Action Sample: An Excerpt from “Freelancers”
Author's note: Just for the hell of it ... well, that plus a chance to show a few examples of how I write action scenes ... here's a chapter from one of my just-for-fun ongoing serialized stories, Freelancers. It's Chapter 40, in which an elite agent goes after a mercenary who's abducted her family. There's some violence and profanity, so it may not suit everyone's taste. This chapter is part of an extended arc that shows the lengths Valeria Terakkis will go to in order to rescue her family.
The full story can be found here: http://www.fanfiction.net/s/7443161/1/Mass-Effect-Freelancers
Planet Bekenstein, Boltzmann System, Serpent Nebula ...
"I'm really not comfortable with this!" Chula stared out the forward viewport, her glowing eyes wide, and gripped the armrests of her seat as the shuttle raced along less than a meter above the ground.
Heh. Garusha glanced over at her and cocked her head. "I thought you were a pilot."
"I fly spaceships. In, y'know, space. And occasionally aircars. Shuttles shouldn't be this close to the ground unless they're landing or taking off."
"Remember the illegal shuttle races I told you about?" Scott threaded the needle between a pair of trees and tossed a smirk at Chula. "This is one of the reasons they were illegal."
"Uh-huh." Chula turned her head away but kept her eyes pointed out the window as if unable to tear her gaze away from certain onrushing doom. "Please tell me you won all those races. Or, at least, you weren't disqualified for crashing or something."
"The worst I ever did was third place. No crashes, no dents, no scratches." His smile turned mischievous and he whipped the stick to the left and sent the shuttle through several donuts. Chula squeezed the armrests even harder and closed her eyes until it was over.
Garusha burst into laughter. "C'mon, it's good tactical thinking. If anyone in Akos's compound has anything that can see into the cockpit, all they'll see is some kid hotdogging in what they'll assume is a stolen shuttle. And it'll have the added benefit of keeping their attention on the shuttle and off the guys we dropped off along the way."
"Okay, yeah, fair enough." Chula opened her eyes as Scott straightened the shuttle out and accelerated.
Garusha laughed again and took a quick look out the window before glancing at Valeria in the rear compartment. They'd skirted within a kilometer of the compound Lantim Akos had set up outside Polchinski Valley, letting each of the crew members off at predetermined spots, where they approached on foot. Valeria's grandmother-in-law had picked out one of the few buildings this far outside the city, part of a cluster of structures that were currently vacant for whatever reason, and had used her armor's stealth system to approach it without being detected. She'd mentioned her plan to act as overwatch for Valeria from the rooftop's distance of roughly five hundred meters and take out anyone who might get the drop on her. The rest of the team had picked out their own staging points around the compound.
"Almost there." Chula's tone was that of barely-concealed relief as she rose from her seat and moved to the door. The drop zone she'd chosen was a loading platform for one of Bekenstein's monorail systems, which a pair of Akos's minions appeared to be using as a lookout. Garusha guessed she intended to get rid of the guards to prevent the team from being spotted.
Scott rotated the shuttle to face the door away from the guys on the platform and slowed the shuttle almost to a halt. Chula opened the door, darted behind a nearby hill, and vanished. Scott accelerated again as the door closed, curving back around to the main gate to drop Valeria off before taking the shuttle a safe distance away and waiting for the shit to hit the fan.
Garusha turned to their last passenger and nodded. Valeria marched over to the door and waited, carrying her helmet under her left arm. Her Omni-Tool and the systems in her black and red armor were ready to go, waiting only for the helmet to be connected. Clipped to her back were an M-76 Revenant assault rifle and a new toy the geth had added to the Sulaco's armory before delivering it to the Citadel, a plasma shotgun. She also carried an M-5 Phalanx hand cannon on her hip.
Good choices. The Revenant had a high firing rate but its accuracy wasn't great, though Valeria had mentioned on the trip down to the surface that some mods had been added to compensate for the recoil. With the right ammo loaded, it could cut enemies to shreds at long range. The plasma shotgun was something Garusha had never seen before, but Val had gone over its capabilities and Garusha had decided she needed to get her hands on one when she heard about its range being longer than that of a regular shotgun. And the Phalanx was handy for up-close business and could deal more damage than any other pistol she was aware of, while its accuracy and long range made it practically a sniper rifle that could fit in one hand.
The idiots who abducted Valeria's family are so screwed.
"We're almost in position," Scott said. "About a kilometer from the front gates."
"Good. I'll go the rest of the way on foot." Valeria looked over her shoulder at him as she put her helmet on. "Do a couple more donuts when we get to that patch of dirt up ahead. Kick up some dust."
Valeria picked up her last piece of gear, the bomb she'd mentioned on the ship, hidden in a backpack. She slung it over her shoulder and held her hand over the button that would open the door.
Scott pulled off a few more donut maneuvers and the dust the thrusters blasted into the air blocked everything in the viewports. "Now."
Valeria activated her tactical cloak, opened the door, and launched out of the shuttle. Garusha caught a glimpse of the air distorting as light bent around Val's armor before the dust cloud swallowed it up. Garusha hopped into the copilot's seat while Scott gained some altitude and then motioned at her seat harness.
"Better fasten that and hang on to your titties." He grinned. "All six of 'em."
Chuckling, Garusha buckled herself in. Scott performed a barrel roll before pushing the engines to full burn and rocketing away from the compound. Garusha waited for the shuttle to level out and then threw her arms up.
"Woooooo!" She giggled, took a breath, and pointed out the window. "Okay, we can set down in that small crater right there."
Scott stared out the window for a few seconds and nodded. "Ah, I see it. Nice. The center's flat enough for a stable landing spot and the walls should keep us out of sight."
"And we can stay in the shuttle and watch the feeds from the cloaked drones the geth brought with the new ship. We'll be able to see the shitstorm Valeria's about to uncork on those guys, or most of it, at least."
Scott beamed and began a gentle descent. "Can't wait."
"Maybe we should be ready to take our armor off in a hurry," Scott said as his girlfriend linked up to the drones and displayed their camera and data feeds on the console behind the pilot's seat.
"So, if anyone from the compound comes to investigate us, we can throw them off the scent by pretending to be a couple of horny teenagers sneaking off somewhere private to fuck each other silly?"
"What do you mean, pretend?" Scott fired a lascivious grin at her. "I say we actually start doin' it. If they bust in on us when we're right in the middle of it, hey, that's what they get for sticking their noses in where they don't belong."
She burst out laughing and pulled the M-96 Mattock rifle from her back. "I love the way your brain works. But I made your father a promise, so you're keeping your hands on the controls and I'm keeping mine on my gun. If any of those guys start poking around, we're lifting off, and if they start shooting, I'll provide cover fire."
"Sounds good." He arched an eyebrow. "As long as we have tons of sex once we get back to the Sulaco."
"Oh, we're definitely making that part of the post-mission celebrations." She winked both right eyes at him and focused her attention on the images on the monitors, sending one of the feeds to Scott's console so he wouldn't have to turn away from the controls to see what was going on. The drones had been the first things Valeria deployed after the shuttle entered Bekenstein's atmosphere and began its descent. They'd been equipped with tactical cloaks and other stealth systems to keep anyone from noticing them or detecting their scans. Valeria and the team had gotten a good look at the compound inside the high walls surrounding it -- a hangar near the front gate, six cylindrical towers, and a thicker tower in the center of the others. The drones hadn't detected a defense grid or any other weapons systems protecting the compound, which was either a sign of Lantim Akos's overconfidence or his stupidity.
Of course, fucking with a Spectre's family was a pretty good indicator of his low intelligence in the first place.
"I wonder if this place was here already or something Akos built," Scott said. "It looks like it was set up to keep an army out or hostages in, but he had to have been planning this a lot longer than a couple of months."
"It might've been built before he came here and it suited his purposes. Or he could've set it up a long time ago and then changed his plans after Valeria sent his daddy to prison and someone whacked him." Garusha shrugged. "Who knows?"
On the screen, a familiar quarian envirosuit covered in a long black duster and an outback hat crept up to the stairs leading to the monorail platform. Given the state of disrepair the building beside the platform was in, it was disused for the same reason the tiny settlement nearby had been abandoned.
Chula eased up the stairs until she was just high enough to see the two mercs standing on the platform, a huge krogan and a wiry human. The former wore leather and chains but no armor, and the latter had dark gray armor but no helmet. Garusha shook her head. Either they were cursed with the same stupidity or overconfidence as their boss or they'd just assumed their cohorts on the Citadel would've gotten Valeria to come along quietly.
Chula seemed to ponder her options, then something off to the left caught her attention. Scott glanced in the same direction and spotted a monorail approaching. Hmm. If she waits for it to reach the platform, she can take those guys out while they're blocked from the compound's view.
She tiptoed up behind the mercs as the train approached, waited until it had almost reached the platform, then she braced her right boot against the krogan's back and shoved, propelling him off the platform and directly into the train's path. He vanished in a puff of blood and guts and Scott spotted one of his legs spinning off to the right before his brain finished processing what he'd just witnessed.
Garusha threw her head back and roared with laughter. "Okay, now she's in her element."
The human merc froze for a second, staring at the severed arm that had just tumbled back from where it had been thrown into the air, probably just as unprepared for it as Scott had been, before whirling around and snapping her submachine gun up. Chula took advantage of the momentary distraction by activating her Omni-Blade and lopping the merc's head off just as she finished turning around. The superheated blade cauterized the wound before any blood could spill and Chula grabbed the body and flung it down the stairs and out of sight. She punted the head off the platform and darted inside the building just as the rear end of the train zipped past.
"Jesus Christ," Scott mumbled. Garusha chuckled and switched his monitor to another feed while he took a few more seconds to recover. On the screen, the air to the left of the main gate rippled and Valeria appeared, having disengaged her cloak to conserve the power cell. The backpack she'd left with was missing; she must've left it somewhere out of sight until she could take care of the four mercs guarding the front gate -- a human, two turians, and an asari.
The drone's camera zoomed in and Scott got a closer look at the human on the right. He looks around my age. Valeria plucked the plasma shotgun from her back and Scott's stomach churned at the realization of what was about to happen.
One of the turians noticed her and whipped his rifle up. The rest spun toward her and took aim just as she pulled the trigger. The gun fired three large plasma pellets and two drilled into the nearer turian while the third passed him and nailed the asari. The pellets released an electrical discharge that buckled their shields and the plasma began burning through their armor. Panicking, the asari grunted, fumbled with her armor's latches, and managed to pop her chest plate off.
Valeria switched from the shotgun to her pistol, knocked the second turian's shield out with two shots before dropping him with a single round through the left eye, and lunged at the nearer one before he could recover from the shotgun blast. He stumbled away from her and tried to raise his gun, but she deflected his aim, grasped his horns, forced his head back, and shoved her hand cannon under his chin. One shot was all it took.
The asari cursed and her body suddenly rippled with biotic energy. Moving so fast her hand was a blur, Valeria used the turian's body as a meat shield, holstered her pistol, pulled out her knife and threw it into the asari's chest. The merc staggered backward, the biotic glow fizzled out, and she collapsed and stared disbelievingly at Valeria. The gun slipped from her hands and she reached for the knife.
Valeria charged up to her, brought her right leg up, and stomped on the knife, ramming it in to the hilt. The merc convulsed and opened her mouth, but wasn't even able to scream. Val crouched over her and waited a moment for her to recover before speaking.
"The blade's in your aorta. If you pull it out, you'll bleed to death before anyone can get to you with a medikit." Valeria leaned closer and glared directly into her eyes. "Guess what?" She grasped the knife and yanked it out, clamped her hand over the struggling asari's mouth, and didn't break eye contact until she stopped moving and her eyes stared blankly into the distance.
"Shit!" Scott blurted. His guts twisted even more as Valeria stood and stared down the remaining merc. "Did … did she just rip that woman's soul out with her eyes?"
"Sure looked like it," Garusha said softly. Scott glanced over his shoulder and found her gaping at the image as Valeria drew her pistol and aimed it at the human. The merc still held his own pistol in shaking hands but appeared to have frozen solid at what he'd just seen.
"Hello, Billy," Valeria said, and the kid's face turned white.
"You remember me?"
"I certainly do." Val nodded at the valley a few kilometers away. "It's a beautiful day. Such a shame to waste it with a bunch of scumbags who are about to spend the rest of their lives here. How about you take a vacation?" She intensified her glare. "Find something else to do with your life. And you'd better not let me catch you with a bunch of motherfuckers like these again. Ever. Understood?"
Billy nodded, lowered his gun, placed it gently on the ground, and backed away with his hands raised. Valeria continued glaring at him.
"Well? What are you waiting for? Fuck off."
He spun around, tripped over his own feet, and bolted off toward the city. Valeria glanced in the drone's general direction.
"Gonna deliver the package before they send someone to check out the gunfire," she said under her breath before reactivating her tactical cloak.
Scott leaned back in his seat and stared at his trembling hands.
"Oh, yeah," Garusha said. "She's kicking this off."
Here we go. Valeria had slipped into the hangar and almost disengaged her tactical cloak. She'd stopped the instant she heard the approaching voices and footsteps of a pair of mercs who'd no doubt come to check on the ruckus she'd just caused. The first order of business was to remove the mercs' ability to escape or send gunships after her and her friends, but she needed to deal with these guys before she could get to that.
At least there are only two. She guessed more had been sent to check the front gate, found the bodies, and quickly figured out that she'd slipped through the guard shack beside the gates. They'd probably split up to give the compound a thorough sweep.
The personnel door slid open and a human and a batarian crept past her, rifles held ready, pivoting to cover the spaces between the gunships and shuttles. Both of them shook their heads at whatever they saw in their HUDs.
"Clear," the batarian grumbled. "I'll be glad when Akos's personal vendetta is over. We're not even collecting a fee for this. At least in the Terminus Systems, we can actually be paid for putting our lives on the line."
"Yeah. A planet as gorgeous as Bekenstein, and we're stuck way outside the nearest city, where every pleasure this planet has to offer is out of our reach." The human sighed. "Maybe the next job will be on Illium. Or maybe a straight-up vacation."
"I figure the boss owes us that after roping us into his personal shit."
"Exactly. If we play our cards right, we can stay at the Azure Hotel." The human grinned at the fantasies running through his head. "Imagine being surrounded by hot asari pussy."
"Yeah, I wouldn't mind getting me some of that." The batarian shrugged and clipped his rifle to his back. "Well, if nothing else, maybe Akos will give us a night or two off after he wraps this up. I heard about a synthetic brothel in town. I'm curious enough to try it out."
"Synthetic hookers? Eh." The human shrugged. "On second thought, it might be okay. And since they're synthetic, it doesn't matter if you smack 'em around a little."
Seriously? Valeria rolled her eyes, eased her knife from its sheath, and crept toward them.
The batarian laughed. "If that bitch would just show up already so we can kill her and be done with it."
"Yeah." The human snorted. "All this just for a porn star."
"Well, former Spectre turned porn star, and now she's a Spectre again. She can take care of business, or Akos wouldn't have gone to all this trouble to get her."
"Uh-huh. I've seen a few of her vids. Y'know, turians aren't particularly attractive, but there's something about this one that really gets me all worked up. It's a shame Akos won't let us fuck her before he kills her. Like, we could all take turns with her."
Oh, you did not just say that. Valeria slipped up behind him. Guess I won't feel as bad about this as I expected to.
He laughed, took his helmet off, and mopped sweat from his forehead. "Actually, she doesn't have to be alive for that. Just get in a quick bang while the body's still warm."
Oh, you piece of shit. Wasting you would be doing the whole galaxy a favor.
"Hah!" The batarian leaned against a nearby gunship. "Well, maybe we can have a few of the hostages before we get rid of 'em all. That little sister of hers is kind of cute."
Valeria suppressed a snarl.
"Hmm, yeah." The human took his helmet off and raked his fingers through his hair. "She looks pretty young. So does that weird-looking human girl. I bet both of 'em have really tight pussies."
Valeria closed the distance between them and plunged her knife into the back of his neck -- straight through the brainstem. The blade poked through the front of his neck as his body turned ragdoll and dropped, sprawled face-down, and the tip of the blade clinked against the floor.
The batarian stared in shock, then stumbled backward and reached over his shoulder for his rifle. "Fuck!"
Valeria charged him, deployed her Omni-Blade, and swept it up from his crotch through the top of his head, slicing him cleanly in half. The halves collapsed, flesh and innards and clothing catching fire where the blade had passed through. Valeria let the blade dissipate, took the backpack off, and pulled the bomb out. She placed it directly under the gunship's fuel cell and returned to the door.
Akos, you don't know what you've started. But you will.
And we have liftoff. Irving smirked at the sound of gunfire coming from the front gates -- the distinctive, loud sound of Valeria's Phalanx pistol. Fear had given way to a weird numbness the longer they had waited for something to happen, but moments ago Akos and his mercs had snapped into action when they heard the gunshots. Akos had sent a squad to check on the commotion and then the waiting had started all over.
"The guards are all dead," one of Akos's minions reported over the comlink. "Well, three of 'em. The kid is missing. Either she took him with her or he just ran away."
"I can see that." Akos glared at the three sets of flatlines on the bioreadout panel. "Find that cunt and bring her to me. I want her to watch me kill her whole family before I finish her off."
As if she'd let that happen. Irving leaned over to Val's parents, siblings, and the nearest hostages, and whispered, "We're going to be okay."
"How do you know that?" a human woman on his left whispered back. "Who's attacking?"
"My wife. Let's just say she's highly motivated to rescue us and …"
"Hey," Akos's lieutenant snapped, "shut it!"
"We're fanning out," the voice coming from the main console continued. One set of monitors above the console showed camera feeds from all over the compound. The middle set showed the pulse and brainwaves of each merc. A third monitor showed the layout of the compound with blips representing each merc.
The woman nodded toward the third monitor and whispered, "How does that detect lifeforms? Heartbeats?"
"Probably," Val's mother, Lithia, muttered.
"So if the blip disappears …?"
"It means that person is dead."
She turned back to Irving. "How can we tell which one is your wife?"
"When there's only one blip left, that'll be her."
Several of the mercs guarding them flicked nervous glances at each other. One of them shook his head.
"Nobody's that good."
"She is. Why do you think the Eclipse mercs call her 'The Army'? Or the Blue Suns call her 'The Goddamn Nightmare'?"
Another guard -- a krogan, of all beings -- drew in a quick breath and took a step back. She glanced around at the others and said, "The boss is taking on Valeria Terakkis?" She turned to glare across the room at the back of Akos's head. "He … neglected to mention that."
"Huh. Well, you might want to consider finding a boss who won't try to throw your life away."
She stared at him for several seconds and heaved a long sigh. "No shit."
Goddamn right. Irving took another slow look around the room and spotted a human girl who matched Val's description of a kid she'd encountered on Chasca. Looked eleven or twelve, more muscular than someone her age should be, with red glowing cybernetic eyes. What'd Val say she called herself? Ghost, I think? He forced himself to turn away. How'd I not notice someone who looked like that before?
The girl caught him staring at her and her right eye flicked toward him while the left remained pointed at the monitors. She arched an eyebrow and nodded at the displays. Irving turned around just in time to catch one of the two blips in the hangar winking out. The second vanished barely a second later. Two bioreadouts on the second set of monitors flatlined.
Ah-hah. There she is.
Nothing happened for a moment. Then an explosion hammered everything -- floor, ceiling, walls, and everyone inside the command dome. The other hostages near Irving twitched and the armored mercs beyond them reached out for railings, consoles, or whatever else was nearby, bracing themselves and glancing around with wide eyes.
A second blast hit even harder, as if a giant had roundhouse-kicked the side of the tower. Smoke and shrapnel shot into the sky outside the observation dome. Irving stared at the wreckage and realized some of it was a section of a roof that had torn loose and tumbled into the sky.
Smaller pops and snaps and booms followed like popcorn -- ammo and ordnance in the gunships cooking off. Another muffled whump announced the loss of yet another ship.
The krogan woman grunted. "Most of those ships were rented. We were supposed to return them."
Another sharp bang shook the tower. Irving stood and stared out through the dome. The hangar continued shredding as the shuttles and gunships inside ripped apart, flinging chunks of metal into the sky and arcing off to all sides. A particularly large chunk, a gunship's wing and part of its fuselage, tumbled straight toward the dome.
Oh, shit. Irving backed away and almost tripped over someone. He glanced down and found Valeria's little sister, Actana, scooting out of his way without taking her gaping stare off the incoming debris.
Akos and several of the mercs stared slack-jawed at the chunk of metal and flinched as it smashed into the dome, cracking it with a snap that left Irving's ears ringing. Everyone gasped, cried out, or twitched as the debris bounced off and plummeted to the ground, landing with a thud that rocked the building yet again.
Several of the hostages behind Irving whimpered. So did a couple of the mercs. Akos's lieutenant took a few more steps back and covered her mouth with both hands.
Irving laughed. Across the room, Akos spun around to scowl at him. Val's parents, brother, and sister also stared at him, confused at his reaction. He gave Desentos, Lithia, Actana, and Galadin a reassuring smile before turning to smirk at Akos.