Kate pushed her way through some shrubs while a bolt of lightning crackled overhead. When the thunder followed, it was loud but it didn’t cover the sound of heavy footfalls. Damn, the skin suits! They knew she was here!
Jesus, someone must have gotten a message off despite her best efforts! Who could’ve gotten it off…of course! It had to have been that sergeant at the last! There was enough time for the woman to have sent a message! Jesus, talk about being sloppy!
Kate hid behind a tree and listened the to the footfalls getting closer. The combat rifle bit into her back, but she didn’t grab it. Fat lot of good the damned thing would do against the armor on those suits!
What to do? She thought. Think! Think!
Lightning flashed again and a downburst of wind hit the trees. Leaves rustled and the limbs shook under the force of the air. Kate looked up instinctively and an idea formed in her head. What about using the trees again?
Of course, why hadn’t she thought of it before? The skin suits would be looking for someone on the ground, not in the air, it would give a perfect place to attack them from! She felt like kicking herself while working up the limbs to a higher location.
The answer was right before my face, she thought, if it had been a snake it would’ve bit me!
Another downburst hit the trees and Kate hung on for dear life. Below, the skin suits came into view and her blood ran cold. Three of them! Jesus, how was she going to stop three at one time? One of them would have been bad enough, but three? Damn!
Kate watched the mechanical monstrosities moving past. The schematics for them ran through her enhanced vision until she stopped them. A small detail of their design had caught her eye.
They ran on a network, she thought, and networks can be hacked! My neural link can hack them and possibly take control of one or more.
The three skin suits split up and started to search for her. That meant someone knew she was here, which made the task at hand that much more pressing. Kate closed her eyes and concentrated on breaching the security of their network.
It took only seconds to hack the network on the closest skin suit and she felt like laughing. How in the hell could someone make a military-grade piece of equipment with such weak security? Were all of the suits in the marines like this because it they were, then she would have to make a report to Reyes about it-if she survived that was.
Unseen by the other two suits, the one nearest her came to a stop. Inside, the operator tried to make it move but it wouldn’t. When she tried to open a com channel to the others, static was all that was heard. With a curse, she opened the back hatch and peered out.
While that had been going on, Kate had slipped herself down to the limb right above the suit. This was the opportunity she had been waiting for! When the operator opened the hatch, she moved with stunning speed.
Kate pulled the woman up to her, a hand covering the operator’s mouth to keep her from screaming. With her other arm, Kate grasped the woman’s neck and snapped it with a savage twist. She threw the lifeless body to the ground and slipped into the suit.
If you hadn’t gone bad, Kate thought, I wouldn’t have had to kill you.
The hatch slid into place behind her while Kate slid into the operator’s chair. She dropped the hack and the network came back to life again. A display overhead showed the location of the other two suits. With a wolfish grin, she started to hunt them.
So the hunter has become the hunted, Kate thought while approached the first suit.
“Mickelson,” a man’s voice said. “What the hell are you doing? Why aren’t you in formation?”
The suit was absurdly simple to use, Kate reflected while her hands worked the controls. A M-22 fighter was more complicated then one of the highest tech pieces in the Alliance Marines arsenal. It was too bad for the other operators that she was certified on every piece of equipment in the military!
With a press of her thumb, a missile leapt from the suit’s arm. It flew straight and on target, striking her opponent in the center of the operator’s compartment. The explosion drowned out the lightning flashes, the rumble of the explosion dwarfing the thunder. It’s top half missing, the suit collapsed to the ground.
Panicked questions from the other operator filled the tac net while she hunted for Kate. Who was in the other unit, the other woman wondered. If it was Almir, did she kill Mickelson? How had the Agent gotten control of the skin suit in the first place? What the hell was happening?
Kate could see the other woman’s suit on her monitor. So, the marine was trying a flanking maneuver. Well, there were ways to defeat that move and she knew them like the back of her hand. It seemed the time spent on Necko had been worth something after all!
If there was one thing I learned from the arena, Kate thought, it was how to keep someone from flanking me!
The entire situation was so much like Necko that it was hard not to laugh. With a simple cut to the right, Kate intercepted the other suit. Now, it was a race to see who could get their weapons aimed first on the other.
Another explosion lit up the night when the second suit was destroyed. With her enemies defeated, Kate took a deep breath and leaned back from the controls. The suit gave her great power over the remaining troops, and she would be stupid not to use it. However, it wouldn’t do anything for her once she reached the main building…that would have to be done on foot.
“Katie,” Ferini’s voice sounded on the com system. “I know you’re there.”
“Yeah, I’m here,” she said. “You surprised to see me alive?”
“Honestly, no,” he said, “But a part of me wants to say ‘yes.’”
“I’m glad,” Kate said. “Because it gives me the chance to kill you.”
“You do know that I have Miss Loving with me too,” he said. “I’ll kill her if you try to stop me.”
“She knows what is at stake,” Kate said. “So dying won’t bother her; however, how about you? Are you ready to die?”
“Too bad,” Kate said with a bitter laugh. “Because I’m coming for you and nothing is going to stop me.”
“I should say that to you,” she said. “Because here I come!”
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