Sol System, Milky Way Galaxy
11:52 A.M. GST
European Continent, Ukrainian Wastes
Officer Kowalski: "You requested me, commander?"
Commander Jacobs: "Yes captain. Have you sent a team out to retrieve the artifact yet? We are short on time, I need not remind you of that."
Officer Kowalski: "Yessir! I sent a team of hired Hunters out this morning."
Commander Jacobs: "You sent Hunters? Really? You know that my ass is on the line here, and now so is yours!"
Officer Kowalski: "Sir, they are well-trained and possibly better than our own men. Not to mention the fact that we're already short on personnel as it is, and I wouldn't dare send out our new peach recruits."
Commander Jacobs: "Let's just hope they stay loyal and decide not to run off with the artifact for themselves."
It was a quiet day in the wastes of what was once known as Ukraine. The wind blew softly, the only noise being the rustle of far-off trees, if one could call the plant life on old Terra such pleasant things. The Federation had established bases on Old Terra a few centuries ago, and had been working hard to return the planet to its former state of beauty. Commander Jacobs was here for another purpose however: to retrieve an ancient and valuable artifact the government believed was buried in the sands of this wasteland. And to think that Officer Kowalski was jeopardizing his mission by hiring a band of STALKERs. The Commander would have no choice but to wait for their return. He had heard stories about this place. Savage mutants prowling the old lands of this God-forsaken planet that made the aliens encountered elsewhere in Calvarian space look like little kittens. He hoped Kowalski knew what he was doing. Especially since, on the other side of the massive border-walls that divided this section of wasteland from the east, the forces of the Empire had taken control, and were constantly prodding the Adamarian defenses for any kind of weakness.
Always obsessed with magic and lost relics, the Empire was relentless. It seemed like there was really no planet where their presence was not felt, even back home in Adamarian territory. Of course, the border systems in the Andromeda galaxy were always a hotbed of activity, and being the skilled officer that he was, Jacobs was never too far from the front. But this time was different. The Milky Way was widely unexplored; forgotten long ago. Old Terra and a handful of other worlds were the only colonized places, and Old Terra itself was one of only two planets in its system that were habitably, the other being the rocky, barren red world, Mars. Old Terra's origins were still lost to the ages and mysterious, despite much research being done on the planet. It was home to thick jungles of black and green plants, sandy wastelands like this one, thick, choppy green oceans, and radioactive arctic plains. Apart from the ruins left behind by the ancient Terrans and the occaisional mutant, there was scarcely any form of life here.
In the distance, the band of Hunters emerged from the underbrush, carrying with them the strange, glowing blue artifact that was so desperately craved by Jacobs' superiors for whatever reason. It looked almost like a piece of unrefined brickodium crystal, except it had a strange blue glow and was perfectly symetrical, like it had been intentionally carved that way by some artist long ago. It was rather large, but felt almost totally weightless.
Chip: "Well, I've seen several artifacts in my day, but this really looks like nothing I've seen before!"
Ghost: "I'm just surprised we had practically no trouble getting it, despite the fact that Adamarian officer looked scared shitless when he sent us after it."
Ghost worked the slide on his prized Val rifle, and looked around. The shape of the Adamarian border station came into view across the sandy plains.
Tracker: "We aren't out of the woods yet, lets move."
Adamarian Soldier: "Sir, I've got a visual on five persons heading this way."
Officer Kowalski: "Hold your fire, they're friendlies."
Commander Jacobs: "Thank goodness they made it. Let's hope they're as good as you say."
Ghost: "Don't shoot! It's us."
Officer Kowalski: "Do you have the artifact?"
Chip: "Yeah, its right here! Didn't even have to shoot anything for it either!"
The Hunters came through the sandbag barricade and their leader, a man named Tracker, walked over to Commander Jacobs. He wore a long, brown trench coat with a heavily modified helmet that hid his face from view. He carried an old bolt-action rifle, while on his side was a revolver.
Tracker: "Well, this must be some pretty important merchandise if there's an Adamarian Guardian here."
Commander Jacobs: "Yeah, its pretty important. It also happens to be classified."
Tracker: "Easy there, pretty boy. You're talking to a retired Guardian here."
Upon closer inspection, Jacobs noticed that the revolver on Tracker's side was an Adamarian Blazefire .44, the standard sidearm for the elite Guardians. He could only have acquired one if he was either a Guardian or had killed one, though the latter seemed highly unlikely.
Jacobs: "Well, I do thank you for your services. If you need a place to stay for the day, our camp's open."
Tracker: "Thanks, I think me and the fellas could use a bit of R&R."
Soldier: "Uh, sir we have a problem!"
Suddenly a large band of black vehicles and soldiers appeared on the horizon, charging straight for the base.
Jacobs: "Dammit, where did they come from?"
Officer Kowalski: "Everyone, man your stations! Get armor up here now!"
Tracker: "I knew this was going too well!"
In an instant, a loud whirring noise was heard, and a long, dark shadow appeared above their heads. The sand around them started to rise in a thick cloud, as they looked up to see the menacing silhouette of a Tornado-class gunship. A loud bang was heard, and the machine gunner next to Jacobs fell to the ground, dead, with no noise save for his corpse hitting the dirt, as blood poured from the new wound in his head.
Jacobs: "Everyone fire!"
Jacobs and his men opened fire with everything they had, as bullets pelted off the sides of the helicopter.
The distinctive buzzing noise of a minigun came to life as a nearby Initiate Mk II charged forward, firing on the Tornado with everything it had.
Kowalski: "Rockets! Now!"
The rocket hit home with a roar, and the gunners on the Tornado fell to their deaths as the gunship spiraled out of control. Jacobs looked to see one soldier grab hold of the Tornado's winch and slide down directly in front of his men.
Jacobs: "Look out!"
It was too late. The savage Calvarian dropped right in front of one of his riflemen and blew him apart with his shotgun.
Calvarian: "Who's next!?!?!"
With almost inhuman speed and fury, the Calvarian drew his two swords and charged at Jacobs. Thinking fast, Jacobs sidestepped his first blow and readied his pistol just as the Calvarian swung around...
Jacobs: "You are."
The battle with the helicopter had given the rest of the Calvarians more than enough time to advance however, and a Gale MRAP rolled forward, firing at the Initiate with its deadly autocannon.
Unfazed, the Initiate and its passengers charged forward straight into the Calvarian line...
And was utterly destroyed.
A second squad of Adamarian troops approaches the battle from the warehouse.
Armored support also arrives in the form of a Crusader tank and Bishop LAV.
The Crusader fires its main gun straight at the MRAP, and nearly takes out its entire front half. The crew just barely survives.
Hurriedly, the armored infantry squad in the Gale quickly deploys as their fellow troops move toward the barricade.
Jacobs: "You Imperial Bastards!"
The shot from Jacobs' Intervention tears the head clean off a Calvarian soldier as his comrade looks on.
Calvarian soldier: "Hell yeah,
The rest of the Calvarians, spurred on by their friend's death and battle cry, join in unison:
Calvarian army: "BRIKWAR FOR THE EMPEROR!"
The Calvarians advance tirelessly, even as the Adamarian troops drench their positions in bullets and grenades.
Jacobs: "Tracker, how you holdin' up?"
Tracker: "Just like old times man!"
Tracker fired his old bolt-action almost perfectly, even under the stress of the battle. Everywhere he aimed, a Calvarian fell dead.
Jacobs: "Do you think one of us should man this giant machine gun placed so convieniently between us?"
Tracker: "That might be a good idea!"
The Gale MRAP advances toward the second squad, cutting down two of them with its heavy machine gun.
It is finally destroyed by a final shot from the Crusader.
Tracker and Kowalski take cover as a Typhoon appears fires near their position.
Adamarian Soldier: "Shit! Get down!"
Tracker: "Their armor's gonna roll on top of us if we don't get some backup!"
Kowalski: "Don't worry, I'm on it!"
Kowalski reaches for his personal radio.
Kowalski: "Command, this is Captain Kowalski! We are under attack from heavy Calvarian ground forces! Requesting immediate air support at position 34B! Repeat, immediate air support at position 34B!"
Dropship Captain: "Roger that captian, heavy lift dropship Matador
is inbound on your position, ETA 60 seconds over."
Behind the cover of the Crusader tank, the Bishop LAV deploys its team of Adamarian Armored Infantry, lead by Lieutenant Frank Haley.
Haley: "Let's kick some fascist ass!"
As the Calvarians advance ever closer, the Typhoon tanks combine fire on the Crusader, with devestating results.
Jacobs: "Dammit we just lost our armor!"
Kowalski: "Then let's even the odds a little!"
Kowalski moves out of the way as the Rocketeer moves up and takes aim.
Rocketeer: "Target locked, firing!"
A thick, red HEAT round soars out of the barrel and towards the Calvarian tanks.
The missile buries itself deep in the Typhoon's hull and annihilates it in a single massive explosion.
Rolling around the husk of the destroyed Typhoon, the Stormwind APC deploys its troops using its autocannon and massive bulk to provide cover.
Adamarian Soldier: "We're gonna need more rockets!"
Jacobs: "Keep firing, hold the line!"
The second Adamarian squad is destroyed by Calvarian heavies, while more Calvarian troops are killed by Jacobs and his men.
Adamarian soldier: "Oh shit what is that!?!?"
A huge vessel suddenly appears from the clouds behind the Calvarian lines.
Kowalski: "Don't shoot, that's our bird!"
Dropship Crew: "This is heavy-lift dropship Matador
reporting for duty!"
With a loud hiss, a barrage of missiles fly through the air and vaporize the Stormwind and any Calvarians near it. The Adamarian soldiers cheer as the Matador
swerves around, aiming at the second Calvarian tank.
Dropship Gunner: "In position, firing!"
The lound thumping of the dropship's autocannons can be heard as the Typhoon goes up in flames.
Although slow as molasses, Haley and his team finally arrive to mop up the last Calvarians.
Haley: "Who ordered the extra dakka!?!?"
Haley's minigun cools down as the last Calvarians are drowned in a sea of blood, smoke, and ruin.
Jacobs: "Excellent work everyone! Re-group at the warehouse!"
Kowalski: "At least six, plus the Crusader and the Initiate with their crews."
Jacobs headed over to Tracker and his Hunters.
Jacobs: "You guys handled yourselves nicely out there. Sorry about any hard feelings earlier."
Tracker: "No worries."
Chip: "I believe this belongs to you guys."
Chip hands the artifact to Jacobs, which was miraculously still intact.
Jacobs: "Thanks again. You sure you don't want to stay and recuperate? We could use a few guys like you."
Tracker: "We appreciate the offer, but there's more artifacts out there calling our name."
Jacobs: "I understand. Wish you luck."
Tracker and the Hunters leave without another word. That must be how life is out here, Jacobs thought. Better not to ask too many questions. Not that he really cared to. He was tired, just as everyone else was. Perhaps he would see Tracker again soon. But for now, the artifact demanded attention.
Haley: "Damn that was a good fight."
Jacobs: "Yeah, but you were only there for the last five minutes."
Haley: "Good enough for me. When's the next one?"
Haley could have easily passed for a Calvarian himself in terms of utter savagery in the field of battle. Jacobs had never met him before, but he was already very intimidating, standing several inches higher than both himself and Kowalski, and clad head to toe in thick body armor.
Kowalski: "It's such a strange thing,"
Jacobs: "I just want to know what the hell it does. And why we risked our asses for it."
Haley: "And why the Calvarians did too."
Kowalski: "How did they even know?"
Haley: "Maybe they followed the Hunters?"
Jacobs: "Or maybe the Hunters followed them."
Kowalski and Haley both gave Jacobs an inquisitive look.
Jacobs: "What if the Hunters led them here."
Kowalski: "That sure seems like a bad thing to say for the guys that saved us not only physically but position-wise as well."
Jacobs: "They did say that they didn't have any real trouble in getting the artifact though."
Kowalski: "That is true, but I don't think we'll be getting any more answers until we find out what this thing is. The Calvarians certainly seemed ready to fight for it, but then again, they'll fight over nearly anything. Still, I'll take this to our main camp and be back by this evening."
Jacobs: "Fine. I'll stay here with Haley and help defend this position in case of any more incidents. When you return I'll need to be on my way however. My superiors are most interested in the artifact's properties."
With that, Kowalski headed inside the Matador
and departed with the artifact. Jacobs would have to wait to see just what it was that was so valuable about such a small object that made him, and everyone else at the station, risk their lives for it. The duty of the Guardians was to keep any enemies of the Federation from aquiring materials that could be used against its citizenry, and if the government felt that this small trinket was worth all of this, then so be it. Then Jacobs had a thought. Perhaps Tracker wasn't working with the Calvarians. Perhaps he wasn't even a Hunter. Maybe, he was a full-time Guardian working with the government to monitor his progress. No, Jacobs thought, that's crazy. Jacobs wanted answers, but like always, his personal desires would have to wait.