“Listen up men!” yelled Commander Eriksson, “We’re five minutes from the DZ. I don’t need to remind you that we’re dealing with an Alpha level threat, so keep a sharp eye out.”
“Yessir!” Bellowed the thirty REC troopers in the Icarus transport.
There had been a breach in the containment field earlier that week. Headquarters had detected the breach, but so had the rover. The rover had immediately reversed its course and had begun heading for the breach.
The rover could not be allowed to exit the containment zone, that was why Joss and his fellow REC troopers had been dispatched. Rover Elimination and Containment troopers were some of the Army’s best and brightest engineers and also their most skilled soldiers. REC troopers were tasked with the important duty of ensuring that the Athena series rovers, launched by the old world in the early 22nd century, would not pose a threat to the Martian people.
There were a total of 37 Athena rovers contained in energy fields all over Mars. They had been equipped with cutting edge artificial intelligence and scientific instruments by the old world so that they could be an acceptable substitute for actual human scientists on Mars. The rovers were tremendously successful and 50 were sent to the Red Planet between 2086 and 2135, when they were discontinued for budgetary reasons. Everything went swimmingly until, in 2151, the first colonists arrived on Mars. The rovers, mistaking the colonists for alien life forms (their creators overlooked teaching them the concept of “human”) and not having been taught the Hippocratic Oath, promptly began “studying” the colonists. Mission control down on Earth was unable to shut the rovers down due to a malfunction in the rovers’ internal clocks that caused them to reject any messages, and the colonists were slaughtered. After this disaster, the old world took a much more cautious and military approach to colonization. Each new colony was manned with a full division of soldiers, larger were given armored vehicles, and the REC was set up to hunt down the rovers. Eventually, after years of bloody warfare, after dozens of colonies burned to the ground, Mars was colonized, and the rovers were all contained. Now the REC’s job was to maintain the status quo — to keep the rovers contained.
“Okay men! We’re over the DZ! Move out!”
The thirty REC troopers jumped out the open back of their transport, using their booster packs to break their fall. Within ten seconds the REC troopers had fanned out around the breach, covering every angle for rovers and interlopers. The REC engineers began setting up a temporary barricade to slow the rover down while repairs were made.
The troopers fidgeted as the light of laser welders began to illuminate the inky dark landscape. One tech began releasing a swarm of hornet drones, which flew towards the horizon, seeking out the rover to weaken it before it could reach the breach. Tesla fighters circled overhead, prepared to unleash their fury at the first sign of the rover. The minutes ticked by as the REC engineers worked furiously to repair the breach.
“Sir, we’ve lost contact with the hornets.” yelled one of the techs.
“Did they do any damage?” inquired the commander.
“No sir, the rover seems to have adapted a defense to them.”
The commander cursed. “Where is the rover now?”
“It went dark after it took down the hornets, sir.”
The commander cursed even more vehemently this time.
“Sir! Rover sighted on the western horizon!” yelled a sentry.
“All troopers to the west side!” ordered the commander, “Someone notify the Teslas!”
There was a scramble as troopers rushed to the west side and hastily began erecting defenses.
“Begin continuous shelling on my mark.”
Three EM mortars locked on to the far-off rover and began tracking it.
“Ready on your mark,” yelled a trooper from one of the mortars.
The night was immediately turned into blinding day by the glow of three EM mortars hurling 30 high energy shells per second at the quickly approaching rover. Within two seconds, the ground began to shake with the impacts of that continuous stream of shells. Where the rover had been on the horizon was now a fiery blue ball of exploding shells. A fiery ball that continued to move towards the breach at the same rate as before.
Some of the soldiers began to feel uneasy at this point. They had heard stories about Athena XIII and they had read the brief, but they had not been expecting this. This was impossible, only the toughest tanks could withstand this kind of barrage for this long, and even then they would not come out without a scratch. Apparently Athena XIII had learned since its last encounter with the REC.
Seeing that the EM mortars were not making a dent, the Tesla fighters began to add their firepower to the mix. Thousands of rocket-propelled, nuclear bullets and seven high-energy laser beams joined the 90 shells already hitting the rover every second. The rover faltered at this point, but continued moving forward, albeit slightly more slowly than before.
“You need to hurry up that repair over there!” yelled the commander to the engineers repairing the breach.
“We’re going as fast as we can sir!”
“Well go faster! We don’t have time!”
The thunder of the EM cannons and Tesla fighters faded out as the rover came too close for them to safely continue bombardment and was replaced by the distinctive buzz-zap of the troopers’ Thunderbird guns. The rover was now clearly visible to the REC squad. Its dark wheels crushed the soft mars beneath it, while its characteristic multi-sensor arm swiveled back and forth, scanning the opposition. The rover’s stark white surface gleamed in the searchlights, the ancient UNSA symbol casting off a sinister glow.
A trooper screamed as he was shot dead by the rover’s high-power mining laser; substantially more high-power than it should have been. The landscape soon echoed with the distinctive buzz-zap sound of the REC standard-issue Thunderbird anti-rover rifles. The rover began to let loose shots at a steady rate, most shots being punctuated by the scream of another dead trooper.
“Sir! Breach repaired! We’re go for evac!” yelled one of the engineers, simultaneously joining in the firefight.
“Acknowledged!” yelled the commander, feeling a sense of relief began to overcome him, “Icarus, we are go for evac! Repeat, we are go for evac! Over?”
Static was the commander’s only reply.
“Icarus, do you copy? We are go for evac!”
Still there was no reply. The commander looked up at the hovering Icarus transport to see if there was a problem when its engines suddenly shut off and it began spiraling towards the ground. At this same moment, all of the Tesla fighters shut down as well. The commander and his squad watched in horror as their only hope of surviving spiralled to the ground and erupted into flames.
Mission 78 was the most deadly mission in REC history. Thirty-eight brave defenders lost their lives that fateful night. Just two days after this mission, a signal was discovered that would shut the rovers down permanently, but it was too late for those loyal souls in Paladin squad.
This is in memory of all 1,138 men and women who gave their lives to defend us all and to make Mars safe for future generations.