Before there was a Robotech: The New Generation, there was Genesis Climber MOSPEADA. Robotech is in fact comprised of three separate, unrelated animated series forcibly glued together and edited to comply with both North American television syndication requirements and children's programming guidelines. The three animated series are originally The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA of which the latter may have been the least edited of the lot. The group that brought the series to North America forced a story line that each series was a different generation of an inter-generational and intergalactic war over an energy resource known as "protoculture". Somehow, this forced storyline did not fully make sense as each of the animated series are distinct and stand out on their own. Considering that the other option was not having the series brought to North America at all, something is indeed better than nothing. In Genesis Climber MOSPEADA, there is no Rick Hunter, Dana Sterling, or Scott Bernard. Rather we have Earth, sometime in the future, technologically advanced enough to successfully colonize neighbouring planets such as Mars. Earth is invaded by a race known as the Inbit who wish to colonize her into their new home world. Earth resists and the majority of the human population is decimated, leaving only a small, scattered population alive and incapable of mounting any further resistance while under the watchful eye of the Inbit. The other colonized planets, however, are untouched and mount fierce resistance. Stig Bernard is part of the second failed attempt to wrest the Earth from the grip of the Inbit. His assault force is all but wiped out. Stig survives and manages to recruit some of the Earth inhabitants to form a guerrilla force that will eventually join a third Mars attack wave for a final assault on the Inbit stronghold. The series starts where Stig crash lands, which is somewhere in South America. The series follows the perilous journey to North America, near the Great Lakes where the Inbit stronghold is.

This particular story, to be told, takes place between episodes 21, "Arpeggio of a Killer" (which is "Hired Gun" in Robotech) and 22 "NY Bebop" ("The Big Apple" in Robotech), respectively. While episode 21 occurs in Colorado, 22 is in New York and a lot of ground is between those two points - which presents the writer with an opportunity to tell lost stories. This is a story of a MARS base operative, another survivor from the second wave, who is part of a special force who do their jobs a little too well, to the chagrin of our beloved guerrilla force. GCM is not a clear cut battle between good and evil, but how lines sometimes blur in war.

I have opted to pick the Japanese transliteration of the original character names, along with their respective mecha. An excellent glossary can be accessed via Gears Online ( series/mospeada/ ) to identify characters, mecha, context and backgrounds.

Yellow shivered as he trudged through the wintry birch forest, the crunch of ice and snow beneath his boots. It was past twilight and the whites of the bark showed in the dim light while the branches reached sinister overhead into the darkening. Up a distance, he made out a lean, sensuous silhouette, recognized the outline of her up-swept wavy hair and hurried. His pulse and breathing quickened. It was the form of the woman pilot Yellow caught spying on him some time ago in the tropics. He could still recall his shock when he discovered she flew for the Inbit, in betrayal of her race. Turncoats were not new to him, that she was young and beautiful saddened him. What powers of persuasion or mind control, even, did the Inbit have when they could turn humans against their own? In his journey to Reflex Point he encountered mercenaries, collaborators and informants, but no human who directly fought on behalf of the Inbit. Despite his own youth, Yellow already witnessed a lot of strangeness in this long, horrible war.

Even in the dark, Yellow dimly made out the strange blonde-green hue of her hair and even more surprising, the near-luminescent dark pink pupils like embers, set within a flawless complexion, as if freshly minted. As Yellow neared, the woman reached out her hand, not for an embrace but rather motioned toward the forest. He looked in the direction she gestured but saw nothing but a deep, near existential darkness. An almost primal, acidic sensation burned as he peered into the nothingness, followed by a sense of loss that washed over as if a dark tide from the Universe lapped against the shores of his consciousness. Yellow blinked and glanced back toward the woman, but she had gone and instead stared at a snowy owl in a nearby branch who stared back with the same pink, glowing-coal-like eyes. Yellow backed a step. The owl spread its wings in a swift, graceful arc and flew off into the darkness.

Yellow awoke with a start in his sleeping bag. The team were already in their own sleeping bags except for Jim, who was supposed to keep watch. He was asleep in a sitting position, his back against a tree trunk. The fire they lit earlier had since burnt out, nothing more than dim coals. Yellow sat up and shivered in the pre-dawn cold. The lingering acid sensation from his dream eventually dissipated, but not the sense of loss, like the death of a loved one.

It was some months ago when his team was in the tropics off the coast of what was once the nation state of Mexico, Yellow was bathing beneath a waterfall, singing. He enjoyed the respite of cool water amidst the humidity. His pleasure was interrupted when he sensed being watched. He caught movement in the surrounding foliage, a human shape, nearing. Yellow pretended not to notice and resumed bathing. In a world decimated by invaders with the majority of the population eradicated, even with a common enemy, it was not uncommon for the remnants to prey on each other. Through his peripheral vision, he saw the person move with a kind of grace and precision. Yellow held his breath and slid under water and waited for the stalker to draw nearer. The moment he saw the pair of legs stand near the water, he swam forth and grabbed both feet—a rubbery almost live texture to the fabric—and yanked the intruder off balance. He was surprised at how light the feet were and how easily the attendant body tripped into the water. In an instant, underwater, he saw a pair of bright, burning pink eyes set in the most beautiful face, conflicted by fear and anger glare at him before they hit the surface where she coughed a lungful of water and he gasped for air. Yellow had instinctively reached for her wrist and held her momentarily captive as his mind registered the beautiful captive and dumbstruck, he exclaimed, "A woman?"

The anger was replaced on the intruder's face with bewilderment as she repeated, "Woh-man?"

Since she was the one who snuck-up on him, Yellow had no qualms about drawing her closer to examine, "You seem to have no weapons, but what kind of suit is this?" He further marvelled at the almost living-tissue texture as he ran his hand over it, momentarily forgetting how inappropriate it was in any context. He then asked, "What are you doing here?"

But only received a struggle by way of response and he stared deep into her face, and she momentarily paused as he remarked, "Beautiful eyes...who are you?"

Her suit was an odd combination of pink, and purple, while her bright pink eyes were set in a porcelain like, flawless, unblemished face with up swept, light green hair. Even wet, her elaborate coiffure still shown. Niche-coiffured hair was a rarity in these times. But that unblemished face reminded him of the amnesiac, Aisha, who his team had adopted, found traumatized as the sole survivor in what was supposed to be a resistance hold-out.

This time the intruder put up a fight and it was Yellow's turn to lose balance as they both tumbled into the waterfall and fell underwater. Yellow lost his grip and looked into the rueful eyes, that flickered something resembling, but not quite sorrow as she swam away while Yellow struggled to give chase. She climbed quickly enough out of the water and ran through the foliage while Yellow, who was far from out of shape staggered out of the water to gain balance and run after her, momentarily forgetting that he was also quite naked and again, behaving inappropriately. She had only spied, had no weapons, and did not seem exactly combat ready. However, Yellow was enchanted and he struggled and slowly caught up, following the flash of the purple suit and green hair. She reached a clearing and just when Yellow thought he would finally catch-up, he was blinded by a powerful floodlight, bright even in the day, and then got the shock of his life. There stood, a humanoid-shaped Inbit ship, about 29 feet tall, that he had never seen before in his life. He had fought a lot of Inbit, and even more shocking, the way the woman half leapt, half climbed into the cockpit with such ease. A human directly fighting for the Inbit, that was the biggest kicker of all.

Yellow's shock was soon replaced by a primal need to shield his face and run for cover as the thrusters of the Inbit ship fired, resisted the pull of gravity and streaked across the sky like a shooting star.

In what was once, in another time when humans reigned the earth, the State of Ohio, quiet late-spring skies were pierced by thundering thrust from engines whose technology were beyond the native Earth inhabitants. Two heavily armoured crimson, vaguely crab-like crafts, referred to by humans as "Eagers", cruised in low altitude. Though metallic, they also looked somewhat rounded and biological rather than an metal monsters they were. The ships decreased speed to 200 km/per hour, though at top speed they could reach MACH 3.5. As they approached their destination, the hulk of a long-downed Human-based Garfish Troop Carrier loomed ahead, partially sunk into the earth. The Garfish was among the bleeding edge of human technology used to combat the Inbit, but still fell short of its mark. Now it was merely part of the vast, scattered technological graveyard that represented the human effort to reclaim their planet. The once imposing Garfish were now gutted during Inbit mop-up operations into a charred hulk that only vaguely resembled its initial form and lay in decomposition. Despite this, the Inbit were compelled to investigate the ruins as signals of HBT energy radiated. HBT energy were generally military related and the source was not Inbit, which meant human military. The pair of Eagers each weighed four-and-a-half tonnes and were nearly four metres wide and stood, or rather crouched two-and-a-half metres tall. A pair of massive legs with claw-like pincer feet bit into the earth as it landed. Two shielded arms, rounded like the backs of ladybugs with pincers at the fore, covered its sole vulnerability in a kind of boxers' stance, a scanner mono-eye set in the midst of both a neck and headless body. The ships were as fearsome as they were destructive, mono-eye pupils composed of tri-camera lenses swept the region as they neared the abandoned hulk.

"Presence of HBT confirmed!" Boomed a commanding female voice, that of the Queen Refless, for these eagers were piloted by two of her children under her command and direction. The Eagers relayed observations to a local hive to analyze, they both moved autonomously but also were under some measure of control. The mono eye lenses were equipped with special scanners that detected energy, namely HBT, a source of hydrogen-based power used by both Earth resistance and the Inbit. Any unauthorized use of this power within the domain of the Inbit, which was now the entire Earth, was perceived as a declaration of war against them. Somewhere, within the gutted metallic bulk, energy source emissions radiated—which Inbit scanners detected as a dense clouded mist. In combat with humans, the Inbit used HBT emissions as targets, which helped them hone-in and eliminate their enemy. This time, the scanners did not detect for long as one shattered in mid-scan, followed by a surge of fluid that erupted from its optics. The second Inbit spun to confront, but another brief flash issued from the broken hulk where it too was struck squarely in the optic of the other Inbit, mid-turn. A pierce, then shatter as pressurized nutrient fluid, what powered Inbit mechs, spewed forth from clear and now fragmented lenses. Both formidable mechanized armours fell forward in alloy cacophony, eased into lifelessness as light and energy seeped away. The Inbit Eagers ceased transmission to the local hive.

Moments passed and an armoured human climbed out of the Garfish hulk with almost cat-like caution and grace. A rare, particle beam rifle, perhaps one of a mere handful among a select group of designated fighters, was slung over a shoulder. The human wore an unpainted gun-metal grey armour that bulked around the chest, shoulders, forearms and below the knees. A motorcycle helmet with non-reflective glass concealed the face. Though the armour was peppered in nick, shrapnel and burn marks from failed retribution for past snipes, it was largely intact and functional. Armoured feet tread quickly past the downed Inbit toward a nearby heap of ruins, first to retrieve the HBT transmitter, where a motorcycle was pulled from concealment, power set to conventional fossil fuel, then climbed and sped away. Upon ceased transmissions from the Inbit, reinforcements from the nearest hive were sent out to investigate. The figure would not have much time to escape.

"You had no authority to raze the city. In doing so, you may have firmed the resolve of the resistance."

"Firmed resolve for what? It matters not. Humans only live for the sole reason that the Refless wishes it. This planet is our domain, and remnants of its resistance on the cusp of oblivion. A handful who cannot confront us in direct battle, so we seek and remove the remnants. Their sole hope is in what is left of their forces scattered in nearby planets and galaxies, and we will subdue them in time as well. I set an example that this dominion is ours and they are under our mercy.

"The resistance continues to elude us, but it is a matter of time. Measures implemented by the Refless will succeed. Then there is this last troublesome development, the human snipers sewn throughout all quadrants in the wake of the last attack wave. These snipers initially claim modest numbers of our ranks yet over time the number accumulates. The casualties they affect is that of an attack force. Each day our losses as a direct result of these snipers, grow."

"It did not occur to you" Countered Solzie, "That the local humans perhaps had nothing to do with the snipers, if, as you observe, they act autonomously. Unlike our race, humans have a divide between military and civilian rule. Therefore your destruction is without point. More importantly, the Refless did not sanction your actions."

Battra sniggererd, "The division between military and civilian rule within the human race is not a clear one and is interchangeable. If it were my say, I would see to the full eradication of all human life on this planet and anywhere else. That is truly the only way to ensure all resistance cease. As inheritors of this planet, we need to take initiative. Otherwise, why would the Refless have granted us autonomy in thought?"

Solzie struggled to contain her annoyance, "Fortunate it is you do not have say. It is still unknown where the humans reside in the overall ecosystem of this planet and how their loss will affect it. While our ranks are superior in direct battle, their smaller rebel forces continue to elude us. The fight against resistance movements and now these snipers will not be won through brute strength, but strategy and patience. We must rival human rebellions through intellect."

"From what knowledge we have gleaned on this planet's history, the human race was but a blight. Their manner and livelihood more viral than symbiotic with the Earth's ecosystem and how their loss will affect it. They are a disharmonious species, destructive. Better they perish." Battra gestured dismissively.

"Spoken not unlike those who tried to eliminate us at one point in time. I propose we take this to the Refless for decision."

Battra and Solzie were stage four Inbit who distinguished themselves in battle and ascended in rank until granted mental autonomy and finally human form by the Refless. It was, ironically, with the human form that she decided her race would inherit the Earth from humans. The Inbit were a species more symbiotic with nature, but forced to flee their homeworld from cataclysm and chose the Earth for their next. The humans put up strong resistance, but were decimated by the Inbit's technological and organizational superiority. Eighty percent of the human populace were eradicated, along with their dwellings. The Inbit forces conquered in swift, decisive battle. However, the humans were both technologically advanced and autonomous enough to colonize other nearby planets, perhaps ones even beyond this solar system. Two major attack waves from colonized regions have attempted to reclaim Earth in head-on battle, but failed. Though the Inbit too suffered casualties, they were still able to defeat humans through numbers, greater firepower, and advanced technology.

Since their arrival, the Inbit, under guidance from the Refless, tested suitable life forms to inherit the earth. Meanwhile, they also sought to contain the last gasps of human resistance. Most of the surviving populace acquiesced to Inbit rule and collaborated.

In confrontation with Rebels, Solzie was not more successful than Battra. However, against the threat of human snipers, her efforts met with limited success. Snipers were difficult to draw out, and when cornered, they self-terminated. In the event that they could capture a sniper alive, Solzie was not certain to what extent they could give up information. Although they were adept at executing her fellow Inbit. They never missed and saw to it that no exchange of fire occurred.

Since Battra and Solzie were delegated human form, the formers' self control and discipline was often swayed by emotion, namely frustration and rage against the human rebels. First, the Refless, in her wisdom crafted and deployed a simulgent, the first Inbit in human form to observe as a fifth column, then serve as means to capture and eliminate resistance. Astonishingly, not only have the Inbit lost contact with the simulgent, but according to observations in the latest skirmishes with human rebels, she was observed to be aiding their cause. By what act of mind control did the humans deploy to turn the Inbit against their own?

For the Inbit, the latest frustration was with a human they captured and experimented on by altering parts of his body from organic to bionic. Humans referred to him as "Rainy Boy" on account he only sought human quarry after it had rained in his region. The Inbit had made a pact with him, his humanity restored in exchange for the deaths of 100 human rebels. This one had saved the Inbit much effort from pursuing rebels and was more effective than an Inbit squad. For a moment, it seemed that this would be an ideal way to rid the world of human rebels. That stopped when the rebel group their simulgent travelled with somehow convinced the human experiment to turn on his masters, destroying several before he was eventually subdued when their own heroic Command Type Gamo, vapourized "Rainy Boy" before being slain in turn by human accomplices.

The last confrontation with the Inbit and the tragedy of Rainy Boy in what was once the State of Kansas, had depleted the team ordinance and HBT supplies. Previously they had encountered a human survivor of an Inbit experiment in which have his body was cyberized in Inbit alloy and became a kind of Cyborg, but of the alien variety. His humanity would be restored on condition of his slaying no less than a hundred human rebels. As he was just at the cusp of reaching his goal, the team had somehow persuaded him to turn his weapons on the Inbit before he was subdued by them. Houquet en Rose was responsible for the shift, who felt a combination of attraction and pity for him. Not without jealousy from fellow team member Ray preferred to assassinate Rainy Boy in the way he killed so much of the human resistance. To Ray's chagrin, the Inbit did the job for them. But the tragic circumstance and death had made her sullen. The team, however, knew her to have suffered many losses like the rest and would eventually come round.

The battle with the Inbit and Rainy Boy damaged the Mospeadas and depleted ordinance from all their mecha. Compounding this was the added tragedy of fellow resistance fighters who also died in the conflict, ones who could have joined the push to Reflex Point, Inbit central command, where every able bodied human would be needed for the final battle. The team currently consisted of seven members, one of whom was a non-combatant. Another was a minor, no more than 16 years old, but helped with reconnaissance, and sabotage. But more than that, as the team realized, she was the mascot, the morale that kept everyone's spirits up.

Though Reflex Point was located by the North American Great Lakes in both the former State of Michigan and former Canadian province of Ontario, their job would be reconnaissance and intelligence gathering for the third attack wave and then head to the once great human city of New York where a major Inbit hive and relay towers were located. From an earlier mission to destroy a relay tower in the mid West, they learned of another impending attack wave from MARS base, the largest yet—and this would be the decisive battle. The team would somehow have to co-ordinate with this attack force to maximize its effectiveness. Knocking out the hives and Inbit relay towers would go far to aid human liberation. The team had in their inventory, three Legioss transformable attack fighters, a Tread, which was a heavily armoured attack fighter that could join any one of the Legioss' to be a more imposing fighter. Each of the four main fighters had a Mospeada, a battle suit that also transformed into a motorcycle. Then they also had the All Terrain Hauler (ATH), driven by the Team's bio mechanic, Jim. Jim maintained and repaired the mechas to ensure they were always combat ready. Since the planet, air, sea and land was controlled by the Inbit, moving around without the Inbit detecting the ordinance was a logistical challenge to say the least.

Fortune was with the team, who for almost a year evaded a reigning, superior force not only more technologically advanced, but better armed and supplied. By all accounts their continued existence was something of a miracle. But something could also be said for the raw skills and talents of evasion, creative resistance, sabotage, dumb luck and direct guerrilla combat. Add to that, training and guidance from their leader, Stig. Stig Bernard was originally from the second failed major liberation attack wave where he lost his fiance, and crash landed in the South American quadrant of Brazil. Originally born on Mars base, Stig grew up on space cruisers, transporters and interplanetary bases while Earth was alien to him as he had never been prior to the invasion. When Stig enlisted MARS resistance he earned rank of lieutenant and was amongst the more skilled fighters in the force. Though ambivalent toward his ancestral planet, Stig was determined to complete his mission and help secure its liberation. In his early 20's, Stig stood over six feet tall and had thick, straight hair dyed light blue that matched his intense eyes that were both serious and mature for his years, giving the impression that he was older than he looked. When not in combat gear, Stig was in uniform, though his outfit was not always practical and brought trouble from remaining Earth inhabitants who might not be sympathetic to the resistance out of fear of the Inbit. Stig was a natural team leader, brilliant combat strategist who quickly identified and deployed skills and talents of other team members.

The first combat partner Stig befriended was Ray, originally a non-combatant civilian forager barely in his 20's and self-styled historian. Ray was also an excellent outdoorsman whose wilderness foraging, hunting, and other survival techniques saved the team on many occasions. Ray's reddish-brown hair, mischievous blue eyes and impish grin graced a frame almost as tall as Stig but not quite. Ray was, when occasion demanded, second in command of the team.

Third to join was Mint Labelle when she was no more than 15, deliberately left to an ambush by a lowlife ex-boyfriend who wanted to see her perish alongside Stig and Ray. Somehow they survived and Mint was to be dropped-off at the next town or the next one following that. But Mint stubbornly remained, initially somewhat a mascot, comic relief and a moral booster for a team set with the grim task of resisting one of the most powerful forces in the known galaxy. Somewhat short and childlike, even for her age, demeanour often as fiery as her waist length red hair tempered with naive, bright blue eyes with a faint splash of freckles across fair skin.

Next to join was Houquet En Rose, formerly of the biker gang, the Blue Angels. Her fellow gang members abandoned her when faced against a ruthless rival biker gang. Trust in others came hard-earned thereafter. Not far into her early 20's, Houquet was strikingly beautiful with shoulder length strawberry blond hair, probing, sometimes hard blue eyes and a slim athletic build. Her fine, delicate features could have made her a model if it was not scars from skirmishes with both fellow humans and Inbit, at first a self styled vigilante then, freedom fighter.

A soldier like Stig, the following team member was Yellow Belmont, an androgynous male with unusually slim build, fine features and skin and long locks dyed lavender. When dressed, he easily passed as a woman. After his defence squad was eliminated in a confrontation, non-combatant humans then rounded up surviving soldiers to take to the Inbit in a truce. Yellow disguised himself as a woman and managed to travel far away from danger. From there, he went under deep cover where adopted a new persona as singer, Yellow Belmont, where he successfully toured and sang in various towns and villages to then acquire a fan following. Yellow would have continued with the singer persona for as along as he wanted if it was not for his fateful encounter with the team on their mission to Reflex Point that stirred his sense of soldierly duty. From then on, the Yellow persona was used to help further the goals of the team.

Jim Warston was the last combatant to join. A tall, muscular, broad shouldered brutish looking man who could have been a blacksmith at another time and place, but was now a maintenance mechanic. Jim was square jawed with neck length brown hair held in place by a yellow headband. To a casual glance, Jim may have passed as merely a burly muscle-head as his broad face did not betray much emotion. In reality, Jim was intelligent and technically gifted, he excelled at repairing and rehabilitating combat mecha and making minor technical miracles. Beneath his muscular, heavy boned exterior, Jim was tormented by his past, when during the Inbit invasion he abandoned his post and comrades in arms as he was terrified by the onslaught and sheer raw destructive power of their assailants, the Inbit. Jim was the sole survivor from the base and carried the grief and shame of his desertion until he encountered the team. It was as if he had a second chance to right the wrongs of the past and perhaps redeem himself through sacrifice if necessary. His team members saw Jim as a fearless helper who came to their aid, but Jim always felt otherwise.

The men were still bruised and some dazed from their run-in with Rainy Boy, who gave them all a good beating despite their combined mecha, combat experience and firepower. The involuntary Invid-made cyborg had knocked them all unconscious. Those who did not feel the punch that pierced through their armour and knocked them senseless were thrown from their vehicles from explosions that could have just as easily incinerated them. The men were young, Jim less so—but if they reached an old age, they would feel aches and pains whenever it rained or the weather turned damp or too cold, a reminder of the combatant who alone had slain nearly 100 Mars Division soldiers. Some of the team were still bruised or burned; Aisha and Mint had stayed away from the fight while Houquet En Rose had tried to put a stop to it by reasoning with Rainy Boy before he was incinerated by an Inbit command ship, she was close enough to get a good burn and she absently peeled at the dead skin on her face and forehead that looked like an especially bad sunburn, but still did not diminish her attractiveness.

The team were headed towards New York, at Yellow's insistence, as he claimed there would be a good store of HBT there and probably ordinance for the final assault on Reflex Point. However, the last skirmish with the Inbit and Rainy Boy left them at a disadvantage, between Kansas and New York, any further skirmish with the Inbit without more HBT and ordinance would leave them dead in their tracks. It was rumoured that there was an underground resistance movement in what was pre-Invasion called Dayton, Ohio and that perhaps they could negotiate. However, Yellow wisely advised they send their most innocuous members first, Jim, Ariel and Mint in the ATH to scout the place out. Chances were that if they were aware an underground resistance movement existed, then so did collaborators and the Inbit. If there was no HBT or ammunition to be had, they could at least bring back supplies as they figured out the next location to approach. The team set about camouflaging their mechs while the three rode off towards Dayton.

Jim had to negotiate the ATH over what was left of unmaintained highways and often it was easier simply to ride over land than worn concrete fragments. "When they built these highways", muttered Jim, "They scammed their governments by using poor quality materials so they knew they would have another job in a couple year's time. Constant repairs, fills, and repaving. What a scam. The roads the ancient Romans built millenniums ago are still in use today over in Europe, don't tell me the knowledge to build roads was lost by the time they built this highway."

In an alarming prelude, the path to Dayton was littered with Shantytowns, makeshift homes, camps, shelter made from scraps of corrugated metal, felled trees, tarp, bricks and concrete fragments stacked into something that resembled a home to protect against the elements. Sullen children watched as the three rode by, equally sullen people stared and nobody smiled. The shantytown looked relatively new. Jim got the sinking feeling these refugees could be from what was left of Dayton. They kept riding. John Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath flashed through his memory, a book about an economic devastation of the 1930's and how people then lived in similar conditions. It was a marvel humanity could wreck themselves thoroughly without the help of the Inbit. Once Mint asked Jim to stop and tried to speak with one of the refugees but they briskly walked away, then ran off. In case of trouble, Jim still had an armour piercing rifle that was meant for the Inbit, but could be just as effective against marauders. Mint's thoughts were along a similar line, where she always managed to draw at least a stare or a glance from boys. But things were so bad for these people they would not even give her a glance when she called out. It depressed her. How could a potential future husband fall in love with her if he would not even look at her?

Aisha simply stared in blank wonder, having no frame of reference to go on. She realized the people were not in good shape, but also marvelled at their resourcefulness and creativity how they built homes from whatever was at hand. She felt a sense of admiration, but also realized her feelings were inappropriate considering the situation.

"I don't think those people we saw by the side of the road look the hobo type." Commented Mint.

"I know what you mean." replied Jim. "This does not look very promising for Dayton. I am almost afraid to ask and am kind of glad nobody said anything yet."

By the time they reached the outskirts of Dayton their worst fears were confirmed and they knew why there were shantytowns. First, it was difficult to make out the city from afar because of a dense, grey mist. But then, as they neared, Jim realized this was not a mist but a dense haze of ash and dust. Jim paused long enough to rummage for a scarf to cover his mouth and nose and find a pair of goggles to put on as he drove. Aisha and Mint also covered their noses and mouths, "Are you going to drive into that?" Asked Mint. "It looks like a volcano just erupted there."

"Dayton is not sitting on any active volcanoes that I know of." Yelled Jim through the scarf as he accelerated towards the city, or what was left of it.

As the ATH continued, there were no building or skyscraper outlines of the cityscape, just rubble as far as they eye could see. With the same sense of dread reserved for passers-by of an accident scene in a bygone time, instead of turning back, Jim continued on. He negotiated the ATH through clearings and pathways as roads and streets were no longer relevant, it was more a manner of what the ATH could climb over without tumbling over. There were massive piles of brick, concrete and stone—much of it charred—with metal support beams jutting out, masses of wire, and broken glass that glittered. The land was scarred with impact marks from plasma cannons, every several meters. It looked like a thorough, 'scorched earth' policy was carried out by the Inbit who probably started from one end of the city and methodically worked their way across, incinerating and knocking everything over in their path. Jim remembered reading in historical texts about 'saturation bombing' during World War two when American forces systematically bombed large sections of civilian area in Japan, leaving total destruction in their wake.

"Do you think it is still safe for us to be here?" Mused Mint.

"I don't see why the Inbit would bother to come back. It's not like there's anything left to wreck." responded Jim.

Aisha, however, was not taking the wreckage very well. She quivered and gaped as she looked all around. "This is awful, some of the worst I've seen so far!"

"You're right, those monster metal crabs are now targeting civilians. They haven't wiped out population centres since the first invasion, which is a change. After they mainly went after military. This systematic destruction seems to mean that they are clearing the planet of humans. Either that or-"

"Let's go back to the camp, this place is really getting to me! There's nothing here anyway!" Exclaimed Mint. "I don't think we can find any supplies even if we had shovels."

That's when they noticed a dazed looking man plodding through the destruction, his clothing in tatters, hair awry and dishevelled, his hands and face were near white from dust while his eyes and mouth were raw and pink, like gashes against very pale, almost zombie-like flesh. Jim pulled the dust covered scarf from his mouth and coughed, trying not to think that he could be inhaling cremated human. "Hey! Heyyy! You're the first living soul we've seen around these parts! We can give you a ride some place, there's room in the back!"

The man paid no mind to the shouts, he just continued on with his zombie-like shuffle gait. Jim navigated the vehicle closer and tried to drive alongside without running him over. Finally the man turned over to look at them, he had dark eyes sunk in hollow sockets, his lids were swollen, but the iris' were wide and the pupils pinpointed. The man turned his head around and gaped at them, his pink mouth and yellowed teeth contrasted against the ghostly layer of dust. His breath was heavy and laboured, he coughed long wheezes, his lungs no doubt congested from dust. At first his voice creaked, from not having spoken for a while, and eventually he gasped, "Have you seen a woman and a little girl around? The woman has very dark hair and fair skin and wearing blue overalls and the little girl, about five, has shoulder length brown hair. She stands just past my waist, a tiny thing."

"Like we said" Replied Jim "You're the first person we saw in a while. There's nobody around as far as we can see, just ruins as far as the eye can see."

The man continued, as if in a trance, "They showed up the other night. I was out getting supplies for my family and the earth trembled like a quake. I heard a terrible noise and even though the weather was cold, winds started to scorch and I was suddenly on the lip of hell. The noise consumed as I felt impacts against the earth—which I thought were meteors, but those walking hellions were stomping something fierce, letting loose hell fire from their cannons, bringing everyone down to the deepest circles of Hades. I don't know...I must have lost my mind for a bit, just became all instinct as I started to panic and run and then an entire wall collapsed over me—I thought that was it—but the wall was stopped by something and I was boxed in and then passed out. I don't know how long I was under there, but the heat got worse, the hellfire from their canons kept letting loose. I thought I would be broiled, I tried to move but passed out again. I heard screams...people getting burnt. It was like daylight outside, but I knew it was still night, the fires were making everything bright. It was horrible. Somehow I got out from where the wall fell, luckily it did not crush me, I just kept rushing, but the heat, I was not sure where I was going and I just passed out again. When I came to, the hellions were gone and I went looking for my family, only everything was so devastated that I could not find where any place was anymore. I set about looking for my wife and daughter and will not leave until I find them-"

Jim interrupted, "There are a bunch of shantytowns on the outskirts of the city, your family is probably out there waiting for you, equally worried. Why don't you let us take you out to one of them and you can work your way through until you find them-"

The man continued to walk on and Jim did his best to try to follow.

Mint tugged at Jim arm, "I don't think he's 'all there' y'know, by the looks of it, he's probably shell shocked and a little, you know-" She made little circular motions with her forefinger against her temple.

"You're right" sighed Jim and he started to back out when Aisha wailed, "Where are you going?!"

"Back to the team, there's nothing here."

"We can't leave him like that! Wait!"

"I offered him a ride, I don't know what else to do—he seems to be on a mission and I'm not going to stop him."

"Stop for a moment. Please." Pleaded Aisha, and she reached for and rummaged through the back of the vehicle and pulled out a ration pack.

"Hey, that's our food!" Protested Jim.

"We can't just leave him like that, with nothing."

"We'll find more food. We'll get Ray to shoot some more rabbits." Assured Mint.

"I'm sick of rabbit stew". Grumbled Jim.

Aisha climbed out of the ATH and caught up with the shell shocked man. She reached out and touched his shoulder and he spun around and she held out the ration pack to him. "Please take it, you look as if you have not eaten in a while." She smiled at him.

The man was taken aback, he blinked and took the pack. Aisha spun and ran to the ATH, "Okay, let's go."

Jim continued to reverse the ATH and as they rode away, Mint watched the man stand amid the ruins, holding the ration pack until he disappeared over the horizon. All three were silent the rest of the way back to the camp, passing the shanty towns once more, and the silent, tragic looking refugees. When they reached the group, they told of the destruction of Dayton, the evident scorched-Earth policy, the shanty towns and even the crazed wanderer.

"The third attack wave needs to be the last. These metal crabs can't be allowed to stay here any longer, we have to get rid of every last one of them." Fumed Ray.

"They're getting more aggressive, that means they're getting nervous." Suggested Yellow.

"We don't know why they razed the entire city, there's very little left to find out why and no one spoke with us to say so."

"They nearly wiped out whatever humanity was left on the Earth, I don't see why a town makes any difference."

"Right now we are very low on HBT and ordinance, we cannot afford to navigate to another dead end. We also cannot afford another skirmish so close to Reflex Point. Is there another population centre route to New York that might still be intact?" Asked Stig.

"There's another town called Columbus, not too far from here." Said Yellow. "Less than a couple of hours by Mospeadas. It might still be standing. I think we should send someone to see if it is and if there is any ordinance and HBT and then come back to tell the rest of us so we can fuel and ammo up."

"I volunteer! I already went through my stash of peppermint! Maybe they have some." Yelled Mint. "After that downer I need to be cheered up. Maybe my future husband will be there!"

"I can go as Yellow Dancer" continued Yellow, "I will just tell them I am passing through for a musical tour en route to New York. If I can do a show, that could give us some supplies to bring back. Someone needs to go with me, to bring back food."

"Sure", nodded Jim, "We can use the intervening time to double check and overhaul the Legios' and the Tread. After the last brush with the Inbit, it would be a good idea to take a closer look at the mechs."

Houquet winced at the mention of the skirmish and looked sullen. Ray noticed the change of expression was visibly irked, "Hey Yellow, count me in. It'll be the three of us, you, me and Mint."

Stig turned to Jim." How long before the repairs are done you think?"

"Give me a day to give it all a good overhaul. If we can score some HBT, we got a fighting chance."

Yellow and Ray set about preparing the Mospeadas while Mint emptied her knap sack to bring back what they needed.

"Bring back lots of food!" Shouted Jim, "We ate so much wild rabbit that my ears are starting to grow longer."

As Ray, Yellow and Mint drove off on their Mospeadas, Yellow caught the concerned strain in Ray's eyes. "Don't worry" shouted Yellow over the motors, "Houquet will get over it. There's so much going on that she won't stay fixated on that guy for long."

"Who says I'm worried about Houquet? She can take care of herself. She doesn't need anybody's concern."

If the highways were maintained, the trip would have taken an hour and twenty minutes along what was once route 70. Now they were lucky if they could hit a stretch of road not shattered, decrepit, or blocked-up with natural growth. The trip would have taken well over two hours if they rode on through to Columbus without incident, but en route there was one. They used conventional fuel lest the HBT attract the attention of the Inbit.

"Whenever I ride on the Mospeadas, I feel like I am back home with my parents." Shouted Mint over the motors while she held on to Ray.

"How's that?" Yelled Ray.

"Because my behind feels the exact same way after they gave me the belt. Especially when we go over the steep bumps."

"That's because you're a born trouble maker. Heck, my behind feels the same way."

"Because you're driving, you at least know when to brace yourself."

"Hey, you could have stayed behind at the camp."

"No way, if Columbus is still intact I'll tell Yellow to get us a nice hotel suite with the fluffiest pillows."

Along the road they passed what was left of gas stations, roadside restaurants, buildings—if not ruined by the Inbit, then left to the decay of nature or destruction by vandals. Trees grew through the windows of some buildings, birds nested in others. Man-made structures and nature merged into a hybrid as the Earth took her course, long after scavengers salvaged what they could. Yellow was more stoic about the trip as he and Ray conferred over directions and figured out how to get through obstacles and what detour to get around rubble or clumps of trees growing through what used to be highway interchanges.

(Solzie was notified of the emissions, relayed back from the Inbit scouts.)

What was left of an airport, ruins of hangars and terminals gave the sniper plenty of cover. This time the Inbit were being more cautious. Protocol dictated the sniper not engage, but he was confident enough in his abilities to take them down. Especially since he had the element of surprise.

The sniper set the remote HBT emission signal to draw in the Inbit's attention. Sure enough three Eagers arrived. They were more mindful, spaced further apart, hence more challenging targets and ready to move at a moment's notice, the tips of their plasma dischargers glowed, primed and ready to fire. The sniper trained his weapon on the Inbit, but did not activate it right away. He breathed deeply and steadily, drinking in their movements, watching their optic scanners move from side to side as they surveyed the surroundings in search of the nearby HBT emissions. There would be only a few moments to engage fire. From his vantage point, he was well-covered, but they did not even have to get a direct hit. Just one of those plasma discs hitting in proximity would incinerate him. He concentrated on which of the Inbit to hit first, second and third, with a back up plan.

Within a few seconds, different plans ran through his mind, scenarios and permutations of possibilities and he came up with a strategy. The sniper singled out the furthest Inbit, primed to take off to warn the others, its optics were shattered first. With enhanced speed he trained and fired on the second Inbit optics just as it discharged the plasma discs towards his general vicinity but did not have time to hold in a lock. The third Inbit was the toughest to get a lock on as one of its claw arms shielded its optics and its shoulder canons began firing wildly as it's thrusters ignited. The air changed and shimmered into a hellish inferno. It is because the third Inbit panicked and fired wildly and the smoke from the second Inbit obscured—if the third Inbit took a little more time to hone and focus it could have had the sniper, but it revealed it vulnerability long enough such that its optic also was shattered as the thrusters shutdown lifeless in mid-air and fell with a terrific clamour. The whole exchange was no more than a few seconds and all he needed. The sniper got up and moved quickly as the heat shimmered from the plasma discs. The ruins of the once-terminal were on fire, billowing thick black smoke and would burn for a while. He ran towards his concealed Mospeada set to conventional fuel and started it while running and gunned the engine. Then there was the roar of engines, he started, thinking perhaps it was Inbit re-enforcements and calculating escape routes and confrontation strategies, but then saw it was other approaching Mospeadas. They were either other soldiers, freedom fighters, collaborators or even possible marauders. Whoever it was, the sniper wanted nothing to do with any of them and sped off. More Inbit would arrive any moment and a second wave would be more difficult to fight off. He would no longer have the element of surprise and if they got a bead on him it would be over. He sped off towards his predetermined hiding spot, hoping those in pursuit would not inadvertently betray his position to the Inbit.

Then came tremors, rumblings like an earthquake they felt through the Mospeadas. They stopped their cycles and listened more closely, the ground tremoured again. Distant explosions. Birds flocked overhead and animals scurried. They reached a clearing and discerned thick smoke. Ray opined, "I think the Inbit could be fighting someone."

"Another resistance group?" Wondered Yellow.

"Well, if that's the case, let's take a closer look. Maybe we can help them."

"You mean skirmish when we are low on HBT?"


"Okay, let's go."

Several think black mushroom columns of black smoke from Inbit plasma disc disharges erupted across the horizon. Flashes of white, the tremor from impact, and smoke clouds from the superheated plasma discs. They rode towards the source of the flashes and after a few moments the discharges and explosions subsided. The skirmish was over. Yellow and Ray kept beneath the canopies so as not to be visible by the Inbit. Up ahead was another clearing, what was left of an airport strip. The ruins of a terminal were there, on fire and billowing black clouds, along with a wide stretch of cracked pavement with persistent nature pushing through to form clumps of growth and rendering the strip useless. Smouldering atop the ruins were three felled Inbit, hardly scratched expect for the shattered optics, their vulnerability, with thick greenish nutrient fluid leaking out and gathering into pools where the lifeless metallic husks were crumpled. Neither Mint, Ray, or Yellow saw any ruins of resistance fighters. Then there was an unmistakeable roar of a departing Mospeada, movement as a dull, unreflective metallic grey sped across the surface and towards the encroaching brush.

Yellow quickly took in the situation and surmised the exchange with the perfect optic shots for no less than three Inbits, no secondary marks against their armour, the dissidents were great shots and more than a match for the Inbit, but he only saw the one Mospeada speeding away. Maybe another was killed or injured. The idea of one felling three Inbit alone did not occur readily to Yellow. These thoughts flashed through his mind but one idea especially, if this fighter was skilled, then this person would be a great addition to the team. Yellow gave pursuit.

More Inbit re-enforcements would arrive.

"Hey Yellow, wait!" Shouted Ray.

Yellow was already speeding towards the other Mospeada, struggling to catch up. There was enough space amidst the natural growth for Yellow to pursue. Perhaps this resistance fighter planned an escape route, meaning this was an accomplished combatant, not a rag tag resistance fighter. As he moved to narrow the gap, Yellow was taken aback, the Mospeada he glimpsed was not painted, but was a factory default gun metal grey. He was tempted to switch on the HBT to close the gap but did not want to attract the Inbit and was not sure from which direction their droves of re-enforcements would approach. The armour of the rider ahead had no insignia, rank, number on the shoulder, nothing. As if the unit was pulled off the assembly line before it reached painting and detailing.

Then came the telltale rumble of approaching engines, the Inbit had arrived. Yellow slowed down so Ray could catch up and they could take cover.

Solzie surveyed the wreckage of the felled fellow Inbit and saw the tell-tale neat optical shots with no secondary or tertiary shots. Each was a perfect kill shot. Some of the Inbit were able to lay down a barrage of return fire, but evidently not enough to subdue the sniper. The target either moved too quickly or the Inbit fighers could not draw out their target, rather struck towards a general direction. From the angle of the way the Inbit were felled, she guessed a general trajectory. The HBT signature was long gone. The last report from the felled Inbit was similar to previous ones, a steady source of HBT. Three Inbit were dispatched to investigate and the next report was that they were all down. There were also reports and her own sightings of rebels, but this was clearly not their handiwork. The whole exchange was done with very little energy spent on the sniper's part. This sniper would attack again and she would have to out-strategize this one, perhaps lose some under her command before she was finally able to kill or capture it. Strategies coursed through her mind. There was a team of Inbit out searching the perimeter in the hopes the sniper would be bold enough to attack again and hopefully they could pin point its position and then finally neutralize. Previous times the Sniper simply disappeared, only to fell more Inbit later. Solzie engaged her mecha's thrusters and sped off to join the others.

Yellow, Ray and Mint maintained cover in the brush as numerous Inbit streaked over in low flying altitude. The ground tremoured with their rumble. Ray and Mint were under a tree, the former's Mospeada under a thick clump of overgrowth, engine and MARS Gallant off. Ray nervously held onto his Mars Gallant, finger tensed over the power and trigger his other hand ready to clamp over Mint's mouth.

"They're flying above like a bunch of angry hornets. They really must be after us. Those metal crabs must want him as badly as they want us or more."

Another Inbit streaked very low and Mint let out a scream and at first Ray clamped his palm over her mouth then realized the engine roar was so loud that it drowned everything and opted to cover his own ears instead. He could feel Mint tremble from fear, all they needed was something else to go wrong. The Inbit, a force of Eagers, Grabs, a Gammo all led by a Ghoss Type were in large numbers. None of the team knew them by name, only sight and they knew they were in trouble. A few meters away, Yellow was also tensed beneath a tree, his own Mars Gallant off yet ready to activate. Neither himself nor Ray were armoured up for conflict, and a fight with the squad of Inbit would not go in their favor.

Then Yellow drew in his breath as he saw a pink and green humanoid shaped Inbit armor streak over. Right away he knew it was the strange turncoat woman Inbit pilot, the one who haunted his dreams.

Someone else spied Solzie. The Sniper studied the skies from the concealed position, counting and calculating his chances of survival if he felled any more Inbit. Three kills in one day was already more than his quota. Then he caught sight of an Inbit he had never seen before. It zig zagged across the sky in movements he had difficulty anticipating. It hovered above the earth for a moment, then flashed like lightning and paused rotating slowly as if scanning below. It seemed to be looking for him. He let in a sharp intake of breath and its shape fascinated him, it was humanoid almost. It had large armoured legs, a thick armoured torso re-enforced at the chest, one arm had a short shield to parry attacks and the other arm had a plasma discharge weapon. It's head was comparatively smaller, but in his estimation, it's head sensor was mounted—and if it was like the other Inbit, that's where it's vulnerability resided. The Sniper took out his rifle and let his aiming sights over the Inbit form while deciding whether it was a good idea to risk his location, a possible life in exchange for this Inbit's. The sniper concentrated and wondered if he could get a proper bead on it.

Solzie felt a coldness run over her. If she had been human, with local cultural references, she would have recalled the phrase of someone walking over her grave. Since Solzie was granted human form by the Refless, she experienced a myriad of sensations difficult to process. Feelings beyond physical ones, an inundating conundrums of impressions and ideas. It was as if this planet the Inbit had chosen to take over were haunted with spirits and they were trying to possess her. Then there was the male human who enchanted her and took up much of her thoughts, the one with long lavender hair. She felt linked to him since the waterfall and having seen him the few times later. More than once he was within her sites to kill. Though it was her mission to eliminate him, he was clearly a human rebel and she was under the Refless orders to wipe him and others of his kind out. She had killed many humans, not just rebels. However, since she was granted the human form she was unable to destroy this human.

Part of the purpose of the sniper is to demoralize the enemy, remove the sense of superiority, omnipotence and confidence. By striking at the highest ranking enemy, you send a message to your enemy that all are vulnerable and subject to death at any time. They are not in control, you are in control.

Yellow too felt that in a moment, a coldness wash over him as he noticed the woman's Inbit mecha as it sped and hovered and sped and hovered. The alien mecha seemed to be suspended in mid air for a moment there and he started when it's head was pierced, a direct hit. The ship lost control for a moment then streaked across the sky. He was shocked at the hit, but also relieved because he knew that the pilot was in the lower part of the Inbit torso and that was its vulnerability, not the optics like the other Inbit.

Yellow, who was not too far away, tensed—his heart raced with horror as the Inbit was struck, he was afraid for the pink haired woman pilot, hoping it was not her that was hit. He wanted to see this woman one more time to convince her to leave the Inbit. He suddenly hated the sniper and hoped the Inbit would get him, but then he heard the roar of the Mospeada and he knew that he had escaped and left them all to the Inbit.

There were no tracers, just the trajectory of the impact. Solzie momentarily lost control from surprise of the impact, but was also cool and calculating enough not to fire randomly. She wanted to eliminate the target, not give her target the satisfaction she was losing control. The HBT signatures were brief but lost in the destruction of her sensors but she guessed the point and fired. Also, the Gamo class fighter and Eagers hovered below her to act as shields in case of another attempt. The other Inbit also responded and lay heavy fire on the earth below.

"Halt your fire!" Commanded Solzie.

The Sniper had taken out her sensors so she was unable to use her targeting systems to find and eliminate the sniper. All she had to go on were visuals from the cockpit of her armour. The barrage of plasma fire the Inbit had previously laid out were now smouldering with smoke as parts of the forest were ablaze, obscuring her view. Also their combined fire and HBT tempest and loss of her own sensors rendered the rest of the mission moot. If the Inbit did not return fire immediately they might have been a able to approximate a position—but in these flames and smoke, their quarry could have just as easily have escaped. The sniper both lost and won this round. Unlike the other Inbit, her mecha vulnerability was elsewhere and lost because the sniper was probably long gone, but not the sensation of her mortality.

It was Solzie's hope the Sniper would attack again, thereby enabling her to find its position and destroying the wretched human, but instinct told her the Sniper would do no follow-up attack.

Another, unfamiliar sensation coursed through Solzie, something unknown to her before being given human form, and that was fear of mortality. As a previous stage Inbit, she carried out the Refless' orders, her existence was to serve. Now Solzie felt the desire to see the lavender haired human at least once more and until then, did not want her life cut off. Solize gathered her command ability and ordered a thorough sweep of the forest. Frustratingly, she would have to return her mecha to one of the hives to have it repaired and there was no way she could engage the sniper, rebels, or any other threat in her current condition. She did not look forward to being rebuked by Battra.

This human sniper had communicated its message, the Earth was not fully secured by the Inbit and she wondered about Battra's assertion of wiping all humans out.

"Do you see that? Someone blew that Inbit head right off!" Exclaimed Ray.

"Well, this fighter is going to get us all killed! The Inbit is destroying everything." Worried Mint.

"Maybe that's the idea." Mused Ray. "Wait, they stopped firing."

The Inbit descended to land as the lead humanoid armour streaked out of sight. The rest remained and continued to sweep the forest in search of rebels. This time they would be thorough as their leader was struck, wounded but not destroyed.

If we face that Inbit armour, we are not going to make it to Columbus.

As the barrage from the Inbit hit the ground, so did Yellow, Mint and Ray as the Plasma discs rained from above. At that moment it was a gamble, they could have returned fire and risk certain annihilation, or stay put and deal with likely annihilation. They chose the latter. The firing was more intense and the forest was aflame—but then the Inbit barrage stopped. In the dense smoke, like the Sniper, Ray and Yellow realized it was best to get on their Mospeadas and try to escape under cover of the trees if possible. This reminded Ray of some of the more hairier times when the team had first grouped together and fought the Inbit as a resistance group.

The Sniper gasped in surprise, the Inbit armour still functioned despite a clean shot right through its optic sensors. He then braced himself for the barrage of plasma discs that was sure to follow. It's vulnerability, if it had one, must be elsewhere. This one was definitely high ranking as the other Inbit moved in to protect the armoured one as it hovered. He also noticed the ship moving differently, not the with the ease and confidence it had before, so the optic may have affected its long range movement and probably firing abilities. It fired but missed...that was probably the sensor. The other Inbit lay down a barrage of heavy fire, automatically after his shot, but then stopped suddenly and the sniper realized it was waiting for a second shot to cross triangulate his position. This commanding Inbit was not like the others, he made a mental note where to hit the commanding Inbit at the next opportunity, but that barrage the Inbit laid down and the heavy smoke therein gave him the opportunity to grab his Mospeada and head through his escape route. He knew the Inbit mind almost as well as the Inbit themselves and knew their next step was to conduct a sweep of the forest. In the ensuing confusion and havoc the Sniper pushed and then later sped off in his Mospeada, winding through the thick forest growth.

"We have to get to Yellow and figure out how to get the heck out of here before these giant metal crabs roast us over a hellfire spit in the next while."

Ray reached through the brush and pulled out his Mospeada and pushed it towards the general direction where he saw Yellow last. "C'mon Mint, maybe we have a chance to get out of here. The Inbit are combing the forest and I don't think climbing up one of these trees and waiting for them to leave is going to help us this time. One of their leaders got hit and I don't think they're too happy about this."

"You think they'll burn down the entire forest to try to get us?"

"Maybe the whole world to get at us."

"Is that sniper deliberately trying to get us all killed?"

"He's close to succeeding."

"I think it's more that he or she has no concern about us."

Miraculously, however, the Inbit paused the rain of fire and pulled back their forces.

Battra was not used to human emotion and it did trouble him that he was adapting so quickly to it, particularly this emotion known as 'laughter'. When he discovered that Solzie's sensors were shot out by the sniper, he could barely control himself. A Malar, one of the humanoid Inbit mechs closer to his size approached him, under the impression that he might be ill, but Battra waved him off.

"Lovely humans. You were bested by a single fighter. It probably thought the sensor was your vulnerability. If he was aware of where to strike you would be finished by now. Don't you see now that all humans must be systematically exterminated? That none must be allowed to survive?"

Solzie thought about the human with lavender hair. "We will locate and exterminate the rebel, however, it is ill advised to wipe them all out."

Again Battra continued to laugh. "I may be infected by these human emotions, but you are obviously infected by their stupidity. We are the dominant species. Humans are used to controlling, dominating, and destroying this planet through wilful ignorance. Only our species allows for this world to continue. Humans are used to their dominance and will settle for nothing less. There is no coexistence with them. Our records of their life here indicated as much."

"You do not notice the hypocrisy? You wish to exterminate an entire species just as their race has in the past. Their race did it through blindness, you wish to wilfully exert dominance. True mastery and dominance does not involve extermination."

"I realize what you are conveying, but humans are a race where no quarter must be given. They are the exception."

The sniper removed his armour gradually at a secluded spot. He concealed his armour in case of passersby. To anybody who passed through, he was a wounded, mysterious derelict. Beneath his armour there was a man in excellent physical condition, but with some prosthetics from the war with the Inbit. Over the bottom third of his face was a breathing apparatus that helped regulate and process the oxygen in his blood and helped him breathe. He could remove the bottom third of the mask, to eat or clean his teeth, but eventually he would cough and grow ill. Consequently, he had a sickly, hollow-eyed pallor to him, with dark circles beneath his eyes. He wore a long coat, to re-enforce against the cold, a series of dark colours. Because of his transient lifestyle, constantly on the move to hunt down high ranking Inbit, he was used to improvising homes while minimizing direct human connections. The mission of terminating high ranking Inbit, demoralizing, and eventually making them lose control was the ultimate gain.

Over dinner—often something hunted—the sniper reviewed the day's events and tried to understand why the Inbit he targeted was not destroyed. This would be the first to survive a perfect hit. But he also noticed no nutrient fluid emissions, rather a smouldering wreck. The scanner shot was clean. It was likely the new models took into account earlier vulnerabilities and made something different. The next step was to apply the next possible vulnerability. This one also clearly demanded a halt fire, meaning the barrage was unlikely to destroy him. This Inbit was intelligent and knew something of the snipers' strategy. The Inbit were likely looking for ways to do away with him. It was a matter of who would take out whom first. But the Inbit would also be busy with the attack waves from Mars division and he knew that the Inbit had bigger problems.