Blind Eye Comics: Running Aground

North Sentinel Island looked far more foreboding in person than from the recon satellite photos. The Australian Enhancile, codenamed Bushranger, crawled across the muddy ground like a reptile. Behind him, he could see the surf crashing up against the wreck of a rusted Indian supertanker, an early victim of the pirates who used the island as a base.

The Bushranger was not here to deal with them or deliver another ransom. Even if his vocal chords had not been surgically replaced with a metal plate, he'd not waste words with his target. With most of his hormones replaced by a delicate blend of chemicals, his sight, sent, and hearing were boosted far beyond that of other humans. The Bushranger preferred to see the sinister shades of infrared crimson around him, much like other predatory reptiles.

For weeks, the Bushranger had watched speedboats and launches depart the scuttled tanker and other wrecks around the shore for other raids, taking back hostages and plunder. While North Sentinel Island was no Port Royale, the pirates had operated with impunity for longer than certain Australian politicians cared to admit. He saw a fishing trawler approach an improvised harbor from the south, and figured the pirates had another fresh kill.

The distant smell of meat being cooked over an opened fire wafted through the sweltering jungle. Unlike the odor of diesel engines and motor oil, the Bushranger knew he and the pirates were not the only ones calling North Sentinel Island home. Compared to the high tech gyrojet rifle in his hands or the military grade weaponry of the pirates, the natives of this island had spears and arrows as their most advanced weapons. Through the green vortex, he could see a group of the dark-skinned natives, huddled around a campfire and cooking some fresh meat. Unknowingly, they sat near several explosives he had planted near the island, for when he made his move against the pirates.

Remembering his own youth in the middle of the Outback, it brought back a few memories from the depths of his mind. For a moment, the Bushranger had the urge to stand up, introduce himself, and join them at the grill. Recalling the image of a pirate's arrow-filled corpse ejected that thought from his head. The natives did not like intruders, and for good reason. The local nations had signed a bill prohibiting contact with the outside world, keeping the oil prospectors, missionaries, and other would be pathogens of modernity away. While the Bushranger's own training and modifications pushed him beyond human, the natives were smart enough to know when they were outmatched, and how to even the odds, something few people cared to do. Despite his enhancements, the Bushranger was still only human.

The man he had been hunting since before he had arrived suffered no such illusions. They were vainglorious and flamboyant men, or enhanced in some ways as himself. Looking at the pirates standing guard on deck, he could see the Enhancile he had come for. A bulbous shape, barely humanoid, stood near the cabin of the ship. A pair of turbines was mounted on his back, and armored humps protruded from all angles of his body like metal tumors. Underneath each was a sonar array, able to generate a veritable jackhammer of pressure above or below the surface. The rogue French Enhancile was known as Exocet, after the infamous French anti-shipping missile. The living submarine was a loose cannon, and one soon to be sent to the bottom with the rest of his ship of fools. Smiling from within his hiding position, the Bushranger detonated the undersea mine, one of many planted earlier, as the ship approached the killzone he had set up.

A white eruption of foam was the only herald of the explosive to the pirate crew. The vessel's hull cracked like cheap plastic, and the pirates began throwing themselves overboard in a panic. The bulbous monstrosity, Exocet, stepped into the water with the silent confidence of one who had done it countless times before. He sank like a stone beneath the waves. The Frenchman trusted his machines to live and to kill, the only two reasons he existed.

The Bushranger fired an explosive gyrojet round at the damaged vessel, the projectile hissing like a deflated basketball. The deadly projectile accelerated even after it left the barrel, consuming its own propellant in chemical autophagy. By the time it struck the cabin and exploded, the man who had sent the rocket on its deadly course had moved to another position.

Through the tritium-illuminated scope on his rifle, he could see Exocet coming ashore in a shallow lagoon. Having watched the Frenchman's preferred routes, the Bushranger had prepared mines and explosives along many of them. The lagoon was a fair distance from the pirate camp near the scuttled tanker, but far enough that the natives would sometimes hunt or fish nearby. Once Exocet had reached land, he drew a pistol and scanned the nearby woods. While he was still hidden, the Bushranger detonated a nearby explosive.

The Frenchman dove to the ground, his dorsal sonar array damaged. He returned fire in random directions with his pistol, until he was out of ammunition. The Bushranger opened fire at the French pirate, putting several rocket rounds into the pirate. The pirate recovered, servomotors groaning like a wounded animal. Exocet unleashed a pressure wave tsunami of low, rumbling sounds in the Australian's direction. The Bushranger's ears popped, and he felt the repeated force of sledge blows batter him repeatedly. He was sure at least some of his bones were broken, even with his own augmentations.

Trying to realign his bearings and target, the Bushranger observed the Frenchman's armor was pierced in some places, and blood wept from cracks and craters in his diving suit. The Bushranger returned a burst of rifle rounds trained at Exocet's faceplate. The Frenchman had taken cover in the nearby jungle, closing distance between him and the target. The Bushranger knew he could not crawl deeper into the jungle without stirring the native band he had found before. Now that he was committed, he had to find a way to kill the wounded Exocet before he could summon reinforcements.

Suddenly, he had an idea. The Bushranger could see the natives were still in their previous position, now holding weapons and ready for battle or retreat. He detonated one of the explosives behind them, outside of the blast radius but close enough to scare them. A panicked mob of Neolithic hunters emerged from the jungle, spears, hatchets, and bows in hand, running directly into the French pirate. Exocet, half scared and half furious, prepared to unleash a sonic barrage upon the primitives, slaughtering them with weapons millennia more advanced than their comprehension.

The Bushranger spent his remaining rounds on shooting Exocet's forward emitters. The rounds did not accelerate to maximum velocity before striking, but they disoriented the pirate for several key seconds. Realizing that the metal monster could bleed, the tribesmen jammed their stone-edged weapons into the openings in Exocet's suit.

After the frenzied orgy of stabbing and thrusting, Exocet stopped moving. The tribesmen withdrew, making a rapid withdraw back to their village. Sensing the coast was clear for the time being, the Bushranger retreated to his camp to plan his next move. The remaining pirates would be scattered and confused, easy prey for the mop up operation later. He would leave some food or water rations for the locals, as they had technically done his job for him.