VI – Dying Hope
Inside the massive chamber the monitors displayed their dreadful coverage, the sounds of war complimenting the images that filled the room. The screens cast their vindictive glare throughout the colossal expanse as the walls rebounded the grim audio, distorting the already hellish symphony. Atop the large platform in the center of the room were two beings, one seated on a lofty throne, the other hunched on the floor like a lowly slave.
Artemis watched anxiously as thousands more of the daemons surged into the city, making the LEP’s odds of winning all but impossible. For every officer there were dozens of them, and as the number of fighting officers kept falling, the number of enemy combatants seemed to rise exponentially. It seemed hopeless.
But it’s never hopeless, Fowl told himself. No matter the circumstances, no matter what hand the foe has, there is always a means to defeat them. All obstacles have a weak point, a design flaw. Every problem, like an equation, can be solved! I just need to find the variables…
Opal, who was soaking up the fruits of her revenge with insurmountable glee, turned to Artemis once more, obviously seeking to further trod on his dignity.
“As you can see, inferior being, my triumph is undeniable! Sure your friends are putting up some resistance, but I have virtually unlimited resources, and their pitiful efforts will be all for nothing by the time this day is out. Face it you fool, you have lost, and now everything will belong to me!”
Artemis pondered as the demonic pixie laughed, ignoring her villainous behavior as one ignores a slight breeze. As long as I am here I cannot help them, not directly, but maybe I can gain something from these undesirable circumstances. He glanced at Opal, who was once again viewing her destructive work. If I’m right, Opal should still be prone to her inherent flaws. If I can manage to use them, I should be able to gain a considerable amount of valuable information. Knowledge is power, after all.
After a brief moment of hesitation, Artemis slumped to the floor, doing his best to look utterly defeated.
Opal looked pleasantly surprised. “So you finally grasp the situation mud boy. I have to say, I expected a bit more pointless opposition from you.”
“What more opposition is there to make? They are out there fighting a losing battle, and here I am, useless.” Artemis grumbled shamefully, injecting as much pessimism into his voice as he could. He could not afford to be unrealistic.
“That’s what I like to hear weakling. A sonata to my hears.” Opal grinned, her egotism building exponentially as she glared elatedly at the lugubrious human, a mix of joy and utter hatred in her killing eyes.
Artemis kept up with the act, throwing in a few fake sobs. “How? How did you do it?” He said weakly. To his own surprise, it sounded almost genuine, though Artemis knew the difference between a professional performance and a dismal one, having grown up watching theatrical plays and operas with a calculating eye. Nonetheless, it was better than expected, most likely due to the gravity of the situation. And I thought I couldn’t act to save my life.
Koboi laughed at him again. “I’m not stupid mud boy! I know that the disclosure of sensitive information in moments of apparent victory is a flaw that all too many have.” Opal said loudly, catching Artemis off guard. Had she seen through his ruse?
Opal looked at the displays once more. “However, given that I have already won, and that nobody compares to me in intellect or ability, I can make a special exception for you, my mortal enemy. Besides, you will not leave this place for the rest of your miserable life, so I see no harm in showing you just how superior I am. In fact, it might make you a bit jealous.” Her voice was dripping with an egregious amount of smugness, enough to make the boy almost gag.
Artemis’ mind let out an sigh of relief, not showing on his despairing features. At first he thought that Opal had called his bluff. If that had happened, his plan would have become a lot more difficult.
Opal paused for a moment, seeming to put together what she was to say, quite obviously taking time to make it as ridiculously cliché as always. After a fleeting moment, she began. “As you very well know, your actions caused for that impudent Beserker to kill me, which severely perturbed me by the way! Dying is such an inconvenience!”
Her temper had, again, flared up due to the memory, but soon subsided, replaced by a cool demeanor. “What you didn’t know is that I had a contingency plan. Yes, I know, you thought that I was too arrogant to prepare for the unexpected, but you thought wrong mud boy. I knew that accessing the gate and attempting to use that ancient spell was very hazardous, and given the number of times you’ve foiled my plans, I thought it appropriate to have a backup contrivance, just in case.”
The nefarious pixie paused for a moment, letting her words soak in.
“If, because of you, I were to perish, I needed a way to return, to take what’s mine. It took quite a bit of research, but I was able to procure a spell, one that I attained from some ancient manuscripts which I will not name. These relics were quite interesting, just getting a hold of them required for me to break countless laws and even more necks, not that I care for either, and once I did acquired them I was almost atomized by their magical safeguards. They were guarded by such an intricate spell, truly a work of art that you would appreciate, one that I spent months unraveling. But, obviously, such encumbrances stood no chance against me, and after a while I had what I needed.”
The pixie paused again, clearly for effect. Artemis didn’t like the sound of what he was hearing, the implications stacking atop one another continuously, forming a mountain of dreadful possibilities. As he tried to piece some of them together, the nefarious being continued her monologue.
“In order for my spirit to be able to return to this realm from the underworld, disgusting place by the way, I would need a line of connection, a safety harness so to speak, that would leave a small link to this world. The spell I contrived did just that, which made it possible for me to find my way back. It was not easy, but my desire to see you suffer made any trial look like a small inconvenience. Therefore I was able to climb my way out of Hades, emerging once more into this pathetic realm, though without my original physical self. I had to settle for this otherworldly body, though it’s a small price to pay for another opportunity to ruin your life!”
Artemis digested what he was being told, quite amazed despite himself. He’d always known that magic was a near limitless tool, but this was ridiculous.
Opal leaned forward slowly. “Do you want to know the best part? No answer? Good.” She leaned back once more, a grin working its way across her features. “The spell I found couldn’t be used on anything, it had to be attached to a powerful source of magic to act as an anchor, counterbalancing the pull between life and death. I put it into place after I had attained my power from that little event in the reactor, power that I needed for it to work covertly and effectively. I think you may know what I sealed it to, or should I say whom.”
Artemis’ eyes widened in realization, the truth perfectly clear. No, not them!
Opal laughed rancorously. “I see you put it together. Bravo, you get a gold star! Yes, I attached it to the two most magical beings in the world, those two warlocks, Quan and that little demon with the unimaginative name. With such a powerful spell, they didn’t even notice that I had planted it within them! Quite a bonus really, getting to use two of your friends as a means to come back and kill everyone, how deliciously ironic! Anyway, so once I died I used their combined magic to help me back a year ago. They didn’t notice anything apart from slight headaches and nausea, nothing really important, not until I came knocking on their doors a few months ago. You should have see the looks on their faces, priceless. Of course, I had to make their disappearance seem normal, so I outsmarted Foaly, hacked Haven’s records and planted several thousand files and reports. To everyone, those two warlocks are currently on a pilgrimage, one that conveniently required for them to meld into a different dimension for several months. Weird I know, but put enough verbosity and unintelligible lore into the documents and everyone buys it. But that’s enough talk, how about I show you?”
Opal pressed a button, switching one of the screens to the footage of a room filled with mountains of advanced equipment. Within it were the two warlocks, hooked up in a catatonic state to a plethora of wires and conduits. Massive machines and generators were connected to the conduits, which were glowing hot with pure magic, the blue stream of energy flowing out of the two beings. The room itself pulsed with magical power, the very air saturated by it to the point that it shimmered in a multicolored hew, the sparkling energy everywhere at once.
Opal enjoyed Artemis’ look of horror. “Don’t they look comfortable? I assure you they’re fine, perfectly healthy. They make great power generators by the way. I have them hooked up to a regenerative system that constantly replenishes their magic levels as I drain them, giving me virtually unlimited energy! Just think, the ritual on a perpetual and mass produced scale! With such a power supply, I can produce armies indefinitely, thus no matter how many your friends kill, there will always be more. I’m brilliant aren’t I?”
Artemis stared at the screen, mouth agape. This complicates things, a lot.
Haven – Shuttle Terminal
The sharp staccato of gunfire roared throughout the expanse of the Haven shuttle port, blending with the bass that the explosions emanated, culminating into a bizarre symphony of firepower that never seemed to pause, but played onward in an eternally rising crescendo. The walls of the once state of the art terminal were now reduced to charred surfaces littered with holes, the ubiquitous holo-screens displaying advertisements and flight schedules flickering sporadically, casting their flashing glow against the walls, adding to the entropy. On one side of the terminal, near the exit to the city, were dozens of LEP officers. On the inside of the terminal were hundreds of daemons, laying down an unrelenting wave of fire towards the hunkered down fairies, who answered in kind with their own. Amidst the numerous officers was the ever fired-up captain, Holly Short. However, given the present circumstances, she was beyond fired up, she was pissed. Only minutes ago she had led her detachment of one hundred officers to the Haven terminal, mowing through whatever got in their way with ease, all the while not sustaining a single casualty. Things changed once they reached the chute entrance, as a large force of daemons awaited them, dug in deep, and with word of enemy reinforcements pouring in through the city’s north entrance, things were getting hairy.
Holly crouched behind the remains of an information kiosk along with several other officers, staying out the withering line of fire. Around her were about a hundred fairies, all seeking cover in the large reception room the led into customs and, eventually, the hangar itself. They had, through some sort of a miracle, only sustained minor casualties with no fatalities, while at the same time inflicting considerable damage to the opposing force’s ranks, pushing their way deep into the terminal. Sadly, such progress had come to a halt, and now they were pinned down whilst the timer to their doom ticked onward. Something had to be done, and fast. Good thing for everyone, Holly had a plan.
“Specialists, load smoke and flash grenades, standard distribution, blast pattern omega. On my mark, squads one through six, advance with me towards chute entrance E3, riot shields up front. All remaining units provide covering fire!” Holly commanded through her comm link as she used the video feeds from the above surveillance cameras, observing the enemy positions with a tactical eye, awaiting for the perfect moment to advance. The timing had to be perfect, seizing the moment when the majority of the enemy were either reloading or changing positions, meaning there would be fewer actually returning fire or able to do so. If her instincts were correct, such an instance would occur in approximately twenty seconds.
Holly checked her timer, activating her comm link once more, “Fire grenades now!”
One cue, two dozen grenades flew from the LEP lines, landing strategically within the enemy’s positions, clattering at the feet of the daemon defenders. The flash bangs went off first, blinding the half of the daemons who didn’t cover their eyes. The smoke grenades went off next, casting a wave of opaque clouds throughout the room, obscuring the view of the others.
“Thermals on!” Holly yelled. “Mark!”
As one, Holly and sixty officers emerged from their positions, charging headlong into the now disoriented foes, who fired blindly into the smoke only to hit the riot shields of the advancing force. Holly was the first to reach their lines, firing from her rifle with precision, downing a dozen hostiles as they discharged their weapons to no avail. As she jump kicked another daemon in the neck the other officers poured in, mowing down the numerous but disadvantaged enemies, who only managed to hit several officers in return. It took no longer than a minute to clear the room and secure a straight route to the hangar.
The smoke began to clear, revealing the full extent of their work. Around three hundred daemons were strewn about the large room, and only ten LEP officers had been injured during the advance. Such was a testimony to the incredible skill and discipline of the retrieval teams that were with Holly, they were the best of the best.
As the medics tended to the wounded, Holly peered into the wide hall that led to the chute and the hangar, seeing nothing but air. Too easy, quite obviously a trap. She thought as she put up a link to police plaza.
“Commander, we’ve reached the hangar entrance with minimal casualties, though there’s clearly another hostile force waiting within.”
“Excellent work captain,” Trouble commended. “Though I advise caution, we can’t afford to stop, not now. The inbound enemy reinforcements will overrun us if we don’t attain air superiority soon, and even with it we will be hard pressed to push them out.”
“That I know all too clear sir, though it would be a help if we could access the surveillance feeds from within the hangar bay, see what we’re up against.” Holly replied.
“Way ahead of you,” Foaly chimed in. “Bringing the feed online…now!”
A video lit up on the side of Holly’s HUD, showing the top down view of the bay. To everyone’s collective relief, the chute entrance was lightly guarded, no more than a hundred hostiles. Clearly they didn’t expect for the LEP to punch through their main defensive line.
“This should be a cakewalk,” Holly stated, thankful that there wasn’t an army waiting in the bay. “We’ll have the hangar under control in no time, you just keep them at bay until we get you that air support.”
“Will do Holly, and good luck.” Kelp replied.
Holly cut the link, turning towards her fellow officers as she readied her pulse rifle. “Let’s do this.”
Haven – Police Plaza
The war room was filled with activity as officers communicated with field units and monitored the battlefield, the holo-screens lit up with tactical maps and charts as well as live feeds from key locations around the city. In the center of the room was the holo-table which displayed a bird’s eye view of Haven. Around it stood Commander Trouble Kelp, the egocentric genius Foaly, and an extremely perturbed looking mountain with a gun, Butler. The table cast an ominous glow as it depicted the LEP positions strung out against the marauding invaders. Despite the room being heavily fortified, being in the near center of the building and full of activity, the distant sounds of combat snaked their way in, the rumbles of explosions shaking the floor occasionally like small tremors.
Commander Trouble Kelp observed the situation with a pained look on his face. So many dead and wounded, and many more guaranteed to follow in due time. Never, not since the battle of Taillte, had such a bloody conflict been fought by the People. It had been so long ago that most of his officers had never even experienced such brutal combat, and many of them couldn’t cope with it. But that didn’t mean they couldn’t stand against this nefarious foe, not even close. The LEP had always been vigilant, it was always prepared for a potential conflict with humanity, so one such as this didn’t catch them completely off guard.
But it almost did. Trouble thought, watching as more hostile divisions entered the city unchecked, sending a wave of destruction across its districts, one that made the goblin uprising look like a peaceful protest.
“Foaly, status report.” The Commander ordered, clasping his hands behind his back as he awaited the official news.
The centaur cleared his throat, looking considerably disturbed, “We’re currently holding a defensive radius of three point seven kilometers around the police plaza. We’ve lost all contact with the entertainment district and a majority of the downtown core, leaving the extent of our control limited to just the police plaza and a few surrounding areas.”
“Casualties?” Trouble asked unhappily, waiting apprehensively for what he knew was going to be bad news.
“Overall we’ve sustained sixty percent casualties, twenty-seven percent of them being fatalities. Our medical warlocks have already run out of magic, so those who get injured remain so.” Foaly stated solemnly. “And because of this, we’re now completely cut off from Holly and her unit.
“D’arvit!” Trouble muttered. “Is there any way we can stall them further, buy Holly more time?”
“What about those bio bombs of yours?” Buter grumbled apprehensively from behind them as he continuously cleaned his gun, its metallic surface already impeccably clean as well as its internal mechanisms, a flawless tool of death.
Trouble frowned. “We already expended the smaller ones on their initial wave, which only had a minor effect due to their numbers. The remaining ones are too large to detonate within the city, so we’re saving those in the event that we lose.”
It was a bitter statement, one that clearly outlined how vehemently Trouble hated the prospect of losing Haven, even more so the possibility of having to bomb everything to oblivion in such an event. But that was how far gone the debacle had become, almost to the brink, the world’s future balanced precariously on a fine point amidst a malevolent typhoon, where even the slightest of changes could cast everything forever into chaos and destruction.
Another deep rumble shook the room, this time feeling closer than the others. The enemy was getting closer by the minute, the holo-table showing their progress with disturbing clarity. Butler, still absentmindedly disassembling and reassembling his Sig Sauer, gave a deep sigh, his eyes looking somewhere distant as a great degree of regret crossed his features.
“Artemis would know what to do.” The bodyguard said, feeling again the crushing sense of failure for not protecting his charge.
Trouble nodded slightly, “Maybe he would, but there’s nothing we can do about that, given we have no indication as to where he is. If it makes you feel any better, this was my fault as well.” He banged his fist in rage against the table, a pained look on his face. “Had I seen this coming, maybe if we’d been properly prepared we could have averted everything. In failing to do this, I have failed as a commander!” He thought of Julius, instantly cringing at the memory. What would Julius think of me? What would he have done in my place? Have I failed him too?
As Kelp cogitated the magnitude of his own faults, a massive hand grabbed onto his shoulder.
“You discredit yourself Commander.” Butler stated strongly. “None of us could have predicted this, and despite the situation you have shown impeccable leadership in the face of impossible odds. We all share a sense of blame for what has befallen Haven, but in the end such feelings are only an impediment. The past is done, but what happens next is entirely under our control, so let’s make the most of it.”
The man mountain had stopped working his gun, the deadly tool now holstered. He took his reassuring hand off of Trouble, looking to somewhere distant as he did. “I know one thing for sure. Artemis is alive, and as long as he is there’s hope. Nothing can stop that boy’s mind, whether it’s a doctorate thesis or an army. In the end, we will prevail.”
Foaly curiously watched the exchange from his makeshift operations console, his attention temporarily drawn from his systems. Such distraction was shattered when a sharp warning signal emitted from his sensors. He brought up the warning onto one of the displays, his eyes widening as they read the lines of data.
“Umm guys, I don’t mean to interrupt your moment there, but we’ve got a big problem!”
“What is it? More enemy reinforcements?” Trouble asked.
“Worse.” Foaly said nervously. “There is a force of about two thousand hostiles approaching the terminal and Holly’s position. They will cut them off completely if they manage to box them in within the chute entrance, where it would be a massacre.”
“What’s Holly’s current situation? Has she liberated our air support?” Trouble demanded heatedly.
Foaly checked another screen. “Her company is still engaged with the hostiles within the terminal, they’re making ground fast, but at this rate they won’t make it in time.”
“D’Arvit!” The Commander swore. “Are there any friendly reinforcements on the way? What is the word from Atlantis?”
“They’ve dispatched a relief force, but it won’t be here for another hour. We have half an hour at most until we’re completely overrun!” Foaly stated apprehensively as he typed away on the virtual keyboard.
“Then we’ll just have to hold on.” Butler boomed, causing everyone in the room to look to him. “We’ll fortify the Plaza and hold out as long as we can. As for Holly, she’ll think of something, I know it.”
Trouble looked at him incredulously. “As much as I admire your resolve Butler, we barely have enough uninjured personnel to hold this place, and even then it won’t be for that long.”
Butler walked casually to the corner of the room, to where the weapons from the daemon infiltrators were stacked, shuffling through the pile of firearms as one does through vegetables at the market. Eventually his search concluded, as he stood up to his full height menacingly, holding two machine guns, one in each hand, the large weapons looking small in comparison to his muscular bulk. When he spoke he did so with the most serious and determined voice ever utilized in history. “Then I’ll just pick up the slack.”
Haven – Outside Police Plaza
Corporals Grub Kelp and Chix Verbil huddled behind an LEP police cruiser, clutching their Neutrinos tightly, trying to no avail to find some sense of comfort in their weapons. The sprite and elf were both visibly disheveled, their uniforms dirty and damaged in many places, just like most of the LEP officers. Around them, dozens of officers and medics made their way to and from the front line, some carrying wounded, others carrying the dead. It was a morbid sight, one that the two officers were far from numb to. In the not too far distance, the sounds of the battle that raged boomed loudly, the violence sounding closer and closer by the minute.
Chix fluttered his wings nervously, glancing about edgily, half expecting for the monsters to burst into the square at every moment.
“This is ridiculous! I didn’t sign up for this!” He said shakily, his usual bravado dried up like a drop of water in the Sahara.
Grub. Who had a very hard look on his face, elbowed Chix in the side sharply. “Don’t go saying that! Your an officer of the LEP, this is part of our duty, or did you just sign up for the chicks Chix?”
The sprite would have protested, had what Grub said been false. Instead he grumbled unintelligibly, his wings still moving about apprehensively. Grub, on the other hand, displayed no hint of fear or doubt, which was quite uncharacteristic of him.
“Can we at least go inside?” Chix whined, fumbling with his gun absentmindedly.
“No.” Grub stated. “We have been tasked to guard the HQ, we are the last line of defense for the LEP. I will not forsake my duty, not this time.”
In the past, most individuals would have regarded Grub as a spineless coward, one that lacked not only courage but self confidence and skill as well. They would be surprised to know that, since the onset of the crisis, he had grown not only a spine, but a pair as well. His change in character could be due to a variety of influences, but above all his resolve came from the sheer horror that had engulfed the city. Grub knew he was a coward, he knew that most other officers looked down on him, it was a fact. But in this hell of a situation, he would be damned if he acted as such, he would never forgive himself for it. Haven was burning, the People were on the brink of destruction, and it was his duty to stop that, his responsibility to give his life if need be. He had to be strong, even if he was weak. Having long lived under the shadow of his older sibling Trouble, Grub had finally become an officer truly worthy of his rank, and despite the situation, he felt a hint of pride over his new found resolve.
Suddenly, through the cacophony of warfare came the distinct sound of engines, one that every officer had learned to dread. Grub noticed immediately. “Gunships! Get down!”
As he and Chix dove under the car, two daemon gunships hovered into view, slowing as they reached the plaza. By now most of the officers within the area had found cover, the few caught in the open opting to fire pointlessly at the armored gunships. The aircraft responded with their chain guns, cutting down several of the brave fairies in moments. As the craft continued their barrage of the plaza, two dozen daemon infantry rappelled from the crew compartments, firing their weapons as they did with ruthless ferocity.
Clearly this detachment had been sent in to attack the LEP from behind their lines, maybe even to obliterate the command structure, therefore throwing the remaining fairies into utter disarray. Grub would not stand by and let them do that.
The officer left Chix cowering under the vehicle, rising up on the side opposite to the attackers, bringing his firearm to bear. Without any hesitation, the corporal fired at the daemons, striking two before they could react, hitting another as it raised its rifle. Grub ducked down abruptly, narrowly avoiding a wall of lead.
“D’Arvit, we’re pinned down! Chix, get up here!” He yelled as he dragged the frightened sprite from under the car, shoving a gun into his hands. “If we’re going to get out of this, we’ll need to work together! We wait until my mark, then we clear this cover and counterattack!”
“That’s crazy, we’ll be shot!” Chix protested.
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.” Grub said confidently, surprising himself.
The relentless fire began to dwindle as more of the daemons were forced to reload. Grub took the cue.
“Alright, in three, two, one.”
Before the corporal could say go, a loud bang reverberated through the plaza as the HQ’s heavy doors were kicked open, revealing every antagonist’s worst nightmare. Butler emerged from the station, an MK48 in each hand and a solid look on his face. As every eye turned to the massive hulk, he grinned dangerously. “Evening gentlemen.”
Without any warning, the bodyguard opened fire, taking the already surprised daemons off guard. The machine guns roared as they fired 7.62mm armor piercing rounds at over 700 rounds a minute, the spent casings littering the ground as they spilled out of the guns’ chambers. The bullets tore through the enemies’ armor, blasting half of the remaining daemons across the plaza in the first few seconds. The others managed to return fire, seeking to destroy the human that had just killed their brethren. Butler moved with blinding speed, removing himself from their line of fire as he continuously fed them his signature lead milkshake. Several more of the daemons fell as the previously pinned down officers opened fire, hitting the enemy from every side. As the last one fell, Butler turned his attention to the two gunships that hovered above the station, peppering the building with rockets and cannon fire. Again, he let the two light machine guns blaze, lighting up the vulnerable engines of one of the craft, eliciting large belches of flame from the ship, which by now had clued into what was happening below. The two machines turned about, training their guns on Butler, who dove out of the way at the last second.
Butler rolled across the ground, having dropped his weapons during the dive, debris flying all around him as the high velocity rounds tore apart the ground where he was previously standing. He ended up behind one of the LEP cruisers, its armored surface providing temporary relief from the gunships. Butler reached into his jacket, pulling out his Sig Sauer. Even with its high power rounds, he knew they would have little effect on the armored monstrosities that hunted him. As he adjusted himself, he felt a small object under his leg, piquing his interest. He moved over, revealing an unused HE grenade, probably dropped by one of the daemons. Grabbing it, he thought for a brief moment, assessing the device in his hand. He grinned.
The two craft began to circle around the cruiser, their guns ready to obliterate the mud man that was behind it. To their surprise, the human stood up, walking casually from behind the vehicle, his hands apparently empty. The ships stopped, the large chain guns beginning to spin their barrels hungrily, eager to distribute death. Butler eyed the cockpit of the damaged gunship, then the proximity of the two craft, then the grenade in his clenched fist. Without a moments hesitation, he pulled the pin. With a roar he drew his arm back before powering it forward with inhuman strength, sending the grenade flying towards the craft’s canopy like a bullet. The explosive device tore through the reinforced material of the window, landing on the pilot’s lap. The daemon looked at the grenade with a look that said: you’ve gotta be shi-. Before such a thought could be formed, the explosive went off, completely engulfing the front end of the ship with fire, nearly cutting it in half. The gunship hovered for only a second before careening to the side, right into the other aircraft. With a metallic crunch the two ships collided, sending both of them to the ground in a ball of fire.
Butler observed the results of his throw with contentment, not even flinching as the burning wrecks exploded violently before him. Maybe he should try baseball some day, but then again, he’d probably kill someone by accident. Dismissing the thought, the bodyguard picked up his dropped firearms, as well as several others from his foes, slinging them over his shoulder. Without a word, he walked out of the square, towards the front line.
Grub and Chix stood behind the cruiser, their jaws on the floor.
“Did that just happen?” Chix asked, his face drawn into an almost comical expression.
“I have no idea.” Grub responded, an equal display on his visage.
Haven Terminal – Chute Entrance. Ten minutes later.
The large expanse of the chute entrance spanned for hundreds of meters in all directions, the massive void that was the cute looming after it, its solid walls lit by a huge network of artificial lights, accentuating the impervious bedrock that formed its sides. The hangars were usually open to the gigantic tunnel, being sealed off by building sized blast shields only when flares passed through, or in the event of a state of emergency. However, despite there being an egregious emergency, the walls were wide open, revealing the magma formed tunnel to its full extent. The stadium sized room was filled with machinery, ranging from transport cranes and conveyer belts to civilian shuttles and pods. The LEP area of the hangar was also exposed, its security measures overridden, leaving the multitude of shuttles and interceptors exposed to the unforgiving reality beyond.
The bodies of fairies and daemons alike were scattered randomly throughout the area, their weapons beside them, smoking from excessive use. Fires burned around half destroyed transports and bullet riddled machinery, their flames casting a red glow on the roof high above. The marks of intense combat marred the room, craters in the floor where heavy ordinance had been used, and the countless bullet holes and laser marks defiling nearly every surface.
Throughout the battlefield were numerous barricades constructed from an apparently random pool of resources, their contents ranging from shuttle parts and even entire aircraft, to luggage and the odd garbage can. On the far side of the hangar, near the edge that fell endlessly into the chute’s dark abyss, was a half crescent, around fifty meters across, formed of makeshift barriers and a severely beat up luxury transport. Behind this downtrodden defensive position were the remnants of the LEP company, only fifty officers, half of whom were too injured to fight. All around their position was a virtual sea of daemons, easily one thousand strong, with more pouring in via the terminal entrance and the now open blast door leading into Haven.
It was clear that the LEP officers were putting up a last stand, their route to the LEP aircraft cut off, completely surrounded by a multitude of merciless enemies. Among these ill fated police was the seemingly invincible captain, Holly Short. Her previously immaculate armor was now reminiscent to the inside of a vacuum cleaner, its shiny surface now covered with detritus, blood and scorches. There were several dents on the chest plate where bullets had collided, as well as claw marks from vicious melee fighting. Her helmet was very much the same, as was her one remaining weapon, her backup Neutrino 3000.
Holly breathed a bit raggedly from the constant combat, and was quite clearly shaken up by the amount of death that she’d witnessed over just the last few minutes. When she led her company into the hangar, she did so with a battalion of fresh hostiles behind them. One could say they were caught between a rock and a hard place, except both were armed to the teeth. Holly had no choice but to take the hangar’s defenders head on, as holding back was suicide given the inbound reinforcements. Such a move cost many lives, though they decimated the defenders in the process. It was unfortunate for them that their goal, the LEP aircraft, was just out of their reach. By the time they’d cleared the primary hangar, the reinforcements arrived, pouring in from every direction, boxing them in until they were forced to their final position, which was virtually a slaughterhouse.
Holly, along with the rest of her officers, were almost lying on the ground. It was literally impossible to return fire at the enemy, as the moment one officer would leave cover they’d be pulverized by hundreds of firearms at once. They’d run empty on all of their heavy ordinance, as well as losing a good half of their assault weapons, leaving them with mostly sidearms and the occasional rifle. When pitted against the seemingly infinite munitions and weapons that were stacked against them, there was little hope for a recovery. To even further stack the odds against them, their comm links had been jammed, completely isolating them from high command.
Holly knew that it was the end of the line. Despite her unprecedented confidence and capability, even an officer as hot headed as herself knew when it was over. They had lost, they would all be dead in minutes, and with their failure to bring the air support, Haven was lost too. But Holly didn’t beat herself with such thoughts, they were only going to slow her down. If this was to be her end, then she would make it such an end, taking as many of those bastards with her as possible.
As she sat there, her back against the ruined shuttle, her firearm held firmly at the ready, her mind drifted to her friends. She had never gotten to say goodbye, especially to Artemis, who was in who knows what sort of hell, alone. A single tear fell from her mismatched eyes, a tear of regret; she had let Artemis down. She reminisced for a moment, her attention drifting into her memories, leaving the sounds of death behind, like dust in the wind. She looked back to when it had all began, when such great years of adventure had started, to that criminal mastermind of a boy. She’d never known such things would have happened in her life, never dreamed of the ridiculously vibrant situations that the last few years had held, of all the impossible odds they had surpassed together. She smiled happily. Even though she was young for an elf, she felt no qualms of dying. She’d lived a good life, full of good people, both fairies and mud men alike. Her time was up, but it didn’t matter, for what was time? Time was nothing compared to those whom she had in her life, and she would gladly forfeit all the time in the world for them.
An explosion rocked the room once more, the sounds of the daemon’s steady advance rising ferociously, like a lion’s roar. It was time. Holly gripped her gun harder, ready for what must come. As she stood to meet the charge, she thought of her friends one last time. She thought of Trouble and Foaly, working courageously at police plaza. She thought of Mulch, wherever that smelly convict was. She thought of Butler and Juliet, one fighting along side them, the other a world away. Lastly, she thought of Artemis, her best friend.
“Goodbye everyone.” She paused, blinking away tears as they pooled in her eyes. “Goodbye Artemis. I’ll see you soon.”
With that the Captain rose, standing with pride and defiance as she awaited the relentless hordes of death with a smile on her face.