Battle of Haibi Chapter 26
Previous: Battle of Haibi Chapter 25: The Enemy Regroups
Chapter 26: The Flood
The portal plasmas emitting from over the back of the last dozen Guardians the enemy has torn the dyke dividing the river from the city of Haibi into bits. In moments all of them are swept away.
Shiden blasted four before their portals closed, then swept the skies with visual locks on six chompers before deploying his flyer, barely escaping the furious rush of the flood waters.
<Ashfeather Flash,> the Speaker says, <Ashfeather Six recommends that you prosecute only Guardians that are not immobilized by the runoff, since the immobilized Guardians will not be a threat to future operations.>
"Future operations?" he grumbles as he holds the rifle to his shoulder, sniping at hellknights and commandos while controlling the flyer with his wings, "What future operations?"
<Classified,> the Speaker dryly intones.
"Well, as soon as you can let me know-"
<Bell Nut Festival is the code phrase for this evening's operation,> the computer explains.
"What?" he gasps.
Speaker repeats the exact same phrase as he flares for his landing next to the Western University. He furls his flyer back into its pack, which returns faithfully to his back before entering the campus. There is a huge hole in the northern wall, and the bricks from which it was made are scattered about. Tori's aviary is smashed. The sparrows timidly flit about, emitting worried chirps as they feel the rumbling of the ground.
He hears children whimpering in the west wing. He looks into the windows, pretending not to notice them. They are scared to death of him, cowering with wide eyes. This is unsurprising since they probably have never seen a Defender in uniform before, complete with glowing red cross-slit one-eyed mask, the robe with dark metal plates with strange hand-shaped glyphs. He similarly checks the other three buildings.
A couple of curious children get close to the window, wondering why the strange creature didn't seem to take any interest. As he walks past them the second time, the voice of a storyteller, the favorite of many of the children emanates from the side of his head, "Stay put, you are safer if the enemy does not know you are there."
"Just like the leaf bug," an eight year old girl whispers to a five year old boy, tugging at his shoulders to get him out of sight.
Shiden suddenly finds himself glad that Samurai frequented the libraries at Storybook Time.
The Defender suddenly turns around and aims his rifle skyward while jumping backwards from two green fireballs. A third hits a tree, and a fourth hits the Deployment monument in the courtyard. The kids are running back into the corridors as debris shatters the windows.
As Shiden runs out of the campus, the enemy's attention follows him. He shoots away the chompers, then dives into the snow at the edge of the stream, activating his cloaking device, a cheap knock-off of the enemy's Spectre device, but it should do the job if he doesn't move much.
The girl timidly steps back into the big room, stoops and picks up the ornament from the monument. She turns the cube's inert face to her view, counts the four green lights at each corner, and sees the four closed eyes above its glowing green nose.
She drops the Rittae replica and quietly sobs, "Mommy, Daddy, what happened? Where are the Haibane?"
"Yikes," Roku gasps as she watches the floodwaters advance through the city on the kiosk screen, toppling buildings. Turning to the crow, she signs, "Get out of here, Nick, it's your only chance."
The crow extends his left wing, twists his head the other way, pulls his wing back, then plops obstinately down on his carina, twisting his head sharply back again.. Obviously, he's not going anywhere.
She rushes to the door to brace it with her body. As she presses her back against it, she pulls out two carabiners and clip them to the door's handles. "In the name of the Saviour, this place is going nowhere!" she cries
The rush hits the Central Tower. Nick gains his feet and takes to the air, circling in the tiny room. The door pushes inward over a centimetre. Roku activates the power brace mode of her suit. The Toganese glyphs of her suit suddenly glow white, like her halo and carabiners. She plants her foot and shoves the door back into its frame, watching the latchplate fly away, clattering across the floor into the room.
She begins repeating the specific instructions given to her by the Saviour, "Speaker, activate power circuit four-seven on my mark, override code four-alpha-niner-six-alpha. Now, close relays Central six-eight and Central six-niner."
<Warning, Ashfeather Six, this action will->
"Mark!" she squeaks.
The room lights with plasma, coursing through Roku's white glowing suit and the door at her back. The hinges fly off the door in filing-like pieces.
Roku collapses, the glyphs on her suit now etched in a black even deeper than normal, little tendrils of lightning creeping about her and around the base the room where it meets the wall. Nick lands momentarily next to Roku, but takes to the air again, alighting tentatively on the kiosk with his slightly burned feet. He caws loudly to wake her up as the lightning streamers fade away.
"Now, deactivate power circuit four-seven."
<Unable to execute request, power transmitters four-one through five-eight have been destroyed. All relays, regardless of function, on all levels of the Central Tower have been destroyed, with the exception of relay one-five-one operating the turret training kiosk on level six.>
Nick flies down to Roku's side and tentatively touches the floor with the tips of his toes, circles once and then settles onto the floor beside her head, keeping his wings spread in case the pulsing currents force him into the air again. He's standing on one foot, with his toes tight together, has trouble keeping his balance. Finally he spreads his toes a bit, and timidly touches the other foot to the floor before pulling in his wings.
He caws loudly right at Roku's head, but gets no response. He notices the impressive feat that the door has been so thoroughly fused into the stoneforge wall that eyes can't tell that there ever was an opening. Even the screwholes of the hinges and latchplates have been filled in with the stoneforge material. Returning his attention to Roku, he walks up and pecks at her mask, caws again.
"The uh, bell nuts," Janice says as she crouches between the big slabs of stoneforge that have spalled away from the wall, "only grow in the shadow of the wall, so only in the south, east, and west, but not in the north." She picks one from the small tree and holds it up, making it rattle, "I found one."
"How do you know?" Samurai asks.
"I read about them in the library," she says, "They're from the slopes of Nix Olympica, some were saved by the Soul Cube."
"I don't know why," Samurai says, "They're not edible."
"They make a sad clunk though," she says as she shakes it, "Almost like, if you need to express something too deep for words, it will speak for you."
"Now isn't exactly a good time," he says as he surveys the flooded town.
The bell nut rings softly in her hands, as though it knows what this day has wrought. As the sun rises to its zenith, Samurai loses his balance.
"Isn't it?" she asks, listening to the nut express its sorrow in her hand. Then she feels a whump in her heels, and turns to see Samurai lying on the ground.
"Defender!" she blurts in concern, crouching next to him, but knowing better than to touch.
"I've been up since yesterday morning," he explains, "and we ran simulations all day until just before the attack in the evening," he sobs. "We thought that their attack was coming in the morning, and that we'd get a good night's rest before it. I-" he sighs, "just need a nap, that's all, can you give me some cover, please?"
"Yes, Defender," she says, gripping her rifle, "I'll go ten metres to the south, just on the other side of this-" she stares in pained disbelief at the enormous chunk of fallen wall.
When her attention turns to Samurai, he's gone, but there's a strange depression in the ground where he was, curled up, unlike his position when she last saw him. She stoops, and sees that the air shimmers around the outline of where his body might have been. She reaches out to touch it.
The protective blue light of the Saviour throws her onto her back before she touches him.
"Sorry," Samurai groans, "I'm cloaked, I should have warned you."
"Oh, that's okay, Defender," she says, then hops over the slab of stoneforge to the spot she said she'd watch from.
"I think there will be a miracle tonight," the grey-haired man with crinkled crow's feet betraying a lifetime of optimism, says as he looks at the viewscreen of the woman's camera, hiding in shade of the Western Grove.
In the dark, grainy, and wobbly image, Roku's hands quickly flash several badly formed Toganese gestures. She plays it back again for him, "What's she saying?"
The man sighs with relief, "There will definitely be a miracle tonight," he says with conviction, and a tear in his eye.
"Is that what she said?" Shinzoo asks the old man.
"Exactly, she signed, The light within shines brightest when darkness surrounds."
Next: Battle of Haibi Chapter 27: Hightail