Back In The Saddle

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11

Anders, the man responsible for the detonation at Site-014, had been "exiled" from the AEP Association for good publicity with the Authority. Fortunately for him, his manifesto had made some allies. One such ally was the Church of Malthus, the organization that lead Anders to the Authority (and thus the AEP Association) in the first place. Jim had recommended that Anders rejoin the church, seeing as he didn't really have any other option for good cover. Anders considered the offer for some time, before eventually agreeing. After all, it WAS practically the only option available.

After escaping Authority airspace, Jim had touched down at a temporary compound. Anders knew that the two were'nt going to stay for long, as Jim only needed to "make a phone call." As he was doing so, he gave Anders an AK, moving the phone away from his head for a second.

"Oi, can you cover me, Anders?" Jim asked. "Uhh, sure." was his response.

Anders proceeded to watch the windows the building, waiting for a good 10 minutes. Surprisingly, No Authority presence was sighted. Once Jim was finished, he had signaled Anders to the VTOL. Jim and Anders entered the stolen VTOL once more, preparing to fly to the closest Church of Malthus hideout.

As they approached, Jim turned the VTOL's comms to a static channel. "This is Echo-17 to Hideout Epsilon, we're en route in an Authority VTOL. Be advised, do not shoot." Jim stated. Anders could hear a faint voice from the comms, which he couldn't really make out. Jim turned to face Anders, giving a thumbs up. "We're in?" Anders asked. "Yep. They know you're with us, and there's an old friend there waiting to see you again. He heard about your job at Site-014 and was overjoyed." Jim replied. Anders could only wonder who said old friend was, as he remembered a lot of friends within the organization. However, judging by the secrecy, it was most likely someone important.

The VTOL arrived at the hideout, which appeared to be a shack in a rather remote area of the state of Idaho. It wasn't too different from that of the cover of Site-014, with the exception of the environment. Anders and Jim were escorted inside the compound by two guards, which Anders swore looked identical. As it turned out, they were. The guards were both instances of Anomaly-197-1, which were captured during the Gobi Campaign. Anders was told to wait, as the acquaintance was currently in a meeting. "So, who's the leader around here?" Anders asked, only to not get a response. "I am." a distant voice responded, in a voice that sounded familiar to Anders. Anders then quickly realized who it was after witnessing a tall figure with a hulking, horribly mutated arm approach him.

"Hey, Veiko!" Anders called out.

"Anders! How have you been?"

"I'm fine, I've just decommisioned an entire site. Typical weekend, eh?"

"You know it, my friend." Veiko nodded, smiling. He was genuinely happy to see his old friend.

Anders then noticed Veiko's rather odd choice of clothing, a pair of cargo shorts and a white "I heart" t-shirt featuring the Church of Malthus logo. "Like the shirt? I made it myself. Would've chosen a suit, but I don't think any tailor accommodates my arm." Veiko said jokingly, before giving a more serious expression.

"You still believe in the cause, yeah?" He asked, going silent. Anders felt a little nervous. After a while, Anders proceeded to answer.

"Yeah, but I more firmly believe in AEP's cause." was Anders's response. Veiko breathed a sigh of relief.

"I see. There's nothing stopping them from being compatible. That reminds me. Seeing as you're a "terrorist" there now, we should probably keep you away from anyone associated with AEP. Welcome back, Glass." Veiko replied. He then threw a pair of prescription sunglasses to Anders, the one he had worn back in the Gobi Campaign. "We're doing this? The squad's getting back together?" Anders asked, clearly excited. "You know it."

Anders put on the sunglasses, smiling. "So, where are the others? I only saw you and Jim." Anders asked.

"Well-" Veiko was cut off by a female voice. "I've been here the entire time. Clean your glasses, Anders." The woman sated in a joking tone. Anders instantly recognized her.

"Hey, Dana." Anders responded, obeying the sarcastic remark. Dana fell silent.

"Yeah, she really doesn't talk that much. She sticks to the mission." Veiko stated. He proceeded to raise his arm, the second claw outstretched to resemble an index finger.

"Well, before I was so rudely interrupted, I was gonna talk about the two new additions. Both have thrown away all of their humanity, but in different ways. Introduce yourself to Enzo and Sergei."

Two individuals then walked out. The first was what appeared to be a man wearing a heavily modified HAZMAT suit.
"Hello, Anders. Veiko told me about you, and I think we're gonna be good friends. The name's Enzo. Or, if you're Jim, Mr. Roboto." Enzo proceeded to shake hands with Anders.

"Mr. Roboto? why does he call you that?" Anders asked.
"I guess I'll explain that myself. Enzo is from the robotics sect of Malthus. They were testing if converting their consciousness into an AI would work, and Enzo was the only one out of 10 volunteers who went through the process successfully. That's why we don't really like the robotics guys. Their ideas kill the most. Anyways, that suit contains what essentially is his body." Jim cut in.

Anders found himself distracted before returning his focus to Enzo. "So yeah, He calls me Mr. Roboto because I am a robot. Damn proud of it, too. What's not to love about practical immortality?" Anders then turned his attention to the other new member. It was a large beast, standing at about 3 meters tall. "And that is Sergei. He can't speak, but he can understand us. Say hi, Sergei." Veiko commanded. The creature then raised one of its hand, waving. Anders waved back, smiling.

"Well, now we have to go over briefing. Anders, you should head to the meeting room. I'll be in there soon." Veiko stated. Anders walked to the meeting room, waiting for the others. 5 minutes later, Veiko had returned. He had donned a business suit, although the left sleeve was ripped off to accommodate his arm.

"I lied. I do have something more formal. Anyways, we have quite the mission to go over."

"We? Who's we?" Anders asked.

"That would be me." Jim chimed in, entering the meeting room.

"When you told me about the failsafe, I had informed Mr. Olesk here. We drew up a plan for an operation at the ruins of the site post-decommissioning. Insiders have told us that the Authority is searching for anomalies in the area. Well, some anomalies may help our cause. Your detachment is leading the charge, but you won't be alone." Jim explained.

"Interesting. Are we going to be receiving any sort of protection? I bet there's still tons of radiation there." Anders asked.

"Is that even a question, Anders? Of course. We wouldn't just send you to die, that's PCAAO's job!" Veiko exclaimed, laughing for a little afterward. Anders also laughed, before turning his attention to Jim.

"Yeah. We got MST standard HAZMAT suits. We've done some cosmetic modifications, but that's the only difference. You're set."

"Although…" Veiko cut in. "Your AEP buddies told us that they might be sending over a device that will scrub the area of radiation. They're naming it after you. If we do, the only person who will require a radiation suit is Enzo, for obvious reasons."

"Well, are you in?" Veiko asked. "Definitely." Anders replied. "Well, The meeting's dismissed. You should use this time to train." Jim stated, happy that Anders had rejoined Malthus.

Anders proceeded to exit the meeting room, looking around the compound. Although he was disappointed that he wouldn't be able to fight under the banner of the AEP association, fighting alongside his old friends would be a good compromise. Anders began to think about the battle.

"You think the Authority's going to send their immortal french bitch?" He asked.

"Well, according to my calculations, that would be 100 percent yes. It doesn't take a robotic brain to get to that conclusion, however. Hell, even Sergei could probably see that. Are you forgetting how cowardly the Authority is?" Enzo exclaimed.

Anders burst out in laughter. He had only known Enzo for around 15 minutes, but he could already tell the two were going to be close friends. Anders knew one thing for certain. If he was going to fight for Malthus, he was going to do a damn good job.

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