[su_accordion] Chapter 177: The War of the World[/su_accordion]
As soon as the fleet emerged from subspace, we immediately checked what ships were in the area. Thankfully, this didn’t seem to be where they kept the majority of their fleet, or else we would not have a chance. However, from the report I heard, this should still be a fairly important outpost, as there were a total of three ships stationed here, as well as what seemed to be a station.
For the configuration of the ships, all three were shield ships, but were spread out quite far. The three of them were placed at equal distances around the planet, while the station orbited back closer to the moon. The station looked almost like a massive cannon, with not one but two white holes contained near the back. The silvery metal spiraled away from them, looking like the barrel of a giant gun.
We can’t afford to let that station get a shot off. I had no doubt that the power behind that station could level a planet. What was most worrying, though, was that the station was not aimed towards us. Instead, it was actually in an idle position with the barrel of the gun pointed at the planet below. On the far side of the planet, our scans were showing the presence of the local warp gate, so we were not short on things to shoot at.
“All ships, prioritize the destruction of the station. Under no circumstances can it be allowed to fire!” The three shield ships were far enough away from the station that they shouldn’t be able to defend it. Moments after we had arrived, they had begun moving.Two of them moved to begin positioning themselves between us and the planet, while the third one started to move towards the station.
However, we came in with all weapons primed and ready to fire. How could we allow those ships to get into their positions to stop us? Our ships turned slightly to aim our biggest weapons at the station, and beams of light flew towards it. Unsurprisingly, shields appeared around the station to block the majority of the damage. It would be a bit unrealistic to hope for something of that size to be completely incapable of defense.
Thankfully, a few shots did manage to get through, since these were not the same hexagonal shields as the specialized ships. Instead, it was a layered barrier of light that appeared around the station. The bigger attacks, such as the Ariadne’s main cannon, were capable of piercing through the shield layers to inflict some damage on the hull.
After the first barrage, the Qu’Lopti flights were already moving to form their mechs. If it was possible to do so before we exited subspace, that would have been for the best. However, the shields to fight back the exotic matter were located on the supply ships of each flight.
“Minimal damage inflicted on the enemy station. Detecting a strong energy building up. However, it is making no attempts to aim at us.”
I cursed inwardly as the report came in. I was really hoping that I was wrong in my guess, but it seemed like the station existed for the purpose of destroying the planet in the event of an attack. “Judgement flights, move to disable the warp gate! Executioner, join the assault on the station.”
There were still ten seconds before our big weapons were fully charged again, but we continued pelting the station with our cannons and laser turrets as we moved closer. I could only hope that it would take longer for their weapon to charge than ours, since they obviously needed a far higher output of power. “All ships, fire when able.”
Ten seconds may not be long, but in a situation like this, it felt like an eternity. I was thankful for the lack of assault ships, but I understood why they weren’t needed here. All that the New Human Empire needed was for the shield ships to delay us. If we attacked the planet, they would shield it while the station targeted us. If we attacked the station, they would shield it to stop us while the planet was destroyed.
Sadly, a circumstance like this was not something we had planned for. After all, why would we assume that they would be willing to just throw away an entire planet like this? I could see a glowing white light building up within the barrel of the station’s cannon, and knew that it would be done charging soon.
Thankfully, our weapons came first. The shield ship was currently halfway between the planet and the station, making it still unable to shield either side. With this, we were able to fire freely. Thanks to the Executioner’s cannon, we even had vastly increased firepower compared to the first volley.
“Warp gate disabled!” I heard the report, barely registering it as the attacks landed on the station. One of the white holes had started to dim, but after the various blasts struck the hull, there were reports of explosions occurring within the station. I could see both white holes begin to flicker, and had a bad feeling for what was coming next.
Unfortunately, I was unable to give an order in time, before the station erupted in a massive explosion of light. I could vaguely see the shield ship that had been en route to defend the station raising its shields to protect itself, before that ship faded away into the blinding light. Even as far away as we were, we felt the Ariadne rock slightly when the blast reached us, most of us having to cover our eyes to avoid the light.
When the blast had ended, I was able to see the destruction caused by such an explosion. While the planet itself seemed mostly intact, there was a wide area of scorched earth on the surface, easily visible even at this distance. The moon, however, was not as lucky. It had been much closer to the station when it blew up, and seemed to have shattered under the force of the blast.
The moon had clear cracks running through it, and was already showing signs of dividing into five large sections, with numerous smaller rocks flying out. As for the ship that had been closer to the station, there was no trace of it remaining. With a nod, I stood up, moving towards the teleport bay. “All ships, clear up the remaining two. Ground teams, prepare to move.” Without the presence of an assault ship, it was only a matter of time before the two shield ships were taken care of.
“Captain.” I heard a voice calling after me over the comms. “We lost one of the Judgement Warriors in that blast, and the others are badly damaged.” I momentarily paused my steps when I heard that, but ultimately had to continue. The Qu’Lopti aren’t dumb enough to go out like that without using clones. Although we lost the mechs, the supply ships still had the facilities to house the Qu’Lopti, and slowly build replacements.
“Understood. Recall any of them back that can make it, and begin salvaging. Celeste?” I glanced back down the hall behind me, finding the Deus Ex girl chasing after me, nodding her head. I gradually began shifting into my combat form, although I maintained my normal size.
“Let’s do this.” She said, a smile in her voice. As I walked down the hall, I saw glittering silver sand fly in front of me, surrounding my body. This was the true reason why Celeste had practiced her special technique, and also the first time we have been able to employ it in a combat scenario.
The silver sand locked together around me, becoming a solid metal frame. I glanced down to my hand, which was now surrounded in a white, metal gauntlet with red highlights. Similar armor was spreading out all around my body, with the last piece forming over my head. My vision darkened for a few moments, before Celeste linked her senses with mine, allowing me to see outside of my ‘suit’.
“Looks like everything’s working, John.” I heard her voice directly in my ear, seeing a holographic display in the corner of my vision, showing what I currently looked like. The only exposed skin I had right now was the leathery white wings, but even the tops of those were armored. As for the rest of me, I was outfitted with a smooth, white suit of armor. Across my chest and arms, red highlights formed simple patterns. On my head, a simple black visor in the shape of a V marked my face.
“Alright, tell the others that we’re moving in. We’ll go down first and clear the way.” Once we got to the teleport bay, I stepped up on the platform. “Locate the facility, and send us down as close as you can. The others can join us when they get here.”
“Understood, John. Let’s go kick some ass.” I could tell that she was looking forward to a proper test run of this armor mode. Within a few moments, we were already down on the planet. Surrounding us were tall mountains, with a single metal door in the side of one not far away. “This is the area of the planet with the most densely packed lifesigns. Odds are, this is the base you’re needing.”
I nodded my head, pointing one finger towards the door. “Break.” I spoke simply, urging the metal mana in the door to disperse. This was one of the key features of the ‘Celestial Armor’, as Celeste termed it, allowing her to direct my mana more efficiently according to my thoughts. Of course, it was far from the only feature.
Walking forward, I ignored the alarm that sounded when the door began breaking apart, forming little more than crushed scraps. Behind where the door had stood, there was a dark hallway leading down. With a thought, I retracted my wings back into my body, the suit shifting to accommodate the change. There was no need for me to have wings when I was going underground, after all.
|Incoming call from Thalia.|
I hesitated for a moment, but chose to ignore the call for now. I couldn’t afford to be distracted, even if there was not likely to be anything here that could hurt me. One of the first things I had learned about the New Human Empire’s abilities was that they had a way to block my element manipulation.
“John, we’re on our way!” I heard Sharon shouting over the comms. “Don’t do anything stupid before we get there!”
Too late. I thought with a small grin, stepping into the hallway. Celeste analyzed the scene, and quickly adjusted my view to compensate for the darkness, allowing me to proceed without the need for a light source. “Celeste, begin scouting the environment. I want to know exactly what I’m up against here.”
“Got it!” She cheerfully called back, and I saw a layer of silver sand rushing forward from behind me, flying into the nearby vents. To my surprise, there hadn’t been a group to ‘welcome’ me at the first door, but we might have just gotten here faster than they could prepare their defenses.
With Celeste’s nanites flying around to scout, I saw a holographic map forming in the corner of my view, beneath the display of myself. At first, there was only the long hallway that we were currently in, but gradually more areas were filled in, the blue map expanding in three dimensions. Thankfully, this included the room directly ahead of us, at the end of this hall, because there were several red dots present, indicating enemies.
“Want to try out the cannon?” I asked, feeling my grin grow slightly as I continued walking towards the door at the end of the long hallway. The response I got back was a very energetic confirmation, so I raised my right hand to aim my fist at the door.
The armor around my arm shifted, expanding and contracting as it rearranged itself. When it was done, there was a slight extension past my fist, a white cylinder that stretched out a few inches. Immediately, I began generating plasma mana in that area, which was captured by the armor and caused the new addition to glow red. “Firing!” Celeste’s voice rang out, before a thick beam of red light shot out, blasting against the door and burning a hole through it. I could hear a scream of pain from the other side, so a pleased smile crossed my lips.
I shot off two more blasts before I reached the door, one above and one below. That way, by the time I arrived, there was a large enough hole present that I could simply step through. Looking at the room, I saw over a dozen shaking figures, familiar energy rifles aimed at me from all sides. “Sorry, but this is going to be a bad day for you.”