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The future is uncertain but the end is always near.
Submitted By Sprawl on 13/04/07
Mars Explorer, Sprawl, Community, Creations, Publications, Fan Fiction, SYN3H Chronicles, Those That Roam 

A bright white flash and a deafening ‘bang’ sent Kruncher stumbling backwards, and he lost his footing, crashing to the ground. He clutched his ears, and rolled over.

“Kruncher!” Sitfig cried, running over to him – not that Kruncher could hear. One of his eardrums was probably burst, and the other was ringing. Sitfig shook him frantically. “KRUNCHER! Oh, damn.” Sitfig hurried over to Flynn. Both he and Karn were unconscious – and clearly in a bad way. Fluid was streaming from their ears and their bloodshot eyes. Sitfig glared at Karn’s body.

“You bastard,” he snarled, before launching his fist into Karn’s unfeeling skull. Kruncher sat up abruptly.

“FLYNN!” he roared, immediately scrambling to his feet – but he lost his balance, and toppled off to the side, slamming into the wall. “No! Flynn…”

“It’s all right, Krunch,” Sitfig consoled him. “Karn let off a flash grenade.” Kruncher gave him a sceptical look, before crouching down next to Flynn.

“Hmm,” he mused. “Okay – grab his other arm.” Sitfig obliged, and together they lifted him up. Just as they were about to start moving ahead, Kruncher stopped and slowly turned his head to Sitfig.

“Did you just call me… ‘Krunch’?” he growled. Sitfig gave a weak smile and nodded.


“What the hell is that?” Kruncher rubbed his head. “Who calls me Krunch? No-one calls me Krunch.” He seemed to think about it for a minute. “’Krunch’…” he repeated to himself quietly. “No,” he shook his head. “It’ll never catch on.”


Back in the tank, Picard was at the helm. He certainly was a skilled operator, I thought. If anything ever happened to Flynn – he’d be able to lead us.

“Commander Nicholas,” said the man himself.

“Mmhmm,” I replied, standing and approaching the monitors. Picard tapped the hologram.

“Heat signatures. Either the temperature is increasing or an enemy force is coming our way.”

My adrenaline levels sky-rocketed.

“But don’t we have a form of radar cloaking?” I asked. Picard shook his head. “How many?”

“Only one or two – more of a scouting force.” I nodded, and headed upstairs. If we were discovered, we stood very little chance of survival – but at least we could draw the men away from Flynn’s team, allowing them the vital time to get to Frederiksen.

On the Upper Level, Pete Madissen was fixing a broken valve on the tank. I walked past him, opening the weapons locker. I took out a large sniper rifle and a bipod, and fixed it to the Upper Level window. Pete poked his head up, eyebrow raised. I caught his expression.

“No time, Pete,” I said. “Get down to the Lower Level – an enemy force is approaching. We need to take them out if they get any closer.”

“Understood.” Pete rushed out and down the stairs. I dimmed the fluorescent lights, and adjusted the scope. Some way off, a two hovercrafts were gliding almost calmly across the red desert. They were definitely Frederiksen’s men, but they didn’t seem to be in a rush; they were barely moving. I kept the rifle trained on their cockpits. Nothing. Nothing at all.

*BAM!* A massive impact hurled me off my feet and slammed me into the lockers. The tank was overturned onto its side, and I had to crawl across the lockers to get to the door. As I did so, I dragged out a Thandium Shotgun that had been thrown from one of them in the crash.

*BAM* Another impact sent me tumbling down the stairs, ending up sprawled on what turned out to be the ceiling of the tank. Clearly, a tank was ramming us, and ramming us hard at that. Next to me, Picard was unconscious, blood trickling from a large gash on the side of his head. I reached for him, tugging him closer, checking the wound. It wasn’t too serious, but he needed some attention. I had limited ability, but I ripped off part of my jacket and wrapped it around his wound tightly. It’ll do, I told myself. I looked around for Pete. Slumped over the back of his swivel chair, in what looked like a really, really awkward position, Pete hung limply.

“Peeete…” I groaned, pulling myself across the tank. “PETE!” I cried louder. He was still conscious, but in a very disoriented state.

“Picard…” he murmured. “That was some scouting force.” I gained my strength, and managed to get on my feet, staggering over desperately to Pete. I dragged him off the chair, and brought him down to the ground.

“Pete!” I shouted. “Pull yourself together! We are UNDER ATTACK!” Pete opened one eye, and looked at me suspiciously.

“Maybe…maybe it’s Sitfig…” I scowled at him.

“Sitfig?” Pete began laughing. I shook my head.

“Get up man, let’s go.” Pete grabbed hold of my outstretched hand, and pulled himself up. Picard was still out cold.

“Let’s put him upstairs and seal it,” Pete suggested. I considered it – it was a pretty good idea – an extra titanium layer would hold off anyone for a considerable while.

“Okay,” I agreed, moving over to Picard. We began to take his arms, when the tank began to tilt slightly. Pete’s eyes widened.

“Ah,” he said nervously, before a third impact threw us back and the tank was violently flipped back the right way up. Pete had to shake me out of my stupor this time, but we once again hurried to Picard’s side, and yanked him up the stairs into the safe-room on the Upper Level. We rolled his body in, and sealed the door shut via code.

“How are we going to defend ourselves without the others?” Pete asked, incredulously. I grabbed the rifle that had been bolted to the window.

“There’s a shotgun downstairs, you take that,” I told him. “I’ll take this. If they come in…” I looked to him. “We’re ready.” Pete flexed his arms. It wasn’t very intimidating, but it clearly got him going.


But there was no attack. No-one attempted to break through the outer shell. We waited, and waited. Eventually we rebooted the scanners and update the external camera feed. What we saw shocked us.

“This is not good, Nicholas,” Pete said, jabbing the screen with his finger. What seemed to be the majority of Frederiksen’s forces appeared to be amassed outside the tank, completely surrounding us. At that very moment, they were setting up the forcefields to join with ours. “Do we attack them before they get to the tank?”

“No,” I said firmly. “There are too many of them. It would be better to see what they plan to do.”

And then a heavy weapons soldier disembarked from one of Frederiksen’s hovercrafts. My jaw dropped. He was carrying four large tanks of what seemed like fuel. Then it dawned on me – they were going to set the tank alight. Pete held his head in his hands.

“This is the end, Nicholas,” he whimpered. I grabbed him by the shoulders.

“No, it’s not! Upstairs, now!”

Upon reaching the second level, and readied the sniper rifle, and approached the window.

“But Nicholas,” Pete sounded very sceptical. “I thought you said we can’t take them out.”

I turned to him, grinning.

“I’ll take out the fuel tanks,” I replied, before turning, and training my weapon on the fuel.


Suddenly a shot rang out, and I took cover. A bolt glanced off the window-pane.

“I’m being marked!” I roared, and sent a blind shot out of the window. A dozen more shots riddled the wall with bolts. “Damn!” I cursed, and dropped the rifle. I grabbed Pete’s shotgun, and typed in the code to the safe room. “This is our last chance, Pete.” We entered, and sealed the door.

The temperature was increasing. They had clearly set the tank alight.

“It won’t melt,” Pete said. My spirits shot up, and I whirled around, hope surging through my body. “We’re either going to roast, or they’re going to smoke us out.” I hung my head. So much for that thought – and sure enough, in the next few minutes, I caught the smell of petrol fumes. The room began to darken, as smoke flooded in through the vents like billowing storm clouds. I frantically searched around, beginning to cough as I inhaled the foul, bitter fumes. But there was no escape.

“Open the door!” I croaked. Pete did so, and we pulled Picard out with us; Pete was already succumbing to the smoke, which was engulfing the entire tank – and it was so hot. I was sweating profusely, and I could barely maintain my grip on Picard’s arm. We got to the window, but smoke poured in there too – at least we’d last a little longer. The furious black mist hung in the air ominously, and I felt my eyelids drooping.

“Not this way,” I groaned. I felt my head slip roll to the side, and I was plunged into the deepest darkness.

THOSE THAT ROAM XIII: Smoke and Mirrors

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Re: THOSE THAT ROAM XIII: Smoke and Mirrors
1 day - 4,967v
Posted 2013/04/07 - 14:06 GMT
Nooooo Pete! Oh I hope he survives....
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Re: THOSE THAT ROAM XIII: Smoke and Mirrors
1 week - 32,767v
Posted 2013/04/09 - 23:35 GMT
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Re: THOSE THAT ROAM XIII: Smoke and Mirrors
1 day - 4,998v
Posted 2013/04/10 - 1:41 GMT
That's a cliffhanger if I ever read one!
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Re: THOSE THAT ROAM XIII: Smoke and Mirrors
4 days - 9,791v
Posted 2013/04/10 - 11:19 GMT
As I said to you in-game, sprawl, this is fantastic. Well-written and imaginative, and quite gripping - can't wait for the next installment!

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