“I agree, general Clarke.” Answered the doctor. “We must work on our recall technology and we should not send our commanders into a position from which they cannot retreat. If the battle would be occurring at a vast continent, they’d have a bigger chance of survival. Now, with the islands in the middle of an ocean, they had no choice but to fight.”
“Our intel has to be improved.” Said Hall immediately. “Since we have been travelling from one planet to another, we can’t get a single word about the rest of the galaxy. It makes it all the easier for the enemy to lure us into a trap.”
“That’s correct, but how can we do that if we have no firepower to withstand the Seraphim for longer than a couple of hours, if we’re lucky?” Asked Clarke. “Or how can we do that if we don’t have the manpower to create a covert network of spies?”
“QAI, you will analyze the battle at Roanoke Abyss and tell me how the battle ends like this.” Spoke Seth-Iavow furiously. He hadn’t seen a single moment of the battle, he only heard how Usii-Lateh spoke his final words. “Your calculations of ninety-nine per cent odds that the enemy perishes at Roanoke, are incorrect. They still live but warrior Usii-Lateh no longer does. Our disappointment in you is... Unnerving.” War Leader Seth-Iavow spoke with his harshest tone possible to clarify how serious the artificial intelligence’s failure was.
“Affirmative.” Responded QAI. When it mentioned the odds that Leython Dygonn died, QAI explicitly said the words ‘Ninety-nine per cent’. Although the final part of the hundred would be an excuse to the Seraphim War-Leader as to why he had lost one of his commandoes, QAI didn’t mention it. Unknown parameters had told that the enemy could escape, but not that they actually make a stand and even kill the Seraphim pilot.
Every calculation contradicted the outcome of the battle completely. QAI therefore searched for parameters in the battle itself, that weren’t included in its expansive work on Dygonn and the men who fought with him. One particular event sparked QAI’s interest: how was it possible that Usii-Lateh’s shields suddenly lacked the energy to function properly?
Within three milliseconds, QAI analyzed the few minutes of fighting before the Seraphim shield generators collapsed. It searched carefully in the myriad of data, something that would never be done in a normal battle, since normal battles didn’t include unexplainable events. The artificial intelligence searched for the reason of the sudden loss of power and had found it.
“At a certain moment, the enemy reverses the quantum leeching device’s effects.” Said QAI while it showed the video feed for Seth-Iavow, not a second after it complied to the War-Leader’s orders.
“This restores the enemy’s income, while it disrupts commando Usii-Latheh’s mass extractors and power generators. It allows Cybran commander Leython Dygonn and UEF major Josh Funky to teleport to his base and strike at their best moment. Here is Usii-Lateh, he stands in the middle of his strategic missile production facility. His four missile silos are directly next to him, one in each direction. Dygonn uses this to his advantage, destroys the silos and incapacitates Usii-Lateh while major Josh Funky covers for him.
Now, Dygonn takes the closest defence silo out of commission and then they both leave. A nuclear missile from Jeff Lancet can no longer be stopped and that will kill Usii-Lateh.” QAI concluded and it closed the video file, leaving the War-Leader’s screen blank.
“Is that all?”
“Affirmative. Dygonn is known for his teleportation actions. He uses it to deal with strategic missile silos, defence silos, experimental weapons that are still under construction. Anything of such significance that he can destroy before his ACU gives in to his enemy’s fire. Analysis shows that Usii-Lateh’s strategic silos and therefore his ACU are completely safe from harm, until the coalition forces suddenly reverse the quantum leeching device’s effects, which completely shuts down the shield generators.”
“Your information about Dygonn’s teleportation activities is not incorrect. Your reports accumulate up to twelve ACUs that are destroyed, ACUs of you or the Order. Other commanders do the same. We will need protection against that.”
“Your scientists have carefully developed the wake tower that prevents anyone within the vicinity from using a quantum gate. I suggest to upgrade it to teleportation level.” Said QAI.
“We will work on that. QAI, your databases and our technology are both necessary for that. Inform the scientists of the new requirement for the wake generator and assist them.”
“Complying.” The single word sounded from the metallic voice that came from Seraphim ACU’s sound systems.
“I have another task for you.”
“Find out how the coalition forces can reverse the quantum leeching device’s effects. You said there was no defence against it, as soon as it strikes. That is where your calculations fail this time and that is where you need to improve or we have to abandon this useful and powerful weapon.”
At the Coalition’s HQ, the quantum device’s latest performance raised interested but also disturbed questions about its origin and about what Sung still had to offer, even after more than eight hundred years.
“The device’s protocols have adapted as soon as QAI downloaded it into its database. A program has been added that reverses the effects.” Said the Symbiont named Djinn while he looked closely at several details in the vast virus’ software. “QAI could analyze the battle data and compile such a program on its own, but that would only work on the data it has now.”
“On its own data, you mean?” Asked Marisa. “That would make sense. The Quantum AI has got no information about a possible alternate version of this virus and cannot anticipate on that. It has nothing on the reversing program, only that it exists and therefore it has to find a solution stop it. It simply cannot do that.”
“Well, technically, it can.” Answered Djinn. “But since this is a quantum virus, with its own powerful encryption, QAI will have a hard time cracking it. Right now, I’m only talking about getting a reversing program from only the original virus. But it can be done differently. Just wait until the program strikes again or gather the data from the last moments of that Seraphim unit, analyze everything and then create its own answer. Of course, it has to crack some encryption. It’ll be hard for QAI, but it can be done.”
“So, you claim that QAI can compile a resolving program to eliminate the virus’ effects that come against it on the battlefield, even if it lacks fifty per cent of the data?”
“Exactly. The words artificial intelligence are well-put for QAI. It is very close to a human being in the way it ‘thinks’. It’ll be a philosophical question to answer if we could really say it thinks, but from a practical point of view we can say that it does. It cracks codes at an amazing speed. That can’t be done with the brute-force method like normal computers do. The problem is, QAI needs a lot of data from the battlefield. Data it might not be able to access right now. That’s why I said it may require the program to strike again.”
“The harder the code is, the longer the artificial intelligence will take to resolve it.” Said Marisa. Djinn nodded and she went on with her thoughts. “Based on the data it has, it will try to overcome the reversing program and compile a better one by itself. If that happens, we are back to the issues we had before general Clarke went to Sung Island.”
“Yes, that’s our hypothetical situation. If it does happen, we’re going to have to do the same, which is impossible. We’re better than QAI if it comes down to thinking and reasoning, but we don’t have its enormous databases and massive processing arrays. What that computer can do in a few seconds, is something a person needs thousands of years for. Now don’t even think about what it takes to do something QAI might need days for, something as sophisticated and extensive as these viruses.”
“Well, as long as the virus can only multiply itself in our systems by reclamation, we don’t have very much to worry about.” Said officer Jason Tinsen while he stood up from his own chair and looked at Djinn and Marisa. “Just don’t reclaim and you’ll be fine.”
“It does put us in a disadvantage though.” Said Jeff, who just joined the others. “If we can’t reclaim their destroyed tanks, but they can reclaim ours, we’re lacking resources compared to them.”
“It all depends on who has access to the final reversing program. That faction will be able to control the phantom device at the end. Those commanders control the resource flow on the field.” Concluded Marisa.
“We should get back to Sung Island.” Said Djinn after a few seconds of silence. “How can the old node compile a process of reversing the device’s effects even though QAI has improved the basic virus? Should we think this is luck?”
“Impossible.” Said Tinsen while and he turned to the Symbiont. “You told about what you saw on his screen. The console there stated that the program was successfully upgraded to stop QAI.”
“That would mean that the Quantum AI indeed has improved it, otherwise the node’s mainframe did not have to upgrade the reversing program. It also means that mainframe is more than just a mainframe. This could be an artificial intelligence as well.” Said Marisa.
“Yes, how else could it upgrade our program to successfully stop QAI?” Asked Djinn. “Even if you program a computer very well and let it check the upgraded virus, you still face one to a trillion odds that it doesn’t work against the updates QAI has made. There are just too many options. To many possibilities to upgrade that virus.
We’ve got its efficiency, its speed, its ability to propagate and the one thing that’s QAI will most probably take a look at now: its security. But there’s another thing. QAI might need several days to reproduce the reversing program, simply because it lacks an extensive amount of data. How long would Sung’s mainframe have taken to do the same?”
“I’ve got an even more intriguing question.” Said William Doyle and all heads turned in his direction. “How is it possible that the program immediately showed up as soon as we plugged this data chip in?” He asked and he showed the chip Lucia took with her from earth. Her mother had given it to her and that was all they knew about it.
“If that thing was the key to all this, something we can be certain about...” Started Marisa... “This is complicated, even by the standards Leython and I hold. Mister Doyle, you said that plugging the chip in started a procedure that compiled several files together into the reversing program. It means that this chip held the key to creating it. Perhaps its parts were not ready at the moment the chip was made, but this means that the key can be eight hundred years old.”
Doyle made a sceptical noise but Marisa already knew that her theory was far-fetched. However, she also knew that there were a couple of far-fetched facts to the story. Facts that could not be denied.
“Perhaps the Sung node provided shelter to people even after its founders left it, we have to find that out, but we have to admit that this chip has made it to Earth before the Seraphim invaded. How can it be that someone saw this coming, at least one and a half year in advance, made this and created a reversing program, only to put it in such a risk? If commander Temera could not save the girl, what would have happened? What is the answer? Did anyone, human or artificial intelligence, anticipate on this and if so, did that one know Lucia would survive with the chip? What else could it be? Asked Marisa as she looked at the disturbed faces.
They already admitted it could not be luck but when did QAI download and upgrade the original virus? When was the reversing program built? How can a chip with a sole purpose be sent to earth even though it takes time before its purpose was known. Marisa heard that Lucia’s mother told it was important. It meant that she, or anyone before her had to know what it was for. The longer Marisa would think about it, the less plausible her ideas were.
“It’s impossible to answer that at this moment, we’ll have to take a look at it.” Said Tinsen and Marisa suddenly realised she was still in a room with others. “Unfortunately, we can be sure that the Quantum AI will have Sung Island in observation now. It has possibly sent five armoured command units there, so we don’t have a chance of going back.”
“Perhaps not.” Replied the Aeon pilot immediately. “But we do have another location where we could take a look: Betrayal Ocean.”
“Edward? Get here right now!” Sephia had told her son to come with her for dinner some minutes ago and still he didn’t show up. She knew how much he hated the Cybran ‘food’. However, he always showed up when his mother told him to. He always hoped that some commanders would have brought some food from Aeon territories during a raid on the Order.
“Edward!” Anger turned into fear because she knew Edward would come right away if she raised her voice. It could only mean that he wasn’t in his room and a quick look confirmed her thoughts. Sephia didn’t hesitate for a moment and stood outside before she knew what she was doing.
Then she realized that she would be searching for a needle in a haystack and if she was to find her son in the community of more than two hundred thousand people. Only if she was lucky, but she didn’t expect to be, she’d run into Edward by walking down the alley.
Sephia wanted to go back in her apartment but suddenly knew where her son would be, even though they hadn’t seen each other today yet.
Three minutes later, she was welcomed by Harm Dygonn.
“Of course he’s here.” Whispered Harm before Sephia could even ask her. “I already told Lucia that commander Temera didn’t make it and she didn’t take the news well. Edward showed up only moments after I told her. He heard we won the battle, but with losses. He said he checked the list and ran downstairs as soon as he could.”
Sephia saw her eight year old son and his friend playing a game before she looked directly at Harm and whispered back: “Should I get some food for all of us? I wanted to go to the mess hall with him but it might be better for them not to hear the name of commander Temera, which they will undoubtedly do if we go there.”
“Harm, it’s your turn.” Interrupted Edward suddenly.
Harm already turned around before he answered Sephia. “Yeah, you could get some food, we’ll be busy for the next hour.” He said evasively, the children could hear him very well.
“I hope we’ve got some more than the usual.” Said Lucia quickly. “Could you please look for something from home?”
Even before Sephia made it to the mess hall, she heard people mentioning the names of the fallen. However, judging by the tone of the conversations, no one in the hallways and alleys had suffered a personal loss. They were only worried about the protection they still had. Would that be enough?
It wasn’t until she actually made it to one of the lower levels that she heard someone speaking of commander Temera in a personal way.
“Eric saved a little girl on Earth. He risked his life by staying there for just a minute longer and because of that, this girl still lives. Because of that, we were able to eventually stop the quantum device and leave. That means Eric had not only saved a girl, but he saved us as well.”
Sephia moved on without realizing that the one who was speaking was major Josh Funky. He and Selene Elenes were going the other way. The two commanders were off duty, as well as the others who survived the battle, but they actually used their time to get to know each other better.
“So how was it inside Order territory?” Asked Josh suddenly. Caught off guard by the sudden change of subject, Selene spent a minute thinking of how she should explain it.
“It was... bad. To say the least. I wish I could tell you.” She eventually said. Her tone shocked Josh.
“Is it that horrific? That you actually got a trauma from it?” Before he finished his question, Selene already shook her head.
“No, it is not bad in that way. It is complicated to explain. That might also be the reason as to why it is easy for the UEF and the Cybran Nation to form an alliance, but issues arouse when the Loyalists join. The cultures differ too much.”
“Many just don’t trust Aeon pilots simply because we all know that the Order supports the Seraphim. You could do the same.”
“Then we would not be here. If it were to be that, we would have stayed away from coalition HQ. Even worse, if all Loyalists would support the order instead of fighting it, they would have served Avatar-of-War Marxon and helped him win the war.” Said Selene calmly.
“Yes, I understand.” Replied Josh quickly. “That’s not the problem and I don’t think it would be, although several people do. The biggest problem I see is the history.”
“That is indeed the issue for the coalition. Aeon commanders have executed nothing but cleansing operations in the past. It has always to do with the so-called superiority of The Way. Our civilians have never seen so much activity from the Cybrans or the UEF in our territory, but the Aeon military has always searched to cleanse as many souls as possible. With Marxon as Avatar-of-War, that made it to a whole new and terrifying level. It is why the Aeon are feared and deserve to be hated.”
“How do you know so much about it? If it were like that, why did you still work for Marxon such a long time.”
“Because of our society. As children, we are already taught about The Way. Our teachers are specialized and we frequently saw priests. Aside from that, everything in the community is based on harmony, truth, trust and peace.” Selene said and she took a pause.
“That doesn’t sound really bad to begin with. I’d even want to live there if it weren’t for the association with oppression, cleansing and... How did you call it? Superiority of The Way?”
“That is the exact problem. We learn so much from our teachers, priests and family, that we soon think they have an answer for everything. Through the years, the answers always came, but it always referred to The Way.”
“I don’t see that as a big deal to begin with. I mean, it may be a bit narrow-minded but that completely depends on your philosophy of The Way to begin with. Does that make the people narrow-minded or not?” Asked Josh, hoping Selene wouldn’t become angry because he accidentally called The Way narrow-minded.
“It doesn’t.” Answered Selene in the most serene tone possible. “But it does make us naive and easy to manipulate.”
“We both already mentioned it: Superiority. Because the priests, teachers and parents can explain anything to you, you believe them right away when they tell you to live as The Way tells you to. Not a problem on its own, but anything you can explain just by mentioning those two words will be believed right away. Especially by children.
“You can indoctrinate them. Propaganda would work.” Said Josh, remembering the way little boys were mesmerized when they walked in the ACUs hangars in an introduction program.
“Exactly, but that is still no real problem when you are young. By the time that you finish your education, you have seen so many priests and evaluators speaking the truth. Everything they say will turn out to be correct. When you find that out, you will no longer question them. That is when it goes wrong because that is the exact moment joining the Aeon military is an option. If we were not allowed to follow a piloting program before we were twenty-three years old, we might have had so many different experiences that we no longer take anything a superior claims.
But as eighteen-year olds, who have just left the perfectly safe and secure environment, the words of Avatar-of-War Marxon sounded perfect. Sacrificing the lives of every UEF citizen and every abomination, as he always said when he referred to the Symbionts, was the only way to end the Infinite War. Otherwise, the war would go on endlessly and eventually kill more and more Aeon lives.”
“I think that what I’m about to say has been said many times before.” Josh said as he finally understood what Selene was trying to explain. “That technically, he is correct. Sacrificing a hundred people so you are able to save two hundred, perhaps even ten years later, seems to be the best thing to do.”
“Absolutely. But as you mouthed the word ‘seems’, you have already shown that you look further, you are smarter than many of us who when we just joined the Aeon military training. You ask questions.”
“Then I’ve got another one. How can it be that Marxon, who undoubtedly has no superiors in his own army, has not asked these questions by himself?”
“I do not know. I do not know enough about the Avatar-of-War to tell you. However, it is not important. What we do know is how much power he managed to gain. I dare to say that he had more influence than princess Rhianne Burke at the end of the Infinite War. Because he had a voice that is trained in The Way and because he was the best commander in history.”
“Hard to believe that such enlightenment, which it very well may be, can lead to such ignorance.”
“I prefer not to say that word.” Said Selene and for the first time she seemed a little bit irritated. “But it is true. We are enlightened but we forget one thing. No, two actually. The first is that we must never forget to ask questions and the second is that enlightenment does not guarantee you that you are better than anyone else.”
“With the Avatar dead.” Josh said, moving on to the invasion of the Seraphim. “The princess told what we wanted to hear. Peace for the UEF. Freedom for the Cybran Nation. Why has no one picked that up in the Aeon community? I can understand that, after the marks that Marxon left behind on the people, not many citizens will understand the words of the princess immediately. Most will be shocked at first but surely some will understand?”
“I had hoped that the words of the princess would come to the hearts of the best evaluators and that did happen in some occasions. Yet again, it is only the most powerful one who can seize control and Kael was more at the hand of Avatar Marxon than any other evaluator. She ignored it and immediately joined forces with the Seraphim as they arrived.” Said Selene, with her eyes cast down.
“To make matters worse, the princess disappeared. It is said that she perished, rumours that are apparently contradicted by the Loyalists. Marisa Gawain, who could also have become the princess of the Illuminate, could not ascent because Kael was too fast. So you see that the only reasonable voices with influence are unable to do anything, while the founders of The Way have just returned. Given our history, it is absolutely not surprising that it ended like this.”
In just one second, the fragile but highly volatile building exploded and took the three others with it in its blast. The alien ACU stood in the middle of the four explosions that merged in one sudden outburst.
Instantly, the ACU’s legs were blown apart and its torso came crashing to the ground. The Seraphim weapon was powerful and had an incredible regenerative system but that didn’t mean it was invulnerable.
“With all of those advanced systems, you’d expect them to think of a safety mechanism for when those missile silos blow up.” Said Josh while he started building a tier two shield generator at the exact spot where one of the silos first stood. The blast was big enough to tear the whole building apart and not leave any wreckage behind.
The alien command unit was nearly unrecognizable. It had not only lost its legs but most of the armour was blown away as well. All of its upgrades were gone but the core was still unscarred.
“I bet that I’ll still get that laser back if I target it.” Said Leython while he planted an overcharge bolt between the two siege tanks that came rushing to help their master.
“He’s still conscious as well, he’s actively sending units to help himself.” Replied Josh while he constructed another shield generator. “I bet you’ve got a way to kill him?”
“Jeff, launch. We’re going back to base before those destroyers and that battleship tear us down.”
While Josh activated his teleportation module again, he looked at his radar and searched for the Seraphim battleship amongst the destroyers that were already there, until Leython showed him how the slow but devastating Aeon experimental moved towards the Seraphim island.
Leython waited for the alien shield generators to collapse because of the power shortage, then fired the microwave laser once again before he ordered his commander to leave too.
In the meanwhile, Jeff’s strategic missile was airborne and while the Seraphim frantically tried to get its legs back through his basic regenerative systems, Josh left and a few seconds later, Leython followed him.
“The Seraphim commander is the only one with air superiority fighters. Shilon, you’re going to build torpedo bombers, Jeff, you keep concentrating on nuclear missiles and add tier three fighters to your list. Marisa, Selene, continue building your fleet, go south and attack from there. Josh, do the usual, transports with land units. I’ll build strategic bombers.”
By the time Leython had explained everything, Jeff’s strategic missile arrived directly above the Seraphim ACU and turned around. Three seconds later, it exploded and took the commander with it in its blast. The golden flames of the UEF missile met the blue bedazzling arcs Leython recognized as the Seraphim core that exploded. He had seen it at the moment the first UEF , enlightening the whole of Roanoke Abyss.
“HQ, this is Leython Dygonn, Seraphim commander destroyed, we will concentrate on the Order forces now.”
“Commander Dygonn, what will you do if another Seraphim arrives?” asked the HQ officer immediately.
“He won’t.” Answered Leython simply. “That wake generator will have a pretty bad effect for the oncoming ten or twenty minutes, even though it is destroyed. What’s keeping us in here, will keep them out.”
A second strategic missile exploded and filled the sky. It was targeted at Halley’s fleet but she was smart enough to disperse the ships and thanks to her speed, the missile didn’t destroy anything. Moments later, some air superiority fighters arrived and three were shot down immediately by the shard boats and tier two cruisers that had responded at the first sight.
Out of nowhere, five strategic bombers appeared, Halley immediately recognized that they were protected by their own stealth generators. They dropped their payload before the ships could fire again and each bomb sunk one cruiser.
The air units immediately moved on to a second group of ships, this time without decoy. Halley ordered each cruiser to target one and they succeeded, taking them all out, but only shortly after they dropped a new bomb. Halley’s second squad was left with only the shard boats as anti-air support.
She immediately tried to pack all ships together again, before her third and last group could be destroyed, but she was too late.
The traitors had protected their islands carefully and didn’t lose so much in the last assault. As a result, they arrived with a fleet larger than Halley’s and that one wasn’t split up in three parts. The ships charged without even stopping to use range as an advantage. Eight oblivion cannons struck at the same time, instantly sinking a destroyer.
After twenty seconds, the ships were so close that they targeted each other with torpedoes. The enemy destroyers used their decoys well and Halley saw all of her own ships’ torpedoes missing. What she didn’t expect was that her decoys were potent enough to attract the enemy weapons, but then she saw why they changed course. The naval battle took place directly above Diona’s ACU. The stream struck her command unit and the core ruptured immediately.
Due to the pressure at such depth, the explosion didn’t seem to ripple the water surface, leaving all ships completely unharmed. However, that was the least for Halley to worry about.
Out of nowhere, several torpedo bombers appeared and struck at the two groups that were relatively safe from the traitors’ fleet. Without any defence, they were matchless.
Since the torpedo bombers came as a surprise, Halley knew they had lost all intel near the naval battle. A new group of Cybran strategic bombers was probably the cause, she thought.
“Templar!” The sudden cry from knight Ledia made Halley realise that it was going the wrong way even faster than she’d thought at the moment the Seraphim pilot perished. “My island’s defences are compromised. I am being overrun!”
Halley reacted immediately despite of her own problems. “Knight Cera, support with all of your gunships. I will be sending the few ships I have left. We have ten minutes left to hold out, then we are back on Seraphim Two.”
Cera sent the air units she had while the tier one UEF artillery on Ledia’s island systematically took out all of the anti-air towers in range. They completed their task just before the gunships arrived. The few tanks in the group found an omni sensor and destroyed it with a couple of shots, blinding the Order forces at Ledia’s base.
Jeff’s tier three fighters had no stealth generators in their design but since Josh had destroyed the enemy radar, the UEF captain didn’t have to worry about being detected. At the moment the first few Aeon gunships fired, they were intercepted by a dozen Wasp air superiority fighters. The sudden attack didn’t overwhelm the Aeon Spectres but the enemy didn’t have any means of defence and the fighters were left unopposed.
While the squad of gunships quickly lost its firepower, the Lobo artilleries simply destroyed every shield generator on the island and continued on the mass extractors. Within a couple of minutes, Ledia’s base was reduced to a pile of rubble.
Leython sent his new strategic bombers to circumvent the Order frontline that was still relatively intact and ended up at Cera’s island. The bombers found the only two strategic missile defences on the island and dropped their payload. The shields succumbed to the first bombs and let a few through. In an instant, the defence silos were destroyed.
Jeff immediately launched three strategic missiles and as a response, Cera moved away from her base. She left the safety of the shield generators that didn’t collapse and her ACU stepped in the water. At the moment she thought the distance was enough to survive the nukes, a vast number of fresh torpedo bombers appeared and dropped an evenly vast group of torpedoes.
The explosion from Cera’s ACU was nothing compared to the blast from Jeff’s three nukes, that had exploited the weak points on Aldesse’s island. The weapons left a few structures and the command unit intact. The Order commander tried to rebuild her base but was forced to retreat.
Marisa Gawain and Selene Elenes had surrounded her with their fleets. Destroyers charged their guns, fired and Aldesse tried to evade the shots. Plasma bolts exploded everywhere around her and damaged her ACU, but caused no major problem, but then she ran out of luck when several shots hit the command unit directly, causing critical damage to her core. A few more ruptured it and caused it to explode. The third order commander was dead.
In the meanwhile, Ledia had barely escaped the myriad of Josh’s artillery fire and now stood in the water, only to meet the torpedo bombers that had killed Cera. She walked back on the shore again and immediately faced a squad of tier two heavy tanks. She fired an overcharged shot that was blocked by the only shield generator in the middle of her execution squad. A group of tier one bombers only quickened her death. Halley and Taelia were the only ones left.
Taelia tried to make it to safety by retreating to her second base in the outer circle. A moment after she arrived, a Cybran ACU stood behind her. Neither the Order commander nor Leython Dygonn wasted any moment and commenced the one-to-one battle. Taelia had a few tier two point defences that struck the Cybran ACU but it was nothing to the crimson coloured beam that hit hers. She retreated towards her closest shield for a few seconds extra time. Without a personal shield generator though, she had no chance of making it and Leython closed his eyes so he wouldn’t be blinded by the explosion.
Halley was hidden under her own experimental battleship, hoping that the torpedo bombers would target that for the last minute she had to wait before she could leave Roanoke Abyss by the Order’s recall system. Her enemies were too fast though. Strategic bombers were ordered to target the water above the submerged ship and a group of fifteen brought it down in moments.
The battleship sunk slowly and allowed Halley to make a run for it, which was of no use. Another group of torpedo bombers, built by every member of the coalition forces, arrived and destroyed her ACU without any remorse.
As soon as Leython entered the hangar, he heard the cheering and celebrating technicians and officers through the audio channel of his ACU. He wasn’t in the mood for any celebration though. They had lost nine commanders. Nine people fighting for the future of the human race. Nine men, all with their own story. They had lost talented commanders who were recruited only a year ago, but also some experienced pilots and one of the best officers from the UEF Academy of all time.
They emerged victorious and killed nine commanders, just as many as they had lost. One death was the reason for cheering at the six that had made it back: a Seraphim commander was killed. Without even knowing what he did, or noticing the all the people who congratulated with their success, Leython made his way to the generals’ office, closely followed by the three members of the five-man team he left with and the two Illuminate pilots.
Generals Clarke, Hall, brigadier Fletcher, elite-commander Dostya and doctor Brackman expected them there for a debriefing. Leython was sure that they would think of the price of their victory: a dangerous blow to their own coalition.
However, it was not the victory, nor the casualties that Hall spoke of when they had all entered the room: “The mission was to extract the important and rare resources for the cores of our ACUs. You were successful for as long as you were on Swui Four. What normally would take a few weeks for the UEF or a dozen of days for the Cybran Nation, is done much faster by you. The resources are enough to construct two new cores. The common materials such as carbon, iron and aluminium will be used for the ACU’s hull.”
Leython didn’t think about that success at all though and by a glance to his left and right, he saw that no one cared. “We lost nine commanders, sir.” Said Josh, with his eyes cast down. “We have destroyed a Seraphim pilot and eight Order commanders but we lost too much of our own men.”
“Correct, major Funky.” Answered general Clarke. “The losses are high, but the victory is still ours. You destroyed another Seraphim commander. You showed that the first victory we had, twenty-four days ago, isn’t pure luck. This increases our morale, it gives us more hope.”
“General Clarke, our mission may be a success, but we lost more commanders and ACUs than we gained.” Retorted Leython. “In pure numbers, it’s going the wrong way.”
“Leython, my boy.” Interrupted doctor Brackman. “Of course you are right, but who here expected anyone to survive such a trap? We have lost some men, but thwarted their progress. We have seen about a secret weapon at the first day they field tested it. Remember how it took the UEF and the Aeon months, even years to learn about the Monkeylord? To add to it, we thwarted their progress in warfare. We rendered the phantom device useless only moments after they introduced it to the battle. In raw ACU numbers, we lost, but in the total picture, we won.”
“Before we move on.” Said Clarke before anyone could respond. “We have two things to do. We need a new fifth member for Dygonn’s team.”
“Do I have a team all of a sudden?” Asked Leython. He knew that whenever he was on the field, he assumed command and told everyone what they had to do and he was appointed as squad leader on several occasions, but he had never actually been appointed as the commander of his own strike force.
“And we’re going to find a group of commanders you can work with. I assume that you want to meet the loyalist movement first?”
“Actually, general.” Said Leython. “The two problems can solve each other. I know Marisa... quite well. She already told me she worked with Selene a lot and knows her strengths. If I could have them in ‘my’ team, I think we could become a well-organized and powerful squad.”
“A team of six is a good idea.” Answered the general. “Colonel Stirling told me, just when you had left the Academy, that your team was the best he ever trained, Dygonn. He called you ‘his best six’ and thought everyone would make it through a life of battle at the front.”
“He was mistaken.” Said Leython. “Simon Beck is dead. Michelle Aiko died at the final battle of the Infinite War and Eric Temera was killed just an hour ago.”
“Three of you are still alive. In the last decade of the war, at three or four out of the six commanders from the Academy died within two years. You six were really the best we had. Three of you are still left and you work very well with your fourth man. Since you know the two Aeon pilots already, I won’t be surprised if you can not only restore the best six to its former glory, but surpass its qualities. We mustn’t forget the price of victory, you are right about that, but we also mustn’t forget the prize of victory. We lost nine men, but we gained a team.”
“Leython, the general is right.” Said Selene suddenly. “As soon as the Seraphim commander perished, Halley’s team fell faster than anyone could possibly imagine. That is only possible if everyone works in perfect harmony. We did exactly as you ordered, while making the right decisions on our own, and the result of that is a force to be reckoned with.”
“Yes, you’re right.” Answered Leython immediately. He sighed. “I am thinking too much of the men we lost today. It felt like I was getting weak. Some years ago, back in the UEF, I didn’t even think about pilots we lost. I only continued, fighting on more determined than before.”
“You are becoming more human.” Replied Marisa. “And you might not have thought about what you would do after the battle.”
“That must be it. I have been busy lately. Like everyone else.”
“But we don’t have any time to rest,” interrupted general Clarke, “so you’d better get to introduce yourself to each other. Go to the medical centre first, we would’ve gotten you there first if this battle wasn’t so important. Then, you can really form your new team of six.”
As they left the room, major Josh Funky was the first one to regain his confidence and sense of humour, as he briefly forgot about the price they paid for their victory. “You’re going to be our commander now Leython, with your own team. That means that you’d be a major or colonel by the UEF ranking standards.”
Finally, Leython had some words that really cheered him up and made him think of what they had gained by this battle. “Good to see you agree with me being your superior. My first order is to get me some tea as soon as we’re done with this medical check-up.”
“Excuse me.” interrupted Selene and Leython heard a trace of fear in her voice. “Are you two usually like this?”
“Oh yeah.” Said the four men at the same time. “All four of us actually.”
“You’ll love it.” Continued Josh happily. “Welcome to Stirling’s new team of Six.
Again, it prepared its payload while it shot the last tier three fighter. Leython ordered his air units to move under the bomber’s ring and they arrived at the exact moment the weapon dropped its bomb. The bomb hit several spy planes and two tier two transports, causing it to tear itself apart and explode. Instantly, all spy planes crashed to the ground but the Seraphim bomber itself took some extensive damage as well. The rear engine looked like it could explode right away and the regenerative systems seemed to have slowed down.
At the same moment he ordered his planes to fly under the bomber, Leython aimed his ACU’s gun in the air and fired an overcharged shot moments later. That shot hit the bomber in its heart. A gigantic flash surged through the entire vessel and caused a chain reaction of explosions everywhere.
The Seraphim commander decided to call his unit back to his base but as it turned, it met the majority of the UEF and Cybran cruisers Leython ordered to be recalled. The cruisers used their SAM sites to the maximum and missile after missile hit the bomber where it was badly damaged already.
The sudden storm proved to be too much for it and it crashed on Eric’s island. The UEF commander moved several engineers in right away and ordered it to be reclaimed...
“Knight Diona, the enemy fleet has left your primary island but is now converging to the very location you have taken your refuge. You will be forced to flee again.” Said Aldesse, Diona’s closest ally. Aldesse had frantically tried to destroy the enemy fleet with hers but even inhuman experience in micro management couldn’t help such a small group of ships. Within a minute, Marisa’s and Selene’s fleets had decimated hers and afterwards, they both went their own way.
Selene’s ships went to the south-easternmost island of the Roanoke archipelago while Marisa paid attention to the southernmost one. Both commanders used all of their submarines to stop the seraphim hunter ships.
It proved to be of no use. The Seraph sent his own submarines straight through the lines of his enemies, moving on to the bulk of their navy. While the high-tech weapons ploughed forward, they continuously fired their guns, sending torpedoes and torpedo decoys everywhere.
The Aeon Sylph subs were potent weapons and they were very capable of destroying any tier one fleet, while they could keep up with a group of tier two vessels in large numbers. However, it was obvious that they were no match for the Seraphim weapon that was designed to destroy them.
The Seraphim torpedoes easily penetrated the Sylph’s armour and exploded moments ago, leaving ruptured metal behind to sink to the bottom of the abyss. Still, the hunter ships were too late. Aeon Destroyers decimated the southernmost and the south-easternmost islands with ease while knight Diona took off in a transport.
Unknown to all, the Symbiont pilot Iden had navigated several Gemini fighters through and around the web of omni sensors that the Order commanders and the Seraphim pilot had. They were hidden from all sensors until they suddenly appeared directly behind the transport Diona used to escape.
The air superiority fighters fired once and their missiles hit the transport immediately. The tail armour was torn apart while the engines exploded. Missing its tail, the craft fell in a cyclonal drop and crashed in the water three seconds later.
Knight Diona tried to stabilize her ACU and keep it with its feet down, hoping to be able to walk away after she had hit the ground. It turned out to be idle hope, as her ACU did everything but standing straight up while it sank deeper and deeper in the water. Diona noticed that she’d exceed the maximum pressure the ACU could withstand if it would take longer, but the weak thuds told her that she had hit the ocean floor, which was the only thing she could see from her cockpit.
“I am all right, for the moment.” She said through her channels. I do not think I will be back on the field soon though. I am still able to command my army but it takes a long time before my ACU is back on its feet and even longer before I am able to walk on the islands again.”
Until she looked on her tactical screens, she didn’t notice the harmonic depth charges that were dropped in the water and slowly made their way towards her ACU. “I have depth charges incoming for me! Those things are everywhere!”
Knight Taelia tried to help by sending in her air superiority fighters but shortly after they took off, they were intercepted by a group of Gemini that supposedly escaped after they shot Diona’s air transport. Taelia ignored them but the Cybran fighters tailed her Corona class planes, shooting one after another. When they finally arrived to deal with the enemy Aeon torpedo bombers, the group had lost half of its firepower.
While they destroyed the torpedo bombers, it seemed that Diona was safe from danger because all of the units she had left were still operational, but somehow, her cockpit transmission had ended.
Only the pilot herself and the Choir members could directly access information from her ACU’s statistics. It took some time before Halley’s contact on Seraphim Two responded. Her eyes were full of shock as she spoke: “Her cockpit armour has been breached. It could withstand the high pressure but as soon as the traitor Gawain sent her torpedo bombers’ depth charges loose, the armour gave in. It destroyed the cockpit and water surged in. She did not stand a chance. I am sorry.”
The battle seemed to go better again, shortly after the deaths of Stirling and the four commanders holding the eastern front. One of the Order commanders was dead but her ACU had not exploded. Only the cockpit was destroyed. She was unable to give her units any orders and so they were easily targeted by anything that outranged them. Her mass extractors and power generators automatically transferred their excess resources to the other Order pilots but it reduced those structures’ efficiency because they were also sending resources to their own factories and because they couldn’t be upgraded.
Major Funky was about to think that they could actually defeat the Seraphim commander without losing another man, but at that moment came captain Temera with alarming news: “I’m losing resources without any reason! Mass and energy are being drained. Both are down by fifty per cent!”
“How can this –” Started Josh Funky but Shilon already had an answer: “The Phantom device! Leython and I have been at Sung Island and found out that warlord Sung had developed a weapon that can drain resources from the enemy and transfer it to himself. Basically, it’s a sort of virus.”
“How could that even get to us?” Asked Jeff Lancet, fearing that if it was a virus, it could easily duplicate itself and infect the other commanders.
“Eric, you reclaimed that experimental bomber, didn’t you?” Asked Leython. “That’s how the virus must’ve spread.”
“Leython, are you saying that they haven’t been able to spread it via the smaller units? Sung managed to do that.”
“I don’t care what the Seraphim aren’t capable of while Sung could do it. I only care about how we’re going to get out of this mess. We need to solve the problem!” Said Eric before Leython could respond.
“This is Dygonn to HQ.” Said Leython after he heard Eric’s words. “Commander Temera is infected by the quantum leeching device, designed by warlord Sung. I bet QAI managed to analyze and reproduce it. You have to find a way to eliminate the effects we’re suffering now.”
“Can you give additional information about this quantum leeching device, commander Dygonn?”
“Ask doctor Brackman! We’re kind of busy in here!” Answered Leython. “Just get to it, set every available technician on it and get a team to Sung Island or Betrayal Ocean!”
“Understood sir.” Answered the officer at coalition HQ. A few seconds later, he relayed Leython’s orders to the generals of the UEF and the father of the Cybran Nation.
Brackman’s brief and quickly told story stunned Clarke more than anything else that had happened in the past few years. “So this device actually does exist?”
“Yes, it does. You did not send three men to their doom for nothing, general.” Answered the doctor. “That doesn’t make any difference. We would never have found out how to reproduce it and turn the war in our favour. That was my only goal back then and it was idle hope to expect them to succeed. I still am responsible for their deaths, how childish and obnoxious they may have been when they failed.” Said Clarke harshly.
“I will not make that same mistake again. I’ll go in person, but I need two more commanders to assist me. Preferably one who is known with the strange Cybran technology.”
“We will send a technical team with you. We will send them immediately so they can start right away, then you will only have to worry about their safety. Sending them later will only increase the risk of anyone of us getting caught by QAI.” Said Brackman.
Clarke wanted to go immediately, but they were interrupted by a Cybran guard. “Doctor, generals. I’ve got a man and a girl who want to speak with you. They said it had to do with a certain Phantom device.”
“Let them in.” Answered Clarke immediately and she spoke again while Harm Dygonn and a little girl entered the room. “Harm Dygonn? Tell me what you’ve got.”
“General, this is Lucia.” Said Harm and he pointed at the girl. “When my son and commander Temera rescued her while they retreated from Earth, they found out she had a data chip. Her mother had given it to her. That was all she remembered. Until today, when she heard the term “phantom” through the channels.”
“What does it have to do with the chip?” Asked Clarke impatiently. Every moment wasted here was one closer to the deaths of the coalition commanders at Roanoke Abyss.
This time, it was Lucia who answered. “The only thing my mother said was that it had to do with the phantom device. That I had to remember that very well. I’m sorry I forgot.”
“Don’t be, my girl, don’t be.” Answered doctor Brackman in a reassuring tone. He had seen more atrocities in the war than anyone else and he wasn’t surprised that the only thing the six year old girl remembered about the data chip was that it was the last thing her mother gave to her.
“I’ll take the chip with me and see if it is of any use.” Said Clarke and she left the room.
“Dygonn.” whispered general Hall so that even Brackman’s audio sensors barely picked his voice up. “How is it possible that a six year old can eavesdrop on our channels and follow what we are doing?”
“She didn’t.” Answered Harm calmly. “I heard it while I was in the control room. I knew more about the quantum leeching device because Leython told me about it so I rushed to see you here. She was waiting in an alley that isn’t restricted and heard several officers mentioning the words ‘phantom’ and ‘Sung’. At that moment she remembered what she had to do.”
Two dozen spy planes crossed the Seraphim pilot’s island, their commander hoped to find a weakness in its defences and he was lucky. “There are four strategic missile silos standing adjacent to each other. They form a perfect square. Destroying one of them will lay waste to that part of the base and cause several shields to collapse.” Said Leython. “When that happens, we bring in as many units as we’ve got and try to take any other shield generator and missile defence structure.”
“Should I build strategic missile silos?” Asked Jeff. He didn’t even wait for Leython to nod but started building two right away.
“We will draw the alien commander’s attention to the seas.” Said Marisa. Our Asylum shield units will provide some extra defence for our ships. If he is occupied with that, you should be able to plan a surprise attack.”
“Thanks, Marisa.” Replied Leython. “We’ll concentrate on the Order front in the meantime.”
Samantha Clarke gazed down upon Sung Island. It was the first time in her life to be in this sector. At the moment she saw it, she knew it was a desolate place, despite for the fact that the island had a small town in its crater. It was Bidard Sung’s first settlement, from where he had hoped to rule over a powerful and infamous Cybran node. Apart from that, Brackman was telling her that the scientific genius used his own inventions in order to succeed and that his own greed and children that made him fail.
“Since then, general, the so-called Phantom Node was left deserted. Powerful technology and algorithms have turned this place into a self-preserving island. Today, the engineers our Cybran commanders use live here to keep the place under control. Leython and Shilon have found out that the node has mainframes and factories deep underground, so that even if you obliterate everything on the surface with nuclear bombs, the node will survive and rebuild itself.”
“Doctor, is there any chance of the node attacking us?” Asked Clarke as soon as she heard that the node could restore any damage automatically.
“No, it will not. It will allow you here, it allows you to enter and it even allows you to wage war on its island, although its automated defences will be activated then.”
“Understood, but I’ll send some tanks and artillery in first, to be sure about those defences. Then I’ll send the team in. We will continue our bases and turn this place into a giant fortress in the meantime.”
Five minutes later, the assembled team, lead by William Doyle, stood in the central building’s main hall. He couldn’t get access at first, but the doors had opened after a Cybran stood in front of them.
“Djinn, Tinsen, access those two consoles right away. I’ll see if I can plug that chip in somewhere.” He said and less than a minute later, he found himself with a gigantic amount of information.
“General Clarke, this is Doyle. I plugged the chip in and it activated some sort of procedure. It compiled different sources of code, changed them and it’s putting them all together in one program. It’s ready to download data but it needs more space. It’s requesting to write it to an ACU’s core as a new program or protocol.”
The Symbiont called Djinn ran towards William Doyle and took a look at it. Seeing his puzzled face, Doyle was sure he wouldn’t be getting an answer soon if no one else had a good idea. The tech expert had one though, and he typed two words on the console’s keyboard: document, help.
The console responded with a series of instructions and Doyle told the UEF general what it was about. “It’s a program to reverse the quantum leeching device’s effect. Turning our problem into an advantage. This single program is all we need, but it might be a bit old.”
“Is it going to work on Temera’s ACU?” Asked Clarke immediately. She was sure that the program would work against Sung’s virus. QAI had probably adjusted it for Seraphim ACUs but if it hadn’t found out about the program that would kill the virus, then QAI wouldn’t be able to stop it.
“I don’t know.” Answered Doyle and Djinn typed a new question. “I just asked it if it is UEF ACU compatible and it answered it with ‘negative’. However, I’ve seen that it stated this program destroys the virus in our own troops and structures, then it plants the virus in the enemy units and structures, which will then be leeched. I also see that the program has been adjusted to successfully destroy QAI’s upgraded virus.”
“That means we’ll leave with more questions than we’ve started with.” Said Clarke, wondering how the node here could know about QAI’s new version of the virus and how it compiled a solution for it in just a matter of seconds. “But I need only one question to be answered. Can it reverse the effect in just a matter of seconds. It won’t help us if it takes hours.”
“I’m typing the question...” Started Djinn and in an instant, the console responded. “Five point three seconds are required to turn the effects around.”
“Good, pack up and get back here.” Said Clarke. “I‘ve got the quantum gate ready, but we’ll have to wait for at least thirteen minutes from now, before the wake effects are over and we can get back. Then we’ll have to put the program in our own mainframes and contact Dygonn. He’s got to get his own forces infected.”
“Negative, general.” Replied Djinn immediately. “We need to upload the program to a Cybran ACU now. That’s our only method of getting it away from this island. The data chip isn’t big enough and the data pads we’ve brought won’t help. We can’t connect with any data port in this node.”
“But the old program will work with our new software? I’ll not bother myself about how contradicting all of this is. Order it to upload to The tip of the Spear’s ACU.”
In ten minutes, a battle’s tide could be turned completely, or a strike force could be decimated. The latter seemed bound to happen. Marisa and Selene kept the Seraphim commander’s fleet busy, but his air force grew stronger by every second. As if it weren’t enough, the Order pilots had recovered from the naval attack their ‘traitors’ employed.
They spent a new fleet on it, but they sunk almost every Cybran and UEF ship in on the sea and left their enemies open for any new assault on the water.
Eric Temera and the Symbiont called Iden were slowly recovering and rebuilding their naval power when the Seraphim pilot tried another attack. From the south, eight air transports arrived and they dropped their units in the water while they stayed out of the range of the Cybran and UEF flak cannons. None of the commanders responsible for air power was able to do anything about it, the Seraphim transports were protected by fighters and they were still incredibly strong. Now the units were dropped, they all found themselves short on torpedo bombers.
Still, Iden wasn’t worried at all. “I’ve got a microwave laser upgrade. That’ll help.” Half a minute later, sixteen high-tech Seraphim tanks arrived on the beach and the three that were packed together instantly exploded, thanks to an overcharged shot. With a range upgrade attached to his ACU’s main gun, Iden kept himself just outside the siege tanks’ range while he retreated deeper in his base.
The air seemed to be torn apart as soon as the heavy laser fired and within seconds, it fried one tank after another and as soon as the units were destroyed, Iden spoke again. “I built the upgrades as soon as I found out how much energy we were wasting together. I also had some additional Aeon ships near my island I could reclaim. Turns out it’s all very useful now.”
As soon as he could, he reclaimed the siege tanks he destroyed, just before Leython could tell him not to. Three seconds later, his resources were drained and another three seconds later, his shield generators turned off due to a power shortage.
“HQ! This is Dygonn, we’ve got a situation here. Another one is infected by the quantum leeching device! Have you been to Sung Island already?”
Almost instantly, Leython got a connection with general Clarke. “Dygonn, we’ve got a program in a Cybran ACU that we will send to you in a few seconds. This will --” Clarke was cut off by commander Iden, who was panicking.
“Aeon experimental battleship! It’s surfaced and charging its gun now!” The Symbiont tried to escape from the battleship’s grasp but the experimental unit slowly turned its gun, perfectly following the Cybran ACU. The unit fired and its shot exploded a few metres behind the commander, sending it with its cockpit’s face down to the ground. Just before the impact, Iden transferred his complete arsenal to Leython, including the virus.
It duplicated and uploaded itself to all of the units and structures that weren’t affected yet and Leython saw his resources being drained in an instant. Quickly, before all of his shields collapsed under the power shortage, he shut down every secondary process in his base.
“I can’t produce any units anymore without losing power and I’m also losing fifty per cent of my mass income. I’ve kept most of my radar towers online, but I can’t sustain any losses.”
Iden was left unconscious and the experimental battleship fired again. For him, there were no means to escape and the inevitable became true only moments later. Iden’s ACU exploded.
A moment later, a second nuclear explosion filled the sky. Because Leython turned his attention to the quantum leeching device and Iden, Eric decided to call for help from Josh and Jeff as soon as he saw several Seraphim strategic bombers appear. Before the Aeon ship even fired, those bombers had dealt with Eric’s shield generators and left his ACU heavily damaged. Josh sent his air force to deal with the bombers and he was successful, but the Seraphim pilot unleashed his own fighters to decimate any aerial opposition he still faced.
Then, some more strategic bombers appeared and Eric prepared to say his final words through the channels, but he couldn’t. Instead, he just looked in his camera.
As soon as Leython noticed they had not lost one but two commanders in fifteen seconds, he alarmed Clarke. “We can’t hold out much longer general. We need to kill the virus right now!”
Josh added some information to it: “Temera has transferred his arsenal to me and now I’m infected too. Does the program also work for my ACU or is it just for Cybrans?”
“We’re uploading to Leython now.” Answered Clarke. “We can’t directly help you but the virus killing program will turn the effect of the quantum leeching device around. You’ll not be suffering, but the Seraphim will.”
“Than that’s the best moment to strike and kill him.” Said Josh quickly. “Leython. This leeching device, is it an actual structure or just an infrastructure like our usual resource transport throughout the base?”
“Well, it’s a virus that hacks into other structures and their blueprints and then adjusts them. The phantom device, an actual building, will then drain our resources and provides the enemy with intel. Our ACUs remain unaffected though.” Answered Leython while he watched his latest group of spy planes cross the Seraphim island and saw that the fighters had taken off too late to prevent the Cybran units to provide him with valuable information. He saw that the commander made one mistake and was about to show it would be fatal.
“We’re going to need teleport upgrades, Josh. I’ve got an idea and I need your help. You’re the only one crazy enough to do this with me.”
“We’ll need energy from everyone then.”
“And a distraction. That experimental battleship is still there and the alien will probably attack soon.”
“I’m with you.” Said Josh and he ordered his ACU to construct the teleportation device on the back of his ACU. Leython ejected his stealth upgrade and then did the same. In the meanwhile, the others transferred all required resources for the monstrously expensive upgrades, so that neither of the two commanders suffered more from Sung’s Phantom device.
Thanks to the advanced construction enhancements on their ACU and the aid from their allies, Leython and Dygonn had their upgrade finished in less than forty seconds. The program that was supposed to reverse the leeching device’s effect had successfully been uploaded and was ready to be activated. He immediately typed the single line of code to do so but didn’t order it to be prompted yet.
“Josh, I’ve got coordinates for you. That’s where you’ll go. I’ll be right next to you, we’ve got to appear there at the same time. We haven’t got any time to distract that guy or to synch our ACUs so that they teleport at the same time.”
“Ok, activating in three?” Asked Josh simply.
“Two...” Responded Leython while activated the phantom device’s reversing program.
“Now!” Said both at the moment it would only take three more seconds before program had fulfilled its purpose.
“Good.” Said Leython as he saw that the teleport action itself would work. “Be prepared to cancel the teleporting action if we have to.” All of a sudden, he saw his energy income and mass income return to normal and beyond that level. Marisa, Selene, Shilon and Jeff could stop contributing their own power for the two teleporting commanders since they had plenty now. He found out they didn’t have to cancel anything at all, because the intel every Seraphim building provided him with, showed that the alien commander hadn’t corrected his own mistake yet.
Usii-Lateh had seen a sudden drop in his income and immediately checked his economy farms, noticing something disturbing he couldn’t do anything about. He was infected with the virus and judging by the fact he lost intel of his enemies, they weren’t infected anymore.
Shield generators fell due to the power shortage and he couldn’t continue production of his Ythota assault bot and second Ahwassa bomber. It would be of no matter though, he could easily destroy the leeching device and then overpower the enemy with the assistance of the Order pets, his own superior air force and the new strategic missiles he had just built.
Moments later, he noticed how two commanders suddenly appeared behind him. Within seconds, he would have turned around and fired an overcharged shot into the UEF command unit, heavily damaging it or even destroying it. The Cybran version was even easier to destroy. The air shrieked as it charged its microwave laser. He would only have to wait to hit his own ACU, to be returned to the Cybran unit, destroying it in moments. Two more commanders were about to be killed, only four would be left after that.
The battle was still fought with the low-tech segment of any ACU’s capabilities, but every occupied island had at least one tier three power generator by now. The first high-tech air units were also flying across the field, but those were merely spy planes. Leython wondered how it was possible that even the Seraphim commander stuck with the less advanced and, clearly, less powerful weapons.
No one had managed to profile any alien pilot, so he couldn’t just open a database and find out more about the enemy’s weakness, if he even had one. The only thing the coalition knew about their enemies, was that they wanted to spread death and destruction across the universe in the most efficient way possible.
Efficiency. It reminded him of many commanders, all in a different way. Everyone sought for the most efficient way to deal with the enemy but everyone had found a different method as an answer.
Eric wanted to overpower the opposing force with a large army as quickly as possible, which gave him a reason to use a tier one arsenal. Josh found his solution in the UEF Lobo artillery. Five could take out a tier two mass extractor in a second. Being small, many could be carried in just a couple of transports and that was a good reason for him to stick to tier one weapons as well, even for much longer than Eric.
Leython couldn’t think of any reason for the Seraphim though. Strategic bombers were almost as easy for him to access as their tier one brothers, while they were ten times as strong. Why did the alien not use them while he had a shielded base and more than enough energy to support tech three air factories? Regardless of the answer, Leython had a small advantage he didn’t want to waste.
“We’re going to attack every Aeon commander at the west with our strongest weapons. Take down their economy, their factories, anything we see. If you’re sure you can kill the commander, do it. Assemble your armies so we can strike.”
Eric, Josh, Shilon and the commander named Iden immediately formed up and plotted a course around the Aeon fleet that made its way to the islands of the two who just died. While they did so, the four commanders on the east almost made it around their own front and on the islands behind.
Leython had ordered not to directly attack the front or to make any attempt to kill the two forwarded commanders, because he knew something was going on. He just didn’t have the time to find out what, let alone contact the two knights.
And on his orders, the Wagner amphibious units and the Riptide hover tanks were dropped behind enemy lines and attacked the third and fourth commander at the east. No sooner they arrived or all hell broke loose. Within seconds, they turned the few buildings at the beach to scrap, sending metal debris everywhere.
The small tier one Point Defence guns that were quickly erected turned around and fired endlessly if it weren’t for the joint forces that took them down in moments. The two Aeon armies had trouble evading the continuous stream of bullets fired by the Riptides, only to be destroyed in a single, more powerful shot from a Wagner tank. Those recharged their guns and their combined firepower decimated a factory a few seconds later.
As the tanks continued, they caught up with the two commanders, who responded with an overcharged bolt while they fled for the water’s safety.
“Ellessar, Elenes!” Shot Halley as soon as she had established her channel again. She still didn’t know who she was actually speaking to, she still didn’t realise it was Marisa Gawain instead of her subordinate Petrene Ellessar, who died on Earth.
“Turn that fleet around and help your two fellow knights! We cannot afford to lose terrain against a minor army. I will not allow it!”
“We understand, Templar.” Replied Selene calmly. If Halley had trained herself to be more perceptive, she had easily seen that Selene lied. That was the first thing Marisa said as soon as they were alone again.
“But she did not and that is our advantage now.” She continued. “We must see to it that they join our cause, so that we have more support and two extra commanders when we join the coalition. If we do that, we can effectively destroy the army that is punishing them now.”
However, Jelea and Tomin had a bigger problem than their side in this new war. In less than a few minutes, they lost their entire base and the Aeon fleet wasn’t nearly fast enough to protect them in time.
Shortly before Tomin made it into the water, away from the Wagner’s lethal plasma bolts, a squad of tier one bombers appeared and all Scorcher units dropped their napalm bombs. Within three seconds, the ACU exploded, taking all bombers with it in its blast.
Jelea was a bit faster and stood already with her ACU’s legs in the water, moving at top speed. A new squad of bombers appeared and they too dropped their payload. Dozens of torpedoes plunged themselves in the water and immediately turned to their target. Seconds later, the Second Order commander died.
“Their fleet is attacking our land brigade.” Said Yale, after he saw the second nuclear explosion disappear. “What should we do sir?”
“Continue your attack southwards. The more of the enemy we can destroy, the better. Take their reserves on the southern islands. You’ll meet no commander but that might be better.” Replied Leython at the moment HQ established a new channel with him. “What is it?”
“We know more about the structure you saw in the Seraphim base. It’s sustaining the quantum wake and that prevents you from getting out. An additional structure would widen the area but since it’s all water around you, that would be unnecessary. Destroy it and the wake should vanish.”
“But the Seraphim commander can reconstruct it. That’ll be done in minutes.”
“Correct, we suspect that building that thing was the first he did when he arrived, with the assistance of the Aeon commanders.”
“So to get out of here, we must not only destroy that device, we must also stop the Seraphim commander from building another one. The best way to take it out then, is by killing the Seraph.” Interrupted colonel Stirling. “We’d better mount up an assault then.”
Leython thought of another way though. The Aeon commanders had built an extreme number of power generators, something completely useless unless...
“I’m going to get some spy planes in the air again. Target is the Seraphim base. I want to know how much energy that thing drains. We might be able to shut it down by destroying all of their power plants, which gives us another advantage. Their shields will collapse.”
“Leython, hold on for a moment.” Objected the old pilot. “Before you enforce a power shortage on their end, we’ve got to break through their shields. You’re thinking of an advantage that you’ll get anyway.”
“Partially true, but if we can stop their energy flow for only a few seconds, they’ll be busy making a compromise somewhere, which takes the attention away from the battlefield for a brief but decisive moment.”
Spy planes crossed the Seraphim commander’s island while the UEF and Cybran amphibious army made it to the first of the southern islands.
“We’ve got twenty five thousand units of energy per second! That’s insane.” Said Leython. “But we’ve got a problem. That commander is constructing a strategic missile silo. It looks like he’s digging in with shield generators while the Order pilots hold the front.”
“We’ll use that to our advantage, Leython.” Said Stirling. “We’ll concentrate all firepower on the enemies at the east. When we’ve got them down, their islands are ours and we can outnumber them on the west.”
“Sorry colonel, but we mustn’t attack the two at the east. They’re not doing anything. They’ll be helping us now. We’ve got to strike at our western front.”
While Leython and Stirling plotted their course for the battle and found themselves to disagree, Yale’s army, together with Alex’, Griol’s and Fisher’s tanks, was lost. A powerful fleet from the two southern Order pilots had trapped and destroyed it.
“Knights Ellessar and Elenes, you will fortify the islands of your lost comrades, but do not attack. We will strike at our enemy and when we do, they will answer to the threat by taking the reserves they have at the north east. When that happens, the time has come for you to begin your assault.”
“We understand, templar Halley.” Said Marisa. She showed no trace of relief, though she was more than thankful for the fact that she did not have to begin the assault. She was to strike when the battle was halfway and that was the moment she would turn her back on her false allies.
After the channel with templar Halley closed again, the two friends took their time to freely talk.
“We have the islands to our south and that gives us enough resources to equal about three of the order commanders. We will use that to our best and fortify our bases while we expand our fleet. That is all that matters.” Said Marisa to Selene.
“I am glad we can finally end this nightmare of lies. Our current fleet is larger than the one that knights Aldesse and Diona have, we should use that to press on and target the Seraphim fleet.”
“If we are successful in destroying the Alien fleet, we will be one step closer to victory but the odds that we will be successful are very slim. We should concentrate on destroying the Order bases instead. That will give us only a minor advantage but we can be sure that we will succeed.”
For fifteen minutes, the battle seemed to have stalled. No one dared to attack their enemies head-on but Leython forced small, surgical strikes on the enemy’s power supply. Every time, some tier three power plants exploded and took a shield generator or a mass fabricator with it. Not only the order commanders suffered such casualties, but two well-aimed and expensive strikes caused a drawback for the Seraphim pilot as well.
He was forced to temporarily stop the production of strategic missiles while he reconstructed parts of his base. All of the energy he still had, was diverted to keep the wake generator online.
While they were attacking, Leython managed to build up an even larger air force, while Jeff and colonel Stirling constantly upgraded their fleets. Everyone played his role perfectly and they’d even say it would be an easy battle, if it weren’t for the Seraph.
Once again, that commander would show how troublesome these battles could get. By the looks of the speed of the gray dots on Leython’s radar, he appeared with dozens of spy planes without any warning, closely followed by strategic bombers.
“Multiple Strategic launches detected.” Leython had already sent all of his air superiority fighters to aid commanders Yale, Fisher, Alex and Griol at the west when he heard the automated voice. The bombers headed for them and it was clear what they were on about.
They proved to be strong, something Leython already knew but he also knew that his fighters dominated the scene, outnumbering the Seraphim weapons by at least four to one. Most of the bombers were destroyed after they had made their first pass but the Seraphim pilot didn’t mind. He had reached his target and destroyed any missile defence building on all of the four islands.
The UEF commanders and the Symbiont moved away from the island, hoping to reach the water in time but Eric feared the worst as he talked: “That alien launched twenty missiles in total, get away from there ASAP!”
Josh tried to help by sending in some transports but it would take too long. The first eight missiles arrived and detonated above the islands. Yale, having experienced such a strike before, turned around immediately and walked back to the beach. If he could just make it to the centre of his decimated base, the missiles that were heading for the water couldn’t damage him.
And he was right. Four more missiles flew past the islands and turned to the sea. Each targeted one commander’s possible escape route. Griol murmured his last words as he saw that he was now in the middle of ground zero. Just before impact, Shilon noticed how he gained control of what was left of Griol’s base and fleet. He immediately ordered the units to fall back to what he thought would be a safe position.
Seconds later, the fourth batch of missiles arrived and Jack Fisher found out that he was next to join the list of casualties at Roanoke. Ian Alex had no luck either. Both commanders transferred whatever they still had, hoping that their final contribution would allow the others to escape.
“The last missiles will miss their target.” Said Yale, with fury clearly audible in his voice. “I’ll attempt to rebuild my base and take control over some of the other islands but I need your help.”
Before Leython could answer, he saw that the Seraphim bombers that weren’t destroyed yet, had turned around for a bombing run directly on Neven Yale’s ACU. Stirling noticed it too and he spoke immediately: “Evasive manoeuvres, lieutenant!”
The UEF pilot tried to move away from ground zero but the bombers adapted and adjusted their flight path. They dropped their payloads which didn’t directly hit the ACU, but their blast was big enough to blow the backside armour apart. The command unit’s core ruptured and exploded in an instant and seconds later, Yale’s units self-destructed.
The nuclear blast destroyed the damaged strategic bombers that were left, as well as some of Leython’s Air superiority fighters. Josh filled his transports with engineers and sent them away to the islands that were now empty. The Seraphim pilot had made his move and would probably take another fifteen minutes before he would attack again.
Fifteen minutes to rebuild some bases and fortify the UEF and Cybran defences. It wasn’t impossible, but they would be hard pressed.
“Attention commanders, we’ve got ships from the south-west.” Said Leython and everyone realised that they would get no rest while the Seraphim commander planned his next assault. “Send all of our ships to the west, we’re going to need them there. When we have thwarted their assault, we will begin one on our own.”
“Leython, what about those two at the east. You can say they’re not harmful but I don’t believe a word of it.” Retorted Stirling. “We should keep some of our units at my front.”
“I’m sorry colonel, but leave your front relatively undefended. We’re moving out to the west.”
Three minutes after Halley ordered her own squad to attack the coalition commanders, she contacted Selene and Marisa, thinking they were Selene and Petrine.
“Knights, now is the time to attack, I see you have managed your fleet well. Move out while the enemy front is undefended. With our combined assault, we will end their lives and bring glory to the Seraphim.”
For the past eighteen months, Marisa and Selene had lived a lie in the Order community, pretending to be something else. People who listened to the words of a false leader. Servants who did exactly as ordered at their master’s bidding. Now, hopefully at exactly the right moment, that would all end.
“We will not, Order commander Halley.” Said Marisa, stressing the word ‘Order’ with as much hatred and defiance as possible. Halley seemed shocked at first but managed to hide every trace of surprise immediately. “I have given you an order, knight Ellessar. You will do as I have told you or I will order you to be recalled.”
“We cannot be recalled, you know that as well as I do. The quantum wake generator of the Seraphim blocks any traffic from or to Roanoke if it is more than a conversation. You cannot even gate a pilot’s foot in here, let alone her armoured command unit.” Replied Marisa, her voice growing darker with each word. “And allow me to add this to it: knight Ellessar perished on Earth while I, Marisa Gawain, still live. When I informed you of what I said to be my death, I claimed to be Petrine, to ensure I could walk away safely.”
“You lied to us!” Said Halley in a scream of denial. “You lied to us and you deceived the Order of the Illuminate. I do not have to tell you how grave that crime is. I do not have to explain it will cost you dearly.”
“Yes, I lied and not a day went by without regret. However, you live a lie as well. Kael lies to the public, you know that and you accept it. You know what the Seraphim are doing. You know they do not contribute to peace while princess Burke ended the war already, yet still you permit the Order to support the alien aggressors. Not only that, you also support in their dirty war, their search to remove the whole of humanity from the universe!”
“You dare...” Started Halley when Marisa took a deep breath. The Aeon pilot who almost became princess of the Aeon Illuminate didn’t let her continue though: “Yes, I dare! You have been deceived by evaluator Kael, who is lesser than Abigail Toth, lesser than princess Burke! I will not be so selfish to claim that I am better than Kael, but at least I do not fight for the downfall of humanity, I fight for her hope.”
It became apparent to Halley why Marisa could have been the Aeon’s princess but it was also clear why Toth didn’t choose for her. Marisa Gawain was as violent as any UEF or Cybran commander.
“What right do you have, to say that while you sit in an ACU?” Demanded Halley while she took a quick glance at her radar. Marisa’s and Selene’s fleet, completely under control of Selene moved in at her own commanders at the south.
It steered clear from the Seraphim commander but it was obviously planning to attack her own squad.
“You turn your back on us, you attack us and then still you claim to fight for humanities hope and glory? You are no different from the UEF or the Symbiont abominations. You are no different from any violent commander that murdered us in the past. The Seraphim will end all of that with the end of both the Federation and Brackman’s foul creations. You, as candidate for the princess’ throne more than a decade ago, are blind for the truth!”
“Blind am I, when I notice that the Seraphim are as violent as we all, UEF, Cybran nation and Aeon Illuminate alike, have been in the twelve centuries that have passed?” Asked Marisa, still with the same furious tone in her voice, perfectly matching her facial expressions.
“Blind am I, when I see how we refused to listen for that long and only committed murder to them, while most of us lived at relative peace? Blind am I, when I refused to join Avatar Marxon’s campaign for genocide? Blind am I, when I see the alternative route to peace, a path with minimal fighting, one where a weapon is only used for one’s own defence, while others use theirs in the hope to eradicate the enemy completely?”
Halley involuntarily pulled her ACU back under an extra layer of shields, as if Marisa had suddenly attacked her with three Galactic Colossi. She felt that she had sank deeper in her chair. Never had she heard such an apocalyptical fury of words. Everything of Marisa’s face told she was certain of herself and that she had the right to demand answers from the Order templar in such a ferocious tone.
Halley knew better though and as soon as she had taken a deep breath, she paid Marisa back in kind. The same tone, the same expression: “The only way to get to peace, is by destroying one faction’s enemies completely. Only then can humanity finally rest. You seem to forget that the Infinite War rages on for longer than just the past millennium, it exists since two or more human civilisations exist, since the dawn of human life! Only by ending that, can we prevent casualties in the future. The Avatar-of-War was not fighting for genocide. He was fighting for the only society that could live at peace. The Illuminate!”
But whatever she said, it didn’t have any effect on Marisa. Only by looking, Halley’s words seemed to lose significance. As if they were blunt knifes trying to cut through a gate of solid steel.
“If you truly believe what you said, templar Riune Halley, then there is no hope for you to ever understand how we can be at peace with our former enemies. I am in love with the one who I have once fought. So I know it is not impossible but actually every easy. If you do not understand me, then this is where we will be enemies. I do not wish to fight you, but I will do everything I must to destroy the Seraphim commander and if that means that you have to die as well, so be it.”
On those words, Marisa closed her channel and turned to Selene. She seemed shocked by how Marisa turned out to be. Still, she dared to talk: “In all honesty, how could you be the Aeon Illuminte’s princess if you speak up like that.”
“Selene.” Answered Marisa, and the Aeon pilot noticed how her friend’s harshness had suddenly disappeared completely. “Evaluator Toth asked me exactly the same question, the day before she chose of Rhianne Burke as our new princess.”
While Selene gave Marisa control over her part of the fleet back and they split up to attack the first island, with Diona’s base, Selene asked her what she had answered.
“I told her that I could not. I told her not to choose for me. She did not speak with me ever again because the next day, I joined the army. She feared that she had lost me but I know she would be glad if she ever heard that I turned my back on the Avatar-of-War.”
“Why did you join the Aeon military force?”
“I wished to be Marxon’s successor. Perhaps I could then join forces with the princess, which would prove to be extra convenient if Rhianne was still the Aeon leader. I knew that the chance that I would ever be able to become the new Avatar-of-War was slim, but nonetheless worth trying.”
“Marisa, I am establishing a channel for you and Selene which will allow you to talk with all of us. I see you have broken your alliance.”
“Dygonn,” said Stirling angrily, as if Leython caused some trouble in the academy, “how long did you know of this?”
“I knew that since I analysed her base, Marisa Gawain was on the eastern island in the second ring. The other pilot who joined us at the cost of the Order is named Selene Elenes. I managed to establish a secret channel a few seconds after the Aeon fleet moved in for an attack.”
“Good to have some of you at our side, I think it’s best to attack the Aeon commanders who back up the Seraphim.” Said the UEF colonel, forgetting that Leython had controlled the coalition’s strategy for the entire battle.
“That is exactly what we are doing now, colonel Stirling.” Answered Selene. “We will destroy their bases and then turn our attention to the southern isles in the outer ring. All Order commanders have some power generators and mass extractors there. We estimate that cutting those islands off will drop their supportive income by about thirty per cent. We will also be able to tell you more about the Seraphim’s naval fleet and, if necessary, draw his attention so that you have some breathing space.”
“That’s a great idea, Selene.” Said Leython. “Let’s focus on the Aeon fleet at our western front first. They’re turning around. This is a good time to strike back with a devastating counter-attack. Return fifty per cent of the cruisers back to our bases, in case the Seraphim pilot tries another air assault. The rest backs the destroyers and submarines up. We should be able to take one or two of those order pilots down.”
“Leython, why are they retreating?” Asked commander Iden, Eric already gave him the answer before Leython could even speak. “Stay up with the news, two Aeon pilots have broken their alliance and now they need to rescue their own order friends who are in big trouble. Instead of forcing us in a double-front naval war, with their own fleet, and Marisa’s and Selene’s one, they now face a two-front battle on their own.”
“Where are the ally-recognition codes?” Asked Josh. “I want to be able to see what the ladies can see.” The UEF major had barely spoken or he received several lines of code and returned his own back to their respective senders. In an instant, the UEF and Cybran forces noticed how much wiser they were with the Aeon as an ally.
“Incoming experimental bomber. Take it down!” Said Marisa, identifying the unit’s speed and size immediately.
The unit crossed the water at an amazing speed and before Leython’s Gemini fighters were moving away from their base, the bomber had already passed Selene’s base.
“They’re not really interested in us.” Said Selene while she ordered her destroyers to move on. Diona’s base was almost completely destroyed but the pilot herself had evacuated to safety. “They must think they can take us down in another way.”
“It’s on me. I need additional air support!” Said Stirling. At the academy, the old colonel had told dozens of stories about the battles he fought, how he barely survived at several occasions and how he could feel he had cheated death by seconds. This would be one of those moments, if he survived it.
Air superiority fighters blew holes in the experimental weapon while the air unit moved on. The holes disappeared as suddenly as they were created but more and more fighters caught up and fired their missiles away. Leython knew how the Gemini could fly directly behind the huge bomber and how they could fire continuously.
If the Seraphim were so advanced with their technology, how could they build a weapon that was so vulnerable? Of all high-tech equipment, the experimental bomber was the most devastating, but also the easiest target.
The bomber closed in on Stirling’s island and prepared an energy bomb to be dropped. The UEF colonel’s SAM sites turned and Stirling ordered them to fire and reload the three times the normal speed. This would certainly overload the towers’ firing mechanism, causing it to blow up but it was worth it if the bomber could be destroyed.
Hundreds of missiles, accompanied by flak explosions proved to be a bit too much for the bomber’s regeneration system and the damage became significant. However, it was not nearly destroyed. After it turned for a second pass, the first bomb’s explosion showed its effect as its wake disappeared. Most of Stirling’s shields were off and the ACU was left out in the open. Before Stirling could make it under a new shield, the Seraphim’s weapon prepared the second payload.
“After all battles I have fought, I would never have thought I’d meet my destiny in an ACU!” Said the UEF colonel while he watched his doom approach even though he tried to cheat death for one last time.
“Commanders, you can take this enemy on. Destroy him and avenge all deaths that have been caused by the Seraphim. This will not be the coalition’s first victory over those aliens, but it will be the first time one of their traps backfires! Take him out!”
At Stirling’s last words, the bomb detonated and the ACU exploded instantly. Even though the UEF weapon was the most sturdy of all, even though it was equipped with a tier three engineering suite, the armoured command unit couldn’t take the bomb.
Leython’s air superiority fighters fell like leafs due to the explosion, if they didn’t instantly vaporize, and even the bomber itself took some damage, but it was not nearly enough to take it down. Several tier three power plants exploded as well but what was left of Stirling’s base was still very useable. It was all transferred to Jeff who immediately started to restore it into the fortress it was.
Leython was struck with silence. They had never been able to fully come to terms about what happened in the past few years. Leython’s turn to the Cybrans and his assault on Matar...
It showed how brutal the war was. They could work well together, but still, not all air had been cleared between them...
Leyton knew that there was only one way to do so even if it was too late and it would all begin with the bomber. The few air superiority fighters that had survived the nuclear blast had been shot down by the bomber’s anti-air guns and the weapon itself turned its attention to Leython’s ACU. However, Leython had no intention of fleeing in the water while he still could. He would not retreat while death itself came his way. He had seen the effects though, once again.
Two bombs from the weapon that surged through the air towards him at full speed and it would all be over.
Roanoke. A planet that would have been forgotten if it weren’t for its mystery. Somewhere in the ocean, colonists of the Earth Empire found a group of islands. Nothing special in particular, except for their formation. All of the islands formed concentric rings and the valuable mass fields were perfectly located beneath them. In the centre, the colonists found a vast sinkhole, which made the miracle complete.
It was too perfect to be natural and many humans had thought to find the first aliens at Roanoke, but none were ever seen. Eventually, the Seraphim were found and Roanoke was thought to be forgotten, but during the Infinite War, all factions searched the planet, hoping to find any evidence of alien technology that could be used.
Even though nothing was found in the past centuries, many commanders fought and died at Roanoke Abyss.
As soon as Leython appeared at the northern island in the central circle, HQ told him that he couldn’t be recalled. Order commanders had arrived at Roanoke Abyss only two seconds earlier and controlled its southern part.
“We can’t recall you, but we can send in additional support. We have nine active commanders who will arrive within a minute.”
“We’ve got to build our bases and prepare for battle.” Said Leython to his four comrades. He saw Eric to his south east, also in the central ring, while Shilon was one island to Eric’s north, one circle outward. To Shilon’s east, one island further, Josh built his first structures and another island further, economy expert Jeff planned his base.
Most of the Roanoke battles involved the inner circle of islands, providing enough space for six commanders in total. Three commanders versus three, relatively small teams that attempted to secure the planet for a science team that was not much larger.
Within the last century of the Infinite War, the interest in the Roanoke Abyss was lost and it was barely visited again. Today, Halley thought, one of the largest battles ever would be fought. The second ring of larger islands, as well as the third, provided room for twelve commanders. All together, thirty pilots could wage a dangerous and bloody war.
She arrived with her team of six knights. Enough to fill the inner ring, but she was the only one to take position there. The island to the south-west was hers. To her west, one ring further away from the centre, her first lieutenant Ledia already built her first structures. Taelia took position in the same ring as Ledia, but south to Halley.
The southern isle in the inner circle was left empty, but Halley had been informed that a commander would soon take point. To the south-east and south-west of that left island, Aldesse and Diona wasted no time on their own work.
Knight Cera, the last one under Halley’s direct command, took position in the third ring.
“We will not waste any time on them.” Said Halley. “I will see to it that everyone builds up an army of Aurora tanks so we can overwhelm the enemy immediately.”
“Additional reinforcements have arrived on the coalition’s side, commander.” Said lieutenant Ledia.
“We will have our reinforcements soon, do not worry.”
“This is our chance.” Said Marisa as soon as she had opened a secured channel to Selene. Both had arrived at Roanoke, with the other two knights of their team, Jelea and Tomin. Selene took point at the eastern island in the central ring, while Marisa worked on her base one island to the east, a ring further away from the centre. Tomin and Jelea were south of them.
“Yes, but how are we going to do this?”Asked Selene. “If we join the coalition now, we may have every Order commander upon us. Despite of the fact that the odds are at our side, it will be dangerous.”
“We will wait. We are more experienced than knights Jelea and Tomin, so we can get away, especially if we build our base first, with a large fleet. That will slow the enemy down as we join the coalition moments before they leave.”
“I understand. Then this trickery will finally be over.”
“They have made a mistake by demanding us to join the battle.” Said Marisa harshly. “Do not underestimate our challenge though, it can lead to our own doom.”
Marisa and Selene closed their channel with each other as soon as they noticed that templar Halley prompted them to report. Marisa talked immediately, hoping she could be less suspicious than when she tried to fool the Avatar-of-War.
“We are ready, commander.” She said and Halley nodded in approval. “Knight Gawain, you will construct land and naval factories with knights Jelea and Tomin. Knight Elenes will raise a force of Aurora tanks first. When we have established a clear front, she will also concentrate on a fleet of Destroyers and Cruisers.”
“I will inform the other commanders.” Replied Marisa, showing no emotion whatsoever.
“We will cleanse them for the glory of the Seraphim.” Said Halley before she closed the channel.
The battle was ten minutes old as ten Aeon pilots clashed with the combined force of the Coalition’s Cybran and UEF arsenal. Aurora tanks were sent at their enemies, their numbers into the hundreds. Numbers meant nothing though, as the UEF commanders and the Cybran pilots used tier one bombers to decimate one wave after another.
The Zeus’ cluster bombs took nine out in one run and the Federation’s scorcher’s napalm strikes were good enough to deal with six of the hover tanks in a single pass. It was not until the Aeon commanders on the eastern side sent in anti-air support in the form of Shard jet boats. The fastest naval vessel humans had ever seen in the Infinite War had two anti-air guns that were able to shoot the enemy bombers out of the sky in a matter of seconds.
Before any of those could be deployed successfully, they met UEF Tigershark class subs. The submarines’ torpedoes proved to be a devastating counter to the small Aeon boats and the Coalition’s forces were still able to keep the enemy at bay while two members of the thirteen-man squad were using their time to reach the third level in their arsenal and expand their economy.
“Only eight minutes left.” Said Leython. “Then we can be recalled. We should see if we can take down some of those order commanders.”
“I can send in some air transports to claim the southern island in the centre. It’s still left empty.” Replied Josh, but before he was able to take any of his air transports in the sky, one more commander arrived, directly filling the gap in the Order’s brigade.
“Our final reinforcement has arrived.” Said Halley after she opened a channel to every other commander. “The Coalition forces understand that it is a Seraphim ACU, we can already see that they are falling back so their forces are within their own intelligence field. It will lower the stress on ourselves so we should seize the opportunity to reach tier three and build the most powerful weapons of our arsenal.”
Marisa and Selene merely nodded. They both knew that the odds were now against the Coalition and the chance that they could break away from Halley’s grasp was slim. Even though the Coalition and Rhiza’s Loyalist movement had managed to catch up with parts of the Seraphim arsenal, most of the alien technology still outmatched the humans with ease. The Seraphim’s tier three air units were still more than twice as strong but were just as expensive as the UEF, Cybran or Aeon variants.
Her channels were closed again and Marisa immediately reopened her secured channel with Selene. “We have to wait until the last minute. Then, we have to build quantum gates and make our way out of here with the UEF and the Cybran ACUs.”
“Why can we not be recalled, like we can by the Order’s headquarters?” Asked Selene. “Does it have to do with the security, or with the protocols?”
“It simply has to do with the fact that they do not know we can be recalled, just like them. Then, we also do not know the codes of our beacons and they can probably not locate it. Definitely not within the last minute.”
“I have another question. Why is templar Halley constructing so many power generators? Alongside with her knights?”
“Send all of the submarines towards the Seraphim commander.” Said Leython so fast that the others could barely understand him. “We can’t allow him to construct a fleet.”
“How is that going to help us? We’ve got to worry about their air force.” Asked colonel Stirling, who had returned to the direct battlefield again and now he had his position in the second circle, to Josh’s south east.
Leython was surprised to see him piloting an ACU, one year ago, but had told him over the years that Leython missed because he was either with the Cybrans or on Tessalis with Marisa.
“They have a powerful high-tech submarine. If we can keep them out of the water for some time, we won’t face naval superiority. That is more important than air superiority, especially because we can use cruiser to aid our own fighters.” Answered Leython.
Stirling immediately nodded. He was a colonel but let all of the strategic decisions to Leython for now. He already found out that commander Dygonn and his five friends had great potential and he had also heard about Leython’s assault on the Matar fortress. He thought that he still had more experience but allowing he first one to assume command over a group that had to be organized to go on, would usually be the best choice.
“Everyone should upgrade to tier three as soon as possible. Not doing it will kill us.” Said Leython and he immediately saw the others respond. No one said anything but everyone got to work.
Ten minutes later...
“It’s strange, we can’t recall you. We don’t know why there’s still an enormous interference on the network. It seems to come directly from Roanoke.” Said the technician at the Coalition headquarters.
“This is bad. That Seraphim commander is already working on his army and it’s coming this way, alongside with the Aeon.” Replied Leython. “We’ve got to get out now!”
“You can’t. I don’t know how this is possible.”
Leython ignored everything else the technician said and he turned his attention to the other commanders on the field: “We’ve got to make a stand, we’ve got to attack the Seraphim commander head-on and keep him busy while HQ tries to find out what’s going wrong.”
“How do we get that Seraphim commander down?” Asked Eric. “He’s catching up with us. We’re losing one fleet after another. It’ll not take long and he will be attacking us.”
“I’ll make some air drops. Someone has to assist me with air support.” Said Josh and he started building air transports and additional land factories that would help him construct the artillery he needed.”
“I’ll get some fighters,” said Eric, “I can put this air field to use now.”
Several minutes later, a small but deadly force arrived at the Seraphim commander’s island. The alien ACU responded immediately and destroyed one transport with an overcharge bolt while the other four landed. More than thirty Lobo artillery fired and their shells dealt damage everywhere on the isle, if it weren’t for the shield generators that protected the Seraphim base.
Before the mobile artillery could fire again, the commander fired another overcharge bolt as dozens of his own mobile, hovering artillery, returned fire. Josh frantically tried to dodge all of the energetic shots but a large portion of the volley hit its target and within seconds, the UEF army was reduced to ash.
In response, the Seraphim Commander ordered his own artillery to move out.
No one knew how the alien invaders named their weapons but the tier one hovering artillery had been given one by the Coalition commanders who had to flee for them: Fobo.
At first, Leython thought it was because the artillery fired its weapon like the UEF Lobo gun and did so while it floated. The real reason was because of the fear induced on the enemy. The weapons were superior to the UEF counterpart because they didn’t need air transports to move over water, although that didn’t make a difference with the Seraphim’s superior air technology. They also fired more frequently, which allowed them to deal with groups and smaller groups of land units than the Lobo could destroy. All of it could be done without any compromise to the effectiveness of destroying enemy buildings. Thanks to technology, one Fobo’s shot still dealt as much damage as a UEF fragmentation shell.
“Eric, they’re going for you!” Yelled Leython while Josh ordered every bomber he still had to take off and move towards the enemy hovering army. Shilon did the same and they both hoped to take out as many Fobos as possible.
The two dozen Zeus and Schorcher type bombers met the artillery before the hover units were halfway and their first pass destroyed several with success and, more importantly, without any interference of Aeon Shard boats. As they turned around for the second pass however, the anti-air units arrived and shot part of the air force down before they could bomb again.
Leython and Eric sent in their submarines as the Cybran commander to Eric’s west, Schleck followed with some tier one frigates, saying he would use a slow but steady approach to damage the forces by taking some of the artillery at the edges out.
All of it was too late for the bombers as they were shot down by the Shard boats already. Still, they did an adequate job by taking more than twenty Fobos out of commission. Thirty others were still left.
“The Aeon are sending in frigates. Can anyone else deal with them so I can concentrate on those artillery again?” Asked Schleck. Leython wanted to redirect all submarines because they wouldn’t make a difference by taking out the Shards now. Eric had his answer ready though.
“Deal with those by yourself, I’ve got several tier two point defences ready and those will be able to shoot the artillery. I can give it an overcharge shot with my ACU as well.”
“If you’re sure about it Eric, go for it.” Answered Leython, leaving the UEF captain the freedom to deal with his targets the way he liked.
The Fobo artillery moved closer while the UEF and Cybran submarines, together with the frigates, dealt with the inferior Aeon fleet. As the Seraphim units moved in, they were suddenly greeted with the periodic pounding of the UEF Triad Guns. Before the Seraphim commander could react, five artillery had been destroyed already.
“The last improvements have worked.” Said Eric. “Now we’re able to take them out with one shot again.”
He was right. The artillery were so strong that it took the UEF more than a year to catch up with their tier two point defence turrets but the result proved to be significant. The final upgrades were so good that the Seraphim Fobos were suddenly destroyed twice as fast.
The last few arrived at Eric’s island and met his ACU. One overcharge shot destroyed three at the same time and set the ground ablaze. It was not all that Roanoke’s soil would have to suffer: the Triad guns had turned around and together, they fired three dozen shells in the ground, directly in front of the three artillery that were still moving, they exploded instantly, leaving large chunks of metal behind.
“I’ve got tier three air up!” Said Leython and moments later, a Spook spy plane made its way towards the Seraphim base and caused a shock through the ranks of the Coalition. The Seraphim commander was being assisted by Aeon engineers. It had a fully armed base up and running in less than half the time it took normally. Josh’s artillery should have prevented a base from being constructed in the first place but it while it took them to find out how the alien pilot managed to build more than forty Fobo artillery and tier two shield generators in such a short time span, the Seraphim base had hit tier three and built a powerful economy.
The spy plane turned around for another pass while Jeff constructed his first tier three power generator and Leython sent in another Spook. Seconds later, the first one passed the Seraphim base again, breaking through the sound barrier while it accelerated. This time, Leython noticed an unusual building in the middle of the base.
“What is that thing?” Asked Leython while he opened a channel with Coalition HQ. “HQ, I’m sending data I acquired from my spy plane. Can you analyse it. We’ve got an unidentified structure in the middle of the Seraphim base.”
The officer at the headquarters wanted to answer, but Josh was ahead of him: “We’ve got another wave coming in. Seraphim Air transports, we’ve got to get all of our anti-air firepower to the west!”
But they had little to no interceptors yet. Only Iden, who sat north east of Schleck, had a decent group ready. Schleck and the commander directly to his east, Sineh tried to establish a blockade with the few frigates they now had.
“Concentrate all fire at the first transport. We’ve got to take it down.” Said Schleck. “Sineh, Iden, one of us will be under attack by those units. Use your overcharge bolts well.”
While the three Symbionts were occupied at the western front, the four commanders at the east made a bit of progress. To Leython’s south-east, UEF lieutenant Jack Fisher has his base up and running.
Directly to Fisher’s west, in the second circle, Neven Yale had built up a respectable fleet in little time. In the third circle, to Yales north-west, the last UEF commander named Ian Alex provided a powerful economy to back the others up. One island south, the Symbiont Griol took point.
Together, they had a powerful fleet, proper base protection and a fair amount of UEF Riptide hover tanks and Cybran Wagner amphibious tanks. Yale and Fisher had air transports ready to load up the land force and speed their assault up. Before attacking, they informed Leython about their plan.
“We’re going to attack the Aeon at our front. The first two have constructed some well-fortified bases, so we’re going to circumvent them and attack the two pilots south of them.” Said Fisher.
Leython took a quick glance at the eastern front and found something that disturbed him: “Don’t, whatever you do, attack the two directly at your front. Their fleet is powerful enough to delay us, if not stop us. They seem to know it because they’ve got their fleet in a strong formation, but they’re not attacking.”
“What do you mean, sir?” Asked Yale. “Do you think they don’t want to attack us? Or did the Seraphim tell them not to?”
“Either of those, but since the Seraphim want all of us dead as soon as possible, we can forget about that. There’s something odd about the two at the front. I’m going to take a look at that.”
Before Yale could close the channel, he heard Sineh’s voice through another one. He was panicking: “I’m suffering heavy losses. I’ve been able to deal with seventy per cent of the Seraphim units but they’ve got backup from Aurora tanks and frigates!”
Schleck was unable to do anything because he needed all of his own frigates at his own base, dealing with the Seraphim tanks and artillery that stuck too close to the shore. A couple of overcharge bolts helped him, but it was not nearly enough.
Josh and Eric sent in all of the bombers and Stinger gunships they had and Shilon helped with a couple of Renegades. Advancing on all fronts in terms of technology and raw firepower, the tier one and tier two air units were able to destroy the Seraphim weapons sooner than any time before, but they were still much stronger than any of the humans’ counterparts.
The bombers arrived and dropped their payload while the gunships moved in and armed their weapons. Several Seraphim units collapsed under the heavy napalm bombs while the Cybran bombers decimated the ranks of the weaker Aeon tanks. The gunships joined the battle and took out what was left of the Seraphim forces and Josh was finally confident that they could stop a Seraphim force that would be nothing but a cakewalk if the weapons were coming from Aeon, Cybran or UEF ACUs.
They were nothing closer to forcing the Seraphim backwards though, a point proven as two armadas of tier one bombers suddenly arrived above Shleck’s and Sineh’s island. Moments later, plasma orbs crashed in on both heavily damaged ACUs. Neither could stand the furious storm and both instantly exploded.
All bombers were gone in the nuclear blast but every Coalition commander knew how soon a new wave would be ready.