(Author's notes: I don't own Bubblegum Crisis, nor its characters, nor any of its various related series. Speaking of which...I've been advised to mention that I've never seen the Crash! series, so any similarities or contradictions are totally coinicidental.
Anyway, I was pondering what kind of equipment might account for the survivability of the Knight Sabers, and I decided "Hey, let's try something!" This story is the end result.)
She checked the countdown in the corner of her visor's display.
Just one more minute. With any luck, everything would go smoothly for once.
Her passive scanners didn't show anything out of the ordinary. The security cameras were running, and the automated defenses were of course laying just out of sight, but that's what the countdown was for.
Clouds decorated the night sky. She was sure the air was cool at this hour, though the electronic-packed layers of metal and plastic encasing her body prevented her from feeling it. For the heck of it, she pulled up a temperature reading.
External 10C/Internal 21C.
Chillier than she thought. The well-regulated temperature inside the hardsuit was of course meant to promote efficiency, but damn if it wasn't enjoyable from time to time.
She took a deep breath, and triggered a state change in her suit's systems.
Ending low-observable mode.
Activating full-output mode.
On cue, the lights in the building went out, the cameras deactivated...and the door on the opposite end of the walkway opened.
She sprinted full speed down the walkway, the sound of metal hitting metal carrying to her ears while the muffled vibrations moved up her legs. Another perk of the hardsuit was that the mechanical muscles did a lot of the work; she'd have fallen over from exhaustion a quarter of the way across if she had to do this on her own.
As she passed through the doorway, she heard several small explosions in the distance. Her sensor system triangulated the location of each, and overlayed the coordinates on a map of the complex. They all originated around the other side, the so-called "front door". That would be where her teammates were drawing security to, away from her infiltration mission.
The entry corridors were lit only by the red emergency lights, the main lights having been deactivated at the same time as the cameras and automated defenses. The featureless walls gave no indication of which direction led to her prize. But that's what the map was for. Fortunately there was no sign of any security forces in the halls, nor had any of the lockdown gates been able to activate.
She arrived at her destination with no complications. In the middle of a long hallway, a small doorway and antechamber opened into a larger room, with a large cylinder spanning from the floor to the ceiling. This was the computer core holding the sensitive data she was after. Data so sensitive that it was held on a system completely isolated from any computer network, forcing any interested party to go into the room to access it.
With a deep breath, she walked around to the terminal on the far side of the room, and gingerly pressed the left shift key to show the password prompt on the screen.
"Are you in?"
She almost jumped at Sylia's voice coming over her communication system, it being such an abrupt shift from the silence. "At the standalone terminal now, gaining access." She looked at the screen as she spoke; the version number of the login program was quite old, with an easily exploitable flaw. She keyed in the injection attack.
' or 1 -
The system obediently granted her access. "I'm in." She deployed a plugin from her suit and inserted it into an open port on the interface, as she keyed in some commands on the keyboard. "Copying."
Several tense seconds passed. Her system showed the files as they were copied, but it had no way of knowing how much information was being copied, and the rate of transfer left much to be desired.
"Will you hurry up in there?" came Priss' voice.
"It's going as fast as it can! It's not my fault this hardware is older than you."
"Any idea what all of it is?" Sylia asked before Priss had a chance for a comeback.
She pulled up a file listing. "Looks like all sorts of things. Schematics, reports, dossiers...ooh, decryption keys." The command prompt on the screen started blinking, and her system showed no further activity on the connection. "Done!" She quickly unplugged from the system, logged out, and jogged out into the hallway.
Which turned out to be a mistake. She squealed as a cacophony of gunfire erupted down the hall, accompanied by electrical snaps and metallic clangs against her side. She glanced in the direction of the noise as she ducked into the antechamber, the low-light adjusted display only showing a handful of human shapes. Certainly not boomers.
"What was that?" she heard them bickering in the hall as she caught her breath. "You swore these were tungsten flechettes! They didn't even touch that armor!"
Deflector circuit capacity: 79%. Estimated armor integrity: 100%.
She took a deliberate deep breath. The new deflectors provided a little extra protection against most kinds of small arms fire, but were superb against flechettes and other kinetic penetrators, knocking their penetrating tips off course and totally ruining their effectiveness.
"I'm not hanging around to see what else that suit is packing!" continued the team dynamic in the hall. "Fine, coward, we'll call for a boomer. And knowing the boss, you better hope your job is all it takes from you."
After hearing the shuffling fade out, she considered poking her head out into the hall. She quickly thought better of it after discovering that the antechamber was connected to the complex's network. Some more tech work and she had the cameras working for her. The coast was clear, assuming she could get out before their boomer backup arrived.
Big assumption. "Might need some help here, this wide open hallway's the only way out and I heard them send for a boomer."
"Get a move on," Linna's voice said. "You hit any real trouble so far?"
"No," she answered as she peered into the hallway before heading out, "These deflectors worked really well against their armor-piercing ammo. How're you guys?"
"I wouldn't say things are going easy, but the way these two are going at it I'm surprised they have any boomers left to send your way."
Halfway to the doorway, the normal lighting came back on. Worse, her suit detected a loud noise, and pinpointed it...at the doorway on the opposite end of the hall. She turned to look over her shoulder, and was greeted by the sight of the all-too-familiar blue-gray color of a combat cyberdroid. It started firing its main gun shortly thereafter, and she had to force herself to tear her eyes off of the threat and look where she was going.
She was almost a moment too late; she grabbed the edge of the doorway and hopped into the air to avoid slamming herself into the wall. As if to reinforce the point, a low hiss flew through the air until it delivered a rocket to that same wall, six feet from where she was; the fiery explosion brought with it an intense burst of electrical crackling and metallic clangs as her suit's deflectors acted against the storm of fragments hitting all over her profile.
WARNING. Deflector circuit depleted. Estimated armor integrity: 94%. Estimated deflector charge time: 36s.
That would have been a lot worse had she actually been where the thing went off. "Well they found one somewhere!" She cursed inwardly; having finally had a chance to check the map, she discovered that this side of the corridor she was now in only led deeper into the building. She'd have to cross the line of fire, however briefly, if she wanted to get out. "Heading for the back entrance, bringing unhappy company!" Hopefully there was only a single rocket on that thing.
She jogged forward while looking through the doorway, firing her laser through the opening. The targeting reticle displayed on her visor flew haphazardly all over the hallway, but the boomer was unaware that she'd have a difficult time aiming at the wall while moving; it ducked into the antechamber amidst the stream of wildly scattered orange bolts, firing a burst of suppressive fire of its own.
It had better luck than she did. She didn't quite hear the thud and crack at her midsection, nor her own yell, so much as she felt the impact carrying through. It reminded of her of the time she tripped on the sidewalk and a well-inflated soccer ball broke her fall. Except more forceful. Regardless, she kept herself running.
"You alright?" Sylia asked.
"I'll live," she managed. "I think."
WARNING. Moderate deformation in front-torso armor. Avoid damage from forward direction. Deflector circuit charging. Estimated deflector charge time: 28s. Estimated armor integrity: 71%.
"Yeah, I'll live, but this boomer is trying really hard to fix that!"
Linna responded. "I'm already headed over that way, but it's gonna be a minute or so before I can make it."
Several shots from the steadily closing boomer hit the wall as she rounded a corner. Was this place intentionally built like a maze, or was this the result of some non-violent boomer malfunction? "Got it," she said between breaths. Those mechanical muscles didn't do all the work. "For the record, I've changed my mind. So not into solo infiltration anymore."
"Told ya," Priss taunted.
She just sighed.
Estimated deflector charge time: 17s.
She tried to ignore the slight burning sensation growing her legs, instead focusing on the map and getting out. Which would be a lot easier if the boomer wasn't catching up, and if she couldn't hear its stomping gait get progressively louder.
Estimated deflector charge time: 9s.
The doorway out, inconveniently, was at the end of a straight hallway. She resigned herself to making a run for it, as there was no way she could get to another exit before the boomer could catch up to her. Eyebrows creased in determination, she tried to run even harder. With limited effectiveness.
Estimated deflector charge time: 6s.
Even over the sound of the metal underfoot and her own heartbeat, the booming echo of the boomer's footsteps was unmistakable. She didn't allow herself to look back.
Estimated deflector charge time: 4s.
The hardsuit's systems were nice enough to remind her of what she already knew: the boomer had just come around the corner. She was almost out...good thing the door was still stuck open from her earlier system attack.
Estimated deflector charge time: 2s.
As the dark sky greeted her, and she heard the whine of the boomer's gun readying to discharge, she hoped fervently that the system rounded charge times up to the highest second.
Charge complete. Deflector circuit capacity: 100%. Estimated armor integrity: 71%.
And not a moment too soon. She didn't have time to be relieved before a she felt what seemed like four punches to her back, each accompanied with an electric snap as the deflector wasted no time getting up to speed. She was midstep when they hit, and the startling and combined force of the impacts made her lose her balance and she fell on the walkway.
WARNING. Moderate deformation in rear-torso armor. Avoid damage from any direction. Deflector circuit capacity: 91%. Estimated armor integrity: 37%.
She pushed her arm against the ground, rolling herself over onto her back, as shots flew overhead. Though its weapon used more conventional rounds, and thus wasn't nullifed by the deflector system the same way the flechettes had been, her feet made for a much smaller target to hit.
Suddenly there was the sound of alarms, as as she watched, the door she'd just passed started closing itself, with the now-charging boomer on the other side.
"You're not the only one who can tweak a security grid," came Mackie's voice over her communication system, much to her relief.
A short-lived relief, as the boomer simply rammed through the door, the warped metal sparking as the mechanisms continued trying to close the thoroughly distorted sections of the door before smoke clouded the area. Before the smoke cleared, she took aim with her laser; which was a lot easier when she was stationary and had a few seconds to place the reticle on the area of the target.
But as the smoke cleared and she fired for a couple seconds, it became quite obvious that the laser didn't have the kind of power she'd have needed to make any dent; brief orange splashes were the only way she could tell she was hitting the thing at all. She had known this in the back of her mind, but her survival instinct hadn't atrophied to the point that she was going to just wait.
The boomer looked at her for a second, took aim...and was totally not expecting Linna to come from the roof, slashing the gun barrel and the boomer itself with her cutter ribbons before finishing it off with a knucklebomb.
She picked herself up off the ground. "Can we go now? Please?"
"How you holding up, Nene?" Linna asked.
She groaned. "I'm trying not to think about the bruises," she answered. "Certainly well enough to do this job."
Not knowing which of the decryption keys went with the files they'd recovered earlier, or even if any of them did match, she was trying them one at a time. She'd either end up with an intelligent looking set of data...or she'd run out of keys to try.
Wait, was that...Yes, she decided that key did result in what appeared to be a genuine document. She opened it...and her jaw dropped.
It was a dossier for Dr. Katsuhito Stingray. Which made sense, him being the original designer for boomer technology Genom would keep their records of him around, but...the latest entry for activity was only three months ago. That would mean he's less dead than believed...or else a code identity or other sort of handle for something else entirely.
- THE END (?) -