Battle of Haibi Chapter 25
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Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 24: The Longest Night
Chapter 25: The Enemy Regroups
Roku signs back, "I'm not ready." She calls up sensor routing in the kiosk. Six rifles are moving, three of them short range kits, the other three long range kits.
As she considers enabling another sensor, she hears the Saviour's voice whisper, "Careful, my child. They need to last until the Sabbath is over."
"Speaker," Roku says, "Reduce the signal strength to lock at ten kilometres."
<Short range automatic locking kits will be disabled completely,> the computer warns.
"They're being handled by civilians, they probably can't use the range," Roku says. She rubs her chin and then says, "Can you show me a kill vs. range chart for the short range kits?"
The chart that appears shows that almost all of the short range rifles were fired at ranges less than sixty metres. "Confirm," Roku orders, "reduce the sensor signal strength to allow the long range kits to lock at ten kilometres. Enable the visual anomaly lock mode on all rifles."
The command window shows that her orders have been followed.
<Sector Six from Hill of Winds,> the radio crackles with Samurai's real voice, < I'm about to go down for repositioning to Northwest Grove.>
"Tell him we need cover at daybreak for the Flight Well and Defense Tower Four until the aqueduct blows," she tells the computer. "Show me the structural integrity for all towers."
Defense Tower Four is the only one that is standing. Defense Tower Five has been brought to the ground with the worst damage of all six towers.
"Tell Shiden to try to keep the aqueduct intact for another hour, at his discretion. The reason is to keep the enemy's target priority away from the refugee groups," she orders.
As the sun rises upon the ruins of Haibi, Roku is satisfied that what's left will look after itself for a few more hours.
"Call up the records of Operation Battle," she asks. The bird perks up.
"Whoa!" she gasps. The records are downright enormous.
"That's what happens when you get a hundred-forty-four thousand people stuck in a milk jug with nothing better to do but type," the crow signs. He switches feet, then signs something Roku can't quite sort out.
"Niki? Nikko?" Roku tries sounding out.
She taps the screen while the crow tries to work the spasm out of his toe with his beak.
"Nick Vitores," Roku reads quietly, "Demolition and weapons expert. Nick's first major role was to train Jack and Devon on the United Earth Government's deterrent nuclear strategy, where political opposition is punished by the delivery of a nuclear explosive device to the community affected."
Roku gasps, "That's sick!" then taps for another screenful, "Nick was familiar with new models of nuclear weapons, including BFG-based fusion missiles, submarine-launched-"
That moment is when the crow lands on her halo, struggling to keep his footing on the wobbly ring. He squawks, then jumps onto her hand. He can really only look at her one eye at a time, but that eye. It has an awareness, a subtle commonality with the portrait on the screen.
"That's you!" Roku squawks. "You were Nick Vitores?"
Nick nods, "I hope to take away your number, and give you a name," he signs.
"How?" she asks.
Erebus limps over the snow. A batwing lands beside him.
"Report," Erebus orders with his scowl characteristic in his one eye.
"So much for hoping you'd mistake me for Maledict," Craseonict chuckles. "Master, the battle goes well, but we couldn't preserve enough of the air forces to destroy the aqueduct from the air."
"I can see," Erebus says as he notes the almost empty skies. Out of them, a second, slightly smaller batwing lands on the ground to Erebus' left.
"We catastrophically underestimated the effectiveness of their handheld rifles against airborne targets," the batwing sighs.
"We catastrophically underestimated a great many things," Erebus groans. He suddenly drops to his rump with enough of a tremor that Megadermita must spread his wings to keep his footing. "But we're still winning, right?"
"We essentially have won, Master," Craseonict answers, "We're mopping up now, but it is proving as expensive as frickin' Jack," he complains.
Jack Campbell did more damage in the last twenty minutes of his life than Devon Campbell did in the First Battle of Mars.
"Why not just bomb the works from high altitude until they have nowhere left to hide?" Erebus asks.
"Because their handhelds can shoot up to twenty kilometres, including straight up," the second batwing grimly explains.
"ARRRGGHH!!" Erebus bellows, swinging his fist at a tree, which splinters and tilts crazily. It does not fall, but stubbornly braces with a root limb on the other side. Erebus fist is stuck in the midst of the shattered heartwood. He tugs a couple times, wrenching his shoulder.
If Erebus' face could get any deeper than its normal shade of red, it probably would have. Megadermita has his head cocked slightly to his right and wears a beaming grin.
"Just my luck," Erebus groans, "Craseonict, could you do me a big favor and stand on this thing, Megadermita help me pull ... and do me an even bigger favor and make sure Saboath never finds out."
"Awww, Master," Craseonict sighs as he jumps up into the air. As he settles onto the tree's upper branches, he finishes, "Telling Saboath was supposed to be the really fun part." Megadermita laughs.
They listen to the radio as they hear various phrases like, <See you on the other side,> < I'm going to miss this host,> <It was fun while it lasted,> and <Will we ever even see another Guardian?>
As Erebus picks the slivers out of hand, he asks, "Are they doing what I think they're doing?"
"Master, if you're thinking that they're getting the Guardians to waste the aqueduct with portal plasma," Craseonict groans, "Yes."
"Defender!" she runs along calling with reckless abandon, "Defender, where are you?" She's in a set of blue coveralls, and her hair is the same color as most of the frostbitten grass protruding through the snow, a shade one can't quite decide is dark blonde or light brown.
Samurai, prone, blending his outline into the edge of a crater, stares in shocked disbelief, almost nervous that his eyeballs might touch the ocular displays in his mask. She is a walking bullseye strolling along with a long range rifle, but no armor.
"Defender!" she cries out, now only about ten metres away.
A Spectre-cloaked hellknight also regards her curiously. After staring for a bit, he decloaks and winds up to throw a fireball. The lady spins around, raising her rifle, but Samurai beats her to the draw, blasting the Bushi no Shito's head right off his shoulders.
She turns and sees Samurai, standing up. "Oh, thank you!" she cries, running to him.
No, Samurai gasps as she rushes to him. He struggles to warn her, but there is no time. If she hugs him, the damaged armor will hurt her, probably kill her.
She bounces off with a blue flash and lands on her behind in the grass. She shakes it off and gets up, pointing her rifle at Samurai. Lowering it, she says, "You are a Defender, right?"
Finally set up to speak, he gasps, "How did you survive? This armor has shards and wiring exposed, see? A hug would have killed you. And... How did you get that and last so long on your own?"
"Oh," the lady says softly, "You know ... You were there. You gave me this rifle at the Central Tower, and the light of the Saviour. Don't you remember?"
"Our masks speak with the same voice," Samurai explains, "You were speaking to a different Defender."
"Oh, I hid the kids in the University," she says, "Are they safe there? The Western University is high enough to avoid getting flooded, right?"
After a nod, Samurai asks, "Light of the Saviour?"
Grass rustles a few feet away from her.
"Oh," she says casually, "Another one. I'll show you."
She slings her rifle and runs to the spot where the grass rustles. The cloaked wraith starts running from her. Hidden by the mask, Samurai's jaw drops in disbelief.
The woman jumps onto the invisible creature, which decloaks and screams. She squints her eyes as blue light wraps it up. The wraith comicly pops like a balloon, scattering little light leaves around her.
Samurai's rifle lands in the grass at his feet as she jumps back up to her feet. "Would your name happen to be Devon, by any chance?" he stammers.
"Janice," she says, "I'm a," she winces, "was a tailor in the North District." She looks him up and down and says politely, "Looks like you could use my services, if that isn't too difficult a fabric to work with."
They feel a sudden rumble in the ground, and turn to face south, suspecting what just happened.
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 26: The Flood