Snow Angel: Chapter 46

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Chapter 46: A Short Break

Snow's whole life changes when the winter solstice arrives.

 

“Way to kill the romance of this place, Des,” Pippa said with a pout.

 


 
Author's Note: I should have had this posted on Sunday, but another long week, and the past four days being crazy busy, delayed things. As always, thanks to Big Closet and to all my readers for your support. I hope you all enjoy. Further chapters are available on Patreon. ~Amethyst.
 


 
Chapter 46: A Short Break

We were able to spend that evening and much of the next day exploring Ashburn and spending our windfall of work credits. Ashburn had plenty of places to spend it including clothing shops, restaurants, toy stores and other shops geared toward children, entertainment centers, and bars. There was a lot see and do and a lot of it had been kept much the same as it would have been in a city of the old world, something that Risha was able to confirm and which was a bit unnerving and strange for the rest of us.

For the moment, we decided to keep the weapons that we would be issuing later in the MISTs and went to the new Angel base upon arriving to see if my grandmother had any further orders for us. She did, we were supposed to go enjoy seeing the sights and have some fun, orders that we were all eager to follow. My grandmother even offered to watch the twins for the evening while we went out.

I was grateful for the break, but as always, I was a little reluctant to leave the twins behind. They were my responsibility and, while they had gotten used to my grandmother’s scent and were usually okay being left with other people for short periods now, I always found myself worried about their welfare when I wasn’t there to see to their needs myself. I wondered if this was a parent thing, or just a ‘me’ thing.

Once again, Desra and the other members of Suppression Team Theta offered to be our guides for the evening. Not long after we returned from Eden Base and left the twins with my grandmother, they started the evening off by taking both Storm Wing and Phantom Wing to what they called their shopping district. There were a lot of interesting shops and items to be purchased there and we got some small things to commemorate our time in Ashburn as well as some cute little outfits for the twins.

Despite the various booths selling sweets, drinks, and snacks, our guides encouraged us to not eat too much since we wanted to have room for dinner. For that, they took us to another of the restaurants in the city that had authentic old world cuisine that was prepared in the traditional way, with only the base ingredients and some of the drinks coming out of a food dispenser. The restaurant was called Mario’s and we were told that the cuisine served there was Italian.

Risha insisted that we try the pizza, so we got three different kinds to try and shared them between us. We got something called Hawaiian, meat-lovers, and a vegetarian for Lisbet, Peter, Kyra, and Kyle who were the non-meat-eaters among us. We all really enjoyed the pizzas and tried some pasta dishes that were very good as well.

After dinner, our next stop was a bar, though we didn’t end up staying there for long. Drinking to excess wasn’t something that any of us were interested in, not that our nanites would have let us get drunk in the first place. They see alcohol as a poison and quickly attack it, so getting anything more than a slight buzz is impossible for us and even that doesn’t last very long, as we discovered when Autumn and I drank mead at The Rusty Halo in Twinvale.

It wasn’t the rampant drinking around us that had us leaving early though. They were playing old world music in there and had a large space for dancing, which Risha loved, but the music was too loud for those of us with sensitive ears to enjoy. Lisbet, Peter, and I found it particularly painful, though we did stay around long enough to try dancing. We had to watch the people around us to get an idea of how they danced to such varied music, but the slow songs were nice and I got a chance to dance with each of my future mates.

Even though we hadn’t stayed for long, Risha was grinning from ear to ear when we left. She and Autumn had managed to get Heather squeezed between them in a walking cuddle as she made token protests, and I was joining in on Risha’s side. She leaned over to kiss me tenderly as we followed Desra, Garon, and Pippa to wherever they were taking us next. “Thanks, Snowy. I know that was hard on your ears, but you stayed long enough so the four of us could all get some dancing in with one another. I always wanted to go to a place like that with Kylie, but we were never allowed to leave the research center. We’ll have to take Clover there sometime.”

I kissed her back and put an arm around the Avatar as we walked. “Yeah, it was really loud, but I figured that you were enjoying it from the way you were smiling. Dancing was kind of fun too, and did you see how cozy Peter and Lisbet were getting during those slow songs?”

“Yup, and it wasn’t because the music was bothering them. Kyra and Kyle were dancing pretty close too, I wonder if there’s something going on there?” the AI replied.

“There is, or at least Kyra is trying,” Fawn offered in a conspiratorial whisper as she closed in on us from behind. “She really likes Kyle, but the poor guy gets nervous whenever she tries to bring up anything not related to training or missions.”

“It’s not surprising,” I replied with a shrug. “Every Deerkin that I knew in my home village had anxiety issues. It’s a common problem with them; it’s why there aren’t many of them who become Angels.”

“Do you know what is surprising though?” Heather asked from where she was squeezed between Risha and Autumn. Apparently, it was a rhetorical question since she quickly provided the answer herself. “For people who have held such a long-standing grudge toward the old-world Humans who abandoned us all to face the Demons while they fled, they cling to old world culture and technology.”

‘We can’t expect everyone to be like us,” Karina suggested from where she was walking with Marti, who was in turn teasing her other self from our sister team again. “Sure, Devilkin, Animen, and Fay in Misota may have renounced many of our connections to humanity when the old world fell, but we can’t expect everyone’s ancestors to have done the same. They must have had good reasons.”

I had a theory about that, which I attempted to explain. “Their priorities were different. Risha said that this Wisconsin place was hit pretty hard by the spread of Demons, even harder than Misota, before the old world fell. Back then, they were put in what was basically a prison and abandoned, while our people just went into hiding from the Demons in underground colonies. While our ancestors had the luxury of forming their own cultures and separating from humankind, they were forced to tough it out together.”

I paused in thought for a moment before adding, “They suffered a lot of casualties, but they did their best to make this place secure, to make their prison into a safe home for all of them. They needed technology for that, so they raided abandoned bases and towns and took what they needed. As for the cultural aspects, these people were branded Demons and forcibly removed from their families. Perhaps the early Ashburnites felt the need to prove that they weren’t the Demons they’d been labeled as and they wanted to keep something from the families that were lost to them, so they kept as much of their traditions and culture as they could.”

Our next stop turned out to be an entertainment center that had a variety of games and other activities for the people of Ashburn to enjoy. A lot of the games were similar to those in the entertainment complex in Woodbury Base, so Marti, Risha, and the members of Phantom Wing who had tried them out were familiar with those and were able to teach the rest of us with the help of Suppression Team Theta. Once we finished playing games and were leaving the complex, Maryn pointed out something called a basketball court and something else called a theatre room, or what Risha excitedly called a movie theatre.

Risha was thrilled at the prospect, but became quickly disappointed once she saw how small their selection of movies was. “There is practically nothing here,” she complained.

“Entertainment wasn’t really a priority when our ancestors were raiding other places for the tech to make Ashburn more secure. If they found something on the hard drives of one of the computers they retrieved they archived it for later, but often files were corrupted or equipment damaged and in need of repair or new parts. We have maybe fifty movie files that were in good condition and saved here, but we’ve watched them all before, sometimes several times,” Garon explained.

“Maybe some other time, you could help them to increase their collection,” I offered in an attempt to placate Risha. Then I turned to Desra, Pippa, and Garon. “We should be getting back to the base now though, unless there is something else that you wanted to show us?”

“Yeah, I guess I can copy over the contents of my tertiary storage drive if their media drive is big enough to fit all of it. I could just ignore the music and television stuff if it isn’t, and just focus on the movies,” Risha muttered pensively.

Meanwhile, Pippa was grinning at us. She was a little less shy and uncertain around us now than she had been when we first met and she eagerly said, “There’s one last place that we have to show you tonight!”

They ended up leading us to the northern wall of the city and a somewhat shoddy-looking elevator that was once used to carry the parts to construct the Gauss-Gatlings that lined the top of the walls and added to their defense capabilities. Despite the elevator’s appearance, it was still sturdy and didn’t so much as creak as we made our way up the side of the wall. The top of the wall was wide since the walls were built thick for their original purpose as a military base, and then later as a prison of sorts.

According to Risha, they already had the wiring and docking placements for plasma turrets; they just never added them once the funding for the base disappeared. It would be easy for them to be added once we brought them some. She said that a hardlight dome would require more work and resources, but even that could be done by adding the right equipment and a couple of more stories to the tall building at the city center. We weren’t atop the wall to discuss their city’s defensive issues though.

Suppression Team Theta led us along the northern wall that bordered the lake until we were just above the gate that allowed the merfolk to traverse between the lake and the city. A railing had been added to the wall here and there were several benches and chairs, as well as a pair of long tubes mounted on tripods and an automated lamp of some sort that swiveled to sweep back and forth over the half-frozen lake. It was snowing so there was a light coating of snow on everything, including the Seraph that watched the beam of light move over the frigid waters below.

“This is the lake lookout,” Desra explained. “The spotlight serves a few purposes; to let the merfolk and Undines find their way home if they’re out there at night, warn boats that there is land ahead, and to let us keep an eye on the lake at night. The last is what the telescopes are for. Someone is always on duty up here to watch the lake. We don’t often get Demons coming from there, but we can’t use our power armor out there so we need to be extra vigilant since the Gauss-Gatlings are our only defense here on the lakeside.”

“Way to kill the romance of this place, Des,” Pippa said with a pout. “We’re facing northwest here and the view of the sunset over the lake is amazing from here. The telescopes can also be used for stargazing and you can get a nice view of the northern lights at night sometimes too. The watchers don’t mind people coming up here to keep them company for a bit, especially if you bring them something hot to drink on a cold night like this. They keep their attention on the lake, so they won’t bother you if you want to just relax and take in the view. My dad proposed to my mom up here under the northern lights.”

We stayed up there a while longer, but the night wasn’t really suited to stargazing and it was a little cold. Still, I could see things from both Desra’s and Pippa’s points of view. It was practical to keep an eye on the city’s possible weak point, but the view was probably nice too, at least when the weather was clear. I wasn’t able to confirm it though since it continued to snow steadily until we decided to return to the new Angel Corps base to get some sleep.

~o~O~o~

Storm Wing spent much of our morning off just doing our own things and relaxing. Lisbet had some projects that she wanted to work on that would require a food dispenser, and Karina challenged Marti to some games in the entertainment complex. I think Karina was trying to ensure that Risha, Heather, Autumn, and me could spend some quality time together. So that’s what we did whenever we weren’t feeding, changing, or playing with the twins. It was a nice relaxing morning and we mostly spent it snuggling on a trio of cots that we had pushed together to make a large bed the night before in the new base’s office area.

Eventually, it was time for lunch and we all met up with one another and Phantom Wing for another meal at the Golden Dragon. Mei and her husband were busy in the kitchen though, so we didn’t get to spend much time with them. That was a shame since the twins had taken to Mei so well, but we didn’t really have much time to socialize anyway.

Since we expected the first of the new Angels to finish going through their changes later that afternoon, or maybe in the early evening, Maryn and I wanted to start bringing their new primary weapons to the base from the MISTs and start producing their holdout weapons. At least the holdout weapons weren’t that complicated since most of them would just require an S&W LRX-7 and a couple of spare clips of ammo for them. The Merfolk, and Undines like Mera, would all be receiving the REKS P14 pulse pistol and a couple of spare fuel cells for their holdout weapons.

It was a good thing that no trolls had been selected yet. A few were being considered for the future but we were going to have to have the Tinkers come up with versions of primary weapons and holdout weapons that would work for their much larger hands and bodies first. Not that Lisbet didn’t have some ideas for their holdout weapons. She was thinking a larger version of our S&W LRX-7 that fires rounds similar to the anti-tank rounds that Krya’s weapon uses. The regular rounds, not the plasma ones, though they could be issued those in a pinch too.

Once we were as prepared as we were going to get and waiting for our new Angels to wake up, I decided that we would issue the goods to them as teams once all the members of the new teams had awoken. Since Mera and Dayna had received their doses first and Clover had already gotten her modified nanites from Risha, along with her improved avatar, the new members of Shadow Wing were our first customers. I claimed dibs on them for Storm Wing since I really wanted to see the look on Dayna’s face when we issued her primary weapon.

Once the three were showered and properly dressed, thanks to their new HESS armor, we brought them into the office where we had slept the night before. “Welcome to the Angel Corps, girls. Let’s get you properly equipped, shall we? You will all get plenty of time to learn about and practice with your new gear over the next few weeks, but I will tell you this now. Never go anywhere without your weapons, always keep them close by, even if you’re in the shower or sleeping. Having a weapon at hand can mean the difference between life and death,” I told them all seriously once we were inside the office.

The three nodded somberly, so I continued my spiel. “We are trying to have standard holdout weapons for every Angel so that you can use a teammate’s ammunition if yours runs out in an emergency. For Dayna and Clover, that means you’ll be getting the S&W LRX-7, just like my teammates and I have. Mera, you’ll be receiving the same weapon that the Merfolk will be using, the REKS P14 pulse pistol.”

Karina handed Mera her weapon while Autumn and Lisbet handed Dayna and Clover theirs. “You can go ahead and interface with them so they’re keyed for your personal use,” Lisbet encouraged.

Once the three had done so, I nodded to Risha, who handed Clover a very familiar weapon. “Since you have the same processing power and built-in weapons and reconnaissance gear that I do, Clover, you’ll be getting the M-4 Minimax, just like the one I use, as your primary weapon.”

Once she had handed the weapon to her longtime friend, and Clover had it slung over her shoulder, much as Risha herself did, Heather handed her a sheathed sword. It was simple and practical in design, but Clover seemed to appreciate the utility of it as she attached the sheath to her hip and used her HESS armor to hold it in place. “For your secondary weapon, Sira thought that you could benefit from something designed for close-quarters combat. This is made of Razor wing metal so it’s durable and keeps an edge well, so it should serve you well,” Heather said with an encouraging smile to the Fay Avatar.

“My turn!” Marti exclaimed excitedly before handing the Undine of the trio what appeared to be a harpoon that was longer than I was tall, not counting the blade. “Mera, you get the H-4 Wavebreaker! Sira’s notes say that it has never been used in the Corps before because we have not seen any need for underwater combat. In its close-range mode, it is a harpoon, good for close-quarters spear fighting. Its long-range mode is a pulse rifle and it was designed to be watertight even during mode-shift in case of underwater combat. It should work well for you on both land and underwater.”

“And last but not least,” I said with a grin as I retrieved a hammer with a large head that had a vicious spike on the back end. The haft was nearly as long as that on Mera’s harpoon and the Seraph looked at it suspiciously as I offered it. “This is the AC-1 Godhammer, one of the very first mode-shift capable weapons designed for Angels, but like my Goliath the power needed for its long-ranged form was impractical at the time it was created so it has never been issued to a recruit until now.”

“Ummm, that might be awkward to swing around when I’m flying,” the Seraph said as she continued to look at the weapon I was holding out for her dubiously.

“The handle of it is collapsible,” I told her with a laugh as I shoved it into her hands, “It can go from that length, to give you a little breathing room on the ground, to the size of a more normal-sized war hammer. In its long-ranged form, it fires energy like that used in pulse pistols, pulse rifles, pulse cannons, and my weapon so there is no recoil to worry about. This, however, is not a pulse weapon. It does not fire energy in bursts, this fires a sustained beam that will continue to damage your target, or whatever area you decide to sweep it across until you either choose to stop the beam or run out of energy to power it. It’s just as powerful as my Goliath, but a lot more precise, and all that power gets focused in a single spot.”

Dayna nearly dropped the weapon as she gaped at me. The way that she looked from her new weapon to the massive sword on my back made me grin. I had a feeling that she had been one of the Seraphs watching the battle with the Reaper Ants from above and that confirmed it for me.

The rest of the day was quiet and almost boring as we waited for the other two dozen Angel recruits to wake up and alternated with Phantom Wing in doling out each of the six teams’ equipment. Two of those teams were composed entirely of Merfolk, to fight the rare Demons in the lake or those along the shoreline. For them, we issued the same primary and holdout weapons as we did for Mera since they were our best option for water-based Angels.

The other four teams were a mix of Seraphs, Centaurs, some winged Devilkin, and a few Animen and Fay. The Fay and Animen were like Mera, they wanted to fight but had problematic gifts or other issues that prevented them from joining Suppression Teams. We would be recruiting some more people in Ashburn sometime later and hoped to add some Trolls to the mix once we could make gear better suited to their large size.

Just like with the Merfolk, I was noticing a trend in a lot of the equipment for the Seraphs and Centaurs, geared more toward their unique abilities and body types. The Seraphs seemed to be following the same trend as Dayna in their weapons, low recoil long-ranged options and close-quarters options that wouldn’t be too awkward to use in flight. Two had the M-1 mini-missile launchers and a close-quarters weapon, while another was issued a weapon similar to Lisbet’s GL-5 Storm, which offered two long-range options. The last was issued an S-3 Impulse like Kyle’s, which had a sword and pulse pistol mode.

For the Centaurs, we seemed to be leaning more toward heavy artillery. A couple of them who had low extra-planar energy potential were issued copies of Kyra’s S-11 Scimitar, which had proven itself to be a solid weapon. The other Centaur had a heavy pulse cannon and a long curved sword.

The other members of these teams only included one sniper, a Devilkin man with small wings and truly massive horns on his head, who had been issued the QS-4 Suppressor. The rest of the recruits had a variety of weapons amongst them and seemed to be composed of a lot of quick and agile fighters like Autumn and close range heavy hitters like me who could keep the attention off their teammates if they happened to be fighting something big and nasty.

We spent much of the afternoon and evening teaching those who had been issued weapons the basics of using the tools of their new trade, including one of the most important tools, their NCIs. We showed them the basics of using their weapons and HESS armor as well, but just the basics. Teaching them combat and being a part of the Corps would fall upon their new Trainers, the Angels who would be in charge of the Ashburn Base once we left. In the case of Shadow Wing’s three recruits, they would be coming with us to Woodbury base to learn there under their new Wing Commander, Rose.

~o~O~o~

It wasn’t even light out yet when my grandmother woke us. Us being the members of Storm Wing, Phantom Wing, and Shadow Wing. The final member of the last group hadn’t finished their changes and sufficiently recovered until almost midnight the night before and it was late by the time we were able to finish distributing the gear and show them the basics. As a result my team, who had handled that group and was then woken in the middle of the night by the twins, was fairly tired. We didn’t complain though, at least not out loud, as the First Angel woke and gathered all three Special Operations teams in what passed for the mess hall at our new Ashburn branch.

As tired as we were, poor Dayna and Mera looked even more so. They obviously were not used to being woken up so early and ordered to shower, dress, and report to the mess hall on the double. “Welcome to the Angel Corps,” I said sympathetically as I ate with one hand and fed Kassie, who was snuggling against my chest in her sling, with the other.

“Yes, welcome to the Corps,” my grandmother repeated with a solemn expression as she glanced at the pair and Clover beside them. “Are you all feeling well-rested? As much as I would like to give you all more time, we have an operation planned in three weeks and your teams will be at the heart of it. We do not know the terrain and we do not know what dangers you will face there, so for the next three weeks you will be training hard and preparing for anything that might come your way. So eat up because in ten minutes we will be leaving for Woodbury Base so you can get to work.”

© 2021-2024 Amethyst Gibbs
All Rights Reserved

Further chapters are available to the public on my Patreon page.



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