Read AZU-1: Lifehack Online

Authors: Joseph Picard

AZU-1: Lifehack (33 page)

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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The two words still stared at her.
“Men” “Women”

She looked up as if speaking to the
fates. “Laying it on pretty thick today, huh?”

~~~~~

Chapter 52: Brewing Storms

~~~~~

The AZU-1 airlimb set down into the
Yute base dock. The eleven other docks were filled as well, and
swarming with soldiers sporting a distinct emblem.


Storms.” Alisia informed
Regan. Storms were fairly elite units. Almost all ‘stromfronts’
operated out of airlimbs, having first dibs on new military
hardware.

When she first learned AZU-1 would be
getting an airlimb, Alisia was a little in awe. Now among the
stormfronts, she felt humbled. Her little unit must seem like
unworthy ants.

Alisia headed inside with her crew in
tow, and struggled past busy, hurrying people, some with folders in
hand, some with weapons, until they made it to General Westmore’s
conference room. It looked a bit more like a war room
now.

Alisia stood quiet for a while, trying
to get an idea of what was going on. There was too much happening
at once. The room had a dozen or more people in it at any one time,
many of them coming and going with reports or orders.

Alisia’s three subordinates lingered
behind her with varying degrees of patience. After a bit, the
General spotted Alisia.


Terone” He called, waving
her over. He didn’t seem pleased, but right now there were very few
reasons to be.


Sir.” Alisia said. “What’s
the plan?”


We’re sending in the
storms. Standard hostage extraction operation with adjustments made
for zombie resistance.”


Yes Sir. Keep in mind they
may be using small arms now. When do we leave?”


Terone, AZU-1 is ordered to
get some sleep and rest up. The storms can handle this. One more
unit in an operation this size won’t make a lot of difference. Get
some rest and be ready when we do need you.”

Alisia slumped her shoulders a bit.
“Oh, uhm, yes Sir. Is this because-“

The General interrupted, and looked up
from his papers. “Major, I’ve seen the report you sent in, and the
recordings. I’m fairly certain there was nothing else you could
have done. Just get some rest.”

Alisia nodded. Her little nap earlier
didn’t last all that long, and how long had she been awake before
that? It couldn’t have been long, but it felt like it. “Permission
to be excused?”


Dismissed, Major. Let us
take care of it.”

Alisia saluted, and turned to herd her
group out of the way and down the hall. “You heard the man, people.
We’re on standby.”

~~~~~

Chapter 53: Right

~~~~~

Regan, Parker, and Kris sat in a booth
at the base bar. It was quiet. Most of the base personnel were
helping to prepare for the upcoming operation.


So, what was that all
about?” Parker asked, “With the General...?”


I think our Major expected
to be in trouble.” Kris said.


What? We did everything we
could.. as soon as those nanites got spewed out and the servers
dropped out of sight, all we could do is get out of the way! It’s
not like there was any other thing we could have done.”

Regan spoke up softly. “It doesn’t
always feel that simple.” She got up and excused herself quietly,
heading back to the airlimb.

Parker mumbled to himself. “If anyone
dropped the ball, it was the goons that let him escape.”

Regan remembered the moment she had her
gun aimed squarely at Erebus’ head, and decided to play honourably.
Her honour just cost the people of Meston their lives. Her
footsteps faded down the hallway.

A silence was brought to the table in
Regan’s wake. Kris was grimly running circles in her head, when
Parker’s hand covered hers. She looked back at him with spite in
her eye, and her voice. “Horny? Now?”

Parker withdrew his hand and let out an
exasperated sigh. “Ever think maybe I wanted more than sex?” he
mumbled. Part of him wanted to yell it at her, but the modest part
won.

Kris stared at him and sneered a
little. “Idiot.” She stood, and began to leave. She turned back to
look at Parker. “Are you coming, or aren’t you?”

They stared at each other for what
seemed like a long time, perhaps trying to figure each other out,
perhaps waiting for the other to clue in. Parker finally answered.
“Not with that attitude.”


Idiot.” She mumbled to
herself. She kept an eye out on her way back to the airlimb for
someone else she could play with. She spotted a few likely
candidates that caught her eye, but she passed them all by. No, she
wasn’t in the mood anymore. Parker’s stubborn clingy wussiness had
sapped all the playfulness out of her. She took the long way back
to the airlimb, just sort of wandering. When she finally got back
and approached her room, she saw Regan across the hall, sitting in
a nightie by Alisia’s door, holding some scruffy looking teddy
bear.


What the fuck are you
doing, Regan?” It came out a bit more bitter than she intended, but
it’s not like she cared at the moment.

Regan looked up, a little shocked.
“Just waiting for Alisia.”


In the hall? Dressed like
that? And what’s with the bear?”

Regan looked down at the bear, then
back at Kris. “It’s hers. I borrow it sometimes. I think she knows.
I’m waiting here so I catch her when she comes back. If I wait in
my room, I might miss her. And the battery on the visor I’ve been
using as a hallway camera died. Do you know where she
is?”

Kris stared a little at the pathetic
orphan that sat there in the hall. “She’s talking with the nerds, I
think.”


That Doc Brock guy? Still?
Must be planning something. I can wait.”


Wait in her room, doofus,
the hall is cold.”


She might not like
that.”


Frig you’re whipped, Regan.
You two haven’t...... have you?”

Regan looked a little down. “I still
have hope.”

Kris opened the door to her own room,
and stepped in. “Idiot.” The door slid closed behind
her.

Regan decided Kris was right about one
thing. The hall was indeed cold. She grabbed a blanket from her own
room and cuddled up back down by Alisia’s door. She didn’t remember
falling asleep, but she awoke to the sound of Alisia’s voice.
“Regan.”

Regan looked up at Alisia with a sleepy
smile. “Leesha... can I sleepover?”

Alisia remembered the nap before. “You
stay on top of the blanket and keep your hands to
yourself.”

Regan smiled and stood, taking her own
blanket into one arm, the bear in the other. With the blanket down,
sloppily folded, her nightie was revealed. Alisia looked at her
with a grim expression. “Lose the nightie.”


I thought you’d never ask!”
Regan slipped the shoulder strap down a bit, teasing Alisia, and
stopped, seeing that Alisia wasn’t amused.


Cammo pants and a normal
T-shirt, minimum. And gimmie my damned bear!” Alisia grabbed her
bear and stormed into her room. Regan went and got changed. When
they finally settled in, Alisia was curled up facing the wall,
clutching her bear tight. Regan rolled towards Alisia and flopped
her arm over her. Alisia took her bear and shoved it in Regan’s
face. “Hug that.”

Regan obeyed, and watched Alisia settle
back down. She held the bear and gazed into the hues of orange and
gold in Alisia’s hair.

Alisia muttered, her voice becoming
sleepy. “You know there’s never gonna be anything romantic between
us, right?”


Right.” Ragan
answered.


I’m just letting you sleep
here cuz you’re my friend, and I realize this is a very stressful
time for you, right?”


right.”


You’re just answering the
way you think I want you to, aren’t you?”


Right.”


Go to sleep
Regan.”


Right.”


Shut up Regan.”


Right.”

~~~~~

Chapter 54: Plan A

~~~~~

Morning light found eleven airlimbs
cruising towards Meston, each with a compliment of two airlimb
operators and a six member stormfront. Aboard the lead airlimb,
Captain Greg Jackson briefed his five subordinates.


OK, boys and girls, we can
expect massive amounts of these ‘zombies’ running around. Luckily,
most of what we know about them and their combat methods indicate
that we will be able to manage them fairly easily. We’ve all seen
the footage from Autar’s first fall. It was a bloody mess, but keep
in mind that no one really knew what they were dealing with then,
and they were taken by surprise. The one thing we may have to watch
for is the occasional zombie using a firearm. This means we’ll want
to walk a narrow line between keeping under enough cover to evade
bullets if need be, and staying far enough away from places where
zombies might break out from. I know your ability, this shouldn’t
be too tough.”

The others murmured with cautious
confidence.


The operators will locate a
probable location of hostages and bring us as close as we can get.
Our job will be to pile as many as we can onto the airlimb, and get
em back to Yute. If we can’t take on all the ones we find, we’ll
call another stormfront that can take the rest. We’re expecting
reinforcements from all over to help in this operation, but in a
best case scenario we’re still talking about evacuating about a
third of Meston’s original population. I hope you all had a good
night’s sleep, it’s gonna be a long day.”

A Corporal spoke up. “Sir, what if the
zombies threaten to kill hostages?”


We’ll just have to kill the
zombies first.” His reply didn’t ease them much. “I know it stinks,
and there’s a good chance that as soon as this Erebus guy figures
out what we’re doing, he’ll kill every hostage he can get his hands
on, but it’s still more of a chance than we had in
Autar.”

A few minutes passed, when the
operators began talking a bit louder, in urgent tones. Captain
Jackson walked forward to the ops room to ask what was
wrong.


Just go sit down, Sir! We
need to work!”

Jackson looked around at the monitors.
One showed a trail of smoke across the sky.. no, two... now
three... Another monitor showed a strange structure in Meston, on a
rooftop. “What the hell is going on here?”

The one operator fumbled with the
controls. “I told you to sit down.” The airlimb heaved up,
preparing to turn around. Jackson fell on his back, just in time to
evade an iron construction girder ripping up through the floor at
an angle, and puncturing the ceiling behind him.

The impact shook the whole craft, and
caused ripples of panic through the highly trained passengers.
Jackson scrambled to his feet to check on his team. “Everyone OK
back there?”


Sir?? What the fuck?”
Another hard jolt rolled the airlimb onto its side. Jackson was the
only one not strapped in, and fell into the laps of some of his
crew.

From the front, the operators’ panicked
voices told him what he could already guess “Engines are... fuck!
We’re down to one!”

Jackson realized that their airlimb was
now one of those streams of smoke across the sky. He climbed over
to a locker and started tossing parachutes at people. That was when
they hit the ground.

General Westmore watched the situation
on multiple monitors at Yute. Only three arilimbs made it out, and
one of those had a girder sticking though it. Satellite video
showed that several of the downed airlimbs had as many as five
beams of iron stuck in them, in the middle of a mangled
mess.

The General growled at the monitors.
“What the hell just happened?”

~~~~~

Chapter 55: Plan B

~~~~~

Alisia awoke again to find Regan’s arm
flopped over her side, hand dangling in front of her. She could
feel her teddy bear pushed into her back a bit. This implied to her
that Regan didn’t cuddle up on purpose.. otherwise, she would have
gotten the bear out of the way, right? Unless she was half-asleep
at the time, maybe.

Alisia grabbed Regan’s hand, ready to
toss it back, but she was surprised to feel how warm it was. Her
own fingers felt cold, and without thinking, she paused to feel
Regan’s warmth for a bit. Time slowed as Alisia’s mind glazed over
a little, holding Regan’s hand.

Suddenly Regan’s hand moved. Her
fingers wrapped around Alisia’s, to hold her hand in return. To
Alisia it was as if she spotted the movement of a spider out of the
corner of her eye. She yelped a little and threw Regan’s hand away.
It landed on Alisia’s hip, causing her to leap out of
bed.

Alisia stared down at Regan, who was
only waking up. “Leesha, what’s going on?”


Nothing!” she said,
“Nothing, I, we.. it’s late, we slept late, we should get up! I’m
getting up! Just because we’re not on assignment, doesn’t mean we
can sleep together all day. I mean- fuck! No, I don’t mean ‘fuck’!
I mean.. shut up! Stop looking at me! I’m gonna take a shower.” She
walked out briskly, closing the door decisively behind
her.

BOOK: AZU-1: Lifehack
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