The Catoblepas model only looked downwards, ’cause that’s where its targets ran around.
Jacobs chewed his gum loudly. “Come on, techs! I can’t wait to take this baby out tonight!” he laughed, gripping the controls.
The team of techs swarmed around the giant mecha, loading it up with ammo, running diagnostics. It took about 200 workhours of maintenance for each hour of a mecha’s operation, but Jacobs didn’t give a shit about any of that.
“Are ya done?” he shouted in the comms.
“One more thing,” the calm voice of the supervisor said. “Unh. Power levels are half a percent down, this shouldn’t happen. I really should cycle this one out for an overhaul.”
“No, no, come on, man! One percent? That’s nothing. I’ll run her sweetly tonight, like a virgin pussy.”
“It doesn’t sound like much, but it shouldn’t happen. You might lose power at any given time. I’m warning, you don’t push her,” the supervisor said, climbing up to his cockpit to give him a meaningful glare.
Jacobs nodded and stopped behaving like an anxious teenager on prom night. He knew that the supervisor had the authority to bench the mecha, which meant effectively benching Jacobs. He sombrely saluted the man and said, “I’ll take care of her, sir.”
The supervisor rapped on the cockpit. “Good.”
“I’ll bring her home before midnight!” Jacobs added with a big whoop.
The tech supervisor shook his head, but seemed he had enough. He tapped the authorisation code on his tablet. “Oobligator is a go. Repeat, Oobligator is a go. Clear the area. Warning, all personnel, clear the area.”
An alarm started blearing. Jacobs loved that alarm, it meant everybody should get the fuck out so he could leave the hangar.
He flicked the start button and Oobligator stood up on his two massive feet. It was like playing a game, the controls felt so responsive that an experienced operator could handle them like extensions of his own body. They still had them do five-hundred hours of VR simulations and training, but it was damn fun, Jacobs didn’t mind.
Oobligator was number two on the kill roster after Oobliterator.
“Tonight, I’m gonna be number one,” Jacobs grunted, his nostrils flaring.
Oobligator walked out of the hangar, making the ground shake with each step. Four helicopters came down around him and grabbed him with specially-made metasteel wires, then expertly lifted him up into the sky.
“I better get a hot dropzone, boys,” Jacobs said on the comms.
The pilots send him survey data. “Which one do you want? We’ve got the north side, survey says it’s crawling with oobies, and west, it’s a little bit further out, will eat up your operating time.”
Jacobs mulled it over. Closer and surveyed, or further out where the other pilots wouldn’t bother with? He decided to take a gamble. “Take me west, please.”
“Yeap. I’ve got a number one spot to claim tonight,” Jacobs said, grinning. He thumbed the trigger on his sidearm. It was useless when he was surrounded by tons of killing metal, but he always liked the feel on his fingers.
Oobligator dropped in the middle of the encampment. All the oobies had run off after hearing the choppers, but there were two older ones, an elderly couple it seemed, that couldn’t run away. Jacobs looked down on them. He gripped his joystick and brought the target on top of them on his HUD, it followed his eye-movements and predicted his choices. The old couple held one another. Two men with creaky bones, embraced as if it was the last thing they’d ever do.
“Die, faggots,” Jacobs said and pulled the trigger. The heavy rounds from the machine gun tore through them, leaving a splash of blood and guts on the spot where they stood just a moment ago.
The system’s voice was gravelly, manly. Loud. It was music to Jacobs’ ears. He savoured the kill. “Mmm, this is a nice way to start the night.”
Oobligator turned to the encampment and opened up with the flamethrower. The tents went up in flames in thirty seconds, and the mecha walked among the fire.
Someone screamed. A woman. It was always the women that screamed. Oobligator turned and let the targeting system identify the people.
Out Of Bounds Individuals Detected.
The HUD lit up with information about them, but Jacobs didn’t care. All he needed was the confirmation that all these were Out Of Bounds Individuals, or Oobies, as they called them. People who were useless to society, who were so problematic that their cities spat them out and denied access to them forever, to their kids, to their loved ones, a total excision of a cancerous mass.
Jacobs fired the rockets.
Jacobs was fired up now. Oobligator ran towards the hiding oobies. He squished one with the left foot.
Oobligator turned to a group that fired back with some rifle. He unleashed the minigun on them.
Jacobs was sweating out of excitement. “Die, die, you worthless scum. Die!” He flamed once just for dramatic effect, then chased a couple of oobies that were running in the opposite direction. It was a young mad and a very young girl, that ran awkwardly, holding her enormous belly.
“Oh, a baby,” Jacobs cooed. “Wonder if it counts as a triple kill?”
Oobligator chased after them with large, thundering steps that made the ground tremble. “Heading for that building, you stupid shits? Think that can help you? It won’t help you!” Jacobs shouted at them, excited.
The building was a worn-down five story one, about the hight of the Catoblepas mecha. Jacobs grinned as he saw the young family run inside, then started at a warning.
Power Levels at 70%.
That was too low, too fast. Huh. He guessed that tech supervisor really had a point after all. Oh, well, it was quite enough for this night run. Jacobs swiped the warning away and switched to heat vision. He chuckled at their trembling red silhouettes and plowed through the corner of the building with a powerful kick. Concrete flew everywhere, and Jacobs could see down on the terrified young couple.
The Oobligator crouched low, staring them down.
The woman fell on the ground, cried out, pleaded for her life.
Jacobs shook his head. He wasn’t gonna lose his killing spree for her. He fired the main gun, obliterating her on a puff of red mist. The young man was stunned, staring at the spot where his wife was just a second ago.
He screamed and ran at the Catoblepas’ foot with a rusty pipe. It was pathetic. Jacobs snorted, staring down at him as he pounded the metasteel with the force of his arms. Glang, glang. That was the sound that acted as a drum beat under the shouts and curses of the young man.
“I should put you out of your misery,” Jacobs said. “Poor bastard.” Thub. He fired a round down at the Oobligator’s toe and turned the young man into bits of meat.
KILLING SPREE ENDED.
“Oh, come on! Fuck,” Jacobs grunted, kicking the controls. He checked his stats. He hadn’t overtaken Oobliterator yet. “Of course, not with these pathetic oobies. Come on, fuckers, come out of your shitholes!” He ran a wide active scan of everything, sending out probes and drones. That wasted a lot of energy, but he didn’t care.
46 Targets Detected.
Jacobs laughed like a madman and charged the dilapidated buildings. “Un. Leash. HELL!”
Bullets made short work of the walls.
Fire flushed out the little ones.
Power Levels at 40%.
Jacobs laughed like a maniac, shooting left and right, unleashing hell, as he promised.
He checked the stats. “One more kill, come on! Come on!” he said through gritted teeth. “One more kill and Oobligator is number one. Number-frickin’-one.”
The Catoblepas mecha stepped through the burning ruins. The corpses were too small to even register as a speed bump. Crunching the ground, the Catoblepas was unstoppable.
Until he reached a ruined plaza, and the wires shot down from all directions.
“What is this?” Jacobs grunted, spinning around. He couldn’t move the mecha, it was pinned down. He slashed at two of the metasteel wires with the mecha’s powerful arm. It had a spinning saw attachment that made short work of the two wires, and he was half-freed. “Ha! Oobie idiots. Think you can pin me down? Me?”
More wires shot out from hidden oobies. Two of them ran on the ground and approached him. He stomped on them, squishing them like the bugs they were. Two more came in their place, but he couldn’t move that fast to get them too. They climbed on the pinned-down leg and fired an RPG at the saw. It exploded, sending bits around and shaking the entire mecha.
“I can see that, you stupid system,” Jacobs spat out and tried to free himself. More oobies showed up and threw more metasteel wires over him. A truck revved and stopped behind him. He could see it from the rear cams but he couldn’t spin the weapons around and take it out, they were tied down.
A white truck, rusted and battered and dirty.
“I’m gonna be taken down by a damned Toyota? Fuck that!”
The oobies attached one of the wires to the winch at the truck’s rear. The wire tugged on the Catoblepas’ head. The oobie driver gave it his best and the wheels spun in place, complaining. The oobies started to shout at each other and then some of them climbed at the back of the truck. He wheels found purchase and the truck managed to pull the wire. At first, nothing happened, the wheels spun in place, kicking up dust. Then Jacobs felt the mecha starting to topple.
“Oh, no you won’t!” he said, and brought the guns back, altering the centre of weight.
Then the fucking oobies brought in a second truck. Yet another battered Toyota.
Jacobs lost it at that point. He just brought the guns forward and blasted everything in sight. Bullet ricocheted all over, coming back at him.
Even in that mayhem, he didn’t manage to kill the one oobie he needed to become the best. “Fucking fuck!” he cried out.
The Catoblepas toppled and fell on its back. Jacobs hit the side of his head and cursed again in pain.
The oobies climbed on top of the mecha, waiving their weapons around. Pickaxes, some rifles, knives.
Jacobs breathed in three times deeply. Then he clicked his six-point belt open and gripped his sidearm. He pressed the cockpit release. It slid open with a series of processes, air hisses and servos raising the ballistic glass.
The noise struck him like a wave. Was he always isolated like that? Screaming, burning, buildings still crumbling, people crying for help, shot up, blown up, burned up, shouting, cursing, praying.
He stood up, pointing his sidearm at them, changing targets as he assessed them.
The oobies surrounded him like a swarm.
Jacobs fired his sidearm, killing two instantly. “I won,” he laughed maniacally. “I’m number one, baby!”
The rest fell on him and tore him to pieces.