Blind Eye Comics: The Guardian

Notes: This takes place in an alternative history devised by Jonny TV and Cam S.

The broken shell of a soldier formerly known as Jean Renault ripped across the Sahara sands. Once, he adopted a French name after joining the Foreign Legion, but was reduced to a crippled vegetable after a failed operation. Now, he was one of the Scimitar series, one of the few jobs opened to a paralyzed, locked in old killer like him. His current employer, the New Eden Company, based out of Jewish Casablanca, had plenty of jobs open to those at the bottom of the social pile. If the newly free North African nations were to make the full use of their population, they had to employ every worker they could. There were few other ways he could support his sole remaining family, a terminally ill daughter by a local prostitute.

Where his legs once were, there were now four wheels on shock suspension. A powerful engine drove his four wheels across the desert, a more efficient from of locomotion replacing the clumsy controlled falling on two meaty legs. Sand and dirt was kicked up as Jean's new chrome covered body ripped across the sand dunes. Where his optic nerves had once connected to eyes was now replaced by redundant cameras projecting an insect-like array of information into his visual cortex. With the spatial memory of his birth burned away by drugs and months of training, even navigating his new metallic form was troublesome at first. Now, he took to the sands like fish took to water. What was left of his vocal chords had been given a forcible transition to silicon, and had a radio connected to it.

"North perimeter of sector five clear," his brain commanded his transformed vocal chords to say. "Moving to sector six."

In his current form, an armed dune buggy, he observed his charges in the nearby valley. A number of the dunes had been greened, with wells dug straight to the aquifer, and bio-engineered dune grass and scrub brush being planted. Worker machines, each an unholy marriage of spare truck parts, farming equipment, and industrial earth-movers, planted rows of dune grass and scrub along a recently completed irrigation channel. Moving like toys in a sandbox controlled by an unseen child, the machines continued their task in the Green Sahara Project.

It was near twilight when it happened. The swollen sun vanished over the dunes as cold night stood poised to overtake the dune sea. Jean skirted the perimeter of the worksite carefully, not wanting to disturb the workers too much. He recalled the time he had ventured too close before, causing the machines to scatter like scared children from designated their guardian.

Suddenly, Jean sensed something strange as he shifted some of his cameras into low-light mode. A number of irregular patterns in the sand near the bottom of the valley began shifting rapidly. The movements were too large to be any animal he knew of.

With only one possibility in mind, he fired a warning shot, trained his front headlights, and turned on a loudspeaker. "Come out with your hands up!" he shouted in Arabic. He radioed back to base, but knew he was the only guard out here.

It was then three dark shapes leapt out of the sand, and all hell broke loose. Each was a clunky, bulbous parody of a humanoid, with a sand-brown cloak covering their backs. Their faces were concealed beneath a blocky helmet and night-vision gear. One had on a mushroom-like sonar vision visor over the faceplate. In each of their suits' lobster like hands were burlap-wrapped bulges of clear belligerent intent. On their claw-like feet where pneumatic vibrators, used to loosen sand to make vanishing under it easier. Their suits resembled the unholy marriage of a crustacean and man. The lobstrosities registered to Renault as ex-Soviet Omar, likely ones who had fought in Afghanistan. Now, they undoubtedly worked for some of his employers' rivals, seeking to sabotage their progress. They unleashed a wall of lead and explosives from automatic rifles and rocket propelled grenades.

Renault banked hard to the side and hit the gas, turning his body away from the attackers. As he tactically withdrew, he covered his retreat with parting shots from his mounted machineguns. The armor piercing rounds drove the sonar-visor equipped Enhancile partially into the sand. The closest one was cut down, and the third dropped to one knee before firing his weapon. The signature hiss and backblast from a tube in the Omar's hands prompted Renault to take evasive action.

A rocket propelled grenade slammed into the sands next to him, causing his chassis to shudder. Sand and small bits of shrapnel hit the side of his armored body, but did not damage anything critical. Renault knew speed was his best defense, and went as fast as his body would take him. He saw the sonar-equipped Omar reach for a light machinegun from his downed comrade, remove the visor, and acquire his target visually.

Renault knew he could not take evasive actions forever. He had to stall them, even at the cost of his life. He had to prevent them from harming the project. He sent an order for the nearby harvesters to assume defensive postures. Over the radio channels, he heard children screaming as the gunfire echoed across the valley. That was enough to give him the motivation to change tactics.

He accelerated towards the two remaining Omar while firing at both. He took some bullets on his front, but shrugged them off. His armor plating was thickest on the front, and the chassis was made for frontal assaults. He rammed into the hapless machinegunner stuck in the ground, and the other tried rolling out of the way. Rapidly deploying front breaks on one side, he spun around, slamming the rear of the car into his target. The two impacts left dents in the front and sides of his body, causing a jolt of pain to course through Renault's nervous system. Due to redundant systems within his body, he continued to operate near peak performance.

"Help!" cried a familiar voice over the radio. "There's bad men everywhere!"

"Fatima!" Renault's own mutilated vocal chords cried. "Scatter I showed you. Daddy's coming!"

Renault angled his body sharply, ripping through the sand as he returned towards the workers. Another group of Omar Enhanciles had emerged from the sand during the initial contact, and were spraying gunfire into a tight cluster of workers. The Russians had anticipated them scattering, and herded the workers into a kill-zone below. They unloaded their arsenal down below.

Renault revved his engine, and charged at the closest Omar, who was armed with an RPG. He saw a lethal projectile emerge from the tube and head for the body of an earth-mover. Extrapolating its position, he blasted it out of the sky with a burst of machinegun fire.

The detonation drew the Omars' hostility and fire faster than a signal flare. Now that his advantage of surprise was lost, Renault went for a full frontal attack. The assembly of pumps and what was left of his circulatory system shot artificial adrenaline through his body.

He killed his headlights, relying solely on gunfire and tracers to provide the necessary illumination. Setting his sights on an Omar with a rocket launcher, he shredded the face of a sand dune as he approached his target. An anti-tank rocket left the barrel the moment an armor-piercing round went through his faceplate. The body fell, and rocket went skywards. Small arms fire rattled off Renault's armor like raindrops. He turned and sprayed the Russian mercenaries with gunfire, sometimes scoring a hit, and sometimes not. He circled the sand dunes like a predator, controlling the valley to prevent escape and ensure none of them escaped his kill-zone. A few passes of drive-by gunfire, and the valley had fallen silent.

Coming closer, Renault saw that the remaining Omar mercs had thrown down their weapons. He cautiously approached, ensuring no more remained to ambush him from underground or using a concealed weapon. Keeping his gun and lights trained on them, he ordered them into a nearby storage shed. "Weapons down, and get in the shed!" he spoke in Arabic and repeated in French and English.

Below, some of the workers had been injured. The night was not completely without casualties. Blood, artificial hormones, fuel, and lubricants leaked from broken machinery. The charred, mangled brains and prosthetic organs that were once orphaned or destitute children lay scattered across the desert sand.

"Fatima?!" his synthetic voice shouted over all frequencies.

"Daddy, I'm here!" came a reply originating from within an earth-mover. "I knew you'd come for me. I just knew it."

"Calm down, sweetie, the bad men are gone," Renault quieted her. "Now, let's count to see…who else is here."

He felt a lurching in his innards, not wanting discuss further death with his only loved one. He set about the grim task, assessing the losses until more Scimitars arrived. The Green Sahara Project required everyone to help, even those no longer able to live conventionally. Looking around, Jean Renault hoped the sacrifice was worth it.