Battle of Haibi Chapter 24

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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 23: Survivors

Chapter 24: The Longest Night

Sneaking around in the tall grass, Samurai is successful in not being detected as he finds more ammunition for his rifle. He points it skyward at a batwing. Under his mask he mutters, "I'm too jittery for this range, I need a better stabilizer module."

<Defense Analysis recognizes request,> his radio intones, with the inflection of the Speaker.

He's stunned, it is the synthesized voice of Linda, Ruby's mother. She took her Day of Flight thirty years ago. Also, Defense Analysis has never listened like this.

<Ashfeather Knight, the field code for the rifle you are holding is four-seven-five-alpha-charlie. Enter this code to open your action: four-seven-five-alpha-charlie.>

475AC, got it. "Thank you, now what?"

<There is another rifle seven metres from you, southeast heading one-four-five,> the computer explains, <Its field code is two-alpha-one-zero-delta.>

He finds it, enters the code 2A10D.

<Ashfeather Knight, chose one rifle that will remain operational with level two stabilization,> his helmet shows him a diagram of how to remove the stabilizer from one rifle and put it in the other one for added stability, <Open the stock at position three, then place the second stabilizer module in line with the pulse generator.> It shows him exactly how.

<You may also place the rifle 2A10D's sensor module in series with your own at T-rail station two to have level two passive target designation,> the computer explains, showing him how to mount the other rifle's sensor in front of his own so that the display from one is amplified in the other. <You may also wish to move your stock plate and trigger group forward to maintain your weapon's balance.>

Samurai works quickly with the unfamiliar technology. It takes a couple of minutes. He points its skywards, but the weapon does not lock onto and stabilize the flying targets. <What's the problem?> he asks.

<Target designation is currently offline,> the computer explains, <Ashfeather Six is located in Central Tower Level Six, and has activated the foundation defense analysis communication system. She requests an access code for target designation.>

Samurai begins to flex his wings to activate his radio, but is stopped cold by the computer's terse warning, <Radio transmission will be detected by the enemy and reveal your position.>

Samurai shudders, <Speaker, how have we been communicating?>

<The foundation defense analysis communication system,> the computer explains.

"Grant Haibane Roku top-level access for joint command and target designation," Samurai sobs, "code seven-eight-alpha-five-bravo-nine."

<Acknowledged, Haibane Samurai,> the voice answers.

"Like it or not, Roku, you're a general now," he mutters as he takes aim.

<Target designation enabled, Ashfeather Knight. Your rifle has been configured to fire the optimal charge for range and target to preserve your ammunition. You may wish to keep 2A10D's hot part kit, since you have enough ammunition to require several hot part changes,> the computer explains.

Samurai pulls back his hood and tucks it under his halo. "Five minutes of quiet please," Samurai asks, then opens fire. His first eighteen kills send the enemy air forces into a frazzled panic.

Roku realizes that she had picked up a second rifle and like Samurai, merged hers into one that can lock up air targets and grind them up almost automatically. She bundles up her armor and pulls the big stone plug door open on its hinges, then emerges onto the stair and points her rifle at the sky, locking up a batwing and...

I'll bring fire down on the Central Tower.

She lowers her weapon.

Someone below her screams, a woman.

Roku deliberately jumps off the stair and slides down the side of the tower, landing at the bottom in a heap, her rifle clattering away. Not the perfect landing she had hoped for.

"I'm sorry," the woman says, "But I'm so scared, the enemy is all over. Please help me, Defender."

She's human, not haibane, Roku realizes as she gets up. She asks for voice mode, then speaks through the mask with Samurai's voice, "Ma'am-" Roku is startled by the sound, but clears her voice and continues, "I can't fire from here without drawing enemy fire to this structure." Roku holds out her doubled up rifle and says, "Take this, since I can't use it."

"I'm a tailor, not a soldier," she bawls.

"It's easy," Roku explains, stepping beside her and putting it her hands. She finds a distant chomper to aim at and explains, "This red circle will turn ... green." Roku's been seeing only shades of red safe for her eyes for so long that she had almost forgotten there were still other colors. She thinks about it again, and decides from the scans that the woman's hair is probably light brown. "It will turn green and start tracking the target, see? You can just scan the sky and pull the trigger whenever it turns green and it will do a custom alteration on that enemy." Roku lowers it, "If it ever turns blue, just enter this code," Roku puts a scribbled note in the woman's hand, then presses buttons on the sixteen key pad five times and opens the action. "Replace this hot part kit," she demonstrates, "Easy as changing a bobbin."

The lady makes the weapon look huge as she lifts the heavy, but surprisinigly well balanced rifle to her shoulder and practices locking up a few enemies.

"Don't shoot any right here," Roku warns, "Get at least a few blocks away first."

The lady lowers the rifle. "Thank you, but where do I go?" she sobs, "The tower I was supposed to evacuate to has been completely destroyed."

"There are just three Defenders left," Roku explains grimly, "One on the Hill of Winds just on the other side of Western Univer-"

With an agonized howl, a batwing shot down by Samurai crashes into the Central Tower, doing no damage, but startling the woman. She watches in amazement as it burns away.

"Three Defenders," Roku recaps, "One on the Hill of Winds, just on the other side of Western University, and one at Flight Well south of the Western Grove. The Hill of Winds was put there to stop the potential of floodwaters from reaching the Flight Well. You'll be safer there."

"The third?" the trembling lady enquires.

"That would be me," Roku says, "I can't go with you, I have work to do here. Now get going, the enemy is going to flood this area, and your odds are best if you reach another Defender before daybreak."

"What about you?" she asks.

"I ... can't say, but I must stay here," Roku sighs, "Now go, and may the light of the Saviour follow you."

The lady runs away. Roku climbs the steps and just as she is about to re-enter her little control room, she hears the unmistakable sound of wraiths decloaking. Roku turns to look, but then turns away. The woman screams. The Defender can't bear to watch.

Roku retreats into the control room, and quietly listens.

The crow stands on top of the central kiosk and, just after Roku has closed the door, signs, "I'm finished."

Roku goes up to the central kiosk and commands it to deploy its simulation rig. It emerges from the top of the glowing, four sided computer station and lowers. Roku looks into it. All seventy-seven of Haibi's plasma turrets have been destroyed. She does find a few turntable automatic mortars and fires off their last few rounds to good effect against a horde of small creatures making their way from Western University to the Hill of Winds, doubtless in search of the real Samurai.

Once those are gone, the simulation rig is useless. She unplugs its control cable and blows the rig off at its elbows with her pistol. She then picks up the tablet, encrypts its new Toganese, and uses fresh screws to connect it to what's left of the simulation rig before finally plugging in the control cable. To her fascination, it looks like it was designed and built that way, not jury-rigged. When she commands it to retract from the main screen, she's surprised to watch the simulation rig flip the tablet over as it retracts, hiding it face down in the simulation rig's bay before closing it.

Roku then deletes the computer's deployment and retraction commands, indeed all evidence that the tablet computer that understands the crows even exist. The only way to get it out is with the hardware switch next to the invisible opening. Then she starts encrypting and disabling various defense analysis connections. The glowing bronze tags in the wall go dark. They will still update, but they can't be commanded. She shuts down all of the pod elevators and all of the turret command structures and rails. She disconnects all the power from the various mechanisms within the wall. Once rebuilt, the gates will have to be opened and closed manually, although the delta radiation interlocks and delta vector pumps will still work.

Roku sits down, wondering why the Saviour guided her to do everything that way.

The crow finally gets her attention, "Six, whenever you're ready, pull up the historical file on Operation Battle."

Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 25: The Enemy Regroups

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