A/N: I've been gone for so long, sorry. Well, here's the final update, enjoy.
Chapter 42: Counterstrike
"Everyone in!" Damien shouted, his foot already pressing against the gas. "Now!"
The engine ignited even before the other agents could even manage to close the doors of the Humvee. "You." Damien yelled out to Agent 17. "Take your shit and set up, your on gunner."
Agent 17 nodded, pushing his M249 SAW out the sunroof and following it up. "You good to go?" Damien asked, craning his neck to see him.
"Positive." Agent 17 replied as he pulled up the rest of his belt feed.
The Humvee rammed through the streets like a raging bull, Agent 17's machine gun spitting fire across the city. "Pass me some ammo!" he shouted into the seats below him.
"That's your third belt already!" Dante shouted, "conserve your ammunition!" Even so, he placed another two hundred rounds into the gunner's hand.
"You wanna try this kid?" He shouted back, the sound of his constantly roaring machine gun drumming out his ears. "There swarming us like fucking hornets!" It was true, from every corner of every street, more and more warp spawns were popping up. They slithered down the walls, crawled out of the sewers, leaped from the windows like a massing wave of living demons.
"Shit! There's too many!" Agent 17 shouted, turning to face the rear of the vehicle. "We've got five on our six and I've only got two shots!"
Damien grunted, "try not to fall!"
"What?" Agent 17 shouted back, but before he knew it the vehicle was going forty miles an hour in full reverse.
"Eat my fucking tires bitch!" Damien shouted, laughing as the Humvee jumped over the lump of bodies. "Is that all of them?"
"Nice!" Agent 17 shouted back before looking up to face ten more just a couple yards behind them. "Shit, more of them!"
"They just don't learn do they?" Damien smiled, "take this you persistent fucking bastards!" Once more, the car reared back, spraying up asphalt as it backed into the horde of spawns.
"Fuck!" Came a shout. "Get off of me!" It was Agent 17.
A large, clawed creature was pulling itself on top of the car where he stood. It's bladed fingers slashed at Agent 17 without remorse. "Shit!" He yelled again as the sleeve of his coat flew off onto the road. His hands were too busy trying to knock the creature away to reach for his knife, "Somebody help me!"
Within seconds, the monster was on top of him, its horrid form lumbering over the vehicle. Agent 17 looked up into its blood red eyes in complete and total fear, the magazine of his machine gun clicked dry, a final sign of resignation.
Blood splashed across the roof of the car, running down the windshield and earning a scream from Nataliah in the front seat. "Oh my God! Agent 17!"
But on the roof, Agent 17 stood, very much alive as he watched the creature's head explode in a vibrant pop. Red liquid and gray matter smeared itself against his gas mask as his terrified eyes tried to make out what had happened. Then he saw, on the building above him, Lance Corporal Gunnery Chance.
"Agent 17? Are you alright?" Dante shouted, seeing that his body hadn't fallen into the vehicle as a bloody corpse yet.
"Y-yeah." He said with trembling lips.
"You need more ammo?"
Agent 17 could swear on his life, without hesitation, that he had used up at least two thousand rounds by now. Each and every single one of those rounds had found itself into a corpse, every two thousand of them. His ears were almost deafened, his vision impaired by the blood that covered his visor. Yet still, they had not made it out.
The Marines were firing away into the crowd just as much as he was. Lead and bodies littered the streets as the car passed by. The Humvee literally left a trail of blood behind it.
"How close are we to getting out of this hellhole?" Damien shouted back at the gunner.
"Two minutes, just hold out for two more minutes."
Agent 17 nodded, his hands gripping onto the guard of his machine gun as if their lives depended on it, in many ways they did. Another warp spawn turned and ran after the vehicle, but its head was already in his sights. "Die you son of a bitch." Five rounds dug themselves into the skull of the creature as the car turned corner and slid across another strip of asphalt.
Five more spawns were approaching, two of them were taken down by Marine snipers. The rest were mowed down with a wave of hot lead, only to be replaced with five more monstrosities.
Agent 17's heart nearly stopped when he felt the vehicle come to a sudden halt. Why the hell were they stopping? They were sitting ducks now! They had to keep moving! He looked back at the creatures who were drawing closer, their teeth barred and tongues hissing. "Move! Damn it, move!" He shouted back. "What the fuck is your problem?" He screamed as he fired off a burst of rounds into the group.
"Turn around!" Someone shouted, but Agent 17 was firing off at the five creatures in front of him.
"Turn around!" The shout came again, Agent 17 couldn't hear over the beating of his firearm.
"TURN THE FUCK AROUND!" It came in faintly, but Agent 17 heard it well enough. He looked to the corpses, making sure they were dead, before obeying. He twisted his head to see what had caused the problem.
Standing two feet from the front of the Humvee stood a humanoid figure, but it wasn't human, not at all. It's body was wrapped in a pitch black cloak, but somehow, he could tell it had no skin. He could tell it was a living skeleton. "What the hell is that?"
The creature slowly shifted, its hood falling from its head, revealing a deathly skull of a face with bottomless pits for eyes. Dark energy seemed to seethe out of the sockets where those eyes should have been, dark energy that dug into the very fiber of Agent 17's being. "What the Hell are you?" He stuttered, his hands feeling too heavy to point at the creature. But as he looked into those empty eyes, the answer came to him. Deep, deep inside of those sockets lay a fire so bright it was almost blinding to look at, it was so intense it was fit for one task, and one task only, the destruction of worlds.
"Reaper!" Agent 17 shouted, his eyes flaring in the same way of that of the barrel of his gun. It was hopeless though. He watched as the bullets simply dropped onto the street beneath the being, it was as if his mere image was enough to deter them. Indeed, none of the bullets even contacted its body. They simple stood in mid-air, as if they were floating on water, before his intense aura caused them to cower and feint to the earth below.
Still, the creature did not respond. It just watched, as if it were amused at his futile efforts to repel him. "Move Damien! Get us out of here!" He shouted.
"Where the fuck do you think I'm gonna go? It's a dead end!" Damien was right, their sides were covered by buildings, their rear by hordes of warp spawns. The only other way to go was forward, but it was blocked off by a wall of debris.
"Damn it, then back up!" Agent 17 barked, "I'll mow down everything behind us!"
Damien nodded, eying the Reaper suspiciously, it still hadn't budged. "Okay, you ready?" He didn't wait for an answer, he just rammed onto the pedal. Nothing happened.
"Are you gonna go?" Agent 17 shouted.
"I'm trying! The car won't move! God damn it! This isn't the time for an engine failure!"
Agent 17 glanced at the Reaper with wide eyes. It wasn't moving, no, it was completely still. It had no skin for eyelids, but for some reason, it seemed to him as though its eyes were closed, as if they were concentrating. "It's not engine failure..." Agent 17 whispered, "it's using some sort of telekinesis to keep us grounded."
"Well shit, at least it's not trying to kill us." Damien replied.
"But we still need to move." Dante came in, "do you have any ideas?"
Agent 17 swerved about in panic, the reaper hadn't even made a move. "Damien, you still have that grenade launcher on you?" He whispered.
"Hand it here." Agent 17 ordered, "make sure your wheels are straight. As soon as you here the shot, you floor it. Understood?"
Damien craned his neck to face the man, "you've gotta be kidding me. Even if we can make this piece of junk to move, we'll just be ramming into that wall of rubble ahead! Are you blind?"
"There's an even enough of an incline for us to use that debris as a jump."
"He's right." Dante muttered, "provided we can break the Reaper's hold, we could pretty easily ride it like a ramp."
"But-" Damien objected.
"Just shut up and do it." Agent 17 pulled the Milkor grenade launcher to shoulder, he took a deep breath as he aimed down the sights. "Open your eyes fucker, don't you wanna see who killed you?" He muttered under his breath.
Plop. The dull sound of the shell exiting the barrel of its launcher was loud enough to alert Nataliah in the front seat. "Go!" She shouted.
Damien pressed down on the ignition just as the explosion rocked the car. "Let's see how fast you can go." He grunted. The vehicle sputtered to life, its engine heaving like a hundred racing horses on the track. With a violent roar the car rushed forward, smoke trailing from its beaten exhaust.
"Hold tight! We're going airborne!" Damien shouted.
The car rocked back and forth on the shaky rubble for a few moments until, suddenly, it was lifted into the sky.
"Fuck yeah!" Damien shouted as the vehicle lifted off, its wheels squealing in the open air as it was launched clear over a five story building. He looked back at the Reaper, who's image was masked by six large explosions. But even as the vehicle soared through the air, hundreds of feet off the ground, even as the ramp below was torn to shreds by grenades, he couldn't help but feel that they had not gone through the worst of it. He couldn't help but feel that he had not seen the last of this Reaper.
The rest of the ride was rather smooth, with only a couple minor warp spawns popping up here and there. Soon enough, the car had arrived at the base of operations, and it was, surprisingly, in working conditions. The landing had taken a toll on its wheels' air pressure, but it wasn't anything that couldn't be fixed in a couple minutes.
Damien stretched his tired body out as he pulled onto the grounds, which were now arrayed with hundreds of armored vehicles. "We finally made it." He sighed. "We're safe."
"Yeah, enjoy it while it's around Damien." Agent 17 laughed, "we'll be headed into the thick of it yet."
Damien nodded, there was still much to do.
Twelve thousand men and women stood at the foot of a large building, their eyes glistening. Each and every one of them had a gun at their side.
"Attention!" Came a bark from one of the military men who were perched above.
Another man stepped forward, his suit and gas mask instantly identified him as PARIAH. Nataliah recognized him as something more though. This was the man who had assigned them their last mission, this was the man they had met in the Sector 3 bunker beneath Wayne State University. This was the man who had treated them as expendable and sent them on a suicide run without so much as a hesitation. If he was calling the shots, there were bound to be casualties.
The man pulled out his microphone, but his voice remained monotone and robotic as he spoke, "The enemy has arrived on our territory." He began. "They have effectively wiped out all levels of social organization and eliminated both domestic and foreign political bodies. The state of the union, lies in ruins."
Nataliah looked at him in awe, these men needed morale, not a recap on all the horrors that had passed.
"But this nation..."He continued, "this nation can be rebuilt. Today, today can be the end of days, or it can be just another day. The choice is yours. Fight with courage today, and we shall gain victory tomorrow!" His voice lifted a bit, "The fate of the world lies in our hands, and we must fight to ensure it survives. Today, we save Detroit, tomorrow, the world!"
Everyone cheered, but he continued to speak.
"Our plan is as follows: our scientists have found a way to open a VIOLET for safe travel into the Warp. However, it will take approximately thirty more minutes for it to be stabilized. Intelligence reports that there is a Reaper headed towards this location." He said the words without any emotion, as if the presence of a Reaper was nothing. "We must hold this line until the gate can be opened."
The crowd looked up with a confused glance, as if saying "and then what?"
"Scans indicate strange energy readings within the warp at this moment. We have reason to believe that this could quite possibly be a Reaper army, numbering in the thousands. Needless to say, if even a tenth of that army makes it to Earth, there will be no tomorrow."
Panic spread through the ranks, but it was quickly quelled.
"We are currently devoting all nuclear weapons at our disposal to be fired into the warp in order to eliminate this threat before it is too late. Our current arsenal should be more than enough to wipe out the army, however, we will need one man to infiltrate the VIOLET, and designate the target so that we may know when and where to fire." He paused, "once that is done, the enemy will be unable to send significant reinforcements. All that will be left will be to cleanse the city."
Everyone knew that already, what they didn't know, was who was going to volunteer to go on this suicide run.
"Now then, there is one last thing to decide." The man started, "who will sacrifice themselves for their country? Who will become the hero who will save our Earth?"
No one raised their hands. No one wanted to. No one knew what the Warp was like, or even if they could survive such a mission. It was possible that there were things more dangerous than Reapers lurking within its confines.
Nataliah smiled solemnly. The man's plan was effective, but entirely impractical. Who in the right mind would volunteer to rush straight into Hell to save a world that was likely to die anyways? The person would either have to be insane, or stupid. But the voice that spoke did not seem like either.
"I'll do it." Dante said. He glanced around, facing all the people who now stared him down with fearful, astonished eyes.
"What?" Nataliah almost screamed.
"I said I'll do it." Dante repeated. "I'll volunteer."
Before Nataliah could begin to resist, the man came in again, "and I would have it no other way." He paused, looking out into the crowd, "Godspeed Dante."
The gateway was opening, massive, dexterous machines groaning under the pressure of what they were creating. All around it, armored vehicles and thousands of men and women stood, weapons at the ready. They would repel anything, at any cost.
"Out of the way!" Shouts echoed across the land as a number of nuclear warheads were positioned mere inches from the soon-to-be VIOLET. Their once menacing power soon became a savior. The weapons that were once feared to be man's undoing, would become man's only hope. Everyone cheered as the vehicles toting the massive missiles came to a halt.
"Five minutes left." Damien sighed, resting his head against the machinery, "and still no Reaper. I guess we're in luck."
"I wouldn't count on it." At the very second Agent 17 muttered those words, a loud explosion rocked the entire group, nearly causing him to fall to the ground.
Everyone looked out, knowing they would only find the one thing they feared most.
"Reaper!" Someone shouted as gunshots began to break out. Dante couldn't even see what they were shooting at, the thing was moving so quick, causing so much destruction, that his eyes could not catch up with it. But there were thousands of weapons standing as a buffer between him and that monster, his only worry was making sure he got his part of the job done. If he didn't, these men and women would have died in vain.
Still, it was the fact that so many were dying that disturbed him. Here, now, he could see the true extent of the Reaper's power, tearing dozen after dozens of people to shreds, all in the blink of an eye. Its power was unmatched, and as it tossed a tank out into the burning sky, Dante wondered, why had it spared him? If this reaper could kill so many, destroy so much, why hadn't it simply cut him to ribbons, like it had the rest? For a moment, a ominous thought crossed his mind. Could this be a trap? He shrugged it off. He could not hesitate, not now, too many were depending on him.
"Time to go. Don't worry, I'll hold that thing off, no matter the cost." Damien gave Dante a smile before injecting himself, and as black, demonic wings sprung from his back, he shouted, "don't let us down Dante."
Agent 17 was next to leave, "the Reaper is too late, you will get inside, trust me, we will be victorious here."
Dante nodded, taking a gulp, "it was nice knowing you."
Agent 17 was smirking beneath his gas mask, "same."
Dante tried his hardest to hold his ground as they sprung forward onto the battlefield. They were headed towards their own doom, as was he. But right now, it felt to him like they were the brave ones. He was venturing into the unknown, they were charging through hell. And that's exactly what it looked like. Flames, explosions, smoke and bodies were coughed up into the air, all at the hands of a single Reaper. How many would die for him? Dante wondered if it was truly worth it, but then he realized that they had not died for him, not at all. They had died for their planet, for their people, for the human race. Dante would do the same.
"Thirty seconds and counting." Came a voice.
Dante could feel the heat from the VIOLET, the strange chaotic energies tugging on his back-turned coat. The gate was opening. He looked to Nataliah, who, for the first time since they had met, looked like she was about to cry. "I'll see you." Dante muttered, it wasn't what he was looking for. He had wanted more than this, more than what they had, but the chance was gone.
"No, you won't." Nataliah muffled a cry. She knew that even someone as strong as Dante would not survive. And yes, Dante was strong. Stronger than Joey, stronger than Damien, stronger than any man the world had ever known. Because true strength was not measured by what a man could take through force, but what he could give through sacrifice. And Dante? Dante would give it all.
"I promise." Dante paused, his hands trembling as they brushed back her bangs, "I promise I'll come back for you."
"A man always keeps his word." Nataliah turned, jutting away. She didn't want him to see her cry.
"Then let me be your man." In a gasp of surprise, Nataliah found herself pulled into his embrace, his arms were stronger than she had ever before imagined. His chest more comforting than that of anything she had experienced. In her moment of disarray, she simply sat there, shivering in his grasp, desperately wishing it had never come to this. But as she tugged on his coat, holding on as if she would never let him go, she realized that it was not over, not yet. Without hesitation, she cocked her head up, looking into his deep, cerulean eyes. "I love you Dante." She muttered, and they kissed. It was not awkward, or even luscious, it was just pure passionate love. It was a kiss that forgave everything, from the beginning to the end, all the conflict in between. It was a kiss that put forth all both hearts had to offer, and it was only fitting that it would likely be their last.
Dante let go, and though his warmth had passed, she could still feel it inside her. She looked to him, hoping that perhaps he would come back, return and rekindle that warmth into a burning fire. But he would do no such thing. Duty called, Dante would answer, and she knew that nothing she would do could possibly change that.
This was no longer about her. This was no longer about him. This was no longer about either of them. It came to her realization that this fruitless romance had no part in Dante's destiny, because his destiny was not his own. He belonged to the Earth that had created him, and he would give his life in return. As would she, in due time. It was because of this that she knew there would never be an "us" when it came to them, because Dante was destined for things far greater than her. Yet even so, as Dante took one last breath of air and stepped into the gateway, she could swear she heard him mutter something back.
"I love you too."
And then he was gone.
A/N: YES! It's finally over! I can get to my next story at last! Oh, and by the way, this wasn't made into a cliffhanger just because I was lazy. I actually had it planned to end like this all along. I'm so evil aren't I? What happened? Did he prevail? Was Dante caught in the blast wave of a successful nuclear strike? Or did he die alone in the cold, emptiness of its eternal unknown? Maybe he prevailed entirely, and him and Nataliah got married! Or, maybe it really was a trap, and the Reapers wiped the Earth clean of the human race. You will never know! HA! See, I wanted it to end like this because, one, I didn't want to show what the warp really was, and two, I wanted you to come up with your own ending. So, if you'd like, go ahead an leave me a review with your idea for the ending!
Oh, and look out for my next story, Ground Zero. It's about a world trying to survive after being wiped out by nuclear war. And one man who will go against all odds to save his way of life from the tyrannical regime of an oppressive totalitarian regime.