Avaricious: Mission AWOL (Page 3)

     “Radio test. Rio, how’s it going out there? I’m getting some interference.” Sparky asked though her headset. 

     “It’s cold, and horrible and I want to go home!”  Rio replied. 

     He was using the headset to communicate with her, though he couldn’t make the real-time video work. Instead, the headset was hardwired into a hand radio on her belt, so the signal wasn’t fantastic, but at least they could communicate.  

     “You’re fine.” Sparky chuckled back. “You need to keep heading toward the mountains, can you see them?” 

     “I can’t see anything!” 

     “Just keep heading in that direction, and keep thinking about that warm cup of hot chocolate waiting for you when you get back.” 

     “Are you guys just chilling out and drinking hot chocolate!?” 

     “Uh, no?”

     It was a good ten hours later, and currently she was wading through knee high snow, which was delaying her progress somewhat. For Rio, the sight of so much snow was a strange one, and left her wondering how on earth the weather could possibly sustain a constant storm all year around with no breaks – scientifically speaking it made no sense at all. She’d have to ask Sparky about it later, maybe he’d have some theory, but for now she was concentrating on using her weight to try and battle the powdery obstacle in front of her. 

     Her suit was done up tightly, her head was covered in the thick hat-like turban, and eyes protected behind thick snow googles. She couldn’t feel the bitter cold outside per say, but she still felt cold. She hated snow missions. 

     “No, it’s good you two are relaxing.” 

     “Two? Who’s two?” Sparky responded. 

     “You and Shade.” Rio said playfully. “I see you making eyes at each other.” 

     “What !?” 

     She couldn’t see him but knew he was blushing. “I mean, she is cute in a tomboy, girl-nest-door kind of way. You two would make a good couple.” 

     “S-shut up!” 

     “Ooh, is she right there?” Rio asked, and only heard a muttered growl in reply. “Put her on, if you won’t chat her up, let me have my fun!” 

     “You’re an idiot.” Sparky sighed. 

     She just laughed in response. How cute, Sparky was smitten! As she continued through the snow, she revelled in Sparky’s small-talk, it kept her mind off of the ever increasing strength of the winds that was constantly shipping up the snow into her, and the ever increasing depth of the snow as it started to raise to waist level. She could feel the wind whipping at her as it hit the suit, though she couldn’t feel the icy sting that it would be delivering otherwise, but her visibility was dropping to about five feet ahead of her. Unfortunately, she was getting that, not quite cold, not quite warm, stuffy feeling you get when your body temperature has no idea what normal should be. It felt like she was trapped in her own suit. 

     “Did… I ever… tell you… how much… I hate… the snow!” Rio said, grunting with effort as she was forced to literally push herself through the tide of snow that blocked her passage. She could’ve been anywhere, up a mountain, in a forest, on a frozen lake, there was nothing she could see other than the pure white of the snow ahead of her. Even if she glanced behind, the trail she had made was already starting to fill up with more snow, and would surely disappear before she could find her way back. Without the help from her partner constantly in her ear telling her which way, she could’ve been walking around in circles and not even realise it. 

     “No, I don’t think I’ve heard you complain about walking in the snow before (!)” Sparky replied, though this weather was certainly far worse than he had been expecting. “Look, next mission will be thirty degrees, minimum.” 

     “You’re damn… right it… will.” Rio exclaimed, panting. “Next… time pack ….me a dog sled… huh?” 

     Rio set her mind back on struggling through the snow. On the plus side, through the strenuous activity she managed to warm herself up nicely, but the other side of that coin was that she was quickly getting exhausted. So much so, she didn’t even notice that she was standing on metal for the first few steps. Finally picking up on the hard metal under her boots (the snow still being waist high on her), she could hear a strange, robotic sound just ahead of her. The visibility was so bad that by the time she realised it was an automated turret, she was almost looking right down the barrel of its gun. 

     She froze for a second time as it pointed right at her, but only heard the whirring sound as it turned away, continuing to scan an arc in front of it. 

     “Thermal imaging targeting.” Sparky said in her ear. “Good idea in this climate, but your suit completely masks your heat signature – you’re invisible to it, Rio.” 

     “No kidding.” Rio breathed a sigh of relief, childishly flipping the turret off before making her way around it. “You really do think of everything, Sparky.” 

     “I’m actually impressed that those turrets are still online. I mean, they’re a good fifty years old, and yes they were designed to be used in snowy conditions, but I doubt the manufacturers intended for them to be deployed in this kind of weather.”  

     “Ha, yeah, shame they couldn’t see the future.” Rio chuckled. 

     On inspection, she found that at the back of the turret was a black wire, about as thick as her arm, with tiny blue lights running along the length of it, a newer modification to better supply the turrets with power from a nearby generator. Sure enough, there were several more turrets scattered around, each of them were white in colour, but that black cable made them stand out as they each turned to scan the area for intruders. Of course, she was invisible to them. 

     “Yep. Looks like someone has themselves a little secret base.” Rio added. 

     Before moving on, she took a tiny screw driver from one of her belts, and was careful to pop open a little panel on the top of it, exposing the circuitry so she could sabotage it – just in case she forgot about them when she made her getaway. 

     “But those modifications, that tells me someone was here recently.” Sparky frowned, thinking aloud whilst Rio described what she was seeing. “Kind of advanced for someone of Billo’s… limited experience.”  

     “More of his friends?” 

     “Maybe. But you know, the whole solitary base, defensive, forgotten to time, not to mention hard to get to, all of it, screams out ‘sanctuary’ to me.” Sparky summarised. 

     “Sanctuary? That’s cute. Didn’t Billo realise that we’d find him no matter where he ran.” 

     Sparky paused in his seat. Only then did it strike him that actually, they wouldn’t have found him at all if not for Sparky’s abilities and tracking via Satellites. In fact, no one would’ve been able to follow and find this guy without the use of satellite navigation. 

     “Yoohoo, am I talking to myself?” 

     “No, sorry. Just thinking about something.” 

     “Sparky, I’m on a mission! I will not strip for you right now!” Rio said loudly down the mic. 

     “Shade can’t hear you.” Sparky chuckled. 

     “Oh poo.” Rio said, grunting slightly as she finished her work. 

     “Hey listen. Do you ever get the feeling that… everything is… like, connected?” Sparky suddenly asked. 

     Rio stopped what she was doing, sensing her partner’s plight. “What’s up?” 

     “It’s just something… I mean, we had Pavour a while back, and now we have this Energy Weapon stuff… do you ever get the feeling that it’s all just some… huge coincidence?” 

     Rio paused, one of the rare times she found herself lost for words, but as she had worked through the field of turrets, she finally spied some kind of structure – the outline just barely visible in the snow. “Hmm… We should keep our heads in the game right now.” She finally said. “But… put a pin in it.” 

     Making her way forwards, Rio placed her hand against the frosted surface, and sure enough, it was thick cement. According to Sparky, she was only fifty feet away from her goal, so she took and educated guess that this was some kind of perimeter wall, and sure enough, Sparky could confirm this by bringing up a layout plan of the base. Rather than moving along the wall, the snow had piled up enough that she was almost as tall as it, and so easily perched up and rolled across the top. The perimeter wall was hiding a small compound, shielding the insides so that the snow hadn’t piled up quite as much. Sparky explained that it used to have enough room for both a motor pool and a helicopter pad, and it looked like there were still a few vehicles still within the walls, but most of these were hidden by snow or a tarp, or a combination of both. Certainly none of them were operational. Rio noted that back in its heyday this would’ve been quite a good defensive position, and imagined where soldiers of ages past would patrol. 

     Every so often, the odd bits of metal or boxes of some kind would be poking up from under the layers of sleet and snow, but other than that, there was nothing obstructing her from the main building. As with all the old Military bases, it wasn’t built tall, instead the bulk of the building would be located underground. The outer walls of this small building were sloped and made thick cement to withstand blasts, and this tiny building was just like a gate to the facility, a hefty twenty tonne blast door protecting the entrance. Normally, this would be shut tightly, because, what would be the point otherwise – but this time it was left open, enough for her to crouch down and get inside. 

     “It’s a trap. How exciting!” Rio smiled. 

     “No kidding. Rio, it’s going to get really patchy down there – I’m rerouting more satellite coverage to boost communications, but we might drift in and out the further down you go.” Sparky informed her. 

     When he first looked into the details of the contract, no one really knew where Billo was – and there were certainly no records they could get from Rio’s father that would detail the layout of this base; which Sparky had discovered was called “Maelstrom Base”. It was built over two hundred years ago, though it had been updated several times since, so the name of the base paired with its surrounding environment was just coincidence. It was one of those bases that the further down into the earth, the more advanced both the construction and the facilities became – as they had been added on over time, which is why the entrance gave Rio the feeling of “Abandoned Mineshaft” because essentially that was what it was at one point. 

     The Entrance was dimly lit with dull yellow lights, not bright enough to be dazzling to look at, but bright enough to light up the area from total darkness. Inside there was a brief corridor leading to a platform, a small office overlooking it told her that it was some kind of large platform lift. The wind instantly cut out, save from a breeze she could still feel pushing against her legs slightly, though the temperature was still cold as outdoors. The platform at the end of the corridor should’ve had some defences, but didn’t. An open invitation. As she approached, several cameras turned and watched her. Almost the second her foot touched the platform, a dull alarm sounded, an indication the lift was being activated, as the mechanisms beneath her strained to life. Slowly, the lift began its descent into the darkness. Once she was a good five foot clear of where she had been standing a few moments ago, another large blast door began to close, this one designed to seal over the top of the elevator shaft and protect those inside. Trapped in the large rectangular lift, Rio could only wait. On the wall of the lift, a camera watched her, and a voice rung out. 

     “Who’s that? Who are you!? Izzat the Rios? No, no, no! How’d you even find me?! O-oh, I get it! You’ve come to finish the job! W-well I won’t let you!” 

     “Billo, where you hiding, baby?” She retorted. 

     “He can’t hear you.” Sparky explained, a slight bit of static on his end. “Impressive that he got the cameras and the PA system working, but it’s all one-way. That being said, I’m worried that Billo might have more than just the cameras online – there’s a bunch of nasty surprises down there designed to keep people out. On the plus side, most of it is pretty old. Maybe we’ve lucked out and it’ll be beyond repair.” 

     “Honey, I have never been that lucky.” Rio smirked to herself. 

     “How?! They told me I’d be safe! No, no, no, no, this won’t do at all! But you won’t get me, no, no, no, no, you’ll try, but you’ll fail! This time I’m ready for you! HA! HAHAHA!” 

     “Oh goody. He’s a talker.” Rio frowned at hearing Billo’s voice over Sparky’s. “Still, I’m here now, might as well give him a show (!)” 

     As she finished, she took off the fur hat and poncho, stripping off the googles too. While her personality demanded that she make a slow striptease of this for some reason, though she actually had a reason to do it. The gear was perfect for surviving outside, but the air was very close inside, not enough to be considered warm by any stretch though she would be heating up within minutes in all that fur. Free of it, she unzipped her suit enough at the front, exposing a fair amount of cleavage, but to allow the chilly air to help cool herself down. Now in a suit similar to her usual, she would be much more agile, and without the poncho would take up much less “room” and ergo be a smaller target for her foes. Not only this; but the lack of poncho meant that she would be able to easily get at her weapons, which had been tucked away under it. 

     She’d leave them here for when it was time to go. She acquired her usual headset from one of her belts, restoring her ability to talk to her beloved Sparky once again. Making sure to do all these movements in front of the camera, Rio then stretched her arms above her head, and took the time to strike a few poses for her audience. This time, it was fully her personality taking control. Making sure her audience would be captivated, Rio suddenly pulled the pistol from her hip with lightning speed, and shot out the camera, sending sparks flying. 

     Sparky laughed. “You frigging cock-tease.” 

     “The only thing I love better than having someone ogling me, is putting a sudden stop to it.” She smiled, blowing the smoke away from the tip of her gun. “Besides, the only boy I want watching me is you, baby. How’d I make that happen?”

     “Uh, well, when you get down to the bottom, there’s going to be a main desk, like a reception-kind of thing. There should be a port you can use. I’ll let you know when you’re closer.”

     “Oh yay, I get to do computer stuff.”

     “There should be a – down – and two on – ceiling.”

     “Speak up, I’m losing you.” 

     “There sh – a turret – when you get – and two minis come – ceiling!” Sparky tried to say, but the signal was getting weaker. 

     Luckily she got the gist of it.

     As the lift finally reached the bottom of the shaft, Rio could see the light from a very well lit room breaking through the gaps in the wall of the lift, which would lift away in a moment to act as a door to this new area. Sure enough, the panel did just that, lifting away, and as it did so a hail of bullets poured into the lift, each slamming loudly into the concrete wall on the opposite side. The first turret Sparky warned her about. Of course, this machine dumped a hail of ammo into the lift without knowing what it was even looking for, just blasting away simply because Billo’s trigger finger had gotten a little itchy. Where the door had formed was a large opening, but not the entire span of the wall and so Rio had simply hidden behind a section of the panel that didn’t lift up, safely behind one of the pillars that had formed either side of the opening. 

     Using the side wall to push off of, Rio jumped out and planted a firm two shots from her rifle in the dead centre of the “head” of the machine, not destroying it but disrupting it enough so that it simply couldn’t fire. She rolled forward, pulling out her pistol so that she was now dual-wielding her weaponry, as two smaller turrets appeared from the ceiling – designed to ambush attackers once they managed to take out the main turret. They were located just above the entrance to reception, so they could shoot the invaders in the back and confuse them. Luckily Rio had a little heads up to the surprise. On her back, she easily was able to locate, and shoot upward that the turrets. They were encased in some kind of protection, meaning she had to shoot each seven times before they began to smoke and spark – the entire reason she pulled out both guns. 

     “NOOOO! How could… how did you know!?” Billo whined over the PA system. He had one of those screechy voices that sounded like nails on a chalkboard. “Are… Are you psychic!?! Gah!! Wait! Wait right there! We can make a deal!” 

     Locating a camera, she blew him a kiss, and shot it out, just like before. It didn’t shut him up in the background but at least he couldn’t see her for the moment. 

    Overall, the place had a nice look to it, a brilliant white paint that had lasted pretty well, white desks, broadcast screens in a few places though these were most likely broken, white sofas and chairs, overall a very nice calming effect going on. Making her way over to the large reception desk she took a seat and began to fish around for the USB slot Sparky had mentioned beforehand. Finding the computer terminal was easy, for some reason the computer had a huge back to it while the screen was only about fifteen inches altogether, something she hadn’t seen before. She took out a simple dongle from her belt, and happily found somewhere to plug it in. Instantly, a new option window appeared on the screen, as the system started to be completely overtaken by Sparky’s virus. After clicking a few options with a mouse that had some kind of ball in it, she was greeted to her companion’s face appearing on the screen. 

     “Hey! You did it.” Sparky said, his voice comping through the speakers of the computer screen. “I was getting a little worried for a second there, but then I remembered who I was dealing with.”

     “Woah, check out the age of that tech! I’m surprised that even worked.” Shade chuckled in the background. 

     “It’s like a museum in here. You in?” Rio mused. 

     “Please. This system; I could’ve built myself in one afternoon. And done a better job I might add.” Sparky said. “Oh and by the way, looks like that non-lethal ammunition came in handy against those robotic enemies. You’re welcome.” 

     Rio smirked back, but chose to ignore this comment. “Good boy! Now do me a favour, get that little piggie off of the air.”

     While his own systems were struggling to support the audio link with Rio, the hardline system that ran throughout the entire base was easily uplinked with his satellites floating hundreds of thousands of miles above them, making him come in with only a slight amount of static, but this was caused only by the age of the equipment he was hijacking. It took him a few moments to find the right holes to exploit, but this time he had Shade alongside him to help further decrease the time, and after a few moments Billo’s constant nattering over the PA was silenced. 

     “That’s sooooo much better!” Rio sighed. “He was giving me a headache. There’s nothing worse than when they plea for their lives.” 

     “Oh yeah, I… I hate that (!)” Sparky frowned. “Give us a couple of seconds and we’ll have the cameras, then we can see where exactly Big Bill is hiding.” 

     “Well aren’t you two the cute couple of techies. Maybe we should bring her on full time.” Rio replied. “Hey, do you know you’re even cuter all pixelated and green?” 

     “Wow, I didn’t realise the equipment was that old.” 

     “It’s retro. I dig it.” Shade added.  

     “Speaking of digging, Billo has put himself only a couple of floors down, but he’s sealed himself in some kind of kitchen … or mess hall, I guess. Big room, no cover for eight meters or so beyond the doorway, and his side of the room has got all the tables piled up like a little fort. And guess what – he’s waiting for you.” Sparky explained. 

     With her target set, Rio continued moving forward into the base. Every screen she passed buzzed to life, all with Sparky’s face on it who would inform her of any traps or turrets coming up ahead. It was slightly spooky, walking through the base with almost no sounds of life other than the whirs and clicks of the turrets that attempted to end her life on every turn, each one being less successful than the last. It seemed Billo switched it up as she moved to a staircase to the levels below, seeing it covered with mines. 

     “Watch out. C-” 

     “C7X54 Mines.” Rio smiled at the screen on the wall. “Not overly powerful explosives, but the spring mechanism lets it jump five feet up into the air before it explodes, so it’s right in your face.” 

     “Don’t say it.” 

     “Pssh, I wasn’t going to say it!” 

     “Uh-huh. Something jumping up to explode in your face, and you weren’t going to say anything?” 

     “You’ve got a dirty mind, little boy. I think I’m rubbing off on you. Or at least, you wish I would.” 

     “Right. Well good news is that they react to a mixture of movement and a height scan, so if you move slowly and keep low, you shouldn’t have a problem getting past them.” Sparky informed her. 

     “That’s… oddly high tech stuff. Bit out of place really.” 

     “See what I mean? Something’s off again. How did Billo even afford C7s? Where would he even get them? Who’s paying for all this?” 

     Knowing that Rio needed to concentrate, Sparky instructed Shade to turn her attentions to finding out where all this hardware was coming from, whilst he kept an eye on Rio. Notably, these were not the Energy Weapons that Billo had been accused of using, but C7 mines were pretty rare these days, as they needed certain parts for their scanners which only a few places on the entire planet still had the capacity to produce (most of these being owned and operated deep within the Knights of Zenith Earth’s “territory” and the group weren’t very keen on sharing). Going over the supply and equipment lists of the base’s records didn’t help, as these stopped long ago and so weren’t useful – but the uniqueness of the mines was something that Sparky had seen somewhere recently, and it was bugging him. He ran a search through his own system on the mines, seeing if anything might pop up, and thoughtfully stroked his chin as he tried to place his thoughts, keeping one eye on Rio’s progress at the same time. Like he had advised, she was slowly making progress, keeping each of her movements deliberate and precise, keeping her cool head the entire time. She even took the time to move to each of the mines and disable them – because apparently she knew how to do that. Sparky’s eyes glanced back at his search, which had borne some fruit. 

     “That’s the last one.” Rio informed him after about ten minutes of sneaking and defusing. 

     “That’s good news. I… have a bit of news too. Turns out that those C7s … I mean it could be a huge coincidence…” 

     “Pavour.” 

     “… … I mean it could be just a massive coincidence.” 

     “Urgh. I don’t get paid enough to do all this mystery crap.” 

     “Sure you do. Besides, Billo is just up ahead – you can get the answers out of him. Who knows, he might resist. Then, you’ll get to beat him up for some answers. Would you like that?” Sparky smirked. 

     “Oh, that sounds like the perfect way to wind down after today!” Rio smiled back. 

     It was easy to find Billo’s position. Being the mastermind he was, he chose a room with only one entrance and exit; one with a high ceiling and a wide distance from wall to wall. If he had more men, Billo would have a slight advantage, but he was alone and so gave Rio plenty of options to flank and attack from. The archway that housed the door to Billo was a thick steel, perhaps to support the weight of the structure around it, but the doors themselves were only light, designed to slide open automatically as one approached. Knowing this, Rio leaned back against the archway, completely relaxed, as the door opened next to her. As expected, the trigger-happy target unleashed a storm of bullets into the hallway as soon as the door opened, while she waited safely around the corner. 

     Of course, Rio was unharmed, the thick steel easily taking the impact. Almost lazily, she took her rifle and fired around the corner, shooting blindly but exposing no target for her enemy. She wasn’t trying to hit him, just scare him, and lo and behold it worked. 

     “GAH! Who-who’s there!?” came the screech. 

     “Who’d you think, idiot (?) Did you expect those little traps would really put me in the ground? But since we’re on the subject, why don’t you be a good little troll and tell me how you managed to land this gig?” Rio shouted out. 

     She could see him peeping out of his little fortifications in the reflections of the metal wall opposite her, desperately looking for some way out. He was packing some kind of light machine gun (LMG), from this angle she couldn’t tell the exact make, but it was a large weapon designed to tear enemies to pieces when not supressing them. 

     “NO! No no no NO! I-I… GET AWAY FROM ME!” he screeched and fired a few pot shots at the doorway.  

     “There’s no walking away from this! Look, why not throw down the guns, turn off your turrets, and we can talk about this!” Rio said calmly. 

     “T-talk? Now you want to talk?” 

     “Sure I do! Just step out and we can have a nice, long chat.” She replied, reloading her rifle and checking that her pistol was ready to fire. 

     “You’re lying!” 

     “Yeah, no shit. I mean, no – I promise I won’t shoot you (!)” Rio scoffed...


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