Chapter 3 - A new alliance is forged
The sparking cable slowly swinged around as the grumbling technician floated past it. He keyed his retroboosters for a few seconds and floated past a big hole in TDN-231
's hull. This Garda had taken several phase missiles amidships, dealing devastating damage to its life support systems. He passed by a ringlock that connected the Garda to TDN-106
, a Kodiak cruiser. The whole fleet except capital ships, had joined together, helping each other with repairs. The Dunovs were the only capitals designed for fleet support, and so they darted around, from ship to ship, helping to replenish shielding and antimatter reserves. Most of the 1st had taken a nasty beating. The Vasari had called for reinforcements and a sizeable fleet had responded. But now those ships too drifted cold and lifeless. The gears of war were turning in Traders' favour now.
Denaros observed the orbital imagery. The natives on the planet had put up a stiff resistance, that was for sure. A great black smudge represented the Vasari ground forces, blips and spots of brighter blue represented the defenders and the cities and settlements they defended, and a orange dot showed the current position of the stranded Exo trooper. She was moving towards the biggest city on the planetside. It was almost surrounded by Vasari forces. To defeat them, they would need more than the Exos. They'd have to deploy en masse
The fleet had been stationary above the city, for days now. Dozens of retrofitted merchant ships had jumped to the planet, each of them carrying soldiers, tanks and supplies. They now eagerly waited aboard the biggest capital ships, namely Marzas and Dunovs. The Newborn Hope
would also join them, since it carried the Exoskeleton troops. At exactly 1400, ship-time, the nine grand warships started the descent.
Naela sat atop Lieia's armour, clinging to her grimly as they both zoomed across the plain at 150 km/h. At this speed, they arrived at Visxora in mere minutes. The massive gates swung open, letting a small group of militia through. They all had their rifles trained on Lieia. She sighed and unslung her own weapon. In a display of power, she leisurely removed the full clip and slotted it back in, slowly pulling the charging lever back and forth. The militia winced wisibly at the loud, dry click-clack. Upon noticing Naela sitting on her back, they happily holstered their rifles. She jumped down and started hurriedly speaking to the militia soldiers. While Naela was talking to them, Lieia took the time to observe the Visxora. A giant dome covered the entire city, a pearlish glow to it. A thick, black shadow descended upon it. Instantly, she looked up. More shadows appeared through the thick clouds, slowly encircling the city. A panicked screaming erupted from the citizens, who stared at the descending masses. Lieia removed her helmet and watched one of the ships descend in front of her. The thick, stubby landing legs settled firmly in the ground, sending a cloud of dust racing from it. A slight tremor ran through the ground. Others settled around the city, in the way of Vasari army. Lieia set off calmly towards the ship.
The Warmaster Deqcoz stared open-mouthed at the grand machines of war descending from the sky. A simple relevation struck him.
We will all die.
The giant, oiled pistons hissed and the rods slid from them, lowering the massive ramp to the ground. Hundreds of armed figures marched downwards, greeted by a tall, heavily armed figure and a crowd of natives. Denaros was at the head of his troops.
"Took your sweet time, didn't ya?"
He looked at Lieia, who seemed somewhat irritated "I am sorry for that. We had enough trouble with Vasari in the space. Besides, it was only a week. But never mind that. We got a war to win, right?"
"Sure thing. What are we up against?"
"From orbital imagery, I'd say three divisions. Nothing we can't handle. Besides, we got the fleet ready to shell them."
He noticed the inquiring looks from the bystanding Asli. Clearing his throat, he strode forward to greet them "Greetings. My name is Denaros." Long silence, just the slightly unnerving eyes looking at him. Uncertainly, one of the Asli extended her hand and shook Denaros's.
"Kylieh'e na Visxora, aqelu sa Hilaera. Le'vi he Gyliel."Welcome to Pearldome, capital of Brighthaven. My name is Gyliel.
Puzzled, Denaros looked at her with an expression that could only be described as O_o. He turned to Lieia, who just shrugged. He turned back to the supposed leader and scratched his head. Neither of them understood each other. The Asli seemed a bit distressed by this turn of events, but then her face lit up as she laughed and pulled out two small earpieces from a fold in her robes. She handed one to Denaros and put her own on her ear. She spoke again.
"Does your earpiece work, friend?"
He smiled "It does indeed. This is a marvellous piece of technology."
"Not as marvellous as your warships. For long we have strived to expand into universe. But then these Vasari attacked." A twinge of bitterness slipped into her voice.
"If you wish to join us, we will help and give support to your people. But that is your decision to make."
Gyliel paused momentarily. Her eyes were gazing across the assembling army, the majestic, unforgiving warships surrounding her city. She turned around and looked at the planetary Council, who had listened to their conversation. They all nodded.
She turned back to Denaros "If I am to join, I will need to know your name."
He smiled "Denaros Wersian is the name. And yours?"
Gyliel's eyes shone brightly "Gyliel the Farsighted is my name."
"Welcome to Traders Emergency Coalition, Gyliel."
A great cheer rose from the city gates, as hundreds of citizens had assembled there, each one of them listening to what was happening.
"You should come into our city. The Pearldome has long been appraised as a marvel of construction. We also have constructed dozens of guard towers on the walls, but we lack both the materiel and soldiers to defend them properly."
"Do not worry. I have placed the ships around the city. They form an impenetrable wall. And the orbital bombardment should be arriving any minute."
"What is orb-" she asked, but was interrupted by a howling noise. From the sky, dozens of bullet-shaped objects were falling unto Vasari encampment. As soon as they hit the ground, they exploded, vast plumes of smoke rising from them. "Oh. Such destruction and power. Tell me, how long have your kind been fighting the Vasari?"
"It has been months since they attacked. We didn't stand a chance at the beginning. But now the tables are turned. But we will talk later about that. We have a battle to win."
"And we will stand by your side. To war, Asli!" Her words were responded by cheering as the joint army surged forward, to eliminate the Vasari threat. The tanks swarmed across the craterside, firing at their Vasari counterparts. The figthing went sporadic, weapons fire taking down every soldier that wasn't in cover. Exos were scattered everywhere, their shielding and armour allowing to take on Vasari heavies.
Naela was flung across the air as an shell landed behind her. Hitting the ground, she scrambled to cover behind a burning tank as another shell landed nearby. Disintegrator fire flew over her head. One of the Trader tanks rumbled past, it's smoothbore cannon barking as it ripped the Vasari squad apart. She pulled herself to feet and jumped on the tank. It rumbled again, rolling forwards, deeper in the crater. The turret swung to left, and another shell flew from the barrel, this time ripping a Vasari hovertank a new one. Spotting a group of Exos in the distance, Naela jumped off. The distinctive ringing of NX-61's was audible in the distance. She slung her rifle over her back and ran towards the embattled soldiers. She saw Lieia slam the stock of her gun in the face of a Vasari halberder, sending him sprawled on the ground. She riddled him with bullets afterwards.
(Exoskeleton troops at the battle of Pearldome. Leia is on the right side.)
Lieia was about to get another soldier, when a shout got her attention. It was her companion, the one she saved at TDN-019
's crash site. She stood up from the bleeding corpse and retracted her visor. Naela stopped in front of her and handed her an earpiece, not dissimilar to the one Denaros and Gyliel was wearing and put her own on. She tapped it slightly and spoke "Can you hear me? Can you understand me?"
Lieia chuckled "I can hear you alright. But why are you givin' this thing to me now? Forgot it or something?"
"Something like that. We had no idea that you speak in a different language-okay, that sounded stupid. But anyways, we hadn't predicted this!"
A tank shell had caught Lieia unaware and now she was sprawled on the ground. The Vasari tank crew jeered, but their joy was short-lived. A tankbuster squad was setting up nearby. Their plasma missile launchers flashed and three shrieking missiles boiled the tank apart. Naela rushed over to Lieia who was trying to get up. Lieia only managed to lift her hand before it fell back to the ground. Another Exo joined them, and took a quick scan of the armour "The shield generator is busted, but the motory fuctions have rebooted. I'll need a moment to upload the configuration." He plugged a small wire in a socket on her arm, and pressed a few keys on his own arm. In a couple of seconds, Lieia moved again, this time standing up. She jumped up and down a couple of times to test the balance.
"It's working alright, but the absence of shielding will prohibit you from fighting."
"All right, but at least let me snipe them." A fellow soldier exchanged weapons with her, taking her NX-61 and handing her his monstrous LRS-27 bolt-action rifle. Naela's jaw dropped as she observed the weapon. It was more of a hand cannon than a sniper rifle! Lieia hastily took cover behind a boulder as stray plasma fire hit the ground around her. She laid her gun down on the rock and took aim. The deafening shot ripped through a Vasari tank hunter a kilometre away. She pulled the lever bolt back and up, letting the red-hot casing out and chambering a new one. The next slug tore through the servo joint of a Vasari walker, sending it to the ground. A ragged band of Asli and Trader light infantry appeared, firing their weapons at a line of Vasari heavy troopers. They had retreated in the face of superior numbers. A crack was appearing in their lines. A pair of tanks rumbled behind them, thus widening the crack. Naela felt a wind rush and saw the Exos jump and land heavily on the tanks. They started punching and ripping the heavy armour. Three of them ripped the barrel off. One of them grabbed it and and started using it as a club, tearing into Vasari ranks with terrifying efficiency. Blood was flying everywhere. A low booming heralded the approach of Trader bombers and fighters. But they met resistance. Dozens of Vasari strike craft rose to fight. Hundreds of the small craft now thundered above the ground troops, chasing after each other, trying to get behind each other and deliver the killing blow. Bombers struck at the Vasari fortifications. All manners of anti-air artillery filled the skies. Armour squadrons clashed, their powerful guns shaking the ground itself. The heavy howitzers exchanged fire with their Vasari counterparts. Yet, despite the fierce defence Vasari put up, the outcome of the battle was already foretold. When the last Vasari flier had crashed in the ground, every single Trader bomber delivered a deadly payload of cluster bombs upon the Vasari army's rear lines, effectively silencing their artillery. Every single tank now was covered in troops, slowly rumbling towards the Vasari HQ. Asli and Trader sharpshooters took potshots at the fortified trenches, while Exos jumped their way across the desolate battlefield. High-explosive shells impacted Vasari fortifications. Suddenly, every tank stopped, turned about and left, Exos following suit. Lieia landed besides Naela with a thump "We're pulling out. The brass decided they're just gonna nuke them. Says that we've lost too much ground personnel." Her words weren't far from truth. Dead humans, Asli and considerably more Vasari littered the plain, complemented by a wide array of burning tanks. Naela's stomach bucked at the sight. It was a terrible sight to behold. Truth be told, Naela felt relieved that they weren't assaulting the fortress. But then a thought struck her "Lieia, what about the dead?" Her human friend suddenly froze and sighed "You're right. We can't just leave them here.You hear that Denaros? Delay the strike so that we may retrieve the good dead guys." Apparently she was speaking on main channel, for most of the tanks stopped and the troops cheered at Lieia. Five seconds passed and she received an answer "Couldn't agree more with you. You got one hour. I'll send in the dropships."
For the next hour every single healthy ground troop toiled and loaded the hundreds of their dead and injured on the dropships, while the fallen Asli were taken back inside Pearldome. The whine of thrusthers filled the air as the heavily laden transports lifted off, but they couldn't go too high. Their engines were already straining with the weight and were also directed towards Pearldome. A single bomber descended from the skies. Underside it was the nuclear bomb. A chaos erupted within the joint army as everyone tried to get inside the ships. Hundreds rushed inside the awaiting bays of the warships and even more flowed through the gigantic gate of Pearldome. The small, but devastating weapon tumbled through the air and everyone heard the ultra-sonic whine of the bomber that delivered it as it climbed higher and higher. The bomb hit the ground and exploded. The massive plume of light filled the skies. The last few soldiers and tanks rumbled on the platforms of the ships and with a judder, they slowly shut. The gigantic shockwave shook the mighty vessels to every joint and rivet. It lasted for several minutes. Everyone inside the city watched in awe and fear as hazy clouds encircled their stronghold.
The droning ramp hit the ground and several technicians stepped forward with radiation seekers. The low, almost lazy ticking showed that the radiation was well within the acceptable boundaries. The material used had an exceptionally short half-life, leaving almost no radiation. But the crater would remain. The Asli and Traders built a memorial later there, to honor the brave warriors who fought and died there. Various regiments and battalions had landed all across the planet. In joint operations, they managed to rid the planet free of any Vasari presence in mere weeks.