Chapter 2 - Day of the Iron Bull
The scientists gathered in the reception area, where they ate, drank, and conversed before the day's conference was due to start. There were around thirty people in that reception area. Outside the huge pane windows, one could see a warm, sunny day with people walking about. Just outside the glass doors were two police officers, standing guard.
"Congratulations, Dr. Onodera. Your first field tests for the Justice Knight exosuit showed a lot of promise."
Courtney turned around. She was dressed in her standard lab coat, jeans, and shirt, while the other scientists were in slightly fancier suits and dresses. She honestly just wanted to go back to working on her exosuits.
Facing the fellow scientist that had congratulated her, she said, "Thank you, Jack. I read your newest paper on your research; I was very impressed."
Jack gave her a smile. "I'm surprised to see you here, you usually don't go to these things."
Courtney smiled as if she knew something that the others didn't, "Well, actually, this is kind of work for me."
"Your boss made you come as well?"
"No, actually, I came because there is the possibility I could gather some field data here firsthand."
"Field data?" Jack's face turned into one of concern and fright when he realized what Courtney meant, "Please don't tell me that you mean-"
Suddenly, screams from outside the glass doors reached the ears of the people in the reception area.
"Yep," Courtney said, "They're here."
Outside, people were screaming and running away from the five metallic figures that were heading towards the building. Four of the metallic figures were Iron Soldiers. The last figure was in the middle of the group, and it was at least a foot taller than the others. He was more muscular than the others, and he had a helmet on that looked like the head of a steel bull, with two sharp horns on each side.
The two police officers guarding the front of the building took out their guns.
"Freeze!" One of the police officers yelled, nervously.
Without a word, the bull-like cyborg charged at the police officers. In response, the police officers fired their guns.
The bullets just bounced off the charging cyborg. It didn't even flinch.
Frozen with fear, the cop on the right could only watch as the steel bull rammed head-first into his partner.
The bull lifted up his head. The cop that he rammed into was lifted up as well, having been impaled by the bull's horn. Blood dripped over the helmet as the bull stared at the remaining police officer.
Then, quickly and silently, as if this was just a normal part of the job, the bull bent down and swung his body, throwing the body that was on his head at the paralyzed cop.
The cops fall to the ground, with the impaled one bleeding over the other cop.
The bull turned to his troops and said, "Kill the cops, we don't want them trying to be heroes."
One of Iron Soldiers answered, "Yes, sir!"
That Iron Soldier headed towards the fallen cops, while the others followed their leader, making their way towards the building.
Inside the reception area, the scientists watched in fear as the bull headed towards the glass doors.
Two days before the attack on the conference, David was in the gym at the Justice Knight Unit Headquarters. He punched the punching bag hard when the door opened and the Captain walked in with a woman dressed in her military dress uniform, complete with a blue beret on her short, blonde hair.
"Hey Captain," David steadied the punching bag as he greeted the Captain. Then, he greeted the woman with a friendly smile and a, "Hi."
The woman stood up straight and started to salute David, "Good morning, Agent-"
David stopped her, "You can just call me David."
The woman redid her salute, "Good morning, David."
"This is Emma, she was the one who was selected for the second exosuit," the Captain explained. "She graduated, the top of her class, from the military academy not too long after the first attacks by the Iron Legion. She was reassigned to us after that, but was on personal leave for the last few months."
"Leave?" David inquired.
"Yes, sir," Emma responded, then she added, "But I have been keeping up the training regiment recommended by Dr. Onodera."
"Good, because we're going to need you in top form when your exosuit is finally ready," David said as he grabbed a towel to wipe off the sweat on his forehead.
The Captain said, "Well then, Emma, I will leave you with David, he can give you the tour."
The Captain gave David a nod and left, while David responded with a friendly wave goodbye.
David took a drink from his water bottle before saying to Emma, "So, you just graduated? No combat experience?"
"You don't have to call me sir," David said, "Anything before the military academy?"
"No, sir. Went to the academy straight out of high school."
"So you're around 19? 20?"
"Seriously, you don't need to call me sir," David said, a little annoyed. "Are you sure you want to be a Justice Knight at only 20? We're going to be going up against enemies with a significant advantage over us."
"I'm sure, sir," Emma said, in a tone that suggested that she would like to keep her reasons to herself.
David caught the tone and decided to move on, "Alright, let's show you the place, then."
David and Emma entered the huge room that was the Network's work area.
"Hey Dav-," Sasha suddenly paused when she saw Emma walk in behind David.
Immediately, Sasha started comparing herself to Emma. Emma was taller and definitely more athletically built. Emma also walked with an air of disciplined elegance. Sasha herself looked more childish and was less well-end-
David's voice derailed Sasha's train of thought.
"Er, yes, hi David," Sasha replied, trying to sound more mature, "How are you?"
"I'm alright," David said, "This is Emma, she's the new agent that will be using the second exosuit when it's ready."
"Nice to meet you," Sasha pushed her pink-rimmed glasses up and extend her hand.
"Sasha is the head of the Network, our surveillance and monitoring team. They monitor highly probable targets and the city in general so that we'll know as soon as the Iron Legion makes a move. They are also in charge of trying to piece together more information about the enemy."
Emma shook Sasha's hand, "Really? Wow, you look kinda..."
"Yeah..." Emma said, sheepishly.
Sasha pouted a little, "Well, I graduated from university when I was 15, and I had already been working as an information analyst for three years at another government agency before the Captain asked me to lead the Network. So even though I'm young, I know what I'm doing."
Emma took note of Sasha's pouting and started to apologize, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way, ma'am."
Realizing that she was overreacting a little, Sasha stopped pouting and looked away, embarrassed. This led to an awkward silence.
David chuckled a little to diffuse the awkwardness, "Yep, Sasha's our cute, resident prodigy."
Sasha blushed a little, "Well..., I wouldn't say that."
"Alright, we should go see Courtney now, so I'll see you around, Sasha," David headed towards the door.
"It was nice meeting you, ma'am," Emma said as she followed David.
It took a moment before Sasha could respond, "Er, you don't have to keep calling me ma'am!"
"Hey Courtney," David said as he entered Courtney's lab with Emma behind him. "This is Emma."
Courtney turned away from her computer, "We've already met. Hello again, Emma."
"Hello, Dr. Onodera."
"You can just call me Courtney. Have you been keeping up with the training regiment?"
Courtney grimaced a bit at being called 'ma'am', but decided to drop it, "Good. Then you should be ready to use the exosuit when it's ready."
Courtney picked up the Knight-Former on her desk and handed it to David, "The parts for your pistol came from the manufacturers this morning. I've already put it together and added it to your exosuit's configuration. The next time you transform, the pistol should form as well."
"That's great news!" David grabbed the Knight-Former. "Now we can level the playing field."
"Well, there is no field data yet, so hopefully it will work as designed." Courtney then picked up a sheathed dagger and handed it over to Emma. "This is a dagger with a prototype blade that should be able to do some damage to the cyborgs. It won't penetrate, but it'll hurt, or at least, that's what we think. Since you'll be going with David without an exosuit of your own for now, I thought it would be best if you had something to protect yourself."
"Thank you, Doctor," Emma said as she attached to holster to her right upper thigh.
"Now," Courtney continued, "I will need to take some of your measurements to ensure that the exosuit fits you properly. Please take off your clothes."
Emma's face turned red, "P-Pardon me, ma'am?"
Nonchalantly, Courtney explained, "I need your exact body measurements so that the suit can be tailored to you perfectly. That way, it won't be too tight, which would be uncomfortable, or too loose, which would be troublesome."
"O-okay," Emma turned to David and asked, "David, could you leave the room, please?"
David's face was also a little bit red. "O-of course, I'll see you two around."
David turned and left the room.
Thomas, a bespectacled man from the Network, handed out files to the Captain, David, Emma, and Courtney. Meanwhile, Sasha opened her own file and prepared to report her findings.
Pushing up her pink-rimmed glasses, Sasha started, "We've continued monitoring probable targets, nothing suspicious has shown up for now. As to the disappearance of Dr. Alber, we still don't have any solid leads on where he's gone."
Emma looked through the file quickly and noted, "Dr. Alber, that's the guy who discovered Alberloy, the alloy that's being used in the latest cybernetics research, and the alloy that the Iron Legion is using to convert their army into cyborgs, right?"
Sasha nodded, "Yep. He was also the lead researcher on the world's most advanced cybernetics project."
"Our best guess is that Dr. Alber was kidnapped by the Iron Legion, which would explain why they have even more technologically advanced cybernetics than what Dr. Alber left behind, which was already highly classified and unknown to anyone but Dr. Alber and a few scientists," Thomas spoke up.
Sasha nodded and continued, "Right. Dr. Alber disappeared soon after his wife was killed in an accident, and his son and daughter disappeared a few days after that as well. So our current theory is that his son and daughter are being held hostage by the Iron Legion to ensure that they have the doctor's cooperation."
"That's... dirty," Emma commented.
David nodded, "Yeah. We have to rescue them as soon as we can."
"The Network will continuing following up on any leads that we can find," Sasha said, "Now, if you will turn to the next page."
The next page was an ad for a science and engineering conference. Sasha explained, "This science and engineering conference is specifically for those in the field of strengthening the human body through technological means. Means such as exosuits and cybernetic enhancements."
Everyone gave Dr. Courtney Onodera a look before Sasha continued, "Therefore, the conference might be a probable target of the Iron Legion. While there is no Alberloy on the premises, the scientists there could be targeted for their knowledge."
The Captain stood up, "David and Emma, you two will standing guard inside the building, amongst the scientists. I will also contact the local police department to see if they can spare a few officers."
"Yes, sir." David and Emma replied.
Courtney spoke up, "I will be going as well."
Everyone turned to look at Courtney.
"You... You're finally taking a break from work?" David suggested, "I mean, it's not the best place to take a break, so... you should probably take your break somewhere else. Still, it's good to hear that you want to take a break."
"I'm not taking a break, this could be a chance for me to get some field data on the exosuit and the new pistol firsthand."
"Right... Of course..." David muttered.
The Captain spoke up, "I don't think it's a good idea either, Courtney."
Courtney waved the Captain off, "According to the data, there is only a fifteen percent chance of an attack. So it would most likely just turn out to be an official event for me. After all, I should mingle with my peers every now and then. Maybe get some new ideas from my fellow scientists. If they do attack, then I will be able to witness firsthand how the exosuit is being used on the field, and the data collected would be invaluable to my research."
The room was silent after Courtney's argument. Everyone was waiting for the Captain's decision.
After a few moments of thinking, the Captain finally said, "Alright, but if they do attack, you will follow the instructions of the police and any other law enforcement officers there. You will not purposely get closer to the fighting just to see how the Justice Knight exosuit does. Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," Courtney said in a noncommittal tone.
"Good," the Captain stood up, "Then you all have your orders."
The rest of the room responded, "Yes, sir!"
The conference began uneventfully. The police were outside standing guard, with David and Emma mingling inside with the other scientists. People were enjoying the refreshments and they were conversing with each other. Even Courtney seemed to have relaxed a little and was talking to her fellow scientists.
Suddenly, there was screaming outside.
David and Emma ran towards the front of the building. They arrived in time to see an Iron Solider violently twist the head of one of police officers outside to the side. The officer's neck snapped and he fell, dead.
A metallic, humanoid bull opened the glass doors and walked inside, along with the rest of the Iron Soldiers.
"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I am Iron Bull of the Iron Legion," the bull introduced himself. "Now, if all of the scientists would stay and cooperate, I can assure you that none of you will get hurt."
Emma quietly reached for her dagger and was about to rush in, but David placed a hand firmly on her shoulder and whispered into her ear, "Stay here and move the scientists to another room after I start fighting."
"But I can help!" Emma hissed.
"You don't have an exosuit! You could die just from getting punched once! Stay here and evacuate everyone when you can!" David hissed back.
Reluctantly, Emma nodded.
Taking note of the murmured whispers, but seeing no resistance, Iron Bull started to speak again, "Good, then my Iron Soldiers will now-"
"I don't think so," David stepped out of the crowd.
"Oh? And who would you be?"
David pulled back his jacket to reveal the Knight-Former on his belt. Then, he loudly declared, "I am the knight who delivers justice!"
Quickly, he pressed a button on the Knight-Former and shouted, "Suit up!"
Metallic, blue squares exploded forth from the red orb in the middle of the Knight-Former. Then, as if drawn by some magnetic force, the squares pulled back around David and formed the Justice Knight exosuit around him.
"I am..." Justice Knight paused for effect and took out his new pistol which was holstered on the right of his waist, "Justice Knight!"
The room was silent.
Finally, Iron Bull said, "Oh, you. We didn't expect you to show up so soon."
Addressing his Iron Soldiers, Iron Bull ordered, "No matter, we will move to plan B then. Seventy-two, Fifty-nine, proceed with securing the scientists."
Two of the Iron Soldiers started walking towards the scientists, and Iron Bull got ready to charge at Justice Knight. However, before the Iron Soldiers could walk two steps, Justice Knight lifted up his pistol and aimed.
Everyone in the room held their breaths. The Iron Soldiers and Iron Bull had stopped at the sight of the pistol being aimed at them.
"Ha!" One of the Iron Soldiers laughed, "Bullets can't hurt-"
Justice Knight fired the pistol.
The bullet caught the mocking Iron Soldier square in the chest and sparks of damage flew out from the hit.
"Agh!" The Iron Soldier staggered back in pain and looked at where the bullet had hit him. There was a dent in the chestplate.
"Hm, the bullet didn't penetrate, but it had enough force to cause the cyborg actual pain," Courtney noted quietly to herself.
"Well," Iron Bull stood up, looking at his subordinate's damaged chestplate, "This is quite unexpected. Looks like we'll have to deal with you first."
Iron Bull barked an order at the Iron Soldiers, "Soldiers, plan F: destroy the knight!"
"Formation Delta!" Iron Bull yelled.
The four Iron Soldiers started charging at Justice Knight. Forming two lines, each consisting of two Iron Soldiers, the soldiers sped towards the knight while Iron Bull once again got ready to charge.
Justice Knight aimed his pistol at one of the charging Iron Soldiers.
Suddenly, the two Iron Soldiers in the front of the two lines jumped up and pulled their fists back to punch the knight.
Reacting quickly, Justice Knight fired a bullet at the cyborg on the right, knocking him off his course and onto the ground.
As the second cyborg was about to land on top of Justice Knight, Justice Knight quickly sidestepped out of the way. Swiftly, Justice Knight swung his pistol at the Iron Soldier's head so that the butt of his pistol slammed into the back of the Iron Soldier's head.
The other two Iron Soldiers reached Justice Knight, and one of them jabbed Justice Knight in the chest, pushing him back. The other one launched a series of kicks, which Justice Knight had to dodge and block.
Unable to aim his pistol quickly enough, Justice Knight had to resort to hand to hand combat with the two Iron Soldiers.
Seizing the opportunity, Emma commanded the rest of the room, "Everyone, move back into the other room!"
The scientists looked at Emma and then at Iron Bull, scared.
"Now!" Emma yelled.
The scientists snapped out of their fright and rushed to the back of the reception area, towards another room.
One of the Iron Soldiers got up and roared. Then, he charged at the scientists.
Emma quickly stepped in front of him. The Iron Soldier growled and swung his fist at Emma.
Emma dropped down into a crouch and swiftly took the dagger out of its holster on her thigh. Then, holding the dagger in a reverse grip, she jumped up, slashing the Iron Soldier across the chest with the prototype blade.
"Aaah!" The Iron Soldier was knocked back by the slash across his chest. He looked down, and saw that there was a gash in his chestplate. Although the blade hadn't completely penetrated the armour, it was at least causing enough damage to hurt the cyborgs.
Not that it would matter if Emma got hit, even once.
The cyborg jumped into the air and prepared to stomp on Emma.
Reacting quickly, Emma jumped to the side, managing to narrowly escape the same fate as the floor, which now had a small crater where the Iron Soldier had landed.
The cyborg turned to face Emma. He screamed, "I'm going kill you!"
Suddenly, three bullets from Justice Knight's pistol hit the Iron Soldier in the head. The Iron Soldier screamed in pain.
Justice Knight yelled at Emma, "Run!"
Emma nodded and ran towards the same room that the scientists ran into.
Courtney was still standing at the doorway, watching Justice Knight fight.
Emma grabbed Courtney and dragged her into the room.
"Run!" Justice Knight yelled at Emma.
As soon as he saw Emma nod in response, he turned his attention back to the Iron Soldier in front of him and quickly dodged the incoming punch by jumping back.
Unfortunately, that was when the two Iron Soldiers behind him grabbed him by the arms, pulling the arms back to restrict the knight's movements. Justice Knight struggled, but the cyborgs held tight.
Iron Bull charged, with his head down and horns pointing forward at the captive Justice Knight.
"Oh, this can't be good," Justice Knight muttered as he saw the metal bull horns charging at him.
Justice Knight stomped on one of the Iron Soldier's foot. Even though the Iron Soldier yelped in pain, he held on to Justice Knight, refusing to let go.
The horns continued speeding towards Justice Knight.
The knight continued to struggle, but to no avail. He could even sense the grins from underneath the Iron Soldiers' helmets. He watched again as the metal spears from the bull's head came ever closer.
There was only one solution that came into Justice Knight's mind.
As soon as Iron Bull was within reach, Justice Knight jumped up and lifted his knees to his chin. Then, he kicked his legs out at the bull's head.
Justice Knight's legs managed to slip between the horns and hit the bull's helmet. The force from the impact of Justice Knight's kick and Iron Bull's charge knocked the clump of knight and cyborgs backwards through the air.
The two Iron Soldiers' holds were broken as they were sent backwards through the air. They slammed into the ground on their backs. Meanwhile, Justice Knight managed to send himself into a backwards somersault as soon as he hit the ground.
As soon as his feet touched the ground after the somersault, Justice Knight jumped into the air. He aimed his pistol at the Iron Soldiers on the ground and pulled the trigger as many times as there were bullets left in his gun.
Bullets rained down on the two Iron Soldiers. They screamed in pain as the bullets hit them. Sparks flew from their armour as electric arcs pulsed through their bodies from the damage.
Having been dealt too much damage, the two Iron Soldiers exploded.
The smoke from the explosion filled the room.
"So, they can be killed..." Justice Knight muttered to himself, "And even in death, they still have to make one last attack."
Suddenly, two grenades flew out of the smoke and in front of Justice Knight. They exploded and... released more smoke.
Justice Knight looked around, trying to peer through the thick smoke.
Suddenly, a roar pierced the air, followed by the sound of quick, stomping footsteps.
The Iron Bull was charging at Justice Knight.
Justice Knight listened closely. The stomps got louder and louder.
Suddenly, Iron Bull charged through the smoke.
Justice Knight jumped to the side, but it was too late. The bull's horn caught him at the side and slashed across his torso.
"Agh!" Justice Knight yelled in pain and landed on the ground, hard.
As soon as he got up, Justice Knight could hear the stomps heading towards him again. He blindly jumped to one side, and just barely managed to dodge the charging bull.
Iron Bull came back for another round, and managed to hit Justice Knight once more.
Justice Knight struggled up from the hit. He turned on his comms, "How is he finding me through this smoke?!"
Sasha's voice came through, "We don't know, but we think he might have some sort of heat vision!"
"Can you see him through the cameras?"
"Only flashes of him, sorry, the smoke is too thick!"
"Can you see me?"
"Just barely, but I can make out your antennas!"
"... I'll have to thank Courtney for that," Justice Knight said, "Tell me how to get outside!"
"The huge windows are to your left!"
"Thanks!" Justice Knight turned and ran.
Justice Knight could hear the stomps following him from behind.
Justice Knight ran faster. Finally, he saw the window, and he crashed through it. He continued running while reloading his pistol until he was a good distance away from the building.
Iron Bull crashed through another window and into the sun.
Finally able to see his opponent, Justice Knight ran towards the still-charging bull.
The two were headed into what seemed to be an inevitable crash. But suddenly, Justice Knight jumped into a side flip over the bull. Aiming his pistol at Iron Bull while in the air, Justice Knight pulled the trigger.
Over and over, again and again, Justice Knight fired his gun as he flipped over Iron Bull. Bullets rained down on the bull's head and along his back as Justice Knight landed.
Iron Bull's charge came to a stop and he fell onto his knees. Electric arcs ran all throughout his body.
During his last moments, Iron Bull thought back to when he was just a normal soldier. He had blocked a knife meant for a drunken fellow soldier who started a bar fight. He remembered sitting in a wheelchair, being told that he would be unable to walk again and receiving papers stating that he had been dishonourably discharged. He remembered the despair that he felt as he cried with his head in his hands.
Then, Iron Bull exploded.
Justice Knight ran back into the now cleared reception area. He looked around but couldn't find the other two Iron Soldiers.
Speaking into his comms, Justice Knight asked, "Anyone know where the other two Iron Soldiers are?"
"No, they must have gotten away in the smoke," said Sasha, "We can't find any trace of them in the building or the nearby area."
The Captain's voice came over the waves, "David, Emma, from what Iron Bull said, it sounded like they were after some of the scientists. So we're going to have to move them to one of our safe houses. We will be sending transportation soon, as well as a crew to pick up the bodies."
Justice Knight glanced at the charred corpse of one of the Iron Soldiers, "For investigating?"
"Yeah, maybe we can learn something about who these people are, find some sort of clue," said Sasha.
"David, Emma, make sure that the scientists get to the safe house," the Captain ordered.
Both David and Emma replied, "Yes, sir."
The two Iron Soldiers knelt down in front of their shadow covered leader.
Their leader's eyes glowed in the shadows and narrowed into a furrow, "You failed?"
One of the Iron Soldiers nervously said, "Yes, sir. We sincerely apologize for our failure."
"And Iron Bull?"
"He died, sir."
"HOW?!" their leader roared angrily.
"That guy with the exosuit, Justice Knight, he somehow defeated Iron Bull!" the Iron Soldier reported.
The air was silent as the two Iron Soldiers waited for their leader to respond.
Finally, their leader said, "Get me Iron Eagle."