to help him but he waved the green-swathed doctors away. With a sigh of relief he spied a dark blue and chrome jeep in the distance, bumper shining and rims spinning, the driver was a clean-cut ensign whose uniform didn't sport a single dead Goddamned wrinkle. The relief of being retrieved evaporated at the sight of the baby-faced ensign, he silently clambered into the back, refusing to look at the boy. He was too well-fed, too cheery.
"Damn sir! Your leg bone is sticking out!" The ensign twisted around in his seat.
"Shut up ensign and drive," drawled Up, before pulling his bandana low over his eyes. The ensign reddened and roughly spun the jeep towards base, zigzagging around pot holes and trees and demolished buildings, careful of the medics and their patients. Up clung to the back seat, with the adrenaline wearing off he didn't dare look at his leg; didn't dare to look at himself at all. The ensign however, wasn't as worried and he openly gawped at the lieutenant through the rear-view mirror.
The Lieutenant's left shin bone was shattered and had ripped the skin open, his chest was oddly bumpy and there was a huge gash on the side of his neck, his hands were torn to shreds, nails hung off strands of skin and several fingers were clearly dislocated. When they arrived at base, which was a collection of low slung metal and wood buildings placed in neat rows, Up jumped from the jeep and began walking to Commander's building.
"Um, Lieutenant Up?" the ensign nervously approached him from behind.
"What?" growled Up, not slowing down.
"You are supposed to report to the medical building first. Uh, sir."
He stopped and almost laughed at himself, Up had completely forgotten about his injuries. "Right." he did a right turn and limped towards the squat building with the bright green crescent moon splashed across all of its doors and roof.
Up stepped into the smell of antiseptic with undertones of blood, there were a few patients inside and quite a large number of staff lounging around.
"Lieutenant!" a lanky man angrily shouted at him as soon as he stepped foot inside the hospital, "What the hell do you think you're doing?!" Up shrugged and went to sit on one of the hospital beds, "I thought I'd come in and get patched before I went to report on today's mission." The medic angrily retrieved a metal trolley from the edge of the large ground floor room and threw supplies onto it before loping over to Up. He called out to some nurses to come and help him. "I meant, what the fuck do you think you're doing walking around with half of your bone exposed?" Up opened his mouth but was interrupted by the same medic, "Don't answer that! Just zip-it and don't move." Amused, Up leaned back into the soft hospital pillow and let a tiny smile float across his face before grimacing at the needle that pinched his thigh. He braved a glance at his leg, his pant-leg had been cut away, he immediately regretted seeing his own bone. "At least it was a clean break, you're a lucky sonovabitch. "
"Thanks for not being an asshole, Mac," Up rolled his eyes towards the ceiling before closing them again.
Up tried to sit up but Mac pushed him back down, "I'm gonna give you local anesthesia so you'll feel completely numb but still be awake. Think you can handle the sound of crunchy bones and me moving your muscles around?"
Up grimaced," I lost my entire team today. I heard too many bones give-way before their metal. I think I can handle a few more, especially if they're mine." Silently, Mac injected him with a cocktail mix, and Up was in a stupor, day dreaming about the sounds and smells he had tolerated that day and would probably not let him have a peaceful dinner.
The blaring sirens woke him, groggily he sat up, the pain from two days ago now subsided to dull aches that he ignored. His roommates woke up as well, yawning and rubbing their eyes. Their small grey room was sparse and the ceiling was dented from people punching the roof or banging their heads on the metal sheeting.
"Wha's goin' on Up?" Asked one yawning woman.
"No idea. I'll go check," he pulled on some pants and stepped out into the hallway, which was awash in blue light. A hard-faced man trotted past and Up stepped out, saluting him," Commander Pryce? What's goin' on?" The Commander scowled, "Ensigns decided to go for a midnight jaunt in the humvees and they stumbled upon a horde of chef-bots. It's carnage out there. Get back to bed Up, there's hardly anything we can do for them. A crack team's already been dispatched anyway." Up shuddered, at first the chef-bots had been amusing and useful. But once the uprising began and Astroboy had broken from his cell, the once friendly chef bots turned their machetes and serrated knives on their customers. "Well, I would like to help at least as a guide back, if any lucky ensign hasn't been flambeaued yet. "
Commander Pryce nodded, "That would be appreciated. Report to the front gates, I'll see you there." Up saluted his Commander and ran back into the room, "C'mon!"
There were groans, "They're just ensigns Up! They don't matter, why're you gonna risk your neck for their stupid asses?" Up glared at Isa, who had complained, she was a lieutenant as well but in the R&D department, she specialized in communications. "It doesn't matter, they're part of this base. I'm going, if anyone of you wusses want to join me, go to the front gates." Straightening his combat jacket and zapper sling, Up left the room. Truth be told, he didn't feel any remorse for the slain ensigns, they should have been more careful. But it was easier to face real robots than the ghost ones that appeared in dreams.
Within twenty minutes of talking with Commander Pryce, Up was seated in a dark brown and grey humvee that was outfitted with a gunner's turret and was halfway to where the ensigns had been ambushed. The Commander himself was seated next to him and carrying a strange zapper. Up eyed the red zapper, tiny flames engraved on the grip and muzzle as they bounced over dirt roads. The ensigns and lieutenants seated in the back were also curious about the strange flame-zapper. Finally, Isa broke the silence, "Sir? What in dead God's name is that?"
Displaying a toothy grin, Pryce hefted it into the air. Up kept his eyes on the road, following the dull red flames that signaled where the foolish-ensigns were currently being torn to pieces. "This is the newest way to kick metal-ass. It's a prototype of a regular zapper, plus it shoots hollow-point bullets coated with a gel that ignites upon pulling the trigger. Melts and kills any type of armor, skin, chitin, even metal. It's call-"
"We're almost there, sir."
A gawky ensign with tightly curled hair and coke-bottle glasses piped up from the navigator's seat.
Pryce looked mildly annoyed but continued on, "It's called the Precision Explosive Weapon. Soon it won't be a prototype or even a separate zapper! It'll be a setting for all standard issued GLEE zappers."
Up brought the humvee to a screeching halt, throwing everyone against their seatbelts, "We're here." Pryce unbuckled himself from the seat.
"Yes, lieutenant, I can see that," responded Pryce dryly," Alright you roughnecks! Go out there and do your dead Goddamned job!"
Up leapt out roaring a "YESSIR!" along with the rest of the retrieval squad. He liked the idea of that flame zapper, he hoped to have one someday.
They all fell into line, Up was near the back, instructed to protect the navigator and communications ensigns as well as participate in the rescue mission. They swiftly ran across a stand of lonely trees; on the other side were about a score of robots killing and pulling apart a terrified group of unarmed teenagers. On the commander's signal, five of the Rangers burst from the trees, spraying the robots with holes. Three seconds later, the commander with the last five ensigns and two lieutenants sprinted after them, killing even more robots. Up rushed the battlefield, roaring murder and rage.
He sprinted past his Commander and tackled the first robot he encountered, shooting it twice before rolling away and head-butting with an Easy Bake oven-bot. The giant robot pinned him to the ground, smashing his face next to the semitransparent oven door. With a yelp, Up realized that there was an ensign inside the oven-bot, slowly roasting. He wiggled out from the oven-bot, trying to shoot it in the face. The oven-bot scrambled back, several bullet holes in its torso. He pulled out a knife and threw it at the pink robot, pinning one of its many arms to the ground. With a grinding sound, Up managed to straddle it and rip out its central power cable. A shower of hot cooking oil hit Up in the chest, melting his jacket to his skin, he yelled in pain, rolling into the ground and ripping his jacket off. He began shoveling mud onto his burning skin when a dull knocking came from the inside of the dead oven-bot. The Ensign! Up pulled the slightly charred but very much alive ensign from the oven-bot's entrails. "Th-thank-" Up pushed him away, he didn't have time, "That way," he growled, pointing to the stand of trees where the navigator and Isa were currently hiding from the main fight. Up heaved the Easy Bake oven-bot over and used it as a shield whilst he shot at the remaining robots. Ten minutes later there were only about 10 left and Up was in his element. He'd taken out three more oven-bots and one party-bot, a gruesome animatron clown that use to do tricks for children's parties before the war. Crouching behind a robot corpse, he spotted three party-bots fleeing from the battlefield. He gave chase, aiming his zapper at their central cores. "Aaaagh!" A giant machete sliced into his thigh, Up rolled to the floor, managing to wedge the machete in deeper. A party-bot with a blue and pink cheshire's grin held out two more machetes, slowly swinging them around. Up rolled to his feet, aiming at the party bot's head, too late. He managed to avoid the first machete with barely a nick to his knees but the second machete caught him directly in the belly, "Oof!" Up flew onto his back.
Convinced that he was going to spill his guts like pudding, Up didn't dare move an inch. He lay there for a full ten seconds, imagining his intestines falling out in pink and red coils.
"WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING, UP? Move your ass!" Commander Pryce ran to him and jerked Up to his feet by the scruff of his neck. Up looked down and saw the machete fall away, the handle glinting with his charred skin and cooking oil, the blade clean and untouched. Realizing how lucky he'd been, Up nodded sheepishly at Pryce and followed him towards the rogue party-bots. The trail led past the battlefield, across several cornfields and towards a valley. They had lost the robots and Pryce was furious. He spat into his radio, "There are villages around here! You need to find them NOW. Do you understand that Ensign Byte?" There was no response from the other side of the radio. "Lieutenant Vasili!" A dark-skinned and muscular woman turned towards the Commander, "Sir!" "You, Up and I will go and scout the next city. That's probably where the robots headed, it would be easy to hide there. The rest of you go back and find out what happened to the navigator, and the Comm. Go!"
Lieutenant Vasili led their troupe of three while Pryce attempted to communicate with Ensign Byte and Up kept an eye out behind them. They traipsed up a steep hill that sported several scorch marks, "Oh my dead God..."
Vasili reached the top of the hill first and stopped to cover her mouth with the heel of her hand. Pryce lowered the radio and stared in horror at the scene below him. Up stood below them and slowly walked to the top of the hill. His blood ran cold to his belly and he almost dropped his zapper. The scene below him was a nightmare come to life.
The city was lit from the inside, like a jack-o-lantern on Halloween, the night sky making the flames more beautiful and terrible than possible. Without a word all three scrambled down the steep hill and split up to look for survivors. Up pulled out a dirty red bandana and tied it around his mouth to keep from breathing in the smoke. He pulled his grey bandana low over his eyes and headed off to circle the perimeter of the town, Vasili cut down the middle and Pryce circled the other way around.