My name is Nathaniel Vovk, First Lieutenant of Necessarius. I was once an important part of the Great Wolf’s pack, back in the beginning of the lupe culture. I still am, in many ways, but nothing official. Now, I’m just another old ‘sarian wolf trying to make the city a better place.
At the moment, that involved fighting the American soldiers who had taken North Gate.
They had moved fast, with those walking tanks in front to take the brunt of our fire. While our own anthros and warlords had been able to dent them, it wasn’t enough. The Americans had managed to clear the area in front of the gate. Now they had set up a base camp and began sending forays deeper into the city. We hadn’t been able to oust them yet.
Not that we hadn’t tried. We were just… having problems.
I sighed. “Sir, what do you mean we don’t have any missile launchers?”
“Exactly what it sounds like,” the captain snapped. He was half my age, but had somehow managed to rise in the lupes quite quickly. I had no idea how, but I was sure it wasn’t for his organizational skills.
“When are reinforcements coming? A few warlords or even high-level ursas would be able to break through that barricade—”
“They have a hundred of those damned echo machines, Vovk! We’ll find another way!”
I ground my teeth. “What other way? Our powers? We never did manage to get a list of what everyone could do!”
The captain hesitated. “I have a pain induction ability—”
He blinked. “What? Uh, no. Touch only.”
Useless. “I can walk through solid matter. If you give me a couple bricks of hyper-cyclonite or even just regular C4, I can bring down those walls.”
He sighed. “Not an option, I’m afraid. We don’t have any explosives beyond regular grenades.”
I closed my eyes and counted to ten.
“Did we prepare for this fight at all?”
“Of course we did!” he snapped. “Did you miss the part where they blew up the stockpile?”
I blinked. “Uh, yes, actually.”
The captain’s glare softened. He waved at a tall plume of smoke rising from behind the nearest ‘scraper. “First thing that happened. They busted in, a dozen echoes leading the way, and tossed a grenade at our supplies. The Alphas are trying to bring more in, but you known they’re like cats in a bag on a good day.”
I ran a hand through my hair. It was meant to resemble fur, since when I had first been modified real fur had still been out of our reach. “All right. That explains a lot.” We were still incompetent, but at least we were reasonably incompetent. I had been dealing with this sort of problem all the way back before the warden died. The only reason we lost Eden was because a crate of body armor got mislabeled and the English got their hands on it. “What’s the plan, then?”
“Currently? Hold the line.”
I nodded. Simple and effective. Usually. In this case, we’d probably end up in a stalemate, which admittedly wasn’t the worst way this could go. But the Americans were well-equipped and well-organized, while we were kemos. Cats in a bag.
“The warlords will be moving up,” I said, half to myself. I glanced at the grunts of the squad. They were standing a few yards away so that they didn’t have to hear their superiors arguing. “The obvious ones, at least. Dane and Lord Arisen, maybe Tecumseh and a few of the Moonlords.”
“Senator McDowell,” the captain said.
I grimaced. “Definitely. Which means we need to finish this up before he gets here.”
“I thought McDowell was good in a fight?”
“He’s an Iluvatar,” I said. “We need someone more experienced. Have we tried sending people into the sewers?”
Kemos hated sewers as a general rule, since almost all of us had an enhanced sense of smell. But the Americans had a pretty big base, so there had to be at least one sewer exit in there somewhere.
“Yes, that was the last I heard from General Silverback. The attack failed, so attempting it again is unwise.”
Silverback. He was a terrible general, but a great warlord. Which probably meant he was dead by now. His first instinct when things went wrong would have been to charge in himself, and the echoes would have torn him apart.
“All right, forget the sewers.” I glanced over at our men. None of them had true sniper rifles, but a few had scopes on their Ueno rifles, which might be enough. “Has anyone tried scaling the buildings yet?”
“Of course they have! We’re kemos! I don’t know what happened to them, though. Obviously they didn’t succeed, but beyond that…”
I nodded. “Good.” I raised my voice, loud enough to make the men sit up and take notice. “An excellent idea, sir!”
The captain figured out the game very quickly. “Good man! Take Yemen and Clawbreaker; they’re my best shots.”
The named soldiers—well, as close as kemos ever got to soldiers—perked up. One was a cane with brown fur and dog ears, but little else, and the other was a fel who had gone full lioness anthro. Her whiskers twitched when I looked at her.
They were the ones with scopes on their guns. I nodded in appreciation to the captain, then pointed at the ‘scraper right next to us. “Time to head up, kids! Keep on this side, away from the American base.”
My claws were still old and metal, not designed for climbing, but it didn’t matter. This was the heart of kemo territory. Every single building had handholds every foot or so to make climbing easier. Even a complete baseline wouldn’t have had too much difficulty. I might be fifty, but I was healthy and buffed. I could climb a hundred stories without worrying about losing my grip at the wrong moment.
The other two reached the roof a few moments ahead of me. They already had their guns out and sweeping the area by the time I pulled myself up. Again, this was kemo territory, so the roof was just like any other floor of the building. It was well-traveled with a few empty shop stalls. It also had a zip-line to the nearest ‘scraper.
I stayed low, but pulled out a pair of binoculars and started scanning the nearby buildings.
“Uh, boss? Honored Alpha, sir?” the cane said hesitantly. At least both of them had the brains to lay down prone next to me.
“What?” I asked, not stopping my search.
“The base camp is down there, sir.”
“Don’t you think it odd, pup?”
“Kemos are the best climbers in a city of rather good climbers. We are currently in a section of the city designed to be easy to climb. Don’t you think that if our warlords sent up men, they’d have started to make a dent in the enemy forces?”
“I… suppose so, sir,” the cane said.
“Which means that someone has been killing them. And since the roofs would give too much cover from down below, that means that these killers are on the rooftops. They likely ascended using those handholds we so thoughtfully built into every building in the sector.”
“So you’re looking for an enemy sniper,” the girl, the fel, said from my other side.
“Not looking. Found.” I pointed about sixty degrees off center. “Do you see that?”
They both remained silent for a moment.
“Saw it,” the fel said. “A glint.”
I put my binoculars down. “That’s him. Either his scope or his binoculars, either way, he’s hunting for us. All we can do is hope there’s only one, but it wouldn’t take much. Can either of you hit him from here?”
“Yemen is the better shot,” the lioness said. “John, you spotted it yet?”
“Yeah,” he said. He slowly set up his scoped Ueno in front of him, leaving the cap on the end of the scope. He sighted it for a few moments, before taking a breath and removing the cap. “I see him. Barely. I’m going to have to wait until he gets ready to take a shot.”
“Clawbreaker,” I said, finally remembering the girl’s name. “How’s your dodging?”
She scowled, whiskers scrunching up. “Could be better.”
I smiled. “I’m not going to tell you to get up and wave your hands around like an idiot. Just start crawling to the other end of the roof. If this sniper is as good as I think it is, it should be enough.” And if she got shot in the process, well, that was just the price we had to pay for our victory. She was an anthro. She might survive.
She nodded, and started crawling across the roof. She kept low as if trying as hard as she could to keep from being seen. It would look good to the American sniper, and should entice him to at least take a closer look.
Unless he realized that this was too good to be true, and figured out it was a trap…
A shot rang out from next to me. It was silenced, but even with a silencer, a gun is loud when it goes off a few inches from your ear.
“Got him,” Yemen said.
I nodded. “Good. We take up positions for overwatch on the base below.” I considered for a moment, then stood.
Yemen tried to pull me down. “Sir, if there are any other snipers—”
I waited for a moment, but no one shot me.
“My power should let me survive a bullet if I’m prepared,” I said. Of course, I hadn’t tested it. “Looks like there was only the one sniper. Come on.” I walked over to where Clawbreaker was waiting. Behind me I heard Yemen scramble to his feet and follow. “Anything interesting?”
She shook her head.
I pulled out my binoculars again and looked down. The Americans were to be commended. They had set up their base camp with admirable speed. They blocked off the alleys leading into the square right outside North Gate, using cars and tables and whatever else was at hand. They had brought in some canvas canopies, which wouldn’t stop a bullet but would keep us from targeting anyone. Well, we could shoot the sentries on the outer walls, but they were the only ones exposed. And that would only help if we timed things just right with a ground attack.
A ground attack wouldn’t be a good idea, though. There were still those walker-machines. I also had a feeling they were hiding more conventional miniguns under those canopies. The streets leading up to the camp would be killing fields now.
I scanned them with the binoculars. There was no cover on any of the streets. The little side alleys leading into the square would be horrible even at the best of times. Right now, they’d be pure suicide for any large force. But the main street leading south, farther into the city, might work. We’d have to bring our own shields, but we might be able to do it. This would be easier if our warlords hadn’t denied help from the Gravers or the kensei, but we were hardly helpless. Maybe if we—
I stopped, and adjusted the binoculars.
Yes, there. There was a girl skulking up the street towards the American camp. Definitely not a kemo, but her blue skin made it clear she wasn’t a baseline, either. A troll? They were the only ones who used the skin color cosmos regularly. But she didn’t have the size or the claws of a troll…
She disappeared, right in front of my eyes. In the space of a single blink, it was like she had turned invisible.
Or maybe she had…
I put the binoculars down. “Clawbreaker, climb back down. I need you to give the captain some intelligence.”
She nodded. “What is it?”
“Tell him I think we have fey on the field.”