Steam hissed quietly as wisps of moisture drifted from the ground. The warm springs in the Nevada range had been ruptured and spread over a considerable area after Judgement Day. Reckage from vehicles and sparce buildings alike littered the desolate desert. There were few plants bigger than yuccas and joshua trees that dotted the landscape. A few scorched trees poked up every now and then, like headstones for the few people that had inhabited that region in particular.
Hundreds of dagger like rock formations jutted out from the ground, small streams of thermally heated water traveling between some of them. Puffs of steam broke up from some of the cracks in the earth, like breath from the planet itself. It helped warm the normally chilly night. There wasnt so much as a wisp of cloud in the sky. Moonlight basked the area in a dim, silvery light, giving the entire area an eerie setting.
Among the bubbling and hissing, another subtle sound could be heard. A scratch, then a small hissing. A tiny flicker of flame could be seen in the dark between two large rocks, moving up a foot and stopping. Something else glowed a bit in the dark, then spewed a stream of blue smoke. Sergeant Krieg allowed him a small smoke from a cigarette. Normally that was forbidden in the field, the heat signature an easy give away to patrolling HKs or terminators. But the thermal vents that made all the water nearby clouded anything warm, masking heat signatures masterfully. It was his first smoke in 3 weeks, and he had put it off long enough. He had gone for longer than that, but he still had the urge.
Krieg craddled his M-25 Phased Plasma Rifle in his lap, the strap hooked along his shoulder. He checked the ammo counter on the side for the 5th time that hour, a good habit in this time. It was the same. 60 pulses of plasma left. Standard mags only had 40, but after years of fighting, he had learned that a single shot could make a difference. It wasnt the most powerful plasma weapon available, but it was a weapon most Resistance soldiers were comfortable with.
Krieg bent his neck back, scratching his rugged neck. He had a mild tan, jet black hair that reached the nape of his neck, and plenty of scratchy fuzz that passed off as a beard and mustache. He was just shy of being 6 feet tall, but worked well with his stocky design. His dark brown eyes were always twitching, searching for any signs of movement. They rarely stayed focused on one thing for more than a few seconds. Even though he was approaching his 40s, he was an experienced and well seasoned fighter.
He and a dozen other sentries had been posted out here, watching for any HKs or other Skynet warmachines. For the past few days, nothing. But that didnt mean that it would stay that way. Krieg and his squad were about a mile away from a Resistance outpost, one of many hit and run bases that were spread sporadically about the ravaged US. About 20 miles from where they sat was a Skynet factory, which worked day and night to produce more machines bent on eradicating the human race.
A small snore escaped from Krieg's partner, Private Charlie Barr. Barr was well known for relaxing, but he could wake up for an emergency in a heartbeat. Even so, Krieg didnt like him doing that. It made him nervous. He sighed quietly and shifted his M25 to his shoulder, looking through the mounted flexy sight. He first checked on his other squad members, each stationed in pairs. They were either scanning the horizon for any machines or messing around with pieces of equipment. One of them was screwing around with a shifting cube with different colored squares. What was it called again? Ruby cube? Ah, it didnt matter. Hassky had been working on that darn thing for over a month, and hadnt made much progress, but he didnt seem the least bit bored with toying with it.
Once satisfied with their status, he started checking the horizon. Still nothing. He let his rifle lay snug against his shoulder, while the barrel was resting on his knee, pointing out towards the West, where the factory lay. This was boring. He checked through the sight again, switching to thermal vision. The steam made the nearby landscape look as if it were bathed in flame, and the small trickling streams look like rivers of lava. The plants stood against the warmth, mostly blues and greens. Still nothing showed up that would indicate approaching machines. That was probably for the best though. It was never fun fighting against the machines. Krieg sighed again.
He started pulling away from the sight, when he saw something dark red blotch in the sky. His heart jumped, his mind screaming a warning. An aerial HK! His first impulse was to comm his other team mates, tell them to get ready to take cover or fight. But then more details came up for the hot object. It was very, very far away. At a high altitude too, quickly descending. He had never seen and aerial HK that high before, or do a manuever like that... What was it? It didnt move anything like an aerial HK unit.
Something moved behind him. Krieg looked down, confirming his suspicions. Barr was sitting up, alert to the strange phenomenon. He had his flexy sight up over his eyes. A crackle drew his attention to his comm unit.
Krieg. Are you seeing what Im seeing?" It was Dona, another member of his group. Apperently all the other members were now alert to the hot object in the sky.
"Yep. Does that look like any aerial HK unit youve ever seen before?
Krieg shook his head. He didnt think so. He looked through his scope again, this time in the normal visual spectrum. What the-? The object was gone. He switched back to thermal. Sure enough, it reappeared. What was going on? The thing could only be seen in thermal? That was definitely strange. Some kind of new cloaking aerial unit? A new stealth observation model? Or was it more simple than that? Could it be some kind of cloud? No, it was moving way too fast for that. It couldnt be a missile or falling sattelite. It would surely be visible, even in these conditions. So... what the heck was it then?! Well, if he couldnt find out, he might as well contact someone who could.
"Frontier Outpost Scorpion Delta, come in.
Frontier Outpost here. What is it Sentry Leader?
I have a strange sky visual here. I think you might want to take a look at this.
Is it an aerial?
No, it doesnt match anything Ive ever seen. You should take a look for yourself. Are able to use your long range scopes?
Affirmative. Scopes are opperational.
Then you'd better use them. This could be important.
Affirmative. But this had better be good. We're risking our safety here."
The comm clicked off. Krieg knew that the chances of this being significant were small, but in this war, anything could be important. In all likelyness, it was nothing. But in the pit of his stomach, Krieg had a bad feeling about this. The question still lingered in his mind. What was it?