As they waited nervously them became aware of a rythmic thumping. It was a minute or two before they recognised the sound of metal shod boots marching in unison.
And then they appeared over a low rise: soldiers in double battle line, and in the centre the sleigh like ATV they had seen on the feed. This stopped, and there was a metallic crunching sound as the thing seemed to rearrange its shape. In its place was what looked like a fifteen foot tall robot Santa, complete with a missile pod on one shoulder, and an auto laser on one arm.
“A Mecha. How quaint” commented Sgt. Callan. “And marching in ranks. These boys have a lot to learn.”
Clarissa counted the troopers. Their dress seemed much like that of a classical Roman Soldier, though these carried a laser carbine with a wicked blade attached in lieu of sword and shield. Instead of helmets though they wore head wraps. Cal clearly hadn’t bothered with synthiflesh, and robotic eyes glinted from between their linen hoods.
“Eighty of them” counted Claissa.
“A Century” added Chick, “And the Big ‘Yin wi’ the crest will be the Centurion.” Chick knew a little about ancient history. The Legionaries tramped relentlessly forward.
The mercs opened up with concentrated ACR fire and a barrage of HE grenades from one of the Drones, leaving a large dent in one of the lines. Clarissa, now armed with her VCB, lobbed Number 4 Cartridges to similar, if less intense, effect.
It transpired that the Legionaries were not great shots, and the barrage returned as the lines slowly advanced was impressive but largely ineffective, thanks to their opponents cover advantages. However, a near hit from the missile pod on Cal’s Mecha nearly flattened Moe, his force field once again doing overtime duty. With their blasters the other Strontium Dogs picked off individual targets.
One or two mercs were wounded, and one went down incapacitated before his buddies could find time to apply a medpac, but Cal’s casualties were far greater. The SSW Drone was now concentrating it’s uranium core bullets onto the Mecha itself, and with his heavy blaster ’Enery followed suit.
After more inaccurate counter fire from Cal and several bursts from the Drone, the Mecha reeled. Cal’s face appeared on a view screen on the chestplate.
“You Fools! Ingrates! Why do you not Love me?” The mecha crashed to the ground. But still the Legionaries marched relentlessly on.
The lines were closer now, and though near the merc positions the attackers were pretty much devastated, the situation on the Strontium Dogs flank was more serious. A lucky shot stunned Anwyn, and both Clarissa and Moe had taken wounds.
“Top of the World Ma!” yelled Moe, rushing out behind the annexe to face the oncoming line. Shaking his head ’Enery followed. This was a mistake.
The Legionary droids were clearly no great shakes at gun combat, but using their bayonet blades was a different matter. Moe took one in the shoulder, and ’Enery took three or four, staggering and wounding him badly.
Seeing the way the cards were falling Moe played his last trick. He coughed and staggered to the ground, implementing the old trick he had learned from another Agent some years previously. The beat rate of his heart slowed down, bringing it to a very slow rate for several minutes, and giving his opponents, hopefully including the droid’s scanners, every appearance of being dead. It was a desperate gamble, but better than dying. The droids marched over Moe surrounding ’Enery, who tough skin or no, was battered down into a bloody heap. The droids tramped on.
But the flank of the mercs was clear now. As Cal had clambered from the wreckage of the Mecha the SSW had cut him down, and now the troopers were reinforcing the Strontium Dog’s flank. Behind them the other half of the platoon, facing north into the town, were calmly picking off the hordes of victorian civilian robots who were attempting to make their way across the street towards them. The massed ACR’s halted the droids entirely, leaving smoking heaps.
Sgt. Callan came up and got his data pad out. A trooper came over and reported that there was some light damage to one of the drones, and that a Trooper Kale was incapacitated but would otherwise be fine after a few days in bed.
“Good, good” said Sgt. Callan, “No need to worry about the Widow Clause in your contract then.” He smiled a tight smile, like a very brief flash of unenthusiastic sunlight on a cold winters day.
“Ammo replacement and equipment damage shouldn’t come to more than a few tens of thousands. It’ll be deducted from your account when I’ve done the paperwork .”
“Gee thanks” said Anwyn, who was now on her feet. She limped over to where Chick crouched over the fallen bodies of Moe and ’Enery. Automatically she reached for a pepperoni from her body sash and started to munch it, kick starting her strange regeneration ability.
A trail of bright blood showed stark red against a festive white. Tears rose in Anwyn’s eyes. Even as she watched Moe groaned and then sat bolt upright, looking around in panic.
He quickly took in the scene and a flash of what looked like deep remorse flashed across his face. Chick, usually the most distant of the group, bent his knee and laid his blue chicken like head to the bruised and beaten chest of his friend and silently wept. Then he got up quickly and ran over to Clarissa.
“’Enery!” he said.
“Yes. Yes, I know he’s had it. I’m just putting up a wanted ad. to see if we can meet a replacement somewhere. Any ideas?” she said.
""He’s no’ deid" siad Chick gritting his teeth. “Git yer snooty arse in gear wumman, put the pad doon and do yer’ medic thing. Noo!” He waved his blaster for emphasis.
“Oh alright. Hang onto your perch” said Clarissa sighing, and went over to ’Enery. He certainly looked dead, but nevertheless she dutifully applied a medipac, and started to see to the worst of the wounds. The problem with ’Enery was that his skin was very tough, and the nanite treatment he had undertaken made it even tougher. She needed to use a precision laser cutter on its highest setting to stitch the holes. It made mediscanner readings awkward too: if he was indeed alive that might have been what had actually saved him from the droids.
Much to her surprise, ’Enery’s watery eye’s flicked open. Still: he did not look well.
“Is there any chance of a lift out of here?” called Anwyn over the comms. “We have a man down here and he needs emergency treatment.”
“The Sarge says it’s ok” came the response. “I guess he must be in a good mood today.”