Staff Sergeant Joe McLinton wrestled with his military-issue Peek. He’d once piloted his Broadsword through a Nazzadi firestorm with half his controls locked during the Arcanotech war, and he was damned if he was going to let some glorified mobile phone get the better of him. He slotted it into place on the podium.
Meanwhile, the assembled pilots, both Mecha and Engel, carried on regardless: chatting and joking in the darkened briefing room. They were in good spirits, but then few of them were old enough to have fought in the Arcanotech wars. Most looked like kids.
"Ladies and gentlemen."
No one paid any attention. McLinton sighed. So much for courtesy.
"Alright, shut yer gobs and listen up, can-heids!"
Abruptly the noise quietened, and a half-dozen pairs of eyes, human and glowing Nazzadi red, fixed themselves upon the short squat figure of McLinton.
"That's better. Now listen. As of oh-three hundred hours, we lost communication with our listening post on the Ocean Vanguard rig, a hunnerd miles out from the Aberdeen arcology in the auld Triton oilfield. It looks like those Dagonite baw-heids are responsible. Central Aquatic Command received a distress signal at oh-two forty four, saying they were under attack by a heavily armed force of mecha and power-armoured infantry. Looks like some Froggies are involved too."
He waited for the hubbub to die down.
"Now, we’re pretty certain that the Dagonites are largely scattered: we gave their arses a kicking when we destroyed G’llho. Looks like they got some new toys though from somewhere, or someone – we’ve not had problems this side of the Atlantic for some time."
A nautical chart flickered into life above McLinton’s Peek.
"Now, CAC boffins have been detecting a build-up of energy centred on the Ocean Vanguard. As some of ye know, its close to the Devils Hole and that place plays silly buggers with Vibes and other comms, just like the Zone across the water.
"Whatever they’re doing they’ve got some serious arcanotech. That itself makes CAC pretty feart – but this is what makes me nervous”
The picture was low quality, but showed enough light to illuminate an underwater scene. Something vast was approaching camera, evading charge beams emerging from out of shot. It looked like someone had taken a shark and fed it steroids. It was easily a hundred foot long.
"This big bastard fishy is a White Death. This is a Shark 2 point 0. They’re big enough to swallow a Broadsword, and they’re damn hard to kill."
The camera view filled with an image of massive jaws opening, with serried ranks of teeth like scythes. Abruptly, the image faded out. McLinton rewound the film back a way, then enlarged a small area of the screen. Two figures were shown hovering in the water. They wore powered armour, but the humanoid proportions were wrong.
"Jaws there took apart that SMAT near Devils Hole at zero five twenty. His pals were just out of range, but we reckon they were directing the beastie.
"We knew they'd come back at some point, but we weren’t expecting this. They got a bit cocky the other month and tried attacking Leith across the Forth. They got away that time, but I don’t figure they’re in a hurry to leave until they’ve finished whatever they’re doing on Ocean Vanguard.
"For that reason we’re not going to let them finish. We’ve kicked their arses on their home turf , underwater, before, and we can do it again. If Jaws there gets in the way we’ll turn him into sushi. Full briefing is on your consoles."
McLinton smiled to himself as the pilots began reading through their orders in silence: it felt good to be combat-ready again.