Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

The valley is smoking, trees nothing but scorched gravestones for the life they once sheltered. The farmland around here used to be really scenic, but the only tourists today are the subject of my little excursion.
“Good morning, Elizabeth. Welcome to this ashen paradise.”
With Cardy as my overwatch, this is going to be nothing but fun.
“Morning. Who am I partying with?”
“Seventeen hardcases with a penchant for scorched earth tactics.”
They’re good at their jobs. Holy hell, what a mess.
“Does anyone need to talk to them?”
“Do I need to be discreet?”
“Anything left I shouldn’t hurt?”
“Don’t be silly. Your targets just finished a sweep. They sure as shit ended anything living.”
Then it’s open season.
“Set the clock.”
“Engage in 3… 2… 1… Go!”
I reverse the direction of my knees and charge, letting my targeting arrays prioritise victims by proximity as I accelerate to a whisker under 55KPH; I can’t hit shit at anything over 60.
“They’ve spotted you.”
“I’m leaving a rooster tail 10 metres high. You’d be wasting my time if they hadn’t.”
Powering up a low hill, I launch myself into a somersault, letting me shoot the three twats huddling in the lee before I land. Two down, one staggering.
“Left a stray.”
“I’ve rolled a posse from 42 Commando in on your tail. Nothing’s escaping.”
The landing isn’t as pretty as I’d like, but no-one’s watching bar the boys and girls who’ve made me and my kind legendary, so I’m allowed a skid or two.
The next fire team is five strong with heavy weapons. I don’t like GPMG. They scratch my plating. Plus, a close-range hit could tear my head off, but that’s beside the point. A trio of minimissiles with frag heads leaves only their outlier.
He feints right, goes left, then breaks his dagger on the ceremetal chainmail across my gut. Funny how ancient warfare tech often works really well when made with modern materials. I box his ears with my stubby assault rifles. He’s wearing a helmet, but it doesn’t matter. With titanium-wrapped weighted jackets on each barrel, I halve the width of his head.
The next mob are in two pairs, and enhanced. I can see their raised body temps. Which makes the colder sections revealing their junction boxes really easy to target with the baby railguns on my right arm. I only get ten titanium ball bearings to play with, but they travel at four kilometres a second.
Three targets go down, crippled at best. The fourth is fastest, but a futile dodge only changes where he gets hit. Paired supersonic projectiles make a godawful mess of his head.
Last are the command team. Four around one. I go straight at them, flat out, assault rifles spitting. One goes down on the way in, the railguns do for his partner, and I’m on their leader before the furthest two can cover. She lets me have both barrels from a sawn-off shotgun, which hurts, and slows me down a bit. I’m going to be picking pellets out of my softer bits for a week.
Even slowed down, I still hit her at 45KPH and stop dead, launching my empty guns into the last two. The transferred energy hurls her broken body away as the rifles knock her cohorts down. I pull my automatics. Simultaneous headshots finish the party.
Cardy whoops.
“26 seconds from first contact. New record!”
Mission complete. I switch my knees back and retract the lenses over my eyes. I prefer to look passably human when I’m not being devastating.