High Admiral Rosbarr’s collar was fixed for what felt like the tenth time that day. His delegation looked over every inch of his uniform for the tiniest imperfection. Rosbarr stood staring at the high arched doors that would lead him to another situation report. Lieutenant Virten reread the information regarding the Krox warfleet’s movement towards Council Space, the digital slate in his hands flickering as he moved from page to page.
Rosbarr nodded to himself as he noticed nothing had changed since he was read the same report an hour earlier at another meeting, although this meeting would be much different. A smiling woman in a bright red uniform moved in front of him. She held his navel cap he had worn today for all the meetings. He had no desire to wear the very stuffy and cumbersome arched cap again.
“No, put the cover with the other uniform” he directed her.
Rosbarr turned his head to speak to the last two attendants in his delegation: “Finish brushing any hair off my uniform and then let out my cuffs. I’m not sure how warm these Eodra like to keep their room.”
Adrius Rosbarr recalled the last two meetings, feeling foolish that he had almost completely sweated through his preteen white uniform. The attendants hurried to complete their orders. The smiling woman set the cap on the uniform cart. Everyone had changed uniforms today at least once. His last meeting with the Fabricant delegates was less than ideal.
The notably stubborn species preferred a temperature close to 110 degrees. The High Admiral watched the woman in the red uniform accomplish her tasks smiling, he couldn’t help but wonder how she was enjoying this. The bright red uniform she wore was tight to her body, with light brown hair like Adrius. She was assigned to his delegation last minute as a matter of necessity, no one else could fit into the uniform. Rosbarr rolled his head around his shoulders to stretch his neck, he recalled he hadn’t slept in almost a day.
Constant meetings took a toll on the human body. Lieutenant Virten started listing off all the names of the Eodra officers attending this meeting. Most of the names Rosbarr would never be able to remember, he excelled at many things but not recalling the complex alien names of the Eodra.
“Is the room ready?” Rosbarr blurted out, cutting off the lieutenant before he finished his list.
“Yes, they are prepared for you now, sir” responded Virten. Rosbarr always liked Lieutenant Virten. The lieutenant had been with the admiral for over a year now and never stepped out of line or spoke out of turn. It was hard to find officers with the obedience of Virten.
All officers are in a sense, obedient, but Virten trusted Rosbarr’s orders, that always drove the lieutenant onward. With a nod from Rosbarr, the lieutenant began organizing the dress team behind the admiral in a square formation. Adrius took this time to straighten out his uniform and to look for anything the dress team might have missed.
He loathed meetings, after years of special force commands and fieldwork he just grew accustomed to being in war zones. Uniforms were the last thing on someone’s mind when they’re at war and sharing a continent with a nuclear-capable species.
Lieutenant Virten gave the all-ready, signaling that the formation was set and the uniform cart was hidden well enough.
“Let’s go,” replied Rosbarr impassively. Virten keyed the doors from the digital slate and the doors began opening.
The lieutenant gave the order, “Ready…step” and the delegation started marching forward into the meeting room.
Most consider the meeting room very beautiful. The architecture wasn’t entirely designed by human hands, since the Eodra contributed equally to the structure. Natural was the best way to describe the room, the curves blended effortlessly into arches. The arches ran to the ceiling and gave the impression they were supporting the roof. Adrius Rosbarr knew that wasn’t the case. Steel and concrete held the room up, not fancy arches. The room tricked the mind into believing the occupants were having a meeting in a glade.
Rosbarr recalled from his youth learning about the Eodra in school. That the Eodra came from a world almost entirely covered in massive plants. Although the Eodra homeworld is was not an ally of the Council, it still had an impact on their minds. Extended periods of time away from similarly sub-conscious stimulating flora can create stress for them.
This was described as the same way humans miss family members.
Rosbarr never had any issues with the Eodra under his command, if anything he preferred them to human scouts and especially to whatever the Fabricant considered “scouts.”
The high admiral finished his admiration of the Eodra meeting room and returned his gaze to the assembled delegates. Virten was finishing uploading the most recent situational report into the holographical table all the officers were sitting at.
Adrius was waiting for the update that the lieutenant had received a few minutes ago. “New intelligence puts the Krox fleets turning away from Council space” began Virten, gesturing towards the hologram.
“There has been a minimal amount of splintering from the warfleet and, almost in its entirety, the fleet is now going the opposite direction. Currently, the warfleet is moving towards the Human Primacy controlled systems surrounding the Shattering Rift.
Nothing so far has indicated the name of warlord leading the migration.” The look of surprise traveling around the room was obvious as the lieutenant finished reading the report. Silence followed as the hologram’s representation of the Krox fleet blimps flicked from dark red to a softer orange.
A small chirp emitted from the tables audio receptacles as it alerted the room’s occupant to a directional change of a major threat. Virten broke the silence.
“So far there has been no indication that this information has been altered by the Primancy or the nearby Fabricant Empire," Virten stepped away from the table and joined the red uniformed human delegation behind the high admiral.
High Admiral Rosbarr didn’t show it but he was surprised at this turn of events. The High Council has authorized over a million military assets moved to the DMZ between the counsel space and the Krox migration. They would not put the realm in danger by exhausting the defenses of thousands of worlds unless they thought for certain that Krox were a very real and dangerous threat.
The first to speak was the Eodra Admiral Nlaea, “What a turn of fortune” she spoke after she stood up. “We should be...” she paused to find a word with equal meaning between the two species “…grateful that Krox are so simple and found something new to exhaust themselves against. Human Primancy are no allies to Council. If luck continues, perhaps Krox will destabilize the area around Shattering Rift.”
There were nods of agreement from the assembled officers. Rosbarr was watching Admiral Nlaea as the four other Eodra officers exchanged looks of agreement and whispered amongst themselves. The admiral was shorter than Rosbarr by about a foot. She looked young, but Eodra can grow ancient and still look youthful to human standards. Her ears swept back away from her round face and purple eyes.
It was from his understanding of Eodra culture that face paint often was applied with a subtle meaning and it was up to the observer to decide what it meant. Nlaea’s markings were a light blue moon surrounding her left eye with thin wavy lines radiating across her features. It complimented her dark purple skin and silver dress uniform.
Lieutenant Virten seemed to enjoy looking at her, Rosbarr guessed, he noted during the situational report that the lieutenant made eye contact with her longer than the other admirals present. He couldn’t be sure if it was because he enjoyed her features or because she was the highest ranking Eodra admiral present.
Admiral Nlaea turned from conversing with another officer and noticed Rosbarr staring at her.
“What are your thoughts, High Admiral?” she said with a smile. He had no desire to try and play a guessing game about the Krox, his orders were to attend a meeting with each species representatives and personally deliver the information in a professional setting.
“If the Krox want to invade the Primancy then we shouldn’t interfere,” he stood up and straightened his uniform, “other than that I have no opinion on the matter, Admiral Nlaea,”
Before anyone could reply he ended the meeting with “Thank you for attending. On behalf of the Lord Admiral Orson and the 2nd fleet, we formally welcome you to the Aerothan Reach.”
The Eodra officers stood up and saluted with Admiral Nlaea, who had stopped smiling by then. Adrius returned the salute and the meeting was over. He watched the small party of Eodra leave through the arched doors on the other side of the room.
All five wore the same silver uniform as Nlaea. To Rosbarr, most Eodra looked similar, each had pointy ears and was shorter than a normal human, and larger shoulders then would be expected for a species that all looked like human women.
Luckily for him, Eodra come with a plethora of skin tones and hair colors. The different face markings also helped with identifying individuals. As the doors closed on the other side of the room, Rosbarr let out a long breath. “Let’s go, we are done for the day.”
The human delegation searched the room for any stray items before opening the doors for Adrius and Virten. As they walked out he took one last look around the room, still as beautiful as when he walked in. “Gorgeous,” he muttered to himself, leaving the room and his stress behind.
He stared out of the window at the planet below. The lights were off and the only source of illumination came from the local star reflecting off the purple oceans.
“Jewel of the Reach,” he said out loud to himself. That’s what the locals call it, Adrius remembered. He looked around his cabin, from the seat behind his desk he could see the discarded remains of his last two white uniform thrown on his bed. He couldn’t sleep.
Rosbarr had been awake for over 24 hours now. He would hear a sickening laughter when he closed his eyes, like someone laughing at their own joke. The only thing that made it stop was keeping his eyes open and watching the blue world outside of his window. The pounding headache didn’t help either. His attention was drawn away from his aching eyes and throbbing head by the audio port attached to the door controls of his room.
“Sir, Admiral Nleae sent you a gift, I’ve come to deliver it.”
Rosbarr recognized the voice, it was the smiling woman from his dress team. With a weary sigh and no small amount of effort, Adrius forced himself up and walked to the mirror to look at himself. He was presentable enough in his fatigues, he wanted to tell her to leave but this was a nice distraction.
He stepped away from the mirror and towards the door but something in the mirror caught his eye as he turned. It was only there for a second after he blinked but it looked like a smiling mask. Unadorned and white with black pits of tar for eyes and an impossibly large smile.
Rosbarr’s instincts kicked in and he threw himself away from the mirror, he dropped down into a more stable stance and held his arm out, ready to fight. He looked at the mirror but it was just him in his dark room.
Adrius rubbed his eyes, “I need to get to sleep, I’m starting to lose my mind.”
“Sir?” the sound emitted from the audio unit. Rosbarr stood up, fixed himself then move to the door and pressed the activation key. The door slid open with a hydraulic hiss and the smiling woman was there holding a small box in her hands.
She held out the small box, “Admiral Nlaea wanted you have this, she said she enjoyed the meeting.”
Adrius took it and stared at the square box. “Give Admiral Nlaea my condolences, tell the bridge to not let anyone else bother me and you’re dismissed.”
Adrius hit the activation key on the door again, she seemed to smile more as the door shut in her face. Rosbarr appreciated her bringing it to him but hated that he was disturbed for something this petty. Was he ever happy though? Adrius chuckled to himself. He tore the box open, for no other reason than to satisfy his curiosity. From the box he lifted out a piece of ceramic. There was nothing special about it, it seemed like a piece of trash to Rosbarr.
One of the edges was chipped, he turned it over in his hands to search for anything special about it.
“I need some light,” he spoke to himself. He moved to his desk and spun the dial to increase the light intensity. The room remained dark, he turned the dial back and forth several times. He slammed his hands down on the desk, swearing under his breath.
“Just relax, this is no big deal,” he said to calm himself. Adrius took a deep breath and slowly turned the dial one last time, nothing happened. He shook his head and walked towards his bed. It was time to try and get some sleep. As he passed by the mirror the light above flickered then turned on with a soft humming noise.
Rosbarr lifted his head towards the light “Amazing, now it works,” he held up the gift from Nlaea to the light. There was nothing other than white ceramic, just chipped edges. All he was able to discern from it is was that it was a broken piece off of something larger.
Rosbarr turned back to his desk to turn off the light and finally get some sleep, but stopped when he saw his image in the mirror. The white mask from before was in the mirror and he was holding it. Adrius’ heart began to beat faster and he felt his throat begin to tighten. He stood there looking at his reflection holding the plain white, smiling mask.
He slowly lifted his shaking hand holding the piece of ceramic to the mirror. Maybe this was his mind playing tricks on him again. He brought the piece of ceramic into view, the image in front of him held the mask and he was holding the broken piece. Realization dawned on him that the piece he was holding was the edge to the mask. Almost as if to read his thoughts, the image chuckled out his name “Adrius Rosbarr, the High Admiral.”
His heart stopped in his chest and he felt frozen.
“I’m so happy to finally meet you!” his reflection said with a smile larger than a human’s face could make. Adrius tried to move or even scream for help but he was completely immobile.
“Would you like to help me set the stage, Adrius, new friend?” said the reflection with the most lighthearted voice he had ever heard. The image in front of him began to move the mask towards its face, dragging his arm along with it. He tried to force himself to move or blink, he commanded his muscles to throw themselves away from the mirror at any direction so long as it got him away from the mirror.
All he could hear was laughter, as if someone had told the funniest joke in the universe and thousands of people were laughing at it all at the same time. The more he resisted the louder and more cynical the laughter got. His hand stopped inches from his face, he could clearly see the mirror, the chip wasn’t large enough to obscure his view but only the side of his face could be seen in his reflection.
“Adrius...” the smiling doppelganger said in the mirror. Adrius spent the last few seconds of his life staring in horror at this twisted creature. “Welcome to the show!” the voice hissed loud enough to break his eardrums. The mask covered his face and the mirror shattered into a million fragments.
Adrius screamed as his mind shattered with it and he fell to the floor as a brain-dead sack of meat. Blood seeped out of his ears and mouth, it fell to the floor in thick gobs. The piece of white ceramic inches from his face.
The smiling woman stared at the door to High Admiral Rosbarr’s quarters. She didn’t blink when the screaming started, she was all too familiar with it. After a moment she heard the wet thud of a limp body hitting the floor and soon a pair guards ran from around the corner leading to the officers’ quarters.
Each in the stripped-down combat armor worn by ground forces. Both already had combat pistols drawn, capable of firing a laser that could either kill or disable a target depending on what power level they were set too. She smiled as they ran down the hallway towards her and the sound of the scream.
She pointed to Rosbarr’s quarters “The scream came from in here!”
She quickly thought of a lie “I was delivering messages when I heard it”. The closest guard holstered his weapon and grabbed her wrists to hold her against the wall.
“Please I didn’t do anything” she said after her face smacked the wall. She tasted blood from a broken lip.
“Be compliant and stop talking,” he ordered, the other guard moved to the door controls. When his calls went unanswered to the room’s occupant he began overriding the panel. B
efore he could finish, the doors opened from the inside “Why are you two making all of this noise” High Admiral Rosbarr said to the guards.
“We heard a scream…” was all that came from the guard before he was cut off.
“Yes, I broke my mirror then fell,” Adrius pointed into his cabin where his mirror was shattered with a few drops of blood on the floor.
“Our apologizes, we were concerned for…” Adrius interrupted again “Both of you go back to your post now and stop wasting time with made up distractions.”
The guard quickly released the woman and both left without saying anything else. She watched them go as she wiped the blood onto her red dress uniform. It blended in perfectly with the color which is why she liked wearing it. The red quality of upper echelon navy uniforms had been useful in the past. After the whipped guards rounded the corner she turned and stared smiling at the High Admiral.
The woman cocked her head and Adrius mimicked the movement. Finally, the silence was broken by the woman “Master?” she spoke expecting closure from her task.
Adrius did nothing except copy her movements for several minutes. She never felt in danger but she started becoming confused as what to do next. The woman moved her arm off to the side then pressed her hand forward in the air. Rosbarr did the same except he was much closer to the door controls then she was, he activated the door and the doors began sliding shut.
A soft laughter came from everywhere as they closed. The woman couldn’t help but feel like what just happened was a game of copycat. Rosbarr stood smiling in front of her, unmoving and uncaring about the doors. The laughing from around her didn’t stop until the doors closed. Before they closed the last she saw of Adrius, for just a moment, looked like he had a white mask for a face. She blinked the after image away and chuckled to herself. “I hope I can keep playing a part” she said to herself walking down the corridor.
Thousands of bellowing voices roared inside of the scrapship. Banging their weapons against the inside of the metal hull, adding more noise and power behind the chanting. The warfleet tumbled through deep space, more than a thousand light years separated them from their target.
The bosskrox said they would have more fun and get more loot from this “biga an’ betta” fight. It didn’t happen immediately but after tearing open enough rivals the smaller Krox decided to listen to him and his new idea.
More than a few scrapships fired blindly into space or at other scrapships. Most rockets and slugs would never hit anything as they flew through space for eternity. Some found their marks and blew out sections of ships belonging to other clans or hordes. Explosions and automatic cannon fire recoiled through each deck, shaking each ship to its core. The leaders of the ships roared into the speakers adding his voice to the thundering choir.
Every Krox on every ship couldn’t help but add to the fever and more than a few fights broke out over who was the “biga Krox” many died but this added to the excitement and bloodthirst. The Krox would never know why they did this, just that it felt natural and that’s the way it has always been done. The fleet roared malice into space and time, billions worth of migrating warriors and hives screaming for conflict.
The pure hatred and murder-need would never stop for them, their species was broken a long time ago. Even the divine couldn’t fix them now. The space in front of the fleet began to shift and warp, sickening cracks of energy lashed out and stuck hundreds of scrapships. Millions cooked to death in the metal hulls.
To a Krox, this was natural selection, their gods turning the weak into food for the strong. The anomaly formed in space and began pulling the fleet into it. Like the maw of some impossibly large animal made of hatred. The first through was the flagship of the warfleet. The bosskrox’s ship was a sickening battleship of immense size.
Almost the size of a city, millions lived and died in its corridors. It was struck hundreds of times by the anomaly. The Krox inside roared showing their strength to their gods in hope of being spared an electrical death. The boss lifted his massive scaly head to the ceiling by the racks of hanging trophies.
He hissed and roared the loudest of all the Krox. Sickly green lightning passed through him and his bigkrox, cooking the weak. Nothing could stop him or his fleet and the surviving smartkrox forced the brutish engines into overdrive. Thousands of ships burned their engines white hot and raced into the anomaly. More than a few detonated going in, too eager to be the winner. Where there was nothing before but empty deep space, now the first few ships could see the bosskrox’s new idea. Burning in front of them was a red star.
All they had to do was find the planets around it and they would start a new fight and be stronger and better than before. The Krox needed to fight and spread their plague of a species across the stars, they never felt so sure of something in their short and violent lives. The anomaly began to close as the fleet finished its translation. The chanting died down but never stopped. The self-proclaimed captains of each ship started giving orders over the speakers, even if the Krox he was speaking to was in the same room. The last few ships through began taking fire from the fleet.
The storm of macro-shells, explosives and a few repurposed lasers stolen from Fabricant ships tore through the slower scrapships. Only the toughest and sturdiest ships survived the onslaught.
The bosskrox let out some hisses and growls into the speakers that was then in turn relayed to the rest of the fleet to “git bak to it.” It was an important part of Krox culture to make sure the reason the ships were slow was because they were tough and not weakkrox.
The surviving ships were referred to as scarships and the Krox inside were called scarkrox, these are where the bosskrox picks his bigkrox bodyguards from normally. Sometimes a scarship will come through last on purpose just to ram the scrapships that fired on it for fun.
“Getin evn,” is also part of Krox culture. When the fleet reorganized into something resembling a glob of metal, they began burning their engines towards the red star. They began preparing for the biggest fight of their lives.
They heard that a planet around this star was called “Unbreakable” and Krox are the best at breaking stuff. Nothing in the universe can have a name like that and not be a Krox. A new crescendo was heard from around the fleet. The millions of surviving Krox began shooting slug weapons into the ceiling and smashing everything with clubs and axes. Chanting alongside the banging of weapons and the spray of bullets. “KROX! KROX! KROX!” rang out from the warfleet towards the red sun.
Broadcast on all channels, the Krox knew about, the scourge of the galaxy and the name that meant war unending had come to a new world: “KROX! KROX! KROX!”
“We have been on alert for almost 4 days, Gestopar Lucus. The soldiers are almost falling asleep standing up. They will need to return to regular duties soon or they will start becoming insubordinate” informed Captain Helman.
“If they are passing out standing up then I know they haven’t been sleeping more than they were ordered to. As for insubordination…” Lucus thought on this for a moment “they can be flogged or” Lucus lightly tapped the gilded gestopar issued pistol on his hip a few times.
The two men were dressed in brown and green combat fatigues. Each had on the standard issue flackplate armor. The two looked out over the battlements across Port Khug as the sun began to set across the ocean. They could see miles across the city from their point of view. The endless ocean miles off to the northwest turned a deep blue by dusk. Steel and concrete buildings spread out in front of them for miles. This was only the top of Port Khug though, the city continued thousands of feet below the surface.
Millions toiled away in factories built under the surface roads and skyscrapers. Port Khug was a massive factory endlessly processing metal from the mountain range to the north. The harbor would ship this across the planet to wherever it was needed, normally to other ports but sometimes out to the Silver Order fortress in the middle of the ocean. Food and resources were brought in from the south around Port Lucrar and east from Spire Helheat.
Captain Helman could see the wealthy families in their lofts from his perch. Blissfully unaware of the system-wide military alert. Helman and Lucus looked to the sky where new lights could be seen, these weren’t stars but the nuclear deaths of starships.
As dusk fell, the explosions that were millions of miles away could be seem as tiny flickering lights in the sky.
“Normally the raiders would have given up by now,” Helman spoke to Lucus, “if anything, it looks like they are maneuvering closer to the Caress Prime.”
“This is called the Unbreakable system for a reason, captain,” was the Gastopar’s reply, “The Council, the Fabricant, the Eodra nor the beasts have ever stepped foot on a planet in the Unbreakable system.”
Tower Eight was Helman’s garrison and his duty to maintain. From it he could count all twenty towers in the city, each was built in a strategic place to help preserve order on the surface. This command was his reward for over 20 years of service in the Stormguard’s elite programs.
“That is always an option, I suppose. Have you ever had to execute someone before?” the captain replied to Lucus’ earlier comment and asked his own question.
Gastopar Lucus recalled an old memory “Yes, once. I prefer other forms of punishment though.”
“Like forcing them to listen to Harnex’s sermons?” Helman smiled.
Lucus thought about what the captain said: “40 hours a week memorizing prayers from the trials of faith with the priest…that would fix anyone’s attitude.”
The captain turned around and began walking to the other side of Tower Eight. Gestopar Lucus followed his commanding officer. The top of the tower was more than a hundred feet across. It hosted a battery of four minotaur cannons, one in each corner. The guns rested in large reinforced concrete cylinders with retractable blast shield coverings.
The shields could be drawn back and the weapon raised enough to bombard ground targets or fire at aircraft, depending on which ammunition was loaded.
As they reached the center of the tower, the floor started a familiar rumble and the two men stopped to watch the blast doors of the fifth cylinder in the center of the platform. The main elevator was inside and travelled up the center of Tower Eight. The lights on either side of the heavy doors began to flash, the door slowly ground open to reveal a mixture of gunners and engineers. The tower’s Technolgist was even in the mixture.
Everyone sharing the elevator with her stood at a distance. Seemingly afraid of the changes wrought upon her body by the Techancy. It was difficult to find someone that was comfortable around the machine woman.
The deck crew exited before the Technolgist. The group noticed the two officers watching them. With a few quick words amongst themselves and some shuffling they arranged themselves into a square formation and saluted by touching the symbol of the Primancy: the Eagle Star.
“Carry on as if we were not here,” Helman returned the salute by touching his right hand to the Eagle Star on his opposite shoulder. The Gestopar wore a larger symbol over the standard issue flackplate armor. Lucus returned the salute by touching the Eagle Star worn on his chest.
The deck crew dispersed to their own tasks. The Technolgist walked out of the elevator and towards the two officers. Every footstep she made was like a hammer striking a steel beam. Pressure release points across her body let out a wheezing noise every time she moved her limbs.
If there was any human left inside the technolgist, it was not visible to either Helman or Lucus. She was taller than both of the men by almost a foot. She wore an oil and lubricant stained grey tabard that displayed the local cluster’s Techancy heraldry, three black gears connected by a similarly black triangle surrounding machine stylized Eagle Star in the center.
Her limbs were uncovered, each a masterpiece of metallurgy. Copper colored metal covered her body. Making her seem like a walking ingot of dark bronze, she had crafted into the metal of her body millions of tiny illustrations not distinguishable to the human eye. Each line and swirl was designed and etched with the utmost care.
What looked like thick tubes of dark steely metal were wrapped around her waist and over her shoulders. She looked like she was covered head to toe in wheezing armor. The tabard’s hood covered her head, hiding most of her features. The metal mask that most Technolgists wore when working around unaugmented humans was visible.
Helman always assumed the mask was casted from the organic face of the technologist, although that face under the mask had been removed and replaced with sensors and scanning devices. Tower Eight’s Technolgist wore a feminine silver mask with emerald eyes.
The captain thought the silver face was appealing and helped make her seem more approachable.
“Captain, Gestopar,” came a computer-generated voice from the behind the mouth of the silver mask.
“Technolgist Tsella, what brings you to the top of the tower?” replied Helman.
“The alert remains active but maintenance must be conducted on the weapons and targeting computers. I hope you can see the logic in this?” she told the captain, he wasn’t sure if she was being condescending or if it was just the impassive way she said it.
“I understand, Tsella. But before you begin I was curious if the Techancy has given you any privileged information about the alert.”
Whatever Tsella was about to say was cut short by citywide sirens. The three ran to the edge of Tower Eight overlooking the city, civilian lighting started getting cut across all power grids. The sun was almost set by the time the power was disabled, casting Port Khug into a shadowy stillness. Blast shutters unraveled, sliding down buildings.
No one alive today had ever seen Port Khug go dark. Groaning erupted across the city as massive blast shields protecting orbital cannons were opened to reveal macro-weapons pointing high into space. Tower lights switched from white to red, indicating firing procedures.
“Everyone get to your posts, quickly!” the captain’s orders rang out across the top of the tower. Men and woman began rushing into the cannon silos. The tower shook as ammunition carriages began feeding the minotaurs from the stockpile of shells at the base of the tower.
Ysella spoke next as she received digital action reports' “All weapons are to begin firing immediately, you two need to get inside the elevator before the shockwaves hit or your eardrums might explode.”
Helman and Lucus began to turn away from the city as the first volley of macro-cannons fired shells the size of freight cars into space. Both of them ran as hard and fast as they could and threw themselves into the elevator. Helman began smashing the keypad for the elevator controls. The blast doors began closing when Lucus pointed out Ysella to Helman. She was walking as fast as she could towards the elevator, pent up pressure was hissing out of valves and complex joints.
Her metal limbs slowed her down significantly. “Cover your ears,” she called out to them. Trusting in the machine woman, they took her advice. The shockwave was moments away and the metal blast doors to the elevator wasn’t going to be closed in time.
The dark metal tubes around Ysella body began to uncoil and the ends started to glow. The tubes were attached to the power plant which was linked to the nervous system of her body. Ysella continued her pace forward, her enhanced brain calculating the angle the first shock wave would hit Tower Eight’s elevator column.
The techulum array curled behind Ysella to target the spot Ysella’s mind had calculated. Four beams of thick beams of light shot from the ends of the array. The beams struck the air in the same spot at the same time at just the right moment the shockwave was reaching their location. The focal point of the beams detonated.
The macro-cannon shockwave, having been locally defused by Ysella’s techulum array, targeted detonation. The shockwave created by her own array swept over Ysella and launched her forward several feet through the closing blast doors. She struck the opposite side of the elevator with the force of a hammer.
Other than the expected screeching metal on metal noises Helman and Lucus heard what might have been swearing for a Technolgist. The blast doors rumbled closed moments before the next series of macro shockwaves stuck the outside of the doors.
Tower Eight shook as the minotaur cannons began firing at targets unknown to the elevator occupants. Both Helman’s and Lucus’ voxbead clicked as they received a priority message from the gunnery commander. “Sir, shockwave intensity outside is above human tolerance, remain inside Tower Eight for your own protection,” it repeated this for both men before switching off the connection automatically.
There was silence in the elevator as it started to descend to the safety of the reinforced command floor. The captain and Lucus sat staring at Ysella as her techulum array curled back around her body. Her quick thinking might have just saved both of their lives. The silver mask that covered her face was smeared with the red paint from her collision with the wall.
Ysella sat down and began inspecting her limbs for damage. She adjusted the grey tabard so the Techancy symbol displayed proudly forward. Ysella stopped fidgeting with herself when she noticed Helman and Lucus staring at her.
She slowed her movements, to Helman it seemed like she was trying to figure out something like a machine diverting power to another system. She looked between Helman and Lucus before deciding on what the problem must be, “I received the same message but in binary, that’s why you didn’t hear anything.”
Ysella sat frozen with them waiting to see if they were satisfied with her answer. Lucus couldn’t help himself and clasped both of his hands in front of his face. His gaze moved from Ysella to Helman. The captain was about to ask Lucus if he was alright when he noticed the smile on Lucus’ face.
Helman started smiling too when he realized what was going on. They couldn’t help but start laughing at the machine woman’s answer. The rumbling elevator noises were replaced with mirth as the city fired ordnance out into the sky.
Ysella looked between the two men, trying to understand the humor.
Helman spoke first “Thank you for saving our lives, Ysella” he couldn’t help chuckling as he said it.
“Yes, thank you, Ysella. I’m happy you decided to do maintenance during the alert,” Lucus said sincerely. Helman wondered if that would be the last time anyone ever laughed in Port Khug.
The sky rained burning starships, too little too late the return fire struck the warfleet. Thousands of ships were destroyed by the Primancy’s fleets in the system days before. The aggressive tactics forced the Primancy’s main fleet protecting the Caress System back towards Caress Prime the “Unbreakable” fortress world of the sector.
Viceroy of Tethea, third planet from the red sun in the Caress System, called for proper a defense too late after four days of warning. Scrapships hunted smaller orbitals for sport and most rushed for Caress Prime.
More than enough launched themselves at the easy target. Shrapnel the size of warships showered Tethea. Reactors went nuclear in orbit, raining radioactive fire on the planet. The world’s macro-cannons destroyed over twice their number in ships but that wasn’t enough. The scrapships plunged headlong into the atmosphere aiming for wherever the defensive fire was coming from. Where there are guns, there are things to fight.
Ships never meant to enter a planet’s atmosphere dropped like rocks from space, retros burning white hot to try and stop the freefalling behemoths. The smart invaders took smaller dropships to the surface but some couldn’t resist being the first in. Hundreds of warships rained around Port Khug.
Smashing into the ocean and shattering mountain tops. Tsunami’s tossed cargo ships full of cargo into the city and flooded districts. Landslides consumed the mountain garrisons crushing regiments worth of local Stormguard.
The worst was the fat scrapships that fell onto the city itself, crushing through hundreds of city levels. Hundreds of thousands were crushed by the brutish landings. The scrapships were built for this purpose in mind. Getting to the surface intact was easy for the ship.
Most occupants not strapped in for decent died on impact. Food for the strong they believed. Macro-cannons collapsed inward as support beams buckled and were sheered through. Super-heated scrapship hulls melted and fused with the metal of Port Khug.
Within minutes of touching down, the surviving occupants were swarming out of the scrapships. Killing and burning everything. Some decided they would rather eat before a fight, some clans laid claim to looting privileges of sections of the city.
Hive swarms buzzed around the crashed ships, angry at the destruction of their homes. Thick black flies the size of a human hand gathered meat from around the city, already finding new holds and isolated sections of city levels to nest in. New hives would be built and the planet would be locked into a cycle of war forever.
Millions died within the first hour of hitting the planet, another million would die before the sun rose. Roaring, buzzing and screaming became the new sounds of the city.
The Krox had come to Tethea.
Sergeant Tecles dove to the ground as the shrieking rocket flew overhead and exploded nearby, collapsing a spike of ice. Sweat burned her eyes inside her helmet. Blinking away her discomfort, Tecles rose to one knee and swept across the area behind her with her magrifle. The roaring of meaty throats and fanged mouths could be heard across the battlezone, more than a thousand Krox poured from the remains of the scrapship.
Piles of starship debris littered this area of the Nagdoral Ice Wastes. Of the six Krox warships that entered the airspace, four had been successful taken apart by Spire Nagdoral’s long range missile fire. One of the ships that touched down, did so fast enough to collapse the surrounding ice shelf for miles in every direction. The impact of the landing drove the scrapship deep enough into the glacier that it would take several hours for the Krox to dig themselves out, if they didn’t drown first.
Her immediate problem was the last warship that landed softy enough for the Krox to survive and start searching the surrounding area for targets. The last she saw of that warship was during the failed ambush, swarms of flies surrounded the twisted hull.
Survival training in the ice wastes hadn’t gone as planned, her squad had suffered casualties. What was supposed to be a four-week training exercise into the ice wastes quickly turned into a fire fight when the ship almost landed on top of them. The scrap ship’s launch bays opened and disgorged thousands of Krox warriors.
After checking for targets with her magrifle she reached down and grabbed the unconscious armored body of initiate-brother Soxel. Nothing had spotted them yet. She could hear the Krox firing indiscriminately into the air. The surround area was flanked by thick icy shelfs which help hide them from the search parties of roving enemies. Both of Soxel’s legs were gone from an explosion earlier in the battle.
The high yield rocket that took Soxel’s lower limbs from him was powerful enough to tear through the powered armor that knights wear. She was hit hard too but the two were able to get away before they were overrun. Sergeant Tecles grasped the utility handle above Soxel’s power plant. She dragged the dead weight behind her towards the opening at the end of the small ice valley.
Just one more hill, she would keep telling herself. Super-humans had extraordinary stamina, but hers was at its limit. She would have to reach safety soon or leave Soxel behind to be mounted on some Krox trophy rack.
Tecles couldn’t decide which was worse, dying herself or letting someone under her command be torn apart. No doubt the Krox would simply follow the mile-long blood smear on the ice right to their location. Tecles smacked the voxbead on the back of her helmet with her gauntlet, trying in vain to fix it.
The bullet that struck her behind the head, half an hour before, damaged it beyond field repair. She had no idea where her squad was after the Krox attacked. Separated and with no form of communication, things looked grim.
If Soxel lives, Tecles doubted he would ever forget his first taste of combat. Shame it took so much from him so early in his career. Tecles said a prayer for strength from the trails of faith she had been taught. Her muscles burned as her servo-fibers forced one leg in front of the other. “Just to the top,” she wheezed as her super-human lungs burned.
She fell to her knees at the top of the hill, Soxel’s limp form next to her, most of the bleeding had stopped but it would be enough to track them. Her HUD’s squad casualty software beeped and showed Soxel’s orange dot flicker to a, closer to death, red dot. Soxel’s blood loss was extreme and had multiple shrapnel injuries. She looked at her squad’s status, all black dots, eight knights unaccounted for or dead.
She blinked the alerts away and opened her own yellow dot. She had taken severe power armor damage. Internal bleeding from concussive damage from the same explosion that almost killed Soxel.
The synthetic adrenaline being pumped into her body from her suit must be masking the pain she thought. It did nothing to mask the fatigue. Her heart pounded in her chest. She blinked away all the warnings and disabled them, it wouldn’t matter in a few minutes.
She looked across the Nagdoral Ice Wastes. She could see a hundred miles of ice spikes and small ice shelves. Canyons that massive colossi can slip into and never return. Tecles could make out the proper Spire Nagdoral mountain range with her gene enhanced eyes.
Like spikes, the mountain range stabbed out of the ice wastes. Nagdoral was one of the most heavily defended places on Tethea but that couldn’t help her now. A trio of rockets struck a few ice spikes off to her left and she shot around and leveled her magrifle instinctually.
She saw hundreds of dark grey Krox pouring into the small ice valley. Before they noticed Tecles she saw the largest Krox pointing at the blood trail and cuffing a smaller Krox to his side. E
ach was an over muscular reptile that walked on two meaty legs. Roaring and hissing at each other. Their fanged maws and beady red eyes were dangerous enough but the Krox had makeshift axes and clubs. Some even had pistols and machine guns. They noticed her a few seconds after she saw them.
Bullets tossed up ice and snow around her as the most aware Krox started firing in her general direction. She went prone and started returning fire with the magrifle. The energy whine of the railgun starting up sounded like an old friend to her. The magrifle accelerated a miniature rocket out of the barrel faster than the speed of sound.
After the rocket exited the barrel, the propellent activated and slammed into the target, exploding on impact. Suriel carried a solid slug type of ammo for the magrifle as well but the armor piercing quality wasn’t needed here against the lightly armor Krox warriors. The front Krox detonated as the explosive qualities of the miniature rockets struck scaly flesh. Thick muscly arms flew through the air as bodies were torn apart from the magrifle.
Continuously they came, each Krox convinced another weaker Krox would die instead of the one in front of whatever was shooting it. That’s what made them so dangerous. Fast reproduction and no sense of consequences.
Krox ran at her up the icy hill as fast as their legs could take them. The magrifle clicked as the last round of ammo left the chamber. Without thinking Tecles immediately reloaded and began firing again. Almost a century of combat drills served honed her reflexes incredibly.
By the time she was firing again the closest Krox was less than 20 feet from her. Its headless body hit the ground hard as more lifted their clubs and charged her. Three more fell before her magrifle clicked again. Not enough time to reload, she knew.
Tecles had her magpistol in her hand before the magrifle hit the ground. She had the weapon up and depressed the trigger when the howling lizardman was less than ten feet away. The beast’s chest exploded at the same time as new magshots poured in from the ice shelfs on either side of the small valley. Blood saturated the air as a hundred bodies were torn apart from the fusillade of bullets.
Tecles’ magpistol clicked when she fired her last round into the oversized throat of the sole surviving Krox. Her HUD’s squad casualty report beeped and forced itself into her visor. Five squad member’s dots turned a healthy green, two remained black and the last dot flashed orange.
Shortrange communications were restored as her squad dropped from the ice shelfs and ran towards her. The ice camouflaged power armor making them seem like ghosts moving across the landscape. Sergeant message requests flooded her visor. She activated the highest priority one from the squad’s corporal with a blink.
“Sergeant, can you move?” corporal said urgently.
“Yes, I can we need to leave now.” Sergeant Tecles began issuing out commands to the remaining members of her squad. Traps were hastily laid out for any pursuers, weapons were reloaded and wounds attended to. The squad’s medic ran to Soxel’s near dead body. He lifted his medical gauntlet and connected with the computer of Soxel’s armor. The arterial bleed from before was already clotted by the super-humans enhanced blood but the medic didn’t take any chances and had Soxel’s armor suits artificial muscles fibers tightened around the wounds until they effectively created a tourniquet.
The fibers would need to be totally removed and replaced when they got back to the order fort but the engineers would understand it was to save a knight-brother. He pulled out a couple tubes of synthetic blood from a medical box attached to his chest and inserted it into the armor’s receptors near Soxel’s power plant.
The liquid drained from the tube with a hiss.
“He is stable now; his body has already began healing. Soxel should be fine as long as he gets to the surgeons at the Crow’s Nest soon.
Sergeant Tecles nodded to the medic and turned to the remaining squad members “Spread out into columns injured in the middle. We are heading back to the extraction point. Then we will take the Warbird back to the Crow’s Nest and wait for orders.”
Sounds of affirmation sounded from the squad and they started moving into the ice field at the bottom of the hill and away from the scrapship. Any questions she had would be answered later.
Thank you everyone!
It really means a lot that you guys enjoyed Chapter One. I'm an author for a group called Ironpack. We designed Eternal Edge to be a sci-fi/fantasy universe and have a lot of things planned for it.
We do have a Patreon if you want to get in contact with us on a different platform. Also, I wanted to thank Vocal for making my post a possibility.