[su_accordion] Chapter 170: Fire all the things![/su_accordion]
Author’s Corner: For the record, I hate moving.
“No, John! You still can’t blow it up!” Celeste called out into my mind. “Let us take care of this for now.”
After that, I saw the Qu’Lopti ships come together to form their giant mechs, each one equipped with their full armaments from the start. The Deus Ex ships began glowing in a strange light, multicolored energy arcing along their hulls, heading towards the weapons at the front. The only ship not to directly take action was the Ariadne, which seemed to be watching for now.
As the Deus Ex gathered the light at the tip of their cannons, beams of energy shot out towards the New Human Empire ship. Each of the fifteen Deus Ex ships sent an attack, and they all seemed to target the same part of the enemy ship. However, a grid of hexagonal energy shields sprang into being around the New Human Empire ship. When the fifteen beams impacted against one of the hexagons, that shield glowed brightly while the others all dimmed.
Although a small amount of initial energy was let through the shield, once the energy from the other shields had been redistributed it was able to perfectly block the attack. I furrowed my brows as I watched that scene. Those shields had a pretty obvious weakness, so it couldn’t be that simple. Then again, I can’t call it simple when it just took the full initial volley of fifteen Deus Ex ships acting in concert.
As if adding insult to injury, I saw a second ship start to poke its head out through the warp gate, this one built entirely different compared to the earlier ship. Although there were still the two giant bands of silver metal surrounding a white cloud of energy, the rest was fundamentally different. With the energy cloud as the center, five rings of metal orbited the ship, a glowing blue light at the center of each ring.
Okay, I really want to blow something up right now. If the first ship was built for defense, then this should be their assault ship. That seemed like a prime target for exploding to me.
“Do it.” Celeste said, her voice resigned. At the very least, I’d be a good distraction, right? “But get as far away from the blast as you can.”
I nodded my head, finally flying out from the asteroid hologram that had been shielding me from sight. Of the five rings surrounding the second ship, four moved at the front to overlap, aiming at our fleet, while the fifth flew to the back, seeming to track me. I really hope this is a laser, and not some fancy kind of energy…
Placing both my hands out in front of myself, I gathered as much light mana as I could, preparing myself to receive their attack. And when that attack came, it was on me faster than I could blink. I let out a roar of pain, feeling my wings begin to burn in the first few seconds. Were it not for my insane Light Affinity, I might be killed as soon as the attack hit, but thankfully I had some time. Fully extending my wings, I called on the black hole in my grove again to frantically absorb this attack, using my own control over light to disperse what I could before it reached me. However, I was not sending the mana into my grove this time, I was directly swallowing it.
This was an ability that I had managed to create by combining my Mana Leech and elemental breath powers. The result? Ten seconds later, when the laser from the enemy ship finally stopped, I felt my body burning with too much restrained energy. My wings had been charred black, but the rest of me was glowing like a shining star.
Your turn. I grimaced to myself, opening my mouth again. What came out was a thick beam of light, leaving small explosions through space as it crashed into the enemy ship. Just a half second later, the hexagonal shields once again appeared, surrounding both ships. The one receiving my attack showed the same glowing effect as the one that had blocked the Deus Ex before, though the other shields did not seem to dim as much.
I had not been able to watch the result of the attack against the fleet, due to being surrounded by a thick laser myself, but now that I could see, I was somewhat surprised. Although all of the ships were still present, I could see cracks visible along the hull of one of the leading Deus Ex ships. A single shot from their assault ship almost took down a Deus Ex ship…
Gritting my teeth, I cut off the laser attack I had been firing after it was only halfway finished, and turned my head to face the warp gate. As if noticing my action, all five of the ring turrets flew around the assault ship to face me, overlapping to appear as one giant cannon. At the same time that I opened my mouth to finish releasing the blast and destroy the gate, I felt a warm light burn through me.
The next thing I knew, I was back in the Ariadne, jolting upright in the bed I had laid myself in when I connected to my clone. Dammit… instant death, huh? I wasn’t surprised, I had barely managed to tank one of their turrets, let alone all five at once. “Celeste, status report.” I called out to the empty room.
I heard the familiar voice echoing into my mind. “They killed you too quick, you weren’t able to do any critical damage to the gate. However, you did get a small amount of damage in, and it has made the gate unstable. After your attack, it was immediately shut down. Most likely, if they risk activating it again, the gate will explode.”
“And the fleet?” I recalled the Deus Ex ship, and the damage it had sustained.
“One Striker has been critically damaged, and can’t operate normally until it has been repaired. However, we have acquired useful information from the enemy ships. Though… not all of it is good.”
I did not like the sound of that at all. “Tell me.”
“The ships appear to be powered by white holes, granting them a near limitless supply of energy. These kinds of ships would be hard to come across, even in NeoLife.” Celeste’s voice was laced with concern. “The Empire has a powerful backer, someone able to show them how to build and use these ships. It’s impossible that the humans could have come up with this in five years, no matter how hard they tried.”
Great, so someone isn’t playing fair. “Anything else?”
This time, Celeste sounded more sure of herself when she spoke. “We are preparing to deal with the ships now. Like you noted, there is a major weakness to this kind of shielding. Although the Striker Legion alone can’t break through them with a concentrated assault, we worked out a plan.”
I nodded my head slightly, laying back in the bed. It would take too long to run to the bridge at this point. “Show me.”
My vision became blurred, until I was looking through Celeste’s eyes. “Commence firing. Striker Legion, go!” I heard her call out, as if it were my own voice. On the hologram at the center of the bridge, I was able to see that the remaining fourteen working Deus Ex ships all fired at the same location once again. And once again, they were blocked by that hexagonal shield.
“Main cannon, fully charged!” One of the officers called out from the bridge.
“Fire! Executioner, charge positron cannon!” Celeste again called out. This time, it was the Ariadne that emitted a thick beam of light, blasting towards the assault ship. One of the dimmed shields surrounding it flared to life, while the rest of them nearly vanished entirely.
A few seconds later, we were receiving reports of weapons overheating, but then the one we were waiting for arrived. “Executioner is primed.”
“Fire!” Celeste called out a final time, and the Qu’Lopti ship released its most powerful attack. This time, there was no energy to spare for the shields. Although a white hole may provide limitless energy, that does not mean they have the ability to harness all of it at once. With the shields distracted by the previous two attacks, the positron cannon cleanly struck the shield ship, causing explosions to arise all over its surface.
At the same time, the two active shields vanished, allowing the full force of the fleet to be shown. However, Celeste was not calm or content. Instead, she was even more alarmed. “All forces, immediately jump to subspace!”
Although I did not understand this action, the ships all obeyed her order. Turning off their weapons, they surrounded themselves with the blue energy shields that would protect them in subspace and made the jump. Only then did Celeste let out a deep sigh of relief.
What was that about? I asked her, curious.
“Those were white holes, John.” She answered patiently. “I don’t know how well they will be contained after they lose their shielding. It’s entirely possible that the entire region of space will be destroyed by the release of energy. Or, if they were built with such failsafes in mind, there might be no damage at all.”
I nodded my head slightly at that, understanding her logic. At least we have a way to deal with the New Human Empire ships, now. And we aren’t completely clueless about their abilities.
I felt Celeste’s lips curl into a bitter smile. “That was only two ships. If they had a second defense ship present, the plan probably wouldn’t have worked. And if you didn’t deal damage to the assault ship beforehand, we wouldn’t have had the time to do it.”
It was at that point that a tremor swept through the ship. Celeste shook her head helplessly. “And that would be them blowing up the warp gate, trying to send more reinforcements. We should be safe for a few hours, maybe even days depending on how close their nearest outpost is.”
How long will it take to get the Deus Ex ship repaired?
“No idea. If they have the resources nearby, maybe five days. If not, we may need to scrap that ship.” Celeste looked up from her chair, looking at the screens. Wait, that’s my chair! She quickly changed the subject, issuing orders to the crew. “It should be safe now, do a scan for energy readings in the system.”
We’ll talk about this later… I grumbled mentally, before a report came in. “Energy levels normal, showing additional signatures from the planet’s surface.”
Celeste cursed inwardly at that. “That’s not good.”
Why is that not good? I thought that was the best case scenario, if we could still get to their base?
I felt the Deus Ex shaking her head. “That means that the white holes were contained and neutralized prior to the ships being destroyed. Otherwise, that planet would have been destroyed. And for their ships to have that failsafe, it most likely means that they were made to operate in larger fleet. Think about it, if they were always sent out in groups of two, where each depended on the other to survive, it would be better to have the white holes be a final bomb to destroy their attackers. But if they are operating as a fleet, they can’t risk one destroyed ship taking out the entire fleet.”
I gulped when I heard that, hearing a door open and close from my end of the connection. How many of those ships do you think they have?
“Can’t be too many. Even if they constructed an automated station to continuously build these ships, they’ve only had five years. Common sense would say they can have no more than a dozen left, though they likely have several weaker ships for cannon fodder.”
I nodded my head slightly, opening my eyes. Standing in the room with me now were Sharon, Yin, Yo, and Tokemi. They all looked at me worriedly, as if they were concerned why I was still laying in the bed with my eyes closed. Seeing that I had ‘woken up’, they let out a sigh of relief. Tokemi even ran at the bed and jumped on me, wrapping me in a tight hug.
I felt my shirt start to get damp where she buried her face, so I could tell that she had thought the worst. I could only pat her back and reassure her that I was fine. Looking at the others, I gave a small nod, my expression serious. “We need to mobilize the teams for a ground assault.”
The women in front of me all nodded, though Yo brought up an unfortunately valid point. “Okay, but you’re staying here. You just lost your clone, and it would take too long to grow you a new one. Let us handle it this time, Dad.” She winked mischievously at me, and the women all nodded again, giving me no room to argue this.