"We not only romanticize the future, we have also made it into a growth industry, a parlor game and a disaster movie all at the same time."

                                                                        -- Eugene Kennedy, pre-Fed psychologist


            Erich ran out of the capitol building toward the monorail station and quickly caught the gravlev to Patton Base. On the shuttle field, he met up with his fellow survivor, the one who had accompanied him down from the Canaris that morning.  "Terry, get this shuttle moving!" Erich shouted as he ran towards the craft.  "We have a battle to fight!"

            "We heard," Carter replied, "it's all over the fleet channels.  The rebels just took out the Achilles.  They opened up a door in the orbital defensive perimeter in orbit. Rebel assault pods are getting through to the surface."
            "Then we'll have to close that door, won't we?" Erich grinned as he strapped himself into the shuttle. As the safety belt brushed against his mangled arm, it shot jolts of pain through the abused limb.

            "We'll have to take a look at that arm," Terry began.

            "I've spent most of the last six months with only one functioning arm," Erich reminded him.  "And you don't need an arm to command a starship, just a good loud voice."

            "First we need a ship.  Those Resistance pukes pulled out as soon as the TI fleet jumped in-system."

            "Well, this is Avalon, isn't it? This is biggest naval base in the entire Federation!  With the entire Home Fleet in system, we'll find something."

            "All right," Carter agreed reluctantly, "but as we hit orbit, let me put a field dressing on that arm."

            "Fine… just don't shoot me full of painkillers.  I don’t want to go into battle with my mind clouded by drugs."

            "Erich,” the captain chuckled, “you are the only person I’ve met who didn't want drugs before going into battle. I’ll see what I can do." 


            "You've got to have SOMETHING!" Erich Von Shrakenberg shouted into the comlink.  "A corvette, a torpedo boat squadron, I’ll even take a garbage scow towing a few missile pods! I don't care, but I want a ship!"

            Captain Juan Velasquez, station commander of the Camelot Orbital Repair Station, was apologetic, but not terribly helpful.  "We simply don't have a single operational vessel left, sir! Everything that was crewed and ready was sent out as soon as the enemy fleet appeared.  We even combined a couple of crews to get the ships out.”

“But you do have ships, captain,” Terry Carter interjected, “I can see them on our sensors now.”

“Yes, but not enough crewmen left to man them.  Even if we could scrape together a crew, none of them are warships, just a couple of transports. They don’t even have full weapons or fuel loads." 

“Then give us one of those.” Carter answered.

Juan stepped back from the camera pickup and threw his hands in the air.  "Even if I could give you one of those ships, it will take at least a day to recall enough crew members from shore leave to man it." The station commander sighed. “With all hell breaking loose, I doubt we’d get a quarter of them anyway!”

            "Captain Velasquez,” Erich shot back, “I am ordering you to find me a ship.  I don't need a full crew, I have over twenty experienced officers with me; we'll fight a ship short-handed if we have to.  All we need is a ship with enough ammo for a few salvos and enough air for few hours of combat, and enough men to man the vital systems.  Surely you can handle that, can't you?"  Erich looked daggers at the officer on his screen.  "We will be docking with your station in 45 minutes, you have until then to get what we require.  Von Shrakenberg out."

            Erich cut the connection with his good hand and turned to his officers on the shuttle.  "Okay, we have less than an hour to come up with a plan.  Any ideas?"


            Captain Velazquez was not cooperative, holding a copy of Earth Fleet regulations in one hand, and a swaggering finger in the other.  "You may outrank me, but you do not have the authority to commandeer a starship!"

            Erich held up his bandaged arm.  "I got this in the Grand Council Chambers, trying to defend the members from Rashid King himself.  I put my life on the line to defend the Federation from those who would destroy it.  This is my authority.  Now get me a ship!"

            The captain looked back and forth between Erich's smoldering eyes and the datapad in his hand.  His jaw went up and down, struggling with the decision, until he switched the datapad’s display to the list of his docked ships.  "Pick one." 

            Von Shrakenberg grabbed the datapad and scrolled through the list.  "Okay, the EFS Flamberge…Archer-class.  No, I think I've had my fill of zero-gee.  The EFS Prinz Eugen?  Better name, but not what I want to go up against a fleet with.  Ah, here we go, the EFS Caporetto."

            "The Caporetto?" asked the bewildered station commander.  "That's a heavy assault transport! You can’t take that into combat!"

            "There's an old saying, Captain," Erich highlighted several items on the datapad, "it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog."  He handed the pad back to the station commander.  "I want those crewmen transferred to the Caporetto immediately.  We have exactly thirty minutes to break seal and leave the dock, and we'll need every trained spacer we can get."

            Velasquez ran down the list of personnel in astonishment. "But, sir… most of these were already transferred. “The Passchendaele-class normally operates with a crew of over six thousand! We have less than a thousand personnel left!  Everyone else is…”

“On shore leave, yes, we know.” Carter interrupted.

The station commander was not to be daunted. “There is no way you can fight a ship with that small a crew!"

            "Look, Captain, we don't need cooks and laundry personnel, I just need enough personnel to man the weapons and the engines!"  Erich grabbed the datapad back and switched the display to the station's own personnel roster.  "If you have to, transfer some of your dockworkers and LI garrison to my ship.  They'll do more good there… even if only as damage control parties.   Now move it!"


            The EFS Caporetto moved smoothly out of spacedock.  It was undermanned and had only a partial load of fuel, but the ammunition magazines were fully stocked.  Erich sat tiredly in the command chair, not sure if he should curse the missing captain, or thank his lucky stars that he had managed to acquire a ship at all.  He turned towards Terry, currently serving as the most overqualified tactical officer in the fleet. 

            "Captain Carter, please program the maneuvers we discussed into the navigation computer.  We will need to be quick on the helm or this will be the shortest combat cruise in the history of naval warfare."  He swiveled in his chair to face the rear of the bridge.  "Lieutenant Martinez, please organize a work party of the dockworkers and LI Marines.  Get to the fusion cannon magazine and start transferring shells as discussed."  He turned back to the front of the bridge to face the ship's communication's officer.  "Commander Simonson, I'd like to thank you again. I believe you’re the only officer on this ship that made it back to the station when the crisis broke.”

“You’re welcome, sir.” the Caporetto’s executive officer nodded, feeling strangely out of place as the operations officer.

“Please patch us into the fleet tactical net. Let's see what's happening out there."

            The tactical display that appeared on the bridge’s holoproj looked like a vision of hell. There’s too many ships was the first thought into the commodore’s mind. I’ve never seen that many plots on a screen before. Erich thought back to his time on the Advanced Tactical Course at the Fleet Academy. The Battle of Electra had this many ships and we did all right against that. No, on second thought, there weren’t as many ships. All of these random thoughts sent a dread chill down his back. The instructors used the fictional battle as an example… a no-win situation.

As he watched the plot, he prayed that it wasn’t real, but the readouts remained true; the Federation was losing. Rebel ships had somehow managed to blow a hole in the defensive perimeter, and assault ships were pouring pods and drop ships down towards the surface of the planet.  A screen of enemy warships was keeping the loyalist craft away from the core of transports and holding the breach open. 

            It’s one thing to say you’re ready to die, Commodore Von Shrakenberg thought, gripping the arms of his chair, it’s another thing to go and do it.."All right," he swallowed his fear and gave the order,  "Commander Lefarge, plot us an intercept for the breach in the line.  As we enter extreme weapons range, execute pre-planned maneuvers."


            Below decks on the EFS Caporetto, sweating LI troopers in medium power armor were heaving 300mm fusion shells to the starboard assault pod loading deck.  "Sir,” one annoyed sergeant asked the lieutenant, “why the hell are we taking shells from the port magazine to the pods?" asked one extremely annoyed sergeant. 

            "Because we don't have enough crew to man more than half of the weapons systems," Martinez explained.  "The starboard fusion cannons are the only operational turrets.  We're taking shells from the cannons we can't fire anyway, so the ones we CAN fire have full magazines.  Now move those shells!"

            "Aye, sir." the sergeant grudgingly acknowledged. 

            "One good thing about this crazy plan," a corporal replied,  "as long as we only take damage on the port hull, no one will get killed."

            "Think, you mindless moron!" the sergeant shot back.  "If we rotate to take damage on that hull, we can't shoot back either."

            The corporal moaned as he carried the heavy shell down the corridor. "And I thought Avalon garrison duty was supposed to be a safe assignment."


            The remaining Fed ships had given up on advancing on the enemy, pulling back just out of torpedo range in a defensive wall, focusing on keeping the breach in the lines from getting any wider.  The Caporetto pulled up at full acceleration behind the Federation line and the commodore started barking out orders.  “M. Simonson, send a tight-beam signal to whatever admiral is in charge of this disaster.  Tell him to be ready to exploit a breach in the enemy screen, and then shut down communications.  I don't have time to talk him into growing a backbone." 

            As the heavy assault transport moved in front of the other loyalist ships, ignoring the command to withdraw, it suddenly angled to the left, facing its portside assault pod launchers at the enemy ships.  Two hundred drop pods spewed out at the enemy ships, and the transport immediately rolled over onto its side, exposing the dorsal fusion cannon batteries.  On the Caporetto’s bridge, Erich Von Shrakenberg sat heavily back in his command chair.  "All right, let's see if they fall for it."


            Aboard the EFS Santa Cruz, Admiral Danielle Twedt was mildly amused, leading her fleet into the heart of Avalon’s orbit.  "It looks like the Council pukes are copying our playbook.  It may have worked for that Dimiye guy, but it's not gonna work for them.” She quickly opened the com out to the 14th Destroyer Squadron. “Commodore, focus all your targeting systems on those pods. As soon as they enter particle phalanx range, open fire!  Make sure to get an exact fix on those pods. I don't want any troopers to eject and sneak through our point defense!"

            As every targeting sensor on the TI squadron focused on the pods, the EFS Caporetto quietly fired a salvo from the starboard fusion cannons.  The first salvo went out as slightly under the maximum muzzle velocity, but the second went out at the highest initial speed the guns could produce.  The two salvoes slowly drew closer together as they sped through the void toward their targets. 

            Just before the assault pods entered enemy point defense range, the emergency air tanks inside them started venting into the surrounding vacuum.  In the tight-packed formation, a thin but substantial cloud of oxygen and nitrogen began to form, traveling along on the same ballistic trajectory. 

            On the Santa Cruz, the admiral’s sensor officer was getting suspicious.  "Sir, I'm detecting atmosphere leaking from the pods, the troopers may have ejected."

            Twedt snapped out orders.  "Intensify sensor focus!  I want those power armors located!"  Optical tracking systems opened their lenses wider to gather more light, and radar and lidar systems did the electronic equivalent of widening their eyes to see in a dark room, seeking for the tiny signals of troopers in power armor floating through the vacuum towards the rebel fleet. 

            Normally, thermonuclear weapons in a vacuum don’t produce much of an electromagnetic pulse.  However, with the thin fog of air surrounding the pods, there was just enough material for the detonation of the 300mm fusion cannon shells inside each pod to strip of their electrons and convert into a powerful shockwave of ionizing radiation.  The sudden bright explosion of over 200 megaton-range warheads and the accompanying wash of ions fried every sensor in the TI squadron. 

            "Holy shit," the sensor officer shouted.  "Fusion bursts!  All sensors blinded!"

            "Damn it!" Danielle screamed. "Rotate ships, shift to aft sensors, they should have been shielded from the EMP!"

            "Too late!"

            The two salvoes of fusion cannon shells, shielded against fratricide from nearby detonations, plowed easily through the cloud of ions from the explosions and only opened their electronic eyes after passing through the aft edge of the shockwave.  They followed closely behind the forward edge of the shockwave, and fell upon the blinded enemy ships before they could turn around.  The 14th Destroyer Squadron disintegrated under the pounding. Some ships were broken in half or nearly vaporized by the near-contact explosions. Others were merely scarred and cratered by debris from more distant detonations.  Either way, an entire section of the rebel screen was suddenly ripped apart.

            The Caporetto twisted in space again, bringing its bow to bear on the enemy ships, edging into lance torpedo and grav laser range.  The crippled survivors of the enemy fleet suddenly were lashed by beams from the two heavy grav lasers mounted the assault transport’s bow. Twin heavy chemlasers mounted astride the central docking bridge helped with the slaughter.

As the transport's feeble battery of four lance torpedoes also spat projectiles to join the continuing barrage, some of the surviving enemy ships returned fire, and the transport spun in space again.  It rotated to present first its dorsal surface, maximizing the number of particle phalanx turrets that could engage the incoming projectiles.  At the last minute, it twisted again to take the impact of those projectiles that got through on the empty starboard hull. 

            The massive 1.9-million-ton starship shuddered as three near misses tore into the starboard hull.  Commodore Von Shrakenberg, in the battle bridge deep within the port hull, screamed at his helmsman and communications officer.  "Get us out of here!  We blew a hole in their line, now call in the other ships!"

            Seeing an opportunity, the other loyalist ships raced forward to cover the stricken transport's escape.  But over fifty lance torpedoes were bearing down on the nearly defenseless aft aspect of the huge ship, and there were only four particle phalanxes manned to oppose them. 

            As Erich watched the tracks of the incoming torpedoes on the tactical plot, a strange calmness seemed to come over him.  "We've done our job.” he muttered, easing back in the chair. You see, professor, there is no such thing as a no-win scenario. “Abandon ship!"




Once again, the floating practice drone got the jump on its pupil, sending a small jolt of electricity at her before she fired.

            “Look, we’ve already established that your accuracy is sufficient, so stop hesitating to pull the trigger,” Hex instructed, using all of the patience he could muster.  “Every time you aim at that drone and don’t fire, you’ve just killed yourself.”

            “That’s easy for you to say!  You’ve been practicing this stuff since you were a ki—“

            “All you have to do is pull the damned trigger, Brigette!”  Hex spat out in frustration.  What a pain in the ass…  She’s taking up time that I could better spend preparing myself for this task!  Why the hell did I talk Sill into bringing her?  He knew the answer, of course, and that was the most annoying part of the whole thing.  What was it called again… going down over a skirt?

            Brigette glared at him in anger, but for some reason, she held her tongue.  “…look, Brigette, I’m sorry.  Let’s take a break, okay?”  He’d just gone against what his drill sergeant’s instinct told him, but he was rewarded to see her scowl slowly disappear.  By the time that they sat down to have their coffee, she was almost smiling.  Hex wished he was a mind mage so that he could tell what it was that she was smiling about, but unfortunately, he could only guess she was having delusions of killing scores of Federation soldiers.  Worried that he was right, he decided not to ask.

            “Is it just me,” Hex ventured, “or does Resistance coffee taste better than Federation coffee?”

            “…maybe a little,” Brigette replied, her smile vanishing, her daydream interrupted.  “It does seem a little fresher somehow.”

            “I wonder if they have mages casting spells on the coffee crop to make them stay fresher longer—or maybe it’s because they’re 100% Colombian instead of 100% New Colombian?”

            Brigette grinned.  “Actually, I think it’s because Resistance coffee beans are free from the ‘red tape and overbearing laws of the Federation,’” she stated sarcastically—almost spitefully.

            “Tsk tsk.  Now you’re just being cynical.”  They both laughed for a moment, then a brief moment of silence followed.

            Just then, Csilla Aurelius burst into the room. “What are you two waiting for? We’re heading for Arnheim now!




            Gus Simeon, Left Sword of the Christian Federation, strode proudly out of the Saint Andrew’s airlock to face the cheering crowd, clad in a sparkling white environmental suit, the closest thing the Christian Federation had to a uniform.  The red double cross of the Righteous Navy blazed on his chest, a glittering sword dangled from his hip.  He held up his hands for silence, and as the crowd quieted, he brought his hands together and led his men in prayer.

            “Merciful and gracious Heavenly Father, we thank you most sincerely for the great path which you have bestowed unto us to complete. We also thank you for the strength and the endurance you've given us to complete our task. Please continue to bless us as we use the works of our hands, so that we may continue down your path, and bestow unto us the victory for your name's sake. Dear Lord, we praise you for our victories in the past, especially the miracle at Phoenix, and our earnest prayers are for the souls of our brethren who have fallen in service to you. Grant us the courage and wisdom to further your holy cause at Valkriye, that the cause of Christ may be carried throughout the stars.  This we pray in Jesus' name, Amen.”

            “Amen!” the solders and sailors of the Lord intoned.

            “My brothers!” the gray-haired old space dog cried, throwing his arms wide.  “Today, God has given us a ship that will bring teeth to the Righteous Navy!  No longer will our brothers have to sacrifice our ships and their lives to smite the Whore’s Fleet.  Today, we spread the Word to those who do not believe, the means of justice firmly in our grasp. Valkriye lies before us, isolated and outnumbered; Christ has given us the means for its capitulation. Remember... 'If God be with us, who will be against us?' The means of their deliverance is here, my brothers. Behold... the RNS Saint Andrew!”

            An unearthly roar filled the bay as porthole plates raised up to reveal the enormous dreadnought outside. The ship was bristling with weapons and armor, and in the center, it proudly bore the red double cross of the Righteous Navy.  It was the ship that would lead them to victory, a sign of God’s covenant with His soldiers, and the troops went wild at the sight of it.  They jumped and cheered with a staggering zeal, as if nothing could express their joy enough; nothing could release the ecstasy within them. 


            High above the bay, through the plastic windows of the foreman’s balcony office, Xinjao O’Reilly took a deep drag from his contraband Marlboro Red.  This day brought Xinjao satisfaction too… but for a very different reason.  He exhaled slowly, a dark amusement in his eyes as he watched Simeon hold up a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne for all to see and then smash it against the walls of the Saint Andrew.  The deafening roar of the crowd grew even louder as the soldiers of the Lord surged forward to board their ships for battle.  Xinjao’s face curled into a bitter smile as he dropped the cigarette to the floor and snuffed it out under his foot.


            Gus Simeon seated himself in the captain’s chair and strapped himself in.  In all his years in the Earth Fleet, he had never commanded a vessel of this size or quality.   He moved and spoke with the energy of youth, excited at the prospect of battle, at the ship under his control, at the obvious blessing God had bestowed upon him. Usually serious and grim before battle, this time the dignified old man couldn’t wipe the satisfied grin off his face.  His crew pointed and snickered good-naturedly, having never seen the Sword like this before.  He gave a smile and a nod to his communications officer; they were ready to go.


            “Tower Control, this is the RNS Saint Andrew,” the comm said.  “We are ready to depart.”

            The comm officer glanced at Calton Reks, who nodded.  “Saint Andrew, this is Tower Control.  Proceed on vector 29 Mark 75 for fleet formation.” 

Everyone in Tower Control watched as the massive dreadnought engaged its ion drive for maneuvering and pulled away from the docking clamps, slowly moving to point toward the Valkyrie system, dozens of light-years away.  The Righteous Navy’s swarm of ancient destroyers, converted freighters, and armored transports slowly clustered tightly around the Saint Andrew with docking thrusters, trying to pack as many vessels as possible into the perimeter of the gravity sphere the grav drive would generate around the dreadnought to transport it to Valkyrie.


            “All assault vessels are in position, sir,” the St. Andrew’s sensor officer reported.

            “And the 2nd Armada at the Valkyrie jumpgate?” Simeon questioned. 

            “Also ready for the jump, sir, and awaiting your orders.”

            “Excellent.  Open a channel to the Wittenburg,” Simeon ordered in his polished English accent.  “2nd Armada, this is the Left Sword.  You will jump precisely thirty minutes after we depart.  You will arrive first and engage the picket.  All you must do is hold them off for an hour, at which point we will drop out of hyperspace inside and above the ecliptic and engage the enemy from behind.  God willing, we’ll take them by surprise.  We’ve been over this before; this is your last chance for questions.  Have you any?”

            “No, sir,” the captain of the Whittenburg replied.  “God be with you.”

            “Godspeed, Captain,” Simeon replied, then cut the channel.  “Ensign,” he told his pilot.  “Engage the grav drive.  Start charging the gravity shell, prepare for jump.”


            Reks watched from the bridge of Tower Control, smiling as he sipped a cup of coffee.  For the first time ever, it looked like the Christian Federation would score an easy victory.  The small Fleet picket that had liberated Valkyrie from the Kingdom of Enoch would be vastly outgunned and outnumbered.  With any luck, they could capture the Fleet ships intact.  “God bless, Gus,” he said, more to himself than anyone.  “Return to us in victory.”

            Inside the docking bay, Xinjao also watched the show.  His heart began to beat faster.  Soon, his plan would work, or be discovered… either way, it was out of his hands now.


            “Captain!” the St. Andrew’s propulsion engineer called out.  “I’m reading a balance error in the grav field!”

            “What magnitude?”  Simeon asked with mild interest.

            “Point two gee… no, wait, point four gee…”

            “Can you compensate?”

            “I believe so, sir.”

            “Then do it,” he ordered.  “Continue charging.”

            “Grav field stabilized at four gees,” the sensor officer called out.

            A low, creaking groan echoed throughout the ship. The chatter on the bridge abruptly ceased as people looked around, puzzled and slightly nervous.  Simeon looked around, confused.  That sort of sound was only caused by stress of some sort on the ship’s hull.  Years of sailor’s instincts warned him of trouble.

“Sir, we’ve got another balance error in the grav field.”

“Magnitude?”  Simeon had never commanded a ship with a grav drive before. Is this normal?

“One point two gees, sir.”

“This ship can take a gee’s strain,” he rationalized. “Still… can you compensate for it?”

“I… think so, sir,” the ensign answered, accessing the Field Alignment Protocol files.

“Good.  Keep an eye on that, ensign,” Simeon ordered firmly as another low groan echoed through the ship, signifying the hull settling back into place.  “The ship’s been having trouble with the grav drive recently, but the repair crews assured me it had been fixed,” he explained, brow furrowed.  “If the imbalance rises above two Gs I want to know, understand?”

“Aye, Sir,” the ensign said, searching the Protocol files for the cause of the imbalance.

“Alright, gentlemen,” Simeon said.  “Valkyrie and victory awaits us.  Raise the field to 50 Gs and form the singularity on my mark….three… two…”

The propulsion engineer gasped suddenly, staring in wide-eyed at the lines of code dancing across his screen.  “…dear God…”


“SIR! STOP!!” the ensign cried in horror.


Thirty seconds later, Gus Simeon would discover if there was an afterlife.


There was a tremendous screech and groan of tearing metal, and then the RNS Saint Andrew ripped apart into six pieces that flew off in opposite directions amidst a cloud of sparks and steaming atmosphere.  The twisted hull fragments crashed into the smaller ships clustered around them, smashing them to pieces.  Men and metal went flying in every direction, hurtling off into space with the speed of nine gravities.  The rear engine section glowed and flashed as the plasma bottle ruptured, vaporizing everything around it. In an instant, the proud 1st Armada was nothing more than a rapidly expanding cloud of corpses and debris.


O’Reilly watched, fascinated, as the sphere of carnage grew.  All the tension and stress in his body released in joy and triumph.  His intellectual orgasm grew with each vessel that bit the dust.  I did it!  YES!! he thought, his mind and body pumped with pride and adrenaline.  No one could stand against an O’Reilly. He felt invincible.  He felt like God, hurtling lightning bolts at his enemies.


Calton Reks’ face was a mask of shocked horror.  The cup of coffee dropped to the floor with a splash.  For an instant he stood there like a statue, frozen in place, completely stunned.  Then he turned on his Tower Control staff, full of distress and rage.

“WHAT HAPPENED!?!” he cried.

“Don’t know, sir!” the distressed replies came.

“The ship just… burst!” someone called out in confusion.

“We’ve got thirty ships down… thirty-two…”

“WHY?” Reks raged, using anger to cloud out the pain.  “WHY??  You find out why, and you find out NOW!  I want ANSWERS, people!!”

“Sir!” someone called out, “Some of the hull wreckage is heading right for the Yards!”

Calton spun around and stared out at the spinning boulder of machinery heading for them, and uttered a few words he’d half to ask forgiveness for later.


Oh shit!  Xinjao thought as he realized the starboard flank of the Saint Andrew was going to hit them.  I didn’t think of that!  He backed away from the window a few steps, his mind racing.  Suddenly he turned and ran across the room, slamming this fist into the emergency alarm switch.


The sirens began pealing and the red lights began to flash in Tower Control above the central hub of the Phoenix Yards.  At that moment however, no one cared who had set it off.  Reks’ mind spun… what to do?  Space combat wasn’t his element… but Simeon was dead.  “Bring the point-defense grid on line!” Reks bellowed.  “Man the weapon mounts!  Shoot it down!”

The yard buzzed with activity and soldiers of the Lord and fleet engineers alike dashed about in the sudden panic.  The docks hummed as the point-defense grid powered up, and the shrill whine of chem lasers cut through the air.  Blast after blast burned away at the hurtling wreckage, but they only broke the mechanical meteor into small projectiles, still bearing down on the station.

“Engage the orbital thrusters, Reks!” O’Reilly yelled as he burst into Tower Control. “Maximum burn to port-nothwest! NOW! We gotta get out of the way!”  There was a moment’s delay as the staff looked at Reks for approval.

“PLEASE!!” begged O’Reilly, fear and concern etched into his face.

Reks nodded.  “Do it.” The roar of the orbital thrusters joined the clamor for sirens and lasers as the Phoenix Yards slowly pushed itself off to the side.  Everyone watched nervously as the debris shower closed in.

“Were not gonna make it, sir…” someone warned the Right Sword.

Reks threw himself into a chair and gripped the console.  “Everyone brace for impact!” he cried.  No one spoke as the seconds ticked by, sweating nervously as they gripped their chairs and consoles, waiting for the inevitable.  The debris crashed into the outer edge of the station, some wreckage puching through the hull, some glancing off harmlessly.  Atmosphere hissed out of the holes as the bays and corridors depressurized.  Everyone clenched whatever they held on to as the impact jolted the station again as again.

In a few seconds, however, it was over.  The debris flew harmlessly toward the planet, small enough shards to be burnt up upon entry into the atmosphere.  Slowly, the bridge returned to life as the alarm was cut and damage reports began pouring in.

“Tower Control?” a voice called out over the communication console. “This is the Wittenburg, commanding ship of the 2nd Armada.  Uh… should we abort the invasion plan?”

Reks stood slowly, staring at O’Reilly with a vicious glare.  His body pulsed and glowed with Rage.  “Yes,” he said finally. “Abort the plan.  Return to Pheonix.”  Slowly he raised his arm and pointed with a clawed finder at Xinjao, who was already walking up and down the aisles organizing repair crews.. “Get him.” he growled.

O’Reilly suddenly found himself slammed down against the control console and his wrists secured behind his back by rough hands.  He cried out in pain and surprise as he was roughly spun around… and stared right into the face of one very pissed off werewolf, already beginning to metamorphize, struggling hard to keep from shifting into crinos form. Xinjao stared back at him, more surprised and confused than frightened.  How did he know?! he wondered in amazement, his mind racing through his elaborate sabotage plans, looking for where he had slipped up.

“I don’t know how you did it, O’Reilly,” Reks growled at him, raking his claws slowly down Xinjao’s chest, his face so close to O’Reilly’s that he could smell Calton’s breath,  “but I know this is your fault!”




            The capitol building glistened in the morning dawn. The first rays of light broke over the city and reflected off the golden dome of the once-almighty seat of power. Andrea Treschi had waited all night as his hand-picked team went over the complex. The Raptors went quickly, pounding every level with multi-phasic sensors, and covering every exit out of the building. The shielding around the place made it impossible for someone to correspond in or out of the place. Yet, even after their exhaustive search, there was no trace of Gergenstein or his strange bodyguard.

            Damn it, he cursed himself, if only Crackenburg had managed to give him the information faster, we might have been able to stop him. No, all he did was go on and on about needing a ship. Fucking fleet reject! Treschi placed his hands in the oppungate forms, one of the tricks he had learned on Deimos, willing his mind to calm. Let it pass. Even if Gergenstein got away, the plan can be adapted. I can adapt. There is no point being frustrated at the failures of others. Besides, revenge is a gift that grows better over time, and I left the good commodore with a gift of my own.

            “The building is clear, sir.” Luther reported, his enormity blotting out everything in front of the colonel.

            Andrea nodded. “Thank you, sergeant-major. Is my shuttle ready?”

            “Yes, sir. Lieutenant Veolin is waiting for you.”

            “Veolin?” Treschi asked, and then chided himself for being foolish. Of course Veolin is here. She had been following that Agent Pollos for the past few days. If Pollos was here, then she must be here. “Very well. Carry on, sergeant-major.”

            Luther saluted and the colonel returned it, before he turned and headed off for the waiting shuttle. When he entered through the open door, the charming Veolin was sitting there, with an unconscious Xavier Pollos sitting next to her. “Well, lieutenant, it seems that you’ve been busy.”

            “It seems like I’m not the only one.” she replied, her eyes shifting back to the capitol. “Quite a mess in there.”

            “Don’t worry, Luther will take care of it.” Treschi closed the hatch and then looked over at the pilot. “Take us to Patton Base.”

            The shuttle lifted off and the former smuggler’s eyes went back to his beautiful assistant. “Is he hurt?”

            “No,” Veolin gently shook her head, “just exhausted.”

            “Wake him.”

            The lieutenant took out a hypospray and pressed it against the former InSec agent’s neck.


            As Pollos' eyes slowly cracked open, he could only be sure of one thing about the figure in front of him; it was a person.  It took some time for his eyes to adjust to the lighting in the compact space he was in.  Soon the image became clearer and it was obvious who it was; Andrea Treschi

            "It seems we’re destined to keep meeting, M. Pollos," the colonel smiled.

            Xavier slid back into his seat. "Not by choice." 

            "Nor mine,” Treschi shrugged, “but before we got off on the wrong foot, again, I would like to seal the breach between us.”

“Excuse me… what?” the assassin replied, wondering if his exhaustion had muddled his hearing. 

“I knew about your connections with Elizabeth and how she paid you to kill me. I took that rather personally and I’m sorry that you suffered because of it. Then again, since you managed to kill her, your contract with her is voided, so there’s problem between us."

            Pollos coughed the flem out of his throat. “That makes it all worth while.”

            “Plus, you managed to kill King, which saves me the trouble of doing it myself. Thank you.”

            “Your thanks means less to me than your apology.”

            “Then I would like you to consider a proposition instead.”

            “No.” Xavier shot back, his consciousness coming back to him in a quick rush. “No one’s going to tell me what to do anymore.”

            “You haven’t even heard it yet.”

            “I don’t care.” Pollos glared at him with a killer’s eye. No, this time I live life on my own terms. I didn’t kill King just to replace him with Treschi.

            Andrea paused for a moment, turning his head one way, then another, as if he was examining the assassin. “Were you aware that Elizabeth was a member of the Sabbat.”

            “Of course.”

            “In fact, she was the direct retainer of Mordred. Did you know that?”

            “I guessed as much.”

            “Did you know that King had many allies, not only within Internal Security, but through the Federation hierarchy?”

            “Sure… whatever.”

            Treschi narrowed his stare on the man in front of him. “So let’s do some simple math, shall we?”

            “I never was good at math.”

            “But this is easy,” the colonel gave a cold grin, “try to follow along. You just murdered the leader of InSec which has… lieutenant, how many members does InSec have?”

            Veolin smiled back. “Ten thousand, officially, with a vast network of unofficial members.”

            “And since you just killed Mordred childe, we can assume they’ll be after you as well. Lieutenant, how many members of the Sabbat are assumed to be active, according to the Crusaders?”

            “About 300, not including their ghouls, lesser vampires, and other vampires. Of course, their records have always been five years out of date. It’s the nature of their job.”

            “Both organizations have networks stretching throughout the Federation, and if we assume that each vampire is as effective as a hundred men, that means that… lieutenant?”

            The were-cobra gave a wicked smile to the assassin. “Somewhere around hundred thousand people will be actively trying to kill you, anywhere in the Federation.”

            "Okay…" Xavier could figure out where this line of thought was going, “what’s the proposition?”

            Treschi allowed himself a smile. "The Raptors can protect you; we take care of our own. You are powerful… you’ve proved that, and you do hold a valid commission. All of these can you get into our organization, but you still have to prove yourself.”

“I’m listening.”

“Since you were able to take down King and Elizabeth, you are ideally suited for the kind of job I’m offering.  You see, I need someone out of the game... and you can do it."


            "Colonel Herbert Gergenstein, current head of Internal Security.”

“What’s in it for me?"

            "How about your life?”

“How ‘bout I take my chances out there?” Pollos wasn’t falling for that trick. Treschi made a good argument but it wasn’t anything he didn’t already know.

“Then you’re a dead son-of-a-bitch.”

“Look, Treschi, if you want Gergenstein dead, you’ll have to do better than that.”

Andrea looked up at the ceiling as if he wasn’t even paying attention. When his eyes came back down, they looked at him playfully. “I’ll throw in two million credits upon successful elimination of the commandant.  Deal?"

            "And what if I say no?"

            "I would think a drop from a thousand feet would be detrimental to a future career."

            Pollos’ eyes unconsciously snapped toward the shuttle hatch. "I understand."

            "No, you don’t.” Treschi answered. “You see, I want more for my money. Before I’ll allow you to go after Gergenstein, you’re going to have to prove your worth once more."

            "What? Leaving King headless at the capitol wasn’t enough?”

            Andrea suddenly became very serious. “No.” He finally relaxed and then continued. "There is a small lab near here. Four Raptor agents went missing investigating it.  I need you and a small assault team to go there and check things out.  Lieutenant Veolin will brief you on the plan. Clear?"

            Pollos nodded. “Crystal.”

            At that point, the shuttle landed, and the hatch opened onto Patton Base. “After you, M. Pollos.”

            As Pollos and Veolin went off to meet up on their mission, the colonel squinted his eyes in the dawn light. The crisis is over, he thought, allowing his weary muscles to relax. Let the others take care of the clean-up. It’s time to take a nap.


            "Fischer, get me a sat relay." Dimiye ordered to his comm officer. It had been two days since they'd hit the ground on Avalon, right outside the capital city. The first microburst transmission they received from orbit said only: "Engage confusion and sabotage tactics on the enemy. Avoid heavy unit action." The one they'd gotten the next day was essentially the same.

            Dimiye had the Ninth Division broken down into smaller units to avoid detection. Platoons operated as cells, sending out squads to do hit and run tactics. It was all fun and games. Blowing up shuttles, buildings, ammo dumps, taking out columns of troops marching down the street. Still, being constantly on the move for almost 48 hours straight was having an effect on his men. He needed orders, fast, and he needed relief.

            "I'm getting something, sir." Lieutenant Fischer announced. "Low frequency and coded, definitely one of ours."

            "Bring it up." the major ordered.

A second later, the static ridden image of General Fabin appeared before him. "Hi, Al! Did ya miss me?" He proudly displayed his usual shit-eating grin.

            "We don't have much time, sir."

            "Right…first off, ya could ne’er follow a focking order! I told you to take the Ark, not the Achilles!”

“Tactical decision, sir. The Ark wasn’t feasible at the time.”

“Just kidding, Al… you did great! Hell, ya did the impossible!"

            "When can we expect relief, sir?" He got right to the point.

            Fabin's expression became more serious. "The Twenty-Seventh managed ta drop on the New African Continent, but that's all.”

“27th Legion, sir?”

Army, Al.” the general corrected. “They’re doing great, but the rest of us are stuck here waving our dicks in the vacuum, thanks ta some crazy asshole in an assault transport.”

“What was that, sir?”

“Never mind. The point is that you're on your own for another day…maybe two."

            Wrong answer, you son of a bitch! His mind screamed. "That's not what I wanted to hear." Dimiye said aloud. "How's things upstairs?"

            "They could be better. We hit that breech you made hard, but it closed up quick. We managed to take out a lot of their ships, but they already had a lot of ships. We're making headway though, the swabies are being real careful. Don't worry, even if this turns into a siege, we'll get to ya."

            Alistar massaged the tension in his neck. "What are my orders, sir?"

            An image of a transmitter tower appeared on the screen. "Start hitting as many of these as you can. The Fed's ships are using them to bounce their communications around so they can talk to each other all over orbit and to high command. Our guys say it will really help. Sending their known locations now."

            "Sir," Fischer broke in, "we need to wrap this up within twenty seconds."

            "General, if I don't ever see you again…" Dimiye started to salute.

            "Knock that shit off!" Fabin bellowed. "We're gonna go and get shit faced by the end of the week! Discom!" With that, General Joel Fabin was gone.


The dawn zephyr blew over them as the twelve figures stood in front of the Elysian Fields Research Center.  Eleven of them were dressed in black trenchcoats; they had the same build, same mannerisms, and only slightly different facial appearances.  They were the best; foot soldiers for a war that only one goal… revenge.

The twelfth figure was firmly in control. "You know your orders, then? " asked Herbert Gergenstein, his eyes betraying his exhaustion.  

"Yes."  Eleven XES, including Damien, said in unison. 

"What is your mission?"

"Destroy the enemies of Internal Security." the chorus replied.

"So the Men in Black are back."  Gergenstien mumbled, as he got into his hovercar, as if a man going to his death.  "Quickly, it won't be long until they hit this place, too."  As soon as he pulled away, they went to their jobs without speaking.

The quickly raided the center's experimental armory, modifying the Mark 100 suits and mountains of arms that they had been created to use.


            An hour later, Dimiye's command had shifted locations again. This time, he was in some place called Cornell, a slum on the outskirts of the central city’s skyline. He sat there, waiting for his last brigade commander to show up. I'm not gonna sit here and watch my men die for nothing…even if we have to kill every last one of those mother fuckers. He felt his blood boiling in his veins.

            Then his last brigade commander walked in. "Major Spyder reporting, sir."

            "All right, I'll make this brief.' Alistar passed out data pads to each of them. "These are the details of Operation Cancer. We'll be proceeding with this plan at 1400 hours today."

            His subordinates scanned through the long list of orders before them, realizing that they only had seven hours to prepare. Dimiye raised a hand, quieting them before they had a chance to complain. "This is what we are doing, period. And one other thing, gentlemen…the gloves are coming off on this one. No mercy, tell that to everyone in the ranks. We're out for blood here."

            "Sir," Spyder spoke up, "isn't that a little extreme?"

            "We're in hostile territory, major, and I'm sick of getting stabbed in the back! By the EB's at Hadley and Epsilon, by the Fed! Which one do you think was worse: When they tried to kill us while helpless in our drop pods, or the phony surrender they pulled that stuck us here? The enemy has proven deceitful when given mercy so no more shall be given. Have I made myself clear?"

            "Yes, sir." Malachi nodded.

            "You have your orders…good luck, and I'll see you when this is all over. Dismissed."


"Move it! Go! Go! Go!”

In their power armor, the Raptor strike force jumped out of the shuttle, dropping down to the small suburb of Bloemfontein. A thousand feet was a long way to fall, but with equipment that was used to dropping into hostile environment, this was a normal routine. Xavier Pollos hadn’t spent much time in power armor since he left the LI, but luckily, his suit computer managed to run through the thruster sequence for him.

As they came closer and closer to the ground, Lieutenant Veolin activated the com circuit. “All right, remember the plan. This is an intelligence-gathering mission, not a bug hunt. Kill only when necessary and control your fire.”

The platoon finally hit the ground and kept running. It didn’t take long to reach the city. Before the first building was in sight, they activated their chameleon circuits, and vanished as they ran toward the complex.

It didn’t take them long to reach the research facility. It didn’t look like much; a small plastcrete building, much like any other pre-fab building, with the symbol of the Federation Agricultural Service emblazoned on it. Yeah, Pollos thought, and if all they’re doing is researching fertilizer, I’ll be amazed.

Veolin took command and had them spread out, scanning the area heavily for any detection devices, traps… the works. Once she was satisfied that there were no external scanners, the were-cobra clattered on the com line, “All right, we have to assume that they’re waiting for us. We’re going to rush the facility. With any luck, we’ll overwhelm the defenses before they can react.”

“Confirmed.” came the reply.

Just as the lieutenant was about to give the go-code, a woman came out the door, and lit a cigarette. She was young, somewhat pretty, but she had that frumpy looking that said she didn’t have a lot of money. Probably a damn secretary, Pollos thought.

“Now!” They rushed the building, throwing the secretary onto the ground as they reached her. Before any of them could get to the doors, the building suddenly exploded. The troopers dropped the ground as bursting flame and debris spread over a ten block radius.

When it was all over, Veolin managed to get to her feet, and her armored foot kicked the hell out of what used to be a large metal tank. "Damn it! God-fucking damn it!!!” The tank was quickly ripped apart from her fury. “Shit! All right, um… secure the area! Call the shuttle back down here and get that prisoner in it. MOVE!"


            At 1340 hours, a number of shuttles took off from rally point 577-4 and merged with the rest of the sub-orbital traffic on Avalon.

            At 1400 hours, the first of the pre-planted explosives detonated in the outskirts of the capital city. Three Federal buildings, two civilian comm towers, several spaceports, and a troop barracks were suddenly bathed in fire. Nearly one hundred red lights lit up on the Avalon City’s Emergency Services map.  The technician on duty was overwhelmed by the incoming reports. "What the hell is going on!"

            The old supervisor heading the department spat. "It's those damned rebels again! They must be planning something big…" he said, looking at the map of the city as the rim flashed red. "They've been doing nothing but piss ant shit for the last few days. Get me central command."


            Dimiye ran down the City Street with his platoon cloaked, cutting a swath through the LI troops that got in their way. "Remember to time out your attacks!" He screamed on his dentcom. "I don't want a transmission tower operational within a 300 klick radius!"

            His team approached its primary target, a transmission tower. Not bothering to storm the building, they let their gauss and plasma cannons loose on it. Within seconds, the building and its tower were nothing but slag. Then they moved on, quickly, like high-speed ghosts.

            Okay, he thought, by now they should think we’re moving from the outside of the city to its heart. I just hope we look like bigger than we actually are.


            "Sir," The old supervisor began over the vidphone, "we have a high number of rebel troops moving through the city."

            General Maxwell glared at him with a tired look. "We have more important things to worry about than a handful of saboteurs, captain."

            "In my opinion, sir, there’s more than a handful. In fact, I don't think we're dealing with a few brigades here. I’m transferring the board’s readouts to you now."

            The general reluctantly studied the board. His demeanor changed sharply as more and more red lights popped up on the screen before him. "You might be right. It looks as if they're headed for the center of the city. What would you say their strength is?"

            "Counts are hard to make out, sir. All reports we've gotten say that their troops are coming in cloaked and no one knows just how many made it to Avalon. But I'd have to say…legion strength, maybe more."

            Maxwell looked down to see more red spots appear on his map. "All right, I'll order all available units to converge here." The general made a notation in the center of the map. “Keep me advised of any changes in the situation. Discom."


Treschi awoke to see Sergeant-Major Luther standing over him. “Sir?”

            The colonel rubbed his eyes and looked clearer at the giant were-bear standing over him. “Yes, sergeant-major?”

            “General Maxwell is on the phone for you, sir.”

            “What time is it?”

            “About 2 o’clock, sir.”

            I slept that long? Treschi asked himself, trying to wake himself up. “All right, I’ll take it here.”

            The sergeant-major activated the holoproj unit imbedded in the colonel’s desk. As Andrea focused on the image in front of him, the darkening gaze of George Maxwell seemed to leap out at him. “Yes, sir?”

            “Treschi, I want you at the Defense Building as soon as possible. I’m calling a meeting of all ground forces commanders now.”

            “Why? What’s going on?”

            Maxwell closed his eyes and began transmitting the city board’s information to the Raptor commander. “We have a problem…”


            Dimiye and his platoon were pinned down from fire being thrown their way by armored troopers. They'd just hit their eight and final target and were halfway to the center of town. Now they needed to fall back unnoticed. The Fed troops were making it difficult.

            "Have all the cells hit their targets yet?" He asked Lieutenant Fischer.

            "Negative! Cells 12 and 23 have not yet reported in their final target complete."

            We're so close…Dimiye thought as he looked at the time. We have twelve minutes before our escape window closes. "We don't break for it till those two cells report in, clear?"

            "Yes, sir!" came the numerous replies.


Inside the Defense Building, one of the Raptor troopers began his interrogation, one of many he had done in his career, of one little secretary who happened to be around some damn Insec black project… just when it blew up. God, the trooper thought, I need to request a different assignment. He activated the recorder, and while his voice betrayed the boredom, he went through the motions. "What is your name?”

"Mary Detweiler.  Why am I here?!"  The already troubled woman began to cry.

"What is your rank or occupation?"

"I'm just Dr. Shiro's personal secretary! You know that!" 

"And exactly what were you helping the good doctor with?  He was in the explosion, wasn't he?”

“I don’t know! He just told me to file papers and…”

Vishnu on a fucking stick, the trooper cursed, why don’t they just tell us everything and save us the trouble? Now the interrogator was pissed. “Look! If you tell us everything we need to know, we’ll let you go. You’re not important enough to kill.”

“I have told you everything! Why don’t you believe me?!”

“Because I find it hard to believe that you could have been around this project and know nothing about it!”  He lowered his eyes to her athletic body.  “Have you ever heard about the Federation penal colony on Pluto? They just dump you out there with a vac suit and some supplies, all the time while sitting in absolute zero. They post no guards there. If the prisoners don’t kill you right away, they’ll…” the interrogator ran a finger down her naked arm. “…well, a beautiful woman such as yourself is hard to come by…”

"I don't know anything more. I swear!”

On the other side of the wall, a groggy Colonel Treschi stood there alongside Veolin and Pollos, watching the entire questioning session. “Now,” Andrea began, rubbing his eyes, “why am I watching this?”

The were-cobra answered, “She was the only survivor of the research center that you asked us to check out.”

“I see. Then maybe you can answer another concern of mine. Why is she here?”

Xavier Pollos stepped forward, ‘We thought…”

“I don’t pay you to think.” Treschi shot back, without even thinking. “Veolin, why is she here?”       

“We thought you might be interested in her interrogation.”

Andrea pointed his hand at the woman. “She’s a secretary. It’s obvious she knows nothing. Tell Andrew to be thorough and then get rid of her. What about the building?”

“Destroyed. I’ve had my team combing over it since we got there. Nothing so far.”

“I’ve wasted enough time with this. I’m going to see Maxwell. Let me know if you find anything.”


            At 1430 hours, the first few of the second batch of pre-planted explosives detonated. All of them were close to the center of town. The general sat and watched as red lights drew closer and closer to the heart of the city. "Report!”

            One of the staff officers came forward. "Sir, it looks like the rebel’s primary targets have been our transmission towers…but we don't know why."

            Maxwell shook his head. "They're trying to cut us off from our fleet in orbit. How many have they destroyed?"

            The young officer gestured to the red areas of the screen. "All of them within the city limits, except the five… the ones right outside, sir."

            The general shifted in his seat. "How many units do we have guarding the perimeter? Never mind, I have the figures here in front of me. Have the civilians nearby been evacuated?"

            "Yes, sir."

            "Good. We'll give these rebel scum one hell of a fight! Discom.”

            The commander of the TI turned away from the holoproj and looked around the table at the brass accumulated at the table. “I apologize, ladies and gentlemen, but this is the reason why I brought you here today. Ever since the TI broke through our defensive perimeter, we have done everything in our power to prevent them creating a beachhead. However, it seems one legion has managed to penetrate the city and cause massive damage to our infrastructure.”

            Just then, Andrea Treschi entered the room, the last one, thanks to the delay of his subordinates. “Colonel,” Maxwell bellowed, “so glad you could join us.”

            “My apologies, sir.” the former smuggler took his seat and listened to the rest of the briefing.

            The general activated the holoproj, showing the whole city, rimmed with several red lights. “This lights indicate the recent attacks by the enemy. As you can easily see, they’re driving closer towards the capital. Now we’ve dispatched defensive forces as well as seek-and-destroy teams to find and engage the enemy, but so far, they have not been successful.”

            “What kind of forces are we facing on the ground?” one of the general asked.

            “Our experts say one legion.”

            “That’s all?!” exclaimed a brigadier-general. “Sir, I recommend we use tactical nukes and wipe them out.”

Treschi recognized her instantly; she was the same officer he dealt with before the Grand Council was attacked. She’s becoming more of a liability than an asset. Luckily, one of her peers managed to counter her argument. “In a populated area? Are you mad?!”

“If we want to stop this menace, we smack them down now.

Andrea was just as outraged as anyone else at the table. As the colonel looked around the table, a feeling of dread came over it. My God, they’re actually going to do it! Time to stop this. “Are you saying, ma’am, that your legion couldn’t handle them yourself?”

Her fist came down on the table. “My men are some of the best in the Federation!”

“Then why don’t you prove it, general.” Andrea turned towards Maxwell, “Sir, I recommend that she be allowed to leave with her unit to attack the incoming enemy.”

George Maxwell, waiting for the opportunity to get rid of the pesky brigadier, leaped on it. “You’re right, colonel. General, take your legion immediately and defeat the enemy. They’re heading for the com towers, so that would be your best bet to defeat them. Dismissed.”

She looked like she had just been slapped. However, she had no choice now, she had to leave. “Yes, sir. Thank you.” the brigadier-general managed to get out before she grumbled away.


The secretary shivered as her interrogator pulled out a plasma revolver and pointed it at her head.  “You will tell me everything the good doctor was working on, won’t you?”

Then, before he could even comprehend, she dropped the act. "Pathetic."


Jumping towards him, she threw her hand through him, grabbing his heart and forcing it through his back.  Then, picking up his weapon, she shot the door lock, frying the intricate circuitry, allowing her to break down the door.  Several troopers appeared shocked as she came through the busted door, and she shot them down with pinpoint precision.

Their surprise didn’t last too long, and through the ventilation system, she heard the faint sounds of power armor charging up. The woman burst through another door, ran through the office, and dived through the window. Falling five stories, she flipped onto her feet, then somersaulted down a conveniently open manhole nearby, right next to her waiting armor.  As she suited, she commed to the waiting team, and the real assault began.

"All teams attack.  Mission priority: Place explosives near building structural centers to destroy the building.” Then, after cutting the communication, her suit connected with the Avalon power grid network, and she cut the power to the massive building.

Damien Richter was there, waiting on the roof of a nearby building, cloaked in the mid-day sun. Once he got the message and the power went off, the machine went to work.

Attack command received, continue with mission.  Ammunition conservation is a variable.

Jumping from the top of the building, Damien let gravity pull him down, then activated the thrusters. As plasma blasts flew up from the troops waiting below, he skirted over them, going through the shattered window, landing in the office. Wasting no time, he made his way to the interrogation room, spiker gun in hand. 


            At 1442 hours, the supervisor was still watching the situation screen. The red lights had come to within a half of a kilometer of the command center now. The fight would start at any minute. Then something caught his eye; a red dot appeared outside the city, farther away than the first few dots were.

"Oh, no…they have reinforcements. I'd better…" He stopped as many more dots appeared outside the city. Just a few at first, then dozens, further and further away from the city. He quickly checked the identity of the new targets, and was mortified to find they were all transmission towers. The reality of the situation started to sink in. "Get me the General, STAT!!!"

Maxwell didn’t have time to answer the message. Already reports were flowing in from building security; the enemy had penetrated the building. Finally the general gave the order, “Abandon the building!”


Three unarmed targets, Richter rattled off in his head, all unarmed medics moving towards dead soldiers.  Power down chameleon circuits, use of ammunition is not allowed under the Ammunition Conservation Protocol.

Without breaking his charge, he swung his spiker as a club, decapitating the first two.  Grabbing the third, he picked him up and used the struggling doctor as a buffer when he crashed the armored door that was meant to stop werewolves, but not power armor, and into a hallway.  Looking to both sides of him, he threw the crushed corpse into three young security guards as he opened fire on two older men on the other side of the hall.  One fell dead instantly, but the shots of his spiker gun were absorbed by the magic shield of the other. 

Target 213457 is listed in the InSec database as a powerful mage. Bracing for attack.

            With a quick movement of the man's hands Damien was thrown through a nearby wall, denting a structural beam of the building.

Target 213457 is not powerful enough to damage this suit or overload the anti-magic capabilities of this suit and built in cybernetic buffers.  His attempts at mind control have proved futile.  Target 213457 is a non-lethal threat in current form unless reequipped.  No weaknesses in

his defense yet observed. 

Throwing himself back out into the hall, he turned to shoot the security guards, who got the first shots off.  Missing him completely, he fired three shot directly into the heads of the three worthless humans.  Before he could turn, he was again assaulted by the mage.  This time he was

thrown back into the interrogation room.  He analyzed the data of the mage's attacks in his mind, admiring his skills but finding no weaknesses.  Overpowering his logic processors, his mind found only one answer.  Charge.

Standing again, he opened his spiker to full automatic shooting the walls to reveal the hidden mage's position.  Although the man had disappeared into thin air, the flash of his magic shield to block the impact of the spiker gun gave him away.

Locked on to target.  Boosterware and Adrenal Boosters on full power. 

Moving closer to the target, he crashed through the wall and shot the shield at point blank range, trying to beat open the shield as he shot it.  Using an algorithm to select random martial arts combos, he beat on the shield as the mage began to bleed from his exposed orifices,

funneling all his quintessence to withstand the attack.

Target 213457's shield will soon collapse.  Anti-magic capabilities of suit and cybernetic buffers nearly drained of power.  Diverting power from chameleon circuits.

Raising the butt of his gun, he brought it down with all his strength on the shield, while blood poured out of the mouth of the mage as he fell to the floor.  Raising his foot to bring down the man's head, he was blasted to the side under a hail of plasma fire from several power armor equipped troops.  He turned to fight only in time to see two M-64 grenades attach

themselves to his suit.

Suit integrity down 78%.  Suit power drained to 5%.  Nanotech will be unable to repair damage to withstand explosions.  Attempting to detach grenades with Nanotech.

Charging the team so that they would be killed in the explosion also, the grenades exploded, shredding his suit and burning his body into the mangled wreckage around him.  Thrown an unknown distance, his suit was disabled.  He appeared to have killed the team, but he could not be sure without the sensors from his suit or his body.

Damage to 95% of all body systems.  Nanotech concentrated to core life systems.  Ordering X-100 suit nanotech to enter the body to help with repairs.  Unable to activate scuttle program.  Computer errors encountered.  Powering down User Interface in 3… 2… 1…

Commanding his destroyed body without computer assist, he could do little more than twitch.  Over his dentcom came a now tinny message.  "Damien, what is your status?  Are you out of the building?  All other units accounted for and in position."


"Have you planted your charges?"

"Negative. Unable to complete mission.  Unable to activate scuttle program.  Request assistance."

"Negative." she answered.  "Prepare for blast."


At 1445 hours, the thousands of troops, consisting of that annoying brigadier-general’s legion, waited at the Defense Building for the battle to come. They'd been hearing the explosions in the distance coming closer and closer by the minute. They waited and waited, but sensors told them the enemy hadn't come yet.

High above the command center, the shuttles that had taken off from rally point 577-4 an hour before hand hovered. Malachi Spyder sat the controls of one of them, leading this phase of the attack. “We’re over the target, sir.” the pilot announced.

“Very well.” the major hit the com channel. “All shuttles… prepare to drop.” As the rest of his makeshift squadron did so, he pushed the large button on the console.

Its storage area opened, dropping a large container. When the fuel-air bomb dropped to an altitude of 2000 meters, it detonated.

The blast lashed plasma fire and crushing pressure changes out on an area two kilometers wide. Once the blast subsided, the other shuttles opened their bay doors to let the heavy armor battalion of the Ninth Division finish off any targets that were left.



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Text Copyright (C) 2000 by Marcus Johnston. All Rights Reserved.