Chapter 23

"What in the actual fuck is going on?" Megan yelled at the soldiers, her suit projecting it loud enough to make one of the soldiers closest to us flinch. "I've done NOTHING, and you jackasses are ATTACKING me! Can you go home, before I murder you and your families!?"

"That's going to help," I muttered. "Just go ahead and threaten the soldiers."

The tanks are aiming at you! Move!

"Megan!" I yelled, tackling her to one side. An explosion launched us into the nearby trees, making Megan curse again. "Keep it up," I called, "and you're going to run out soon!"

"I don't care," she snapped. "I've got, like, six other languages. So shut up, por favor."

"So cultural," I commented sarcastically, rolling my eyes. "Now, are we going to fight, or what?"

Megan was already gone, and I looked around through the foliage, only to see her running at a tank. Another one of the metal monsters was rolling up next to her, seconds from firing and blowing her to Australia.

I whipped out my pistol and fired, only to see a shield flicker to life over the tank and disperse the shot. I upped the setting and fired again, knowing that it was my last chance. The shot was dispersed again, and I bit back a curse as the tank fired. Time seemed to slow down as the shell went straight at Megan, and I saw her shield hold up for a second as the shell detonated, sending her flying. The comms went to static.

"Megan!"

No response.

"How unfortunate," someone next to me mused. I spun, bringing my pistol up, only to have it vanish. Loki grinned at me, making my hairs stand on end.

"What are you doing here?" I asked bitingly, wondering where my pistol had gone. Loki smiled like a cat.

"Well, I enjoy watching you attempt to stop me. Searching for Heimdallr is really the best Thor could come up with? I'm disappointed in him."

"I'm disappointed in you," I growled. Loki patted me on the top of my helmet. Well, he tried to. My hand shot out and caught his wrist, then I threw him up a little, flipped him, and kicked him square in the back while he was still in the air, sending him through a convenient tree. "To hell with you!" I shouted, pulling out my sniper. "Now give me my pistol back!"

Loki was laughing, I realized, as he staggered to his feet. The look on his face could only be described as insane.

"I forgot how . . . spiteful you are. It is strangely entertaining. However, I believe I have an appointment with my associates. Please, make your fight interesting. I do so enjoy watching you." Distant explosions made the trees around us shake, showering me with leaves. When I cleared my visor, Loki was gone. In his place was my pistol.

There is something wrong with the soldiers

"What do you mean?" I asked, picking up my pistol. A soldier was in front of me and I shot him through the forehead. Then I froze as the hole slowly closed. He grinned at me.

There is your answer. They do not have the K2-B in their systems, nor any type of enhancements

"That's fantastic," I grunted as the soldier tackled me. "Can you figure out a way to make these guys stay dead?"

Maybe. I'll need time

"I can give you that," I smirked, throwing off the soldier into a nearby group of three. "Megan! If you don't answer the comms, I'm going to rip your head off your shoulders and use it as a bowling ball until you heal!"

"That's a bit graphic," Megan replied, though she sounded shaken up.

"What's your status?"

"Under attack. These soldiers - they won't die! It's like-"

"They've got the serum?" I interrupted. "They don't. Just keep hitting them in key places and hope they weaken. Or, put them in a position they can't escape."

"Got it."

I put the comms to the side of my HUD, so that Megan wouldn't hear me, but I could hear her if she wanted to speak to me. More soldiers were advancing, heading to my position. I braced myself as they attacked, the bullets somehow going through my shield. Somehow, the soldiers had gotten their hands on weapons that could actually hurt me, though not for very long.

Around me, the trees groaned as their trunks were filled with holes. My eyes went wide as one began cracking.

"That might hurt," I said, turning towards the soldiers. Before I could move out of the way, they shot out my legs, making me fall to the ground. Leaves and twigs filled my vision as an old tree came tumbling down right on top of me. I screamed as the weight hit me, crushing my ribs even as my shield attempted to protect me.

Warning! Power reserves failing

The percentage in the corner of my HUD was going down, and my HUD itself was flashing red. Around me, the tree creaked, settling, and I felt a massive explosion of pain in my neck as something hit it. The tree was pinning me down so that I couldn't move at all. My temperature went up, and I yelled as it exploded outwards, vaporizing the tree and an unfortunate soldier who had gotten too close. A few ashes rained down, settling on the now-scorched ground in the newly-made clearing. The soldiers stared at me, mouths hanging open slightly.

"You are going to pay for that," I growled, climbing to my feet. Something felt off in my head, and I realized that I was looking at everything crooked. I also realized that the soldiers were looking a bit horrified. Carefully, I put my hands around my neck, and hissed when more pain lanced through me.

My neck was fucked up and twisted. Abandoning caution in favor of anger, I put my hands around my head and twisted, feeling cracks reverberate in my head as my neck was realigned. Then I cracked it again after it had healed completely, which took all of two seconds. My hands went for my knife, but I realized that that wouldn't work against these soldiers. Already, they were recovering from their horror, aiming their stupid guns at me. A few more of them were circling behind me, knives clutched in their hands. I had a feeling that the knives would hurt even more than the guns, and I was way past finished with pain today. Along that line of thought, I looked around for something I could use to pin the soldiers down. It wouldn't stop them, but it should slow them down enough for me to think of something more permanent.

I wanted to melt the soldiers into bubbling piles of goo, but I knew that I was too weak to do that. Even now, my strength was returning, but I couldn't kill all of them like that. My eyes searched the area, desperate for anything.

The nearby tank beckoned, its guns and main cannon melted shut from my recent explosion. I grinned, activating stealth mode. Sure, I couldn't detect the soldiers, but that didn't mean they could detect me while I was invisible to all forms of radar and whatever.

The soldiers looked around, confused. I snuck past them, trying to avoid brushing into any of the remaining plants. The ash was difficult to navigate, but my suit helped to keep it settled and not sticking to my feet. A few yards away, the tank sat on top of a crushed tree, and I knew that I was going to have a fun next few minutes.

As I snuck around the back, I saw that the tree stuck out the rear of the tank as a kind of lever.

"That's convenient," I muttered, making my way over to it. The soldiers, like idiots, were clustering in front of the tank, probably trying to protect it. Ironic, considering I was about to use it against them in a very painful way.

You can't seriously-

"I am. Is it possible?"

The strain will be enormous

"That doesn't answer my question," I snapped, kneeling next to the tree and examining if it was healthy enough to do what I wanted it to do. My AI was silent for a moment, probably calculating the odds.

There is a sixty-seven percent chance that this will be successful

"I've had worse odds."

I positioned myself as best I could and stretched my arms, feeling my temperature go up slightly at the thought of what I was about to do. My hands went underneath the trunk, the rough wood feeling weird against the suit.

Preparing suit for strain

Numbers and codes flashed in the corner of my HUD, then I felt the suit tighten up against me.

"Let's do this," I grunted, pushing up with my legs. As the trunk rose - taking the back of the tank with it - I exploded upwards, using every bit of muscle in my legs, back, and arms as I did so, feeling my suit give a little extra push. Even so, the tank wouldn't go all the way over.

My temperature skyrocketed - not for the first time - and the tank went flying, the trunk with it, and landed perfectly on the soldiers. A massive cloud of dust and splinters billowed outwards as I stood there, my stealth flickering off as my suit recovered energy.

That was . . . odd

"How?" A splinter glanced off my visor, followed by a gun nearly hitting me in the stomach. I ducked to one side as it went past me, probably launched out of a soldier's hands when he was crushed by the tank.

Even with your capabilities, this should not be possible. Running bio scans

A three-dimensional model of me rotated in my HUD. I ignored it, slipping into the shadows of the standing trees as more soldiers ran into the clearing. Immediately, they went to the tank, shouting things I didn't care to understand.

The model became more and more accurate, until it pulsed and vanished.

"Done?" I asked, ducking as a soldier came uncomfortably close to my position, boots crunching on the scorched carpet of leaves. His mouth was set into a frown, and from what I could tell his armor was pretty advanced. I had no doubt that it would disperse my bullets like the tank had.

Yes. It appears as if the serum has seeped throughout your body. When you are under stress, it flares, causing extreme strength and endurance for a few moments

"That's it? Nothing super fancy?"

From the scans I have conducted, no

"There's something more, isn't there?"

. . . Yes. The serum has changed into a form I do not recognize. It is not in any networks I have access to. Even as we speak, it is becoming more and more difficult to identify. It seems as if it is becoming a part of your body, and not a foreign substance

"Weird," I said, checking the energy level. If I could go back into stealth mode, this would be a lot easier. "We can talk about that later. Right now, I need to help Megan."

I am still getting no concrete readings from the soldiers, other than that they have no serum in them. This does not make any sense

"So? They're weird. End of story."

No. If something simply exists, it would be identifiable by my systems in one way or another

"What are you saying?" Stupid soldiers. The stealth bar lit up in my HUD and I quickly activated it, just in time. Another soldier peered around the tree I was hiding behind, frowning, his gun inches from my helmet.

These soldiers . . . they do not exist

"I'm sorry, did you just say that these fuckers don't exist?"

Yes

"Then how can I touch them?" A sore spot in my side throbbed. "And be hurt by them?"

It is all in your mind

As soon as I heard that, the soldiers vanished, as did the tanks. In fact, every single trace of the soldiers was gone. Slowly, I climbed to my feet, deactivating stealth mode. Then I frowned. At my feet was a small note. I narrowed my eyes, picked it up, and promptly tore it to pieces. Loki could burn - playing with me like this. The note had simply said, "Fun, isn't it?"

"I fucking hate mind games," I snarled. "MEGAN!" I suddenly roared, reactivating comms. I heard her swear extensively.

"What? I'm in the middle of something! Agh - you stupid military piece of-"

"Quiet!" I snapped. "It's all in your mind!"

There was a momentary silence on the other end of the comms. For a few moments, all I heard was her breathing. Then: "I fucking hate mind games."

That sounds familiar

"Don't we all," I growled. "Megan, get over here. There's some things I need to tell you about." I took a deep breath. "And I think I'll need your help."

Whoa finally another chapter of Stuck. I'm sorry for waiting to get this out - I've been pretty busy. Hope you all enjoyed!

As usual, reviews are appreciated.

Peace out,

-RoR