Topshot squinted in the harsh light of the mid-day sun and made a mental note to ask Recovery to install a bit of a lip around the ridge surrounding his visual receptors. He eyed his target, an oil drum with a bullseye painted on it, just one amongst many placed in front of a sand dune several hundred meters to the east of the Basher’s desert base. He reached down to where his proton pistol was mag-locked to his hip and settled into a tense pose, standing stock still, waiting for a cue.
After a long moment, a falcon flew overhead unbidden, screaming out its call. In an instant, the pistol was in Topshot’s hand, snapping off a shot of tightly packed particles, blasting a hole in the barrel and sending it flying end over end, a spray of sand filling the air. Raising the pistol to his lips, steam produced by the heavily ionized air wafting up from the muzzle, he blew gently on it, steam from the ionized air disappearing as the sound of footsteps approached him from behind, stopping a respectable dozen metres from his position. Turning, he found Hotwheel eyeing him critically, arms crossed over his chest.
“Nice shot there.” Hotwheel commented with a slight smirk.
Topshot didn’t take the bait, knowing what was probably coming next. He wasn’t wrong.
“Probably wouldn’t have been as accurate if that target was painted in Atlantican colors…”
“Scrap you, short stuff!”
Hotwheel chuckled as he closed the distance between himself and Topshot, stopping abreast of him on the firing line and drew his plasma pistol, firing a trio of shots from the hip downrange. The first two melted holes in a pair of barrels while the third went just wide enough to miss, turning a long furrow of sand into glass.
Topshot leaned toward the leader of the Bashers and cupped his hand to the side of his mouth. “That last one looked kind of like Snake Corp black to me…”
Hotwheel carefully kept his mouth a firm straight line, refusing to let Topshot see either his amusement or embarrassment. “Stow the backtalk you miscreant. I’ve got orders directly from General Duke. We’ll be seeing some action today.” He turned away from Topshot and began heading towards their HQ building, which by coincidence also doubled as their medical building, mess hall, armory, living quarters and, well, everything else. The Bashers made due with what they were given, which came with the territory of being an outcast from the main Valiant forces.
Topshot fell in beside Hotwheel and shot him a quizzical look. “What’s Big Blue got for us this time?”
Hotwheel considered telling him to wait until the mission briefing to spare the trouble of having to repeat himself but figured doing a dry run now with Topshot as the only listening ear would allow him to fine tune what he was going to say. Giving speeches was never really his thing, just something that came with the unenviable job of leading this team of rejects. “Reports have been coming in from human civilians of an Infester splinter force heading for Grand City. Main Valiant force would deal with it, but they’ve been getting harassed by Deceiver troops pretty heavily as of late. Wrench is still rebuilding Ironskin’s body from the last attack so hes still getting face time with The One. Duke vaguely mentioned having to keep an eye on someone, so between that and all the liaising with the humans, they’re pretty shorthanded. Looks like all the fun jobs will be coming our way for the next day or so.”
Topshot clapped a hand of Hotwheel’s shoulder and laughed jovially. “Well, at least this gives us an opportunity to play with some of Forgefire’s new toys! My digits are itching to try out that hyper particle beam rifle he told me hes been working on.”
Hotwheel diplomatically removed Topshot’s hand from his shoulder and shook his head. “Better pump the brakes on that notion before you get too excited. Forgefire still isn’t back from the main Valiant base. Until he returns his workshop and anything in it is strictly off limits. We all remember what happened with Heatsink last month. That is, unless you want to wind up with no arms too…”
Topshot shivered at the memory. “On second thought, I think I’m good with my current sidearm for now. So, the Mad Docs still over there? I thought he came back last night.”
Hotwheel passed through the front gate, rather tall by human standards but which rose to just above his waist, into the parking lot of their facility. “No such luck. That was just Wolf checking in with us before moving on to, well, whatever it is General Duke has had him on currently. Who knows with that guy.”
“I hear that. Well I just hope Forgefire gets back soon. With all this Infester activity recently, we can use the extra firepower. I’ll be missing those shrapnel rockets of his. Swarms are slagging annoying to deal with without.” They reached their HQ building and Hotwheel keyed in the entry code. There was a delay as the security system verified the access cipher, then the massive doors of the repurposed human facility began to shrike open as tortured gears turned. Both bots winced and glanced at each other. “Going to need a bit of grease on that.” Hotwheel had to raise his voice to be heard over the cacophony.
“I’m going to need a bit of grease just listening to it!” Topshot replied, his teeth on edge. “Doesn’t Forgefire usually take care of that?”
The doors finally fully opened, and the din ceased. Hotwheel proceeded inside. “Normally yes, but he’s been gone for the past few days. We’ve started to forget what it was like before he was assigned to us.”
Topshot hurried after the Basher commander. “I hope he hurries back. I know General Duke was happy to foist him upon us, so what’s he doing over there so often?”
Hotwheel resisted rolling his eyes. Barely. “Helping Steelia upgrade her workshop.”
“What, again?” Topshot scoffed. “More like endlessly trying to woo her. We all know she’s never going to see him that way! Don’t know if I’d want to be a fly on that wall for that show. The guy is such an awful flirt, I’d have thought he’d run out of painfully horrible pickup lines by now…”
Hotwheel shook his head. “Whatever the case may be, at least his desire to impress her focuses his mind to make us more of his odd ball contraptions that won’t actually blow up in our faces. Let him dream. I’d rather that than have him mope.” They reached the briefing room, which also doubled as the entertainment center, seeing as how it was the only room with a projector and screen. “Besides, Forgefire knows where his duty lies. He’ll be back before we commence this latest mission.”
Topshot rubbed his hands together. “And the hyper particle beam rifle?”
Hotwheel quirked an eyebrow and heaved a long-suffering sigh. “If he’s back in time and can assure me it works.” He prepared to jab at finger at the intercom button and summon the rest of the Bashers into the briefing. Some would think that it was time to put fun behind them and focus on the mission, but for the Bashers, it was all one and the same.
Written for Bot War by Steven Remmington