Elix and The Uprising are huddled in a circle by the sewer exit of their underground base; it’s been one day since Elix joined the group.
Davis checks his watch.
“Two minutes till go time. Elix, you ready?”
She inhales through her nose then quickly out through her mouth to pump herself up.
“Yes” She confirms confidently.
“Now, this is your first mission in a full team, if shit goes sideways, stay close to Blister and listen for my orders”
“How many Assimilated are we likely to encounter?” Elix asks the group with an air of apprehension overriding her confidence.
“It’s hard to assess based on the Intel we’ve got from the other clusters, but since the Assimilation centre is relatively small, security should be quite low. Maybe ten, or twenty Assims, if they’ve had a large influx of Hûms”
Blister spots the anguish on Elix’s face.
“Hey don’t worry, I’ve handled more than that by myself”
“He’s not lying” Davis adds as he leaves the huddle to open the sewer’s manifold.
“Yeah but Davis is” Trace states, foiling the boy’s boast.
“Well it was a lot” Blister attempts to reclaim his ego.
Malcom had been waiting for his chance to shut down Blister and here it was:
“It was three Assims and when we got to you, you were crying”
“I was sweating alright, it was a tough fight. Anyway, I trust the other cluster’s Intel, believe me this’ll be an easy mission for us”
The Uprising walks single file into the sewers and Blister shuts the door behind them. Elix’s nose was still full of the air from their base, but the second the door shut she was overcome with the stench of a million Assim’s faecal matter and god knows how many other animal’s excretions.
She continues her queries to try and take her mind off the smell.
“So how many Clusters are there?”
“There’s seven in this city, Clusters A through to J, only Artemis knew how many there were globally”
“Only ten?” Elix is shocked
“How many in each Cluster?”
“Roughly three to six in each, any more and they’d risk being detected. That’s why were on this mission; to find Dr Abishua, he’s the only one Artemis knew capable enough to modify our Intelliguises so we don’t overheat and register as Hûms on the Assimilated’s monocles”
“So fewer than fifty Hûms are going to take down the Encephalon? Which has control of over ten billion Assimilated?”
Davis stops his stride, the group pauses with curiosity, he turns and walks straight to Elix and with the straightest of faces and the calmest tone says.
“We are all that is necessary to end this, even if there were only one Hûm left it would still be enough. Tyranny like this never lasts, our souls, our thoughts, our actions, our emotions, will always persevere”
His voice echoes faintly on through the tunnels, his words are empowering to Elix. For a moment she is scared, but it fades quickly to excitement and gives her a rush of adrenaline and endorphins that will linger with her long into the night and see her through to the morning.
Davis resumes his walk at the head of the pack. It’s silent for ten or so paces as Davis’s speech resonates with all of them. All except Blister who has grown tired of the quiet.
“Alright, somebody say something or I’m jumping into the turd water and you all have to deal with my stink till we get home”
“Any objections?” Trace asks the others.
“Nope, None here”
“I couldn’t care less” Davis and Malcom swiftly sound off respectively.
Blister turns to Elix with desperation written in the veins of his eyes, she hastily thinks of a question as she’s already over the smell of this place and doesn’t want to smell it all night.
“So which Cluster are we?”
A whispered uproar of ‘Boo’s’ and ‘OH’s’ carry over the thick air.
“What? What did I say?” Elix genuinely queries.
Malcom fills her in:
“We were this close to seeing him flail around in excrement” He says, with his thumb and forefinger in the air only a millimetre apart.
“But that would be bad… Right?” Elix sceptically asks
Malcom gives the rest of the details:
“Well yes, of course, for him, see Blister can’t handle the silent treatment and sometimes when he throws a tantrum we try and coax him into following through with his threat. The results so far have been most amusing and actually it’s proven the most effective way to get some peace and quiet on a mission”
“You lot are cruel” Says Elix.
Davis perks up:
“You’ll change your tune in a few weeks when he’s talked your ears off”
Trace chimes in:
“I thought it was barbaric when I first saw it happen, but now it’s almost like he enjoys throwing himself into grotesque substances”
“Oh man, like the time we were in that swamp after Artemis needed us to deliver some Intelliguises to one of the new Clusters out in the country” He chuckles the rest of his words out.
“Okay, that wasn’t funny! A crocodile nearly bit my leg off”
“Yes, but you were pretty quiet on the way trek home” Trace concludes.
Davis makes a right turn into a narrower set of tunnels, and the group crouch slightly as they walk on.
“We’re Cluster F…” Blister states finally answering Elix.
“…We’re not allowed to contact any more than two Clusters at a time; we relay with E and G Clusters, it’s part of the set of protocols Artemis devised”
“Shh…” Davis whispers.
“…We’re nearing the Assimilation centre”
Davis stops and pulls out a hand drawn map of the building, he clicks on his torch and reiterates the plan to his encircled team.
“We enter through the drain in the basement, we go up one flight to the first floor’s door and assess the threat level as best we can. Then we time the movements of the guarding Assims and when they’re in position we take them out with our short range EMP nades. Any left-over Assims we take out with our electro-round pistols. After we’ve secured the scientist we have to split up and rendezvous at the Crow’s Tongue at least three hours apart…”
Elix looks a bit confused as to why they have to split up at all, but can tell Davis has more to say and listens intently for his next sentence.
“…Blister, Trace, Malcom you guys go the fast way home, but you have to draw as much attention as you can away from us; so it won’t be a stealthy get away”
Blister is first to respond:
“Got it, fast and loud, take the party to the streets”
Trace and Malcom nod their agreeance.
“Elix, you and I will be in charge of locating and escorting our scientist back through these tunnels as unnoticed as possible and we’ll wait near the Crow’s Tongue’s back door till we’ve heard the all clear from Blister. If anything goes bad or home base gets compromised, we must go to our second rendezvous which, thanks to Elix, is the old library near Artemis’ house…”
Davis takes a few good breaths of the horrible thick air surrounding him to calm his barely visible nerves.
“…Once the nades go off, back up Assimilated with be dispatched immediately and we’ll only have a few minutes to act. So, now’s the time for questions”
Davis scans the faces of his comrades for any sign of uneasiness.
“Spit it out Blister” He says after noticing Blister nibbling at his bottom lip.
“Won’t the EMP nades mess with our Intelliguises too?”
“Ugh Blister we’ve been over this…” Angry that he obviously wasn’t paying attention the first time.
“…These nades are short range. They only have enough power to disable electronics within a two-metre radius and as for the electro-rounds in case you missed that part too you have to be touching an Assim directly or through a conduit to be affected”
Blister’s nervous tick ceases
“Okay, Abishua should be in the holding area. Let’s move” Says Davis.
The uprising stand on each other like ants to reach the floodwater grate; Blister on the bottom, then Davis, who has Trace; the smallest, on his shoulders. Elix and Malcom wait beside them and watch in awe as Blister tightens his quadriceps and glutes to do the heaviest squat of his life.
Trace dislodges the steel grate as she ascends, and gently places it next to the opening on the floor. Blister’s face is red by now but eases to a warm pink as Trace lifts herself off and into the basement above. She reaches down for Davis and raises him into the room as quick as she can. The two then lower a rope down to the three waiting.
Blister rests and Malcom climbs up first with a blatant lack of chivalry. Elix climbs up next and Blister has a cheeky look at her behind. She looks down to him, nearly catching his voyeuristic face; complete with drool seeping from his mouth. Blister is quick though and resumes panting, before following her up a few seconds later.
The five Hûms; with Davis at the lead synchronously ascend the staircase of the damp basement, being careful not to make even the slightest of creaks. The door at the top appears to be reinforced with steel and the window at its centre is cored with wire mesh. Davis signals to Malcom to move to the front of the pack and use his surveillance gear. Malcom pulls from his satchel what appears to Elix to be a tangle of shoe lace.
Her confusion is lifted as she watches him unravel the string and pull it tight between his hands twice in succession. The lace stiffens, he bends the top third and slides it underneath the door, next he attaches something that resembles an eyepiece to a microscope to the other end of the string to which he places his eye against.
With his other eye closed and wrinkling the left side of his face in concentration Malcom whispers.
“Two guards at the entrance, twelve metres ahead of us on the left. One, maybe two on the mezzanine floor above us, to the right. I see ten Assimilation technicians, which don’t appear to be armed. I can safely assume there is another two guards outside the entrance and the exit, and potentially a couple of Assims nearby”
“Good work Malcom. Back to your position” Davis orders.
He pulls from his thigh pocket a handful of cylindrical objects no longer than Elix’s pinkie finger and thin enough to fit under the door, he places them on the ground, and from the same pocket extracts a modified handheld gaming system with a near destroyed label on it that reads ‘AME BOY’
A small red light powers on in the left-hand corner of the device as Davis flicks its switch into the on position. The cylinders roll away with a soft noise similar to a mosquito flying overhead. He drives the squadron of cylinders into position and commands his team:
“Prepare to breach”
Blister stands and moves to the door, he hastily pastes some kind of goo with a paintbrush onto the locking mechanism and then jams the brush into the keyhole before returning to his position with his hands cupping his ears. Elix is quick to assess what is about to happen and follows suit.
Davis presses the two circular buttons on his AME BOY at the same time.
The EMP goes off, two seconds later the door’s handle disintegrates into a chunky dust on the floor. Blister is first to move, he enters the room to witness the Assims scurry around the building, trying to re-capture the fleeing Hûms.
His pistol is drawn and ready, scanning for any Assim that spots him, so he can quickly disable them. Trace follows closely behind; her right shoulder in line with his left and Malcom just behind her.
Blister paces up the stairs to the mezzanine floor. Trace and Malcom spot two Assims coming for him from the entrance, Trace fires once, one goes down. Malcom fires twice and hits with his second. Malcom stays down stairs as Trace dashes up to meet Blister; they ascend together once she catches up.
The mezzanine level is nearly closed off except for the stairway entrance and a space of about 2 metres that overlooks the ground floor just above Malcom. Blister shoots one of the Assims closing in on them. Trace spots a second peering over the balcony, taking aim at Malcom with his pistol, without a second’s hesitation she fires at the man and he tumbles over the balustrading and lands right next to Malcom. He looks up with shock and gratitude smeared all over his face.
“Clear” Blister calls.
Trace and Blister return to the ground floor and help Malcom check the rest of the facility. Luckily its small and any Assim in the immediate area had fled to gather reinforcements.
“All clear” Trace tells Davis via her Morse responder.
Elix and Davis emerge from the basement at full pace, they know they don’t have much time to locate Dr Abishua.
“He’s got dark red hair, green eyes, and vitiligo scaling up his neck”
Elix takes all that she needs to easily identify the Dr from Davis’s statement
“Red hair, Vitiligo” She repeats, as they enter the holding area.
Blister, Trace and Malcom maintain constant surveillance of the compound, while they search. Davis and Elix split up and travel down separate rows scanning each Hûm they pass.
They only get a few rows deep when:
“Davis, here! Quick I’ve found him”
Davis runs over to her. Elix analyses the machine that the doctor is hooked up to
“We don’t have time for that” Davis says, as he tries to lift Abishua from his seat to no avail.
“Elix, stand back” Davis half-steps backward and raises his gun to Abishua. Elix zips in front of his aim.
“No, what are you doing?!” She protests.
“He’s got chemical induced rigor mortis” Davis says blatantly annoyed at Elix wasting his time.
He grabs her shoulder and fires over her at the Doctor.
Abishua seizes in his seat and drops to the concrete, flailing violently before lying limp on the floor.
Moments later the scientist wriggles and groans to a semi-consciousness as Davis and Elix look on. Not one second of Abishua’s waking mumbles reverberate in the now cold outside air, before Davis wrenches him from the ground and hocks him over his shoulder.
“Cover me Elix” He orders.
Davis trudges into the Assimilation centre with Elix at his rear.
“Assims incoming” Blister shouts from his scouting position at the main entrance.
Davis picks up his pace, grunting instead of replying. His team knows the plan all he has to do is focus on getting back into the basement as fast as possible.
Trace and Blister begin firing off into the distance at the Assims, to slow them down. It barely works as the Assimilated converge on them, appearing to multiply with each step forwards. Trace and Blister retreat to the centre of the complex to reload and continue firing.
Davis, the scientist and Elix make it safely into the basement. The door shuts and Blister knows his next move.
“Come on you walkie talkies!” he bellows at them.
Hoping to provoke what’s left of their human egos. At the very least his shouting alone draws them through the facility and out the back; keeping them too preoccupied to search for anyone else.
Civilian Assims swarm in on their position, adding to the militarised Assims already close behind the three.
“We’ve got to lose them” Trace stresses.
“Malcom! Nuke these Batteries!” Blister demands.
Malcom pulls from his satchel a handful of EMP Nades and a couple of smoke bombs; he throws them into the crowd. They crackle and hiss as they disperse their contents into the immediate atmosphere, shocking eighty percent of the Assims and sending the rest into a bout of confusion and disorientation, allowing Blister, Trace and Malcom to slip over the wall to the complex and into a neighbouring cemetery.