Welcome to The Bridge Burners: The Planetside Legacy

Please use the chapter guide to the right...

Sunday, 24 June 2007

About the author...

Kyle Spence was born in Dungannon, Northern Ireland in December 1981 (December 8th if you want to send him a card) and freely admits to having no life.

He lives in Portstewart with Amy (his pet scorpion) and spends far too much time in coffee shops. His favourite film is Transformers: The Movie (1986) because Orson Welles has some truly awesome dialogue. He is a firm believer that every man should have one good vice, and so is trying desperately to narrow himself down.

His writing career really took form when he started writing short stories for the online gaming community ‘The Bridge Burners’ and the reception to these stories gave him the impetus to actually try to finish one of the many novels he had started. He is currently working on a side project named 'Captured Star', an honorarium story to TBB set three years after 'The Planetside Legacy' was due to end.

Mana: The Shadows of Destiny is his first book and he hopes that you enjoy it, or at least paid for it before leaving the store.

To contact Kyle email:

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

The Planetside Legacy, complete storyline

The Bridge Burners: The Planetside Legacy
The Complete 7 Series

Series 1: The Amerish Zerg
One year on from the massacre that was the Flagrance of Cyssor and the 4th Black Guard have established themselves on the Vanu Sovereignty home continent of Amerish. Since Auraxis shifted apart in the Bending event the 4th have began to train a new heavy weapons unit known as the Amethyst Lancers to combat the threat posed by Battle Frame Robotics. On a day like most others Amerish falls victim to the brunt of the entire New Conglomerate zerg and though the 4th, better known as The Bridge Burners in honour of General Staceh, put up a valiant defence but the sheer force of numbers eventually overwhelms them. It’s now a race against time for the Vanu Sovereignty to mount an assault that will retake the continent and recover the research data from HoaX’s labs under Ikanam, specifically data derived from fragmented information on an Ancient Starship known as the Dromon. The Amethyst Lancers get their first real test when they come up against a BFR hybrid armed with Ancient Tech weaponry.

Series 2: The Sanctuary War
When a series of break-ins occur across Sanctuary the clues seem to point to one frightening possibility, that the New Conglomerate has somehow managed to break the SancLocks that have keep the former colonial centres safe. Whilst the VS rush all hands to scan every inch of the continent the Sabres unit sends word of a massive NC force moving through Forseral, and following them through the warp bubble they have found themselves standing on the Terran Republic Sanctuary. Latex proves that Sanctuary security hasn’t been compromised but in doing so has shown the threat to be graver than anyone has known, there is a traitor within the Vanu Sovereignty. As a witch-hunt begins Auraxis is shaken as the next Bending event fast approaches and in a race against time the VS mounts what is to become the largest single engagement in the history of the Auraxian War. Only a few of those involved actually know the truth about how the war is going to dramatically draw to a close. Meanwhile in a matrix deep beneath the Supai Cavern HoaX’s data is becoming a reality and soon the world may witness the greatest feat of the VS.

Series 3: Shadows and Shattered Worlds
The Bridge Burners wake up to find themselves aboard the starship Concordia, against all probability they have survived the destruction of Auraxis. They pick up a distress beacon of NC origin, but before they can investigate a TR fleet arrives through the wormhole. Back in known space a less than reputable trader recognises Staceh as the Butcher of Larzoss who seems to be travelling with other companions of questionable reputation, and he sells them out to the TR. In the heat of Battle Vastian suddenly enters a seemingly random set of co-ordinates and the VSC slipstreams out of the system. Arriving at the Free Colonies Vastian’s past suddenly catches up with him, and as he struggles to come to terms with what he has been told his mind is further clouded with his reunion with his supposed wife-to-be, and their 7 year old daughter.

Series 4: Whisperings and the New Atlantis
The VSC are trying to uncover the purpose of the Galactic Machine of which Auraxis was once a part of and whilst exploring a region of space near the galactic edge Concordia disappears with all hands. Victoria meanwhile was in the Corporate District acquiring equipment and provisions where Vastian thinks that he spots Bluestar, but before he can verify it he loses him in the crowd. Surely the TR would have executed the NC survivors? Aven hears rumours of an army massing within the Corporate District, specifically territory controlled by the Deep Space Research Conglomerate, but before they can check it out they receive word from the Bazon at the VS interim command in the Colonies that Concordia has vanished. Arriving at their sister ship’s last known co-ordinates they are stunned to discover that a planet has inexplicably appeared, but before they can signal anyone Victoria’s systems all shift to automatic and the craft is guided down to the surface, where she shuts down. Meeting Staceh they discover that this technologically advanced world appears completely and meaninglessly abandoned, this is Caer’Durath; the world on the edge of existence, the ancient Vanu homeworld.

Series 5: That Which Lurks in the Darkness
The TR 101st Fleet has turned against the Republic, and uniting with the DSRC the New Conglomerate has risen from the ashes of Auraxis. The VSC find themselves in the midst of a very familiar civil war, but before they can become involved they must first deal with the twisted creatures that were once the Ancients that have begun appearing over Caer’Durath and outlying systems. They intercept a TR transmission detailing several colonies that they’ve inexplicably lost contact with, and investigating the situation the VSC discover that the galaxy may be in far greater peril than anyone realises. With the Galactic Machine weakened by the destruction of Auraxis the Formless Ones, the old enemy of the Vanu have once again been able to enter certain parts of the galaxy. These regions have become dead zones, anyone who enters is little more than bait for the Formless. The VSC return to the infested Caer’Durath in hope of finding a way to push back the Formless Ones, but they may not have the manpower to beat back the Twisted Ancients.

Series 6: Touching the Void
The galaxy burns. The NC and TR battle amongst themselves whilst simultaneously trying in vain to beat back the shadow forces of the Formless. At the VS Enclave on Caer’Durath the Vanu continue to manufacture their fleet using Ancient materialising technology, which leads to Latex discovering the Global Matrix- the device that had originally been used to construct Auraxis. Before she can report this to Staceh she makes a further discovery of far more profound implications; the Auraxis matrix files include not only the matrices for all the different flora and fauna for the world but also the matrices for about 7000 Ancients.

Series 7: The Coming of the Ancients
With Auraxis once more as part of the Ancient Machine the fractures in space/time are sealing and with the help of the Ancients the Formless are finally getting pushed back to whatever hell they call home. On the verge of victory it becomes clear that the Vanu have no intention of leaving the galaxy they once lost in the hands of an upstart race such as humanity. From the materialising fields of Auraxis and the spires of Caer’Durath to the palisades of Ancient Terra the united factions of mankind face the greatest war they have ever known, and it may be the last.

The Glass Frontier and the Field of Broken Memories

The Bridge Burners: The Planetside Legacy
Series 3: Shadows and Shattered Worlds
Part 1: The Glass Frontier and the Field of Broken Memories

In all over seventy thousand inhabited worlds are bent to the rule of the Terran Republic, a full two thirds of the known galaxy fall under the watchful eye of the Inquisition and the Republican Fleets, and every year they push further out into the frontier.
There was a time long ago when this expansion was fuelled by the desire to find a greater purpose for humanity and to satisfy our own curiosity about what lay beyond in the dark unknown, a more innocent age of manned space flight now lost to greed and conquest.
Beyond the Galactic Core lies the vast track of space known as the Frontiers, the boundary of the Republic’s reach from Ancient Terra and the Orion worlds, a line that moves further out with every year and every new conquest. Life is by no means easy on the frontier colonies, the distance from the Orion Tract results in delays in receiving supplies, medical supplies and emergency assistance; and the threat of war spilling over from the conquests is forever present.
Fear and paranoia keeps the colonies in check, and when a crime is committed the citizens can turn to the Colonial Marshal’s Service for justice and security, and should the worst happen there are other forces waiting in the wings…
Dust and smoke blackened the clouds, bathing the world in a perpetual twilight, no town or village could offer sanctuary from the civil war that had spread its grasp over the entire planet.
The catalyst had been a small prisoner transport crash landing near a small settlement along a dusty mesa, the few survivors had been taken to the local clinic until aid could arrive from one of the hospitals in the colony capitol Ourilly. As was common on new frontier colonies a disease was sweeping the population, the inevitable outcome of humans encountering a bacteria or virus to which they have no natural immunity, and as a result medical aid was at a premium.
Magellan’s Vigil was a relatively new colony along the Shadow Frontier, the edge of the territory yet explored by the Terran Republic in their march across the galaxy, far beyond the core and the furthest point from Ancient Terra yet reached. Ground was broken on Ourilly little over one hundred years ago and now it was the central hub of a healthy and prosperous colony, its starports a hive of activity as settlers arrived in droves, drawn by the prospect of untapped riches and prime real estate.
The Colonial Marshals had an easy time on MV compared to some of the worlds they policed, crime rates in Ourilly were the lowest of any of the frontier cities and the townsfolk beyond held a great sense of community welfare.
The peace started to unravel when a Republic destroyer arrived in orbit to resecure the prisoners from the fallen transport, which brought immediate tension as TR enlisted generally thought of colonials as little more than backward hicks who could only just be regarded as human due to having opposable thumbs. The leader of the force was a highly-strung Inquisitor by the name of Sandalfon, a man in whom the fleet’s disdain for the colonies was fully embodied, and he wasted no time in leaving the planetary governor as little more than a gibbering wreck.
He arrived at the crash site and proceeded to the small town of Cook’s Post where he was received with the same dues as any Inquisitor, with fear. The prisoners had mingled with the population, that much he knew for certain, he wanted only to get the identities of those who had survived. Executor Villeford had been very specific as to how Sandalfon was to deal with the survivors.
Fire rained from the heavens upon the hapless residents of Cook’s Post, in a few short minutes everything along the mesa had been flattened back to the dust from which it came.
A cry of outrage went up from Ourilly and a force of angered citizens led by none other than the Colonial Marshals turned upon the TR occupying force, Magellan’s Vigil was now at war.
After 17 days of fighting the TR reinforcements were yet to arrive and under the command of the Marshals the Colonials had almost managed to completely claim Ourilly and all of it’s supply bunkers. Buildings smouldered and parks burned as the TR advance pushed on the Baffin District, the weakest point of defence in the CM lines. Missiles shot overhead and tore apart the once prosperous city; everywhere the sound of automatic weapons fire permeated the air and chilled the bones.
Prowlers pushed through the weaker barricades in the district and allowed the more manoeuvrable lightning tanks to swarm the streets, the Marshals were forced to fall back under the onslaught of the armoured cavalry. Baffin District was going to fall.
Colonial transports rolled through the streets, until the TR advance the district had been well beyond the fray and as such was not yet completely evacuated, there were still families in some homes and the great glass tower of the district hospital was still operating at full capacity.
As the evacuation began Marshall Steele threw open the door to his home, “Susanna!”
Frantically he ran from room to room, “Susanna!”
He turned and saw her close the door to their son’s room, “Suz, get Andrew, we have to go right now.”
She had known this was coming, the sound of heavy assault rifles had come closer by the hour, she’d heard the explosions as the tanks worked through the district.
She went back into her son’s room where he slept peacefully in the dark, blissfully unaware of the chaos approaching. Gently she placed a hand on his shoulder, “Andrew. Andrew, wake up, love.”
He fluttered his eyelids, the light coming from the open doorway blurring his vision, “Mum?”
“Andrew, get dressed quickly, honey, we have to go,” Susanna spoke calmly and softly, she didn’t want to frighten the boy.
There was an explosion in the street outside, “Hurry, son.”
A crash came from downstairs accompanied by a lot of shouting and a few seconds of gunfire.
Susanna’s face blanched, “Andrew, hide.”
She turned and ran to the hallway, “Alex?”
Heavy footsteps, “Well, well. What have we here?”
From under his bed Andrew could see a man in heavy Republic armour standing at the top of the stairs ahead of his mother. Three more soldiers in lighter armour climbed the stairs behind him, their uniforms were flecked with dried blood.
“Looks like we can take a quick break boys,” the heavier soldier sneered. He undid the bandoleer of his armour and strode towards Susanna, who backed away in response.
He grabbed her by the arm and dragged her into the master bedroom, Andrew could see nothing of what happened next for the other soldiers blocked his view but he could hear his mother screaming, a sound that he would remember for the rest of his days.
One of the soldiers turned and went to explore the rest of the house, Andrew watched him go, but then he saw a reflection in the mirror of the master bedroom. He felt tears on his face and his breath was a mixture of sobs and gasps, and he felt his control slipping.
Amidst his turmoil a face appeared at his bedroom door, the curious soldier entered the room and had a brief glance about. With a snort he picked up a Hardick Puzzle Cube and turned to leave the room, it was then that he heard the faint sobbing that seemed to be coming from beneath the bed.
Going down on one knee and raising the sheets he peered under, “Aw shit.”
He reached under and beckoned Andrew to him, “C’mon kid, you don’t want to be here for this.”
His mother screamed again as the next soldier loosened his gear, the heavier man sauntered from the room as Andrew was led towards the stairs.
“Got a kid, Sarge,” the soldier said to the heavier man.
“Take him to the transport,” was the reply, “ship him off to boot with the others.”
At the bottom of the stairs Andrew turned and spotted the bullet-ridden corpse of his father lying in a pool of blood in the kitchen, he began to sob again.
“For what it’s worth kid, I’m sorry,” the man said to him, “war doesn’t generally bring out the best in man.”
His mother continued to scream as he was led out the door, and standing in the flickering porch-light facing the imposing grey transport he heard a single gunshot. The screaming stopped.
After a few years in juvenile training Andrew was transferred out to the Karnak Training Facility in the Wolf System. He kept to himself most of the time, his childhood experience had left him wary of his fellow man and he was in no hurry to repair that bridge.
“Ok you maggots best listen up, you are in big boy boot now and I am senior drill instructor Sergeant Grahn, I am God so far as you are concerned, my word is gospel and while you are here you will obey me! Do you get me?”
“Sir, yes sir,” the recruits responded in unison as Grahn walked the line of new arrivals.
“You are worthless right now,” the drill instructor barked, “you don’t even deserve to wear that glorious emblem that adorns your gear HANDS AT YOUR SIDES SOLDIER nor do you deserve to stand like men SUCK IN THAT GUT!”
Grahn stopped and sighed, “What a sorry bunch of primates that I had to get lumbered with. You, what’s your excuse?”
Andrew froze up under the sergeant’s steely gaze
“Well boy? Sound off like you’ve got a pair.”
“Sir, I’m from the frontier, sir,” he barked.
“I know that, cadet, I could smell the horse shit as soon as I stepped onto this yard. What colony?”
“Sir, Magellan’s Vigil, sir.”
Grahn looked at the young man for a few seconds, his square jaw grinding as he appraised the cadet, “You might just make it here, boy, but I’ve been wrong before. Try not to let me down.”
“Sir, yes sir.”
Grahn strode further down the line, “So, scumbag, what do you want to blame? Holy shit, from the look of your face I’d say you’d want to start with God and work your way down a very long list. Son, I’m recommending you for heavy weapons training, you look like you could hold a special grudge against the universe and I think we could harness that.”
Andrew’s new outfit had thirty minutes to stow their gear in their barracks and report to the mess hall, forty minutes of senior drill sergeant Grahn had left them under no illusion as to just how low they were ranked in the food chain.
“You’re from Magellan’s Vigil?”
Andrew looked up to see a well built blonde man leaning on his bunk, “Yeah.”
“That’s too bad man. Lot of bad shit happened out there.”
The blonde kid could see Andrew’s jaw clenching up, “Hey man, I’m sorry, didn’t mean to drag up any bad memories, the present is going to be hard enough.”
Andrew shoved his pack into his footlocker, “Don’t worry about it.”
“Hey,” the blonde kid smiled and offered his hand, “the name’s Michael.”
“C’mon buddy, let’s get us some chow. I’ve got a feeling we’ve got a long day ahead of us.”
“I swear to God if you maggots don’t pick up the pace I’m going to get a chain and I’m going to flog each and every worthless member of this farce of an outfit until I cum from the experience.”
Sweat fell from the brows of the cadets in great beads as they ran the intense obstacle course; the packs they bore were loaded with dead weight to the point that many trainees bled from the shoulders.
“I want a record time set by this evening or else we’ll run this through the night. GET BACK ON THAT FRAME AND TRY AGAIN, NUMBNUTS!”
Andrew swung easily across the overhead bars, Michael almost parallel to him on the frame as they raced each other. Over the last few weeks a friendly rivalry had built between the pair as they pushed each other further and faster in their performance, each able to keep the other going during moments of weakness.
“Forget it, dude,” Andrew quipped between breath’s, “you’re never crossing that line before me.”
Michael nimbly scaled the cargo net, “You frontier boys are all the same, brought up in a little dust and suddenly you all think that you’re men.”
“And you Central boys start thinking you’re men when you get that first bit of dust beneath your finger nails.”
“Neither of you maggots are men,” Grahn barked, “pick up the pace.”
“Congratulations, cadets, from today forwards you are no longer maggots. Today I am proud to say that you are now apes.”
Grahn marched sternly along the line of soldiers who now, after months of intensive training, stood taller and prouder than the sorry collection that once occupied the same space.
“The reason for this little evolution is that today you get to take one step closer to being a man, we’re taking away your training guns and giving you real M37R4 Moretta Assault Rifles with real, honest to God bullets. Cowboy, sound off on the Moretta.”
“Sir, the M37R4 is a new model compact assault rifle in a bullpup configuration.” Andrew rhymed off the stats in his head, “it fires standard 5.56 millimetre rounds at a rate of 85 rounds per minute on full auto, has a muzzle velocity of 2756 feet per second and the standard clip is 45 rounds, sir.”
“Very good, Cowboy.” Grahn stiffened, “Now you apes will practice safety when using live rounds on my assault range or I will get the chain again. Get suited up and assemble in 10.”
In the barracks Michael sat stripped to his vest and underwear as he polished the last of the dust from his boots, behind him Andrew was removing his armour from his locker and arranging it on his bunk.
“Hey, what the hell?”
Michael looked over his shoulder to see Andrew investigating the back of his reinforced armour, three concentric circles had been painted in red, white and blue on it.
“Just a little something for luck,” Michael said with a wink and a smile.
Andrew sighed at the big target painted on his back.
The sun was splitting the trees and the concrete of the parade ground was baked. Bands played as Grahn strode the line of soldiers standing firmly to attention, their red and white dress uniforms bright in the morning sun.
“Well, I never thought that it would happen but you are men now. Congratulations soldiers, you are now amongst the finest of the Terran Republic Armed Services, you can go forth into the galaxy now and get paid to kill folk. Do me proud.”
It was an all action alert, the fleet was mobilised to suppress a civil war that had broken out on some frontier colony, the situation was further antagonised when a High Inquisitor seized control of the fleet operations, apparently he had some history with the world.
Andrew watched through the barrack viewport as waves of light washed by, a planet rushed ahead of them and the craft decelerated from jump, frigates streaked past as they slowed slightly later than the carriers. Immediately they opened fire on the attack craft in orbit of the world and rained plasma upon the known enemy landing zones.
“Ok, men,” Lieutenant Enrico strode down the rank and file, “Magellan’s Vigil has been under fire for eight weeks now.”
Andrew held back a knee jerk reaction at hearing his homeworld was at war once again, and that he was going in with the very force that had torn it up once before.
“The insurgents, disgruntled members of the Marshal’s Service, have hired in mercenaries to bolster their forces. At this time we believe civilian involvement to be minimal to non-existent, so check your fire in populated areas. I do not want any unnecessary casualties, is that clear?”
“Sir, yes sir,” the troops barked in unison.
“The High Inquisitor has ordered that all opposition be eliminated with extreme prejudice. It seems that he would like us to leave a blood bath as a message to any further dissidents.”
Michael and Andrew had been in Lt Enrico’s outfit for nearly four months now and they’d came to know that Enrico didn’t do blood baths, no matter who the order had came from. Andrew for one was glad, he didn’t relish the idea of fighting on his home planet, never mind the thought of being involved in another massacre on the world.
The surface was hell. After weeks of fighting Ourilly was little more than a burned out husk, it’s streets strewn with rubble and spent shell casings, trees and parkways crushed to mulch under the machina of war, monuments to colonial endeavour lay in shattered and broken testament to the bloodshed. The wreckage of aerial transports remained smashed wherever they had crashed from the skyways, overhead great streaks of acrid black smoke scoured the heavens as wreckage from the battle in orbit burned through the atmosphere. The occasional aerotech fighter shot by and moments later the street would erupt under a blaze of carpet-bombing, missiles and random artillery fire decimated the landscape.
“Didn’t think that I’d ever see this place again,” Andrew mused as the transport rolled into the quieter Baffin District, he felt butterflies in his stomach as the memories came back with each faded signpost and every broken monument.
“Your old house somewhere around here?” Michael asked his friend as they knocked the door of the first home on their list. The Marshals had taken to drafting or otherwise taking hostage any civilians they happened upon, Enrico and a few select squads were evacuating the populace to reduce the number of unnecessary deaths.
“I would doubt it,” Andrew ushered a family out to a waiting transport, “this area was a bastard to defend last time and got hit pretty hard, in the end it bore the brunt of the assault force that eventually retook the city. My home was probably left as little more than rubble.”
The radio hissed to life, “Squads in sector K7 be advised mercenary armour has been spotted moving into the area.”
“Right,” Enrico yelled in the streets, “we have incoming, get these people out of here now and prepare for fire.”
The last of the civilians ran to the waiting transports as a vibration began to rumble steadily through the ground, the rhythmic thrum of the heavy hitting vanguard tanks favoured by mercenary units across the galaxy.
“Come on come on come on,” Michael ordered some of the slower civvies who had chosen to lug some personal effects.
“Incoming!” Andrew yelled as an explosion tore apart the upper level of the building beside him. Dust and rubble fell about the soldiers as another blast took out an aerotram that had been parked on the pavement.
“Cowboy, Street, get these people into the transports now!” Enrico ordered as he fired off a volley towards the vanguards, “Deano, get on that crowd pleaser and give us some cover fire.”
Stones bounced off their armour as Michael and Andrew helped the last of the civvies into the transport, the roar of the dual 12.76mm anti armour cannons fired by private Deano was like the sweetest music to their ears.
“That’s the last of them,” Andrew called as the transports began to move out of the area.
“Command, this is Lieutenant Enrico in K7, I need artillery support at co-ordinates k7-54.2 by 55.718.”
“Roger that,” the radio hissed, “request for artillery support granted. Shot underway.”
Above the ring of weapons fire and the thud of the vanguards another sound could be heard, a low whistle that ended in a blaze of hellfire as the area around the vanguards erupted in a storm of artillery shells.
“Thank God for the man above,” Michael laughed as he watched the tanks buckle under the hail and get torn to pieces.
“Now I know that you don’t mean the inquisitor,” Deano called from his turret.
“Heh, I hardly mean Sandalfon.”
“Sandalfon?” Andrew turned to his friend, “that bastard is leading this mission?”
“I take it that you know him beyond reputation then?”
Andrew gritted his teeth, “It was that son of a bitch who started the last war here.”
“Well that explains why he wants a blood bath,” Enrico said as the last shots rained upon the shattered metal, “he probably feels that he’s got unfinished business here. I mean, the guy is mad for blood and he doesn’t care where he gets it…”
A horrible thought occurred to the lieutenant, and it seemed that the thought was shared by more than a few of his soldiers.
“The transports…”
Enrico quickly turned and strode towards their command transport whilst activating his comm link, “Sector K7 civilians evacuated safely, request galaxy pick up.”
Static hissed across the radio, “Request for extraction denied, sector is still compromised. Proceed to sector J5 to assist forces in assault against Marshal way station.”
Assist in an assault?
“Command, my unit is equipped for search and rescue, we do not have the capability to take part in an assault at this time.”
“Roger that, lieutenant, orders stand. Proceed to sector J5 and assist Republic forces.”
Enrico looked around the men under his command, at the people who depended on him to lead them to victory, at the soldiers who depended on him to lead them wisely.
“To hell with our orders, fall back to forward base at I6 and gear up. If we’re quick we can get to the civvies before they are shipped on.”
“Roger that,” the squad responded.
Moving quickly through the battered streets the unit found no shortage of cover amongst all the rubble. The grey sky was fading to twilight as another forbidding night rolled in, the mercenaries were liable to use the cover of darkness to ship more troops into the area. The Republic fleet wasn’t large enough to effectively blockade the world from corvettes or the faster RD (Rapid Deployment) jump ships that could drop a hundred drop pods and be gone again without ever presenting a target.
“Clear,” Michael called as he scanned the street.
The troops flitted from cover to cover as they made their way across the sector, in the distance they could hear the rapid fire burr of the new Cycler rifles and the man-portable chain guns that had recently entered service.
Ducking next to Enrico Andrew could no longer refrain from asking, “Sir, if we do make it to the civvies what are we going to do with them?”
“The monorails are still running, we’ll ship them to one of the outlying towns and hope for the best. The fighting is contained more or less within the city so hopefully they should be safe enough.”
“Sir,” Enrico’s radio crackled, it was Michael, “you’d better come see this.”
“What have you got, Street?”
“Its… you’d better come see, sir.”
“Cowboy, with me.”
Moving silently ahead and around the corner of a battered tower block Enrico slipped towards Michael’s position with Andrew covering his back, the soldier stood at the edge of a large crater in what looked like was once a park.
“What is it, Stree… oh my God!”
Beneath the lip of the crater was a mass of flesh, a pit of lifeless bodies abandoned to the elements. This was a mass grave.
“Dear God,” Andrew gasped, “these are the people we just evacuated.”
Deano knelt near the pit, he was examining the ground carefully.
“You think the transports were hit?”
“No,” Dean said at last, “this darker tread is from a locked wheel, but there’s only one and the mark isn’t short enough to indicate an emergency stop. They pulled up at this crater and made everyone stand in line, those dark patches by the lip are urine stains and these shell casings came from a Moretta. This was an execution.”
“Sandalfon got his blood bath,” Michael spoke, his voice almost a whisper.
There was fire in both Enrico’s eyes and Andrew’s, “Squad, move to I6 now, we’re recalling to the fleet.”
At the forward base the squad were both surprised and enraged to find High Inquisitor Sandalfon strolling about like some glorious, all-conquering General.
Enrico put a hand on Andrew’s chest when he spotted the soldier moving towards the Inquisitor, “Careful, Cowboy, this is a bad place to pick a fight.”
“You men,” the Inquisitor spotted Enrico’s squad, “surely there is a fight somewhere that you should be in.”
“Sir,” Enrico stepped forward, “my men are ill equipped for an assault, we have just returned from a mission that, with all due respect, seems to have been little more than a cover for a pointless massacre.”
Sandalfon raised a dark eyebrow, he detected the venom in the lieutenant’s voice, “You have a problem with obeying your orders, lieutenant?”
“When those orders involve the murder of innocent-“ Andrew piped in but was restrained by his commander.
“Not here,” Enrico hissed, “Inquisitor, I do not see what purpose the murder of innocent civilians could possibly serve.”
“Nor do I expect you to,” Sandalfon replied haughtily, “you are paid only to follow orders, you aren’t given enough information to question them. But if you need to find some reason to justify your actions then you should ask yourself one thing, how effective can an army be if you remove its most necessary resource?”
Enrico tasted bile in his mouth, “You killed all those people, who were fleeing the area, on the off chance that they might side with the Marshals?”
Andrew felt sick to his stomach, he heard whisperings from his squad mates behind him, the outfit was now tainted with the blood of at least forty innocents, unwittingly or not they had now damned themselves.
“You catch on quickly for a grunt,” the Inquisitor sneered, “and now perhaps you’d like to try and convince me as to why I shouldn’t have you charged with treason for that little conversation.”
At that time a young officer trotted up to Sandalfon, “High Inquisitor, sir, I have an urgent report for you.”
Sandalfon rolled his eyes, “Go ahead, corporal.”
“Sir, a Republic Fleet has just arrived in orbit, sir.”
That brought a smile to the Inquisitor’s face, with those additional ships he would now be able to effectively blockade this dust ball and crush the Marshals, “Good, Executor Villeford is looking out for us.”
“Uh, no, sir,” the corporal swallowed, “the fleet is flagged by the Truth and Consequence.”
“The Flagship?” Sandalfon’s eyes narrowed, the Rialtine Fleet, what did they want?
“Yes, sir. The Executor’s shuttle is inbound as we speak.”
Enrico and Andrew looked at one another. While it was true that command didn’t share enough information with the grunts for them to make a decision every soldier in the military knew that the arrival of the Republic Flagship meant that something big was going on. Executors don’t just leave Central without reason, and they certainly don’t waste their time on uprisings along the Frontier.
“Prep a shuttle to take me to Command and Control,” Sandalfon ordered the corporal, “and get me the latest intelligence reports.”
“Sir, the Executor isn’t going to the C&C,” the young soldier paled, “he’s coming here.”
As if on cue a roar of engine’s filled the air as a ship shaped like the world’s most evil dagger turned on it’s axis overhead, landing lights flashed as it’s gear lowered. Flood lights tracked through the failing light of the evening until they found their target on High Inquisitor Sandalfon.
The shuttle touched down with a blast of dust and a wave of heat from the jet wash passed over those around, already the hatch was open and a force of black clad special guard were taking positions to secure the complex.
Enrico’s squad were led to one side and ordered to lay down arms, which they were more than happy to do given the circumstances. Andrew watched as a man dressed in fleet command attire emerged, to be followed by a taller man dressed in the gold adorned black and red uniform of an Executor, two special guard troopers flanked them.
He couldn’t see much more than their silhouettes due to the intensity of the floodlights glaring about the area, but he could hear the exchange.
“Executor Gainsborough, to what do I owe the honour, sir?”
The Executor took a step forward, “High Inquisitor Sandalfon, you are under arrest for acts of high treason against the Terran Republic.”
The Inquisitor took a step back, “What? I never-“
“Spare me your falsehoods,” Gainsborough barked, for someone so young he commanded incredible authority, “we have been through your accounts thoroughly. You should really be more careful about which mercenaries you choose to rely on, especially when they are the known associates of a dissident like Bagdh Dearg.”
Sandalfon knew that he was in a corner now, he had paid mercenaries to incite riots in Ourilly and he had made an anonymous donation to the Colonial Marshals in order for them to hire the same mercs to quell the uprising.
“The High Council is well aware of the fact that you lost both your sons in the previous war on this world, a war which the High Council is also well aware that you are most likely to have incited. That you would risk the stability of the Republic for such a grievance is inexcusable.”
“Sir, I have full backing from Executor Villeford, if you just-“
“Villeford has been stripped of his titles and is currently en route to Inferis for his involvement in this,” the Executor crossed his arms, “you on the other hand now have a choice, Halo 7, or the cranial bore.”
Sandalfon looked into Gainsborough’s eyes, desperately searching for some sort of compassion or reprieve. There was none.
“The bore,” was all that he could muster, his voice was barely a whisper.
“So be it,” Gainsborough turned to the man beside him, “Dumas, let the record show that High Inquisitor Sandalfon has chosen execution by cranial bore.”
“Aye, sir.”
“You men,” the Executor spoke to Enrico’s squad without turning to them, “there is a mesa 60 kilometres due west of here. Take Sandalfon to that place, strip him of his titles and fire the bore into his head.”
Andrew had waited over twenty years for the day he would see Sandalfon die, but now he almost felt compassion for the man, to have lost his family and then face execution by one of the worst devices conceived just didn’t seem right. He just had to remind himself that this man was a mass murderer, the cause of two wars on his homeworld.
“Sir, what about the conflict?” Dumas spoke to the Executor as they turned to board the shuttle.
“What is the civilian population of the city?”
“Moderate to minimal,” Dumas read from his hand terminal, “most have been evacuated to the outlying towns or executed by the former Inquisitor.”
“Right, pull our forces out of the city and inform the command of the Colonial Marshals Service that dissension will not be tolerated.”
In the starlight the broken city appeared to be a damaged crystal, Andrew admired its beauty from the distant mesa, somehow after everything the city had been through it would go on. It was damaged but the people would rebuild, there would be new monuments, new parks and life would once again be good for the people of Ourilly and Magellan’s Vigil.
Turning back to the galaxy he saw Sandalfon in chains, a broken man now who had no will to struggle as Michael tore his standards and medals from his uniform. A single tear rolled down his cheek as Enrico hefted the curved barrel of the cranial bore and ordered him to his knees.
“Cowboy,” the lieutenant said, “this man is most responsible for what happened to your family, if you want, you can end this.”
Andrew looked at the device offered by his commander, “No, sir. As Sandalfon has already shown, a thirst for vengeance will do nothing to ease the pain.”
Enrico looked the soldier in the eye and nodded, then without a word he pulled the trigger.
A high pitched whine shot from the device and a claw burst from the barrel and latched on to Sandalfon’s head, Enrico lowered the spent launcher as the conical drill in the body of the bore began to eat it’s way into the Inquisitor’s skull. Through it’s hollow core a mass of flesh and bone began to spew forth as Sandalfon screamed and writhed in agony, yellow goo of the cerebrospinal fluid began to squirt out followed by a bloody mass of pink flesh as the bore hit the brain.
A single gunshot rang out in the night.
Andrew lowered his pistol as the corpse of Sandalfon collapsed to the ground.
He turned back towards the city and sighed, it was over at last. Michael and Enrico came to his side, they watched in the darkness as the last of the Republic shuttles took to the sky.
“It’s over, I guess,” Michael said as he watched the shuttle ascend, “you think the CMS will surrender or what?”
“With the Flagship and her fleet in orbit I imagine the Marshals will probably try to negotiate a cease-fire or a conditional surrender.”
A single aerotech fighter passed overhead and arced higher into the sky heading back into orbit, as it passed over Ourilly something shiny seemed to drop from it.
The three soldiers watched as it slowly fell towards the ruined cityscape, a simple metallic object with no noticeably functioning parts. They watched until realisation sank in.
“Oh… fuck!”
They turned as a flash so bright that it burned erupted from the city, Andrew felt his skin tingle as the light washed over them…
He fell to the ground coughing and spluttering everything was a blur, his vision was acting like his eyes had never been used before. A cold mist washed about him and there were hands on him. The ground beneath him was cold metal, it thrummed or vibrated rhythmically, where the hell was he?
“Andy, ANDY!” That voice, he recognised it, it was Mikey. Where they back at Sanc? The last thing that he remembered was trying to climb from an upturned AMS and the ground starting to break up around him.
“Mikey, I can’t see. Where are we? What the hell is going on?”
“Relax, the spawn sickness will clear shortly, the blindness is in your mind, not your eyes,” Mikey patted his friend on the shoulder, “Staceh was the same, so were most of the rest of the guys.”
“Mikey, where are we?”
Someone else was standing beside him, even with his blurred vision Painted could recognise General Staceh, “We don’t know yet, not any base I’ve seen before. It’s a well equipped spawn room anyway, twelve tubes, six equipment terminals, two cert terminals and two implant chambers. And it’s definitely VS.”
Behind them the tubes hummed to life as the next batch of reborn were spawned, on this side Shinya; MrSubliminal; Enrico; Chutney; Shrikeh; and Macarria popped out.
Far down the room a pair of double doors slid open to allow HoaX and Vastian to enter the room, they were in full dress uniform but something about them seemed different. It took Staceh a second to realise that their uniforms bore the winged ‘Heralds’ emblem as opposed to the halo’d ‘Arms of Evolution’ badge.
“Guys, what’s the score? And more importantly, where the hell are we?”
“Concordia, I think,” Vastian responded, “our luck has held out it seems.”
“What do you mean, Vast?”
“Well,” HoaX responded, and pushing a couple of buttons on a wall panel resulted in blast shields across the windows to open with a heavy rumble, “we should be dead.”
Beyond the glass lay a starfield with an expanding cloud of dust and debris, in its centre a broken and cracked moon drifted a lonely course through the field, what remained of it’s former homeworld now fell in great lumps to crater and scar the wanderer.
“The Bending couldn’t complete without the missing Geowarp crystal, Auraxis became unstable and the warp energies blew her apart.”
Staceh felt a case of déjà vu, Vast had told him that before hadn’t he… was it Vast?
This isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning of another story.
It wasn’t just luck that they were still alive, someone or something had manipulated events in their favour, but to what end?
A klaxon chimed softly from the ether, “Emergency transmission detected, source undetermined.”
“Follow me to the bridge guys,” HoaX clipped as he turned on his heel, “I’ll try to bring you up to speed on these babies.”
They entered a corridor coloured in beige and purple, every now and then various interface panels were set into the walls, at present each displayed only the Heralds of Evolution emblem and the words ‘Vanu Sovereignty Space Command’.
As they strode after HoaX Staceh cocked his head to Vastian, “These ships, are they, well… finished?”
Vast smiled, “Yeah, they’re completely starworthy. They were running automated space trials when Auraxis blew. All the systems checked out, these ladies are probably the most stable starships in the galaxy.”
“Considering they use technologies of Vanu old and new I should have expected nothing less.”
“Unfortunately,” Vastian added, “after testing the techs were supposed to make them crew worthy. We’ve got none of the luxuries such as food, water or medical supplies, plus we’ll need to recharge the NTU capacitors if we want to use the weapons or manufacturing systems.”
“Great, so we are liable to die of starvation, thirst or infection, so long as we don’t meet a TR fleet within the next few hours.”
They entered the cavernous bridge, a huge holo display showed a rotating image of the star system, two purple blips indicating Concordia and her sister ship Victoria. Of course if they’d looked out the window the Bridge Burners would have seen Victoria in all her glory.
“The NTUs are a minor inconvenience at most,” Vastian said to Staceh as they moved around the holo console, “we can deploy near any gravitational anomaly to recharge, that’s stars, wormholes, black holes, dark matter objects, a universe of possibilities. Hell, even planets can give us a quick boost.”
HoaX nimbly tapped a few glowing buttons on the console and the image zoomed in until the debris of Auraxis and its broken moon dominated the display.
Aven slipped himself down before the communications console and began to work his magic, the system was distinctly modern day Vanu and was incredibly intuitive, his fingers glided over the controls as his years of experience in comms and intelligence gathering came to the fore.
“I’m locking in on the signal, it’s going through the filters now.”
A hiss of static fizzed through the room before a voice cut clearly through the background noise, “-mas of the New Conglomerate command to any survivors of the cataclysm that has shaken the surface of Auraxis. We have safe haven in Drugaskan and offer a banner of truce to all survivors. If anyone out there receives this please get in touch with us. Repeat, this is General Dumas of the New Conglomerate command to all survivors-“
Silence was amongst those assembled on the bridge of Concordia, the New Conglomerate had somehow survived, and in Drugaskan? They looked at the expanding field of debris, as the remnants of the shattered planet and its broken moon. Could one of the caverns have survived in those asteroids?
“Huh,” Latex breathed at last, “now there’s something that we’d never considered before.”
“Drugaskan wasn’t an integral part of the warp network,” the major pointed to the scarred moon, “it was a satellite.”
HoaX thought about that, “It’s feasible, the Ancients might have left an alternate way off the world, or maybe it served as some kind of ancient supply depot or shipyard.”
“We don’t know enough about the Vanu’s motives for building Auraxis to guess at it’s purpose,” Staceh interrupted, “our concern at this moment is the NC.”
“You want to mount a rescue?” Painted stared at the holographic starfield, “I’m no fan of the NC but there are better ways for a soldier to die than to starve to death in a cave.”
“Agreed, even if it is the NC they deserve better,” Staceh leant across the holo console and looked about his men, “so, options?”
“There is no direct access to the cavern,” Dekov noted, “unless the NC have discovered how to breathe in vacuum.”
“The teleporter systems on board are the same as the ancient systems in the caverns,” Vastian began, “it shouldn’t be too difficult to lock in on the frequencies for-“
A bright flash beyond the debris field coupled by a blaring of alarms cut the captain short, the field of dust shifted as sand in a storm and washed across the moon in great waves.
“Turn into it,” Vastian yelled to the computer, “slave Victoria and match.”
The computer acknowledged the command and the starships slowly turned as rocks and dust hammered against their shields, it was pandemonium on the bridge as the Vanu officers struggled to keep their footing.
“What the hell is this?” Staceh was forced to yell over the blaring alarms and the throbs of the inertial dampers compensating for each impact.
“Gravity waves,” HoaX yelled in response as he gripped the master console, “the wormhole is reopening!”

Through the Looking Glass

The Bridge Burners: The Planetside Legacy
The Sanctuary War, Part 4: Through the Looking Glass

That’s the funny thing about time, we seem to think of it as something flowing, as something fluid and transient even though it is merely another dimension in which we move. Clocks and calendars don’t track time, they count down the existence of objects that exist within the boundaries of the universe, and they track the passing of things.
But take existence as it is at present, out of the corner of my eye I can see Damius, HoaX and Vastian frozen in mid air as they leap from an exploding building, their REXO armour pocket marked from small arms fire. I can see Painted frozen as he climbs from the cab of an upturned AMS; Bags crouched on one knee helping him.
We’re all frozen in the four dimensions, caught up in some critical potential mass that would be better explained by one of the scientists, but I can still think. There is a fifth dimension that we can barely comprehend, we’ve seen it as we travelled through the wormhole and again as we rode the great superstrings, a dimension of pure, raw energy. I think now that this energy is the collected pool of consciousness of all life, it’s the only way to explain why my mind still functions now, and could go a long way towards explaining how the mind returns to the body upon respawn.
It begs the question of an afterlife. Could it be that when we die our fifth dimensional selves, our minds, return to this vast realm of energy, a Well of Eternity that makes up the very fabric of the universe?
I’m frozen here pondering these ideas that seem strange and new to me, I’ve never been one for religious introspection and since arriving on Auraxis the question of my own mortality has been rendered null. Every time any of us die we pop out of a spawn tube the same physical age that we were five years ago, the Auraxian War has proved to be the font of youth to many a man who by all rights should have died a long time ago.
I also find myself worrying about my family, not my wife who God willing lives on beyond the wormhole, but my precious Bridge Burners. What lies ahead of us is uncertain, when this is over everything will change and it very well may be that none of us shall survive it. I suppose that its times like this that lead one to consider what lies beyond, and I can only hope that however it goes my men find the peace that they deserve.
When I led them here this morning the Bridge Burners exemplified the valour and spirit of the Sovereignty, the have performed above and beyond the call of duty and I have never been so proud.
As I feel a familiar tingling sensation start to wash over my body I remember that it really was only this morning that we went through the looking glass…
“Its time to get it on!” Damius strapped on one of his REXO bracers and slapped his wrist against the locker, “We’re gonna go, we’re gonna do this, we’re gonna kick ass and we’re damn sure gonna look good doin’ it.”
A cheer went up from the troops in the barracks, morale ran high as the soldiers geared up to board the waiting galaxies.
“Damn I look good with a thumper,” Damius cheered as he hefted the grenade launcher, “ain’t no NC gonna fuck with me.”
“They don’t do that anyway,” a voice called from a few lockers down, it was Mashed, “they see you coming and they turn and run.”
“Because I am the ultimate badass.”
There were cheers of encouragement from the Bridge Burners.
“Gonna drop in with my thumper and win us the War.”
More cheers, but at the same time the assembled masses had been around long enough to know that Damius would probably do just that, the dark haired warrior had that half-crazed glint in his eye again.
“Hey,” Sultan called out, “not to detract from Father Damius’ Hour of Power but has anyone seen Imp?”
There were a few glances about the room; it became quite evident that no one had seen him since the afternoon before the meteor shower, God that was nearly two days ago. Sultan sent out a few secure tells, but as yet he’d received no reply and was now seriously beginning to worry.
“Tom, take a couple of guys and do a search. His personal locator isn’t responding but you should have some joy with his localised IFF. Find him.”
“Roger that,” Tom shouldered his pulsar and indicated Fayeski and TheDuddd to join him, “we’ll see you on the battlefield.”
A dour voice echoed throughout the barracks, “Amethyst Lancers orange squad report to courtyard, Amethyst Lancers orange squad to courtyard. Your galaxy is prepped for departure.”
“Well guys, that’s our cue,” Mashed said as he and his squad rose, he led his men to the door and paused briefly with Sultan and Vastian, “see you on TR Home guys.”
The soldiers saluted in return and watched in silence as Mashed led his troops into the long corridor that led to the courtyard and the fleet of dropships. No one had any doubt as to how important this mission was, or how high the stakes were.
Sultan was leaning his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands. There was something occupying his thoughts, something bigger than just another battle.
Vastian turned from his locker and sat to strap his knife to his boot, “Yeah?”
“What do you think is going to happen to us? After the Bending I mean.”
Vastian’s shoulders slumped and he sat back against his locker door, “Well, the TR will almost certainly come and try to reclaim their colony. If we can’t beat them back then they’ll probably take us prisoner, and to ensure we don’t respawn they’ll probably take us back through the wormhole. And then they’ll space us.”
“That’s what I figured too,” Sultan sighed, an execution by being blown out an airlock wasn’t a future to look forward to.
There were tears in his eyes now, “I have a family on the other side, a wife and children. I’d always thought, I hoped… you know. I thought that I’d get to be with them again. God. Vast, I miss them so much.”
“We don’t know how things are going to work out in the end, with a lot of courage and some divine providence we may yet come through. If all else fails the Supai Project is near completion.”
The true gravity of the moment hit home with Vastian, he knew nothing but Auraxis and so the Bending was just another event to him. But Sultan had a family, another life in another time and now it looked like all his hopes and dreams for the future were about to fall apart. The same must have been true for everyone else in the Sovereignty, what fear they must have right now, for the first time in five years they were soon to come face to face with true uncertainty.
“Amethyst Lancers gold squad and indigo squad,” the tannoy echoed once more, “your galaxies are prepped and ready. Amethyst Lancers gold squad and indigo squad.”
“That’s us, buddy,” Vastian picked up his lancer and holstered the huge anti-armour cannon next to his lasher, “just think of Voodoo Chile and let the future take care of itself.”
“I was thinking more along the lines of the guitar riff from November Rain,” Sultan smiled as he picked up his helmet.
“Entry of the Gladiators,” Damius called from across the room as he practised with his sword.
Sultan turned to face his friend, “Circus music?”
“Yeah,” Damius replied as he sliced his blade through the air, “I love that tune.”
Sultie and Vast laughed, “See you on the ground mate.”
Entering the corridor with their squads they met Mashed coming to meet them, and thus it was that the three AL squad leaders exited the barracks to a bright morning sun, they shielded their eyes momentarily and strained to hear anything over the thrum of idling galaxy engines. In ranks lined all the way to the HART terminal the dropships sat shimmering in the morning sun, their bay doors open for the troops loading the equipment of war.
Behind the gals sat banks of lodestars; their holds open to receive the AMSes popping out of the vehicle terminals, as well as crates of medpacks, grenades, ammo packs, and anything else that might be required for the upcoming invasion.
Until they could fortify their position on TR Home the forces already on the continent-world would have to rely on equipment brought from Sanctuary, and Staceh was going to make damn sure that they didn’t run short of anything.
Passing through was one last squad of magriders, the TBB Outriders led by Deuldiebob, and they were bound for a One Shot device powering up just off the coast.
Bob’s magrider strafed past the Amethyst Lancer squads and nodded its PPA, the squad leaders waved in reply and Vastian heard a voice in his ear.
“Vast, no stars this time?” It was Shrikeh.
“No, mate, but if you feel a slight tingle don’t worry too much.”
The channel was interrupted by the sound of Bob’s laughter, “He’ll live.”
Staceh and Dekov were ahead of the Lancer troops, they were busy co-ordinating the last of the loading operation.
“Guys,” Staceh called over the thundering lodestar engines as the brick-like cargo craft lifted clumsily into the sky, “I just wanted to say good luck. We’re dropping you guys into the maw of the beast.”
“Exactly the job you trained us for,” Sultan said as he shook Staceh’s hand.
“Give them hell and look good doing it,” Vastian added as he shook hands in turn.
“Can I have Sultan’s gear if anything happens?” Mashed winked.
Staceh laughed and patted the soldier on the shoulder, “Watch your backs guys, I want you all back here in one piece when this is over.”
Sultan climbed into the first waiting galaxy for the ALs, Staceh watched his friends moving to their dropships with only the slightest hint of apprehension. The battle that they now faced was a unique situation in the War, no tech plants, no bio labs, and no capitol facilities; this time it was three armies, three launch bases, and the original colony command complex.
“He’s slept some,” Mashed commented to Vastian as they approached the next gal.
“Thank God, he’d probably have dropped dead from exhaustion otherwise.”
Mashed grabbed the rungs of the cockpit ladder and climbed in, he saw Vastian do the same on the next galaxy, “Vast, you the man!”
“No dude, you’re the man!”
“I’m the man,” Damius shouted as he climbed into Vastian’s galaxy, he paused to wink at Vast, “guess whose your fire support.”
The indigo leader shouted across to Mashed, “Well, I’m not going to argue with him.”
There was a loud rumble and a cloud of dust billowed over orange squad’s galaxy, gold squad was taking to the air on full burn.
“Best get moving,” Mashed called across as the other galaxies began to rise, “we don’t want to miss the fight.”
One by one the bulbous craft rose their snub noses to the sky and engaged their afterburners, like some great migration the flock of galaxies drifted towards the warpgate.
“Ok VS, listen up,” Staceh’s voice echoed across the comms, “when we pass through the warp we’re going to light up every TR and NC early warning system on the continent, so when we get there we will be hitting them hard and fast. The Sabres have laid some groundwork in preparation for our arrival, and the Amethyst Lancers are dropping into the closest thing resembling Hell this side of Inferis. Look out for your platoon and listen to your squad leaders’ commands, this isn’t the time for lone wolf operations, you are already heroes. Let’s just do the job.
“Good luck men.”
In the cockpit of indigo squad’s galaxy Vastian looked over his shoulder at his squad, he kept thinking how it wouldn’t be the same without Grizzly by his side, the gruff soldier currently on loan to the ISK outfit. Griz would have loved the odds that they were about to face.
“We’ll be entering the warp bubble in seconds,” MrSubliminal announced from the pilot’s station. He glanced back to see Vast twirling a bent metal pin between his fingers; it was about a centimetre thick and four inches long, it hung from a leather thong around his neck.
“What’s that?”
“This?” Vast held up the pin, there was a momentary blinding white light and he continued, “I’m told this pin saved my life. When the rescue crews arrived at the wreckage of the Farcry I was unconscious under a collapsed walkway, the only reason it hadn’t fallen and crushed me was because this pin refused to give way.”
An alarm beeped from under the radar console, “That’s damn lucky man. How’d you end up with it? You go back or something?”
“No, I haven’t been near the wreckage since,” Vastian said as the starboard guns opened up against a closing mossie, “Staceh got it after Bags told him about what had happened, then the war broke out and Staceh forgot about it until last Christmas.”
A flight of NC Mosquitoes shot overhead, many of them already scarred and smoking form the combined fire of the fleet of Vanu dropships.
“What do you think of our chances, Subs?” Vastian asked as he stared idly out the cockpit window at the steel cloud that they were but a part of.
“In a galaxy, I’m not too sure. As soon as I get into a mossie our odds will improve.”
“The main force is breaking off for target Beta,” Chutney’s voice filtered across the comms channel from Gold squad’s galaxy, “Outriders have engaged enemy forces off the coast and the mag force is sweeping through the NC lines near target gamma. Painted just sent through new AL target data, the primary NC BFR force is rearming in a small compound to the south.”
“Afterburners Subs, its time to cause some mischief.”
“Engineers platoon 1 drop on that air tower,” Staceh ordered as his galaxy shuddered from another missile impact, “get it secured or we’ll have no way to keep our air forces functional.”
The galaxy banked hard as a HART shuttle roared by, the automated craft oblivious to the battle raging around it was here for another load of troops to ship to the front lines, unaware that it’s own terminal sat on those very lines.
Staceh could see TR Minigunners cutting a swathe through the Vanu ground troops, but their defence had been organised to withstand a heavy handed NC assault and the defenders soon found themselves being pushed back by the more mobile VS. The defrail barricades that had been arranged to hold up the powerful but cumbersome NC vanguard tanks proved to be little more than a minor inconvenience to the agile magriders sweeping into the area.
The western door defence was slowly crumbling as one by one the minigunners were picked off by Dekov’s snipers, the pop of boltdrivers was as straining on morale as seeing the man next to you drop dead.
“Get some hackers to those vehicle terminals,” the comms channel hissed with static as Staceh issued his orders, the was a lot of electronic interference is the air now, “I want Bazon and a few skyguards on the move.”
The galaxy circled over the base raining a hail of bullets on the TR, from the pilot’s seat Shinya called back to the General, “We’ve got flails taking pot shots at us.”
As he spoke he was forced to bank hard to port as a blast of searing plasma burned through the sky past the cockpit, its contrail scouring a sickening black line up the galaxy’s starboard wing.
“Outriders, take out those flails!”
“Roger that, boss,” Deuldibob’s voice crackled on the comm line, “can you drop me a waypoint please?”
On Bob’s HUD a blue waypoint suddenly dropped from the heavens landing squarely on a hill at the wrong side of the enemy lines. The mags swept up the flank; cycler rounds bounced harmlessly off their hulls as the craft approached the first of the ranked forces, and a line of auroras passed by in the opposite direction opening fire on the TR gunners.
Ahead the sky blazed with the plasma launched heavenward by the emplaced artillery cannons, in no particular sequence the flails blasted the air above them.
“Deano, you on the ground?”
“Yeah, Bob,” Deano’s voice was cut by the burr of cycler fire as he shielded himself behind a defrail, bullets whizzed through the air around him. Sleepless knelt beside him and with every opportunity was returning fire with his pulsar.
“Do you have a satellite overhead, Dean?”
Deano ducked as the corner of the rail was blown away in a chunk that sailed past his head, “There’ll be one overhead in about 30 seconds, you need a shot?”
“Blue way point 4, there’s a bunch of prowlers camping that area around the flails.”
“Roger that, Bob,” Dean replied as he tossed a frag grenade over the rail, “shot in 20.”
On the hill the prowlers turned their massive dual turrets towards the approaching magriders, they shuddered under magrail fire but held off until the mags were well within their arc of fire. Suddenly the air around them seemed to get crisper and fresher, sparks of static danced before them and too late did they realise the danger that they were in, the clouds parted and a blast of plasma tore down from one of the orbital defence satellites. The prowlers seemed to lift into the air in slow motion as the blast wave washed them aside before they disintegrated to be blown away like leaves in the wind.
The mags swept up the hill picking off whatever armour remained, the flail force fell into disarray as the VS tanks scattered what little resistance remained after the orbital strike.
Deano tightened up his squad, they were almost to the doors of the HART terminal and they pushed on against the steadily retreating TR force.
Meanwhile on the other side of the continent the New Conglomerate forces were finding themselves being harried by flights of reavers led by the Pandion Knights. At that same moment the Terran Republic were finding their defence coming under strain as Risk magriders swept between them and the NC front, the indiscriminate assaults having the effect of bringing the NC advance to a virtual standstill whilst at the same time keeping the TR at bay.
The sky was still grey from the earlier blizzard but the snow had melted to a muddy slush as the temperature returned to normal. The embattled troops found themselves up to their knees in cold mud as they tried to remember the cause they were fighting for. When your friends are dying left and right in the cold, harsh earth and the bullets are whizzing past your head its hard to remember just what belief could be so strong that you would wade through this hell.
Cold air rushed around them, far below the NC were scrambling to their BFRs, but the Amethyst Lancers were already shooting out the shield generators as they drifted down on their drop waves. Far above the galaxies were banking away to maintain a safe altitude as the three squads dropped into the firestorm.
Burster rounds popped in the air, but those BFRs that had gunners were aiming too high, and the AA systems couldn’t track anything as small as a soldier with any degree of accuracy.
Mashed landed on the cockpit canopy of a peregrine and neatly put a lancer round through the pilot and the primary console. Damius had switched to an AT radiator and was peppering the area with the lethal radiation spheres that would sap the life of anyone unlucky enough to stumble into their area of effect.
Sultan came down behind a battle frame as it began to power up, nimbly he leapt and grabbing a handhold he slapped a boomer over the main drive core. At a safe distance he clicked the detonator and the BFR tore apart at the seams in a spectacular hail of twisted metal.
Troops ran to their BFRs only to be cut down by lasher fire as Vastian led indigo squad towards the command tent, the ribbons of plasma scorching the forest of metal around them. The squad shot out the leg actuators of the nearby battle frames causing each unit to topple in a pathetic mess.
“Well done guys,” Sultan announced as the last BFR collapsed in a column of acrid smoke, “that was clean and efficient.”
“Will put a damn nice dent in their capability as well,” Mashed cheered as his squad checked the remains for any NC survivors.
The galaxies dropped gracefully from their orbit and set down for collections, Subs gave Vastian a thumb up as he directed his squad back into the dropship.
“We’ve got a major BFR force moving against target delta!” Damsel’s voice cut urgently across the comms, “we need backup, boss.”
“Roger that, Dams,” Staceh said as he checked on the status of the Amethyst Lancers, they were just taking to the sky. He sent the co-ordinates through on a private tell.
Coming towards the NC BFR lines the ALs cut across the sky like a great trident hurled by some long forgotten god, Sultan’s gold squad galaxy slightly ahead of its flanking companions.
“Ok Lancers, we’re in the pipe,” Sultan announced as burster rounds fired from the battle frames rocked the dropships, “get ready to drop on my mark.”
“That’s a lot of burster fire to drop through,” Vastian heard commented from somewhere in the cabin behind him.
He rose from the cockpit and strode into the drop bay; he had to grasp the overhead bars as the craft jarred under the hail of explosive fire around it.
“Gentlemen, don’t be under any illusion, we are on the express elevator straight to hell. That’s not just BFRs down there, that is the NC zerg. But you don’t get to be in the Amethyst Lancers by taking the easy option, anyone who wants it easy can stay on this galaxy because I don’t want to drop with anybody who is going to hide at the back and probably get us killed.”
The ship was hammered by another explosion and Vastian returned to the cockpit.
“What’s eating you?” Subs commented.
Before he could answer the radio crackled to life with the sound of Sultan’s voice, “Drop in five.”
“Amethyst Lancers, abort mission, repeat abort mission,” Staceh’s voice cut through the drop timer, “we’ve received intell that the NC BFR force is breaking off to bolster the defence at target alpha. I’m sending you the co-ordinates of your new target.”
Mashed looked at the grid reference appearing on his screen, “You’ve got to be shitting me.”
“The Sabres are already on site and have booby trapped the area around your dropzone, get there and hold your position. I’m bringing a platoon to join you.”
“Two platoons,” Vastian asked across to Sultan, “will that be enough?”
“For the time being it will have to be.”
Well, the ALs had faced worse odds, in theory, but Vastian still felt the cold fingers of apprehension creep up upon him as their target loomed out of the mist before them; the impassive grey and red monolith that was the Terran Republic Colony Command Complex. The original headquarters of the Auraxis mission was now their target.
Staceh loaded extra ammo cartridges into his backpack as his lead galaxy spurred on towards the dropzone, as an afterthought he squeezed in some medpacks and an NTU glue gun. His TS channel crackled to life with a hiss of static, it was a long-range communication from Sanctuary.
“General, I’ve found Imp,” it was Tomskiii reporting in, “he’s been pretty badly beaten and he’s doped to the eyeballs on nanomeds.”
“Jesus,” Staceh didn’t want to think of any of his men in that condition, and especially not one of the younger members of the outfit, “alright Tom. Get him to the medbay ASAP then grab some ammo and get over here.”
“There’s something else,” Tom paused, “Imp was able to tell me who the traitor is before he passed out, and we may have a bigger problem than originally thought.”
A blast wave rocked the corridor and a wave of heat washed over the TR forces as the explosion blew apart the door, they retreated as glowing ribbons of lasher fire cut through the dusty air. A grenade sailed towards the VS forces, but Sultan having spotted it swung his lasher like a baseball bat and sent the explosive straight back to its source.
Another boomer hidden by the Sabres cleared the resistance from the path and allowed the Amethyst Lancers to secure the uppermost floor in preparation for Staceh’s arrival.
Outside a few VS squads had made it as far as the command complex and were engaged in a vicious firefight with the TR defensive forces, in another hell at the other side of the complex the first NC squads were breaching the TR lines.
“Attention squad leaders,” Staceh’s voice urgently cut across the Bridge Burners’ SL channel, “under no circumstances are you to obey CR5 broadcasts unless they come directly from myself, Enrico, Kimber or Thunderhawk.”
The Amethyst Lancers exchanged looks, Sultan held up his fingers for silence. In his magrider Bob order the channels to be cleared to be sure he’d heard correctly, HoaX continued wiring his boomer, he’d suspected as much.
“Command level has been compromised and as of yet we are unsure as to the extent of the breach.”
“The traitor is a CR5!” Mashed whispered to Vastian who was in an equal state of shock.
“For the meantime I want you to press on with the assault. We don’t want to make a move on the traitor until we know the extent of his following, but if any of you see anyone actively working against the VS I want them arrested if possible, killed if necessary.”
The channel was quiet for a moment before Staceh added, “And to address any speculations or rumours that may arise, it isn’t Risker. He may be a tit but one thing he is not is a traitor.”
Staceh’ galaxy burst through the cloud layer at top speed, the contrails of vapour in her wake forming an arrowhead directed on a line straight to the imposing grey monolith of the Colony Command Complex. The building itself seemed to be rising out of some other primordial world as it loomed from the shroud of mist and dust swirling about its lower levels.
Flashes in the mist marked the occasional explosion of a phoenix missile or a striker, in the haze and smoke a new kind of horror was playing out as the TR defenders fired upon the waves of yellow and blue NC infantry. Cold earth flew into the air with each grenade blast, the dirt became mud as it soaked up the blood of the fallen, and the bodies weren’t deconstructing quick enough. Both sides were forced to wade over the lifeless vessels of their brethren in order to make any kind of progress.
Beyond the lines New Conglomerate vanguard tanks criss-crossed the paths of magriders from the Vanu Sovereignty. There was no order left to maintain in this engagement, the lines had met one another and in a firestorm of depleted uranium slugs and high explosive shells the plain had become a vast sea of metal and death.
A wave of phoenix missiles crossed the path of a volley of striker rounds fired from the opposing forces, from somewhere above plasma grenades rained indiscriminately upon them, a gift from Damius who was at that time being suspended out of a window by Mashed and Sultan.
“Hey, guys,” he yelled as he reloaded the thumper, “I see Staceh’s flight.”
The galaxy banked and engaged its afterburners to enter an almost vertical climb to the roof of the tower.
“Ok, indigo squad,” Vastian said over TS as he strode towards the stairwell, “General Staceh is about to drop, make sure that rooftop is secure.”
From somewhere below he could hear the sounds of heavy footsteps on the stairwell, within that din he could hear the clunk of at least two MAX units, “Dig in guys, our hosts are on the way.”
An explosion rocked the heavy metal staircase and a blast of hot air and fumes washed over Vastian, the comms channel crackled, “Chalk up another squad to Uncle Painted.”
The lights flickered and failed in the already oppressive corridors, someone had managed to blow the generator and now a silence pervaded the forces, but it was only momentary as the staccato sound of gauss fire filtered through the air from outside.
The threat now was not that of an enemy squad but of a single cloaked infiltrator managing to penetrate their lines, one well placed mine could surround the Vanu forces. In the darkness they wouldn’t see the light shadow, the shimmering distortion in the air that appeared when a cloaker moved, without that disruption of light they would be forced to rely on darklight. One by one the Vanu eyes began to glow an eerie green as the occular enhancements engaged, the blackness being replaced before them as a swirling mist of microscopic dust particles and glowing soldiers.
The sappers rappelled down the centre of the stairwell, in seconds they covered the forty stories to the first sub level. It was all about securing their position now, several VS squads had penetrated the western quarter and were working their way towards the NC coming from the east. KimBaur led a force towards the primary nano-furnace whilst Spi led a division towards the security centre, at which point Mistikal’s forces broke off to lock down the lobby area.
Vastian kicked open the doors to the security barracks as plasma grenades launched by Damius sailed over his head, he strafed lasher fire across the room as Sultan dived forwards and rolled towards an upturned table that serves as a shield to some TR grunts. He flicked a frag grenade over the table and dove under the nearest cot as fragments of table and person erupted into the air.
The Amethyst Lancers made short work of the TR defence in this sector, but then sending an anti-BFR unit to suppress a few troops was the equivalent of picking a lock with an antitank missile.
Another rumble vibrated through the room, glass panes shattered and collapsed all along the façade of the imposing tower, several small meteors burned through the sky overhead and in the centre of the island a stress fracture cracked to spread as a massive gorge across the continent.
BFRs lost their balance in the upset, the enormous battle frames collapsing as their legs splayed like Bambi on the ice lake. Skyguards and other light vehicles were tossed from their positions and with the rumble of the earth they slid across the landscape.
With a groan and a sudden twang of snapping metal the massive communications grid collapsed in upon itself, the ancient metal construct that had once allowed communication back through the wormhole was now nothing more than a tangled mess of grid work and cables.
The troops shielded themselves from the broken glass falling from the tower, as they scattered under the deadly rain the quake began to subside and they looked at one another across the battlefield. No one was quite sure what to do now but for those that had been left out of the loop it had become painfully apparent that the next Bending was fast approaching, and that made the stakes of this war all the higher.
A mine detonated under the tracks of a New Conglomerate lightning and after a few moments of silence as the tank smouldered in the grey afternoon light the burr of gauss fire once again filled the air.
“Tighten up the left flank,” Bob’s voice cut across the open comms channel, “there’s an opening along our ridgeward line.”
The channel crackled to life as one by one the Bridge Burner squads began to report in to General Staceh.
“TR mossies inbound to VS central, Subs is taking a force to intercept.”
“We have Conglomerate forces in the CCC sub levels, estimate contact in 2 minutes.”
“General, can we get the ALs to the garage facility? We have a heavy MAX presence there and our forces are pinned down.”
Staceh crouched in the blackened corridor, he sent out the relevant orders to his squad leaders before continuing on his own private mission.
HoaX had his back to the wall and waited patiently with his arms folded as a squad of NC heavy weapons troops marched by him in the corridor, as the final soldier passed he unclipped two boomers and trotted off down the passageway after them.
The mess hall had become a mess in a very literal sense, Deano and Maccaria sheltered behind the cold serve-over as cycler rounds whizzed around them.
Bags was crouched behind a drinks cooler tending to Bazon who’d taken a round in the shoulder, the NTUs streamed from the medical applicator in a blue glow that enveloped the bullet lodged in the wound and slowly dissolved it.
“We’ll have you good as new in no time, buddy,” Bags said as fibrous tissue began to form across the gash.
The NTUs had a cooling effect as they did their work, it felt something like having cold fingers tracing a circle on your skin and was not an unpleasant experience, you wouldn’t go out of your way to get shot mind you, it isn’t that nice.
“You think we’re going to make it, Bags?” Bazon unclipped a grenade and tossed it over the cooler towards the TR.
“We always do,” the medic replied as the wound sealed, he swapped the medical applicator for a glue gun and began to work on the armour.
The door on the VS side swung open to reveal Weddup and a squad of MAX units, they opened fire on the emplaced TR as they marched ahead of the VS positions.
“I just wonder what’s going to happen to us when the wormhole finally reopens.”
A hum filled the air of Supai and the matrices began to shake, light washed over the constructs in great waves of distortion, although they hadn’t actually moved they appeared to be travelling at incredible speed.
There was a flash and suddenly all that remained of Concordia and Victoria were two fading outlines.
The massive garage facility was like a whole new kind of nightmare, there were several VS squads all pinned down by a legion of heavy MAX units, the roar of the rapid fire cannons was deafening, dust and plaster erupted from the walls as the shells buried themselves within.
Running along the upper gantry Mashed and orange squad had a good view of the carnage below and as they took positions they drew their lancers and rained hell on the mobile armour, Sultan burst from the opposite door and his squad unleashed their fury upon the tide.
Vastian led his squad across the bridging gantry and wasted no time in taking aim. Damius loaded his thumper with EMP grenades and rapidly reduced the effectiveness of the MAX units to zero, then with Damius being Damius he hooked a rappel to the gantry and slid down to give the fight a personal touch.
Spikes of purple fire ripped through the milling MAX units as they tried in vain to recover their systems, as the effects of the EMP began to wear off they opened fire once again. Ducking between the units Damius flicked back faceplates to shoot the occupants or opened ammo compartments to drop in a few frag grenades.
Lancer rounds cut into the ground around him as he pulled open the faceplate of another MAX, the pilot screamed in fear and rage when he saw that someone had breached his defences. Damius punched him in the face and was about to fire when he heard the telltale snap of cleats deploying behind him; a MAX was anchoring for a shot. He dived out of the way as the TR opened fire, the rounds cutting through his comrade’s armour before a searing round of plasma silenced the furore.
The embattled VS forces redoubled their fire upon the MAXes now that they had the benefit of fire support, they cut through the remaining TR forces in time for the NC to storm the room.
“Fuck!” Mashed yelled, “How’d they get past the security doors?”
“Because they were never sealed,” Staceh yelled as he ran past orange squad and grabbing Damius’ rappel he swung himself from the gantry to the battle below.
In the firestorm that raged between the Vanu and the NC no one seemed to notice the single soldier running amongst the fallen MAXes towards the VS lines, no one that is except for the traitor.
“Look,” Vastian pointed towards the lines.
From his position high above the tumult it was plain to see above all the weapons fire, above all the smoke and dust, above all the death that a single soldier was backing away from the fight, a lone CR5.
“Spi,” Sultan growled, he could see Staceh jump the field of debris and corpses as he charged towards the traitor.
It wasn’t someone whom they might have suspected, for all the time of the War Spi had been fanatic about Vanu superiority, so much so that he became a nuisance during extended conflicts. But he had always seemed fanatic in his belief nonetheless, how could he have betrayed them?
Once again the room began to rumble and shake as another quake began, this one was far stronger than those previous, the very air itself seemed to be shaking.
Spi didn’t halt, he turned and ran towards the garage stairwell, by now Staceh was hot on his heels and somehow as they raced up the stairs they managed to retain their balance amidst all the shaking.
“This is it,” Vastian yelled as he gripped the railing.
HoaX decloaked amongst the ALs, “Guys, get your forces out of here, I’ve rigged this entire building to blow.”
“You heard the man,” Sultan called out, “fall back to the CCC.”
The soldiers filed out one after the other until it was only Vastian and HoaX standing on the gantry, on the ground level the VS forces too were falling back, the NC pressed further with their assault.
“Vast,” HoaX said as the pair moved towards a window overlooking the battle scarred land outside, “there’s something I want to tell you.”
Vastian stared out the window, he had a good idea what HoaX was going to say, and he’d thought the same thing, “The Geowarp?”
“Yeah,” HoaX sighed, “The warp network is incomplete now.”
The captain leaned his head against the glass, “And when the Bending takes place…”
“It’s inevitable.”
The pair stood in silence as they watched the battle beyond, the VS were out there now too and men were dying left, right, and centre.
The kick landed hard in his chest and Staceh stumbled back against the railing, Spi had jumped him on the outer catwalks and now the pair grappled as bullets cut through the air around them and explosions rocked the very foundations of the building.
Staceh ducked a wide punch and landed several sharp blows to the traitor’s chest; they grabbed at each other and threw one another against the railings as smoke billowed about them. Spi locked a foot around the General’s ankle and sent him sprawling to the ground, Staceh kicked out and sent his former comrade back hard against a girder as another wave of heat washed over them.
Vastian removed his helmet and sighed, he heard footsteps on the catwalk behind them and turned to see Damius making his way towards the pair.
Far below the NC didn’t seem to notice the three Vanu soldiers standing by the window, helmets off and their armour battle scarred. HoaX had the hood of his infiltrator suit pulled back, there didn’t seem to be much point in hiding anymore, he gripped the catwalk railing as a particularly strong tremor shook the room.
Through the window they could see a Vanu AMS race towards the battle, a phoenix missile crashed down below its cab and the explosion blew it onto it’s side to come sliding to a halt. Bags rushed towards the vehicle and they saw Painted working his way out of the cab.
“Surely HoaX should have blown that damn thing by now,” Deano called as Dekov picked off another NC sniper.
“He must be waiting for them to try and secure it,” the Colonel replied.
“Holy shit!” Maccaria pointed to the catwalks lining the outside of the building, “Guys, look at that.”
Staceh caught Spi’s arm as he threw another punch and swept into the traitor to drive his elbow deep into his solar plexus.
“I can’t believe that I once fought alongside you.”
Staceh jumped a sweeping kick and stuck out only to have Spi catch his foot and bring the General to the ground.
“You and the rest of the leadership are weak, you back down at every opportunity that could make us great. You aren’t willing to take the risks and make the necessary sacrifices for our greater glory. You are stagnant and it’s time for a change.”
On the ground Staceh kicked him in the face and flipped himself back onto his feet, Spi rolled and stood to face his opponent. Both men were tired and drenched with a mix of blood and sweat, but neither was going to back down. This was no longer a question of treachery and loyalty, of weakness and strength, it was now about fanaticism versus honour.
Staceh dove at Spi and in a flurry of punches and kicks the pair worked their way further down the catwalk, ducking and diving as each man unleashed a pure primal fury upon the other.
A roundhouse kick sent Staceh flailing over the edge but out of pure instinct he was able to grab a strut and swing himself to a lower level catwalk, wasting no time he charged towards the stairwell to intercept the traitor. Taking the steps three at a time he grabbed Spi and the pair scuffled before rolling down the stairs, hitting the bottom Staceh pushed with his legs and sent his enemy into a junction box.
Sparks flew into the air as Spi reached for anything to steady his fall, cables tore free and crackled around them, like angry serpents looking for a victim they hissed and twisted in the air.
“Your time has been and gone,” Spi growled as he wiped blood from his lip, “right now an NC force is already marching across the plains of Sanctuary, I’ve ensured it. And when they do the VS will be forced to take control of TR Home and then move immediately to NC1. With no home left the NC will be walked over, and then I will have led the Sovereignty to the victory it has long deserved.”
The NC invading Sanctuary? If they take control of the Towers the Vanu would lose their link to the orbital defence grid.
“You’re insane!”
Spi laughed, “No, I have vision. We’ve spread the NC too thin, a decisive strike now and we will win the day.”
With the defences at Sanctuary disabled the NC will be able to walk through the VS territory, there was no CE laid at Sanc; there had never before been a need. Staceh cursed himself, he’d invested too many troops in this operation, he couldn’t pull out now or they’d lose both fronts.
“You bastard!” Staceh dived at Spi, he was holding nothing back now, and whatever reserves he had left were going to be used to the full. Ducking a punch he brought his knee hard up into the traitor’s ribcage then immediately swung back around to crack an elbow into the back of his neck.
Spi grabbed the General by the waist and lifting him he charged towards the railing, the live cables crackled and sparked against their REXO armour.
With his back against the railing Staceh found himself pinned as Spi squeezed his wrist against his throat, gagging for air the General punched once, twice, three times into the traitor’s side, but still he held firm.
“Goodbye, General,” Spi sneered as his victim’s face began to turn blue.
As spots flashed before Staceh’s eyes he spotted his one last chance to get out of this situation. Reaching out, it was close, so close. Just a few… inches more…
He grabbed the cable and pressed the live contacts into the traitor’s left ear.
With a flash of sparks and the putrid stench of searing flesh Spi fell away, but his skin had melted to the cable and the stream of high voltage current continued to pump into his body. His eyes began to roll back in his head before bursting in a mass of steaming pus; his hair caught fire and burned in an acrid black smoke.
Staceh watched as the flailing body tumbled and fell over the railing to the battlefield below, he coughed and wiped sweat from his brow. He knew that there would be no respawn for Spi, the only way to permanently kill someone on Auraxis was to kill the mind before the body, and the traitor’s brain would have been well cooked.
But things had just became a hell of a lot more complicated, now what the hell were they going to do?
“Lets go out as true Vanu, guys,” Damius said at last, “we’ll make our last actions echo throughout the next age.”
HoaX looked at Vastian, then to Damius. There was a fire in their eyes, the embers of an ancient and unconquerable spirit that burns within the heart of all mankind. If this was to be it then by God they were going to go out fighting.
“It’s been an honour guys,” Vastian said over the rumble of the unending quake, and then with all the strength he could muster he threw his REXO helmet through the window.
There was a smash of glass and Staceh turned to see a Vanu helmet come through the window on the storey above him, followed later by three Vanu soldiers. HoaX was about to detonate the building.
He threw himself from the railing as a gust of wind washed over him; there was a boom and a blast of heat. The ground rushing towards him seemed to crystallise and the air became thick as treacle, his movement slowed until everything was frozen as if life had become some bizarre diorama.
The stars streaked and twisted in the heavens above, worlds and moons zipped by, a cacophony of colour danced across the sky and the universe warped and bent around them. Even in this timeless moment there was an electricity in the air, an energy as Auraxis once again reorganised herself as a whole and accepted her inhabitants back into her embrace.
They began to move again, slowly at first as if the energy was reluctant to release its potential force; cracks began to appear in random streaks across the ground. Chunks of land began to rise as blasts of fire shot skywards, carried by green swathes of the world’s warp energy.
This wasn’t right, this shouldn’t be happening.
Landing on a rising chunk of ground Staceh turned to face HoaX and the others, he saw it in their faces, they’d known or at least suspected and had said to no one. What little good it would have done, no one would have been fit to function.
The ground shook and erupted around them and suddenly Staceh was back in the villa at Sanctuary, it was evening and a gentle breeze washed over him. This was the evening after the Amerish Campaign and they were throwing a celebratory barbecue. Painted was laughing so hard that beer came out his nose; Mikey, Maccaria and Tomskiii were singing ‘She’ll be coming round the mountain’ and spilling more than they were drinking. Another crowd of Bridge Burners stood around laughing and joking with one another, Shrikeh was telling Sultan and Mashed some crazy anecdote from some time before Auraxis, Damsel and Sleepless listened intently as the major threw his arms around wildly. Deano and Banelle were joking with one another as they worked the barbecue, as Bags and Chutney flicked breadsticks at a slightly inebriated Dekov.
Damius and Aven stood talking to one another; not noticing Bazon slipping up with the hose until they were both drenched. Vastian and HoaX hung around the bar deep in conversation as Imp strolled in with several platters of chips and dips. MrSubliminal was demonstrating a new dog-fighting technique to Latex and Fayeski, but somewhere along the line he forgot what point he was trying to make and instead finished off with the rather lewd punch line to one of Magnex’s jokes.
Staceh sat with a big smile on his face, this was one of the happiest moments that he could remember, his friends like family all carrying on and enjoying themselves, but surely he was somewhere else, something else was happening. He remembered fear, and danger; was this happening now?
Then the memory came to him as surely as a sunset, this was the end. Auraxis had just blown to bits, their atoms were now being scattered across the system, it was over, and this was the end of all ends. It was funny, he still felt a slight tingling sensation as if he were about to spawn, a strange remnant in his senses.
Vastian broke away from the assembly and sat in a deck chair next to Staceh, he passed him a glass of old Jack Daniels, “The Bending could never have completed without the missing Geowarp crystal, Auraxis was unable to assemble completely and the imbalance was just too unstable.”
Staceh sighed, “You knew, didn’t you, Vast? You, HoaX and Latex knew that this was going to happen.”
“Would it have made any difference?”
The Captain smiled, for a while he said nothing as if there was some secret that he wanted to share but wasn’t sure if he should, but he smiled.
Staceh didn’t know what he should say next, he didn’t know what he could, but then Vast seemed to decide that it was worth sharing, “There’s so much more in the universe that you have yet to see, yet to imagine even. You haven’t even touched the surface of what wonders lie beyond. But you will, you’ll see everything that this universe has to offer, and more.”
Staceh looked sideways at his comrade, “Vast, what are you talking about?”
The captain smiled that smile again, “I’m not the man you know as Vastian. He is with me as you are, as you all are.”
“Who are you, an Ancient, or…?”
He cocked his head to the General he called friend, “Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it. You think of this as the end of the story, but it isn’t the end really, it is just the beginning of another.”